#internalcomms – don’t ask me

Internal comms: ask me anything

In the “ask me anything” era of communication, CEOs can often attempt to appear “open and transparent and approachable” yet it can appear the opposite.

The assumption that there is nothing that the CEO can’t answer can appear egotistical and puts the emphasis on the employees to come up with a good question.  Often this becomes the exercise rather than getting closer to or having a conversation with the CEO.

Internal comms: just be normal

In internal comms, these three words are your guiding light.

Just. Be. Normal.

Human. Conversational. Social. Honest.


You wouldn’t sit round at a family party and say “go on, ask me anything.  I’ll be able to answer it.”  Well you might, but you’d be unlikely to be invited back.

So why, just because it works on Reddit….the king platform of ego…..should it work in an organisation.

Sure, people want to ask the CEO things but really are they going to openly ask it for all to see? And if they do, is it likely to be what they want to ask or what they think sounds clever or tricky?

Internal comms: idea

How about, if the CEO asked the question.  Asked for help?

Am sure when the CEO is forking out for that much talent, there must be stuff he/she needs help with.

People love to help.  Love to show their skills.  Love to be included.

Why not flip it on its head once in a while and show the humility that most leaders need.  Might work. Might even learn something.

PR: if you start with tactics, you’ll probably stay there

Thanks for pitching our business……’re the winner!

We loved your ideas, we loved your team but most importantly, we loved your strategy and how honest you were about how we needed to change…….

… can you write a tactical plan as we really need to hit the ground running and show some results.

Sound familiar?

There is nothing better than winning and starting work on a shiny new account…the ideas are overflowing, enthusiasm is high and the team is desperate to show what they can do and wow their newest client.

But don’t rush.  Get it right at the beginning and the ideas you proposed will work.  Pick up where the old agency left off (which probably wasn’t working or they wouldn’t have changed) and you are doomed to fail the same way!

Whilst demonstrating value quickly is paramount with a new client, if you don’t spend time getting the strategy right at the beginning of an engagement, the chances are you’ll never get opportunity to make the tweaks you recommended and that the client hired you for.

PR pitching – 5 things you need to know before you start writing

1 – can you distil the brief and say it back to the prospect concisely?
2 – do you know who the prospect’s audience is, not just in broad terms but what they look like, where they shop, how they behave?
3 – do you know the last 5 big campaigns/stunts/ideas done in the client’s industry, what has worked recently. What do you need to avoid for sake of repetition?
4 – do you know the last 3 things the prospect did that really worked? What have they tried and failed to do well….
5 – do you understand the client’s key business problem….

small business pr: a big opportunity but one size never fits all

When I pick up a shiny new top off the shop rail, nothing makes my heart sink faster than a “one size” label.  Why? It never fits.  You’re pretty much guaranteed either your boobs, your tummy or your bum will be mercilessly exposed by a garment designed to be OK for everyone but that usually provides a poor result.  And it’s usually the one part you want to hide that ends up on show.

I hadn’t intended to start with a shopping analogy but hey ho, I am short of time so let’s press on.

We’ve been doing a lot of work recently with small to medium sized businesses and it never ceases to amaze me how many companies just don’t get what they need.

Small yet individually formed

In March this year, when David Cameron told the Conservative Party Conference ““There’s only one strategy for growth we can have now…and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to start (and) grow a business,” a line was drawn in the sand.

Only two months later, business secretary Vince Cable stood on a national stage alongside Lord Green and William Hague to announce that, “we’re rightly proud of British firms and making sure they can increase their exports to a worldwide audience is vital if we are to rebuild our economy.”

From grassroots campaigns to large-scale media pushes by the likes of The Mirror and The Independent; Google’s “get your business online competition” to HSBC’s small business confidence monitor, championing British small and medium-sized businesses and wanting them to succeed has never been more fashionable.

This is different.

If the UK is to recover from recession and bounce back from the economic woes that currently face us, we need small businesses to succeed.

Q. But how many large organisations truly understand the needs of small businesses?

A. Not many… least not when they are trying to communicate with them.

The most common complaint we hear from journalists (and the counsel we provide for our clients) is that the story IS different….solutions selling doesn’t work in the same way for SMEs as for large enterprises.  As for targeting audiences by job title, how does that achieve the desired results when the HR director is the finance director and the marketing director and the managing director all rolled into one?

