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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Toxic leadership and the trouble with power

Too often leaders, who start off with the best intentions, go bad. It’s the power trip that goes to their heads and gets them in the end. We see it happening every day. Just this month we've witnessed the corporate arrogance of the BBC in attempting to cover-up the Jimmy Savile affair and the spectacular fall from grace of Tory MP and now former chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

This is a politician who, as secretary of state for international development, got his results by being a bully. This time however, he made the fatal mistake of picking on someone a lot bigger and more powerful than him – the police (or the police federations at least) – allegedly calling them ‘plebs’ and ‘morons’. His arrogance cost him his job when an officer wouldn't let Andrew take his bike through the front gates of Number 10. No doubt the sobering experience of unemployment will be a lesson that brings him back down to earth.

Power corrupts
We come across power maniacs in all areas of our lives. They can be politicians, councillors, school governors, company bosses, celebrities, church officials – just about anyone in a position of power that’s unchallenged for too long. Lord Acton’s words ‘Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ are wise ones indeed. It’s when the powerful are allowed to rule unfettered – usually because people are afraid of them or can’t face the agony of formally challenging them - that they become ‘toxic’.

As ‘Team Cameron’ and ‘Team Obama’ set their sights on second terms of office, let’s hope that they don’t turn toxic. Richard Nixon’s spectacular fall from the American presidency happened because he was arrogant enough to think that the rules which apply to us – namely right and wrong – didn't apply to him. Why? Because he believed he was acting in his party’s best interests and he was above the law. What a mistake!

Great leaders are great listeners

Great leadership is, first and foremost, about listening and letting other people have their say. It’s about handling power and influence with responsibility, humility and due care. It’s also about treating people with respect and remembering that everyone is entitled to an opinion and free speech without fear of retribution.

There’s an interesting study by the University of Exeter which explores how leaders fall from grace. It happens when they stop listening to the people they lead and start believing in their own self-importance and hype. The study also shows how people in leadership positions so often become intoxicated by power. When they do, the bullying and harassing behaviour starts. Why? Because they know people are afraid of them, or at least can’t be bothered with the angst involved in formally challenging them, and they can get away with it. And for a time, while their followers are willing to collude, they do.

The study also shows that great leaders have common success strategies. These include being good listeners and being sensitive to other people’s views and opinions. They tend to be positive, modest and inspirational people who share success.

In short, the best leaders are not driven individuals with aggressive, domineering personalities who act as control freaks. In fact, the research clearly suggests that, the more power leaders or managers get and the bigger their heads swell, the more out of touch with reality they’ll become. People in positions of authority need to keep in mind that the best and most successful politicians, businessmen and managers are good at supporting ‘all’ the people they represent.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Top 4 PR mistakes directors make when delivering bad news

it’s not difficult to see why the arrogant
former RBS boss Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin
became one of Britain’s most publicly
detested bankers.

What are the most common PR mistakes that company directors make when they have to deal with bad news?

Here are E=MC2 Public Relations top four executive PR blunders:

1. They delay in announcing the bad news or try to bury it by issuing a press release late on a Friday night hoping the media have gone home for the weekend. Never delay, the longer you do, the bigger and uglier you’ll become in the news when the story does break.

2. They don’t own up to their mistakes and show genuine sympathy and compassion for those affected because they’re too worried about the legal implications of saying ‘I’m sorry’.  Apologising is not necessarily an admission of guilt but an expression of empathy and concern.

When bad news breaks, showing you care can go a long way in building good brand relations with the public and your customers.

Just look what happened to the reputation of BP’s ‘Woe it’s me’ chief exec Tony Hayward when the Deepwater Horizon disaster broke. Not only did he wait weeks to apologise to the millions of people affected by the oil spill – he made it quite clear to the US public that he wished it would be over so he could get back to his holiday.

That arrogance in the face of an environmental catastrophe of massive proportions generated the wrath of America’s President Obama, cost BP billions of dollars in compensation and Hayward ultimately, his job.

