The Last Post?

I have a feeling that Teblog has come to the end of its useful life. Postings are sporadic and run the danger of being ‘promotional pieces’, which is really not what blogs should be about.

The reasons are many but in my heart I’ve always wanted to deliver insights or information of some value. I’m finding that, this year in particular, my energies have been going elsewhere, especially into Blue & Green Tomorrow in the latter half. Plus media skills training workshops.

This focus (plus family, which I rarely write about) means I owe most of my thinking to my customers. If I have thoughts or insights into my training clients’ businesses then I share them with the client, not with the outside world. And, with the magazine (and, soon, its companion website, blog and newsletter) I tend to think for its benefit, rather than surface my thinking here.

If I have any profound, general-purpose, insights then you can bet that I’m not the first to have had them and I’ll simply be adding to the noise. If I find someone who’s articulated them well, I am happy to link to them through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.* If, by some miracle, I think they’re original, I’ll Tweet them.

So, after six years of blogging (the first few months were on another platform) I’m seriously thinking of making this the last post.

For anyone who’s been kind enough to add me to their RSS feeds, I’d like to thank you very much and hope that you’ve extracted the occasional nugget of value.

The blog will stay live until the next renewal, in April. But don’t expect much, if anything to happen.

(The only vague germ of a thought that I’ve had is that if people wanted to ask me stuff, I could reply here. But, really, that could probably be done via Twitter – “Hey, @tebbo, any thoughts on …”)

So, thanks again, for your attention. See you on Twitter, maybe?

 

*I try to reserve Facebook for friends and family and LinkedIn for business people I know personally

Managing Brand and Reputation in a Social Media World

Last week I co-presented a BrightTALK webinar on the impact of social media on branding and reputation for an audience of media and marketing professionals.

The lead presenter was Cathy Pittham, MD of the European arm of global PR company, the Racepoint Group. (Its chairman, Larry Weber, is something of a new media marketing guru and has been writing books on the subject since before most of us knew it was a subject.)

I went to Cathy because I felt she’d have far more practical advice to offer than I possibly could. After all, I was a bit of an outsider to marketing and PR – mainly an observer or a victim, depending on your point of view. So it ended up becoming ‘her show’ with me asking questions on behalf of the audience.

As we went through the preparation, it became clear to me that operating effectively in the social media world requires many of the hard-won skills from the traditional media world. It also needs a cultural shift by all participants towards openness, giving genuine value and two-way engagement.

Nothing new there, I hear you say. Which is true. Which is why the presentation focuses primarily on what good stuff and processes can be nicked or adapted from tradtional PR and Marketing activities.

As we discussed the powerful combination of traditional and social media techniques, I desperately wracked my brain for a suitable parallel. All I could think of was a nuclear chain reaction, which is triggered by combining two volumes of fissile material to make a single ‘critical mass’.

Which is what led to me slipping this final image into the slide deck.

Boom

The webinar (BrightTALK calls it a webcast)  lasts a tad under 45 minutes, unless you skip from slide to slide to make it quicker (and jerkier).

The social media world changes all the time but we hope that this presentation will offer you a durable ‘framework’ for your own planning.

Interactive Infographic: How To Handle The Media

Since 1988, Martin Banks and I have been running media skills training courses. Early on, we introduced an ‘architecture’ for the process. We drew it on flipcharts for a few years then, in 2004, we formalised it and started giving it out as part of our wallet-sized plastic business card. The model acts as an ‘aide memoire’ for all who’ve attended our training.

Card

A few weeks ago, I was rummaging (as you do) some infographics – pictures that speak well over a thousand words – and took a shine to the interactive variety, where the graphic responds to the user’s actions.

I’d just been doing some training work with the Racepoint Group and, coincidentally, one of its US staff Kyle Austin wrote a blog post: Are Infographics the New Slide Shows?  Good point, I thought, having just taken someone through our ‘architecture’.

So I set to work to convert our flat image into something a little more lively. It’s aim is to refresh the memories of those who’ve attended our training and to give others an appreciation of how they might set about handling the media.

The first attempt was an animated .gif file with text boxes to expand on each element of the image. Horrible. Boring. Sequential. No user interaction. Didn’t lend itself to the web. Etc.

