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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 7 March 2023. In this issue:

The final eBulletin, what changes this month, and Marketability lives on

After 20 years, this is the last Marketability eBulletin. (How long will I continue to hear a news story and think ‘that’s a Bulletin article’?) Thank you for reading and for all the emails you’ve sent in response over the years.

This website will close after the end of March, so if you’d like to catch up on recent eBulletin articles, now’s the time. But I’ll still be on, and you can reach me via Linked In too. I expect to be a little more active there in future.

Marketability (UK) Ltd is closing but Marketability lives on as a trading name for my scaled back sole trader business. For current clients working on live projects, it will be business as usual, just with different payment details on the invoices. Training courses will still be available for existing clients, but our own open courses in the UK have been discontinued.

Thank you for the support and the friendship for the last 23 years. I’ve loved almost every minute of it.


“Do you like knitting?” Looking back over 40 years

“Do you like knitting?”

Back in 1981 this was the opening, and almost the only, question asked of me by Christina Foyle in a job interview. I said yes, and was asked to start on Monday. Foyles on Charing Cross Road was an extraordinary place at the time, with no contracts and cashiers in cages. Every Friday afternoon phones ringing across departments signalled people who were being given notice with immediate effect. There were picket lines, press releases delivered at night by hand to newspaper offices in Fleet Street, television news items. And there were IRA bombs. I narrowly escaped the one that blew up the Wimpy Bar in Oxford Street. Scares and evacuations were routine.

Routledge (then just off Fleet Street) was a fantastic training ground in the late 1980s. I was lucky enough to be a marketing manager during a brand overhaul by prestigious Newell & Sorrell that was truly groundbreaking at the time. An academic publisher … with a brand?? This was a time when catalogues were typeset into ‘galleys’ by professional typesetters, and the galleys then cut and pasted onto pages to brief the printers. Routledge was one of the first publishers to invest in a product database (along with OUP), but all the terminals were dumb, and the actual database had a sizeable room all to itself.

I remember inheriting a promised book launch that should never have happened, and trying to cater for numbers. It was at the TUC annual conference and security was tight. Nobody turned up (security was tight, remember?) and in panic I drank most of the wine. It was the first and last time I was ever talked into an inappropriate launch party.

By the time I moved to a business publisher, emails and mobile phones were arriving. The MD’s PA printed out all the emails arriving at the single email address in the morning and distributed them to in-trays around the company. We hand wrote our replies and sent them back on their way for the PA to type up.

The ‘mobile’ phone was of course a brick, which could be pre-booked by anyone attending a conference, who then had the dubious honour of hauling it there. It never had a signal once indoors.

This was a company selling books exclusively by direct mail, with no bookstore presence (and this was way before Amazon), and the time that I really learned the power of copywriting. Copy was written, leaflets were posted, orders came in. Books soared or failed based on the copy that described them. Urgent requests to have books biked over having read the copy were intensely gratifying.

I started delivering training sessions back in the late 1980s, but it was a while before I twigged that I could cope with most situations, ditched the cue cards, and started to really enjoy it. My first big overseas training was in Singapore in 2000, and I’ve been working there almost every year since.

But one overseas training gig stands out. It was a course on Marketing Planning in Beijing, designed for middle managers in publishing. But the bosses had decided that if a publishing consultant was visiting from the UK they would attend themselves so they could pick her brains. They had no interest in marketing. They spoke no English and translation was sequential (ie not simultaneous). They asked a question at length while I nodded and smiled. Then came the translation in my ear: “How do you punish managers when they don’t meet their targets?”

My other abiding memory is of the big bosses all falling asleep and snoring loudly after their 2 hour banquet lunch, waking up when their mobiles went off, and then running around shouting into them – all during my presentation. At the end everybody queued to be photographed by the flipchart with the trainer, all beaming smiles.

I remember realising that I could cope with this, and how far I’d come as a trainer.

If reading this has triggered any memories of your own that make you laugh looking back, do email me to share them.


An intelligent article on ChatGPT

Thank you to Anthony King over at De Gruyter for bringing my attention to this article on Linked In, in which Mushtaq Bilal shares ways to use ChatGPT to help to structure writing and to spark ideas. The article is pitched specifically at anyone writing in an academic context – ie both authors and publishers.

Sure, ChatGPT will continue to have an impact on communications, but we have plenty to gain by embracing it as a useful tool whilst then applying our own skills as copywriters.

Read on Linked In


Tip of the week: Trust your instinct

I’m a great believer in gut instinct. Most poor decisions I’ve made have been rational ones. Two examples:

  1. The publisher who asked me to do a publicity campaign for a book that I was confident would not achieve the coverage he wanted. I said as much. “Thank you for the advice, but we’d like to take the risk and go ahead.” And guess what, we were proved right but the publisher argued that it was our fault as we’d done the campaign, and refused to pay. This was an example of a client who (to coin a wonderful phrase oft used by a colleague) “wanted the moon on a stick”.
  2. The interview candidate who was brilliant on paper, but made me nervous. Possibly a combination of the suit, the make up and the hat as the rest of us sat around in jeans. She said all the right things but I couldn’t imagine her sitting alongside my existing team. “But what’s wrong with her?” said a colleague, and of course the answer was nothing. I offered her the job and she lasted two weeks. It was a poor fit for both of us. And I don’t think this was about recruiting in our own images, as we were already a pretty disparate team.
Both of these reinforced my belief to trust my instincts. If you feel uneasy, there is probably a reason you can’t quite pinpoint, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valid.





Marketability (UK) Ltd

12 Sandy Lane
TW11 0DR

Tel +44 (0)20 8977 2741