Thinking inside the box-set

Here’s my latest column for Eastern Daily Press.

Have a read.

It was Alfred Hitchcock who said: “Drama is life with all the dull bits cut out”, and that quote seems very relevant to anyone like me who loves a box set.
Box-setters are, for clarity’s sake, those of us who have foregone traditional broadcast TV in order to watch entire series back to back (using on-demand platforms like Netflix) and not, as someone said recently, an obscure breed of dog.
I’m part of a growing group who don’t watch conventional TV in the way we all once did. For us it’s no longer a case of sitting down in front of the goggle box and watching ‘whatever’s on’. Oh, no – for box setters, ‘linear’ broadcasting (to use a pretentious-sounding term) is a thing of the past. Time, you see, is a limited commodity, so we’ve decided to focus in on programmes we actually want to watch – gorging on them like telly-addicted versions of Augustus Gloop.

Chris McGuire, Eastern Daily Press

The importance of storytelling in business…

One of the things that I love to do is to work with a business or organisation to distil their story into something meaningful, for both them and their customer base. Here’s a piece I wrote all about the importance of storytelling, published by the amazing folks at Proven.

Saying: “I’m a Mac person” is to align with a story that’s almost universally understood. This person sees themselves as modern in attitude, technologically astute, not one of the crowd, a maverick. That an exceptionally large percentage of the population now ALL see themselves as mavericks is neither here nor there. These narratives don’t come about by accident, big business understands that the tale they portray often matters MORE than the product. Just like the generic cereal that so upset me as a child, it’s all about the story. Personally, I could get another (cheaper) phone that does much the same as my trusty iPhone, but like the non-brand puffed rice, it wouldn’t hold the same thrill. It’s the STORY that Apple is so adept at telling that interests me, probably more than the product. As a consumer, I want to be part of that story.

A business doesn’t have to be a huge multi-national for the cultivation of a compelling story to be important. A good narrative, one that will engage with a chosen demographic, is vital for any organization trying to show they’re not just another bowl of generic cereal.

As a consumer, I want to believe that I make good choice. Because, like it or not, these decisions reflect upon me, and how I feel about myself. I want to be interacting with brands that fit in with my own personal story.

Chris McGuire: ‘And that’s another story…’ Putting compelling narratives at the heart of business.

For the full essay, click here.

If you’d like to talk about how to foreground the compelling story that lies at the heart of what you do, please get in touch.

‘Smize’ like you mean it…

They call it ‘Smizing’.

You may never have heard the phrase before, but I’m pretty convinced you’re already an expert at whether people are doing it or not.

To ‘Smize’ is, as Tyra Banks of American’s Next Top Model fame informed us, to smile with the eyes.

No, I haven’t lost the plot, bear with me.

Communication, we all know, is a complex thing; filled with thousands of tiny nuances that can completely change the meaning of any interaction. A recent awareness of the importance of ‘Smizing’ has really brought home to me the need to be authentic in the way we as individuals, businesses and brands communicate.

What am I talking about?

One of the ways the pandemic has changed our lives is the advent of the facemask. I’m all for masks as a method of fighting the spread of COVID-19 19, but there’s no denying covering our mouths and noses has had a major effect on the way we communicate. Put simply, it’s now incredibly difficult to see a smile. The simple action of pulling back our lips and showing teeth, as a method of indicating friendship and empathy has been largely lost to us.

In the absence of the traditional smile, we look to other non-verbal cues to indicate subtleties in of communication: tone of voice is one, hand gestures are another. For me, the ability to indicate a smile with your eyes is central. It’s one of those things that is incredibly difficult to fake. We all know people who smile with their mouths while their eyes indicate they’d rather be somewhere else, doing anything else. Without the mouth, (a much easier indicator of a traditional smile) to fall back on, many of us are now looking to the eyes to show the authenticity of the communications we’re having.

Anyone who can’t Smize, in Covid-19 ridden 2020, is at a distinct disadvantage – their eyes indicate a real or perceived lack of commitment to their communication.

It struck me that being able to pick up on subtle intricacies of communication isn’t just limited to ‘reading’ someone’s eyes. When we engage with content, whether that be social, traditional marketing or B2B, are we picking up practically imperceptible hints that the message is inauthentic? Most of us would find it very difficult to describe the difference between ‘Smizing’ eyes and those which don’t engage, but somehow, subconsciously, we pick up and interpret these cues. It’s the same with marketing content.

It’s too easy for a brand’s blogs or social feeds to fall into the trap of going through the motions. As Eric Morecambe once said, they are playing “All the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order”.

For me, it’s essential to take a step back from the content we create and attempt to look at it with the eyes of someone who isn’t invested in its success.

Does it engage?

What do I mean by that?

Put simply, is it the type of material that I would actively connect with, even if I wasn’t initially attracted to the product or service it promotes? Does it have a life of its own? Is it attractive, funny, or thought provoking outside of the ‘job’ it’s supposed to do?

If our content doesn’t engage in this way, I’d suspect that (like someone who can’t Smize) it has many elements of good communication, yet something blocking an authentic connection.

Next time you write, read or view a bit of content, ask yourself this question:

Is this content Smizing at me?

On Pointe

Here’s a piece I wrote for Western Morning News, published on April 1st (that’s important). In it I explain how the fates have conspired to make me a middle-aged Billy Elliot…

He handed me his card.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he cried, full of emotion.

I didn’t know what to say, so I just smiled.

“Really, you have poise, grace… everything. I couldn’t take my eyes off you!”

I blushed, slightly worried.

“So you’ll think about it?”


“Good. Chris, let me tell you, today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Yes this week, while rather drunkenly dancing at a friend’s wedding, I was spotted by a scout for the English National Ballet. I’m going to be their newest star.

Granted 37 is, for many without my ability, quite an advanced age to begin a career in a tutu – yet this didn’t seem to concern the ballet folks. I was, as they put it, ‘this generation’s mature Billy Elliot’. After doing a little research, I’ve discovered that many of the Britain’s great dancers were discovered in a similar way to me. Wayne Sleep was dancing to Agadoo in Cleethorpes when he was first spotted, whereas Darcey Bussell’s ballet career began when she was a Redcoat in Skegness. Both were well over 40. I seemed to be in good company…

On Pointe – West Magazine April 1st Column, Chris McGuire

To read the full piece, click here.

Winning an Emmy…

As ever, in these gloomy times, I’m deliberately focusing on upbeat moments in the past.
Some of my contacts may not be aware of my background in children’s TV. Over the years I produced and directed content for CBBC, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. It was a fun period filled with silly characters, larger than life celebrities and vast amounts of gunge.
A highlight was working on two series of Pet School for Cineflix shown on CBBC. I developed and wrote this innovative series that helped children answer the perennial question: “Am I ready for a pet?”
You can imagine how thrilled I was when the series went on to win an International Emmy!

My 2nd Book…

“Procrastination is the nemesis of those who work from home. Some homeworkers fall foul of housework, an easy and time-consuming trap to fall into. They vacuum stripes into their carpets, arrange their spice racks alphabetically and scrub windows until the glass is wafer thin: anything rather than settle down to work.
Others find their Achilles’ heel is TV. They happily lap up the most mind-numbing programmes (‘Celebrity Fish-Gutting’, ‘Celebrity Window-Shopping’, ‘Celebrities Watch Paint Dry’) rather than knuckle down to the big presentation looming over their head.
Social media is another problem for procrastinators. Checking Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can leave the homeworker with very little time to get on with whatever task it is they’re actually paid to do!
We advise that procrastination is only allowed during set breaks in the homeworker’s day. Watch TV, but do it at a scheduled time each morning. Clean the house, but only after the homeworker has got some tangible work done. Get on social media, but do it on the loo – like everyone else!”

Written by me and illustrated by the amazing Spencer Wilson, ‘Homeworking: The Ultimate Guide’ is a funny look at working from home.

Hoff the record…

I’ve never been one for regrets.

That said, there is something I regret not doing during my career as a studio producer: I wish I’d taken some photographs with the celebs that I met.

It may sound a little pathetic, but I often find people look at me like I’m making it up when I discuss the time I did a shoot with Julie Andrews, Warwick Davis or The Cheeky Girls (OK, they believe me on the last one). The thing is, back then nobody had camera phones (not really) and taking photos with ‘The Talent’ just wasn’t done.

Despite all that, I really wish I’d taken a photo the morning I spent with David Hasselhoff. To add a bit of perspective, I was OBSESSED with Knight Rider when I was a kid. I mean totally and completely hypnotised by this show.

I talked into my watch (in reality my bare wrist, as I didn’t have a timepiece) just like David’s character, ‘Michael Knight’.

I talked to our car (leading I’m sure to my parents being concerned about my mental health) just like David’s character ‘Michael Knight’.

I even had a weird situation at a parent-teacher meeting, where my mum and dad asked about my classmate ‘Michael’ – who they’d never met, but I wouldn’t stop going on about. This led to much confusion from the teacher, as it transpired I didn’t have a friend with that name at school. Finally, they discovered I’d been so obsessed with Hasselhoff’s alter-ego that I’d come home from school and tell my parents I’d been playing with him all day.

