Thursday, 8 October 2009

Trying to be cool

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about the What’s Up target audience recently. Specifically, I’ve been considering how fickle, unpredictable, and difficult to read they are.

In all areas of journalism, it’s essential to remember whatever you do must appeal to your audience. To do this, I usually try to put myself in the shoes of a member of the target audience. When the shoes in question are those of a teenager, it really does become quite tricky.

Back in the day

I remember when I was fifteen years old. It was thought of, as I'm sure remains the case today, as a distinct social faux pas to do absolutely anything not meeting with the approval of anyone cool. At my school, the last thing on anyone’s mind was to behave or think differently to those around them. I doubt school life has altered much in that respect, either.

Breaking the mould... or at least distorting it slightly

Occasionally in my school life however, for some seemingly bizarre reason, an exception to the rule would occur. Without prior warning, a new product, place, band, or item of clothing would suddenly become regarded as socially acceptable. In an instance like this, the subject of interest was usually something that pushed the boundaries slightly. It would combine familiarity with a unique, quirky, clever twist to add extra appeal.

Brain: Engage

This is the point where the creative part of my brain is required. The key seems to be finding the unique selling point that will set What’s Up apart from the competition. A Google search for young people events or free young activities turns up countless results, so What’s Up needs to make sure it gets noticed by adding a little extra.


My stand-out idea so far comes from when, before I was old enough to work, my main concern was my mobile phone balance. To save money, I became a regular visitor to a website offering a free text messaging service. It was a simple process: log on, write your message, enter the recipient’s number, and send the message at absolutely no cost. A quick search of the internet revealed many sites still offer this service, and the possibility of adding this facility to the What’s Up site interests me. Offering a free service should increase page impressions, and an eye-catching site design may tempt users to stay and explore the site further.

Camden Calling update

As Alex had taken a well-earned holiday, I found myself in sole charge of Camden Calling newsletter duties last month. Although slightly daunted at first, I think I rose to the challenge and had some very encouraging feedback on October’s news. The fact I can now add pictures helps, of course, but my writing is improving each time and I feel confident in my ability. Not bad, considering just a few months ago the mere thought of writing the newsletter filled me with anxiety.

Looking good

Everything appears to progressing, and I think I’m right to feel optimistic about my future in general.

With the skills and experience gained in my successfull time with Poached, I'm sure I can make my new a venture a big success too.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Now I’m sure I got it right

With my second week at What’s Up Information completed, I’m now certain I made the right choice. It’s not like I had expected to think to think otherwise, simply that my foray in to the world of journalism has so far been successful and part of me is expecting something will go wrong. There will, of course be hiccups along the way, but I’m sure I’m adequately prepared for them by now. For now though, I am going to enjoy the situation I find myself in and the work that I do.

New faces

I had my first experience of an editorial meeting this week. It gave me a chance to get to know some of the team I had not yet met, and was a very productive way of making sure everyone is on the same wave length. I think this communication is vital in any organisation to ensure people are working towards a common goal and know their role in reaching it. I’ve had jobs in the past where huge amounts of time and effort are wasted – simply because the workforce is operating inefficiently through poor interpersonal communication.


Just like my Poached days, I’m learning some completely new skills every day. And, just like at Poached, they are useful, transferable skills. Just yesterday I found myself posting event news on Twitter, and replicating the post on a blog and on Facebook with the touch of a button. In addition, I discovered the immense benefit of TinyURL when trying to stick to Twitter’s 140 character limit.

I’m becoming more confident in my ability using the content management system too – and I’ve added plenty more news and events stories to the website. The trickiest part by far is still writing the headlines, but with a little creative, outside the box thinking, I find I’m improving.

User power

Thinking creatively plays an important role in a lot of my work here. A lot of time goes in to thinking up ways of improving the layout, copy, and style of the website. My main ideas so far are around making the site user feel more involved – like they are a part of what makes the site work. Given the opportunity to do this through feedback facilities and a user forum should allow the user more influence over the site’s overall tone. The target teenage audience are likely to rebel against anything they are told do like or do, so creating an environment where they have some say is preferable.

