Book Interview with Alex Gibson, 103.2 Dublin City FM

by | Dec 16, 2023

Reading Time: 9 minutes

On Friday 15th December 2023, I spoke with Alex Gibson for his ‘The Persuaders‘ show on 103.2 Dublin City FM

The Persuaders is Dublin’s only dedicated marketing show covering a diverse range of topics such as advertising, digital trends, sales promotion, sponsorship and direct marketing. Each week, presenter Alex Gibson interviews top Irish and international guests and reports from major Irish conferences covering marketing topics. The show has aired since 2000, making it Ireland’s longest-running business programme. Alex is Assistant Head – School of Marketing, College of Business, Technological University Dublin. He has been a recipient of the Irish Marketing Educator of the Year award from the Marketing Institute of Ireland, and received its Fellowship. For his work on The Persuaders, he received the Podcaster of the Year award from the Irish Internet Association.

You can listen to the interview, here:


Alex: A warm welcome along to you. I’m Alex Gibson, and you’re listening to the Persuaders, which is your weekly review of all things marketing and media here on 103.2 Dublin City FM.  On the line I’ve got Luan Wise. Lovely to have you join us this Friday afternoon on The Persuaders. You’re a published author in the area of marketing, we’ll come to that in a moment, you’ve published two books one just published, which is called Planning for Success: A practical guide to setting and achieving your social media marketing goals. Tell us first of all a little bit about your own background.
Luan: Hi. Thank you for having me. I have been in marketing for over 20 years now, since graduating, I’m one of the few people that has pursued a career in the topic that they studied at University. I started my career in advertising agencies. After a few years, I went client side, and then just over 12 years ago, set up my own consultancy business.

Alex: You describe yourself in the foreward of your book as a T-shaped marketer, which intrigued me. What did you mean by that?
Luan: I came across the T-shaped concept, so it’s not something I invented. I like the concept of my career being T-shaped because it reflects that I have been in marketing for a long time and have quite a broad generalist background. So the generalism in marketing will be the top of the T. And then over the last 10-15 years, I have dived into a specialism in social media.

Alex: What prompted you to set up your consultancy business? Had you been working most of your time in social media activities on the client side?
Luan: Well, interestingly, my previous client-side role was actually in the world of post and direct marketing. So almost the opposite of online, digital and social media. But it was something that I had developed quite a strong interest in.

Alex: Interesting and on one level, they’re polar opposites. And, of course, interestingly, today, you know, we’re seeing a kind of a fusion because there’s a lot of print material that has got QR codes on us, and it’s encouraging you to go digital and vice versa. Sometimes it’s not the case.
Luan: I’m still a huge fan of print and direct marketing and things coming through the letterbox.

Alex: Before we talk about the book, and you’re interest in writing, what was your initial client base when you started as a consultant?
Luan: I was incredibly lucky setting up my own business in that it was a discussion with my former employer, and they were my first clients. So it was an easy move from being an employee to them being a client and kind of carrying on the same role. Since then, I’ve worked with many, many different organizations, from B2B organisations, manufacturing, and professional services, through to higher education, And balance that more now with consultancy work, and also teaching and training from a practitioner point of view.

Alex: In terms of writing a book, you’ve written one book already, which is called Relax! It’s only social media and I see here that it won a National Indie Excellence Award. But what was that book? How does it differ from your more recent publication?
Luan: Yes, so Relax! It’s only social media I self-published back in 2016. I think if I’m honest, it was a kind of a bucket list thing; I wanted to write a book. At that time, I had a few bits of training and teaching content, it was quite early on in my career of doing that. And I just felt that I’d created lots of content and presentations, and it was time to put it all into a book. People at the end of teaching and training workshops always say, you know, what else have you got? So it felt like it was the right thing to do at the time. The book I have just released, Planning for Success, was actually intended to be a second version, I thought it would be an update, take out some changes, like Google+ disappearing, and I make a few updates. But actually, as I was working on it, as I was writing and researching, it turned into something completely different. Hence the different title.

Alex: And from somebody has written some academic articles – and it’s a long time since I did write a textbook many years ago – but particularly in social media, it’s changing so fast. So dynamically, both in terms of the platforms and the tricks of the trade, I guess that’s always a challenge when you’re writing a book that you want to make sure it doesn’t feel dated. So what was your approach to that particular dilemma?
Luan: And it was a huge challenge, even with the way I approached it, I didn’t want it to be a ‘how-to’ book because that would absolutely change within 24 hours. I think my biggest challenge during writing was, Elon Musk and how many changes he was making to Twitter and trying to change that section of what it meant, what the platform was all about. But what I tried to focus on in the writing is the importance of marketing fundamentals and the need to get the basics right before diving into tactics.

Alex: Yes, that’s so important. And you know, it’s a theme we hear a lot on the show here. But you know, you have to be strategic at the outset, don’t you, you have to think strategy first.
Luan: Absolutely. Otherwise, you know, you’re diving straight in, you don’t really know why you’re doing something. I think working in marketing, we, perhaps some of us, tend to find a new shiny thing, and say let me go and try that. You can spend so much time on social media, it’s free, it’s easy to access. But if you don’t really know why you’re doing it, when you’re doing it for a business, that becomes a bit of a challenge.

