Sunday, 14 November 2010

Devising a digital content strategy

I'm assuming you appreciate the value of digital content because you've read my blog post on dynamic digital content!! So once you've established you need a digital content strategy, there are some key considerations. 

So what do you need to think about before you produce any content?

Who is your audience?

Understanding your audience is absolutely key.  You need to understand who you're trying to reach with your content.  This may be a very general audience: all our customers, for example.  Or it may be very specific: teenagers studying business studies A level.  Before you produce anything think about who you want to communicate with... and think about why?

Why are you producing this content?

So you know who your target audience is, but why do you want to communicate with them?  And I don't just mean: to get them to buy more stuff from us.  If you come from that position, you will struggle to produce anything meaningful.

What is the subject matter?

So you know who you want to reach and you know why, but do you have something to say?  What you produce needs to be relevant and targeted, but it needs to be more than that, it also needs to be one, or all of the following:
  1. Interesting - it sounds pretty obvious, but it's really important that the content you produce is interesting.  If you understand your target audience and know what you want to achieve this will go a long way to making it relevant and hopefully interesting.
  2. New - have you launched a new product, or had a new idea, can you reveal something no-one has said or done before?  Do you have a new take on an old issue or problem?  Is there a breaking news story which is relevant to your company/product/audience?
  3. Useful - if the content you produce isn't interesting or new, then for goodness sake make it useful! 
  4. Funny - this is risky, and you have to make sure you pitch it right.  Sense check your humour with friends and colleagues.
What format?

Does your subject matter warrant a short blog post, a longer article, a press release, starting a discussion on Linkedin, a white paper, a video, an image gallery, a tweet, a Facebook status update or something else? The format may be influenced by where it's best to place the content in order to reach your target audience.

Where is the best place to put the content?

This goes back to your target audience, because who you want to reach will influence where you put the content to reach them.  Remember this might not necessarily be your own website, it may require research to find your target audience and it may take a few attempts to get it right.

A few important things to remember:
  • Once you've put some content out there you can't "get it back".  So if you're producing content on behalf of your company/brand check, check and check again before you unleash it on the world.  Mistakes happen, and there is always a risk that spelling mistakes, typos or grammatical errors will slip through the net.  Minimize the risk of making big mistakes and looking silly, by passing your content by trusted colleagues or friends.
  • Having said that, the best way to learn is by doing.  Sometimes a company can over-analyse things and miss opportunities because they don't react quickly enough.  Practice producing content in a safe environment to start, for example: an internal wiki or a blog/twitter account with very few followers.
Want to know more about devising a digital content strategy? Some recommended reading:

Feature in New Media Age about content strategy
11 steps towards a content strategy from Econsultancy
My blog post with top tips for using social media

Monday, 8 November 2010

Social media guidelines for employees

One of our clients is about to introduce social media guidelines for their employees. I love the word guidelines, it always makes me think of Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, the good one), where Captain Jack Sparrow introduces the pirates code, which he promptly breaks. He then goes on to explain it's not so much a code, it's more like guidelines!?

Social media guidelines: does your company have some? Who wrote them? And what do they say? Let's look at each of these in turn.

Does your company have social media guidelines?

I would argue that whatever business you're in you need social media guidelines. You might assume that your staff would never say anything silly or contentious online, but as one of my colleagues often says "to assume is to make an ass out of you and me" (we're a witty bunch!)  Google's Karen Wickre was recently asked for rules around blogging, and I was amused by her answer: "You've just got to be smart." But what if there's a danger that you might have a couple of people in your business who are not quite so smart? Or the risk that smart people might do something very not smart? That's what social media guidelines are for.

Who wrote your social media guidelines?

Who usually writes the rules in a company?  Often it's the lawyers.  Now that'll work if, like our company, your legal team are well versed with social media.  But what if they're not?  One of the best suggestions I've heard is to crowd source your social media guidelines.  Set-up a wiki or find another forum for you and your colleagues to have their say.  If people help to create the rules they're much more likely to buy into them.

What do they say?

One easy place to start when drawing up social media guidelines is to look at what other firm have done, however, be aware that what is appropriate for one business is not necessarily appropriate for another. For example: one of my colleagues was telling me about her sister who is a nurse and does not have a Facebook account as she doesn't want any pictures of her doing anything silly or drunken online. Yesterday, I saw a tweet with a swear word in it, it was from a digital agency and maybe swearing is the norm there. I've certainly noticed swearing creeping into business more and more, but for many companies swearing over Twitter is not appropriate.

Some social media guidelines to crib ideas from:

BBC social media guidelines
Reuters social media guidelines
Coca-Cola social media principles
Intel social media guidelines
IBM social computing guidelines

Some further blog posts on creating social media guidelines:

List of 40 social media staff guidelines
Seven steps to nailing the perfect social media guidelines from Econsultancy blog
10 must haves for your social media policy from Mashable

Monday, 25 October 2010

Trustability - why it's the key to success

Trustability - up until Thursday last week this was not a word in my vocabulary. Of course I know what trust is, I understand the concept of being trusted, but I had never heard the word trustability.

