How wide is your networking circle? Is it restricted to your city, maybe your region or perhaps the whole country? If you export goods or services, you might be going overseas to build up your contact list.

On another note, how easy is it to ignore poorly written approaches from cold-calling suppliers – but more to my point, how do you spot an opportunity to bring these two things together?

I’m sure you are used to getting emails from people who do not have English as their first language, just as I am that you get approaches from the Far East, India and other places containing badly crafted approaches and grammatical errors. I recently received an email enquiring about one of my clients that fitted into that category and, although it would have been easy to dismiss, I replied to see if I could be of any help by improving the company’s marketing approach.

After the exchange of a few emails, suggesting ways in which her writing could be improved, the correspondent agreed to let me re-write her introduction letter. I also recommended that she test and monitor the new letter and feedback on responses she gained from potential leads, and if all went well, I could look at producing a series of follow-up marketing letters for the company. The next day she rang me from Austria to say how surprised she was at the difference my discreet changes to her copy had made and that while the company had initially been targeting the UK for prospects, it now intended to try to engage markets in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands using my revised copy.

A few days later and she was back in touch to say that she would be in England during March and could she come and visit my client? The company works with over 3,000 customers worldwide, many of whom could be very interesting referral connections for my client. If nothing else comes of this networking connection, we will use it as a good PR opportunity to show that my client is engaging with businesses on an international level. Of course, none of us know where this opened door could lead and what benefits it might bring. What we do know, is that if I had not spotted the opening and replied to the email, none of us would be any the wiser, better connected or talking with potential new clients way beyond our city, region or country borders.

In central London at the weekend, hundreds or thousands of women, depending if you read the Evening Standard or The Guardian report on the event, turned up on the anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration to demand equality with male counterparts and an end to sexual predatory actions by men in powerful positions.

Prior to the rally taking place, there had been a strong call to make the rally a "women and girls only" event, a show of strength by females in the face of male power and the subsequent misuse of it, primarily in the workplace.

And yet, only two weeks ago at the Golden Globe awards, Oprah Winfrey, in celebrating the achievement of some women who were calling out the abuse taking place in Hollywood, recognised that men need to be engaged positively in the change that has to take place to achieve the goals of the #metoo and the Time's Up campaigns.

The weather in London was pretty foul on Sunday, which no doubt had an impact on numbers turning up, and most reports in the rally commented on the fact that this year saw considerably fewer people taking to the streets to make their voices heard.

So the question is left hanging - should the invitation have been all inclusive? Should men have been encouraged to stand alongside the women demanding parity? Would the crowds have been bigger, louder, more impressive if the call for it to be "women only" had not been made? Would the impact have been lesser or greater if more men, and some did turn out to show support irrespective of the call, had stood in solidarity with the women demonstrating at the weekend? Did the organisers shoot themselves in the foot with a PR gaff on this one, or did it make no difference and the position taken was the right one?


Many of us, for various reasons, will have taken the decision to cut out or at least seriously reduce our alcohol intake this month. Most of the time this is seen as way of detoxing after the festive binges, tagged on to some idea that we are starting the new year in a positive and healthy fashion - it's a "new me" for a New Year.

On a personal level, I decided I wanted to free my mind and body from the extra stimulants I felt unnecessary, and although I don't see myself as "doing dry January" as such, I am committing myself to not drinking till at least February; when, if I don't feel the need to drink, I very may well carry on abstaining.

I guess we should all be feeling the benefits, should all be waking recharged and full of energy to take on the new day, even if it is grey, cold and very uninspiring.

But here's the thing. I started this thing with the hope of feeling better, and while I am not having to deal with a sluggish head due to a bottle of red the night before, not drinking is having a negative impact on my work. Why? Well, simply because I now find it harder to get out of bed in the morning. I sleep deeper and wake up later, I feel very disinclined to get out of bed and feel like I want to sleep for the rest of the day. This has NEVER happened to me before. Even after a fairly heavy night on real ale (which I do like a lot) I could get up at seven and be in the office for eight very easily.

Don't get me wrong, once up, I have the energy levels I had before, possibly even more so, but it is a real struggle to leave my duvet at the moment.

So, this got me thinking - how is Dry January impacting on others' work? Am I alone in experiencing what could be seen as a negative effect of trying to be good and healthy? In other words, how are you feeling, eleven days into not having your favourite tipple, a few jars down the local or that very pleasant nightcap?

NursesEarlier this year Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust turned down a proposed donation of £2,500 raised to help fund new ECG equipment at Ludlow Hospital and caused a bit of a PR furore in the process.

The money was to be donated by a group of men who had taken part in a charity run around Ludlow, a run that had taken place for 20 years and was formerly a bed push. The event is well received by the local community and has raised substantial amounts of money for good causes in the past and had strong links to the hospital.

However, the Trust's Chief Executive, Jan Ditheridge, declined the donation because the men had donned nurses uniforms and added lacy bras, stockings and suspenders, leading her to state that “The presentation of men dressed as female nurses in a highly sexualised and demeaning way is wrong, very outdated and insulting to the profession.”