3. They blame it on the lawyers because they’ve been advised to say ‘no comment’. ‘No comment speaks volumes which is why legal eagles are not media relations experts. Their job is to keep people out of prison, not out of the press. There is no such thing as no comment so don’t go there!

4. They don’t take immediate action and address the problem or situation. People want to know that you are doing everything in your power to fix the problem or at least alleviate it on day one not day five. Keep them informed about what you are doing throughout the PR crisis unlike former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin – Britain’s most vilified banker.

While Captain Smith took responsibility for sinking the Titanic and went down with his ship, greedy Fred, sank the world’s biggest bank and the British economy while trying to save himself and keep his massive pay-off and multi-million pound pension.  No wonder he’s wanted for ‘bank robbery, looting and criminal neglect!”

Friday, 29 June 2012

Twitter for business - 10 tips on how to build a relevant following

Twitter for business - 10 tips on how to build a relevant following
Are you using Twitter for business and is it working for you? How many followers do you have and are they relevant to your business or simply white noise?
If you are looking to grow your followers, remember, it’s not how many you have but how relevant they are.
Twitter followers - quality not quantity counts
If you have 10,000 followers who don’t engage with you, your Twitter communications are wasted and pointless [see Arthur’s blog on Social media is great for business if you have a strategy].
If you want to make an impact and build your Twitter following, you need to be applying the following tactics:
  1. Start with a good profile that engages and includes a photo or company logo and your location.
  2. Identify and follow people who are likely to be interested in what you are saying.
  3. Tweet content that’s helpful and interesting to your followers.
  4. Talk about others, not just yourself.
  5. Tweet when you have something interesting and useful to say and don’t bombard your followers with meaningless drivel.
  6. Promote your Twitter account through other channels like Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and Pinterest pages so that followers can connect with you.
  7. Unfollow people who don’t follow you back.
  8. Prefix your tweets with hashtags (#) on interesting or popular subjects you are talking about.
  9. Look for people who share the same interests as you and connect with them. You can do this via a keyword search. For example, if you are interested in lemurs of Madagascar, you could do a keyword internet search or a Twitter hashtag (#lemurs Madagascar) search.
  10. Retweet your most popular tweets.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Business jargon is bad writing

If you want to be understood – speak simply and clearly. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Why then is this so difficult to do in business communications? What happened to plain English and why do we put up with so much meaningless corporate twaddle in the workplace?  Nonsense like:

“Integrated management options”; “functional third-generational programming”; “joined-up organisational capability”,…what corporate claptrap will they come up with next?

We’re all familiar with it - corporate jargon - that brain-numbing, business mumbo jumbo we have to suffer on rambling corporate websites, woolly staff memos, stuffy company policies and self-important mission statements. Pure, puffy, unadulterated verbal drivel that’s rich in long-winded, complicated word nonsense and packed with ridiculous and mostly American sporting metaphors. How many times have you heard: “We need a level playing field to win this”, “As a company, we punch above our weight,” and, “Could you give me a ball-park figure for that?” and of course, “Let’s get our ducks in a row first.”  Can we stop the rot? Buzz words and phrases that serve no other purpose than to bamboozle and confuse even the person delivering them.

 Here, for example, is a classic case of public sector ‘jargonitis’:

“….will demonstrate the practicability and cost-effectiveness of integrating and provisioning service offerings beyond institutional boundaries, either as part of a Shared Service arrangement or through an externally hosted provision, including cloud-based services or applications.”

Hmmm…..that’s clear as mud and definitely one for this year’s Campaign for Plain English Golden Bull Awards!

Clearly, jargon speakers and writers suffer from one or all of the following: they’re compelled to use corporate buzzwords as a substitute for thought, they have an inferiority complex which comes out in a superior way; alternatively, they are trying to cover up the fact that they don’t know what they are talking about.

Plain English is genius
Great communicators from Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, have always been able to express their thoughts and ideas in vivid and down-to-earth English that even a three-year-old would understand. In truth, the most effective and powerful communications are successful because they create an emotional connection with the listener which speaks a truth we can all relate to and identify with.   

