Lansons' newsletter - Summer 2017
Big business looks a lot like Theresa May
Tony Langham, Co-founder & Chief Exec
On May 18th, the day it all started to go disastrously wrong, Theresa May unveiled her manifesto and proposed that people would have to pay for their own social care costs, uncapped, down to their last £100,000. Within hours it was dubbed the “dementia tax”, sending shudders through the wallets of older Conservative voters and their children.
Four days later, the policy was reversed with the announcement that there would, after all, be a cap on the care costs people would have to pay. U-turns happen all the time in politics, as in life, but this one entered a fantasy world all of its own. The soundbite chosen to announce the u-turn was “nothing has changed”.
That evening Andrew Neil looked at Theresa May and said, “You need to be honest, I would suggest, and tell the British people you’ve changed your mind.” BBC News introduced the “nothing has changed” soundbite as “the change” with Laura Kuenssberg analysing it as “a big change”. In four days, Theresa May had moved from looking fairly “strong and stable” to the Maybot, totally out of touch with the British people. By the time she visited the Grenfell Tower after the terrible fire, the narrative that she lacks humanity and the common touch, was firmly established.
"Too often, the first response to a clear problem is to deny it."
–Tony Langham, Lansons
To many people in Britain, big business looks a lot like Theresa May, in three ways :
- Businesses often use words that human beings just don’t. In her annual “jargon awards” former FT journalist Lucy Kellaway this year outed Infosys for describing a redundancy programme as “an orderly ramp-down” and ebay for telling the New York Times “we are passionate about harnessing our platform to empower millions of people by levelling the playing field for them”.
- Too often, the first response to a clear problem is to deny it. Facebook has spent years refusing to take down child pornography and jihadist videos that have been flagged to “moderators” claiming they don’t breach its “community standards”. Uber and deliveroo have gone to huge lengths to maintain that drivers who work mainly for them are “self employed”.
- And just as Theresa May dodged the election’s leaders debates, many CEOs don’t face the music – and appear on television or radio explaining why their business has done what it’s done.
"None of this would matter of course, if business was popular, but it isn’t. "
–Tony Langham, Lansons
None of this would matter of course, if business was popular, but it isn’t. Less than a third of Britons (31 per cent) trust business - making it the third lowest ranking among the 22 countries surveyed by Ipsos Mori for its latest Global Trends Report.
The Labour Party’s divisive campaign slogan “For the many, not the few” clearly struck a chord. In the leaders debates, Jeremy Corbyn made it clear that the top 5% of society and “big business” would pay for all of the party’s election promises. The Conservative manifesto, with its governance agenda and energy price cap proposals, was hardly pro-business – with Fraser Nelson dubbing May “the most left-wing leader the Tories have had in perhaps 40 years”.
This drift of public policy and sentiment means it is vital for business to step outside of the metropolitan elite and re-connect with society – and talk honestly and directly to people, in a human way. Otherwise, at least in terms of reputation, it faces the same fate as Theresa May.
Co-founder & Chief Exec
Lansons launches its first book
Suzanne Ellis, Director
Just in time for a summer read, Lansons is excited to be launching its first book – Why We Do What We Do – authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist who focuses on applied neuroscience in the workplace.
Why We Do What We Do is for busy professionals who want to better themselves and those they work with. And, the insights shared are equally relevant in our personal lives too.
Some ‘why’ questions that the book looks to answer include:
- Why do we all need to manage stress?
- Why are we all biased?
- Why are we emotional rather than rational?
- Why do we not remember accurately?
- Why can’t we multi-task?
- Why don’t we see the truth?
- Why do we need to reignite our creativity?
- Why do most change efforts fail?
- Why do leaders need to keep learning?
- Why do we need to improve our lifestyle and daily habits?
The intention is for the book to strike a balance between knowledge and application. By combining scientific research with concrete examples and illustrative stories, it is designed to be visual, practical and easy to read.
Each chapter is written as a standalone guide to a particular brain area and contains references to specific studies so that readers can dip in and out.
The end of every chapter includes five tips for improving brainpower and additional references are provided for those who would like to explore the topic in more depth.
Author, Dr Helena Boschi, has held senior talent management and organisation development positions within international companies and now works across a range of industries worldwide.
