Take Two Drawers

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Take two drawers,
And the top shelf too,
Some things are worth fighting over,
But my space belongs to you.

Put your shoes where you please,
Neatly beside mine or out of place,
The prints that matter are on my heart,
And (the ones your lips leave) on my face.

This air I breathe I share with you,
An uncommon honour I don’t deserve.
If you weren’t here, there’d be half of me,
Missing the part I’d die to preserve.

Take the drawers, you can have them all,
Even the closets, racks and window ledges.
Welcome home, this is where you belong,
Surround me, be curves to my rough edges.

Don’t Pressure Me

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Fifteen matter-of-fact responses to everyday duress:

1. Like you, I wake up too early and go to bed too late.

2. I forget things. I’m human.

3. Sometimes, my bank account is empty. But because clean, wrinkle-free clothes are the perfect diversion, you may never know.

4. I haven’t eaten either, but I’m not acting crazy. Your hunger is not a tenable excuse to mistreat me.

5. I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here. Shouting won’t make it clearer.

6. I’m not your maid, your driver or the office messenger. Are you sure you know what you employed me to do?

7. I’m sick means I’m sick. Leave it alone or hire a private investigator, your choice.

8. “When I was your age…” Stop, please. I don’t need to know.

9. Haven’t you ever slept through an alarm?

10. I’m in my lane, moving at my pace. You’re free to overtake me.

11. I heard the news too, but no, I don’t care.

12. It’s not my wedding. I’m not buying the aso ebi. I don’t wear traditional caps.

13. It’s my birthday, not a charity event. I’m not buying anyone food.

14. I can afford it, I’m just not buying.

15. I’m not ready. Wait or walk away.

See Finish: How Familiarity Kills Lovely Things

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If you forget that I’m a miracle, how will I excite? And if you become ordinary in my eyes, how will you delight?

By nature, a relationship demands (some kind of) exposure to be. It requires a baring of souls and lives for the ones involved to learn about each other, grow into each other and become comfortable.

But with exposure comes familiarity, and familiarity breeds contempt.

Or complacency, that unfortunate dust that settles on things left to settle; like a house kept shut and without the benefit of sunlight for so long that the treasures within begin to tarnish.

We become fixtures in each other’s lives and then we begin to forget:

1. The thrill of exploring a whole new world living and breathing in another person.

2. How we went from uncertainty to certainty about this person, and the joy that came with that knowing.

3. The simple pleasures of holding hands, wordless conversations, eating together and seeing each other after a long day apart.

4. The love of God expressed in Him, by His grace, giving us a co-burden bearer and a partner to face down life with.

5. Presence, that all-important thing that transcends being physically present.

Our phones begin to find their way out of our pockets when there are lulls in conversations, nimble fingers flying across screens as we swipe and tap our significant other into irrelevance.

“Sorry, what were you saying?”

Then they start living on the table, close enough to start a war.

They glow and beep and vibrate in plain sight, as if reminding us with a cold smugness that no human is truly indispensable, while precious things recede into the background.

The things created to bring us closer start us on paths that lead us apart.

Life away from this life we’re supposed to be building and enjoying together slowly becomes more urgent and notifications from strangers make the heart beat faster than the loving gaze of the people who know us well.

We arrive at see finish and the road is all downhill from there.

Affection will rust and lovely things will decay unless we stop:

1. Acting like we can swap people with things, or even people with other people, whenever we please.

2. Undervaluing moments just because we’ve had ‘too many’ of them.

3. Settling into the ‘old married couple’ life after two weeks of dating. We don’t know each other that well yet.

4. Needing our phones more than we need each other.

5. Treating one another like stopgaps while we eagerly await the big thing.

6. Leaving our patch of grass to die while we stare longingly at the seemingly greener patch on the other side of the fence. Grab that watering can.

7. Forgetting to bear in mind how precious God’s human gifts are, and refusing to thank the Giver by treating them with high regard.

It’s not too late to pay attention.

29 Things I (Re)Learned In My 29th Year

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Notes to self and lessons from the past 12 months, in no particular order.

