Lansons' newsletter - Autumn 2018
Top Tips for Party Conference Season
Party conference season is the largest and most significant event in the party-political calendar. In some cases, policies are decided, agendas are set, and MPs position themselves on the issues of the day. Whether it’s your first time, or indeed your 10th time as a delegate, read our top tips on how to make a success of the one of the busiest, and maddest, periods of the year.
• Plan ahead: Whether you’re attending the keynote speeches at the main conference, or breezing into fringe events, plan your day. With around 350 events taking place across the three to four days, there’s always going to be a clash somewhere along the line – two fringe events on housing policy for instance at opposite ends of the arena which you just have to attend. The conference guides come out around three weeks in advance, plenty of time to give them a scan and highlight the sessions relevant to you and your work (and the ones which look the most fun!). When juggling competing events, go to the one with the most relevant speakers (Ministers for instance), or with MPs you may have had dealings with in the past; it’s always good to reconnect and hear the policy direction straight from the horse’s mouth.
• Download the app: The conference guide booklet is invaluable and worth keeping on you at all times, but the amount of leaflets/flyers/reports/policy papers on offer adds up. All conferences now offer Apps which easily let you bookmark the events you wish to attend, offer alarms when things are going to start and updates on new speakers or any room changes. Also, what’s better – being caught unaware by that Minister you need to have a chat with while poring over a heavily highlighted brochure, or casually scrolling through your phone? No brainer.
• Know the layout: Conferences are a maze, that’s half the fun. Around every corner lies a famous Peer, an erstwhile party bigwig, an up-and-coming MP or your most hated political activist. Knowing where to hang out or how to get from fringe room A207(b) to the Hilton Churchill Room in 10 minutes is invaluable. It also minimises the stress of darting between attendees down endless mirror-image corridors in-time for a meeting. Give the conference map in the booklet and on the App a good once over on the train ride up and spy out the ‘quiet zones’ or business areas which offer seating or a power plug to recharge your phone.
• Eat well (if not healthily): Done right, you need never have to visit Pret during your visit. Done wrong, you won’t be able to stomach another sandwich until after Christmas. Every breakfast and lunch event will offer an assortment of canapes and drinks – you’ll never be without caffeine which is a lifeline for those busy days of meetings, events and your actual work commitments. But the food can also be monotonous, dry and worst of all, soggy… Be picky, breakfasts are your best bet to eat heartily for the rest of the day and help cure the late night ‘networking’.
• Keep your ear to the ground: If you think the Westminster bubble is gossipy, you’ll be blown over by the “Did you hear…” stories at conference. It’s a veritable whirlwind of manoeuvring, grandstanding and chutzpah. It’s a key reason to go, helping you to understand the party dynamics and how the grassroots feel about certain players or MPs. There’s also often ‘secret’ gatherings each evening where a group of MPs will be having dinner or enjoying a drink away from their hand holders at a karaoke bar, not a sight to be missed.
• Don’t stargaze: Was that Lord Important and Baroness OMG? Yes, it’s cool to see them in person, but don’t gawp, stop, gaze (or indeed glare), or try to impress. Be professional, calm and if you catch their eye, offer a friendly nod. If they look like they’re not in a rush, you may even be able to introduce yourself and ask where they are heading, an easy conversation starter and one that can be followed by “Oh what a surprise, I’m heading that way too, did you hear about…” [see above point].
• Take the lull: This is important. If you’re attending for work, or just for pleasure, conference never lets up, starting at 7am and lasting until the small hours. When you find two hours free in your mid-afternoon itinerary, take the lull. Head to that quiet zone you’ve spotted, visit the independent café you noticed outside of the conference zone, or simply attend a semi-interesting fringe event and let the political debate wash over you.
Lansons Local Tips:
o Conservative Conference, Birmingham: Head to the Birmingham library café, just 200 metres away, for a quiet rest and a coffee. A visit to the top floor to see the Shakespeare room and views across the city is well worth it.
o Labour Conference, Liverpool: Take a walk along the dock to the Museum of Liverpool (with award winning architecture) and relax at the viewing gallery overlooking the River Mersey, which on a clear day is spectacular.
