Starbucks UK launches their new Personable Service

Last Wednesday Starbucks UK launched their new personable service across the UK. They enticed customers to their branches on the launch day by offering a free Starbucks Latte. The catch? You had to order it by providing them with your name.

I first became aware of the campaign via the Starbucks UK Twitter feed. Over the last couple of days a number of celebrities have appeared in pictures and videos; noticeably the comedian Jimmy Carr. A man I know who adores Starbucks coffee after having briefly spotted him enjoying one at the Edinburgh Fringe festival a few years ago. The latest video shows him working as a Barista for the day.

Although I missed the launch day I visited the Cheltenham Starbucks branch to see exactly what had changed. On ordering my Chai Tea Latte in Cheltenham I was immediately asked for my name. Simple. Even better, the lady serving offered a form of mothering service. Eloquently explaining where I should wait for my latte.

I’m sure if I had asked her for a massage she would have happily obliged. Of course to really test the service I should have aimed to have an argument – customers in Starbucks would now certainly always be right.

I can see the thrill of this new service. Ordering a coffee by name in Starbucks isn’t exactly unusual but the tone of voices by staff members is relaxing. Even though Cheltenham town was packed due to race week I still felt calmed by the atmosphere in Starbucks. Every staff member had a smile on their face and seemed genuinely satisfied with their jobs. However, as a Londoner, I can see a flaw.

If such attention to detail is provided to be polite, calm and friendly by the staff then does this slow the service down? To try this theory I will order a Starbucks coffee in London before the end of this month to see if this personable service performs exactly the same across the UK. London is stressful; will the Starbucks staff be able to offer the same service as in Cheltenham?

The most surreal experience about the new service was leaving Starbucks as a member of staff gave me a genuine smile and wished me goodbye. Now that was nice. I’m not just a consumer of their product but a loyal customer.

The reason I felt it necessary to mention the new Starbucks UK personable approach on this blog? It is all public relations. Starbucks have taught all of their staff the art of being conversationalists. They have recognised that those who purchase coffee want an escape from shopping, travelling or wish to work in a peaceful atmosphere. I feel this approach is in direct contrast to visiting Costa Coffee whose coffee is as strong as the sense of urgency.

Over time Starbucks’ image may adjust to being a coffee place where one is treated as a human, a loyal customer, even a local customer, who has chosen Starbucks not just for their coffee but also their service.

Listening to Duncan Bannatyne talk Business

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a business talk by Duncan Bannatyne at the Cheltenham Literature Festival with @Holpols. A stoic persona coupled with a reserved approach to the admiration shown in the crowd immediately set Duncan Bannatyne apart from other successful businessmen who I have heard before. By his own words he referred to himself as an ‘accidental millionaire’, it was clearly knowledge the Cheltenham Literature Festival crowd wanted and they would not be left disappointed.

Defining Duncan Bannatyne’s approach to business could be described as messy in a world which says academia comes first and success shall follow. He is described on his own website as Entrepreneur, Author, Philanthropist and Star of Dragons’ Den. His talk (structured in a Q&A format) coincided with his book “43 Mistakes Businesses Make” (Amazon Affiliate Link).

In the eyes of the world he is successful having thriving businesses which include Spas, Health Clubs and Hotels. At the beginning of his career this formula involved a bakery, ice-cream vans and care homes. With the advent of BBC’s Dragons’ Den it is not clear how many other businesses he is involved with but it would not surprise me if these were in triple figures.

His main message to prospective entrepreneurs is to simply start a business, there is no right or wrong time – every time is right. Make sure your business does not badly infiltrate your family life and that you always keep people at the forefront of your mind. Running a business is a human endeavour which is why companies should always be wary of outsourcing easily attainable services (such as cleaning). Respect and build upon the relationships you have.

Oddly this message neatly coincides with that PR cliché that ‘relationships come first’. It just goes to show that entertainment programmes such as BBC Apprentice really do show an unrealistic approach to becoming successful.

It is Good to be Back in Cheltenham

Blogging is a muscle which requires exercise. Yet no matter how dedicated you may be with travelling to the gym each week you may sometime go through a patch of absence. During these times it is easy to become lazy, to fall into a day to day routine which skips your once heavy physical activity.

Unfortunately this has happened to me on the blogging side of my life. Shamefully it has almost been 1 month since I last posted on For this I have no excuse – other than a much needed break. My blogging muscles are now firmly working again.

A lot has happened since I last blogged here.

For a start I am now a final year PR student at the University of Gloucestershire. The real world objective to make money has stepped back and now  personal gain consists of delving into a mountain of textbooks in preparation for essays, dissertations and questions. Eventually this experience will become part of a far more useful experience based work placement but for the moment learning is my key objective.

Cheltenham gladly offers a far more peaceful atmosphere than commuting into central London each day but the importance of working for Microsoft has dramatically affected me in a number of ways. Surprisingly identity has become somewhat of an issue – this applies to most the students in my lecturers.

Our placement experience has resulted in us not really feeling like students. Many of which would rather still be working full-time but it’s best not to critique University – this is an opportunity I won’t be able to experience in my life again.