If it sounds like some sort of made-up American word, that might be because the person I heard use it was Don Pepper, an American. But what is not made up, what is very real and really resonates, is the concept of trustability, or being seen as trusted.

Why is trustability important?

Don believes with the speed that information now travels, the key factor in the success of your business/brand will be trust. Social media, or even the Internet as a whole, is a conversation, and you cannot control a conversation.  All you can do is participate in that conversation, and in order to do that effectively you need trustability.

What are Don Pepper's key requirements for trust?

Intention and competence.  He says: "earning trust often requires short term loss for long term gain." The problem is short-termism rules most companies.

Don gave a great example of his recent experience on Amazon.  He read an article about a book, so being a regular Amazon user with an account, he quickly purchased said book. However, a little warning box popped up and said "you've already purchased this book in past, are you sure you want to buy it again." Don was amazed, here is a company actually turning down a sale because they don't want you to buy the same book twice by accident. It's more important that you trust amazon and keep coming back.  Amazon recognise the importance of earning your long term loyalty.

Where can I find out more?

If like me, the concept of trustability really resonates, you can find out more my clicking on the links below, after all these are Don Pepper's ideas, not mine!


Don Pepper's company: Peppers and Rogers Group
Don Pepper's twitter account
Don Pepper was speaking at the Chartered Institute of Marketing's Annual Meeting.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Updating your company's website

In the past two days, two people have suggested two new pieces of content for our corporate website. One asked for a 'sign up to our newsletter' button. The other wanted a new page to publicise our events. I was able to add both to the website on the day I was asked. I won't say 'quickly and easily' because if you've ever used our content management system you'll know that's a lie. But I added this new content and functionality to the website on the day I was asked and emailed round the team to let them know.

Can you do that with your company website? I don't mean can you personally update it, but do you as an organisation have the ability to update your own website? Is there someone you can ask to add a quick button or page, to update some information, to upload a new image?

I ask because I've been shocked by how many company's don't have that ability. From enormous FTSE 100 companies through to one-man-in-his-garage, we work with a huge spectrum of clients, and so many of them can't make a quick change to their own website.

I have heard it all:
  • The are only four times a year when we can request changes to our website content.
  • Our IT team are based in France/South Africa/India (delete as appropriate) and are super busy/ not very responsive/ take a minimum of 2 weeks to do anything.
  • Our website was originally set up by a company who have gone into liquidation, so we're currently unsure what is going to happen.
But are your customers/members going to understand? Will they think:
 "I can't find what I'm looking for, but perhaps they're only able to update their website four times a year. I'll come back in three months time."

"I heard they were hosting an event, but I can't find anything about it on their website, I'll give them a call and check."

No of course not.

People often compare a website to a shop window. What use is a shop window where you can't change what's on display? If you don't have control of your website content, if you're not able to move quickly and make changes, then how can you expect to have any control on the results?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chris Moyles Rant

So Chris Moyles (Radio 1 Breakfast DJ) has had a rant about not being paid. An understandable, perfectly justifiable rant. I worked in radio for around 10 years and I can imagine any one of the breakfast show presenters i worked with would have had a similar rant, if the same thing had happened to them. There is something about getting up so early in the morning and talking to yourself for 4 hours, that means a rant is never far away.

While everyone else is in bed and it's still dark, you have to be smart, silly, smiley, personable and funny. While everyone else recovers from a hangover, you have to be sober and sensible and on the top of your game. You're not allowed an off day, the listeners and the bosses don't want a breakfast show presenter who is upset, tired or angry.

The breakfast show carries the rest of the radio station. Breakfast has the largest potential audience. A good RAJAR at breakfast can have a positive impact across the rest of the day. The main breakfast presenter carries the show, and can often feel like they're carrying the whole station.

Any number of things risk a rant from the breakfast show host:
  • Arriving at 5am to find someone has eaten your breakfast, which you left in the office the previous day. There are no shops open, you're hungry, how are you going to "perform" without your bowl of cornflakes? Or as Chris Moyles experienced, there is no milk.
  • Discovering that while you were at home yesterday afternoon someone has: rearranged the furniture, broken your chair, borrowed your headphones, changed the order of the bed box on BCX, reconfigured the studio desk (delete as applicable).
  • Being told to play the same highly restricted playlist day after day, trying to ignore the texts of complaint, and the 10 great songs in the chart you're not allowed to play because they're too urban. Or my favourite: you can't play that great song, because it's too new and the listeners won't know it, well how do you expect them to get to know it if I don't play it?
  • Having to cover on air while you're let down by defective equipment, which hasn't been fixed or replaced despite you complaining last week.
  • Presenting a competition that sucks with a rubbish prize, because sponsorship and promotions sold it to the client and you weren't consulted.
  • Coming off air at 10am and realising that nobody in the office has listened to the show. Not the boss, not the sales team, not the mid-morning presenter on after you.
Now, all of these things may seem quite minor in the grand scheme of things but combine with a lack of sleep, an immense amount of pressure and no cornflakes... and you've got a rant on your hands.

