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TEST DRIVING THE TOYOTA AURIS – PART TWO:

Last week I shared with you my first few days of driving a hybrid vehicle. In this blog, I’ll finish that story and give you some facts about the car.

Toyota-Day-Three

Day Four:

There was a hard frost so another new challenge. The car took a bit longer to clear than I’m used to but once it got going it defrosted very quickly (I’m a engine on, scraper kind of driver as I don’t like the chemical stuff).

I just tootled around town from meeting to meeting and I used hardly any petrol. This car is definitely very good around town. I also find I’m getting used to the automatic and don’t really have to think about it.

Parking is fine but – being so quiet – I’ve noticed that other road users and pedestrians DO NOT HEAR this car. It has made me even more vigilant.

My home is near a popular cycle route in Swindon and it quickly became obvious that cyclists don’t know you are there and they don’t modify their behaviour or road position.

Several people liked the look of the car and have admired it. The children love the space as my own car is small. They feel it’s spacious and smooth with lots of flashing lights.

In the dark, when you open the car, the dash lights your way which is very appealing.

Day Five:

On my last day, the Toyota Auris Hybrid took me very smoothly to Devizes where I drove around for ages trying to find a long stay car park as it was an all day event.

It turned out to be one of those days where I had to move the car around town twice due to there not being any long stay parking spaces available. Each time I looked forward to getting in it.

I also really like the fact it has front parking sensors – my own car doesn’t – and the wing mirrors also automatically fold when it’s locked. This does two things – reduces the risk of them being knocked in a car park and gives you confidence that you’ve locked the car. It’ s a clear visual clue. My own car does not do this and I feel it’s a bonus to have folding mirrors.

At the end of the working day, I drove the car back to Andrew and must admit I felt a bit sad. I suppose the real question is – would I buy a hybrid car?

The answer is yes, I’d definitely consider it when the time comes. In the five days I’d driven it, I used half a tank of petrol. Given I’d been all round Swindon, across Wiltshire and a longer journey to Cardiff, that’s less fuel consumption than I’d normally expect.

There is also a slight feel good factor that you are trying to do something more positive for the environment. There are also vehicle tax advantages – though the tax on my current car is only £30 a year.

All in all, I was grateful for the opportunity to try the car and would like to thank Andrew Crosby of Fish Brothers Toyota for the opportunity. If you’d like to find out more – please contact Andrew, or one of his colleagues, by calling 01793 467525.

Toyota Auris Hybrid factfile:

Cost – Hybrid range from £20,045 OTR.

Fuel consumption – Up to 78.5 mpg combined.

Engine size: 1.8 petrol + electric motors and battery – total output 136 hp, automatic transmission.

Service intervals: 10k miles or 12 months whichever comes first.

Warranty from new: 5 years or 100k miles.

CO2 from 79 g/km; 13% BIK for company car driver; £0 road tax.

 

 

TEST DRIVING THE TOYOTA AURIS HYBRID

PART ONE:

Day One:

When I arrived to meet Andrew Crosby from Fish Brothers Toyota in Swindon I was in for a shock.

In my mind, I’d be tootling around town in a small two-door hybrid vehicle, my first ever experience of a car powered by batteries and petrol.

The car was brought around and it was, to me, a large family car, four door with an enormous boot. It was a Toyota Auris Hybrid in white.

Toyota-Day-One-1

Not going into too much technical detail it has a battery at the back, an engine at the front and the two work in tandem to offset each other depending on the driving conditions and speed. It’s an automatic which was a new thing for me – as I’d never driven one before.

The electric batteries power the car only for a short distance, around 1.5miles but it kicks in and out as you progress through slow moving traffic. Until you drive such a vehicle over a number of days, you have no real clue as to how useful (and eco friendly) this is. Believe me, I’ve been educated, the electric power kicked in a lot.

So two challenges in one day, driving a new type of vehicle and getting used to keeping my left foot still. Andrew took me for a test drive, stayed with me while I had a go and then I was on my own.

By the way and I’ll say this upfront, this car also parks itself but I knew at this stage, I just didn’t have the bottle to try to parallel park relying on the car. I need a space big enough to park a jet in at the best of times, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to trust the car to do it for me.

