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Who I am

Becoming a mother can lead to somewhat of an identity crisis. This was certainly something I experienced when my first child was born but was compounded when I had my second. You spend your teens and twenties slowly discovering who you are, it’s a slow process with twists and turns and it happens organically. 

When you have a child, it just arrives, and everything changes overnight. It is a massive shock to the system that no amount of books or baby groups can prepare you for it. And it impacts everything. I have really struggled with who I am over the last almost a year. And while I am coming to terms with it on a personal level, I still find how I should present myself to the outside world, and to my peers, quite difficult. 

Twitter is an example of this. I joined Twitter a long time ago, and when I did I used it for a bit of work stuff, some occasional personal tweets and to keep up to date on things in the industry I work, and in the tech world, which is a particular interest of mine. But while on maternity leave this time around, my use of twitter has evolved. My maternity leave coincided with a move out of London, and as such my local support network of friends, NCT friends and neighbours depleted, and is only now after a year starting to build back up again. Twitter helped with that transition. Finding people like you on Twitter is easy and engagement with those people is natural, it is of course what it is built for. 

So over the last nine months or so my Twitter feed has changed. I will still post about some work things and engage with people in the industry but I will also talk about my day with the children, help a mother who is having a hard time with breastfeeding or organise a mummy meet-up. And for this reason a few month ago when I was starting to think about work again, I locked my account. In truth, I was a little embarrassed that potential work people would see these more personal tweets and judge me - my goodness she talks about boobs occasionally online, we can’t possibly hire her!

But I am me. And this is where I struggle. I know some people have two (or more) Twitter accounts but I don’t have the time for that, plus I honestly feel that Twitter works for me because it is me and to split myself into two separate feeds just wouldn’t feel right. I don’t feel being locked is the solution, yet I am not ready to unlock myself again for fear of this judgement, which may in fact be irrational. 

I don’t do Facebook but this must be something that people who do struggle with a lot - do you open your personal page up to colleagues, or even clients?

Despite my fears, I don’t consider myself a particularly open person and there are some things I will always try and keep private - there are no photos of my children on Twitter or Instagram and I don’t even mention them, or my partner by name. That’s my choice and lots of people make different ones - some choosing to be even more private and less personal, and others sharing everything. I don’t judge those people, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so worried that others will judge me. It is something I am not sure I will ever entirely find peace with but would be very interested to talk to others who are experiencing the same, as to how they choose to handle it. Balancing who they really are, with how they think other people think they should be…!

Back on board

I have tentatively started to work again following my second maternity leave and in preparing to do so I revisited this blog. I am a little embarrassed by how little love I have given to it, but in truth, life got in the way. After I had my eldest daughter and went freelance I had grand ambitions of working from home, which I did - for a time. But then I was offered an in-agency role three days a week, and I didn’t trust myself and took it. Then another offer came in, and I took that. I don’t regret the route I chose as I enjoyed it but it took me away from the path I wanted to pursue, and robbed me of the time I would have liked to have been able to take to blog about my continued career in PR.  

Now I find myself back at my desk, three years on, reading through this old blog and finding many posts that I wrote just as relevant today. So rather than deleting it, embarrassed that I neglected it, I am going to revive it and make more effort this time around. I have lot of blog post ideas, and I have been asked to blog for the CIPR, which I am very much looking forward to doing.

When I started this blog the aim was to talk about the fact that I constantly find myself being educated in this job, which I love but can also find hard, given the other priorities I now have in my life. I want to raise some of the issues that working mother’s in PR face, talk about them honestly and openly and not apologise for the fact I have to juggle, but be proud of it and speak out about the challenges and the rewards. I want to also discuss flexible working, and my experience of it in real-life, rathe than the theory that sounds so great, but can often have a different reality. And I want to engage with the people in this industry that I respect but often don’t have time to meet face to face. 

I am hoping that this blog can be one of the things that allows me to begin to feel part of the industry again rather than standing on the sidelines, a little too scared to get back on the ride. I am excited but nervous about what this next stage of my career holds but very much looking forward it. 