So, I understand why Chris Moyles would get upset by something as significant as not being paid. As I said, it's understandable. What I don't understand, what I find surprising and disappointing, what the DJs I worked with would never have done, is to have that rant on air.  Why did he do it? And why he was allowed to?

Want to read more?  Try today's Media Guardian question of the week: What should be done with Chris Moyles?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dynamic Content for a Digital Age Event

If you're a speaker at an event is it arrogant to proclaim it a success? I gave a presentation at a successful event in Glasgow today. Yes, it does seem like I'm blowing my own trumpet a bit. Besides I can't really judge whether it was successful, I enjoyed myself, but what does that matter!

The event, organised by the Press Association, was called Dynamic Content for a Digital Age and was held in a wet and grey Glasgow. Did you know the good folk of Glasgow have a word for the rubbish weather we experienced: dreich. Imagine that, suffering rain, cold and grey so often you require a specific word to describe it. I feel I need to add here, aside from the weather Glasgow is great city. I have two aunts and a cousin who live there and love it; incidentally none of them were in town when I visited, are they trying to tell me something?

My presentation looked at online content, specifically the benefits of dynamic, compelling content. While there are many benefits, I chose to focus on three in particular: search engine optimisation (SEO), thought leadership and social media.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

It's difficult when talking about SEO to know where to pitch it, particularly when talking to a really diverse audience, like the one I was addressing. I gave a very quick overview explaining as best I could about a search engine algorithm and why search engines are so important.  In a nutshell, up to 90% of visitors to your website will have come through a search engine, and Google dominates UK search with anywhere between 77-87% of the market.  There are numerous different factors that will influence your position on the search engine results page (SERPs), and one of those factors is content.

To quote from Google's own search engine optimisation guide: "Create fresh, unique content - New content will not only keep your existing visitor base coming back, but also bring in new visitors.  Offer exclusive content or services - Consider creating a new, useful service that no other site offers. You could also write an original piece of research, break an exciting news story, or leverage your unique user base.”

Thought leadership

My second benefit: thought leadership, is a buzz word I've written about before, read my post on the what, why and how of thought leadership. It's about being seen as the expert in your field, building your brand and building trust and loyalty. Nothing says: I'm an expert and I know what is going on my industry like regularly updated compelling content.

Social media

Ultimately social media is about content, maybe it's just 140 characters worth of content, but it's content all the same. If you regularly update your website with great content, the social media bit will come easily, because you'll have something to say.

Finally we looked at all the different types of content options available:
  • Blogs
  • Press releases
  • Interviews
  • Detailed research
  • Product reviews
  • Useful data/stats
  • Images
  • News
  • Case studies
  • Video
  • How-to guides
  • Top ten lists
  • Forums/User generated content
  • Twitter
And I gave some inspiring or frightening (depending on how you look at it) stats from Google.  They have more than 150 corporate blogs with 10 million readers, and over 80 Google Twitter accounts with 2.3 million followers.

Questions from the audience revolved around where to place content on websites, and the ubiqitous: how do you measure the ROI of social media.  Ah, the elephant in the room whenever anyone talks about social media.  I'll need to write about this specifically in more detail, but right now it's time for bed.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I think I'm going to like working with you...

I met with a prospective client today to talk website content and it was one of those great meetings where you think: "yeah I like you guys!"  Actually, I am lucky enough to like an awful lot of our clients, but here's what this particular prospective client said that I particularly liked in particular:

We want to take social media and search engine optimisation (SEO) seriously, but in a measured way.

You'd be amazed how many people/companies don't want to participate in SEO or social media. They know they ought to, they might even feel they have to, but they often don't want to. And what I find even more surprising, is how few care about measuring the success of their forays into SEO and social media.

We are looking to acquire new customers, engage with the customers we've got and improve retention rates.

Excellent. Now I know what the vision is... I like a vision. A vision is important. It's the old adage: if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you've got there?  It's really useful to know overall what a client wants to achieve. It means we can clearly explain how what we do will fit in with that, it allows us to work with them to achieve their goal and helps us to manage their expectations.

We are driven by analytics, where we can demonstrate success we'll invest further.

Absolutely.  Have some clear objectives in mind, start small, and when you demonstrate the success, look to increase what you're doing.  There are a surprisingly large number of big companies who don't measure their analytics.  Excuses range from:
  • We can't measure our analytics because our website is being host in France/Africa/India (delete as applicable).
  • Our agency doesn't share the figures with us.
  • We've got some figures but we don't really understand them.
Seriously, Government departments, large banks, charities and associations - all not measuring their website analytics.  Don't they want to know where their customers are coming from and how they behave on their website?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Why I LOVE Guide Camp

A couple of weeks ago, I took one week annual leave from work and spent a week volunteering on a Guide camp, with 750 girls and leaders, in Ashdown Forest near East Grinstead. It was a fantastic week and rather than the usual week off, where it's over in the blink of an eye and before you know it you're sat back at your desk, this is one "holiday" that really lasts.

