Lansons' newsletter - Autumn 2017
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Post party conferences: who is the better party for Government?
Ralph Jackson, Director
For those not aware of what a political party conference event is like try thinking of an incredibly large and unconventional wedding that goes on for three days or more with more food and drink involved than is medically sensible to consume. Dysfunctional guests and bewildered observers combine together in an orgy of debate and criticism – all within public gaze – to try and convince each other and the general public that they are the best party for Government.
Coming in the months after a general election, the 2017 political party conference season was even more important than usual as the victors and losers assess why each did, or did not, fare so well. But as we all know, there were more losers than winners in the June election. In fact the party that didn’t win thought it did, and the party that did win wore the hangdog picture of a loser. I’m not going to analyze the myriad debates that took place in Brighton and Manchester over the last two weeks, but I am going to assess where the parties stand on what I believe are five key tests for anyone aspiring to govern. I know we have a Government in place (for now) so this assessment is really a scorecard on where they and Labour are now, just in case there might be another election shortly. Which I’m told by the Government there isn’t, but they said that earlier this year – so who can tell.
In the Britain of 2017 many things matter to us all, some of which we might agree on. If you are a politician you have to embrace these many things in a catchphrase that sets you out as the ones that really understand the mindset of the electorate. So for Labour it is ’for the many, not the few’ and for the Conservatives it is ‘building a country that works for everyone’. Different words, same sentiment. Here are the five things I think matter:
- People want to be safe, and secure, in their daily lives
- They want a Government that is economically competent
- The electorate wants, and possibly expects, fairness in society
- People expect Governments to deliver on their promises
- The electorate believe they want change, but really need stability
So who is doing well in each respect? Here’s my take.
"They expect Governments to resource properly the forces that bring a sense of security, or safety, and no Government can compromise on this."
– Ralph Jackson, Lansons
The issue of security has never been higher. In the digital age everyone is quickly aware of the latest ‘threat to society’ and it troubles them. They expect Governments to resource properly the forces that bring a sense of security, or safety, and no Government can compromise on this. It is a no win situation, so all parties promise to spend and do more and at the margins argue about who does it best. They shouldn’t bother this is a no-brainer; the electorate don’t elect parties on this, they just expect it to be a high priority.
They also expect their Governments to be good at looking after their money. The ordinary consumer may be baffled by fiscal rectitude and the like but they know when a Chancellor is not telling it straight (see below on fairness). No one likes paying more tax, but presented effectively taxpayers know why they should pay more for essential services (health, etc) but selfishly we all think someone else should pay more.
So parties have to balance being tough on finances with a deft touch to persuade voters that they are the ones to trust. Being an incumbent is not an advantage as this Government knows; equally pointing out that the Labour party’s plans don’t add up only appeals to a narrow populace in the Westminster village and some in the media. Neither party is a winner here, as economic competence (like security) should go with the territory of power.
"The referendum on EU membership showed that you cannot take the public for granted when looking at such issues, which this Government should be aware of."
– Ralph Jackson, Lansons
We can all judge fairness in different ways. Take the tax system as indicated above; the general belief is that the rich should pay more than the less well off, which is broadly the case. But I think the public needs more from its politicians/Governments when it comes to being fair. Here the Government doesn’t do so well, as the perception is that they perpetuate unfair systems whether it is welfare, education or health.
I think it is also about personalities where, for example, someone like Jeremy Corbyn is considered to be more considerate and compassionate than some in Government. While his opponents in Government scoffed at his initial approach to engaging at Westminster, the public saw a person who didn’t want to name call and was prepared to put the public ahead of his own interests. Labour are ahead on fairness not just for the reasons of personality but more for the fact that they have traditionally championed the underdog. More of the British public like this. The referendum on EU membership showed that you cannot take the public for granted when looking at such issues, which this Government should be aware of.
Which brings us to the topic of Brexit. Mrs May’s Government have vowed to deliver on the majority vote on this and will be held to account for it. They know this carries huge risks as they haven’t really clarified yet what it is they are actually going to deliver. I’m not sure the public buy the argument which is ’trust us, we know what we’re doing’ when they can see on a daily basis that the opposite is more the case. But being accountable is the thing.
