Friday, 31 March 2017

Moments of Intimacy

“Life comes down to a series of moments. This is one of them.”
—Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), Wall Street, 1987

It was spring 1994. I had been living in Leicester for about five years and I was enjoying the flush of starting my own company, a film production company for business, started barely two years before. I felt free, energised, cocky and full of optimism (despite the fact that we were barely making paycheques at that time).
On this fresh June morning, traffic was heavy on Belgrave Road, the main arterial route into the city centre. I can’t remember anything about why I was driving there. All I remember was sitting in frozen traffic, contemplating my next production. I glanced right to see a shop window with lots of summer clothes featuring heavily. A sign read: “Life’s a beach! So let’s get ready for the summer”.

Through the glass, I could see a young woman, probably mid 20s, stood picking out a bikini. I was daydreaming about the beach of course but something about her indecision made me curious. I mean, she should definitely go for the black. She was olive skinned and everyone knows that black works for that, right?
Suddenly I realised she could see me. I mean, I was literally staring. I glanced away, feeling very embarrassed. Who does that? It felt a bit like a violation of her privacy. A moment later I glanced back at her and she was still looking at me. And then something strange happened. Something quite wonderful.

She held up two bikinis (on hangars) as if to say: “Which one do I choose?”
I found myself pointing and pulling faces in approval, or not. She was smiling and seemed to really appreciate a guy’s perspective on this purchase. We spent the next minute or so working through the rack and landed on a final design. She was grinning and laughing the whole time, slightly self-conscious of the fact that she appeared to be making faces to an invisible friend.

At this point I think I need to remind you that I am in a car 30 feet away outside the store, in standing traffic!
Heartbreakingly, the traffic began to clear ahead of me. She pulled a mock “sad” face… her bottom lip pouting to show me she was sad our exchange might end. I thought for a second. Do I pull over and start a conversation? No, I decided that this was special partly because it was such an ephemeral moment. That its charm lay mostly in its chance, momentary nature. And so it ended as randomly as it began. The whole thing was kismet.
I thought about her, and that moment, a lot. It made me happy. It made me daydream. It represented perfectly how I felt at that time about life. Full of spontaneity and promise. It was more intimate, in platonic terms, than I had been with some of my long-time female acquaintances. Why? Because sometimes our relationships are based on other stuff. Being in the same group (a theatre company, for example, or a business). Many relationships are based on logistics. On practical needs. And others seem to spark on a special connection. We just “get” each other. Those are the special ones.

Would we have been friends? Lovers even? Was she “The One”? We’ll never know of course (except that I have since met and married my “One”) but, regardless, what happened that day was intimacy at work. It proved to me that if you allow connections to happen, and try to practice being ready for them, they’re not that rare.


What are the intimate moments that you remember? I’m guessing that most of them are not work related. In fact, many of us work hard to keep emotions out of business. It’s messy, complicated and unpredictable. For the most part, I agree. But when it comes to connecting with prospects, customers and employees, intimacy can be like a concentrated flavouring. An essence. It’s potent and, used sparingly, can transform a business relationship. Ask any great salesman.

All You Need is Love

This is all about falling in love. Really. With corporate communications (and that term right there will kill any embers of an emotional engagement!) there's often lots of information. There might even be a story. But where is the love?
As marketers and communications people, we spend a lot of time on stuff that is nothing to do with how the audience is feeling. We prepare information. We plan rollouts on campaigns. We look at analytics. We turn the handle on the machine and hope that sales plop out of the other end. We forget that all of this is really just the Clark Kent to our Superman.
This book is about realising that humanity is your super power. Your gift as a human is borne out of years of training to be… well… a human. By using this gift as a force for good, you will be making powerful connections that remain intact and working for you long after the traffic has cleared. By taking the time to start the right kind of conversations with people, you will build stronger, more meaningful relationships with those you rely on for your success.
As we embark upon this journey of connection (not really discovery – you already know most of what I am about to tell you) you’ll see that those natural instincts are all you need to craft stunning marketing and communications ideas. Everything from simple brochure copy, to the high-end video productions that support your grand plan, will seem fresher, more compelling and more focused. Mission statements that seem written (and often are written) by committee will fade into the past. Your messages will resonate with your tribe and they’ll love you for it.
They’ve been expecting you. Thank God you’re finally here.

Marketing: How Hard Can It Be?

The downside of being Clark Kent is that you are often overlooked. Everyone thinks they know better than you – and are just itching to let you have their opinion on the latest campaign ideas you’re currently socialising. You don’t tell the product design department what to do, or operations, or even human resources. Yet every brainstorming session is packed with those who are positive that they’ve got a great idea for an ad or a brochure headline. It’s a paradigm shift. A step change. A new order. And it’s going to be great. Just like last time.
Oh yeah – everybody’s a marketer. Except when it’s time to actually execute those awesome ideas. In fact, marketing and communications (marcomms) executives come from all sorts of places. Some have grown up through the business. In B2B and especially in the tech sector, this often means that they don’t have a traditional marketing background. They really get the product or service, though, and their insight is invaluable to those trying to understand what it does, how it works and how it will help customers. But sometimes they are stuck with looking inwards. Naval-gazing to the point where they have forgotten the why, and are trapped defining the what. In Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why, he talks about finding your true value in the world:

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do. By why I mean your purpose, cause or belief ­ why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? And why should anyone care?”
—Simon Sinek, Start with Why, 2011

Some other marketers come straight from a postgraduate scheme. If we’re lucky, they haven’t been tinctured by the classical “Five Ages of Marketing” programmes currently being delivered by most marketing courses. They’ll know the process, the way to build a campaign, and they might even be keen to make a ruckus. To shake things up. I hope they do! Let’s face it, we need them to. But they’re encouraged to fit in with marketing strategies set forth in last year’s budgetary cycle, which means that their induction might not be as sparkling as they’d hoped. Their peers may still be of the “that’s just how we do things here” school of crushed dreams.

Whatever your pathway, whoever you’re talking to, you will benefit greatly if you harness the power of intimacy in the communications you create to boost your company’s success. 

  …Excerpt from Jim shields upcoming book 'Once More With Feeling'. To find out more about this book please email

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