Here are my top reasons to love Guide camp:

Friendships made or reaffirmed

There are so many different volunteers involved in a Guide camp and so many opportunities to make friends. When do you get time to really talk to people and get to know them, you do on Guide camp. And one thing I particularly enjoy is watching the girls make friends, girls can start the week strangers and end up inseparable. They learn that making friends isn't as hard or a scary as they might think, and they grow in confidence. Actually, that goes for the leaders as well as the girls!

Money saved

During a usual week at work you'll spend money on lunches, drinks, meals out and shopping, and even more on a holiday, but on Guide camp there is very little to buy, except from the tuck shop! And there are only so many 2p sweets you can buy.

Things learnt and challenges overcome

Amongst other things...
  • How to say hello and goodbye in Japanese, Estonian and Nigerian.
  • It is possible to drive a 4x4 blindfolded with the help of your friends.
  • How to we take a group picture of all 750 participants?
  • How do we put up a tent with no instructions?
  • The words of Black Eyed Peas "I've got a feeling"
  • Some new dance moves
  • That an olive is a fruit!? (sorry in joke!)
Sleeping under canvas

Being out of doors and on the go all day can be really tiring, so there is nothing nicer than snuggling down into a sleep bag and spending the night in a tent.

Healthy appetite

Being out of doors and on the go all day also gives you a healthy appeite, and goodness do we eat well on Guide camp. Breakfast: eggy bread, beans, bacon, sausages, yoghurt, fruit, coisants and toast. Elevenes: cake. Lunch: salad, tuna, jacket potatoes and cheese, followed by apricot crumble. Fourses: more cake. Dinner: sweet and sour chicken with rice, followed by chocolate sponge pudding and chocolate custard.

Totally switch off from work

The only blackberry you need on Guide camp, is the kind that comes in a crumble. Leave your laptop at home, don't check your email, forget facebook and Twitter - it really is a joy.

Keeps you young

Yes, it can be freaky when you realise just how young some of the girls are, or should it be, how old you actually are?! But actually spending a week, talking and participating in activities with girls between aged 10 and 18 really helps you understand the pressures and joys young people face today.

If Guide camp sounds like fun, get involved...Join Girlguding UK visit: http://www.girlgudinguk.org.uk/

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Wanted: A Panacea

The more I learn about online: about search engine optimisation, about social media, about web design, the more apparent it is that there is no one answer and no quick win.

This was one of themes running through Brighton SEO, which I attended a fortnight ago. Two speakers in particular: Annabel Hodges and Rishi Lakhani both talked about the importance of an integrated strategy which doesn't just involve "traditional Search Engine Optimisation."

Annabel Hodges's presentation: when is an SEO campaign, not an SEO campaign?  And Rishi Lakhani, Search Marketing Consultant: Actually Making SEO Happen... both talked about the importance of a joined up strategy, which explores all the options and delivers a combined holistic approach.

For example: if your company wants to know how to sell more stuff online? There will be a wide variety of potential 'answers'

Improve our website?
Improve our Google rankings?
Increase repeat business?
Engage better with customers and potential customers?
More proactive PR?
Advertise?

Let's look at two of these potential solutions.

1. Improve our website

What exactly does this mean?
The design?
The use-ability?
The content?
The optimisation?
All of the above?
Something else?

2. Engage better with customers and potential customers?

Facebook?
Twitter?
Linkedin?
Blogs?
Investing in customer service?
Video?
All of the above?
Something else?

So who might deliver these solutions?

What can be done in-house?
What expertise do we have?
And just because we can do it, should we do it? Is it the best use of our time?
Who can help us?
What do we need to learn? And how?
Who can we partner with?
Who are the experts? And of course I'm talking about experts, not one expert!

Often we look for a panacea, a quick win, an easy solution... But there isn't one. It is more complicated than that. Which explains why it was standing (or sitting cross legged on the floor) room only at Brighton SEO. Over 100 people from Brighton (and around and about), all able to make a living because there isn't a quick easy solution.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Don't call me a 'social media guru'

At a recent event: Engaging Online Communities, hosted by the Press Association, one of the panel said "beware of anyone who calls themselves a social media guru."  It got a laugh from the other panel members (some of whom I suspect immediately went home and altered their CVs) and the audience.

S
o why is calling yourself a social media guru (even if you know quite a lot about social media), really quite rubbish?
  • Well, for starters calling yourself a guru is pretty arrogant.  According to Princeton University a guru is "recognised leader in some field or of some movement", and you'd have to be pretty big headed to proclaim yourself a social media leader.
  • Social media is all inclusive, it's social (the clue is in the name).  Everyone can get involved and have a go and it's not a place where you necessarily need a guru.  It's much more a case of "learn by doing" than a situation where "experts" teach "beginners".
  • Social media cannot be controlled and it cannot be predicted, and if you find someone who can control it or predict the next big thing, then I think they probably can call themselves a guru.
  • Finally because some self-proclaimed social media gurus have quite a lot to answer for. They can command large salaries by painting social media as a panacea, when it's not.  And pretending they have all the answers, when they don't.  
Still want to call yourself a social media guru....?  If you've not seen it already (it's been around for a while, 167,924 views to be precise) you need to check out this video about a Social Media Guru, it's funny (and rude, swearing warning).

