Comsteria Is Here

Colin Kelly Media Limited is now known as Comsteria Limited.

We have changed our name to reflect our growing business – Emma Baker has joined the business full time and leads on the delivery of our corporate video projects.

Please visit our new website, to find out more about our new and improved range of products and services.

You can also visit Comsteria on Twitter and Facebook.

Questions For Oxfam

This morning I have put the questions below to OXFAM’s media team and I shall publish their response here when I receive it.

1) OXFAM is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). What if anything did the other members of that organisation know about the allegations concerning the work of some members of OXFAM’s team in Haiti, and allegations concerning the wider OXFAM operation, such as the shops in the UK as reported today?

2) OXFAM says it issued a press statement in September 2011 concerning the original Haiti allegations. Where is this statement and what did it say?

RESPONSE: Link to 2011 press statement.

3) OXFAM says it was given advice in 2011 that it would be counterproductive given the situation in Haiti at the time to report the allegations to the police. With the passage of time, the situation in Haiti has improved and OXFAM has apologised for what went on. Therefor, what steps have they taken to report these historical allegations to the police now?

4) OXFAM has apologised several times and its Deputy Chief Executive has resigned, stating that she takes ‘full responsibility’ for what happened. What, specifically, are they apologising for? What, specific responsibility is she taking? The organisation has apologised ‘to supporters, and the people of Britain and Haiti’ for a ‘moral failure’ ‘appalling behaviour of some staff’ and the organisation’s failure to deal with it properly. You can’t go to the police and accuse someone of ‘behaving appallingly’, they need to know specifically what you think happened. When you’re 7 years old, you can’t go to your parents and say ‘I’ve been really bad’ and expect to make amends, you have to tell them exactly what you did. And I’m still waiting for this detail from Oxfam.

5) Answering these questions would in no way compromise the investigation organised by the UK charity regulator. It is more than capable of finding and evaluating evidence and reaching conclusions on its own and OXFAM answering the questions above, to the public, now, will have no impact on that investigation and I would not accept OXFAM using this situation as a reason not to answer the questions.

6) These allegations involve a very small number of OXFAM staff and workers world-wide. It is a tragedy that so much hard work and commitment and so many people are now distressed and let down because of a tiny proportion of colleagues. Not to mention those on the receiving end of this behaviour. It’s easy to dismiss this (as was the case at the BBC, News of the World, Catholic Church and other organisations where things have gone wrong) as the actions of ‘a few bad people’. In my view, things like this are more likely to happen where these is a pervading sense of entitlement and there is evidence of that throughout the wider organisation and in other areas of the sector in general. Anytime where you have individuals, or in this case a charity, considering itself to be ‘a brand’ you are in dangerous territory in my opinion.

7) OXFAM should consider outsourcing its existing work to other charity partners and concentrating on getting its own house in order. They cannot and should not even attempt to ‘control’ or ‘manage’ this crisis. New procedures are all very well but they had existing procedures which clearly haven’t worked. It’s not for OXFAM to decide what happens next with this. They need to stop what they’re doing and fix things. That should probably begin with a meeting with the relevant authorities in Britain and Haiti. OXFAM does and has done some tremendous work but it has no divine right to exist. The world would carry on just fine without OXFAM and the leadership of the organisation need to understand that and take what steps are necessary to involve other organisations in their work, while they deal with this situation.

8) When someone resigns, taking full responsibility for what happened, why are they being thanked on their way out the door? Are they being thanked for their service, or thanked for taking responsibility? And if they’re being thanked for ‘taking’ responsibility, then with whom did the responsibility lie originally? It doesn’t automatically follow that the individual who ‘takes’ responsibility was ultimately responsible. OXFAM needs to provide some clarity around this.

2 Types Of Goal

This blogpost is also available as a podcast.

In his book ‘Winners And How They Succeed’, former government communications chief Alistair Campbell sets out the method he uses for getting what he wants.

His system is based around ‘Objective – Strategy – Tactics’ and it’s one we can all follow.

‘Objective’ is the main outcome, the goal, the thing you want.

For example, ‘to win the football match’, ‘to get a particular job’, ‘to reach a specific weight’.

The strategy is a very simple, broad equation, perhaps consisting of only 2 simple components but it’s important you don’t overlook this.

For example, in football, ‘keep possession and score more goals than the other side’.

For health and fitness, ‘eat less, exercise more’.

And then the tactics, under each element of the strategy could be ‘join the gym, stop having takeaways on Friday nights, walk to work’ and so on.

The tactics are likely to change from time to time but the strategy and the objective would largely be set.

