Student Blog- The last day

The last day in the office was nostalgic for me as I have enjoyed every day I spent at Volpa, with the different projects I was welcomed to take part in, various in-office tasks, and all the meetings and training sessions which have taught me so much. I have had the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have gained during my university course in a practical, real-world situation where my actions mattered and my suggestions were taken into account. It has been an amazing experience and when today came about I did not want it to end.

We had the regular Publicity Department Meeting today to review the progress of ongoing projects and improve on them by taking in suggestions from all team members – even if they are not the ones managing or working on that particular project. The main topics for discussion were product launches for both Aurora Spirit and Inveralmond Brewery as they are due in the next couple of weeks and they also overlap with the Easter holidays. This meant that a well-defined plan for both events (and confirmation from the team members of who can attend which event) was set in place in order to ensure the undoubtful success of the launches.

After lunch we had a Team Meeting as well where Tricia went through the new updates for the business and all the coming changes and important projects with which all of the team must become familiarised. I was fortunate to have my placement at such a time as I was privy to the old systems and organisation of the business and then I had the chance to see the improvements and changes made on them in order to optimise processes, minimise waste, and increase turnover – all the while maintaining the amazing Volpa business culture which makes work an enjoyable part of one’s day where you want to come back time and time again.

I continued working on the list of existing retailers for The Famous Grouse Experience to compile a database of their contact information. This has been a very time-consuming task but it was very rewarding as I felt entrusted with a high level of trust and responsibility which made me feel appreciated by the team. The team were extremely lovely and presented me with a good luck card as it was my last day and with a couple of gift cards to continue growing my book collection and to enjoy a little film treat.

Thank you everyone for the amazing experience which you have offered me and for making me feel welcome and a part of the Volpa family!

Student Blog- Influencers

Today was a really interesting day as I had the chance to take part in a CPD (Continual Personal Development) session organised by Linda and Ellis – as each member of the team is actively involved in the CPD programme by researching and presenting a certain relevant topic to the rest of the team. The topic for this session was online influencers – such as bloggers, vloggers or youtubers – the people who shape the opinions of their followers and the online community. We discussed what makes them influencers to begin with and what they can do for a company, such as creating a new channel which directly reaches the target market segment. Using online influencers is very useful as it online traffic is easy to monitor and receive statistics in regards to it, as well as analysing the reach and effectiveness of an online campaign (especially if said campaign has its own hashtag).

However, as useful as influencers might be one of the most important piece of advice is that before approaching any influencer one should do their research thoroughly and ensure that one deals with the whole process in a professional manner as, after all, they are professionals in what they do and should be treated as such. It is also important to keep in mind that there is a certain degree of risk associated with using influencers as one has no control over the message they deliver since the message they pass on will always be in their words. On the bright side, often an influencer will simply refuse to endorse a product or service if they do not like it rather than giving a negative review. Lastly, the end of the session stressed upon the importance transparency regarding any sponsored campaign and on that of stats when measuring influence (for example, followers can be bought and as such their numbers are not an accurate representation of the influence and popularity of a potential influencer).

Afterwards I had the chance of sitting in on another PR meeting where the focus was the launch of two new beer types and the relaunch of two old ones by the Innes & Gunn Inveralmond Brewery. The schedule for the launch was discussed and perfected while a balance between the actual launch and the fact that the brewery is also celebrating 20 years was discussed to ensure that one does not upstage the other. The event promises to be a spectacular sight and a testament to the proficiency of the Volpa team! And since we were on the topic of influencers earlier in the blog, the launch of Aurora Spirit’s Vodka, Gin, and Akvavit will see many opinion makers there, such as bloggers (connoisseurs in their fields) and acclaimed cocktail makers.

I spent the rest of my working day researching contact details for all Famous Grouse Experience’s wholesalers, four hours later having managed to go through 60 of the over 350 contacts on the list. This task promises to be a time-consuming one but at the same time quite rewarding as it gives this odd sense of accomplishment as one makes one’s way through it slowly but surely filling each row and column, making the spreadsheet look complete and professional. Just roughly 20 more hours of work to go and I should be done, although I am betting on the fact that by the time I get to number 100 I would have gotten the hang of it in such way that optimises the data input – fingers and toes crossed!