Alex: Now you have divided the book into eight chapters, and we work on radio, and it wouldn’t be a good use of radio time anyway, in a linear fashion, but just share with me and the listeners a little bit about your thinking about the eight chapters, the headings that you know that that you that led you to that sort of structure?
Luan: I realised quite a few things about myself as I was writing that I needed to have an even number of chapters! For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to have an odd number of chapters. So that is the reason for the eight.
It was also quite difficult to do this in a linear fashion because it was kind of like, what do I need to think about? Where do I need to go? But having written the first book in 2016, I took the time to do some focus group research. I asked a number of people who worked in marketing to read the book and give me their feedback. And what they really wanted was more of a framework. You know, they all said, you know, we read about this, we read blogs, we watch webinars, but we need some kind of framework. So what I’ve tried to do in my structure of the chapters is almost take people on a journey of understanding the background of social media, getting those fundamentals in place, and then working on some detail around content calendars, and engagement and hashtags and things like that.

Alex: And it is very accessible in terms of the way it’s laid out. I have to say, not too much jargon either, which can be very intimidating. Is it the case that you have a persona of who the book is mainly aimed at?
Luan: Yes, well, I did need to have a persona because that’s what I talked about in the book and the importance of them. I actually did hit a wall when I was writing because I got to the point of wondering who is this actually for, and who’s going to be on the other side of this book, wanting to actually implement it? I got to the point of who needed this the most and I felt that is was for an early career marketer, someone that’s perhaps studying at the moment and working on assignments and needs to know how this could be applied in practice, or someone that’s potentially in their first role. They’re really comfortable with social media, and they know that they’re not overcome with fear, but actually, maybe they don’t know how to use this tool in practice, and the purpose of it all for achieving objectives. So it’s for that early career person that just needs to make sure they’re matching up the marketing fundamentals and the business use of social media with getting the job done.

Alex: Every chapter is bookended by a case study, which I love. I think it’s a great way of teaching concepts to people. And I know as an educator, it’s a really good pedagogical tool. Are there are a couple that stand out for you?
Luan: Yes, again, I think this came out in the focus group research and the feedback, you know, people read things and they go, Yes, but what does that actually mean and need examples. And again, because I had the persona in mind of early career marketers, and perhaps using this while they’re studying, so case studies are really important. I went about this in two ways. One was to tap into my own network. So I did various posts on LinkedIn and other platforms, saying, I’m looking for case studies to feature who, who will talk to me. And I also searched for industry awards, and who was winning those awards in social media categories – I approached those people to see if I could feature them in the book.

A couple that I think stand out to me. One, this won’t be familiar to you, but my local Borough Council in Cheltenham, in terms of how they use LinkedIn, to engage with the business community. And also, I’m a huge fan of this social media content, we all like to talk about the weather. And so if no one has checked out the Met Office, and their content on TikTok, on Twitter, on Threads around the weather – I would encourage them to look at it. I love their case study that closes the book around how their remit is to keep us safe during storms, how they went about using social media, how they engaged with other agencies to make sure that we basically all stayed indoors. We tied down our trampolines, etc. And just the role that social media has to play for them in that it’s very interesting.

Alex: Well, I suggest people to check out the UK Met Office, I think the Irish one is pretty, pretty clever, too. They do some really nice stuff on social channels, as well.
Now I haven’t that much time left unfortunately, I wanted to ask you in terms of what are the most common challenges that overall businesses face when they’re setting and achieving social media and marketing goals?
Luan: I think it goes back to that diving straight in without thinking about the ‘why’ and what we’re doing and trying to align it with the bigger picture and the strategy and what the business is trying to achieve. I would say the other thing, and I think this is about marketing, not just social media, is that we always want to do more, we always want more time, resources, more budget> we always think we shouldn’t be doing more, and we’re not doing enough. So I think I would always encourage people to strip that back and focus on doing one or two things, or perhaps platforms, really well. And almost taking the pressure off. You know, that was why the title of my first book was Relax! 

Alex: In addition to buying the book what what additional resources or steps do you think people listening to the show could take to stay up-to-date in terms of social media, Are there particular websites or routes or information portals that you think could be helpful to them?
Luan: So, I could never find a single portal for all the information. So I created one, myself!  It’s called  www.TheLighthouse.Social. One of the biggest challenges is absolutely staying up to date with news and trends.  I share a weekly email newsletter with a roundup of changes. I also co-host, a monthly free webinar – always on the last Thursday of the month at 11am (UK). And they will be hosted on LinkedIn Live next year. So if you find me on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to see those updates. I would also just encourage people to be present on the platforms, you know, set up a TikTok account if you don’t have one. Scroll through, and be part of the party, and you will pick up so much that way.

Alex: I said that was the last question but I do want to say that the live thing is interesting. I think that’s where I first encountered what you’re doing and we’ve done the odd one on The Persuaders.  The live casting – is that is that something that you see is going to grow up a bit in the next year or not?
I had early access to the LinkedIn Live feature. You do need to have a Creator mode account on LinkedIn to access it. Which is free, although you also have to fill in an application form to make sure you fulfil some criteria. So LinkedIn lives aren’t open to everyone yet. But I found it really useful as just an opportunity to stream onto my LinkedIn profile – that is my primary platform where my audience are – and for the networking as well. I find it just a nice alternative to Zoom which has some restrictions in terms of numbers and budgets as well. So I’ve been experimenting with it more and found it useful.

Alex: Indeed. I’ve done one or two experiments on that as well. So probably try and do more next year. Luan Wise, thanks so much for coming on the show today. That book is called Planning for Success, A Practical Guide to setting and achieving your social media marketing goals, and I presume it’s relatively easy to access on the usual online platforms if people want to purchase it?
Luan: Yes, it’s available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audiobook formats!

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