Memoirs of a Placement Sales Administrator

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It is exceptionally weird to think that about approximately this time last year, I had absolutely no awareness of the serviced apartment industry. Flashforward to today and I could probably whittle off a general definition of the industry as well as a list of all the major operators, agents and associations in the field like snap. This is the power of working for a serviced apartments firm like “The Spires” and wherever I go now, whether it is a national or international destination, my eyes are attuned to looking for such accommodation firms – my travel habits have quite clearly been altered.

Throughout the year you may have read some of my sporadic blogs on what life was like as a Sales Admin and this is to be my swan song; the ultimate recap of my placement life. Of course I started the year with good intentions of blogging weekly but as happens with all New Year resolutions, this started to fade out pretty quickly as the months passed. As stated, this time last year I was completely oblivious to the service apartment concept but due to my internship I have been in far many than I count; I have tweeted about them; blogged about them, researched them and I kid not when I say that I have indeed dreamt about them. I have also not just worked behind-the-scenes in terms of promoting them, but have also ventured into the front line and been one of the faces for the Aberdeen Front of House. Therefore, bar finance and actual management, there is not a lot of the serviced apartments world I have not witnessed and learned from!

Over the course of the first six months, I was predominantly responsible for the online promotion of the firm in terms of social media management, website content and email marketing as well as for the administrative element such as updating booker contact details and classifying customers. These were tasks that I thoroughly enjoyed because they allowed me to use my initiative, be autonomous, use my creativity and as the world moves increasingly online, I know this can only benefit me. Moreover, I am not sure many can take the pleasure of saying they are being paid to be on Facebook! It is particularly surreal that it was a part of my job description and it did take a while for me not to feel the need to justify my internet habits if anyone happened to pass by my monitor – I was working I swear it. However, with that privilege came a lot of responsibility because you want to ensure you present the firm in the best light and to make sure what you post is synonymous with the values of the company. Similarly, as I have learnt, the aim of attracting new followers is not an easy one to achieve and it took a lot of work. Something that was quite surprising was how much researching is involved in terms of material to post and things to blog about, I never realised how difficult it is to come up with a fresh angle and to balance promoting the firm while not out-right selling it because that does not really work on social media. It is all about building that relationship and getting to interact with customers on a personal level, something which I realised in that my most popular postings tended to be in relation to things like team birthdays or accomplishments. I imagine that is because everyone likes to see the faces behind the firm.

Therefore, while being very active with the back-of-house team and phoning many a travel booker, my Sales Administrator position was quite independent and relatively laid-back in that I did not have a lot of contact with external stakeholders nor had strict deadlines to meet. This was epitomised by the fact that throughout the whole six months, I never had someone phone or email me. Conversely, Front of House was the complete flip-side of this. Between customers, agencies and companies, I made and received countless phone calls/emails a day and felt immensely popular – post-it notes became my best friends. I can honestly say that time has never passed as quickly before, while as a Sales Admin I was free to work at my own pace, in Front Of House it felt like I was juggling many balls all at once and so the sand-timer was always ticking down! However, while undeniably challenging, it was ultimately very rewarding in terms of testing my ability to think on my feet, multi-task and be responsible. Of course having the chance to interact with our guests, especially from international destinations like Japan and Singapore, was thoroughly enjoyable especially as you were playing a part in making their holiday to Scotland special. It was particularly gratifying getting to know the regulars to the extent where you already knew their name as soon as they walked through the door and they already had their ID at the ready.

Overall, I do not think there could have been a better time to work in the firm because with the opening of the Edinburgh location and the development of “The Apartment Collection – By The Spires”, it was such a dynamic atmosphere with a lot of excitement, as well as drama aplenty of course! Therefore, through the highs and through the lows, there was not a single moment I regretted working at The Spires because the people were some of the loveliest I have ever worked with and I loved the camaraderie of the office; it was always a joy to go in (particularly on the days where there was cake – which was a lot of them). I certainly feel I have developed personally and professionally and so I am immensely grateful I was chosen to work for the firm and that they have even allowed me to stay on. If there is one thing that is particularly surreal it is that when I make that 15 minute journey to The Spires from my home once a week, it never feels like I ever worked here full-time, not least for eight months. Thankfully, I have all those tweets, posts, blogs and databases to prove otherwise and as I continue on, even if for only a few hours a week, it is nice to know I am leaving my own kind of legacy.

