Is Microsoft the Global Police Force?

Right or wrong Microsoft is pushing their cloud solutions and I’m sure they are good, or at least no worse than other cloud solutions on the market. What I wonder about though is the strategy behind the commercials, it’s all very nice and worthy to be the cloud solution behind big public events. However, what I don’t understand is why Microsoft are so proud over their Digital Crimes Unit, or proud might not be the right word, but personally I would think twice before publicly and globally market the fact that a privately own company has taken on a global police role. While I can see the need to keep up to speed and even anticipate threats, it’s always good to be able to stop attacks on a cloud solutions. But posing as an alternative, private, police? Has the support for and belief in the police force sunk so low that companies retreat to their own cyber crime solving units? I’m not speaking about research and monitoring, I’m speaking about Crime Units that helps find criminals – all according to Microsoft’s own words. Public Private Partnerships, PPP, is a fairly usual way for the public sector to work with the private sector and it can be a very good for all involved. But I personally believe strongly in the so-called state monopoly on violence. I am certain Microsoft’s Crime Unit finds cyber criminals, I mean it’s their job, but what happens then? Are these criminals reported to the national police force in the country the criminals are found? Microsoft deals with them themselves? And what in the eyes of Microsoft constitute a crime? It’s not a subject for a commercial, true, but I’m not so certain that I find this approach of Microsoft’s reassuring.

Google’s Tribulations – Déjà-vu all over again…

By now it hasn’t escaped many that Google’s UK boss Matt Brittin didn’t know his own pay when asked in the cross party hearing about Google’s UK tax polices. While it must be a nice problem to have, that’s not my gripe. Nor am I discussing the tax deal whether it was fair or not. But I wonder about why Google seemingly doesn’t seem to see the PR snafu in this story. If I headed up a company and a senior company representative floundered like this at a question and was called “evil” on camera I’d definitely consider that as something of a [minor] PR disaster.

The whole thing reminds me painfully about the SOPA hearings, the same thing there – the IT industry at large sent one lawyer that like the Lone Rider faced a committee of hostile Senators and even more hostile pro-SOPA representatives. And if companies like Google hadn’t shut the Internet down for a day, SOPA would have been introduced there and then.

I so surprised every time I see this happening. One of the biggest companies in the world and they behave worse than a start-up managed by a 20-year old from Mother’s walk-in closet. It’s like Google don’t care about their reputation. Or does Google think that their reputation is so good that they are impossible to harm? Or that because they of their size and market position have nothing to worry about? I find their arrogance amazing. And what more I find their attitude to me as a customer demeaning. Look at the situation – Prime time TV and one of the main star actors doesn’t know his lines. One can argue that Mr Brittins salary wasn’t the subject of the hearing, but he should have been prepared. I feel a little bit insulted on behalf of my métier, weren’t we (and I speak about PR and Communications practitioners) involved in the preparations? Or did Google didn’t feel it was necessary?Where we involved, but not listened to? Did Goole think that this was purely a fiscal question? And that once the deal with the UK government was closed, that was it? No repercussions? No questions asked? And what more, why seemingly no preparations, foresight or strategy from Google’s side?

As said, Google’s tribulations and floundering – déjà-vu all over again…

Perception is all…

Am sitting at home and in general feeling like the weather here in Zurich today i.e. grey and dreary. At least yesterday it was a thunderstorm where at least one has the impression of something happening not just muddles along. I have lost my voice, which soon will pass, I look for a new position which a process hopefully soon is accomplished, I’m nursing a herniated disk – but life has that quality that you CAN lift yourself in the shoestrings, pick yourself up and start again…

So in times like these I do like I always do, muse about the little things around me and isn’t it interesting how perception is all? I mean we are aware that it’s the case but somehow it doesn’t strike home all the time. I just pressed two oranges, I know that I will get the same amount of fibres, vitamins and juice by eating them but somehow they taste better as juice. Molten butter on toast tastes far better than molten butter on un-toasted bread. Molten cheese tastes far better as fondue (after all I live in Switzerland) or as cheese chips than molten cheese that has been left out on the kitchen counter. How come? And then there is the matter of semantics, my favourite – as those of you who knows me privately will know – is umbrella, it can just as easy be a parasol can’t it? At least in Northern Europe, we’d much more prefer to use a parasol because it’s connotations than an umbrella. Right?

But what makes it so difficult to change these perceptions? Sometimes when I go on about the umbrella/parasol twist the person in front of me stares at me as if I was Chewbacca’s country cousin just landed from a Galaxy far far away. Is it because change is difficult? Is it because turning our old truths upside up or down is hard to manage? Is it because someone shedding new lights on something we thought we knew how to makes us feel uncertain?

The Disenfranchisement That Isn’t

They are disenfranchised

we’ve heard it more and more in various political analysis always in relation to the so-called grievance parties and their voters, think UKIP, Front National, Sweden Democrats, Vlaams Belang, and even if they are not parties – Trump and to a certain extend Sanders (although for his voters it’s more “quaint but unrealistic”). It’s an argument which has been repeated with higher and higher voices and more and more intensely. You know, like we all do when we are trying to convince ourselves that something we doubt are really the gospel.

I started with looking up what disenfranchised means, and Merriam Webster defines it as

to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity; especially :  to deprive of the right to vote

in other words, in the original meaning it is a conscious act of someone that puts another person in the position of disenfranchisement. But in the criticism I have read is has come to mean a group of people that seemingly have removed themselves from [mainstream] society.

