Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shocked and stunned by labour arrogance

The other night, I was driving home from London, listening to Peter Allen interviewing Diane Hayter from the Labour Party's National Executive on BBC FiveLive.

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

Netreps, Facebook and succumbing to the compulsive

Okay, so I'm following the herd. I've succumbed to the inevitable and created a Facebook profile. Being a 40-something, it feels rather like Friends Reunited rather than some cutting edge networking tool, but I guess it's very much a case of what you make it.

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

Close to home is best

When it comes to strategic communication, I've always believed that organisations that drive the communication themselves are far more likely to achieve the best results.

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

Don't panic.....they're not so different after all

Last night I had the pleasure of facilitating part of a BBC 'Yoof' event in Southampton. A group of 16-21 year olds came together and, as well as touring the Corporation's HQ in the South and having a play on a BBC Technology Bus, fed back their views on TV, radio and the internet, sharing their feelings about everything from sport and drama to whether Radio 1 is getting better or worse.

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

Hearty frustration

There have been two lively threads running on the CiB's freelance forum - one of the most useful resources for communicators in the UK. The first concerns the pretty dreadful standards - or, indeed, complete lack of punctuation prevalent among both school kids and new entrants to the world of work; while the second explores the polarities of 'the best communication for corporates'.

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.