Words of wisdom

AND THERE’S MOORE…

Cliff 2By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South Media

I was at a talk by Guardian columnist Tim Dowling the other day – at the Larmer Tree Festival, since you ask, where he had previously been performing as the banjo player in the excellent bluegrass, folk and country band Police Dog Hogan.

He spoke about his work as a columnist for the newspaper Saturday edition’s Weekend Magazine in which he chronicles the ups and downs of family life.

It’s not exactly a sideways look at life, more a look at a sideways life as American Tim regales readers with tales of DIY disasters, dying dogs, complicated children and interesting relationship situations.

He jazzes it up, of course, and somewhat glories in his misfortune (a smug ‘where did it all go right’ column about a perfect life of course wouldn’t last five minutes), but it always makes for an interesting weekend diversion – and seeing him in the flesh has enhanced future reading.

However, I digress. One of the things Tim mentioned – and I don’t think I’m writing out of turn here as it came up in an open forum – that he is also contracted to provide 55,000 words a year for Guardian 2, the paper’s feature-led second section.

That set me thinking about words. Here at Deep South Media they are our lifeblood – along with strong images following the appearance of award-winning photographer Paul Collins as Head of Visual here – and the DSM team of professionally-qualified journalists works with them all day, every day.

Now, 55,000 words sounds like a huge amount – this blog has 469 and has taken me at least 10 minutes (as you can probably tell) – but at a little more than a thousand a week, 55,000 is not that many compared to what is churned out in this office.

DSM’s crew of galley slaves typing away furiously at red hot laptops generates enough power to light up a small town by churning out words of wisdom on behalf of many and varied clients.

However, the numbers game is not what it is all about. Quality, not quantity is the issue. Readers will be disinclined to read 3,000 words about the latest news from Company X even more so than media outlets would consider publishing them.

As my colleague Ron Wain adroitly pointed out in his most recent blog, we live in a fast-moving world. And it’s one in which people simply don’t have time to read properly (actually, they do; they pretend otherwise to make themselves appear more interesting).

Nevertheless, the mantra remains – grab ’em (the reader that is) with some brilliantly-crafted words and hold ’em for as long as possible until they drift off. Getting the message across quickly is paramount.

So, brevity – and a decent picture – is the key to success.

And, since neither seems present here, I’ll take my leave.

 

 

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Why respect matters

by Ron Wain, Joint Managing Director, Deep South Media

You and I, we work in an culture of increasing immediacy.

Of real-time responses.

Where information can be shared with a global audience in seconds.

Where we berate ourselves if an email is not replied to within 24 hours, 12 hours, 60 minutes, often much less.

Where we become anxious if we don’t stand attendant on the wi-fi devices which hum with a productive connectivity unthinkable a few years ago.

In this arms race to hyper-efficiency, in the zoom-zoom-zoom of the digital superhighway, it can be easy to forget our manners before we hit ‘Send’ on the next email.

Which is why each email should be written as if we are addressing the recipient in person, including starting the message with a simple ‘Hi’ or ‘Good morning’ and ending with ‘thank you’ or ‘kind regards’.

Courtesy, you see, implies respect – and respect and respectful behaviour are foundations of good business.

Which is why the 11 news professionals here at Deep South Media will always be unfailingly courteous in all forms of communications, to clients, the media, suppliers and visitors.

But why the reflection on the R word?

I’ve just returned from a leavers’ assembly, which my wife Jenny and I watched through hot tears of mixed emotion from 16 years’ worth of daily school runs and involvement.

It was our third and youngest child to have gone through the primary school years, when the ground rules of how to behave in society are instilled.

Our 11-year-old daughter and her classmates stood up and summed up what gives their school its own particular spirit.

Their words rang out loud and true in the hall: “Respect”, “well behaved”, “smiling faces”, “inclusion”, “optimistic”, “team work”, “positivity”, “effort”, “thoughtfulness”, “kindness”, “equality”, “nature”, “responsibility”, “democracy”, “effort” and “heart”.

In the grown-up world you and I inhabit, where cynicism pervades, this was a joyful reconnection to what we were and should be.

These attributes should guide our typing hands, so we don’t fall prey to the abruptness that blights our digital age.

Indeed, if you don’t know your Rs from your elbow, the losers will be your company’s bottom line and your own sense of worth.

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Opening a box of memories

We recently met a group of primary schoolchildren who were talking about memories with residents at a dementia care home.

