Imagine entering your workplace in a 3D world and heading into a meeting room where you greet your virtual colleagues. It feels like you are together, but in fact, you are at home wearing a VR headset as indeed they are, and perhaps on the other side of the world. We might not be too far off from this scenario.
The increased adoption of VR and augmented reality (AR) are evolving both work and play. In the short space of a few months, AR and VR have become inherently tied to the world of communications. When Facebook underwent a major rebrand and unveiled themselves as Meta last October, widening its reach outside of social media into the virtual reality space, the world took notice. And when Big Tech sets a trend, people follow. Virtual reality has even been touted as the next new way to experience hands-on training and development.
Modern workers are no strangers to communicating remotely. But the substantial impact of these technologies on the comms world will be their power to help us collaborate in ways that were unheard of before, bringing people together who might not otherwise meet, enabling authentic human interactions. From allowing creativity to flourish, to enabling communication (in a virtual space) with people across the globe. Here are my top three ways that VR could enhance your comms efforts:
Your space plays a key role in how creative you are. And for those of us in the comms industry, creativity is our driving force. If you do not feel inspired and comfortable in your surroundings, you will not perform at your best. Virtual spaces have the power to be much more effective than physical spaces in this way – simulating reality and allowing us to work in a virtual world where possibilities are endless.
VR meetings are also a powerful tool. Unlike Zoom calls, VR meetings enable you to see the physical presence of colleagues, making it much more like an in-person meeting. Understanding body language and the dynamics in the room are a valuable tool for gauging the feelings of your colleagues and making decisions accordingly. Plus, we can break free of the traditional office setting – who wouldn’t like to conduct meetings or draft an article, from the beach, or an inspiring historical landmark if that were possible one day?
As comms professionals, it is crucial to meet our audience where they are. Emotional connections are important, particularly for brands that are seeking to bolster authenticity in their interactions with potential customers. In fact, this is the heart of our business. People need to feel seen and heard in order to engage – and VR has the immense power to help with this, by leveraging technology that enables human connections regardless of location. Authenticity is also important when communicating with customers and clients – it’s crucial that we don’t underestimate the importance of a virtual hug during a time when many have been distanced.
How virtual reality could influence our daily lives has been a hot topic , described as the future of work, and for good reason. At the moment, the technology almost seems too good to be true – because it has the power to create a new level of seamless collaboration that was unheard of a few years ago. Brainstorming sessions are more powerful in person, and when physical location is no longer a factor, it is limitless what could be achieved.
VR has the power to make our day-to-day business easier, more productive, and more authentic – which is crucial for organisations to flourish. And while this technology is still developing, it could change everything that we know about human interaction and collaboration in the space of a few short years.
Some say that January feels like the ‘longest’ month of the year – and while that might not technically be true, it certainly went by in a blur. Now that February is done, we’ve had time to get in the swing of things and plan for the year ahead. People are shifting their focus away from the year that was, and thinking – what comes next?
The holidays have officially ended, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and people seem to be looking to escape reality even further – stories about the metaverse, cryptocurrencies and other novel concepts dominated the headlines this month.
For those worried about robots taking over, this might not have been the best month. February was characterised by developments in the Artificial Intelligence space, with scientists in Japan developing a robot child with the ability to convey six facial expressions. Research also revealed that in many cases, AI-created faces appear more trustworthy than the real deal. Humans are not skilled at distinguishing between human faces and fake ones, making it important for safeguards to prevent the circulation of ‘deepfakes’ online.
People can now go on dates in the metaverse, and McDonalds even announced that they plan to open restaurants there by registering trademarks in the virtual space. YouTube also revealed plans for 2022, introducing the idea of verifying NFTs and watching games in the metaverse. Disney appointed an executive to oversee its metaverse strategy, joining other big tech giants as they invest millions in the virtual world.
