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In response to an excellent fiscal article

SuzySays 3 Comments »

Having enjoyed the blog article

Parentalism: Sharing the wealth

Posted by J G

November 23, 2008


I took the analogy of applying politics to family life into the realm of my own experience, and commented thus:

“Many of the UK company directors I know are taking salary cuts – or working on no salary at all.  So I suggested to my Seven year old that his pocket money chores continue but that he takes a 100% pay cut till the economy improves in 2012 (let’s be realistic).

Luckily, Henry has a speech impediment so the full force of his reply was distorted enough to make it less insulting than if it had come from one of his elder siblings.  He is now threatening to take union action and I worry about the internal economy of my household surviving this crisis.

Meanwhile, the UK government is getting into even more debt than most of the population put together, whilst telling us to spend more.  But they forgot to tell us that we need to spend money we have, not increase debt (like the banks have been doing…. oh, and the Government) so I shall be suggesting to young Henry that he get me a machine for making money this Xmas (like the one Gordon Brown uses) so that way I will be able to afford to pay him a fair rate for his chores.”

How are we going to explain these years of financial mayhem to our children in years to come?  Will we just say, “well guys, sometimes **it just happens” – or will there be an agreed theory to put into the text books of the future?

Yes, you can use social networking as a marketing tool, but……

Marketing, Design & PR, SuzySays No Comments »

I was sent a StartUps blog on online social networking to read and couldn’t help myself fill in the gaps.  I believe it is really important that people starting out using the medium don’t just see it as just `another marketing tool’, and that it would help if such articles made it much clearer why it is so very different form many conventional marketing methods.

There is an essential ingredient to making online social networking a productive use of your time to boost your business; it is to be authentic.  Yes, you need a strategy and to know how best to use your limited time, but I believe that if you are prepared to BE your brand – not hide behind it – and represent the ethos and integrity of your brand in everything you say and do (even if that will not always make you popular), then online social networking is going to benefit you more than you might think.

People will only listen to what you say online if they have gradually developed a respect for your opinions and most of all, your contribution.  If you offer useful resources and opinions rather than trying to `sell’, then you will gain `followers’.  If you just pitch all the time and don’t share anything of yourself, then people will have less interest in you.

When I tweet on Twitter or send out a blog, I don’t bare my soul or divulge everything that is going on in my business or my life – but I certainly share a great deal more than I would networking at a Chamber of Commerce meeting or at a womens’ business networking event.  There are plenty of people who use online social networking as an extra `marketing tool’, and good luck to them.  But I find myself drawn more to those people who have something to say, something to share, and who interest me.  It is only at that point that I become interested in what their business is.

I believe the most useful lesson I have learned from online social networking is that you can’t make people `buy’ from you, even if what you offer is for free and really really good.  What you can do, is be useful and enjoy interacting with other people and being part of a growing community.For a single mum working from home, the ability to do what businessmen have done over the ages – build trusted relationships within a social setting – is what the internet allows me to recreate to some extent.  It also allows me access to many clever minds who are often able to point me to resources and ideas that would otherwise be difficult for me to discover for myself.

I can thank for being the first to open my eyes to online social networking and for encouraging me to start my first blog  Both my businesses now use blog software to interact with users and to reinforce the integrity of my brands.

But the real reason for taking time to network online is…..  it’s really really great fun!  Such interesting people, so much to talk about, so much to learn.  Communities survive because people interact within them, and that’s what makes them successful.  And fun.

Where is the mass media? Broadsheets & tabloids – or online?

SuzySays 1 Comment »

Just read a really interesting article by Brad King about how journalism is being utterly transformed because of the internet, and felt the need to turn my comments on the article into a short posting.

My first real foray into PR has been an exciting one – on the one hand, I shall be featured in women’s magazines and the national press as the producer of the Starting Over Show, shamelessly bearing my own personal story to the world. On the other hand, I am enjoying writing press releases for the event to highlight issues that it brings to light, and really feeling that there is a gulf between creating and writing copy for even respectable broadsheets, and the more thoughtful, less homogonised writing for blogs.

One experience that Brad King relates rang true, and is very significant since many other recipients of ‘news’ will have the same experience – and that experience will affect the future of journalism.“Until the 1980s, media outlets were the sole provider of information. If you wanted to find out what was happening, you turned on the TV, listened to the radio or read the newspaper.

