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Meet Steve Cole, Colehouse Communications...

The track record of Darlington-born businessman Steve Cole has been particularly apt for the past couple of months as it includes delivering a major, national social media campaign to encourage more young people to register and vote.

This substantial piece of work sits alongside an impressive portfolio of digital strategies which have had global impact.

Steve Cole’s Colehouse Communications company, based in Commerce House, Middlesbrough specialises in creating and producing campaigns that produce substantial engagement and results.

His career comes from a background rooted in real, hard graft right from school age. He said: “I have always loved work and have done a range of jobs including being a milkman and working in a Pound Shop. Then when I was in my 20s I worked mainly sales jobs for organisations like the Red Cross and Npower.

“I decided to set up my own business in Carlisle which was doing well, focusing on sales but sadly at this time my partner Gemma was diagnosed with a serious degenerative condition. My focus obviously shifted and I decided to move back to the NE so we could start our family.”

His next role was with the Rank Group, working in a regional capacity for the Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos where he saw the potential of digital media. Due to the success of his social media strategies he was promoted to the Rank senior team in 2010, to roll out what he had learnt.

He wrote the digital strategy for the whole group, trained over 400 internal staff across 150 venues and pioneered numerous ways the group could engage more with its customers. Promotion of the brand on social media paid substantial dividends and resulted in his list of close contacts including the heads of Facebook and Twitter, helped by him being such an early adopter of their channels.

He said: “I got to work very closely with some of the best agencies in London and developed enormous respect for them and their work. It really made me want to work in that sector. So I took the plunge and was appointed head of digital at a Newcastle agency and helped them to win major contracts including Sky Sports.

From there Steve then set up Colehouse Communications which was quickly involved in a year-long campaign to encourage young people to register to vote under the Leaders Live and Bite the Ballot. This campaign aimed to humanise the political leaders and encourage young people to take an active interest in politics.”

The results of the work led to the first ever live streamed interviews of the political party leaders, launching an app to help young people work out where their political allegiances lay gaining 400k users in a few weeks and just under 500k people registered to vote on one day, a world record at the time.

His business was 18 months old when he completed this project and he then made the pivotal decision to take the plunge by focusing his energies on building work in the North East rather than the South. His client list already included major names like Thinking Digital, still a client today so he wasn’t starting from scratch.

He said: “I knew if I wanted to be more hands-off and local to support my family, I had to start to form a team. This has now grown to five people in a couple of years with the aim of increasing that number to 10.”

On-going contracts include a telecoms client specialising in new disruptive technology, and a recent campaign they worked on, Swim Rise, encouraged 1000’s of people across the world to take a ‘dip at dawn’ in support of mental health awareness.

Colehouse Communications are also very active in the events industry with their new product - Ovationly - having delivered the largest TEDx event in Europe in 2018, held in Manchester. They are now working with over a dozen events across the UK delivering digital marketing services which Steve sees as a great advert for what his team can achieve, here in the North East.

Here are Steve Cole’s views on a whole range of questions to get to know him even better:

  1. What is your favourite building? The Sage Gateshead, it’s a beautiful building
  2. What was your first job and how much were you paid? The Pound Shop in Hartlepool, two pounds an hour
  3. What was your worst job? It was a sales role for an alarm company in Middlesbrough which unbeknown to me was employing aggressive people to go to customers homes, they were on TV as Britain’s worst company
  4. What would you cook a guest for dinner? A Jamie Oliver Italian chicken dish
  5. Which four people would make a perfect dinner party? Freddie Mercury, Eddie Izzard, Greta Thunberg and Malcolm Gladwell
  6. What is the most expensive thing you’ve bought? A watch I bought when I was 21 for £500 which I still have. It was a goal I had set myself then achieved.
  7. What is your favourite book? The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell on how ideas spread
  8. Name your greatest achievement – my son Jacob who is 8 and having a happy family life with him and my wife
  9. What’s the best piece of business advice? Make sure you get paid on time and always make sure expectations of payment and service are clear at the outset of a contract
  10. What is your favourite animal? Cats, I like their attitude
  11. Who is the most famous person on your phone? Rick Edwards the TV presenter
  12. Describe the perfect night in? Cold outside, watching TV with my family
  13. In another life I would be? A vet, I love animals
  14. Who would play you in a film? Ben Affleck (my friend is always teasing me about this!)
  15. What irritates you? Flakiness, people giving up too quickly
  16. Have you a secret talent? I can do box splits (sideways splits) and that’s not bad for a 21 stone man