Top picks for 2017: Podcasts

Always looking for entertainment for my commute into London, I have recently expanded my library of podcasts.

For anyone who wants to try something new in 2017, is keen to make the most of their commute and learn simply by listening, I’d highly recommend you give these a go…

1. Answer Me This

My first (and probably still favourite) podcast is Answer Me This, a fun and informative podcast by friends Helen and Olly who answer a wide and sometimes weird selection of listeners’ questions. My husband got me into this one after I kept asking what was making him laugh so much and I’m grateful that he did.

From “Why do politicians refer to each other as ‘My Learned Friend’?” to “How do they make McDonalds fries all the same size?”, not a single episode has failed to keep me entertained, even on the longest of road trips.

amt

2. The Modern Mann

Next up is The Modern Mann (also by Olly from Answer Me This), a magazine-style show with regular features called The Zeitgeist (a round-up of current trends) and The Fox Hole (a sex questions feature). The middle feature – an interview with a different, very interesting person each time – tends to be my favourite. From ‘The Gentleman Bankrobber’ to a former British ISIS recruit, each one is unique and enlightening.

The Modern Mann is fast-paced, light and my go-to podcast when I’m commuting or out for a lunchtime walk.

3. Serial

Keen to try something new, I started listening to Serial while I was painting my house and needed something more engaging than background radio tunes. Hailed as the ‘number one podcast’ at the time, I had high hopes and I wasn’t disappointed by season one.

This podcast delves into criminal investigations, with the first season examining the case of an American man who had been convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 1999, even though there was no physical evidence tying him to the crime. One episode had me convinced that he was innocent and the next had me questioning everything I had previously heard. Addictive? Absolutely. I can’t count the number of times I’ve already recommended this as essential listening to friends and family.

Season two hasn’t quite been my cup of tea as they switched to a new case and a military investigation but I’m hoping there will be a season three soon and that it’ll be more like the first one that I so enjoyed.

4. Freakonomics

Recommended to me by a friend and included in an online list of podcasts to try, this is my most recent find. Discussing socionomic issues from tweeting and eating to the 10,000 hours rule for becoming an expert at anything, the content is varied and they don’t dumb things down, which I love.

Admittedly, I’ve only listened to two episodes so far but what I’ve heard I’ve liked and I’ll definitely be downloading a few more.

How to create a content marketing strategy in five simple steps

Maintaining a steady stream of news and content is often priority number one for those of us working in communications roles. Most organisations have lots of content and most communications professionals have LOTS of ideas for more great content… but how do we make it work most effectively?

We could try to publish a new blog every day of the week to tell our story… but is that really possible with the resource we have? And is that much content really necessary?

Step 1 – Identify

What can we and do we want to talk about? Who are we talking to?

Think about the sector you’re operating in, which experts you have working in your organisation and what your customers’ interests are.

Step 2 – Decide

Make a judgement call on how much content you need/want and take stock of existing assets.

How many blog posts, social media posts, press releases and larger pieces of content (e.g. case studies, videos, whitepapers) do we want each week/month? How many do we already have and how many do we need to create?

Step 3 – Plan and review

Create a content calendar.

Content calendars prevent writers block, inspire and protect against content gaps. So long as you don’t over schedule, content calendars help maintain space for topical, ad hoc and breaking news stories.

Distribute the content you already have evenly across the year, ensure the right content is scheduled for the right time (relevance is key) and see where there are gaps. You can do this on an annual, monthly and/or even weekly basis, depending on the level of detail you want and your organisational needs.

Step 4 – Bolster and future-proof

Research national celebration days, holidays, announcement dates and so on to fill potential gaps ahead of time.

Today, for example, “National Lollipopper Day” is trending on Twitter with the rather lovely hashtag #Lollipoppers. If you work in the Education sector, this is an easy win as it lends itself so well to visual content (photos of happy kids with their ‘Lollipoppers’) and has a strong human interest angle.lollipoppers

There are loads of lists of national celebration days available online that will give you a great starting point then all it takes is a keen eye for relevance, a creative spin (so you’re not putting out the same content as everyone else) and plenty of forward-planning.

There are also lots of content calendar templates available online – or it’s very easy to build your own using Excel.

Step 5 – Review and improve

Finally, don’t forget to look back at your audience’s response to your content to see what really resonates and what doesn’t quite work.

Make measurement a priority. Collect data (automate where possible) and review regularly. Talk to and learn from industry peers. Be adaptable. Don’t be afraid of change.  And don’t forget to feed back to your contributors (saying “thank you” goes a long way).

Is taking a career break ever a good idea?

Am I brave enough to leave a good, stable job? How will it affect my career in the long term? Will future employers think I’m a flight risk?

These are all questions I agonised over before taking the plunge and embarking on a nine month career break earlier this year.

It was eight years into my career and things were going well. I had simply never taken any time out – having gone straight from school to Sixth Form to University to work – and I knew that if I didn’t do it soon, my dreams of travelling the world would never amount to more than that.

One thing that made the decision a huge amount easier was the guarantee of my husband’s pay and position to return to. A sabbatical is a wonderful thing if you can get one. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for me but if it had been a case of leaving both jobs entirely and having no guaranteed way to pay our mortgage when we returned, I’m not sure we would have leaped quite so confidently.

But how have things been for me since we got back from our big adventure? Now that I am ready for a new professional challenge and stability, how have recruiters and potential employers reacted to the career break that will now forever feature on my CV?

I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised. No-one has vocalised any concerns about it when we have been talking through my experience. Admittedly most people are very curious about what made me want to do it but the most common response is unbridled interest. “Where did you go? What was the best place you visited?” It’s an excellent conversation starter and I’m sure it makes you more memorable.

