Sunday, March 08, 2015

To Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress, media coverage euphoria after Yoigo’s press conference, home again, journey to my beloved Finland, staying in Salo with Anne, Eladio in Montrondo and other stories.

Sunday 8th March 2015

Happy to be with past and present colleagues at the Yoigo party at this year's MWC
Hi everyone,

It’s not often I write my weekly post away from home.  Today is special. I am writing it from my friend Anne’s wooden cottage in Salo, a town some 100km from Helsinki.  It is her birthday tomorrow but she is celebrating today and right now is making all sorts of delicious Finnish food for a family gathering later this afternoon.  So this is the perfect moment to write my blog.
Anne's lovely typical Finnish house

I am now in Finland but last Monday I was off to Barcelona for this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) to take part in the PR activities I had planned there for Yoigo (a big party on Monday night and an important press conference on Wednesday morning).  These were big projects I had been working on with my PR and events agencies’ teams for months and in a way it was a miracle I got to go.  When I had my accident and broke my ankle, I really thought I wouldn’t be able to go to either Barcelona or Finland.  But no, I made it in the end, although I took one crutch and was as careful as possible not to tire my leg out.  In Barcelona I mostly stayed put in my hotel only venturing out to my events and for meals.  I did not go to the actual Congress where the approximately 90.000 delegates walked miles and miles around the fair along endless carpeted passages.  So no, I never got to see Samsung’s new S6 or to see or hear Mark Zuckerberg or see the new wearables, all three probably being the main highlights of the MWC.

I went on the same train as my great friend and ex Nokia colleague, Julio and
I would come back with him too.  He was to help with my luggage and to get on and off the train.  As soon as we reached Barcelona, I went straight to my hotel to do some work and he went to the congress.  We met up later for lunch at Cal Pinxo and sat in the sun enjoying our fideua (a sort of paella made with vermicelli).
With Julio at Cal Pinxo on Monday in Barcelona
That night was the Yoigo party.  It took place at Acontraluz, a lovely chalet sort of place with terraces and gardens and big lounges inside.  Thank goodness it was big enough for the amount of people who came – we reckon some 250.  Each year the Yoigo party at MWC gets bigger and bigger and more and more popular.  I have a feeling we are the only company who puts on a party for all their colleagues, ex colleagues, shopkeepers, bloggers, distributors, manufacturers, press and general friends.  I was on my crutch all night and don’t usually enjoy my own parties but on Monday night I was in my element with so many familiar faces to greet.  The photo illustrating this week’s post is with my ex-boss Johan, a colleague Urban and one of my favourite ex colleagues Javier.  The party was themed a “casino” evening and there was black jack, roulette and other table games which we all enjoyed.  I was particularly pleased too to see my ex Nokia colleagues: Miquel, Susana, Cristina, Matti, Marc, Pepe and of course Julio.  Here we are together.  It’s not a good photo but I love the moment.
With some of my ex Nokia Spain colleagues at the Yoigo party in Barcelona
I left the party, like Cinderalla, before midnight as my foot was aching badly but I heard later it went on till past 6 in the morning!  You can see the full collection of photos of our party here.

Tuesday was my quietest day, the in-between day with no event on.  But I still had to work as we had to finalise the press materials for the next day’s press conference.  But I ventured out for lunch which was to be at El Merendero de la Mari, next to Cal Pinxo, by Pau de la Vila with the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia. They turned up with more Yoigo friends who are distributors of our company and very close to us all.  So lunch turned to be a long affair where because I was having such a good time I completely forgot about my leg. Here is a photo of us leaving the restaurant.
Lunch with colleagues in Barcelona on Tuesday
I had a small mission to go on before heading back to my hotel, The Gallery on Rossiñol, just off the Paseo de Gracia.  I wanted to go to H+M to see some jeans that I had read people, models, etc raving about on internet.  I was in search of what they referred to as “shaping denim” jeans.  I tried on the dark blue ones and wow they were the perfect fit.  I then bought the black ones too in the same size and didn’t bother trying them on.  Unfortunately when I got back to the hotel and tried them on they turned out be too big.  I always prefer too big to too small!  At some stage I shall have to return them and get a smaller size. 
H+M skinny shaping jeans, they are very flattering