There was, however, some worrying news from the metaverse, as experts raised concerns that violence and harassment are rampant, and steps should be taken to ensure that people remain safe when joining the virtual world. As Meta pivoted its strategy to the metaverse, the team hit a snag at the beginning of the month, with reports that they considered shutting down Facebook and Instagram in Europe if unable to process data from European users on US-based servers.
The cryptoverse sparked conversation, as investors set their sights on ‘’altcoins’’ to power online games and worlds. Bitcoin attempted to reassert its dominance over smaller challengers in the crypto space. Reports indicated that some cryptocurrencies have an enormous carbon footprint and could be damaging to the environment, leading experts to search for eco-friendly methods of engaging in virtual trading.
Gaming news took centre stage this month. Reports from 2021 revealed that the UK video game industry is booming, with M&A investment hitting £1.9bn last year. Wordle took the world by storm, and fans were shocked when the game was purchased by the New York Times, potentially putting the ability to play the game for free in jeopardy. After Microsoft’s purchase of industry-leading gaming company Activision Blizzard last month, Microsoft pledged to play fair as it sought public approval on the $68.7bn deal.
In futuristic health tech news, new technology is being trialled that enables paralysed people to walk again with an implant that mimics the away the spinal cord is activated by the brain. A medical trial being conducted on Australian sheep is also paving the way to help blind people see again through bionic eye technology.
That’s it for February’s tech news roundup. Sign up for our daily Firewire newsletter to get updates on top stories in the world of tech.
The end of last year seemed somewhat of a blur with the scramble to finish off campaigns, deliver end of year reports, start prepping for 2022 and not to mention personal planning for the holidays. So, for some, keeping abreast of technology news last month may not have been a priority.
Not to worry though, we have you covered. Here is a roundup of some tech news from the past month.
The battle for online safety privacy continued as Twitter prevented users from sharing pictures and videos of others without their permission, and Twitch rolled out AI to prevent banned users from rejoining the site. Shortly after this, proposals to make big changes to the UK’s Online Safety Bill were also announced.
The end of the year also announced a number of firsts:
There were also challenges for some of the biggest names in tech, with many placed under scrutiny. The Uber business model was challenged by both the UK and EU and, not long after, gig economy workers demanded visibility into how the apps they worked for used algorithms to make decisions. Apple and Google also faced criticism for holding a smartphone market monopoly by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Finally, separate outages hit AWS and Google’s calendar app, affecting thousands of customers.
In more positive news, there was lots of evidence that 2021 was a good year for many. The UK’s Digital Economy Council found that a quarter of the UK’s unicorns were created in 2021 alone, spotlighting the year as a time for innovation in the tech sector. And, on the ground, Strava’s data showed that people were 38% more active in 2021 than 2020. It’s good to hear we’ve all been taking care of ourselves! Although, let’s be honest, that may have tailed off during the festive period for some (most) of us…
And that’s it for our January roundup! Want to receive a daily news roundup of the biggest tech stories? Sign up to our Firewire here.
One of the tech stories that really caught my eye this month is Facebook’s focus on developing the metaverse. Recently, the company announced that it plans to hire 10,000 employees in the EU to work on this so-called metaverse, and it got me thinking – will the metaverse force us into changing the way we communicate, or will it just be another tech plaything that doesn’t really go anywhere?
When I think of the metaverse, I immediately imagine the OASIS from Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, one of my favourite sci-fi novels. In the book, the OASIS is described as “a massively multiplayer online game that had gradually evolved into the globally network virtual reality most of humanity now use on a daily basis,. The Steven Spielberg film adaptation of the book gives us a more fanciful description of the OASIS as, “a place where the limits of reality are your own imagination… except for eating, sleeping and bathroom breaks, whatever people want to do, they do it in the OASIS. And since everyone is here, this is where we meet each other. This is where we make friends.”
Could this be the Facebook vision? Could Mark Zuckerberg be the new James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS in the novel?
