I recently took the decision on reaching sixty that I would give up a highly successful and lucrative senior role with the world’s second largest and most creatively awarded PR agency to pursue my dream of being a writer. Mad, some people have told me.
To inject some discipline and learning into my random and chaotic attempts at having a writer’s life I enrolled on a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, and am enjoying every minute.
This week we had a real treat, when an alumni of the course, now with two successful, critically acclaimed and internationally published literary novels under her belt and a third in the wings: Claire Fuller (Swimming Lessons, Our Endless Numbered Days).
Swimming Lessons, her latest book, is an intricately and beautifully structured reflection on family love and loss. I asked her if she knew her ending from the start.
Continue reading "A (n Aspirant) Writer’s Journey"
When I first moved into PR consultancy 22 years ago, having previously worked in political communications, I was shocked to discover the lack of interest in insights, data and research within PR firms beyond the most rudimentary dip stick research designed to push whatever we were pitching. In politics we had every sound bite and slogan tested and focus grouped to within an inch of its life.
Over the past decade, with the rise of digital communications and social media, and the new horizons that has brought to our industry, this has started to change. Many agencies have established planning and insights teams, bringing more diverse and science-based skills into our industry. (At Weber Shandwick we hired our first strategic planners well over a decade ago and have had our own research arm KRC for over three decades thanks to the political campaign heritage of the firm.)
Continue reading "Why you should seriously consider leaving your PR agency"
I was driving back from Heathrow earlier this week, where Britain’s highest temperature of the day was being recorded, and I was stuck in traffic on the M25, sweltering in the still heat. The weather reporter on Radio Four was saying it was the hottest recorded temperature since the long hot summer of 1976.
I was instantly transported back to a hot dusty road near Salford Docks, now Salford Quays with its Media City and designer apartments, walking back from grabbing a lunchtime sandwich to my summer job as a clerk in one of the engineering firms on the Ship Canal. Walking with me was my fellow summer temp jobber, a student.
I was waiting for my A level results and the plan was, like most of my friends, to get enough grades to scrape into a low level white collar desk job, get a car and some decent
Continue reading "The Randomness of Life Giving Strangers"
In truth I spent more of the weekend immersed in the Isle of Wight Festival than politics, and colleagues at Weber Shandwick such as former May aide and Sky political guru Joey Jones have far better insights than me. Neither as a New Labour refugee do I have any insights into Corbyn’s strategy – if there was much of one. So I will stick to what impressed and heartened me personally about the outcome of the campaign and what I see as positive for British politics.
There are four things that struck me about the outcome and things that personally give me hope.
1 Youth Engagement
Even with the big Facebook voter registration drive in 2015, the 18-24 year old turnout on polling day remained depressingly low at 43%. Although it is too early to assess the specific youth voter turnout last week, there are clear trends of increased
Continue reading "Election thoughts"
After thirty six years in PR and communications, and nearly twenty three years with my firm Weber Shandwick, my boss Andy Polansky and I announced yesterday my stepping down from the firm and PR in early 2018.
For me it was a mix of excitement about the future and focussing on my family and my personal creative projects, and sadness at leaving such a great firm, team and industry.
Having failed to make a living as a music journalist and new wave poet (oh yes) I fell into PR thanks to my first boss Barry Walsh (then head of PR for The Automobile Association and now a published novelist, and still an inspiration to me).
As a working class Northerner who didn’t even know what PR was (and didn’t possess a driving licence) it was a lucky break in the graduate unemployment hit 1980s.
That break taught me a valuable
Continue reading "Living in spin"
Today we are fascinated by the dizzying pace of change. The Internet is the new Industrial Revolution. Wired is as influential as The Economist. Brands like Uber, Facebook, Ocado, Tinder, dominate our lives. Brilliantly innovative technology companies with cars, cat videos, groceries and casual sex attached. What we once read as niche, inky, badly spelled, loss-making newspapers are now 100m reader-strong (still loss-making) global media platforms. The new iPhone is celebrated with more excitement and media coverage than a groundbreaking new drug that will save millions (or, I suspect, the Second Coming). Cannes is as much a tech event as a creative awards showcase.
Yes we live at an exciting time, and we are very clever.
But get this. In just three short years, 1895 to 1897, three groundbreaking discoveries occurred. X-rays, radioactivity and the electron. The second winning the first Nobel Prize for a woman, Marie Curie. Three years.
Continue reading "A SLOG (short blog) on technology"
In all the excitement about Twitter – a gift to gobby Mancunians everywhere – over its short life to date, some marketeers quickly cottoned on to its potential for enhancing or even replacing existing customer service infrastructure. Why have expensive human beings sitting around just waiting for calls and drinking the firm’s terrible coffee, or customers forced to listen to shit jazz while they wait half an hour as some bit of AI tells them they are sorry about the wait, you are a deeply valued customer etc, then connects you to a bad line in outer Mongolia and they hang up on you, when you could manage it more instantaneously and engagingly (and cheaply) via Twitter.
Bit like…..why have all that messy democracy and the expense of a bunch of suits on private jets and big shouty White House press conferences when you can have some old bigot
Continue reading "Social customer service"