How win free media for your business – Part THREE (Press Releases)

In the THIRD post in this series on ‘how to win free media for your business’, we look at press releases.

Earlier we looked at the importance of thinking like the media, and there were also 15 pieces of advice to bear in mind when contacting the media.

A well written and target media release can be worth its weight in gold in terms of the free publicity and promotion it can provide for your business brand.

Be aware though that journalists may receive hundreds of media releases a week by email, so it’s important your message follows a recognisable structure and is easy to read (layout easy and clear with no typos and grammatical errors).

When I worked at Business News – a relatively small media business in the grand scheme of things – we received 1000 press releases a week, and very few (less than 10) probably ended up being a story.

Now, in my role running Startup News – an even smaller, niche publisher – I can tell you we receive several press releases a day, perhaps 50 a week, and only 2 or 3 become stories.

That’s because many of them are pretty rudimentary (this person has been appointed here or done that deal there) or are not targetted at the publication in mind (for example, Startup News only publishes stories on WA startups, so there’s no point sending us a press release about a Melbourne tech business with no connection to WA).

Faced with these odds, your media release needs to get to the point quickly, and have some degree of urgency.

The best ones will leave the impression that the media outlet needs to READ THIS NOW without resorting to click baity techniques like actually putting ‘READ ME NOW’ in the heading or subject line of course (!).

It’s fine line between appear authentic and having something to say without coming across as desperate.

Generally, an effective press release will have several elements to it:

  1. Inverted Pyramid – the most important information is at the top, in the headline, and first paragraph with supporting detail below. This will also be on the subject line of the email.
  2. First Impressions matter – most journos and editors do not read beyond the title (or the email’s subject line) and the first paragraph before they have decided to publish or not. It needs to be newsworthy. What’s new and interesting for their audience?
  3. Send by email – the universally accepted method of reaching media. The email itself should be short (no more than 2 paras with the main gist of the story and who is available for interviews and photos). The press release and photos (or links to photos) are an attachment to the email, in word format, not pdf, so the text can be copied and pasted. Ideally, the media could simply lift your release and publish it as is, or with minimal changes (except perhaps to make it even better.)
  4. Title your release ‘FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE’ in block capitals.
  5. An attention-grabbing HEADLINE then follows, with the BODY of the press release and CONTACT & ABOUT ‘XYZ Pty Ltd’ on the company at the bottom.
  6. Include QUOTATIONS from someone knowledgeable and authoritative (e.g. the CEO). It might be why this novel product is going to be useful to the industry.
  7. Clearly mark the end of the release with ‘ENDS’.
  8. Make the release no more than one page. Sentences should be no longer than 25 words. Every sentence starts a new paragraph. Make it as SHORT as possible to get the story across.

Here’s an example of a recent press release sent to Startup News…

PR1

Structure of a well laid out media release

Notice how the various elements of the release are clear and it has made it easy for the media to follow. This release has followed good practice to the letter, and it was no surprise that Startup News duly published the article, almost exactly as per the release. The main photo had also been supplied…

PR2

The resultant article mirrors the original release, almost word for word, including the headline and opening para.

What was then interesting was in follow up social media posting, there was acknowledgement of the article, from the person mentioned, and his friends, so the information reached an even broader audience…

PR3

Flow on effects of social media add to the reach.

That’s how to do it.

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How win free media for your business – Part TWO

In the first post, we set the scene. Media is a tough business and you have to put yourself in their shoes if you are going to understand how to approach them.

Below, there are 15 pieces of advice, that will help you win a nice steady stream of free media attention, which will strengthen your brand with your current and prospective clients, staff and investors…

Most media organisations like to post positive stories – not all journalists are looking for an axe to grind, but some are, so stay away from them.

There are some easy things you can do to increase the chances of your business being covered in a positive light, consistently…

