Time for a Catch-Up

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Going through my recent blog entries, I have noticed a distinctive lack of my own personal student work placement blogs. When I first began at The Spires the plan was initially to do a blog each week (hopefully!) chartering my rise from an inexperienced yet energised university student to a full-fledged sale administrator extraordinaire, however clearly somewhere along the way that plan went awry! The last time I had a post dedicated to my own personal development was at the three month mark so somehow the fact that I am now blogging about myself with slightly less than a month to go, is rather fitting.

Considering my blogging absence you may be wondering what havoc I must have been causing, and it has certainly been a busy few months here at The Spires! Particular news of note for The Spires itself is the continued rolling out of The Apartment Collection – By The Spires, the serviced apartment finding service element of the firm which enables us to source accommodation out with The Spires’ home locations so we can meet guest’s wider needs. As of late, I am attempting to start a “Featured Destination” of the week to get the ball rolling and to provide some travel inspiration for our social media followers so they can see all the locations we can take them. I am also doing this in conjunction with my recently discovered addiction in Infographics as even though they may be a bit old school now, I still find them to be a very attractive means of communicating information which gets the point across while being eye-catching: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/6737572-the-apartment-collection-milton-keynes. 

Similarly, other very exciting news is that the opening for the Edinburgh location keeps growing closer and closer, and as a result, we can now happily show some sneak-peeks of our newest apartments which can be found at the dedicated Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiresEdinburgh. Having been working at The Spires as the plans have increasingly unfolded for Edinburgh, it has definitely been intriguing to witness all the hard work that goes into opening a new location. Of course, I never imagined that it would be an easy venture but looking at how the smallest details need to be thought of, from cushions to toiletries, you realise how every decision is ultimately important as everything goes to create an image of the brand in the customer’s mind.

In terms of the personal chaos I have been causing, as well as my usual social media management and email marketing campaigns, a particular task of note is my introduction into the world of segmentation. Recently me and my fellow Sales Administrator, have been tasked with the rather daunting task of going through our databases to segment all entries into groups which share particular common characteristics as this should be indicative of their unique requirements. When first bestowed with this task, my unsuspecting colleague and I were aware that this would be a somewhat timely task although we were quietly confident that we would manage it in three-weeks tops. However, 1.5 months later and still sifting through it, we recognise that we possibly underestimated the magnitude of the challenge that awaited us… Fortunately, it is a challenge that I am enjoying because there is something oddly addictive about it, and from an academic perspective, it is really beneficial to put something in to practise that I have learnt so much about from both high school and university. Sometimes it can feel like all the endless models and theories you encounter at university have no workplace value as no one actually implements them in practise, and that is why it is so satisfying to see them being used in action because it reinforces the value of what you are studying and that those theories do exist for a reason (other than to play mind-torture on students!).

Other things I have been getting up to have included an insight into the world of taking reservations (and therefore the use of a PMS); the scanning of business cards and the creation of promotional materials such as posters for the apartment blocks. These may not sound like the most glamorous of tasks, however I am always really eager to try new things; it is always beneficial to have new tasks to add to that repertoire! The scanning of business cards was a particularly interesting endeavour because it was quite enjoyable to learn all about the possible career options on the tourism stage as well as to gain an insight into some of the international firms that exist. Even though the smallest and most innocuous tasks like scanning business cards can seem quite inconsequential, when you consider them in relation to the sales process and how that prospect’s details could enable them to be converted into a potential lucrative business source, you do realise how it is all the small things that build up the bigger picture. Similarly, even from a learning perspective, so much can be gained. For instance, as a young university student anxiously holding on to the sides of that career ladder, teetering precariously on the first rung, it is really insightful to see all the different formatting of business cards and how an effective business card means that not only is it memorable and conveys all that it needs to, but it is also capable of being easily scanned so that the details can be stored. The same goes for the development of the promotional materials I created, because even though it does not necessarily require a high level of skill, a poster is something that will be viewed by the public and every single touch-point from a poster to a direct customer interaction communicates something about the brand and you want it to be consistent with the values upheld by the firm.

