Category Archives: Opinion

Writing winning CVs

During the last 10 years of preparing winning tenders and expressions of interest documents for major construction and engineering projects, one thing has consistently reared its problematic head – CVs.

The main focus of the document writers and content providers is often on the technical aspects of the project, methodology, project experience, commercial offer and even value for money. These are the aspects that technical people are comfortable working with.

CVs are then often a distraction from what they perceive is the main game. The CVs are often the generic corporate CV shoehorned into whatever format the client has asked for – and often crammed into one or two pages. And yet, the team is often the number one scoring tender criteria. How does the client assess the team members? On their CVs of course! CVs are therefore extremely important.

I have developed the following format to:

  • highlight feature/benefit/proof of the person’s fit with the project
  • include succinct/factual statements – there is nothing worse than having to stretch the truth to fill gaps in a CV template!

Completing the template will take some work. However, if the person is a good fit for the role, it should be a fact gathering exercise, rather than a creative writing exercise. Most of the information should be able to be gathered through phone interviews, and then through a final fact-checking review of the draft CV document by the person.

So in an ideal world, what information should a winning CV contain? Based on my experience, the following template.


Name
Project position

Photo (headshot – get decent photos!)

Key tasks

  • list key tasks to be performed/delivered on the project.

Personal profile

One or two paragraphs each on:

  • summary statement of previous experience and personal style (feature)
  • how experience can be applied to the project; describe the person’s ‘fit’ with the project (benefit)
  • example of results previously achieved (proof).

Testimonial statement from a client (if possible).

Qualifications

  • list (include qualification, institution and date).

Project experience

Three projects or the last five years of projects – focus on relevant projects/aspects. Repeat the project format for other projects the person has worked on.

Project role #1
Project name #1

(Include small project image if available and space permits)

Client: (name)
Value: (final value — do not adjust for inflation as the project dates will indicate relative value)
Date: (dates actually worked on the project)

Overview of project #1 (one paragraph)

Relevance to current project (one paragraph) (benefit)

Key tasks (feature)

  • list key tasks the person performed

Achievements

  • list two (proof)

Referees

  • List two recent and relevant referees with contact details. Contact the referee to make sure they are happy being listed, and so that they are not surprised by getting a phone call!

The social media BBQ

The question, “Should you/your business use social media?” seems to be a common question in business circles at present. But to answer the question, you first need a definition of social media, and then need to understand the various flavours of social media. You then need to apply that knowledge to your own business circumstances.

What is social media?

Put simply, social media is content created by individuals expressing their own views and opinions. Traditional newspapers, radio and TV news are not social media; but content posted to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and blogs is.

Sending a media release to a traditional news organisation may or may not get your story published. But just as importantly, you are unable to control the message published by the media. Your facts may be presented very differently to how you intended. What is ultimately published carries the implicit endorsement of a third party, the journalist, and so is generally given more credibility.

Social media, on the other hand, allows you to control your message to your often limited audience of friends or followers. Typically posts on social media are not newsworthy in the journalistic sense (although there are exceptions), even though they may be very newsworthy and relevant to your friends or followers.

Types of social media

The easiest way to describe the various social media forums is to compare them with an offline equivalent.

Facebook is the backyard barbecue of the online world – mostly social with friends, but who is to say that you aren’t going to do business with the person you have just met over a beer and a sausage?

Twitter is about the BBQ — the here and now. “What are you doing?” “I’m at a BBQ and the BBQ just exploded.” Whoops! That should make for some interesting conversation. Self-indulgent yobs can be so self-absorbed in their own here and now, that they totally forget about you. “I’m scratching my navel now.” Who cares?!?
MySpace is the kids’ party on a Saturday night – very much oriented around teenagers interested in the latest music, and increasingly other multimedia such as video and games.

LinkedIn is the business lunch – you know everyone is there for business reasons, but even so you manage to catch up with other business acquaintances over a drink and some food. Business lunches can be very productive, but a bit of a bore if you are not in the business world.

Blogging is more like providing a detailed explanation about what you have done this week, rather than a 20 second grab of the highlights, around the BBQ. Hopefully you will be interesting enough in your narrative to keep people’s interest, rather than them wandering off for another drink and sausage. Blogging is a bit old school these days, but quite useful to put forward a more detailed explanation of your point of view. Not everyone has the writing and research skill to put together a thoughtful and interesting blog post.

My experience with social media

I have been online since 1994 – that was back when a 28 kbps dial-up modem was fast!

My own experience is that I have a Twitter account, but I do not Twitter. I do not have a MySpace account. I do not anticipate being active on Twitter or MySpace in the future.

Sometime back I changed my anonymous Facebook account (I know, it is against the Facebook rules!) to my real identity, but see this as really only social, not business. I try not to share too much personal information on Facebook because I am an old school web user. The limited information that I have put on Facebook is available by Googling me anyway. I do not intend putting my business on Facebook or Twitter because most of my business leads are generated from personal contacts.

I have a recently developed a personal business presence on LinkedIn, and am interested to track its progress. I keep in contact with a few business acquaintances this way.

I have a blog-style company news section on my business web site, and occasionally post opinion pieces there too.

I also have a personal blog, but it is anonymous as an individual and not linked to my business. The blog is where I put all my personal ramblings on various topics and generates more than 1,500 unique visits each month.

Should your business have a social media presence?

That depends!

