Friday 17 June 2016

Great Britons captured in black and white retell a story that must not be forgotten

Last night I was privileged to attend the official launch of Syd Shelton's Rock Against Racism exhibition in Bradford.

For those that don't know, Rock Against Racism was a groundbreaking movement in the mid 1970s formed by musicians and political activists to fight racism through music.

Syd Shelton’s striking black and white images capture a pivotal moment in British politics and culture, fashion and music.
As the exhibition notes state, 'legendary performers including The Clash, Sham 69, Misty in Roots, Aswad, Pete Townshend of The Who, X Ray Spex, Elvis Costello, Tom Robinson, and The Specials were captured by Shelton in gigs and towns across the UK.

Rock Against Racism (RAR) grew out of the xenophobia of the UK in the late 1970s. Right-wing politician Enoch Powell was stirring up racial hatred, and the fascist political party The National Front was gaining support.

It was a different time, racial discrimination was rife, and the split was very obviously between black and white.

Terms like 'Wogs' and 'Pakis' were openly used, and violent unprovoked attacks were commonplace.

Sounds horrific doesn't it?

Hard to believe our country could be so horrible only a generation ago.

But what sparked the RAR movement rocked my world yesterday even more.

As Tom Robinson, special guest at the opening last night explained, "Rock Against Racism came in response to Eric Clapton’s bigoted racist rant at a concert in Birmingham in 1976, when he urged his audience to ‘get the foreigners out’ and ‘keep Britain white’."

Tom recited Clapton's hateful drunk diatribe in full to the gathered audience. It was truly shocking to hear.

Clapton, a highly regarded musician, one of the best guitarists of his generation, made famous for his covers of black music like Bob Marley's 'I Shot the Sheriff' had not only uttered those vile incendiary words in the late 70s, but has reportedly also never once sought to apologise for them.

The shock of being 41 years old and ignorant to that fact, at a time when a local Yorkshire MP is viciously attacked and apparently killed for reasons of hate, and just days before the nation votes on whether it wants to be an inclusive welcoming society or one that seeks to close its doors, turn its shoulder, and look the other way, reminded me of the power of imagery, art and music.

Evocative images can help to change society and break down prejudices.

As an industry though, where is our version of Saatchi's famous racist brain?

As brands are we doing everything we can to celebrate diversity?

Under the slogan ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’, Rock Against Racism staged marches, festivals, and over 500 concerts throughout the UK. They brought together artists and audiences of different race, mixing musical styles and youth tribes – rudeboy and skinhead, punk and reggae, two-tone and ska.
Shelton says, "I hope the exhibition shows that you can change things and you can actually take a stand, even in the most difficult of situations."

He's not wrong.

Important stories should never tire of being told. Particularly ones that point out our similarities not just our differences. 

After all, we're all descendants of immigrants aren't we. Every single one of us. 

Our ancestors moved, they wandered, they resettled, they integrated.
They sometimes conquered, they invaded. They even enslaved ffs.
And now we dare to look down on others.

The only difference between 'us' and 'them' is when we choose to close the door.

Think on 'Great' Britons. Think on.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

I have some exciting news to share

The Drum has kindly agreed to host my thought of the day blog, meaning I'm mothballing this blogger platform for the foreseeable future.

It's a privilege to get the opportunity to share my musings with a larger audience. And hopefully I'll get into a few interesting debates in the weeks ahead.

Monday 23 November 2015

I've fallen off the wagon

I've fallen off the blogging wagon.

I was determined to blog every day, and hence live up to the title of my blog: my thought of the day.

Over the weekend I took a well needed break.

Occasionally I need to check out. Leave social media alone for a while. It's sometimes best to wallow in my self pity / hangover alone, without the need to set the world straight or share my inner most thoughts.

I have no such excuses this morning, so I have forced myself to put pen to paper to see what pops out.

It's a strange thing writing your thoughts down as they fall out of your head.

You literally don't know what will come out.

But I find it's a good discipline to get into.

A friend of mine has taken to blogging his thoughts but not sharing them with the wider world. A digital diary rather than a blog perhaps. But the process of distilling thoughts and reflecting on them is no less powerful in spite of not having an audience.

And getting used to having an audience does lead to some odd behaviour.

It's very hard not to check the Google dashboard throughout the day to see how many hits the blog has had.

It can be disappointing even if the numbers are low for no apparent reason.

