Now leaving the milky way

Thought with some distance, it was the right time to wrap up two years at Fonterra. Previously: Leaving Telecom / Dawdling to the pavilion.

My two years at Fonterra was a real game of two halves. The first year was when the milk price was down, the farmers were hurting and getting things out the door was tough going.


In co-operatives, you’re extremely close to your shareholders / owners. You could feel the presence of Our Farmer Owners in every email and meeting room. There were plenty on Twitter letting us know what they thought and often asking where the value for them is in pretty much any aspect of Fonterra’s daily operations.

But it was cool, generally. Farmers are fair, and have tremendously dry humour. I felt I had to come up to speed on dairy farming quickly to have some kind of credibility, and was delighted when I started recognising stuff like calving, dried off cows and milking runs when driving through the country side.

The second year, the milk price was up, and we started Telling Our Story. That meant a heavy rotation TV campaign that was labelled 80s style in the NBR, and the most intense Facebook advertising I’d ever been part of.

Frankly, a fair portion of the country didn’t want to know. Our farmers loved it and the questions on how much we were spending on advertising largely dried up, despite all the news-hour and All Blacks match advertising.

With such a large footprint, it’s fair to say Fonterra was an issue-rich environment, and the community management could be pretty challenging. Lewis Road (who take Fonterra milk BTW), supplier terms, these ads that ran over the Christmas holidays, the situation in Australia… and that’s before water pollution became a big election issue. That was tough, and I spent many, many hours on my phone deep in Facebook discussion threads trying to explain, apologise and reach some understanding.

Despite the good intent, people were keener on action and results rather than key messages. That one will be a challenge for a while.

Fonterra is chock full of some of the most dedicated and smart people you’ll find anywhere. Farmers should rest assured there’s some serious midnight oil going in on their behalf, with great passion for taking the milk from one of the best places in the world to produce it, get the best out of it, sell the crap out of it around the world and get the best returns for the farmers. If we can get the environmental side of it right, NZ is going to win when Fonterra wins.

Meeting this NZ icon at Fieldays was big for me.

For me, I hope I helped get them in the game a bit more online and help the organisation be more comfortable with getting in tough conversations online. They were a bit of a soft target up until then, and it was time to do the basics right, like listen, respond and be a bit human. We also re-launched, going from a site with over 10k pages to an experience that’s a bit more user-friendly. The co-op has extremely ambitious plans to make digital a key facet of our biggest primary industry in some fashion, and there’s some really smart people setting about it. I wish them the very best.

2015 in mobile phone photos

Here’s a ramble through 2015 expressed in the ‘photos I took on my phone’ medium. I’ve actually tried to take the DSLR actually out of its bag more often this year in order to get slightly nicer, slightly more considered photos happening, but that’s, erm, a work in progress. Anyway. Onward.

See also: 2014 (at, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

See also:’s year in review.


Just some sweet garden gnomes I was kindly gifted.


In the middle of scoring 237 against in the CWC quarter final, Martin Guptill hit one on the roof of the packed Westpac Stadium. A few minutes later, this bloke went up there to get it.


And after everyone went home from THAT semi final at Eden Park, these guys went in the middle for a pretend game and selfies. They got in trouble.


Some goober at the MCG.


I’ve largely given up food photography but holy balls, when you’re basically served real-life Fred Flintsone ribs, you can’t not. Recommended.


So, I work at Fonterra now. I got to go to Fieldays and met a long-time hero. Background woman spectacularly unimpressed.


This is my reality now.


We got cats, Sweetpea and Fred. Once the former stopped chewing through every phone charger cable in the house, we got on fine.


Proud moment.


Some neighbour’s plant. In my dream compound / Led Zep-style country estate, I would like a whole garden of these.




Dorking out next to a sweet Falcon at The Mount.


Halloween decoration or Klansman? You be the judge. 


My attempt to make a baked pancake turned out kind of weird, but kind of compelling.


Kids cricket at East Coast Bays. Have to say, I loved being a cricket dad kind of more than being a football dad, it’s much more relaxing watching kids sport in tee shirt and shorts with a shit flat white in your hands.


Joseph Parker Stalkipedia. He was a cool guy and later casually jumped on the bar’s guitar and piano and kicked arse.


Ray Columbus hotel portrait. Unexpected and a little bit terrifying, if I’m honest.


This Mount Victoria fire was obviously worrying for all concerned, but looked pretty sweet from our office. 

Dawdling to the pavilion

Here’s an overdue update on the career situation – in May 2015 I left New Zealand Cricket for Fonterra. I wanted to wrap up the two years before it all disappears in a fond, summery haze.

Working in cricket was a bit of a dream come true – I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it and was constantly pinching myself that I was in the thick of it for a remarkable couple of years, comfortably two of our best ever, culminating in that world cup.