As I drove the car back home to my office, the first thing which hits you is that it’s so quiet. So very quiet that you almost feel as if the car has stalled when you stop and you initially feel out of control, as if you are coasting in neutral. It’s quite a big mental hurdle to overcome. I knew this would take some time to deal with – every person who got in the car with me commented freely on how quiet it was.

You don’t realise how much you rely on listening to your car and its sounds, until those sounds are not there.

My first proper ‘outing’ was the school run which took me a couple of miles from my central Swindon home. Once again, starting the car demonstrated how silent it is – and at this stage it still feels very strange.

The electric power is engaged at very low speed and when in traffic (which is often in Swindon) so far so good. It’s a smooth ride but I had a couple of niggles. The clock favours the passenger so it’s hard to see and I realise I check the time a lot. In my own car the clock is more central and slightly down to my left, I’m so used to looking at it, having to look elsewhere is odd.

Also there is a compartment or elbow rest next to the driver’s seat which is at the wrong level for me. It would be at the right level if you were taller – but I kept banging my elbow on it.

I’ve had this before in other cars – my current car doesn’t have this arm rest and my previous car had one which could be moved backwards.

Solution? Keep the lid open all of the time.

DAY TWO:

Day Two was a real test for the car as it was a busy day out and about around town then off to Cardiff for an event and overnight stay.

Toyota-Day-Two-compartment-2

From early morning the car took me to West Swindon, Old Town, Royal Wootton Bassett and Purton. It performed well and is a dream to drive because it’s such a smooth ride. I’ve not noticed any real loss of power – my own car is a 2 litre and this one is a 1.8. However it doesn’t have the acceleration of my own car and I’m still getting used to that slight delay as the automatic moves through the gears ‘on its own’.

The rear view mirror is a bit narrow for my liking – although the car has a reversing camera. As I know quite a bit about cameras, they are great for some reverse moves but the truth is the perspective is distorted and you cannot see the sides. Therefore I’m reluctant to rely soley on the camera.

DAY THREE:

Written as I sit in the hotel in Cardiff prior to my first meeting of the day. Yesterday I had travelled to the city in the most appalling weather conditions, pretty scary in a car you don’t know well.

It performed well and was smooth though occasionally felt buffeted by the very strong winds. Having said that, any car would have been bounced by the high winds and driving rain.

The car got me safely to two meetings in different parts of the city. As most of the journey was with petrol on the M4, fuel consumption seemed about the same as normal. It appears that around town you use very little fuel, but on a longer journey, the petrol is used up very much at the same rate as my existing car which is a diesel.

One thing is that it can be easy to speed in this car because it’s so quiet. As I was trying to find my way to my first meeting in central Cardiff, I was flashed by a static camera. No excuses here – it’s my fault for going too fast but I just hadn’t realised I was over the speed limit until it was too late. And yes, I was caught on camera doing 35 in a 30mph zone and am now awaiting my fate.

I’m not blaming the car for this but please take this as a warning. If you are considering purchasing a car such as this, give yourself a good few days to get used to it’s ‘sounds’ or lack of them. This is especially if you are driving in an area which is unfamiliar.

Also I did have some problems with the blue tooth audio, it kept cutting out and I’m not sure why. This was while travelling in Wiltshire – I didn’t use the blue tooth on the way to Cardiff, the weather was simply too appalling to talk to anyone on the phone. Radio was fine though.

I must admit I’m not keen on the cover of the steering wheel as it’s very smooth – I personally prefer something with more grip. But that’s a very personal preference.

The boot is great, could easily fit a pushchair and bags. My overnight bag, business banner, laptop and other paperwork was utterly lost in the space.

Next week – part two – my last two days and a fact file on the Toyota Auris Hybrid.

Five things national journalists don’t care about…..

By Fiona Scott, journalist and media consultant

Having worked as a journalist for almost 30 years, it still amazes me how blinkered small businesses can be when it comes to PR or story-telling.

Entrepreneurs, in my experience, tend to fall into three categories:

One – the company owner who thinks they have no stories or nothing to say.

