Category Archives: Branding

Thoughtful marketing. An alternative to pushy PR and nonpersonal social media messages

Earlier this year I wrote about the lack of safety in online dating. I think it’s a big problem in general that there is such a lack of real identity verification online.

After I had published the article I tweeted about it a few times. It got retweeted by all the love gurus and dating agencies you can imagine. Some companies that have developed products to verify who you are online also retweeted my article. As a nice gesture, I replied in a short tweet that it would be good to connect.

A few days later I get an email from a PR agency that, in an unclear way, talks about me, my post in the Huffington Post, and the issue of lack of identity verification. I ask for clarification. It turns out that the agency represents a brand that deals with online identity and wants to set up a meeting between the ‘online identity’ company and me. For me this feels confusing; wouldn’t the company itself connect with me if it wanted to chat? No, instead the company gets a forceful PR person, who is obviously only doing their job, to try to set up a meeting between the company and me. I have to spend over an hour emailing back and forth trying to explain that I would only have considered meeting with the company if they had asked me themselves in a personal way. I also tried to find out if there is something in it for me.

Having a middle-person involved in this case was both annoying and insulting. Why would I have met up with them? There was no incentive at all for me.

Maybe I’m naive and don’t get how it works in business, but having a PR company try to set up a meeting offering me free coffee to learn more about their online identity product just felt weird.

If you and your business handle your PR in this poor way, please rethink your connection strategy. There is no way that busy people will appreciate an invitation sent this way.

You must make the effort and connect personally.

woman writing

Last week I spoke to a friend who is a property developer. One of her talents is her beautiful handwriting and it’s a pleasure to read what she’s written. She has started writing handwritten letters to potential investors instead of impersonal emails, sending random messages over social media and cold calling. In a world with too much information being shared online, we have lost our ability to write letters. Her plan is to write two letters per day until she has connected with all of the potential clients she has on her list. This will take her over one month to do; sending impersonal emails would take her two days.

People are busy. We lack personal connection. There is a lot of ugly communication around that no-one feels they can trust.

Never forget that all ‘prospects’ are real people with busy calendars and lots of options for what to do with their time.

If you write a personal letter, I can promise you that both your opening rate and meeting conversion rate will be higher than ever before.

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I read every message, tweet, and handwritten letter I receive, so please stay connected.



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The noise of your brand – my experience of the gym Better and the restaurant Jak’s in London

One of the things that makes us human is our ability to have a conversation. Last week in London I had at least two bad experiences where there was no chance to have a conversation. One was in a gym and one in a restaurant.

Two reasons you go to the gym are to get strong and to stay healthy. Not to get tinnitus or a headache.

I’ve done weight training at lots of gyms over the years, and last week I tried out a chain in West London called Better. They have a green logo, and their gyms sound fabulous on their website. Note that the tagline is ‘the feel good place’. Better-Logo-with-strap-line-665x479

When I was there they had the radio on pretty loudly. I went up to the reception and asked them to turn it down.

The answer I got was: ‘This is our normal volume and we have to accommodate all our customers, and therefore we need to keep the volume up.’ Then the man at the reception said: ‘I will let the management know about your complaint.’

I have a decibel meter on my smartphone, and I measured the volume when standing in the middle of the gym. It was between 73 and 78 decibels.

Ten minutes later when I was exercising at one of the machines, I suddenly noticed someone staring at me. It turns out that it was the manager. He asked me if there was a problem. ‘Yes, there is a problem. The volume is far too loud, can you please turn it down?’

The music is too loud for us to have a normal conversation, and we both speak really loudly to each other. ‘The manager’ looks at me and tells me: ‘We need to accommodate everyone who’s in the gym and this is our normal volume.’

I get really annoyed and tell him that the gym is discriminating against people suffering from hearing impairment and people who can’t spend too long in a noisy environment. And if people are not having any hearing problems now, they will later.

Better gym

I was wearing my headphones at the time, and the next question I get asked is: ‘Do you want us to turn down the volume so you can listen to your own music in your headphones?’

‘That’s not the case,’ I reply, ‘but I would like to be in a gym that uses music as a background sound and not like it’s a frigging concert.’

