‘Birmingham – A digital opportunity’

The Digital Revolution

I was recently at a Birmingham Business Breakfast Club event and the guest speaker – Simon Jenner, a technology entrepreneur – gave an inspiring and motivating talk regarding the position of Birmingham as a digital hub.

As we are all becoming increasingly aware, the digital landscape is changing and technology appears to be influencing everything we do.

A great example of this is Uber. Simon explained that within a 4 year period, the company has gone from nowhere to being a $50bn business and the biggest taxi firm in the world. Yet they own no taxis and no taxi drivers – they are a truly digital business.

Brummies Overlooked?

So, where does our great city and the surrounding area fit into the global digital arena? Simon told us that in terms of numbers in employment, digital technology accounts for the 4th largest sector, equalling 40,000 people. The public sector is still by far the biggest employer in Birmingham, with 450,000 people.

However, despite most sectors now being affected by technological advancements and despite 20% of the UK gaming industry being based in nearby Leamington Spa – why is ‘digital’ is still being overlooked?

An Opportunity

Simon is clearly very passionate about his city and technology. The issue from his perspective is that the two have not become aligned as yet, but there’s absolutely no reason why Birmingham cannot become a ‘digital hub’ on a grand scale, rivalling London, Manchester, Edinburgh…

It’s easy to think of this scenario as classic Birmingham – living up to a reputation of a city behind the times. However, it’s thanks to Simon and other visionaries that we should see this as a great opportunity for the city to build a reputation, like any brand, by offering a clear vision and standing out from the crowd.

 

It’s true that without a ‘champion’ business, such as a Google, it has been difficult to be seen as an industry player, but with lots of smaller individual companies – who knows which one of them could be the next overnight phenomenon?

Success breeds success, and the time is now for Birmingham to join the digital revolution.

When the zombies came to town….

zombie

It’s unbelievable how quickly things change. One moment you’re in the office, the next you’re caught up in a zombie apocalypse on Church Street. Of course – It’s nothing we couldn’t handle!

The recent surge of multi-million pound film companies in Birmingham and the Black Country has sparked a whirlwind of interest amongst locals, as the stars of the big screen move right onto the doorstep. Celebrities have been using Midland film sets for the likes of BBC show ’24 hours in the past’ and perhaps more breathtaking, the filming of Hollywood movie ‘She Who Brings Gifts’.

Stars doing their thing amongst the streets of Birmingham were the likes of Gemma Atterton and Paddy Considine,  and with such credible reputations it’s a credit to Birmingham City Council and Dudley Council for being so welcoming, rivalling the popular trend setters in Bill de Blasio’s New York City.

The county’s reputation as reputable and trustworthy with beautiful architecture stands up to the mark as the perfect film set, allowing Colm McCarthy and his team to shut down two busy streets during a working day and turn them into a dystopia.

Colm McCarthy is obviously a fan of what Birmingham has to offer, previously filming the BBC smash hit Peaky Blinders with lead actor Laurie Borg talking about, “bringing the of myth Birmingham, back to the people of Birmingham.”[1]

It’s never easy to pick a key Birmingham street, turn it into an overgrown wasteland and then back into a business district again in one day. Onlookers marvelled as the likes of Paddy Considine and Glenn Close fought off groaning zombies to keep their cerebral matter safe and sound.

Not only were the characters in safe hands with Gemma Arteton at the helm, but Birmingham City Council has made sure that the reputation and trustworthiness of the city has been boosted by their endorsement of this apocalyptic thrill ride.

At kinetic HQ, Upon hearing that Church and Berwick Street were turned into a war zone, we grabbed our survival gear (coats) and headed for a look. An insight into the film industry isn’t something you get every day! Our close-up view of all the technical equipment direct from the hills of Hollywood shows how a future splattered by brain-munching zombies starts life as a camera crew, pedestrian barriers and rigging.

