Renee

GDPR consent – a plain English interpretation for email marketing and social media

“Four things you must do, four things to avoid, and six tips to make your life easier.”

Since I sent you my ‘GDPR in plain English; 10 steps to take now,’ I’ve spent a good deal of time on webinars, in chatrooms and at expert panels, where some very smart people have presented their own interpretations of what GDPR really means to us small business owners.

But the truth is, it’s still a greyish area. Maybe not an infamous 50 shades, but certainly enough hues to confuse an awful lot of people.  The guidance is quite clear; how to put it into practice somewhat less so…

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There are six lawful reasons for ‘processing personal data’ – in other words, storing information and emailing people. In reality, for most people reading this, only two reasons are likely to apply:

  • Legitimate interest; and
  • Consent

Let’s focus on consent, because what we believe to be consent isn’t necessarily recognised as consent under the new law. Here are four things you must do, four things to avoid, and six tips to make your life easier.

You must:

  • Gain clear re-consent to email everyone on your mailing list. This means ‘affirmative action’ on their part. We can’t simply assume it’s okay to continue emailing them because they haven’t told us otherwise.
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  • Gain consent to email new people. We can’t work on the presumption that a business card swap at a networking lunch implies agreement to join a mailing list.
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  • Keep a clear record of when and why each person gave their consent. This includes recording how they “signed up,” what you told them you’d do with their data and what your privacy policy was on that date. I’ll be keeping a simple Excel spreadsheet from now on and hoping that’s sufficient.
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  • Have an up-to-date privacy policy that is clearly accessible on your website, not hidden in the footer. (Mine’s still in the footer…)

You can’t:

  • Keep anyone’s personal data after May 25th if they haven’t agreed to it. You have to delete it! Yes, I know… all those years of carefully cultivating an email list.
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  • Collect people’s information without a good reason. And only ask for what you need – don’t try to find out ‘sensitive data’ like date of birth, dress size, skin colour or who they fancy – unless you can absolutely justify why you need this information.
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  • Email people for any reason other than what you’ve agreed with them. So you might hope to raise extra money for charity by emailing your business list to let them know you’re doing a sponsored parachute jump – and chances are no one will report you for this – but it’s not allowed under the new rules. Likewise, you can’t take someone’s email to send them a free gift then add them to a mailing list for marketing. This applies to social media marketing too – so there should be no more signing up for anything via Facebook then receiving unrelated emails from the same company or an associated one.
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  • Ignore the law. Lots of people are poo-pooing the extortionate fines being quoted – after all, would the ICO really bankrupt a small business owner for sending an email to someone who hadn’t agreed? Of course not, but the aggravation of a potential investigation is surely not worth it.

There are various things you can do to make the transition into GDPR-compliancy easier for yourself.

These six tips should make the process easier!

  1. Add a clearly worded Privacy Policy to your website. Make sure it’s written in plain English and addresses all the points necessary to make it GDPR compliant.
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  2. Audit your sign-up process. Check the way you add people to your mailing list – through a website sign-up form, via a Facebook promotion, from business cards, from a ‘pop your card in this jar to win a bottle of champagne’ scheme. Then ensure the way you add them moving forward complies with the law.
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  3. Watch a brilliant two-hour webinar with a specialist GDPR lawyer named Suzanne Dibble here. She worked for Richard Branson to set up Virgin’s data protection compliance and she runs a very useful Facebook group. (I’ve seen the video – she also has many short videos on various different GDPR-related topics.) There’s a link to a useful GDPR checklist too.
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  4. Buy Suzanne’s legal document pack. (I haven’t done this but I’ve seen many recommendations for it on Facebook.) This includes a standard privacy policy.
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  5. Remember that it’s about being reasonable. Could someone ‘reasonably’ expect to receive email from you? If in doubt, leave them out.
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  6. Reframe the whole ‘losing loads of subscribers’ issue in your mind. View it as an opportunity to clean up your mailing list. Having fewer people on your list can actually be helpful as you’ll have better open and engagement rates, which means more of your emails will land in people’s inboxes and fewer will go into their trash.

