Cantal press trip blogged – and a travel request

Just back from a week in the centre of France in a little known area called the Cantal. It may be "one of the most sparsely populated and geographically isolated French departments", according to Wikipedia, but it does have one big claim in that the region encompasses Europe's largest volcano. Snowshoeing a sleeping volcano seemed an irresistible storyline. Continue reading "Cantal press trip blogged – and a travel request"

Travmedia launches new social network for travel trade

Travmedia, a press release and journalist alert service which connects journalists and PRs, has just made a very smart move (I hope) by launching a Facebook-style social network, that will facilitate many more travel trade connections and work opportunities, and make travel freelancers like myself more visible to travel editors.

'My Network' is a little clunky to use at first – a beta feedback option would be good for members so that they can improve the user experience. And there are currently some privacy issues – if you are a Travmedia member you should immediately update your default profile so that your full address doesn't show, for example.

But I think this might be the first useful work-oriented network I've joined since Twitter, which has become a little noisy of late.

The success of 'My Network' may be dependent on whether others adopt its usage and how Travmedia develops the service. But it's already been helpful to me in finding PRs for areas I want to cover, for reconnecting with friends I've met on press trips and for posting feature pitches and commissions.

We shall see how our relationship progresses after the first flush is over.

Dataviz first attempts

Having wrestled with a significant number of roadblocks for what is a fairly straightforward dataset, I am happy to announce the birth of my first data visualisation comparing 2011 figures for the percentage of women in the boardroom across a number of different countries. (Data source: Grant Thornton International Business Report). This is just a tester graphic, though. I now have to figure out how to show this over time, and with many more countries, and on a world map. *Gulp.*

Women in Senior Management 2011 Many Eyes

Update: I have added in the rest of the 2011 data by country so that it can be represented on a world map. Can't seem to customise the horrible brown colour though.

Women in the Boardroom 2011 Many Eyes

Now to try adding in extra maps to show the data in different years…


Less than 15 minutes later, the rest of the data is input and a graphic created which shows the state of play for senior women in business since 2004. You'll have to click through to see this in action. Either click 'All' maps in the toolbar above the map, or select by year from the dropdown menu bottom left.

Women in the Boardroom 2004-2011 Many Eyes

Phew. Logging off now and going to pub.

News from my blogs

Having different blogs for different subject areas means that I am a slave to them all. So if it's quiet here on my central hub then it's probably because I'm over on one of my other workday or spare-time blogs. As a quick roundup, here's what I've been posting elsewhere of late:

31 Destinations in Time – because it's not just about the place but the era in which you visit it. I've just posted number 11 in the series on Dumaguete City, capital of Negros Island, in the Philippines in 2007. The series also includes Bali, Iceland, Venice, Jordan, Slovenia, Paris, Gili Trawangan, Austin, Texas and San Francisco.

Subs' Standards – lately in my sub-editing blog I've been picking up on a few funnies that have made it through to publication. I also published my first guest post – from multimedia journalist Andy Bull on the subs-friendly art of curation and live-blogging. I'm now thinking of asking other sub-editors to write about their experiences of digital subbing.

Debauched Teddies – rounding up bad teddy bears from around the world. There are LOTS.

Katchooo Mix – a scrapbook of stuff that is relevant to my interests.

Flickr news – fresh up are holiday pics from Llangollen canal and the Isle of Purbeck, plus shots from Mostly Jazz Festival weekender who kindly gave me a photo pass.

Grant Thornton Thinking blogs – I help write and edit four blog channels for Grant Thornton UK on/about: business leaders and entrepreneurs, the high net worth community, international markets and boardroom issues. Recently I've researched online business networks in China, live-curated the UK Budget and set up a Scoop.It for female finance directors. I'm lucky in that the firm's online channels are open to exploring new ideas for business and financial content.

The Firehead blog – I'm also blog manager for this European content and comms recruitment company. They let me post LOLcats among the more serious business content. This makes me happy.

My digital switchover


I wasn't going to post this but the above is what happens when a pun comment and some beery late night Photoshopping collide. All those TV reminders about the analogue-to-digital switchover in September must have also seeped into my brainz.

How many of the following can you spot in the picture: Robots (5), switches (3), iPhone, TV switchover logo, 8bit nerd, Twitter, multicoloured pixels, newspaper hat, newspaper, cat, magazine and me (twice)?

For the record I used to be a print journalist, now doing purely digital work. Hence the personal mashup of what is in my head now.

The reason I did post this in the end is because I realised afterwards that this IS, in fact, how I tend to learn my digital skills. I muck around with whatever software until I learn how to use it.

In this case, it was Photoshop, which I usually only use for prepping images for the web. Here I got to really delve around with cropping, polygonal lasso, transform, cut and paste, sharpen, rotate and a whole world of effects and settings under the filter menu. It was fun (if never-ending).

So welcome to another 1am production, featuring Creative Commons images from:



Anyone else out there do what I do?

5351881990_b621326356_bThe shift in publishing from print to digital has changed my production journalist job beyond all recognition – a transition I blogged about in last year in RIP Sub-editing. Now, instead of 'journalist', I answer blogger or web editor or content strategist or content creator or multimedia producer or social reporter or online quality controller – depending on the circumstances I find myself in, the people I am speaking to and what people are more likely to understand.