Maybe not exactly (and considering how the plot develops in the book, you kind of hope not either!) In fact, no one quite really knows yet what the real-life metaverse could look like, probably not even Zuckerberg himself. What we do know, in a broader sense, is that it’s going to be some kind of future iteration of the internet, made up of “virtual spaces” linked to a perceived virtual universe – that’s according to the Wikipedia’s description anyway.
This kind of concept is already beginning to enter our world – remember those Travis Scott and Ariana Grande’s concerts in Fortnite last year? Fortnite enthusiasts were thrusted into an immersive concert experience during gameplay, with each individual player able to freely roam around, “watching” the concert in whatever way they wanted. It was an immersive experience and a huge hit for Fortnite, to say the least, and we can expect the metaverse to be the next step up from this.
Levelling up immersive technology
Facebook doesn’t expect the true metaverse to be up and running until at least ten years from now, mainly because the immersive technology is not quite up to scratch yet, and, let’s face it, with Facebook’s history, no doubt they’ll be a few regulatory challenges along with way. That said, VR and AR have already come a long way since inception, with VR gaming particularly taking off in the last decade, and AR making waves in marketing campaigns and other commercial industries. But it’s still not something the average person comes across in their daily routine – this is the metaverse’s challenge at the moment. It’s a huge risk to spend time and money creating a whole new virtual world that’s only accessible via VR headsets or other equipment, only to find out that a limited number of people can access it because of the high price of the equipment and the computing power that is often needed to provide a well-executed VR experience.
It certainly will be a challenge to get the metaverse fully up and running, whether Facebook make the breakthrough or not, but investors are seeing the potential of it too – especially with COVID-19 separating friends and families, and people longing for a connection that isn’t just on a screen, you can totally see it becoming a way to better connect people.
What it means to communicate in the metaverse
Infrastructure and tech aside, though, if we really are seeing the metaverse in the next ten years, a real-life OASIS that could end up being our new normal, what will the affect be on the way we communicate?
For a start, in the corporate world, those long work Zoom calls could become a little more interesting in the metaverse. Imagine being able to see more than just a talking head on a screen and being able to walk around a virtual meeting room, or even a virtual office? Virtual meetings may become more inclusive, and a near-real life atmosphere of in-person meetings. There’s potential for meetings to become more creative if the metaverse allows for employees to create their own avatars or characters in the metaverse, which could completely change the perception and culture of your company, and how you communicate with your stakeholders. You could even have a metaverse CEO or leadership team and mould them into whoever you want them to be, regardless of who they really are on the outside. Quite a scary thought!
From a consumer-perspective, the metaverse could allow for an even better and personalised customer experience. Retailers could offer more immersive “try before you buy” services, like getting your metaverse person to try on the clothes you want in real-life. The ability of the metaverse to create pretty much any virtual environment also further feeds our curiosity about the world – Wikipedia pages in the metaverse could get a lot more chilling, if they’re able to transform them into an immersive experience, that’s for sure! But it could also help put more emphasis and action on certain topics too – like, if we’re able to immerse ourselves into the true effects of climate change in 50 or 100 years’ time in the metaverse, people, companies and governments may be more inclined to drive further action in the real world because they would be able to see and feel the affect it actually has – something which is difficult to communicate currently.