This method allows you to see at a glance the big picture – the overall principle, how you’re going to get the result you want – as well as the individual elements, the tactics.. the work you do on the ground, some of which might work, some of which won’t and you can change things around but still operating within the same strategy.

2 football managers might have completely conflicting tactics but totally agree on strategy.

Most people miss out ‘strategy’ all together and fail to properly break down their objective into simple component parts. So they never properly understand what it’s going to take to achieve the goal. If you don’t get the strategy straight, the tactics become undisciplined, random ideas, and you can’t be sure they’re contributing to getting what you want.

Something else to keep in mind with goal setting is the fact that you can only control your own actions.

You go for a job and have no idea who the other candidates are and what they’re doing. You can’t be sure the recruiter hasn’t already decided on a favourite. Winning a football match becomes tougher if your best player gets injured in the first 5 minutes, a perfectly good goal is disallowed or someone on the opposing team cheats.

A good tactician would be able to adapt of course but it still might not be enough.

So we should have a mixture of outcome goals and process goals, to allow for the fact while doing the right things can help achieve the outcome we want, we can never be certain and doing all the right things but missing the target should still count as success on some level.

It’s easy to think about this with sport so we’ll look at that first.

My goal this year is to swim 100 metres freestyle in under 1 minute 5 seconds. Last year’s goal was under 1 minute 10. I hit that and my best time now stands at 1 minute 7.6.

So 1 minute 5 is my outcome goal.

The processes around that are my healthy eating and training regime.

So I’ll attend training a minimum of 3 times a week.
I’ll take part in at least 4 competitions this year.
I’ll be in bed, with the lights out, ready to sleep by 11pm each week night.
I’ll spend one hour a week doing yoga to increase my flexibility.

And so on.

In Alistair Campbell’s model these would be tactics.

But they’re also good examples of ‘process goals’.

And the idea is that if I follow the correct process, I give myself credit even if I miss the goal. These things SHOULD help me get what I want, but they might not. I could get injured. Or have a bad start in the race. If that was the case, I might make ‘spend 10 minutes practicing starts at the end of every training session’ a new process or tactic.

I’m not sure what you think about how best to reward ourselves when we hit a process goal. Is it just a warm glow of satisfaction, a pat on the back? Or do you go and buy yourself something you like? Which could become expensive, is it a slippery slope to reward yourself with chocolate for following a healthy eating programme? What do you do? It doesn’t need to be much and it’ll vary for everyone but some sort of recognition is important.

It becomes harder when we look at business. Or relationships.

But again, breaking things down into a small number of principles, and then perhaps a half dozen or so processes is the key.

So, the objective, or outcome goal is a profit figure. The strategy would be ‘spend less, earn more’ and the tactics and processes could be ‘sign 1 new client a month’, ‘attend business networking every week’, ‘include a picture with every Facebook post’, ‘file my expenses claim once a month and be sure not to miss anything out’.

People sometimes set goals and then sneer at the idea of writing them down.

They think it’s some kind of weak or desperate move to keep them motivated and they worry about this ‘goal’ taking over their lives. It’s not like that. The idea of writing things down and keeping it accessible is so that you can see at a glance what works and what doesn’t and change things that aren’t working or are no longer needed.Think of it like a map. It’s a way of making sure the little things you do every day are continuing to take you exactly where you want to go.

As you set out on this new year, it might be that where you want to go changes too. And that’s fine. Maybe you don’t know where you want to go. That’s fine too – why not set a goal – just pick anything – something you’d like to achieve before January is out. Not a big thing, just a simple, personal, everyday thing.

Articulate it, break it down to a simple 2 part equation and then develop a variety of tactics to support that. Write it down and try it and evaluate and tweak it as you go along. If the system works, think bigger and go through it again for bigger things you want.

Despite what some of the self help gurus might tell you, the universe couldn’t care less whether it ‘works for you’ or not.

But you can work for you.

And you can start right now.

I hope 2018 is a happy, healthy and successful one for you.

Julia Michaels And Authenticity In Writing

So much of what I do has its roots in writing.

Even the words that come out my mouth often begin being typed on a screen or scribbled on a page.

Some of the writers are most admire are songwriters. People like the amazing Shelly Peiken, who’s book ‘Confessions Of A Series Songwriter‘ I highly recommend.

And there’s also a lot of inspiration I take from Julia Michaels who has an absolute mastery over the current pop hits you’ll hear on the radio and on the hottest streaming playlists of the moment.

Julia wrote Justin Bieber’s ‘Friends’ and the lyrics have a lesson for all of us who seek to become more authentic in our writing.