1. No one can love you like your mother. No one. I can’t say this enough.

2. ‘Almost perfect for you’ is not perfect for you.

3. Love is underrated. Love is underrated. Love is underrated.

4. I need my space. I’d go crazy if I didn’t have it.

5. Unless you choose to carry it around, the past is largely irrelevant.

6. Celibacy is not so hard. Pretend you’re blind and your body is firewood.

7. There’s no cure for my introversion.

8. I’m not a morning person.

9. We all need one person, just one, who never gives up on us.

10. What people call serendipity is often God’s great work in their lives.

11. You need to find yourself to be relevant.

12. I don’t belong in an office.

13. God is not a magician.

14. Having a poverty mentality is worse than being poor.

15. I can’t spend my life with someone I can’t share music with.

16. Human beings are what’s wrong with the world.

17. The burdens we mock, we cannot bear.

18. I’m someone’s dream, flaws and all.

19. I can always try a little harder, give a little more, smile a little brighter.

20. Wise people ask for help when they need it. Stop struggling alone.

21. Your pride is a defence but it will be the death of you. Plot twist.

22. Loneliness is a gateway drug.

23. Your employer is not your friend. I’ll reiterate that with this.

24. You will get hurt. Don’t let that stop you from opening up to people.

25. Not every time new friends. What have you done for the ones you have?

26. You can’t save anyone by yourself. Let God work through you.

27. Some of the people you look down on are doing better than you are. Stop.

28. You’re always better off than a number of people. Count your blessings.

29. You never really know.

First Listen: Omawumi – Hello (Adele Cover)

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Omawumi Hello Adele coverOmawumi has always been precious, the kind of vocalist who will always be a standard for judging everyone else. But no thanks to Mortein and Glo ads the apparent need for Nigerian artistes to make meaningless dance music (or die of hunger), most people may have forgotten how much she’s worth. She herself may have forgotten.

Here’s a reminder: Her cover of Adele’s killer ballad, Hello, now a less-melancholic reggae jam produced by e-Kelly. Listen to yourself, Omawumi. You’re (still) profound.

Download

Don’t Run A ‘Nigerian’ Business

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If you’re inclined to start a business in Nigeria, by all means do. Sell whatever you want. Build anything. Just don’t run a ‘Nigerian’ business:

1. Profit margins are a priority and the welfare of staff isn’t.

*Which is so ironic that it’s actually stupid.

2. The entire concept of work-life balance is summed up in a gym (that no one has the time to use with any meaningful regularity).

*And you’re encouraged to live a healthy life in random, preachy emails from the HR department even though the office cafeteria is the prime destination for unhealthy food and the toilet is a future ground zero for an epidemic.

3. Success is measured in terms of office space and the size of an individual’s desk.

*Fun fact: An official car is a surefire sign that you have arrived. Just ask your manager.

4. Working overtime is an everyday thing and no one gets paid extra to do their ‘job’.

*[Until you learn to escape,] you will work weekends too. “But it says Monday to Friday in my contract!” Haha, suck it up or quit.

5. Shouting is an accepted way to reprimand staff and your boss can call you names your parents did not give you.

6. Your weekend is only yours if you turn your phone off, stay offline and damn the consequences. Or hightail it to a neighbouring town on Friday night. Yes, you’re a fugitive now, on the run from the job.

7. An internship is code for ‘you’re getting screwed over’.

8. Sexual harassment is you “being difficult,” and you’ll have to quit if you won’t give in.

*You could get fired for insinuating that a superior touched you or spoke to you inappropriately.

9. The boss-owner-small god of the business can go on a month-long vacation 12 hours before payday without approving the payment of salaries. And he’ll come back frothing at the mouth because, apparently, employees “have no passion for the job.”

10. All your work is online, but the office Internet has been disconnected for days because some idiot refused to do their job. Everyone knows this and nothing has been done, but you must “deliver results” because KPIs.

*KPIs are from Hell, by the way. The devil sends his love.

11. You’re encouraged to kill off your relatives (and kill the dead ones again) or marry them off because you need an excuse to take a day off. So “my great-grandfather’s second cousin died” will probably work, but “I’m very tired and I need some time to rest” won’t.

