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?
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!
Today I feel hugely proud of our company, Mellow Media Ltd, as I have just attended a meeting which brought to a close three months’ work on an amazing project.
We have played an important part in running, developing and implementing a marketing strategy to raise well over £4m in just six weeks.
Let’s just think about that for a moment – that’s £666,667 a week or £95,238 every day.
Anyone connected with me on my social media network could have picked up my messages and tweets about Westmill Solar Cooperative or @westmillsolar.
It was the brainchild of Wiltshire farmer and entrepreneur Adam Twine to create a solar power station on his land but, instead of allowing a big company in to run the station, offer it up to people within the wider community. A less lucrative option for him – but in keeping with his green ethics.
Investors could bid for shares by putting in an investment of between £250 and £20k maximum. If successful, the cooperative will allow one investment, one vote. The aim was to make the cooperative accessible, open to as many people as possible and giving all an equal say, regardless of their investment or wealth.
Adam has created a similar project before, on the same site, Westmill Windfarm – that had taken years to come to fruition and had also raised a similar sum in community shares but over a longer period, 12 weeks – and a different economic time -2007. Five years on, it has over 2,000 investors and is providing strong returns on that investment.
This time, while the integrity of the project was clear, it seemed a tall order to raise that much money. Together we came up with a marketing strategy which involved much PR, advertising, leafleting, e-mailing and other features. In our case, we looked after PR, advised on other parts of the strategy as and when required.
We’d worked on the project from mid-May working towards the opening of a share offer in mid-June which would stay open for around six weeks – a cut-off date of July 31. The aim was to raise more than £4m from would-be investors to create the UK’s only community-run solar power station.
In fact the world’s largest community run solar power station.
Hundreds invested millions in UK's largest community run solar power station
This was a big ask. We are in a long-term economic depression with many businesses being happy just to survive. And many families suffering a stagnation or drop in income.
In our favour, we had a small, but illustrious team of people hoping to raise that kind of money in a short space of time. And fantastic partners who would step in to help out and support us as much as possible. And the offer on the table was a strong one – returns way above anything a bank could offer at the moment, or for the foreseeable future.
But, of course, PR is never guaranteed. This felt like a test of the value of PR as it’s so difficult to quantify. It’s about brand, messaging, information sharing and story-telling all rolled into one. So we stuck to our basic principles of telling a story well, with accuracy and always a picture. And we always had something new to say – a new nugget, a new angle.
When the share offer closed on July 31, it was over-subscribed by some margin. The message had clearly got out there. How did that happen?
As it was a project rather than a ‘slow burn PR strategy for the long-term’, I tracked some of the coverage we received. I found almost 100 separate items both online and offline. More than 50 per cent were online, and often, but not exclusively, within the specialist ‘green’ or ‘renewable energy’ sector.
More than 30 per cent were articles and features in the local press – within a 40km radius covering Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Bristol.
There were around eight radio interviews or mentions in that period and two exposures on regional television. As for the national press, there were five items in total, on and offline.
None of this included the fact that traditional written articles which appear in a newspaper, magazine or paper publication also tend to appear online – so the online total was probably much higher.
As the ideal target was reached, our role has now ended. But has it? When involved in a project like this which had a very specific beginning, middle and end – something always remains.
For me it’s a deeper respect for those who work in the renewable energy sector, who do so, often in the face of much cynicism because they feel it’s the right thing to do. Even though they might have to justify their position often.
Friends have been made, connections forged which will continue in to the future. And it’s this legacy, at a personal level, which will mean the most.
I don’t think people often think of Swindon as being a hub of the arts – yet it most certainly is – and in one small way I can prove it.
Yesterday, on BBC West‘s Inside Out programme, a film I’d made with colleague and friend Graham Carter about an almost forgotten poet and author, Alfred Williams, was aired. It was the result of work dating back to autumn last year when we decided to attempt to get a commission about this man’s work. He was a working-class writer who achieved a degree of national recognition in his life-time but who is barely remembered by the majority of people in Wiltshire and beyond. Yet, his most famous book Life in a Railway Factory, is a gem for glimpsing life in a Victorian factory.
