Man bites dog(food) in snow

Thanks to the UK’s well-publicised inability to cope with light dustings of snow and the ludicrous Spanish Air Traffic Controller’s strike, my three days with a client in Barcelona, turned into almost a week of time out of the office and a chance to prove that even bad news presents opportunity.

What started as an interesting challenge, interviewing several IT services gurus on-stage, ended up somewhere between a game of chance and a military planning operation. Ten of my eleven team-mates opted for wild and wonderful escape routes with cross-border plane reservations and seven hour pre-dawn drives to neighbouring France.

There are worse places to be stranded of course, but weekends, although not work-free, are precious in fast-growing businesses. My Plan B, the overnight Barcelona to Paris train, would have been wonderful in high summer, but not on the third day of no air transportation in a cold snap and with the risk of poor internet connectivity. So I held tight and waited for events to turn my way.

As we always tell clients at Positive Marketing, with some careful preparation, savvy execution and a preparedness to be wrong, the news agenda can be your friend. We call it trend-surfing because of its many similarities to the preparation and the timing required for actual surfing. So it was, that after posting my comments on the UK’s BBC News Website, in-between frustrating server errors on the BA site, that a researcher from the broadcaster called to ask how things were going. This was the opportunity.

A couple of coffees later I was live on air, from my hotel bedroom, with BBC Radio 5. We discussed the implications for fast businesses, especially those experiencing growth like Positive Marketing, when state workers, in charge of national infrastructure, strike.

It was, the interviewer noted ‘a good plug’ but it is always good to ‘eat your own dog food’ because it reminds you of what you are asking your clients to do. Pleasingly enough, selected highlights from my rant also made it to the main BBC News Website. The twin hits resulted in a stream of emails from potential customers and partners, all tuning in early on a Sunday morning to catch-up on news, some of whom I had not heard from in a decade.

Modern news agendas move ever faster, making agile trendsurfing a critical skill. Marketing folks just naturally feel better when they crack on, experimenting with angles, rather than letting events wash over them. A two-hour turnaround from pitch-to-coverage proves we can walk the walk for their brands too.

If only the over-paid and unthinking Spanish air traffic controllers understood the consequences of their inaction would be for hundreds of thousands of revenue-generating passengers. But then, had they done so, this trendsurfing opportunity would not have existed. So, if you think eating canine cuisine beats letting the tail wag the dog, we would be happy kickstart your trendsurfing too.


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