Communication and Reputation – not another book review

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich and she has recently written her second book: “Spin Sucks – Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age”. (She also curates a kick-ass blog, here)

Gini Dietrich Spin Sucks quote


For transparency, you should know I was selected to be a Brand Ambassador for the launch week (this week!) and committed to writing a review and buying the book to help with a campaign designed to get the book onto the NY Times Bestseller List.

But this blog isn’t really about the book, though should you wish to, you can read it on Amazon here. You see, what is still developing  within me is how the key themes (telling stories, content as value,  lure of the dark side, collaboration and the future)  resonate and are already starting to inform many of my working conversations and business challenges and my business is change, it isn’t communications and PR. Or is that actually right?

I suggested within my book review that “everyone in business should know this stuff” and I say that because how and what we choose to communicate, personally and on behalf of a business, really does matter and says a lot about our personal responsibility, whilst our choices reveal what we value. This is particularly pertinent today, where such a high proportion of our communication has a degree of permanence (email, twitter, recorded phone calls, etc.)

It makes sense to me that whether our job is in communications, PR, or any other facet of business, we engage in communication daily which has a direct impact on our business and personal reputation and if we’re not managing that communication, the consequences for our reputation can be huge.

We all have options before us, the choice to improve our communication, to take responsibility for what we are creating between ourselves, to strive for resolution on an issue, regardless of how hard it is. To retreat to “that’s not what I meant” or “my other customers likes it” or to simply avoid any thoughtful response, is a cop-out.

The book is … and I quote, “both story and handbook for good public communication practice; easy and useful reading for a pretty broad range of readers with strong values at its core.” It does have neat hints and tips on SEO mysteries, Google, Panda, etc. though frankly, that’s just added onus.

It’s really a great reminder that it’s often the simple things, like consistency, honesty, saying sorry and yes, even having a bit of fun that will serve you well. I liked it a lot.

I’ve been dismally poor at creating my own content over the last year but the knowledge and direction I’ve gained from both reading the book and participating in the incredible collaboration for Gini’s target outcome has energised, so you can expect to hear more from me over the coming months.

Oh, and please don’t forget to buy the book, not just because I say so, but because all of these folk do too!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop me a line at and we can start a conversation.

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In preparation


It’s 2013 and I’ve kicked off a piece of work to build a learning / training / discovery programme to help people with change; from survival to evolving strengths that will help us steer our own futures.

I value my adaptability of thought highly and though I consider it a core strength, I am regularly amazed at the knowledge, skills, tools, techniques and behaviours of others that help me develop to be even more so.

Having worked in change, with change and as a change agent in various roles, one of the truths from my experience is that being as prepared as you are able is the only sensible way to plan for the inevitable disruption, and that even the best plans never encompass the biggest disruptions that occur. I believe we are at a pivotal time in world history and if you’ve read or seen anything from Dan Pink, or digested Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan” you may have some idea of the scale of journey I’m about to start.

Twitter killed my blogging habit for a while, though I’m remedying that. Followers of my social media and real-world networking activity in 2012 will have heard messages from my “visual communication/visual thinking” soapbox. The impact of relatively recent and expanding neuroscience research on business and on right-directed thinking in general is the topic of discussion on many a social-media forum. How we can re-use social-media tools and techniques to improve and invigorate traditional marketing assumptions changes almost daily. These topics, plus a bunch more from practitioners ModelMinds, RSA (and RSAnimate), Social-Media leaders, Sunni Brown and beyond will inform and feed our endeavours.

The programme I’m designing draws on both modern and ancient practices and as a journey will undoubtedly change along the way too.

Are you with me?

If you’re interested in the creation of content or being part of the learning experience, drop me a line at ; I’ll welcome your companionship.


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What is elasticity to change capacity?

I’ve had an unformed hypothesis bouncing around my brain for a little while now,  that is probably best described by a series of pictures.

1. In the first, we see a healthy “person”, with good capacity for change.

1, Good capacity for change

2. In the second, we see that person under stretch, responding to the change and demands that places on his elasticity.
2. A flexing individual, under change

3. The final image presents end options, depending on the resilience / previous capacity for change.

3. Possible end states post change

a = a fully recovered, fully resilient asset. Result!

b = someone partially recovered, so partially resilient with potential to fully recover or detoriate. Could you recognise this state and what do you do in this situation?

c = someone properly overstretched to the point of losing their elasticity. This is a problem for you both.

So the question we need to consider is how we all (individuals and enterprise included in this responsibility) monitor and mitigate against the risk of the final end state for any individual. #healthandwellbeing should be part of our balanced score card, and as such, so should change resilience.
Send your thoughts to

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In search of a 21st Century Rennaissance

It strikes me there is so much discussion around “change management” that is actually either people management biased or project management biased. There are enough good business folk out there who know it takes effort on all fronts, so why am I observing a split, and is it really so bad?

