7 things to do on a commute (or tedious journey)

I’m reasonably lucky in that most days I’ll get a seat on the train. This is probably because I’ve negotiated more flexible hours to fit inline with overseas clients and the trains are much less busy.

In times past people used to read a newspaper or a book on their commute, nowadays most commuters are wired into a device, either a tablet or mobile handset. Looking around you can see the majority are watching last nights 24 or playing 2048 or a similar game. Commuting is a great opportunity to make use of time, which can be dull and unfulfilling if you let it.

If you’ve got a mobile device, why not try one of the following ideas to enrich your commute or tedious journey?

1) Catch up – whether that’s on emails, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets or evading the hundreds of parent mail letters that come through… This time on your own is the perfect opportunity to get on top of things. Not only does it give you a huge sense of achievement as you pull into the station but it also means that you’re already ahead of yourself for the day.

2) Sit & smile, take in what’s around you, all the personalities and life stories surrounding you. Purposefully make eye contact with your fellow passengers and smile. Sometimes there’s even the opportunity to spark up a conversation. Go on! break the norm, it is guaranteed to make both you and others feel really good!

3) Be mindful focus on looking out of the window if you have one, if not, focus on one point in the carriage, bus etc to zone out on, you can close your eyes but I find this too ‘shut off’, so doesn’t really work for me! Then concentrate on your breathing (slowly and steadily). focus on something outside yourself – focus on something to your left, focus on something to your right and breathe.

Take in how lucky you are, think about all and anything that is good in your life. If you are genuinely in a foul mood and nothing feels good then think about those with absolutely nothing, those who are physically or mentally suffering – even they can find positives. This ‘sort-of’ meditation is blissful, especially if you have raced around to get to the station and have barely caught your breath yet today.

Starting the day with ‘an attitude of gratitude’ and being mindful of your lot is a very productive and beneficial thing to do, not only does it make your day more fruitful and happy it will actually rub off on those around you. Try it and see the difference it makes.

4) Shopping – If you’re like me and you loathe shopping and resent the time it eats into your limited spare few hours, even with no wifi or service it’s possible through the use of an app (like Ocado’s on the go app) to spend your journey compiling your shopping list/meal planning for the week. Not only does it save time but you also end up spending less as you don’t meander around the aisles being tempted but new product lines or satisfying whimsical cravings!

5) Watch & Learn! – One of the best apps I’ve ever downloaded is the TED app. TED is a not for profit organisation promoting ideas worth sharing. It has over 1700 different talks/lectures from a vast array of people covering almost all topics, from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Watch a TED talk and learn something, get an idea or they’ll just make you think! You can download them to your device too so no need to use your data watching them!

Click here to read more about TED

6) LISTS make a list, a wish list, a to-do list, a list of things to try not to do, … Lists, area great way to summarise and quickly capture all of the thoughts racing round in your head at any one time. By making a list on your mobile device it is always there to be added to or when items are complete – they can be deleted off or, even more satisfying – they can be crossed off so you can visibly see progress, plus, in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep as you have too much going around in your head you can add to these lists and almost compartmentalise your worries/concerns. I love a list!

7) Thoughtfulness Finally, how about using this time selflessly, to zone out and think about your friends and family. Think about the people you know who are struggling at the moment and think about ways you could possibly help them out in any way them or simply just make them feel better. Remember, what comes around goes around, think how great you’d feel if you made a tiny difference to someone’s life, if only in a tiny way, you’d feel really good about it. Giving yourself time to think and consider others is not only great therapy but is also a kind and considerate thing to do.

Customer-Based Brand Equity

Do you know why a certain Brand is strong? Would you know how to make it stronger if you had too? Many factors influence a Brand’s strength of otherwise, if you can understand these it can only help in strengthening a weak Brand, or creating a new, vibrant Brand for the future.

Keller’s Brand Equity Model is also known as the Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) Model. Kevin Lane Keller, a marketing professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, developed the model and published it in his widely used textbook, “Strategic Brand Management.”

To precis enormously there are four major points

1) Who are you?
2) What are you?
3) What about you?
4) What about you and me?

To precis even more, these four points can be summarised thus:-

1) Brand identity
2) Brand meaning
3) Brand responses
4) Brand relationships

Within these four summaries are six building blocks that further help with brand development. These being salience, performance, imagery, judgments, feelings, and resonance.

The link above is vital to anyone keen to understand the importance of Brand awareness in advertising.