When technology works

Completely forgot to write the follow-up post to my moan about technology. To remind you I was on a delayed train journey where everything was breaking around me. During this time, my phone battery (iPhone) was draining really fast and I had stupidly forgotten a charger. This is what happened..

I tweeted…

It was then re-tweeted by a few people including @eastcoastuk

And then after a while, this happened:

When things like that happen, you have to love technology. 

Marissa Mayer: One step forward and one step back

It is yet to be 100% fact checked but it is suspected that Marissa Mayer could just be the first pregnant CEO of a fortune 500 technology company. Therefore this could easily be seen as a huge leap forward for the women’s movement and a huge pat on the back for Yahoo! and its forward-thinking attitude.

However Marissa’s admission that her maternity leave will be short and she will work during that time, just takes us one big leap back. Being a mother to a brand new baby is a job in itself, if you choose it to be, and it will be extremely difficult (read: impossible) to do the two things at the same time, and importantly do them well. So either Yahoo! has taken on a CEO, who will not be able to dedicate herself to the role, or her little boy (due in October) will be spending an awful lot of time being looked after by someone else, while she does the CEO job I’m sure she is more than capable of. 

Some may argue and say that she can do both. My opinion is she can’t. And nor should she feel she has to. A woman should absolutely be able to be successful in her career and be a mother. But to try and take on two huge challenges at the same time will break the very best. By saying she will be straight back at work after her baby arrives, Marissa has only reinforced the perception that being successful means babies take a back seat, whether that is having them in the first place, or being a mother to them…

WTH does ‘having it all’ mean?

The Atlantic last week published a cover story by Anne-Marie Slaughter entitled Why Women Still Can’t Have it All and while I think it isn’t 100% relevant to the UK as it exposes many differences between US and UK culture when it comes to working - not least our annual and parental leave allowances - I would urge any working mothers (or soon to be working mothers) to have a read.

It’s an article that contains issues that I could talk about for hours - so this short blog post is simply to air one slight frustration I found. Don’t get me wrong, it is fascinating reading, Anne-Marie has been exposed to so much when it comes to this issue and it isn’t the content that I have an issue with - I couldn’t even come close to having the insight she has - it’s the title and the use of the expression ‘having it all’. Anne-Marie isn’t the first person to use this expression and I am certain she won’t be the last. But to me it makes no sense. 

At a very basic level within the article this references the idea of having your dream career and being a mum. Now for me, maths has to come into play here. None of us can have more than 100% of a life - whatever length that life is. But if we break it down to a week, none of us can have more than 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week. To me, ‘having it all’ (if I had to use the phrase), is filling each of those 168 hours a week with things that you want to do - that might be working, spending time with children, sleeping, spending time with friends and family, exercising, eating, playing sport, whatever we choose to do. That is ‘having it all’. And therefore contrary to the title of Anne-Marie’s piece, which suggests that women can’t ‘have it all’, I believe each of us can. 

This term just makes no sense when it comes to the concept of ‘having it all’ in relation to having a high-powered job and being a good mum - the fact is that both of these things take up a substantial amount of time, to do the two to full potential isn’t possible - because you would be asking for/trying to get more time than you have. You can have all (as in a full life = 100%) but you can’t have more than that. Stop being greedy. It would be like me saying, I can’t have it all because I can’t be in New York and Paris at the same time! 

Furthermore I find it frustrating when ‘having it all’ is used in this way as it suggests that those that have less don’t have it all. 

I have it all, as far as I am concerned. I enjoy my work, which I do part-time (although don’t even get me started on my dislike for that term - follow-up post to come), I spend time with my daughter, and in the future I hope to have more children, who I will get to spend time with. I have a group of friends who I love and see as much as I can of my family. I eat, I drink, I cycle. I feel I put the majority of my 168 hours a week to good use. Yes, there are things I would like to do more of - I read and write less than I used to (which I miss) and travelling is on the back burner for the moment. But does missing out on those things make me think I am living less than a whole, no, not at all. 

I hugely admire those women who decide that they would like to have a full-time and high-powered job and bring up a family - and good luck to them. But please stop referring to this as ‘having it all’, because I guarantee your view of ‘having it all’ is completely different to each and every woman (and man) out there. 

