The Boss That Helped Shaped Me

 

We all have bosses that shape us in one way or another and Dame Helen Alexander was a boss who taught me that it was possible to be kind, thoughtful and a leader at the same time. The BBC’s obituary sums up Dame Helen beautifully.

 

I had the pleasure and privilege of working directly for Helen when I was appointed the first in-house Global Communications Director for The Economist Group in 2000.

 

I have lots of Helen stories and memories but perhaps the one that’s stayed with me over the years and the story I often tell is when I met Helen for the very first time when she interviewed me for the role. Her office was on the 13th floor of The Economist building off Jermyn Street. The building was imposing for the likes of me and like everyone going for an interview I was nervous.

 

Helen interviewed me early on a winter morning and I remember when I got out of the lift Helen was waiting to receive me at the lift…and after my interview she escorted me back to the lift, waited for it to arrive and saw that I got in okay. That small act made me feel special, that in spite of her busy schedule, Helen had time for me, an interviewee. I remember saying to her as I got in, shaking her hand that if I didn’t get the job, it was still such a pleasure to meet her.

 

It’s always the little things that matter, we remember…RIP Helen

Photo Credit: BBC

Serendipity PR’s Award & Recognition At The Women’s Economic Forum, Delhi

 

I have just returned from an incredible time in Delhi, India where I attended the Women’s Economic Forum as a speaker, this May. It was a privilege to be able to speak in one of my home countries and I am also honored to have been recognized by the Women Economic Forum and All Ladies League as an ‘Iconic Woman Creating Change for a Better World For ALL’.
The members of my Media and Entertainment Advisory Council were also recognized, but for me, this award was a recognition of the great work we are doing at Serendipity PR & Media.

 

There were over 2,000 delegates from 150 countries. It was a colourful, powerful and joyful event with great speakers – Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty; yoga master Baba Ramdev; acid survivor and activist Laxmi; Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati an inspirational spiritual social worker – all making positive changes in India, and so many more other great names.

 

It would be amiss of me not to mention Dr. Habeen Aurora and her husband Vinay Rai who for their visionary work on behalf of women’s empowerment, global citizenship and peace. They are a wonderful power couple behind the Forum.
My experience at this week long conference was made all the more special when I saw and experienced so many Indian women entrepreneurs of different ages with a voice; they interacted, interrupted and were full of fun in all the sessions. I wish these women were there when I lived in India in the 80’s, as I may have just stayed on in India! I also met many India female social entrepreneurs, working to empower other women in rural India.

 

But this story would not be complete without a little bit of serendipity – on the Thursday evening of the conference, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati somehow randomly sat at my table. I have always been inspired by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati’s story. How she sat at my table, was a small miracle. There were so many tables…our table wasn’t even close to the stage, but she sat there waiting to be called as a speaker. I plucked up courage and spoke to her, we connected and I am due to do a story with her, so watch this space.

 

This year I really wanted an adventure and I had one…

 

 

 

 

 

That Cheeky Question: Can I Pick Your Brains?!

I wrote about this, two years ago now, but felt I needed to revisit it again, as it is one that always creeps in under our business boundaries. While I am a firm believer in paying it forward, helping others and I enjoy giving advice, I write articles, tweet, Facebook and share daily – why is it that someone would think it’s okay to ask if they can ‘pick my brains?’

I often find that these ‘cheeky asks’ are from others who are gathering as much free intelligence and knowledge without wanting to pay. You can’t come to a professional and ask them to work for free; but that’s exactly what you’re doing when you ask to pick someone’s brain.

Why would someone think, I would want to give away my knowledge for free? When there’s training, reading, costs of memberships so I can network, attending conferences and mastering my skills – all this costs me money; and like any other business I want to protect my investment.

It makes no business sense for me to give away all the knowledge that I have acquired and use to make my living. I charge my paying clients very good money for my expertise and results.

I know this is a topic that many in business are also up against, as when I first posted on this subject a few years ago, many responded and commented saying that they too were fed up of people asking them the same – ‘can I pick your brains?’.

