Caterpillar to butterfly, student to Chatterino

I was starting my third and final year at university and had little valuable experience to equip me in the big, bad world of work! Even worse, I had virtually no idea what to do after my student experience had expired - graduation was the end of the line, and at that moment I had no idea what train to get on next…

The process of getting organized and employable began at the University Careers Centre, who plugged all my aims, interests and skills into their careers matrix. They told me the job that I best matched was an Account Exec. “A what?” I did some research about the position and found that a lot of the skills involved came naturally to me. So, I had a little peek at some of the Account Exec jobs going in Leeds based advertising agencies but found that all of them required some degree of experience.

I decided to send speculative emails to them asking for any work experience they could give me alongside my degree. Although the majority didn’t reply I managed to get an internship working every Monday at an ad agency in the middle of Leeds. I loved being part of their small team and the whole experience reinforced my desire to work in advertising.

Inevitably for every student, the second half of third year is far more challenging as you have to catch up with work that should have been done in the first half.  Dissertation deadlines loom, essays seem impossible to finish; long nights spent in the library and a weary season of exams mean that thinking about what to do after Uni is often put on hold. So once I had finished my last exam I realised that, with barely a month left on my house lease, I needed to start applying for jobs or I would be doomed to leave my beloved Leeds and return home for the summer.

I looked on the university careers database and applied for some of the jobs that were advertised. After what seemed like an eternity of disappointing clicks, my eye was drawn to a particularly exciting Account Exec position at Chatter! I immediately liked their friendly, informal and humorous approach. My excitement grew as I began doing my research, looking through their case studies, their Twitter and Facebook and crafting an application email which aimed to show how this position was ideally suited to me and hoping to persuade the Chatter team that I was equally ideal to become the newest Chatterino.

When I was happy with it I sent it off an eagerly waited for a reply… I wasn’t waiting long. 5 minutes later I got a cheery reply from Lisa telling me to hang tight and enjoy the football! A couple of days later I was invited for my first interview. The crippling anxiety I had felt the days before was certainly not warranted, and what I feared would be an Alan Sugar-esque grilling was in fact a really pleasant chat with Paul, Lisa and Jon. I thought it had gone well and was over the moon to be invited back for a second interview – though daunted at delivering the presentation I had been asked to prepare. Despite the added worry of remaining composed in the sweltering Yorkshire heat, the presentation and the following questions went pretty well. Hours later I received a call from the guys offering me the job! I can only compare the nature of my celebratory shout after the phone call to a George of the Jungle style bellow!

However, the anxiety about getting a job was quickly replaced with the anxiety of keeping a job! How will I adapt to a strict work routine? How will I adapt to work routine after the late nights and late mornings of Uni life? How will I manage to look smart without an iron to my name? How will I cope away from the dodgy graffiti ridden student accommodation of Hyde Park? Suddenly I needed to be an adult.

However, yet again my worries don’t seem to be warranted! I have been made to feel so welcome and have really enjoyed my first week here at Chatter Towers. Having coped with a series of £10 Asda phones, I am now in possession of my first iPhone and have abandoned the cheapest dell laptop for a svelte Apple Mac. I am shocked to discover that a room in a smart professional house is in fact cheaper than the damp, hovels I have inhabited for the last two years. I am delighted to find that the transition from student to professional is far less traumatic than I expected.  In fact, rather than looking back on the glory days, it feels like the 'good times' are about to begin.  

Team Chatter are running for Joseph…

Six people. Two smokers. One mother of two. One photographer. One ballroom-dancer. And Paul. Thirteen point one miles.  Have I built this up enough yet?

This year, Team Chatter will be channeling the Olympic spirit of our Yorkshire brethren - the Brownlees,  Jessica Ennis, and the rest - as we lace up our trainers and lather on the Vaseline, and take part in the Leeds Half Marathon. Not gonna lie, we’re doing it as a team, so we’re each doing around 2 miles rather than the full whack, but that’s more than enough for some of us! Still, it’s a challenge, and we’re looking forward to a sprint around the ring-road before hitting the finish line in the city-centre.

But we’re not doing this just for our own health. We’ll soon be passing round the collection tin, asking you for donations to a great cause in support of a very brave little boy. 

Joseph Lillywhite, aged 5, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in January 2013. Neuroblastoma is a very aggressive childhood cancer that causes 15% of childhood cancer deaths. Two children are diagnosed every week in the UK. Unfortunately, long-term survival for children with high risk neuroblastoma is less than half the average rate for other childhood cancer and relapse rates are high. 

Despite neuroblastoma being “high risk” there is no Protocol in the UK  for relapse neuroblastoma if treatment is needed. More often than not children and their families are required to raise money for treatment in either Europe or the United States. 

The Neuroblastoma Alliance UK helps children if they can't join UK trials or if they need a clinical treatment that is only available abroad. To date, they have enabled 21 children to access the potentially life-saving clinical treatment abroad, and have funded ground-breaking neuroblastoma research. They also support families, and will support Joseph and his family in the future should he need to travel abroad for additional treatment. 

Hopefully, Joseph won’t require any further treatment, in which case any funds raised will go directly to The Neuroblastoma Alliance UK to help fund other children who do need further treatment. In addition, the funds will aid the research and development of new and improved treatment of this childhood cancer.

So, please, support this great cause by clicking on the link below. And if you’re around Leeds on the 11th May, it would be great to see you on the roadside cheering us on!

www.justgiving.com/TeamChatter

You can follow Joseph’s Journey at

www.facebook.com/JosephLillywhite

Two weeks at Chatter Towers

(by Sophie)

My placement at Chatter was ultimately to help me get a feel for the branding and advertising industry – alongside getting some real hands on experience. It has been a short and fab two weeks…

Commuting. Where do I start? So apparently when the train pulls in, it is every suited briefcase carrier for themselves, and the days of letting a young lady (ish) in front of you are a thing of the past! People sit/stand with their headphones in, nobody talks, it is AMAZING. There's no small talk or drunken tramps striking a trivial conversation with you just get on, get off and go (can't quite say the same for the local bus to the office - a lot of weirdoes!)

The office is cool; because it’s a nice size I especially like Monday comms meetings on the sofas because they're dead comfy! 

The guys are such a good bunch who have the balance between work and witty banter within the workplace on point. Harry literally makes my day ha I don't think I have ever met a charismatic southerner and the fact that he is super bright makes him so much funnier.

Tom has got me on board with most of his work while I’ve been here and he's been by my side throughout, he has cleared my mind of a lot and filled in plenty of gaps! I'm grateful to have been able to chat with him about the choices ahead.

Paul is great at his job and he is even better at distracting you when he's taking the Mick out of someone, or a recent news story, or society in general. I have been blessed to have done my placement when Paul is not too busy and is very tolerant - so I’m told.

Lisa is LOUD. Louder than I remember or have ever experienced before, especially when she's on the phone. She's a stylish workaholic who has put my future expectations of a boss on quite a pedestal. I respect her so much for her attitude to work, family and life in general and not trying to make her head as big as her mouth - but she is the person I aspire to be myself.

Banjo (Ashleigh) and Jon are my neighbors at my desk and are always there to answer my whispered queries when I don't want to sound like such a newbie. They know so much stuff about everything! And Google EVERYTHING, so if they don't know, they will in a minute, which has often taken our conversations off on crazy tangents…

21 life skills I've learnt on my placement

  1. Nobody knows everything, only Google does.
  2. Radio 6 and Radio 2 are actually decent stations that normal people listen to
  3. How to screen grab on a Mac (Googled it)
  4. It’s okay to have a blonde ditzy moment in a professional environment as long as you can deal with the banter afterwards.
  5. BBC News notifications usually mean someone has died
  6. How to do this job!! And the fact that it is something I would consider post-graduation
  7. You will usually email the people in the same room as you about 10 times a day
  8. Ask questions, nobody will get annoyed - What does this mean? How would you do this? Does this make sense? What would you do if -? You’ll learn much more than you set out to
  9. Fasting diets send people insane
  10. You will be banished if you do not pull your weight in doing the brew round, or make a crap brew (for Paul or Lisa)
  11. Also one must always ask if anyone wants anything from ASDA
  12. Look smart, work smart
  13. Take on board everything people tell you when you’re learning. Listen and engage and it will make you better at your job
  14. Getting up early makes you feel, work and sleep better!
  15. Lisa apparently knows who's calling when she's on the other side of the room - but she is wrong every time, 99% of the time. 
  16. You will get nowhere in this industry if you are not prepared to work hard everyday, in the office at home and anywhere in between.
  17. Every office needs a Harry
  18. Just because people are smart, successful or “have been doing this since you were in nappies” does not mean they're scary and unapproachable
  19. Snack-a-jacks and graze boxes are the future of snacking
  20. All the “great” music was released when Paul was about 4 - according to Paul Ainley (2014)
  21. Advertising is definitely the industry I want to work in. – MISSION SUCCESSFUL

Last shout out to the team at Chatter - thanks for giving me this valuable experience! Don’t be strangers, be prepared for questions off me even when I’ve left and I look forward to seeing you all again in the future (3rd birthday!) 

Our most recent engagement!

The gang at Chatter have been busy helping our newest member of the team settle in to the nest. 

Ashleigh Pickard joins the team from Npower where she was responsible for internal communications.  Most recently she was part of the project team who implemented SAP - no mean feat. 

Over the next few weeks, Ashleigh will be supporting us to increase the level of expertise and support we can offer when it comes to internal communications and engagement strategies, with a view to being able to offer a more robust level of support in this area in the future.

It’s fab to have her on board and we’re looking forward to introducing her properly to our clients and flock over the next few weeks.

Hopping on board…

Successfully onboarding employees is becoming an ever-greater priority for many businesses. The attrition rate in the first few months of joining (or in the case of graduates, in the many months between leaving the world of student loans and joining the salaried masses) is often high, while the cost of replacing employees who leave is often in the thousands. When I joined, Chatter wanted to practice what they preach, and make sure I couldn’t escape their clutches.

Following on from the interviews in late January, I was offered the job with the guys in February. I had always planned on going traveling in June around China and Vietnam (while wearing a Chatter-branded t-shirt), so I would start in July and walk straight from my graduation ceremony into the job. In the months before I started, I was always welcome to stop by the office for a brew and a biscuit, I was invited along to the company’s 2nd birthday shin-dig, and Paul lent me his massive rucksack to save me the expensive of buying a new one. 

Best of all, I was thrown a going away party. The catch? I first had to spend the day putting up flat-pack furniture in the new office, and I had to arrange the party with Harry, as a test of the teamwork and unity we would soon be thrust in to developing. We ended up playing golf on simulators in a bar before heading for a thoroughly underwhelming meal at The Living Room. Still, was an amazing send off.

Since I’ve started, I’ve really been thrown into the deep-end. I’ve helped plan the grad fair campaign for a big bus and train company, been given the responsibility for the day-to-day running of a major new client, and been kicked out of a kebab shop at 5 in the morning after an awards do in Manchester! (We won two awards, one of which I promptly went and broke). Team lunches are a regular thing, although since we’ve got a lot busier it’s more likely to be take-out than eating out.

I get to go to work and supply a service that makes me proud, have a laugh, do something I enjoy, and learn from three experienced (translation: old) business partners. By getting me involved with everything before I even started, I felt like part of the team before my first day had even started.

The three month itch…

So my three months probation with the Chatter team is up. And I’ve been asked to write this before the final hearing - not sure if that’s a good sign, or the guys giving me a chance to say my last goodbyes before I’m not-so-gently shown the door! To say that I’ve gone from 0-60 mph in a short space of time is an understatement. 3 months ago, regardless of what was said in my interview, I really didn’t know much about what Chatter actually did. Now, I’ve got copies of prestigious magazines featuring ads I’ve helped create (God bless the Flock!) sitting on my desk waiting to be scrap-booked; a 4-sheet poster up in Birmingham New Street station; and my first grad recruitment fair coming up next week - more of which to follow I’m sure. It all culminated last week with a trip to Manchester for the Recruitment Business Awards - my first industry bash with the guys, and one which ended with me crawling into bed, legs sore and voice in tatters, after a night of laughter and revelry - at 5am! I was a broken man, curled up alone in my dragon onesie. Although I pride myself on being able to take a call from the lovely Rozy at Atkins to get some final adjustments to an ad made at 9:30am. (See, Paul, sociable AND hardworking - now just honest and direct to crowbar in!) I don’t want to take all the credit, but since I’ve been with Chatter we’ve won 2 awards and got a commendation!! Well, technically it’s now 1 and 9/10ths of an awards after an unfortunate incident with them in my car... I mean really, who gives out glass awards anyway!! That’s just asking for trouble. So, as my review dawns on the horizon, I turn to Arwen from the Lord of the Rings for inspiration - “Ú i vethed... nâ i onnad (this is not the end ... it is the beginning.)” I can’t wait to find out what the next 3 months will bring (what a cheesy end!!!!! Sorry all)

CHEERS DRIVE - H's First journey into Bus Driver Recruitment

For someone that doesn’t have a driving licence, this month has been an eye-opening journey into the world of driving as a profession. But bus driving is much much more than just driving - its about customer service, keeping your cool, managing money and connecting people from all different backgrounds. It takes a certain kind of person. A people person. And they were exactly the kind of people that our wonderful client First Group were after when they asked us at Chatter to help them out with Bus Driver recruitment in Bristol and Avon. Whilst First were clear about the kind of people that they wanted to help them connect communities in Bristol, reaching such a specific audience needed some assistance. The solution? A radio campaign that really bought in to Bristol. We called it ‘CHEERS DRIVE’ (A Bristolian phrase to thank Bus Drivers) and needless to say we ran with the concept! We enlisted the help of the fantastic guys at Global Radio to promote First Group roles across Heart FM in the South West during an intense week of ‘CHEERS DRIVING’, with regional accents galore for a 30-second campaign run across mid-September. Hopefully we’ve managed to avoid the pitfalls of local radio advertising and not annoy too many people along the way. A bigger First was the fact that we even managed to rope in their Breakfast presenters to challenge themselves in a spot of bus driving in the name of competition! And of course, to get some great people on board for First (video attached below). The presenters really bought into the CHEERS DRIVE campaign and everyone had a great time testing out their proficiency with a 30 foot vehicle at their mercy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55eUni6al9k Managing the project was an eye-opener for me. The responsibility, the time-management, the need to make phone-calls - all very new experiences. Fortunately Global guided, and I willingly obliged, with the guys at First reassuringly keen to help out. It was great to work with both the guys at Heart and First Group on this campaign so all that’s left to say is: ‘CHEERS DRIVE!’ And I should really consider getting that licence. H

Chatter wins out in a 3 way pitch…

It was high-fives and whoops all round when team Chatter got the news that they had been chosen to work with Atkins, the global engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services company, after a 3 way pitch process last month.

The 2 businesses are looking forward to building a lasting partnership which will see them bed down Atkins’ new employer brand, support them with talent attraction and help them engage their existing employee community in the new brand too.

Partner at Chatter, Paul Ainley commented “Atkins are a great business for us to be working with. From our earliest conversations we could see there was plenty of common ground when it came to our thinking around employer brand and reputation. We all got on well too, which is really important given that we’ve all got an eye on the long term.”

The team are now busy working through implementation with a go live date planned for later in the year.

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge: The Results

SO... After a month of strenuous effort, gallons of ale, and half-hearted singing attempts, the decision was left to YOU as to whether I had passed my Yorkshire Challenge prior to Yorkshire Day! Having been inundated with votes after four long weeks of shame, depression and social faux pas’ it is clear that the people have spoken... and fortunately my joyous rendition of  ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at’ has tugged at the heartstrings enough for me to be accepted as the most dubious of  ‘honourary Yorkshireman’... for now. There is still a long way to go, and I’m definitely going to have a go at some of the suggestions put forward for more challenges (cricket was always lacking in Norfolk). So keep an eye on the blog for further Yorkshire exploits... and DON'T forget that Chatter's newest recruit Tom shall be endearing himself to the masses pretty soon... FINALLY. The vote as to whether Paul should complete the challenges so as to prove how a REAL Yorkshireman should behave was unanimous. The people have said that he’s got to complete some challenges, BUT at the moment he’s refusing... what challenges would you suggest for him? A Wuthering Heights recital? [caption id="attachment_1326" align="aligncenter" width="300"] SUCCESS! AFTER A LONG GRUELLING MONTH...[/caption]

Yorkshire Challenge - THE VOTE

It's 1st August... Yorkshire Day! And... That can only mean that it is time to assess my month of depression, anxiety and shame in attempting to initiate myself as an honorary Yorkshireman. Now it's up to you to decide whether I've made the grade, or whether I should be consigned to afternoons of Radio 2 (as is Paul's wish) as opposed to the 6Music that I have become accustomed to. Just to re-cap, I've rehashed the mess of footage that was my July... Enjoy, and remember to VOTE below! H  

Yorkshire Challenge #4

‘Ey Up! Well today signifies the completion of my fourth and final Yorkshire challenge, just in time for Yorkshire Day on Thursday and the vote on my credentials as an honorary Yorkshireman. The guys, with their ongoing quest to make me unemployable, sent me off to Ilkley, and the video should hopefully detail the task I was set once there. Now plunged into depression, I shall NEVER maintain a presence on social media again. Enjoy! And remember to vote on Thursday, I think I’ve put in some dedication, so let me know what you think? Cheers, H

Challenge #3 - ALE

Another week... Another Yorkshire Challenge for Harry. This weeks' is a little bit of a cop-out in all honesty. Either we're slowly running out of ideas for my challenges or the guys want to complete my public humiliation through a series of drunken ramblings, but I've been asked to sample some Yorkshire Ales! In my mind, I planned to live solely off Black Sheep and create a masterpiece (a bit like David Bowie with his 'cocaine, milk and red pepper phase' for Station to Station), but alas, I've given in to reason and shortened my drink fuelled escapades down to an evening! And here it is! It might be strangely edited, but that's purely to avoid further embarrassment to myself.   Make sure you keep an eye out for next weeks vlog - It promises to be a bit special, and then you'll get the opportunity to vote on my lack of prowess as an 'honourary' Yorkshireman. I think I could have answered the longrunning question at the very start! Cheers, and let me know if you think the 'challenges' could be made a little more Yorkshire, far less tragic! H Yorkshire challenge #3 - ALE from Chatter on Vimeo.

First week woes…

After having agreed to join Chatter all the way back in February, time has flown, exams have been passed, China and Vietnam have been visited, and having received no better offer along the way (joking guys!!) I find myself a full-time and fully-fledged part of the Chatter family. My to-do list for my first week was simple - learn how to make a proper brew (sorry Paul); buy champagne for a winning pitch of which I was an integral member; find a decent golf club to join (my own personal aim - any recommendations?); and pick a couple of businesses to invest in through the micro-finance firm Kiva.

I decided to make my initial loans to two companies where I felt a personal connection. Having seen the strength of the nation’s recovery following the American war, but also the lingering ramifications of the conflict, I felt that Vietnam would be a worthy and sensible place to invest. Scanning through Kiva’s listings, I found a street-food vendor, Mai, in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) who sells ‘pho’ - beef and noodles in a broth with lots of coriander. It was a dish that helped eradicate the memories of bland rice and soggy, unidentifiable vegetables from my weeks in China. Mai hopes the loan will allow her to improve the quality of the food on sale. Restaurants falling over onto the streets, packed full with both tourists and locals, and the noises and the smells overwhelming the senses are some of my abiding memories of Vietnam. Hopefully, with my contribution, Mai will be able to offer similar culinary joys to future globetrotters. For my second loan, I looked towards a different part of the world. While at uni I wrote a paper investigating the economic causes of the civil war that engulfed Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is classed as a ‘failed state’ and it’s population are part of the group that make up ‘the bottom billion’ - the number of people worldwide who live on less that $1 a day. Idrissa owns a small shop selling jewelry, make-up and hair products in Tonkolili district, northern Sierra Leone. He will use the loan to expand his existing stock and buy in wholesale. Tonkolili is emerging as an important iron-ore mining region, so Idrissa has a great opportunity to become a successful entrepreneur. For some interesting reads about Sierra Leone, and development economics in general, check out: Paul Collier - The Bottom Billion (a leading economist on Africa and poverty writing about the world’s poorest billion people who he believes are in danger of being permanently left behind as the rest of the world develops) Tim Butcher - Chasing the Devil (a British journalist’s trek through Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia, looking at their descent into war and poverty from such promising beginnings, and their chances of recovery) Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo - Poor Economics (two leading development economists who aim to overturn many myths about the way people in developing nations make decisions) Now it’s time to get back to proper work. I think the tea has brewed long enough, and the champagne is suitably chilled. It’s a tough life...   Tom  

 

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge #2

'Ey Up! Now then... with the Great Yorkshire Show taking place over the past few days, the guys at Chatter thought they would set me a challenge based around real Yorkshire  produce... How better to prove my credentials than make food synonymous with the county - Yorkshire Puddings! The video below shows you how I got on, let me know what you think, Yorkshire Pudding challenge from Chatter on Vimeo. Cheers, H  

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge #1

So as you may know by now, the guys at Chatter have set me some challenges to determine my prowess as a true Yorkshireman. We weren’t allowed an office whippet, and I don’t have any challengers for my ferret-legging task as yet... so we thought we would begin on a low key note... some rugby league! Check out the video below to see how I got on... Harry's Yorkshire Challenge #1 from Chatter on Vimeo. 3 videos to go and then you get the opportunity to vote on my progress. Cheers, H

Harry's Yorkshire Challenge…

Here at Chatter, it's fair to say we're proud of our Yorkshire roots... Just like folk from Yorkshire, we're Honest, Direct, Hardworking & Sociable. Our newest recruit Harry isn't from these parts, but we think he's got everything it takes to become a fully fledged Yorkshireman, so we've decided to put him to the test. Throughout July, he'll be undertaking 4 challenges to see just how Yorkshire he can be. Each challenge will be filmed and posted here on our Facebook page. And on Yorkshire day (1st August) you'll decide whether Harry's Yorkshire enough. Good Luck Harry! http://vimeo.com/69454914

three months in… honeymoon period or baptism of fire?

