Latest Posts

Here you’ll find all of my latest blog posts, in date order.

Reema Vadoliya podcast interview – why data accessibility might be the solution to addressing bias in AI.

AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsOvercastPocketCastsRadio PublicSpotifyAmazon MusicPodcast AddictStitcherYouTube

Reema Vadoliya kicks off S6, join us as we explore how AI is reshaping businesses, highlighting both the upsides and challenges. We discuss the importance of making data more accessible to combat bias in AI systems and the hurdles companies face in this effort.

Reema describes herself as a passionate business founder, storyteller, and advocate for inclusion in data. She has extensive experience in data strategy, analytical exploration, data collection, and governance. She’s on a mission to challenge the perception of data as a dreary necessity and draw out the real human stories that organically empower intentional inclusion in data and beyond.

*As a reminder, you can now also get this podcast in video form, on both Spotify video, or YouTube.*

Listen/watch now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here
YouTube: Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.
YouTube version of the podcast episode. Click above to watch.

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!  

Useful Links

Podcast page: ⁠⁠

My Twitter page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My website: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Reema’s LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠

Episode Transcript

Azeem (00:01.6)

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks podcast. We’re back for another season. I cannot wait. It’s been a long time coming, but I will not bore you with what’s happened in between. That’s a story for another day. Please also, you know, as usual, like, rate, share and subscribe. I’ve got a brilliant guest for you today, Reema Vardolia. I’m not gonna talk too much because you are here to see and listen.

to all of the good lists that they’ve got to share with us. So without further ado, would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (00:34.922)

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much having me, Azeem. So I’m Reema Vadolia. I run People of Data. For the last seven or so years, I’ve been working in data and analytics, and I absolutely, truly love it so, so much, which isn’t how everyone thinks about data. But through all of the work that I’ve done, working at big companies and small companies and speaking at conference stages, I’ve not necessarily talked about my own personal experiences with data and…

how as a person who ticks a lot of the protected characteristics box on those supposed diversity and inclusion forms, that it just feels endlessly frustrated to be just put into a teeny tiny box. So that’s why last year I quit my job to start People of Data. And it’s all about collecting data inclusively in a way that we can represent the brilliant diversity and intersectionality that we all hold as individuals so that we can actually use.

people’s data to do good things and actually, you know, serve them well and build trust and make data maybe even like a tiny bit exciting for people. You don’t have to go as far as to loving it. But if I can make people even just a tiny bit excited, then I think I’ve done a good job. So that’s me.

Azeem (01:47.424)

Amazing, and that right there is why I don’t intro the guests because I cannot top that. So that’s really what we’re gonna be talking about today. And I’m really excited to get into this topic with you. I guess naturally the first place that I can start then we’re talking about some data AI. The obvious one, a lot of my audience are in businesses, have their own businesses. How do you think that AI impacts businesses either positively or negatively?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (02:16.298)

Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, AI, it depends how much you’re using it as to how you feel about it. From my perspective, I think it can be an incredibly time -saving tool. I think it can provide a bit of clarity and break some of the silos that you might have. I’m thinking about kind of more the chat GPT thing things at the moment, but even in tools such as Canva or, you know, other tools where you’ve got AI.

you know, quote unquote, working in the background there for you, it’s allowing you to interact with something other than just yourself. And I think that can be really, really useful to just break down some of those silos that occur when you’re working on your own. But I think some of the negative things are we sometimes trust it a little bit too much or take things that it says verbatim and allow us to

of stretch the truth a little bit or actually worse still is compound the truth and I think all the bias and the kind of exclusion that it can create really. So I think that’s kind of where we need to be cautious when we’re using it as with everything I guess the same and maybe this is too simplistic to compare it to but if you’re putting your shoes on you need to make sure that you don’t have a stone in your shoe and that you tie in your shoelaces. It’s you know everything should be used with a little bit of caution and risk.

assessment but certain things feels like you should be comparing that a little bit more.

Azeem (03:42.72)

No, absolutely. I love that analogy. I’m absolutely going to steal that. So I’m just letting you know in advance. Thank you very much. You talked about accessibility and making data more accessible. You also touched on bias as well. So how would you say that making data more accessible would help to combat bias in sort of AI systems and tools?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (03:48.33)

Yeah, cool.

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (04:08.842)

Yeah, so I want to start off a bit about talking about what accessibility really is. So I’m going to read this definition here. The way that I see it and kind of the definition that I think is appropriate here is it’s the practice of making information, activities and or environments sensible, meaningful and usable for as many people as possible. And I think there’s a few key things in there is like sensible, meaningful, usable for as many people as possible. So when we think about that,

In a data perspective, what I mean is it’s like the practice of making data sensible, meaningful, usable for as many people as possible. And I don’t believe that data is seen in that way at the moment. What I see and what I hear when I tell people also that I work in data and I do it with a smile on my face, people are just like, I don’t like data. It’s not, you know, I’m not good at maths and

Or what, what does data mean really? And like, you know, I don’t really trust any sort of data. And then we start talking about AI sometimes too. But for me, data accessibility is about making it not just fun, but yes, sensible, meaningful, usable. So when we think about how AI works to again, hugely oversimplify here is it takes information in does some sort of processing based on the information that it knows and the context that it knows, and then it spits out an output.

And that output there is entirely dependent on two things. One, which data has gone into it and two, how it’s actually processing that data. So the thing is, is if we put in information that’s not sensible, meaningful, usable, then what we’re doing on the outside, on the output of the AI is getting, you know, non nonsensical, not meaningful, not really usable data and information, but we don’t understand how.

not sensible, not meaningful, not usable that information is when it goes in. So for me, what I’m really talking about with data accessibility is how do we make sure that that data is actually representing, representing all of people’s like brilliant intersectional identities. And right now when we use protected characteristics to define someone, we’re not really looking into who they truly are and, you know, what do they represent and, and, and

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (06:26.858)

you know, the brilliant fun things that those boxes just can never capture really.

Azeem (06:33.76)

Absolutely. You made me think of something there because as you were speaking, I was thinking a lot of people probably don’t consider that. I think so. I mean, feel free, feel free to disagree. But I think a lot of people don’t consider what they’re putting in quite quickly, not quite quickly, quite easily because they just want the easiest answer that comes out of it. I don’t think a lot of people consider that. Why do you think that’s the case? Why do you think people just don’t really think about that? Those signs of things.

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (07:03.018)

think it’s a little bit of the dopamine factory wanting a quick win and having the opportunity to do all of that those things I mentioned, you know, like get the creative output, get that feedback really, really fast, get the time that you save. But I think there’s just something around if you’re saving hours, hopefully, from using some of these tools, then how do you just redirect five to 10 minutes of that to do some of these checks and just just

just have a little pause there and just think about what it is that’s actually kind of going on in and around that interaction that you’ve had there. But I think the reason why is because we are just as humans, like there’s so many things that compete for our priority and our time that to do a due diligence check with your data and your AI is just on a long list of things to do, you know, because then if we go back to that shoe analogy, would we go back and check that the shoe is definitely made in an exact

right way, like you have trust with a brand that once I put my shoe on, the sole is not just going to suddenly fall off or that when it rains, my feet are going to get entirely soaked. So I think it’s about, there’s a trust that is just given automatically in some of these spaces. I think we, not enough people are looking to get their trust earned in this domain, which yeah, we trust tech a lot. I think that can be a good thing and a bad thing, right?

Azeem (08:24.416)

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I couldn’t, I couldn’t agree with you more sometimes probably too much if I think about my own behaviors, but the episodes a lot about me. So apologies for digressing. Right. We’ve talked a lot about data accessibility. The point that you’ve mentioned that the term that you’ve used quite a lot from a, from a business point of view, what challenges would you say that businesses face when they’re trying to improve this? And how would you think business businesses can.

to tackle these issues.