Student Blog: Spirits are high

The day started with another PR department meeting and I must say that I found this structure of weekly progress meetings which, although obviously serious and very relevant, have a relaxed and informal air to them (making one feel very comfortable to not only take part in the meeting but also speak their mind or present their project with confidence) to be very efficient. It not only ensures that all projects are on track and are being worked on each week but, also, it creates a sense of community and unity amongst colleagues. Furthermore, it allows for the opportunity of pooling individual resources from each team member for the benefit of each project, which leads to delivering a much more complex and well-rounded end-product than if there would be no interaction between team members.

Our main point of discussion was the launch of Glenturret’s 1987 whisky as the microsite (part of Glenturret’s global website) on which orders can be placed for this limited, vintage malt was going live later today. Susannah spent all day making sure the site was up and running, doing test purchases in order to ensure the site is easy to use by the customers and that the process is straightforward. There were some issues which came up early in the morning but by the time everything was due to go live, her and Tricia had solved them with a series of phone calls and some hands-on work. And while on the topic of alcohol, another project discussed was the upcoming launch of Aurora Spirit’s Vodka, Gin and Akvavit (made by the most northern distillery in the world which is found in Norway) taking place at the Malmaison in Edinburgh.

The second half of the day started with my digital training which I received from Megan, the Digital Marketing Assistant. She showed me all the figures and statistics used to measure online and social media presences, the reach of campaigns or posts, the amount of time people spend looking at a post and other such statistics. The fact that she used examples to explain each particular figure helped me very much to be able to cement the information she was giving me as seeing it displayed in the context of a business showed me their actual purpose. She went over different tools which help you obtain statistics, such as Raven which is a platform that provides social media stats and also supplies a monthly marketing report for each individual business/campaign, or Mail Chimp which allows one to distribute emails or newsletters quickly to a large audience. Two other very useful tools are which shows all mentions across the internet for a particular campaign, page or business, and a tool that enables one to find any relevant shareable content on a given topic. I found the training really interesting and very useful, both in the context of my task to manage the Kingsway Apartments social media accounts, and in the broader context of my future as now I feel much more confident in my ability to use, obtain, and interpret marketing information relating to social media/online stats.

The last part of the working day was dedicated to scheduling more posts for the two social media accounts, finding new relevant stories to share and putting in application my newly acquired knowledge, particularly when it came to finding said relevant stories or interpreting the stats provided by Hootsuite (since you can get stats there and I found it good practice tracking the posts I put up, trying to see what was most popular and then determining how can that be replicated).

Student Blog: The PRfect approach

Today one of my lecturers, Pat Sedakat, came to visit Volpa in order to see if I am doing well on my placement and if there are any issues that either Fraser or myself would like to address. It was a very informative and helpful talk because, after both Fraser and myself answered Pat’s question relating to the placement, she gave me some advice on the poster I must prepare as part of my assessment. She reiterated the programme for the poster presentation day and then stressed upon the importance of certain key points such as making sure there are no spelling mistakes in on the poster (as, apparently, such mistakes where a much more common occurrence than one would expect from university students). Another important piece of advice was making sure I include what I have learned and what new skills I have gained (or what already existing skills I have further developed) because of the placement programme, such as learning how to write a blog or developing my customer relation skills.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to sit in on another meeting of the PR department to discuss the progress of each individual ongoing project within the department. One of the main topics for discussion was the upcoming LEGOTM Exhibition in Perth, whose launch is on Wednesday (although some of the exhibits won’t be unveiled until Saturday). On this occasion, I have learned that the press will be more willing to cover a story during week days rather than during the weekend, and thus the Wednesday launch allows for a much greater coverage from local and national newspapers.

The last part of my day was spent being introduced to managing social media accounts on behalf of organisations, which is something that the team at Volpa does very well. Fraser showed me how to use a platform called Hootsuite which allows one to simultaneously manage several different social media accounts for various projects. It seems like a very interesting tool and we shall soon see if truly got the hang of it as I was entrusted with the task of managing the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Kingsway Apartments. I must schedule posts which highlight the features of the halls and their unique selling points but also related posts showing an engagement with the local community and an understanding of our target audience – no pressure 🙂 Fraser gave me access to Hootsuite and to the Dropbox files containing the photos and videos taken during the photo shoot from last week and now all that I am left to do is give it my best and hope all goes well.