When you’re taught to write, you’re taught to develop a wide vocabulary, to avoid repeating the same word, to try to find an alternative. To edit and polish your writing. But that’s not how people speak. And when people try to apply those rules to writing quotes or speeches, or even on social media which much more lends itself to writing the way we speak, you end up with something that looks fake and over engineered.

In ‘Friends’, the song takes the point of view of an individual on the phone to a former partner. Calling, supposedly to see how their mother is, but with a very transparent ulterior motive.

And so Michaels writes, in the pre chorus:

‘ Know we didn’t end this so good
But you know we had something so good’

Note the repetition of ‘so good’ which many writing purists would consider clumsy and repetitive.

And then again in the chorus itself:

‘Can we still be friends?
Doesn’t have to end.
And if it ends…can we be friends?’

More repetition..couldn’t she think of a better final line?

But that’s how conversations go. That’s how people actually speak and that’s why Julia Michaels is having so much success right now. The fact Justin Bieber is having the hit with this is no co-incidence either – the audience this track is pitched at values authenticity far more than it values slick songwriting. They genuinely believe that Bieber could phone a girl up and say those words over the phone to her. You don’t care about vocabulary or rules when you’re in an emotional exchange like that.

It for the audience, it all builds up the notion of Justin Bieber being real in a world where so many are fake.

Client Focus: BG Family Law

Here they are, the team at our latest client BG Family Law.

They’re based in Hamilton and Blantyre and operate across Family Law, Estates and Conveyancing and more.

There’s a wealth of experience in the firm and a real commitment to customer care, recognising that many of their clients come to them at a time of significant stress and difficulty.

Emma and I are delighted to be working with them on their social media channels, digital marketing strategy and mainstream media profile.

Visit their website if you need any legal advice in the Lanarkshire area.


Local Radio For Paisley

The first job I had was with Paisley’s local radio station in the late 1990s.

It no longer exists but I’m a firm believer that the return of such a channel would be good for the town and surrounding area, especially in today’s modern media environment and with all the possibilities that entails.

It’s disappointing that once again what appeared to me to be credible bids for community radio licences have not been successful in OFCOM’s latest round of community radio licence awards. I wasn’t involved in any of them but I had hoped one would have been successful. It has not at the time of writing (15/12/17) although it does appear that neither has been wholly rejected – they just have not been awarded in this latest round.

I’m not particularly a believer in the community radio route and it’s for that reason I’ve never been involved in any of the bids. I would be more in favour of a purely commercial operation and this of course carries with it far greater risk and barriers to entry which is why I haven’t been involved in that either!

The fact it that while various radio and media professionals see the value in a broadcast channel for the town, the general population does not and the business community would find it difficult to give its financial backing at least until the station had a proven track record of success.

And so my position is simply this: I’d like to see a dedicated radio station return to Paisley and Renfrewshire. I have no interest in directly becoming involved in any community licence bids but wish those that do well and would be happy to discuss or provide support on an informal basis to anyone who asks. I’m not in a position just now to commit to the pursuit of a full-time licence and in any event, have the view that for a Paisley radio station to have any chance of succeeding on air, it would first have to gain significant traction on-line.

That’s why we have created ‘Renfrewshire Weekend Radio‘ – a ‘holding’ station which would allow anyone with an interest to broadcast via the internet (and me when I can find the time) and which would immediately close upon the successful licence award to any group bringing a radio channel back to the area.

Anyone with an interest in working with us – follow the link and get in touch.

UPDATED to make clear that the 2017 community radio bids have not been flatly rejected by OFCOM but merely have not been awarded in this latest round. The same bids could, in theory, be awarded at a later date.

The End Of Net Neutrality

Sounds boring and likely won’t mean any change in the short term.

But what could it mean?

The worst case scenario would be a huge content creator joining forces with a huge infrastructure provider and the new entity exerting controls over who sees what and when and what they pay.

You might call it an ‘unequal internet’ where some benefit from blazing fast access and others crawl along. Where more people ‘can’t afford’ to get online and where certain content is prioritised over others. Where there’s a stream and a tariff for gamers and another for box set viewers and maybe even another for those with particular political views.

In the late 1980s content provider World Wrestling Federation told cable companies they wouldn’t be able to show its ‘Royal Rumble’ pay per view if they chose to show its rival WCW’s event ‘Starrcade’. In theory, the end of net neutrality would allow a broadband provider to do similar, for example, not to allow its customer’s access to Netflix because they were working in co-operation with Disney.