It goes without saying, though, that any new form of connectivity and experience in the virtual world doesn’t come without its issues when it comes to communication – the spread misinformation, cyberbullying and self-image issues are just some of the issues that have been born out of the social media era, and who’s to say that they could also be transcended in the metaverse too? If the metaverse aims to be like the OASIS, where anyone can be who they want to be, it could raise concerns of deceit between individuals if they aren’t who they say they are, scuppering relationships when they find out who they’re actually communicating with in real life. There also remains the ethics behind isolated worlds being owned by different companies and collecting our data, and monetising on every move we do in the metaverse. Beside what’s happening in the metaverse, there are also the concerns of what it could be doing to us as individuals on the outside and our real life communications – having even less distance from reality could spur on a mental health crisis, and while we might interact with more humans in the metaverse, the real human connection will still be lacking. To quote Ready Player One: “I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realised, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
Whatever the metaverse might become in the future, whether it be a place we use in our daily lives, in our working lives, or simply as leisure, it will provoke huge shift in the way that we communicate and interact with each other. From even bigger, better and more personalised immersive storytelling to the rise and creation of fictitious influencers that only appear and take part in the metaverse. And as comms professionals, it could really be a gamechanger, whether we like it or not. We must be ready to take into account the opportunities in the metaverse, as well as the real impacts that the metaverse could have on an individual in the outside world.
The metaverse might not be arriving for a few years, but when it does, we must be ready for it.
Autumn is the season for new beginnings. Young people are back at school and parents are returning to the office – making this the ideal time of year to reflect on how we spend our time and what we can do to balance work and life.
As the days get shorter, darker and busier technology has the power to make our lives easier, but also the capacity to make them infinitely more complicated. In our pockets we hold the key to improving our physical and mental health through fitness, meditation and time management apps. On the other hand, smartphones can also damage our mental health through access to social media and ever-present news alerts delivering a brand-new reason to be anxious.
The top tech stories of the month reflect an increased focus on the power of tech to cure societal ills and also to exacerbate them.
Health tech is certainly having its moment. New inventions have the ability to monitor our health in ways that would have been inconceivable in the past. Probably in part due to the pandemic driving an increase in need for virtual health solutions, devices like Fitbit which were initially conceived to track fitness goals are now able to detect everything from skin temperature, stress and oxygen saturation to breathing rate.
Fitbit’s new snore detection feature gives a more holistic view of the user’s health by detecting abnormalities in sleep. Scientists have also devised a T-shirt that monitors the heart rate of the wearer with more accuracy than a chest strap. It’s safe to say that we can expect more health tech innovations on the horizon.
In addition to new technology that can potentially cure our physical woes, stories about the impact of social media on our mental health have dominated the headlines this month – and with good reason.
With the Age Appropriate Design Code coming into effect this month and sending shockwaves through the tech community, a spotlight has been shone on the potentially harmful impact of social media and unregulated internet access on the mental wellbeing of children and young people.
In August, Apple announced plans to begin scanning iCloud to detect photos of child sex abuse. The initiative was widely criticised by child privacy campaigners, which led to Apple indefinitely postponing the launch of the software earlier this month.
After revelations that Facebook knew about Instagram’s negative effects on the mental health of teenagers but did not act, a UK lawmaker, who is scrutinising the new heavily-critiqued Online Safety Bill, called for Facebook to be punished if they withhold evidence that social media channels can harm users.
Some social media companies are taking actions to combat the negative impacts of their platform on users’ mental health. Earlier this month, Twitter began testing a new safety mode to silence abuse and trolling on their platform. TikTok has also begun to roll out a new feature to help users that may be having suicidal thoughts. If users search terms such as ‘suicide’ they will be directed towards mental health support and local resources in their community.
While small, these actions have the power to really impact lives for the better. It’s common knowledge that technology opens the door to endless possibilities for solving physical and mental health issues, while also potentially causing significant harm to our mental health. As we enter the Autumn months, we all have to strike a balance to determine how much, and in what ways, we allow our tech to influence our daily lives.
That’s all for our September tech news roundup. Want to receive daily alerts to the top stories in tech? Sign up to Firewire here.
Last year, we witnessed a rather successful period for investment, seeing the highest amount of global IPO activity in a decade. This flurry continued into 2021, where the UK alone saw more than 50 companies go public, which was more than we saw in the whole of 2020. With the spate of floatation’s this year, are we seeing a healthier investment landscape?
