Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I'm also listed on the CiB freelance directory, the CIoJ's directory and in one or two others that are only on paper. Somewhere in cyberspace, old versions of my cv are sitting on Monster, at the IABC and one one or two other sites - and all probably say slightly different things.
Now for me that's not a problem. I run my own business and I'm not looking for another job. but what if I was? Is my footprint consistent? Are there flaws in my NetRep that might exclude me from that perfect job or do the inconsistencies in my online presence raise any questions in recruiters' minds? On the other hand, is cyber-me so exciting that search specialists might just check me out to see if I'm interested in prospective roles?
Before today, I hadn't really given it much thought....perhaps now I should devote a few minutes to eliminating any prospective web-negativity.....or maybe not.
Anyway, I've taken away the moderation or now to see if it makes any difference.
So, let me know what you think......about anything!!
Monday, December 10, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
Whether it's CiB, IABC or any of the other industry award bodies, we're too often judged in a beauty parade on the look and feel of our publications rather than on how they achieve business success and what value they bring to the organisation they represent. That's horribly skewed thinking.
External publications exist to generate sales and turn a nice profit. Therefore, they need to look good and read well to stand out from the competition. They need to understand their audience implicitly and appeal to whatever the instinct is that generates a purchasing decision.
Internal communication is different - for one thing, readers don't pay for that magazine or intranet - and many choose to ignore the content foisted on them. We can't judge these publications in the same terms.
Shouldn't we be looking instead at their objectives within a corporate business strategy and how well they've delivered on those objectives? Wouldn't it be great to be the communicator who could stand up and say 'My communication won an award because we could show how it contributed to my organisation's success.' It's absolutely about understanding the readership and connecting with them - but to a business end, and that's not all about looking sleek and glossy.
An award based on a measure of true, tangible and measurable business value would be far for powerful to me than simply to have picked up a fairly meaningless certificate in a beauty parade.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
In the first of several similar interviews I've heard since the Party's general secretary resigned over the latest sleaze allegations to hit Westminster politics, Hayter played a straight bat to Allen's questioning, completely denying any knowledge of wrong-doing by the party in accepting major donations passed through third parties. Her smarm was matched only by the power of her insincerity.
I was incensed. I'm still incensed. In fact I'm outraged at the gall of the woman in her arrogance at taking the public for granted. First that we're gullible enough to believe the political crock of shit that she and her colleagues are spouting; and second that she and her colleagues think it's enough to hang one junior party official out to satisfy the media witch hunt.
Hayter's defence of the indefensible turned a clear lens on the Westminster bubble. Somehow those on the inside have lost the ability to treat the rest of us as thinking adults, and have completely lost the plot on the fact that they are supposed to represent the best of the nation.
What Hayter and co. are amply demonstrating now is the craven nature of political power. Labour's in, and will do all it can to remain in. that means expediency. That means, in a system where we have no state funding for political parties, and all operate at huge financial deficit, accepting the readies from shady figures such as David Abrahams and covering their tracks as much as possible.
Politics aren't clean and never have been - and now Westminster seems much more a punch and judy show than ever before. But what really stinks is the sanctimony of the likes of Diane Hayter . she's truly swan like. Her head may be making the right noises above water-level, but down below the surface she's pedaling through the mire. And you know what? It's starting to stick.
Of course, Labour could have avoided this by talking honestly, admitting their failings and making quick reparations. But, as ever, a political establishment has attempted to pass the buck. We see it in business with great regularity - and here it is again emerging in public life. Wake up Westminster - we don't believe you.
So where would you put party politics at the moment on the scale of honesty-at-work? in my book, probably just below estate agents.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
My reason for entering the world of Gen Y was, of course, professional. For the next issue of one of the mags I write for, I've been asked to pen a feature on 'Netreps' and the impact social networking is having on employers - both as they trawl for talent, and when they get to see another, sometimes altogether shadier, side of their star talent.
I don't think social networking has really defined its place in the hierarchy of business relationships yet - it still sits separate from the complexity of relationship demanded in any organisation. But that'll change as more and more people create a slightly heightened version of themselves online - and employers see a little more of their employees' lives beyond the 9-5.
