Hallway Chats: Sharing Stories and Building Belonging

Hallway Chats is a new podcast that I launched with my friend and WordPress colleague, Tara Claeys.

As 2017 was getting underway, a colleague from the WordPress community reached out to me to ask about starting a podcast together. Independently, we had both been considering creating an online audio show, but independently we had yet to land upon an idea. My colleague, who I now consider a close friend, Tara Claeys, was eager to focus on the human side of the WordPress community. From that initial idea, we worked up the concept and name for Hallway Chats.

All the Legwork

As Tara and I held a series of conversations about the logistics of getting started, we were both confident that it was an entirely manageable project. We both have our own separate consultancies, but with organizational structure and proper planning, we were sure getting started would be pretty easy.

Wow! Were we wrong!

Let me clarify: Tara and I were not surprised by the length of our to do list. We had done enough research and spoken with enough successful podcasters that we knew our checklist was solid.

What caught me offguard was how long each item might take. I had ignored that creating a logo takes a fair amount of time – perhaps even more when making a logo for yourself. 

Going Live

All of initial conversations, research, follow-up chores, and of course, recorded shows, would all be put to the test when we went live. Tara and I originally aimed for a launch in late May or early June. We hit that right on the head: we published our first episode on 01-Jun-2017.

We lead with what we felt was a really powerful conversation with a very strong woman, Jessica Reilley.

As the number of downloads began to climb, and as words of praise came across on Twitter, I felt a real sense of reassurement: Our idea of building belonging within the WordPress (and wider) community by chatting with real people, with real lives and real stories to share was making a connection with our intended audience.

Onwards and Upwards

It's safe to say that Tara and I are very much learning as we go. We're often updating and tweaking our systems, approach and workflows as we learn more about how to deliver an engaging, professional and valuable podcast. Thus, even though our show is now "live and on air", we still very much have a list of items that we'd like to improve, refine or add to our efforts at Hallway Chats.

I'll end by thanking the many, many people who've listened to our new show, have shared kinds words of praise about it on social media and who have subscribed to our podcast. I'm so grateful for your generous embrace of this new effort that Tara and I have worked so hard to get started.

Speaking at WordCamp Philly 2012

A preview of my presentation for WordCamp Philly 2012, which runs on 20th-21st October 2012 … in Philadelphia (Duh!)

WordCamp Philly 2012

In a very exciting turn of events, I am going to be presenting at WordCamp Philly 2012 later this month. In a presentation entitled Designing for WordPress, I’ll be speaking about what designers need to know about how WordPress works as they encounter the content management system for the first time.

Here’s the presentation description, as listed on the WordCamp Philly 2012 website:

As web designers and print designers encounter WordPress for the first time, it can be a challenge to understand how WordPress works. Yet, it is so important for designers to know the system for which they are designing. This presentation will address key points for helping designers understand the basic functionality and structure of WordPress — so that they can design truly beautiful and functional sites that run well on WordPress. This presentation will aim to help designers understand what developers do to get their designs live on a WordPress site.

As I clicked the “publish” button for this post, there were still tickets available for Saturday’s sessions.

Direct Air: A Tale of Online Communication Failures

Recounting the online communication failures of a dying airline.

Last week, Direct Air flew me south to Punta Gorda, Florida from Allentown, Pennsylvania for a week-long workation in the sun. Having previously flown with Direct Air, I was familiar with its offerings: cheap, no-frills flights to a variety of small airports on the East Coast and Midwest of the USA. I was also very familiar with its proclivity for delayed flight times. But, hey, it’s a round-trip airline ticket for a 1,200 mile journey for $100.00. I was happy to let the time-delay complaints go. I arrived at Punta Gorda just before 10:00 pm. I walked off the plane into the wonderfully warm and humid night air, eager to begin a slower-paced week in the sun.

As I eased my way into the next morning, I heard talk from neighbors of where I was staying that Direct Air had canceled a number of flights and routes to different locations. Concerned about the return leg home of my trip, I surfed the net looking for updates. A visit to the Direct Air website offered no mentions of the route closures. News sites mentioned troubles at the Myrtle Beach Airport, but nothing about the route between Florida and Pennsylvania. It was only three days later that I received a vaguely-worded and less than professional email from Direct Air, advising me that it was suspending flights until 15th May 2012.

While I accustomed to Direct Air’s reputation for delayed flights, I was shocked by its horrendous communication during its financial demise. In considering Direct Air’s plight, I have several ideas on how Direct Air could have communicated more effectively with its customers, at little cost. Online communication, particularly via social media, when done properly, is not so difficult to achieve and is often inexpensive to implement. So, how could have Direct Air better served the travelers it left stranded?

Provide more timely and more detailed updates on its website

Direct Air was very slow to utilize its number one online communication tool: its website. News websites were circulating with hints and rumors of Direct Air’s troubles, yet it was not until Wednesday or Thursday of last week that Direct Air acknowledged anything on its own website. That’s a big miss when it comes to effective online communication.

Use Twitter to provide real-time updates

Direct Air must know something about online communication as they have a Twitter account. The account was set up on 19th September 2011 and since opening its account, Direct Air has sent 61 tweets. So they knew how to use the service, even if they were not proficient at it. Given Twitter’s ability to distribute information at lightening speed, it would have been very helpful for customers had Direct Air used the social media site to communicate news and information.

Share information on Facebook

Direct Air could have taken advantage of the biggest social media site in the world by posting news and updates on its Facebook page. Yet it did not. Huge fail in social media marketing terms.

