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.