Strange thoughts manifest themselves inside my head. 'Why didn't they like it? Was it something I said?'.

But who are the 'they' I refer to? And does it matter if only a few people read my daily diatribe?

Of course the answer is no. The numbers are mere vanity. Microcasting is perfectly acceptable.

So, as I round off today's musings, I thank you for reading these words.

I've ticked off another day.

Same time, same place tomorrow? Oh go on then.

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Friday 20 November 2015

Three out of four surveys are made up, fact

I love a good survey. Not least because when I started out in PR 17 years ago it was the easiest way to get coverage for what was otherwise a really boring topic like breakdown insurance.

My favourite was a survey of what people keep in their glovebox.

Sunglasses are an essential item for driving in the winter sun don't you know?

Hilariously I just checked and the Green Flag team are still issuing drivers with the same important information!

Anyway, I digress.

Ofcom has published an interesting report claiming children are becoming more trusting of what they see online, but sometimes lack the understanding to decide whether it is true or impartial.

Ofcom's Children and Parents: Media and Attitudes report, published today, reveals children aged 8-15 are spending more than twice as much time online as they did a decade ago, reaching over 15 hours each week in 2015.

But apparently nearly one in ten (8%) of all children aged 8-15 who go online believe information from social media websites or apps is “all true” - doubling from 4% in 2014.

Now, let's just pause there. Eight per cent is one in 12, not one in ten. It's probably fair to say eight per cent of social content is all true, so they are right. Or 92% of kids are smart enough to query whether what they see or read is right.


Next part.

'Children are increasingly turning to YouTube for “true and accurate” information about what's going on in the world. The video sharing site is the preferred choice for this kind of information among nearly one in ten (8%) online children, up from just 3% in 2014.'

Nowt wrong there then. Other than eight per cent isn't one in ten.

'But only half of 12-15s (52%) who watch YouTube are aware that advertising is the main source of funding on the site...'.

So, I wonder if 12-15s who watch iPlayer know their parents pay a licence fee? Not challenging the point, just would be interested to see whether half don't care, hence don't know, not don't know as in are ignorant of the fact.

'...and less than half (47%) are aware that 'vloggers' (video bloggers) can be paid to endorse products or services.'

A slightly more contentious point, so I'll navigate carefully.

But, not all vloggers are paid, and of those that are only a small fraction of their content is paid for advertising. Hence perhaps not an altogether surprising point. In fact half know you can earn a living being a YouTuber. Wow. Smart kids.

James Thickett, Ofcom's Director of Research, said: "The internet allows children to learn, discover different points of view and stay connected with friends and family. But these digital natives still need help to develop the know-how they need to navigate the online world."

No-one can argue with that sentiment, in fact I blogged something similar yesterday.

But did you also know three out of four surveys are nonsense? True that.

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Thursday 19 November 2015

Should we have a mild panic about our kids watching YouTube? Or is it alright?

So the tweet that caught my eye this morning was a link to Stuart Dredge's piece 'YouTube is the new children’s TV – here’s why that matters'.

He goes on to raise all the usual middle class concerns of allowing your kids to raise themselves by quietly watching TV on their tablets in the corner of the room while you go about your business.

He poses a series of questions:

• Is YouTube in the driving seat, or its young viewers?

• Should parents use YouTube as a ‘digital babysitter’?

• How comfortable are we with advertising to children?

• How much tracking is too much tracking?

• Is the new children’s TV actually any good?

I find my own kids' consumption of TV fascinating. And by TV I mean televisual content, moving digital images accompanied by audio.

They understand the difference between watching normal telly, Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube or their favourite DVD.

They love YouTube as 'that's the only place you can watch a video by Alfie and Zoe', but also don't mind seeing adverts on Disney's channel on the Virgin Media cable box 'as long as they are for things they can add to their birthday or Christmas list'. Not bothered about toothpaste ads in case you wondered.

They like Netflix 'lots of choices', BBC iPlayer is 'good for certain programmes', YouTube also good for 'Horrid Henry'.

I expected them to be more vocal about why they enjoy having the ability to pause and record live TV, but the reasons they gave were more predictable, 'so we don't miss anything'. I'd wrongly assumed it was so they could fast forward ads (like me).

Ads on YouTube weren't a problem, 'you can skip them after 3 seconds'.

What's your favourite? Orlaigh, 6, 'Netflix and YouTube'. Amelie, 9, 'Depends, I like watching the TV when the presenter says after one programme what's coming up next on CBBC. That's good.'

