The current economic outlook is not what we’ve hoped for. With inflation rising to its highest level in 40 years, many businesses are rightly concerned about the future. Even some of the biggest tech companies are struggling with the current economic headwinds. Meta are slashing their hiring plans, while others are being forced to trim their current workforce.
While tough times lie ahead, managing the reputation of your company is a business imperative. After all, brand loyalty driven by a good reputation will keep your stakeholders in your corner, even when the going gets tough.
Businesses that have made it through pandemics and economic downturns have all had one thing in common – they’ve placed prominence on their company reputation, internally and externally.
Here are some key actions to consider when looking to create a recession proof reputation:
Embed reputation management into your company culture, so that your entire organisation is onboard with its importance. After all, the reputation of your organisation doesn’t just exist in the C-suite, it cuts across the entire organisation. For IT, it’s about protecting a company’s assets, no consumer wants their data leaked by a company. Whereas for HR, it’s important to be viewed as a good employer.
Stand out from the crowd
Not every company can be a Tesla or a Meta, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out. Most organisations have something worth shouting about. Find what that uniqueness is and leverage it and use it to connect with your employees and customers. Having a reputation for innovation, resilience, and agility will help engage your stakeholders and create a ‘halo effect’ with shareholders.
Reputation in the round
As well as engaging internal stakeholders, you should think carefully about your reputation in the round, by considering every avenue of your reputation. Your executives, press coverage, share of conversation, among other things, can have an impact on your reputation. There are multiple touchpoints, and you should be addressing each one.
‘Ensurance’ is the best policy Investing in your employees, suppliers, customers, and third parties is crucial and will pay dividends in the long run. Additionally, you should regularly audit internal policies, as well as those of your partners. While this is a laboursome process, it will ensure you’re covering all your bases. Above all, actions speak louder than words, so don’t be afraid to replace out of date policies or end relationships that no longer align with the values of your company or could be seen as harmful to your reputation.
The world has changed quite a bit recently and, arguably, this difference is most prominent in the working world. Although the amount of people working from home had been rising steadily for some time, homeworking has more than doubled over the past two years compared to pre-pandemic levels. 42% of UK workers now work a mixture of at home and in the office. Clearly, this meteoric shift in such a short space of time has profound implications for working life in general, but especially for the way that organisations communicate.
Maintaining robust internal communications
Internal communication has always been vital to the overall strategy of any firm. Multi-year Gallup research found that employee disengagement costs the UK economy £52-£70 billion per year. In this new working world of ours, with the significant shift towards remote/flexible working, serious questions have arisen as to how to communicate effectively within your team, in multiple locations, via the myriad technological platforms we now have at our disposal.
Critical to this venture is being aware of what personalities you have within your organisation, and subsequently knowing the most effective way to keep them happy, informed and engaged. With people being in the office a lot less, knowing and understanding your colleagues has become a much more complicated task. Video conferencing technology is an incredible tool and without it the last couple of years would have been very rocky indeed, but it can also be stunted. As we lack reading non-verbal cues and body language as well as simply not being around people for extended periods of time, it can be difficult to get a true impression of who someone is. This is particularly challenging for new members of staff who may have joined during periods of lockdown, in many cases not meeting their colleagues in-person for months.
There are many ways we can learn a bit more about each other. The Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator is a great tool to be able to gain this perspective and give valuable insight into the types of people that are working in your team and what makes them tick. It’s like your star sign with a bit of science behind it. There are 16 personalities, split between introvert and extrovert, each with different traits. It is not to say that these are by any means locked in, but more an indicator of the way someone is likely to react to a given circumstance.
Its questions give indications as to whether you sense or use intuition to gather information; whether you make decisions more by feeling or thinking; and whether you judge or perceive the outside world. All of these traits, none of them necessarily good or bad, have an enormous impact on how you communicate and how you like to be communicated with. The awareness that knowing the makeup of your staff gives you when devising internal communication strategies is critical. It allows you to choose the best channels and tone of voice depending on your audience. It can also point out those members of the team that may benefit from a slightly tweaked strategy or a particular focus in order to fully engage them.
Not only will you learn about your team, but very likely you will learn something about yourself. The introspection that comes from your result and the nuances in your personality that are revealed will allow you to tweak and improve your own communication style when dealing with other team members or managers.
It can also be a great team bonding exercise as shouts of, ‘that is scarily accurate’ bound around the room. When my wife saw my results, the cry of ‘that’s what I’ve been saying!’ was deafening.
Being in the office 9 to 5 streamlined communications. People had no choice but to be involved in conversation, managers had many different face-to-face tools to keep everybody on the same page, and the informal chats at the coffee machine or on lunch breaks allowed strong emotional bonds to be formed. Now that we are often miles apart in our own little worlds, more effort must be made to understand each other and stay connected. Only with this can we maintain robust and meaningful communications that contribute to our organisations’ success.
Loneliness. A feeling that most people have experienced at some point in their life. Nearly half of England’s adult population, according to Campaign to End Loneliness, a startling 45%, express feeling lonely occasionally and sometimes even often. Needless to say, the crisis of loneliness and social disconnect was only further exacerbated during the height of the pandemic with strict isolation and social-distancing measures being implemented.
The good news is that from 9th July- 1st August 2022, it is Free Hugs Month. The Free Hugs Campaign began in 2004, founded by an Australian man under the pseudonym Juan Mann, where volunteers offer hugs to complete strangers in public as a random act of kindness. The aim? To spread the love.
According to scientists, the benefits of hugging go far beyond that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from being in somebody’s arms. Hugs have been shown to reduce stress, protect against illness, boost heart health, release the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin which leads to feelings of contentment, and even reduce pain. In fact, according to family therapist Virginia Satir, humans need four hugs per day for basic survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth. So yes, hugs seem like a win-win, if not an absolute necessity. But what does this have to do with leading a successful campaign? Well bear (hug) with me and I’ll explain…
As a successful B2C campaign, the Free Hugs Campaign has been going strong for nearly two decades. So, from a PR perspective, there’s still a lot we can learn in the B2B space. After all, businesses might be selling to other businesses, but it’s important to note that it’s still humans talking to other humans, The secret behind the campaign’s success is predominantly down to two factors: creating a campaign that encourages a level of ‘shareability’ and evoking an emotional response from potential clients and customers.
The Free Hugs Campaign has not shied away from the public gaze and our culture of sharing, capturing, and recording anything attention-grabbing for others to view online. Instead, the campaign used the way in which the public interact to its advantage. In other words, for a campaign with a minimal budget, the Free Hugs Campaign left the public to share and interact with their simple message themselves.
But, of course, not all brands fit into this style of campaign ‘shareability’. Fortunately, however, social media has become our biggest ally and can produce incredible traction if a campaign’s message is eye-catching, memorable, and simple to understand. Even a snappy slogan or retweet can go a long way.
But the question then is, what is it about the Free Hugs Campaign that has made it stand the test of time, and go viral with 78 million views in the Sick Puppies music video alone?
The secret behind this campaign is very clear, yet mystifyingly under-used in many campaigns- understanding and manipulating the power of human psychology, especially that of the buyer. What are most people lacking? Human connection and a feeling of belonging and comfort. What does the Free Hugs Campaign offer? An answer to a societal hug deficiency.
The campaign isn’t complex, in fact, oftentimes the simpler a campaign, the better. The Free Hugs Campaign, touches its audience in an emotive way, giving them a feeling or emotion that was lacking in their life, whilst also adding an element of joy. After all, who doesn’t secretly like to make someone’s day by being kind and loving? Through evoking this emotion, it taps into our intrinsic nature to share the joy, even if just virtually.
As such, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your buyer, such as the HR Director you are trying to grab the attention of. Perhaps they are feeling overwhelmed with how post-Covid life has completely transformed their workforce, and as a result, are operating at a million miles an hour unable to catch a breath…
So, what are you waiting for? Get hugging!