The Lansons Offering:
Party conference season is the largest and most significant event in the party-political calendar. Policies are decided, agendas are set, and MPs position themselves on the issues of the day.
Lansons is offering to curate bespoke engagement plans and help organise focused events in order to position your business at the forefront of debate. We can offer strategic advice, insight, and on-the-ground support at conference for many activities.
Click here to find out more about Lansons support at Party Conference.
Or if you can't make it in person, we can curate bespoke monitoring plans for your organisation so that you can benefit from the insight of conference, without having to bear the cost of attendance.
Click here to learn about Lansons Party Conference Monitoring.
Bridging the Gap
Research published earlier this year by market intelligence revealed the impact of the “decade of the smartphone”. The report, “A decade of Digital Dependency” (Market Intelligence) revealed that the average person in the UK spends more than a day a week using their phone, and checks it almost every 12 minutes.
Smartphone technology allows us to centralise our lives from a single device; working, communicating, shopping and following our interests and hobbies. The same applies to how we manage our finances. Many of us will rely upon apps to check our bank accounts, make payments, and research different opportunities.
Much has been made of how different sectors can harness technology and use this as a means of reaching and building consumers, and the asset management industry is no different. Podcasts about market movements, apps which allow us to track our investments in real time and move money as we want, and plan how much we are willing to save and invest.
However, we know there is a huge portion of the UK, particularly amongst younger generations, who are not engaging or planning for their financial future. Why is this, when all it would take is a few quick clicks? Why are so many of us happy to spend hours on Instagram or logging a workout on Strava, than to use the time we spend on our phones – a day a week, apparently – than taking steps to secure our finances?
I think a big part of the answer is about relationships. Technology is a huge enabler but it’s no substitute for building a relationship, based on understanding, a common language and support. And this is one of the big challenges facing the asset management industry. Part of the problem lies in the industry being intermediated, with minimal engagement with the end investor. Asset managers rely upon their own clients – IFAs, platforms, wealth managers – to bridge that gap and understand what it is that consumers are hoping to achieve from their finances.
Admittedly, banks have a different relationship with their customers and more opportunities to reach them directly. However, they are a step ahead of asset managers in terms of demonstrating that they understand how consumers approach financial matters. Rather than simply pushing products, many have spent a huge amount of time looking to understand what matters to their customers, and overhauled their approach to communications as a result. Brands are built around storytelling, simple and clear language, and engagement with consumers around key moments in life such as buying a home or saving for retirement.
It is this approach, rather than talking about product, performance or strategy, that will inspire people to engage with their finances; the asset management industry needs to return to the reasons why people invest rather than simply how and where. And so while technology poses a number of opportunities to develop innovative tools and services for consumers which will make it easier for them to invest, it is unlikely to act as the catalyst for them to make the decision to engage and invest.
At Lansons we want to be famous for the quality of our thinking and our focus on delivering exceptional advice, ideas and results. But we are also here to make a difference. To the clients we work for, the people that work here and the community we are part of. As such, we invest in a wide variety of creative projects around the arts and we are proud to be supporters of artist Nicola Green and her new exhibition……
UK artist and social historian, Nicola Green makes a compelling case that we have entered a new era in interfaith relations; a claim worthy of serious theological and historical consideration, as her new exhibition and book, Encounters – The Art of Interfaith Dialogue, involving leading art historians, clergy, theologians, and critics demonstrates through the lens of her extraordinary artworks.
Encounters is the result of a decade of painstaking visual and academic research by the artist. Nicola collected thousands of photographs and hundreds of pages of drawings and notes as she accompanied world faith leaders on interfaith summits and meetings around the world, from the UK to Italy, Israel, Egypt, Qatar, India, and the United States. Along the way, she gained access to leading figures including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Pope Francis, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and the Dalai Lama.
Leaders of many of the world’s faiths have begun, often for the first time, to sit down together and consider possibilities for cooperation, dialogue, and friendship
While in the past such encounters might have been formal affairs or photo-opportunities, what is remarkable today – as Green witnessed first-hand – is the depth of relationships being formed across historically deep divides. Leaders of many of the world’s faiths have begun, often for the first time, to sit down together and consider possibilities for cooperation, dialogue, and friendship. Together they are leading the way towards a dialogue which respects and honours other religions, without compromising the truth of their own traditions.
