Friday, 26 August 2011

La Isla Bonita

Sound editor Al did a splendid job with the audio book of "A Tiger's Wedding". He's obviously a fan!

This week I thought I would write a little about the recently published memoir, written by Isla Blair - “A Tiger’s Wedding - my childhood in exile” which is jointly published by Creative Content and Julian Calder Publishing, with CC doing audio and eBook formats and JCP publishing the hardback.

The opportunity for CC to get involved with the book came about when Ali was producing an unrelated audio recording session with Isla’s son Jamie Glover and just happened to ask about Isla. Jamie mentioned the book to Ali, Ali then spoke with Lorelei the same day and they decided to commit within a week of receiving the manuscript, to the co-publishing deal for “A Tiger’s Wedding - my childhood in exile” and the book was published in all three formats on June 26th 2011

Isla writes with such passion, warmth and honesty - the audio version of the book (which is of course Isla narrates) really is a fascinating listen - all of these traits are very evident and Isla truly brings the pages to life - invaluable for a memoir of course…

Additionally, in written/eBook form, the old adage of “…I couldn’t put it down” is very apt for “A Tiger’s Wedding…” and Isla‘s supremely eloquent writing style ensures that the reader is captivated right from the start.

At the beginning of August, the book received a five star review in The Mail on Sunday from the highly respected Kathryn Hughes and Isla appeared on BBC’s “Breakfast” programme on Monday (August 15th) to further promote her book, this followed on from an appearance on Jeni Barnett’s BBC Radio London Sunday programme.

So with interest in the book growing, Isla has some promotional appearances between now and the end of the year, then extending into 2012.

The first of these is a reading and signing session at the Barnes Bookshop in London on Thursday September 8th between 6 and 8pm. This is then followed just over a week later by what should be a fascinating conversation about the book, with her son Jamie, at the Chiswick Book Festival on Saturday September 17th at 3:45pm. There are more dates in the process of being confirmed, which will initially see Isla in Cheltenham, Folkstone and Edinburgh with other dates/locations pending - keep up with the CC Twitter page for further information.

Isla is such an enthralling speaker, you won’t want to miss her!

Oh and by the way, the translation for “La Isla Bonita” is “beautiful island” and the analogy to “A Tiger’s Wedding - my childhood in exile” is appropriate as Isla has written a truly beautiful and remarkable book that stands proud with an integrity and honesty all its own - like all the best islands in the world - I highly recommend it!- Al Muirden 


Friday, 19 August 2011

UK Crisis Season

Our guest blogger this week is risk communications expert Andrew Roberts, author (with Andrew Powell) of "The Lowdown: Dodging the Bullet - Effective Risk Communications". Here he analyses the strategy of News Corporation in their recent crisis management...

The UK ‘phone hacking’ or News of the World scandal, which appeared to be the 2000 Lbs. gorilla of a crisis, appears to have abated for now in the wake of two rather more significant crises: the worldwide financial meltdown (Take 2) and the UK riots. The spotlight is very much off News Corporation and the Murdochs, at least for now. However, for a while it was looking the like the most intriguing crisis to hit the UK for quite some time, a transatlantic tale of listening devices, private investigators and ill-advised appointments involving a celebrated roll call—A-list celebrities, 9/11 victims and, very much front and center, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. 

From my perspective, that of a risk communicator, the most interesting part of this crisis was the response of News Corporation, the performance of certain MPs in debates and committee hearings, and how risk communication strategies have been employed, or in most cases not, by the protagonists. Finally, in light of subsequent events, I am left to think, has it all been a storm in a UK teacup or has the crisis been dealt with in a successful way, buying it enough time to live out its half-life and be swallowed up by something all consuming? Will the phone hacking crisis provide case study material for crisis and risk communicators for years to come?

First of all, as a risk communicator I don't claim to be a crisis manager; the role of risk communication is mainly to prevent crisis, or at least limit its effects when it does occur. In this specific case, risk communication techniques have been used by key players, and effectively so, especially when viewed alongside the ad hoc emotional responses of many British MPs investigating.