Student Blog- Organising a photo shoot

It was a shorter than usual day in the office, as I had to leave at 2 pm in order to arrive in time to a meeting taking place at the University, but nonetheless very interesting and engaging. I spent the better part of the day researching on the internet in order to compare the offer Kingsway Apartments advertises with its competitors in the Dundee area. It made me feel very engaged in the project and it made me more confident in my own abilities as the research I had done was not only take into consideration but used as a point of reference for what should be advertised on the website and what would make the offer more appealing, well-rounded, and competitive.

The owner of Kingsway Apartments – the former Alloway Halls – decided that he wants to re-open the halls he purchased from Abertay University to students at an affordable price whilst ensuring it offers a high quality of living; and he decide to bring his business to Volpa and ask the specialist team here help with everything from website design to organising promotional photoshoots. Now, while on the topic of photoshoots, the day after my placement we actually organised one in order to be able to show real images from the new private halls. I enjoyed the experience as I felt Fraser put a lot of his trust in me by involving me in the process and relying on me to find 6 students to take part in the photoshoot – which, granted, was not such a hard task once I was given the green light to offer pizza as method of repaying them for helping; although I did have changes to the students coming twice fold due to unforeseen circumstances which I am rather grateful­­­  for as it put me in the situation of having to resolve a mini-crisis in a mature and timely manner.

Five of us had previously lived at Alloway in first year so going back was a trip down memory lane – but a rather more modern, comfortable, and affordable lane than the one we remembered. We had a great time as it did not even feel like a true photoshoot when all eyes are on you and you feel so dwarfed by the camera lens and the blinding light but rather like a nice gathering of friends, chatting and having pizza together (which happened rather often at Alloway so it was oddly suitable). All in all, it was good fun and also a very instructive experience for me!

Before leaving for my meeting in Dundee. Fraser showed me how they upload my blogs to the website and I had the chance to see a face of it not visible to regular users. The platform they use is very user friendly while at the same time all-encompassing when it comes to all the features and details which can be added to/on the website. I think it is safe to say I would be rather good at uploading blogs – now all I have left to do is find the company which advertises the ‘high-paying’ job of Blog Uploader (but without asking for the content of said blog to be made by the uploader) and I am sorted.

In the last half an hour of my time in the office I had the pleasure of sitting in on another presentation telling the story of how each of the Volpa employees grew from little children with big dreams to adults who are now working for Volpa with a truckload of memorable moments (some downright amusing, some serious, some moving) and great expertise. The story I got to hear was that of Alison Lowson, PR Executive at Volpa, and it kept us laughing throughout with all these wild and unforgettable stories of a woman who lived a full and fulfilling life while pursuing the career she wanted before deciding to try something new.


Student Blog – A day in the office

In the morning Fraser had a look over the cover letters for the three positions I was applying for as part of the first Supplementary List offered by the Saltire Scholarship. Receiving feedback from a professional over my style of writing and ideas was not only extremely useful but it also gave insight in the way someone receiving such a cover letter would perceive it and analyse it. Fraser said they were all really good having only small suggestions over what should be changed in some or what should be impressed upon in others – this helped built my confidence in my writing skills, for it is one thing to believe you might be a good writer and a completely another to actually hear that from someone who’s opinion is sanctioned and relevant.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to sit in on another meeting of the PR department and to hear about the progress of all upcoming projects which are currently under development. For example, I learned there will be a huge and rather impressive LEGO™ Exhibition at Perth Museum in March and just by hearing the updates on the exhibition and its publicity campaign made me really want to go visit it once it is open to the public. ­Another story had the Balhousie Care Home at its centre, highlighting the new initiative taken by the care home in giving its residents a say in the selection of their carers and the care process itself – a commendable initiative, in my opinion, which takes into account the most important part of a care home, its residents.

One of the most exciting update for me was, however, the March launch by the Famous Grouse of another type of Whisky, distilled in 1987 and which has never been presented to the public before. The announcement was not exciting due to my love of alcohol (rather non-existent to the sore disappointment of my university friends – though I will always appreciate a good quality drink if the occasion or meal calls for it) but because the week previous I was actually involved in a part of the publicity process – without even realising it until now. Volpa was given two bottles of the precious whisky to help promote it and I was entrusted with the task of pouring one of the bottles into 14 smaller bottles to be sent to different bloggers, connoisseurs, and opinion-makers in order to hear their opinion of it. From the smell of it I can definitely attest it is a very good whisky (even with my rudimentary level of whisky knowledge) but I reckon that Gordon’s opinion who seems very well versed in the whisky world and who did not just smell it but took the “angels’ share” of the bottle (not exactly the vapour released by the evaporation process during maturation but rather the last 15 ml I had left over).