Maybe it'll all level out and the social networking sites will become little more than a high-level business card/CV. But maybe not. I guess I'll find out rather more as I delve into some of the current thought over the next couple of weeks.
Very interested in hearing other views though - as all too few lurkers have commented at all on here recently. Sorry the postings have been a bit dull, but work and study around the MA have rather taken over.
Monday, November 19, 2007
While external agencies and consultancies can offer great ideas, great process and sometimes even extra legs in making whatever change is necessary happen, they're far less likely to make change stick by imposing solutions from the outside.
This seems to be borne out in the latest CiB Strategy Awards. Almost all have gone to in-house teams: the people who are closest to the issues their organisations face. I work regularly on change programmes, but always strive to hand the real running of such projects in-house as soon as possible. I know how I can influence and affect change - but my presence as an external supplier will never be as powerful as the buy-in and delivery from managers who will have to live with the changes long after I've moved on.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
We were all geared up for a generation stating they never watch TV; that they get their news via the internet and spend all their time on Facebook and YouTube. While a couple had uploaded content to YouTube, and most had profiles on the Facebook or Bebo (or both!), the way they accessed their media was reassuringly familiar to those of us aged 40+ in the room.
Most loved the BBC's dramas and used BBC for their news. Very many still watched TV with their parents and nearly all woke up to the dulcet(?!) tones of Chris Moyles. They still watched TV according to the published schedules. Almost none had downloaded podcasts and not a single one had downloaded content to a mobile phone.
No doubt they'll all be adopting new ways of accessing and interacting with the media in the future, but for now, Generation Y is nothing like as geeky as the magicians of social media would have us believe.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Now my position on the first debate is that English is dynamic and that we can't afford to be too stuffy in the way it's used today. The rules change as the generations change and our role as communicators is to ensure we reach the right audiences in a way that's relevant to them.
Personally, I hate sloppy punctuation; I hate txt-spk and lazy English. But I'm not stuck in a time warp. We can still write good English that connects with all ages - and be grammatical too. And perhaps, as professional communicators, the standards we set for grammar and punctuation may just be taken up by some of the non-professional-communicators who operate in every organisation today.
On the second debate, I get heartily fed up with people who jump either into the print or the electronic camps. Both print and electronic channels are a means to an end. Surely communication is what organisations make of it? That means finding the best ways to create dialogue with audiences that enable them to do their job better and feel better about doing it. Too often these CiB debates get hung up on the tools and provide a lot of heat but little light on how best we can make the right connections.
Print and electronic both have their place - as does face-to-face. The magic is finding the right blend.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
It's something I do from time to time in house with clients, and also through CiB. In fact, the next O2O course is set to run on November 21. Of course CiB is a not for profit - its courses are, in the main excellent, but they're inexpensive: generally coming in at under £300 per delegate for the day. The downside is that I don't earn a lot from those days - but I think they give me a certain civic sense of having put something back in to my profession.
But sometimes I'm a wee bit gobsmacked when I see what other providers charge.....especially when I'm left wondering how much they're tailoring the offering - or not - for their local audiences. Marc Wright from Simply Communicate dropped me a note recently inviting me to take part in the Advanced Writing and Editing Seminar he's running in conjunction with one of the chaps from Ragan. On the surface it looks a good deal - a tad under £1,200 for a two day workshop delivered by two participants.
But two things struck me. First: Marc informed me that 'Written communication is pretty lackluster at 90 percent of companies ....' - okay, a sweeping statement, but do I want to go on a writing course in London where the provider can't spell lacklustre? It smacks of a bit of lazy marketing: taking an American promo piece and just cutting and pasting it in.
Second: Marc informed me that this was the course for me if......
- You’re new to corporate communications; this seminar will give you the tools to succeed
- You’re a veteran communicator; AWE will give you new ideas, recharge your batteries, fix some bad habits and get you out of a rut
- You’re struggling with communication of any kind; AWE is the place to get some real answers!
So, it's something for everyone......which, from my experience, means a poor compromise for anyone. I've got 20 years plus in the business, and don't want to be spending my time going slowly over the basics with rookie writers. And if I was a newbie, I'd want to work with my peers, not the seasoned to cynicals looking to recharge their batteries.
