What I do
Everything I have done has been built on two core skills, writing news and making news. I learned the first in 1981 in a newsroom in Redhill, Surrey, when I finally figured out how to write a 300-word news story. If you’ve ever tried it, you’ll know it’s tougher than it looks. It was certainly harder than writing essays on Shakespeare at university. You have to use short, simple words and short, simple sentences. You have to put the most important points first. And you have to keep the reader interested. It takes years to learn to do it well.
Once you figure it out, you can write all kinds of things – news stories, features, press releases, social media posts, opinion columns, reports, reviews and so on. Learn a few more tricks and you can also write for radio and TV – for words that are spoken rather than read. Then with a little work on structure and style, you can start to write speeches, as I have done for many senior politicians and business leaders. Today, as well as using those core writing skills on behalf of my clients, I run courses and coaching sessions where I pass it on to others. They can’t become proficient in a day or two – but they can learn the principles and then keep practising them.
The second skill – making news – is one you never stop learning. I started learning as a young editor when I had to choose what to put on the front page of the Surrey Mirror, a local newspaper in the UK. I learned a lot more as an editor on the BBC’s flagship Today radio programme when I had to choose what to cover from thousands of possible stories. I also learned how to cover a major event such as the Lockerbie bombings and the Romanian revolution, both of which led to Sony radio awards. And in dealing with hundreds of politicians, businesses, campaign groups and public relations people, I learned the best ways to get a story into the media. I’ve since helped many people to get their stories heard nationally and globally, as press officer for the Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown, as director of communications for the European Movement, as editor-in-chief for BP and as a consultant for a wide range of companies and organizations.