Light relief

My brain was given a welcome rest on Thursday, when I attended a party/gathering downstairs from the What’s Up office. Our building is made up of several units, each housing a different business – from photography to modelling. The party, laid on for all units and in celebration of enterprise in Hackney, included speeches, music, food, drink, and a fashion show. It was a bit of fun – and was one of those moments where I thought ‘how did I get here?’ One year ago I was in rehab, and now I’m a journalism intern in Hackney. And I’m at a warehouse fashion show. Not that I’m complaining – it reinforces my opinion on the drawbacks of long term plans.

That tricky second week... or maybe not

Overall, then, week two has been highly successful – with new people, places, experiences, and skills all contributing to the success. Long may it continue!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Armed with skills, experience, and the feeling I was almost certainly doing the right thing, I began my post-Poached journalism internship this week.

What’s Up Information is a website dedicated to raising young people’s awareness of what’s happening in their area: be it a gig, show, exhibition, or training opportunity. Following on from my time with Poached, I have started an eight week internship in their office in Hackney.

I have been pleasantly surprised at the level of trust and confidence shown in me – and the considerable responsibility I have. On my first day, I found myself adding text and media content to the website and being asked my opinion on wording and layout. This, and possibly the large desk and impressive leather swivel-chair I had been given, made me feel like a valued team-member. I am heartened by the feeling my opinion is both welcomed and valued – it makes me feel positive and confident and gives me genuine faith in my ability. When this happens I tend to relax more, allowing more space in my brain for creative thoughts.


My creative streak was certainly required for my task on Thursday. To improve the ‘My Borough’ segment of the site, I had found five little-known facts about the local area, and each one required a snappy headline. Good headline writing is a skill I have always appreciated, but maybe not quite as much as I do now. With more than a bit of assistance from project director Lucy, I managed to conjure up the five headlines needed, but only after some serious doubts over my creative capacity.

Getting to know the place

Delving into vast quantities of information about the surrounding area was of some personal benefit to me. As far as I can remember, I had never even been to Hackney before last week. Being a football fan, I knew all about Hackney Marshes and their continued significance in the development of future professionals, but that was about it. So I was surprised to learn Hackney is twinned with Bridgetown in Barbados, and is the only place in the UK where you can qualify as a professional clown.

New skills

With the possible exception of circus-related facts, I am already finding the knowledge and skills I learn here to be transferrable. I now know exactly how to embed pictures and videos into text, and even understand the most basic of HTML basics. This, along with headline writing, provides assistance in my monthly quest to make the Camden Calling newsletter a more attention-grabbing, professional looking piece of work. One day, eh?

Different, but similar

Like Camden Calling, What’s Up benefits communities and encourages expansion of the mind through new experiences. I have no doubt that making young people aware of the low-cost activities available to them locally is of benefit to society. Organisations like What’s Up mean a significant number of people will find new talents and interests – or find opportunities to pursue and develop existing ones.

Good choice!

With What’s Up, I seem to have found exactly what I was looking for: challenging, beneficial, thought provoking work in a creatively-stimulating environment. I certainly feel I made the correct decision – I just hope my stay here will be as productive as my time at Poached Creative.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Some good things must end

It probably won’t sink in until next Thursday when I get to have a lie in, but I am now officially no longer a Poached Creative trainee. Initially, I’ll probably be grateful for the extra time in bed, but I assure you the feeling won’t last. I’ve enjoyed my time here, and to be honest, I’m going to miss it. The friendly people, the interesting work, the strange buzz I get these days from high-ish levels of responsibility... it’s a place I feel comfortable and somewhere I will always hold in high regard.

Anything you can do...

Inevitably, though, there are a couple of things I won’t miss much. One is the morning taxi ride to Wood Green. The reliability of the taxi firm I use only extends to a guarantee that each and every driver they employ will make an attempt to turn the journey in to a comedic farce. In my first week here, the driver took me to south London by mistake. And almost as if today’s driver had heard this was my last week and therefore his last chance to top that, decided to drive the wrong way down a one-way street.

Better late than never

This, along with the driver’s unwillingness to follow his sat-nav’s instructions, meant I was a little bit late arriving today. I still managed to complete some work for the Poached website, and in the afternoon have a meeting with Jess to discuss how the latter half of my stay had gone. As we went over my completed work, I realised I’d done considerably more than I remembered. This made me feel a lot better about my as-yet unfinished portfolio’s prospects.

