Thinking of renting a holiday home in Leicester?

Sunday Mirror

Stuart Hall, 48, a digital marketing all-rounder with an entrepreneurial streak lives with his partner Shirley Prudencio, 46, an accountant, in a former Cotton Mill converted apartment in Leicester. To help pay for their holidays, they’ve decided to rent their home out whilst they are away.

“We live in a Grade II listed converted textile factory right in the centre of Leicester. We have one bedroom, a bathroom and a huge living area with the original Victorian wooden floors.

“Shirley is from Brazil and the idea first came about because we are saving up to go to Brazil for the World Cup next year. Shirley suggested we look into renting our place out to provide some extra income whilst we’re away.

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“Then a couple of days after seeing the King Richard III discovery, I saw an ad on the Tube whilst I was in London, promoting the fact that Holiday Lettings is encouraging people to think about renting out their home whilst they’re away, so after the discovery we decided to go for it and list our home on the site as we believe it is one of the best places to stay in the centre of the city.

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“We had a look at the other properties on the Holidaylettings.co.uk site to gauge what to charge for our place. We realised we are not as posh as the country cottages on there and so we made this place cheaper than those and settled on £45 a night, all included.

“We’re super excited it’s already been rented out for three weeks in June, a French professor has taken it for a month whilst he’s lecturing at the university and another lady has taken a week next January.

“We’re going to try and ensure that we don’t spend as much as we are being paid on holidays that we take when this place is rented so that we can put some of the money towards our Brazil trip next year. And, my parents live nearby so if someone wants to rent here and we don’t want to go away at that time, we can always stay with them for a few days.

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Spotted the Back to the Future film poster?

“It’s been fun getting the place ready for letting out. We’re writing up a guide to using everything here and we aim to be here to give the tenant a key and walk them around the place.

“We’re a bit nervous about letting a stranger stay here, and we may lock a few of our more personal items away, but I think sharing your belongings is part of the fun of it. We’ve got a huge bookshelf of books and videos and I’d be happy for our guests to browse through it. It will help to give them a flavour of the people they are renting from and hopefully this will mean that they are more likely to treat the place well if they feel like they know us.

“The Holiday Lettings site website is really helpful and it has advice for property owners on how to prepare your home for paying guests, insurance implications, etc. We already have a handy man who will be on call whilst we’re away if any problems occur with the property. We think we have everything covered. So we’re really looking forward to welcoming our first paying guests.”

To find out about renting Stuart and Shirley’s apartment, either as a holiday apartment or for business, when you stay in Leicester please visit http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/330258 or email me at stuarth [at] stuart [dash] hall [dot] com

Written by: Anna Tobin
Published: The Sunday Mirror May 12, 2013

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How to be a genius in a low status job

‘How to be a genius in low status job’ was the cheeky title of a quick blog post I wrote in 2006 after working at Headshift (now part of the Dachis Group, who specialise in employee advocacy) and just before beginning work at a startup which I helped take to $15m value (well at least on paper:-). Here’s the post:

So you’re near the bottom of the corporate ladder; use this to your advantage in the following ways:

1. Find out what’s really going on.

2. Look up some clever ideas on what this really means.

3. Figure out how to incorporate these ideas with your own day to day activities.

4. Change the organisation from the inside out.

5. Write a blog about it, maybe.

6. Finally, stop dreaming, wake up and go to work!

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Update 13 Feb, 2013. This individual approach, systematically applied to improve innovation within the enterprise for example, is now titled ’employee advocacy’ and measured with tools such as ‘eNPS’. A brand new tool to help make this happen, by giving all employees access to common content to publish on their social networks is called Addvocate:

Imagine you could join the conversation your employees are having about your brand, figure out who they are, and validate them for it. Addvocate makes it easy to track the social voices of your business, foster a sense of community, and empower that community to be heard.

It’s currently in ‘paid beta’ – as of 22nd January – launched by the former head of social at Salesforce, Marcus Nelson, with the added benefit that you choose how much you want to pay pay per user. And “Addvocate will honor that price for the next 6 months”. A similar platform (“Klout for employees of a brand”) is offered by Dachis. Called ‘Employee Insight’, it’s features include:

  • Profile, which showcases each employee’s brand-related social activity, including posts, followers, sentiment, and echoed signals.
  • Message Center, which helps brands mobilize their teams by featuring news, sharing best practices, and sending invites.
  • Leaderboard, which identifies and ranks top employee accounts, tracking signals, audience, conversation, and strength.
  • Portal, which mobilizes employee social efforts with best practices, social policies, program updates, invitations, and leader boards to accelerate participation.

I was just reminded about these employee advocacy services this morning in a discussion on the community manager forum e-mint about whether the good old days of community management were over. My reply was to the effect that far from over, the role of the ‘CM’ is expanding as a result of their supporting role with such expanding employee advocacy programmes:

The benefits of employee advocacy cannot be underestimated: Ramping community management up to the levels required to effectively engage millions of customers who are trying to interact with a company socially just can’t work. Using automated engagement tools instead actually kills the point (and much of the benefit) of being socially connected with the marketplace. And, as invaluable as community managers are, they have their own point of view that can’t possibly represent the entirety of the company. No, to accomplish this, employees themselves must be externally engaged in a proactive and strategic manner that maximizes the benefits of becoming a social business.

Apart from the value of such a programme to a ‘social business’ strategy it appears to me worth considering ways to start such an initiative with something more tactical, for example how that employee social content can benefit SEO. For this go no further for a good outline of the value of employee content to raising your site visibility than a recent e-book from Boston-based Catalyst:

While your content should live on your website, it should
also be shared across your social networks. Your set-up needs to identify who will share your content. While at least one person should be responsible for it, don’t overlook the potential to leverage employees in your content sharing efforts. This group is often overlooked for this purpose, yet these individuals are ideal because they care about your industry, have a vested interest in helping your company succeed, and are easily contacted. Try to have these folks share your content with their audience to help you get the viral ball rolling.

However, you have to be careful with tapping into
employees for this purpose. Not all employees will be
willing to share work-related content with their personal
networks. That is why a clear social media sharing policy
must be in place before your campaign starts.

So there are a number of cautionary notes to consider before undertaking employee advocacy. For instance, compare my 2006 post with this 2013 employee advocacy update. The former about ‘How to be a genius in a low status job’ is ‘bottom up’ in style, and the second clearly ‘top down’. Ideally, to have both ‘belt and braces’ you have the two approaches working in partnership. Otherwise, there’s always the risk the approach will back fire, create resentment and diminished performance, and end up on the scrap heap of failed ‘management/internal comms initiatives’:

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So clearly before implementing such a potentially valuable initiative, even within a company with a very entrepreneurial-style culture like eBay, there are a few basic issues worth considering:

1. Is employee advocacy right for your company, are there ways to reach customers within more conventional means worth considering first so it’s an evolutionary process?

2. If you already have a well supported social media programme, and consider employee advocacy is the right next step have you got the necessary policies, and procedures in place?

For employee advocacy to stand the best chance of succeeding it’s my belief that a development approach which includes both senior management and employees would yield the the best results, and spot potential problems earlier rather than later. To what degree does your strategy have that approach built-in from the start? Be honest with yourself, are employees simply consulted about the advocacy initiative, or are they actually invited to participate in its design and build? After all, as Naz Madjm (pictured, below), of SoMazi points out in a recent e-consultancy post on advocacy through social media, “winning the confidence and social voices of your staff, while a complex and delicate undertaking, is one of paramount importance in our interconnected world”.

Disclaimer: I worked with Naz Madjm on an employee advocacy proposal for News Corps. in early 2013.