I spoke to Steve Blakeman, the Managing Director - Global Accounts for OMD, about how he’s able to manage his time at work and writing, his typical day, daily habits, how he’s built his LinkedIn following and his best career advice.
Prior to his current role, he was CEO for OMD in Asia for 4 years based in Singapore. Blakeman was named by LinkedIn as one of their top voices in 2017, 2016 and 2015. He also won 'Agency Publisher of the Year’ and has worked with Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Coca Cola and others. He is the author of How to be a Top 10 Writer on LinkedIn and his second book will be out this year. He was recognized by Media Week for their ’30 Under 30’ people to watch in the industry in 1995 and Drum Magazine’s ‘Rising Star’ nomination for 3 consecutive years. He’s also a regular judge at award events such as the Cannes Media Lions, AME’s, EFFIE’s, Festival of Media, Cristal and Spikes.
Dan Schawbel: Aside from your role at OMD Worldwide, you spend a lot of your time contributing to various media outlets. How do you best manage and prioritize your time so you can maintain your role, while publishing?
Steve Blakeman: I’m very disciplined and never blur the boundaries of work and my writing. I travel frequently for my job so I take the opportunity to write during the downtime when I’m on a flight, in an airport lounge or even in the back of a taxi. In the evenings, when I’m back at the hotel, rather than watch TV I use the time to research and write. I’m most prolific at the weekend though when I do the bulk of my writing based upon the notes I have made throughout the week. I never find it chore because I genuinely enjoy it and spend much of my spare time jotting down various thoughts and hopefully crafting them into something worth reading. As Stephen King said in his book On Writing “writers write”. I’m not going to argue with him, so that’s what I do.
Schawbel: What does a typical day look like for you? What are some of your habits that make you both productive and balanced?
Blakeman: I read a lot for inspiration. Mainstays include Mashable, Forbes, Inc and LinkedIn but the spark can come from anywhere. One thing is always consistent though - I look for an angle in every story or article that I read. An example would be a piece which I wrote which questioned whether Kim Kardashians usage of social media inadvertently led to the robbery of her jewelry in a Paris hotel last year. She had been posting selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat which gave away vital details of the hotel where she was staying, the expensive diamond necklace she was wearing and the fact that her bodyguard wasn’t with her. I questioned whether we are all guilty of oversharing across the various social platforms that we use. It really resonated with people to the extent that I decided the theme was strong enough to turn into a book and I’m already about half way through writing it.
Schawbel: A few weeks ago you wrote a post about the hit Netflix show 'Black Mirror'. How do you think the show reflects our current society and how you operate in the workplace and at home?
Blakeman: I’m fascinated by the themes presented by Charlie Brooker in Black Mirror. He paints a picture of a very dark, dystopian near future based upon our obsession with our smartphones. It’s clear he believes that the power that these gadgets wield is considerable and he cleverly portrays how seemingly innocuous aspects of technology could prove to be detrimental to society. In ‘Hated in the Nation’ he demonstrates how something as simple as a hashtag can have murderous consequences and in ‘Nosedive’ he muses on the notion that if we were to rate our friends and colleagues, like you would on TripAdvisor, it could have catastrophic effects on our lives. And I think that’s why the series is so powerful because you can see how easily these elements of technology can be manipulated and used against us.
Schawbel: You've build a considerable audience using LinkedIn as a platform. Why do you think the site is valuable, what impact has it had on your career and what do you think makes for an engaging post?
Blakeman: With over 500 million users and a focus on business, LinkedIn provides an excellent platform for the subjects that I write about. I only started writing on LinkedIn about four years ago after Andy Goldman, who worked for LinkedIn at the time, encouraged me to use their publishing platform. I’ve since built up a bank of over 155,000 Followers on the back of being named a LinkedIn ‘Top Voice’ for the past three years. And all that has led to plenty of opportunities including co-authoring a book with Mike Adams all about a character who only ever speaks in business buzzwords and idioms. Our literary agent is selling it into publishers and is should be published later on this year. In terms of what makes engaging content on LinkedIn, I
think you need to offer something a bit different to other writers. For me, I mainly write with my tongue stuck firmly in my proverbial cheek and the feedback that I get is that people appreciate my somewhat acerbic approach. I also tend to tackle a pretty varied range of topics. In the past year I written about subjects such as clowns, sanitary towels, noisy eaters, psychopathic bosses and even my dog. As you can see the subject matter is fairly eclectic but I think my Followers enjoy the diversity.
Schawbel: What are your top three pieces of career advice?
Blakeman: First and foremost, be authentic. If you try to be something that you are not or try to reinvent yourself then you are unlikely to be happy with the results. Not only that but others will see straight through it. I know that people won’t always agree with me, whether that’s in business or with my writing, but I have always been prepared to stand up for what I believe in. To build upon that, I believe that you should have principles that should form the key pillars of your career. For me they are honesty, integrity, enthusiasm and fun. And the final piece of advice? Be respectful of the people you work with. We spend a long time with our work colleagues, sometimes more than with our families, so we need to show due regard for the feelings, wishes and rights of others. I abhor discrimination, bullying and politics of any description and seek to eradicate them whenever I can.
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