How I Came To Work With The National Trust

How I Came To Work With The National Trust

I mentioned in my vlog that I've been lucky enough to work with a dream client. Now I can finally say that the dream client I've been working with is the National Trust. Not just a specific property - but with the National Trust HQ in Swindon on their social media; and the best bit? They're one of the nicest organisations I've had the pleasure to work with.

That's the news, but I wanted to explain a little about how I came to work with them and how I the phrase 'You miss 100% of the shots you don't take*' is still ringing in my ears. 

LinkedIn & The National Trust

It was about 9pm one weekday last October and through no other reason than sheer boredom I was flicking through LinkedIn. My evenings are that exciting. Between the less than inspirational quotes and general bragging from recruiters there was a post from the Head of Social Media at the National Trust with a shout out for freelancers.

And like any post looking for freelancers the comments were already in the triple figures with people expressing their interest. 

At this point, I had three thoughts -

  • That would be an incredible gig

  • There's no way I could work with an organisation as incredible at the NT

  • There's so many people already commented there's no way I'll be seen

After 9 years in the digital marketing game you'd think I'd stop doubting my own abilities but no, my mind likes to flit wildly between crippling doubt and ballsy peaks of self confidence. In this instance the balsy self confidence won out.

My Approach

The only way to stand out I reasoned was to get a message in front of said Head of Social Media. I was not going to be just another comment. So, looking through the chaps profile I realised a further three things - 

  • He studied history at uni (me too!)

  • He loved everything to do with the National Trust (who wouldn't?)

  • His other posts were pretty chatty and informal

That's a winning combination.

The day after, still thinking about whether or not to throw my hat into the ring my thinking concluded with to hell with it, I might as well give it a shot.  If it didn't work out then I hadn't lost anything. 

So, with him not being a connection I signed up for free trial of LinkedIn premium and DM'd him. The message was deliberately chatty, definitely mentioned our shared degrees and happened to have a link to my Instagram account which is at least 25% of images of National Trust locations. 

A few days later and sitting there in the inbox was a response! 

Between then and now I should mention I did have to submit a proposal of previous social media work and followed it up with a presentation day at Heelis, their HQ in Swindon, before getting to dive into the actual work - but the point remains. Had I not sent that message I never would have had the opportunity to end up doing all of those incredible things. 

LinkedIn Lessons

So as a quick lesson for anyone reading this and a reminder for my future self...

  • Keep an eagle like eye on opportunities via LinkedIn

  • Do something which stands out

  • Try never to doubt your own abilities

  • If you're in doubt then try for it anyway.

What have you got to lose? 

*"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" is a quote by professional ice hockey player and head coach, Wayne Gretzky. I have it printed on my business cards to act as a reminder to try and approach business this way. 

6 Months of Digital Marketing Freelance Life

6 Months of Digital Marketing Freelance Life

In April 2017 I 'made the jump' into freelance life and became a self employed digital marketer. Knowing that it was going to be, well, interesting I decided to document my progress and experiences in a monthly series of vlogs; (which have themselves been a learning curve).

Now in November 2017, the first 6 months have flown by, so here's the full list of videos so you can see month on month how things have gone (well all expect for Month 2, when it didn't happen).

In that time I've run my own photoshoot, travelled to America (which explains the shot above) and built my first proper website, as well as meet a whole host of fantastic new businesses. Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? Hell yes...

So here's the list...

Freelance Digital Marketing Life - Month 1 

Freelance Digital Marketing Life - Month 3

Freelance Digital Marketing Life - Month 4

Freelance Digital Marketing Life - Month 5 

Freelance Digital Marketing Life - Month 6

The NHS Recruitment Crisis

The NHS Recruitment Crisis

- I've recently been attempting to vlog rather than blog, so - for the moment at least - my more recent thoughts and opinions can be found over on my channel here. Like, comment and subscribe! -

So, to the topic in question - the NHS recruitment crisis. About 6 months ago I worked on a project with the Devon Partnership Trust (or DPT for short). Like almost every NHS organisation they're in need of new candidates as jobs go unfilled. Recruitment is no easy thing and the mainstream media rarely help with the crisis laden headlines.

Digital Recruitment

The work I was asked to do focused on a marketing recruitment strategy - or in other words - work out the best way to recruit new candidates via digital methods. For any project like this there's lots of research and across the internet and scattered about there's various examples of previous recruitment campaigns which other NHS trusts had undertaken.

The Problem?