So my advice would be that if it’s something you’re considering but are too afraid of it harming your career to take the leap, think long and hard before dismissing your dreams. For me it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I knew I didn’t want to live a ‘what if…’ life but I couldn’t have imagined how much strength, resourcefulness and pure joy the experience would bring me.

You never know, it might even open some very interesting new doors that you’d never noticed before.

How to turn non-news into social media gold

While the summer “Silly Season” (the slow news period when most people are on holiday) is notorious for gifting column inches to stories that wouldn’t normally warrant such attention, the 24/7 nature of social media sites means that small, silly stories have a whole new home.

The non-news story that caught my eye last week was about Iceland (the country) considering launching a lawsuit against Iceland (the supermarket) over its name. The key word in that sentence that makes it non-news is ‘considering’; Iceland (the country) hasn’t actually done anything yet.

“I can confirm that this is being looked into, but no decision has been made,” a spokesman for the ministry told the Press Association (source: theguardian.com)

This fact aside, Iceland (the supermarket) put its social media team to work, adding a healthy dose of hilarity to proceedings and grabbing quite a few more headlines at the same time:

iceland-tweets

They say there’s no such thing as a bad news story and while this lawsuit has the potential to do some real damage to the supermarket chain, its great to see they are capitalising on the media interest in such a humorous way to keep their name front of mind with shoppers – while they still have it – and boost engagement on their social media channels.

When PR opportunity knocks…

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Paralympics on Channel 4, marvelling at the inspiring athletes and their achievements, but also appreciating the complementary adverts that have been carefully selected to air during the break instead of the usual raft of tea, furniture and betting app promotions.

I’ve also been tuning in to watch The Last Leg, a topical comedy show first launched for the Paralympics in London that rounds up the day’s sporting action in a fun and insightful way, with two of its three presenters having disabilities themselves.

The other night, The Last Leg team challenged their viewers to tweet in with suggestions of things that could be renamed to honour our British Paralympians. Realising the potential for some very timely and high-profile coverage, the team at NCP responded that they will be renaming one of their sites the “NCP Sarah multi-Storey Car Park” in Dame Sarah Storey’s honour, releasing this accompanying image:

img_1303

It may be silly and it may just be a stunt, but it is certainly creative and it worked. The image above was shown on The Last Leg the very next day, to millions of viewers in a prime time spot.

If you work in the PR industry, you have to be able to spot an opportunity like this and respond at great speed. It only takes a competitor getting their image to the press first, or stalling long enough for interest to dwindle, and your great idea will come to nothing.

So don’t miss out. Keep abreast of the news every day, know what is capturing people’s interest and move as quickly as you can when an opportunity arises. It could win you some huge pieces of national TV or print coverage – and many, many brownie points to boot.

Top 3 campaigns of Summer 2016

I was fortunate to return to the UK from 7 months abroad during a summer filled with fantastic marketing campaigns. Here are the top three that caught my eye:

3. Panasonic’s #Superfans campaign

I really admire well executed user-generated content campaigns. Coming up with an idea that will spur social media users into action can be a real challenge. It is undoubtedly a lot easier to encourage fans to like or comment on pre-existing content than inspire them to take a photo or make a video themselves and share the results.

You therefore need to find a new and exciting way to inspire and energise your fan base. The result can be absolute social media gold – content that is more powerful at communicating your message because it is user-generated and a campaign that can run and run.

Panasonic made the most of its Olympic partnership agreement this summer and launched its #Superfans campaign to run during Rio 2016.

Panasonic

The campaign capitalised on the British public’s desire to show their support for Team GB in a public way and so users responded in abundance. There are some great examples on the dedicated #Superfans website.

2. Airbnb’s ‘Live There’ campaign amplification

Having circumnavigated the globe this year, I am now an avid fan and frequent user of Airbnb. I loved the company’s adverts with the message, “Don’t go there. Live there” which inspired travellers to rent apartments or stay with locals to get a richer experience than they may find in a conventional hotel.

So, it’s no surprise that I was excited to see Airbnb taking this campaign one step further over the summer with a pop-up experience in Shoreditch.

Airbnb house

‘The five storey townhouse in East London has been transformed inside and out to welcome travellers from all over the world, and all they have to do is ring the doorbell to join in and get a taste of local London,’ say Airbnb

Coined ‘The #LiveThere House’, the pop up generated plenty of national PR coverage for the brand and, I’m sure, some warm fuzzy feelings from the Londoners who got to enjoy the experiences for free.

1. British Airways #GreattobeBAck

It’s no surprise really that my third and final pick is yet another Olympic campaign.

The simplicity of this British Airways ‘stunt’ is what made it so brilliant in my opinion. While I’m sure the operation of seamlessly flying home that many high-profile athletes was anything but straightforward, there were three very clear and incredibly strong main elements:

  • The gold nose cone of the jumbo – great for photo editors and social media content curators alike
  • The public vote to name the plane ‘victoRIOus’ – clever, catchy and engaging
  • Athletes tweeting #GreattobeBAck and sharing photos from the flight
BA plane

Source: BritishAirways.com

Well done, BA, on a brilliantly executed campaign.

Have you seen any other examples of exceptional PR or marketing campaigns this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Where have you been lately?

Thank you to all of my loyal readers who have been patiently waiting for normal service to resume on this blog.

I have just returned from a ’round the world’ trip during which I co-authored a travel blog. If you are interested in world travel and would like to see what I’ve been up to, feel free to have a browse at https://travellinghills.wordpress.com/blogs.

Please keep an eye on this site for new Marketing and PR Blog content which will be added very soon.