Goodbye – at least for now

We agreed to keep in contact, which is superb news for me (you’ll have to ask Jess if she feels the same) because I’m sure Jess will prove an extremely useful person to know in the future. I was pleased – and flattered - to hear her say there may be an opportunity for me at Poached in the future, too.

A job well done

Overall, it’s been a rewarding, valuable, and pleasurable experience. When I reflect on the last 12 weeks, I can safely safe ‘mission accomplished.’ I have gained considerable knowledge, have new skills coming out of my ears, have something to add to my CV, and have plenty of evidence to show to prospective employers.

Finally, I have a goal in life

Although this mission may have accomplished, it’s only really a small part of a bigger project. So, with my heart and head both set on making it as a journalist of some description, I must embark on a new venture. I have decided to accept the offer of work in a capacity similar to my one at Poached with What’s up Information. After discussions with family and friends, I have come to the conclusion that it is another opportunity too good to miss. Lucy, who runs the website aimed at London’s youth, is currently on holiday so my knowledge of the logistics of the job are limited. From what I do know however, it sounds like an exciting chance to continue my journalistic development in an n interesting area of work.

Chill out time

My current situation, then, leaves me with some free time. I don’t think this is a bad thing – I have put a lot of effort in to my life recently and so perhaps it’s a break I deserve. When I do start up again, I have promised to continue this blog, as Jess and I both feel it could act as an inspiration to others considering a training course at Poached. Next time I post here, I will give you all the news of my new undertaking in Hackney. Fingers crossed, it will be as positive an experience as my time at Poached.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

It’s one thing after another (in a good way)

This week was my 11th with Poached Creative – leaving just one more week until I have completed the further six weeks I agreed to after I finished the initial six week program, if that isn’t too confusing.

So, as I began my penultimate journey to Wood Green, I started to think ‘what’s next, then?’

Getting your foot in the door

This is a question I have asked myself several times since October last year. I didn’t feel overly concerned though. In this time, I have learnt that if you build up your list of contacts, show some commitment and determination, and keep your options open, opportunities have a habit of presenting themselves to you. My bedroom wall has a pretty impressive array of completion certificates from various courses, workshops, and, ahem, treatment centres; for this very reason.

New opportunity

I am delighted to say that the trend has continued. Jess met someone the other day who is interested in taking me on as a trainee. It sounds like the arrangement would be similar to the one I have with Poached – some work, some training, plenty of experience, and some great stuff for my CV.

I’ve still got it, apparently

The work is for a website called What's Up Information. It targets young Londoners, and aims to keep them informed about what’s going on in their area. It keeps young people up to date with things like training courses, as well as giving them suggestions on ways to use their spare time to develop new social interests. After being assured by Angela that at age 26 I am not too old for this kind of thing, I’ve decided to give it some serious thought. A chance to good to miss? Possibly, but I think it’s important to look at my options before just diving in.

Back to the work at hand

I have plenty of Poached work to keep me busy for now. I successfully completed another NHS Jobs website interview – and it has been deemed fit for publication! Not bad, considering a few weeks ago I convinced myself I was incapable of multitasking. I’m really excited about my work being displayed on the NHS site. I’m pleased just have work published – but for it to be on such a major website represents some achievement.

I have another interview to do this week – but it’s a little different. I’m going to be writing a profile for fellow Poached Creative trainee Dan. I’m hoping this won’t be too tricky, but it’s part of an important piece of Poached work so I’m not going to get complacent.

I couldn’t go a whole blog without mentioning CC, could I?

There’s quite a bit of Camden Calling work that needs finalising. The newsletter is due out soon, so I’m in the process of putting the finishing touches to that. This will be the first one written, edited, and distributed by me, so fingers crossed for a good response from it.

Ask me again in a week

Some important things to do to keep me occupied until my decision over my next venture, then. Explaining my present situation, I’ve been trying to avoid using the expression about one door closing and another one opening, but it really is the best way to describe this. Whatever I decide, I am extremely grateful to Jess for putting my name forward. Hopefully I’ll have an answer next week – and you’ll read it here first.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Double figures

I have been at Poached for ten weeks now, and I have learnt a quite startling amount. I forget that sometimes. That’s why it’s important to take stock every so often. Otherwise, I lose track of the progress I’ve made, and don’t appreciate my achievements in the way I should.

