Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Capitalism after the downturn: a shifting ideology

Posted by alicocksworth on April 2, 2009

The world leaders arrived at the G20 summit with several Herculean tasks in front of them: to somehow reboot a devastated financial system, to agree reforms that would safeguard the global economy in the future, and to restore public confidence in a discredited system that has caused brutal damage to individual lives – and may continue to do so for a long time to come as the recession intensifies.

Whether the summit has succeeded in mapping a path out of this global recession remains to be seen, but whatever the eventual outcome, it has afforded an insight into the future of capitalism and the imminent realignment of world order.

virginTowards a progressive agenda

As jobs are lost and houses repossessed, public frustration continues to grow. This dissatisfaction indicates a fundamental change in public sentiment that Barack Obama identified in his inaugural address, when he claimed that “what the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them”. This change has enabled the US President to put forward an unapologetically progressive agenda explicitly designed to address the deeper failings of capitalism, namely, rising income inequality and corporate misconduct.

The Obama agenda is emblematic of an ideological shift towards what Lord Layard recently identified as ‘a less selfish capitalism’. In a Financial Times article he called for ‘a more humane brand of capitalism, based not only on better regulation but on better values’. The financial crisis has acted as a reality check, demanding a reassessment of what constitutes ‘progress’. As Lord Layard pointed out, the term was defined by the Anglo-Saxon Enlightenment as the reduction of misery and the increase of happiness. Wealth creation is no longer synonymous with progress.

Capitalism: ‘a different animal’

The developing countries of the world will demand that capitalism survive this crisis – China, India, Brazil will not forfeit the benefits it can confer – but it will have undergone significant transformation. I is unlikely that wealth creation will be accepted as an end in itself. Brazil’s President Lula da Silva is well attuned to this shift: “Capitalism will be a different animal once the turbulence is over”, he told TIME in a recent interview. “Developing countries will be responsible for a major percentage of world economic growth.”

There is a growing sense that Brazil is outperforming the other emerging giants: poverty may be falling in India and China but inequality is only falling in Brazil. This expansion of social mobility is attributable to what Lula refers to as ‘the financial strategy of the future’. In simplest terms, this strategy is a post-ideological approach that places as much emphasis on wealth redistribution as on wealth creation.

Brazil’s problems are still weighty and numerous – political corruption is endemic, the education system barely functions, and absolute poverty is still rife – but Lula’s take on capitalism may constitute a route out of a classic dilemma facing developing countries: how to expand an under-achieving economy and simultaneously reduce social inequality. It is no wonder he has an approval rating of 80 percent.

The Asian influence

Traditional capitalist strongholds like the US and western Europe will be permanently scarred by this recession, and it is likely that the greatest proponents of capitalism in the future will be in Asia. It is reductive to discuss an ‘Asian approach’ to capitalism, but there is a tangible gap in perspectives between the West and the East. The divergence is only likely to increase as the global recession deepens. Widespread scepticism about the American model of deregulation has always existed in Asia and, as Kishore Mahbubani notes as part of the Financial Times’ Future of Capitalism series, Asian capitalists will greet any economic advice now emanating from the West with even greater cynicism. gun

The world order will shift as the global economy recovers and the brand of capitalism that emerges will be reflective of this. It will be characterised by caution and dominated by the strong regulation and expectation of government supervision that pervade Asian approaches to capitalism.

Finding a new way

It is tempting to see this imminent remodelling of capitalism as a great challenge facing the corporate world, but it could also constitute an unprecedented opportunity. In throwing out the old ways, businesses will be able to shape the new.

As President Obama’s esteemed chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel put it: “Rule one: never allow a crisis to go to waste.”

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Restoring corporate trust – can communicators really make it happen?

Posted by majazupan on April 2, 2009

Caught between jaded consumers and sweeping budget cuts, should communicators roll up their sleeves or ask for a sabbatical?

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The G20 London Summit brought together national leaders from around the world, as they searched for ways to restore the global economy. And, while the desired outcomes are economic in nature – stabilisation of financial markets, regeneration of the housing market, creation of jobs, sustainable growth – the public outrage, market volatility and finger pointing of the past six months have made it clear that no solution to arresting the economic fall could stand a chance without one key ingredient – restoring trust.

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“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.” These were the words of Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the very beacon of the free market philosophy for decades leading up to the crash last autumn.