Nicola writes: 'Over the last decade, religious leaders have begun meeting to articulate publicly their understanding and respect for other faiths, without compromising the absolute truth of their own beliefs. This interfaith dialogue has gone largely unreported, and yet I believe it is one of the most significant religious, cultural, and political developments for contemporary society.
My aim is to present images that invite a deeper understanding of this dialogue, which can seem remote to many people; show that the world’s faith leaders are changing their attitudes to each other; and suggest how all humanity may benefit from this new development. I hope to embody the way that these meetings – sometimes personally and theologically difficult – can create a ripple of hope and optimism that continues long after the encounter is over.
A decade of trips around the world confirmed to me that something new was happening, not widely reported. Religious leaders were organising these meetings individually; there was no co-ordinated effort from outside institutions. They were making efforts to discuss their differences and commonalities and to develop respect for one another, moving away from superficial tolerance towards a deep understanding of other viewpoints. They were learning how to articulate their respect for other faiths at a personal level.'
The Encounter Series consists of 31 portraits. Each has its own background created from the iconography, symbols, artefacts, architecture, and costumes of the subject and their religion in the context of the meetings the artist witnessed. The objects, their arrangement, and colours have been selected to enhance their theological relevance. Nicola has chosen to conceal the subjects’ flesh. Their face and hands have been hand-painted. This highlights the background, the body language, and the semiotics of the subjects while raising questions about identity. In concealing the face, the subject is removed from their individual office, identity and ego. They become a symbol of their religion. It creates a blank canvas on which we can project our own image, stimulating questions of our relationship to those who are different from us.
“As an artist, I am primarily interested in visual imagery and its legacy. I sought to witness and visually record this new phenomenon of respecting opposing beliefs to one’s own, to understand it and document it for future generations. Yet, on a deeper level, I hoped to create images that could make a lasting impression, that might leave an indelible mark on the mind of those that encounter them, and in turn inspire new acts of respect. I hope that Encounters helps people to think about interfaith dialogue in a deeper way, and perhaps use my journey as the beginning of their own.”
Encounters, an exhibition by Nicola Green, continues until 19 November 2018 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. Find out more here.
#SoundOn: Podcasts Become Pivotal
As Lansons launches its own podcast series, Senior Producer Steven Arnoldi explores the reasons why podcasts are on the rise and the best way brands can utilise audio content to engage their audiences.
Google is starting to take podcasting very seriously and brands need to take notice. “Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years,” Google Podcasts Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen stated. Google have upgraded podcasts ranking status in search as well, to a “first-class citizen” alongside text, image and video results, so brands should check that their podcast follows Google’s official guidelines sooner than later.
Google is also looking at how one device can hand off to the next, for a seamless listening experience, which is called “device interoperability” and will be key to attracting a new audience with the wide spread adoption of smart speakers.
“Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years,”
Zack Reneau-Wedeen, Google Podcasts Product Manager
If brands are not already looking at podcasts as a truly effective way of reaching and engaging target audiences, they should be. Podcast ad spend is expected to hit $534 million in 2020 (1) with 93% of brands increasing their podcast ad spending from 2016-17(2). Why is this? Firstly, the ads are listened to and they work - 85% of listeners do not skip them(3) and 78% don’t mind them as they support the show.(4) The hosts of the shows usually read the ads – tailored to each podcast - adding character and authenticity. Secondly, podcast listeners earn 28% more than the population average (5) and they spend more in popular consumer categories (travel, tech, transport & entertainment)(6) so podcasts are a great way to reach a well-defined group of savvy, affluent and loyal consumers.
If brands are looking to create something of their own to support brand cut-through, or strengthen their thought-leadership positioning, then they would also do well to invest in an entertaining and experienced host. Podcasts are about intimate relationships, as they are usually a one-on-one communication. A good host needs to be able to execute the goals and requirements of this ‘branded content’ and be the right fit for whatever style the podcast wants to take. Is it meant to be funny, informative or is it thought-provoking? Look at how Joe Media partnered with LBC’s James O’Brien on their successful interview podcast ‘Unfiltered’ as an example of the right host, for the right podcast.
It’s key to make the content engaging, something we aimed to do in the launch of Lansons' new podcast series. The first episode centred on the importance of mindfulness in leadership and it even featured a mindfulness exercise at the end. You can find it here on iTunes or for Android it’s here on Acast. (Make sure to hit subscribe to keep up to date with all the latest episodes.)
The future of podcasting is bright. There is an audience that has money to spend, and if brands are smart with the types of podcasts they advertise on, or create, it has the potential to be very beneficial. Google’s decision to take podcasting is big news. The choice Google took to improve the searchability, can only be good for podcasts and searching for information - either text, image or audio - will now be on an even playing field. It’s game-on for podcasts!
(1) eMarktere, Sep 2017
(2) audioBoom, 2017
(3) Digital Download “meaningful communications” workshop 2018
(4) Nielsen Digital Media Lab, PODCAST SPONSORSHIP EFFECTIVENESS 2017
(5,6) Acast Dec, 2017
Our Brain and Biases
Dr. Helena Boschi
Dr. Helena Boschi is a successful neuroscientist, specialising in applied neuroscience, working with senior talent-management teams and heads of communications across industries worldwide, helping them to overcome leadership challenges, organisational change and intercultural communications.
Dr. Boschi has partnered with Lansons to produce her book, Why We Do What We Do. In it, Dr. Boschi describes how the brain is the basis of everything we do: how we behave, communicate, feel, remember, pay attention, create, influence and decide. It offers valuable insights into how the brain works everyday, at home and work, and it offers tips and practical tools to help you learn how to lead a healthy, happy and productive life. Although ongoing advances in neuroscience continue to expand our understanding of how our brain operates, it remains the most mysterious and complex organ in the human body. This article is an excerpt from one chapter, which focuses on our natural biases and how our brain develops mental shortcuts to help us react a certain way and process information accordingly.
'We can be blind to the obvious but we can also be blind to our own blindness.'
Daniel Kahneman, Psychologist and Nobel Prize Winner
Our Brain and Biases
We are all biased. Our biases are the beliefs, attitudes and preferences that we form about ourselves and other people. We pick up these biases through our culture, background and education, and they influence how we see the world and make decisions. Our brain has to predict rapidly what is safe or harmful in our environment. Our biases therefore act as protective measures and enable us to react immediately to any new stimuli in our environment. But they intervene so quickly that we may make a bad choice or overlook crucial detail.
Bias: Our brain’s defence mechanism
Our biases are triggered to help us filter new information and act quickly. They represent a human adaptive response to our surroundings and play an important role in acting as a defence mechanism.
In a sense our biases are our brain’s psychological immune system and prevent us from decision paralysis. If we were unable to respond quickly to our surroundings we would not be able to survive.
Why are our biases so powerful?
Even in situations when we have limited information we still have to make decisions based on what we think we know. We may later rationalise our initial assumption and use information we gather after the event in order to endorse or justify our first belief or decision. If later information then contradicts our first response we generally find a way to make this later evidence fit with our original belief, however incongruent it is.
These biases can therefore lead us to distorted thinking and erroneous decision-making but we often refuse or are unable to recognise this.
So our biases are pervasive influences in our life and affect much of what we do and believe. The key is to understand where our biases may be operating and keep them in check.
Types of biases
We are susceptible to a number of biases which are discussed in detail in Why We Do What We Do, but for the purposes of this article, they are listed below with a short description for each one.
Loss aversion: One of our strongest biases is called ‘loss aversion’. Daniel Kahneman explains that this bias is based on the fact that our brain has to minimise uncertainty about the future and places more urgency on avoiding threats than realising gains. This has led to the powerful influence of potential losses on our behaviour.
Confirmation bias: Confirmation bias is a form of selection bias when we look for information that confirms or reinforces our existing beliefs.
Optimism bias: Optimism bias leads us to overestimate our likelihood of experiencing good events in our lives and underestimate our likelihood of experiencing bad events.
Overconfidence bias: Closely linked to optimism bias is overconfidence bias. This is observed when we make judgements about ourselves relative to other people.
