Interview with some guy

Massey University student Aaron Overington was keen and kind enough to publish an email interview about my role as social media chap at Telecom.

Do you have ROI goals or targets to meet, and if so how do you define them?

No formal ROI targets have been set yet. We feel our level of investment has paid off so far in reputation and issue management terms, everything else is a bonus. That’s not to say this won’t change in the future.

You can read the whole thing here. It’s kind of like having a coffee with me, but on the internet, and slower.

2011 in mobile phone photos

There was a lot packed in to 2011. Earthquakes, an election, a world cup. A new baby and family stuff. Work. Here’s a summary in mobile phone photos, an idea I’ve pinched.

Update – here’s even more.

Big ass yacht alert! There is a big ass yacht in the harbor!

Our office moved to Victoria Street, and I’m lucky enough to have this view – I spent a lot of time staring out the window at the bustle of the harbor. It’s beautiful. I’m lucky.

Birthday beer @ Harbourside

A beer in the sun at Tauranga’s Harbourside restaurant on my birthday.

Crisis table in action - note berocca and yesterday's chocolate muffins

This was Telecom’s ‘war room’ table on the 2nd or 3rd day after the 22 February Christchurch earthquake. Work wise, I love crisis communication. The downside, of course, that to experience and develop your crisis comms skills, there has to be a crisis.

I haven’t been to Christchurch for years, and like most people not there, can’t imagine what it’s like to live with aftershock after aftershock – I have the greatest admiration for a mate living there with his young family determined to be part of the rebuild. It’s hard enough having a young family up here in wussy stable-ground Auckland, let alone among seismic uncertainty. For what it’s worth, I hope for a better 2012 for Canterbury.

Havelock North Double Z #mediasensenz

Double Zs while in Hawke’s Bay

Souvenir cc @aklwritersfest

AA Gill

Someone tell me this isn't an EPIC Thomas layout, I frickin' DARE you

Thomas The Tank Engine gave me a new channel to express anal retentivity.

Santa makes a slow, silent and ultimately doomed bid for freedom

My fav street photo I took this year.

Lunch of champions #bacon #foodtweet

I took quite a few photos of what I was eating this year – looking through, it seems to be bacon and bread that I was moved to photograph the most, so this is representative example.

It's in my belly now #pizza #foodtweet

2011 was an excellent year for Pizza.


There was a world cup on – that’s me on the right. Extensive coverage, of course, can be found over at It was a great year to be a sport blogger.

The wee fella – I don’t like to share much about my kids in public online. Just know I love the crap out of them and my partner. We are very blessed.

This has been the winner on the day. The car, I mean. Ok, and the beer.

The finish line – I’ve never been so ready for a holiday / alcohol.

Getting sociable and sensibile in the Bay

MediaSense is a new social media conference put on by Hal Josephson, a Hawke’s Bay entrepreneur, impresario and top bloke.

For me, this was a fantastic chance to meet folk I don’t normally meet, with people from all around the country attending. The Bay was well represented and I was most impressed with the locals’ friendliness and enthusiasm. These guys have secured interesting and challenging jobs or taken the plunge and started their own businesses in an area notorious for a vibrant food and drink scene. It had me scratching my chin several times about life outside Auckland. Hmmm. Needless to say, we were well looked after eating and drinking-wise, enjoying the hospitality of the Craggy Range and Black Barn vineyards, who hosted the event itself.

I was there as the corporate perspective in the local case studies section, along with  Tim and Matt from Uprise, Jayson Bryant, Tom from Catalyst 90 and Kayla from Mini Monos.

My case study was crisis communication. I told our earthquake story, which has some solid examples of the power of using social networks, and is a neat way to outline our approach in general. I think I got points for being honest(!), and I was pleased to get some  thoughtful anecdotal and online feedback.