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Engaging Online Communities

A few months ago I went to an event hosted by the Press Association called: Engaging with Online Communities.  One of the most useful things to come out of the event was the panel's thoughts on how to start engaging online, in particular using social media like Twitter.

Whether you're new to social media or a bit of an expert, hopefully you'll find the top tips below useful.  Let me know what you think?  And what you'd add to the list.
  1. Be nice
  2. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to somebody’s face
  3. Try to create a safe space for people to learn that behaviour, an internal wiki or something similar
  4. Never drink and tweet
  5. Support people and review your policies regularly
  6. Talk to people, they will help you
  7. Empower individuals to be individuals within the umbrella of your brand/organisation.
  8. The trick isn’t a trick – be useful, or be helpful or fun. These tools are incredibly powerful, but they are not another way to shout at people.
  9. Talk to people who have already proved themselves as being good at engaging.
  10. Listen and respond
  11. Be honest and be human
  12. Don’t be confrontational
  13. Don’t be scared
  14. Have mechanisms in place so users can flag up any problems.
  15. When dealing with a crisis: listen to what is being said collectively, formalise that into a list of questions and answers, put it online and point people to it.
The panel was made up of Robin Grant from We Are Social, who specialise in helping brands to listen, understand and engage in conversations in social media; Nick Haworth from Yell.com, who looks at new content strategies and how they can aid engagement; Dominic Campbell from FutureGov, who supports the Government's social media and change management strategies; and Chris Condron, Head of Digital Strategy at the Press Association.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Work experience - making it a worth while experience

We have an intern starting today, and lucky thing, he'll be sat opposite me. His imminent arrival has caused a bit of a stir in the office: 

Who is he? Someone's cousin

How long is he going to be here for? 1 month

What is an 'intern'? An American word for work experience?

What jobs that we've been putting off for ages can we get him to do? Loads!

And finally, what does he want to get out of it? Now that is the most important question of them all. You see I have strongly held passionate opinions on work experience, formed over years in commercial radio. If you want to be a broadcast journalist you're going to end up on work experience. It's a compulsory part of the postgraduate qualification, three weeks unpaid towards the end of the course.

Why compulsory? Because you may know how to operate a mini-disk recorder or god forbid a uher (showing my age now!) You may know how to edit a piece of audio, how to read a bulletin (sort of), how to write a script (sort of). But it's not until your work experience, that you understand how all these elements come together and how to do all of these things twice as fast and under pressure. 

Work experience at it's best benefits both the experiencer and the experiencee.  Great work experience lets you try out the dozens of new skills you've learnt at college, it allows you to watch experts, and sometimes if you're really lucky, geniuses at work. It's inspirational, it's fun, it's challenging. It can help you to decide whether the job you think you want, really is the one for you. And sometimes, if you're really gifted and/or really lucky, it results in paid work.

As a news editor I had strict rules about work experience:

They had to be over 18 and they had to demonstrate a real desire to be a broadcast journalist, preference would be given to those on BJTC courses, those volunteering at college/hospital radio. Why? Because we didn't have time to look after school children. But more importantly we wanted passionate people who had specifically chosen our radio station and our profession.

They could join us for three weeks unpaid, but no more. If at the end of those three weeks we wanted them to stay longer, then I would pay them. If at the end of the first week they/or I felt they weren't working out, they would be asked to leave (I only asked someone to leave once in 6 years, and in my defence she was dreadful, we still talk about her!)

They had to have a driving license. By the end of the three weeks a great work experience could be sent all over the county gathering audio. Being able to drive the radio car was essential, especially when I fainted mid-interview and the work experience had to drive me home!?

They had to come in for an interview. We got so many applications for work experience, if they came for an interview it showed commitment and made the first day a lot less scary. I never turned someone down based on an interview, it was just a good way for each of us to understand what we wanted to get out of the experience.

Why did I make them jump through so many hoops?

Because we did work experience so well, we provided such excellent coaching and advice, and spent so much time with our work experience, I had to be sure we weren't wasting our time. That might sound a bit strong, but we really cared and really put time and thought into our work experience programme. Maybe because we all remembered our work experience and knew how significant a good work experience could be.

And a bad work experience?

