One very good reason to be nice to your staff: you never know where they might end up…


I-believe-in-karmaIt makes sense to be good to the people you manage, and one selfish reason for that has been brought home to me recently, with some moves made by former team members at Edinburgh council.

Mike Pinkerton has my old job as the council’s news manager. Alice Robertson is on the health desk at the Scottish Government. Gareth Jones is now a client, as head of corporate communications at Lothian Buses. And Katie Spence is managing the council’s communications for the tram (which will be run by Lothian Buses).

Of less recent moves, Ruth Macleod is the head of comms at Scottish Fire and Rescue, Kelly Murphy is the comms manager at Education Scotland. Lynn Mcmath works in Scottish Labour’s press team, and Shona Cameron is the head of comms for Edinburgh Bioquarter.

Aside from the one current relationship, all are potential clients or current/potential stakeholders in work we do for clients. And that’s just a small group of former colleagues from one organisation, in a career of 18 years to date.

To be clear, none of them owes me anything; the point of this isn’t about obligation based on previous connections. But, all other things being equal, it certainly does no harm to be on good terms with your former charges (and that’s the case to the best of my knowledge!) The same is true of many other professional relationships of course, but as a manager you have a unique opportunity to screw that up in how you treat people. Read the rest of this entry »


How to network without feeling like an idiot


Feeling awkward at networking events, or other occasions involving relative strangers, seems to be fairly common. I’ve certainly felt that way, and still do sometimes, although much less than I used to.

I’m not an expert by any means, nor do I always practice what I preach, but I’ve given the whole thing a fair bit of thought, and now seems a good time to share that given that my first event in a while is coming up on 6 February. 

First steps

Before I go any further, there are some basics to highlight. Some of this isn’t directly related to attending events, but is all part of the networking lark. Nor is it all essential for everyone – but anyone whose employment depends directly or indirectly on new business needs to do more than others.

  1. Have a decent Linked In profile. It’s easy to do and if you’re not sure it’s easy to find a guide online. I’ve put this as number one quite deliberately as I feel it’s an important one to get right.
  2. Have a digital footprint that isn’t just a personal Facebook page. There will be a social network that suits you, whether its Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare, Google+, Flickr, a blog or whatever. (It doesn’t have to be about work, but make sure it’s not detrimental to your professional life!)
  3. Manage your contacts. Linked In can be a useful phone/email directory, but it’s not foolproof, so you really do need to record and maintain details for yourself.
  4. Remember to take business cards out of the drawer and use them at events!
  5. Be bothered. Look for events or opportunities and go to them. I don’t just mean PR events. Find other relevant gatherings where you can broaden your network. Buying decisions aren’t always made by the comms people, or just by the comms people, that you’re already used to dealing with.
  6. When you do go, don’t just speak to your colleagues or people you know already. Okay, sometimes that will be fine. But in many networking situations that’s going to be of absolutely no value to you at all.

The difficult part

There are probably a few people who are effortless social butterflies. I suspect most of us find it difficult to some degree, even when it appears to others as if we don’t. I’ve certainly found myself reaching for my phone and using it as a crutch to feel less like a lonely idiot when I’ve been in-between conversations or building up to speaking to someone who doesn’t know me from Adam. Read the rest of this entry »


Who wants to be the new me? Some thoughts on Edinburgh council’s new news manager post…


My old job has been advertised, although it’s not exactly my old job. (By the way, if you want to apply, get your skates on – deadline is this Friday.)

I’m pleased to see that the title has been changed from ‘media manager’ to ‘news and content’ manager. That’s important for several reasons: it marks the fact that the job had, intentionally, become about social media as well as traditional media; it recognises that what’s most important is the ‘news and content’, not necessarily the channel; and, from a dull, organisational point of view, it provides greater flexibility in the responsibilities and functions of the team managed by that person.

For the right candidate, I can barely think of a better time to have this job. Read the rest of this entry »


Networking drinks are back – and it’s time to take our own advice


Some folk will already know I’ve been running a series of events over the last few years to try to get people out from behind their desks and away from their phone screens to meet people face to face.

This effort was prompted by a feeling that we’re losing the art of creating and sustaining relationships – something that’s pivotal to many professions but perhaps PR more than most.

After all, if we were advising colleagues or clients about some PR basics, we’d say: relationships are pretty much everything; get on the front foot with those we might want or need a relationship with; and avoid being in the situation where you have to make a transparently selfish call out from the blue looking for a favour!

Yet, as I noted when I first started out on this nearly four years ago, some people seem to have lost sight of this altogether. I remember having an exchange with someone at a partner organisation to Edinburgh council when I worked there and I suggested we have a coffee. Her reply: “What for? Can’t you just email me?” Read the rest of this entry »


The Clutha tragedy and the future of Police Scotland’s comms team


The stories of pub-goers, passers-by and the emergency services have been brilliantly reported in the last couple of days. I have spent the weekend mostly decorating, with 5Live and Radio Scotland for company throughout, and more than once did I down tools to focus on the compelling commentary and testimonials that occasionally left me speechless.

Glasgow’s response to the tragedy has been inspirational and, speaking as someone with no connection to the city, I’m not sure every other community could claim it would equally emerge with its reputation enhanced if faced with a similar challenge.

Supporting those at the scene will have been a great number of people often overlooked in the reports of such incidents: council road workers, 999 operators and, yes, comms officers, among many others. Now, I’m sure no-one in those lines of work would claim a parallel in what they do with the awful reality of dealing with a major incident at its sharpest end. But, they all have their own pressures and stresses that they need to manage.

I’ve been struck by the fact that, just a day or so before this tragedy, plans to restructure – and perhaps to reduce – the Police Scotland comms service were reported. Read the rest of this entry »


Why the great divide between PR practitioners and academics? And should anyone care?


Yesterday I attended my first meeting of an advisory panel that the good folks at Queen Margaret University set up a few years ago to improve discussions between academic staff and people working in PR. Though it was very worthwhile, my main feeling was one of frustration at the missed opportunities between those talking/thinking about PR and those doing it (a simplistic distinction, I know, but a necessary one for the purposes of this post).

For my own part, I have had involvement through guest lectures, supporting student placements, being interviewed for dissertations and a few other exchanges. So, it is going on and there will doubtless be a fair amount of activity involving other people that I inevitably know nothing about. I also have good relationships with a number of people in universities.

However, I see very little output, questioning existing practice and pointing the way to better PR (which is what I would expect of those studying, researching and teaching it) and I find the staff at universities and colleges to be noticeably less active in the PR community than counterparts in private, public and voluntary sectors (with some exceptions of course). Read the rest of this entry »


How it is to be in the media spotlight…


Some thoughts on a recent story which, for once, I’ve been a direct feature of, rather than just being behind the scenes. Read the rest of this entry »