Is wearable technology an ethical nightmare for PR?

The Borg

Amongst the buzz and hype surrounding Google Glass, health and fitness monitoring wristbands, smart watches, implantable devices, talking cars  and the rest of the burgeoning field labelled ‘wearable technology,’ an important aspect is largely overlooked if not ignored.

That aspect embraces multiple issues, from privacy of personal or confidential information to ethical behaviours we expect from companies and brands who may use wearable technology in their marketing, communication and other activities that let them reach out to consumers and employees.

It seems to me that, too often, we’re overlooking a key point that technology, wearable or otherwise, is about what people do or not do, not the shiny new objects themselves.

So I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss such concerns as part of a debate that will take place in London next month at the House of Commons, organized by the CIPR:

On the evening of Monday 7 July in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons, the CIPR will be hosting a Debating Group event to debate the motion ‘Wearable Technology is an ethical nightmare for the communications, marketing and PR professions’.

Chair: Lord Clement-Jones

Proposing the motion: Stephen Davies, Founder, Substantial Digital Health

Seconding the motion: Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com

Opposing the motion: Stephen Waddington MCIPR, CIPR President, Digital and Social Media Director at Ketchum Europe

Seconding: Claire Walker FCIPR, Chief Executive, Firefly Communications

This a red-hot topic, in my view, one that’s swimming with “It depends…” elements, and one that we must debate and get on the attention agenda of public relations practitioners.

The debate is free to attend but you must request an invitation. Details on how to do that are on the CIPR’s event page.

Hashtag: #CIPRdebate.

#FutureComms14 has what you’re looking for

#FutureComms14

Just one day to go until #FutureComms14 takes place in London, on Wednesday June 18.

If you’re looking for answers to questions like:

  • Where is PR, communications and social media heading?
  • What does your brand need to do to adapt?
  • Content marketing versus the Big Idea?
  • Do brands need to think like media companies?
  • How can brands tell more compelling stories?
  • Which skills, technologies and platforms are critical for success?
  • How can we measure more smartly?

…then this one-day conference is the event for you.

“FutureComms14 brings together some of the world’s leading speakers and practitioners to inspire us to rise to the communications challenges of today and the near future,” declare Mynewsdesk, organisers of this event, who expect more than 200 people to be there.

To get a good sense of what you can expect on the day, check out this recording of a Google+ Hangout on Air panel discussion last month with some of the speakers – Deirdre Breakenridge, Danny Whatmough, Paul Sutton and me, Neville Hobson.

And check the tweetchat from last week. Fast and furious! Still time to get your ticket

Hashtag: #FutureComms14

How high is the reboot bar for IABC?

Every time I hear about IABC these days, I suffer a continuing feeling of sadness.

The news this past week about the professional association for communicators does little to change that feeling where that news is all about financial loss (again), leadership issues, and an unclear future.

On June 4, long-time IABC commentator David Murray – often seen by IABC’s leadership as its nemesis by asking questions the leadership don’t like being asked, never mind answering – published a guest post by former IABC Executive Director Julie Freeman on the state of IABC’s financial affairs as revealed in its 2013 financial statement that Murray says was leaked to him a month ago.

Freeman took the helm at IABC in 2001 in the wake of a previous financial crisis. She left IABC in 2011.

And IABC critic Jack O’Dwyer posted a stark report on June 5:

International Association of Business Communicators lost $529,073 in 2013 as revenues dipped $692,486. A loan of $250,000 was taken to fund a new website.

[…] Revenues declined 10.8% to $5,666,483 from $6,350,927 in 2012. Net assets declined 43.7% to $680,013 from $1,209,086. Its deferred dues account, representing services owed to members over the course of the dues year, was $1,499,364 or about half of dues income of $2,917,858.

Julie Freeman’s post summarizes the key financial metrics in the financial statement and continues by setting out eleven specific questions she says IABC members ought to be asking at the association’s AGM on Tuesday June 10 during the 2014 IABC World Conference taking place in Toronto, Canada:

    1. Where did revenues fall short of budget and why?
    2. What were IABC’s major expenditures in 2013? How did these expenses serve members?
    3. General and administrative expenses increased 56% in 2013. What was the reason for this huge increase in expenses in this area?
    4. Board expenses increased 25%. Faced with declining revenues, how can the Board justify this increase?
    5. At the end of 2013, IABC’s cash and cash equivalents were $42,172, a decline of $495,117 from 2012. Does IABC have sufficient cash to make its debt payments and pay ordinary operating expenses in 2014? How will it do so?
    6. The Consolidated Statements of Financial Position (the Balance Sheet) includes Intangible Assets of $552,067. What does that include? How was that determination made?
    7. Several years ago the IEB approved establishment of an operating reserve and a special project reserve. How much should be in each of those funds? How much is currently there?
    8. What is the contract dispute related to the website development? How can members be assured that new web developer will not have the same issues? When can members expect a new website?
    9. What impact will the association’s current financial position have on its ability to recruit a qualified Executive Director? What is the status of that search?
    10. What is the current IABC membership? How does that compare to prior years?
    11. What is IABC’s current financial situation? What is the IEB doing to ensure that IABC will finish 2014 with a positive net? And will it keep members updated about finances before June 2015?

