23 Jun 2016

Conflicting approaches and shooting from the hip

When I listen I try to hear what’s being said. I aim to be straight talking and I’m told that although I shoot from the hip I do so with a spoonful of sugar.
Did you understand that last sentence? Some may think it refers to a cowboy movie or to Mary Poppins. It’s full of colloquial language that would baffle Google Translate. I edit myself when writing because I know that words are very powerful. Words are strong enough to build or burn bridges, encourage endeavours or crush confidence, intimidate individuals or motivate the masses. Words frequently pour out from our mouths with no thought or imagination, and no awareness of the influence they have. 
Words mean different things to different people. In Wales if someone is ‘lush’ they are very attractive, not fond of a drink. In Scotland ‘not bad’ means pretty good. Words come in all shapes and sizes. There’s ‘big fancy’ words used by those with a broad vocabulary. There’s ‘text speak’ words used by those with little time and an addiction to their mobile, and there’s code words, used by us all, to baffle anyone outside the sector or department we work in.

In situations of conflict it’s blatantly obvious to suggest that we choose our words carefully. But what does that really mean? For the sake of this article let’s imagine that conflict simply refers to a situation where diplomacy is required. For example asking another person to change their behaviour because it impacts on your wellbeing, ability to perform or happiness on some level. An example being the downstairs neighbour who slams the door every time they come home at midnight, waking your finally asleep child. The colleague who always uses the last of the milk, pretends not to notice then puts the empty carton back in the fridge (that would tip anyone over the edge). Your Significant Someone …well you’re probably thinking of something they do that irks you, but for today you’re keeping schtum.

Maybe you’re waiting until there’s a good time to bring the subject up? Maybe you’re planning to keep your gas at a peep whilst subconsciously piling high all the little frustrations…. until you lose the rag and go into meltdown. The mole hill becomes a mountain. You’re angry. They’re caught off guard, offended and angry. 
Words are exchanged, egos are bruised. Barriers are up. 
It’s hard to go back to where you were. Sure, you’re an adult, you can continue to work/ live next door to/ share a bed with this person. You can be professional/ neighbourly / stay crazy in love. You can leave it all behind and move forward with no grudges, no hard feelings, no loss of respect or self-esteem. Of course you can, right? 

Sometimes it's a good idea to take stock, hold the bus a minute and value the weight of our words. Why is a social media consultant writing about this topic? When managing your reputation online it's important to know how to handle situations that have the potential to tip things over the edge. That's right, people who put empty milk cartons back in the fridge and who slam doors at midnight are on social networks too. How are you going to handle them?


Comments always welcome.

Thanks for reading. Annie Boyd is a marketing consultant specialising in social media strategy with extensive experience. Her clients range from large public sector organisations to SME's. She enjoys working with individuals or teams who are open to new ideas and who like to find solutions rather than look at problems. Get in touch if you'd like to have a chat about working together.


10 Jun 2016

10th June 1997. 8902.

 

 Last night I spotted these British Midland stickers on the door of a travel agents in Glasgow. The ‘Airline for Europe’ no longer exists. The design that was new and fresh back then now feels retro and transports me back to the 10th of June 1997. That’s exactly 19 years ago to this very day, and was the day I joined British Midland, my staff number 8902.

 Back then I was a skinny 21 year old, starting my training course at London Heathrow, miles away from the town where I lived in Scotland. The boxer Barry McGuigan sat beside me on the bus from the airport to the hotel. I wore a grey skirt suit and a white blouse. The first person I spoke to was Xavier, who was Spanish and charmingly confused by my accent. I can remember feeling very nervous because in the gallusness of my youth I had applied for the cabin crew role, despite the fact that I was an anxious flyer who was scared of heights. Yet here I was about to become an air hostess, learning how to evacuate an aircraft and shouting ‘Go.Go. Jump and slide!’ whilst throwing myself down the shute. Putting out real fires with a BCF. Administering oxygen and practising CPR. Crawling across the floor in a boiler suit and mask whilst trying to locate a dummy in a smoke filled cabin. I wondered when the glamorous part would kick in.

 Every detail is etched in my memory because it was the beginning of a huge adventure and a career path that lasted 10 years.

