How a digital audience engagement plan gained a global audience. With Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education at Chivas Brothers

In this Skip the Queue podcast episode I speak with Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education and International Graduate Programme and Archives at Chivas Brothers.

Alex leads global advocacy for the Scotch whisky portfolio and a team of 60 international and graduate ambassadors.

We discuss the superb program of digital audience engagement that Chivas Brothers developed during lockdown, and how that’s gained them a global audience with viewers from over 30 different countries every episode.

“The key learning is that we’ve actually extended our reach beyond those numbers that we would normally engage. We’ve got a much greater footprint, albeit digitally. And looking to the future, I would say that we will always place physical activations hand in hand with digital activations.”

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • The superb program of digital audience engagement that Chivas Brothers developed during lockdown
  • How that’s gained them a global audience with viewers from over 30 different countries every episode
  • How they build an emotional connection with their global audience digitally
  • How they were able to adapt the centres during the COVID pandemic
  • Alex Robertson’s bucket list on climbing Mount Everest despite having a fear of heights

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.

The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guest, Alex Robertson

Kelly Molson: Alex, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. I’m super excited that you’ve come on because we actually know each other. But that does not mean that Alex gets away without doing the icebreaker questions. So my first icebreaker question. What is top of your bucket list?

Alex Robertson: That’s an outstanding question because part of the reason that I took this job is because I had such a passion for travel. And since taking it more than a decade ago, I’ve visited more than 60 countries around the world. 60 countries. I guess it’s something that would really challenge me. I guess it’s something that I feel that would conquer a fear. And I have an astonishing fear of heights because as a child I was repeatedly rescued from the school roof, from the local university crossed the roof of my house.

So I think it would need to be something that challenged that like skydiving or climbing Mount Everest, something really off the scale because I’ve certainly got a job that allows me to address those bucket list challenges of visiting places you would never go for your two-week break in the summer.

Kelly Molson:  You chose a really good profession for travel to combine your passions.

Alex Robertson: Yes, it was part of the motivation, Kelly. I love travel. And a journalist had the opportunity to travel, albeit under very different circumstances, whether that was to Sri Lanka after the tsunami or whether it was to Italy to cover the G8 summit. And part of the motivation, in addition to a real passion for Scotch, was to see the world and to travel to wonderful places, from Serbia to India to Kazakhstan and Ukraine. And do you know? The one lesson I take away is that you can see these wonderful places but what makes a country is its people. And that’s what you remember most of all. Wonderful.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. I completely agree with you. It’s all about when you travel, it’s about immersing yourself into the culture and the people that are there, not just the place that you’re at. I just want to go back to your fear, because… So you have a fear of heights. What on Earth were you doing on your school roof if you have a fear of heights?

Alex Robertson: I loved climbing. I absolutely loved climbing. So I specifically remember, as a child, one of my earliest memories, was climbing up the drainpipe of my school roof, an old-style school just outside Glasgow, and then getting to the top and thinking, what am I going to do now? And that happened repeatedly. So that’s what’s informed the fear of heights today. So for example, I can’t even go up the Arc de Triomphe. At all. So I need to stay below while my family enjoys the views from above.

Kelly Molson: Okay. Now I know, Alex, that you’re a really big music fan. You might not have ever thought about the answer to this question, though. So if you were a WWF wrestler, what would be your entrance song?

Alex Robertson: Oh, that’s superb, I love it. I love a deadline. I oversee deadlines the same day. And I remember a colleague of mine saying, “We need to have Europe played through the tannoy when a deadline’s coming, Final Countdown, to pump everyone up.” Or I think it would need to be Eye of the Tiger, you know?

Kelly Molson: Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Robertson: Do you remember that? That was in Rocky, I think.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. Brilliant.

Alex Robertson: Something old school that really gets us going.

Kelly Molson: I like that. Eye of the Tiger was my running song. And it was always my five-mile song. Because if I could get past five miles, I knew that I was going to get back home, which was the eight-mile loop that I was doing. So that’s a good song.

Alex Robertson: That’s a great… Do you know my running song is Gorillaz, which is Melancholy Hill.

Kelly Molson: Oh, nice.

