My Advice to University of Gloucestershire Freshers 2011

I joined the University of Gloucestershire September 2008 and will graduate in 2012. This year you are starting the first part of your life’s journey whilst my time at the University of Gloucestershire will be in its final stages.

When you arrive to the University in September keep these 5 points in mind:

First 4 – 6 Weeks Might be Tough*
Think about it. You will be living in a new part of the country, perhaps living away from home for the first time, you are away from your usual friendship group and have started a new education course. When I first started University I felt incredibly lonely, often depressed and, in hindsight, overwhelmed by everything. If you feel any of these when you start understand that things will get better. Trust me.

Remember to Eat (not just junk food)
Man cannot live off microwave meals and pizza alone. Make sure you have at least 2 meals a day and that one of them is a proper meal. Not eating properly at University will cause you to feel unwell, your skin will go quite pale and you will lose concentration. Forgetting to eat at University is easy to do – learn how to cook.

Have Confidence, say hello
When you arrive at the University as a first year student none of the freshers will know each other. Say hello to new people. People at the University of Gloucestershire are incredibly friendly and there is no harm in saying hello. Have the confidence to do this.

Get Involved
University is an opportunity to get involved with different things. These can be sports teams, societies or volunteering. I regularly get involved with Tone Radio at the University of Gloucestershire and find that far more exciting than my Public Relations degree. You will find likeminded people at University but you may need to step outside of your comfort zone to find them.

Don’t Forget your Degree!
Your degree is the reason you’re at University. Try to attend as many lectures as possible. The key to achieving high grades is good organisational skills and focus.

*If you have started University and are finding things tough then feel free to email me at my University address: s0806637 [AT] connect [DOT] glos [DOT] ac [DOT] uk


BBC: The Prison Restaurant

A little while ago I explained my involvement with The Clink Restaurant. The task was simply to renovate the charity’s website ahead of the scheduled BBC Documentary, The Prison Restaurant, which will be shown on BBC 1, 26th April 2011, 10:35pm.

The Clink Restaurant: New Website

The Clink Charity has a new website design! Although I can’t boast that the design is mine. Microsoft was extremely kind by offering me a volunteering day to spend developing the charity’s website (in a personal capacity) but eventually the PR company stood in and assisted with the rest of development.

Developing a website is a difficult business, even with a content management system (CMS) lurking in the background. A website acts as an extension of an organisation’s brand which means both structure and design needs to be perfect. Without a full-time job I probably could have created a perfect website for The Clink over the course of a fortnight. Yet, with my full-time work the task was taking longer than 2 months.

The new Clink Charity website design running is superb and fulfils the criteria for the website. Due to other work commitments I have taken a lesser role in the charity but keen to see it success in the future.

As somebody who has worked closely with the charity’s CEO, Chris Moore, I can vouch that this BBC dubbed, “unique and controversial rehabilitation scheme” actually works. When I visited a couple of months ago I took the time to speak with a couple of the prisoners who were very supportive of the project.

After the BBC Programme “The Prison Restaurant” airs I believe many of you will want to visit the restaurant.

Research for Dissertation

Research Begins...

With the hustle of contracted work it is rare that I find myself in a delightfully sunny garden with little weight upon my shoulders. Yet as I sit here now wearing my *oh so wondrously cool* sunglasses I have taken the chance to begin considering the first stages of my dissertation. Once back at University in September one of my main tasks will be to write my Public Relations dissertation which needs to be in the region of 10,000 words.

Who cares about word counts really? Hitting 10,000 words is easy – give a keyboard to a monkey and with enough dedication those letters will flow, although perhaps not in conventional word structures. Words do not scare me, content does.

The content has to be right and even though this Public Relations dissertation probably doesn’t mean much in terms of academic contribution at BA level, I feel like I need to impress myself. Constantly I spot something in business which I would have done alternatively.

Whilst others swim in a certain direction I often ponder about what it would be like swimming against the current, the current train of thought, the current idea which is so widely established. With so many thoughts running through my mind, actually being given the chance to write a dissertation is an opportunity to shine.

