Industry Spotlight is the name of a new series of weekly interviews dedicated to sharing the inspirational stories of key individuals within the entertainment industries.
This week’s Spotlight is with a chap that I met using Twitter (no surprise there) and then got to know further in the real world (no Matrix reference). Just over a year ago, I was in the world of freelance, networking, trying to climb the ladder and attending as many events as I could drag my body to.
I bumped into this fellow at a geeky event at the Gumtree Headquarters in Richmond. We got chatting about various things, but it was his answers to my queries on personal development in the digital space that made me realise he may not be full of gas like the majority of London’s so called guru’s.
I’ve never been afraid of confronting anyone for their opinion and if I do ask for your opinion to a question about my personal progress, it means I value who you are… and I value this gents opinion to quite a high regard.
On that one occasion, his advice was insightful, his knowledge came in abundance and he backed up his speech with experience. As the last year has passed I have monitored his progress closely, his blog posts and his panel discussions and I honestly feel he provides real value to the digital marketing/social media/tech scene in London.
It is because of all this that I asked James Whatley if he would like to be featured in my Industry Spotlight series… and what do you know; he agreed.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is James Whatley and I am, amongst other things, Marketing Director at the world’s leading word of mouth agency, 1000heads.
How did you get into this industry and why did you chose this path?
Two part question – cheeky. OK, first – how did I get here? Six years ago, I was an over-weight accountant working in [old] media; a dead end job with no prospects, I was stuck. I’ve been a geek for as long as I can remember [First Pratchett, Kubert and Miyamato then later, OPK and co] and was always tinkering with tech. I reached out to a mobile startup in west London and asked for an interview. They gave me one… and turned me down — “we don’t need any accountants right now.”
A few months later (and after a couple of fairly huge life-changing experiences), I reached out to them again, this time just saying hello, checking in so to speak and letting them know that although I wasn’t about to come in and be their tea boy, I was looking for a change of career and was hoping I could come and see them again. “Sure” they said “Come see us tomorrow” – two days later I had a new job, a new career and a whole new outlook on life.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement to date?
It’s funny, someone else asked me this quite recently and before I could answer another member of our party piped up with ‘Surviving SpinVox!‘ – for those that don’t know, the middle of 2009 was a fairly difficult time for the now defunct voice-to-text start up [http://whatleydude.com/2010/03/strange-days/], and my role meant that I was front and centre of the day-to-day communication blasts [both inwards and out].
Others have told me that my work on Lucozade [http://whatleydude.com/2009/06/plans-for-the-summer/] wasn’t pretty bad either…
However, for me personally, getting out of my dead end job and actually doing something with my life; something that I love and adore and still do to this day – *that’s* my biggest achievement. I get to work on of the most exciting projects in the world and all the while, I get to help educate, train and inspire those around me to do more themselves. It’s ultimately so fulfilling and is a key driver to what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Author’s note: If you didn’t click either of the links above I encourage you to do so. The Lucozade story alone needs some serious attention.
Was this how you had planned things to go or are you capitalising on opportunities and simply rolling with it?
I would say a mixture of both. Since my break as it were I’ve approached each role with a very specific plan and prospective timeline. When I left Refresh Mobile for SpinVox, I had a very clear set of goals mapped out and I hit every single one of them, almost to the day. The same for Lucozade before that and once again for 1000heads. Obviously you cannot plan for everything that happens so having a certain amount of give on those goals helps too. I am intensely loyal to the people that I work for and with; when I sign on that contract, I’m committed. For rich for poor, through rough and through smooth. Having that working ethical backbone has helped guide my decision making process on a number of occasions and it will continue to do so in the future.
We’re in a new era where anyone can create opportunities for themselves. Do you agree?
Half and half. I believe that anyone can create opportunities for themselves, certainly. But I don’t buy into this being anything new. It may be more visible [thank you very much internet] than it used to be, but a new era it is not.
Would you rather have 100,000 twitter followers to market to or an extra £10,000?
It depends. If those 100,000 followers are all engaged and loyal customers, then I’ll take 100,000 individual sales over the £10k any day. However if they’re just farmed with no research or profiling, then forget it. £10,000 can go a very long way in word of mouth marketing. I’ll take that, thanks… Product depending, of course.
Is who you are in reality, the same persona you represent online?
I would like to think so, yes. My good friend Toby Moore [aka @sleepydog] has always said that ‘social media is the great amplifier’ and I believe him.
Whoever you are in real life will surely – if you’re true to yourself and others – be amplified for all to see.
Every day I get up and try and be the best that I can be; be that through working stupid hard or sometimes, just being nice to people [holding doors open, helping the elderly with their luggage on the tube, you name it] – I would like to think that part of me comes through online.
Maybe. I don’t know Luca, you know me both online and off – you tell me! 😉
Author’s note: I do know James and although he has over 7000 twitter followers I don’t think he has that many real life friends. Hmm..
What one thing can you not live without?
If you wasn’t in this field, what would you be doing?
I studied directing and dance at drama school in my youth and have always felt that I’d find my way back to it eventually.
Author’s note: Would anyone else like to see Whatley dance?
With so many talkers and gamers out there claiming to be experts and influencers. Do you consider yourself a smooth talker, a real talker or a don’t talk to me i’m not a talker?
I wouldn’t call myself an expert, nor would I label myself an influencer. I don’t think I’d ever say ‘I’m not a talker’ however – in fact, on this whole labelling oneself thing; it’s not for me.
I take pride in being ‘labelled’ by my friends and colleagues. It’s about reputation, right? I have the things that I do and others have their opinion on that delivery. Let them make that consideration.
Name three people who have inspired you in your life.
- Jyri Engestrom
- Jan Chipchase
- James Scroggs
If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?
Superman. It’s the flying. It’s always about the flying.
The world is coming to an end and you have to take one celebrity into the safe bunker to live with forever. Who do you take?
Forever? Are we being gifted eternal life in there? Amazing… For the sake of the human race then it would have to be someone smart, young and female. Cameron Diaz? Is that too much of a cliche?
Do you have any regrets about anything?
Hard question. There’s the standard ‘I have no regrets – for I would not be the man that I am without all that has happened within my life’ answer that I could roll out – and I believe that. However there are some things I look back on and wonder what would’ve happened had I approached them differently. I don’t know. It’s not something I dwell on.
What cool projects are you currently working on?
Like you genuinely expect me to answer that 😉
[answer: a bunch, but none I can talk about]
Author’s note: Pffffft
What does the future have in store for you?
Today, more than ever before in my entire life – I genuinely don’t know [http://whatleydude.com/2010/12/so-long-2010/].
If you could give one piece of advice to young creative minds, what would it be?
Defend ideas. Be smarter. Take risks. Fail. Do over.
And above all, seek out at least one mentor who you can talk to, confide in and ultimately, seek guidance from.
To follow James Whatley on Twitter, click here and to read more about his personal life, you can navigate directly to his blog here.
Also, make sure you check out the world famous word of mouth company, 1000heads where James creates his corporate magic.