The key to resolving crisis is rapid, effective action, accompanied by candid, open communications from those at the very top, usually the CEO or Chairman. In terms of action, the News Corporation crisis management team was timely and responsive and clearly appreciated that, sometimes, euthanizing a brand to limit damage and address public outrage is the only option left. Look at Pan Am following Lockerbie, or Firestone following their monumental tire crisis in the 90s. The News of the World, from the broad public perspective, had lost all shreds of integrity and hence credibility. Whilst the newspaper could have continued, its timely shut down pre-empted calls to do so, and thus the action could be seen as being entirely voluntary, a shrewd tactical move. Following some quite shocking examples of very public mishandling of crisis (many of which by UK companies), where calls to similar action following catastrophes were belligerently resisted, the News of the World closure was unexpected and rather decisive. The move also helped show News Corporation’s intent, as a vital trust determination factor, and in acknowledging their past mistakes (a key outrage management strategy) and moving forward towards a solution. Dismissal of key staff within the organization and carefully worded empathetic statements have all helped the company both tacitly acknowledge the public stress and outrage that has accompanied the news. At the same time and most significantly, far from hiding behind this action, both Rupert Murdoch and his son James have displayed complete commitment to be ‘hands on’ and confront the problems personally. 

The Murdochs’ participation in the management of the crisis and its resolution (at least for now) have been made all the more straightforward by what appeared to be the ‘lynch mob’ mentality of numerous parties, from rival media outlets to British members of Parliament (MPs), seemingly frothing at the mouth to exploit the crisis to its full extent to both harm the reputation of News Corporation or score political points at the expense of David Cameron. 

This is best illustrated by the performance of the Murdochs at the all-party committee hearings. They were calm, they did not look to address the extreme viewpoints and their displayed excellent nonverbal communications throughout. Contrast this behavior, known by risk communicators as “staking out the middle,” with the rather virtuous, baying for blood, ‘village hall heckler’ type performances of committee members.

From a risk communication perspective, the media reaction to the performance shows a complete lack of understanding of crisis management strategies and particularly those advanced strategies in media training to meet outrage, elicit empathy and most critically build trust. Take for example, BBC’s Hard Talk, interviewing their PR “guru,”

Interviewer: “It was a slightly bumbling performance; would you as a PR man brief Rupert Murdoch to perform in this way?”

PR Guru: “No, I just think that is the way he is.”

Well, this indeed may be true, but IF it was a strategy it was quite brilliant! If either of the Murdochs had come out with a glossy, teleprompt style presentation, it just would look like they were reading a prepared script (remember Tiger Woods’ press conference), but the fact that they went back and forth and referred questions to one another gave their responses genuine integrity. So their intent in being directly questioned, not hiding as many a CEO and Chairman has done in previous high profile cases, along with perceptions of integrity and honesty, really helped their trust determination, a key factor when the truth is simply not known.

Earl Spencer (the late Princess of Wales’ brother) appeared on the same programme and was asked if he had any sympathy for the Murdochs in light of the inquisition they faced. “No,” said Earl Spencer, “but I do have sympathy for anyone past their best.” Past his best or still at his best, only the Murdochs will truly know!

Whatever your opinion on the performance of the Murdochs, or indeed the prestigious spiking ability of Rupert Murdoch's former volleyball-playing wife, the ‘inquisition’ at the hands of the media and cultural committee, lasting 3 hours, was a resounding success for News Corporation. Investor confidence was bolstered and share price increased by 6%, and little damage was inflicting during what was for the most part an aggressive interrogation by Committee members who appeared to relish the chance of having the Murdochs in their crosshairs. The Murdoch family retuned to the US following the hearings; footage of them leaving in a G6 private jet did not show what must have been rather large smiles on their faces and champagne in their glasses.

Whilst some observers may point to long pauses, deferring of questions by Murdoch senior to his son, their nonverbal communications demonstrated concern, a willingness to cooperate and to answer questions honestly and openly. Their overall demeanor contrasted with that of the committee, many whom appeared rather over-eager to crucify the Murdochs, letting their anger clearly show in their facial expressions, tone of voice and the nature of questions raised. Of course, the whole spectacle of 14 people interrogating an elderly media mogul and his son did little to help the committee's cause but did much to build sympathy for the Murdochs. And it is this sympathy that is crucial in this case. The whole idea of a swath of would-be interrogators badgering just two people may appease those that despise the Murdochs and all they stand for but from a broader perception of building trust, it does little.

The committee’s credibility was further eroded by the use of ‘parliamentary privilege’ to attempt to incriminate CNN host Piers Morgan. When later challenged to repeat her allegations Ms XXXXX refused, rendering her earlier attack somewhat futile, and illustrating an important principle. If you are going to conduct a public meeting under the highest scrutiny, make sure you have a game plan, be prepared, acknowledge verbal and nonverbal communications and don’t let your anger spiral out of control! Those who are being questioned are likely to be just as, if not more, prepared than you and may well have vast resources at their disposal, all geared towards building perceptions of trust and sympathy in the public’s minds. At worst you at least have to make it look like it's a fair fight, otherwise its simply appears that you are just there to vent your frustrations, not get to the bottom of a very complex, perhaps unsolvable case.