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (08:55.818)

Yeah, I think when I talk about accessibility, inclusion, diversity, it can be really easy to think that’s just HR’s role. But with all of this, and when we’re thinking about people’s information, we’re not just talking about your team and who’s in your company. We’re thinking about who are your customers and how do we understand who they are. And also that might be your external stakeholders, like your funders or…

know, it could be anyone. It could just be someone that has awareness of your brand. And I think that’s where businesses really need to care about data. I think that’s a point that’s been given plenty of times. And, and just to touch on it briefly, data is information. It gives us access to knowledge. It allows us to go kind of past just gut feeling. And so this is all really, really important because it allows us to make really good and like, you know, evidence -based business decisions. And so why people should…

care about this is because if we can understand truly who our stakeholders, who our audiences are, then what we can do is start to serve them better. And what does serving them better mean? It means meeting our organizational goals. To put it the most simply, what does that mean? It means that we’re getting the money that we’re seeking to earn from our audiences to make the business keep on running. So I think this truly isn’t just a nice to have exercise. This is really, how do we understand?

what we’re actually doing and the impact that we’re doing in an inclusive way, because there’s some really interesting statistics out there about, you know, Gen Z and the accountability that they hold for two brands to say, okay, if I’m going to work at your company, I really need you to have a really solid and actionable diversity and inclusion plan. Otherwise I don’t want to work at your company. It’s really easy for someone to go on TikTok or Instagram.

and just write something online and, and completely just trash a brand. So how do we build trust with these people in, you know, like a digital world that’s so fragile. And I think what that comes from is building trust. How does that come is in the interactions that we have the one way ones that are an individual just handing over that information. We need to make sure that we’re actually being clear as to why do we need this information? What are we doing with it?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (11:13.386)

GDPR in theory does help with this, but I do see a lot of cases, unfortunately, where people are just saying, well, I need this data just for a board report, or I need this data just for information purposes. But that’s not actually a very clear reason. That’s, you know, I think we need to be adding a lot more clarity on how and why we’re using data.

Azeem (11:32.928)

Yeah, definitely. I’ve done an episode in the past purely purely on data where we had a conversation about very something very similar to what you just said. Somebody asked for data to make their theory work. So rather than being led by what the data actually says, this person in their request said, I want you to find the data that tells this story for me, which is strictly the truth, which, excuse me, kind of leads me on to

The point about regulation, and you’re talking a lot about AI and stuff as well, which brings me quite nicely to the point, or the question I should say is, we’re probably a bit too far down the road now, but you know, lever say lever, do you think that AI should be regulated? And if so, who do you think should be accountable to ensure diversity in all of the models and training sets that are out there?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (12:30.058)

Yeah, the short answer is absolutely we need regulation on this. The more complex answer is that it’s really difficult to know who’s the right person and who’s the right body that exists as an organization that can keep up with the pace of change in this. I’ve spoken to some people who work in, you know, cyber security, who on a literal daily to hourly basis, sometimes are changing their slides before a presentation conference because it’s just changing that fast and

Yeah, I wish there was some way we could kind of slow it down. And I think there have been a few signs of that happening with some, you know, document signed from, from big tech leaders kind of saying, maybe we should slow this down a little bit. But I think the challenge that we come to is curiosity is there to see what we can do with AI and the curiosity sometimes wins over the, should we be doing this? And it’s the, can we be doing this? That’s the question that normally gets answered.

I think yes, absolutely we need regulation. I think there’s some really interesting organizations that exist like the Alan Durin Institute has a lot of brilliant research that’s going on there. I know there’s obviously the European kind of organizations. I think it was just this morning or yesterday that I was reading about their EU AI something or other organization being built. I definitely should know what it’s called, but

I’m sure that will be available. But yeah, I think it’s about holding each other accountable and understanding what the risks are to not doing that. And I think the risks are talked about well enough. Yeah.

Azeem (14:10.88)

Yeah, absolutely. And if it does come to you after we record, we can always share it in the show notes. That’s not a problem at all. There’s so much there. My head is just literally going around and we’re sure that even once we part ways and I edit this recording, I’m going to regret not asking specific questions. So I’m probably going to have to tap you up for a follow up blog post. But naturally, we’ve talked a lot about sort of where we’ve come from.

where we are. Let’s move on to the future. So when it comes to this sort of area, the topics we’ll be talking about in terms of AI and data accessibility, where do you see things heading in the medium to long term future?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (14:54.346)

Where I hope that we get to is we can move past protected characteristics as a way to in kind of commercial businesses understand who our audiences are, because I don’t think those questions tend to be specific enough to actually understand how, as an organization, we can serve individuals. I think in public sector spaces, it’s a completely different conversation and there’s still…

I’m still always forming my thoughts on what the right approach there is, but I think kind of within arts and community spaces in particular that we really need to question how we’re collecting this information. And the way that I would love to see that go in the future is we’re asking much broader questions that sure aren’t maybe uniform across all sectors, but it’s giving us an opportunity to really say, like, this is the impact that we’re having. This data collection method of

of using people’s protected characteristics is decades old. It’s arguable as to whether it was fit for purpose a few decades ago, but I think now, especially in such an intersectional society, not just in the UK where you and I live, but across the world like this, so much diversity, which is brilliant across society. So we need to really create a space where we can understand what that looks like and how we can identify the challenges that exist.

Yeah, the short answer is basically a nice, inclusive, friendly way to collect information where individuals don’t question why they’re handing over that information because it’s just very clear to them. And there’s a bit more of a culture around saying, yeah, I’m happy to hand over this data because I trust that you’re going to do something good with it. Whereas right now, I think we’re quite far away from that.

Azeem (16:46.112)

Yeah, absolutely. The trust point is something I was just going to pick up with you on briefly. Do you think that with all this advancement and steps forward in terms of AI and everything else, do you think, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Where do you think that leaves people’s trust? Do you think that we are less trustworthy now or are we more trustworthy?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (17:09.194)

complicated. I think it depends on who you are. I was listening to a podcast recently talking about whether phones are bad or just the culture around the internet is bad because those two things are really quite separate. And thinking about how the conversations that can happen on social media create challenge to our narratives. Those things aren’t bad necessarily. But I think

Azeem (17:10.432)


Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (17:37.418)

around trust in data where we’re at right now is that people just don’t have a clear understanding of why we’re using it. And they don’t feel like they have any choice and choice and control are really big things in trust. So yeah, I think that’s where we’re at. And you can see it ironically to bring in the protected characteristics across certain demographics around ages. You can see that some people are a lot more trusting because it doesn’t it doesn’t websites are sometimes designed in a way.

where it doesn’t feel like you have a choice but to hand over the information. I’m thinking about some of the flight booking websites. It feels like you’re not having a choice as to whether you can book a seat or not, but you have to and it will cost you 15 pounds or whatever it is. So yeah, I think it kind of comes to that trust and control and people’s experiences as to how that is. But it’s, yeah, as with any negative experience, the negative experience is normally shared a lot further than the positive. So people do hear about those.

times where people’s data is being used and unfortunately abused as well.

Azeem (18:41.856)

Yeah, definitely. My mute button didn’t want to unmute then. We’re rapidly coming towards the end of the episode, which I’m frustrated about because I could literally talk to you for hours about this stuff. Before we do that, I’ve just got a couple more questions for you. One I’m definitely going to put you on the spot for now. We’ve talked quite a lot in terms of AI, data accessibility, diversity.

But is there one thing that you wanted to talk about or discuss that I haven’t asked you about yet? And if so, what is that?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (19:15.722)

That’s a good question. I think for me, it’s trying to think about how we storytell data for me. Part of the reason why I love it so much is I truly just see it as like an adventure and a place to explore and a playground to take all of the information that’s there and think about, right, how do we build a story from this? How do we say here’s what’s going on? So I would love for people to see data in a different way. And if you’re not comfortable with the word data, think about it as information where

So every single day, probably every single second, I imagine I’m not a bio, biological kind of scientist, but we’re taking in so much information all of the time and we’re processing so, so much in our brains. So I just want to kind of reframe data as not something that just exists in spreadsheets or bar charts or pie charts or whichever chart you prefer, but something that you can create really bold, clear narratives of that allow you to

get more understanding. I think there’s a difference between data and like that kind of information part of things over here and the understanding that you can get from a really brilliant story. So yeah, if you want to get a little bit excited about data, then it’s a, I think hopefully I can make people feel that way.

