The (further) perils of Twitter for business

April 18, 2012

Very interesting article this morning on Real Business concerning the legal implications of Twitter use. In particular, what it could mean for users who Tweet about their employer.

We all know that you should be extremely careful about what you say online. One case highlighted in the article is of a civil servant who found herself the subject of an acutely embarrassing (and not exactly career-enhancing) expose in The Independent.

A member of staff at the Department of Transport had a disclaimer in her Twitter profile stating that the tweets were personal opinions and were not representative of her employer. This disclaimer did not stop The Independent from publishing her tweets (about her job, her feelings towards work and wider political issues such as describing a course leader as “mental” and posting links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste) in an article about her employer. She complained to the Press Complaints Commission, but they found that because tweets are public property this was not an invasion of her privacy.

The article is well worth a read – you can view it in its entirety here Five more legal issues to consider when using Twitter


Real Business – The secret to a successful brand: Keep it nurtured

April 3, 2012

Which is more likely to succeed: a great idea left to languish or a good idea skilfully and closely developed over time? The answer is that building a durable and profitable brand requires an exact blend of both nature and nurture, argues Robin Rowland, CEO of YO! Sushi in a great article in Real Business

Advertising agencies tell us that the character and tone of a brand, how it speaks to its audience and what it means to them, is all about first impressions.

This I do not necessarily dispute. Nonetheless, for those of us running a business in the long term and for a brand to succeed beyond the great initial idea, it must be nurtured over time. And this is all about the great people behind it. 

What happens when the advertising does not deliver in reality? A brand is only ever as good as the customer’s last experience and for that experience to "wow" every time the person delivering the brand has to be completely engaged in it. 

If you have not been able to fire up your staff with the enthusiasm, brand knowledge and sheer magic of it all, the brand will not succeed in the real world. This is felt particularly keenly in the hospitality business, where we rely upon our customer facing people to communicate the brand values that underpin our business.

People are also the biggest potential variable within the company. With different locations, people, managers and a higher-than-average rate of staff turnover in the restaurant sector, ensuring a consistent service and brand is the main challenge.

Communicating with every member of the team so they feel part of the whole is essential. There is little point carefully penning brand values, thoughts and ideas, developing them through focus groups and with expert consultancies, if they never make it out of the office and on to the floor.

It is often said that entrepreneurs who start a business with an innovative idea may not always be the best people to take the business to the next stage. And while most people focus on the need for different management skills, when you operate a big brand it is just as important to secure "brand-nurturing" skills.

This is about the ability to grow a brand beyond the inspirational first stage while at the same time preserving the essence and spirit which made it a great idea in the first place. 

This doesn’t stop just because the company becomes bigger and more successful. As brands grow, the nurturing must continue. An essential part of Howard Schultz’s remarkable turnaround at Starbucks was his focus on creating brand value by supporting those working in the business to deliver every detail of it.

His core philosophy is to "take care of our associates so they will take care of the guests…executing even the smallest detail to perfection is the difference between a great guest experience and a failure."

As a restaurateur for virtually my entire career, perhaps it is easier for me to make the connection between people and brand, but I believe that is a sound principle to follow whatever industry you are in. When it comes to fostering the brand it is about making sure that everything you do is real, genuine, believable and distinctive, from the boardroom to the grass roots.

There’s little doubt that nature triumphed with the acorn, but try to rest in its shade on a sunny day and you’ll really appreciate the importance of nurture.

Robin Rowland is CEO of YO! Sushi, which in 2012 celebrates 15 years of serving Japan’s most famous delicacy in the UK.

Real Business – The secret to a successful brand: Keep it nurtured

Cutting through the hype of social media

March 7, 2012

The use of social media by brands is still one of the hottest topics in PR. However there is still a huge amount of debate about why and how companies should get involved. Some excellent research and a very nifty presentation from Content & Motion aims to dispel the myths and help companies make up their own minds.

When it’s time to take off the gloves

March 2, 2012

PR is normally about cultivating relationships and generating a rapport with your audience. It’s not normally the right thing to do to assume a confrontational stance. But sometimes, if you need to create change or make a point, it is. Sometimes – as Alistair Campbell famously once did when he took on Channel 4 News in a live unscripted broadcast – it is in the client’s interest to go on the offensive and say what needs to be said.

Last year, the government launched an initiative called Make it in GB, aimed at promoting UK manufacturing. Certainly a worthy and much needed cause. As the PR agency for one of the UK’s largest manufacturing shows, we were pretty keen to offer our support – offering to make the show available as a launch venue for their campaign and giving them free access to our media activities. The response? "We’ll think about it." Regrettably, that’s about all they did do.

