Martyn Sibley is the co-founder and CEO of the Purple Goat Agency, an influencer marketing agency connecting brands to disabled people around the world. He also founded Disability Horizons, a community magazine by disabled for disabled people. Martyn grew up with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is a wheelchair user, international conference speaker and travel blogger. He chats to Enhance The UK about why disruption can be a positive thing.

How has the current COVID19 pandemic impacted your day to day life?

I guess like most things in life there is a negative and a positive side to it.

The positive is that I’ve found I’ve had a lot more energy because instead of commuting to public speaking events or conferences I’ve been doing everything online. People have adapted so well to all the technology available, and that’s great for me as I’ve got more energy in the tank to get things done. I’m probably more productive than ever!

Personally, the negatives relate to the risks and potential impact on my health as I have a full-time care team as I’m physically very limited. In the beginning there was definitely a lot of adjustment around the health factors and the social factors, but we got through that.

Martyn Sibley is photographed in a tartan print shirt with a big smile on his face. He is in his wheelchair and the background is a brick wall

Do you miss travelling?

Yes and no. It will be great to travel again and the more time goes on, I realise how much I have missed face-to-face interactions at conferences and events. But for the lockdown period, I’ve actually quite enjoyed not having that pressure and expectation from society and a broader culture. It’s actually fun to learn and work and even have leisure from home, the live streaming of theatre productions being a prime example.

What changes are you seeing from a business perspective?

I would probably say that whilst marketing budgets have been slashed, as they generally are during a recession, the influence on digital marketing has seen an uptick. Obviously, traditional marketing such as billboards are not as useful when no-one is driving past them! So, we have been working with disabled influencers that can create well-crafted video and audio from home because restrictions made photo shoots and commercial production impossible.

Too many disabled people are regularly stuck at home therefore the increased media coverage of the lives of disabled people is a positive thing. I hope it improves understanding and empathy. It’s also helped our business to maybe grow a little bit quicker than it would have done on the normal trajectory. The pandemic has created some disruption and innovation in our favour.

What advice do you have for other marketers around disabled representation?

The brands that employ, represent, consider, and understand the needs of disabled people are going to win. The value of the purple pound is huge therefore its common sense that diverse and inclusive brands will have a competitive advantage.

For many employers, brands and marketers thinking about disability can be a new or scary thing. Our agency discovered that 0.06% of adverts have disability represented. Yet 22% of the population is said to have a disability so there is a HUGE amount of work to be done. There’s lots of educational information out there, with disability awareness training readily available. Yet very often excuses get made and nothing happens. And that’s simply not good enough.

Working from home is normal for you, any tips?

Avoid Zoom fatigue! My fiancé and I joined a contemporary choir – its great with cool songs – which due to Covid has now gone online. But I find that after a day of emails, calls, and video conferencing the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a screen again. It’s not easy but go on, challenge yourself to find ways to spend your leisure time away from where you work all day.

Discover more about Martyn Sibley and his work by visiting www.martynsibley.com or connect with him on @martynsibley