As my first three months at Chatter have approached an end, I guess its time to reflect on the so called ‘honeymoon period’ I’ve enjoyed with my fellow Chatterers. This is the first time I’ve really managed to face up to long term commitment and I have never had to endure such longevity - so to be honest I haven’t really been able to appreciate the point of sticking around - I’ve realised now that its not really all that bad. My Dad has been at his work for over thirty years, so there is a precedent for me to follow, and my time with the guys at Chatter hasn’t provided any hurdles I’ve felt unable to negotiate. Entering the mystical world of employer branding (at least that’s what I’ve been telling people I’ve been doing) has been as eye opening as it has enticing. I’ve dealt with deadlines, a lot of inspirational individuals, and my fair share of frustration; and I genuinely feel that I’m up for more of the same, if the guys will allow it. From my first day at Chatter I’ve felt welcomed, and I feel part of a team doing work that really means a great deal to all involved. I’ve spent days with our wonderful clients, and friends of Chatter, that have gone a long way to helping me uncover the industry, and I can only thank everyone for their contribution to my development. My phone manner is now in line with that of someone who has SOME grasp of the English language (thanks Hayley at Telefonica) and I am finally able to appreciate the term ‘our’ to denote a member of my family. I shall one day be the honorary Yorkshireman I’ve shown promise to become... maybe. Chatter is the perfect platform for me to succeed. I have pissed them all off with my lack of appreciation for mid-nineties culture (I was four, five, six), and carbo-loading on fast days (as evidenced in the photo below). I’ve also all too often described the guys in relation to my parents, but I’m sure they’ve got more to come when our next recruit Tom joins (I’m feel I'm only really preparing them for the next generation of graduates that come through the doors). They’ve taken it in good jest and have only politely informed me that I have so much more to learn in a working and social sense. After all, I am here to learn and am here for the long term, if allowed. Honeymoon period? Now I presume I’ll wait for the seven year itch? H

Some true Yorkshire grit…

Over the past few weeks we've been supporting Joseph Lillywhite and his family as they face the biggest challenge of their lives.

Joseph is only 5 years old and in January 2013 he was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma after being slightly unwell for a few weeks with a virus. The Lillywhite's received this devastating news after taking Joseph to A&E after several visits to their GP. Joseph's mum Helen explained "words cannot describe the complete and utter devastation of finding out that our precious child has been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare and very aggressive childhood cancer". The tumour has grown around Joseph's kidney and there was cancer evident in his bone marrow, hips and thighs. Joseph is currently receiving frontline treatment at the Leeds General Infirmary from a fantastic team to whom we are extremely grateful, however, Neuroblastoma is a very aggressive childhood cancer. We know that it causes 15% of childhood cancer deaths and that two children are diagnosed every week in the UK. Unfortunately, long term survival for children with high risk neuroblastoma is less than half the average rate for other childhood cancer and relapse rates are high. There's been a groundswell of local support for the Lillywhite family including lots of offers to help raise funds for Joseph and so the family have decided to support the Neuroblastoma Alliance UK because they will help if Joseph can’t join the UK trials, or if they need a clinical treatment that is only available abroad. If you'd like to support Joseph you can either donate by visiting: http://www.justgiving.com/josephlillywhite or get involved at www.josephlillywhite.co.uk or like Joseph's page on facebook.com/josephlillywhite

Kiva Qualms…

I was wrong when I thought that entrusting me with a phone, and a key (as well as allowing me to dress as I saw necessary), was the Chatter limit; and I wouldn’t have blamed them. But the guys had the generous idea of also entrusting me with monetary funds after my first day. Funds to invest on Chatter’s behalf in a growing business through Kiva. They masked it as a welcome gift, but I knew it was to test my moral choices, I imagine its part of many a recruitment process nowadays? Kiva is a non-profit organisation that allows people to lend money via the Internet to people (generally entrepreneurs) in developing countries through micro-finance. It includes individual stories of each person who needs a loan so that ‘lenders’ can choose an entrepreneur they wish to fund. The money sent by the ‘lender’ is then transferred to the micro-finance institution (or Field Partner) and disbursed to the selected individual, providing them with the funds required to grow their business. The idea is that eventually the loan is repaid and the ‘lender’ recoups their money and it can be reinvested to another entrepreneur. The concept is brilliant, and I wholeheartedly support the cause, but I was initially left with a dilemma... Who to lend the money to? My studies of the Poor Law System hadn’t really endeared me to the idea of classifying those ‘deserving’ of funding from those not. I realised the ‘welcome gift’ my employers had given to me was a bit of a nightmare, and I couldn’t just plump for the Juan Milton because of a surname... could I? Fortunately my qualms regarding the selection of the ‘deserving’ poor for my loan were alleviated by the fact that the full loan is pre-disbursed to the ‘borrowers’ by the micro-financiers, meaning that ‘lenders’ do not make the decision as to whether the individual is deserving of funding based on their picture and story. I could just plump for a namesake? Well I had a little think, and I’ve came up with a couple of entrepreneurs I could be pals with...

  • Julius makes shoes in Thika, Kenya. I can appreciate a decent pair of leather shoes. Providing him with the opportunity to grow his shoe-making business is great; and he intends to educate his family with the proceeds. Education was an important part of the ITFC Charitable Trust trip to Kenya, and I’m an Ipswich fan, so I feel that the choice is in someway justified... I just hope I get the opportunity to buy some shoes off Julius once his business rockets!
  • I have been intrigued by Peru ever since I read a fantastic article retelling the story of Peruvian political struggles during the early 1990’s. Whilst Peru has experienced massive social, cultural and economic growth in recent years, the economic disparities between communities are excessive... Dania is the same age as me (21), and hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to study that I have. Her ambition to succeed should not be blighted by her economic circumstance, and she deserves to do well! She also makes red spaghetti, and spaghetti dishes formed a pretty substantial part of my student diet, aside from cold meats and the like.

Hopefully, with the smallest of contributions, I can help these guys to build their businesses and one day see them featured alongside me on a Forbes . One day. If you would like to join us on the Forbes Hot 100 you should sign up too. If you sign up through the Chatter lending Team you get $25 free to loan. DONE. Harry

Give a grad a go?

Last year was a struggle. Amongst the self pity and feeling that ‘I had def completed my part of this graduate bargain’, I was struggling to find a graduate job. My answer was to hide away, in an ScS warehouse, until the New Year... Fortunately, seven months on, I managed to convince the Chatter guys I was alright; but with the news that uni may not be worth it after all, I gave my bitter housemates the opportunity to vent regarding the six grievances that have made their own searches for a graduate scheme such a struggle... WEBSITES- Company Careers and Graduate sites are often the first port of call for guys looking to enter the world of work post-uni... Unfortunately the ‘unique culture’ each business claims to have engrained within itself are few and far between. Lost beneath the vague corporate message seems to be the type of characters actually required, making it very difficult to understand what companies are looking for. CAREERS FAIRS- The fairs seem to be regarded as a ‘must attend’ by employers keen on early undergraduate engagement, yet in our experiences, they have often been understaffed by poorly prepared employees who cannot always answer the questions you really need answered... Whilst the ‘freebie hype’ is undoubted, on most occasions, the guys didn’t get the opportunity to speak to grads in the roles they had applied for... The idea that they are a ‘must attend’ if you wish to gain graduate employment is scuppered by the fact that it is very difficult to network at such events and you garner very few worthwhile answers. LOCATION ISSUES- It is difficult to know where a company is based if the only communication you receive is ‘Nationwide’. Combined with the fact that there was no initial point of contact with a particular role, one of my mates was told they would be working in Manchester only for that to be altered to Milton Keynes as she advanced through the recruitment process. TESTS- With a report last year claiming that every graduate role receives 52 applications, it is important for recruiters to sift, that is the accepted norm... the grievance that my housemates have is that the online ‘competency’ tests are often pointless, not a guarantee of progression, and in any case are very easy to get a pal to do! In our experiences, recruiters claim to test everyone again at the assessment centre, but on more than one occasion, have decided to ‘select’ a small amount of candidates for retest without explanation... Why such inconsistency of approach? PERSONALITY- Creating a consistent tone/personality for a business is something I have had to learn quickly during my short time at Chatter. Rather inevitably, the grievances in this sense, should not necessarily come as a surprise... ‘Too corporate’, ‘no sense of community,’ and a ‘lack of personality’ were some of the reasons my mates felt disconnected from some graduate schemes... with a friendly atmosphere and passionate approach perceived to be one of the greatest draws. FEEDBACK- Rejection is inevitable. It is not the worst part of the recruitment process. What is? The indifference of the vast majority of companies to your applications... You begin to lose count of the number of companies and schemes you apply for without receiving an email confirming receipt of your application... Some reply after three months, others never... Yet the lack of contact is at least consistent throughout the process. One graduate employer openly stated their reluctance to communicate- explaining to final stage candidates, ‘We’ll call you if you’ve got the job... you might receive an email if you haven't.’ Whilst my housemates are now lucky enough to avoid being in the 40 per cent of university leavers failing to get a graduate-level job, it is clear that the of roles are just not there...When the roles are few and far between, I’m sure some of the graduate employers are likely to continue with this practice of sifting candidates with an inconsistent and faceless approach; leading to a lot of confusion... confusing enough for me is settling on one consistent accent. Harry

Two teas and a black coffee…

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.” Theodore Roosevelt Hi. Im Harry. And I’m the newest member of the Chatter team... I’ve spent most of my time as a fanatic. A football and music fanatic- sometimes trying to get involved- with little success... I’m a Leeds Uni History grad originally from Norfolk, and I moved back to Leeds two months ago with a couple of bags of clothes and a Pete Doherty poster... Despite my lack of preparation for post-graduation Leeds, I was determined to find carve out a worthwhile media career... Fortunately I was able to convince the guys at Chatter that my career should begin with them.  I didn’t necessarily know what to expect from my first week at Chatter, but one thing I did/still do expect is... that I have a lot to learn. With this in mind, I guessed I would detail seven things I’ve learnt in my seven days since becoming a fully ‘chatterised’ member... One: No-one sympathises with my woes regarding the ungodly 9am starts of the working world. Two: Business cards remain an exciting novelty. Three: Charcuterie and crispy rolls do not form the basis for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Four: Despite the fact that I have made first foray into graduate work, I can still pass for seventeen, even whilst at work. Five: Novelty/floral print jumpers are unfortunately not the norm in the working world. Six: It’s no use explaining to people what I actually do for a living. My mum is still convinced I’m involved in something unsavoury. Seven: Two teas, one black coffee- three sugars.   Next week hopefully I’ll learn something worthwhile, and further convince the guys that I can one day be worthwhile having around. With Doherty on the wall, what can go wrong?   Harry

Chatter cleans up at the RBA awards…

There are some very sore heads among the Chatterinos today. Last night saw us hit Manchester for the Recruitment Business Awards 2012 (the RBA's) and we're very pleased to be bringing home THREE (count 'em!) commendations for Skype, Northgate and Arqiva as well as an award for our work with the Hyde Group. It was a great night, laid on by The Drum, with entertainment from Irelands leading Hip Hop crew, Abandoman. They were hilarious, improvising a series of songs on the spot using objects from people's pockets and people from the crowd. They even got our very own Paul up on stage to humiliate in public...join in the fun. To celebrate the night we've launched a shiny new case studies section on our website, where you can find more details about all of that work and more. We couldn't have done it without our clients and of course our lovely Flock some of whom were in attendance last night too. So a big pat on the back to all of them. Cheers! [gallery link="file" columns="2"]  

Heard the one about the cookies?

If you've been engaged in building a new website lately, or implementing a new bit of software for public use (like an Applicant Tracking System for example) then you may have heard some rumblings about Cookies and the new EU Cookie law. We thought it might be useful to throw a few notes on the blog here to give you some background. So, what's it all about? Well in a nutshell, don't worry, it's all a storm in a teacup and fairly easily worked around...but you do need to be aware of it. Now, the longer version! In May 2012, the UK finally implemented the EU directive on the use of cookies (and similar technology) on websites. It was a badly drafted, badly implemented law, so broadly framed that it made pretty much every website in the UK illegal overnight. The law basically said that if your website wanted to store any cookies on a users machine, then you had to ask for (and receive) their explicit permission first. On the face of it this sounds quite reasonable, after all, there's lots of nasty companies out there tracking our every move right? Well, no. There are probably some very egregious uses of cookies out there, but they're definitely the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately genuinely useful, and pretty much benign, cookies like those used by Google Analytics, social sharing buttons, Youtube videos and some content management systems are also covered by the same law. So we were left with the possibility that we'd either have to break the law, or ask every visitor a confusing question they'd probably say no to (it's easier than trying to understand what's being asked) and see the statistics for all our sites drop through the floor overnight. Making ROI considerably harder to divine! Fortunately when the law was first introduced, the iCO also gave it a 12 month deferral period to allow everyone to get ready, which expired in May 2012. They accompanied it with some really vague guidance that left everybody nonplussed...so most web developers did what they thought best...and ignored it in the hope it would go away. 12 months later, about 11 hours before the law was due to come into force the iCO introduced new guidance that watered down the requirements somewhat...so where does that leave us? Well, it all depends on your attitude to risk, with a potential of a £500k fine you should at the very least review all your websites and get a good handle on what cookies they're setting and how they're being used. Ideally the output of that exercise should then be used to redraft your Privacy Policy page to include information on how the cookies are used, and amend any links to it in your site header and footer to clearly state that it's about Cookies as well. Then, finally look at how you might work to either eradicate the cookies entirely, or implement some level of cookie compliance software to gain users consent. That way, if the iCO come knocking, you can evidence you're aware of the issue and have a plan and a thought process in place to deal with any enforcement notice they might issue. Phew...

What does life after the Olympics hold for us?

If you're anything like us, your life will have been entirely abducted by the fabulous London Olympics. I know not everyone views them through the same rose-tinted spectacles as us, but I've not heard a single compelling reason not to get carried away with the games. And as if GB's medal tally alone wasn't excuse enough to run the union flag up the pole, to know that so many of them have been won by Yorkshire athletes has just about sent us over the edge. We've been profoundly swept away in this tidal wave of national pride and celebration - of what it would be like to be British if we weren't so uptight, cynical and self-opposing. So once the Brazilians strip us of the games (see what I did there?) what will life be like? How will we move on? It'll surely be the worst "day after the night before" we've experienced ever. Not necessarily. We were in the grip of a similar bout of national euphoria when we were awarded the games on the 6th of July 2005 only to be confronted by the London bombings the very next day. 52 people had been killed. I was in London that day and can remember how it was to see a city come to terms with such mindless destruction. What I remember most though, is how quickly everyone picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and got straight back to doing whatever it was they do every other day of their lives. Since then, it has seemed as though we've carried on dealing with bad news, difficult situations and challenging times. We've pulled in our belts so many times we're running out of notches - but nonetheless we've carried on, it's the way we are built, we're good at making do. And amongst all that doom and gloom, all that bad news, underhand dealings and pessimism, there's been a group of people, who have given everything they have to perform at their very best when their moment arrived. They're efforts have inspired us all. The world has watched as athletes from all over the globe have brought the Olympic values of respect, friendship and excellence to life, right there in our living rooms and across our capital city. I hope we continue to celebrate all that they have achieved. To remember how hard they worked. And to imagine how it must have felt to win. If we let them, if we push aside our cynicism and self opposition for long enough, we will allow them and their achievements to inspire us all to know that anything is possible.

Recruitment. Is it a cost or an investment?

Perhaps we should ask G4S who are probably wondering whether they'll pay the ultimate price for getting things so wrong on the Olympic security contract. Depending on which report you read, they're gonna be in for between £30 and £50 million by the time they've covered their costs and compensated the government who will now have to draft in the military to keep the games safe. But it doesn't end there, G4S stock has plummeted since Friday and their brand (possibly even brand GB) has also taken a severe battering. With such challenges to overcome, it might be time for them to dust off operation "Prisoners on the loose" which saw them change their name from Group4 after they rose to notoriety in the mid 90's after a series of security blunders, some of which resulted in prisoners escaping whilst in their custody. How easily they appear to have shaken off a reputation for incompetence and win yet another high profile contract to balls up! What we don't know is on what basis they won the contract in the first place, perhaps they were doomed to fail from the beginning. I say that as someone who spent ten long years of my life navigating my way through extensive, unwieldy government procurement processes. More often then not suppliers are kept at arms length throughout the tendering process, so G4S were probably bidding blind, based on best guesses and estimates, rather then real consultancy and sound data. Submissions will have been scored against criteria which won't have made much sense, and was most probably heavily weighted around the cheapest deal. But surely recruitment ought to be different? It's not like buying commodities or stock. It really is an investment, it's an investment from both sides and needs to be taken seriously. I've lost count of all the "back to the floor" type programmes I've watched over the years which almost always conclude with a moment of epiphany from the top brass..."we have some amazing people breaking their balls for us in this company, but we treat them like crap and ask them to make do with resources that aren't up to the job. If we treat them better, provide them with the right tools, listen to and respect them, our customers will be the ones to benefit - and we can sit back and watch the profits rise" Good recruitment doesn't start and end with filling a vacancy. Good recruitment is about creating a great place to work. A place where employees are valued and supported to be their best. A client of ours summed this up nicely the other day when they told me their business isn't just about profit, it's about doing the right thing. And sometimes doing the right thing is about making investments whose returns can't be measured on the balance sheet. Your brand and reputation is what's really at stake when you decide to recruit, who could possibly argue that this is something not worth an investment. The trick is to select the right partners to work with, to come to a shared view on what will make the campaign successful, how success will be measured and a robust project plan to ensure everything can be delivered on time. To succeed is to realise the investment. To fail is to be left to count the cost.  

Test 2

The Chat w/c 25th June

Well, first week back after a fortnight travelling around Italy and Sicily, so I arrived on Monday morning with what was left of my tan after the onslaught of the British weather, and a spring in my step. Can't believe Lisa and Jon let me have two whole weeks off, and despite obviously being really busy, they'd managed to keep everything on track, which means one of two things, they're either pretty darn efficient, or I'm pretty darn superfluous!  We're as busy as ever but my priority this week has been the final push on a careers site we've been developing for a new client based in Dublin. Time's been tight, in fact we've managed to squeeze a twelve week build into a little over seven. And it's been a real team effort, with the client working just as hard as us to keep things moving on at pace. It's also put our business model to the test, and I'm pleased to say our fabulous Flock have had their nose to the grindstone and come up with the goods yet again - we owe lots of people lots of beer! Today I've been busy organising our award entries for the RBA's. It's been a bit of a milestone moment when I remember back to last year and the only eligible work we had to enter was the Chatter website. This year we have six separate entries across five categories including work for Skype, Global, Northgate, The Hyde Group and Arqiva. I promise to make a concerted effort to write some of them up as case studies so you can see for yourself some of the fab work we're producing for our equally fab clients. We're also gearing up for two competitive pitches which we're really looking forward to. We took part in a couple not long after we launched, more for experience rather then with a sense we really stood a chance. This time it's different, we've seen that our business really works. We have a great story to tell, lots of great work to show and support from our existing clients. It's gonna be tough but we really want these two so we're fighting to the end to win them... Rocky - The Eye of the Tiger

I had a ball at the Global Summertime Ball!

We’ve got some lovely clients. We really have, and they’ve supported us in all sorts of ways since we launched the business. But the highlight so far has to be the invite we received from Annabel from Global to the Summertime Ball at Wembley at the weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but felt the need to brag to my 18 year niece who loves Example and Ed Sheeran, both of whom played a set. I haven’t actually told her that I was too busy drinking Pimms to watch Example (aka Elliot) but I’m already in her bad books, so might not dwell on that! I was told we had VIP passes, but if I’m honest I thought that we’d just get nicer seats and possibly a buffet. But the guys at Global really know how to put on a show. We were greeted in the VIP area with a glass of Pimms (don’t mind if I do) market stalls with BBQ’d kebabs, seafood, burgers, chicken and anything else you could possibly throw on a BBQ.  There was also a pizza stall, a salad stall, a strawberry stall and a big section in the middle with scones and cream cake. Not great if you’re trying to shed a few pounds for the holidays. While we were trying to find our bearings and figure out which acts we really wanted to watch and the ones we weren’t that keen on, our glasses were constantly topped up with pimms. There was also another room, with another bar as well as ‘pick’n’mix’ and candyfloss machine. The show opened with Coldplay who were great, and then a constant flow of acts from Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Example, Pitbull, UsherThe Wanted, Jessie J and Ed Sheeran. There were also some nice surprises with Cover Drive and Lawson, Dizzy Rascal and Cheryl (who apparently has dropped the Cole). Well he’s a cheating bugger and I’d have got shot of the name a long time ago! Oh and the boys from Rizzle Kicks made a guest appearance with Jessie J. While we were rocking out (well swaying lightly is a better description) there were ushers constantly supplying us with Chinese food, mini fish and chips, beer and ice cream. I actually started the day by star spotting, after seeing Neville from Harry Potter on the train down from Leeds, so made a point of trying to get to double figures by the end of the day. Here’s who I managed to see. I didn’t get back 9, but thought I’d done alright. See if you can figure out who they are... [gallery link="file"]   For those Beliebers out there, we left before he came on stage, although we heard all the crazy 9 – 12 year olds screaming their heads off. Also missed Katy Perry, who accordingly to the 9 year old girl (Jessica) I met on the train back up North on Sunday morning was ‘so cool’ but she was disappointed that fireworks didn’t appear when she sang firework! A note to the artist team for next years show. Had a thoroughly enjoyable day, felt about 50, but drunk my bodyweight in Pimms and had a good old laugh with Annabel. Hope we do enough great stuff over the next 12 months to get another invite. Maybe I’ll have to pass my invite over to one of the boys. I hear Paul is a Belieber. Thanks to all the guys and gals at Global for being such great hosts.    

The Chat w/c 16th April

This week has been one of those non stop ones, with loads going on. You don't really stop for a minute, but at the same time don't feel like you're getting a lot done either. Lot's of tedious admin type tasks like doing our first year end for PAYE and National Insurance. (Rock n roll!) Recently i've been doing some research into video interviewing solutions for a client. The last time I looked into this there were very few solutions available, and those they were were pretty shabby...to the point that we'd even begun to kick around the idea of building our own. In the intervening time however, things have improved and suddenly there are several people tackling the problem. As you might expect it seems mainly suited to companies with large volume recruitment needs, where the first sift needs to be as automated as possible, while at the same time hopefully not depersonalising the candidate experience too much. On Monday, I had a demo from Sonru, who seem to have a pretty neat solution and we're talking with a client about possibly implementing it...so watch this space for more detail as and when something gets launched. Tuesday was a big day for us, with our clients from Northgate in for the first look at their new careers site, which is reaching the end of the development phase and almost ready for launch. It seemed to go down well and it was great to get their feedback to work in before we go live. The rest of the week went by in a bit of a blur of UA testing and amends, all logged in our trusty Pivotal Tracker account and initial discussions and briefings for a couple of new client prospects that are looking very promising. We did find a little bit of time-out on Thursday though, a few months back for a laugh, we all bought a Groupon voucher for a 1 hour Golf lesson at Calverley Golf Club. So joined by old friend of Chatter Ian Morgan...we trooped down there for what turned out to be a very enjoyable hour of terrible golf and even worse innuendo!

The Chat w/c 26th March - Birthday week

Genuinely can’t believe it’s been a year since we launched Chatter. This time last year we donned our gladrags and celebrated our launch with friends, family and prospective clients, with far too much music, alcohol and nibbles (well you can’t afford a full buffet when you’re a start up). And hasn’t time flown. We’d already planned for a big slap up meal to celebrate, but didn’t get carried too carried away at the start of ‘birthday week’ with 3 major projects underway and trips to Telford and London. Not to mention VAT return, year-end reporting and a visit from the ‘happy’ bank manager. Our thoughts are focused on the new financial year and the upcoming work in the pipeline, but we still managed to squeeze in a little time to produce an end of year video, print and send out some Chatter mugs and crack open a bottle of bubbly at San Carlos after a long old week. Thanks to everyone for their support in the last 12 months, roll on the next.

