Back to Balfron Tower

balfron (2)

I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hope I can get closure on something that has been painful to me for nearly 40 years
My daughter alerted me to a web site and programme about Balfron Tower, Poplar. Youmay  be familiar with Trellick Tower, the large futuristic tower block on the way in to Paddington Station, in Chelsea, which because of its West London location, tends to get more PR.
If you ever drive through the Blackwall Tunnel, Balfron is the enormous block of flats on the northern side. (My mum used to say to me that “I had a mouth as big as Blackwall Tunnel!”)
But Balfron Tower was the first of the Erno Goldfinger listed tower blocks – and the best in my opinion – because we were one of the first families to move in there when it opened in 1969, and I grew up there.
I have made a special request to the organizers and it could make an old man very happy!
As a kid I remember seeing Erno Goldfinger the famous architect who lived in his creation in the early days, go shopping up at Chrisp Street market. (There was a story that he once upset the James Bond author Ian Fleming and in retaliation he named one of his villains after him!)
My mum used to go out and clean up the rude graffiti on the stairs, not wishing me to see such filth, not realizing it was actually me and my mates writing it!
We used to live on the ground floor and witnessed all sorts of things thrown over balconies. We even once found someone’s dead pet ferret!
I last saw my home at 3 Balfron Tower when I went away to Swansea University in 1978. (I was a pupil of George Green School and one of the very few people in the East End in those days to go to university – you are talking about no more than two dozen or so kids across the whole East End going.)
While at uni I was having a great time and was a bit remiss in keeping in touch (this was before the age of mobile phones and internet). So, I may not have rung home for a few weeks. The day I did, my mum said: “Just as well you rang, we’re moving tomorrow”. She wasn’t lying, they did move and I never ever did a get a chance to say ‘farewell’ and see the old place for a last time.
For nearly 40 years I have not had any closure on this – but maybe now there a chance.
There is a special programme of exhibitions and open houses – called Balfron Season  while a major refurbishment is carried out. Check out their fantastic
It looks a fantastic programme they are running. Good luck with it.
I now live near Cardiff, on Barry Island (I’m a real-life Gavin & Stacey having married a Barry girl) but will come down for a special trip not just down memory lane but to make the final farewell I never had the chance to do.
Hope they can help me.

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Time to get back on the Cluetrain