In fact, they didn’t even do that. After a sharp exchange of emails, I was called at the end of the first day of the show to be told that they were still "Having meetings" about participating. This was 3 months after the initial contact and when the event itself was already half over. I listened, open-mouthed, as I was told that we’d "Dropped off the radar". How could the one of the largest manufacturing events in the UK just "drop off the radar" of an organisation that exists solely to promote UK manufacturing? We were promised support – which turned out to be 2 tweets, neither of which contained a link to the show website – and the promise of a phone call after the event to discuss follow-up,  which never materialised.

Frustrated? You bet. Not on our account, nor even on behalf of the show organisers, but on behalf of the hundreds of people we met at the show doing fantastic work, who had worked so hard for success. They deserve support from campaigns like MiiGB.

It is not the place of government-funded campaigns to support private commercial enterprise. However it is the role of government to support business in general, and as was pointed out to the Make it in GB team, our objective was not to support the event as such,  but the 600+ businesses taking part. That was a fantastic opportunity for MiiGB to engage with 600 of the UK’s brightest and finest manufacturers – an opportunity totally squandered. This morning, having read another vacuous tweet from MiiGB about them "Looking for ideas how to support UK manufacturing", I thought it was about time we opened up the debate. Having Tweeted the fact that despite such fine words, they hadn’t shown much inclination to actually spend any time with manufacturers, I hope the message will hit home that there’s only so much you can achieve for UK manufacturers by Tweeting from your cosy West London office. I’m pretty sure there’s at least 600 people who’ll back me up.


A little PR goes a long way at exhibitions

February 28, 2012

We have just more-or-less completed the PR programme for the Southern Manufacturing & Electronics Show 2012. The show this year has been hailed a fantastic success by everyone that took part, and all the exhibitors we spoke to seemed delighted with the level of enquiries they’d received. Yet, as always, I wonder just how much better some of those exhibitors would have done with a little more pre-planning and forethought with regards their event promotions.

This year we had a record number of product stories from exhibitors which we used in the show blog and our various editor news round-ups in advance of the show. Yet, impressive though the number was – around 200 stories blogged – it covered less than a third of the total number of exhibitors present. Of course many companies run their own promotions in the run-up to the show, but there are still many that don’t – particularly the smaller companies and first-timers. For these firms, gaining visibility through participating in the show’s promotional campaign is an easy win. But I’m always amazed by how many fail to make use of this free service.

Naturally, it’s not an easy thing to write a press release if you’re unfamiliar with how it all works. But it’s not that hard – especially when you have the show press office to help you get it right. If you are doing an exhibition, do yourself a favour and make sure you really make the most of the opportunity by getting your story out. If you’re unsure what to do, why not download our free Preparing for an Exhibition guide to help you.

Multitasking: More Is Less says the WSJ

July 26, 2011

There’s growing evidence that multitasking can be harmful, and businesses need to re-examine goals for workers, writes Ruth Mantell in the Wall Street Journal

“With the ubiquity of mobile devices and other communications technology, many workers are expected to multitask, with some employees taking pride in their perceived ability to switch between complex tasks. But all this multitasking is putting workers, as well as their employers, at risk, experts say.

"It’s unequivocally the case that workers who are doing multiple things at one time are doing them poorly," says Clifford Nass, director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab at Stanford University. "The human brain just really isn’t built to switch rapidly from one task to another. Workers who constantly multitask are hurting their ability to get work done, even when they are not multitasking. People become much more distracted, can’t manage their memory very well."

Companies that demand multitasking may be damaging productivity.

"It would be a total tragedy if when we have so much potential to make the work force more intelligent, we are actually making the work force dumber," Mr. Nass says. "Companies that are demanding that workers multitask might not only be hurting their productivity, but may be making the workforce worse thinkers."

In a 2009 study, Mr. Nass and other researchers found that heavy media multitaskers are "more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli," and were worse at switching between tasks, likely because of their lesser ability to ignore irrelevant information.

Some companies are beginning to worry about the impact of multitasking, Mr. Nass says.

"Slowly you are starting to see companies starting to change from everything having to be answered immediately," Mr. Nass says.

From an employer’s point of view, one of the most worrying effects may be the trouble that chronic multitaskers have focusing.

"They are seduced by irrelevancy. They are constantly distracting themselves. They will look for distraction even when no such distraction exists," Mr. Nass says. "We are creating a culture that encourages workers to be less effective, handle information poorly and have a tougher time in social relationships. What does the work force look like where people can’t pay attention, where people can’t think deeply and where people lack emotional skills? It’s a pretty scary world."

Troubles can start when individuals try to work simultaneously on more than one complex task. Complex tasks require some reflection or mindfulness, says Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Anything that involves upgrading information requires consciousness, and that’s where the limited bandwidth comes in," says Mr. Miller.

Complex multitasking can mean missing out on details.

"The best way to get things properly stored in long-term memory is to pay close attention to them, and if you are overtaxing your short-term memory, you are going to be missing things and they won’t appear in long-term memory because they won’t be stored in the first place," Mr. Miller says.

