When I was writing the press release for a talk the museum director was giving as part of the Old Cyder House Talks, I was really captured by her subject. Sarah had spent ten years at the Historic Royal Palaces where for much of her time she was a curator at Hampton Court Palace. She curated Suffragettes, Soldiers & Servants: Behind the Scenes of the Hampton Court Palace Community, an exhibition “ethereally” located in a former Grace & Favour apartment that I marketed as The militant Sikh Princess and other secret stars of Hampton Court Palace. The idea of secret stars really excited me and I enjoyed the stories she shared in her talk. I had no idea that the palace that was used by knights, courtiers, cardinals and kings from 1236 was occupied from the mid 18th century (when George II decided not to live there) by an eclectic mix of palace residents including Michael Faraday, the chemist and physicist who discovered electromagnetic induction and the militant Indian suffragette Princess Sophia, daughter of Maharajah Duleep Singh who moved into a series of apartments granted to those who found favour after services rendered to crown or country. There is always more to the story.

Two things on the web caught my attention this week. The first was the Nestle “fan page” on Facebook. The other was #CashGordon on twitter. Both have been touted as how not to do social media and I myself referred to #CashGordon today as the negative correlative of excellence in web 2.0. Olivier Blanchard has summed up the Nestle “fan page” story brilliantly here and Daniel Ashcroft (yes my brother but I’d follow him even if he wasn’t) has summed up the #CashGordon succinctly here. The conclusions of Aren and Daniel are ultimately the same.

Olivier: This isn't amateur hour. Social Media management requires rigorous training and razor-sharp focus: Having a Social Media presence for your company and brand(s) is serious business. It isn’t an afterthought. It isn’t something you can afford to assign to interns*. It isn’t something you can afford to completely hire out to a digital shop, a “social media” firm or an ad agency. You have to take the space seriously. This requires planning, preparation, training and focus.

Daniel: This has been a tough lesson on how Social Media is not just a medium that can spread the word and create positive results with minimal effort. It requires strategy, especially in anticipating and handling the inevitable mudslinging that will accompany activities such as this.

What caught the part of my imagination that was stimulated by Sarah’s talk was captured by these stories. There is so much more to them than the mere facts; the communication of the facts and the interpretation of them becomes bigger than the stories themselves. Sarah conceptualised a vast wealth of data to produce Suffragettes, Soldiers & Servants: Behind the Scenes of the Hampton Court Palace Community just as Olivier and Daniel have used the case studies of Nestle vs. Greenpeace and #CashGordon to explain the complexity of social media.

It is my belief that there is always more to the story and I’m fascinated by how collaboration can see ideas swell. This week I got the green light to run an event at the museum which is very close to my heart. The Creative Writing Workshop will take place on Saturday the 26th of June and will bring archive material to the eyes of Gloucestershire’s creative writers (obviously everyone is welcome and since Google Alerts has informed me of visitors from Sri Lanka to this website I’d like to stress all are welcome and if you fly to the UK for my workshop then hell, I’ll pick you up from the airport myself!**). I’m eager to see what a room full of creative people will make of the exciting and largely unseen material that the museum is privileged to have collected.

It’s why after participating twice in the 4am Project I contacted Karen Strunks this week to ask whether I could get more involved. Karen has kindly leant her support to my organising a Gloucester at night walk on the 4th of April in association with her fantastic idea. Since moving to Gloucester nearly a year ago (the first 4am Project coincided with the day I moved), I’ve developed a deep affection for my city and am keen for other people to see what secrets it holds. There’s a magic in the air at 4am and I’m sure my love of my home town is linked to my special first day here. But I still only have the bare bones of my story and hope that the photographers on the 4th of April 2010 will help me flesh it out.

I think it’s important that when we look at a situation, we look at it from a number of different angles and ask questions of its significance. Often this requires collaboration and I like Olivier’s idea of Nestle and Greenpeace actually working together. There’s a real risk that comes with failing to anticipate the needs and motivations of others (as the Tories demonstrated) and whether it is public or private, your story or someone else’s it is key to learn from it. I don’t always display great empathy but it is something I continually work at and see it as a lifetime’s work of refinement. I’m keen to see what the writers want and need (the workshop is arguably a pilot) and what the photographers see at 4am. Of course I hope to help build the creative community in my area and I have plans to film the walk through Gloucester at night but it’s important to step back from my own motivations lest I am blinded to what more there is to the story.