I throughly enjoyed the afternoon panel hosted by Nat Torkington and featuring Xero’s Rod Dury, Matthew Miller from Mogul websites and Paul Brislen from TUANZ – local examples almost always give me more takeaways than any other section of an event like this. I was hugely impressed with Matt from Mogul’s common sense approach to social – it’s easy to overthink this stuff. Like Telecom, Xero is a heavy Yammer user, interestingly. I enjoyed Paul’s war stories from his the early days of doing this at Voda – can relate!

A nervous glass of water before speaking, while wishing I’d chosen more irreverent footwear like Jayson and Paul. Photo credit: @gnat.

It was observed that Twitter was roughly 70% of the conversation, but someone did point out you need to look at it in context with all social channels available to achieve your goals, especially the lesser known ones like TradeMe forums, even databases and email! Karen Leland gave her two hot tips for PR in social media as 1. pick up the phone, and 2. go to lunch. I liked that.

Full credit, as they say, to Hal and Odette for putting on a thoroughly valuable and enjoyable event, with some fantastic hospitality and conversations the night before, during and in the bar afterwards – I hope to be involved in some capacity next year. Recommended.

PS I need to mention Tweet2Eat – if you’re in the Bay, you MUST follow for all your food and drink recommendation requirements.

#retroavatarfriday – requiem for a meme

It all started with a tweet:


This got a few comments, TV3 changed theirs, a hashtag was born, and before long, it became a *thing*.

The retro avatars fell into three categories – corporates, who went through the brand crypt to find logos past, people who uploaded old pop culture references, and baby photos. By 3.30pm the next day, the internet had been expanded by:

335 tweets tagged #retroavatarfriday

96 photos in a Facebook album

127 @replies to @telecomnz

It even trended in Auckland and Wellington:

screen-shot-2011-02-19-at-33108-pm screenshot from around 3.30pm Friday 18 February 2011

So – what did we learn?

It wouldn’t have been possibile without CateOwen, Mediawork’s savvy Social Media Strategist, who picked up on our challenge, and gave it a hashtag. Classy move.

This was a simple way to have some fun with a low barrier to entry (I WAS pretty amazed at the amount of people who had ready access to digital baby photos!). Everyone loves nostalgia, and tweeters seeing each other in bad knitwear and haircuts was a real hoot. Friday factor helped too, I reckon, everyone’s in a relaxed, optimistic mood on Friday, aren’t they?

Could you do this again? Probably. Would it work every time? I doubt it, and I think it’s easy to outstay your welcome on these, you run the risk of being seen to try too hard. The simplest ideas are the best ones, aren’t they?

Was it good for Telecom, and the other corporates involved? I think so. Spot, the face of our marketing in the early 90s got a lot of compliments – while brands are important and big business, it’s all about what people *feel* about you at the end of the day. Hopefully this shows we’re human, confident and don’t take ourselves *too* seriously.

Is this big, for this kind of thing? I don’t know.

Was it fun? Yes – the most important part of Social Media is the social, innit?

Selfishly, I’d like to have tried this on a day that Webstock wasn’t on – with Wellington’s digerati involved instead of sitting in a conference pecking away at their phones, it could have gained even more momentum.

So thanks for everything Spot – there’s life in the old dog yet.

The @vaughndavis interview

Popular goat farmer @vaughndavis wrote Tweet This Book, a book about social media.

I wanted to interview him for Telecom’s co. magazine, so I put new batteries in my dictaphone and suggested we meet up for a chat. Vaughn gently suggested I was clearly off my tits on printer’s ink, and that we should do the interview through social channels.

So we did. Here it is so far.

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 17 11.13

ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 18 11.09

iStrategy 2010

OK, so it turns out I’m a Social Media conference slag. Hot on the heels of the last one, I packed my little bag and headed to Sydney for iStragegy 2010. Travelling with work is still a novelty to me, I haven’t really got that whole, jaded “Oh GOD, not Sydney AGAIN!” thing down – I was very excited to go. We stayed in the lovely Sheraton On the Park, as part of the conference, and while it was a fabulously well appointed hotel, we didn’t see much of Sydney itself at all. Next time.