So what did I wear for dinner that night you will ask? The new jeans of course.  I have worn them now nearly every day since I bought them.  Dinner that night was the most relaxing evening in Barcelona as it was with colleagues and my PR and events’ teams.  Here is a photo of us all around the table.  It’s a fuzzy one but it’s all I have.  In my experience when you ask a waiter or a fellow diner to take a photo at a restaurant the quality is never good.  I’m sure you all agree.  We could have done a selfie, but I am not a great selfie fan.  We actually had dinner at Acontraluz where we had the party the night before.  That was a good thing because I was able to pick up my coat which I had left behind after the party.  You see the weather was so good in Barcelona, reaching over 20c at midday that a coat was hardly necessary.
Dinner at Acontraluz on Tuesday night in Barcelona
Wednesday was my big day and it turned out to be huge in many ways.  At 10 am we were holding a press conference in the middle of town at Tuset.  You see Yoigo is not present at the congress itself but gets on the band wagon by doing events offsite.  That means we leverage the presence of press and bloggers but are not officially present.  I should add we provide the organisers with the mobile phone frequencies which gives us many passes so we get to go and invite our distributors, bloggers etc.  If you do a press conference offsite you are at a disadvantage as the press are all onsite and have many events to go.  So you never know how many will turn up at your press conference.  However we had important news or we thought we did – in the announcement of an amazing new tariff – an all you can eat voice and data flat tariff for 29 euros/month including taxes.  In order to get the press to come we did a lot of lobbying before and our efforts were paid off when some 40 attended.
It was full house at our press conference in Barcelona on Wednesday
It was lovely to see my Swedish colleague Linda at our press conference.  She is in charge of TeliaSonera's activities at the MWC and we had been in touch all year.  However, for one reason or another, although we were staying at the same hotel we just hadn't managed to see each other until then.  Afterwards we both sneaked away for a well deserved and quiet cup of coffee together before we had to part our ways.

With my lovely Swedish colleague Linda at our press conference on Wednesday
As head of communications for Yoigo it was my responsibility to make as much noise as possible in the media from the moment of the announcement until the advertising campaign started on 10th March.  So when just 15 minutes after the announcement we began to be Trending Topic on Twitter (TT means in the top ten of the most commented subject in Spain or wherever at one moment of time).  We started off as number ten and then rose to seven, six and five being TT for more than 10 hours.  That was a record for us and something to be proud of as no other operator or company was TT during the MWC.  Only Samsung with its S6 announcement was TT, so I am proud to have achieved that being such a small company (just 100 employees with 4 million customers) and not even being present at the congress.  Here is the photo to prove we made it to number 5 on TT.  You can see the rest of the photos of our press conference here.
I was so proud that Yoigo was TT for 10 hours on Wednesday during the MWC
All during the rest of the day and on my way home on the train with Julio, I monitored the online clippings and tweets and posts in FB and was so happy to see that the headlines were positive and that customers were euphoric.  You see the tariff is unbeatable in the Spanish market.  We were the first operator to launch an all you can eat voice tariff and now we are the first again to launch an all you can eat voice and data (up to 20 gigas) tariff. If our customers were euphoric with the tariff, I was euphoric with the social networks and media coverage.  By Friday morning we had over 300 online articles and nearly 40 print articles.  In fact I just googled “Yoigo MWC 2015 and found 57.000 results!  It wasn’t all plain sailing though.  Suddenly a top online newspaper carried our news and used the photo of our ex CEO to illustrate the article.  So we did everything in our power in the stretch of an hour for that to be changed.  However that was the one topic everybody pointed out to me as if I or my agency could be to blame.  It ended up being the fault of a trainee webmaster in a financial online paper but it took a while to find that out.  There are people who believe if you are in charge of communications that as a PR professional you should be able to control these errors, but you can’t because you are not present at the newsrooms when they happen.  PR editorial cannot be controlled like paid for advertising and is always a risk. However the latter is much more valuable to a company as it is news and not publicity but news of any sort can always include mistakes, misinformation, etc and that’s often the down side of my job.  
Our amazing new tariff

