Everything’s changing and we must too. The Coterie kicks off 2020 with a scintillating debate!

Print vs digital. Is it a fight to the death with only one survivor, or is it, in fact, a conscious coupling?

Social media. When we’re faced with a society who lead super-busy lifestyles and whose attention is being fought over on all sides, how do we stand out?

Points of difference. Should this extend to salads?

These, and other pressing existential questions for the hair professional and modern citizen, formed the basis for the first Coterie gathering of the year – and with no fewer than six guest speakers and the promise of goody bags filled with the stunning new JoiFull volumising range from JOICO, it’s no wonder the event was packed to the rafters.

‘The Times They Are A-Changin’, saw questions being posed by Creative HEAD editor Amanda Nottage and the answers being debated by an expert panel that included journalists Lisa Oxenham (Beauty & Style director at marie claire) and Madeleine Spencer (journalist and Beauty Full Lives podcaster), industry trendsetters Luke Hersheson and Zoë Irwin, Not Another Salon’s Instagram star Harriet Stokes and international fashion consultant Adam Andrascik. The results were fascinating, insightful and thought-provoking – and 100 per cent relevant to us all. Here are our best bits…

Did social media kill the print magazine star?

Lisa: “You can’t get sentimental about print, you have to move with the times. marie claire has gone digital-only and I find it really exciting – we are really drilling down on our DNA and focusing on what matters to our readers. And on a personal level, it’s exhilarating to be able to communicate with hair and beauty experts around the globe on a daily basis. I can see what everyone’s up to, check out their latest work… It’s exciting to build creative communities where we all support each other.”

Luke: “Actually, I don’t think it has to be one or the other. It doesn’t have to be print or digital. We’re in a time of change and things are cyclical. In magazines the content is more considered and you treat them like collector’s items. Digital is instant and more democratic and lets people get their foot in a door that 20 years ago was firmly closed to them. It’s good to see both co-exist.”

Madeleine: “Podcasts are different beasts altogether. I think people like them partly because they can do other things while listening to them, and partly because they know we shouldn’t be staring at a screen all day…”

Luke: “We’ve just printed the first edition of our own newspaper. Being a brand now is not just about doing hair; you’ve got to do more, offer more. Our newspaper gives our clients an insight into Hershesons’ London – where we eat, where we shop, etc – and more importantly it’s something tangible. Social is great for checking out what’s resonating with people, but the newspaper is something you can actually take away from our brand.”

How do you connect with people in the digital sphere?

Harriet: “I have a love/hate relationship with social media. When I started using it, it was an incredible platform for showing off my work and building a clientele. But once it became more of a business it became a huge responsibility and I felt like I should be posting more ‘serious’ content. And that wasn’t me at all. Nowadays I try to stay true to myself and as a result I’ve fallen back in love with social media again.”

Madeleine: “I don’t worry about the algorithms or anything like that. I put content out that I think is interesting and I hope the right people will find it. To get too bogged down in the algorithms is sad because you’re missing opportunities.”

Adam: “For luxury brands, social media influences how products are launched now; it reaches more people and exposes your brand to new audiences. But brands need to work out how to keep these customers on board once they’re listening. You need to reach lots of people but you have to have that quality that says, ‘I’m speaking just to you, not everyone in the room.’ You want your customer to think they’re special, to make them feel you’re choosing them to be part of your brand.”

What do you offer clients (new or old) when visiting the salon?

Harriet: “There’s an expectation of the salon experience when clients come into the salon, because of social media. When clients have been in three or four times, those experiences become normal. We have to keep things fresh, so there are new things to see.”

Zoe: “When I joined John Frieda’s Alford Street salon the first thing I changed was the salads. They were too beige! Everything now needs to be Instagrammable, so we needed to look at every part of the salon in detail. The end result looks easy but there is so much work that goes into it…”

What’s the most important/surprising thing you’ve learnt about social media?

Zoe:  “If you’re trying to copy someone else, or do something to get more engagement, it falls flat. As a hairdresser in modern business it’s about opening up and showing what we’re doing – giving people the reality behind creating a collection, for example, like having hundreds of different bits of denim scattered all over your living room!”

Adam: “When I worked at Guy Laroche, I shared images on social media of the process behind the making of a collection. I wanted to give people access to content they couldn’t get elsewhere – those behind-the-scenes moments, like initial sketches or scouting for a venue. These were images that actually wouldn’t have worked so well in print and they got a huge reaction.”

Luke: “Social media has to be real, not polished.”

Madeleine: “Telling your story authentically and honestly is what people want. It’s nerve-racking to do because you’re sharing deeply personal things, but as a journalist I’m interested in taking myself out of my comfort zones.”

Lisa: “Sharing the reality of your life ‘warts and all’ makes you vulnerable but it’s so important. One of my most powerful posts was an image of me sobbing in my car because I’d gone back to work and was missing my baby daughter. So many women identified with that!”

And finally, what’s the key area of change we should all take note of for 2020?

Lisa: “in the next year and decade we’re honing in on sustainability. We’ve got to act together, in terms of climate change. It’s about activism – what do you stand for? Being your own activist is a big thing.”

Madeleine: “Give your story a heart that will make other people want to be part of it.”

Adam: “Make your clients feel special. Show them they’re not just a number ­– you are interested in them and are proud to have them within your brand.”

Luke: “Find your own point of view. Find what you stand for, rather than just chasing engagement. The rest will follow…”

Zoe: “As hairdressers we need to open up access to our world and what we do. This is what will draw people in.”

Harriet: “Don’t let social media consume you. Put down your phone and live your life.”

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1 March – Most Wanted & The It List 2020 launches! Sign up for news!

16 March – The Coterie heads to Edinburgh! More coming soon…

29-30 March – A full weekend of business networking at Salon Smart