Singing Kettle Retirement
Sad to see Arty and Cilla hanging up their Singing Kettles after thirty years. I interviewed Arty for a BBC Scotland feature a couple of years ago and he’s an exceptionally interesting man. Have a listen and see what you think:
The Quiz of 2012
Anne and I got a note home from school recently asking if the kids could send one Christmas card to the class rather than individual ones to each other, as the teachers were trying to teach environmental responsibility. In that spirit, at Bee Herd Media we don’t send Christmas cards to our clients; we write a “quiz of the year” instead. There are actually two quizzes: my family attempt the first on Christmas Day after dinner, and the second a week later after a New Year’s Day feast of steak pie from our wonderful local butcher’s shop.
Many of you have said that in previous years you’ve sold it at your local school or around the office to raise money for charity; it’s an excellent idea and if you’re doing it this year, I wish you great success.
As always, please feel free to pass this on to as many of your friends, family and colleagues as you wish; this is our Christmas gift to trivia lovers everywhere. I hope you have as much fun completing it as we did writing it.
P.S. If you want to pass on a web link to friends rather than email the .pdfs, send them a copy of this: www.beeherdmedia.com/chris-kanes-blog/
Marketing is a piece of cake!
I heard Stirling’s Provost on Radio 2 at the weekend saying he expected all 80,000 Stirling residents to turn up in Dunblane to see Andy Murray’s walkabout on Sunday. Worried by this, I stayed at home to patrol my street in case any Djokovic loving burglars turned up. I followed the event on Facebook, where this column’s tennis correspondent Cat Cripps gave regular updates. Cat managed to get Andy’s autograph and these two delicious looking cakes, themed for the occasion by the Beech Tree Cafe. ”Piggyback marketing”, where you use an event or an occasion to increase your sales, is a tried and tested method; are there any events or occasions that your business could take advantage of?
Eye to the Telescope
Many thanks to the Stirling Astronomical Society for making “Doors Open Day” great fun thanks to their tour of the Observatory at the Highland Hotel. The green domed tower contains a nine foot Newtonian Reflector Telescope (I was listening!) which was installed in the nineteenth century yet lay unused for much of the twentieth century. The interior of the dome looks like a set from a Jules Verne novel. The Sunday evening cloudy sky meant we didn’t see many stars, but we did see some cracks in the stonework of the Wallace Monument from a few miles away. This month sees the society resuming meeting after their summer break; visit www.stirlingastronomicalsociety.org.uk for more information.
There’s nothing we can do about the smaller one, Houston.
I was swimming at “The Peak”, Stirling’s excellent council run leisure centre, yesterday. I must apologise to the two women in the main pool who saw me hurtling towards the water like that meteor towards the end of the film “Deep Impact”. I should further add my apologies for continuing the film metaphor by causing a tsunami like wave much like the one that took out Venessa Redgrave’s character as she gazed out to sea. I find the best way to deal with the shock of the cold water is just to get it over with and take the plunge. I do however appreciate that I inadvertently ruined these women’s largely (until that point) successful attempts not to get their hair wet. I am usually impressed by the swimming style adopted by many women in this situation; stick your neck as far above the surface as possible and try to move your hands through the water with minimum sound and disturbance like SAS troops on a mission.
Two Lorries and a Poet
On Friday I was back in Stirling University’s Logie Lecture theatre to hear Irish Nobel Prize winning Poet Seamus Heaney talk about his life and read some of his work. Heaney likes to set poems in two different times (look up “Two Lorries” of which he read on Friday) which in itself was a theme on Friday with many in the room talking of times they remember the poet in the past. University Principal Gerry McCormac got a raised eyebrow from the guest of honour when his introduction started with “I first heard of Seamus Heaney when I was fourteen years old…” A student, with youth on his side, asked of the 73 year old Nobel Laureate, “At your age have you still got anything left to write about?” That got a laugh and a poetic rebuke from the lecturn. Like Principal McCormac my first experience of Heaney was in high school English classes but on Friday it took me a while to realise why his face was as familiar to me as his words; I finally remembered that his picture hung on the wall for years in O’Neil’s pub in Maxwell Place, my pub of choice when I was a student at Stirling University.