I wanted an interactive infographic that would work in more or less any browser and not depend on the presence of JavaScript, Flash or any other kind of plug-in. Just HTML and CSS. (I’d done some simple stuff before, here and here, so I was optimistic that it could be done.)

The second attempt was a graphic that the user could mouse over, highlighting image elements and showing the relevant text in a nearby box. The size was determined by my computer screen, which was a bit stupid because many of the people I’d like to share it with might have a smaller screen – an iPad for example.

So I reworked it with the iPad in mind. The hover can be achieved with a finger, even on the smallest graphical element. And while I was resizing everything, I added drop shadows and rounded corners to the text boxes.

If you’re interested, the end result is at How To Handle The Media

IPad1

I hope you enjoy it.

 

PS If anyone wants the gory technical details of how to do this sort of thing, I’ll pen another post. Just ask.

Media Skills 101 (reprise)

First of all, apologies for radio silence. I’ve been on holiday. Very nice it was too. We hired a motorhome and stayed at four sites in Dorset. We hired the highly specced and almost new vehicle from Ferndown-based Abacus which turned out to be a very professional company. Highly recommended if you fancy that sort of holiday.

Before I get stuck in to blogging again, I thought you might be interested in some posts I wrote over five years ago about handling the press. While a lot of the press appears somewhat emasculated these days and the new media folk are largely more kindly, the suggestions I made then are no less valid for shaping your outlook and approach to the media of any kind.

Financial and environmental savings with GoToTraining

Just over a year ago, a major IT company cancelled a training visit on environmental grounds. We’d done the event before. I (one of the trainers) had flown to the US West coast to conduct a module with 75 delegates who’d flown in from all over the world. It was madness really; I was only on stage for two hours.

But I was looking forward to doing it again, partly for the opportunity to mix with some immensely knowledgeable and bright people, partly for the opportunity to meet up with friends and partly, of course, for the hefty fee.

This was just the start of a wholesale reassessment of the way this particular company worked. Wherever possible, it started to replace travel with online communication of various kinds.

As the recession has bitten and budgets have come under pressure, companies are even more keen to cut the time and expense of travel, quite regardless of their environmental leanings. All of this was a great prelude to the launch of Citrix Online’s GoToTraining service. People still need to learn and a switch to online training can increase their exposure at a much lower cost, environmental or financial.

Of course, the trainers themselves need to feel comfortable with the facilities, even if they don’t feel comfortable with their loss of travel perks. Thinking that this might be the way some of my own training might go, I signed up for a trial of GoToTraining. (I was already familiar with several of the company’s other products and was quite well disposed to them.)

Professional e-Learning people might turn their noses up at this sort of thing. But Citrix Online’s solution is ‘good enough’ for many training encounters. It offers a repository for training materials – slide decks, images, videos, tests and evaluations, for example. It enables a trainer to put together an ‘event’ with invitations, reminder letters, dial in numbers (a free VoIP option works well on an appropriate connection), dates, reminder letters and suchlike. It took me less than ten minutes to set up a trial session using some existing slides, tests and appraisals.

Once into the training, the delegates are able to speak (or mute themselves), raise their hands, chat, use drawing tools and pointers (with permission) and even be handed control of the keyboard and mouse or even the session as a whole. The trainer can seize back control, of course. This all opens the possibility of a multi-way dialogue, if that’s what the session demands. It’s up to the trainer how interactive the sessions should become.

The delegates can be shown whatever’s on the trainer’s screen or what is in a particular window. In theory, this means that any application can be run but some, like video, might be better for the students to download and play locally, raising their digital hands, perhaps, when they’ve finished.

It’s easy to give delegates tests or polls during the training. The trainer can see when all the responses are in and could even call a timed break while they examine the responses and spot any misunderstandings which can then be dealt with after the break. The entire session can be recorded (it allows pauses) and uploaded to the website for others to view later; perhaps delegates who weren’t able to get to the session.

David Terrar (a SaaS/cloud specialist) kindly offered to be my ‘student’ for a test run and, although the interface was a bit clunky at the edges, he concluded, “None of that would put me off using it though. In general, the experience has been good.”