I always listen to podcasts when I’m at the gym, and in this case I had turned up the volume to the highest setting and I still found it hard to hear the content. But the reason that I asked for the volume to be turned down was not only so I could hear the podcast.

In the end ‘the manager’ turned down the volume so it was between 69 and 78 decibels, so a slight improvement.

I left, and I’m pretty sure I will never set foot in any of the Better gyms again.

Better gym London. The noise of your brand

On Saturday evening, I was invited for dinner at Jak’s on Kings Road in West London. I arrive at 8.30 and sit down in the bar area. The venue is in a basement, and it’s a huge place.

Just after 9 pm, they turn up the volume, and it’s more or less impossible to have a relaxed conversation. I always have earplugs with me in my handbag, and I put them in, but they barely help.

I try my best and have a nice chat with some other guests. Next to us there is a big screen showing an Al Pacino movie, and eventually we all start to stare at the screen instead of talking.

Then I walk over to the restaurant area hoping for a better atmosphere. Wow, am I wrong. There is almost no difference in the noise level. I pick up my smart decibel meter and it shows that the volume is between 85 and 98 decibels.

Jak's, Kings road London restaurant. The noise of your brand.

I get back to my friends feeling really bad. I decide to go home. There is no chance that I could have enjoyed myself over dinner while screaming for a few hours.

Jacks London Kings road

Did the manager of Jak’s think that people were enjoying themselves? Some of the guests were probably too pissed to notice the volume, I don’t know, but music should enhance your experience of a venue, not drive people away.

Just after 10 pm, I took the bus to the nearest McDonald’s, had a cheeseburger and then I went to bed.

That was my Saturday evening.



  • Disturbing sound equals interfering noise, aka noise pollution.
  • To keep background music levels okay for people to talk you should not go over 55 decibels.
  • Most guests and people working in hospitality want to be able to have a conversation many of them suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • You can design the environment smarter so that noise is absorbed. Think tablecloths and better interior design.
  • Many brands still don’t get the sound of their brand.

You might also like to read two articles I’ve written about sound:

Setting The Tone With Background Music

The Sound Of Your Brand

Please support the movement of creating more public spaces with less noise.

Stop noise

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Virgin media’s inconsistency in their customer service using Twitter

The digital world and social media have certainly changed a lot of things when it comes to customer service. I’ve used Twitter anVirgin media green box brokend Facebook many times to directly send a request for help or complain to a business and most of them have been quick to pick it up and redirected me into the right direction.

When I walk to the gym I’m passing several green boxes on the way, these have wires in them and are the basis for our broadband, phone and TV infrastructure. On a few occasions the door to these boxes have been left wide open because it’s broken, and it doesn’t look safe at all. Imagine a child sticking in his or her hand in it.

One day there were an engineer repairing one of them and I told him that there is another green box that is broken further down the road.

He asked me: ‘Is it a box like this one or smaller?’

I said: ‘It’s a smaller one.’

‘Ok, then it belongs to Virgin media, I’m from BT, but will make sure I send them a request to fix it.’

Weeks passed on and nothing happened with the broken green box. I decided to tweet Virgin Media. I took a picture of the green box on the street and tweeted it to Virgin media. They replied and the next day they fixed the green box. #ThankYouTwitterForThat

I’m not a Virgin media customer any longer, but I could see the damage the broken box could do to the infrastructure and wanted them to fix it for the public good.

Then a few weeks later I discover a new broken green box on the same street. I do the same thing again, I tweet to Virgin media. The reply I get from them is that they can’t fix it over Twitter, and that I have to call them. For me calling Virgin media feels like hell. I used to be a Virgin media green box fixedVirgin media customer and my experience with them wasn’t that positive. Tweeting feels much better compared to calling them.

After tweeting back and forth with the new person managing Virgin media’s Twitter account I give up. Now one week has gone and the other green Virgin media broadband box is still not fixed.

Shall I call them tomorrow? What do you think I should do?

Some people I know who lives in the area use Virgin’s broadband, and I know they have problems with the speed and connectivity. Maybe the damaged green boxes have anything to do with that?

The British society is obsessed with health and safety and I’m surprised that my second tweet was not taken seriously as the first time.

