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.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

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! https://www.greenflag.com/advice/driving/sunshine

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.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

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?

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Monday, 16 November 2015

What makes you assume others want to hear what you've got to say?

What makes you assume others want to hear what you've got to say?


Those 13 words rocked me back on my heels.

They came from my executive coach Jonathan Bowman-Perks more or less a year ago to the day in our first face-to-face session at his London apartment.

I'd just tried to summarise what I stood for in a couple of sentences.

Ever keen to impress others, particularly those who I look up to, or aspire to be more like, I'd been wittering on for minutes by this point.

[Witter: chatter or babble pointlessly or at unnecessary length - yep that sums it up nicely]

I slowly came to realise that in my eagerness to compete intellectually with someone I'd only just met, I was making the false assumption I needed to prove how smart I was.

It was a key insight that only a coach can lead you towards. Holding up the mirror, allowing you to see yourself from a different perspective.

There have been some other stand outs too, not least that the language I use to describe my strengths all too often manifests itself with an admission of my perceived weaknesses. Namely, I'm not a numbers man. Or in fact worse than that, I'm not commercial.

Without realising it I'd described myself in those terms twice on the phone to Jonathan and now also in person.

He advised me to be very careful with the language I chose to use. A self-fulfilling prophecy that others will only too readily accept if you do yourself.

It's fair to say the Dom before you now is more self assured than the one that Jonathan met a year ago.

As I head towards London for my penultimate session, my coach can take a lot of the plaudits.

Becky my wife asked recently what do you actually do when you see him.

We chat. He asks questions and then listens. Listens harder than anyone else I know. Almost to the point of awkwardness.

But what then spills out takes you by surprise.

The process of reflection is one that many people don't formally get as part of their working routine. I'm lucky that my employer recognises its value.

For me at least it is an essential part of being a successful me.

Who do you have in your world that can help do the same for you?

It's worth seeking them out. And when you meet, be sure to let them speak and be ready to listen to what they say. Really listen. Not just listen to interrupt (another good insight from JBP).

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

When money talks, the writing is on the wall

"Ad dollars always follow eyeballs, and then muck everything up!".

Prophetic words from a colleague of mine on Friday.

Wherever there are lots of eyeballs, advertising money inevitably follows in quick pursuit.

Over time, those same eyeballs get tired of all the noise, and switch to ad free platforms.

TV is a good example.

Free content subsidised by annoying ad breaks, or pay a subscription and watch uninterrupted. Netflix now the norm. Catch up TV the only way to watch ITV or Ch4.

The big debate in digital marketing on ad blocking is a living example of what happens when marketers abuse a channel full of eyeballs.

Flashing banners, click bait, data hungry autoplay videos, too much junk, and not enough funk. All too forgetful of the reason why the audience had gathered there in the first place, and it wasn't to see them.

Move over websites, move in social media platforms.

One billion active users on Facebook alone. The ability to target 'custom audiences'. Match data. Force feed content. Cheaper than display. Better click through rates. No ad blocking here. Native advertising. Yum yum yum.

Or yuk, yuk, yuk.

The very worldly Stuart Bruce prompted my thinking on LinkedIn this morning.

On Wednesday he's speaking at the Global Alliance supported World Conference on Public Relations in Emerging Economies.

His topic is the future of PR including digital and social.

He asked his network from the global PR community for some quotes that he can share with the delegates.

Mine was thus:

"Social media is in danger of simply becoming another dull marketing channel as advertising money flows on mass into every popular platform, and dialogue becomes one way broadcast. Inevitably ad dollars always follow eyeballs, but if PR practitioners don't reclaim social as theirs, the engaged communities they spent years harnessing will gradually depart and seek sanctuary on ad free, subscription based platforms."

In my view social media risks becoming the overly abused banner ad we see today.

Treat it with care marketeers, or risking losing those audiences you crave so much.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Want to grow your audience, it's a fairly simple formula

Bearing in mind the job I do, I really shouldn't be surprised how quickly your audience can grow if you blog every day and invite engagement.

But I am a little surprised that in a week my blog has gone from just under 100 views a day to just under 300.

There are other factors at play of course. I posted earlier in the day yesterday, I included a hashtag for an event that starts next week, and someone in my network who has a large following RT'd a link to my blog. I also tweeted a link four times at regular intervals throughout the day, recognising that my 3000 followers are unlikely to be glued to the platform all day long.

Even so, the basics of growing your audience more or less from scratch hasn't really changed since the start of social media.

You'll have heard me say before that I follow a very simple formula.

• Listen.

• Engage.

• Influence.

All too often people (and brands) start the wrong way round. Desperate to sell us their ideas (or wares), they simply push information at us. Rather than seeking to enter into a dialogue.

The easiest analogy is a conversation in a pub.

Imagine you're sat at a bar waiting for a friend.

Two people next to you are having a chat. You politely listen, and realise they are discussing your favourite topic, ice cream. At the right moment you catch their eye and reveal you make ice cream and are on the hunt for new flavours. You hit it off, and invite them to follow you up the road to your ice cream parlour/pub to try some free samples.