Azeem (20:32.608)

Amazing, I love it. Just before you go and before you share all of your social details and whatever, let’s distill it down into one thing. So everything you’ve been speaking about over the past 20 minutes or so, what’s the one thing that you’d like people to take away from this episode? Whether you want to hit stop recording and let’s start to reflect on what they’ve seen or heard. What’s one thing you’d like people to take away from this?

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (20:58.474)

that data doesn’t have to be scary. It can definitely seem overwhelming and like we don’t have that control and trust and, and opportunity to kind of have an influence in how we use data. But I really want to get to a place where data is not scary for people and they can understand that they do have control, that it’s something that impacts all of us. And yeah, that it’s really not something to be nervous about because

and I think that will come from the fact that we will hold organisations to account when they’re asking for information.

Azeem (21:33.536)

Love it. Fantastic. Yeah, my mind is going 100 miles an hour now with lots of stuff that you’ve discussed and I’m sure I’ll have more questions afterwards. So be ready for a couple of emails. But yeah, before I let you go, firstly, thank you so much from me and for the people who are going to listen to and watch this in advance. This has been incredible. Before you go, though, please do share where people can sort of find you and follow you on social media and also be sure to check the show notes because I’ll drop all of these links in as well.

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (22:04.426)

Perfect. Well, yeah, thank you so much for having me. I’ve had a fun time chatting. I am normally on LinkedIn doing lots of things, talking about data on there and, and yeah, starting to share my excitement over there. So you can find me, Rima Vidolia on LinkedIn. Same for people of data, people of data on LinkedIn. We’ve also got Instagram, which I can’t remember where the underscores are, but people of data on there and soon to have a few other things coming up. But for now.

LinkedIn is probably the best place and I would love to chat to you about your data, how you feel about data and allow you to kind of enable some success and unlock the information that comes from collecting really good and meaningful data, which is come from a place of trust as well.

Azeem (22:51.68)

Amazing. Love that. Definitely do collect because she’s an absolute legend. I’m very glad that our paths crossed earlier this year. So yeah, thank you very much. This has been absolutely incredible. Yeah. And I think that wraps up this episode. So a massive thank you. As always, the boring stuff, please do like, write, share and subscribe. We are back. We are so back. You can expect much more content and you’ll be seeing a lot of re -read all over.

my social media soon because I’m going to be promoting the hell out of this episode. So if you’re not subscribed, make sure you subscribe already because we’ve got way more content coming and I’m going to get a whole load of content out of this episode. Literally, I could do a whole month based on what you’ve just said. So thank you so much. And yeah, stay tuned and we’ll see you for the next episode.

Reema Vadoliya (She/her) (23:43.946)

Thank you.

Fiona Bradley podcast interview – achieving growth on LinkedIn

AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsOvercastPocketCastsRadio PublicSpotifyAmazon MusicPodcast AddictStitcherYouTube

What Fiona Bradley doesn’t know about organic LinkedIn success, probably isn’t worth knowing in my opinion. This episode will not teach you how to grow on LinkedIn by posting about the injured dog that you ignored on the way to a job interview, only to find out the dog WAS the interviewer. Instead, Fiona helpfully shares tips and advice on post formats, how to engage, and being authentic to achieve growth on the platform – you definitely don’t want to miss this one.

*As a reminder, you can now also get this podcast in video form, on both Spotify video, or YouTube.*

Listen/watch now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here
YouTube: Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.

Fiona describes herself as a content master, business owner, slow runner, bendy yogi and writer. She runs a Leeds-city centre-based boutique Content Marketing Agency “FB Comms” with a sense of humour, who’s mission it is to create killer content with service that slaps.. not in the way that hurts.

In this episode, we also discuss:

  • Key factors to LinkedIn growth, organically.
  • Biggest mistakes people make on LinkedIn.
  • Balancing sharing valuable content for audiences vs self promotion.
  • Which types of content perform best.
  • How to build meaningful professional relationships, and get opportunities from the platform.
  • How important consistency is for growth.
  • What she feels the future holds for LinkedIn
    …and so much more!

YouTube version of the podcast episode. Click above to watch.

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!  

Useful Links

Podcast page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

My Twitter page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

My LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

My website: ⁠⁠⁠

Fiona’s Twitter:

Fiona’s LinkedIn: ⁠

FB Comms:

Katy Powell podcast interview – breaking the glass ceiling as a female business founder

AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsOvercastPocketCastsRadio PublicSpotifyAmazon MusicPodcast AddictStitcherYouTube

Katy Powell, one third of the leadership team at Bottled Imagination shares her story on what it’s like to be a female business founder in the marketing industry, as well as the challenges she has faced.

*As a reminder, you can now also get this podcast in video form, on both Spotify video, or YouTube.*

Listen/watch now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here
YouTube: Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.

Described as “an expert in all things PR, thinking up ideas that take over the internet and putting brands front and centre in trending conversations. Nothing distracts her when she’s in the PR zone – apart from a Britney Spears megamix” – you’ll easily be able to see (and hear!) why this is one episode that’s not to be missed.

In this episode, we also discuss:

  • What inspired her to be part of the founding team of Bottled Imagination.
  • Thinking of when she started, if she could change one thing about the whole process, what would it be and why.
  • As a woman in a heavily male dominated industry, what are some of the challenges that she has faced in starting the business.
  • As the only female in the leadership team, what unique perspectives does she feel that she brings to client challenges / day to day work.
  • How has she found making the switch from a regular “9-5” into her current role, and how does she manage her workload now.
  • Advice for women listening to this episode who are thinking about leaving the corporate world and potentially following in her footsteps.
  • What sets their agency apart from others, and how does she communicate that to potential clients.
  • …and so much more!

YouTube version of the podcast episode. Click above to watch.

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!  

Useful Links

Podcast page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My Twitter page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My website: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Katy’s Twitter: ⁠⁠

Katy’s LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Bottled Imagination: ⁠

Andi Jarvis podcast interview – how to align marketing strategy with equality

AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsOvercastPocketCastsRadio PublicSpotifyAmazon MusicPodcast AddictStitcherYouTube

In this crossover episode between this and the Strategy Sessions podcast, myself and Andi Jarvis have a discussion around explaining where equality should fit in your marketing strategy along with a few tips of how everyone can make a difference, even if you don’t get involved in strategy.

*As a reminder, you can now also get this podcast in video form, on both Spotify video, or YouTube.*

Listen/watch now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here
YouTube: Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.

For those of you who don’t yet know about Andi – he runs Eximo Marketing, a marketing strategy consultancy with locations in Belfast and Liverpool, as its Founder and Strategy Director. The consultancy’s focus is primarily on aiding established manufacturers in expanding their businesses via direct-to-consumer channels.

Andi also serves as the host of the ⁠Strategy Sessions podcast⁠, which features interviews with top marketers from around the world. Along with an MSc in Marketing and the Marketing Week Mini MBA in Marketing, he also founded Eximo & Friends with Barnardo’s, a fundraising project in which marketers volunteer their expertise to small businesses in exchange for a donation supporting refugees.
Andi is known to enjoy conversing about topics such as fatherhood, BBQ, rugby league, boxing, and cricket. You can find Andi on Twitter and LinkedIn.

In this episode, we also discuss:

  1. A brief explanation of marketing strategy
  2. The role of equality in your marketing strategy
  3. The pitfalls of adding equality to marketing tactics as an afterthought
  4. Progress towards diversity in marketing conferences and events
  5. The drawbacks of attempting to infer the opinions of your customers
  6. The benefits of actually talking with your customers and monitoring their actions
  7. Why using AI for customer research is a bad choice
  8. Methods to address wage and pay gaps
  9. How individuals at any career stage can effect change
    and more!

YouTube version of the podcast episode. Click above to watch.

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!  

Useful Links

Podcast page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My Twitter page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

My website: ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Andi’s Twitter: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

Andi’s LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠

Strategy Sessions Podcast:

Episode Transcript


Hello. And depending on where and how you are choosing to listen to this, you’ve either chosen to listen to the Azeem Digital Asks podcast or. Hey up, welcome to the strategy sessions. It’s Andi and Azeem here to do a kind of a podcast, talking to a podcast, talking to a podcast on a podcast type of podcast. But thank you for tuning in wherever you’re listening. If it’s the inferior Azeem Digital Asks or the superior strategy session podcast, whichever it is you’re tuning in.


and that’s what we really want.