Communication competence, both verbally and nonverbally, along with decisive action and well thought out risk communication strategies, can make all the difference in a crisis. In this case, News Corporation were able to emerge from a very public test of their character and competence with their heads held high, pockets intact and do enough to critically buy time. Every crisis has a half-life, in this case they did more than enough to buy enough time for media interest to be deflected elsewhere. In some crisis situations, this may be all that is needed to ensure that the bad news goes away for good. - Andrew Roberts

"The Lowdown: Dodging the Bullet - Effective Risk Communications" is published by Creative Content in both eBook and audio book formats. 

Photo by robinsoncrusoe

Friday, 12 August 2011


Our sound editor Al does double-duty with his second guest blog this month. Today he's talking about change....

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

I have to admit that through most of my working life, I have been one of those people who’s a little averse to change. In my previous job, I had to deal with all manner of problems and got used to the “change is bad” approach, rather than looking at ways to alter things to try to make stop the problems re-occurring!

I always thought that change tended to just offer the same amount of problems simply by being inherent in well…change.

Being a freelance sound editor, and thus self-employed, has meant that I have been offered up a lot of challenges for sure and these challenges have resulted in a lot of change.

I have found that in the work environment, I have to be adaptable and flexible as I always thought I was (but in reality the exact opposite was probably more accurate!) and when faced with some of the issues that I have been presented with over the past year these two attributes have been right at the forefront of my approach to the way I do things - and I’ve just got to get on with it!

One example is the way that we have to supply finished edited audio product to one of the major retailers - they provide the rules and we have to alter our way of working to fit those parameters. Like a lot of “change,” at first it seemed illogical and unnecessary, but having worked with it for a couple of months, I now wonder why I ever thought that - it’s just become the norm - and this change has in some ways even made things easier.

As the title of this piece translates “…the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  I can take this quote and interpret it in my own way. If like me you come from the “change is bad” camp, try thinking that far from being something to be scared of, you can actually achieve a better balance by embracing change.

Sometimes we are forced to change - circumstances dictate this and we just have to adapt to the new. I think that it’s a good thing to look on all change in this way - sometimes we may even get the chance to combine the old with the new too, that way we get to have the best of both worlds!

One thing is for sure…constant change is here to stay! - Al Muirden

Friday, 5 August 2011

It's nice to be liked!

Our lovely sound editor Al blogs about sharing the love...

I imagine that there are many people out there that think like me - it’s nice to be liked, just like it’s nice to be appreciated, praised and supported. All these things make us feel good - it’s only natural!

Recently, both Ali and Lorelei have received some of this positivity from their peers - in Ali’s case, one of the audio books she worked on as producer last year won a prestigious award for its narration and meant that Ali actually got an award - yes a physical, engraved award - this was no mean feat and was thoroughly deserved!

Lorelei’s was different, and came in a slew of fantastic reviews of one of the audio books she recently narrated (of course Lorelei is no stranger to actual awards as she has picked up MANY over the years - and continues to do so, understandably, as she is right at the top of her game!) but the reviews were just universally FULL of praise for her performance…

Being so close to Ali made me appreciate just how MUCH this award meant to her - Lorelei was the same, with their reactions being “…hey, people are appreciating what I do and letting me know about it - I’ll do it some more!”

SO - appreciation, praise and support are inspiring - all make us feel like getting on and doing more of the same - or better yet, doing more of the same, but BETTER!

If I’ve been working on an audio book that has impressed me - either by the way it has been narrated or the way the book was written, I have got into the habit of emailing the reader or the author, telling them how impressed I’ve been - without exception, I get an email back from each of them, and the response is always the same: they are very grateful that someone has taken enough of an interest in what they do, to take the time to contact them directly. Obviously, I am fortunate to be able to contact them direct, but the point is that wherever it comes from, praise and appreciation works both for the giver and the receiver - it makes us feel good!

So if you get a chance praise someone or make them feel appreciated because something they have done has impressed you, don’t shy away from it - let it come out - verbally (always the more difficult I know) or by whatever electronic means there happens to be!

Believe me, we WANT to be praised, appreciated and supported - it makes us feel good and it makes us feel liked… we need a whole lot more of that in the world! - Alan Muirden