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But, the breech of trust did not happen over night. The fact is that confidence – in both institutions and individuals – has been deteriorating for a long time now. Still reasonably fresh in our minds is the Enron scandal from 2001, which prompted the US government to introduce the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, setting strict guidelines for public company accounting practices.

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If anything, the market crash was but a last blow to the school of thought that considers the creation of shareholder value the key responsibility of any corporation. It has become apparent that accountability to shareholders does not act as a sufficient check on the level of risk tolerance within global financial institutions.

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Financial resilience, it turns out, can not be guaranteed without the integrity of corporate governance and concern for the interests of the wider community. Relationships based purely on a financial contract are inherently self-centered, so corporate accountability must go beyond the balance sheet to include an investment in human relationships in order to create trust and a sense of community between the organisation and its stakeholders.

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Consumer psychology in recession: trust no one

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A lot has been written about the extraordinary loss of consumer trust in businesses – ranging from pure rage toward the financial sector to apathy for industries such as retail and leisure, as consumers tightened their purse strings and strengthened their distrust of corporate marketing.

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The public focus has now shifted to policy makers, who have struggled to find quick solutions to an avalanche of market failures due to both corporate and individual misconduct, as well as decision-making based on insufficient information and flawed assumptions. And, while governments are now expected to establish a system of checks and balances to ensure ethical corporate governance, public opinion ranks politicians as even less trustworthy than businesses.

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According to the annual 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in government did not rise to offset disillusionment with the business sector – enterprise is still more trusted than government in 13 of the 20 markets surveyed. The media closely follows the government trajectory, with less than half (47 percent) of overall respondents worldwide saying they trust the media to do the right thing. This figure drops precipitously in the UK, with mere 28 percent of respondents placing trust in media.

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What’s a communicator to do?

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Faced with such strong distrust in their corporate spokesperson, their political guardians and the media channels – should corporate communicators throw their hands up in the air and give up trying?

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The short answer is – absolutely not. Withdrawal at a time of crisis not only feeds the public suspicion by cloaking the organisation in a veil of opacity, but it also allows detractors and the competition to take the reins and tell your corporate story from their point of view.

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Trying to get yourself heard and noted while bearing in mind heightened sensitivities may seem like navigating a landmine, particularly with very few certainties to anchor your key points to in this volatile economic context. However, it is key to remember that consumer behaviour is only partially rational. Those organisations consumers come to see as ‘their brands’ appeal to their emotions, desires and the need for identification and comfort – the dimensions that, albeit highly personal and complex, are rooted in a simple human need to relate and belong.

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So no, there is no rulebook for regaining consumer trust. Rather, communicators should deploy their innate ability to listen and act intuitively to find a ground where both their organisation and its stakeholders can stand comfortably.

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House Sweeper in Chief

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Before engaging with the wider public, communicators have a big role to play in making sure their organisation’s house is in order.glass

Problems within organisations all too often arise when the information available is insufficient, misinterpreted or withheld from those whose conduct or decision-making depends on it. Having access to various areas of their organisation, and on a perpetual mission to gather information to base their external communications on, communicators are in a unique position to be the first to notice something being wrong with either the information itself or its interpretation by various internal stakeholders.

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Communicators should use their listening skills to detect any such breakdowns in communication, which, if undetected, may present reputational risks to the organisation. Put in political parlance, communicators should have in place an ‘early warning’ mechanism by which to evaluate the internal flow of communication. This, in turn, can enable them to anticipate questions and concerns likely to arise among the organisation’s external stakeholders.

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In short, communicators should keep their ear to the ground, monitoring both internal as well as external chatter to understand what gaps may exist between the organisation’s goals and self-perception, and external stakeholders’ expectations and conceptions of the same.

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Turning communications into an operational function

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Having this knowledge does not in itself mean that communicators can begin plugging gaps through crafty communications.

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Informed understanding of organisational opportunities and threats is a golden opportunity to reassess not only the way an organisation talks about itself, but more importantly, how it behaves. Analysis of external perceptions can shed a spotlight on corporate practices that are redundant, inefficient or misdirected. In such instances, attempting to adapt the corporate rhetoric without solving the core issues that cause the disconnect can only aggravate the already fragile confidence in the organisation.

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Owning up to shortfalls and acting to address them needs very little supporting rhetoric to make meaningful progress in calibrating perceptions and restoring trust. Communicators are in a powerful position to make the case for organisational change by bringing the potential reputational risks to the management’s attention, and embedding transparency into any remedial course of action.

