Sunday, September 20, 2015

Undercover Boss (El Jefe Infiltrado) premiere, the repercussions and then to El Rocío for the annual Yoigo summer party, Eladio in Montrondo, Suzy dressed in bin bags to escape the rain in London, Oli and Miguel back from Ibiza and Formentera and other stories.

Sunday 20th September 2015

Me as me in the programme the Spanish version of Undercover Boss
Hi everyone

I think this week has been one of the most intense and exhausting for as far back as I can remember, at least in the past few years but it has also been very happy overall.  This week brought with it the premiere of Undercover Boss in which I was starring (what a word) and the week the big Yoigo summer party took place in wonderful and magical Andalusia; El Rocío, Doñana and Sanlucar de Barrameda.  I came back hoarse but happy late on Friday night but with the satisfactory feeling of a job or jobs really well done.  My mission was to create another wow event and for the employees and suppliers to have the time of their life and that mission was happily accomplished. Once back home I now feel emotionally, mentally and physically drained but overall very happy.  More about the actual event later on ok.

The nerves began already on Monday, the day before the programme was to be broadcast.  I was a bundle of nerves as although I was happy with the content I didn’t know what the reactions from our employees and suppliers would be like; not least the approximately 2 million viewers.  But I had to concentrate on work which is the best way to take your mind off any worries.  Both Yoigo and the TV channel La Sexta sent out their respective press releases on our part in the Undercover Boss.  Finally in the release we would reveal my undercover identity. I was to be Melanie Norris a divorced fruit seller from London with an unemployed 25 year old daughter supposedly taking part in a TV contest whereby I would be working in Spain for Yoigo. The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me as Masha Lloyd in the programme whilst the one below is of Melanie Norris. 
Me as Melanie Norris in the programme
And below is the transformation of the two women. A lot of people said they liked me with long brown hair but not me I’m afraid.
The transformation
This is Yoigo’s press release.  I had an interview that morning with Colpisa, which is the news agency for most of Spain’s regional newspapers.  Later it was published not only online in all of them but also printed in at least 27 local newspapers in full colour including this photo which seemed to be the most popular of all the scenes in the show; me learning how to repair a mobile phone hahaha.
One of the 27 articles in the written press
Finally Tuesday arrived, my big day, the day of the premiere of the programme.  It wasn’t going to be broadcast until 10.30pm which is Spanish prime time; probably the latest TV prime time in the world.  Meanwhile the TV channel was promoting our episode heavily and here is one of the “promos” as they are called here and here is the other.  I was devastated to hear that on the same night there would be football, none less than Real Madrid playing in the Champions League.  The football would finish just before my programme began but on a different channel which meant many spectators would probably switch off the TV after watching Real Madrid win.  In any case I heard later that the Yoigo episode had a 10% share, higher than the week before and that it rose to 15% towards the end, over 2 million people.  I also got figures from our Press Tracking company and their very conservative estimate for what the hour long programme would cost in advertising terms was over 3 million euros.  Bear in mind you cannot buy 1 hour’s advertising and as this was not advertising but pure company content the real value is far higher.  In the end we reported a total audience of nearly 15 million people – TV, print, online and twitter and an equivalent advertising spend of just under 4 million euros.  To think the whole project just cost us the prizes worth some 40.000 euros our return on investment was 100 percent. It was amazing publicity for Yoigo and something which no advertising money could ever buy. So you see the power of PR is often much bigger than a marketing campaign.

But let me get to the broadcasting of the programme itself. My friends who had appeared in it were coming to watch it with Eladio, Salud and I and I prepared a lovely buffet dinner.  Unfortunately just as they were arriving Norah managed to eat the whole plate of the best Iberian ham.  Lucky her!

