My Digital Hero: Jamie Riddell

Jamie Riddell, Co-founder of Escaping Gravity, is a true digital veteran. He ran his first digital marketing campaign in 1996 and co-founded Cheeze, the UK’s first digital direct marketing agency in 1999. He now runs global SEO consultancy Escaping Gravity.

Who is your digital heroine?

My digital heroine is Gemma Aylesbury the Retail Manager for Emmaus Colchester, a homeless charity in Essex. 

What has she done to win heroine status in your eyes?

I am a trustee for Emmaus Colchester and I have seen the amazing work they do to provide a home and meaningful work for up to 33 formerly homeless people. 

We have four shops, a cafe and warehouse which provides work and generates the funding to support our [formerly homeless] companions.Lockdown meant an immediate halt to our trading. No shops meant a stop to our largest income stream. 

As retail manager Gemma had been responsible for what stock to place in each one of our shops and how we present it. She also managed our fledgling Instagram account. 

With no shops to manage, Gemma started posting stock on our Instagram stories. Pretty soon she was selling, at first one or two pieces a day then four or five, then ten…  What started off as an experiment turned rapidly into a valuable revenue stream, almost anything Gemma posted was sold that day. 

We had the stock and the social account, but Gemma transformed it into a crucial sales channel that became irreplaceable during lockdown.

How has her heroism helped drive digital?

I can only speak for our charity. Gemma’s heroism has been an important factor in supporting our charity through the lockdown.

She has also demonstrated the potential of digital as more than just a communications channel for Emmaus Colchester. Gemma’s work has brought digital integration to the top of our agenda. 

What is the biggest challenge in digital we need another hero to solve?

The pandemic lockdown has created even greater inequality in business and in the wider community. Whilst the high street closed, online soared. For charities the lockdown had a devastating effect – lack of major fundraisers like the London Marathon, and lack of income from the high street means we will lose some vital services. 

We need a digital hero that can help support all charities to build a better understanding of how digital can help the ‘business of charity’ that extends so much further than a donation page or social media profile. 

What is your most heroic achievement in digital so far?

I can’t claim any digital heroics myself.  As a trustee, I am looking at how digital can be a more permanent part of our work, so maybe ask me again in a few years time! 

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