Basically, for a large part of my childhood, I lived in a fantasy world with David Hasselhoff at its centre.

So, fast forward many years, and I can’t quite believe I’m standing on the studio floor next to The Hoff himself. My 7 year-old self would have passed-out with joy, I was just about holding it together. ‘David’, those of us who have worked with The Hoff get to call him that, was spending the morning on our show to publicise The Spongebob Movie – in which he had an extended cameo.

That day I had fulfilled a lifetime’s dream and written a script for The Hoff, I mean ‘David’, to act out. It was a skit based around Baywatch, where all the presenters of the show were dressed in orange swim gear, watching on as the wonderous Mr H saved the day.

So there I was, with David, saying to him:

“OK Mr Hasselhoff…”

“Please call me ‘David’…”

“OK, ‘David’. What’s going to happen is this. When it’s your cue line I’ll tap you on the shoulder…”

“On the shoulder?”



“Like this.”

I tapped him on the shoulder. David frowned, then grinned.

“Maybe you should try it like this,” he said, mischeviously.

He jabbed me between the ribs with a finger.

“Or like this…”

Hasselhoff poked me again. We both roared with laughter.

It was then that I realised I was having horseplay, for that’s what it was, with the legendary David Hasselhoff. My 7 year old self would have happily died and gone to heaven.

As it was, composure was quickly regained and ‘David’ did the scene perfectly – hitting every comedy cue he was given.

The man was, and is, a total legend.

So, back to my original point. I’d have loved to have my photograph taken with my friend ‘David’. But it didn’t happen.

I regret this for two reasons:

  • To have the momento of meeting a childhood hero would have been great.
  • To have captured the look on the face of one of the show’s presenters: Mark Felgate. Mark is a wonderful comedy talent, who (I found out later) was as big a fan of Mr Hasselhoff as me. Sadly, for reasons of comedy, I’d dressed him in a Pamela Anderson-style high cut orange swimsuit. It wasn’t the way Mark had dreamed of meeting his hero, in fact, it became a moment he’d rather forget. Sorry Mark.

There are those who have mocked Mr Hasselhoff and his claims of bringing down the Berlin Wall with his song ‘Looking for Freedom’. As someone who worked with ‘David’ I’ve no doubt he had a major role in the ending of the Cold War.

David wouldn’t have needed a digger to destroy that wall, he could have brought it down with a well-placed prod.

Michael Caines: Lympstone Manor

Here’s my interview with Michael Caines, for the launch of Lympstone Manor, as seen in Western Morning News.

“I’ll not be happy!” said one old lady, so everyone on the bus could hear, “if he ruins that place, Courtlands House. Lovely it is!”

Her companion nodded in agreement.

“In fact, if he does, I’ll never watch his films ever again! He should stick to acting, blooming Michael Caine!”

I overheard this conversation, between a pair of endearingly-confused locals, just over a year ago. Today I find myself in the lush surroundings of Lympstone Manor (formerly Courtlands House), East Devon’s newest luxury hotel, talking to the man behind it all.

Chef Michael Caines, 48, and I are seated in one of Lympstone Manor’s lounges – with impressive views of the bucolic Exe Estuary – discussing the hotel, that he clearly sees as the culmination of an impressive career.

Born in Exeter in 1969, Caines was adopted soon afterwards: “I was adopted at the age of six weeks old into a loving family. I’m not a privileged kid. I didn’t get given anything, I’ve had to work for it.” 

Chris McGuire, Western Morning News

For the full piece, click here.

My first book…

Last year saw the release of my first book: “The Modern MAMIL: How to look pro”, illustrated by the amazing Spencer Wilson. It’s a funny look at the world of middle-aged men in Lycra. 

Congratulations on obtaining this invaluable guide.

Like all Middle Aged Men In Lycra, you know in your heart of hearts that, if there was any justice in the world, you’d be a pro-cyclist.

If only the stars had aligned differently, making you taller, thinner, sportier or less fond of cake – it all could have been so different.

You’d have been up there on the podium with the trophies, the sponsorship deals and the press intrusion.

Never fear, you may not BE a pro, but that doesn’t mean you can’t LOOK like one.

The book you’re holding right now is the key to looking the part. From socks to shaving, cadences to coffee-shop culture, we cover it all.

Trust us, after reading this guide, you won’t be able to go out for a spin without someone shouting:

“There goes a total pro!”

You can thank us later.

Chris McGuire, The Modern MAMIL: How to look pro

To get your copy, click here. The perfect gift for the MAMIL in your life.