Q&A with CIPR Influence magazine

CIPR Influence magazine

I was interviewed by Rob Smith, Editor, Influence magazine. Published in two parts, May 2016.

What does Influence mean to the public relations business currently? Is it more important since the rise of digital or has it always been at the heart of what it is to be a public relations professional?

You have been influenced when you think in a way you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done. Unfortunately, the English language also has us using the word ‘influence’ in terms of something someone might possess.

I always prefer to work with the first meaning here for two reasons: first, the changing of hearts, minds and deeds is the actual object of interest to public relations professionals (reciprocally of course, more on which later); second, we might quantify the former better than the latter, and indeed many of the better attempts to score influence as something someone might possess rely to a certain extent on that capacity being demonstrated (ie, the former again).

What does this mean to PR practice right now? Well that depends on your flavour of practice, characterised rather usefully at this juncture by Andy Green as simply old school and new school. Continue reading

Workfront and the future of work


I'm in Orlando Florida this week with the Workfront team and their partners and customers for their annual Leap conference. It's my privilege to participate in a panel session on the future of work, and to deliver a session with the more grounded title – making work suck less!

As you can see from the stack here, the first too common affront I identify and tackle is what I generally call the 'X steps to heaven' crowd. Those authors and companies proffering clickbait that teases with some relatively short sequence of steps needed to take you from zero to hero – in this context, going from a dysfunctional to awesome organization.

Bullshit. Life is complex and society is complex and all organization is complex, and authors of this sort of crap are either ignorant at best or disingenuous at worst. Complexity is a natural product that cannot be simplified – we can only aspire in this digital age to navigate it more simply.

I then go on to identify the lessons we might learn from Mother Nature, the necessity to sustain mutual value for all stakeholders, and some of the hazards we must avoid along the way, not least corporate surveillance.

Last night we were at the Magic Kingdom, and this evening we're dining at Epcot. Who said work has to suck?! :-)

Thanks for having me Workfront.

Barking a top-down command to be bottom-up

dog barking
According to The Onion earlier this year:

Warning of severe consequences if he didn’t see results, Pantheon Digital Consulting COO Daniel Abelson, 59, told employees Monday he wants a relaxed, friendly company culture implemented by the end of the week ...

Interesting approach.

Organisational culture is a notoriously tricky thing to pin down. My favoured definition is simply – how things get done round here. And if you're tempted by new forms of organisation that retire command and control and emphasise self-organisation, how on Earth do you get that process started?

Can you use that command and control authority one last time to instruct people to dismantle command and control? Continue reading

Why can’t Deezer answer simple questions about privacy?

Deezer website screenshot

I've just bought an Onkyo TX-8150 network receiver. Lovely. Especially because it can drive two pairs of speakers, eats so-called hi-res music (24/192 with a 32/384 Hi-Grade DAC), and comes ready to play nice with the likes of Spotify, Airplay and Deezer.

Spotify tarnished its reputation somewhat with its privacy cock-up last year, and doesn't yet entertain hi-res. Apple's Airplay looks neat but doesn't do hi-res either, and totally ignores Android. Hmm. So let's check out Deezer I thought to myself. A rare European Unicorn. And while it describes lossless CD quality as hi-res when that's not really what the term means, I'm not sure my 'listening environment' is that sensitive! Lossless CD quality will do me. Continue reading

On the future of manufacturing

modelling additive manufacture

I was invited last week to talk about the future of manufacturing at an event run by the manufacturing practice of one of the big law firms. Here's a whistle stop summary. It's a mind-blowing vista.


On considering political, economic, social and technological factors, it's unarguable that we're contemplating major flux in manufacturing. As with any flux, today's players will either win out or lose out, and clearly everyone in this room wishes to contribute to and participate in the winning side of things!

With that in mind, I'd like to explore some major themes:

  • Dehumanisation
  • Dematerialisation
  • Decentralisation
  • Deindustrialisation

That list sounds fairly destructive, yet I believe manufacturing is then transformed, manufacturing is vital, and manufacturing is more exciting than ever. Continue reading

“A New Balanced Scorecard for Communications” – a critique

The Business of Influence, Sheldrake, Wiley, 2011

I've just been pointed to a recent post by Tim Marklein on The Measurement Standard, A New Balanced Scorecard for Communications. I can't endorse it as it stands, as I understand it, and this post explains why.

For a bit of background, this summary of the Balanced Scorecard and associated Strategy Maps is based on the one in my book, The Business of Influence, and is one of my post popular webpages attracting thousands of visitors every month ;-) Do check it out if the Scorecard is new to you.

Having been frustrated by the very narrow practice of public relations, by the plain wrong approaches to alignment and performance measurement, and by the seeming isolation of the PR function from the rest of the business at a time when its best qualities are more vital than ever, I sought in 2009 to crystallise my ideas to help organisations transition to a more relevant and mutually valuable model. Knowing that organisational change is hard, I focused on the dominant way some of the world's largest and most successful businesses seek to articulate and guide performance – the Balanced Scorecard – in order to tap into the monster's own strengths, jujitsu style.

I called the resultant framework the Influence Scorecard, and I was delighted that Robert Howie, then the Director of the Kaplan Norton Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame for Executing Strategy, penned the foreword. Continue reading

Recoding public relations

PR Genome conference New York 2015

Having co-founded, built and sold a PR consultancy. Having written a book on reframing marketing and PR for the digital age that's now recommended reading across a number of under- and post-graduate courses. Having made some of the first presentations to the PR profession on the implications of the Internet of Things, the Semantic Web, and machined media. And having co-founded the CIPR's prolific social media group, I have it appears left the profession. And for some good time now.

I've taken the best the PR profession and academe have to offer the world, and then determinedly escaped its narrow practice. I've found I can now offer consultancy that isn't framed by preconceived ideas of PR. I can combine it with management consultancy more broadly, with org design and social business, with digital transformation and web science, without anyone saying "that's not PR!"

It does I admit help that I am a chartered engineer. Engineering is my nature. I will always be an engineer, but my association with PR is always framed these days in the past tense, if only to disassociate myself from inadequate and inappropriate context.

21st Century public relations isn't a synonym for media relations, or earned media, or simply "communications" come to that. It isn't publicity or, worse, spin. It isn't a side function and it's definitely ill-suited as a marketing function. Continue reading