Labour, by contrast, don’t have this problem of accountability and can promise what they like without apparent recourse while in opposition. The only vote that matters is at the ballot box goes the argument but Labour should be wary of taking the electorate for granted when it comes to making promises that they have no intention to deliver on. Nick Clegg and the pledge on tuition fees is one most recent example of a significant own-goal, closely followed by Mrs May and social care. The public mood is one of accountability, and they are tired of being misled. Both the major parties know this, and would be foolish to be anything other than straight and transparent. It’s a bit difficult for them I think.
And finally the current mood in Europe is that change might be good, but in reality not too much change. The success of Labour during this years’ election campaign was driven in part by appeal for their style of politics but also in large measure by a need for change, or for something that is different.
The EU referendum also illustrated the ‘don’t take us for granted’ argument where a majority of the country voted for significant change. Some have argued that some didn’t properly understand what the nature of this change might actually be, but that’s not the point. The point is that democracy allows for the potential for change, it just has been usually the case in the UK that this hasn’t been so profound in decades. The SDP has come and gone, UKIP is not the force it was, and the politics of the far right are not for the many.
"Talking straight is not always the preserve of politicians but the lure of power (or staying in power) is a key motivator for not wanting too much change on Election Day."
– Ralph Jackson, Lansons
Yet the centre left is now in the ascendancy here, at least in terms of support for the Labour party, which could lead to significant change in the way politics is undertaken in the UK. The more the Government and Conservative politicians demonize Jeremy Corbyn the more this seems to be counter-productive. ‘Jeremy is authentic’ Labour activists and journalists alike told me at the Labour conference, as though this was the magic ingredient for success. If being authentic is the new reality for the electorate, then Labour could be the beneficiary of this. Talking straight is not always the preserve of politicians but the lure of power (or staying in power) is a key motivator for not wanting too much change on Election Day.
On the above count, the opposition may be marginally ahead on the voter preference for their Government. But no one should consider themselves sure of this. Whenever the next election is, both the major parties have a lot to do.
Artificial Intelligence will <u><i>change</i></u> our lives sooner than we realise
Suzanne Ellis, Director
Are you ready?
Is your organisation ready?
It was whilst attending a client’s ‘Disrupt17’ conference, that the enormous implications of AI were first felt. Together with business leaders, I listened to influential Silicon Valley speakers, from the think tank of Singularity University to RocketSpace, the world-renowned tech incubator that helped the likes of Spotify and Uber get off the ground.
Until that moment, I had underestimated the long-term changes that this technology will bring – to every industry, every organisation and every job.
"Artificial intelligence [AI] is quite literally walking off the pages of sci-fi books and into our lives"
– Suzanne Ellis, Lansons
And, it’s because of the huge leaps in machine learning, speech recognition, mapping and visual-recognition technology, that artificial intelligence [AI] is quite literally walking off the pages of sci-fi books and into our lives.
This isn’t just about self-driving cars and virtual butlers. Those Facebook photos you’re tagged in? That’s AI. So are our Netflix recommendations, Spotify playlists and Google and Skype translators that enable us to talk to anyone in the world in any language. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Alexa, your Amazon Echo voice-controlled butler. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll soon be able to ask Apple’s Siri to order one and have it delivered the same day, anywhere you find yourself.
AI is spreading so fast, it’ll soon be integrated into almost everything we touch, kick-starting what many are calling the ‘fourth-industrial revolution’ – the first being steam engines, the second oil and electricity and the third computers.
The only difference, analysts say, is this new revolution is likely to be 10 times faster, 300 times the scale and have 3,000 times the impact of others because once computers invade the physical world and start making autonomous, intelligent decisions, the opportunities are limitless.
But, despite all the advantages that AI will generate, few doubt it will also spell redundancy for many. A recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States quantifies the problem in stark terms.
It argues that jobs are already being lost to AI and are unlikely to come back. For example, robots called Sam [semi-automated mason] are already beginning to replace brickies in America and will arrive in Europe any day. They can lay up to 3,000 bricks a day compared with the human average of 500 – all without fag breaks!
