Mike Grehan says...

Random musings about search marketing, flying around the planet, networking and people watching.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cork and Cobh, Ireland...

Next weekend, Tatiana and I will be going our separate ways for about four or five months. Purely job related, I hasten to add. Earlier this year I had to make New York my main base. And following her fantastic new promotion, from next weekend, Tatiana will move to Geneva, Switzerland to live. And I shall return to Manhattan.

So, I thought a final weekend trip away was in order before the big move. As my family are from Ireland, I'm always keen to take any opportunity to pay a visit. And although my family are actually from County Sligo, I thought, for a change, we'd go to County Cork.

The fact that the John Jameson Irish whisky distillery is there, or that Murphy's stout is brewed there as is Beamish stout did not factor at all into my suggestion for us to spend the weekend there :-)

We stayed at the swanky Jury's Hotel sitting right on the river. We had a suite at the back of the hotel with huge floor to ceiling windows. I took a quick shower to freshen up and then walked out of the bathroom over to the picture windows to admire the view. Here, I stood naked for a while drying my hair with a towel admiring the woods and the small waterfall upstream.

And as my eyes followed the shape of the river back towards the hotel... I spotted four fishermen tucked away on the riverbank below, pointing and laughing uncontrollably!

Please feel free to take a second to delete that thought from your memory forever.

Moving on...

Cork city is a bustling place and we had a wonderful traditional lunch at a place called Scotts sitting outside on Caroline Street. And in the evening we had drinks downtown and then returned to the hotel for dinner and some traditional Irish music.

But what I was really looking forward to was spending the day in Cobh (pronounced "cove"). This is a pretty little seaside town on Great Island, once known as Queenstown.

And this is where the history of Irish emigrants to America begins. Annie Moore, the first Irish emigrant to be processed on Ellis Island set sail from here. It has a strong naval and seagoing connection. But tinged with sadness. Not only was Queenstown the last port of call for the "safest liner in the world" when the Titanic set sail for the final leg of her maiden journey, it's the port where the Lusitania was sunk. The ship was sunk off Kinsale in 1915 by a German submarine (an action that would bring the Unites States into the great war).

The town has a memorial to the victims in the square.

It's a pretty place. I like the way they paint their houses and stores in different colors.

Of course, as it was also a Victorian holiday resort, you can see all of the Victorian influences.

We took a climb up the steep hill to take a peek at St Coleman's cathedral. However, it's still a working a church and a funeral was taking place, so no viewing today for me, thank you.

The view over the town is quite nice from the cathedral. And shows how the town has kept its association with seagoing. With one of the deepest natural docks in Europe, Cobh still plays host to the world's luxury liners. The Grand Princess from Miami was in port and dwarfing the town with her presence.

There's a very quaint Victorian promenade.

And er, this... Don't ask, I have no idea!

We had the most superb Sunday lunch at the Watersedge Hotel Where, as you can tell, sitting out on the deck, we had a pretty good view of the Grand Princess. And with home being Miami for this liner... There were more Americans in town than Irish!

All in all, a wonderful weekend. Wonder when I'll see my wife next :-)


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Pope, PageRank and linking...

A few people have dropped me a note about an article at SEOmoz where the writer used an analogy of the Pope and PageRank.

Funny, I've used that analogy at just about every conference I've spoken at since 2005 when the previous Pope died.

Maybe I should sign up to SEOmoz after all...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Welcome to the new talent of the search marketing world!

It's so wonderfully refreshing to have people come out of nowhere and embrace this seemingly mystical world of SEO.

At Acronym Media, we're delighted to have brand new talent come to work with us. And this year, we have so many talented interns, I simply can't get around enough to photograph and mention them all.

So, Christina Lee, sits the closest to me. She joined the marketing team at Acronym a few weeks back. And I can assure you, under the pressure that Norm Elrod and John Lee have to work under (our extraordinarily talented top tier marketing guys), she's taking to it like a true pro.

Well done Christina. You're doing a great job. And I think I can speak for Norm and John. You are so welcome on board.

As are all of the wonderfully enthusiastic interns who joined the company recently.

Do well all and stay. This is a great place to work ;-)

Monday, July 07, 2008

July 4th weekend, Long Island and a truly good friend...

(This post comes with an apology to any professional photographer who may be taking a peek. As a complete amateur photographer - just a snapper, really - I'm having a hard time trying to get used to my newly pimped-up camera. I'm working on it!)

To say that I get homesick sometimes would certainly be an understatement. I'm very much settled now at my second home on the upper west side here in New York. However, I miss my wife and family desperately sometimes. So when a friend recognizes that you need a break from big-city life and a little down home comfort, I really, really do appreciate it.