A bad experience could result in really great people leaving the industry, people without the right skills or attitude doggedly pursuing a career that didn't suit them, and people working for free for far longer than is right or necessary; this is a particular bugbear of mine.  By the end of three weeks a good work experience is another reporter, at some small stations they may even be an additional newsreader. Once they reach that point they must move on to paid work. It is not fair on the individual and it's not fair on freelancers looking to be paid a wage for a days work. As soon as the balance tips and the company is getting more from the work experience than the individual is getting from the experience, you must let them go, or pay them. In radio people would regularly offer to work for free, sometimes for a day, sometimes for a week or even longer. They are desperate to get into the industry and think working for free is a way in. But what they're doing devalues them and their contemporaries. If they are a fully trained, talented broadcast journalist, why would they work for free? They're worth more than that. 

While you're training at college or university get all the quality work experience you can, be clear with the company about what you want to get out of it, as well as what you can offer. But as soon as you're qualified, and it's no longer an experience, you should be paid for the work you're doing.

At the same time we were having this conversation at work, a similar discussion was obviously going on in the offices of Journalism.co.uk.  You can read more about the journalism unpaid intern debate.


What do you think of work experience?  Tell us about work experience that inspired you?  Or your horror stories?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Thought leadership - what, why and how?

Thought leadership is a phrase I have heard with increasingly regularity in my job over the past year or so. My job involves working in the new media bit of an old media company, and I have a client facing role.  This means I listen to, discuss with, and am occasionally praised by or moaned at by lots of different corporates and government departments.  And the phrase thought leadership seems to be the buzz word of the moment.

What is thought leadership?

Thought leadership is about being the authority in your field, or being seen as the authority. It is about raising the profile of a brand (be that a company or an individual). It is about ideas, about information, about staying ahead of the curve.

Why is it important?

The web is competitive and noisy, getting your voice heard and ultimately selling your product can be a challenge. Brands recognise that having a transactional/destination website, which people visit once a year to renew their car insurance, may no longer be enough. Instead brands increasingly understand the importance of building a relationship. If your potential customer views you as trusted, as respected, as a thought leader, they may be more likely to buy something from you.

What are thought leaders doing?

Providing information - whether that is in the form of news, blogs, enewsletters, tweets. Being useful/helpful is a great way to establish your brand as a thought leader. If people know they can come to you for the latest developments in their industry/area of interest and that the information is accurate, perhaps they'll also trust your products?

Listening/engaging - thought leaders listen (it's how they know so much!) and encourage people to get involved. By listening to what clients want, and don't want, thought leaders can innovate and stay ahead of the curve. Rather than broadcasting or preaching, if a brand engages with the public, they may establish a sense of shared ownership from clients.

Some thought leaders, you might be interested in following on Twitter (or reading their blogs):
I'll keep adding to this list... and you can add your own thought leaders below...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Redundant? Not me, I'm off to change the world!

"Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it's because they sat there that they were able to do it." Ryan Bingham - Up In The Air 2009.

Yes, it is possibly the most dreadful film I've ever had the misfortune to sit through... but I've been thinking a lot about that quote from Up In The Air recently, where George Clooney's character Ryan makes people redundant.  What the film is about and the inner workings of the character George Clooney plays doesn't matter, as I said: possibly.the.worst.film.ever.  However, that quote has been haunting me, as so many of my colleagues and friends have been made redundant in the past few weeks.

In general, how are they coping?  Most days, remarkably well.

The stages of redundancy:
  • The bit where you feel really hurt and shocked.  This is the first stage and usually manifests itself in tears and a passionate hatred of management and an often even more intense hatred of human resources.
  • The bit where you feel really hurt and rejected.  What did you do to deserve this? (NB: nothing at all, bad stuff sometimes happens to good people)  Why you specifically?  Why not that moron in human resources?
  • The bit where you feel really hurt and scared.  You're afraid you won't be able to pay your mortgage, credit card bills, or ever eat out again.  You're gob-smacked at how little money you're entitled to.
  • The bit where you feel really hurt and angry.  You were too good for that awful company anyway.  You've always hated your job.  You've always hated your boss.  You've always hated those idiots in human resources.
  • The bit where you stop feeling quite so hurt, shocked, rejected, scared and angry... and realise that this could be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
Years ago a company I worked for underwent a restructuring, code name: double-whamy (why? why? why?) On the day lots and lots of people were made redundant, I caught a colleague crying in the toilet.  "oh god" I said "have they made you redundant too?"
"No" she sobbed "they want me to stay!"

Because sometimes, not always but sometimes, being made redundant isn't the worst thing.  Being asked to stay in a company you don't recognise, minus most of your friends and colleagues, to do a job which has quadrupled in size... sometimes that is the worst thing.

I'm not trying to belittle the stress, the pain and the heartache that redundancy causes.  It is horrible and I would not wish it on anyone.  BUT......

"Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it's because they sat there that they were able to do it."  Everyone I know who has been made redundant, now has that opportunity to change the world.  They might not, they might get another job not dissimilar to the one they were previously doing.  But some of them, most of them, look set to go on to bigger and better things and to quote one of my friends: "redundancy might just be the kick up the bum I need."

If you've been made redundant: the government's website Direct.gov.uk has some useful information about your redundancy rights and even a redundancy calculator.