A memory: covering an FT conference for a client, I got chatting with a senior manager at BT Group who asked what I did. I replied that I was there to interview attendees and get their views for a video blog post – a video blogger. I'll always remember his reaction: "Is that even a job?"

I'm happy to say that it is. I wasn't insulted by his comment. I fully understand how fast reporting has changed and how big business has (in general) not kept up. In fact, his reaction wasn't at all unusual and often people don't understand the business model behind what I do. But the truth is, my work as a sub-editor and journalist for newspapers and magazines has now morphed into one of facilitator. I assuage the needs of clients, all of whom have become publishers, but most of whom do not have any training in basic publishing skills, production sensibilities or editorial judgment.

Continue reading "Anyone else out there do what I do?"

The perfect rose?


Sometimes, despite low light conditions and a shady rainy British summer evening sky, the perfect picture is made. This one is from a photo project idea I had to pick 'A dozen roses' from the front garden. It was delivered perfect from the camera on an ISO of 1600 and required no image manipulation (although I did up the contrast slightly). The bloom itself is from a David Austin rose called Abraham Darby – whose namesake, oddly, was a Quaker stalwart of the Industrial Revolution who produced 'pig iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal' (source: Wikipedia). From a grim industrial past comes true beauty. Here's the full bouquet of my 12 roses.

18 practical content strategy tips in 8 minutes

If (like me) you have been tuning in to the rise of content strategy, but feel a bit lacking in actual practical know-how, then this collection of soundbites and voxpops – wrung by me from the mouths and Twitter accounts of the world's leading content strategists – is truly the badger's nadgers.

At last month's Content Strategy Applied conference, I hunted down asked the keynote speakers, presenters, panellists and attending experts for one single tip they could give that would help people (like me) apply content strategy to their web work. There was also some follow-up Twitter conversation on the subject, which led to a few bonus tips making the final cut.

The full list of interviewees and contributors, with a quick summary of their one piece of advice, follows beneath the video. Which is here:

I'm extremely grateful to the following for contributing:

1. Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic: Start asking lots of smart questions about your content. This also helps shift the conversation around it.

2. Ken Yau, Baddit: Ask why! Be a pain in the butt. There should be a justification for content existing.

3. Fiona Perks, Bright Stuff Communications: A good content strategist never forgets about the end user.

4. Julie Mahoney, LBi: Always incorporate different channels – social media, mobile devices.

5. Richard Ingram, Ingserv: Use context to shape your content. Don't just find out who your audience are. Discover the circumstances and emotions behind their interest.

6. Amy Laskin, Ogilvy: Don’t make assumptions about your users; they will surprise you every time.

7. Rob Hinchcliffe, Hour of Play: Find your hook: immerse yourself in your community, listen to what they're saying, find the common themes, and then build a narrative around those themes.

8. Nikki Tiedtke, eBay Europe: Before anything, first try to find out who your customer is. Not just users but the client. Understand what they need and why. Don’t jump into solutions.

9. Jonathan Kahn, Together London: Content strategy is half collaboration, advocacy, and organizational change – the deliverables and techniques are useless on their own.

10. Steve Wilson-Beales, MSN Entertainment: Find out what your audience is searching for, what topics are trending on social networks, use autosuggest tools… CS is replying to that need and allows you to create an editorial layer.

11. Kath Ludlow, Bright Stuff Communications: Think about content as the stuff that people are going to use, enjoy, keep, share, react to and act upon. Focus on delivering a strategy that delivers this response on a long-term basis. Then you can't go wrong.

12. Danny McCubbin, Jamie Oliver online: Be transparent in the content you put up on site. Don't intervene too much in the community – your audience will tell you if you have got it right or wrong. Be authentic.

13. Chad Butz, Bourne: Get to know the business and marketing objectives inside out and relate all you do back to those, from selling in to analytics.

14. Seth Bindernagel. Mozilla: Localisation: ask do you intend your content to meet a global audience?

15. Lucie Hyde, eBay Europe: Don’t think multilingual think multicultural – language is just the start of localisation.

16. Charlie Peverett, iCrossing: Creating page tables? Make your life a whole lot easier – use mail merge

17. Rahel Bailie, Intentional Design: It’s all about the metadata – it governs everything.

18. Jeff MacIntyre, Predicate LLC: Every content strategist is, at minimum, a professional communicator. This entails two requirements of you. One, never sacrifice clarity on the altar of the buzzword, and two, critical thinking is mandatory – develop a considered point of view (and rationale) for the trends and ideas that matter most to you in your work.

If you liked this video, please do share it. You might also find this CS Applied conference post I wrote for Firehead web recruiters useful: Content strategy in 60 tweets.

Hire/commission me: fiona [at]

So what happened at Content Strategy Applied?

At least that’s what I always want to know from people who go to conferences I miss out on. As one of the three ‘staff’ bloggers at Content Strategy Applied, here’s an overview from where I was sitting (at the back, by the power points – can you spot me?).