Alex Robertson: It just really keeps you driving, and it gives you a little bit of push when you need it.

Kelly Molson: I like it. That’s a good song, as well. This is my last icebreaker question before I do the unpopular opinion, which I love. So what is your weakest claim to fame?

Alex Robertson: Oh, goodness. Well, you know what? I’m a huge fan of Six Music, BBC Six Music. And Shaun Keaveny has a great slot in that which is called the Small Claims Court. And I was actually on that. And I’ve called in before. So my small claim was that at some point, it would have probably been the late 90s, and I was interviewing on Rudolph Giuliani’s broken window theory in Glasgow. You know, that if you tackle vandalism and that type of thing, then that prevents more serious crimes. And I was walking through Glasgow and a limousine pulled up, and Cher was inside it. And they sort of spoke to me and said hello. And my claim to fame is that actually, Cher was trying to pick me up at that point.

And I’m not sure if that’s a direct link. Another minor one is that I once shared a jacuzzi with Brian Gecksa at a family holiday park in the north of England.

Kelly Molson: Wow. That’s so impressive. The Cher one has blown my mind. Wow.

Alex Robertson: Yeah. Yeah. I remember saying to Shaun Keaveny, and it wasn’t my joke, actually, it was his producer’s, but I said, “If you could turn back time, what would you do?” I think I ran away. I was terrified.

Kelly Molson: That’s a terrible, terrible dad joke.

Alex Robertson: It is. It is.

Kelly Molson: Awful, that joke. Okay. Thank you for sharing, that was awesome. Tell me your unpopular opinion. So something that you believe to be true that hardly anyone agrees with you on.

Alex Robertson: Actually, one that my wife permanently disagrees with me on is I believe if you add vinegar to chips it reduces the fat because you’re adding acid, therefore if makes them healthy.

Kelly Molson: Hmm.

Alex Robertson: But no one’s bought into it. No one.

Kelly Molson: I’m not sure about that one, but I’m going to try it the next time I want chips. My partner is on a super, super health kick at the moment. So chips, they’re not in our house. Maybe I could convince him with the vinegar trick.

Alex Robertson: I think that science proves it. I think it’s that acid breaks down fat. I’m sure of it.

Kelly Molson: Absolutely.

Alex Robertson: I’m absolutely sure of it. In fact, I should have Googled it beforehand to at least support my argument. Same as I should have Googled was Cher actually in Glasgow in the late 90s, or was I just imagining it? You can’t tell. We’ll never know.

Kelly Molson: It’s a mystery, and it should stay a mystery, I think, Alex.

Alex Robertson: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: Amazing, thank you. So Alex and I, just as a caveat, we do know each other. We have worked on a number of projects together for Chivas. But I had a little look back over your career and, oh my gosh, it’s really impressive. And I actually didn’t know this about you. That Alex has been a crime reporter, a BBC journalist, an international brand ambassador, and now he’s Head of Heritage and Education and the International Grads Programme and Archives at Chivas Brothers.

Honestly, Alex, if at some point someone says to me, “You know that Alex Roberts? He’s only an international spy,” I would believe it.

Alex Robertson: I’m going to tell you something really interesting. So I studied European politics. I went to university to study English and become an English teacher. That was my plan. And I studied European politics because it was a huge passion of mine. I think it was the time of the Maastricht Treaty in the early 90s, a really important time for European politics. And I can’t believe 30 years later how much that’s changed. 30 years, Kelly, can you believe it? That sounds bizarre to speak in those terms. And I believe in following our passions. And I do follow my passions from journalism to Scotch whisky. I was a journalist for ten years.

But I have an uncle who is absolutely convinced that I work in the international stage for a government agency of one type or another. Absolutely convinced.

Kelly Molson: I can see that. I can see why, though. You’re like a man of travel, slightly mysterious, with a journalistic background. I can see that.

Alex Robertson: Well, he mentions it every time we see him. He’s deadly serious. He sort of just nods a wink and says, “I know what you’re up to.”, you know?

Kelly Molson: Oh, I love it. Well, tell him that I agree with him now. He’ll probably go [inaudible 00:08:43] at you next time.

