Monday, September 28, 2009

The new business drive starts here

I'm using today's lunch break to deliver my MA Dissertation to university - the final piece in the MA jigsaw that will bring two years of International Relations study to an end.

Of course, the studying doesn't now stop: far from it. I'm starting a PhD pretty much immediately investigating the relationship between NASA and the media during the US/Soviet space I know what I'm doing with my life for the next four years or so.

What it means is that I need to get my working life in stricter order too. It has been a bit ad hoc over the last year and now I need to get a rather more disciplined balance between work and study. Doing a PhD in a niche nerdy field is's not the stuff they hand out big scholarships for, so I'll be funding most of the research myself. That means earning decent sums, which means planning my work time a bit more carefully. That's generally anathema for a freelancer, but is going to be necessity for me.

I've decided that I'm not going to pitch for any more consultancy work that's going to take more than a couple of days a week or where the project's for more than three months. I will take on short, sharp, discrete projects - and actually think that's where I bring most value anyway.

What I will look for is more regular writing work. One of my regular magazines shrank from four to three issues this year and was planned to shrink further to two next year. Now I've learned that it is 'on hold', and plans to revive it look more than a bit iffy. I'm not too badly affected as I've got a mix of writing for print and for the web on for the moment that's going to keep me pretty busy in the short-term, and a number of training days planned in too that will at least pay the mortgage. But it would be great to get one more steasy, regular piece, preferably a b2b magazine where I can really play to my strengths. Now the MA work is out of the way, I can get back in the game a tad more seriously and interest editors and comms managers in what I have to offer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New issue of 'Connections' now online

I've just noticed that one of the publications I enjoy writing most is now up on line. It's produced for Badenoch & Clark - a major recruitment business, and I write most of the content. I think I like it particularly as it covers issues relating to people in business rather than being too overt a marketing tool. Key to this is having a range of contributors to interview, the very large majority being beyond the business. It's a bit more of a subtle approach than continually trumpeting how good the business is. Anyway, you can check it out here.

One point worthy of note is that it has reached issue 10 - and has continued right through the recession. In fact, the circulation for this issue is higher than ever at 38,000. It's great to see the client has kept faith with marketing/communication and seen the benefit of the publication.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Going Freelance course: November 17th, MK

I'll be running my session on going freelance again on November 17th in Milton Keynes. It's aimed at anyone with the urge for semi-detachment from the corporate world and is being offered through CiB. Here's their blurb for the event.

Introduction to freelancing: pitfalls and possibilities for communicators thinking of taking an independent route

Thinking of going it alone as a freelance communication professional? Whether you've always dreamed of being your own boss...or your current bosses are helping you grasp the opportunity, there's much to consider before you take the plunge. Experienced freelance communicator Mark Shanahan, who set up his business in a downturn almost a decade ago, will take you through all the necessary steps you'll need to take to get up and running.

This interactive session will enable you to consider whether you're the right kind of person to thrive outside the in-house environment; walk you through the options on how to trade; look at the practicalities from office accommodation through tax to finance and family and give you the insight you'll need to avoid the common pitfalls that afflict too many first-time freelancers.

Outline for the day:
10am-10.30: Introduction: why it makes sense to consider freelancing including who's who and aspirations for the day

10.30-12.00: what you need to do before you take the plunge: researching your market,your unique selling point, building your networks, finance, kit, office accommodation, family support, freelance temperament, structuring your business

12.00–13.00: networking lunch - share your plans and build your network13.00–14.00: implications of being freelance, pricing structures, billing, tax, pension/insurance/expenses, winning business, terms & conditions, personal development

14.00-15.00: Common pitfalls – cashflow, changing relationships - in-house to supplier, isolation

15.00-15.30: Making it happen - your action plan Round-up and close

All sessions will be interactive and the aim is to make this as much of a working conversation as possible: it won't be chalk and talk!
Location: Milton Keynes

Cost: £315 plus VAT

About the tutor: Mark Shanahan began his career with a three year stint on Which? magazine, before joining the PR department at Nationwide Building Society in 1989. He subsequently held communication management roles at Barclays Bank and the Forte Hotel Group and has been a director of Leapfrog Corporate Communications for the past nine years. During that time he has worked on major change programmes within Diageo and Orange and has also worked with a wide range of private and public service communication clients, including Aviva, the BBC, Northamptonshire County Council, UBM and United Utilities.

To sign up or find out more details, click here

Monday, September 07, 2009

Internal comms = internal journalism? Never!

Had a good conversation this morning with a former colleague who is struggling to convince her new employers that internal communication is not internal journalism. I've always been of the opinion that anyone who thinks that internal comms is about journalism is in the wrong job.

My take is that with my journalist hat on, I know I can go in, get the information I need, write to the angle I want to pursue and get out quick knowing I don't have to speak to those people again. Internal comms is very different - we become the mouthpiece for the organisation with a view to building engagement - therefore there's no opportunity for, or benefit in, stitching people up, and the angle is determined by/with the subject, not the writer. Therefore I'd always say the keys for any internal comms professional to a good internal business feature are:

* Agree the desired outcome
* Know the business context
* Put yourself in the reader's shoes
* Don't editorialise
* Make sure the interviewee voice(s) comes through strongly
* Understand where the piece fits in the overall comms plan
* Ensure the reader has a clear route to find out more.

In the end it's not about us sounding good as writers: it's about achieving a business aim. Being able to craft a fantastic piece is actually secondary to it being fit for purpose as a tool to move the business forward.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Back in the saddle

I got back yesterday lunchtime from two and a bit weeks in the US. Having not slept for over 30 hours, I finally crashed just before 9pm last night....and was consequently wide awake at 4.30am this morning! I didn't think it was supposed to work that way coming west to east??

Anyway, so far this morning I've sorted out some banking, responded to a few business emails and re-read some dissertation material. My disso's due in at the end of this month, and while it is in draft and I've already revised parts, it's going to take up more or less all non-working hours over the next few weeks.

No major panics on the work front while I've been away - and indeed a couple of new opportunities to mull over now I've returned.

Jac's now up too - could this be the new way of working - 5-6am on a Saturday morning?