Last night, I found out George Carlin had passed away through a Twitter post, logged on to MySpace to see what my friends had said and then watched his old routines on YouTube while I was reading Wikipedia about his life.I still haven’t visited a newspaper site because I have no desire to read some reported story.I don’t need to.”

My comments to the article went as follows: “Excellent article. I am currently involved in the media in different capacities. I rely on Twitter for news and hardly ever read the newspapers, but ironically I am currently being interviewed for features in womens’ magazines with story twists and ‘angles’ that make good copy, but may end up trivialising the real story underneath.I create my own surveys to get data for my own press articles, writing about the real issues behind ‘my story’, relying on social networking hubs and the web for stats and real opinions. But I fear these will be given a ‘truer’ reflection in the blog versions I post than in the final press release draft, as the traditional press audience appears to prefer a dumbed down version of the news – or the news editors think they do.

In other words, ‘real news’ now comes from and is created by the activists online, whereas the paper news speaks to a generation brought up on comic book papers discussing issues devoid of complexity. The real mass media is what people are talking about on Twitter and Facebook, but for me it has increasingly more substance and relevance than even the broadsheets can muster. Online articles like this, for example.”

You can read the full article here – The Modern Journalist: 5 Reasons the story is dead, by Brad King

Collaboration in the information revolution

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The following are my comments posted on Thinking About Collaboration, which talks about how collaboration fueled the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions – but seems to be missing from the Knowledge revolution.

“It is timely for me to read this blog as I am being encouraged by a man I have never met via Skype to take my new brand and make it global – not in a monetizing franchising way, but as a collaborative effort. His vision is to allow people in other countries (he is in South Africa) to share the experience he and I gain from putting on our individual events focused on people starting over (divorce, bereavement etc).

On the one hand I find myself trying to decide when to invest in patenting a new brand that has not yet even experienced the test of it’s first event, and on the other hand, keen to create a collaborative platform via a shared website to support others who want to do their own versions of the show, but within a kind of consistent framework (like with franchising).

But without trademarking and without the discipline and clear consequences (removing the right to benefit from ‘the brand’) for those who choose to dumb down or spoil the collaborative vision, how can collaboration work when the players are dispersed, and the project they are working on lacks the clarity of a new open source software development?

Democracy – when done well – is all about collaboration. When King Arthur sat at the Round Table, he was no longer King but part of a collaborative group, with a shared vision and values of conduct.

In our modern world, perhaps it is the lack of clear vision and the lack of shared values that makes collaboration so often fail. Successful collaborative work is democracy in action. Management culture without true democratic processes and inspired vision will always be a sham.

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Twitter for direct marketing – not!

Social Networking, SuzySays 3 Comments »

Just read Saad Kamal’s brave posting on using Twitter as a direct marketing tool and wanted to post my own comment back here, as it got me thinking about the real value of social networks even to marketeers…..

“Like everything in life it is good to explore all the possibilities, and unpopular though your thoughts are Saad with many Twitter users, you are only speaking out loud the thought process of marketeers who use the application.

Personally, I have found the real value of Twitter to be in the building of a community and shared information and resources. I believe the marketing potential is in giving followers access to blogs and websites that may then exploit the marketing techniques you outlined. But the key thing is for a tweet to either connect with or provide something of value to another person, so any direct marketing potential needs to be one level down at least.

I don’t think seeing marketing as a dirty word is helpful since I do my marketing via a genuine enthusiasm to share something that is really good and useful. But I have lernt that even when offering something for free via Twitter, if it is anything at all to do with your business, all you have to do is be upfront about it. Pimping is fine as long as you call it what it is.

Real marketing is about informing and connecting with your potential marketplace, so Twitter definitely has a role to help find out what people want and how they feel about products, services, issues etc. I think it has a fantastic value regarding market research and testing out ideas with early adopters. Most of all however, as a way of boosting your own confidence in your ideas and keeping going via the support of the group – that is where Twitter is really of value to me.”

