Working the New York Toy Fair 2013

Last week I flew over to the New York Toy Fair with the Bananagrams team, and it was eventful to say the least! Unlike most of the team who were travelling into NYC from the Bananagrams HQ in Rhode Island, I actually had a rather straightforward commute from Heathrow where snow from “the great sou’easter” had little impact.

Part of the reason I was heading out to the show for the second year running was to have a handover with Judee, my US counterpart. Judee’s been handling the US PR for Bananagrams since the dawn of time (roughly) and so replicating her excellent strategy and giving it a UK spin has been a fundamental part of what I’ve been doing here for the past 14 or 15 months. She’s a no-nonsense, down-to-earth PR and it’s fair to say we’ve gelled really well and have a great relationship littered with banter, despite the distance. Anyway, the handover. Necessary because Judee’s first baby was due a week or so after Toy Fair and I’m going to be covering her maternity leave. Of course, ignoring all my advice to keep everything crossed until after Toy Fair, Judee rather conveniently went into labour on the first day. Oh Yes. I fly all that way to see her and she hides out in a hospital somewhere giving birth! The audacity! But what a cutie her little one is… 🙂

So my two days at the show were spent handling Judee’s meetings with various US journalists and bloggers – a little daunting when you’re not 100% familiar with the media landscape but a tight learning curve (and we know how much I enjoy those!) that got the PR adrenalin pumping – and generally immersing myself in the brand all over again. It’s always good to spend time with the HQ team on the stand: it really helps me get under the skin (pardon the pun) of the games and to see first-hand how popular they are with buyers. I even took a few orders and, of course, tutored countless passers-by in the newly revamped Appletters and PAIRSinPEARS games. What’s more, they’re a friendly bunch (seriously, I’ll stop with the puns in a sec) who live and breathe the brand too, and it was so valuable to spend time with the people I’m working with.

Highlights of my flying visit to the Big Apple, aside from Judee’s new arrival and some very productive media meetings on the stand, included attending the Women In Toys awards dinner, where Top Banana Rena Nathanson was up for two awards. Three hours filled with passionate, creative and inspirational women who work in the toy industry and who ooze camaraderie. Plus an obligatory shopping/sightseeing dash before catching my plane home on the last day!

And I can’t publish this post without mentioning the pride I felt when a British toy company boss approached the Bananagrams stand to congratulate Rena and the team on “the fantastic PR that’s happening in the UK”. I may have beamed a little. Or blushed. Either way, it felt quite nice!


For Matilda Mae

I remember the first mummy-blog I ever read. I wasn’t even a mum, but the first signs of broodiness were creeping in and reading about new American mum Amy (or Amalah) really helped me understand the realities of what lay ahead on my transition into motherhood. For me, Amy laid bare the sometimes uncomfortable truths about trying to conceive, birth, sleepless nights, breastfeeding, weaning, falling pregnant for a second, third time… But above all the thing that shone through was the incredible love of a mother. The pure, unending, unconditional, I-would-kill-with-my-bare-hands-to-protect-these-children love that I had yet to experience. Of course, once my own babies were born seven and four years ago, I knew that feeling instantly for myself. And although I dipped my toe into blogging for a while in the early days, I preferred reading others more than writing my own.

There are blogs I read for work and blogs I read for me. I may be a PR, but first and foremost I’m a woman, a mother. And the odd thing is that the more you read, the more tweets from that blogger that you spot, the more of their Pinterest boards that you follow, well, you begin to think you actually know the person. And when they go through a tough time, you want to ‘do’ something or say something to try to ease their pain or show some support.

There are a handful of bloggers I follow because I enjoy their posts and their writing style – not for work, but just because I want to. I don’t really fit the ‘mummy-blogger’ category, so I’m on the outskirts of that community, somewhat enviously looking in… In a way I suppose I lurk in the shadows like many, watching families grow and fight their daily battles. One blogger I’ve followed for some time now is Jennie of Edspire. As with Amy, what I loved was her utter passion for her young family and the way she used her blog as they were originally intended, as a diary, a window into her way of life. She doesn’t shy away from tricky subjects, nor does she try to paint a perfect picture of life. Again, she is someone I’ve come to feel I ‘know’, even though she probably has little clue that I even exist due to my lamentable skills at leaving comments on blog posts… But now all I want to do is hug her, hard, because yesterday we learnt that her youngest child, Matilda Mae, had tragically passed away in the night.

The blogging community has done what it does best and rallied around Jennie since she shared her awful news. Every single “thinking of you” is heartfelt, each tweeted #matildamae candle picture is someone genuinely reaching out to a family experiencing the most horrific thing. I can’t begin to imagine what Jennie is going through but, somehow, I wanted her to know that my thoughts are with her. It may just be an instagrammed candle, but hopefully it means something. I have no ulterior motive (very few people read this blog anyway) I just needed to say or do something. Jennie, I don’t know you, but you and your family are in my heart, my thoughts. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

Rest in peace, beautiful girl.

A collection (today only – 04 Feb 2013) has been organised by some of Jennie’s fellow bloggers, to buy a star named Matilda Mae – all the details are here if you’d like to find out more.