Blog Post: Why are there still bad CVs out there?

I can’t believe that I am writing this post. I cannot believe that I have to write this post, but my experience over the last week has made me feel it is needed.

There are hundreds, thousands even, of blog posts and webpages dedicated to writing a good CV. They are everywhere and most have pretty similar advice. So why, in 2015, and in particular in the PR/ Communications industry am I still getting inundated with truly terrible CVs??

I received one this week that was five pages long. Five pages! For a Communications position. It also had a sentence that was 32 words long. This from a Comms professional, in an age of 140 characters!

Another CV had two spelling mistakes in the personal profile. The job spec asked for good writing ability and an eye for detail – I stopped reading after the Personal Statement. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I have made errors during my career. I’m pretty sure that if you go through my blog posts you will find some, but this is a CV. For a comms position. And these mistakes were in the first sentence.

I also had a CV that looked like the candidate had spent five minutes on it. No personal statement, no key skills or achievements, just a series of bullet points outlining her responsibilities. While I appreciate that not every recruiter likes a personal statement, a lot do.

I just fail to understand how anyone – particularly in PR – does not appreciate the need for a high quality, error free, concise CV. More to the point, how do they not KNOW this? The CVs under scrutiny were for a position in a very high profile organisation, with a very competitive salary. What is the point of sending your CV in if you are not going to take any care and attention over it?

I was also a bit galled that their recruitment consultants hadn’t gone back to the candidate and coached them a bit. A quality consultant would also not be sending below par CVs! (My experience wasn’t helped by a recruiter arguing with me about why I shouldn’t reject their candidate, buy heyho…)

A CV is not a difficult document to get right. It does not take hours upon hours to pull together, and there are not any ‘trade secrets’ on how to make a CV stand out.

The internet is already filled with good, easy to follow advice. So – to all PR people – please read it, take it in and follow it…

Blog post: Leveson Ignored – there remains something rotten with our famous press.

So this was written a few weeks ago, and then I went on holiday. So it’s a bit out of date now, but considering I took the time to write it, I thought might as well post it… Better late than never and all that.

 

 So the phoney General Election campaign is under way, and worryingly we have another 70 odd days to sit through.

One thing we can be sure of is that the right wing press (so most of it) are going to spend the next three months personally attacking Labour’s Ed Miliband. The vitriol and abuse has already been unpleasant and ferocious.

The Guardian Newspaper’s Roy Greenslade explains it well here:

http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2015/feb/02/ed-miliband-suffers-ferocious-press-onslaught-and-it-will-get-worse

But what we witnessed last week has gone to a new low, and just highlights how little has changed in the behaviour of our Press since the Leveson enquiry and report. It is quite clear that Leveson has been ignored and that there remains something rotten at the core of our Press.

Whatever your politics, and whatever you think of Labour’s embattled leader Ed Miliband (yeah he is a bit weird) it is hard to defend two stories this week. Both from the Daily Mail which were quite simply wrong. Firstly we had a front page splash that Miliband, after a week of his attacks on tax dodgers and HSBC, had dodged tax on his parents’ house! LINK what a hypocrite cries the Mail! Except he didn’t avoid tax on the house. It was sold in 1995 and full tax was paid on the sale, so he didn’t avoid any tax.

The Guardian explains the situation here: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/12/did-ed-miliband-avoid-inheritance-tax-parents-home-deed-of-variation

Then a few days later we had Miliband comparing tax avoidance to the Milly Dowler murder! LINK

How horrific to try and make political capital over a young girl’s murder. Except he didn’t say it. Nor did anyone associated with him. In fact it was BBC Political Correspondent (and former President of Conservative Youth Group…) Nick Robinson who suggested the link (LINK). Once Robinson explained what he meant, that he was not quoting any Labour person, did the Mail (and other publications, as they were not alone) correct their reports or apologise to Milliband?? No, of course they didn’t.

In fact the next day it continued. Despite Nick Robinson explaining that it hadn’t been said by Labour aides or Milliband, the Daily Mail still published a piece by Amanda Platell repeating both the above stories as if they were true (despite them both being fundamentally wrong). LINK

Here is Huffington Post’s take on the issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/13/milly-dowler-row-over-mil_n_6676728.html

So now it’s not just personal attacks on Milliband. It’s not just digging up any stories to attack a Leader of the Opposition, but now it is making up stories and not correcting factual inaccuracies.

Is this the behaviour of a ‘free’ and independent press?? Is this who we want holding our Government to account?