So, for all of us out there – our knowledge has value. We have invested time and money into learning our skill, we are experts and it’s not good business for us to give it away for free. Be strong and say politely no.

Photo Credit: NO MORE and Mariska Hargitay 20623 | by tedeytan

Quick Tips To Fire Up Your Instagram

 

It’s All About The Hashtag – Using them in your posts is a must if you want more people to see your visuals. They enable others to find you, even if they’ve never heard of your brand before and you will be able to reach a larger audience, increase content exposure and open doors for new connections to be made.

Two cool apps to use to help find which hashtags are trending in your niche are – Hashtags.com and Hashtagify.me. Through these apps, you can discover the highest rated hashtags, how many posts are currently using them and see examples of how they’re being applied.

Look at the hashtags your influencers’ and competitors are including in their posts. Find out what’s working by viewing the level of engagement they’re generating.

Instagram Stories – Is one of the platform’s newer features, where brands are now able to ‘go live’ to get their message out using video on the platform. A recent study revealed that people will watch live videos longer than one that has been prerecorded. These personalised expressions can create memorable experiences that will help separate your brand from competitors. Try to be the first to report breaking or trending news by broadcasting it live on Stories.

– Know when to post your content, because by posting your images at the right time, it will help boost engagement with your followers. Hootsuite recommends posting on Instagram between 12pm-1pm, Monday-Friday. Instagram has its own business analytics tools to provide insight into when your followers are most active online.

 

 

Love Fashion? Read This!

With my love of fashion pulsating through my veins and working with fashion brands, I was dismayed to read the ‘Daily Mail’s’ story last week announcing that women over the age of 33 where probably too old to shop at Zara! What nonsense?! As luck would have it, I was attending the Sheerluxe fashion event this Saturday (18 March) gone, that would help erase that ageist ‘Daily Mail’ headline.

Sheerluxe always does good events – from speakers, to content, to the most amazing goodie bags and being very friendly.  Trinny Woodhall started off the day and was very engaging, real and entertaining and shops at Zara! Tips that I took away from Trinny – get a pair of jazzy, platform, silver brogues; invest in great blazers and jackets; and metallic tops are your friend.

Parisian style blogger Loulou de Saison enthused French charm and spoke about how to create that effortless Parisian style, which is always about ‘less is more’, taking one thing off. So what does that mean and how do you do that? Well, if you are wearing one piece of jewellery with a pair of jeans and top – the answer is –don’t over-do your hair, make it messy and undone. That’s how you ‘take one thing off’ the French way. And yes LouLou shops at Zara and Mango, mixing high-street with Chanel, Vetements and luxury brands.

My other love at the Sheerlux event was Donna Ida, denim queen, who was rocking a fantastic pair of leather trousers from her own collection called ‘Ginger’, which is on my ‘need now’ list. Donna gave sound advice on denim trends; told us what jeans suit which shape and made it official – the denim culottes is ‘in’.

There was a lot of pampering at the Sheerluxe event, with GHD hair styling, manicures, Studio 10 make-overs and showrooms. My favourite showroom was Pampelone Clothing, who were super cool. Alison Hansen, fashion illustrator was illustrating Pampelone’s resort wear, making each image bespoke to everyone who popped into the showroom.

My last word – keep shopping at Zara, whatever your age and get the Mango trench coat now before it sells out – it’s Parisian chic all over.

’Thinking of You’ Joni Sledge… #RIP.

This morning (12 March, 2017) I woke up to the sad news that Joni Sledge has passed away at the age of 60.  I am a big Sister Sledge fan, loved their music; ‘Thinking of You’ became my anthem from the age of 16 and I spent my disco years making memories to Sister Sledge.

So, it was my biggest personal moment to have been able to interview Joni Sledge a few months ago about her hopes for change and women’s empowerment. I could not believe that I my 16-year-old self would have this opportunity years and years later, reinforcing my belief that life is full of surprises and serendipity.

Here’s the full interview…’Thinking of You’ Joni, RIP.

