“Oh are so you are a lawyer? …I am going through a nasty divorce at the moment, what would you do if you were in my situation…….?”
“A nurse? Impressive! Would it be inappropriate if I showed you something?”
These are the types of questions people in certain professions may expect. The nurse one is even worded quite politely as people don’t necessary ask, they just show them their problem area… This can happen at dinner parties, social gatherings, through social media, random phone calls etc. etc.
I have friends in different professions, and they have told me it is unbelievable how people from the past pop up and expect help or even free guidance due to old time sakes when it suits them.
This is something I didn’t expect to come with my education. I don’t know why but I just had never given it a thought.
I had interactions with an institution the other day that I have to communicate with quite a lot.
Their general communications are poor. There is a lot they want to achieve but they are definitely not meeting their objectives as they bombard people with messages. Through emails, texts and apps. One day I received 4 emails, 2 texts and messages through the app (it’s not an isolated thing but reoccurring, this just happened on the day I decided to actually count their messages). These different types of communications were not to get one really important message across but many different messages, some rather important, others not important at all.
What this institution has achieved with its invasive communication attempts is that people (including myself) don’t read their messages and therefore, sometimes miss important information.
As I had a meeting with one of the managers of this institution the other day, I couldn’t help myself and pointed out the fact I was studying communications and as far as I was concerned, they were well off mark in their attempts to reach their audience.
He was very interested and asked what I meant. I pointed out that for an example they had been raising money the other day (which I didn’t know) and then a week later they were still raising money and mentioned that NOTHING had been raised so far as no one had responded. I explained to him that was simply because they were drowning out their own voice.
He told me he liked what I was telling him and asked me what I would advise him. All of a sudden, I found myself on the spot. I realised I was being asked to come up with a quick solution to something I knew one should apply certain methods to and put thorough thought into. I told him that was something that required some thinking and that objectives needed to be clarified etc. He kept pushing me for a solution so I told him my first step would definitely be to reduce the amount of information they were sending out. Try to keep it in their weekly newsletter UNLESS it was something pressing. However, I pointed out he needed to inform the people on the receiving end so that they would actually read the newsletter and realise that was where most things were to be found from then on.
He then told me about other people he wanted to reach and that he needed help to do so and what my advice would be in that regards.
I was gobsmacked. All of a sudden, I was the nurse and the lawyer I never imagined I would become. Being asked for professional advice on the spot. As if people go through years of university to be able to apply quick fixes to people’s problems.
I told him I couldn’t advise him more there and then as for a problem like that one needed to make a stakeholder map and have a clear idea of the objectives for each stakeholder group. I probably should have also told him that consultation like that should also cost money. However, I wouldn’t know what to charge, plus I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that yet as I feel like I need more experience to be able to justify a cheque for my advice.
He asked me if I could do graphics and whether I might want a role within the institution. A voluntary role, a prestige one, but I have the feeling he wants me in that role for easy access to answers to some of the questions he asked me while I had this short meeting with him (that was completely unrelated to this topic!).
I told him I would finish my masters first and then bring a human being into this world. After that we could talk.
This was a wakeup call for me. Of course, we help out close friends and family to a certain extent. However, we shouldn’t give away our work and we should not expect others to do so. Neither should we expect that people that have gone through universities are walking encyclopedias of their trades and can therefore sort out any problem related to their profession on the spot in matter of minutes.
If your sister is a hairdresser pay her a little for cutting your hair and your mate that is an electrician doesn’t feed his family with a drink at the pub later. People should be respected and valued for their expertise and the work behind it should not be taken for granted.
Selling things, tangible and intangible is something I am good at. However, I keep it a bit quiet as I do not want to be a sales person, per se. Don’t get me wrong I like working in sales, some of the sales jobs I have done, I have in fact loved! I love helping people get what they want, have a conversation with someone I would never have talked to if it wasn’t for the fact that I had this product/service to discuss with them in the first place.
I have done sales in stores, at hotels and in telemarketing. Out of these three types the hotel was the one I liked the most. There is a thrill in helping people organise their dream holiday, for an example book them on helicopters and enquire about a dogsledding tour.
My all-time favourite sales is not on that list though! When I moved back to Iceland from the Middle East at the end of 2014, I had no flat, no job but two kids I had to shelter, feed etc. I have a great friend that let us stay in her small, one bedroom flat, which she already shared with her 3-year-old son. Quickly I sorted out a flat. As I had sorted that out and of course promised the lovely landlord I would always pay on time etc. I had to find a job to be able to do so.
I applied for a few jobs. Got a few offers and a few turndowns. One of the jobs was the least reliable and I knew very little about what it entailed but it had some pull I couldn’t resist.
It involved selling spaces on a website, an information website. In Iceland we have a big database called ja.is where one can go online or call their number and get addresses and phone numbers of the people and companies in Iceland. One can also enquire about opening hours etc. Ja.is has been on the market for a long time, alone. The company I got hired to work for wanted to challenge that company. Come in as start-up, as a competitor. So that is what I did. I booked meetings with CEO’s, marketing people etc. all over Reykjavík and sold them spaces on our site as well as “search words” and banners.
When I started the girl that was supposed to train me refused to do so. Said she was too shy. She was always the one with the highest sales figures and I believe she wanted to keep it that way. Therefore, my boss told me that I seem to have “balls” and asked whether I was okay with jumping right in and figure it out on the go. My salary was result based so I wanted to get going and said yes.
There I was, selling something I didn’t completely understand and doing a job that didn’t really resemble anything I’d done before.
I booked my own meetings and as I have a knack for sussing people out, I quickly learned how to “hook” which characters to get then to agree on a meeting. With some I had to be ballsy and witty, others needed information, some I had to be very formal with, others I had speak very calmly to and then there were the ones that didn’t want to know I existed.
I used Thursdays and sometimes parts of Fridays to book meetings, people tend to be happier and more open minded towards the end of the week.
I loved going for these meetings! I got to dress up and get in to a certain role. I would get to meet people in very different businesses all over town. I would talk to a guy that ran his own framing shop/service and then go straight to a meeting with a marketing person from a big law firm.
The fact I was always one of the highest sales people made it even more fun!
So….now I’ve told you how much I love sales and have written passionately about it at the same time as I tell you I try not to share this information with other people and I tell you I do not want to have a career in sales.
Well that’s what I thought! Even though, I have done this job and many different versions of it, until recently, I failed to see how broadly it can be applied!
Corporate Snakes and Ladders
First off, we had a game of Corporate Snakes and Ladders at a class in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management. Casilda Malagon and Stephen Welch introduced the game to us and let us have a go. It was very interesting and in a way I found it frightening as I didn’t score as high as I would have wanted. They also took the time to sit down with us when we had our seminar sessions and talks about the comms industry and did their very best to answer any question that was thrown at them.
They also shared a little about leaders with us and how they influence people successfully and it was there I saw how relevant the sales person is. Amongst the influencing styles they mentioned were:
Connect: When I worked for that Start-up, we would often use this, when it was the right audience. We were taking on the giants and needed support from companies in Iceland. Everybody would win if there was competition.
