20 years later...

Though I am miles away from Trinidad and Tobago, and actually since I am on vacation, I have zero idea of dates and stuff like that but it was a Facebook status update that reminded me that 20 years ago, our lives were irrevocably changed forever to varying extents. The degree of where we have changed as a nation is still under examination but I wrote this last year on the anniversary of one of the most important dates in T&T history and in my own life as a then 11 year old child.

Posted on July 27, 2009 at 9:03 AM

On the night of July 27, 1990, I was eagerly awaiting sugar cake. My mother had promised my brother and I a batch of sugar cake and at around 6.30, sugar cake was on the stove. Excitement was growing.

Then my neighbor stopped Daddy outside and then the tv went on, and then the sugar cake went on the back burner literally. To an 11 year old, and her 7 year old brother, what could have possibly been more important than a batch of coconut sugar cake.

Both my parents sat to look at the news, but it was not Jones P Madeira reading on Panorama that night. Instead there were men with guns and in Muslim garb, asking if we knew where the Prime Minister was. At this point, I still don't think I fully grasped the gravity of what was happening. It did not seem real to me. Jones P Madeira looked nervous and scared and the man talking to the nation seemed angry. And the sugar cake was no longer a priority for my mother, though for us, it still was.

I did not know what a "coup" was, and did not understand why my mother had to go to work on a Saturday morning. And why suddenly the phones were ringing and why my parents looked so grave and why the tv stayed on all night. And why was the sugar cake being ignored and left to BURN. In the mind of an 11 year old, ignorant to the gravity of this whole situation, THIS was a crisis!

But when we saw images of the Red House under siege, Police Headquarters burning and POS in total chaos, it started to make sense. When I realized the PM was being held captive along with other members of Parliament, and that the police and army were out in full force, it started to make sense. This angry man on the tv had taken hold of the country and now I was really worried.

When there were rumours that the San Fernando Police station was the next to be fire-bombed, then it became real because that was where my own mother was to spend the next few days on non-stop active duty while the country tried to come to grips with this reality. When you saw that dude from CNN Headline News reading about your country, it was apparent that this was more than any 11 year old was ready for. I was supposed to be thinking about new school books and my new uniform, having just gotten my Common Entrance results, passing for my first choice. Not sitting at home waiting for news. Sitting at home under curfew. Sitting at home hoping your mother would be safe - happy to see her come home for a shower, a quick nap and boxes of fast food from Chicken Unlimited, who provided the South teams of police and army with meals for the duration of the insurrection. I did not want to see another French fry after that! (that did not last long though - long live the French fry!)

It was all rather surreal then, and thinking back on it now, 19 years later, it still seems a bit surreal. I remember crying when I heard how they had beaten ANR Robinson, and then reading that he demanded the army to attack with full force, foregoing his own safety. I remember seeing Abu Bakr's surrender and feeling this mixture of relief, dread and anger, that this man had put us all through the worst days of our personal and national histories.

At that point, July 27 1990 was not something I expected ever in my innocent life. Now in 2009, as I sit and look at what Trinidad and Tobago has become and how it has been hijacked yet again by politicians who are no better than the militants with guns holding a country to ransom, it begs us to think hard about the saying, "Those who forget about the past are doomed to repeat it.".

I fear this is so true for our present reality.

Out on Vacation

If there are any earth shattering developments in social media or PR or marketing or anything fun, leave me a comment. Take care. I'll be back with you in about a month's time.

This Time for Africa

One month, 64 games and 145 goals later, the world's biggest event is over. Dry those eyes and pack away those vuvuzelas because you have to wait another 4 years until the next one. But what a World Cup it has been. I think this tournament will be one that will be remembered for years, for a variety of reasons - footballing and non-footballing reasons.

But I think as the sun goes down on this World Cup, South Africa can be duly proud of what they have achieved as host and as a country. The hosting of this tournament for not just South Africa, but the entire continent of Africa has been a marketing and rebranding coup. Two years ago, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said
“People don’t want to trust Africa. That is wrong. Africa has given so much not only to football but to the whole world. Someday, something should come back. So let’s have this World Cup. Let’s celebrate Africa. Why not?”

And celebrate we all did. Even though popularised by a Colombian singer, the strains of "Waka Waka" and its tag line "This Time for Africa", continue to filter through the airwaves, leaving it as probably one of the most popular tournament anthems ever.The world has looked to South Africa over the past month for great football, but got more than they bargained for in the artistry, passion, energy and dare I say, unity of its people.
This game allowed Africa to showcase its beauty and the remnants of Apartheid regime, to the outside world, which seems to have no idea how bad things were and that there is a better side of Africa(beside tribal wars and starvation) which international media—for its own convenience ---tends not to focus on. - Ghanaweb

Whether the powers that be will leap on the momentum which this World Cup has generated and leverage all the positives into effecting socio-economic change is another story, but well done South Africa.

