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The Kinetic Experience

Dom.01

Caption: Dominic Walker joins Kinetic for two weeks work experience

When walking into an interview and the interviewer asks me, “what can you bring to our organisation?” I feel like I could say a lot more than just another typical answer. During my time at Kinetic, I’ve recognised the importance of interaction. PR is all about trying to master the art of communication and direct conversation. Working within an agency like Kinetic has been a great experience, with great people and a great atmosphere – I really felt very welcome.

During my first commute to the office I was constantly thinking about how I should come across to the rest of the Kinetic team. Excited. Happy. Nervous. Shy?  When I eventually arrived at the office, I was surprised at how tightly-knit the Kinetic team are. They instantly made me feel at home offering me tea and coffee – of which I’m still yet to accept- but the bran cake was beautiful.

The Kinetic internship has been a wonderful experience. I’m grateful that I wasn’t just flung into the kitchen having to make tea or coffee, which was the case for so many of my friends during their internships. It wasn’t long after I got comfortable at my desk that I was given a list of tasks to complete during my placement.

One of the most memorable moments during my two weeks was when Angela spoke to me about the importance of Kinetic’s VMV. These sum up the backbone of Kinetic. If the team are at a loss of what to do Angela makes it clear – the VMV is Kinetic’s way forward.

Kinetic has a diverse range of clients and one of the reasons it’s so successful is because of its ethos. I’ve learnt to value the importance of direction in PR, having a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve is no doubt one of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from my two weeks here.

My advice to any graduate/undergraduate starting an internship would be to accept any challenge and be eager. You get what you put in and the good thing about PR is that your results mirror the amount of effort you put in. Kinetic is definitely committed to producing reputations you can trust. The people within the team are genuine – they gave me the opportunity to learn and grow.

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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?

Hot issues and interesting facts in the PR industry

The typical PR employee: female and in-house. Photo source: guardian.co.uk

Interesting that the recent PRCA survey identified the hot issues for the industry:

•               SEO

•               Online communications

•               Reputation management

•               Communications strategy and development.

 

Two other little interesting facts 40,000 of the 61,000 people who work in PR work in-house.  The Midlands is the largest community outside the South-East with 12%.  The NW and NE and SW each has 6% of the PR population.  PR’s also lost its petticoat profession in that 36% of the profession are now male.

Kinetic helps Vitax at Glee 2011

Accents in business by Jade Mansell

Jade Mansell

‘Oy kwoyt loik the berminggum accksunt’. Oh sorry, does that sound comical? And I mean the actual statement as well as the way it sounded: is it possible to have any love for the Birmingham accent?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living close to the haven of shopping that is the Bullring, and Birmingham is supposed to be the “second city”, isn’t it? But it wasn’t until university that I realised quite how much my Brummie credentials affected perceptions of my personality.

I don’t live in Birmingham, I’m around 45 minutes away on the train – though of course this doesn’t mean anything to my lofty aristocratic southern friends. They deem anything above London ‘The  North’, whilst repressing an involuntary shudder at the thought of the murky, uncivilised wasteland that they have thankfully avoided thus far in life.

On arriving at Oxford Uni, I was astounded to find myself one of only 3 other West Midlanders in my year; needless to say I stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll never forget the fresher’s week team-building exercise in which I addressed the whole hall with a microphone. Heads whipped round, students fell off their chairs, people took out ear-trumpets, all the better to hear the strange and jarring tones of my unlyrical utterings. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I soon realised that I was different, and what’s more, I would become the butt of everyone’s’ joke.

Not that I minded – I love attention in any form – but I did find it grating that people were so quick to ‘figure me out’ based on my accent. A 2008 survey found that, as The Times put it, ‘the Brummie accent is perceived as ‘worse than silence’’. In a series of experiments, even a control group who said nothing at all were considered more intelligent than those with Brummie accents, and I have no trouble believing that. People with this bothersome accent are considered far less intelligent than those with other accents, and as such I sought to ditch mine as soon as possible.

Now don’t judge me, I wasn’t just being vain. I was thinking of my career, I swear – another survey showed that the Birmingham accent severely decreases interview success. (But mainly I was just being vain).

This all provokes the question: accents – should you tactically ditch or be proud of your roots? It’s a tricky one, and has sparked debate in the Kinetic office. On the one hand, the Brummie accent is associated with stupidity, and could be damaging. On the other, it’s quite cool to be novel, and certainly makes you more memorable. Plus, ditching your accent is like denying a part of your past. So I decided to try and embrace it, and, not gonna lie, it’s proven to be something of a talking point (see what I did there?).

Three years later and my accent has become ‘kind-of-southern-with-a-west-midlands-twang’, or so I’m told. At home, I’m posh. Amongst my uni friends, I’ll always be the Brummie. Damn!