From IT complexity to changing taxation; super-fast rural broadband to money laundering regulations; cloud security to the cost of “free”; understanding changing privacy laws to increasing remote working and the power of micropayments to the impact of mobile technology.  As the managing director of a small British business today, there is currently a LOT going on in your head.

And the end game? Cutting costs and achieving growth.

So where are the danger points? And why do (according to Experian) over 1800 small businesses a month fail in the UK?

According to Jonathan Hogg in April’s Independent SME supplement, “businesses fail to understand that the most successful time in a company’s life is its most dangerous time” and attributes this to what Freud called “totems and taboos”.

“Totems are ideas that become so sacred they cannot be questioned and taboos are the questions that cannot be asked. They arise from some very deep-rooted human instincts…reflect our natural conservative bias in the form of a reluctance to change….and the herd instinct where everyone wants to agree with the majority.”

And why this reluctance to change? At an enterprise level, businesses usually have non-executives to lean on.  To spot trends, point out pitfalls and to provide experience from learning the hard way.  But what do SMEs have?  Very often a combination of gut feel and a very small amount of spare time.

Doing well by doing good

In the UK at present there is a real opportunity to provide not only support, education and competitions/giveaways to the SME market but genuine help. The media want this, the government wants this and only a very few global organisations are really doing it.

I believe here is a wealth of industry knowledge, support and mentorship sitting within vertically-focused global businesses that can be shared to mutual benefit with the SME market in the UK.

What does this mean for PR and social media?

Where the focus on technology in the broadsheet media has shrunk over the past ten years, the tabloids, regionals and small business/consumer titles have seen an increase, particularly online.  An increase in blogger credibility, search and link-led marketing, has meant that ideas MUST be good enough to be shared amongst friends and colleagues and campaigns must deliver more than just news.

What works?

Businesses that are succeeding in reaching SME and industry audiences through print, broadcast and social media are using a simple but successful communications formula:

Simple language + human angles x strong support from real businesses= PR success

In the UK, there is a real opportunity to take initiatives such as business mentoring and community partnerships a lot further.  PR-wise, it amazes me that still companies are not talking the language of small businesses, instead burying all the interesting stuff under mountains of product marketing speak.

The smart company that can couple the wealth of interesting business news that its end users generate EVERY day with the political, social and macroeconomic picture in the UK today (alongside providing genuine support for British businesses) is a PR success waiting to happen.  So come on then, who’s game?

(cross posted with my employer’s blog)

a new conversation…..from the CIPR

Following on from the relaunched website last year, the CIPR is rolling out “The conversation” – a one-stop shop for blog posts and industry news pertinent to all things PR and can benefit PRs in the following ways:

– it contains masses of content from leading practitioners, consultancies, academia and students, from the UK and further afield

– you can register and syndicate you personal or company blogs to increase the audience you receive

– you can upload consultancy profiles and link to the wider industry online

– you can comment on posts and receive points of view on your own content

– there’s no need to fill out lengthy registrations, you can log in with existing social network permissions

This is the first attempt by a professional body to run such a large social network and it will be launched officially at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ (CIPR) s social media conference, 11 April.

See the official launch post here on the CIPR site:

It will mean that syndicating blogs couldn’t be easier, as it will allow the wider PR community to find your content, find your personal, business and consultancy profiles, and respond to your news and points of view.

What’s more, this is an open community – you do not have to be a CIPR member to take part in The Conversation. Everyone is welcome to register themselves and their organisation.

Happily, we don’t need to ‘make friends’ all over again. We can give The Conversation permission to link up with our existing social networks and those relationships are established immediately. One of the many good things about The Conversation is that you won’t need to share your passwords with us. It is, as the CIPR’s Social Media Panel say, ‘instant social glue’.

The Conversation is therefore a really exciting addition to the CIPR’s website – and we want your input. It won’t match Facebook for functionality or LinkedIn for seeing who’s connected to whom, but it is the first platform of its kind provided by a professional body. We hope you’ll jump in, and work with us as we iron out the inevitable glitch or two.

I am looking forward to having a nosey around when it is live next week – hope to see you there too.

Cross posted with my work blog