My first panel: ‘How to Get Noticed’ with Enterprise Nation

This month I was invited to speak on an Enterprise Nation panel in front of 100 small businesses in the travel and hospitality sector. The theme was PR and getting noticed by journalists. Alongside three other media professionals (also from marketing, PR and journalism backgrounds), I spoke about the importance of good images, being Instagram ready and getting stalky on Twitter.

I loved it, I met some great people and I hope there’s more opportunities like this around the corner…

 

I spent a week with the UK’s biggest influencers; here’s what I learnt

I just came back from a week-long California press trip with a group of digital influencers who in total reach an audience of 5.5 million (and growing). Judging from their highly posed fashion photos, I prepared for the worst; I was expecting a group of vapid, superficial, painfully vain and high maintenance individuals. However, these powerful girls and their work ethic made a huge impact on me. These young women are feisty entrepreneurs and they are well aware of the ephemeral nature of their chosen careers and therefore milk it for all its worth. And good for them. Here’s what I learnt:

  1. They are sick of looking at their own faces. Of course there were vain moments, but no more than you would expect from a group of twenty-something millennials. In fact they were sick to death of flicking through thousands of same-smile selfies (often spread between two phones) and became tired with the task of picking the right one. They would ask for each other’s advice, would look to one another’s strengths, and ultimately would seek reassurance.
  2. They have ugly days. Often jetlagged, tired, hungover, bloated, but these girls do not stop. I felt liberated that I didn’t have to whip off my clothes at a moment’s notice all in the name of work. They too have off days and where I could wear a baggy jumper and hide behind a computer screen, they had to slap on a smile and shake hand after hand.
  3. Their brand is their business. Cookbooks, jewellery lines, charity work, photography and social media consulting; these girls are hungry business women whose careers do not stop at their Instagram pages. They are control freaks who lead teams of staff to make sure their personal brand remains on top.
  4. Their Instagram is their art. “Storytelling” is a buzzword that is often thrown around in PR/marketing but I learnt that their Instagram profiles are their diaries; their online scrapbooks displaying pages of creative expression.
  5. They make a lot of money – and they deserve it. My friends react with shock and disbelief at the amount of money charged for one Instagram post. But these girls make sacrifices; their lifestyles mean they never switch off and their entire life is online. It turns out friends often use them and their influence by asking for a quick post linking to a new project or business, knowing this favour will help reach treasured millions. I overheard stories of fans trolling them over ex-boyfriends and discussions about how they try to keep their personal lives safe offline. One influencer even has two Instagram profiles; her personal account is locked purely for her closest friends and family, boasting only a handful of followers.

During a bus ride chat, one of the girls told me she plans to eventually work for the UN and fight women’s rights issues in her home country. Right now she’s appealing to the masses, playing the pretty girl, but it’s all a political strategy. Unlike an established celebrity with money behind them, the internet gave her the power to grow a loyal fanbase who will ultimately support her on subjects that matter. Whilst I was with her Unicef emailed to ask if she’d be their brand ambassador; surely that’s the true meaning of ‘influence’?

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Greater Palm Springs Perfume Bar

For the World Travel Market I had to organise an event for one of my Californian clients, Greater Palm Springs. Each year my predecessors arranged massages or manicures but I wanted to do something memorable. Nowadays people are craving more creative, interactive events and spa treatments are a pretty unimaginative way to entice media away from their desks…

Having researched UK event trends, I looked into health/wellbeing experiential ideas for the event, eventually deciding on a ‘Perfume Bar’ workshop. Working with Homemade London, I developed the idea by creating nine scents to represent the nine cities of Greater Palm Springs. Each scent will be created by each individual following ‘recipes’ provided on the day and they will take their perfume home in luxury glass bottles engraved with the Greater Palm Springs logo. The Black Diamond Creative team will also be developing a beautiful nine-page brochure to explain the ‘nine city scents.’

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My client is over the moon (she ordered 50 bottles so she could take them back to California to show her team) and the travel editor of ELLE is attending, having told me the event idea was the most “fun and original” invite she’s had for WTM this year.

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Heidi Klein partnership: Roadtrip Pocketbook

I recently wrote the copy and oversaw the artistic direction for a 32-page roadtrip pocketbook for our Heidi Klein California Collection brand partnership campaign. The pre-resort line is made of four collections: Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach, Greater Palm Springs and San Diego. I wanted to take the reader through a classic California roadtrip narrative to bring the collection to life. The pocketbook will be in-store and sent with each product dispatch for a whole year, launching Sept 2016.

It was wonderful having this creative output and the freedom to step away from ‘marketing speak.’ Let me take you on a journey…

 

I adjust the rear view mirror, wind the window down, the radio sings California dreaming and I click into D for drive. Like many before us, this little MG – our means of voyage – will become our travel companion on our classic California road trip. We leave LA behind for our first stop: Santa Barbara, ‘The American Riviera’, just two hours away.

As we coast north towards the city, the terracotta rooftops roll into a correlated form in front of us, like pieces of jigsaw finding their perfect place in the horizon. Traffic moves in slow motion, locals shuffle down State Street towards the local artisan craft fair and their flip flops rhymically flick the pavement. Fingers flutter through handmade beads and silver charms, glass vases and embroidered purses with rainbow threads.

Once checked in, we grab our towels and head towards the harbour. The boats gather, varying in shape and size with names like ‘Wind Dancer’ and ‘Whisper’. Out on the water with a hand saluting in front of our brows we can see the spouting signals of whales brimming the surface. Dozens of different species settle in these feeding grounds, from blue whales to humpbacks. Back at shore we make our way to the farmer’s market; stalls laid out before us offering a full palette of taste and kaleidoscope of colours. Rows of avocados are categorised by ripeness (“only in California” stallholders beam), we’re offered sips of fresh juice, spoons of chunky homemade houmous and the smell of this morning’s catch – oysters, lobster, squid – follows us as an omnipresent reminder of the nearby ocean.

Dusk arrives quickly, marking our last evening. Armed with our map, we search for liquid treasure among the twenty-nine wineries peppering the Funk Zone. Corks are popped, we listen to poetry over the counter: “rich oak” , “ earthy leather”, “harmonious aromas.” The red velvet slides down our throats, the tang of ice cold white fizzes on our tongues.

The next morning we leave for ‘Surf City USA’: Huntington Beach. The Pacific acts as our loyal compass to our right for our 130-mile drive down the coast.

We know we are getting closer as the number of wetsuited silhouettes multiply and emerge like creatures resurfacing from their nest. The waves build as the surfers twist, flip and turn, using the ocean’s power to drive them forward before each wave reaches the end of its journey as swash upon the sand.

The beach is beckoning and we can’t resist strolling through the sand at sunset, leaving footprints behind us as the horizon ahead transforms into crimson. Sea air and a long drive mean we fall into a deep slumber, waking the next morning to clear skies and clear heads. We hear there’s yoga on the beach today, so we begin in warrior poses facing the rising sun. Later, we squeeze into wetsuits that suck onto our skin; our armour for the day protecting us against Mother Nature’s force. Bobbing along in the water, our fingertips stroke the sea’s surface, making ripples in the deep blue. Waves upon waves roar behind us – above us – and we try our best to glide with the current. Muscles aching and eyes stinging, we drag our boards and tired bodies through the sinking sand and collapse in a heap; exhausted, satisfied, stomachs growling. 

We’re served huge plates of fresh fish and fries to fill us up before we explore the long coast by bike. The pedals spin and our legs windmill, our hair turns wild and sticky from the salty wind. Making our way back we settle down with cocktails whilst gazing out across the pier’s twinkling lights and we spot sets of couples roasting marshmallows over fire-pits on the beach.

It’s time to head inland for a two hour drive to ‘California’s Oasis’ as we prepare to swap our surroundings from the tumultuous ocean to mysterious desert. The white highway stripes flicker past and the inches of air above the road squirm and squiggle under the heat.