PWC estimates that almost a third of existing UK jobs may be automated away over the next 15 years. That’s a lot. And, it’s not merely routine jobs. Professional services are also threatened. Automated services such as SimpleTax, KashFlow and Rocket Lawyer which prepare annual accounts and tax returns and do simple legal tasks are putting human lawyers and accountants out of work.
Counter to this, Silicon Valley argues that AI will create way more new jobs than it will destroy. Today, millions of people work as app developers, virtual-world designers, self-drive car researchers, designers and makers, ride-sharing drivers, social media marketers – jobs that not only did not exist but would have been difficult to imagine 10 years ago.
"Our jobs will change. The way we work will change. And, the organisations we work for will change."
– Suzanne Ellis, Lansons
What is known is that all of us will be affected. Our jobs will change. The way we work will change. And, the organisations we work for will change.
So, as per my article title, the question is: Are you ready for change? Is your organisation ready for change?
And, here lies our greatest challenge. As humans, we naturally fear change. We find comfort in routines, habits and what feels familiar. Even the changes that we choose for ourselves pose some difficulty and readjustment.
In our recently published book, ‘Why We Do What We Do’ - authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist who focuses on applied neuroscience in the workplace - we look at why most change efforts in organisations fail.
To get ready for change, whether as individuals or as an organisation, here are some critical questions to answer:
- Why is change happening and how will people respond to it?
- How will the change affect the organisation – internally and externally?
- How will you get your people to drive the change themselves?
Our approach would be to apply neuroscience in the any change programme and work with our clients to take the following five steps:
- Understand why the brain hates change, how habits are formed and why these topics need to be addressed as a critical starting point
- Articulate why this change is important to the business, what is involved and whom it affects
- Acknowledge the potential impact risks and minimise these early on
- Practise new skills and thinking during real and relevant scenarios (designed specifically for the change)
- Equip leaders with customised tools that motivate and mobilise change efforts
The book will be available to buy directly from Lansons at email@example.com.
Building a measurement culture
Kapil Arya, Account Manager
There is no doubt that communications measurement has been one of the most keenly discussed themes in the communications industry. The evolution of the industry has highlighted the need for an effective and rigorous way to measure its value. However, it is interesting to note how this conversation has moved on. Whilst a few years ago the focus was on criticism of flawed and outdated metrics, now it is a discussion of how data analytics based frameworks can offer a solution.
"Clients are likely to value consultants more if they know exactly how good the work is and what they are getting for the money spent on it."
– Kapil Arya, Lansons
How can a culture of measurement be fostered in consultancies? The first step is to get people on board and excited about it! Whilst every consultant doesn’t need to know the finer details of how an analytics dashboard works for example, understanding the importance of measurement in further improving client relations is vital. Clients are likely to value consultants more if they know exactly how good the work is and what they are getting for the money spent on it.
"Having sophisticated measurement frameworks that measure the qualitative beyond the quantitative will help in client retention."
– Kapil Arya, Lansons
The next step is to get buy-in from the senior team within the consultancy for which it’s important to understand their priorities and tailor the conversation accordingly. Having sophisticated measurement frameworks that measure the qualitative beyond the quantitative will help in client retention. This in turn helps the consultancy protect its revenue lines. Also, measurement can help in business development; demonstrating that it is taken as seriously as the creative ideas and having clear and sophisticated evaluation can make a difference to a consultant’s presentation to a prospect.
And finally, we move onto having more meaningful conversations with clients and prospects. A great way of starting this is by asking them the right questions. Do they track the traffic on their website and digital channels? If so, can they share the analytics? How do they track sales? Having access to the right data helps in measuring communications work in a much more strategic manner.
Often measurement can be glossed over in client meetings as the focus remains on big campaign ideas. However, it is important to establish at the start clear KPIs which factor in not just the outputs (volume / quality of media coverage) but more importantly outcomes (how does the campaign support the client’s business strategy) and outtakes (how has this campaign or activity impacted awareness? Has it increased advocacy? Has it seen a shift in end-user adoption?).
