How to carve a Turkey

Last year was the first time we had Christmas at home as a family. Seems strange, given that my kids are two and a half and five and a half, but we’ve either been overseas or with family. I remember talking to my Dad on Christmas day and was saying pretty much the same thing, to which he said, “wow, so this will be your first time carving the Turkey then?” I hadn’t thought about it, but he was right.

Somewhat naively, I thought that it would be pretty straight forward. It wasn’t. I felt like Greg Focker in Little Fockers as my father-in-law watched as I made a total mess of the Turkey before he stepped in to do the job properly….. This year, things are going to be different thanks to one of our clients Colman’s. So, to be clear, this is a client… there, that’s out of the way. But, I genuinely think that this is a good idea – how many people don’t know how to carve a Turkey – loads…. So, watch and learn.

So, as we get ready for our second year at home as a family, that Turkey is going to get done….properly.

Thanks for the memories Jonny

I remember watching the 2003 Rugby World Cup final as the ball was passed back to Jonny Wilkinson and the earth seemed to stand still. Right then, in those few seconds the sporting fate of a nation rested on one man’s shoulders, or rather his boot. As the ball fly between the sticks, the impossible had just happened, well actually three impossible things happened. One – An English team had won a major sporting event against Australia IN Australia. Two – that England team beat one of the best Australian Rugby Union teams established. Three – England had just won a major sporting trophy, a bloody world cup! If it weren’t for Mr Wilkinson, an entire generation would have gone without a major tournament win.  I remember reading the papers at the time and the best quote was something along the lines of “there’s a small piece of a foreign field in Sydney that will forever be England”.

The true gift that Wilkinson gave to millions was his passion and dedication to his craft. the are numerous stories of his constant practicing and the refinement of his kicking skills. But, you have to wonder at what personal costs this came. Is it the right time for him to retire? I personally wouldn’t have minded watching him in at least one more 6 nations. But then again, maybe I’m biased, after all I’m watching another sporting hero head-off into the unknown that is retirement. So, thanks for the memories Jonny.

Roger, Wilko and out.

How to make a Princess Leia outfit for a 5 year old

Yes, that’s right – and I’m proud of it. My little girl was off to a Star Wars party this weekend and wanted to go as Princess Leia. My other half was working in the morning so it fell to me to get her ready. So, what did I do? I stepped up, that’s what.

The easiest part of the outfit? The clothes. Really simple – white turtle neck, white leggings and an old bed sheet cut to size. The hardest part? The hair, the bloody hair…. Jesus did that take ages…. I actually found out how to do it on YouTube, you can see the video here,  and yes, she does have rolled up socks in there to make those whirly things on the side of her head. The parents of the other kid wisely choose to buy his outfit, but where’s the challenge in that?

When I went to get her from the party i asked if she’s had fun and if she was the best Princess Leia there, was her hair the best? To which she replied that she never wanted me to do that to her hair ever again and that Princess Leia has lots of other hair styles which I could have done. But I ask you, where’s the authenticity in that?


Is the high street like a ex you just want to avoid?

The world is a pretty downbeat place at the moment and it seems that Christmas 2011 is not immune to this sentiment. However, I think there’s more to the decline in high street shopping than just the current economic situation. When I was a kid, there was a genuine excitement to go Christmas shopping. It was an experience, sometimes frustrating, but mostly rewarding as you picked up deals and got swept away in the festivities. 2011 is the first year that I have felt a noticeable difference and a big shift away from the high street experience.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that everyone’s grumpy as hell, but it’s also to do with the fact that all those deals that used to be on the high street are now online. But more than this: there’s even more deals to be had online and you don’t need to spend hours on a high street searching for them in a throng of other people that are feeling just as downbeat as you. The high street has become a sort of  an ex that we try to avoid at all costs, no matter what they does to tempt us back.

Yet, the same is not true online. Cyber Monday saw Brits spending £19million in an hour online. So, we clearly still want to shop! The high street is still trying to win us back with special offers, deals, sales, but it seems like we’re just not interested, we’d rather be online.

