An interview with Marc Astley, Editor of Exeter’s Express and Echo Newspaper

Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of 60 second interviews, starting with Marc Astley, Editor of Exeter’s Express and Echo Newspaper.

Name and Role

Marc Astley, Editor for Express and Echo News and Media Ltd/Mid Devon Gazette series

What do you do

As well as being responsible for the content of the Express & Echo and Mid Devon Gazette, I am also one of the directors of the parent company South West Media Group Ltd. The editing role involves, of course, deciding upon content but also setting the tone and upholding the principles and integrity of the titles. I also directly manage the editorial teams and budgets.In my director’s role I take a bigger picture view of the business conducted by the group of newspapers in our stable with my fellow editors from the Western Morning News, Plymouth Herald, Torquay Herald Express and the group’s managing director, Andrew Blair.

What’s been your biggest challenge this year

Without a shadow of a doubt the move from daily to weekly. This has not only been a huge project to manage but also meant having to say goodbye to some close colleagues.However, like any transition on this scale, it has also led to a change in culture and created new opportunities. For instance, we are now using social media a lot more to reach our readers on the days we are no longer publishing. The team have fully embraced Twitter, in particular, and have picked up stories through their tweets.

You mentioned that you and your team have embraced Social Media, specifically Twitter, tell us more

A big concern for us when going weekly was not having a daily dialogue with our readers. Twitter allows us to do that but crucially makes it easier for them to contact individual reporters instantly. So far we have our local government reporter @AnneByrne signed up, as well as our health reporter Tom Bevan @tombev81; our news editor @RobSims1; education reporter @FranMcElhone; Exeter City writer Jon Lewis @Echo_Jon and Exeter Chiefs reporter Nic Warren @EchoSportNick. There is of course me, the editor @MarcAstley! Watch this space as there’s more to come.

How else have you found that Social Media has supported your new weekly publication

Twitter has proven to be a tremendous resource for finding new columnists. I wanted to recruit a team of specialists who had skills that were beyond the remit of my journalists but also who could write their own stuff. I turned to Twitter and those that I have engaged with via this platform. As a result we now have on board @katheacrediton – the lovely ladies from Kathea Boutique; @banksy6 – local businessman and entrepreneur Alastair Banks; @home_restyler – interior designer Katey Korzenietz; @ExeterArchitect – architect Rob Hilton; @Marc­_Millon – wine expert Marc Millon; @erbcoach – life coach Emma Ranson Bellamy; @SouthwestMakeup – make up expert Eve Ashby; @mark­_tyler – media observer Mark Tyler and @ccbentos – Exeter Chiefs player Chris Bentley.

Hashtags for certain stories have also helped enormously. My favourite hashtag is #HelloEcho, which was set up by the highly entertaining and witty James Barisic @jamesmb who I did not know at the time and still haven’t met.

#HelloEcho was used to welcome the new weekly title into the world and for people to tweet their comments, which were all very positive. It has now become the forum to discuss any Echo-related issues. I am very fond of it and very grateful to James.

Many thanks to Marc for sparing the time to answer our questions. It’s great to hear how useful Twitter has been, and continues to be, for him and his team.

We’d be interested to hear how you’ve embraced Social Media in your line of work. Please leave your comments or if you’d like to be included in our interview series drop us a line.

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Alastair Banks asked to consult with the University of Exeter on their use of Social Media

Optix Solutions' Directors Alastair Banks and James Dawkins at Exeter University in 1999

In the year 2000 Alastair Banks and James Dawkins, directors of Exeter Web Design & Online Marketing Company Optix Solutions, graduated from the University of Exeter with degrees in Computer Science. Almost 11 years on, their company has grown to be one of the largest and most successful in the area, last year being included in the South West’s top 100 creative agencies – a wonderful accolade for the company and the city of Exeter.

In the last couple of years Alastair, James and their team at Optix have been making a name for themselves in the world of Social Media and are now recognised as one of the thought leaders in this part of the country and beyond.

