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