Oh, podception, yes, but very glad that you agreed to this idea, Andi. So, uh, to give a little bit of context around this, we are. Depending if this releases on time today, we will be giving a talk at Brighton SEO with our amazing friend Fabio. And the topic is all around equality, but we thought we’d get together, do a little bit of a, of a pod crossover, uh, where Andi can reveal some more of his, uh, secrets.


and wisdom. Of course, you have to be supremely knowledgeable to have a superior podcast. So, yeah, I’m very much looking forward to this for my listeners and viewers who shamefully may not know who you are. Would you mind giving a brief intro to yourself, Andi? Yeah, so the business card says I am the founder and strategy director at Exxon Marketing. We’re a strategy consultancy who helps mainly manufacturers who sell


or retail at the minute, go direct to consumer. That’s broadly what we do. I speak at a lot of events. I’m sort of trying to build the speaking part of the business up. So I also do kind of keynotes, corporate days, that sort of thing as well. Basically a lot of talking, lots of talking. So yeah, that’s what I do. I’ve been around the marketing scene for a few years. If you’re watching the video, you’ll see I’m wearing a hat that’s covering up the rather large bald spot that I’ve got.


because there’s a lot of candles on my birthday cake these days. So yeah, I’ve been around a little bit. And do you want to return the favor for the strategy sessions listeners? Yeah, absolutely. I embrace my boldness as you can see. This giant is all natural. But yeah, in all seriousness, hello to Andi’s listeners and viewers. My name is Azeem Ahmad. Often known, referred to as Azeem Digital, purely because people have difficulty spelling my surname,


on their own breath, which after you’ve heard it, yep. And after you’ve heard it a thousand times, it gets less fun. So that’s me. I work as a digital marketing lead in house and the manufacturing sector, which is largely B2B also B2C being in the industry for almost nine, 10 years now, uh, yeah, nine years, um, speak at conferences as well, hosts my own podcast, which, uh, hopefully you will also subscribe to the return.


And viewers will subscribe to yours judge Awards Speak conferences and yeah, just generally get myself out and about That’s me and I’ve never approached your Manufacturing business to help launch their direct-to-consumer offer Have I but well, it might be a bit awkward for everyone if we just if I pick you right now while we’re on the podcast So let’s move on from that and instead of me pitching tell everyone why we’re here and what what the subject is We’re covering it’s a brighter


Yeah, so We the theme is equality. So all three of us are doing three different talks So mine will be aligning equality with digital marketing Fabio who’s the CEO of Viaduct generation? He will be Doing a talk about how to align equality with SEO And then you’re talking the reason why we’re here today the title of this episode is where does equality fit? within your marketing strategy so


and viewers. We’ve all been working together to make sure all of our talks have the theme of equality flowing through them. And having seen both of your content and yours is the one that’s going to round off the session. So no pressure. I thought it’d be great if we could get together, do recording and give away even more knowledge and wisdom for those who unfortunately couldn’t be in the room with us or weren’t able to catch up on the recording.


Yeah, I think, you know, there’ll be there’ll be somewhere between eight or nine thousand people in the room anyway, you know, it’s concert hall size. So for those of you can’t make it, it’s okay. We’ll share what we have there. But no, I’ve looked Brighton is, it’s a great event. There will be hopefully many of you there. But for those who aren’t, let’s dive into it. And let’s, I suppose, pull apart the subject of what we’re talking about. And I think the first place for me, and I don’t know about you, Izzy, but for me, the first place I want to start is my qualification.


to talk about diversity. And it’s not in terms of show me your badges, but I posted on LinkedIn the other day that it’s not usually a subject I cover. And the reason for that is actually I think there’s a lot of people do it a lot better than I do. My whole 20 something year career is all marketing, right? And I’ve kind of got into diversity through personal experience more than anything else. I don’t claim to be a diversity expert.


I run workshops on diversity. I don’t advise companies on diversity. And what I was, I’ve kind of been asked to do a few things on diversity before, and I’ve always sort of stayed away from them because it’s not my wheelhouse is such. And I’ve kind of been a bit like, and I’ve kind of been on panels and chatted, but I’ve never really dived into it in this way. And I think the opportunity here was because yourself and Fabio were talking about equality through different lenses.


digital marketing, there was an opportunity to talk about equality in marketing strategy, which lands right in my wheelhouse. Yes, that’s fucking what I talk about. So, you know, I don’t want people listening going, yeah, Andi’s talking about diversity, because he’s got brown skin. Is that a qualification? I mean, it’s a qualification to understand racism, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t make me an expert on all forms of equality and diversity. So I kind of come in at it from a


marketing strategy point of view, which is much more comfortable ground for me. So that that’s why I’m, I was like, yeah, okay, let’s do this. Yeah, absolutely. And then just, just to follow on and add my own reasons slash qualifications for doing it, of course, no official qualification other than this and life experiences, but a few years ago, I think, I think it was a Brighton SEO, maybe.


don’t know. It was a conference I was at. I just noticed that there was, you know, all white men, basically, and I thought this this can’t be the case. So I started doing a bit of digging, looking at other conferences. In fact, to clarify, it wasn’t a Brighton SEO, it was a smaller conference. And I remember then going to a Brighton SEO, I’m like, actually, this is not the case here. So apologies, got that right. But what I thought was, I’m going to do a little bit of research and anonymously sort of poll, gauge the industry, see what


the situation is and do other people, certainly people of color, marginalized people, people who are part of a marginalized community, women, for example, do they feel the same? And I ran that piece of research over a number of years, some of which I’ll be releasing the results of or talking about the results of in the context of this talk. But the statistics were pretty shocking and it became pretty, pretty evident that it wasn’t just me who


out this way and there is an unspoken burden or additional hurdles to cross if you are somebody who is part of a marginalized community. Yeah. And it’s, it’s interesting. I mean, we, we met at conferences. That’s how we met. Right. And it’s, it’s not the only part of the marketing industry that has a problem, but it’s a very visual part of it because you can’t always tell you see a campaign. You don’t know who’s worked on it.


know, the creative, the copyright is, there’s a lot you don’t know when you’re looking at it from that end. Whereas at a conference, you can look at the lineup and go, there’s a diversity problem here. Yeah. I would say the conferences I’ve been to as an attendee over the last six, seven years have made strides. You know, you still see all male lineups, you still see all white lineups, but there has definitely been a move. I think I’ve not been keeping the stats, but you know, the


of turning up to just all white, boring men in suit panels seem to be, you know, there’s a lot of work still to be done. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we’re there, but I think, you know, the ship has certainly left the harbor. It’s definitely not reached its destination yet. Yeah, absolutely. Uh, I couldn’t agree with you more and I’m very pleased and hopefully this isn’t the case now, but I’m very pleased to see, like you said, the industry’s moving on, it’s moving forward.


all men, all white men into maybe one woman on a panel or one person of color, but then only asking them to speak about their experiences either as a woman or as a person of color rather than their actual knowledge or expertise, which is maybe a step, but you know. I think on that as well, there’s you, you probably know as well as I do that you become very aware when talking ism is happening.


somewhere because you are going to be the token black person on that panel. I don’t feel, and it is only an individual feeling, that that is happening too much at the conferences I go to as a speaker or as an attendee. And you look at that, and that’s because the people who are stepping up on stage are just amazing at speaking and getting the message across. And you look at some of the best people you see in the industry telling stories on stage and sharing their


And, you know, you look at names like Lily Ray or Brittany Mueller or Stacey McNaught, like three of my favorite conference speakers ever, you know, Will Reynolds, who literally, Will could just read me the phone book every day and I would sit and listen to him, right? And these are people who are demAnding to be put on conference agendas because they’re great at what they do. And I think, you know, if people have suddenly started looking and going, actually, the highest


year after year after year is a black guy, is a black woman, is a white, you know. Oh.


