Dissertation distress

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blogging: Investment? Diversion? Maybe both?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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The Storyteller

“You are a storyteller!” These words came from someone I believe knows what they are talking about, just the other day.

I had never looked at myself in that way. I have always loved words and to play with them. If they are nicely and cleverly put together they can entertain, they can bite and they can educate. They can even change someone’s point of view all together if they are strong enough. I have also always liked writing but thought of myself as an amateur who is just doing it for fun. I have always felt like I need more tutoring in the art of telling stories, get someone more knowledgeable than me to tell me HOW to do it. At the same time, I wonder how much exactly can be taught without people losing their personal touch when writing.

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After he told me I was good at telling stories I started thinking about it and I did come to the conclusion that it is somewhat right and that I have been doing this from a very early age. Stories and words are something I have used as an escape from a very young age. I have also used them to entertain myself and others.

Hiding from the dark

I am from Iceland. It can be extremely dark there and during winters we hardly get any daylight, we get dusk and then darkness again. For someone who is afraid of the dark this is horrid!

As a child and teenager I was very afraid of the dark. When I was a kid we used to have school before or after lunch. As me and my brother had school after lunch, we had to walk ourselves to an activity before school at a very young age. It would be dark and cold, and it was quite a long walk for small feet. I couldn’t stand silence. In the silence my head would go all over the place and I would imagine shadows being something they weren’t, I’d imagine all the worst I had ever heard, and I would imagine any noise I heard being something gruesome. Therefore, I would let my brother choose a story for me to tell him while we held hands and walked to our “before school activity”. Once I had told him the story of Red Riding Hood so often I could do it without thinking (and therefore had space to think about all the horrible things in the dark while spurting it effortlessly out) I came up with a different idea. I had to challenge myself if this walk was supposed to be bearable. I asked him to tell me what kind of a story he wanted to hear and name at least one character he would like me to include in the story. After that I would make up stories about bunnies on great adventures, dragons with toothache and more. This way I had to think, I had to be creative to make sure he was interested, and I had to make sure they were long enough to last all the way to the “before school activity”.

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I used the same approach when walking alone in the dark, going home from a friend’s house or from an afternoon activity. I often had to take a dark path that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and seem to have no end to it, my heart would start racing as soon as I got close to it. I would therefore have conversations with myself, in a way. I would do a roleplay without dolls or toys as I would just imagine them in my head and then do their voices and conversations. I felt ashamed of this as I was old enough to realise this looked very weird to anyone who would walk past me. But it worked. I took myself away from the dark into a magical place where I could be anyone doing anything, and believe me, they were never surrounded by darkness!

I have always had a vivid imagination.

My attempts to be a novelist

Three times I have started or finished my own “books”.

My first attempt was when I was around 8 years old. I had a 4-year-old niece and I had just realised I could draw pretty good pictures and produce good stories. I loved my niece like a little sister and enjoyed making her happy. I got lined A4 paper out and my pencils. I wrote a story about a girl star. An actual starshaped girl. I cannot remember the story anymore but she must have gone on a magnificent adventure. I remember she had gloves on and I coloured all the pictures and the story was quite a few pages long. I remember how excited I was after I finished it and walked across the town where I lived to give it to her.

My second attempt was when I was a teenager. In Iceland most teenagers get confirmed. When they get confirmed they get presents. The year I got confirmed PC’s were the go-to gift for parents to give to their teenagers. Most of my classmates got computers and could connect a lead to their computer to go onto the internet. That was huge at the time! While they were online they would go on chatrooms and talk to strangers. I was not allowed an internet lead, my parents didn’t think teenagers should be connected to the internet. I didn’t care! I was in heaven as there I had my very own typewriter! I had often written short stories and poems but my hand would get very tired after a few pages. Once I got the computer I started writing. I wrote a story about teenagers. It was a spooky story and very much a teenagers story where I would describe the clothing they would wear and there would be a lot of drama and love. The story involved a ghost of another teenager who had been murdered. Once I finished a chapter, I would bring it to my friends to read. They got very excited and encouraged me to keep writing. I never finished it but got close to 100 pages and enjoyed it. I probably then started chasing boys myself and put it aside!

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My third story came about when I was around 20 years old. I worked in a kindergarten and sometimes we needed something to catch the kids attention and get them to have some quiet time. I would get a marker in hand and stand by the whiteboard. I would then tell them the story of Króki the space crocodile. I would make it interactive and they would raise their hands to fill in where I asked them to. They loved seeing the story come alive in front of them. When I was 24, again, I worked at a kindergarten and brushed the dust of my friend Króki. I would adjust the story to each class, whether it was 2-year olds or 5-year olds etc. Once the headmistress walked in and was in awe, she said she had never seen a class of thirty 4 – 5-year olds sit so still, quiet and ready to raise their hand in order to get their part in. She was adamant we had to take this story further. After work I hardly touched the ground as I felt so appreciated and flattered. I told my boyfriend at the time about her words and he said: “No YOU GUYS are not doing anything with the story!