The pupils have been following an arts project reflecting on their lives so far before they move to secondary school.

They each filled up a ‘memory box’ containing toys, photos and drawings associated with school trips and events.

On a visit to Linden House in Lymington, Hampshire, the pupils talked through the various items in their boxes with residents.

Mandy Stevens, Activities Organiser at Linden House, said: “This was the first time we have welcomed such young children in as a whole group. After the visit, residents were coming up to me and saying how much they enjoyed it.”

For more information, read the full press release.

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Home from home

AND THERE’S MOORE…

By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South MediaCliff 2

Back in the dim and distant past there was a theory.

You should realise I’m talking about a time when the only fonts the public had heard of were made of stone, at the back of churches and filled with holy water.

It was a time when word processors were ladies with fast fingers who sat in typing pools.

And a time when the epitome of computer games was Pong.

This theory was that the fast-advancing charge of new technology would change everyone’s working life to such an extent we would end up with more leisure time than we knew what to do with.

Alas, the theory proved somewhat flawed.

Technology did, indeed, change our working lives – but it the ‘efficiency’ it increased put so many people out of work that everyone else had to work twice as hard to keep up.

So much for more free time and flexible working.

But there are, once again, 40 years later, signs on the horizon that different changes may be afoot.

I read of London-based agency M&C Saatchi deciding to get rid of most of its desks and computers for what The Times described as ‘free range’ working on laptops and smartphones.

This is following the model used by conglomerates such as Facebook and Google – and, indeed, here at Deep South Media.

Flexibility is the key, desks are so yesterday and the likes of superfast broadband (yes, I know it’s not everywhere) and phones that have more capability than most of us can imagine enable such working.

The natural next stage in the process is working from home and while there are occupations that preclude this (Red Arrows pilot, beach lifeguard, ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station, for instance) many workers may be able to take advantage.

A survey (yes, another one) reveals that UK ‘remote’ working has increased over the past three years by 37 per cent and that nearly two-thirds of human resources bosses thought such an arrangement would boost productivity.

It is a truism to say a happy worker puts in more effort and if happiness can be achieved by allowing home working then it surely is a no-brainer to facilitate this state of affairs.

I am, of course, writing this in the office…

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Crisis, what crisis? (Part 2)

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Crisis, what crisis?

Cliff 2AND THERE’S MOORE…

By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South Media

Let us consider the case of Thomas Cook, a well-respected travel firm with a history longer than forever, but hit by tragedy, controversy and colossal bad publicity.

For Thomas Cook, founded way back in 1841 (the present firm in 2007) and one of the world’s best-known names in travel, the last month has been an unmitigated disaster.

The case of the tragic deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd, killed by carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Corfu at a hotel booked through Thomas Cook in 2006, provides a perfect template of how not to manage bad news.

The inquest verdict was that the children were unlawfully killed. Thomas Cook had ‘breached its duty of care’.

The firm’s desultory statement pointed out that its employees had previously been cleared of wrongdoing by a Greek investigation, however it ‘recognised’ the pain of the family.

Four days later a letter of apology was sent from Cook’s chief executive Peter Fankhauser to parents Neil Shepherd and Sharon Wood. We also heard of the millions the firm was receiving in compensation.

Four more days and Mr Fankhauser finally met the parents and it was revealed they would receive “financial gesture of goodwill” from the firm – which they said they would give to charities.

The firm was branded ‘disgraceful’ by the parents, who said Thomas Cook was putting them last in the equation and that the apology was ‘an appalling continuation of Thomas Cook’s PR exercise’.

Could this, in terms of public relations, have been any worse for Thomas Cook?

In a word, no.

It was a fast-moving story but over a number of days so there was plenty of opportunity for the firm to attempt to regain some of the goodwill built up over so many years and lost in an instant.

This didn’t happen, so one can only assume that some fairly poor advice had been given to Thomas Cook – or good advice ignored.

Whichever is true, the firm’s standing will not be the same again for many years, if ever.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to find the share price tumbling further and bookings dropping off.

Would you consider booking a holiday with the firm now?

Will this be Thomas Cook’s Gerald Ratner moment?

Can we please also remember that the main point here is that two young lives have been lost?

And make a note that Thomas Cook’s only daughter Annie Elizabeth also died – aged 34 in November 1880 – from carbon monoxide poisoning from an early gas water heater at the family home in Leicester.

