Stupid is as stupid does

That both Tory and Labour parliamentary candidates have had to step down due to shocking opinions should come as no surprise. Both candidates had expressed highly-offensive views, which could have easily been checked up on. But no-one did. This happens more and more.

No one thought that was their job to check. No one wanted to spend any time or money checking. Cue maximum embarrassment all round. A short hostile candidate interview (of the type I offer – insert sales copy here) could have spotted any tell-tale signs. A quick search could have confirmed any suspicions.

Those who spend a little cash on competent researchers can always dig up some useful dirt on their rival candidate, or enough on their own to dump them or get hitting the delete key, fast. Accompany this with tough interviews and dissection of opinions and ideas and you should have most bases covered (until those unguarded microphone left on moments). It should be a simple precaution.

Naturally, the always-offensive Brexit Party had to go one better and have a candidate quit because she came from Sirius and was convinced that the government was conspiring with aliens. Obviously, some offensive racist or sexist remarks are par for the course there and unlikely to result in a sacking.

Do get in touch if you need help with candidate research, hostile interview or even campaign ideas. Better to ask than be stupid! iain@thisidea.co.uk

Tell us a story

Tell us a story

LinkedIn, Twitter and CV sites are jam-packed with ‘storytellers’. Corporate storytellers, even. But so many of these claims at being able to weave a cohesive narrative fall short.

Storytelling is not simply about going from A-to-B in a perfunctory manner. If that were the case, then novels would be rather thin, and films would all be over by the time you’d swallowed your first mouthful of popcorn.

It may be a useful way to work on User Experience (UX), but it won’t keep readers engaged when not simply performing tasks. Storytelling is all about beginning, middle and end, whether that is headline, tag line, call-to-action, or set-up, biography and denouement.

A good storyteller knows what the story is (not as simple as it sounds), how to order it and how to turn that order on its head when needs be. Anyone can write a shopping list, it takes a special skill to make someone else want to read it. This is where the storyteller comes into their own. Weaving a narrative, making that story sparkle and drawing the reader in. Storytelling is not about listicles, bullet points or SEO, it is about feeling.

Let me take you back to your first experience of stories. When your parents (or maybe your nanny, if you were a bit posh) read them to you. You didn’t know what a narrative was, couldn’t care less about story arc and weren’t even that bothered about the jacket or illustrations. What you cared about was how that story made YOU feel. This is why you had your parents read the same story to you again and again, and went back to the same books again and again once you were old enough to read them yourself.

https://d1vzko4h6qahek.cloudfront.net/images/2/books/large/VHC2.jpg

All of this was down to a good story and a good telling of it – by the writer, not your parents. Even The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a thrill ride for an infant. You don’t get bored when the caterpillars has eaten a few plums, you want to know just what the hell happens at the end. The best copy does the same job, just as the best journalism and novels do.

So, here is my final plea. Please don’t add ‘storyteller’ to your CV unless you can indeed spin a yarn, tell a tale or at least take a shaggy dog for a walk around the block. And they all lived happily ever after. THE END.

Jumping the shark with a terrier

The launch of Huddersfield Town’s new football kit has been causing something of a stir on social media, inevitably leading to coverage in the actual media. The outrage is coming from Terriers fans and fans of other clubs alike, mostly lambasting the club for defiling the kit with a huge Paddy Power sash, which has been compared to a beauty show sash or hen party accessory.

At first, I thought the kit launch was a stunt. But now I am not so sure. Yes, the club’s launch page does not show a clear picture of an actual physical shirt with the oversized advertising sash. But then I considered the fact that no club management structure or even the most naive of internal marketing teams would see trolling their own fans. The kit even features on the banner at the top of the club’s official website. This is not just a Twitter wind-up thought up in five minutes.

Betting firm Paddy Power would be more than happy to execute such a wind-up, but even they (or club management) must realise that such a campaign would amount to an advertising campaign for them and not for the club in question. Add to this the sensitivities about gambling in and around sport at the moment and you have something of a mess. After all, when drawing so much attention to the deal with a betting company, both club and sponsor should not forget the fate of Bolton’s short-lived shirt deal with a payday loan company.

Whatever this design is – wind-up or cock-up – neither side comes out of it well. Either Huddersfield Town have taken the piss out of their fans by allowing Paddy Power to use them for a PR stunt in which they gain nothing, or they have allowed a disastrous shirt design out there. Possibly one that even breaches league rules.