And here we are all ready to watch it.
Watching the show with my friends
Thanks Fátima, Marta, her husband Fran and Gloria for coming.  You made up for Suzy and Oli’s absence.  Oli was watching it with Miguel from their apartment in Ibiza and was full of praise at the end. As most of the spectators we all laughed and cried and afterwards the repercussion was just amazing. I think I was still reading tweets, posts, whatsapp and emails until past 1 in the morning. Since the programme my Klout score has gone up from 60 to 66.  Klout measures a person’s influence on social media and that is a very high score, within the top 10 of social media influencers.
My Klout score went up from 60 to 66 this week thanks to the show
The next day my twitter feed grew, some of the comments being downright nasty but I also got some lovely ones from people I knew and people I didn’t.  I think I now understand the frustrations of famous people who are hit out at by nasty trolls on their twitter.  There were some great articles too and I think my favourite is the one from a techy blog called Movilonia (la verdadera cara de Yoigo – the real face of Yoigo) which was a joy to read.  You can read it here. I just loved the photo the journalist included of Pippa our Yoigo mascot in the article which you can see below.
Pippa in the show
Another good one was from an interview I did with an influential marketing blog called Reason Why.  It was entitled “Así funciona realmente Yoigo” (this is how Yoigo really works).  There was also a more personal one about me from PR Noticias (PR News) called Masha Lloyd from Comms Director of Yoigo to aLondon fruit seller in Undercover Boss! But best of all were emails from anonymous people who just wrote to say how much they loved the programme and what a wonderful lesson they had learned from me in the advice I gave to the participants; to fight for what they want and to do so always with a positive attitude.  They are perhaps what made it all worth it. Thank you.

If you didn’t manage to see it, here is the link to the programme.  However you have to live in Spain or have a Spanish IP address to see it. Otherwise you can see parts of it on You Tube (just google Masha Lloyd Google).

The day after the programme, Wednesday, I had to catch the midday high speed train to Seville to get to El Rocío ahead of the guests, just over 200 people.  Luckily I met up with two colleagues on the train.  Manuel who is head of logistics and is from Seville took us to lunch and then drove us to El Rocío where our party would start.  Unfortunately it rained that day in most of Spain even down south but we were lucky that from the next morning onwards the sun shone non-stop and the weather was very warm.

El Rocío is a unique place in Spain in the province of Huelva and looks like the Spanish Far West.  It is officially a horse town so there is no tarmac.  El Rocío is located near or in Doñana, the biggest nature reserve in Europe. It is the destination of a famous pilgrimage called El Rocío where more than one million people take part coming from all over Spain in their horse driven carriages or old fashioned gypsy carriages.  We were to be doing our own Rocío and as you will hear later this was the first summer party where I managed to get all of Yoigo to go into a church. You see the final part of the pilgrimage is entering the Hermita (church in El Rocío) to venerate the Virgin and when a group of “rocieros” sing the haunting song “La Salve”. If you’ve never heard it, listen to it here.
El Rocío is a unique place in Spain
We all slept in houses belonging to the “hermandades”, or pilgrim associations from different parts of Spain. They are simple but very pretty with their patios and wooden steps. Here is one of the houses our guests slept at.
One of the Yoigo houses in El Rocío
Meanwhile our guests were on the high speed train on their way to Seville.  Amongst them were 5 of the participants from the programme.  They themselves had their own moments of fame as you can imagine.  I was told later that everyone at the Madrid Atocha train station recognized them and wanted a photo of them. I was really looking forward to welcoming Miguel, Patricia, Sara, Sergio and Javier my fellow partners in crime in Undercover Boss.  Miguel, the phone repairer got the most fame as his scene with me was probably the funniest, especially when I broke a phone on purpose to see how he reacted. Since the programme a fan club was set up for Miguel in Facebook and now has over 500 fans.  He is the guy in the photo in the newspaper article above.  And here are the 5 of them on the train just not believing their luck.
The 5 participants from the show on the AVE high speed train on their way to El Rocío on Wednesday
I booked into my house and unpacked after which I switched on my PC to read more tweets or articles from all the repercussion that we got from the programme. It was to say the least overwhelming.  Then I got ready for our first party which was to be a dinner at the Hermandad de Pilas
The Hermandad de Pilas where the first night party took place
It was at “Pilas” where I finally got to greet the 5 participants in the programme and here is a selfie of us there just before the sit down dinner.
A selfie in El Rocío with the Undercover Boss participants
The evening went off very well.  It was not just the place and super food which people loved but also the entertainment provided by the local women who sang beautifully as well as the master class in flamenco dancing.