Well, I think it’s a bit like being bilingual (bear with me).
With language, our brains actually build a frame of reference in the early years that sets, so a true bilingual ability can only be achieved in the first 6-7 years. Anything added later is done so in reference to the original language. (This from the experts, and credible from my experience too.)

And so I posit it is with business knowledge. The majority of our professionals will have learned in environments that have functional departments. And so, Commercial and Projects and HR objectives will have been delivered by different teams, even when there were multi-disciplined outcomes being targetted. We can strive for multi-discipline habit of thinking, but few will find it comes naturally, and at times of stress retreat to the original building blocks of understanding.

As a result, change management discussions tend to polarise around the differing perspectives of the people discussing. And is this necessarily bad? Well, I don’t think it is good, as effort spent focussing on our differences distracts from realising the desired change.

Da Vinci flying machine And though I target change because it’s my specialist field, I know of other pertinent areas too.

Risk v’s Commercial? Accounting v’s Innovation?

Time for a gentle revolution?
The ancient polymaths of the Renaissance were able to break new ground because they were thinking using a much broader base of knowledge and toolkit of skills to support their thinking. I think it is time for us to do the same, and we shouldn’t underestimate the scale that task presents.

So until we can work this way of thinking into the fabric of our education system, business training and organisational habits, be prepared to spend effort helping folk remember we need to find paths that answers to a “both/and” requirement, rather than an “either/or”.

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Does western society teach a resistance to change?

I have recently been evolving an idea, considering (particularly but not solely in Britain) how we train ourselves to think. There is a wonderful RSAnimate on just this topic, adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert. If you haven’t see it yet, click on the image below which will open the YouTube animation in a separate window or tab.

RSAnimate on Education

The premise that our current education system was “designed, conceived and structured for a different age” rings so true for me, even taking into consideration the good attempts within schools to adapt for different learning styles, greater diversity of culture and religion, etc.

It is beyond my ken to tackle the current British education system solo, but what does it all mean for people working with and bringing change to our organisations?

Well, it’s as though we have been trained to think and process facts based on requirements (e.g. following process over tailored service provision, compliance over creativity,  retaining knowledge over creative thinking) that stand us in poor readiness for today’s business climate.

This in turn leads me to consider a number of things:

1. Our brain patterns may not be fit-for-purpose in the current age, so when bringing change initiatives to light, we should consider what patterns of thinking people will have versus what the current age and change requires of us.

2. There may be three pools of people we need to design help for:
- those with established patterns
- those with evolving patterns, and
- the future generations

3. What we sometimes perceive as “change resistance” may be in fact an individual’s habitual thinking. If we, as change practitioners, are fully focussed on “overcoming change resistance” rather than helping people move to a new state, we are likely to be wasting energy on battles that don’t all need to be had.

I will be running this hypothesis as a theme across upcoming blogs, discussions and tool development, primarily with change initiatives in mind, but also considering this from a societal learning perspective too.
If you have thoughts I’d welcome collaboration on the topic. You can mail me at
NB: It is worth a small note on the scope in the title, as I don’t intend to suggest non-western societies do or don’t conform to the hypothesis, only that I wouldn’t know. If you would and have a view, I’d love to hear from you, again at

[Image: Still taken from an RSAnimate]

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The Business Editor

I was re-reading an excellent article this weekend; Stop Blaming Your Culture by Jon Katzenbach and Ashley Harshak which talks with supporting evidence about the benefits of building on a corporate culture, from the inside. If you haven’t read the article and work in or lead change, I do highly recommend it.

Banksy rat photographerThere’s something of the “positive thinking” theme in the article that resonates, probably appealing to the creator in me. This technique doesn’t dismiss critical thinking, nor is it what some of my peers might term a “happy clappy” approach. It is practical, it convinces through action, not talk, and is, as the authors eloquently put it, “inherently energising”. What’s not to love?

The editing phase is the unspoken magic component in this, and forms part of the key skill set for any leader in business. A good editor can identify the kernels within the whole that have promise, that add value, that can grow. They then nurture the culture in parallel to implementing changes so it can support the building of new habits, functions and attitudes that flourish. So, finding and understanding those aspects of your organisation or team’s culture that are strong, is key.

Once you’re in the habit of looking for and seeing the good in the culture, you’ll start to see it all over the place, in your people, in your product and service. It’s an uplifting habit to develop and authentic to where the organisation is too, so a credible place to build from.

So, go create. Good luck with the search and the work thereafter.