My redundancy tips:
  • Ask for time-out and ask for support.  You will have lots of meetings with your manager and human resources and it is a lot to take in.  Make sure you ask for plenty of time to consider everything that is being said to you.  And if possible take a supportive colleague (not from your immediate department) or friend (not someone emotionally involved) to the meetings with you; they shouldn't say anything, they are just there to listen and make notes.  Once you've been made redundant ask for support with your CV, with the job hunt, with networking - this is the time where your true friends will show their worth.
  • Don't burn bridges.  It's tempting to tell ex-colleagues and management exactly what you think of them (especially those patronising spanners in human resources) but you may need these people for a reference and I even know people who've been made redundant and then ended up working back at their old company as a freelancer or consultant.
  • Don't take it personally.  Must easier said than done, but try to remember that your role was made redundant and not you personally.  Often these decisions are made on high and your direct line manager won't have wanted to make you redundant at all.  
  • Keep busy.  It's a cliché, but it can make a huge difference.  Make lots of plans: networking events, lunch with friends, exercise, trips to the local internet cafe/library.
  • And don't whatever you do watch any of the following films:
    • Up In The Air - it's about redundancy and it's just as painful.
    • Billy Elliott - lots of miners being made redundant, it might make you cry
    • Watership Down - lots of rabbits dying, it will make you cry
Have you been made redundant?  What is your advice?  Post your top tips below.

Have you watched Up In The Air?  Are you one of the many people who actually liked it?  Can you please explain why below.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Global Radio: has the Heart gone from local commercial radio?

Global, the parent company of your local Heart radio station has announced plans to reduce 33 to 15.  Having worked in commercial radio for 10 years, I felt I had to say something to someone (or no one in the case of this blog!)...

In 1999 I entered the world of commercial radio, after completing a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism. I spent a hugely happy 10 years of my life pretending I was working, when really I was getting paid (not very much) to do something I loved.  I interviewed pop stars, politicians and plethora of inspirational, devastated or crazy members of the public. We laughed a lot, we cried sometimes and we had some incredible opportunities and experiences. I went to Kenya with 800 paratroopers, I watched murderers plead with the public to help find the family member they'd just killed, I broadcast live from outside Harold Shipman's surgery on the night he was convicted, Trinny and Susannah scarred me for life and made great radio when they destroyed what I was wearing on-air. See, I said I loved it, and I really did.  I feel incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful memories, which is why I was so sad to read the about the changes Global will be making.

I am very clear in my head while I type this, that it isn't some bitter rant at Mr Tabour (or any past CEO, and there have been a few!) I hope it doesn't read like one. I am not bitter. I loved my time at what was Capital Radio and then became GCap and then Global. I am sad for my ex-colleagues and friends who've been put at risk of redundancy, for some of them the third time in less than eight years. But I also recognise that many listeners have noticed no discernible difference between what they listened to when I first started broadcasting in 1999 and now.

I notice, of course I do, to me it's so easy to hear.  In 1999 your local radio station broadcast live 24 hours a day 365 days a year, usually from an industrial estate or shopping centre just down the road. Invicta FM (now Heart Kent) broadcast from the John Wilson Business Park, Whitstable, but listeners in Canterbury, Maidstone, Margate and Dover all thought the station was based in their town. 

There was an on-air team of around:

  • 15 DJs, the jocks (known internally as The Talent, to be said with tongue firmly placed in cheek!)
  • A breakfast show producer
  • A station producer
  • Between 6-7 in the news team 
  • Traffic and travel reporters (isn't traffic and travel the same thing?!) 
  • The guy or girl in the plane (yes, there really was someone in a plane) 
  • And numerous work experience wannabes
Now, the breakfast show is local and live and so is drivetime, but everything else is "networked" from London and sometimes pre recorded, and the newsroom has a staff of two. 

Does the listener notice? Can they hear:

  • The telltale pauses coming in and out of ad breaks 
  • The pre-recorded news bulletin which is slightly clipped at the start
  • The presenter who name checks the wrong station or website
  • The dead air at 3am
  • The generic weather bulletin for the entire South coast, recorded on a Friday night to be broadcast across the weekend
  • The local murderer found guilty at 11am, who you won't find out about till the next local news bulletin at 4pm 
  • The pre-recorded show mistakenly broadcast in it's entirety again the next week 
The RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) figures would suggest not. And it is because the listeners don't notice, or don't care, and keep listening, that it makes financial sense for Global to do this.

I don't have some big point to make, I don't blame one person or group of people, industries change and evolve, and that isn't a bad thing. I just wanted to tell you how wonderful local commercial radio was to work in. And what a shame it is that so many fantastically talented and passionate people risk losing the job they love. I can say with confidence and from experience though: the world outside of radio is scary, but it can also be enormously rewarding and occasionally even a little bit fun!  

To read more about the Global changes:

  • The Guardian's John Plunkett wrote an article, complete with lots of comments
  • eRADIO, a weekly newsletter, dedicates their latest version to the changes
  • Some local papers, like the Crawley News, have covered the closure of their local station
If you work in local radio and want to comment below please do, alternatively if you listen to local radio and have or haven't noticed changes please let me know.