I’m not being mushy or anything about Twitter, and maybe what I am about to say should be cause for concern, but I find the community of Twitter, even when I only have time to dip in and out at odd ends of the day, as a place that I feel automatically supported. We all need to be part of a gang, as life as an entrepreneur in particular, especially if you also happen to be a single mum with other responsibilities, can be quite tough when it comes to keeping your spirits up and vision strong.

No matter how many supportive and wonderful friends one may have in the flesh, they are not always in the
room with you when you need to have a bitch, a grumble, or to celebrate on the spur of the moment. But the Twitter community is.

If I was a psychology graduate, I would want to do a PHD on the psychological power of Twitter to support creative communities of people who are as diverse in their fields of endevor as they are in their geography.

I have no idea whether my Twitter buddies will make any difference at all to the success of my businesses in material terms, but psychologically their benefit to me is inestimable.

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Crossing the street alive

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I just cannot work out why I love Paris. It smells horrible, is dirty, noisy, and expensive. And when the light is green to cross the road, that DOES NOT MEAN that no-one is going to drive over you. And these are not crazy drivers – it’s just the way it is here.

You may see a green man on the sign, but that means that the main section of traffic is not going to run you over. It does NOT mean that the traffic coming round the corner or turning across the main junction cannot have (according to them) clear passage over the black and white lines that you, innocently and potentially fatally, believe to be safe to walk across.

The differences between our cultures are, in the mere act of crossing a road, irrevocably at a variance. But I would rather spend four nights on my own in Paris than in London any time.

Sitting in a little bistro recommended by some nice French chaps in the street, exhausted from two and a half days of a business seminar that makes you cry – (anyone who has done Anthony Robbins type seminars will know what I mean) – well who wouldn’t be physically and emotionally spent? So when some tall Frenchman of Algerian extraction sauntered across for the usual chat up lines, he got a fairly amicable resistance due to my totally positive state of being, and we ended up chatting about, well…. business.

It seemed ironic to me that after immersing myself in learning some of the real life lessons of the vastly experienced Keith Cunningham (how many lessons get taught and advice given by people like him who have `eaten their own cooking’?) and coming up with some fantastic ideas on how to progress my own business, to then find myself hearing the age old story of dishonest business partnerships, having to sell the extra homes and a commitment not to venture into the business world again, from an entrepreneur who had his fingers badly burnt.

“I am too old – 40 years old” my new friend Fafa explained. I countered that I was over forty before I ever began my business and that failure – for whatever reason – is an inevitable part of any learning curve. My new friend Fafa promised to show me – and my boyfriend who I insisted would be coming with me next time I visited– the sites of Montmartre. His parents own a restaurant so I didn’t take much persuading – and we swopped emails and Facebook addresses.

I returned to my garret of a hotel which has cigarette smoke ingrained into the very fabric of the carpet and upholstery. Clearly the laundry lady is an inveterate smoker as even the fresh linen reeked of stale tobacco. But everyone I have encountered outside of the usual tourist zones is so friendly and kind that I can do nothing more than fall in love with this worn out city – the same way I did more than 10 years before.

I cannot know what will happen with my own business ventures over the next few years, but one thing – no, two things I am sure of. One, is that the culture of those businesses need to be as open and honest and welcoming as the people I have encountered in Paris over the last few days. The second thing, is that whatever Angel protects me as I scoot across the wide main roads even when the pedestrian light is green, better be the same one guarding over me wherever else I may venture.

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Mass innovation, not mass production

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We all know that ‘top down’ doesn’t work, but we all complain that trying to create change from the bottom up can often feel futile. Which is probably why revolutions so often resort to using violence.

Thanks to a tweet from @Damiano this morning, I found myself reading the Guardian article: People power transforms the web in next online revolution which is based on Charles Leadbeater’s book “We Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production”. An acclaimed thinker on technology, Leadbeater explains how net users are, by banding together, changing every aspect of our lives.

And those ‘net users’ are us. So the way I see it is, we have not just the opportunity, but the responsibility to bring about change in our society and the way we run our businesses and the way our children are educated, from the bottom up, but with one BIG difference.

What the net allows, and encourages, is collaboration. A few disgruntled cititzens are going to have trouble changing government policy, but Political ‘flash mobs’ have already swung elections in Spain, the Philippines twice and South Korea, by collaborating on mass via the Internet.

