‘Birmingham – A digital opportunity’

The Digital Revolution

I was recently at a Birmingham Business Breakfast Club event and the guest speaker – Simon Jenner, a technology entrepreneur – gave an inspiring and motivating talk regarding the position of Birmingham as a digital hub.

As we are all becoming increasingly aware, the digital landscape is changing and technology appears to be influencing everything we do.

A great example of this is Uber. Simon explained that within a 4 year period, the company has gone from nowhere to being a $50bn business and the biggest taxi firm in the world. Yet they own no taxis and no taxi drivers – they are a truly digital business.

Brummies Overlooked?

So, where does our great city and the surrounding area fit into the global digital arena? Simon told us that in terms of numbers in employment, digital technology accounts for the 4th largest sector, equalling 40,000 people. The public sector is still by far the biggest employer in Birmingham, with 450,000 people.

However, despite most sectors now being affected by technological advancements and despite 20% of the UK gaming industry being based in nearby Leamington Spa – why is ‘digital’ is still being overlooked?

An Opportunity

Simon is clearly very passionate about his city and technology. The issue from his perspective is that the two have not become aligned as yet, but there’s absolutely no reason why Birmingham cannot become a ‘digital hub’ on a grand scale, rivalling London, Manchester, Edinburgh…

It’s easy to think of this scenario as classic Birmingham – living up to a reputation of a city behind the times. However, it’s thanks to Simon and other visionaries that we should see this as a great opportunity for the city to build a reputation, like any brand, by offering a clear vision and standing out from the crowd.

 

It’s true that without a ‘champion’ business, such as a Google, it has been difficult to be seen as an industry player, but with lots of smaller individual companies – who knows which one of them could be the next overnight phenomenon?

Success breeds success, and the time is now for Birmingham to join the digital revolution.

Ashley Madison – A broken marriage

Fundamentally Flawed

“Life is short. Have an affair.”– The slogan used by website Ashley Madison offering extramarital relations and a 100% guarantee of confidentiality.

The site, which prides itself on being the ‘world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters’, has suffered from a recent hijacking from a group of hackers known as ‘Impact Team’, who gained access to over 30 million user details and subsequently released them online.

The identity theft of users’ personal details including sexual fantasies, has swept all hope of confidentiality away from the brand. Few who’d signed up to have an affair could be happy to have that particular portion of their moral code exposed to all.

Founded 13 years ago, the Ashley Madison website concept was fundamentally flawed from the start. A service promoting betrayal of a partner will have been considered by a large majority to be of such a low moral standard, anyone who signed up would get their just desserts.

Vision, Mission and Values

A reputation can be defined as “everything you say, everything you do and everything others say about you.” (Chartered Institute of Public Relations)

In order to build and maintain a sustainable reputation, it is key for an organisation to deliver their service focusing on a clear vision, supported by a mission and set of values.

Ashley Madison’s vision could be described as becoming the world leading service for extramarital relations and ensuring people have no regrets about having an affair. Their mission would simply be to provide guaranteed privacy, secrecy, confidentiality – call it what you will. Finally, some relevant values may include‘rigorous security’; ‘changing perceptions’ and ‘customer successes’.

The Theory Bit

Jane Jacobs, the author of the business publication ‘Systems of Survival’, details that in order to be a successful company there are a number of key precepts. Let’s consider two of the most important: respect contracts and be honest.

Following the clear breach of trust to keep data confidential, it is evident that Ashley Madison had little respect for their customers’ data when they entered into a contract with them, while the guarantee of anonymity was, in fact, far from honest. In the eyes of this particular commentator, Ashley Madison will clearly struggle to survive after breaking these values and contract.

A guarantee within a legal context is described as a pledge to be responsible for another’s debt or contractual performance if that other person does not pay or perform. This provides yet more evidence that Ashley Madison is a business on the ropes as it could also be bound legally to refund their customers for an inadequate performance relating to one of their values – rigorous security.

Broken Trust

The moral question here should really be how Ashley Madison can remain a functioning business with such a blatant disregard for people’s data?

The answer is, it can’t.

There is a clear association between personal relationships and business relationships – both are based on trust. Alas, trust can take years to gain, yet can be whipped away in a flash – the Ashley Madison fiasco a case in point.

