Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock

Blog notification: This is one of those self-indulgent rambling posts that I do from time to time. Part-introspective, part-grumpy…

We “office” workers are probably are working longer and harder than ever before.  We deal with more information from more sources, we juggle meetings, calls, work, e-mail, IM, social media and of course most important of all our commitments to family and friends.

There are many milestones in life and as I’m approaching one myself, I think it’s a great opportunity to stop and take stock.

I find this piece in the New York Time on sensory overload really interesting.  We’re trying to cram so much into our days that we try and use every minute without taking some time to let your brain coast.

The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting down time that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

When’s the last time you sat, took a deep breath and did nothing but let your mind wander? It is surprisingly relaxing.  You find your mind going off in a whole range of different directions.

Personally speaking, it’s something I plan to do more of. 

The challenge is the hectic pace of work, the endless social media consumption, and all the other things you need to get done every day. It would tire you out just thinking about it. Oh… well never mind.

Social media is part of this. It can be a challenge. But a worthwhile one.

The reality for most people is that traditional tasks haven’t gone away, and now – particularly for the communicators amongst us -  we are integrating a whole new set of channels, tools and relationships to our existing day job.

The reality is that something has to give. Everyone is having to make rapid decisions about where to invest precious time.

Being clear about your personal and professional objectives is a great starting point for making those decisions. But again, we probably don’t spend enough time thinking strategically.

We’re too busy running.

I think that’s one of the reasons that the Windows Phone 7 ad has hit a nerve. (Yeah yeah I work for Microsoft) It resonated with me.

Windows Phone 7 Ad–Really?


Your best work comes through combining passion, hard work, great execution, strategy and creativity.

Running faster, running harder, running longer isn’t the answer.

The medicine show

Social media is a case in point.  The signal to noise ratio is high.  Don’t get me wrong, it is incredible to see people sharing knowledge and opinions freely.  You can find incredibly valuable insight and advice across social media (and a lot of funny stuff too), but there’s also a lot of waffle, a lot of unsubstantiated theories presented as fact, and a lot of pseudo-science where there isn’t any.

You’ve got to have a filter on.  The problem isn’t just technology, it’s how you use it.

There is far too much over-engineering going on – presenting pretty simple concepts and practices as something akin to brain surgery.

The basics of successful social media engagement and execution aren’t difficult. It doesn’t require an 6 foot by3 foot color flow chart with 800 components. It doesn’t need to creation of fictional terms which dress up basic knowledge and tactics as though they have been envisaged and developed in a laboratory over 10 years by people who in a previous generation would have been involved in sending metal objects to foreign planets.

Social media is awesome (I may be in the United States too long at this point).  It enables people to connect with one another.  It provides access to an incredible array of information and resources (Twitter), it connects friends and colleagues and let’s you keep up to date with what’s important to you (Facebook).

From a communications perspective, it demands that you combine great traditional Public Relations practices – strategy, great writing, great interpersonal communication, measurement and planning – with a greater focus on person to person communication and a lot of creativity.

It takes time, it takes resources and it costs money. It needs to be integrated with your overall marketing and communications.  It needs to accrue to your objectives and goals.  You need to measure it.

The tools aren’t complex, the rules or engagement aren’t difficult to master or understand.  Anyone who tells you different is lying.

Yes it changes some things.  Where issues or crises were once rare and often unexpected.  Social media creates a perfect breeding ground for mini and major issues.  People present whiplash analysis and opinion as fact.  This is the reality.


So where does that leave us?  Well from my perspective there’s a couple of core things I will (continue to) focus on – all common sense:

Start with what’s important

Although I am not as good at it as I would like, starting with clarity on your personal and professional goals and objectives is key.  What roles do you play? What do you want to do (more of? less of? new?)? What time will you invest? What will you prioritize and more importantly deprioritize.

Take the first step

Look at those objectives and work out what you need to do to achieve them. It may be a project, series of projects or just a couple of tasks.

Monitor, Review and Maintain

Build a habit of reviewing those goals and roles.  Habits are essential.  Critically review your progress and how effective you have been in keeping on track. (I’ve found workflows like Getting Things Done very useful for building an effective review/action system)

Spot your failures

There’s so many potential hazards. Procrastination, avoiding the difficult but important task, not taking a time-out.