Afterwards, Fraser had a couple of meetings he had to attend and he left me with the job of compiling a list of all written Scottish publications and their daily ABC totals (the number of physical copies sold each day by the publication). Volpa uses the figures when delivering coverage reports to their clients in order to give tangible evidence of the approximate number of people reached by a particular advert or article. It was a tedious job but at the same time with each new line or sheet added to my Excel document that sense of satisfaction and pride in yourself that you have when make something from scratch, with your hands came over me. I suppose it is because it was one of the first important/official documents I was writing which will actually help Fraser from now on (not to mention that I was pleasantly surprised of how naturally writing it and coming up with a formal, yet easy to understand format was). I managed to finish the entire list just a few minutes before 5 o’clock which was just in time for Fraser to have a look over it and be pleased with my results – at least I know I can do basic data presentation right.

Student Blog – My first client meeting

Whenever you see businessmen in films going to meetings they have this omnibus of documents with them, as if trying to impress the customer through the sheer size of the stack of papers they have. It somehow infers that unless you present yourself with all the documentation and information which you have amassed over the years in physical form people will not take you seriously and neither will they consider you prepared. Today started off with a meeting with the owner and senior staff of St Andrews Aquarium and Fraser showed me how you are supposed to truly be in a meeting with a client. Sure, he had some documents with him but only few with the most important pieces of information, but what he truly had and required was knowledge; in-depth knowledge of the project he is working on, the expectation of his client, and – maybe most important – what kind of person his client was in regards to how he liked to be interacted with.

The meeting had one main focus and that was the new website of the Aquarium, together with the its new booking system, one which is state-of-the-art and even more advanced than the one used by Edinburgh Zoo. Fraser enquired about the thoughts and opinions of the owner and senior staff regarding the layout, display, and ease of use of the new website (which had gone live a few days previous), not forgetting to ask about the accuracy of information displayed (especially in concern to the animal descriptions). Fraser was like a fish in water – what an apt comparison since we are speaking of the Aquarium – he knew what to say and how to say it, he knew when to listen, what questions to ask, and when to offer suggestions. One could tell he was well versed in all aspects regarding the Aquarium and the project itself, coming across as not only knowledgeable and genuinely interested, but also as very confident on his proposal and expertise – but without seeming full of himself. He was genuine and personally vested in project’s success and that is exactly the kind of person the Aquarium wanted to do business with.

Seeing Fraser in action was a very educative and invaluable experience which taught me a lot about how I should be and want to be in the future when I will work in the field of business. It showed me how important it is to establish good rapport with your client in order to not only get to know them and the way they think to understand their expectations but, most importantly, to build trust. The outcome of the meeting was a very happy client who gave very positive feedback, being extremely happy over how useful, all-encompassing, and straightforward the website was (and ditto to the system behind it).

After the meeting I had the chance to have a look through the Aquarium – which I had never visited up until that point – and I was charmed by it. It was so lovely to go from area to area and from tank to tank and actually see the animals I comprised lists of and designed poster around. I even had a stingray come smile at me (granted, she was only up for some air but the timing was right and it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day) and a some very friendly penguins making jumps and tumbles in the water. I even had the chance to take a sneak peek to the Amazon Room which is now under construction and promises to be an experience on its own. I will definitely come back with my friends once it has its grand opening in April!

Once we were back at the office, Gordon and I had a look over the rough body of the poster we were discussing last week and I was pleasantly surprised of how it is beginning to look – especially since Gordon is helping me with a project which is not planned in the break-down and allocation of his working hours.

Afterwards, Fraser gave me the task of actually coming up with a presentation of my proposed advertising campaign for the Aquarium – one that I could then present to the owner. It gave much more gravity and importance to my work and research and motivated me to ensure that I will create and deliver the best quality presentation I can – now all I need to do (apart from extensive research and planning) is keep my fingers and toes crossed in the hopes that my ideas are not only viable but, also, to the liking of the Aquarium owner.

Student Blog- Feeling like a Professional

Once we got in, Fraser had a look over the rough proposal I came up with for the spring publicity campaign for St Andrew’s Aquarium. After a few gut-wrenching minutes in which everything that could be wrong with the proposal went through my head all at the same time with the speed of a freight-train I was put out of my misery by Fraser’s approval. After he had a look over my first blog entry I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a very good one and there was no need to make any modifications – which lifted a weight off my shoulders as I have never written a blog before and I was rather scared that I made shambles out of it.

