Adding a face to the HSBC name could go a long way

HSBC coverage by the Guardian

Reputation is built on trust and, for HSBC Bank, that chain has been well and truly disconnected through the revelations of alleged dirty deeds in its private banking operation in Switzerland that say the bank helped a large number of its private-banking clients evade tax that have been paraded through the mainstream media over the past week.

Whatever the actual facts of the matter, HSBC is being pilloried left, right and centre as a financial institution that helps wealthy people dodge tax – a very popular topic for politicians in the UK at the moment, with a general election on May 7, 2015 (that’s less than 80 days away).

Not only that, the bank faces criminal charges in the US, France, Belgium and Argentina – although not in the UK – resulting from information revealed by whistleblower Herve Falciani, the former HSBC IT contractor who blew the lid on this scandal (and did that some years ago, according to BusinessWeek and Der Spiegel).

The political angle took centre stage mid week with HMRC, the government department responsible for the collection of taxes, robustly and publicly accused of failing its duty to pursue tax dodgers in this case, and tax avoiders – again, a popular topic for politicians.

As the week wore on and negative commentary intensified, there was little substantive word from HSBC about the issue other than reports on the bank saying that it all related to “unacceptable practices” within its Swiss operation that took place some years ago and which don’t reflect the bank’s way of doing business today.

Many newspapers have been publishing reports and other content that analyse the bank and its business practices that go way beyond this current scandal. Take the Guardian, for example, which has extensive coverage as the image at the top illustrates, all of which undoubtedly leave the reader with the strong feeling that HSBC is a secretive bank not to be trusted (at best), and one that is run by, employs, and does business with, people who behave like crooks (at worst).

The Economist has a good report on cases in recent years focused on data stolen to expose alleged tax evasion, and a candid assessment of HSBC’s current predicament:

The questions for the bank are whether it reacted quickly enough to tighten compliance with tax laws after governments started to investigate in 2010, and how much pain the scandal will cause.

And now the latest development this weekend – HSBC published a public apology in the form of ads in the national press on Sunday signed by Stuart Gulliver, CEO of HSBC Holdings plc, the UK-based holding company.

He says:

We would like to provide some reassurance and state some of the facts that lie behind the stories. The media focus has been on historical events that show the standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations 8 years ago. We must show we understand that the societies we serve expect more from us. We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.

You can read the complete statement, embedded below:

HSBC Private Bank Announcement Feb 15, 2015

The document refers to another document the bank has published on an HSBC website entitled Progress Update – January 2015, a four-page report on this affair and some detail explaining what the bank has been doing “to prevent its banking services being used to evade taxes or launder money.”

I know nothing of HSBC’s crisis communication plan that surely is well into execution by now, nor the specific public or investor relations objectives of these documents this weekend.

Yet, I cannot see how two rather dry documents like this – PDFs at that: try reading those on your iPhone or BlackBerry – will do anything meaningful to address the assault on the bank’s reputation and the impending collapse of trust.

I’m reminded of the 2015 Trust Barometer published by Edelman last month, one of the findings in which clearly shows one industry sector where trust has declined for another year, even if by only one percentage point over 2014 – banks (page 16 in the report).

I’m also reminded of a point Edelman has made in almost every Trust Barometer since the first report was published fifteen years ago – the negative outcomes distrust in a company can create (and, in contrast, the benefits trust in a company can generate), as this chart illustrates (page 40 in the report).

2015 Trust Barometer page 40

If you want to really get attention to an apology in a crisis like this – especially one that embroils a company in an industry as reviled as financial services still is – you would want to present a face of humility, humbleness, honesty and authenticity, complemented by assurance, authority and the sense that “I will get things done.”

You may think such attributes come across in both documents. No, they don’t. It means a real face, not PDFs drummed up by the corporate writer which he or she affixes a facsimile of the CEO’s signature to one of them, with the other being wholly anonymous.

I’d like to see a bold move with the CEO on camera delivering the apology along with the plan on what he is doing to fix things, and with a promise to report progress in a similar manner. That means a video, posted on YouTube with open exposure to myriad sharing opportunities across the social web.

HSBC has a YouTube channel.

Even though the 2015 Trust Barometer shows yet again that CEOs generally are not trusted voices for a corporation (page 20 in the report), it’s a lot better than a sterile PDF.

The Apple iOS debacle and PR consequences

iOS 8.0.1 downloading

Whether you’re an iPhone user or not, you can’t have missed the headlines in recent days reporting on the fiasco resulting from Apple’s botched operating system update 8.0.1 for iPhones and iPads, released on September 24.