Given the emails a sense of accountability

When the emails from Direct Air did eventually arrive, they were so insincere and unapologetic that they were more likely to cause offense than to be of any real value to customers. No mention of apology or acknowledgment of the troubles that Direct Air had caused to its customers. To add insult to injury, the email was signed “Very Truly Yours, Direct Air”. Really?!? Really?!? Direct Air should have sent the email from a real person, from someone in senior management who was responsible for making the decisions that were currently effecting its customers.

Communicate with the media

As Direct Air’s customers were eager for any sort of news or information, it would have behooved Direct Air to spend at least a few minutes communicating news and information with local media outlets. The video clip below goes a long to offer insight into how wide Direct Air was of the mark on this one.

Be real, be sincere and be apologetic

As the owner of my own small business, I understand that staying afloat in this economy is tough. I don’t begrudge Direct Air for going under. What I find particularly appalling is its lack of sincerity and openness when dealing with customers. No company officials or spoke people to answer questions. No one taking phone calls at the company’s phone. No meaningful website updates or tweets. Just silence.

In an age of amazing capabilities in online communication, Direct Air totally missed the ball on this. Direct Air, in what might be its final act, failed to capitalize on the strengths of social media to share news and information about its demise in a timely and useful way. Customers are certainly dialed into social media – had Direct Air used those avenues of communication, it might have been able to reduce the stress, anger and frustration by which its customers will surely remember it.

Recent posts on The Governance Partnership Blog

Highlighting a few of my recent posts on The Governance Partnership (TGP) company blog. TGP is a UK-based consultancy working in public relations, public affairs and innovation management and implementation.

A computer keyboard

As an associate of The Governance Partnership, I am privileged to be a guest blogger from time to time on the TGP company blog, intelligently called AOB, or an An Occasional Blog. A dedicated reader of The Governance Partnership blog will surely have noted the increased production of blog posts in recent months, and I have been lucky to slot a couple of my own posts into that publication schedule.

Guest Posts on the TGP Blog

Rather than re-produce my posts here, I thought it would be simpler to post links from here to there.

Preventing One Hit Wonders »

E-Courtesy is good for you »

The Governance Partnership is a communication consultancy offering advice and implementation in public relations, public affairs and innovation management and implementation, founded by Peter Hill and Ross Davies. I’ve worked with Peter and Ross since 2007 or so, combining our respective skills for a number of clients on a variety of web-focused projects.

As always, it’s a real gas working with Peter Hill and Ross Davies. Such great writers and skilled professionals are not common in today’s workplace.

Life of a Blog Post

A stylised infographic from lbdesign detailing the progression and value of blogging.

Life of a Blog Post

Over at lbdesign, my colleagues and I worked very hard towards the end of the summer to create a detailed infographic entitled Life of a Blog Post. The stylised illustration, complete with the detailed steps on the progression and value of blogging, is now available on lbdesign’s website. You can enjoy the infographic, tweet about it, like it on Facebook or request your own PDF version of the illustration.

Of course, I welcome comments and feedback on the infographic: Comments via the form below or drop me an email if you prefer.

See the Life of a Blog Post »

The ubiquitous Steve Jobs

A small tribute to the man whose influence on my own career flowed through my office on a daily basis.

Steve Jobs

A late convert to the wonders that are Apple products, I wanted to pay a small tribute to the man whose influence on my own career flows through my office on a daily basis.

Others will be more eloquent in their eulogies. Others will be more profound in their reflections. My own tribute to Steve Jobs is small and will definitely go unnoticed by most of the world. Yet that is a testament to the ubiquitous presence of Steve Jobs in this world — he spread design, innovation, enthusiasm and more into every corner of the world.

Photo: Shot on and emailed from an iPhone 3Gs. Edited and posted to the internet on a MacBook Pro. Says it all, doesn’t it?

The fan base grows

Spotted in a parking lot not far from where I live. Apparently my popularity is on the rise.

License plate with LIAM LUV

Spotted in a parking lot not far from where I live. Apparently my fan base is growing. It must be that people are starting to see me on the iTunes store now with increasing regularity.

And, yes, I blurred out most of the image to protect the identity and privacy of my fans. That’s just how I roll.

Slipping into art ownership

Upon the recent acquisition of a John Gwinn painting, a discovery that the beauty of art lies in more than just the finished piece on the wall.

Chickens

Recently, I obtained my very first piece of art. More specifically, I am now a proud owner of a John Gwinn original. It hangs on the wall in my office. The painting is one of chickens, painted in John’s unique ‘Flashing Exuberance‘ style — a style that dances on the border of realism and abstract.

In considering the painting as it hung on my wall for the first time, I experienced an epiphany. The beauty of art does not rest solely in the beauty of the finished piece. Rather, the creative process by which the artist crafts the art is very much a part of what makes art beautiful. Yet, there is even more than that when it comes to art, at least in my humble opinion.

Working with the artist

Over the past few months, I have had the pleasure of working with John Gwinn on a marketing project. John and I met at Franklin Commons, where many of his paintings grace the walls with stunning effect. John asked for my help in creating an online presence for his work.

This project was my first opportunity to work so closely with a painter of such talent. In the months that passed after our first meeting, we chatted in person, over the phone and via email, developing ideas and designs for a website, business card and promotional postcard. Working with a true creative was such an exhilarating challenge.

Connecting via art

In reflecting on the painting on my wall, the piece seemed all the more amazing and engaging because I personally knew the artist. I knew of his story and of his creative process. Through my work, I had learned what makes John ‘tick’ as an artist. In studying his painting within the confines of my office, I made such a strong connection with the art. It really spoke to me in ways that I had not experienced when viewing the wonderful masterpieces that grace London’s art museums.