  1. Have a MEDIA page on your website – here you will post your latest press releases, published news stories, clear links to people (or the person) inside your organisation that deals with media enquiries, and a library of logos, photos and images (in various media-friendly versions). Have press kits, backgrounders and case stories on your business. A good example of this is here: http://www.boundlss.com/press/ (simple, small AI business) or https://about.canva.com/press/ (large, well known business).
  2. Be AVAILABLE! Make yourself available to be interviewed over the phone or in person. Respond to media interviews, and act in a professional manner. (Treat journalists like clients, not pests!)
  3. Learn how to produce a well written professional MEDIA RELEASE. (The 3rd post in this series will deal with this.)
  4. Grab ATTENTION! There is a lot of clutter and too much information around, especially in media organisations under time pressure and with thin staffing levels. Cut through the clutter with a great headline and first paragraph. If you are talking about something very topical (war on waste, blockchain, AI, data analytics … ) then use that as your way in. Piggyback on existing stories that are already running well in media.
  5. Be INTERESTING! What’s unusual about your business or what you are doing? Give stats and trends. Give context.
  6. TEACH! Give something away in your story, something that people can take away and learn from. Something you have learned. Give in order to receive.
  7. Try to be real and HUMAN, and not overly rehearsed. You can be too media-trained. Think about what you are saying, but talk in a normal conversational way. Think about some nice snippy sound bites that the media could use and quote you on.
  8. Do your RESEARCH. Find out which journalists and online influencers write about your area, and get to know them. Reach out to them. Buy them a coffee. Show them what you are doing. Discover what stories they like to write about, their interests, and then feed them relevant stories over time. Listen to them. Thank them after the piece is published. Tweet the resultant article out mentioning their twitter handle.
  9. CUSTOMISE your message to the relevant media; in that way you can use the same basic story with more than one media outlet. Sometimes. But be careful, if you hock the exact same story around to all media, don’t be surprised if no one picks it up. Each media has their own audience, so you can change the message accordingly. Or sprinkle stories around different media over time (better).
  10. Become an AUTHORITY in your specialist area. Once you have had some media coverage, you may find the media comes to you for your thoughts. Great! This is free media you don’t even have to arrange beforehand, and it’s wonderful branding.
  11. FOLLOW UP! Just like the best sales people do. Don’t just smash out some press releases and hope events will take their course. They invariably won’t. You need to ring up and ask the journalist ‘Are you going to use the story? Would you like to arrange a time for a photo and interview?’ Get on the phone. Don’t hide behind a keyboard and just spam journos with emails. (The basic rule is: if you already have a good relationship with someone, email; if you don’t yet, pick up the phone.)
  12. Be REALISTIC. You may think you have the best thing since sliced bread, but the journo may not know you at all, or appreciate what you have developed. Building a media profile can take months and years. Not everything works. But if you persist, listen and learn, it will happen. Don’t be put off if you don’t get any media attention for a while.
  13. Use SOCIAL MEDIA. Be savvy. Pithy headlines that can be tweeted. If they are a play on words they may be shared well beyond your own networks. Think creatively. Follow journos on social media, twitter and LinkedIn especially. Remember to copy them in if the publish you.
  14. MULTIMEDIA. Can you do a 60 second video? A 10 second meme? Learning how to do this can make your message multiply many-fold.
  15. SHARE the coverage far and wide. When you do get covered, make sure you share this with all your networks. Print the article and frame it, display it in your boardroom or entry foyer for all to see (current and potential staff, clients, media, board members and investors…).

As in all things, persistence and patience wins.

Don’t do the above, and very little (if anything) will come to you. So don’t whinge that the media is ignoring if you do little yourself to make it happen.

The THIRD POST in this series will deal with Press Releases.

How to win free media for your business – Part ONE

These days we are faced with a wide range of media channels. More than ever before. It’s a minefield. But there are ways to cut through…

It’s a tough old business

Firstly, perception switch.

Think of things from the media’s point of view. Media has become a very tough business over the past decade or so, having undergone immense disruption and change. Many media organisations are running very thin indeed with very few resources.  Barely clinging on in fact. No one has been immune – everyone from the local newspaper, magazine, TV station, radio channels and every other form of media has been struggling for a shrinking pie.

If you want to get your message out via the media, you have to be far more subtle than merely bashing out a press release to the local paper (although that can still work, to a degree, if done correctly).

Some business owners are (understandably) a bit shy or nervous about gaining media attention, but if you research and then select the most appropriate journalists, control the interaction between yourselves and the media channel, and have a clear goal in mind, things need not be problematical.

It is fairly easy these days to gain positive media coverage if you know a few ‘tricks of the trade’. The ideal is to have a drip feed of positive stories about your business over time. This all adds to your brand and name recognition, which can be helpful in all kinds of ways.

Having an editorial about your business has about four times the value than a paid for promotional ad of the same size.

Remember, the media is not there to give you free promotion though.

Most of their business models rely on them gaining a significant readership in their local area or niche, then charging advertisers for publishing promotional messages to that audience.

The media understands all too well that businesses would love to circumvent their advertising models and get free exposure in their online and offline media, and at their events.

Therefore, be aware that your message should not be too ‘self-promotional’. It should be informational and targeted at the specific audience of the media in question.
Put yourself in their shoes.

Before you approach any media, make sure you have answered these questions:

  • Why is your story of interest to their readers?
  • What is the ‘angle’?
  • Is the story given exclusively to this media source, or is it for general release?
  • Why is this particular story relevant to this particular media source?
  • How can you help the media organisation towards their own goals?

