Awards? Pah! Who needs ’em….

WinnerAs part of my ‘day job’ as a Marketing Manager, industry awards and accolades are a really important part of day-to-day business.  Hardly a week passes when I’m not looking at award categories or writing up entry submissions. This isn’t something however that has crept into my other work… Until recently that is!

Just before the last TEDxCardiff Neil and I were very kindly nominated for an Inspire Wales award. I was fairly surprised and flattered and we spent the day before TEDx filling in paper work for the awards, something I particularly struggled with because, although if you’re a design agency you have something tangible to show for your efforts, you can say ‘yeah, we did an awesome job with our design, if you don’t believe us take a look for yourself… See, isn’t it great!’ (that’s not quite how I write my award entries by the way), but for being ‘inspirational’ it’s a little harder to prove your outcomes, I can’t capture in a form the shear love and devotion that goes in to every one of our events and the results and feedback we get from our audiences, and I don’t think a suitable way of completing an awards entry is ‘well, I guess you had to be there’.

Needless to say, we didn’t get shortlisted (you probably guessed that as if we had been, the tone of this post may be a little different…!). Yes, I was a little disappointed although I spent a fair amount of time convincing myself, and trying to convince Neil, that it was OK, our whole ethos is to do things a little differently and because of that people don’t always ‘get’ what we do. It’s a prime example of experiential, I think you really do need to be there to understand how our formats work, that goes for TEDxCardiff, Ignite Cardiff and for what’s coming next… So we don’t need these awards to tell us how we’re doing…

Sour grapes? Hrm, maybe! It may also come as no surprise that when we came to talking about desired outcomes for next year’s event my initial response was ‘I want to win an award… For anything, I don’t care what’.

An element of it is, as much as I hate to admit it, about acceptance and the acknowledgment that we do good things. Ok, it may not be to everyone’s taste, we may not be saving kittens, rehoming orphaned dolphins or protecting Namibian Mountain Goats (yet…) but I like to think we’re contributing to a little corner of what makes Cardiff great so I’ll probably be working a little bit harder towards getting more recognition for what we do. On the other hand, we’re not a hard edged business either. Doing something that we love of more important to us than making money, and perhaps that also goes against us. Like an awkward teenager we’re not even really sure where we belong so I don’t know how I expect other people to know (are we a not-for-profit? Yes, are we a start-up? Hrm maybe, are we arts or education based? Kinda…).

So, does that mean we need to be more commercialised? Maybe. More business-like? Probably.  I suspect part of the problem is that to the outer world it may look like we’re ‘playing’ and not taking things to seriously and perhaps that’s why I don’t have a range of shiny trophies adorning my shelves but I’ll remain optimistic.  It’s always good to have something to aim for and in the mean time I’ll start clearing my walls ready to be inundated with nominations next years!


Filed under General Ramblings

My 365 project

Towards the end of last year I started to realise that I wasn’t getting out with my camera as much as I’d hoped.  I was so busy with other things that as a hobby it had taken a back seat so I was determined to ensure that in the new year I picked it back up again and made a bit more of an effort.

I know people who decided to try and do a 365 project last year and always thought that I’d like to give it a go.  The concept is fairly straight forward… for every day of the year you take a picture so it kind of serves as a photo diary of the year.

I’m not kidding myself that every picture I take will be amazing, purely because I can’t lug my Canon around with me every day!  But this year is going to be quite an interesting year.  I’m in a new job at Sequence doing pretty cool things, we’re running TEDxCardiff #2 on 9 April and we’ve also expanded the Ignite team in the hope of growing the event.  There’s also a handful of other projects that I’m looking at as well as a having a few interesting, personal things coming up so for my benefit as much as everything else I’d like to keep a visual record of the year so that when I get to 2012 I can look back and remember everything that’s happened.

I’ll try and keep the posts down to a minimum – as I said the project is more for myself than anything else.  But if you’re interested please take a look and let me know what you think.  All my photos are being posted on Flickr and the 365 Project website.

