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Failure is not an option. It’s a mantra adopted by the military, politicians, athletes and businesses around the world.
And it’s totally wrong.
Consider this quote from Michael Jordan, one of the most successful and recognisable athletes of all time:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
You’ll find similar quotes from leaders in all spheres of life. Nobody succeeds without setbacks so why are businesses so afraid to fail?
When most people trot out “failure is not an option” they are already at or near the top of their respective trees. And failure really does feel like it’s not an option when the fall could break your neck. But what these people forget is that, to get where they are today, they failed a lot.
But because businesses need to keep making money they get stuck just keeping the cogs turning, and when a new innovation could result in those cogs getting jammed up, well, people don’t like it. And it isn’t just self-interest. If a major failure means dozens or hundreds of people losing their jobs, as well as substantial amounts of money invested, the appeal of flying too close to the sun becomes muted.
And when you don’t want to take risks you can no longer innovate, and if you don’t innovate these days you’ll soon get left behind and become irrelevant.
There is one way to break out of this cycle, and that’s to start thinking like businesses that do fail, but also enjoy spectacular successes: start-ups.


According to this article on Statistic Brain, 50% of start-ups fail within 4 years. The data comes from a study carried out this year by the University of Tennessee, and you’ll find figures elsewhere that put the total failure rate at 90%. That probably doesn’t inspire many owners of successful, established businesses to act like start-ups. But here’s a way to do it that limits risk.
Set up a small team within your business, and give them the freedom to innovate. This means:

  • Giving them a budget to spend how they wish
  • Freeing them from the usual red tape of seeking management approval for everything
  • Letting them know that failure won’t result in negative consequences

With this culture around them they can begin to take the risks that start-ups are known for, and which are the breeding ground of innovation.
Remember the budget doesn’t need to be big either. By taking on the mindset of failing fast and failing small innovation can be quicker and less costly, as you only put money into the things that work. Start-ups are rarely flush with cash, and it is often these restraints that require them to think so creatively and push the limits.


There is only one instance where I believe failure is not an option, and that is failure to adapt what you do to the realities of the world. All businesses have to change what they do with the wider changes in consumer behaviour, technology and the rest of the world. Fail in this and you’ll quickly find your business left behind by the relentless onslaught of change.
We’ve made a virtue out of sticking to our guns, carrying on even in the face of facts, and while it is certainly noble in many cases it is also inherently stupid. It’s better to live to fight another day, learn from your mistakes and change your battle plan. It could be the case that the job you’re doing right now may disappear in the future, and these changes can creep up on you.
I was watching the BBC show Victorian Bakers recently, and what struck me (aside from a desire to get some artisan bread the next time I did the family shop) was how something as non-digital as baking bread can serve as an example of the perils of not adapting to change.
The contestants all enjoyed the process of using old school baking methods, and savoured the taste of the end result, but as one remarked, it just simply wouldn’t work in the modern market.
It’s easy to romanticise old ways of doing things, and while they may have been great for the time in which they were dominant, once the environment changes if you don’t adapt you’re destined to be made obsolete.
So accept failure, see it for the necessary precursor to success that it is and learn from it each time, because each time you fail, success is one step closer.
Interested in finding out how you can make digital transformation a success? Then read our ‘Unlocking Your Digital Transformation‘ event round up.

Digital Magpies

Like all buzzwords, digital transformation has its proponents and opponents. For some it’s the reality of the world we live in, and failure to accept and embrace it is sure to lead to disaster. For others digital transformation is a bit of marketing spiel that’s been whipped up to disguise the fact that, actually, the digital space has got a little stagnant and there’s been no true innovation in recent years.
The fact is this: digital transformation is real and we’ve been going through it since the 60s. What’s happening now is just another stage of the constant state of change we exist in. But when you look at the coverage of digital transformation in the media there is an overwhelming focus on the technology, the killer app or platform that is driving an industry into turmoil. Look no further than the Airbnb for a great example.