Big data and analytics have been buzzwords for measurement, discussed at several industry conferences and networking sessions. However, they now need to become part of a consultancy’s day-to-day working.
In 2018, we can be certain that the role of communications will be moving up in board meeting agendas as businesses navigate a complex media and regulatory environment. This will be accompanied by a growing need for budget justification. So, communications consultants will need to start putting measurement at the forefront of their conversations with clients and prospects to remain ahead of the curve.
The threat of fake news
Sophie Church, Account Director
The phenomenon that is ‘fake news’ has swept across the news agenda, muscled its way into speeches and been referenced by Donald Trump more times than I can count over the last 12 months or so. The Independent now has a dedicated section on it’s website for the purpose of identifying fake news and there were so many fake news alerts after the atrocities in Barcelona this summer, Buzzfeed published a video with the sole purpose of debunking these 'truths'.
It’s not a new phenomenon though, it’s something which has very much plagued the internet since its inception. But with social media continuing to grow as an integral platform not only to connect and communicate, but through which we (as consumers) live our lives, our exposure to fake news is only getting stronger.
The threat isn’t restricted to celebrities and politicians though; businesses face an equal (if not higher) risk. For example, over the summer, supermarket customers found themselves trying to download £100 Tesco and Waitrose vouchers as part of an ‘anniversary’ push from the supermarket giants – in actual fact these vouchers were fake and did not entitle the owner to anything.
The customers who clicked through to the web page to ‘download’ the vouchers – and found themselves fantasizing about the indulgent weekly shop they were about to embark on – were faced with a confusing form and asked for all their personal details in return for nothing.
Waitrose were quick to remark that the vouchers were ‘in no way related to Waitrose – and we are reporting it to Action Fraud’, and luckily for the supermarket chains, the fact that they’d been a victim of a ‘fake news hit’ was covered more extensively than the actual vouchers, but the threat of fake news on both B2C and B2B businesses could be catastrophic.
Speaking hypothetically, if it was ‘leaked’ or ‘reported’ that one of the UK’s major banks was about to crash, customer stress levels would go into free fall and at the very least, extensive reassurances would need to be made. Or if it was ‘reported’ that one of the country’s airlines had experienced an issue with its safety checks and procedures, consumer trust would be brought into question.
"Our most powerful tool is the truth."
– Sophie Church, Lansons
As communication experts, part of our role is to mitigate the risks of fake news, and while planning for crises is part and parcel of our everyday work, building the threat of fake news into these plans is a relatively new consideration. So we treat it like any other crisis planning scenario and follow the mantra: prepare, prepare, prepare. By having a stringent plan in place to go through this process, we can proactively verify the rumours if necessarily in a quick (but not rushed), informative (but sympathetic) and reassuring (but authoritative) fashion. After all, our most powerful tool is the truth.
It’s hip to be square!
Steven Arnoldi, Account Manager
Social media has created a new form of video and we can’t ignore it anymore.
When TV was first invented, we watched everything in a square format (pretty much, or 4:3 ratio to be exact) until high definition came about and we moved to the beautiful wide-screen (16:9 ratio) format we enjoy today.
But social media is changing the game. The way we consume video content on a daily basis has evolved and it’s all down to that humble mini-computer in your pocket, the smartphone.
We stare at our phone screens constantly, and although we could ‘tilt’ our phones into landscape mode for a wide-screen video experience, that means effort - so we generally don’t bother. Most people keep their phones upright as they scroll through the days’ social and online content.
This has paved the way for the re-birth of square video (with subtitles, so we don’t need to waste time plugging in our headphones to understand what’s happening). This text has become just as important as the video. It’s the hook in today’s video advertising strategy, vying for our time, keeping us entertained and – most crucially - watching.
Requests for square video is on the rise, so it’s time to step up and own it. Let’s create something new, rather than shoehorn a beautifully crafted wide-screen video into square format.
Take this example from one of the latest triple-A games on the market:
The filmmakers haven’t let the square video format own them and become a restriction. Instead, they have used the box full screen instead of being happy with the black bars you’d usually find.
"When it comes to shape and size, it’s a new world for video in this ever-changing digital landscape."