I was Digital Manager at NZC for that time, basically looking after the website and social media, as well as helping with PR and comms as required, including media management for the team on a couple of overseas tours and a handful of games in New Zealand.

Professionally, the highlights were:

Overhauling, both the front and back ends over the two seasons. We did the front end first, making the site mobile responsive and stripping it all back to make the content, text and words, the stars. Then in the second off season (the off season is when you do the ‘proper work’ in sport team!) we moved the CMS from a bespoke but vintage system we used to Umbraco, and went onto the new Microsoft Azure hosting, for all that sweet CWC traffic – there were a hair under a million page views on the site during the six weeks of the cup.


Being part of the online cricket community. People on Twitter love cricket, it’s the ideal sport to watch with the phone or the laptop. I wanted the national team’s account to be part of the conversation and show we were prepared to use Twitter as it’s meant to be, with personality, genuine engagement and to show off our fan’s love for the game (we used Storify to bring the social stuff into the website, hopefully to good effect.) It’s meant to be fun and I hope that my enjoyment came through.

There’s too many people to mention that helped make the BLACKCAPS community what it was – special mention to Jamie Bell at the NZC Museum, who tirelessly brought stats and history to life, as well as Jess, Ruth, Graeme, Andrew(s), Moog, Aotearoa XI, Toby, … it was a privilege to get to meet everyone at the ‘tweet ups’ and at the grounds.

Vine went really well for us, cricket kind of lent itself to the six second clips – here’s one from training before the CWC quarter final at the Basin, I was sifting around taking photos as per usual, when I was instructed to stand in the umpire’s position to see if any of the bowlers overstepped – and so got to see Kyle Mills, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson and Dan Vettori bowl close up. Seeing professional athletes do their thing so close up was quite  an experience.

I got to know one end of a video camera from the other, and how to edit. Kind of. I have much respect for the skill it takes to do this properly.

Launching the NZC mobile app – full credit  for the technical stuff goes to Tim McConnell, Gus Pickering and team at NV Interactive’s Christchurch office, I highly recommend them and their work.

Cricket-wise, where do you start? How about

  • The drawn Test against England at Eden Park in 2013
  • Somehow ending up in a taxi from Dunedin airport wedged between Darren Sammy and Richie Richardson in late 2013
  • Beating India at Eden Park in the first Test in 2014 – then being at the Basin for Brendon’s 302. The drawn ODI v India was tremendous too
  • Being at the Basin for Kane Williamson’s first double century in the second Test v Sri Lanka in early 2015, and seeing the team come from way behind to win that one
  • CWC15 – Hagley, beating Australia at Eden Park, the Guptill quarter final, THAT BLOODY SEMI FINAL WIN and going to Melbourne for the final

In terms of results, the two trips to Bangladesh were not highlights, but the experience of traveling with the group and being part of it all will stick with me for a long time. Believe everything you read about the team being made of good people. It’s extremely well lead by Brendon and Mikes Hesson and Sandle and I was made to feel very welcome on those trips and whenever I was with the team back in NZ. I’ll miss that a lot.




Couple of snaps from Bangladesh – I was pretty green, but luckily these guys are real pros.

If you haven’t had enough of What I Did, you can read a review of summer 2013Bangladesh trip one, Bangladesh trip two, a review of summer 2014a photo review of 2014, and the Cricket World Cup report.

Cricket in New Zealand is run by some incredibly enthusiastic people, who give up their summers to bring you this magnificent game. It was very hard to leave the dream job, but the time was right to move on for me, it was nice to go out on the high of the world cup.

I would like to thank NZC’s James, Callum, Richard, Joanne and David, the cool kids at the back of the office-bus (and Nicki!) and everyone else there for putting up with me, as well as the support and opportunities. See you at the grounds in the summer. 

What’s In Your Bag, Bangladesh edition

I’m a big fan of features like The Verge’s What’s In Your Bag? and The Setup, where folk share the stuff they use everyday in a cheerfully narcissistic fashion.

[Get the full run down on the Bangladesh trip over at]

For the last month I’ve been in Bangladesh with the BLACKCAPS, writing for our website, live-tweeting matches and taking photos and video. This is what I’ve been using – click the picture to see the full size version.

Whats in my bag 041113


A – Timbuk2 Messenger. These are bullet proof. I’ve had mine for almost ten years, in which time it’s seen regular use as a cycle-commute bag, and it’s only just starting to show wear now. It’s roomy, it has not-too-many and not-too-few pockets and it has a well-padded shoulder strap, handy when you’re lugging a whole lot of heavy crap around. Recommended.

B – Power board. Plug local adapter into power board. Plug your phones / cameras / computer / iPad into power board. Charge all the things.

C – 3rd generation iPad. It’s an iPad, you know the deal. This is my personal one, and it’s 16GB, WiFi only and white. Mail, Tweetbot, Twitter, Facebook Pages Manager, Chrome, Dropbox, PlainText, CricInfo and Instapaper are the go-tos.

