Latest Posts

RSS

Why failure can be good for you

FailureThis may sound counter-intuitive but let me briefly explain why.  Failure isn’t fatal. But failure to change might be. In the world of American basketball, John Wooden is a legend. He coached UCLA to win 10 NCAA national championships in just 12 seasons. And he achieved this feat because of his ability to constantly adapt to new players, new rivals and new styles of play.

In our own industry, marketers and PR professionals need to be open to learning from failure.

Business leaders are continually being faced with complex changes: an aging population, the rise of the middle class in emerging economies with a different attitudes and beliefs and constant technological advancement of the web and mobile technologies that disrupt well-established business models, to a name a few.

What we’ve learnt over the past decade is that in a shifting environment consistent business performance isn’t enough to perpetuate itself. The recent shock departure of Tesco’s CEO and its lack lustre financial performance of late shows just how far “Britain’s most admired company” can fall from hero to zero.

To keep their organisations relevant, CEOs and other leaders must heed the reinvention imperative. This is why failure can be good for you.

This has happened in some of the biggest blue chip brands on the planet. Take IBM. Over the past century IBM has gone from manufacturing adding machines to inventing the PC to earning the majority of its revenues from services.

Another is Xerox. When the company began it was so closely identified with photocopiers that its name became not only the eponym for its product category but a common verb. Then Xerox went on to invent Ethernet and today it competes in areas such as mass-transit ticketing systems and e-discovery solutions.

Just ten years’ ago Samsung was known only for consumer electronics. Today it’s one of the most valuable brands in the world and spans advanced technology, construction, petrochemicals, fashion, medicine, finance and hotels.

Even adversity can be the precipitation for change.

According to the Institute for Crisis Management, some 75% of crises actually start internally – half of them from within management and a quarter with other employees.

Enhancing employee engagement may help to militate against this but it can’t be completely eradicated as organisations need to be able to manage human failure on a daily basis. Which is why to some extent internal crises are the hardest things to manage and when the lawyers get involved inevitably such short comings are swiftly covered up under a cloak of silence. But silence isn’t a sustainable strategy, even before the development of social media. It’s incredibly damaging today and organisations need to learn to express concern without conceding liability.

Brand Jack bookPR academic Quentin Langley, in his recent book Brand Jack, observes: “Those publics with long-term interest in your organisation need to be engaged on a long-term basis. You can even take this to another level, as Shell did with its post-Brent Spa, post-Nigeria “burden-sharing strategy”. This involved identifying “special publics” – academics, NGOs and the media – and engaging with them in round-table discussions about the problems facing oil companies.

“The Brent Spa crisis – when a Greenpeace campaign had forced Shell UK to back down on plans to dispose of an oil storage platform by deep sea disposal, almost certainly the safest way, and adopt a risky and expensive strategy of onshore dismantling – had taught Shell important lessons.”

From a business perspective, senior managers need to constantly think about reinvention and change in everything they do. It’s essential to get beyond pride in “what we’re really good at” which ironically can blind people to changes in what the world needs and what customers value most.

A key lesson that needs to be learnt is knowing how to make the distinction between enduring trends from those that are short-lived. Remember the fuss that surrounded Second Life and how we were all now going to play out our fantasies for real in a virtual world and make money from this?

Decision-makers – and even politicians – must be willing to take short term hits to performance in order to lay the ground work for long-term advantage.

Pressure from the London Stock Exchange to deliver in the next quarter is a given. The job of the business leader is to counter it with a point of view on where the industry is headed in the next five-10 years. If your strategy strikes outsiders as unexpected, that’s fine. They don’t know your business as well as you do.

Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.

 

What value would you put on having a good reputation?

journalistIt used to be said that what a good journalist needs is a strong pair of legs, plausible manner and rat-like cunning. 

And wasn’t it the case that only politicians and estate agents ranked lower than journalists in the wake of the meltdown of News of the World?

But shouldn’t we add public relations professionals to that list too?

Well, not if the PRCA has anything to do with it.

And I’ll come back to this in a moment.

PR professionals know three important things – important if they want to keep their jobs, that is.

The first is that their continued career within the profession depends on being able to persuade people to read, watch, listen, and one way or another buy a product or service or support a cause or point of view.

The second is that their continued career progression depends on pleasing their even more immediate customer, their boss.

And the third, for those who work in “traditional” or “mainstream” PR is the obvious point that there’s vastly more consumer choice as a result of the explosion of online and mobile communications.

Rabbit Andersen Consulting campaignI remember when I started my PR career back in 1992 at Andersen Consulting (Accenture) and we had what looked like a highly complex sign-off procedure for any piece of PR and marketing collateral you could think of – news release, newsletter, sales presentation, or whatever.

At the time, I thought it was cumbersome that so many people at associate and partner level had to sign off on this stuff.

But with hindsight, I should’ve thought then what I think now.

This was an excellent way of managing reputation – from the highest level – that our words matched our deeds.

Fast forward to the demands of PR in a 24/7 world and you could argue we just don’t have the luxury as we did back then to reflect to the same degree on the words and the deeds of our outputs.

PR folk are now expected to ‘knock something off’ for the website or email newsletter with the implication that because you’re writing for the wild world of the blogosphere you can be less exacting in your professional standards.