Her work with clients involves designing new and creative learning initiatives, particularly in the areas of leadership and team development, intercultural communication and organisational change.
You may now be asking: Why is Lansons involved and what’s their connection with Helena?
My path crossed with Helena just 18 months ago through a mutual client of ours – Givaudan, the global leaders in fragrances and flavours.
At the time, we were both at a meeting for the top 100 scientists across the world – and while our involvement was different, we soon learnt it was very complementary.
Helena was delivering a training session on the brain and creative thinking, helping scientists practice different cognitive skills.
Not only was Helena’s session highly informative and stimulating, but hugely entertaining and fun which served to enhance the learning experience even more.
So, at once, I recognised the enormous value Helena could bring to the work we do at Lansons – by applying neuroscience to communications from the language we use to how we better engage people in change.
Since then, Helena and I have worked together with some of our clients where we have enjoyed combining our areas of expertise.
And, when Helena told me she was writing a visual and practical book on how the brain works as a complement to her lectures and presentations, I immediately leapt at the chance for Lansons to get involved.
Lansons donated resources such as design and marketing to get the book published this summer and has underwritten the publication costs.
Some of my and Helena’s most valued clients supported the book’s publication, which involved reading the manuscript ahead of print and providing their opinions.
But, this book is really just the start of our relationship.
Because we believe in the enormous value of bringing together the latest developments in brain science with communication techniques, Lansons is excited about designing new initiatives with Helena over the coming months.
These future initiatives will be in four areas of: Change, Leadership, Strategy and Culture, and they will be ready to share in the Autumn. Watch this space for more information!
Finally, because this book is about having healthy brains throughout our lives – whether at home or at work – Lansons and Helena have decided that for every book we sell, 10% will be donated to two mental health charities - Mind and St Giles Trust.
The book will be available on Amazon and iBooks. You can also contact us directly to purchase through email@example.com.
"Lansons launches its first book"
– Suzanne Ellis, Lansons
A look into the implications on the FCA's final report of the Asset Management Market Study
David Masters, Director
King Bailey’s Gambit
Given the weight of expectation ahead of the FCA’s final Asset Management Market Study (AMMS) report, there was a tangible sense of disappointment that it did not go far enough from the more fervent reformist quarters. The interim report had promised a number of fairly radical remedies, many of which seemed to be watered down in the final version.
There are a number of reasons why we should not be overly surprised by this. Asset managers do seem to have got their lobbying act a bit more together and perhaps also a sense that, being pegged back on so many fronts by the severity of the initial report, fund groups had ceded a little ground.
The biggest factor, however, is Europe. Although the FCA has stressed that it wasn’t pulling its punches as a sop to a costly Brexit, it has acknowledged that this argument was presented to it countless times during the consultation. But with MiFID II on the horizon, why further disadvantage the UK fund sector by hampering it with uncompetitive and onerous requirements? The UK has long been seen in the EU as a benchmark for regulation, but once we are out there can be no guarantee that this will continue.
Hence, pushing a number of remedies – especially the problematic all-in pricing – into the MiFID II framework seems quite a useful compromise.
Equally, by utilising the existing Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) to enforce the FCA’s new governance requirements also seems like quite an interesting, joined up approach. The SMCR is clearly a very important framework for the regulator. Shorn of its ability to regulate ‘culture’, the SMCR is the FCA’s tool to ensure that individual and corporate behaviour meets its standards. The performance of group and fund boards has long been a concern of the regulator, and this is clearly going to be an area that remains under close scrutiny.
Moreover, the need to always act in the best interests of the investor will become the definitive guiding principle for Directors, subordinating the duty to act to maximise shareholder profits. Doubtless, this will lead to conflicts, and it will be very instructive how both industry and regulator contend with these.
It has been suggested that the FCA might have decided to refer the industry to the CMA, but the regulator has clarified that point by saying that there is nothing that it cannot do that the CMA can. This is not the case for Investment Consultants, who are less regulated and whose fate seems sealed.
The FCA will now consult on its remedies, as it is required, and we will learn more in September. The regulator will also continue to pursue its other angles – including platforms, product design and global custodians. Private equity and hedge funds will also come under greater scrutiny, and not just in how they disclose fees to institutional investors. Insurance linked funds may also come under review – perhaps the surprise is that it is taking the FCA so long to get to them.