But is it really all about the shiny new toy?
It’s easy to be seduced by technology, but just rolling out some new gadget won’t result in digital transformation. Just ask Barclays. A mass roll out of iPads in their branches nearly fell flat when it became obvious that lots of staff were uncomfortable using them. But then they realised what digital transformation is actually about.

People Drive Digital Transformation

What Barclays quickly realised was that the key to successful digital transformation isn’t technology, but people. Technology is an enabler; it can help people work more efficiently. But if they don’t want to use it then you’ve just sunk a lot of money into a gaping digital pit, even if you chose the right tech for the job.That’s a whole other post.
So how did Barclays turn their digital transformation around? They created a team of Digital Eagles. These are employees who act as digital ambassadors. They found the staff who lived and breathed digital and asked them to lead the change, encouraging colleagues to use the new tech and giving them help and support to overcome any challenges.
And they’re all volunteers.

Making It Happen

They always say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. That might be true, but people can be encouraged to drink, it’s just that you might have to show them the benefit first.
Although those at the top have to buy into digital transformation to make it happen, what you can’t do is pass out an edict from on high that everyone must use the new tech you’ve invested in. All that gets you is resistance. The stick rarely works.
Instead, encourage people within the organisation to show their colleagues the benefit of embracing the changes. People are far more likely to get on board with the support and help of their peers than because upper management says so. That’s just the reality.
Once you realise that digital transformation is about people, how they think and behave, then the rest will follow. But if you allow yourself to be distracted by shiny gadgets then you’ll be destined for failure.
Interested in finding out how you can make digital transformation a success? Then read our ‘Unlocking Your Digital Transformation‘ event round up.

A Smart Move

How does a group of top digital marketing experts and creative professionals respond when a newcomer joins their midst wielding a pre-smart phone (a ‘thick’ phone) and claiming to need nothing more to function? The answer: with quiet politeness and a muted shade of embarrassment. How does the same group respond when that rookie finally buys their very first smartphone – half a decade after smart became the norm? At Organic, with warmth and spirited enthusiasm. If I had entered the office cradling a kitten wearing a bear onesie, I could not have hoped to receive a more tender-hearted reception to my fledgling foray into this not-that-new-fangled technology.
I didn’t join the agency from a universe entirely removed from the digital world. As a copywriter, I respected the value of a good piece of kit on which to work and the programmes that make working easier. I possessed a very nice MacBook Air that I was not ashamed to trot around with. I had an active online life and was generally au fait with trends in social media, but until now I had never felt compelled to part with my robust, 5-day-battery-life-Nokia C1 phone. This was due in part to a conscious decision not to allow my cyber world to infiltrate every other aspect of my life. I had been fairly happy with my quaint little pay-as-you-go mobile, which I’d only really used for texts and which cost me mere pence to run. The ringtone was so quiet it sounded like it was ringing from inside a tomb; it only stored a dozen pictures at a time (so I had to choose carefully between blurry pictures of my newborn son and those of his first steps); it even strained under the effort of receiving texts longer than 200 characters; but these felt like quirks rather than major irritations.
After a short time working at Organic I recognised that my affection for my ‘vintage’ handset, and in some ways, lifestyle, was not compatible with my new role. A wealth of jargon was unfolding before me; such phrases as ‘push notification’ had not, until now, required my understanding. There were bits of the web I didn’t know existed that needed copy. Things like ‘offer streams’ sounded generously abundant, but I’d never shopped from one, and for me, androids were firmly secured in the realms of science fiction.
The account managers were patient with me while I began to embark on a (I hoped) short but (inevitably) steep learning curve to bring myself into the current day. As I tentatively tapped the screen of the new handset in my palm as though I were massaging the heart of an insensate mouse, colleagues supplied helpful tips and hacks, guiding my faltering fingers towards apps I’d heard about but didn’t really understand the value of. There were apps that offered to walk me home safely after dark, and others that would award me with shields when I’d walked a certain distance; there was even one that simulated the hum and flashes of a lightsabre.
Novelty aside, what really began to make me app-happy was the potential to gain an insight into human behaviour. There are apps for most of the things people do in their lives: listen to music, watch films, play games, chat, date, exchange information, bid, gamble – and through an app such activities are measurable and yield fascinating information. Clients can use this information in campaigns, but for me it is the sociological and psychological significance of the findings that create the best opportunities for using language inventively.
I can now appreciate the impact of social media beyond its function of superficially augmenting my social life. In my capacity at Organic I can monitor tipping points, observe ideas going viral, watch politics shift, attitudes transform and history unfold. All this is likely to be not at all astonishing to anyone who has worked their way through the various generations of smartphone, but if you’ve deliberately kept yourself ensconced in a communication time capsule then you soon realise that stepping out of it 5 years into the future takes you completely beyond the joy of text, and instead brings together every possible image, language, idea and interaction into a tiny space that sits in your hand like a portal to the rest of the world.
Naomi Ziewe Palmer joined Organic as a copywriter in October 2015.

