Journalists: The interpreters in a world where we can see everything

There is an assumption that we know what the Vietnam war looked like. We know it’s horror. We know the demonstrations that were held and the unrest by objectors in the USA. However, in his 1979 film John Pilger produced a very low key but highly powerful short film about the Grunts in Vietnam.

The Grunts were the low trained front line soldiers that did the fighting. Toward the end of the war many were being drafted in as graduates and other young men who had experienced the resistance to the war back home in the states. Many were reluctant soldiers to say the least.

What was clear is that there was a powerful resistance to the war happening at the front line. This was a narrative so starkly in contrast to that being projected by the government in the USA at that time. So whilst these young men were powerless in one way, John Pilger saw the importance of their Quiet Mutiny.

I have been reading and watching John Pilger’s work for much of my adult life. What is so valuable to me is his ability to show these hidden but extremely important authentic narratives that are occurring behind the stories we see projected from conflicts and humanitarian challenges.

You might say that in the era of social media we don’t need documentary reporters like John Pilger. However, I would say now more than ever they are needed. In the blur of seeing everything and understanding nothing journalists of this quality are our interpreters. Helping us see what is hidden, voiceless, buried or forgotten.

So why watch a film from 1970? Because I can reflect on the lives of these young men now with respect and amazement. I know that story, the one of Vietnam. But one film can remind me that perhaps I didn’t know the story behind the drama. And therefore I can humbly consider where in today’s dramas might quiet mutiny be occurring and how best to support it. And how we can continue to enable journalists to help us shine a light on this, so that we see and understand what is really going on.

Why I love my iPad but will probably never own a kindle (a blog about a love of books actually…)

Books by the bed

This is not a Kindle!

Preparing my holiday entertainment I have been considering the fact that I love books as a form of engagement and relaxation but have no desire to own a Kindle.

My iPad has enabled me to engage with ideas, people and events in a way that a few years ago would have been difficult to imagine. I spend a lot of time using it as a window on the world and a touch pad with other realities to inform my work and beyond. I am a fan of blogs, sharing of reports, slides, social reporting and much other text based info that flies about the ether.

But when it comes to reading a book I long for the physical sensation and presence of a text. This is why I will probably never own a Kindle. So what is it about a book that it so very special?

Epic number of worlds physically represented

A book is a journey, a discussion, a relationship. When I put down Kingsolver I could not even put it on the shelf for some days for fear of losing the friends I had made. Whilst even writing that last sentence sounds a little silly, Kingsolver is a talented writer and therefore it feels appropriate that I would respect the tome and almost morn it’s completion. (At least until she writes another).

Being quietly, with myself, through someone else

Meditative quality of reading when I am a busy mum and business woman. In this way a book is a prop to connect me with another life. (Try Robert MacFarlane if you want to read meditative writing). 

Feeling the reality of other lives

I cry when I read some books, laugh out loud, even shout in protest (thank you genre political biography). The book is my window and is there in front of me, making this entertainment and life experience ever real.

Being connected

I can be found nose to antenna in the garden with my son bug watching. But nature programmes rarely float my boat. Sometimes I want to be there, not watch ‘there’.  I feel that about the precious moments I have with Jane Austen, Barbara Kingsolver and Haruki Murakami. Be there or be square. Hold it, believe it. Screen just isn’t…well… ‘there!’. 

Maybe I just need a break from the screen

I have seen a lot of people, on social media ironically, talking about their committed break from technology. August is a classic time for this. One way to do that is to pick up the stuff we used before we had the iPad. It doesn’t take an external detox programme to enjoy a book however.

But I think it is more than the need to get away from something technological. It is not a negative thing to want a book in the hand, to preserve or crack a spine of a loved text. I suspect that anyone who likes visiting a library for the atmosphere; has to go into a second hand bookshop when passing; and feels closer to people for the lend of a book. We all know there is something to the physical presence of that text that just cannot be replicated. Even if we can’t quite put our finger on why…

Make a plan, have fun and always take a raincoat with you

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Some lessons for getting out and messy with a new business.

Two years ago I sat at a desk with a new computer. Ha! Yes, I was starting my own business.

This is a continuous learning journey, so I am reflecting today on what I have learnt these last two years. But I am also keen to share my experience, in a positive way, with many others who are going it alone this January.

I was eager. I had a genuine and urgent desire to give honest and professional communications support to organisations going through transformation and change. I wanted to surround myself with creative people, with innovation, and with professionalism. I wanted to do a good job, work hard and take home a decent income to support my family.

1. Think about it very hard first

The time I spent thinking about the business before I took the plunge was invaluable. I lived with the idea for quite some time. If I am honest it was several years. In a more focused way it was four months. I used to run and think, talked to people already doing it, read books about juggling family and work, write spreadsheets to work out income and time ratios on various service models…

2. Have a plan, and be prepared to change it

The plans I made in January 2012 are not those I am working with today. But they are the parents of what my business is today. And the business will need to change and adapt. The plans need to be there, the compass to return to when things are blown a little off course, or are confusing.

