Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I love a happy ending

A recent job really reminded me of how important collaboration with smart graphic design/digital teams can be. Here's a fresh piece of work for the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute that Emily Ross Bespoke worked on. Once the text for this introduction to the Institute was complete, we handed it on to our digital agency/graphic design team at The Royals and they transformed it into this very nifty piece of collateral. Here is a tiny taste of the work.

In my experience, many clients think it is just about getting the words right, but that is just the beginning my friends. Make friends with good design, it will serve you very well.


As you wind down...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A masterclass from some of the best speakers around

I had a ball researching a piece SmartCompany asked me to write on the biggest myths of public speaking. The time spent listening to the best people in the business reminded me of the intense preparation and thought that goes into compelling public speaking. I have used a lot of case studies and tips in the story and a few good video links. I hope you have time to read the whole piece - you might pick up something that will really make the difference in your next presentation. And like I always say, unless you are Barack Obama, there's room for improvement in your public speaking.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Media training isn't for everyone

New York mag has an interesting snippet on media training this week. I love a media training challenge, I love working with rough diamonds and regularly have to work around the sensitive topic of telling someone really good at what they do that they need to do a serious back flip on how they handle the media. This is something to be done extremely carefully, and has great results.

Very rarely there is a client that is beyond training...

Kanye West's 'Media Trainer' Reportedly Quit Within a Week

Kanye West's 'Media Trainer' Reportedly Quit Within a Week

After deciding to go on the Today show last week to respond to claims made by the former President that West's calling him racist was the worst moment of his presidency, Kanye, according to the Post today, hired Susie Arons, VP at Rubenstein Communications, for help handling the interview. Doing her job, she convinced him to cancel the interview altogether, but West decided, Tuesday morning, to do it anyway, so he practiced with Arons all morning and then arguably blew it during the first half. At the interview's break, West "huddled with the media trainer," like a boxer, "because he still hadn't found a way to express himself." Depending on how you look at it, West either failed to express himself even still, or expressed himself perfectly clearly, and then Susie Arons quit, after one week "media training" the man. Nobody tells Kanye how to express himself. [Page Six/NYP]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parking egos + listening: the age of collaboration (hallelujah)

FINALLY got around to reading the cheeky, juicy, fresh 2010 annual by The Royals, a creative agency I worked with on the modi (Monash Obesity & Diabetes Institute) website. The annual includes a piece 'Open or Shut' that talks about the challenges that companies face about how open and engaged they are with the outside world. I like what Royals' founder Dave King has to say on collaboration:
"It's unlikely there is a single organisation in the world that can meet the needs of the digitally ambitious, innovative, forward-thinking strategic client. More often than not the work that is most respected and revered is the product of significant time and effort from a number of different, talented practitioners. But collaboration isn't easy, by any stretch. It means mutual respect, communication about the presence or absence of boundaries and it means parking egos and being open to the ideas of others, regardless of background, experience or competency.
The Royals work with clients including Mercedez-Benz, News Limited, Fitness First and GE Energy. If you are lucky, there might be a copy of The Royals 2010 annual left. Try and request a copy. Tell them I sent you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The case for media training - and the challenges of accurately communicating information

Top US media trainer Jonathan Bernstein writes for the very excellent Huffington Post. I've just bought his book Keeping the Wolves at Bay - Media Training. Here is a recent Bernstein column from the Huffington Post.

Believe it or not, reporters would probably find it as scary to be in your mind as you would to be in theirs. The catch is that they're paid to be in yours and will do their best to get there.

Traditional journalists may, in fact, come into interviews with a bias -- personal, based on their own experiences and belief system, or "employer-based," reflecting their media outlet's political leanings, attitude towards certain types of organizations, etc.. However, with rare exception, they are not usually out to "get you." They're merely doing their job and trying to receive as much recognition for it as possible. Just like you, right?

Citizen reporters -- e.g., bloggers without editorial control -- are another story, for another time.

A reporter wants a story that's newsworthy, that appeals to his/her editor and audience. There is a journalistic code of ethics, but it allows for behaviors you may or may not deem acceptable while in pursuit of a story. And journalists probably don't review that code very often. Still, as I reported on HuffPost in the past, it can be a formidable weapon used to defend yourself against ethical abuses.

Your job is to tell your side of the story. You are in conversation; you have to know to whom you're speaking. The reporter is asking you questions he/she thinks the audience will want answered. That means you must speak to your stakeholders through the interviewer, giving your stakeholders what you want them to know in terms that will be meaningful to them.

By being media-trained, you will improve your ability to balance a story -- but remember that "balanced" does not equate to "the story came out the way it would have come out if you had written it." It means you got a fair shake, even if people who completely disagreed with you also were treated fairly. By definition, a totally balanced article is still only half "your side" of the story. And true balance is as rare as honest politicians.

You may find this surprising coming from the author of a media training manual, but as a crisis management professional I advise clients that the traditional media is not your most important stakeholder group, because it is the least reliable means of accurately communicating information. However, media outlets are an important stakeholder group and one gateway to those who matter most to you - typically your employees, customers, investors, community leaders, the general public, etc. In some specific situations, such as natural disasters, the traditional media can be a particularly important method of getting your messages out. And it's true that whether you cooperate or not, reporters will write their stories -- so why not do your best to optimize the results?