Treat journalists like clients

With a little research, you can find out which writers, journalists and online influencers are relevant in each local media source (the daily newspaper, the business journal, the local free paper, various online news sites and blogs…)

Think about your local media contacts as if they are clients of yours. Contact them, take them out for a coffee or lunch. Send them a personally written Christmas card each year (yes, really.)

Ask them what kinds of stories they like to write about, and then, when the time is right, feed them this story. Don’t overdo it, but have enough stories and writers to keep you in the lime light over time.

A steady drip of positive news stories does wonders for your company’s credibility, brand awareness and positioning.

Plus your staff, shareholders, board, management team and clients will love it too. You will also find that this reputation will precede you, so that it will easier to attract higher quality staff, clients and investors as well.

It’s all ‘hidden’ to some degree, but it adds up and it is real.

Imagine someone (a potential client or employee or investor) researching your business online. What will they fund? If they discover a good deal of positive news stories written by independent media, this will only enhance your brand in their eyes.

Part Two in this series gives you 15 pieces of advice for approaching the media.

The Coffee Meeting Pitch Mistake

I was speaking with an American CEO a few years ago, just after he had been in Perth a few months.

“What’s the biggest difference between doing business in the States and here?” I asked him.

“You guys sure love your coffee meetings,” he remarked, “Everyone just rings me up or emails and says ‘Let’s catch up for coffee!’ ‘Can we do coffee?’ ‘We should do a coffee!’

“If I said ‘yes’ to all those requests, I’d be able to sky uphill!”

Yep, that’s how we roll in the great state of WA. The coffee is great, the weather is lovely, and there are plenty of good coffee shops around. A $4.50 mug of skinny flat white can last an hour, and in that time you can get a lot of business done.

The Coffee Pitch

When I assess a likely startup or innovative project that comes to me for some grant funding, I like to start with a coffee meeting.

For starters, it’s a neutral venue, so is less stressful for either party. Stress is not conducive to learning the best about a particular idea or person. You want both sides to relax, and be themselves.

I also have a very fine coffee shop just a 3 minute walk from my house, which overlooks a lake. Very nice, very convenient.

If things go well, and there is something worth considering, then the next meeting may very well be at the company’s own office. But for now, we’re in a coffee shop near where they work, or by the lake.

So we sit down, order our drinks, and start a conversation.

This is where I get to observe the entrepreneur(s) in question. How well can they articulate their idea? How well can they explain their solution, and give me a potted history of their own experience to date. I want to hear about their team, and what they have built, and the market they are attacking.

But most of all, I want to hear one thing coming through – I want to hear them tell me all about the big, global problem their potential customers have, and why those customers will pay them to solve it.

Often, this is not what I hear about.

Too often, I am feature bashed with whatever gizmo they have built. They have fallen into the simplest and most obvious trap there is – falling in love with their product.

Of course you have to build a product or service for your customers. This is the thing they are going to buy right? It has to be wonderful, disruptive, novel with superb UI.

Sure, but building the product is the easy bit.

Selling it is going to be the hardest thing. And you will only make a sale if you are solving a big, hairy problem for your potential customers.

So, the first thing I want to hear from the coffee meeting, after the initial small talk is, what huge problem have they uncovered, that no one else has, and explain why customers will pay to have it solved, and solved by them.

Forget the product for now. As you take it to market, new information will arise and they will have to make product changes anyway. If they are wedded to the product, they will be less likely to change it. So don’t tell me how great it is, and all its features. It will change. It will have to.

Tell me about the customer problem. Tell me about the customers. Who are they? Why do they have this problem? Why will they want you to solve it for them? Why will they choose your solution? How are you going to reach your customers? Why will it be YOU that solves this, and not someone else? How many of them are there?

If you are pitching, over coffee or on stage or in a boardroom, START with the problem.  First slide. First sentence.

Spend most time on this, and the rest of your pitch will flow naturally.

Because only if the potential investor or government grantor believes there is a real deep customer problem will they believe there is someone who might pay to have it solved. And only if customers pay will you have revenue, and only if you have revenue will you have a business.

The most important skill? Perception switch.

You’re rushing to a city meeting. You hate being late. The traffic lining up to enter the freeway this morning is particularly heavy, and cars are inching their way, preserving their position, as you all shuffle forwards.

At a traffic light, on red, you all stop. To your left side is a petrol station, from which some people are trying to exit and join the queue cityward or cross our lane to travel in the other direction. You pull up allowing plenty of space in front for the line of cars to cross over your two lanes or to move in front. The car on your inside lane decides to jump forward and claim its position ahead, lest anyone get in front, presumably. This actually gets the car no closer in time, as the light is still on red. All it does is make it harder for the line of cars trying to get out of the garage. Some of them manage to sneak around carefully, and then out past you to the other side, and away. A few minutes later, you are on green, and you all move forward together.

