Presentation is everything

In 2004 Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom published a follow-up to their successful 2001 book, Funky Business with their latest advice to businesses desperate to differentiate, Karaoke Capitalism.

Karaoke Capitalism described (and is still a valid description) the constant struggle to differentiate in a market where competitors can emerge and imitate almost immediately. A unique product now has a very short window of opportunity before similar products follow into the market, often riding on the back of the publicity and awareness generated by the first entrant.

Ridderstrale and Nordstrom had some very simple advice: create organisations that relentlessly innovate and design exceptional customer experiences.

I was reminded of this yesterday when visiting the Devon village of Colyton. Colyton is a little village but boasts at least eight places to eat. Devon itself appears to be the ‘tea room’ capital of the world and any such establishment located within a few miles of a pebble beach usually sports a chalkboard proclaiming ‘Fresh Devon Crab Sandwiches’. As someone who is partial to a crustacean between a couple of slices of granary bread, I’m immediately drawn to the chalk scrawl for refreshment.

Tea rooms can be hit and miss but for many proprietors, once they’ve got the basics right they stop. Not so the Liddon’s Dairy Tea Gardens. Sitting outside in the afternoon sun and listening to the cockatiels chirping away created the perfect relaxing atmosphere, which was in contrast to the underwhelming interior. The coffee was good, my wife’s cake was “very good” and then the chef brought out my crab sandwich. It was more than a sandwich, it was a delight to behold.

This is exactly what Ridderstrale and Nordstrom meant about designing exceptional customer experiences and if it can be achieved with a sandwich it can achieved with any product or service.

all about presentation

Presentation is everything – freshly picked herbs and petals make the difference

So what’s your equivalent of the freshly picked herbs and flowers that differentiate Liddon’s from other crab sandwiches?


Textbook change management

Change management

Anyone involved in the process of change management knows that the first two stages are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Have a clear vision

In the recent Brexit and Remain campaigns it was the ‘leave’ team that wanted to bring about change and therefore up to them to create messages that would motivate change. And it worked.

Whether the vision can be delivered, only time will tell but the Brexit campaigners knew their audience, knew what messages would resonate and consistently pushed those messages to achieve their goal. It was textbook change management.

Think of the audience

think of the audience



I saw this recently.

An advert for ‘beginners’ would suggest that the audience for this flyer may not familiar with the jargon.

‘Beginners’ might also be anxious, intimidated, unsure and lacking confidence. 

I’m not sure this says ‘Come along, have a good time, it’s all very relaxed’


Internet – luxury or necessity?


This weekend we have been without a broadband connection, we have still had an internet connection but at 0.7 Mbps it was like going back in time to dial-up!

Oddly I had been discussing broadband with some friends after reading an article about the increasing gap of bandwidth service between urban and rural communities. This was in part a response to the government appearing to backtrack on a pledge roll-out broadband, as it said it would, because there was no point making it available to people who didn’t want to use it.

This would suggest that the government is very out of touch with the role that technology plays in our lives. Perhaps shopping online is a luxury (but if you can buy something cheaper perhaps it’s not) however, more and more services are only available online and information is often only available through a website. ‘Googling’ is now the first place to go for local information about A&E departments, emergency vets, dentists and more. The government themselves are steering people towards their websites to renew car tax, submit tax returns, pay VAT and…and…and…

960px-Wireless-iconForget streaming television programmes (and BBC 3 is only available online). Forget looking at websites packed with photographs, such as the holiday cottage sites we were trying to view at the weekend. Forget trying to download the digital edition of your newspaper or magazine. These all assume you have access to a decent broadband connection.

I’m sure that we can find alternative methods of getting information or processing payments but they are likely to be less convenient and more convoluted, which means that we are creating a two tier society – those that have access to broadband and can enjoy all its benefits, and those that don’t. 

Our broadband is now back up to 9 Mbps and I’m grateful but I’m also feeling for those who can only get 0.7 Mbps every day.

Authority, Presence, Impact – Presenting with confidence

This is mainly a follow-up note for those Doctors that attended the Communications Skills Workshop in Madrid last week, however, the words may resonate with us all. 

You have a responsibility as a communicator. Communication is already a large part of what you do and has probably become more important as your career has progressed. Therefore, it won’t be a surprise to know that the more successful you are the greater your responsibility as a communicator will be.