So, if you want your business communications to really mean something to your audience, make them simple, meaningful and emotive.

The E=MC2 Dejargonator
Here’s a list of jargon-busters to help you on your way – our thanks to Grammar Party, Say No To Jargon and the E=MC2 Public Relations hefty jargon collection. This is an evolving list so please feel free to send us your contributions. The Plain English Campaign is also accepting nominations for their 2012 Golden Bull Awards at:

Actionable: Which projects are actionable this year?
PLAIN ENGLISH: Which projects can we do this year?

Action item: This is an action item for this week.
PLAIN ENGLISH: This is something we need to do this week.

Air out: Let’s air out that issue in today’s meeting.
PLAIN ENGLISH: Let’s discuss that issue in today’s meeting.

At this juncture: We can’t go public at this juncture.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We can’t go public at this time.

Ball-park figure: Give me a ball-park figure for the job.
PLAIN ENGLISH:  Give me an estimated cost for the job.

Blue-sky thinking: We need blue-sky thinking.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need to think with an open mind.

Brain dump:  We’ll need a brain dump from you after the meeting.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We’d like you to brief us after your meeting.

Bring to the table: What can you bring to the table for this project?
PLAIN ENGLISH: What can you contribute to this project?

Close the loop: We’ll have to close the loop on this conversation.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need to stop talking about this.

Core competencies: These are our company’s core competencies.
PLAIN ENGLISH: These are what our company does best.

Core values:  Our core values underpin the company.
PLAIN ENGLISH: The company has operating principles.

Close of play:  He wants it by close of play today
PLAIN ENGLISH: He wants it by the end of today.

Disconnect:  There’s a real disconnect here.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We have a problem.

Domiciled: He’s domiciled in Spain.
PLAIN ENGLISH: He lives in Spain.

Expeditiously: It needs to be done expeditiously.
PLAIN ENGLISH: Do it quickly.

Face time: We need more face time.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need to talk to each other more.

For the purpose of: For the purpose of clarity…
PLAIN ENGLISH: For clarity…

Forthwith: It needs to be done forthwith.
PLAIN ENGLISH: Do it immediately.

Granularity: There’s not enough granularity in this.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need more detail.

Think outside the box: We need to think outside the box.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need creative ideas.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Tips and techniques for speeches and presentations

How to make a speech ‘sizzle’

1. Preparation – fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
  • Preparation and practice: research and prepare your speech well in advance and rehearse it at least five times in front of the mirror or until you feel you know it. Great speakers know their speech inside out but look as if they are delivering their words off the cuff. Knowing and being comfortable with your ‘lines’ means you can focus on eye contact, delivery and engaging with your audience.
  • PowerPoint and other support materials: never rely on these or use them as a crutch. Your slides or audio-visual materials should support and help illustrate what you are saying but never be a substitute for you. The best way to test how reliant you are on these aids is to ask yourself what would happen if your PowerPoint broke down – would you be able to continue effectively without it? If you couldn’t, you need to kick the habit and re-think your presentation.
  • Tailor your material to your audience: if it’s an after dinner speech, you need lots of humour. If you are speaking on an expert subject, make it informative, interesting and engaging.
  • Keep it short and entertaining: 10 minutes is enough to keep people riveted and leave them wanting more!  Use the remaining time up in your question and answer session.  Think about it, who ever complained about a speech being too short?
  • Test-drive your speech: on a partner or close friend and ask them for feedback and timing.
  • Check your microphone and equipment works: there’s nothing like a technical hitch to put you off your game so make sure everything’s in working order and audio levels and fedback issues have been checked so that your audience can hear you.

