Stocktown Video Curator Q&A with me!

 R a v i j o j l a    N o v a k o v i c 

      

Name: Ravijojla Novakovic

Occupation:  Freelance Writer/ Social Media Community Manager / Project Assistant / Musician 

Interests: Art, popular culture, creativity, pleasant socialising, reading, travelling, narratives. 

City of origin:  Bjelovar, Croatia

Current location:  Zagreb, Croatia

Contacts: Twitter @xeniaflex

Homepage: https://soundcloud.com/xeniaflexhttps://followmywordprints.wordpress.com/ 

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What are you up to right now?

    

I have just recently relocated back to my homeland, where I’m currently working for a feminist non- governmental organisation. I am about to learn how to drive which makes me happy ’cause I really, really want to go on a road-trip, which would be something in the style of Thelma and Louise and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Without death and actual violence though. 

 

What kind of videos make you go wow?

 

Personally, I quite enjoy highly stylised videos that focus on revealing the fragility of human existence. I do not know why, perhaps because I think it is beautiful. I like pastel colours, gentle and tender images of scenery and portraits, but on the other hand, I also like sharp contrasts and images of violence, only because they are thrilling. However, these are almost all only abstract notions. I like videos which I find beautiful, or which I find that they convey some important message. So basically, it’s either in the content or in the aesthetics, which also boils down to content. It’s all about the content! 

 

What’s your signature steeze as a Video Curator?

 

I like to write about documentaries, because they usually contain more hooks for me to grab onto. However, I am always game for writing about ground-breaking musicians. 

 

Tell us about your experience at Stocktown?

 

Stocktown is a community that stretches beyond boarders – think of it in whichever way you wish. As a video curator – I am happy to contribute with bringing culture to light, that culture which I feel has not been highlighted enough. As Stocktown’s Social Media Manager – I am hoping for Stocktown to grow bigger and increase the audience involvement. I believe there is so much out there that needs to be put in the limelight, and a hundred sets of eyes are so much stronger and more all-knowing than just one! 

 

What are you doing when you’re not doing anything?  

 

I am either powerwalking to keep fit and clear my thoughts, or I am watching some TV show, as I am in love with narratives. Cooking is also great for relaxing, romancing as well, pleasant socialising, browsing beautiful pictures, dancing, anything really. Sometimes however, I just stare at the wall. Image

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How to Approach a Heartbreak

Let’s start off by saying how not to: by putting one’s head deep in the sand and pretending like it never happened.

I don’t really have an advice how to approach a heartbreak. It’s actually quite impossible, for it’s usually the heartbreak that does the approaching. The only thing one can do is to deal with it.

Instead of tips and feel-good formulas, I suggest you go through my posts on creativity. There is salvation in creation. There always is. Actually, I suggest you get creative right away after reading this post. But first check the video below.

Even those who don’t define themselves as creatives find great relief in subliming the harshness of feelings into something else, something that can take the weight of everything that passes.

Observe how some stories are made of a rich sequence of events which unfold in a timely manner. Some stories, however, are enveloped in a single static mash of a feeling, characterised by a timeless notion. These are the introverted stories, those that have many, many hidden little corners one could look at to get information. They are as rich with texture as self-sustainable a rain forest is.

With that said, a heartbreak is one such introverted story. Some are a clearcut one-way exit, and some are a discombobulated thread of all colours possible. The options are infinite.

To delay no further, I only wish to share this piece of brilliance with you.

“Air and water in motion
Hair is blocking all my vision
Reach a final decision

We reach the end here, crushed like the waves
We reach the end here, nothing to save

And though the ocean looks infinite
from the far side
it breaks here, it dies

Like you and I”

I didn’t write this, Julia Spada did. Elegant and effective, the sentiment pierces through as easy as sunlight through lace. Much aided by this spectacularly shot video, this is an excellent representation of a haunting unpleasantness revolving around a relationship on its deathbed.

There is hurt, emptiness, weakness as much as strength, and there’s truth.  The strings orchestrate a tender coating to the sharpness of Julia Spada’s voice. The images of trees…the dullness of colours, the well rehearsed dancing, the tentative look of a boy giving back the necklace, the screaming in the forests with those stroboscope lights in the background…Beautiful! Such a thrill, this video. Even the surface looks rich in emotion.