To be honest, I’m still processing my thoughts about it. Having one eye on tweeting for the @csapplied2011 Twitter account and the other on my camera for the conference photo pool, it’s been left to my third eye to think about what went on.

Firstly, it took place in a rather nice location, in Richmond in SW London, in both eBay and PayPal’s offices, right on the River Thames with swans floating by, geese flocking upstream, easy transport links for the conference commute, and plenty of pubs and restaurants for the evening meetup.

Conference location is no small thing for me. If I’m going to attend one, it really helps if it is in a nice venue (with plenty of power points) and an interesting location. Like CS Forum 2010 in Paris last year or SXSWi in Austin, this one ticked the box.

But what about the meat of the event: the talks, the workshops, the panels?

The big coup were the two keynote speakers: Rahel Bailie (who has the ‘perfect storm of content strategy skills’) on day one, and Kristina Halvorson (‘the queen of content strategy’) on day two.

‘If only I had a content strategy…’
Rahel Bailie keynote at CS Applied 2011
Rahel Bailie rounded up lots of cautionary content tales so that we can learn WHAT NOT TO DO with your content, such as: hiding it behind Flash pages, not optimising it for mobile, writing copy full of corporate narcissism, acting like a ‘diva’ with your online fans, and many more.

‘Do you speak content strategy?’
Kristina @Halvorson asks: Do you speak content strategy?

Meanwhile, Kristina Halvorson talked about how we talk about content and the difficulties in explaining content strategy when it isn’t yet fully defined. She gave us a list of metaphors (aka elevator pitches) to explain what it is that content strategists do.

They included: Wall.E, Pixar’s waste-collecting robot, cleaning up the mess that website owners have created; fixing a Crumbling House by doing a survey and making a budgeted plan to rebuild it properly; and content as a fragile plant needing care within a wider ecosystem of communications.

I'll add the links to their presentations here if/when they get posted.

Content strategy in practice

But the biggest draw of Content Strategy Applied for me was the practical side of how to apply CS in real-life situations. Having recently completed my first content strategy document, I was full of questions. Here was the first conference to go beyond the theory and share the nitty-gritty of content strategy.

That’s why it was great to hear a number of different case studies, each with their own challenges. After several years of theory and banging the content strategy drum, this has been much needed. I personally found the two agencies’ tips particularly useful for general practical advice on content strategy.

The case studies
Monisha Saldanha and Danny McCubbin of Jamie Oliver Online (and Jamie Oliver lurking in the corner)

  1. eBay (Nikki Tiedtke) – a global company in need of a content localisation strategy and a more efficient way to communicate its seller news to 500,000 business users in the EU.
  2. Mozilla (Seth Bindernagel) – faced the issue of finding a strategy that would scale a global community of open source volunteers and localise global products such as Firefox.
  3. Jamie Oliver – how the online team (pictured) manage content for a ‘personality’ brand while engaging with a community of fans that socialise around the brand, producing masses of their own content.
  4. LBi (agency) – Julie Mahoney gave a long list of practical tips from how to get buy-in from the client and their focus on the competitors’ analysis, to the importance of planning and not rushing in.
  5. Bright Stuff (agency) – listed 10 things that they had learnt from working with brands on their content, including (surprising, I think) that ‘generosity is dangerous’ and over-educating the user may send them elsewhere.

Some of these presentations and other from the conference will be available online at Content Strategy Applied site – they're coming in by degrees, so check back.

Content surgeries
In addition to the case studies were three strands of workshop covering content strategy 101, measurement and localisation, and these were useful in that they gave the delegates a chance to speak. But what I found really helpful were the lunchtime topic round tables.

This surprise element on the conference agenda involved a wedding guest-style seating plan posted on a whiteboard on the second day of the conference.

It offered a series of content surgeries with different experts sitting at a round table in a lunch booth. This gave us the chance to meet speakers and experts face to face, talk about the topic on the table and ask questions.

I sat down with Clare O’Brien of CDA to talk about Google Analytics, keywords and online pop-up surveys. As Clare says, you can measure everything but what do the numbers actually mean: are readers finding the content useful, enjoyable, interesting? Indeed! I came away with a number of ideas about how other drill down into site stats and the knowledge that, for various reasons, I work in a particularly difficult topic area in terms of users and keywords. Ah well.

In summary

For those who didn’t make Content Strategy Applied, check out my Content strategy in 60 tweets post for Firehead Ltd, which rounds up the best of the conference tweets and tips.

There are several more content strategy conferences coming up later in the year. I really hope they involve more ‘show and tell’ advice about the practical side because it seems that the conversation is just getting started – and that it is perhaps getting more difficult and diverse as we try to pin down content strategy for different work situations and client sites.

Contribute a tip!

At some point in the next week or so, I’ll also be editing together some of the video clips I took, asking the experts for their one practical takeaway from the conference. I’ll post it up here on the blog – so if you’d like to contribute a practical tip (in 140 characters), tweet me at @fionacullinan or leave a comment here and I’ll include it on the post.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank eBay and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry for hosting/sponsoring the event, and for having me along as a conference blogger. And, most of all, for the 'Staff' t-shirt. I can see this being veeery useful!

The back of @fionacullinan