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Me, My Selfie & I

Of course no blog on selfies is complete without one or two illustrative examples and so all selfies used in this blog are courtesy of our globetrotting selfie-fanatic National Sales Manager 

Selfies at work and at play!
Selfies at work and at play!

It all started innocently enough. A few of them taken were here and there, then it began to spread and then it became a craze that took over the world. Now it is no longer a “trend” or a “fad”, it is simply a behavioural norm that we are so accustomed to we longer notice. Any guesses as to what I am referring to? The odds are you will shamelessly have taken one (or maybe an abundance) yourself and they will most likely be in your possession right now. They are the latest entry in the pop culture archive and they are commonly referred to by a mere sole word that is always rising in the ranks of power: “selfie”.

Yes, despite starting off as an innocuous niche twitter hash tag even as potentially far back as 2004, “selfies” have since risen to global dominance and are both a standard part of our vocabulary and behaviour. Nothing quite exemplifies the now new-found normality and acceptance of “selfies” quite like the fact that since 2013, “selfie” has cemented itself a position in the online Oxford Dictionary. Therefore, for those who are selfie ignorant,  a “selfie” can be defined as A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”.

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Although I am not a personal avid fan of selfies (going through my phone’s gallery can play testament to this), I am particularly intrigued to see their impact on the travel industry and how they influence the way in which people travel. Indeed, it is undeniable the correlation between “selfies” and vacations because ultimately, social media has totally revolutionised how travel photos are taken. I am sure most of us still remember the days when the digital camera was the latest sought after technological development when it came to photography, however long gone are those days. Now, it is all the aforementioned selfies and Instagram filters so we can post and boast to the world right there and then the adventures we are engaging in. Nothing quite epitomises the social media revolution quite like the fact that apparently holidays are no longer the personal experience taken just for us, in helping us to explore and escape, but are in fact made for sharing. This trend has led to a whole new brand of travellers, now recognized by the Future Foundation report as “social-capital seekers”, who travel with the over-riding ambition of documenting their adventure and therefore designing it to be Facebook, Twitter, etc. post friendly. Even already the bond between holiday snaps and social media can be reflected in that a survey for Hotels.com revealed that twenty-five per cent of British travellers share a photo within an hour of arriving at their holiday haven, although the average time people wait is almost three hours.

Going on holiday and the taking of photos are synonymous activities because photos are that way of documenting the happy memories and preserving them so you can look back at them and reminisce. However, the development of selfies is beginning to question whether this remains the true primary motive. More often than not, it is likely that on your social media you will spot someone posing with *insert iconic landmark”. From the Empire State Building to the Colosseum to the Eiffel Travel; they have all played the scenic backdrop for someone’s mobile phone selfie portrait. If anything, the development of the selfie stick has exacerbated this trend as it is now even easier to get the perfect angle and pose for that ultimate selfie which will trigger a plethora of likes and retweets. Therefore, narcissism and selfies are beginning to become quite inter-linked with people believing that all these self-portraits taken in cultural and heritage rich locations are more a means of boasting about the locations we have been. It can be debated how truly interested someone is in the attraction itself and the meaning and values it holds. Potentially, we are no longer living in the moment and taking in the time to truly bask in the beauty of attractions because we are all just superficially about taking the “ultimate selfie” to show the world that we were there.

Craig with the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
With the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Linking on to this notion of cultural admiration, and just general health & safety, is that further debate is igniting in the travel industry when it comes to selfies, or at least selfie sticks, with increasing numbers of attractions banning the admittance of selfie sticks. For instance, Disney World has been the latest attraction to post physical signs forbidding the use of selfie sticks and therefore joins the ever growing list of anti-selfie stick locations which also includes the prestigious likes of the Colosseum, the Guggenheim Museum, The National Gallery in London as well as a variety of stadiums.