Or, you barge into a pub shouting who wants to buy an ice cream.

The music suddenly stops. Everyone stares at you. Then gets back to talking about what they were talking about before you interrupted them.

In a couple of weeks time I'm doing a talk in Salford to a group of University folk whose job it is to link up with local businesses in order to place graduates in those firms.

I've been asked to demystify social media, and help the audience consider how it can turbo charge their network.

I'm going to start with five simple thoughts:

1. The old rules don’t apply anymore. Whether you like it or not the world is digital. Get over it, join in.

2. Be a connector not a collector. Simply chasing likes, or fans, or hits to your blog at any cost is futile. Micro casting is fine if you connect to the right people.

3. Social media is turbo charged word of mouth. It's not more complicated, so don't make it so.

4. Authenticity is the key, be true to who you are. Be honest, humble, and real. Everyone can sniff out a bullshitter.

5. Be relevant, ask yourself why. Why are you on social media. What is the purpose. What are you trying to achieve.

Simple as that.

I'll share my presentation when it's done so you can let me know what you think.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Working out loud in a large organisation, and why it helps

A lot of people I know through work probably think I'm a little too open.

I am currently blogging every day. In fact, it was always my intention when I started Thought Of The Day four years ago to post something each morning, but like many things in my world, it ran out of steam.

My old boss used to say, 'Dominic the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. Bit harsh perhaps, but fair.

Anyway, back to working out loud.

In the last week I've had two work related conversations that have been informed and influenced by a colleague reading my blog.

Rather than undermining my credibility, or giving away too much of my inner feelings both conversations have helped open up the dialogue in a way that may not have happened naturally.

We're all extremely busy these days.

A colleague who recently rejoined Asda from another retailer having been away for seven years said although it felt like he'd never been away, he does remember actually having time to do things at the other place.

Busy fools we may be, but the pace and workload is unlikely to change significantly any time soon.

Hence making sharing what we are doing, describing what we are thinking and frankly articulating what is annoying us is no bad thing.

Ideally this would be done via an enterprise (internal) social network. But in lieu of that encouraging more people to share what they are up to and what they are doing should be encouraged.

Next week is International Working Out Loud Week, yes, there is such a thing.

I read how some advocates of this open way of working, have a webpage that they update each day which simply shares a version of their to do list.

My version is this thought of the day. I make no claim that it'll change the world, but if it keeps leading to interesting conversations then it is more than worth the effort.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Want to know where the future of social is heading? Look to China

I read a fascinating piece this morning about WeChat* by a product engineer at Medium called Katie Zhu.

Last week she had been on a panel discussion about WeChat's Product Philosophy and Innovation.

The panel included key and founding members of the WeChat product and engineering teams who shared their product insights and data outside of China for the first time.

In a comprehensive write up of the event Katie describes the impact WeChat has had since its inception four years ago.

From a standing start it now has 600m active monthly users and has grown from a chat and messaging app into China’s most impactful and engaged platform for communication, services and payments.

Katie describes how Stephen Wang, a senior PM at WeChat discussed the philosophy of “WeChat Lifestyle” and how they’ve built features to address everyday problems for users. She quotes him as saying:

"We measure growth not by number of users or chat messages, but by how deeply our product is engaged in every aspect of a user’s lifestyle.”

To illustrate this “lifestyle” concept, Wang walked through a typical Chinese user’s day with WeChat and the multiple touchpoints in their daily lives.

Adding: “At every time throughout the day, there is a touchpoint between WeChat and your normal life.”

One element that stood out for me was the concept of lucky money.

Key seasonal events like Chinese New Year typically attract lots of people gifting one another little red envelopes.

[According to Wikipedia, in Chinese and other Asian societies, a red envelope, red packet or hongbao is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions such as weddings, the birth of a baby or graduation.]

The red colour of the envelope symbolises good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. 

Anyway, according to Katie, WeChat digitised this tradition and brought it into their app to 'create a fun, delightful experience of person to person payments'.

She then explained how it works:

'You as a sender select an amount you want to send, total. Then you choose a group of recipients. To make this “fun” and “lucky,” it works like this: they randomly divide up this sum among the people you want to send it to, so one person will get a larger sum than the others. (You can see who “won” each Lucky Money round.)'

Wang is quoted saying:

“We want to make sending money as easy as chat. How do you turn payments into a form of expression?”

The point being here that as we (or should I say I) pontificate on our blogs here in the West about the imminent departure of millennials from Facebook, or the potential for Twitter to monetise (or not) its user base, or whether Snapchat should enable more branded content, there is a whole world out there that is leading the way.

Techcrunch made the point yesterday, whilst reporting Tencent's latest financial results (WeChat's owner).

It noted one of the standout figures wasn’t a financial stat, it was that its messaging services, which obviously include WeChat,  now has 200 million users’ credit cards bound to it, and is one of the services that is inspiring Facebook’s plans for its Messenger business.