It's only a few weeks since my buddy Kevin Ryan invited me to come stay over with his folks upstate New York on our big road trip from New York to Toronto. In between, I flew to the other side of the planet for ad:tech, Singapore. And this weekend, being the long 4th July holiday weekend, I wasn't much looking forward to another weekend doing exciting stuff like my laundry and tidying up my apartment.

So I was totally blown away, when my buddy, the ever charming, ever debonair Matt McGowan, invited me to join him with his folks on Long Island for the weekend.

Many people who tune into this blog from time-to-time will surely know Matt. He's the big marketing brain behind the Search Engine Strategies shows. And this is not the first time my dear friend has helped me out.

Earlier this year during SES, London I lost my wallet. I was due on stage for an Orion panel and I was completely stressed. Matt, being the pro that he is, knew that I'd be a lot better on stage if the wallet problem was solved. So duly, he took me back to the hotel and retraced my steps from the night before, eventually finding my wallet... In my jacket pocket. Well that's the last place you look... Right?


Moving on...

So Matt invited me, along with a group of Aussies (more later) to stay over the weekend at his parent's beach house on Long Beach. It was just fantastic! Such a wonderful place, wonderful parents and wonderful Aussie company. I mean nice, nice, nice people.

A real highlight for me was getting to know Matt's pop, Vince. This is a truly stand-up guy. A Vietnam vet with the most amazing background. He wields wisdom and wit with the style and grace of a Ninja swordsman.

So what's the first thing you do when you get to a beach house on Long Beach? You head to the sea with a crate of beer, of course!

In the pic above we have Matt, along with (from the left) Aussies Chris (mega-brain strategist with Grey Group), Lauren (senior account manager with Leo Burnett and my new life saving wine doctor), Bianca (new superstar at Beyond Interaction and wildly interesting partner of one Matt McGowan) and world-class award winning chef Adam (most recently in the kitchen of Per Se but more often in Lauren's kitchen, no doubt :-)

I stretched my imagination as far as it could go to figure out why Long Beach was called Long Beach... And then it came to me in a blinding flash... It's long

Yes, they don't call me the man with a mind like a steel trap for nothing, y'know!

And so, I regaled the group with my exciting and hilarious stories about search engine algorithms, to the point they all seemed to pass out with thrilling information overload. Well, that's how I saw it, anyway.

Meanwhile, Chris and Matt decided that the rain on the beach just wasn't doing it for them and totally drenched is what they needed. None of this "I think my shirt is a little damp" stuff. But the real get-nekkid and jump in the Atlantic stuff!

And what do handsome boys, beautiful girls and little, fat, old Englishmen need after a hard day's work on the beach?


BIG dinner!

And heading up the table... No, not Vince, I'm talking about the real boss, Matt's totally gorgeous Mom, Brenda. When one is serving up a meal to guests which include a world-class chef some may have a little trepidation. But not Brenda, she fearlessly served up a dinner that was in a class of its own (OK, Vince took charge of barbecuing the meat - joint effort!)

Dinner over and with more wine and invigorating conversation - what next? More booze, beach and bonfire, of course. And then get a world-class chef to... toast marshmallows! (Look out French Laundry, you have no idea what's new on the menu next week!)

As my newly monstrous camera has taken on a life of its own and I'm still trying to tame the beast, the flash on the pic above had people in Brooklyn blinking! But without, it looked more like this. I was there, I know.

Next morning, Brenda tries to convince me to ride a bicycle with her and Vince down the boardwalk. I have no interest until she tells me there's a bar at the end of the boardwalk (and fish and chip bar, no less). Guess who got there first :-)

Could we squeeze anything else in on this wonderfully chilled and relaxed weekend? Over to you Matt.

"Why don't we do Jordan's Lobster Bar for lunch" he says. They have both Lobster AND beer, Mike.

Okay, where's my bike!

And so, we all pile into the car and head to Jordan's.

Brenda just happens to mention that female lobster is the best. But how does one know which is female and which is not asks the so inquisitive Bianca? Wait and see which rest room they use?

Oh no, just flip them on their back and take a look. Hardly gentlemanly (although some women may disagree) but it works. As I was standing at the back I surely have no idea what part of the lobster anatomy they were scrutinizing (and don't care to think about it much either)

The perfect end to a perfect weekend!

Matt, Vince, Brenda, Bianca, Lauren, Adam, Chris thank you all sooooo much for such a wonderful time.



Saturday, July 05, 2008

4th July 2008

So, being English, I don't (like most other English people) celebrate 4th July. Let's face it guys, we were your boss once and this was not our best day :-)

However, I did make it to my office in the Empire State Building to take some shots of the New York fireworks. Here's one, which for me, sums it up.

