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‘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.

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The importance of staying on message by Aimee Postle

01 Aimee PostleThere are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples in recent times of where failing to tow the party line or coming off message have damaged a brand – Gerald Ratner and his “crap” sherry decanters, David Shepherd remarking that Topman’s target market was “hooligans or whatever” and Matt Barrett of Barclaycard who revealed he had advised his children never to get a credit card.

However, the latest in this long line is Conservative MEP David Hannan who joined in with US attacks on the National Health Service earlier this week. The US health service reforms, proposed by Barack Obama, have been touted as make-or-break for the US President. Big budget advertising campaigns, on-street demonstrations and TV shows have rocked the US on this issue.

But, the speed of digital communications now means that the UK is embroiled in the debate. While David Hannan has been on US TV criticising the NHS, UK PM Gordon Brown is one of thousands who have voiced their support for the service on Twitter.

So, what does this mean for the Conservatives and their brand? David Cameron has sent out an email to all supporters to reiterate that the Conservative Party is 100% behind the NHS. Hannan, it is claimed, is merely expressing a personal opinion and does not claim to represent the views of the party as a whole. But, Cameron, and the Conservatives, are now on the back foot – forced to come out and publicly support the NHS across the media spectrum.

There is a fine line to tread between balancing the control of the organisation’s brand – whether business, political party, charity or so on – and allowing members, supporters or employees the freedom to express their own views on matters close to their heart.

For the sake of sustainable communications, that line has to be negotiated carefully and regularly with all those who are seen to represent the organisation. It is important that everyone is aware of the key brand messages and feels able to live and work by their organisation’s values – that they are involved in articulating and expressing these messages and values.

More so than ever, the current economic climate is forcing organisations’ to assess whether everyone really is pulling in the same direction. And, that is why we believe that values-driven proposals and campaigns really are one of the best ways of delivering a valuable and relevant communications programme for our clients.