From public servant to newbie consultant – my first week in the private sector


After 18 years of professional life, and receiving my salary from the public purse, I find myself working in a private company for the first time.

So, here are some early thoughts after my initial five days with Weber Shandwick in Edinburgh as an associate director, having been with the BBC, NHS, SEPA and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Not surprisingly, the first week has largely been spent getting to grips with the new organisation, and there’s been a good balance between getting time to settle in and being given something meaningful to do. Everything was well organised for me when I arrived and my colleagues have been really supportive as I ask the inevitable new-start questions that are probably quite tedious to answer. Read the rest of this entry »


Life after journalism – an opportunity in Highland Perthshire for ex-hacks?


The many casualties of cuts across the newspaper industry could do worse than cast their eye towards Aberfeldy and an opportunity to take over a self-sustaining print publication with a growing online presence.

The long-standing publishers of ‘Comment’, a monthly news magazine in Scotland’s geographical heartland, are looking to pass on the baton. This is due in large part to its editor being, in his own words, ‘Shrivelled by age and splattered by cancer and its treatments…’.

But there’s also an element here of the current incumbents seeing the potential for fresh management to make more of both the print and web editions, not to mention social media. Unlike other parts of the broader print media, at least the development needed would begin from a position of relative strength, and wouldn’t be required merely to to save a sinking ship. Read the rest of this entry »


Winter weather over-tweeting is producing a comms whiteout…possibly…


2009-06-18-SPC4FourYorkThis post could have been my answer to Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch, where I explain how, when I were a lad, winters lasted for 13 months of the year and we’d have to scrape the ice from our eyes before getting up at 3am to walk 21 miles to school in bare feet.

I’m resisting that, although I do need to explain that we did have some pretty cold and snowy winters when I was growing up in Killin in the 80s. We also had relatively regular power cuts, notable to us if only because our dad worked for ‘the Hydro’ and would be called out to help get the supply restored. And in those circumstances, I’m fairly sure that we were either prepared, or prepared to adapt to the situation.

So, I have that perspective on one hand and my role now as a professional communicator on the other. And so far, I’m really not convinced about all the gritter tweeting and such like that seems to have become de rigueur.

Before I say any more, I need to stress that I fully recognise that cold, snow and severe weather conditions of all kinds can cause real hardship or much worse. This post isn’t about those who are genuinely vulnerable or who become at risk through no fault of their own; nor is it about exceptional weather*.

But there are some things I don’t fully get about how others are approaching this when it’s simply a bit chilly or there are a few centimetres of snow on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »


Whatever the future for social media gurus, I really wish some of them would wind it in


Frank Zappa didn't like gurus either, as you can hear on this fine album in 'Cosmik Debris'

I’ve read a couple of interesting (old) posts recently about the future of social media experts: Social media is still a specialism and 99.5% of social media experts are not qualified to do their role. Mike McGrail, the Social Media Penguin, has also penned a few thoughts on this issue in two posts (which I’ll call Puffin Poo 1 and Puffin Poo 2).

Away from this sensible stuff, I’ve had some supposed gurus tell me some right nonsense, or read similar online. And it is this: organisations should only do social media if they can do it perfectly.

That’s paraphrasing, but not much. While I generally try to be quite moderate and tactful, I want to vent on this a little. Frankly, I’m getting a bit fed up of self-appointed communications quacks telling me how the world should work on the basis of their flimsy organisational experience, half-decent reach statistics for some widget they were promoting or perhaps a little blogging success. Read the rest of this entry »


Some advice for jobseekers, especially the 30% who don’t proof their submissions


I recently had to review 93 job applications for a couple of temporary assistant posts. It was a fairly mammoth task to do properly, something which I don’t mind, but there were some distressing sights in among them.

Worst of all was that at least a third of them had an obvious spelling or grammatical mistake. I read – but don’t proof read – applications, so if it was easy to spot the errors then it’s safe to assume there were more I failed to see.

And this wasn’t only among the ‘random’ entries that every vacancy attracts. These were basic errors that mark ignorance – or more often, carelessness – on the part of people who really ought to have known better. I wouldn’t quote application text verbatim, so to summarise some of what I observed: Read the rest of this entry »


My three perspectives on the news staff cuts at the BBC


A conversation with a BBC friend yesterday about some people having their shoulders tapped in anticipation of job losses prompted some musing on waste at the corporation.

I'm old enough for this to have been the BBC logo when I started working for it

For those that don’t know, I started my career in the BBC – working for Radio Shetland, mostly on local output but with the occasional network news and programme contributions thrown in. I was there for a touch over two years, so we’re not talking about a long and distinguished career on the cutting edge of journalism, but it was a great training ground and I like to think I earned my crust as a cub reporter (mostly on mundane matters, but notably with a 16hr shift reporting on a fatal air crash in the absence of the normal network reporter and breaking the equally tragic news that a helicopter winchman had been lost at sea mid-rescue.) Read the rest of this entry »


The grand @edinburgh_cc 12hr experiment – some initial views


I’m going to do what emergency exercise planners like to call a ‘hot debrief’, although I guarantee it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds!

So, today, we tweeted a lot from www.twitter.com/edinburgh_cc (and other council accounts) about what the council gets up to in a day.

The purpose? Simple: to do more of everything and see what worked and didn’t. What follows is a personal view of the day and is absolutely not an official council position. Read the rest of this entry »