Yeah, right. We don’t, you know, so I feel like it’s a, it’s a feeling about a conference industry and I know that’s not what we do and we don’t want to get bogged down here too much, but it does feel like there’s change happening. And, and, but, you know, the moment you stop pushing for that change and you stop looking at it, I’m damn sure some of those gains will disappear, right? So, you know, we need to keep advocating and shouting and making noise when we need to make notes. Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, let me nudge the conversation forward into the meat and


of this joint episode, which is around equality and marketing strategy. And just open question, feel free to give as much or as little as way as you want, but where does equality fit in a marketing strategy, Andi? Well, as the world’s most boring marketing person, I mean, literally, if you want put into sleep on a nighttime, just ring me up and say, Andi, tell me about marketing strategy,


puppy on the other end of the phone who will talk for hours at you and you’d be like, there we go. I’m all right. So the first place for me that you have to start is defining what marketing strategy is, right? And it’s, there’s a couple of different points I need to cover, which I’m going to have to do verbally because not everyone’s going to be watching the video. But first of all, marketing strategy tends to have an annual approach. If you’re talking like three or five


strategy. So that might be a business saying, we want to go from bricks and mortar to 80% online in five years time. That’s a business strategy. Your job as a marketer is to then come up with a one year marketing strategy that will help. So in that terrible example I’ve just given, you might not even have an online presence, right? So your marketing strategy for year one is focused around getting online, getting up and running and sorting all that shit out and getting it moving. Your marketing strategy for year four to five should be very,


point, you should be up and running, turnovers should be in the millions, tens of millions, whatever, and you should be on your way to achieving those objectives. So your marketing strategy has to change every year, roughly. And what does the marketing strategy involve? Excuse me. It’s four things. Who are you targeting? Why are they going to buy from you? What are your objectives for this year? And that’s all kind of wrapped together in what’s the main problem you’re solving. So to go back to that same example, in year one, it’s about finding customers, what


logistics problems, all that sort of stuff. But by year four or five, you should be looking at your data and going, actually, what we need to look at is customer retention. That’s the main issue or customer recruitment. That’s the main issue. And then you can set your objectives and all the things based on that. So you’re only really looking for four things in your marketing strategy. And then to keep pulling back a step, every marketing strategy process that you will ever see anywhere in the world, whether you’re looking at SOSstack, whether you look at the one I use,


data strategy implementation, A-star, or there’s a lot of different strategic frameworks, right? Everyone develops their own. Everyone says it’s the best in the business. Then yeah, of course we’re consultants, we’re selling shit. But every one of them, if you look at them and analyze them as three areas, like an audit discovery data phase, setting the strategy phase, doing the work phase, right? That’s it. So they’ve got three phases.


Strategy, setting the direction of travel that you’re going in, and then the implementation, tactics, execution, whatever you want to call it, different words for the same thing, getting the work done, getting there. Right. So if you’re still with me, if you’re all still awake, that’s broadly where we are. One year increments, three step process, doesn’t matter what name it’s got. So to answer the question really quickly, where does equality sit in your marketing strategy?


in the first section in the data discovery audit, whatever you call that stage. That’s where equality sits. If you just shoehorn into the strategy bit in the middle, I don’t think it works. I think you have a chance of making it work, but I don’t think it works. I’ll explain why in a minute. If you just shove it in at the end in the implementation phase, I think that’s where disaster happens. I actually think you do more harm than good cramming it in there.


beginning inputs data phase strategy and then outputs where does equality sit right at the beginning in the input stage if everyone’s still awake that’s the answer to the question right at the beginning that’s where it is perfect love that that was brilliant thanks very much for going into so much detail and the point you make about whether people are watching it not fortunately more of


So feel free to that must just because you’re handsome right because if you look at the strategy sessions I hardly get any video views. Yeah, like 50 views on the video. That’s about it. So this is great No, no, we’re so talking about on YouTube you’ll see it’s like maybe a handful 20 30, but the Spotify video crowd are just Shout out to you guys. Love you. Anyway, we we’ve digressed Yeah, sorry, so


there in the beginning phase and the difficulties about shoehorning it into the middle or the end. I’m pretty certain that we can spell this whole episode the next hour talking about businesses who don’t consider it at all. So I’d love to pick your brains and hear from you directly and say, if there are people listening to this now, I’m going to take a step back and say, I’m positive that the people in the room for our talk are going to be people who are interested


whether it’s audio or video, who maybe not have might not have an interest and want to learn more. So roundabout way, podcast away of asking the question. If there are people listening to this who generally don’t know where to begin, don’t know where to look at in terms of equality in a marketing strategy, what advice would you give them? So first of all, a bit of humility. And what you have to understand in marketing is that you are not your customer. And there’s a couple of studies that I’ll talk about in the presentation at Brighton, a bit difficult to dive into today,


on a podcast, but broadly speaking, what the studies show is that marketers do not think like the general population of the UK. Not only that, if you ask them, how does the general population of the UK think, we’ve also got no fucking idea, right? So we are not normal, and we don’t understand how normal people think, right? That’s just marketers, generally speaking. So if you think about that and just hold that idea in your head at the moment, just from a business point


view, if all you’re doing when you’re creating a strategy is having marketer sat in a room, not normal, don’t understand the audience, making decisions about who you’re going to target and why they’re going to buy from you. What’s the chances you’re going to get that right? You know, plot twist. No. Right. So yes, you can say, I’ve got experience and I understand this or whatever, right? And yeah, you might be able to make decent guesses, but really you go out, right. You don’t really know your audience. So then you go.


But Andi, we’ve got the data, right? We’ve looked at Google Analytics. We’ve looked at these sales details. We’ve looked at this. We’ve looked at that. We’ve looked at this. We’ve got all the data. Is that wonderful? Two things. One, data’s always backwards looking, right? And two, data can really be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If what you’ve done is do a lot of done tube ads and YouTube ads targeted in London, and then you look at your data and you’re like, we really over indexing in London.


in sales, like no shit. The tube only works in London, right? So you’ve got a lot of people in London. Who’d have thought? Um, or we’ve got a lot of people with slightly higher net worth. Great. Yeah. Because people sometimes, you know, ride the tube into London, get paid London wages, which generally outstrip the rest of the country anyway. So, you know, funnily enough, you’ve skewed your data anyway, without knowing. So the way to get around it is to actually talk to people, right? You know, get in front of them.


the phone, run focus groups, whatever the method is for whatever your business is, talk to customers. Don’t just rely on ones and zeros that get spat out of Google, Facebook, Twitter, whatever you’re advertising on, right? Don’t just rely on reports or government data. You need to actually understand your customers and to do that, you’ve got to talk to them. You’ve got to, if you’ve got a physical store where they’re selling stuff and you’re, you know, if you’re doing the online element for a physical store, go


day and watch people come and buy the product and, you know, why did you do, you don’t ask them why you did that. That’s a terrible question, but watch what they do. Look how they consider different products, see how it all works and how it all hangs together and really start to get an understAnding of that. Cause when you do that, you can then start to go, right, we need different voices in here. We need diverse voices at the beginning. When we’re looking at the data, when we’re finding the data, when we’re talking to customers, if you put diversity at that point,


there, everything starts to get better. You’ve, you’ve probably heard some people call it a re-row. I prefer see-saw, which is, well, the first one’s rubbish in rubbish out. I prefer see-saw, which is shit in, shit out. If you put the wrong data in at the beginning, if you’re asking the wrong questions to the wrong people, terrible. And then the other thing is internally from within your team, right? If you’re an all woman team or an all man team or an all team who went to the same school and you started your own agency because you’re all mates, if you’re all


homogeneous team. There’s no diversity there. So you start having decisions made by a small group, thinky type of group of people based on historic and possibly skewed data and not talking to people. If you crack that and do it right by talking to the right people, broadening out the number of people you talk to and really understAnding customers at that stage, you can


going to help you. And then you can start to make the tactical implementation stage even better because you understand everything properly. The foundations of what you do in a right. And then you can build a strong wall out of that. Love that. You’ve made me think of something which we kind of didn’t discuss pre-recording. But I’m just going to drop it on you now. And I want your unfiltered thoughts. You’re talking to the right people. And obviously, it won’t have capacity by that there’s a huge evolution of AI and artificial intelligence at the moment.


You may or may not have seen that just this week there’s like a surge of businesses coming out now off the back of AI, for example, AI based focus groups or AI based user research, user research without the users. What are your thoughts on that and how do you think that might fit in with equality?