“nothing to say”

Alongside these so-beautiful-I-could-explode scenes, there really is no need to say anything.

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Social Media Wizards Go Boom!

I must admit right away from the start that I am often a social media sceptic.

Boo-hoo-boo! Boo!

(Sounds of disapproval are coming from the audience. Some seem ready to throw rotten tomatoes at me, but I am not threatened).

I must stress the word: often. I am not threatened by the booing audience because I know that social media can be an extremely powerful tool sometimes – mostly those times when in right hands. But heavens know there have been a series of ridiculous attempts.

Look at this wizard, doing his magic:

Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 1.14.20 PM

“Ka-boooooom! I’m going to make you a hundreds of thousands of likes!  I’m going to drag thousands of followers from my strikes! Watch it as I make the Earth shake, and you realise I’m no flake!  I’m going to make you a social media top dog, you will see them rise from the fog! 

Social media guru’s, AKA, the modern day wizards. People who will do everything to make your product or service a bit lousier than it really is. You can recognise them from far, for they spam you and they cuckoo you, and at the end, they are bound to fool you. Spamming content, lousy content, the overall absence of content, begging friends and family, innocent passer-by to “like us on facebook” are all shortcuts to make your product or service less likeable, in the minds of the customers/readers.

However, it is as furthest from the truth as it can be to say that all social media experts are phoney posers. Hence the difference in naming, experts instead of gurus. There are people who really know how to make interesting content, and spin it in the right way. Watch for them, for they are usually skillful with words. By that I don’t mean that they are charlatans who know how to woo you into believing that the Earth is a square, but that they know how to convey an idea as clearly as possible using words elegantly. They also plan a substantial business strategy and have clear goals that are measurable by sales conversions and/or clicks, depending on your product.  They have ideas for user friendly content, and they keep them coming.

One of the usage of social media that has always kept me fascinated was the covert marketing tricks. How clever, how sophisticated and how cruel in the same time these methods can be. We’ve all seen cases of major brands making a sort of a side track website full of seemingly unrelated articles to their business. And the question arises, where are the ads? They aren’t advertising themselves? Oh wow, how noble! Indeed, big up for Mercedes. All of a sudden, Mercedes (click it!) is interested in culture, music and all things cool/swag/insert proper word. As a sidekick to this particular website, there is a whole network of accompanying social media, which aims to help spread this material and build and attract newer followers to the tribe. How does it work though, what are they thinking with this website, why and how, how are they benefitting from this? It is rather obvious when there’s a logo or a brand image directly represented in the (not always desirably) viral content, but what when it’s completely hidden?

Well,  it is because through social media, the big brands can make sure that their customers, readers, followers are right under their noses. When they’re surrounded culturally, it’s plain to see what they like and what their interests are. You can see where they eat, where they hang out, where they go out. Suddenly there is much more information based on which one can plan a secure way to plant ads to those places. And even then those ads will not be too obvious, because direct and obvious marketing prooves itself to be tiring and even annoying to most people. Covert marketing’s secret weapon is: get them while they’re sleeping/unaware. Imagine yourself going to an interesting, oh-so-independent event where you meet so-very-cool people who were inserted there to wear this or that, so that it soon becomes a thing. It’s covert marketing in all shapes and sizes.

Links: http://www.theavantgardediaries.com/

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How to Handle a Scandal: Damage Control Tactics

What do Findus, the Catholic Church and Carnival Cruise Lines have in common?

Let’s see…the mismatched food labeling, the pope resignation and the failed cruise..?

A scandal (or several..)! But what else? 

Apart from making it to the headlines for several consecutive weeks, it’s their questionable choices in dealing with the media focus they found themselves in. There are obvious reasons to why each one of these scandals should require a case specific approach. The different crowds of followers and general customer profile demand a different kind of  damage control strategy. The results can be found anywhere on a scale between a complete turn over on one side and ending up being the eternal laughing stock on the other. However, let’s not forget that it’s a little naive to expect that the wrong (whose idea of wrong?) approach to a single scandal may help to ruin the (in one case) thousands of years, or just a couple of decades of (questionable) reputation.