[The preceding was excerpted and adapted from Keeping the Wolves at Bay - Media Training]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Do we pay too much for talent?

It's always a good week when a fresh piece by Malcolm Gladwell drops in the New Yorker. This week (Oct 11), Gladwell writes about how dramatically salaries/fees for "talent" have changed in recent times, how the son of a star baseballer inherits his talent and earns more in one year than his dad's whole team earned in their entire careers. Gladwell raises the question of whether the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Are these CEOs, sports stars and models worth this mad money? Check it out. And if you don't feel like reading the feature, you can buy a podcast for a few gold coins.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It all starts with a blank sheet

Never be afraid of a person with a scrap of paper with notes all over it. It could be extremely valuable. I find it is a wonderful way to get an overall idea of a big, ambitious strategy. Rather than show you one of my scraps of paper, I thought J K Rowling's notes would be better.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

So what on earth does Emily Ross Bespoke actually do for its clients?

This past September has been fantastically busy for Emily Ross Bespoke. Here is a run down of some of the assignments in progress to give you an idea of what I do for my [fabulous] clients
• A major business pitch document to a very cool US brand
• Two new websites - one retail, one corporate
• The rebranding strategy for a mid-sized firm
• Identifying a swag of new 'mumpreneurs' and profiling them for Smart Company's new sister site StartUpSmart
•Media training senior executives for one of the country's biggest retailers
• Ongoing media strategy for the new Monash Obesity & Diabetes Institute (modi)
• Editing work on two white papers on corporate social responsibility and cost management
• Several tender documents
• Completing a report on long-term trends for the ADC Forum (an amazing Davos-style conference)
• Pro bono work for new immigrants starting a business

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ah, that's better

I am working with several clients (big and small) at the moment to refresh their brands. I am the last person to urge clients to go and blow big bananas on expensive new strategies however there is a point where things just start looking really, really dated and stale. PwC is a case in point. The new logo might not be perfect and I'm sure there were all sorts of debates about the final version but it is definitely a good move.

I was pleased to see that the new rebrand includes the website too - soooo much better - lots more white space, pops of color, more functionality and pictures of people (rather than android stock shots).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Executional granularity" anyone?

Beware of weasel words! They're everywhere.
I've been lucky enough to be part of a writing team for a private leadership retreat this past weekend. It's Chatham House Rules so I can't even name drop however I can say I was privvy to some extraordinary master classes on communication, negotiation and language from ivy leaguers, lords and serious heavyweights. It reinforced my passion and commitment to plain English.
Please remember: simpler language about complex topics produces better outcomes. If you use ineffective, overly complex language you overload the working memory and it makes it hard to take in the information.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Finding your perfect match (clients I mean)

This month I have had lot of fun researching a piece for Smart Company on business development - how to sort the tyre kickers from the new clients with loads of potential. I spoke to a range of CEOS and entrepreneurs about getting the balance right. To add an extra dimension to the piece I spoke with the very interesting director of the St James Ethics Centre Dr Simon Longstaff who talks about the fundamentals of building meaningful working relationships beyond the wham bam thank you ma'am transactional variety. I have included lots of tips in the piece so have a read. CHECK OUT THE SMART COMPANY STORY HERE

Monday, June 21, 2010


Clients of mine get used to receiving task lists after sessions and meetings, especially after we've made some big plans. It's not about being a control freak, it's about change, about time management and getting things done. I am a big fan of Harvard guru Rosabeth Moss Kanter who says: "Steady progress — step by single step — can win internal support and the external race for share of market or share of mind." Go Rosabeth. Breaking down strategy into tasks allows for bursts of activity (and progress). Take a look at her lovely piece on "The 15-minute competitive advantage"
For those who want to go a bit crazy on time management, the late Carnegie Mellon prof Randy Pausch really nails it in this lecture. Take the time, it's worth it, I promise.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You can build a website in two weeks

There's nothing like a tight budget and a tight deadline to get the job done. Working with digital agency The Royals, I worked with the core team of the brand new Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute (modi) to create their website. All content was created from scratch and it's come up really well.

Starting with a totally blank page, we drew inspiration from a range of clever sites such as Demos and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that are really using the widescreen web page style well, incorporating down-to-earth video and audio and embracing plain English. Another aspect of the site we really worked on was the biographies of faculty members, making them tighter and easier to read. The series of banners created by the Royals also really helped modi get its key messages across about just how serious the obesity epidemic really is.

Best of all, the site can be updated by the client whenever they like so breaking news in obesity or announcements about modi can be made without going back to the web team which will be extremely cost effective.

So my ingredients for a cracking website:
fresh | not too much text | very clear messages | less clutter | embracing plain English
Active language – READ THIS | WATCH THIS | CLICK HERE |
The impression of “hey, I’m useful”
Heaps of video/multimedia
That large window on the homepage with changing content
The home page gives the impression of being right in the action – with tweets, rss feeds, events, news right up front
Real time, continuous updating

For more info, contact me


A nice little escape...