Friday, 28 May 2010

ipad - jump onboard!

Around two months ago a friend of mine became one of the first people in the UK to get his hands on ipad (he's what marketers call an early adopter!) I was introduced to the ipad in a Chinese restaurant and it caused quite a stir, customers gathered round, then waiters, then finally chefs were called to come out of the kitchen.


So today when the rest of the country could finally get their hands on an ipad, and it's arrival in the UK inevitably became a topic of conversation in the office, I was keen to share my thoughts. I had barely started my positive review when I was set upon by my colleagues. I was mocked for my enthusiasm and accused of "jumping on the bandwagon" and "believing the marketing hype" (from the marketing manager). But, I protested, I have seen one, I have played with one and I want one. It's not hype, it's me making an informed assessment of the ipad and concluding it is marvellous. Surely it's okay to jump on a bandwagon, if you've seen the circus band perform and you like what you see?


A few years ago I was bought an ipod touch and I am not ashamed to say it changed my life. I commute for over an hour by train every morning and suddenly I had a whole world open to me. Thanks to my ipod touch I am able to watch films and tv shows (I watched The Wire in it's entirety over the course of a very happy few months on the train), I can drown out the coughing in the winter and the sneezing in the summer with a huge array of podcasts, I can even download an app and learn a foreign language (clearly I haven't, but that's not the point, I could if I wanted to).


I believe the ipad will change your life... and I'm not ashamed to say that either. Remember those heavy school bags filled with books? Remember books? Okay, we're a fair way off the death of books at the moment (and maybe some of us will always like to hold a book, do you remember when you used to say that about CDs). But once you've read (or should that be watched and listened to) a book or a magazine on the ipad I hope you'll see why I'm predict a future full of school kids with light bags and ipads.


I'm not saying the ipad is the answer, it's just the beginning. But what an exciting beginning. Don't mock something until you've tried it. When something new comes along make sure you experience it, get to know and understand what it does, and then make an informed decision about whether to "jump on the bandwagon" or not.


And remember colleagues when I told you about Spotify you all said in unison: "what's the point of that", and although you've not admitted you were wrong and I was right, I know what you're listening to right now!


So, if you've jumped on the bandwagon and bought an ipad, below are a few of my favourite apps:
 
The Elements - what a shame this didn't exist when I was studying struggling with A level Chemistry
Marvel Comics - calling all fans of graphic novels (that's what adults call comics don't you know), let the ipad take you through your comic graphic novel, you can even zoom in when you get to a good bit!
Air Hockey - Just like playing the real thing in the arcades in Cleethorpes in 1988, except better because you're not in Cleethorpes.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Online Stalking

Have you ever participated in a spot of online stalking?  I know you have, because we all have.  You're due to meet someone you've never met before, a future business contact, a friend of a friend, an Internet date... so you search for them online and see what happens.  And what happens depends on a couple of factors.

What's in a name?

The potential stalkee's name is the single most important factor in online stalking.  Take my name - it happens to be an incredibly popular name.  Every third female seems to have the same first name as me, and I've met two people with the exact same first and surname as me.  What was my Dad thinking giving me such a common name!?  There is even a very popular jazz singer with the same name.  All this means finding me online is tricky, I have the pleasure of relative online anonymity.. and yes it is a pleasure.

Your online past

The second most important factor on the online stalking, is what information existing about you online.  Do you have a Facebook account, a Linkedin page, are you on Twitter?  If you are then, the amount of potential stalker-fodder increases.  Have you ever been interviewed by a newspaper or magazine?  Have you ever been filmed or photographed?  If you've not searched for yourself online yet give it go, you may be quite surprised by what you find.

Online exists forever

Online stalking is made easy because once something exists online, it exists forever.  Previously the interview in the Slough Observer about your forth-coming Girl Guide trip to Borneo  was only read by your Mum and your Nan.  If the same happens to a child now, that article will no longer be relegated to a dusty shoebox under the bed; it will exist in the bright shiny online world forever more.

Online stalking is fun

Yes, for the most part it is.  And it can be incredibly useful, finding a picture of a person you're due to meet for the first time can help you find them at a crowded conference.  However, I would recommend everyone have a think about how they come across online and what information exists out there about you.  As I've alluded to, I'm from that lucky generation for whom the Internet didn't really exist at school or University (alert: sounding old now).  I say lucky because all the embarrassing moments in my past (and there are many), only exist in my (hazy) memory and not in the infinite, searchable, cyber memory, that is the Internet.  For teenagers nowadays, singing on Myspace, drunk on Facebook, performing school plays on Youtube, the potential for online stalking is massive.  Not to mention all the babies whose loving parents have posted pictures of them naked all over the Internet, they're not going to thank you for that when they grow up!

What happens when you search for yourself online?  Ever stalked someone online and found more than you bargained for!?