Your personal brand can make a difference to your business.

Last night I was lucky enough to have secured tickets for James Martin’s ‘Plates, Mates and Automobiles’ tour, which kicked off in Glasgow. It’s touring the UK for the next month and ends in Portsmouth on 23 March.

James Martin cooking

I’ve seen James Martin speak before, at a corporate dinner in the Science Centre, Glasgow. He was very charming and he had some good stories to tell. It was all about him though; i found it rather self indulgent! So when I bought the tickets as part of my husband’s Christmas I looked at the title and thought well, he’s got some great celeb friends, he’s obviously a chef and it’ll involve some cooking and he’s car daft, so he’ll maybe have some chat around his collection and his driving challenges e.g. Mille Miglia race.

The event was split into to section and the first section involved James making five different dishes. You could tell he was nervous; it was the opening night after all. He spoke about each recipe and where and how it was developed. He also introduced us to his Commis for the night – Chris. Chris has been working with James since he opened his first restaurant 20 years ago. He’s now James’ Sous Chef. The first thing was odd, was Chris never spoke. He wasn’t really playing a part in the event and he was literally on and off stage, clearing all the dirty pots and pans away. As someone that’s been with him for 20 years, you’d have expected a bit more of a role.

Sorry, I tell a lie. He was involved in the very end of the event when he sat in a deck chair and played the tambourine along to James, who was playing the guitar and singing very badly to an Oasis tune.

The food was all fairly straight forward to source and cook. The ovens were actually working real-time, so it was good to see how quickly the dishes could be made. We all know James likes butter and naughty food (he used a tonne of mayple syrup) but by the end, I actually felt sick. He made a sandwich, which was apparently the most downloaded recipe from his site. It was made from brioche, it was COVERED in a whole slab of butter, filled with pancetta and mayple syrup and then cooked like French toast, dipped in egg and pan fried. It looked like a heart attack on a plate.

He kept telling the audience not to clap when he did or said something impressive. He also kept saying ‘this isn’t a Weight Watchers conference’.

He disclosed secrets from Ready Steady Cook and (until recently) Saturday Kitchen, saying they were only kidding when they put their hands under the worktop to wash them – there was no sink! He mentioned a woman, Doreen, from Sommerset, who calls in every week to complain about James’ health and hygiene – not washing his hands etc. He proceeded to use the kitchen cloth to blow his nose, lick his fingers when he was making a souffle and a swiss roll and generally had the most mingin’ approach – of course he did this thinking it was funny. I was just feeling a bit ill.

The one thing that really got me was with every recipe he made, he kept talking about how a restaurant would charge more for a dish. “That’s £18 for that salmon terrine now I’ve added prawns and a fancy garnish.” “£10, £12, £14” he added a few drops of olive oil to the soup. We all know restaurants can command a high price for a high spec dish, but I didn’t really want to go along and hear how restaurants ripped off customers.

So, we’ve covered off the plates. Mates? Well I suppose that was at the end, when he had filmed some of his chef friends playing a guitar. He said he showed the film while he was playing the guitar to take our attention off him. He’d apparently learned how to play some chords after Christmas – he thought it would be a nice addition to the show. Not sure of its relevance to be honest. It was rather funny to see Mary Berry play at the end though!

The whole reason I bought the tickets was because my husband loves to cook and his passion is cars. He knows everything about cars. The only time James talked about ‘automobiles’ was when he talked about a Ferrari he bought, whilst doing a live version of Saturday Kitchen, over a 30 minute period, during a VT. Apparently he keeps his phone on under the worktop! He also mentioned he recently bough Keith Floyd’s Citroen 2CV, which apparently “smells like Oddbins” in the back. Keith’s daughter, Poppy, had called him to say she was selling the car, which was in France and she knew James liked it. He was also a Keith fan, too.

Interestingly, James had been tweeting and posted a picture on Instagram of the blue sky in Glasgow and how he was looking forward to meeting 1900 of us. Later in the show, he declared he knew nothing about technology and he informed everyone he’s only just gone on “mybook” or was it “spacebook”?! It begs the question then, who is posting to all his social accounts? It’s clearly not him and whoever is posting is setting a false impression.

There are other elements I can add, but I think you catch the drift.

Your personal brand is what sells you and your business. Your actions and the way you speak and present yourself will leave a lasting impression on people you meet. Last night was a great example of someone who has, to me, now spoiled their personal brand. I don’t really think it was all that funny. I was certainly disappointed to not to have more of a chat element and audience participation. That’s where it’s at nowadays. Fair enough he read out a couple of questions people had asked before the event, but we weren’t event allowed to take pictures or video clips, so there was no ‘live’ element at all.

Take-aways from the event?

#1 Think of the audience and make the event relevant to them

#2 Before you launch an event, you need to have thought through exactly what the event is, why you’re doing it and what audience will attend – all I could find online was a short quote saying  that he’ll be cooking some favourite recipes and there will be a few surprises along the way

#3 Think of your script – it doesn’t have to be written word for word, but think about the perceptions people will have from what you’re saying. I didn’t want to hear about how restaurants were ripping me off

#4 Try and make your event interactive – if you’re a celeb with celeb friends, rope someone in. It would have been nice to see Tom Kitchin or Mark Greenaway on the stage, adding the Scottish twist, event just for one dish or Q&A

#5 I’m glad I’ve made The PRofessionals (Scotland’s first PR festival) live and more about the attendees. It’s how they feel the most value and how it’s made relevant.

#6 In this day and age your event cannot be restricted – you need to encourage people to take pictures, take videos and tweet live

#7 If you lack in confidence, make sure you have back-up, other people involved who can participate and take the edge off

Thanks for reading my post. It may seem rather negative but it was a good way to spend a Monday night which would otherwise have entailed  non-productive activity. It also gave me food for thought for the events which Aura organise. The audience is the main focus, not the presenter.


If you have any event enquiries please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

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Blog post by Laura Sutherland, Chief at Aura

Aura is a Glasgow PR agency working across Scotland and the UK. We specialise in developing integrated digital marketing and PR strategies, working across paid, earned, shared and owned media.

Image credits: Groupon and The Evening Times