What’s particularly interesting to see is that the second quarter of 2021 was the busiest in the US for tech listings for two whole decades. This is perhaps not surprising seeing as there has been a huge shift in the digital transformation during the pandemic, and a lot of the companies assisting us with this shift were able to attract new investment following their rapid growth during this period. This gust of IPO activity wasn’t solely in the US, as the UK experienced its own busy period seeing more IPOs during the first two quarters of 2021 compared with the whole of 2020.
Despite seeing a healthy market for IPOs in the UK, there still seems to be a redundance of tech companies coming over to list in the UK. It is well known that tech companies are put off by London’s stringent listing regulations and prefer an easier journey across the pond, but earlier this year, star players made their debut on the London market. Trust Pilot, Darktrace and Wise are a handful of firms that are paving the way for other tech companies to join them, following their successful IPOs which saw some of the stocks more than double in value. Unfortunately this wasn’t the tale for all tech listings in the UK after the highly anticipated listing of Deliveroo tumbled seeing the share price fall more than 30% on its first appearance. Luckily for them, shares have now somewhat recovered, finally creeping above its original listing price.
To assist with attracting more tech investment in London, UK regulators have now planned to reduce some of these rules, making it easier for tech companies to list in the UK to compete with the US and Europe post-Brexit. Along with this, here are our thoughts on why the UK is heating up as a top tech listing destination:
Dual-class share structures
Dual-class capital structures have been used in some of the most high-profile IPOs by technology companies, including the offerings by Facebook, Google and LinkedIn. Although there is an argument that dual-class structures destroy shareholder value, there is compelling evidence that these structures can benefit companies, shareholders, and capital markets. Some critics argue the listing rules applicable to the premium segment should be amended to permit dual-class share structures, alleviating the risk of a founder being derailed and removed as director. When a company’s reputation is tied to its founder, it means that the communication efforts to put a face and expertise to a brand isn’t lost.
Continued digital shift
The digital shift we are witnessing has been a long time coming especially with the accelerating effects of the pandemic. While the impact of Covid-19 has had a negative impact on many businesses, tech stocks have continued to boom. Whilst we are all keen to see the back of Covid, the efficiencies we’ve seen from moving many aspects of our lives online has been undisputed. If this digital wave continues to take off, we are likely to see more activity on the UK stock exchange as investors will back these techies who are experiencing rapid growth.
Leading tech eco-system
Companies will be attracted to list in London, with its lively tech scene, and access to all the right people in a diverse and strong talent pool. In addition to this, access to high-quality funding also demonstrates the depth of capital in the ecosystem, with the average seed round in London standing at £470k, compared with the global average of £360k. Entrepreneurs must innovate faster as we launch into a new era of digital transition, and many are flocking to build within the UK economy. In such a high-paced environment, tech firms will need to balance communications strategies carefully to engage with all stakeholders – potential new customers, existing customer, future workforce and investors.
London has already been crowned the tech capital of Europe, and with the market already looking healthier post-Covid-19, we are hopefully waiting to see more homegrown tech players make the transition from private to public.
The last days of summer are upon us, as leaves start to fall and we sharpen our pencils for the return to school, and for some of us, back to the office.
August, traditionally a month for holidays and time off, has seen many of us staycationing around the UK, as we wait for the traffic lights to change green. Brits are looking to escape to the sand and the sea in particular; with Devon and Cornwall two of the most popular locations of choice. However, though many of us have enjoyed our holidays, the world of tech certainly hasn’t taken a break! Here’s our round up of our favourite and extraordinary tech stories from August.
The streaming revolution has completely changed the way we view shows and movies, as we flick through thousands of options on our devices, whether to binge our guilty pleasure reality TV shows or hard-hitting true crime series. Late to the game, industry player Disney+ has posted a higher than expected user jump with 12.4 million new subscribers between April and June alone, and is now boasting a total of 116 million subscribers. Still, there’s a way to go until it catches up to Netflix, which boasts a massive 209 million subscribers.