None of this information on recruitment campaigns is almost never shared. Good, bad or anything inbetween. Lessons learnt, successful placements - nothing. Yet, by sharing this information could collectively save the NHS a fortune - in time and money - avoiding the mistakes and implementing the successes of others.

  • Say one trust learnt that Instagram advertising was a total waste of money for them. That's a lesson learnt. 
  • Or that changing their photography on their recruitment website meant an increase in applications. That's a lesson learnt too. 

There must be so many of these lessons but each one is siloed away, unshared meaning each trust is doomed to repeat the same mistakes. 

In fairness there is NHS Employers - which does have some guidance on how the NHS can use some aspects of digital marketing for recruitment. The information on it though is basic at best, although it's getting better in time, the problems affecting recruitment need addressing immediately.

I've spent the last 6 months pondering this. How do you solve this challenge? NHS trusts don't want to share information because they're all competing in the same diminishing pool of candidates yet, the information about recruitment campaigns could and should be shared if collectively the country is looking to get more people applying for roles in the NHS more efficiently.

So, I'm opening up the challenge to you...

At the moment there's ideas floating around in my mind, but nothing concrete. However, if you work in marketing, or the NHS, or both then it would be truly great to hear your thoughts and opinions on the matter. Stick a comment below or feel free to email me Thanks.

Should I Have Gone Freelance?

Should I Have Gone Freelance?

The last post I wrote on here was all about my the imminent jump to freelance life. Since then I made a pact with myself that I'd try to document what it's been like to jump into freelancing- all in way that was quick and honest. None of this instagram #freelancelife bullshit but something which mapped the upped as well as the downs in working for myself.

Disclaimer: I have previously been a freelancer, having had a taster experience of it a couple of years back. That experience definitely made this transition less bumpy.

So, how has freelance life been?

In short, bloody amazing.

Don't get me wrong there have been a few tough points but overall everything's got off to an amazing start. The biggest and best thing (though it won't surprise you) is the flexibility that it's offered me. Working when I want - and don't get me wrong there's been plenty of work - has meant a whole lot more energy. That energy's been transferred into more time with friends, more time to exercise and more time to learn new things. It's a win-win scenario for both me and my clients. (Seriously, within the first couple of weeks I ran my best run and had the best workout I've had in absolutely months).

The downsides have been the deadlines and the self-management of it all. There were definitely a few periods of feeling overwhelmed. Thankfully, there's Excel and keeping everything logged on spreadsheets helps keep a more balanced view of the universe. 

I'm also strongly of the opinion that during this honeymoon period everything can appear more rosy than the reality so we shall wait and see what next month brings before making any firm decisions.

If you have any questions about making the jump into freelance life then just ask. Here's to Month 2!

Rise & Shine

Rise & Shine

Some of you will have no doubt have heard the news that I’m splitting my role at Optix, saying goodbye to some great clients and even greater friends as I move both into a new remote based strategic role as well as a new period of self-employment.

Even more of you no doubt won’t have the faintest clue of who I am. Either way I wanted to add something on here to explain the choice – of why anyone in a decent, fulfilling job wants to change all this and take the risk of becoming self-employed.

The Shorter Story – The last few years I feel as though I've been sleepwalking through life, happily complacent at how things were going and through subsequent nudges, there's been a wake up call to realise how different things can be.

The Longer Story – Is best summed up in 3 main lessons that I keep coming back to time and again that I can't ignore any longer...

Time is Finite

I know - we’re starting deep. Time is precious and mortality is inevitable. Spending year in year out working from 9-5 in the hope after decades of labour I can finally kick back, retire and pursue all those things I want from life is not an option; and that's assuming I make it to retirement.

Two books encapsulate this far better than I can. Tim Ferris’ ‘4 Hour Work Week’ and his chapter in particular on fear setting helps put life very much into perspective. Plus, Ryan Holiday's 'The Daily Stoic' is a remarkable way of keeping things grounded. If you’ve already read either of them then you’ll know what I mean.

Instead, now marks a point where I want to take the first steps into pursuing my own projects and passions with the firm goal of generating a passive income to spend more time living and less time working.

It’s 2017

For all the fake news we’re living in an incredible era; one that’s richer, more diverse and more connected than at any point in human history. A laptop and Wi-Fi are what I need to work my craft – from anywhere at any time. So why am I spending so much of my precious time in the same office, for the same hours each day?

This type digital transformation is at it’s core thrilling, terrifying and awe-inspiring all at the same time. Things are changing rapidly and we collectively have no idea how it’ll pan out. To see how this meaningfully affects how we all work, look at Simon Swan's work tying things together with his article on ‘The Evolutionary Breakthroughs in Human Collaboration’.

