What are you talking about on the train? Giving up secrets?

How many of us have been on a train journey and had to listen to someone talking loudly on their phone?

Can this be harmful? Is this something we should be careful about?

Most of these calls involve talking to someone to tell them we’re on our way home, or we’ve just left or we’re going to be a bit late. No harm there. Normal everyday chit chat.

However two weeks ago on a trip to Manchester, I realised the dangers of sharing information about your business on a mobile phone while on a train. It can be very bad for a company’s image.

Be careful what you say...

Be careful what you say…

Countless times I’ve heard people say ‘well, I can catch up with some work’. This is true but doing business over the phone where other people can listen in, can be very bad pr. You just don’t know who’s listening.

Let me tell you why. I listened to a man take several phone calls in connection with his job. I now know he works for a major sports brand retailer selling clothing – I was able to work out which company too. I know he’s the sales manager for that business and does a lot of travelling. I also know that this company is owed a lot of money – more than a million pounds – by a large British football club.

I now know which club apparently owes the money and I know this company is concerned about whether or not it will get that bill paid. I also know that while this man talks professionally and enjoys jargon in his conversations, there’s a female colleague who calls and his tone changes completely. The phrase used was along the lines of ‘I’ll always do that for you Emily?”. At which point I almost threw up.

Did he think for one minute that there was a journalist sitting in front of him who could write a story about such-and-such football club owing a large amount of money for kit?

If I know this amount of detail, how many other people on the train know this too? And where do these people work? Who do these people work for? Would this major sports brand want that kind of information bandied around?

As I was leaving the same train, I listened to a separate man talking loudly on the phone telling someone on the end of the line that a customer was ‘a right royal pain in the arse’. How lovely. What does that say about that man and his lack of respect for sharing his personal view about a third party in so public a way.

Top Tip – be careful what you say about third parties on the phone while on a train. Sooner or later, you could regret it.

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.



Hidden businesses who don’t realise their worth

I’ve just spent a week in Scotland combining work and pleasure with a trip to various places from Edinburgh and Scotland.
It’s been over a decade since my last visit so I really enjoyed the chance to travel around and enjoy the beauty of the scenery – wow, Edinburgh is wonderful.

One of the places I stayed was the Leny Estate near the small town of

Callander, about an hour from Glasgow.

I had stumbled across it on the internet and the idea of a log cabin on a Scottish mountainside appealed to me.

I didn’t know what to expect from this booking – although this business has an internet site, it’s little more than a brochure, and most contact was through leaving phone messages and trusting that a receipt would arrive for money paid.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy trust, it’s so important. But usually it’s something that’s built up over time.

Although the vibe from this company was good, its social media standing is close to zero in a market place that’s bursting at the seams with similar offerings.
But when we got to the Leny estate it was simply breath-taking – beautiful, private, secluded, a small stately home (five-star), six small log cabins which were perfect (four star) and elsewhere on the site some small cottages for hire.
In the four days we were there, we had everything we needed, we were not bothered by anyone, the scenery was beautiful, I cannot praise it enough. The only small problem we had was an ill-fitting sheet for one of the beds and once reported, a new sheet was on the door step within the hour.

I could not believe that only two cabins appeared to be occupied in the first week in August. Why, oh why, is this business not shouting about itself from the rooftops?

In these times of economic woe, can any business of this kind afford to have empty rooms? empty spaces? Perhaps they can.
As we travelled around, it was clear that there are log cabins, holiday homes, cottages, B&Bs all over the place. All the more reason to stand out from the crowd.


All the more reason to invest in some good PR to make sure you are head and shoulders above the rest.
Did I leave my business card? Am I hoping that the owners read this blog? Yes on both counts.
Even when something is exclusive, it’s important to shout about all of those positive factors about your business. Be proud, ask for endorsements, ask for recommendations.


It’s not enough to hope that people will stumble across your website,

now is the time to be proactive – it’s one of the keys to survival.

leny estate – great place to stay, where’s the pr

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