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The Bridge at the Bottom of the Sea

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx listening time: 14 minutes

The North Sea is a baby in geological terms. Before it was born at the end of the last Ice Age Britain was joined to the rest of Europe. Conventional wisdom says by a land bridge. But a student, searching through seismic data discarded by oil companies, has discovered what archaeologists believe is the best-preserved prehistoric landscape in the world. Richard Uridge dives to the seabed in search of evidence that’ll force history textbooks to be rewritten.

This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

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Clever Trees – Westonbirt

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx listening time: 14 minutes.

In the last of his current series celebrating Clever Trees Richard Uridge visits the National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire – with 18,000 specimens a veritable tree university – and talks to the trees.

This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Other episodes in this series:

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Clever Trees – Heligan

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx listening time: 14 minutes

In the fourth of his programmes on Clever Trees Richard Uridge visits the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall where he finds a relative of the culinary bay that’s so potent it can give you a headache and another trees that’s smart enough to provide the cure.This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Other episodes in this series:

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Clever Trees – Malaysia

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx listenning time: 14 minutes

Of all the clever things that trees can do telling the time has to be one of the smartest. This week Richard Uridge travels to Malaysia in search of the Simpoh, a tree which according to legend, flowers at precisely the same time every day.

This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Other episodes in this series:

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Clever Trees – Washington

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx listening time: 14 minutes.

In the first of five programmes on arboreal “intelligence” Richard Uridge visits George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon to meet two conjoined holly trees .

This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Other episodes in this series:


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Clever Trees – Australia

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx listening time: 14 minutes.

In the second of his programmes celebrating clever trees, Richard Uridge travels to Australia to investigate two apparent paradoxes: the tree that’s wet when it’s dry; and the clever idiot tree.

This podcast was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Other episodes in this series:

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Open County – Aran Isles

Approx. reading time: < 1 minute

Approx. listening time: 23 minutes

Richard Uridge presented Open Country on BBC Radio Four for almost a decade. In this programme he visits the Aran Islands off the coast of County Clare in Ireland. Beware – you’ll want a Guinness after listening! This programme was first broadcast in March 2004.

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The world’s shortest social media policy (unless you can beat it)

Approx. reading time: < 1 minutethe world's shortest social media policyThis is our social media policy at ACM Training. We’ve seen some longer ones in our time. Like the BBC’s social media policy where our social media trainer, Richard Uridge, used to work. He confesses he’s never read it. And that’s one of the problems with long and complicated policies. Nobody reads them when they really should. It’s a bit like the “mind the gap” warning on the railways. Short, sharp and to the point. Take too many words to say the same thing and people plunge to their (social media) deaths.

  • Point one above is about being purposeful. For profit or not-for-profit, you’re using social media to “sell” something.
  • Points two, three and four are, one way or another, about being mindful.
  • Point five is about being careful.
  • Point six is about being carefree (not mutually exclusive with the previous point)!
  • And the final point is a warning – both to individuals and organisations – that criminal, civil and even contractual law does or at least should or may apply.

So if you’re contemplating posting a picture of a cat that looks like Donald Trump to your Facebook page – don’t. That’s banned under rule one. And, come to think of it, the others too!


If you’re in the process of drawing up a social media policy for your organisation we’d love to help.

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In praise of social media content calendars and how they can save your professional life

Approx. reading time: 4 minutesI’m a big fan of diaries. Leather-bound analogue or online digital, they’ve saved my (personal) life more than once. Reminded me of children’s birthdays when there was still enough time to get presents. Helped me remember the exact day I met my wife so that the flowers arrived on the actual anniversary because a day late…well that bunch of tulips may as well have been Triffids. Stopped me missing the deadline to get those Christmas cards in the post to relatives Down Under.

And so content calendars can be (professional) life savers. Reminding us in plenty of time to plan and schedule content before it’s too late to post – not to Australia – but to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the other places we’re colonising as part of our social media empires.

A content calendar should be the number one tool in your social media tool kit. It helps you plan and schedule your content across the full range of your platforms in advance.

The sheer volume of content on the social web means it’s getting harder and harder for your content to stand out. And to make matters worse organic reach is in decline. So to tackle these twin challenges you need to generate creative content, schedule it well and consistently and boost it selectively as your budgets allow.

Consistent posting is one of the best ways to get more followers. Regular updates show potential followers you are, in fact, worth following. That they’ll be rewarded with fresh and interesting stuff – whether that stuff is pictures, videos or words (written in a blog post or spoken in a podcast).

A content calendar can you help you achieve this consistency across your platform mix by getting you into the habit of planning and scheduling in advance and not missing opportunities. I’m guilty – and I’m sure I’m not alone – of forgetting my Twitter feed, for example, and then playing catch up by posting heaps over a short period.

Finding the right content mix

The temptation is to use social simply to “sell.” Don’t! Many a sale has been lost by the seller being too pushy (think getting pounced on by an over-eager assistant the moment you walk into a shop). Pushy on social is understandable. After all, you’re putting a lot of time and effort into it and you want the best possible ROI. But, paradoxically, the harder you try to sell in an obvious way the less well you’re likely to do. Too much self-promotion can alienate your “customers.” The answer is to mix the explicit sales stuff with other content.

