Help the reader and help yourself

No-one needs to tell you that the reader is the most important person in the world to a publication.

Conventionally, the journalist is responsible for maintaining this focus. Sadly, a great deal of journalism these days, especially online, is 'churnalism' in which barely disguised press releases take the place of reader-centric writing.

There is another way. It probably won't win me many friends among my journalistic peers (although it could save their financial bacon) and that is to ask vendors themselves to write reader-focused and informative, non-selling, articles about their specialist subjects. In my case, the readers being focused on are those responsible for technology in law firms.

The trick is to have a good editor who will help the contributors to get it right – i.e. send it back with recommended changes, seek clarifications and corrections or simply give it a light polish. Having handled a couple of dozen pieces for LawTech magazine, I'm amazed how few had to go back for a rework.

Let's come back to the journalists and their 'financial bacon'. The document properties of one or two of the pieces revealed that they were ghost-written by freelance writers. If vendor staff are too busy to do the writing and publications are too strapped to pay decent rates, this represents a good 'halfway house' for a writer. They're not involved in writing 'puff' pieces, the vendor gets a mention and a web address in the magazine and the reader gets some solid information which contributes further to their understanding.

To add a little colour to what I've said above, here's my latest editorial from LawTech magazine. It also introduces Tom Foremski and his Every Company is a Media Company philosophy.

TNLTMayWhat a terrific bunch of people we have writing for us this month.They are all experts in their various fields and, despite the majority working for vendor organisations, they've all made a real effort to talk to you and address your needs. It's not easy for them; they must feel tempted to give their products and services a little mention in every paragraph. But they've resisted heroically. The result is a collection of articles, which we hope you find interesting and informative.

Yes, each is written by someone who knows his or her company better than any other, but show me someone in a senior position that doesn't have wider experience of the marketplace. Most bring a broader perspective, and it shows. You will find that some articles overlap others but these different points of view will all help to round out your own perspectives.

We are not here to guide you in a particular direction but we hope that by laying out these different viewpoints, article by article, issue by issue, that you are better placed to make your own tough decisions about which strategies to pursue and what sort of vendors you'd like to work with.

For me, it's a great honour and privilege to be able to take this fresh approach to publishing. No one who's been aware of changes in the media over the past fifteen years can fail to have noticed a rise in the "Every Company is a Media Company" sentiment. This phrase was first coined ten
years ago by Tom Foremski, a former journalist who left the Financial Times after 30 years to found the Silicon Valley Watcher blog. He's seen first hand how important it is for companies to share their knowledge, usually through their own online media. He has helped many companies achieve this by applying strong editorial standards to the process.

And this is where we come in. We're an independent publication with a strong editorial ethos that believes in giving the experts a chance to engage with a carefully selected audience. And that's you.

Thank you for reading LawTech magazine.

We have some great issues planned for the future. The feature themes for the coming year are detailed on the website. The backdrop of 'security' and 'cloud' will always be there, but if there's anything else you'd like us to cover, please drop me a line.

David Tebbutt
Editor – LawTech Magazine

 

 

Do what you love. Love what you do.

I’m a lucky person. Not only have I enjoyed almost all of my work, I’ve also had wonderful things drop into my lap out of the blue.

It happened in January this year. The circumstances were tragic. But the outcome has been brilliant. I was asked to help out with a magazine while the editor was in hospital. I went to meet the people and, the very day I turned up, the editor died. As I say, tragic circumstances but it meant they needed an editor; quickly. And there I was.

Because it was a quarterly magazine, it meant I could slip the effort in between other work. And thus began an unexpected lifting of my spirits as I settled, once again, into the editor’s chair. (It soon became clear that I’d be slipping my other work in between pauses in the editorial work, but that was okay too.)

I love everything I do – writing for magazines and businesses, training people (mainly in media skills), rummaging around the technical highways and byways of the computer world and the web. But, most of all, I just love putting magazines and minibooks together. To have something concrete in your hands, that you’ve shepherded through, is very satisfying. Dealing with loads of new people – contributors, vendors and PR folk mainly, is good fun. Even giving contributors guidance on rewrites is great when what comes back exceeds expectations. (I only had to do it twice, mind.)

I’ve been lucky to have worked with an excellent publisher – we collaborated amiably, which hasn’t always been the case in the past – and an excellent designer. All of our work was shared through the cloud, which meant we dropped stuff off for each other and picked it up as and when it suited us. It also meant we didn’t silt up each other’s mailboxes or get into those tedious email chains.

