Dipping my toes into local radio

Who’d have thunk it, David Blunkett?! Yesterday, I made my radio debut!

AND I DIDN’T MESS IT UP!!!WOO

After being tweeted by local BBC Broadcast Assistant, Rob Watson (@Rob_Watson87) last Thursday, we had a quick phonecall where he mentioned that he was aware of my blogging and wanted me to take part in an interview panel with BBC presenter, Ben Jackson (standing in for the usual host, Jonathan Lampon, BBC Leicester’s Political Correspondent, Tim Parker, and De Montfort University Lecturer, Alastair Jones, regarding the General Election and, more specifically, the role social media will play in it.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was nervous. Although I’ve trained as a journalist myself, speaking at a live event where people would actually be listening to what I had to say was….daunting to say the least.

What I found (to my surprise) was that, as well as my five year participation in De Montfort’s Politics Society meaning I actually had a pretty substantiated opinion and had learnt the skills to be able to articulate it well, I was also completely at ease in-studio (due in part to having been taught by several of Alastair’s colleagues during my degree which meant that I was blessed with someone in studio who anchormanat least I partially knew).

Therefore something which I had honestly been in two minds about over the weekend, turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience which if again offered (and I hope it might) I will no doubt jump at.

If you’d like to hear what I have to say, please click HERE and have a listen (from 9 mins – 35 mins).

*Forgive the pauses for thought. I’m working on that for next time.

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#GE2015. Britain’s ‘Social Media Election’

Sixty years since the 1955 ‘Television election’, 2015 is looking to be the year in which social media platforms will play a decisive role in reaching Britain’s electorate.

Although Marketing Magazine reports that the Conservatives are expected to “outspend Labour 3:1, opting for traditional media”, Labour is putting more emphasis on door-to-door canvassing due to Miliband’s desire to have “4 million face-to-face conversations”. This means that despite less financial spend, Labour is equally more likely to be harnessing the influence and engagement potential of digital and social platforms.

This I think has been perfectly demonstrated during tonight’s Sky/Channel 4 Leader debate between PM David Cameron and Labour leader, Ed Miliband, which generated a considerable amount of simultaneous discussion across Twitter via the amazing – if a tad long – hashtag #Battlefornumber10.

Tweets ranged from the tongue-in-cheek:

To the thoughtfully considered:

To the frustrated outrage in response to the behaviour of Kay Burnley and Jeremy Paxman:

The vital role of social media within politics is becoming ever more widely accepted, and now it is becoming increasingly obvious that whichever party is first to develop and implement a convincing social media strategy will have a distinct advantage this upcoming May. Sites such as Facebook have already been used successfully in the US as a way to engage with – and gather information from – potential voters, and in the UK, 24million people have signed up to the service. This of course gives political parties a pool of voters from which to fish (or more accurately target and engage) on a more personal and responsive level than anything offered via traditional forms.

According to some however, social media is “massively overrated”. Richard Huntington, group chief strategy officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, argues that “It’s great at preaching to the converted and distributing leaders’ speeches or policy points, but political messaging rarely escapes its bubble, unless it’s very amusing.” Personally I think I’d disagree with this.

Although ‘amusing’ posts and tweets (particularly tongue-in-cheek satire) create increased ‘talkability’ online (thus enhancing a post (and brand’s) potential reach), I think this view doesn’t take into consideration the age old adage that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

I mean, it’s no real coincidence that only 55% of MPs in the safest seats use Twitter compared to nearly 90% of MPs in the most marginal seats. Being in a ‘safe’ seat erases the need for an MP to engage in a two-way conversation with their electorate – which I honestly think is to the detriment of the political sphere as I’m wholeheartedly a supporter of the ways that engagement and communication builds trust and brand loyalty.

Personally, I think a multi-pronged/integrated campaign approach will work best. Combine the power of Ad agencies which deliver strong, strategic messages, with the considerable influence and attention generated by public relations, as well as the personalisation and responsiveness allowed by digital and social platforms, and I think you’re/your brand is in with a winning recipe for increased engagement, trust and loyalty from your audiences.

Overall I think tonight has given me a lot to think about…

I was planning on dedicating a considerable part of my dissertation this year to analysing @Nick_Clegg’s Twitter use in the month prior to the election using a range of frameworks, but I have to say that tonight’s debate raises a new potential focus…

Do I continue looking at the influence of (and need for) trust within political (ie. the Liberal Democrats) brands, or….

do I look at the role of and way that social media is being used in the run up to the election….