Decisions, DecisionsChris writes a weekly column in “the Stirling Observer”. Here’s one of this week’s stories:
It was my birthday in August and, fed up my inability to answer the question “what do you want for your birthday”, my family tend to get me amazon vouchers. I used the last of them to buy a badminton racket the other day. Usually what happens when I get vouchers is that I fritter them away little by little rather than sitting down and thinking what I really want to use them for. So this year I did sit down and think and ended up with some unusual choices: a push lawn mower and a ukulele. Now, before you ask the same question that my mum did when she heard this, no I have not lost the plot. I borrowed my neighbour’s push lawnmower earlier this year and, given how easy, convenient and quicker it was to push the thing around the garden than my flymo, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. As for the ukulele, I’ve got a clarinet and saxophone sitting in the spare room that I rarely get the chance to play because they’re not the best instruments to use for a singsong (that and my name is neither Acker Bilk nor Bill Clinton) and I’m not in a band. The ukulele is smaller and theoretically better for parties. I have a £10 bet with my brother that I can’t learn “Jingle Bells” in time for Christmas. He thinks he’ll be laughing all the way but I know it will be me who is making spirits bright. I have learned this week that my lawnmower is perfect on the green, green grass of home, while my ukulele works best when I’m leaning on a lamp post at the corner of my street.
Fridays here at the Chris Kane blog are all about Spelchek Korner, where we find some of the more greating examples (see what I did there?) of poorly punctuated and sickeningly spelled marketing disasters. It can happen to the best of us on documents and websites, where it’s relatively easy to fix. However, on printed materials there really is no excuse for not proofing the proof to within an inch of it’s life!
This week’s gem comes from one of the readers of my Stirling Observer column, Sandra Muir, who snapped this little beauty outside of a hotel near Edinburgh recently.
Setting achievable goalsChris Kane writes a weekly column for “The Stirling Observer”. Here’s one of this week’s stories:
Many thanks to local Accountant Neil Atkinson of Atkinson & Co for the invitation to join his small band of merry Badminton players for a weekly fun event at Stirling University sports centre. I’ve never played Badminton before – which Neil and the others will tell you was pretty evident after the first five minutes – but had a thoroughly good time. I’ve been looking for a sport that combines fun, keep fit and socialising that you can do in a quarter of the time it takes to play a round of golf and in all weathers. Badminton may just fit the bill. I’m approaching it in much the same way as I do my golf game; at the moment I’m woefully, tragically, obscenely, disgracefully bad at golf (and now badminton). However, if I work hard and stay focused, I’m pretty sure I could become rubbish at both sports in just a few years.
In appreciation of mumsChris Kane writes a weekly column for his local newspaper, the Stirling Observer, called “Son of the Rock”. Here’s one of this week’s stories:
Anne was working at Radio Forth in Edinburgh on Monday, leaving me in charge of the house and kids. Now the last time this happened, I forgot that the Observer photographer was there taking P1 pictures and sent Katie out of the house with odd socks. Taking no chances this time, Anne got up extra early to get Katie ready, leaving me with the less challenging job of dressing Matthew. I am a huge fan of school uniforms; if it were not for them, I would regularly send the kids out of the house with more than their socks not matching. Actually, if it weren’t for Anne, I’d leave the house quite regularly with socks that don’t match or ties that don’t match my shirt. Mums have got a tough job; when I was about fourteen, my mum got fed up with my brother and I not doing enough to get ourselves ready for school so insisted that we iron our own shirts. Like most outsourced activities, it lasted about a week before the quality of the work was affecting the company image; our ironing skills made us look like a couple of tramps and my mother was concerned other people would think it was her making us look like that. The moral of the story: tell your mum (or indeed your wife) that you appreciate her this week. Don’t get flowers though; you wouldn’t want her to think you’ve done something wrong.