Scandals happen. It is imminent that during a huge production cycle, there are so many things that could go wrong. Be it the human error factor, someone dropping a major verbal bomb (Galliano scandal, anyone?), or a machine dysfunction; something or someone will eventually break or go berserk. Nothing strange with that, it’s just the way it goes. There are mistakes that grow to such an extent that the public just can’t stomach them, but then again, there are mistakes that are easier to forgive.

When pope Benedict announced his resignation at the beginning of February 2013, the world was in a shock. A pope can resign? Well, apparently every couple of hundreds of years it may happen. And when it happens, the Catholic Church must find a way to explain this to their followers and the general public. They decided that the easiest, least painful way to make a solid and believable story about what happened is to blame it on his old age. Pope Benedict simply got too old to sustain the same level of quality. This story is completely understandable and believable considering the fact that each and every pope that gets elected is kind of old to start with. There could be absolutely no other reason to his resignation. Obviously, it must be the age! 

As the radio went on about how he got too old to serve, I found it outrageous. Who would wish their health, old age, and inability to be discussed in such details and repeated over and over again? To place all the weight of the resignation on the account of former pope Benedict’s age is just another kind of bad taste. It tells us though, that there’s a lot going on which is potentially much bigger bad news than what we were served. The lesson they might teach young and aspiring marketing and PR enthusiasts, is that when ruling from a position of enough power, you can get away with just about everything.

A company and a corporation has a slightly, but only slightly tougher job, when attempting to cover up or milden a scandal. Companies and corporations want to convince us that nothing could ever go wrong and that we should rely on their warranty of safety. In cases it isn’t so, we are more than welcome to sue and eventually get a nice compensation if we gather up enough convincing (crucial fact) and/or keep our mouth shut. And those are the good times. It seems that if you’re big enough, you’re not going to get down whatever happens.

However, there are slight differences in approach.

Did the Carnival Cruise publish an apology on their website during the times of the toughest media focus they got? No, they didn’t. They reserved the website to offer new discounts and advertise other cruising lines. 

What did they do, then, to ensure that they are not harmed by this failed voyage?

They issued a (pitiful) public apology, as well as a compensation in shape of 500$ to the people who were caught on board.

It seems that they found their brand to be so strong, that it would be wiser to sort of not mention the fact that their ships are an oft disaster, and not make a big deal out of it.

When Findus affair exploded earlier this year, everyone thought that Findus got knocked down so bad, that they would never be able to regain the trust of their customers. To mislabel meats can only suggest how much other things could have gone wrong during the production circle. Can you imagine? I don’t want to. This is something noone even thought about before the scandal, because we were already convinced that Findus stands for untainted warranty of quality. I don’t know much about the TV dinners and processed food, as I’m not consuming them so much, but their frozen vegetables have been the best on the shelf in two out of three countries I’ve lived at in the past ten years.

However, Findus did something no other of these companies/establishments could do. They offered a way to monitor their production process and make themselves transparent. More exactly, they gave customers a chance to visit the industry and see it for themselves how everything goes from behind the scenes. They admitted the mistake and offered a solution. These marketing instincts are flawless.

There are two sides to publicity, the positive one, and the negative one, and as much as it is a fact that both of these drag attention, we must provide a trustworthy image if we want our product sold. If we were to believe in any of the stories that marketing and PR geniuses serve us with, we must have a certain trust that we, as customers or followers, place upon these establishments. If we, as customers, are disrespected and our need to feel valued is damaged, we are bound to doubt our choices, and ascribe a negative connotation to the brand’s image. In order for it to be taken seriously, an apology over a scandal must come only as a part of a solution. Humanity lives for stories, but there is a significant difference between stories of honour and horror-stories.

What do you think?

Links:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/news/i-love-hitler-new-scandal-hits-john-galliano-2228517.html

http://www.findus.se/PublicStatement.htm

http://www.carnival.com/

http://www.vatican.va/

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6 Quirky Ways to Resume Writing

There are times when a piece of work leads itself to a finishing line without much effort. Some works write themselves. Imagine a writer possessed by a strange and unstoppable power, scribbling madly as if in some sort of a trance. That writer doesn’t think much, because the thought is already there. Words align in a rhythmic, natural flow, simply and easy. They float on air like a kite on a sunny day. Those are the good times.

