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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The tragic death of the journalist Marie Colvin in Homs may have a silver lining to it.

Journalism is under the cosh with Leverson and other enquiries. The work of this renowned foreign affairs reporter is a counterpoint to the shabby journalism that has been associated with the incestuous worlds of the tabloids, police and celebrities. The public is now reminded of the fine qualities and acceptable face of professional reporting.

Beyond that there is a bigger prize - the Middle East. Syria is in a log jam and as McCawber noted we are waiting for “something to turn up.”

The deaths of a French photo journalist and a high profile American reporter who was working for the British media brings the Syrian conflict into focus. They highlight the hands-off public position of China and Russia and the horrors of unbridled action by the Syrian government itself.

At a time when these parties may have been hoping for a world impotent to deal with this aspect of the Arab Spring, these deaths will have put the spotlight on them. The best tribute to these journalists is that this spotlighting is not wasted.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

3 top things to look for when choosing a professional CV writer.

A professional CV writer combines the skills of a speechwriter, copywriter and journalist. You need a way with words.

Applying for a job in these difficult times is a challenge. All the more reason to make sure that anyone who sharpens your CV, promotes you so that you stand out for the right reasons.

You can buys books by the shelf load about how to get a winning CV. Unfortunately, they tend to focus on format and content. Nothing is said about what you should be looking for in the CV writer.

A CV is a lot more than making an application. It is about influencing the dynamics of the interview, anticipating the questions that arise and the content of your replies. This applies to both public and private sector applications.

Professional CVs do not come cheap. You are paying for the services of a professional communicator. Your prize is enhanced career prospects and the rewards which go with it.

Top Tip Number One. – Meet the CV writer in the flesh.

Make sure you have a person-to-person interview with the CV writer. Give it at least half an hour. If s/he has not met you, how they can understand what you are about, your ambitions and motives? It is amazing how many CVs are created over the phone and with email attachments. You deserve better.

S/he needs to know your aspirations, history, personality and communication abilities. This encounter helps clarify your own thinking and highlight weaknesses and strengths. The interview helps the CV writer get a handle on your industry.

Top Tip Number Two. – Get the CV to shape the interview.

The prime role of the CV is get you an interview. Fail that and all bets are off.

Assuming you are called, the CV has a close secondary objective. It is to help shape the way the interview might go. A professional writer will drop little seeds in the CV so that it encourages the reader to ask a question on what has been said.

You can anticipate the question and shape answers accordingly. You are playing on your territory and there is home advantage.

The killer introductory question is “Talk for a couple of minutes about yourself.” Get this right and it can set the tone for the rest of the interview. Get it wrong and you are in a salvage operation.

Top Tip Number Three. – Make sure your fingerprints are all over the CV.

Each of us has a distinctive communication style whether it is choice of words, vocal delivery or body language. The danger of a stranger writing your CV is that it does not present an accurate picture of you the subject.

The final CV will be a winner if you and the writer have worked on it together. We are talking of several editions. Be careful with words attributed to you which have come from a word bank and are not part of your everyday language. You want to stand out with your personality and humanity coming through. Most important, you need to be able to talk to the CV with ease.

Wolverhampton City Centre 2050?

Our town centres – what are they are for?

Fast forward to 2050 and speculate on what a typical British town centre might look like.

You may have two scenarios. At worst an empty centre in search of a suburb. The Mary Portas Report will have been forgotten. We will have a landscape of charity stores, anything for £10 shops, pawn and betting outlets. The retail chains have gone. This is a feral landscape avoided by many fearful to enter. People visit once or twice a month. A business as usual model.

On the other hand a plausible alternative. There will be more housing for those living alone and who may have found house purchase difficult. Open space which was blighted and derelict has been turned back to recreational and ecological use. There will be more cultural attractions. Energy costs have become prohibitive and an ageing or indebted population finds public transport attractive. In spite of some inward investments, the recession may have been longer and deeper than anticipated – an opportunity for those without a job to start some niche-market enterprises. People visit regularly - it is an event to be enjoyed.

If this sounds fanciful, scan the results of a recent town centre 2012 survey by Local Data Company. Nearly a third of city centre shops are closed e.g. Stockport 30% and Wolverhampton 27.3% Sunderland, Stockton, Blackpool, Stoke, Nottingham, Walsall and Grimsby add to the tale of woe.

