Big things are happening at Knapton Wright, with this week marking the arrival of Rob Jefferson, our new Director of Marketing.
Rob becomes the latest exciting addition to our creative team after gaining years of experience and knowledge in the digital sector, working as Doncaster Council's Web and Creative Services Business Partner for the last four-and-a-half years.
As you know from our work with the local community, particularly Brigg Town FC CIC, Knapton Wright is a creative agency that cares deeply about Northern Lincolnshire. Rob, too, shares our passion for the area, having grown up, gone to school in, and worked in Brigg throughout his life.
"Louise and I are proud that Rob feels this agency is where he wants to be and can't wait to see what the future holds for the team and for this area," says Alex Wright, our MD. "Rob's combination of analytical thinking and a creative approach to everything he does will benefit not only the business but also, more importantly, our clients. This next chapter is going to be awesome!"
KW: What interested you most about joining Knapton Wright? And why now?
Rob: Alex and I have talked for a long time about how we could work together and those conversations became more meaningful earlier this year. I now have the opportunity to come on board and lead a rapidly growing creative agency with big ambitions, right on my doorstep. It’s a new direction for me, a significant career progression and I truly believe in the vision that Alex and Louise have set out.
My career has predominantly been about public service so I have always felt a sense of duty to the people in the communities I’ve served. What’s interesting about Knapton Wright, is that although it’s quite obviously an ambitious and commercial organisation, it too cares about its community and is proud about the place it’s located in and helping businesses around it. Alex’s passion about making KW the “creative castle” of the town and even becoming a creative hub for the wider area really sold it to me - it’s exciting, inspiring and community-spirited.
The timing is right - I’ve had over four years now in South Yorkshire. It’s time to come home to my young family and put my skills to good use in Northern Lincolnshire again.
KW: What’s your proudest contribution or campaign at Doncaster Council?
Rob: My proudest moment was a few seconds after my colleague Liam had been interviewed live by national BBC News because his masterful Gritting World Cup had gone viral on an international scale, firmly putting the council on the map for our stand out social media.
It was the culmination of many weeks of thought, change and effort towards our content strategy, by trying to make a flatlining social media account for a public body into a channel full of engagement and delight. That moment was an incredible high point and it was great to share it with him. It was strangely emotional, with a feeling of: “what the hell have we just done, and what the hell do we do next?”
KW: What does Northern Lincolnshire mean to you?
Rob: An awful lot. It’s where I was born and bred, where I’ve worked for most of my career so far and where I’ve chosen to raise a family. I also read Social Science at the University of Lincoln, graduating in Lincoln’s majestic cathedral so the county is most certainly in my blood. I regularly enjoy Lincolnshire’s big blue skies, yellow crops and green fields by bike or on foot.
That said, I’ve got Yorkshire roots given my parents and wider family are from North Yorkshire. I spend a lot of my spare time exploring the Dales as well, so I do feel an affinity to the White Rose of York. Is there such a thing as a Yorkshire Yellowbelly? If so, that’s probably a good way to describe me.
KW: What do you love most about Brigg and the local area?
Rob: Brigg’s always been an important place for me both personally and professionally. I went to school there, worked at two previous jobs in the town, and I’ve lost count of the number of misspent Friday night pub crawls I’ve enjoyed/endured there! Does it still have the most pubs per person per square mile or is that an urban legend? It’s a fantastic market town packed full of great independent businesses so I’m looking forward to being back in the heart of it all.
KW: What's the biggest myth about the council?
Rob: That the people who work there sit there in their ivory towers, are lazy and don’t care about serving the public. Unfortunately, monolithic organisations like councils are typically seen as being faceless, uncaring corporate bodies but the reality on the inside is quite the opposite.
Citizens can sometimes forget that often the people that serve them live amongst them too and care deeply about what they do for a living. Especially those in front line support services - it’s sometimes more of a vocation than a job for them and they can work very long hours, often going the extra mile to help others in need.
KW: How do you change that perception - that councils are “faceless, uncaring corporate bodies?”
Rob: I think there are different ways to approach this. At Doncaster, via social media, we changed this perception through direct engagement; making the time to respond to as many people as possible no matter how innocuous the comment. On the face of it, that feels very much like common sense but in the noise of social media and notifications, it can often be forgotten about.
It was also about demonstrating a more human side to the council - sharing quirky stories that mattered to citizens (typically pot holes, bins and the fly tipping of speedboats!) but very much in a way you wouldn’t typically expect from a council.
KW: How did you get into marketing? (Backstory type stuff)
Rob: Let’s be honest here, I’m a bit of a geek. I had my first computer aged five (an Amiga 500 with a 1MB upgrade, still in my attic!) and it set me off on a career of tinkering with all things digital. I arguably had more of a techy background than marketing although I always enjoyed creative writing.
Coupling that with some maths, design and coding experience over the years led me to my first “marketing” role at North Lincolnshire Council at Study United FC - a study support centre that’s still based at Glanford Park, the home of Scunthorpe United. (Sorry Peter Swann, it’ll never be the Sands Arena to me or whatever you call it!). If you want to find out more about my backstory then my LinkedIn profile is your best bet.
KW: How can councils build stronger relationships with the people who live there? Where does digital come in to that?