Therefore, with five months up and one month to go, you might be able to see how contemplative and reflective I have become. The university report I have to write may also have something to do with why my mind has reached the point of micro-analyzing the importance of tasks like scanning business cards. It is akin to the days back in high school when you had to explain everything down to the symbolic importance of why the author made the curtains blue; there has to be a reason behind everything. In a sense however, that is what my placement has taught me, that there is a reason for every task you complete-particularly in the hospitality industry where even the smallest of actions influences the customer journey and therefore the over-riding success of the firm.

Ultimately, unless I manage to do something utterly catastrophic in my remaining 4 weeks (I still have time to delete all the contacts in the CRM by accident or potentially sell a room for £1…), I can already say with confidence that I am exceptionally happy I signed the second semester of my third year away to The Spires. With a month of full-time work left to go, there are still so many things I want to try such as video tours of the apartments, blogging from our Birmingham & Glasgow locations and even attempting more team-related blogs. Therefore, watch this space for all the fun that is still to come!

Till next time,

Alex (Intern Sales Administrator)

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Leaving Behind a Legacy

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As fast as time is flying, my Spires expiration date has not been reached yet and so yes the title is a bit dramatically deceptive. Recently, I have been engaging more in the website content side of the business and that is why I am talking about leaving a legacy; all the content I am putting out there, be it on the website or in the form of my blogs, should outlive my Spires shelf-life so everyone will know I was here. This is all dependent on management being pleased with what I am doing so if I leave and everything changes, I can take that as a subtle hint…

In terms of the website, apart from uploading all my blogs, I am also helping to write and design for the special offers page and the brand new Edinburgh section. This includes choosing what photographs to display and writing about all the attractions and restaurants that should be headlining an Edinburgh “Must Do” travel list. I am really enjoying having the chance to engage in such activities as it is positive to have somewhat tangible evidence of the work I am doing and to know I am doing work that is of benefit to The Spires and will hopefully last for a considerable amount of time. It is also useful to have evidence to show my university that I have indeed been working and not been getting up to too much trouble!

One thing I did not expect was the use of coding that sometimes comes in handy with embedding social media content. Although it is by no means complex coding, it is still quite satisfying to see if I can manage to input a new widget onto the website or on the WordPress blog. Looks like my Higher Computing has proven to be a bit handy!

Having reached my two month mark, I am really happy The Spires chose me to be an intern. Although it is a challenging time for the North-East, there are so many important developments happening here that it is really exciting to be even playing a minor part in facilitating that. It is always beneficial experience to be working in such a dynamic environment and with such a lovely, enthusiastic team as well. Even though I am a Sales Administrator intern, I swear I am not trying a selling plug here!

Till next time,

Alex

Bollywood Meets Edinburgh

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Here at The Spires we are extremely excited for the opening of our new property in Edinburgh because as Scotland’s capital, it tends to be the Scottish destination that everyone tends to think of first. Aided by all the history, beauty and entertainment that it has to offer, it is no surprise that Edinburgh is frequently seen as a top European Destination and as it holds the world’s largest arts festival in August, it is also no surprise that Edinburgh holds a rather prominent position on the cultural arts stage. Therefore, it is only to be expected that of all the places in Scotland, Edinburgh would most certainly aim to be an extra in many a Bollywood film. Consequently, Edinburgh should be a major stop on your Bollywood journey because not only has it been showcased in many a Bollywood film, but it was the first location where the VisitScotland Bollywood map was even unveiled in Scotland!

Edinburgh did not just help to put the VisitScotland Bollywood map on the well, map, but it also was a critical location in Bollywood’s breakout into Scotland itself. One of the films that really began the Bollywood movement to Scotland was Main Solah Baras Ki (Sweet Sixteen) where Edinburgh really managed to score itself a role.

In Main Solah Baras Ki (1998), an Indian director is looking for a female actress to play the leading role in his new role. After failing to find anyone in India, he comes to the UK which ultimately results in a love story between a young actress and the director. Many an iconic Edinburgh location was showcased in Main Solah Baras Ki from Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, Calton Hill, The Mound, The Royal Mile, Holyrood Park, Princes Mall, Waverley Station, Scott Monument and Princes Garden. The film in itself was pretty much a walking tour of Edinburgh, thus reflecting how it is a good movie to generate some Scottish travelling inspiration! Some particular movie moments to reflect on and live out is when Sabrina played the tambourine and Scotland’s favourite instrument, the bagpipe, on the Royal Mile and at St. Giles’ Cathedral as well as when Sabrina bought some flowers on the roof-top plaza of Princes Mall. Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi (2001), afforded the featuring of many similar sites but a particular special moment was where famous Bollywood actor, Kajol, performed a salsa by the Scott Monument!