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Ability to influence management decisions implies a communications role that is part of the management structure – a strategic role integral to an organisation’s operations, rather than a functional position serving to merely report the official company line. Organisations should go beyond introducing grand titles, and truly make communications part of the decision-making process, including board representation where applicable.

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Knowing who your friends are

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Understanding issues and having the right set of messages still does not guarantee that messages will be heard and, critically, stick. Good communications are not only relevant, well targeted and easy to understand. Ideally, they are also supported by sources outside the organisation – those people and organisations who matter to the audiences the communications are trying to reach. Messages delivered by third parties – such as academics, think tanks, industry analysts, or ‘people like me’, often carry more weight than messages communicated directly by the organisation itself.

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Understanding who the influencers within relevant communities are, and finding ways to align with them, should be at the core of communications planning. Having a corporate position endorsed by the people who are personally relevant to your audiences helps create a sense of common purpose and familiarity crucial to building trust.

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Reinventing romance

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Once the organisation enters this privileged relationship of confidence with its stakeholders, the job, in many ways, only begins. As with any relationship, nurturing through regular contact, being in tune with personal concerns and changing needs, creating opportunities for personal involvement with the brand – all of these are key to making sure the relationship continues to blossom.

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And, while apologies may be accepted and amends made, getting it right the first time around is worth its weight in gold in the face of short attention spans, volatile economies, and competitive suitors ready at the door to jump on an opportunity to get involved.

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Why so sad?

Posted by alicocksworth on April 2, 2009

The public antipathy towards bankers and the bonus culture is indicative of a broader shift in attitudes: the developed world has suddenly realised that money doesn’t make you happy.

GDP might show off how well the economy is performing but it is not – after a certain point – a useful measure of social progress. Living standards have rocketed within the US and the UK but research hi-lighted in this Guardian piece has revealed that happiness has stagnated.

Wealth and the individual amassing of it have taken precedence over almost everything. This is not just the fault of Sir Fred Goodwin – tempting as it is to blame him for everything – but of society in a broader sense. Labour’s 1997 talk of happiness as a defining measurement of Britain’s success was eclipsed by boasts of unbroken economic growth. The culture of celebrity continues to glamourise money. Children are taught to aspire to being ’rich and famous’ in spite of the endless examples of people who have been damaged by the media glare and the burden of wealth.

When did wealth become synonomous with happiness? And why is it only in the face of economic disaster that anyone has stopped to question the validity of this equation?

The financial crisis seems to have acted as a reality check on the world’s value system.

Human relationships and with them the quality of human experience suffered during the glory years. The individualistic drive of a capitalist ideology has damaged mutual respect. Personal relationships have suffered and so has social responsibility. In the wake of the crash there has been much written about the future of capitalism (this FT series is useful) and it has been widely noted that there is a real opportunity for the instigation of progressive agendas around the world, led of course by our favourite, Barack.

Let’s hope that as the G20 grapple with the intricacies of our financial system’s failures, they take a moment to recognise that pots and pots of money have not made us happy; and, that they take more than a moment to ponder just what it is that will.

For other ponderings please visit http://www.autonomousthought.wordpress.com – no parties, just politics.

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Will history be made at tomorrow’s G20 Summit?

Posted by Chris Clarke on April 1, 2009

Tomorrow’s gathering of world leaders at the G20 summit has the potential to make history.  It could be seen as the day that the Anglo-Saxon model prevailed despite being on a life support machine or the day which speeded up the shift of economic and political power from the West to the East. 

However, there is, as is always the case at such international summits, a third alternative.  And that is that each delegation will revert to form and retreat to a comfortable and tested position, the French and Germans seem to be doing quite well on this front at the moment. 

It is highly unlikely that there will be such profound disagreement to prevent some agreed position being developed.  However, what is likely – and arguably more damaging in the long term – will be yet another bland and fudged communiqué with little lasting impact. 

With each country delegation only having the opportunity to speak for 15 minutes tomorrow (most of which will have been carefully scripted in advance) what difference can a day make? 

Let’s hope the diplomatic effort, not to mention the money, that has been invested beforehand pays off. 

Without doubt, we are entering a new age which will affect how businesses do business, how consumers consume and how governments govern.  Tomorrow will be the test of whether world leaders are able to pathfind effectively in to this new age and discard outdated thinking.

Tomorrow is the opportunity for world leaders to demonstrate they are able to cast aside narrow self-interest to restabilie the global economy – perhaps for the first time.

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How can we communicate through the recession?