Talking entertainment, TikTok has officially been heralded the world’s most downloaded app in 2020 as it beat out the other top four apps, all owned by Facebook. TikTok’s algorithmic feed of videos (the For You page) on your phone, provides addicting, never-ending entertainment as it builds a customised model of your favourite content. No wonder then that it has 500 million users.
We have all turned to our devices for almost every day-to-day interaction; ordering drinks at the bar, making payments with the sharp decline of cash and even tracking our mood; but the question this month in the headlines: the privacy conundrum. We routinely input data into our phones – and it’s a treasure-trove of information. Every day we are asked to upload our name, email, payment details, address, age etc. in apps or on sites without always completely understanding where our personal information will be stored. Should we have to hand this all over, to grab drink at the pub or a coffee on our way to work?
One company also making headlines around privacy concerns is Apple. The company has pledged a new anti-child abuse safeguarding system through tech searches for matches of abuse material on images uploaded to iCloud storage, but some critics argue it could be a ‘backdoor’ to spy on people. WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart called Apple’s system “very concerning”, stating WhatsApp will not adopt the technique.
Finally, good news, a huge breakthrough in the possibility to diagnosis dementia with AI with just one brain scan, as researchers from the University of Cambridge start trials to test their approach. Algorithms within their AI system will detect patterns in brain scans to identify the disease far earlier, giving doctors greater confidence in interpreting scans. It’s in its early stages, but definitely gives us hope!
That is our August roundup! Want to receive a daily news roundup of the biggest tech stories? Sign up to our Firewire here.
It’s happened, we finally made it! Restrictions have been lifted and we can all take those masks off, just in time for the summer to really kick in. This news is welcome for many, but there are still a lot of us who are worried about infection rates and of course, our wonderful NHS. This is clearly not the end of the road with Covid but it’s the beginning of us trying to move forward carefully.
Companies are slowly navigating their way back into the office with most of them adopting the hybrid working model. Interestingly, some of our big tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon want their employees in at least three days a week, whereas Spotify and Facebook as letting its managers decide what’s best. It’s safe to say, it probably won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ scenario here.
With tech in mind, let’s run through some of the standout stories we’ve seen this month!
Earlier in July we all gathered round for the highly anticipated final of the Euros, where we watched England and Italy go head-to-head. With a penalty shootout being the decider of the winner, England unfortunately fell short, and Italy took the trophy! But the saddest part about this was the horrific online racist abuse that our young talented boys had to face after. There was a huge uproar in reaction and social media companies were being called out to do more to stop this abuse. Boris Johnson called on the big tech companies to attend Downing Street to discuss what more they can do about online abuse, pledging to take action via its online safety bill.
On a more positive note, Netflix are reportedly planning on going into gaming, hiring Mike Verdu, a former EA executive to lead the way. In the next year we will see games be available at no further cost to the current subscription. I’m sure this will do well in attracting a whole new range of customers.
Looking at the stock exchange now, and the FCA is looking to make changes to the listing regulations in a bid to attract more tech companies. Although, the private UK tech sector is doing well with the likes of Revolut, now the UK’s most valuable tech company following its $800m raise. Reportedly, investors poured more money into private start-ups this year so far compared to the whole of 2020!
And last but not least, and by far my most favourite story this month, a student has designed a potentially life-saving device that has the potential to rapidly stop blood loss from stab wounds. We love to see these impressive innovations coming through, especially from such young talent!
That’s all for now! Want to receive a daily news roundup of the biggest tech stories? Sign up to our Firewire here.
At this point, we’ve all heard of burnout. Some of us have probably experienced it in some form or another – especially as most of us are putting in an extra two hours on average each day while working from home. Recently, a handful of employees from Goldman Sachs came forward to reveal that they were working a shocking 90-hour week. Even if that’s over six days, that’s 15 hours a day!
