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Industry Insight with Tim Kitchen

Posted 12th March 2010

Welcome to the Industry Insights section of B-Hive. Over the next few months we will be interviewing some of Birmingham’s most successful PR, Marketing, Creative and Digital professionals – the B-Hive employers!

Today we're speaking to Tim Kitchen, Director of Made Media about creative digital media and the rise of social media.

What is the typical career path in this job?

Creative Digital Media is a grown-up creative business these days. There is a whole array of careers to suit different backgrounds and skill sets. Whatever your background and education, there is probably a role which has migrated into the digital arena.

In production, there is a broad spread from the highly technical to conceptually creative. There are specialised roles covering hosting and infrastructure, back-end application development, information architecture and user experience design via content producers through to conceptual and visual creative.

I haven't even started on the whole business and management side of things: Strategy, marketing and PR, client-facing project managers and account managers, sales and business development. There are a lot of entry points.

For creative digital types, it's really about coming at it from one of two starting points, Technical or Creative although the best people may have elements of both.

Whatever your specialism or strength I think it's becoming more important to have a tacit understanding of the industry as a whole. Getting the bigger picture will inform your attitude and approach to any task or role. Creatives don't necessarily need to understand code, but produce better work when they are aware of technical limitations. It also helps them to exploit the opportunities that emerging technologies present.

By the same token, technical developers produce better work when they understand how people really use and engage with digital media. This involves putting technology aside to concentrate on people's needs and motivations.

Is there a typical career path into digital?

No. There is no well-worn route. Qualifications certainly help but are not essential, we employ people on the basis of ability and experience.

To gain experience I still believe one of the best routes in to employment is a work placement. Its also a great opportunity for employers to gain access to fresh talent. That's one of our motivations for getting involved with B-Hive.

If a placement doesn’t lead directly to employment, then the experience gained will still increase your chances elsewhere. However this does present an unfortunate catch 22 situation when you're just starting out!

When looking for desirable placement candidates we look for demonstrable skills, preferably evidenced by work that is available online. Qualifications are good but tangible proof of your talents will out-weigh any diploma for us.

The good news is that in digital media, the barrier to entry is very low. You can learn skills, demonstrate your talents and promote yourself online. This is a huge benefit to a prospective placement provider or employer as it gives an immediate indication of what you can do and that you have enthusiasm and initiative.

It's fair enough if you haven't had the opportunity to work on commercial projects when you are starting out, but it shouldn't prevent you from starting your own projects. If you're sending out job or placement requests for web design or developer posts and don't have any evidence of the quality work online, then that will definitely count against you.

Get your own domain. Put a portfolio up. Contribute to an open source project. Set up a blog. Get your own Twitter following. Be active online. Show us that you care.

What do you consider the top three ways to generate traffic to websites?

1. A big live TV push
2. Publishing good, original content that can be easily digested by search engines
3. Sensitive email updates to a community that cares

Social media grabs headlines for generating overnight digital celebrity causes (Trafigura, Jan Moir, Paperchase) but these are the exceptions rather than the rule, and it's almost impossible to engineer that type of traffic unless you are extremely lucky. Social media networks still have some way to go before they compete with Google as a traffic driver for a typical website.

How do you feel the rise of social media has affected you business?

It’s another aspect of Digital Media which allows individuals and businesses to communicate with one another, so there are increasing opportunities around social media to increase our service offering.

On one level clients are increasingly aware that they need to be using social media and are asking how to incorporate it into existing communications strategy. I also detect an element of knee-jerk response; a need for a social media strategy as a means to keeping up with the #joneses. At its core social media means helping clients to talk to more people online and fundamentally that's what any digital media agency should do. We've worked on a number of social media projects this year and we're helping out on a couple of 4iP-funded projects which focus quite specifically on that area. So it's an opportunity, not a threat.

Keep checking the B-Hive website for the next interview in our series. If you have any questions that you would us to ask the B-Hive employers then please direct message them to our B-Hive twitter at twitter.com/b_hive

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