Posted by Nick on March 2, 2009

At a time when the news agenda is firmly gripped by job losses, bankruptcy and budget deficits how should the modern corporation communications team respond? There is certainly a widespread feeling within the industry that at a time like this corporate communications teams should batten down the hatches and avert risk. No one wants to be responsible for the interview during which the CEO struggled with questions about job losses. This culture often contrasts heavily with pressure from internal business stakeholders who look to the PR team for support at a time when marketing budgets are being reduced. The corporate communications function (especially in the B2B world) is now often the primary channel for a company messages > see this interesting study which found that pressure from inside corporations during the downturn is significant – 64% of in-house respondents said they’ve felt an increase in pressure to perform from their internal clients.

So we’ve established it’s a tricky period with potential for bad news breaking and contrasting internal pressures. But what can be done?
Industry veteran Lord Chadlington makes a salient point in an article on this subject: ‘Silence will result – almost inevitably – in the assumption there is something to hide’ . This is something that every major corporation will recognise. If you close down relationships with journalists that are close followers of the organisation and that expect regular pro-active contact it can tempt them to be more investigative – after all some journalists have strict briefs to watch just a handful of companies. If the story doesn’t originate from the communications function it has the potential to originate from business stakeholders such as non-media trained employees, customers and partners. Perhaps best not to raise suspicion in the first place by opting for silence.

From the same article Simon Lewis, Director Corporate Affairs at Vodafone makes another good point “communicating when times are good is always easier. But there will now be a greater emphasis on providing a perspective”. I took this to reflect the need for a company to be bold, to have a position on the issues surrounding it in order to offer stability to its stakeholder audiences. At a time like this championing a cause or issue can provide a platform to align the brand in a positive light. CSR issues and approaching some of the worlds big challenges can provide a point of communications differentiation during this period. When backed by interesting, unique, content issues-based communications can also deliver a reduced risk interview option for spokespeople who may otherwise have been expected to comment solely on business performance.

The recession poses significant challenges but also offers the opportunity to differentiate through communications. Companies that can take and ‘own’ relevant issues are likely to gain a positive reaction from journalists that I suspect will shortly be suffering from recession fatigue themselves.

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Why innovation matters…

Posted by Will Connolly on March 2, 2009

Innovation is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “1 the action or process of innovating.  2 a new method, idea, or product. ” So what is the process of innovating, and what can we achieve?   Innovation is then, creating new ways of thinking to enable the practice of a new method, or design of a new idea, service or product. 

Whether we are talking about the global economic downturn, scarcities of knowledge and resources in developing countries, or thinking about new ways to learn and educate; innovation is essential in the way we work. 

How can innovation be envisaged?

Methods of creative thinking such as brainstorms, collaborative working, and exposure to new experiences shape our innovative success.  Working in a creative environment, the use of social media and web 2.0 are ways to engage with others both in and out of our physical vicinity.    Working in these ways inspire new thoughts and avenues of discovery.  Web 2.0 and social media are an ever-increasing phenomenon, but what is the point to all these usernames and passwords?  How much social media can we take? Among the young no doubt, social media is a popular topic; people are using websites such as Facebook and MySpace to connect with their peers.  How many professionals today are using these ways of communicating fully to their advantage?  The increase in contact through these channels surely leads to learning new information and inspiring ideas.  Twitter has proved a popular business tool, to communicate with journalists, PRs, and add a personal touch to the way we communicate in business.  This is an example of how we can manipulate the media to our advantage.

Best practices and examples of success

Context is important when thinking about innovation.  What are the social, environmental, political, economic, and media factors that will influence the way we communicate and design?  Can the way we look at and forecast the future also define what we should be doing now?  Knowing what issues of the day affect our businesses and policies will put us in better positions to be successful in the future and aid the evolution of innovation.

Business Week asked futurologists, to describe what they’d like to see arise from the current downturn.  “What are the most important inventions of the next 10 years?”.  The futurologists suggest innovations in energy such as bio-fuels and thermal and kinetic energy generation for electronic devices, smarter applications for mobile devices, medical breakthroughs, such as a cure for cancer, and social media literacy to name a few.

Financial rewards and other results of innovative thinking

Can innovation be measured?  The innovative successes of the BBC iPlayer, iPhone3G, Twitter and Facebook, show how innovative thinking can lead to record breaking corporate transformation.  The network operator O2 sells 1m Apple iPhones in 2009 showing how this innovative product helped initially gain the deal with O2 and subsequently increase its sales.

