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June, 2013

Who’s watching your business video? Disney? Virgin?

Have you ever considered having a film made about you and your business? Showcasing your ability as a guest speaker, as a workshop leader, describing your service or product?

Have you thought about what you’ll say, how you’ll say it, what you’ll wear, the tone, the feel, the look?

Forget the idea of corporate videos – films should tell a story, and there are many ways they can do that.

For some businesses, this should be part of your marketing. If you are your business – if you want to be a thought-leader, an expert, a public speaker, a teacher – then position yourself through video. Be out there to be  found, locally and globally.

Showcase what you do - especially if YOU are your business....

Showcase what you do – especially if YOU are your business….

I’m passionate about film and programme making because it’s been a large part of what I do – I can make a little money go a long way. Enough! No hard sell here! Consider this….

I suspect I can think of three reasons why you haven’t gone down this route:

1. I don’t need it.

2. I don’t want it.

3. It’s too expensive.

Here are five reasons why you should:

1. YouTube has 610 million views EVERY DAY and it’s still growing.

2. There are more high quality, HD videos on this site than on any other website in the world.

3. It’s a great way to be very visible, very quickly.

4. Netflix is has something like 33 million subscribers in the US.

5. Video, films, series – the moving image – is coming at you more than ever before and it’s going to get bigger and bigger – think Cheaters, think Dog The Bounty Hunter…

I predict that in the future,this medium will become even more important. It will become essential to be out there. Doing it now, in the UK, puts you in the position of a pioneer.

We are only just getting this in business. But you only have to think of singers like Jessie J, Gabrielle Aplin and others for whom video has been the defining factor.

I want to give you three examples of videos on YouTube which have really worked, all unexpectedly:

Anyone know Simon’s Cat? – fantastic little animations about a man and his cat, based around his experiences. Gained a gradual following which grew and grew (pets always pull in viewers). Now the brand is owned by Disney, you can buy Simon’s Cat merchandise such as coasters, mugs etc. All from a man animating the funny things his cat did at home.

Have you heard of Convos With My 2-Year-Old? – a similar and even funnier idea than above. A man records those bizarre talks we all have with our toddlers. He then recreates them with another man playing his daughter. It’s hilarious. They’ve produced five videos so far, the fifth came out in the UK today. Already they’ve been bought by Virgin to play on their planes to passengers. Who would have predicted that?

What about Steve’s CCTV film? Never heard of it. Didn’t think so. This is much closer to home but shows the same thing. My hubby made a film about a CCTV camera he ordered from the internet. As a details kinda of man, he made a film about how to set it up from opening the box to turning it on. It was over 10 mins which is a longish film and put it on You Tube. It was of reasonable quality as we do have gadgetry at home. No one would find it unless they bought that particular product with that particular name. They would have to have searched under that name or under CCTV. It was there but not highly visible.

Last week I checked it out and he had 20,000 views. If I said to you, I can get 20,000 people in a room focussing on this aspect of you and your business for ten minutes – would you say yes?

In our case, this was nothing like the millions of views of my other two examples. Just 20,000. Yesterday an American company contacted him to ask if he’d do the same for their new product. He’s talking terms now.

Video is the future for many businesses – be ready. Put the cash aside. You never know when Disney, Virgin et al will come calling.

In God’s waiting room – Mandela and Jean?

Today I’m writing about something very personal – something which those who are connected with me on Facebook may well have picked up already.

The truth is my godmother, who was 93 on Saturday, is dying. She’s slowly slipping away to whatever comes next. My family all knew this would happen at some point and I’m very thoughtful about it today. Maybe she’ll make her way up those golden steps in illustrious company as life seems to be pushing Nelson Mandela in the same direction.

As my family faces this moment, you may think we are all weeping at the thought of losing her – but we’re not. We are sad and reflective. But we’re glad that the end is coming for her. Is that very terrible?

When she was about 88 or so, she had a stroke which, over time, meant going into a supported nursing home. She’s a widow with no children of her own, her nieces were all over 60 themselves. I saw her several times in the home near Bath, where she has received first class care, and took the children with me, which has always delighted her.