I tend to talk about ‘effective communication’ rather than just ‘communication’, because it is only when we add the word ‘effective’ that we ensure our efforts at communication can be measured.

To my mind the objective of most communication is to provoke some sort of action, whether it is a change of behaviour, a change of mindset or attitude. 

Effective communication compromises of:

  • You
  • Your audience
  • Your message
  • Delivery Channel

Often we forget that the way a message is distributed/delivered says something about the message itself. It’s the birthday card or text message test. When thinking about the recipient, are they likely to be more or less appreciative of a birthday message that is delivered via a card or via a text message? The reason why this is important is because sometimes we choose the wrong medium to communicate – for example you can’t really launch a change programme with just an email and expect it to be effective.

Why are we not as good as we would like to be when it comes to effective communication?

There have been various studies published and I have 20 years of my own experience of watching others and I think there are 5 main reasons:

  1. Communicating effectively is hard and we don’t practice enough – a tennis champion doesn’t just play matches, they practice between games
  2. We don’t get enough feedback – people talk among themselves about presenters but rarely do they offer constructive feedback
  3. We tell people what we know, not what they need to know – we need to think about the audience and their expectations
  4. We treat communication as a tick box exercise – we don’t clarify, we don’t build on messages. we don’t measure their effectiveness
  5. We don’t always understand the value communication has on morale, team spirit, productivity, standards of service, quality and more

Authority, Presence and Impact

  • Authority is what you bring into the room – titles, your role, qualifications, publications, experience – it’s your credibility
  • Presence is the rapport you have with the room, it’s your ability to read the room, have empathy, listen to questions and build a solid relationship
  • Impact is your ability to bring your own insight to a situation, to reframe the data or provide a context that brings about a shift in feelings and behaviour

If Authority, Presence and Impact is you, what you are trying to achieve is: Trust, Understanding and Action with your audience

Most people are strong in one or two areas but really we all need to be working on all three.

For example:

TP works as a sales manager = he has good Presence but no Authority or Impact. Therefore, he is just a nice guy that isn’t going to motivate his team.

FS works in HR = she has Authority but no Presence or Impact. Therefore, she’s pretty intimidating and what she says doesn’t get through the fear she creates.

JD is a senior manager in a law firm = he has lots of Authority and good Presence but very little Impact. He’s a good presenter, nice to listen to but his messages are not structured to bring about a shift, therefore there is no action.

API is a tool, not a pill. We all gain confidence through self-belief and practice. Keep practicing and email me if you have questions.




Purpose not just Ideas

Passion, Duty, Money

In the first of this year’s Idler publications (a very good read) there is an interesting interview with, Charles Handy discussing his book, The Second Curve, and life in general for the ‘worker’.

The IdlerThe key message of The Second Curve, which I had read last year, is that in order to remain in business and relevant to your customers, you will probably need to break (or creatively destroy) your existing business models. The ‘curve’ of the title relates to the typical lifecycle of a business or product, and Handy encourages business leaders to think about the ‘second curve’ before it’s too late.

During the interview Handy also talks about individuals and describes the activities of most individuals as falling into three categories: Passion, Duty and Money. What he goes on to explain is that we tend to do things that we are passionate about, in my case reading or going to the theatre; we also do things out of duty, such as cutting the grass, or cleaning the car; and we do things to make money so that we can pay the bills. At various stages in our lives one of the three will become dominant but we also have choices, particularly about how much money we want and how much of the other activities we are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of cash.

Charles-Handy-The-Line-Of-LifeHandy is a regular speaker at events organised by the Peter Drucker Institute, many of these can be found on YouTube, in one that was recorded a couple of years ago he talks along the same lines about ‘complexity’ in business and asks the audience to consider whether their business purpose is about Passion, Duty or Money? Of course his fear is that too many are focused on money but suggests that “The money [should be the] means not the purpose.”

A job with purpose

A 2014 article in Forbes states ‘Millennials want to be home for dinner, and want to feel like their 9-5 job has a real purpose. They are constantly seeking purpose in what they do for a living’

The same article went on to say ‘Millennials need direction and meaning, an interesting mixture of altruism and self-interest. Millennials are loyal to a job rather than an employer. This is partly a response to their parents sometimes being loyal to a firm that would often lay them off without hesitation when times got rough.’