I’ve used the word interpretation in my heading as that’s what this is – my interpretation of it, based on hours of research and my ability to quickly sift through mounds of conflicting information to find the linguistic diamond in the sand.

So, just to get my own little beachball rolling, if you’d like to stay subscribed to my mailing list to receive social media tips – or you’d like to sign-up now, please leave your name and email in the sign up box below.

You can unsubscribe at any time, of course.  On a final note, signing up confirms that you’ve read and understand our privacy and cookies policy. Thanks!

I hope these notes are helpful. Please tell me if you’d like to know more about the ‘Legitimate Interest’ basis for processing personal data and I’ll cover that next time.

GDPR in Plain English – 10 steps to take now

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25 May.  If you hold any information on file about people, this new law affects you and you should be preparing for it now.

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What’s different to the current Data Protection Act?

Not a lot will change; it’s still about keeping people’s personal information safe. The way you act with regard to people’s data must still be lawful, fair and transparent – and you must have a clear purpose for handling their information.

If you comply with data protection rules now, much of your work is probably already in place.  The GDPR places greater emphasis on the documentation that you (as the Data Controller) must keep to demonstrate your accountability, so you need to have effective policies and procedures in place before May.  These must be written in plain English.

Make sure everyone in your organisation knows that the law is changing and this will impact on some areas of work, such as filing, storing information on line and contacting people by email. Brexit won’t make a difference – we all have to comply or face horrendous fines.

10 steps you can take right away

  1. Know what information you hold
    Document what personal data you hold, where it came from and who you share it with.
    Maintain clear records of your processing activities.
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  2. Be aware of people’s rights
    Check your procedures to make sure they cover people’s rights, including how you would delete their personal data or provide data electronically and in a ‘commonly used format.’ People have many rights, including to be informed, access their information free-of-charge, have it deleted and not to be subject to automated decision-making, including profiling.
  1. Communicate privacy information
    Review your privacy notices and make any necessary changes. When you collect personal data you currently have to give people certain information, such as your identity and how you intend to use their information. This is usually done through a ‘privacy notice.’ You must now also tell people your ‘lawful basis’ for processing the data, how long you plan to keep their information and that they have a right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they think there is a problem with the way you are handling their data. The GDPR requires this information to be provided in concise, easy to understand and clear language – in other words, in plain English! If you have inaccurate personal data and have shared this with another organisation, you will have to tell the other organisation so it can correct its own records.
  1. State your lawful basis for processing personal data
    Why do you keep people’s information? Identify the lawful basis for why you’re processing people’s data, document it and update your privacy notice to explain it. Some people’s rights will be modified depending on your lawful basis for processing their personal data; the most obvious example is that people will have a stronger right to have their data deleted where you use consent as your lawful basis for processing.
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  2. Gain consent
    Review how you seek, record and manage consent. (The ICO has published detailed guidance on consent and offers a checklist to review your practices.) Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. There must be a positive opt-in; consent cannot be inferred from silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity. It must also be separate from other terms and conditions, and you must have simple ways for people to withdraw their consent. Consent has to be verifiable and people generally have more rights where you rely on consent to process their data. In these cases, make sure it meets the GDPR standard on being specific, clear, prominent, opt-in, properly documented and easily withdrawn.
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  3. Handle subject access requests
    Update your procedures on how to handle requests to provide any additional information. Under the new rules, you will have a month to comply, rather than the current 40 days, and you can refuse or charge for requests that are ‘manifestly unfounded’ or excessive. If you refuse a request, you must tell the person why, and let them know that they have the right to complain to the supervisory authority and to a legal remedy.
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  4. Deal with data breaches
    Make sure you have the right procedures in place to detect, report and investigate a personal data breach. You may need to notify the ICO (and possibly some other bodies) if you suffer a personal data breach that is likely to result in anyone being at risk of discrimination, damage to reputation, financial loss, loss of confidentiality or any other significant economic or social disadvantage. You will also have to notify the people affected.
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  5. Protect children
    GDPR introduces special protection for children’s personal data, particularly in the context of commercial internet services such as social networking. If relevant to your business, put systems in place to verify people’s ages and to obtain parental or guardian consent for any data processing activity. Children can give their own consent to processing at age 16 (although this may be lowered to 13 in the UK). If a child is younger, you will need to get consent from a person holding ‘parental responsibility’.
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  6. Name your Data Protection Officer
    Designate someone to take responsibility for data protection compliance, if you don’t already have someone in this role. Look into the ICO’s code of practice on Privacy Impact Assessments to see whether this relates to your business.
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  7. International? Know which rules apply
    If your business operates in more than one EU member state, find out which will be your lead data protection supervisory authority and make sure you apply the relevant rules.
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Hopefully, these notes will give you a head start on tidying up your systems in anticipation of the forthcoming changes. This info is adapted from the GDPR section of the Information Commissioner’s Office website where there’s loads more useful advice and guidance to set you straight.