Aarzoo (1999), directed by Lawrence D’Souza, was a Bollywood movie prominently filmed in the UK and was a film that revolved around a doctor’s daughter becoming entangled romantically with a man whom he does not like and how he conspires to get her together with a childhood friend of hers. As is the norm, it is a film heavily about love! Many a site that was featured in Main Solah Baras Ki is also featured in Aarzoo from the infamous Edinburgh castle to Princes Street. However, some new sites such as Edinburgh Zoo, Gladstone Memorial and the Scottish National Gallery also make their Bollywood debut.

Bollywood movie moments involving Edinburgh could also be found in Yeh Hai Jalwa; a 2002 Bollywood comedy translating as ‘This is Magic’ which focused on a young man, played by the renowned Salman Khan, seeking out his long-lost father in the UK. Yeh Hai Jalwa included a romantic scene on Princes Street; a saxophone being played outside the Scottish National Gallery and a rooftop dance near The Balmoral Hotel. Just a normal day in Edinburgh!

Even in recent years Edinburgh has still managed to be a critical setting for Bollywood movies as can be seen in Mausam (2011), a romantic drama where an air pilot falls in love with a younger woman. It was made by iconic Bollywood star Pankaj Kapoor showing how Edinburgh can still draw in the big names. Special moments included a night-time carriage ride in the Anchor Close area and many a unique Edinburgh location, from the Grassmarket to Usher Hall where the lead character and his friends went to see a Mozart recital, were showcased amongst all the standard (but always beautiful) shots of Scott Monument and The Mound. Melville Street and Newhaven Main Street even were used as exteriors for where the lead character lived. If you are a really eager fan and want to stop by and eat where the characters did, the Beehive Inn is the place to go! The formidable Forth Rail Bridge also made a sneaky appearance as it did in Yeh Dil Aashiqanaa (2002) and Main Solah Baras Ki.

The connection between the VisitScotland Bollywood campaign and Edinburgh is particularly strong because it is being sponsored by Quatar Airlines, the airline that from May 1st, are running daily flights from Edinburgh to Doha making a Bollywood adventure out to Scotland even more accessible. In particular, make sure to come to Edinburgh about August-September time when the Edinburgh Mela Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo are holding a massive Bollywood Dance Extravaganza which will see 60 dancers from India and Scotland come together in celebration-it is not to be missed!

Consequently, it is clear that there is no shortage of Bollywood movie nostalgia to be lived out in Edinburgh and that no Bollywood adventure would be complete without a stop-off in Edinburgh. Coupled with Edinburgh’s Airport and the transport links to Aberdeen and Glasgow, it may even be the perfect place to begin a summer of Bollywood.

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(Information and Image: VisitScotland, http://www.visitscotland.com/bollywood)

(Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30878983)

An Education in Email Marketing

email symbol on row of colourful envelopes

This week I was in a weird post-phone call limbo, but thankfully email marketing helped to fill the void and keep me occupied; particularly due to the unexpected nature of some old email addresses (a personal favourite being one that expressed a love for blue tartan trousers!). I am starting to become one with the lingo of email marketing and feel quite proud to understand what things like bounces are. I spent most of my week trying to go through all our email contacts and filter them so that those who had never opened our emails were taken off the list. Unfortunately I am one of those people who like to hoard under the belief that you never know what might happen, and therefore I was at times hesitant to delete contacts just on the off chance someone might change their ways and open their mail. Similarly, I have a tendency to over-analyse and needlessly worry meaning I was scared I may unknowingly delete an ultra important contact that all The Spires’ future revenue may rely on. Ok, maybe I exaggerate a little but there was a slight reluctance to use that scary ‘delete’ button as once you delete, there is no going back. However, as that slightly well-known song from Frozen goes, I just had to let it go and ended up on a deleting spree.