Even responsible PR and marketing practitioners seem to feel they’ve a licence to bend the truth and sail close to the wind when they’re writing online.

Yet in the minds of desired audiences, customers, clients, prospects and supporters the distinction between what they receive offline and what they read online has disappeared. They expect an individual or organisation to have the same level of accuracy irrespective of the medium.

The trust of your customers, clients, prospects and supporters matters more than anything else in today’s competitive environment – perhaps even more than what you say about your products or service.

Trust has become the single biggest business issue facing organisations and companies today. And managing reputational risk is a key priority, not just for the director of communications or PR agency but also for the entire boardroom and the senior leadership team.

It’s against this backdrop that the PRCA has taken a bold step to help inform and stimulate a debate within the PR profession that seeks not just to explore how and what reputation is within this modern context but also why it matters from a financial point of view.

This isn’t as easy or straight-forward as it sounds, so the PRCA has engaged with some of UK’s leading PR practitioners to explore this in greater detail including Sue Garrard, Senior Vice-President of Communications and Sustainable Development, Unilever; Nigel Gilbert, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, TSB Bank; Amanda Mackenzie, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Aviva; Zitah McMillan, Director of Communications and International, Financial Conduct Authority; Sheila Mitchell, Marketing Director, Public Health England; George Pascoe-Watson, Partner, Portland and Chris Satterthwaite, Chief Executive, Chime Communications.

Launched today, the Economics of Reputation‘ toolkit provides a one-stop shop for the busy PR professional to get to grips with the latest thinking on the subject and encourages debate within the industry through #ReputationMatters on Twitter.

Tony LanghamThe campaign is being led by Tony Langham, Lansons Chief Executive and PR Council Vice Chairman at the PRCA.

“The sheer volume of literature on reputation means that developing a clear understanding of reputation has become incredibly problematic.

“This toolkit has been developed to provide a straightforward way into this hugely complex topic, which is now a leading issue for the business world. We hope that this will provide a basis for thought-provoking debate, which we aim to stimulate over the remainder of the year,” says Langham.

The toolkit has been produced by Now and is sponsored by BNY Mellon and can be downloaded for FREE by clicking here.

Ardi Kolah is an elected member of the PRCA Council and author of the best-selling Essential Law for Marketers, published by Kogan Page (£19.99) available here.

 

Will shuffling the pack create a winning hand for the Tories in 2015?

cameron-kitchenBritish PM David Cameron is an effective communicator although perhaps not in the same league as Tony Blair. However, Cameron did learn his trade whilst working within the public relations industry as director of communications for Michael Green at Carlton Communications. I remember it well. I once had a meeting with both men. So it’s probably fair to assume that Cameron recognised the PR challenge that was starring him in the face.

The fate of the Tories in winning the next General Election remains in the balance despite the resurgence in the fortunes of the UK economy as evidenced by a recent spate of research and statistics that show Britain’s economy is growing faster than any other large advanced economy this year.

However, until ordinary people start to feel prosperous again, the recovery will be viewed as benefiting only the rich and well-off.

OsborneThis air of superiority and elitism that the Cabinet exudes has dogged Cameron ever since taking office as it’s filled with Anglo Saxon, blue-blooded white Etonians and Oxbridge educated multi-millionaires.

Unsurprisingly, the perception of elitism has been perpetuated much to Cameron’s best efforts to portray the Government as on the side of the ordinary person in the street. Sadly the act began to wear a bit thin when the electorate were being given lectures on how the nation needed to tighten its belt by these same multi-millionaires.

Understanding that the popularity of his party will need to extend beyond the nicer parts of the UK populated by the chattering classes, Cameron has gone sex crazy.

Well to be more precise, he’s now got five women around the Cabinet table: Teresa May (Home Secretary), Nicky Morgan (Education Secretary), Liz Truss (Environment Secretary), Justine Greening (International Development Secretary) and Theresa Villiers (Northern Ireland Secretary).

Women in CabinetBut will this make-over be enough to swing the electorate behind the Tories at the General Election next year and give it another chance of running the country sans LibDems?

Many commentators are starting to sound much more positive of the chances of Cameron being able to pull this off in the face of a Labour Opposition that has singularly failed to pull far ahead in the polls against the incumbent party of power.

According to Tory pollster Lord Ashcroft, the Conservatives are slightly further behind Labour in marginal seats. Yet they need to be at least four or five points ahead nationally just to be the largest party and do better than that in order to command a majority.

The rise in popularity of the right-wing UKIP party presents a problem for the Tories as they struggle to appeal to disaffected voters without sounding xenophobic or racist. The latest YouGov poll suggests that 14% of respondents who voted Tory in 2010 said they planned to vote UKIP next time round.

But according to YouGov founder Peter Kellner, the “fundamentals” are on the Tories’ side and what Cameron needs to do is to turn his party’s strengths on the economy into votes.

However, just winning back defecting Tory supporters by focusing on their living standards won’t be enough.

women powerThe demographic profile of the UK has changed, along with the rest of the world and now women outnumber men and also hold down most of the jobs in the economy.

Perhaps Cameron is now getting in touch with his feminine side which could see him return to power next year but also deliver what he’s always promised he would do – a more compassionate and caring conservatism.

But for that he’s likely to need the feminine touch.

Ardi Kolah is author of the popular cartoon series of books Guru in a Bottle, published by Kogan Page in UK, India and USA.