I replied with: “What?”

He said: “YOU should do something with YOUR story. Don’t let anyone else take credit for it!

I didn’t have the drive to do it alone nor the belief in myself therefore, I didn’t do more with the story for the time being. Soon after I thought to myself, I should probably get my head out of the clouds, I wasn’t an author, I was just an amateur that could keep little kids amused for a short period of time.

When I was 27 years old, I did my equivalent of A-levels. I was a single mum with two young kids. I bought old furniture and did them up. I ran the household, raised the kids, was a top student and therefore felt equipped to do anything and felt like nothing could stop me. Therefore, once again, I brushed the dust of Króki. I got a pencil and paper and wrote the story and drew pictures. I sent it to one publisher and held my breath. I got a rejection, but I was damn proud of myself for actually having the courage to send it in. I should have sent it to more places but one rejection at a time!

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This is an actual picture of Króki the space crocodile

Escape and outlet

While I was in school, we had to learn poems. We had to handwrite them and decorate with pictures, then we had to learn them by heart. I loved that. I could cry over a beautiful poem, I could laugh over naughty play on words and I could wrestle with elaborate poems with a unique use of words and phrases.

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I realised I could write my own poems. That one didn’t need to be William Shakespeare to write poems. It helped when I got a teacher that challenged the rules and form of poems. Told us to break them. Said that, in itself was art. I realised I didn’t have to follow all the rules or even make things rhyme. That was a huge breakthrough for me. Poems became my outlet and escape. I expressed the hardship I went through in poems. I also wrote about teenage drama. Poems became something I used when I hit walls or something really difficult happened in my life. That way I could sleep. If I went through any sort of trauma I would go to bed and my mind would be racing. If I reached for a pen and a piece of paper, however, I could take all the emotions and thoughts and put them on the paper in the form of poems and then go to sleep. Some of them are full of self-pity, but they did the job they were intended to do at the time.

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When I did my equivalent of A-levels I had Icelandic teachers that taught us about Icelandic literature. One of the things they covered were poems. I told them I had bunch of poems I had been writing from the age of 13 up till then (I was 27 at the time). I asked it they wanted to read them over. I had always kept them locked for no one to see except my closest friends and family. They were happy to! I had all the poems on one file on my computer and sent it to both of my teachers. Later the same night the horrible realisation dawned upon me! I should have gone through them before I sent them! Two of the poems were very offensive, full of rage poems about my ex, where I listed all his faults and made cruel fun of him and his manhood. When I spoke to them a few days later they told me how much they liked the poems and that it was unique to see a collection spanning such a long time and very interesting to see how I developed from a teenager to a young woman. They never mentioned the outburst poems about my ex.

Blogs, articles and Facebook statuses

For a few years I blogged, in Icelandic and just about my life in general. I also blogged about things that touched me. But it was just a blog that described the mind of a 22 – 24-year-old woman. Unfortunately, I can not access these blogs anymore as I would love to read them, and then probably hide them forever as I am sure they are cringeworthy now!

I also did a few blogs while I lived in the Middle East describing my life and thoughts there. I did it in Icelandic and then translated them into English below. They were mostly an attempt to be funny and sometimes provoking.

I have also written A FEW articles and then long notes (in the form of articles) on Facebook.

We should not take our gifts for granted

So, I guess using written words, expressing myself through stories, poems, blogs etc. has always been a part of me.

Nowadays I feel like it is a bit of a challenge though. Both to find something to write about but also to find the time to write. I should probably do more of it as it liberates me and gives me pleasure.

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My brother keeps encouraging me to write stories, but I feel like I don’t have anything to write about. Like I don’t have the imagination anymore. That it left me as I grew up. He has proposed to do it the way we did it on our long, dark journeys as kids, he comes up with a concept or an idea and I write around it. Maybe one day. I do love losing myself in the world of writing.

I didn’t think it was something special, I didn’t see it as a gift. I thought it was something anyone could do but now I know better. When I reflect, I recognise my friends often come to me and ask me to put things into words for them “because you are such a good writer” they say. They tell me they do not worry about me if I have to deliver a speech or do a written creative assignment as they say: “You with a pen can conquer anything”.

Therefore, after being told I am a storyteller, after thinking back and thinking about kind words from family and friends I realise it is not a given, it is not something everyone can easily do. I should utilise my talents. I WILL find the time. For the time being this blog will be my practice and my muse.

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