When technology doesn’t work (NB: I love technology)

Thursday last week was supposed to be a lovely day - spending it with my sister in Edinburgh and I set off from home (ridiculously) early in the morning with a skip in my step (despite the rain!). 

Technology fail 1: Arriving at Kings Cross my relaxed demeanour was quickly quashed. I’d booked my tickets using thetrainline.com’s iPhone app. Technology Win. East Coast’s website wasn’t working well on my phone that day so this was a good solution at the time. Unfortunately three months had passed since the booking and I had a new bank card, which the card machine couldn’t recognise. Technology fail. And I therefore couldn’t pick up my tickets and was told point blank by the (not very nice) lady at East Coast’s ticket office that the only thing I could do was buy a replacement ticket (my original ticket was £18.55, the replacement £151!).  I begged, I pleaded but in the end, what else could I do. I bought a replacement ticket and boarded the train.

The good customer service experience was thetrainline.com (who I had previously heard awful things about), who when their offices opened and I contacted them via Twitter, said they would refund me my money as a gesture of goodwill. So I got £18.55 back. Not great, but not bad. And this was ALL done through Twitter. It was impressive and quick. And for that I was very appreciative. The money is already in my bank. 

The bad customer service was East Coast, who couldn’t tell me whether they could give me any kind of refund on the £151, and that the only way to start a refund request was to speak to someone on the phone or email and wait 14 days for a response. Interestingly their Twitter is run by their comms team, not customer service, which in this circumstance I find rather odd - but that requires another post entirely. And to add to that the ticket office staff were awful. The guard was very lovely but sadly couldn’t help. 

The learning from this experience: don’t rely on technology, next time I will be having my tickets sent to me by good old-fashioned post or picking them up the day I book them. The other option of course is to have an incredible memory where you would know to carry around an expired bank card so that you could pick up your tickets… Would you? 

Technology fail 2: I have an iPad, which rather than using a laptop, I use when away from my desk to use email, internet, social networks and write some documents (via pages). Technology win. I love it. And it is light.  Technology win. It is equipped with wifi and 3G but the wifi on East Coast being pretty expensive I decided to opt for a 24 hour 3G top-up, which I knew I could then use when I got to Edinburgh. But my old bank card was registered on the page you access to top-up. So I needed to add a new card. To add a new card, you have to register an account and the password is sent to a PC connection manager (WTF??). I tweeted @threeuk and was told I just needed to download the app could then access everything. I replied, explaining I didn’t have an internet connection, so this wasn’t possible. And the conversation ended there. No reply. The next morning, I rang up and managed to get the top up added just fine - but again, by phone. Should we really have to? I ended up paying for East Coast’s expensive wifi, which as you can imagine made me very cross given my experience that day. 

The learning here: next time I will plan my internet access in advance, ensuring that when I step on that train I am connected and don’t have to rely on patchy phone lines or on the move top-ups. I had hoped we were past that. But we are not. So go prepared!

So, if you have read this far, you are probably thinking, what is my point. It is this: I LOVE technology and I love love love it when it works but I also expect a lot from it and when simple things like picking up tickets or doing a mobile top-up go wrong, it upsets me and makes me wonder how it can still be possible? Technology evolves at such a rate but yet the little things still go wrong and really they shouldn’t. I of course, take some blame. A good read of my ticket booking T&C’s, would have clearly told me I had to use the original card and I should have taken that literally to mean the actual, physical card. And with the Three fail, if I had thought about it advance I should also have changed my card details. But it jolts and ruins what should be easy experiences of using the amazing technology we have available. 

In my ideal world thetrainline.com’s app, would have included electronic tickets, that I would have just had to show. And with Three, I should just be able to add a new card simply and easily. The lack of an old, physical bank card shouldn’t really have made both these experience so difficult. Until the companies and people behind the services, which technology drives, think about every step of the customer journey we’ll still be doing giant leaps forward and then baby steps back.

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NB: I am planning a follow-up post on Twitter feeds and who should run them - a huge bone of contention I know. However having had several interesting experiences recently, I now know what my recommendation to enquiring clients would be. 

