Unconference: the business hackathon

27 April 2017Josie Klafkowska

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This week, the appropriately named Rumpus Rooms at the fabulous Mondrian Hotel once again opened up for Unconference. Back by popular demand, Unconference is knowledge sharing at its best; an inclusive, democratic and collaborative afternoon of peer-to-peer learning.

Unconference applies hackathon principles at an executive level. There were no 'speakers' as such, instead we invited conversation leaders who, armed with an easel, Post-its and pens, led discussions around various crowd-sourced topics. Powerpoint was strictly banned and participation strongly encouraged.

So what did we talk about? Joined by conversation leaders from Adobe, Coutts, Digital Clarity Group, Google, Pioneer DJ, Money Saving Expert, Telegraph Media Group and Wunderman, eight topics were aired and discussed and fabulously recorded by graphic artists, Scriberia. Take a look and, if you’re inspired, get in touch to continue the conversation.

What’s the role of the customer journey in an omni-channel world?

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Three years ago omni-channel was the buzzword du jour and marketers clambered to perfect that elusive, seamless experience. However, it was generally agreed that the omni-channel bubble has burst, with brands seeking a more realistic and achievable cross channel consistency. Although technology that will enable integrated experiences is getting more sophisticated - witness the recent launch of the Adobe Experience Cloud - it takes so much more than just tech to achieve nirvana. Companies can’t reorganise and restructure overnight - something that was broadly seen as a prerequisite for really achieving omni-channel excellence. Start small and think big seems to be the mantra. Think at least cross-channel or multi-channel and aim for small, realistic victories.

Content: a business asset or an overhead cost?

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Accurately measuring the engagement of a single piece of content is, these days, not only achievable but expected. However, how do you really communicate  the value of your content to the Board? Is it a cost or an asset? It sounds obvious but knowing what you want your content to do is the starting point. Every piece of content should have an actionable objective against a specified target audience. You can then use these objectives to categorise your content and build measurement models for different content types. These days content has a role to play in every business. If we learn to measure it effectively, we can persuade the business to value it.

What are they key ingredients for a successful digital project?

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Around 70% of digital projects fail. Fact! With this rather depressing statistic in mind, we debated the potential reasons why digital projects are sometimes doomed. Overpromising seemed to be a recurring theme. Businesses must get alignment around a realistic set of expectations before a project begins. Data is often seen as a blocker because it tends not to flow easily between organisational silos. A more horizontal approach to data would inevitably make it more accessible. There was consensus on three basic rules: build on solid foundations, start small and iterate and, above all, be brave.

How do big businesses start and continue to innovate?

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A topic that resonated with everyone! One of the biggest barriers to innovation is fear. But if the company culture does not punish failure - at least for trying - that becomes far less of a barrier. Three key pieces of advice came out of this conversation: hire the right people, provide the right motivation and use one common language. And remember, not every idea has to be truly original or ground-breaking. Sometimes innovation grows from a small seed.

How do we get a non-digital organisation to think digital?

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Firstly, let’s stop talking about ‘digital marketing’. It’s just what we all do, everyday, using all appropriate channels. The fact is, we are simply marketing in a digital world. Secondly, the marketing department is not solely responsible for the customer experience. Customer engagement can happen at many levels within the business and so it is the responsibility of all staff to advocate for the company or brand and support the execution of ‘customer experience’.  Have confidence in iteration - don’t always try to ‘finish’ - get something out there, test it and improve it. Above all, budgets always have to be justified, so start small and be prepared to prove that something works.

What does the rise of social mean for the brand voice?

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Today, everyone has a phone and an opinion, and social media has a huge role to play for every brand. Choose your channels carefully and know which segments of your universe you are targeting with each. Then make sure that the content you are sharing is relevant. Use spokespeople that will resonate with each discreet audience - multiple audiences can represent one brand and some will be more meaningful to one audience than to others. Don’t add channels for the sake of it and be selective about the content that you share via 3rd party platforms. It takes confidence to let go, so, as always, try something first and be prepared to prove that it worked.

Fake news: are brands, media and platforms complicit?

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A hugely topical and emotive theme! Who’s to blame? There’s massive pressure on organisations and brands these days to churn out content but the responsibility lies with them to ensure that they are scrupulous in what they publish. Clickbait is disingenuous in a world where consumers are crying out for authenticity. However, it is those same consumers that are clicking on sensationalist headlines. Sadly, it’s all a little bit self-perpetuating, but what can brands do to help build trust in a post truth world? Don’t just churn out content - make it count - and take responsibility for where your content lands.

Should creativity live within agencies or brands?

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We all know that anyone can have a creative idea. It is not the prerogative of creative teams behind the glass walls of advertising agencies. Indeed, some brands are going it alone - Specsavers’ consistently successful campaign would suggest this is a good idea. On the other hand, Pepsi’s recent PR disaster could put anyone off. What’s the right answer? A true partnership and shared responsibility for innovation, creativity, technology and effectiveness was a popular theme. And whilst agencies potentially need to skill up and stop thinking about that glossy TV ad as the starting point to every campaign, brands need to work harder to bring their stories to the surface. Sometimes it needs an external view to recognise that an everyday story could be the key to a fantastic idea.

So, eight conversations, many opinions, great debate, no right or wrong answers but lots of fantastic ideas. That’s the point of Unconference.

If any of these topics get you thinking, please get in touch. Let’s carry on the conversation!

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Author: Josie Klafkowska
Published: 27 April 2017
unconferencehackathondigital clarity groupwundermandigital transformation

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