Marketing In Times of Recovery

Marketing In Times Of Crisis has changed its name to Marketing In Times of Recovery. It's still a bi-weekly interview-led podcast series featuring inspirational built environment business leaders but more with a look to the future. We’ve had to weather crisis’ before and podcast listeners hear lively conversations, jam-packed with hints, tips and takeaways that you can apply to your business now. Hosted by Ayo Abbas, Founder / Consultant, Abbas Marketing. Subscribe now, rate, review and help us to spread the word.


episode 6: Ep 06: Smart Cities, Branding & Digital with Rick Robinson, Jacobs [transcript]

Welcome to Marketing In Times of Crisis and I’m your host freelance marketing consultant Ayo Abbas from Abbas Marketing.  Today my guest is Rick Robinson who leads the global smart cities team at Jacobs. 

Rick aka The Urban Technologist is a tech and digital pioneer who brings a unique macro level perspective to our built environment conversation. He touches on some of the major issues such as climate change including the Pivot Projects initiative that he's been taking part in during lockdown, net zero and digital poverty that society and our industry must look to address.

Key Takeaways 

  • The importance of personal brand and how that can help companies and build trust 
  • The role of smart cities and digital infrastructure in a post covid world 
  • Potential areas of opportunity for built environment practitioners as we reimagine our cities
  • Tips for those looking to start their journey on social media

This episode was recorded on Tuesday August 11 2020.



Pivot Projects

The Urban Technologist

Abbas Marketing

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 2020-09-04  36m
00:04  Ayo Abbas
Welcome to the latest episode of Marketing In Times of Crisis. It's where I Ayo Abbas getsto talk to built environment business leaders about how they've weathered a crisis, and they share their experiences and ideas that may help others get through it now. Today is Tuesday, August 11 2020. And my guest is Rick Robinson, who is a specialist in smart cities, and recently joined Jacobs as a Director. We talked about why Rick was an early adopter personal branding, where he marketed himself as opposed to the companies he worked for. We also talked about the role of smart cities and digital infrastructure in a post COVID world and highlight some of the potential areas of opportunity as we start to reimagine our cities. He also gives his hints and tips about starting out in social media as he was an early adopter. Before we start, do make sure you subscribe and leave us a review so that more people get to hear about this podcast. Now it's over to the interview. Rick, hope you enjoy by. Today's guest is Rick Robinson. And Rick. Hi, thanks so much for coming onto the show. My first question for you is, can you introduce yourself and your role and what you do?
01:26  Rick Robinson
Yeah. So I'm Rick Robinson. I'm director of smart places for Jacobs. I guess I'm a techie at heart. I've been coding for 40 years now, believe it or not, since my dad bought one of the world's first personal computers.
01:40  Ayo Abbas
01:41  Rick Robinson
Yeah, taught me how to code on it. So I couldn't quite call myself a digital native, but I'm as close as you can be. And I guess for the past 13 years or so, I've worked in the field of smart cities, which I think of as the the role of digital technology and the impact of digital technology on the places and communities on the places and communities in which we live.
01:44  Ayo Abbas
Okay, I guess, what do you define as a smart city? I'm going to Iask you that question?
02:11  Rick Robinson
Yes, a very good question. I define it in a really simplistic way, I often do it visually. So, I draw a Venn diagram of two overlapping circles. One circle represents things that make cities better. The other circle represents things that technology can do. The overlap is what I call a smart city. Yeah, the reason I just define it that way is its simplicity that hides great scope and complexity. So, you know, first of all, what's the city or more broadly? What do we mean by a place? You know, that's a really complex question. Cities are complex systems of systems, communities, environment, economy, physical space, etc. You know, so a city or a place is a really complex thing. We have all sorts of dimensions and aspects to it. Yeah. What do we mean by better? You know, that's a really deep and complex question as well. It's reall, isn't it? Absolutely. You know, do you mean economic growth to me, people being happier, less crime, more equality, you know, better, encompasses a lot of complexity as well. And then finally, what do we mean by technology? You know, that's an astonishingly broad idea. You know, arguably the cities that we have today were first enabled by the steam engine that made it possible to power lifts so we could have tall buildings. They were then trampled all over by the internal combustion engine. And nowadays, when we talk about technology, you know, I mentioned my childhood growing up programming, a Tandy, trs 80. In those days, if you read computer world and byte magazine every month, you knew everything that was happening in digital technology. That's so far away from the reality of the day, there is so much good stuff. So that's how I define it in a very simple way. That tries not to draw too many boundaries. But there also recognises a lot greater diversity and complexity.