Bullshit. Yeah. I use the groups with AI. The thing is, look, so AI is fantastic. There is some amazing stuff happening in the AI world, right? And it looks sexy. It looks amazing. It looks like some things could well be game changing in the coming years, right? But we’re in the Stone Age of AI, first of all. Secondly, it’s trained on historic data, right? It doesn’t matter how smart it is at the minute. It’s trained on historic data sets.


going to do is look back. That’s it. And is it a shortcut? Yes. Right. So look, there’s a guy, I can’t believe I’m going to talk about C.T. Fletcher on a marketing podcast. C.T. Fletcher is an old school gym lifter, right? He’s an American guy from Compton, and he’s an entertainer as well. He’s a preacher’s son, big black American fellow. And he’s the most American man in America ever. Right. But he does this video and he’s like,


20 minute abs, 20 minute butt, 20 minute arms, 20 minute anything is a fucking liar. There’s no shortcuts to this, right? You just, you want big arms, work hard. You want big chest, work hard. You want good legs, work hard, right? He’s talking about lifting weights and shortcuts. It’s the same in marketing. There are things that you can shortcut. Customer research is the dumbest thing possible you can try and shortcut, right? Shortcut, all sorts of stuff. Why would you shortcut talking


who are putting their hand in the pocket and hAnding over money to you. It’s just like nothing, no time is wasted if you’re talking to customers. Doesn’t matter what, doesn’t matter whether they tell you good things, bad things and different things. If they just tell you about the kitten that they bought last week or a dog that died the week after, doesn’t matter what the customer tells you, you do not waste any time because you get an insight into their world that you just don’t get looking at a 1500 quid max screen going, oh, I think we should put the price of this product


99 to 799, because that’s what the data tells me. And it’s like, go and talk to your customer who’s having to decide if they’re going to walk two miles to buy it, or if they can afford to get the bus before you start putting your prices up that way. You just don’t lose anything by talking to them. Outsourcing it to AI, stupidest decision I’ve ever heard. I deliberately didn’t mention this in the question, but I am going to discuss it. It’s not your product, is it? No. No. I am going to discuss this during my talk.


of you who won’t be in the room, you may or may not have seen this. Uh, but I think it was Levi’s who are starting to look at using AI generated models to increase the diversity of their stock range of models. I just think. So if you’d say using it and graphic designers will be like put target on my back, but if you say we’re going to start and, uh, Coca-Cola have done this. They’ve already announced they’re doing some AI generated.


work and stuff like that, right? Is what you’re looking at, you’re looking at a shortcut of process based on data. Right, I don’t necessarily agree, but I can understand it, and it makes a little bit of sense. But using AI-generated models to increase diversities, like, can you not find black people? Can’t you find tall women or short women, fat men? Do these people not exist? Literally, just open your eyes. Open the window and look out, and you’ll be like, yeah,


someone we’ve never had in a shoot before. And you know, for me, like if you’re listening and you run a business, that’s three people and you’re turning over 120,000 quid a year, right? My advice to businesses is always spend what you can on marketing. It doesn’t mean you have to spend millions. It’s just whatever you can afford, you should be spending on marketing. And if you’re in that and someone says, look, you could do an AI photo shoot and for 200 quid, you can get a load of pictures


photographer and say I want to do a photo shoot and he felt 15 different models, but and they’re like, yeah, that’s three grand I understand why you’d go for that Levi’s Just being cheap just being cheap. That’s all it is unless then all they’re trying to do is just to look kind of like Cool and forward-looking. I think Coca-Cola is trying to do the same boy cool We’re down with the kids because it resonates with their customers. I think Well, that’s the only way if they’re just gonna be to be cheap is it’s a disgrace We saw


We saw something similar with the whole hype that sort of kind of died off and if it hasn’t it will soon of the metaverse whether or I call we want to increase the diversity of the metaverse it’s just I think people certainly marketers they kind of fear what they what they don’t understand and if I touch on the SEO world very briefly a lot of the a lot


by by the seo world and it’s just Instead of using a shortcut to create Decent enough content to attract people to your website Just create the content. That’s the hardest part. I genuinely think I’ve got this analogy that’s sitting in my head that I need to formulate Excuse me, which i’m about to formulate now live on an episode. So i’m definitely going to get it wrong I think it’s something like if you have if you give somebody 10 hours, right to either To build a website and also attract people to it


hours on building it and maybe one hour on attracting people to it when it should be the other way around. And if people want to challenge me on that, I will always point to examples like two very big websites, eBay, Amazon, neither of those websites are pretty beautiful attractive to the eye, but they they do numbers. So it’s not all about making things look pretty. It’s about making sure that the right people see and I think people focus on on the wrong thing.


And look, I think we like shiny things. We like new things. I like new things, right? And it’s understandable that you wanna see where the opportunities are here. But I think to go back to what we’re saying about that input strategy and output section, right? All of these newfangled things, right? Are all in the output section. You know, you can’t shortcut, I don’t care what AI tool you’re talking about. You can’t shortcut doing the research yourself


in the hard yards to understand it and answering those four questions. And then once you’ve got that right, I’m not averse to using AI. I’m not averse to using the metaverse to sell your products. I’m not averse to using Clubhouse, RIP Clubhouse, you know, whatever the latest shiny thing is, as long as it fits with your marketing strategy. And I talk about using the way I talk about it today, I brighten is I call it the Pong test as in the old computer game Pong with the


bouncing old computer games like the first computer game, with a ball bouncing off the things at the side. And remember those four questions. Who are you targeting? Why are they going to buy from you? What are your objectives? What problem are you solving? Once you get to that stage, you’ve got to play the Pong test with it. So whack the question out. All right, so let’s use the metaverse as an example. Oh, we should use the metaverse. Does it work for our customers? If the ball comes back, yeah, it works for the customer group. How do you know that?


You’ve just set your customer group and your personas in the strategy phase. So you know your customer. Does it work for our customers? Yeah, it does. Bang. Will it help us achieve our objectives? Will it? Well, it depends what your objectives are, right? If your objective is to sell more and spend less, then no, maybe it’s not going to help you do that. But why are they going to buy from us? Bing. Well, are they going to buy from you because you’ve got a metaverse store? Depends what the product is. If you’re a golf club seller, who knows, right?


So it’s that sort of, you’ve got to bounce the question backwards and forwards against the four strategic answers that you’ve given yourself. And if the ball doesn’t come back, then don’t do it. You know, it’s rather than just, I like this, we should do it. I think you should stay away from that. And it’s the same to kind of go back to equality. You see these campaigns and you see people saying, Oh, I’m really passionate about this thing. Go great. So now it’s part of your marketing campaign because you’re passionate about it.


No, does it matter to your customers? Does it matter to you? No, is it going to help you achieve your objectives? Why are they going to buy from you? If it helps move the needle on any of those things, do it. But if it doesn’t put it away. Brilliant. Love that. I love the the pong example. Definitely. If you’re not watching this on a video format now, now’s the time to go and hit rewind and start again. I’m mindful of time. I know you have to leave soon. I’m very conscious of asking you a couple more questions.


this. So let’s say we’re in April now, depending on how people report their financial years, they’re about to start a brand new one, or they’re four months into one or whatever. Somebody’s listening to this and needs to know about some changes that they can make tomorrow. So they’ve heard this episode, like late at night, it’s been a long day at work, boom, they want to go into the office or start the work tomorrow. What changes can they make from day one?


Look, you’re in SEO, right? So can I say it depends? Go for it. No, I’m just being an ass. Right. Um, yeah, but it does depend, I suppose on where you are in the organization. Right. So what I would say is if you’re junior, mid-level, right. And in a lot of organizations and it boils, it makes my teeth itch, right. When strategies just dealt with at the top, right. Senior people.