Craig with the Hollywood Hills
With the Hollywood Hills

Ultimately, selfies will remain a divisive topic. Potentially they are the epitome of the shallowness and narcissism of our generation in terms of how we feel our self-worth and popularity is all linked to the followers we have and the number of retweets. If it cannot be documented to the world on social media to be admired, then what is the point? Alternatively, selfies are just a fun way of us leaving our mark on the world and showing that we were here on this Earth at one point and as a reminder of the magnificent sights and wonders we have witnessed.  As I have been told, anyone can go on Google and get a photo of Big Ben or the Grand Canyon, but you will never be able to find one that was clearly yours if you are not starring in it also. Likewise, they also are just fundamentally practical, particularly for solo travellers, because they prevent you from having to awkwardly walk up to someone red-faced and embarrassed asking them to take your photo for you (and then again, if you invariably do not like it). Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with a good selfie or two but the most critical thing is that if we are taking them with, or in, cultural attractions like museums or historical landmarks, yes it is good to take a moment to document our time there, but also to take a minute to fully understand the true value of the attraction and what it stands for and represents.

P.S. The Spires is not on the anti-Selfie Stick list and so we fully embrace and enjoy seeing selfies or just old-school photos of our guests in our apartments. Post to our Instagram using #TheSpiresApts or simply tweet us @TheSpiresSuites so we can see how you are enjoying your stay 🙂

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24992393

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/10465199/Forget-the-selfie-holidaymakers-go-for-braggie-photos.html

http://skift.com/2015/04/24/selfies-are-changing-the-fundamental-reasons-why-we-travel/

The Sands of Time

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Where does the time go? I swear it was January 26th only a few days ago  when I hesitantly  approached The Spires, a quaking bag of nerves that was daunted yet exhilarated by the thought of encroaching ever so closer into the real adult world of work. However, somehow my calendar is informing me that it is the 27th of April which means I must have been working for 3 months and am therefore at the half-way point through my placement. Consequently, I feel it is a very fitting time to start blogging again and to reflect on what has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience thus far.

So much has been going on at the firm in recent weeks and I expect the action is only set to heighten as important developments like the launching of the new location and “The Apartment Collection-By The Spires” get increasingly underway. One of the things I have enjoyed the most at The Spires is how I get to carry out tasks that are in relation to these projects, such as helping to design the web content for the new website or looking for potential business prospects, as it makes me feel like I am playing even the smallest of parts in helping these important tasks come to fruition. I am really pleased that I joined an organisation that is so focused on expansion, and in such diverse ways, because it is really beneficial to be in a fast-paced dynamic environment that is pro-active and embraces change. I definitely feel there is a lot I can take away from being a witness to this, even if it is just realising the smallest details that have to be considered when opening a new business location.

In the past few weeks, my main tasks have consisted of helping to design the new website, from a content perspective, as well as creating new dedicated social media channels for “The Apartment Collection-By The Spires”. As a result, my social media workload has increased as I have to post as two different accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I am genuinely worried there is a chance I may get a split-personality disorder! I am really excited getting to start the social media from scratch, as opposed to building on to the established channels that existed when I started, because it gives me a chance to see how strong I really am at social media. This makes this endeavour equally daunting because obviously if the follower numbers are not what I hoped, I may have to take a subtle hint from that! I do have to remember that it will be a struggle for the first few months as it will take a while for awareness and interest to grow, but that is what makes the challenge exciting and it will be really engrossing to see how things progress.

Overall, I do feel I have grown a lot from Day 1 in terms of skill and confidence. It really does feel like I have worked here longer than 3 months so when the day comes in 3 months that I no longer walk here bleary eyed and yawning at 8.30am, it will be a weird day. Let’s not get ahead however, 3 months complete still means 3 months to go and I am exceptionally excited to see what they bring.

Till next time,

 Alex

P.S. Help a desperate intern out by liking and following us on Facebook  and Twitter. Thank you 🙂

Image: www.siddarthwrites.com

Facebook: A Workplace Friend or Foe?

When we think Facebook, we think of it as an online tool that keeps us connected with our social circle: we follow people who are friends; we post photos to show where we have been, and we write statuses to detail what is going on in our worlds. Up till now, any connection Facebook has had with people’s professional lives has probably tended to be in relation to being berated for inappropriate use of it at work or posting things that do not align with company values i.e. those infamous dodgy work nights out photos! Effectively, Facebook is where we live our out-of-office lives: no work allowed. However, in January, a new Facebook initiative was piloted which has the potential turn this on its head: “Facebook at Work”.