But over the last couple of years, health episodes and further strokes have left her in a more or less vegetative state. She is unable to do anything for herself, is unable to communicate at all and it was only her eyes which gave you any clue if she actually knew you were in the room. Being there is more of a duty than a pleasure and that’s the truth of it.

From this information you might think that this is all very sad, an old lady slowly slipping away. But this ‘old lady’ was a strong, feisty woman, outspoken, sometimes ill-advisedly, and in love with her wider family. Born in 1920, she grew up in a poor family, the youngest child. She spent much of her life caring for her brother Bill, who was, what we called then, a spastic but, in today’s language, he was affected by cerebral palsy.

She married Ivan, who then went to serve in Burma during the war. Aunt Jean was, apparently well known as a well-dressed, beautifully turned out lady who lived life to the full. She had no children of her own and, when her parents died, she became a carer for Uncle Bill.

Wishing my godmother well on her final journey....

Wishing my godmother well on her final journey….

That’s what I remember from my childhood- Auntie Jean and Uncle Ivan living in a house with Uncle Bill, who was friendly but a little scary to me. She was my godmother, lived within a half mile of my grandparents, so we saw them often. She did tea and cake very well and had a very long garden with fields to the side where we could sometimes play. Her house felt dark with small rooms, a bit like a hobbit hole. It’s funny what the mind of a child remembers.

Later, after Uncle Bill and Uncle Ivan passed away, she seemed to live a quiet but happy life in her Somerset home and once a week visited my gran, her sister-in-law. They had regular spats, and I guess that was a theme of their relationship. When my gran died my Aunt Jean missed her terribly and made no bones about it.

Now she’s the last of that generation of the family – ironically she was the youngest and lived the longest. I sense she longs to be free of the prison of her body, and although I don’t see her much now, I’m aware that her leaving will widen the gap left by not having any of my grandparents or aunts or uncles from that generation. They filled my childhood to the brim as there were so many of them.

My message to her – good luck and God Bless Aunt Jean. I’d like to think I’d feel the moment when it comes, but I doubt I will. Thank you for all that you were to me and my sister, my mum and my dad, my aunts and uncles and my cousins. I hope what comes next brings you joy.

Should younger teenagers get the vote?

As I watch BBC’s Question Time tonight, I rejoice in an audience packed with young people.

These days that’s a great sight to see – many young people taking part in the country’s top political discussion programme. Politics frankly is such a turn-off to most young people today.

I’ve always thought my children know a lot about politics as we discuss issues at home frequently. My smugness about this was quickly dispersed this week when one of my children asked me first – what is democracy? And second – how do you get to become an MP? The fact was that she hadn’t even grasped the one key feature in the answer to both of these questions – the vote.

What messages have your family given you about voting?

What messages have your family given you about voting?

I have always voted – I’m not going to tell you who I’ve voted for, except to say I’ve not always voted for the same political party. I was brought up in a family where it would have been absolutely scandalous not to use that right. The view was always – don’t complain about the government if you’ve not bothered to cast your vote.

My grandad, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 88, went further. He used to tell me that people died for the vote for women and we should honour that fact. He lived through times of political turmoil and horror – WW1, the 1926 General Strike and WW2. He worked in a dangerous and vital industry – coal mining. He was a big, generous-hearted, hard drinking man who could barely read. But it was him who took his bass drum around the local villages in Somerset to let them know that WW2 was over. (His drum is now in Radstock Museum).

Back to the vote. I don’t live in Somerset any more but my adopted home of Wiltshire boasts a proud heritage around the suffragettes who marched through Marlborough. One of the leading suffragettes, Edith New, was a school teacher from Swindon. She was the first person to protest by chaining herself to railings. She went to prison and went on hunger strike to defend her beliefs.

Scotland is allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote when residents vote for or against independence next year. I think this is a good thing – capturing people’s imagination over politics as early as possible is important. I have some suspicion about why this is going to happen – is it because the Scottish government really want more people to vote or do they hope it will swing the vote one way or the other? Maybe that’s just the cynic in me.

We’ll see. However the day that anyone aged 16 or over can be represented will be a good day for democracy.