The Chat - w/e 25th March

After our eerily quiet January and February, March has continued as a frenetic pace! And it's really strange to think we're into the last couple of weeks of our first year in business. The week started with just Paul and I in the office, Lisa had the day off, having been to see The Civil Wars play live on Sunday night. We've been working on a campaign for Skype, which goes live next week. It's a small(ish) project but will include press, online, outdoor and a microsite so there's plenty of little details to get ironed out. It's also going to be an interesting experiment for me, as all the offline elements include a QR code. I've been sceptical for a long while about whether anyone actually scans them in practice, so we've tagged and tracked all of them separately...we'll let you know the results! On Tuesday we had a planning call with a clients development team to talk through how we'll be integrating the design and branding work we're doing for their careers site with their existing Applicant Tracking System and recruitment database. We've also been working on some refreshed designs for the HR section of  a client's intranet which are shaping up really well. Helping to create a coherent brand for HR across their business. On wednesday Lisa and Sally went down to Slough for dinner and a catch up with long-time friend of Chatter, Ian Ruddy and then experienced the pubs of Windsor after, propping up the bar with Her Maj no doubt...Lisa also gained a valuable insight into the graduate recruitment process at Akzo Nobel, by earwigging on their briefing in the hotel bar. Apparently, they do it quite well! On Thursday and Friday, Paul and I (still holding the fort) ended up busy all day working on a pair of careers site projects and various other things that crossed our desks...and completely failed to make it to the Yorkshire Mafia conference at the Royal Armouries...ah well, maybe next year. (We said that last year, oops!) And finally (as i'm writing these notes a little late), on Saturday I went to the official opening of the Bradford pond (or City Park as it's more properly known.) It was a really pleasant afternoon and evening, with plenty of entertainment laid on and a really great atmosphere and community spirit. Even the protest against the proposed demolition of the old Bradford Odeon went off peacefully and was really friendly.  

The Chat w/c 5th March

It's a tale of work, more work and oh a bit more work this week at Chatter. Those of you who know Lisa (and what it's like to work with her) will appreciate how hyperactive she gets when there's tonnes of stuff to get through. She's been bouncing around the place like a kid holding an empty bottle of Sunny D all week. The Flock are being put through their paces too and keep coming up trumps, so all in all there's been a real buzz about the place. I kicked off the week with a meeting with our friends at ResourceBank. We're busy supporting them with some of their client projects and we're also about to redesign their own corporate site. Meanwhile, Jon was planning for his appearance as keynote speaker at the Northern Housing Consortium Social Media conference which took place in the uber-cool surroundings of Manchester's Chill Factore. It was a great opportunity to talk to a bunch of people who focus on building organisational reputation, and get them thinking about how their employee experience can impact both positively and negatively on their social brand. Jon D was obviously his usual charming self judging from the fan fest that ensued across twitter. Read more about the social media conference in his blog. Lisa's busy delivering a number of key projects including the next phase of brand roll out for the Hyde Group. They've asked us to help improve the information architecture of their intranet, and ensure the identity we've created across their new careers and onboarding site is consistently rolled across that too. She's also working with a new client, an exciting communications business on a recruitment brief structured around an event; so it's a real mixed bag in terms of the media inventory, including some really smart digital collateral and outdoor media too. There's one or two other things on the boil but you'll have to wait a week or two before we can tell you more about them. And, as we get towards the end of our very first year, we've started to reflect on how far we've come. "This time last year" has been my favourite way to start sentences this week! It's crazy to think how much we've done and how many lovely new clients we get to spend our days with. We're planning some tweaks to the website in celebration of our first birthday and are getting stuck into case study writing so we can share more of our work - keep your eyes peeled! That's all for now!

Social Housing and Social Media hit the slopes

Appropriately for a social media conference, our invite to this one came via Twitter. One of our followers put us in touch with the organisers and suggested we might be interested in speaking (thanks @robmwright) So, yesterday morning saw me driving across the pennines to one of the more unusual conference venues, the Chill Factore at Trafford Park near Manchester. A range of delegates from social housing organisations across the midlands and the North came together to share their experiences with using social media to engage with their residents, suppliers and stakeholders and get some great ideas for how to take things forward. There was a great range of experience in the room, from those taking their first tentative steps in a brave new world, to those who were relatively old hands. The conference opened with a video message from housing minister Grant Shapps MP, who's pledged to answer questions tweeted to him during the day as follow up. My presentation was during the middle of the morning, and I was initially a little nervous as I was taking a slightly different tack and looking at using social for employee engagement. The idea being that engaged employees become advocates for your brand and can then help with your social efforts. I also took a more in depth look at LinkedIn and Google+ company profiles. It was pretty clear from a show of hands that many of the organisations present had either set up and then neglected their presences there or not looked at them at all. One delegate even grabbed an iPad while I was speaking and starting registering there and then. The session seemed to go down well, with some great reactions and follow up on Twitter: @nickatkin_hht: @welovechatter really enjoyed your session ad will be working through slidepack when available on@NHConsortium website tomorrow #NHCsocmed   @Jamoo1987: Emotionally engage people in recruitment says@welovechatter #nhcsocmed clever yet simple stuff.. @knowsleyhousing: Learning a lot about Google+ from @welovechatter #NHCsocmed #googletotakeontheworld @jenbostevo: I deleted my LinkedIn account last year as I didn't rate it, looks like @welovechatter have convinced me to resurrect it #NHCsocmed The rest of the day was really interesting too, a great session from @lizcable on listening online (and great to finally meet her in person having followed her on twitter for years), interesting to hear Nick the Chief Exec of Halton Housing Trust committing that they'll have eradicated company email by 2014 and a great fun joint presentation rounding off the day from Bromford housing who've partnered with local youth radio station KIC to better understand their younger market and pick up tips on how to engage using social...an unorthodox but clearly really successful approach. Here are the slides:

I'm just now waiting with bated breath for the speaker feedback sheets to come in...fingers crossed I acquitted myself well!    

The Chat w/c 27th Feb

The weather well and truly turned this week. From wintery mornings and icicles to sunshine and daffodils. Spring is on its way and we’re just a month away from our Chatter 1st birthday. Time flies and all that. After trekking around the country last week, it was good to be back in Yorkshire, and much needed given the number of projects we’re involved in at the moment. Some really diverse stuff too; career site builds, the development of an app for internal client use, L&D brand development, technology based recruitment campaign and even a couple of full colour press ads! The boys started the week running a training session in the Midlands, focused on helping one of our clients get to grips with how to use technology and social media alongside their direct hiring plans, and I took the opportunity to shy away from Monday rush hour traffic and work from home. Some of our Flockers were back from a well earned ski break and spent a few hours with us on this week going through a number of build and development jobs we’re working on with them. Great to sit down face-to-face and review objectives and think about creative solutions to meet them. Five heads are definitely better than one. Jon was knee deep in CMS training on Wednesday using a free online webinar tool http://www.anymeeting.com/ , and then up at the crack of dawn on Thursday for a trip up to Edinburgh, working with one of our old friends Ian Morgan at Hermes on an interesting web project for Edinburgh University. We’re all busy ‘doing the do’ at the moment, so we don’t have that much time to take breather and take stock, but Dom and Stu invited us out for a Christmas curry on Thursday. It took us over 2 months to get together, but when we eventually did, a good night was had by all. The beer didn’t flow as much as usual, but what do you expect on a school night. The week ended with a few coughs and splutters as I started with my annual cold, but I laboured it as much as possible throughout the day, to eek out as much sympathy as possible. Didn't work. Hope it clears for next week ;-(

The Chat - w/c 20th Feb 2012

A fairly quite start to the year seems to be coming to an end this week, we've had plenty of projects in the pipeline for a while and now some of them are starting to come to life following the post Christmas lull. The week started with a personal milestone, my 34th birthday *gulp* not quite as scary as 30 was...and another 6 years before I reach the really scary big four-oh. I kicked off the week with a client call to talk the spec for a careers site we'll be working over the next few weeks. It's for one of those major national brands you didn't know you knew. Say the name and people look slightly baffled, explain what they do and they suddenly realise they've seen the brand everywhere! I also spent some time on a demo call with a software supplier looking at their Onboarding software solution, we recently launched an onboarding site for the Hyde Group which has gone down really well so now i'm looking at technology solutions for any clients who want to heavily automate the form-filling and process side of onboarding, without losing the high touch, brand led emotional engagement that makes onboarding really valuable. On Wednesday we met up with a new potential member of the flock, and the evening saw me off to the latest Bettakultcha event. If you're anywhere near Leeds then it's worth getting along to one, it's an experience that has to be seen to be believed. And coincidentally I bumped into an old client at the next table, great to catch up! Since we launched Chatter we've been using Cotweet to manage our Twitter feed, it allowed us to team tweet, assign replies and tasks and avoid accidentally tweeting personal stuff to our company feed. But, all good things come to an end. Following their accquisition by ExactTarget they've wound down the product and replaced it with something they refuse to give a price for unless you call them...so we've been looking at alternatives, current favourite is Sproutsocial. So another busy week and set to get busier...!

The Chat - w/c 13th Feb 2012

Can't believe it's the middle of February already, that's just crazy. It's either down to the supermarkets stocking their Easter promotions on New Year's Day, or being so ruddy busy that's to blame for the year spinning by so quickly. This week's been a good one, it started as per usual with the weekly kick off meeting, a chance to chat through the various projects, proposals and opportunities we've got on the cards over the coming week, and mop up on anything we didn't get around to the week before. Monday was also the day we'd pencilled in to say "Bon Voyage" to one of our old colleagues Ellen Scales - she left Blighty on Thursday bound for a new life Down Under. Over lunch there was frivolous talk of establishing a Chatter Sydney office, but the others went cold on the concept when I described what a typical day at work might include were I to set things up, not sure what their problem was, I reckon if there's so much beach and sunshine to be had, it's a shame to miss it by sitting in an office all day! Tuesday saw Jon and I hightailing it up the A1 to kick off a web build project with a new client. They're going from a standing start, just a static page of careers content on their corporate site at the moment, and having recently launched a new national brand, there's a fair bit of recruitment on the horizon, so we're looking at building something really appealing, a couple of bells and whistles here and there, along with plenty of SEO and a solid digital attraction plan. Should be good. And whilst we were out, Pearson managed to bag herself a meeting with a majorly iconic TV brand - thanks to a little help from one of our friends at Global who had been singing our praises! Wednesday was mammouth, three meetings pretty much back to back in Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities in the entire world. All new business prospects, but all of them old friends too, so a good mix of catching up and open discussions about how we might work together in the future. We managed to fit in lunch at Sygn, arguably the best R&B toting eatery in the city, which gave Lisa the chance to practice her smoking by the bins look. It was a long old day and by the time we were nearing Leeds on the train in the dead of night, we were jaded. The excitement of winning the Hangman tournament was the final nail in the coffin! I wasn't quite so fed up as I looked though..    Thursday was spent back at our desks, catching up and following up for me and Jon, whilst Lisa had cunningly organised to be on holiday, so managed to bag herself a lie in. And we've seen hide nor hair of Ms Moore who's busy setting up an exciting new furniture restoration business, though we're looking forward to welcoming her back once we get the green light on one or two major projects in the pipeline. Friday was Mother Ainley's birthday so after a morning's hard graft, I got to spend lunchtime with my nearest and dearest at the local pub for a slap up lunch. Perfect end to the week!     

The Chat w/c 6th February

An absolutely bitter start to the week which saw me hotfooting it down to London to run a series of workshops with a client to review the way in which they provide HR information to their employees. Luckily the snow that fell over the weekend, didn't disrupt anything. There was still snow on the group when I landed at Borough which you don't often see. The groups were really well attended, the people were well engaged and helped to deliver some great insight into the good, the bad and the ugly (or less pretty in their case).

Back at my desk on Tuesday for a series of conference calls with two new potential clients. A traditional recruitment brief with a twist to recruit some seriously specialised boys and gals in London, and another to help a well known financial institution present their new HR operating model to the wider business. Jon was invited to speak at the Hireserve User Group session on Wednesday, affectionately knows as HUG and braved the cold for a 6.15am train to Reading. We’d also spent some time crafting an introductory video to our services (I say we, but I mean Paul and Jon), which looked great and was well received on the day. There were a few positive tweets from the day too. So all good stuff. We’re working closely with Omni on a number of initiatives for the Hyde Group and the lovely people at Omni invited me and Simone (one of our Flock) out for a meal on Wednesday night at Rosso in Manchester. Beautiful setting, but I think we were all a bit disappointed with the food and the service. Still had a great night though, topped off by seeing the lovely (albeit incredibly young) Harry Styles. He was celebrating his 18th birthday. And yes we got a picture for one of our clients Emma. She said it was for her 10 year old daughter but I’m not so sure. Luckily my meeting in Altrincham the following day was pushed back to 10am, so it wasn’t too much of a struggle to get there in time. The latter part of the week was spent finalising a couple of proposals and also dragging Jon out to Holmfirth to sort out some of my personal IT issues. As I often say, everyone needs a ‘Jon’ in their life.

Congratulations! You got the job. That'll be £25.

Most of the work we do here at at Chatter concerns helping our clients provide a great candidate experience for everyone who applies for a job with them. Whether successful or unsuccessful, helping to build a positive, useful employer brand which will become an asset. We often then spend even more time ensuring that the promises that are made during the recruitment process are realistic and achievable, so that the lucky candidate offered the job hopefully finds that by the time they've completed the onboarding process they're emotionally engaged with the new employer, fired up and ready to hit the ground running on their first day, power through their first week and be completely settled in over the first few months.

All which underlines quite how surprised I was this saturday morning while listening to the dulcet tones of Paul Lewis on Radio 4's Moneybox (waiting for The News Quiz to start and eating a late breakfast). They were highlighting a practice several listeners have alerted them to, particularly in the aviation industry. It appears that Virgin Atlantic (and some of their competitors) make it standard practice that candidates offered a role are then approached by a 3rd party agency to do a criminal and employment background check, which doesn't proceed until the candidate pays £25! They've no doubt spent time attracting and recruiting these people, only to then make the candidate pay from their own pocket for the part of the process which has a tacit subtext of "we don't trust you", what a great way to make them feel engaged with their new employer! 

To their credit, some of the competitors did say that they refund the fee on the candidates first day, which is better than nothing I suppose. At this point you're probably that the aviation industry is a special case, after all we're all made to jump through hoops every time we get on a plane, so surely employee security checks are vital? Except that Virgin are levying this fee on staff who are destined never to leave the ground...they work in the call centre. Really not the kind of experience you'd expect from Mr Branson is it, a security check is just one of the costs of doing business. Offloading onto the candidate really doesn't reflect well on anybody.

The Chat w/c 23rd Jan

Jon here, my turn to write this weeks Chat and it's been a busy one as usual. In the past week and a bit I've written about 10,500 words of proposals for client web projects for which we've also done some really lovely creative (as always, thanks to the Flock). Lisa has been down to London and Slough at a series of meetings with friends new and old, which all went really well. Paul's also been well travelled, before he was struck down with gastric flu on Wednesday.

He's spent the rest of the week feeling terrible, it might be the flu, or it might be the diet of daytime television he's been subjected to. Lisa and I have begun the very early stages of scoping around an intranet project, and i'm preparing to speak at the forthcoming Hireserve User Group meeting down in Reading. We'll be telling them all about the work we did with Global Radio to ensure that their tone of voice and obsession with a great candidate experience was woven into the whole candidate journey.

Today, I've been putting the finishing touches to our email newsletter, so sign up now if you haven't already and expect to see if hit your inboxes soon and laying the groundwork for some video content we'll be releasing over the next few months so keep an eye out for that. And finally, I rounded off the week with my first FaceTime video call. We've used Skype to videoconference a lot since we started Chatter, but this was the first time using Apple's Facetime software and it worked really nicely. The call was a preparatory session for a social media event we're speaking at for the Northern Housing Consortium in March which we're really looking forward to. Have a good weekend everyone...!

Moving on up or keeping you down: Social mobility & recruitment dodgy dealing in the news.

I saw an interesting convergence of news stories from both the UK and across the pond this week, both of which had a recruitment spin to them... About a fortnight ago, here in the UK, our Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the government's "Business Compact" on social mobility. There's a range of provisions involved in the scheme, a lot of them aimed at reducing the impact of a "jobs for the boys" and "who you know, not what you know" culture in UK recruitment. There's material to help teachers and communities to raise aspirations in schools. Amusingly for those who've followed the stories about Nick Clegg's own rise to power there's guidelines on broadening opportunities for young people to gain work experience without needing to know someone "on the inside" and some provision to ensure that internships are open and transparent and paid at least minimum wage or expenses. So far so good, and over 100 companies have already signed up to be part of it, including big names like HSBC, Tesco, Asda, Coca Cola and BP. But it was the final provision mentioned in the press release that really jumped out at me: "recruit fairly and without discrimination, using application forms that don’t allow candidates to be screened out because they went to the wrong school or come from a different ethnic group (including through using name-blank and school-blank applications where appropriate)."

It's a great idea, and when you start to unpick it, any initial objections around needing to identify candidates are easily debunked. But from a technological point of view (given that most applications processes these days are done online and/or managed electronically) it becomes a little trickier. Should we actually not ask for name and school/university details at all on the application? Or do we ask for them, but assure the candidate they'll be hidden from the hiring manager during the early stages of selection (in much the same way as Equal Opportunities info is kept separate). At some point the hiring manager is going to need to know the information, you can't very well invite and greet "candidate 123456" at an interview without seeming a little odd. And given the great drive there is among most organisations we work with to build their employer brand, improve the candidate experience and offer a more personal service it's hard to see exactly how to do this anonymously.

A lot of recruiters are moving to a more CRM (Candidate Relationship Management) led approach, but it's much harder to build a connection (or source from social networks like LinkedIn) when you're actively trying to avoid indirect discrimination. I'm sure the more enlightened ATS providers will figure out some kind of workaround in short order (although in the past I've found making even the smallest changes in some systems fraught or nigh on impossible!) and one vendor I've spoken to tells me it should be an easy fix, for them at least. But is all this a storm in a teacup? And do organisations really need (and need to be seen to) to work on avoiding this kind of name/age/background based discrimination by their hiring managers.... Well, that leads us neatly across the Atlantic to the other story that caught my eye. A story which suggests that even the kind of big names you'd expect to be whiter than white in their recruiting and hiring practices may not be quite as straightforward as you'd think... This coming week, a class action lawsuit will be heard in San Jose, which makes some pretty damning allegations and to which some pretty interesting evidence has been submitted (and subsequently released for public scrutiny). In a nutshell, it's alleged that Google, Apple, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Intel, and Intuit conspired to keep labour costs low, prevent employee mobility between companies and limit the potential of employees to negotiate higher salaries.

The following allegations have been made: - That the companies actively agreed not to poach employees from each other. - Agreed not to enter bidding wars for talent with each other and most gob-smacking of all: - They agreed not to simply ignore applications from candidates employed at each others businesses and not offer them roles AND notify their current employer that they were trying to switch jobs! One piece of evidence alleges that knowledge of these arrangements went right to the top, including Steve Jobs himself. If the class action is successful then damages could be paid to any salaried employee of any of the companies throughout a four year period. We'll definitely be keeping an eye on this one...!

The Chat w/c 16th January

Back with a couple of weeks under my belt from a THREE WEEK break (as I keep being reminded). It’s been a heady combination of remembering how to type and getting myself dressed by a decent hour...Sorry, but Christmas in Dubai was awesome.  Not exactly a white Christmas...unless you count the ice in my G&T...but you can’t beat a bit of sun on your back in wintertime... So, back to earth and back at it with a meeting to present a Rewards proposal for a client aimed at bringing together their entire Rewards proposition - with a sensible phased approach.  It was also great to have some corporate objectives to underpin our work and give us something concrete to measure. We’ve done the preparatory branding work so this will be really satisfying to bring it all together.

Lisa and Paul have been on planes trains and automobiles (well trains anyway) to far flung places like Edinburgh and Slough meeting old friends and new.  In among their meetings they found time to check out the local hostelries and recommended Sygn in Edinburgh to anyone venturing  north of the border anytime soon... Big congratulations are due to our friends at Penna for scoping the honours at the RADS on Thursday. It seemed like it was quite a night (well judging by the size of hangover reports on Friday anyway) and some well deserved letting down of hair for some hard work in a tough climate. 2012 for Chatter? Let’s see. The week rounded off nicely with a new contact popping in for a chat - a good exchange of views and updates all round - exactly the kinds of discussions we like to have.  And picking up with some old friends to add to our growing flock - good job cos we’re busying ourselves and ready for some action to start the new year!

The Chat - w/c 9th Jan

This week kicked off with an early morning train to London for Lisa and I. We were meeting a client for lunch at the rather trendy Hix Oyster & Chop House near Smithfield Market, one of a few such meetings we weren't able to fit in before Christmas which is playing havoc with the healthy eating regime! Whilst this year has started off more gently then last year ended, things are already picking up, including a press ad in the Daily Telegraph, which is always jolly in a world where print advertising is no longer considered to be de rigueur.   On Tuesday the whole team (minus Sal) were across at the Marriott near Worsley to host a workshop session with a new client who we're going to be working with to develop their internal and external websites, before helping them to build and promote their brand more widely.

They're a great bunch of people and like so many of the organisations we work with, do some really great stuff for their clients. So armed with three or four proposals to write, we headed back to the office to get the ball rolling. Sal's back from holiday so by Thursday we were a full compliment again. Sounds like Christmas and New Year in Dubai is quite the ticket; and the tan is enough to make you sick. Looking ahead, it's already  looking like things are going to be pretty busy with a mixture of existing clients and some brand spanking new ones too. And with talk of an Chatter 80's night out soon, all is well with the world!        

The Chat w/c 2nd Jan 2012

It was a crazy rush to the Christmas finishing line this year. Best laid plans and all that. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this utopian view that there would be a nice wind down to Christmas, an opportunity to Christmas shop, wrap all the pressies up in time, play Santa with the extended family as well as eat, drink and be merry, but with two new onboarding portals about to be launched for Hyde Housing, a large digital attraction plan for a global business and a microsite for a well known yoghurt brand it was all a bit manic before the break. We did find time to get down and jiggy at the Write Research Company christmas bash and I sampled by first ever Jager bomb! [caption id="attachment_740" align="alignnone" width="300" caption=""think I'm a bit old for these""][/caption] We were spread far and wide this Xmas. Jon flew out to Reykjavik on the 23rd for Christmas, and had a fab time. You can check out his report on Trip Advisor. Sally opted for Dubai from the 21st for a family Xmas with her sis who’s recently upped sticks to move with her hubby who’s a Sky News Correspondent. Paul a I stayed close to home (not each others, I hasten to add), but before we’d clocked off for Chrimbo, we managed to grab a bite to eat at Gaucho’s in Leeds and met up with a few ‘flockers’ at Oporto’s. If you like steak and haven’t been to Gaucho’s give it a go. The cocktails and the wine menu was great, but the Tira De Ancho a spiral cut slow grilled piece of Rump with chimichurri was amazing. It’s now 2012 and it’s been a nice introduction back into work this week.

