Make 2015 the year you enhance your leadership skills. Here’s how.

IMG_6887-1.JPGEver wanted to enhance your leadership skills? Decided 2015 is the year to do it? If so, Seth Godin’s Tribes should be top of your reading list. If you've read Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers and found that of use, think of this as a turbo-charged business version.

The thrust of Godin’s book is that it only takes a shared interest and a way to communicate to turn a group of people into a tribe. Provide a purpose and the tools to achieve the group’s (highly defined) goals and you’re on your way to being a successful leader.

According to Godin, all that’s needed to lead is the desire to make something happen.

Here are my top ten quotes from the book to whet your appetite and get you started:

1)   Technology is just an enabler, it’s all about people

Before the Internet, coordinating and leading a tribe was difficult. Twitter and blogs and online videos and countless other techniques contribute to an entirely new dimension of what it means to be part of a tribe. New technologies are all designed to connect tribes and to amplify their work. But the Internet is just a tool, an easy way to enable some tactics. The real power of tribes has nothing to do with the Internet and everything to do with people.

2)   A changing status quo brings opportunity to marketers

Marketing used to be about advertising, and advertising is expensive. Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.

3)   Anyone and everyone can lead

Tribes give each of us the very same opportunity. Skill and attitude are essential. Authority is not. In fact, authority can get in the way. Leaders don’t care very much for organisational structure or the official blessing of [wherever] they work. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organisation works, because this awareness allows them to change it.

4)   It’s about quality of fans, not quantity

Too many organisations care about numbers, not fans. They care about hits or turnstile clicks or media mentions. What they’re missing is the depth of commitment and inter-connection that true fans deliver. Fans, true fans, are hard to find and precious. Just a few can change everything. What they demand, though, is generosity and bravery.

5)   Don’t let fear of failure stop you leading and innovating

Fear is hardwired. It needs to be drowned out by a different story…the story of success, of drive, of doing something that matters. It’s an intellectual story about what the world (or your industry or your project) needs and how your insight can help make a difference. The essence of leadership is being aware of your fear (and seeing it in the people you wish to lead).

6)   Embrace discomfort (the best quote in the book in my opinion)

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable.

-       It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.

-       It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.

-       It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.

-       It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.

When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

7)   You can’t please all the people all of the time

Great leaders don’t try to please everyone. Great leaders don’t water down their message to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead, they realise that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever be.

8)   Don’t lead when it’s not from the heart

Sometimes it may make more sense to follow. Leading when you don’t know where to go, when you don’t have the commitment or the passion, or worst of all, when you can’t overcome your fear – that sort of leading is worse than none at all.

9)   Leadership is actually simple

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

10) Good communication is key

What’s helpful is to realise that you have a choice when you communicate. You can design your products to be easy to use. You can write so your audience hears you. You can present in a place and in a way that guarantees that the people you want to listen will hear you. Most of all, you get to choose who will understand (and who won’t).

Hopefully you’ve found this useful and if you do find yourself ready to lead a tribe, grab the book and look up Godin’s five things to do and six principles for creating a micromovement. I won’t share them here but I’ve seen them put into practice and they really work.

Happy reading!

New measures tighten rules around advertising to children

Image reproduced from parent with thanks

The International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA) has today announced four enhanced commitments on health and wellness, one of which focuses on responsible marketing and advertising to children.

The Alliance, which comprises some of the world's largest food and beverage companies including Nestlé, Kellogg's, McDonald's, Mars, Unilever and Pepsico, is extending its current policy to ensure that marketing communications for products that do not meet nutrition criteria are not designed to appeal primarily to children under twelve.

The policy will now apply to all media, including SMS and mobile marketing, interactive games and product placement, having previously only applied to television, print and online.

Getting kids' communication right

Today's children and young people are growing up in an increasingly commercialised world and exposure to promotional messages is an integral part of their development.

In order to help PR practitioners navigate the challenges that come with marketing to under 18s, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has produced a best practice guide for communicating with children. Covering legal requirements, best practice and the application of the code of conduct, it also sets out a series of principles including:

  • the need to take into account the age, maturity level and gender of the children so appropriate language and communication tools can be used
  • the requirement to engage with children, parents and carers during the design and delivery of campaigns, taking on and responding to feedback
  • never encouraging children to desire things they cannot afford or would not be able to use
  • supporting any claims with clear proof and / or reasonable rationale.
Also included is guidance on the food and drinks industry, online communications, in schools communications and handling difficult issues, with case studies.  If you're involved with any campaigns aimed at under 18s, please do source a copy.