As soon as my first issue went to press, I re-started the moribund news blog. Of the hundreds of news items that waft my way each week, it’s actually hard to find more than two that are worth following up. Perhaps I have too many sources. (As ever, I used Yahoo! Pipes to help filter the RSS feeds and consolidate them. I’ve also been using InoReader as my feed reader, which has worked out well.)

My second issue is about to go off to the printers and the whole process has been astonishingly smooth. I’ve worked at least twice as hard as I planned to but – don’t tell the publisher – it doesn’t feel like work. It would make a fantastic hobby, except that I still have to earn a living.

Sometimes, life just delivers an opportunity to do what you love. And, if it happens, almost regardless of the money, seize the chance with both hands. The fulfilment and joy of loving what you do completely outweighs any financial considerations.

A treasure trove for writers and communicators?

A slightly belated Happy New Year to you all.

It occured to me that you might be interested in a lot of links that I’ve either created or found useful in my writing and training activities. The current list is on my main tebbo.com website.

In the videos – either two of around 20 minutes each, or two sets of eight mini-videos – Alison O’Leary (PR and coaching wizard) asks me pointed questions about business writing and handling traditional media. I answer from the heart and hopefully provide food for thought.

The other links are mainly to material that I’ve read that inspires me. Although, in one case, it irritated me at the same time.

There are no catches – I don’t ask for contact details or fire ads at you.

Enjoy.

Here’s an extract:

Writing links:

George Orwell, Why I write

Publisher, writer and poet, Felix Dennis, on Journalism or Churnalism? (PDF download)

(Felix died on June 22, 2014. A great loss, and a personal one too. My wife and I were lucky enough to spend nine days as Felix’s guests in his Mustique hideaway in early 2014. I blogged about his passing here.)

The Inverted Pyramid of writing from the Air Force Departmental Publishing Office (AFDPO)

 

Writing books:

Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark

Grammar & Style, by Michael Dummett

Essential English, by Harold Evans

Lost for Words, by John Humphrys. It’s a bit of a rant.

Writing that Works, by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson

 

Other useful links:

Inspiration from Tom Foremski – how every company is becoming a media company.

How to handle the media – an interactive reminder of how to handle journalists (and others)

YouTube videos (me and Alison O’Leary) on business writing and media skills

 

telescope or epocselet? Which way are you looking?

How often do you glaze over when someone enthuses about a product or service because you don’t “get it”?

They blast off without the faintest idea about your circumstances, your needs or your desires. Result, a baffled story-teller and a semi-comatose listener.

In extremis, it’s the religious zealots who knock on your door. But milder forms exist – the Facebook enthusiasts who are always trying to shove some dodgy philosophy down your throat – usually through pictures or video links. (Recommendation: ‘unfollow’ them – they stay in your friends list but you’re spared the distraction.)

AquaChartImageSadly, these zealots exist in business too. Some organisations are so wrapped up in their own inventions that all their publicity and promotional activities are inward-looking. Self-obsessed, if you like. And this goes for the company spokespeople too. Anyone who says ‘we’ more than ‘you’ is likely to be guilty of this.(By the way, you can get a chart of where you stand, by doing this quick assessment – it takes just a couple of minutes.)

Once you start putting your prospect first (in the same way that all good journalists put their readers first) your story will emerge as something your prospect wants to hear or read. Something that promises to, and will, deliver a desired value. This will lead them to your physical or digital door and, if you continue to play your cards right, you’ll have a new customer.

Common sense? Yes. But, in decades of dialogue with vendors of all kinds, I’ve discovered that many actually fail to make that bridge. They pay lip-service to the principle, but their words let them down. When consulting (often with Martin Banks and, more recently, with Dr. Bill Nichols), we’ve found ourselves using the term ‘looking through the wrong end of the telescope’ to describe this inward-looking approach.

We’ve even created a website called epocselet.com (that’s ‘telescope’ backwards) as an umbrella for our disparate but aligned services. Our focus is firmly on executive management and we’d be delighted to act as guides or sounding boards in the discovery, articulation and sharing of your stories. Use us as little or as much of us as you like.

The journalist’s mantra ‘know your audience’ can be applied equally in business. Change ‘audience’ to ‘prospect’ if you want, but the principle applies to anyone trying to influence anyone else, whether a prospect or an intermediary. If you’re in business, you may have multiple audiences but, at heart, you’re trying to move the same stories through to the ultimate audience, your prospect. You may be trying to influence internal staff, analysts, bloggers, journalists and the many social media cascades. In every case you need to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”, in order to refine the basic story to best effect.