Given the kryptonite nature of the data entrusted to them, Ashley Madison clearly did not do enough to protect it. The seemingly relative ease that private information of customers has been obtained and released into the public domain is alarming and completely conflicts with the company’s mission of guaranteed secrecy – hence, a reputation destroyed, broken families and now two suicide cases.

DivorceThe trust between this business and its customers has been obliterated and it is hard to see this particular relationship not ending in divorce proceedings.

Ashley Madison’s slogan has become rather apt – “life is short”

Trust – lost by a robotic response to a human problem

United Airlines Blog

You can understand why some are concerned about the growing influence of robots in our lives when you consider United Airlines’ thoughtless response to a customer complaint.

Pushing for efficiency Chris Chmura’s flight had left twenty minutes early, leaving him at the gate feeling somewhat confused. His initial complaint was down to the behaviour and service of the gate worker who had failed to deal with the problem caused by the airline. When the Florida reporter issued his complaint United Airlines’ customer service department fell short of what it promised to deliver – instead issuing an unmoving response. The decision to add robots to the customer care team may be a step too far, and consequently have gone some way to damaging the brand image.

The major problem is the gulf between United Airlines’ promises of great customer care compared to the actual delivery of their service. If they truly promise to ‘provide great customer service’ then surely, they’d not have allowed this spell checking gaff, suggesting that his name is relatively similar to ‘Mr Human’, nor would they be so impersonal. The choice to not spell check, or even look over the response points to a lack of a strict external and internal communication policy.

With  little human intervention, what should have been a straightforward apology and correction has now been forgotten and escalated into a much bigger debacle, with the company being ridiculed for its inability to deal with a simple problem.

The idea of a customer services department reliant on its computers to confidentially deal with issues overshadows the original problems highlighted by the baiting reporter, but what’s more alarming is that Chmura has blown up a bigger problem, failure to successfully communicate with its customers in an appropriate and diligent demeanour.

Words are cheap and United Airlines has definitely proven that by saying “Mr Human, your email clearly expresses your disappointment and I would like to extend a sincere apology for any negative impression that may have been created.” How can a computer be sincere?

In all the communication error made by the airline points to a larger problem, and has gone some way to scarring the brand. If you’re going to make promises, make sure you keep them otherwise your brand will appear hollow.

That’s why a guarantee is so binding – a contractual promise that pays out if you fail to deliver rather than a few well meaning words and a discretionary compensation.

Where is the brand custodian at UA?  Why aren’t they putting up a stauncher defence?

Is this a world class company?

Chris Chmura isn’t the only angry felt passenger…

Will.i.am tweeted: @iamwill I’m flying to china and @united just gave my seats away…wtf

Robert from El Cajon, California: ‘The United flight #5422 was delayed when a crew member did not make it to work.’

Jeff of Tomball, Texas: ‘My mother-in-law who is 72 was supposed to have a direct flight with United Airlines leaving from Houston to San Francisco today. We get there. The flight’s been cancelled to 10am… So we wait till 10 then the flights cancelled to 1:15pm… the customer service is non-existent with this company.’

Would YOU trust to fly UA?

Lights, Camera, Action – PR and the moving image

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Today, we consume information in many different ways. Technology has thrown out a multitude of digital, social and interactive platforms that help open up a world of content to engage, excite and connect audiences in ways that they have never done before.

Moving image is one of the most rapidly-growing sectors in communications with innovative new content sharing platforms being developed every day.

But helping to bring video skills into the creative domain isn’t just about knowing your Vimeo from your Vine and your YouTube from your Yahoo. It’s about having the ability to produce and share compelling content effectively, giving PR and marketing agencies fresh new ways of breathing life into their messages.

Coming from a film production background, I was a little bit apprehensive about making the transition into PR and communications. Would I be able to step up to the plate when it came to delivering world class video material for Kinetic and our portfolio of clients?

My first task was to produce a new video for the Kinetic website, providing the audience with an insight on how to build reputations you can trust. My mission; to produce a piece of content that is compelling, inspiring and intelligent – to make the website useful for anyone looking to build trust in their reputation and take Kinetic’s video offering up to the next level.

It was a big challenge but, as soon as I got my hands on the camera kit and into the studio, my anxieties melted away and I felt like I was back in my element. Fortunately for me, Angela was a true natural in front of the camera and excelled in delivering her message in an inspiring and engaging way.

So why is it so important to use video to help illustrate your message in PR?

Did you know?