I also played a part in helping with the design of the The Spires March E-Letter (I shall subtlety leave a link here…http://dmtrk.com/160B-38WBJ-4/sv.aspx. Once again this was a task that I really enjoyed as it was a chance to use my creativity as well as to learn how to use email marketing software from a design aspect. It also gave me a new-found appreciation for just how long it must take people to design all those emails we get bombarded with on a daily basis. Similarly, it provided a really beneficial insight into the tough world of marketing and how I have a lot to learn in terms of design & innovation. I have a tendency to end up on cheesy tangents and rely on alliteration, puns and rhymes but now I am realising that sometimes there is nothing wrong with a bit of simplicity and stating things as they are. I feel I may have to start watching Mad Men to enlighten myself further, who says television cannot be educational?

I had a slight scare at the end of the week when I went to check Facebook ‘Likes’ and there had been a significant decrease from 716 followers to 699 followers and numerous refreshes were not changing that. Thinking that my efforts to help The Spires online presence were actually sabotaging it, I was quite relieved to discover that it had happened to all companies and that Facebook had erased ‘likes’ from any inactive pages. With the heart-attack over, it did make me realise that maybe there is still reason to change up my social media strategy and so that is something I am focusing on currently.

Hope all the mothers out there have an enjoyable Mother’s Day where they are thoroughly spoilt with pampering and hand-made cards and that everyone parties hard in green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

Till next time,

Alex

(Image: netamatix.co.uk)

Let’s Get Blogging

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I feel I am somewhat falling into the dark world of addiction with an obsession for measuring how many clicks, likes, shares and retweets I am able to generate from my posts, tweets and pins. The worst and best inventions have been all the analysis tools that have been invented to enable you to monitor your social media footprint. Good, because they help you to determine whether you are succeeding or not; bad, because they are what enable you to cultivate an addiction towards monitoring your progress and checking them at any spare minute. My new found addiction can probably be reflected in the fact that at any given time if you ask me to report on how many followers or responses we have for a particular site, I can probably recite the exact figures. The fact that my personal Facebook links to The Spires’ corporate one does mean it can permeate to me when I am home, but thankfully, I have found I have some resilience and boundaries. Therefore, I have not reached a level where I reach for my phone at midnight to check if that post has reached a further 100 people (yet).

I am definitely enjoying being responsible for the company’s corporate presence and it is really rewarding when I see a big response to something I posted (#TheDress was amazing, and by the way, it was most definitely black and blue). Similarly, sometimes it can be a bit disheartening when a post is not received as well I thought it could, but then that always helps you to determine what is working and what is not and how to progress. It can be a bit tricky social networking from a corporate perspective as I have to be wary that what I post fits with the value and ethos of the firm. This particularly relates to blogging where you always want to post something that blends in with the business’s interests but at the same time want to take a unique stance to the topic so that it is interesting. Consequently, not only are my social networking skills being improved but so are my researching skills as it takes so much time and detective work to find topics worth pursuing and elaborating on. However, it is a challenge that I embrace and am ultimately thoroughly enjoying. Not many people can say they get paid to be on social media after all!

In other news, I have successfully finished all my phone calls although I am sure that there will be a few more hiding around the corner…For an activity that demands essentially no movement, it is surprisingly energy zapping at times. However, I really feel it has gone to improve my phone etiquette as well as my data reporting skills. It is somewhat disconcerting however how many people misinterpreted my pronunciation of The Spires as “The Squires”, “The Fire Department”, “Serviced Department” and my personal favourite; “The Sewars”. Something to watch for the future I think. Similarly, it would be prefarable if I could avoid accidentally phoning police stations about accommodation….

Moving forward, my aim is to start positing more original content on The Spires’ social media in order to aid with search engine optimization so make sure to watch this space (and to like, share, comment and retweet anything I happen to share 😉 ). Thank you to anyone who is taking the time to read this blog or follow The Spires on any social networking site, it means a lot and I am more than eager to hear what you think.

Till next time,

Alex

Photo: http://scienceofblogging.com/why-scientists-should-blog-a-case-study/