Are there flaws in innovation?

Some people may be wary about changing traditional practices.  Whilst some ways of working will be productive, innovation of our methods and the way we communicate can result in higher levels of productivity and success. But does success stifle innovation?.  Another interesting topic discussed on Business Week; success identified here as breeding a spotlight on efficiency – which can be an obstruction in creative innovative thought.   Companies and organisations should then have a balance between what is measurable by success and what can be measured by our ideas.  Innovation is more an investment in the long term.

Innovative thinking should be used by all and nurtured into our best practices.  Striving for new and exciting prospects and ideas will lead to richer experiences and the ability of communicate with more people.  Innovation and communication should go hand in hand. 

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Fortune-telling and Fact

Posted by alicocksworth on February 27, 2009

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Last week I went to a debate at LSE entitled: ‘Why Did Nobody Tell Us? Reporting the Global Crash of 08’. The event set out to explore why the media had failed to forecast the banking crisis and the gravity of its impact around the world. In spite of an all-star line up (Vince Cable MP, Evan Davis of Radio 4, Gillian Tett from the FT among others) I left disappointed. The problem wasn’t the speakers – the majority confirmed themselves first-class thinkers – but the limitations of the topic.

At this stage of proceedings it seems not only counter-productive but pretty uninteresting to delve back into the whys and wherefores of who should have clocked the magnitude of the problem and whose fault it was that they didn’t.

Two much more engaging questions emerged out of the evening: firstly, is it the media’s job to forecast world events?

Willem Buiter (FT contributor and academic) held not:

‘I don’t blame the media – they’re not supposed to see it coming. Prophets, scientists – they’re supposed to see things coming’.

I quite agree with him.

All this criticism of the media for failing to see through the fragmented intricacies of the banking system or at least failing to report it feels a lot like a blame game that is not only ridiculous but indicative of a misplaced frustration. Journalists are meant to report and report rigorously. They cannot prophesy and nor should they be expected to. Yes, opinion and prediction are important elements of the media landscape but they cannot be allowed to infiltrate the reporting of fact – isn’t that the kind of irresponsibility we so often castigate the tabloids for? Surely Mr Peston’s ‘warning’ about NorthernRock and the consequences should stand as a lesson that the media must report, not only with clarity but with impartiality.

The second more interesting and I think more pressing issue was raised by Gillian Tett – one of the few journalists who actually understood and attempted to report the fragility of the system – and disputed by Evan Davis when he said this:

‘It’s not the media’s job to bang a drum when no-one else is’

Forgive me Evan but I think that is exactly what the media’s job is.

Some of the most brutal problems the world faces are spoken of only in blushing whispers: suffering up-close tends to inspire awkward embarrassment or a channel change to perpetuate a sense of plausible deniability.

The media wields the awesome power of being able to drag these things out of the shadows and it is the only means by which social silence can be broken and allow education – education that is desperately needed around issues like sexual violence and STIs – to begin.

I do not expect the media to champion causes or issue warnings and I certainly don’t blame them for not producing an accurate horoscope for the financial world. But keeping quiet because it’s what everyone else is doing? That is criminal.

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On the internet, does anyone, like, care who you are?

Posted by Helen on January 28, 2009

Freud does Twitter

Freud does Twitter

The BBC is showing a number of shows on Darwin to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Origin of the Species. The ever-brilliant David Attenborough is hosting a programme on the tree of life, and the Open University and the Guardian seem to be getting in on the act with poster giveaways of the mighty tree itself.

The idea of illustrating the evolution of life got me thinking about illustrating the evolution of social networking technology – would it be a similar shape to the tree of life, with an ordered progression; or more like the London Underground tube map (strands of lurid, angular spaghetti designed to put the wind up tourists)? And then I started thinking about how social networking ties in with some of those concepts you always hear discussed by the tame psychologist de jour on BBC documentaries – the notion that the twentieth century was the Century of the Self, when Freud and Jung roamed free and everyone was egocentric and possibly harbouring some quiet thoughts about their mothers. So now that we’re egomaniacs, the logical progression is to share our delusions of grandeur with the world, and conveniently enough, the nice people at YouTube, MySpace and Facebook are only too happy to aid and abet the process. To steal Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite (and possibly only) format, here’s my hypothetical question: are we evolving into a species of exhibitionists?