For the first time in some years, I have an iPhone courtesy of Arena Media, mobile operator Three UK‘s media agency, who sent me an iPhone 6 for review (that review is coming soon) which arrived on the 24th – the day of the 8.0.1 software update.

And so I did: allowed the iPhone to install the update. And, as you do, I tweeted that.

In pretty short order, I started getting tweets from Twitter friends about the problems with the update.

Sure enough, the iPhone 6 had lost its ability to make or receive phone calls and text messages, the problem at the heart of the matter, one that seemed to  affect only the two newest iPhones, the 6 and 6 Plus.

So for the past 36 hours or so, along with thousands of other iPhone 6 users, I’ve had a smartphone with no ability to use it as a phone. Luckily, in my case, it isn’t my primary phone and it otherwise functioned just fine including connectivity via wifi. And so I was able to kick its tyres, as it were, during the Simply SMiLE conference in London yesterday, using many of its features.

And what about fixing the botched update? How hard was Apple on the case?

I imagine this was being treated with the utmost importance by Apple. I visualized their engineers working round the clock to get a fix done in the shortest time possible.  And I guess the shortest time possible was the 36 hours or so from 8.0.1 to the 8.0.2 fix that I saw appear in my iPhone 6 early this morning UK time.

ios802update

iOS 8.0.2 Learn More

And once the installation reached a successful completion, the iPhone 6 had its cellular capability restored and the fixes mentioned in the ‘Learn More’ text applied.

iOS 8.0.2 up to date

And all’s well that ends well, right? Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. No doubt by this time next week, all this will be just a bad memory, a little one at that (although #BendGate is still ‘an issue’).

And what of Apple the company, one that is the maker of probably the most desirable tech gadgets on the mass market today? Has something gone a bit wrong there where we’ve seen a succession of missteps in recent months: the current issues with the iOS fiasco, for example, and celebrity nude pics in the iCloud a month or so ago?

I expect Apple will continue to feature high up in lists of the world’s best brands. I imagine the rosy glow of success will continue to embrace the company once more news and information emerge about Apple Watch and its launch next year.

So events such as I’ve mentioned may be just a blip on the PR radar to Apple, ones relatively easy to consider and address purely as issues to manage.

Yet I think such events have tarnished Apple’s reputation somewhat. The share price has fallen. The gloss has dimmed a bit on a company which has often in the past said that they make technology that just works.

Not this time, Mr Cook!

Apple share price

I believe there is a cumulative effect over time where things like this add up to a negative sum when it comes to trust and reputation. And, eventually, that will impact you, your products and services and your market position. Not to mention shareholder value.

Not a good place to be, Apple.

Sprinklr adds Branderati advocacy to its ‘social at scale’ offering

Sprinklr + Branderati

Enterprise social media company Sprinklr is certainly making big moves in the enterprise social space with news this week of another acquisition as the firm consolidates a credible position at the leading edge of the emerging business of enterprise-level social relationship infrastructure development.

Sprinklr adds a further dimension to its offering with the acquisition of Branderati, an advocacy influencer marketing firm, to give Sprinklr a major addition to its Social @ Scale product that manages the key and increasingly complex social channels of large companies.

Branderati’s service offering is focused on helping companies build their own advocacy networks on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels by enlisting fans and customers to market those companies, their brands, products and services.

In its news release announcing the deal, Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas said with 92 percent of consumers trusting recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising, “advocacy now must take a more central role, not only in marketing but also in the overall business strategy.” Thomas added:

Branderati has unlocked the key to sustained brand advocacy at scale and having their technology and know-how on board will mean big things for our clients.

The news release also includes some interesting metrics about Sprinklr as it now is:

Sprinklr now employs more than 500 employees in five countries and serves more than 650 enterprise brands worldwide, including:

  • Four of the top five U.S. banks
  • Three of the top six insurance companies
  • Three of the top seven hotel chains
  • Four of the top six retailers
  • Tech titans such as Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and Dell

With Branderati marking the firm’s third acquisition this year, Sprinklr has doubled in size in numbers of people. Sprinklr raised $40 million investment capital in April. Now there’s more speculation about a potential IPO sometime very soon, even this year according to some opinions.

Whether an IPO is on the close horizon for Sprinklr or not, this acquisition looks a logical step for Sprinklr if you believe that social media will become an increasingly important element in the business strategies of large companies.