How I use media…

Having been back in the working world for approaching five months, I’ve been in what believe is the nice position to be able to come back to this crazy PR and social world, with a different perspective and pick through and decide how I want to use the media we have available to us – I am positive that not one person’s use of media is the same but I would be so interested to hear other thoughts.

#1 Don’t do Facebook. I know, you are all so bored of be ranting on about this. So, Facebook is something I had never done and unfortunately decided to try earlier this year. A mistake. I still don’t like it and will be so bold as to say I never will. If you don’t want to become a secret stalker, see pictures of people you don’t want to see and forge fake friendships with people who clearly you don’t care about or they would have stayed in your phone book, then steer clear. Yes, it might be better for your Klout score to be on there but do you really care that much?

#2 Don’t become a boring broadcaster on Twitter. My goodness, I never cease to be amazed by people who claim to be social media guru/expert blah blah, but yet send scheduled tweets about nonsense using headlines that lack any originality or reason to read. What’s my motivation? Luckily I seem to have developed the ability to filter out much of this nonsense and serial offenders are unfollowed (if it won’t cause awkwardness to do so!). I wish it wasn’t possible to schedule tweets. If you have something to say then say it. And don’t send tweets when you are asleep – how stupid does that look?! Social media is supposed to be about engagement (thoughts?) and how can you do that when you’re not even there to read responses?

#3 Don’t talk work on a weekend. I would love to use Twitter more on a weekend but I don’t want to turn it on and read work-related tweets in my time off. I am sure if I was organised enough I could sort everyone into lists and mute the ones I don’t want to hear from on the weekend, but I don’t have time for that. So instead I tend to steer clear on a weekend. I think that’s a healthy habit anyway and noticed that Tweetbot actually has the ability to put Twitter notifications to sleep, which is a nice idea.

#4 Do use the sites you want to use and not the ones you don’t. I have already mentioned Facebook but that is just one of the sites I don’t opt into. You don’t have to jump on every new site that appears. There has been a lot of noise about Pinterest recently. I have been on Pinterest for a while now. I don’t mean that as some kind of gloat. To be honest I didn’t actual realise that it hadn’t already ‘taken off’ when I joined. What I loved about Pinterest was that it was downtime and I felt wasn’t about work. Unfortunately now every marketing and PR person has joined it’s full of work things and I don’t like that. We’ll see how long I keep using it for….

Add to the other sites I don’t use is Four Square – I don’t need to map my every move, in face given half the chance my wish would be to get lost for half a day and no one, not even me, know where I am. So pick and choose – don’t use them all. It’s unlikely they are all adding something to your life and will you ever have time to do any proper work.

#5 Take the time to read long form media. I have the Sunday Times on my iPad, a healthy list of RSS feeds I subscribe to and I favourite lots of Twitter articles to read later (if I favourite your tweet it doesn’t necessarily mean I like it). These are my evening or weekend reading, when in between being a mum, I can dip in and read some nice long pieces that enlighten me and make me realise that media isn’t just about 140 characters and that people can still write beautifully. It makes me envious and I love it. Take the time to read – it is so worth it.

#6 Do have some guilty pleasures but careful they don’t suck you in. My name is Nicola Gibb and admit that sometimes I read the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame. And, I hate myself for it. About twice a week I read something online that grabs my attention and I end up, without actually intending to go there, at the Daily Mail. And then I start reading. 10-15 minutes later I am still there. Everyone has a media guilty pleasure but like any thing that is naughty in life – everything in moderation. My rule is one more story after I have caught myself. And then move on to read something far more boring instead!

This is a post in progress. I will aim to update when more of my ‘rules’ come to my mind. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts…

My relief at leaving Facebook

Just over a month ago I decided to give Facebook a try. As is well documented on this blog, I have never liked the idea of it and have managed to not do Facebook for years. But as a PR person who likes to think they can give clients good advice on ALL media, I felt that I should give it a try. Egged on by GemGriff, who successfully uses her account for business, I took the leap….