Andy Beckett: I hope I can visit the North East again some time, and write a more optimistic piece

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Following Andy Beckett's article in Saturday's Guardian, there has been (rightly in my opinion) a major outcry about how the North East is depicted in national press.

In terms of the piece itself, the two key interviewees, Chi Onwurah MP and Edward Twiddy from the North East LEP, have both said they were misrepresented. Several blogs rebutted the findings including one from Paul Smith that is strongly supported by an article on Buzzfeed.

The Guardian's Northern editor Helen Pidd weighed in with her take on the article.

The petition I set up has gathered over 500 signatures - thanks to all who came out in support of our glorious region. Although no revisit from Andy Beckett is forthcoming, he has written an explanatory piece for the Journal. Whether or not we agree with his response, it is good that the Guardian has been forced to look at its reporting in terms of how it describes the North East.

Here is what the Guardian's Melissa Denes had to say: "Andy's original draft was longer, as is the case with most articles we run - there is always an editing process, and we do not know exactly how much print space we will have at the time of commissioning. In this instance it was cut by around 1000 words (or a not unusual 20%), and care was taken that the balance between positives and negatives remained the same.

"As well as Helen's blog, we have given half the letters page to the subject today, and there will be more in this weekend's magazine. Andy has written a piece for the Newcastle Journal. We have absolutely no wish to alienate readers, and are happy to correct errors - but I do feel his piece reflected much that was positive about the region, as well as causes for concern." 

Let's hope this unhappy experience prompts all the nationals to consider their (lack of) presence in the region and to keep balance in mind at all times.


Avoiding #PricelessSurprises on social media

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The Brit Awards 2014 enjoyed a bit more than the usual hype when Tim Walker, a journalist at the Telegraph, shared an email from MasterCard’s PR agency House PR with the Press Gazette.

The email detailed certain conditions attached to the journalist’s Brit’s press pass, including a request for pre, during and post-event tweets using the hashtag #PricelessSurprises, with one even helpfully drafted up as an example.

The furore that followed was no doubt the kind of priceless surprise that MasterCard would have preferred to avoid. Amplifying the situation was the promotion of the hashtag on Twitter, which would no doubt have trended anyway - albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Difficult client conversations

While many practitioners may have laughed or sneered at the idea of a PR being so bold with journalists about what they wanted from the agreement, publicity in return for hospitality is nothing new and many may secretly (or even openly) have wished it was that simple a transaction. I’ve certainly been privy to difficult client conversations about the lack of coverage following a journalist’s invite to an expensive freebie.

Turning to the CIPR, I spoke to director of policy and communications Phil Morgan, who acknowledged that while House PR’s actions might not have broken the Institute’s Code of Conduct, the approach taken boils down to a question of integrity.

Phil said: “It is important for PR professionals to respect the codes of conduct of other professions, which didn’t happen in this case – the transaction falls foul of NUJ rules. Equally, as Telegraph writer Tim Walker noted himself, a lot of today’s journalists may not realise that inducements are unethical so there is work to do on both sides.”

The move could have backfired in a different way

The CIPR’s independent regulatory consultant Martin Horrox also points out that arguably the agency did nothing wrong - and that in fact agreeing to the accreditation criteria could still have seen House PR’s move backfire, but in a different way.

Martin said: “This was a clearly stated commercial transaction, like free holidays for travel writers. Journalists can always refuse to accept the condition and can make public the conditions of their accreditation (i.e. state a potential conflict of interest, just as travel writers acknowledge who provided the flights and hotels). They can also do exactly what Tim Walker has done - complain in public about the practice.

“If forcing the hashtag on journalists results in no publicity or bad publicity for the event, who is the loser?  Journalists who have been critical of an event or a company in the past have been refused accreditation to future events: that might be stupid on the part of the organisation, but I'm not convinced it is unethical.”

Whatever your view, it’s clear that this has not been a good week for House PR or MasterCard, but some sympathy has to go to the agency. The email was professionally written and Tim Walker was the only journalist to come forward to complain.

However, what’s done is done and if this opens the debate about expectation versus reward and helps others decide how to tread the social media tight rope, maybe that’s a good thing.

Why not have your say - please feel free to leave a comment.


Blend innovation with appraisal and act decisively - Richard Eyre's top tips for success

Richard Eyres Richard Eyre has had a remarkable career in advertising, moving latterly into non-executive director roles with media and tech companies.