cluetrain for

It’s always good to step back and look at what you’re doing in your business. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the minutia – chasing new business, drafting proposals, billing chasing invoices… you know the rest.
So recently we have gone back to basics and revisited the Cluetrain Manifesto – which is now 12 years old.
For those of you who don’t know the Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses for all businesses operating within the newly-connected marketplace that was the internet. The ideas put forward within the manifesto aim to examine the impact of the Internet on both markets (consumers) and organisations. In addition, as both consumers and organisations are able to use the Internet and Intranets to establish a previously unavailable level of communication both within and between these two groups, the manifesto suggests that changes will be required from organisations as they respond to the new marketplace environment.
The manifesto was written in 1999 by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. A printed publication which elaborated on the manifesto was published in 2000 by Perseus Books under the same name.
The authors assert that the Internet is unlike the ordinary media used in mass marketing as it enables people to have “human to human” conversations, which have the potential to transform traditional business practices radically.
The book and website both challenge what the manifesto calls outmoded, 20th-century thinking about business in light of the emergence of the Web, clearly listing “95 theses”, as a reference to Martin Luther’s manifesto which heralded the start of the Protestant Reformation.
The term “cluetrain” stems from the following unattributed quote: “The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.”
So, offering some food for thought, here is the entire 95 thesis which form the basis of the Cluetrain Manifesto:
1.    Markets are conversations.
2.    Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3.    Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4.    Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5.    People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6.    The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7.    Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8.    In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9.    These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10.    As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11.    People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12.    There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
13.    What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
14.    Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
15.    In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business – the sound of mission statements and brochures – will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
16.    Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
17.    Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18.    Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19.    Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
20.    Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
21.    Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
22.    Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
23.    Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
24.    Bombastic boasts: “We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ” – do not constitute a position.
25.    Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
26.    Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
27.    By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.
28.    Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.
29.    Elvis said it best: “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”
30.    Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable – and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
31.    Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own “downsizing initiatives” taught us to ask the question: “Loyalty? What’s that?”
32.    Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
33.    Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be “picked up” at some tony conference.
34.    To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
35.    But first, they must belong to a community.
36.    Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
37.    If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
38.    Human communities are based on discourse – on human speech about human concerns.
39.    The community of discourse is the market.
40.    Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
41.    Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
42.    As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company- and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
43.    Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
44.    Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
45.    Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
46.    A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
47.    While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
48.    When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.
49.    Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
50.    Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
51.    Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
52.    Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.
53.    There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.
54.    In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
55.    As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
56.    These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other’s voices.
57.    Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.
58.    If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
59.    However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
60.    This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
61.    Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false – and often is.
62.    Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
63.    De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.
64.    We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
65.    We’re also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
66.    As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
67.    As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.
68.    The inflated self-important jargon you sling around – in the press, at your conferences – what’s that got to do with us?
69.    Maybe you’re impressing your investors. Maybe you’re impressing Wall Street. You’re not impressing us.
70.    If you don’t impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don’t they understand this? If they did, they wouldn’t let you talk that way.
71.    Your tired notions of “the market” make our eyes glaze over. We don’t recognize ourselves in your projections – perhaps because we know we’re already elsewhere.
72.    We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
73.    You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
74.    We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
75.    If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
76.    We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
77.    You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
78.    You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
79.    We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.
80.    Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind.
81.    Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?
82.    Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?
83.    We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
84.    We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?
85.    When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.
86.    When we’re not busy being your “target market,” many of us are your people. We’d rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing’s job.
87.    We’d like it if you got what’s going on here. That’d be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we’re holding our breath.
88.    We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
89.    We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
90.    Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.
91.    Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.
92.    Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can’t they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
93.    We’re both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they’re really just an annoyance. We know they’re coming down. We’re going to work from both sides to take them down.
94.    To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
95.    We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

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Unity Works opens doors with new iconic drumstick sculpture

14-07-07  Unity Works YEP Interviews (55)GREEN Communications has been appointed to deliver PR consultancy services to Unity Works, Wakefield’s new vibrant entertainment, leisure and work space, will officially open this month.

On Friday, September 5 more than 300 shareholders in the community co-operative will get a preview of the refurbished city landmark, after nearly 12 months of refurbishment work, Unity Hall, one of Wakefield’s oldest entertainment venues, will throw open its doors for the first time.

When Unity Works acquired the derelict Victorian property it had been empty for more than 15 years and the roof was in danger of collapse.

To mark the occasion, Unity Works will unveil a special sculpture designed by United Creatives incorporating 375 drum sticks – each embossed with name of each shareholder in the co-operative.

Unity Works chief executive Mark Taylor said: “This art work represents what Unity Works is all about – a community or union of people who have come together with the shared vision of creating a thriving arts and business hub in the centre of Wakefield.

“Unity Works will be open to all residents of Wakefield and beyond offering a wide range of entertainment and arts events including music and exhibitions as well as acting as a venue for conferences, meetings and weddings.”

The drumstick sculptural installation in the foyer entrance area will be suspended from the ceiling in the form of a rippled sound wave as well as wall-mounted ‘armory’ of 5,000 drumsticks.

Unity Works, opposite the Theatre Royal on Westgate, is a grade II listed gem, has been used and loved by the community since it was established as the Wakefield Co-operative headquarters in 1867.

It is owned by Unity House (Wakefield) Limited, which was established as a community benefit co-operative in 2011 to turn the building into a major music venue, conference centre and location for creative businesses. It has 375 member investors and has raised £4m to purchase the building and refurbish the property to the highest standards.