The best training I've had has always been bespoke or tailored for a particular audience. O2O is definitely for experienced professionals and if any newbies came my way I'd point them to something more basic. Courses like AWE leave me cold: I get the feeling that they're about cramming as many delegates in as possible to maximise the return. With comms training, one size doesn't fit all and heightens the risk of pleasing no-one.
Monday, October 22, 2007
So Ragan guys - many congrats on getting your daily headlines out......but you may have shot yourselves in the foot just a tad with your breaking news that's six months old.
We do have the CiB IC Index survey for inhouse IC professionals about to close....maybe some of Ragan's readers would like to contribute? There are just a few days left..... and I'm sure we can share the results with Ragan rather sooner after they're published than today's first effort.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Project juggling has been fun but tiring over the past few months, and has reinforced my underlying communication philosophy: whatever comms challenge you're faced with, the best response is to do a few things well.
In recent weeks, I've had requests around projects for new newsletters, blogs, websites, assemblies and even a picnic lunch. Most have been very well-meaning attempts to move an agenda forward, but most haven't been thought through. The emphasis has been on the event rather than on what it's trying to achieve.
So, in each case, I've gone back to the client with pretty similar advice:
- Think audience
- Keep it simple
- Keep it focused
- Use the comms tools that people already use; and
- If you have to bring in a new tool, make sure it's one that your audience is happy to use.
- The middle of a project is no time for grandstanding, and the most important communication isn't necessarily a knee-jerk response to those who shout loudest.
- The communicator shouldn't be seen as the face of the communication - that has to come from the people who will bring whatever policy, change or advance to the business as their everyday role. As soon as we communicators are perceived as the 'voice', the message is already one step removed from the reality of the audience.
- Whatever you do, make it easy to comply with the process - and ensure it delivers the right action for you. We don't communicate just to be heard.
- Finally, don't do too much. Assess the outcome you want to achieve - and do a few things well to ensure you achieve it.
Funnily enough, the less can definitely be more message seems to have got through...perhaps that's why the phone hasn't rung today?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Several steps away from the board; working for HR or Corporate Comms....but the budgets are getting bigger
I've had a look at the early results, and while it's too early to draw too many conclusions, the function still seems largely split between Corp Comms and HR control; no-one so far is operating at board level, and there are a fair few loan IC-ers out there.
What's encouraging is that there seems to be more budget for IC than a few years ago and, most encouragingly, more budget as a proportional spend when compared with external comms.
The survey's set to run for a wee while yet, so if you haven't had a chance to complete it, why not give it a five minute whirl now?
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Among too many alpha males and females, domesticity plays second fiddle to earning the big bucks. I was delighted to step off that particular roundabout in 2000, but our lives since then have been a bit of a precarious balance of work and childcare as both Jac and I have shaped our careers to fit in with the needs of three kids. Sometimes, it doesn't take too much to throw everything awry.
My day somewhat imploded today with a call mid morning informing me that Laura-Beth my wonderful 13 year old daughter had thrown up on arriving at school and again shortly before the call. In such situations there's only one thing to do: drop everything, grab a bucket and head up to Aylesbury to collect number one daughter.
Now it's fair to say she looked both pale and slightly green when I collected her, and I was truly fearful for the seats in my car (newish to me, only a year old and with posh leather upholstery), but we made it home without any stomachery pyrotechnics - though L-B was not exactly talkative en route!
L-B has installed herself for the day in front of the TV - though my bright orange B&Q bucket has been called into action once or twice over the past few hours.
My visit to Northampton to the accountant has been postponed, and I had to pull out of a meeting at CiB's HQ which is a drag....and the odd phone call has been accompanied by some strange noises off....the sound of a teenager retching doesn't help a lot with telephone interviewing.
Hopefully it's just a bug, and one she doesn't pass on to the rest of Clan Shanahan. This weekend is a biggie in our year - birthdays for Rory and Jac, so more riders on the vomit comet are NOT what's required.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
So it was hard this morning returning to the mundanity of work. Now none of my projects is mundane in itself, but there's a certain familiarity with corporate comms after 20 years in the business. The same issues arise and while the challenges are always a little different, there's a lot of repetition in what I do.