After traversing the city and finding the last available nearby car park spot, you realise why it’s still free – two tradie vans on each side of the spot have parked near or over the white line, leaving a sliver of space for your car.

‘Can I get my car in there?‘ you ponder, as you size it up. ‘If I don’t take this one, I’ll be late for my meeting.‘ So you try very carefully to squeeze in, and make it. Getting out of the car is hard. The driver door just about opens enough to extricate yourself, and as you rush to the ticketing machine you glance back and wonder if it was such a good idea taking that spot in the first place.

‘Will one of those vans scratch my car getting out? What if they leave and then someone else comes along and presumes I’m the guilty party in the way I parked?’

The sun is shining off the grey ticket machine window making it really hard to read the instructions. You see that it’s $4/hour, and the meeting is going to be 2 hours. The maximum for the day is $13, so you flick the time forward to the end of the meeting, plus 10 minutes or so, and the reading shows $21. This does not make sense, the maximum should be $13. ‘Agh well‘, you think, ‘No time to argue with a machine’. You tap the credit card, get out of there and up to the meeting. You make it just in time. Next time, leave earlier!

A few minutes into the meeting you realise you must have paid til 10.40pm at night, not morning, and that’s probably why you’ve overpaid. In a rush, and with the sun glare, you’d not noticed the PM on the display. And anyway, you made the meeting on time. Next time, breathe.

The meeting is now in full swing. 15 minutes in, the doors open and a latecomer enters. With a mumbled apology and sympathetic smiles around the room, they sit down, and the meeting continues. A few people have laptops open, but can be seen reading the agenda or relevant papers on them. Our latecomer fires up their laptop, and with cursory acknowledgement of the meeting itself and those speaking, begins to tap loudly on the keyboard. Why the tapping? Surely they are not just replying to emails or scanning social media. This same person continues to interject, talk at every opportunity, too long in most cases, and certainly too often. When they are not talking, they are tapping away loudly. It’s as if they are the only important person in the room, and only their time is valuable.

Towards the end of the meeting, in which 20 or so are in attendance, this person has probably spoken for about 40% of total airtime. They are oblivious to the chair who is trying to give everyone a turn, or the few with their fingers up looking to talk next. The latecomer butts in whenever they like ignoring the hints and quiet reprimands over their ever growing answers. Everyone else is too nice or self controlled to behave like this, and endures it. In a 2-hour meeting, each person speaks once, or maybe twice. You know who has spoken about 20 times.

The meeting ends, and you escape back to your car and a busy day of catch up. The car is unscathed. You had paid til 10.40pm after all. ‘Stupid boy‘, you think. Smiling ruefully you drive away, amazed at some peoples’ lack of self awareness, and inability to put themselves into the shoes of others.

How to deal with bullying

BULLY

The repeated aggressive actions designed to belittle, humiliate or exclude is the act of bullying. Whether it’s in the school playground, online, at work or in the board room, there are four groups involved in bullying. They are present in all cases, and if the bullying behaviour is to stop, you have to deal with all four.

Before I get onto them, let me clearly explain what bullying is, and is not. One off acts of aggression are not necessarily acts of bullying. Bullying is the repeated picking on someone, or some group of people, over time. Nasty, incessant and continual. It is done to put down the victim, who the bully (and their acolytes) are there to dominate. It is usually for some totally unfair reason, be it someone who is slightly ‘overweight’ or has red hair, something the victim cannot control. At the root of the bullying behaviour is a power play, with the distinct desire of the bully being to put the victim down, and to make the bully (feel) superior. It is highly likely the bully is themselves acting out an insecurity issue, or has been the subject of repeated violence before. It is learned behaviour.

Anyone who has been bullied knows the horrible sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach whenever the bully or their supporters are around. React, lash out or cry and the victim is laughed at, punched, pushed over, physically or verbally. Complain to the powers that be, and retribution can follow. It can involve exclusion, it can be online (sending photos around social media, mocking someone on Instagram.)

I came across bullying at school, both as a student and as a teacher. When I was on teacher training I researched this area, and found some great work from Denmark which clearly laid out how to deal with bullying instances. Before I get to this, let me outline what does not work.