Inform: I had to use this one a lot and to be honest I use it on myself (and my family members…what a hoot I must be to live with!). Here you hit them with data and facts, might use three-fold reasoning, price, traffic on site etc.
Picture: Using imagination and connecting on an emotional level, I believe I mixed this one with the connect method. We hardly had anything to show the people we got meetings with as we were just starting the company, we were asking them to buy space on a website we told them we believed (and we convinced them so did they) would be big.
Exit: Step aside and have a think. Has to be followed up. Most meetings ended on this note. People had to think and maybe talk to more people at the company. I would always make sure to do follow up calls and even follow up meetings, sometimes with other members of staff. (Just as a fun fact, the company is still running and in a competing position with ja.is)
I connected with the other steps as well but on a different note and in different situations. However, this part of their talk taught me how valuable it has been to have done sales, especially when it comes to communications as one really needs to adapt to their audience and make sure to listen and to be able to meet their needs!
Selling the vision of me
When this dawned upon me I started noticing other things where my sales skills came in handy. To be honest I don’t know where I would be today if I couldn’t sell. If I couldn’t sell my case and most importantly, couldn’t sell MYSELF!
Okay, not in a dirty way!
However, I have come to believe that my skills in selling has got me pretty far. For an example I got accepted to do the equivalences of A-level after a phone call with the admission person at the school I went to. The thing was, I was missing quite a few important credits, which were required to get in. I spoke to this person for a while. I told her WHY I wanted to study, HOW I was going to do it and WHY it shouldn’t matter that I hadn’t finished everything. In the middle of the phone call she said: ”Congratulations, you have been excepted to Keilir!” I was over the moon!!
Last year I contacted her and thanked her for the chance she gave me and told her that since then I had finished a BA and that I was planning on going to the UK to do a master’s degree. She was over the moon on my behalf but at the same time she told me that she used to have a system where she would let in one “wild card” and I had been it. I must have done a pretty good work in selling myself as a person to have achieved that! (unless she just wanted to get off the phone!)
As I wrote this blog entry I realised I also sold myself as a person when I got that landlord to bet on me with the flat. He knew I didn’t have a job yet. He had many other applicants (there is a shortage in housing in Reykjavík and just while I had a look so did 3 other applicants). He never had to regret it as I always paid on time and returned the flat spotless, but he didn’t know that beforehand, all he had was my word and my story!
Ice to Eskimos
Last weekend I was reminded I haven’t lost my selling skills as I went to Mothercare to look for a buggy/pram to fit my 20-month-old in and the one we are expecting. I had read a lot online and watched videos and I had my eyes on a certain brand. I just wanted to see it, feel it and drive it around a little. When we got there we were greeted by a lovely sales lady. She has 10 kids of her own! She said she had originally had her eyes on the same one but ended up going for another one. She showed me the other one and told me all the benefits of it. I then took her back to the one I had my eye on and explained what the benefits of it were and why a few things might seem like a downside to it but why they really weren’t. Once we had talked for a little while she told me I had convinced her and she now wanted the same as me and was regretting her decisions! I laughed to myself as I had basically sold the sales person the idea of her own product!
Me as a product
These days I am thinking a lot about what happens ones I finish my studies and my maternity leave. As I have said before this pregnancy wasn’t planned and threw a bit of a spanner in the works. I started telling myself I had made myself so unemployable with all these kids and two of them under the age of three (Very unfair thing to go through, especially as men very rarely have to think this way, but that’s material for a whole other blog on its own!).
Once I realised what kind of a conversation I was having with myself I stopped and though “No Heiða, you must be able to use this to your advantage!”
First off: You are done! There is no danger in hiring you and you going on 4 maternity leaves, been there done that!
Secondly: You have a proven track record that shows it takes a little more than children, pregnancies, work, school, miscarriages etc. etc. for you to drop a ball! You can juggle it all and that’s one of your strongest assets!
Third: You have support from your fiancé who actually realises it’s a 50/50 thing (which I know from past experience is not a given!). You also have a live-in babysitter, so you should be covered!
Fourth: You are clever, fun and quick and adapt very easily. Not everyone has that.
Yep, that’s me selling myself to myself! I know the time will come when I have to sell myself to a future employer and I will. I will do it well as lately I have gone over my strengths every once in a while, and I have quite a few. I am not perfect, don’t get me wrong! I don’t try to tell myself that or anyone else, but I believe I will be a good asset in the working environment and I am convinced I can make a future employer believe that as well!
So, lets change the beginning of this post! I love sales, I am good at sales and I am willing to share it with the world as selling is an important skill in so many situations in our lives!
First of we covered one of my favourite topics in our communication class: Ethics!
One of the things we spoke about when things may be legal but may not seem ethical or may simply be neither.
It made me think of all the different dilemmas and all the different ways companies may dress up their decisions.
For an example back home, we have a big global manufacturing company. It’s situated in a small town where there wasn’t much happening. It came to Iceland as things like electricity is cheap there.
This factory really brightened the place up, young people started moving back home, people that weren’t from the area also decided to move there. The place was appealing to people as housing was cheap and all of a sudden there was a company there that needed educated people (engineers, HR, management, accounting etc.) and welcomed uneducated people to work in the factory. The employees would have a great opportunity to work their way up by working hard and even doing courses the factory provided.
In no time this small town grew at a speed no one had seen for decades. A small shopping mall was built, there was a bar there and all sorts of companies and services wanted to be located there.
It all sounds rosy, doesn’t it? Well then there is the other side. The company doesn’t pay all the taxes it should in Iceland as it uses a loophole in the Icelandic laws to avoid to do so.
In class we were told that when we were facing an ethical dilemma, we should start off by doing a stakeholder map. In this case I find it a little troublesome as the stakeholders are many and affected in different way.
For an example the local people where the factory is are stakeholders and they can be divided into many groups: employees, spouses of employees, people that service the factory in one way or another, teachers (teaching all the children that now live in the area), people in companies that service this town that has grown so vastly etc.
The company uses the tactic of pointing at all these people and justify their acts on the grounds they are providing these people with jobs either directly or indirectly, some are even getting an education due to the company etc.
Then there are other stakeholders like competitors, who actually pay their taxes. Then there is the Icelandic public, as this factory is big on Icelandic scale, one can assume the Icelandic system would benefit massively by getting the share it should. If it would one could argue it could mean better service, roads, healthcare or whatever that money would go into. Some people even say that electricity cost goes up when a big player like this comes into the picture. That affects businesses and the general public.
When I started thinking about this factories approach and it’s justifications I assumed they were using the “Common Good Approach” which means they are basing their decisions on what best serves the community as a whole, but there was something that was bothering me about that as a reasoning. Sure, they are serving the interest of the community they are in, but what about the Icelandic community, as a whole? The notes I took while I sat in the class read: “What is the community?”, “What is the community as a WHOLE?”.
After going over this in my head and by using the tools we were given in class it showed me one can dress things up in different ways. Which might support the theory of “Spin doctors”. This particular company focuses on the good it does in the community it is located in and addresses the tax thing as little as possible. Their communications and justifications all revolve around what they ARE doing and avoiding talking about what they ARE NOT doing.
