Episode 31 - Paul FurlongIs the USP of your business in the picture? Evading the 'so what' reaction to your offerings. We're making conversations about visual branding count!
Paul Furlong, Videographer, Film Maker and Advertising Guru
Making Conversations about Visual Branding Count!
In this episode, we’re making conversations about visual branding count.
Be honest, when you buy stuff online, how much of your decision is based on the pretty pictures?
Visual imagery and video can play a huge part in marketing a business.
That said, it’s easy to choose the wrong thing to put in focus. And that’s when the ‘so what’ factor can creep in.
Videographer, film-maker and advertising guru Paul Furlong has had a fascination for film and creating story boards since he was a small boy.
It was always a dream and now he’s living his dream with Opus Media.
The reality now is that Paul has worked with the TV channels we grew up with including the BBC, ITV & Channel 4.
He’s also been involved in directing celebrities so the storyboard works, including John Barnes and the Top Gear team.
In this episode, Paul and Wendy’s conversation covers his career in visual branding.
And we find out which one of his conversations he thinks was the one that most counts.
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Full Episode Transcript
Making Conversations Count – Episode Thirty-One
May 20th 2021
Wendy Harris & Paul Furlong
00:03:31: Make them sexy
00:04:51: Buying is an emotional activity
00:05:29: “So what?” Conversation
00:06:58: Communicating the sexiest project
00:07:54: Paul’s pivotal conversation
00:09:47: No preparation time for TV
00:13:23: Be invested
00:15:22: Ask for feedback, it’s important
00:17:11: Paul’s feedback
00:18:24: Final conversation
Wendy Harris: How many times have you seen something lovely, shiny and new on a website and you’ve taken it all the way through to checkout just because you liked the look of it? Yeah, I do it all the time too. So, today in this episode, we’re making conversations about visual branding count.
What’s new Wendy Woo? The Making Conversations Count Website has now got in the resources a Take the Test attached to my episode about cold calling. It’s just a little tool that you can use that’ll take you literally a minute or two at most just to give you some tips on how you’re being effective and influencing people by using the phone. We hope that you’ll stop by and give it a try.
I’ve also met a lady who booked the Power Up Offer all the way from Barcelona and who’s already having amazing results. I can’t wait to follow up with her. Over on LinkedIn, I did a post over the Bank Holiday, it was a poll about when was a good time for you to start any noisy work. Well this is where even I don’t understand LinkedIn sometimes; there was over 62,000 views and over 2,500 votes and the consensus was, “Not before 9.00am”. I’m with you guys; 9.00am is late enough to get started on a Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday, but the interesting thing about that was that clearly some of the lovely people at AXA had also joined in on that engagement after hearing the episode that I did a few weeks ago.
If you’ve not heard it, go back and have a listen after you’ve finished this one, it’s Episode 26. I’ve also been a guest on another podcast show called, “My worst investment ever”. It’ll be going live in a couple of weeks’ time, and I’m sure I will share it with you when you can go and grab a listen. So, don’t forget folks, it’s really important to share the show, you’ll find us on all the platforms now, we’ve got our own Twitter account, we’ve got a Facebook page, we’ve got our own website makingconversationscount.com, so there’s no excuse get involved; send me a message and I’ll give you a shout out, because it’s really lovely to hear reviews like this one:
“Wendy, I just found your show with Henny Maltby and a lot of what she said struck a chord with me. As a business owner of just a few months, I’ve been really struggling to get my business going, but I’m enjoying the journey and listening to you both discussing it really helped me put things in perspective. Thanks, and keep it up, love from The Cake Lady”.
Well, The Cake Lady, thank you so much for sending that in, Henny does make a lot of sense and I’m sure we would love to give you a review; just pop those samples of cake in the post to us.
Now, it’s the time you’ve been waiting for our guest today; it is Paul Furlong of Opus Media. He has an amazing ability to tell stories through visual mediums, so I’m just going to let him introduce himself and we’ll get on with the show.
Paul Furlong: So, Opus Media is a media company as you’d expect. We create video content and photography content for businesses to help them connect people to their brand.
Wendy Harris: What sort of businesses do you find take that kind of content up most?
Paul Furlong: What we’re really good at is taking businesses that are complex, businesses that are really boring and helping them to connect emotionally and simply with their target market.
Wendy Harris: So, you make them sexy.
Paul Furlong: Yeah, we make them sexy, so we work with all kinds of sizes of businesses, and I’m not saying that any of these businesses are boring by the way, but businesses from really small to really large; so we work with multinationals like Formula 1 and Subway down to businesses that you’ve probably only heard of if you’re local to them from pre-start-ups to local businesses.
Wendy Harris: I’m guessing that the use of photography and videography, you have to be really quite keen in how that communication comes across. So, the conversations that you have with your clients I’m guessing are quite detailed to be sure that you hit the brief that they want as well.