Present bias: Present bias describes our tendency to place more emphasis on benefits that are lodged in the present time when considering a trade-off with a future point in time.
In-group and out-group bias: Our in-groups are people with whom we feel we share several traits or interests, such as our family and people from the same culture. Out-groups are people who are different to us. We naturally and subconsciously favour people in our own social group and our brain is designed to seek out similarities and differences in others. Social prejudice and racism are rooted in in-group bias. Some scientists believe this bias is hard-wired in our brains as a form of selective selection.
We naturally and subconsciously favour people in our own social group and our brain is designed to seek out similarities and differences in others. Social prejudice and racism are rooted in in-group bias.
Credit someone here…
Negativity bias: Our brain reacts more intensely to negative than positive stimuli. Our negativity bias is a protective measure and has ensured our survival.
Groupthink: We strive for consensus within a group. Groupthink is a bias we adopt when we set aside our own personal beliefs in order to adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.
Anticipation of regret: An ‘a priori’, or anticipation of, possible regret can influence decision-making. This is often seen in buying decisions where we may later regret not choosing an available option. Anticipation of regret can therefore influence choices made at the time and can lead to faulty decision-making, even outweighing risk perception.
Learned helplessness: Learned helplessness is a psychological trap and a form of conditioning whereby people feel that they have no control over their situation and so behave in a helpless manner. This inactive state can prevent them from seeing opportunities for relief or change. Learned helplessness can induce the pessimism attribution bias that leads to distorted thinking and self-beliefs. For example when we have failed at something we may then believe that nothing we may then do will have any effect on future performance.
We Think Other People Are More Biased Than We Are..
Many of us would like to believe that our opinions and decisions have been carefully and rationally formed. But all of us are biased to some degree or other – and all of us will experience some or all of the biases explained above. Yet the irony is that many of us think other people are more biased than we are!
Much of the time we are unaware of our own biases. This is known as unconscious or implicit bias. Even if we do recognise that we may be biased we rarely question or confront the biases we carry inside us. Our biases continue to influence how we live and interact with those around us.
Despite being aware of our biases we can never fully overcome our biased thinking but we can try to interrupt it, slow it down and minimise its effects on our decision-making. The key point to remember is that no amount of training will fully eradicate biased thinking. The best we can do is to be more self-aware, raising the fact that we have biases to our conscious level so that we can challenge our own thinking and assumptions.
We hate being wrong and our brain avoids complexity
Although we like to think that we make good decisions, and that if we are presented with contradictory facts we would change our views, the opposite is in fact true. Even when we are provided with evidence to counter an original opinion or belief, we stick even more rigidly to our original belief rather than believe the new contradictory (but correct) evidence. We are so afraid of being wrong that we lose our ability to reason when someone or something contradicts our belief.
The more choices we have, the more we avoid complexity and the less likely we are to make a decision. Because most of us dislike uncertainty, and our brain is continually attempting to predict and protect, when there are too many unknowns we look for the simplest solution to help us make a fast decision.
When we have to choose between multiple outcomes our brain cannot cope and becomes distracted. However when we have a choice of just two outcomes we are able to make a much faster choice.
Influencing Our biases
There are various methods that help to overcome our biases, or manipulate the biases of others such as Framing, Anchoring, Priming and Nudge theory, all of which are explained in detail in Why We Do What We Do. Lansons is holding a Masterclass on 16 November which will focus on one particular method, 'nudge theory'.
Nudge is an aspect of behavioural economics where our behaviour can be ‘nudged’ in a specific direction. The direction can either be good or bad.
In 2010 the UK government set up the Behavioural Insights Team also known as the ‘nudge unit’ and has worked with Richard Thaler whose best-selling book Nudge reinforces the same philosophy.
Among the initiatives of the Behavioural Insights Team people have been nudged into paying their car’s road tax using a letter written in simple English stating: ‘Pay your tax or lose your car’. In some cases a photograph of their own car was attached. The letter alone has doubled the number of people paying the tax, with the number tripling when the photograph is also added.