We drive through the city of Palm Springs where locals wear their cars like accessories; doors slam, bursting shopping bags and heels appear. This is Hollywood’s Playground; we walk the pavements once graced by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley. The palm trees lean over our heads as if eavesdropping on hushed whispers around the pool and we ponder the secrets they hold from the 1920s celebrity elite. Glass panels, shiny steel and geometric lines form otherworldly architecture peppering the mountains as extraterrestrial shapes that starkly contrast the smooth valley curves.

Slow days are spent lured around mineral spas, quenching the thirst of our sizzling skin with quick gasping pool dips and mud baths, but we become restless. The Joshua Tree National Park is a scenic drive away and we leave early up through Yucca Valley, where thrift shops teem with vintage treasures and antique markets display twinkly trinkets. We’re greeted by rows of fuzzy Joshua Trees appearing to wave on arrival; their rough, imperfect forms cast shadows on the arid ground. Company is sparse and only a few fellow hikers pass us by – later we realise there will be no blinking screens here to wash out the stars’ illumination. We stick around to watch the Milky Way emerge, perching on our trusty MG bonnet, the universe a glittering dome above us.

We leave Greater Palm Springs refreshed, our skin glowing from its new darker hue. Ready for our final stop, two hours away the city of San Diego awaits us.

Engaged by the metropolitan buzz, the city’s sounds and smells seem to wake us up with a jolt from our desert daze. Every corner presents a new culture, reflected by the street names: ‘Naples Place’, ‘Camino de la Reina’, ‘Madison Avenue.’ A varied style we can’t pinpoint, outfits switch from each block with ripped jeans and bikinis to rainbow yoga two pieces or floor-length dresses. As if landing into Italy we drive past countless pizza shops, then deep into the heart of Mexico where taco stalls neighbour classic California brunch spots. The huge bowls overflowing with fresh guacamole are worth halting the car and we order crispy tacos, tortillas packed with refried beans dripping with sour cream. We order fluffy flights of craft beer, samples presented to us in calibrated colour schemes.

We check in and bounce straight back out of the hotel to follow the curves of La Jolla’s coastline by foot, stopping to watch seal pups bleat and retreat into their subaquatic world, inspiring us to get out there ourselves. Hopping into kayaks, we’re led by an instructor who guides us around the ocean; his familiar backyard. A quick change from flip-flops to heels and we join the clusters of nightowls piling out into the Gaslamp Quarter, drawn towards salsa beats pumping from inside the bars. Lights and music work in unison as the world speeds up – faster and louder – and we move with the current of the crowd up to a rooftop bar, welcomed by rushing vertigo and views of towering skyscrapers.
Our heads hit the pillows, ears and eyes vibrating from our final night California. We head to LAX in the morning – back to where we began our journey – radiating in our Golden State.  

 

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How Wales Got Cool

Did anyone see this a few summers ago?

I used to represent a large portion of Wales. Hailing from the Brecon Beacons National Park, I felt like I was helping my home town everytime I met a journalist and raved about my favourite childhood haunts.

One weekend in July I was lucky enough to host a press trip in sunny Pembrokeshire with the content editor of Telegraph Travel, Lizzie Porter. It was the highlight of my year – after jumping off cliffs with Preseli Venture I came back to London feeling like those turquoise waters (yes, in Wales) had completely flushed out any negativity. Not to mention Lizzie is fantastic company and a great journalist.

As well as her commissioned piece, which included a fantastic piece of video content, she felt so inspired by our fair country she wrote an entirely new piece on ‘How Wales Got Cool‘ including a little reference plugging our ferocious PR work (spot it?)

It’s definitely an achievement I am very proud of, personally and professionally. And I tweet it out every St. David’s Day to remind people that, yes, Wales is cool.

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Repositioning Palm Springs: escaping the drab of the desert 

When we think of Palm Springs we think of middle-aged tennis matches, barren desert, stifling heat and prune-skinned spa goers.