2. Speech-writing and delivery tips and techniques
  • Use an attention-grabbing title: apart from hooking and attracting people to hear you speak, a good headline grabs people’s attention, gets them curious and interested and can help build the event and the audience’s excitement.
  • Plain English: the best speakers bring simple language to life. Don’t alienate and bamboozle your audience with jargon, management speak or pretentious and complicated technical speak. People who do this either don’t understand their subject well enough to communicate it in simple terms or have had a creative by-pass’ and are born to be boring. Here’s a great example of meaningless, alienating twaddle: "Neoclassical endogenous growth theory and a symbiotic relationship between investment in people and infrastructure." – Gordon Brown, former British prime minister
  • Opening and closing lines should pack a punch: metaphors, drama and using misdirection make great speech openers and ice-breakers and are a powerful way to hook your audience, link to your message and set up the key points you want to make.
  • Pause to create dramatic effect. It will keep people listening and give your speech impact and energy. Remember, to also pause before you start speaking, it’s a great way to calm you and your audience.
  • Pace: don’t rush your words but also don’t be afraid to change the pace of your speech to add emphasis, drama and impact to your message. It will also help to keep your audience engaged.
  • Pitch: occasionally alter the volume and tone of your delivery. Speaking quieter or louder and being more cheerful or more serious all adds dramatic effect and keeps the attention of your audience.
  • Enthusiasm: if you are enthusiastic about your subject, then your audience will be too.  Enthusiasm gives a speech energy and strength so don’t leave home without it.
  • Eye-contact engages your audience.  Create spots in the room at the back, sides, centre and front of your audience and run your eyes regularly across them. Find three or four individuals in different parts of the room that you can direct the occasional line and hand-gesture to. 
  • Hand movements: which help you express your words and meaning are great, but make sure they look natural. We’ve seen some pretty silly-looking CEOs gesturing like manic robots because they’ve been told to do so by their PRs. It looks hilarious and turns you into a complete ‘wally’ and ‘chump’ in the eyes of your audience and the people you want to impress and influence!
  • Move about if you can: if you have the room to move about and use the floorspace where you are speaking, do it. It’s a great way of keeping people’s attention, particularly if you’ve got a dry topic. It also allows you to make your presentation more upfront, close and personal for your listeners.
3. Structure and content of a speech
  • Start with a structure: decide on what your main message is and then start breaking it down into three key points you want to make. These can be further broken down depending on how much detail you want.
    In short: the beginning should tell your audience what you are going to say, the middle: telling the story and the ending: telling them what you’ve said.
  • Tell people something new, interesting and memorable.
  • Bring the story to life with examples and real-life experiences: a great way to get people listening to you is to weave a relevant stories or examples of yours or other people’s experiences which bring the presentation to life for the listener.
  • Incorporate memorable ‘one liners’ and colourful metaphors:  these help to grab the readers attention, keep them interested in what you are saying and make your speech memorable. Here are some example: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail,” Speak softly and carry a big stick and you will go far.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  • Use short, sharp sentences for dramatic effect. Examples of short sentences: ‘Failure is not an option’ and ‘The time is now’.
  • Apply positive adjectives and adverbs. Instead of for example: "We face many challenges" say "We face many exciting challenges"; or "We will work on our problems" but "We will work together to solve our problems".
  • Use alliteration to make words memorable and quotable:  for example: ‘Broadband Britain’, ‘Britian’s best business bank’, ‘the digital divide’, and ‘formidable, fashionable, functional.’
  • Make comparisons: with other organisations, competitors and people’s situational experiences and highlight what can be learned from them.
  • Use three-part sentences to create dramatic effect. This technique is called a ‘tricolon’, for example: ‘Government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ and ‘We came, we saw, we conquered’.
  • Repeat your key words for dramatic effect.  British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill’s famous speech is a good example: We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fighton the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…’
  • Use memorable one-liners. For example: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Sir Winston Churchill
  • Opening witticisms: these are good for warming-up the audience at the start of your speech or presentation. Here are some good examples: "I don't mind how much my minister’s talk, as long as they do what I say." -  former British prime minster Margaret Thatcher.
  • End with a high impact statement: that reinforces your opening line. If for example, you were delivering a speech on the importance of business change, you might end with a famous quote: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw, and "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." – James Baldwin.
4. Don’t apologise for being there! 
  • Your audience has great expectations of you, don’t disappoint them at the first hurdle by telling them you aren’t very good at speaking, that you don’t know why you’ve been asked to speak, that you are nervous or any other excuse. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

E=MC2 PR's 10 top tips on using Twitter for business

Twitter really is a great marketing tool for driving customers to your website. And with Google now showing tweets in its search results, you need to be making sure that you are search engine optimising your Twitter posts.