And of course it’s not only the Daily Mail. And it’s not only Milliband. Recently comedian Russell Brand has been attacking the corporations, the press and trying to stand up for the small guy. This time it is The Sun who has taken up against him and had him on the front cover (and not in a positive way) – including attacking him personally because his Landlord doesn’t pay tax (or avoids paying tax). Why is Russell Brand responsible for what his Landlord does? How is that relevant to his beliefs and protests?

As if this isn’t enough, we’ve now have Peter Oborne making some startling and very worrying claims about the Telegraph, while resigning from working for the newspaper.

While I would hardly say I am a fan, I always found him honest and thorough. If true, this just shows what a sorry state our ‘free’ press is currently in.

He claims that as the Telegraph takes huge advertising money from HSBC, editorially they have tapered their attacks on their very dodgy tax dealings.

His Oborne’s piece in full: https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/peter-oborne/why-i-have-resigned-from-telegraph

A quick look at recent coverage does appear to back Oborne up, but this is pretty outrageous when you consider the Telegraph’s reaction to the Leveson proposals (link)

It just goes to show that despite Leveson, there remains something rotten at the heart of the UK’s ‘free’ press.

Here’s a good piece by Roy Greenslade on the telegraph advertising issue and the alternatives: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/18/peter-oborne-ads-press-freedom-telegraph-hsbc?CMP=twt_gu

The importance of Internal Communications – blog post

My latest project is an Internal Communications gig, and it has got me thinking about Internal Comms and its place in the wider PR world.

Before I get into Internal Comms, I’ll just clarify what I mean when I talk about Public Relations – I don’t just mean media relations, but for me PR is the over arching term that incorporates public affairs, digital and social media, marketing, and IC. A decent PR strategy incorporates all of these.

But back to Internal Communications, it is often seen – certainly in my experience – as the lesser of these disciplines, a distant cousin, with less attention paid to it and certainly less budget.

I’ve seen it sit in completely different areas of the business – such as being a HR remit, and not with Comms/PR. I’ve seen Communications Director’s who barely pay it lip service and even ignore it completely.

Even when it is within the Communication or Marketing team, it’s often a separate, stand alone team (or just a single person). Often, Internal Communications practitioners only have IC experience, and likewise how many PR/media relations types have significant IC experience??

Obviously I’m generalising here, as I know one PR pro who has both media and internal experience (me! But I feel I’m more of an exception to the rule – not that i’m saying that I am exceptional…), but it is too often seen as a very separate discipline – not dissimilar to marketing  in that respect. I wonder how many Integrated Campaign PR awards include Internal Communications?? (and I don’t know the answer to this so really am wondering; any ideas?)

But actually I believe that Internal Communications has to play a major role in any campaign, and needs to be a key part of any team’s remit. Your staff have to be seen as a key stakeholder, they are the ones who have to deliver your senior people’s visions and strategy. They are the ones who will be out there talking about your company or campaign to their friends, neighbours and family – the voice on the street if you like, and a channel that should be harnessed.

Whether your company has 50 staff or 50,000, a workforce who are onside, who feel part of the company and sign-up to its ethos are going to be more dedicated and more effective, but are also going to be better representatives of your organisation.

As industry we need to stop treating Internal Communications as a separate entity and treat it with the same passion and dedication we treat the rest of our work – I’m pretty confident the results would be significant.

As a side note, this Blog has been produced entirely on my new Blackberry Passport, and I have to say it is a great bit of kit. I know I am a Blackberry Geek, but for serious people who do a lot of work on the road it is peerless…

The PR implications of Captain Philips

*SPOILER ALERT* this post discusses the film Captain Philips including the end, so if you’ve not seen it and don’t want to know how it ends then you probably shouldn’t read on.

The other evening I watched Captain Philips – the Tom Hanks film about the Maersk container ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 – and in a geeky PR moment I started to think about the PR implications of the film. Firstly, for Maersk if the media got wind that one of their containers was being hijacked, and then about the consequences of allowing their brand to be used in the subsequent film adaption of said hijacking.

As the event took place back in 2009, it was probably too long ago for useful analysis of their response (I found an interesting piece though, link below), but I did wonder about the decision of Maersk to so openly use their name and brand in the film.

Admittedly the story ends happily (no one (apart from hijackers) dies, and the ship is released) it is still a negative link to Maersk. We all know the old adage “there is no such thing a bad publicity” is cobblers, but does the positive brand awareness of appearing in a Hollywood film (and a Tom Hanks one at that) out-weigh the association with hijacking?

I hadn’t come across Maersk before watching Captain Philips – although I don’t work in the shipping industry so why would I – and the brand awareness must have sky rocketed, but I will forever associate them with the Somali hijacking, and surely so will most people?

