Comsteria Is Here

Colin Kelly Media Limited is now known as Comsteria Limited.

We have changed our name to reflect our growing business – Emma Baker has joined the business full time and leads on the delivery of our corporate video projects.

Please visit our new website, www.comsteria.co.uk to find out more about our new and improved range of products and services.

You can also visit Comsteria on Twitter and Facebook.

Local Radio For Paisley

The first job I had was with Paisley’s local radio station in the late 1990s.

It no longer exists but I’m a firm believer that the return of such a channel would be good for the town and surrounding area, especially in today’s modern media environment and with all the possibilities that entails.

It’s disappointing that once again what appeared to me to be credible bids for community radio licences have not been successful in OFCOM’s latest round of community radio licence awards. I wasn’t involved in any of them but I had hoped one would have been successful. It has not at the time of writing (15/12/17) although it does appear that neither has been wholly rejected – they just have not been awarded in this latest round.

I’m not particularly a believer in the community radio route and it’s for that reason I’ve never been involved in any of the bids. I would be more in favour of a purely commercial operation and this of course carries with it far greater risk and barriers to entry which is why I haven’t been involved in that either!

The fact it that while various radio and media professionals see the value in a broadcast channel for the town, the general population does not and the business community would find it difficult to give its financial backing at least until the station had a proven track record of success.

And so my position is simply this: I’d like to see a dedicated radio station return to Paisley and Renfrewshire. I have no interest in directly becoming involved in any community licence bids but wish those that do well and would be happy to discuss or provide support on an informal basis to anyone who asks. I’m not in a position just now to commit to the pursuit of a full-time licence and in any event, have the view that for a Paisley radio station to have any chance of succeeding on air, it would first have to gain significant traction on-line.

That’s why we have created ‘Renfrewshire Weekend Radio‘ – a ‘holding’ station which would allow anyone with an interest to broadcast via the internet (and me when I can find the time) and which would immediately close upon the successful licence award to any group bringing a radio channel back to the area.

Anyone with an interest in working with us – follow the link and get in touch.

UPDATED to make clear that the 2017 community radio bids have not been flatly rejected by OFCOM but merely have not been awarded in this latest round. The same bids could, in theory, be awarded at a later date.

New Skills PR Professionals Might Consider

I’m not saying you need all of these, or even any of them, but I’m often asked ‘what’s next’ and what smart public relations and communications professionals can do to make themselves more useful to their organisations. Here are a few suggestions.

1) Learn To Code
It’s not enough to have a static message anymore, you should consider building interactive digital assets. They can seriously enhance a story and make it much harder to ignore you. Check www.globalrichlist.com for an example. It’s as simple as data exported from an EXCEL spreadsheet, displayed in an engaging way and with a nice interface for users to input their data. It’s not the most advanced piece of code you’ll ever encounter but that’s the point – if an organisation had that ability within its communications team there would be no need to outsource to a software developer. A bit of ‘coding awareness’, your confidence would grow and you’d see opportunities to take drab press releases and turn them into multimedia attractions. There was a time when a skill such as ‘typing’ was the domain of a few specialists, now it’s something we all expect to do. I think the same will be true of coding in a few years.

2) Become A Drone Pilot
You know video is where it’s at and think of the possibilities if you were able to take to the skies to get your footage! Hiring in outside help is expensive and means everything has to be planned in advance. You’re beholden to someone else’s availability. So why not learn? A decent drone can be yours for around £1,000, follow the safety guidelines and acceptable use and you can build up some practice, before undergoing more formal training and then seeking certification for commercial drone flying. This has the potential to turn into a nice sideline business of your own.

3) Analyse Data
It amazes me the number of organisations where communications and PR teams DON’T have access to website data analytics. You don’t need to know Google Analytics inside out but I think everyone in our field should have a grasp of the basics. Where do website visitors come from, which social media channel is the most effective in terms of your business objectives (not just the number of visitors) what do they do on your site, the pages that work, and those that don’t. That allows you to make informed decisions about what to change and goes some of the way to solving the issue around ‘how do we measure the success of our PR work?’. Get to grips with Google analytics ‘Goals’ and set up filters to keep the data pure. Lots of free training is available for this and it’s nowhere near as daunting as it looks.

