Monthly Archives: November 2016

Internal Communications interview with ŠKODA Auto: csuitepodcast show 33 pt1

Show 33 of the csuitepodcast was recorded in Berlin where I was attending Quadriga’s Internal Communications conference.  I was there on behalf of translation experts Conversis, as I hosted a lunchtime session at the event discussing the importance of understanding language and culture when managing international communications, which you can read all about in my guest blog post for them.

Russ (left) chatting with Tomáš Novotný of ŠKODA Auto

Russ (left) chatting with Tomáš Novotný of ŠKODA Auto

As for the podcast, my first guest was Tomáš Novotný, Head of Internal Communications at ŠKODA Auto who was at the conference presenting on how the company has had to overcome challenges in talking to employees who, given they work mainly in factories, predominantly aren’t desk based and so are not easy to reach through intranets and online channels.  Therefore traditional print media is still important for Škoda, and they continue to produce a weekly magazine, Skoda Mobil, and monthly newspaper, as well as still using pin-boards around the manufacturing plants.

Tomas explained that his team carefully analyses all activity to help continually improve what they do and one a further challenge, given how strong their trade union is, was to gain the respect and trust from employees.  They therefore simplified the language used in the magazine and newspaper, which has resulted in people reading more articles, plus the team added more graphics and pictures, and now share more stories about the employees themselves, reducing the amount of articles about senior and top management.

It’s not just about print though, as Tomas said they started working with video about two years ago to show employees how the company is using innovation.  They produyce videos, on average three minutes in length, to tell stories about how the company is working with interesting and sophisticated machines or instruments, but crucially, involve the employees who are actually using them.

One Millionth Car Give Away

Tomas shared an internal comms campaign that he was particularly proud of, but he made the point that Škoda always plan to reach a broader audience if possible, beyond just internal, so long as there is nothing confidential being shared, as they want to promote their employees as Brand Ambassadors and present them in a way that they are proud of the brand.

The case study was from a couple of years ago when, for the first time, Skoda produced and sold one million cars in a year.

Firstly, the company took photos of employees from all over the world, and delivered a message with an image made up of over 1350 faces, that said that only through their contribution could they have delivered such results.  They then created a microsite where colleagues could send messages to each other on how they’d helped them through the year.  Each day, unbeknown to their employees, Škoda chose two of what they considered the best of those internal thank you messages, and delivered a cake to the person who was being thanked, with the printed message from the colleague doing the thanking!

With regards to the actual millionth car, they decided to use it for a CSR activity and so asked employees to vote for which NGO they would give it to, the winner being a children’s charity.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and now TuneIn too.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

Future of Public Affairs post Brexit vote & Trump – csuitepodcast Show 32

Show 32 of the csuitepodcast was the final show that I recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit and discussed the future of Public Affairs post the Brexit vote and US Election

I was joined by Fredrik Lofthagen, Chief Executive Officer of Interel; Caroline Wunnerlich, Managing Director for the Brussels office of FleishmanHillard and Tangui van der Elst, Director of European Government Affairs at WestRock.

show32guests[L-R: Russell, Caroline, Tangui and Fredrik]

We covered a number of topic areas including, but not limited to:

  • Public Affairs Spend
  • Trump
  • Brexit
  • Future Engagement platforms

Public Affairs Spend

We began the conversation looking at the results of some research that Interel had carried with CEOs of independent public affairs consultancies in 60 markets.  Fredrik explained that one of the key findings was that despite CEOs concerns about political risk, spending on Public Affairs is still only a fraction of what businesses spend on marketing – around 0.003% of the total revenue of the Fortune 500.

Fredrik felt this was a mismatch that needs to be rectified but he said that very few companies are actually able to determine or quantify the impact of over regulation or geopolitical risk to their business, which in turn makes their spending decisions and resource allocations more difficult to do, which may have hampered the development of the Public Affairs profession.

Caroline added that many companies still have fragmented functions in that Public Affairs and Government Relations is still quite separate from their Communications.  There are therefore often only responding to crises after they have happened or are having problems getting budgets opened. However, she believes there are shifts occurring and that some companies are realising that their consumers/customers are of course people who have views, who vote and have opinions on public issues and so those companies that are realising this are beginning to understand that you can do well by doing good.  She quoted Unilever as an example of such a company – not the first time Unilever has been praised as such on this podcast series, so they are clearly doing something right – see Shows 31, 22 and 8.

Trump

Caroline talked about how FleishmanHillard has developed Shared Value Labs that are being run out of Washington DC, to look at how companies can get involved with Governments to create unusual alliances to tackle societal and environmental problems.  Interestingly, given we recorded this before the US Election result, she said that if Donald Trump won, there would be a bit of a retreat from Government from a lot of the activities and multilateral institutions such as the UN, leaving a requirement for corporations to fill quite a vacuum.  Let’s see if Caroline was right!

