Belgian telecom player Telenet has been having a very hard time coping with a pop-up Facebook page criticising the provider for attracting new customers with an iPad mini as a welcome gadget. In less than two days’ time the “Telenet, we loyal customers would also appreciate receiving a gift” Facebook page accumulated more than 110.000 likes, far more than Telenet’s proprietary page ever had.
For us, issue managers and crisis experts, it’s yet another interesting case underlining the power of social media. Did Telenet pick up and manage the sudden reputation crisis in a professional manner? Unfortunately not. When the company announced that they would respond at the end of the day, it was clear that the response would be too little too late. And so it was. But I don’t want to analyse Telenet’s response and missed opportunity to prevent a reputation issue from turning into a business issue. I want to go to the essence of the story.
A rightful claim launched on a newly created Facebook page completely derailed under a wave of frustrations vented by Telenet customers. It was probably not the intention of the creator of the page, a loyal Telenet customer, to kick off such a chain reaction. She merely wanted to make a point about companies attracting new customers with new toys while ignoring existing customers’ concerns and complaints. Mobistar learned a hard lesson in this respect. Now it seems to be Telenet’s turn to learn that customer attraction and attrition should be equally evaluated on service quality and pricing and not be influenced by perks awarded to merely buying the service. Isn’t high quality service for a correct price what all customers – new and existing ones – at the end of the day are really looking for?
Social media platforms are great tools to bring people together and make things move forward for the better. Telenet’s experience unfortunately highlights the vulnerability of B2C companies in this respect. It’s a hard learned lesson about customer relations, as the power of social media can turn an innocent initiative of one individual into a an unforgiving crowd in no time.
It will be interesting to see how Telenet will pick up its customers’ signal and how companies in general will learn from its experience.
‘Propaganda’ used to be a regular word for ‘spreading the message, hoping to influence’. Since the Second World War it has a negative connotation. We still spread messages, of course. For doing so in a commercial context we now use the word ‘marketing’ – ‘propaganda’ would sound very wrong. As for marketing we see/hear/know when we are dealing with it, because it has a recognisable form. Nevertheless, we let marketing influence us, consciously or less consciously. The unconscious influencing is gaining ground as the tools that marketing is using are getting more numerous, more spread, more varied, more sophisticated … It was simple when there was just the radio and the newspaper. Today marketing has a worldwide web, and all the applications that come with it too.
Propaganda is also still happening. It still stands for ‘spreading the message, hoping to influence’, but in a less innocent way. Other than marketing, it does not have a specific form. So you have to be very alert to notice it. And, of course, propaganda has discovered and is making use of the same sophisticated worldwide channels that marketing is using. This makes propaganda more dangerous, sometimes even pervert. And because of the many ways in which the public is being confronted with all kinds of messages, propagandists take their message again one step further. Or one step too far.
I would like to bring to your attention that a once majestic species is on the verge of extinction. I am talking about the Social Media Expert. It was only a couple of years ago that a lack of knowledge about social media proved fertile ground for the rise of scores of these self-declared experts. If you believed them, these lone predators-for-hire were raised by the internet itself and were a one-stop shop for digital success! But something has changed. The number of these “experts” is declining and one cannot help but wonder what is going on here.
The habitat that was once so inviting to these “experts” has changed. The ignorance about social media and digital communications is gradually making way for a general level of basic understanding. A lot of the expertise that the experts claimed is now freely accessible online. Furthermore, companies are realising that digital communications, like every form of communication, are no exact science. The very concept of communication hinges on the most unpredictable parameter of all: people.
On top of this, digital communications have additional difficulties to cope with. They are indirect, lack a supporting context and take place in a landscape that is subject to rapid changes. It is now clear that “expertise” is a false claim. How can you master a subject on which the book is being written faster than you could ever hope to read it?
Is there no hope then? Are we to stand by and watch this once majestic species fall? Will companies have to stumble around the internet blindly, hoping for a kind soul to illuminate a portion of the treacherous path they’re walking? Do we throw in the towel and roll over the floor crying because there will be no one left to help? Of course not.
