Blogs before blogs

Before there were blogs there were columns. Comments were through the laborious process of ‘letters to the editor’ and hoping you’d get published.

The columnists were hired for their ability to interpret, inform and amuse. Two of them (me and Martin Banks) watched the PC industry as it flowered in the UK. We’ve also lived through the networking, web and social computing waves and, no doubt there will be more. Before the PC, Martin specialised in electronics writing and I lived through the visible record and minicomputer waves as a participant, with mainframes as a noisy backdrop, before becoming editor of Personal Computer World.

Martin and I grabbed a slice of history, as we saw it, by scanning and uploading 363 of our columns. (In the original blog post, I miscounted – I said 365.)

However, we relied on Google for the search and it wasn’t comprehensive. Result: you type in something you’re interested in (Sinclair, Curry, Hauser, Jobs, Gates or whatever and there’s a good chance nothing will show.) Shame.

So we’ve now switched to FreeFind‘s sponsored engine. At the expense of a few text ads at the top, you can now properly search the archive. It runs from 1979 to 1991 although it probably follows a bell curve. The search is at the bottom of the left sidebar on any Press Here page. (That’s where Martin and I hang out ‘cos we’re the press and we’re here.)

If you know anyone who’s interested in this kind of thing, you might want to tip them off.

One of the issues of the fast-moving pre-web world is that a lot of computing history got lost. This is our small attempt to redress the balance with the observations of two insiders.

New life

Well, it’s all change in Tebbo-land. The regular cleantech work that I was hoping to get fell through. A pity because it was going to be an interesting project. The company has decided to do it in-house. This is theoretically a wise decision, providing they have good writers who can focus on the subject, set it in a broader context and be given the time and support to do the job.

So, for the first time in six months, I can stop mentally allocating two days a week for the foreseeable future to a project that may or may not have come off. But one which I’m sure I would have enjoyed and done well.

Of course, life hasn’t stood still while this has been going on. I recently had the pleasure of working (again) with Robert Norum on ‘pitch training’ for startups. That particular event put seven companies through their paces and one of them went through to be voted the best startup pitch at a recent v.c. conference. Another was a runner-up. A cool result but, of course, the underpinning products and the presenters were really the stars.

Last week I was helping senior management of a major company to ‘handle the press’. That’s essentially about message development and interview control. A rather satisfying 100% rating for me. Similarly, a high nineties rating when I did something similar recently for a major IT manufacturer with Martin Banks, my long-standing partner in Press Here. We have trained well over three thousand delegates over the years and the ratings are nearly always mid-eighties and above.

What’s clear is that getting stories right and knowing how to deliver them effectively is a universal requirement, whether it’s high-tech, cleantech, holidays, chemicals or charities (all of whom I’ve trained).

Keeping the listener ‘on side’ is also crucial, something a lot of people forget in the heat of the moment. They’re so busy being passionate about what interests them that they forget the listener is a person with their own needs, whether it’s a board member, a venture capitalist, a journalist, an analyst or a work colleague.

Many years ago, Martin and I branded ourselves ‘Press Here’ and the soubriquet served us well. Indeed, we still provide our services under that banner for those who are comfortable with it. But, increasingly, we have been adding smaller, tighter, engagements to those who don’t want the full regalia. Maybe they want to chew messages over, or dry run a pitch or whatever. And given that, these days, the press is not always the intended audience, the ‘Press Here’ brand may be a turn off rather than a turn on. Seems like a new brand is called for…

My own focus is still on ‘helping companies formulate and communicate their stories’. And I will do this solo or in partnership with Martin, Robert, PR companies or whoever. Of course, I will continue to write for papers, magazines and online publications. And the odd private client…

So there we are. New home. New liberation. New life.

It feels good.

Communicating IT to the board with the NCC

I didn’t realise that the NCC was promoting some work we (Martin Banks and I) are doing in December. Not online, anyway. We approved the brochure a while back. The NCC logo in the left sidebar of this blog links to Communicating IT to the Board.

For 18 years Martin and I (together and separately) have been helping mainly blue chip IT companies handle the press. Occasionally this work has taken us into other areas and other industries. What we divined a long time ago is that a systematic approach to handling the press actually stands you in good stead with other interested (or disinterested) parties: venture capitalists, the board, analysts and even work colleagues.

It’s a way to hook interest, tell your story, engage in meaningful dialogue and all come away better off as a result of the encounter.

David Tebbutt and Martin Banks ride the PC wave

For the past few years, I have been riding the social computing wave in various forms. Before that it was web-related stuff, as well as traditional software. And, before that, it was the PC and microcomputers. (Before that, I was in the computer industry but not writing about it.)

In honour of the real PC’s 25th birthday, I’ve put a link in this blog’s ‘About‘ page to a selection of articles and columns that Martin Banks and I wrote as we rode the PC wave. For quite inexplicable reasons, my review of the first IBM PC isn’t in there. It would probably bore you witless anyway.

When you’re looking for some displacement activity, try typing Sinclair, BBC, KayPro, Osborne or Bricklin. Or whatever you like really.