Radiohead – OKNOTOK

Yes I keep this stuff!

As I get older I find that I look back at my life through different lenses and one of those lenses is music. The soundtrack to your life – think about that for a moment. From the first music you remember hearing, to the first record you bought. From the songs you danced to at your school discos, to the first dance at your wedding. When the radio plays a song you haven’t heard for years and you obsessively pull the album out and lose yourself to those old songs and the sights and smells they conjure in your mind. That’s the power of music and why it’s so important to me.

One of the highlights of my life’s soundtrack is OK Computer by Radiohead. Today they release the 20th anniversary reissue, OKNOTOK 1997 2017. There have been many album reissues and gigs, particularly in the last decade, to remind me of how the years are passing by; all conjuring memories, all vital parts of my soundtrack but none, so far, with the impact of this one.

1997 – I was 22 and had just come back from a year living in France. I had my final year of University ahead of me and was contemplating a summer empty of plans, or worries. Remember those?

OK Computer and Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space both came out on June 16th. I went straight to my local Our Price, bought both on CD (evidenced by the receipt which includes Bittersweet Symphony on CD single) and spent the rest of the day listening to them, laid out on my bed, poring over lyric sheets, absorbing every note. Two weeks of obsessive listening later, a mate of mine called and said he was taking his brother’s camper van to Glastonbury and did I want to go? “We’ll jump the fence or something when we get there” – halcyon days! We didn’t jump the fence, we paid a security guard to borrow his pass, and once your hand was stamped, you were in for the weekend.

Radiohead’s Saturday night set (http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/radiohead/1997/worthy-farm-pilton-england-7bd7be7c.html) was probably the most iconic gig of their career and of my life so far. As Thom Yorke sang “rain down on me from a great height” from Paranoid Android (https://youtu.be/ATvonKDt6jQ?t=21m52s), the heavens opened (it was the year of the mud) and it was completely magical, so much so that I swore I’d never go to Glastonbury again. I mean how do you top that? Believe me though, I’d be there in a heartbeat this year. When music, place and time all come together, these are the times you’ll never forget.

Since 97 the album, and Radiohead’s music, has been a near constant soundtrack to my life. There aren’t many months that go by without me playing a song or two from it. I know every word, every drum fill, every guitar lick, I mean you memorised albums then, didn’t you? The Internet has brought many great things and I love Spotify and the musical exploration it brings, but the over proliferation of music means that you don’t spend the time with albums that you once did. Also, time doesn’t move in the same way when you’re 22. I wish it did.

In the intervening 20 years I met my wife and we’ve now got shared memories soundtracked by Radiohead’s music, other bands too of course, but there’s a special place in our hearts for these five boys from Oxford. In the last ten years we’ve also had our two boys, and whilst they’re not fully signed up members of the Radiohead fan club yet, their memories of our house, our car journeys and the time we spend together in their own formative years, are going to be coloured by all the music we’re exposing them to.

As Colin Greenwood says on his The First Time interview on BBC Radio 6 music “You’re making something that is feeding into people’s lives and memories that is entirely theirs and has nothing to do with yours. There’s a sharing of that when people come to shows and it’s a powerful combination.”

So today as I tweet to death about this anniversary and what this amazing album means to me; as I feel the excitement of running to the record shop to buy OK Computer all over again; as I listen to it at work, at home and settle down with my wife to watch Radiohead play Glastonbury tonight (20 years and no fence jumping), I’m remembering the 22 year old me, laying on his bed obsessing over 12 songs that, in 2017, reverberate with all the life and love of the 20 years that separate me from him.

Thank you Thom, Jonny, Ed, Colin and Phil.

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The changing role of the internal communicator, part two (or, my first nine months in marketing)

This is part two of a post I wrote back in 2013 about the changing role of the internal communicator. On Thursday 5 May 2016 I’m co-running a session on the future of Internal Communications at the IoIC Live conference (http://www.ioic.org.uk/events/ioic-live-2016.html) so now seemed as good a time as any to unblock my blog and explore what’s changed…if anything.