The outcry in the tabloids was pretty much as you might expect, with the Sun calling Ditheridge a "kill joy" for example and many of its and the Daily Mirror's on-line commentators seemingly dumbfounded by a cash-strapped NHS CEO turning down what she herself suggested was "well-intentioned" free money.

Ditheridge was labelled part of the PC Brigade and even accused of being a member of the sinister loony left - you have to admire those trolls for not missing an opportunity.

Members of staff at Ludlow hospital were asked for their opinion of this portrayal of themselves. One anonymous nurse suggested that the Trust had lost its sense of humour and that she doubted any nurse would be offended by the men's attire, while Hannah Holt, a nurse originally from Shropshire said: “I love being a nurse and I love people dressing up as nurses; it’s a sign of admiration.”

However, Dr Simon Freeman, Accountable Officer at the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said the Trust was correct; “The objectification of women is not acceptable,” he said.

Underlying Ditheridge's decision to refuse the much needed cash was the fact that she and the Trust had taken a stand on the presentation of the nursing profession prior to the fun run taking place. She had even written to the organisers asking that such dressing up did not take place as it should not be associated with the Trust and its employees.

"Many people kindly and selflessly raise money for our organisation, and especially for our hospitals. We are eternally grateful for that.

“It isn’t OK to portray healthcare professionals in this way. We have previously asked that this doesn’t happen and therefore don’t think it’s right to accept any money associated with this activity.

“I’m sure the event was organised with the best intentions and we are sorry if it’s made people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed,” said Ditheridge.

Her decision certainly did more than make people uncomfortable. One of the men who took part, Mark Hiles, 45, a telecommunications engineer, said: “We are not trying to discriminate against anybody, it is simply a bit of fun for a really good cause and we’ve raised a lot of money over the years.

“In these times of austerity you’d expect they would want all the help they can get. We are just a group of blokes trying to raise funds for our local community and have a laugh at the same time.”

Another, Simon Morgan, 37, said; “To my knowledge we had no complaints. We were all gutted to find out that our costumes were deemed offensive or sexist. We never intended to offend anybody at all and to be honest, I don’t think we did.”

Ricky Peers, 28, who has been taking part in the bed push since he was 18, said; “What upsets me more is we basically lied to the public. They all donated generously for an ECG machine to help the local hospital and now we are stuck with the money not knowing what to do with it.”

When I first came across this story, slap bang in the middle of the #Metoo debate, I felt quite surprised that dressing up for charity in this way was even an issue. I had never heard anyone comment on the idea of the "sexualised nurse" or even picked up the slightest notion that it has been seen as an issue by the profession. But then, I don't work in those circles or have clients that do, so I'm not likely to come across a specific issue unless it is brought to my attention or I become engaged with it.

Then I got to thinking, from Carry On films to current day porn films, nurses have often been portrayed as sexy (although if you realise where their hands go most days I'm not sure why) and the same can be said of secretaries, teachers and Au pairs. So I asked a few friends who work in the nursing profession what their view of the PR kerfuffle was, and it quite opened my eyes.

Tom, a nurse who works in Nottingham said, "I am undecided (if it is a threat to our image). Whilst our current pay and conditions are the largest of all insults, I don’t think the ‘sexy nurse’ stereotype is helpful at all. Done for comic effect it still sets the bar for public perception. How would we effect real change if people don’t take us seriously? I understand why it’s offensive, it’s more to do with the short dresses and lacy underwear than it being a man in a dress. It’s not helpful to sexualise our profession when some of our procedures are so personal."

Tracey works for the NHS in Sheffield and was quite at ease with the men's choice of clothing because, "I’m pretty comfortable that people know the difference between guys in fancy dress and me in my uniform working as a professional. Our current pay & conditions is what undermines us not folks having fun ... in my opinion anyway," said Tracey.

Another healthcare professional I know said she was far from happy about the idea; " I am a nurse , and I find this portrayal of my profession offensive . I think it was a brave stand to refuse the money . All the time society thinks we are a bunch of bimbos we will never be taken seriously and receive a living wage from this government."

The question that is begged here is, does this represent a parallel argument running alongside the debate about power relationships in the workplace, the sexualistion of women and how they are portrayed? As another friend who joined in the conversation said, "The thing that the nurse, Au-pair and secretary have in common is that they are predominantly and historically roles filled by women that report to men and (such stereotypes) perpetuate the concept that its acceptable for men to objectify women."

The Trust had been very clear about its reasons for wanting to distance itself from the nature of the charity event; it was putting the image, reputation and value of its staff first before much needed extra cash. How could the management of the Trust expect to receive respect from its nurses if it accepted the donation after making it clear that it did not approve of such portrayals? Is it not time that we calmly evaluated what we may have come to accept as "the norm" or "just a bit of fun" if at the end of the day it damages both the self-respect and image of professionals?

So what do you think? Was Ditheridge right to reject the donation? Should she have accepted it and ignored the impact on her members of staff or should she have made a stand for them as respected professionals?

With thanks to The Guardian for some quotes.

Me too

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.