When I got home I just had one day to recover and get ready to leave for Finland on Friday morning.  It was a busy day of course.   First I had to go to my rehabilitation sesson, the only one I would attend this week.  In the afternoon I had to go to a meeting at the office. Thankfully it was short so I missed the rush hour driving back. On the way home I had to stop off at the Corte Inglés to buy some luxury ham and lomo to take to Finland for Anne and to buy her a birthday present.  Whilst there, I indulged in some gourmet food to take home for dinner.  Oli had mentioned it was her saint’s day; something we never celebrate but as it would be only one of the dinners we would have together that night with her boyfriend Miguel, I decided only the best would do: prawn salad, croquettes, etc. 

And Friday morning came and I was up at 6.45 to be ready on time for my taxi at 7.45.  I said goodbye to Eladio as he would be off to Montrondo for the weekend, going there with his brother José Antonio in our new car.  He would be taking more of the bathroom suites we had bought.  I got to the airport early and was in for a new experience with wheelchair assistance for flying to Finland.  It all went smoothly and soon I was on the Finnair flight which would take some 4 hours to reach Helsinki.  I spent most of the time reading, eating and sleeping and eager to arrive.  I got there at 15.30 and the first bus to Salo was at 15.55 but I missed it as the luggage took too long to arrive.  I then caught the 16.55 bus which would take 1.40h to get to Salo.  Dear Anne, my friend, ex colleague and boss at Nokia when she was the marketing manager and I was the communications manager, my surrogate sister and kindred spirit, although she is 13 years younger was there waiting for me. I had seen her recently but very briefly in Madrid a few months ago, but the last time we had spent quality time together was in April 2011 when I came to stay with her for a weekend after a meeting in Stockholm.  On the way home we picked up a take away order from a new Nepalese restaurant in Salo and were soon enjoying the rice, the buttered chicken and the lamb dumplings in her lovely home.  Afterwards we enjoyed a sauna together and then we watched an episode of Call the Midwife in her comfortable TV room. 
Anne in her comfortable TV lounge
The weather was not on our side, some 0ºc with wind and quite a lot of rain, but it didn’t really matter as because of my leg I cannot go on walks.  The only thing missing in our perfect girly weekend is the walks, but everything else has been perfect so far.

We were up early – Finland is one hour ahead of Spain – and after breakfast we went into town.  First we stopped at the market square by the river and here we bought tulips to decorate my friend’s house for the birthday party today.  Here is a picture of Anne at the lovely tulip stall.
Anne buying tulips
Then I spied a honey stall and got a tub for Eladio as he is a honey freak and I thought he’d like the thick Finnish honey, so different from Spanish honey.

The next item on our agenda was a women’s bazaar at a Finnish school.  That was a great idea and we both enjoyed it thoroughly.  I was keen to see a Finnish school as their education system is so much admired in the rest of the world.  Going to this bazaar brought back memories of English church hall bric and brac sales which I so loved as a child.  The bazaar had many enticing products and things to do including a fashion show, tarot card reading and of course lots of stalls with local produce.  I soon spied a stall with striped tops.  As you know I am a magnet for striped clothing so there and then I got a green and white top for myself and a grey and white one for Olivia.  They are lovely.
Striped clothing at the bazar