What’s clunky? Well, switching from a PowerPoint playback to the regular screen wasn’t mirrored without a stop/restart of the screen display. The handing over control didn’t work first time, but it did after handing over drawing control. Drawing control was theoretically stopped but it didn’t happen until after a screen refresh. These are little things that were easy to sort out between friends but could have proved embarrassing in ‘real life.

All this just goes to show how important dry runs are for the trainers. It’s also important to realise that online training is very different to face to face and course materials, timings and trainer behaviour need to be adapted to the new environment. John Carver has posted a useful three-part blog on the Citrix community site for those embarking on this type of training.

GoToTraining is not going to turn you into a trainer, any more than a word processor will turn you into a writer. But, if you or your colleagues are trying to cut down on travel and accommodation expenses, or simply reach out to more trainees, you may well find this worth a look.

GoToTraining starts at $129/month for up to 25 trainees and as many sessions as you like. Full pricing details are here.

Obviously, if you’re only doing the occasional ad hoc bit of training or if you need eye contact, this isn’t for you. But if you’re doing anything remotely regular that doesn’t demand a physical presence then this is not at all a high price to pay when you consider all the other savings you’ll be making. And, of course, you can even add it to your green credentials.

A new beginning

You may have arrived here because you’ve heard about changes in my life. If not, then I hope the few words that follow won’t bore you too much. I’ll be resuming my ‘old style’ blogging fairly soon.

Since September 2007, I have been working with an excellent bunch of people at Freeform Dynamics. My blogs, columns, features and other writings (all 230 of them) have been produced with this backdrop in mind. Earlier this week we finally realised that, despite the very best efforts by all concerned, we were still marching to slightly different drummers and it was time to move on.

Hopefully, our time together has delivered value from me to Freeform. It has certainly delivered value to me, not least because of the ‘real world’ insights that I’ve gained from the research and analysis work.

While at Freeform, I sold Brainstorm Software and the Press Here media skills training domain name to American companies. This was part of my effort to minimise distractions from Freeform work, although I continued to do some training work. I just didn’t actively seek new customers. I also kept up my column at Information World Review and wrote the occasional feature for it.

While my new plans aren’t fully evolved, I do know what I am good at and what I want to do. While at Freeform, my focus was on collaboration and environmental sustainability, especially where they  could be supported by IT. These are still my ‘specialist subjects’ although I think the balance will probably tilt more towards the human side and away from the sustainability side. Plenty of people who weren’t at all interested in sustainability a few years ago (when I was) are now on what looks like something of a bandwagon. No, it’s worse than that – for many, the greenhouse gas aspect has become a whole new religion. I am much more likely to work behind the scenes, helping companies with good intentions, than standing on any platform adding my small signal to the considerable noise out there.

So, where next? Answers: writing (Of course. It’s like breathing to me.); training people to handle the press and other media; editing and polishing, in the sense of helping people/companies to effectively articulate their knowledge. While at Freeform, I had the good fortune to be involved in the writing of a number of mini-books as well as helping colleagues with their own writing skills. In these busy times, the mini-book format is a great way of concentrating the minds of the authors and delivering rapid understanding to the reader.

I think that will do for now, by way of scene-setting. My non-work life will centre around my immediate family: wife, three children, five grandchildren, a dog and a mother-in-law. And, of course, my business colleagues, friends and more distant relatives.

I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook if you need to dig around a bit and my home website is tebbo.com. I have a couple of messy/embryonic ones at mini-books.co.uk and greybeards.co.uk.

The fastest ways to reach me are the business line (it diverts to the mobile when I’m out and about) and my tebbo.com email. Both are on my home page.

Onwards and upwards, as they say.

Why do the press use surnames?

I was running a media skills course last week when I was asked a question which I’d never been asked before: “why does the press refer to people by their surname?”

My initial, feeble but truthful, answer was “it’s house-style. All papers have a house-style and it is usually that you use the full name on the first outing and the surname only after that.”

Feeling that this was ducking the question, I added, “I suspect this is because it preserves our journalistic neutrality. We can hardly say ‘John murdered someone’.”

Long after I got back to the office, I thought of exceptions to this approach. Saying, “Jones was murdered”, when it’s fresh news would be heartless. It would have to be “Mrs Jones…” or “baby John…”.

I guess that whether we deviate boils down to common sense.

Maybe the origins lie in saving lead or typesetter’s time. Anyone know?