What’s the saying? “It’s not you, it’s me”. I think in this case it’s actually “It’s not me, it’s you” for the poor old high street.


Reclaimed wood and a hacked shelving unit

When he was growing up, my Dad was so working class he used to collect the old fruit boxes and pallets from the Birmingham flea market, break them down and sell them for firewood at the age of seven… He was the eldest of six kids, five of which were boys. They are a very handy bunch, with most of them learning a trade. I think out of the five of them there was an electrician, a builder, a gas man and maybe a plumber…..So, growing up, we never had a trade person in the house that wasn’t related to us. As the brothers got older and more successful, a lot of them went into management or started their own companies. But still, every bit of DIY was done by Dad, with the occasional bit of help from one of his brothers. So, it’s not surprising that this rubbed of on me.

I am an unashamed DIY fanatic. I think that the job I have makes me want to do stuff with my hands, it’s a sort of karma for me. One of my recent projects was making a coffee table from an old pallet and a metal shelving unit that was on sale at Wickes. I think there’s something slightly poetic that Dad used to break up wood like this and sell in as firewood and I’m breaking it up to turn into furniture. How the times change. So, here it is:

I actually got from the guy over the road who was doing some renovations to his house. I popped over the road and knocked on his door and asked for it. He was a little surprised to say the least and actually gave me two pallets…though I only used the one. It was a hell of a lot harder than I thought to separate the wood, but it was worth it. The wood has so much character to it. The next task was to get the planks all lined up, again no easy task when you consider the punishment the wood goes through in its life as a pallet.

Once I was done with that, I had to figure out what I was going to use for a frame. I knew that I wanted to use metal and kind of had an idea what I wanted, so headed off to Wickes. When I found the metal I was looking for the cost was not exactly what I had in mind, especially given that I had told my other half this was going to be cheap! Then I saw a metal shelving unit on sale for £19 and thought, yep, i reckon I can hack that to fit. So I did. One quick lick of clear varnish later (has to be kid proof) and I have my very own unique table for £19. Not bad, hey. Though, I’ll have to keep an eye on Dad if he comes over, wouldn’t want revisiting his childhood!

The thing about Bucharest….

About a year and a half ago, I made my first trip to Bucharest for work. Like most people heading out that way, I had a few thoughts in my head about what it might be like. But, to be honest, no real firm views. When I got there, I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I found. I’ve since been back twice in my GolinHarris Digital role and every time, I come away even more impressed.

For a country that was brutally oppressed under a dictatorship for many years, you would not expect the people there to be as friendly and welcoming as they are. The first two times I went over, the guy that drove me around (called Cezar) was constantly showing me around the city, telling me about its amazing history. Again, I was so struck by this guy’s passion, enthusiasm, his friendliness. Could you imagine the same in London, Sydney?

Then there’s the GolinHarris and Lowe teas out there. One word – amazing. These guys are so creative, passionate, hard-working and energized. I think the rest of Europe could learn a lot from them. My last trip out there was to present at a conference called Zilele Biz, which was all about innovation. I have to say, I was honored to be there. Unlike most conferences I speak at, I was one of only two marketing people there talking about innovation in marketing. The rest of the presentation were pretty amazing – caviar coffee by Lavazza, a window that you could install in 5 minutes!

My last engagement was for at the Digital snapshots event, hosted by the GolinHarris Bucharest team. A really smart idea where marketeers get to come in and here people speak about topics that they want to know more about and get to ask experts questions face-to-face. Again, the level of questions, the engagement, the passion, totally blew me away.

So, the thing about Bucharest is……. a lot more than you think.

Change is coming to…. my blog

It’s been a long, long…….long while since I’ve updated this blog. Mainly because I’m a busy guy (honest). But, I’ve decided to get back into blogging and broaden my subject matter to be more about me, my interests and what I get up to. So, if it’s ONLY social media and digital news that you wan to hear about, you might want to hit the unsubscribe button as I’ll be talking about everything from my travels, sport, DIY, gardening….. and some digital and social media stuff as well.