03:22  Ayo Abbas
It's really subjective, isn't it?
03:08  Rick Robinson
Absolutely. You know, do you mean economic growth do we mean people being happier, less crime, more equality, you know, better, encompasses a lot of complexity as well. And then finally, what do we mean by technology? You know, that's an astonishingly broad idea. Arguably the cities that we have today were first enabled by the steam engine that made it possible to power lifts so we could have tall buildings. They were then trampled all over by the internal combustion engine. And nowadays, when we talk about technology, you know, I mentioned my childhood growing up programming, a Tandy, trs 80. In those days, if you read Computer World and Byte Magazine every month, you knew everything that was happening in digital technology. That's so far away from the reality of the day, there is so much good stuff. So that's how I define it in a very simple way. That tries not to draw too many boundaries. But there also recognises a lot greater diversity and complexity.
04:06  Ayo Abbas
Wow, it sounds like a really huge, but I guess fascinating and important topic. And I guess one of the things that I really liked about your approach when spoke to you earlier was that you were saying that in terms of your roles that you've had over your career, you, tended towards marketing yourself, as an individual person rather than the actual organisations that you work for. And I guess my question is, why did you look to take that approach?
04:35  Rick Robinson
Yeah, so I guess it was a realisation that happened when I gave a presentation once actually well before my days in Smart Cities when I was working on social media and what we called web two dot o back in the back in the noughties. And I was introduced by a moderator who said some of my past work at IBM on topics such as web services and service oriented architecture have been really influential and I was just really surprised. I didn't realise particularly that anyone outside the company that I worked for and the direct clients that I worked for had any knowledge of who I was or what my work was. And, you know, that was just an observation that struck me, then, a year or so later, when I really started getting into what IBM called Smart Cities. I realised that I was going to have to try to persuade people to trust me about something very new, and in some ways, very challenging. And then also, you know, the whole field and me personally, we were going on a learning journey. You know, we didn't really know what a smart city was back in those days. And, you know, I didn't have any formal expertise in cities apart from the fact that I happens to live in one. So you know, I spent a few years learning from town planners from social scientists, from engineers, from policymakers, politicians, all sorts of people's social entrepreneurs, etc. And I started writing about it on a blog, partly as a tool to work out my own thinking, partly as a forum to spark some form of debate, if I could come up with some ideas perhaps some people would argue with them and perhaps I'll learn more through that process of argument. Partly to share with people and I at that point took a personal deicion to do that in a personal capacity rather than for IBM. I did that because I felt that people would trust it more if it appeared to come from me rather than a company. and you know IBM had and has a terrifically strong brand but i still felt for somthing like this that really mattered to the places theat thye lived in and the communities that they came from. I also took the decision to use I bought my own domain name the and that's branding too. So, yes, it was a conscious decision. I'm not necessarily saying on you an awful lot about how to do it when I started out, but it did seem to work. Absolutely.
07:18  Ayo Abbas
How did your companies bosses feel about that? Was there any pushback on that? Or was that seen as a positive?
07:24  Rick Robinson
You know, it was seen? Yeah, it was seen as a positive and IBM was actually very forward looking on social media or, or its employees were so you know, in the early days, when, you know, it was MySpace, and Twitter was just getting started. I can't remember if you can still do it, but there's a way of finding out what number of person you are that joined Twitter I'm about 870,000 something like there before me, but it's still pretty early. And a bunch of people at IBM who were, you know, really at the forefront of adopting those services decided that IBM needed some guidelines about how to how to behave in public online, as an individual, but who worked for a company. And so they wrote a set of social media guidelines based on what they thought was common sense.
08:15  Ayo Abbas
That's amazing.
08:15  Rick Robinson
Yeah, they were then adopted by IBM officially. And I think actually, IBM sent them to the White House at one point as a sort of contribution to the US national debate around how people in organisations should behave on social media. And so, you know, we were actively encouraged to have our own presence online, because IBM saw the value that had to the company of having real authentic people making sense on interesting topics. So you know, providing we didn't get involved in anything untoward. And we kept our language clean and you know, sensible things like that don't bring the company into disrepute. Then it was supported and I think that's an entirely sensible way to do it.