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like help to edit your privacy statement or any other documents into plain English.

Would you like to join me for a glass of wine? (And a free LinkedIn review!)

If you’re free on Thursday, 1st March, please join me at the Art Pavilion in east London for the private viewing of “In a country far, far away.”

There will be some awesome works of art, live music, wine and dance displays – so it will be wonderful if you can come along!

This exhibition has been inspired by tales from countries in war and crisis. My exhibit is a poem dedicated to the first recorded poet – a remarkable woman who lived over 4,500 years ago in the area now known as southern Iraq. Her work has survived almost five millennia, yet I’d never even heard of her until recently! Just think… her message spread across the globe and made a lasting impact without even a whisper of wifi…

While I won’t be giving out social media tips on the night (apart from reminding people to tweet, share and Instagram their favourite pieces of artwork, of course), I will be happy to follow up with a complimentary LinkedIn review for anyone who comes along as a result of reading this blog!

Here are the details, and I really hope you can make it!

If there’s anything specific you’d like to know about making the most of LinkedIn – or any social media – but you can’t make it on March 1st, please feel free to ask.

Looking forward to – hopefully – seeing you there!

How to avoid being annoying on LinkedIn

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training | social media marketingA few weeks ago I received an invitation to connect with another social media consultant. I’m usually happy to link up online with other people in my field as it’s great to be able to share ideas and – occasionally – concerns, and have meaningful discussions about the digital media marketing world. Also, there’s always the chance of cross-referrals if one person is too busy to take on new clients, so it’s good to have other people to recommend.

Some of the clients I coach don’t like to connect within their own industry sphere – and that’s fine.  Although I always point out that if it’s a reluctance to connect for fear of the competition poaching their clients, it might be worth reassessing their current client relationship strategy.  Within most industries there’s enough work to go around, and a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone.

So I accepted the LinkedIn invitation and started a discussion. This person specialises in handling the social media for clients in only one industry sector – we’ll pretend it’s liquorice manufacturers. (It’s not really, but I don’t like liquorice.)

Only, later that day, a problem sprang up.  I received an email via LinkedIn from this person – trying to sell me social media services! And not only that – it rambled on and on about liquorice. My new LinkedIn connection started spamming me within 12 hours of discussing the beneficial crossovers and differences of our respective businesses!

The following day… guess what?! Another communication – this time a group message. When I received the third message in two days I emailed to remind him that I am not his target client and asked that he please stop emailing me. No reply.

On receiving the fourth email, I – very nicely – asked if his strategy when working with clients was to bombard their contacts in the hope that they may turn into future customers… Again, no reply. For the first time ever, I disconnected from someone on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a highly professional social network and, aside from its incredible power in the business world, there is an etiquette attached.  So here are a few tips to keep out of people’s annoyance zone:

  1. Personalise your connection requests: Remind people how they know you or explain why you’d like to connect if you’ve never actually met.
  2. Respond promptly: If you receive a message, reply quickly. Set your notifications so that messages filter through to your email box; that way you won’t miss anything important.
  3. Send a welcome message: If someone adds you (and you accept them), drop them a note to thank them for connecting. It’s also a good opportunity to find out why they connected and what you may be able to do to help each other.
  4. Don’t send spam or irrelevant messages: Be mindful that not all your connections are potential clients – your target group probably accounts for only a small percentage of people. Just like networking off-line, the people you know on LinkedIn will be a complete mix – and not all need your services or products.
  5. Don’t add LinkedIn connections to your email list: With GDPR approaching, that’s not an acceptable way to build an email list – it was never ethical and, from May, it will be illegal.
  6. Never ask people to recommend or endorse you if they haven’t experienced your work. And even if they have, only ask for a recommendation if you know they were happy with you. Ideally, do this at the time of the job so it’s fresh in their minds.