D – 5th generation 120GB iPod classic. I like to take all my music with me. It also holds podcasts and full-res copies of  all my iPhotos as a backup. Comes with in-ear Sennheiser headphones and ancient neoprene Body Glove Palm III case.

E – Cables n USBs n stuff. USB – mini USB, USB – Samsung charger, USB – iPad, iPad wall socket, 2 x 8GB USB drives, Bluetooth headset and a Mac – Monitor adapter which I haven’t used. All these go in a handy neoprene pouch, which it appears I have a thing for.

F – Samsung Galaxy S3. Bloody good phone this, I’ve used this as my main personal and work phone for the last 18 months. Camera, Twitter, Carbon, Instapaper, the Camera, Dropbox, Mail, Chrome, CricInfo, Voice Recorder and pictures of my kids are what get used the most.

G – Samsung Galaxy Mini. Work phone with local sim card. Gets used the most for hot-spotting data.

H – 320 GB Western Digital hard drive. Nothing special. Contains Time Machine backup files and TV and film entertainment.

I – Fossil Blue watch. Nothing special. One thing with cricket is that using phones is banned in the dressing room and viewing areas during matches. Considering I use my phone as my watch normally, the wrist watch has made a come back.

J – Apple Magic Mouse and no-name mouse pad. Nothing like your own mouse and pad to make you feel at home. Good mouse this, and a good size. Say no to painful-to-use ‘travel’ mice.

K – MacBook Power cable and carry case. No matter how carefully you put a power cable inside your bag, when you open it up at the end of your journey, it will have unravelled and tangled itself throughout all your crap and take 15 minutes to pull out. If you take anything from this whole naval-gazing exercise, my tip to you is to find an appropriate carry case for your power cable if you go mobile a lot, it will make your life at least 4% better. You’re welcome.

L – Pens and a notepad. My #1 pen is a Pilot Dr Grip ballpoint with the fine blue refills and my backups are Pilot SuperGrip ballpoints in the fine blue versions. Not anal at all about this stuff, ah har.

M – Panasonic AG – HMC41E and Sony mic. I’m new to shooting video, but this camera does a really solid job.  I don’t really put it in my bag, it has its own one on wheels, plus the tripod.

N – 15″ MacBook Pro. 2.6GHz with Intel Core i7.  Work laptop. I love everything about this machine, with the weight the only quibble. Chrome, Opera, VLC, Text Wrangler, iMovie, PhotoShop, Dreamweaver, Audacity, Dropbox and Quicksilver are the most-often-most-recently-used.

O – Canon Digital Rebel EOS 40oD with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses. My personal one. Like video, I am only a very amateur photographer. Luckily the pros stepped in for this tour, but I managed to get some OK shots in the meantime.


That’s about it – not pictured are hand sanitiser, insect repellent  and bottles of water, all of which I’m going through like nobody’s business. The only thing I think I’m missing is some kind of bluetooth speaker arrangement for the hotel room.

Luckily, not all of this gets humped around at once, on match days I take the laptop and training days the iPad comes instead etc. It’s been a lot of fun figuring out what is needed when and working completely mobile. The WiFi has been excellent at the grounds and everything has worked, no tech disasters so far, touch wood.

Empowered to f*ck up

A few thoughts on TVNZ’s social media rules as reported in the Herald.

Before we make ‘2009 wants its social media policy back’ jokes, let’s allow for some benefit of the doubt. If you’ve ever read coverage of your own company in the papers, you’ll know there’s usually a bit more context to these stories than gets printed. And in this case, it’s hard to tell from Rachel Glucina’s article where the policy ends and her editorial begins. WOULD Greg Boyed’s burgergate tweet have been unacceptable, or is that just what RG reckons?

It’s not clear, for example, where the personal opinion line is – is it ‘Char Grill Kebab has gone downhill lately’, or ‘Peter Dunne cannot survive for much longer under this pressure’? Is it ‘everything’ or just ‘work stuff’?

The TVNZ reporters I follow do a more than reasonable job of being themselves on Twitter. Expecting them to come into line, when they’re actually taking part in the national online conversation without causing TVNZ reputation damage just fine thanks, is tricky. Some of the biggest recent scandals for TVNZ have taken place without a Twitter login after all.

If the policy is as draconian as it’s painted, it seems like a backwards step, and a possible misjudgment to try muzzling such a well connected group of natural communicators. The potential reputational damage caused by coming across as humourless and fusty is worse than the occasional off-message tweet in my opinion. Arguably, it undermines *all* TVNZ’s  social media authenticity, a weird move when their flagship current affairs programme makes a show of being part of the Twitter conversation and Welcoming Your Views.