The waters may be muddied by threats of court action and the difficulty of dealing with something so far away, but there is no excuse for not being decisive, proactive and honest.

This tragedy-hit family felt they were treated appallingly by the firm and left to fend for themselves – that’s a good way to lose future customers.

It’s not about the money, although it helps. You can’t buy off bad publicity, but you can be shown to be caring, supportive and generous.

And you need to communicate, to front up to the media, to get your message across as you want it, not how others perceive it. Silence says so much, in a completely negative way.

And finally, actually be sorry rather than just say you are.

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Blasts from the past

AND THERE’S MOORE…

Cliff 2By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South Media

 

I was reading with interest the other day a piece about people persisting with their use of old gadgets.

There was the guy watching Freeview on his 15-inch black and white TV set made in 1949. He didn’t mind the lack of colour, but admitted it made the snooker a little awkward. He is in one of just 11,500 households still watching in monochrome.

Then there’s the woman continuing to take pictures on a second-hand Polaroid camera despite the fact the firm no longer makes the film and only way out-of-date stuff is available on eBay, giving her photographs a rather 1970s feel – and meaning each one takes 40 minutes to develop, rather than 20 seconds.

The article goes on to detail the North Yorkshire village pub landlady still using a 1938 telephone; the games fan persevering with a ZX Spectrum and, inevitably, the ancient journalist still bashing out his copy on an even more ancient typewriter.

The point of all this? That not everyone is prepared or even particularly able to embrace the ‘modern world’; some preferring to remain a little (or long) way in the past.

This cohort doesn’t necessarily include me, although I was quite happy with my hand-me-down Blackberry until presented with a new iPhone.

Actually that’s not exactly true as the blessed Blackberry’s keyboard is so small anyone with even the smallest sausage fingers (maybe those of a chipolata) can probably accidentally type the whole alphabet in one go.

And don’t get me started on the phone I had before that when, for some inexplicable reason, it was deemed suitable to have three characters on each key and writing a text took longer than getting the Royal Mail stagecoach to deliver a letter bespokely hand-painted like an illuminated manuscript on parchment by monks.

To be honest, looking back without rose-tinted spectacles, I wasn’t ‘quite happy’ with any of my previous mobiles. In fact I hated them. They didn’t even have apps, video capability or sat-nav. No sat-nav? How did I ever get anywhere?

I still have records though – that’s vinyl to you youngsters. And a record player – although the records are in the loft and the player is somewhere in the spare bedroom. An iPod is just so much easier, but that’s not to say vinyl doesn’t have its place.

So, given that it seems I absolutely do embrace the present, it set me wondering about other matters.

If we hadn’t accepted, for example, the industrial revolution and all its onward implications horses would still be pulling ploughs across fields, it would take months to travel to Australia, and newspaper production departments would still exist.

Not that long ago, we were talking about, say, the last person to have lived when Queen Victoria was alive or the last Tommy who fought in the First World War.

The modern equivalent of this: When will we get to the time that there is no one alive who hasn’t used a computer?

The advance of technology is such that it may not be that long, but I have my doubts.

There will always be pockets of resistance to ‘progress’ but I rather suspect these modern day Luddites are likely to find themselves completely outside ‘normal’ society come the day when our whole lives are controlled by a central server.

To be left on the outside will, to all intents and purposes, put one in a small sub-group of dissidents to be viewed possibly the way we see, rightly or wrongly, a bunch of cheap cider-drinking winos in a bus shelter today.

And that’s why, as I sit typing this at my Deep South Media laptop ready to upload it, share it and tweet it to the world in an instant, I can’t shake the impression that any businesses not marching with the times are actually retreating downhill fast into a deep, inescapable chasm of their own making.

Until, of course, the day the Internet breaks…

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I’m so glad that’s all over at last

Cliff 2AND THERE’S MOORE…

Well, thank goodness that’s all over.

It was a nail-biter all the way, possibly the closest contest in living memory.

And it left me on tenterhooks for no little time as the result was in doubt until the very last moment.

But in the end the people’s choice prevailed and our victor will now be taking a seat at the big table.

For, despite the best efforts of Cameron, Miliband and Farage to get in the way, little AFC Bournemouth have won the Championship and secured promotion to the cash-flooded Holy Grail that is the Premier League.