At the moment I'm being urged to stay involved in one project that I know I can't commit sufficient time to - and I've already knocked back an offer of some interesting work that time simply won't allow me to take on. One of my magazines is picking up speed - and that's always fun as it comes to life, while three other projects are all on the stove somewhere, and the trick is to keep them all cooking by keeping the clients active and the projects moving to a conclusion.
That's easier said than done and it's too easy then to fall into the trap of taking on too much new stuff to fill the perceived gaps. These days I'd rather keep pushing to ensure those already on the go reach their natural conclusion, and work to bring on one or two more a little further down the line. There's been too much famine or feast in this kitchen over the past few years. Now, with a chunk of time to hold for study for the MA, it's essential that there's always enough bubbling - and nothing boiling over.
Ok, well I think I've stretched that analogy well beyond its natural life....
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
This week marks the start of a new way of working for me. More than 22 years after graduating, I'm starting on an MA in International Relations at Brunel University.
On Monday, I spent several hours with my tutor and some of my new colleagues. Those I've met so far are from China, the US, Iraq and the Caribbean - a suitably international mix in a very ethnically diverse university. Yesterday, the pro vice chancellor informed us that the university's 15,000-strong student body encompassed 112 nationalities.
As I worked my way through a seemingly endless round of queues to enrol as a student and get all my necessary permissions and paraphernalia yesterday, I talked to students from Iran, Turkey, China, Nigeria, Ghana, the US and Finland. Barring about three others spotted on the horizon, all had something in common - they're so young.
The majority of people enrolling yesterday were post-grads, but most had come straight from completing their undergraduate studies - so were mid-20s at the oldest. And there was a fair sprinkling of fresh-faced late teens embarking on their undergraduate careers - something I did a generation ago back in 1982......it's simply so last century.
So there's me: 43 years old and 22 years out of academic rigour. It's going to be a tough transition from my normal world of corporate comms and journalism to the gilded plateau where theory outweighs application.
So why am I doing it? Blame Anne Robinson, blame the BBC - I might even blame my kids.
I've always thought I was reasonably bright, but a woolly thinker. However, I've always had a head for facts and a pragmatic means of linking information. This led to me shouting a lot at TV quiz shows and ultimately to appearing on and indeed winning Anne Robinson's BBC quiz - the Weakest Link.
And that's where I peaked...and that's probably where I should have left things. But I didn't. Three drivers marked my next moves: first, to write seriously about stuff I enjoy; second, to indulge my TV-wannabeness and third, to find an outlet for my schoolboyesque fascination with the Space Race.
One and three started to come together - but it took two to provide a temporary purpose. I decided to start researching historical narrative pieces on some of the key anniversaries of the space programme, with the view of getting some pieces published and earning a little bit of money. I've had some small successes but not enough to put all the corporate comms stuff on hold. But this time last year, driver number two took over.
I applied for Mastermind and was selected as a contender for the 2007 series. That meant structuring my research on a particular topic - SP Koralev in my case, for two minutes in the famous black leather chair. The result of my labours will be on TV next week and, I'm sure, mark the end of my life on TV.
The show was recorded in March and its conclusion meant I no longer had compelling reason to read and study the history and politics of the cold war that had so absorbed me for the previous few months.
But it got me thinking that maybe I could expand my very narrow focus and put what little knowledge I have and the lot of interest behind it to good use. So, I came along to a Brunel open day, spent three hours chatting to tutors about everything from Khruschev's drinking habits to the Baltimore Orioles. That led to submitting an application form which, to my surprise, led to an offer.
Now, that offer is real, and I spent the early part of this morning reading an introduction to the competing theories of International Relations. It's a long time since I've dealt in theories, and it's really going to be a stretch this term to absorb what's a new field for me and to structure my own thoughts coherently around it. And, unlike most of my colleagues on the course, I'm doing it part time, while still attempting to work for up to 30 hours a week.