Alex Robertson: Yep.

Kelly Molson: I want to know, this transition from crime reporter, journalist to brand ambassador, what was it that made you make that switch? Because it’s incredibly different.

Alex Robertson: Yeah. There were a couple of reasons, and also, they’re very alike in many ways. I’d spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and much of that on radio. I absolutely adore radio and congratulations on the podcast, this is just superb. I love the spoken word, without sounding ridiculous. And I’d worked freelance for a long time with The Big Issue. Which you know, and was lucky enough there to win The Amnesty International Prize for Human Rights Reporting. I was passionate about asylum seekers and refugees relocating in Glasgow.

I worked for the Scotland Sunday and Sport because I loved football, without sounding like an absolute cliché. And I used to work the crime beat in Glasgow, too and then moved to the BBC which, to use a football analogy, if you’re a journalist, it’s the only team that you ever want to play for. And I spent a couple of very happy years at the BBC working on website reporting, working on the radio bulletins and, occasionally, on television. And do you know what? Journalism was changing. I could see the writing on the wall for journalism.

The opportunity to travel, which I’d done previously, I earlier mentioned going to Sri Lanka to cover the tsunami. I mentioned going to Genoa to cover the G8 summit. The real passion for travel and getting out and really identifying stories on the ground and working on stories, that opportunity was diminishing. And many more stories were being written from press copy or agency copy at your desk. And I could really see the writing on the wall for the future of journalism. I’m delighted to see that, actually, there still are tons of them. Many fine journalists out there today in Glasgow, in the UK, and internationally, especially at these crucial times of whether it’s Brexit, COVID, or the US elections.

And there are people doing a great job. And I wanted something else. I felt I’d taken that as far as I could. I had a huge passion for Scotch, I had a huge passion for travel, and the international brand ambassador role just seemed absolutely perfect. And I joined that 2008, I think. And I think my first trip was to China. Never been to Shanghai before. And traveled throughout China, and then moved to India and never looked back. As I say, that’s more than 60 countries since.

I also had a very small whisky club in Glasgow that… It’s a feminist theory that when men get together they form clubs. And that’s certainly what happened. But it was a very diverse club. And I remember walking into the Pot Still bar in Glasgow, I don’t know if you’ve been there, Kelly…

Kelly Molson: No.

Alex Robertson: But it’s an amazing bar. You walk in, there’s about 500 whiskies on the wall. And I thought, how do I begin to understand that? But given the similarities, it’s still about presentation, it’s just still about structure, it’s about engaging people, it’s about inspiring people, all of which you also did as a journalist.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. Absolutely. And actually, it’s the engaging of people that I want to talk a little bit more about. But there’s something that I kind of need to talk about, the visitor centres that you’ve been part of, initially. Because obviously this podcast is for people that work in the visitor attraction world, or work with the visitor attraction world. But I think from some of the things that Chivas have been bringing out during the pandemic, there’s some really key learnings that we can take from that that translate across.

But I want to talk a little bit about the Malt Whisky Distilleries. So Aberlour, Scapa, Strathisla, and The Glenlivet. They have been closed at certain points during the pandemic because, of course, they haven’t been able to have visitors into the centres. How were you able to adapt the centres during the COVID pandemic? What happened there?

Alex Robertson: You know, I see visitor centres as the beating heart of communities, you know? And Scotch whisky is not only a passion for what I do, it’s a pride in what we do, because we’ve got 10,000 jobs directly employed by the Scotch whisky industry here, and 40,000 indirectly. There’s an incredible impact on communities. And, as all your listeners will know, the visitor centre is where your story comes alive. Sometimes I used to say, “If you enter The Glenlivet, just being there was enough.”, you know? The sounds, the sights, the smells. It made the hairs on your neck stand up. It’s an amazing experience.

And then comes along COVID, and all of that closes. And this is where you experience our Scotch whiskies. This is where you understand their heritage, their craftsmanship, their flavour. And now the priority, of course, was making sure the stills continued to run. That was number one. And Chivas Brothers implemented an industry-leading safe system of work to ensure that that could continue to happen in the most extreme circumstances, at the height of this pandemic. And also came to the aid of communities. It produced, I think, 160,000 litres of hand sanitiser and made 300 contact-free deliveries. Becoming social care providers to charities.