Eighty/twenty (80/20) is a good starting point. That is for every post that’s “selling” your product or service you make sure there are four posts that are helpful and interesting.

Another starting point is to use what’s called the rule of thirds. A third of your posts promote your business or generates leads. A third comes from other sources within your sector – on the understanding that your customers aren’t just interested in you and your company or organisation  but have wider interests. And a third of posts engage directly with followers – for example, by answering their questions, responding to their comments or posting user-generated content.

Whichever approach you adopt, over time you’ll discover the exact mix between these sources that works for your business. A content calendar will help you stick with the right mix.

The simplest content calendars are those that come with your computer, tablet or smartphone. Just jot down ideas as you get them. They might be timeless ideas or have a long long “shelf life” in the sense that it doesn’t really matter if they’re posted this week or next month. Others might be date-related – tied to a particular day or event such as national bring your dog to work day (yes, really)!

The more sophisticated calendars are spreadsheet based and can help you keep an eye on things like content quantity and network mix, with colour-coded pie charts and bar graphs. You can even add columns to assign work to colleagues or link to resources such as word documents, images and videos. Here’s one I’m road testing for a client courtesy of Smartsheet. It’s a free resource and seems pretty impressive so far, although I’ve only done a few miles so far so to speak.

Whatever calendar option you choose, encourage collaboration by sharing it via the cloud – unless it’s an old-fashioned wall planner which has the simple virtue of being seen by everybody who walks past it whether they want to or not.

Save time (and money)

You might think it’s a lot of faff filling in a content calendar and making sure it’s up to date. But used well it’s a time saver not a time waster. And the time you save can be re-invested in the all-important business of content creation. Remember content is king. Without good quality content and plenty of it you’re bound to fail!

Here are three other content calendar tips…

  1. Content calendars remind you to create platform-specific versions of your content to avoid posting exactly the same posts across multiple networks with the embarrassment of asking Facebook or LinkedIn followers to retweet. Uncool.
  2. Look back through the entries in your content calendar as well as forward. This way you can keep an eye out for content that’s  becoming too samey or repetitive whether that’s at a key message, target audience or content level, thematically (too many posts on the same subject) or over-reliant on the same words and images (too many puppy pics).
  3. Compare your content calendar with your analytics. Are there any patterns? Did a particular post do well? If there’s a spike in your visitor numbers on a Thursday what content might have created it and when? If you’re going to pay to boost certain posts it’s usually better to boost the best performing rather than waste money trying to breathe life into the worst. Your content calendar will enable you to spend your advertising budget wisely.

Finally here’s my content calendar entry for tomorrow: start blog post on quantity versus quality – why posting rubbish is drowning out the good stuff. And here’s my diary entry: order Christmas turkey.


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Adversarial or conversational – why media training should cover both styles of interview (and everything in between)

Approx. reading time: 2 minutesFor years now the aspiration for most media trainees from the very top levels of industry, commerce and, especially, politics has been to be prepared for a haranguing by Humphrys (John, long-standing rottweiler-in-chief of BBC Radio Four’s flagship Today programme). And for years media trainers have dutifully helped them meet that aspiration. It’s been the default position on both sides of the training room. But with Humphrys’ kennel mate Paxman no longer baring his teeth on Newsnight, a new, less adversarial kind of journalism has been taking its place. This more conversational approach might, on the face of it, be less challenging for interviewees. Yet it presents them with different kinds of challenges. Ones which require less obvious and softer presentational skills than before. So media trainers must adapt their approach too.

I was reminded of this when given the brief to train the chief executive and senior management team at a non-departmental government body. The media manager told me that, like many people at their level, they’d been media trained earlier in their careers. But not recently and certainly not in a way that prepared them for the kinds of interviews they were increasingly being asked to give. Interviews where the expectation from the media was that the interviewees would be more reflective, less inclined to simply deliver their key messages irrespective of the questions (slippery style as I call it) and more entertaining (whatever that means) to boot. They’d clearly failed to meet this expectation, the media manager went on, because a recent interview hadn’t been used. Spiked, as us journalists with a print background like to say. All of which, he concluded, was a pity because they had some really important points to make.

In essence, the problem here is one of perception. One person’s shiny key messages are another person’s ditchwater. A safe pair of hands from an organisational perspective can be terminally dull from a media perspective.

Let me put it this way: if, by comparison to other contributors, your key messages are the least interesting (to readers, viewers and listeners) then in order to survive the edit and, in future, be asked back, your contribution has to be the most engaging.

Now, of course, I’d be the first to admit this is a gross oversimplification. And I’m not suggesting that if what you’ve got to say is dull then you’d best deliver it from a unicycle while dressed as a clown and juggling three chainsaws. What I am saying, however, is that you have to work even harder to frame your key messages in the most appealing way possible and deliver them with all the presentational charm you can muster. It’s a tall order. But one that at ACM Training we can help you with!