Stop and think about your time and how you are spending it.  What can you stop? What can you do more of? Where can you give yourself quality time – either with others or yourself?

Smell the coffee

Stop from time to time.


Take a deep breath.

Close your eyes.

Take a look around you.

Get off the treadmill and live life.


Sermon over.  My thirty ninth year is nearly compete and of course that’s better than the alternative – now there’s positive thinking.

Now you can get back to Twitter.


Posted by Tom Murphy


PR Blogging old timers

Earlier today I learned from Jeremy Pepper via Twitter that Phil Gomes has temporarily suspended his blogging activities.

Phil was one of the first PR folks (along with Jim Horton and Richard Bailey) that I came across when I started blogging many years ago.

In a trip of pure nostalgia I searched my old blog archives to find out when I first connected with Phil, and discovered that unknown to me, today is the eight anniversary of my first blog post.

Like Phil, my recent volume of writing has (and many would say thankfully) slowed to a trickle, but I’ve decided to keep promising myself that I’ll do better in the future.

We’ll see…

Pining for the Six Nations

This time of year means one thing for me (and it doesn’t involve the weather), it’s Six Nations time.

This is the time of the year when the excitement starts to build. When thousands of Irish, English, French, Welsh, Scottish and Italians criss-cross Europe following their teams.  When town centres are crammed with supporters, colour and excitement.

This year, for me at any rate, it means getting up an ungodly hour to support the boys in green – the (ahem) reigning Grand Slam champions (probably the last time in my life time I’ll be able to type that).

Aidan Cunningham from Edelman in Dublin was in touch on behalf of O2 regarding an interesting social media-related promotion they are running for the Six Nations: Be The Difference.

According to the press release:

O2 is giving supporters the unique opportunity to give their words of inspiration to the Irish team by recording a personalised ‘Team Talk’ that they would give to the players before they enter the pitch. All that supporters need to do to show their support is log on to to record or upload their video.

Before each home game during the RBS Six Nations the Irish players themselves will select their favourite video. The winning video will be played to the Irish team before the game and to the 80,000 people in Croke Park via the stadium’s big screens, ensuring that each winner can truly be the difference.


Any excuse for a Six Nations post.

C’mon Ireland :-)

Where’s your pride?

On a cold Dublin day in 1985, the Irish rugby team were playing England at Lansdowne Road.  The country’s rugby team has traditionally played with a lot of pride and passion, but never had the quality to trouble the world’s best teams on a consistent basis (I am delighted to report that the situation is a little different today). This day they had the opportunity to win the “Triple Crown” by beating the old enemy (well everyone’s old enemy :-) ).  It was a tough match and the English team clearly had the upper hand.   In fact it was becoming apparent that once again Ireland would come so close, but fail and have to take some consolation in a moral victory.

As time ticked on, there was a break in the game, and the side’s captain, an army officer by the name of Ciaran Fitzgerald, turned to his tired, beaten team mates and roared at them words that have since become a national institution: “Where’s your f*****g pride?”.  The words were caught on TV cameras around the ground and broadcast all over Europe.

It won’t be a surprise, given the title of this post, that his team rose to the occasion following his call to arms, drove down the field and a Michael Kiernan drop goal sent a success-starved nation into sporting euphoria.

Pride and passion (as opposed to Pride and Prejudice which is a different post entirely) are incredibly valuable assets in the sporting and business worlds.  When I think of all the spokespeople I’ve worked with or observed, it’s those with pride in what they do, and a clear passion that stand out.  You can’t fake passion (let’s refrain from the toilet humor now folks), it is addictive, it brings people on a journey. 

Of course there are some downsides.  People with real passion often go beyond their brief, but I’ll take that issue any day over someone droning on with no passion.

Working with passionate people is easy, and it’s enjoyable.

Back in December I wrote about the importance of loving (and having passion) for what you do:

It amazes me how many people hate their jobs. They dread the sound of their alarm clock. Well, they are clearly stronger than I, because I couldn’t do that. It’s a personal thing. I need to have a passion for what I do. There’s a nice quote I read recently from a Steve Jobs address to students at Stanford: “You’ve got to find what you love… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Spot on.

Passion gets you out of bed in the morning. Passion forces you to think about new and better ways to work and to get results. Passion makes you an incredible ambassador.