Marketing ‘vermin’: Strategies to combat a plague-ridden reputation

sellings rats
Rats.

Not the easiest animal to convince people make good pets, but ones which I’ve found in the four or so years of owning them to be the cheekiest, most playful and surprisingly easiest small pet you could own.

A quick list of their benefits can include:

  1. Unlike Hamsters, Degus and Chinchillas, they’re not nocturnal and so will be awake when you are.
  2. Personality-wise they are a cross between a dog (playful, attentive, loyal) and a cat (wants cuddles/to be stroked, relaxed)
  3. Each rat has their own individual personality that can be developed depending on how you respond/act with them.
  4. Once you’ve gained their trust, they will consistently want your attention/to play/be stroked.
  5. They are very food-orientated as a species. No pet meets ‘the way to your heart is through your stomach’ mantra more than a rat.
  6. They are as clean as cats, especially if you litter-train them.
  7. They eat (or will at least try) pretty much anything (though high fat diet or citrus foods will have negative health effects).
  8. They grind their teeth together when happy (bruxing) and (when really happy/relaxed) they boggle their eyes.
  9. They’re both friendly and independent so bought in pairs or a trio, they will play with themselves when you’re doing other things.
  10. They are ridiculously intelligent. Check out the video below and see some of the many tricks you can teach them.

But, admitting to owning rats as pets does come with some interesting (and occasionally offensive) stereotypes – mainly born out of fear or even sheer ignorance.

rat

  • Assuming my home is filthy because of their presence?
  • Assuming they carry diseases like rabies and the plague (yes, as in the bubonic plague…which was carried by fleas.. not rats..)
  • I even had one classmate warn me that they could escape and attack me and my partner…

Don’t get me wrong, I can semi-understand why some people might find the tails off-putting, or why some may not like the threat of being bitten; but then saying that, you have a threat of being bitten by any pet if you hurt/upset it enough and the tails… well they’re easy to get used to after a while.

My original and aptly-named ‘Rat Pack’ consisted of five boys which I semi-rescued from a woman living in Sheffield (luckily for me she agreed to deliver them on the understanding that I’d pay petrol costs). Ranging in age and temperament from about 6 months and almost feral (never been handled) to approximately a year and a half year old love-bug, they quickly stole my heart, particularly after one of them suffered a stroke/severe fall shortly after arriving and so spent three days cuddled in my pocket so I could feed him medicine mixed in yoghurt every two hours.

The downside to caring for rats (or any rodent) however, is their short lifespan which averages at about 2-3 years, so my original rat pack are now all what is known as ‘over the rainbow bridge’ ie) rattie heaven.

Houdini (left) and Pebble. My current babies.

Houdini (left) and Pebble. My current babies.

I do however currently have a very licky, very attention-seeking, very food-orientated pair of boys whose faces I couldn’t resist when visiting Pets at Home last November.

*Saying that, I really do not recommend purchasing any small animal from a Pet store, particularly rats, due to the high risk of health or temperament issues that come from those environments – many pet store rats are bred and treated as snake food. Seriously, if you’re a novice or don’t want to risk having to trust train them, buy from trusted breeders; you’ll be saving yourself a lot of stress and hassle.

Very quickly, Houdini and Pebble came home to live – Pebble, named for the colour of his coat and the way he often sleeps (curled up in a ball as if about to do a forward roll), and Houdini who came by his name for the ridiculous speed in which he managed to escape not one but three of the cases I was expected to carry him home in.

Winning over the hearts of those who are afraid or flat-out dislike rats however, is not an easy task. Historically they’ve been a species cursed with a bad reputation, and counteracting the ‘plague-ridden, aggressive, you-will-die’ stereotype is often a task that meets a lot of resistance. People are comfortable in their own world view and questioning that/showing them that a belief/fear that many have held since childhood is false, isn’t always appreciated unless approached with care.

There are five key strategies that I have tried to take in building and defending ratty reputations. These are:

1. Be authoritative

Communicating strongly and knowledgeably goes a long way to making everyone else believe you understand what you’re talking about and that you’re the leader and authority in your area. Conveying your message with powerful, emotive words as well as with conviction will make you more believable and will make your audience more receptive to your message.

2. Be specific

Your message needs to be clear and easily conveyed. In this case, that’s pretty easy given the simplicity of both the subject and the stance ie) ‘Rat’s are awesome and everyone should love them!’, but in most cases, issues and brands can have more complex, more multi-layered connotations and thus need focused and specific communications to be believed by the recipient audience. It’s no good telling someone how great rats are if you can’t explain to the person why you like them and what makes them a good pet.

