manchester hottub

Hottub, Bubble, Toil and Trouble.

My 4 week stint has come to an end.  And now I know everything there is to know about hottubs!  But I’ve learned a lot more besides.

I’ve been working at one of the regions biggest spa sellers, Top Hot Tubs in Manchester.  In that time I’ve worked in sales, customer services, out for “drops” (although customers don’t like them being called that when the 300kg tub is being craned over the house and into the back garden!) and visiting manufacturers such as Jacuzzi (which I didn’t know is a brand name, much in the same way as Hoover is the go-to name for vacuum cleaners!)

Hot tubs are more popular than ever, even in the rainy Manchester weather – perhaps moreso in this climate as sitting in a nice warm one while it’s pouring down is quite an experience I’m told.

I didn’t know you could get a hot tub installed on an apartment balcony without risking life and limb, but with the right information it can (and is!) done safely.

So what have I learned?  Well, a lot really.  My course is in information technology, so they put me to good use at the beginning by getting them up and running with their first online presence over at their Manchester hottubs website.  The site is a basic wordpress install with a few other plugins added on, and I’m quite proud of the way it’s come together.

Next was learning about the huge spas.  There’s more to them than just bubbles and hot water.  For a start, I found out that they don’t have a water supply running to them – they’re filled and emptied every 8 weeks or so using a hosepipe.  It’s not the fastest thing in the world. watching a hot tub fill up!  But after it’s switched on your can start to see the magic happening.  The water begins to swirl with the jets, and the lights and music system are operational.

So people buying hot tubs often think that the number of jets is the critical thing – after all, more jets probably means more relaxation, right?  Well it’s not as simple as that.  It really comes down to the number of pumps/strength of those pumps.  They mix a little air with a water jet to give a proper massage feeling.

Many of the cheap hot tubs just come with an air blower, which doesn’t do much more than make the water ripple.  It doesn’t provide the relaxation that the jets do, it just agitates the water.  So jets which are powered by good pumps are a key thing.  The next is the water heater.  You need one that can heat the water efficiently, and can maintain the water temperature even when the cover is off.  This takes a fair amount of power, but newer hot tubs are much more efficient compared with their older counterparts.  They can cost around £6-£7 pounds per week to run, and are ready when you are since they keep the water at the ideal temperature all day and night.

The cover is the next most important aspect – this holds in the heat and stops your electricity bill from going through the roof.  They’re made from a material much like polystyrene, but which is specially designed for it’s insulating benefits.  They have to be a snug fit to ensure that heat doesn’t leak out from the sides.

So there’s other things too, such as lighting and entertainment systems which are included on the high end models.  Some of these went up in price to around £15000.

So now that I knew more about the tubs, I was given customer service duties.  This involved taking phone calls from existing or potential customers, dealing with any questions or issues they had encountered, but also being a friendly point of contact for those who came to the outlet in person.

It’s surprising how quickly talking to customers can become second nature.  And after a couple of days I was much more relaxed as I knew the kinds of questions to expect.

Hot_Tub_Installation

Going out and installing a tub was next.  The team could often carry the tubs round to the backs of houses that had wide side entrances, but not all houses are like that and we occasionally had to call in a local crane company to lift the spa right over the customer’s house and gently place it in the back yard.  300kg of metal, plastic and wood being lifted over the house was a daunting site for some, but the experts in charge of the cranes handled everything without any issue.

The company is looking at expanding into the online market (and I’m hoping I might be able to help with this in the future).  Obviously a spa isn’t the kind of thing you order online on a whim, but it’s certainly a necessity in order to compete with others in the industry.

I’d like to thank Brian in particular for giving me the chance to work with the team, and helping me get my terrible memory around some of the more technical terms. Thanks to all of the teams working there too!

 

It must have been LOVE…

…but as the song goes, it’s over now! That’s it, another placement over and can you believe it, we’re on to the final one.