A salute to Scottish heroes new and oldChris writes a weekly column for his local newspaper, The Stirling Observer. Here’s one of this week’s stories:
.. but they’ll never take away our visitor centre! Andy Murray’s victory at the US Open, ending a 76 year British Grand Slam drought, means he is now officially what many of us have known for a while – a true Scottish hero. What with an impending independence debate in Scotland, note that I managed to use both “British” and “Scottish” in the same breath without having to either apologise or explain myself.
I had a day off on Monday and after picking up my son from nursery we went to visit another Scottish hero – The Bruce Statue on the field of the Battle of Bannockburn. The main reason we headed along was for a look around the visitor centre before it closes later this month, to be replaced by a new building in time for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The woman behind the desk enquired “have you been before” and I uttered the words that most Stirling residents have said (there and also at the Castle and Wallace Monument) at some point in their lives “Yes, but not since I was at primary school”. The Queen unveiled the Bruce statue back in 1964 as part of the 650th anniversary celebrations; it would be quite something if she were able to come back to mark the 700th. While we were there Matthew and I auditioned for jobs as Knights; I think I look quite scary standing alongside my mini-me!
RIP Jon Lord
Sad news to hear about the death of legendary Deep Purple musician Jon Lord on Monday. I was lucky enough to interview him for a BBC Scotland feature a couple of years ago when he came to Stevenson College in Edinburgh to work with the pupils. Here’s the interview:
Son of the Rock – 18 July
Chris is back writing a weekly column with the Stirling Observer. Here’s this week’s musings:
I had a relaxing Saturday planned with nothing to do last weekend. Anne was working and the kids were visiting my parents. As she left the house Anne said, “Remember and hoover the rug in the living room”. Thinking, “better do that before I forget”, I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and noticed it was full. I took it to the wheelie bin and saw that it was still empty from being uplifted on Thursday. So I took the opportunity to pressure wash it. Then thought, as I had the pressure washer out that I might as well clean the paths and patio. And while I was at it, the car. Then as I had the bins out anyway, the side of the shed where the bins sit. Then as the bins were out, I might as well pain the four panels I missed when I last painted the fence six years ago. Since I had the paint out anyway, the back fence could do with a new coat. And I was going to make up these raised beds to put right in front of them, so might as well get to it. Then to get the raised beds into the ground. Then off to the tip to get some compost. I’m nearly done, so I might as well plant the veg I’ve been meaning to do for a month. Anyway, to cut a long story, well, not quite as long, eight hours later I trudged wearily into the house like a broken man. And as I reached for the remote control for the television, Anne came in from work and looked at me. Then looked at the rug. “I thought you were going to hoover that?” she said.
The wonderful “Keep Scotland Beautiful” is based in Stirling city centre but last week I passed what I assume to be their old office in Livilands. The irony of the picture isn’t lost on me! Stirling Council’s grass cutting teams are having a particularly difficult time at the moment as much of the ground they tend to is totally saturated. I know how they feel; you could film “Revenge of the Daisies” or “The Buttercups Fight Back” in my back garden at the moment.
Thomas says Potato
I’m not going to go into the whole “when I was a child” thing, but my two year old son can work my Ipad better than I can and he loves nothing better than surfing youtube for Thomas the Tank Engine videos. His current favourite, which I urge you to look up, is called “Thomas the Tank Engine says potato for twenty four seconds”. As the title suggests, it is indeed a video of Thomas saying potato for twenty four seconds. It is perhaps the most pointless video ever made, yet it has been viewed over four and a half million times in the last year, probably half of which is attributable to Matthew.
