Skip to content

Use mind maps as a tool in corporate communications

There is a tool in the tool kit of corporate communications which is not used enough: the mind map. Also known as the spider diagram. They are not for everybody, but they help those who see more value and information in pictures than in lists.

Here’s a mind map for how mind maps work.


A mind map of how mind maps work

A mind map of how mind maps work

They enforce a discipline about the subject. One thing has to be linked to another. They are also a good guide for a subject for people who are more visually orientated that those who rely on lists. This may be about 30% of your audience.

Some get it, some don’t

I introduced the idea of mind maps last week to a group working on making speeches. Some of them found it a useful tool: others were not impressed and relied on their lists. That’s OK. Let everybody use what they are comfortable with. But make sure your corporate presentation uses all the tools available to get the message across to everybody in the room. Don’t rely only on what you are comfortable with.

Here’s my mind map describing libel law.

My Mind Map of libel

My Mind Map of libel



It was created in FreeMind, a free mind-mapping tool which you can use.


You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Picture Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

The Co-op used to be known as an ethical brand. Its message was we don’t do the nasty things, customers are members, and we source things ethically.

Went pear shaped

Then it went pear shaped with the poor banking results and the coke sniffing head of its bank, Paul Flowers. Banking customers fled: 38,000 were lost.

This story nearly sank the Coop: not it is fighting back

This story nearly sank the Coop: now it is fighting back

The brand, and it is a brand, was tarnished.   It was also up against the might of the supermarkets. And its share of the market was falling. Market share now is about 8% now. Even worse: its customers are older than the competiton.

The fightback

Now comes the fight back.

  • It has started to offer discounts to students who can show a student card. Well done, feed a younger market.
  • It has used advertising to tell the world it is still an ethical bank: we don’t invest in big oil, is the message. Well done: win back those who left and play to your ethical roots.
  • It is closely identifying the sources of its products, not only Fairtrade which it was the first chain to adopt. One of the original aims of the Coop in 1844 was to make sure people got good quality food. Well done: make it local.

More needed

Yet this is not enough because the damage has been so heavy on the reputation of the Coop. What about trying to engage further the members? They have a loyalty card as they do for other supermarkets. But they are, after all, members. Play on this theme. Because the Coop pays its profits to its members, not to its shareholders or its bankers.

What are your ideas for the Coop fightback?

You can win a free e-learning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

What’s in a name: everything, so what is TNT doing changing to whistle or is it Whistle?

The mail operation of TNT, delivering post to your door, has decided to change its name to Whistle, or is it whistle? Not sure in its marketing statements which it is, capital or not.

Be very careful about changing names or choosing them in the first place.  It is a key part of corporate communications.  TNT has a degree of recognition: whistle, or Whistle does not.

Yellow pages changed to Yell: a good move. Let’s have people Yell for what they want, is the message.

Poundworld: there’s a good name as long as you are selling things for £1. But it was not and the Advertising Standards Authority this week rapped its knuckles because some items were over £1.

TK Maxx is a good name: it seems to give maximum value. But what’s the T.K about?

Primark another good name: it seems to give quality but at a low price.

Coke got Coke Zero wrong: it seems to tell us it has zero quality. Pepsi got its name right for its low calorie drink: Pepsi Max. Compare zero and max: which do you want? Surely the max.

Our company was called ETC, good for its market as Editorial Training Consultants. But some years ago we changed the name to ContentEtc because we realised it was all about content. Content of every type and how to create it, develop it and defend it, and we could add that extra to it.

All this is prompted by a good lunch at Fish in a Tie, an excellent restaurant in Clapham Junction. But could the new owners tell me where the name came from? They could not: but I remember it.


You can win a free e-elarning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

Get the order right when you write

Putting one word in the wrong place in a sentence can dramatically alter its meaning.

This sentence appeared in the warning and safety instructions for a domestic oven.

The appliance can only be used by people with reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities, or lack of experience and knowledge, if they are supervised whilst using it, or have been shown how to use it in a safe way and understand the hazards involved.

To the unwary reader the sentence seems to be saying that the oven is only to be used by disabled users. That is definitely not what the manufacturer or writer intended.

But because the writer uses the word only and gets the sentence in the wrong order, the meaning they are trying to get across is totally obscured.

How can we improve it?

The quick fix is to delete the word only:

The appliance can be used by people with reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities, or lack of experience and knowledge, if they are supervised whilst using it, or have been shown how to use it in a safe way and understand the hazards involved.

That helps, but doesn’t solve the real problem – which is that the sentence is in the wrong order. People with disabilities are really the subject of this sentence, so get them first. Then the reader understands immediately what the writer is talking about.

