MAT ARNEY / HAILER MEDIA
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1. Tell us about you/your company/project.
Hailer was born out of a lost bet. My forfeit for losing was to start a blog using my photography, and post to it regularly. I published an article every Sunday for the next five years, and Hailer developed out of that.
Simply put, Hailer is a content marketing service that is all about sharing stories. We work with a small stable of clients to regularly conceive, produce, and share the stories and imagery that defines their brands and grows their audiences - with the ultimate aim of helping them to grow and meet their potential. It’s marketing, but done a little differently and tailored to small brands who perhaps don’t have the capacity or need for a full time in-house marketer, or for larger companies who require a regular bolt-on content service to compliment their “normal” marketing activities.
Last year I took on another content creator to help meet the demand for Hailer’s services. We work out of Hailer’s office/studio space, a (some might say “barely”) converted warehouse unit at the Old Great Western Railway Yard in St Agnes and the spare desks are rented to freelance creatives. Although Hailer now has “an office”, when possible we like to clear a bit of space at a client’s workplace on the days that we work with them so that we can be a part of that business, chat over a cuppa, and get the answers to our questions without having to wait for them to check their e-mails.
2. What is your deep reason for choosing the path you're taking? Your "why"?
At some point in my mid-twenties it dawned on me that almost every job that I’ve ever had – at least, every job that I’ve ever been any good at – revolved around communicating with people in one medium or another. I think that I was already a fair way down that path before I came to that realisation, and it was easier and more sensible to keep going in that direction than to turn around and try to find a different way – and I had no real reason to change.
3. What is the big dream, or legacy you're creating?
I see no good reason why things can’t look better and be more interesting. There’s no grand vision to speak of, but I guess that if the work that we do here at Hailer helps some exciting and interesting small businesses to make some headway, and facilitates a few people in chasing their big dreams, then that’ll be something to be proud of.
4. What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I’ve been offered (and accepted) a lot of great advice over the years and I’m more than satisfied with where it’s got me. I’m not one for dwelling on what could have been so I don’t know that I’d go back and give myself any different advice that might alter how I got to where I am now.
I do sometimes wonder though just how many e-mails I’ve missed or how many people were never able to find my photography website or social media feeds because I only spell my name with one t. Before I got to secondary school and met other “Matt”s, I had shortened my name and spelt it how it sounded – I didn’t realise that I should be using an extra t. I hadn’t because it made no difference to the way my name was pronounced. So maybe my advice to my younger self might be, when I started secondary school, to go with it and add that extra t. For all of the seconds that I may have saved having one less t to type or when signing my name, I must have negated ten-fold having to spell out my e-mail address, making it explicitly clear that there’s only one t. And people still spell it Matt.
5. What companies/projects inspire you?
Inspiration hits me from all over the place, and I think is most useful when it doesn’t come from within a culture or scene that I’m really familiar with.
Obviously, I draw inspiration from the companies that I get to work with, and the people behind them. Being fans of what they do makes digging out their stories and coming up with ideas to help build their audiences much easier. Also, on the “business” side of things, the people behind them have founded and grown successful businesses through radically difficult economic times over the last 9 years or so, and they deserve huge respect for that.
I’ve really enjoyed the side-projects of Jeff Johnson, a staff photographer and writer at Patagonia. Within the surf world I’m inspired by left-of-centre projects like Christian Beamish’s (former associate editor at The Surfer’s Journal) Voyage of the Cormorant in which he built a sailboat in his garage and set off on a solo surf trip down the length of Baja Mexico, or professional surfer Dan Malloy’s Slow is Fast bike-camping surf trip connecting organic farms down the California coast. What Dustin Humphrey has done with Deus Ex-Machina in Bali is also very inspirational, developing a vibrant scene and churning out great visuals thanks to their strong commitment to producing engaging content.
I sign up to the theory that good writing comes from reading lots, and I’ve yet to read any of John Steinbeck’s work that I didn’t like.
6. What does your industry/cornwall/location need to see more of?
Industry-wise: Curious storytellers, and ideally storytellers with a good grasp of grammar - although there are tools and apps for the second point in that wish-list and I’d rather read good stories with bad grammar, than bad stories with faultless syntax. “Top ten” list-style articles have their place, but that place isn’t every single post that a brand or organisation publishes.
As for Cornwall, I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think that Cornwall and the ideas and organisations coming out of it could sometimes do with having the confidence to stand tall and be truly original. Sometimes I see things and it’s a little too apparent (to me) where influences have been drawn from. Cornwall doesn’t need to be “the UK’s version of” California, or Oregon, or Copenhagen, or Byron, or anywhere else for that matter. It can be Cornwall. That is more than enough. Ideas can strike anywhere, and the beauty of the internet and digital technologies is that you don’t have to be in a particular place to make a success out of an idea. Sure, take inspiration from what’s going on elsewhere, but then develop that thing. Make it better. Make something unique. A Cornish version of something that already exists is great, but it also seems to me to be a little bit like a missed opportunity to develop and improve on that idea.
7. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on now?
Fatherhood. It’s without a doubt the largest, most daunting, and most rewarding project that I’ve ever taken on.