Big difference in consistency in customer service.

When I’m looking at the Virgin media reviews on Trustpilot I get a bit worried. An average of one star. Not good Virgin Media. I think you need to improve your game.


UPDATE 12th August

I made an effort to connect with Virgin Media over phone as they suggested about two weeks ago. It was all an automated voice mail connection where you left your details and address about the damaged green box. I passed the box yesterday and it’s still not fixed.

This is not great Virgin Media. A safe and secure broadband connection is a matter of necessity for people using it.

If you are thinking of changing to BT in the UK here is the link.

Virgin media green box not fixed














Here is the twitter history:

Virgin media Twitter conversation when they are not able to repair the box

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What about modern values. Where do they come from?

Over the last few days I’ve been thinking about values, what I stand for and where my values come from.

The world has changed even more in the last week with more terror attacks and the US Supreme Court finally ruling that same-sex marriage is a legal right nationwide.

We live in a global world.

We are all in this together.

What do values mean in a global world? Are they connected to a nation, religious beliefs, a strong leader? Or are they connected to something else?

I think they are connected to our times. Modern times. An era of new ideas and shared global values.

Modern values include people’s right to live together in a society that accepts everyone for who they are, and where you’re free to be who you are unless you are physically or mentally hurting someone else.

I’ve chosen to work as an international speaker and when I made that choice I threw myself into a journey of learning. It would be very difficult to be an international speaker if I had a narrow mindset full of prejudice towards people who are not like me, who don’t think like I do or have a similar background to me.

I’m lucky that I’ve been able to practise opening my mind by living in London, the most international city in the world. In my work I collaborate with people based all over the world.

I was born in Sweden and my parents are open-minded and they both taught me a lot about accepting people for who they are, our global world, being thoughtful and caring for other people.

A modern world with modern values involves many things. Here are some thoughts about what a modern world means to me right now:

  • Freedom of thought and expression
  • A right to education for everyone
  • Acceptance between people, cultures and lifestyles
  • Being reliable and saying what you mean
  • Caring for nature
  • Being authentic and standing up for your values
  • Everyone having the right to a safe and secure life
  • Modern values also welcome innovation, creativity and new thinking

What I would like to represent as a speaker, educator and entertainer is a modern world in modern times – a world full of acceptance, tolerance and freedom.

I’m very happy I live at a time when change for the better is possible, when many of my friends on Facebook share their rainbow flag profile pictures.

Equality and freedom movements are strong and I hope many more people will put in the energy, time and resources we need to continue to live together in a better way.

Thank you for reading my post.

Sofie Sandell


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Sofie Sandell

Photographer Asya Barskaya

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Q&A: Will my potential customers judge me by what I write on Twitter?

Q: Will my potential customers judge me by what I write on Twitter? 

A: The answer is short and neat: Yes, they will judge you by what you say on Twitter, and online in general. Before anyone does business with you they check out your credibility online and they will Google your name and your brand name. What you write and say about yourself will help them to make up their mind about you, who you are and if they like you. We tend to choose to work with people we like when we meet them, and if their online messages connect with us then it’s even easier to make up our minds.

Google rank Twitter high and will show off your Twitter account among the first results when someone searches for you.

Bloomberg—a trader’s best friend—has pulled Twitter into its terminal since April this year. This is a sign that the stock market is taking information published on social media seriously. Read an article on this topic published on Mashable.

You have to make a decision about whether you would like social media involved in every aspect of your business, which makes it more effective, or if you are happy to send out a message every now and then.

What you need to know:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they want to hear from you?
  • Where is your audience online?

When you know more about who your audience is you can compose a better message and use the right channels.

Doing well on Twitter is not about having thousands or even millions of followers, it’s more about connecting with the right people who want to connect and listen to you. So go out and find them.

From my book ‘Digital Leadership’

Sofie says: “We all have an OBD—an Online Bullshit Detector. We can see immediately if anyone shares something online and doesn’t mean it. You are better off showing who you are, with your flaws, and keep being authentic to your values.” 

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Social Media Q&A

Do you have any questions about life in relation to social media?

Send an email with your question to Sofie Sandell for a chance to get it published here.

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