3. Be consistent

Being consistent when showing pictures and videos that contest the ‘ewwww gross’ mentality reinforces the message and shows people how loving and playful rats truly are without overcomplicating or confusing the issue.

4. Be honest

Every pet (and brand for that matter) has annoying quirks and habits. Being honest about them (they chew anything rubbery or wooden, and will use your clothes to make nests given half the chance) and admitting the downsides (they can smell if not cleaned regularly) increases your credibility and means that when you talk about the good things, you’re more likely to be believed. Integrity goes a long way after all.

5. Be relentless

Commit yourself to getting the positive message out there. People are inundated with a myriad of messages each day and when it comes to rats – lets be honest – the vast majority are not going to be positive ones. It’s not only critical therefore that you try to stand out amongst the static but equally that you are not forgotten. Follow up with people you’ve had past discussions with to reinforce not only your message but also the relationships you are building.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of success.

I mean it’s hard for people to retain the belief in the evil/disgusting/diseased stereotype when they are faced with the grabby-handed puppy eyes of two very adorable fluffballs.

There are of course going to be a small percentage of people whose opinions will be immovably negative. The RepTrak Alignment Monitor, developed by Cees van Riel for The Reputation Institute, measure employee alignment and contribution to the objectives and performance of an organisation. It suggests that although 10% of employees will automatically respond positively to change and 70% respond given adequate persuasion, 20% will remain consistently negative in their response.

The key I think is making sure to reinforce the positive messages I’m promoting to the 80% majority whilst never giving up on winning over that remaining stubborn 20% to my way of thinking – after all, their stubbornness gives me plenty of opportunities for rodent evangelism on a personal one-on-one basis.

What is a MarComms project anyway? And what’s my topic?

Before I start I should probably explain that a Marketing Communications project is slightly different to a Dissertation. I’m not *entirely* sure about the details but (from what I can understand) the main difference is that whereas a dissertation centres around the exploration of a concept or theory, a MarComms project centres around a particular brand through which you explore a concept.

So an advertising project focusing on the way a brand is advertised towards a specific group ie) Alcohol (WKD) towards young adults, might follow a simple structure of:

  • Introduction (theme/trends/context etc)
  • Market Analysis
    • Brand Analysis (of WKD)
    • Competitor Analysis (of similar brands)
    • Consumer Analysis (of young adults and youth drinking culture)
  • Objectives
  • Target Market (specifying who are being targeted by the brand)
  • Creative analysis (could focus on content analysis of a selection of different adverts)
  • Analysis of trends within alcohol advertising (Using a PRESTCOM analysis etc)
  • Conclusion

Obviously there’s a lot of lee-way within this.

A focus on PR, a different market sector, a different brand, a different target market, even a different methodology or framework approach, can completely restructure a marketing communications project so that it looks completely different to this (outside of the Intro/Conclusion sections obviously).

So, onto my idea.

As you have probably gauged, I am super interested in Politics. That’s not to say I’m party-affiliated; I’m not. What I am, however, is passionate. One of the key things that I learnt growing up was to speak out if you feel something is wrong; never be afraid to stand up and be counted.

Showing this passion in a way that will be acceptable to many employers can be tricky. I know I always worry about whether my background in public speaking and debating contests (not to mention my now 6-year membership of my university’s Politics Society) might suggest that I’m confrontational or aggressive with my views – which (I like to think) I’m not.

The man young people love to hate. But is he a sell-out or a scapegoat? And how important is our belief/trust in him for Lib Dem's success?

The man young people love to hate. But is he a sell-out or a scapegoat? And how important is our belief/trust in him for Lib Dem’s success?

Luckily for me, my initial concept of looking at personal branding (a much under-analysed topic of discussion in my view) was tightened down to looking at the personal brands of party leaders in the run-up to this year’s elections, and then further tightened to specialise in the personal brand and campaign strategy of one specific party leader – Nick Clegg.

As any Brit knows, Clegg’s 180 degree turn on tuition fees hugely upset a large number of his voting base who – as young people – had invested in him largely due to this policy above all else. Not only was he proposing to cut tuition fees though, he was also the fresh-faced ‘man of the people’ who finally seemed to care and have policies that directly benefited the young – We who had often been overlooked as a demographic due to the high percentage of voter apathy and disengagement within our age group.