And now things will never be quite the same at Dean Court, sorry, the Goldsands Stadium.

Now, we will be welcoming the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal to our newly-established footballing hotbed.

Why, there’s even a Cherries megastore and people everywhere wearing replica black and red shirts.

It’s all a far cry from the days when I would take my regular position near the tea bar on the New Stand terrace on a Saturday to endure another afternoon of ritual humiliation.

A 1-0 home defeat to a last-minute goal from the likes of Gillingham or Shrewsbury on an awful pitch in front of a meagre, semi-frozen (it was always cold in my memory) ‘crowd’ was a regular occurrence.

And, while it was not exactly a ‘rattles, scarves and pass the young boys over flat-capped heads to the front so they could see the match’ situation, it was a different era.

This was way prior to Hillsborough, Heysel and Bradford, a time when football ground facilities were to be endured rather than enjoyed (just don’t actually touch anything in the toilets and you might be OK).

The unfinished Brighton Beach end had girders sticking out of concrete pillars and the ball would often be lost into the pot-holed Kings Park car park beyond where small, rival groups of opposing fans would sometimes attempt to emulate their bigger league rivals at hooliganism…and fail miserably.

The wooden structure of a main stand was on its last legs, the back of the South End boarded up for safety reasons and everything had the feel of a seaside resort out of season. Which it was.

Now it’s all a little bit different, but in many ways just the same as ever.

Admittedly, a fair bit of owner Maxim Demin’s cash has been sloshing about and the transfer fees being bandied about for star players would have been unthinkable not that long ago.

But Dean Court (let’s call it that) still has a homely feel about it. There is nothing particularly flash about the rebuilt ground and chairman Jeff Mostyn has said capacity would not be increased at the expense of money going on the team.

Who knows how long the Cherries can survive in the Premier League, how long they can hold on to boss Eddie Howe, FEM (future England manager) and which players might be lured away by bigger clubs (step forward Matt Ritchie and Simon Francis)?

Whatever happens, the club and its fans have been living the dream in a way so far removed from when the club nearly went out of existence less than a decade ago – so much so that a season ticket holding pal of mine still actually pinches himself at each game to prove it is all real.

It is, and it will take some getting used to. But it just goes to show that even in the hard-nosed world of football business there is room for a rags-to-riches story.

So, the example of the Cherries can be held up as an inspiration to any small business struggling to stay afloat – proof that success can be achieved with a little luck and a lot of hard work.

Indeed, as the old golfer Gary Player once said, “The harder I practise, the luckier I get.” It’s something that remains true today and might be remembered by anyone on their uppers.

Trouble is, next season I won’t be able to get a ticket for love nor money.

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Dorset teacher’s life in Nepal

As the world’s media attention continues to focus on Nepal, we’ve heard from a Dorset teacher who used to live there. Here we share some of Chris Maxted’s thoughts as he seeks to encourage the relief effort following the devastating earthquake.

Since the disaster, recalling his time living in the Gorkha district of Nepal has become a far more poignant experience for Chris.

Having left his teaching job at a middle school in Poole, he travelled to Nepal in 2010, and by chance ended up working in Shree Rameshwory School in the village of Bungkot, Gorkha; first for a few weeks, then for many months. It was to become the beginning of a lasting friendship with the people of this region.

“Being part of village life is such a humbling experience,” said Chris, 35, now based in Hong Kong. “Especially in this remote part of Nepal, where the trappings of modern life are just so far away. I was accepted immediately into the community and integrated into their daily routines. I lived in the tiny attic room of the Thapa family’s farmhouse. They are my closest friends in Nepal.”

As a result of the earthquake over 90% of the villagers of Bungkot, including the entire Thapa family, are now homeless and desperately waiting for relief to reach them.

“Everyone’s houses are either damaged or completely destroyed, and my family are all sleeping outside,” said Nabaraj Thapa, a native of Gorkha now living in Kathmandu.“We are trying our best to get shelter, food and medicine to them quickly, but conditions are very hard.”

Sadly, due to the proximity of the epicentre to Gorkha and the remoteness of these villages, this story is the same all over the district. Entire communities have been decimated, and the geography and weather are posing considerable challenges to the relief effort.

It was in 2010 that Chris first established contact with The Gorkha Foundation, a US-based charity who focus on providing development in education, healthcare, microcredit and agriculture for the under privileged communities in this predominantly rural district. Over the years they have collaborated on numerous projects in educational development for the people of Gorkha.

