Monday, 31 January 2011

Cirkle du Soleil!

The Cirkle offices were strangely quiet on Friday as we all shipped out for our post-Christmas, Christmas-do. The snow caused a lot of trouble last year so we decided to not even try and battle the elements for Christmas 2010 and wait until a safer date at the end of January. A great time was had by all as we celebrated a year of great results thanks to a lot of hard work! We were treated to a stunning performance from Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall followed by dinner and good-times at a Mexican restaurant in Covent Garden. I for one had a brilliant day and felt really proud and thankful to be part of Cirkle; so thanks everyone and here’s to another great year!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Home bakers are stealing my glory!

I’m not going to lie to you. I do indulge in the odd bit of baking. The occasions are few and far between, but they’re there.

So imagine my distress while I was working on a press release last week for and discovered that the home baking category is in very strong growth. Not only that, but people are going around buying up all sorts of bakeware equipment. As someone who is eternally trying to be trendy, this news distressed me.

Why? Well, a number of reasons really but I won’t bore you with all of them, so let’s just cut to the chase. Baking was MY THING! That dying art where you could disappear into the kitchen and return an hour later with some form of sweet delight amidst the awe - the admiration - the secret jealousy.

And now it’s all gone. My glory has been stolen.

According to latest research, nearly one in three of us will prepare something from scratch at least once a week and bakeware equipment is enjoying sales increases of 70% year on year.

Television is further turning up the heat in the kitchen. BBC had huge success with the Great British Bake Off last year and now former model and trained chef Lorraine Pascale has introduced her new series, Baking Made Easy.

I know it's selfish but I don’t want people to know that baking can be easy! Think of the thing you can do that comes naturally to you, and then imagine having it whipped out from under you as it goes mainstream!

To rub salt in the wound my housemate has enrolled in a baking course. At the moment my scones are still light and fluffy (in contrast with her mildly disguised rock cakes), but how long before she finds out the secret lies in triple sifting the flour?!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Oh No You Didn't!

Sometimes, us Cirkleites need to let our hair down and last week saw just one of those nights. The usually quiet village of Chipperfield saw the village hall rafters rocking with boo’s, hisses, cheers and applause, as Chipperfield Theatre Group premiered the lesser known classic tale, “Knight Fever, An Arthurian Pantomime.”

As a devoted daughter to the esteemed director, I was compelled, I mean honoured, to help put on this year’s production and despite my protestation that this show was more Vicar of Dibley than west end, my supportive colleagues dutifully came to support my cast on their opening night.

The nerves and anxieties running through the production team were very much comparable to those felt by a PR when putting on a big launch or event. However, rather than, ‘will there be enough champagne?’ and, ‘will all our journalists turn up?’ our worries were more along the lines of, ‘will the draw bridge open? Will the dragon manage to say his one line without crying? Will The Knights of Camelot accidently take out Arthur with their potentially violent hobby horses? Will the chorus remember ANYTHING that we have taught them over the last 6 months?!’

As it turns out, the draw bridge made it up and down as required. The Dragon did get stuck behind the smoke machine, but when he finally appeared, he looked thoroughly adorable and probably stole the show. The Knights didn’t succeed on swiping any children – better luck next time - and the chorus remembered the majority of their moves AND even managed to attempt singing at the same time! It’s an am-dram miracle!

The feedback from the Cirkle theatre critics was very complimentary, although I fear they may have been somewhat bribed by the local butcher’s promise of his infamous sausages. Even the poor Australian managed to overcome cultural barriers to enjoy this very British tradition, learning to 'boo' and 'hiss' in all the right places. Perhaps experiencing Panto should be part of the British Citizenship Exam.

Essentially, putting on a show and putting on an event are very similar, the adrenaline, the excitement, the relief!! The only difference is, events are usually one offs, we’ve got to endure three more performances – wish us luck!!!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Is prejudice in the workplace on the rise?
Or doth we protest too much?

This week, #MiriamO ’Reilly, one of the first ever people to take the #BBC to an employment tribunal on allegations of age discrimination, won her case. Miriam, aged 53, was axed from the television show Countryfile after it moved from a Sunday morning show to a prime time Sunday evening slot. In the same week, it was announced that the government plans to save £12 billion by raising the state pension age. The retirement age for women was due to rise from 60 to 65 over the next 10 years, to bring it in line with men, but that increase will now come into force by 2018 – and will go up to 66 years of age for both sexes by 2020.

Miriam winning her case was a great victory for women, but will it change perceptions and views of working women of a certain age? Or are the cases of age discrimination set to rise? With women having to work up to the age of 66, it’s possible that we may see an influx of stories similar to that of Miriam’s.

It seems Miriam’s isn’t the only famous face in the media spotlight who has felt some sort of age discrimination – Moira Stuart was ‘deeply hurt’ when she lost her television role (she now presents the news on the Chris Evans breakfast show on Radio 2), Arlene Phillips was famously axed from #strictlycomedancing, only to be replaced by the younger Alesha Dixon and Anna Ford reportedly feared being sidelined in her 60s.

Do you think men face the same discrimination as women? Take Strictly for example – Arlene was replaced by Alesha but we still see Bruce Forsyth and Len Goodman gracing our screens. I certainly feel there are more ‘older’ men on our screens than women. In fact, industry body Skillset found that only one in 10 women working in television is over 50 – half are under 35 and men outnumber women by almost two to one on TV.

What do you think to the raise in state pension age? Do you think it’s a good idea? I think it’s great that women are able to keep working if they want to, and now also won’t be forced to retire. But for those who were hoping for their retirement soon, they could have a while longer to wait…..

Working in an office full of women (and a couple of men!), I can thankfully say that I’ve never had to experience these issues and, with any luck, I'll never have to!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

TV Gone Mad

I'm the first to admit that I watch trash TV! You name it, I watch it, be it reality, soap, game show or documentary, I have most probably tuned in once or twice. I'm also a strong believer that when your day's work is done, there's nothing better than curling up on the sofa, with a cuppa in front of the soaps (and Glee of course!).

That said, even I am getting a little sick and tired and even - dare I say it - ashamed of the offerings on our screens.

Firstly, you can’t miss the uproar that is being caused by the soaps at the moment. If it’s not fathering your best friend’s child, or admitting that you gave your baby to your sister in your past it’s, yep, you guessed it…baby swapping!

For the past two weeks I have sat in a state of shock in front of Eastenders. Don’t get me wrong, I think the acting from the leading characters has been flawless, but with regards to the story line itself, is it just one step too far for what is supposed to be light hearted relief from the stresses and strains of day-to-day life?

The Queen of the Vic herself, Barbara Windsor, has also been reported to say that she is utterly shocked and ashamed by the story line and it’s no longer the soap we all love.

Switch over on to digital, and the talk of the box from last night on my Facebook and Twitter was #ToolAcademy ! I am simply lost for words on this one. It is a reality show about rubbish boyfriends who are being publicly humiliated by the girlfriends and branded ‘a tool’. I say no more….

The question I want to ask is; the ones that create such shows, and write said story lines, is this really what the viewing public wants to see on the box of an evening? I am not so sure.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Time to self improve your social media?

With the festivities well and truly behind us for yet another year, commitments to diet, detox and fitness are, for many of us, well under way (if not falling by the wayside). But in this digital age, does starting afresh mean more for most than a just new beauty regime or a closet clear-out?

2011 has already seen many of my friends centering their efforts for self-improvement around their digital activity - from resolute intentions to use Facebook more often, to the culling of tenuous contacts, friends and followers on social media sites.

So when Tom Fishbourne's cartoon of social media ghost towns popped into my inbox last week, I had to smile and wonder whether brands would be thinking the same way. 2010 will have seen countless businesses jump into social media head first, only to let it die a death; thus creating their own social media ghost towns. And with experts citing a negative social media experience far worse than no social media experience whatsoever, will brands take note and strive to self-improve their social media spaces?

The moral of the story is perhaps to beware of social media for social media’s sake – if a brand can add value to a community then it should probably be using social media. If it can’t, then it should probably think twice.

The other factor is of course resource. Businesses should not be fooled into thinking social media is a cost free marketing tool. The currency is time and to be interesting and relevant in real time, requires real investment. Businesses should be realistic about the amount of time their brands can devote - or be in danger of creating the next digital ghost town!

Despite all this, brands and businesses must bare in mind that any online conversations about them will be going on anyway - regardless of whether or not they participate. Turning a blind eye won’t make it go away, so surely it's better to be in the know?

The key to the plot is, unsurprisingly, to be clear on the objectives before wading in. With proper planning and the right strategy, it's been proved by many a great brand that it's entirely possible to keep those ghosts well and truly at bay.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Are you Twitter Trendy?

My New Year’s resolution is to be more trendy! Now I am not talking about blowing a small fortune on expensive designer labels and having a hair transplant (certainly not the one Gordon Ramsay may have used), no I am talking about being more Twitter Trendy.

The list of 2010 Twitter Trends was recently revealed and reflects what’s been happening in our world over the last year and what things have been most meaningful to people

Thankfully many of the top trends appearing in the key categories including events, people, movies, television, technology, sports and hashtags were already well known to me, but some of them weren’t and that worried me! So over the Christmas break I’ve been brushing up on some of these trends and given my considered opinion. I’ve listened to Justin Bieber – “utterly dreadful”, watched Inception – “totally mind blowing”, played Call of Duty Black Ops – “damn fine game”, watched a few episodes of Glee – “worryingly enjoyable” and tweeted at #slapyourself for finding Glee “worryingly enjoyable”. Now that’s done I am ready to completely immerse myself in a whole new set of exciting trends for 2011… whatever they might be.

Twitter Trends does truly demonstrate the power of turning any event or story into a shared experience, and really signals Twitter’s extreme value as a real-time information network that we should all fully embrace. So if like me you want to be even more Twitter Trendy in 2011 why not make your #newyearsresolution today.