As you might have guessed from the title I have spent the last three months at LOVE creative which is an agency based in Manchester city centre and what an agency it is. LOVE work with some of the best clients you could wish for from an agency – especially as a boy. I worked with Sony Playstation, Umbro football and Nike. I also worked on pitches for property in Media City and a very interesting one for a potential pitch for Frosty Jack’s. It was an incredible experience working with some of the most talented and forward thinking creative talent in Manchester.

It was however another placement surrounded by women. It seems as if at every placement I’ve had women next to me, around me, managing me – not that I’m complaining, it really is as good as it sounds. This time I was sat in amongst seven women on the aptly named ‘tampon island’. It’s been a lesson in life throughout this entire year. Whilst I read the other Masters’ blogs about the business lessons they’ve learnt at all these inspiring companies, I can’t help but feel as if I’m learning my share from the fairer sex from Venus. It’s now safe to say, what I don’t know about periods and maxi dresses isn’t worth knowing.

Anyway, enough of my new found knowledge and back to the LOVEing (I’m aware it’s spelt incorrectly but the pun doesn’t work as well otherwise). During my time at LOVE I was privy to the making of the advert for the new Umbro boot, check it out below (N.B. MUCH better with sound up loud).

Even more excitingly, they made a mini ‘behind the scenes’ video to show how it’s all been put together so if you’ve never been on a shoot before you can see how it’s all done – girls, you even get to see Gael Clichy of Arsenal with his top off. Settle down Tom Reeve.

Enjoy.

Iain

The Dawn of a New Era

This week has been a significant time in the Manchester Masters programme as the Tangerine PR team matched up the 2010 recruits with their four placement companies for the year ahead. An exciting time for the ten graduates, these placements could open doors and help these fresh faced students begin their careers in the creative sector.

For other students currently finishing university however, the future isn’t quite so rosy. Last week in Manchester Evening News it was reported that just a third of graduates expect to find a job after leaving university. Once upon a time, a university education almost guaranteed a well paid, high flying first job, but as this recent report suggests, the job and education market are both changing rapidly.

Today, employers expect so much more from graduates than just a good degree. Work and life experience are a must and, increasingly, sound IT skills are becoming a prerequisite. Indeed, when potential Manchester Masters companies were asked to rank the skills desired in an employee, many rated digital skills as high as academic prowess and the ability to write well.

So, as the shift towards digital infiltrates education as it has done PR and Marketing, how is the sector responding? A story by BESA published yesterday revealed that nurseries in the UK are abandoning traditional play in favour of more ‘technological’ methods. Computers and interactive whiteboards for example, are quickly becoming an integral part of the early years environment, helping to develop a new generation of digitally savvy learners.

As more young people go to university than in years gone by this begs the question, is digital ability becoming the key differentiator when it comes to getting that dream job?

Jo Hart
Junior Account Manager
Tangerine PR, a PR agency in Manchester

Taking a Gamble (My time with Kerching Mobile Casino)

I was more than a little apprehensive when I began my placement at Million-2-1. Not because of the company or the placement per se, but because my first week was to be spent in London at one of the biggest gambling exhibitions in the world, and with the majority of the IGT managerial/operational team – most of whom are not from the Manchester team.

Not that that should have made much difference, I hadn’t met the Manchester team anyway. However, at ICE (that’s the name of the exhibition in London) I was going to meet loads of people. And I was going to be thrown right in at the deep end.

Sure enough, everything was a bit of a blur. We checked into a Kensington hotel (all expenses paid for this trip!), dropped off our stuff and went to the exhibition on Monday afternoon. I met a few people, talked to them about myself, the placement, what I was doing here and what they did. It was pretty good but pretty chilled.

Tuesday was different. It was as if everyone from IGT had suddenly turned up together. They were everywhere! In our hotel, at the exhibition and on the streets between the two! You know what it’s like: “Jamie, come and meet such and such”, “Jamie this is whatshisname, he does this for this division”, “Oh Jamie come over here and meet Mr X, he’s been with the company for years, great man Mr X”.