In the midst of a recession, it is tempting to see this as a short-term phenomenon. The reality is that we visit out-of-town centres or the Internet. City centres face a structural problem now. An acute short-term condition has turned chronic.

Coal, steel, textiles, shipbuilding and other industries withered away. The same processes of decline are now hitting the urbanscape. Even offices are on the wane. It has come as a shock and we flounder for solutions.

The town centre is being hollowed out. It is a doughnut. We need to start creating new paradigms for the centre. We need to rethink how town centre land is owned, rented and used. The renewal of commercial leases may see the exodus from the centre turn into a flood.

However much we improve parking, widening ring roads and improving public transport, the key question remains: what are people coming in for? Answer that one and the land use solutions can be framed. Currently, we seem to be addressing symptoms of decline rather that the causes.

Do we engage in cosmetic improvements to street furniture hoping to get over the short-term difficulty? To take a quote from Charles Dickens’ Mr McCawber are we placing our faith in “Something will turn up”?

The Local Data survey noted that southern towns i.e. Salisbury, Exeter and Cambridge do not seem to be having the same level of retail flight - single digit emptiness. The recession may be having less impact. It may also be that these semi-rural towns already have a centre more balanced to meet the changing patterns of shopping decline.

In medieval and industrial revolution times we had a pretty good idea of what town centres were for. We have not yet worked out their purpose in the 21st century.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wolverhampton Wanderers and the language of motivation.

A hero of mine is the Second World War General: George Patton. “Blood and Guts” was a larger than life character, controversial and with a tendency to upset people. He delivered results. He was a motivator. Check out the opening scene in the Hollywood film Patton to get a feel. In the World Cup, the Algerian manager took a motivational leaf from his book before the England match.

When things go wrong powerful and persuasive language to motivate others can be a game-changer.

You see this every week in the Premier Football League. Managers come under pressure to give an account of themselves. Media and fans are just waiting for those quotes. Managers must hate the process and cringe at the interrogation.

The pity is that the interviews are not as well prepared and delivered as they ought. What is reported lies in the memory long after the game has been forgotten.

A recent interview by the local Express and Star with the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy is a case in point. This was after the Villa match. Assuming the report was a fair representation of what was said, the reader was presented with this.

“I still feel we’ll get out of it, with whatever we’ve got and whatever we do, because I think we’ve got good players…. They keep going and they will get us out of it… There’s nothing more that could have gone wrong against Villa…. It has to turn because our lads worked dammed hard and they’re a great bunch…. We just need to play like we did on Saturday, but not give a penalty away, not get one sent off and not get one carried off…. I’ve signed everyone and there’s not one who would let me down intentionally…. They’ve all got a great work ethic. I believe in the same group of players and getting the best out of them, and that’s what myself and Terry Connor will carry on doing….. We might not have beaten Villa but if we get the level of performance we did on Saturday, that’s all I can ask. We’ve got more chance of winning if we play like that…. The way we played, not just against Villa, but against Arsenal, Bolton, Tottenham and Chelsea offers encouragement…. The biggest reason as to how I cope is that I don’t listen to the backdrop of what fans are saying….. I do not go around in a glass cabinet – I am fully aware of what is going on. If you listen to it, you would go off your head anyway. But I cannot question the performances at all….. I would not have done anything differently against Chelsea and Tottenham and I could not have done anything to make us any better….. I am not going to change anything – I’ve not got a magic wand.”

The cumulative impact of the words is a killer. Notice the high frequency of that magic word “Not”. “If”, “But” and “Can’t” add to the mood. These are killjoy words to close you down. Notice how the passive words are often the shortest.They are negative. Everyone involved is an observer hoping that something will turn up. In a difficult situation you can understand why they were uttered but they are not assertive.

Motivational language is about the right choice of words. It is about energy levels. It is about the creation of virtuous circles of optimism. Words are one part of the equation. Delivery and body language complete the threesome.

This professional sport spends millions on wages, fees, grounds and whatever. It seeks to buy instant success with the acquisition of a new player. What is needed is organic growth stemming from developing communication skills for motivation. Only then will physical, tactical and technical skills have a chance. This is a game where you have to use your voice and mind as well as the feet.