08:58  Ayo Abbas
And I guess what, what tips would you give to Anybody looking to get started on social media? If they haven't really used it, in a personal capacity or for business?
09:06  Rick Robinson
Yeah, yeah. Um, so I think I saw a great piece of research once in the early days of the internet. I think it's by the Oxford Internet Institute. And they were trying to identify patterns in how successful people were in using online tools to communicate. Yeah. And what they found was that people who were successful in life meant that quite broadly, you know, happy in their family life, happy with their job, comfortably off, etc. tended to be very organised in how they communicated. So they would use specific channels, telephone, written letters, email, social media, they do specific channels for doing specific things. And they found that those those habits were consistent between traditional communication and what were then the new online forms of communication. And I think that's something that Serves really well with social media. Because if you look at Instagram, if you look at Twitter, if you look at WhatsApp, if you look at LinkedIn, Facebook, all these different platforms, they attract different communities for different reasons. And so, and I rarely talk about work on Facebook. I never talk about family on Twitter or LinkedIn. I'm probably stricter than most people in my behaviour that way. But what what I sort of noticed was I didn't start out that way. You know, my Twitter feed was full of everything. It was full of Foursquare check ins it was full of, you know what I just had for lunch, when I was watching bla bla bla Yeah. And you know, I would want to one of the things I found at that time is if I followed someone I found interesting on Twitter that was an industry figure, let's say or an influencer and one of the customers I wanted to work with. Not many of them followed me back. As soon as I got really organised and thought, well Twitter's for this LinkedIn's for that. WordPress and blogging is for the others. Facebook is for family and friends, then all of a sudden, people were following me back. Because, you know, I was connecting with people in a way that demonstrated I had interesting content that was relevant to them and relevant to the way that they use that particular platform. So I think that's a really important thing to do.
11:19  Ayo Abbas
Okay, so basically having a structure and a, I guess, a purpose for each channel and what you're using it for. Absolutely. And I think also, you know, having a mixture of stuff. So you know, obviously, one of the things I use social media for is to make connections that lead to business development opportunities. But if everything I tweet, everything I post on LinkedIn has that character, people are going to turn off pretty quickly. And so I tend to have a mix of you know, here is something interesting, relevant, I've read, here's a retweet of something that I agree with or think is worth sharing, and then occasionally within that are things that you know, are more likely intended to get people interested in the sorts of things that I do commercially. How much do you tend to post that's your own content?
12:06  Rick Robinson
these days, because it really, really busy, I've hardly been active for months. And I think that that's another thing is, you know, have it in its right priority in life
12:18  Ayo Abbas
What you're trying to sort of get through lockdown.
12:22  Rick Robinson
It was more to do with starting a new job and various other things happening at the same time. So I'm hoping to get that more active quite shortly. But, um, I would guess, probably about a third of it. So say take Twitter or things I post on LinkedIn, probably a third of it is, is content. So it's an opinion that I've got added to an article or it's something that I've written, but not necessarily in a promotional sense, just in the sense of, you know, if I'm going to ask for people's attention by saying something, then I should be adding some value.
12:55  Ayo Abbas
Completely. I agree with that. Yeah.
12:57  Rick Robinson
And then you know, The rest of it would be replying to things or would be just sharing links other people had shared or it happened to see, etc.
13:06  Ayo Abbas
Yeah,that was good. It I think you've got to add value to things rather than just keep sharing them because it's like, well, any could do that.
13:13  Rick Robinson
absolutely. And you know, one of the things that I observed, I think of it as content and I guess this is something I, again learned whilst at IBM, which is a very virtually collaborative company. So you know, I first joined IBM as a pre university student in 1990. And we already had global online instant messaging.
13:31  Ayo Abbas
13:31  Rick Robinson
I at one point, got into trouble pay using an entire mainframe capacity to run a Facebook like social collaboration tool for students and
13:41  Ayo Abbas
You could have made millions.
13:43  Rick Robinson
Well, yeah, I'm obviously a better techie than that I am a businessman because I'm not the richest people in the world.
13:50  Ayo Abbas
You could have been not the next Mark Zuckerberg, you could have been the original.
