Browse Category: Brand Identity


Boris backs Vote Leave

Boris says OUT

London Mayor Boris Johnson joined Vote Leave and the OUT campaign today. Often foolishly written off as a blond airhead, this statement has depth and thought. I am not in a position to call anything or anybody intellectual – but this piece contains more intellect in the first paragraph than the all the US Republican Presidential candidate debates so far!

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Debate Prep for the Leaders Debate

Leaders Debate

At last the Great Debate or the Great Bore-a-thon is with us. Guy Bentley has a useful rundown in City AM on the format and the logistics for the night, who stands where, who speaks first etc.

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Attitude wins every time.

Marketing Graduate Tweet
Attitude and effort and sheer up-for-it-ness count. This morning I saw and retweeted a brilliant tweet that symbolises this perfectly.

Graduate jobs are scarce and there are more graduates than ever before. So thousands complain about not being able to find a job and some blame their unemployment on the shortage of jobs. This guy didn’t moan. He dressed up. Wrote a marketing message. Got up early. And stood where employers would flock past in droves.

The person who tweeted the picture said “Saw this guy at Waterloo getting approached by loads of businessmen. Hope he gets a great job.” I do too! He has attitude – the good type.

Rob Halfon MP was born with a moderate version of spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, and underwent several major operations as a child, causing osteoarthritis in his early thirties. He isn’t great at walking. Which is pretty rubbish if you are campaigning to become an MP in the UK where door knocking and shaking hands and meeting people is required and expected. So Rob drove every morning to a busy road in his constituency. He stood with his two crutches and held a sign that said Vote Conservative. Every day. In all weathers from 07:00 to 09:00 and again from 16:30 to 19:00.

The first few days he got abuse from cars driving by. Including a van with 3 guys in it who threw a water bomb at him and waved a giant inflatable “Up Yours” sign at him. ‎

After a couple of weeks some people started hooting at him and waving. He kept standing there every day. He was starting to feel a bit more positive. Then, during Week 5, the white water-bomb van with the three guys in it screeched to a halt in front of him and a big burly tattooed guy jumped out and ran over to him. Rob really didn’t know what to expect. The guy shook his hand and confessed to having been one of the guys who had hurled abuse, and a water bomb, at him in the first week that he stood by the side of the road. He said “I am sorry. If you want to be my MP that much and you are willing to stand there every day you must be alright. You have my vote mate – good on you!” Then he shook his hand, jumped back in his van and raced off to work. Rob won the election. He also intends to do exactly the same in the next election. And the one after that. He has the right attitude too.

My mother was incredibly supportive but she pushed me hard. At my studies and in my sport. I wasn’t a natural sportsman. I was a chubby kid at junior school and was bullied a lot. But I lived in a country where rugby was a religion and I lived for rugby at high school. But that wasn’t enough. All the other kids were faster and stronger than me. I had a brilliant coach called Bro Pritchard who pushed and encouraged us all. Like my mother he said “heart matters”. I started to run. I ran every day. I had to – just to be considered for the rugby team. I had to work at it to get fit and to stay fit. Even during the off-season I had to do serious laps and cross country runs while the skinny, fit cool kids were eating ice creams and burgers and mucking about. I did it because I wanted it. By the time I was 18, I was Captain of my Schools First XV and played for the provincial U20’s rugby and had played 3rds for a men’s club at the age of 17. I was part of the rugby world and played and practised with provincial and national players including my Club Captain John Morgan who played for Wales B at the same time as J.P.R. Williams. All that lonely running was worth it.

My father was Managing Partner of Ernest and Young in Zimbabwe. He said that he hired people based on how much they wanted that job with his company. Not any job or any company – his company.

Morals of this blogpost.

  1. If you want to hunt ducks – go where the ducks are.
  2. Be different – do what other people don’t do and can’t be bothered to do.
  3. Show you give a damn and you have a positive, can-do attitude and you will stand out!

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions. The process when we all lie to ourselves.