Whoever tried to create something for a longer period of time came to a moment when a river of inspiration simply ran dry. Just like that, ouch. And that doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your passion (okay, maybe a little), but it also doesn’t mean that it’s hopeless and that nothing could be done. Basically, you should do something about it. Something different than what you’ve been doing until now.

And don’t worry, it’s not the boring kind of work. This should be fun: the rules are simple and what’s even better, you create your own paths.

We are all catching a ride on  the big impulse of joy and wonder. We all want to find magic (again). Where is the magic button to press on? Is it automatic? It is. But you have to set the current right. 

Okay, no more dilly-dally. Have a look at my pointers to find that voice again. Soon you’ll be squeezing out words as precious as porcelain in no time.

If we were playing a video game, this is what you would see on the screen:

MISSION: FIND YOUR MAGIC.

REWARD: RETAIN POWER OVER YOUR EXPRESSIVE SKILLS

BONUS: PRAISE AND APPRECIATION, RECOGNITION

And if you hit all five stars, special side quest’s award: MATERIALS WORTH A HOLIDAY HOUSE OR JUST A NEW PAIR OF SHOES

Accept mission?

Press X.

(I like pressing X.)

XXX.

Pointer NR. 1:

Make jokes.

Tell jokes, start using humour. Or make-up a joke, your own joke that works. Ok, you’re not a comedian (not right now, at least!), but so what? Let the world laugh, heavens know there’s a shortage on quality laughter.

Do you think Larry David would mind a little competition?

Exactly.

Then try taking a joke you remember well, and transcribe it into something else. Tweek it a bit and tell it. The point is to make someone laugh. You could try with anyone, a person at your local shop, your sibling, a colleague at work, teacher. Or post it online, and you don’t even have to claim authorship. Just see if it works. If it made one person laugh, you’ve done your job.

Pointer NR. 2:   Short Story for the Kid in You

If the joke writing didn’t work out, try to write a story for a small kid. Imagine a short story that would keep your eyes wide open if you’re reading it as a child. Basically, write a perfect short story for the kid in you. It can be anything. You can include unicorns and dragons. When I picture mine, I think of Carebears and jumping on clouds. That sounds like much fun. I don’t know what would happen. Some kind of adventure would start on a typically ordinary day, some kind of a divine/paranormal/supernatural/mystery/ancient/insert proper adjective intrusion would abrupt your life so ferociously, that there would be no turning back. Even though I was slightly grumpy when I started writing this post, I am already feeling that my thinking space is becoming infused with different colours. Not so dull anymore!

Pointer NR. 3: Write a Juicy Scene!

Instead of thinking of a juicy scene only for pleasure’s sake, try to convert your senses, images and flashes of feelings into words. You can be as elaborate as you wish, and focus on whichever element you wish, as long as you really make that scene juicy, in your opinion. Focus on extending the dialogue, on envisioning a scenery, whatever takes it for you to make an appropriate bed which will host the scene. Don’t shy away as this can be as private as you wish, and you can hide it in the darkest corner of your computer memory. Or, you can choose to publish it if you feel humanity might benefit from your juicy scene. You need to be as sensitive to your imagination as you can, and really let yourself write that perfect scene that makes you go all dizzy. You will be banging your keyboard in no time.

Pointer NR. 4: Make up your power character. A Superhero supervillain. Then tell what happens.

Think of a magic hero/heroine  OR a strange antihero, both with special features. You can make up a character that embodies something special, for example a grumpy unicorn, a sexually frustrated talking STD, a super grandma, a deranged wizard, a panda in a sport bra preaching nutritionism. You might also think of an object and give it human features. Your hero could be whatever you think is missing in this world.

You can think of something completely new, or you can take an existing one and give it a new light (nothing wrong with some good old fanfiction). Think of a set of skills and which set of situations trigger them. You never know, your idea might be the next Marvell comic.

Pointer NR. 5.  Tell it like it is!

If you had this little problem going on, and because of it you just can’t seem to focus on anything else. Why not putting it down on paper. There’s no need to make it nice, keep it cute or for any aesthetic procedure at all. You just need to give  it all out as it is.  Please, please tell us what stopped you. Go into details. Don’t spare us the gore ones! Those are the ones we like most. Give us, the common people, something to chew on. Give us that. Whether you’re proud of it or not. Especially if you’re not proud of it. Spill your heart out. Remember, stay true, noone needs to see the end product. However, it will help you to get it out of the way.