13:55  Rick Robinson
You know, all that technology was around a long time ago actually. And we got used to to using it. Yeah.
14:01  Ayo Abbas
So I guess it's how you package it right? Is that is that like anything else in the Facebook vein, or did they do it was wildly different?
14:07  Rick Robinson
I think there's a bunch of things. So actually, one of the things is I think the iPhone was instrumental in this stuff. And the iPad as well. You know, I remember the City of Sunderland, I used to do a lot of work with them. And they had a survey of internet usage done at one point. And when asked, Do you have the internet, something about two thirds of the residents surveyed said, yeah, we've got the internet. When asked, Do you have Facebook? This? Oh, yeah, I've got that on my phone. And that was, I think they said they were like, above 99% of the population was on Facebook. It was something crazy like that, you know, thinking back now that doesn't sound quite feasible. But you know, many, many more people said they were on Facebook than on the internet. Now, obviously, the internet enables Facebook, right, but that wasn't there. They hadn't
14:55  Ayo Abbas
They hadn't realised.
14:56  Rick Robinson
Yeah, stuff that's on their phone is easy, but it was the iPhone. With a touchscreen and with the always on internet connection, you know those two innovations together, that changed the demographic of people who would use Internet services to the point where they didn't even realise they were doing it. Around the same time, I noticed that lots of people who worked for the local authorities who were my clients were walking into meeting rooms with iPads, they would never have walked in there with a laptop with a clunky old keyboard, they'd have had a notebook, but the iPad changed it, you know, became a different sort of business tool. And again, it changed the demographic of people who use it. So actually, even if I've been the best business person in the world and the best techie in the world, when I created that online forum tool back in 1990, it wouldn't have succeeded the way Facebook I'm dead because the connectivity wasn't there. The End User consumer devices weren't there the familiarity wasn't so you know, seems have their right time.
15:54  Ayo Abbas
Just checking. So going back t to lockdown and because you're involved in smart cities, I mean, what's changed in terms of how they're going forward? Do you think? Yeah.
16:07  Rick Robinson
Well, yes, it's really interesting, isn't it? So, things have actually started to accelerate dramatically. Well, pre-COVID One of the things I look at is that there's a an economist over in the states Marshall van alstyne, who is a an expert on what he calls platform businesses. They're also known as two sided markets but you know, things like Facebook where you know, Facebook don't charge you a certain fee for using their service. They create a marketplace on which third party services thrive so you know, games that we might pay to to play whilst on Facebook and then the Facebook monetise those services, eBay, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, you know, all of these are similar platform businesses in some. And if you look at the list of the 10 Most Valuable companies in the world then between about 2015 to 2017. The number of platform businesses goes from nought to I think five or six depending on how you count it. Seven of the top 10 most valuable companies in the world and are technology companies and have been for some time so I think that shift started to happen around 2015 - 2017. Now about five years after the the touchscreen and the always on internet connection for your smartphone, people figured out the first wildly successful consumer services, they really scaled. And so we were already seeing a huge change in the economy. And you know, if I look at it, you know, all those examples that I've given, you know, they might lead us to undertake transactions that involve you know, physical goods and services and transport. You know, we go and stay in rented accommodation, we get a car journey somewhere, we have some food delivered to us or etc, etc. The difference is we're choosing which transactions we undertake online in marketplaces that didn't exist 5/10 years ago. Now, that's a really interesting shift. So that was happening already. I think COVID has just accelerated that. And, you know, in particular remote working, so I was remarking to someone only the other day, actually, you know, back in the noughties at one point, I was managing. I was living in Birmingham, managing a team that was based in Hampshire, France and Spain. With a, my boss was in Winchester, and my second line was in Pittsburgh, you know, I hardly met some of these people. I've tended to work from home six, seven days a week and I travelled down to Winchester and stay a couple of days, their work in the Winchester office. So, you know, my life then had a lot of similarities to life under lockdown. So, you know, a lot of this stuff was possible a long time ago. I've also read, you know, some commentators suggesting that working remotely is only working because we are using up the social capital that we previously built, meeting and working face to face. I just think that's a fallacy. I'm working for a company now that's got 55,000 employees, I've only met six of them. Three in my interview process was an old University friend and two others who I knew from previous jobs. So yeah, the other 54,994 I'm meeting remotely, I'm building new relationships. We're winning contracts with new customers for work we've never done before. You know, you can be perfectly creative in this sort of environment. Now, I'm not going to say it's perfect. You know, I'm lucky that I have the space and the connectivity, and the familiarity with these tools, and it all works very well for me. There's many many other people who who are not in that position. And of course, you know, if you talk to schools, if you talk to local authorities, health services, police, etc. You know, the most vulnerable people in our society are precisely the ones least likely to have access to connectivity. have a job you can do remote, etc, etc. And so, you know, a couple of things is that we were we were in the midst of an accelerating shift towards digital ways of doing things already. COVID has dramatically accelerated that. And it's taught, you know, many organisations that they can do things in completely different ways. But it's also thrown the digital divide into stark relief and reveal that it actually that's a life and death matter. You know, I'm starting to think it is unconscionable that we don't find a way to provide connectivity to everyone. Do you know by analogy, you wouldn't think of building a house without water pipes and taps? Why do you think you're building a house without connectivity and some form of device to access it?