When I stopped off on the way home from work to buy my Stirling Observer last week I saw this on the shop door. While I’m on this subject, to my friend Iain who I met on the way out – can I please reiterate that the copy of the “Beano” and the two “Commando” comics were not for me. They were for my children.
My Favourite Place
BBC Scotland asked me to go to a creative writing workshop at the Tolbooth on Thursday to record a feature for next Monday’s “Book Cafe” (1315hrs – 1400hrs on Radio Scotland). Run by Falkirk writer Alan Bissett, the workshop was to help people who want to write a short story about “My favourite Place” for a competition run by the Scottish Book Trust (www.scottishbooktrust.com). I went looking for inspiration to write my story, but instead was totally inspired by local women Mary (63) and Helen (70). They gave me permission to print their ages and to say that they’ve only been able to read and write for ten years, after particularly poor educational experiences when they were young and a gift for keeping secrets. To go from being unable to write cheques to entering creative writing competitions in under a decade is remarkable. They were helped by tutors from www.thebigplus.co.uk and if you have a parent or friend in similar circumstances, then the big plus may be able to help. You can listen to Mary and Helen’s story in a Bee Herd Media podcast below.
A business lesson …
I attend a business networking group where every week one member is asked to share his or her thoughts on an aspect of business life. This was my recent contribution and I hope it resonates with you. Please pass on a link to this blog to anybody you feel will enjoy reading it.
I was speaking to a family friend the other day who has just sold his television shop and retired. I asked him “why now” and he said he was tired of trying to compete with supermarkets, struggling to keep up to date with technology and ready to spend more time with his grandkids.
These are reasons that will resonate with many people in their fifties but will mean very little to those in their twenties.
Fifty year olds don’t really have a lot in common with twenty year olds. I’m thirty five and already I can see I’m starting to lose touch with those younger than me and agree more with those older than me.
When I was twenty I wanted to be a millionaire. Now I just want to have as much disposable income as I did when I was twenty.
So why don’t I aspire to be a millionaire any more? Because my experience and knowledge tells me that is less practical than it was when my primary business skills were passion and enthusiasm.
I saw an invitation to tender for a government contract yesterday and my initial enthusiasm quickly became tempered because I’ve learned that the time required to complete the tender process is high and the chances of being successful are low. However, if I was twenty I’d complete it without question and with high hopes. Back then everything was possible. It still is, but ironically I’m losing the enthusiasm to chase the opportunity just as I’m gaining the skills to tackle it.
And so I ask myself, am I destined to become entrenched in a mentality where supermarkets and technology make me weary and I long to spend time with grandchildren to remember what it was like to have enthusiasm and passion? Probably. But I’d still like to make that million first.
Change is best viewed from a fixed point. We often think we are the fixed point and the world is changing around us. It’s not. We’re changing with it.
I believe the only fixed points are the records we keep. So the best way to pass on advice is through the written word. You probably wrote a business plan when you first started in business; when was the last time you looked at it? It was written when you were most enthusiastic about what you’re doing now and although much of it may have changed or turned out differently to what you expected, it should still resonate with you. After all, you created it.
If you don’t have a mission statement, write one. A mission statement is something you aspire to do. Then in one month, one year, one decade from now you can reread it and see if you’re still on the same path.
If you’re feeling really bold, write a letter passing on words of wisdom to your older self and open it in five years time. And if all this sounds too bizarre, ask yourself this: Would you like to be opening a letter right now from your younger self with advice and tips from what has worked in your past?
When I joined this networking group, in the first few months I attended all the training, I made sure I met with a different member every week, I spent time preparing my weekly presentation, I spent an hour each week looking for business to pass on and I desperately wanted to impress each and every one of you every week.
However, I didn’t get many referrals coming back to me. Although I was full of enthusiasm and passion for the group I didn’t really know what I was doing. Now I know what I’m doing but I don’t do it as much as I should. I wonder what I could achieve if I combined my relationships in this room today with the passion and enthusiasm I had just two years ago when I started.