Making New Year Resolutions is when we all turn into politicians – making promises to ourselves that we firmly believe we will keep. Until the same time next year, or even in summer – or even earlier, when we realize that we haven’t come close. In which case, there is always next year! 🙂

Here is my take on some of the top New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Lose weight. My six pack has been in hiding since I was 18. Like everyone else in the UK, I want to lose weight. But as a superb friend told me recently “Everyone in the UK wants to lose weight! Get over yourself. Stay healthy, do more exercise, eat less and better – but don’t freak out about it!” Nothing to add really.
  2. Getting Organized. I am generally just happy I can find my desk. I need to know where the important stuff is and this year I need to bin stuff that clutter or confuse my head, my thinking, my work or my emotions. Keep it simple, Old Man!
  3. Spend More Time with Family. Hmmm. I spend 1-2 days every week with my aunt – which is cool. Will increase that or at least ensure that 1-2 becomes 2. On the other hand, like most people, I have some family I am quite happy to spend even less time with. Will work on that too. I have a bunch of amazing family and cousins – particularly in Ireland. Should definitely get over there more often this year to see them – seems I have only been there for funerals recently. Not good. I also need to spend more time with my friends in the UK and Germany!
  4. Spend Less, Save More. Well, that’s easily said. I guess what I am going to do is buy less but buy quality – whether it is food (see Lose weight!), clothes or stuff for the home or office. Oh, and I plan to work even harder for those who I like, who pay well and who pay punctually and work less for the rest.
  5. Enjoy Life. I plan on laughing much more, wearing suits far less often and getting out in the fresh air much more – far away from my multiple electronic bleeping, ringing things. They may all be Apple products but too much is too much.
  6. Getting/Staying Fit and Healthy. I have a plan. Which I have already started. Four or five days ago. An hour long walk with Buster every day. This may help my health – but it is GUARANTEED to rescue my sanity.
  7. Learn Something New, Fun and Exciting. This is a challenge. What to do? Apparently it takes 15 hours of practice to learn to ride a unicycle. Can I be asked? Should I learn another language? Or get a degree in something? I lived in Germany for a while. They have a great saying: – “As soon as you become a Master in something, you should become an Apprentice in something else.” I doubt I am a master of anything (apart from sleeping in) but it is a thought process that has merit. Do something new, visit new places, drive down roads you have’t seen before, take Buster for walks in new places.
  8. Fall in Love. Definitely NOT going anywhere near THERE on a public forum. Ever. 
  9. Quit Smoking. Done that last year. With some help. Going to keep on quitting, or not smoking, every day. Non-Smoker. Smug. 
  10. Help Others achieve Their Dreams. Well that is my day job. And I love it. Helping people tell their stories. Storytelling for business, politics or personal career development! Helping people get a new job or promotion or even getting their first job – mega! Or playing a role in winning political selections and elections. In 2012, my work even including playing a tiny role in helping a company buy a UK football club. I love what I do – and would do it even if I didn’t have a mortgage. But I do have a mortgage – so will continue loving what I do, a while longer! 😉

Public Speaking or Giving Presentations – 3 Things to Learn from Ant and Dec

What do Ant and Dec know about public speaking?

Why should anyone interested in improving their public speaking pay attention to Ant and Dec?

Let’s put this into context. Are they worth copying?

Ant & Dec got their first presenting (or public speaking) job nearly 20 years ago, in 1994. Since then, Ant & Dec have won the National Television Award for Best Entertainment Presenter(s) eleven (11) years running 2001 to 2012.

Eleven times! That is huge! Add to that a career of nearly 20 years either on a stage, on camera or speaking in public – and still being marketable in a very competitive field.

Although, like everyone, they have had failures and setbacks, they are still on our screens after a joint career of nearly 2 decades AND they enjoy significant and widespread popularity AND  are widely known by their first names.

There are very few, IF ANY, politicians or business leaders with the same levels of name recognition and popularity. So, they must be doing something right.

Public speaking is tough for most people. Some say that public speaking is as stressful as getting a divorce or moving house. It is true that very few people are any good at it. This is often because people focus on the words and forget the delivery. People who write speeches sweat and debate over every word and every phrase. This is true for both professional speechwriters and the pencil-chewing wreck who suddenly realises they have to actually stand up and give a speech or presentation. Minute for minute, more time is almost always spent on the words than on the delivery.