Happy New Year🙂

Claire x


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25% of Wales SME’s don’t even have a website – Really?!

The day after Google announce that the UK internet economy is ‘worth billions’ and that the UK is now the world’s leading country for e-commerce, they announce that Welsh firms fall behind the rest of the UK in web presence.  Can it really be true that 25% of small and medium-sized firms in Wales have no website at all?

Having spent the last 4 – 5 years submerged in digital agencies and working with online communities I can’t imagine not having an online presence and I must admit I wonder how companies manage to do much business without a serious online presence?

I’ve spent a fair bit of my time recently looking into mobile solutions, apps and social media strategies and the rates of return that small to large organisations are seeing from expanding their digital marketing is incredible.

One such story was on how make-up giant Rimmel London are now spending more money on mobile than they are on search.  In targeting ‘brand advocates’ who are likely to be influential Rimmel saw an incredible 6,000 visitors a month who went straight from the Rimmel Facebook page to the mobile site.  I appreciate that not everyone is as big as Rimmel but with figures like this can anyone really afford to only invest in offline media?  The Google report also states that small and medium businesses that have an active internet presence grew seven to eight times faster than those that didn’t over the past two to three years.

I’d like to point out incidentally that I’m also a lover of the printed medium.  I spent that majority of my life living with a journalist and for the first 6 years of my career I purchased print for various marketing campaigns, and I firmly believe that paper still firmly has its place (don’t get me started on my rant on ebooks…!) but as far as marketing goes, print is less environmentally friendly than web, millions of people can view your online presence without you having to worry about reprinting on a regular basis, if you find a typo or if information in your material needs updating its just a matter of finding your nearest computer, hoping online and updating – no need to worry about print runs and how to cover the cost.

So come on Wales, step up your game!  There are a mass of great, local digital agencies out there who will be able to provide something within most budgets and will work with you to understand your needs and help you to grow your business.  Can you really afford not to be online?


Filed under Digital Musings

Social media and the feel good factor

I recently read a great book, just one of those ones where you’re waiting in the train station, bored, want something to read so buy a cheap book scenario.  I really enjoyed it and so mentioned it on Twitter.  To my surprise the Author tweeted back and thanked me for saying nice things about her book!  I thought it was such a nice personal touch and exactly what Twitter should be used for.

A friend of mine has recently decided to take a break from Twitter because, as his personal blog explains, it has caused him a bit of grief in the past, and although one of his experiences directly affected me too (although unlike him it’s inappropriate for me to talk about it) I will not be taking a Twitter break any time soon.

When I recently spoke at Ignite Bristol (blatant plug!) I got one of my Twitter rants off my chest.  Twitter (for all its goodness and badness) is a conversation.  Sometimes you say things you wish you hadn’t said, sometimes you read things that you wish you hadn’t seen, but at the end of the day the most important rules are to be polite, if someone talks to you, talk back, don’t just push information out and not respond to your followers (that’s what RSS feeds are for) and most importantly think about what you say because once something is out in the public domain – you can’t take it back.

I don’t follow everyone that follows me, but I generally follow people who talk to me but if I’m no longer interested in what you’re saying I will unfollow you, it’s nothing personal!

I have another friend who has recently joined Twitter and only after much badgering gave me her username under the explicit instructions NOT to tell anyone who she was or to hint anything in my tweets about where she lives or anything about her, purely because she likes the anonymity of being able to say what she likes without work or personal friends judging or reading something and taking it the wrong way – this is something I wholeheartedly understand!

Whereas I generally use Twitter for more professional reasons keeping FaceBook for my personal life, I have recently found that I have made some great new friends and I think, for all the bad stuff that’s happened (and trust me, some of my lowest points from the last year or two can be attributed to Twitter!!!) as with life, shit happens, and if you can make the most of the benefits and take reasonable precautions to avoid the crap, there’s no reason why Social Media can’t be your friend!