12. Well, what do you expect when the ‘HR department’ is a cantankerous middle-aged woman who wears a permanent smirk because her husband barely touches her anymore?

*Or a lewd man with an unmissable pot-belly, 150GB of porn on the office computer and a penchant for ogling pubescent schoolgirls who walk past his window?

13. Basically, people can’t separate their personal lives from their work, which is why customer service is a large pile of poo and every time you get a little politeness from someone who is paid to be polite, you go crazy with joy and your heart sings the Hallelujah Chorus in French.

14. Your birthday is a day to spend half your life savings feeding the office mouths. In unequal return, you’ll receive a miserable card signed by everyone (who doesn’t care). But your boss will get a card taller than a toddler, a massive cake (you will contribute to both) and an earth-shattering a capella cover of Happy Birthday because “all fingers are not equal.”

15. Take heart, there will be perks: small chops, cold snacks left over from the annual general meeting or the occasional mini bar of chocolate to munch on when someone wanders back from their requisite three-week reprieve in London. Or Dubai. Or Ghana. Or they probably didn’t leave their house the entire time and bought a bag of Snickers at the neighbourhood store to keep up appearances.

The One Thing Most Nigerian Banks Are Getting Wrong Online

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What’s the one thing?

Thought leadership.

This is the logic: If people trust your bank enough to place their hard-earned (or stolen) money in its care, they probably won’t be averse to you teaching them how to manage their finances.

It follows then that a bank should be an authority on finance and money management, dispensing valuable advice (in its area of expertise) to engage its online audience and win new customers over.

But most Nigerian banks are only interested in hawking their products indiscriminately, sharing news items they have no business sharing and pretending to be busy with customer service. Shame.

Does your (Nigerian) bank run a blog that breaks down budgeting, loans and other important finance information into bits that almost anyone can digest easily?

Probably not.

Take your eyes off the likes and shares, what is the actual value of the updates on your bank’s Facebook page?

Um…

On Twitter, what is the ratio of useful financial information your bank provides to its automated customer service responses?

About 1:9, maybe.

Is your bank struggling to appeal to its audience’s varying interests?

Yes, and it’s not working.

Of course, it’s not working. You’re not BuzzFeed.

You’re not even expected to be BuzzFeed. That’s not what banks are for.

So instead of trying to be everything to everyone and failing badly, specialise.

Start building a reputation for providing practical and insightful information that everyday people can use to manage their money better.

How?

1. First, a blog.

A simple, endlessly scrolling page on your bank’s website (i.e. www.yourbank.com/blog) is good enough. The fancy design and standalone domain can come later.

2. Create useful content.

Hire an in-house content writer who specialises (that word again) in financial writing. You could also pay external contributors to send you articles regularly and hire an editor to, well, edit their writing.

+ Develop a content strategy: a detailed plan that covers why you want to create content, the nature of the content, what it’s supposed to achieve, how it’s going to be created, how it will be distributed and how you’ll measure its success.

+ Posts on the blog have to be consistent. Develop a schedule and follow it.

+ Focus on creating articles that will remain relevant for a long time.

+ From experience, Nigerians love lists. Make them often.

3. Spread the word.

Distribute articles from your blog on social media regularly. Create a weekly newsletter and place an unobtrusive subscribe button on the blog. If your content is valuable, people will want that newsletter in their inboxes.

+ Got advertising money? Promote your most-read articles on Facebook.

+ It’s okay to share articles multiple times on social media during the week. Use different quotes from articles to keep things fresh.

+ Check out Buffer. It’s a great tool for scheduling social media updates.

+ Pro tip: You can crowdsource content for articles by starting conversations on social media (Twitter in particular). Just ask a question on any subject of interest.

4. Measure success and optimise.

Set goals (numbers, numbers) and define what success means to you where your blog is concerned.

For a start, you need to be able to answer these questions:

How many people visit your blog every day?

How long does the average visitor spend on the blog?

What are the most-read articles on your blog every week?

Has your bank’s Twitter following increased significantly since the blog was started?

