There has never been a worse time to own or run a business than today. Not because of the economic situation, not because of legislation and not because of competition. Because of the Internet.
Not that long ago the highest profile rebuke for a big business was a product recall – worse if you made baby food of course! And despite Gerald Ratner’s finest efforts it still took a relative age for his business to collapse. Today businesses big and small must protect their reputation like never before, and with blogging, Twitter, Facebook and the Internet itself, it’s never been harder. The digital equivalent of herding cats!
And that’s the difference today. You don’t really know who the enemy is or where they are at any one time. Previously, an investigative journalist could be ‘PR’d’ (although they would all claim they couldn’t), a rival Board may try to muddy the waters, and occasionally a shareholder revolt would need quieting down. Today your most lowly customer or humble colleague could be the start of a huge anti brand uprising. Using (anti) Social media to populate stories and evidence against your years of hard work and investment.
I recently decided to ‘compaign’ [sic] – the complaining campaign – against two leading hotel chains. One for giving me such a horrible room at full price, and one for letting flies invade and eat my breakfast buffet. Within minutes of posting evidence in pictures on Twitter and soliciting several re-tweets, I had received messages from the two brands offering me compensation and their remorse.
Businesses now employ people full time to monitor and manage even the smallest uprising (mine was quashed within a lousy 60 minute/12 re-Tweet threshold). These ‘people’ must have eyes and ears everywhere!
We help some of our clients with their communication strategies, and that gives us a great insight into how today’s boardroom feels and deals about its customers or shareholders, and in a day and age where you don’t need to do a ‘Ratner’ to bring the boardroom walls crumbling down around you, reputation has never been harder or more crucial to maintain.
Once upon a time there used to be a weighty relevance about a business having been ‘established’ for a lengthy amount of time. Trust, heritage, history and a proven track record were all assured – or at least – assumed by the fact a business had been around for a while. Companies traded on this as a sort of ‘badge of honour’ – and customers bought it.
In our industry of creative communications many businesses have been around for well over a decade, some much longer of course, but does anyone care anymore?
Take a look at some of the darlings of business now. There is no such ‘heritage’ when it comes to Instagram the online photo taking and sharing business for example – less than 2 years old, and sold to relative ‘old timers’ Facebook for $1b. Contrast that with Kodak, once the most distinguished of photography companies, in fact they practically invented the art, and they are on their corporate knees right now. (Established in 1892 by the way)
And lets not forget YouTube was only 12 months old when that was bought by Google for over $1b, whilst Sony – who pioneered video and TV now sit as an undervalued, loss making business in a state of flux.
Ok, its all about tech and web businesses now, but it would be fair to say that heritage can be earned much quicker in an age where reputations can be built and destroyed within 24 hours.
So I feel now what this means for most of us, is that talking about what we did last week is going to be far more relevant than what we did in the last decade!
Chairman – August 2012
I wanted to get this blog out before the Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics. Let me first say that I am not negative about the Olympics itself – I think we should be fantastically proud to host the world’s most prestigious sporting event, and the expression ‘once in a lifetime’ can probably be taken literally on this occasion.
I can buy into the massive expenditure because I do believe the legacy plans that will help to boost participative sport in general. I can even put up with the road congestion. However the one thing that I think is VERY wrong is the amount of money being spent on the Opening and Closing ceremonies – around £42m in total!
I think we are all very nervous what the show will be like – Beijing was amazing, and I don’t think we will be able to compete (especially if it is raining!) with that breathtaking show from 2008. Despite working in the creative industry, for me its not about the show itself - whether it ends up breathtaking or embarrassing – it’s simply about the money. The world has entered a deeper state of austerity during the intervening years since Beijing.
So here is my proposal for the ceremony:
One microphone stands in the very middle of the stadium. Our youngest athlete steps into the spotlight and delivers a short speech welcoming the world to London. They then reveal that the £42m budget for the opening and closing ceremonies is being used in full to support grass roots sport across the UK. The flame is then lit and the participants arrive in the stadium.
Total cost – £NIL
Value to the image of UK – Priceless
Neil Crespin July 2012