“At this moment the world spotlight is shining on Gorkha, but for such unfortunate reasons,” said Chris. “In the aftermath of the earthquake, we are working very closely with the Gorkha Foundation to raise funds internationally and to deploy supplies as best we can.”

Gorkha Foundation is using its extensive local knowledge of the district to provide crucial logistical assistance and manpower to the efforts of Doctors Without Borders, The Red Cross, Mercy Corps and the Nepalese Army. Together they are helping co-ordinate relief to ensure that aid is successfully focused on those who need it the most.

“Surgical teams made it through yesterday,” said Bijaya Devkota, Director of Gorkha Foundation. “But resources will dictate the reach of the relief effort. At the moment we desperately need to raise more money to fund the logistics of providing help to these people.”

Shree Rameshwory School, where Chris taught, is now barely standing. Just like so many other buildings all over the region, it is now a danger to itself and to those around it.

“It is going to take so long for these people to rebuild their lives, physically and spiritually, after something as huge as this,” said Chris. “At the moment however, our priority is to make sure people are safe from disease and from the elements, and that they have enough food and water to keep going. For that we need funds. Despite the pressure everyone is under, it is such a relief to know that organisations like Gorkha Foundation are on the frontline.”

To contribute to the relief effort in Gorkha, go to www.gorkhafoundation.org.

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Small is beautiful

 

AND THERE’S MOORE…

Small is beautiful

By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South Media

Cliff 2

I’ve been suspending my disbelief.

You might think I’ve been reading the works of poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge who coined the phrase in 1817.

Of course, if you believe that my cognitive estrangement had anything to do with judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative in poetry, then you need to have another think pretty quickly.

I am sure there are plenty of aficionados of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to lead you down that particular path, but my suspension – accepting the premise of whatever is in front of you for the duration it is there – was on a more straightforward level.

Yes, I’ve been to Disneyland Paris.

It should be said at the outset that I love Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom, all the rides – except, obviously, It’s A Small World – and the shows and parades, even those with their mind worming music. Suspending one’s disbelief there is so much more fun.

Just to back that up: On a two-week holiday in Florida I became agitated on the one day in 14 in which we didn’t visit the theme parks. I did question why on earth a rest day was factored in, but my complaints were brushed aside.

It set me thinking. What other global concern has so much reach and why has Disney cornered the market?

Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and McDonald’s may all rank ahead of the Mouse in lists of the world’s top brands, but none have captured the imagination in quite the same way.

We’re all touched by the computer giants whether we like it or not, but I can’t imagine anyone making a pilgrimage to any but the most local branch of the Golden Arches and Coke, well, that’s just a drink isn’t it?

Disney rules because everything (yes, even in France) is so imbued with the American service ethic that it runs like clockwork.

Can you imagine in this country that you would be able to drop your baggage at a railway station, enjoy a not inconsiderate number of hours in a theme park and then find your bags waiting for you at your hotel? Yes, the right bags and the right hotel, with none spilled open and no surly left luggage staff!

Of course you can’t.

Disney works so much like clockwork one could almost say it was mechanical, but the ‘magic’ counteracts that, as it does the fact that you know they are raking in millions and you know that things are particularly expensive. Somehow it doesn’t matter.

These great multi-nationals all influence our lives, as do the big ‘nationals’ in this country, but aren’t we glad there are enough independent companies out there to enable a choice to be offered.

We are lucky down here on the South Coast to have plenty of stand-alone businesses offering fantastic goods and services and not beholden to paymasters thousands of miles away.

Long may this remain the case. The scale of independence often changes over the years, but the principle persists.

Without our smaller businesses the world would be an unhappier place. We don’t always want a tall decaf, soy latte with an extra shot and caramel drizzle from a chain, a stupendous BOGOF deal in a leading supermarket or the same menu in every pub we visit (not that we visit pubs very often).

No, we sometimes want a simple coffee from a neighbourhood café, groceries from a decent independent shop (if you can find one) and home-cooked food served up in a beautiful country freehouse with roses around the door.

And the fact we still have small companies gives people a chance to dream, to believe they can become entrepreneurs or to build up their good idea from scratch –and one day become a multi-national.

But enough on business; let’s get back to the important stuff and one final question with regard to Disney…what kind of creature is Goofy?

Answers on a postcard.

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