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My post in 2013 was a reaction, at least in part, to the frustration I felt with the way we in the profession all seemed to work with one hand tied behind our backs. The fact that we were the ones with the rope, seemingly tying our own hands, only added to that frustration. Also, it wasn’t that the grass was necessarily greener on their side, but a lot of what I was hearing from other comms pros was that they felt that they played second fiddle to their marketing colleagues. Internal Comms seemed to need a bit of a shot in the arm.

Since then and somewhat in reaction to my constant working restlessness, I’ve switched roles within Grant Thornton to sit in our marketing team. I still work closely with my Internal Comms colleagues and still have some of the same old frustrations, but I have new perspective and hope I can share something useful.

Communications? PR? Marketing?
The need for IC pros to walk in all three pairs of these shoes in 2016 is even more acute. As organisations once separated out comms, marketing and PR, now they’re bringing them back together. Why? Because the outside is becoming the inside and that gap between what you send your clients as marketeers and what you post on your enterprise social network for your employees to read is not just narrow, it’s non existent.

Comfortable behind our desks
As more organisations give their people the tools to communicate with each other across all levels of hierarchy (ESN, messaging services, smart phones) we can’t expect people to come to us first – our role as gatekeeper is coming to an end. As much as we need to use technology to communicate in a faster, more agile way, we can’t hide behind it. Get up, get out and get into some trouble! In fact I’m often reminded of one of the New Clues from Doc Searls and David Weinberger when looking at the sedentary nature of modern offices, Yeah, the Internet hasn’t solved all the world’s problems. That’s why the Almighty hath given us asses: that we might get off of them. http://newclues.cluetrain.com/#102

Embrace your marketing colleagues – well this happened – I joined the competition! This is still about that connection between what Marketing does and the bottom line. Often the comms team is so busy being the conduit for internal messaging that it can lose its connection to the product. If your product is your people, like it is for us at Grant Thornton, then this connection is all the more vital. This is a challenge for both disciplines; your people will thank you for the clarity of message that comes from both teams working together in a seamless way. If you do see marketing as the competition, then your people will be the ultimate losers, swiftly followed by you.

Making comms ‘sexy’ again – Maybe this was a bit unfair but I still see more people looking for internships in marketing than comms. Could comms do with a PR makeover? Something I’ll be asking on Thursday and reporting back on next week!

My original post spoke about socialising the workplace and community and I’ve rolled them into one for this follow up.

Social media and digital transformation = Connectivity
I’ve touched on this above, but the emergence of ESN (Enterprise Social Networks) and more socially enabled intranets has led to one of the biggest challenges to the culture inside your organisation. As employees mobilise themselves and are less reliant on internal comms, so IC teams need to change the way that they operate. Teams may shrink and become more agile. Where once we may have separated digital communications (yes, that was me!) and community management  skills, it is now essential that all internal communications pros have these as part of their toolkit. But this goes for marketing too – a recent conversation with a  recruiter confirmed that when recruiting for senior roles, digital skills are now an essential part of any successful candidate. 

No conclusions
So has much changed in three years and what will the big changes be in the next three? I’ll update post IoIC with some thoughts. 

What’s clear is that with shrinking teams and a shift away from traditional office environments, comms teams need to think and work differently to survive. The role of the internal communicator is under threat but surely there isn’t a single person reading this who feels completely secure about their working future…? We’re used to communicating change – now we need to embrace it ourselves. 

The walk to school

That was fun. This morning I walked my youngest son to school. 

We talked about all the things we could hear  on our walk, from the birds to the distant sound of motorways and roads. 

We talked about how builders could build a shorter way to school and that if you folded the town in half you could get to school by climbing a mountain. 

Then we talked about what if…there was a scooting tunnel to school, or a massive bridge in the sky with a ladder up to it outside every house where a child lived. 

Then we arrived at school where we hoped that everyone would have the chance to think about these and other  amazing possibilities and how we might make things better for everyone. 

Especially this week. Especially in this twelve months. Especially in this world. 

The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.

What have you lost as a direct result of the Internet? What have you gained?