Two – the company owner who thinks their business is the hottest topic in town.

Three – the business owner who just understands and embraces the organic process that is PR and the need to keep telling stories in order to create selling opportunities down the line.

Guess which one is the easiest to work with?

Even in the last month I’ve dealt with, and passed on, three businesses which only want ‘national’ publicity and aren’t interested in the local or regional press.

My answer? In our digital age – what is national? Isn’t anything which hits the internet potentially global?

Also with our access to social media on its various platforms – aren’t we in the best position to make our stories work much harder through sharing, asking for shares and commenting – even if that original story appeared in the local High Street News online?

All businesses have stories to tell but you must consider what is a story and where can it be told?

A ‘fixtures and fittings’ magazine wants to hear about fixtures and fittings – it’s reach is narrow. The Cheltenham newspaper wants a story which says Cheltenham, it’s reach is specific.

National journalists in the UK have much more stringent criteria because they have a big pond in which to fish.

Even when your story meets their criteria – whether on or offline – that story will have to compete with other stories on the table.

Are there any short cuts? Perhaps.

You can employ a PR agency which may, or may not, deliver against your expectations.

You can always advertise – but you need a big budget for this and you have to keep doing it over time. Ask yourself, when was the last time you read a paid-for ad in a national newspaper?

If you are aligned with a celebrity or someone with a very high profile, you could shoot up the priority list. If Bill Gates invests in your business, brace yourself for the interest – in Bill Gates first and you, second.

Even if you meet these criteria, a national journalist will check you out online to measure your profile – they will assess your website, and while you may not rate local publicity, they often will. In many cases, they started in the local media and they rate it, even if you do not.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the news agenda, or how you feel about it – this is the reality and no amount of bluff, bluster or spitting of feathers will change it.

Putting it bluntly, here are five things national journalists don’t care about:

One:

They don’t care that you are busy and don’t have time – they are busy too and if you can’t be bothered, they won’t notice.

Two:

They don’t care what product you produce or service you offer unless they are talking about that product or service on that day – anything else is advertising.

Three:

They don’t care about the fact they’ve not replied to your emails or the emails of your PR company – they have hundreds each day and they will have forgotten every single one on a busy shift.

Four:

They don’t care about your mission statement – they want facts they can work with, not vague wishy-washy dithering.

Five:

They often don’t care about the day-to-day of small businesses – even small business editors will look for the biggest, best, smallest, worst, most unusual, first and last.

Faced with this, my top tips are:

National journalists want stories which have a national interest or are extremely unusual or moving. They often want something new, topical with an opinionated and outspoken view or some kind of jeopardy or conflict.

But more than anything else – they want a story which meets their need at that moment, that day, that week. Meet that need.

The first place they will start to find that burning story – is within their own circle of contacts and experience. Enter that circle.

Relationships have to be built and nurtured, just like any other business relationship. It takes time and effort. Make the effort.

And remember the one key thing in business and in PR – it’s all about people, people, people.

Do you want to appear in the national Press, Radio or TV?

Do you want to appear in the national press? Do you want to be interviewed on national radio? Do you want to be featured in a high quality national magazine?  Thomas & Fiona

If the answer to any of these questions is yes – please read on.

I attended an event in London last week called Meet The Journalists – organised by Dan Martin of Enterprise Nation. You may well ask ‘why would a journalist want to meet other journalists?’ – in my case it was to make new contacts face to face but also to ensure my thinking about the national media and the advice I share with my clients is actually up-to-date and accurate. It was.

The event was attended by many small business people and PR people and it was sold out. What interested me was the behaviour of some of those who attended. First of all, when invited to ask questions – several people launched into a long pitch about their business. Often very desperately as if they had to speak at 100mph and share their long story in 30 seconds flat. This demonstrated to me they saw this as an opportunity to pitch, not to ask. Rather like the hard sale at a networking event and probably likely to yield the same result. 