Paul Furlong: They usually start that way.
Wendy Harris: And then do you just tell them, how it should be?
Paul Furlong: It often ends up with me asking them to stop, because I need to be in the position of who’s going to buying what they have to sell, because at the end of the day, the person who’s buying what they have to sell is going to buy from an emotional standpoint. They might rationalise it in their mind but as we all know, buying is an emotional activity. This is why people who have lots of complexity in what they have to sell are really good for us, they’re so excited, they’re so invested in everything that they do and everything that their product or service does, they’re very close to it so they love all the intricacies of it. The people buying it aren’t necessarily interested in that.
So, coming in, I don’t need to know all of that, so I like to be able to stop them and just ask them, “So what?”
Wendy Harris: I love that, “So what?”, kind of conversation that you have. What’s the value? Yeah, you can tell me that you’re the best ball bearing maker in the universe, but so what? Why do I need a ball bearing? Why do I need the best ball bearing?
Paul Furlong: You can tell me when you click on this screen on your app that it’s going to take me to this report, so what? I don’t need to know. We’ve worked with a software developer recently who’s created a fantastic piece of software and they showed me the whole app and they were absolutely delighted with it, as they well should be because it’s absolutely sensational piece of software; but the people who are buying it, the procurement managers in healthcare and the NHS and private healthcare, so they’re the people who are not going to be using it, they’re the people who need to know what the outcomes are going to be.
What we discovered after having spoken to them was the outcomes are going to be that it’s going to get people back to living meaningfully in the world after a traumatic injury. That’s really emotional, that’s really simple. It’s going to save the NHS and private healthcare time and it’s going to reduce waiting times; and it’s going to save them money.
They’re the really simple, emotional, engaging things that I needed out of them. I didn’t need to know that when you clicked on this screen it’s going to produce all these reports, so I don’t need to have those conversations; I just need to know what the outcomes are.
Wendy Harris: The overall solution. Gosh it sounds like a really interesting role. What’s the sexiest project that you’ve ever had to communicate?
Paul Furlong: From my perspective, the sexiest ad that we’ve ever done was the Subway advert, because we had 18 camera operators, we had the team from Top Gear rigging the taxis, we had 25 cast, we had Daniel Sturridge, we had John Barnes, we had four locations and six hours to shoot it; so that was pretty fun and actually really delighted with how it came out in the end, the ad was really fun and really cool and we had John Barnes doing the Anfield Rap at the end of it. It doesn’t help that I’m an Evertonian, but it was good fun.
Wendy Harris: Lost on me, you know anything when the television goes green, I just pick up a book.
Paul Furlong: Yeah, very sensible, I wish I could do that, but having been brought up in an Evertonian household it kind of rubs off on you a little bit.
Wendy Harris: There are some things from our childhood that deserve that time and attention, doesn’t it? It keeps us connected with our inner child as well, which is good.
Paul Furlong: Absolutely.
Wendy Harris: I ask everybody that comes on the show for them to have a think about a pivotal moment that’s created a turning point in either their life or their career. So, have you given that some thought and are you ready to share with the listeners?
Paul Furlong: The pivotal conversation that changed everything about my life and my career is a conversation that I can’t really remember very much about because of how nervous I was going into it. I can remember everything that happened before it and after it in terms of the changes that it made to my life, but the actual conversation was an interview. And I’m sure that you and anyone listening can appreciate how nervous people are going into an interview, and how when you’re in that moment, you’re kind of sitting there and you just paying so much attention to getting your answers right and making sure the —
Wendy Harris: The adrenalin.
Paul Furlong: Yeah, the adrenalin, making a good impression that kind of when you come out of it, you can’t remember what you’ve said. It’s kind of like going into an exam, isn’t it? You can’t remember what you’ve written down. You can’t remember what you’ve said and —
Wendy Harris: You come out with that kind of feeling of — it’s just a feeling, an overall feeling of how it’s gone, isn’t it? And you’re trying to sort of hang your hat on what was said there and there, and you can’t remember. So, what happened?
Paul Furlong: It was my first interview for a job in television. It was with somebody called Peter Pearson for a job on a TV show, for ITV, called Captain Mack. I’d gone in off the back of a recommendation from a friend of mine, called Gwen Anne, and her nephew worked in this television studios in North Wales, called Barcud Derwen, and they had an outside TV company coming in to film this kids’ TV show and she’d mentioned to him that I was considering going into TV. My degree had been in physiological science, I’d made some short films, I didn’t want to do science anymore, it was great, but my microscope had kind of become my best friend and I’d always wanted to do film and television and she mentioned it to her nephew. So, he put in a word with the station manager, and he put in a word with a production manager of the show.
So, I got a phone call from the production manager, Peter, and he said, “If you want to come for an interview you need to be here tomorrow”. So, okay, off I went.