4) Leadership
When I started my career, the accountants always ended up running the place. That’s starting to change. Smart organisations recognise the communications revolution and the need to adapt. That means a change in culture – becoming more transparent, sorting out their ethics and starting to engage their staff. That’s where you come in. There’s an opportunity for communications professionals to get right to the top. Are leaders born or bred? I’ll leave that to the experts but I know what a 12 week course of management training did for my confidence back in 2003 – even if you don’t end up an MD or CEO it’ll take you forward in other ways. Better still if you can get your employer to pay for the training. Get in the bosses’s face when they’re talking about succession planning.

5) Presenting
If you can back up confident presentation skills with substance you’re in a great position. Sometimes you’ll be pitching to external clients and stakeholders, sometimes it’s your own team or another department…the fact is standing up and talking – explaining, convincing, persuading – is becoming a daily part of our working lives. I meet people all the time who tell me they’re either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at presenting as though somehow once you’ve done it a few times your abilities are set in stone. It’s not like that at all. Take control, get some practice and feedback and start presenting with confidence. Want to improve your presentation skills – you can.

6) IT/Computer Literacy Skills
My Dad is amazing at DIY. And I’m abysmal. I watched him doing some work in my house once and realised that where I’d always thought he was blessed with some sort of incredible skill and talent in this area he actually isn’t. Instead, he’s got a solid understanding, a tonne of experience but above all an attitude that when he encounters a new problem, he’ll find a way round it. He expects to be able to solve the problem. Sometimes it involves trial and error. Sometimes he’ll look up the answer in a book or on the internet. Sometimes he’ll ask someone more experienced and skilled than himself. There’s no innate gift. Whereas when I try a DIY job I lose my mind at the slightest issue and never recover. It’s the same for some people with IT and computer literacy. What do you do if you can’t hear yourself on Skype? How do you set up Dropbox to allow someone else to send you files? Do you know how to turn on ‘screen mirroring’ on your laptop? There’s a myriad of things of course and I’m not for a minute suggesting you go behind the IT department’s back and start changing settings without permission. Instead, get a grip on the basics and an understanding of their world. There are some things you WON’T be able to do and if your IT colleagues recognise you as someone that’s made an effort to understand them, it’ll hold you in good stead. And being able to quickly use your phone and laptop to their full potential will make your life much easier and you’ll be more effective and confident in your role.

7) Practice Mindfulness
Us humans were never designed to live in towns and cities let alone carry mobile phones around with us all day. Work, rest and play have all changed dramatically in the last few years and since the economic collapse of 2008 we’ve all probably felt an increase in pressure to some degree. It’s probably not going away anytime soon and the one constant is change. It seems that change is constantly relentless and some pretty smart people are predicting even greater ‘digital disruption’ lies ahead, impacting every business and organisation significantly in the next few years. Driverless cars anyone?! We’ve all got a responsibility to look after our health and wellbeing and it’s great that some of the stigma around mental health is now being overcome. It improves our lives and makes us more effective – why wouldn’t you want to embrace it! ‘Mindfulness’ is the current term that we hear a lot but you might find value in particular books, yoga, meditation, or where appropriate some form of counselling. Think about your mental health but also learn to understand everyone else you meet will have their own world view and their own way of working. There are some great practitioners working in this field – Connie McLaughlin for example is doing some outstanding work with people to lead teams.

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It’s All About The Experience

There’s irrefutable evidence that the unique ‘experience’ is what we all want these days.

A recent article about Barrhead Travel’s expansion highlighted the demand for customised holiday experiences, rather than simply cheap flights and hotels.

I’ve just spent a small fortune in the M+Ms store at Leicester Square, buying gifts for the family. I’d mentioned after my last trip to London that there was an amazing 4 storey building devoted to the tiny little sweets and mentioned some of the merchandise it sold. This turned into a full blown discussion about the madness of it all, but after I showed my Mum some YouTube clips from other visitors she was quickly won over and insisted I brought her something back from my next trip! And then there’s my kids…my nephews etc etc!

Round the corner in Covent Garden, ice cream giant Magnum has a pop up shop where you can ‘make your own Magnum’ and then eat it in the cafe area. At every stage in the process, there are opportunities to take and share pictures of you ‘experiencing’ Magnum on social media. It’s like the ‘Build A Bear’ workshop for adults!