Here are E=MC2 Public Relations’ 10 top tips on how to do this and raise your internet rankings:
  1. Choose your Twitter username carefully: it should be both memorable and easy to remember as well as suggestive of your brand, products or services.

  2. Keyword: your Twitter company profile, username and blog or website address. For example, your profile should have keywords which relate to your business or products and what you do.

  3. Put your keywords in the first 40 characters: of your Twitter profile - the more keyword rich your profile is, the easier it is for Google to see it.

  4. Prefix your tweet with a hashtag (#): if you are tweeting about a specific topic or subject you want people to see, follow and engage with you on. You can do this by prefixing a word with a hash symbol, for example: #business, #publicrelations. Hashtags also make it easier for people to find your discussion topic.

  5. Use keywords: in the title of your tweets.

  6. Retweet: make your tweets interesting and easy for other Twitter users to retweet you. For example leave enough room for the retweet function ‘RT@username’ at the end of your tweets. Retweets are the way to build influence in Twitter and start relationships with people you want to get to know. Here are a couple of useful links on retweeting strategy:
    How to Get Retweeted by Guy Kawasaki:
    The Science of Retweets by Dan Zarrella:

  7. Very long website URLs can be shortened: if you are tight on space to fit your tweet. As tweets can’t be more than 140 characters, you can shorten the URL of your website by using If you don’t know how to do this, here’s a useful ‘how to’ link:

  8. Be helpful: less than 10 per cent of your tweets should be ‘selling’ to people and more than 50 per cent of your tweets should be helpful and add value. For example you might respond to a question, retweet someone else’s post which you think is useful and interesting to others, make a remark, share a recommendation or contribute to an existing conversation.

  9. Quality not quantity: don’t over do it, people who tweet too much get ignored or unfollowed. Your tweets should be ‘qualitative’ so that people stop and listen to what you have to say because it’s good quality information that’s also useful.

  10. Hand feed, not ‘force-feed’: many people automate their tweets – don’t! They should be well-thought out and hand-fed to your followers. No one like’s being ‘talked at’ 24-hours a day!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

8 Internet trends that will affect your business this year…

Already in 2012 we are seeing significant new trends and developments in social media with the significant growth in popularity of interest-based sites like Twitter and Pinterest . Consumer purchasing is moving towards and becoming increasingly influenced by websites and social sites that share people’s passions and interests as well as customer reviews of products and services.

These are the new frontiers for customer-engagement which are already affecting your business and which your PR and marketing strategy needs to prepare for and embrace.
  1. More user reviews and ratings on websites: reviews are becoming extremely influential in consumer purchasing decisions. Groups like TripAdvisor on which no hotelier wants to get on the wrong side, already have the capacity to make or break a business. The adage, ‘you’re only as good as your last job’ reflects how companies and service providers are increasingly being seen by the public. A bad review has significant commercial implications for the organisation involved. The trend now is to gather as many ‘good reviews’, ratings and product endorsements and post them where they can be seen on your website.

  2. Information / social media relevance: with access to over 98,000 tweets, 695,000 Facebook status updates, 79,364 Facebook wall posts and 600 new YouTube videos uploaded every minute of the day, not to mention the average 147 daily emails we receive in a working day, consumers are clearly suffering from ‘white noise’ and information overload. What they want now is to be given the information they are interested in immediately or they’ll look elsewhere. The ability to match your business/product information with the right people is becoming the a major driver of success.

  3. Social reputation management: it’s staggering how many UK organisations don’t have a tried and tested crisis communications plan ready to deal with social media relations when disaster strikes. However, the recent example of the Costa Concordia cruise disaster has woken many up to doing something about it this year. The ship’s sinking and the incompetence of the captain has been widely broadcast, embarrassing and costing the Costa and Carnival brands dearly in terms of public confidence and also, the reputation of the cruise ship industry as a whole, forcing it to re-evaluate itself.