Wendy Harris: So, no real preparation time.
Paul Furlong: There isn’t when it’s TV. It’s always been the case with any interviews that I’ve had for TV jobs.
Wendy Harris: That’s interesting.
Paul Furlong: Because the turnover is so quick, you usually get about 24 hours’ notice, so I drove from Liverpool to Caernarfon in North Wales, was sitting in the waiting room; I was the only one wearing a suit, so I thought, “Going into this, that’s probably going to stand me in good stead”, about four or five other people in the reception of the studio. I went in to meet Peter and I had with me — I’d made two short films up to that point and obviously I hadn’t studied film or television, I’d studied physiology; but I’d made these two short films.
The first short film that we’d made, I’d really enjoyed making, didn’t know what I was doing; I kind of made it up on the spot and all my friends with me, none of us had studied it, we kind of made it. But we’d done the whole thing; we’d shot it, we’d done proper post-production and then we put on a premiere, and we’d managed to get some press to the premiere, so we had a press pack and we had photos of the premier and everything else. So we’d kind of done it how we thought films were supposed to be done, from having kind of watched films and watched how film production companies did it.
So that’s what I took into my interview with them, and the interview must have lasted about 20 minutes or so and I didn’t get chance to show them the film, because we didn’t watch it, but I left the film with him, I showed them the press pack, I talked him through it and I left kind of thinking, “I don’t know how that went. I don’t know if that was a good conversation or not”. And I got the job and that was brilliant because I was able to then ask him afterwards, “Well, why did you give me the job over everybody else?” And he said two things that stuck with me: one of them was that I was the only one wearing a suit.
Wendy Harris: Wow, was everybody else sort of casual?
Paul Furlong: They were smart casual, but they weren’t in a suit. And the other one was that the film that I had made and the press pack and everything else that had come with that was to such a good standard compared to everybody else, and he said everyone else who had interviewed had all been to media school. They’d all been to film school or done production courses and he said, the fact that I’d taken the initiative and gone and done that and produced something to such high quality without having ever been trained, he said that that showed that he thought I would be able to be able do the job. I was only going for a runner’s job, so it was unpaid; I was going to literally be a dogsbody on the set.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, do you think that’s a lot to do with the mindset of those that have come through media school, where they know that they’re going to be a runner and they’re going to be a dogsbody and they’re not going to get paid, that they almost go through the motions; rather than what you clearly showed him was a passion for wanting to do it?
Paul Furlong: Could well have been and it has been a passion all my life since I was very small, playing make believe with my brother and seeing Edward Scissorhands when I was 11 and then —
Wendy Harris: Incredible film, yeah.
Paul Furlong: It’s amazing, but that’s not to say that people who go to me just because I’m passionate. I mean, I work with a number of people in my team who have been to media school and they’re excellent and they are very, very passionate about it, so I don’t know if that’s the difference. But then as I got to know Peter and I got to know John and Ian and the other people on the team, I think probably that passion did come through. I was then quickly promoted from runner to Second Assistant Director and then First Assistant Director and then eventually Director. I ended up directing the last episode of that series which was amazing.
Wendy Harris: Just thinking still about those other candidates, it kind of makes me think a little along the lines of other jobs and any other role that if you’re going for a job and you’re not really invested in it, it comes across in your whole demeanour, the impression that you make. Not saying that they’re not passionate, but perhaps that particular position wasn’t the one they really wanted.
Paul Furlong: I think the other thing that I reflect on was the old adage, I don’t believe this to be true, but the old adage of dress for the job that you’re going to get. A runner, because you’re a dogsbody, you do tend to — you kind of dress because you’re going to be running all the over place, you’re servicing every department, you’re often jumping in and out of a vehicle to —
Wendy Harris: You don’t want your six-inch heels on, do you, Paul?
Paul Furlong: You don’t, and you don’t want to be in a suit, but I didn’t take that approach to go into the interview. I didn’t think, “Well, I’m going to show up in kind of jeans and a shirt, I’m going to show up — “
Wendy Harris: No, because it’s still an interview that’s appropriate to be an —
Paul Furlong: You’ve got an interview, yeah.
Wendy Harris: Yes.
Paul Furlong: So, I had that mindset and then obviously going with kind of the film, which he did watch in the end, he did watch afterwards and obviously to be able to kind of give feedback on the quality of it.
Wendy Harris: I wonder how many people when they go for an interview, and this is just you know in general really, now, when they go to so much trouble, I kind of remember my eldest daughter when she went to university, she took a great big portfolio of stuff with her and she was going for a decorative arts degree and she hadn’t really got the right A Levels and qualifications behind her, but she’d got a lot of portfolio material that she was taking a punt on it; but it was what she really wanted.