Club7 : Being brave
This week I took a big step out of my comfort zone.
Masters students on my course organised an event which resembles a TED Talk. 8 speakers, 7 minutes each. It’s the second year this event has been held and this year’s theme was Be Brave. I submitted a two minute video as an application for a spot as a speaker. To my delight (and huge amount of stress) I got selected.
Therefor, last night, I stood in a big room and told them about the challenges I have faced (some of them) and how I gathered the strength and guts to follow my dreams and make the best life I could for me and my kids.
I thought everyone could see how much I was shivering. I was sure I looked like a branch in a storm but as I have reviewed the video my fiancée recorded and spoken to quite a few people that were there I know it wasn’t visible.
As I finished, I felt so relieved that my part was over with but I also felt really proud of myself. I didn’t just talk in front of a big audience, I talked about something very personal.
But that is a part of my journey, to get to tell my story, with my words, from where I am standing as, unfortunately, I know there are people out there that are telling my story in a way that serves them and degrades me. I have finally found my voice and I am not going to hide anymore. At the same time, I have no need to put other people down in this process, as that does not make me any better than them.
As the Club7 wasn’t enough, I also applied for a spot in a committee that is planning an IABC event in Leeds in June.
I got the honour of being selected as Head of Logistics and Committee Secretary.
It’s a huge role and at the same time such a great opportunity. I can not wait to dive into the work that comes along with this task and meet the people that will work with us and the people that will attend the event itself.
Seize the moment
As I told my brother I had been given the role in the IABC committee he told me he was really proud of me and happy to see I was using the time while I am at university to do more than just study.
That’s just the thing, when I decided to come to the UK to attend a university, I decided to make the most of it. I decided I would grab any opportunity to grow, as a future Communication practitioner and as a person and that’s just what I have done.
I entered a PRstudent blog competition, I have spoken at Club7 and I am now in a committee that is planning an IABC event. I have also made friends from all over the world. I have imposed Icelandic food on staff and students at the university. My kids are getting to do things I could not offer them in Iceland. Me and my fiancée are able to enjoy more time together than before.
It’s not like there hasn’t been ups and downs, as this is life, not a fairy-tale, but the ups and the positives outweigh the downs by far!
If you are a student I encourage you to use the time while you are at uni to grab every opportunity and ENJOY the journey!
I am afraid of flying… well I am VERY afraid of flying. I still travel but it’s a struggle. I do not fly within Iceland as I do not like to fly in small airplanes where you can feel every “bump”. I used to take anxiety pills before flying but nowadays I try to breath through the scare and do a bit of mediation. Which can be difficult if there is a lot of turbulence. Green meadows or the ocean might not be the places you want to picture yourself at as that’s precisely where you don’t want to end up in that particular moment!
When it comes to news about plane crashes and other flight related incidents, I try to avoid reading the news as it will only empower my fear. As someone said, ignorance is a bliss! Articles and studies on safety in air do not help me overcome my fear. People telling me statistics and information on safety while flying don’t help either, as if there is anyone who knows these things it’s the person that is afraid of flying, as that person has tried to know as much as possible to calm her fears.
I once had a rescue team member telling me that people at the back of a plane are most likely to survive a plane crash. From then on I always tried to get a seat at the back. Later on, I was told by a pilot that sitting at the back ensures that you will feel the most turbulence and in the case of a plane crash most people on the plane are almost certain to die. It made horrible sense. After that I have always asked to get a seat as far in front of the plane as possible as it’s the turbulence that stirs up my fears and panic.
In the last week it has been hard to avoid news about plain crashes as Boeing’s 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia. The second plane of that type to go down within 5 months of each other.
As I couldn’t avoid the headlines and the news I looked at the case with the eyes of a communication student and it was a big ,,aha” moment for me. I could connect so many theories and methods to the news. As horrible and sad as the news are, it is interesting to look at the case from that perspective.
First off, I started thinking about all the stakeholders involved, and oh my! There are so many! Boeing, airlines (that fly those planes and the ones that don’t), Boeings competitors, the families of the passengers, the UN (and other employers of passengers), regulators, the media, Boeing’s staff, airline’s staff, shareholders, the public, people that are afraid of flying and the list goes on.
When it comes to the stakeholders it was also interesting to see how their stakes changed with the blink of an eye. Just by voicing an opinion or by actions, players that might have been considered quite neutral became high power, high interest players.
Boeing took it’s time when it came to action. However, certain airlines took the leap and decided to ground their 737 Max 8 planes while the accident was under investigation. By doing so other airlines were in a way pushed to respond in the same way. Other airlines didn’t react until their stocks started plummeting and then there were the ones that waited for regulators to step in and put bans/restrictions into action.
As we were taught about single and double-loop reputation-repairing activities at the beginning of the week as well I was all ears (as I am in communication classes, I just love them!). We were taught that the single-loop action entailed a short-term action where the immediate event is managed. In the single loop people are secured. The double-loop however is an action where a company changes it behaviour in order to avoid this type of a crisis in the future. To achieve that they find the root of the crisis and take proactive steps to make sure there isn’t more damage to reputation. We were taught that the best practice is to incorporate both single and double-loop reputation-repairing activities in a crisis.
Watching Boeing gave me the feeling they wanted to skip the first step as they didn’t seem to see the importance of grounding their own planes while airlines took it upon themselves to do so. It was very interesting as I was learning this to be able to put it in perspective to a real-life crisis that was ongoing before and after this lecture.
Like it wasn’t enough to be able to relate the communication lectures to the Boeing crisis I could also do so in a Brand Management and Corporate Identity seminar. We were given random types of companies and told to come up with values for them. My group got allocated an “airline”. My first thought was safety.
Me and the professor debated for a little while whether that is something that was a given for an airline or not. I, being afraid of flying, told him it was incredibly important to me to know that was one of the values and that it would give me a larger sense of safety to fly with an airline that would emphasise on that as a value.
I would have loved to tackle a communication problem for Boeing, an airline or another stakeholder this week. I guess I did in my mind anyway.
It is a great feeling though when you can relate your studies to something that is going on out in the great big world (even though in this case, the event was very tragic). Boeing’s problems are just a fraction of where I, as a communication student can do so as I’ve seen through my studies and the media, communications are relevant in every aspect and I am yet to find a situation where it is not.
I am at a point in my studies where I have to consider what my final dissertation should be about.
When I did my undergrads it was fairly simple. I had the motivation of wanting to see if all the voices around me were right. Are PR practitioners unethical? What kind of ethical framework do they work by etc. I have covered this topic before. I conducted this research by collecting secondary data and theory regarding ethics and ethics in PR. I also interviewed four PR practitioners in Iceland.
Now I have to decide what to write about as my final dissertation in my masters.
As I mentioned in my last blog I have just started the communication part of my studies. I find it very interesting but I feel like I need more before I make up my mind on a specific topic for the dissertation.
I sat a class in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management last week where the topic was Performance, Behaviour and Reputation. It advocated the employees being brand ambassadors and touched on how to encourage them to support and strengthen the corporate reputation.