I said about equality, you’ve got to get voices from throughout the organization involved in that process. Right. Anytime I go and work with someone and they’re not bringing in their sales team or their customer service team or the receptionist who deals with customers who walk in, I’m like, look, you know, Steven reception meets every single person who walks into this building. Why has nobody asked him just to come and tell us about what people talk about? Well, he’s the receptionist.


than you do. Remember the last time you spoke to a customer? I asked that question at an e-commerce conference in Athens last week. How many people in the room, 200 people-ish, have spoken to a customer, actually spoken to them in the last six months? I got six people said they had. Right? That’s terrifying. So you don’t know anything about your customers because you don’t talk to them. I’m going off on a tangent. So it annoys me that strategy kind of stays at the top


a different hill for a different day that I need to climb. But if you’re a junior and it feels like you can’t have an input in this, right, you can, but it can just take a little bit of time. If you see in your organization that look, it’s a group of samey looking people looking at what you might think is wrong data to make decisions and they’re doing it badly. One of the things you can do is is sometimes doing it on your own can be really difficult, right? So bring in if other other people in the organization


who share your concerns. Form a little group of people. You’ve got to be, people are weird. You’ve got to be careful not to feel like you’re undermining someone senior because that comes with a health risk for your career and stuff like that. But if you form a couple of people who are like, look, yeah, yeah, oh, look, we saw this guy because you’d be amazed, right? I only have a job because people don’t listen to all the smart people in their organization. You bring in a consultant, you listen to people and you tell them exactly the same thing somebody else said two weeks ago. And they go like, wow, you changed the world for us there, Andi. I was like, yeah, I’ve just repeated


did what she said over there last week is just you weren’t listening. All right. But so sometimes it’d be like, look, you know, I listened to this guy on a podcast. He talked about these things and here’s a couple of examples or here’s some, that here’s the reasons why I think we’re looking at the wrong thing. Or ask the question, Oh great. What was the data that we used to look at that? So you’re not being an ass. You say, what was the data we used to look at that, to create that? And that forces people to think, so it can be difficult if you’re junior in an organization, if you’re more senior, if you’re involved in marketing strategy, that’s a, what would say is.


Be honest. Absolutely look at your strategic process. It probably runs in parallel, in tandem with everything else that you’re doing, right? So instead of just doing your normal job, as you have that six, eight weeks where before you go and present your strategy to your boss, you probably feel like you’re doing two jobs. Is there a shortcut? Yeah. Oh, we’ll just use the data from last time. We’ll just look at the same data set. We don’t have time to do focus groups. The cost is a pain in the ass. Do you know what I mean? I’ve got to work an evening, I listen to the people talking it.


Shortcut, shortcut, shortcut. Be honest with yourself, right? Take those shortcuts out, put the work in and see what difference it is. What’s the group of people talking about this look like? Did you all go to the same universities? Did you all go to fee paying schools? Don’t look around the room and go, oh, we’ve got two black people in the room. If they both went to a fee paying school and both went to Oxford University, that ain’t diversity, all right? You only have to look at the assholes we’ve got in government at the minute. And they go, oh, right, well, well, you know, this can’t be racist because it’s an Asian woman saying it.


Well, it can be racist because it’s racist, right? It just, you know, so look at more than just the demographics of people, look at where they went to school, look at the way they think, look at the background, right? Bring in some more voices when you’re having the discussions because it would make everything better. Why? Because it’ll just be better diversity and equality at that stage, will lead to better outcomes talking to the right people about the right things more frequently when you get to the implementation. You’ll recruit customers cheaper, better, faster,


So it really matters but just start where you are use what you have do what you can to quote Arthur Ash Love that The point about you get better outcomes. It’s something I’ve mentioned in talks in the past. They’ll talk about diversity when you activate or include every different facet of diversity age gender geographic background cultural ethic background There’s literally a graphic which basically shows the percentage of better decisions


that are being made when you activate multiple facets of those diversities, you can make better decisions 87% of the time, which is just huge. And just, just if you start shaking your head, listening, going out, what they’re talking about is targeting everybody. I’m not right. I am definitely not. What you’re doing at this stage, I have an equality here is you make better segmentation and targeting decisions. Right. So this doesn’t say go for everyone.


company, right? There’s some really clear data in pensions that shows that 21-year-olds don’t give a shit about pensions. 30-year-olds don’t give a shit about pensions. First-time parents in the mid-30s go, oh, pensions are interesting, but are too busy to do anything about it. You hit 40, and everyone suddenly goes, ah, pension. And then from then on, your interest in your pension goes up exponentially. I am not saying that to put equality into your marketing, you have to target 20-year-olds.


You might, if you’ve hit huge penetration levels at 40, 50 year olds, 20 year olds might be on market. But I’m not saying you have to target everyone. And what I’m saying is by having that equality base that the beginning of your discussion, you pick who you said, you do your segmentation better and you decide who you’re targeting better. That helps you do it. So it’s not, you have to target everyone. It’s you have to target the right people. But if you have equality at the beginning, those decisions are better.


Love that couldn’t have put it any better myself Mindful of time. I reckon we’ve probably got about 10 minutes left But there’s one topic that I do really want to pick your brains on when it comes to this It’s about pay It’s definitely something that i’m going to be mentioning uh in my talk and uh for context i’ve got Excuse me a couple of stats here basically that say If you’re non uk-born ethnic minorities, there’s a 10.4 percent pay penalty 4.1 if you are a uk-born


and probably the most stagnant one is that there’s an 8,000 pound difference between the lowest female learners and white British men. In fact, it was in the news today or yesterday maybe a week ago when you listen to this that in the past five or six years about the gender pay gap, there has been absolutely zero progress. It’s as bad as it is now as it was five years ago and the studies estimate it will probably be another 50, 60, 70 years,


before true Parity is achieved there. How do we start to to impact equality there?


Um, so really hAndily, your question broke up a little bit. Was the question, how do we start to narrow the gap? Yeah. How do we start? I got the stats. I mean, I’m sorry. You’re shaking my head. I’m like, listen, I didn’t know those stats, right? I’d say I was aware of the gender pay gap. I didn’t realize that, but the ethnic minority pay gap, I would imagine that if you look at the intersection between ethnic minorities and women, if you know, if you’re a non-British born female and black person, you’ll, you’d be like the bottom of the pile, right? Yeah.


I genuinely don’t know. We only know these things because there are aggregated figures of what happens at a pay level. So at a macro level, we can see there’s a problem. But pay deals are the very definition of a micro issue. So even when pay is aggregated generally by, say, a union, agrees a pay deal for everyone in their union, that tends to go into pay bands.


So even then, when you’ve got a macro aggregated salary discussion going on, even then it comes down to a micro issue. And a woman could still be at the bottom of the band and a man could still be at the top of the band for the same job. And it depends on where you are, but that could be five, seven, eight, fifteen, twenty thousand quid.


But until we start publishing salaries for everybody, I don’t know how we do it. I don’t know how you get away from it, unless you publish every individual salary in an organization. But there’s privacy reasons why you can’t do that. So chief execs have their salary published, BBC stars have their salary published. You know, if someone just rocks up at the local university and said, right, that’s it, everyone’s salary is gonna be published. There’s problems with that, from a privacy point of view.


So I genuinely, I don’t know how we solve it because it’s, I think one of the reasons it’s a nasty bastard of a problem as well is I think there are, undoubtedly, I think there are people who will pay men more because they value them more and will pay white people more because they value them more, undoubtedly. But I think a lot of the issues that are happening here are very much driven by unconscious bias rather than conscious bias. So if people don’t know they have a problem,


There’s nothing they can do about it. And even if I this is complete guesswork just to be absolutely clear I think we’re international women’s day through the week We support international women’s day awkward tweet comes out gender pay a buck goes Look at you 50 60 percent or whatever right it massive gender pay gap I imagine if you go to the managers were down in those teams who are set and pay for their teams They’ll be like, oh well, we don’t do that


Imagine that that sort of thing must happen because she said they go well, I don’t I don’t discriminate She’s on the bottom of the band because she was new in he’s been here three. Yeah, that’s why he’s it’s not a discrimination thing He’s just been here three years. She’s been here. No, you know one year So I don’t think you know, I think there are conscious bias, but I think there’s definitely some sort of unconscious bias going on as well Yeah, absolutely one thing that I’ll mention in my talk, which I think is a great way to sort of


Kick this off is that you mentioned leadership there. Most people in leadership positions will take some sort of bonus. And I think that rather than release everybody’s salary, they should probably publicly come out and say that we won’t take a bonus until we achieve gender and or race pay gap parity until that happens, we are not going to take a bonus, we’ll put that back into the business to make it that happen. But


Again, there’s kind of a context thing here, isn’t it? Like if you look at British Gas or somebody like that, where they’ve got, I don’t know, 30, 50,000 employees, the problems they have are slightly different to company I work with that’s got 100 employees, right? And they have different problems to people who’ve got 10 employees. But you certainly, there’s something there that we have to put the senior leadership team on the hook for this, because if we don’t, there’s no other way, unless you publish everybody’s salary. I don’t understand what the reason is.


think publishing salaries is gonna I think there’ll be there’ll be unintended consequences of doing that yeah the very last question that I want to ask you is before we part ways what’s one thing that you’ve wanted to discuss today that we’ve not yet talked about


Whew! I suppose I did want to ask you a question. Is that skipping the question? What did I want to discuss?