Are you passionate about what you do? If not, think about what you’re doing today and then think what you’d like to do – what are you passionate about?

There is nothing most depressing than working with people who have lost their passion. 

If you’re working in Marketing or PR, re-capture your passion and get your colleagues passionate about what you are trying to achieve, the results will be worth the trip – and the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

Author aside: Please note that this entire post, which is related to PR, did not include one, single mention of social media….doh.

Update: Read Louis Gray’s post on a related subject.

PR in 2010: Coping with the Cacophony

As we approach the start of a new year, and indeed a new decade, the blogosphere will no doubt be overwhelmed by predictions and forecasts of various kinds concerning the future of traditional media, social media, PR, marketing etc.

So I thought I’d take a different tack.

I’m going to assume that we are indeed heading into another year of evolution and change. So if that’s a given, why not consider you. What will you do in the next year?

It’s December, it’s a great time to take stock, to review how you’re doing, and to preview where you’re going.

The world of work is changing; and I think that PR and marketing professionals face even greater challenges as we struggle to juggle our traditional work loads and responsibilities with new emerging channels, tools and relationships. So how will we cope with these challenges?

Now before I go any further, I would hate you to think that I’m living in some sort of personal Zen. I can assure you that I am not. However I have reached the conclusion that we must take responsibility for how we manage our personal and working lives. We need to actively think about how we not only cope with a broader set of responsibilities but how we succeed with them.

In short, I think 2010 is the year that you need to invest in you.

I’m not a personal development guru, but here I present 12 areas that I’ve been thinking about recently – for what it’s worth. (And there’s not one mention of unfollowing people on Twitter – that’s a promise.)

I would love to hear your views. What have I missed? What do you disagree with? Jump in with a comment or write your own post and let me know, I’ll add links here.


1. If you don’t know where you’re going.. I am sure there are many people in this world who are naturally ‘planful’. No doubt their work and personal lives revolve around a clear vision of short, medium and long-term objectives. I’m not one of them. However, I have been investing some time in thinking about my own priorities and my own objectives. What roles do I play in my personal and work lives? What objectives do I have? What changes do I want to make? Where do I want to go and how do I get there? Start small, map your roles and responsibilities and your aspirations, then review and review again.

2. Make time for your personal life… Do I need to write any more? If I do, then please refer to the beginning of this paragraph.

3. Love what you do.. It amazes me how many people hate their jobs. They dread the sound of their alarm clock. Well, they are clearly stronger than I, because I couldn’t do that. It’s a personal thing. I need to have a passion for what I do. There’s a nice quote I read recently from a Steve Jobs address to students at Stanford: “You’ve got to find what you love… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Spot on.

4. Get smart about your workload… You face an avalanche of work, commitments, e-mail, tweets, meetings, tasks and calls every day. Do yourself a favor, start thinking about how you can work smarter. There are some great approaches to more efficient personal workflow. Research them, try them, and give yourself some time back.

5. It’s OK to be a nerd… Related to getting a personal workflow is getting smart about how you use the tools you have. Investing some time in learning to use your PC and applications – as well as the tools and services available online – more effectively, is a good investment that will give you a huge return. Get searching.

6. Get Social.. I know this sounds really obvious, but social media is here to stay. Ignorance really isn’t an option. Many, if not most of our traditional tools and channels will remain important and relevant for the foreseeable future, but social media opens new opportunities to increase the effectiveness of your efforts. The fact you are reading this on a blog means you’re probably already there, however, keep current and get involved. See point #12.

7. Consume greedily.. Keep your brain active and challenged. Find time to read, find time to listen to podcasts, find time to talk to people. Expand your mind outside your area of expertise. Build it into your objectives. Creative ideas and approaches come from many sources and many of them are surprising. Bring your Zune :-) or your Kindle to the gym or on the train. Make time.

8. Live a little… So as the quote goes, "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got." We live in exciting times, take calculated risks, experiment, review it and measure the results. At worst it provides fantastic learning opportunities and at best will have a major impact on the effectiveness of your work.

9. Write proper…Isn’t it time we addressed the black and white elephant in the room? The advent of social media demands that we revisit how we communicate. Corporate speak is over-used and it no longer resonates with our audiences. We must change how we think about it, we must bring words to life and go back to telling stories. This is a long journey but one that is worth taking.