"Always act in the best interests of the investor, and make it as clear as you can that this is what you are doing. "
–David Masters, Lansons
For asset managers, the lessons are simple. Always act in the best interests of the investor, and make it as clear as you can that this is what you are doing. Listening to the FCA after the publication of the final report echoed a presentation given prior to the unveiling of the terms of reference – asset managers need to be more forward-looking. Not in terms of guessing the markets, but in terms of better protecting their clients from foreseeable risks.
This is not to suggest that all fund managers are equally deficient. The industry represents a broad church of approaches, some of whom are more forward-thinking than others. We tend not to hear about them so often, however, one of the reasons why the Transparency Task Force, a lobby group, has set up its Progressive Asset Management group (PAM) to support and promote those asset managers large and small who are leading change within the industry. New members are always welcome.
In reality, there is little ‘final’ about the final report. Such is the nature of modern financial regulation. The battle is neither won nor lost. This is by no means the end. History will look back at this and see it as no
more than the opening moves in a very cagey game of chess.
Reputation: Does it matter anymore? (spoiler: yes)
Sarah Tye, Account Director
It’s Friday night and you’ve had a pig of a day: bag got stuck in the tube door on the commute and you had to overshoot your stop until the doors opened on the right side of the carriage; your Tupperware of quinoa with salmon and mirin dressing leaked all over the document you needed for the big meeting; after the meeting you saw you’d had herbs in your teeth the whole time. Some days you just want to hit the supermarket, buy a bottle of wine and some crisps and not have a real dinner.
Justifying the way you consume products and services isn’t something many people have to do out loud, but a lot more often to ourselves. Feeling guilty about buying a ready meal instead of cooking from scratch, not being entirely sure of the provenance of the chicken but eating it anyway, popping that facial wash with the microbeads in it in your basket and then nudging the bag of lettuce over the tube when you spy your friend at the other end of the aisle in case she finds out you’re not the noble friend-of-the-earth you purport to be.
Sure, it’s a first world problem to panic about how good a life the chicken you’ve just wrapped in parma ham had, but nevertheless, people feel guilt for everything, every day - saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, eating the wrong thing, travelling in the wrong way, supporting the wrong football team… it is our right as consumers to be aware of the bad and to choose to do it anyway. But who wants to be the brand everyone is embarrassed about?
"People have choice, and they exercise that right several times every day through their purchases, behaviour and speech"
– Sarah Tye, Lansons
People have choice, and they exercise that right several times every day through their purchases, behaviour and speech. One could suggest that the fact that supermarket own-branded products continue to grow their market share despite not being the most famous consumer brand on the shelf could mean consumers aren’t that fussy anymore…
When lovely Waitrose came up with the whizz bang idea of saying smoked salmon is essential I was delighted (thanks Waitrose - one bit of guilt eliminated from my overburdened mind), and I am not ashamed to buy their value range. But then, it’s Waitrose - I know they’re a good and ethical company. Anyway, were I to be arguing that people DON’T care about a brand’s reputation or purpose, I would make the point about the huge increase in sales across all the value ranges in all the big supermarkets. People want a bargain! They want cheap stuff that doesn’t make them blind! They want something that works and that’s it!
"Reputation is Big Business, and that is because consumers do care, and they prove this everyday"
– Sarah Tye, Lansons
However, it’s just not true. If it were, would companies spend millions and billions developing their reputation, protecting their brand from criticism or copycats? Spend just as much salvaging reputations in the aftermath of a crisis if no one cared anyway? Wouldn’t that money be better off spent making it cheaper so people would just buy it unthinkingly as they careen around Budgens in a panic they won’t be back in time for Corrie? Reputation is Big Business, and that is because consumers do care, and they prove this everyday by avoiding brands and products that have been mired in muck (Nestle and the baby milk anyone?).
When Byron tricked all its illegally employed (by them!) staff into a Home Office honey trap, within minutes a campaign to BoycottByron was live and being shared. The campaign to stop advertising with the Daily Mail because of its editorial stance saw major players pull money from the platform. Of course it didn’t necessarily deter the readers of the paper, but the noise was there, the association of the Mail with hate was (even more) cemented in my mind, and my personal boycott of the Sidebar of Shame remains in place.