And without a doubt, this tournament's immense public appeal and attraction was heavily invested in the fact that we had greater means to communicate, participate and enjoy the tournament's various facets. World Cup 2010 was supposed to be the social media World Cup and boy was it ever. Information, debates, opinions, replays - all available at the click of a button, whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, the obsessed and the curious all found a way to be part of this global phenomenon via this global phenomenon. Sponsors and pundits alike milked it for all it was worth, tapping into the enormous audience primed to receive messages.

Twitter reported that the World Cup or #Worldcup resulted in a record 3,283 tweets per second as opposed to the regular average of 750 per second. The fail whale was almost as recognisable as Paul the Octopus, because of the barrage of tweets around the tournament. Social media has truly revolutionised the way we love the game, and the way the host country was marketed to the millions who could not make it there to see the games live.

At the end of it all, though Spain were crowned the best team in the world, the real winners were South Africa and social media, and all the people who joined the revolution to make this one of the best tournaments the world has ever seen.  Brazil 2014 has some rather big shoes to fill, but I think they can do it. In 4 years, this phenomenon may be bigger than any of us can ever have imagined.

Runners up: Paul and the vuvuzelas.

Bringing Pretty Plaques to Life

Effective leadership means connecting the dots for employees - David Grossman

This is the truth. Too often, strategies and plans fail because the executioners do not fully understand the direction. Yes, they may have a brief which outlines what is required. Yes, they may have the tools to complete the given task. But do they fully understand the importance, the impact, the background - the why, what, where, who, when, how?

If you were to ask an employee what their company's mission or vision was, chances are some of them could rattle it off by rote. But unless there is engagement around what those words on that plaque stand for, then they are just that - words on a plaque.

This week, we started a new ad campaign and yes, we sent a brief to the agency. The truth is though, I had to connect the dots especially since this was an internally produced strategy sent to an external provider to execute. Creative they are, I am sure, but it was only in fully talking through the brief with the account executive and giving her the back story - the 5Ws and the H, bringing some relevance to the document before her, that she had that "ahhh" moment.

Employees often are taken for granted when decisions are made from way up top. The days of handing judgements down from the throne are over. The days of open communication, active engagement, soliciting feedback and opinions are here, now. Successful tactical delivery, employee satisfaction and loyalty are just some of the end results of taking internal communications to a level that goes beyond "all users" emails and memos from faceless executives. More managers, for example, have to be empowered to have cottage meetings with their staff, and to share their feedback through the management chain. The tools available to internal communicators - intranets, social platforms, video, podcasts, video conferencing, to name a few, make engagement easy and creative.

The reality is, without communication, there can be no leadership. Leaders will ultimately fail if they are not communicating regularly and effectively and all the big MBA sounding words on far reaching plans and policies will remain inanimate if there is not real passion and engagement around them and employees. Getting employees to understand and have that "ahhhhh" moment is a huge part of why companies are successful.

Are companies really ready to take the necessary steps to breathe life into words on plaques and plans?

On Sale: Your Small Business

A couple weeks ago, my mum and I had a Mum/Daughter shopping day and I had not been to Grand Bazaar since the interchange was opened cause frankly, I did not know how to get in. lol. But in any event, we made and during our mummy/baby adventures, we checked out a new store - J&K Signature Styles, which had only opened at its second location that same week. Needless to say I got some very nice items in said store, but the real winner was the service and the marketing.

Many small business owners leave marketing of their business to chance. The photocopied flyers and word-of-mouth, though not dead, are simply not enough to push a new business into the mainstream. It takes some extra effort to make your business stand out and create that buzz and I loved how the owners of this store had gone about doing that. And it was nothing particularly earth shattering or innovative. Just a simple email and text message. After I laid out some serious cash, I was signed up for their customer loyalty programme, gave them my email address and my mobile number, and a gift card outlining the details of a promotion they would be having in a few weeks time. Of course, the little card went into my wallet never to be seen again, but a couple days ago, I got a text reminding me of said promotion and the dates. This morning I got an email. And that is how this small business will get me to come back and spend more money I should not be spending.

Sometimes when starting that business, when negotiating funding and the like, the stuff like marketing, PR and promotion get forgotten. But this is the most important thing and should be planned for. Press ads are expensive and depending on the size of your business, you may not yet be able to afford full or even half page ads which have consumer pulling power, but there are other ways - email marketing, text marketing, customer loyalty programmes, open house days etc. You can have the best stock, the best staff but if noone knows about you or think you're a cut above the rest, then noone is going to care about what you're offering. The cost of that text message was minimal; the email free - but the ROI on both have to be worth something, including customer awareness and loyalty and sales.

The key point to remember that in order to get sales, you have to be on sale. Don't sell yourselves short.
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