Wet and windy. Oh yes, it’s a triathlon.

I’m getting back into fitness. That’s running, weights and cycling in the main. And I’m finding that there’s a great opportunity to combine my return to training with my writing and photographic work.

Louise Minchin, BBC Breakfast presenter and triathlete at the Cerist Triathlon, Machynlleth.

Louise Minchin, BBC Breakfast presenter and triathlete at the Cerist Triathlon, Machynlleth.

My only problem at the moment is that the majority of the “work” element means I cannot compete. I need to be in the field finding stories, people and the shots I want.

Okay, that’s a lame excuse. I could just strap the GoPro to my chest or helmet and fire off some action shots.

But, no. If you attend a sporting event there’s always a good mix of people, characters and stories. And so my ability to compete is overtaken by the longing to delve into the stories at the event. Oh, and when it comes to triathlons, my swimming isn’t great and so I use that card not take part.

Saying that, I think I’ve now found a swimming partner to take one third of the place on the next triathlon.

Anyway, I detract. On Sunday I attended the Cerist Triathlon, known as the Dyfi Dash, with my partner and a good friend who’s undertaken a few triathlons.

I enjoy the atmosphere of a triathlon. They are always friendly affairs with a great group of people all with one common purpose; to enjoy, to compete and to support others.

The Cerist Triathlon is no different. It’s much smaller than many others, but its intimacy make it an even more special event.

As usual I had the DLSR out to capture the atmosphere and the environment as well as the video for possible snapshots for later use.

Once again there was plenty to capture and I’ll publish some of these photographs soon.

My one surprise was meeting BBC Breakfast presenter and triathlete Louise Minchin. She was taking part in the event as part of her adventure into triathlons.

I’m lucky, or unlucky enough to say I was nearly struck by her helmet at the cycling to running transition after she forgot to take her helmet off and instead threw it to there ground passed my head.

But that didn’t put her off and she was the fastest woman at the event.

I’m looking forward to sharing some more images from the race, but I can’t let Louise escape the deserved praise of smiling through what is a tough event for many.

Taking that “big idea” to the next business level

Mention the word entrepreneur to anyone and they’ll most likely think of millionnaires and members of the BBC Dragon’s Den television programme.

But how far from the truth could they be. Look up the word in the dictionary (Oxford). Entrepreneur: Person who who organizes a commercial undertaking.

Big Ideas Wales Challenge launchSo no mention of financial means or wealth.

And that’s just my point. To be an entrepreneur you just have to have the idea for a commercial enterprise or be able to support an existing business that could benefit from your skills, such as mentoring. So you don’t have to have millions in the bank. You just have to have the idea and inspiration to succeed.

This week the Welsh Government-backed Big Ideas Wales campaign launched the second Big Ideas Wales Challenge. Aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds, the Challenge has already proved itself just eight months into the first Challenge, with 28 young people starting or about to start their own business.

The second Challenge takes it to another level, offering 50 prized places for young people to be fast-tracked into a bootcamp and offered advice and mentoring from some of Wales’ top entrepreneurs. All they have to have is a business that was formed in 2014 or be about to launch one.

This is a great opportinity for young people throughout Wales to receive a level of help that many entrepreneurs who have been there and done it could only have wished for in past years.

I’m pleased to be involved in the Big Ideas Wales campaign, promoting individuals, role models and the Challenge itself. It’s inspirational to see young people geting to grips with their “big ideas.” And I’m sure amny of these will be household names in years to come.

If you are aged between 16-24 years of age or know somebody that is and has started their own business with growth potential or is about to launch one, visit http://www.bigideaswales.com for more details. Applications are open and audition will be held in December before a bootcamp for 50 successful young entrepreneurs is held in Wales.

Caption: Some of the Big Ides Wales young entrepreneurs with James Taylor, Group Chief Executive of SuperStars and Big Ideas Wales Challenge Ambassador. Photo by Roger Donovan, Cardiff.

Twitter web redesign

While most people are today focussing on the 10th birthday of the launch of Facebook, it’s almost been missed that another mainstream social media channel has undergone a little change.

ImageTwitter has had a bit of a refresh – the web version that is. If you ever use http://www.twitter.com through your PC or Mac then you’ll most likely have already seen the change. But if, as most people do, you only use mobile and tablet apps or Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to access Twitter, then I doubt you’ll even know.

Twitter has attempted to give its web face a more fresh look. The fonts have changed and the image header has moved. To a certain extent it is much easier to view. But how many people will actually notice as I suspect the numbers using the web access are very small in comparison to mobiles and tablets?

Two years on – OMB Communications

Today marks an important day for me and OMB Communications. It is the second anniversary of the business. On this day in 2011 a dream came to fruition.

OMB Communications logoI was finally in control of a business – my own business. The dream began many years ago. In fact it wasn’t the first time I’d run a business. When I was 14 I started what could be considered a communications consultancy. Yes, even in 1987 I was eager to enter the commercial world.

With the support of the Prince of Wales Committee, help from a local organisation that let me have a desk and cupboard in their office from where I could work after school and at weekends, I felt I had made it. Needless to say that dream didn’t last long.

