Friday, 18 April 2014

I'm going to be away for a while, but I'll be back...

It's been a while since my last blog. There's been a lot (and really, I mean a LOT) going on.

Some of the intensity of the last two months was anticipated. I knew things were going to be busy. There are a lot of books lying around my house right now that look like this:

I'm having a baby. Soon. It's been a largely trouble-free pregnancy and I feel incredibly blessed. Over the moon doesn't quite describe how elated we've been in our house. Not just me and my husband, but the whole family, from siblings to grandparents, has been brimming over with joy. It's been an amazing experience being able to spread so much happiness around.

What I hadn't anticipated or factored in was quite how busy I would also be at work. For anyone that has read this blog before, you may realise that I only started working at Palgrave Macmillan back in September 2013. However just six months later, at seven months pregnant, I was appointed Head of Open Research Marketing for Palgrave and Nature Publishing Group jointly. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily recommend starting a new job that late in pregnancy, it was a fantastic opportunity and I'm so excited to be a part of what is a constantly evolving area of scholarly publishing. The last six weeks have been a roller-coaster ride, learning about a new area of the business, and getting a new team in place as quickly as possible. All that whilst care-taking my old team through this period of change too.

As I say, being that busy by itself would have been exhausting. Doing that whilst heavily pregnant, with no access to caffeine or wine to get me through the stressful days, has been astronomically knackering. I've barely seen friends, my weekends and evenings have been spent mostly sprawled on the sofa, whilst my husband or parents have fed me and cleaned up around me. I've constantly felt guilty about this, and am eternally grateful to them for being so understanding.

I've blogged in the past about how passionately I feel about why, as a woman, I want to be able to continue to grow in my career without that being a barrier to having a family. Why should women choose one or the other? Why is it always women stuck with that decision? I know Cheryl Sandberg's Lean In isn't to everyone's liking, but for me, reading it back in the Autumn of 2013, it made so much sense, and I've been recommending it heavily to female colleagues ever since. She recognises that there are women, like me, who don't see starting a family as the end of the line for their careers. And she talks about how recognising that herself, she made it possible to have both the career and the family life she wanted.

Making that decision relies on having two things:

One is having the support around you to enable you to take that decision in the first place. For me, that's  been the support of my husband, who has constantly encouraged me to go after a fulfilling work life. Whilst we both wanted a family, and recognised that there are going to be challenges for us as we figure out what work-life balance looks like, he knows that the responsibility of parenthood doesn't lie solely with me, and we're planning on working as a team so that I can succeed both at home and work.

The other is having the confidence not to hold myself back by getting caught up in 'working mummy guilt'. Ok, I haven't actually got there yet, but what Lean In gave me was the belief that you can be successful in your career without hurting your kids. If anything articles I've read during my pregnancy suggest that working mums feel more fulfilled (assuming they want to work) because they're not resentful of having given something of themselves up just because they've had a baby. They are therefore much more mindful of quality time when they are at home, and don't therefore have any less a satisfying relationship with their child just because they chose to go to work. I want my daughter to look at me as a role model and see that she can be anything she wants to be. Being happy both at work and home will help me be that role model.

Having said all that, having now started my maternity leave I can say I'm very very glad to be concentrating just on one job for the time being. And having received this from a colleague this week (very apt for a marketeer), I'm bracing myself for the challenge of starting the 'toughest job in the world'!

So, if it's quiet on the blog for a while longer, you'll know why...

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Enough about the Facebook anniversary, already

All day long, on every communications channel, I have been bombarded with news about Facebook's anniversary and what it means. Happy Birthday, Facebook. Now, how about a little perspective...

Recently I came across this post via Twitter about the landscape for social networks in 2014. This maps just how broad social network use globally is. Yes, Facebook represents a very significant percentage of this map, but let's not forget just how diverse the world is.

There are some channels represented on the infographic that just don't ring as accurate to me. I find it hard to believe that some of these networks have the same active usage and engagement in 2014 as they had in their heyday. Size alone isn't interesting, or at least shouldn't be to us digital marketers. Instead, what we ought to be looking at is how active these populations are, who and how users are interacting on these sites, and how are they growing?

More to the point, what are the reasons we choose to engage with these social networks? One thing I'm certain of is that we join different sites for different reasons.

Yes, Facebook is dominating the size chart, but how many users want to receive business communication on there? I know on a personal level I still find adverts and sponsored posts on Facebook annoying. Posts from businesses, unless they're providing me with real value rather than just content updates, tend to irritate me too. What I do want from my time on Facebook is real engagement with my friends, near and far. It's helped me maintain friendships over greater distances than I could have otherwise managed. Their ten year promotion, #‎FacebookIs10‬, is actually a really smart promotion that is getting widely shared. And the reason why it resonates is because these are our personal stories. That's what Facebook means, from my point of view. I know that this won't be everyone's view, and I know some marketing communication on Facebook can be really effective, but I'm going to maintain some scepticism here.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Evolving exhibitions

It wouldn't surprise me at all if my contribution to this Marketing Week roundtable on conferences had gone unnoticed, given how little I am quoted, but nevertheless it was an interesting event.

The key takeaway for me was how creative some industries are being with trade shows and conventions, thinking far beyond the traditional display to offering real added value to attendees. This can be in the form of great speakers that fit in with the exhibition itself, or by finding new ways to drive engagement. My favourite story was about the company who produced some kind of environmentally friendly material (I forget what, exactly) but who decided to dedicate part of their stand to a micro pig. Needless to say, their footfall was off the scale - who could resist a micro pig?

Photo credit: Flickr lwpkommunikacio

If I am brutally honest, I just don't see this level of thinking going into conferences in my sector, and there is little appetite from those who drive these forwards to make a change. But I do think events like these can and should evolve. Why, in 2014, should we as exhibitors be tied to the same old dreary book displays? Let's think outside of the box! Let's find new ways to get attendees to engage with our brands!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Commitments for 2014

How does one commit to something? They say it takes 60 days of doing something every day for it to become a habit. It's just how you manage the endurance test of that initial period that is difficult!

It's the time of year that many of us are making our annual commitments. A new year, a fresh start. Actually, by 6th Jan many of us have probably already thrown in the towel!

I'm being fairly ambitious with my New Year's resolutions, but equally I know they are all achievable and I'm confident in my ability to stay self-motivated to keep on track. This is in stark contrast to my husband who is actually pledging money against his goals via as he knows he can't keep self-motivated without some third party assistance. I have no beef with this, so long as he doesn't give away too much of our money in the process...he has been warned!

So what is on the list for this year? I've had a three month break from pretty much all my good habits whilst I adjusted to a new routine, and now that I'm feeling more confident at work and have the benefit of two week's relaxation behind me, I'm ready to dive back in. I'll be back doing regular reading around marketing, PR and business. I've got a lengthy list of titles lined up and welcome other suggestions. I will be blogging about what I'm learning along the way as it always helps me digest knowledge better. I've also got a new Coursera MOOC coming up, which I'm really looking forward to.

There are other things on the list too for me of a more personal nature. Basically, it's going to be a very very big year. I did mention I was being ambitious, right?! Here goes...