• The Apprentice – lesson 1, deals just fall into your lap…

    Mar 26 • Uncategorized • 1441 Views

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice/

    Seconds into the opening titles and I’m already cringing about the future for the British economy. Where do they find these self-styled “business leaders of the future”? The great book of business cliches?

    “I’m a fighter”, “I’ve got a mouthy personality”, “I take no prisoners”, “I love money more than anything”, “winner takes all” etc etc. Yawn, they were just one more stereotype away from “Lunch is for wimps” or, I don’t know, “You’re fired!”. No, wait.

    I tuned into the first ever series intrigued to find yet another reality tv show (for this is what it essentially is folks, no matter how you style it) but one that was going to reward skill, effort, creativity and business acumen. You didn’t even have to like the participants. Excellent, could be interesting.

    Sadly, no. My interest waned as the show became more about re-working Alan Sugar’s damaged public profile post-Tottenham Hotspur and less about engaging the young fertile minds of Britain’s new business world order.

    I’ve skipped it since but I came back to it last night, encouraged by the promise of a more realistic, sober, credit-crunch conscious approach. Once the posturing was finally over, it looked promising. “Get out there and clean things” boomed Sir Alan or “SrAln” as the apprentices seemed to call him. That’s more like it, get out there with some raw materials,a bit of charm and turn some hard graft into hard cash.

    Unfortunately, that hard graft seemed conveninently glossed over. Now, I’m sure watching cold-calling sales patter is about as exciting as watching 10 strangers in a house arguing but it seemed rather too easy for both teams, despite the in-fighting to secure major potential contracts right off the bat.

    In the twinkling of SrAln’s eye, the boys had tracked down one of London’s biggest mini-cab firms and the girls had got hold of a luxury car dealership. Naturally, both businesses were happy to drop everything to have them pop over to negotiate terms as they happened to need their entire fleets cleaning.

    I can imagine the conversation amongst the directors…”Sorry? BBC prime time wants to come over to our lot and film a load of oiks cleaning our cars? For free? When? Sure, where do we sign? Make sure you’ve all had your hair cut and you’re dressed smartly guys – ooooh, who’s gonna play bad cop and who will be good cop? Our usual suppliers who we pay a retainer too? Oh, we’ll be ok, who needs to watch their costs? We’ll just absorb it.”

    So it was clearly all a set up. The BBC’s done the ground work, setting up potential gold mines for the teams to exploit and yes, I realise that is what is required to make the programme instantly compelling rather than seeing the teams pound the shoe leather and the phones searching for clients. However, that hard graft done for them, the tasks decended into a popularity and shouting competition.

    Who would emerge as top dog, or perhaps more fittingly, top bitch? Both the boys and the girls spent more time running eachother down, questioning leadership and style over outlining the business plan. As a result, lots of mess, a few tears (ok, I imagined that but they’ll be there next episode) and a spot of personality clashes.

    Is that business? Maybe. Is it reality? No. Is it reality TV? Yes. It did give nod to these more challenging economic times until the teams retired after a hard day to their luxury penthouse apartment complete with cocktail team and the real fun and fighting could begin. How long before we’re asked by Radio 1 who we think fancies who or which apprentice is the hottest? Important questions I’m sure.

    Anyway, I’m off to find a bucket, a sponge and Nottingham’s biggest cab firm. By my calculations I can make £200 profit by 7pm. Thanks SrAln.

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  • Crisis? What crisis? PR in a tight spot.

    Feb 10 • Crisis PR, General business • 1494 Views

    Ok, you’re going to need to take a look at your crisis communications plan. You have got one haven’t you? You haven’t? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s take a look at what you SHOULD have done before this all kicked off.

    PR and handling the media is about relationships. You can’t expect to just waltz up to a journalist “delighted” with your good news if he/she doesn’t know you or your company from Adam/Eve.

    Well, you can, but you’ll have a far better chance of a positive response and some quality editorial if you have bothered to do some groundwork, found out what they want, when they want it and begun to build a two-way relationship.

    Relationships in business are crucial, whether it is with clients, suppliers, employees or the media. Journalists need stories. Good news stories make great copy but unfortunately so do negative stories. Journalists deal in news. Your bad news is just as important to them as your good news.

    So, what can you do? Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it will go away because the deadline for comment will pass before you get back to them. There really are two sides to every story and you need to ensure you get yours over. If it involves you, or your business, you really should be on top of the facts. If you are still looking into the situation or are legally shackled, say so, but clarify any information that you can and don’t leave things open to speculation. If you ignore or shun a journalist, speculation is all they have to go on and any relationship built up to date is ruined or scuppered before you’ve even begun.

    If you do go down the “no comment” route, you don’t look like an iron-willed corporate shark, you look ill-informed, unprepared and sometimes, unsympathetic. There is only one thing you can control in a crisis – preparation. If you work in a more high risk environment consider the “what if” scenarios.

    What would you do if X happened? What are your processes for clarifying the situation, communicating it to colleagues and then the media? In that order? Yes, I think so. Your employees deserve to know the facts from you and not from tomorrow’s papers. Also, if you do go for the “no comment” approach, guess where the journalist is heading next?

    In conclusion, journalists are not out to get you, they are out to get a story. Make sure at least half of it is yours.

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  • Gordon Bennett! Brown in black and white.

    Sep 23 • Politics • 1394 Views

    Gordon Brown Labour Party Conference

    Gordon Brown Labour Party Conference

    I’ve just spent an hour watching Gordon Brown deliver his crucial speech to the Labour Party Conference. For a man who struggles with what his media personality actually is, he did very well. Why? Well, he was himself. I think.

    Gordon admitted he has been criticised in the media for being too serious. His response? “These are serious times.” He then softened his delivery using real-life anecdotes to describe his passion for a strong NHS. There was tub thumping but equally there was admission of mistakes made, notably in relation to the 10p tax debacle.

    He attacked the Tories, his party craved that and he did it pretty well. However, he didn’t get too tempted to launch into what they can’t or won’t do and concentrated on what Labour will do.

    Standing ovations greeted him a number of times as he delivered a strong performance but I wonder if his wife Sarah, who actually opened the conference and introduced him, will receive just as many plaudits in tomorrow’s tabloids?

    He also managed a sly dig at those questioning his leadership credentials. “These are no times for an apprentice,” he joked. Which David was that aimed at I wonder?

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