The value of data has become an inescapable fact of the modern world. No sector, industry or market could claim to be better off without data-driven insights that allow them to make informed decisions. Today, business success is so often shaped by how well data is being used. Predicting the future, understanding the past, navigating the present – it all comes down to data.
So, what are some examples of the ways data has driven real life change in different markets? Let’s take a look.
Data-driven goals, on and off pitch
One example of the power of data in sports is in LaLiga. The sports league is using real-time streaming data generated by hundreds of cameras across stadiums, and deriving levels of actionable insights that were previously simply not possible.
Football teams are then using these insights to revolutionise the way the game is coached and played, amplifying performance. This means helping players get better at their game, and delivering more personalised fan experiences that change the way the game is enjoyed.
Media and Gaming
Online gaming is another sector which can reap huge amounts of understanding and insights by properly harnessing data. SEGA, a worldwide leader in interactive entertainment, is using real-time data to drive community activities, improve player experiences, and offer more personalised interactions. By harnessing data properly, the company has transformed the role of data science in the business, making it a key pillar for decision making.
This has also helped to fuel a collaborative culture when it comes to data, with the company’s internal data teams working with teams from external game studios – pooling together ideas and solutions to drive innovation and create an ever-improving experience.
Elsewhere, the energy industry is also reliant on data. Particularly at a time when prices are such a concern, and when pressures of climate change mean energy providers are needing to transform their operations. An example of this is Shell. Shell is acting on data analysis to change its model and cut down emissions and, according to its first energy transition progress report, published in April 2022, the company has already cut total emissions by 16% since 2016.
The data is being used for business intelligence as well as to spot problems at early stages, and before they cause major problems. For instance, in a plant in Nigeria, Shell has been able to remove bottlenecks and reduce boil-off gas from evaporation and associated flaring by 70%. This has the potential to cut carbon dioxide emissions at the plant by 130,000 tonnes a year.
It’s clear that the value of data is felt everywhere. From the world of sport, to gaming, energy, medicine, construction, and more. Harnessing data effectively is they key to driving long-lasting, tangible business success.
It’s all too common a question for a communications agency to hear – “but show me how a comms plan will generate sales and new leads”. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as X+Y=Z. The foremost purpose of a communications agency is to shape the reputation of the company it’s working for. Influencing the opinions of customers, partners and even the company’s own employees. Organisations oftentimes underestimate the value of reputation shaping and instead, only want to see facts, figures and a solid ROI.
Now I am by no means suggesting that there isn’t an ROI on comms, it is just notoriously difficult to measure. But if you want to follow the maths to see how the distribution of a press release results in sales then knock yourself out with this blog by Greg Jarboe.
So hopefully I’ve got the numbers people on board by now and with the introduction of Google Analytics 4, this tracking process is only set to become easier. GA4 will use AI and predictive analytics to provide highly granular visitor data. This will mean better tracking of visitors from initial arrival, through various stages of engagement to the end goal, so lots to look forward to!
But in all honestly, the impact of communications stretches far beyond tracing clicks to a website. It’s clear, of course, that you can attribute economic results to comms activities, but the true value lies in the shaping of your organisations reputation.
In this day and age, customer loyalty is as fragile as ever. One poor user experience, a single bad review or even a certain political standing can deter customers from your website. So how do you change these opinions? Here are four simple steps to take to make your brand, and your reputation, shine.
So, moral of the story – limiting comms to numbers and stats is like limiting an artist to only one colour. The painting will be complete but missing a wealth of potential and creativity. So, open your mind, broaden your paint palette, and let your reputation become a masterpiece.
As revealed in Netflix’s new documentary, ‘White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch’, today’s company is very different from the brand of the 1990s and early 2000s. For more than a decade, Abercrombie and Fitch have been in the process of rebuilding its reputation; this reveals some interesting lessons that we can take away as PR and comms professionals.
In its heyday, Abercrombie & Fitch (Abercrombie) was worth more than $5 billion and had more than 1000 stores worldwide. During this period, the company was led by Mike Jeffries, who once revealed in that now-famous 2006 interview that the company’s marketing strategy was deliberately exclusionary. He only wanted the ‘attractive’, ‘cool kids’ wearing Abercrombie. If we look a little deeper, we see that this was not merely a surface level PR strategy – you want what you can’t have, right? Instead, racist and exclusionary policies were embedded within the company’s culture. While these policies once appeared to benefit Abercrombie, as attitudes changed, they quickly eroded the company’s reputation, which has had a fundamental impact on the business’s long-term growth.
The question is; what can the demise of Abercrombie teach us about the importance of managing your company’s reputation?
As the company’s figurehead, the CEO will always have a significant impact on the reputation of your company – both positive and negative! The former CEO of Abercrombie, Mike Jeffries, who once led the brand’s revival, would ultimately become its biggest liability. Jeffries was known for his bold ideas and commitment to the brand. However, he was also uncompromising, unorthodox, and did not take criticism well.
While Jeffries has long since left the company, Abercrombie is still working to ameliorate the damage caused by his tenure as CEO. Ultimately, Jeffries should not have been left to manage the company for so long. That being said, the current CEO, Fran Horowitz, has been working hard to ensure that the company is accountable for past mistakes. In a statement to CNN, Horowitz said, “we own and validate that there were exclusionary and inappropriate actions under former leadership,” adding that the company is now “a place of belonging”.
While the company has a long way to go, the importance of leadership accountability is evident here. Suppose a business fails to hold its leader accountable or recognise when it is time for leadership change. In that case, long-term damage will be inflicted upon the company’s reputation.
As times change, often should a company’s values. Failure to make the necessary changes will eventually impact the reputation of any company. When Jeffries began his tenure as CEO, he built the brand upon racist and discriminatory values. These values quickly began to seep into company culture and policies, hiring practices, and even the designs on the clothes.
In 2003, 8 former employees sued Abercrombie for race and sex discrimination. Without admitting any guilt, the company settled and was required to pay $40 million and sign a decree to change its practices and promote diversity.
For a while, the company continued to get away with its discriminatory practices. However, these days consumers value and expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion. Abercrombie failed to move with the times, which meant that as attitudes changed, the brand became toxic, and their failure to own up to past mistakes came back to haunt them. Companies should continually audit their values and policies to ensure that they are promoting diversity and inclusion and that they are not breaking the law, for that matter!
The demise of Abercrombie from a multi-billion dollar brand to a disgraced clothing company can teach us a few things about managing your company’s reputation:
May has been a month of innovation and continued regulatory shifts in the tech sector. It can be difficult to keep up with the endless waves of change (Elon Musk’s continual indecision over purchasing Twitter spring to mind for anyone?), but the Firefly team always havs our finger on the pulse. Here’s our lowdown on what you might have missed.
It’s no secret that supply chain issues and the candidate crisis have plagued businesses significantly recently. But what if AI innovation could offer the solution?
A growing number of startups are applying AI technology alongside established logistics firms to help businesses ease supply concerns. In the recruitment arena, AI is becoming an increasingly effective tool for hiring strong candidates. Google has even gone as far to develop almost human-level intelligence. Increasing efficiencies is always beneficial; we will certainly be tracking these developments closely.
As the power of AI innovation grows, so do the legal restrictions within the technology sector. The UK Government is set to introduce new competition rules for large tech companies, paving the way for innovation among smaller businesses.
When it comes to user safety, the discussion on the Online Safety Bill continues. Campaigners argue the current provisions do not sufficiently address violence against women and girls, showing that greater protections are needed. We’re also seeing a crackdown on Big Tech’s data collection, with the global central bank calling for individuals to be given more control.
These moves highlight greater oversight is needed over the sector to ensure that everyone can engage with technology safely and freely.
June has been a less than ideal month for the crypto world, as several stablecoins crashed in a historic market collapse. Though, if anyone fancies a trip to Gucci’s US-based stores, rest assured you can use bitcoin to complete your purchase there, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
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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.
Other than losing an hour in bed, April has had a lot to offer: longer days, better weather, and chocolate moulded in perfectly shaped ovals! It’s also when it really begins to look and feel like summer; as the eternally optimistic people of Britain begin to emerge from their long hibernation in the hopes of experiencing the elusive phenomena known as sunshine. Time for this month’s tech news roundup!
The less optimistic folk have decided to flee the country in search of the sun. However, not every passenger has been successful in their pursuit of Vitamin D. Indeed, the news has been filled with travel horror stories as recovering airlines struggle to deal with chronic staff shortages. Those travelling to outer galaxies seem to have had an easier journey. April saw the first paying civilians blast off to the International Space Station as part of Elon Musk’s private space exploration service, SpaceX.
While the infamous billionaire is primarily known for his adventures into space and the (slow) production of his high-performance electric vehicle, the Tesla, Musk has once again been the centre of attention in the media for his involvement in Twitter. This month it was revealed that he was the majority stakeholder in the social media platform, and is now even trying to buy it. I wonder if it was his idea to introduce a new ‘edit button’? Some of his tweets certainly need it…cough, cough…perhaps his tweet declaring that he wanted to take Tesla, private? Breaking SEC rules, and ultimately costing him his position as chairman of Tesla and millions of dollars in fines.
Twitter has largely managed to avoid controversy this month. However, the same can’t be said for some other social media giants or, indeed, Will Smith – talk about awkward! Facebook has been marred with a string of failures this month, which has included claims of failing to protect younger users, and accusations of spreading misinformation.
Once again, there has been little good news for the climate. Although, there have been some exciting advancements in the electric vehicle market. Honda is set to ramp up its production of electric cars with a $64billion budget and NASA has designed an electric car battery that can be charged in 15 minutes. When it comes to saving the planet every little bit helps!
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Nowadays, attention span is one of the scarcest commodities we have in modern society. Online life can be addictive and endless, with perpetual anticipation of the next big thing and every brands’ reputation on the line. With this in mind, now is the perfect time to start prioritising and shaping your comms, with authentic and captivating PR strategies. Maintaining your company’s reputation, demonstrating your positive culture, and looking after your own workforce will ensure people are tuned in and listening.
Attention span is defined as the ‘amount of concentrated time on a task without being distracted’. Scientifically, they call it ‘attention failure’, essentially investigating why cognitively we reach for our phones with such ease and frequency at every point in the day. Attention spans are shrinking, with some reports suggesting that humans are 25% less engaged than they were only a few years ago.
Researchers in Denmark studied a range of media types; from movie ticket purchasing habits, popular books, Tweets, as well as Wikipedia attention time. What they found was that the hotness of topic, time in the public sphere, and desire for a new topic vary greatly and depend on the media type. As an example, Twitter is currently fixated on the recent Elon Musk board scandal but people will quickly move on to the next thing. Those doing a deep dive on Wikipedia are engaged for far longer.
How can we overcome this attention span deficit? By moving to briefer, personalised, and authentic comms to engage distracted audiences and create content that is evergreen that won’t be caught up in the trend cycle. Not just with audiences, but with your internal comms too. Using engaging internal comms strategies to hold attention will also ensure this is reflected externally.
Positivity engages audiences, and shines your reputation
Brandon Stanton, the creator of the viral storytelling account Humans of New York, emphasises when writing his personal profiles that he does not describe people in adjectives, but rather describes actions of their life. After all, actions do speak louder than words. Looking across his portfolio of work on social channels (with 20 million followers), he notably gets right to the point, with little explanation or introduction. Your audience is smart enough to get the gist.
The journey of a good narrative in comms
Researchers found that people read information on paper vastly differently than online, as the amount of data to absorb on a singular page in a book is far less than a busy webpage. The slow and linear journey of a book is why it is so pleasing to race towards the end (no spoilers, please!). Your online content should follow suit, and always engage in a complimentary, moving narrative journey.
It seems obvious, but the simplicity of the beginning, middle and end with challenges addressed by solutions, is just the way our brains like to consume. So, when you’re creating content and communicating with your audiences this year, remember to get back to basics. And don’t check your phone whilst writing it- resist the urge, if you can.
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