Rob: It touches upon a little of what I said earlier but having honest, human conversations - wherever the audience is - a definite starting point for this. Social media is a vital tool to reach significant numbers of people in a relatively cost-effective way. It’s also much more measurable than other channels so its effectiveness and value for money can be demonstrated more easily than ever before.
It still comes down to the message though. I still don’t think most people fully understand or appreciate the true picture of the significant challenges local governments now face with such deep cuts to funding and the bleak future ahead. Councils need to empower citizens more and help them see the council as being less maternal/paternal and more there to facilitate community-led support for all to benefit from.
KW: Ever met Louis Tomlinson?
Rob: No. Although he does follow the council on Twitter and has spoken highly of “council bants” on the MyDoncaster twitter account in the past in radio interviews. We did offer to collect a fly-tipped sofa that starred in one of his music videos though.
During the Doncaster Gritting World Cup, we also built up an online bromance with music legend Curtis Stigers which Bob Mortimer, of all people, seemed to appreciate. Sadly I didn’t get chance to meet him either although we did have a close encounter with him one day as he was passing through Doncaster Station. He never did stop for that cuppa...
KW: What will you be bringing to Knapton Wright?
Rob: Better coffee.
KW: What’s the most important thing about creating an online journey for a customer?
Rob: That it fulfils their exact need as quickly and as simply as possible. People are busy so you don’t want them to spend your time waiting ages for a website to load or tripping themselves up on a clunky form stuffed full with corporate jargon. To make this work, you need to test, iterate and retest. I’m a big fan of what the Government Digital Service have done around service standard and design.
KW: Favourite online tool or the one you find yourself recommending the most?
Rob: Although I live and breathe in G Suite I’d have to say Trello. It’s an incredibly versatile tool for creating lists of things; a bit like a digital whiteboard with sticky notes. Their inspiration page demonstrates the breadth of stuff you can use it for. I’ve used it for all sorts of things both in and out of work such as development roadmaps for websites, project management trackers, editorial content planners, staff onboarding and even as a list of index cards for my wedding speech!
KW: What interests you outside of work?
Rob: My two kids under two have pretty much been my interests out of work in the last few months! Before life became so wonderfully hectic, I spent a lot of time in the great outdoors cycling, running and hiking, with the Dales and the Peaks being my favourite places to explore. I took it a step further in recent years by joining an outdoor adventure group and went on regular wild camps and bike-packing trips with just a tarp, hammock and basic supplies. I’m not religious in the slightest but the closest I get to spirituality is a night out under the stars with good company, a hearty boil-in-the-bag meal and sipping a peaty single malt from a battered hip flask.
Oh, and Scunthorpe United. Don’t tell Jonathan Bell, though. It’s going to be interesting in the office come derby-day!
KW: You remain active in online discussions regarding marketing and tech, and are usually among the first in the know about the latest updates. How important is that in the world of digital marketing?
Rob: It’s fundamental to it. My former team will tell you how much I used to bang on to them about the importance of keeping their knowledge and skills sharp through continued professional development. There’s so much out there to learn and plenty of free resources but you’ve got to make the time to digest it and put it into practice. This is where I should plug our insights, right? Another important part of that is sharing your knowledge with others through blog posts, conversations or any opportunities to speak publically. I’m a big believer in working out loud too as a way to build relationships, demonstrate your value and find opportunities to collaborate.
KW: How do you build a social media brand? How would you describe the one you built for Doncaster Council?
Rob: Great question, and similar to one I’ve answered before in more detail. It probably depends on the industry you’re in but I think there are a few simple principles you can apply to any organisation:
- Define your brand personality from the outset. A great way to explore this is to ask: “if your organisation was a person, what would their personality be like?” and to list likely characteristics.
- Find that sweet spot between what your audience is interested in and what you offer or supply. Social media is very much a top-of-funnel channel so if you try to use it as a broadcast channel or to sell stuff all the time you’re going to struggle to build an engaged audience.
- Be consistent, confident and committed with your content. Contrary to popular belief, effective social media isn’t free and requires investment in both time and money. In fact, to get the best from it you should probably appoint a friendly creative marketing agency to help you with it. If only I could recommend one…?
For Doncaster Council, in some respects, it was probably easier to stand out from the crowd because there’s an understandable reticence from public sector organisations - and especially local government - to push the boundaries. And if Doncaster Council was a person? It would be optimistic, playful, patient, culturally-aware and self-deprecating.
So, what if Knapton Wright was a person...? Who would we be?
Knapton Wright would be creative, friendly, approachable, knowledgeable, ambitious, refreshing, humorous, and enthusiastic; Someone who works well with others. Someone who is not afraid to think outside the box make brave decisions. Someone who cares deeply about the local community...
Sounds familiar, right? That's because we may as well be describing the very person you've just read about.
As refreshingly new and worth celebrating his arrival is to the outside world, to us, Rob and Knapton Wright could not be a more perfect and natural fit, and we can't wait to show you what we're capable of with him part of the team!
We've been dying to tell you all about this update for a while now, and are delighted that the news is now out in the open, marking an exciting new direction for Knapton Wright and a thrilling new chapter in Rob's personal journey that's sure to take the business to some amazing places locally, nationally and internationally.
If you have any questions for Rob, you can contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter.