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Would this valentine email be 'safe for work' today?

10 years ago – almost to the day – I received this valentines email message. It was a collection of anonymous ‘valentines messages’ collected by the internal comms team at Future, a magazine publisher where I used to work.

They did this every year. They’d ask staff to send in anonymous valentines messages for other staff members. Each year there’d be dozens of declarations of love and affection – some more serious than others.

I’ve copied and pasted it below for two reasons:

1) It’s an interesting idea that you might want to copy

2) It does make me wonder whether this would be acceptable today. They printed people’s real names – alongside some fairly saucy messages! Was 2005 really that different to 2015?

Here goes…


Future Intranet 14/02/2005
to: all
Subject: Valentine’s messages from the Pollmeister!

We asked all love legends for their valentine’s messages. Loads of you left a love note for a fellow Futurite. Here is a rundown of those special messages.

“Loving With Passion”

The Pollmeister x

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

Dizzy wants some Sizzy. Sizzy wants some fizzy Dizzy. Izzee gonna get
some? xxx

——————

Fokatie…….
The first time we met, I could see,
That you and I, were meant to be.
Your eyes were so gentle, your smile so true,
When you first held my hand, I just knew.

If time could stand still, I’d freeze it here,
So you’d always hold me, close and near.
In your arms, where I’m meant to be,
Filled with the perfect love you’ve given me.

A vow to myself I make,
As you quietly sleep away;
To love and always cherish you,
Until my last breath… until my last day.

I love you so much…Foo xxxxxxx

——————

To Ryan Ferguson, you have an amazingly sexy voice and looks to match. Just a shame you’re near yet so far…….

——————

Faye Dixon
Still think you’re cute. From an admirer miles away…..in
Baker Street…x

——————

To Luca Cataluffi, “fit but you know it”, but hey I still wouldn’t say no ;)

——————

WILL you or won’t you…

WILL you ever glance in my direction?
WILL you share your supersize sub with me?
WILL we ever sip a diet coke and lime together?
WILL my heart stop fluttering at the sight your latest gadgets?
WILL you ever tidy you desk?
Where there’s a WILL there’s a press release. Rock on! xxxx

——————

Dataflow. Oh, Dataflow. How you make my heart race… I’ll be sorry to
see you go when Studio Editorial makes its entrance. We’ve had many a long night
together and many a morning too ;o)
I’ll miss you. Bye.

——————

Mike Mansfield
You’d make a great Spoon Man. Happy Valentines!
x

——————

Rebecca Smalley – you’re much too good for those Linux geeks.

——————

Hayley,

To have a reason
to come and see you,
I spend more cash
than I really need to.

I love your style
and your sweet manner,
And your Tinkerbell glass
is a real winner.

You’re my favourite member
of the cashiers team,
To spend a day with you
Would be a perfect dream.

Your Secret Admirer
xxx

——————

To King Zed of the Jungle
Happy Valentines Day!!!
Love your Jane of the Jungle x

——————

Philippa Montgomery… lush. You make me do a s*x wee. X

——————

To Stuart Harris, thanks for always putting a smile on my face no matter what xxx

——————

Clare Dodds,
I love the way you smile at me in the mornings!
xxxxxx

——————

Perkins. I love you more each day. T. xxxxx

——————

Adam
You’re cooking for me tonight
The bol is getting bigger
It’s nothing to do with the food
It’s this bloody nipper!

The bed seems to be getting smaller
But it’s just the blooming belly
Make sure you’re ready on May 5th
When the waters break, grab your wellies

——————

My cute Games boy
It would have been fun to corrupt you
xx

——————

Andrew Church
Happy Valentines Mr Church! x ;-)

——————

Oh Caroline-a!
You are so fine-a!
I want to see you
in Redline-a!

Oh Caroline-a!
I’d never undermine ya!
You’d look good
in a bin-liner!

and you are a very good reception supervisor too
xxxxxxx

——————

Aubrey I think I love you. You’re such a genius. Come and edit my
contents. An admirer.

——————

Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m the Fokeroon and you are me Foo… I love you so much…

——————

Sara,
Thank you for your patience,
Thank you for your care,
Thank you for your friendship,
And for always being there

——————

Kate Stodhard: If you weren’t taken, I’d love to be your David Beckham.

——————

Joy Lumby
Happy Valentine’s – will you be my wife? Love Boris

——————

Christopher Brown – I don’t normally go for blondes, but for you gorgeous I would make an exception :-*

——————

R is for romeo (that’s me)
A is for aero – bubbly chocolate
C is for communication (F-Word)
H is for honey blond hair
E is for excellent wife material
L is for lovely shoes

——————

The Golden Hags,
Best I send you a message as nobody else will!
Luv
BTB.x

——————

Happy Valentines Michael Francis!
Have a great day x x x

——————

Lily Kay
You Make My Day
Everytime I Walk Through The Door

It’s Such a Shame
It Won’t Be The Same
We’ll Miss Your Face For Evermore

I Wush You Joy
With The Hoi Polloi
And Hope Your New Job Is Not A Bore

——————

To Mark in Production
It’s time for your liposuction
And eye-bag lift
It’s your Valentines Gift
Love from the 10 Years Younger team
We’ll make your teeth gleam.

——————

Bike Boy
Thanks for the banter etc and for making sure I always get home safely – its been fun. xx

——————

Sara,
Love is the mountain that we must climb,
Let’s climb it together, your hand in mine,
We haven’t known each other long,
But the feelings we have are strong,
I know we can make it theres no doubt,
We owe it to ourselves to find out

——————

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Darren Phillips, I can’t get enough of you!

——————

Aimee and ‘orrible Abigail,
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Drop a dress size
And I might fancy you!

——————

John Gower, John Gower
Come join me in the shower!
I will be your lusty valentine
If you could just spare me the time.

——————

Dear Mr Happy Days
Wishing you a Happy Valentines Day
Love from the Westgate Palm Trees

——————

Even a Rose as beautiful as you (tickets!)
Must bloom and fade, but
I will always
Love You! X

——————

To Bobby Flu
I love you
Help me with my lipstick
Then I’ll kiss you quick
Love from the tangerine

——————

Abi Pocock
Abi, oh Abi
How could I forget
Hangovers in sunnies
And stealing left-over baguettes

Happy Valentines chick! I’ll miss you!

——————

Senorita Lopez,
¿qué puede usted ver?
te amo, adios
x

——————

To KR,

You answer the phones all day,
As I gaze into my display,
For it is not work I am thinking of,
But you and I making love!
From?

——————

Mr Amar Patel…what a fine figure of a man.
Shame you’re in London and i’m in Bath.
I could go on forever singing your praises but for now i’ll just sit back and make do with the odd visits you pay to the Bath office.
I’m happy to wait for you, or maybe some phone sex to tide us over?
Those smouldering dark eyes and manly shoulders do it for me.
Please be my valentine!

——————

To Mr Fluellen, from A.A.A

Bobby oh Bobby, how we once longed for you
You were amazing to us, a dream come true
We thought our love was solid as a rock
But then some one told us you had a small………….

——————

GW, thanks for inviting me to stay in your fairy room. Lovely decor.

——————

For The Business Service Boys – We loved your performance at the Christmas Party. Now we’ve seen you perform in public our question is how do you perform in private?

——————

Davy Lewis come and screw this

——————

Peter Stothard
David Beckham is a god
but not a patch on you
There is one man in my life
and I love you.
xxx

——————

Fattie, you are the fattest of them all. Love ooooo

——————

Rosie Davey… ditch the publisher and subscribe to this writer. I’d love to book some space with you, so have you got room for an 8×1?
It’s up to you where you place it…

——————

Karen D
My Love for thee
Is like a sea
My heart will be broken if you say no to me

——————

To Nick Bransby-Williams, naughty boys don’t deserve valentines messages, but thought I’d surprise you anyway ;-)

——————

To Scott Douglass – was the night of the Christmas party as memorable
for you as it was for us? From the Nice Girl and the Mean Girl x

——————

To The Teacher Who Never Was…
We both know it was taboo (haha), but I wish you’d not gone home that night, or that I’d caught you before you’d left.
I feel like I’ve missed out on some mind-blowing passion with an achingly sexy and sophisticated person (not to mention Hot! Hot! Hot!), and I still long to do all those shockingly exciting things we said we would.
I certainly won’t forget the last few months. But although it was the right thing to do, if I get the same chance again I’m not letting you go without at least a long kiss goodbye.
Happy Valentines!

——————

Donato Ditri come and eat me!
You haven’t been here long but my feelings for you are strong,
Be my valentine you Italian Stallion xxx

——————

Christy, you can Park & Ride me anytime.
You make the wheels on my bus spin around with lust.
Your secret commuter… x

——————

To The 2nd Floor Cleaning Lady, From Richard Jefferies.

I’m sorry about the confusion with your tea towels and all that fuss
But I must confess that’s just not how it was
In truth, I wanted a simple reminder of you
But now I must confess my love for you is true
I love your dulcit tones, ” ‘ave you finished for yer mug”
I only wish the office was empty so I could give you a big hug
I love the way you work that hoover round the floor
I often wonder if you’d like to come round to my house to do a bit more
Of course I’d pay you well, I’m known for my generosity
I guess I just want you to be my very own lovely cleaning lady

——————

Karon,
I know you want to snog me,
Keep the torch alight,
Maybe one day, you’ll be mine,
However not tonight.

——————

Christy, Christine or Crispy,
Mr Walters, it just don’t matter to me.
You have the name of a lady,
but the muscles of a young boy.
Hold them against me.

——————

Hotty Hughes – Wine and dine me this valentines day… and I might
agree to getting Sky Sports!! xx

——————

We both love cats, we both love bikes, we both love eating thai,
We both love sitting in a field, and watching bats fly by,
We both love doing stupid things, to make each other laugh,
But most of all it’s you I love, ’cause you’re my better half.

To T from your secret (ahem) admirer
xxxxxxxxxx

——————

For Mark Sparrow

O sweet little Sparrow, why won’t you
Alight on my mighty tree trunk of love

——————

You always were my favourite Cashier, please come back to me, I need
your inspiration in the gym, and now that you can drive the sky’s the limit.

——————

To Mark Sparrow,

I’d love to snog you with my bright red lips.
And to feel your hands caressing my hips
Alarm bells are ringing, this could get us in trouble
Just give me the nod and I’ll make your chair wobble!

——————

“Your knees may be dodgy
But your bottom looks just fine
You may be an old codger
Yet I wish that you were mine!”

——————

to lady hall of bitchfield
we all love you loads & wish you valentine happiness
big G, stevo & weasel boy

——————

Ian Robson
You’re so sexy and smart
Paul Smith tout le jour

You’ve flashed your crocodile grin
At every girl on the floor

But can’t run from the truth:
It’s sad but it’s true
You don’t fancy us
You only love you

——————

Hector,
I love the way we like to flirt,
and your fabulous pale pink shirt,
you love my passion for pricey shoes
and a good night out on the booze
so lets get down in the dirt,
not to rough mind, I might get hurt!
Me
x

——————

Claire Davies you are TG’s very own princess, and if I had the time
and lots of money, then I’d take you round the world.

——————

TM – you can take me to the edge of heaven anytime!
From a secret admirer! x

——————

Mrs Ifans
will you mine tonight?
?

——————

Tom Shaw: every time I see you my belly does back flips!

——————

Caroline,
I know we can never be together,
As I’m not your sort…
In more ways than one.

——————

Ode 2 Diskboy
Who is always buying an expensive new toy
With his shark fin hair
And his love of Erdinger

He thinks he’s a fun night out
Drinking ale, lager and stout
But he twitches on the dance floor
And his singing makes your ears sore

He loves to play Halo 2
On his XBox for an hour or two
Under the name Prince Willie
Which we all think is really silly

It’s time to say
Happy Valentines Day
Disc Boy
O how you still fill our hearts with joy

——————

I know we’ve got partners,
But give me your pager

You be Edwina
And I’ll be John Major

——————

Karen D
My love for thee
Is like a tree
Strong tall & woody

——————

Hey James ‘The Games’ Greenwood
Keep seeing you out surrounded by a crowd of girls – you must be hot
stuff! What’s your secret???

——————

TG Dave:
You rock my world, sweet cheeks!
Fancy having a go on MY valentine’s ‘Poll’
Anon

——————

To the Cross Stitch girl in stocking soles,
So slinky in your pantie-hoes.
You put your kettle on to boil
And send the males into turmoil;
Should we ask you out to eat
Or simply nibble on your feet?
Alas we fear we’ll never know
The outline of your sweet big toe.
Or will we?

——————

To James Evans, have a fantastic day even if you can’t guess who I am x

——————

to j
i lvoe you

——————

You know who you are, Mr Snugly Jumper!
You’re ace – keep up the banter
X

——————

A thousand kisses from you is never too much
xx

——————

Gangsta Al, I wanna lick your ankles !

——————

Nick Bransby-Williams…..Top Tasty Bloke..

——————

Ben Chandler = Sex on legs!!

——————

Valentine, valentine,
I’ll never forget
How you dine
Four times a day or maybe more.

You might think this would make you sleep
And pave the way to bed with sheep
But when we wend our way to bed
Read, snuggle down and counsel keep
Before long in uncomfortable splendour
We’ll be disturbed by eight small feet.

Love you and the small two for always xxx

Write Like Warren: 12 Tricks You Can Learn From The World’s Richest Man

Every week I meet people who are too scared to make their writing simple.

They say: “It’s all very well for you, but I have to sound professional. We don’t talk like that in my business.”

For a long time I’d try to convince them otherwise. But now I’ve given up. Instead, I introduce them to Warren Buffett.

Next month, Buffett will write his annual update to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. Every year, this letter is gospel to investors. It’s picked apart on CNBC and makes headlines in the Wall Street Journal.

But it’s also a masterclass in communication. You know why? Because it’s the annual report of a $340 billion organisation and it’s written in a way a 9 year-old can understand.

Warren Buffett writes in plain English. Is he ‘professional’ enough for you?

Because I think the world would be a better place if more people wrote like Warren Buffett, I studied 50 years of his writing. I was able to identify 12 writing techniques he uses to keep people engaged – all without ‘dumbing down’ a single idea.

Here they are:

In this post, I’ll share 5 of my favourites. If you want all of them, watch this video or get the short book I’ve written. (It’s free.)

Secret #1: Be Humble

They say if you don’t blow your own trumpet, there is no music. Yet throughout Buffett’s writing you get a strong sense of humility:

We continue to look for ways to expand our insurance operation. But your reaction to this intent should not be unrestrained joy. Some of our expansion efforts—largely initiated by your Chairman have been lackluster, others have been expensive failures.

The overall effect is one of strength, not weakness. Honest self appraisals communicate a strong sense of confidence.

Secret #2: Don’t Take Things Too Seriously

Warren Buffett is worth $80 billion. And yet he’s curated this image of himself as some hayseed from the heart of the Midwest.

Here’s an introduction to a paragraph of accounting rules:

“You can live a full and rewarding life without ever thinking about Goodwill and its amortization.”

A note on long term inflationary trends signs off with:

Despite the overriding importance of inflation in the investment equation, we will not punish you further with another full recital of our views; inflation itself will be punishment enough. (Copies of previous discussions are available for masochists.)

He loves the subject matter, but he loves poking fun at it. What a great way to communicate confidence.

Secret #3: Get Emotional

Most people use distanced language to communicate bad news: sales were soft, the deal lapsed, figures came in below expectations.

Something else happening to somebody else. Not Buffett: he’s always ready to get real:

Intense competition in the reinsurance business has produced major lossesfor practically every company operating in the area. We have been no exception. Our underwriting loss was something over 12% — a horrendous figure, but probably little different from the average of the industry.

Frank DeNardo came with us in the spring of 1978 to straighten out National Indemnity’s California Worker’s Compensation business which, up to that point, had been a disaster.

(NB: Emphasis added.)

All this communicates honesty of course, but it also shows he’s in control. You get a strong sense that he’s spotted the alligator AND he’s already draining the swamp.

Secret #4: Follow Fact with Metaphor

This is a subtle one – but incredibly powerful.

Metaphor is a magic wand in financial communication, bringing corporate manoeuvring to life. But they come at a price: metaphors can ‘dumb down’ your communication and alienate intelligent readers.

Buffett has a solution: he never uses metaphor to replace the underlying financial story, only to illuminate it.

He follows fact with metaphor.

Let me show you. Here, he’s talking about Berkshire Hathaway’s experience with bonds:

However, the mild degree of caution that we exercised was an improper response to the world unfolding about us. You do not adequately protect yourself by being half awake while others are sleeping.

(NB: Emphasis added.)

I’m not saying it’s the metaphor of the century, but it’s a welcome visual. A little goes a long way.

Here’s a couple more. Again, emphasis is added:

During 1981 we came quite close to a major purchase involving both a business and a manager we liked very much. However, the price finally demanded, considering alternative uses for the funds involved, would have left our owners worse off than before the purchase. The empire would have been larger, but the citizenry would have been poorer.

“We have no ability to forecast interest rates and—maintaining our usual open-minded spirit—believe that no one else can. Therefore, we simply borrow when conditions seem non-oppressive and hope that we will later find intelligent expansion or acquisition opportunities, which—as we have said—are most likely to pop up when conditions in the debt market are clearly oppressive. Our basic principle is that if you want to shoot rare, fast-moving elephants, you should always carry a loaded gun.

You see this throughout Buffett’s writing: fact followed by metaphor.

I wish Buffett would get wider credit for this. I think it’s a beautiful technique for really ’pinning a rose on the nose’ of a careful explanation.

Secret #4: Praise your Team

Buffett might be self-critical, but he never knocks his management team. In fact, he goes out of his way to praise his star-talent in each annual letter. He paints himself as a cheerleader rather than a leader, applauding their performance:

It is commonplace, in corporate annual reports, to stress the difference that people make. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. But there is no question that the nature of the insurance business magnifies the effect which individual managers have on company performance. We are very fortunate to have the group of managers that are associated with us

Praise of others is very difficult to overdo.

Bonus Fact: Buffett’s writing gets EASIER as he get older

I couldn’t let this pass without running a statistical study of Warren Buffett’s writing.

So I threw over 30 years of his annual letters (about 400,000 words) into a readability calculator. Here’s what I found: over the years, Buffett’s writing gets steadily easier to read.

  • The Grade Level falls from 11.7 to 7.8.
  • The Reading Ease score rises from 42.1 in 1977 to 62.9 in 2013.
  • Syllables per word drops slowly but surely from 1.7 to 1.5.

I think you can see a virtuous cycle here: as Buffett grows richer and becomes more feted, his confidence grows and people come to expect this down to earth writing style.

Conclusion: next time you think you can’t use plain English, try telling yourself: “If it’s good enough for Warren, it’s good enough for me.”

Write Like Warren: 12 Tricks You Can Learn From The World's Richest Man

Every week I meet people who are too scared to make their writing simple.

They say: “It’s all very well for you, but I have to sound professional. We don’t talk like that in my business.”

For a long time I’d try to convince them otherwise. But now I’ve given up. Instead, I introduce them to Warren Buffett.

Next month, Buffett will write his annual update to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. Every year, this letter is gospel to investors. It’s picked apart on CNBC and makes headlines in the Wall Street Journal.

But it’s also a masterclass in communication. You know why? Because it’s the annual report of a $340 billion organisation and it’s written in a way a 9 year-old can understand.

Warren Buffett writes in plain English. Is he ‘professional’ enough for you?

Because I think the world would be a better place if more people wrote like Warren Buffett, I studied 50 years of his writing. I was able to identify 12 writing techniques he uses to keep people engaged – all without ‘dumbing down’ a single idea.

Here they are:

In this post, I’ll share 5 of my favourites. If you want all of them, watch this video or get the short book I’ve written. (It’s free.)

Secret #1: Be Humble

They say if you don’t blow your own trumpet, there is no music. Yet throughout Buffett’s writing you get a strong sense of humility:

We continue to look for ways to expand our insurance operation. But your reaction to this intent should not be unrestrained joy. Some of our expansion efforts—largely initiated by your Chairman have been lackluster, others have been expensive failures.

The overall effect is one of strength, not weakness. Honest self appraisals communicate a strong sense of confidence.

Secret #2: Don’t Take Things Too Seriously

Warren Buffett is worth $80 billion. And yet he’s curated this image of himself as some hayseed from the heart of the Midwest.

Here’s an introduction to a paragraph of accounting rules:

“You can live a full and rewarding life without ever thinking about Goodwill and its amortization.”

A note on long term inflationary trends signs off with:

Despite the overriding importance of inflation in the investment equation, we will not punish you further with another full recital of our views; inflation itself will be punishment enough. (Copies of previous discussions are available for masochists.)

He loves the subject matter, but he loves poking fun at it. What a great way to communicate confidence.

Secret #3: Get Emotional

Most people use distanced language to communicate bad news: sales were soft, the deal lapsed, figures came in below expectations.

Something else happening to somebody else. Not Buffett: he’s always ready to get real:

Intense competition in the reinsurance business has produced major lossesfor practically every company operating in the area. We have been no exception. Our underwriting loss was something over 12% — a horrendous figure, but probably little different from the average of the industry.

Frank DeNardo came with us in the spring of 1978 to straighten out National Indemnity’s California Worker’s Compensation business which, up to that point, had been a disaster.

(NB: Emphasis added.)

All this communicates honesty of course, but it also shows he’s in control. You get a strong sense that he’s spotted the alligator AND he’s already draining the swamp.

Secret #4: Follow Fact with Metaphor

This is a subtle one – but incredibly powerful.

Metaphor is a magic wand in financial communication, bringing corporate manoeuvring to life. But they come at a price: metaphors can ‘dumb down’ your communication and alienate intelligent readers.

Buffett has a solution: he never uses metaphor to replace the underlying financial story, only to illuminate it.

He follows fact with metaphor.

Let me show you. Here, he’s talking about Berkshire Hathaway’s experience with bonds:

However, the mild degree of caution that we exercised was an improper response to the world unfolding about us. You do not adequately protect yourself by being half awake while others are sleeping.

(NB: Emphasis added.)

I’m not saying it’s the metaphor of the century, but it’s a welcome visual. A little goes a long way.

Here’s a couple more. Again, emphasis is added:

During 1981 we came quite close to a major purchase involving both a business and a manager we liked very much. However, the price finally demanded, considering alternative uses for the funds involved, would have left our owners worse off than before the purchase. The empire would have been larger, but the citizenry would have been poorer.

“We have no ability to forecast interest rates and—maintaining our usual open-minded spirit—believe that no one else can. Therefore, we simply borrow when conditions seem non-oppressive and hope that we will later find intelligent expansion or acquisition opportunities, which—as we have said—are most likely to pop up when conditions in the debt market are clearly oppressive. Our basic principle is that if you want to shoot rare, fast-moving elephants, you should always carry a loaded gun.

You see this throughout Buffett’s writing: fact followed by metaphor.

I wish Buffett would get wider credit for this. I think it’s a beautiful technique for really ’pinning a rose on the nose’ of a careful explanation.

Secret #4: Praise your Team

Buffett might be self-critical, but he never knocks his management team. In fact, he goes out of his way to praise his star-talent in each annual letter. He paints himself as a cheerleader rather than a leader, applauding their performance:

It is commonplace, in corporate annual reports, to stress the difference that people make. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. But there is no question that the nature of the insurance business magnifies the effect which individual managers have on company performance. We are very fortunate to have the group of managers that are associated with us

Praise of others is very difficult to overdo.

Bonus Fact: Buffett’s writing gets EASIER as he get older

I couldn’t let this pass without running a statistical study of Warren Buffett’s writing.

So I threw over 30 years of his annual letters (about 400,000 words) into a readability calculator. Here’s what I found: over the years, Buffett’s writing gets steadily easier to read.

  • The Grade Level falls from 11.7 to 7.8.
  • The Reading Ease score rises from 42.1 in 1977 to 62.9 in 2013.
  • Syllables per word drops slowly but surely from 1.7 to 1.5.

I think you can see a virtuous cycle here: as Buffett grows richer and becomes more feted, his confidence grows and people come to expect this down to earth writing style.

Conclusion: next time you think you can’t use plain English, try telling yourself: “If it’s good enough for Warren, it’s good enough for me.”

State of the Sector 2014 – 2015 is out now

Click here to download the latest State of the Sector report

Today, Gatehouse is releasing the latest State of the Sector – our annual survey of the IC profession.

The research shows you the core processes and practises that our profession is focusing on – and reveals how your organisation stacks up against the rest of the industry.

Download now

State of the Sector is Gatehouse’s industry–wide census.

It aims to investigate the challenges internal communicators are facing – and where their focus will be over the coming months.

It investigates core processes and practices, including channel use, and explores the impact of new and emerging technologies like Enterprise Social Networks and apps.

Gatehouse has run the State of the Sector research programme since 2009.

During that time, we’ve spoken to many thousands of practitioners across hundreds of organisations in the UK, Europe and globally. Combined with our experience as one of the leading agencies operating in this area, this gives us a unique perspective on the current state of internal communications.

  • The fieldwork for the latest survey was conducted in October 2014.
  • With responses from 270 communicators operating in organisations ranging in size from a few hundred people to more than 50,000 employees, State of the Sector provides a comprehensive benchmark on internal communication and employee engagement activity across numerous leading organisations throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
  • This report provides a summary of our key findings. It is required reading for any communicator who wants to better understand what other organisations are doing to engage their people – and to explore how their own organisation stacks up.

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Stories: the Secret to Successful Speaking

Public speaking is the #1 fear.

No kidding. One of the worst experiences of my life was when I first stood up to speak in front of 200 people.

I corpsed, to use the technical term.

This happened 10 years ago at a magazine industry conference. The organiser had casually invited me to speak, and I’d casually accepted. It was the first time I’d ever spoken in public, and I didn’t think much of it until the day before the event.

I’d watched plenty of people speak from the stage, and there didn’t seem to be any special trick to it.

Thankfully, I remember little of what happened:

  • I remember travelling on the train there, and having the inspired idea to jot down some bullet points on a scrap of paper.
  • I remember the feeling of confidence I had, as they announced my name and I calmly walked through the crowd towards the stage.
  • And I definitely remember the ‘holy cow’ moment as I climbed up to the stage and saw all those faces looking up at me, expecting me to say something.

Hey, this wasn’t what I’d imagined!

I thought it would be like a friendly chat. I’d say something, somebody else would say something, then I’d reply with the answer.

I had no idea how totally alone you are on stage: how if you ask a question, nobody will answer. How if you lose your thread or start to bomb, nobody will step in and take over. The audience will just crash and burn with you.

I think I said a few sentences before I couldn’t speak any more.

I sort of gasped for air, I think, and made a few of those loud swallowing sounds that you make when you’re really nervous and can’t talk. Everybody knew I was dying, and they were just as embarrassed as I was.

Since then I’ve spoken many times and it’s never happened again. One of the main reasons it’s never happened again is that I became serious about telling stories.

Today, the best way to put together a presentation or a talk is as a series of stories.

Stories are fantastic for public speaking. They are your ‘secret weapon’. I know that’s an overused term, but it’s appropriate here.

Do you ever wonder how some people can speak for an hour without any notes? It’s because they’re working through a ‘playlist’ of stories they’ve memorised:

“So, I’ll open with the one about Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones. Then the story about Sylvester Stallone and his struggle to get Rocky made, and then after that the story about Greg Norman self destructing on the last day of the US Masters.”

hooked_3dIt’s very easy to learn a story. Once you’ve told it a few times it’s locked away in your head. You don’t need to write it down, and you certainly don’t need a teleprompter. You’re more natural, and you connect with your audience much better.

More importantly, you’ll never flub your lines – so people will remember your talk for all the right reasons!

If you’re interested in telling stories, get Hooked On You – our new book on storytelling.

Conversations at 1 kHz

When you’re in a bar or club with loud rock playing, you have to scream to be heard.

That’s because in rock music, most of the energy is right around 1 kHz – exactly the frequency where speech lies.

Hip-hop, by contrast, puts most of its energy above and below the mid-range. So when when the music’s pumping, it’s relatively easy to have a conversation over it.

This is by design. Hip-hop is social music first and foremost.

It’s like that in internal comms.

You can design your comms to be a performance, or you can design it to facilitate conversation rather than drown it out.

Which would you choose?

Gatehouse is growing in 2015. If you think we should work together, get in touch.

3 Free Stories to Lead and Inspire

Picture the moment your writing lands in front of your reader.

Usually, you’re competing with every distraction under the sun: emails, phone calls, the 40 other tabs in Chrome.

How do you cut through?

Simple – take your message and tie it to a story.

I collect stories that I can use to explain things. Here’s 3 of my favourites – you’re welcome to use them too.

Story 1: Lobster

Two hundred years ago, eating lobster was like eating a rat.

Eating lobster was considered such a ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment that several US states had laws against feeding it to prisoners.

Today lobster is a gourmet dish – one of the most expensive items on the menu.

A similar transformation is happening in our industry…

  • How to use this story: This story is great for highlighting a turn-around in fortunes. For example, a division that has performed poorly, but has managed to transform itself.

Story 2: Ferrari 

In 1948, a peasant farmer started a business making tractors.

Within five years this man – Ferruccio – was one of the richest men in Italy. He amassed a fine collection of cars – Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, Lancias – but his heart belonged to his Ferraris, of which he owned six.

Just one thing bothered him: all of his Ferraris had clutch problems. One day in his workshop he discovered why: the clutch in his Ferraris was the same part he used in his tractors.

Ferruccio complained to Enzo Ferrari, who replied: “Ferruccio, you may be able to drive a tractor but you will never be able to handle a Ferrari properly.”

Ferruccio was furious. He vowed to make a car worthy of beating a Ferrari. And as it happens, that’s exactly what he did. He took his revenge by creating one of the most powerful, well renowned cars in the world.

The farmer’s full name: Ferruccio Lamborghini.

  • How to use this story: This story works well any time you’re working on a goal that some people doubt can be achieved. It’s good for encouraging your audience to dig deep and prove the doubters wrong!