20:46  Ayo Abbas
It's a vital service. Basically, it's getting to that stage that if you don't have the things you won't be able to function?
20:51  Rick Robinson
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And this again, is, you know, it's an argument that I've been trying to make for some time. argument that is landing more easily through what people have seen as we've tried to cope with COVID-19 and the restrictions it's brought. It's not an argument that's won yet. I personally think, you know, we're going to see the absolute transformation of employment over the next couple of decades. Now, there's lots of studies on this out there. Some of them at one extreme is saying that almost everyone's job is going to be replaced by robotics and artificial intelligence. In the future, most people won't work at the other end of the spectrum of people saying no, what we're going to do is create millions of new jobs things that no we can't imagine at the moment. And, you know, I remember a few years ago hearing that a cousin of mine had left University and started work as a character designer for a video games company. That job didn't exist when I was in college. My job's been automated out of all recognition. So you know, I used to be paid to go design large scale computing infrastructures to run things like online banking and e-commerce sites. Yeah, no need to pay me to do that anymore. You can go rent it off the cloud in Amazon, you know, the stuff I used to do, to design to configure, it has literally been scripted and automated away. So it's not needed anymore. So you know, I'm doing something now that's fundamentally different to what I did earlier in my career. And the really, the real risk in that I think, is in providing education to people, you know, if the types of things that we, we can be paid to do change out of all recognition driven by technology, then we need to give people new skills and that's all the way from primary school through to adult learners all the way through life. And I think it's really concerning. Yeah, we're not putting that investment in education. My son's primary school in Birmingham is one of the ones that can only afford to stay open four and a half days a week. It just hasn't got enough money. And it certainly doesn't have enough money to to pay for all this new technology. What we have done in the school where my son goes to is some of the parents there have managed to get corporations to donate free laptops? But of course, you know, that's in a school where some of the parents are IT directors for big companies? Yeah, it's good. Yeah, different communities a bit together. Yeah, different communities, they will not have some of them that capacity in the parents community. So you can see, you know, social mobility not working here, you can see it in action. So I think that's really, really important for the future, is to get that message across to all sorts of people that the economy is really going to change fundamentally. And we're going to have to invest massively in education. And we're going to have to think really hard about how we close the digital divide, because we've been talking about it for decades, but we've not succeeded in doing much.
23:45  Ayo Abbas
And do you see that those those those opportunities were built environment specialists, so architects, engineers, things like that? What can what can they be doing or what what could they be tapping into?
23:55  Rick Robinson
Yeah,absolutely. So you know, if you look at One of the big streams of investment that goes into our cities, our communities, it's investment in new property and infrastructure, right? You know, it's an attractive investment because over a sort of 10/20 year timeframe, you get a reasonable return on your asset value. And there are, you know, established accepted precedents there. If you build 5000 new homes, you probably gonna build a few schools. You know, if you're doing that, then you're going to be creating public space, public amenities, public services. And in today's world, surely that should include digital skills, programmes, public Wi Fi, digital infrastructure, etc. So you know that I think there's a really strong relationship between the built environment and technology because technology is simply part of the places that we live, work and play and right. I can't remember if it was earlier in this interview, or when we were just chatting informally earlier that you know, the cities that we have today took their shape, partly due to the steam engine which powered lifts which made it possible To use tall buildings, and they got trampled over by the internal combustion engine. And we've been living with that for the past 50 years or so in trying to engineer our way out of it. And you know, all those consumer services that I described before, where we're now using digital marketplaces to choose who we meet, to choose what we need to choose what we buy and have delivered to us. Now that's digital technology changing physical places. So no, you can't separate the two things from each other anymore. We have to design both Well, at the same time. And that means there's a great role for everyone involved in the built environment to be influencing the way that digital technologies effectors hopefully for the better.
