17 Mar 2017

Just say no!

Ennnn. Ooooh.
No thank you.
Not for me but thanks anyway.
That’s kind of you to offer but we’ve got it covered.

Why do professional people ignore offers of help? FREE help. Is their ego getting in the way? Are they threatened by an outsider’s opinion? Is it more hassle than it’s worth? Are they worried about causing offence by saying No?

Perhaps they think the free advice is worthless. There’s a thought to ponder.

Whatever the reason, ignoring the offer has to be one of the rudest inaction's a person, start-up, business or charity can do. I notice it more and more. People asking for things - money, donations, a contribution of sorts for something (and positioned as a benefit to me) that doesn't relate in any way to my business. Often I reply 'No, not for me but good luck' but if I like the person or the cause I try to find a way to help.

I consider what I am willing to give and what skills I have to offer.

I consider my language and tone when crafting the response and offer something that I think will be of value. A free marketing workshop, help moving boxes, an extra body on the day of the event, an introduction to someone who could make a difference. Mostly people accept and we get to work. Over the years our paths cross and we both enjoy a professional relationship, sometimes we even become pals.

Occasionally people ignore the offer, then contact me down the line with another request for money, a donation or wanting to take up the original offer (particularly the introduction to someone important) that they didn't have the manners to acknowledge the first time around.

And that's not cool. It's not okay.

Your network is the most valuable asset you have in business. Nurture it. Grow it. Invest time in it because there will be occasions when you need support, to be held accountable, a second opinion, a boot up the backside or a confidence boost and your network will only be there to lean on if you've not taken them for granted. Beyond the business value of your network there's that basic human decency of treating others in the manner you'd like to be treated.

It takes a tiny, tiny, tiny amount of time to return a call, or to write an email and say ‘I really appreciate the offer but we’ve got that covered / things are too hectic just now to take you up on that / someone else has offered to do that for us…...

Show a little respect. Other people’s time is as valuable as yours.

I’m a firm believer in the Pay It Forward movement. I’m also a fully signed up member of the ‘I’m No Pushover’ brigade...hence the reason for this 'roar'.

Too tough?

No, just the truth. Honest communication, I’m all for it.

Comments always welcome.
(Apologies to those of you who are now singing Grange Hills ‘just say no’ anthem.)

13 Mar 2017

Mistaken Identity

Walking towards the doorway I raised my hand to wave at the male figure standing waiting and sheltering from the rain. As I got closer I realised that the man wasn’t my business lunch companion but a complete stranger. Before I could blink the stranger was shaking my hand and pulling me closer to kiss my cheek. ‘Lovely to meet you, hope you found it ok?’ He enquired.

Slightly puzzled, but mostly amused, I inhaled his aftershave and explained that I wasn’t the lady he was waiting for. I had a fair idea what scenario was about to play in front of my eyes. The stranger nervously told me he was waiting for a date with a lady he’d been talking to online. Fast forward a few moments and a petite woman with short dark hair and trendy glasses arrived and off they trotted into the restaurant. I’m still giggling at this encounter, especially as I’m tall and blonde and spectacle free.

Earlier this month in a less amusing case of mistaken identity I was confronted by a disgruntled woman in a work environment. She was angry. We had an audience and her voice was loud. I didn’t recognise her and couldn’t get to grips with why this person I’d never met was so annoyed with me. Caught off guard it was tempting to reply in the same tone and give her it back both barrels but I opted for the professional option.

Lowering my voice, I asked open questions and tried to defuse the situation. The outcome? Irate Woman thought I was someone else. She disappeared as quickly as she arrived and no, no apology was offered for the embarrassment caused.

Humour me.

Take these two scenarios and transfer the conversations online to the accounts that represent your business or organisation.

Imagine your business followers, customers, colleagues, investors or board members watching the action unfold on social media, throwing their tuppence in with a comment or a retweet or a share. Hijacking your hashtag. Recording or live streaming from their phones so their network can join in. Generating attention, lots and lots of attention.

What’s your master plan? Are you ready to capitalise on the opportunity if the reaction is positive? Are you prepared to handle negative encounters? What’s best practice? How is your message being interpreted? Is a knee jerk reaction a possibility? How’s your social media policy shaping up? How can you find out if you're 'talking' to the right audience? Have you overdone the aftershave? Geezo, are you dizzy yet?

I do this for a living, I enjoy figuring out the pieces of the puzzle. I'm fascinated by people and how we communicate. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like help in unraveling the ever changing world of social media marketing. Let’s have a chat over coffee, we can wear name badges…. in case these mishaps come in threes.

Comments always welcome.

20 Feb 2017

The Stories In My Mind

Like a spiral in a spiral or a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning…..instead of windmills in my mind there is an abundance of endless stories, whirring around and around, half typed and stored on my laptop in a folder entitled ‘Half Written Blogs’.

January has passed in a blur and it’s now midway through February. At some point last year I was supposed to have finished writing a book. A deadline I had set myself. I have the outline of the story and the characters. I’ve had brilliant advice from a couple of authors and fate put me in front of publishers and ‘people in the know’. But I wasn’t ready, it wasn’t finished, pfffft it was hardly started and now it’s lying dormant. Yes. I’m annoyed at myself.

I spend a lot of time writing for other people, a task which I really enjoy. Short articles, blogs, copy for marketing. It’s interesting work and it makes me an asset at the pub quiz because of random facts I learn when researching each piece. But what I really, really love is writing for myself. Yet I haven’t made room for it in my life. Meeting deadlines, paying the bills, time for others or old fashioned procrastinating always takes priority. (You may recognise this scenario.)

There is so much I want to write about. Generally. From St Paul and the Broken Bones to Madeleine Peyroux. Applying for a new passport and looking back at the previous ones to see the aging process in slow motion. Joan Eardley paintings. Tenement flats. The heartbreak of Dementia. Roundabouts and crazy drivers. Miscommunication. Old people dying alone. Work etiquette. Impressive people with good intentions. Vulnerability. Rage at politics and travel bans. Racism. Our naked neighbours. Strangers on planes.

The half written blogs folder is pretty full.

Now at 6pm on a Friday I’m determined to finish and publish this article because another week has passed and I have to – want to - write something for me. I refuse to log off until it's done. Perhaps someone reading this will say ‘Me too Annie! I’d really like to be doing This or That’. Maybe you could nudge me in a month and I nudge you back? Commitment without excuses. ‘Don’t disappoint me, stick to the plan’. You know the drill. It's easier with an acquaintance, loved ones let you wriggle out of it with excuses. 

I know everyone wants to write a book, or nearly everyone. We all carry around stories, the fun and frivolous ones that are easy to tell or the painful kind, hidden with the skeletons in our closet. Stories spark ideas and discussion and in sharing, I truly believe they help others. 

My book, if interested, is unlikely to help others. It's a murder. Blood, deception and greed. On a bookshelf near you, one day soon. Hopefully.

Comments always welcome.

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.
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.