To The Agile Purists: It’s Time To Change

Many (many) years ago, when I first started learning how to shepherd designers, developers and testers, my mentors taught me in the ways of Waterfall Project Management. It was the done thing. Design it, build it, test it, release it. We all know the inherent problems that Waterfall brought with it, especially within a Digital Agency environment so I won’t trawl through them here.
However, it’s important to mention that, frustratingly, there was a resistance from my superiors to change the process at that time – even though the evidence that it wasn’t working was compelling. In the end I pushed through some nuanced changes to my own projects to make them more customer-centric, but the support for that sort of change wasn’t great.
Jump forward a year or so and there was talk of a new kid on the Project Management block. The word Agile was being bandied about by a lot of my peers, and details about it started to appear more often in project management circles. The rest as they say is history, and the likes of Scrum, Kanban, and Lean methodologies have seen a huge rise in users over the likes of Prince2.
There are thousands of articles out there regarding the benefits of all of these flavours of Agile. The majority of them relate to software development. The challenge however is trying to harness the plus points of Agile within a marketing agency environment (as we are doing), an area that is very rarely talked about amongst the Agile community.
The ways and means of applying Agile techniques to marketing is for another article; my purpose here is more to warn against following the rigidity of their processes when they simply will not work for you, and more often than not that is when you want to utilise Agile principles, but not for software development.
The Business Analyst Times cited the movement from rigid Agile process to a more relaxed approach as the top project management trend for 2015*. This to me signifies a really positive change in attitude.
I have had experiences, even very recently, where deviations from a formal Agile process have been discussed and frowned upon by so-called “Agile Purists”. However the reality for a lot of us is that the likes of daily scrums, dedicated teams and fixed time boxes cannot be adhered too.
Moving forward, we need the Agile pioneers (among which we like to count ourselves) and trainers and owners of the current frameworks to embrace flexibility and support evolution of Agile for different types of users.
My view: let’s not be afraid to push the boundaries – and apply a tailored Agile approach that fixes our business problem, not try and shoehorn the problem to fit the Agile approach.

