Blog Archives: 2017

RUMA: the art of active issues management

6th November 2017

With exceptional pride, I attended the second conference held by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance on 27 October. For the past two years, I have had the privilege of working closely with RUMA to tackle the crisis the farming industry has been facing over its reputation on antibiotics use.  And it’s not been easy.

At the heart of managing every crisis is genuine, sustainable change, and while farming had definitely attracted far more than its fair share of blame in the UK for growing concerns over antibiotic resistance, you can’t demonstrate the facts unless you have a story to tell – and evidence to prove it.

So we set out to develop this story, to find out where the industry really was in terms of responsible use, to build trust with its most important stakeholders, and to show the issue of antibiotic use was being treated with the utmost seriousness.

It was clear last week we had achieved this. In spades. Not only had reductions in sales of antibiotics blown a governmental target apart, but we had achieved the impossible – got a leading farmer and vet from eight different livestock sectors together to form a crack Task Force that would identify, consult and agree antibiotic use targets or the next three years with universal industry support.

The lessons from this beautiful piece of issues management? Stick to your guns. Do what’s right. And prove you’ve done it.

With the very welcome permission of Veterinary Record, I leave you with this editorial.

Vet Record editorial leader 061117 RUMA conference

Grammar rules we didn’t know we knew

25th July 2017

Just finished a fabulous little book – The Elements of Eloquence – How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase.  By English language guru Mark Forsyth, it’s been out for a while and on my reading list for a couple of years since I read an article on it from @mattandersonBBC.

It not only tells you that adjectives in English have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But it also highlights that almost every native English speaker is able to subconsciously re-order adjectives and adverbs in this way. Anything else just doesn’t sound right.

Even more incredible are the reasons for the exceptions.

As Mark says, Little Red Riding Hood may be perfectly ordered, but the Big Bad Wolf seems to be breaking all the laws of linguistics. Apparently it’s because it breaks another rule – the one that means we never listen to hop-hip music.

Mark says: “It’s the rule of ablaut reduplication which makes us say zig zag or clip clop. Reduplication in linguistics is when you repeat a word, sometimes with an altered consonant (lovey-dovey, fuddy-duddy, nitty-gritty), and sometimes with an altered vowel: bish-bash-bosh, ding-dang-dong. If there are three words then the order has to go I, A, O. If there are two words then the first is I and the second is either A or O. Mish-mash, chit-chat, dilly-dally, shilly-shally, tip top, hip-hop, flip-flop, tic tac, sing song, ding dong, King Kong, ping pong.”

Well who knew?

Social media and new ‘diplomacy’

17th February 2017

I caught the tail end of a radio show in the car today – Friends and Foes: A Narrative History of Diplomacy. I heard enough to warrant another listen back in the office.

It’s good stuff. The basic premise is social media is changing both diplomacy and democracy. Presenter Professor David Rothkopf points out how every single person in the world can now be connected, and that – on the whole – is a good thing. Social media creates more pressure on protagonists to observe initiatives such as climate change agreements and gives smaller players a voice they would not otherwise have. If social media had been around in the days of world-shaping events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, it could have facilitated a swifter resolution or better mututal understanding and less distress all round. Diplomacy in its true sense.

It also facilitates direct communication between leaders and their subjects when such messages have traditionally been distilled through the media and subject to the interpretation of reporters and editors.

Trump has embraced the opportunity to be the first world leader to use Twitter as his primary communication channel rather than just to augment what he says or does elsewhere. is this a good thing? In theory yes. In practice, no, because diplomatic it isn’t.

Trump clearly prefers Twitter because of his distrust of the media. But he is losing a huge opportunity with the content he tweets on a daily basis to his 25 million followers. A quick glance today shows the subject matter in his last 10 tweets break down as:

– lashing out at fake news or facts, leaks or suggestions (real or imagined) that he is lacking in any way – 6

– repealing Obama’s policies – 2

– reports on his own policies and what he is doing – 2

This constant need for validation, desire to be the ‘best, greatest or biggest’ and preoccupation with ‘being treated fairly’ is just getting in the way of the day job because it completely lacks any diplomacy.

One of the basic of media training is to focus on the story you want to tell. When you use 80% of your output for negative purposes, people will focus on those negative messages. You keep talking about being treated unfairly, then that’s what the media will report and what people who see your gripes first hand will talk about.

Trump may have something very real to offer in a fresh approach that can create a genuine step change in the lives of many Americans. But until he learns not to sweat the small stuff and use the truly diplomatic power of social media to cut direct to his audiences and recount what he really is doing to drive his policies forward, all we are going to keep seeing is petulance and ranting.