The new way of working - at least 'til Christmas - sees me in college on a Monday and Friday with most work squeezed into Tues-Thurs. It also sees a reading hour in the morning and evening every day - discipline that doesn't come naturally.
I have to say I'm daunted but excited too. Where it will lead to...well, I'm leaving that open. But I still reckon Anne Robinson has a lot to answer for.
Friday, September 14, 2007
The survey's also looking for your views on your boss as a communicator - and on how the rest of your organisation views you.
So, grab a coffee and your mouse and get clicking here.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
One of the questions fascinating me is around whether today's in-house communicators are actually doing the communicating or managing others to do it for them.
The trend across the board in organisations is to slim down and focus on core business. That means organisations employing fewer, more skilled people directly who are involved in the heart of the business, and outsourcing non core services to specialist suppliers.
I'm beginning to see this more and more in IC where the traditional in-house agency is being slimmed to one or two professionals. They haven't the time to plan, craft, disseminate and measure the impact of the corporate message day to day, so are becoming more and more reliant on 3rd party support to make IC happen. It's great for people like me - but does it mean that in-house communicators will merely become managers of the word, unskilled in actually bringing it to life?
Call me old-school, but I believe great craft communication skills should be the start point for any corporate communication manager. It's not enough to be able to sweat suppliers and bring comms in on budget each year. That way, blandness, dumbing down and poor communication lies.
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see if this particular perceived trend is borne out in the survey findings.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
It's the first time for quite a few years that we've had a proper fortnight away with the family - and thank god the sun came out for the second week! Actually, when I managed to avoid the emails and the odd client call on the mobile (12 out of 14 days), it was a lovely relaxing break. The towns of Cognac, Saintes, La Rochelle and St. Jean D'Angely were walked the length and breadth of. We ate well from Aulnay to Ile de Re (especially in L'Escapade in La Flotte) and discovered just how much tax Gordan Brown has put on wine and beer when buying copious amounts of both liquid at 3 euros and less from the local branches of Intermarche and Leclerc.
Anyway, today was back to reality - more projects than I can shake a Gallic stick at; the approach of the start of my MA and the inevitable round of payment chasing from clients who owe me rather more than I have in the bank at present. Ah, the swift journey back to reality!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
So, thought I'd share one of the quirkier aspects of corporate life I've recently been exposed to.
This client has a Blackberry culture - people live or die by their ability to check their emails wherever and whenever - and for many Blackberrying is more or less their occupation.
On a telecon last Friday, I admitted I'd be updating all the documentation for the project on Sunday night at which point another participant piped up 'If you need any help, I'll be inside my Blackberry!'.........somehow it conjured up a strange 1984-esque image.
Friday, August 10, 2007
It's great to be really busy but I'm looking forward to hitting the beach in France in not too many days.
While I'm currently enjoying the mix of a change project, writing content for a consultant's new website, a job editing a benefits web package, writing profiles for a careers web site, writing the next issue of my law firm mag and editing a new bartender guide, I'm equally looking forward to putting them all to one side for a fortnight. I'm determined not to be logging on to my laptop all holiday to see how things are progressing without me - I know they'll all do perfectly well without me, and I need to clear my mind.
I won't be clearing it entirely though. if you want something done, ask a busy man, and I'm now in the process of putting a book proposal together covering a small but significant period on one of Britain's historic houses. The National Trust are very interested and we've got a meeting set for early September. But if that comes off, it'll be a labour of love and won't feel like work at all.
Anyway, I'm not in France yet, so it's back to editing benefits.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Being on the Council also means I get a copy of Ariel each week. It's the BBC's in-house newspaper, often referred to as 'Pravda' by Corporation insiders, and it's always interesting to get another perspective on the nation's 'state' broadcaster.
Unsurprisingly, the publication's full of the BBC's response to the dodgily-edited 'Queen' programme trailer, and the revelations that Beeb employees have covered up for a lack of viewer or listener involvement by getting members of the production team or their mates to pose as callers to live (or in some cases recorded but played-out-as-live) shows.
As shown in how it has been the leading item on most BBC news bulletins - at least until the Godsend to news that was the floods - the BBC has indulged in some mightily meritorious hand-wringing and has turned itself from a corporation caught out at some minor dubious practice into a rather self-righteous driver for zero tolerance in anything that might mislead the licence-paying public.
