/Spotlight On … Phil Birss of Elephant Digital

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Date: 25th January 2019

Spotlight On … Phil Birss of Elephant Digital

On the eve of our Community Portal going live, we thought who better to interview than the man tasked with creating it! We sat down with Phil Birss, MD and founder of iC1's Elephant Digital, to find out what makes him tick.

After spending the last 18-months working hand-in-glove with Elephant Digital, we took a few minutes to reflect on the last few years with Phil and on the work we’ve undertaken together on our rebrand projects. (Besides, we had to return the favour after Phil interviewed our very own Chris Musson back in the Autumn!).

Hi Phil, how are you getting on? Let’s start with a bit of history – when did things start for Elephant?

Hi! Elephant Digital was launched in April 2014 so we are fast approaching our 5th birthday in a couple of months.

I presume we’ll be getting invites to the Birthday party!? So in thirty seconds, what does Elephant do?

Simply put, we are a full-service digital creative agency. More specifically, we help companies across three core areas – Branding, Websites and Digital Marketing. Our sweet spot is an entrepreneurial company that wants to grow and take advantage of the digital space.

You’ve had practice at this! So what inspired you to set up on your own back in 2014?

Just before starting Elephant, I asked my mentor at the time if I should start my own business. He replied, “The entrepreneurial journey is not for everyone Phil, but if you are considering it then understand that it will be due of one of two reasons. Reason #1 – Every boss you have ever worked for was an complete and utter idiot. Reason #2 – You are completely unemployable! Well I can say that I have worked for some great bosses and had some fantastic job, so the conclusion I came to is that self-employment was a natural progression for a restless mind seeking a way to make a difference in the world. But I guess I would say that, I’m in marketing!

No comment! You mentioned a couple of previous jobs, what is your background pre-Elephant?

Post-university I had a short stint working as a credit underwriter at MBNA bank in Chester, followed by three (long) years as a recruiter in the legal sector. In 2009, I found marketing and have not looked back since. In marketing specifically, I started agency-side working in senior account management roles before moving ‘in-house’ as Head of Group Marketing and Head of Digital at two different businesses.

Fair to say you’ve done a bit of everything then! How has the business changed from what you initially envisioned Elephant being?

In many senses the service we offer has not changed since we launched, but the methods, processes and technology we now use is light-years ahead of where we started from five years ago. The digital sector evolves at a rapid pace and keeping up with new technology is a key challenge for myself and the team.

We’ve noticed the change in pace firsthand between projects we undertook with you a few years back to the ones we are doing now – even though the brief is pretty similar the difference is really noticeable! What has been the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on?

Ouch! Tough question. Without meaning to sound like a boring cliché, we have worked with many clients on a range of really interesting projects. The ones that stand out for me are where we get to do something a little different. We worked with Bibby Group a couple of years ago on a lead generation campaign where 1,000 prospective customers received a mystery envelope in the post with just a metal business card and a website URL. When they loaded the webpage they got a completely personalised message (“Hello John.”) and an themed video that told the story of the business in an unusual way. The customers loved the personalised approach and the results of the campaign were fantastic. Great fun spooking people with the power of digital!

That’s sounds like a lot of fun! You’re quite vocal in your support of Liverpool’s tech and digital scene, could you give us a bit of an insight into your wider involvement in it?

The Liverpool tech community is a vibrant place right now with lots of people creating real value in the sector and helping to put Liverpool on the map as a centre for world-class digital, creative and technology. I am member of BIMA which has a Merseyside group, chaired by the lovely Andy Kent from Angel Solutions. We meet regularly as a group of agency owners to help and encourage each other to move the sector forward.

It’s always great to see this kind of wider synergy, particularly between different people based at the Park! If you’ll indulge us in massaging our ego slightly, you’ve been at the Park for a good few years now. What do you enjoy most about being here?

For me, LSP is about the feeling you get when you walk through the main doors at reception. A warm welcome, a genuine approach and a commitment to community and supporting businesses as they move forward.

That’s very kind of you! And what do you like most about the local area?

We love being based in Liverpool and more specifically in Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter. It is great when attracting new staff to the business and client’s love it that we can take down Hope Street to a range of bars and restaurants. All in all we are very happy being based here.

You mentioned Hope Street, where would you recommend eating and drinking after a long day in the office?

Top choices are The Quarter, 60 Hope Street and Free State Kitchen. All three serve fantastic food and would thoroughly recommend.

Some good choices in there! So what do you get up to in your spare time?

Dad to Jack and Alex. Partner to Jo. Liverpool supporter. Play football at the weekends. Mountain biking when I get the time. Recording my Podcast (Gingernut Marketing).

We’ll gloss over the Liverpool supporting thing (we’re all huge Clitheroe FC fans here, of course!). It sounds like you’ve got your hands full with two young children though! And finally, what would you be doing if you weren’t running Elephant?

I always fancied being a superhero (before you ask… my special power would be to acquire other people’s superpowers! Mu ha ha).

Seems like a bit of a cop-out super power that Phil but we’ll let you off!

A massive thank you to Phil for sparing us a few spare minutes in between running a business and parenting two young children to sit down with us!

Elephant have been working closely with us over the past 18-months and are the creative geniuses behind our new branding, website and (drum roll) brand new portal which is launching on Monday morning. They have been based at the Park since the Spring of 2015 and are currently based on the second floor of iC1.

You can listen to Phil’s interview with Chris here.