 

 

Three poor excuses for not taking part in difficult interviews.

Today I want to talk about some of the things journalists are asked to when they approach organisations for an interview – particularly when that interview might be difficult.

This might be a business which is facing some kind of legal action, industrial tribunal or a local authority involved in an investigation, a school involved in a court case. It could involve a news interview, a sit-down interview for a longer programme or a fly-on-the-wall or ‘reality’ type programme.

Most businesses will feel uplifted by such a request and would tend to look at reasons ‘to do’ it, sometimes without asking the correct questions about the project.

Many organisations, or public service bodies, would often look for the reasons ‘not to do’ something, considering in much detail the possible risks or pitfalls.

Excuses to avoid being interviewed are often not pretty

Excuses to avoid being interviewed are often not pretty

Both approaches need modifying – a business could do damage to itself by not considering the messaging, however a public body could miss out on a valuable opportunity by not engaging.

So what are the top three excuses might a journalist be given for not giving an interview?

The first and most common when there is some kind of legal action is ‘it’s subjudice’ ie. it could prejudice a court case to do it. This can be a very good reason but journalists are also subject to the same laws around contempt of court so they do know what this means. Don’t use this as an excuse – journalists see through it. Be clear about the law for a journalist – subjudice in a criminal case starts technically when a person is arrested though in practice it’s when a person is charged. When that point is reached, the Magistrates Courts Act comes into effect to which all are subject. In a civil case, however,  proceedings are active (subjudice comes into play) when a date for a hearing is set. This might be very late in the day, many months after the issue has arisen. Don’t try to baffle a journalist using this excuse.

The second request is ‘we’re interested but we want editorial control’. I’ve heard that many, many times. Understand this – YOU WILL NEVER GET IT. We have a free press in this country, that’s what makes PR so powerful. You cannot have editorial control over what a journalist does when they are writing for a third party publication as a contributor. Editorial control means I write, record or film an interview, let you see it, allow you to change anything you don’t like, and then it goes out. Not only is that time consuming – is that really what you want? Do you want to see a programme about, for example, MPs expenses where the MPs have ‘editorial control’?

If you’ve ever employed a PR consultant or company – they should clearly state that coverage isn’t guaranteed – and that’s because it is independent and therefore more credible.

A third and final one is – ‘it isn’t our fault, it’s their’s’ – this is often used when partnerships between organisations falls down. For example, a local authority and a building company hoping to build homes on a new site, it fails and the work is not done as originally intended. The local authority blames the housebuilder. The housebuilder blames the recession. Remember this, if your organisation is associated with a project – even if it’s not your fault that it failed – the perception will be that you are involved. Blaming another organisation won’t work. You will have to contribute to demonstrate what’s gone wrong – or people will assume you’ve done something wrong/don’t care/have something to hide.

When you have done something wrong – admit it, say sorry and outline what you’ve done to sort it out.

Now I really have got a little Klout! – Have you?

Today I have done a little dance around the room because my Klout score has gone up to 65 – the highest it’s ever been.

This may seem like a small victory but it’s taken me four years to get to 60 and a week to jump five points – so I believe blogging more often must have something to do with that. It’s not so much the blog itself, as only a few people take the time to comment on the blog page. It’s the interactions and comments on other virtual spaces, the shares and the likes which seem to make the difference.

 

What's your number?

What’s your number?

There are many analytics around Klout – which will interest those of you who use figures, numbers, systems, columns, detail and ROI stuff. I tend, according to my profile (and it’s true) more general results – like seeing 65 pop up unexpectedly on a Monday afternoon.

When I started learning about social media and its potential three years ago, and learned about Klout and the fact that it measures your true influence across the internet, my score was 28. That was at a time where I messed around a bit with Facebook, had a Twitter account but did nothing with it – and the same with LinkedIn. I’ve not really done Pinterest, Flickr or other things which are now more common.

 

Gradually my influence rose as I became more active. As I became more active I saw more results. I gathered case studies for stories, ideas for stories, have made friends and have made connections which have brought me clients. But it’s not been overnight, it’s been gradual and it’s required work. But I can point to at least two clients, one long term, which have been the direct result of doing stuff in the virtual space. You would be surprised who is watching you and saying nothing but absorbing that information. I’m not talking about this in a creepy sense, but more in a ‘putting yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind’ sense.