The BBC has gone too far in banning all competitions from TV and radio - who does that help? Certainly not the viewers or listeners who now have less reason or opportunity to engage with the Corporation.
The reaction I've had from people I've talked to about the BBC's over-reaction to some poor editorial judgement has generally been along the lines of my friend Claire's reaction: 'For God's sake, they should just get over themselves and move on.'
I'm with Nick Webb from BBC Wales Sport who wrote to Ariel saying: "Any other major organisation would have dealt with these problems quietly and internally. Surely the (Director General's) own handling of the issues has done more damage than the original mistakes. Has Mark Thompson been taking publicity lessons from Gerald Ratner?'
I definitely think that Thompson should have taken on board that old adage: when you're in a hole, the last thing to do is keep digging.
My perception of his actions has been to pass the buck from the BBC to RDF - when surely the BBC as commissioners of RDF's work holds the ultimate responsibility - and to blame junior staff in an environment where there's clearly insufficient governance in place and insufficient honesty in the culture to either prevent poor editorial judgement or deal with the consequences of audience indifference in an adult way.
In bending over backwards to 'engage' with its audiences in an interactive and PC-manner, Auntie Beeb appears to have shoved its management head squarely up its own behind.
Coming out of CorpComms Magazine, the blurb states: The Corp Comms Top 100 club creates a network of the most influential and inspiring individuals within the communications marketplace; Members will range from individuals responsible for revitalising an internal employees’ messaging scheme to those who have been principle in determining a major CSR policy or to others who have successfully rebranded a FTSE 100 company.
A number of things strike me as worrying about this new club of corporate communicators. The first is that it's exclusive to those working in-house. Yes, there are many great communicators in-house, but there are just as many - if not more working in agencies and as independents. it's often these people who are the creative powerhouses, while their internal colleagues get on with managing their teams and trading in corporate politics. Surely a real 'Top 100' would blend the best of in-house and consultant talent?
Second, I worry about any organisation that still regards IC as 'revitalising an internal employees' messaging scheme'. So, the magazine still regards IC as being postman come publisher? Sounds like they're still very externally focused and behind the times on organisational comms.
Finally, a concern that could also be an opportunity: this new 'club' covers a hugely wide area - from IC to Public Affairs to PR to CSR - often areas that report into different heads in the organisations I work with. Their skills, concerns and outlook are often quite different and the so-called powerhouse that the magazine is looking to create may turn out to be no more than a collection of disparate strands.
Of course, as we move to issues-based communication, organisations should be knitting together all the strands of their communication - so actually there could be a great opportunity here to create and mobilise best practice.
It's just a shame that this new network is under the auspices of a magazine looking to make money by selling subscriptions to big corporates, and sponsored by a recruitment consultancy with a need to get the top talent on their books. Of course, it's the way the world works, but I wonder at the independence in selecting the cream of our industry's cream.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I did a bit of pre-work on this at a conference in Newcastle the other month, and that small sample showed a growing divergence between the old guard and new breed of comms pros.
I'm towards the younger end of the old guard, but started my professional life on a magazine, and have mixed in-house comms jobs with a few years at a PR agency and, latterly, seven years as an independent. My basic toolbox is words - I trained as a journalist and have spent my career either using words or getting others to use them. I gained management experience through seniority and probably age and have gained business experience as the comms guy brought into business projects.
Not so my younger business acquaintances. Very few have come through the journalism route. Their tool kit is their ability to bring in the right people to craft, deliver and measure the messages they manage. They've been trained for management and many have degrees in business studies - giving them a great head start in understanding the drivers within organisations. Many have come from HR or marketing or are stepping through comms as part of a graduate programme. Their perspective on what's important in comms can be very different from mine.
Neither the old guard nor the new young guns have the monopoly on what's right in comms today and there's much we can learn from each other. However, i suspect the survey will show that we're heading to a tipping point where the business skill that is IC will diverge forever from external straightforward journalism. When that divergence finally happens, the trick will be to ensure that communicators never dump the core craft skills of great writing and editing. They're definitely not an end in themselves in IC - but they still make by far the best start point for great careers.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Now John Glenn's something of a hero of mine: the first American to orbit the earth in his 'Friendship 7' Mercury craft and then the oldest astronaut when he flew on the Shuttle some 36 years later.