3. Believe in what you do – fully

It is really important to love what you do. It is also really important to believe in what you do – with integrity. Your business is not just work, it is your vision and you can only effectively communicate your vision to prospective clients, partners and staff if you believe it can make a difference.

4. Work hard

Obviously! But no: I mean really, really, really hard. Be prepared to work beyond the hours and boundaries that are common to most roles. You are now a leader, innovator, contractor, vision maker…

5. Have fun

You don’t do anything as much as work (unless you raise children or have other care duties full time – which is arguably harder). So you need to love it. Running your business is a chance to work with people whose company you enjoy, in situations that stimulate you and in service to individuals or companies you believe in. So enjoy it. And steer the work toward these opportunities.

6. Follow your instinct

You have probably set up the business because you know how to do the thing your business offers. So follow your nose, work within environments that feel positive and do something with niggles (they usually mean something is not quite right).

7. Where you can, run your business, don’t let it run you

Some places in your life are sacred spaces. The business may be important and you may be passionate about it. But it is not, and should not be your entire life. Partly because, hopefully, you have other meaningful pursuits but also because creative spaces away from work often fuel the energy, ideas and drive you have within your business.

I have only been doing this a very short time. What I know I am confident about. What I don’t I am excited about learning. In the journey there are bumps in the road, difficult situations, wrong turns. So here is a very difficult point to take on-board.

8. Make some mistakes

When you make a mistake, recognise it, work it out and rectify it. Reflect on it and chose how it might positively change how you work. Move on. Don’t linger or dwell too much.

9. Have a raincoat for rainy days

Difficult moments (created by you or others) can be hard to take – especially when you are running to keep up to start with. Running a business, even with staff or contractors, can be a lonely affair. So for difficult days you might need some skin, a tough shell to take difficult moments without letting them effect beyond need. A friend of mine calls this a beautiful but invisible mac (raincoat) – for the business equivalent of a rainy day.

Any regrets? Loads, but rather than regrets I prefer to consider them opportunities for change.

So, for all of you standing at the edge of starting your business…

10. Dive in

Ready, steady go…

Writers everywhere, storytellers in abundance

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I would have to say that at the top of things I love about my work is editing blogs. There is a pretty constant flow of blogs that cross my desk. Very few of them are originally penned by me, but some of my clients find me useful as an editor and advisor.

A blog I edited this morning, I am not afraid to say, move me to tears. One yesterday was so funny I had to stop, make tea and come back to it. I had a lovely session last week with a very creative, visual blog, aimed at profiling a product in a new and interesting way. To engage with a blog is to somehow look deeper at a person, a company or even the story behind something you might ultimately buy. For me this turns promoting an ideal or a product into a conversation – ‘Let me tell you my story, so you can tell me what you think?’

The Blog has encouraged people everywhere to write. Not all of us, including myself, are gifted writers. But everyone with a story can tell it. A blog can be a humble and effective way of reflecting, inviting people in to your world. Once you see past the advertising, keyword laden copy, and other crass stuff that I (generally) shun on the internet, you find it is humming with storytellers and photographers.

Lists on Twitter are your friends, all of them

Lists

 

When using Twitter lots of people overlook the use of lists as a means of enjoying the full potential of this growing platform. I encourage people to use lists as a way of efficiently managing contacts on Twitter.

 

Here are some key features of lists:

  1. Lists are like mini-databases, an easy way of adding and referencing contacts associated with different projects and priorities.
  2. You can lock (keep private) lists as well as establish public ones depending on your needs and networking style.
  3. You can look at the Tweets associated with one area of interest or another without trawling through the posts of all the people you are following.

There are a number of ways you can put lists to work for you:

 1. Keep lists for specialist area of work or interest

If you are employed across sectors, discipline or client groups you can use lists to organise those you are following for easier research and engagement. Similarly if you are a social user you can use lists to organise your interests.

2. Check-in with your ‘most important’ contacts

This might be clients, family members, favourite pop-stars or competitors. If you are short of time and want to check some people very regularly a list can be an easy way to do this. Many communications teams have a press contacts list, in this way, to compliment other address books.

3. Collect together members of a group

Public lists can be subscribed to, which is a way of sharing a list you manage with other people. So if you are working with others on a project or are members of a club or group you can set up a list that contains all members of that group so you (and the subscribers) can all refer to each other on Twitter, easily.

4. Enjoy the public/private divide

You might share a passion for pink knitted gloves, the Back to the Future trilogy or rose gardening. However, you might not want your followers to really see ALL your hobbies. Particularly, if your Twitter account is part of your professional life too. So you can keep a private list of relevant people, co-fans and companies for those parts of your life that are private. However, be warned, any retweets and conversations will obviously be public.

5. Log people you meet at events easily

So much can be going on whilst you are busy at an event. And tweets by participants or presenters can get lost over time. So setting up a list for an event is a useful way of keeping a log of people who attended, spoke, engaged with you at that time.

6. Deal with a following limit

Twitter employs a strict limit to the number of people you can follow. Using lists you can continue to keep an eye on people whilst not following them. Yes, you can keep people within a list without following them. This is good if you have a main focus in your account and want to consider other areas for development of your projects without taking up the allocation of people you can follow.