Imagine a future world where your interactions with Facebook, Twitter, ebay, Amazon, Apple Pay/PayPal, Messenger, What's App, your favourite games, your fitness app, Skype, text, and emoji stickers are all in the same seamless environment from the minute you wake to the minute you drop off.

Well, as my old boss Nick used to say, it looks like someone got to the future faster than you did.

N.B. If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

*According to Wikipedia WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How do you define social media? And why it matters

I have a bee in my bonnet. Everyone talks about social media as if it is the same thing.

But what does it mean to you?

Is it managing the distribution of content on various channels, or is it community management, navigating an ongoing dialogue with your brand's customers, good, bad and ugly?

It seems to me everyone in a comms facing role now 'does' a bit of social media.

Not in a personal sense, that's a given. Even my mum sends me What's App messages in preference to texts. Skype is her preferred way of staying in touch with her grandkids.

But here's the thing. How often do people in the same organisation or company sit down and agree what the hell it is they are all doing on social media, and why?

I read two things recently that helped in my mind at least make the distinction between deploying content via social channels broadcast fashion, and building a community of engaged customers with whom you have an ongoing conversation.

The latter in my opinion requires a grounding in Public Relations. Or at least a grasp of communication that gives you the ability to flex your style, spot the nuances in conversational language, sniff out sarcasm, plus have the nimbleness to react to opportunities in the moment, and the common sense to shut up and not get drawn into every debate.

Marketers by contrast in my experience often naively follow the buzz of the day, or resort to creating content that mimics the kind of things they see working on any particular social channel. Cat memes on Instagram or quirky videos on YouTube. But to what end? Reach? Engagement? To win an award?

It annoys me when the two very different disciplines are muddled.

Christina Miller a senior channel manager at VML, a global marketing agency, recently wrote:

'Content is king, but content can’t talk back. When someone complains in the comments about a piece of content, community management is there with the antidote. When someone wants more information about a product, community management is there to answer. When someone professes his or her love for your brand, community management is there to thank them and amplify the sentiment.

'Not only is pushing out content without a solid community management strategy like sending an infantry into the fray without air support, it’s also a missed opportunity to “seal the deal.” '

I wrote about her piece previously. And couldn't agree more with her sentiment.

The second piece I read the other day highlighted seven key trends for 2016 (via AnalogFolk).

The first of which is 'renewed social discovery'.

'We’ve gone full circle. When brands first arrived on Facebook and organic reach was high, we spent a huge amount of time and effort on community engagement and interaction. However, as paid media options have grown, and organic reach has shrunk, we’re at risk of only viewing social as a way to pump out content as content.

'With more and more services being delivered through digital, rather than face to face, brands need to work even harder to maintain their humanity. From training customer service teams to being more proactive and helpful, to investing in chat bots that allow customers to easily get their questions answered. 2016 will see brands not just use social, but behave more socially.'

If I'm honest I'm not sure 2016 will see many more brands behave more socially, but those that do are on the road to success.

Those who continue to misuse social channels simply for broadcast purposes risk having a car crash.

And unfortunately most won't even know what hit them.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Struggling for ideas, by M. T. Mind

Me and a few mates have this thing we do from time to time.

Basically you think of a fictitious title of a book by a made up author with a name to match.

It is puerile, childish humour, but it tickles me nonetheless.

For example, on show this morning:

The Perfect Pizza, by Pepe Roni

The Long Walk, by Anita Sitdown

Don't Give Up, by Percy Veer

The Sea Spy, by Perry Scope

And finally,

The Hidden Word, by Anna Gram.

Have a lovely day people. Be sure to smile and if possible laugh out loud.

It's good for the soul (by Mehdi Tation).

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Why do today what you can put off until overmorrow

Are you a procrastinator?

Do you have a long list of things you plan to do today but never quite get round to.

I stumbled across a great new word this morning on Twitter.


To defer until the day after tomorrow; to postpone for a day

I might set up a company called that one day. Not today obviously, that would be mad.

Anyway, if you knew your time was up what would you really want to do?

I read a powerful piece in The Telegraph today about the legend that is Mohammed Ali. The Greatest fighter to ever live.

He is quoted saying: "I believe that when you die and go to heaven God won't ask you what you've done but what you could've done."

Put aside religion, I quite like the sentiment.

What's stopping you doing something you really want to do?

Really stopping you.

Step through the fear my friends. Just feckin do it.

We have a phrase at work, born out of some business theory or other, that you should worry most about the bits you can control.

Worrying about stuff you can only influence a bit, or have no control over is futile. But we all do it.

My brother who works in A&E as a doctor has another more humbling phrase. 'No-one died today did they.'

Work has been tough recently. Really tough. Things haven't all gone to plan. In fact it feels like I've let people down.

I can post rationalise why we are where we are. It mainly involves blaming other people or circumstances out of my control.

But nobody has died.

So today I make this commitment to you, I'm going to do something today that normally I'd put off until overmorrow.

You'll have to come back tomorrow to find out what it was.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Brilliant idea? Or shower of sh*te

What is it about showers and ideas?

Apparently warm water increases the flow of dopamine. So that helps I guess.

It's also relaxing.