How Trump’s victory affects the UK relationship will also be interesting as Caroline explained that the transatlantic relationship is already very strained from a business perspective due to issues such as [Volkswagen] ‘dieselgate’, which started in the US, European banks being fined, data protection issues, and corporate taxation tussles with a lot of US companies, all of which causes an underlying tension.  These issues, together with the failure to progress any meaningful trade talks under the TTIP initiative, means that the whole relationship between the UK and US will need some recalibration.

However, overall the elections have, in Caroline’s opinion, thrown up some big questions about how to advise clients and engage in political discourse where people who can lie and be abusive can still get elected, referring to an Economist article on the ‘Art of a the lie, post-truth politics’ in the age of social media.

Brexit

In terms of what impact the Brexit vote might have to the future of Public Affairs, Tangui said he has struggled to find any reasons to be optimistic. He uses the fact that he is based in Switzerland to share some insight in that two years ago, the country had its own referendum on controlling migration, which received the majority.  However, the decision faced strong opposition within the EU that said that if Switzerland was to implement the referendum, then all the existing bilateral agreements between the EU and Switzerland would be void due to free-movement being so essential to the EU’s very existence.  Tangui explained that the Swiss thought they could find some form of compromise, trying for two years to achieve one, but finally realised that the EU would not move from their stance.  He said that Switzerland has therefore quietly shifted the referendum so that they can maintain their bilateral agreements as access to the EU was considered too critical to the Swiss economy.

Tangui feels that in the UK, there is too much emotional equity in the referendum result for it to go back, which is why he feels that we will all be losers, both in the UK and Europe.

Whilst Fredrik shares those concerns of Tangui, which Caroline also had, he said that the EU has an extraordinary ability to muddle through from one crisis to the next and that there is usually some form of outcome that most stakeholders would agree with.

With respect to business though, Fredrik’s advice is not to wait for the outcome and not to try and spend too much time scenario planning around it because it’s just speculation at this current time.  However, in his opinion, what is important is that through the Brexit vote, the UK is already losing its voice in Brussels today due to senior commission officials retiring and MEPs losing chairmanship opportunities or being the rapporteur on a particular dossier in the European Parliament.  His concern is therefore about who will replace the UK and the voice of the UK, in particular in the Council of Ministers at working group level, specifically in respect of corporate issues.  Therefore, Fredrik does recommend companies thinking about what their engagement strategy will be moving forward as every company will have their own portfolio of issues and dependencies and if they are dependent on the UK to defend them in the context of EU legislation or regulation, then they need to think about who their new friends are going to be and start making those approaches.

Tangui added that from what he can see working for a major US multinational, investment strategies are already affected as, in his view, no company would consider investing in the UK unless, and he used Nissan as an example, they can get strict guarantees.

Future Engagement platforms

Naturally there’s been a huge shift to engaging online and particularly through social media, but one of the big developments that Caroline shared was how Youtubers Laetitia, Jonas and Lukasz were asked to interview President Juncker of the European Commission after his state of the European Union speech

Caroline added that social media brings with it its own challenges, particularly in how messages go across borders, although she said that can be used to an advantage such as in some very effective NGO campaigns, but regulations are still developed nationally at a much slower pace.  Her company has been working around the issue of Glyphosate, a product used in the crop science industry, which, as far as regulators are concerned, is not unsafe.  However, the campaign and debate on social media has been so heated and active that the regulators have postponed decisions and instead of a license to operate for the next 15 years, the company has been given 18 months whilst further research is done.

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and now TuneIn too.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

End of Timesheets – csuitepodcast Show 31 Part 3

In the final part of Show 31 of the csuitepodcast (starting at 17:40) that I recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit, I was joined by Graham Goodkind, Chairman and Founder of Frank PR, and we chatted about why, in Graham’s opinion, there is no place for timesheets in PR.  In fact, since he started Frank PR 16 years ago, Graham’s company has never once tracked time or used a timesheet!

Graham explained that he set his agency up on a completely different premise [from those that charge by time], which was to sell ideas, creativity and results to their clients and so on that basis, he questions what time has to do with it.  His view is that PR agencies shouldn’t be selling time – they should be selling output rather than input.

Graham also doesn’t use timesheets to track how his business is run internally, preferring to go on, as he describes, “gut feel good old fashioned management”.

Ahead of being part of a panel at the conference arguing the case against the use of timesheets, Graham carried out some research of his own on the topic using twitter and received around 100 responses, of which roughly 90% used timesheets. However, when he asked them whether they had ever filled in a timesheet inaccurately, incorrectly or retrospectively, or in any such way that the ability to be accurate was compromised, a staggering 90% said yes!  Graham’s immediate conclusion from that first question therefore, is that most timesheets are indeed a waste of time!  Added to that, 65% of respondents said they know other people in the industry who they didn’t believe completed timesheets accurately either.  Furthermore, 70% of Graham’s respondents either agreed or agreed strongly to wanting to work in an agency that doesn’t use timesheets.

