Bob Diamond, now Barclays ex-CEO, faced the scrutiny of a select committee of MPs this week. He didn't perform well. He failed to deliver convincing answers to basic questions about whether or not he knew about fixing the LIBOR rate. His tactics of expressing lack of knowledge while referring to everyone in a chummy fashion, using their first name, were badly misjudged. He looked to me to be either poorly prepared or contemptuous of the questioning. Neither approach was appropriate. He claimed to have only been only made aware of the malpractice a few days before the FSA report and the £290million fine levied last week. He said he felt "physically ill" when the news was broken to him. Several eyebrows shot off the heads of incredulous MPs at this point. The overall impression was of a man who believed he was being harshly treated by a group of people who didn't really understand his business. I find it astonishing that a CEO with money to burn fails to invest in doing a bit of preparation for a grilling by politicians.
Meanwhile, in Switzerland, another great headline was being written about the announcement of the likely discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN. Noting that a circus of science journalists and physicists had descended on the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva (where do they keep the small hadrons, by the way?), a scribe released the tweet "It's twenty-four-hour particle people here".
I'm grateful for all the kind messages that have come in after I mentioned the all-to-early death of my great friend Kenny Harris. As you read this, I'm on my way to Edinburgh to speak at his funeral, where a huge crowd of family and friends and a lone piper will send him on his way.
Former Olympian Gail Emms is now part of the BBC Olympic commentary team, and I spoke to her recently about her own experiences of facing the media. Her thoughts are in this week's Media Coach Radio Show, along with a track from the brilliant Ashton Lane, a superb band from Glasgow. This featured track - "One Kiss Later" is one of the best songs I've heard this year.
MediaMaster Eric Sykes, an exceptionally talented comedian and comic writer, died this week aged 89. It's been clear from the tributes how highly he was regarded by fellow professionals. TV star and former "Python" Michael Palin said: 'He was one of the nicest, most decent men in the business and one of a kind. No-one else could do what Eric could do. To me, he was a great inspiration, both as a writer and performer.' Stephen Fry tweeted: 'Oh no! Eric Sykes gone? An adorable, brilliant, modest, hilarious, innovative and irreplaceable comic master. Farewell, dear, dear man.' One of Eric's finest hours was an almost silent film called "The Plank" in which he co-starred with Tommy Cooper and a host of other comic actors. It's well worth 40 minutes of your time.
Cardiff City Football Club have been known as "The Bluebirds" for decades, because of their distinctive blue shirts. Imagine the reaction of their loyal fans when their new strip was revealed for the 2012-2013 season, featuring bright red shirts. Not trace of blue in sight. The decision to change the shirt colours followed discussions a few weeks ago between club directors and Malaysian investors Vincent Tan and Dato Chan Tien Ghee, known as TG. Cardiff chief executive Alan Whiteley told reporters: "The changes to the home kit and badge introduced as a consequence of the investment package are designed to help the club to develop its brand and to allow it to expand its appeal to as wide an audience as possible, with a view to delivering local success via an international and diverse market." What a load of tosh. I'm sending a MediaMug award to Mr Whiteley. It's a blue one.
SPEAKING WITH CLARITY
In order to get your message across, you must speak as clearly as possible. Many speakers, particularly when they are nervous, tend to speak more quickly, making them harder to understand. You need to make a real effort to speak more slowly - in fact, it is almost impossible to speak too slowly on stage.
Clarity and diction are important too. Some people worry about their accents when they are due to be interviewed. These days, this is not a problem, since all types of accent are now common on both radio and TV. However, you do need to be aware of any local dialect words that may confuse a wider audience. Allow me to quote my late pal, Kenny Harris, who used to tell of the unusual way that certain Scottish folk sometimes respond. "If you ask a Glaswegian a question, and he says 'Aye, right', he means 'No'" says Kenny. "They're probably the only people who can put two positives together to make a negative". All over the world, there are words and phrases that can puzzle your audience. As ever, the best advice is to keep it simple.
Using pauses is one of the most effective ways to improve communication. Not only does it help you to gather your thoughts, but it also helps your audience to digest and understand what you have said. It can be very difficult to get used to using pauses, since we all have set speaking patterns. It is well worth the effort, though. You can practice pausing by counting silently to five at the end of each phrase or sentence. The first time you try, it will seem like a lifetime, but persist until you are used to it. You will find it much easier to do if you talk to someone else, as they will be able to give you the feedback that it sounds just fine.
One of the best ways keep your audience alert is to change the pitch of your voice. We have all heard speakers who deliver in a monotone, causing most of their audience to doze off. You should aim at raising and lowering the pitch of your voice occasionally to maintain interest. Overall, try to lower your voice more than raising it, since this is easier on the ear of your listeners.
Rehearse out loud, and discover what works for you.
LEARN TO LOVE THE TRADE PRESS
The last round of questions in the TV show "Have I got news for you" features partly-obscured headlines, some of which are from an tiny publication such as "Woodworking News" or "Caravanning and Camping Gazette". Part of the humour comes from the feeling that none of us would ever read these publications, of course.
However, you ignore specialist magazines and newspapers at your cost. Here are several reasons why you should specifically target "niche" journals:
Even more importantly, it's much easier to get a story into a trade journal than a national. The chances are, it will do your business more good too. Look at the journals you could target, and give them a call. It's almost guaranteed one of them will say "yes".
DO ONE THING REALLY WELL. NOTHING ELSE.
If you're a successful business, the temptation to broaden your appeal, by offering new goods and services, often becomes overwhelming. I remember the days when Boots was just a chemist, and Tesco just a supermarket. A strange affliction seems to come over people on social media too. They want to respond to every request, offer their services to anyone who asks, and continually add courses to their training portfolios.
The thing is, people like simplicity. If they come to your Facebook page and can't figure out exactly what your business is, they will go somewhere else. That's why I am always amazed at sole traders (who often us the giveaway tag "....and associates") who offer a bewildering range of services, most of which they probably never deliver.
If you want to run a different business, set up a different page and profile. It's easy and it's cheap. By all means link your pages together. Don't offer a smörgåsbord of products unless you're a Swedish delicatessen.
Fun being blind? Are you kidding? No, I'm quoting Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic. I'm negotiating with him to come on my web radio show. Until then, here are some good things about being blind:
i know a man who can help.
The information in this ezine may be freely re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line - "This information was written by Alan Stevens, and originally appeared in "The MediaCoach", his free weekly ezine, available at www.mediacoach.co.uk."