The US is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war to bring democracy to Iraq. Yet only 4 per cent of people in the Arab world have broadband access. The most potent way to promote democracy in the Middle East would be to get that figure above 50 per cent.

If ingenious games designers can inspire thousands of people to collaborate to solve a puzzle, could we do something similar to tackle global warming, keep communities safe, provide support for the elderly, help disaster victims, lend and borrow money, conduct political and policy debates, teach and learn, design and make physical products?

My laptop only runs Ubuntu (Windows Professional XP died and I’ve not yet bothered to get it fixed). Ubuntu is a free open source operating system from Linux, with no need for virus protection because it’s so well built and constantly updated for free.

The Linux community is the most impressive example of sustained ‘We Think’. A version of Linux released in June 2005 had 229 million lines in its source code that would have taken 60,000 man-years to develop at a cost of perhaps $8bn. Every day most people who use the web rely on open source: Google’s servers run on Linux; most websites rely on servers running the open-source Apache program. Open source could in time provide a model for other areas of life, for example turning We Think into We Make.

The part of the article that most caught my attention was this: “If we could persuade 1 per cent of Britain’s pupils to be player-developers for education, that would be 70,000 new sources of learning. But that would require us to see learning as something more like a computer game, something that is done peer-to-peer, without a traditional teacher.”

Having home schooled in the past, I know that learning is a collaborative process, if any real learning is to take place. I remember a staunch resistance from my daughter Cydney at my ‘lesson plan’ – so we chucked that idea and I asked her what SHE wanted to learn about. She wanted to make cakes. She did a lot of cooking, and learnt to read (cookery books), maths (measuring), science and nutrition – even geography and history can be drawn in around the kinds of foods you are creating (she was keen on making different breads too).

Apart from already cooking whole meals aged 11 while mummy is ‘too busy’ on the computer, Cyd is like most children – naturally keen to learn and share. Somehow many of us lose that natural urge as we grow older, and people new to the idea of open source software look aghast and confused at why anyone would create something for no direct payment and then give it away. In the same way many business people are still scared of the ‘danger’ of online social networking, sharing personal stuff, being helpful to other professionals without a contra-deal in place.

And yet big corporations understand that communication and collaboration are key to creativity and growth, which is one of the reasons why companies like Deloitte encourage employees to use Facebook groups.

How about this for a rebel action….. hang around outside schools giving out wifi enabled internet mobile phones and encourage the kids to create their own curriculum via a wiki? Maybe some have already started?

I am currently researching a sustainability policy for CertainShops by collaborating with others, like Sam Wilson of EcoEvents and Lorraine Bell of Simply CSR. It has been suggested by a commenter on one of my blogs to put out the draft as a wiki so others can collaborate and we can share the results, encouraging many small businesses to create their own policies.

Watch this space…..

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A Day in Venice

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A Day in Venice: not sinking but wearing away and being bought up by tourists so the Venetian population is falling fast. These could be the last precious years where it retains some of its authentic charm. Joe and I visited the last squero where the gondolas are made by hand, saw the very final gondola being made in the traditional method, and visited an ancient fort on a deserted island in the lagoon. has links to the great B&B we stayed in (Ca’della Corte), run by Annarosa who knows all the out of the way treats of Venice, and to Christina who took us out on her converted Venetian sailing boat (brogosso), along with a horse whisperer and an HR wizard.

My son Joseph and I can’t wait to go back again – even if he did get a nose bleed from all the excitement!

A quick quiz (answers at the bottom of the posting)

1: What is the name of the Venetian boat that is famous for its romantic tour along the canals?

2:What vehicles are not to be seen in Venice?

3: Name a Famous venetian painter who worked exclusively in Venice.

4: Name the Venetian composer who wrote the Four Seasons.

5: What shape is the areal view of the city?

6: What was the ruler of Venice called?

7: What region of Italy is Venice in?

8: What is the region’s largest agricultural product?

9: What would be the benefit of a trip to Venice for someone who is attending the Starting Over Show Brighton October 11th 2008?

Answer 1: Gondola

Answer 2: Cars

Answer 3: Tintoretto

Answer 4: Vivaldi

Answer 5 : the shape of a fish!

