Friday, 29 July 2011

Heather Townsend

"So you're an international best-selling author!"
Lunch with Heather Townsend was a real privilege and I was honoured she could spare the time to see me now she is in such demand!  Heather's book, Business Networking, an FT Guide to using the power of online on offline networking for business success was only launched on 1 July, but already it has sold almost 2000 copies worldwide. 

Heather has an unusual skill-set.  With a background in engineering (including a degree from Oxford) and logistics, Heather is a master of process - and this is evident in the way she has structured her book: it is designed as an interesting read from cover to cover, but works equally well as a reference tool with a useful summary at the end of each chapter and a list of action points, (Heather is a strong believer in the practical application of new skills as soon as possible after the learning, to embed the new knowledge) as well as tips highlighted in box-outs throughout.  A highly recommended read. (You can order it from Amazon here.)

Heather worked for many years as an in-house training & development partner at BDO Stoy Hayward and today works equally comfortably with accounting and legal partnerships.  Her speciality is equipping professionals for partnership, latterly with a particular focus on how they can use social media to help, by building their networks.  Given her logistics background, she is particularly interested in prescribing systems for management and control of social media, also policies, in larger firms.

Follow Heather on twitter - you'll find her tweets useful.


The week started sadly, with reports of Amy Winehouse's death last weekend.  Not surprising, some say, but deeply tragic none-the-less.  Of all the write-ups, I found the Economist's particularly touching, describing how she lived her life backwards: "Barely out of her teens ...she already had the knowing tone of a performer with a lifetime of heartbreak behind her. Then, in her 20s, she set about acquiring the tragic worldliness that the timbre of her voice conveyed."  Read the full Economist report here.

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Judgment Day on Wednesday made this an exceptionally busy and exciting week at Kysen.  The Supreme Court issued no less than five judgments,(clearing the decks before the Summer break do we think?), four of which we have been actively working on.  Phew! 

The Star Wars copyright case was particularly fun to work on: being such a massively loved global brand, the mention of Star Wars caught journalists' interest right away - and sent newspaper picture editors into a lather of excitement.  Subeditors also had a field day with the headlines, for example the Evening Standard's 'Empire Strikes Back in copyright War'.  The judgment brought a legal surprise as well, changing the law more dramatically than many expected and potentially opening the floodgates for foreign copyright litigation in the UK.

This is exactly what we come to work for! 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Martin Waller

"Which journalist would you most like  a one-to-one with?"

- a question put to me years ago by a legal journalist chum Dominic Egan who had just landed a plum job with The Daily Telegraph interviewing top business celebs.  He was having a ball deciding whom to interview each week and enjoying conversations with some of the business world's most fascinating individuals.  "Martin Waller" I answered without hesitation, Deputy City Editor of The Times and then its City Diarist.  Famous for his acerbic wit, his City Diary was the one column that would make me laugh out loud each morning during my daily read of the papers.  "Why don't you invite him out to lunch?" said Dominic.  And I did just that.

It turned out that Martin had a deep interest in the law and we worked on a number of stories together over the years.  I learned a lot about him in the process, particularly how is almost-obsessive attention to detail and insistence on getting every little fact right was what gave him the confidence and the freedom to express such damning opinions in his City Diary column!

So my highlight this week was catching up with Martin over lunch.  Since July last year he is editor of The Times' daily business analysis column Tempus, so we can all enjoy his sharp wit in this format now - he's certainly brought a lot of spark to the column since taking it over.

Interesting talking to Martin about the delicate balance Times journalists have to perfect in covering the biggest (at some points it looked like the only) story of the week: Hackgate.  Times journalists might be owned by News International but you'd never tell that from the independence of their reporting.  There's hope for old-fashioned journalist integrity yet....


Not the News of the World
It makes such depressing reading,
I don't really want to add anything further,
other than to point to some of my
favourite satirical cartoons on the topic


On a more positive note, we were excited to talk to clients this week about levels of new business wins coming through twitter. We've had similar experience ourselves. In particular, it has been interesting to note that a killer combination appears to be active networking on twitter, coupled with a strong pre-existing market reputation. We have heard a number of stories recently where professionals have, thanks to this social media platform, refreshed old clients or contacts they had lost contact with for years - going on to win new work as a direct result, as these people were reminded of how excellent their work had always been.

A message here for senior partners: don't think that twitter should be the preserve of the firm's associates - it's often the most experienced professionals who have the most to gain....

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Law Society

Interesting talking to The Law Society this week about how Legal Disciplinary Practices are changing the complexion of its membership and what this means for the member services they will need to think about offering in the future.   A legal marketeer client, recently made partner and consequently now a fully paid up Law Society member, pointed out to me the other day the inappropriateness in her eyes of The Law Society's current tag-line: 'supporting solicitors'.  As a new member, every time she receives a communication from her new membership organisation, she says this tagline shouts at her that she is still very much an outsider - despite being named on the official Law Society roll. 

This week I spoke to bods from The Law Society's training and publications teams.  Two years after the advent of LDPs the number of non-lawyer Society members is still relatively small, but of course this will only grow over time.  Moreover, there is now a new generation of legal marketeers starting their careers in the knowledge that 'partnership' is a possible career destination.  That just wasn't on the horizon in my days in-house.  I was curious to know how The Law Society is thinking about this challenge.  Do they see it as their role to develop a set of professional standards, structured career paths and training for non-law professionals in law firms?  Not just marketing and PR professionals of course, but professionals in the finance, IT, HR teams etc as well.  The answer is that it's part of an internal conversation at the moment, but of course it's very early days.  Interesting challenges ahead!

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Jon Busby was charm personified when I met him for lunch this week.  After all his baiting and teasing on twitter, quite honestly I didn't know what to expect!  But his conversation was fascinating, he was charm itself, as I said, and he was very amusing to boot.  

As many of you will know from his very lively twitter feed and blog, Jon is in the business of persuading law firms to maximise the use of technology to re-think the delivery of professional services, perfecting that all-important separation between the commoditisible and the high-value-add.  He has some very interesting observations on how professional firms approach decisions on 'transformative business purchases'.  The partnership decision-making structure doesn't always lend itself particularly well to decisions that are tricky in any business context - about big financial and structural commitments to changing the entire way services are delivered.  But certainly enough people get what he is offering to keep this man very, very busy.

He says he learned early on in his life to keep his presentations short and impactful to avoid the 'glaze-over'.  See above illustration for example of alternative to powerpoint slide. He talked about 'the consensual nod' and the importance of avoiding it - a wonderful phrase he invented to describe how people will sometimes agree with you in a sales pitch just to hurry you to the end!  Love it!

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An amusing postscript 
to the super injunctions furore back in May is the release this week of statistics showing how Twitter's UK following jumped by a third that month, boosted in particular by women over 50 keen to follow the blanket coverage of celebrity shenanigans and their attempts to gag the press and cover their traces.  Great to know this demographic is now fully engaged with Twitter in one sense - but in other ways not really  sure whether this is something to celebrate, or be depressed about....

Other interesting Twitter news this week was the release of Twitter for Newsrooms Now the microblogging site has released an official guide showing reporters how to make the most of Twitter as they go about their daily work.  Nothing new for the initiated, but the mere fact Twitter has bothered to launch this guide shows yet again the impact of social media on the news.

We live in interesting times!