This caught my attention. Having been someone at the bottom of the pyramid for years, being uneducated, on minimum wages, I have often wondered why the people higher up the ladder don’t value and see the potentials and wealth in their employees on the floor.
Unfortunately, the mentality in many companies back home is “if you don’t like it, find something else to do”. Everyone at the bottom is replaceable, which to me seems short-sighted and counterproductive in a company that is trying to create revenue and a good reputation. People talk and people talk about how it is to work in certain places. In a country like Iceland word travels even faster than elsewhere.
I did a course in HR in my undergrad and in that course we were told about the worth of employees and how much training can cost, the process of hiring new people etc. We were also told about the assets each employer brings with time spent within the company. The insight people gain etc.
This is something I think managers at different levels sometimes fail to see. They fail to value the knowledge the people on the floor bring by working with customers, using all the processes put in place etc. When someone works with customers all day that person gets to hear what they want, what information they need, what they are satisfied with and what they are unhappy about.
So, in this class last week we were told about how to encourage employers to express themselves and how communications should flow both up and down. People should feel comfortable about expressing themselves, feel valued and listened to.
I am a fairly straight forward person and I use to do that. I used to express ideas, I used to talk about how processes might be made more efficient and what could be done better for employees, also with regards to customers. I would also talk about what was positive and try to make people smile and feel embraced at work. As a person on the floor I soon discovered this was not well received. I got the feeling the people higher up than me were thinking: “What the hell does she know?” or even “How dare she say that/suggest that?”. It drained all ambitions out of me and in the end, at these different places I worked at I just did my job. Nothing less, nothing more. I saw this happening to so many talented people that I came across while working in these jobs.
Sadly, if ideas from myself or other people on the floor were actually listened to, they would result in someone at managerial level getting all the praise, without us even getting a pat on the back let alone something more.
The weird thing about all this is that it was not like there weren’t any communication processes in place. There were almost always thick HR booklets on how to do this and that and they would cover how happy one should be at work, how communications within the company should be and that people were encouraged to express themselves. All well and good. On paper.
However, in practice it didn’t seem to work. Out of all the places I have worked at I believe employees opinions and voices were truly valued at two places.
Due to all this it came to my mind whether that could be something to cover in my dissertation. As I said there are processes in place but for some reason they seem to just be there, not actually practiced. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to talk to someone at a managerial level and quiz them about the communication processes within the company, ask about satisfaction with the processes etc. and then get to talk to other employees at different levels and get their opinion and understanding of the same. Once that would be done I would see if there is a gap in the communication plan/process etc.
However, as one of my professors pointed out, it might be difficult to get managers to agree on me conducting such a research within their company, unless, maybe, I would do a project rather than a dissertation. Still it would be very sensitive information.
So, I guess I am back at the drawing board. Giving that I am only into my fourth week of this semester and the fact I have already come across one thing that triggered interest gives me hope there will be more.
All I know is I want to do interviews rather than big questionnaires and it HAS TO BE interesting as then the writing will come easy, as it is fun, something I will enjoy writing about.
The reason I am doing my masters in the UK is that there is a total lack of masters studies in Iceland when it comes to Public Relations. As a matter of fact, I was in the first group that graduated in the field at a bachelor level.
When looking into people working in communications in Iceland what you notice is that the practitioners either got their education from abroad, or which is very often the case; used to work in media.
My undergraduate degree consisted of a lot of politics and philosophy. We also did some creative writing, some media courses and ethics and laws regarding that field.
We did one course in public relations which was taught by a guy that has been working in the field for many years. We had the options of doing some economics and marketing as well and I did a little bit of both. Therefore, even though I scored a very high average for my bachelors I didn’t feel like I knew enough about public relations and communications. The students I studied with talked to the dean in our university about these concerns and he said we were still equipped with so much knowledge about other things that it would amount to a good PR practitioner as one would have to have a diverse knowledge about society (the politics courses) and be able to build up a good argument (I guess the philosophy came in strong here). He made a decent argument himself, but I was sure I could get a deeper understanding and be able to learn more about the tools PR practitioners use. I was sure I should be able to gather enough knowledge in the field to feel comfortable about diving into the profession of communication. At that point I must admit I did not feel like that. I spoke to the tutor that advised me on my dissertation and told him how I felt. I told him that early on in my studies I honesty felt like I was about to conquer the world, but as I was getting close to the end I felt like I knew so little. There was so much more out there. He smiled and told me not to worry. He said that was a confirmation off how much I had actually learned. The way I understood him it meant I had learned to be humble and realised there is always more one can learn.
Last semester at Leeds University we have mostly been focusing on marketing courses as my degree is a masters in “Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations”. As the communications and public relations part of it was the biggest attraction for me, I must admit I am really looking forward to this semester.
In Iceland we do not tend to have internships or graduate jobs. It’s each to their own and sometimes who you know seems to help. I do not know people that could pull me into a nice, convenient job so I know I’ll have to make it on my own and believe that my character and knowledge will get me to where I need to/want to be.
Many of my course mates at school are talking about graduate jobs. I do not see that as an option for me. I have obviously worked for many years. I started working at the age of 16 (part time at that age) and have worked since then (apart from the few years I took off when I had my 2 older kids). Most often I did two jobs as one simply wouldn’t cover the bills. Most of these jobs were service jobs and jobs at kindergartens. I believe that experience should help me when in comes to my future career as once you have worked in service you have dealt with people from all classes and with all sorts of needs and preferences. Even the kindergarten job and being a mum must have prepared me as it involves a LOT of communication and at times clever negotiations. One has to be resourceful and tailor messages according to the audience!
The other and maybe more obvious reason why I cannot really picture myself doing a graduate job is the fact I simply can’t afford it! I have a family of five, soon to be six, and the main reason I went through university at this (st)age in my life was to be able to leave the struggle behind, along with having to do two jobs and being treated like a doormat, as I wasn’t high enough in the chain.
We are hoping to stay in Leeds as we like it here and we can have a better standard of living here than in Iceland. According to my teacher in Iceland practitioners in Public Relations get a very decent pay, however, my fiancée will always be “a foreigner” in Iceland. He is from the UK and he does not have an education. However, he has years of experience which doesn’t seem to get him anywhere back home. While we lived in Iceland, he did long night shifts in service jobs where the pay far from covered the bills, it took student loans and me doing two part time jobs to be able to get by. On top of that we had to share housing with other people as rent is really expensive in Iceland. You do what you need to do but we both agree that giving our age and family size we like it things as they are now, just us, living together as a family. Over here he has a good job he likes and that actually pays the bills.
So, what initially was a temporary move to a foreign country to study something I couldn’t master back home might become a more permanent arrangement.
Communication is always important and has a big impact on how we view a company, whether it is through their promotion or direct communication with someone from the company/organisation. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like training in communications seems to be lacking. Companies sometimes seem to forget that people on the phone or at a desk are often the first impressions one gets of a company.
This is a topic that could be discussed back and forth and different examples could be given. However, to explain what I mean I am going to focus on communication in the health care system, as I feel like that is a place where people should, more than anywhere, be trained in basic human communication. They should be trained to treat everyone equal and show sympathy when needed.
