Happy Heritage Day South Africa!

This morning I dressed Carter in the cutest little Australian onesie – sent as a gift from a friend Michelle who lives Down Under. When my hubby arrived at creche this morning the teacher asked if Carter had an Australian heritage. He only realised why she asked this after looking around the school – it was a Heritage Day dress up and all of the kids were wearing outfits representative of their history and culture. To be fair, my 18 month old niece dressed up as an (admittedly adorable) ladybug, and my nephew as a fireman, so creative licence was running wild.

We’re celebrating at the office a little bit later today – and everyone has been asked to wear an outfit reflecting their heritage. I always get so uncomfortable when this time of year rolls round. What do I put on that speaks to my heritage? I’m a quarter German, named after an Irish pub, have Jewish family and was born in Sandton. Can I just give my son a Yarmulke, eat a bratwurst while downing a Guinness in high heels and call it a day?

The people in my office have made such an incredible effort. The Xhosa girls are draped in multicoloured beads with face art and the Venda ladies are colour blocked from head to toe. A Zulu lady is wearing her traditional outfit and a few of my Indian work mates are in Sari’s. A Portugese lady has gone all out with her dress (except the white socks, that’s apparently where she drew the line) and another girl is proudly sporting her Dutch Cloggs and milkmaid hat.

I mentioned to a colleague how much I adored her outfit and how I wished I was allowed to wear something like it. “You’re South African, Kate of of course you can wear it!” was her reply. And she’s right. The thing we all love about our country is the fact that we are all diverse, and unique. No-one is the same, yet we all belong.

So, whether you are celebrating in traditional garb, with a boerie roll round the braai, or in a Shwe Shwe skirt – make this Heritage Day your own. After all, it’s what us S’Africans to best, right?

And next year, I promise to dress up, paint my face and represent the many cultures of Kate.

Until then, feast your eyes on some of the eclectic people I am lucky enough to work with every single day.

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15 Things That Will Always Happen When You Work In An Open Plan Office.

1. An item of food in the communal fridge is immediately deemed as a free for all and must be laced with laxatives or brussel sprouts to avoid thievery.

Communal Office Food2. Colleague phone conversations are either too loud so you can’t hear yourself think, or too soft that you can’t eavesdrop on what they are saying

3. The aircon temperature can never be agreed on

4. Pens, unless chained to your desk, will grow tiny pen legs and walk. This rule applies to calculators, staplers and any other shiny item of stationery.

5. The rule of cooking: The colleague sitting closest to you will ultimately be the one re-heating fish and broccoli for lunch.

6. Your working hours become skinner fodder for everyone. “Leaving at 4:59 again hey Sue?”.

7. Booking a communal boardroom in advance only means said boardroom will never actually be available come the time you need it

8. The second a client arrives for a meeting the water cooler will be empty, the coffee finished and the receptionist will be on a tea break.

9. Whispered hallway conversations always make you feel as if you’re about to get fired.

10. Shit will always hit the fan at 4:45pm on a Friday afternoon.

11. Guaranteed – no matter how hard you have been working the entire day, the second you open Facebook your boss will walk past.

12. Nothing is private.

13. Dieting? Sorry for you. Birthdays mean cake, and lots of it.

14. You sit within ‘guess the deodorant brand’ range from everyone, if you’re lucky. If not, it’s more like ‘guess when last they wore deodorant”.

15. It is loud. ALL.THE.TIME.

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Would the real social media influencer please stand up?

Here’s an idea: “take this product and send this to some online influencers and get them to tweet about it.” Yes, that is a common brief to an agency, and no, you should not simply go ahead and get that done. Unless you’re the Reserve Bank and your product is money, simply sending stuff to an influencer is unlikely to achieve the campaign success you had hoped for.

This type of brief makes me wonder who thinks of of these promotional items, and how well they researched the recipient? It’s becoming an all too familiar scene on the ‘socials’, scrolling down your Twitter feed and catching a glimpse of a generic ‘thanks brand X for Y gift’ followed by a customary Instagram of said item. People can smell an obligatory punt from a mile away. It’s not uncommon for my timeline to be filled with repetitive brand mentions. I see them, and move on. Nothing about that sort of tweet would get me to stop to consider the product being mentioned, or make me want to go out and purchase/buy/drive/taste it.