* This blog was brought to you by the marketing intern at the Edward Jenner Museum ;)

** No luggage, I drive an MX5!
A post by Rachel Cotterill made me think back to a favourite theme of mine this week. Rachel has a series of goals that are seemingly at odds with many of our peers’ values. Rachel wants to achieve such things as installing a wood burning stove and learning embroidery. I was asked by a senior co-worker recently why I had elected to work at a museum in Gloucestershire when I had previously lived in Kuala Lumpur and could have pursued any number of different careers. I had my answer ready immediately since my current lifestyle involved a very active decision but despite it being a decision I don’t regret and firmly believe will carve out the happiest path through life for me, it sounded a bit trite. What I wanted, I said, was not just a high quality a life but an excess of quality in my life with the time, energy and inclination to bake muffins for my boyfriend and his kids for breakfast at the weekends.

Many of my goals are not dissimilar to Rachel’s and my motivation stems from the inclusive whole. So while I have my ambitions, I am only ambitious within the parameters I gave my co-worker. What I want to achieve must be achieved within certain limitations. This isn’t to say I don’t go the extra mile, this week there was a film premier at the museum. Six medical museums across the UK participated in the Medicine at the Movies project which saw different groups of people introduced to film making; as the eradication of smallpox was a global issue the Edward Jenner Museum worked with refugee and asylum seeker groups. When our artist in residence, Fiona Meadley made some noisy musings about how nice it’d be to have some interesting catering, perhaps along a Middle Eastern theme, I (of tenuous, Masterchef semi-finals, fame) was happy to step up. I did my research and food ordering from the office but a day working from home was never going to cut it and so a couple of late evenings were thrown in order to pull together what was a very warmly received buffet. 

I was willing to give up my time and energy because the project inspired me. One day last week I realised one of our volunteers was watching my computer screen out of the corner of her eye. After a few minutes I asked her what she thought the relevance of pomegranate molasses was to my job. She had no idea and I quickly filled her in but there in a nutshell was why I believe I’m in the right kind of industry. I was shopping for ethnic foodstuffs, I got a paid for parcel of exotic foodstuffs and I got to spend time playing with exciting new foodstuffs... and they not only paid me to do it but were so pleased that they bought me a gorgeous plant and gave me a thank you mention after the films.

So what inspires me? Well, like Rachel, it is new skills and experiences. During my time in Malaysia I had some Persian friends that introduced me to Middle Eastern cuisine. I got hooked on cardamom and developed an obsession with flatbread. Catering for the film premier gave me the opportunity to really research some of the flavours and influences of those memories. In giving up my time and resources, I received benefit in kind of being able to pursue a culinary theme I hadn’t yet had opportunity to. Yes I’m glad my boss is happy and I liked the compliments and am just chuffed to bits about the plant but I did it for the experience.

I attribute this attitude for my general happiness (as in happiness with a capital H; the stuff of philosophy and £7.99 impulse book buys from WH Smith’s when your train is delayed). As I’ve admitted before, I’m as susceptible to validation whorery as the next girl but I’m not motivated by validation. I get indescribable joy from my boss being happy but her happiness is not my goal. Likewise I like money. Of course I like money. Anyone who doesn’t like money is, quite frankly, weird. I write this column from my (rather richer) boyfriend’s flat that overlooks the Gloucester Docks on a now rather battered (but once shiny laptop) while sipping on a glass of Minervois. These things cost money. But money isn’t enough, if it was I’d have taken my 2.1 from Durham University and joined PWC or one of the other recruiters. I want a certain something else.

It’s something I like about Edward Jenner. In his lifetime, Jenner wasn’t noted for his work on the smallpox vaccine. Rather it was his research on cuckoos that saw him admitted to the Royal Society. He was also a keen flautist. Oh and he wrote poetry. And in 1819 he dug up a Plesiosaur. Did I mention he was into hot air balloons? Jenner was unquestionably a Renaissance man, or perhaps more pretentiously, a polymath. Jenner had, and I cite Wikipedia, a ‘superior intelligence, whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.’ I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a polymath but there is definitely an aspiration towards Renaissance womanhood.

Whether my field ends up as marketing or academia or a combination of the two (or something else entirely) I never want that to be my everything and I hope to take as much pride in the things that don’t bring me success as those that do. The importance is to explore all avenues of inspiration. Ideally, a path of exploration and creativity will sit happily within a career and not vie for attention but my instincts tell me that really, it is a choice. And so I choose the path of the Renaissance woman and will work hard on my cooking, my photography and my writing and let the details of how it all comes together reveal themselves to me.
This week I attended the #AddMe Conference. I heard about it via twitter from 10Yetis who as I parked beside them, I kicked myself for forgetting my camera. My reasons for buying a ticket had been fairly simple; it was cheap and it was in Cheltenham. My reasons for being glad I did so are far more developed. Michael White, who conceived of, organised and marketed the conference, produced an extremely professional event that brought together a diverse group of people for a well paced and enjoyable evening. CIPR have an excellent representative in him.