So you’ve just had the call to do live event coverage for a major global brand. Well done.
Have you filled your pants yet as the enormity of what you’ve got to do settles in?
Don’t worry that’s totally normal.
We recently had the privilege of joining Samsung At Work as their live team in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. The event brought together over 85,000 tech lovers from over 200 countries around the world, and Samsung officially unveiled their hotly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S5 as well as new advancements in wearable technology and other devices.
During the event we had to attend presentations and do live social and blogging, film audience reactions, interview product experts and partners, create a steady stream of blog content (and then promote it via social) and generally create a huge buzz around the Samsung line-up.
So yeah, it was a biggie.
Our work at Mobile World Congress was hot on the heels of a hugely successful event by Like Minds in New York. We were there supporting Like Minds in their first American event which was held in association with Ogilvy & Mather. It went down a storm, and we had some pretty hot results via our social and live blogging work.
Looking back on these two events we’ve decided to pull together some essential tips to make sure that, when you do live event coverage for a big brand you deliver big.
1. Assemble A Crack Team Of Mercenaries PromotionalTech Geeks. If you’re going to cover a live event, especially for a major brand, you have to know that your team are experts and can work together easily. We had a four-man camera crew with a producer , co-ordinator and social media wiz onsite, and a team of content creators back at the office. That way we could work social and do filming and editing on the spot and quickly turn out content for the client’s blog.
2. Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. You’ve got to remember that when covering a live event, speed is of the essence, but you can’t sacrifice quality too much. There will be a lot of noise on social media and to ensure you don’t get lost in the hubbub you need to strike first.
The brand you’re working for will have speech copy and presentation notes available for you, so write your tweets, and have images and links ready to go. That way as soon as an interesting quote happens live, BAM! You send your prepped tweet and are the first ones to get it out there. This means you’ll get more engagement, things will be accurate and you can concentrate on getting ad lib sound bites from the audience and engage with online activity.
3. Crack The Whip. One tweet from our account to a landing page during Mobile World Congress led to 1535 visits to a whitepaper download page. You’ve got to leverage the engaged audience and drive them to targeted pages and assets. If there are media links that people can access to find out more about products or about a speech, then use it.
4. Tart It Up. Make sure to use images, vox pops and quotes from people regularly to drive engagement. People love to be mentioned on social, it’s all part of it, and being mentioned or quoted by a big brand really gets people moist. Also big brands that engage in conversation are seen as approachable thought leaders.
5. Book ‘Em Danno. Even small events can be hectic, and once you’re at huge events with global brands there is so much going on that people have to try and run to a schedule as much as possible. Don’t think you’ll just be able to wing an interview with company CEOs and other important bods. You need to plan out who you want to talk to and book time in advance. If you want to get interviews with big names that will excite people you need to book in early. And no, not a day or two before you go. We’re talking weeks or even months.
6. Follow Their Lead. Big brands will always have a strict order in which information can be released, and you may receive information that is strictly embargoed. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow their instructions to the letter. Also make sure you have a key point of contact you can go to for information, approval of any social activity or live blogs if required and to generally field questions. There’s a temptation to act off the cuff at live events but when you’re representing someone else it’s never a good idea, unless they’ve pre-approved you to freewheel. Submitting to the hierarchy may not be in your blood, but for a live event it provides a safety net. If you tweet about something you shouldn’t but your contact approved it…well, you’re covered.
7. Rein It In. When you’re in the middle of a big event it really does feel like the world begins and ends at the exhibition space doors. All you want to do is go on and on about it on social, but don’t go mental. Not everyone following the event will be there, so try to limit your tweets to 12 per hour for an important presentation and try to roughly follow the 80/20 rule and make no more than about 20% of tweets link to your landing page. The rest should be relevant info to all your followers and not just those at the event, as well as direct interaction with others.
8. The Rule Of 3. An old survivalist motto advises you have three of any essential items, “two is one, and one is none”, because it’s Sod’s Law that just when you need something it will break or you’ll have lost it. Remember when you’re in a huge exhibition centre doing live social/blogging you’re there for the duration so always take spare chargers and extra devices. As soon as you arrive find out where you can charge and make sure any information you need is synced across devices by uploading vital files to a cloud-based storage system.  At long conferences, device energy runs low even faster than yours will!
We also asked our head videographer, Tim Dollimore, to offer his advice on filming outstanding footage at live events.
9. Know Your Stuff! Sounds obvious but sometimes people just turn up without a clue. Our team was briefed carefully and we always bone up on the pertinent issues that flying about at big events. We ensure we know our brand and what our client’s products and new releases are. Reviewing existing material from brand video channels is a great way to ensure that we can create content that was of a similar or higher standard.
10. Know The Field Of Battle. Waking up in a strange place is always disorienting and even more so when you have an important and pressing job to do. Knowing the location and the event is the key to having that added level of confidence when walking in on the first day.
11. Be Prepared. Dib dib dib dob dob dob… A life lesson, but take time to prepare your kit so that you have everything you need plus spares and backup options. Then on top of that ensure your team is able to carry and handle all the kit. This means you can quickly and easily move about to capture where and when needed…
We hope these tips make your coverage of a live event successful. Just remember that no matter how well you prepare, the nature of live events is that things will never go exactly to plan, so be prepared to roll with it and stay positive.
Have you covered live events for other companies? What were your experiences? Any tips you’d like to share or horror stories? Let us know in the comments or on our social media channels.

