Personal PR

Personal PR

Apparently who you know is far more influential in your career than what you know.

A report by the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility studied the careers of over 2000 people and asked them to identify the biggest factor in getting promoted.  “Who you know” came out on top with 37%, with “Work Ethic” and “Talent” floundering on 26% and 21%. “Making decent tea” and “flirting at the Christmas do” were nowhere to be seen.  Which is a shame as I make a quality brew.

The former Education Secretary Justine Greening said that the results were “shocking”.  Really?  I doubt many people would have been surprised.  Networks are the thing these days; I’m not sure cold calling works any more.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as opposed to nepotism as the next person (my dad told me to say that…).  People should, of course, get promoted because they can do the job well and deliver what’s needed.  But there are probably loads of people who can do the job well and deliver what’s needed – the trick for an employer is to find them.

And for those of us looking for work, being known is one of the most important skills.  No one will employ us if they don’t know who we are or that we even exist; whereas if they are aware of what we have done, then when an opportunity arises we might just float to the front of their minds.

PR is not just a corporate necessity, it matters to us individually.  We all need to make sure that our audiences know our key messages and the benefits we can bring.

How do we do this?  Well, there is no secret; it’s all about keeping in touch with people who matter.  Not harassing them with weekly emails but the occasional (every six months is my rule) note asking their advice on something or drawing their attention to something you have done.  I never ask people to meet up so they can give me work – they will feel pressurised and used and will make excuses.  But if I ask to meet up so I can pick their brains about what’s going on in their sector, then nine times out of ten they’re happy to drink my coffee.  This doesn’t lead to immediate work but it does mean that I am in their minds when work does need commissioning.

Not a fool proof method, and certainly not a detailed CRM, but the best I have managed to come up with, and its kept me going for the last 8 years in business.

So don’t rely on advertising or whizzy websites alone; make sure you keep in touch and do the personal PR.


The joy of lex (icography)


This blog post first appeared in Somerset magazine in 2015.


I like words. First; last; in-between: in my mind they’re all good.

I have my favourites: “onomatopoeia” just sounds right and “edgy” appears, well, edgy. “Somnambulant” makes me feel drowsy even saying it, whereas “vibrant” is a little disturbing if said too loudly. I spent most of my university years describing things “ontologically” or arguments as “ontologically sound”. Somehow I managed to achieve a theology degree without ever really understanding what ontology actually was. But it seems to fit anywhere. Whatever it is, it’s great.

But even though English is a rich, resonant and colourful language, you have to go to the continent to get the true richness of words. Some foreign words are just so packed full of meaning that they are very difficult to translate, even though we will all recognise the feeling or concept they try to convey.

Take Spanish for example. “Sombremesa” means the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with. Perfect. And we have all been there.
Or Italian. “Culaccino” is the mark left on a table by a cold glass. Nice. Just writing it makes me thirsty, and longing to book a holiday.

Russian is a little more edgy (see what I did there?). “Pochemuchka” sounds a little harsh, and when you realise that it refers to someone who asks a lot of questions, in fact probably too many questions, the harshness takes on a sinister feel. Polonium anyone?

But my absolute favourite, probably because it seems to happen to me a lot, is far closer to home. In Scots there is wonderful word: “tartle”. It describes beautifully that panicky hesitation we all experience just before you have to introduce someone whose name you should remember but can’t. Social oblivion and worse looms.

So the next time you relax somnambulantly into a sombremesa with your friends having experienced the joy of a culaccino filled lunch without a pochemuchka in sight, just remember that you have the joy of words to thank. Ontologically anyway.

When the Robots take over


This article first appeared in the Somerset County Gazette on 4th September 2014.

I travel a lot for work, and stay in a lot of hotels. This used to be fun, but to be frank the novelty soon wears off. Hanging around on your own in a town a long way from home is not a great night.

But I find ways to cope: I have my little routines, and the hotels I stay in get to know them. So whenever I am in the guest house in the midlands that has become a second home, the team know that beyond a “good morning” I prefer to be taciturn in the morning. I read my paper; I work through a plate of meat the size of Durham (hospitable lot in the midlands) and drink gallons of tea. I don’t talk.

Until recently. I was at breakfast, contemplating the day ahead and perusing the latest transfer news when I noticed a middle aged man sitting at a table near me. He was smiling in that way people do when they want to initiate conversation; a sort of half embarrassed and overly polite grimace grin.

I smiled back wanly and carried on reading. But he didn’t give up and after a few more extravagant smiles he coughed and said “anything good in the paper?”

This is not easy to ignore. I sighed internally, gave up on ever finding out if Spurs were planning to sign an unknown Swedish centre back and made some vague comment about football.

He told me his story: weather bad the previous night, decided to stay at the pub, heading home today. But with a tedious inevitability we moved onto a slightly more challenging agenda.

“The military – they are years ahead of us you know. Everything we have, they have really advanced versions. Their technology is so powerful, really frightening. We’ll never find out but they have robots and stuff that can do just about anything.”

So far so good. Interesting enough, if a little Hunger Games for my liking, but certainly not threatening. He leaned in closer. For a horrible moment I thought he was going to nick my bacon.

He whispered conspiratorially: “The thing is, after a while they are going to realise they are more powerful than us, aren’t they?” It took me a moment to understand what he meant.

“The robots will realise that we need saving from ourselves and they’ll take over. To stop us killing the planet and each other. Stands to reason. We programme them to help us and automate our lives, make us safer, but they’ll take over. Where will we be then?”

I nodded, trying to create a respectful yet authoritative distance between us. After an acceptable delay of about 30 seconds I looked at my watch, made my apologies muttering something about meetings and headed off.

I walked to the car laughing. Robots? Taking over? I activated the car’s auto start. Realising they know more than us? I switched on the sat nav. Changing things to keep us safe? The car’s speed and distance limiter kicked in, making sure I couldn’t hit anyone. Automated decision making? The blue tooth chose a track I liked. Technology taking over? The cameras showed me the space behind as I reversed and the automatic handbrake released itself. It’ll never happen?

Honestly, the things people believe.