Tag Archives: communications

Sponsored journalism – always dishonest and lacking in integrity?

In Sweden, and I guess elsewhere as well, there’s an ongoing discussion about sponsored journalism and that it’s dishonest to the readers. But is it? Can it even be that it is more honest?

We all know it – good journalism cost. It’s that simple, and more and more we’re getting used to “free” journalism, so it’s harder for the traditional outlets to finance their business. I put free between brackets because there is no such thing as free, sooner or later someone must pay. But I’m more discussing integrity here. Because there is a sense that sponsored journalism lacks integrity and only exist as a kind of infotainment. This time around it was a piece on the Swedish radio about one major Swedish newspaper that had started a co-operation with an auction house and thanks to that was able to offer high-quality articles on the art market. The sponsored journalists did not hide under which circumstances the articles have been produced. In other words it was clear that the content is produced in collaboration with this auction house. The radio journalists approached the subject under the assumption that sponsored journalism is dishonest and lacking integrity, and that “their” type of journalism is so much better. But “their” journalism is state sponsored through taxes, so how free is that? It is perceived so because we don’t see the direct relationship between the funds and the result, but is not only a perception? Can’t it be that sponsored content is much more honest and show higher integrity because the sender is (or at least should be) clearly identified and I as a reader know this? If I know that an article on pain management is written by pharma company producing a certain pain remedy I take that into account when I read the text. When I read a text by a journalist specialised in pharma I can’t be sure of the sources, and as a PR with a fair few years of competence in working with the press under my belt, I know for a fact that “sponsored” content i.e. successful pitch, is not unusual.

Can it be that openly sponsored journalism has higher integrity than we give it credit for? What say you?

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?

Is flat lining our languages the way forward to better understanding?

I used to love to read magazines like the Economist and Vanity Fair. I loved their elegant language, these fantastic four syllable words that read like poetry had I ever been a poetry reader. The writers and writing had personality. Every time I put down these (and other) magazines I had learned a new word and gained new insights. But lately, meaning the past couple of years, when I read these and other articles, I find the language flat, lacking identity or just plain uninteresting only based on their writing and use of language.

Of course, with better knowledge of English the level of understanding is higher and better that’s a wonderful part of life, we can master what we set out to learn. But maybe sometimes ignorance is bliss? English is a wonderfully forgiving language and it accepts us linguistic mongrels with grace and good will. But when I speak with my English mother tongue friends they all bear witness to having simplified their spoken English to suit people like myself, i.e. someone that has studied English in school as a foreign language. While I appreciate their efforts getting their message across, and that they make an attempt to include e.g. me in their conversation, I at the same time find it sad. Because lower standards rarely complies with moving ahead and for me, one way I learn is to be around someone more skilled than me. And I don’t think I’m unique in this way.

I am not talking about a manual or cooking recipe here, because manuals and cookery books should be basic and straight forward. I am talking about [written]mass media that I do think have a responsibility towards “their” language, their readers “at home” and the “foreigners.”

Am I naïve? Am I looking for elegance where elegance can’t be found? And is this flattening maybe something good that will bring about better understanding?

“The wrong people shared it” a tale of a Social Media campaign gone awry

One of the downsides with having a mother tongue spoken by 10 million people is exactly that. But I wanted to give this a try anyway because it is such a good example of Social Media and an organisation that maybe has a wee bit left to go…

It started on November 11 with a letter from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, it’s the largest Swedish Union and very powerful Union at that and solidly leftist. No surprises there. And let it be know that I have no problems with Unions, on the contrary I have almost always been a card-carrying member. Not so much maybe in a left-wing Union, but in a Union representing me. I feel that as an employee we sometimes are the underdogs and we may need support. It’s akin to having a home insurance, you don’t need it on a daily basis but once something happens its good to have.

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation in west Sweden is vying for more members. Nothing strange with that, all organisations wants to grow. They are using their Facebook page, nothing strange there either. It’s more the way they are doing it and how they address their future members. It is an accusing text in the form of a letter saying that “Your back will never hurt. You’ve been riding on others’ all your life” after which it goes on to list the Union successes e.g. 8 hour working day, holiday etc…

However, when the letter took a national viral spin it was taken down from the Facebook page. Admittedly it was shared for the “wrong” reasons, no one agreed with the accusing approach in the text something that seemed to surprise the local Union and it was taken down because “It was shared by the Tory side” i.e. by the wrong people having the wrong political views.