This may not sound exciting to an outsider but for us it was almost as fascinating as ogling the celebrity presence. Why I hear you cry? Our clients Eventserv supply key implements to the film and event industry that, as we have witnessed, are vital in the efficiency and quality control of a blockbuster picture along with their blockbuster service.

We’re not zombies, so feel free to pick our brains (hypothetically speaking of course). Leave you comments below!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TynES3kLLOI

The Kinetic Experience

Dom.01

Caption: Dominic Walker joins Kinetic for two weeks work experience

When walking into an interview and the interviewer asks me, “what can you bring to our organisation?” I feel like I could say a lot more than just another typical answer. During my time at Kinetic, I’ve recognised the importance of interaction. PR is all about trying to master the art of communication and direct conversation. Working within an agency like Kinetic has been a great experience, with great people and a great atmosphere – I really felt very welcome.

During my first commute to the office I was constantly thinking about how I should come across to the rest of the Kinetic team. Excited. Happy. Nervous. Shy?  When I eventually arrived at the office, I was surprised at how tightly-knit the Kinetic team are. They instantly made me feel at home offering me tea and coffee – of which I’m still yet to accept- but the bran cake was beautiful.

The Kinetic internship has been a wonderful experience. I’m grateful that I wasn’t just flung into the kitchen having to make tea or coffee, which was the case for so many of my friends during their internships. It wasn’t long after I got comfortable at my desk that I was given a list of tasks to complete during my placement.

One of the most memorable moments during my two weeks was when Angela spoke to me about the importance of Kinetic’s VMV. These sum up the backbone of Kinetic. If the team are at a loss of what to do Angela makes it clear – the VMV is Kinetic’s way forward.

Kinetic has a diverse range of clients and one of the reasons it’s so successful is because of its ethos. I’ve learnt to value the importance of direction in PR, having a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve is no doubt one of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from my two weeks here.

My advice to any graduate/undergraduate starting an internship would be to accept any challenge and be eager. You get what you put in and the good thing about PR is that your results mirror the amount of effort you put in. Kinetic is definitely committed to producing reputations you can trust. The people within the team are genuine – they gave me the opportunity to learn and grow.

Undergraduate takes on PR placement

English Literature and History of Art student Lucy undertakes a two week placement

As a student going into third year, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I never have a solid answer for when somebody asks me what I want to do when I leave University. What I do know though is that I want to pursue a career that lets me engage with all kinds of people, with something new and different to do every day. PR is an industry that certainly allows that.

Having never done anything PR related before, I was unsure as to how I would take to it and walking towards the company on Monday morning, my feelings were mixed. I was excited and nervous all at once. These nerves vanished as soon as I walked through the Kinetic front door. As soon as I arrived, everyone made me feel so welcome –  I remember Angela even offering me a crumpet! With a cup of tea promptly in hand, I very quickly felt right at home in the friendly Kinetic environment.

In only two weeks, I feel as though I have learnt so much about PR. What was so great is that I wasn’t just sent out on errands all the time, I was actually given responsibilities and work to do that they could use. It made me feel fully immersed in the company as well as making me endeavor to do the work well that I was set. I was able to get a feel for many aspects of PR with a wide range of tasks, including writing press releases and case studies, making media lists, media calendars and forward features lists, besides much more. This was all new to me and it was a brilliant experience to see what life in the PR world could be like.

Many people will only do what they are comfortable doing and for me, this placement has forced me to take a leap of faith out of my comfort zone. Some would probably describe me as a creature of habit, but I know that in the real world I’m going to have to learn to cope with new and challenging situations. That’s life.

As a student studying English Literature and History of Art, writing is when I feel most comfortable, but I’ve got a confession to make. When I first arrived at Kinetic I had a major phone phobia! On my second day I was thrown in the deep end and although initially very daunting, by the end of the second week my confidence had grown and I was able to do sell-ins. That’s exactly what a work placement is for and I’ll forever be in Kinetic’s debt for helping me get over that phobia – thanks guys!