If there’s anything specific you’d like to know about making the most of LinkedIn, feel free to ask. I’ll happily answer questions in the comments – or write a future blog to cover wider topics.

Alternatively, if you’d like to freshen up your profile or spend some time together on a 1-2-1 basis, click here and we can make a date!

Facebook’s new newsfeed strategy will affect you and your business!

If you use Facebook to raise the brand awareness of your business, the past few days have seen a major announcement that will shake up your marketing efforts going forward.

There is a huge change in the way business information will be presented in people’s newsfeeds, which means that your business will no longer enjoy the visibility it has in the past.  Basically – anything you post will be seen by fewer people!

As a personal Facebook user, you may be pleased to know that you’ll see more of your friends’ activity and less business page news.

This is the main point…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training | social media marketingMark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, has decreed that Facebook’s goal is to focus on helping people to have meaningful social interactions with their friends and families. He said, “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

Feedback shows that ‘public content’ – posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. Mark Zuckerberg basically wants to make sure people’s time on Facebook is well spent and enjoyable.

What this means

This means that the posts you’ll see will be more community-focused from people you know rather than sales oriented from business pages.

Facebook will still encourage posts from large communities around things like TV shows and sports teams. Mr Z says, “Too often, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.” He wants to establish large, vibrant, engaged, realtime communities watching the same events simultaneously. (This will be a good opportunity for advertisers to shift more of their budget away from TV to Facebook.)

How it will affect businesses

In reality, this means that for business owners, the best way to be seen is to invest in paid ads. The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune for properly targeted advertising on Facebook (and Instagram) to help to grow your business.

My prediction is that, from a Facebook user’s perspective, nothing much will change.  We’ll all still see the same business posts in our newsfeed – it’s just that the business owners will be paying for them rather than them appearing organically!

What you can do

  • Accept that you’ll have to invest a little in Facebook advertising. Make sure your demographics are accurate and that you monitor the results and tweak ads accordingly.
  • Ask your friends and family to like, comment and share info from your business page, so that Facebook can see the interaction and recognise you as a community-interactive business.
  • Get into the habit of creating live video content, as this reportedly gets six times more interaction than standard videos.
  • Encourage any form of back-and-forth discussion, such as asking for advice or requests for recommendations.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few weeks.  If you’d like some advice or help to manage your Facebook or any other social media platform, please feel free get in touch.

My three favourite tools to boost your social media

Five days into the new year and it hardly seems new any more; everyone’s immersed back into work mode.  Yet, as always, it thrusts itself upon us, sprinkling around its confetti-like multitude of good intentions and promises to do better. Well, confetti is pretty when it’s chucked randomly in the air but leaves a terrible, unfocused mess… Likewise, resolutions seem marvellous and full of hope when we formulate them, but actually transferring them to reality and getting things done is a different story.

These are a few of my favourite things...If one of your business resolutions is to up your game on the social media front, here are three of my favourite tools to help you on your way. They’ll give you a kick-start to achieving your goal in a smooth and easy-to-maintain way. In each case, there’s a free version as well as a paid option that gives you more features.

Hootsuite
This ‘social media dashboard’ allows you to post information quickly and easily to various social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can schedule posts in advance, include graphics and get your social presence well organised and streamlined. www.hootsuite.com

Canva
Canva’s brilliant graphic-editing facility lets you create attractive posts for your various social media image needs. Options include correctly-sized headers and cover pics, presentations, ebook and CD covers and beautiful brochures. www.canva.com

Mailchimp
This popular email marketing service puts you in control of your mailshots. You can send professionally branded newsletters to keep in touch with your whole community, or you can select target groups within your contact list to approach for different reasons. It also provides detailed statistics to show who read your mail. (So I’ll know you did, thank you!) www.mailchimp.com

I hope you’ll find these links useful!

