Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.
There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?
You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.
Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.
However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.
I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.
But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.
It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.
The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.
I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.
If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.
The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.
I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.
Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!
No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….
A young soldier is attacked and killed in full public view on our streets, seemingly by extremists intent on creating fear and panic among the population at large.
An act of violence and abomination. A terrible, terrible event for the family, friends and colleagues of the victim. An attack on one of our soldiers, one of the many men and women who are prepared to die to protect our way of life.
Yesterday the news was full of stories about horrible killings in our society. This was one was so shocking because it was so immediate with video clips on the internet and the killers using that medium to spread whatever twisted message they wanted to get across.
Today I’ve heard several negative things which, in my view, play into the hands of all extremists. People calling for death, mobs, marches, violence to a whole group in our society who are as innocent as we are. People suddenly showing support for organisations which shouldn’t be more than an annoying pimple which needs to be popped. These organisations jumping on the horror and claiming it for their own – it’s utterly despicable. What is it that Gandhi said? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Let’s not let anger and fear make us blind to the good things…..
There are pros and cons to seeing a death like this victim’s played out so publicly – in America, people are used to seeing this type of thing more often. I’m in two minds about this. I heard a man on the radio saying it was disgraceful bringing this into everyone’s living rooms. Is it? Is it disgraceful that we face the horror up front? Those people in that street, that young man didn’t ask for that, did they? They had no choice in it. Can we hide from the risks we may all face?
But this exposure also highlighted other things – small acts of courage and care which happened in the few moments that this horrific event took place. The woman who tried to reason with someone who could not be reasoned with. Did she think or did she act? Her efforts provided, at a minimum, a distraction which could well have prevented another death or serious attack. Could I have done that? Would I have done that? I honestly don’t know.
The person, who even though it was hopeless, held the victim and wept over him – a stranger who cared, who just tried to be there in the most terrible of circumstances and amid carnage. Someone who just saw the young man and reached out. I believe the victim’s family will take a small crumb of comfort from that one act.
I heard comments about wishing the police had shot dead the people responsible. Yesterday, in the immediate aftermath I too had some sympathy for that view. But our police are professionals. They too, being there and in the midst of that awful situation, may have felt that way. But they, like our soldiers, were professional. We have no idea what the bigger picture is here – is there more intelligence around this incident? Is there information to be gained from the men responsible? Two meetings of COBRA in a 24-hour period suggest something else is going on here that we, the public, are unable to see and may well never know.
We should therefore take heart in all the courageous people around this incident who reacted in split seconds to an unspeakable horror. Many acted with dignity and caring towards complete strangers. Now is the time for the police to do their jobs, and for us to consider the pain of the family involved.
Today I feel hugely proud of our company, Mellow Media Ltd, as I have just attended a meeting which brought to a close three months’ work on an amazing project.
We have played an important part in running, developing and implementing a marketing strategy to raise well over £4m in just six weeks.
Let’s just think about that for a moment – that’s £666,667 a week or £95,238 every day.
Anyone connected with me on my social media network could have picked up my messages and tweets about Westmill Solar Cooperative or @westmillsolar.
It was the brainchild of Wiltshire farmer and entrepreneur Adam Twine to create a solar power station on his land but, instead of allowing a big company in to run the station, offer it up to people within the wider community. A less lucrative option for him – but in keeping with his green ethics.
Investors could bid for shares by putting in an investment of between £250 and £20k maximum. If successful, the cooperative will allow one investment, one vote. The aim was to make the cooperative accessible, open to as many people as possible and giving all an equal say, regardless of their investment or wealth.
Adam has created a similar project before, on the same site, Westmill Windfarm – that had taken years to come to fruition and had also raised a similar sum in community shares but over a longer period, 12 weeks – and a different economic time -2007. Five years on, it has over 2,000 investors and is providing strong returns on that investment.
This time, while the integrity of the project was clear, it seemed a tall order to raise that much money. Together we came up with a marketing strategy which involved much PR, advertising, leafleting, e-mailing and other features. In our case, we looked after PR, advised on other parts of the strategy as and when required.
We’d worked on the project from mid-May working towards the opening of a share offer in mid-June which would stay open for around six weeks – a cut-off date of July 31. The aim was to raise more than £4m from would-be investors to create the UK’s only community-run solar power station.
In fact the world’s largest community run solar power station.
Hundreds invested millions in UK's largest community run solar power station
This was a big ask. We are in a long-term economic depression with many businesses being happy just to survive. And many families suffering a stagnation or drop in income.
In our favour, we had a small, but illustrious team of people hoping to raise that kind of money in a short space of time. And fantastic partners who would step in to help out and support us as much as possible. And the offer on the table was a strong one – returns way above anything a bank could offer at the moment, or for the foreseeable future.