The next thing which interested me was the way in which a few small business owners wanted to whine and bleat at the journalists about how hard their lives are, how they try to get publicity but are ignored and how they don’t have time to make the effort to engage these journalists. There was a sense from some in the audience the journalists had some kind of ‘duty’ to tell their story. Again, this is a familiar ditty which I hear week in and week out. For me, it’s also a sign of a business which probably won’t last. It’s no good telling a journalist you haven’t got time – they aren’t interested. Listening and acting efficiently on the tips they share is one of the best ways to spend marketing time surely. Or hire someone to do it for you. Simple. 

A third thing which really got my attention was the way in which a national journalist will decide if your business is worth more than a cursory glance. I know how the news agenda works – when in television day in an day out, a story was often not deemed newsworthy until it had appeared in a newspaper somewhere first. Personally I could never understand that – a good story is a good story. However it often worked that way.

Now, the journalists clearly have  a pattern of research and – surprise, surprise – it’s very similar to anyone’s pattern of research.

In a national arena where they write about the biggest, the best, the richest, the worst, the least – they will not write about the mediocre. If a national journalist is interested at all in you, they will look you or your business up on the internet first. If your website is done by your cousin’s child and cost you 50p you are out straightaway. If there are no news stories already there about you to reinforce your credibility – you are at a huge disadvantage. If national or international profile is your goal – you have to be present in a way that can be found easily and quickly.

Finally, some national journalists positively want to hear from the little guy or the little gal but not every day and not on stories which are not of national interest. If you are hiring your first employee – that’s not going to cut it. If you are hiring that expert from Flog It!, that might get their attention. However, if they are writing about apprenticeships and you have hired your first apprentice – well, that’s a toe in straightaway. So my final piece of advice is this – keep on top of the news agenda every  day and, if it fits you or your business, become part of the story by proactively letting them know that you are around – and you are available. 

What did you do when your friend died of breast cancer?

On February 13 this year my friend Ainslie died of breast cancer after fighting the dreaded disease for 12 years. I knew Ainslie was going to die, at the time of her death she had cancer in her brain, was wheelchair bound and her body was less and less able to function. Given that I knew she was going to leave, I was always so sure I’d know when the time came. However I did not.

It was a full 24 hours later – while away with my family on a weekend break  – when I got the text from her husband Phil to tell me she’d gone.  I went into the state of shock which comes when someone who is part of your life is taken, a parting even worse if that someone is young, in this case just 47. My son told me he’d never heard me cry like that. 

Ainslie Duffell

Ainslie, who fought breast cancer for 12 years

I asked him what he meant. After all, I’m so soft I’ll cry at a tv advertisement which pulls on the heart strings. He’s seen me cry regularly, hundreds of times. He just said ‘it wasn’t like that’. I think he meant I was howling – making that kind of sound you make when you are almost separate from yourself wondering why on earth you are emitting such a strange, animal noise. 

When home, i visited Phil and Alex to see them following Ainslie’s passing. It’s one of those moments you dread but know you have to face and I did it with one of my children who felt she wanted to be there. It was such a shock to walk into the house and see Ainslie looking at me from the sofa – my heart flipped. Perhaps there’d been a mistake – but how could there be? It was actually Ainslie’s sister, Lindsay, who looks like her, or who looks like her before cancer took over Ainslie’s body and tried – but did not succeed  – to rob her of her essential self. 

What do you do when your friend dies from cancer? When you could do absolutely nothing to help her when she was here apart from being there? You can – donate money to her funeral fund, you can support her family in the days following her death, offer to do some practical things like cook meals, do shopping, clean the house. However, having suffered loss myself before – that’s not where the best and most positive route lies. Do those things. Do them as a matter of course, but don’t let that be it. The best route for me lies in letting everyone know this person mattered  weeks, months or years down the line. For everyone achieving that may look different. 

I lost my dad when he was 58 and I remember him daily by talking about him and ensuring my children know what he looked like, the funny things he said and did. What he did or didn’t like. How he influenced me for good and ill. When I lost my brother in law at just 49, it was about honouring his children, seeing him in them, trying to support my sister through the worst times of her life – and trying to keep on doing it even when it’s hard to do so. That’s family. But what about a close friend?