A bit of perspective is needed

For instance, right now I’m worried the Camden Calling newsletter doesn’t look as good as it would do if I knew more about HTML and understood all the features of 1-2-3 hosting. Not so long ago, I‘d never even written for a newsletter, let alone designed and edited one. So when I put my problems in to perspective, they’re really not problems at all. I’m trying to look at them as inevitable, every-day, conquerable obstacles which come with responsibility. Or to put it another way – I’m trying to lighten up and be grateful.

Key skills

It’s not just work-related progress that has been made. Poached has helped me in many other ways – my self-discipline, organisation, and structure have all improved dramatically. These are essential, transferrable skills that come in very handy when doing more or less anything. The whole Poached experience has given me a real purpose and helped me figure out what I want to do in life.

Not just filling time

I am more fortunate than some others. To fill the gap between leaving rehab and working full-time, many people take volunteer jobs just for something to do. I am very lucky to have found something that is thought-provoking and interesting – and has more perks than just filling up space on a CV. I probably shouldn’t say all that out loud tomorrow though – I have a rehab reunion!

My latest new skill

A portion of today was spent learning how to create surveys using Survey Monkey. The first thing that struck me about the site was how ridiculously easy it is to use. Maybe it’s because last night I actually got an amount of sleep verging on sensible – a new record – but it seemed very user friendly.

The survey I created will be used to find out Camden Calling members’ opinions and tastes, and will hopefully be a useful piece of market research. There are a few questions on peoples’ opinion of my newsletter as well, so I’m bracing myself for that.

Normal to be a bit nervous

After a hard day at Poached, I usually try to take things easy on a Friday.
However, the aforementioned rehab reunion means I’m a little bit stressed. It will be good to see some old faces though, and I think that, in me, the staff will see a definite change for the better. Hopefully it will turn out to be one of those things that – like your Mum always promised - you enjoy when you get there.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The payoff

Often, I agree to an assignment, start work on it, and then find myself asking ‘why did I agree to this?’ The NHS Jobs website task from last week is one such example. However, the feedback given to me today on completion of an interview and accompanying story for the site made me realise exactly why I agreed to it.

Proud moment

I have learnt many new things in my time here, but telephone interviewing (which I regard as a skill) was one of the toughest to get to grips with. My interviewee’s patience and willingness to talk openly without being prompted certainly helped, as did my new confidence in my own ability. The phone call only lasted twenty minutes, but the intensity of it left me exhausted and drained. Right now though, I have a real sense of accomplishment, and, dare I say it, pride at what I’ve achieved.

There may be hope!

My frustration at the lack of colour, life, and general merriment in the Camden Calling newsletter may soon be over...hopefully. Dan showed me some of his cartoon drawings today, and they are ridiculously good. How anyone can draw like that I will never know. I think his creative input could really raise the newsletter’s appeal, and I’m certain it couldn’t lower it. I’m not sure exactly where his pictures would be placed in the document, but right now I think anything that adds to its visual effect is a positive thing. This way people might actually read the whole thing – and I won’t feel as if half of the time I spend writing it is wasted!

CC ally

I get on well with Dan – which always helps when you’re stuck in a room together with no air-con for eight hours in the middle of summer. We’ve got a few things in common, which helps. We’ve been through similar(ish) circumstances, have a focused / determined streak, and don’t like AA or NA. And of course, it’s good to get the views of another CC member on how the newsletter should look.

Plenty more to do

My reward for doing such a good job with the last interview is to do another one – this time with the Chairman of the NHS’s PA. I’m confident I can do a decent job, as I’ve proved that I’m capable of interviewing by phone. Similarly, I think I will be able to successfully write another section for the Poached Creative website. Jess has asked me to write the ‘About us’ section for the forthcoming site, and I have already effectively contributed by writing the ‘Training’ section.

Improving prospects

The good thing about trying something for the first time is it gets easier from then onwards. Feeling a bit uncomfortable is just part of the process of learning something you’re not familiar with. It’s a wariness of the unknown and it’s instinctive. Overcome the fear and try something different, and usually it’s not as ghastly as you expected. Plus, by acquiring new skills you are of use to more people; hence your employability is increased.