After the bazar Anne took me to have a bite to eat at a traditional cafeteria where her Mother had worked once.  Here I indulged in possibly my favourite Finnish food, Karelian pies with egg and butter topping.  Here is a photo of the two of us at Kuiro, a place I loved.  I said earlier that Anne is my kindred spirit and mainly that is because we have very much the same taste in clothes, food and a similar outlook on life.  No wonder we hit it off the first time we met.
Lunch at Kuori yesterday
Next on the agenda was shopping of course and here I mean serious clothes shopping.  I had to make up for lost time after being home bound because of my accident.  So Anne drove me to the shopping centre in Salo and here I made a beeline for Lindex and then KappAhl.  At Lindex we both bought the same pair of dark blue denim jeans.  I also got a blue and grey, and yes, striped cardigan and some gloves. 
The cardian I got at Lindex yesterday
At KappAhl I bought a lovely pastel pink and white, yes striped, blouse, matching pink jumper and again some gloves (for using your smartphone). 
The pink and white striped linen blouse I bought at KappAhl yesterday

Just as we were going to the supermarket in the same centre we came across a mobile phone shop with a Nokia logo which of course should now be replaced with a  Microsoft one.  So for old times’ sake we had a photo taken underneath the logo of the company which brought us together. It was rather nostalgic.  When I posted it on FB I wrote “Nokia connecting people” and “reuniting colleagues which is what we used to say.  We also used to add and “disconnecting families” because the company, although Finnish, was rather workaholic.
We had to have a photo under the Nokia logo
The last item on the day’s agenda was a quick visit to the supermarket.  Here I would have loved to buy many things to take home but they just wouldn’t fit in my suitcase so all I got was Finnish Fazer chocolate for the family, my Father and my friend Julio as well as some cloudberry jam for my Father.  You may wonder what is special about Fazer. Well, it may not be well known outside Scandinavia but I think it is one of Finland’s best kept secrets. 

We came home happy and tired with our purchases and were soon flopping down in Anne’s comfortable TV room where I got acquainted with the Doc Martin British TV series whilst Anne took the dogs out.

Dinner last night was really special.  We went to Salo’s best in cuisine, Salon Seurahuone, which is housed in a lovely old wooden house of which there are a lot in this town.
The typical restaurant last night, Salo's best
Of course we both wore our new denims that night, as I wore my new cardigan.  I so love it I am wearing it again today.  Here is a photo, another bad one, taken this time by the restaurant owner, of the two of use enjoying a wonderful dinner.  Anne had blini for a starter and I had elk pate, muuummmm.
Dinner last night
We were home early as of course in Finland dinner is at 7ish in the evening.  We ended our night by the TV again where we enjoyed a piece of chocolate and a glass of red wine.  Thankfully I didn’t get a headache and slept long and well.

Meanwhile in Madrid I missed an event I would have loved to attend.  Vicente, an ex- colleague, had organised a 25th Motorola anniversary reunion for all the past and present employees.  I was the 4th employee to join and would have just loved to join all my friends but I could not be in two places in one day.  Here is a photo of just a few of us in 1994.  Can you spot me?  Motorola was where my career was forged and will forever have a place in my heart.

Eladio, of course was in Montrondo this weekend where he was joined by all his brothers and sisters (there are 6 of them altogether) and his mother, Ernestina, who turned either 93 or 94 yesterday. Unlike me, they have had and are still having wonderful weather and were outside most of the time.

This morning when I woke up, Pili, Eladio’s youngest sister had posted a great photo of Eladio with his Mother and Pili’s dalmation, Trébol, a great favourite of mine.
Eladio in Montrondo today on his Mother's birthday
I would have loved to be in Montrondo too but I’m even happier to be here in my beloved Finland.  You may wonder why I say “beloved” Finland. Well I love this country thanks to my years at Nokia from 2000 to 2006 when I used to come here up to 6 times a year.  The country and its people grew on me.  They are quiet and often shy but very kind and hospitable.  There is zero violence with hardly any police on the street and the country runs like clockwork.  For me it’s the most civilized country in the world not to mention overwhelmingly beautiful if you appreciate nature and the outdoors like me. 

So as I finish now and publish this blog, I have nearly 4 days left to continue enjoying being here.  Next Sunday I will tell you all about the rest of my trip to Finland.
Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead,

Cheers Masha

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