Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Last night we went to football at Wycombe Wanderers, but the game was called off after just 22 minutes due to heavy snow. It was an icy and dicey drive back home (I miss my 4 wheel drive Subaru!) but we awoke this morning to a good two inch blanket of snow.
Sophie and I headed up into the Chilterns mid-morning and found a lot of timber down across the minor roads, collapsed under the weight of snow. While it's melting off now, I can't remember having this heavy a snowfall in October.
Up on the Chiltern escarpment the snow was deep, powdery and crisp, the sky blue and cloudless and the scene was beautiful. Frankly there's no-one better to spend an hour and half in the snow with than an eight year old.
Taking a bit of time off is one of the great perks of freelancedom.........I just wish I'd remembered to bring my camera......!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
While the going's good, it's easy to breeze along and pick up communication awards without really trying. Yet the best communicators will come into their own now, not for their ability to craft clever messages, but by being an essential part of the leadership team, prompting, challenging and directing to help steer the organisation through to safer waters.
This week's Melcrum Source newsletter points to some of the characteristics communicators need to show if they're to be valued rather than tolerated at Board level. They're all good, and I don't question any of the points Geri Rhoades puts forward.
- Be courageous.
- Be curious.
- Point out the possibilities.
- Be knowledgeable.
I'd add a few more:
- Be challenging - no-one in your organisation will know more about internal/organisational communication than you. Show your expertise (as long as you can justify it.). Challenge the status quo and be an effective contributor to business debates, not a scribe or a doormat.
- Be a leader - run your own team in an exemplary way and take that leadership into the boardroom. Even if you don't have board status, act as though you do (without being arrogant). Demonstrate you've a right to be there by virtue of your skills and input - and of course back them with excellent execution. Act as an equal among function managers - they may have more resource, but are no more expert than you.
- Be different - most boardrooms are stuffed with lawyers and accountants who 'get' the balance sheets and operate by them. Then there'll be HR people who understand the policies and the impacts...but perhaps aren't the most creative tools in the box. Sales will be figures-led, and marketing will be interested only in customer impact. Comms, in whatever form comes from a different angle. You absolutely need to know what makes the business tick and what drives its success, but you'll be best placed to talk about what drives those within the business. The tools of communication are merely a start point now. You need to have a very high level of political business knowledge and awareness of the impact of each of the drivers. But you'll earn more than grudging respect if you have mastery of what engages people to deliver those drivers.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
But having got back here about an hour ago, I've agreed to take on one piece of work and have been asked to price for two others. Nothing big, but enough to keep the accountant happy.
I'm not sure there's any more confidence in the financial or real economies than there was a couple of weeks ago. Instead, I think that clients have realised that they can't hold their collective breath for ever, and have started to get on with the doing - perhaps realising that their businesses:
a) aren't investment banks
b) haven't got their money tied up in Iceland; and
c) still have to do all that's necessary to make money.
So, while cash-flow (more likely cash collection) may be a bit iffy in the next couple of months, the underlying trend is that the work's still out there and needs to be done.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Now the Anglo-Swiss Neyroud is hardly a 'coppers' copper', but in these political days, he could well fit the bill for the Met.
He's an Oxford graduate and currently leads the National Policing Improvement Agency, having spent four years as Chief Constable at Thames Valley Police.
I was writing the force's paper at the time that Peter joined TVP, succeeding my near neighbour at the time in Oxfordshire, Sir Charles Pollard.
It was always 'Sir Charles' with Pollard, while Neyroud introduced himself to me with a 'Call me Peter'.
I'm not sure he ever really won over the force's footsloggers at TVP, but I really liked him. He had a very open communication style, was sharp of thought and welcomed new ideas.....not always the most apparent features of senior police officers.
Boris Johnson, now London's Mayor and Chair of the Police Authority, was a local MP in the Thames Valley when Neyroud was based at Kidlington. I'm sure they met quite often, and it wouldn't surprise me, in the way these things work, if Neyroud were to get the nod to succeed Sir Ian Blair.
There again, the last horse I backed fell at the first fence in the Grand National!
Monday, October 06, 2008
I've spent most of the past few weeks interviewing lawyers, bankers and senior business people on how the credit crunch is affecting them and what they see as the short, mid and long term prospects for recovery.
The bankers and financial services professionals are in the darkest place. Some I spoke to had already lost their jobs or were expecting to get laid off soon from the likes of Lehmans, UBS and a couple of the more boutique establishments.
The HR guys from the big funds and retail banks were looking at refocusing for a smaller, better regulated City. And the lawyers weren't talking about deals so much as restructuring and insolvency.
None saw the picture brightening particularly in the next 12 months, and many were talking about recovery taking three to five years, with a rather different financial community emerging at the end. Yet all saw this as part of the natural cycle of business. Confidence may be low now, but no-one really believed that this is the end of capitalism as we know it.
But the lack of confidence in the City is now affecting all parts of the economy, and those of us who service other industries rather than create from scratch are vulnerable, and it would be easy to get very down, very worried and start on a downward spiral. But worry sows worry, fear sows fear. A lack of belief is immediately evident and it causes confidence to fall further.
This is the time for the small and unsung to show that what we do is actually very good, very necessary and unaffected by an economic crisis we didn't create and are pretty powerless to resolve.
Nothing I do now is any different to what I was doing three months or even three years ago - so as far as I'm concerned, there's no need for me to worry. True, there are fewer opportunities in the market at the moment, and as more comms professionals get laid off and turn to freelancing, there may be more competition. However, I first went freelance in a recession some 16 years ago. For three years my business grew and grew until it was too big for me to handle alone and I folded it into someone else's organisation.
Now is the time for those of us who've been there and done that to be using our experience to help clients who've only done business in good times; to be a voice of reason against the panic I'm already seeing in some businesses and to be the cost-effective innovators who use communication skills to help clients navigate the choppy business waters.
It's easy to do well in strong economic times. But only the strongest will survive in this steep a downturn.