In my view, these are reasonable questions under the circumstance, ones I would expect members to receive credible answers on without obfuscation, fudge or dodging, and in a spirit of genuine openness and transparency.

Will that happen? Well, we’ll see on Tuesday although incoming IABC chair Russell Grossman offers a sense of optimism about this and what the new Executive Board will be doing in the nature of his response to Freeman’s guest post on David Murray’s blog in a comment to it, even if that response contains a few thinly-veiled barbs directed at Julie Freeman.

A key comment in that response:

[…] IABC’s International Executive Board is focused on creating alternate business models as part of our 2014 – 2017 Strategy (which has been open to member consultation during the last year) and our new Executive Director, when onboarded, will also be required to focus on short-term revenue generation as a primary objective, to help us make up the difference on lower income from membership dues and conference income.

Finally, the one thing we continue to need to get better at is, ironically, communication.

Our member communication is now much better than it was – and thanks to our hard working staff for that. The journey continues however – there is way more to go – and I personally am committed to further and rapid improvement.

Ah, yes, a search for a new Executive Director – the role Freeman had – in the wake of the awful debacle surrounding Chris Sorek whose short-lived tenure ended when he quit that role in May 2013. The good news is that one has been found and hired – Carlos Fulcher’s appointment will be announced at the Toronto conference.

Given that I’m not an IABC member, you may wonder why I’m writing this post.

I used to be an IABC member. Indeed, I was a member for 23 years – an accredited member (ABC) for 19 of those years – until November 2012, and served the association and the profession in a wide range of volunteerism roles during this time.

You don’t just dismiss a 23-year association, a belonging, with a group of people whose values you believed in and whose professionalism and friendships you admired, no matter what’s currently going on. I still care enough to devote some time and thought to writing this post which, if nothing else, will serve as a personal bookmark on my website along with the other things I’ve written about IABC over the past decade.

Organizations can (and do) go through crises – just read the business pages on any day. I recall the part I played for IABC in a crisis in Europe when I took on a rebuilding role as Director of the then Europe/Africa Region in 2002, a role I fulfilled until 2004. It’s the kind of task that requires you to have a  pretty thick skin, frankly, a clear belief in the heart of something (IABC in this case), and clear vision if you work with similar believers as I did at that time (notably, IABC members like Barbara Gibson, Marcus Ferrar and Allan Jenkins; and staff leaders like Julie Freeman and the team at the San Francisco headquarters).

So I trust that the AGM on Tuesday also serves the higher essential purpose of uniting voices – unlike last year’s  town hall meeting, although I believe the circumstance aren’t exactly the same today – perhaps taking a literal embrace of the slogan of this year’s conference:

  • Engage
  • Transform
  • Ignite

I hope that reboot bar I mentioned isn’t set too high.

Perspectives on social business at Social Business Sessions London

Iron ManIf you’re keen to explore different perspectives on organization culture, social business, enterprise 2.0 and the nature of work, an event in London I’m participating in this coming week could be right up your street.

The Combined Social Business Session – London #e20s takes place on Wednesday June 4 at Yammer’s EMEA headquarters, from 6pm to 9pm. You can participate without cost; all you have to do is sign up.

Organized by David Terrar, Janet Parkinson and Alan Patrick – who, I just realized,  I first met around eight years ago now – it’s one of the monthly Social Business Sessions London events at which a mix of a main 20-minute presentation, 5-minute lightning talks and an unconference-style panel discussion makes for a stimulating environment for informal exchanges of ideas and opinion, all with pizza and wine.

I was thrilled to be asked to do the main presentation in which I will focus on a mix of ideas that will form a broad perspective on those four elements mentioned above that are key to the principles of these events.