   
Working for British Midland opened my eyes to a whole new world. At times I had a lot of responsibility for a young person. I was just 24 the first time I was in charge of a flight. It could be really challenging, particularly the period directly after 9/11 but most of the time I just had a hooley. The laughs we had in the galley, the games we played like ‘Pick A Passenger’or giving the captain words to fit into announcements. The best bit was the banter we had with the regular commuters, I really loved the passengers with all their stories.

It taught me so much about communication, teamwork, managing people but most of all the beauty of diversity. Life is so painfully dull when everyone is the same. Travel expands your mind and working with people from different cultures and backgrounds totally enhanced my life and shaped my thinking.

 My current role still involves meeting lots of new people and fitting into different work cultures and environments but these days my feet are always on the ground, even if my head is sometimes still in the clouds.

 It’s good to be reminded of times when you were brave enough to take a chance on something or someone. It’s good to remember how it feels to be scared and how good it feels to achieve something that challenged you to the point where your heart is thumping in your chest.

Nothing is forever. Today the 21 year old me is telling the 40 year old me to take chances and learn along the way. To spend time with people who have different experiences, to listen more than you talk and most importantly to have a laugh while you’re doing it. I’m going to listen to her, will you?

(Hat tip from a navy gloved hand to my fellow Midlandettes, and to the regular passengers who enjoyed the afternoon teas and sipped champagne served from mini bottles. Respect to the pilots and the crew who shared the early starts, late finishes and the dreaded night Ibiza flights.) 

Thanks for reading. Annie Boyd is a marketing consultant specialising in social media strategy. Her clients range from large public sector organisations to SME's. She enjoys working with individuals or teams who are open to new ideas and who like to look for solutions rather than look at problems! Get in touch if you'd like to have a chat about working together.

2 Feb 2016

Responsibility. Sharing knowledge. Community.


I’d guess that as a child everyone who took your hand to cross the road told you to look left, look right then look again. Your parents, a teacher, the neighbour, your big sister, a friend. So many people knew the safest way to cross and were keen to pass that knowledge on to you, to keep you as safe as possible and limit risk.

In my social media workshops the participants range from teenagers to chief executives, and on occasion high profile individuals with literally tens of thousands of followers. They’ve varying degrees of knowledge, some passed on, some guessed, some gained from trial and error. Frequently they’ve ventured across the road alone, in the dark with no hand to hold.

One workshop focuses on crisis management and how to a) reduce the risk of things going horribly wrong and b) considering and planning your options if it does. For those of you reading this thinking ‘Well, just stay off social media altogether that will solve the problem’ I’d respectively suggest that for many, such as athletes who want sponsorship, digital marketing students who want to find work placements, musicians promoting their gigs, and SME’s with very little marketing budget, social media opens up a world of opportunity.

In the workshop we talk through a handful of real life scenarios where someone has intentionally or unintentionally shared an opinion online, and directly or indirectly targeted an individual, group or brand. The incidents are revealed in stages, with the workshop participants giving opinion on who is right and who is wrong. High profile examples which began with a comment and resulted in global media coverage, court appearances, and in some cases careers and futures ruined.


I play Devil’s Advocate questioning viewpoints and reason. Participants are very quick to lay blame, even with very limited information. We are human after all and our emotions take hold. Typically, only a handful ask for more information before deciding who is at fault. Very few change their mind once the full picture is revealed. High profile individuals (with media training and PR teams) are judged in the same way as a teenager who types something stupid, and is alone when dealing with an angry online mob. Empathy is in short supply regardless of the age and life experience of those in the workshop. The assumption is that those using social networks understand what can happen and deserve what they get regardless of position, mental health and personal circumstance.

I find it fascinating! It makes me question responsibilities and what we can do both as individuals and a community to educate, support and watch out for each other. After all, isn't that what community is all about?

I teach business people about implementing social media policy and educating staff but what I feel really strongly about is protecting young people online. And I’m not just referring to online predators, I’m referring to an awareness of the impact of what they share on the world wide web. Tech savvy and worldly wise are two very different things as I see first-hand in workshops.