If you’re committed to being better at social media marketing but don’t have the time to do it yourself, let’s chat about ways in which I can help you. You’re welcome to call me on 07875 059540 or email me at info@imaginativetraining.com.

Wishing you a happy, successful and prosperous 2018 – the best year yet!

Prince, Diamond, working, not working… a month of being an exhibitionist

Exhibitionist? Well… not exactly – more of an exhibitor and exhibition visitor. I seem to be spending a lot of time in vast London exhibition halls lately – for both work and fun. Not to be confused with work or fun; the work is fun!

IMG_5260 (1)One of my clients provides facilities management services to hotels, so we recently set up a two-day stand at the Independent Hotel Show at Olympia to meet prospective clients. Trade shows are hard work. The environment is hot and airless, with miles of walking along aisles or hours standing – yet the opportunities to meet future customers is wonderful. I was working on their behalf, so I wasn’t targeting social media clients, but hoteliers. However, I did benefit from the eclectic range of free giveaways – bringing home everything from chocolates and coffee samples, to a few shiny bags of lovely mini toiletries – and a rubber duck!

Spending enjoyable time with the team easily balanced the exhaustion of two full days at Olympia, and I’m pleased that I introduced a good amount of prospective business to them. It’s all good networking. However, I must admit to having more fun at Olympia when I visited the Chocolate Show.

IMG_5194If you saw the photos I posted on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll know that I found the afternoon a great success!  I have a very generous boyfriend who, like me, is a chocoholic, so I returned home weighed down with fancy bags full of delicious, mouth-watering treats.  They’ve all gone now, but fortunately a well-timed birthday has restocked my treats cupboard!

IMG_5233In a month of chocolate-filled decadence, I took some time out, working at the very beautiful Hambleton Hall Hotel in Rutland. The autumn sun was warm and washed the lovely gardens in a glow that was more befitting to a summer’s day. I’ve long worked on the basis of have laptop will travel – and the beauty of social media is that so much can be handled from a phone. It’s a luxury I make the most of in my business.  So I sat on the terrace with my hot chocolate and a smoked salmon sandwich watching the swallows swoop over the lake as I crafted a few client blogs and set the week’s tweets.

FullSizeRender (5)Back to the reality of the city and, by coincidence, another business exhibition, this time organised by YBC. I had a stand close to the buffet table (of course!) and chatted all day to people interested in how good social media marketing can boost their business profile.  I was invited to speak on an ‘Expert Panel’ too, answering social media-related queries, and I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of incredibly interesting business-owners as a result.

Aside from the chocolate show, more fun-without-work visits to huge venues has included two trips to the O2: once with Gill to spend an evening in the company of Neil Diamond. This legend of five decades of success danced around the stage and sang in his still-sexy, unaged voice with a packed house on their feet, clapping, cheering, singing choruses.

The second time was with Sharon to view Prince’s collection of clothes, trophies and hand-written lyrics. So who do I quote today? Neil, or Prince? Prince, or Neil?

“Hello, my friend, hello.  Just called to let you know – I think about you every night when I’m here alone, and you’re there at home. Hello.”

Of course, since Mr D wrote that in 1980, no one has to feel alone. Even from across the other side of the world, it’s so easy to send a message on social media any time, day or night, night or day; letting people know you’re here – whether it’s a friend you miss, or a business prospect you’re targeting. So if you’d like social media help from a business perspective, feel free to get in touch – any time!! (I might not reply until after breakfast!) Email hello@imaginativetraining or tweet: @WeekendWitch.

Life After Stroke: stories of positivity, courage and determination

The Stroke Association always puts on a good event: inspiring and motivating for anyone touched by stroke. In his opening remarks, Chris Tarrant said that when he was invited to host last year’s Life After Stroke Awards, he expected the evening to be quite glum. On the contrary, the glitzy surround of The Dorchester Hotel’s grand ballroom is a perfect setting for celebrating the achievements of some awesome people affected by this cruel life-changing event.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training From the photos I posted on Facebook, it clearly looks like I’m a groupie for various familiar actors and actresses. Yet, however it looked, I wasn’t auditioning for a part in Coronation Street.  I think I offended Shobna Gulati when I tactlessly told her I was sad they’d killed her off in the fire; she said she was pretty upset about it too!!

Robert Bathurst, as you may already know – was absolutely charming, and recorded a video for Oli which I gleefully shared on social media. I saw him earlier this year being painted during the filming of Portrait Artist of the Year, blogging about it at the time. I thought he was really nice then, but I’m totally impressed with him now.  James Norton was cute (no sign of any murderous traits), Chris Tarrant seemed interested when we chatted at the bar, Sally Lindsay is just brilliant and Andy Bell was as sensational as he was back in the day.

But the evening wasn’t about all that.  It wasn’t about the fabulous food, the mesmerising ultraviolet stalactite table centres or the flowing champagne. It was about the people within the stroke community who keep going in the face of the worst kind of adversity. It was about the families and support networks, the carers, the volunteers, the fundraisers. It was about the professional teams who keep people alive, and with the best possible quality of life.  And, most of all, it was about the people who have survived a stroke, and embraced their new being with positivity, courage and determination.

We’re still battling to raise awareness of childhood stroke. One child a day is diagnosed in the UK, with many more strokes in children and babies being missed. Please keep spreading the word!!

My congratulations to all the well-deserved winners – and to the multitude of people who were nominated but didn’t make the final cut.  All are worthy of recognition. Huge thanks to The Stroke Association and their Patron, Baroness Karren Brady, for inviting me – and to Toni Mascolo of Toni & Guy (who cut my hair a couple of years ago!); as the evening’s headline sponsor, he made the night happen.

Andy Bell wrote this with Vince Clarke in 1988; seems appropriate now. “And if I should falter, would you open your arms out to me? We can make love, not war – and live at peace in our hearts… Oh baby please give a little respect to me.”

Everyone deserves respect, especially those who find it harder to make themselves understood. The Stroke Association’s current campaign is ‘Lost for Words’ and aims to raise awareness of the communication difficulties many stroke survivors suffer. If you’d like to help make a difference to people’s lives, please donate by texting STROKE AWARDS to 70500 to donate £5. Thank you.

 

Parisian knicker-checkers, a dramatic first night and a very impressive man

Paris in the springtime may be the traditional time to visit, but it’s a spectacular city anytime of the year.  My cousin Stephen had flown over from Vegas for a couple of weeks so we sneaked an overnight trip to the city of love, light, culture and delicious buttery, almondy, gooey chocolate pastries.

We weren’t surprised that security was high. However, the phrase ‘above and beyond’ came to mind.  We were stunned at the extent they went to checking our bags at the Arc de Triumph. The girl removed almost everything from each of our backpacks – including yesterday’s knickers and Stephen’s old pants. Everything was plonked into a plastic box for all to see. It was quite incredible really – nothing was spared.  Should people be allowed to wave our pants in their faces in the name of security?  My lacy knicks certainly didn’t have anywhere to smuggle even a penknife… (Also shocked at how many people were carrying those!)

Being an overnight stay, my bag contained a gas-fuelled curling brush that could understandably have been misidentified as a best-selling item from Ann Summers. Out it came; the mademoiselle picked it up and waved it around curiously as she scrutinised it before moving on to my make-up bag. But the thing that shocked us the most: she wasn’t wearing gloves. This girl was rummaging through people’s personal items with her bare hands. As Stephen pointed out, someone could have had a needle in their bag – or goodness knows what else. What a horrible breach of health and safety!

The Eiffel Tower was less vigilant – but still thorough – and plastic glove-wearing!  The Louvre gave a cursory flick of the zip and waved us through; Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur were more interested in Stephen removing his hat than in a full bag search.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training Our whirlwind tour took in all these tourist attractions, and more; I’m a very good tour guide, even if I do say so myself. I’ve managed to pick up enough trivia on my previous trips to marginally impress an American. While I was in charge of museums, galleries, cathedrals and high-in-the-sky landmarks, Stephen was responsible for food places – typical French cuisine, of course, with lots of melting cheese, cured ham, locally sourced paté and bread. Lots and lots of bread. (For him, not me. I was happy with a diet of chocolate croissants and chocolate mousse.)  And red wine, it’s healthy.

