East Anglia’s digital businesses need to get on @TechCityUK’s #TechNation map to give our tech community a national voice.

Tech City UK is a government-funded body tasked with promoting the UK’s digital and technology capabilities to the world. Its mission includes understanding the support tech clusters in the UK need to thrive. It is currently researching the digital sector for its #TechNation report and is encouraging all digital businesses to complete a short survey to ensure their community is represented.

This survey (which is supported by Duedil, MTM London and AngelList) is only open to digital businesses, so no biotech, clean tech or aerospace companies. However, one of the early questions explains the criteria clearly. Simply answer the questions accurately to see if you qualify – but do it today because the survey closes on 28 September 2014.

Why does this survey matter?

This is a nationwide survey and policy makers are likely to use the resulting #TechNation report to shape future strategy. It is vital that East Anglia is properly represented if we are going to secure the government investment we need to grow our digital economy. It is also a great way of highlighting the digital expertise that already exists here to potential private investors and employers.

Individual clusters (such as Norwich, Bury St Edmunds or Ipswich) will only have a separate profile in the final report if enough companies complete the survey. Tech City UK currently estimates that at least 30 companies from a cluster would need to complete the survey for that to happen. That’s why it is so important we get as many local digital companies as possible to complete the survey.

What’s in it for me?

If you complete the survey by 28 September, Tech City UK will enter your name in a draw for the chance to win:

  1. One of 10 iPad mini 3s,
  2. Tickets to the NOAH Conference on 13/14 November 2014
  3. Most importantly, an individual profile of your company in the final #TechNation report.

You can take the survey here: http://bit.ly/technationsurvey. Please share the link today with your digital business contacts in East Anglia, to ensure the #TechNation report reflects the scale of our local digital communities. If you have any difficulties or questions please email technationsurvey@techcityuk.com.

UPDATE 20 November 2014

Since writing this blog we’ve had the pleasure of meeting with various members of the local tech community to discuss how we could collectively help build the region’s tech and digital reputation. This blog (on our Business Writers Limited site) explains what happened next: Supporting East Anglia’s #tech community. Please read and share.

We’re blogging for charity

We are using our blogs to raise awareness of an excellent local charity called Nelson’s Journey. If you enjoyed this post, please help a grieving child by donating £1 (or more if you can spare it) to Nelson’s Journey today. Thank you.

JustGiving - Please sponsor us

Thank you for reading

This is one in an occasional series of posts about business, social media and communications. If you find them interesting or useful, please give them a star or five and share with others. 

Please join the conversation by adding your views below or contacting me on twitter or Google+

Kind regards

Huw 

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

BW Icon

Advertisements

“But what do I say?” – How your business can use social media to engage audiences.

Thank you to all who have listened to my Social Media talk at various events over the last year. That includes The Mill Breakfast Club on 4 September 2014 and various BOLD Group Business Network breakfasts and workshops around Norfolk. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you found the discussions interesting and useful.

This post is based on those talks. However, I have expanded it to look at how effective engagement can help you communicate your corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Please join the conversation by commenting below.

How to use social media to support your community and build your brand

The following idea, on how you can use social media to build your reputation as a good corporate citizen, applies to every business no matter what its size (here corporate doesn’t just mean big). At the same time, it will give you something interesting and useful to say on social media – rather than saying nothing (or worse yet, saying something boring). This idea encapsulates my belief that engaging conversations build strong communities by uniting people around shared values and interests.

Huw Sayer - social media advisor.

Norfolk Magazine – January 2013 @HuwSayer – “A great Norfolk online ambassador.”

Social media is a huge subject but I want to focus on what to say and how to engage your audiences, which is what really matters. However, before I start, I am going to make three assumptions about you and your business:

  1. You use social media for business to find and engage with your audiences
  2. You want to be seen to be socially responsible (not irresponsible or indifferent)
  3. You understand you have a brand (even as a sole trader) and that building its credibility (familiarity and favourability) with your audiences takes time and care.

A quick aside:

Your social responsibility might be your next big opportunity

With those assumptions in mind, I just want to say a brief word about what I mean by good CSR. Being socially responsible doesn’t simply mean complying with laws governing the social aspects of businesses, such as working conditions, health and safety, or waste disposal. A good CSR strategy goes beyond compliance and looks for ways to turn each socially desirable action into a competitive advantage – one that creates marketing or, better still, real business opportunities.

For instance (purely hypothetical), you have a legal responsibility to comply with the WEEE Directive on the disposal of electronic goods. A marketing opportunity might involve reconditioning old computers and donating them to local schools. A business opportunity might involve developing a low margin, high volume line of cheap recycled computers for sale to individuals and communities.

Listening is the key to understanding

To know what those marketing and business opportunities might be, it pays to know your audiences both internal and external extremely well. Social media platforms not only can help you engage but also can help you listen to those audiences. Good listening is the key to productive conversations.
End of aside.

What do you say after you say hello?

