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 (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


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.