Answer 6: Doge

Answer 7: Veneto

Answer 8: Wine

Answer 9: Break to enjoy doing something new and getting a new perspective…. (learning how to cook, how to do Venetian rowing, have a divorce party!)

Alicia Keys vs Mr E

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Sitting in the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, surrounded by students, children and us older ones, Mr E and The Chet made up the whole Eels band. But despite the limited number of musicians on stage – 2 is about as small as a ‘band’ can get – we were not short-changed. After the Dome experience of Alicia Keys a few weeks earlier, this was a very different experience, but somehow a better `performance’ even without the sliding piano and back projection of Key’s Millennium Dome concert.

Miss Keys had given a great performance, but the cheesyness of the `presentation’ had stuck in my throat. But here in a venue a fraction of the size with only basic lighting and no special effects, the audience were delighted with the site of Mr E wandering away from his piano during a long instrumental break, and taking over the drumsticks of The Chet without missing a beat. Whereupon the usurped drummer made his way across the stage to take over at the piano.

I found myself enjoying the shared experience of being in this audience so much more than at the Dome. The authenticity of this performance, in stark contrast to the Gospel film projected at the Dome to provide a background to Alicia’s musical calling, was unmissable. The reading of extracts from Mr E’s recent book by The Chet provided some humour at the blatant plugging of the book, but it also shed some light on what lay behind some of his songs (the suicide of his sister was followed by `Last Stop: This Town’).

The genuine interaction with the audience without a marketing team to subvert the experience, was as great a contrast as an 80′s timeshare salesman trying to get a signature on the dotted line, compared to a friend mentioning he got himself a place in the sun and inviting you to come visit some time soon.

The biggest difference for me was what happened – or more to the point, didn’t happen – following an excellent duet between Keys and the male singer who supported her throughout the performance. At the end of the duet, there was no acknowledgement, thanks or allowing the audience to know his name (until right at the end of the concert out of formality).

As if by allowing some of the applause to go his way, it would dilute her own acclaim. Even though Eels does not exist without Mr E, and The Chet had not been seen before by the Eels fans I was with, the duo came across as a real team, a collaboration, and that in itself pulled the audience in.

In a world where most businesses recognise that team work, and sharing success is integral to working effectively and creating an ethos that will attract strong business partnerships and clients, the Keys concert felt old fashioned and absurd in its contrived attempts to make `a connection’ with the audience. I don’t go to a concert to be `sold’ the performer. I go for the shared experience. Something that Mr E seems to understand well, as The Chet retrieved his drumsticks and sent him back to the piano without a note out of place.

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What IS Marketing??

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Just re-reading blog on Chris Heuer’s Inystes – Personal and Professional Thoughts on Life and Marketing and enjoying David Weinberger‘s quote : ’somewhere along the way marketing became what we did TO people’. Apart from making me laugh (Weinberger is SO right) I began to think about how my recent project to create a sustainable ethical policy for my business is effectively an integral part of my marketing strategy.

This is because marketing should be a collaborative process. Like education. My kids discover things for themselves at school, they don’t just absorb information they are provided with. But first, you have to connect, get their interest, or they just won’t LISTEN.

I discovered recently that marketing begins with your own personal values and your vision of why you run your business in the first place. It is those messages that you ‘brand’ – or in other words, communicate to your clients, users and partnerships.

This is why CSR/ethical/sustainable policies are integral to marketing, not as a ‘green wash’, but because they communicate your values and intentions (which must be measurable and accountable to be authentic). People don’t just buy from ‘people’ – they buy and get involved in companies whose values they share.

I have teamed up with Sam Wilson of EcoEvents. Sam is helping me to create a transparent sustainability statement for my businesses (along with Lorraine Bell of Simply CSR), but I want this ‘policy’ to act as a kind of template for other small businesses (especially those I promote). Sam and I both believe that just because a small business may not apply for a ‘community mark’ to give official validation (unless you wanna pay a few hundred quid to go down that road), and just because no other businesses are legally obliged to care about your ethical policies, that is just not the point.

It is a great way of genuinely sharing your values with those who come to check out your business. I tend to listen and take notice more of people whose values I share. That is part of what marketing is about for me – giving others a reason to listen to what you have to say.

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