Agony Uncle: modesty, a complete Hunt and death by PowerPoint

The co-author of PR Today and Richmond University's professor of PR gives it to you straight.

Modesty is my only failing

I am useless at admin, but brilliant at strategy. The problem is I am in my first year as an account executive. How can I best get through the next few years in my career and ensure that eventually I get a chance to deploy my real talents?

Confidence is a good thing, immodesty is not. It is always difficult to get the balance right – as you have just demonstrated. The only way of getting through the next few years is to do well the job you are paid to do. Pay attention to the detail, be well organised and arrive on time. When you are not doing that I’m sure your bosses will notice that, as well as being competent at your job, you are a strategic genius. Let’s just hope they don’t also notice that you are rather conceited.

What a complete Hunt

David Cameron was recently described by Labour spokesman Tristram Hunt as a "low-rent PR man". What should we make of this kind of abuse and should we react?

Calling someone a ‘PR man’ is clearly meant to imply that they are a spin merchant who only has a loose acquaintance with the truth and morality.

The reality is that if people like the message or the messenger they call it communication and the messenger a campaigner. If they don’t trust the message or the messenger they call it PR and the messenger a PR man or spin doctor. If they hate the message and the messenger they call it propaganda and the messenger a propagandist. Rather ironically, ‘PR’ is often used as an insult by people who are themselves in PR or who have PR as part of their job. Tristram Hunt spends much of his political life communicating and is surrounded by communication advisers, or should we say he is doing PR and surrounded by PR advisers and propagandists?

A rather pompous woman from the BBC once told me that the BBC "doesn’t do PR". At that time there were about 250 people in the BBC PR team. One man’s campaign strategist is another’s low-life PR lizard.

The bit that confuses me about the Hunt attack is the "low rent" bit. I thought low rents were seen as a good thing by Labour. But there again, Honourable Hunt is nearly as posh as Cameron.

Death by PowerPoint

Do you have any advice about PowerPoint? I feel like it has taken over my life.

When there is something on the screen people will look at it. This is a shame because they should be looking at you. PowerPoint can help emphasise the structure of your presentation and make it easier to follow. It cannot, in itself, be persuasive, inspiring or engaging. Only people can do that. People buy people, not PowerPoint slides.

Don’t read your slides… your audience can read. Don’t talk when your audience is reading… all audiences read the slide before listening to what you say. No-one can listen and read effectively. Even better, give people very little to read on screen – a few lines and a few strong words – and once they have read it, black out the slide (press the B key) so they have to look at you. At its best PowerPoint is a prop to enhance a presentation. It is not the presentation.

One of the most vile things ever shown on screen… "One of 83 slides."

Got a problem? Contact Trevor at agonyuncle@haymarket.com

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