Perhaps the evolution of our obsession with public display has mated with the internet’s gift of anonymity. Wikipedia has a rather bizarre article (I know! Who’d have thought it) titled ‘on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog’, which sums up the whole anonymity debate in typical Wikipedia fashion (one of the best things about Wikipedia is the convoluted language born of attempts to discuss topics like X-Men comics, Craigslist and Britney Spears with a suitably academic veneer). And so the logical progression continued, breeding incidents like LonelyGirl15 and Fake Steve Jobs, until we get to my second Carrie Bradshawism of the day: in an era of anonymous exhibitionists, how do you pin down the value of a tweet?

Answers to be sent to my anonymous Twitter page please.

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Lord Mandelson speaks

Posted by Chris Clarke on November 25, 2008

This morning I was at a briefing by Lord Mandelson at the London Chambers of Commerce on yesterday’s pre-budget report. The honesty and pragmatism of the briefing was refreshing. Agree with the measures in the pre-budget report or not, you can’t deny that the Government has undertaken a vigorous policy response to the current economic crisis. Seemingly unhindered by doctrine, unhindered by dogma, underhindered by mainstream economic philosophy that has dominated since 1979, the Government has swiftly taken measures – including the recapitalisation of banks, the reduction of VAT, increased income tax pledges – that would have been unthinkable only a year ago.

However, the question remains, will all of this work? The answer both from Government and industry is broadly ‘wait and see’.  Nonetheless, the Government’s policy instinct – as Mandelson said – is that something needed to be done.  And that just letting events unfold was not an option.   Let’s hope the mix of policy interventions proves to be the right recipe.

However, it is clear that government can not solely stimulate growth.  The challenge for businesses now is to survive and thrive in what is likely going to be a zero or low-growth economic environment for a number of years. This is no time just to ride the tide of a growing market. Instead, all of us need to focus on offering new services, reaching in to new sectors and responding to the changing needs of clients and customers in real-time.

Differentiate or die becomes an even greater truism for all of us in today’s new economic age.

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Hothouse Foresight 2009 launched

Posted by amandapurdie on November 24, 2008

On Wednesday, we launched Hothouse Foresight, a research initiative to explore the economic, political, business, societal and media trends that will shape the operating environment in 2009. To mark the launch, we assembled a stellar cast of speakers including Paul Mason, Economics Editor, BBC Newsnight; Holger Schmieding, Chief European Economist, Bank of America; Professor James Woudhuysen, De Montfort University; and, Edward Mason, Independent Diplomat.

In line with our approach to the research, the speeches and discussion was broad ranging. It covered everything from the impact of energy saving light bulbs to economic restructuring; European expansion to the evolution of the Anglo-Saxon capitalist model.

The event – hosted at London’s Soho Hotel screening room – attracted over 70 senior communicators representing companies from many sectors.

If you would like to listen to an edited podcast of the session click here.

Paul Mason, Newsnight

Paul Mason opened his presentation with insights from his travels in the US, to cities such as Detroit which have been at the sharp end of the credit crunch. He also focused not just on the short-term economic impact of the current downturn but also explored what it means for the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism, consumer expectations and policy-making.

holder_bigHolger Schmieding – a self-confessed optimist – talked about prospects for the UK and European economy over the coming year. He said it is likely that this recession will last longer than six months or so and we could be well in to 2009 before we start to see economic growth. He also suggested that – if you remove the impact of government expansion in the last decade – the UK has been growing at a similar rate to most countries in the Eurozone. Looking to the future, he suggested that this may indicate that UK growth in the next decade will be more line with the rest of Europe.

james_bigProfessor James Woudhuysen is currently finalising a book called Energise! which looks at how we can begin to address the world’s energy needs. He challenged the presumption that energy is a scarce resource and that we need to move beyond this ‘austerity mentality’ which punishes individuals for using energy and instead focus on creating scientific solutions to the energy crisis.

edward_bigEdward Mason presented his views on what an Obama presidency would mean, prospects for the EU Reform Treaty and what would potentially be the global trouble spots in 2009. He suggested that it is likely that continuity, as much as change, will define the Obama presidency as he continues to further and safeguard US interests across the globe.

The launch of Hothouse Foresight was the culmination of months of work and planning. Hothouse Foresight is part of our commitment to underpin PR and communications with insights into what is shaping business decision-making, consumer purchasing and policy-making. We will be using the research with our clients to develop high impact comms programmes over the coming year.

If you’d like to know about Hothouse Foresight, or what the trends mean for your business or sector, then do get in touch. We’d love to meet up for a chat over coffee.

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