Now back at University I have a few different things lined up including a couple of interviews, being back on the student radio again (which will probably involve some festival work) and maybe writing an academic paper (to be confirmed).

It is good to be back in Cheltenham.

Why I Have Tweeted each day since October 2008

I signed up to Twitter October 2008 at around 9am in the morning. At the time I was running a blog going by the name of “A Superfluous Ramble” which mostly discussed Philosophy and Atheism. Knowing that many fellow bloggers were using Twitter as a promotional tool I signed up to it. In a couple of weeks I was shocked to have around 800 followers. Every day since October 2008 I have tweeted. The journey has seen me grow from a shiny eyed 18 year old tweeter to the 21 year old sitting behind this desk today. As I could almost call myself a Twitter veteran I thought I would explain why I have continued to tweet.Twitter Bid Picture

To Connect with the Blogging Community

Blogging is not meant to be a self-obsessive tool, articles are written to be shared. Many pure bloggers’ networks exist but Twitter has provided this blog with networking opportunities unlike the likes of Blog Catalog or Technorati could.

Keeping up-to-date with News

I didn’t receive the sad news of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 through traditional news mediums such as television or radio; instead I spotted the debate on Twitter. Recently Twitter has been integral for spreading big news events, in some cases it has beaten traditional news to the story. Twitter is citizen journalism.

Make new Contacts (Socially and Professionally)

Cheltenham (UK) is a known for its horse racing but also has a thriving digital business community. As a Public Relations student I have had the opportunity to network with many of the pioneering people in this town through Twitter and have consequently met many in person because of social media. If you are a student then Twitter is useful for networking with professionals around the world. I’m doing it, you should to.

Raise Personal Profile

There is nothing wrong with a little bit of personal branding, you need to sell yourself online. Twitter is great for explaining who you are, using only a small amount of words. Whenever I send CVs to companies I always provide a link to my Twitter profile because it explains exactly who I am. There are no secrets online, fortunately I have nothing to hide (or do I?!).

To Stay in Touch

Twitter has also provided a way for me to keep in touch with friends, almost like a public mobile texting system. Most importantly Twitter allows me to keep in touch with other bloggers online who I admire but do not know personally, Chris Brogan is one of those people.

I suppose the main reason I have continued to tweet for so long is that I am addicted. I have become so used to the above services that it is difficult for me to imagine life without Twitter (sad, I know). Twitter serves a useful purpose which is why I have remained signed up to it.


In the past I have spoken to many students and professionals who can’t understand why I tweet. I hope this blog post has helped explain myself.


My Heroes – Stephen Fry [series]

Inspiration comes in many forms. As part of my blogging in 2011 I shall be covering one of my heroes each month. This month I look at Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry - iTunes Festival 2009

Think of this article has my public declaration of love. I cannot imagine what life would be like without having an influence so creative, humorous, intelligent or charming. With fear I have left Stephen Fry to my second ‘Hero’ of this year just to prove to people that there are others who inspire me also, however the level in which this man influences my own approach to life is vast. What’s more is that we should not be ashamed of having influences – inspiration from many sources still makes you unique. Stephen Fry just happens to be one of my “greats”.

Before writing this article I pondered to when my admiration for Stephen Fry materialised, it is very difficult to pinpoint. I suppose during my AS levels at secondary school I became aware of this celebrity in a fashion which was beyond fame awe. No doubt about it, Stephen Fry is an international celebrity but I hope “celebrity” doesn’t dampen the expectations to thinking Stephen Fry would be the sort of individual to appear in glossy celebrity magazines which are filled with drivel concerning only a personal fame. Stephen Fry is a true celebrity, a man who has become a public figure through his talents.

One of the reasons why Stephen Fry has done so well is because he presents a clear interest in others, this becomes apparent in many of his documentaries; The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive, Stephen Fry in America, Wagner and Me, Last Chance To See and HIV and Me. Easily as a polymath stories could be constructed purely of his own observations but instead he relies on other individuals to construct the story he is attempting to explain. The virtue of charm expresses the need to oeuvre others. His pathway to the present wasn’t through the channels of serious documentary filming but instead comedy. When I consider classic comedies it is necessary to count Blackadder and a Bit of Fry and Laurie.

Stephen Fry is firmly written into my ego (of the Freudian sort) and will not budge. He has written great lengths in his autobiographies Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles (Amazon affiliate links) and so I will not waste time devaluing my words against his and will instead travel straight to the purpose of this “Hero” article, to explain why Stephen Fry is an influence of mine.

You will notice clear characteristics between all of the individuals who I name influencers of mine as having the ability to relate to a figurehead is important, more than that, it is vital. My heroes will be thinkers, writers and comedians as these are the three characteristics and avenues I recognise talent. Of course there are those who create art (other than writing), maybe iconic sportspeople or even ventriloquists. All these skills are incredible but not paths which wholly interest me.