When you get a minute today write down one positive thing you’d like to do in the next month. Something you can control, like have 3 meetings with members. Give three referrals. Attend a training event. Make it something you really believe you will do. Hopefully it will be all the motivation you need to get the task done. Think of it like a personal mission statement. If your enthusiasm starts to drift, refer back to your note and ask what’s changed.
Keep asking questions of yourself and others. We start off in life with an infinite number of questions and no answers. The more answers we get, the less we feel the need to ask questions. And that’s when we stop keeping up with technology and finding ways to compete with supermarkets.
I wonder what I could achieve in business if I could combine the energy of my past with the skills of my present. And if I could combine both of these qualities with the wisdom of my future, perhaps that million pounds may be achievable after all.
Chris Kane’s Quiz of the Year 2011
As you’ll see if you scroll down to the quiz of 2010, I’m hopeless at sending out Christmas Cards. That’s because every message becomes a personal copy writing challenge and I have to try to make it pithy and witty and cool. Instead, I settle down with a bottle of wine one evening in December and compose a quiz to test your recall of events of the year. You can click on the link below to download a .pdf of the Quiz (the answers are on each sheet but are very small and upside down). I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to pass on the quiz to your family, friends and colleagues!
Click this link to download the quiz: Chris Kane’s Quiz of 2011
I have a copywriting confession to make: When I’m creating copy, there are certain words that my fingers refuse to type properly. One of them is “the” which will often appear as “het”. The other, rather bizarrely, is “who” as in “who goes there?” The creative part of my brain insists that it’s spelt “woo” and it’s the only word that stops me in my tracks at the computer as the logical half of my brain engages in a battle for orthographic supremacy.
Unfortunately both “het” and “woo” are in the dictionary, so a standard spellchecker will not flag them as incorrect. Trusting a spellchecker is dangerous. It should at most be the first of a number of checks on all important documents.
Perspective, instinct and education are the best tools available to a copywriter. Finish your document and then go out for a walk. When you sit down again, you’ll read what you’ve written with a fresh pair of eyes and any obvious mistakes should leap from the page. For more subtle problems, trust your instinct; if you don’t think something looks right, keep thinking and checking until you are happy. The more you write and the more you question, the better educated you’ll become.
The consequences of getting it wrong can range from a mildly inconvenient web page correction to a costly reprint of stationery. Or, as the above picture demonstrates, an expensive manufacturing disaster. We’ll ignore for a moment that the notice should read “these items are” rather than “this item is”, but I wonder if the employee responsible for signing off on this project was fired. Or should that be fried?
Cleaning up copy for car cleaning companies
Look at this photograph, which I snapped while dropping off my car at an airport car park recently. The majority of this company’s potential customers will process the information and decide if the service is for them. However, a large number of people with dirty cars will react with emotions ranging from mild bemusement to seething anger.
If you spotted the mistake instantly and smiled, then you would make a good proof reader. If you spotted the big one instantly, then muttered “what about the random capitalisation?” and had to look away in disgust, you might want to buy a blood pressure monitor.
If you’ve still not spotted it, you need a copywriter or proof reader for all of your business communications.
Good copy informs and motivates customers. Bad copy will still inform, but at a cost; it can turn away the most literate of people.
You only get one chance to make a great first impression. The simple mistake of using “your” instead of “you’re” can raise this question: “If they don’t take care with their advertising, do I trust them to take care with my car?”
We spend a lot of money giving people reasons to buy from us. Let’s not give them a reason to buy from others.
Chris Kane’s Quiz of the Year 2010
I’m hopeless at sending out Christmas cards every year. However, I always seem to find the time (usually over a bottle of wine!) to make up a quiz based on the events of the last twelve months. My family takes part in the quiz on Christmas afternoon and it beats watching a repeat of the Great Escape. I hope you enjoy the 100 questions in the following PDF downloads and have as much fun with it as we will. Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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