So, am I a bad parent? Both kids have access to the Internet on their own Android tablets. One is logged in as me, the other as Becky my wife.

In-app purchases are blocked. Any emails are seen by me, neither are allowed a social media presence or access to messaging services in games or via apps. Both are allowed to watch a small group of pre-agreed YouTubers who I've personally approved (and met in real life via my job).

However they don't watch YouTube via YouTube Kids. So are exposed to the comments section, but 'don't read them in case there are rude words' according to Amelie.

Nine times out of ten I'm in the same room as them and can hear whether they are watching an American dance group soap or one of the seemingly endless mermaid series. We do allow them to watch movies in their bedrooms when having sleepovers.

Am I worried about YouTube? No, and yes. Deliberately that way round.

YouTube is brilliant, endless, on demand, fun.

But, it is also social.

Kids below 13, and many above, don't yet have the emotional intelligence to adequately handle comments and discussion of a virtual nature.

I don't really think of YouTuber as a separate thing.

I think of the televisual content my kids consume appearing on their tablets or the telly in the lounge.

The distinction in their eyes is obvious. Where it differs if format or programming to them is also fairly irrelevant.

If I'm watching the news or a footy match on the telly, they'll switch to their tablets.

If they want to lie in on a weekend and watch Richie Rich on Netflix while I surf Twitter, superb.

In years to come will they all merge even further into an amorphous mass? Probably.

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Tuesday 17 November 2015

Want to be innovative, speaking English helps

I read an interesting piece on HBR this morning which highlighted how countries with high proficiency in English language are more innovative.

The report is quick to point out that of course, correlation does not equal causation.

'It’s important to remember that English proficiency and metrics of innovation are both correlated with other measurements of economic and social strength, such as the Human Development Index.'

However, it adds: 'When we think of innovation, we tend to think of smart, technically trained people sitting in a room coming up with game-changing ideas. But innovation is just as much a function of connections—of a person’s or team’s ability to access global information networks and work alongside others with relevant skills.'

David Cushman on Twitter responded to my tweet on the point, adding it is 'basic group forming network theory. One extra node on a network doubles its value.'

Previously when I've been asked about innovation I've described how it comes from spotting an opportunity and seizing the moment, gathering support, and being lucky.

At the time I had thought innovation was all about spotting a problem that needed solving, having an idea, giving it a try, measuring if it worked, if it did crack on, if it didn't what did you learn. Repeat.

But I hadn't really considered the importance of your ability to connect that idea, or strength test it vs other ideas already out there.

Being English helps. Or should I say being able to communicate in English helps.

HBR adds there are some clear reasons why countries with strong English proficiency tend to thrive in the innovation sector.

'English skills allow innovators to read primary scientific research, form international collaborations, bring in talent from overseas, and participate in conferences. English proficiency expands the number of possible connections innovators can make with the ideas and people they need to generate original work.'

I'm lucky to have English as a first language, privileged really. It's about time I appreciated that and was more conscious of the advantage it offers innovators like myself*.

*Describing yourself as an innovator sounds like a massive humble brag. I qualify it only as a badge others have labeled me with. I was chuffed to be recognised by The Holmes Report as one of their top 25 innovators in the EMEA region.

They describe the list as follows:

'Our first Innovator 25 class in EMEA takes a glimpse at our industry’s future, shining the light on those individuals who are shaping what influence and engagement will look like tomorrow. The people recognised here come from various corners of the industry — creative strategy, digital execution, influencer mapping, storytelling — but together they represent a compelling picture of what marketing and communications represents in the modern era.'

So there. Brag over.

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Knowledge may be power, but sharing it is more powerful

I saw a tweet about an infographic this morning that got me thinking.

Knowledge may be power, but sharing it is even more powerful

OK a play on words. But I like the sentiment.

Yesterday I openly blogged about my coaching sessions with JBP.

On the back of it someone contacted me to say they'd like an intro as he sounded right up their street.

Call it PR, or the power of social media, but a simple post shared with my network has added value to others instantly.

Inspired a few people to take action.

Encouraged a few more to reflect on their circumstances.

And potentially given my coach more business which adds value to him, and will pay back for me too no doubt in goodwill.

Contrast that to only me knowing what I've learnt from my coach. That knowledge alone isn't real power, but sharing that knowledge with others is powerful.

One to ponder.

What do you know that you can openly share with others?

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