When I reached the golden 50 – I got a free gift of business cards – thanks very much. That was when I found out that in the USA, there are many high end business activities or events that you cannot access without a score that high. Big internet companies will filter guests by looking at how ‘engaged’ they are. I suspect that this will be coming our way too, though we’re not there yet.

So everyone, don’t be afraid of Klout. If you like facts and figures, it will give you all of that data. If, like me, you just want to see results and are not hung up on the detail, then know this one fact – if you engage, you will be engaging and if you’re engaging, you will be engaged – and I’m not necessarily talking romance here!

 

What kind of personality are you? Compliant? Steady?

Have you ever had your personality profile done? I’ve had it done twice now. The first time it was interesting, fascinating but not that revealing.

The second time, through I Am Woman, it made so much sense and I can honestly say its had an immediate effect. I don’t mean that it’s made my fortune but it’s made me see myself more clearly and understand why I get on with most people but sometimes find individuals difficult. I also have started to look out for those who find me hard to deal with.  I don’t think there’s been a day since when I’ve not clocked something about my reactions or someone’s reaction to me.

In simple terms, my understanding is that my natural personality is to be extremely dominant. Probably no real surprise to you – but to see it there in black and white was amazing. However, I apparently tone down this natural need to dominate in the workplace, it drops by a staggering 49 per cent. If you think about it – that chimes with what I do. If you are working for numerous employers, you have to adapt to their needs, even if you don’t agree with them.

 

Apparently the most unusual thing is my ability to adapt – it came in at 72 per cent. I can adapt my behaviour to suit the circumstance. Again, my job as a journalist, PR person means that makes sense. You become who you need to be to suit the circumstance. If I’m interviewing a farmer or a vulnerable person, I’ll be very different than if I’m given a five-minute slot with a government minister.

 

However this dominant side means that there are certain things I find difficult. If  someone talks to me about processes or systems, you’ll lose me in ten seconds flat. I find such things utterly stifling, even if  they make sense. I don’t find detail easy but I do it because I have to — being a journalist demands detail.

 

I was told that I would not make a good accountant but a job as an entrepreneur would suit me.

 

So do tell – what kind of person are you?

Review of Channel 4’s DDay live programme – wow!

I don’t know if any of you watched the amazing programmes on Channel 4 over the last couple of days about D Day.

When hubby said he wanted to watch it, I visibly groaned. How dull. How wrong was I. Using the lovely Peter Snow, they did a documentary as if the key 24-hour period for D Day was happening now and they followed seven people through their D Day journey.

For my own children who think of WW2 in the same way I might think of the Tudors, this was a clever way of bringing the human stories to life and reminding us that these were ordinary people, doing extraordinary things in order that we could be sitting in our living rooms tonight watching that footage.

Indeed they even showed a rare voice-over from a war journalist talking to people 100 years on – 2044 – about the things he was witnessing. What was incredible is that this recording was scratched on to a vinyl disc actually in the field. It’s amazing that in those hours where there was death and fear all around, people still took photographs, filmed and recorded some of what  happened.

What the old films also showed was that the power of the broadcast media was evident. For example, on Omaha beach thousands of British soldiers were killed. Written evidence shows that was the case but there is barely any footage of dead soldiers. There was clearly a strategy of minimising shots of death to keep up morale back home.

Indeed they even mentioned Operation Tiger – which was kept secret. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean. It would be very hard to do such a thing today.

And we must remember that it was the Nazis who were masters at propaganda and selection of news. Is it any surprise that in cases of war, the media are always vulnerable. It’s about control of information too.

Be careful what you say and see during a war!

Be careful what you say and see during a war!

Today I really thought about D Day, thanks to Channel 4, and I thought of those soldiers and others who faced terror to fight for our way of life. Of the seven individuals who were followed, six survived and went on to have a life in peacetime.

Thanks to them we too can enjoy that privilege.

