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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How ever do young people learn the skills of oratory and debate? A golden opportunity for Michael Gove and his White Paper.

So we have yet another Education Minister bringing forward a White Paper to reconfigure the educational structure of the country. Business and other employers know that it is hard going, to get the right home-grown people with the right skills at the right time. The desire of educated and articulate workers to enter the country is symptomatic of this.

Never have so many qualifications been awarded to so many and yet something is missing. It might be the inability of school leavers and college students to be at ease when using their voice confidently, presenting and holding a coherent conversation. It might have something to do with the recent finding that people in the UK, are spending in excess of 30 hours a week in front of some type of screen, and detached from those with whom they are communicating.

Michael Gove would serve students and society really well, if he were to put in place more curriculum opportunities for students to learn speaking skills. It would prepare young people for later times, when they have to deal with customer-care, start up a business, contribute to political activity or be a confident member of the community. It is about assertiveness and self-worth.

The prescient observations of Gertrude Stein in the early 20th century are more apt than ever: "Let us stop communicating with each other, so that we can have some conversation."

Lessons from Ashes to Ashes - future elections will be anarchic and fast-changing battlefields.

The Ashes to Ashes billboard spoof between the Tories and Labour at the last election, stood out as an oasis of quick-thinking and imagination in an otherwise drab and sterile media campaign. In the heat of battle, it did not get the deserved attention from media analysts.

Labour’s billboard attempt to build on Gene Hunt’s character with Cameron sitting on the Quattro and a strapline of “Don’t let him take Britain back to the 1980’s”, was neatly turned against them with a Tory reworking of the image: “Fire up the Quattro, it’s time for a change.”

Apart from that, the billboards became yesterday’s tool. Those adverts that did reach the hoardings were the scenes of “improvements” from local graffiti artists. This has ever been the case. The difference this time was that the enhancements got a later airing on Twitter, Facebook and the blogsphere. A national audience was reached. Copywriting was democratised. Central party straplines were ridiculed with wit and insights.

Future elections will be largely fought through the blackberry, apps, blog, text and mobile. Imaginative, concise, quick-thinking and memorable messages will be needed for local leaflets if they are used, SMS circulation or Twittered in 140 characters. This can be a golden age for campaigners to generate witty, subversive, pithy and tight messages which tap into the voters’ psyche. Parties need to put in place, the infrastructure to harness the possibilities of a virtual reality campaign.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When everyone belongs to Linkedin, Ecademy and their ilk, everyone belongs to nothing.

It is the business ritual after attending a fair or convention to scan the delegate list and peruse cards exchanged. Invitations to expand your connections follow. Said sites expand exponentially, more struts to the network are completed and the mesh gets tighter. This really is Grand Designs! So what?

It might seem heresy for this blog post to deliver a critique of a sister platform, but the question must be posed: how much business actually emerges from this accumulation of lists? What is the connection list for and how will I use it?

Is the expansion of one’s list merely an ego trip in sending out messages to others that you are an important person? Is your list just the outcome of the hoovering-up of names just like new trawling techniques for fishing? Is one collecting car numbers?

The warning signs come when you have established such a long list that you stop looking at it. Things get worse when you begin to realise that added connections are people who are already on the lists that you already know. The network becomes incestuous and parochial. When everyone knows the same everyone knows nothing.

The question arises: what is the connection list for? Is it a contingency list for when you are made redundant, an easy access mailing list or just a gizmo diary to beat the Filofax?

Pursuing the fishing metaphor further, nets need to be checked, mended and used in the right way. Your electronic business network is no different. The best conversations at a social gathering come from a diversity of interesting people bringing value to the table. Think upon the Linkedin network in the same way. Are your members likely to do business with each other? Do they complement or duplicate their skills? Are they decision-makers with their hands on the levers of power? Are they people with potential or status which is waning? Will your list develop a reputation that others will want to join without cajoling from you?

Others make judgements about you from the company you keep, and the virtual reality variant is no different. It used to be said that networking was about who you know. Actually, it is who knows you that counts and your connection strategy can shape this.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is David Camerons’s decision to have a personal photographer the first signs of a rather different communication battle leading to the next election?

David Cameron’s decision to appoint a personal photographer – albeit salaried as a civil servant, has a little more behind it than accusations of vanity and cost.

The last election is receding rapidly in the memory and 2015 beckons. The last election was a game-changer with televised debates. What innovations will we have next time around?

Hustings, leaflets through the letterbox, canvassing, party broadcasts and big hoardings have reached their sell-by date. One may question the efficacy of databases and telephone canvassing. Not much left really. Four years is a long way off, and social media, apps and the blogosphere may have developed a presence and maturity beyond their current infancy.

People absorb information in different ways. Reading and listening can be turgid media, especially if the message is tedious to start with. Could it be that the photographer will herald the start of a pictorial narrative which can be taken to the public for the next election?. The success of OK and Hello stems not just from the subject matter, but also the balance between the photos and words. An easy scan which is just what politicians seek to get their message across.

You need a pictorial bank and you need to start now. You need photos with a message and context beyond record shots of the great and the good. Good photos might bring to life ethereal concepts such as The Big Society. It will be interesting to see how the Photoshopped-photographs are drip-fed through to the media. What, when and to whom? We can’t believe that they are just going into a photo archive for posterity and to show the family. This seemingly innocuous move from Cameron may have more behind it than meets the eye. Watch this space?