ONE TEAM – ONE P&L – that’s the way to do it by Angela Podmore

Space shuttle Atlantis lifting off on 8th July 2011

A masterclass lives up to its billing

It’s not often a masterclass in leadership lives up to its name but Bob Duff did this week at an Aston University event. Bob is VP for UK and Ireland at Jacobs – a global engineering enterprise.

He introduces himself professionally (joined in 2004 through acquisition) but then adds, “I’m a husband and father first”. Good to know we’re listening to a man who has his ‘rocks in a jar’.

Some of his team really are rocket scientists – eg half of the people behind the NASA desk on manned space flight are from Jacobs.

Read on for how he got 62,000 people – culturally diverse – facing in the same direction.

They were losing 380 people a year to sickness and knew ‘problems cannot be resolved at the level of consciousness that created them’, Albert Einstein.

So in 2006 they launched, Beyond Zero – a culture of caring – to cut sickness to zero. It was beyond health and safety regime. “You have to live it.” They were 40K people worldwide then, they’re 62K today so they’ve done something right.

Values-driven

Jacobs developed a triad of values: 1. we are relationship-based (they’ve been working continuously for 46 years with Exxon Mobil. They’ve only 40 to 50 clients worldwide. “Clients like the people not the company”. They’re spread 50/50 over public/private sectors. 2. people are our greatest asset, 3. growth is an imperative (“we don’t pay dividend, we reinvest and are trading on Wall Street”).

He was full of the usual wisdoms: “transformation comes from the people not from the management, ” and “a good boss doesn’t really need appraisals. You never leave something to an appraisal which you should be doing right here and now.”

He was open with their figures showing steady growth through the 1990s and then the ‘bubble’ in the mid to late noughties. But they’re still on that 1990s/early-noughties growth track if you extrapolate that line through the bubble.

“Our margins are thin because the business model says our clients don’t like us making huge profits.” Jacobs is very customer-driven.  They grow by asking customers where they want them to be in ten years’ time.

“We’re multi domestic – ie where we open offices where we’re operational.” They work for Unilever all over the world but run it out of India because that’s where Unilever wants them.

Founding fathers lead the lessons

Jacobs College – at the US HQ – features lectures by the chairman – a- 75-year old who originally worked with the founder Joe Jacob. “You don’t go there to get ‘chipped and pinned’. It’s about learning the core values and it’s loaded with tests and role plays of how to do things ‘the Jacobs way’. Values underpin everything we do.”

Jacobs College takes to the road – important to keep momentum which is certainly there with every day, someone’s asking ‘what’s next’.

SHOCK – ONE-62,000-TEAM WITH ONLY ONE P&L

Jacobs has only one p&l worldwide. They don’t measure turnover but they’re committed to delivering 15% growth year on year. That’s a commitment to Wall Street (which is why I personally prefer the Arup business model).

But the Jacobs business model is undoubtedly successful – only 20% of the workforce has seen a downturn and their headcount speaks for itself. Each dept subsidises another.  The audience questioned that.

Bob Duff replied, “Culturally, you have to adjust to the fact that you may need to be supported one day.” In one fell swoop he showed how they’d swept away the departmental silos and made the one team culture dream a reality.

Jacobs is keeping the momentum by working with Aston University (they approached three business schools and chose Aston for the way its courses are Jacobs-focused as well as accredited to MBA. “We were looking for diversity – it’s great for cross-fertilisation – our workshops are like the UN.” And Aston certainly knows how to make international talent feel right at home.

Just keep going by Angela Podmore

Western Cwm

Business is just like climbing Everest

Doug Scott – what a man. Such a powerful reputation in the best way – quietly so.

This is the man who has climbed all seven summits – the highest point on each continent. When he started with the Atlas, his entire six-week trip cost only £21 per expedition member.

We saw him at Malvern this week. He inspired me on several fronts:

• Scott’s 28 pints test – if you’re still coherent after 28 pints, it’s a pretty accurate indication of how you’ll fare at altitude. Apparently Don Whillans, another climbing legend, after downing his 28th pint was asked why he drank so heartily to which he replied, “I’ve a morbid fear of dehydration.” Don’t you find that it’s exactly that sort of wit which keeps you going when the going gets tough. Call me on 07786 934 935 to find out the one that kept me going on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks (unpublishable) – John Wilson at Free Range Heads told it.

• Higher goals – anyone who has reached Everest’s summit, returns Scott said. He felt “something bigger than me was going on up there”. I’ve read that those who return from the moon all come back changed – either with a thirst for religious or another spiritual dimension. Unsurprisingly, being on top of the world or looking back at the world are similar peak experiences.

• His wisdom – generally you find where people have more time on their hands, the warmer their welcome. He found the people of Afghanistan amazing.

My favourite wisdom was ‘how to climb a mountain’: ‘You just keep putting one foot in front of another, keep going, dealing with the uncertainty, no talk of turning back or giving up.” What a great business metaphor.

And that’s why his picture of the Western Cwm hangs opposite my desk at home.