When I went to Ainslie’s house to see Phil and their son Alex, following her death. Alex and Phil told me they had a plan. In her journal, Ainslie had said how sad she was that she was unable to see Alex achieve his first century at cricket. Alex is a rising young star on the Wiltshire cricket scene and the sport is his passion – as it is Phil’s who is a sports journalist and qualified cricket coach. Why was Ainslie unable to see her son play on that day? As a wheelchair user, the cricket club where Alex plays regularly has very poor wheelchair access and nowhere for a disabled or very ill person to view a match safely or in any degree of comfort. Although very proud of her son, Ainslie’s wish to see him play could not be fulfilled. Her journal revealed the true extent of her sadness.

Now I know nothing about cricket save it can involve teams dressed in white carrying bats, using very hard red balls and the word ‘runs’ comes into it. It’s not a sport I’ve ever been interested in and my only abiding memory of it is the novelist DH Lawrence refers to the ‘chocking’ of the cricket ball hitting the bat in one of his novels. I’ve always liked the word ‘chock’. When Phil & Alex asked if I would support them in a five year project to rebuild the cricket pavilion at the Purton Cricket Club in Wiltshire so that no other wheelchair user would be denied access – I said yes. 

As I said before, I could do nothing to help Ainslie while she was alive battling this horrible, disgusting disease – but this is something I can do. I can do my little bit to support Phil & Alex as they attempt to create a legacy in Ainslie’s name at a cricket club which will be 200 years old in 2020. I’m proud to have been asked and I’m proud to do my bit. 

Could you do your bit by sharing this blog post? It will be one of many charting this journey over the next few years and highlighting events to raise money. At this early stage, just over £5,000 has been raised to get the project off the ground. It will be a long journey ahead with obstacles, hurdles and great moments. But it will never be anything like the journey which went before….so this is what I’m doing for my friend Ainslie….

How many times today have you said ‘please’ or ‘thank you’?

Today I’m thinking about manners – manners at home and manners in business. Manners online and manners offline.

As I was driving around my home town today, yet another motorist pulled from a merging lane in front of me – I gave way, which I didn’t have to do – I then waited for an acknowledgement of that act. But nothing happened. The driver didn’t wave, flash lights or in any way say ‘thanks’ for that.

I realised how quickly we will judge people when they act without manners – and the truth is that man probably didn’t give it a second thought. He probably didn’t even realise or care that I thought he’d been rude. However if I met him again how would I feel about him? Hardly a good first impression.

There are, of course, times in our lives when we don’t really care how people ‘feel’ about us. That’s normal. Frankly, sometimes people deserve it and we have to stand up for ourselves. 

However in most business scenarios, the way we make people feel is very important. It’s so easy to annoy, upset or irritate someone when we’ve actually done nothing wrong. People can be affected by other factors which have nothing to do with our behaviour. However at that particular moment, we may annoy or anger someone simply by being there – or even by not being there.

So why would anyone risk making someone feel negative by not doing something as simple as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ on a regular, daily basis? Manners are, for me, a sign of being both professional but empathetic. It means the person I’m engaging with is considering me and engaging with me at a personal level. I respond well to anyone who:

*allows me to go through a door first – be they male or female.

* ensures when they are with me they are not distracted by other things eg. a mobile phone.

* says thank you at appropriate moments.

I feel my heckles rise if someone:

* talks to me as though they are issuing commands – no matter what they are talking about.

* takes a telephone call or starts texting or reading on their phone during a conversation (unless there’s an emergency)

* chooses to respond to any kind of communication by ignoring it.

I’m not just talking about business here. My son has a birthday party soon and has invited a handful of children. Several parents have already let me know they can attend. Some have not. Of those, two parents have told me their child cannot attend but only because I’ve had to chase them. Where are the manners in that? If I had not chased, my child is denied an opportunity of inviting other friends in their stead. Also if they just don’t turn up on the day, I have to pay for them, whether or not they attend. This is, to me, the height of bad manners. I make a point of always letting fellow parents know a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as soon as possible. I’m often staggered at some people’s capacity to completely disregard the needs of others.

Don’t be afraid to share your bad manners (or great manners) stories with me. I’d love to hear them and I might share some if that’s okay.

I'm going go to ignore you because I can....

I’m going go to ignore you because I can….

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