Just allow yourself to write as hardcore real as you can imagine. You might even surprise yourself where that takes you.

NOTE If you’re struggling to start writing after a pause, you surely know that towards your readers, you’ve committed the greatest sin of all. You weren’t there. You were that absent figure, that person whose name is cried in vain, the person who promised and couldn’t keep it up. This is a dangerous stream of thoughts only leading you into endless spirale of guilt. The truth is that no matter where you are in life, you can always start writing (again). Everyone has the right to tell their story. Even if you can’t think of new imaginable ones.

Pointer NR. 6:. Oh No I’m going there.

Write a poem.

Sometimes I write poems cause the exclusivity of having such a little space to fill feels just about the best way to encapture a feeling. With a poem reward comes quickly. The joy over encapturing a feeling is so great, that it helps to open up paths of creativity again.

By now, you should be having some ideas to get yourself started.  Let’s finish off by saying that nothing happens when one sits still. Maybe it works for some, but personally, every time I started feeling stuck, I reflected the same in my work. I’ve realized that movement is crucial. Creating is much like an act of a tightrope walk. Either you go through it with much focus and skill, or you drop into the net of nothingness at the moment you hesitate for too long.

And today, noone can say that your work can not find an audience. There’s always an audience, and as dangerous this might be, it’s also strangely liberating. All you need is a keyboard, basic life needs being met, and you can type away. There’s always a story to be told. It has a beginning, a continuation, and an end. It’s as simple as that.

Whatever you do, make it worthy, because it is about you.

Until next time,

Stay creative!

Please send me some extra ideas, what strategy do you have to help tackle creative blocks? Do you have some stories to share?

Ravijojla

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Unicorns and Joy

Since I haven’t been writing in a while, I’m offering you something completely different.

Just like any actor would have wished to have a good thriller in their opus, so do I need to have at least one poem that includes unicorns.

It’s about spring cleaning, mostly.

So, here it is:

A Bucket of Unicorn Cheers

Pour me a bucket of unicorn cheers,

and talk to me about sweet things,

which make it safe.

and maybe they’re real

or fake,

so I can weep long and deep

as they fill out each and every

creek.

And we bathe in sun,

and we sprinkle the skin,

we pour a bucket of unicorn cheers

all over our cheeks.

So we clean the oil,

so we eradicate the mess,

with sweet things we can only

put the soul to rest.

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What Can Mildred Pierce Teach Us About Career Advancement

Today I’d like to think about Mildred Pierce, the HBO series based on 1941 hardboiled novel by James M. Cain. In the following lines you will be given the breakdown of her career. Think of it as career tips, all mapped out, nice and sweet… just for you.

Let’s just get down and dirty immediately, as I am in no mood to waste words, nor your time.

Mildred was a fine and wise lady. This is her in action at the beginning of her career:

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Notice that smirk, that natural readiness to look, act and be professional? Take it from Mildred, ’cause she is a pro!

WARNING: spoilers galore. But not only ordinary spoilers. Career advancement spoilers.

THIS IS HOW IT STARTS:

Mildred’s starting position is not exactly to be envied.  The big picture is the Great Depression, which is not the best time to be job hunting, nor starting a business. Trouble being trouble, it never comes alone: her husband has just left her with two small daughters. Mind you, she was a housewife prior to that.

The Cold, Harsh Reality: a newly single mother with two children and no job. Someone has to feed those hungry mouths, and it is not the husband!

What does Mildred do?

Against her first judgement, Mildred gets a waitressing job, which is the only job she could find after a long, exhausting search.

Lesson 1: Sometimes, one needs to swallow one’s pride. Mildred knew right from the start that she is not going to be a waitress forever. She had her eyes open all the while, absorbing information, waiting for the right moment.  She did not waste a second on feeling sorry for herself for being just a waitress. She did her best doing her job, no matter what it was.

Moral: Sometimes, things do not go the way we want them to, and we may find ourselves in the midst of a messy scene. It can happen to everyone, things just go out of control even if we do everything right. Life is unfair. Is that really such a news item? It is our job and duty to get ourselves out of that. Watch Mildred, and learn.  Swallow pride, and use your time and skills wisely to get yourself to a better place.

