Friday, 30 July 2010

5 things I love and 5 things I hate about alcohol.

1) That first sip of rum/southern comfort/wine after a hectic week. Amazing how after just one sip I feel so much more relaxed and how, after one glass, that the world is a GREAT place to be.
2) How much better I become at conversation. After two or three drinks, even the most tedious person is fascinating and I am, of course, charm personified.
3) How it makes me forward. If I have a crush on a chap, I simply have to drink in his presence. By the end of the evening I will have suggested what a fabulous idea it is that we have a snog. (Amazingly, I usually get one too.)
4) How two or three drinks stops me feeling hungry or tired.
5) Dancing, laughter and an ability to be sentimental and 'huggy' (not something I am sober - it could be said that I am in fact rather cold with my lack of touchy feelyness) that ensues after a shot of sambuca or two. This is positive as it enables me to show in a tactile fashion how much I love my friends in a way that might make me feel awkward or uncomfortable when sober.

1) How sometimes alcohol can make me cry, make me clumsy or become aggressive to random passerbys and vomit on inappropriate occassions. Oh and I must stay away from all forms of communication when drunk. Especially facebook, many a terrible message has been sent over facebook when I have been drinking.
2) McDonalds cheeseburgers (yes, plural) at 2am after too many rum and cokes. Oh the calories.
3) My hangovers don't generally just involve a headache or dehydration but usually an enormous feeling of depression, loneliness and the conviction that everyone on the planet hates me. Even if I haven't said or done anything embarrassing the night before. Oh yes, and the inability to sleep through my hangovers is a total killer. It doesn't matter what time I get to bed, if I have been drinking, I will be wide awake just four hours later, conscious of every second of my pain.
4) Want a secret out of me? Just get me drunk. Alcohol is like truth juice to me and I can't stop my bloody mouth. You won't even have to interrogate me, I'll just happily blab all my secrets without any forethought. Especially sexual secrets. I'm very good at confessing those.
5) Alcohol poo the next morning, from me or anyone else. I need say no more.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Social Media for Dummies: 10 things I learnt setting up a charity twitter feed

After two illustrious years, I am leaving my current job as Press, PR & Social Media Officer for World Cancer Research Fund and moving to pastures new. As part of my handover, I have been asked to write a 'social media for dummies' document for the newbie who takes over the @WCRF_UK twitter feed
This feed is very much my baby. I pushed to set it up and have single-handedly managed it ever since. Now considering I did have all my other PR bits and bobs to do as well, I think the fact that we are at nearly 800 followers is quite the feat. So here below are the 10 most important things I learnt setting up the feed.
1)    Be friendly, informal and  interact, interact, interact. Don’t just promote your blog or services, talk to people. Respond when they talk to you. It’s a great way to talk to other charities and supporters. I even managed to sign people up for WCRF's Beat the Banana run via twitter. 
2) Use hashtags! My personal favourites are #kickcancer (this is a great campaign created by a girl who actually had cancer.) #health #recipe and #badjoke that I used at least once a week for WCRF's badjoke of the week and healthy recipe of the week. These are quite popular with WCRF's followers and it’s good to create little regular ‘features’ to make the feed enjoyable for followers. For example:
Oh and our GGC #badjoke of the week: What kind of room can't you walk into? A mushroom!
Our #health #recipe of the week is this yummy Mediterranean chickpea salad
While we are on hashtags, never forget a #charitytuesday or #followfriday. For example, tweet this on a Tuesday: 
Happy #charitytuesday! @DiabetesUK, @DiabetesUKCymru, @CRUKWalton, @royalmarsden, @BCCare and @CR_UK #kickcancer
It’s a great way to spread the love and often people will do a #charitytuesday or #followfriday in return (you can also do #ff for Follow Friday if you don’t have space.) Another one people do is #fundraisingthursday but that isn’t as common. Always thank people or return the compliment if they do this for you. It’s just nice and to ignore it can come across as rude. Also, RT other people! I RT @NHSChoices, @BCCare, @DiabetesUK, @thebhf and @CR_UK a lot because their messages were often similar to WCRF's and it’s a way of showing support.
3)   Use applications, set up tweetdeck. This application is invaluable to me. You can also get it on your phone so you can tweet on the move! (I never did this, preferring to, er, have a life.)  
Hootsuite is also great, it's free and easy to set up. You can follow multiple twitter accounts, and schedule automated tweets for the weekend or just later in the day when you might be busy. This is not regarded as good social media practice however, so don’t do it too much, however, it’s a good tool if you are busy/would like your own weekend. If anyone retweets or speaks to you over the weekend, do respond first thing Monday morning. Again, it’s not the best social media practice but I think many people understand when you are a small organisation and responding or thanking them for the RT on Monday is better than nothing.
Socialoomph is another free and user friendly tool. You can create automated DM messages to new followers, among other things.    
4) is the website used to shorten URLs but you can also do this in hootsuite and tweetdeck. 
5) Twitpics! People love a good picture, so do add pictures to your account from the twitpic website as much as you can.
6)If you have a lot of pictures all at once, just put them on facebook. You can set it up so they will then automatically load onto your twitter feed as soon as you put them on facebook.
In fact, you can set it up so everything you put on facebook will then automatically load to twitter. I still like to then put another separate tweet about the same thing onto twitter though. Just because it’s then a direct link to whatever I’m promoting. It doesn’t matter that it’s a duplicate. Other twitter feeds duplicate all the time. Don’t do this too much though.
7)In terms of timings, I’ve been told that good times to tweet are first thing in the morning, lunchtime, and between 5-6pm in the evening. This is when people are most likely to finish/take a break from work and may check their accounts. 11am and 3pm are also good times. All of Friday afternoon is an especially good time! I often tweeted a silly game from WCRF's Great Grub Club children's website as a ‘relieve your Friday fatigue’ type thing. At the weekend or on bank holidays it’s best to tweet between 11am and 2pm as this is when most people are online.
8)Time management! I tended to spend an hour in the mornings on twitter and then just responded to things as and when/scheduled tweets throughout the rest of the day. Otherwise you really could be on there all day and never get any work done. It’s good to keep a half an eye on it though.
9)Be a person from an organisation, not a monolithic organisation voice. So, tell people who you are and tweeting the occasional ‘I did a 10k today, my legs are sore’ will make the feed a lot more accessible to followers. Although, of course, keep it on message. And make sure this is the case with any personal feed you may have. As far as my personal followers know, I am an extremely active health geek (which is mostly true) and this is in line with the WCRF's messages. If you are not comfortable with this, up your privacy settings. This goes for facebook too.
10)It’s ok to use exclamation marks! When I used to be a journalist I was told it's frowned upon to use too many 'dogs dicks' and in the most part I agree. But you don’t have many characters here, so it’s ok to use extreme punctuation to make your point quickly. It’s also ok to use shortcuts, such as 2 for two, to, too. There is a function in tweetdeck that can do this for you. (It can also change the language!) Although normal grammar applies of course. Not that other tweeters always follow that, but let’s rise above.