Claire x

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What to do if you drill through a lead gas pipe!

*Firstly, if you have just drilled through a gas pipe, you shouldn’t be on the internet, you should have turned off your gas supply, left your property and phoned the gas board – Not surfing the web while gas pours out of your pipes!*

This is something that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, mainly because when it happened I had quite a lot of trouble finding information on the internet on what to do.  Now that I have hind-sight I thought I’d put together this quick post in case anyone else finds themselves in the same situation

Being a bit of a DIY nut and also ever keen to save money, the year before last my husband and I decided that we would install our new kitchen ourselves.

It all looked quite straight forward, the kitchen that was there wasn’t great and was pretty easy to dismantle (we later sold it on eBay for about £50!) and the new kitchen came from Ikea and actually did end up being pretty easy to assemble and install.

Our biggest problem came a couple of weeks before the new kitchen arrived while we were ripping out the old one.  One of the walls that did have units against it now was going to be clear so we needed to patch up the wall with plaster board.  Whilst drilling holes to fix up the plaster board we managed to drill through an old lead gas pipe…

I know – this sounds like a fairly rookie error!  Firstly, if you put plaster board up, use adhesive rather that screwing it, it’s much easier and can help to avoid these problems.  Secondly, all of our gas appliances were situated over the other side of the house so we had no reason to suspect that gas pipes would be on that side of the house.  However, the pipe that we drilled through was part of the old gas supply and probably went to an old storage heater or something so never assume that the wall is clear, always check for pipes and cables!

Ok so obviously the first thing was to turn the gas off and call the gas board.  They came and inspected the situation and we were told that because we were dealing with an old lead pipe (which no longer conformed with regulations), it was ‘illegal’ for them to repair the damage.

Photo of kitchen - with gas pipe exposed

You can see the gas pipe exposed (after it had been repaired)

What followed was phone calls to Corgi registered plumbers and most of them told us a very similar story.  Repairing a lead pipe requires skills which aren’t used very much these days (they need to be ‘wiped’) so a lot of plumbers are reluctant to do it – however phone around.  You’ll be better off looking for an ‘old-school’ plumber as they are more likely to have the right experience.  You’ll get a lot of excuses (including people who will tell you that you need your whole system ripped out and replaced) but stick with it – there are plumbers out there who will repair the problem.

In the end we did find a plumber who was able to come out and repair the pipe.  We also had the pipe capped off because it wasn’t leading to any appliances.  I would say if you do have lead pipes in your property, it is worth thinking about having them completely disconnected as over time lead can become porous and that’s not really a quality that you want in a gas pipe.

Finally we did manage to get the plaster board up (using adhesive!) and I plastered the wall so it’s all as good as new but it set us back a fair bit of money in plumbers bills, it was an extra bit of work on top of the already daunting task of installing our kitchen and we were without gas for a few days so the moral of the story is now that no matter where we are drilling, we *always* check for pipes!

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Random musings of a mad-woman

As a woman who these days seems to be constantly surrounded by men (lucky me eh?!) I do feel that it’s time to admit something that I think my sorority sisters may shoot me for – yes, it’s true – women are all a little bit crazy!

OK, I’m not going to tar all women with the same brush here and please feel free to stop me if you disagree with any of the following pieces of evidence that I think prove that I’m actually a complete raving loon on the inside even if to the rest of the world I appear to be a perfectly reasonably human being…

1. I over think things

Now I guess everyone is guilty of doing this just a little. My husband is obsessed with hair – not in a bizarre kinky way I might add, just that his life-long ambition has been to be a hair dresser.  Last year we decided that instead of listening to him raving on about how great it could be, that he should actually give up his office job to pursue his dream.  And now that he’s doing it he lives and breathes it and I would say 50% of our conversations are about hair or hair related products!  But that’s not the kind of over thinking that I’m talking about… I’m talking about complete immersion and analysing every single detail of something that hasn’t even happened yet, sometimes to the point that within minutes of coming up with an idea I’ll have decided not to do it because in my head, by taking certain steps I’ve managed to result in it leading to the end of the world!

2. I don’t hear what you actually say, only what I think you’re saying

Firstly, I would like to state that this usually only relates to conversations that are of an emotional nature.  For example, if I’m taking a brief for a website or going through financial things – basically where the information is pure fact, this doesn’t cause me any problems.  However, the moment the conversation becomes slightly personal all rationale goes out of the window and try as I might to digest the words that are actually said somehow when I go through the conversation in my head later (usually at 2am) it’s completely different.  It’s as though someone has muted the sounds and added truly random sub-titles! A good example is if someone comments that I’m wearing tight jeans, what I hear is ‘your bum is HUGE’ or when Neil (my partner in crime in all things Ignite and TED related) says ‘hrm perhaps you have a point’ what I hear later is ‘that’s a completely idiotic idea, what was I thinking going on holiday and leaving you in charge’!

3. I don’t want an easy life

OK, this one isn’t going to be too much of a revelation to those that know me but I am incapable of doing nothing.  My diary for the last three weeks or so has been a mess of meetings, meet ups, gigs and events, on top of that I’m mid-way through renovating my house and on the very odd occasion I get to see my family.  Today I find myself with an oddly clear day where I have nothing that I actually have to do, but will I sit around and do nothing – hell no!  I’m already seeing myself doing all manner of things from baking to laying tiles to organising presentations and writing press releases (OK those last two things I do actually need to do this weekend) and as much as a complain about it Mr Stevenson was right, I obviously do enjoy it so I should stop bloody whinging about it!

This blog post could literally go on and be the most epically written post of all time, but I’m going to stop there before my employers, friends and husband realise what they are actually dealing with.  The one thing I will complement myself on is that I know that I’m a nut-case and I do try and deal with it (or hide it as best as I can) but sometimes I’m afraid it does slip out, so for all of those that get to deal with the rare moments of craziness I sincerely apologise, my jazz musician father reminded me that thanks to him I’ve probably inherited the attention-seeking gene so I’m going to partly hold him responsible!

The mug that I drink out of at work that says ‘High Maintenance’ – that’s not an understatement…

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Celebrating a year of Ignite Cardiff’s!

So this week has been largely occupied with tech visits to the Wales Millennium Centre ahead of Ignite Cardiff (very pleased to say that my laptop worked first time with the screens so hopefully we’ll have slightly less technical issues this time around!), contact with the fabulous and gorgeous Ruby Samba who will be performing at the Ignite Cardiff after party (starting at 9pm at Ffresh for those of you that can make it), unhealthy amounts of time spent on Twitter drumming up some interest in various events and copious amounts af emails about TED tickets, websites and speakers.

I tell you this because a few times over the last couple of weeks I’ve been asked about how much work goes in to organising Ignite and I think the answer is ‘more than meets the eye!’.  The first thing to note is that Neil, Mark and myself all have full-time day jobs (and very understanding other halves!) so all of our Ignite and TED related meetings and general work takes place in evenings and weekends.  Coordinating PR, speakers and general running issues for something as casual as Ignite actually requires and incredible amount of work, dedication and carries with it a fair amount of stress… but we love doing it and we really, really hope that you enjoy it.

To part celebrate a year of Ignite Cardiff’s… and part because we wanted an excuse to have a few drinks, we’re holding an after party after Ignite Cardiff 4.  We’ll be in Ffresh from 9pm and it would really mean a lot if you came along and just gave us some feedback or said hi (or offer to speak or sponsor our next event!!!) – it would be lovely to actually get a chance to meet and chat to people – which is something I don’t often get a chance to do at Ignites because they are so manic.

Details can be found on the Ignite Cardiff site – it would be lovely to see you there!

C x

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