Fear is relative

The last few months of planning this have been entirely calm; I mean weirdly calm. I’m still expecting my unconscious 2am voice will scream ‘WHAT THE F**K AM I DOING!?’ but it hasn’t happened – not yet anyway.

‘Going at it alone’ seems to be by collective opinion a scary thing to do and although it was daunting to start with the whole thing is actually now damn exciting. I’ve done the maths. I’ve weighed up the risks. I’ve got a fall back plan. And you know what? Could I see myself doing what I’m doing day in day out for the next 5 years? No sir. So change has to happen and the potential rewards far outweigh the risks.

So, what now?

A shift, a change and a gradual step into what, clichéd though it might be, is a new chapter. The plan is to honestly document how this pans out for all the good and bad, and everything in between so you can keep up to date via this site.

Think what I’m doing is lunacy? Or are you begrudgingly jealous? Send all thoughts, opinions, questions and comments my way.

Onto the good stuff...

I can finally reveal what I've been planning behind the scenes on a whole host of fantastic projects that are about to take off.

A Role Upgrade-

Although it means saying goodbye to some clients who I've worked with for over 2 years I'm moving into a strategic role at Optix covering some seriously cool digital strategies and projects. The role will also be remote, so whilst I'm not going to be a digital nomad just yet, watch this space.

A New Role -

I'm also going to be working long term colleague and friend Ben Corbally of Full Story as his Head of Digital. I can’t say any more on the projects we're working on due to the fun times confidentiality agreements bring, but they’re going to be good.

A New Business –

For all the SEO, the PPC, the UX and many other acronyms that go with digital marketing one item is repeatedly ignored – the copy. Just because you type doesn’t mean you can write. So, my business partner, Jamie Harper and I launching The Way With Words, a new service designed to instil into business the in’s and out’s of how they should communicate to their customers. We call these verbal identity guidelines, and more will be spoken of them in the coming months. 

Gym Marketing –

For those in the know I like the gym, particularly deadlifting. To that end, I'm tying two passions together and will be marketing Performance Training Academy – an online portal to qualify as a personal trainer. It’s already been great fun developing a brand new site to growing the content, SEO, PPC, even shooting the photography, so it looks like I'm going to be a fitness marketing consultant!).

Interested in Working Together?

With all that said, there's still time left over each week for me to work on additional projects so if you think we'd be a good fit, then message me and we'll take things from there.

Here goes nothing. 

(In the interests of SEO this article was originally published on my LinkedIn account first here and here).

The Best Digital Marketing Books in 2017

The Best Digital Marketing Books in 2017

The following books have nothing to do with digital marketing, yet at the same time have everything to do with digital marketing. Behavioural psychology, the dynamics of crowds, the evolution of language. People and places far removed from your own universe to encourage creativity and engage the mind. Wow, that's deep. Read these:


Contagious: How to Build word of Mouth in the Digital Age, by Jonah Berger. Where Made to Stick by Dan & Chip Heath took the next step from Malcolm Gladwell's 'Tipping Point' in learning how making things stick, Contagious looks at how things actually spread.  All three should be read in conjunction with one another.

Influence: The Psycology of Persuasion by Robert. B Cialdini. Running through various examples of how to well, persuade people.


Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth about Success by Matthew Syed


The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live anywhere and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss. A step by step formula for being able to enjoy life in the here and now instead of waiting until retirement to finally put your plans into action. READ IT.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Some of it is downright obvious. Some of it is downright amazing. Written back in 1936 the lessons it gives on effectively communicating and understanding other people still apply. READ IT.

ZERO to ONE by Peter Thiel. The Co-founder of Paypal opens up about how to come up with groundbreaking ideas (going from zero to one) not just rehashing current ideas (going from zero to zero). Fascinating read, but more targeted towards senior leadership than anything else. READ IT.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. If you're reading this list you'll see that I'm a big fan of this guy, but the Tipping Point is by far his best work. Written before the rise of the web, the book is a thesis in how to spread messages and make things go viral. So good I read it twice. READ IT.

David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. An awesome insight into how underdogs disadvantages can lead to their biggest opportunities. READ IT.

The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters. In your brain you have a Chimp, a Human and a Computer. Once you accept the multiple analogies this is one of the easiest to understand and practical books I've read in understanding how the human mind functions. READ IT.

The Story of Writing; Alphabets, Heiroglyphics and Pictograms by Andrew Robinson. Modern English is a drop in the ocean of the languages, scripts and methods of communication the world has used since we started recording life. With some cool images and explanations it's great to dip in and out of. READ IT.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. The last one to tick-off from one my favourite author. It's a collection of his works seeing things from different peoples perspectives. You can read Million Dollor Murray here for free. READ IT.