On Saturday, September 6 Unity Works will host its first open day for the general public from 10am to 4pm. During the day visitors can listen to local bands, join in crafting activities and view art from local artists in the Unity Arts permanent gallery.

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How the ice bucket challenge became a worldwide hit – it’s a meme

icebucketThe latest viral internet hit is the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ – you nominate someone to dump a bucket of ice water over them – which of course is filmed and posted for your networks to see online. Millions of #IceBucketChallenges later and you have a social media success.
The idea was instigated to support the ALS Association, which carries out research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – otherwise known as motor neurone disease. Why is it a viral success? The answer: it’s a potent meme.

It has all the characteristics of meme-friendly communications:

  • It’s coherent
  • Lives long enough to be passed on to a third party
  • It’s easily copy-able
  • It’s ‘sticky’

Add the ingredients of high social media potency: make it visible, shareable and networkable – and you have a great viral success on your hands.

Where does the idea go now?

Potential future activities could be to link the idea to a specific day – ‘Ice Bucket Challenge Day’ – or to a trigger or prompt, such as when the weather exceeds a certain temperature you go out and mark the occasion with the Pop-Up equivalent of ‘Ice Bucket Challenges’.

One weakness of the meme is that it’s name and activity is not integrated into the name of the charity. So, we will witness more people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge oblivious of, and independent of any supporting charity link.

Perhaps, the originators should have integrated a message into the act of ‘Ice Bucketing’ such as having to shout out, ‘Motor Neurone!’, so as to strengthen the connection between the act and the charity.

What this episode signifies is the potency of powerful memes and the possibility of linking positive messages and acts of kindness to them.

I helped nurture the Blue Monday meme – ‘symbolically, the most depressing day of the year’ on the third Monday of January. Ironically, it depresses the Hell out of me how mental health charities have been slow, or reluctant to seize upon its potency.

I’m almost tempted to throw a bucket of cold water over them!

Maybe that could be another extension of the idea, ‘Ice Bucket Wake Up Calls’. What’s certain if you want to make a splash, cook a meme.

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Murphy wasn’t invited – lessons from Senegal

senegal groupEnjoyed a delightful time sharing latest insights and knowledge on creativity, brand communications, crisis comms, social media, PR strategy and redefining PR with delegates at the 7th International Public Relations Congress in Dakar, Senegal.
And I too learned new things like the delightful pearl of wisdom shared by fellow speaker Robyn de Villiers, Chairman and CEO Africa at Burson-Marsteller. She recalled a launch of a technology product, where the technology under the spotlight failed to work.
A seasoned veteran journalist and guest at the event leaned back and whispered to Robyn: “You’ve done one thing wrong here: You’ve forgotten to invite Murphy!”
Apart from inducing a wry smile, it underwrote a fact of life in working and operating in Africa; as Murphy’s Law states, if things can go wrong, they will.
Whether you’re in Africa or elsewhere, inviting Murphy to the event or campaign planning process is essential in anticipating and preparing for the interventions of potential Murphydoms.
It was also delightful sharing a platform with Dr. Zehra Gungor, President of the International Public Relations Association.
Lessons of global travel is the realisation of how people, despite surface differences share a common destiny, a frustration that we could create a better world through redefining and improving our use and understanding of how creativity works as well as more effective use of Brand Communications.
So, after Senegal, my mission continues…

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How to write good headlines

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Social Media and Community

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My bit for the Tour de France