When do you get the most clicks on article links posted on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn?

What are the sentiments expressed in comments people leave on the blog?

Should there even be a comments section?

Have there been fewer complaints since the blog was started?

Are people asking about your bank’s products on the blog?

With what you learn, you’ll be able to improve the blog’s layout, the quality and nature of your content and how it is distributed.

+ You need Google Analytics. It’s an eye-opener.

+ Use bit.ly to shorten and track every link you post on social media.

I’m always happy to help. Send me an email: ore@orefakorede.com or call me: 08096303479.

All the best.

Three Words Nigerian Companies Need To Stop Using On Social Media

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Nigerian companies are getting customer service wrong on social media, and it’s painful to watch. I could write entire articles about slow responses and the useless information companies provide in off-point answers to simple questions, but my major gripe is with the unnatural, non-conversational and alienating language carried over from corporate communications (read: emails) without any thought.

Note: If you’re the type to say “I’ll revert to your SMS later” in everyday conversation, stop reading this right away. You’re too far gone for help.

Two of the best things about social media are its simplicity and informality. It is absurd and even silly then for organisations to offload cumbersome language and incomprehensible essays on the timelines of people who are just looking for quick, straightforward help. I know where to go if I need to read an academic journal, thank you very much.

Three words in particular stand out as particularly offensive, and Nigerian companies need to delete them from their customer service vocabulary immediately.

1. Kindly

A pretentious, stuffy and ironical way of saying “please,” kindly makes your company seem like the corporate representation of a poseur with a stick up his butt-hole. If you’re going to say “please,” just say it. Inflexible formality is discomforting.

2. Escalate

Escalate is such a dangerous word to use in customer service conversations because of its ambiguity. Its most popular meaning, by far, is ‘worsen’. Tell me how a word that means ‘worsen’ will help calm an agitated customer. Don’t be foolish.

3. Revert

Contrary to popular Nigerian opinion, ‘revert’ doesn’t mean ‘reply’, it means to ‘go back to a previous state’. So every time you tell a customer you’ll revert (on an issue), what you’re really saying is that you’re not going to change anything. How very helpful of you.

The Social Media Hiring Guide For Nigerian Companies

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There are three kinds of Nigerian companies on social media: the ones who are confidently lost (adrift like a ship without a rudder) and don’t care, the ones who think they know what they’re doing (but look like crap) and the ones who are willing to learn.

This guide is for the ones in the last group, because they’re the most easy to save from shame.

  1. Hire a content writer who can actually write.

Because every brand has a story that needs to be told with good grammar.

Look out for:

– University-level writing

In this age of ‘half-baked graduates’, this may not mean much, but you’ll know it when you see it (if you’re not totally hopeless yourselves). It’s okay to ask for an essay as proof, preferably written on the spot.

+ If you’re totally hopeless at the English language, get someone who isn’t to read the essay. Someone like me.

– Copywriting chops

If you’re going to entrust someone with the huge responsibility of telling your brand story right, that person must know how to spin it interestingly. That’s what good copywriters do.

+ Ask for a portfolio of copywriting work.

– Speed

Turnover time is nearly as important as the quality of the writing being done. You don’t need someone who will take an entire week to deliver a 400-word article.

+ You also don’t need someone who writes quickly but doesn’t pay attention to detail. Hiring an editor is an extra cost that can be avoided.

2. Hire a dedicated community manager

Because your business depends on people and someone has to take care of them.

Look out for:

– A good conversationalist

The ideal person for this role must enjoy chatting, answering questions and asking them. People who write the way they speak are the best fit.

– An obvious social media addiction

It’s not enough to know that social networks exist and own accounts on one or two of them. The person you’re looking for should have an evident fear of missing out that makes them check their social media timelines and post updates regularly.

+ Be biased towards a person who is engaging and influential in their social media circles (no matter how small).

– A natural ability and zeal for customer service

Basically: emotional intelligence + patience + empathy + attention to detail + excellent communication skills

+ Anyone who hates to explain things shouldn’t bother applying.

3. Hire a graphic designer who listens

Because a large part of brand storytelling is visual.