My advice to anyone thinking of doing work experience at a PR company is to embrace it and lap up the challenge. You only get a few chances to experience a working environment before being thrown into it and work experience is invaluable in helping you gain the much needed qualities that all employers want to see.

It’s only been a short amount of time, but I already know that I will miss the whole Kinetic team.  After this experience I definitely have a more solid answer for when people ask me what I want to do when I head into the world of ‘jobs’ after I (hopefully!) graduate from the University of Birmingham, next year.  Pursuing a career in PR is definitely for me and this placement was the first step in the right direction to help me reach this goal.

Journalism undergraduate gets first taste of PR

New Picture

As cliché as it may sound – my two week placement at Kinetic genuinely has flown by! It feels like only yesterday I was walking around the Jewellery Quarter with Google Maps out on my phone trying to navigate my way to the office, meanwhile my stomach doing somersaults due to a combination of nerves and excitement.

Firstly – it has been an amazingly brilliant two weeks, and for every reason you can think of. Above everything else, you want to be able to feel comfortable and welcomed, and Kinetic staff made me feel part of the team within the first couple of hours. They also know how to make a good cuppa, so that was an added bonus!

Joking aside, it was a brilliant experience and I learnt much more than I expected to in such a short space of time. I had a taste of all different aspects of PR, from writing press releases and drawing up social media calendars all the way down to ringing up local and national newspapers and posting leaflets! There was always work to be done, and constantly have bits and pieces to be getting on with is exactly what you want when you go on placement.

I learnt a lot not only about PR, but as a writer as well. Constant advice and feedback was given to me during my time at Kinetic – something I definitely couldn’t have expected beforehand. Going into my third and final year of studying Print Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, it was extremely helpful to have the opportunity to sit down one-to-one with a member of the team, in my case Lina, and discuss the work I had been doing. It gave me the chance to see what was good and where I could improve, as well as gain stylistic advice from a fellow journalism graduate.

For me there were two main things that made the placement what it was. First of all was the challenge of the work. “Once the mind has been stretched, it rarely returns to its original state.” I might be paraphrasing a little, but I heard these wise words from Angela on a few occasions during my time spent there.

Kinetic has a diverse range of clients that specialise in everything, from modular buildings to garden and horticulture products. Getting your head around the different businesses at first can be a bit tricky, but I actually found it an enjoyable challenge and a good test for me to be writing about something I previously did not know much about.

The second was the chemistry of the Kinetic team. The office always had a friendly and positive vibe to it, even when deadlines were looming. Everyone was approachable throughout the two weeks and a pleasure to be around.

My advice for undergraduates who are also considering working towards a career in PR is to go into your placement with an enthusiastic attitude and a willingness to do whatever work you are set. Some parts may not be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done, but by persevering you will demonstrate the important qualities that employers are looking for. By embracing your placement and being positive you will get the most out of your experience, wherever you choose to go!

Accents in business by Jade Mansell

Jade Mansell

‘Oy kwoyt loik the berminggum accksunt’. Oh sorry, does that sound comical? And I mean the actual statement as well as the way it sounded: is it possible to have any love for the Birmingham accent?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living close to the haven of shopping that is the Bullring, and Birmingham is supposed to be the “second city”, isn’t it? But it wasn’t until university that I realised quite how much my Brummie credentials affected perceptions of my personality.

I don’t live in Birmingham, I’m around 45 minutes away on the train – though of course this doesn’t mean anything to my lofty aristocratic southern friends. They deem anything above London ‘The  North’, whilst repressing an involuntary shudder at the thought of the murky, uncivilised wasteland that they have thankfully avoided thus far in life.

On arriving at Oxford Uni, I was astounded to find myself one of only 3 other West Midlanders in my year; needless to say I stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll never forget the fresher’s week team-building exercise in which I addressed the whole hall with a microphone. Heads whipped round, students fell off their chairs, people took out ear-trumpets, all the better to hear the strange and jarring tones of my unlyrical utterings. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I soon realised that I was different, and what’s more, I would become the butt of everyone’s’ joke.