When it comes to doctors I have discovered they vary when it comes to the communication part. Understandably, as they are human just like you and me. However, they often have to tackle difficult problems and meet people at stages in their lives that they probably wished they never had to come across.
I have had some great doctors that really went beyond what is expected of them. Two of which gave me their private numbers as I lived in small villages where one should only need the help of doctors between 8 and 4. As they knew I had things going on that might bother me outside of office hours they actually offered me their mobile numbers and told me to contact them directly if that was the case.
When I had just become a single mum of my two older kids I also experienced the most amazing good deed. I don’t think it was because he is a doctor, I think it is just because he is a nice person that cares for others. I had just gotten settled in mine and the kids first flat as a family of three. I didn’t have a job as I was still on a very low budget maternity leave (at this point my daughter was 3 years old and my son was only 7 months) and I was quite lost in life. I had seen my doctor to talk, to get an outlet for my emotions and feelings. He listened and was trying to figure out ways with me to get me back to school so I could make a decent life for myself and the kids. One night I was in my cosy little flat and my kids were asleep and the phone rang. This wasn’t unusual as most of my social interactions were by phone as one can get quite isolated when they are parents of young kids and lack the net of people around them to babysit every once in a while, etc. What was unusual, however, was that I didn’t recognise the number. I answered the phone and on the other end a voice said:
“Yes?” I replied.
“Hi, this is your doctor X (I am not going to put his name in here, to respect his privacy).”
“This phone call is a little unusual and you are probably wondering why I am calling…”
“Yeah…” I answered quite confused.
“Well the thing is me and my wife bought a lot of meat to process straight from the farm. We have been spending this afternoon cutting it down and packaging it. Some for us and some for our kids.”
“Well there’s way too much! My wife suggested that it would be nice if we knew anyone in need that some of this would be helpful to, I instantly thought of you. Don’t worry though!! I didn’t disclose your name.”
“Yes, so I was wondering if you might want some minced beef an if so, how you’d like the proportions to be?”
When you are a single mum with no extra cash to spend you can not afford to say no to such a nice gesture so I ran and had a look in my freezer to look at the proportions sizes I got at the supermarket and said to him: “I would love that, thank you so much! Maybe around 500 gr. in a bag?”
“It might be 400-500 gr. I hope that’s okay?”
I couldn’t help but laughing and told him I could live with that.
Later that night he showed up wit 5 kilos of minced beef! I took it from his hands with a lump in my throat! He sorted out 10 evening dinners for me and my children and probably a little more as we would make loads out of the 500 gr. proportions and then be able to have left overs the night after. I thought it was so amazing that someone had had me in mind like that and whenever I have been in the position to help others I have tried to do so as I know how much it can mean for the person on the receiving side of it, even though it may seem small to me. Pay it forward kind of a thing.
I’ve also had really funny encounters with doctors. One has to understand that Iceland is a VERY small country with the population of around 350000 and the chances of a person you meet in the street knowing someone you know are huge!
Once I had to go for a check-up at the gynaecologist. He turned out to be the doctor that delivered me when my mum gave birth to me. While he had his head between my legs taking a swab he said, just like it was the most normal thing in this position: “You look just like your mum!” I wasn’t sure what exactly he was talking about!
Another time I went to another gynaecologist. I was prepared to have a swab taken. Stretched out on the bench, legs in the appropriate handles and all. He then opens a cupboard above his head. He closes it again and opens the one next to it. The same happens and he went through a few cupboards and as he opened more of them I noticed he was getting a bit stressed. He then smiled awkwardly and said: “I am SO, SO sorry! This has NEVER happened before but I seem to have run out of the sticks I use to take the swabs with… BUT I do have a box of them in my car. If you would only be so kind to wait, I’ll just run out and get them!”
“Right…okay..” It wasn’t like I was going to leave with out having what I came for. However, we were on the 5th floor and this would take him a little while. Being in Iceland, in a rush he put a scarf and coat on and popped out the door, 2 seconds later his head popped back in and he said with an awkward smile: “You just try to be comfortable while I run out!” Any woman that has lied on one of these benches knows there is nothing comfortable about them!
Unfortunately, I have also had some bad experience with doctors. When I miscarried for the first time I was 22 years old. I was at home and all of a sudden I started bleeding. I got really worried and didn’t know what to do, still I hoped maybe it wasn’t all that bad and I was reading to much into it. I called the doctor on call in my village and grumpily he said: “It’s simple! You’re are miscarrying, it’s gone, all done! There is nothing we can do!”
With that he hung up. I felt horrible. These news were devastating and I felt so disregarded as I would have thought he wanted to see me and check up on me. It was dinner time and I got the feeling I interrupted him while having his evening meal. Half an hour later he called back and was a little more sympathetic and actually asked me questions and explained the procedures if this was the case. Once I got over the biggest shock, I imagined his wife had heard him and told him off for talking to a woman in this position the way he did. That probably wasn’t the case though, he must have realised afterwards that he’d been a bit hasty. And I do take my hat off to him for actually calling back and kind of making amends.
Another time I miscarried and was sent with an airplane to a hospital to be monitored. The morning after a gynaecologist examined me. He brought a student with him and didn’t ask if it was okay with me that he was present and I didn’t say anything, I probably would have said yes, but one should ask. He then examined me and spoke “doctor” to his student, pointed at the screen and never said a word to me. The two of them then disappeared behind a curtain where they had a computer and they kept “talking doctor”. After a few minutes I had worked up the courage to ask: “Can I put my clothes back on?” The answer was a short, annoyed yes and then they kept talking amongst themselves. For a while I stood there like I didn’t belong and felt like I shouldn’t be there. However, I ended up asking “I am sorry… Is it gone? Have I miscarried?” This specialist sneered back: “Yes! That is if you were ever pregnant!”. With that I left.
Having doctors that talk to people in situations like this, communicating like that is horrible. Afterwards I felt like I didn’t only have to deal with the shock and sorrow of miscarrying but also this treatment. To be treated like a second-class citizen.
In England I have come across what I would class as very unprofessional behaviour. Not from the doctors themselves but the first person one has to go through before getting to the doctor. The receptionists. Desk doctors as I have started referring to them as.
In December, when I discovered I was pregnant I looked on NHS’s website to see what the procedures are here, as I have never been pregnant in the UK before. It said if you have discovered you are pregnant you should contact your local clinic and get an appointment with a midwife or a GP. Which I decided to do, especially with my history, I knew I wanted it on record in case of worst-case scenario. Therefore, I called my local clinic and asked for an appointment. They have appointment slots every day which they only fill in on that day. So, you are supposed to call in the morning and get allocated an appointment later that same morning. I told the lady on the phone I needed one of these walk-in appointments (this is something they have just started and came instead of the walk-in hours, to avoid people coming in and having to wait for hours). She told me they didn’t have walk-ins. I tried to explain I needed one of these same-day appointments and she told me they only had appointments next week. After going back and forth explaining to her what I was talking about she said: “Oh you are talking about (insert the official name of the appointments)”. I told her that was correct. She then asked me what the problem was, which I am not used to as in Iceland it’s the doctors business not a receptionists. I told her I had just discovered that I was pregnant and as the NHS website stated I wanted to see a GP. She told me that had nothing to do with the GP and that I needed to see a midwife but only if I was around 10 weeks pregnant. I then explained to her that first off I wasn’t sure how far on I was and then I told her I had had 7 miscarriages and needed the support and assurance of a doctor. “I don’t know what he’s supposed to do for you! But I’ll book you in any way!”. I felt like she had been rude and couldn’t believe her last snappy answer as I had just shared with her my history and explained that I was very nervous. There was no sympathy, just cynical remarks.
