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Has there ever have been a bigger PR crisis to have hit a larger group of people as the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations?

I'm not talking about the impact on one or two high-profile business moguls - I'm referring to the #Metoo campaign that is asking women to go public and state that they too have been the target of sexual harassment or assault. Weinstein;'s actions may have been the ones that ignited his reputation crisis firestorm, but the #Metoo campaign is now asking questions of a much bigger audience - men, and I mean all men.

Like me, you will no doubt have seen a huge amount of women using Twitter and Facebook to declare that they have suffered unwanted attention and much worse at the hands of men. I have one friend who calculates that nearly 90% of her female friends have stood up and said "#Metoo and yet she has only seen a very tiny minority of men stand up and admit that they have been complicit in the power game that relegates women to objects of unwanted sexual attention in a world where they feel they cannot speak out. How can this be? The maths simply do not stack up do they? What's more, when some men have spoken up about actions they regret, they seem to get support in Facebook debates - so long as they are started by men. If the debate is sparked by women, it seems that some men feel aggrieved at such open condemnation of these acts. They claim it is #Notallmen or even #NotMe and that all men are now being demonized for the actions of the very few. While I can appreciate that some men will feel indignant at being associated with Weinstein and his ilk, all men have to face up to their complicity and actions in bringing about this tidal wave of wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, friends, colleagues and associates shouting #METOO!

We are all victims of this crisis - and when I say all, I mean all men and all women.

This crisis of reputation for men has been brought about by the construction of a society that pours pressure on men and women to conform to roles defined within power structures designed to relegate women to being less equal than men. As men, we have to stand up and accept our part in this reputation downfall. It is not good enough to say, it is the monsters, the Weinsteins of this world that are at fault and #Notme. I've been seriously disturbed by the number of women that are standing up and talking about events at school, in the home, at work, on the street, at the cinema and in the park, events that happened when they were young girls, teenagers and working women.

And let's not forget, a large part of this impacted-on audience will still remain silent. It simply does not add up that only a small number of men are engaged in these acts that are undermining our reputations as respectful sons, husbands and fathers. We have to be brave, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves, what have I done that could have left a girl or woman silent about actions that hurt her or made her feel ashamed, denigrated and unequal?

As I mentioned above, we are all victims of this issue. We are all constructed and molded by the society we grow up in. We respond to the "norms" that are validated by others, impressed on us by the media and reinforced by the collectives to which we belong.

If, as men, we are to tackle this reputation crisis, we cannot brush it under the carpet, pretend it never happened, that it is the fault of others - that is an abrogation of responsibility, the antithesis of good reputation management. We need to listen to what is being said, take it on board, look at the truths being said and take appropriate action - this is not the time for spin doctoring or saying "yes, that's fine but it happens to me too as a man". Yes, some men will suffer harassment, abuse and assault, and that is wrong too - but in comparison to what women are saying they are putting up with in silence, it is a very small issue.

I've suffered sexual harassment in the office - it scared me; it scared me a lot. I often wear a kilt when out socialising - and I can guarantee that there will be at least one occasion during the night when a woman will lift it and another when a female hand will be forced up to rummage around my groin, a hand that belongs to a woman standing in a group of women laughing and approving of her actions. What am I supposed to do in this public situation? Shout abuse at her, report her to the police for assault? No, I'm a man, I'm supposed to take it on the chin and see it all as "banter" or "just a bit of fun". And yet ladies and gentlemen reading this, imagine if that was your wife, daughter or sister in the pub being assaulted in that way - how would you react? Are you seeing the hypocrisy of our society yet?

At times when that has happened, I've laughed it off, I've got quite thick skin, but at others, I ask myself, why? Why does she think it's OK to ask if I'm wearing pants? Why does she think it's OK to stroke her hand on my backside to see if she can detect them and why, yes why, does she think it's acceptable to grab hold of my genitals in public?

I'm left wondering is this is normal behaviour, if this is what I should come to expect when I go out because of the way I'm dressed; I guess I must be asking for it.

As a young man I was ridiculously awkward around girls. When it came to the courting game I was terribly shy and had no idea on how to approach the golden goal of getting a girlfriend. I remember my disastrous attempts at making contact with girls. The awkward grabbing and groping as we chased each other around, but what else did I know, it was the way things were, it's how boys and girls moved things up the relationship ladder and no one really got hurt - or did they?

That awkwardness carried on into my late teens when I started dating proper. Looking back now, I see things that I didn't then, things that were "part of the game", things that I now see could have made those girls feel bad about themselves - but none of them spoke out so it must have been OK - mustn't it?

The whole #Metoo declaration has made me look back at my relationship and relationships with females - it should do that to all men. We have to feel much more than sorry for the women involved, we have to feel discomfort and responsibility if we are to address this issue that affects virtually every aspect of our society and certainly every female on the planet in one way or another. This is not about demonising men - it is about having a society that is based in equality in all aspects of life.

It does not mean admitting to being a rapist - although if that's you, then you certainly bloody well should - it means owning up to all parts of your involvement in making women and girls feel less powerful, respected and equal to you.

And we cannot totally apportion blame to the media, peer pressure or anything else - I honestly believe if we take this opportunity with both hands, that we are "men enough" to face the elephant in the room, then we could be at a watershed in bringing about far greater equality in society - and who among us does not want that?

So, I asked myself a few questions. Have I ever talked a woman into having sex when she initially seemed disinterested? Yes I have. Did she complain afterwards or tell me she felt unduly pressured into it? No she didn't. Will I ever know if she did feel that way? No I won't - but she may have, and to put it down to "playing the game" is not really good enough is it? I recall as a young man at a gig and finding my hand pressed into a girl's breast as she crowd-surfed above me. It was not intentional, but I do recall the thrill of the crafty feel and thought nothing more of it - I doubt she felt the same way.

Does this make me a bad person? Without wishing to apply ratios of severity on the subject, I hope not. Does it make me complicit in the whole thing - yes it does. Like many men reading this, I consider myself respectful of women and would hate to be associated with Weinstein; but I was born into the system that keeps women silent.

At the end of the day, this is all down to power. The power the schoolboy has to pull the bra of the girl in front, the power of a teenager to push his hand down the jeans of the girl he's taken out for the first time, the power of the "banter" and innuendo in the pub, the power of the office junior to follow a woman up the stairs so he can look up her skirt, the power of the manager to suggest his PA should wear something more "suitable" to the office, the power of the Executive who feels that sexual favours are part of his pay deal, the power of a man to assume he can have sex with a woman because he can help her up the career ladder - the power of a man to think he can rape a woman and she will stay silent because that's the way the industry is and always has been.

If #Metoo has shown us anything, it is that our society is riven with behaviours that reinforce in men in particular, that having power means you can get sexual satisfaction in one way or another, and that it is normal and acceptable - it is not and it has to stop. The only way it can stop is if those doing it see it for what it is and change. Men and women have to stop bringing up boys to think that these acts, at all levels, are unacceptable to everyone in society. If we men, as the main protagonists in this crisis of reputation, don't stop and evaluate our attitudes and actions, if we are not big enough to have this conversation with ourselves to start with, then nothing will change.

This is not just a reputation crisis facing men - it is a reputation crisis facing our society and it's down to us all to sort it, and it will start when men start standing up and saying #Ididtoo.

LinkedIn is widely seen as the biggest and best connected business network to which to belong - and yet so many people don't take full advantage of it, or worse still, get taken advantage of by other users.

The connectivity of LinkedIn means you can pretty much find anyone you want in terms of expanding your network of potential clients and suppliers. It can dispense with hours of searching for that dream client, provide you with a good idea of the value of a supplier and, if you are lucky, get you past the gate-keepers who turn you away while engaged in cold calling. And yet so many people fail to take full advantage of it as a marketing tool.

I once asked a client who did not see the value of LinkedIn to name his ideal new client company. I then asked him who he would like to speak to at the company about his own services. With the name of the company and the person's title to hand I hit search on LinkedIn and up came the profile of the very man my client wanted to talk to - "Do you mean him?" I asked, "Yes; how great would it be to be able to talk to him and see if he would be interested in buying from us?", You may be able to guess what I suggested next.

So many people know they need a LinkedIn presence but then fail to do anything with it. I recently spent 20 minutes going through contacts who had connected in the last month but had not actually been in touch with me since. I dropped them a line to say hi, to remind them that it had been a while since they connected and if there was anything I could do to help. Only those that replied after a given time are still in my network.

Now you might see that as a little harsh, but the simple fact is, once people connect with you they have access to your network of connections - in other words, they may not interested in you, but in who you know; these people are not connections, they are networking thieves and you are aiding and abetting them in their endeavors to grow their own businesses.

Of course not everyone will be that way, some will simply not be making full use of LinkedIn, they may not have email alerts set up so they don't know if you have sent them a message or they just might not be that active on social media. That's fine, but what value are they adding to your network and what opportunities are they providing for you. In marketing, we should all be focusing on the targets that provide the best returns.

Are all of your connections providing opportunities and are you making the best use of your connections on LinkedIn and can you spot the Networking Thieves in your connections?

I'm feeling quite humbled to be in such good company in this feature article on the secrets to business success.

Four

You can read the full artcle by clicking this link - here 

 

I'm delighted to have been appointed as one of the new Community Ambassadors for Homeless and Rootless at Christmas (HARC). The charity was founded in Sheffield in 1989. HARC provides a safe haven for vulnerable men and women during the days over the Christmas period when other services are closed. It provides three hot meals a day as well as a host of other services such as health care advice, clothing and laundry.

HARC Logo Header

HARC is run by volunteers and a part-time project manager. Last Christmas it was based at the Cathedral Archer project, where it was open for nine days over the festive period.

As a HARC Ambassadors, I will be helping to ‘tell the HARC story’ by maintaining relationships with regular donors in our local community such as schools, churches and community groups as well as reaching out to organisations that have not interacted with it before and want to know more about its work in Sheffield.

A key task of mine this year is to reach out to the business community in Sheffield and to help them engage with the project. If you company or organisation wants to know more about HARC, the reasons it exists in the UK's fourth largest city and what you can do to help, then please get in touch. I'll be happy to come along and give you and your team a short talk about HARC, the work we do and what it can mean to be homeless and lonely at a time when very many others are celebrating.

Will whoever is advising Ched Evans, the professional footballer, jailed and then released from prison after being found guilty of raping a drunken 19-year-old girl, please stand up and explain what you hope to gain from using an interview with The Times to offer advice to girls on how to not get raped?

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If someone is not guiding this man's PR then they should because he has just unilaterally reopened the massive and divisive argument about his actions and dragged his new and former employer, Sheffield United Football Club back into the full glare of a very negative public debate. The footballer was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman back in 2011 and jailed for five years; last year he was cleared of the crime after a retrial.

The case split the nation and even more so, Sheffield United fans with sponsors departing the club and a massive petition being signed by thousands begging the club to no longer have anything to do with him. The club, at the time of his release, decided against signing him and he went on to play for Chesterfield FC. With the relegation of Chesterfield to the lowest division of the English Football League tat the end of this season, Evans sought a new club and has resigned for Sheffield United.

Why has he taken this opportunity to open old wounds that he and SUFC must know will only cause a negative and divisive response? Why has SUFC not stipulated to him that he must not talk about the case let alone put himself up as some sort of authority on how girls and women should act if they do not want to be raped?

If Ched Evans really believes that, as he told The Times, "a lot of work needs to be done in relation to consent because I definitely think that the police have an agenda to find ways to charge people and the easiest one is the drunk one,” then maybe he should spend his time talking to men about not getting drunk and being incapable of telling whether or not a girl is giving consent to having sex. If he wants to be seen as someone who wants to take repairable steps, accept his own responsibility for the damage he has done to that young girl, a girl who has had to change her identity five times and is currently raising funds to emigrate due to being vilely hounded by supporters of Ched Evans, then  maybe he should be having conversations with them, telling them that their actions are unacceptable, that his case and their actions have prevented and will prevent more victims of what he sickly refers to as "real rapists" coming forward - and maybe he should have a conversation with himself about not trying to be his own victim.

Ched Evans is in no position to lecture girls and women on how to not get raped. He is, however, in a very good position to be able to tell the fathers, brother, sons, uncles and close male friends, those men most likely to rape a girl they know, that if you get drunk and  cannot tell whether or not a girl is too drunk to give her consent to have sex, then it's best that you leave her alone - otherwise you may end up in court and spending more than two years in prison for a crime that no one will let you forget - especially if you keep talking about it in the press.