Teenagers in one session were shocked when I told them that ‘blocking’ your parents on twitter doesn’t stop them …or anyone else…accessing content if an account settings are not ‘private’. (Sign out of your own account, google the username that has blocked you and voila!) The habit of ‘screen grabbing’ content from a private account and sharing openly also caused a few faces to drain of colour, the modern version of your teenage diary being passed around school. Things which are funny at the time may not be so funny later, especially in relation to cyber bullying, libel, or making a good impression when applying for work experience, a job or further education. This applies to whoever posted first, and everyone who retweeted, liked, commented and shared the offensive photo, video or comment.

What I’m writing here is nothing new and I can’t claim to be an expert on working with young people. I’m simply writing this as an observation based on my recent experiences and from the conversations with my many nieces and nephews and their parents. The message needs repeating and real examples demonstrated to show how easy it can be to land in hot water……and how that can be avoided.

There are some excellent free resources for parents, guardians and anyone working with young adults or children specifically Young Scot, ThinkYouKnowand for younger children NSPCC Net Aware for both practical advice and tips on having conversations around this subject.
Please share these resources because a little knowledge goes a long way and together, as adult users of social networks, we can limit risk and keep those we care about safe.
                       
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Thanks for reading. Annie Boyd is a marketing consultant specialising in social media strategy with extensive experience in the sport sector. Her clients range from large public sector organisations to SME's. She enjoys working with individuals or teams who are open to new ideas and who like to look for solutions rather than look at problems! Get in touch if you'd like to have a chat about working together or find me on LinkedIn.

21 Aug 2015

Periscope - One User's Experience


It’s the weekend, I’m chilling with the papers (real papers, spread out across the table, print smudged on my fingers) when a notification pings on my phone to inform me that Deepak Chopra is livestreaming from New York. I open my Periscope app and BOOM, there he is, the man himself smiling into my screen, the same way my little niece does when she’s face timing me.

I, and 230 other people from around the globe tune in to watch Deepak share some wisdom from a cafĂ© in New York, except it feels like it’s just Deepak and me. For a few minutes he talks to me in his soothing voice and then he’s gone.


On twitter Deepak Chopra has 2.56 MILLION followers so being in an audience of just 230 is pretty exclusive. I feel like I’m experiencing something special, personal even. I’m invigorated by the experience. I want more.

I start searching for other people I think have interesting things to say and discover that on the whole they’re not active….YET. Media channels and big brands such as BBC, The New York Times, ASOS, Estee Lauder and MAC Cosmetics are present. The fashionistas and photographers like Mario Testino, who lead the way when it comes to the power of visual communication, are experimenting with what Periscope can offer. 

It’s a while since I’ve been so excited by the possibilities of a communications tool. Periscope is free and relatively easy to use and literally opens up a whole world of possibilities for zero budget. Broadcasts can only be accessed for up to 24 hours from going live which is perhaps why Periscope feels fresh, different.

Part of me wants to keep shtum about Periscope so I can enjoy access to inspiring, thought provoking people as part of a small audience but the marketer in me is making plans for clients I think could benefit from experimenting with free live-streaming. My head is bursting with ideas and those clients who have already tried it out are enjoying the experience. At this point in time the reach isn’t huge in comparison to more established networks but interaction is high and it’s hitting the desired target audience.

I’m also conscious of the fact that the more mainstream it becomes the more noise and mundane content there will be. Users prone to knee jerk reactions may land in more hot water with Periscope than they do with other social networks but it’s certainly worth considering how it could fit into your marketing strategy.


I imagine that there will be teething problems around copyright and privacy. For example when audience members at conferences and gigs livestream without permission of the speaker or artist .Often content and insight comes with a price tag unless otherwise stated.

Launched in March of this year Periscope is still very new so it makes me uncomfortable when I see people selling themselves as experts on the subject. I’d call them forward thinkers or early adopters because Periscope needs time to grow before any seriously researched insight or experience can be gained. As you can see from the screen grab above there’s not a massive volume of users broadcasting and I’m typing this at 1pm on a Friday.
If you'd like to try out Periscope this Beginners Guide from the Huffington Post will help you get started.

As always, comments welcome.

5 Aug 2015

We Are The Champions, My Friend.

mentoring and personal development

Sitting at Rouken Glen Park last week, sipping coffee and shooting the breeze with one my champions I watched the ducklings splashing around in the pond, learning to swim. The mother duck watched from a distance as her young headed off in different directions, calling them back into line when they began to panic or feel lost.