What the arts can learn about sponsorship from sport

QB15This isn’t a one-way street of course. There’s a lot that sports can learn from the arts – for example creating unique experiences that reach desired audience and customer segments in a precise way that’s memorable and doesn’t suffer from ‘sponsorship clutter’ that often afflicts much bigger property types such as a premier league football club.

However, the arts sector needs to become much more commercially savvy in helping itself achieve anything like the success achieved by sports rights owners over the last 40 years that has generated billions in support of sports and entertainment that relies on sponsorship income for its existence.

Earlier this week, UK arts charity House of Illustration opened its doors as the world’s first gallery celebrating illustration in all its form, inspired by the incomparable Sir Quentin Blake who’s perhaps done more than anyone in the world to inspire children to take up reading through his collaboration with the beloved children’s author Roald Dahl.

GuestsFrom a sponsorship perspective, there’s now an “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for supporting this small but truly inspirational charity that has education at its heart and that will allow brand owners to join the charity in its remarkable journey.

Before unpacking how this could be achieved, it’s worth thinking about more traditional marketing outside of sponsorship and why this is on the decline.

Advertising on TV and national newspapers and magazines is still effective when integrated with other media channels such as online, mobile and social but advertising expenditure globally apart from online advertising is in decline.

This has come about largely as a result of the fragmentation of media and the fragmentation of audiences. In turn, this has meant that brand owners can’t just rely on more advertising to get their messages across.

When done well, sponsorship achieves a dialogue with the audiences it’s trying to reach. It’s less about advertising and much more about collaboration with its partners. In many respects this is a much deeper level of engagement and brand partnership that can be achieved through advertising on its own.

Rev-Run-and-Mel-BOver the last 20 years, I’ve worked with many brands and sports rights holders in helping to drive a higher return on objectives and return on investment from their sponsorship activities and have used these same techniques within the arts sector to achieve results for organizations including MOBO, the Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards.

A very common mistake made by rights holders is to produce communications that are produced from the “inside out” rather than “outside in”. What I mean by this is arts organizations need to engage with a potential sponsor on the agenda that really matters for that particular brand owner.

It’s all too easy for an arts organization to be seduced by its own wonderfulness but you can quickly lose the plot if you fall into this trap.

Given that great communication is about influencing and changing behaviour, then the vision delivered by the arts organization needs to inspire. And the challenge is to do this from the point of view of those that the arts organization wants to talk with – the potential sponsors.

The way in which successful sponsorship is sold and bought today is along the lines of tangible benefits; intangible benefits and premium benefits.

This is the “Holy Trinity” of sponsorship. It’s important for any arts organization to have complete clarity on what it owns now, what it will own in the future and as a result what rights it can deliver to a prospective brand partner today.

If you don’t have this sorted out, then any due diligence carried out by a prospective sponsor will quickly result in no further action and that isn’t an outcome any arts organization will want given that there’s limited time and resources at its disposal and these must be used selectively in order to get a result.

In the current climate it’s important sponsors know what they’ll get for their money and the next step is to demonstrate how they’ll get a return on their objectives and a return on investment.

Return on objectives

ROO requires the prospective sponsor to undertake analysis in terms of whether the property type (arts) is a basic fit with its brand communication, marketing and sales objectives; whether it’s feasible in its time frame; and whether the sponsorship can be used to drive customer loyalty as well as customer acquisition.

In some cases, the brand partner will be engaged with the arts sponsorship because it satisfies corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives, although such objectives aren’t mutually exclusive of commercial ones.

Should it tick all the right boxes, then the next challenge from the sponsor’s perspective is how to bring the investment in the arts sponsorship alive. And that’s where the arts organization can deliver more added-value.

Olympics CokeThe creative quotient of any brand partnership is its vital ingredient. If we were sitting in the office of an Olympic sponsor we’d be talking about how we can sprinkle the ‘magic dust’ of the Olympic Games on to the brand partner’s communications.

And many arts organizations, just like the House of Illustration, have bucket loads of magic dust! It’s this intellectual process that helps differentiate arts organizations in the highly competitive sponsorship market.

EinsteinAlbert Einstein struggled for years to make sense of the many complexities and contradictions of physics and the real world. The sheer complexity he was trying to explain was mind boggling.

However, through creativity he eventually saw the light, by taking a step back and reflecting on the patterns and symmetries, applying hypotheses and deduction, he discovered the relationship between energy and matter was actually very simple, that E=mc².

So we need to understand the objectives of potential sponsors and position the brand partnership opportunity as a creative and powerful “solution” for them. And this needs to be bespoke.

Return on investment

The ability to demonstrate the value of what the sponsorship delivers is incredibly powerful for the dialogue between an arts organization with brand owners. This is why arts organizations need to audit the assets – tangible and intangible – and place a financial value on them that is defendable in the eyes of a prospective sponsor.

Tangible value

Examples of tangible values include: on-site signage/branding visible to visitors; TV viewers; web site visitors; database of opt-in visitors; advertisements in the arts organization’s magazine and other publications; and mentions in the press, radio, outdoor advertising, and other associated literature.

It will also include exposure of a brand partner’s logo on the arts organization’s web site. Other tangible values includes conference facilities, hospitality and entertainment facilities; an App that could provide content to mobile users on a subscription basis – or is free as it is sponsored by the sponsor.