There’s lots going on, but it hasn’t started as crazy as it ended, which has helped us all clear the decks, finish off proposals and prepare for the next few weeks. I even found a little time to change my ringtone, which has been bugging the boys for the last 10 months. It’s not a cheery tune though. Joy Division ‘love will tear us apart’. Classic. We’re all on a health kick too, which means the left over chocs in the office are still in place, and the gym memberships are getting some use at last. With trips to London, York and Edinburgh in the next week or so, we’re hoping 2012 will be a good year for Chatter, and in a few more months we can mark our 1st Birthday. Not bad for a business which set up in a recession, with no money and no clients, just an idea. Happy New Year everyone. Let's hope it's a good one.

A very merry Chat - w/c 19th December 2011

Twas the last day of work and throughout HQ We're reet looking forward to a festive drink or two We've worked hard all year, had lots of success Launched seven new web sites and mastered wordpress.   Now it's Christmas time, we must stop and think To remember how it all started. To raise a glass - chink! To thank our lovely clients, to thank our amazing flock Let's hope it all continues. We never want it to stop.   So merry Christmas everybody. Have a happy new year. Drink and make merry, be full of good cheer.   See the making of our Christmas card                

The Chat - w/c 5th December

This week started with a focus on clearing the decks ahead of our trip to Amsterdam at the end of the week. So once we'd completed the first round of research we're undertaking to inform a rewards programme for one client, and met with another to discuss an exciting recruitment project for a brand new division launching early next year, we made ready for our jaunt to the Netherlands. The day started very early on Thursday morning as the taxi arrived to take us to Leeds And Bradford International Airport (as a former client we often sniggered when they were referred to by their unfortunate acronym). And once we'd been frisked, x-rayed and patted down, we headed straight to the bar for a pint. Yes it was still well short of 7am - but someone has to uphold the stereotypes. Typically the Jet2 flight was crowded with groups of festive fun seekers, and by the time we arrived at Schipol we'd finally started to wake up. A quick train ride from the airport and we emerged into the crisp fresh Amsterdam air.

As an Amsterdam virgin, the many and varied forms of traffic travelling simultaneously towards us from every direction took some getting used to. And once we dumped the bags, we headed out for some brekkie. We feasted on eggs and bacon with side orders of french toast and lashings of maple syrup; it set us up nicely for a day in the pub. Don't get me wrong, we made a valiant effort to do stuff, we even walked in the opposite direction to the pub at one point in search of an ice rink that was unfortunately closed, in the end we simply had to accept that Amsterdam on the second Thursday in December had little else to offer us but large cold beers in warm cozy bars. And sporting an array of Netherlandic-type tashes, we settled in for the long haul. With Lisa refusing to eat again until dinner, and Sally following suit, they were both slightly worse for wear by the time we made it back to the hotel for a quick change. Eventually, half an hour later than billed, we made it to the restaurant. In the spirit of social media, we'd relied on Tripadvisor to help us select the best eatery in town and Brasserie Vlaming had number two billing in the whole of Amsterdam. A great little place with plenty to choose from, and good service to boot. As the wine continued to flow it all got too much for Sal so she rounded the evening off with a little nap at the table - bless! The fact we all had differing agenda's for the next day clearly signalled that the rest of them had had enough of my itinerary, so we decided to spend our time pursuing our individual pleasures.

For Jon that meant a morning tucking into waffles and surfing the net in a coffee shop, Lisa and Sally were spotted worshipping at the altar of retail and I took a wander to the Anne Frank museum - being the son of a History and Geography teacher it just doesn't seem like a holiday unless I visit something of cultural note! It's a fab museum though. Authentically restored but left completely unfurnished, it's a really evocative place and well worth a visit . After a quick tour of the red light district (which just happened to be behind our hotel) it was time to say goodbye to Amsterdam and head back to sunny Yorkshire. We stopped briefly to buy tulips and a pair of Prada sunglasses at the airport - don't ask! A thoroughly enjoyable couple of days. More photo's available on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/welovechatter

The Chat - w/c 20th November

This week kicked off as busily as ever with Paul and Lisa working on a tender and new business proposals and on Monday a visit from our dealer. Dealer in confectionary that is, but the way we get through chocolate in this place is as if it's an addictive illicit substance. Talking through options for spreading a little Christmas cheer next month. On Wednesday Lisa and Paul went over to speak to a potential new client about the branding, comms and website. While I held the fort back at Chatter HQ, It's been a busy time back at the ranch, working on some social media guidelines, writing a technical user guide for some software and preparing for Thursdays big meeting down in that London.

The meeting was with our good friends at Global, as a wash up session following the launch of their new careers site. It's been a great project to work on, not without its challenges but great fun nonetheless. So having gathered feedback from the whole team, we jumped on the train at Leeds for the trip south, having managed to grab First Class tickets for only a few quid more than Standard Class. So we settled back to enjoy the free drinks, wifi and pie and chips for lunch. (Paul would like to point out that his was a diet pie and chips as he didn't eat the pastry)

The washup meeting itself was a really useful session and afterwards we talked through some possible future prospects on the newly refurbished roof terrace at Global in Leicester Square...a little chilly in the early evening air (guess who didn't bring a coat!) but who can argue with a view that's like a London landmarks picture postcard. So, back to Friday and the end of another week at Chatter, and just me in the office today holding the fort. Peace and quiet (apart from BBC 6Music in the background) as we work on our next two website launches. No rest for the wicked eh...

The Chat - w/c 14th November

I started Monday thinking about Friday and what to do in preparation for our kick off meeting with our most adventurous project yet. Going under the working title Project Anderton, it’s a nod to Minority Report and all those sexy touch screens they use...Spent a lot of Monday in prep mode and working out how to get the very best out of the few hours where we had all the right brains in the room to extract information and assemble it into the Information Architecture (our clever development partners will bring some order to this).

I made a note to self at our Monday “Weekly KOM” meeting that these get togethers are getting more and more packed - and it’s not small stuff either - some chunky research, strategic planning as well as full on delivery on the go - we really do help businesses make a difference through people. I took a bit of a break on Tuesday and found myself London bound for some R&R - mooching around Liberty (fave shop in London) then on to Anthropologie (fave shop in the US and now it’s over here : ) I had a great day - more than can be said for Lisa’s dog Yoshi. Poor thing found himself at the Vet for a bit of “life changing” surgery - no happy families for you Yoshi, I’m afraid....

A few quid lighter (and no doubt a few pounds heavier after my tea at Fortnum’s) I was back at it on Wednesday with more focus on Friday as well as looking forward to our evening activity...shooting the inaugural Chatter Christmas card! It was a thoroughly retro affair - although we were true professionals holding cold tea in whisky glasses and olive flavoured water in Martini glasses to keep us focused on Christmas sparkle (and not glassy eyed by the end of the night). We’ll let you in on the secret in December...but we think you’ll enjoy it. And not a Jimmy Savile wig in sight!

Thursday was a busy day at Chatter HQ. A revolving door of visitors and Flock members, spotting opportunities, EVP proposal discussions and generally there was a real buzz all day (couldn’t even hear the radio). We’re getting stuck in to some major proposals for SEO and Pay Per Click campaigns and are seeking out the best of the best to help us do it.

Friday came at last - kick off time. Didn’t start that well with a delayed Lisa - with a variation on the “Dog ate my homework” theme...More of a “Yoshi ate something that violently disagreed with his upset internal systems following his op” and deposited from his rear end at high velocity all over the wall and floor. Or maybe it was just his way of getting the humans back...

After about four hours of project Anderton kick off, we had what we needed and a rough plan to take us through the next week, so it’s all actions stations. I felt like I deserved the Kir Royale Paul bought at Epernay in Leeds before hitting the Beer Keller in Millennium Square and a now traditional Barkers reunion. After beer and sausage (does it get any better?) I’m pleased to report Lisa, Paul and Jon were living the Chatter values to the end - the last to leave - and making it home by a respectable 3.30am.

The Chat w/c 7th November

Started the week after a flurry of cleaning over the weekend, which after 3 months of builders, electricians and joiners trailing all sorts of crap into my house, was really therapeutic. I even found time to bake one of Jamie’s creations his St Clements cake and it was a triumph (even if I do say so myself) although I was slightly disappointed that the entire Chatter gang decided they were going to have a good week this week so I ended up sharing the wares with our neighbours at Jump.

Monday kicked off with our monthly partners meeting, and you often forget when you’re deep in client work and delivery, how important it is to take a deep breath and look at how far you’ve come and what the future holds for the business in the forthcoming months. Refreshingly we’re sticking to our values resolutely. Hardworking is a given for a new business, but we are being direct and honest with our clients and our flock, although due to the sheer amount of work we’ve been doing, we haven’t been as sociable as we would like. But with a Barkers reunion planned for next week and our Chatter trip to Amsterdam for our Xmas soiree, this is soon to be rectified.

We also took time out to attend the Cream Awards at Park Plaza. We didn’t enter anything, but wanted to chat to like-minded businesses and creatives to see what’s going on in Leeds in this space. Also good opportunity to chat to The Drum and explore some potential additions to The Flock. Also met some old friends from Home. It was an odd set up if we're honest for an awards and not sure it'll catch on but with the DADI's on Friday maybe this was the calm before the storm. One of our projects went live this week for Hyde Housing Association  hot on the heels of the brand development toolkit and tone of voice guidelines we’ve been working on with them. They’re a great bunch of people who are so very ‘Chatter’ in their working style. Also been great to work with Simone Burgon again, as she embarks on her own consultancy business. And with more projects in full swing including onboarding portals for employees and managers, long may it continue.

Myself and Paul also had one of the most challenging meetings of my life this week with a potential client. In a good way of course wink We survived and hopefully we’ll be able to blow their socks off with our thinking, but time will tell.

Next week promises to be good fun with a photoshoot planned for our Xmas Card. It's all secret squirrel at the moment, but Sal is working on wardrobe and props as we speak.

The Chat w/c 24th October

It's been a couple of weeks since we updated the Chat - oops! What with Pearson jetting off to sunnier climbs last week, there's been no-one around to nag us into writing it; and to be honest, lots of other things happening have kept us busy too! Earlier in the month Lisa and I did a mini tour of the Midlands and South. We caught up with old friends, met some new ones and came away with one or two projects to deliver and another one simmering away on the back burner. With a night to kill in London between meetings, we ate at Marco Pierre White's steak and ale house which was lovely.

Sally's been busy too, working with one of our newest clients, the Shepherd Group, developing a brand and identity to revitalise an employee initiative they're planning to re-launch early in the new year. I have to say the concepts were the bees knees - and Shepherd selected one of our favourites - happy days. Jon has an increasing number of digital builds to marshall, everything from careers sites, on-boarding portals and rewards sites, I even snuck in a cheeky campaign site, which despite being turned around in just over 24hrs, looked fab and is already getting great feedback from the client. We can't wait to formally launch our first big careers site, scheduled now for next week.

We're also edging closer to kicking off our Minority Report style installation for a major technology client. Having made it through the contract negotiations stage, we're about to get creative. Sally's at the helm and she's busy preparing for the pre-prod meeting scheduled for the week after next. It's a truly exciting and innovative project. We rounded off the week with lunch at Carluccio's to celebrate Lisa and Sally's birthdays. Whilst we never need much of an excuse for a slap-up lunch, it's been a while so we made the most of it!

New from LinkedIn: company status updates, great news for employers…

Over the past six months we've worked with several clients to help them put in place a social media strategy around the attraction and recruitment efforts. We've run training workshops, written social media guidelines and built out social channels for them to populate with content. During all these projects we've tended to focus on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as principal channels. But in terms of being able to produce employer branded content Facebook has always held the lead, with plenty of opportunities to produce content and custom branded tabs. You'd expect LinkedIn to be the no-brainer site to use, but until very recently the opportunities to build your employer brand have been few and far between. Yes, you can claim ownership of your company page, fill out some basic details, add some copy and even create a product showcase but it's been very difficult to start to build a community around your company page, or to start conversations with an interested community of candidates. (There's a paid for upgrade to the Company page which makes it a more compelling proposition, but to be honest, for most of our clients it's been somewhat priced out of their reach.) So, having said all that...what's changed? Well a few months ago, LinkedIn added the ability to "Follow" a company page. For a long time there's not been much to reward your followers, other than quicker access to your company page through a dropdown of their followed companies. But as of last week, company pages can now issue status updates. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMknZutnVWE&w=500] This means that if you have a following, you can now keep them up to date with your latest developments and seed messages into their news feeds (and potentially those of the rest of their network, through likes and comments) which greatly improves the potential reach of your company page and begins to move it away from being just another profile page, into a much more powerful social tool. It also makes it much more important for a trusted team within HR or Marketing to claim and lock down access to the page. By default, any employee can edit or post to a company page, but the status update feature isn't enabled until you lock down the page and designate specific users who are allowed to administrate it and speak with the voice of the company. It also makes me very pleased that the careers site we're about to release for one of our clients has the LinkedIn insider tool featured on its homepage. Initially we'd seen this as a great way for users to network and generate reverse referrals into the company from people they already knew working there. But the Insider widget also features a prominent Follow button, and our client already has a following of 1600 and growing. The addition of status updates means they've just gained a new audience, who can be reached in a professional and career focused environment...result! If you're interested in using LinkedIn to engage with your candidate audience, why not get in touch, we'd love to catch up...

The Chat - w/c 3rd October

Busy times here at Chatter and getting busier, with Paul and Lisa making an epic tour of the South next week. They've had their inoculations and got their visas. This week I've spent a good chunk of time debugging, browser testing and doing final checks on Project Atlas, the careers site we're hopeful will launch next week. Watch this space for news on that one. We're also talking to a client about their performance management and appraisal scheme, so Monday saw me jump onto a Skype call with the guys at Rypple to get a better handle on their offer.

On Tuesday we all stayed behind after work (not because we were in trouble) to take part in an SEO workshop and look at how we can more proactively build it into our future projects and work more closely with one of flock members who's a full time SEO guru. grin Meanwhile Lisa and Paul have been busily working with one of our clients to help them prepare their recruitment and engagement strategy to unveil at a meeting next week. Lisa and I have been planning and wire framing not one, not two, but three websites for our housing client which touch recruiting, onboarding and induction. And finally, I've spent some delightful hours checking over and submitting our second VAT return (didn't that come round quickly!) And now, it's beer o'clock...cheers!

The Chat w/c 26th Sept

We started the week with anticipation in the air. With a client's career site about to go live and the RBA awards around the corner, it was a manic week all round. Not least because I'd been trying outfits on over the weekend, to figure out whether the last few weeks at the gym had made any difference at all. The week started with a couple of flock meetings, discussions around social marketing and how Chatter might be able to support in this space, given our previous experience. We also prepped for a trip to London to help one of our clients think about their performance management process and how best to brand and communicate this for their internal population. The work and projects are coming in fast and furious which is just amazing and the client base is expanding with some great household names (more in the following weeks). We also have some good meetings in the diary for next week in Telford, London and Reading, so it's full on. The fact that Sally has agreed to continue to work with us into 2012 (and beyond we hope) helps us deliver some great thinking and solutions for our clients, with the strength in depth to make it work. On the home front, we've been extending the house. I think I have a touch of OCD, and can't get over the amount of dust which seems to be swirling around my house. Feel a bit guilty that I can't lend my husband a hand at the moment, but clients come first (that's what I tell him anyway). When Thursday came and the day of the RBA's I was glad to get out of the house/office, get glammed up and enjoy the evening, not before we met up with an old colleague and potential client though. Jon made a good call and booked us into a great apartment near Piccadilly, so we started the night a little early. It was a bit of a strange night though. I think we were all expecting a comedian to start the proceedings, but The Drum opted for a classical female singer, who to be fair was a great singer and brave to stand up on stage and do her stuff, but most people were looking around the room waiting for the punchline. Nevertheless, the event had a great turn out, and although we didn't officially pick up an award for item of best self promotion we did get a commendation. Not bad for a people comms business which set up in a recession 6 months ago. The highlight of the night however has to be the stint in Chinese Charlies Karaoke in Manchester until 4am. [gallery link="file"]   I was a little concerned that I'd be too hungover for the weekend because I've also been frantically planning a surprise Ruby Wedding party for my folks and the big event happened on Saturday 1st. They didn't have a clue, and the fact that my Uncle's band played made it even more special. Great end to a good week. Although it did remind me of my big 40th next year...eek.    

The Chat - w/c 19th Sept

Back to earth with a bump for me, after a week in Sitges with nothing to do but lie back and soak up the sun and recharge my batteries. We kicked the week off at the usual Chatter breakneck pace with our regular weekly meeting where Lisa and Paul filled me in on a weeks worth of gossip, news and new client wins (always nice to come back to!) The early part of the week saw me pretending to be a hacker in bad early 80's action movie, with multiple terminal windows open on my mac and glowing green code scrolling past as I typed various incantations. I'd like to say we were hacking the Pentagon, but I was actually just reconfiguring a web server for the careers site project that launches this week to make sure it meets our clients security requirements. But it was good to refresh my memory on configuring Apache and yes I'm aware how tragic the preceding paragraph sounds! grin On Tuesday, Lisa and Sally facilitated a session with a client looking at their employer brand and identity and how they might take it forward. Wednesday saw us kicking off the creative brief and wireframing process for another web project, this time for a large housing association, as well as a catch up with our SEO guru and Lisa out for dinner with an old friend of Chatter. Meanwhile Paul has been prepping for a great new business opportunity in conjunction with our friends at Write Research Company, and working really hard on insight and online presence audits for 2 other clients. And suddenly, it's Friday. Usually the week after a holiday is a bit manic, but i'm back on top of the mountain of emails, the Chatter finances are squared up and all the paperwork is done. I've even had a nice chat with the people at HMRC. (Not often those words are used in a sentence together!) and it feels like we're all ready for a much deserved Friday pint. Cheers!

Facebook Timeline: More big changes to your profile, coming next week.

UPDATE (19/12/11) - As you probably realised soon after we wrote this, Facebook then sat on the launch of Timeline while they ironed out a few bugs. It's available now for anyone to enable on their profile by going to: https://www.facebook.com/about/timeline A few weeks back when the Google+ field trial launched, we speculated that Facebook might have some catching up to do. And now in the week that Google+ finally became available to all comers, Facebook has launched a string of new features. The first few sparking a storm of complaint and controversy and culminating in a whole new look for the Facebook Profile called Timeline. The new Timeline profile view, with a large cover image. The small changes that have been made in the past couple of weeks included the ability to subscribe to a users updates without actually connecting them with as a friend, better per post privacy (just like Google+) and more visibly a new mini stream of latest updates in the top right corner of the chat sidebar. Typically users of social networks tend to be resistant to change, they know what they like and can often take a while to see the value of new features. And news feeds have been abuzz with users expressing how much they hate the new status feed and that it just duplicates their existing news feed. However, it starts to make a lot more sense in the light of the new Timeline view, which makes the news feed a lot less prominent in the profile, making the sidebar updates suddenly a lot more useful. As I write the Timeline view is only available to Facebook Developers, but will begin roll out to everyone next Friday (expect a wave of status updates from happy and less happy friends at that point!)

So what's this Timeline view all about then?

Facebook seem to be trying to move users toward seeing their profile less as a news feed of the here and now, and more as a scrapbook. One central place to store memories, photos and stories. They're even encouraging users to start filling that timeline out from before Facebook even existed...even as far back as the users birth! (So those cutesy profiles friends setup for their newborns suddenly make a lot more sense too.) The new features that make up the timeline are the Cover, Profile Apps, Life Events and Widescreen. Let's take a look at each in turn...

The Cover

Probably the most obvious change when you first convert to the Timeline view is the very large cover image that appears at the top of your profile. You can use any existing image Facebook has of you, or upload a new one, and there are some basic tools for aligning the image to take a landscape slice out to fit the space available. Over the next few weeks we're likely to see some really creative uses of this space, in the same way that users took to the 5 picture gallery on the old profile to build creative mosaics.

Life Events

The update also sees a new kind of status update, which seems specifically designed to encourage users to treat their profile more like a personal living history or lifestream (to use a horrible buzzword). Life Events create an enormous box in your timeline as you might expect for something that represents a significant milestone. Life event categories include Work (Graduation, Jobs, Military Service), Family (Engagements, Marriage, Childbirth, Pets, Bereavement!), Living (Moving house, buying a house, roommates, cars), Health (Breaking a bone! Surgery, Getting well from an illness) and finally Milestones (Learning a language, Getting a licence, Travel and Awards).

Widescreen View

By default the timeline runs down the middle of your profile, with status update and other speech bubbles sprouting off it to the left and right. However, each panel when hovered over has a star button, which when clicked makes that update a featured one. This puts it into widescreen view, taking up the full width of the profile. A great way to pull out the big events and make them more obvious.

Profile Apps

Where things get really interesting though (at least for a geek like me) is the new class of Facebook Apps that are part of the timeline profile format. As always your Friends, Photos, Videos and so on are mini apps. They're joined by a new Map app, which shows all of your location checkins and a whole raft of third-party apps which hook into the Facebook Open Graph to show actions you've taken elsewhere in the context of your timeline. For example the Spotify app shows the music you're listening to, in a timeline bubble, so that friends can listen along. A Nike+ app can show when you've completed a run, a Cookery app might share a recipe you've made. The reason this is interesting, is that Facebook have further opened up the Social Graph to developers to enable these kind of apps, they're all built around Actions that a user can take like: watched a movie, read a book, cooked a recipe. Which when clicked, manifest themselves as Timeline items. So where Facebook used to revolve around "Liking" things, that vocabulary just got the potential to be a lot bigger!

So how does this apply to recruitment?

Well, at this stage it's up for debate! But as always, a new feature set provides a whole new set of ways for clever folk to start to manipulate them and build new apps on top of them. A couple of ideas that jumped out at us in Chatter HQ: - The new timeline based format can be used to share information from birth to now. Meaning candidates could start to use it as a truly social CV, using the Life events feature to feature the kind of milestones you'd usually expect to see on a résumé. - The new social apps are based around actions. While it's unlikely users would want to share actions like "Jon Applied for a Job" (preferring to keep it secret from their current boss perhaps!) we can see potential uses for referral schemes for example. "Jon recommended a job at xxx" But one thing that's for sure...all those people complaining this week about the relatively tiny changes to Facebook that lead up to this...are going to hit the roof! We'll leave you with the official intro video from Facebook: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzPEPfJHfKU&w=570]  

The Chat - w/c 12th September

With Jon in Spain all week, Lisa, Sally and I thought we'd be able to treat ourselves to late starts, long lunches and early finishes but instead we've been noses firmly pressed to the grindstone. We're still closing off some of the initial projects we've been working on and gearing up for launch. So Sally and Lisa, along with the development team, are busy testing the sites so we can be sure they're robust and bug-free before we hit the go live button.  I've been working on an attraction, branding and user experience piece of insight for a new client. The results are pretty interesting and will help inform their resourcing strategy over the short and medium term. Alongside that, I've been looking at gearing up for our first wave of marketing activity now we have some live work we can share. We're planning our marketing collateral, identifying the events we'll be attending and how we can make the biggest splash. It's meant we've had some really interesting meetings and conversations this week, with some equally interesting new flock members. It's why we've had bowls full of fudge in the office and an illustration of Jon drawn up. Dom Winstanley from the DT popped in to say hi - and talk us through his song choices for Charlie's Karaoke after the RBA's on the 29th. A few interesting options - although we can't help but suspect he'll opt for KOL's Sex is on Fire again! We've had two more proposals approved, both from brand spanking new clients to add to our growing band of lovely new friends. So all in all, we've earned the chocolate we devoured earlier on, and a beer or two once we leave! Have a great weekend folks!