What does not work

  1. Ignore it – “they just want a reaction” ~ understandably the victim might be to ignore what is going on, in the hope it simply goes away. The bully and their mates laugh, and see the victim as an easy target. It usually continues.
  2. Fight back – “Man up!” ~ Not only does this ignore the fact that 70% of school bullies are female, fighting back can get you into trouble, and lowers the victim to the bully’s level. Settling things through violence is precisely NOT the way to deal with this. In any case, if the bully thought you’d beat them in a fight, they would not have picked on you to start with.
  3. Punish the bully (only) ~ complaining to the teacher or an adult is the first thing a victim must do, but if that authority figure then simply metes out retribution to the bully only (thinking this will solve it), the bully could turn on the victim and worsen the situation. If it’s one word against another, with parents involved, what is the teacher to do? Detentions might be a badge of honour for the bully and their mates.
  4. Laugh it off ~ can work in some cases, if you are strong enough to laugh in the face of the bully and their supporters and get away with it. Chances are, this will not work, unless you can really sustain some very good scripting (see below).

The Four Groups 

Bullying needs 4 things:

  1. A bully
  2. A victim
  3. A group of bully supporters (the acolytes)
  4. Everyone else does nothing (the silent majority)

To adequately deal with a break out of bullying behaviour, you need do counsel all four.

The bully needs to be isolated and talked to – why are they doing this? What is the problem? How do they think the victim feels? Is it right or wrong? Are they big enough to stop it? They might be acting out an insecurity. They may be suffering at home. They may have modelled this behaviour from others. Can they learn from this?

The victim also needs counselling. What signals are they giving off to the bully and their supporters? What can they do about the situation? What friends/assistance do they have? They may be submissive individuals. If you provide some ‘strengthening’ advice for the victim, they might be able to grow. “You’ve got a large nose”. “True, it is a bit big isn’t it?!”. “You’re an idiot.” “You think so – why’s that?”

The other (often ignored) group are those that egg on the bully. They are secretly glad the bully is not picking on them, and are usually scared of the bully themselves. They might not like the aggression, but fall into line through weakness. The bully, being manipulative, might end up getting them into trouble as well. This group needs talking with. Why are they doing this? Do they want it to end? This group can be the quickest to defeat bullying. Take away the crowd the bully is acting up to, and the major benefit for the bully evaporates.

The final group is also often forgotten in all this. Bad things happen only because good people allow them to continue. Everyone knows what is going on. While this group are not the bullies’ mates and not actively encouraging the behaviour, their silence and inaction allows it to continue. In fact, it’s a necessary precondition. If this group confronted the bully and their supporters, the bullying would cease. If they befriended the victim, they would out number the bully. The power balance would shift.

I witnessed some bad cases of bullying in schools. For each case, I tried to isolate the four groups and spoke with each of them. It took time. I engaged each group in finding a solution. They all knew I knew what was going on. After a week or so, the behaviour had completely gone. The victim had some good friends who looked out for him. He grew as a person. The victim was not that successful at school, and needed some better outlets. The acolytes felt a bit sheepish, as did the silent majority (where most of the victim’s new friends came from).

What sickens me about bullying is the total unfairness of it, and the deep hurt it can cause. It is every person’s basic human right NOT to be bullied, and to be able to go about their business without this kind of sickening antagonism. Some become so isolated, so hurt and unhappy they feel they do not want to go on. Youth suicide is a real issue. It’s dreadful. It is preventable.

Moving out into the world we see grown ups who act as bullies. They shout and stamp and think this is going to get them through. They may have large physical presences, and use this to get their way in business and in life. One even uses classic bully techniques to run for President. What is common to all bullies is a deep-seated insecurity. They are cowards. If the majority rise up and call them on it, they lash out, but in the end they are trumped.

A failure to communicate

Martin Luther King

No one’s listening anymore. Not for long anyway, as in, not for more than a few seconds. In this twitter era of short concentration spans, communication is boiled down to 3 word phrases and little else. You get passing attention. There’s just so much ‘stuff’ going on, flying by on newsfeeds and instachatter.

Recent elections around the world show this trend is only becoming stronger. UK politicians, with right on their side (130 vice chancellors from ALL 130 UK universities backed ‘Remain’), failed to convince more than half the voting public to stay in the EU. Trump’s rise is similar, in that his support, and those of Brexit, is mainly made up of older people and/or lower educated, working class whites. The new economy has done them no favours, it would appear, and there’s an underlying fear and confusion about foreigners, immigration, disruption and terrorism. Why couldn’t the EU do a better job of explaining the benefits of its club to its 2nd largest member? Why couldn’t the two main UK political parties?

In the Australian election, the longest campaign for decades failed to grasp people’s interest for long, so each side resorted to 3 word phrases (Jobs and Growth vs Putting People First) and towards the end even those were (if you forgive the pun) shortened: Save Medicare. In the absence of attention, nothing succeeds like fear mongering, so the Libs went with ‘security’ (due to the uncertainties of brexit, busts and boats) and Labor went with Medicare. Which do you fear most people – losing your job or paying more for your GP?