If the arts organization were to run radio ads featuring the voice of famous personalities inviting visitors to come and there was an on-air credit for the brand partner, then this too is a tangible asset.

Intangible value

Depending on the needs and requirements of the sponsor, an arts organization should be able to create a menu of intangible benefits from which it can select the most appropriate for meeting the needs and requirements of the sponsor.

Typically, intangible benefits are brand essence fit with sponsor; visitor fit with sponsor’s customer segments; corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the sponsor; promotional options; reputation enhancement; geographical location and access to intellectual property (IP) rights.

Premium benefits

Lauren-ChildThis could be a mix of tangible and intangible benefits and could include special appearances by those connected with the arts organization, such as illustrators and artists like Lauren Child in the case of the House of Illustration; special invitation-only evenings; specially commissioned works that could be exhibited within the sponsor’s own office environment; and exclusive competitions, prizes and promotions for the sponsor’s employees, partners, affiliates and agents.

Get this right and the arts organization will be on its way to creating a platform for brand partnerships that will endure and deliver benefits for all parties concerned.

Ardi Kolah is a Board Trustee of the House of Illustration and the author of High Impact Marketing That Gets Results. He’s also author of Improving the Performance of Sponsorship, to be published by Routledge in 2015.

Marketers need to reach consumers that shop around the clock

shop around the clockAccording to new research published by brand strategy consultants Vivaldi Partners Group, there’s a new breed of consumer that can’t actually be reached through traditional marketing channels. 

These ‘Always-On Consumers’ (AOC) now represent nearly half of the most valuable customer segments in the US.

This group can’t be segmented along neat demographic or socio-economic lines but instead exhibit five distinct behaviour types that once identified can provide marketers with clues as to why these consumers choose to connect with certain brands and not others.

“There are significant differences in how these consumers use or consume new technologies, why they use various new technologies, why they engage, how they connect with brands and how they shop.

chart 1“As a result, there are enormous implications for how to build brands with these consumers and how to connect with them in the future,” explains Dr Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of Vivaldi Partners Group.

The US study surveyed 574 respondents (55% aged between 16-39 years old) by focussing on their consumption patterns and how they connected with brands and businesses as well as why they chose to do so.

In this way, the researchers felt they could more accurately understand the attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions and behaviours of the different consumer groups that make up the AOC segment.

In this real-time, 24/7 world, AOCs behave in very different ways. Marketers need to recognise the rise of the omni-consumer – the shopper who’s active at any time of day.

They must have a plan in place to attract the modern-day consumer who’s constantly on their smartphone or tablet device looking for the latest offers or deals on products.

The days of traditional bricks and mortar, 9am to 5pm shopping habits are gone and have been replaced by ‘twilight shopping’ between 5pm and midnight, often on mobile devices.

There are five distinct shoppers that fall into this description:

  1. “Mindful explorers” (27%)
  2. “Social bumblebees” (22%)
  3. “Ad blockers” (20%)
  4. “Focused problem solvers” (18%)
  5. “Deal hunters” (13%)

 

“MINDFUL EXPLORERS”

Here, Mark is typical of this segment. He tends to keep a low profile and wants to protect his personal identity and data. He tends to be a news junkie and an avid gamer. In traditional marketing thinking he would be called an early adopter, so he’s likely to be one of the first to acquire Google glasses.

Chart 3He’s a new product evangelist and will share his views widely.

From a marketer’s perspective, this segment is very useful as it’s more likely than any other AOC to take a brand survey or join a brand’s online community because this will be seen as an opportunity to offer valuable feedback to brands that they care about.

Social style

Compared with other segments within AOC, these consumers tend to spend less time on social networks and post less frequently. Although concerned about privacy and not wanting to be the centre of attention, these consumers have many online friends in the gaming community whom they’ve never met in person.

Shopping style

These consumers don’t spend spontaneously and only shop for items that they actually want to search for. Typically, a purchase decision is influenced by a number of information sources including recommendations from family and friends and online customer reviews.

“SOCIAL BUMBLEBEES”

Here, Simon is typical of this segment. He has a constant presence in the newsfeeds of 400+ Facebook friends and he usually posts 3-4 status updates a day, including links to his favourite songs and funny YouTube videos and brief, light-hearted posts about his daily activities.

chart 2These consumers are more extrovert than other AOC segments and aren’t afraid to broadcast their opinions.

As busy professionals they recognise that work colleagues can see their status updates and are more relaxed when it comes to privacy issues. They also tend to shop on the go via a tablet or iPad.

Social style

These consumers tend to use email mainly for work purposes and Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family with daily, casual interactions. They are enjoying sharing content.

Shopping style

These consumers are much more impulsive and may even purchase goods that they may not have been searching for on the internet. Typically, when looking to buy a high ticket item, this group will Google the brand/product, read a handful of reviews and usually make a decision within a day or two.

“AD BLOCKERS”

Here, Anna is typical of this segment and as the description infers, doesn’t like to be marketed to although she isn’t that protective about her online privacy. She tends to have less than 100 Facebook friends and tends to log in daily to chat and share updates with a relatively small but active circle of friends.

chart 4She doesn’t tend to pay too much notice to any online content unless it’s a message from someone she knows personally.