And according to Lifehacker when we have a relaxed state of mind, we're more likely to turn attention inwards, and therefore more able to make insightful connections.

So there you go.

You may have guessed I had a shower moment this morning. And I'm desperate to share it with you.

Btw, did I ever tell you I'm the proud owner of Mediocre Ideas dot com?

It is a graveyard of things I've come up with over the years and not done anything with. Or at least it was meant to be.

I have this tendency to want to share my 'best' ideas before they are fully formed.

When I have them they feel like they're earth shatteringly good. Literally going to change the world.

My adrenaline then kicks in.

I can barely get out of the shower quick enough to type the text message, email, or What's App to whomever I think will be most interested in hearing it first.

Of course time after time what happens next is inevitable.

The idea starts to deteriorate.

Like an unstable atom my amazing idea has an extremely short half life*

Halving in impact by the day until eventually being worthy of appearing on aforementioned website.

Which ironically is a mediocre idea itself.

At the time of purchasing the domain for five years, yes five years, I thought I was onto a real winner.

It'll go viral. I'll make a killing.

But then it ran out of steam, or I did, and I simply moved on.

Now you could argue eventually one of my brilliant/mediocre ideas will coincide with a serendipitous moment in time and get a lucky break.

Either that or I'll meet someone who is really good at the next bit. Taking my rough diamond, and creating a gem.

Anyway, today's idea involves disrupting not one, but two industries. Plus a new range of toy products and...

Even as I write it I can feel my confidence waining a little.

Time will tell if today's shower was a moment of brilliance or another washout.

*via Wikipedia: Half-life (t1⁄2) is the amount of time required for the amount of something to fall to half its initial value. The term is very commonly used in nuclear physics to describe how quickly unstable atoms undergo radioactive decay, but it is also used more generally for discussing any type of exponential decay.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Peering into the future

This week's Future Foundation conference in London has unveiled the top trends coming to a world near you. 

It's always fascinating peering into the future, and impossible to argue with the predictions as to some extent those who make them can always claim they weren't wrong, they're simply early.

Anyway, Rebecca Coleman in Marketing Magazine reports today that the top five future trends range from multi-faceted paths to purchase, to hedonistic offsetting and solo living.

The one that caught my eye however was number 3, emojinal intelligence.

According to Future Foundation’s managing director Meabh Quoirin brands have an opportunity to harness the power of real emotion.

She adds: 'No-one can deny that emotional marketing works, but the ways in which brands are getting there is becoming increasingly varied.'

And 'amplifying emotional messages is one way brands can meet the ‘adblockalypse’ head on, on the basis that people are much more willing to share ads and content that makes them feel good.'

It caught my eye partly because today also saw an ad blocker take out a punchy ad in the Financial Times to denounce the internet advertising industry.

Lara O'Reilly, Business Insider's global advertising editor reports that Shine, the Israeli ad blocking company, has placed a provocative print ad in the Financial Times to denounce the US advertising trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The ad features the famous image of Muhammad Ali knocking out Sonny Liston, with the strapline:

"The @iab knew we could block. Now they know we can punch, too."

Both stories highlight the conundrum facing brands in the modern digital environment.

How to reach and engage an audience that leads to meaningful interactions and ultimately a deeper relationship with their brand.

The recent rise in ad blocking is a consequence of advertisers having taken advantage of that relationship in recent years.

It's time to make amends, and quick. Connecting through real emotion may be the answer, but doing that consistently and at scale is no mean feat.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Why community management matters in social

Christina Miller from VML has nailed it on the head in a piece penned for Digiday.

Content is still king, but community management is queen

She argues that brands spend countless hours and dollars creating content that speaks to their target audiences on social media, but while engaging and relevant content is important, it can only take the brand so far.

'Community management is the personal touch. It’s how the brand can show it cares and can create a more intimate relationship with its audience through thoughtful one-on-one interactions.'

She goes on to make the point that brands that truly embrace social understand the importance of customer service, are poised to respond swiftly and with care, but also seize positive endorsement and amplify it quickly.

It reminded me of a deck we pulled together a few years back to explain, initially internally, what social media was all about and why it should matter to everyone at Asda regardless of function or job title.

It's fair to say our strategy evolved over time based on trial and error, and was driven out of PR not marketing.

We learnt as we went.

But on reflection it also became clear that our successful approach was based on a very sound formula.

Listen. Engage. Influence.

I'll never forget being asked to present by our then chief operating officer to the Operations Board.

A group of hard nosed retail operators, who'd all grown up in stores at the real front end of customer service not the virtual world of social media.

There was a hefty degree of cynicism in the room as I entered.

Rather than try and sell the benefits of Facebook, I started with stories of why and how we got involved at first.

Twitter was exploding. A free focus group of customers talking about our brand in real time.

Good, bad and ugly. A true reflection of our reputation, what people say about you when you leave the room.

And an early warning device that enabled the PR team to fix issues before they escalated into a crisis. Countless examples of pricing errors, advertising slip ups, or simply well connected angry customers who we got to quickly and handled well hence negating a potential  PR story.