You know that hidden antique? It’s time to Flog It!

Today’s blog is somewhat different from many as I’m going to appeal to anyone living in Wiltshire, Bath, Somerset or round about to come along and meet me, in person, at Longleat on Thursday July 18!

Well I’m exaggerating a little – I don’t really think anyone will really come to see me – will they? However they might be willing to come along to take part in an event like no other.

Paul doing his 'thing' in front of camera

Paul doing his ‘thing’ in front of camera

 

The truth is I’ll be so busy, the most I’ll manage is a bit of a wave. But you may want to come along to meet my colleague Paul Martin or one of the experts on the day – Flog It! is coming to Wiltshire. I’m proud to tell you all about it, because this show is a joy to work on and a joy to be take part in.

Flog It! is a daytime BBC show in the antiques and collectibles genre which regularly attracts an audience of two million and is currently on its twelfth series. Paul Martin presents the show and lives in Wiltshire with his family.

Normally I don’t shout about this job which I do from time to time but when it’s on home turf – it’s okay. I’m very, very proud to be a small part of a team which produces this ever popular day-time television show.

The premise of the show is that people bring along up to three  antiques or collectibles which will be valued and might – just might – be selected for filming and then the items are sold at an auction a few weeks later. Contributors will see if the valuations given on the day are realised in the auction house later.

This filming day is known as a valuation day with hundreds and hundreds of people attending and making a day of it. Flog It! is an event – it’s a feat of organisation – involves tens of staff who all have a vital role in making the day run smoothly.

My role on the day is to work with one of the experts who will be valuing items. Experts on the day will be David Fletcher, Mark Stacey and Michael Baggott. I’ll be told in a few weeks who I’m working with. It doesn’t matter because they are all good. Behind the scenes there are also a team of off-screen experts who ensure that everyone who attends gets their items valued.

As for me I’ll be working alongside two camera operators, a sound technician and a researcher. I’ll direct filming with an expert as he meets and greets guests, has a sneak preview of some of their items and then settles down to value things for several hours.

When you experience something like this, you realise that filming is like a jigsaw puzzle, many seemingly disparate things are filmed and they all come together in the edit to make a whole programme. It’s my job to ensure there are as many ‘pieces’ to choose from.

Paul will be around and about doing the same thing but also doing ‘links’ those chunks of ‘speaking to camera’ which moves the programme along on air.

And what about Longleat itself as a venue? Can anyone think of anywhere better. I’ve been to some extremely beautiful locations for Flog It! but I’m immensely proud to be in our lovely county.

So, if you’ve got something old which you think might have some value but you hate it, or you think it just isn’t wanted or doesn’t ‘fit’ any more. Come along and make selling it a real event.

Here are the details:

 

Flog It! will be at Longleat House, Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW on Thursday 18th July between 09:30am and 4pm. The items selected at the valuation day will go under the hammer at Henry Aldridge & Son Auctioneers, Unit 1 Bath Road Business Centre, Bath Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 1XA on Saturday 10th August.

 

Gay marriage is one step closer – good or bad?

Today I find myself blogging about something which can divide opinion – it’s not an issue I struggle with myself. Gay marriage is one step closer. Thank goodness. 

I must admit that when it reached the House of Lords, I didn’t imagine that the vote would pass with such a majority. The fact that it did suggests to me that the time is right – now is the time.

There are some of you who will read this post who will feel very conflicted about gay marriage – and the definition of marriage being a union between a man and a woman.

I don’t find any conflict at all.

There will be people who will think that I cannot believe in God and support gay marriage. Well, I’m afraid and I do and I do. You can argue this biblical thing or that biblical thing but I will still stand my ground. I won’t shout my corner, I will just believe in it because I feel it’s right in my heart.

Why? Well, there are several reasons. I’ve always worked in an industry where many people are gay or bi-sexual. I’ve learned through years of having friends and colleagues who are this or that way inclined that being happy and true to yourself is so important.

Too many people in the past have hidden their true sexuality and done the ‘right’ things like get married and have children only to cause pain later on. I know at least one person personally who’s done that. What good does that do in the end?

Tell me, which one is gay? Does it matter?