SM1_IanGreen3Standing in a steady down-pour of rain that only Leeds could supply in late May, I and more than 5,000 other Grand Depart Tour Makers marshalled outside the Firstdirect Arena, waiting patiently for a full-sodden hour to be allowed to find out what we had volunteered for.
Pulling my hood over my head my first thought was – “all this just to wear a high visibility tabard”. However, the crowd, which spiralled in neat queues around the arena seemed to be cheerful enough in that dour, resentfully cheerful manner only Yorkshire people can muster. One young woman from Halifax joining the queue with her pal summed it up perfectly: “Cheer up you miserable buggers”.
But still the rain came down.
Later, after the presentations, inspirational videos and talks from Nicola Adams, Leeds’ Olympic boxing champion – reflecting on the contribution of the Game Makers to the 2012 London Olympics -  Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, who is widely credited with bringing the Grand Depart to Yorkshire; and the wonderful Brian Robinson, the Huddersfield-born cyclist who was the first British rider to finish a Tour de France and the first to win a stage of the famous race, we all emerged into the blinding sunshine that only Leeds could supply in late May.
So why did I volunteer to be a Tour Maker?
Well, I had been lucky enough to go to the 2012 Olympics at Dorney Lake, near Windsor to witness Team GB take nine medals. As a competitive rower, albeit veteran, with Bradford Amateur Rowing Club, that was thrilling enough.
But what impressed me most was the Game Makers – an army of volunteers who had sacrificed their own time and resources to help make the London Games the success it was and which remains an indelible mark of our Britishness. In particular, I remember a cheerful black man, sat in a tall chair calling on everyone to smile as they entered the sports arena.
So, when the chance came to be part of what will probably be the biggest sporting event to ever run through the Broad Acres of Yorkshire, I jumped.
I was lucky. I was chosen. Many weren’t. The process of selecting a Tour Maker is long and, for the organisers, must be a logistical nightmare. For the would-be Tour Maker it begins with an online application, followed by video ‘interview’ – where you respond to camera to a set of questions. If successful you go to the next stage – again in the age of social media and the internet you complete your training online.
And then more than 5,000 us turn up at the Leeds Arena for ‘orientation’ – I know, I’m not sure what this means either – where we find out what is expected of us. It’s all organised by Asda, one of the Grand Depart’s main sponsors and I, for one, think they did a brilliant job. But this, being Yorkshire, there are some snipers.
Particularly online – the true home of moaners and whingers everywhere. A Facebook group has been established and the official Rendezvous website where Tour Makers can post their views on the organisation of the event thus far.
One, atypical whiner on Facebook complained: “Very disheartened with the whole organisation or lack of it. Still waiting to be told where my stage is, clearly it isn’t in Leeds. To top it all I’m now lumbered with an off-route role. I’m just thinking sod it, if I don’t have the information to do my role then what’s the point?”
Others, frustrated with the complainers, simply posted: “Leaving this group had enough of some of the rubbish posted”. Another said: “Is anyone else finding the negativity on Rendevous disappointing tonight?”
Disappointing indeed! I live in Menston, two miles from Otley and Ilkley and have been assigned an off-route position between Skipton and Kettlewell, North Yorkshire, 30 miles away. Which means I won’t see the race.  Sad face. But that’s fine.
It might mean getting up at five in the morning to get to my roster meeting point on July 5 but I know there is going to be 10,000 of us Tour Makers supporting this event to ensure that everyone on the route, from all over the world, has a grand day out.
My role is Waymaker – there’s thousands of us – we’re here to look after you and make sure you enjoy your day. If you see me, say hello to Iggy, my nickname from school.
And while I am disappointed I don’t have a high-visibility tabard – I hope you won’t miss me in my lime green livery.