By looking at the case of Nick Clegg’s personal brand, I intend to look at image/knowledge transfer the ways in which trust and personality impact on brand success within politics, and (on a larger basis) whether lack of trust in the personal brands of political leaders is indicative of the wider disengagement and voter apathy within politics.

Of course it is still early days and, as such, I’m still very early on in the planning process. However, based loosely on the initial research and reading I’ve managed to get done alongside my other assignments, I think I’ll most likely be tackling this subject using a combination of secondary research (into brand-building, reputation and trust (they’re different things); political marketing in general; the ways brands try to engage young people in terms of messages/creative/platforms; and voter apathy/disengagement and its causes) and media content analysis (perhaps through analysing Clegg and his followers’ use of Twitter as one example).

SUPER excited now that I’ve narrowed my subject down to something achievable and interesting and relevant – all important points that I raised in my last post on ‘Planning a postgraduate marketing communications project‘.

I can’t wait to get started!

Planning a postgraduate Marketing Communications project

15’000 words.

I repeat. 15’000 words.

It’s a pretty daunting prospect; particularly given that classes finish in May and therefore a large proportion of the project will be done when tutors are off on conferences/well-deserved holidays or when you will equally be trying to complete internships/get that elusive foothold in the industry.

Structured differently to a dissertation, a marketing communications project is built not around the exploration of a specific idea or concept, but around the actions/issues facing a specific brand.

Choosing a topic area and question is easily the hardest aspect of planning a project. This part of the planning process can be made so much easier however when you consider topics or concepts that:

1. You are interested in

gotpassion

Given that you are spending six months planning, researching, writing, and reviewing a paper that will not only cost you a fair chunk in printing let alone the risk grey hairs thanks to stress levels, at least finding the subject of the research interesting is (for me at least) a basic prerequisite.

2. Makes use of your academic/professional skillset

Are you great at content analysis? or interviewing? Are you an uber whizz at social media? Why not use that in your report? (so long as it’s relevant of course for your analysis/subject area)

3. You have a career aspiration to use/work in in the future

In many creative industries, its pretty rare nowadays for people to specialise in one single area. But, saying that, if you really want to work in Media Relations (even just as a starting block to expand from) then knowing how to interview brilliantly (for example) is probably a clear ‘I’m-amazing-with-people’ skill you’re going to want to hone and show off in your work.

Even if you don’t feel confident in any one particular area though, is there a framework or topic you feel could be useful for employers? I’m not talking putting yourself out with statistics if you are clueless with them, but… if you do want to use statistics because Market research is your passion, why not bury yourself in your research now? So long as you have a clear focus and are dedicated in your research, then there really is nothing stopping you from building up skills you feel are important either professionally or even for your own personal growth.

findingwhatworks

It’s not enough to be interested or even passionate about a subject though. That’s just going to make it bearable. To have a project that’s feasible and also is going to get you a great mark you also need to make sure you:

4. Have information available for research/analysis

Breaking new ground can be fascinating, but be realistic here. You cannot base your entire project on primary research alone… Before you start properly planning a focus, do some reading and make sure you have a well of secondary research to delve into and work from – trust me, it will make your life SO much easier.

5. Have an idea that isn’t too broad in focus

Ahhh… tapping too many areas of interest; my personal area of weakness.

Its completely understandable to have a relatively broad area of focus to begin with, after all you are going to be conducting a crazy amount of reading and if you’re anything like me, it can be super easy to fall in love with all the fascinating frameworks and data on offer.

But, despite that, pretty soon you’re going to need to refine and re-refine that idea down to a workable, beautiful and practical topic question, which takes me onto my final point.

filter

6. Have an idea that is realistically practical to conduct and execute

Realistically look at the time you have, your word count (I know 15’000 words looks like a mountain you’re expected to climb in slippers and a onesie (which in all honesty may be how you intend on tackling your dissertation/project – no judgement here)), and your research idea.

Don’t just look though, but look critically. Finding out now that the idea you have means you’re going to have to conduct the bulk of your primary research in May (like me) means you can plan your assignments, your extracurriculars, and the rest of your life in all honesty, around that fact.

It also means you can warn your loved ones when you’re going to be a grumpy stress-head so they can throw chocolate and coffee at you to make you feel better.

belief

Most importantly though, don’t stress.

You have people who care about you and who want you to succeed. Family, friends, your supervisor; they’re all there to bounce ideas off, to help you (but not bottle feed you), to push you when you need it, and to give you a pep-talk when you feel swamped.

Plus, when you break it down, 15’000 words isn’t so much. Especially if, like me, you’ve got an awful lot to say.