NE Comms conversation #14 “I was growing tired of standing outside burning factories at midnight”


As the transfer deadline day window gets ready to slam shut, I’m delighted to be able to announce our first big money, foreign (to Tyneside anyway) Premier league, star signing to NE comms conversation FC.

Word of our North East comms conversation has spread beyond the region and reached some of the champions league big boys. In true David Craig style I’m delighted to be able to boisterously introduce one of my favourite bloggers Dan Slee from Comms2point0.

For those who don’t know is the go to website for thought leadership around communications in the public sector. For me it’s the must-read source of information and learning for the sector I work in.

To stretch the local football metaphore even further he’s even able to boast some local Geordie credentials having spent his uni years in the toon.

Could he be the next messiah? Lets see…..

What single bit of advice would you give graduates just entering the
Learn. Explore. Experiment. Do it in your own time if you have to.

What made you get into the PR/comms business?
After 12-years as a journalist I was growing tired of standing outside
burning factories at midnight. I was also growing tired of writing
council knocking stories and having the more positive stories squeezed
down to nibs. I was interested in telling the full public sector story
and still am.

How have things changed in the last 5 years?
Newspapers have fallen off a cliff in terms of their staffing and
business models. Brighter ones are re-inventing themselves as places
to offer content. The media landscape has changed. How people get
their information has changed. A generation of comms people stand at
the threshold of something new and massively exciting where they can
choose to learn and adapt and even write some of the new rules or they
can choose to be obsolete.

Are you optimistic about the future?
For people who are prepared to learn, yes and I’m hugely optimistic
about comms2point0 which is the venture I’m involved with Darren

Are disciplines like PR, marketing and advertising becoming the same
There’s a blurring of boundaries all over the shop. You can add web
into that list too.

What are the key traits people in PR need to succeed?
Enthusiasm, dedication, determination, personal skills, emotional
intelligence and a willingness to learn and experiment.

Is the industry becoming more or less fragmented?
More. There’s those who are embracing change and those who are not.
There are those who are good at a range of individual specialisms and
those who are generalists. You could write 1,000 words on the amount
of fragmentation although the golden thread that binds it all is
change. Change, change, change and more change.

For you, what’s the real benefit of good PR/comms?
You can tell a story and change things as you are telling it. That’s
powerful. There’s that change word again.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Take more exercise. Keep playing cricket. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Children are great so have them younger. Work on your batting. Learn
how to play the cut shot and a whole new vista of run scoring will
open up for you.

What do you see as the most important issues in PR right now?
In the public sector there’s a real divide happening between
organisations that value their comms teams and those who don’t. Having
the ability to demonstrate worth is massively important and probably a
comms person’s most valuable skill. Traditionally, we’ve always a bit
reticent about shouting about how well we are doing. Forget that.
Shout loud, shout long and put it on an infographic so no-one can miss

What worries you about the industry?
Some people are too dim to realise the pace of change and nobody is
bright enough to grasp it all.

What ‘s the best thing about living/working in the North East?
Well, I’m an exile. I was at Northumbria University for three years in
the 1990s and did my NCTJ training at Darlington but the internet
makes North East PR people part of my network. When I lived there it
was the honesty you’d get from people. People are straight in a way
that they aren’t in other places. If they like you they’ll tell you.
If they don’t like you they’ll also tell you. I can see traces of that
straightness in some of the PR people who have roots in the region.
Mind you, the weather is rotten and don’t dare pretend it isn’t.

What do you see as the next big thing?
As a father of a six-year-old girl, I’m tempted to say Five Seconds of
Summer. However, we’ll look back and wonder why we weren’t very
excited indeed about the internet of things. How do we respond to that
as comms people? I really, really don’t know.

Who will play you when they get round to making the biopic of your
Ray Winstone for the looks with a Dave Gorman accent and the vision of
Steve Jobs. Or something.

What’s your favourite film?
I’ll always, always love Cyrano de Bergerac with Gerard Depardieu
which I first saw on a rainy afternoon with a mate in the Tyneside
Cinema in Newcastle.

What keeps you up at night?
Your typical freelancer problems.

4 thoughts on “NE Comms conversation #14 “I was growing tired of standing outside burning factories at midnight”

  1. Quote What are the key traits people in PR need to succeed?
    Enthusiasm, dedication, determination, personal skills, emotional
    intelligence and a willingness to learn and experiment. Unquote

    I’d very definitely tick them all … but add one more: never pause for a breather, especially not to “enjoy a success”, never think “We made it!” and relax — always be relentless.


    1. Thanks john. You’re absolutely right. I’d also add a bit of luck at times by being in the right place at the right time (or indeed the wrong place at the right time)


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