My task for the day was to develop my proposal and present an in-depth analysis of the way the monthly advertising budget could be spent effectively and efficiently, while simultaneously ensuring the most exposure for the Aquarium and its different monthly campaigns. When I first sat down in front of my laptop I felt as if I did not know where to begin but I was raised by an over-competitive mother who always expected the best of me and, in time, this made me expect the best of myself so I made a plan in my mind which seemed rather productive and gave it a go.

Shortly after I immersed myself in the work I had the opportunity to sit on two different meetings within the business, one in which overviews of ongoing publicity projects were presented, allowing everyone to input on each of them and bring in their own expertise or networking connections, allowing for a much better developed end product/service. I found this way of presenting the progress of ongoing projects and the openness with which colleagues opinions are received and truly taken into consideration not only a proof of good (and intelligent) business practice, but also very refreshing and inclusive. The second meeting, held by the design department, presented the new structure of design requests given to the artists for any project. This structured way of submitting a design brief is meant to optimise communication between the design team and the customer or between the customer and the project manager (who, in turn will work closely with the design team in order to ensure that the end product meets and exceeds expectations while remaining in budget). The layout of the new brief is simple and concise with straightforward questions, the answers to which create a clear and well-defined picture of what the client wants.

Once the meetings were over, I returned to my work which began looking rather smart once I started putting all the financial information in neatly organised excel tables and made me feel like a true professional. After extensive searches for prices, optimal places to display adverts, and miscellaneous ways of advertising I managed to provide a very detailed programme for each month and each campaign, together with the associated costs. Fraser was out on a few meetings during the latter part of the day but I had the chance to talk to Gordon, the Head of Creative, about what ideas I have for the posters associated with each of the campaigns. I had a few vague ideas of how I thought the posters could look and they were received very well by Gordon who, upon hearing them, launched in a stream of suggestions to suit them. I enjoyed working with him because I believe it is an amazing thing to be so passionate about your work as Gordon is; every time he would suggest something new you could see his face light up and his entire demeanour change to one full of so much energy.

At the end of the day I received very good and insightful feedback from Fraser (who even throughout the day was always more than happy to help with any questions I had) and I was left with a lovely feeling of self-accomplishment and an eagerness to come back next week!

Student Blog- “My first day in the real world”

Today I started working for Volpa as part of the placement programme offered by my course and it was my first proper experience in the world of work associated with my degree. It was an amazing experience, so very different from my part-time job of convenience which just helps me say I am self-sufficient.

The day started off with a presentation on the story of Volpa and a short bios done by half of the team – the first part of a ‘meet and greet’ between co-workers after a wave of new employees which expanded the team significantly. It was different, it was refreshing, and it gave you a sense of belonging. The atmosphere at work, how open and friendly everyone is gives a sense of belonging to a lovely extend family and it made me think of my visit at Google headquarters – where an inclusive, open, and friendly atmosphere was ever-present.

I went into the placement programme without a preference for one or other area of business for the simple fact that liking and understanding the theory of a specific area is not indicative of how fulfilling or engaging working in that area is; especially when the company you work for and its culture, value, and environment are all very important factors in determining whether one loves their job or hates it. Now, I can confidently say that, so far, my experience at Volpa has made me very interested in the area of marketing and in their approach to delivering all-encompassing services.

After lunch I had the chance to look over some of the currently ongoing projects and familiarise myself with the template of proposals for future projects. I find the integrated approach Volpa has to delivering the end service very well suited to its corporate culture and it helps deliver a much more well-rounded and complete service at very high standards; also, I think it helps nurture the sense of community as everybody interacts with everybody else and ensures that nobody feels like they are alone or that they might not have anyone to turn to, even if it is just for a pep-talk.

My mentor, Fraser, encouraged me to choose a project on which I would like to work and follow it along throughout the duration of my placement (he said I’ll be working on several short-term ones as well but taking into account that I am there only once a week some projects might be finished by the time I am in next so a long-term one gives a certain continuation and allows me to follow the development of it in-depth). I chose working on the marketing campaign for the St Andrews Aquarium which is bound to be very interesting and challenging but in a fulfilling way.

Now, all that is left to do is hope that my proposed advertising campaign (to Fraser’s specifications) will make sense and be feasible – fingers crossed till next time!