Design classics. What's yours?

We have to hold our hands up and admit that here at Chatter, we're often guilty of prioritising "form over function", so we have to work hard to make things really beautiful, that work really well too. I don't suppose the many millions of candidates who'll have acted on the ads we've conceived, websites we've built or video's we've produced over the years, will have given much thought to how they all came about; and that's how it ought to be, because ultimately design's not art, it's not produced to be admired and studied, it has to serve a purpose, achieve an objective or help solve a problem.  Great designs are all around us. They are literally everywhere we look, from the cars we drive to the homes we live in. They're an essential part of our everyday life, and without it, life would be very very different indeed. Imagine what the world might be like without the famous London Tube Map - designed by Harry Beck and first seen in 1931, or Alec Issigonis's legendary Mini, or even Jørn Utzon's famous Sydney Opera House. They're all great examples of innovative thinking and creative problem solving which led to iconic, enduring and cherished design classics. But more than that, they're all examples of designs which pushed boundaries, inspired new thinking and broke new frontiers. For every obvious design classic we could mention, there's an army of unsung heros too. Designers so good, that they're creations go on reliably toiling day in, day out. Never faltering, and never giving us the excuse to have to question them. The humble electricity pylon's one such design. They silently support our power infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country. They're so well designed in fact, that unless we're faced with having one planted at the foot of our back garden, we don't seem to mind that they're great industrial monsters of streel and cable. Their presence is almost reassuring. Thanklessly holding us together. Blending into our green and pleasant land. But all that could be about to change following an announcement from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the National Grid, that a competition has been underway to consider new designs for these pillars of power. And in this world of NIMBY-ism, there's likely to be lots of debate and opinion about a structure that has gone largely unmentioned for the last however many years. If you're interested to see what new pylons coming to a town near you might look like, check out the competition website. Interestingly, Utzon's design-commission for the Sydney Opera House was won in exactly the same way. Initially just a vision for a harbour-side venue which structurally echoed the physical environment in which it would sit. Tall white arcs, which when viewed from a distance, would look like sails on yachts moored in the harbour. And when he won his commission in 1957, Utzon had no idea how the building could be engineered, it was just a concept. The work to make it happen all came later, and the venue was finally opened in 1973 - over time and over budget. But ultimately the pursuit of that vision has endured, and in a relatively short space of time, taken its place as one of the most iconic buildings in the modern world. In the context of a global economy which is infected and weak, real design is often sacrificed in favour of more functional, less indulgent options. Examples like Beck's London Tube map, Issigonis's Mini and Utzon's beautiful opera house, prove that great design is a sound investment in these difficult times. More then that, they're good for the soul. Designers of the world, we salute you.  

The Chat w/c 29th August

Sally here... Back hard at it after my summer holiday. I say holiday, I use the term loosely as it consisted of four days under canvas in North Norfolk. Two days were non stop rain which brought the earwigs out - or should I say in...  I highly recommend Bewilderwood and Holkham Hall.  Although next time I think I’ll leave the kids at home and book myself into one of the luxurious B&Bs I spied. Cley Windmill looked a good bet. Hard at it then. It’s crunch time for Project Atlas - a spangly new careers site scheduled to launch next week. After some last minute tweaking I was in a double act with Jon putting in content via the CMS (we're using Expression Engine) before Lisa cast her beady eye over it. It was good to be reunited with my old friend Pivotal Tracker - great tool for de bugging and capturing things at UAT stages. We’ve still got some work to do but we’re thinking it looks pretty good - and our client seems happy too, which is always a bonus! Project Minority (or whatever it’s called) moved on too - a step closer to commencing after some of the legalese is sorted out and a big meeting client side was pushed to next week which should see things kicked off properly. I’ve been putting the finishing touches to a presentation to the rest of Chatter about managing The Flock - more of this to come over the next few posts. Oh, and if you are interested in getting in touch to show us your etchings (or photos, or html or whatever you’re brilliant at) click here...I’ll get right back to you. This week was just a sharpener after my holiday - it’s gonna get really busy next week.... Love it.

The Chat w/c 15th August

At last we're in full on design and build mode for Project Atlas, so Monday saw a roundtable discussion with the designer and development team from the Flock, who also brought bacon butties...which was a nice touch (and nothing to do with them being coerced into coming up with the goods). We were up against the clock this week having being invited to the Ebor races at York on Friday by our Write Research Company friends, we needed to cram alot into four days in the office. And on a personal note, the long awaited extension also started at my house, so 4 weeks of dust a grime to follow, accompanied by a 'summer holiday' demob happy seven year old who's pestering me like mad to let him buy 'call of duty' on Xbox. He doesn't seem to understand the concept of age certifications! So the battle continues. Had a really nice brand and web development project signed off from a large housing association, so we're starting to gather insight to develop the EVP and pull together the broad outline of the scope of the web build. It's a collaborative project with a video production team and an RPO who are working hand in hand with us on the onboarding aspect of new recruits. We also spent a big chunk of time rescoping the 'minority report' project (which we've renamed Project Touch) to increase its application across android and apple phones and tablets and we're looking forward to starting on this project in the next couple of weeks...great one for the portfolio. We had some visitors to Chatter towers too in the form of Johnny Carr at Mask who's working with up on a bid for a large University client as well as a couple of old friends who's we're now working with...more on this soon The business end:-
  • Project Atlas kicks off
  • Project Touch rescoped and ready to start
  • Got through a partners financial planning meeting without any heated debates
  • Submitted a further 2 proposals
   

The Chat - w/c 8th August

What a week, with the backdrop of riots across the UK, we were strangely proud that the people of Leeds and Bradford stayed relatively calm and the shops of Yorkshire remained unlooted. In Chatter land it's been busy as ever, Project Atlas rumbles ever onwards, while the two we mentioned last week are getting going. On Monday, we had a client kick off meeting for our exciting touch-screen project, followed on Wednesday with a kick off with the development team. So already, we've got dates being plotted, milestones logged and task lists sprouting which is exciting. On Tuesday, Lisa and Paul went down to London to pitch for an Employee Values project and we've got our fingers crossed for a positive result there. Wednesday saw Lisa zig-zagging up and down the North of the country to several meetings with prospective clients, all of which went really positively too. (They really did, we're not just rose-tinting it for the blog, honest!) Thursday was a jam packed day for Sally and me, the kick-off meeting I've already mentioned took up a big chunk of the day and was bookended with project catch up calls and meetings with two potential flock members showing us their front-end and back-end ... development skills. We end the week with Paul and I back in the office plugging away at our respective to-do lists and Lisa off down to London for a meeting followed by a weekend in the big smoke.

Searching candidate profiles on multiple sites? Easy!

As businesses move towards a direct sourcing model to find candidates, we've seen an increasing number of bloggers and organisations talking about "X-Ray searching" and Boolean searching sites for candidates as if it's some radically new invention and not a feature of search engines that's been around well over a decade! It seems to be the latest thing to be re-badged with a sexy new name and rolled out to clients in the form of training courses and "technology" to help them do it more effectively.

What is X-Ray searching? Well, if you've yet to come across it, it's simply using the advanced search tools of either the search box on a social network or Google (which indexes an awful lot of the social site content) to home in on pages likely to be the profiles or CV's of candidates. Effectively finding passive candidates you can start a dialog with, outside the usual pools of talent like job boards and CV databases. Don't get me wrong, there are some great products out there using this kind of approach as a basis, but they then take it a step further and add some really useful tools to save, sort and sift the candidates you find, alongside tools to contact them and keep them warm. But increasingly I'm seeing people dressing up what's essentially nothing more than a Google search box and inferring that it's a radical new solution to your resourcing problems!

This came to a head last week, when I spotted a few people tweeting that LinkedIn should look out, as Google were about to steal their lunch, having launched a recruiting module for Google+. This struck me as odd, recruitment is a niche space to jump into so soon after the launch of Google+ which is still only in trial mode, it's not even fully launched yet. But things became a bit clearer once I clicked through and saw the "Google product" they were promoting, it was nothing to do with Google at all! Some enterprising soul has registered the domain gplusrecruiter.com and stuck a free Google Custom Search box on it, tailored to search only Google+ profile pages. Along with a quick video tutorial on how to add the candidates you find to your Google+ circles and start chatting to them. A very clever spotting of an opportunity, but not rocket science, and not more than a couple of hours work at most.

Because a lot of the work we do at Chatter is about working with clients to identify their sourcing issues and then use communications to improve on them, we thought it might be fun to demonstrate just how easy it is to create something like this yourself and tailor it exactly to your needs. So, over lunch, I knocked together a quick prototype, and with a (very) small fanfare I present the Chatter One Search for Recruiters. Very much a Ronseal name for it, there's a chocolate bar on offer for the best alternative sexy technology sounding name for it... grin One search box, which will return results from user profile pages (or the nearest we can get) on: LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Quora and Xing and then let you filter the results down to any of those sites individually.

Like any search engine, the quality of results depends on what you plug into it. But searching for names, job titles and locations is a pretty good start and the more specific you get the more likely you are to find a useful candidate. A search like "Project Manager Leeds"  works well and if you want to find people who've worked at competitor organisations then combinations of job titles, departments and competitor names can yield some interesting results too.

Launch Chatter One Search for Recruiters >>  This is just a quick proof of concept example of the kind of things you can do using existing web tools bolted together, add some well crafted communications into the mix and things could get really interesting. As always, if you need help with this kind of thing, then get in touch for a chat!

Note: We have noticed Google Custom Search being a little flaky from time to time, so if you get no results or just an advert, then try again later and do let us know.

The Chat - w/c 1st August

We knew this week would be good since it kicked off on Yorkshire Day, but in all honesty it surpassed even our rose-tinted expectations. There's lots of buzz about the place because we're at the end of our first quarter (it's not that we can't count, we know we're a month behind the rest of you, but be fair, we only opened the doors in April). The good news is that we've survived so far. Not only that, we're in good shape. We're working with some lovely clients helping them overcome some interesting HR communications challenges. We bicker like kids but it still feels great to be doing the things we do best. And having completed one or two of our initial projects (look out for the new case study section on welovechatter in the next few weeks) we were thrilled to get two shiny new clients on board, both have interesting new projects for us to dip our bills into. One's a leading Housing Association and we'll be helping them with their Brand, Careers Site and Induction materials; the other's a Technology business keen to engage their own people to explain how all their "tech" actually works, without sending them to sleep! In turn, they hope all that increased knowledge will help provide an even better service to their customers. So we're cracking out the big guns with a Minority Report style installation. All very exciting! With two lovely new clients on board, an invitation from our good friends at Write Research Company  to join them at York Races on the 19th August, and a pay cheque from Jon to celebrate, we rounded off our first quarter in style with a slap up lunch at The New Ellington in Leeds. The food was spectacular. Onwards and upwards now!    

The Chat w/c 25th July

I’ve been a bit slack on blogging this week (well last week if we’re being picky), but you know how hard it is to get back into work after a well-earned break. I was back in at the deep end on Wednesday, picking up a careers site project which the guys had admirably managed whilst I was sunning myself in Crete (Gerani to be precise), and getting back into new business mode with a number of proposals to get through, including a fab opportunity from an ex-colleague. Jon was away in London attending a full day off-site to help build an ATS, and Sal was camping somewhere in the wilds of North Yorkshire, so just me and Paul to amuse ourselves and crack through the work, whilst listening to some blinding tunes on Radio 2.  I know people have a love hate relationship with Steve Wright, but I just can’t get enough of the music (handy reference to Depeche Mode in there), and he served up my favourite afternoon tunes. We’re also in the final throes of the values work we’ve being running with one of our clients, and it’s great to see a weeks worth of work coming to life, and making sense. The business end:-
  • 2 proposals submitted
  • 4 meetings diarised
  • Flat screen for my desk chosen
  • Full bag of Cretian sweets eaten
  • 3 new office plants purchased
  • 3 new office plants died

The chat w/c 18th July

It's been strangely very quiet and tranquil this week at Chatter HQ, primarily because Lisa has taken the week off and disappeared to Crete for a well earned break in the sun, leaving Jon, Sally and me to man the fort. We've come through relatively unscathed, but to be fair it's been a busy old week, and so we've had our noses very firmly to the grindstone. We're about to go into development on a careers site we've been working on. It's always my favourite part of the process to see some of the concepts being applied and animated. We've also taken on a number of briefs for some exciting new projects and have two pitches lined up for next week, so we've been getting ourselves prepared, loads of research and intelligence gathering during the early part of the week, before getting all creative towards the end of the week. Wednesday saw Jon attend the AweSEOme event organised by Leeds Digital at the Adelphi in the city. It's a panel-led discussion forum that we're all hoping will run on a monthly basis. This month's topic for debate was SEO, and the turn out was extremely strong, hardly surprising given the strength of the industry in Leeds. It was by all accounts, a great session with lots of lively debate and exchange of ideas. Think Jon was pretty pleased that most of the insight shared on the day, didn't come as news to him - he likes to be ahead of the curve on these things! Wish us luck for next week. Onwards and upwards!  

This year's apprentice - The final lesson

Well we've finally made it to the end of the series and Tom's walked away with the prize - despite the fact he was on the losing team more times than any other Apprentice winner! It was hardly surprising that Lord Sugar opted for the inventor, a guy who's proven he can create and develop a product - and then sell it to some of the world's leading retailers. In the end, the best man won, and it's great to see innovation, invention and potential being rewarded ahead of the type of bravado and empty salesmanship that people often associate with the word entrepreneur. As for the other finalists, when the dust had settled, there honestly wasn't that much on offer. Jim's a gifted salesman but his business plan wasn't much more than a thinly veiled ego-trip for Lord Sugar's benefit. Helen who seemed to offer so much promise throughout the process, finally met with the unshakable reality that she didn't have an entrepreneurial bone in her body. And Susan, well I wouldn't write her off just yet, I reckon she's full of potential, really bright and young enough to make a big impact, so watch this space. All in all, it's been a great season with plenty to keep us cringing, like the bizarre role plays ahead of the biscuit pitch, Edna's elbow-length gloves and Gavin's team attempting to buy a Top Hot in a dry cleaner's shop. Nick and Karen have inevitably entertained us with a selection of winces, eye-rolls and head shaking moments (though none could replace the irrepressible Margaret Mountford's gym-ready eye brows!). And from the man himself, well we've collated another encyclopedia of "Sugarisms" to keep us chortling till he returns next year to start all over again. But aside from the entertainment value, I reckon we've learnt a lot this year. We've learnt that if you have a good idea and are prepared to work for it, even when times are tough, there's money to be made. We know that entrepreneurs are more than just good sales people, and that the French really are fond of their children. How will we spend Wednesday nights until the next series?  

The Chat - w/c 11th July

Sunshine, fresh air and royalty. That sums up this week at Chatter. Monday saw Lisa and Paul heading down to "that London" for the day, to talk employee engagement with one of the world's biggest financial and investment management organisations. Meanwhile, Sally and I were holding the fort back in sunny Leeds and keeping the wheels turning on the Careers Site project we've been working on. Project Atlas, as it shall henceforth be known (i've just decided) is coming along nicely. Functional spec done, domain names purchased, wireframes and creative approaching sign off. We've spent this week gathering the content, sourcing copy and taking stock of what needs creating from scratch. A big chunk of Tuesday was spent prepping for the release of a piece of values research to 600 of a client's people. This second stage follows on from Lisa's spanish odyssey performing focus groups. We pulled together a nice looking HTML email to announce it, and setup a 33 question online survey to gather the responses. Nothing too tricky in that, but we did produce the whole thing in two languages which made things slightly more complicated. Having soaked up the sunshine through our huge office window for the past couple of months, we took the opportunity on Wednesday to have our first Chatter day out and get some fresh air at the Great Yorkshire Show and celebrate our first quarter together in style. We spent the day ambling round taking in the Food Expo (and many samples), the cow judging, several beer tents and after that it gets a bit hazy. Starstruck Paul had a brush with royalty, pushing his way to the front to shake hands with HRH Prince Charles and offer him a few sage words of advice on employee engagement. We had a great day out in the sunshine and fresh air, and all ended up back home in the evening, absolutely worn out. Then, before we knew it, it's Friday (again) and Lisa, Sally and I are back at our desks cracking on with projects and Paul is up north in Scotland for several meetings. One of which has already turned into a pitch for next week...game faces on Chatterino's!

The Chat w/c 4th July - New Kid on the Block

This weeks Chat comes from a new member of the team. Our old friend Sally Moore joins us two days a week, and so she'll be taking a turn in keeping you updated... So week one for me. Supposed to be doing two days a week as an extra (safe) pair of hands and I’m up to my neck in it already. Loving the fact I’m in three days next week - can’t do four as it’s the Chatter day out to the Yorkshire Show on Wednesday. By all accounts Paul’s decked himself out in tweed and rubber. No one told him it’s usually 28 degrees and requires factor 30 minimum but he’ll learn. I digress. Day one was induction. With my head trying to focus and almost everything else in the Cloud it was a different way of working for me - but one that me and my shiny new MacBook got to grips with pretty easily. What a great experience to be back putting clients and creative problem solving at the centre of each brief. Day two saw me picking up direct responsibility for the final stages of a large scale graphics installation (right up my street). Then a content audit for a digital project and then a copy test followed with members of the flock (just to make sure we hit the right tone - we don’t doubt their ability one bit). We also met up with a new member of the flock who’s into the business end of SEO and had some really intelligent and good humoured discussions about how we may do business together. Speaking of which, one of the responsibilities I’ve taken on is to coordinate and grow the flock. Personally, I feel it calls for a new job title but Ornithologist or Shepherdess/Bo Peep just don’t cut it. Let me know in the comments if you have any stunning ideas. I’ll put the best one on my email sign off. So what did I like best about my first couple of days with Chatter? Love the business model - work with the best talent around and bring in specialisms when you need them - it’s a grown up, collaborative way of working that makes 100% sense for everyone involved. It's quite clear that agency land is changing and that Chatter is the new breed. I’m in. What else...Not being too bothered about bob on 9am starts (everyone’s a grown up - kind of...) very grown up discussions about client challenges, before the chat in the office moves effortlessly to the latest quidco offers on New Look fashion (12% off via quidco in case you feel the urge), Oh and banter which makes your toes curl. No change there then. And a few choice words to sum up week one? Bloody. Great. Serious. Purposeful. Intelligent. Fun. Raucous. But then what would you expect from a business that has Social as one of its values.

The business end

2 meetings with flock members 1 new associate's first day! A birthday lunch at Brasserie Blanc for Paul An ATS and recruitment process scoping workshop in London Another Friday off for Paul (2 in a row!)

The years apprentice lesson #10 - play nicely children

What a great task on tonights episode of The Apprentice, it's good to see them mixing things up this year with some new ideas, presumably designed to assess for a different skills set, given the winner will walk away with a £250k investment in a business idea, and not just a job in middle management.  Lord Sugar was visibly excited when he introduced the task, and tweeted that it had really got his entrepeneurial juices flowing, since it reminded him of how and where he started to build his fortune all those years ago. I realise this programme's wheels are oiled by a production crew of many, but it still goes to show that if you're prepared to back yourself, get up early, "smell" what's successful and work hard, there's plenty of opportunities to make some money. And in fairness they did. But not all of them really understood what the task was all about, which meant  that recruitment consultant Natasha (who annoys the heck out of me) became obsessed with cash and failed to reinvest, and (in my opinion) one trick pony Helen, tried to convince Mr Poundland to buy a £25 watch as part of some bizarrely conceived strategy to target retailers! But this episode wasn't so much about which team won and which team lost. It wasn't even about individual performances and who's the strongest contenders (though my money's on Tom and Susan) it was a lesson in basic manners, and this lot have got a lot to learn. Successful business people don't shout across one another, flagrantly ignore advice from colleagues, blatantly undermine one another or make those around them feel inadequate. It's the biggest myth in business that these behaviours are what put you ahead. Great business people are effective communicators. They make sure their team feel like winners by supporting them and surreptitiously compensating for any weaknesses. They care about winning, but they answer one critical question "at what cost?". How you go about winning and succeeding is a matter of individual choice. But when the going gets tough and you're looking for some favours to call in, most people hope there's a few options to go at, that they've built up some good will, that people will remember them because they were good, they had style, they had morals. So come on kids, play nicely, the whole country is watching.