If you look at many large companies and what they’re doing with social media and social channels – just check the four names mentioned above – it seem quite clear to me that a firm that can offer a holistic approach to social at scale – two very key words – is in a pretty good place today.

Defining Twitter by more than the numbers

Twitter user growth

Twitter reported its financial results for the second quarter 2014 this week:

  • Q2 revenue of $312 million, up 124% year-over-year
  • Q2 net loss of $145 million and non-GAAP net income of $15 million
  • Q2 GAAP EPS of ($0.24) and non-GAAP EPS of $0.02
  • Q2 adjusted EBITDA of $54 million, representing an adjusted EBITDA margin of 17%

Depending on which media report or commentary you read, it’s either an unimpressive financial performance, or a strong performance to silence critics.

Either way, a common view in mainstream media reports is that the results exceeded financial analysts’ expectations.

One other significant element in the earnings announcement is growth in the number of users, as the Financial Times chart above shows – a consistent increase every quarter since mid 2010 to arrive at today’s number of 271 million average monthly active users, an increase of 24 per cent over the same period last year.

The combination of financial results that exceed expectations and continuing user growth are facts that the stock market and investors like. Indeed, the FT’s report includes a bottom-line statement:

[…] Shares rose to $51.25 in after-hours trading, the highest price since Twitter reported its first results as a public company in February, prompting the stock to plummet. The stock is almost double the price at which Twitter listed last year.

One other aspect I find interesting relates to what Twitter is, ie, how people now describe Twitter.

In media reports, you’ll see it described variously as a “micro-blogging service” – that moniker arose in the very early days of Twitter – or a “social-networking service,” both labels used in a BBC News report. It’s a “social network,” says the Telegraph. The FT calls it a “messaging platform” while The Wall Street Journal says it’s a “social media company.”

And Twitter? How does the company describe itself? From the ‘About’ paragraph in the earnings report:

Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) is a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. By developing a fundamentally new way for people to create, distribute and discover content, we have democratized content creation and distribution, enabling any voice to echo around the world instantly and unfiltered. The service can be accessed at Twitter.com, via the Twitter mobile application and via text message. Available in more than 35 languages, Twitter has 271 million monthly active users. For more information, visit discover.twitter.com or follow @twitter.

Compare that to the mission statement on the Twitter corporate page:

Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

And note the latest user metrics on that page:

  • 271 million monthly active users
  • 500 million Tweets are sent per day
  • 78 percent of Twitter active users are on mobile
  • 77 percent of accounts are outside the U.S.
  • Twitter supports 35+ languages
  • Vine: More than 40 million users

Clear?

The future looks mobile for Facebook

Facebook mobile

Facebook posted its financial report on July 23 for the second quarter of its 2014 financial year.

The report shows financial pluses across the board for the mega social network in significant areas:

  1. Overall revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $2.91 billion, an increase of 61 percent compared to the same period last year.
  2. Revenue from advertising was $2.68 billion, a 67 percent increase over the same quarter last year – and around 92 percent of overall revenue reported for the second quarter 2014.
  3. Mobile advertising revenue represented about 62 percent of advertising revenue for the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 41 percent compared to the same period last year.
  4. GAAP net income for Q2 2014 was $791 million, up 138 percent compared to the same period last year.
  5. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.30, up 131 percent compared to the same period last year.

Holders of Facebook stock will no doubt be quite happy, like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, who remarks drily:

“We had a good second quarter,” [Zuckerberg] said. “Our community has continued to grow, and we see a lot of opportunity ahead as we connect the rest of the world.”

What struck me most about the numbers as shown in the concise earnings announcement is the advertising revenue growth and the high proportion of that growth  – nearly two-thirds – that comes from mobile.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

Indeed, the FT reports on Facebook’s earnings with two interesting charts – the one above showing the growing shift to mobile of Facebook’s user base since the start of 2013; and the one below, showing a clear growth trend since mid 2012 of mobile advertising sales.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

As for the opportunity Zuckerberg refers to, to “connect the rest of the world,” put that in the context of the latest user metrics included in the company’s earnings report:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 829 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 19 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 654 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 39 percent year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.32 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 14 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.07 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 31 percent year-over-year.

Plenty of room for growth.

(Picture at top via DigitalTrends.)

The big idea from Sprinklr

Social ad spending trends to 2015 - eMarketer

Less than three months after its acquisition of social business pioneer Dachis Group, social media SaaS vendor Sprinklr launches the next stage in its drive to bring greater integrated ‘social at scale’ ability to large enterprises with the introduction of paid social media to its modular infrastructure software platform.