However, my question is – have they? In the latest Edelman Trust Barometer their results show an increasing trust divide towards businesses and governments. Neither, it is felt by the large majority, deliver. Personally, when it comes to politics I agree. More and more I have the sense that [national] politics is kindergarten for overpaid party players that has been elected, not so much based on competence, but because they turned up and that doesn’t dare to take real responsibility. The difference is that since I belong to the informed public, as defined by Edelman, aged 24 – 64; college educated; in top 25% income per age group in each country; report significant media consumption and engagement in business news; my criticism is more likely to be seen as well-informed and to the point while someone not from this group saying the same will be considered as disenfranchised.

Again, I ask, are the voters that vote on these “grievance parties” disenfranchised? Maybe they have looked at their society and see a reality where their worries are not listened to, where they have increasing difficulties in finding jobs that makes ends meet, where ghettos are on the rise, where jobs are moved elsewhere and where politicians, whom frankly often should know better, seems to be locked in endless wars of power instead of doing what they where elected to do – deliver a society of [relative] inclusion. Based on this maybe, just think the thought, these so-called disenfranchised voters have made their analysis and decided to protest almost the only way we can protest in a democratic society – by casting our ballots.

But what happens when they turn up, and don’t forget, grievance parties often get their voters to turn up and vote in a much higher extent than traditional parties, and decide to exercise what at the same time is their citizen right and obligation? They are reproached for voting on the wrong party. If that was me treated like that, I’d be raving mad in white linen. And not only that, I’d be even more convinced that I am right.

So, my advice, to the mainstream parties, should they care and bother – if you want to bridge the widening gulf of distrust meet the grieved electorate and show, with measurable actions and without retreating into populism I mean e.g. globalism is here to stay; that you take their world view seriously and continuously and not just when it’s that time in the election cycle.

PR’s and journalists – are we really that unprofessional?

Our level of professionalism is something I query every now and then. In particular when it comes to what is called “press contacts” in my line of business.

Let me explain with an example:

I am at interview (always there it happens) and the prospective employer asks me: Whom do you know at FT/the Economist/Computer World… (just pick your favourite news outlet).

The thinking being that as long as you know a journalist at these outlets your news will get printed. Seriously? Are we that unprofessional? Are journalists? Personally I am convinced that if a piece of news is of interest for that outlet, or rather its readers, it will get printed whether I know that journalist or not. OK, I understand that from a purely human angle it is easier to speak with, and listen too, someone you know – at least in a professional capacity – than a complete stranger. After all we’re only human, but evaluating if content are news worthy or not, surely that’s independent of personal ties?

It is my job as PR/Communications to explain to the eager person on my side of the fence that Yes, this is a completely new product it is of interest. No, bug fix number 1055 is not of interest even if it took you six months to fix it.

And I remain strong in my belief that if I indeed get to “know” the journalist, the outlet and its readers i.e. understand what triggers them and what they find interesting in what I might provide them with they will listen. Maybe not publish, I get that, but at least listen.

I must say that I find the approach above deplorable and unprofessional both concerning us as PR/Communicators and concerning journalists.

Or am I naïve?

Change at the Grassroots – How to Attract Government Attention

Being heard and enacting social reform is not just a problem under authoritarian regimes. Even in democracies, where newspapers have been filled with headlines on people crying out for change, we see little development or legislative change.

The Occupy Movement saw thousands of people protest the international capitalist system, camping in sub-zero temperatures for months on end; while thousands of students in the UK took to the streets to protest against rising tuition fees and its effects on social mobility. From Syrian citizens to Sri Lanka’s Tamils, from American activists to China’s Tibetan monks, people in every corner of the world are crying out for change.

The only two examples (I can think of) where the grassroots managed was the Pirate movement against the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, that got voted down in the European Parliament, and the tragic desperation of Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi that led to the Arab Spring.

With little relative change, it begs the question, is anyone listening? What about us ‘little people’? Also, do we want it? Because while it is enticing with the image of David vs. Goliath, the fact is that some of the changes that happened through grassroot protests can be considered as revolutions through violence.

Here are a couple of points which will help you achieve attention of governments and help you lobby your case. In short, persistence and preparation are key.

Article originally published on Grassroot Diplomat: http://www.grassrootdiplomat.org/news/2015/5/11/change-at-the-grassroots-how-to-attract-government-attention

How do you identify curious?

No, I don’t mean curious as in strange, but curious as in ever wanting to find out what’s behind the next stone. Curious as in interested to learn and to find out more.

And I am talking about curious employees. Employees t that are willing to learn new things, employees that are willing to learn new thinking, or at least doesn’t mind thinking that there might be other mindsets than the ones well-known.

As any change specialist will tell one key in change is to find one or few champions and instil in them the courage to change. And this probably something of the most difficult there is – to embrace change. Even though I am now living and working in my sixth country, I don’t know how open to change I actually am.

Currently involved in a change process there is one big new development that potentially will be an industry shake up, but it will take time and effort – and curiosity. It isn’t for everyone, there are many employees that are happy to go to work, do their job as well as they can, and then go home. And like in any context all types are needed. But for a company to survive, we also need the shakers, the curious that are willing to look behind the stone to learn a new mind-set and a new way of thinking.

So how do you identify these employees?