Etikettarkiv: Government

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…

Annonser

Dearth of Women in Juncker’s Commission – But Stop Moping Its Competence Not Gender That Counts

In the wake of President Juncker’s announcement of the members of the new European Commission the overall comments seems to be ”Not enough women.” And yes, 9 women out of 28 is far cry from 50-50. And being a woman with certain aspirations myself; I do find it abysmally bad that the Member States can’t do better on the area of gender balance on senior top positions. But there is one question I don’t seem to find and that is Why? I have yet to see one person officially asking why this skewed situation the case.

Could it be that the national senior posts are filled with only men? (An incredibly sad state in itself should this be the case.) Maybe the Member States didn’t look hard enough? Could it be that the women asked actually weren’t all that interested? We simply don’t know. What we see is a bad result but nothing about the process leading up to this result.

What we do know however, that we are many competent women that are out there that are not considered because it does seem to be that W2M that are then norm.

But what ire immensely in this whole debate is the general approach that it is only gender that counts, and because we are women our competencies are interchangeable. Well, here’s a surprise for you – we are NOT! Just as little, actually are men, but no one seems to think that is the case.

So, yes let’s keep our eyes on the ball – a gender balanced society, but let’s not go overboard on the way getting there.

Martin Schulz, European elections and Social Media

I found this excellent blog post ”What Happened During Schulz’s #AskMartin Chat 0n Social Media” that discusses certain aspects about Martin Schulz’ chat #AskMartin. The chat took place May 19 and is a part of Mr Schulz bid to the post as President of the European Commission. Actually this is a post nor he nor his competing candidates actually will be elected to by the EU citizens since the Commission, including its President, is agreed by the European Parliament. So in itself it’s a strange situation.

As much of this election campaign this event was rather discreet, in fact the chat was a complete surprise, I only noticed it when RTs started to appear in my feed, and I concur with the critics that the answers were few, far in between and bland. Fine, he got 1 700 tweets during the hour allotted to the Twitter chat, it goes without saying that no one can answer that many answers at least not over the course of an hour. Still the answers that were given could have been more poignant.

But as Mr Ricorda rightly points out in his post, there are technical limitations to how many answers you can provide. But what communications strategy doesn’t take that into account? I must say from my angle it seems like Mr Schulz team had a brain wave:

We must do something with Social Media! Twitter! He should Tweet. That will make him stand out as a cool politician. And German (German since EP elections still are national) twitters is a really interesting demographic group. And properly managed we’ll get a really good reach.

I can hear the applause.

More than any other tool in the communications mix, technology is a factor in any Social Media strategy and if not managed properly you will end up like Mr Schulz, kind and well-meaning, but a bit lost in [Social Media] space. Technology has to be taken into account and managed. Questions like:

  • Can others in his entourage answer tweets while keeping the authenticity?
  • Can we continue to answer questions even after the chat is closed?
  • Can we create a pop-up page on the campaign website and answer the questions by grouping them in themes?

There are many other questions to be asked and answered. But as long as there is a sense of no one even thinking about the basics before organising an [on-line] event like this it will only be considered as a well-meant measure that got botched.

How Netflix almost ruined EU Net neutrality

Now when the debate sparked by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ blog post on net neutrality “Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality“ has died down and the European Parliament have voted in favour of Net Neutrality and against specialised services, I’d like to take the opportunity to vent my grief a bit. What I say in the header is a tall order, I know. But it is not far off.

First of all, as you might know, when I discuss companies or persons in my blog I don’t mention them by name. This is for several reasons, first of all there is an element of the Golden rule, second the industry is rather small and I hope to continue work in it, and, in the case of Netflix, I don’t want to come across as a disgruntled almost employee. Although, I remain rather unimpressed by Netflix’ EU hiring practises. Further, I think that Netflix doesn’t take their responsibility when it comes to making it simple to be legal on-line seriously. Nor do they go far enough in their actions. This time I felt it was warranted to mention names simply because anything else would have complicated the text beyond means.