The power of a SMILE :-)

Things to do today: SMILE
Things to do today: SMILE

It’s Monday morning and according to research I can make today a lot more bearable for everyone just by smiling. BUT, it’s important to note, it’s not just that I smile. It’s how I’m smiling.

A study, carried out by the ‘Go Group’, a business support organisation based in Scotland looked at people’s reactions to different grins.

They have identified three types of smile to avoid:

1)  ‘The Enthusiast’

very wide, all teeth showing, possible evidence that you can have too much of a good thing.

2) ‘Big Freeze’

a fixed grin that looks practised and fake. (And my goodness I’m tempted to play this card today!

3) ‘The Robot’

a small, thin smile, lacking in warmth.

The group also warns about smiling too quickly, saying it can make you look insincere. The best smile, is slow and naturally flows across the whole face – I’m nervous, this is going to be somewhat of a challenge as I’m totally despairing at the moment.

According to Ron Gutman, (taken from a Forbes post) Smiling is not just a universal means of communicating, it’s also a frequent one. More than 30% of us smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14% of us smile less than 5 times a day. In fact, those with the greatest superpowers are actually children, who smile as many as 400 times per day!

We know that smiling makes you look better, definitely makes you feel good and is somewhat contagious – when someone smiles at you you do tend to want to smile back, it lightens a situation. Smiling has HEAPS of other benefits including health/stress related advantages. It has also been reported to have more beneficial effects on the brain’s reward mechanism than even chocolate!

So now after reading all I’ve read this morning there’s only one thing for it, I need to think of nice things, feel grateful for all that I have, remember that the rest of the world are all feeling pretty crappy at the moment and despite everything going on here it’s possible to cheer everyone up just by SMILING ;-))))

don't forget to SMILE!
don’t forget to SMILE!

Godin’s emotional hand washing



Just read this on marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog… A gentle reminder that by simply smiling and having a positive outlook makes a world of difference to those around you.

So, today, no matter how you feel enter each new conversation, meeting or event with a happier outlook try this for just one day and notice the difference it makes; to everything! ‘Emotional handwashing Emotions are far more contagious than any disease. A smile or a panic will spread through a group of people far faster than any virus ever could. When you walk into the office or a negotiation, then, wash your bad mood away before you see us. Don’t cough on us, don’t sneeze on us, sure, but don’t bring your grouchiness, your skepticism or your fear in here either. It might spread.’ Seth Godin


Native Advertising – it works, you know…..

Did you know that 99.8% of all banner ads on your website are ignored? 99.8%. That’s two clicks out of a thousand. To the customer used to navigating around numerous sites these ads become wallpaper – they’re simply not given the time of day. A recent survey showed that unto 50% of customers who DID click on the ads did so by mistake. I kid you not. Native ads, on the other hand, are looked at 52% more than regular display ads.  Spending on native ads grew 39% in 2012 and 22% in 2013.

Native advertising is the integration of marketing content into an article without distracting interest from the rest of the material presented there. It aims to blend in seamlessly with the written content and, to all intents and purposes is part of the article itself.

The classic example is a Purina campaign:- (With thanks to www.memeburn.com).

Purina sponsored an article on Mashable titled “5 Heartwarming Stories That Prove Dog Is Man’s Best Friend”. Mashable is best known for its tech news and its “X number of (insert practically anything here)” articles. And Purina nails the latter. The piece shares stories and videos of the sweetest pups — one who saved its owners life, one who mourned the death of its Navy SEAL owner, and three others. By the end of the article, you’re in tears and more in love with your own dog. This article received more than 20 000 shares — meaning that Purina generated many impressions, without even mentioning dog food.

You too can achieve this by making your article similar to but not directly selling your product. In Purina’s emotional, tear-jerking article dog-lovers are filled with warm, fuzzy feelings. Imagine if the article was about dog food — who’d want to share that with friends?


the shift to native advertising
courtesy of MDGadvertising.com


Making your website work harder (pt. 1)

This is the first in a series of  posts regarding creating a more worthwhile and profitable website for your company.


What is your website for:

There are two main types of business websites. The first is a flat brochure style website, showcasing the best your organisation has to offer, it can include some testimonials and will have clear calls to action. The other is a site that engages visitors and generates leads. It attracts interest and offers solutions and advice to visitors initiating a relationship.

Your website is the hub of business communication and the home of all of your valuable content.  It’s critical that the look, feel and tone of voice are reflective of all that your organisation stands for and the products/services you offer.  The traffic driven to your site will have been directed from all areas so it is important to make sure your website has a strong and clear identity.

