The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

like a virgin

I recently visited Australia. I flew with Virgin Atlantic.

Yesterday I talked with a colleague who had been to Kuala Lumpur – different airline, I’m not going to name them here. Some other time maybe.

But the conversation made me consider my experience with Virgin Atlantic in a new light.

Last time I flew with Virgin I ended up writing to their customer service people to praise the way in which a member of the cabin crew had coped with a disruptive passenger.

This time, nothing happened. So, unsurprisingly, I didn’t feel the need to write to anyone.

But what I’ve come to realise in the last day or two is that nothing happening can sometimes be a very good thing indeed.

Here’s a list of things that didn’t happen.

  • Virgin Atlantic didn’t change the plane at the last minute to an aircraft with fewer seats, leaving many passengers stranded for 24 hours
  • No one from Virgin Atlantic was rude
  • The plane was not delayed taking off
  • There were no problems with the transfer at Hong Kong
  • My luggage did not get lost
  • The food was not vile

You may be thinking, “but that’s the bare minimum anyone expects.” And you’d be right.

But it’s still more than a lot of people get from much larger airlines that have been operating for longer.

And just because it’s the bare minimum doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express gratitude.

So, thank you Virgin Atlantic. My flights to and from Sydney passed off completely incident free. Every one of your staff that I dealt with was polite and helpful. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

how do I get hyperlinks within blogger to open in a new window or tab?

Yesterday I wrote a piece about the use of Facebook to promote my band, The Subtitles.

That post included several links including a couple to The Subtitles on Facebook.

However, as I discovered (and it’s been pointed out to me too) those links don’t work properly.

I tested them before the post went live and they worked fine. But from within the post itself, the links to Facebook bring up a blank Facebook page with another link which has to be clicked on to bring up the right page.

Anyone got any ideas…?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

facebooking the music

As some of you reading this will know, I am currently the lead vocalist in a band called The Subtitles.

Most people agree it’s a cool name.

And when we launched it late last year, most people agreed we have a cool website.

We have a page on Facebook. And a Twitter account.  You might want to open those links in a new tab - for some reason that seems to work better.

But the website is easily our most impressive online estate. Lots of pics, some of which were sent in by people who attended our gig in February. There are also two recordings so you can get an idea of what we sound like.

Some people like how we sound, others… well not so much. But that’s ok, there’s no point trying to be all things to all people.  But I have high hopes of some of the news songs we're writing.

Anyway back to Facebook. I have a confession. I’ve always felt somewhat conflicted about using it where the band is concerned.

I was an early adopter of LinkedIn. I was on MySpace before it peaked, and then well, less-than-peaked.

And I took to Twitter with a zeal that would put many a religious fundamentalist to shame.

But when it comes to using Facebook to promote The Subtitles I keep hitting a wall. If you’ll pardon the pun.

So if you’ve read this far I would like crave your indulgence.

I'd like you to visit The Subtitle’s Facebook page and well… do something. Like it, share it, critique it, leave a comment here and tell me what you think about it.  Anything really - advice that I can use to improve things, that's what I'm looking for.

Thanks in advance – I hope to hear from you.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

top tips for journalists wanting to make it in pr

I’ve lost count of how many times someone has talked to me about the move I made from journalism into PR. My move to the dark side, which took place in late 2000.

I entered the heady world of journalism in the early 1990s, worked for contract publishers, several newspapers (regional and national) and magazines, tried my hand as a freelancer, went into the trade press and ended up as the managing editor on a news website which, during the two years I was there, grew its readership from 500,000 to more than six million.

The move to PR is a well-trodden path for journalists who have, for one reason or another, hit a wall and felt the need to do something different. In my case I wanted a new set of challenges, but didn’t want to have to start from scratch. Oh, and the money was a little better too – not hugely so.

There is no single reason why the move sometimes goes wrong (I don’t know what the failure rate is, but it must be pretty high). Typically fault lies both with the individual and the PR agency that has employed them.

A lot of emphasis is put on transferable skills, such as being able to write. If fact, far too often it goes no deeper than that combined with a hint of this’ll impress the client thinking.

The journo entering the PR workplace lacks a great deal of context of the mechanics of the job, the way an agency operates, the way a team works. That latter point is a good one, after all journalists are not, by nature, team players.

Customer service, appeasement and a can-do attitude also don’t necessarily come naturally to most hacks who have spent their careers marching to the beat of a very different drum.

My first ever client meeting after entering PR is something I will probably never forget. I’d been in my new role for a matter of days when I was sent to deal with a problem client.

The meeting lasted less than five minutes and concluded with a very red-faced and shouty client telling me that he was firing the agency I had just joined.

Culture shock…? You could call it that, yes.

So, here are my three top tips for anyone considering ditching their career in journalism to don a suit and join the PR party.

1. Get real
Be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

You mustn’t assume that all your days will be filled with high-level strategic planning meetings, and long periods of crafting your finest prose.

How will you really feel pitching in a story to journalists? How will you cope when the features and press releases you have written are picked apart by people who will never be able to write as well as you but have the veto on what you produce?

2. Do your homework
Get the job spec, and find out what the responsibilities are. Meet the people you’ll be working with and managing – especially the ones you’ll be managing. Their careers are about to be put in the hands of someone with no PR experience. They may well be concerned about this. You need them onside.

Unlike a newsdesk, a PR account team has to work well and work together to get the best results. Be prepared to be supportive, nurturing and even nice to people.

3. Put on a happy face
Journalists earn their stripes by critiquing, by being sceptics – asking the difficult questions and highlighting problems and shortcomings.

Where they often fall down is coming up with positive solutions to the situations they have kicked holes in.
It’s easy to point out shortcomings, harder to put forward your own ideas for public scrutiny. But that’s what’s required.

It won’t be an easy ride. But nothing worth having was come by easily, was it?

If I had to include a fourth point it would be something like network – get out and talk to people.

But three’s a magic number so I shan’t bother with No 4.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Europe is dead

Europe is dead.

Or at any rate, the notion of a unified Europe is now in serious decline politically and economically.

Sovereign debt, bail-outs, and austerity measures have featured in the news for many months now but it is only very recently that some of the less obvious implications of these events have been discussed.

Let’s take the example of Portugal, the most recent European economy to come unstuck.

Like most countries, Portugal relies on borrowing and issuing bonds to keep the wheels of its domestic economy turning.

In April, Portugal has €5 billion of repayments to honour.  There’s a similar amount due to be repaid in a few months’ time.

To meet those commitments, particularly the second tranche, Portugal will – in all likelihood – need to borrow.  But as an economy in trouble, it is penalised by having higher rates of interest applied to its bonds.  IE: the markets want a higher rate of return in exchange for what is considered a higher risk loan.

That rate of interest is in the region of 8% over a period of 10 or so years.

The Portuguese economy will not grow at anything like that rate. Meaning that meeting its repayment responsibilities in the future will become increasingly harder.  Which in turn has to increase the likelihood of Portugal defaulting on its debts.

No problem, some will say… there are bail-out options.

Yes, there are. And they are mostly funded by Germany, the Netherlands and to a lesser extent France and Finland.

There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction within these countries, especially Germany, that the domestic tax-payer is bailing out their lazy southern European neighbours. Politically-speaking, this is an unsustainable situation and unless it has been dealt with before then, it will become a major issue at the next German general election.

There is a sense among some economists that as long as this situation is confined to Ireland, Greece and Portugal (smaller nations) the rest of Europe needn’t worry.

But should Spain or Italy, for example, succumb to the financial fallout the consequences would be harder to live with for Europe as a whole and could herald the end of the Euro.

No one seems to have any answers as to how any of this could be avoided or how Europe gets out of this situation. Ignoring it, however, won’t make it go away.