10. Where’s your vision… There’s a land grab underway in social media. Who owns it? Who drives it? Don’t be left behind, take control of your destiny. Be clear on your goals (and how they tie back to the business), your strategies and your tactics. Social media isn’t about starting a Twitter account it must be integrated across your business.

Remember the story about everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about this, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

11. How big was it?… Don’t look at your shoes and cough. Measure your successes AND your failures. Review them. Learn. Go again. Be accountable.

12. Know your audience… Invest in getting a better insight into your audience. It will pay huge dividends. Don’t pay lip service to it, do it.


Last but certainly not least, enjoy it… remember this isn’t a dress rehearsal…


Author’s note:

When I was drafting this post, I happened upon a post I wrote around this time of the year back in 2007. It’s still relevant.

The guilt of social media..

My (relatively) recent resolution to maintain my social media consumption and production, has waned in the past couple of weeks.  The usual excuses; lots to do; busy at work; busy at home…

I spent the weekend with family and friends only wasting fleeting moments checking work e-mail to make sure all was well with the world. 

And it was.

Until Sunday evening.

Checking my personal e-mail, I was alarmed to find loads and loads and loads of new poor unfortunates following me on Twitter.

That’s when the guilt kicked in.

I haven’t blogged in weeks and my consumption of blogs, RSS, Twitter and Facebook has been tardy lately.

Now I feel pressure to get back on top of it.

Of course, unlike a diet, which is happy to fade into the background, social media is more aggressive in reminding you of your inertia.

So like all good addicts, I will once again clamber onto the social media bicycle and start peddling.

I guess this is Guilt 2.0.

Editor’s note:

Sorry I meant to add that the source of all these new followers (hello!) is a post by Valeria Maltoni on 100 PR People Worth Following on Twitter. As someone who made the very first iteration of the Power 150 and is now struggling to make the “Less Powerful 500” I am of course delighted with my inclusion, though mindful of the fact that I won’t make the next update…

The joy of… language

During a meeting earlier this week I spotted a well thumbed copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves on an office book shelf.  This discovery sparked an enjoyable conversation on the power of language. Of course if you’re working in Public Relations then language is occupational currency.

Later in the week I was absent mindedly browsing Netflix and happened upon an old gem, the entire series of Yes Minister.

For the uninitiated “Yes (Prime) Minister” is a 30 year old BBC television comedy that follows the career of a Minister in her majesty’s government (and later as he assumes the role of Prime Minister) and his daily struggle with the powers of the civil service.

If you love language then this is something you should watch.

“No buts,” the Minister snapped. “All I get from the Civil Service is delaying tactics.”

“I wouldn’t call Civil Service delays “tactics”, Minister,” Sir Humphrey replied.  “That would be to mistake lethargy for strategy.”

In today’s climate of “transparency” and “plain English” the use of language in the series – purely for the sake of obfuscation and deceit – is truly a joy!

From a PR perspective there’s an interesting potential parallel between the Minister’s relationship with the Civil Service; and a dysfunctional client-agency relationship.  (Obviously this doesn’t reflect any of my client relationships when I worked on the agency side, or god forbid my agency relationships since I crossed the table :-))

Witness a memo between two Civil Servants:


A Minister’s absence is desirable because it enables you to do the job properly:

  1. No silly questions
  2. No bright ideas
  3. No fussing about what the papers are saying

One week’s absence, plus briefing beforehand and debriefing and catching up on the backlog on his return, means that he can be kept out of the Department’s hair for virtually a fortnight.

Furthermore, a Minister’s absence is the best cover for not informing the Minister when it is not desirable to do so – and for the next six months, if he complains of not having been informed about something, tell him it came up while he was away.

Substitute “Minister” for Client and “Department” for Agency :-)

Watch the series or better yet, exercise your mind and buy the books which give you time to savor the plots, the thinking, but most of all the language.


Leinster – Heineken Cup Champions 2009

Following my previous post on the subject, it’s good to see that my absence is proving a catalyst for unparalleled achievement in Irish sport.

Whatever about an Irish grand slam, Saturday’s result with Leinster winning the European Cup proves beyond doubt that I am a talisman of doom for any team unlucky enough to be the subject of my affection…. I’ll have to stay away a bit longer :-)


It’s also very bad news for the Mariners….