The subject of the conference was ‘Web 2.0 and Relationships.’ Web 2.0 is one of those terms I’ve seen bandied about and thus absorbed but never attributed an exact definition to. I knew it was the social side of the web but White introduced it clearly and set the context of how user led sites such as twitter and Facebook (2.0) are replacing provider led sites (1.0) such as company information sites.

David Phillips spoke first about the DNA of social media being about values and how it is shared values and shared understanding of mutually held values that create relationships. His views on how our manifestation of trust (reputation) is intangible but that intangibles can turn tangibles into values was fascinating, especially when he made clear how this equated to the cold stuff! As I understood it, when a tangible product has a positive reputation it can sell itself on its values. It took me back to my days in sales when I had it drilled into me that people don’t buy products, they buy features and benefits; I can see the relevance to web 2.0 but I still have my reservations about the applicability to kitchens.

Next up was Alex Sass of Renegade Media who spoke about ‘buzz’ and the fact that ‘brand advocacy is even more important than brand image or brand satisfaction.’ He built on the foundations laid by Phillips about the significance of relationships and has coined the fantastic title of being ‘head of Homophily’ which really encapsulated the thrust of the conference for me. He explained the benefits of twitter for realtime customer service and clarified (for me at least) the significance of Blogger outreach - I was amazed to hear that blogs are the third most important links for SEO after military and academic and that ten blogs linking a video will put that video at number one on Google. Sass also explained why Facebook ads are good value for money (they raise brand awareness and a click-through rate of 0.1% makes them cheap) and that ‘the credibility of Google is inversely proportional to SEO.’ His final message was that the technology is a given and that we ought to invest in sociology. It was a lot of information in a relatively short presentation but it was all accessible even for a newbie like me.

www.twitter.com/thedogsdaily (no comment)

After a break, Aren Grimshaw of Tonick Media gave the final presentation. Grimshaw expanded on the community building aspects and made a clear distinction between what is and what is not community, bringing home the core message of the evening that social media relationships are about quality and not quantity. His experiences of Twestival and social media cafes was engaging and set their usage clearly within the wider social media picture.

After a long day at work, an evening conference can feel like a huge demand on your time and energy but I met some very interesting people during the networking opportunities and the three presentations, while covering a huge amount of information benefited from lively and enthusiastic speakers. I’ve gained a greater awareness of what social media is about and what it can achieve and have been left eager to join Richard Hudson’s DigiTalks Cheltenham and speak further with Stuart Croft of the Independence Trust.


Update: 10 Yetis got in touch saying that something about the sum of SEO claims didn’t ring quite true for them. After checking their facts they said that blogs being the third most important links for SEO after military and academic and that ten blogs linking a video will put that video at number one on Google was inaccurate.

What to do? I respect 10 Yetis (they have an office dog, enough said) but I paid money to see Alex Sass as a speaker at a conference. I’ve been in academia long enough to be faced with the question of making sense of conflicting arguments between respected sources before but it was a very different industry. In academia there is a hierarchy of journals which ‘experts’ are set against. I like to say that working towards my PhD makes me an expert on my very specific area of Southeast Asian Political Economy but the truth is that until a key journal publishes me or a key institution hires me, that expertise is easily negated against someone with those strings to their bow.

How then are we to make judgements in a web 2.0 world? The very nature of the developing internet (as highlighted by #AddMe) is based on relationships and as I have a relationship with 10 Yetis (fledgling as it is) I felt swayed by Andy Barr’s updates. To even the playing field I went to speak to Alex Sass via twitter... He doesn’t tweet. His last update was over a week ago! I hesitated and then clicked his web link. I was taken to his company website where a quick scroll revealed his email address. I never bothered to email him. 

While I was willing to put off writing this update until I had left work (I may upload at work but I write in my own time) if I was going to talk to him I wanted to do it quickly. I keep an eye on twitter all day and as much is connected to my work, I can justify (to myself, I hasten to add. I don’t work at the kind of loony bin that monitors web usage) the odd tweet here and there to people I want to share ideas with. But I don’t have time to compose emails; creating subjects to compete with what is no doubt an influx and deciding what sign off is appropriate. I have print companies to liaise with, volunteers to manage, the phone to answer and an event to organise... I’m 140 characters able to chat to you but nothing more than that.

