SMART objectives: Why bother?

I used to think SMART objectives were claptrap designed to make us waste as much time as possible by unnecessarily over complicating something which should be straightforward. An excuse for another pointless acronym that, by the time I’ve learn what it stands for, will be replaced by the next set of trendy buzzwords.  The hours I spent trying to figure out how to make my objectives seem smart were enough to drive me to chocolate cake. But recently someone used a metaphor to explain smart objectives and now I finally get it.

If your objective is to go west, you could keep going west forever. By not being specific about what you mean by west you’ll never know when you’ve reached west. You might convince yourself you’ve failed because you haven’t got there yet. If instead you say ‘I want to be in Bristol by 4pm on Wednesday’ you’ve got a smart objective.


If, by 4pm on Wednesday, you haven’t reached Bristol, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you need to stop and assess how far you’ve come, and how far you’ve got to go. An opportunity to amend your objective to something  achievable.

I still don’t know how to measure half of what I do, or the difference between achievable and realistic, but I can see how smart objectives can be useful. A tool to help me focus on what I’m working towards rather than a fad invented by someone in HR with too much time on their hands.


The future’s bright, the future’s green: Regeneration in Herne Hill

At the beginning of the year I blogged 10 ideas and tips for town centre regeneration. Now I’ve been to see the last of the seven High Street Renewal Award winners, Herne Hill in London. Herne Hill received a share of the £1 million prize fund to put towards regenerating the town centre and they’ve been busy with exciting plans.

Herne Hill market is one of the main attractions, drawing in up to 4,000 people on a Sunday. The team are working with The Edible Bus Stop to design some innovative new street furniture. The seats will have planters with trees, bike racks and awnings. They’ll be portable so they can be rearranged depending on the occasion. They’ll have solar panels and lights so they can be used for night-time events. The lido nearby were so impressed that they want to use the same design for their poolside furniture.

Portable seats

Herne Hill have chosen green as their signature colour to fit in with their green surroundings. This simple move helps to create an easily recognisable identity for the area that can be applied to anything from the lamppost banners and maps listing local businesses, to the public toilets and railway bridge.

I asked Lucy Reynolds, Herne Hill’s Town Centre Champion, for her tops tips on high street regeneration. “Build a huge volunteer base” was her response. This was echoed by most of the high street teams I’ve visited. Work out how many volunteers you think you’re going to need and double it. Lucy also suggested focusing on some small wins that you can point to and say “We did that”. Lots of small things make a difference and lead to bigger change. The locals can see that things are improving and it also helps to attract more funding.

When I asked Lucy what the most challenging aspect of town centre regeneration has been so far she talked about dealing with resistance and the tension between the existing community and new entrepreneurs. It can be hard to find a balance between improving an area and attracting new businesses, and keeping those who’ve been there a long time happy. As areas regenerate prices go up and some people feel forced to move away. I was born in Notting Hill so I can relate to this. Although I love my new home, Woolwich, having to leave my hometown broke my heart.

What’s next for Herne Hill? South London Makerspace is a shared creative space that people can work in for a small monthly membership fee. They can make things, share tools, use 3D printers, and learn from each other. The plan is to find a permanent home for the space. Other plans include working with a local architect to make the railway bridge more inviting, and revamping the pedestrian underpass.

Railway bridge
Railway bridge now
What the new railway bridge will look like
What the new railway bridge will look like
Underpass now
Underpass now
What the new underpass will look like
What the new underpass will look like

To see more on Herne Hill and the other High Street Renewal Award winners have a look at DCLG’s Town Centre Regeneration Pinterest board (depending on your browser you many need to be logged into Pinterest to view it).

Open for business: The Great British High Street competition 2015

With the growth of online shopping some high streets are struggling to keep up with the competition from digital retail giants. The Great British High Street campaign is about celebrating our high streets to boost the local economy by encouraging people to shop locally. It’s about diversifying the high street so the focus isn’t just on shopping, it’s on eating, drinking, socialising, housing, leisure and embracing new technology.