At the moment, everyone involved insists they’d never go down this road. And they’d be foolish to because the public wouldn’t like it and it would cost these companies. But what happened yesterday means that there’s no law preventing them doing so.

And it speaks volumes about a government’s attitude towards the internet.

What is it? A basic right? A utility? Or a commodity?

Now we know.

New Skills PR Professionals Might Consider

I’m not saying you need all of these, or even any of them, but I’m often asked ‘what’s next’ and what smart public relations and communications professionals can do to make themselves more useful to their organisations. Here are a few suggestions.

1) Learn To Code
It’s not enough to have a static message anymore, you should consider building interactive digital assets. They can seriously enhance a story and make it much harder to ignore you. Check for an example. It’s as simple as data exported from an EXCEL spreadsheet, displayed in an engaging way and with a nice interface for users to input their data. It’s not the most advanced piece of code you’ll ever encounter but that’s the point – if an organisation had that ability within its communications team there would be no need to outsource to a software developer. A bit of ‘coding awareness’, your confidence would grow and you’d see opportunities to take drab press releases and turn them into multimedia attractions. There was a time when a skill such as ‘typing’ was the domain of a few specialists, now it’s something we all expect to do. I think the same will be true of coding in a few years.

2) Become A Drone Pilot
You know video is where it’s at and think of the possibilities if you were able to take to the skies to get your footage! Hiring in outside help is expensive and means everything has to be planned in advance. You’re beholden to someone else’s availability. So why not learn? A decent drone can be yours for around £1,000, follow the safety guidelines and acceptable use and you can build up some practice, before undergoing more formal training and then seeking certification for commercial drone flying. This has the potential to turn into a nice sideline business of your own.

3) Analyse Data
It amazes me the number of organisations where communications and PR teams DON’T have access to website data analytics. You don’t need to know Google Analytics inside out but I think everyone in our field should have a grasp of the basics. Where do website visitors come from, which social media channel is the most effective in terms of your business objectives (not just the number of visitors) what do they do on your site, the pages that work, and those that don’t. That allows you to make informed decisions about what to change and goes some of the way to solving the issue around ‘how do we measure the success of our PR work?’. Get to grips with Google analytics ‘Goals’ and set up filters to keep the data pure. Lots of free training is available for this and it’s nowhere near as daunting as it looks.

4) Leadership
When I started my career, the accountants always ended up running the place. That’s starting to change. Smart organisations recognise the communications revolution and the need to adapt. That means a change in culture – becoming more transparent, sorting out their ethics and starting to engage their staff. That’s where you come in. There’s an opportunity for communications professionals to get right to the top. Are leaders born or bred? I’ll leave that to the experts but I know what a 12 week course of management training did for my confidence back in 2003 – even if you don’t end up an MD or CEO it’ll take you forward in other ways. Better still if you can get your employer to pay for the training. Get in the bosses’s face when they’re talking about succession planning.

5) Presenting
If you can back up confident presentation skills with substance you’re in a great position. Sometimes you’ll be pitching to external clients and stakeholders, sometimes it’s your own team or another department…the fact is standing up and talking – explaining, convincing, persuading – is becoming a daily part of our working lives. I meet people all the time who tell me they’re either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at presenting as though somehow once you’ve done it a few times your abilities are set in stone. It’s not like that at all. Take control, get some practice and feedback and start presenting with confidence. Want to improve your presentation skills – you can.

6) IT/Computer Literacy Skills
My Dad is amazing at DIY. And I’m abysmal. I watched him doing some work in my house once and realised that where I’d always thought he was blessed with some sort of incredible skill and talent in this area he actually isn’t. Instead, he’s got a solid understanding, a tonne of experience but above all an attitude that when he encounters a new problem, he’ll find a way round it. He expects to be able to solve the problem. Sometimes it involves trial and error. Sometimes he’ll look up the answer in a book or on the internet. Sometimes he’ll ask someone more experienced and skilled than himself. There’s no innate gift. Whereas when I try a DIY job I lose my mind at the slightest issue and never recover. It’s the same for some people with IT and computer literacy. What do you do if you can’t hear yourself on Skype? How do you set up Dropbox to allow someone else to send you files? Do you know how to turn on ‘screen mirroring’ on your laptop? There’s a myriad of things of course and I’m not for a minute suggesting you go behind the IT department’s back and start changing settings without permission. Instead, get a grip on the basics and an understanding of their world. There are some things you WON’T be able to do and if your IT colleagues recognise you as someone that’s made an effort to understand them, it’ll hold you in good stead. And being able to quickly use your phone and laptop to their full potential will make your life much easier and you’ll be more effective and confident in your role.