I partly funded my way through University by working in Virgin Megastores and Our Price Records, both now defunct, sadly missed, killed, at least in part, by the rise of digital music propagated by the Internet.

Our Price Records
There are several mid to late nineties albums I can claim a small amount of responsibility for pushing sales of, Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs being one in particular that I played and played in Fleet Our Price. The hit rate was impressive – passers-by, sucked into the shop by the sounds of the musical saw in Holes, would walk up, ask what was playing and leave with a copy.

Ah those halcyon days!

And now I find myself leading Social Business at Grant Thornton, a role, at least in part, made possible by the Internet and peoples’ constant struggles to get to grips with it. I now help people to explore social selling – not records this time, but their professional selves and expertise…often without help from a musical saw.

So, lost – my perfect job and most of the world’s record shops, though those that remain are all the more special for their scarcity. Gained – another job, another industry and still trying to sell music to people every day through my Twitter account!

So, what have you lost as a direct result of the Internet? What have you gained?

(This post brought to you in association with a long train journey and Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan on my headphones. Available to watch by the power of the Internet here or to buy from your favourite local record shop here.) 

Not curious? Then you’re shit out of luck. 

Doing the communications work that I do, I’m regularly in front of rooms full of people talking about the importance of connectedness in organisations and business. This usually translates as “how do I better use social and digital media for work?” 

Some come bursting with enthusiasm – they’ve done some stuff and are starting to see the value or they’re curious about how they can do more. Some come laden with fear – they know they ought to be better connected, and understand social media may be a means to that end, but they’re not sure what to say, when to say it and to who. 

Some come ready just to be taught. 

There is a curiosity and deep interest at the heart of any passion. If you don’t have these things, then the end result is a function, something you purely need to do to exist. 

Connectedness is not a function. It’s not taught, but learnt. Those with enthusiasm will find a path, those with fear will overcome it, those who only want to be taught are shit out of luck. 

CEO? Free social media coaching?

Social media consultants can only have a short lifespan, right? I mean, it’s been a good few years…but there can’t be too many people left out there who need the obvious pointed out to them…can there?

On the contrary, it seems to me that demand is at an all time high. For all the over-intellectualising of the subject, there is still a massive amount of “this is a tweet and this is what a hashtag is” needed at every level of the organisations we work for. In the last week alone I’ve seen some quite dry meetings brought to life when someone raises the subject of social media and why they think it’s important to them or their business. I’ve also faced questions about the business value of Twitter despite showing examples of high powered people having all manner of business conversations in 140 characters. 

Love or hate social media, it’s part of the landscape. Buy into it or not; being able to argue for or against it is rapidly becoming essential at networking events, meetings and in the boardroom. And that’s before you’ve even got close to discussions about ‘digital’ or  the #futureofwork.

Having done this within the organisation I work for, I’m now exploring what I can do for our clients which is not a huge sell to be honest. A conversation about our approach usually sparks interest, it’s what we follow that conversation up with that counts. 

So if this blog post reaches the eyes or ears of any of our client’s CEOs out there, I’ll offer up to half a day of free social media coaching* for you and your board. My only stipulation is that you, the CEO must be present. Your business strategy starts with you, so too must social media strategy if it’s going to stick. 

Over to you. 

 *First five (5) respondents. 

Hello (darkness) my old friends (sic)

Once again this morning I was confronted by two old friends in a meeting about social media for communication.

Round of applause please for ‘lack of time’ and ‘nothing to say’.

OK, end applause.

If you can argue that everything you do to communicate with your clients, peers and teams is 100% effective, then please, carry on and we’ll move on to someone less effective who wants our help.

If, however, you see room for improvement or the teams you manage have forgotten what you look like, then take heed.

It may be time to think about what ineffective uses of your time you could put aside for something more effective. Open yourself to the possibility that a blog post or a status update isn’t actually a waste of your time and may lead to something unexpected.

And if you have nothing to say then perhaps use the time to listen to what others are saying and contributing. I guarantee there are conversations out there where you could listen and learn or contribute and add value.

I’m banning my two old friends from darkening my meetings ever again! Until the next time…