Michael White & Stephen Fry 2008
Michael White & Stephen Fry 2008

In my opinion the best thing Stephen Fry does is writing. Coupled with his intellect and sense of humour the words which splash upon the page are unlike any other writer I know. He doesn’t necessarily write in a manner which could be considered compact or neatly sown but uses the full leaps and bounds of the English language to paint his sentences with colour. The year in which Stephen Fry started blogging (strangely my first blog post was about mobile phones and a few days later I noticed Mr Fry’s first blog post was almost identical called ‘Devices and Desires’) I literally wet myself with excitement. This is not a man who is passionate because of money, he writes because that is part of who he is. I’ve often uttered that if I was told I could not write again then I would rather die, without writing, life is not worth living.

Over the years I have made a concerted effort to seek Mr Fry on his travels in a manner some may describe as stalking! The first time I met him was in 2008 in Cheltenham for his ‘Stephen Fry in America’ book. Proudly I was first in the queue and even managed to get a photo with him (A little later I saw how Stephen Fry doesn’t like the kerfuffle of photos at signings. Felt a little guilty but glad the photo was taken quickly) and within the book is written,

“To Michael White
Stephen Fry

First in the Cheltenham Queue!”

A few months after the signing I managed to watch several QI shows being recorded, watched a talk by him at the iTunes Festival in 2009 and last year I was at Cheltenham Racecourse where he and Mark Carwardine (also a great man) spoke about their documentary Last Chance to See.

I know for a fact that Stephen Fry is a very generous man in his spare time whom isn’t afraid to depart with money to support causes, quite the philanthropist. As each year passes I am constantly left in a state of open-mouth awe at how he brings various projects to life and just how talented he really is.

His attitude to life has taught me how to enjoy work, to be determined, always approach life with a sense of humour and how politeness goes a lot further than rudeness. I can’t ever imagine Stephen Fry retiring, for this I am thankful. There will never be someone quite like Stephen Fry.

My Arguments are Tantrums, My Points are Pointless

You do start to question how deep an addiction can worm its way into your personality when withdrawal causes you to become a person you despise. Smoking for me started as a love affair and has continued to be a relationship I regret. Quite cliché isn’t it? Most smokers regret their transition from the nice smells, to the tobacco smells.

Nicotine understands me very well. It is has been in my system for almost 3 years and understands the deepest intricate of how my mind works. Nicotine knows that by simply pulling on crave wires won’t stir me too much. What I don’t like is when I get moody. As many times before I find myself 3 days into ‘no smoking’ and feelings of anxiety and depression loom at times.

Irritability is the worse aspect of quitting. I get snappy. I will attempt arguments with people over the smallest things and because I rarely become so irritable people assume I am being serious. I am not serious. In fact my arguments are tantrums and my points are pointless. Irritability won’t be helped by occasional insomnia (last night was atrocious).

So this is a short warning post for all of those who know me. If I get annoyed please don’t take me seriously. Just brace and agree.

I may start smoking again at the end of the week but I aim not to… again.

Repudiation of a Gentleman

People rarely stare. They just walk on. Occasionally there will be a purpose for haste but for the most part it is the denial of affirmation that a man will wander head high. If you stand straight, look ahead and walk with vigour then the gentleman may decide not to bother you. Although it is with optimism that I assume people even notice in the first place. Most have become so used to walking past the homeless gentleman perching on the side of the bank that little matters.

Shouldn’t it be disgusting that the wealth within the vaults of the bank could change this man’s life and bring him closer to something known as eudemonia? I suppose it doesn’t matter. We can slip our credit cards into the chip and pin device, drain our finances in order to step closer to our own personal eudemonia. Carry our bags past the spot where the homeless gentlemen sits, little knowing that the material weight should instead be a weight on our moral conscience.

Each man should use life to further ourselves but do we ever consider the gentleman to instead be a victim of the cards life dealt. He could have shot himself with smack, drank until he couldn’t stand or commit a deed upon another so vicious to render him without a home. Alternatively he could have lost his job, woken without a pay check and found himself without hope. Strange how those who don’t have a home must be broken in some way, whereas the gluttonous banker can live a life of affirmation, financial security and selfishness.

Days pass, weeks roll on and that homeless gentleman clenches his empty soup cup waiting for coins to find that next meal. Only a handful of people care but for the most part the gentleman’s gaze duly looks through a forest of different designer trousers and shoes.

The reason for this article?

That homeless gentleman from Cheltenham died.

The worst part?

At first I didn’t notice.

The soup cup is still there along with a single card of loving comments and a few flowers. Only a few people bother to look but most walk past as if the gentleman was still alive. That poor gentleman, the shameless public. The repudiation of a gentleman.     

Join Michael White on Jazz Town 87.7FM

jazzlogoThe UK’s biggest and most popular Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, official begins tomorrow evening and will run until the 3rd May. Jazz Town 87.7FM is the event’s official radio station and will cover exclusive interviews with acts, up-to-date news from the festival and reviews.

For Cheltenham Jazz Festival I will be running my own show on Jazz Town 87.7FM on Sunday 2nd May and Monday 3rd May. The show will start at 10am and conclude at 1pm on both days. I am thankful to the Tone Radio team and the University of Gloucestershire for this opportunity.

Be sure to tune in! For the time being I must get on with revising for my exam on Friday whilst also planning 6 hours worth of radio material.