Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The power of personal endorsement

A slightly unusual post today –though I hope with a vague professional purpose.

Yesterday was pretty memorable, though it began ordinarily enough. Having spent last week at home waiting (unsuccessfully) for the supposedly imminent arrival of our second child, I returned to work, albeit with an intentionally light diary. Ahead of evening drinks for financial PR agencies hosted at College Hill, I had lunch with the effervescent Don Clark, until recently Sales Director at Vocus. Our discussion of his big plans for the future was proceeding nicely until I received the message that my son’s entry into the world was imminent.

Cue urgent phone calls to arrive a speedy return home. Cue also extraordinary enthusiasm from the restaurant staff. With a Mediterranean flourish, they produced a bottle of spirits while I waited for a cab, and toasts began –at the restaurant’s expense.

Result? A nervous ten-minutes made much less tense, and an extremely satisfied customer. Result also, this ringing endorsement –About Thyme is an excellent restaurant, with good, unfussy food, a decent wine list, and –most of all- friendly and welcoming staff. It’s also a great place to have lunch if you’re wife’s about to give birth! Professional point? Your customers can be great builders of your corporate reputation. I certainly intend singing About Thyme’s praises.

And for those of you who might be interested to know, I made it home in time (just) to see the birth of my 10lb 0oz son!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

In defence of public sector comms

With public expenditure clearly set to be the defining issue of the next general election, it now seems inevitable that there must be a serious debate about the use of taxpayers’ money to fund comms work. And by that, I mean not just public sector bodies using agencies, but also public sector bodies directly employing comms professionals too.

There are simple –and simplistic- headlines to be won by comms’ bashing, and the Mail does seem to reserve a page a day for just that. But it is surely ironic that the very mouthpieces which call for public service reform, and for organisations to talk better with the public they serve, are so ready to bash the people who would help to deliver that reform and facilitate that dialogue.

Equally, with all the main political parties talking of the need for tax rises and spending cuts, the days of public largesse are obviously over, and each area of public expenditure needs to justify itself.

That’s why we need a serious debate about this. One that doesn’t try to frame the choice as being between nurses and spin doctors; police on the beat and fat cats.

To that end, we’ve challenged the Tax Payers’ Alliance to debate just this issue. Much of their language on it’s plain stupid. And their ‘research’ wouldn’t stand up as a school project, let alone as the basis on which to legislate.

I’m delighted to say they’ve accepted, and the English Speaking Union have kindly agreed to play host. It’s on November 16th, in the evening. We’ll circulate details in due course. But it promises to be an interesting night, and I’m determined to bring a bit of sanity to this debate. Hopefully the TPA’s own comms people will publicise it too –ah, the irony....