8. What problem in the world do you see that you’re fixing? Be it personal or professional...
Shit, thoughtless, interruption marketing, I hope??! I’ve never really thought about Hailer’s purpose in this context, but I’d like to think that the brands that we work with are forward thinking and are boxing clever with their limited marketing budgets. In that sense, we’re fixing the imbalance in the marketplace between the big, established players who are throwing lots of money at boring, “traditional”, obvious and interruptive marketing campaigns, and the upstarts who are prepared to take a different approach to how they share their story and build their community.
Also, the news is rammed full of the bad and the sad most of the time. Since becoming a parent I’ve had to turn off the radio or TV a bunch of times whenever stories about child refugees or anything like that comes on, because it just buckles me. If the content that we produce at Hailer provides a moment of relief from that for people, informing, entertaining, providing a bit of inspiration, or even just showing them how to mix an excellent martini after a rubbish Monday, then I’m glad that we’ve made a positive impact on their day, however small or trivial.
9. If you could go back, what's one thing you would have done differently?
I would have cut away the safety net sooner. I transitioned towards Hailer out of a brief foray into the teaching profession, and whilst doing freelance photography, copywriting and journalism I was able to lean on supply teaching as a financial safety net. I took on a few medium term contracts though that repeatedly threw an anchor over the side and slowed Hailer’s momentum. Having the courage, faith and, I guess, confidence to say no and cut away the safety net actually jettisoned the ballast and let Hailer take off. I wish I’d done that a year or so earlier.
10. Who has been the most help to you along the way? And why?
This could turn into quite the list! I think that anybody trying to grow a business relies on those closest to them enormously for support and understanding. It’s inevitable, and I’m certainly no exception so I’ll start right there: my wife Kate, my Dad (who gave me my first-ever camera, then my first “proper” camera), my Mum and step-Dad, and my oldest friend Alex (who’s a Creative Director in the ‘don, and who’s always on hand for me to bounce ideas off). But everybody will have their own version of their nearest and dearest list – you want the other people, specific to Hailer, right?!
Hailer existing and being the way that it is, is largely down to the inspirational people behind the businesses that we work with, and a few other wonderful individuals:
Ru Hill from Surf Simply, the person with whom I lost that bet that set me on the path to blogging and developing as a writer (and who then pulled me back into the Surf Simply fold a few years later to run their online magazine) is one of those people. Ru’s always been a great source of both influence and advice to me.
James Otter from Otter Surfboards asked me if I’d like to produce regular content for Otter Surfboards as he was committing to his business full-time, and our businesses have grown symbiotically with Otter being Hailer’s longest-running client and case study. I’ll always be very grateful to James for entrusting me with developing the visuals and voice of his business and for making a long-term commitment to trying something different.
Ben Spicer from Cornish Rock Tors Ltd, Luke, Sinead and Matthew Wheadon of the Bella Luce Hotel and Wheadon’s Gin on Guernsey, Riz Smith of Riz Boardshorts, Dave Jones at Cord Industries (who made all of the standing desks at Hailer that receive a lot of compliments, but which aren’t half as stunning as the rest of the furniture that he makes and ships off to places like London and New York), Staurt and Paola Leather at Rathlee Distilling Co and the team at Eagle House Hotel. They all saw the potential in what Hailer could do for their businesses early on. I’m forever inspired by the tenacity of each of these people growing their businesses through an incredibly challenging economic period.
Chris Phillips, formerly of Unlocking Potential and now working with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub, has mentored and advised me at various points, challenged me, and prompted me to let my well-hidden ambitions for Hailer have a bit of time in the spotlight.
LOVE FROM MAT TO OTHER CHAMPIONS OUT THERE
My good friend Ceri Pashley, who runs El Carousel West, is the talent behind Hailer’s branding. He doesn’t tend to do branding work anymore (I twisted his arm, hard) and was recently nominated for a children’s BAFTA for an animated short that he produced. That’s the standard of work that he’s quietly churning out of his studio in Penryn.
High fives to Nathan Fletcher and Ed Wilson also – they designed and developed the website.
Chris Nelson and Demi Taylor of Approaching Lines and the London Surf Film Festival always have some great projects going on, both in Cornwall and beyond, and I enjoy my sporadic beach car park catch-ups with them.
I’m very fortunate to have some really talented individuals using the desk space at Hailer too… Most notably, Steve and Ian at addcream who do fantastic work, whilst keeping the creative atmosphere fizzing and making me laugh.
Rounding out this list are some of the other organisations based in St Agnes (all three are over on the other side of the village, though) making some good noise: Woodfired Canteen, Finisterre and Surfers Against Sewage.
join mat at hailer and for Anyone who wants to be connected to Mat and Hailer, grab details below:
There are a couple of spare desks at Hailer that are available for long-term rent or for by-the-day hot desking, and so anybody looking to share a vibrant workspace should definitely get in touch. I want the atmosphere at Hailer to be fizzing with creativity, for it to be a place where people come to get good stuff done, and for it to be a hub.
I’m also definitely interested in exploring the possibility of working with a great local filmmaker on a semi-regular basis. And, of course, any suitable businesses who are genuinely interested in taking a slightly different approach to their marketing.