In May, Chivas Brothers became the NHS Scotland’s first pro bono hand sanitiser supplier. So a great effort. It was all about protecting our communities and ensuring the stills continued to run. So that was number one. And then you’re absolutely right. As Head of Heritage and Education, I had to look at this and say, okay, we bring in tens of thousands of people a year. My specific role is to bring in our trade guests from all over the world and take them to a beautiful house, which you’ve been to, and…

Kelly Molson: Yes, it is very beautiful.

Alex Robertson: Show them around the distilleries. And I think it demonstrated that there was an opportunity. Suddenly we realised there was an opportunity to reach people through digital advocacy. And very quickly, I turned around a digital plan which would centre on Scotch whisky education in the Scotch Whisky Academy. This would address a thirst for knowledge, but within our business, because that was important. We also want employees to be engaged during this, Kelly, it wasn’t just about the visitors. And then engage a global audience.

And I would say the key learning is that we’ve actually extended our reach beyond those numbers that we would normally engage. We’ve got a much greater footprint, albeit digitally. And looking to the future, I would say that we will always place physical activations hand in hand with digital activations. And they will always go together from here on in once we can open again. And, of course, the distilleries are, the brand homes are open. I can tell you more about that.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. And that’s something that I have been thinking more and more of over the past few months, about at some point we will go back to normal. A version of normality. But all of these incredible things that have happened means that our reach for visitors and our reach for people that we can educate and get our brand in front of, has just expanded. And I don’t want people to kind of go back to the old ways. I think like you say, it has to work really hand in hand. One of the things I really want to talk about it, Scotch Watch.

So this is one of the things that has come out of the pandemic, in terms of your digital plan. And I think it’s wonderful. I want you to explain what Scotch Watch is for us. And how did you come up with the idea? How did this happen?

Alex Robertson: I think Scotch Watch was important because there were a couple of drivers, I think. And it’s amazing how we were able to learn from others, too, and see how others were prepared for digital in terms of offering virtual tours and so on. Scotch Watch had a couple objectives. The first was actually to meet the makers, the people behind our Scotch whiskies, in a very informal setting. And second, on digital, we know that seven percent of a presentation is what we say. The other 93 percent is our body language, it’s how we interact, it’s our tone, it’s how we look, it’s how we shape our conversation. But all of that vanishes on digital.

Kelly Molson: Yeah.

Alex Robertson: So I wanted to create something that was much more informal in nature, that took us away from the traditional pillars of heritage, craftsmanship, and flavor, and actually brought through the personalities of those involved. That gave an opportunity to meet the people who have decades of experience and real passion for Scotch whisky, and also showcase some great new whiskies and demonstrate that the work of Scotch whisky, the work of Chivas Brothers, The Glenlivet, Chivas Regal, Aberlour is very much still going on.

Now, the idea wasn’t mine. Although I’m perfectly happy to claim it. And the idea was our master blender, our director of blending, Sandy Hyslop, my co-host on the show. So he approached me and said, “Listen, what can we do here? We’re doing the Academy, we know that we know we’re supporting, mentoring globally. We’ve reached 3,000 people in three months. Incredible reach. What else can we do?” He said, “I want it on a show, on Zoom, weekly, or on other platforms, where we just informally have a chat.”

Sandy’s a huge antiques collector, he’s a watch collector. He wanted to talk about watches, he wanted to talk about… I’m a huge music fan, I wanted to get music in there. And then we would have a studio guest and we would just talk about whisky. And we had a great session recently where we went live to an ambassador of Poland, Anna. We had our brand manager Hannah in the Ballantine’s team in London. And just the dynamic shows a real passion behind Scotch. We moved to a monthly show, and do you know what? We’ve already reached more than 30 countries.

Kelly Molson: Wow.

Alex Robertson: In that time. And more than 500 people. And this is just the start for Scotch Watch. I want to… We’ve now got it on YouTube, we’ll have events every Thursday, they can just find out more on Instagram, my handle is at DramGoodLife. But I want to take it further and have Instagram lives. But really, it’s an informal look at Scotch whisky, Kelly, so that’s a very long-winded answer for you.