Look out for:

– Proven design skills

Ask for a portfolio, “I can do it” is not convincing enough. And that portfolio had better not be scanty.

+ A portfolio that has too many identical designs is not a good sign. You’re going to need variety.

+ Corel Draw has its uses, but demonstrable Photoshop skills are a must-have in 2015 and beyond.

– Speed

Again, turnover time is nearly as important as the quality of work. You need a designer who can do a good job and still meet reasonable deadlines. Test this with a one-off paid commission before committing to a full-time hire.

+ Graphic design, like a lot of things in life, should not be done on short notice. Plan well ahead so the designer has sufficient time to do an excellent job.

– A good listener

Like most creatives, graphic designers have a reputation for being self-assured and fiercely independent (read: hard-headed) where their work is concerned. You need one who is open enough to listen to your brand story, because listening is key to understanding and a graphic designer who doesn’t understand your brand story cannot translate it into meaningful visuals.

Endnotes:

– Scale this list based on your organisation’s needs i.e it’s okay to make multiple hires for each role. A team of the right people built around each role should be your goal anyway.

– You may be pressed for time, but your hiring should never be driven by desperation. Resist the often disastrous temptation to hire an ill-suited temp as a stop-gap measure. Take your time to find the ideal person for each role instead.

– If you’re keen on hiring the right people and you’d like help with that, let me know. My contact details are at the bottom of this article.

– This is not a one-off. Over the next few weeks, I’ll publish more articles covering social media and content strategy, the best social media tools for your organisation and how to measure social media success.

All the best.

Ore Fakorede

Content Strategist & Copywriter

Twitter: @OreFakorede

Email: ore@orefakorede.com

Phone: 08096303479

How To Survive Public Buses In Lagos

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Survival. As seen on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. © Ore Fakorede

Survival. As seen on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. © Ore Fakorede

Ten tips to live by from a self-proclaimed authority on moving around Lagos by bus. Trust me, I’ve been doing it for years.

1. If you’re concerned (who wouldn’t be?) about picking up fuel fumes and the smells of strangers, wear a jacket or a thick sweater. You may get uncomfortably hot, but it will absorb everything. Your trousers won’t fare well though, because smelly seats and sweaty bodies.

2. Never sit right next to the driver. Everything from sweat to musty face towels and loose change will touch you. Your head will be the bridge over which interactions between him and the conductor will take place. Your head will suffer. Sufferhead.

3. Look out for your feet (because no one else will). I’d say you shouldn’t wear fancy shoes, but who am I to stifle your sense of style? Just don’t place your feet where they can be easily stepped on. ‘Sorry’ doesn’t clean a scuffed shoe.

4. Window seat available? Take it. The closer you are to fresh air, the better for your humanity. Besides, it’s a vantage point from which purchases can be made in slow-moving traffic.

+ Window seats are also ideal spots for your watch to be snatched off your wrist. Keep your hands inside the bus.

5. People will wipe sweat off their bodies without any concern for those around them. Noses will be picked and boogers flicked indiscriminately. Fortify your mind and keep your mouth firmly shut.

6. Hand sanitisers are not just an Ebola precaution, they are the difference between peace of mind and the feeling that bugs are crawling all over your skin. Carry a bottle all the time.

7. This one is a no-brainer: Don’t display your phone or tablet. That’s like putting up an electronic billboard calling thieves to crash your life’s party. Leave the first in your pocket and the second in your bag (not some case). Ignore calls or use a hands-free.

+ If you have to make or receive a phone call, don’t discuss personal details such as your itinerary.

8. Be paranoid, don’t talk to strangers. Seriously, don’t. Yes, you could meet your soulmate on a bus, but you could also meet your end. Besides, your soulmate will find you eventually…I hope.

9. If anyone starts talking about large sums of money in a loud voice, get off the bus immediately. I don’t care if it isn’t your stop, get the hell off!

+ ‘Dollars’ is a trigger word in a bus scam.

10. Don’t fall asleep. Stay woke, literally. Drift off and you could wake up in a neighbouring state. Or in a cave. Or in Heaven.