 

Photo Credit: Photographer: Camilla Camaglia/Sister Sledge WAMOW endorsed by Joni Sledge

International Women’s Day: #BeBoldForChange

 

This year there is so much for us to shout about and our voices to be heard on, from – equal pay, supporting women in business, Trump and more. This year International Women’s Day on 8 March is asking everyone to #BeBoldForChange, urging us all to help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world.

We know that progress has been slow and that we need international action to accelerate gender parity. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186! This is just too long to wait. This 8 March provides an important opportunity for ground-breaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.

There are many initiatives and people doing vital work to help create this needed change, and I had the opportunity to interview Jane Shepherdson, MBE, a leading figure in fashion retail, former CEO of Whistles and prior to that, Brand Director at Topshop. Jane supporting young designers through the London College of Fashion’s Centre of Fashion Enterprise and has helped promote Fair Trade fashion to a wider audience as a Board member of Peopletree until 2013.

Jane is also Creative Advisor to Oxfam and a patron of the charity Smart Works, a service that offers free professional clothing and job interview training to women. I spoke with Shepherdson about her role at Smart Works and what this charity is all about from her perspective. Read the full interview.

Photo Credit: International Women’s Day

New Look Of Serendipity PR & Media’s Brand And Website

I bravely launched Serendipity PR & Media in 2009, when the world was still reeling from the 2008 economic collapse and I figured, if Serendipity PR could survive a global recession, it could survive anything! Well, eight years later we are still here and wanted to re-look at my brand and website, which is what I did with the help of Jools Barret (195designhouse), who I think you will agree once that you have seen the new site, that Jools is a fantastically talented web designer.

 

Doing this revamp has been a good personal exercise, as it made me reflect on all what Serendipity PR has achieved…as I have grown my global network, had the privilege to work with interesting and very talented people across art, music, film, food, publishing and books, and also secured some powerful media coverage.

 

During this time, I have learnt many things about running a business and have loved every moment of this adventure. But most of all I have stayed true to my belief and the key brand value of Serendipity PR & Media and made sure I have been an open, supportive and random networker. I also owe this brand value and learning to Thomas Power – a great thought leader; #digitalphilosopher who taught me about his #ORS (Open, Random and Supportive) dynamic.

The new site is visually vibrant, fun and also reflects part of my cultural roots. It also, I believe imbibes the ‘serendipity feel’ on the homepage, where you can click on whatever you like, instead of being navigated in a structured way. Jools has also cleverly represented the Serendipity PR & Media in all the images, adding to the sites strong look and feel.

 

Well, there’s nothing left for me to say except that I hope you enjoy the site and for those who don’t know me, please do connect with me.

Embrace: Taryn Brumfitt’s Film About Body Image

The media has a profound effect on us and the way we perceive ourselves and our bodies. On the 18 of January, I was invited to the London film premiere of Embrace, the wonderful story and journey by Taryn Brumfitt. Her story first went viral on Facebook when she posted two images of herself.

 

This is a film about loving ourselves; loving our bodies for what they are…whether they are tall, fat, thin, ageing…the list we can make is endless. Television, the Internet, films and the media have a strong hold on our personal perceptions of what beauty is supposed to be, and sadly because of this, it has contributed to some people experiencing eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

 

Young boys and girls, teenagers and young adults should educate themselves about having a healthy body, and learn how to accept themselves for the beautiful person they are inside and this is what Embrace sets out to do.

 

There’s one statement in the film that someone makes, and goes something like this…”I love my body because it’s my soul mate; it’s the home to my soul.”

 

This is such a brilliant and positive film and if you can, do watch it, because it will help us all to love ourselves better and each other.

https://bodyimagemovement.com/embrace-the-documentary/

 

Climate Change: HRH Prince Charles, Tony Juniper And Emily Shuckburg, OBE

This January I had the opportunity to interview HRH Prince Charles’s special adviser Tony Juniper and Dr. Emily Shuckburg, OBE about working with Prince Charles, ‘fake news’, the new US President and of course their latest book on #ClimateChange. This is an edited version extract of the interview:

http://www.justmeans.com/blogs/the-ladybird-book-on-climate-change-co-authored-by-prince-charles-tony-juniper-and-scientist