I also think that the ‘parents’ who have experienced redundancy or severe change, maybe more than once, are also loyal only to a job and not the organisation anymore. My wife recently left a job that she loved and had enjoyed for over 10 years but the organisation had stopped valuing her and were undermining the sense of purpose that she received from her work.

Trust and engagement

purpose not just ideasThe respected PR company Edelman publishes a Trust Barometer each year, asking the general public (who are also employees) what they think about businesses and business activity. The results of its 2015 survey concluded that ‘the pace of development and change in business today is too fast, that business innovation is driven by greed and money rather than a desire to improve people’s lives’ – to be clear, that’s what your customers think – and your employees are probably no different.

The results of a global employee engagement survey of 7,500 business were published last month ‘across all leadership levels, an average of only 36 percent of employees are “highly engaged.”’ The report also concluded that ‘The vast majority (87 percent) of respondents say that linking an organization’s social responsibility efforts to leadership development has a positive impact on overall engagement and performance. Unfortunately, only 59 percent of respondents say their organizations actually do link the two.’

It’s no secret that the global economy is making life very tough for businesses in all sectors. Profit margins have been squeezed, operational costs have risen, barriers to entry have fallen in many sectors and the point of difference between brands and offers has eroded. And yet the focus is still ‘profit’, even when 64% of employees are disengaged at some level or other and all the evidence suggests that giving them a sense of purpose will make a difference to their productivity and contribution.

If your competitors are operating with only 36% of employees ‘highly engaged’ imagine what your business could do if you had 100% engagement. But leaders have to stop beating their teams over the head and demanding ‘more for less’ – instead give them something to believe in, describe the better place that you need to get to and make them feel good about the work they are doing. Give them a purpose, not just ideas for making more money or savings.

As Charles Handy once said ‘forget the competition, compete with yourself to be better.’

purpose not just ideas

How to write a Case Study

Using case studies to engage – how to write a case studyWriting case studies

Case studies are an effective way of demonstrating what your business does well and/or specific achievements in areas that differentiate you from your competitors, such as Corporate Social Responsibility, people development or your culture and values.

Case studies can be featured on your website, emailed to stakeholders, included in newsletters or published in trade publications – who almost always welcome new content that’s relevant to their readership. A good quality case study can enhance your reputation and lead to more business.

Have you got a good case study?

A good case study comprises of four parts:

  • The challenge or need to do something
  • The approach your business took and people involved
  • The outcome or solution found
  • The benefit to you, your customer, your employees, the community

You then need to consider how you would ‘use’ the case study:

  • Who would your case study appeal to?
  • How would you distribute and share it?
  • How can you leverage the most impact?

Whether it’s a business solution, a people story, a community or environmental challenge, there will be an interested audience and, written in the right way, you have the ability to put yourself ahead of your competitors for all the right reasons.

Writing your case study

It will of not surprise you that I would suggest using a professional business writer to write your case study but there might be someone in your team who has good writing skills with the time to research and write the case study for you.

If you choose to use a professional business writer pick someone who has written case studies before and ask to see examples. It helps if they have experience of your industry but a business writer usually has broad experience across all sectors. It helps if the writer is willing to do some research and has an idea of where to find information about your case study.

  • Whoever writes the case study you should discuss the style and tone that you want to use.
  • Case studies can be written from the perspective of the business: ‘We embarked on an intensive period of research that involved our Managing Director….’ or it can be written in the third person, as if written by a journalist ‘Owlex Plc embarked on an intensive period of research that involved the company’s Managing Director…’
  • Where you have data you should use it and present it in a readable format for a non-technical audience.
  • Avoid using jargon at all times.
  • Break the case study into sections with subheadings that make it clear to the reader what is coming next.
  • Your finished case study should include a summary and if relevant, contacts or links to further information if the reader is interested.

When you’ve completed your case study ensure you get as much exposure from it as possible. Make the case study available to anybody who might be interested and if you do get coverage in trade magazines or other media find ways to tell your customers/employees/investors.

How to write a case study, how to write a case study

What if? – scenario planning

Scenario planning

scenario planningWhat if? is a workshop that has been adapted for different sized groups but remains a way of exploring future scenarios and what they might mean for a particular organisation.