Kelly Molson: I loved it. So I watched the last episode, I watched the October edition. And I think it’s where you unveiled the new Ballantine’s 7 Bourbon Finish. Now, I’m very appreciative of whisky, but I wouldn’t call myself a whisky connoisseur. I’ve got a gin bar in my house, not a whisky bar. Sorry. But what I found really engaging, and it goes back to what you were saying earlier about being a storyteller and having that kind of connection with brands. I loved how each person on the webinar spoke really passionately about not only the whisky but something that was personal to them that was connected to the whisky.

So, for instance, you mentioned Sandy being a big vintage collector. Now he took the whisky, and he associated the whisky with an item. He had a stopwatch. A beautiful, beautiful vintage pocket watch, sorry, a pocket watch. And he talked about it in terms of how that connected with the whisky itself, and then you spoke about a song, a record, that you connected with the whisky. And I loved that. Even for someone that’s not a huge, huge lover of whisky, I really related to those things, because actually, I’m a big music fan, and actually, I really love vintage pieces.

And then your, I think it was Hannah, the brand ambassador, brand manager, sorry. She spoke about a book that connected with it as well. And I thought, “I love all of these things.” And it really made me feel a connection to the brand that I probably wouldn’t have got previously if I’d have just seen it on a shelf or if you’d talked about it in some way. It felt very, very personal.

Alex Robertson: I think that’s a great observation, thank you. Because, again, it’s how do you establish an emotional connection online? That’s the challenge we’re all facing. How do we bring to life these great distilleries and these great whiskies when, actually, we’re on the celebrity squares of Zoom? And people are at home. And you’ve got to make that emotional connection because we all have it. And the second point is that, actually, whisky is accessible, you know? The most significant change I’ve seen in the past decade is the emergence and the rise of whisky cocktails. Superb. I love it.

And I believe if you’re going to make whisky accessible, then you can pair it with music. Because you can follow the rhythm of music in the high flavour notes and the low flavor notes of whisky. You can pair it with your favourite pocket watch, you can pair it with dinner. It’s so accessible. And if we’re doing that, if we’re making whisky accessible, and someone sitting at home’s saying… Actually, it was interesting, we had Jenna Mariwan who was a The Glenlivet ambassador on the previous episode, The Glenlivet is number one in the US. And I said, “Listen, what is it that makes The Glenlivet unique? What is it makes people in the US passionate about it?” And she said, “Because it’s for people like me.”

And that’s what I want the emotional connection to be when they watch, just as you said, Kelly. If you watch Scotch Watch and you go, “You know what? This is for me. I don’t feel excluded from this, I feel part of this.”

Kelly Molson: Yeah. That’s exactly the feeling that I got from it. When I started watching it I thought, “Is this for me? Yes, I appreciate whisky, yes I work in a whisky world, but is this really for me?” And within ten minutes I thought, “This is absolutely for me.” It really got me right here. And I really enjoyed that, at the end, it was Anna who took us through making an old fashioned. I was like, “Great, I could do this.” And, again, it felt really easy, it felt really accessible. And that, for me, is the biggest part of building that audience engagement, is that you’re making it for that person.

I felt like you and Sandy were talking directly to me that evening. And there was a lot of people on that call. You were getting a lot of questions. But it really felt like you were connecting with me individually, and that is what’s so important about the engagement level. It’s really…

Alex Robertson: Yeah, that’s wonderful, thank you. And I think that’s the challenge, because for all of us, because people are at a laptop all day now, at home, too. And we’re calling on them to then join us on the laptops again. There’s no change of scenery. And that’s a real challenge. How do we work against, shall we say, online fatigue? Is that a risk? Because I guess none of us predicted this still to be running. This started in March, you know? It’s now December.