el Chat w/c 27th June

Now, I’m not a lover of being away from home. I don’t think there really is any substitute for your own bed, but on this occasion, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work on a really juicy values project and to work on that project across a number of locations in Spain!   Sunday Definitely not the day of rest this week. Left the packing til the last minute and as always fretting on the wardrobe front. I love Zara and Mango and think Spanish women always look so effortlessly cool, but starting up the business has meant that the shopping has been curbed for the last few 12 months – so packing for my 15kg of hold luggage has been an ordeal. Got into Madrid at 10pm and after a hairy moment with a taxi driver who I thought was taking me down some dodgy back alleys, arrived safely at the hotel. Monday Up at 6.30am and ready for my trip to Boecillo (Valladolid) for the first focus group, I have to say that I’m mightily impressed with the speedy trains in Spain, complete with in train entertainment. Irene (my companion for the week) gave a run down on what to expect over the forthcoming week, and although facilitating focus groups aint that difficult, doing them in English with people who speak English as their second language is pretty nerve wracking, especially after Irene told me that I didn’t speak proper English! So, note for the day, tone down the Yorkshire. The technology worked, the audio recording too, and the session was really thought provoking, with some good nuggets, and a great team with a good sense of humour. In typical Spanish fashion, we went for a late lunch, and I was told to order two courses, which I didn’t, anticipating that I’d be too full for tea. Big mistake. Tuesday Early start again, off to Huesca. So that’s a taxi to the train station, train to Zaragoza, pick up the hire car and drive to Walqa, near Huesca. Had to also drag along the suitcase, which by the time I’d packed for every eventuality, like you do, was now nearing 20kg, plus my handbag. Arms like Popeye, but a bit wobblier. It was scorching by the time we arrived with Walqa, but despite the heat and size of the business here, we had a really good turn out. They were really engaged, providing me with some really good feedback and food for thought around existing culture and current issues. After we finished up, had to hotfoot it to Zaragoza and jump on the train to Barcelona, and although we arrived late, we still managed 30 mins in the pool and Tapas on the beach! Wednesday Beautiful sunny day in Barcelona, and the hotel was directly opposite Diagonal ZeroZero, the swanky new Telefónica I+D offices, so it was a little less hectic this morning, having a little more time for breakfast, whilst looking out at the sea. With two groups back to back in the morning, it was all go from 9am. Really smart people, doing some cool stuff and very fixed views on what the business is doing right and what else they need to be doing. It’s refreshing to hear from people who are really happy with their jobs and love what they do. It’s been a general theme all week. We went out for a late lunch down on the beach with Colin the project sponsor and his team Laura and Irene. Felt bizarre talking business while all around us, people were sunbathing, very surreal. Managed to get an hour on the hotel rooftop before jumping on a flight to Granada. Irene was really keen for us to visit the Alhambra, but we arrived way to late. Still managed a glass of wine on the street below, and a couple of purchases from the local shops, including a pair of harem trousers, which were a bit of a mistake in hindsight! Thursday Irene suggested that we walk to the offices in Granada, and I think we took the scenic route (arghh). I lost the use of my left arm half way through the trek, but we eventually arrived safely at the offices and jumped straight into the focus group. I’d been told before travelling to Granada that I’d find a big cultural difference between locations, but it was good to hear people talking about one culture, collaborative working, and all unprompted. Not sure what I expected, but the team were really warm and happy to chat. We’d managed to change our flight to an early one back to Madrid, and I got back to my hotel in enough time to sit in the garden with a coffee, catch up on emails, jump on a client call, shower and go out for dinner with Colin. The Mercedes convertible he had on hire (while his car was being serviced) was a nice piece of machinery, and we drove into the centre of Madrid. He introduced me to The Market of St Michel, which was just buzzing. You can grab a bottle of wine, and wander around the market buying different types of Tapas. You then find a table or a corner, and drink and it to your hearts content. After a week of Tapas I was in need of a bit more sustinence, so we opted for an outside restaurant and a steak…heaven. Marred by a couple of eggs thrown at the car on the way out of Madrid. I'm told that's quite normal ;-( Friday The last day of my tour. Really enjoyed the week and the people I’ve met, but looking forward to going home. Two sessions planned for today and both likely to be pretty challenging. Districto C (where the Telefónica Group offices are) is like a big town. The scale of the site is difficult to picture until you’re there, and it feels like a really vibrant place. The first session in Madrid was thought provoking and it was good to get insight from ex Contractors, Software Engineers and User experience specialists. The second group was a different group all together, and they got to heart of the perceived issues from the off. We had to break early and move to the café to continue our discussion, but there were really opposing views and lots of heathly debate. A great group to end on. After catching up with Colin and the team and sharing a few goodbyes, I headed off to the airport. After a stressful couple of hours courtesy of Ryanair, I was on my way home and looking forward to my weekend with the family...whilst dreaming of fish, chips and mushy peas. What I learnt:-
  1. Eat when you can, because you never know when the next mealtime will be!
  2. Don’t wear high heels in Spain during the summer unless you want your feet to look like swollen sausages.
  3. Always pack light!
  4. How to say OK, Sure and Good in Spanish
  5. The Spanish work exceptionally hard and people in Telefónica I+D are very committed to their jobs...if not always on time wink
  6. I sound shocking on Audio recordings!
  7. Never fly Ryanair
   

Google Plus Field Trial: First impressions

Rumours have been swirling around the web for months that the Googleplex was cooking up a "Facebook Killer" with names like Google Me, Loops and Circles all being murmured about. Well it's finally here, (unveiled as Google Plus, slogan "real life sharing, rethought for the web") albeit in a limited access field trial and we've been lucky enough to get an invite and give it a try! Google themselves seem to have been really downplaying the significance of the launch, and avoiding comparisons with Facebook. I suspect as a definite attempt to avoid the same enormous hubbub that attended the launch of Buzz and Wave which both pretty much flopped once they reached a mass audience. At the moment it's a limited field trial, so you'll either need an invite from Google, or a friend to invite you and be lucky enough for Google to pull you out of the hat for access if you want to give it a try yourself.

First impressions

This is a pretty polished product, in fact it doesn't feel very "Google" at all, they're usually all about the function and less about the interface, but it's clear that the UI team have spent some serious time on Plus, it feels sharp, clean and there's some really good use of AJAX to make things pop out, slide up and generally appear logically when and where you need them. Coming hot on the heels of the visual refresh this week of the main Google search and the new black nav bar at the top of all Google products it really hangs together and is starting to feel like one cohesive suite of tools. Which is good, as Google Plus itself is a collection of different concepts and tools under one banner. Let's take a look at them one by one...

The Homepage / Stream

This should be familiar to most people and it's probably the most Facebook like part of the whole proposition, it's essentially a news feed of all of the latest updates from your contacts along with a couple of sidebars giving access to the other main features. Sharing is baked into almost every element, with Share links on each post as well as a Share button in the top navigation. Interestingly there's also a dropdown that on your own posts allows you to stop re-sharing by others on a post by post basis. It's clear that following the criticism surrounding Google Buzz they've put plenty of thought into how and what you share with who.

Circles

That granularity of what you share with who becomes even more evident when we look at another main feature (accessible from the toolbar at the top) called Circles. Facebook has some great tools for setting up friend lists and setting very specific permissions on who can see your posts. But they're buried several layers deep and take quite a bit of fiddling round to set up. Really, who can be bothered spending an hour sorting several hundred friends into Friend Lists. Google have got round this quite neatly, by making it integral to Plus from the start, you'll think about your sharing groups and set them up little and often rather than in one big hit. They've also made it really fun to do, with a neat drag and drop interface, definitely a bit of "gamification" theory at work there. So you create groups, known as circles, and each contact can live in one or more. For me those groups are Friends, Work, Acquaintances and Photography (my main hobby) these circles then ripple through every other part of Google Plus, every time you share something you can choose to limit it to specific people or a whole circle in just a couple of  clicks. This makes it really easy and intuitive to share different info on a personal/professional basis. At a stroke doing away with all those arguments about whether the network is a social (Facebook) or professional (LinkedIn) space, it's both! When you get a new friend notification, you can add them to a circle there and then in one click, making it simple to maintain too. Very slick!

Photos

Although Photo sharing is one of the main nav features of Plus, it feels a bit like "me too" feature, like they felt they couldn't manage without it. Don't get me wrong it's useful, and it works but it's not doing anything revolutionary that you've not seen before elsewhere. It's easy to share different photos with different circles and there's some level of integration with Picasa, although it seems a little odd when Google already have a mature photo product in Picasa not to have made more of it (but maybe they didn't want to overcomplicate the interface).

Profiles

Every user has a profile, as you'd expect! One nice thing here is that for a lot of users they already have a fairly well fleshed out Google Profile which is used as the basis for their Plus profile. Which means you're not faced with a completely blank page to propogate with information. Unlike you're existing profile, the Plus profile represents a definite attempt to draw together lots of the threads of different existing apps. Buzz makes an appearance, you can see all the things you've +1'ed (see our recent post on the +1 button)

Mobile App / Checkins

As you'd expect from any new launch these days there's a mobile app which appears to be Android only for now. As we're an iPhone and Macbook based company I took a look at the webapp version, which is pretty nice, giving easy access to all of the core features and also adding in location based Check In using the phones GPS. This is of course hooked to the enormous Google Maps and Local databases meaning most places are available to check into right out of the gate.

Hangout

This is probably one of the most innovative parts of Plus, Facebook have been rumoured to be working on video chat app for a while, and hookups with Skype were being murmured about but nothing has yet come to fruition. It's easy to forget that GChat has been running in GMail with video and voice functionality for years now. And that experience has been brought to bear in Hangout. You can invite selected friends or an entire Circle to a hangout, and it's one click from your Stream for them to be able to jump in. Once you're in a Hangout, there's video and voice chat by default, with the option to pop open an IM chat window and also to co-watch Youtube videos together. This has been particularly well thought out, when you start watching everyone's microphones are muted to stop them drowning out the video and a Push To Talk button appears allowing users to talk over the video if needed. Very neat.

Sparks

But what about Google Search? Well they're in the mix too, with a feature called Sparks. Tap in any topic or keyword and you get a list of up to date links/articles on that topic and you can bookmark it for future updates. The idea being to spark ideas and articles you can then share on your stream and with your circles. I can see an interesting potential recruitment use here, tap in a phrase like "Project Manager Jobs Leeds" and you've got an instant always up to date set of links to explore and share.

Conclusions

So what do we think? Is Plus a game changer? Well, time will tell. It's certainly a much more well thought out and easy to grasp product than either Buzz or Wave were. It'll be difficult to persuade a mass audience to move away from Facebook, but it's certainly got some real potential to fly if a mass audience take it to their hearts. Additionally the way that personal and professional boundaries are respected and built in at a very low level should be appealing to a lot of users. The fact that within a couple of hours of sign up i've got 24 people in my Circles and people seem to be actively commenting, chatting away and using it certainly bodes well! Have you been trying out Google Plus? If so, let us know what you think in the comments...

This years apprentice lesson #9: It's all about the product

The biggest lesson from this week's apprentice surely has to be DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PERFORM A ROLE-PLAY AS PART OF YOUR PITCH. Not since I was about eight years old, and in the sitting room with the rest of the family, just at the moment that a heavy petting scene on Dallas started to unfold, have I felt so utterly embarrassed by something on the TV.  It was totally cringe-worthy and Melody in particular, with her Global comms' business background, should have known better. Putting all that to one side, I think things are really starting to heat up. The candidates have spied the finish line, and the possibility they might actually win is starting to feel very real. And the tasks just keep on rolling, the pressure keeps on building and the bitching never seems to end! Here at Chatter this week, we've been running some brand development workshops of our own for two separate clients. We're helping them articulate what their organisations are all about, making sure they're well aligned to their target audiences, and starting to explore what advertising and marketing options will really help them grow. When you consider these guys have two days to design, produce, package and sell a new product, you realise just how tall an order some of these tasks are. The winning team this week (Helen, Jim and Natasha) was decided by the volume of orders placed by the retailers they pitched to, and with three to go at, there was a fair chance for each to get a share of the action, regardless of the market they were trying to tap into. With a product like biscuits, and clients like supermarkets, it's a safe bet to appeal to the masses. And this is where Helen's team made their mark. Was it the better product, possibly not. Did they have the best thought out strategy, erm no. Did their packaging stop you in your tracks, not particularly. But they did appeal to a big group of biscuit consumers - kids. And with Asda purchasing with Mums all over the country in mind, it turned out to be the golden ticket. EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITS, you can't much argue with that. On the other hand there was Zoe's team (Zoe, Susan, Tom & Melody). They created a biscuit that was sired by a shortbread and born from a digestive, before being dunked into "cheap, common tasting chocolate" - to quote Zoe. It was a fairly pedestrian sweet treat which was boxed up to be something it definitely wasn't - luxurious. And the thing with any brand is this, it must deliver the experience your customer will anticipate from the way it is packaged and sold. So if your packaging says silk but your product is nylon, you'll be in for a bumpy ride. Brands and the way they're marketed can't be isolated from the product itself. A good brand captures the essence of the product and the marketing strategy makes sure the right people see it. A bad product will always be just that. And as an Art Director (who shall remain nameless) once said to me (after reviewing a brief to rebrand a notoriously difficult organistion) - Paul, you can't polish a turd. So if you're interested in brand and reputation, think about the inputs you can make to improve the quality of your product and therefore the experience of your customer. In our world, that's about having a fantastic employee experience to tell new talent about, for Zoes team, it ought to have been a chocolate hob nob - now there's a biscuit!

#TRULeeds day 2 - Employer branding, SEO, Social recruitment & sourcing

I have to say I was a bit sceptical about this unconference milarky at first, but the informal atmosphere at #TRULeeds made for a refreshing change from more traditional conferences I've attended in the past. The big advantage being that everyone's there to make an input - in some tracks that's about sharing your own knowledge and experience, whilst in others you're very much there to learn. And you're learning from the group at large so lots of opportunity to ask questions, probe deeper, agree and disagree. I opted for tracks on Employer Branding, Sourcing, SEO and Social recruiting. We kicked off the day with a session on Employer branding led by @Patrick Boonstra who's agency had been working with the Dutch army to help increase the volume of applicants - a tough challenge if ever there was one. From my perspective, the strategy was bang on, brand building activity via TV, Broadcast and other above the line platforms, and highly targeted recruitment ads across search, social and direct. It's working well with applications growing week by week and interestingly, spikes of activity which coincide with news reports of soldiers killed in action. The hot topic for debate centered around the media inventory which included lots of search along with the google content network. Parents in the group were concerned that blind advertising would be picked up by children and youngsters and worried that would influence them to consider an army career. Watersheds and screening were discussed and it was interesting to hear people reasoning for themselves how the web might continue to mature, and how our pre-digital reality is changing for ever. We didn't reach any hard and fast conclusions on that one but it was debated frankly and made for a fairly rounded session. The next track I sat in on was sourcing. Lots of organisations are talking about direct sourcing but few I've come across are actively doing it. In some ways it's just traditional recruitment research, but using the web and social in particular to pinpoint talent for a live vacancy. We talked about boolean searches, using social and a variety of search engines to really track down the individuals a client would be interested in meeting. We agreed that sourcing was just one part of the picture. Recruiters were keen to talk about adding value by matching particular individuals to specific roles, and everyone agreed that brand was still important if you were to succeed in being first choice employer for the very best talent. The frustration seems to be around getting commitment to a longer term resourcing strategy with most people agreeing that recruitment was still far too reactive. After lunch I attended a track on SEO which was fun and interesting too. It was particularly insightful to hear of another example of boundaries being pushed as various people had chanced there arm to see how much Google would tolerate before kicking them out of the index listings. SEO can seem like hardwork and I still reckon that unless you have someone looking at optimising your sites and digital presence, you're not going to get that far. The key thing is to really understand your audience and what they'll be searching for. Overall, I reckon it's a bit like going on a diet, if you're going to be successful, you have to take a long-term view, make small changes consistently, measure what impact they're having and make more small changes to continue to improve. Not sure how good I'll be at SEO given my track record of trying to shed the pounds! Overall, it was a really great day, I really enjoyed lots of lively, witty and insightful debate. It was great to see that the recruitment industry is still alive and kicking. It's vastly different now form how it was just a few years ago and I would argue it's much better. Certainly the guys at #TRULeeds were real professionals, keen to be the best and deliver the best for their clients. Great day.

The Chat - w/c 20th June

It seems we start every weekly update with something saying how quickly time is flying by, and who am I to break a tradition. It's nearly the end of Chatter's first quarter in business! Lisa kicked the week off in style, with a day off; while Paul and I stayed in the office to slave away. (Eat biscuits and turn the air conditioning up) But we did find time to cram in a call with our friends at Augment Group to discuss some potential opportunities to work together. On Tuesday our accountant dropped in to catch up and help the three of us argue about what can and can't be claimed against tax as well as check over the figures before we submit our first VAT return, thankfully everything seems shipshape! Adam from Fish4 dropped in on Wednesday to talk to Paul and Lisa about their latest developments; and the rest of the day was spent planning and prepping for a very busy Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, I attended #TRULeeds the recruitment unconference hosted by Bill Boorman. We've written up a couple of separate blog posts about what turned out to be a brilliant experience and you'll see them here very soon. Paul took up the reins for the Friday session at #TRULeeds as Lisa and I were on the early train to London. My alarm went off at 5.30am to get the 7am train, and if you know me, you'll know i'm not good at early starts! So it was great to get down to London and jump straight into a project kick off meeting with our new client who are a really sparky, enthusiastic bunch and great fun to work with. We started to get under the skin of some of their requirements, prep for the specification of their ATS system and go a bit crazy with the post-it notes brainstorming their site structure. It must have been a full week, i'm writing this on Saturday, having got back from London at about 6pm on Friday, I put some dinner on and settled down for an hours nap...and woke up 14 hours later, with a pan full of carbon on the stove!

The Business End

1 VAT return prepped!

3 meetings with Flock members 1 unconference attended 1 careers site project kicked off 14 hours of unbroken sleep...bliss!

#TRULeeds Day 1 - Here be Dragons…

Today saw the latest incarnation of Bill Boorman's TRU recruitment un-conferences roll into town with the first day of #TRULeeds at Broadcasting Place in Leeds. It was my first experience of a TRU event, although probably the fifth or sixth unconference i've been to. If you've never been to an unconference before, they can be a bit of an unsettling experience at first, the setup seeming so laid back it's almost horizontal. But that's a good thing! No registration desk, no name badges and no fixed presentations or structure. Instead, there's a loose outline of subjects with two tracks running at a time. A track leader starts the discussion and then everyone in the group pitches in with their thoughts and opinions as one big discussion. It's a refreshingly open format, that tends to generate a lot more thought and ideas than listening to one presenter for half an hour. You're also free to wander between tracks at any time, avoiding the usual conference syndrome of buyers remorse when you realise 5 minutes in you should have picked the other track. TRULeeds kicked off with my bumping into Wayne and Lisa from Barclay Jones, I was at university with Wayne and haven't seen him for a decade so it was great to catch up and hear about some of the really interesting work they do as Virtual IT Directors for their clients, a quick coffee later and the first session started, led by @patrickboonstra. It was titled, "Slaying the Social Media Dragon" and at first I was dubious, i'm naturally sceptical about being jollied along and taking part in group activities, but it proved to be great fun as it unfolded. A series of scenarios were outlined, with two opposing viewpoints. For example: "Social media should be centralised in an organisation, or it should be everybody's responsibility", everyone went to stand by the side of the argument they agreed with and then the two sides debated it. Everyone took the role of a knight (slaying the metaphorical dragon), and was equipped with a shield (a cocktail umbrella!) which could be gifted to someone else if you thought they'd made a good point. And a party blower/squeaker to be blown at any point if you felt someone was "talking bullshit", interrupting someone with it though did mean you then had to put your counter argument to the group. If this makes no sense whatsoever, then you can see a video of the start of of the session at: http://chttr.in/3d It turned into a really lively discussion on social media policy, engagement and embedding social within an organisation. And somehow at the end of it I found myself the winner with 4 cocktail umbrellas awarded to me. My prize? The toy dragon (donated to Wayne and Lisa's 3 year old). With the ice broken we moved into a couple more tracks of discussion, I sat in on the Graduate Recruitment track, led by @martinedmondson from Graduates Yorkshire. One of Bill's side initiatives #TRUgrads involves mentoring a number of graduates and two of them were part of the group. It was really useful when talking about Graduate recruitment to have their input as graduates currently looking for work. There was much discussion of whether grads actually use careers sites, how they respond to social media initiatives and one thing which became evident was the difference in approach between different disciplines and types of graduates. Merchant banking for example, attracts a very different mindset to retail. I then sat in on part of the track looking at the campaign Beyond Interactive had run to recruit leaders for Weight Watchers. It was really interesting to see the similarities and differences in approach to the way we'd work at Chatter on this kind of campaign. And great to see them using Facebook advertising effectively and also testing and monitoring conversion rates between different styles and colours of creative. There was also a nice anecdote about how a client had started correcting the spelling and grammar in employee blog posts and seen engagement fall by a enormous amount. Seemingly the typos were making it seem more real and less like corporate PR fodder. Later I sat in on a session on using LinkedIn, where I picked up some interesting tips on fine tuning the integration between Twitter and Linkedin, as well as how to use it better for engagement (rather than purely as a sourcing tool.) Following, a good chat over lunch at The Dry Dock, it was back in for tracks on Augmented Reality, led by Layar and an interesting look at The Social CV, who do some interesting stuff linking together the social footprint of users, creating a very interesting resource to mine for candidates from the information that's already out there in the wild. A packed day, but really thought provoking and fun and met some great new people i'll be following on Twitter. I'm down in London tomorrow at a client meeting, so Paul will be attending Day 2 of #TRULeeds (and i'll be reading up on the happenings online after!)

The Chat w/c 13th June

Back in the office this week and we kicked things off by getting some of our flock members together to brief them on the careers site development project that we mentioned in last weeks Chat we hadn't had sign off, but had a good feeling about it so decided to start everyone thinking about it. It was great to have creative, design and development people round a table together at Chatter HQ and start to throw around ideas about how we might approach the project. Then in the afternoon we briefed in another Flock member on costing up the interactive project that Paul mentioned last week now that we've nailed down the brief. It's a really exciting one, with scope to roll out across iPad and web too...really hoping it ends up going ahead! Later in the week we got the go ahead on the careers site project. Phew! We can't wait to get going on it, and as soon as we're able we'll reveal all, here on the blog, about who it's for. Suffice to say it's a really lovely opportunity, working with a great bunch of people. On Wednesday, Paul led a session where we started to flesh out our marketing plans for the rest of the year, which include our first newsletter. Which will be coming out in a couple of weeks. So if you haven't signed up yet...well you know what to do. And once again, it's Friday. How did that happen? Lisa's had the day off again, in fact a long weekend. So Paul and I have been minding the shop. Though we did find time to get out to lunch with our friends at Write Research Group. Was great to catch up with the team there and see how they're getting on. And now it's Friday evening, the skies over Leeds are turning black, and i'm going to shut up the office before it buckets down with rain. Have a good weekend!

The business end

2 briefing sessions 1 old friend dropping in to catch up 1 web development project signed off and ready to go! 1 research project underway!

This years apprentice lesson 7: More haste, less speed.

I think we all enjoyed last night's publishing task, despite it being totally unrealistic to expect anyone to come up with a concept, develop a brand and create a working prototype ready to pitch to media buyers in just 2 days. And to give the candidates their due, I think that given more time, they'd have honed their thinking and developed some of their ideas and concepts a bit better. However, as most of us already know, time is the one thing there's just never enough of.  With that in mind, every second counts. Every decision needs to be flexible enough to change as the project takes shape, and new information becomes available. The danger being that as time becomes tight, choices are made which dilute the concept and undermine the whole enterprise. It's inevitable, and it's what happened last night. Both teams had a great concept and articulated what would make their "freemium" stand out from the rest. In each case it was about taking an established medium and improving it by making it more appealing to real people. But in the end, each team's decision making processes became defined by which option was the easiest to run with, so they produced beige products that were both clichéd and patronising. So what's the lesson? Well it's another lesson about leadership. And when time's against you and all hell breaks loose, strong leadership is critical. There hasn't been much evidence of it on the Apprentice this series (apart from Lord Sugar himself of course). But Channel 4's excellent 24hrs in A&E on the other hand, is awash with examples of great leaders in action. Faced with some truly horrific injuries, these absolute stars think ahead to anticipate what the potential outcomes could be, and a plan of action for each. They gather teams of experts around them and provide a clear brief before stepping back to let them get on with their jobs. They listen to what's happening, and gather their feedback before taking responsibility for what happens next. Their calm, controlled and reasoned approach is what makes the difference between life and death. I know what you're thinking, no one's gonna die if you miss a print deadline, and I agree, but it is an example of great leadership. Contrast that to what you saw in last night's episode and you get what I'm driving at. In the end both Jim and Natasha failed miserably. Their decisions got worse as time wore on and in the end it was about reaching the finish line and not about producing something with merit. Both got themselves too embroiled in the detail, so much so that they lost sight of the project as a whole which meant they didn't listen to the feedback they were getting, or think through the consequences of the decisions they were taking. In the end it was car-crash telly. The big surprise came at the end when Jim managed to escape being fired. What was Lord Sugar thinking?