It’s rare for a mention like that to connect with anyone but the recipient which defeats the purpose. There have however been many times when I have stopped to read a post, purely because the nature of the mention evoked some emotion in me. Take a recent incident for example: a well-known blogger tweeted about his beloved dog falling ill and a few hours later Vodacom had sent him a care pack for his beloved pooch. Something about that made me go all, “aaw, shame” and so I became engaged in the story. Turns out his dog recovered and most likely the gesture brought a smile to more than a few faces.

You could say it’s because I’m a hardcore dog lover, and that’s why it evoked an emotional response from me, but I believe it’s such a great story because the owner, clearly a dog lover himself, received an appropriate gift that would not only resonate with him, but also make his sick pup feel better.

I’ve experienced a few incidents of brand love myself. One of the most applicable being a few years back; it was a slow Monday morning at the office, the coffee machine was broken and I was nodding off at my desk. I tweeted how my day could really use a caffeine kick and about 30 minutes later a hamper of assorted coffee arrived on my desk. Very clever, very smart and very quick.

It’s the same principle as the Nordstroms ‘urban legends’. If you haven’t heard why this company is known for its killer service – read here. The reason this super store has got such a great reputation around customer service is because each and every one of the stories sound too good to be true. Yet, they aren’t.

Most of us in the media and communication industry have at one time been guilty of the ‘spray and pray’ method, whether it’s sending out a mass press release or generic gift to many in the hopes of catching a few nibbles. I would like to challenge us to change this mass approach. Firstly, cater your gestures to the individual, and secondly, when next targeting a person, take into consideration a bit more than their Twitter followers or Klout score. Look at who they are as an individual; identify their hobbies, likes, dislikes and environment. I can guarantee that an average person who is active on the ‘socials’, yet who is obsessed with food, baking and blogging would be far better suited to receiving a ticket to a food show, than a digital ‘guru’ whose hobbies include music, fast cars and woman.

South African agencies have a tendency to continually target the same people over and over again. Take dried up soapie actors appearing on most TV shows, radio DJs hopping from one station to the other and 20 online influencers receiving every free gift under the sun. Unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle, which only serves to exacerbate the problem – if these people don’t tweet about it, they dot get free stuff, so they do and the gifts keep arriving. Why not invest some time, take a step back and identify a new range of people to target – people who have passions, dreams, desires and a voice. Just because someone doesn’t have thousands of followers on Twitter, doesn’t mean that they have no voice.

Often it’s these stories that spread faster and wider because they’re more genuine than a simple product drop to the usual suspects.

*First published on www.cerebra.co.za

Engage with your influencers as people, not prospects
Too True
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Eat That Frog

During a recent mentor-ship session at the office, somebody brought up the problem of time management and getting things done. I didn’t think too much of it, as I’m that person – the one who writes endless to-do lists, answers emails as they come in and manages to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ before the end of day school bell rings. Then it hit me – I do everything in my power to finish the small things – yet I ignore the large task as if they were the proverbial elephant in the room.

I’m certain I’m not alone with this. Sure, its very easy to get to mails, answer calls, and be very reactive to certain jobs. What I struggle with is being proactive about the big bad scary tasks, especially the tasks which I unsure of, scared of (Excel, anyone?) and which I have the most time to complete. It’s true what they say – the more you have to do, the more you get done.

During the session, we were shown a video titled ‘Eat That Frog’. The frog represents the largest, meanest ugliest item on your list. Trust me, once you eat that frog, everything else seems much easier to swallow. Sounds easy in theory right? It’s challenging in practice – just because you know you have to eat that frog, doesnt mean that you can. I have been using the motto for the past 2 weeks, and even though its a tough task, every day it gets easier and easier. In the meantime,  I say, identify the frog, cut the frog into manageable size chunks, and Bon Appetit!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W7GB5Fh2XM]

 

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