Monthly Archives: May 2016

Great, it was: How editing a great magazine changed me from Journalist to Jedi

I am very proud in my career to have played a part as editor of the wonderful HR magazine, which celebrates its 25th birthday at this time. And I was delighted very recently to be asked by the magazine to reflect on my tenure between 2002 and 2006 – the full article has just been published.

In writing the piece, I stirred up some very happy memories. I’ve moved on in the last decade from being an editor to a managing director and business owner, but the lessons I learnt in those happy years fundamentally changed me.

The period showed a slow emergence of self-awareness among (and the credibility of) HR professionals. The big overarching issue was helping HR professionals to develop their commercial antennae, so the magazine consciously championed HRDs who could show others how to exert maximum influence wherever they worked.

A feature introducing a new set of rankings called ‘HR’s Most Influential’appeared at that time and ten years on, the rankings are still going strong. It was the proudest launch during my time on the magazine. And it’s as important today as a decade ago for HR professionals to champion the huge difference they can make to working lives every day. Being editor of HR magazine at that time was a massive privilege, because it allowed our team the freedom to launch several successful initiatives to build credibility for the HR profession.

In the process it fundamentally changed me as a person. I went from journalist to a sort of demented jedi – I became a passionate evangelist for helping individuals and businesses to extract every ounce of potential from themselves. It gave me a clear sense of purpose and my experiences from that time drive me on today.

Trevor Merriden was editor of HR magazine between 2002 and the end of 2006. He is now the managing director of Merriborn Media

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

England, oh my England …now tell me about yours

By the time you read this blog, you’ll have had an earful, or maybe an eyeful, in the media about the BBC needing to redefine itself in this way or that.

Well, while listening to the news reports, I wandered over to the BBC Sports web site and chanced upon a great gizmo for football fans like me. You pick your formation, your England starting XI and share it with friends on social media – mine is shown above, for the little my views are worth.

I gather, from my 3 sons, that the BBC app is already wildly popular in the playground. And, whether I even liked football or not, I can think of no better way to illustrate the BBC’s best way forward in a changing world than through it’s starting a sort of “Big Conversation” of this sort among friends and families in the home and at work.

Initiatives like this clever app show the need for some sort of national creative catalyst to drive us on and lead the way. And, to my mind, this kind of collaborative endeavour could be taken much, much further.

I like Roy Hodgson as a football coach but why today do we need to rely on the wisdom or otherwise of any one man to announce the England squad, when we between us now have the technology pick it for him? If we can truly say this is “England … our England” aren’t we that much more likely to get fully behind the team rather than indulge in the dreary managerial blame game if and when it all goes wrong – and aren’t we likely to get more sweat, blood and tears from the chosen few on the pitch to make sure that it goes right?

I’d still leave the tactics and the team talk to the England boss though – it could get a bit confusing otherwise on the night if we all tried to do it.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

Why I DON’T want to introduce myself to the person sitting next to me

Last week I attended 2 trade show seminars – the contrast could not have been greater. Readers of my blogs will know I’m strongly in favour of a problem-sharing mentality, but the first presentation took things a bit too far, even for my liking. The presenter introduced himself to the audience before uttering those words I have come to dread:-

“Now, introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you and spend the next few minutes discussing …”

I’m not shy and I had nothing at all against the person sitting next to me – far from it – but 10 minutes later I was still talking to him and, to be completely honest, we had run out of things to say. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the underprepared presenter frantically changing his slides and re-writing his notes. When he recommenced, the presenter didn’t even ask any of us what we had discussed, so it couldn’t guide or tailor his discussion in any way. Instead, after the few more minutes of his presenter patter, my heart sank further as he asked us to:

“Turn to the person sitting on the OTHER side of you and discuss …..”

And so it went on – and on – for an hour. I’m very happy to be part of a learning process where we use all the views in the room to improve the outcome for all, but in far too many cases “Talk to the person next to you” is a new prop used by lazy presenters devoid of their own content.

It’s the equivalent of the teacher at school telling you at the start of the lesson to “get out your book and read” – if I’d wanted to read a book I’d have gone to a library. And if I wanted to talk to the person next to me with no clear purpose in mind, I’d have suggested a networking group, or the pub.

The second presenter that day could not have been more different. An expert on time management, he lived up to his billing. He turned up on time, finished on time and packed more useful advice into 30 minutes than I had thought possible. He didn’t ask us to talk to each other once, but if he had, I’m confident he would at least have asked us to feed back to him on what we had discussed.

So please, presenters, if you do ask your audience to talk amongst themselves, do so with a clear purpose in mind. And not as a prop for a lazy presentation.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

Communities: I’m a Firestarter (Twisted Firestarter)

Hearing the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” again recently inspired this short blog. “Firestarter” is often what I feel like when asked by clients to start and maintain their online communities. I enjoy the work very much, but feel a little “twisted” in the early stages of the development of each one.

Here’s why. How many online communities are you “part of” but rarely frequent? How often have you started to participate online in a group and then let your efforts wither? The truth is that it’s hard for people to change their online habits in the hurly burly of the daily routine. They start with the best of intentions but without active reminders to participate they simply won’t.

So, while I am the last person on earth to call for more email, usually the simplest answer is best. This is why we have found that a concise but regular “Firestarter” of communication via good old fashioned email to community members is a necessary short-term evil for getting momentum.

In order to start the fire without causing aggravation among those you are trying to reach I set myself 3 rules.

  1. Recipients will be low on time and tolerance, so make your message clear and brief. You have to get your message across quickly – and the more targeted you can make it the better.
  2. Encourage a specific action as a result of reading the email, rather than just imparting general information.
  3. Once 1) and 2) start to deliver increased traffic and participation, taper down the frequency of email – if new habits are becoming truly ingrained the community will start to become self-sustaining over time.

A “Firestarter” starts fires – they don’t need to fan the flames as well.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.