I wanted to change this.I saw depth in the destination beyond bikinis and bellinis and sought to draw upon the region’s overlooked art and design scene. Lining the Palm Springs skyline you’ll make out extraterrestrial-like Midcentury architecture that draws in hoards of design geeks for Modernism Week once a year. These incredible buildings are barely acknowledged in the UK – I wanted to reposition Palm Springs as a design destination. I contacted the Guardian’s architecture critic, Oliver Wainwright, who took me up on my offer to attend the event.

I organised his press trip and helped piece together his full itinerary, the result: The modernist fun palaces of Palm Springs with over 2,200 shares.

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SFMOMA London launch event

Culture drives travel. More and more people choose holidays based on films they’ve seen, new exhibitions they’ve heard about or a book they’ve read (a medium that arguably paints a picture of a place better than an advert could do). It’s so important to promote the cultural offering of a destination – this is a huge draw for bucket listers who are deciding where to go next.

On 14th May the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will reopen after three years of expansion, revealing some of the most iconic and important art in the world – from Matisse to Warhol to O’Keefe to Martin to Diebenkorn and more. As UK representatives of San Francisco, Black Diamond organised the launch event at Ice Tank in Covent Garden, inviting contacts from the travel industry, media and our Californian clients.

Speakers included Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture, and Simon Ewings, senior architect at Snøhetta. Bishop spoke of the process behind the careful selection of the collection and how it embraces the old and the new – displaying Matisse’s Femme au Chapeau next to a Rothko – and how the museum will celebrate local Californian art with a large part of the work from within the state’s radius. Ewings then took us through his design decisions – probably details that the average visitor wouldn’t even think to consider – such as the choice of soft lighting and the attempt to completely eradicate fire extinguishers and light switches so that the museum experience is kept as pure as possible. My favourite fact? The strange textured material that covers the new museum’s outer walls was actually inspired by the rippling waters of the San Francisco Bay.

I can’t wait to see it for myself.

Recent PR campaigns I’ve loved

“Culture has come to Margate,” he declared. “I am down here every two weeks and each time there is a new shop, café or boutique hotel opening.”*

The recent PR campaign for the reopening of Dreamland Margate has blown me away. Not only have the agency completely reinvented the brand from tacky theme park to nostalgic paradise, but they’ve managed to secure coverage in some of the top media in the country. For a time, all you could read about was Margate and I recently found out that two of my friends (in their late twenties) spent an entire weekend there – proof that good PR hits the consumer even when they’re not aware of it.

Now, the brief for this project may not have strictly fallen into the “arts/culture” category, but the PR behind this campaign transformed it into a cultural – and cool – vintage attraction. I once attended a CIPR event hosted by Buzzfeed (the masters of viral online content), where they revealed the three themes behind their social media strategy: “nostalgia, humour and identity.” This is what the agency saw in Dreamland Margate – a place where grown ups could run around a brightly coloured fairground, lick candy floss off sticky fingers, pull on roller skates and play in amusement arcades until they felt dizzy – how many PRs can offer journalists the chance to spend a day back in their childhood fantasy?

Another recent PR campaign that really impressed me was The Globe’s Titus Andronicus. Soon everyone (media included) was discussing the bloody scenes that kept making members of the audience drop like flies. Curiosity got the better of every theatre fan in London (including me) to see if they could withstand the gory performance without fainting. Was this a PR stunt? Was there something in the smoke? Who knows – but every night the show was sold out.

A more poignant example is the recent publicity surrounding the Chinese artist and political activist, Ai Weiwei, and his new exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts. There was uproar in the media with the fear that he wouldn’t make it to his own exhibition launch, as the Chinese government wouldn’t allow him a passport to travel. Eventually, worries were put to rest as he posted an Instagram selfie, proudly holding up his new passport with a smile, and social media exploded in an applause of hashtags. I went to see the exhibition on the weekend and the queue was an hour long – a PR motive or not, everyone’s talking about it.

 

*Source: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent-business/county-news/culture-has-come-to-margate-39855/