I told the doctor about the answers and comments I had received. She apologised and couldn’t believed how I had been spoken to. She said the reasons for my visit were none of the receptions business and if I wanted to see a doctor, I should get to see a doctor no matter what it was for. She then told me she would send a request for me to see a gynaecologist at the hospital so I could be monitored. I should also book an appointment at the reception for a meeting with my community midwife. When I got to the reception the “lovely” receptionist from the phone was there. I told her I needed to book an appointment with a midwife. Very loudly (so loudly that everyone in the waiting room knew exactly why I was there) she asked me how far along I was. I told her I wasn’t sure but was about to see a specialist to get that clarified as I didn’t know. Loudly, again, she said: “You don’t know!?!” I felt really embarrassed and like I had failed in filling out my sexual encounter diary to make sure to have exact dates and records. Again, I told her I was sorry but I didn’t. She told me the only appointment she had was at the beginning of February and I accepted that. Again, she stressed that the midwifes REALLY wanted to be sure of how far along women were when they saw them. I just looked at her awkwardly and said: “Well, I don’t know.” She booked the appointment and murmured: “Well you should be around the correct time by then anyway…” I wondered how on earth she knew more than me!
After this I waited for a letter which would tell me when I was to come into the hospital to see a gynaecologist. A week later my letter arrived but my appointment wasn’t till January so I called the hospital. When I got through to a receptionist, they told me I was just seeing a midwife for a normal check-up. I explained that wasn’t correct. That I was going to see a community midwife but needed to see a specialist at the hospital due to my history. She didn’t budge. After a while she transferred the phone to another person and I got the same thing. I ended up crying out of frustration and simply told her I was scared and I felt like no one was listening. Finally, I got transferred to a receptionist at the pre-natal care. This person had been filled in on why I was calling and once she got on the phone she asked what she could do for me. I started crying loudly and told her all I needed was to see a specialist and that was what I believed my doctor had requested but for some reason I was being told I would only get to see a midwife and that wouldn’t happen until January. As I was very emotional (and a “little”) dramatic by this point I told her I was doubting it all though and I felt like I didn’t understand anything and maybe it was because I was nothing more than a foreigner. She calmed me down and had me breathing in and out before assisting me.
She booked me in, told me I’d see a midwife who probably would have a specialist do a scan on me the same day.
Once we arrived, I spoke to yet another receptionist. She told me to pee in a cup. I told her I believed I wasn’t supposed to as I might be going for a scan as I wasn’t sure about my dates and I knew a scan so early on require a full bladder. She hissed at me and told me I wasn’t booked in for a scan and therefore there wouldn’t be any scan that day and I should basically do as I was told. Quickly I sensed the fact she was not going to budge so, upset, I took the glass and went to the bathroom. When I returned my fiancée told me he had tried to talk to her but there was no way to get her to listen. For the first time in my life my blood pressure was measured quite high and I know it was only due to upset. Once I finally saw the midwife I felt better. She was caring and understanding. She understood my worries and as the specialist she normally would have me see was gone for the day, she wanted to book me in with him later but offered to have another doctor have a quick look then and there just to set my mind at ease.
This doctor was very cold. To begin with he saw the bubble the fetus should be in but couldn’t detect a fetus. The midwife held my hand and comforted me as tears ran down my face in silence. She asked him to do a more thoroughly examination. I had to remove my clothes and he did. He could detect a fetus this time but couldn’t confirm there was a heartbeat and told me that his file would therefore say there was a fetus but that there was uncertainty about vital signs. More tears ran down my face and he left. I apologised to the midwife for the crying and she asked me please not to apologise. Told me communications weren’t his strongest point which was why she was there, to translate his words into human interactions. Both she and my fiancée said they believed they saw a flickering and we would know for sure in a few days.
As my readers know when I went back there was a heartbeat and we are now in our 10th week.
After this I have been treated very well but I am sure that there are notes on their system about communications with me. It has been frustrating and hard to deal with health care employees that treat you like any other number. That even make you feel like you are wasting their time. I know we all have bad days, but if you cannot mask them and your job is to deal with real people with real emotions maybe you should be doing something else.
These receptionists were my first impressions of the English health care system when it comes to pregnancy and I must admit I wasn’t impressed. I might have listened and not pushed for what I needed. If I would have I would have missed the amazing service I have had after getting passed these gatekeepers. I would have had weeks of wondering whether everything was going okay or not and I would still be waiting for the confirmation on it.
As it is getting close to the Christmas holiday and my family and I are starting all the preparations, I decided to tell you a thing or two about Icelandic traditions. As this blog is, amongst other things, a platform for me to play and practice with different media I now present you with my very first Vlog. Below the video there is a little more information and some pictures on some of the topics I have covered.
I hope you enjoy!
I think we better cover the 13 naughty brothers straight away! So here is a link to a very informative site about the Yule Lads and their mum Grýla, their dad Leppalúði and the Christmas Cat.
As I mentioned in the video there is a big concert industry linked to Christmas. If musicians do not have their own Christmas concerts they are very likely to appear at other musicians’ concerts.
As far as it goes for Italian songs that have been changed into Icelandic Christmas songs here is an example of an original Italian song (not a Christmas song) and then the Icelandic version.
The Icelandic version:
There are other things that I could have covered and I could have gone into more depth BUT, as far as an introduction I think this is a good starting point. Next year I might go into more detail.
I will not wish you a merry Christmas YET as I plan to post a few more blogs here before the holidays. I will do that in between turning in final assignments and preparing for Christmas by making ice cream, writing Christmas cards, buying presents, decorating, baking cookies, getting Icelandic visitors over and enjoying the days leading up to it with my family.
What happens when the general public gets fed up and thinks enough is enough?
A lot of people never thought Trump would be elected and many people also thought Brexit would never go through. But it shows you should never say never. People were fed up with the situation and wanted a change. That’s what they got. Without really knowing what sort of change they were voting for.
Today I am mainly going to talk about examples from Iceland where the general public had enough and how it presented itself.
By the end of September 2008 I was in a hospital in the east of Iceland. I had just had my first child. My beautiful baby girl. She refused to come out naturally and therefore I was wheeled into an operation room and she was delivered by C-section. After the operation I had to recover so I stayed in the hospital for a week. Maybe it is just me but after having my first child all I talked about was how well she took the breasts, how many nappies we changed, how well she slept and whether she was getting air out by burping. I completely forgot there was a world out there. After 6 days in the hospital I realised this and decided I needed to ask people what was going on with them as well. I didn’t have a TV in my room. You also have to understand that this was before the times of smart phones and people constantly being connected to the internet. That very same day my auntie called me and I blathered out this and that about my daughter, then I remembered my newfound realisation and therefore asked: “How about you guys, how are thing with you?”
