INTERVIEW 9:
DARREN SUTTON

1.Tell us your story … 

I’ve been in media since I was 6. I ran a marathon and my mum didn’t know and she sent out the police and 8 hours later she turned on the TV, there I was crossing the line. The next day I was in the paper which said ‘Mum didn’t know I was out’ on the front page of the Western Mail and Echo. That’s where my journey started. At 14 years old, I had a night job after school that picked up the newspapers from the printing press and put them on the tables so the ladies could put the inserts by hand into them. Then I studied Marketing at Bournemouth University and went to London. Luckily enough to get a job at the Guardian on Special Projects and that’s where I fell in love with content marketing and have kind of been working on that craft for the last 12 years. I believed in it in 2005 and still do now as a great tool to build relationships between businesses and consumers.

Now I’m 18 months into running the Common Purpose Collective. We’re a purpose driven marketing agency that specialises in experiences that help businesses give back to the community that they serve. At the heart of what we do is the enduring power of stories to create positive transformation. My singular mission is to help more Australian businesses connect to, impact and deploy experiences that impact the sustainable development goals. Which is kind of like the World’s To-Do List.

2The Interpreters spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients’ customers and segments within the market. How well do you know the your clients and their customers?

The important thing on everything is empathy and trust, which if you have both of those in place, it allows you to have a deeper relationship with people. I really try to understand what the problems are that they are trying to solve for their own customers and then try to think about how I can.  There’s three levels:

  1. How I can help the person in front of me
  2. How I can help the person solve a problem that they have in their business and
  3. How that project relates to the growth of their business

Unless I have a good enough relationship where they feel open enough to talk about the challenges that they have, then nothing really moves forward.

3. We do a lot of problem solving at The Interpreters so we’re interested in how other people solve problems. How do you approach problem solving?

The key to problem solving is openness and the ability to create an environment where you can bring lots of different stakeholders in around the same problem. It’s intentional that I called my business the Common Purpose Collective because I think a group has greater power to affect change than an individual.  Collective thinking skills and abilities that all bring from the most diverse backgrounds gives a greater opportunity to create innovation and effectively a better way of solving the problem.  So for me, the openness to bring in lots of different people, respect their opinion, understand that they bring different skills into the mix and then create quite an unstructured environment for them to share their perspectives. But you also do need to bring that all together with quite a process to draw out the key messages and present back to them. I think half the time we all know what the problem is, the challenge is that we all have ideas on how to solve that problem but actually creating meaningful action at that point is the bit where we can add value into a client’s business.

4. Interpretation is subjective but a key part of our analysis. We’re always interested in the ways other people might interpret key trends or things of interest from their specialism. How do you interpret Brexit in the UK and how that eventuated?

I watched it from afar. For me it’s an indication of the breakdown of the influence of the British government.  It’s a sign that we’re not really listening to everybody in the UK population. You can split the UK into two parts; London and the rest and I think the decentralisation of influence away from London and the rise of social media gives people who were previously alienated from decision making an opportunity to express their thoughts and that’s created this polarised view of what’s right and wrong. For me I think it was important to stay in Brexit as it provided opportunities to grow and that openness to other cultures from a financial, economic and social perspective is really important.

5. Because we firmly believe that Information is Beautiful, we would like to give you a copy of Information is Beautiful, ‘a stunning visual journey through the most revealing trends, fascinating facts and vital statistics of the modern world’. Because first impressions matter, have a scan through and tell us which visualisation caught your attention and why?

This reminds me of a flock of starlings and reminds me of a project from NASA called Project Starflag which focuses on animal behaviour and how a network of seven influences the whole group for survival. If we think about life, we try to influence everything, but you’ve got to strengthen the relationships between 7 because that optimises and maximises the overall way in which you can influence things.

What it is, is ‘One Machine’ a map of the Internet and what it shows connects and connectivity and network behaviours theory. It shows all the nodes – I’m interested in nodes because the systems that work in the future are the ones that the most networked. If you think about warfare and armies, they had to completely adapt to the decentralisation of power because people are their own little centres of influence.  How you connect these and leverage them, you can’t do mass control anymore, it’s got to be one-to-one and it’s not control, it’s almost an openness with people to influence them.