The Chat w/c 6th June

We kicked off the week with a trip to fancy London, falling out of the train at Kings Cross and blindly following Jon on a wild goose chase around the tube network (he's so convincing when he tells you which line to get on, even when it's the wrong one!) we eventually made it to where we needed to be, and after a rather lovely lunch we went to meet a potential new client. We were about to be put through our paces by their Chief Exec who poked and prodded our proposal to build them an integrated new careers site. He was a pretty smart cookie, very brand focused and wanted to make sure they would get something which was "world-class". In the end it was a great meeting and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. We wait with baited breath to see whether we get the gig. Lisa's all excited that her research project with Telefónica I+D has been signed off. She heads out to Spain at the end of the month and is looking forward to meeting in person some of the chums she's made there over the past few weeks. Feedback from them on the engagement project we launched a fortnight ago has been great, uptake's been high and it seems to be smiles all round. We're loving working with them. And as if that wasn't enough to be going on with, we took a brief from another potential new client this week, who are looking for some help to explain a complex bit of tech to a large number of people simply, and in a way that really captures their imaginations. We've gone all Minority Report on this proposal which has gotten everyone excited, fingers crossed we get to work on it. By the time we got to Friday we were pooped. Lisa got the day off to go see some man band play a gig in Manchester so Jon and I manned the fort for the day. Ah the responsibility!

The Business End

1 pitch 2 proposals 1 meeting with potential new associate 1 invitation to a picnic 1 mad old bird at a Take That gig  

This years apprentice lesson 6: One man's trash is another man's treasure

My apprentice blog can sometimes be a bit supercilious, mainly because it's easier to sit on the sidelines and criticise others then have a go yourself, you see it all the time. In life I'm a bit more of a "sleeves rolled up" and "get stuck in" type of guy, even so, last night was a real eye-opener. I had no idea how much money could be made so quickly from other folk's rubbish. It goes to prove the old adage about one man's trash being another man's treasure is still very true. And I take my hat off to both teams last night, this was a tough old task. So how did they fare? Well overall, pretty well, they all put a hard couple of days graft in. And of all the episodes I've watched over the years, this one really stretched the candidates and exposed just how entrepeneurial they really are. The business model was totally fluid, it shifted with every appointment they made, so whilst one opportunity was about being paid for time spent, another was about resale opportunity. It was clearly difficult for some of them to keep pace, and certainly Zoe Beresford, Venture's PM for the day struggled to duck and dive with any real skill. Susan (a bit painful at times) could have flown on this one. She seemed to have a real feel for the task and took the medal as far as I'm concerned for negotiating a pretty neat deal. Despite what this week's loser Edna might have you believe, it was Susan's quick thinking that landed them with extra copper rather than extra cash for the clearance job, which turned them a very healthy profit. Nice work. So this week's lesson is a lesson for us all. There's cash everywhere you look, you just have to know it when you see it and be prepared to work to turn it into something.

This years apprentice lesson 5: What's the point?

With a double-firing rounding off this week's episode of the Apprentice, it's taken us a while to regain our composure and think through the lesson! We've now reached that familiar turning point in the series. Some of the livelier front runners have fallen at the first hurdles, and the real contenders are making their way up the inside.  The remaining candidates are more familiar to us now, we know how they think and operate. So we're starting to spot the nags likely to limp home and the thoroughbreds who'll make it to the winners enclosure (forgive the horse-racing analogy, it is Derby Day this Saturday after all). And slap-bang amongst all that excitement, this week was the advertising task. It's the task that gets their creative juices flowing, and for one day at least, the candidates are seduced by fantasies of becoming a great film director, voice over artist, casting agent, script writer to name just a few. But like all new experiences, the initial fascination, rush of adrenalin and kick of excitement is short-lived, and the tasks it's diverted you from, can often cost you dearly. This time around, just like every other, the teams decided to undertake a strange process in order to pull the thing together. It was a bit of a cart before the horse sort of affair which seemed to bypass some of the fundamentals in marketing: who's gonna buy the product (the audience) why they should buy this one over and above another (the proposition) and how can we get all that across in a nice easy way (creative). Field research data, expert opinion and common sense were all over-ruled by the PM's executive decisions. So in the end they were left to (clumsily in Leon's case and patronisingly in Melody's) unveil a campaign that didn't seem to make much sense to anyone. But it needn't have been that way. A strong sense of the product - what makes it special and who it will appeal to  - should always be at the heart of any campaign. On their own, great straplines, snazzy packaging and amusing jingles are just building blocks, it's the understanding of the product and the audience that hold them all together. Both teams failed to nail it this week, and I'm unconvinced they really understood why. Certainly Vincent seemed pretty dismayed that his own particular brand of charm and charisma, hadn't been enough to see him through when he appeared on the sister show The Apprentice You're Fired. But before I tar them all with the same brush, there's a special mention here for Tom. One of the quieter, less gregarious and perhaps dare I say nerdier candidates. It's not gone unnoticed here at Chatter, that Tom consistently gets it right. He's sounded a bell of caution on several occasions over the past few weeks, which has customarily been ignored, but subsequently turned out to be the alarm bell everyone should have heard. So if you don't fancy a flutter on the Derby this weekend, perhaps a few quid on Tom to win might be worth a punt?

Google +1 - First look

This week saw Google let the +1 button loose on the world. I've spent a little time playing around with it and thought it might be useful to gather together a few of my initial thoughts here on the blog. Announced a few weeks ago, +1 is essentially Google's version of the Facebook Like button. Sites can add the +1 button to their pages and give users a simple 1 click way to indicate they like or value the page content. In the case of Facebook, this manifests itself as a "Like" appearing on the users profile, their news feed and the news feeds of their friends. The +1 button has a similar effect on search results, tuning the results you're shown based on who you're friends with and the things they like. Here's Google's take on it: [youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAyUNI3_V2c&w=560]   How does Google know who you're friends with and the things you like? Through your Google profile, in part that's going to mean your search history. But a Google profile can also be linked to your other online profiles such as Flickr, your blog, Facebook and Twitter and once this data is in the mix things can get a lot more interesting. (and one step closer to your friends getting some possibly alarming insights into your taste when they use Google.) Once this takes off, there's the potential to mesh together an awful lot of data and have a very interesting effect on search results pages (and make it a hell of a lot harder to judge how you rank in search, when everyone sees something slightly different). But could Google already be a little late to the party, it'll be difficult with the Like button already so well entrenched in sites across the web to convince site owners to add yet another button to the string already adorning their pages, the very luke warm reception given to Google Buzz and Wave has done little to dispel that impression. The other obvious omission is that Google Apps users currently don't have Google Profiles, meaning that, for now +1 buttons won't work for them at all. And let's face it, who's going to bother logging out of one account and into their personal one just to +1 a page. It's surprising they didn't sort that one out in time for launch. Ultimately site owners will then be able to view the stats on their +1 activity through the Google Webmaster tools, but i've yet to see how that looks. They'll need to work quite hard to beat the Facebook Insights dashboard, which not only tells you how many people Liked a piece of content, but how well it spread virally and the number of actions taken from it. The +1 button will also appear next to every Google search result, allowing users to give instant feedback on the quality of a page. It'll be interesting to see how this impacts, and how many people bother to go back to the search result and +1 it AFTER they've visited the page. I suspect most people will +1 something based on it looking good in the search result snippet, making that kind of basic SEO even more important. There are also apparently plans afoot to add +1 buttons as a mandatory extra on every Adwords placement, allowing users to help the useful ads bubble to the top. Although I can't help thinking that most of the time it's the obviously poorly placed ads we'd like to vote down instead! The implementation is pretty nice. A simple script tag, and a code fragment for the button. Very simple to add to your site and easy to integrate programatically across hundreds of pages in a content managed system. There's also a nice fallback model in place, where if the URL being +1'd isn't explicitly stated, it looks for a canonical link tag, or failing that uses the URL of the current page. All much cleaner than the Facebook implementation (especially the IFrame version). For those of you who've bravely gritted your teeth through the techie speak above, what use is all this going to be for recruitment? Well, in much the same way as the Like button and various other sharing buttons can provide a steady stream of eyeballs to your careers site, +1 should help there too. But also, it has great potential to act as a soft referral mechanism, particularly for volume recruiters. Think about it, if your candidates are finding your careers site content interesting and engaging, and they +1 it, then anyone else in their social circle searching a job is more likely to see your site highlighted in their search results, acting as an indirect referral. Of course, as is the case with pretty much anything to do with social media...you'll have to be saying something interesting and engaging first! We've all seen the statistics that show that Search is most users first port of call when looking for anything online, including a job. And the +1 button is the most blatant attempt so far to influence those results by using social capital and peer recommendation. So should you be optimising all your online careers content for +1? No. Our advice remains the same, get the basics right, get a good quality, well indexed careers site working for you. Create well written, engaging employer branded content on a regular basis. As always, there's no secret trick or loophole to getting this stuff right, other than doing a bang up job across the board. So, time will tell whether this is going to really catch on. But for now, as a bit of a testbed we've added the +1 button to all the blog posts on welovechatter.com so if you find any of our ramblings interesting...give it a click!

The Chat w/c 23rd May

Last week saw a big celebration in Chatterland, my hubby’s 50th. We did it in style and it was great to see friends and family from far and wide join in the party. It’s a shame that I crashed and burned at 11pm, although I was glad of this when I started the working week without a hangover. That said, Mr P damaged his back during the festivities (don’t ask me how) so I was housebound and playing nursemaid on Monday, visiting doctors and chiropractors in between work. To be honest, the week didn’t get a whole lot better on the personal front with Louis being sent home from school with suspected chicken pox (yes you can get it twice apparently), and the man indoors getting more and more fed up with his condition. Don’t you just hate poorly men? Is that harsh? But, on a much lighter note, life at Chatter is on the up and up. The work is flowing fast and furious, the flock is working wonders and we have lots more projects in the pipeline. We were also taken out for dinner by the directors at Write Research Group which was great fun, and we’re hoping we can work more with the guys in the future. Got a visit from Fiona at Jupiter who was passing. We processed our first press ad - yes I do mean a newspaper ad! We got paid - which was nice of Jon. And we completed the Sun crossword - twice! The business end:
  • Met with 2 prospective clients
  • Registered 3 more Flock members
  • Ate fillet steak
  • Got through 7 international Skype calls
  • Developed another motion graphic video
  • Took 2 more creative briefs

This years apprentice lesson 4: Work smart not hard.

There was a real mixed bag of things I could've used to help write this weeks "Apprentice" blog, what with little Susan falling into the age-old trap of being totally crap at something she claimed was her core expertise, Leon's rather successful, if not slightly sinister  'pinkie-based' sales technique, and Zoe's leadership style (finally, a PM capable of making decisions and holding others to account without it seeming to be an exercise in arse-covering). But overall, I think the biggest lesson was brought to us by losing PM Felicity and her team, who literally didn't have a clue what they were doing. With my own family roots planted over decades with toil and lots of elbow grease by a string of honest, hardworking grafters, you'd imagine that I would be a bit more of a "put your back into it" type of bloke. But to be honest, I'm all about the result. And sometimes, an honest day's work doesn't result in an honest day's pay. In the case of last night's episode, it resulted in a fat load of debt. And it wasn't because the team weren't working hard, they were selling like crazy people, but they were selling the wrong stuff. We British think that being commercial is a bit down at heel. It's a tad brash so we don't always feel that comfortable with it as a concept. However, making money and selling hard didn't phase the losing team, so it doesn't quite explain why things were so catastrophic for them last night. And that was the key issue. Selling and being commercial are two very different things. It's not always how hard you work, but what you're working to achieve that makes you successful. Despite crunching the numbers and understanding the margins, they let the whole thing run away with them. They became busy fools. We've all met people like this, always late for meetings, constantly missing your deadlines and rushing to get nowhere, never realising that being busy is different from being productive. And on this occasion the PM needed to refocus the team on the objectives of the task. Selling more of the high margin treatments wouldn't have meant working harder, but it would have been a whole lot smarter. So this week's lesson? Define what you want to achieve at the very outset. Make sure everyone in the team understands how their input will help you achieve the goal, and stop doing the stuff which isn't helping do so.      

Mobile recruiting, close but no cigar?

2011 is the year of mobile recruitment apparently. Mind you, so was 2010 and 2009. Mobile recruitment currently seems to be in the same doldrums that interactive TV suffered for years. Lots of exciting talk, but very little reaching the market, and what does not always living up to the hype. I remember back at university in around 1998, a lecture about interactive television which touted the possibility of being able to order pizza through your TV and a bright new future of immersive interactive services which never really appeared. Dominos flirted with ordering online through the Sky Digital platform for a while but it (and most other interactive TV at the time) was slow and clunky and needed you to plug the settop box into the phone line and pay for a call every time you used it. It was rapidly overtaken by cheap laptops, netbooks, smartphones and of course the iPad. It's a fairly safe bet that when a TV program advertises a URL or a hashtag in the opening credits most of those taking part in the conversation it generates aren't doing so through their TV or set-top box. Let's face it most of us would rather stick pins in our eyes than perform any task of more than a couple of steps using a TV remote, it's too clunky, and in today's world of smartphones with touchscreens and gesture control, far too slow. And this, really, is where mobile recruitment is today. The technology has marched on to the point where it's finally possible to offer some great, branded interactive content on a smartphone and get a candidate warmed up and excited about applying for a role with your company. But that's where the problems begin... The explosion of apps over the past 2 years, in no small part due to the Apple and Android app store model, has meant that many clients that we speak to are interested in either a mobile version of their careers site or an app. They often point out that no one else in their sector has done one yet, so they could be first to market. Sometimes, there's a reason no one else has done something! Once you start to scratch the surface and ask why a candidate might want to download your app, what they'll use it for and how they'll apply, it all starts to get a bit more complicated. And for me, that's all about the candidate experience. If i'm going to invest some of my time and effort in downloading and installing an app onto my phone, it needs to offer me something interactive, engaging and useful in the medium to long term. If it doesn't, it'll be opened once, flicked through and then never touched again. Hardly a great return on investment! A great example of this in action can be seen in the use of apps in politics. The campaign which saw Obama sweep to power in the USA included an iPhone app, aimed at supporters and activists. It was packed with videos, speeches and campaign material (all updated every time it loaded) and offered a easy to use toolkit for encouraging your friends to vote for Obama. It would even look through your contact book, and rank them by their address putting the key battleground states first, encouraging you to call them and talk about the campaign. Then at the end of the call, one click would feed back to campaign HQ whether your friend had said they were going to vote republican or democrat. Giving them a live update on polling data nationwide. Compare this to the Liberal Democrat app, released to great fanfare during the 2010 General Election. Once installed it offered a short welcome video clip, followed by a graphic illustrating four key policy areas, each of which when clicked played another video. That was pretty much it. I'd wager most users opened it once or twice at most and that was it. Most employers have some kind of Applicant Tracking System in place, and some have a Talent Bank in operation collecting candidates they want to keep warm over time. While some recruitment mobile apps I've reviewed recently go as far as pulling in a listing of live vacancies from the ATS, I've yet to see one that doesn't stop dead at the point of application. Unsurprisingly, as the prospect of filling out something as complex as a job application on a mobile phone isn't exactly enticing (or indeed possible with many ATS systems). Offering a candidate an app, which gets them engaged with your employer brand, fired up about working with you and then offers them no realistic next step to registering their interest, applying or getting in touch seems like a massively missed opportunity. I've spoken to a few software suppliers recently about their plans around mobile and there are a few interesting ideas being floated about ways of making the application process much simpler and easier. In fact last week, I saw an early demo of an ATS providers mobile app, which has some very promising functionality. Let's hope they manage to nail it soon...maybe then we'll be able to really call 2012 the year of mobile recruitment.. ?

The Chat w/c 16th May

*adopts geordie accent* Day 50 in the Chatter house...and Jon is in the office. 50 days since we launched the company, and although it seems like we're starting each weekly update marvelling at how quickly time is flying by. This week has passed in a blink. The week started with setting one of our flock members to work on some designs for a website, as part of a new business brief. Followed by our weekly catch up, a chance for the three of us to take stock and plan the week ahead. On Tuesday an old friend and ex colleague of myself and Paul's, Scott dropped in to talk about the intranet products he now works on. Some really interesting stuff there, and certainly gives hope that the fairly turgid user experience often offered by products like Microsoft Sharepoint certainly isn't the best that the sector can offer. Wednesday saw Lisa up at about 5am (ouch!) to travel down South to facilitate a full day workshop for a client. Despite the early start, the feedback has been great and Lisa came back clutching a wodge of flipchart pages filled with notes and a big smile on her face. Thursday got off to a flying start with a visit from good friend of Chatter, Jo Powdrell, who dropped in to see the new office and came bearing cakes. Setting the bar high for future visitors. grin Later that day we caught up with one of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) vendors we work with, to hear about their newest features. Some really engaging stuff and some great mobile related stuff (more of our thoughts on mobile recruiting next week.) Paul and I also had a really great new business conversation with a client we'd love to work with, an organisation that feels very "Chatter" ..and before we knew it, it was Friday. A busy morning, sorting out the delivery of a motion-graphics teaser and accompanying HTML email for a client. Which seems to have gone off smoothly, with over a third of their employees viewing it within a couple of hours of launch. And, yet another first for Chatter, our first invoice has been paid. Definitely a good excuse for a Friday evening drink to celebrate!

This years apprentice lesson 3: Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

A braver man then me would perhaps have chosen a riskier title for this piece, maybe along the lines of "A man in charge of a shopping task - whatever next?" but since Gavin Winstanley's demise from the competition last night was more to do with his absolute ineptitude as a leader, as opposed to the fact he was a man leading a shopping task, prompted me to err on the side of caution. Of all the challenges the candidates face, I always think this is one of the hardest - particularly since they no longer get to visit a far-flung city to do battle amongst stall holders in a bazaar. The interesting thing from my perspective was watching how the two teams organised themselves at the very outset of the process. The eventual victors - Venture, under the direction of their PM Susan Ma, took on a product each, and got down to some telephone research to locate where they'd buy each item close to the hotel, whilst Gavin's team - well, who knows what they were doing. In addition to breaking the task down into manageable tasks and assigning out to individual team members, Susan provided some guidance to help inform the decisions that would need to be taken - "buy close to the hotel and head East where prices are cheaper". Essentially, we all knew it was a flawed strategy to purchase so much of the list so close to one of the most expensive areas in the country. And when they'd only managed to negotiate a penny from the price of a £350 topper (bought from a shop patronised by the King of Tonga no less) before spending more than £400 on a box of tea, the writing really ought to have been on the wall. And under ordinary circumstances, perhaps it might. But from the beginning, it was clear that team Logic just weren't going to make the grade. Why? Because they had no plan. They didn't have a clue what they were doing, what would make them successful and how they could stay on track throughout the day. And throughout it all, Gavin appeared to be the passenger, not really sure where he was heading or what he would do if he ever made it there. He failed to own the project, and inspire his team. He'd become surplus stock. So what did we learn? Well it's never too late to make a plan, so when the storm's raging around you, and you're not sure what to do next, that's exactly the point when you need to stop what you're doing, refocus on the goal and break out the individual packages of work that will help achieve the overall objective. Sometimes it'll mean moving the goalposts slightly, but at least you'll know what you're shooting for, and be making decisions based on sensible reasoning. You'll be in control. I imagine this blog-post will return to haunt me in the midst of a runaway pitch!    

The Chat w/c 9th May

This has been the week where we officially feel like a proper agency. At least that's the general consensus of opinion from the Chatter guys and gal. Lisa in particular has been back in the thick of it with several projects on the go, and more turning up on an almost daily basis. At times even she (the woman who'd give the duracell bunny a run for its money) has looked like she might be flagging, but behind the fatigue it's easy to see she's loving every minute - covetously stroking the growing pile of job bags arranged carefully on her desk. So what have we been up to. Well it's exactly the sort of thing we set out to do. We're consulting with clients to help define what some of their challenges look like, and developing plans to overcome them. So far that's been a myriad of things from social media strategies to careers sites. Values and branding research to helping communicate organisational change. We're working with some lovely clients and having lots of fun along the way. We'll be sharing some of the creative outputs very soon. And since we're settled into the new offices, we've had a steady stream of visitors, the lovely Jane Peters from News International popped in to bring us up to speed with the Sunday Times offer, our bank manager came over with some paperwork (even he seems happy with progress!) a new member to our flock dropped by to take brief to create some rich media content for a web project we're working on, Lisa's husband, my sister and an old friend with her baby called in to say hi too! Between me and you, we also met with someone who might come work with us later in the year to help deliver some of the projects we've been picking up. Keep chattering! The business end: 1st project complete and delivered Research proposal for a new client signed off - kick off meeting next week Brief taken to deliver website for a new client Missing new business prospect now located, she's thankfully alive and well

This year's apprentice lesson 2: Always walk the talk

So last night's episode of the Apprentice saw the departure of Alex Britez Cabral, an Estate Agent from London (possibly from the 1980's too judging from his slick-back hair). The task saw the two teams conceive and market a new mobile app, and it's perhaps a sign of the times that they believed anyone would want to download either an app of "annoying noises" or another featuring a range of regional accents. Then again, who am I to judge, Lord Sugar's aides revealed that over 13,000 people worldwide did download them! It's still early days in the process, so like us, you'll be getting the measure of this year's candidates. Separating the wheat from the chaff and trying to spot the winner. But this year's unlike any other. The trophy at the end of the process really is worth winning, it's a cash investment to establish a business partnership between the winner and the big man himself.  And with much more to play for, the rules of the game have shifted too. In previous years, we've seen some of the brighter candidates taking up a spot of goal hanging, waiting in the background until there's a sure fire opportunity to appear from nowhere and claim the glory. And often it's worked quite well, but this year's different. This year's about proving they've got what it takes to build and sustain a business under they're own steam. The winning candidate this time around, will need to be much more than the right shaped peg for one of a variety of "ams-businesses", they'll need to prove they're the rainmaker. A real bright spark capable of defining, developing and deploying a money-making enterprise that will expand, grow and diversify over time. And I think that's the main reason for Alex Britez Cabral's early bath last night - he just failed to demonstrate he could be that man. Let's face it, Leon's flimsy, almost pathetic, marshalling of the "who to bring into the boardroom" decision (coupled with the fact he'd PM'd the task) would ordinarily put him directly in the awaiting black cab, but Alex's tactics to hang around the goal line, keep his head down and wait till the field had cleared before he really showed what he could do, just didn't cut the mustard. And by the time he was fighting boldly for survival in the boardroom, his fate was already sealed, he failed to walk the talk. In our view it's a case of "actions speak louder then words" so he had to go. The remaining candidates ought to take heed, there's nowhere to hide this year. It'll be payment by results. They'll have to find some balls if they're to make it through. They'll have to be able to show they're the one who makes the difference. Makes things happen.  