As was reported by Buying Business Travel in their March/April 2015 edition, not a lot has been released on “FB@ Work” due to it only being piloted with a few select organisations. However, as can be inferred from the name, the concept is very much to integrate corporate life into Facebook so that it is almost a rival to existing “enterprise social network” platforms such as Yammer and Slack. These existing networks enable business teams to collaborate and communicate online so as to improve productivity; and this is effectively the aim of FB@Work. As detailed by Tech Crunch, it will enable corporate customers to create their own business social networks, where only company members can view information shared, under the familiar interface of Facebook’s existing website.

The reason why the travel sector has been brought up in particular relation with “FB@Work”, is that as it is highlighted by Buyer Business Travel, it could be a potentially interesting development to see Travel Management Companies (TMCs) form joint social networks with their clients for travel consultation purposes. This would be particularly striking if the TMCs created specific accounts for each client to fully personalise the experience. In particular regards to the knowledge sharing and collaboration aspect of “FB@Work”, it could enable there to be more communication in relation to critical corporate travel aspects such as travel policies. This links to how it would really help to bridge the gap between employees working in large multinational companies with similar roles as they can share advice and expertise regarding all issues, including travel. It has the potential to even allow employees to be welcomed into the homes of their colleagues located in other countries!

“FB@Work”s creation has generated considerable debate. As was highlighted by Buying Business Travel, one of the greatest advantages of “FB@Work” is that it is a social network that is familiar to so many; enabling a quick adoption which can only benefit productivity as well as lower training and switch-over costs. This argument I do understand because dependent on how similar the interface is in reality, as an employee I personally would feel quite comfortable using it and I would not be daunted by its introduction. However, it is its familiarity which also works against it, because of its well-established reputation as a personal social network. It is hard to deny that many of us will succumb to temptation and use it to also access our personal Facebooks; or even just go off-topic.

Personally, having used Facebook and its ‘group’ function as a means of carrying out team work at university,  I understand how the product would be beneficial in the dissemination of information in real time; particularly when members are located in all parts of the world. Therefore, I can see the value in it. However, if I was to look at it from a company perspective, I am not too sure how professional it would look when there are alternative enterprise social networks available out there; particularly considering how Facebook’s initial purpose was to connect college students in their social lives. Its association as a personal social network tool is probably too strong for it to make a transition into the corporate arena. Similarly, I am not too sure how stakeholders such as customers would feel if they knew the company was sharing information over Facebook with its notoriously sketchy privacy policy. Above all, data privacy will be one of the biggest obstacles to widespread use as there will be concern about confidential data being able to be accessed by third parties, as will the management and control of such corporate social networks by management.

At the moment, “FB@Work” is a project still in the testing stage with many barriers to overcome, but it will be interesting to see if it will revolutionise the workplace and the corporate travel sector in quite the same way that it has shaped our personal social networking lives.  Being a part-time social media intern and a full-time Facebook enthusiast, I am very intrigued to see the outcome…

Make sure to comment to give your opinion regarding the feasibility of “FB@Work”; we would love to hear them!

(Image: www.society30.com)

An Education in Email Marketing

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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)

#Newbie

first day

Hello lovely readers, I am Alex and I am a third year Tourism Management student undertaking a 24 week placement as a Sales Administrator at The Spires Serviced Suites and Apartments. Today marks the end of my first full week at The Spires and as inferred by the posting of this blog, I did survive.

The first day in particular was filled with feelings of anxiety and anticipation-as well as a lot of paperwork! I am pleased to say despite the nerves, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week, with the whole team appearing as a very lovely lot with there being a lot of laughter and banter between all the hard work. I was made to feel extremely welcome and that no question asked was too inane (and trust me, I asked a lot!). There will definitely be a lot for me to learn and I already have a list of tasks to crack on with so I know I will not be left idle! I am really looking forward to being responsible for activities like keeping an eye out for potential prospects and opportunities that The Spires Serviced Apartments can capitalize on. Similarly, playing a part in managing the social media marketing of the company (hence my witty title) is definitely a task I am eager to sink my teeth into.

Overall, I am really excited to see what the next 23 weeks bring and hopefully, I can convey all the emotions experienced, and progress made, on my journey at The Spires Serviced Suites and Apartments through this blog. I am not sure what chaos I can cause, hopefully none database related, but I know I have a big learning curve ahead of me and I embrace the challenge. Thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend! 🙂