  4. Social media - increasing influence on search results: it’s already happening, with search engines like Google crawling social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. This includes user generated reviews and ratings from other social media consumer conversations.

  5. Social customer relations management (SCRM): truly customer-centric companies are recognising that social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and social interest sites like Pinterest, are cost-effective and quick ways to ensure their customers always keep them ‘in sight’ and ‘in mind’. Social customer relations have become an integral part of their customer relationship management activities. This year however, we’re going to see more social media ‘newbies’ catching-on and reaping the rewards.

  6. Social and website competitions: these have become a great way to make your company stand out from the crowd and drive people to your website and product offering. The US and Canada do this very well and UK/European organisations are starting to pay attention and enjoy the benefits.

  7. Do-it-yourself TV: smartphones, tablets, YouTube and Skype which allow people to visually communicate and share information and experiences are starting to take-off in a big way and will need to become an integrated part of the ‘customer experience’.

  8. Real-time, geo-marketing promotions: more retailers and high street service providers will be starting to use geo-marketing techniques to connect to consumers shopping or visiting their neighbourhood and offering deals and incentives directly to their mobile phones.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Is your website still fit for purpose in 2012?

Websites are today’s virtual shopfronts. They speak volumes about the organisations they represent, creating lasting impressions which will engage or disengage customers within the first four seconds of their visit.

Website design trends in 2012

Website design in 2012 is all about the customer experience and customers want functionality, faster online access and social interactivity. If your website still appears as a static extension of your company brochure, with very little functionality or consumer interaction, it probably is time for a major overhaul.


The best websites today are purpose-designed. They are built around the actions you want your customers to take when they visit your site or land on a particular page.
If you are planning on upgrading your website or rebuilding it from scratch, you should be incorporating the following elements.

Social media integration

Social media is also set to become an integral part of website communications, customer relationship-building and retention in 2012. Corporate attitudes to social media are changing and more organisations are developing integrated strategies to support their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube presence. We will see more websites using their social media channels this year to talk to and learn from their customers, build relationships with them, manage complaints and provide support. Expect to see Twitter for business use really taking-off in 2012.

Smart phone-friendliness

Smart phone searches will grow significantly this year with more than one in five internet searches expected to be via a mobile device and the trend will increase significantly over the next five years. If your website is not mobile -friendly, frustrated visitors who find it difficult to read and slow to load will go elsewhere. Content too should be compatible. Headlines and text should adjust to fit the smartphone browser so that the visitor doesn’t have to scroll over to see it.

Forget Flash – it’s HTML5

Speed of access is what people want. Smart phones will not be installing Flash for consumers which makes using HTML5 extremely important for businesses.

Intelligent and useful content

Reader-friendliness, quality of information and usefulness are what attract customers and search engines like Google to a website. Make sure you research your market before making improvements. It’s important to listen to the people you want to reach, understand their needs and provide content and imagery that will attract and interest them. If you can give them what they want they will engage with your site and get others to link to it.


Consumers also want to find what they are looking for quickly in a language that they understand and identify with. The language style, tone and voice of your website should therefore be compatible and familiar to the people you want to reach so, again, listen and learn from your audience before you start to ‘speak’.

Continuous ‘fresh’ content

Search engines like Google as well as consumers don’t want to see and read the same old boring stuff over and over again. They are hungry for fresh content that’s interesting, useful and engaging. You should regularly refresh your site with new information, video, photos, info graphics, slide presentations, news releases and more.

Big interesting pictures and attention-grabbing headlines

Again, big, dynamic images, high impact headlines, interesting infographics and larger icons are all features which savvy websites are using to keep consumer returning to their websites, engaging with it and referring it to other potential customers.

More community and environmental commitment

Last but not least, consumers expect to see real examples of community, ethical and environmental commitment with testimonials, case studies, events calendars and social media interactivity within this section of your website.