7. Remain incognito

You might want to keep an eye on a sector without drawing attention to yourself. Keeping a private list of unfollowed contacts will allow you to do this. Many company social media coordinators keep a list of competitors so that the can monitor competitor activity. But this can also work with projects that are in development and need some market or other research before going public.

6. Subscribing or copying other people’s lists

You can use other people’s lists to develop your own networking potential. So when following people take a look at their public lists and how they might be of interest or use to you.

Social media is hugely beneficial but can also be massively time consuming. Lists on Twitter provide a way of addressing potential and time in one go. How do you use yours?

I have had a fling, with automated customer services, and the morning after I don’t regret it

I [heart] customer service

I [heart] customer service

So I needed some Wi-Fi access. On the move. I am not good at commitment when it comes to mobile tech. I am a techno-hussy. Oh this sounds so bad it is almost ok. Actually, it is for good reason: I don’t chase price, I chase performance and loyalty to me. I just haven’t found the right provider yet. Once I do, I will settle-down blah blah….

So I have purchased a Vodaphone Mobile Wi-Fi. I travel a lot with my business and need to be accessible and to be able to research and inform what I do, wherever I am. So in due course I will feedback about the Wi-Fi box itself and how it performs. Suffice to say: It and I are not yet engaged. We are undertaking the couples equivalent of the mini-break together to see how compatible we are.

What I am in love with – Oh yes – is Vodaphone’s automated customer service. Suffice to say that I am not usually a fan of automated ordering and delivery. Reason: Customer service often loses its effectiveness without human interaction. But my head might have been turned in this case.

On purchasing I was asked if I was a person or a business (to be treated appropriately by the automated system). I was emailed and texted about my order, expected delivery time and various other ETAs. They played the tune of my business heart which is ‘I know you are busy, so let me make this as easy as possible for you.’

As the big day approached I was sent several texts as updates. On the day itself circumstances sent me far from home and we had to reschedule (within an hour of meeting ‘Paul’ my delivery man). Dutifully Vodaphone rearranged by text and notified me, by text and email, the new details.

Again, on the day, plans at my end kept us apart. A hastily written note on the back door sent Gary (the new Paul) to my neighbour. I knew this because a doorstep text from Greg told me the name and number of my neighbour. (Later seen on email too). So I could relax that the parcel was in safe hands. 

So what did Vodaphone do right:

  • They asked me how I saw myself in the transaction (business person or otherwise)
  • They asked me how to communicate with me (email, text etc)
  • They told me delivery times
  • They helped, easily, when those didn’t work for me
  • They told me the name of the person handling my parcel at all times
  • They responded in person when the automated process didn’t work for me
  • Bottom line – they delivered for me, the way I asked

Needless to say after 15 texts and emails I somewhat miss Vodaphones presence in my life. Luckily they sent me an online survey to ease me back into my day to day life. But I look forward to, perhaps, another customer service fling with them when my phone contract is up for renewal.

As for now… where is that Wi-Fi box? I have to pack… I have a train to catch and emails to send… See you in the ether. 

Welcome @HillaryClinton, formerly known as Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton joins Twitter

Hillary Clinton joins Twitter

So Hillary Clinton joined Twitter today. ‘So what?’ You might say. Pha! This definitely an exciting moment to be in the room.

An announcement?

Many are saying arrival on Twitter is Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she will run for president in the years to come. Wow – that is saying something for the power of Twitter that we even think that this might be the case. But, it is the start of something. What that is, time will tell. Perhaps just a rocking-good Twitter account.

A women leader

We can’t have too many women leaders telling us some fantastic/important stuff, enjoying the highs, and sharing the lows. Twitter can empower and inform. Bring on one of the worlds brightest women and I am there. This is about advocacy. Voice. She is an intellectual response to the challenges of life. Let’s get her closer to the masses.

Great copy, just the right balance from Hillary Clinton's first Tweet

Great copy, just the right balance from Hillary Clinton’s first Tweet

Beautiful PR

Yes PR can be beautiful. I hope that Hillary Clinton’s communications team are very proud of that first tweet. If they had naught to do with it then great great homage to Hillary herself. A lovely balance grace, understanding and a desire to take control of her own messaging.  Anticipation heightened by its isolation on her account for 4 hours and counting… This is a women who is in the room. And holding a silence!

Stunning profile

In some ways a highly modern photo with Hillary Clinton on her Blackberry. (This is quite a famous photo in any case if you care to know – both politically and for social media.) Contrast a classic and powerful look in the style of the graphic: the look and feel of some of the most earth changing times in US history. Black and white picture with glam glasses… and the hair… Something 1960s…? Aside, the copy on her profile was all the things we know Hillary Clinton to be plus ‘TBD’ (To Be Determined)… Confidence: as sweet as a nut.

Accessibility

Leaving this point until last, but perhaps the most important for social media. This tweet is a stake in the ground for what we hope to be an authentic dialogue between ‘the people’ and Hillary Clinton on Twitter. This all equals accessibility. So the US electorate may (again) be a little closer to a future President. But like all good (reality) social media, we will have to see how this tale unfolds.  And it is up to Hillary Clinton to meet our expectations and… well… be Hillary. Over to you.