7) Practice Mindfulness
Us humans were never designed to live in towns and cities let alone carry mobile phones around with us all day. Work, rest and play have all changed dramatically in the last few years and since the economic collapse of 2008 we’ve all probably felt an increase in pressure to some degree. It’s probably not going away anytime soon and the one constant is change. It seems that change is constantly relentless and some pretty smart people are predicting even greater ‘digital disruption’ lies ahead, impacting every business and organisation significantly in the next few years. Driverless cars anyone?! We’ve all got a responsibility to look after our health and wellbeing and it’s great that some of the stigma around mental health is now being overcome. It improves our lives and makes us more effective – why wouldn’t you want to embrace it! ‘Mindfulness’ is the current term that we hear a lot but you might find value in particular books, yoga, meditation, or where appropriate some form of counselling. Think about your mental health but also learn to understand everyone else you meet will have their own world view and their own way of working. There are some great practitioners working in this field – Connie McLaughlin for example is doing some outstanding work with people to lead teams.




The Thing About The Extra Mile

The thing about ‘going the extra mile’ is that it’s rarely as far as a mile.

More often, it’s merely a little bit extra. A thought, a helping hand, a smile. A good habit.

Richer Sounds in Glasgow paid for my Dad’s parking.

The Lego Store in Leicester Square gave me an extra toy for my sons because I’d had a longer wait in the queue.

The car dealership vacuumed the inside of my car when they serviced it.

These things make a big difference and earn you a reputation as someone who ‘goes the extra mile’.

But go there often enough and it stops being ‘the extra mile’ and starts being ‘just the way we do things’.

And that makes you better. Maybe even unique.

You could decide right now to do 11 reps on every exercise instead of 10. What would that look like in your business?

Theresa May 2017 Conservative Party Conference Speech

As she reflects on her keynote party conference speech, Prime Minister Theresa May might console herself with the thought that none of what went wrong was actually her fault.

A prankster using her moment for his own ends, a nasty cough, and some letters falling off the wall…she can’t be blamed for any of that, can she?

Actually, I think she can. And here’s why.

Because while she’s giving that speech, she’s disrespecting the audience in the room and trying to manipulate everyone else.

That prankster was only able to hand her a P45 because the space at the front of the stage is given over to media and the team who handle the accreditation didn’t bother checking who he was. Laura Kuenssberg, Buzzfeed, a Blue Peter Press Packer – come on in, we’ll treat you like shit the rest of the time but if you do a piece on this big speech we’ll treat you like royalty. The party – which she leads – bends over backwards to accommodate anyone who might possibly give them any amount of the coverage they crave. And the Tories aren’t alone in this. For as long as I can remember major political party conference speeches have been far less about what goes on in the room and much more about the headlines it all generates on the 10 o’clock news. And so just like Calvin Harris with a pineapple on his head on XFactor, this ‘event’ has become a magnet for anyone who fancies trying to upstage the host.

Those letters on the wall aren’t there for the benefit of the members who attend. They look ridiculous from the back of the room. They exist because May and her team know that their message is so weak and disjointed that they have to hammer it home so that newspapers running pictures of her speaking and TV news channels showing short clips have no choice but to run pictures of her and the key slogan or strap line they want to highlight side by side. What does that say about the quality of her speech – that the key point has to be rammed home in big letters above her head. It makes Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ look inspired. At least he had to remember his line and deliver it with conviction.

And that cough..well, by her own spokesperson’s admission, that’s the risk you take when you give 19 interviews in a couple of days. She should have treated her audience with more respect and saved herself, but no, she wanted the media headlines, she wanted the coverage, she wanted to control the story and manipulate the wider audience to try and save her job.

I can just imagine her. ‘This is my chance to get my message across!’ – you’re leader of the damn country, you should be getting your message across every day of your life. And if you’re not, it’s going to take more than a conference speech to sort things out.

Theresa May deserves all she gets. And Corbyn, Sturgeon, Blair, Brown, Hague, Salmond, Davidson and the rest should count themselves lucky it didn’t happen to them. They’ve all been guilty of using what should be speeches to their party members to compensate for the fact that a chunk of the general population doesn’t like them/understand them/listen to them…whatever.

The first rule of any presentation, any speech…any situation where you have an audience and a message is respect the audience. And for a conference speech, that means the audience right there, in the room.

Put them first and focus on them. Don’t bother about letting all the media in at the front. Forget about the branding and strap lines. Spare us the bright lights and pounding music. Concentrate on the message.

And for God’s sake…demonstrate some leadership.