Brave cast members of The Hammerman wait for us to get on with it on Uffington White Horse
When I saw it aired, if only in our region, it was thrilling and yet sad in some ways. Sad because that project is now over and secondly because there’s so much more we could do on him and his travel writing! What an interesting man he was. Born just outside the town in South Marston he went into the railway factory – the Great Western Railway works – to earn a better wage as Swindon boomed. But it was a drudge of a life, six days a week, 12-hour shifts in a hot, noisy, unforgiving environment. Even today, we are reaping the consequences of not caring enough for our men who worked in the railways – with asbestos-related deaths. But would we have made the same choices as Alfred?
Once he’d walked the four miles to work, done a 12-hour shift, walked home, said hello to his wife, he would sit down and write, delighting in the world around him. He was a master observer of his community, its characters, its quirkiness and its beauty. He recorded his travels around local villages – probably done on his one day off each week (I’m sure his wife didn’t get much of a look-in).
We re-created a very small part of his journey in 1912, which was recorded in one of his books, Villages of the White Horse, and yes, it can still be bought on Amazon.
What surprised me is the local media interest in the film – so if an lesson can be learned in terms of PR, it’s that you can never tell when something will generate interest.
It could have been a slow news day, considered light relief from heavier news, or it could have been a combination of those facts plus the one really important point – LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! Apathy is such a major factor when it comes to getting your good news out there. Never think that what you are doing isn’t of interest – make the effort. Sometimes it will fall on deaf ears, but at other times it will lead to surprising results.
When BBC Wiltshire asked me to go up for a short interview to talk about the film, I jumped at the chance and re-arranged my plans to do so. It only took ten minutes but those were minutes well spent. Graham had been up earlier in the day so there were at least two radio interviews in the county yesterday about this poet. That was on top of a strong page lead in the local Swindon Advertiser as well as social media snippets all day.
Fitting the bike cam - ignore my rather lovely pink wellies.....
The publicity, by association, also advertised a musical, The Hammerman, about Alfred and his life which is being staged in the town later this month and yes I’ll be going. We interviewed the composer John Cullimore in the film along with other contributors.
Making this film has been an absolute pleasure and I’m now ordering other Alfred Williams’ books for my birthday so I can learn a bit more about this town, and its industrial and rural heritage.
For more details about Alfred Williams, try www.alfredwilliams.org. uk and if you want to see how interested my children were in my BBC Wiltshire radio interview, here’s the link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXozWZq4sZU
Guess what? We’ve been asked to help out with the PR for a very special project in the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire area – the launch of the Westmill Solar Cooperative.
A beautiful site in the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire landscape....
This is very thrilling for us because renewable energy is something that it’s easy to talk about – but how many of us get to see it working up close? Here on our doorstep is one of the UK’s newest and largest solar farms and it’s amazing. And Mellow Media is playing just a small part in a bid to make this site as cooperatively owned as possible….
In a few weeks – date to be confirmed – a share option will be opened for investors to own a part of the solar farm (and you don’t have to be a millionaire to take part). The minimum investment will be around the £250 mark, though details are still being finalised.
Like artist David Hockney admitted recently, I’m one of those people who loves wind turbines so to see a site where turbines sit alongside more than 20,000 solar panels is astonishingly beautiful. You might say to yourself – well you have to say that – but I’d say it any way. I think it’s a lovely part of the landscape just off the A420 close to Swindon and on the Oxford Road.
When asked to be involved I did think -‘what do I know about solar farms or renewable energy?’ and the truth is – not much more than anyone else. And I suppose that’s the key, I’m representing the person who would not normally connect with such a project. However, I’m also one of those people who are thinking that we have to look at and embrace new technologies to secure sustainable energies for the sake of our children and their children.
So here I am, and for the first time I’m able to see how such a project works, how the energy is harvested, how it serves the local community and where any excess energy goes.
It’s a privilege to be part of such a project and I hope for everyone involved it’s a huge success. For me, it’s about personal learning, understanding the infrastructure that’s building up around renewable energy, hearing the arguments and seeing it in action.
I just know when this project finishes – I will have, as always, learned new things, made new friends and earned new contacts. Goodness me, could this really be business or journalism or life…..
(and I should just say, if you want to find out more it’s www.westmillsolar.coop)