Friday, November 30, 2012

Time for a professional migration

Since I first started blogging in 2005, this site has been home for everything from my professional insights; gripes about the world of work and the ups and downs of running a microbusiness to bits about my family, my sporting interests, my academic sidelines and even my 15 minutes of fame as a TV quiz contestant.

That's not exactly a great deal of focus...

While I'm sure I'll continue to blog here, I'm moving my professional presence to my new site insideleapfrog. The idea behind insideleapfrog is to create a community site around organisational engagement, sharing insights and opinion and generally keeping a stronger work-focus than the occasional ramblings on here.

If you like the new site (or if you don't) please let me know. You can also follow my new business-related tweets at @leapfroginsider.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Business development is not a process of instant gratification

My hunt for new projects has started reasonably well. One new client meeting this week and discussions with two existing clients on new work: all good, all positive - but nothing yet that will make up for this month's shortfall in income. What's great though is that people want to talk to me about applying some of my wider skills - not just what they've engaged me to tackle in the past. If I can provide a wider offering, it even opens up the opportunity to bring in other people from my network - and one bit of back scratching has, from past experience, led to others.

A few years ago when work for all microbusinesses was really hard to find and doubly painful to lose, I would have been more than a tad panicky by now with projects finishing and no clear pipeline to replace them. In fact, post-credit crunch, I remember being in precisely that situation and wondering where my next mortgage payment was going to come from.

But that's the nature of operating near the end of the food chain. At least now I have a little bit of contingency in the bank and I have some ongoing work although it's a bit linear. . What I don't have right at this moment though is the buzz of three or four on-going projects that I can move on piece by piece, day by day and week by week.

Famine or Feast

Operating at this level, you will only succeed if you recognise that this is a world of famine and feast. I've been really fortunate to have three flat out months and seven reasonable ones this year - so one flat one doesn't hurt too much other than making me twitchy. But the key to a flat month is getting out and making sure that future months are more positive. December's always tricky as client focus can get lost in the run up to Christmas - but my last two Festive periods have actually been busy. With January, it's important to get on the front foot and tie up the work before Christmas. That's what I'm doing now: setting dates in the diary and nudging the talks about talks into firm decisions.

It's a game of patience - it's not my style to be too pushy, but nor can I wait in hope. Meanwhile, I've started work on the new version of my web presence - nothing as flash as the new ArtHaus site for which I've provided the content - but something a bit more professional than this ramble through my last seven years of business. Not too many organisational communicators have blogged for seven years - I have, but it's time for a refresh.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Available now - and open to offers.

It's that time of year when marketing, corporate communication and HR teams start reining in their budgets. That's not good for me as I'm reaching the end of a couple of projects that have kept me very well occupied through much of the year. As my billable time has dropped off I've filled up large chunks of the last fortnight pushing the PhD forward - interesting research and fun to do...but it doesn't pay the mortgage.

I'm in the market for new projects now - and while in the past I've been lucky enough to have a steady flow of clients heading in my direction, the fact that many of my long-term clients have moved out of in-house roles coupled with an influx of new talent into the market in which I operate mean I have to get out there and get my face and talents known again.

With budgets tight and a clamp-down on putting out work externally at two of my regular clients, I realise it's high time I started marketing myself again - and alsohave become painfully aware from a couple of recent conversations that it's an area I've been pretty lax on over the past few years.

The result is that few clients or contacts know me for the range of skills I offer - some know me as a trainer; others as a writer and editor; others still as primarily a facilitator and one is convinced I'm just a high-cost strategist without the skills to carry my plans through to implementation (how VERY far from the truth!!).

So, I've started writing my personal pitch again - just one step in a process that will also see me relaunch my online presence over the coming weeks, separating out my 'Leapfrog' presence from all those other areas of my life - children, sport and university in particular that have probably diluted my net rep and obscured my talents.

I'd almost prefer that someone else wrote my profile - I suppose that's what recommendations on LinkedIn are for - but even there, the recommendations I have tend to be for shades of my work, not the full rainbow. I actually find it uncomfortable shouting about myself, but realise that if I don't, the best work will simply pass me by.

So, step one as suggested by a long-term former colleague and client who said: "Sum yourself up in a page - but write in the third person as if you were describing someone else".

It reads:
Mark Shanahan

Mark has built a wealth of engagement experience through senior agency and in-house roles in the financial, hotels, telecoms, FMCG and manufacturing sectors. He has two decades of experience  in driving engagement in major change programmes in both private and public environment. His career includes a number of appointments and projects with an international remit and has been focused on building communication as an enabler of engagement from an add-on to a core skill in major organisations.

Strategic and tactical experience
Mark has been involved in a wide range of assignments. In recent years he has:

-        Designed and implemented a world-wide engagement strategy to support major change in one of the world’s leading hotel groups

-        Introduced and implemented an engagement framework into a new division of a leading telecommunications company – aligning Europe-wide communication to the direct needs of the business; building relationships with other business divisions and recruiting a manager to take up the reins in-house

-        Devised and implemented an engagement strategy to enable the seamless integration of a new acquisition into a major banking group

-        Facilitated the introduction of performance management into a major broadcaster

-        Managed communication, on an interim basis, for a major brewer as it was integrated into a larger drinks business

-        Audited communication in a large NHS Trust and then built a change plan to help unite a diverse and disparate workforce

-        Managed employee communication around a major job creation and relocation programme

-        Researched and produced a major national report for a recruitment group on workforce issues in the economic downturn

-        Facilitated  ‘state of the industry’ workshops nationally and internationally for senior finance and IT audiences

-        Devised and delivered bespoke training programmes for both new-entry and senior organisational communicators
-    Produced a social media toolkit for an organisation moving from a top-down channel approach to employee communications to a matrix view harnessing the possibilities of SharePoint 2010.
Management experience 

Mark has wide experience of managing in-house and virtual  communication teams, but has a particular strength in working with existing teams (from the front line to the Board) across a wide range of industries to build their communication expertise and confidence. His ‘can-do’ attitude and willingness to muck in and make things happen regularly marks him out as a seamless addition to clients’ management team.

Other qualifications and experience

Mark holds an MA in International Relations and a BA (Hons) in English. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Internal Communication and currently is working towards a PhD.            
It's a work in progress and I'd welcome feedback, but it's intended to move the perception of me away from being just a copywriter and editor. I love editorial work and have written more than 200 published corporate pieces this year - but it's just one string to my bow! I hope that highlighting my wider experience will open up one or two discussions that may lead to interesting projects where I can use different aspects of the knowledge and expertise I've gained working with some fantastic people in great (and not so great) organisations over the years.
The next step is to launch my new website, working with my son Rory who's a true digital native. With a bit of prodding, that will go live by the end of the month.
Over two decades I've built up probably as much organisational engagement knowledge as anyone in the field right now - but have shared it person to person and group to group. That has to change: and I guess the change starts now.