I returned from Paris to attend a first night play. And when I say first night, I really do mean that. The cast were delivering their first run-through, scripts in hand and without dramatic lighting or scenery.  It was the compelling story of journalist Christopher Gunness’ visit to Yangon to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the so-called Students’ Democratic Revolution. As a young journalist he’d reported on the 1988 events, and the story switched seamlessly between periods.

The company was made up of a small group of illustrious actors, with the writer and director, Guy Slater, a well-known celebrity in his own right. But the unobtrusive star of the evening was Chris Gunness himself, a man whose CV lists exceptionally high-profile roles within the UN and middle east – and now a chief spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. He is such a nice guy. Meeting him in the cultural ensconces of The Cockpit, a fringe theatre on the edge of Marylebone, you’d never guess for one second that he’s reported from war zones with bombs literally flying around him. He’s one of the unsung heroes, finally with his own tune and lyrics. (That’s metaphorical, by the way; Eastern Star is poles apart from any musical.)

The performance was a benefit event for the educational charity ‘Prospect Burma’ and the ‘Britain-Burma Society.’ Guy Slater spoke at the end, requesting funding to enable the play to gain traction in a wider theatrical sphere.  My fingers are crossed that they achieve their goals of both creating a fuller production and supporting the relevant charities.

As John and Paul reiterated way back when, words that were equally as relevant then, in 1988 and again today: “You say you want a revolution; well, you know, we all want to change the world. You tell me that it’s evolution; well, you know, we all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction – don’t you know that you can count me out.”

Social media is certainly instrumental in changing the world. If you’re using it for business, make sure you’re using it right. If you need advice, give me a quick call, drop me an email or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

 

(Lyrics credit: Lennon and McCartney – but you knew that!)

Gatsby, Annie and dancing over Instagram

I’ve developed an unprecedented craving for pickled cucumber. No, before you ask, I’m not pregnant.  Although the time clock is ticking on that one. If I wanted another baby I’d better get a move on. I don’t though – a phrase that various members of my family will be relieved to read. It’s enough taking care of Charlie who, at the time of writing, is giving me the gift of a pigeon – delivered one feather at a time through his high-tech cat flap.  Anyway, I have two wonderful sons who will probably make me a grandmother one day soon. Aargh!! Quick!! Turn back the clock!

22290666_10155807902531255_1616715340_oTime definitely turned back this week when I took a couple of lovely teenage girls to Gatsby’s Drugstore in Borough for an immersive evening of interactive theatre. Gatsby, Daisy and Myrtle acted out their sorry story to an audience that learned to Charleston – a dance that’s close to my heart, as my grandparents were world champions!! If only they’d had Facebook and Instagram back then! They were very photogenic anyway, so with a few heel twists and swings the social media activity would have been through the roof.

aaaaaaaaaaaaTime also stood still at a performance of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre on Thursday. Annie is the first west end show I remember seeing, aged about ten. My newly- found cousins Harry and Dorothy visited from Florida and took us for a treat. I’ve written about Harry before in this blog – he was an incredible man who led the army in to liberate Auschwitz. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. That knowledge came much later, when Adey donated the war correspondence his wife had saved, to the Washington Holocaust Museum. That theatre trip was with my dance champion grandparents too! I have one special photo from around that time; it sits on the bookcase overlooking my desk where Charlie likes to lie as I work.

22154353_10155272772033423_3738147764438839508_nOn the other side of the family, crazy cute Stephen appeared via Facebook five years ago. He’s here for a visit now, and we braved the forecast gales on Sunday to admire the cityscape from the Sky Garden. London is phenomenal from the sky, and 35 floors up you get a fabulous view of the eclectic mix of architecture and the sheer scale of the best city in the world. We’re taking time out to visit another of my favourites this week: Paris. No doubt we’ll be tweeting!

This may be twee, but I don’t know any Charleston song lyrics and it’s too early for anything Parisian. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow; bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun. Just thinking about tomorrow scares away the cobwebs and the sorrow ’til there’s none.” Hopefully the sun will be shining right across Europe this week! So, you’ll find me for the rest of this week either back at ground level in London or hanging over the Eiffel Tower in France. Or here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.