Or, as David put it in the email he sent out last week to members of the event group:

Our main speaker this time is our good friend and well known communicator, blogger, and podcaster Neville Hobson. Neville’s well known on the London social media scene, as well as being on Microsoft’s list of social business influencers in the UK. His talk will expand on a recent blog post of his titled “Foundations for evolving relationships between people and machines”. He’ll use Gartner’s Hype Cycle to discuss the following emerging trends and areas:

  1. Augmenting humans with technology
  2. Machines replacing humans
  3. Humans and machines working alongside each other
  4. Machines better understanding humans and the environment
  5. Humans better understanding machines
  6. Machines and humans becoming smarter

He’ll take those ideas forward and talk specifics like the Internet of Things, 3D Printing, Big Data and augmented reality, leading to the way they are changing the enterprise and the world of work.

Sounds good!

The blog post David referenced is this one that I wrote in August 2013. A lot has happened since then, especially concerning wearable technology and the relentless progress of mobile.

Hope you can make it to Yammer’s HQ in London on June 4. Sign up for your free ticket! And a 5-min lightning talk if you’re up for it.

A hangout on the future of communication

#FutureComms14

In just three weeks’ time, on June 18, FutureComms14 takes place in London.

This one-day conference, organized by MyNewsDesk UK, will firmly ask a big question: “What’s the future of communications?” The line up of speakers will offer some compelling answers to it that will undoubtedly include insights.

You really can’t ask for more from an event. I’ll be there, too, moderating a panel discussion on the technologies of PR and chipping in with a few perspectives as well in the context of that big question.

Yesterday, four of the speakers – Deirdre Breakenridge, Danny Whatmough, Paul Sutton and me, Neville Hobson – got together in a live Google+ Hangout On Air video panel discussion, ably moderated by Adam Cranfield, for a 50-minute conversation that addressed these topics:

  1. What is the future of communications?
  2. Will marketing, PR and social media job roles still be distinct in five years?
  3. Will the results that small agencies can achieve using communications technology make brands question the value for money large agencies offer?
  4. Will organizations rely more on in-house communicators to produce their content than external agencies?

It was a terrific discussion that attracted a number of live viewers and quite a few more to the recording on YouTube. And here’s the recording:

A taster of the what you can expect on June 18.

Check the hashtag #FutureComms14 for ongoing conversation. Connect with those on the FutureComms14 Twitter list created by Paul Sutton. And last but not least – book your ticket.

See you in London on June 18!

#Socialnomics 2014: A lot happened in five years

Hello 4 Cs of Digital...

A popular video in corporate presentations, seminars, webinars and other events aimed at educating business people about social media is Social Media Revolution, published in 2009 by author Erik Qualman to support his best-selling book, Socialnomics.

Since 2009, the video has been updated a few times to take into account how social media is evolving along with what people do with social media and how they use it. I’ve used them all myself, quite a lot, in business workshops and meetings.

I was reminded of the original video just this week when I heard the catchy Right Here, Right Now” soundtrack by Fatboy Slim during a marketing presentation at a company I was visiting. While the video is indeed a compelling audio-visual experience, the content isn’t wholly up-to-date any longer and misses quite a bit of what’s happening today. A lot has evolved and changed in five years.

If you are still using it, or any of the subsequent updates to it up to 2013, stop and get hold of the latest version, published this month. It’s called #Socialnomics 2014. (There’s a good indicator of changes over five years – the title itself is a hashtag now.)

#Socialnomics 2014 Video from Erik Qualman on Vimeo.

As with the previous versions, #Socialnomics 2014 has its own share of memorable metrics, like these that are pretty contemporary:

  • In ten years, 40 percent of the Fortune 500 will no longer be here.
  • More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush.
  • One in five divorces involves social media.
  • “What happens in Vegas stays in…” now reflects newer social channels such as Instagram, Pinterest, Weibo and Snapchat, to add to a steadily-growing list.
  • Each day, 20 percent of the terms typed into Google have never been searched before.
  • “Selfie” is  now a word in Webster’s dictionary.
  • Every second, two new members join LinkedIn.
  • Grandparents are the fastest-growing demographic on Twitter.
  • 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend products in their tweets.
  • 93 percent of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media.
  • 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations (only 14 percent trusts ads).
  • The average person has a seven-second attention span – that of the average goldfish is eight seconds.
  • Goodbye 4 Ps of marketing (product, place, price, promotion), and hello 4 Cs of digital (creating, curating, connecting, culture).

The focus of everything is American so bear that in mind in terms of how many of the metrics may or may not be credible when applied to different countries.

Still, it’s a highly useful and practical look at a constantly-evolving landscape where tools like this offer an entertaining way to get up to speed with what’s happening.

Incidentally, the soundtrack is Around the World by Daft Punk. As good as the Fatboy Slim one? You’ll have to watch and listen to decide.

Definitely worth your time.