– Steven Arnoldi, Lansons
When it comes to shape and size, it’s a new world for video in this ever-changing digital landscape. It’s time to take the squares seriously.
Inspiring a new and diverse generation for Lansons – do we really have a choice?
Rebecca Henning, HR Manager
Do you remember your first work experience? Perhaps it was babysitting for a family with far too many children, office experience mostly photocopying and making tea, or pulling drinks you’d never heard of behind a bar… and we wonder why young people are lacking the skills needed to take off in the world of work.
"Our scheme forms part of our core business strategy of supporting meritocracy, diversity and inclusion."
– Rebecca Henning, Lansons
Lansons’ believes in providing fair work experience opportunities to young people from a range of backgrounds to help them develop core employability skills. It also helps us source talent from the broadest spectrum possible. The 2016 report by CMI and EY foundation, Age of uncertainty, young people's views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st century Britain, revealed that 56% of young people find it challenging to gain experience relevant to their choice of career, and 32% are concerned they won’t find a job in the near future. We want to help change this and our scheme forms part of our core business strategy of supporting meritocracy, diversity and inclusion.
This summer we were proud to host 18 work experience students as part of our annual programme. Many students have never worked in an office before so we invite them in for an informal chat as a first step to get to know them a little and pair them with the right buddy. People from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly find it hard to get their foot in the door so we genuinely believe in improving social mobility though our links with charity Making the Leap, and a new partnership this year with Social Mobility Foundation. 44% of students this summer came from this wider community, with a focus on disadvantaged backgrounds. We aim to reach 50%.
We also supported Barking and Dagenham Council’s Insight into Management Programme for a second year and hosted a group of school students for a week whilst they worked on a management task. The students interacted with people throughout the agency and the week culminated with them presenting their final work. This autumn we also hosted around 30 students from the Women of the Future Ambassadors Scheme which helps connect successful women with sixth form students to provide them with mentors and role models.
Our scheme wouldn’t work without the genuine passion our people feel for their career. Our junior consultants buddy up with the students to guide them through varied tasks from writing press releases to attending client brainstorms and team meetings. They genuinely integrate students into Lansons’ work practices and culture to develop both their technical and soft skills.
" As modern-day employers we have a responsibility to pro-actively encourage opportunities for all and support future generations."
– Rebecca Henning, Lansons
We all know that the responsibility of developing young peoples’ skills lies not only with employers, but with the education system and governments in a cycle that is inextricably linked. However, as modern-day employers we have a responsibility to pro-actively encourage opportunities for all and support future generations make the jump from school to work.
Do we really have a choice? Not if you’d like a competent, diverse and skilled workforce...
"It has certainly encouraged me to think about PR as a future career and made me feel like it was something that, with the right training, I could certainly do and potentially be good at."
– Work experience student
"My experience at Lansons made me really excited about embarking on a career in communications."
– Work experience student
"The programme was great, I was able to work on different things each day, and I was able to gain a lot of insight into the industry!"
– Work experience student
"I learned a huge amount."
– Work experience student
News, views and events
Lansons is delighted to have won Best IR Agency or PR consultancy at the UK’s prestigious 2017 Corporate & Financial Awards, against strong competition. The awards celebrate and showcase excellence in financial communications and provide recognition for the efforts of companies, agencies and their staff. Lansons’ achievement in winning the top prize is recognition for the outstanding work of our growing financial communications specialism and our ongoing excellence in corporate communications. Lansons’ continues to invest in these core disciplines, supporting clients with continuing campaigns as well as special projects including M&A, IPO, refinancing, restructuring and bondholder communications work. High quality advisory lies at the heart of what we do. That means clients get experienced consultants supported by the right resources. As an integrated, full service agency, we are able to apply a wide range of skills on behalf of corporates, whether they are publicly listed or privately owned.
If you are interested in finding out more about how Lansons can support your business, please contact Tom Baldock.
We are also very pleased to have received two more prestigious awards:
The Public Relations – Advisory Firm of the Year – UK award at the Finance Monthly Global Awards 2017.