Written baldly like that, it seems like common sense. But sometimes it’s hard to change your perspective without independent and objective help. It’s not my place to tell you where to go for this. Anyone intelligent who understands communication skills, your marketplace and who has no axe to grind will be able to help you.

But I have to mention that Bill, Martin and I – solo or in various permutations would be more than happy to help you if you’re interested. You’ll find more about us and our services at epocselet.com

 

25 years of clients: alive, eaten and dead

I’ve been training mainly IT companies for over 25 years, mostly in partnership with Martin Banks. I thought it might be interesting to find out where all these companies are now,

After a lot of digging, I found out that about 20 percent are more or less untraceable – either out of business or fragmented and buried deep in multiple owners. About half are still ‘themselves’ and the remainder are now part of other organisations.

Here are a couple of charts which might interest you:

ClientDestinies

 

The chart below shows which companies have been absorbing other clients.

ClientEaters

. If you want to find out more, ownership details and website links are on my website.

What Tebbo did next

Looking back at the past five years, it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve worked exceedingly hard on three major projects: Freeform Dynamics where, as an analyst, I became deeply involved in social, cloud and environmental aspects of ICT. Then Blue & Green Tomorrow, where I launched, edited and wrote all the news and many features in the print edition. Then 6Connex EMEA where I consulted (and still do) on all manner of things – mainly writing stuff but also getting roped into the technical side of things as well. As a virtual event company, 6Connex also has a strong environmental angle.

Following a particularly large project which almost gobbled me up, I find that I can rebalance my life somewhat. So I’m back to doing more writing – monthly in cio.co.uk, about individual CIOs and their sustainability efforts, and private commercial writing (B2B). I even run the odd writing skills workshop.

I’m also training in media skills either solo, with PR partners, or with Martin Banks, depending on what’s required. Clients are usually blue chip ICT clients but I’ve also worked with a chemical company, a charity, some engineering firms and a university.

No doubt things will unfold in interesting and unexpected ways. They usually do. If anything changes radically, I’ll let you know. You still won’t see many blog posts here in the short term, but I wouldn’t rule it out long term. At the moment, my editing and blogging urges are more than satisfied with The Right Thing To Do?.

So there we are, just in case you were wondering. If you’re not, I guess you wouldn’t have read this far.

 

The right thing to do?

Recent events have drawn me away from Teblog and I think they’re likely to keep me away. But I am involved in something much better.

First a bit of background: editing and writing much of the original paper version of Blue & Green Tomorrow gave me massive opportunities to write about the environment up to May last year; on the communication front, media skills training hit an unexpected peak in January; and, since June, I’ve spent at least half of my time with a company which hits every Tebbo hot button: communication, environment and IT.

The people I work with are great and we’ve created a neat website, demo and knowledgebase plus various social media presences. The company itself, 6Connex EMEA, is all about online events, content and collaboration, thus accelerating work and cutting the costs (financial, social and environmental) associated with travel.

But it gets better. Tracey (the boss) and I wanted to do something extra but non-commercial. Inspired by the work of the Lunar Society at the dawn of the industrial age, we wanted to get right-minded people to share their practical insights with each other and with anyone who cares about making the world a better place. (The motivation is similar to Blue & Green Tomorrow’s. The difference is that it goes way beyond environmental issues.)

We’ve had direct contributions from people like publishing mogul, poet and forest builder, Felix Dennis and green investment wizard Ben Goldsmith. We’ve covered some interesting TED videos – one on Gross National Happiness and another on why things will get better. We’ve also had people who are at the heart of change in educational systems and one who argues that growth and sustainability are incompatible.

 

Some pioneering contributors and featured presenters in The Right Thing To Do?

TRTTD folk

Top row: Euan Semple; Clive Longbottom; Ben Goldsmith; Ray Maguire.
Bottom row: Matt Ridley; Chip Conley; Felix Dennis; Salman Khan.

 

Just this week, social networking guru, Euan Semple, contributed a great post entitled “Bloggers are the rag and bone men of the information world.”

Everyone is giving their time and ideas for nothing. No-one puffs their business directly, although they can all share their credentials in their mini-bios. TRTTD exists for knowledge sharing and discussion which will provide a bedrock of thoughtful considerations for our collective future. Depending on individual circumstances, posts are either contributed, the product of an interview or are written up around an online video.

Curating TRTTD seems to me to be a much better cause than continuing with Teblog. I’ll keep it open for now, but expect most of my energies to be spent elsewhere. And, if you like the sound of “The Right Thing To Do?” why not come on over. It would be great to see you there. Here are the Website and Twitter links.