The result? a brexit buyer’s remorse in the UK (‘bregret’ they are calling it), a hung parliament in Australia and the possibility of President Trump. Australian voters could now get both of the fears realised – an uncertain economy, with more redundancies due to less investment and activity AND paying more for health services due to an ageing population and ballooning costs.

Meanwhile the US election will drag on for another 4 months. Either way, Trump wins – the Presidency or major personal brand inflation. I have a feeling he’d plump for the latter, such is his ego.

So what’s going on? No doubt, fear mongering is behind most of these results (it’s a raw emotion and everyone from the sleazy salesperson right up to the pollie draws on this), but it’s also a massive failure of communication.

Perhaps the greatest skill of the leader is to communicate their vision and bring people along with them. Obama could do it, perhaps the greatest practitioner of the set piece speech since Reagan, Martin Luther King  and JFK. Roosevelt could do it. So too Churchill and Lincoln.  Of course, you need more than the ability to deliver a great speech, but without it, everything can be nought. It’s a necessary, but not sufficient condition of leadership. Neither John Howard nor Menzies were great orators, but they were OK at it, and led for over a decade. Kim Beazley was particularly good at it, but never became PM.

Obama showed, in this instant snapchat world, how you can reach hearts and minds. He may have disappointed many with his results since, but he showed you can be articulate and sensible while being rousing and passionate. He struck the right tone, and was (in himself) a fantastic story. And yes, the best orators are also the best story tellers. Clinton (Bill) could do it, Hillary, less so. But she may yet prove to be a sensible choice for President. Not a great campaigner perhaps, but given the choice between a great campaigner and a great President, I know who I’d choose. Often to get the one, you need the other. She’ll have a tough time as President unless she can convince the country, congress and the Senate to come along with her. But she won’t be President unless she can expose Trump for who he is, and put forward her own positive agenda with clarity, while overcoming peoples’ natural aversion to her ‘untrustworthy’ image. It’s all very mucky really, on both sides. And yes, it has come to this. Don’t expect ‘debate’ (if that is what it is) to improve anytime soon.

Many people waking up in Australia today will again bemoan the lack of leadership, and within it the lack of ability to communicate a strong vision and bring more than 40% of the country along with them. On either side. The two main parties again failed to win more than 80% of the total votes cast. Weird and wacky minor ‘parties’ (people really) have been elected and will hold the balance of power, perhaps in both houses. We see the return of Hanson (Australia’s Trump) once more.

No one says communicating your ideas is easy, but it’s critical. Without it, what are you achieving anyway?

Set creative content free

Messy desk creative mind

Let us consider the desk of a music teacher. It’s a mess. Scraps of paper. Bits of old instruments. Manuscripts. Old tour programmes. Scrunched up notepad. Yesterday’s lunch remains. A half drunk cup of coffee. A lunky gonk. Some chewed pencils.

A Music teacher’s desk is the desk of a creative mind. It’s a buzz, a whirl, managed maelstrom. But put that same teacher in front of the school orchestra, and somehow magic can happen.

Imagine John Lennon’s mind, Mozart’s, Steve Jobs’.

Imagine what they must have been like to live with. Read Walter Isaacson’s authorised bio of Jobs and you don’t need to imagine anything – he was a pain in the proverbial. Maddening at times, brilliant at others.

Yet he looked at things millions had looked at before and saw how to think different. Looked what he created.  Not once, but twice at Apple, and also at Pixar. The Mac would have been enough for most people. But the out of nowhere he releases the iPod, 1000 songs in your pocket and single handedly saves the entire music industry.

What right did a computer company have in making music playing machines? And before you think “agh, but he controlled creative content, he did not set it free”, he actually did the complete opposite. He set us all free to buy creative content, for $1.29 or $2.19 from iTunes, because he knew that creating a new way to release the content did not mean no one pays for it.

It was FREE in terms of freely available (we can all, now on a whim, download any song to our device in seconds, which was just not possible a few years earlier or when you or I were growing up), but not free in terms of payment.

It was an elegant technological solution to a massive problem (something all startups should look to emulate). He set the content free, and billions of downloads and dollars followed.

Not finished there, Jobs then created the iphone in 2007 and ipad in 2010. What was he doing with phones? Thanks to Jobs, my phone is now my camera, my notepad and my diary. And a hundred other things.

Tablets had been a disaster for Microsoft in the 1980s. Yet whoosh – a mass of new creative content results in apps and the App Store. A whole new industry was created from thin air. And it revolutionised how we consume content. Much of it is (yes literally) free to consume.

Creatives can be a pain to work with, but without them.. you just get more of the same. If you want routine, order, then have control and carry on as before. If you want to create, set it free. Let others co-create, collaborate and fly.

I was the economics teacher. I was ordered. I was on time. I got good results. I dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, and it worked.