And by the way, my Yankee friends... Happy 4th July and have a great holiday weekend (even with the rain :-)

Friday, July 04, 2008

ad:tech, Singapore

I've been looking forward immensely to this conference/trip. For four reasons, mainly:

1) I've never been to Singapore.

2) Acronym is a main sponsor of the show.

3) ad:tech is one of my favourite conferences and this is their first show in Singapore.

4) I get to spend a week working with our General Manager for that region, the deliciously scrumptious (and totally nuts), Farah Sadiq.

Singapore is a wonderful place. It definitely has hints of Hong Kong about it. But it's certainly much cleaner than Hong Kong. And the fact that most people seem to speak English (or at least some) getting around is pretty easy.

Already the city is showing signs of a growing economy by the sight of the growing skyline in the financial district.

We checked into the Marina Mandarin, hotel which is exactly opposite the Suntec Singapore Convention Centre where ad:tech was being held.

The Marina Mandarin is built around a huge atrium. This is a shot I took sitting in the atrium bar looking directly up to the roof.

And this is the view the other way, looking down into the atrium bar and lounge.

Myself, Anton and Selina flew in from New York to support Farah. And she already had members of the local team in Singapore briefed and ready to man the booth. Here's Anton with Carrie, Jovis and Yasser.
And here she is, the one and only Farah Sadiq!

We had a new booth design for this show. As usual though, it was very... Orange, as all our corporate stuff is.

Anton came up with the brilliant idea of having a brilliant ideas room. Basically, we ran a kind of mini conference during the breaks between the main sessions. The idea was beautifully simple: 8 brilliant ideas in search delivered in 8 minutes. It worked so well, it's likely to become a permanent feature for us at conferences. Here's how the room looked.

And here's Anton in full swing at one of the sessions.

As usual, I took a shot of the audience at one of my main sessions.

And also got a shot or two of Anton at one of his main sessions.

Of course, like me, Anton has been involved online since 1995 so he's been around a long time and many people in the industry know him well. However, not so many people know about the driving force behind the technology and brilliant ideas at Acronym, Vice President and Senior Strategist, Selina Allibhai. She has a tendency to keep a very low profile online. But as she's my buddy, gorgeous and one of the smartest brains in the search industry, I thought it would be great for my image to have a picture taken with her (alright, and also to let everyone know just who this mystery woman is).

So, we were very Orange.

Yahoo! was very purple.

And Google was very white.

I had a chance to catch up with my buddy David Temple. He and I hadn't seen each other since SES, Nanjing back in 2006. And so he roped me into helping out at the SEMPO booth.

My stint at the booth lasted about 90 seconds until I was distracted by a couple of small things and had to leave :-)

After the show closed, Anton, Selina, Farah and I got together to go for a little celebratory dinner as the show went so very well for us. We started with drinks in the Atrium lounge at the hotel.

And then Farah took us to the most fabulous Indian restaurant where we sat outdoors. The food was wonderful. As was the wine. But what the heck Selina and Anton saw in the trees above us, I have no idea!!!
On the final day Selina and Farah invited me to join them doing a little shopping at Little India and then on to Orchard Road.

Selina only wanted to buy *three* digital cameras! So the famous Mustafa Centre was the first port of call.

During the process of bartering and bargaining her way through the sale of not only three cameras, but two computers as well, I was being sold a ton of new equipment to pimp-up my existing camera. Funny thing is, each time Selina got a discount, I'm absolutely certain they added the same amount to my bill!

So once my camera was fitted with a new sooper-dooper lens (and the thousand dollars worth of other kit I bought!), I just had to point it in Farah's direction for her to automatically pose. Somehow, she can just sense a camera in her space and she turns into Farah Sadiq, super model.

Also notice Selina in the background with one of the extremely well priced cameras I'm sure I helped pay for :-)

So, let's do it one more time Farah, honey. Give me your best, I want gorgeous, I want sexy, I want sensual. Do your thing honey.

Perfect. Captured like never before :-)

Okay, Orchard Road, here we come. And to prove my point, even during trying something on, Farah could just sense my camera lens hovering around at the back of the store.

And true to form, Selina almost bought every item in the store.

One thing I was really looking forward to while in Singapore was a visit to the famous Raffles Hotel. A little bit of colonial history still tucked away in the city and still just as striking.

So, I decided to take the girls there for lunch. And, of course, it being the place where it was invented, the world famous Singapore Sling.

It really is a beautiful place. And make no mistake, I'll be coming back to stay in the near future.

All-in-all, it was a great conference and a wonderful time had by all. Well done to Farah and her Singapore team. You all did a great job.

Singapore - I'll be back very soon!