Luckily for us, a new species has risen: the Digital Strategist! Strategists, as opposed to their solitary predecessors, live in communities and refuse to boast complete knowledge of social media. They base their decisions and recommendations on experience, data analysis and shared knowledge. By continuously gathering and sharing experience, they can partially predict the unfathomable course of digital communications.
Undoubtedly, there are some very smart cookies out there, but unless they become part of a network that actively shares experience, best practices and data analyses, their position will become untenable. The isolated experts, whatever the level of their expertise may be, will have to make way for strategists that are supported by a wider network and have access to a sufficient pool of data.
So will the “experts” go extinct? As a species, yes, but we can find comfort in the thought that the brightest of them will find a new home in a pack of strategists. As my favourite scientist of all time, Dr. Ian Malcolm, once said it: “Life finds a way.”
* Image source: http://dejoi.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/number_game.jpg
Let’s be honest. Most of us still have that little kid inside us that really wants a good grade. I know I do. And I suspect some of our clients might as well. When determining the objectives of a new project, these tend to take the form of a certain quantitative measure as an indicator for success, such as the amount of press coverage, the number of consumer reviews or event attendance numbers.
However in our business, it’s not just about the numbers. What we strive for every day, is a fine balance between quality and quantity (and in an ideal world, achieve both). Getting your messages published in that specific trade publication or having those select few key influencers attend your event can have a significant impact. You’re not just reaching a broad anonymous public, but a targeted audience that’s in line with your strategic goals. And that is exactly what our job is about.
When a brand takes its first steps in the field of digital communications, it can easily fall into the quantity trap. Fans, friends, followers … they’re all such seducing KPIs. One gets greedy and keeps wanting more and more of them. But this greed for community members may in fact be a hindrance, blinding us to what really counts.
Granted, as a warm blooded community manager, my heart skips a tiny beat with every new fan, every new person to connect with. Nonetheless, we should always strive toward a qualitative, rather than a sizable fan/followers base. Sure, a Facebook page with thousands of fans looks nice, but it isn’t automatically proof of an effective digital program.
Through a relevant content strategy and balanced advertising plan we should aim to reach those people that matter most to our clients. You can imagine how much more valuable it is for a baby care brand to reach one young mom, compared to having three teenage boys as new Facebook fans. From the outset we need to focus on quality, and set out to touch those fans and followers that will connect with the brand in a significant way and form an engaged community – A community with a strong conversion rate, because that is where the return on your social media can be found. So in a way, it does all come back to numbers, now doesn’t it?
By Luc Missinne (@Margil)
Original post on http://www.lucmissinne.be/?p=384
When I was a little boy, it was common practice for kids to wear the clothes of their elder brothers or sisters. Except for the shoes. And exactly that piece of clothing is what we like to share the most: how often do we not hear ‘put yourself in my/his/her shoes’? With that suggestion we try to convince others of our/his/her point of view. Looking at things from another angle, from another perspective makes sense, because there is more than one truth to any matter. The question is: of all the possible view points, which is the most valid?
For a mother to want the drunk driver that killed her child to be put in prison for life immediately is a legitimate desire. For the judge to follow the mother’s craving would be stupid. It is okay to try on different pairs of shoes, but it would be wrong to keep wearing them. Too much personal emotion would get stuck in the soles/souls of people to be able to make a sustainable decision. To get the best view, it takes a certain distance. And the broader the impact, the more distance it takes to get the complete picture.
We all wear shoes in which we feel comfortable and we hate to take them off. But every now and then we should. My feeling is that we do too little of that. With summer at hand this may be the right season: let’s not forget what it feels like to walk barefoot.
By Luc Missinne (@Margil)
As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours (and that’s not just a reference to the weather). In the space of a week we have received an influx of energy suppliers contacting us, including two phone calls from and a representative of a third one turning up at our front door. It makes you wonder…why now? Do they suspect people to be more open for change on that matter now that spring is finally in the air?
Only recently and years after the liberation of the energy market in Belgium in July 2003, consumers have started questioning what they pay for gas and electricity. And it looks like energy suppliers have finally managed to get the message through to their target group: change of supplier does not imply new cabling, there is no risk of being temporarily cut off, no discouraging pile of paperwork and no poorer quality of the product delivered. It took them almost 10 years to communicate this message to the masses, and it seems that the next step is to individually contact every possible customer to win him over?
No doubt about it, energy is a ‘must have’, there is no need to convince people of the product itself. The pros are self-evident. It is not a product which requires an in-depth investigation as to which supplier to choose to get the right product: whether you buy via supplier A or B, you get the same thing. And for the price: a handy tool to compare prices is available on the internet. Apparently that leaves face-to-face marketing, a one-on-one commercial talk with a friendly face as the favoured avenue to win the client. Network providers do it too, which seems to make sense: phone and the internet have also reached the status of ‘indispensable product’. The chimney sweep and the cutlery salesmen are more traditional door-to-door salesmen. But what about this one … I can’t be the only living soul at whose front door a Jehovah or Mormon preacher turns up every now and then to convince me to ‘buy’ his religion? Does that make his ‘product’ an indispensable one too? I wonder…
Ah, Barcelona! The beautiful city of ramblas, Gaudi, beaches, tapas and sun! Heaven on earth! Unless you go there during winter of course. During winter, Barcelona, like any other European city, is just another grey mass of warmly-dressed people hurrying to get back inside. Then again, who would be crazy enough to go to Barcelona during winter? Well, I am, and approximately 70.000 journalists from all over the world are too.
The reason we all visited this beautiful city in its least inviting period of the year is that from the 25th to the 28th of February 2013, Barcelona was the host of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest tradeshow for mobile technology. Because Barcelona has had this honor for several years, the city has earned itself the title of “Mobile Capital of the World”.
Strolling around in this Walhalla of technology, I couldn’t help but think back to my first mobile love: the infamous Nokia 3310. This rock-solid piece of hardware served its purposes, texting and calling, admirably. It’s not surprising that 13 years after its launch, this mobile wayfarer is woefully outdated. Let’s imagine the following, please bear with me:
“A 3310 walks into a bar and sees its contemporary counterparts. It’s immediately obvious that they’re shinier than him, but hey, why couldn’t he socialize with them, right? He grabs a stool near the bar and starts eavesdropping. What are these phones on about? An what about those keyboardless computers, what are they doing here? But look at how easy all these shiny devices are connecting and hooking up!? What could he possibly have to say to all the other phones here? They’re all so smart! It’s almost as if they’re connected to some higher omniscient being! After sulking on his stool for a while, our brave 3310 finally hides himself in the darkest corner of the bar to delete a text message and make room for the next one.”
Ok, let’s snap back to reality. This example might be an exaggeration, but we too often forget the dazzling pace at which technology is evolving. That by itself is interesting enough, but let’s takes a look at ourselves, shall we? How are these new technologies affecting us? It’s hard to imagine that something didn’t exist once you’ve become accustomed to it.
Tablets, smartphones and mobile internet, they’ve all become extensions of ourselves. With wearable technologies, smartwatches and smart glasses at the threshold of our daily lives, it’s a solid assumption to say that humans are increasingly becoming cyborgs. For better or for worse, we’re all increasingly depending on external technologies to get us through our daily tasks. Need a recipe for cooking? Google it. No idea where you’re going? Turn on the GPS. Feeling sick? Pick a sensor medical device.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving this evolution! It’s just very easy to take it all for granted if you’ve grown up with it. But when you come to think of how our way of living has changed in the last decade, you’d almost need a storage device connected to your brain to store all your thoughts. Come to think of it, that would be a good idea! If this technological development keeps up the current pace, we might even see Smart Humans in the near future!
Every now and then, the communication community succumbs to some buzzword frenzy. Given the recent flow of blogposts and business books about storytelling, corporate storytelling and transmedia storytelling, you might think that there is indeed another buzzword on the block. But looking beyond the hype, storytelling just might have a more long-lasting impact on how organizations and brands communicate with those that matter most to them.
Another One Bites the Dust, or Not?
Sure enough, the act of storytelling is not exactly a radically new concept, as it literally dates back to our stone-age ancestors. But is it another marketing fad that will go out of fashion just as quickly as the hype emerged?
I think that there are reasons to believe that the concept behind corporate storytelling will outlive the buzzword. Why? Well, because in some ways, it is a game-changer that appeals to a real need in disciplines like corporate communication and PR.
One of the biggest challenges for professionals working in these disciplines is to create true impact with messages and content that really is of more importance to them than to their audiences. Why after all, should your consumer really care about that new product launch or your business prospect care about your latest corporate announcement? The answer lies in a component too often overlooked in PR and corporate communication: emotion.
Creating Deep Impact
Even if your news is relevant for the stakeholders that matter most to you, the challenge remains; how do you win not just their minds, but also their hearts? Well…this is exactly what storytelling can do: stories make people care about what you are telling them.
People can usually understand your message, but if it leaves them cold, they will be unaffected, and chances are you will be unsuccessful in your communication efforts. Although getting your facts and figures right is of paramount importance, they’ll fall short of creating true impact; making people remember and even cherish your message with emotion.
In a recent blogpost, Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, lists scientific evidence backing up the claim that storytelling is an innate human capacity and the most powerful means of communicating a message. A recent American Scientific article even illustrates how our love for telling a story can be traced back to our evolutionary history. It is indeed clear that storytelling meets the need for more emotion in fact-based communication.
Just Add Emotion
Only a few years ago, social media was the subject of a similar “buzzword or not” discussion. Today, it would be hard to dispute that social media kicked off a revolution and has transformed the way we communicate. One-way, top-down communication has been replaced by conversations between equals and audience-participation has become the norm.
I believe that storytelling will add another dimension to the equation. To create impact, and win people’s hearts, communication should add emotion to facts. Using the techniques of corporate storytelling, product launches and dull corporate announcements can become part of a net that captures people’s attention and bypasses the infamous “what’s in it for me?” question.
Just think of all those presentations where you sat there thinking: “Why the hell should I care about this stuff? Why on earth am I looking at these graphs and bullet-point infested slides?” Abstract concepts and ideas might help our minds understand the complexities of the world in which we live, but most of us don’t get motivated by factual information alone. We do identify with characters in a story, with their challenges and with their journey. Once a story has grabbed our attention, we can’t stop ourselves from caring about how it ends. That’s why, contrary to a PowerPoint sheet with bullets and graphs, stories will be instantly remembered because of their emotional angles.
Stories As Change Agents
And finally: stories are the ultimate vehicle to change not only people’s convictions but also their behavior. The influential branding expert Martin Lindstrom has argued that we don’t buy simply with our conscious brain. Our decisions and actions are hugely influenced by how we feel and what we sense. Research by behavioral neurobiologists like António Damásio has confirmed that our brain not only relies on conscious reasoning, but also on emotion to make decision.
Storytelling adds that emotional component that will make people want to change, more than what any fact-based communication can do on its own. And that is exactly why I believe that the practice of storytelling will outlive the buzzword: it just works.
Summer is usually the time when most corporate communications and investor relations teams have finished their corporate reports and start thinking about next year’s editions. The Porter Novelli Annual Report team in Brussels is no different. This year we managed to develop six annual and sustainability reports from A to Z, most of them in several languages, and delivered on time.
Work started end of last year with the Nutreco Annual and Sustainability Report and Sustainability Vision 2020, followed by the Royal Friesland Campina Annual and CSR Report and the VION Food Group Annual Report.
As always our studio and production team, together with the different companies, came up with refreshing designs and applied maximum quality standards. The ever tighter deadlines, countless correction rounds and different language versions make these reports masterpieces of military planning, stunning speed and German efficiency, every year again.
All reports are designed for printing, although they are also available as downloadable PDFs.
- Nutreco Annual Report 2011 (English)
- Nutreco Sustainability Report 2011 (English)
- Nutreco Sustainability Vision 2020 booklet and leaflet (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian)
- VION Annual Report 2011 (English, Dutch, German) and summaries
- Royal Friesland Campina Annual Report 2011 (English, Dutch, German)
- Royal Friesland Campina CSR Report 2011 (English, Dutch, German)
If you would like to learn more about our expertise in this area, please contact Jurgen Mortier (firstname.lastname@example.org or +32 476 45 15 11).