Name after name after name. It was all I could do to smile and shake hands – there was no way I was going to remember everyone. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. I learned a lot from a variety of people about IGT, such as where it operates; where it wants to operate, what prevents certain things from happening in certain places, what kinds of games it wants to develop in the future; etc.

It wasn’t long before the week disappeared, and we were travelling back (Virgin trains, first class, meal and WiFi included…yeah baby). I came in late on Friday morning because of the long week we had behind us (boss’ orders). There wasn’t much to do because the boss wasn’t in and she was the one with the plan (for me), so I took the opportunity to recover from the wild week and sit with everyone in my team for an hour or so to find out what they did.

Shortly after that, I began work proper. The first thing I felt was involved. I got access to all the internal reporting systems and I was added to the Google Analytics (GA) account. I also met the mobile marketing exec (with whom I would be working for the next three months) who told me all about what he does, how he does it and how he intends to make it better. I started looking around the systems, checking out GA and getting a feel for how things were run.

Since that day, I’ve been involved in a variety of tasks, from playing through games and taking/editing screenshots to go onto an app store site, to setting up campaign tracking in GA so that we can more effectively monitor where customers come in from and end up.

One of my final activities was creating custom landing pages for games, so that people who follow an ad are directed to a specific page relevant to the advert they clicked on. I also designed the Facebook landing page and helped redesign the existing reporting system to make it easier for the team to get marketing information from it.

I learned a lot from this placement, things that I’m going to savour and use in the future (many of the things I’ve learned are going to be put into practice on the Manchester Jiu Jitsu sites I’m running for the two univeristy Jiu Jitsu clubs). I know I’ll miss it, before I also looking forward to my new placement, which is scarily my final one!

Manchester Masters now open to all UK universities!

Following overwhelming interest in Manchester Masters from students beyond the Greater Manchester area, the project team has decided to open the programme to graduates from any UK university. This will ensure the scheme continues to nurture the best young creative talent in the UK.

To enable new applicants to make their submission, the deadline for Manchester Masters has been extended until 5pm on Monday 5th September 2015. As such, the 2015/16 programme will now commence in October 2015.

For further details on the eligibility criteria and for an application pack, click here.

Expotel… Exposed

I can’t believe I only have two weeks left at Expotel. Time has flown by.

At first when I started working here, the prospect of having to travel further every day, no longer being bang shot in the centre of Manchester, and the ever shorter days, made me think of my second Manchester Masters placement as a daunting 13 weeks of work I just had to get through.

Then I met the ‘Partner Services’ team that has been my second home for the past 7 weeks. I was handed a project which was challenging but perfectly aligned with my strengths and digital marketing experience. Expotel had clearly thought well and hard about what they wanted me to do here and this initial preparation meant I could just shoot straight into my project.

The first few weeks were all about getting to know the company and the industry it operates in. I was fortunate enough to attend the World Travel Market conference for three days, meet Sequel (our agency) down in London, represent the Partner Services team at the Agency Pub Quiz and go on two Familiarity Trips (MacDonald Hotel and the Red Carnation Dinner).

The perks and benefits list is endless. Every other day we have one of our preferred partners visiting and spoiling us with fruit bowls, lunch, sweets and chocolates… and how many people get two Christmas parties organised for them?

As for the work, there is nothing quite like being given a project where you have the support of all the decision makers. Doors, floors and windows – they all open for you and it’s easy to move from one task to the other without bureaucratic time lags. Every business embracing change should do this – identify the key change drivers and manage them.

And while my job is mostly about PayPerClick, SEO and Social Media (three terms I probably use more these days than even “thank you” and “hello”), I have still continued to develop. For instance, I’ve finally got round to some practical PPC experience, learned about conversion tracking and got to use Bing’s AdCentre. I’ve also been learning about AB-testing. As a result, my understanding of e-commerce has gone from an obsession with ‘getting traffic to visit a website’ to ‘getting that traffic to convert into a sale’ – a far more profitable obsession.