Twitter alone was helping us stay one step ahead of the media.

If nothing else, the bare minimum now for brands I told them was to listen.

"So it's not just people taking about what they had for their tea?", said one. Precisely.

I still firmly believe you only have the right to engage on positive territory with your customers if you are doing the basics of listening well.

Yet all too often you see glossy marketing campaigns on social media that simply ignore the noise already out there.

Everyone wants to jump to the engage and influence phase without having first mastered the basics.

Social media is, as Christina points out, made for conversations — a way to connect with the people around you.

'Brands won’t be successful if they’re just talking at the audience by pushing out content; they should be talking with the audience through the extension of community management. It humanizes the brand and creates relationships with fans.'

I couldn't agree more.

Christina Miller is a senior channel manager at VML, a global marketing agency.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Letting girls be girls, Barbie dolls included

I'm a dad of two girls. One aged nine the other fast approaching seven.

Even at their tender ages you can hear the occasional worry about how they look.

Am I too thin? Too small? I wish my hair was longer, shorter, darker, lighter.

But how much of this anxiety is driven by a comment at school, and how much is a result of the pressure of growing up in a social media fuelled environment?

After all, my girls are part of the first ever generation to have never known a world without YouTube and Instagram.

Two stories caught my eye this morning.

The first is a rather troubling account from an Australian teenager who has quit social media having created huge followings by posting, as it turns out, fake illustrations of her perfect life.

Essena O'Neill is quoted by the BBC saying:

"I've also spent hours watching perfect girls online, wishing I was them. When I became 'one of them', I still wasn't happy, content or at peace with myself."

Perhaps not surprisingly the glossy exterior covered up a real girl who was experiencing all the usual self doubt and need for reassurance any child needs when growing up.

Hers was self-inflicted to some extent having become addicted to the immediate response and recognition that 250,000 followers gives you.

Contrast that however with another young successful female blogger called Zoe, who openly talks about her anxiety and posts videos without make-up.

Recently Davina McColl made a point of recognising why Zoella (her online persona) was a role model she was proud of.

Quoted in the Standard she explained why.

"Zoella talks about anxiety and she talks about things she’s worried about. She’s such a cute looking girl but she shows herself with no makeup on, and with pimples, and I love her for that because these little girls, my kids, really look up to her and think she’s a great role model.”

The other story that stood out this morning was a new campaign by Mattel for their Barbie doll.

Will Burns, writing in Forbes, outlines how Barbie Dolls have had a brand image problem the last couple decades and an acute sales problem the last few years.

He goes on to say: "The brand image problem relates to the unrealistic body image that a typical Barbie Doll presents to children..."

But makes the important distinction, that 'when we see a child playing with a Barbie Doll it’s not a buxom babe projecting negative influence onto the child. It’s imagination at work, a blank slate, a world of possibilities shaped like a doll.'

In other words it is us as adults projecting our view of what our kids see, not in fact what they are imagining.

The Mattel ad that he then links to is a brilliant piece of storytelling. Combining neatly the real life reactions of adults to kids roleplaying imaginary careers. It's well worth a look.

Will adds: 'the film squarely positions the Barbie Doll as a conduit for the development of a child’s self image. A professor, a veterinarian, a business woman. Not a bimbo, as many adults have been conditioned to believe, but a business woman.

'Because make no mistake. This film is targeted to parents, not kids.'

These two contrasting stories highlight for me the importance of letting kids be kids. Whilst always emphasising positive role models and real life.

I overheard my eldest saying a boy at school said girls can't do x, y, z with a football. Cue her immediately proving him wrong. That's my girl.

Never let anyone tell you what boys or girls can or cannot do. You can do anything you want.

Words I must live by myself in that case, including letting her play with her sister and their ever growing collection of dolls or watch endless Zoella and Alfie videos.

Declared interest: In my day job for Asda I work closely with the talent management company Gleam that represents Zoella and a number of other vloggers.

Friday, 30 October 2015

At another crossroads

I daren't start this blog by saying I'm at a some kind of a crossroads.

I've seemingly been at more crossroads in recent years than Benny and his wooly hat (a cryptic reference unless you are of a certain age).

Anyhow, I'm at a reflection point let's put it that way.

(As a quick aside, as I write this I'm currently sat in Dragon's Den playcentre in Keighley. The incessant pop drivel blaring out of the cheap crackly speakers is hard to ignore. But ignore I must as this blog is itching to get out.)

My dad once told me if you find a job you love son, you'll never work another day in your life.

I thought he was very clever.

And his wise words stayed with me for more than twenty years helping guide many of the career decisions I made.

When he officially retired from Queen's University I got the chance to address him and his fellow boffins.

In a hall reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter I recounted how proud I was of my father and what a privilege it was to do a speech to him and his contemporaries in such prestigious surroundings.

When growing up I'd always judged his cleverness by how much facial hair he and his colleagues had.

All academics back then had beards. Proper wild beards. Not the trendy Shoreditch type you see on the hipsters these days.

I recounted that on one of my dad's work trips to China I'd stumbled across quotes from Confucius.