From a marketers’ perspective, using banner ads, branded content, news articles and blog posts aren’t likely to be that effective with this segment.

Social style

These consumers tend to have a tight-knit family and circle of friends. The typical type of social interaction is spent emailing this circle and browsing pictures on Facebook of these individuals where this personal connection exists. Although not extrovert by nature, these consumers don’t have a problem being the centre of attention once in a while.

Shopping style

This is perhaps the least active consumer group compared to other AOC segments as they tend to spend the smallest amount on shopping, both online and offline. Shopping online tends to be for cooking and cleaning supplies and other household items.

“FOCUSED PROBLEM SOLVERS”

Here, Felicia is typical of this consumer segment. They tend to have a higher age profile and are professionally qualified, often with a family. She is purposeful in her online activities and will not be fazed by managing her finances through online banking, making restaurant reservations, booking flights or holidays or other online transactions.

Chart 5She tends to ignore the noise of social media and online advertising and sticks to tried and trusted brands and products.

She will look at online reviews and recommendations and she is influenced by family and friends that will sometimes convince her to try something different.

Social style

Typically, professional networks like LinkedIn are important to this segment and they tend to log in at least 2-3 times a week.

They are also likely to log in to Facebook regularly to check photos and updates from family and friends. In terms of their own updates, they prefer using email rather than social media.

Shopping style

This segment tends to shop online for restocking staple household and personal care products. For bigger ticket items, these consumers prefer to bricks and mortar to online shopping so they can try out the product for themselves.

“DEAL HUNTERS”

Here, Derek is typical of this customer segment and spends the most time online compared with the other AOC segments. His purchase behaviour is motivated by online discounts, editorial reviews, recommendations from trusted friends and family.

Chart 6Although Derek is a loyal customer, he’s not given to writing reviews or becoming a vocal advocate of products that he may have purchased say on Amazon.

Social style

This consumer group are highly sociable and will have more than 500 Facebook friends but tend to be in ‘receive’ rather than ‘transmit’ mode and will infrequently post updates.

They are also consumers that tend to spend a large proportion of their online time privately such as downloading music to their smartphones and exchanging emails with family and friends.

Shopping style

This consumer segment are always looking for a bargain and could be much more spontaneous when they come across a deal for a product that they might not have set out to purchase in the first instance.

They appreciate value for money. They also tend to spend a lot of time gathering information and comparing prices before making a purchase decision.

When it comes to making a decision, they will visit the company website to further research the product. Beyond that, they don’t tend to be over-engaged with brands and branded content.

According to the researchers, there are several important lessons emerging from this study for brand owners.

Although it may appear counter-intuitive, the research suggests that AOC that use mobile devices and hang out online are less likely to connect with brands and businesses as their interaction is driven by social rather than e-commerce.

eshopperIn this permission based economy, marketers need to earn the right to connect with AOC segments and as the research shows, many such segments differ greatly in terms of their willingness to interact with brands and they have different reasons for doing so.

“Consumers use multiple paths to purchase along the consumer journey.

“Traditional brand-building efforts such as integrated marketing communications efforts are unlikely to be effective,” warns Erich Joachimsthaler.

In summary, collaboration, commerce and communications must converge in order to create a new paradigm for building strong brands with AOC segments.

 

Ardi Kolah is author of High Impact Marketing That Gets Results. Order your copy for a 30% discount

Traditional CPM is rapidly passing its ‘sell-by’ date

PAPER CHAIN PEOPLECPM metrics could be a thing of the past as website owners look at delivering more than eye balls to advertisers.

The traditional metric of cost per 1,000 page views (CPM) relies on the advertiser paying the website owner in advance to showcase their ad on the website for a certain number of times that the web page is accessed by visitors to the site.

Typically, CPM rates ranged between £4-£10 per 1,000 page views and could be more for reaching niche audiences. Website owners that sell traditional advertising on their sites have to be prepared to show advertisers detailed reports of page view visits and click-through rates in order to cash in on the traffic to the site.

Advertisers of course need more than just eye balls and click-through rates in order to achieve a return on their investment – they need a deeper level of engagement with desired audience and customer segments where the conversion ratio is much higher.

And many brand owners would be prepared to pay more for this. So it comes as no surprise that the Financial Times looks like one of the first website owners to experiment in offering a new way of renting its online real estate to advertisers.

The concept of ‘engaged time’ is now beginning to emerge as a serious alternative measurement to page views and click-through rates and the FT is now looking at selling display ads based on how long an audience spends with its content.

Jon Slade, commercial director of digital advertising at the FT admits it’s still early days. “We have a hypothesis we want to prove: that the longer you show somebody a piece of brand creative, the more resonance that piece of content has with an audience. That’s normally not how we value advertising; we’re talking about an attention economy.

“Are we honestly saying that there’s no difference to the brand between one second of exposure and five seconds of exposure? Logic would say: let’s start to value the amount of time spent with a brand.”

And of course Jon Slade has a point, hasn’t he? FT readers spend around six times more time with the FT site than other business news sites and that was worth something to advertisers seeking quality and engagement. So why shouldn’t they pay more?

“We could sell you 720 impressions at five seconds or other lengths of exposure, depending on the total time you would like,” he adds.

The current trial consists of figuring out how to find and sell the five seconds of time to C-level executives the right way and how to prove the greater efficacy of the approach. 