When I went into business, thank goodness I did not do it alone. I met a crazy Steve Jobs’ type on the UWA MBA and it was his idea to set up the world’s first map-based property search web site, aussiehome.com, right here in Perth, way back in 1999. Nick was (and still is) a crazy guy, part genius, part brilliant, part rude, blunt…. We were ying and yang, it worked.

To think the new, means not saying ‘cos we’ve always done it that way’. When we ran aussiehome, we banned this saying. People learnt quite quickly that ‘but we’ve always done it that way’ was NEVER the answer, to ANY question. EVER!

We had ideas some mornings that went live that afternoon. I have since worked in other environments and the simple act of changing one web page was so controlled that nothing happened … for years.

Whatsapp, Snapchat… have little revenues, yet have been set free and are now each worth billions. They have 500m and 150m active monthly users respectively by setting their content free. YouTube, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Linkedin… have all been set up with free content, available to all, everywhere. That does not mean they do not earn money – Facebook earned $18bn in revenue last year, $3.5bn profit. Google revenue $74bn, $5bn net profit & 57,000 employees.

All are pioneering new 21st century biz models.

So, come on everyone, let’s free our better creative internal angels.

Start a blog. Learn to tweet. Take up a musical instrument. Write a book.

You’ll never feel as free as when you are feeling free and creative, doing things that are new and exciting, pushing the envelope.

Oh, and by the way, please feel free to tweet this content for free…  🙂

 

Photo credit: What we talk about messy desks blog

Why your LinkedIN profile needs a good photo

LinkedIN pix

I was lazily scrolling through LinkedIN the other day and got to that bit where people who you may know are served up to you as in some professional speed dating site (not that I know what that looks like). You know, the rows and rows of people who are linked to people you are linked to, hence LinkedIN’s clever little algorithm thinks they might make good connections for you.

As I scrolled down, I noticed that less than half had a proper photo – a neat, professional-looking head and shoulders shot taken with a neutral background that clearly shows the person concerned. About a quarter had no photo at all (what are they hiding?), just that grey shadow image that LinkedIN defaults to if someone hasn’t even bothered to upload a picture of themselves. About another quarter had photos from the beach, or the logo of their company, or a cartoon, kids pictures, bad selfie, a tiny photo, squished photo, blurry photo, a studio (I am not making this up), a picture of 5 people (this is not Facebook!)… you get the picture (or not, as they case may be).

So I was wondering what these people were playing at. I assume this was done through either laziness (they’ve not got around to getting a proper photo done), or they did not know how to take or upload a photo, or they genuinely thought the logo was the done thing, or the beach shot was ‘kewl’. Now, I’m not saying I’m some expert, but if I’m looking to make a new connection (or recognise an old one) I go straight to the face. I think we all do. Human nature.

To me, no clear photo means you are either trying to hide something or do not know how to network online or have nefarious intent (like spamming, or monotonous self promotion). Either way, I’m moving on.

In my frustration, I posted this to my LinkedIN status:

I don’t understand people on LinkedIN who do not have a photo of themselves in their profile… (or worse, a bad one).

It would appear I am not alone. Here are some of the comments I received …

  1. Matt Edwards Matt Edwards

    Some of us don’t have much to work with Charlie 🙂

  2. Danny Grillo Danny Grillo

    Serious? – Pole Dancing?

  3. Lyn Hawkins Lyn Hawkins

    Matthew Wallis take note. It’s not just me who thinks this way…

  4. Matthew Wallis Matthew Wallis

    thanks Lyn Hawkins! Duly noted 🙂

  5. Marisse de Wet Marisse de Wet

    Or that view your profile anonymously … Really..?!?

  6. Rob Haynes Rob Haynes

    Or have out of date contact details, or no contact details at all…….

  7. Cameron Gurr Cameron Gurr

    No contact details are better than out of date ones. You can always hit someone up through the messaging service. But bad photos…

  8. Peter Taliangis Peter Taliangis

    Yes Charlie Gunningham as you know it is the first tip in my Linkedin presentations – Good Photo – want to see you face – want it to match the person I meet when I see you in “Your Job” – Dont want to see a logo, ball photo, wedding photo, night club photo, photo with more than one person in it, selfie taken at the beach in your bikini etc etc Sevgi Erogul, Matt Edwards, Danny Grillo, Lyn Hawkins, Matthew Wallis, Marisse de Wet, Rod Haynes, Cameron Gurr 🙂

  9. Warren Hinchliffe Warren Hinchliffe

    I agree completely re photos, no logos, cartoons or poor quality holiday or boozy party iPhone snaps. I have seen some shockers and have occasionally sent people a message that it is not in their best interest. Get someone to take it for you, well lit, well focused AND well dressed. If you can’t get a friend or rellie to take it, get a professional. Even one from a shopping centre booth.