[Photo: Flickr - Trois Têtes]

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Are we nearly there yet?

are we nearly there yet?A dreaded question, signalling hard work ahead. Tricks that have worked for me so far have generally revolved around distractions that pass the time (singing, food, toys, more food, more music) removing the focus from how long we spend in the car / train /aeroplane and onto something of interest. Something so simple would never work in a business situation.

Or would it?

In my last post, I talked a bit about change fatigue, focussing on how we could avoid some of it. But I’ve had some feedback that suggests more help is needed for teams undergoing large scale change (spanning multiple years). Now, there is much good (and more mediocre) content out there about change fatigue, touching on various reviews to assess strategy, repeat communication and … you know the lines.

(and if you don’t, two good examples, imo, are here: 1. General thoughts from the engagement leader at Kotter International; 2. Communication thoughts from a Marketing consultant brought in to help with change fatigue)

But what about changing the focus?

Outside of business, we find it easy to take pleasure in “the journey” as well as looking forward to the pleasures of “the destination”. So could it be our habit of focussing so hard on “delivering” for our businesses that we have forgotten the pleasures (and benefits) of celebrating the moments along the journey too?

Don’t get me wrong, I know some organisations out there do just that, celebrating interim milestones, sharing successes across areas of the business, punctuating the passing months with good communication. Could it work for you?

Thoughts, as always, welcomed at

[Photo: Flickr - are you my rik?]

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Cosmetic change efforts

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this post was going to state the blooming obvious on cosmetic change efforts.

I could pick any of the following responses to wax lyrical on without fear of ridicule :
Don’t do it; They are a false economy; If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing well; Who are we kidding, etc.

Less easy is spotting that your initiative is turning into a cosmetic change when you’re part way through and various challenges have hit the team. Compromise is a core survival technique for most change / project teams and their sponsors. So what tips to avoid such an end scenario?

1. Control changes to your plan / scope / costs / design

Bread and butter to this readership I feel, and yet without good controls at all stage, how on earth do we know what will be delivered.

2. Always understand and refer to the end benefit / experience when considering requested changes

Another fairly obvious one, but which needs discipline, as it can often be those changes brought in under the guise of “fixing” or “short-cut but no impact” or “must-do because our Risk team / sponsor / MD wants it” that create such an end result. Oh, and there may not be a decision on if the change is included, but it is not wasted efforts to understand and communicate the impacts, regardless of that.

3. Lead the change activities with visibility on the end state at all times

This is the hardest, but the single most effective thing to do, as if your team are focussed on the business profit increase, or the improved customer experience rather than the software or process they are building, they will not only protect the benefit, but may even find ways of increasing it’s likelihood.  This also means that your change processes will be used as helpful tools that ensure success, rather than control processes that need to be seen to be done.

Thoughts, as always, welcomed at

[Photo: Flick - Henrik]

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Tired of change?

I’ve been reading many articles on organisational change fatigue recently, and that set me thinking about contributing factors.
For me, “the fast pace of change” has become a bit of a cliché and I suspect is now popular for use in business bingo games across the UK, along with “synergy”, “when all is said and done” and “at the end of the day” (uch!).

I digress.

My point, is that in times of trouble, folk can get stuck in cycles of analysis that stifle decisions. And we are clearly, as an economy, in trouble of sorts.

So, could it be that when we say we have a team or an organisation that is tired of change, actually, there is a problem with good decisions?

In my experience, working with productive, challenging and fast moving change is the opposite of tiring, it energises. The tiring times weren’t ever about too much change, they were from times of stasis, of indecision, of deadlines being deferred and deferred until what you were aiming for had altered beyond recognition. Effort without reason. Now that’s tiring.

Now, I’m not saying that some teams work for so long and so hard that they don’t need rest from time to time, that’s not my point at all. I’m also not talking about those organisations who are (badly) implementing project after project without any sort of embedding, thereby wasting effort (and time, and goodwill, and …)

I am simply suggesting that before all of that, it is possible to talk ourselves into a state of weariness, and the current economic climate makes that both easier and more likely. I do think there is some of that going around, is that the case with your teams?

Our challenge then, is to reinvigorate those excellent initiatives we have on the radar, and dump those with no benefit.
Have a clear out of project and change agendas, re-focus on those ones that will really make a difference, and you’ll quickly banish the blues. Who knows, by the time they are all delivered, we may even have a more positive economic forecast too.

[Photo: Flickr - pigstubs]

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What is important to you?

I passionately believe that “what is important to you?”, is a significantly underused question in business today.

It has great power, it’s an open question, it can be asked by anyone, to anyone at any time. (It doesn’t even need to be restricted to work!)

I like it, because it is simple, to the point and holds surprisingly little pressure for the person you are talking to.

So reflect back on the last time you used it, and if you can’t remember when it was, it has been too long!

[Photo: Flickr - mckenzieo]

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