Meanwhile Olivia and Miguel were enjoying life in Ibiza where they were staying at an apartment for 5 days before moving onto the quieter island of Formentera.  Here is a lovely photo of Oli on the beach with a new hat which she actually later lost on the ferry going to Formentara when it was blown away by the wind.
Oli in Ibiza this week
It was Suzy that most made me laugh that night.  She was of course in London and couldn’t come and help me at the Yoigo party this year.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this photo she had posted of herself on Facebook with no explanation when I came back from the party at the Pilas Hermandad.
Suzy dressed up in a bin bag to fight off the rain on her bike in London
I know she likes to dress in quite a bohemian way but I really thought that here she had gone too far and this couldn’t be a new London fashion could it?  She later explained she was wearing a bin bag to fight off the rain whilst cycling to work and back.  I’m sure you will have laughed too at the photo.  It could not be funnier and had me in stitches in my hotel room when I left the party at Pilas after midnight. The rest of the party I heard later carried on until much later, some not going to bed until 6 in the morning!

They must have been very tired on Thursday morning as we were to meet at 10 am at Pilas to take the bus to our departure place from where we would bein our Rocío or pilgrimage.  We were greeted with food and drink such as manzanilla or fino, local dry sherries, as well as with a rociero group dressed in flamenco outfits who would be our entertainment during the pilgrimage.  It would be a 10km drive or walk with 3 stops, one of them being for lunch.
The Rocío being greeted by the group of Rocieros
I chose to walk the first two parts of the pilgrimage along with Ludi, Isabel and other companions.  Here is a picture with the two girls from my PR agency Ketchum.
With Isabel and Ludi on the pilgrimage
For the last part I joined the pilgrimage on one of the horse carriages.
One of the horse carriages
As we were approaching El Rocío the horse carriages went very fast and competed with each other worrying me there might be an accident but thankfully there wasn’t.

We got to El Rocío just after 5 pm and all of us followed a group of singing rocieros as we walked to the Hermita (church).
Entering the church in El Rocío called La Hermita
Once inside we all admired the altar which is magnificent.
The altar in El Rocío church
For me the highlight of the whole day was when the Rociero group sang the “Salvé”.  I got goose pimples and actually shed a little tear from the emotion the whole scene caused in me and I can only imagine all of our guests must have felt the same.
The Rociero choir singing "La Salvé" in the church 
The Rociero choir who wanted a photo with me as they'd seen mme in the show on TV and I wanted a photo of them because they sang so beautifully.
We were all exhausted afterwards and in need of a shower after all the dust from the long walk or drive.  We had about 4 hours to rest until the last party which would be held at another “Hermandad” this time the one called Sevilla or El Salvador.

My events agency had decorated the big patio beautifully.  Seats and tables were made out of hay stacks giving a real village feel.  We had also set up side shows with village games such as hitting the pot and winning a cheese, a bottle of wine. The booby prize was water inside those ones without a prize. 
Hitting the pots game was by far the most popular game at the party on the last night.  It was inspired by the one played in Montrondo at the Santa Marta fiesta.
The highlight of the night and perhaps for me the main highlight of the 3 days was an equestrian show by Carmelo Cuevas. His horses come from the Jerez Royal school of horse riding considered to be the best in the world and equal to one in Vienna.  As Carmelo Cuevas representative pointed out to me most of the horses at the school in Vienna hail from Jerez.  There were 3 numbers, two of which were when the horse literally danced with a flamenco woman dancer. But the best number for me was when Carmelo Cuevas rode his magnificent white horse to music.  Again, like during the Salve, I shed a few tears of emotion.  The show was magnificent. Wow is the only word to describe it.