A big part of the campaign is the Great British High Street of the Year Awards. The competition is open to local groups working in collaboration. That means trade associations, community interest companies, town centre partnerships, Town Teams and Business Improvement Districts. There are seven high street categories: city, town, village, coastal, market town, local precinct or parade of shops, and London high street. There will also be a ‘rising star’ award for a person or project showing dedication or innovation towards making the high street a better place.

The £50,000 prize fund will be shared between the winners. The winners will also receive training and mentoring. Google will run a Digital Garage on Tour for 100 small businesses in the winning areas to help them improve their digital skills and attract more customers.

The digital high streets report 2020 highlighted the importance using digital technology to future-proof high streets increase sales.

Last year’s winners said the kudos of being named a High Street of the Year was as valuable as the prizes, and some reported and increase in footfall to the high street.

This was a fun campaign to work on. The hashtag #GBHighSt was used 4.5k times during the competition, with celebrities Stephen Fry and Beck Adlington showing their support. Some of the entrants got creative on social media, finding fun ways to display the hashtag and getting the local community to post images, videos and reasons why they love their high street.

This year the judges will take into account social media activity by the entrants to rally the community round to support their entry. The public will be able to use an app to vote for their favourite shortlisted high street to win. The competition closes on 1 September and we’ll announce the finalists in October. Keep an eye out for us on Twitter and Facebook.

(This post was originally written for the Local Digital Campaign blog)

50 first tweets

When I joined Twitter a few years ago it was because it was the latest trendy thing on social media so I thought I should give it a go, not because I had a clear idea of what I would use it for. At first I tweeted about any old thing just to get the hang of how it works. After a while I decided that, for me, Twitter’s most useful for sharing and reading social media tips and the highlights from events, and drawing attention to the things I work on, particularly high street regeneration and markets. It’s also great for hearing from other people who work on similar things.

If you’re new to Twitter you might still be figuring out how to make the best use of it. In the meantime, if you just want to get some tweeting practice and become more familiar with how Twitter works, here are 50 ideas for things you can tweet about:

  1. Details of an event you’re going to
  2. The highlights of an event you’ve been to
  3. What’s happening live while you’re at an event
  4. A link to an interesting article you’ve read
  5. A comment about a blog you’ve read
  6. A link to an interesting forum discussion
  7. A quote that’s inspired you
  8. Some useful advice you’ve heard
  9. Your top tips
  10. Interesting facts
  11. Little-known stats
  12. Facts or stats relevant to the area where you live
  13. What you thought of a film or show
  14. Details of an exhibition you’ve seen
  15. A venue you liked (or didn’t like)
  16. A great restaurant or café you’ve discovered
  17. A special offer you’ve seen
  18. A photo of something interesting you’ve seen
  19. A Vine video
  20. Ask a question
  21. Answer a question
  22. Comment on a sporting event
  23. Ask for a recommendation
  24. Say what you think of a place you’ve visited
  25. Let people know about traffic problems
  26. Warn people about public transport delays
  27. Encourage people to support a cause
  28. Highlight an important issue
  29. Link to a petition
  30. Give you’re opinion on a current issue
  31. Introduce yourself to someone you’d like to meet
  32. Congratulate someone
  33. Wish someone luck/happy birthday/bon voyage etc
  34. Thank someone
  35. Follow up a meeting with a tweet
  36. Thank a company for good customer service
  37. Moan about bad customer service
  38. Ask someone for a live update
  39. Big up someone who deserves it
  40. Share a useful tool
  41. Talk about a project you’re working on
  42. Get feedback on something you’re working on
  43. Take part in a Q&A
  44. Share a joke
  45. Recommend a training course
  46. Share the results of a poll
  47. Share some trivia or quiz questions
  48. Share your achievements
  49. Tell people what music you’re listening to and why you like it
  50. Retweet other people