Notice 9 out of the 10 have nice profile photos, except in one case, who was called out on it, and saw the error of their way!

So, dear LinkedIN wannabe connection, get a proper photo done. First impressions count you know, and usually last.

Pic Credit: examples taken from Andrew McCarthy.com

The genius of David Letterman

Letterman Show on Broadway

I’ve been a David Letterman fan since I first saw his shows in the late 1980s. I loved the irreverent send-ups, self deprecating humour, the sharp quick wit. It was New Yorker wise cracking, stand up delivered with a huge smile. It was fresh. David was having as much fun as everyone else.

In January 2010, I had a week in New York at a tech conference, and one of the things I had on my list apart from the Empire State, State of Liberty and pastrami on rye was a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman, filmed at the iconic Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, just a few blocks up from Time Square. So a few hours after touching down and making it to my hotel, I went to walk off some of the jetlag and found my self outside the theatre, and noticed people walking inside (it was a dark wintry Sunday evening, so I was amazed to see the doors open). There were people with clipboards ushering people in, so I walked in and was quickly told that if I wanted to see a taping, there would be two shows tomorrow, one at 2pm and another at 4pm. They asked me a couple of easy questions about the show, and said they’d leave a message at my hotel if I was on the list. By the time I got back to the hotel, a message was there. ‘Turn up tomorrow at 1pm’, which I did. Again, they asked me some questions about the show, and seeing I was a bit keen, told me to go to queue A inside the theatre. There were about 30 others there, and once there were about 50, we were told we had been chosen as we “looked nice” and were “big fans” so were going to be in the front rows. About 30 minutes of what I can only describe as “whipping us up into a frenzy” ensued where we were told to laugh and applaud at everything David says, but no calling out or taking photos.

Ed Sullivan theatre

Into the theatre we went and down to the front seats, I was in the second row left by the aisle. The set was as you’d expect, with people milling about, and then a local warm up comedian came on to get us all in the spirit of things, then they played us the famous 1996 Taco Bell bit, and finally the band came on, and played 3 or 4 songs. By this stage the whole theatre was full and clapping along, and finally, about 2 minutes before filming, out walked Dave himself, took one quick question, and as the theme music was started (all music and effects were played live) he ran off and we were into it.

As it was, the show went for 60 minutes as if in real time. During the ad breaks Dave would wander off to the side to talk through something with the producer. It all flowed like clockwork, perfect every time, first time. Well, the gang had done the show over 5000 times up to that point (and over 6000 times in all after Dave retired the show this week). There was Paul Shaffer leading the band, which included Tom “Bones” Malone (of Blues Brother’s fame). At the time Letterman rival Jay Leno had left the Today Show about 6 months earlier and Conan O’Brien (who’d started his career as a writer on Letterman’s Late Show) had taken over, but Conan had been sacked that day, and Leno was set to return. Dave (who everyone had expected to get the Today Show from Johnny Carson back in 1993) nonchalantly walked out to begin his monologue with “Agh well, looks like I didn’t get the Today Show again!”, with a pretend annoyance that turned into his signature beaming tooth-gap smile. It was an incredible experience and an amazing start to my week in New York.

Letterman’s late night show ran for 32 years (he’d had a morning show before that for a few years before switching to late night) and after Leno was given the Today Show, he regularly beat Leno in the ratings for years. While Leno was all smarmy establishment and slick one liners, Letterman was the edgy risk-taker. You were either a Leno person or Letterman. I was Letterman. Leno finally retired (again) a few years later, and Letterman, having gone past his good mate Carson’s 31 year record a couple of years ago, and aged 68 decided this was the moment to go. Everyone else in late night was in their 30s and using hash tags. His first guest on Late Night Bill Murray was there on his last show, as were all living Presidents, Foo Fighters and a cavalcade of stars who had guested many times for one last Top Ten list. Dave had survived major heart surgery (his Dad died of a heart attack in his 50s), blackmail, a stalker and 4 decades in the industry. There was not much more to do, except spend time with his wife and Harry his son. In the end, as he said farewell, “family is the most important thing.”

Letterman mugI sit and look at my Late Show mug on my desk every day, and smile. Thanks Dave. You’re a legend. 12 Emmys (more than any other chat show host), 53 nominations (more than anyone), producer of prime time shows, a real entrepreneur and raconteur, paid $20 million a year to entertain us (his $14m starting salary at CBS was 3 times that of Leno).

I reckon Dave had the last laugh.

Happy retirement.

P.S. Last Weds, Conan O’Brien, in an act of selfless admiration, even implored his own audience to turn over and watch Dave’s last show “You have to watch Dave; we will never see his like again.”