People with reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities or lack of experience and knowledge can use the appliance if they are supervised or have been shown how to use it in a safe way and understand the hazards involved.

I’ve lost a few words and a comma to make it an easier read but the main thing here is the order. Whether you are writing an article, a paragraph or a sentence, order really matters. Work out what is most important and get that first.

Apple and others have a mighty job of corporate communications with tax issues in EU

Apple has a mighty job of corporate communications in the coming weeks. It is to be accused of doing a “sweetheart” deal with the Irish government to, in effect, avoid taxes in the rest of Europe.

Will customers mind higher taxes?

Amazon, Google, Fiat and Starbucks may also be under the cosh of the EU for tax avoidance. This is how it can work: you set up your main EU subsidiary in a low tax country. The favourites are Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Then you trade in the rest of the EU. But you charge your other EU subsidiaries from your main subsidiary for everything you can. This makes a small profit or a loss in the other EU countries in which you operate. The profits, therefore, flow to your subsidiary where the tax is low. You funnel that back to the USA and your tax bill is smaller. All legal. But is it ethical? And will customers mind?

Osborne objects

In every other country in the EU outside these low-tax countries the taxes have to be higher to make up for the short fall. Even the UK chancellor George Osborne this week said he would do something about it.

It becomes illegal if the companies involved got a deal from the country where they are registered to lower their taxes to stay in the country. In other words a “sweetheart” deal which amounts to state aid. And that’s illegal in the EU under the single market rules.

There is no state aid, says Apple

Apple protests: “There’s never been anything that would be construed as state aid,” Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, told the Financial Times.

Brand damage

That’s all very well legally but there’s the corporate reputation issue to think of. Apple, a brand beloved by many, is working a complex tax regime. It needs to answer to European customers why, in their country, these customers are paying higher taxes as a result. Apple needs to address the ethical issues, not just the legal ones. There is no answer from Apple or the others on the ethical issues yet. They all need to get off the back foot and either change their tax regimes or explain them.

There’s some explanations they could all use:

  • By doing this we are lowering the prices of products and services to EU customers. Lower taxes mean we can charge less. So you, the customers, win.
  • These smaller countries, Ireland, The Netherlands and Luxemburg, need these regimes to keep going. Just consider the state of Ireland before it introduced these low tax laws in the 1970s. As a result of the change US companies flooded in creating employment. It was haemorrhaging people and not the Celtic Tiger it became from 1995 as a result of adopting this regime.
  • Err…
  • And the “Err” is the problem. What other messages can Apple generate to support its position? Of course, if there was a “sweetheart” deal between Apple and the Irish government the game changes and it will be an illegal act.
  • And yet again: You can win a free e-elarning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

First impressions? Deep communication.

Life IS communications.

Especially now, when instant democratic broadcast media is available to anyone with a “device”.

Reading this interesting piece in this week’s Marketing Week underlines one effect of this. Snap judgements, made in a microsecond, and crucially, beyond our individual or rational control (that’s another story…) can brutally harm your intended message and subsequent success.


Another excellent article by Mark Ritson in this week’s issue shows us the other side of the communication tidal system. He’s right to say that it’s the perception that matters, not the facts.tesco

If you want to draw a useful conclusion, then it’s simply this: be yourself.

Work or personal, friends or colleagues, customers or prospects…we always recognise – and respect – authenticity.

Brands are capable of creating this quality (think Levi’s, FT, Innocent, etc)  but to sustain this effect needs the right attitude, honed skills, 24/7 vigilance – and stamina – that sadly seems beyond the scope and ability of most marketing communication professionals.

And that’s why those that succeed, succeed brilliantly.

How do you control your message?

When Mr Miliband spoke for over an hour – without notes! – he must have thought that this memory feat alone would secure positive support and endorsement for his personal brand. Now, he knows better.

Let’s look briefly at the main components of his message:


This largely forms the “context” of the message, and how receptive his audience is. We were expecting a lot of him, perhaps unfairly, and while his ability to speak without notes is impressive, it is not enough. The audience expected more. Or at least, something different and distinctive.


Mr Miliband is not Mr Obama. He is not a naturally gifted orator, so perhaps he should have compensated for this with more (selective) passion, more authenticity, more stillness, and occasionally just clearer emphasis.


Non-verbal communication, or body language, is absolutely critical to getting your message across. This is often how credibility and belief are instilled and communicated. He could have done better.


Not much to distract the eye here, so the previous two points are even more critical to success.


This is where he put most of  his effort. His focus on memory clearly weakened his performance in other areas. To then actually forget whole sections of the speech [Deficit. Immigration...] exposed his preoccupation with “deliver this script”, rather than “tell this truth”.