Having been at the cutting edge of the media industry for nearly forty years, I was interested to hear what his top ten tips to success would be - and like me, you might find some of them pleasantly surprising.

Here's my take on what he had to say:

1) Learn to hear in a different way. For example listen out for what people are not saying and try to figure out other people's agendas. Sometimes personal ambitions can get in the way of the business task and you need to know when that's potentially the case with those you're dealing with.

2) Appraise what you hear and make your own mind up about it. Don't just adopt others' viewpoints.

Don't rush into a decision

3) Allow time for new ideas to infuse. Not every decision has to be taken on the spur of the moment and often the results are better if they aren't. Expose yourself to new thinking and understand what is going on in the world around you. For example, for those in digital, tech and the media, blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch are invaluable to gaining new insights.

4) Don't be afraid to copy. At school it may be called cheating but in industry it's called benchmarking. If you see a style you like, try it on for size and then evolve it so it's your own.

5) Take risks and step out of your comfort zone from time to time. The product of some risks is that you may occasionally fail but that's ok. Don't let your fears be stronger than your dreams because that will only lead to regret.

Work out what is holding you back

6) Identify what it is that is restraining you. Reframe failure to see it as the Americans do - something you learn your greatest lessons from. Don't be put off by others and confuse self-confidence with talent. There is no direct correlation between assertiveness, self assurance and conviction, and the best understanding of the situation.

7) Know what your own success looks like. Stop and think so you're not just following a trajectory - it's not all about the money but what makes you happy. However, whatever your version of success looks like, it will cost you. You'll have to fight for it and make difficult choices; this is why you will be more fulfilled in the end. If your family unit is important to you, stay strong and put it first. Too many people in the business community do not respect it as they should so it will be hard.

8)  Work out what your own brand characteristics are. Choose four words that you'd like people to use about you and then ask yourself what you have to do to get people to describe you in that way. Carry out an annual review - new ambitions and new words may be needed as time goes on.

Don't let money, fame and power cloud your judgement

9) Money, fame and power are consequences of success but they are not a destination. They are not satisfaction creators so don't let them define you.

10) The media business is in chaos and with chaos comes opportunity. Those who win when the rule book has been torn up are the inspired, the fast movers and the free thinkers. Blend innovation with appraisal and act decisively.

11) Always give people more than they were expecting but don't broadcast it - your work will hold much more worth. This is a powerful technique and will differentiate you from the rest, even if at times sometimes your efforts go unnoticed. This approach will stand you in very good stead.

Richard's tips are refreshingly honest and are gained from his extensive experience over the years. We found them beneficial - hope you did too. Why not share your top tips if you have any, we'd love to hear them.

Don't just think outside the box, spin it around

Propology office internal Propology's Cherylle Millard-Dawe

It's not often that we do a real unashamed plug for the business but when you get a testimonial like this, it would be wrong not to share it.

Propology is a brand that we've been working on with Twentyseven Design and it's a piece of work of which we are really proud.

If you are looking to find or create your dream home or lifestyle, you need Cherylle Millard-Dawe in your life - have a look at the website, it will tell you everything you need to know... Thank you for the opportunity to work together, Cherylle.

And here is what she had to say about us:

"Sarah Hall and her team at Sarah Hall Consulting do a stellar job for us here at Propology, not only are they totally professional about our company, they actually take ownership of it as if it were their own, going well and above the call of duty in their quest to put Propology up there with the best.

"From the day I met Sarah I knew she 'got it'. Her genuine passion for the brand and belief in me as a client has built an incredible reciprocal confidence that has endured throughout the entire process.

"Sarah thinks outside the box by turning it round and spinning it inside out and adding to that passion, energy and fantastic results. Savvy, great fun to work with and gets the job done. Thank you!"

Cherylle Millard-Dawe, founder, Propology.



Catching up with Yousaf Khalid

Yousaf Khalid speaking at an IPA/SEO London event It's been a while since we've caught up with a leading light in marketing and PR so we approached Yousaf Khalid, group managing director of e>erythingd.fferent to find out more about what makes him tick. This is what we discovered...

Q What attracted you to marketing as a career? A I think it was the idea of being able to persuade people to buy or think differently about a product or service. That insight, creativity and media could achieve that was fascinating.

