Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pressure to deliver

Well, I've now heard that my May 17 course - Output to Outcome is full - in fact oversubscribed by one, but that extra person is very welcome indeed.

The content's coming together and I've got the chance to roadtest part of it at a quarterly development day for Penna consultants the week before. May 17's definitely going to be a very interactive day as:

a) I'd bore people to death if I spoke for five hours +
b) The calibre of delegates looks good and I'd rather let them do a lot of the talking
c) My style is conversational/story-telling rather than show and tell
d) We've got a few exercises to work through that'll get people on their feet/scribbling/arguing.

I've already got one opportunity to run a bespoke version of the course in the summer and hope to evolve it further as time goes on.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Listening to the new Goo Goo Dolls album Let Love In; looking forward to starting Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff' which has just arrived from Amazon as part of my Apollo history research; and writing both a client feedback media report for my law firm client and my own Output to Outcome course notes for next month's course.

It's funny: I can talk about the concepts of O2O 'til the cows come home, but now having to structure it into five hours' of worthwhile training, it's proving hard to nail down what has to be in - and what's less important to dwell on. I just hop I end up pitching it right.

Meanwhile, it was U10 son's rugby festival yesterday - six and a half hours in the drizzle as the team didn't do particularly well. Still, they seemed to enjoy it and picked up a medal. Meanwhile I reffed throughout the tournament....and now bits of me I didn't even know I had are aching. Still, rugby finishes this weekend....cricket starts tonight, and tennis on Thursday - that's son sorted, while large daughter's new drama starts also on Thursday and small daughter's getting us all up early each Saturday for her drama class. I remember when I used to have a social life....now it's just an evening and weekend taxi!

Anyway, West Ham made the Cup Final, so all's not too bad with the world.. Right, back to singing along tunelessly to the GGDs.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I've never been star struck, in the sense of wanting to hang out with with today's celebrities, but since the age of five, when Armstong's moon landing brought my corner of North West London (my world at the time) to an eerily silent halt, and we watched the fuzzy images beamed back from deep space confiming the Eagle had landed, I've definitely been moon-struck.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s in Wembley meant that there were fairly few heroes around in my life. We had punk and Thatcher and George Best getting pissed and looking fat playing for Fulham. Somewhere off in the distance, Nixon was disgraced, and a bridge on Park Lane, just before Wembley High Street proclaimed Radio Caroline on one side, and US Hands Off Vietnam on the other.

Unlike my father - whose own father served as a gunnery instructor through WW2 - I didn't have men in uniform close by to look up to. I marvelled at Concorde, but the Chuck Yaegers and RAF equivalents were a generation before me. Everest had been conquered and technology was taking over as the new frontier.

Yet I could look at the 12 men who set foot on the moon between '69 and '72, the six others who floated alone in the Command Modules and those who'd been in orbit as a Mercury, Gemini or early Apollo crew member - and now manned the desks in Houston - as real heroes.

I used to gaze at the moon at night during those missions, hoping to see some sign of life, some sign of the action, some connection. Down in my small bedroom, Action Man would be dressed in a crackling silver space-suit - definitely more Mercury than Apollo - and I even had a second-hand Action Man space capsule - again harking back to the Mercury one-man shows. But then, when I was about eight, it all abruptly ended. Skylab was hardly a fitting epitaph, and though I've travelled to Cape Canaveral to visit the Apollo and shuttle launch sites, everything since that has been space related has paled in comparison to what the likes of Amstrong, Aldrin, Cernan, Scott, Duke, Bean and the rest have achieved.

The pace of my life quickened, but deep inside remains a frozen wonder at the ability of man to reach out into space with less computing power than is in my mobile phone.

It has all come back to me in the last few days. Some weeks ago I pitched the idea of writing about the possibility of man going to Mars in my lifetime to a couple of editors. One was interested, but wanted a hook for the piece. So I said I'd try and contact some of the people associated with space travel to date to get their views - since mine as an enthusiastic space watcher, without an 'ology' to my name, are worth pretty much nothing.

Since then, I've been trawling the web, re-reading articles and even dropping the odd e-mail the way of NASA, some of the British authorities on the subject - and even one or two astronauts (the ones that have web sites).

What I understand is why we would go and whether there's sufficient rational reason to invest huge amounts of time and even huger amounts of money into what could be an ultimate folly. To try and understand this, I've been trying to rationalise why we went to the moon - and why three years later, we stopped.

A great an compelling source of information has been Andrew Smith's Moondust . Here, Smith charts his own personal journey to meet the nine surviving men who've stood on the moon to try and understand the impact it has had on them.

For me, one of the most fascinating aspects is how so few can communicate what their experience has meant to them. Some have channelled their lives into new directions, perhaps to explain, or in some way communicate, the massiveness of their experience, but others have become more 'Spock-like' either distant from the aura or trapped in the logic of the events. But isn't that what we should expect if we send totally-focused engineers to encounter an experience beyond the imagination of so many?