Of course, the words count – otherwise why speak? But unless your delivery DELIVERS the message (gettit?) to the audience, preferably undiluted and intact, you may as well have not stood up and opened your mouth. It is probably right to spend more time on the words than the delivery – but spending no time on the delivery is looking for trouble.

Your speech delivery or your presentation delivery DELIVERS your message.

Would you write an email or a letter and not send it? Or send one that doesn’t say what you mean?

OK – let me labour this point – what words you use and what you say is a fat lot of good if your delivery sucks.

A speech is supposed to move people, leave them with a message, or an emotion or even (Hey – you did your job!) a triggered action. But if the audience are wincing or uncomfortable during the speech – that is ALL that they will remember.

Speechwriters love great speakers – but great speakers are not born great. Great speakers practice and polish their delivery and they practice the speech. Speechwriters hate writing and putting blood and soul and guts into a speech that is delivered by someone who doesn’t practice the speech, care about the message or bother to pay attention to their delivery.

So what public speaking or presentation tips can we learn from Ant and Dec?

  1. They Have Fun.  Ant and Dec take the mick out of each other, the judges, the camera crews, the audience, anybody – they revel in the occasion and are visibly enjoying themselves. Either that or Ant & Dec are amazing actors. They SMILE! All the time. Just for a second – close your eyes and think of Ant and Dec – I bet your mental picture is of them smiling. They are comfortable with each other, comfortable in front of the camera and not overly or visibly concerned about getting everything right or saying the right words. Even when they make mistakes, lose their place, or generally are human, they ride the mistake and, ripping each other or themselves for doing it, get on with the gig. No awkward silence or uncomfortableness for the audience. Just fun.
  2. They are Informal and Real.  Authentic is the trendy word for this. It just means being human and being yourself. Which is why, unless you are an amazing actor – if you want to lead and/or represent people – a good place to start is actually liking people. Otherwise you are going to have act damn well for the rest of your professional or political life! Ant and Dec do this really well.
  3. They Connect with People as People. Ant and Dec connect with the contestants, the audiences, the camera, the judges and the audience. They take the time. They engage and smile and use different words and phrases when talking to people. There is none of the American retail Have a nice day plastic insincerity to their comments or how they interact with people.

A few politicians are similar in their outlook and approach. It is no surprise that they enjoy unusual and extra-ordinary popularity, at least in part, because of it.

Steve Norris, Boris and Bill Clinton are all liked by more people than people like their political party or their positions. They almost always appear to be having fun or at least enjoying the moment and are totally at ease on the stage. They all are relatively informal and often self-deprecating. They all connect with real people – as real people. They treat people as people and talk to them like normal people too. They are also happy to be themselves and their personality is allowed and encouraged. If only there were more political personalities like them.

NB. I have used one of the official pics from their official website – I hope they (and their management) will be ok with my using it!

Speech writer perspective – The different types of speeches and the characteristics of a good speech

Speech writer perspective – the different types of speeches and the characteristics of a good speech

There are three main ties of speech. Business speeches, political speeches and social speeches.

Professional speeches or Business Speeches include pitches and presentations, AGM speeches to stakeholders, fundraising speeches and select committee interviews and speeches.

Political speeches include getting selected speeches and getting elected speeches, constituency speeches, parliamentary speeches, special interest speeches such as Human Trafficking or Housing, factory or visit speeches and international speeches such as speeches to the United Nations and similar international organisations.

Social speeches are the most obvious – they include best man speeches, wedding speeches, funerals speeches, after dinner speeches, birthday speeches and speeches at your golf, sporting or social club.

Although as a speech writer I have helped thousands of people prepare for most own these types of speeches, my focus has always been on political speeches and business speeches.

But the same principles apply to all the different types of speeches and speechwriting – and so do the 10 elements of MessageCraft.

You can also tell a good speech from some basic key characteristics which I outline for you here.

Characteristics of a good speech:

  • Clearly, confidently and naturally delivered
  • Different and original – this is tricky – copy and paste speeches are just endorsement speeches
  • Delivered well and showing some clarity of thought
  • Made up of short words – and not many of them – long speeches are boring even when delivered by the William Hague’s of this world.
  • Memorable not because of what you say but because of what your speech makes your audience think about and how your speech makes your audience feel.


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