If you are a business participating in social media, you should think of yourself as organising the BBQ – a bit like the Bunnings BBQ on a Saturday morning. You know people will stop by for a sausage, but then they buy a whole lot more.

If your business is based around attracting and engaging with groups of people, such as a professional association or sporting club, then a presence on Facebook may be useful.

If your business interacts with teenagers, then a MySpace presence may be useful – but make sure you are genuine! Don’t get a middle-aged PR person (like me!) trying to speak the teenagers’ lingo. You had better employ a couple of teenagers to get yourself a real presence there. A backyard BBQ is pretty dull for this group, so you had better think of something else that will capture their imagination!

If your business model is business to business, then LinkedIn may be a useful way to generate business leads, and be seen by other business people.

But Tweeting? If you have highly-engaging, must-have content that is relevant right now, then Twitter may be appropriate.

And blogging? It can be very useful to express your business opinion on topics to a wider audience.

Now go put another sausage on the BBQ would you? I’m hungry!

The most powerful tool in modern PR: the truth

Public relations practitioners are often portrayed as being spin doctors; spinning and weaving a story with scant regard to the facts, or even telling downright lies!

Practitioners who practice PR in this way sooner or later get caught out. And it is usually the media that reveals the facts, often creating a corporate crisis in the process.

While telling the truth may seem a simple and straight forward principle to uphold, it is often the case that the version of the truth held by important stakeholders may be different to that of the company. This is where the skilled PR practitioner comes in.

Based in academic theory, there are four models of PR:

1. One-way press agentry/publicity = propaganda (truth is not important)

2. One-way public information = dissemination of information (truth is important)

3. Two-way asymmetrical = scientific persuasion (listening to stakeholders, but tailoring communication to tell the corporate view)

4. Two-way symmetrical = mutual understanding (listening to stakeholders and generating understanding).

If a PR practitioner proposes a propaganda-based campaign, run in the other direction as fast as you can! Modern PR is tending towards engaging with stakeholders and creating mutual understanding of the facts. And the most powerful tool a PR practitioner can have is independent, verifiable facts that support the corporate viewpoint.

Some companies though, may not have a factual corporate viewpoint that can be told without generating a crisis. If this is your company, then you need to get your corporate house in order — sooner or later the facts will leak out and become an issue for you, or even worse end up as front page news.

Remember, the most powerful tool in modern PR is … the truth.

What makes news?

Business Public Relations Group is often asked to publicise stories in the media. While most business people like the thought of getting their business on the front page of The Courier-Mail, or on the evening TV news, the reality is that the minority of stories are newsworthy enough for page one or the nightly news, and those that are, are predominately negative. Do you really want to be on page one with a negative story?

So let us be practical about what it takes to get some positive media coverage for your business, and the best way to go about achieving it.

Find the right media

E-mail and media databases make it very easy and cheap to distribute a media release to journalists all over Australia. Business PR subscribes to the comprehensive directory AAP Medianet and has ready access to the contact details of Australian journalists. But just because we have the contact details, does not mean that we should use them!

No doubt your business is near and dear to your heart, but that does not mean journalists will have the same view. A scatter gun approach is very costly to your business’ reputation as a provider of newsworthy comment – basically, journalists hate this approach! You should be trying to help journalists do their job by providing relevant, interesting story ideas – not spamming them.

The best strategy is to identify publications – be they print, TV or radio – and journalists within those publications who have previously reported stories similar to yours. Business PR can help you do this with our knowledge of the media, and access to publication and editor details via AAP Medianet.

What makes news?

Something that interests you may not necessarily interest anyone else. News items must appeal to a large variety of people who read a particular publication. As a result, what makes news in one publication is not necessarily newsworthy in another. For example, a business story in Queensland Business Review is unlikely to be of interest to Brisbane News. As part of the process, publications must be reviewed to identify what makes news for them.

Having said that, here are some general thoughts on what makes news.

Relevance

For something to be of interest to someone, it has to affect them in some way. If a reader does not think the news will affect them, they probably will not be interested in reading it.

Does the news item have general appeal to a publication’s readers? Ask yourself, if you were not associated with the organisation or event, would you still be interested?

Readership

Every publication has a different audience. If you are aiming to appear in a specific publication, you will need to consider what the publication’s readership demographics and what news angle will appeal to them.

Medium

The medium is also important to think about. Images are often as important as words. Newspapers and magazines want interesting and attractive photos to go with their stories, so think about whether you can offer a good visual image. Television needs interesting moving images and a story will not be run unless there is a good accompanying visual.

Currency

Stories must be current. The media wants to report things as they occur and are mainly interested in events happening today or in the future. Daily publications will report on a story the day after it occurred, but weekly or monthly publications often want to publish news in advance of it happening!

Newsworthy angles

Often finding a newsworthy angle to your story is the secret to getting it published. Some newsworthy elements include:

  • human interest
  • proximity (is the story relevant to the local area)
  • prominence (does the news affect a large number of people)
  • new (trend or technology)
  • unusualness
  • conflict
  • disaster
  • money (large amounts involved or considerable loss or profit)
  • alcohol and drugs
  • animals
  • aged (young or old)
  • fun/novelty
  • picture opportunity
  • shocking
  • entertaining
  • saddening
  • surprising.

By following these simple guidelines, your story idea will grab the attention of journalists and have a better chance of being run in the media. Business PR can help you to negotiate this maze and get your story published.