Not that I minded – I love attention in any form – but I did find it grating that people were so quick to ‘figure me out’ based on my accent. A 2008 survey found that, as The Times put it, ‘the Brummie accent is perceived as ‘worse than silence’’. In a series of experiments, even a control group who said nothing at all were considered more intelligent than those with Brummie accents, and I have no trouble believing that. People with this bothersome accent are considered far less intelligent than those with other accents, and as such I sought to ditch mine as soon as possible.

Now don’t judge me, I wasn’t just being vain. I was thinking of my career, I swear – another survey showed that the Birmingham accent severely decreases interview success. (But mainly I was just being vain).

This all provokes the question: accents – should you tactically ditch or be proud of your roots? It’s a tricky one, and has sparked debate in the Kinetic office. On the one hand, the Brummie accent is associated with stupidity, and could be damaging. On the other, it’s quite cool to be novel, and certainly makes you more memorable. Plus, ditching your accent is like denying a part of your past. So I decided to try and embrace it, and, not gonna lie, it’s proven to be something of a talking point (see what I did there?).

Three years later and my accent has become ‘kind-of-southern-with-a-west-midlands-twang’, or so I’m told. At home, I’m posh. Amongst my uni friends, I’ll always be the Brummie. Damn!

There’s no I in team by Jade Mansell

Jade Mansell

One of the most overused clichés in history? Possibly. One of the most pertinent and underestimated values in business? Almost definitely. Teamwork is just one value which should help to make up a code of conduct in the workplace, and this is the key ingredient for the maintenance of reputation: a clear, enforced, and well-thought out ethos.

Shakespeare’s Cassio illustrates to us the importance of reputation: “”Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial!” Well perhaps that’s a bit much…But it does serve the purpose of highlighting that reputation is key, and should remain at the heart of any business.

The British Army purports to follow a code of conduct encompassing six core values: courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment, and this helps them to maintain their excellent reputation. A solider must exhibit and embrace the most extreme forms of trust, placing their lives in the hands of a co-worker who will cover their backs, in what is quite literally a life or death situation. It is only this trust which allows the team to co-operate and work as a unit, and to safeguard their reputation of professionalism and self-discipline. This reputation derives from, and depends upon, unequivocal commitment, self-sacrifice and mutual trust, and, like rowers on a boat, if any one member diverges from the code of conduct, the reputation is sunk.

Take for instance the recent controversy surrounding claims that British soldiers operated a regime of systematic torture, leading to the death of an Iraqi prisoner, Baha Mousa. This incident has provoked horror from the British public, and as well as offending human conscience, violates each axiom of the army’s code of conduct. Thus the validity of the shining reputation that the army attempts to promulgate is called into question.

This example can be seen as a microcosm for businesses to observe and learn from: a lack of uniformity in adhering to the rules means that the team does not face in the same direction, and does not pull together to achieve. Even in the couple of days of my work experience here at Kinetic, I’ve seen first-hand how a carefully planned message to the employees can make a huge difference to mindset. Here the mantra is based around being challenging, rigorous, moral, pioneering, and fun, and this simple code of conduct provides a focus and an understanding of the business, as well as the expectations, in a simple, memorable way. Businesses then, would do well to learn not to neglect the importance of the code of conduct in the workplace, and within that, the central tenet of the concept of teamwork.

These values come into play at every level of work: just yesterday over lunch we were discussing a situation in which the Kinetic team found themselves, which was effectively akin to the stress of a PR court martial. I commented that under such pressure I would’ve lost my head, especially since I hate conflict. Yet to know that were I to face such a situation, I’d be standing side by side with a colleague who shares and acts on the Kinetic values, would make me feel that much more confident and able to withstand the heat: here at Kinetic we are not just in it for the money. Apply the same situation to the solider who knows his colleague is only in it for the pension, and you get a sense of the kind of insecurity one might feel – it is the same in business: there’s no I in team.