Smart brands are going to great lengths to unlock there’s ‘experience’ opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It could be expanding a range of merchandise, bringing products to life, turning them into characters, or letting people in on the creative process…how are these products made? Can customers ‘have a go’ at making their own?

Break down your customer journey and your manufacturing process and look for opportunities to let people in and turn it into an attraction.

Perhaps radio cou

ld turn weekly playlist meetings or music research into an event, which as well as gathering useful focus group, market research data, also serves as a powerful marketing activity.

Choose selected listeners who’ve downloaded your app, send them push notifications and invite them along to the ‘Playlist Night’. Put on some food and drink, show them round, explain how you choose what songs get played, let them hear the latest releases and canvas their views.

Many stations I listen to have white label ‘dating’ apps. Why not turn the ‘playlist night’ into a ‘music testing/speed dating’ event. You could charge a modest admission fee for that and you’d be giving a desirable audience a unique experience they’ll tell their friends about, thus marketing your station.

And if you think ‘nice idea but no-one will ever do it’ – think again. Some station already is because I’ve just overheard a woman raving about the whole experience to her friend on the tube. It’s the first time in years I’ve overheard someone talking enthusiastically about something involving a radio station.

Much is made of the digital revolution. But ‘digital’ alone is 1s and 0s and boring as hell. Digital that works is expressing the physical in a digital space. Enjoying a unique real life experience and keeping a permanent digital record that we carry with us everywhere we go and expressing how that physical experience has made us feel, in the digital realm.

Think about how you can unlock the unique experiences associated with your business.

The Problem With Half-Baked Blogs

Last week, a friend mentioned a business I hadn’t heard of before.

And the first thing I did?

Looked up their website.

Of course it was perfectly slick and visually impressive but what about the people behind this business? Were they everything they claimed to be? Could I trust them? What were they really like? Were they busy and doing well, do they know what they’re talking about or was it all just bluster? Is the business run by local people that know this area or is it a big organisation down south that’s been able to get to the top of the Google rankings?

The website itself couldn’t give me all the answers, so I looked deeper.

And this is something I do on almost every website of every business I look at – I clicked on the page titled ‘Blog’.

It’s there I often get better insight into what things are really like. And if the page is ‘half-baked’ – e.g. says simply ‘coming soon’ or there’s one post from April 2012, another from July 2014 and nothing since, then for me it can set alarm bells ringing.

Of course there’s often a very good reason why a blog can be half-baked, for example the business owner is too busy getting on with work to sit down and write one and there have been times I’ve been in that position myself.

So, if you’ve got a ‘Blog’ page on your website, ask yourself if you really are committed to it. Do you want to keep it? Are you prepared to update it – at least once a month? If you’re not, take it down, because a half-baked blog makes you look bad.

A good blog can be a highly effective and low cost form of marketing. It can explain who you are and what you do, attract the right sort of customer, educate them a little in terms of how you like to do business, and, crucially, bring in enquiries while you’re busy working.

Many business owners I know like to use ‘ghost writing’ blogging services in conjunction with their own efforts. This means the ghost writing service might create 2-3 posts a week, while the business owner might manage one a month. It saves time and gets content published but I always worry about the loss of the authentic voice. As a customer, I like to know that what I’m reading some straight from the mind of the business owner and I do think audiences can spot a fraud.

Of course there are good and bad blogging services and a good one should be able to understand what you would be saying and how you’d say it if you were writing every post yourself, and so audiences couldn’t tell the difference. Whatever you decide, I think it’s important to do at least SOME of the blogging yourself.

Many of us have been sold this myth that a blog post someone has to be equivalent in length to an essay. It doesn’t! Some of the best blogs I read are extremely short. A nice rule of thumb is one thought = one blog. And if you can do that in a couple of sentences…well done!

The key is to add value. To give your audience something useful, interesting, humorous…get it right and you’ll start enjoying the writing and, I hope, see some interesting new opportunities emerging for your business.

‘Endeavour’ or ‘Try’?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you do?

In ‘Plain English’ and ‘Kill The Jargon’ sections of my training we take on corporate-speak.

It’s easy to rant and insist every last example should be eliminated but can it really.

The ‘endeavour vs try’ debate is an interesting one.