Like most keen writers I often dream of having a book published and writing an academic dissertation isn’t that different. I admire many scientific writers who leap into theory and shape it into something understandable and human. If I could put the same twist on communication theory then that would be an achievement.

Yet after all of this writing I may be over thinking things. The main purpose of this dissertation is to achieve the grade I need in order to find a job.

There is nothing like the present. After chewing through some dissertation ideas online a thoughtful librarian at Microsoft UK HQ offered to assist with research. Today I have drawn up a list of contacts who I will ask to interview this summer ahead of the dissertation and ultimately I hope to have the basic structure of my dissertation this weekend.

It may sound far fetched, even sad that I have bothered to focus on the dissertation at this stage. However this is just the way my mind works. I’m not very good at doing nothing, I must always have something happening and if I get all my dissertation research done before University then when I arrive in Cheltenham all I will need to do is write the thing.

If you are already writing a dissertation or thinking about starting one, then I would love to know how you are finding it:

  1. Is it easy?
  2. What is researching like?
  3. How did you come up with your idea?
  4. Is writing a dissertation just about the grade?


Microsoft’s “Young Britain Works” Wins EMEA 2011 PR Award


Young Britain Works Facebook Page

Yesterday I was delighted to find out that the Microsoft Young Britain Works citizen project has been awarded a bronze medal in the 2011 Microsoft EMEA PR awards! A huge achievement for the project but the real thanks goes to those Microsoft Interns who have managed to dedicate a large part of their daily roles making sure the project runs smoothly.

I mentioned Young Britain Works, the Microsoft Citizen Project I had become involved with, for the first time in November. Young Britain Works is part of the Microsoft Britain Works pledge to assist 500,000 people in the world of work by 2012 but instead focuses on a new audience, a younger audience.

Young Britain Works is largely driven by a group of Microsoft UK Interns who have used Social Media methods to provide advice to young people surrounding career choices and skills. The main communication point of this project is to use Facebook to drive engagement. However the project has also been using other social marketing methods.


How can you help the project?
It sounds trivial but please ‘Like’ the Young Britain Works Facebook Page. More importantly please recommend the Facebook page to any relevant people you know.

This is still a project in its infancy and so any help possible would be much appreciated.



For the last couple of weeks I have been required to offer job searching advice for young people. I say “young people” but actually the crowd I got to speak with at Microsoft are exactly the same age as me. Which is the risk – I don’t want to come across as the lucky sod who managed to pull the ace from the deck of cards whilst amusing myself on those who got the joker.

That isn’t the point.

I love presenting to people, partly for the attention but mostly because I gain a huge amount of pleasure by offering advice to those who wish to listen. So taking part talking to groups of young people attending Microsoft (as part of the Young Britain Works scheme I believe) is a huge opportunity to literally change lives.

The technical term for such young people is ‘NEETS’, a rather horrid government acronym for those Not in Education, Employment or Training. An acronym which may inspire connotations of jobless hobos or living off society dead-ends. On the contrary all the young people I spoke to where pleasant, some rather professional and simply lost in the busy metropolis to understand what their next move should be.

I suppose being labelled a ‘NEET’ doesn’t help matters – it almost classes an undercurrent of society for whom the world will always shit on. Perhaps FREE would be a better description? No, FREE isn’t a horrid acronym, it just describes the many paths which are open to a NEET.

It may sound grandiose but you will always have options in life. Just don’t think that the world owes you something – it may, but the world will never reward you for an unfortunately upbringing. Attitude is the key. For some reason some are quick to blame the world but often miss that it is themselves which may require the change.

If you are always unlucky have you perhaps pondered upon your own attitude or approaches?

This isn’t a criticism and is an observation from a fellow young person who often spends a great deal of time dwelling within his own thoughts, me. If I spot a weakness (Political correctness requires I say ‘opportunity’) to improve my own skills, approach or understandings then I take it.

Get involved with things and try learning something new each day.

I have a lot of hope for the young people I spoke with and wish them all the best for the future. Some of them don’t realise just how good they really are.


Lazy Journalism: I was targeted

The biggest challenge for the modern day Journalist is the speed to deliver. Investigative Journalism for the most part has taken a backseat as many who have the opportunity to report news will aspire to follow the easiest path to do so. I got the opportunity to speak to speak with a PR Professional who works for a large organisation in London (Not Microsoft) who explained that when meeting with a Journalist to have a story published that on the most part a Journalist will either ask for a press release or a simple video which they could feature on their online news portal.

In my eyes this removes one of the responsibilities Journalists used to provide society, to be against the establishment and investigate news. How is true investigative Journalism possible when news stories are simply built from press releases and videos? It doesn’t make sense. If a Journalist attends a press conference held by government then in many ways they have already failed. They are being told information and they are reporting on it, this is simply news.

The questions which aren’t being tackled anymore are the goings on behind the news and it shows throughout society. People read the papers and without thought will build an opinion around an issue which was clearly never investigated by a Journalist and probably comes from a political faction within government. It is lazy Journalism.

The reason why I bring all this up? I have been the target of lazy journalism, when journalists republish news from acts of citizen journalism. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I came across a bus which had caught fire in Cheam village. I decided to take a video of it on my iPhone and then it immediately got published to YouTube. To my surprise I then found MY video of the burning bus in Cheam covered on the Local Guardian website which then explains the incident in rather poor detail.

What an outrage. Firstly I have never given permission for the video to be used on the Local Guardian website and secondly why do I want my reporting of an event to be copied by a Journalist? In many ways I have contributed towards a certain Journalist’s pay check. The story was a result of citizen journalism. I reported the event as it was happening.

Surely I should get a cut in the profits?

To play devil’s advocate I did upload the video to YouTube and set as public, the Local Guardian only had to embed the video on their news article page. Still, they have stolen my news – I reported it, not them. Plus, no matter of the legalities of embedding a video on a webpage; surely they require my permission to do so? Isn’t it only polite? Or at least send me the link showing “their” coverage.

This is lazy Journalism, yet it is what the Journalism industry has become. Instead of the Journalism industry worrying about news monetisation methods, media moguls should focus on their Journalists. Which Journalists are lazy and when is true Journalism going to return? Forget speed, focus on investigating.


How to use the Internet to get a Job

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to have the chance to present to a group of young people instructing them online methods in which they could find a job. This included a brief overlook on job websites but was primarily focused on social media and personal branding. Much of the content in this presentation can be found on this blog. Feel free to view the presentation.

As it was an hour long presentation I spoke throughout it and so some of the slides may seem devoid of in-depth information.


Social Networks: Personal Data Spending Habits

Wired Magazine made a fantastic point concerning online privacy in their February issue by uniquely constructing front covers containing personal details aimed at some of their readers. Channel 4’s Benjamin Cohen was one of their targets.


Funny Facebook Update (Bit Rude!)

Social Networks sit on a foundation of our personal data. Your very essence and life experiences are a currency which Wired Magazine was attempting to expose. Generally we are all too open about our lives online, we are careful with our financial spending habits and so why don’t we pay attention to our personal data spending habits?

Sometimes I think it is a self-obsessive trend; we generally think that people are interested in our lives. Unless you are a celebrity or a popular expert in your field then it is unlikely people will take an active interest in your life. Who really cares if I tweet “Travelling to Microsoft. Looks like a busy day is ahead of me”? I may get a couple of replies which may roughly be, “Yeah, I’m not looking forward to today either” but that would be about it. Yet I have traded my personal data to fuel the social network to carry on.

Social networks are full of useless information like this… except it isn’t useless. Companies will keep an eye on Twitter and monitor what you are saying. That single tweet of mine could have been seen by my manager, fellow employee or client… it provides them a perspective.

Freelance Social Media Consultants always comment to me that when they meet companies the client is always surprised how people are already discussing them or their brand online. Just because the company hadn’t figured out their social media strategy didn’t mean people would wait for their profile to appear before discussing.

What you reveal about yourself online is public (even private profiles – your data is still online) and companies can use this information. Are you comfortable of this? Social Media campaigns aim at the individual, based on a search of your personal data: think before you update.


A couple of questions for you (comment below 🙂 ):

  • What do you gain for sharing your personal details?
  • Is updating your details on Social Networks self-obsessive?