In the coming weeks, my focus will shift from the practice of digital marketing to the strategic planning of Expotel’s marketing strategy for the future.

A key challenge at all our placements will be to build a legacy but then somehow ensure there are people and systems in place to continue what we have achieved, once we move on.

Nikolay Piryankov

Manchester Master

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Third graduate placement report from Manchester Master, Lauren Hurford: An aligned Vistarite

Whilst at Brand Vista, not a day has gone by when I thought, “I really don’t want to go into work”.  In some previous jobs, I thought work was a chore. At Brand Vista I have learnt that having passion for the company and what it wants to achieve, really helps to promote a healthy working mentality. The company has thrown me into the deep end and allowed me to become a Vistarite, their values have somehow become my values and getting up in the morning is invigorating.

From the moment I walk into the office I am at one with myself. Who would have thought that a job could influence such a thing?  That’s where Brand Vista comes into play, it is a brand alignment company and you may think ‘what is that?’ but think Disney….. It wasn’t created by accident it took years of aligning the brand to the Disney vision – straight up family fun. Years of sprinkling fairy dust and goodwill gestures over its employees and visitors in order to ensure you are left feeling satisfied and “Disneyfied” and that Disney is everything and more than you expected. The reason for this is alignment, they are aligned to their vision and there is an army of employees reinforcing this. From the cleaners to Mickey and Minnie, they all play the part. Same smile, same greeting, even the same signature, no matter how many Mickey characters are signing at the park. Someone somewhere has aligned all this, and it doesn’t happen by accident…..

Cue Brand Vista, the brand alignment company, the pioneers of brand alignment, it is involved in organisations such as Alton Towers, AstraZeneca, The City of Blackpool and many more. They take a unique three stage process exploring, visioning and aligning, which all help to ensure that the companies deliver their promises.

I now want my own life to be aligned to my visions, my passions and my values on the journey to completing my masters and beyond. Ducks in a row, birds in a row and boats in a row all give me great creative insight into the minds of my fellow Vistarites and alignment.

Next time you are visiting a shop, cafe, amusement park or even a city and it wasn’t what you expected, somewhere someone has broken their promise to you as a customer, and that my friends is a serious case for alignment!

Lauren Hurford, A Vistarite signing out of an aligned placement at Brand Vista.

 

 

Love, Ducks, Pancakes, Sex, Drugs and a Cup of Tea

It’s almost impossible to use a simpler heading to describe my time at Love Creative. No amount of preparation could have anticipated the “organised chaos” that is working in an agency – especially a really good one.

Week one and my project had the green light, in fact it had 3 green lights as the MD, Chris, told me that I was going to be dipping into almost everything that the agency has wanted to do for a long time, but never really got round to it. A day of making pancakes for all my colleagues was followed by a reality check: I had eleven weeks to leave my mark on this company and not just float in and out unnoticed

From my very first week I was invited to sit in on brainstorming sessions and got to see first-hand how an idea is born, under loads of pressure to be the best in the industry. I could see how that idea is transformed into a concept, backed up by market insights, and one day soon it will be one of those great advertising campaigns that get all my friends talking (and buying).

I’m not sure if all agencies work in the same way as Love, but I find the decentralised structure a great benefit to creativity and good communication. Formal channels are blurred and the team morale is awesome. With a really feminine Spotify playlist on, as Ed and I work in a part of the office dominated by a dozen or so ladies, sometimes I wish I had my headphones on. However the atmosphere is otherwise fantastic and it’s really hard to be the first one to go at 5:30pm when I look around and the office is just as busy as it was at 9 in the morning.
I guess one thing that makes an agency different from client-side marketing departments is the diversity of working for different awesome brands like Umbro, Nike and PlayStation at the same time, making sure we don’t go ‘native’, working on the same brand, in the same way, and failing to see the bigger picture.

Two weeks to go and it now becomes all about results and justifying my time spent with this agency that I have grown to LOVE.

Nikolay Piryankov, Manchester Master

The code for success: Manchester Master, Jamie Goodwin, reflects on his placement with search engine agency, ForwardSEO

by Jamie Goodwin

For the past three months I’ve been with Forwardseo, a search engine optimisation agency based in Northwich, near Manchester. Before the placement I’d had limited experience with SEO. I’ve designed and developed websites for uni, myself and for clubs in the university’s AU, but never claimed to optimise them in any way for search engines – other than the standard good, clean code and lots of keywords.

Coming here gave me a chance to add to my repertoire of skills, particularly those based on web design (which I want to keep on the backburner – but keep nevertheless). The Managing Director, ran an introduction to SEO; this was a great chance for me to start learning things that could help me in the future. I’ve also spoken to most of the content writers and developers about good coding, good writing and general good practice. It turns out I had a fair few misconceptions about the way to write things, particularly the way to code it!

Cheshire based company

However, online marketing wasn’t the only thing I was supposed to learn at this SEO company. This Master’s is about the whole experience, the variety of four different placements; the ability to meet so many people in such a short space of time plays a massive role in the whole thing. This was something I really liked about the company, the people.  They helped me to learn a massive amount in a fairly short space of time.

I also learned what sites behind the main work of the business.  I compiled data, researched various businesses, created webpages and managed accounts for social media profiles.  This was made much easier by the infroduction of Hootsuite which is an application that allows you to take control of a bunch of accounts all at the same time.

We worked with local businesses and visited SME business networking events to find customers.  It was surprising to see how many business owners are trying to do their own SEO, and sometimes receiving major penalties for going about it the wrong way, or using outdated methods.  I came across examples where Google had completely delisted certain companies – this must be a knockout blow for those involved.  There are apparently ways back from this, but I didn’t dip my toe into this area while I was with the company.

Everyone was friendly right from the word go, which was particularly well received because I was so scared that I wouldn’t be ‘up-to-scratch’ when I went. I spent the first morning terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do anything, wouldn’t meet standards, etc. Nonetheless, I was fine and everyone was wonderful. Working in a fairly small agency really helped to promote that ‘part of the team’ feeling.

The company caters for medium sized companies in the North West of England, and their customers know that they are getting advice they can trust.  I’m currently working towards getting my MSc in Marketing, and working directly for such a company has added that extra something that will boost my confidence as I head out into the job market.

 

Pets at Work

I am nearing the end of my time here at Pets at Home and I can’t decide whether it has been the longest or shortest 3 months of my life.  In one way, the amount of new information I have absorbed makes me feel like I have always worked here, but then the daunting day when I arrived for the first time feels like yesterday, and I can’t believe I’m leaving so soon.

It feels strange to me now that before I came I didn’t know anything about PPC, SEO, how a transactional website is even run, why companies can’t just jump straight into doing social media. I also would have guessed Hitwise to be some dodgy European pop band. I have learnt a lot about myself at the same time.

Firstly, despite never wanting to look at a graph again after my economics degree I have realised that I am really quite analytical and doing a Coremetrics report on a Friday is really the highlight of my week (not very cool to admit I know!).  On the other hand I have realised that sometimes I should spend less time talking, and more time listening.

One of the best things about working at Pets at Home is that employees are allowed to bring their pets to work. Every day a new selection of puppies and dogs (and even the odd bearded dragon) come in with their owners and distract me while I work, although I must admit a direct negative correlation between the number of puppies in the office and my productivity.

 

Overall my time at Pets at Home has been a godsend;  without it I might have ended up in the wrong career, or even worse not know the difference between Wainwrights and Chudleys dog food!

Sophie Russell, Manchester Master