John Young was Gemini 10's commander and unlike Glenn who left after Mercury and entered politics, Young hung around at NASA long enough to fly two Apollo mission and the first and ninth Shuttle missions.
Glenn is 86 today while Young only finally retired from NASA in 2004.
Of course, both space events today are far overshadowed by the 89th birthday of another of my heroes - salutations Nelson Mandela!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Work currently involves two days a week - which could easily expand to five - on my big change project; a related sub project developing and communicating quality standards; the development of communication competencies for manufacturing line management and a consultancy website. I also spent a chunk of yesterday with the CiB membership team looking at ways to encourage members to stay and for us to reduce churn. I now need to sit down and turn a lot of great ideas generated by the team into action.
Beyond work, we're heading to the end of term for the three kids. Rory has been hard at it on the sports front, with a winning cricket debut and also his first tennis tournament. He also read one of his own poems at the Risborough Festival - something that scares him rigid, but that he carried off really well - I'm very proud of him. And I'm just as proud of the girls: L-B performed in High School Musical last week, and then last Friday collected two achievement prizes at school - one a national prize for maths. She's quietly amazing. Sophie sang a solo at the Festival and appeared in her drama production on Sunday. She's not quiet, but she's equally amazing.
The kids will all be off from Friday which adds extra complexities to the working day. It looks like we'll be flat out to mid-August - very profitable and very busy - so two weeks in France are looking ever more appealing.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
But of course I wanted a little jam on my bread, and used some quiet time to put out feelers for some extra work to fill in the gaps. The result? No gaps for the last two months, weekend and evening work - and I even had to knock back an interesting project from a consultancy I've worked with several times before.
Things are evening out a bit now, but for the first time in three years it looks as though I'll be flat our through the summer. It's strange how things come good - and generally in this business it's about being in the right place when someone in a client's team moves on, or when a client or acquaintance gets overloaded.
One client said on Friday 'You're name's popping up on everything at the moment' - and it really feels like that. That client works for a multi-headed corporate: I'm running comms on one of their change projects, am doing tactical comms for two other parts of the business and have been approached to look at another piece of work that builds on something I did for them more than a year ago.
But I can't get too reliant on them. This month I'm in favour: a few month's down the line it'll be someone else's turn. So, tomorrow I'm off to see the slowest burning client I've ever worked with. I think I first went to see them over two years ago. Three or four meetings later, I still haven't earned a penny - but it's a company worth persevering with. I'm told that tomorrow's meeting is around some real work - not just talking about future possibilities. I just hope I now have enough time to fulfil it!
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
In the last couple of weeks I've run training and started on new projects that have all demonstrated the value effective organisational communication can bring - but all have also shown how communication can be lost in task-orientated organisations.
There is still far too strong a mentality, especially in project work, that sees communication as a 'workstream' - something that can be bracketed off and completed by checklist. It's also an exercise that's undertaken by communicators and conducted once the real decision making has been made.
I'm currently working on a communication strategy document for a project within an organisation that wants to improve the way it manages some of its non-core activity. The project is sound and will deliver a better way to work and some good cost savings - but they've been managing communication in a reactive way, and have been focused on a communication strategy as an end in itself, not a means to an end.
There's already a strategy document, but nobody's using it since it feels like an off-the-shelf where only the names have been changed. Its creation feels like a theoretical exercise rather than something that's actually helping the project team open the right doors, get the right information and come up with something better for the organisation.
As I said when I delivered the latest O2O course last week, I don't believe in a communication strategy. I believe in a well thought out and articulated business strategy and then planning effective communication to help deliver that strategy. That's where I am now: taking the project strategy - which fits directly with the business goals - and why we need to communicate, what we need to say to each group at each stage and how best we can connect with them to ensure the project reaches the right outcome.