Crucially though, Graham’s final question found that 71% of respondents felt that clients were apathetic at best to the use of timesheets by their agencies.

Graham  therefore beileves that clients don’t want timesheets particularly, PR people don’t want timesheets particularly, and when they are forced to complete them, they don’t even do so accurately.  So what is the point?

He makes a fair argument!

The challenge, therefore, is in how to charge the client, but for Graham it’s all about having a conversation with the client about the value you [as an agency] create in their business.  He uses the example of coming up with a great idea in a brainstorm within 10-15 minutes that has then gone on to form the basis of an award winning campaign.  That should not mean that that particular idea was only worth 15minutes of time.  In fact, that 15 minutes is a result of 25+ years of experience in the industry, and only the client can put a value on that.

Graham’s advice to any agency not currently charging their clients by time but looking to do so is to try and change culturally how they go about PR before they change the system, i.e. don’t be obsessed about time, but be obsessed about the output and the results and the value you are creating for clients.

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and now TuneIn too.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

Edelman Earned Brand Study – csuitepodcast Show 31 Part 2

For part 2 of Show 31 (starting at 8:31) of the csuitepodcast, the second of the three shows recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit, I spoke with Michelle Hutton, Chief Operating Officer at Edelman Europe about the findings of the latest Edelman Earned Brand Study.

The theme of this year’s study was disruption, particularly looking at how brands themselves, across 18 different categories, can be disrupters, and this was achieved by researching over 13,000 consumers across 13 countries.

As Michelle explained, marketers have spent a lot of time and money getting consumers from being aware, through consideration and preference, to being loyal.  However, Edelman have found that there is something special beyond loyalty and that if you can get consumers to be committed and really invested in a brand, they will do some pretty amazing things.  Therefore, as part of their study, Edelman have developed a methodology to be able to measure how marketers can be disruptive in their relationship with their consumers.

Michelle said that many people think that in low involvement categories, the concept of being committed is not relevant, but actually, in every single category that Edelman explored, they found that there are already many people committed to brands in those sectors.  However, where many brands are falling short is around the concept of shared value.  For example, those people who want to be committed to the brand want to feel like they are part of the conversation around it – they’ll advocate for the brand, defend them in times of crisis and are there waiting.  However, whilst brands listen well, many don’t often respond well, and therefore, it’s those brands that use those committed consumers to their advantage who are doing it well.

The highest relationship index scored turned out to be in China and the lowest was in the Netherlands.  As for age splits, millennial males were found to be the most engaged segment with brands, which Michelle found surprising.

Michelle then went on to talk about how this all leads to how you can engage consumers to take real action around a brand and she cited Unilever as a best in class example of a company encouraging all of their brand marketers to think long term and creatively about how purpose can not only drive business results through their brands but also make the world a better place.  She also said that disrupter brands understand the shared economy and the power of peer-to-peer and so marketers in more traditional companies need to look at those start-ups, their business models and how they engage, respond and communicate with their consumers.

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

My chat with Lord Chadlington – csuitepodcast Show 31 Part 1

Lord Chadlington Show 31 of the csuitepodcast, the second of three shows recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit, saw me speak to my 100th guest on the series and so it was perfect that such a milestone was shared with former CEO of Huntsworth plc, Lord Chadlington, who had just delivered the opening keynote for the second day of the conference on the topic of creating the consultancy of the future.

Naturally, I didn’t have too much time with Lord Chadlington, but we still managed to get through a lot of topics in our chat, not all covered in this post, so you’ll just have to listen to the interview to hear them all!  But what was evident in listening to his keynote, and spending 20mins chatting to him is that one simply can’t help but be inspired by a man who, at 74 years old, as Graham Goodkind, Chairman of Frank PR described when I was sat next to him listening to the keynote address, still has an infectious enthusiasm and passion for his industry.

With regards to his keynote, Lord Chadlington’s main message was that the PR industry is in a very difficult place because, increasingly, the traditional work is being taken over by software and so agencies have to decide what kind of business they are going to have as someone else is ‘eating their breakfast’!

We talked in particular about media influence and the impact social media is having, not just on business but on politics too and particularly on how politicians will need to communicate over the issue of Brexit.  This gave me the perfect opportunity to get Lord Chadlington’s views on the events of the last six months, which he summed up by saying that if had been a story line in a Jeffrey Archer or Michael Dobbs book, everyone would have said it would have been impossible.

On David Cameron, Chadlington believe’s he has behaved with great dignity and that he has accepted that the country didn’t want to do what he wanted to do, but that giving them the choice was the key thing.

As for Brexit, Lord Chadlington said he was a ‘remainer’ but now he is 9 million percent for Brexit and we all must be 9 million percent for Brexit as that is what’s going to happen! He said we therefore need to fight hard and make sure Brexit is an enormous success.

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.