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Bertie’s war

04.21.14 bertie war 2Only the British army would take a ventriloquist’s dummy on the D-Day landings in 1944!
Yes, it’s true. A British Army Captain, took ‘Bertie’, a ventriloquist doll onto the beaches of Normandy in the first few days of invasion.
Admittedly, Bertie did wear an army uniform – even resplendent, proudly bearing a number of campaign medals.
Just imagine if he had got captured. Imagine the Gestapo trying to interrogate him!
I now have a new creative hero. Capt.E.H.‘Ted’ North.
Captain North landed on the Mike Sector of Juno beach shortly after June 6th.
A Member of the Magic Circle and a ventriloquist, he packed in his kitbag his dummy, Bertie, in uniform, ready for action.
Alongside getting into action, Ted ensured Bertie played his part, combining inspecting the D-Day battlefield and going on to entertain the troops and wounded soldiers to boost morale.
Thankfully, both Ted and Bertie survived the war. Yet, they returned to the Normandy beaches on various anniversaries and continued to entertain audiences of all ages, their last performance at the Harlow Playhouse in 1985, celebrating a partnership of 50 years together.
Ted passed away the following year.
Bertie is now retired and resides at the D-Day Museum, at Southsea, Hampshire, still proudly wearing his original uniform and medals, and still bringing a glow of pleasure to visitors.
Their story lives on however, in a delightful book I acquired at the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Museum. (There to trace my wife’s grandfather’s World War I records)
The book, titled Bertie’s War and published by Ted North’s family, contains absolute gems of the delight and absurdity of Bertie’s Normandy Tour.
Ted’s terrible puns caption pictures of Bertie, in uniform on the D-Day beach. “I’ve found some lovely shells on the beach” as Bertie sits among the spent ammunition is one typical bon mots.
Ted’s family recreated one of the act’s scripts [abridged version].

Ted:        Wake up Bertie and get dressed quick, I’m taking you for a surprise trip to the seaside.
Bertie:   A surprise trip? Do you mean like the surprise trip you had on the stairs last night when you got back from the Officer’s mess.
Ted:         Just put on your battledress and boots because we’ll be wading ashore.
Bertie:    Wading ashore? Gattledress and goots? What, on a nice sandy beach in France? I knew there’d be a catch in it, there always is – and what about my gucket and spade?
Ted:         You won’t be needing your gucket – I mean bucket….This is a very important mission because we are going to help our lads to liberate Europe from Hitler and his armies. Just think, you might even win some medals.
Bertie:    Medals? Really? Me? Well in that case pass me my uniform quick Ted, there’s no time to waste, I can’t wait to get at ‘em and get rid of that nasty old Hitler.

For me, Ted and Bertie still live on as creative heroes. If you are ever thinking down, demotivated, or just need a new strategy or direction, invoke the images of Ted and Bertie and their D-Day landings.
Fantasy Mentors are a brilliant 24 7 creativity tool. Whenever you are faced with a challenge simply pose the question to your role model: “How would Ted and Bertie tackle the problem of…?”
Before long, your mind is taking you instantly in new, sometimes unexpected directions and lines of inquiry. Try it now.
For me, I’m eternally grateful to Ted, Bertie and their generation for the sacrifices they made in defeating that ‘nasty old Hitler.
I’m also grateful for their joining my portfolio of Fantasy Mentors. With a Fantasy Mentor for any situation, I’m better equipped for any battle I face in my life, by being more capable to think flexibly, and think flexibly faster.
Thank you Ted and Bertie.

(Please do buy your copy of Bertie’s War)
04.21.14 bertie war cover

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Blogging for business: Top Ten Tips

blogWe manage a number of blogs on behalf of many clients. Indeed, for some clients we manage all their social media communications from micro-sites, to blogs, to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.
Too often though many companies fail to understand the purpose of a blog and how it is different from their corporate website. Many company blogs are just bland reproductions of the existing website. There is often no personality on display just a grey suit which uses and officious tone announcing the play-by-play updates of company news that invites no interaction with the reader… which is probably the customer or supplier.
With this in mind we’ve been thinking about what makes a good corporate blog. So, inevitably, here are our top ten tips for successful corporate blogs.