When working for large organisations there is often a Mother Duck system of procedures and training programmes designed to protect, develop and support staff at each stage of their career. Freelancers, sole traders, one woman shows don’t have that safety net which is why I value and respect my champions so much.

CEO’s and high achievers often join mentor-ship programmes and invest in executive coaching because not only is it tough at the top, it's lonely too. The same applies to those who are bold /crazy enough to set up their own business. Like the BT adverts used to say, it’s good to talk.

I’ve never had a formal mentor but I have been blessed to encounter individuals who were willing to invest their time in me. From different sectors and different walks of life my champions continue to offer knowledge, experience, understanding, a kick up the backside and a sounding board. They cheer me on. They hold me to account. They question my thinking and they champion my success. And all for the price of a cup of coffee.

I trust them completely as they have my best interests at heart. These individuals are straight talking, kind hearted, wise and great company. This article is partly to express my gratitude and to say thank you to Stephen, John, Rob, Margaret, Jonny, Pauline, Tony, champions one and all.

The other reason for this article is to encourage YOU to consider who you could support in their career or business growth. You don't have to make a huge commitment to make a huge difference. Over the years I’ve offered time and support to various business connections because I love their attitude and I believe in them. They never asked for help, I approached them and gave back what was given so generously to me. It isn't necessarily just the young who could benefit. I’m pushing 40 and I imagine that when I’m pushing 70 I’m still going to want to gather opinions and advice because life is about learning, and in learning we grow.

We are all experts in something. We have all benefited from a listening ear, a kind word or a reality check somewhere along the line. We need someone out with our friends and family to believe in us, someone whose opinion is not biased or so close that they can't speak freely without being in the dog house. 

They say that the business world is cut throat and that you need to be tough. At times that is true but you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and if you ask me, the best approach is to be a champion my friend.

***

Thanks for reading. Annie Boyd is a marketing and business consultant specialising in social media strategy. Her clients range from large public sector organisations to SME's. She enjoys working with individuals or teams who are open to new ideas and who like to look for solutions rather than look at problems! Get in touch if you'd like to have a chat about working together find me on LinkedIn.

21 Jul 2015

Mastering The Art Of Patience


Since January I have been intentionally practising the art of patience. I didn’t know this test would come my way and it’s proving an interesting lesson. One I am trying hard to master. It began when someone I respect asked me to be patient. Technically they asked ‘if’ I could be patient and it’s the ironic truth that my initial response was ‘How long for?’

You see patience has never really been my strong point. My approach is to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in, including situations I’d rather avoid because the sooner it’s begun, the sooner it’s done.

Talking with my friends and colleagues it seems I am not alone in my struggle with practising patience. The fact that everyone and their dog is on holiday, going on holiday or just back from holiday is impacting on the speed at which decisions are made. A friend has to wait four weeks for a second interview for her dream job and a business associate has been waiting for six weeks for confirmation of a sponsorship deal which has the potential to put his career into orbit. Like me, the waiting dominates their thoughts. It’s tempting to phone, to email, to nudge but the reality is that time just needs to pass and the only option is to sit tight.

At work a big part of my role is to look, listen, question why, search for alternatives, delve deeper with my questioning and encourage people outside their comfort zone. This involves a large element of trust at the beginning as no-one has all the pieces of the puzzle. Like Daniel waxing cars in the Karate Kid, patience is required as we wait for the experience to unfold. Usually it’s worth it in the end.


It is a tougher challenge to look in the mirror and address your own personal development in life, business or relationships because you can never think like an outsider. You can’t switch off your emotions and be completely analytical if a project, business goal or relationship really matters to you.

There are times when I have failed the patience test miserably and paid the price, an example being when I was having a clearance in preparation for moving house. This involved heaving a large bed frame down three flights of stairs. A patient and sensible approach would have been to wait until I wasn’t home alone and share the workload but no, I was on a mission and wrestled that bad boy down the stairs tout seul. Am I particularly strong? No. Can I be gung ho when I get an idea in my head? Hell, yeah! Old habits crept in and the backache I suffered for the following week was my punishment and another valuable lesson.