Perhaps we would have viewed the whole Apollo experience if the 12 who'd stepped out on the moon had included a poet, a politician, a rock star....and even a female or two?

Relating Smith's experience to my own, I've often found great clarity but little poetry when discussing business communication with engineers and execs who come from that background, whereas there has often been passion, warmth, involvement and connection when covering the same areas with those who've come from marketing or people disciplines - but rarely much sense of detail or analytical depth. The key to great leadership communication, of course, is the mix of both.

But back to the moon. Nearly two years ago I had the chance to meet Apollo Commander David Scott when he was launching a new book, but passed up the opportunity to attend the press briefing and gave my ticket to a talk he gave in Oxford away. Having read Smith's book (and he was at the event that night), I now regret that deeply, since it turns out that Scott is even more reclusive than the legendary recluse, Neil Armstrong.

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks when I have a number of interviews lined up with people who I'm assured can make the science of getting to Mars memorable and compelling.

I hope that they can also provide a rational but exciting reason why we have to get back into deep space, one that will excite people around the world to support the endeavour. My children will be adults by the time whatever follows Apollo into deep space finally heads for Mars - if it ever does. Perhaps their children will experience that same thrill, that same sense of wonder, and the slight butterflies of fear that I remember from those far off days.

Meanwhile, I'll remain moon-struck (even Mars-struck), and perhaps I'll even get to talk to an astronaut - always heroes in my book.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Course: From output to outcome

I'm putting my money where my mouth is and running a one day course through CiB called 'From Output to Outcome' on May 17 in London. The details are here.

Essentially it'll take attendees through the changing comms landscape that moves organisational communication from a 'decision made, end of process transaction' to part of the business planning process focused on finding the right tools to create the desired business impact.

Once we've got the theory out of the way in the morning, the afternoon will be spent creating a comms plan around a real-life scenario - and participants will be able to match up what they did against what happened in the real-world experience.

There's only one place left on the May 17 event, but I'm happy to run a second May/June date or take the programme into companies if there's further interest.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Grabbing the right land

I'm a member of the Communicators in Business Council. Now CiB is the UK's association for people working in corporate communications and has always drawn most of its membership from internal communicators.

However, a little like the IABC, CiB has for too long tried to be all things to all communicators.

At our council meeting at the end of March we endorsed a motion which included taking steps: To publicly declare the Association’s aspiration to become an institute of internal communications

Now I'm pleased about this move since it will enable CiB to grab a unique space and build from a position of being the UK's authority on internal communications.

Some people see it as a way of alienating some current members since they work primarily for external audiences. That may well be so, but so many other members and potential members have a foot in both camps.

Earlier today I was talking to one client about internal change communications; later this afternoon I'm off to London to talk to another about engaging clients through an aspect of CSR and on Wednesday I'm in a workshop defining stakeholders (internal and external) in a change programme.

Our boundaries are blurring and ever more our communication is around issues - not the simple external/internal split.

CiB is now seriously talking about how being an authority on internal comms will work. I believe it will work only if there's a recognition that people on the inside, whose start point is employee comms, will invariably be communicating with wider stakeholder groups going forward. Employees have unique needs when it comes to communication and CiB is right to fill that niche. But the niche doesn't exist in isolation and my CiB colleagues and I need to keep on the pace of a changing communication-scape that will put the issues first, and the delineation of who deals with which audiences somewhere further down the line.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Infamy, infamy...

....they've all got in it for me.

Well. Not at all. It seems that fame has struck at last. Well, not fame exactly, but fame in the narrower band of the blogosphere. Well, not the whole blogosphere, but the PR blogosphere. And since that's the area in which I operate, that's more than good enough for me.

Shel Holtz referenced my comments on the IABC's Communications Commons in the latest For Immediate Release podcast. Neville Hobson was then complimentary about this blog - and owned up to being a lurker here for the past five months.

Well, that's very gratifying to know and turns the wheel full circle - as I've been checking out Neville's blog since hearing him speak some months ago at an IABC/CiB event in London where he, plus Euen Semple from the BBC and a chap from Guardian online were discussing the impact of the new millennium's communication tools. NevOn has now transmogrified into a new site at a new location here. I keep coming across Shel'd name more and more, and plan to look much more closely at what he has to say at the shel of his former self.

Now I'm technologically semi-literate and, while an advocate of podcasts, wikis and the like, haven't ventured beyond this blog. I've never even put a tracker on this site (partly through never having spent the time working out how to) as I've always had it in the back of my mind that the blog is actually visited only about four times a day - three times it's me, and once it's a spammer.

I guess I'll now have to be a little less random and rather more regular in posting a little bit of sense and less Shanahan angst.

But isn't this just the way that the new social communication is going? People I don't know and have had next to no contact with are taking an interest in what I have to say. It's only human now for me to be more interested in them - and for me to want to say more that I hope will be of interest. Ever more I believe that even as keyboard warriors, we can use the new tools as a way to create and unite far wider, deeper and richer communities of interest than anything available in the past has allowed us to do.