My plan probably won't look anything as grand as what the client may be used to, but I hope it will be rather more useful than the beautiful creation that currently sits in the project area, unloved, untouched and unwanted.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
20 years ago, Jac and I looked like this - but on June 13 1987 we actually put on slightly nicer clothes to walk down the aisle at St. Mary's Church in Harefield, Middlesex as husband and wife. Funny enough, the weather was pretty much like today - a sunny morning with heavy rain forecast for the evening. We got through the pictures and all that malarkey in bright sunshine - though we got soaked on the way to the hotel in the evening.
A few days later we were strolling down 5th Avenue in New York and I remember feeling totally elated.
Three kids, nine jobs (me 6, Jac 3), 19 cars and four houses later, we're still rock solid.
It's hard to believe that back then mobile phones were in their infancy, email was a joke and the Internet had yet to be unleashed on the world. I had a 'laptop' that nearly broke my shoulder when I carried it, used a hard-copy library and microfiche to research my articles while working at Which?, and used to post 'Yellow Drafts' - hard copies of draft articles for review by the great and the good - often posting out 20 or 30 copies of an article which would come back a few weeks later with hand-scrawled comments all over them.
Life changes, but today I'm feeling weirdly constant.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
According to a BBC report, Hopkins has failed her probationary period with Britain's weather information service - and the report alludes to the fact that she may have been telling porkies about her salary too.
Hopkins considered being a bitch to be a business virtue - but in a business world where open and honest communication is a prized - though rarely realised - virtue, her Thatcherite, greed-is-goodness seems to have tripped her up big time.
She's had her day in the sun, and going 'kiss n tell' to the News of the World will, I hope, hasten her fall from C list to F list...and, I trust, F-off list.
I was at Grand Designs Live on Sunday and was interviewed on camera for Friction TV - I don't know if my piece is up there, but it's the second time in just a few weeks that someone has come up to me and stuck a camera in my face wanting my opinion. Weirdly it hasn't happened in the previous 43 years of my life, so maybe I'm growing into the face of 'Mr Joe Average'.
Anyway, Grand Designs was a significant disappointment - little to reflect the aspirational, green-tinged delight that is the Channel 4 show, and much more of hundreds of retailers trying to flog very similar looking showers, wood flooring and garden sculptures. Thanks to Nicki at WWF for the tickets - but I'm glad I didn't have to pay.
I don't like the London 2012 Olympics blog czars much either. On their own blog, responding to the launch of the event branding they say:
London 2012 team Says: 7th Jun 07, 7:11
Update: We have received many comments that reflect the tenor of negative comments found elsewhere on the web and often containing offensive language that, for obvious reasons, we cannot publish. Rather than act as an echo chamber we have published a selection here that say something a little different.
They've then printed 18 comments and seemingly closed the debate. I've shared my views - they've been censored. They weren't offensive and were as pertinent as any that have got through the censors. What annoys me hugely is that this is a publicly-funded organisation stamping on open, public debate. Isn't that totally against the spirit of a blog? Isn't it a manipulation of the media?
I do like the BBC this week and spent a couple of hours in Southampton last night locked in a passionate debate about output ranging from Springwatch to Panorama. A few years ago I started facilitating workshops as the BBC was going through a major change programme. Out of that, I got involved in Public Accountability and have ended up on the Regional Audience Council for the South of England. While i think our impact is very limited, it's good to get a chance to debate programmes we have a passionate reaction to with the people who make and broadcast them.
I came out of last night's meeting energised and far more aware of the impact of programming on other viewers and listeners. There's an awful lot wrong with the BBC, but far more right - and I applaud them for their policy of engaging with stakeholders - a nice counterpoint to London 2012 which seems very much on the defensive.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
International businessman and leader of world conglomerates he may be, but as one of Sugar's cronies described him last night, he has 'a small vocabulary, about half of which is composed of swear words'.
Tre talked up his own reputation as a marketing, design and brand consultant - but his own website IDMM does him no favours. It's riddled with typos, grammatical errors and the misuse of language.
Okay, I often type faster than I think, but my cack-handedness very rarely ends up in the client's final version.
Tre, mate, I think you need someone to review your site content - I'd do it myself, just for the laugh!
If you want to know more about it, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.