When workers do complex multitasking they are often in a state of stress, and unable to recognize opportunities and solutions, says Linda Stone, a former senior high-tech executive based in Seattle.

"There could be an answer right in front of you that doesn’t look like what you think it should look like," Ms. Stone says. "In a stressed state, we often miss things that are right in front of us."

Multitaskers think they are much more successful at completing tasks than they actually are, experts say. Ms. Stone uses the phrase "continuous partial attention" to describe complex multitasking.

"We may believe that when we’re driving and talking on a cellphone, we are aware of everything around us," Ms. Stone says. "The truth is, we’re often missing quite a bit."

It can be tough to resist the allure of an unread email or unresponded-to instant message, but the reward is completing tasks at a higher quality level. Here are tips from the experts about how to stop, or at least curb, multitasking:

Strategize: "Plan ahead and remove the possibility of distraction. If there are [fewer] things tempting you, it’s easier to focus on the job at hand," says Mr. Miller.

Work on a single task for at least 20 minutes: "When you start to do something, do it and nothing else for 20 minutes. This trains you to focus, to think deeply. It trains you not to think that distraction is a positive, and it teaches your brain to be able to focus," Mr. Nass says.

Make face time sacred: "It’s very, very important for the human brain to really spend some time talking to one person, face-to-face, without any technological distraction," Mr. Nass says”

Ruth Mantell, On Sunday 10 July 2011, 11:22 SGT

Multitasking: More Is Less – Yahoo! Singapore Finance

Master Lock richt zich op gespecialiseerde veiligheidssloten

July 26, 2011

Het gebruik maken van retail hangsloten als persoonlijke veiligheidsapparaten is een verborgen gevaar op de werkplaats, zegt veiligheidsexpert Master Lock.

Master Lock Safety Series

Het fysieke versleutelen van de bediening van apparatuur of processen om te voorkomen dat deze worden geactiveerd wanneer personeel mogelijk gevaar loopt – een procedure bekend als Lock Out/Tag Out (LOTO) – is een veelgebruikte veiligheidsprocedure in industriële omgevingen. Maar een campagne die veiligheidsspecialist Master Lock deze zomer zal lanceren benadrukt dat als dit soort veiligheidsprocedures geen deel uit maken van een volledige veiligheidsstrategie, kwetsbaar personeel mogelijk niet volledig beschermd zijn.

Elk jaar gebeuren er duizenden industriële ongelukken in Europa, ondanks dat de meesten volledig voorkomen hadden kunnen worden door LOTO-procedures te gebruiken, die activering van apparatuur of onverwachte uitstoot van energie of chemicaliën voorkomen.

“De effectiviteit van LOTO-procedures hangen volledig af van de integriteit van individuele vergrendelingapparatuur”, aldus Kieran MacCourt, Europese marketing manager van Master Lock. “Een slot gebruiken dat gemakkelijk breekt of verwijderd kan worden zonder de originele sleutel, kan nog gevaarlijker zijn dan helemaal geen slot gebruiken, omdat het voor een vals gevoel van veiligheid zorgt.

In een campagne gericht aan veiligheids- en facility managers, benadrukt Master Lock de gevaren die personeel loopt bij het gebruik van goedkope retail hangsloten en persoonlijke veiligheidsapparatuur. Ook wordt er op gewezen dat de consequenties van het gebruik van zulke ad hoc veiligheidsmaatregelen fataal kunnen zijn.

“De meeste gangbare hangsloten zijn niet ontworpen of bedoeld voor gebruik in levensbedreigende situaties”, aldus Maccourt. “Industriële omgevingen zijn onveranderlijk gevaarlijk en veelvuldig gebruik van een hangslot in dit soort omgevingen zal al snel voor slijtage zorgen en dus kunnen leiden tot falen en mogelijk levensbedreigende situaties.”

De meeste hangsloten die ontworpen zijn voor binnenshuis of sporadisch gebruik hebben bovendien vaak relatief simpele vergrendelingmechanismen en slechts enkele sleutelcombinaties. Dit vergroot de kans substantieel dat het slot open gemaakt kan worden met andere sleutels dan het origineel. “Er zijn verassend weinig sleutelvariaties in de vele lokale hangsloten”, vervolgt MacCourt. “Ook zijn er weinig beperkingen wat betreft het kopiëren van sleutels. Zodra je twee of drie sleutels van een veiligheidsslot in omloop hebt is het hele systeem waardeloos.”

Master Lock’s assortiment van professionele LOTO-apparatuur is ontwikkeld om een simpel doch effectief veiligheidsbeleid te handhaven, dat ingezet kan worden in vele verscheidene industriële toepassingen. Deze zomer lanceert het bedrijf gratis gidsen op zijn website om veiligheids- en facility managers te helpen effectieve LOTO-strategieën te ontwikkelen en het gebruik van ongeautoriseerde sloten in veiligheidstoepassingen te beheren.

News Release