Tell me, which one is gay? Does it matter?

I have friends who have been in same sex partnerships for many, many years and their relationships are fantastic. So what right do I have to say they are not entitled to be married? If that’s what they want. I’m married and I cherish the relationship.

It’s crazy to me that, only a few years ago, you could have been with your same sex partner for 20 or 30 years and, if your partner died, you could be left with nothing. Where’s the justice in that?

At the weekend I watched Lincoln and the story of the political jiggery-pokery which apparently went on when he was trying to get the 13th amendment passed which made slavery illegal. The same religious arguments were put forward then as to why slavery should stay in place. Beliefs which seem utterly disgusting now. Men who really thought that the colour of skin dictated a level of superiority and that this was dictated by God – clearly.

I wonder if our children will look back and think the same of this debate now….

Domestic violence happens to someone else, doesn’t it?

It’s Monday and, as some of you will know, yesterday I blogged about gardening.

Such a mundane subject when, on the same day,  I read a blog from a friend talking about being a victim of domestic violence. Gardening seems such a trite thing to talk about in that context.

It was one of those blogs where you reflect on what you know of that person and you think ‘what? I’d never have thought it!’

Which just goes to show that domestic violence is no respecter of intelligence, personality or income. There may well be some evidence that if you’ve been brought up in a violent household, then you are more likely to be attracted to that kind of environment later. Work I’ve done around domestic violence murders, does seem to suggest this can be the case. But not having that kind of background, doesn’t mean you won’t be a victim of domestic violence.

I know this because I was a victim of it too. Not the ‘mysterious black eyes’ or facial bruises type. But the ‘you’re ugly’, ‘you’re fat’, ‘you’re stupid’, ‘you’re no good at anything’ type. All the signs were there at the beginning – but when they say love is blind, well it certainly was for me. This was one occasion in my life when I thought I’d got  it all. I finally got the good-looking guy, the man everyone wanted to go out with. He had piercing blue eyes, appeared successful and very attentive.

When I first met him, he ‘shared’ a flat with a woman who’d been his partner but they’d split up some time ago. I visited at his invitation and found, to my surprise, there was only one bedroom. But I conveniently overlooked this fact.

Then soon after, we were running to cross a wide road in Bath and I was accidentally left behind, a little slower than him and lost his hand. I laughingly crossed the road after him only to get a tirade of verbal abuse about how I’d humiliated and embarrassed him.

As I said, all the signs were there.

There then followed a roller coaster of two years of emotional abuse, interlaced with break-ups, reunions and the end period of living together. Along with the personal stuff (I was watched over all the time) there was the debt collectors and the lies, the money borrowed in my name and more which I just cannot go into here…

In the end it was a small thing which made me see the light. Something so small I can’t even remember what happened. I just walked out, called my parents, and asked for sanctuary. Luckily they agreed.

I’d made the mistake of agreeing to buy a house with this character – but luckily my name was on all the paperwork and I decided to go ahead on my own. A brave decision as I was responsible for a large loan, taken out without my permission and in my name, for motorbike parts, which I had to pay off for two years in order to not be blacklisted.

Once the relationship was over, I saw this man for what he was – a pathetic, sad little man, more pathetic than I had ever realised. I was stalked for six months, where he would turn up when I was out covering an event, he would call my parents and slag me off in terms no one wants their loved ones to hear, he would phone me at work especially if I was on a late shift. I always asked where my money was – he always said he’d pay with interest – I’m still waiting. That was over 20 years ago.

Frankly, it was cheap enough to get rid of that man. The experience taught me something important – I am deeply sensitive to any man who criticises me in a personal capacity when he barely knows me. Some short time after this relationship, I had a couple of dates with a man who told me he didn’t like my coat and thought I should get another – I never went out with him again.

I don’t judge anyone who puts up with dv for a period of time. It’s so easy to be blind – or to truly believe you can change someone or to be so downtrodden that you just cannot see a way out.

I also sometimes dream of that time and then wake up and feel a rush of relief that I’m not back there. I count myself lucky to have broken free and found someone I can be myself with  and not be fearful for my safety or sanity.

 

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