Other publishers have also been openly mooting this as a new way for monetising  content on their websites. In February this year, viral content site Upworthy announced it would use ‘attention minutes’ as its primary metric and YouTube is also moving in this direction.

One reason for this move away from CPM and click-throughs is that these metrics only a measure the effectiveness of a link promotion and are silent on the user’s experience on the piece of content itself. Research tends to show that pieces of content geared strongly toward clicks rather than engaging users results in less deep levels of engagement.

Measuring ‘engagement time’ could deliver a single metric for the quality of that engagement and be a much more accurate way of selling online advertising where it can be shown this leads to higher brand recall and purchase rates.

Ardi Kolah is author of High Impact Marketing That Gets Results. Order your copy here for a 30% discount.

Sustainability tops management agenda says Accenture

accenture_sheep_airport_advertisementAs a result of being part of the Accenture Alumni network, I was invited to a fascinating event this week at the firm’s swanky city offices in London.

The agenda for the Breakfast Briefing was ‘Sustainability24’ and this turned out to be a 24 hour global event over 10 countries across six continents simultaneously broadcast over the internet.

Accenture had set out to explore every facet of the sustainability agenda by engaging in debate with its brightest brains alongside clients, journalists, social commentators, academics and of course invited guests and Alumni like myself.

As an example of ‘thought leadership in action’ it was an extremely impressive effort. And being Accenture, the platform for the debate was very clear: driving sustainability and economic growth and how technology can help make this happen.

Obviously, this would take more than 24 hours to explain but thankfully this has been packaged into bite size chunks so you can sign up for free and view the bits that interest you most.

Sitting in Accenture I felt like I’d become a time traveller whisked at warp speed between London, Singapore and Amsterdam and back again. I was getting pretty dizzy and didn’t over indulge in the bacon rolls and orange juice that was in plentiful supply!

Apart from the predictable server problems that turned some of the speakers on the screen into ‘Androids’ (ha ha!) as the picture froze mid-sentence although they continued to speak, I thought the event was a fantastic success.

metropolisThe day started with a discussion on the future of “Smart Cities” or to be more accurate, “Smarter Cities” as the concept of an actual “Smart City” is still work-in-progress.

The relationship between a “Smarter City” and sustainability is overwhelming.

By 2037, half the world’s population will live in cities in “emerging markets” according to current estimates. For example, up until 2050, six of the 25 fastest growing major cities in the world will be in India, with seven in China and not a single one in the so-called developed world. And while Kinshasa is set to be the fastest growing city from 2015 to 2020, New Delhi is set to overtake it in 2020-2025.

This seismic shift in the balance of people moving out of the rural and into the urban environment promises to deliver huge economic gains for the newly urbanising countries.

Some experts believe that a 5% increase in urbanisation leads to 10% in per capita economic activity with a particular “sweet spot” for countries with an urbanisation rate of 30-50%.

Despite the excitement that such headlines create, early on in the discussion it was clear that the concept of a “Smart City” had in fact got off to the wrong start.

Instead of human design leading the change in the way we like to live, work and play and the concept of the “Smart City” being built from this perspective, it was technologists that had driven the thinking on what a “Smart City” was all about.

Technology wasn’t the change. It was an enabler of change. That was something I’d learnt when I was with the firm over 20 years’ ago. Yet there was this disconnect between technology and human behaviour that needed to be re-wired, so to speak.

An international conference in Singapore had just been looking at how the concept of a “Smart City” could revolutionise the way in which society could be transformed as well as driving a new era of growth for business and social entrepreneurs.

With such a compelling vision of the future, what were the road blocks to creating a “Smarter City” of tomorrow? Well, quite a few judging from the analysis presented and probably far too much detail to cover in one blog.

GerWhat grabbed my attention were the observations made by Ger Baron, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the City of Amsterdam. The city has a small population of just over 1m and was one of the first places in the world to have every household broadband enabled whilst the rest of Europe was still struggling with 56K dial up. And the fact that Ger was a CTO of a city was an interesting concept in its own right!

“Most cities don’t have social design” explained Ger. “Collaboration and alliances are important and yet cities aren’t really good at organising and creating the conditions where this happens.”

What Ger and the other experts agreed on was that for the “Smarter City” concept to succeed, power needed to be devolved from central Government and put into the hands of the Mayor responsible for running the city.

It started to sound like the re-election manifesto for Boris Johnson!

If sustainability was to be hard wired into the “Smarter City” concept, then the Mayor needed to have the power to make the necessary changes required in order to achieve the productivity and economic gains that could be delivered as a result.

The debate covered other topics such sharing best practice between “Smarter Cities” so that economic gains could be accelerated, but we’re a long way off from this happening on a regular basis.

New DehliWhere the “Smarter City” concept looks like taking off is in the developing world where the errors and mistakes made in the developed world can be avoided.

And perhaps that’s a prize worth having given the fragile state of our planet, where by the middle of this century the global urban population will almost double from approximately four billion to over eight billion people in 2050.

PR industry saves millions in licensing fees as a result of CJEU verdict

Court-of-Justice-of-the-EC-in-LuxembourgThe Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg has affirmed the legal position that internet users have the right to browse news sites without the threat of infringing copyright law.