25:39  Ayo Abbas
Okay. And so I guess, I've seen that you've also got a group looking at special projects over lockdown, which is called pivot projects. And tell us a bit about that. Yeah. Yes.
25:54  Rick Robinson
That's one of those things where you sort of get involved in something and you look back and you can't quite figure out how And
26:01  Ayo Abbas
It looks really huge.
26:03  Rick Robinson
It's just it's an amazing thing. And you know, it's very organically evolved thing. It started with a chap called Colin Harrison, who was one of my old mentors at IBM in the Smart Cities team that Colin wrote to myself and Peter Head and a couple of other people with no common observation now that, you know, Colin was quite early making it, hey, look at all the reduction in carbon impacts that we're seeing due to restrictions for COVID-19. we're eventually going to come out from those restrictions, surely we should take this opportunity to, to research and find evidence for what some of the benefits of having done things differently are, and see if when we emerge from this we can emerge not back to doing things as they were before but doing things in a more sensible way. That's more likely to help us achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals are limit the impact of climate change. And Peter and I responded to say yes We should do something about it. So there you go, we'd formed something. And we kind of made the rest up from there as we went along, and reaching out to our contact networks just of urban designers, scientists, engineers, social entrepreneurs, all sorts of people just to find out, hey, who wants to try and do something. So it's grown into this enormous thing. Now, we've got well over 100 people involved in it, we've got more than 20 workstreams. It's global. So we've got people in Asia and Africa, around Europe in the States, contributing to it all entirely unfunded at this stage. So it's an enormous volunteer effort, but hopefully coming up with some really good cross disciplinary system of systems thinking about how we can do things differently and I think it's just crucial that we do so. The way of looking at this that just terrifies me the most is the estimates show we'll probably see a temporary 5% fall for carbon emissions this year, due to the COVID-19 restrictions. And of course, now they've been associated with hundreds of thousands of people dying and millions of people losing their jobs. If we're going to hit net zero by 2050, and limit global warming to a reasonable degree, we need to achieve a permanent 5% reduction in carbon emissions every year from now to 2050. without all of those negative connotations, but that's a really sobering challenge. And, you know, our past track record doesn't show we've had much, you know, made much real progress on a global basis achieving that sort of changed. So you know that that's why we got involved in pivot projects. That's why more than 100 people are contributing time and energy and expertise to it because it's just one of the most important things for us to do.
28:46  Ayo Abbas
It's a brilliant, brilliant project is a really good aim as well. And the figures are staggering actually, you just think they shouldn't be business as usual when we go back. Yeah. I'm so obviously tomorrow. I have The UK is meant to officially announced from the ONS that we're actually going to be in recession. I guess, how did you kind of fare in the previous recession that happened around 2008 2009? Are there any kind of particular nuggets that you kind of learn about taking things forward from here?
29:17  Rick Robinson
Yeah, I guess that's when I learned that sometimes you have to knuckle down and really do things for the long term. You know, I was fortunate, I wasn't one of the people who lost their jobs, to job. My clients at the time, were local authorities. They were going through a terrible time, and they certainly weren't spending a lot of money. So it was very difficult to win work with them. They needed a lot of help. So, you know, I did what I could on pro bono basis, but just looked to the longer term and that's when I got into Smart Cities because I thought, well, you know, there's there's no money around to do normal stuff at the moment. So we have to look to the to what's coming next. What's not normal, be a bit forward looking and find innovative ways to do things. So yeah. And you know, that was a long, hard slog with lots of work and lots of hours and occasional rewards for a little while until the market started. And the economy started picking up again,
30:18  Ayo Abbas
I guess in catching up with you of what you've already learned, but I guess you had a head start from others with that.
30:23  Rick Robinson
And that, I guess, is where, you know, we come back again to marketing, persuasion, storytelling, etc. Now, if I think back to the early noughties, when it was my job to talk to clients about the value of social media or web two technologies to them. And frankly, I was left out of the room most of the time. You know, telcos, banks, insurers, you know, whoever, Rick why are you wasting our time with this frivolity was basically the tenor of
30:54  Ayo Abbas
the are still some companies that do that now. You know?
30:56  Rick Robinson
Yes. Absolutely. So, you know, I think we're probably at a, we're in a similar sort of place today. I think, you know, there's a big debate starting about, you know, post COVID. What does cities look like what the communities look like? What does the economy look like? How are we going to rebuild jobs? And I think there is. There's a job to be done there. And pivot projects is very much on this agenda, but it's part of my day work as well. Well, we should reimagine our cities, you know, for goodness sake, the steam engine and the lift to hundreds of years old, internal combustion engines not far behind them. Surely, it's time we reimagined places around a different set of possibilities. And I think, you know, for a long time, people have toyed with the idea of social media enabling things that hyperlocal if we give one example of a startup, that's Midland based borrowclub, I think a really interesting, they were all sharing service. So the idea As if you need a tool to put up a shelf or fix a gate or whatever else in the place that you live, don't get in your car and go out of town to buy one, find a near neighbour who's got one and who's in and who you can walk around and borrow it from. And so it's I think it's a fascinating business model or a fast example, simple
32:17  Ayo Abbas
concept, isn't it? Yeah. But it's got so many features, you know, promotes walking and cycling over use of cars, it promotes reuse of goods, it creates social interactions. Now it has its own business model. You know, he's self sustaining. I think it's an amazing little thing. That the other piece about it is whilst you know, whilst it's a very local idea, it fundamentally wouldn't work without internet and social media technologies. I could never have telephoned 1000 near neighbours in pre internet days to find out if one of them could lend me a hand. But I can survey that many near neighbours online. And so it you know, it's an example of the way that digital tools can reveal hidden local capacities and opportunities. So you know what a lot of the time we think about digital of making place, irrelevant. We can do anything anywhere. Actually, it also enhances the value of place. And I think that's a really important thing for us to look at. And I think there are so there are synergies there with the idea of the 15 minutes city, which is something gaining a lot of attention at the moment. Now, this being the idea that everything you usually need is within a 15 minutes walkable journey of your home. No, you've never heard. Yeah. And so, you know, that might mean your place of work isn't where all of your colleagues are, it might be a co-working centre, it might mean that we think differently about how we have goods delivered so that they're not delivered to our home, they're different delivered to local shopping centres. You know, all of this stuff is possible. It's not what we were doing before, but it could be an awful lot better than we were doing before. And it's a great example of placemaking community, digital all coming together to create a new a new possibility. So what one tip which is my final question would you give to business leaders about how to market themselves and take themselves forward? Now that we are in recession? Gosh,
34:12  Rick Robinson
I think transparency and honesty are things that are achievable with much broader reach online than previous types of communication. I can think of a great example of an urbanism conference, which had a panel discussion featuring the chief executive of one of the mass housebuilders. And the audience gave this person a really tough time because they were attacking the quality of their developments, the quality of the environments they created. This person apparently I wasn't there. I heard about it but broke down and said to the audience, look, I got into this business making the biggest business I could because I grew up in a really, really rubbish estate in a really tough bit of a city. My childhood was blighted by the environment I grew up in. I've made it my life's mission to give as many people as I can a better chance than I got. If there's something about the way that I'm doing it, please tell me and help you learn from it. But please don't criticise my motivations, because they're quite honest ones. And, you know, I thought that was, you know, the people who had been at that who told me about it. I'd been really, really struck by it. So I
35:28  Ayo Abbas
really honest and brave isn't it? Yeah, yeah. It's obviously it's a particular example. And not everyone's got to tell to tell like that. You know, I think being authentic and using online media to communicate an authentic view of ourselves and why we do what we do for our organisation that can only be a thing. Okay. Thank you so much, Rick. I hope you enjoyed it.
35:51  Rick Robinson
I did. It was a real pleasure talking to you. I thank you.
36:00  Ayo Abbas
Thanks so much for listening to Marketing In Times of Crisis. I really do appreciate you taking time out of your day to tune in. Check out the show notes for useful links, including my website, where you can find out more about everything featured today, and how to get in touch where our new podcasts so if you like what you've heard, please do subscribe so that you never miss an episode and more people get to hear about us.