Essentially, this is going to become a blog by me about stuff that I’m interested in. So, look away now if you are easily offended ;-)

iPad only digital newspaper for News Corp

News Corp is set to launch an iPad only newspaper complete with its own editorial team. Despite grim reading for the company on their initial Paywall numbers for the Times Online (London), it seems they’re pushing ahead with other paid plans in the digital space.

OK, so I may be jumping the gun here by assuming that it’ll be paid, but you’d have thought that this would be the logical route given he direction being taken with other online titles – News of the World is the latest to be linked with the Paywall approach.  While I don’t think that paid for text content won’t work from a news perspective, you have to admire the pioneering spirit of News Corp.

What do I mean? Well, last night I wanted to watch live football (soccer) being shown on Sky (Fox) but my other half was watching another show. So, I installed the Sky (Fox) mobile TV app and watched it on my iPad. Clever stuff for now as it’s free until December if you already subscribe to Sky. But, if they make this an additional cost, will I take it up? Nope – and that’s football! So, there’s really no way I’m going to pay for news-based content even if it is nicely formatted for my iPad.

The problem is this – if it’s news, I can get it anywhere and in this country we are lucky to have the BBC, which provides us with a 24 hour-a-day stream of high quality news, so why would I pay for something I can get for free from another source. Not everyone has the broadcast rights for the Barclays Premier League, but last time I checked, anyone can report the news.

Facebook to launch “Places”

Sorry for the radio silence over the past month, but it’s been holiday season for me. But, back to it. You may have seen the news that Facebook is set to launch a feature called “Places”. If you’re a user of FourSquare, this is Facebook’s play in the location-based networking space, only I expect it’ll be bigger and better.

I’m a FourSquare user and I like to check-in fairly regularly, but I have to say that after the initial buzz It’s become more of a reference point. What I mean by this is that it’s an addition to my update, for example I’ll use it to update Twitter and Facebook with what I’m doing and where I am. The core idea behind FourSquare is the gaming and rewards aspect which seems to be sadly lacking in the UK on the whole. Maybe this is because fewer brands have got involved here, but it does lead to the service being somewhat half-baked.

Nevertheless, I think that location-based networking has a big future and what better enabler that Facebook. It already has a huge user base, a number of brands are involved globally and the branding/adverting model is proven. From what I’ve heard, Places is being soft-launched in the US at this point, but I suspect it won’t be long before it makes it across the pond to us

10 million fans go Gaga for Gaga

You’ve probably read that Lady Gaga became the first living person to go past 10 million fans on Facebook, dethroning Barrack Obama and the ever colourful Britney Spears as the most fanned person on the network. So what is the key to such success for Lady Gaga?

First off, if you look at the Facebook page on it’s own, the first thing that strikes you is how developed the page is. It offers fans a complete experience that goes beyond that of a standard website to do what only social networks can do – engage.  There’s a complete tour listing, track listing and even an e-commerce section. In addition, this is layered with regular engagement by Lady Gaga. For example, when she reached the 10 million mark on Facebook, she posted “Thank u so much little monsters for following me on Facebook! 10 million friends of mine who are now connected to each other.” In addition, there are a number of videos aimed directly at her fans in the social space.

But it’s not just Facebook that makes her such a force in the social world, it’s the fact that she cleverly weaves together the different platforms available to her to tell her story.  On Twitter she has over 4,790,900 follows, on YouTube she has 313823 subscribers and around 126,922,521 video views. Underpinning all of this is the fact that she’s probably one of the hardest working celebrities from a global perspective, she’s not just US-centric, she has a far wider appeal.

She has cleverly used social media to tell her “brand” story as she wants it told, while underpinning this with countless PR and promotional efforts in individual markets. What this means is that while she might not physically be in your country, she’s never far away. While she might not be looking back at you from the cover of a magazine, she’s at the top of your Facebook news feed. What she’s developed is a continuous brand story that she (and not the mainstream media) owns in order to constantly stay relevant to her fans and always be top of mind. If I may say so, genius…..