Kelly Molson: What was nice, and obviously I didn’t have the ingredients to do it, but I thought what would be nice is that actually, I could make that cocktail while you were doing it. So there’s maybe that level of interaction is what differentiates it from your day. Where you’ve spent all day on Zoom calls. Actually, when you’re doing something as well, it doesn’t then feel like just another Zoom call. You’ve got that level of interactivity. Which I guess, is that something else that Chivas are now doing? Your virtual tastings, for example. That’s something quite new.

Alex Robertson: Yeah. We had to try this carefully. So the other brand homes, they did a great job of opening up safely to allow people to come in and taste whisky. And given the current restrictions, that’s now been moved outdoors, though Speyside can be lovely in winter. If you come and visit.

Kelly Molson: It’s beautiful, but a tad chilly.

Alex Robertson: So we had to move very, very quickly to an online advocacy strategy. And I built that, essentially, on three pillars. And one beauty was that you could get to meet people that you wouldn’t normally get to. Or makers could, instead of having to travel across the globe and spend a week, all I needed of their time was an hour. Which is a complete game-changer. Our distiller’s Alan Winchester, our blender’s Sandy Hyslop.

So the first thing we launched was our Scotch Whisky Academy, to address a real thirst for knowledge internationally. And that’s been a huge success. It’s now running every single week. And you can come on, you can attend three sessions, and you can learn all about Scotch whisky. Heritage, craftsmanship, flavour. What makes it unique. And that has been an enormous success. And that’s largely been to an internal audience and customers. Our challenge now in 2021 is how do we take that, in partnership with our visitor centres, to the public? Because we know people want to engage.

And then the second part is we’ve had a great amount of activity. We’ve launched Ballantine’s 7 Bourbon Finish, as you said. We’ve launched The Glenlivet Spectra and Caribbean Cask. We have a new Chivas Regal 13 range, extra. And we’ve been supporting that internationally. And the team are working incredibly hard every single week, hosting sessions from the US to Canada to South America, all across Europe, as far afield as Australia. And we are doing that every single week to customers and consumers. We’re reaching a much broader audience.

And in addition to that, I have a team of about 50 graduate ambassadors in 27 countries, each and every country at a different stage of this pandemic. And they have responded just quite brilliantly to this. And my recommendation to everyone, bring energy to it. Bring creativity to it. Create dynamic content. And have people who understand the medium. Which is a challenge, because this is a brave new world for us all.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. It absolutely is. And just touching on the graduates that you spoke about, for them and the world that they live in, this has not been as challenging for them. They live their lives relatively digitally, so for some people, this has been a huge, huge, huge change, but for them, actually, the assumption is that they’ve dealt pretty well with this.

Alex Robertson: Yes. Yes. Superbly well. I can’t praise them highly enough. Of course, they’re a digital generation. They don’t know a time where they didn’t have that access to social and digital. So they’re able to drive content. But what they’ve managed to do is create engaging content and have actually been creative in the process. They’ve brought energy to this for us. And actually, at a very difficult time for them. The majority are far from home during a pandemic. And often in a lockdown. Then have been creating cocktails online, have a look at Chivas graduates on Instagram, you’ll see them. We’ve been engaging local bartenders, have been supporting their own trade. They have the consumers, they’ve been doing really creative videos online. Really, really proud of them, an incredible effort.

But the lesson for us all is how do we bring creativity and energy? And for us, it was also how do we get the glass in hand? How to look definitely at e-commerce, too.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, that’s right, actually. Chivas has been through… There was a lot of e-commerce stores that have launched through the lockdown, which is actually, it’s quite a new thing, isn’t it? There’s not been a real focus on direct sales through the brands.

Alex Robertson: You know, Kelly, it’s really interesting, I don’t know what you think yourself, but people really had to rethink this. And I don’t want to say that I don’t know if we were all well-prepared for digital advocacy because you place such value on physical interaction, and rightly so. But I think it had to make us think differently. You know, if someone came to a whisky tasting that I was hosting in Mumbai, we knew the whisky was there on the table. If we were launching an international Scotch Watch from Scotland, how are we going to get that whisky into their hand?