The magnificent equestrian show at the party on the last night.
The evening was fabulous but I was exhausted and made a quiet exit just after midnight a bit like Cinderella.  I heard later that people left earlier than the night before as they must have been very tired too even if they are younger than I am.

The next day was Friday and the last day of our summer party.  Eladio meanwhile was in Montrondo with his brother José Antonio. They went hoping the carpenters would have come to finish the staircase and put in the doors but they never turned up. In any case there was lots of work Eladio wanted to do on the house; mainly install all the lamps and bulbs we had bought from Ikea the previous week. They were lucky with the weather that day and later on I got this fabulous photo of Eladio high up in the mountains where the two brothers went on a very long walk.
Eladio on a walk in the mountains of Montrondo this week
125 people from our group went to visit Doñana early in the morning.  Having already seen it I joined the second group which would be going to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cádiz on the other side of the River Guadalquivir on Doñana four wheel drive buses all along a 20km stretch of natural beach, the longest of its kind in Spain.  The experience was unique especially as it was a lovely sunny day.

The drive along the Doñana beach in the 4 wheel drive buses was simply amazing. 
When we got off the bus we took the boat across the river, another highlight of our trip.
On the boat that crosses the river Guadalquivir from the Doñana beach to Sanlúcar de Barrameda
We arrived a few minutes later and got off on the beach at Sanlúcar to be greeted by a group of waiters offering us sherry and tapas.  We then all got into horse driven carriages to be taken to our final destination, the Barbadillo Bodegas on the other side of the town.
On the horse carriage in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on Friday
Here we met up with the other group and enjoyed a short cocktail party in the grounds of the Bodega.  The last item on our agenda was lunch all together at the winery where I was the MC even though I was nearly running out of a voice to speak. I had to announce the video that had been made of the first two days of the party. The rest will be completed and I will post it online next Monday.  The grand finale was a raffle for prizes left over from the night before; lots of bottles of wine, a ham, 20 chorizos and two mobile phones.

It was an exhausted but happy group that left the Barbadillo bodegas to board the bus that would take us to Seville to catch our charter AVE (high speed train) that would leave at 19.45 and arrive at Madrid Atocha at 22.15. 

I was home after 11 and greeted by Salud.  Unfortunately my Father had been ill and had been sick. Thankfully he is better now and there was no need to call the doctor.  But it was Pippa who gave me the best reception.  Her enthusiasm and happiness to see me lasted well over an hour before the two of us hit the sheets and went to sleep.

Yesterday was Saturday.  Eladio wouldn’t be back until tonight and Oli and Miguel were arriving yesterday evening.  So I had most of the day to myself to recover.  After breakfast I went for a walk and spent most of the day reading the Clifton Chronicles in the shade by the pool.

Oli and Miguel had a lovely time in Ibiza and Formentera.  Oli was especially impressed with the smaller island. It’s a sort of paradise although it seems to be invaded by Italians in the same way Mallorca is invaded by Germans and Brits.  Here is a photo of the two of them in Formentera.
Oli and Miguel in Formentera this week
And today is Sunday.  Oli and I went for a walk with the three dogs, quite a challenge as the leads get entangled and Norah and Pippa get very frisky if they see a bike or another dog.
Oli with the dogs this morning 
The rest of the day has been quiet.  I have been writing my blog on the table by the pool and Olivia has been reading. Salud made our lunch; homemade pizza and salad.  Meanwhile Eladio is still in Montrondo. It’s so strange to be in the house without him.

Next week will be a lot less intensive but challenging too.  I have a press lunch and a PR pitch meeting so the week could be quite tense work wise.  But of course you will hear all about it next week.

Wishing you all the best, cheers till next Sunday


PS You can see more photos of the Rocío Summer party here on Facebook.

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