–          Only 20% of web visitors will read the majority of text but 80% will stop to watch a video

–          Videos are 53 times more likely to appear on Google’s first page

–          Cognitive psychology shows that stimulating both auditory and visual senses increases retention by around 58%

–          YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google

–          Adding a video to your website makes it 6 times more likely to convert a browser to a paying customer.

There is no doubt that video is an extremely powerful tool for businesses. Whether you want to say something about your company, promote a new product or service or just make your web presence or YouTube channel more interesting and engaging for your audience – moving image can provide the perfect solution.

Public relations isn’t just about getting column inches and writing media releases. It is about fully integrating communications solutions across traditional and digital new and rich media platforms.

I enjoyed my time working in film because it allowed me to develop a broad range of technical skills across a number of key areas. It was fast-paced, diverse and often unpredictable but the transition into PR has given me that and so much more.

It has allowed me to adapt those skills and apply them into diverse communications plans, helping to bring a fresh new take on each individual client’s message. It’s not just fun, it’s fast, exciting and above all, it’s now.

What can PR professionals can learn from Frozen?

Frozen is one of those films that will go down in Disney history for both its clever storyline and marketing tricks that ensure it is a family favourite – and not just for little girls wishing to be princesses.

But what can the Walt Disney Company teach us about clever marketing and how did they do it so successfully?

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

  1. For the first time in forever

Hans, a prince from the Kingdom of the Southern Isles, brings another dimension to a Disney film and no-one sees it coming. He replaces the wicked step-mother that we are all too familiar with and because of his wickedness, he threatens both leading ladies, Anna and Elsa. Disney are stepping away from the traditional ‘good prince’ plot and turning for something darker.

  1. Love is an open door

Unlike previous Disney films Frozen mocks the ‘love at first sight’ mantra and actually, throughout the film Anna learns to love and her ‘happily ever after’ is with ice-seller Kristoff. Audiences get tired of watching the princess end up with the prince and Disney have played on this.

  1. Let it go

Disney have learnt from previous films like The Princess and the Frog that to make a film into a global franchise, they need to make a movie gender neutral. Boys don’t want to watch a film about princesses – and mentioning ‘princess’ in the title is a big giveaway of what the film is about.

They begin mixing titles up with their 2010 Tangled (replacing ‘Rapunzel’) and this grossed over $600 million at the box office – big, but not as big as Frozen.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen’ it would have been easy for them to adopt the name, but by opting to promote Frozen as gender neutral the title Frozen was created and the rest, they say, is history.

  1. Put me in summer and I’ll be a… happy snowman.

Boys respond to humour so the creation of the talking-snowman Olaf makes the film seem that it isn’t all about two princesses. The marketing of the humorous Olaf is what captured boys, the Queen – who can make and manipulate ice is what bought the girls in, while the moving away from the traditional Disney values is what drew the adults in.

  1. Branching out – what PR professionals can learn

Frozen is the fifth highest grossing film of all time, earning $1.219 billion so far partly because Disney saw a possibility for expansion of a brand. When possible, professionals should strengthen the brands they represent through as many different media outputs as possible.

It’s not just a film – it is a soundtrack as well, and the Oscar-winning ‘Let It Go’ is still at number 27 after 33 weeks in the official Radio 1 chart, proving that both the film and the soundtrack go hand in hand.

The Frozen empire is still expanding, Disney have plans to make another film, a musical, and a new featured ride in the Disney theme parks. American TV series,Once upon a time, will also see Frozen characters come to life. Disney are not resting their brand and instead are extending the films life cycle through brand awareness.

This is a lesson that all PR professionals can learn from. By continuing to promoteFrozen through other mediums Disney has attracted a wide audience for many years to come.

Reputation is key in this business – Disney have already sussed it – and perhaps by doing a little more of what they do, you can to.

Kinetic helps Vitax at Glee 2011

Paul Bennett on working with Kinetic Communications

Paul Bennett, Corporate Services Partner of George Green LLP

“Kinetic is a very different communications and PR company.  As much energy goes into making sure that you have the right message as in communicating that message. A successful strategy is built around key differentiators and a successful business will have not only a successful strategy but ensure that key stakeholders from employees through to customers buy into that strategy.

Communication driven by  the purpose and shared belief of a clear strategy is really powerful, and Ang and the team  bring focus and clarity to strategy and communication in equal measure.  Kinetic’s unique approach delivers high impact communication both internally and externally, as I have discovered to my benefit.”