Toughest call of the year: whether to set my Out Of Office

Actually it’s not tough for a few days yet:  this week I’m here, in the office, Out Of Office obviously unset.  But at the end of the week I’m taking advantage of the one really big freedom which I wasn’t able to enjoy as an agency person but can as an Entire Workforce – going down to my house in France for about seven weeks right through to Monday 2nd September.

So it’s obvious, obviously.  Seven weeks lying about by the pool:  Out Of Office definitely on to hold the fort in my absence, right?

Well, hang on a minute.  The thing is, I will actually be working while I’m down there.  Working quite a lot, in fact:  pretty much every morning, and an email check every evening.  And I’ll be coming back to the UK at least three times. maybe more, for various meetings and workshops.  It’s not so much, really, that I’m Out Of Office:  it’s more than I’ve moved the office 700 miles to south-west France.

An old friend who works for himself doesn’t have an office at all.  He has three homes, in the UK, France and the US, and when he makes contact there’s no way of telling which one he’s in.  (Well, apart from asking him, obviously.)  There might be times when he’d put on his Out Of Office – when diving in the Maldives or whatever – but certainly not just when he happens to be in Aix en Provence for the week.

So no Out Of Office for me either this year.  But don’t be too surprised if my phone has a different ringing tone for the next few weeks – or if I seem curiously reluctant to pop round for a quick chat.

No, there’s still something about these LinkedIn endorsements that I’m not getting

First, thanks to all of you.  Yes, really.  Big thanks.  To everyone (anyone?) in that Venn Diagram overlap between blog-readers and LinkedIn endorsers, I’m genuinely touched and grateful.

But along with the thanks, an apology too.  I still haven’t endorsed anyone for anything.  This is not because I think my LinkedIn contacts lack talent.  Au contraire.  If anything, it’s the opposite – I have so many contacts with so many talents that in the interest of fairness, once I’d started I’d find it difficult to stop until many thousands of clicks later.

But there’s still something about the whole business that I don’t get.  Maybe I’m just being selfish and egotistical and looking for something that isn’t there.  But why have so many of them (you?) kindly endorsed me for Marketing Communications, Advertising, Integrated Marketing and all the other items in a remarkably long list?

(Altogether I’ve been endorsed for 39 different skills, which either means I’m a very clever and multi-faceted fellow, or that I’m an absolutely classic Jack of all trades.  And some endorsers come back to endorse me for new skills time after time:  one or two have been back so often that they’ve covered everything of any possible interest and are now left with skills like “shoelace-tying” and “hailing cabs.”)

Is there an unspoken deal that one’s supposed to reciprocate – you click on my skills, I’ll click on yours?  Or is it a way of reconnecting and restarting a relationship?  (I notice that most of my endorsers are, frankly, people selling to me rather than people I’m selling to.)

I find it hard to imagine that when people are drawing up their mental to-do lists in the morning, they’re thinking to themselves, “Ah, yes, must remember to endorse Lucian Camp for his brand development skills.”  I’m missing something here:  can anyone tell me what it is?

Why tissue meetings are like horse races

This isn’t a long or complicated blog, but I suppose I do have to start with a quick jargonbuster for people not familiar with the concept of tissue meetings:  these are interim meetings during an agency pitch process, called by clients and taking place roughly half-way through the time available, to make sure that a) the agency has actually started work on the project and b) the agency’s thoughts are progressing roughly in the direction that the client wants them to.  Such meetings are of course treated with fear and resentment by agencies, who remain very unsure how to handle them:  do you give good tissue and run the risk of having little more to add on pitch day itself, or do you give disappointing tissue and run the risk of creating swirling clouds of doubt and anxiety over your abilities which may be hard to dissipate later?

Anyway, having said all that, I know very little about horse racing but I do know that on the whole, it’s a mistake to go to the front too early.  If you’re ten lengths clear with four or five furlongs to go, the chances are that you’ve shot your bolt and most of the rest of the field will come charging past you on the run-in.

The same is pretty definitely true of tissue meetings.  Take my two recent examples.  In one, I was part of an agency pitch team:  we gave great tissue but lost the pitch ten days later, the clients saying they were disappointed that our thinking hadn’t moved on more.  In the other, I was actually organising the pitch on behalf of the client, and after the tissue meetings we all shook our heads gloomily and agreed that one of the agencies was well behind the others:  inevitably over the following week or ten days or so they did an absolute shitload of excellent work, came storming through on the rails and won by a distance.

So that’s it.  I said it wasn’t long or complicated.  If you’re in an agency and you’re asked to do a tissue meeting, keep the very large majority of your powder dry – you’ll gain far more than you’ll lose by keeping all the best bits for the pitch itself.

Or alternatively, of course, totally ignore the client’s objectives in calling the meeting, and give the brief virtually no thought until afterwards