He'd been telling me how his over enthusiastic hosts had entertained him all day, and he was completely shattered. He'd visited the home of Confucius.

Prompting me to Google said philosopher.

Lo and behold, as we exchanged emails this popped up on Google.

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Confucius Born: 551 BC, died: 479 BC


My dad, a professor of chemical catalysis, who had always jokingly said I'd done a degree in bullshit (public relations) was a professional blagger himself.

Anyway, I digress. Whether it was Confucius or Prof Robbie Burch, the idea of enjoying what you do in your working life is such an important aspect of being happy.

What's more if you are passionate about it, your job can become a vocation in life.

As someone who is not particularly motivated by money, or status, or title, being passionate about what I do is key.

I love to be creative. To try new things out. To take chances on stuff.

A conversation on Twitter this morning reminded me of how I describe innovation

"Spotting an opportunity or a problem that needs 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."

I love doing that.

So as I look forward and consider what I should do next, I am determined to ensure the path I choose has plenty of fun on either side of it.

BTW, if one of my team is reading this and is wondering where I'm off to, don't worry. I'm not going anywhere in a rush.

But as a 41 year old, mid way between starting out at Prudential at 18 all those years ago and retirement at 65 (hopefully) it seems a good moment to pause for thought.

And if all else fails I guess I can go back to my former life as a professional bullshitter eh dad?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

My top tips for a successful career in PR or marketing

It's scary to think about it, but I started my degree 21 years ago.

I was trained in PR, seems a bit funny saying it like that, but it's true.

I went to a former polytechnic, Leeds Metropolitan University, now renamed Leeds Beckett I think. The course as a result was deliberately vocational.

Anyway since graduating in 1998 I've spent the last 17 years in a variety of comms roles at Green Flag, Direct Line and Asda.

The land of the pocket tappers has never been dull.

Having started there back in 2002 initially looking after food and farming, I was lucky enough to take up roles including head of PR and head of social media.

More recently I've overseen marketing innovation, helping explore new revenue opportunities for Asda. That's included leading a team that has built a pipeline of new digital assets to unlock investment from FMCG brands who value having access to Asda's 18m households.

I've also overseen the transformation of Asda.com's adserving capability, which in the coming months will enable Asda to become a credible media publisher.

And I've built Mum's Eye View on YouTube, capturing 11m views since launch in under 18 months.

I was asked by The Drum recently what keeps me awake at night. Truth is very little (other than my six year old), but the work thing I ponder about most in those quiet moments is how brands are going to make the transition from mass market, broadcast media, to targeted, content driven comms, but at the scale they need and crave.  No-one has cracked the nut yet.

In fact for many brands they are yet to embrace digital, let alone understand how to harness it.

The abyss is just round the corner, but by the time they wake up and realise they need to change it could be too late.

It's an old adage but you no longer need a digital strategy, your strategy needs to be fit for the digital age.

If you're reading this and just starting out on your career in PR or marketing, these are my top tips:

1. Never stop being inquisitive.

2. Network, network and network some more.

3. Be healthily paranoid that your assumptions could be wrong.

4. Take a chance once in a while, but be humble when it goes wrong.

5. Learn from your set backs.

6. Find a good mentor.

7. And then coach others in return.

If you've enjoyed this blog post be sure to share it with your network, or like the post on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave a comment below. If you haven't enjoyed it, feel free to say why.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A mum's eye view of YouTube

Eighteen months ago we launched Mums Eye View into the world of YouTube.

It's fair to say we took our time working out how Asda could be more relevant on one of the world's largest social networks.

In fact we'd spent nearly nine years hiding hours of videos on our own Asda channel which had very few subscribers and a similarly low number of viewers.

The conundrum we faced was more than one quarter of our own customers, some four to five million people, told us they visited YouTube every day.

After Facebook it was the most popular social media site for Asda shoppers.

It was also at a time when short form video was exploding across Vine and Instagram. And Facebook was indicating it too was serious about video.

Now, it should go without saying, people follow people on social networks.

Much as brands like Asda like to think it is all about us, actually it is the stories we are part of that truly resonate.

And no more so than if it is one of your close friends telling it, or someone you have an intimate relationship with.

Clearly word of mouth is not a new phenomenon, but in spite of our own relative success getting it right on Facebook, we were struggling to get it right when it came to YouTube.

The lightbulb first flickered when we considered an important question.

As a brand on YouTube should we create video content ourselves, or curate other people's. It puzzled me for weeks if not months trying to figure it out.

A pivot point

Then around two and a bit years ago, thanks to a session at YouTube, we were introduced to an agency called Gleam Futures.

At the time Gleam were based in the basement of another agency's office near Covent Garden.

The meeting was significant and immediately helped change the course of our approach to YouTube entirely.

Gleam, in their own words describe themselves as an agency that 'manages social talent'. They describe social talent as 'individuals who have built considerable audience & influence on social media channels'.

They only manage quality talent who are among the top social creators in the world, dedicated and passionate individuals who are extremely professional in my experience.

Back then I don't mind admitting I had never even heard of Zoella, or Tanya Burr or the SacconneJolys.

Now they are household names, regularly featuring in the weekly glossy magazines, or on ITV's Real Stories, or on Celebrity Great British Bake Off.

Even my nine year old knows who they all are.

Yet, most brands are still at a loss when it comes to harnessing 'social talent', nor do many even recognise how talented vloggers really are. You often hear people bemoan these kids simply videoing themselves on their phones in their bedrooms. Have they even got any qualifications?

Our approach since meeting Gleam has been dramatically different.

We've confidently handed over editorial control to a small number of hugely influential vloggers.

We've resisted the urge to be in the room with them, instead simply providing a simple brief, then letting them do what they do best.

As a result we now know when and how our brand should feature in a YouTube video if at all.

So anyway, here we are two years on, 18 months after launching Mums Eye View, more than nine and a half million views under our belt, and 180,000 subscribers.

According to Social Bakers if Mums Eye View were listed as a retail brand (we are listed in the entertainment category) we'd be in the top ten in the UK based on the numbers of views we've had to date, and number two for total subscribers.

Our latest five-part baking series has notched up just shy of a million views on its own in under six weeks, added 25,000 subscribers in the process, with a click through rate of more than three per cent, but peaking at six per cent on the Monster Jazzies video.

If you search 'baking' on YouTube, two of the top four results are baking videos from our channel. Staggering SEO, considering we've not spent anything on promoting that content.

It feels like we're now approaching a tipping point.

We can now help harness new up and coming talent, giving them access to our 180,000 subscribers on our channel.

But also, we can now open up the channel for relevant brands to get on board and participate too.

That last bit is proving easier to say than do however.

I still find it staggering how entrenched most marketeers are in creating video content that no-one ever sees.

I won't be mean and name them, but there is one at the moment that is paying for a minor celebrity to host a series on their channel alongside a vlogger.

The content is fine. But that's not the point. With no subscribers and therefore no option but to pay for views the engagement is non existent.

Anyway, that's the next challenge I guess. Helping brands integrate with Gleam's social talent in a way that meets their marketing goals, but respects the medium and the content creators.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

48 hours in Cannes

I'm very fortunate in my role that I get the opportunity to go to interesting places on business. Occasionally those interesting places are also bathed in sunshine and are beautiful on the eye.

This past couple of days I've had the privilege to attend Cannes Lions. An event synonymous with advertising creative types, media houses, and more recently ad tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The new kids on the block are no doubt changing the dynamic somewhat.

Buzzword bingo was dominated by phrases like programmatic and viewability.

Panels debated whether the old guard were fraudulently trading ad inventory as they struggle to maintain healthy margins.

Everyone across the sector appears to be doing part of someone else's job now.

For my part I was here to take part in a panel discussion on whether retailers like eBay and Walmart are going to be able to become credible ad publishers in our own right.

In front of a packed audience of 200 people on 'Le Rooftop' (I'll resist the temptation to translate that for you), who to be fair had probably come to see the panel after mine, we debated the power of first party data in determining whether ad spend was effective.

In my mind it highlighted the scale of the disruption still to hit the ad industry. A sector in the UK alone that is £18bn strong.

Retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to optimise FMCG brand dollars in a way not seen before. Effectively saving companies money on their advertising, or more likely, enabling them to spend the same amount but drive sales harder.

And unlike other ad publishers, retailers have a vested interest in the ad spend actually working.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that in spite of the gorgeous setting, the unbeatable weather, and the general loveliness of the French riveria, the calibre of people attracted to the event makes attending worthwhile.

It's the conversations and connections made that add huge value. Be that comparing notes with eBay, or pitching your view of the world to the senior team at Google over lunch.

Meetings that could be set up in more mundane locations but inevitably aren't, enable you to make big leaps forward, and in my case at least, have hardened my resolve to move faster and more aggressively.

And if nothing else you get to pretend at being rich for 48 hours by oggling all the yachts and stopping for a croissant and machiatto at the Georgio Armani café, which as it turns out is remarkably good value.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ritual living

There's something soothing about holiday rituals.

Tea and cake at 4.30 in the afternoon.

Coffee first thing on the veranda.

A glass of something chilled as the sun goes down.

The call to prayer. Albeit not observed by us.

Yet the ritual I'm more accustomed to in the hustle bustle of my working life is the 8.11 to Leeds.

The third carriage along, without fail.

Were a secret spy ever laying in wait for me, deciphering my whereabouts would be child's play.

As humans we are naturally habitual.

But the habits we have slipped into are often far from healthy.

The wocca-mocha-chino on the way into the office.

Checking emails as soon we wake up and just before we go to sleep.

Sharing our every movement on social media (ok, ok, I know... I'm more guilty than most on that point).

With many of our natural rhythms disrupted by modern life, my sense is we are yearning for the rituals of our ancestors.

Where religion previously filled the gap, our ever more secular Western ways have left a void.

Our pagan ancestors worshipped the sun and the moon.

The passing of the seasons and the movement of the galaxies above informed their way of life and their perspective on it I'm sure.