She angrily replied: “US!!? HOW are things with US??”
Very confused about how I managed to insult her I carefully replied with: “….yes…”
Again, very angry she replied: “EVERYTHING is falling apart! We have NO idea what is going on! ALL WE KNOW is that we are FUXXED like EVERYONE else!!”
After very cautiously asking her what she meant by that I got a little bit of the background to her reaction. Something had happened to the banks. I still didn’t understand what exactly had happened and asked my fiancé at the time to get us some newspapers. I could see in the papers all the main banks had gone bust. I still didn’t know what it meant but by reading the papers I understood it was not good.
Once I got home from the hospital, I turned the TV on and watched the news, the situation didn’t look good. Following the news was a comedy show. This was a weekly show that always made fun of the current affairs and what had been going on in Icelandic society since the last show. At this point Russia had offered Icelanders aid in the form of financial support. All the comedy sketches were tailored around that. In the show they pretended we had taken the support and Iceland had changed into an old time Soviet country. People were poor, they were begging and had food stamps. People were wearing worn out clothes and women had shawls on their shoulders and cloths on their heads.
Still not hormonally tuned I didn’t see it as a joke. I sat on my couch and cried, I hugged my baby girl and feared the situation I had borne her into.
Protesting the Icelandic way
The financial crisis in 2008 hit Iceland very hard.
Icelanders weren’t happy. The government said too many people had bought flat screen TV’s without having the money. The people were blamed. Banks had behaved really irresponsibly but the general public had to pay. England invoked the Anti-Terrorism Act against Iceland due to Icesave and Icelanders were gobsmacked. A group called InDefence was formed and it fought against Icelanders having to pay for Icesave and tried to fight the image of Icelanders being terrorists. Pictures like this were posted on social media:
Life quickly became harder and Icelanders were struggling. People were losing their jobs, homes and possessions.
It’s the only time I’ve been sincerely grateful for owning nothing and being relatively poor. There was nothing they could take from me.
The society was boiling and ended up erupting like a volcano. Protests and demonstrations were planned. People flocked down to the city centre to protest the government. They felt like the government wasn’t taking responsibility or looking after the people of the country. The protests involved planned public speaking in front of the parliament and peaceful gatherings. Famous writers, journalists, business people and activists would lend their voice and join forces.
Thousands of people showed up every week and took part in what was called “The Pots and Pans Revolution”. It may seem harmless and quite comical, but it worked. People showed up with signs and whatever they could make noises with, they hit pots and pans with ladles and honked horns. Just whatever they could do to make noise and make it visible they were unhappy with status quo. It ended up escalating into a bit of a riot in January 2009, where windows of the parliament were broken, eggs were thrown, and 20 people were arrested. By April 2009 Icelanders got to vote a new government and the sitting right-wing had to resign and a left-wing government had a big job ahead of them as they needed to do a lot of cleaning up.
Since then Icelanders have protested like that twice. First in 2016 when the panama papers were revealed, and the sitting prime minister was a big name in them. People called for elections, which they got and then again 2017 when the general public discovered that people in high places and linked to the governing party in the parliament had vindicated child molesters. They had declared these molesters were now all better and vouched for them behaving well and therefore they got a clean slate and a clear criminal record and could go about their lives as normal. This made people angry and they protested.
Influencing with fear
In both 2016 and 2017 the right-wing parties got to power again after being overthrown with protests. People were speechless. There was so much anger and turbulence but still the right-wing parties were going strong. (The Panama PM did not get voted back in and left politics for a while).
What had happened? Was it a loud minority or was there something wrong with the system?
I believe what happened was similar to what happened when both Trump got into power and Brexit became a reality.
When I did a philosophy course while doing my bachelors we had to look into power, power struggle and fear. I did a group assignment where we watched and analysed an hour-long interview with Teresa May and read loads of articles, just before the elections in 2016. We also had a look at how Corbyn conducted himself but not in as great depths as May was the focus of our assignment. While watching the interview and looking at the articles it dawned on us, she didn’t talk much about what she wanted to do to better the lives of UK citizens, she didn’t go into depths of her policies. She used scare tactics and fear. She focused on the fact the UK would sink without her as a leader, that she was the one that knew what to do when it came to Brexit and that other parties were not to be trusted.
The same happened in Iceland in the elections in 2016 and 2017. New parties emerged and smaller parties were gaining support. The big right-wing parties have a lot of capital and therefore started a campaign where they focused on trashing the smaller parties, there were adverts on YouTube and other social media which dragged up negative stories about the other parties and played on fear. In interviews they kept telling people the other parties didn’t have the experience they had and that Iceland would go bust again without their leadership.
And the scariest thing about these fear tactics is that they work!
Hopefully however, the results in all these cases will wake people up and make them realise they need to vote! They also need to see beyond the crap, which can be harder, but being informed and not just believing the one whom is the loudest can make a huge difference.
The Best Party
I am going to end this post on an example, also from Iceland, which I find humorous and shows what happens when people get fed up but have better choices than Trump to show their discontent.
The year was 2010 and it was time for City Council Elections. Promises had been made for years and were never kept. People were getting tired and felt like no matter who they voted for they would always get the same kind of government.
A new party emerged. It called itself “The Best Party”. The leader, comedian Jón Gnarr, said he had always wanted power and money. He also said he had always wanted to be in a position to be able to help his friends out. He said he had nicked a lot of the material on his manifesto from other parties like helping old people, women and the Less Fortunate but he also said he didn’t mean any of it and it was just a cover up. He hoped people wouldn’t take any of it too literally.
So, there was a party that promised all sorts but did it as a joke and was always upfront about the fact they didn’t mean to live up to any of their promises. The party also promised to be different from other parties as it would be openly corrupt.
Here are some of the promises on their manifesto:
To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools, so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
Effective democracy: Democracy is pretty good, but an effective democracy is best. That’s why we want it
Free bus rides for students and disabled people: We can offer more free things than any other party because we aren’t going to follow through with it. We could say whatever we want. For example, free flights for women or free cars for people who live in rural areas. It’s all the same.
Free dental services for children and handicapped people: This is something that is lacking, and we definitely want to take part in promising it.
Free access to swimming pools for everyone and free towels: This is something that everyone should fall for, and it’s the election promise we’re most proud of.
Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that.
They made fun of all the promises and phrases other parties used like “sustainability” and “transparency”, which were hugely popular at the time.
This is Tina Turners’ “Simply the best” which they made their own lyrics to, it has English subtitles, but I have also translated it and you can see it below:
They won the elections and the party governed Reykjavík for 4 years. The Mayor, Jón Gnarr, was open about the fact he didn’t know what he was doing and when he was interviewed, he always had someone close by to call if he got questions he couldn’t answer, and he wasn’t shy about it.
I lived in Reykjavík at the time and it was colourful, Jón supported human rights and was vocal about that. He dressed up every year for Reykjavík pride and took part in the parade.