Although your website is about you and your business it needs to be written and designed from the customer’s point of view, so instead of writing about ‘what we do’ focus on ‘ here’s how we can help you’.

The content on your website, as well as that posted in social media or shared on others blogs is all integral to your brand. It is there fundamentally to engage and inspire. To endorse your expertise in a sector, to help build trust and to get customers inspired and enthused about you. Smart and cleverly produced content will encourage customers to talk about you and will ensure that you are front of mind when they are ready to make a purchasing decision.

A good website with well constructed editorial will pull in leads and convert them to sales.

The 3 main objectives of a content focused business website?

1. To attract potential customers and retain existing ones

2. To navigate them to the most relevant areas of the site, and

3.  To engage prospects and start to build a relationship with them.


In the next post we will look at the key elements that make a smarter business website.



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Time and Project Managers – The 80% Rule

Inexperienced Project Managers, regardless of their industry come to me regularly with the same two problems:-

“Regardless of how carefully I have planned my project always overruns.”

“Regardless of how carefully I have costed my project is always over budget.”

Stress ensues. Blood pressure rises. Staff work longer hours to catch up and both the management and the client are spitting blood. But for a new Project Manager, management will judge whether a project has succeeded or failed on whether it’s been delivered on time and on budget. You will need to be able to negotiate realistic budgets and successful deadlines if you want to be well respected in this career.

Almost without exception extended projects are due to one cause. The amount of time  needed to complete it has been seriously underestimated.

Now, certain aspects are beyond our control, unexpected events or urgent high priority work for example, but if The 80% Rule is implemented an awful lot of  new Project Managers would be more successful, less stressed and home from work at a decent time sipping Chablis and thinking about the new Italian Restaurant down the road. What is the 80% Rule?

Well, if you answer the questions above with ‘By how much?’ you’ll get an amazingly similar reply. 90% of projects that overrun do so by the same amount – 17-23%. Regardless of the minutae of the excuses. A figure which varies only marginally regardless of the industry. It should be assumed that your resources and people will only be productive for only 80% of the time.

Why? Apart from a natural over-optimism (that will often significantly underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete tasks), unexpected events should be factored in. People get sick, their family members get sick, suppliers run out of stock, accidents happens, equipment fails. You’ll need  time to have meetings and to solve problems. Part time staff and freelancers will have other commitments and may not see your project as a priority. The possibilities for delay are numerous.

So do all the estimates and scheduling you would normally do in the creation and costing of your project. Use whichever criterium or method you find most successful;- Three-Point, Parametric, Comparative…but remember the 80% Rule and you might get to that new Italian after all.

With thanks to www.mindtools.com

How NOT to write a Press Release

Four or five years ago a select group of journalists were approached and asked what they looked for in a Press Release. Contrary bunch that they are they changed the stress of  the inquiry and answered what not to write. Remember, a press release is a presentation of facts aimed at the media with a chance that it gets read and published. Here are a few tips to improve that chance.

Do not make the title of your press release tedious, over-verbose or over-excited. Use a subtitle. Make it interesting. Do not use puns unless Oscar Wilde is responsible for your PR.

Do not forget graphics or photographs. The media receive hundred of press releases written by professionals every day. An image of your product and perhaps of good, head and shoulders portrait of yourself will often help you stand out. Do not imbed or attach these images – servers will often regard this as spam and your press release will be blocked.

Do not write in the first person. It sounds rubbish.

Do not drone on. Short and sweet is the way forward. If your press release stretches to a second page it’s too long. Remember ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’. You can add a ‘how ‘ and a ‘why’ if you really have to. You can bulk out the details in a second paragraph but do not add spurious information just for the sake of it.

Do not over hype. Avoid superlatives. Avoid CAPITALS. Avoid exclamation marks!! Do not use ‘World-Beating’, ‘Unique’, ‘Industry-Leading’ or similar. Do not use management speak. Do not sound like you are in marketing. Journalists and content curators can spot BS better than most – they are used to receiving it from the very best.

Do not mess up your punctuation. Do not spell incorrectly. Check things. Check them a second time. Journalists are terrible grammar snobs and nothing winds them up more than….doing:- This (sort Of thing).

Do not forget quotes. Ideally use something that doesn’t sound like your Mum made up on your behalf. A good quote from yourself or a customer will do or better still one from an expert in the field.

Do not forget dates, contacts and the boilerplate. Date at the top. Town and country. Full name, landline and mobile numbers, e-mail and perhaps your postal address too. In the boilerplate at the bottom of the press release add your website URL with a small personal summary.

Do not put headings in pointless bold-type just to look interesting. Er…