If all products were equal and we had no choice, the only thing we would have to go on when making purchasing decisions is brand and reputation. But we DO have choice, and we still don’t always choose the cheapest version of something, or the most effective version (if we did, then no one would shop at All Saints due to the knitwear falling apart if you look at it for too long). Brand, styling, and yes, reputation are all part of the complex world that make up our decision-making, and thank goodness, or we’d all be out of a job.
Cracking the science of incidental exposure
Michael White, Digital Account Director
Are you reading this newsletter in bed? When it comes to the news, the public you’re trying to reach probably are. Today smartphones are now as important for news inside the home as outside, with 46% now accessing news in bed, which is more than people who commute and read. This is according to the Digital News Report 2017 by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism; a ‘must have’ annual read for everyone who works with media.
Where are you reading this news?
- In bed
- Whilst commuting
- In the office
It’s the psychological aspect of news that really deserves attention, to which business models should follow. For instance, to this day many publications and bloggers alike think of their audience as the people who keep coming back. Whilst statistics show dedicated readerships exist, such as the Financial Times increasing their digital subscriptions by 14% last year and the US showing evidence of a ‘Trump bump’ as online news subscriptions jumped from 9% to 16%, still only one in ten people choose to pay for their news (with the exception of the Nordics, Southern Europe and Asia).
Leading to an increasingly common side-effect of our news being distributed by aggregators (e.g. Feedly and Google News), social media, and TV; incidental exposure. It’s potentially why you’re reading this newsletter in the first place. It came from out the blue, delivered by email or a link shared online, incidentally exposed to you whilst you expected to be doing something else.
Before the loyalty that comes with brand recognition, people choosing to hit subscribe; getting news to appear (or disappear…) in front of an audience matters. It’s partly why Investigations Editor at BuzzFeed, Heidi Blake, made the very public move from The Sunday Times in 2015 as the pay wall restricted sharing on social media and therefore story exposure. There is a reason the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) industry has been valued at $65billion, why in-house digital PR budgets have risen 9%, and digital services by agencies such as blogger outreach are so valuable (see PRCA 2016 report here) – organisations want to be found.
"If quality investigative journalism is heaven, then fake news is post-truth hell"
–Michael White, Lansons
Whilst the science behind fake news is complex, its clear intention is to draw attention to fuel a business model based on advertising. In an age of incidental exposure, the truth can take a backseat. If quality investigative journalism is heaven, then fake news is post-truth hell; both favour business models based on online advertising.
Organisations play by the same rules, becoming their own news publications but incidental exposure comes with another challenge, as aside from our stories and content being noticed, we have to protect recall of our brand. Reuters found that whilst people could remember how they accessed their news in the UK, less than half could remember the news brand itself from search engines or social media.
If your organisation is playing the media game, then the same rules apply to you. Think about how you are drawing people to your website directly, how you’re appearing in search engines, and what your social media presence is like; embrace that incidental exposure exists. Sometimes our company news will naturally take centre stage and draw the crowds, but often campaign content competes against a competitive newsfeed where readers can be drawn anywhere.
Whether you’re reading this news in bed or in the office, the challenges modern journalism faces is a wakeup call for us all.
Digital Account Director
HighTide Festival comes to London
Rachel Dakin, Account Manager
For almost a decade, Lansons and HighTide have enjoyed a unique, award-winning relationship between an arts charity and business. We share our offices with HighTide, which enables the theatre company to focus resources and funding on achieving their mission: to stage the best new plays by emerging writers. HighTide playwrights are new, adventurous and diverse in terms of ethnicity, political philosophy, and socio-economic backgrounds.
Our relationship with HighTide has been recognised by a number of prestigious industry awards since its inception. Most recently, we were proud to win Bronze for Best Arts and Culture Programme and Best Collaborative Approach at the Corporate Engagement Awards, up against competition including PwC and The Old Vic. If you would like us to help you create your own award-winning CSR programme, get in touch.
Over the years our offices have hosted over 15,000 young artists, that to date has resulted in over 55 theatre productions and hundreds more play developments. In turn, HighTide contributes to Lansons’ creative, vibrant and diverse culture, and we have the opportunity to engage with the cultural sector by attending productions, readings and the annual HighTide Festival.