But, of course, PR is never guaranteed. This felt like a test of the value of PR as it’s so difficult to quantify. It’s about brand, messaging, information sharing and story-telling all rolled into one. So we stuck to our basic principles of telling a story well, with accuracy and always a picture. And we always had something new to say – a new nugget, a new angle.
When the share offer closed on July 31, it was over-subscribed by some margin. The message had clearly got out there. How did that happen?
As it was a project rather than a ‘slow burn PR strategy for the long-term’, I tracked some of the coverage we received. I found almost 100 separate items both online and offline. More than 50 per cent were online, and often, but not exclusively, within the specialist ‘green’ or ‘renewable energy’ sector.
More than 30 per cent were articles and features in the local press – within a 40km radius covering Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Bristol.
There were around eight radio interviews or mentions in that period and two exposures on regional television. As for the national press, there were five items in total, on and offline.
None of this included the fact that traditional written articles which appear in a newspaper, magazine or paper publication also tend to appear online – so the online total was probably much higher.
As the ideal target was reached, our role has now ended. But has it? When involved in a project like this which had a very specific beginning, middle and end – something always remains.
For me it’s a deeper respect for those who work in the renewable energy sector, who do so, often in the face of much cynicism because they feel it’s the right thing to do. Even though they might have to justify their position often.
Friends have been made, connections forged which will continue in to the future. And it’s this legacy, at a personal level, which will mean the most.
We’ve just had the biggest public strike in Britain in years. I was expecting some intelligent debate about it in the media but no, what everyone wants to talk about are the comments from that reliable rent-a-gob, Jeremy Clarkson.
Jeremy, to anyone who doesn’t yet know, suggested that all strikers should be shot in front of their own families. It was an opinion made in jest, spur of the moment and very typical Clarkson, tongue in cheek, but has provided plenty of fodder for the tabloid press and radio phone-ins today.
I’ve run many a discussion show over the years and am fully aware that it is important to book someone who you are secretly hoping will be terribly opinionated and indiscreet. There is indeed a certain cynicism that creeps in when you’ve been doing the job for a while where it is tempting to deliver the most entertaining speaker to the audience rather than the argument. Jeremy is a dream guest in that respect and I’m sure part of the reason that he was booked on The One Show last night was because they knew he would say something outrageous about the strike.
Having the words come from the mouth of someone earning a telephone number salary just adds to the controversy.
If public sector workers have a good argument to make, it’s about time they made it clear. The Mail was definitely out to discredit public sector workers as it sent journalists and photographers to shopping malls yesterday to interview strikers. Bad publicity all round but few would be concerned about how they spent their time on strike if it seemed like there was a good case.
It seems to me that public sector workers are becoming demonised for daring to strike.
There is real anger about the cutbacks we are all facing but I’m not sure many people want to live in a divided society of them and us. Those of us in the private sector have struggled with employment and pay rates since 2008 and have learnt that we need to be more adaptable. While we are arguing about public sector versus private sector pay, nothing has changed at the top of society. There is still a huge disparity between the income of the super-rich and the rest of us. The banking crisis hasn’t changed this.
Unless public sector workers present a better case for their industrial action, the politics of envy will take over and the government won’t have any ‘wiggle room’ to offer a compromise.
Don't shut the door on free, independent, credible publicity...
Today’s I’m going to tell you about the kind of public relations person that journalists despair about and subsequently avoid like the plague. Why am I telling you?
To show you how journalists work, how they think, and how a bad communicator causes untold damage to a company’s reputation and significantly reduces their opportunities for future, credible publicity.
This story I’m going to relate is true, it involves an organisation which is real and which is active now – but I won’t name it as I don’t want to put any particular individual in the firing line. Simply because if an organisation is mad enough to appoint poor communicators, then it needs to look at itself rather than at any individual. That individual may simply be representing the view taken by the paymaster. So it’s the paymaster or paymasters who should re-think, in my view.
Preparing to make a short film for a broadcaster, us journalists almost always need case studies. Someone who has experienced the issue that concerns us at any one time. For example, if you are writing about the effects of prostate cancer, you want to interview several people who have it. This is sometimes very easy, some subjects generate loads of people who want to shout about their experiences. Others are far more tricky. How easy is it to get someone to talk openly, on camera about abuse they suffered as a child? Believe me, it’s difficult.
Then there are other subjects where people would think – ‘why is that difficult?’. Poverty is one of them. If you are struggling to pay the bills, are in debt, have lost your job, are overwhelmed by circumstance, it’s very difficult to go on camera to talk about these very personal things. It would involve talking about your income, your expenditure. Details which many of us feel are very personal and private.
So journalists like myself will contact a range of organisations and ask them to approach their members, people they’ve had dealings with or helped, to ask if they’ll take part in any filming. This gives potential interviewees time to consider, and then when they make contact they’ve often already decided they will take part. This is just one tactic we use as journalists to reach people.