With the advent of Like Minds in Exeter in 2009, the city has become a hub of Social Media knowledge. This twice yearly conference has attracted some of the leading speakers on the subject from around the world. Many of the delegates that travel to the county from the larger cities, and other parts of the world, are now citing Exeter as one of the most important cities in the UK when it comes to Social Media.

[caption id="attachment_1190" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Alastair and James at Exeter University today[/caption]

A few months ago Alastair was invited back to the University of Exeter to present to the Marketing and Communications team on the topic of Social Media and has now been formally invited to consult to the University on their use of Social Media. They are looking to reach new audiences and get their message out whilst using ‘best practice’.

Stuart Franklin, Director of communications for the University of Exeter has said, “Social Media provides a wonderful opportunity to engage both internally and externally with people and organisations globally. We’re looking forward to working with Alastair over the coming months to develop this area of our marketing and communications.”

Exeter University was recently included in the top 25 fastest growing companies in the UK and the top 100 in Europe – a list compiled by Dun and Bradstreet. This is a great acclaim for Exeter and everyone that is involved with the University in any way.

Alastair Banks has said, “To be asked back into the University that gave me three of the best years of my life, to consult on something I feel so passionate about is simply fantastic. Social Media will provide a wonderful channel to disseminate information, listen for opportunities to connect with other thought leaders and push the Uni forward in its bid to get even bigger and better. I’m delighted to be working with the central communications team, who have some amazing stories to tell and opportunities to promote”

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Are you missing out on sales for your Business

Optix Solutions, a Web Design and Online Marketing company based in Exeter, along with your City Centre Manager, John Harvey are putting on a FREE seminar. This is your chance to learn how you can catapult your sales online and get people into your store using social media.

This seminar, worth at least £150 pp, will cover all the essential aspects of selling online. You will leave with a fantastic understanding of how to set up an ecommerce presence and, most importantly, how to make money from it. Many ecommerce sites do not make money – make sure yours is not one of them. With over 10 years experience in running successful ecommerce stores, Optix Solutions are well placed to advise you on all the factors you need to consider from Design to Marketing – Search Engine Optimisation to Social Media strategies. Since 2000, Internet sales have risen by 3,500% to £42bn and it’s expected that by the end of 2011 this figure will climb to a staggering £72bn. Clearly the opportunity to sell online is not one to be missed.

We are passionate about this City and we don’t want retailers in Exeter to miss out on these fantastic opportunities so we hope you’ll find time to join us at the seminar.

Not only will you hear from Optix Solutions themselves, you’ll also hear from one of their clients a successful Exeter ecommerce business, have agreed to share their success stories for making money online.

The seminar is being held at St Stephens House in the centre of Exeter, on Wednesday 22nd June from 9.30 – 11.30.

Book your free place now

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Are You LinkedIn Training Seminar in Exeter

28/03/11 LAST MINUTE UPDATE, 2 DELEGATES ARE UNABLE TO MAKE THIS MORNING’S TRAINING. WE ARE OFFERING THESE 2 PLACES AT 50% DISCOUNT, £75 PLUS VAT. Please call us on 01392 667766 to book this one off offer.

LinkedIn provides a phenomenal opportunity for switched on businesses to attract new work and proactively gain new customers, the question is, are you using it to your best advantage?

Do you have a sales or marketing team that are looking for new opportunities? If so, then LinkedIn should be in that mix.

Even if you don’t have a sales team, LinkedIn allows you to cultivate business relationships like no other Social Media platform out there.

Alastair Banks, from Optix Solutions, and Julian Summerhayes (See full bios on the link below) have teamed up to provide detailed LinkedIn training which will focus on getting new business and growing existing relationships. Take a look at some of the footage from our last Optix LinkedIn Seminar , video kindly supplied by

This is not for people who just want an overview of the tool, this is for forward thinking businesses who want to learn from real experts how they gain extra business.