And this is the crux with Social Media, we can’t control the response, what we can do is our best to use the channels we are comfortable with but we don’t know if the “wrong side” will pick it up and share it. What we also can do is to do our homework first and see to that we have all the answers for come what may. It’s called a communication strategy and it’s not sexy but it’s what makes campaigns work.

So the next time before you publish something, ask yourself “What if” your life as [Social Media] communicator will be so much easier.

You’ll find the link to the text here: http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/facket-du-har-ju-ridit-pa-andras-ryggar-i-hela-ditt-liv/

Expelling the fear in communications

In her excellent piece on IT change communications, Theresa Stinson, lists “Expel the fear” as one integral part in any change communication roll-out. And how right she is, getting to test e.g. the new software is an important step to overcome any reticence to change in the organisation.

But this advice is equally valid for other types of IT related communications, I’m thinking about when the “customers” are the IT specialists. Before I move on I’d like to state one thing: I love working with engineers. They are solution minded and are often very enthusiastic. True they more often than not display this enthusiasm by speaking to you in four or five letter acronyms, but the enthusiasm is there and I can take their engineering speak and turn it into something non-engineers understand. And this is where the (expelling) fear come in. Very often I get the reaction from the “IT guys” that the text I have prepared is too high level. At occasion I have been accused of treating the target groups as idiots, and more often than not I have been told that the text is not “techie” enough.

So, what do I do? It should come as no surprise when the answer is: it depends on the audience. One thing I rarely do however, is to rewrite the text so it becomes “techier.” Of course I correct errors, but that’s it.

And, why don’t I listen to the wishes of the customer? Isn’t a fundamental quality in any customer facing job? It isn’t arrogance, trust me, I normally work with colleagues that will forget more about their subject matters than I will learn, I don’t in any way doubt their technical knowledge. But when it comes to communications I’m the specialist. And I also base my advice on many years of pitching journalists whom all have one thing in common, they are pressed for time and need to quickly identify if there is something newsworthy in the material I provide.

I remember in particular one customer that got so incensed I actually made a bet with him. It was regarding a newsletter I had produced and it is true it was high-level but I was convinced ,this was the way forward. I had taken 50 pages Rational Rose schematics and turned them into 1,5 A4 document and I attached the technical specifications. The bet went along the lines: if the stakeholders are upset its my fault, if they are good with this, it’s your sunshine. The result? An astounding success, and for the first time in the life of the programme the developers got much-needed feedback from the stakeholders. In all honesty the doubting programme manager did acknowledge that my way forward was the good way forward. The crux of the matter was the attachment. While many of the stakeholders were very senior managers and only read the short text, they for the first time ever knew whom to forward the technical specifications to.

So yes, expelling the fear is a large part of our job as communicators and sometimes an attachment is what’s needed to move ahead.

Equal pay, ICT industry, men, women and profiling

The so called gaffe by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his statements about women, pay, and the pay gap and some of the opinion pieces penned as a result made me wonder. I frankly don’t think that Mr Nadella thinks that women should be paid less than men, but I do believe that he (unfortunately) might be on the correct side of history when he says that women often can be more uncomfortable in asking in any job related situation than most men.

John Fortt has penned a good opinion piece about the situation where I think he is on to something. In the piece Mr Fortt asks if meritocracies can be biased and he gives #Netflix as an example, from personal experience I can only answer that “Yes” and that includes Netflix.

But the basic issue that needs to change isn’t so much the payment practises as such, they are only the result of the basic flaws and symptoms on the sickness – that unless you as an employee is recognisable by the high-tech recruiter you will not even get hired so forget about getting the pay you deserve.

In my business and city, all one have to do is to take a look around and you start singing the old James Brown song “This is a man’s world” but without adding the following praise to women. There are so many organisations representing the [ICT] industry that only have men hired, or only men at the senior levels, it is frightening. Saying the industry is a bit of a lad is an understatement of the century. So, based on the fact that we women doesn’t even count enough to get hired, why do we even bother about the payment scales? I am not saying it isn’t important and that they need to be adjusted, but if we as women doesn’t even count in the work force? So sorry, people, let’s start with the basics and see to that we as women count, get hired and that our competencies count as much as a men’s so we get hired, then we can deal with the payment scales.