I’ve had a little to do with writing social media policy documents, and I have to say that telling people what they can and can’t do in their own time and on their own Twitter made me feel uncomfortable, beyond ‘Use Your Common Sense*’. It wouldn’t have been easy for Michelle Romaine, an external consultant, to lay down the law on something so personal and get immediate buy-in. Again, we don’t know if there was any consultation, or if this was just an email bolt from the blue.

The preferable option (and probably the harder path) is educating and building trust with your team, so that any mis-steps  happen infrequently and are quickly put right when they do. Bear in mind you can get away with a lot by being human and owning up to  mistakes in a human fashion, remember Heather Du Plessis-Allan dropped the C bomb on the 6pm news, grinned a cheeky grin, and folk loved her for it.

In both my roles with social media element, I’m lucky to have been given rope to try things, without the fear of heavy handed-ness should things go wrong. If people are inhibited by fear of breaking the rules, they’re less likely to try something different and push the boundaries, which is where the gold is. If you’re empowered to f*ck it up, you’re probably less likely to.

*One assumes that when hiring folk to report the news on national TV, getting someone with ‘common sense’ would be a pre-req.

I don’t watch One News

As written, this policy seems to only apply to Twitter and possibly Instagram. You can supposedly do what you like on Facebook (but would anyone see it / care?)

Char Grill Kebab *has* gone downhill lately

Some guy on the NZ Digital Podcast

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to chat to Paul Spain and Sim Ahmed on the New Zealand Digital Podcast.

We talked about the new role and the old role, tools of the trade, advice for folk and businesses thinking about getting into social media and the separation between yer professional and personal activity online. Sim complimented my eyebrows at one point, which was extremely gracious of him.

Recording the show was a lot of fun – thanks to Paul and Sim for having me on, this new off shoot of the popular NZ Tech Podcast looks like it’ll be a worthwhile listen if you’re into This Kind Of Thing.

You can listen to my episode in a variety of fashions here.

You can’t troll a troll

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be on Social Media Club Auckland’s When communities go bad panel, along with Anna Connell, Mike Kooge and Chris Keall.

The panel. Photo filched from SMCAKL site

Some brief thoughts:

Being trolled is part of the territory for doing corporate social media. Of course, social media is just people. And some people can be dicks, bluntly.

Basically, someone has to be prepared to cop it, and it’s kind of up to you to develop a range of coping mechanisms (hence my ‘harden up’ comment). It gets easier over time! Caring a lot is a bit of a pre-req for doing the job well and properly, but the downside of that is taking the nastier comments to heart and wanting to throw things against things so they break.

The solution? Realise it’s not you, take breaks, make sure you’re well supported by your company. Easier said than done sometimes, but what’s the point of doing a job that’s easy, hey?

Anna definitely  kicked the crap out of me at pithy tweet-able soundbites. Nice work. And Mike showed there’s some excellent thinking and different knowledge out there beyond the usual voices. Well done.

I was most impressed by Chris Keall’s ‘take panel questions from your phone’ paradigm. Typical innovation incubation on the fly by our top tech scribe.

I realise I talked mainly about Telecom examples, rather than the new job (which is going really well BTW). That’s because I honestly haven’t been trolled very much at all in the new role – which is a nice change! The team going well is obviously a big factor, but even so, the ‘other distractions’ don’t seem to have generated much heat online.

I haven’t been to SMCAKL for a while, but it seems to be on the right track, by the evidence presented on Tuesday night. Fair play and all the best to the organisers and sponsors, it isn’t easy putting something like this on.

This is the first time I was trolled on the @telecomnz account, about a day after I took the job.


On the box

So I was on the telly, along with Simone McCallum and Rick Shera talking about this ruling in Australia where by companies are responsible for everything that appears on their Facebook or social media pages.

My (expanded) view is that social media should be literally social – a two way conversation between companies, their customers and their online communities. Of course we keep a close eye on what’s on our page – like Rick says in the clip, you can’t just set up a Facebook page then forget it. We also make no apology for removing posts that are non-family friendly – much offensiveness is automatically headed off at the pass by our profanity filter (great to finally make use of my specialist profanity knowledge in a professional situation).

 Getting a quick game of Angry Birds in.

I’d personally be disappointed if a similar ruling here meant a moderation step before people could post on one of our pages. If we set our slate out and ask customers to let us know what they think, folk should be able to say what they like, within reason. A moderation step would make the whole exercise less, well, social.

As for the process of being filmed for the telly and that, it was fun if slightly nerve wracking. And weird to see yourself on the box, but I imagine once you reach full Brislen level, you’d be used to it! The kids loved it. My greatest concern was that one of my mates, seeing the ‘I get an email to my phone when there’s a Facebook comment’ comment would post mass hilarity on the page. Hasn’t happened. Yet. My phone went nuts on the night with relatives txting and kind people tweeting – thanks to everyone who tweeted, you are too kind.