But I digress.

In my everyday job I work as Policy advisor to a Member of the European Parliament concentrating on issues like net neutrality, e-commerce, telecommunications, cloud computing to mention a few. This is why I can speak with some certainty of this process since I was involved behind the scenes. And yes, I am a staunch defender of Net neutrality.

I am not going to go into the debate at heart here. The point I hopefully will make is to highlight a view that I often see from US-based companies with EU branches; there is seemingly little or no insight that points of view put forward in the US might affect EU legislation. They also join forces with their EU corporate counterparts in not entirely realising that the European Parliament actually is a parliament with powers and influence.

In his post Mr Hastings made a case for net neutrality and against specialised services, but instead of business, he based his argument on fees for traffic. In his text Mr Hastings state that if telecommunications companies get their way we might not see a new Skype or indeed Netflix again because the fees charged would stop any new ideas from being implemented. Had he stuck to this argument I don’t think there had been any debate; no one wants to be accused of stifling competition, hamper value creation and stop new business from happening.

”Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” The term was coined by Columbia media law professor Tim Wu.

But in any case, the impact this ill-timed post had across the Atlantic, where a vote on Net neutrality and Specialised services was taking place, was that it gave the telecommunications companies in Europe wind under their wings and they started to lobby for their point of view; that there is no such a thing as a free lunch, and users must pay for bandwidth. Nothing of which is questionable; but it isn’t the question at hand. Rather the real issue is freedom of doing business. Weaker Net neutrality would make it more difficult to run any business on-line. If the vote had gone a different way Mr Hastings could have had to seriously review his expansion plans for the EU. Is that really what he wanted? This attitude towards the European Parliament is something I frequently see amongst companies, EU & US alike. It is getting better in EU companies, but many US companies whose activities’ spans both sides for the Atlantic seems blissfully unaware of that the European Parliament actually produce legislation that have impact on their business. And if they consider it, they seem to think it is some toy Parliament and when you want to lobby it you just send employees with little or no leverage with the C-suite. Or a VP is coming and is expecting the Parliamentary calendar will change to accommodate them.

Is there really no-one within Netflix that has any view on legislative developments outside the US? Because, the state of net neutrality in the EU will affect Netflix business. Is there no-one that could have advised Mr Hastings to hold off the post to a better time? That maybe a better way to push net neutrality is to speak about preserving, maybe even augmenting, freedom to do business? And is there no one that can enlighten him about the importance of the European Parliament? It governs over 500 million citizens which makes it one of the biggest parliaments in the world. 80% of national EU legislation emanates from the European Parliament. OK, someone say; this post was published on Netflix USA Canada blog and was not at all aimed at EU. This is correct and true, but even if all business is local, corporate standpoints for international corporates rarely are. And if someone high-profiled like Mr Hastings speaks on a relative controversial issue this will have repercussions far beyond what one had identified from the beginning.

The Telecoms Single Market proposal (the proposal that was voted on) will now be reviewed by the Council of the European Union. The Council representatives are expected to adopt a final position on the Telecoms regulation later in 2014. Personally, I hope that the Council maintain the safeguards to protect net neutrality and prohibit network discrimination in Europe. This includes ensuring that this principle can be effectively enforced. Achieving this has not been easy, and in case Netflix wonders, the battle isn’t won. In in the meantime, in the relative vacuum that will be during the election period, we are certainly not helped by blog posts of the likes of Mr Hastings.

European Commission’s communication failures

In March 2012 I had some points about what I consider an epic failure of the European Commission in the area of communication: Another epic fail in European Commission communications, https://goldkom.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/another-epic-fail-in-european-commission-communications/

It created a bit of a stir, but seeing that we are speaking about the European Commission the majority just yawned and went on to other matters. Understandable.

So judge my happiness when I see this article in New Europe’s printed version, www.neweurope.eu “Europe’s costliest failure.”