You’ll learn ‘on the tools’ techniques which you can implement in your business immediately. We will also provide a FREE follow up visit to your place of work after the training to see how you’re getting on.

The course will cover:

  • The Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing
  • LinkedIn Overview
  • LinkedIn – A Powerful Relationship Builder
  • LinkedIn – A Sales Tool
  • LinkedIn – A Positioning Tool

Who is this course for?

This course is suitable for anyone who wants to know how to use LinkedIn effectively within their business. This is not a large seminar; places are restricted in order to ensure delegates are given time and attention in order to maximise their potential on LinkedIn.

*The cost of this course is £150+vat.


Don’t forget that Optix Solutions currently offer Social Media Training in Devon!

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Introducing the Optix Online Marketing Team in Exeter

Here at Optix we have a dedicated Online Marketing Team, passionate about exceeding the expectations of their clients. The Optix Online Marketing Team is headed up by Daniel Cave, who has been working with Search Engines and the Internet for 6 years. His skills have been honed working for a variety of Clients from large Fashion Stores to Public Sector information sites. Mike Lemon works alongside Dan in our Online Marketing Team, benefitting from Dan’s considerable experience and expertise.

We’re sure you are aware of how much Marketing has evolved since the advent of the Internet and the world’s extensive use of mobile technology. As a consequence it has been essential for any Online Marketing Team worth its salt to keep ahead of the game, in order to ensure a first class service to their clients and produce the results required.

Our Online Marketing Team are adept at harnessing traffic from the millions of search users. Their talents also extend to the design of a shopping cart that converts interest into sales, maximising opportunities and ensuring genuine buyers can find the products they are searching for. Optix’s Online Marketing Team have kept informed of the latest trends and techniques and have developed a few of their own along the way, such as our new custom SEO reporting and tracking systems. All of our Online Marketing Clients receive an in depth, visual, monthly report detailing the results of their Online Marketing campaign.

We currently provide Online Marketing for both B2B and B2C clients, choosing client specific services tailored to getting businesses visible on a large scale. Optix Online Marketing Team combine passion for quality traffic and an unwavering commitment to being up to date with the latest search news. We stay on the cutting edge with ideas, recommendations and positive steps toward profitability.

If you have a Website and could benefit from our expertise in helping the right customers find you, then please get in touch. Optix Online Marketing Team can drive the traffic to you and help make sure it turns into cash through Search Engine Optimisation, Pay Per click, Email Marketing, Social Media and more.

Contact us to see what we can do for you and take the first step in effectively advertising yourself online.

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How we help companies with their Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing - Exeter

For the last few years businesses have been trying to get their heads around Social Media and how it can fit into their marketing mix. At Optix we got in early, we made the mistakes, we spent time learning so we could impart our knowledge on others. For the last year or so we have been working with our clients to help them build Social Media into their marketing and communications strategy.

Last week we were invited to make a board level presentation on Social Media to a national organisation and then went on to facilitate a discussion based on that presentation. We will now go on to consult this organisation on a regular basis, helping them with the delivery of their message through Social Media tools.

We also spent time with a medium sized organisation in Devon (150 staff) learning about their current marketing mix. We then conducted a significant piece of research work into their industry and put together a strategy which was presented to the board and their marketing team. This piece of work outlined everything we believe they now need to put in place from ‘monitoring systems’ to creation of blogs/key communicators within the firm and consistency of message. We will also be training their staff on the various tools we’ve put forward for use. Most importantly we’ve helped this company define kpi’s for success so that the board can see the impact of the work they start doing in the social space and how it’s working for them.

What are the plans for Social Media in your firm/organisation? Are you finding it difficult to map it out?
If you are looking for external help then our ‘presentation & discussion mornings’ start from just £300+vat. Our team can help you define what Social Media can do for your business.

All you need to do is call us today on 01392 667766 and book us in.

Post by: Mike Lemon

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