Blog

10 things I love about you

the-ledge

My friend told me a story about an acquaintance sending a list to someone during an argument entitled ’10 things I hate about you’.

Three things came to mind,  I was reminded of the incredible film of the same name with Heath Ledger in it (he went too soon), how horrible it would be to receive that letter, and on what planet do you do that? Even if you thought it, don’t send it. Words as weapons alert.

It stuck with me the entire day and I decided to flip it and sent her a ’10 things I love about you’ text and realised it was not only a lovely process, recalling memories and really thinking about that person, but it’s a nice thing to do. She was chuffed and said it made her day.

Similarly, to my blog about the Power of Testimonial, it’s a reminder to be nice to others, find the good and I actually think it’s good to do with yourself so in the name of self esteem boosts I’m going to have a go and try not to cringe throughout the entire process.

I could write 100 things I hate about myself but why be that negative? Here we go:

  1. I am loyal to the bitter end, if you’re in my pack I will lioness for you
  2. My hair – thanks to Slunks, I’m living my dream as the flame emoji/ budget Ginger Spice
  3. I say hello to animals alot, cats on the road, dogs in the park, they all get a hello
  4. Dancing, I dance for joy, in my pants at home, in the club (ha ha ha rarely) in the street, it makes me feel good so I do it
  5. I care, a blessing and a curse for me but I do, deeply, passionately and honestly
  6. Laughing – I like cackling and giggling in equal measure and do it alot
  7. Photos are a thing for me – my friends and family groan but I take a lot of photos and yeh I Instagram them…
  8. I swim upstream, I rarely do something I really don’t want to, time is important and I try and do things that make me happy
  9. Admitting my faults – It takes bravery and strength to really look at yourself and recognise the crappier bits and I do that and am willing to work on them
  10. I am different, this is the hardest thing to love about myself but I do
Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

Let’s talk about brand, baby.

love hate

Brand.

The word can strike fear in many, those who don’t like asking themselves questions and those who think it is just a logo.

Brand is more, far more. It’s experience, reputation, feeling, behaviour and communication to name a few.

One of my favourite exercises with clients during my brand workshop is to ask these simple questions.

“What brands do you love? What brands do you hate? and why?”

The why is the kicker, I’ve seen a few directors crumble at the why and look like I’ve asked them to choose their favourite child.

If you’re pondering your brand, I suggest you ask yourself these questions too. Here’s my answers for inspiration.

Brand I love = John Lewis.

The minute I walk in to the shop I feel like a better person, someone that has goals in life, got their $hit together and likes quality. I feel safe, homely and warm, like I’m being hugged by a middle class blanket.

The products they stock are of high quality, trusted, good brands, aspirational and somewhat affordable.

Their customer service is fantastic, I have experienced this and I was treated like a queen when I had to return something that ended up being troublesome.

They treat staff well, the staff are lovely, I like their café, toilets and price promise, I like them.

Volvo

My Grampa had many a Volvo car, like him, I have always thought they are reliable, safe and sturdy. Their lights are constantly on. Whenever I stepped in the car it was time for adventure and feeling loved.

The Volvo took me to exciting places, the beach, on holidays, for ice cream and I loved it. Even when a car drove in to the back of us once, we were all safe, my whole family.

This is more nostalgia than anything else, I have never owned a Volvo, I just resonate with their brand on a personal level. My Grampa’s trust in them has made me also trust them. Endorsement from someone you trust and admire is often the highest form of accolade a brand can get.

Brand I hate = Primark

I used to shop here and am ashamed. Fast, affordable, throw away fashion at the price of who or what?

Mass produced, inferior quality clothing and accessories that mean your bargain is someone else’s terrible wage, working condition and lifeline in equal measures. Don’t believe me, look at what happened in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

Yuck, I can’t even… cheap does not mean good. This is mainly about reputation and being conscious of choice and how it impacts others.

Hertz

The rent a car company without a soul. Last year we took a trip to Italy and were meant to drive from Milan to Lake Como.

On picking up the car, the credit card we used to make the booking was declined and according to them, that was that. I wasn’t able to use mine because my name wasn’t on the booking.

Their customer service was appalling, the front desk staff uncaring, unkind and their phone staff even more so. Luckily, we took public transport and a sympathetic lift from our Air BnB host. We complained, asked for money back and told everyone we know not to use them.

Think about your customers/audience/user needs and experiences – their recommendations are powerful.

Need help with your brand? I’d be happy to work with you on strategy, direction or whatever you need.

Awesome illustration by The Meekshall

I got bullied at 31.

I listened to a great talk on equality last Friday and want to thank Lyanna and all those who have already read this blog for giving me the courage and support to post it. Without action, nothing will change and I hope that my words resonate and make a difference, even if it’s tiny.

I sat there motionless, I knew exactly what was going on but felt utterly powerless to stop it. My brain was processing each word but my mouth barely opened and I was frozen to the spot.

Every fibre in me knew it was wrong and that no one should have to experience this but I could feel myself shut down. Any words that I wanted to respond with got stuck in my throat, I began feeling smaller and smaller and wishing there was an eject button.

Have I painted an uncomfortable picture? It was, truly, and not one I want to experience again.

What hurt me as much as the complete verbal undressing was the fact another woman was sat opposite me delivering this character annihilation. Hello? Aren’t women supposed to empower and support each other? This person missed the memo, or read it and shoved it in the bin.

Yes, I had a made a mistake, for which I apologised and was upset about but apparently that was never going to be good enough. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

It got personal and ugly, words and experiences I had said in confidence got taken and repurposed as weapons and threats.

What this person saw was someone vulnerable, upset and an apparent ‘easy target’ so they used that to their advantage and went on the attack. I felt the low self esteem and paranoia roll off her in waves but it didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel worse.

When I walked out of the room I felt disconnected from my body, a shell of a person and the realisation that I had been bullied came only later when I had completely broken down. Through the negative thoughts conjured by the vitriolic words used I suddenly realised it. A part of me felt ashamed.

I remember being teased when I was younger, it’s a tough gig being 5ft, having a ‘weird’ name and feeling different to others. Some people would rhyme my name with Ribena, others would call me short and weird and someone even told me ‘go back to wherever you come from’. The latter really hurt me and my friend laughed at that comment and that hurt more.

I was lucky, I don’t think I ever truly experienced bullying that was prolonged or that cruel, words have always hurt me but underneath tears I was a resilient kid and pretty proud of who I was. I saw others around me experience that, daily, and the look on their face – beaten, dejected and self aware – I wish I had done more to help them.

What I’ve learnt is bullying transcends age and will never be ok, it speaks more about the person doing it than it does about you. You aren’t the weak one and speak up about it if you can. I didn’t pursue or formally report it for a variety of reasons but a big part of me wishes I had.

To the person that bullied me, I thank you. You made feel like shit but in being that low I realised how proud I am of myself, how much support I have around me, people that love and care about me.

When I look in the mirror I am happy, truly, I treat people well, I live, laugh and love.

What do you see when you look in yours? Look closer, it might help you.

If you are experiencing bullying or inequality, then you aren’t alone, I promise. Contact organisations like The Samaritans who can help you and please tell someone, you can even just tell me.

Internal communications done digitally: it doesn’t have to be crap.

happy-quotes-831

I’ve worked for many an organisation with varying degrees of digital internal communications, some I’ve been responsible for and others I’ve been the recipient of and pretty much seen it all.

From slick, stylised templates delivered like clockwork to a shoddy email not using the BCC function when it should have and red faces all around. Yuck.

There are fundamental components to doing it well, and here’s what I think they are:

Pick your platform

What is going to be easiest for you to use and for people to read? Using your email as a template isn’t advisable, unless you want to spend hours formatting. How about WordPress? Mailchimp? Think about the content, layout, ease and evaluation (analytics/opens/clicks).

Be consistent

People in a work setting tend to like routine, so don’t send five communications one week, one the next and then nothing for two months. That’s highly annoying for everyone concerned and remember quality, trust and reputation = consistency. That goes for templates and layouts too, try and stick to one.

 

Plan

To be consistent you need to plan – the classic who/what/where/when/how is and oldy but a goody, use a spreadsheet and don’t forget deadlines. It’s always better to have too much content than too little. As a communications person, you have (should have) the knowledge of what events, projects, launches are happening, tie them in too.

 

 

Be human

Your colleagues and/or employees are human, as are you, communicate with them like that. Don’t feel the need to be overly formal all the time. Some communications have to be, others can be a touch lighter. Giving someone a laugh from a YouTube video or a meme can brighten a Friday.

 

Content, content, content

You cannot know everything that’s happening with the organisation all the time, it’s impossible unless you have a super power/ are Professor X (cool). Ask for content, get some of your key people – the ones that reliably communicate with you to get in to the habit of sending you content.

Pictures/Video

Smart phones have good cameras on them and the quality will likely be enough for a digital communication, ask people to get pictures. I won’t go in to the complicated issue of consent, but pictures and videos really bring information to life.

Say ‘thank you’

If someone/a team have done a good thing, say thanks and tell others – it goes a long way. It doesn’t have to accompanied by a gift, the gift can be the acknowledgement and recognition that the person has done a good job.

 

Test

Send out your draft communication to a trusted few from different departments and a trustee/board member and get their feedback. The higher cross departmental spread you can get, the better.

Listen

If you get asked for more or less of something then try and accommodate it, nothing was ever achieved with a linear vision (nothing good anyway) it’s Ben and Jerry’s, H&M and Kenan and Kel, remember?

Be prepared for criticism

It’s highly unlikely that when you send out internal communications that you will a) always get feedback b) get positive feedback c) like the feedback you get. What you can do is take it on board, empathise with the person and see if you can change anything.

Evaluate

How can you know what does and doesn’t work if you don’t ask? Send out evaluation tied to objectives of the communication and see what you get in return. Realise that you can’t please everyone at every time but that you can do your best to reach compromise. No one wants to evaluate? Offer an incentive.

Finally….

Go back to brand

Everyone that works for the organisation does so for a reason, what is the purpose? Mission? Vision? Values? Tailor content that reminds people why they chose to work with there in the first place, use your heart and your head.

If you need someone to help with your communications, internal or external then please contact me, I like a chat, biscuit and problem solving.

Image

The Power of the Testimonial

wheat field

As I’ve embarked on content writing for my website it has struck me that the one section I struggled with the most was the testimonial.  This isn’t because I didn’t have people to ask, I certainly did (as you can see).

However it seems quintessentially British to be a bit shy about asking for a recommendation; even when you know you have done a good job and/or had a good relationship.

We humans tend to be terrible at giving self praise but very happy to do it for others, which is utterly lovely yet a bit of self love and recognition can go a long way.

Reviews and wheat fields

My parents are absolute sticklers for using sites like Tripadvisor to help them gauge whether to grace a restaurant or visit a landmark and plough through the testimonials like Theresa May running through a wheat field #naughty.

If I suggest a new eating place I absolutely know they’ll have done their homework on it, planned their food and won’t let Glenda’s* 2011 bad review go unread… because she didn’t get sweetcorn in the side salad and that’s a cardinal sin.

I tend to use review sites for car garages and Airbnb, because honestly, no one wants to go on holiday where the place you stay ends up being a reinactment of Hostel or a replica of Mordor.

Be nice and be organised

What I’m trying to say that is wherever you go and whoever you meet, you leave an imprint and people will form opinions of you. I feel it’s so important that you treat people how you want to be treated, you never know when you’ll see them again or in my case, ask for a testimonial.

I’ve been bowled over by the words people have used in their testimonials for me and feel a sense of achievement and pride in myself and my work. It’s like a lovely cwtch when the hard work you’ve done is recognised and rewarded.

I think we should all tell each other more when we’re pleased with one another- not just when we’re self promoting.

If I had a magic wand, a la Harry Potter, I would’ve asked former colleagues at the time to do a testimonial and gathered evidence that way, alas, I didn’t. If I have one piece of advice, it’s do that, be organised with yourself as well as your work, it’s just as important.

*Glenda isn’t real, sorry, I like the name.

Like this? Read my last blog and subscribe.

Face your fear, and do it anyway

April 24th 2017 will be a date I will refer to for the rest of my life no doubt. Did I get married? Have a baby? Win the lottery? Nope, I started my first day as a freelancer.

I can’t stress upon you enough how much of a big deal this is for me, I have wanted to do this for quite some time and it’s finally more of the right moment than any other moment so far.

What stopped me before was fear, an all encompassing emotion and it had a choke hold on me, I was petrified. The time I first seriously thought about it I had undergone major life changes, a seven year relationship gone, a move from Cardiff back to Neath and my confidence had disappeared.

I considered changing careers entirely and grabbed brochures for University courses with gusto, convinced I needed a radical change. Considering the huge changes I had already undergone, I was glad I didn’t plunge in to something I would regret… go me!

Somewhere in me was this desire to work for myself, explore all options and give myself a chance to use my skills and experience differently. I started writing content for a website and then a job popped up, too good to not apply for, also a convenient ‘get out’ clause for my fear. I went for it and got it. Case closed.

I say case closed but this desire in my gut didn’t go anywhere, it flickered and sparked. Around me I had friends who were freelance and saw their struggles but also their happiness and freedom to explore new projects, relationships and use their time as they wanted to. I was very jealous but pesky fear stopped me.

A really good friend bought me a book ‘Face your fear, and do it anyway’ and I haven’t opened it, I’m sorry Nia, but I was paralysed by fear and thought freelancing was beyond me. She has remained one of my biggest supporters and inspirations, diolch cariad.

The last few years this desire has become stronger and when I took on a maternity cover contract for a job that I knew would elevate my skills and experience, I already had one eye on becoming a freelancer. So I worked really hard, pushed myself and I’m so proud of what I achieved. The finality of the contract was the catalyst I needed to do this.

Some of my closest friends have started their own creative co-working space called ‘The Sustainable Studio’ and I have been on their journey with them so far, but never had the chance to properly work with them and now I do, a couple days of week and I’m ecstatic. Thank you Julia and Sarah, you’re amazing.

So here I am, finalising content for my website with George the cat leaning on me, in a house that I share with a man who is the best person I have ever met. He loves me just as I am, encourages and supports me and I couldn’t be happier, still fearful but with the passion and determination to succeed.