European election campaign, Parliament style

This week, 10 September to be exact, the European Parliament will unveil the 2014 election campaign material in Strasbourg. A few lucky had the opportunity to a sneak preview past week.

The campaign has the overall slogan “This time it’s different” (isn’t what they all say?) this is the trailer and it is a dire affair to say the least. According to the EP Communication office they are trying to reach the next line after the already converted, i.e. the group of politically interested that has the intention to vote but for some reason forgets about it when the time comes. Fair enough. But will making slight of refugees’ plight make you vote?

As the rest of the world the European Union is living through a crisis of seldom seen severity, and following the wishes of the EP Presidency the communication department shouldn’t show a happy, preppy, jumpy EU. The film makers certainly succeed in that. So do we understand correct that this campaign isn’t so much a result of long-time branding strategy but more a case of “what the President wants, the President gets”? If so, since when is that a good way forward and for basis for a communication campaign? Also this crisis have managed to draw the attention to the EU, and everything that doesn’t work with the Union, but for the first time almost in its history EU citizens actually realise that it play a role in our everyday life. No, all attention isn’t good attention, but I think there should be a way for the EP to capitalise on this realisation and to encourage voting that way.

We also have the small question about the content as such, sure it is a good thing to fire up the masses and hopefully achieve a good voter turnout. But after watching this do we even know WHOM may vote and stand for office? It isn’t the reason for the film someone says, no, but as you soon will see nowhere in the rest of the material is this said either.

Now, I understand, or rather I cannot even begin to imagine the number of considerations one has to take when developing a campaign like this. Numerous doesn’t begin to describe it. Still, I remain unmoved in my belief that communication strategy is based on research and a long-time vision of how you want to be seen. I have a hard time seeing this happen here. But I hope I’m wrong.

 

No debate necessary – the United States of Europe is the future. Or is DIY regulation possible?

Working in the EU bubble has its moments. And almost all of them unexpected. Yesterday, for instance, during a dinner I was labelled as right-wing extremist. I have been called a lot, but this was a new and refreshing take on my political views.

The reason for this labelling exercise was that I was at a networking dinner, there are a lot of those in Brussels (Disclosure – I paid for the €30 dinner myself ) and the person sitting to my right and I started to talk and soon the subject became federalism and the EU. Personally I feel that we have enough of federalism in the EU, that we should stop (or temporarily halt) the integration and give ourselves time to debate what the future EU should look like and how we want to achieve it. Akin the debate that has started in the UK. Or at least will start if David Cameron isn’t only paying lip service to the more sceptical members of his electorate.

The person nearly choked on his tongue, initially he was convinced that I was joking but when it became clear that I wasn’t and that moreover I am not the only one thinking this, he reverted to paternalism telling me ”That surely I must understand that…” and ”Of course you realise that it is clear…” To which I answered ”No” to most of it. Or if such was the argument ”Then I think the processes should come to a halt.”

What worries me in this context is that this guy isn’t alone in his paternalistic arrogance, quite on the contrary. This is the prevalent approach amongst the large majority of the Commission employees I’ve met. It’s like they say ”This is the way it will be. Now stop yapping.” Every time we get a piece of legislation it gets worse, more and more national decision powers are transferred to the Commission, to non-elected faceless civil servants that has forgotten the ”servant” part of their designation. Every piece of legislation must always contain a paragraph which explains why the subsidiary principle can’t be used in this instance – normally along the lines that it is better to coordinate on EU level than not. And even if I cringe when doing so I realise that it is often correct.

But there is a way out: voluntary industry co-operation. Much has been done already in various industries, much is being done but so much more can be done. In my world – in fact it should be done. Every time I meet with a lobby organisation and/or industry representative I strongly encourage them to take back the message that ”Do it yourself. Step up to the challenge and auto regulate. Don’t sit around waiting for the Commission to act.” It is the (almost) the only way we can avoid meddlesome EU regulations in every aspect of our lives while ensuring that our nation states remains nation states.

I, for one, believe this is the way forward.