We had the opportunity to attend an interesting Salon Talk, hosted by Like Minds and led by internationally renowned therapist Marisa Peer. As a therapist, speaker and columnist Marisa has established herself as an authority on counselling and healing, and you can read more about her here.
Marisa’s talk was ‘How To Mastermind Your Life In 4 Easy Steps’, something she insists is “not a challenge at all”. For those of us who have trouble balancing family, work, social life and the other aspects of the day to day world this sounds intriguing.
Although Marisa’s advice is to individuals, we felt it could be equally well applied to business and entrepreneurship. Here’s what we took away from the event:
1. Don’t Let In Negative Criticism. One of Marisa’s primary tenets is that everyone suffers from the same problem. We fear rejection. All our actions stem from a primal and tribal urge to be accepted. Because of this, negative words from others can seriously damage our wellbeing. Likewise in business, you’ll encounter many naysayers but if you don’t let that negativity in it can’t harm you. The world said tablet computers were unnecessary and pointless. Tell that to Apple.
2. Do Not Criticise Yourself. If the words of others are damaging, then what you tell yourself is potentially disastrous. Think about all the negative thoughts you’ve ever had about yourself. Now imagine if you spoke to your best friend that way. How long would they stick around? Not too long. Your mind believes what you tell it, and using negative words such as ‘idiot’ or ‘moron’ about yourself will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. When it comes to business it’s important to project a positive message and image about your company and what you can do, otherwise why will customers want what you have to offer?
3. Praise Yourself. Research shows that people who are happy and successful rely on internal self-validation not external validation. If you need other people to tell you that you’re doing a great job you’ll be too worried about pandering to others rather than focussing on doing the best job you can do. You know you can do it, and you know you’re doing a good job, so get on with it.
4. Enough Is Enough. You should start and end every day by telling yourself: “I’m <insert word here> enough.” For individuals this could be acknowledging that you’re beautiful enough, rich enough etc. If you don’t feel like you are “enough” then you’ll strive dangerously to fulfil an infinite pit of need. By accepting things we can continue to function healthily. This one might sound counterproductive for business, after all if you’ve got enough then how will your company grow and succeed? For business this means accepting that you do a good job and not trying to do too many things poorly. Focus on what you do well instead of trying to be all things to all people.
We’re interested in how we can bring this to our business lives. What do you think? Can we still be ambitious if we are allowing ourselves to be ‘enough’? Marisa says yes – we need to be ‘strong’ enough to overcome our challenges. Chat to us on Twitter.
Salon talks usually take place on or around the second Tuesday of the month and places fill up quickly. Attendees relish the opportunity to network intimately with fellow business owners and entrepreneurs and often chat with the speakers. More info here.
They’re not usually this abstract either. Take a look at this summary from Philippa Snare’s June Salon Talk (Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft UK)
Above image from the event was kindly shared with us by Gabrielle Laine-Peters, Like Minds Salon Talk host. If you’ve got any questions, she’d love to hear from you.

Apache vs nginx {performance comparison}

Turns our old post about this is one of our most popular posts, who would have thought it! It was written by my predecessor Lee Parsons way back in 2013 so I’ve been asked to do an updated version for 2018.
Lee concluded that NGINX was 4.2 times faster than Apache overall. I think the difference will be less stark this time as Apache has had to make great gains in the intervening years to stay relevant. Apache is still used by 46% of websites overall as opposed to 39% NGINX however of the top 10,000 websites 64% use NGINX and 21% use Apache, so they must be doing something right!
I won’t be using a site that requires a lot of processing this time just a default Laravel 5.6 site, I think this will give a fairer comparison of the webservers. I will also be using a remote server for the tests rather than a local server. The sites will also be served with SSL as all sites should be using SSL these days.