In its announcement today, Sprinklr says the new paid-media capability tightly connects the platform that Forrester Research described as “the most powerful technology on the market” to the $7.8 billion market for paid social advertising.

This new capability enables brands and their agencies to plan, execute, measure and optimize their paid activities on Facebook and Twitter in the same environment as their owned and earned engagement. Combining integrated brand analytics (added via Sprinklr’s recent acquisition of Dachis Group), integrated listening (launched in January 2014), and automation to optimize paid media spend is a breakthrough for brand and direct response marketers. Early clients have reported over 25% increase in ROI as a result of increased effectiveness and efficiency.

In tandem with its enhanced-solution announcement, Sprinklr said it has raised $40 million in Series D funding from Iconiq Capital, Battery Ventures and Intel Capital. Sprinklr says the capital injection will enable the firm to attain a projected growth target of 300 percent year over year.

“Sprinklr has a bold vision for integrated experience management for the enterprise,” said Carey Lai of Intel Capital. “$100 billion of deployed enterprise software is at risk of becoming obsolete because of fundamental changes in consumer behavior and Sprinklr has the capability to capitalize. This is a big idea whose time has come.”

For the full story, read today’s press release – here’s the text:

Sprinklr Launches Paid Social Media Solution and Announces $40M Series D Funding Led by Iconiq Capital

Funding fuels the growth of industry’s first social relationship management infrastructure with integrated owned, earned, and paid capabilities

New York, NY — April 22, 2014 – Sprinklr, the largest independent enterprise social relationship platform provider, today announced the launch of its integrated paid social media capability as well as a $40 million Series D investment from Iconiq Capital, Battery Ventures, and Intel Capital. This new round of funding fuels Sprinklr’s projected growth of 300% year over year, as it enables end-to-end social experience management for large enterprises.

Sprinklr’s launch of paid media tightly connects the platform that Forrester Research named “The most powerful technology on the market,” to the $7.8 billion market for social paid advertising. This new capability enables brands and their agencies to plan, execute, measure and optimize their paid activities on Facebook and Twitter in the same environment as their owned and earned engagement. Combining integrated brand analytics (added via Sprinklr’s recent acquisition of Dachis Group), integrated listening (launched in January 2014), and automation to optimize paid media spend is a breakthrough for brand and direct response marketers. Early clients have reported over 25% increase in ROI as a result of increased effectiveness and efficiency. The module is expected to be generally available to all clients in six weeks.

“The social age demands that brands manage experiences across every touchpoint – every team, department, division and location. Paid media is at the core and is the most expensive part of creating brand experiences” said Ragy Thomas, CEO of Sprinklr. “The launch of paid and a 40MM series D, led by the smartest source of money on the planet, sets Sprinklr up to continue on our tremendous growth path.”

Iconiq Capital, a global multi-family wealth management company, led the round with participation from existing investors Battery Ventures and Intel Capital.

“Very few companies have ever been on Sprinklr’s current trajectory,” said Neeraj Agrawal of Battery Ventures. “The introduction of an integrated paid media module ahead of schedule positions Sprinklr as the go to provider to replace existing point solutions in social for large businesses tired of playing the role of a system integrator.”

“Sprinklr has a bold vision for integrated experience management for the enterprise,” said Carey Lai of Intel Capital. “$100 billion of deployed enterprise software is at risk of becoming obsolete because of fundamental changes in consumer behavior and Sprinklr has the capability to capitalize. This is a big idea whose time has come.”

Enterprises interested in learning more about this integrated capability can contact Sprinklr for a demonstration immediately. Existing clients can gain access to the integrated paid module by contacting their success manager.

Sprinklr is also hiring around the globe. Explore opportunities in Sprinklr’s New York, Austin, Delhi, Bangalore or Kiev offices here.

About Sprinklr

Sprinklr’s infrastructure software is how brands manage social experiences across every touchpoint. Unlike tools and platforms, Sprinklr is the only true integrated social relationship infrastructure. Called “The most powerful technology in the market” by Forrester Research, Sprinklr accelerates the social maturity of a brand, from just ‘doing social’ to being social, at scale. Sprinklr’s cloud software and strategic and analytic services enable the enterprise to innovate faster, grow revenue, manage risk and reduce operational costs. Founded in 2009, Sprinklr is headquartered in New York City and serves more than 450 brands worldwide including Microsoft, Intel, Virgin America, IHG, and 4 of the top 5 US banks. Visit www.sprinklr.com @sprinklr #SocialAtScale.