So, your message is NEVER about just the words, or the content. It is a combination of different factors, and all of these need to harmonise if you want to create the memorable impact that Mr Miliband was clearly trying to achieve at his party’s conference. If speaker prompts could have helped him optimise his performance, then he should have used them.

Of course it is easy for us to be wise(r) after the event. For his sake, let’s hope this is a statement of fact, not sentiment.

If you want to convince someone of something, you really need to think, prepare, practise, and then deliver. Only then can you craft and deliver your message to maximum effect. 


[The views expressed here are those of the writer, and should not in any way be taken as a political opinion (!) or reflect the views of ContentETC. Having said that, please feel free to enter our Caption Competition and win yourself a FREE elearning course by applying your own creative skills.)

Check and check again for writing mistakes

It’s not easy to spot your own mistakes when you write. Even the professionals get it wrong sometimes.

Can you spot the error on the front page of The Observer?


There is a typo at the top of the page (in the blue section)

I had such faith in the paper that I looked inside to see if something new called a skycraper had been invented.

It hadn’t. You guessed it, they were talking about skyscrapers.


We’re invited to read about the “Rise of the Skycraper”

So check and check again. And if possible get someone else to read your work. It’s much easier to pick up someone else’s mistakes.

Top Tip: get the bad news out soonest and make it personal

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis made the right choice today: admit publically bad things have gone on and talk about them. The lesson is: do not hide from the bad news in corporate communications and respond quickly and personally from the top.

That’s your pension going down

The profits may have been overstated by £250 million. The result in one day was: £2.2 billion off the share price; shares down 11.6%; and 4 executives suspended.

Compare this swift communications response to that of the Coop Group. Silence there, rather than good communications.

He’s new: so dump the bad news as soon as possible

Lewis has an advantage: he’s new. Not on his watch, he can claim. And he may want to get as much bad news out to the public as fast as possible.

Here’s the lesson

But the lesson is there for corporate communications: act swiftly and make it personal from the top.  In other words, show that you are in command, even if the ship is in trouble.


You can win a free e-elarning course from ContentETC when you get the best caption in our Caption Competition.  Go on, have a go.

Microsoft and Minecraft get their corporate communication wrong in acquisition

Mergers and acquisitions are daily and weekly. The largest this week is a poor example of corporate communications.

Minecraft the target

Microsoft has taken over a small Copenhagen-based games company Mojang for $2.5 billion. Mojang developed Minecraft which has become very popular since its launch in 2009. Players can build cities with Minecarft using Lego-like blocks.

Over 100 million people have downloaded the game on to their PCs since 2009. Players on the Microsoft Xbox360 platform have spent 2 billion hours playing the game in the past 2 years.

Do it but communicate it better

So why should not Microsoft buy it and Mojang sell? Microsoft is earning rent from its operating systems and applications. It needs to diversify. The owners of Mojang have $2.5 billion on the table: why not take it? Yet the way they have both communicated the deal undermines the very foundations of the deal: the devotion the gameplayers have for it.

Left out a community of players

Let’s look at the communities involved to see how it does not really fit when we look at the corporate communications by both sides of this deal. Let’s take each community and its reactions:

  • Microsoft shareholders: excellent news;
  • Microsoft board: excellent news – profits next year from thepurchase according to the plan, a sound base and we look good to the shareholders as we are executing our diversification strategy;
  • Mojang owners: why not for $2.5 billion?
  • Minecraft players?

Gamers made it a success

Where are the Minecraft players in all of this? They built the company because they play the game so often. The developers created the game but the gamers made it worth a $2.5 billion takeover. And that for a company which employs 40 people. The players upload their creations to many platforms.

Will this upload become a copyright infringement under Microsoft?

Will this upload become a copyright infringement under Microsoft?

Their concerns include:

  • Will Microsoft stop them uploading?
  • How will the game be developed now that it goes into the Games division of Microsoft and out of the hands of the original creators in Denmark?
  • What is in the small print which neither Microsoft nor Mojang reveal?

Microsoft and Mojang don’t adress the problems

None of the communications about the sale from either Microsoft nor Mojang really address these issues. Yet these are the people on whom the success and the future of the game depends.

This is what should have been done:

  • Both Microsoft and Mojang should have put up front and centre their commitment to the player community; not just words but in detail;
  • Mojang should have revealed the principles if not the detail of the deal to assure players the game will be developed; and
  • Both sides should have thought of the response of the player community, many of whom are now seething with anger, and worked out how to counter this anger.

Big message: think of the many communities in such a merger or acquisition and speak to them clearly when it is announced.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 343 other followers

%d bloggers like this: