Marsden March 2015: Walking 14 miles to help science kill cancer

There has been so much going on this year I almost forgot to mention (or boast about!) how I managed to complete the Marsden March 2015 last weekend. Yes, I walked all 14 miles between The Royal Marsden’s Chelsea and Sutton hospitals. It may have taken 4 ½ hours but it was done! As part of Team Goldsmiths (as my partner is an employee) we raised over £3,000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It was a brilliant experience and it was incredibly moving hearing the stories of brave cancer survivors, and from the family of friends walking to remember loved ones. I would do the walk again, although I should probably let my knee heal first!

Along the route I took some pictures. The atmosphere was as vibrant as the clothes some walkers chose to wear! Social media was buzzing too with plenty of #MarsdenMarch tweets and some live streaming their efforts to loved ones at home.


Only one month to go until the #MarsdenMarch!

It’s only one month until I take part in the Marsden March, an annual charity walk that takes place between The Royal Marsden’s Chelsea and Sutton hospitals. The purpose is to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity; my purpose is to get fitter.

You’re right. It’s not a run. It’s just a 14-mile walk. I’ve even heard from reliable sources that some people on route like quickly popping into local pubs (to only use the toilets apparently…) However, the athleticism needed for this walk seriously overestimates my cardiovascular performance – I’m hopelessly slow, unfit and completely unprepared.

So as per the official training guides I’m doing plenty of walking in preparation, mostly as part of my daily commute. Being a total geek I’ve enlisted the support of gadgetry. Having recently sold my Fitbit Flex, I’m now using Apple’s Health app.

Just look at these graph-tastic illustrations of my sporting progress. It’s frightening just how much data my iPhone is logging every second.

If you would like to support my charity walk then please donate here to my JustGiving page, where I’ll be walking as part of Team Goldsmiths (courtesy of my long suffering girlfriend.)

I would really appreciate any donations as the big day approaches. Anything. Even the smallest amount will help improve a life.

Preparing for the #MarsdenMarch, 10 weeks to go

“The activity for which you are registering (the “Event”) is physically challenging and pose a risk of discomfort, illness, injury, and even death. You need to be satisfied that you are physically capable of doing the Event without risk to your health or your life. We do not conduct health or fitness checks on entrants.”

Will I be base-jumping from buildings? Surfing with sharks? Bullfighting in Spain? No. I’ll be walking 14 miles on the Marsden March on Sunday 22nd March 2015. And I signed the above disclaimer knowing full well that my physical ‘condition’ needs a LOT of training.

The Marsden March is an annual charity walk (14 or 5 miles) that takes place between The Royal Marsden’s Chelsea and Sutton hospitals. It’s an exciting community occasion to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

So many people have had their lives touched by cancer, directly or indirectly. Including myself, but thankfully I’ve never had to experience the stress or loss of a close family, friend or colleague to cancer. I’ll be walking as part of the Goldsmiths Team, of which my girlfriend is a member (for her second year).

As I said on the very first day of the year, I want to focus on charity. It’s so easy being selfish in life, and it’s time to give back to the world. However, in some ways this walk is a purely selfish endeavour to get fitter, as it’s much easier working towards a goal!

So at the end of each week I’ll be blogging about my #MarsdenMarch training progress. I’ll be eagerly following official training guides and be looking for support on social media too… please?

If you can, I would really appreciate any donations as the big day approaches. Anything. Even the smallest amount will help improve a life. As it’s still early days, Goldsmiths haven’t setup the JustGiving page yet… but it should be online in the next couple of weeks.

Let the training commence! If you are also blogging about your progress or tweeting it, do leave a comment below. I’ll follow you and ask silly questions.

My three words for 2015

Every year I decide on three words and use them as the focus of my goals for the New Year. This will be my third year of following this exercise, which is inspired by Chris Brogan’s blog. For example, I may decide that one of my three words is “courage” and use it as a reminder to not always take the easy option.

My three words from past years

2013 – Stability. Growth. Decisiveness.

2014 – Balance. Contribute. Health.

Last year really was a balance. There were times where my working hours easily exceeded 55 a week, and deadlines have been coming thick and fast. It was also a quieter year, as project based work comes to an end. As a whole, my social and work life have been a lot more balanced, thanks to increased flexible working and better time management.

I could always do more to contribute to industry debates. My time is primarily focused on advising clients and building Keene Communications. The agency has made big developments. I’ve blogged more. I even attended a debate about wearable technology at the House of Commons. It’s not enough though – I must continue to contribute.

I’ve categorically failed at health. My weight gain has continued to rise, along with my alcohol intake and fatty foods. What can I say? I’m only human. I need to look after my body better.

My three words for 2015

Charity – I need to give back to my local community. I want to use the digital skills / PR insight I’ve developed for a good cause. Traditionally charity work has always appeared last on my agenda, pushed back by long working hours and not enough dedication.

Creativity – This word encapsulates a whole range of desires I have for 2015. I feel like that since University, the amount of creativity I exhibit as a whole has gradually faded. This isn’t about thinking up wacky PR ideas, but actually producing and being creative. For me this means being more musical, not being afraid to develop my creative digital skills (such as website design), and being creative with my technical abilities (such as think like a start-up).

Insight – Working alongside public affairs professionals has highlighted the importance of insight to me. It is the word that sums up the service that clients purchase from us. It is developed by reading widely, taking an interest in everything the world has to offer, and by understanding past mistakes. I need to mature my insight.

What are your three words for 2015?

Fancy some Raspberry Pi?

Education secretary, Michael Gove, publically announced in January that the current ICT curriculum in schools is “demotivating and dull”. He was right. Throughout my secondary school years teachers had a limited understanding of technology as shown through their ‘how to use Microsoft Office’ lessons. Children today, even by the age of eight, are competently computer literate due to the technological society we now live in. This makes the current ICT curriculum require radical reform which will teach children how to code and how computers actually work. This reform is now in place.

The UK is investing in a digital economy. In the past the majority of goods were wrought out of plastic and metal – we produced physical items. Today much of our produce is digital and the government needs to put the correct education in place to sustain society for the future.

Part of the problem behind children learning to program is due to changes in the hardware and software market. When I was five years old (1995) my Dad used an internet connected Windows 3.1 machine. I was able to learn some basic commands through MSDOS in order to control functions on the computer. This was closely followed with learning the basics behind HTML. When I was eight I was rewarded with my own Windows 95 computer which I was free to take apart, rebuild and mess with programming wise.

Today computers have changed dramatically. It is much harder for children to learn how to program because the software is closed. It is possible to download free tools online to learn various programming languages but this takes effort compared to my generation where having a basic knowledge of coding was required to even use a computer.

So was born Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer which was developed by Cambridge graduate EBen Upton and colleagues that provides children with the opportunity to start programming. It exists today as a small circuit board (no case yet) that can run various Linux operating systems and comes preloaded with Python libraries.

Rory Cellan-Jones with Raspberry Pi

It is the perfect system for adventurous children who wish to explore computers with greater depth. It also turns out it is the perfect system for geeky adults too. Since the Raspberry Pi project was posted on BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones’ blog interest for the device as sparked a huge pre-order list. Not only capturing the imagination of children and geeky adults but for alternative uses such as in robotics courses.

The best bit about Raspberry Pi? It’s price of $25. Although it is a UK project all costs are in dollars due to component pricing and economic stability. If you want to pre-order one from the UK then expect a price of £30. However there are units being sold on eBay for over £100! Madness.

I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these devices. For the moment I’ll wait patiently on the pre-order list for my Raspberry Pi unit. Unless the Raspberry Pi project fancy giving me a unit to review? Wishful thinking!

Visiting Oxfam’s Public Relations Department

Founded in 1942 by Quakers and Social Activists Oxfam was once known as the Oxford Committee for famine relief. Today it is an international confederation working within 98 different countries providing humanitarian efforts and running programmes focus on providing communities with necessities such as food, water, education and fair trade.

Thanks to one of our lecturers at the University of Gloucestershire (MD of Leap Frog PR) my final year public relations class had the opportunity to visit Oxfam’s HQ in Oxford. Not only was this a favour on the part of Oxfam but was a valuable learning experience to see how one of the world’s leading NGOs uses public relations to benefit LEDC communities around the world.

News gathering is a key focus of Oxfam’s public relations campaigns. As an NGO Oxfam depend upon different sources of funding, a key focus being on members of the public. As logic would dictate less economically stable times does cause a drop in aid which makes it critical that funding is distributed towards key causes.

Yet the causes displayed in mainstream media do not and cannot always show the stories which matter. With 7 billion humans around the world, millions of separate communities – it is impossible for the media to cover all the news within a 30 minute new segment. Oxfam has the difficult task to sell a crisis, to provide a narrative which will coincide with Grunig and Hunt’s news values.

Certain stories will simply just not make the headlines. Pakistan are currently experiencing floods, which were extensively covered in 2010 by the media, but in 2011 the media focus has wavered. A number of global crisis have passed from view in the news but communities still require recovery help such as in Haiti and Japan. The Ethiopian famine was dropped from news agenda to make way for the revolution in Tripoli. Being part of Oxfam’s public relations team is key as media interest will stir donations which will aid these communities from suffering.

Times have changed which have benefited Oxfam. The recession has dramatically impacted broadcasters from sourcing primary content from abroad (such as live footage and images) which allows Oxfam to provide their own media clippings. This has required public relations professionals to have basic experience of editing media content before sending out to broadcast. The challenge is for Oxfam to find a narratives (usually ones focusing on human impact) to entice the media to address the issues which must be resolved.

Oxfam clearly has a dedicated workforce who love their jobs but I left the building feeling somewhat jaded by the health of our media. Suffering is happening right now, crisis must be addressed but the most important stories often struggle to become mainstream due to competition. Being on Oxfam’s public relations team must be a joy and a frustration – to know one day the world is listening and another day a community will struggle due to less funding.

Adopt a Word: Help a Child with Language Difficulties

You can change the lives of children with speech, language and communication difficulties in a rather amusing way. Adopt a Word gives you the opportunity to own a little slice of the English Language, for £15 you can adopt a word of your choosing. Once you have adopted your word you can proudly show off your Certificate of Adoption as I have done below.

As you can see I decided to go for the word ‘pseudohermaphroditism’ (as I discovered ‘orgasm’ wasn’t available). My word is charming, simply the medical term (although redundant) of one who is lucky enough to have been born with genitalia that differ on the outside and inside (eg, man outside and woman inside). If you are going to adopt a word then it has to be an interesting one.

Please consider adopting a word today, it is easy and will go towards helping a child with their communication difficulties. As most readers of this blog are in the PR industry we all know just how important communication is.

Adopt a Word can also be found on Twitter.


Exploitation Marketing: The Companies “helping” Japan

Mixing Marketing and Charity is always a difficult tightrope to walk. There is a fine line between assisting a cause and using a difficult/disastrous situation for marketing purposes. Over the last few days I’ve spotted a few companies who are using Japan’s crisis as a means for their own marketing. Yes, they are still donating but couldn’t they have just donated all the money in the first place? Some will think the below companies are being courageous, I think these social media tactics are a bit sick. are donating $1 for every “Like” of their “Dog Bless You” Facebook Page, up to $100,000. Couldn’t they have just donated the money in the first place? This is a classic example of a devious Social Media “expert” who thinks they have found a way to raise the exposure of their Facebook page through means of a charitable cause. Time is precious in Japan, don’t wait for 100,000 likes, just donate the money now!

Mashable even published an article urging people to “like” Explore’s Facebook Page!


AViiQ, a company who manufacture mobile accessories have also offered another Facebook “like” campaign. As with each “like” Aviiq will donate $1 to Japan relief efforts.

Only a few days ago they tweeted “Visit our Facebook contest tab for a change to win a free AviiQ portable Laptop Stand!” in a bid to win a few Facebook likes. I wonder if using Japan’s disaster has improved their Facebook “like” statistics?

Spark Energy

Spark Energy is a retail energy and natural gas supplier. Whilst they will be donating $5,000 towards Japan relief efforts they have also decided to join the $1 Facebook “like” campaign. I won’t explain this concept again… just donate all the money in one go Spark Energy!

Some good methods to donate towards Japan relief efforts can be found here.

Are the above examples of exploitation marketing? Have you spotted any other ethically questionable marketing tactics relating to Japan’s disaster?