Similar outcomes have been seen elsewhere. Children may also be ‘nudged’. The Economist cites a study in French schools which found that if the subject was called ‘geometry’ boys excelled, but if it was called ‘drawing’ girls did just as well as the boys, or even better. Workplace studies have shown that managers who believe their company has a reputation for supporting women in more male-dominated fields of science and technology were more likely to hire, develop and promote women.
The downside of nudge is that we can also be manipulated in the same way by the nudging of others. By not paying attention to whether something is an opt-in or opt-out we may find ourselves committing unknowingly to initiatives without even realising that we have in fact done so.
Dr. Helena Boschi
Chequered Leopard Ltd
To register for the upcoming Neurocomms Masterclass on 'Behavioural Economics and Nudge Theory' on Friday 16 November with Dr. Helena Boschi and Lansons Director of Change and Engagement Suzanne Ellis, or to purchase a copy of Why We Do What We Do, please email RachelS@lansons.com.
The Structure Behind Design
Lansons Designer, Dan Inman, walks us through the creative design process.....
It takes a certain kind of person to be a graphic designer. I believe it requires a combination of audacity and humility, confidence in yourself and a willingness to gracefully surrender to another's taste preferences. No matter what type of designer you are, there should be a process to follow, in order to achieve the highest quality results for all projects that a designer undergoes. So here’s a little insight into how I approach a brief or project.
The four phases of design
The details of my creative process vary quite a lot, depending on the deadline and nature of the project but there should be four distinct phases:
1. Approaching the brief:
When a client or colleague comes to you with a job in mind it is your opportunity to extract as much information from them as you can. It is also important that the Designer asks the right questions:
• Who is the target audience? Find out whom you are designing for. This will have a great impact on the style, content and message of the project. For example, a campaign for a target audience of 18-25 year olds (university students) vs one addressed for 65+ year olds and pensioners. These two campaigns would be very different.
• What is the key message to convey? The overall message can be as simple as thanking a client or announcing a new service or product.
• What is the purpose and objective of this project? It’s very important to understand what the ultimate goal of a project is and to keep it in mind all the time. Design does involve creating beautiful collateral but without purpose, design is useless.
• What is the project deadline? Find out if the project needs to be done by a specific date. The project may coincide with a ‘launch’ or another important milestone for your client. You should consider all factors that might affect the deadline (who’s sending the content, how many people are looking at it and providing feedback, does it need to go to printers or to a developer to build a website?), all these aspects will influence the deadline. If there is not a deadline, you will want to create a timeframe/plan for completing the project and present it to the client.
No designer is a mind reader, it’s important at this early stage of the process to assess exactly what the client is hoping for, and to clearly communicate expectations through the whole process.
This is the essential, preliminary start to concept creation. The research gathered should be to inform the design. I would start by doing some research on the target audience, personas, sector/product and competition. It is also important to do research on the client and find out their way of communicating and what their brand values are. Furthermore the designer should then look at: possible colour palettes, imagery that would inspire the design, etc.
This is what we would then put together as a moodboard prior to starting any design work.
When it's time to start conceptualising the design, there’s no better way than brainstorming ideas (after all the relevant research has been done) and sketching as many ideas as possible, you never know what’s going to make it to the final design! Once all of the creative thinking has been done, we would put together a document that showcases two to three of our possible design concepts along with some examples of how they could be further developed. We would then present this to the client, providing the rational and creative thinking behind the design.
3. Development of the material(s):
Once the creative concept has been agreed with the client, it’s now a case of applying it through various design materials or segments of communications requested by the client. This is the stage in which all content is brought to life.
The client will then provide their feedback on the designs to the designer and team. If the designer hits the nail on the head, there won’t be major changes. But it’s more likely that there will be some amends.
• Design is very subjective this is why very often the client will have a different view and request some amends to be done on the designed concept. Our job is to take their comments and incorporate them into the design in the best, viable and possible way and always give our expert advice.
Finally it is important to say that whilst this is the ideal, this format doesn’t always suit every client or project. Some respond better to a more fluid timeline, while others have to work to a tight deadline. The important thing to remember is that a designer has to adapt and be flexible to the client’s needs, while offering expert advice and quality work. There are however two things to consider when finishing a design project: How can I surprise and satisfy the client? And does this look incredible?