I’m just trying to think of the different parts of my presentation. I think the thing for me talking about marketing strategy as I do is that. It feels like an area that people just have this confusion around and like, I don’t understand marketing strategy. And it’s mainly because marketing strategists make it sound so difficult. So they can charge you for it and keep coming back in. Right. But it’s dead. So it’s where you’re going and the tactics, how are you going to get there? There’s lots of different ways, but if you keep those two things in your mind,


you’re going to get there. That helps keep it simple. So equality marketing strategy has to come in before you make the decision of where you’re going. And then if you just whack it in at the tactics, you’ll start making this bad decisions. But if you’ve done it at the beginning, your tactics should be better. But my real thing I wanted to know was how does it sit within what you’re talking about equality and your talk? Where does it sit there? And how do we get better at equality?


A lot of it is kind of what you’ve sort of already touched on in terms of impact in all areas of the business. I was really keen to learn from you about the point of including it in a strategy and certainly around shattering those misconceptions around it has to only be impacted from the top. I often take a look at it from the bottom up and I have looked at things like, you know, I talk about wage equity, pay equity a lot. I look at conferences a lot.


as a whole and I still see, for example, one of the things that I will say during my talk and if whether you’re listening or watching, I just want you to do this now. I want you to think about your own experiences of consuming news around the marketing industry. For example, it’s award season, businesses galore will be saying right now, we’ve been nominated for 20, 30, 40 awards. I want you to think of those businesses, right? Think of those agencies, for example. Then think of their senior leadership team, for example.


likely all gonna be white. Then think about the people that they put up to speak at conferences to generate leads for those businesses. Almost always all white. I heard something the other day, I’m not gonna name them because it’s not a personal attack, but I heard somebody mention that they were interested in diversity and inclusion. And then I looked at their staff


And it just didn’t make sense. It didn’t seem genuine enough for me to just go and start diving into that data and I was like When you do things like that, but you mentioned it’s got to be authentic And if it’s not authentic people will smell you from a mile off which is going back to the points about AI so in short Authenticity project it from every level of the business Like you said and then sort of flattering these These misconceptions on the industry for sure


Yeah. I think the key thing as well is, is that I don’t mind, other people might take a different view, but I don’t mind people getting shit wrong. Right. Yeah. You might work in an all white, all male company that’s got people aged between 25 to 35 and that’s it. And you’ve recruited, you’ve probably done it for a good reason, right? You know, you’re in a startup mode. You need to recruit someone. Who do you recruit? Someone who you can trust. Who’s that? You met somebody you went to school with. You need another person you can trust. They look like them. They may. So you’re recruiting a bunch of people.


all of a sudden that creates a culture and you have all this and all of a sudden it just becomes like it’s bro central, tech bro central or whatever it is. I don’t mind people saying look, we need to look at equality here. We’ve got to sort this out if you’re doing it authentically and if you’re doing it because you want to make a change, right? And you get and sometimes, you know, you ask asking questions and you get stuff wrong and you improve and you’re 20 but you’ve got to be open to learn, right? And that’s the thing is you’ve got to be open to learn.


I was speaking to someone the other day who is non-binary and I got the pronouns wrong. And it was one of those things I didn’t even realize I’d done until afterwards. And then it hit me and I was like, oh no. And I just got in touch with them straight away and I was like, look, I’m really sorry. I think I got the show. And they were brilliant about it. They were just like, look, it’s fine. But I know I have to learn now. I got, I made a mistake. You make a mistake once, everyone makes a mistake. You keep making the same mistake again, that stupidity.


ignorance or bias or whatever. So now I’m on a journey to go and learn and I have to find a way to learn. And that’s so, get things wrong, right? That’s fine. But learn and that’s the important bit. Yeah, absolutely. Very similar to yourself. I’ll very quickly mention before wrapping up, I did an episode in the past with, with Anthony Thornton, absolute great human being. And he was really supportive. It was all about being part of the LGBTQ plus community. He didn’t know a lot about it.


said to him on the recording, I will get things wrong, but just know that it’s coming from a place of learning. Uh, and he basically said exactly what you just did. As long as it, the intentions are genuine. People won’t mind. And I think that’s what people fear. That’s another conversation for another day. Andi, you’ve been absolutely fantastic for your listeners and viewers. If you want to connect with me or find out more about me on the podcast, it’s at Azeem Digital or Azeem Ahmad on LinkedIn, or if my SEO is any good,


and I’m going on an ongoing battle with some fucking jewelers in London. Just type into Google, how do I contact Azeem? If there’s a jeweler there, I’m losing. If you see my email address there, I’m winning. But we’re an ongoing SEO battle. My list is a viewer’s only how can they find you and contact you and connect with you? Oh, right. Well, I, you see, I’m a bit so if you listed at the strategy sessions and you want to get in touch with Azeem in a much easier way, right. His links in the show notes, click on that and you can find him from there.


like SEO and finding stuff like that. I’m like, just stick it in the show notes. It’ll be fine. Andi Jarvis is Andi with an I, I kind of picked an SEO friendly name because there isn’t that many other Andi Jarvis is if you spell Andi with an I, A N D I J A R V I S you will find me if you stick that in. I’m Andi Jarvis on Twitter, Andi Jarvis on LinkedIn, and I’m Jarvis Andi on Instagram because there’s a Canadian who took Andi Jarvis on Instagram and I am fuming about it.


Love that. I really hope that both of our listeners and viewers find value in each other’s content. Definitely find value in this episode. And like all podcasts to say, please like, write, share, subscribe, subscribe bell. But yeah, look, joking aside. Yeah. I’m sorry to jump in at the end to try and get the last word, but do if you’re a strategy sessions, listen to check out the Zemes podcast because it’s a belter, right? And there’s some really interesting discussions there with


And it really does make a difference to podcast if five star reviews, how you get ranked when people find it, all that shit does make a difference. It’s dead easy. Share it with a mate, send it to a friend. And if you don’t like it, just tell us, tell us what you didn’t like about it. And we’ll see what we can pick up from there. Yeah, absolutely. And then likewise, I’ll return the favor by saying that some of your guests and episodes have been absolutely brilliant. You have got some absolute heavy, heavy hitters in the industry. So I strongly recommend.


You checking that out, but let’s end this love fest here. I’m gonna press stop recording. We will catch you on the next episode See you soon Thanks, Azeem. Bye!

Jo Walters podcast interview – how SMEs can compete with bigger organisations

AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsOvercastPocketCastsRadio PublicSpotifyAmazon MusicPodcast AddictStitcherYouTube

After a short break, I am back with Season 5 of the Azeem Digital Asks Podcast! In this episode, Jo Walters shares strategies for small organisations to compete with larger ones, highlighting the importance of identifying and leveraging unique strengths, amongst other pearls of wisdom.

*As a reminder, you can now also get this podcast in video form, on both Spotify video, or YouTube.*

Listen/watch now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here
YouTube: Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.

Jo is officially a freelance communications specialist at 25 Dots – unofficially you may know her as the wizard behind many of your favourite events social media posts, generating buzz and engagement online for large events in the industry.

In this episode, we discuss all of the different ways smaller and scrappy organisations can compete with larger ones, as well as Jo’s own advice drawing on her own experience – this is one episode not to be missed!

YouTube version of the podcast episode. Click above to watch.

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!  

Useful Links

Podcast page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

My Twitter page: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

My LinkedIn: ⁠⁠⁠⁠

My website: ⁠⁠⁠

Jo’s Twitter: ⁠

Jo’s LinkedIn: