Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Sorry sorry sorry

I am sorry, I have failed. I can't physically write every day. I've been partly rubbbish (sic too busy) and equally limited by moving house and not yet having an internet connection due to the inadequacy of various service providers. Largely builders, BT, Sky and ahem BT. Does anyone else feel that BT are now milking their monopoly? Moving three times in six months, I feel has paid for someone's rather large bonus there. In which case I am still waiting for a thank you. This needs looking into. I am all for capitalism, free markets etc. But are the monopolies and mergers body still in place and if so can they dust off their files, blow out the cobwebs and have a word?

Anyway rant over for now. I have far too much to write about. Much of it exciting, some controversial, a little about delicious food and I might even throw in some golf for the male contingency.

Friday, 9 January 2009

It's virtual space man, but not as we know it

As I failed yesterday to make my own imposed daily deadline, I feel compelled to put two up today.

So from food we jump virtually to a widely different topic although socially there is common ground. Most people by now have heard of facebook, YouTube, myspace, Bebo, twitter etc. But have you heard of next2friends? Xing? ZYB? Habbo Hotel? slicethepie? gamerDNA? LinkedIn? kickapps?

Well web 2.0 is here and it is here to stay. If the hype and market researchers are to be believed it's going to be a multi-billion dollar industry by 2012.

"Over 800 million people worldwide will be participating in a social network via their mobile phones by 2012, up from 82 million in 2007." eMarketer

"Revenues from social networking, dating and personal content delivery services will increase from $572m in 2007 to more than $5.7bn in 2012, with social networking accounting for 50% of the total by the end of the forecast period." Juniper Research

"Around 812,000 Britons each month, or 1.7% of all UK mobile subscribers, visited a social networking website using their mobile during the first quarter of 2008." Nielsen Media Research

Well mobile phone operators believe it so much they are all putting their budgets where their mouths are, to join the who's who of the social media world at the Social Networking Forum on the 9th and 10th of March in the Olympia Conference Centre, London.

Quite honestly where the speakers are concerned I don't even know where to start, so the best thing for you to do is have a look yourselves. I know the event seems a lot of money to those on a shoe-string budget at the moment, or those people whose accounts departments have clamped down on expenses and are relying on a kitty for the office loo roll, but if you are serious about your company's future, then get your butts down there.

You will learn an awful lot and I would suggest that you pick your talks carefully and with objectives in mind. If your business would benefit from some really well targeted SMS campaigns, and your aim is to get your products and services out to mobiles and handhelds then cherry pick from the mobile forums.

If your aim is some low-cost, specifically targeted, online campaigns then do the same with the social media forum. I believe in a many pronged attack. Often people ask me how you raise brand awareness about your company and my answer is always this. You cannot measure, monitor or get absolute, accurate results on brand awareness and most people are dishonest about their true emotions. You raise brand awareness by executing well researched, targeted, focused campaigns with specific revenue objectives that demonstrate results for your expenditure. Brand awareness comes about as a result of this.

Back to the event though....Pick a mixture of the two forums speakers as whilst social media has a lot more to show, SMS is still the cash cow for many companies and people love their phones. Who do you know under the age of 75 who hasn't got one? Even my Dad had to relent after many years of resistence, when his company forced him to have one for whilst he was attending client meetings. My Mum would you believe it has an iPhone....before me....ahem...cough.. splutter, and just to rub salt into the wounds constantly phones me to ask me questions about how to use it. However, I don't think everything will move over to handhelds. They will never replace the computer just as the laptop is in addition to the desktop.

Phones and laptops, the best way today to reach almost any market (I think if someone develops a mobile with a panic button on it like my great Nan's old landline used to have, they might be on to a winner with the grey pound).

Then if you are a really smart business cookie (ooooh the puns are just rolling off my tongue today), you will also pay attention to what those big fancy companies are forecasting, trends, possible new streams of revenue, how to harness new technology and applications to improve your business processes, procedures and most importantly how effectively you are communicating with your audiences both internally and externally.

I am consistently surprised by how much confusion there is in-house with different brands and product offerings and services, before companies even start communicating outside their own front door with target audiences.

And yes at D4 we practice what we preach, just from the website alone we have started looking at some new ubercool apps to enhance our internal organisation, business offerings and our own marketing and PR strategies.

But for all of those technophobes and laggards out there. Don't misunderstand me. My most important lesson from childhood was to look people in the eye to both gain trust and offer it, and I still like to pick up the phone sometimes instead of a long-winded text or when intonation is required to get across emotion. 80% of all decisions are based on emotion and in a fast-moving world it's best to understand all the ways you can communicate with your audiences so that you don't just capture some of them, but most of them.

Those companies that box clever and use this time to add strings to their bows will be the ones to put two fingers up as other companies get left behind. Whether we like it or not we are in a business war zone where only the strongest and cleverest will survive. You only need look at these denizons of the technology world's profits to see their advice is worth solid gold let alone the price of the ticket.

You can phone +44 (0) 117 321 8303 and or contact the lovely people at D4 to get a 15% discount on +44 (0) 114 223 8183. Visit their website to see the impressive speakers lists.

No hair in my food

Gaucho the restaurant in Manchester on St Mary's Street is just sumptuous. From the moment you walk through the door the service is impeccable and I want everyone to know the steak is just to die for. Actually everything is to die for; the food, the cocktails, the ambience, even the level the lights are set to. My favourite cocktail involves Zubrowka vodka, which is my most loved vodka. The bar staff are most certainly trained to the nth degree because I myself have some bar training, which makes me painfully fussy about my drinks when I am paying for them. In this case I need not have worried, it was mixed to perfection, designed to tickle my tastebuds and left me wanting more.

The decor in each restaurant is bespoke and Eve Latham does an amazing job of making everyone feel like they have come to visit friends in Gaucho Manchester. She remembers names, something sadly lacking in the restaurant world in these impersonal times. It is totally female friendly, I felt comfortable having a working dinner in there on my own and they have free wi-fi, just ask any member of staff. In the evening it is a real treat for couples, friends or family and at lunchtimes certainly somewhere to take clients and colleagues for maximum impact or as a reward for hard work or a contract won.

Having been to the Richmond Upon Thames Gaucho on prior occasions I am familiar with the formula. The difference in Gaucho Manchester though, is what makes it so special. They manage to harbour that special brand of Northern charm. London's market is largely transient and as an ex-Londoner, with family and friends still down there, I can honestly say the general public in that demography don't celebrate or share success. Particularly in the current climate, everyone is divided by a 'who's next?' paranoia.

Whilst the North is not unaffected by what is going on in the financial downfall of our green jewel of an island, we have a very different attitude. Smile, get on with it, and if you are able, give someone just behind you a helping hand.

So whilst I appreciate that some belts are tightening and for many Gaucho is a rare treat, the inspiration and experience is worth every penny. You will leave feeling full and perhaps even a bit more positive about people and the future, both personally and in business. I am a person inspired by fantastic food, lovely wine and great service so yes I really do mean this and no I am not being paid to say it.

But don't take my word for it. I took Trevor Sorbie's words instead, who was dining there the same night as I was. Not only a charming, lovely man but he gave me a wonderful quote:

"I came here about one month ago for lunch. The waitress described the steaks and educated me as to what was available. This is unique to any restaurant I have ever been in and I had the best steak (medium rare) that comes up to 5 star restaurant value. I highly recommend it."

And that is straight from the King of the Crown!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Walk like a panther or fly like an eagle?

Tony Christie - Made In Sheffield

Tony Christie is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I can guarantee, whether you are a fan of his music or not, you will fall for his unaffected charm. Creative Sheffield’s project, designed to increase exposure to this lovely city is wonderful. And who wouldn’t be interested in a project worked on by Tony Christie, Richard Hawley and other well-loved Sheffield creative types?

My only concern is echoed by other Sheffield folk: we quite like Sheffield being a well kept secret. If everyone discovers this creative, boutiquey, bijou city with it’s stunning architecture, uncommonly friendly people and fascinating colloquialisms, nestled in God’s back garden, they’ll all want to come here.

The film I previewed on this project, whilst initially suffering from some comical editing hiccups (taken in the natural good humour inherent in our village-city) achieved what it set out to do. I asked my peers their opinion, which wasn’t entirely necessary as they were visibly glowing with pride.

It’s all summed up rather wonderfully by the pub landlord featured in the film: Sheffield folk all have an opinion on where they live, perhaps due to being permanently surrounded by views, may perhaps be unaware as to quite how creative their city is, but protect it fiercely whatever the weather. After all, who else will?

Tony Christie's cover of the Artic Monkey's track 'Only One Who Knows'

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Introduction to me

Hi to you all, or indeed anyone who might be interested in my ramblings. I work for D4Online as Marketing & PR Director and will shortly be launching D4PR as well as other exciting projects in online media tools, social networking, applications and promotional exploits.

I love my job. Some may find that annoying, others I hope will find it refreshing and perhaps even charming. The company I work for is not large, but is rapidly expanding. They have a solid, extremely creative graphic design background and have not lost a client in 10 years. The team I work with consist of not just highly talented individuals but people who are genuinely lovely and passionate about what they do.

My background is a veritable spicy melee of a diverse career in marketing and PR, spanning 10+ years, with a few random sabbaticals that have enhanced my life experience and ability to do my job.

My reasons for setting up this blog are simple and honest:

  • To see if it sends any traffic to our websites and soon to come
  • To offer my opinions on varying matters
  • To hopefully provide a little humour to people's days and maybe earn a little empathy on some thought provoking topics as well as some fairly innocuous ones

N.B. And this is very important. These are just my opinions, they are not fact, they do not reflect that of the company I work for or anyone within it. I am not saying that I am right or wrong. It is just that sometimes (I find particularly when I have a hangover) I have a lot going on in my head and for the safety of the general public, feel it would be better to get it out rather than allow it to build up causing an earlier demise than I would like or, worse still, a spontaneous combustion taking out other people with me.

So as this is my official introduction to this world, I will give you two Clare's Opinions.

Clare's Opinions No.1

I hate cheese and onion crisps......passionately. They smell, they make your breath smell. My dislike for them has been accelerated by people putting them on the table at parties. You are thinking plain, or at worst salt & vinegar, which lets face it we all need to be in the mood for, and get.....eeuuggghhh.....cheese and onion. Then, oh no, the mad dash for chewing gum, a mint, that thing covered in fluff at the bottom of your handbag...anything...toothpaste in someone else's bathroom because your previously sweet smelling mouth vapours have been tainted.
Just plain wrong.

Clare's Opinions No.2

Is anyone else fed up with the media's coverage of the economic climate? As the head economist at HSBC recently said, it's just mood music. Most people get their information from the media because they have little time or interest in having a crash course in maths. A little dangerous if you consider millions of people's favourite newspaper in the UK is the Sun, which let's face it can hardly be referred to as educational.

Don't get me wrong I admire The Sun, especially in my job. One of the most genius newspapers of all times. There are Cambridge and Oxford graduates paid to come up with those headlines and good on them, what a fun job that would be.

But isn't it slightly irresponsible for certain papers to publish certain things, knowing the masses rely on them as their only source of information for some topics.

For starters - the credit crunch and the state of the economy are two entirely different things. The economy is by it's very nature cyclic, or in even simpler terms what goes up must come down and when you hit the bottom, the only way you have to work is back up again.

As a country we have just enjoyed 12 years of sustained growth and profitability, the best this country has ever seen (if I was being controversial, I could say it took Labour that long to screw it up, but I'm not so I won't).

There are many, many other countries whose defecit, if they are even being publicly honest about it, is far, far greater than ours....cough.....Italy....cough.

Yes people are going to lose jobs, yes it may get worse, yes the housing market may go down further, and people will go into negative equity (so don't move house if you don't have to then), and for those truly, truly effected by it, I am honestly sorry.

However there will be good things to come out of it.

The benefits system will have to be overhauled as it continues to take the strain. Tax or NI money might actually go to people who really, really need it. Wouldn't that be fab? To watch something or read an example and think, I am glad my hard earned cash went to that family/individual.

Bad companies will be weeded out and those strong ones, with great management and financial acumen will prosper and grow.

There will be an exciting breed of new entrants creating new industry and new jobs.

Banking will be revolutionised, no more irresponsible lending or profit for the elite only (although there will always be leaders, we naturally have stronger, more driven and ambitious people in society, alpha males etc and we generally prefer to be led, it's far too much responsibility otherwise).

The masses already have more control and influence over institutions, brands, media, advertising, lobbying and most importantly 'they' are starting to listen to our opinions. As more and more online tools, social networking and open source developments are produced, the giants are shrinking and the little people are growing, in voice and number.

Many say the halcyon days are gone, but I think they will be back, shared by a greater number and most deservedly so.