This year's apprentice lesson 1: Just be yourself

Last night saw the first episode of this years The Apprentice (series 7). And unlike some of the other reality TV formats which have fallen by the wayside over recent times, The Apprentice seems to have "rolled with the punches" to quote last nights losing applicant, Edward Hunter. The Chatter team are die hard fans of the show, and what's not to like. For a kick off there's Lord Sugar himself (Sir Alan to his friends) a man with an extraordinary ability to deliver criticism and provide a reality check with untouchable style and humour:  “The Titanic won 12 Oscars but it wasn’t a good advert for Cruises”. And it's not just Lord Sugar we're sweet on, we're fans of Nick and Karen too (though we'll never forget Margaret for whom we reserve a very special place in our hearts). The three of them represent more than 100 years combined experience of business and enterprise. They're a pretty measured bunch. They value things like honesty, integrity, innovation, efficiency, quality and value; so it's perhaps surprising that 7 series in, we're still watching applicants who seem to think that successful business people are cut-throat and heartless. Self-centred egomaniacs who make wild claims about how they'd gladly trample over the other candidates to get what they want. Do they really believe that anyone wants to do business with that sort of low-life operator? Over the last three years, we've all learnt the costly lessons of allowing ruthless, self-obsessed opportunists to look after the shop. We know that decisions made only on the basis of short-term gain, can often have catastrophic consequences for the future. Since we all hope that 2011 will be a year of economic recovery, we need to recognise that business people as portrayed by the programme's editing team, are not the type of business professionals who'll help us rebuild our economy or reputation. We need business professionals who are the real deal. Real expertise. Real value for money. Real people. Like other commentators on Twitter and Facebook last night, I was initially a bit scared of ever possibly meeting Edward (last night's losing contestant) his mad stare-y eyes and dictator-like leadership style was unnerving to say the least. But having switched over to watch the "You're Fired" programme, when he'd dropped the act and just appeared as himself, I realised what a pity it was that candidates felt that being themselves simply wouldn't be enough to succeed, when it's the human touch that really helps us understand what they're all about, and assess whether they'd be suitable for the job. I believe that being successful in business is about the way you do things, as well as what you actually do or sell. For us it's about being Honest, Direct, Hardworking and Sociable. And I think that if Edward could have found a way to be himself, do things his way and play to his strengths, his Apprentice experience might not have floundered so early on.

The Chat w/c 2nd May

The end of April is an odd time to be working on a new business of your own. Especially this April. The flurry of Bank Holidays and the Royal Wedding have come together in a rush which has given me mixed feelings. All that time off is great, but we've also been itching to crack on. This week has been another of firsts. The biggest news of all being that we've moved into our new office at Airedale House in Leeds. It's great to be moved in and it's fantastic to be able to invite clients and members of the flock to come and see us at our place. The working week began a little early for me, on Monday afternoon when I started moving in boxes to the new office, and then on Tuesday morning the three of us spent our first day working together. Everything went smoothly, the internet connection and phones were up and running straight away and the team at Airedale House really made us feel welcome, meaning we could hit the ground running. On Wednesday I delivered the outputs of our first social media project. A workshop on using social media in HR, along with a set of Social Media Guidelines for roll out across their business. The workshop participants were all based in Madrid and Barcelona, so it was a little bit strange not being able to see or hear them while I was presenting, just speaking into my MacBook and hoping they could hear me ok, but it seemed to go down really well and we got some great questions at the end. Thursday saw the delivery of our new printer, an A3 colour monster, having spent some time the previous day investigating the costs of consumables for several different models, we think we made the right choice in the end with an OKI c810..time will tell. The backache from lugging it into the office may take slightly longer to ease though! Lisa and I also took the obligatory new office furnishing trip to Ikea. Planned like a military operation, we were there and back in 2 hours with a car full of boxes, no hanging around where we're concerned! Finally the end of the week saw our first visitor to the office to take a digital creative brief on a couple of projects. A rewards and benefits microsite and some HTML email templates to help communicate the new benefits scheme to several hundred people. Expect to see some photos of our new home next week (once we've got the pictures up on the wall!) but in the meantime here are a couple of shots of reception and the rest of the building as a bit of a teaser and if you'd like to drop in and see us, get in touch and we'll make sure the kettle is on.

The business end

- Several more proposals out of the door - Delivered a social media workshop and guidelines - Continued work on a major brand development project - Moving, unpacking boxes and decorating!

The Chat w/c 2nd May

The end of April is an odd time to be working on a new business of your own. Especially this April. The flurry of Bank Holidays and the Royal Wedding have come together in a rush which has given me mixed feelings. All that time off is great, but we've also been itching to crack on. This week has been another of firsts. The biggest news of all being that we've moved into our new office at Airedale House in Leeds. It's great to be moved in and it's fantastic to be able to invite clients and members of the flock to come and see us at our place. The working week began a little early for me, on Monday afternoon when I started moving in boxes to the new office, and then on Tuesday morning the three of us spent our first day working together. Everything went smoothly, the internet connection and phones were up and running straight away and the team at Airedale House really made us feel welcome, meaning we could hit the ground running. On Wednesday I delivered the outputs of our first social media project. A workshop on using social media in HR, along with a set of Social Media Guidelines for roll out across their business. The workshop participants were all based in Madrid and Barcelona, so it was a little bit strange not being able to see or hear them while I was presenting, just speaking into my MacBook and hoping they could hear me ok, but it seemed to go down really well and we got some great questions at the end. Thursday saw the delivery of our new printer, an A3 colour monster, having spent some time the previous day investigating the costs of consumables for several different models, we think we made the right choice in the end with an OKI c810..time will tell. The backache from lugging it into the office may take slightly longer to ease though! Lisa and I also took the obligatory new office furnishing trip to Ikea. Planned like a military operation, we were there and back in 2 hours with a car full of boxes, no hanging around where we're concerned! Finally the end of the week saw our first visitor to the office to take a digital creative brief on a couple of projects. A rewards and benefits microsite and some HTML email templates to help communicate the new benefits scheme to several hundred people. Expect to see some photos of our new home next week (once we've got the pictures up on the wall!) but in the meantime here are a couple of shots of reception and the rest of the building as a bit of a teaser and if you'd like to drop in and see us, get in touch and we'll make sure the kettle is on.

The business end

- Several more proposals out of the door - Delivered a social media workshop and guidelines - Continued work on a major brand development project - Moving, unpacking boxes and decorating!

The Chat w/c 25th April

We knew this week was going to be pretty hectic with only three days to cram everything into. And whilst we were absolutely right, we've had some real fun too.  We kicked off the week with our first creative brief for a new business pitch. And with only two days to take it from concept to fully worked up designs (including copy for each and creative rationales to boot) we knew it would be a test for us and our Flock . In the event, we got four fabulous concepts which were fully artworked to help demonstrate how they might be applied across an integrated campaign. Big thanks to Eilis and Neil on this! Whilst we'd never expected to be pitching for the design account of a FTSE 100 business just 28 days after launch, we were full of beans on the morning of the meeting, and having not pitched together for a while, quickly slipped back into the swing of things. We had a blast doing it and hope we did ourselves proud. Needless to say, we're keeping everything crossed until we hear whether we've made it through to the next stage of the process - thanks for all the messages of support facebook pals! And things didn't stop there. Wednesday was the day we met with the CEO of a large well-known Professional Services organisation who happened to drop into our launch party back at the beginning of the month, and wanted to know more. A great meeting and one to watch - hopefully! And finally, Thursday was our last day bunking in with our great mates at Write Research Company, who had kindly loaned us three desks to work from whilst we made final arrangements on our new space. We've loved working with them and will miss them all. It was great to round off such a busy week with a nice cold drink together at The Sand Bar in Horsforth, which might well have been mistaken for a cool Italian bar as its open frontage soaked up the last of the evening's sun. The Business End 1st Competitive pitch planned, briefed and delivered 1 new business meeting delivered 1st unsolicited lead received via LinkedIn Mid-project review with Chatter's first ever client - all's well!    

The Chat w/c 25th April

We knew this week was going to be pretty hectic with only three days to cram everything into. And whilst we were absolutely right, we've had some real fun too.  We kicked off the week with our first creative brief for a new business pitch. And with only two days to take it from concept to fully worked up designs (including copy for each and creative rationales to boot) we knew it would be a test for us and our Flock . In the event, we got four fabulous concepts which were fully artworked to help demonstrate how they might be applied across an integrated campaign. Big thanks to Eilis and Neil on this! Whilst we'd never expected to be pitching for the design account of a FTSE 100 business just 28 days after launch, we were full of beans on the morning of the meeting, and having not pitched together for a while, quickly slipped back into the swing of things. We had a blast doing it and hope we did ourselves proud. Needless to say, we're keeping everything crossed until we hear whether we've made it through to the next stage of the process - thanks for all the messages of support facebook pals! And things didn't stop there. Wednesday was the day we met with the CEO of a large well-known Professional Services organisation who happened to drop into our launch party back at the beginning of the month, and wanted to know more. A great meeting and one to watch - hopefully! And finally, Thursday was our last day bunking in with our great mates at Write Research Company, who had kindly loaned us three desks to work from whilst we made final arrangements on our new space. We've loved working with them and will miss them all. It was great to round off such a busy week with a nice cold drink together at The Sand Bar in Horsforth, which might well have been mistaken for a cool Italian bar as its open frontage soaked up the last of the evening's sun. The Business End 1st Competitive pitch planned, briefed and delivered 1 new business meeting delivered 1st unsolicited lead received via LinkedIn Mid-project review with Chatter's first ever client - all's well!    

The Chat w/c 18th April

As the hot weather persists, we've been busy beavering away at Chatter. Lisa and Jon are midway through delivering branding and social media strategy work for our international client. We've had two of the Flocks best creative talents on the job; Neil and Eilis have produced some fab initial concepts, and the brand in particular is really starting to take shape. Having design work to talk through and band about in the office has given us a real buzz. We've also been working on developing an exciting new product which started out as a bit of an idea, inspired by initial conversations with clients, and has really taken shape this week. Jon's sourced some excellent potential technology partners, and suddenly the enterprise looks like it might really have some legs! And we ended the week with a really exciting meeting, lots of opportunity to do what Chatter does best - work with an exciting client to help them make big changes to the way they attract and recruit talent to their organisation. This one's far from a done deal, in fact, it'll be our first ever competitive pitch. Can't tell you how much excitement there is at the office this week! The business end: 1 new business meeting 3 conference call WIP meetings 2 product development meetings 1st Chatter invoice sent!

The Chat w/c 18th April

As the hot weather persists, we've been busy beavering away at Chatter. Lisa and Jon are midway through delivering branding and social media strategy work for our international client. We've had two of the Flocks best creative talents on the job; Neil and Eilis have produced some fab initial concepts, and the brand in particular is really starting to take shape. Having design work to talk through and band about in the office has given us a real buzz. We've also been working on developing an exciting new product which started out as a bit of an idea, inspired by initial conversations with clients, and has really taken shape this week. Jon's sourced some excellent potential technology partners, and suddenly the enterprise looks like it might really have some legs! And we ended the week with a really exciting meeting, lots of opportunity to do what Chatter does best - work with an exciting client to help them make big changes to the way they attract and recruit talent to their organisation. This one's far from a done deal, in fact, it'll be our first ever competitive pitch. Can't tell you how much excitement there is at the office this week! The business end: 1 new business meeting 3 conference call WIP meetings 2 product development meetings 1st Chatter invoice sent!

Renting a read: Job ads by the half hour.

Over the last 6 years i've spent a big chunk of my working life convincing clients that online routes should be their first port of call for resourcing. And in the past 2 years, social recruiting, via sites like Facebook and LinkedIn has come to the fore. Initially, we were faced with flat out rejections like: "I don't believe anyone looks for jobs on the internet" and gradually that softened to the point that now putting an ad in the paper is a notable event in itself! Print isn't dead, but it's certainly not the mainstay it once was. Much has been written about the way large swathes of the print industry have been slow to adapt to new revenue models, or adopted a Canute like approach (see also: the music industry) to their rapidly reducing circulations and i'm not about to rehearse them again here. So it was really interesting yesterday to spot this article on CNN.com, Renting a read from 'newspaper landlords' a really interesting reminder that in big chunks of the world, the press is still a vital source of daily information, and yes, even job ads. Not only that, but over in Ethiopia they've developed what Rupert Murdoch would call an "innovative micropayment infrastructure", where instead of buying a paper for ¢30 just to look at the job ads, you can rent it for half an hour for ¢1 instead. So new-school micropayment business model, meets old-school print production and distribution. Genius! I love these kinds of elegant, lateral thinking that prove that you don't need high tech to solve a problem. It reminded me of the brilliant Question Box, a scheme in Africa which allows people in remote locations with no internet connection to tap into the knowledge and experience of the web using sites like Wikipedia. A volunteer takes down the question, calls a central number and an operator looks it up on the internet and relays back the answer. Simple, but brilliant. So, while digital solutions may be right in some cases, it just goes to prove that as we've always said it's best to find the right solution for any particular situation. Rather than just jumping on the latest bandwagon.

Renting a read: Job ads by the half hour.

Over the last 6 years i've spent a big chunk of my working life convincing clients that online routes should be their first port of call for resourcing. And in the past 2 years, social recruiting, via sites like Facebook and LinkedIn has come to the fore. Initially, we were faced with flat out rejections like: "I don't believe anyone looks for jobs on the internet" and gradually that softened to the point that now putting an ad in the paper is a notable event in itself! Print isn't dead, but it's certainly not the mainstay it once was. Much has been written about the way large swathes of the print industry have been slow to adapt to new revenue models, or adopted a Canute like approach (see also: the music industry) to their rapidly reducing circulations and i'm not about to rehearse them again here. So it was really interesting yesterday to spot this article on CNN.com, Renting a read from 'newspaper landlords' a really interesting reminder that in big chunks of the world, the press is still a vital source of daily information, and yes, even job ads. Not only that, but over in Ethiopia they've developed what Rupert Murdoch would call an "innovative micropayment infrastructure", where instead of buying a paper for ¢30 just to look at the job ads, you can rent it for half an hour for ¢1 instead. So new-school micropayment business model, meets old-school print production and distribution. Genius! I love these kinds of elegant, lateral thinking that prove that you don't need high tech to solve a problem. It reminded me of the brilliant Question Box, a scheme in Africa which allows people in remote locations with no internet connection to tap into the knowledge and experience of the web using sites like Wikipedia. A volunteer takes down the question, calls a central number and an operator looks it up on the internet and relays back the answer. Simple, but brilliant. So, while digital solutions may be right in some cases, it just goes to prove that as we've always said it's best to find the right solution for any particular situation. Rather than just jumping on the latest bandwagon.

Everything Everywhere? Darlington to Manilla?

Today's likely to have been a pretty hectic one for the good folks in HR (and PR) at Everything Everywhere - the new name for the combined Orange and T-Mobile businesses - since newsrooms across the country have been running the story of how night shift workers based in Darlington, were offered alternative roles in Manilla having been put at risk by the telecoms giant. This report in The Telegraph for example. Aside from the debate around whether anybody other than shareholders ever benefit from off-shoring customer services, it highlights how big organisations find it really difficult to get things right when it comes to managing their relationship with employees. No one doubts that an organisation like Everything Everywhere, will have followed the very letter of the law when it came to these proposed changes, but perhaps that's why they got this so wrong. In an effort to make sure the process was beyond reproach, they failed to get to grips with how the individuals affected would feel, and how negatively that would impact on their employer reputation. So what should they have done? Absolutely they were right to have defined a process that was legally compliant, but that's only half the job. They needed to think about how best to communicate and support their colleagues. Set the right tone, be honest and offer realistic options. They ought to have spent more time explaining the business case, and how they'd be supporting those whose jobs are at risk to find other opportunities, both within the organisation and via external partners. And having invested some time at face to face meetings, they ought to have provided additional information, training and support resources - information portals, career coaching sessions, outplacement support etc, to help colleagues explore what their options were moving forward. None of us dispute that in business, tough decisions have to be made, and sometimes that means people will lose their jobs, but handled well, most of us who have gone through redundancy reflect that it was the push we needed to pursue bigger and better things. So aside from a moral obligation to treat people well, it makes sense for all involved to spend time thinking about the human angle of the business decisions they take, and how a well managed, emotionally intelligent communications plan can make all the difference to everyone, everywhere.    

Everything Everywhere? Darlington to Manilla?

Today's likely to have been a pretty hectic one for the good folks in HR (and PR) at Everything Everywhere - the new name for the combined Orange and T-Mobile businesses - since newsrooms across the country have been running the story of how night shift workers based in Darlington, were offered alternative roles in Manilla having been put at risk by the telecoms giant. This report in The Telegraph for example. Aside from the debate around whether anybody other than shareholders ever benefit from off-shoring customer services, it highlights how big organisations find it really difficult to get things right when it comes to managing their relationship with employees. No one doubts that an organisation like Everything Everywhere, will have followed the very letter of the law when it came to these proposed changes, but perhaps that's why they got this so wrong. In an effort to make sure the process was beyond reproach, they failed to get to grips with how the individuals affected would feel, and how negatively that would impact on their employer reputation. So what should they have done? Absolutely they were right to have defined a process that was legally compliant, but that's only half the job. They needed to think about how best to communicate and support their colleagues. Set the right tone, be honest and offer realistic options. They ought to have spent more time explaining the business case, and how they'd be supporting those whose jobs are at risk to find other opportunities, both within the organisation and via external partners. And having invested some time at face to face meetings, they ought to have provided additional information, training and support resources - information portals, career coaching sessions, outplacement support etc, to help colleagues explore what their options were moving forward. None of us dispute that in business, tough decisions have to be made, and sometimes that means people will lose their jobs, but handled well, most of us who have gone through redundancy reflect that it was the push we needed to pursue bigger and better things. So aside from a moral obligation to treat people well, it makes sense for all involved to spend time thinking about the human angle of the business decisions they take, and how a well managed, emotionally intelligent communications plan can make all the difference to everyone, everywhere.    

Leeds Digital Festival - Design Day

This Saturday saw the first Leeds Digital Festival Design Day, the digital festival has been through several different incarnations over the past few years and the purpose of the design day was in part to make a bit of a break with the past and give the event a fresh new look and feel. One small drawback, this meant getting up early on a Saturday morning to head into Leeds and the Round Foundry Media Centre. At 10am a band of about 20 of Leeds best and brightest (and in my case still half asleep) digital marketers and designers had gathered, with the aim of delivering a new brand, logo and typeface in just 6 hours. We divided into groups, which ran along the lines of 2 marketers, 1 designer and 1 student or recent graduate and got started. It was fascinating to see the different ways in which each group got to grips with the task. Some jumped up and started brainstorming on post-it notes and sticking them to the walls. Others jumped straight into Adobe Illustrator and starting sketching ideas and we started by talking through the brief and our own feelings about the Festival. It was slightly amusing to discover that within our group of four, despite all working in digital in Leeds, none of us had attended any of the past events so we started by looking at why we'd not attended and exploring some of the prejudices that the name "Leeds Digital Festival"  conjures up, thinking it sounded a bit municipal and worthy. We then decided to make the day a hell of a lot harder for ourselves by renaming the event entirely, and ended up spending most of the rest of the morning kicking around ideas for what to call it. A nice lunch in the sunshine at The Midnight Bell helped, and then in the afternoon we pushed on to pull together our presentation for 4pm when all 5 groups came together to share their ideas. We, unfortunately didn't get through to the final three, but it was really interesting to see the different approaches the groups had taken (and also the areas of overlap) and certainly between all the groups there are some brilliant elements to take forward. The next Leeds Digital Festival event is the Hack Day (Date TBC), at which they'll be taking forward the branding elements and creating the website and other interactive bits and pieces, so if you've got technical skills, get along and get involved! You can see some photos from the day at the Digital Festival Facebook page.

Leeds Digital Festival - Design Day

This Saturday saw the first Leeds Digital Festival Design Day, the digital festival has been through several different incarnations over the past few years and the purpose of the design day was in part to make a bit of a break with the past and give the event a fresh new look and feel. One small drawback, this meant getting up early on a Saturday morning to head into Leeds and the Round Foundry Media Centre. At 10am a band of about 20 of Leeds best and brightest (and in my case still half asleep) digital marketers and designers had gathered, with the aim of delivering a new brand, logo and typeface in just 6 hours. We divided into groups, which ran along the lines of 2 marketers, 1 designer and 1 student or recent graduate and got started. It was fascinating to see the different ways in which each group got to grips with the task. Some jumped up and started brainstorming on post-it notes and sticking them to the walls. Others jumped straight into Adobe Illustrator and starting sketching ideas and we started by talking through the brief and our own feelings about the Festival. It was slightly amusing to discover that within our group of four, despite all working in digital in Leeds, none of us had attended any of the past events so we started by looking at why we'd not attended and exploring some of the prejudices that the name "Leeds Digital Festival"  conjures up, thinking it sounded a bit municipal and worthy. We then decided to make the day a hell of a lot harder for ourselves by renaming the event entirely, and ended up spending most of the rest of the morning kicking around ideas for what to call it. A nice lunch in the sunshine at The Midnight Bell helped, and then in the afternoon we pushed on to pull together our presentation for 4pm when all 5 groups came together to share their ideas. We, unfortunately didn't get through to the final three, but it was really interesting to see the different approaches the groups had taken (and also the areas of overlap) and certainly between all the groups there are some brilliant elements to take forward. The next Leeds Digital Festival event is the Hack Day (Date TBC), at which they'll be taking forward the branding elements and creating the website and other interactive bits and pieces, so if you've got technical skills, get along and get involved! You can see some photos from the day at the Digital Festival Facebook page.

The Chat w/c 11th April

It feels hard to believe that we've been Chattering away now for 3 weeks. This week especially seems to have flown by. But it's been punctuated by more firsts. The main one being our first piece of billable work being delivered! Lisa and I have been working on some consultancy for a client, auditing their current Careers site and social media channels and making recommendations for development. It's a great project and we're looking forward to seeing how the next phase of it develops. Part of that was giving our first creative brief, we sat down over coffee with creative Neil, and copywriter Eilis and filled them in. It's now Friday and we've already seen some of their first ideas and it's all looking very exciting. More of that soon. Meanwhile, Paul has been busy too, writing proposals and setting up meetings. With some great opportunities in the diary, it's not looking like we'll have much of a chance to relax over the forthcoming bank holiday weekends. Lisa has spent the week with a really bad cold, coughing like a chain smoking navvy but fought through it and took a trip to "that London" to see a new client about some potential work. She came back with loads to tell us, so we finished the week on a really productive briefing session to talk it all through over lunch.

The business end

  • 3 clients on board
  • First creative brief issued
  • First work delivered
  • VAT number issued!

HAVE A CHAT

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WHAT WE DO

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