What I’ve learnt in the process of trying to master patience (I have a long way to go) is that you need to keep busy. You need to have hope, and you need to believe it will all come together at the right time. In the meantime practise gratitude, it’s a great distraction.


Got any tips? Comments welcome.

14 Jun 2015

6 Tips - How To Deliver A Presentation


In my current role I regularly speak at conferences and carry out training or strategy workshops with teams of adults across the UK. At one point in the randomness that is my career I trained to be a primary school teacher and stood up in front of a classroom full of fidgety, mischievous, easily bored 8 year olds. When I was a trolley dolly I had to ‘present’ the safety demonstration to 195 equally fidgety and easily bored passengers. I’ve presented in plush five star hotels and in porta cabins at the side of Loch Lomond. Once at a conference in the Highlands the door burst open mid presentation and a black Labrador daundered in and joined me on stage. In other words I have enough experience of public speaking to qualify me to write this article.

What I have learned along the way cannot be described as rocket science. It’s pretty basic stuff which can turn death by PowerPoint into a winning pitch.

1) Find out who you are presenting to
This is blatantly obvious, crucial and frequently overlooked. If your presentation is pitched at an advanced level and your audience are beginners then they’ll quickly get lost and distracted. If you are pitching for work and know who the panel are then tailor your content appropriately, a quick search on LinkedIn or twitter and you’ll gain insight into their background and interests. In the past I've asked event organisers to send a short questionnaire to those participating in my workshops and I've based my content and tasks on the responses. Sure, it takes a lot of time and effort but 1) that's what you are being paid for and 2) your audience are potential clients and well worth the investment.

2) Paint pictures and avoid text

If you are accompanying your talk with a presentation then choose bright, bold images or video content which tell the story of what you are talking about rather than listing text descriptions on the screen. If your habit is to show slides with bullet points and read through them then it’s time to get more creative!

3) Involve the Audience
Always involve the audience. I recently presented to teenage girls and started the workshop by getting them all on their feet to learn a simple 20 second ‘confidence boosting’ dance I’d invented. It woke them up and the element of surprise meant I had their attention for the rest of the session. If you are presenting to a large audience get a few volunteers on the stage to take part in a quiz or demonstration and encourage the audience to choose a person to support. Anything with a competitive edge works a treat. If you are time limited then simply ask the audience to get involved by raising their hand or standing up. As the presenter don't hide behind a lectern, move about the stage or room.

4) Spanners In the Works
Technology is brilliant when it works but often at events, even in the swankiest high tech venues, the internet connection or Wi-Fi is rubbish and what you planned to do just won’t work. (Even when you’ve phoned up and checked in advance the reality can be very different.) Have a Plan B which includes carrying a memory stick or being able to download your presentation. Worst case scenario it's back to basics with a flip chart and pen. The show must always go on.



5) It's Okay Not To Know Everything
If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know…..but I’ll find out and let you know.’ You're only human, you can't know everything especially if you work in a field that changes on a daily basis.
 ‘Let’s have a chat at the end’ are magic words if one participant wants to dominate the session with questions that are only relevant to them. Manage this situation so it doesn't detract from what everyone else has come to learn about. Be polite but firm on this point as the organiser expects you to deliver what you promised to deliver without running over time and messing up their schedule. 

6) Connect
Okay, so you’ve delivered your presentation or workshop and you’ve answered all the questions from the audience. What next? There’s a few options depending on your style. Invite people to join you for a chat afterwards, or to connect with you on LinkedIn, twitter or by email. (final slide should have this info in large print). You can provide a physical handout to be collected from the front and leave a pile of business cards if you’re old school, or you can set people a task and ask them to tweet or tag you with their answer. The important thing is to keep in touch, spot opportunities to grow your business or simply make new connections who share a common interest.


Was this useful? Let me know. You’ll find me on LinkedIn and twitter.

Thanks for reading. Annie Boyd is a marketing and business consultant specialising in social media strategy. Her clients range from large public sector organisations to SME's. She enjoys working with individuals or teams who are open to new ideas and who like to look for solutions rather than look at problems! Get in touch if you'd like to have a chat about working together. annie@annieboyd.com