My 5 year old son ‘tries’.

A Scottish Government quango, utilities company or major employer..really, should organisations like this be ‘trying’?

Or is it OK for them to endeavour?

When you’re thinking about style guides, tone and use of language on your website and social media, don’t let ‘Plain English’ become a vague aspiration. Think about what it’s going to mean to you in practice, day in, day out. And live it.

Could your organisation say ‘we’ll try’ instead of ‘we’ll endeavour’?

And what would the effect be if it did?

I can tell you. If you took ‘Plain English’ to that degree, pretty soon you’d start changing your company culture.

And that would be no bad thing. It’s going to have to change soon anyway.

What do you do when the systems go down?

A family trip to Stirling a few weekends back led to a lunchtime visit to McDonald’s in the city centre.

But at the front door of the restaurant, a member of staff stopped us coming in any further and said ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything today all our systems are down’. So off we went to Debenham’s Cafè instead.

And on the way I got thinking about that response and what’s going on inside the business.

How can it be, that they can’t sell burgers and fries when the system goes down?

What system is it that’s down anyway? The grills and ovens? From what I saw before being pushed out the door they were in full flow. The lights, the power? All seemed to be working fine.

The member of staff didn’t help by providing any explanation but, let’s assume, based on previous trips to McDonald’s and knowledge of how their systems work, that what’s actually ‘gone down’ is not the ability to cook food but rather the automated process of making and fulfilling orders.

An inconvenience for sure, but is it really so mission critical that they could not take an order and cook a meal without it?

Perhaps it was the payment system, the tills. Is the process for ordering and taking my money so complex that they couldn’t have told me what the meal cost and taken cash?

How your business responds when the systems go down is a choice.

Unless it’s not a choice and by that I mean if you’ve trained your staff only to follow the system…if they don’t know anything else other than how to follow the instructions on the screen, then of course you’ve lost that choice and you would have to close.

And if the system’s so important and the human beings aren’t…then surely you’re just one small step away from an entirely automated business with no human beings at all.

On that note, I experienced a recent British Airways flight where the system for taking payments for the trolley service went down. The cabin crew took cash and card payments, processed them by hand, physically wrote out receipts and even worked out the change and the Avios points IN THEIR HEADS. Amazing. But of course it shouldn’t be, really.

Train your staff well beyond the system. And if things go wrong and you do have to compromise your service delivery (or switch things off entirely) think about how you communicate that message to customers and the message it sends out.

That member of staff at McDonald’s in Stirling made no attempt to persuade us to come back later, or tomorrow. It was as though she didn’t care.

And you know what, I don’t think she did.

And I’m sure that’s not the message her bosses would have wanted her to send out.

How does your business speak?

When I discuss this issue with clients, we often turn to social media, press releases, media interviews etc and sometimes they’ll pull out brand guidelines or ‘tone of voice’ documents which they’ve developed.

All of these can be useful and have their place.

But what if we take the question literally…how does the business actually speak? How do the staff speak to each other? How do managers speak to their team?

I’ve just sent off a complaint email to a major high street retailer after hearing a manager haranguing a colleague – in front of customers – at one of its stores in Glasgow.

It was a disgraceful display of aggression and unprofessionalism and if the member of staff is subjected to this regularly then I’d suggest that amounts to bullying. Needless to say I left the store without buying my magazine and won’t return until my complaint is resolved.

One incident, involving one member of staff, has tarnished that brand, perhaps irreparably, in my eyes.

The way we speak says a great deal about our attitudes and values. How we treat people. How we see ourselves. And when we get it wrong – when the stress and pressure of the job is too much and spills over and we start snapping and barking at colleagues – we undo all the carefully thought through good work around social media, websites and PR campaigns.

And I’ve realised I’ve been guilty of this too. Last year, as many of you know, my wife Emma Baker joined our business full-time to lead on our corporate video and live event streaming activity. At a recent event, while setting up the equipment and with a tight deadline, I snapped at her while looking for a microphone in a way I never would have spoken to a client or other colleague. It was nothing like what I’ve just witnessed at that particular store, but it wasn’t good enough.

Let’s all endeavour to think about our tone and how we speak to each other. And if stress and pressure is causing us to behave in a way we know is less than our best, then we should take steps to deal with the underlying cause rather than taking it out on a colleague.