I expect their core customers will already be well aware of the 2009 incident and it would have been major news back in 2009, so it’s not like there will be any additional reputational damage from their key audience, it is just that everyone else will now recognise the brand as the ship that got hijacked.

That said, the film does reinforce the successful nature of the rescue and positive end result, so maybe it is not such a big deal.

For more information on the hijacking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maersk_Alabama_hijacking

And for the crisis communications lessons learnt from one of the advisors to Maersk: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/10380/1084/Navigating_the_High_Seas_What_Somali_Pirates_Taugh#.VKgGuiusVtQ

Journalists – correct your mistakes please.

I’ve been criticising PR people in my blog recently, so I thought it was time to talk about journalists.

The other evening I was in the Thirsty Bear in Southwark, and I was reminded of an article I saw on the Independent’s website. It claimed to have found the UK’s first ever pub that allowed you to pour your own pint at your table via an Ipad attached to said table. The “new” system has been installed in a pub in Wales called The Westbourne.

As I sat there I recalled a time, about 8 or so months ago when I was sitting in the Thirsty Bear, pouring my own pints and ordering food from an Ipad. So clearly the Independent were wrong. I mentioned this on their Twitter feed. The Thirsty Bear mentioned it on their Twitter feed (understandly considering they’ve been offering the same system for more than a year.) Some people mentioned in the comment section below the story.

So despite it being pointed out that the story is just plain wrong, still the story sits on their website without clarification or correction.

As I mentioned above I’ve been critical of PR professionals a bit recently, but this shows that journalism isn’t without its problems. I appreciate that this isn’t a big important story but accuracy is still important and this article is wrong and it’s been pointed out that it is wrong.

I recall reading Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News and the issue with Churnalism and this seems like an example of a journalist taking a press release and printing without fact checking.

 We all must do better.

Here’s the offending article for info: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/britains-first-ipub-allows-punters-to-pull-their-own-pints-9798798.html

And do visit one of the first pubs where you can pour your own beer and order off an IPAD – http://thethirstybear.com/

And if you’re interested in reading more about Churnalism: http://www.flatearthnews.net/

Why are we not listening to journalists about how to best engage with them???

I despair. I absolutely despair. How is it, that in 2014, there are still PRs and PR agencies out there that are spamming journalists with irrelevant and non-newsworthy press releases and stories?? And even worst, why are there still PRs and PR Agencies that are phoning journalists asking if they have received a press release! In what world is this going to be effective??

This is what the latest research from DWPub found, who published the results of a survey into “What do journalists think of PR people”. What bothers me so much is that so little has changed in the ten or so years I’ve been involved in PR. Ten years ago journalists were telling me NOT to call and ask if they had received a press release. Ten years ago journalists were telling me to RESEARCH the publication and stories that they penned and to make sure that I was pitching RELEVANT information and stories. And no doubt this same conversation has been going on for decades in one way or another.

No wonder the relationship between journalists and PR types is so strained.

According to the research, 80% of journalists said that “Lack of understanding of your publication and subject area” is their greatest frustration with PR people. As DWPub’s own analysis says:

“There’s a pattern emerging – all they (journalists) really want is for the PR to know what they cover and to make sure whatever they’re pitching is relevant and newsworthy”

Which, lets be honest, isn’t a lot to ask.

But it’s the agencies that are to blame. Junior PR types are not born with the idea to follow up an email (within a few minutes) with a call to ask if the journalists received the press release – they are being instructed by their experienced comrades. Mass emailing of a release to hundreds of journalists is being pushed from the top of these agencies (including some I’ve recently worked with – see my recent post on saying no) for reasons that escape me. Please stop.

So please – as an industry – lets all heed this advice from journalists. After all, we all want positive coverage, so lets all stop phoning journalists to ask if they received a press release (they did!) and start taking a moment to be sure that the story is newsworthy, and that it is relevant for both the journalist and the publication.

I’ll leave you with a favourite comment highlighted in the report, which kinda sums up my (and the journalists) point:

Pitch relevant news to the relevant publication. I can’t believe we still get PRs calling the news desk of the Daily Star and asking for our Fine Arts editor!”

Here’s a link to the full survey: http://blog.dwpub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/DWPub-journalist-survey-What-do-journalists-think-of-PR-people.pdf


And DWPub’s own press release (lets hope they didn’t do a mass email sell-in with follow up phone call: http://blog.dwpub.com/2014/10/journalists-think-pr-professsionals/#.VDWzv2ddV3I