Many of you – our clients, contacts and friends – have also enjoyed attending HighTide’s powerful and provocative plays over the years, from Peddling at the Arcola to Lampedusa at Soho Theatre. But it has been more of a challenge to attend HighTide Festival, which lies at the heart of the theatre company, since it is held each year in the seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. That is, until now…!
"HighTide Festival is coming to London"
– Rachel Dakin, Lansons
We are very excited that for the first time, HighTide Festival is coming to London.
This October HighTide Festival is coming to Walthamstow in their own theatre venue The Mix. The Mix is a state of the art 260 seat auditorium, and it will enable HighTide to stage productions on a scale
and with the technical resources greater than most studio theatres.
Over the course of 12 days, from 26 September to 8 October, HighTide will present a diverse programme of outstanding live performance, including three headline theatre performances, comedy, cabaret and music.
The headline performances include the world premiere of Kanye the First. Sam Steiner’s first commissioned play is a dazzlingly funny and original drama about identity, guilt, contemporary culture and the second coming of Kanye West.
Patriotism, nativism and modern Britain collide in Heroine, Nessah Muthy’s devastating exploration of the UK today. And the sold-out, critically acclaimed play Girls, which premiered at HighTide last year, will also return.
Described by The Times as “scorchingly intelligent and as powerful as a gut punch”, Theresa Ikoko’s play explores the voices and stories behind the trending hashtags and headlines that so quickly become yesterday’s news; in this case, the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram.
In addition to theatre performances, there are numerous other events taking place, including talks with world class artists. International best-selling novelist, playwright and non-fiction writer Kate Mosse returns for her popular series In Conversation. This year Mosse is interviewing author Author Michael Morpurgo and actress, author and presenter Sheila Hancock. Lansons is proud to be sponsoring this event.
We encourage you to take a trip to Walthamstow in October to experience HighTide’s first London Festival. HighTide will also continue to hold their Festival in Aldeburgh, so if you happen to be in Suffolk, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to preview this years’ dazzling programme before it comes to London.
HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh runs from 12 – 16 September and in Walthamstow from 26 September – 8 October 2017. You can book tickets on their website, or let us know if you are interested in attending at HTGroup@Lansons.com.
News, views and events
The Lansons Annual Party 2017
Date: Thursday 5 October | Time: 6.30pm until 11.00pm
The Lansons annual party is an opportunity to network, connect with friends old and new, share ideas, have good conversation and discover new opportunities.
If you would like to attend please register your interest at Party@lansons.com.
Places are limited so we will be in touch to confirm your place.
Check out the pictures from last years soirée here.
Party Conference 2017
The annual Lansons Party Conference Drinks Reception will return once again this year at both the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences.
Places are limited so please register your interest if you would like to attend at PartyConference@lansons.com and we will be in touch to confirm your place.
The Labour Party Conference Drinks Reception
Date: Monday 25 September | Time: 5.00pm until 8.00pm | Venue: Brighton
The Conservative Party Conference Drinks Reception
Date: Monday 2 October | Time: 5.00pm until 8.00pm | Venue: Manchester
News and Views
After conducting a social media analysis in the lead up to and the results of the recent snap general election, Junior Executive Emma Henderson discusses whether or not social media can predict an election.
Account Manager Freddie Saunders discusses the need to have confidence in the workplace, including having the confidence to network, support those we work with, learn from your colleagues and share your own knowledge in order to feel empowered and empower others.
Content and Distribution Strategist Megan Murray Jones discusses her shared parental leave experience and shares the reasons why SPL is working for her and her partner, and how you can make it work for you.
Digital Account Director Michael White discusses BrightonSEO, and the importance of ensuring your knowledge of the continually evolving and frequently disruptive digital industry aligns with your promise of helping businesses communicate more effectively with customers, investors, employees and regulators.
We are proud to have received the following awards and rankings from PRWeek:
We are delighted to be ranked 26th on the Great Place to Work® UK 2017 Best Workplaces list in the medium category. We are very proud to make the list for the 13th year in a row.
Lansons received two bronze awards at The Corporate Engagement Awards 2017 for Best arts and culture programme, and Best collaborative approach for our partnership with HighTide.