Far from being unsuccessful, I was supported by a number of businesses keen to show support to a local youngster. I even made the headlines myself, being interviewed on Radio 1’s Newsbeat, appearing on HTV Wales Tonight (as it was then), BBC Wales Today, several local and regional newspapers, two nationals and the Times Education Supplement. And then I was named Young Achiever of the Year by the Development Board for Rural Wales (now defunct).

It didn’t mean much to me at the time and, to be honest, I didn’t realise it was a sign of where I would end up. But the business lasted a year or so before at the age of 16 I was offered a job on a local newspaper as a junior reporter. And who could refuse. £6,500 was a lot of money to someone at 16. I spent 10 great years on newspapers in Wales and the West Midlands, rising to news editor and working with some great people and news organisations.

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It’s your reputation, so protect it?

I’m lucky enough to occasionally escape the office and meet up with small businesses and sole traders in Wales and the West Midlands to talk about social media and its value within the public relations and media relations toolkit.

During these workshops I’m not only surprised at the number of businesses yet to appreciate the value of social media, but more so those that fail to realise the potential risk it has on their businesses, products and services.

At the start of each discussion I emphasise three words that they’ll hear a lot: Content, Engagement and Reputation. The last word is the one that more than often gets the first quizzical reaction from the audience. In fact, it’s almost a look of “I’m here to learn about getting ‘likes’ and ‘followers’, not talking about my reputation.”

And there lies my point. Businesses already immersed in social media, or contemplating the jump while precariously standing at the edge of the digital precipice, are all too often looking for the instant wins from social media without considering the pitfalls as they jump off the edge and into the digital abyss. Free-falling into social media isn’t a pretty sight.

Businesses that are dismissive of it risk their reputation, as are those already embracing it. I ask delegates if they have ever undertaken an online search of their business or brand, or even their own personal names (not for egotistic reasons). The answer is generally no. But once you explain and even show what others are saying on social channels, ears prick up and eyes become a bit more focussed (that’s providing they haven’t fallen asleep already).

Setting off that little gem of “who’s talking about you” ensures a sudden shuffle of chairs and scribing of notes. Yes, people are talking about your business. Hopefully in a good way, but possibly in a negative one. But did you know that?  How do you handle it?

And that’s where we go off on a jaunt into the murky side of social media that many businesses fail to appreciate in that search for the most followers and likes.

Brand reputation is a priority for any business using social media or contemplating it. You cannot ignore it. Deleting comments or blocking followers is not the answer. It’ll simply set off an unprecedented chain reaction of negative and damaging comments. It might generate more followers or likes, but for all the wrong reasons. And the reputation of the business will be laid bare for all to see as it progresses virally.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Social media is a great PR tool for gaining great exposure and engaging with new and existing customers. But when you jump off that precipice into the great digital valley, having the knowledge and ability to control the parachute to a safe landing is a must.

Facebook gets a PR ‘unlike’

It’s been another dark day for Facebook. Okay, well not that dark – maybe dull. But in yet another recent PR blunder the social media company that thinks it can gain acceptance from users for any action it implements, the company has decided that everyone should use their Facebook e-mail – but without telling the users themselves.

Several months ago, before its now well documented public flotation, the company did hint that it would implement changes to user profiles that meant the @facebook.com e-mail associated with personal user names would be brought in. But this week the company decided to implement the change without telling anyone.

Facebook logoIn what can only be described as one of those PR failures that just didn’t need to happen, Facebook has come under fire from all directions in the media, on user forums and elsewhere for the decision. And yet it’s something that with a scattering of PR dust could have been needlessly averted.

Instead of implementing something on users without explanation they could have sold it as yet another great Facebook innovation where users can integrate their very own Facebook e-mail into their personal account. Hoorah, no need for lots of other e-mail addresses for those that spend their life on Facebook. “Just one place for your social and e-mail communications.”

But no, they implement it and then everyone goes crazy. Another infringement on privacy (in some sort of way), and lack of consultation with its key people – the users, or rather customers at they’re fast becoming.

Luckily, users can change their personal detail settings and hide the Facebook e-mail, bringing their own personal e-mail back into the box.

But this is yet another example of a company failing to think before implementing what it saw as a minor change. Messing with people’s personal details is not a good idea without consulting first, or at least e-mailing users to say it’s happened.

No matter if your business is big or small, customers don’t like change. And if you have to make some alterations, consult them first and try at least to find a way of selling it as a new opportunity to make their interaction and experience with your product even better.

Hitting the ‘reputation’ beat with a toughbook.

Having been born and raised in rural Wales I’m all to aware of the issues of crime and the difficulty the police have when it comes to covering such a large and rural patch.

An interesting piece of PR came across my desk the other day which demonstrates how a force such as Dyfed-Powys Police can use a good news story to promote how technology and good old fashioned beat policing can make good headlines in the local and regional media and help strengthen community relations.

Owain Betts focuses on police PR and the toughbooks being used by Dyfed Powys PoliceThe force is installing ToughBooks to its fleet of patrol cars in an attempt to keep as many operational officers on the streets and in the communities for as long as possible without having to return to the police station.

While it’s not a new piece of equipment or a new story as such, the promotion of the fact Dyfed-Powys Police is embracing new technology to address the age old problem of bureaucracy keeping officers in the station and off the streets is a good use of PR for the organisation.

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