For any newbies to twitter setting up their own corporate or charity feeds I hope this is helpful! I am by no means an expert and most of this is quite basic stuff I have learnt as I went along. Just watch what other corporate or charity feeds are doing. This really is the best way to learn. Any questions? I'm @Shell3870, come find me on twitter.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Five years ago today...

Five years ago today I was doing a work experience internship at More! magazine and while sitting on a train into Liverpool street had a call from my mum.
"Are you ok?" She yelled as soon as I picked up.
"Yeah mum, I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?" I responded, thinking my mum was being a tad over the top. I'd only been out of the house for an hour.
She mumbled something about a newsflash, some trouble on the tubes. I told her to not worry about it. There were delays on the tube every day. It would be fine.
When I got into Liverpool street, there were people running everywhere. I have never before or since seen so many people running in my life - and I've taken part in half marathons.
I tried to get on the tube, but was only met with lots of burly men telling me to get a bus. I tried to get a bus but was only met with empty buses rushing by, doors closed, nobody being allowed on.
I called More! and a panicked receptionist told me not to get on any transport, there were bombs all over the city. I should go home. 
I lived in Essex. An hour train ride from the city.
So, I walked, in high heeled cowgirl boots. Luckily I got chatting to a bloke who showed me the way back to Stratford. No trains running from there, so I walked back to Ilford and then managed to bus it back to Wickford. All the way getting panicked calls from friends, family, my then boyfriend. I finally managed to get home at 3pm that afternoon.
But anyway, this post wasn't meant to be about the bombings. But more about the last five years.Yep, forgive me while I take a narcissistic look at the last five years of my life.
A lot has changed. My once tumbling long curly hair has all been cut off and tentatively regrown into a long bob, I no longer own those cowgirl boots, maxi skirts have gone and returned to fashion, my style has gone from romantic student hippy to retro with killer heels and has now settled at somewhere in between, I have lived in Cardiff as a regional journalist for three years but after getting some bad family news I did some real soul searching and realised that working in charity PR was what I really wanted and so I returned to London to be closer to my family. It's long over with my then boyfriend, two more relationships have followed but sadly not worked out. Friendships have died, new ones have been formed, others have grown stronger. I have lived in four different houses, become interested in things I never thought I would be, been to places I never thought I would, fallen in love with people I never thought I would.
Comparing myself now to who and how I was back then has made me nostalgic for the past five years, and it's funny how it has taken a major event like 7/7 for me to recognise my achievements and all the cool things I have done with my life. I have written for national magazines and newspapers, set up the social media and organised fundraising PR campaigns for a charity almost entirely on my own, run a half marathon in two hours, lived alone, been brave enough to ask a boy I liked out for a drink (in fact, I've done this on numerous occasions!). Things my much shyer 21-year-old self would not have thought possible.
7/7 was a horrible day and I am not ignoring all the pain that it caused many families and my heart goes out to them today. I read a story from a woman who lost her sister in the bombings the other day and had to hold back tears (I am a soppy wotsit and couldn't imagine the grief I would feel if I were to lose one of my sisters.) But what I got from that day was not the panic, the horror, (although I of course felt all that) but actually, how god damn nice people can be. That a man would walk all the way back to Stratford with a girl to make sure she didn't get lost, that so many people cared enough to call and check I was ok. In a time of crisis, I didn't see selfishness or hostility, I saw complete strangers helping each other.
In everything, one thing is always true: Life moves on. And you never know what might happen, who you might talk to, what amazing job you might land when you least expect it, who you might fall for. To quote my favourite Banksy painting: "There is always hope."
My goodness. I am going for the cheese saturation today aren't I.