Story 3: New York

New York should have collapsed in 1980.

Over 130 years ago, the New York authorities held a conference to figure out how to manage the city’s growth.

The experts agreed: it didn’t look good.

The city was doubling in size every 10 years. By 1980 they predicted, you’d need six million horses to transport everybody. And those six million horse would produce so much crap that New York City was effectively doomed.

Obviously, things turned out differently. I love this story because it shows how people who make predictions for a living are hamstrung by the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know.

  • How to use this story: This story is a useful one when your success looks uncertain,or when you don’t know what the future holds. It’s a good story for encouraging followers to make a leap of faith.

Would you like me to send you more stories like this?

Our book Hooked On You contains 12 stories that you can make your own.

You can buy it on Amazon (UK / US), or you can download it for free at our website.

Use This Simple Story to Motivate People

In 2003, three students started a video games company.

They made game after game, hoping that one would be successful. Six years later they’d produced 51 titles. None of them were hits.

For their 52nd game, they decided to make a simple puzzle physics game called Angry Birds.

Today their company – Rovio Entertainment – has over a billion users, 500 employees and annual revenue of over $200 million.

I love this story because it took them 51 failures to become a success.

I’m sharing it with you, because it’s a great narrative to motivate good people who are trying hard to be successful.

Today only – get our storytelling book free on Amazon

Would you like more stories like this that you can use to inspire people? Get Gatehouse’s new book Hooked On You – it’s free on Amazon until midnight Pacific today!

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How to Measure Your Writing

Writing is seen as an art. Something subjective that you feel, but can’t really measure. Turns out, that’s not necessarily true.

In Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 Hour Body, he features the case study of Phil Libin. Phil wanted to lose weight, but he’d failed at both dieting and exercise on and off for years. Finally, he decided to see what effect doing nothing would have.

Each morning before breakfast he weighed himself naked and plotted the result on a chart, but apart from that he made no conscious effort to change his habits.

He lost two stone (12Kg) in six months.

He found that just by monitoring that one statistic – his weight – he could effect change.

In writing, you also have a statistic you can monitor that tells you how well you’re doing

It’s called the Flesch Reading Ease test – otherwise known as the ‘readability score’.

The FK score tells you how easy your writing is to read. It gives it a score based on how long the words you choose are and how many syllables they contain. It’s a very reliable indicator of how easy your writing is to read.

You can run your copy through it to find out how easy it is to read on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the score, the easier it is to read. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty accurate.

For example, read this:

Advocates for military intervention in Syria this summer invariably pointed to a prevailing international norm when making their case. Military action, they argued, was the only way to enforce the worldwide prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.

This passage has a reading ease score of 29.5 out of 100. That’s low. You need to be about 21 to easily understand it.
Contrast that with the blog post you’re reading now, which has a reading ease score of 80. It should be easily understood by 12 to 13 year olds.

Some copywriters sneer at this tool, but the kind of writers I admire love it.

Copywriter John Fancher talks about texting colleagues: “85!” “90!” “92!” .

His friends know what he means just by the numbers. It means he’s written something that’s so simple a kid could read it.
And yes, he’s proud of this. You should be too. Why? Because simple words communicate. If you can take a complex idea and communicate it simply, that’s a very valuable skill.

There are other writing tools – Gunning Fog, the SMOG Index, the Coleman Liau Index. I wouldn’t worry too much about the differences. Most of the time they tell you the same thing.

I check my reading scores all the time. It’s a great way to get an idea of how well your message is coming across. It’s not perfect, but if
you run your copy through it and you get back “30 out of 100” it’s a red flag to revise.

Your First 100 Days

100Days.v6-2“According to the map, we’ve only gone four inches.”
Harry, Dumb & Dumber

They say that if you don’t know whether or not you’re on schedule, it’s a safe bet that you aren’t.

One time you really need to be certain of your direction is during your first days and weeks in new internal comms role.

When you’re promoted to a bigger role, you need a big plan to go with it. And you need to deliver results fast.

To help, we put together a little guide called: “Your First 100 Days in a New Internal Comms Role.”

You can download it here.

It’s worth keeping safe until you need it.

We’d like to thank everybody who contributed to this short guide. In particular, we’d like to extend special thanks to two Gatehouse clients, Kate Jones, Head of Internal Communications, UK at Atkins and Sasha Watson, Director, Internal Communications at ARM who shared their experiences, reflections and learnings from recent job moves.