Disgruntled employees have the power to damage a company’s reputation in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t need to be a huge scandal, but an organisation’s reputation is dictated by everything that is said about them, externally and internally. In the case of Goldman Sachs, employees have been sent “sympathy hampers” but one employee felt that the company “should be doing more to recognise the gruelling demands placed on the lowest-ranking staff”. A hamper may not be enough to rectify these wrongs, but what can be done? The employees at Goldman Sachs seemingly had no other option than to take this internal issue external. In this case, a lot will need to be done to fix it, but issues like this can be prevented with the right analysis and proactive steps.
Internal communication is a key part of enabling employees to perform their job well. Strong internal communication can help foster company culture, build engagement, and help employees to feel both physically and emotionally safe. But before diving into fixing a company’s internal issues, you must understand the current sentiment of your workforce.
The only real way to understand is to talk to the people it directly concerns – the employees. In the case of Goldman Sachs, it’s unlikely that the employees are choosing to work long hours, it’s more likely that this is a cultural expectation. In this case, there were probably tell-tale signs of this, but these cultural expectations can unknowingly pop-up. A lot of change has happened in this past year, employees have formed new habits, new ways of working and new ways of adapting to something that was once so foreign, and naturally, what felt like short term changes have majorly impacted the workplace culture. The challenge now is to conduct an entire culture audit to assess where you are.
On top of evaluating company values, it’s important to look at the vision and mission to understand how much that resonates with the people. Through feedback and focus groups, it’s easier to see what behaviours are being rewarded. Then, diagnose issues such as overdemanding cultural expectations and tackle those bigger issues head on. It’s likely a lot of issues derive directly from employees feeling a disconnect, For Goldman Sachs, employees saying hampers are not enough to rectify the wrongs indicates that they want to be heard. But for people to speak up, you must create an environment of psychological safety, and introduce multiple ways to have those conversations.
Another practice to introduce is a ‘stop, start, continue’ feedback process. This allows employees to discuss what works for them, what doesn’t, and what new additions or methods would be helpful for them. With this, it’s much easier to diagnose issues and find solutions at the same time – two birds, one stone!
Once the issues are understood, it’s time to think about communication. Before deciding what to say, think about who is saying it. Should the announcement come from a team leader or is it more suited to a person in the leadership team? People will take these interactions in different ways and tailoring internal spokespeople for specific types of communication will help a lot.
On the flip side, it’s important to be aware of how easy and comfortable it is for employees to communicate back. For some people, in-person is better or over the phone but for others, they find it much easier to express themselves in writing. It’s really important to give the option of anonymity to employees too – people will speak more honestly and will feel safer. Try having a real-time FAQ and feedback platforms so employees can raise issues in the moment. By sitting on problems, we either forget about them or let them fester into something much bigger than they were at the time.
Internal communication isn’t just about responding to issues or communicating on major company announcements. It’s a way to keep the workforce connected, engaged, and excited – you want those two-way conversations to guarantee every employee is psychologically safe. Here are four top tips for better internal communication on an ongoing basis:
If you need any help with ensuring your internal communications is top notch, have a look at some of the services we offer or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of tech’s hottest stories this month was Deliveroo’s IPO. From the outset, Deliveroo should have been a runaway success on London’s stock market, given its healthy growth and backing from tech giants like Amazon. Instead, it set the record as London’s worst IPO in its history – not quite the success it expected. Pricing, timing, uncertain business prospects and its gig economy workforce were cited as the reasons for its flop, with the treatment of its workforce being of a particular concern among investors.
Whether it was simply the wrong timing for Deliveroo to go public, given the UK’s emergence out of lockdown, or that the numbers weren’t quite right to start with, there seems to be a shift in the way in which investors and fund managers are thinking about which companies to invest in. And a huge part of that shift involves reputation.