SECOND STEP:

Mildred finds out that the small restaurant she works at has a pie problem. The pies they are ordering are simply not good enough. As she knows how to bake herself, she offers to provide the restaurant with her delicious pies, and they accept. Smooth!

Lesson 2: She does not just burst out with her offer. Her offer is carefully planned and communicated through the right channels. She befriends the woman the manager trusts, and then uses her to reach the manager. Careful planning got her foot in the door and soon she started baking the pies.  She continued working as a waitress and significantly increased her income. Two points for inventiveness, and two for patience!

Moral: If Mildred just went straight to the manager with her offer, there is a big chance nothing would have come out if it. We are speaking about the 1920’s, and, business women were still a rarity. Think about your communication channels. Are you wasting opportunities because you either do not know how to form your offers, or you communicate them through the wrong channels? The little niceties are nothing to forget about, and the secretive etiquettes in regards to how an offer should be made are equally important.

Also, once you get an opportunity, do not quit your day job just yet. Before one spreads their wings to be a freelancer, they need to make sure that they can earn enough to afford the basic needs. If Mildred had the patience, so can you.

THIRD STEP:

Mildred starts making good money and thinks about enlarging her business. Maybe she could open a restaurant? She could start with something small, easily obtainable and cheap? There is one problem though: how to find an affordable place and available investors.

Mildred gets “acquainted” with her husband’s business partner, who has both the contacts and information she needs. She presents the idea to him, and gets a sweet deal.

Lesson 3: Take a look at your circle of acquaintances. You might know someone who knows someone who might have what you need. Mind you, you are not looking for a favour, you are offering them an opportunity. That is what Mildred did, and that is what you should do.

Moral: This is a little bit of a tricky part. She does sleep with the acquaintance, in order to make him or her more open to suggestions. It is generally not considered wise to sleep with your business contacts . You must have some other persuasive strategies up your sleeve. However, if you happen to play with such dirty players, think of this one: “Why buy a cow when you can get milk for free?”. Dirty, but unfortunately true. The “sleep your way in” tactic is ineffective, harmful, unprofessional and outdated. You need to develop other strategies to make them more susceptible for your suggestions. How about good content? Along with a good offer, that should definitely open doors.

FOURTH STEP:

Mildred opens a restaurant and starts earning a very nice salary. Being the boss of her business, she is on top of her game. However, there is a tragic incident in her personal life. (I will not go into details right now).

Lesson 4: Do not let your personal life get in the way of your professional life. It is understandable that you are not a robot and that in case of a tragedy, you have emotions to take care of. Just shoving them under the carpet will not help. However, you can focus on work and solving problems to help you heal.

Make sure you keep going forward.

Moral: Do not think what other people think about you. Most probably, it is none of your business what they think about you. Just carry on with your plan, it will eventually help you to get over whatever the tragedy you are going through.

FIFTH STEP: Expanding business. Business flourishes. Stepping up and introducing a luxurious product alongside the cheaper one.

So far so good.

Also, a good step: stepping up on the appearances by moving into a fancy villa. Good move, need to look the part.

But Mildred makes a mistake.

Lesson 5: About this time Mildred starts to support her husband and her daughter’s career. She goes overboard with it and looses her focus.

Moral: Yes, everyone has someone who desperately needs help. Empathy, and a need to help, is one of the more admirable  human virtues. However, her daughter is insatiable and the husband a useless bum. Mildred suddenly does not know how and when to say no. To win sympathy by putting yourself in danger is a very, very bad move. Helping others by ruining yourself does not help anyone, instead, it is a suicide mission, especially if you are jeopardizing your business. You need to make sure you are well in order to help others get better. And when necessary: just. say. no.

This is where Mildred’s lessons end, as she denounces herself from a position of tactical authority. She goes back to her first husband and settles in with a quiet and calm life. Nothing wrong with that, however, for my taste, it lacks flair.

Hope this was insightful and entertaining!

Remember, when in doubt, ask yourself: What would Mildred do (before the fifth step)?

Until next time,

Stay creative!

R.

link to the series, in case you have missed it:

http://www.hbo.com/mildred-pierce/index.html

P.S.

If I register interest, I will write up an alternative tactic: The Career Advancement Strategy of Vida, Mildred’s daughter! Warning, only for those whose morals are extremely flexible!

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