Set Your Guidelines
When creating a blog you must be able to define the value that it’s bringing to the reader. Your need to clearly define the focused theme that your team will follow. Choose a blog name and theme that fits well with your company’s expertise, but don’t be afraid to branch out into a larger space. Your blog should provide pertinent information for consumers interested in your area of business.
Once you’ve chosen an area to cover, create a set of editorial guidelines that your bloggers can follow. At GREEN we produce a number of guidelines on social media for a wide range of clients which clearly states the objectives of the blogs and the do’s and don’ts. This stops any abuse and helps the company avoid any potential controversy.
For instance at LINPAC Packaging they blog about, well, packaging and plastics. And not just about what they are doing internally on a new product release but offering some though leadership on the debate raging around packaging. The theme is specific enough for readers to understand what they may find, but it is such a broad topic, that almost limitless posts are possible.

Choose a Blogging Team
Not everyone can write – at least not in a manner that draws in the reader. More crucially, not everyone wants to write and many positively avoid it. So choose individuals that are knowledgeable and comfortable writing about the areas you would like to cover. Some companies prefer to elect an editor or group of editors to have a final look at all blog posts, while other companies allow their bloggers to publish directly. We prefer the later – if the guidelines are clear you should trust the people your working with.

Dress Down
If your website is the suited and booted face of your company, then your blog is your Dress Down Friday look. A blog is a place to let down your corporate hair and get to know your customers. Think of it as a conversation between people, not between a brand and one person. In order to have a conversation, you need two people — a blogger and a reader.
Give your corporate bloggers the freedom to be themselves. Encourage them to have their own personalities and writing styles. This type of diversity is more representative of your company than any monotonous tone that you could manufacture on your own.

Avoid PR and Marketing
Might seem like strange advice coming from a company that specialises in public relations and marketing but the insight, knowledge and expertise that a blog can impart is far more useful than any PR pitch that you could post. Stay away from trying to selling and marketing – you can do that on your website or in deadwood media publications.

Take it on the chin
Many organizations run scared off social media in the belief that some people (and their will be some people) will just use it as an opportunity to say bad things about you. But they would probably be mean about your anyway with its through social media or in a pub conversation.
Accept that you will have detractors but make a point of welcoming criticism and using it as an opportunity for providing feedback and improvement.

Outline Your Comment Policy
Open up your blog for full feedback, you will get a variety of comments – postivie, complimentary, hateful, and spam. Be prepared for everything and create a comment policy that your team can follow. GREEN’s comment policy is set out below:
Commenting on Greenblog
It is our policy to review all comments before publishing them, partly to reduce the possibility of spam comments and partly to ensure comments are in line with our list of blogger ethics below:

  • We will tell the truth. We will acknowledge and correct any mistakes promptly.
  • We will not delete comments unless they are spam, off-topic, or defamatory.
  • We will reply to comments when appropriate as promptly as possible.
  • We will link to online references and original source materials directly.
  • We will disagree with other opinions respectfully.

 

Get Social
Use share tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg.  Share tools allow your users to pass along your content and that’s a great way of creating brand ambassadors. We use a simple addthis button to make sharing easier.
Also, integrate you blog into other social media platroms by creating profiles across social networks that your readers and customers are active on. Facebook and Twitter are a good start, and YouTube is a must for video-sharing. When you post on your blog, announce the new post on your social networks and ask for your readers’ opinions on the subject.

Promote Your Blog
Just as you would promote any other company initiative, get the word out about your blog.  Share the URL on your website, social networks, business cards, e-mails, and advertisements.
Without promotion, building an audience can be difficult. Get behind the quality work that your team is putting into the blog and promote away.

Monitor and Feedback
One way to get a pulse on your blog and its effects on the community is to monitor mentions and feedback. Set up Google Alerts for your brand, blog name and any keywords that might be relevant.
At GREEN we use a number of programmes to monitor what our clients are saying online and what is being said about them.

Track Everything
Make sure your web analytics tools are switched on. We generally integrate Google Analytics into any blog we are managing. This tells us how much traffic the blog is receiving, where it’s coming from, where the referral websites are and which posts are being read the most.
Armed with this data we can then tweak future posts to ensure that we are getting the tone and content right.
Are missing anything? Leave a comment and let us know…

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