And that became the challenge, you’re right. We had to link it, because, let’s be honest, we have to build a benefit to all of this. And the way to do that is through e-commerce.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. And I think it’s worked beautifully. And, actually, the speed and the turnaround that things have been able to happen and to launch during this time is testament to the people that you’ve got in your team, as well. Coming to the end of the podcast interview, I’ve got a couple of extra questions I’d like to ask you. I think, really, it’s what’s next. You’ve done an incredible job. Scotch Watch I genuinely think is just such a fantastic thing. And I really, really hope that it continues. But what can you see that’s coming next for the brands?

Alex Robertson: Yeah. I had almost planned to first of January. And what we need to do is get back to physical activations when it’s safe to do so. That’s engaging people face to face, inspiring them on our Scotch whiskies. The Glenlivet, Chivas, Aberlour, Ballantine’s, and Royal Salute. But I still think that is some way off. Great news that a vaccine appears to be in the pipeline for the spring. So in the meantime, we need to look at how we raise to another level. I’ve almost seen this, that we established the base with our Scotch Whisky Academy, we created another level with Scotch Watch and the renovation support, looking at the new whiskies we were launching.

But I think the challenge for 2021 is really how do we continue to impact globally with Scotch whisky aficionados and Scotch whisky novices? And we really engage them, both with our Scotch Academy, linking in our Scotch Whisky Academy to our brand homes. The Glenlivet Academy. There’s a great prospect.

Kelly Molson: Wow. Yeah. It is.

Alex Robertson: What a great prospect. How do we continue to excite, inspire, engage people creatively? And I’m going to be honest, that’s a job I’m doing now. It’s really a bit… We’re almost planning day by day, week by week at the moment. But I’m excited we can respond, we’re about to recruit 20 new Scotch whisky ambassadors for 2021, which is amazing news…

Kelly Molson: Fabulous.

Alex Robertson: It shows you the confidence that Chivas Brothers has in Scotch whisky in the future. Our markets are confident. Our countries, I deal with about 30 countries around the world. They are confident, they have strong rebound plans, and we know that advocacy, ambassadorial work, both physically and digitally, will absolutely be at the heart of it. I’m optimistic about 2021.

Kelly Molson: This is a lovely, positive way to end the podcast, Alex. Thank you. I have to say, the grad scheme that Chivas have, it’s phenomenal. And I know that every year, you are completely overwhelmed with applicants for it. So we’ve got a little bit of a scoop there, that that’s coming out soon. But you’ve got a really hard task ahead of you, I’m sure, because this year I’m positive that you’ll be completely inundated when those come out. What we’ll do is all of the things that we’ve discussed today and all of the links to everything that we’ve talked about will be in the show notes. So we’ll have links to Scotch Watch, we’ll have links to the Ambassadors website. We’ll have links to everything that you can go and look at.

We always end the podcast by asking our guests if they have a book that they would recommend. Something that they love or something that has helped shape their career in some way over the years? Have you got one you can share with us?

Alex Robertson: Wow. I read a lot and lost track as I get old. Which I’ve touched on a few times, the passage of time. As he buys time to answer. I actually, in a professional sense, I listen to podcasts as often as possible. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, I don’t know if you…

Kelly Molson: Okay.

Alex Robertson: He wrote The Four Pillars of Health. And I listen to that a lot because I really believe it’s important to bring balance to our lives in everything that we do, whether that’s in diet, sleep, exercise, and digital. In fact, really fascinated by the impact of digital technology on our experiences at the moment, too. I guess the book that’s always had a lasting impact on me is East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Kelly Molson: Great.

Alex Robertson: Is number one. The sheer scale of it, the sheer drama, the way he paints colour throughout it. The emotion contained in the book. The generations which it spans. It’s incredible, and I’d recommend it to everyone.

Kelly Molson: Oh, wow. That is a superb book. Now, as ever, we offer your book as a prize to our guests. So if you’d like to win a copy of this book, then if you head over to our Twitter account, it’s just Skip the Queue. And if you retweet this episode announcement saying, “I want Alex’s book,” then you will be in a chance of winning it.

Alex, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on today. Thank you so much for your time. Now, it’s just after 11 in the morning, but I think the only way to end this podcast, unfortunately with my cup of tea, is to say Slange Var.

Alex Robertson: Yes, Slange Var. Thank you, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at info@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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