The server

So I created a new virtual server on our UKFast eCloud Hybrid server with the following settings:

  • Ubuntu 16.04 x86_64
  • 2 vCPUs
  • 2GB RAM
  • 10GB Hard disk

This should simulate a fairly standard webserver. A little more powerful than you’d get on free tier AWS but nothing particularly special.
I then installed Apache, NGINX and PHP7.2 using ‘apt install’ and ran `apt upgrade` to get everything else on the latest versions. Both web servers where in their default production configurations. The versions installed are as follows:

  • Apache – 2.4.18
  • NGINX – 1.10.3
  • PHP-FPM   – 7.2.5

MySQL was not installed as it won’t be required for these tests.
The SSL certificate was generated using Let’s Encrypt and Certbot. The virtual hosts have been configured using the Mozilla SSL Configuration Generator, modern option and got A+ rating in the Qualys SSL Labs test.
PHP-FPM has been left in it’s default production configuration. The webroot will be the same for both servers and during each test the other will be stopped, so they will both use port 80.
I then cloned my default Laravel install into the webroot. No files were changed from default, other than generating the APP_KEY environment variable, so PHP will simply be compiling the index template and sending the HTML to the webserver, both cache and session drivers in .env are set to ‘file’. The compiled template will have already been cached by the Blade template system before the test begins by visiting the URL in my browser to try to eliminate PHP’s speed from the tests and give each webserver as level playing field as possible.
Enough about the server, on to the tests.

The tests

I’ve used Apache Bench for testing, as it’s what was used in the previous post, and included the same metrics as before as well, although removed the failed requests metric as none of the requests failed. The tests were performed using Apache Bench (e.g. ab -n 500 -c 10 <url>).
The y-axis labels  (e.g. 500/10) refer to the number of requests and the concurrency; i.e. 500/10 is five hundred requests with a concurrency of ten; i.e. five hundred requests were made for the URL with ten being made simultaneously. I’ve upped the number of requests and the concurrency because I think they were pretty low by today’s standards in the old post.

Connection time

Connection time is the average number of milliseconds (ms) that it takes for the server to start sending data to the client from when the request is made. A lower value is better as this means that the client’s browser will be able to begin rendering the page more quickly. As you can see from the chart NGINX performs better until we get to 1000/200 where Apache is on average 114 ms quicker at responding.
Connection time

Requests per second

Requests per second is the number of requests that were received by the client in a second. A higher value is better here as this means that more clients can be served more quickly at the same time. As you can see NGINX is marginally better, about 4% more requests per second.
Requests per second

Time per request

Time per request is the average number of milliseconds (ms) that each request took to connect, process and be sent and received by the client. A lower value is better here as it means that the client has to wait less time for their request to be completed. NGINX is the champion of this metric by a small margin. However the request time becomes unacceptably high above 500/100 for both webservers, this is where some kind of load balancing would be required.
Time per request

Transfer rate

Transfer rate is the speed at which data was sent from the server to the client, a higher value is better. Again NGINX wins but only just in most cases although it wins by a fair amount for the 500/100.
Transfer rate


In conclusion NGINX is still the better choice for performance in most situations.
Personally I also find it a lot easier to configure virtual hosts with NGINX due to it’s more readable configuration files. Apache does have the advantage of it’s .htaccess distributed configuration but I rarely find it necessary to change the configuration of a virtual host once it’s working well and this probably contributes a little to the reduced performance (it has to check for these files in each directory). Another advantage of NGINX is that it can be used as a reverse proxy to serve up NodeJS powered sites with ease although this can be accomplished with Apache using the proxy_http module as well.
Neither server was configured for high concurrency specifically so YMMV when using either web server also PHP-FPM pools were not adjusted from defaults.
I did try running some very high concurrency tests (ab -n 5000 -c 500 <url>) but they produced too many SSL handshake failures on both servers. This might be something to be aware of if you’re expecting a very large concurrency on your site.