In the past, we’ve seen some of the fastest-growing tech start-ups have huge success on the stock market, and the repercussions have had a positive impact on their reputation too – dating app Bumble made its stock debut on Wall Street in February this year, making its founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the world’s youngest billionaire at age 31. Airbnb also went ahead with its IPO in December 2020, despite travel restrictions halting huge parts of its business, and the company still managed to see success, passing the market cap of travel giants Booking and Expedia and making it the 10th best debut in 2020 based on price gain from its IPO.
But what truly makes an IPO successful?
According to a report from PwC in 2019, elements that are likely to make IPOs more successful include the likes of: a large, growing addressable market, a unique and differentiated business model, and an attractive product or service, among others. All of which relate to business growth and appeal to the market, and all of which Deliveroo seemed to tick off from the outset. But investors are also beginning to factor in other elements, particularly those associated with reputation and ethics, when deciding to invest in companies. Larry Fink famously highlighted in his 2021 letter to CEOs that issues such as climate change and purpose are pivotal to creating durable value, and companies that pose a climate risk are also an investment risk. For Deliveroo, concerns over workers’ rights due to its gig economy-led workforce was a risk that investors weren’t willing to take, given the ethical and legal issues involved.
On the surface, the gig economy sounds like an appealing concept, to employees at least – workers are self-employed and often given the freedom to choose when and where they can work. It means they can potentially dip their toes into several industries if they want to and work in shifts which can be better for work life balance. It’s the ultimate flexible working scheme in modern employment, albeit with downsides, mainly that there is no fixed salary and other benefits that employees experience such as holiday or sick pay. This business model is coming under intense scrutiny by regulators, watchdogs and the judiciary. The Supreme Court recently ruled Uber drivers are workers rather than self-employed following a long-running legal battle, causing the share price to dip due to the impact the ruling could have on the viability of the firm’s business model.
And it’s not just the gig economy that has shed light on the treatment of workers and its effect on reputation. Throughout the pandemic, we saw many companies being called out for their poor treatment of staff when navigating furlough and redundancies, causing their customers to react by boycotting the brand completely. It’s no wonder that investors are becoming increasingly concerned over how businesses treat their staff when it could directly affect sales.
The investment game involves many, huge risks but it seems reputational risk is becoming progressively more common as investors focus on ways to improve their stances on ethics. Fund managers are shifting away from the traditional narrative and no longer want to be associated with companies that contribute to climate change, have the majority of their employees on zero-hour contracts or other ethical, social, and economic issues because of the potential reputational repercussions.
‘Ethical fund manager’ isn’t a term that is widely used yet in the investment industry, but with ethical investments outperforming traditional funds in recent years, it’s clear that the industry is moving forward in this way. Investors need to be aware of how a company is dealing with various issues that could potentially damage their business and if they don’t know how to deal with certain issues, it then becomes a reputational problem for the business and the investors – especially if it hits the headlines as a potential scandal and directly impacts the overall value of the business. In Deliveroo’s case, the gig economy model, while as modern as it is, could become a reputational problem in the future if they get into trouble with their employees.
That said, it could also end up going the opposite way too. Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit, which famously drove GameStop’s share price earlier this year, turned to investing in gorilla conservations more recently, much to the surprise of the big financial institutions. While the subreddit is made up of amateur investors, and therefore on a smaller scale, the move managed to increase awareness of the gorilla conservations, landing multiple stories in mainstream media – a win for awareness and their reputation.
Deliveroo’s IPO flop stemming from issues with its workers and how they are classified is a sign that companies need to take ethical issues just as seriously as other business operations in order to be successful in the market and protect their reputation, whether they decide to IPO or not.
Companies often view reputation as something to be protected during a crisis or major issues outbreak, but the truth is that reputations are being shaped all the time by both positive and negative factors. Forward-thinking companies will monitor and manage their reputations constantly, checking on the views of significant third parties, and putting plans in place to adapt to good news and bad!
Need help shaping your business’ reputation? Check out our Firefly Guide to Reputation Shaping, to find out more.
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