Teaching Digital

You’ll have seen the usual suspects yakking about Skyscanner getting sold to China and ‘where’s Scotland’s next billion pound tech company going to come from?’

If we’ve to have any chance of achieving our country’s digital ambitions…how about we stop schools from teaching children that digital is bad?

That’s right…not only are some schools failing to teach the essential digital skills for the 21st century workplace, they’re actively giving young people the impression that digital is bad.

Our Scottish Schools Radio project aims to give every school in Scotland access to their own live streaming internet radio channel and a package of digital journalism resources to help them find the balance between fun and self expression and reflecting the work that goes on in schools and the community around them.

Already we’ve heard some brilliant examples of work from the pupils, as they produce their programmes with just the right amount of support and encouragement from enthusiastic teachers who, like so many of us, passionately believe in the relevance and importance of digital skills in the classroom.

Where it causes extreme frustration is when teachers are, for example, unable to upload the MP3 audio files to our Dropbox folder because DROPBOX IS BLOCKED. They then turn to their email and attempt to send the files that way but can’t because…SENDING AN MP3 VIA EMAIL IS BLOCKED.

YOUTUBE IS BLOCKED.

FUCKING SKYSCANNER IS BLOCKED.

You and I know these networks aren’t really blocked.

You and I know that by ‘blocked’, what they mean is ‘come and ask permission and we’ll set it up for you.’

SO SAY THAT THEN.

Make it clear to local authority staff that they can make use of those channels, they just need permission, and then give the IT folks a rocket up the backside so they start giving that permission.

There’s a world of difference between ‘this site can’t be accessed right now, dial 412 and we’ll sort it out’ and ‘this site is blocked’.

Stop treating teachers like criminals because they want to use technology in education.

Stop putting education professionals with the best intentions of the pupils at heart in positions where they look like fools because they can’t get a bloody email to work.

And stop pupils leaving at the end of the day thinking that this so called ‘place of education’ is hopelessly irrelevant.

‘But why would a teacher want to send an MP3 via email?’ some will no doubt ask.

‘Why would a teacher want to use Dropbox in a classroom, show something on YouTube, or bring up Skyscanner?’

If you have to ask, you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a school as far as I’m concerned.

It’s perfectly possible to be safe, secure, compliant and still use essential digital technologies.

And if you can’t figure that out, you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an IT Department.

Instagram Stories – Can Your Small Business Use Them?

Should your business use Instagram Stories?

Of course!

But will creating Instagram Stories help your business grow?

Should you use this new feature?

Probably not.

It helps to understand the motivation behind the launch of the new Instagram Stories.

It’s due to demand from big brands and publishers, who want a method of stitching together short snappy clips of video into longer strands of content.

These big brands, publishers and celebrities, all of whom are likely to become the power users of Instagram Stories, have the reach required to make the most of the new feature.

The same applies to Snapchat – without large reach in (at least) the tens of thousands – you won’t be able to make a significant impact with your content and with a shelf life of just 24 hours it won’t drive whatever results you’re aiming for.

You’ll end up in constant ‘trying to grow followers’ mode and this will lead to frustration and time wasted.

Keep in mind too the difficulty in linking outside Instagram and Snapchat to your own website and other platforms. You are heavily restricted.

The majority of business I work with don’t have ‘fans’. Neither do they have content so interesting that it merits regular video clips. Instead, they have regular customers who deal with them directly and then have a very large, untapped audience they hope will stumble across them one day via searches or recommendations.

Instagram Stories and Snapchat COULD help with this, in theory, and for some sectors might make sense. But for most businesses that I deal with their time would be far better spent on an activity such as blogging.

It might lack the excitement of Instagram Stories and Snapchat but it provides regular, ‘sticky’ content with a long term shelf life and hyperlinks back to your website. Blogs don’t need to be long or complicated. Try and include a picture and if you want you could even film a short video of you summarising what you’ve just written and post it to YouTube.

If you’re not sure what to write about in your blog, jot down a dozen questions a potential customer might have about your business and set about answering them, one at a time. If you publish one a week, you now have blog posts for the next 3 months.

And if writing isn’t your strong point, you should consider my Writing For Digital workshop. Get in touch for details.