Q How has the industry changed since you’ve been in it? A It seems everything took longer to do before; the strategy development, the creative and the production process but in reality the only elements that have got quicker are the media and production. Twenty odd years ago everything was being physically taken from the agency to the publishers - now, because everything's electronic, time has disappeared. The other aspect is the choice of media for channels; previously it was regional press, national press, outdoor, radio, cinema and DM/door to door. Today is just a little bit different to that with social media - the most important aspect being that brands are no longer in charge of what’s said about them. They still have large enough budgets to outgun social networks but only if they are being authentic. When things are going wrong then no budget can compete with social media. I guess the final point on this would also have to be email, I began at a time when there was a phone on your desk and that was it but now there’s this screen you’re sat in front of pinging emails all over the place (like I'm doing right now!)

Q Tell us 3 things that people wouldn’t expect to discover about you. A That’s a difficult one as I’m not sure I know myself! And that’s not a cop out!

Q You talk about Different actually being different. Tell us how this is true. A It’s something in our genes, our upbringing and our life experience that we challenge the status quo by seeing things differently. It's true because you just need to see our work for Barker & Stonehouse, Benfield Motor Group, Charge Your Car, One North East and the various health campaigns for smoking cessation, Hepatitus C, fire prevention and alcohol abuse. And we aim to go through this process with all our client partners to establish an ownable space for the brand to sit in order to make it memorable in people’s minds.

Q Your graduate recruitment scheme is arguably a national exemplar. What was the motivation for this? A As I mentioned before technology is really changing the way we consume product and service information and the industry itself has an average age of 30. We felt the best people to understand this change were people that had grown up with it so the scheme was all part of our recruitment strategy which has really been successful for us.

Q Time to spill. What’s the worst thing that has ever happened on a client project? A I can’t think of something that’s entertaining at least that I’ve been involved with but one of my colleagues in the days when we carried around large presentation cases rocked up to a pitch and had a moment. The team arrives at the meeting place on time (which is an achievement in the creative world), gets out of the car, opens the back, pulls out the cases and pops them on the road before picking them up and heading off to the building where the presentations are being held. Unbeknownst to him when he puts his case on the floor it acts like a pooper scooper for a doggy deposit. So anyway he and the team confidently stride into the meeting looking to impress. Hand shakes and introductions over, the case comes out and hits - or should I say scrapes - along the shiny new boardroom table and deposits the contents collected earlier right in the middle. Quite an impression!

A What makes you irate? A I guess because we living in such changeable times it has to be a closed mind, when people either don’t or can’t see that the world has changed and our industry needs to keep up with those changes to stay relevant.

Q You have clear views on PR - what do you think the PR industry does well and what does it need to do better? A PR is in a great position to own content in the social media space but too often it uses stunt driven tactical solutions rather than ideas based in their clients' brands.

Q What one thing do you always have in your cupboards? A Recently it has to be protein shakes but before it was always Jaffa Cakes.

Q Tell us your best joke. A It will have to a silly one that I can remember because anyone who knows me knows that I can’t tell a joke because I’m laughing too much! So here goes. Man walks into the doctors and the doctors says what can I do for you today. Man says well doctor I’ve got this steering wheel stuck down my trousers and driving me nuts! Boom-boom! I'm not sure if I want you to keep that in!

Using PR to build brand

When building brand, public relations (PR) is usually not the marketing discipline that jumps first to people’s lips.  But it should trip off the tongue for marketers wanting to create word of mouth and generate that elusive thing called trust. Like traditional marketing, the early days of PR saw messages disseminated one-way from an organisation to the people they wanted to attract.  Much of the time, this was achieved through media relations and customers had no way to respond.

Flash forward almost a hundred years and the power is all with the people.  Never before has the public had so many ways to make their voice heard and elevate or relegate a brand (Apple versus BP, anyone?).

So how does PR fit in the brand building mix? Well, good PR is, in its simplest format, about relationships.  It’s about knowing the customer and – with their buy in - reaching them in their own space the way they want to be reached, whether this is via the media, newsletters, events, social media platforms, personal correspondence or another medium. It’s about listening to the person’s wants and needs and ensuring that the product or service on offer fulfils these. Where organisations have a clear message and target this effectively, an individual knows what they are buying into and has faith in the brand, which makes marketing easier and cheaper in the long run.

Businesses that use PR to listen well, respond accordingly and deliver on promises, create brands that have a real emotional relevance for the audience.  Companies live or die by their reputation and those with integrity not only generate repeat sales, but can rely on their customers to help them do so too.