The argument, put forward by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) that represents the interests of media owners, was that even temporary electronic copies made on an individual’s computer required a licence and a licence fee to be paid and this could have cost the PR industry many millions in licensing fees had the ruling of CJEU clarified the legal position today.

The CJEU accepted all of the legal arguments of the PRCA, the largest professional body representing the interests of the PR industry in the UK and Meltwater, the news aggregation service.

The CJEU in its 12 page judgment agreed that browsing and viewing articles online doesn’t require authorisation from the copyright owner.

Although today’s judgment is a victory for common sense, the NLA had vigorously pursued the argument that millions in licensing fees should end up in the bank account of its members and looked to the PR industry as a potential source of new income.

Such a move can now be seen as being short sighted and the decision of the EJEU completely vindicates the PRCA and Meltwater in standing up to the NLA over this issue.

What this expensive and time consuming legal action has done is to have strengthened negative perceptions about the conduct of the NLA.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, the NLA would have been better placed to have used its energy and resources in fostering a stronger working relationship with the PR industry as clearly this will have served the interests of its members much more effectively over the longer term. Instead, the PRCA and Meltwater were forced to engage in expensive legal proceedings not just through the Supreme Court in the UK but also to the CJEU in Luxembourg.

The judgment means that Internet users are now protected by the temporary copy exception of EU copyright law when they read or browse content online.

Francis-InghamPRCA Director General Francis Ingham observes: “We are utterly delighted that the CJEU has accepted all of our arguments against the NLA, which represents eight national newspapers. The Court of Justice, like the Supreme Court before them, understands that the NLA’s attempts to charge for reading online content do not just affect the PR world, but the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to browse the Internet. This is a huge step in the right direction for the courts as they seek ways to deal with the thorny issues of Internet use and copyright law.”

Clearly the ruling supports the principle of internet freedom across the European Union and serves the interests of business, technology and millions of internet users and ensures protection from being accused of copyright infringement.

In April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone should be free to visit and read or browse a newspaper website without fear of infringing copyright law.

Lord SumptionIn his judgment, Lord Jonathan Sumption explained it was desirable that any decision on the point of accessing such content be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

In a previous UK Copyright Tribunal ruling, the PRCA and Meltwater were successful in reducing the fees for all businesses, saving millions for UK businesses.

Ardi Kolah is author of Essential Law for Marketers and an Elected Member of the Council of the PRCA.

New distance selling regulations take effect on 13 June 2014

online-shopAll customer contracts for the supply of goods and services need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency as on the 13 June the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 comes into force.

These new Regulations replace the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling Regulations) 2000 and the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumers Home or Place of Work Regulations 2008 (known as the Doorstep Selling Regulations).

The new Regulations implement the EU Consumer Rights Directive that brings together a number of disparate existing rules. Currently, European rules on consumer rights are contained in four separate EU directives covering unfair contracts, distance selling, doorstep selling and sales and guarantees, respectively.

As discussed in my latest book, Essential Law for Marketers, the problem with these EU regulations is that they were made in a rather haphazard fashion and many were written almost three decades ago. The Consumer Rights Directive will, it’s hoped, ‘harmonize’ these existing regulations and give consumers more clarity about their rights when buying and selling in Europe.
Broadly speaking, the purpose for the EU Directive is to ensure that customers can be confident about making purchases within Europe, particularly online, and from businesses in other European countries outside of their own.

Under the new Regulations, distance sales remain as contracts where the retailer and purchaser aren’t in the same physical location. The new Regulations also apply to off-premises sales where the buyer and seller are in the same physical location but the location isn’t the business premises of the seller.

Whilst some provisions remain similar to the previous legislation the new Regulations will require some important changes in the way retailers contract with customers.

Cancellation and cooling off

There are now new consumer protection measures relating to the failure to inform customers of their right of cancellation. In such cases, the cancellation period will be suspended until the customer is made aware of their rights.

In the event that the retailer doesn’t inform the customer at all then the cancellation right of the customer is automatically extended a full year beyond the date at which it would’ve ended.

This means that failure to inform customers of their cancellation rights can create considerable periods of uncertainty for retailers over the return of goods.

Some of the other key changes under the new Regulations include a 14 calendar days ‘cooling off’ period that extends the existing statutory 7 days cooling off period for distance contracts.

However, exemptions to the cooling off period still exist for goods that have a short shelf life, like foodstuffs or goods that have been altered or personalised for customers in some way, such a pair of trousers that has been shortened and as a result are incapable of being returned to the merchant.

Confirmation of order

From next month, retailers will also have to provide customers with confirmation of the purchase at the time of delivery or before any service is performed. Whilst this is no different from an instantaneous confirmation email provided by the retailer, retailers should be aware that they need to provide a full description of the goods and services purchased including their characteristics and the full price including tax and any additional charges or delivery prices.

Shopping basket and check-out online

Consumers are also entitled to more information when they shop online. At the shopping basket stage of the order process, retailers must make them fully aware that completing the transaction will result in the order being accepted and a charge will apply.

For online orders, pre-ticked boxes for delivery options above ordinary postage or delivery options won’t be acceptable and shoppers will need to complete these details for themselves.

In all contracts, and unless the customer has expressly agreed otherwise, goods must be delivered within 30 calendar days of purchase.

Right to a refund

Perhaps one of the most far reaching changes made by the Regulations is that retailers like Amazon have a new obligation to refund customers within 14 calendar days of any order being cancelled and correspondingly customers have an obligation to return items within 14 calendar days of such cancellation.