The Silver Award at the Stevie Awards: The International Business Awards 2017 for Public Relations Agency of the Year.
Exploring humans and happiness: an audience with Theodore Zeldin
Date: Tuesday 31 October | Time: 8.30am for 9.00am start
Lansons is delighted to invite you to a breakfast with Theodore Zeldin, the Oxford scholar of personal ambitions. Theodore will be interviewed by Lansons Joint Managing Director and Head of Change and Employee Engagement, Scott McKenzie, and you will also have the opportunity to hear answers to your questions from this renowned philosopher, sociologist, historian and public speaker.
If you would like to attend please register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Places are limited so we will be in touch to confirm your place.
Lansons Healthcare Public Policy Conference at GIANT
Date: Wednesday 29 November | Venue: Old Trewman Brewery
GIANT – the Global Innovation and New Technology Health Event – now in its second year, focuses on supporting an emerging health industry that is more digital, nimble, responsive and focused on people. This year Lansons will be bringing together experts in health and public policy to focus on tech innovation and the health of cities, and if tech innovation is the answer to solve the healthcare innovation crisis.
For further information please contact GIANT@lansons.com.
Click here to purchase your ticket. Please use our promo code: LANSONS_GIANT_HALF-PRICE to receive 50% off your ticket.
Lansons Annual Charity Christmas Fair 2017
Date: Thursday 30 November | Time: 5.30pm until 8.30pm
Come and join us to kick off the festive season at the Lansons' Christmas Fair 2017. Eat, drink and be merry, while stocking up on Christmas presents. Stalls to include jewellery, books, wine, beauty and much more. Admission is £5.00 (including drinks and festive nibbles). All proceeds from entry and raffle tickets sold go to Mind, Lansons’ chosen charity for 2017. Stall holders are also generously donating 10% of proceeds from goods sold.
If you would like to attend please register your interest at ChristmasFair@lansons.com.
Places are limited so we will be in touch to confirm your place.
The Lansons Annual Party 2017
A big thank you to all that attended our Annual Party. We hope you enjoyed the evening and got to catch up with friends and colleagues old and new. We look forward to seeing you again next year!
You can view the rest of your very glamorous photo here!
Lansons in the press
Financial News – Bell Pottinger’s £7m debt pile scares off bidders
Following on from Bell Pottinger’s recent controversial campaign which attempted to play on racial tensions in South Africa, Chris Newlands reports on the high levels of debt the firm has on its balance sheet. The article states that this debt is putting off potential bidders for the firm. Lansons CEO Tony Langham commented on the current outlook for the company, stating that Management have now missed the opportunity to transfer the quality corporate and financial business to a rival or spin-off under a new name.
BBC Radio 4 – The World Tonight
Following Bell Pottinger’s expulsion from the PRCA, Lansons CEO Tony Langham was featured on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight. The segment focused on the current state of the PR industry, what firms offer their clients and whether they're likely to change the way they operate. Tony commented his preference for the term ‘reputation management’ as opposed to PR and the current landscape of the industry.
Lansons in the press
PR Week - Don't do 'the Maybot' - why business must be honest and direct to reconnect with society
In an exclusive article for PR Week, Lansons CEO Tony Langham explains the impact of big business jargon on their reputation and communication with its customers. Tony assets that this jargon is running the risk of further alienating ordinary consumers.
PR Moment – How PR drives sales
Lansons Account Manager Tom Pavey-Smith explains how PR can be one of the biggest drivers to jump start a business’s sales and stand out from the crowd.
News and Views
We are delighted to announce that Tom Baldock, Claudia Guembe and Eva Murphy have become partners in Lansons. This is in recognition of their contribution and commitment to the business and their importance to our future.
Account Executive Timo Burbridge discusses the key to navigating geopolitical risk, and why it matters to your company’s reputation.
Our lovely intern, Faith Jones shares her experience as a Lansons' intern. From logging coverage to briefing notes, Faith let's us in on a day in the life of an intern at Lansons.
In light of the BBC gender pay gap revelation, Account Manager Rachel Dakin discusses why the gender pay gap is a reputational risk that you cannot afford to ignore.