But all my fears have been realised. I won’t go through every thing I don’t like about it but here’s a few…

(1) During set-up, I tapped one button too many on my phone and ended up importing my phone contacts (a complete accident) and next time I logged on was asked if I wanted to be friends with my daughter’s childminder (as well as a load of other people including the plumber). I really like my childminder, she’s brilliant, but I have no wish to see pictures of her on a night out. Call me conservative but I would rather think that she stayed in of an evening reading books on child development and learning new crafts to share with the children. Now of course, I could just not look – but I can’t resist. This is part of my problem – it has the potential to waste hours of my time and I don’t even enjoy it. I am just too curious.   

(2) The people I am in touch with today are the people I want in my life. I phone them, text them, FaceTime/Skype them, email them, IM them, sometimes even write them a letter and I try to see them as much as I can. There are, admittedly, people who I would like to see more of but again, I have their telephone numbers and all it needs is a little more effort. But there are others who I don’t want to see or hear from – they aren’t of interest to me anymore. BUT, when Facebook presents a window into the past I am someone who can’t help but take a peek. And I don’t like that side of me. Perhaps some people can resist sneaking a look at an old enemy or colleague to see how their life or career panned out but I can’t. Again, time-wasting.

(3) It got to the stage that when a friend invitation came through it was actually stressing me out trying to decide how to deal with it – I wanted to keep the page professional but what happened when family members asked to be friends – I like my family and don’t want to offend them. People were popping up that I immediately wanted to decline but was worried that was rude (GemGriff did offer excellent advice on how to deal with this but I couldn’t make it work for me). On top of that there were constant suggestions of people to connect with that could only have been found via looking at my connections of other sites – all a bit creepy for me.

(4) The launch of timeline is something that compounds every fear I had about Facebook and watching the third episode of Black Mirror last night just reminded me of this even more: The best memories and the ones worth holding onto will stay with you. Poring over old ones that you have forgotten is unnecessary, sometimes dangerous and occasionally upsetting. There is no need. Some things I will write down, in a diary or a baby book, but I don’t need to share them with the world and I certainly don’t need other people contributing to my memories, or reminding me of things that I have chosen to forget.

(5) I’m too private. I don’t want to post pictures of my family online for everyone to see, and have actually asked friends and family not to put pictures of me of my family on the Internet. I know some will end up there, that is life in the digital age and I have to accept that but if I can control a little then I will. I also don’t need to share every moment of my life. I tweet a bit but it’s more personal than family and I don’t chart my every movement, event or meal. 

So there it is, a tiny snapshot into why Facebook isn’t for me… I know some people love Facebook and that’s brilliant. I have no problem with it as a site. I realise that might be surprising given the above but it’s horses for courses and if it works for you then that’s great. But it doesn’t for me.

On a professional level, I can check in now and again to see the developments and ensure I know what it offers to brands. I can connect with journalists via other networks (or the phone) and I can keep abreast of industry issues via Twitter and Google+. So it is a thanks, but no thanks to Facebook. My page was deleted last night and in 14 days will disappear forever. And I feel a whole lot less anxious now I am back to not doing Facebook. 

My one month Facebook trial

So I am trying it. The trial period will last one month and during this time I will really give it a go and see if it works for me. Let’s be clear, I am not completely anti-Facebook. I am anti-Facebook for me. I have already had so many people telling me how amazing it is - I think that is brilliant, if it works for you then use it. However I am a little surprised (and a bit relieved) by the amount of people who (1) have concerns but use it anyway (2) have a page but don’t use it (what’s the point?) or (3) actually don’t want to be on there but feel they have to.

I am only a few days into  my trial so I will reserve complete judgement until the end (I am already building up a bank of thoughts and opinions) but what I will say now, is that no one should have to be on something that they don’t want to and if you are on Facebook and it doesn’t offer anything to you, then delete your account - do not feel like you should be on there. Yes, if you work in the media industry, it is of course good to be knowledgable about all media channels but there are ways of doing that without having to submerge yourself within them.

I shall keep you updated on my Facebook progress. If anyone has any advice they would like to share on how to get the most out of my month then let me know. My focus is mainly professional but happy to hear personal tips too.