When she secured that position, and I think there was only a handful of people that got onto that course, and I think about 20 people in the country or something ridiculous like that, you know between them and down South, she did the same as you, she sort of said, “Why did you pick me?” because she couldn’t believe she’d got it, because there were other people that had got the right qualifications like you were saying about media school and one thing and another.
So, it’s important to ask for that feedback, I think.
Paul Furlong: Yeah, it’s incredibly important and so one of my friends has this, it’s quite a cheesy saying, but I think it was true, “Feedback’s a gift”, down to how you unwrap it, as to how you’re going to kind of accept it. So, if you unwrap it in a negative sense and you just go, “Well, I’m going to take that really negatively”, then you’re going to come away with that feedback being kind of, “I don’t like that feedback, that’s not very good”. But if you unwrap it in a really grateful way, then feedback will always stand you in better stead the next time that you go into that situation.
So, I’ve always been one that takes feedback positively, whether I like the feedback or not, it’s always something that’s going to help me to improve next time. So, I was more than happy to ask him for the feedback because I wanted to know, because the nature of TV is you go from one contract to the next contract to the next contract to the next contract. There’s very few jobs, none that I can think of right now in TV unless you’re kind of a commissioner at a channel, that you’re actually on a long-term contract. You go from one short-term contract to the next, to the next, to the next, so I knew that that was going to be certainly for — well it still happens from time-to-time; I do go and do television and film.
So, I knew that I was going to continue to have to interview for these positions over and over and over again and I wanted to make sure that I was getting better and better every time I went into these shows, to make sure I was the right person. So, it was right to ask, and it was right to take it constructively.
Wendy Harris: I like the sound of your friend. That’s a very good saying; cheesy or not, I think it is a very good saying. In light of you asking for feedback on every job and then throughout what you do, when you work with people as well, what’s it like having the shoe on the other foot? Do you get people asking you or do you give that feedback freely because you know how important that has been for you in your career?
Paul Furlong: Often people do ask me for feedback, and I will always ask them how they like to receive their feedback, rather than just launching into it, because some people are more delicate than other people. If you give feedback in the wrong way, often you can offend people even though it is a gift, so it’s important to give it in the right way. And when you ask someone how they like to receive their feedback, you will get people who go, “Just give it to me straight”, and then you give it to them straight and then they still take offence.
The first time you give — when someone says, “Give it to me straight”, but you still hold back a little bit and see how they react, and I’ve got a couple of friends who I know well enough that I don’t need to ask that question anymore. There’s some people that say, “How would you like your feedback?” And they say, “Give it to me straight”, and you slightly sugar coat it and they go, “No, I said give it to me straight”, and then you know that they really like it straight.
There’s some people who if you don’t ask for feedback, but you can see that they maybe need it a little bit, I will always ask permission to give them their feedback, so I’ll just say something like, “Would it be okay if I gave you a little bit of feedback? And then if they say yes, then again I’ll ask them, “How would you like your feedback?”
Wendy Harris: It kind of goes back to what you do in your job really, isn’t it, is by taking that logical process of taking somebody on a journey to a point of a decision and it’s emotive. So that feedback is still emotive, so partly why you can’t remember the conversation was because you were — it’s a sort of phrase that I us which is “nervocated”. Equally nervous and anxious because you care about what you do. I think that comes from a place of trueness.
Paul Furlong: Yeah, absolutely and it’s the same with how you deal with other people, isn’t it? You have to make sure that if you’re invested in them, then you have to make sure the way that you feedback to them and the way that you treat them is fair. So, it’s only fair to give them feedback, but it’s fair in the way that you give them feedback.
Wendy Harris: Paul, I could talk to you all day, I really could. Thank you so much for bringing your pivotal moment onto the show for the listeners. If anybody wants to pick up the conversation with you, where’s the best place for them to come and find you?
Paul Furlong: So probably LinkedIn would be the best place, you’ll find me PaulFurlongMCIM on LinkedIn, or you could visit our website which is weareopusmedia.com. We are on all the other social medias as well, we’re not on TikTok because that’s not our target market, but you can find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all of that as weareopusmedia as well, but LinkedIn and our website probably the best two places to find us.
Wendy Harris: Don’t forget to follow. On Apple, you’ve got the ellipsis at the top right side of my podcast page; follow in the settings, do the automatic downloads, then you’ll never miss any guests. We’ve got some great guests coming up for you. Spotify is the big green button, it’s cool.
If you want to buy my book, don’t forget go over to makingconversationscount.com and you’ll find all the episodes that you’ve missed there, as well as all the other resources and letters to listeners from our past guests. Happy listening!
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I love this podcast. The guests you have on all bring something new to the conversation and definitely thought-provoking.
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I always enjoy listening to Wendy’s Making Conversations Count podcast and admire her talent for drawing out people’s stories and getting to the heart of things for finding out what makes them tick.
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