Without today's light pollution all around them, the bleed of our street lamps and neon lights, their connection to the universe, and their relative place within it, must have been more profound.

Stargazing wasn't a mere holiday excursion, but a nightly occurrence.

Here in Morocco, with the stresses of work evaporating by the minute, I'm reminded of a more simple way of life. But also a more centred one.

Travelling is clearly good for my soul it would seem. It is also a quiet reminder of the need to have a healthy balance between work and life.

Morbid as it sounds, the treadmill we're all on leads to one ultimate location in the ground.

I for one am determined to jump off it from time to time.

Unplug the apparatus.

Wander a little more through life, taking detours along the way.

Time to pause. Reflect. Ponder.

Rituals that don't just rely on work work work, followed by wine wine wine, or whine, whine, whine.

Some rituals however are probably more ingrained than others.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A blog from 30,000 feet

The weirdest thing happens to me at altitude. Granted it's normally after a couple of glasses of wine at an odd time of day, but even so.

I get emotional.

Having just watched two British films in quick succession, firstly the one with Sherlock playing the Enigma dude. Then the one about Stephen Hawkin, I feel the need to share.

The latter film had me booing on and off throughout.

A love story underpinned by the tale of one of the most intellectual men on the planet I'd imagine.

It obviously got me thinking.

In part how insignificant I am. Which sounds somewhat melancholy so let's move on.

But more importantly reminded me that my own father went to Oxford. Is an eminent professor of chemistry.

Has a sharp wit. A brilliant mind. Yet my own kids only really know him as granda'.

Worse still, if I'm truly honest I only know him as dad.

What of his true passion. His field of chemical catalysis. His discovery of compounds that have reshaped the motor industry or made farming more sustainable.

It made me think, through the tears I might add, that I owe it to him, and to myself, to get to know my father.

The whole man, not just the one who has cared and nurtured me. Who has got me out of trouble. Had my back. And never ceased to be proud of me.


Another tear left my eye then. Hence the dramatic pause, in my head if not yours.

Reflecting like this in the heady world we occupy is so seldom done.

And more than that, forty year old men like me are not usually accustomed to sharing those inner thoughts that bubble up when feeling emotional.


The genius that solved the enigma took his own life. Aged just 42. A gay man persecuted for his sexuality. Shocking really. A war hero only recently honoured.

The man who wrote a brief history of time was struck down in his prime by motor neurone disease. But still to this day is considered one of the most influential thinkers on the planet.

Both stories tragic and uplifting in equal measure.

Historians estimate the enigma breaker helped shorten the war by two years and hence saved 14m lives.

While Hawkin may have explained both the beginning and the end of the universe.

I on the other hand know how to sob at
30,000 feet and drink wine.

I also know I must seize the moment on my return from the US to spend quality time with my dad. To hear his story so I can pass it on in years to come.

But let me also tell you this.

One thought I hold dear, is that I've been lucky enough in my life to discover happiness.

I'm happy.

Not always, not all of the time.

Not ecstatic. But happy enough. Satisfied with my lot.

And that reality in anyone's book is worth more than anything else in the universe.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Going our separate ways

Today we did that thing where one of us spent the day with one child and the other with the other.

It's a simple thing to do. Makes them feel really special. And allows you to go and have some fun as a twosome.

The activities were decided by each child. I got to go swimming. Becky was treated to a pyjama day and a film snuggled up on the sofa.

Everything is easier when there are only two of you. It's cheaper for a start. Quicker to get out of the house. And you get to spoil them a bit more than usual as there's no sibling moaning or bickering with the other one.

We went swimming in Keighley where there was a slide and everything. Then on to McDonald's in Shipley for a burger (plenty of don't tell mummy moments). Then onto the park for a hot chocolate, via a newsagent for some Tic Tacs. Then as luck would have it Amelie bumped into her mates so got to run around with them too.

It was ace. Such a simple idea. And a lovely change to the usual weekend routine.

If you've got two and you've not done the same I heartedly recommend it.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

San Francisco comes up trumps again

There's something special about San Francisco. Not just the fact it's a lovely city with a winter climate to die for. It's a melting pot of ideas. Full to the brim with smart people who want to make the world a better place.

Sounds a bit worthy that, so I'll qualify it by adding that most of the ones who are successfully making the world a little better are doing so and earning big bucks too.

In four working days my colleague Nick and I have had some brilliant conversations with people who frankly were it not for us working for Walmart wouldn't have spared the time.

But once in their company they couldn't have been more accommodating.

We've had our brains stretched by clever engineers, our ideas entertained by seasoned entrepreneurs, and our vision endorsed by people who have been there, done that, and invented the T-shirt never mind bought it.

It's a huge privilege to get the chance to travel here for work.

But every trip pays back in spades.

Not only does it help calibrate your thinking it also enables you to reflect, connect, and make leaps forward.

I'm really excited by the year ahead. If only half of the things we've discussed this week materialise it's going to be an awesome* year.

*Apologies for using the A word but I've been in California a week now you know :)