Most organisation bend over backwards to help. They know the difficulties of getting case studies but they also know that if they find one, they increase their chance of being interviewed for a film, or at least mentioned. It also gives them a PR opportunity themselves to link their work to a film. So for a little effort, there could be credible, independent publicity.
This particular organisation has a membership based approach. It produced a report which accurately described the kind of circumstances which would work in the film. Having made a telephone call, explained the project to the ‘communications manager’, asked if she could help – this conversation ensued.
She said: ‘The report we did was based on anonymous interviews so we didn’t keep personal details so we cannot contact those people for you. Sorry about that.”
Me: “I understand. Is there any chance, in that case, that you could send out a request by e-mail to your members to see if they would be interested in taking part , or if they know anyone who can help?”
She said: “No, I cannot do that. We only do that for our members, not for any outside body.”
Me: “Oh…right….that seems unfortunate from a communications point of view. Wouldn’t your members want to know about an opportunity to take part in a film?…I find that extraordinary, oh well (goes to end call)”
She said: “Hang on a minute. I’m only telling you that we can’t help and we’re sorry, you don’t have to jump down my throat about it.”
Me: “I’m not jumping down your throat…anyway….thanks for your help. Goodbye.”
On ending the call, all the journalists sitting round me say ‘what was all that about?’. And I tell them.
So what has that communication manager achieved?
In one conversation she’s told five journalists within a news organisation that that body is not open to publicity, is not helpful. So when poverty comes up as an issue again in the coming weeks or months – will that organisation be the first that those journalists approach? No.
If that organisation has done something wonderful and sends out a press release publicising its work – what will those journalists do? Answer – probably nothing. And if it’s a slow news time and they do pick up on it – what do you think the chances are that the negative contact will be explained face-to-face with the individual put up for interview? Probably the boss. Answer, very high.
Being a defensive, uncommunicative communications manager has consequences – you will find it much harder to get good publicity when you want it as you’ll always be at the bottom of the pile, the last contact to be considered.
However if bad news strikes, you are unlikely to be spared the full consequences of it.
Last week I described a scenario to you where a police officer had almost come to blows with a company over the purchase of a very expensive motorhome.
To re-cap, the £40,000 vehicle was a lemon and the company was refusing to replace it, blaming everyone under the sun, especially the manufacturer of the vehicle.
Under the Sale of Goods Act, it’s the retailer who is responsible for providing a product that’s fit for purpose – not the manufacturer. This is especially true if faults occur during the first six months of ownership. But this police officer was getting nowhere.
That’s where the journalist comes into the mix (me) as the police officer contacts the programme I’m working on at the time. After said police officer guarantees that nothing will stand in his way of taking part in any filming – I get to work. This involves collating and verifying paperwork against story, contacting the relevant company.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, the company says it will back down and replace the vehicle.
Result! Happy police officer.
I contact him to arrange filming but he doesn’t answer. And he doesn’t answer, and he doesn’t answer. No e-mails are answered either.
Eventually after some days, I get hold of him when he rather sheepishly admits that he knows he’s going to get a new vehicle. But the catch is that he will only get it, if he pulls out of any filming.
I ask him if he is going to pull out – and despite all of his earlier protestations of ‘I’m my own man’ and ‘no one will manipulate me’ – he’s well and truly manipulated.
He refuses to cooperate further, while acknowledging that he wouldn’t have had this offer if it hadn’t been for my intervention.
I asked you what you would do if you were the police officer? Would you feel any commitment to me, the journalist, who brought about this offer? Or not? Would you give in to, what is effectively, blackmail?
I’m not sure what I would do – I would want to say no and go ahead with the story. After all, there’d been months of anguish and I would be entitled to a replacement or my money back if I’d gone to court. But who knows what pressure I’d be under to give in?
What could I as the journalist do about this man’s decision? The truth is very little.
I’d not filmed a shot so I was stuffed for a tv story about him – though we had looked at other complaints about the same company. This had been the strongest of the lot. I could (as he’d willingly given me his paperwork to back up his story) have written an article for the local newspaper, naming him and the company and there would have been little he could have done about it. If it’s true, it’s true. I didn’t do this.
For the company, they’d had a lucky escape from bad publicity, though if that company had had any gumption they might have seen it as a chance to get their brand on air, with an apology and shots of ‘here you are Mr Police Officer, let me hand over the keys to your new vehicle’.
Even though it is, on the face of it a bad news story, it’s precious air-time which you might not otherwise get. You could have put a spin on it of ‘ here’s company that puts rights its mistakes’ etc. But few company bosses are that courageous.
As a viewer, how do you feel about companies which actually turn up to
would you throw away your principles for a new motorhome?
put their side on programmes like the BBC’s Watchdog for example. I always think ‘well at least they’ve had the courage to stand up and be counted’. To me it always looks as if you’ve got something to hide if you are super defensive.
Regardless, this is a very common if frustrating problem when you work in consumer journalism – and I suppose us journalists will never totally overcome it.