The power of story telling with TEDx speaker and communications guru Ashley Fell

Ashely Fell is an industry leading social researcher, a TEDx speaker and she is Head of Communications at McCrindle Research.

She will also be one of three inspirational panellists speaking at the YoHu’s (Young and Hungry) Hills Unplugged Youth Week event at the Pioneer Theatre, in Castle Hill, on Thursday, April 11, at 6pm

The FREE night out at the revamped local theatre aims to assist, inspire, nurture and develop young and aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners through access to leading business professionals and networking opportunities.

Ahead of Hills Unplugged, Focus spoke to Ashley about digital technology, the power of story telling and what she hopes attendees take home from her panel discussion.

This is what she had to say:

Focus: What do you hope audiences take home from the Hills Unplugged event?
Ashley: I hope attendees at the Hills Unplugged event, regardless of their age, will walk away feeling inspired by the panellists and each of our stories. I’d also love people to walk away feeling encouraged about their own career path, and to be reassured that there are different ways to get to where you want to be. I love the Sheryl Sandberg quote that says ‘careers are jungle gyms, not ladders’.

Focus: What should new business owners be focusing on when it comes to marketing their business? The reason I ask is because new business owners don’t have the resources to hire a marketing guru to promote their business. Most would market themselves.
Ashley: I would encourage people to focus on their audience. It can be overwhelming when organisations, particularly new businesses or small businesses, are faced with the overwhelming task of how to market their organisation or product. But keeping the audience in mind will help to focus marketing efforts on what will be most effective. Thinking about the demographics of an audience, what media they engage with most, whether an organisation is a B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Consumer) organisation can all be helpful things to think through and can help organisations tailor specific marketing efforts to their audience.

Focus: How can business owners cut through message saturation?
Ashley: Digital technologies have certainly changed the way we communicate, and I think embracing this is key to effective cut through. If we think about Generation Z, who are now starting work – they have been shaped in a world of screens. Interestingly their preferred search engine is YouTube not just Google, because why would they read an article about something when they can watch a video on it? So that changes the whole communication pattern, and not just for Generation Z but for all generations alike. If we think about a visual, screen-based, mobile, video-based generation emerging, then we’ve got to adapt to that. Communicating in a way that makes sense visually and using stories that connect relationally not just rationally is key. As Seth Godin puts it, ‘marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell’. The power of a brand these days is to connect not just with the head but with the heart – a visceral connection beyond just ‘here’s why our product is better’. Using stories that connect to people, and not only inform them, but instruct and inspire them as well is what will cut through the message saturation.

Focus: With so many different promotional platforms and/or ways to use social media and marketing technology, what are the key things business owners should be doing in this space?
Ashley: While it can be difficult for organisations to cut through the noise, if a social media presence is important to have (which for many organisations it is) I would say that knowing who your audience is, is the first crucial step. Secondly, it’s important to brand useful content strongly. Especially important is making the content visual and consumable, and lastly, organisations will do well to maintain activity and interactivity with their audience if they want to cut through the message saturation on social media.

Focus: How do you see technology changing in the next five years? And what advice do you have for business owners to prepare for this change?
Ashley: In a world of screen saturation, 24/7 expectations and always-on technologies, the years ahead will see Australians not so much turn technology off but turn on apps and solutions to make their life function more efficiently. People are increasingly happy to spend money to gain time. More than just an extension of the outsourcing trend, consumers will pay a premium for simplicity and seek ways to reduce the chaos and rebalance life. Organisations whose product or essence help to service simplicity, will be well-placed in the years ahead.

Focus: How important is the customer experience and what should business owners be doing in this space?
Ashley: The last few years have seen Royal Commissions and other inquiries refocus and recalibrate Australians’ trust. Few sectors have been immune, from religious and political entities to corporations in the financial sector, to aged care providers to social media and tech companies, trust has been eroded. The years ahead will see consumers value trust, whether it be in a brand, person or entity above price or promise. Those who can gain and keep trust, through transparency, customer service and values-based offerings will thrive in the trust-as-premium environment.

Focus: If you could only give one piece of business advice to entrepreneurs and business owners, what would it be?
Ashley: I think it is imperative that organisations today keep their eye not only on the internal trends impacting their organisation or their sector, but more external trends as well. Demographic, social, generational and technological changes are transforming the world in which we live. Organisations need to respond to these changing times by thinking about the way they engage their customer communities, connect with their key stakeholders, and communicate their core message. At McCrindle we believe the key is in developing forecasts and strategic plans that are evidence-based, which is essential in helping leaders understand the changing times they are leading their organisation through (or indeed starting it in).


Hills Unplugged is a free event.

Light refreshments and finger food will be served on the night.

To register your place:

For more information on Youth Week:

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