The truth of the campaign will obviously come out in the next 24 hours, but this may well be the point where the famously disruptive betting brand has jumped the shark. Their brand is increasingly one that people groan at (for their gags or their impact on communities) and it is alienating fans when it should be cosying up to them. The class clown is only funny for so long when he keeps telling the same joke and telling everyone how funny it is.

Dog bites shark? Just maybe.

If you believed they put a man on the moon

The moon landings didn’t come from nowhere. Someone had to have that idea. But who?

The idea was certainly not down to politicians. Neither Eisenhower nor Kennedy were the true architects of the space programme that led to Apollo 11 touching down 50 years ago today. The idea itself was down the the dreamers, thinkers and wonderers. What if…?

There are many claims and counter-claims as to who came up with the idea. But ideas are like that. The moon was always there. The most humble of farm hands may well have come up with the idea of getting there, with no idea as to how. But it was the philosophers, poets and writers who came up with something a little more tangible.

Jules Verne is often credited as the forefather of space travel. His novels certainly dealt with the topic, notably From The Earth to the Moon (1865). He even thought that men would travel in a projectile that would be fired there from earth. Ask any French person who invented space travel and they will say Verne.

Ask the same question in Russia and they will tell you that Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov is the one. He was a thinker, philosopher and futurist. As futurists tend to do, he got a lot of stuff wrong and a lot of it sounds a little out there in retrospect. But he was certainly on the ball on space travel. And his other theories on subjects such as mortality and immortality may yet be proved right by future generations. After all, space travel sounded crazy when he was speculating on that.


Extinction Rebellion On The Buses (and tubes and trains)

 flypost extinction rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is all about ideas. Not all of them new, but some executed in a novel manner. Like it or not, the small-but-organised grouping is managing to get a lot of media attention by doing things a little differently.

In London, the group started off with a kind of arty soft launch (a parade and nudity in the Commons) before moving on to blocking major junctions and then public transport. Yesterday, they glued themselves to a DLR train and promised more disruption on the Tube and the Overground. Today, they have moved to block Vauxhall Bridge.

The group are largely millennial, white and middle class, which has brought some criticism from other activist groupings. Although the same facts have been used as a form of dismissal from the white, middle class media. Often without a sense of irony.

Its interactions with police and propensity for godawful folk dancing have (quite rightly) been jumped on. But they have also attracted a good number of lectures about ideas and how to use them from older activists. “Don’t do it like this, do it like this.” Although many fail to mention that their tactics are tried, tested and doomed to fail. It’s dad-dancing for the world of activism. Time moves on.

Many criticisms of XR hinge upon the idea of the group being to influence and grow support amongst the public. This assumption is where most people’s thinking on the topic breaks down. Influencing the public in a positive way is not high on their list of concerns. Instead, they are seeking to cause chaos as a means to an end. This is to highlight the collapse of infrastructure in a climate disaster, but also to act as enablers for more mainstream debate and politics.

With their star rising high, it is easier for politicians to raise their concerns. This is partly why the group glued themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s Holloway home, rather than Theresa May’s. One, this is seemingly a counter-intuitive move, as the environmentalist groups are seen (often wrongly) as exclusively left-leaning and two, it gives the tabloids a story they like: “Even the hippies hate Corbyn…”.

What XR are saying is that this emergency trumps public comfort, but by doing so they have escalated their profile to the point that they can now demand a meeting with the relevant Minister. Sadly for them, this is Michael Gove.

Further to this call for debate with Gove, they have put the fact that they are set to disrupt Heathrow Airport on one of its busiest weekends. If they hadn’t already alienated half of the public, then they can be sure that this is the straw that will break the camel’s back. But it simply adds to the pressure on politicians to act and allows them to be seen to act for the public without necessarily appeasing the activists.

It’s quite clever. XR are thinking more than one move ahead, having raised a somewhat middle class army of willing arrestees (most without a criminal record) and work-shopped their way around the UK via village hall meetings.

They have today leaked statements saying that they care about the impact on holidaymakers (leaking and feeding information to the media ahead of actions is a key part of their campaign and the pressure they exert), but they don’t really. That is not in their tactical bag of tricks. They especially see air travel as fair game, but any disruption is either a side-effect or the intended outcome of XR actions. This IS the means to the end.

Whether XR has the energy and thinking to maintain their momentum while alienating the public remains to be seen. But it is an interesting play to watch. Few can dismiss their broader aims without seeming mean-spirited and there are so many distractions (eg dancing policemen) that they can throw up as flak.

A deeper look at the activism tactics of XR is here. Well worth a read if you want to study the ideas further, or even steal some of them.