Purchase of MP3 and other digital products online

Electronic content such as MP3 and video purchases are now classified as “digital content” and as such online retailers must now provide details of any technical functionality and any restrictions on the content. The reason behind this is that consumers should have better information in order to make informed purchasing decisions as such digital products are incapable of being returned once these have been downloaded and as a result, the purchase price can’t be refunded.

Customer helplines

One of the practices used by some retailers in using premium rate telephone numbers for customer helplines is no longer permitted and customers can only now be charged at the standard rate.

Disciplinary revamp by CIPR to strengthen public confidence

max-cliffordMembers of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) have watched in horror as showbiz publicist Max Clifford was arrested for a string of highly serious sexual offences and is now serving a custodial sentence behind bars. Clifford never applied for membership of the CIPR in his entire career and if he had when I was the CIPR Chairman of Membership, I would’ve rejected his application.

The full extent of Clifford’s deception wasn’t known to many of us who in fact had previous dealings with him. But I was aware of how he conducted his business and the way he manipulated clients and the media in order to make himself into an extraordinarily wealthy individual with a correspondingly scant regard or respect for others.

Clifford appeared in PR Week’s ‘definitive guide to the most influential people in PR’. I bet they are regretting that ever happened.

Ethical standards are and must continue to be the hallmark of anyone who wants to be accepted as a PR professional. And those standards apply whether the person is acting in a professional or personal capacity. It’s bonkers to think that someone should be let off the hook if they choose to behave in an unethical way in their private life.

So I’m personally delighted that the CIPR has taken the opportunity to revise the structure of panels and committees through which it manages the Code of Conduct and adjudicates on complaints about members.

All CIPR members are bound by the Code, which sets out the professional standards expected of them and regulates their conduct in the public interest, as required by the Institute’s Royal Charter.  Any member of the public who has concerns about the conduct of a CIPR member may raise a complaint under the Code of Conduct.

Royal-Courts-of-Justice5In 2013, the CIPR’s governing Council voted to reform how the Code and complaints are managed. The changes bring the CIPR up to date with best practice in line with the ILEX ruling by the Court of Appeal.

The ILEX Ruling

In October 2011, the Court of Appeal ruled in a case between Mrs Darsho Kaur and the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) that members of the ILEX Council shouldn’t have taken part in disciplinary hearings against Mrs Kaur because of ‘apparent bias’ and because no one should be ‘a judge in their own cause’ which is a fundamental principle of jurisprudence.

The Court of Appeal noted that the presence of one or more lay members in a disciplinary committee didn’t ‘insulate’ Council members from the appearance of bias or the conflict of interest; having in place ‘an underlying fair procedure doesn’t make up for a perception of the real possibility of bias’ and many of the professions’ regulators have been moving towards ‘complete insulation of their regulatory functions from their representative functions.

In the judgment of the Court of Appeal ‘…  the fact that the charge against Mrs Kaur was of “conduct unbefitting to ILEX or likely to bring ILEX into disrepute” underlines the interest of ILEX and its governance in upholding its professional standards.”

The power of the ILEX disciplinary tribunal to impose fines “again demonstrates the importance of proper separation of the disciplinary panels from those concerned with the overall governance of the organisation” said the judges.

The ruling had implications for any membership organisation including the CIPR that has always attempted to resolve complaints against its members amicably and where that fails, through more formal procedures.

New system of handling complaints against members

Since 1 January 2014, handling complaints has been the responsibility of the new Professional Standards Panel. There is also a newly constituted Appeals Panel and an Arbiter.

The panels have been recruited from the CIPR membership against set criteria, with no panel member allowed to serve on the CIPR Council or Executive Board in any capacity.

Recruitment took place between December 2013 and March 2014 and was ratified by the CIPR Council in April this year.  

The CIPR members of panels are joined by ‘lay members’, who aren’t PR practitioners. Their independence reinforces the CIPR’s commitment to a fair, open and impartial process. The CIPR retains a Regulatory Consultant who acts the first point of contact for complaints and advises both parties, and the CIPR itself, through the process.

The new Appeals Panel consists of Caroline Binnie,  Paul Mylrea, Heather Yaxley, Paul Noble, Matt Appleby, Sue Appleby, Claire Walker and Ardi Kolah.

“These reforms have brought the CIPR’s already strong processes firmly into line with best practice. By recruiting volunteers to participate in hearings from outside of the Institute’s key governance committees, we have addressed the possibility, however slight, of a conflict of interest arising between the aims of the organisation and a just process of professional regulation,” says Sarah Hall, Chair of the CIPR Professional Practices Committee.

stephen-waddingtonStephen Waddington the current CIPR President, adds:

“The CIPR Code of Conduct is a critical part of our work and fundamental to the development of enforceable professional standards for public relations. Our processes have been developed through years of application and clients, employers and the general public can have confidence in them as a means of holding members to account for their conduct.

“Members should also be assured that a rigorous approach is first and foremost in the interests of the profession and that they can and should highlight their accountability to a meaningful system of self-regulation as a key element in their personal professionalism.”

Ardi Kolah is author of Essential Law for Marketers (£19.99). Order your copy for a 30% discount.

Latest jobs Jobs web feed