There are plenty of good resources explaining the why and how of setting up and managing social media accounts for business. However, they tend to deal with the mechanics: what to say in your profile, how to analyse your RTs, when’s the best time to post, how best to use lists. Few really get down to the essential ‘What’ of social media, which is to engage and influence by listening, responding, reciprocating and sharing.

The three most important things to remember about social media:

  1. The clue to using social media is in the name – it is social (and sociable) not broadcast – and good social discourse (particularly in the public domain) thrives on engaging conversations
  2. People value authenticity and relevance both in others and in their conversations – they want a mix of interesting, useful, entertaining and shareable information – and they prefer to get it from people who share their values
  3. Constantly selling yourself (or your service) is boring – some might even say it is arrogant or vain – either way, it is a one-sided conversation that turns people off and undermines your brand’s credibility.

So how do you turn these three guiding principles into good conversations? My advice is to remember the 80/20 rule of social media:

  • Avoid the mistake of point 3 by making sure no more than 20% of what you say is directly sales related (and even then it needs to be subtle – we might deal with that in a later post).
  • Use the remaining 80% of your posts to build brand familiarity and favourability by giving your audiences what they value (see point 2) – authentic conversations.

Even if you don’t buy into this idea of using social media for CSR activity, the 80/20 rule can still help you create an effective social media strategy. However, since you are spending time on social media, you may as well use it wisely to do some good and build brand favourability in the process.  If you can’t be a financial philanthropist, you can at least be a time philanthropist by dedicating much of your 80% activity to supporting your local community or promoting socially responsible activities.

What socially responsible activities might resonate with your audience?

I’d suggest the same things that resonate with most people: things that benefit them, their families, their friends, their businesses and their communities. And to understand what those things are, you have to think local – by which I mean local to your audiences (and to understand what your audience thinks of as ‘local’ or ‘community’ you will need to listen to them – see my earlier point).

Using your 80% wisely

Here are four suggestions for what you might talk about or even champion for 80% of your social media time – think of these as themes and look for specifics within your own business.

  1. Things your team does to make your audience’s community better, safer, cleaner, happier, friendlier or more prosperous. Particularly if it involves working collaboratively with the community – since people tend to like team players. For instance, organising a mass litter pick, learning first aid (life skills that save lives), or fund raising for a local school or charity.
  2. Social or cultural events going on in the community – charity runs, free events at public libraries, new exhibitions at local public galleries and museums, village fêtes, county-wide public consultations.
  3. Things you have done in your business or personal life to become environmentally friendly – such as reducing waste, increasing recycling, planting wild flowers, planting trees to offset carbon emissions, or supporting a cycle to work scheme.
  4. Social causes that matter to both you and your audience (remember, this has to be authentic – so choose carefully don’t just leap on a bandwagon and hope it makes you look good). These could range from committing to buy local and fair trade products and services, to taking on apprentices, offering flexible working, paying a living wage rather than just the minimum wage, or supporting diversity and opportunity for all in business and society.

As I’ve said before, communities are stronger when they work together. Look around you – identify your audiences and your shared communities of geography or interest. Then work out how you can use your social media time to support and improve those communities – it’s not just good business sense, you’ll find it personally rewarding too.

If you want to discuss these ideas further, please contact me today.

We’re blogging for charity

We are using our blogs to raise awareness of an excellent local charity called Nelson’s Journey. If you enjoyed this post, please help a grieving child by donating £1 (or more if you can spare it) to Nelson’s Journey today. Thank you.

JustGiving - Please sponsor us

Thank you for reading

This is one in an occasional series of posts about social media and business communications. If you find them interesting or useful, please give them a star or five and share with others. I hope you will join the conversation by adding your views below or contacting me on twitter or Google+

Kind regards

Huw 

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

BW Icon

#NFDF2014 trip to Crisp Malting: talking about Norfolk barley, best malt, fine whisky and craft beer.

NFDF coloured logosDriving out from Norwich on a beautiful July day, I turned off the A1067 just before Pensthorpe Park and found myself looking down on a quintessentially English scene. Rolling away below me were the woods, fields and hedgerows surrounding the pretty village of Great Ryburgh, which lies by the upper reaches of River Wensum (and just over four miles from its source between Colkirk and Whissonsett). This landscape hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years (although the mill has gone) – and the crop is essentially the same: mainly wheat and barley.

Barley – specifically malting barley – was the reason I’d made the journey; however I wasn’t there to find out how malt is made. Instead, I wanted to find out what role Crisp Malting Group Ltd plays in the food and drink sector, which is such an important part of our economy. As well as being the UK’s largest manufacturing sector (accounting for some 7% of the UK economy, including £18.9bn in exports), food and drink makes up some 15% of Norfolk and Suffolk’s economy and employs 13% of the workforce, many of them in highly skilled jobs demanding good STEM qualifications.

Crisp Malting Distribution Map

From Great Ryburgh to the world of fine whisky and craft beer – with love.

Norfolk firm supplying customers around the world

If you are a malt whisky or craft beer connoisseur you might have heard of Crisp Malting, the largest independently owned maltster in the country. It makes high quality malt and supplies whole grain and crushed cereals for the food and drink industry. Customers range from the finest distillers and largest brewers in the world to numerous craft breweries across the UK, including around 30 in Norfolk (such as Woodfordes, Panther, Fat Cat, Humpty Dumpty Norfolk Brewhouse, and Redwell Brewery).

The firm has five production sites: two in Scotland and three in East Anglia, including its largest in Great Ryburgh (which is also home to its head office and main research laboratory). “East Anglia is arguably the best farming region in the world for malting barley,” says Crisp’s Managing Director Euan Macpherson. “Light soils, low rainfall, and plenty of sunshine provide ideal growing conditions, while the fog that rolls in off the North Sea subtly enhances the quality of the grain.”

Working with growers, merchants and buyers

The interesting aspect of Crisp’s business from an industry supply chain point of view is the way it works with suppliers and buyers. This includes advising farmers on the different varieties of barley to grow based on the needs of its specialist customers, as well as the costs involved and any quality issues. “A few years ago we set up the ABC Growers Group with two local grain merchants – Adams & Howling and H Banhams (which owns 50% of the famous Maris Otter brand),” explains Bob King, Crisp’s Commercial Director. “ABC works with over 220 growers in Norfolk and Suffolk to develop long term supplies of specific malting barley strains. We now have rolling three-year contracts for around 100,000 tonnes – and some have been in place for the best part of 15 years.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/markescapes/

Iconic Norfolk lighthouse – and almost as iconic Norfolk barley – photo by Mark Spurgeon

“This approach is good for growers because it gives them greater certainty about the demand for their crop, as well as potential yields and returns on investment. The grain merchants, who are experts in constructing and pricing such contracts, benefit because it keeps them involved in the process and helps them develop their specialist market knowledge. Meanwhile we ensure we can source a high quality crop that meets our customers’ changing needs for different styles of malt.”

For example, Crisp produces a unique variety of malt called Clear Choice. “This comes from a low yield variety of barley,” explains Steve Le Poidevin, Sales Director, “which no one would have grown without a secure contract. However, we know it is ideal for producing malt that makes a great tasting, haze free beer, with a long shelf life. Because our customers appreciate these real benefits, we have the confidence to place long term orders with our growers.”

Crisp runs tours of its malting facilities and its customers’ breweries to give the ABC farmers a better understanding of the maltster’s and brewer’s needs. “Traditionally this never happened,” says Steve, “but about two-thirds of the ABC farmers have now visited one of our sites. This gives our technical director David Griggs an opportunity to discuss the various malting methods, including traditional ‘floor malting’, and how particular types of barley and malt suit specific styles of beer or whisky.”

#Agritech – Research and development

As well as a team of highly skilled crop and food scientists, Crisp has extensive technical capabilities in its Great Ryburgh laboratory. These include a micro-malting facility for testing small batches of new grain varieties and the ability to analyse up to 30 product attributes. It also works with various industry specialists to improve existing varieties of barley and to develop new ones.

Partners in this process include growers and The Morley Agricultural Foundation, which specialises in conducting field trials of arable crops for seed specialists, including researchers at the John Innes Institute (JIC). “Both Crisp and JIC have recently worked together on a conservation variety of barley called Chevalier, which was the first identified malting barley,” says Euan. “JIC is interested in it because it has certain characteristics that could be useful in breeding modern varieties; while we are interested because we have identified a market for small quantities of ‘heritage’ malts.”

This attention to detail and specialist knowledge helps explain why Crisp is the leading supplier of malt to the craft beer sector in the UK. The firm also supplies malt to about 70% of the micro-breweries in Japan (where there has been a surge of interest in craft beers). In addition, Crisp provides its customers with complete product traceability, which is particularly important for brewers and distillers who value provenance as well as quality.

Thank you Euan, Bob and Steve for your time and for a fascinating conversation.

GrowAndCook-logo

Interesting link with Heygate Farms

In an earlier blog I talked about Heygate Farms’ Grow & Cook Awards. Heygate Farms are probably best known for growing the Norfolk Peer and Norfolk Keeper brands of potato. However, the group is also a major supplier of spring barley and rye to Crisp, who malt both. Some of the malted rye is sent on to Crisp’s sister company EDME in Essex, who process it before sending some of it back to Heygates for use in its flour.

We’re blogging for charity

We are using our blogs to raise awareness of an excellent local charity called Nelson’s Journey. If you enjoyed this post, please help a grieving child by donating £1 (or more if you can spare it) to Nelson’s Journey today. Thank you.

JustGiving - Please sponsor us

 About this post

This is one in a series of #NFDF2014 tagged posts about the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2014 and related stories – I hope you enjoy them (if you do, please give them a star or two).

If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future posts, please post them under this blog or tweet them to me. I will do my best to reply.

Thank you for reading,

Huw.

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write