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. The main focus was the environments we inhabit and how they impact our success. From the month you were born, to the decade that month falls in can all impact on your future potential. A pretty good read. READ IT.

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck, by Chip & Dan Heath. Expanding on the ideas of the Tipping Point, the brothers Heath dive into what makes ideas actually, well stick. With a complete recipe for making your ideas more memorable it's a damn good read. READ IT.

3 Steps to Digital Strategy Success

3 Steps to Digital Strategy Success

I've been writing a digital strategy recently - a big one. I've been writing these digital strategies for over 2 years now and each time they seem to get bigger and better.

It's got me thinking though about how you approach some as massive as a digital strategy if you've never approached one before. 

Before I started on my first strategy, I felt baffled. Truly and utterly baffled. What is a strategy? Why do you even need one? What needs to be included? How's it structured? Then finally how the hell should it be presented?

So I would offer these words of advice. If you have a content marketing strategy, social media strategy, or hell, a complete overarching digital strategy for an enterprise level client then read on...

What a Digital Strategy Needs to Include...

I'm reading a lot at the moment about goal planning. From career goals, gym goals or overall life goals there's three critical items you need:

  1. Agreement on where do you want to be. Insert the core goals ranging from world domination to more Twitter followers.

  2. An understanding of where are you now. Assess everything about you or your present business situation. .

  3. A plan of how you're going to get there. Add in your marketing skills for how to you're going to make Point 1 happen.

So, include these elements and work it into a narrative. If you're creating a written strategy start with Point 2, then add in your destination (Point 1) and fill in the details with Point 3. Steve Peter's book - The Chimp Paradox explains this far better than me, so buy it here.

How a Digital Strategy Needs to be Structured...

It's up to your perception of the client. Are they going to read a 50 page document? Really?

If the answers no then consider PowerPoint presentations as a way of communicating your plan. I've done both and both work. If there's multiple people you need to impress though a detailed written doc PLUS a top level presentation covers all bases. I'm thinking about making the next one into a video but that'll have to wait for another day.

How a Digital Strategy Needs to be Presented...

Let's be clear here. You need to present it. When we're putting together a strategy we spend a lot of time talking to all the different people that make up a business. And when the job is done we invite them back and present it to both them and the key stakeholders. Reasons for this include:

  • To answer common questions

  • Explain it in a way non-marketing people will understand

  • To make people feel appreciated for their contribution

  • See the people and personality that have gone into making it

The reason being for all of this...


There is no point if your strategy's new home is the filing cabinet. Whatever you create should have an impact and create change. Often they don't, and it's something which I'm still working on. For the meantime though engaging and communicating with the very people that it's going to impact means it has potential to flourish. 

Without going into specifics that's about it. So make a roadmap and stick to it. Tweet me with questions @danwht

3 BrightonSEO Content Marketing Takeaways

3 BrightonSEO Content Marketing Takeaways

BrightonSEO was back for September 2016 and boy oh boy was it a good one. A new larger venue meant more people (rumours of 3.5k) and more talks (60+). This was my 3rd visit to the event and content marketing was one at the forefront of many of the talks. So here was 3 of the best:

1) Simon Bennison: How to put a price on digital content

Who is he? Head of Content Marketing at Caliber

Why watch it? 

  • Tangible advice on the actual spend businesses put towards content marketing is virtually nothing but it delivers most of the results

  • How to actually calculate those numbers

  • It was funny, refreshing and has a lot more personality than some of the other talks.

2) Paddy Moogan: Sustainable Content Marketing

Who is he? Co-founder of Aira

Why watch it?

  • Paddy is a legend in the world of digital offering insightful, honest advice (see his link building book to see what I mean)

  • For everyone's sake create a content calendar that you can tie your marketing around/

  • Recycle what goes into making content (structures/processes/code) for future use saving time, money and energy

3) Mark Leech & Richard Marriot: Content Marketing Strategy Training

Who are they? Mark is the Operations Director and Richard is the Head of Business Development at Zazzle Media

Why listen to them?

Strictly speaking their talk wasn't at BrightonSEO, but through the content marketing training course I attended the day before. In one word their workshop was awesome. 

Attending BrightonSEO is invaluable for us. Learning new ideas and meeting new people is critical for us to stay ahead in an industry which changes ridiculously fast. So, it's on with writing up my notes and implementing what I've learnt.