If you are interested in knowing more about Jón Gnarr, here is a documentary about him:
When Icelanders voted for a new President in 2016 there was pressure on Jón Gnarr to run but he decided against it.
All of this shows that one does not have to use fear, even though it is a powerful tool. One can use creativity to provoke the status quo. When I go out to the world and hopefully start working in Public Relations I hope I can do just that, be creative, think outside the box and have some fun while I am at it!
Why am I blogging? Why do I take the time and sit down each week and share the things I write on this platform?
Well, I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and one of my teachers posted a thing on Facebook about a blog competition for PR students in the UK. I looked at this post and thought to myself “That might be fun!”. As I talked about last week I have always enjoyed writing, however, as I have also talked about before I am the queen of self-doubt and therefore I started telling myself I would probably not have enough to talk about and that little old me had no business entering a COMPETITION, let alone one where I had to write in English! Therefore, I put it aside but kept wondering.
A few weeks later I asked my teacher to send me the details about the competition again, so I could have a better look at it. Somewhere I had read that having a blog as a future PR practitioner would be like being a designer and having a folder with his/her work in it, it could be my portfolio. That sounded less scary, I wasn’t doing it to win but to practice and make a portfolio (one that became a lot more personal than I realised it would be when I started).
When I looked at the details about the competition, I saw a post from Orlagh, who won last year. She described how she did it and it was quite inspiring. I decided to enter. Just for myself of course. No one would notice. I would practice. I could always delete it all later anyway. If, to my surprise, it would be any good at the end I would have a decent portfolio.
The search for content
My biggest worry was concerning the content. I was sure I would run out of things to write about. To my surprise things kept coming to me, sometimes while having a conversation with people, sometimes while sitting on the bus in peace and quiet, often when my head hit the pillow at night and even sometimes while cooking for my family. Each time an idea popped up I pulled out my phone and made notes, a few sentences or words I could revisit when the time came to sit down again and write a new post. I keep adding to the notes, but only once have I had to look to them for material.
Most of the time something is pending and takes over and rather than looking at my notes. I think about it for a while, I let it brew. When I did group assignments while doing my bachelors I often worked with a friend I got to know at the university. The two of us would then add people to our team as needed for each assignment. After meeting up with a group I would go silent for a little while, for a few days I wouldn’t say much to the group. When other group members would ask my friend what was going on with me and whether we shouldn’t start putting thing on paper he would always tell them to stay calm and not to misjudge my brewing time. He knew how I worked. I would then have articulated my thoughts and would sit down and write like the wind (if the wind could write that is!).
My first blog post for the competition was about myself. I was so new at this that I wasn’t even sure how to use the PRstudent hashtag to make sure the post would find its way into the competition. Therefore, I emailed the editor at PR Place and told him I had entered. He had seen my blog before he saw my email and encouraged me to keep going.
Since then I have blogged about myself and things I believe can either come in handy for other people, help, or inspire them. I have also written about PR. My blog took on a life of its own. All of a sudden, I was sharing a lot more about myself than I had planned to but the thing is, when I entered, I decided to be authentic and true to myself as if I would try to be someone else it would come across fake and at some point I would be bound to contradict “my-alter-web-ego”.
How it spreads
Once I started posting I had to post it on Twitter, a media I am not used to using, but as soon as I did that I was sharing it with anyone following the PRstudent hashtag.
Then I thought to myself, if this is my “portfolio” I should probably share it on LinkedIn. So I did.
I haven’t shared it on Facebook yet. There are two main reasons for that. One, I am curious to see how big of a crowd I can reach without it being my friends and family. Two, I like being “unknown”, to simply be me and not someone I feel like I should be as we all have certain roles when it comes to the people around us.
With these few actions I have had more reactions to my blog than I would have imagined. For an established blogger my numbers are far from impressive but for someone that started with no one knowing who I was and thinking I would be talking to myself I am quite impressed with myself!
Ok, these numbers are not huge, I know! But they are all I need, for now anyway. I am being noticed and people from countries all over the world are stumbling onto my blog. I know the PRstudent hashtag has a lot to do with that. That is great! It is a great way to get known and to build a network.
Since I started blogging, I have been approached by Richard Bailey, the editor of PR Place, who asked me to come to Leeds Beckett University and speak to his PR students. Once I got there he asked me about personal branding and blogging in general. It was so much fun! And I learned so much by doing this. Can you imagine, I didn’t even realise until put on the spot in front of these students that that was exactly what I am doing?! As I am a fairly quick thinker, I could still inform them about me and my personal branding!
I emailed the girl that did the talk I blogged about earlier. I told her that she had inspired me to write and therefore I wanted to let her know there was a blog out there partly about her. I also admitted to having stolen a picture on the internet to link to the post and that I hoped that was alright. She emailed me back. She liked my post and said, she in return thought I was inspiring and that my story needed to be heard and asked if she could share my post on her media. I was overwhelmed. She’s a big influencer. I knew as soon as she had shared it as the number of visitors on my blog spiked, and I had not just released a new post.
I have followers on Twitter I didn’t have before I started blogging (I now feel a bit of pressure to become more active on Twitter) and I have professionals looking at my LinkedIn profile.
All of this amazes and brings me joy.
What about the ROI?
Richard Bailey challenged the PRstudents in the competition to look at data and told us to connect with our inner geek (my inner geek loves words but makes little sense with numbers).
I still took his advice and looked at the analytics on my Twitter account:
Pretty impressive right? As I was almost none-existent on Twitter before the competition it is probably not a surprise, but it still looks good!
But having said that I have to admit I had to google the term ROI while I worked on this challenge. If there is anyone out there as ignorant as me it means: “Return On Investment” and Wikipedia explains it as following: “it is a ratio between the net profit and cost of investment resulting from an investment of some resources. A high ROI means the investment’s gains favourably to its cost”. So, if I understand it correctly it basically boils down to whether what you are doing is actually worth it. Regardless of data and numbers my personal answer is YES!
The reason is simple and came to me while having a conversation with a fellow student at Leeds University. She told me she didn’t understand how I had time to do it all. Study, run a family, host visitors regularly from Iceland AND blog. I hadn’t really given it a thought but as I spoke to her, I realised how much it gives me back. I told her it was not about BEING ABLE to manage, it HELPED me manage. With all the things I have to do and think about each day, these 2 – 3 hours I take every week to sit down, alone, maybe a glass of rosé by my side and a few candles are my meditation. They bring me back to myself in all the clutter I manage every day, week and month of the year. I enjoy writing. It is my me-time. I have always meant to write more but never given myself the time to do it, always used the excuse “I will do it when things calm down”.
When you lead a busy life, when things are hectic there is never more of a need than to sit down and meditate. I am a very impatient person, so the typical way of meditating doesn’t really agree with me as I start wondering how far into my 10 minutes of breathing in and out I am, but this I CAN do. This is how I bring myself together and channel myself. Being a part of the PRstudent competition gives me the framework and discipline to actually do that, follow through and take the time to sit down.
So, all in all, my numbers are up, I am being noticed, I am making a network but last and not least I am getting rewarded by the satisfaction of doing something I enjoy and helps me focus.