I’ve been mulling this over this afternoon (while boiling the kettle, while locking up the conference centre, while waiting at the lights on my commute home) and the conclusion that I’m not completely happy with is that my ‘truth’ is the one that I share values with. 10 Yetis work within my reality and Alex Sass does not. It might be the case that Alex Sass is correct and 10 Yetis are wrong but I don’t have time to find out. My position on blogs being the third most important links for SEO after military and academic and that ten blogs linking a video will put that video at number one on Google is that I don’t honestly know but crucially, if asked my opinion, what is at the forefront of my mind is that there is doubt over this and I haven’t discredited the doubt.

With 10 Yetis I’m buying into their features and benefits (their expediency) with their product (the facts) as a secondary concern and that solidifies for me what Phillips was saying about social media turning relationships into reputation building.
I think a great many of us place our own story within the message of songs when we hear them. Of course, the vast majority of our feelings are shared by every other person on the planet and songs can tap into that; giving words that sometimes we don’t have ourselves. Songs can help us process our feelings and I have always found that the lyrics of others can enable me to release the emotions bottled up. I still listen to Never went to Church by the Streets on a fairly regular basis as over six years on, I still lack the ability to manage my thoughts about my own father’s death. It always makes me cry because those words, despite being words that are too difficult to hold in my memory, are still somehow my words. I can cry and then I can move on (albeit temporarily), knowing that when I need to let out the muddled confusion of grief again, the song will be there.

One song in particular has been helpful to me in recent years is Christina Aguilera’s Soar. My favourite line is the title of this column: We start to look outside ourselves for acceptance and approval. A lot gets said about finding your own path through life but I continually come across people who will say this and then add excessive caveats. Certain things, they will argue, are not for the likes of them. While examples range from the big (“Oh I could never move to another country”) to the small (“I wish I could get away with wearing dresses every day”) the explanation is the same. How we see ourselves is key and many of us have a tendency to typecast ourselves negatively. Then, from our own self-inflicted limited life we look outwards to others for our validation.

I am as guilty of validation whorery as the next person; I can be needy and struggle when I feel invisible. I like positive attention and spend more time than I am proud of questing for it. Yet much as I am subject to this common affliction, I am a resilient character and refuse to surrender the control of my fate to others. Not everything will go the way I might wish but I am never a passenger in my life, I am always always (at least these days – there is a murky past that led to this attitude as you might expect) firmly in the driving seat. The views and opinions of others matter hugely but that is merely information to take on board. It doesn’t matter who that person is, they can never know my full story because each of us is far too complex to be completely understood by a single person. While we may tap into a song that thousands of others will also tap into, we all have differing playlists.

In January I was applying for the job I currently have and needed a soapbox from which to process my thoughts. I wrote a column on Advertising, PR and Marketing. Similarly I am once again thinking about my career and it would be all too easy to allow myself to feel that my fate lies in the hands of others. When you have landed the job that you wanted, statements such as the one repeated below can sound sensibly self-evident but when you are unsuccessful they can seem vague and superficial.

Important as it is to make a personal impression, the ability to demonstrate a skill set that will help them meet their objectives is imperative. Just as the social marketer looks down the line of who they know to see who they can reach, the successful interviewee is the one that best identifies the needs of their potential employer and can best advertise themselves as the package to meet those needs.

I stand by the above words. This column is an extension of those ideas rather than a contradiction. While the act of applying for a job may appear to be the ultimate in looking outside yourself for acceptance and approval, I feel there is an interpretation that allows you to maintain your role as driver and not see you relegated to being a passenger. It is important to genuinely believe that the job application process is a reciprocal one. 

In applying for a job you are starting an evaluation of your potential future role as one that might be worthy of your time. The money is a bonus to my mind; what I’m really concerned with is what I’ll get out of all those hours that could be spent in other ways. Rather than look out from a self-inflicted limited life for a role that could validate me, I’m looking out from a life that is entirely of my own making for a role that could interest and fulfil me (and pay the bills obviously). I am not and will never be my job title.

Part of that evaluation process is whether or not you get an interview in the first place, how the interview goes and whether you get the job. The platitude of ‘if you didn’t get it, then it clearly wasn’t right for you’ is on the right path. As teenagers we often retort upon being dumped that we were about to dump the other person anyway (funny how as adults it’s the other way around) and it is of course an immature response but I have faith in my abilities and part of my evaluation of a role is looking to my potential future employer. I am a rising star and it matters that they can recognise my potential and encourage me to shine. While of course an important way an employer could demonstrate that would be to hire me, this is about qualifying them as a decision maker rather than sounding like an inverted Groucho Marx and saying I wouldn’t want to work for someone that wouldn’t give me a job.

I'm not looking outside myself for acceptance and approval. Are you?