The speakers were slightly more international, as you’d expect, with representatives from Microsoft and Google, as well as Australian companies like Red Balloon, Fox Sports, Commonwealth Bank, Earth Hour and Contagious Communications, to name just a few. Topics were skewed toward marketing online, as well as using social in corporates, the bit I was interested in.

I learned heaps – main points were these (your views may vary, depending on your context, etc):

No one person ‘owns’ social media in a corporate – it sits across too many disciplines. You can have people there to guide it, but it’s a team effort

Facebook and Twitter are just tactics, your approach and strategy need to be broader than just having a presence in these channels

Often social values of openness and sharing are diametrically opposed to corporate values of intellectual property and retaining information to gain commercial advantage – it’s a big leap to make to be a truly social organisation

Agencies can be hard – they’re not there every day. We need to challenge agencies to think end to end, and long term, not just by campaign; customers need the same message from us no matter what channel, ie web, social, bus shelter, mobile, video game, tv, radio, print, PR

One of the most interesting presentations was from Myspace – yes, Myspace. If you haven’t had a look at their site lately, go have a look, it’s changed loads, going from 130 logos and 170 templates to one logo and seven templates, add their agreement with Facebook mean your profile can auto-populate with your Facebook likes.They’re attempting to become first social network to turn around a huge failure. Worth a look.

Other stuff:

Check out @kellynoble’s twitter updates to find out pretty much everything that happened at the conference. Good god, this woman can tweet.

Gatorade Replay was one of the case studies – this looks awesome.

Adam Burns MC’d the conference with style and a dry wit. Give him a TV show! Hang on – he has one!

I won a totally sweet Four Square apron, for leaving the best iStrategy tip. Ahem. I am now mayor of wherever I go, pretty much.

Four Square apron, courtesy iStrategy 2010


Thoughts from Social Media Junction.

I had my first experience at *talking* at a conference in my new role as Telecom’s Online Community Comms Manager – that’s community manager in less words. The theme was “Kiwi brands and social media – differing ways to achieve ROI”, along with folk from Hell, Tui, Bullet PR and the awesome @simonemccallum. I thought I went OK – I got to say most of the things I wanted to, and tell our Online Response Team story. I worry about the wild variation in the companies involved, ie two corporates, a PR agency and beer and pizza. Different perspectives I guess.

Non-attendees were tweeting they didn’t want updates from a conference they weren’t at – and taking the piss. That was funny, because I was, ah, taking the piss last time. Ah har. To me, the most value in conference tweets comes from people adding their own commentary to what’s going on, and even having conversations with each other, not parroting what the speakers are saying. I appreciate that non-contextual tweets are annoying if you’re not involved. I guess the options are to do some kind of clever blocking thing in tweet deck, or just, like, skim over the tagged ones – aren’t we web 2.0 types meant to be information scanning ninjas?

There was a projector displaying the hashtagged tweets up in the wall, in full view of us panelists. I tell you what, I was watching that thing like a hawk for ‘@telecomnz has fliez down lol’ or the like. Distracting. Luckily it went down only a few minutes into our preso…

My top three presenters were Louise Denver from Deloitte (check out their preso), Simon Wakeman from Medway council, who has similar issues with Facebook groups to us (“Medway Council are fuckin shit” was one that caught my eye) and Darren Whitelaw, who presented on Victorian bushfire crisis comms. For me, shit hitting fan usually means it’s going to be an exciting day at work, so Darren’s presentation was very valuable. In all three, it seems these organisations were experiencing similar issues to us.

No-one’s got measurement sorted out. Felt like people were waiting for a silver bullet, but you’d be better off with this. Drawing board.

I’m crap at networking. I like talking to people, I don’t like saying ‘excuse me, I want to stop talking to you and go talk to… those people over there’. Still, I didn’t get to talk to everyone I wanted to – next time.