By contemplating and exploring a range of possible future scenarios, it is possible to create an alternative decision making criteria and develop a strategy that prepares the organisation for a different future rather than waiting and reacting to it at the time – which is often too late.

Scenario planning helps tackle risk, uncertainty and complexity. It also enables organisations to simulate the future and the potential outcome of different strategic responses. The value of scenario planning is not accurately predicting the future but providing the opportunity to explore. acknowledge and understand the impact of future events and trends, which offers the organisation the ability to prepare and adapt.

A typical scenario planning session might follow this structure:

  • Where have you come from – What did your business and the marketplace look like 5 years ago?
  • What is the context today – Who are your customers? Who are your competitors? What other factors, such as technology, legislation, environment are having an impact?
  • What have been the most significant shifts – What have been the drivers for change? What has been the pace of change?
  • What is emerging – Are there niche players in market? Are there new technologies? Is there talk of new legislation? What is happening today that is small but could be big in five years?
  • What if?

Based on the above answers what are the possible scenarios for your organisation? There are probably 10-20 different scenarios and each would require a slightly different approach, however, when you explore your potential responses – and consider your own systems, processes, skillset, knowledge, leadership – patterns will start emerge that point to areas within your organisation that need to be addressed. For example if 7 out of 10 scenarios suggest that your employee skillset is currently wrong for the future needs of the organisation, then that is something you can start to address immediately.

If your decisions and strategy are based on what is happening today, then the chances are you won’t be prepared for the future.

As the Centre for Future Studies states on their website: Companies fail to create the future not because they fail to predict it but because they fail to imagine it.

The Corner Shop – will it survive?

I’m in Devon at the moment enjoying the West Country pace of life and reflecting on my surroundings.

The village I’m staying in can’t have more than two thousand people, maybe even less, and yet there are two pubs and a corner shop. I’ve been coming to the same village for over five years and in that time I have mourned the erosion of Devon life as big city influence spreads its reach. Now that it’s here you can’t avoid it so you need to embrace it.

The local post office has closed, one of the pubs appears to be struggling and the corner shop has been diversifying and trialling ideas for the past year but appears to still be empty most of the time.

The Corner Shop


The problem with the corner shop (any corner shop) is that, as consumers, we have changed the way we buy food. We now buy less food but more frequently, meaning that we are unlikely to run out of something and need to dash to corner shop to replenish. We also know that value for money is very important to us and as buyers of products from a cash-and-carry, our corner shop can’t compete on price. We tend to eat out more these days because eating out can be cheaper than buying the food and cooking it for ourselves. The reason one pub is doing better than the other is probably down to the pricing of its food, which to be honest is why the majority of patrons are there.

So what can a corner shop in a Devon village with no passing traffic do? 

  1. It has to look great, which requires investment and some skills in store design. Corner shops should not be like Arkwrights!
  2. The offer needs to be clear – am I coming here to buy Happy Shopper Dog Food or locally sourced fillet steaks? I don’t think a corner shop with limited space can afford to be all things to all people.
  3. You need to be open when people need you, which is probably less during the day and more in the early morning and evening. It’s not like Devon used to be.
  4. Find something to be great at. Serve the best coffee, or sell the best cakes, or bake the best pies but find one thing to be absolutely fantastic at and grow your reputation from it.
  5. Take the shop to your community. If people aren’t coming through the door, find ways to take your shop to them. Social media, flyers, offers, have a late night wine tasting evening.

It will be interesting to see if the corner shop here can adapt and survive, there’s a lot of work to do though.

Busy, busy, tweet, tweet

The past few weeks have been hectic and continue to be, which is great.

One of the drawbacks has been lack of time to engage with social media but this morning I was up early and made a concerted effort to look at my three Twitter accounts.

Of the 50+ new followers I have gained this week, over half are experts on Social Media – they are following me to tell me they can help me get more followers. Even those with more appealing profiles are tweeting about getting more followers.

When I look at my Twitter feed, particularly @cameroncomms, almost every other tweet is about being more effective on Social Media, less so for my other accounts which are primarily about whisky and theatre.

Is it any wonder that people are being turned off by Twitter if so many of the most active users are simply promoting their own skills to help you be more active on Twitter?

As a model Twitter has matured quickly and is now in decline, the question is can it find a relevant extension strategy or will it just become dormant?