Breaking the ice

22Nov09

Contrary to my previous blog, work is looking up. The ice is breaking, however there are some ponds that simply won’t thaw. Take an instance this week. I sat down with one of the people who runs their days on matters consisting singularly on what customers can complain about. The task in hand was to remove anything which could not be be applicable to the entire year, so statements made about the weather and certain activities had to be scrupulously detected and removed.

After fifteen or so minutes of literally nit-picking and rendering the text (written by a copywriter and not myself otherwise my pride would have been sorely bruised) devoid of any animation whatsoever, I beseeched with a simper that the job was done, wasn’t that funny pandering to that silly pedantry, aren’t our jobs so crazy they could be made into a sit-com?

I think we’ve got all of that. Haha.

Yes. There’s definitely no remaining text which could advertise activities or features unavailable in some months.

A very weak joke springs to mind.

Oh wait – haha, can we write that the mountain drives are available all year or do they pack up the mountains every September and stash them in the attic until March?

Silence.

No.

A swift clearing of my throat was followed with a mumbled ‘thanks for going through this with me’ and I excused myself to bash my head against the bathroom mirror for thirty seconds.

The rest of my ice-breaking has taken a turn for the better. But maybe that is down to the induction day I had to endure on Wednesday?

You know on films and in American TV shows they parody corporate videos produced with the intention to instill camaraderie in their employees. The sort of thing that begins, “Hi, I’m Troy McLure…” Yup, it was one of those.

Myself and three other corporate worker-bees watched the one-woman show that was our employee training course. The woman in question had company passion oozing from every morsel of skin on her body, it made her extremely likeable, even to a die-hard cynic, if not a little frightening. Her sparkling teeth and glittering eyes, even her patterned blouse all played a part in the brain-washing routine that then culminated in three videos all more-or-less dictated by the lyrics of various balads by M-People.

Rather curiously, as the hours dripped by into the afternoon, the cynicism seemed to evaporate and we were given one of the most baffling yet enjoyable tasks I have ever encountered. The subject matter was that of branding. How important is a brand in making a decision? She kicked off this ‘discussion’ with the unfortunate question which went something like this;

So, we all love a biscuit. That’s right, we ALL LOVE a biscuit. I’m a fan of HobNobs myself. A McVities HobNob is my idea of heaven. Because you know McVities get the oats and crunchiness just right, the chocolate tastes right. So when you go into the supermarket and you see the McVities HobNobs next to the own-brand oat-crunch offering. Which do you choose?

This cunning plug for branding unfortunately worked on all the others in the room, however I am immune owing to my parentage. Having come from Scottish stock I am unecessarily tight and unfortunately, saving 5p comes before brand loyalty every time. So, which do I choose? I choose the own-brand. I didn’t say anything however, because our company cheerleader looked as if she may break down mentally if I scuppered her routine. I have too much heart for that.

This carried on the same vein for a little while and then we were directed towards twin piles of three foodstuffs. Ready salted crisps, fondant fancies and ginger nuts. Each twin was sat on respective halves of a sheet of A4 printer paper with A and B written on each half in black board marker. The task was to taste each foodstuff and then identify which was the brand-favorite blind. Of course the point was that we couldn’t possibly identify which was which without having a comforting label to assure us we were not being fooled by some bastard idol.

Unfortunately, cheerleader had underestimated me and my knowlege of the kingdom of crisps, biscuits and cakes. Being a Leicester girl, I have brand loyalty to Walkers, and Walkers crisps taste better than other brands, for starters there is less evidence of the brownish skin rind on their brand and the crisps are that bit paler and box-fresh tasting.

Similarly with the biscuits. Journalism school taught me a great deal about ginger nuts because in most shops the ginger nut is the cheapest tasty biscuit on offer. So I know my McVities from my Spar own-brand or any other. McVities have less cracks and are more tan in colour. Some shop brands are positively orange.

Identifying Mr Kipling was a separate task as fondant fancies rarely feature in my snack repertoire. That I admit was a complete guess which I got wrong because stupidly I went for the one which tasted better.

Anyway. The induction rolled on and finally came to an end and we all went back to work with a new lease of company zeal to infuse into all our workaday tasks.

As ashamed I am to say it, the day did some good in that it gave me some sort of common ground with my colleagues who were genuinely interested in my day and scoffed while they competed at who was the biggest reprobate at their own induction day. An ice wall was broken and work seemed a bit more normal.

The work itself is improving. Less data entry and more creativity. By no means on the level that I entreat from my ultimate ambitions but enough to see that I am in fact earning my salary and not just copying and pasting like a zombie.

No longer the new girl, two new new girls are due pretty shortly which cheers me up because it means I won’t be the most useless person on the editorial team (until they surpass me after the first week as I have heard my boss refer to them as ‘too over-qualified’).

We are being moved very soon into our new teams. Rather than managing individual areas and dealing with them for huge numbers of publications and brands, we are going to master one brand and all the individual areas. I.E. I currently manage Cyrpus, Tunisia and a handful of others, and I have to adapt each text for the dozens of brands the organisation publishes. Instead, I will be charged with one brand but all the countries. To me this makes much more sense however some of my more long in the tooth colleagues are still bemused.

I remain at arms length from everything I am doing. The guard is aching to come down but I am not comfortable enough yet. The chance to correct, fiddle-with and consult grammatically incorrect text is a real pleasure, if extremely dorky. I long to be challenged, however, and I hope next time I write about work I will be asking for less challenges rather than pining for more.

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