Nothing Motivates Like Money – Sorry

Came across this article down the back of the internet – ws so incensed by the horsesh*t quotient, that I had to share with you, dearest blog trotters.

You see, I’m a believer in internal comms as a motivator. I believe in praise where it’s due, I believe in duvet days, I believe in doughnut Fridays, I believe that staff meetings should be entertaining and I believe that the booze should never run out at the Christmas party (and that what goes on tour stays on tour). (Yes, Microsoft, I’m talking to you.)

But I do not believe that any of this substitutes for cold, hard cash. Wonga in an envelope. The chink of change, the rustle of non-sequential, used tenners. And thus, I am afraid, any staff motivation philosophy that kicks off with ‘don’t show ’em the money (even if you have it)’ is misguided at best and cynical, petty, small-minded and mean at worst.

And no, wandering up to a random employee and inviting them to lunch with you is not motivating. It is stalking. It will result in uncomfortable silence, which is not how I enjoy my lunchtimes.

And the idea that asking – ‘was that the best way to approach the problem? Why not? Have you any ideas on what you could have done differently?’ – will somehow not be perceived as criticism or correction is just hippy-dippy nonsense.

Oooh – it makes me cross. I’d actually suggest that blindly implementing the nine things recommended here will have the opposite effect to that desired.

Especially number nine – ‘share the rewards’. But without giving anyone any money, obviously. What planet?

A Letter to Orange, Mobile Network Provider of This Parish

Here, dearest Blog Trotters mine, is a letter sent, via the medium of  ‘e’ mail, to the CEO, CMO and (oh but yes) the Chief Performance Officer of Everything Everywhere, the company formed through the alliance of Orange and T-Mobile. I’ll let you know whether I get a response.

(Still have no email on my B’Berry, by the way.) (I knew you’d be concerned.)

“Dear Olaf, Pippa and Ralf
Having been, finally, beaten by your impenetrable ‘customer service’ network (a completely new and totally unexpected definition of the term ‘customer service’ that I’d not encountered before), I am really, really hoping that you will be able to solve my Orange problem for me. (Congratulations on the company name, by the way – genuinely visionary and grandiose. If only it wasn’t the complete opposite of my experience to date.)
A long story short – as I’m sure you’ve all got better things to do (I know I have) – I’ve been a genuinely loyal customer of Orange for over 10 years and, to date, while it’s been (with hindsight) a bit pricey and I don’t like being sold insurance that I don’t need, I’ve been happy with it. Never even considered moving. Over the last four days, however, all of that has changed – rarely have I felt so powerless in the face of complete corporate ineptitude. Seriously, guys, whoever designed your call handling systems, the automated responses and the customer-facing website functionality should be tracked down and punished, in a cruel and unusual way. And so should the person who sold you the idea of outsourcing your call centres (I’m guessing that they are outsourced) – as the systems don’t work and even if they did, the call centre staff don’t have the knowledge to do anything with the account data the system is supposed to provide. I suspect it’s cost-cutting and lack of forward planning – but, whatever the cause, it’s frustrating and it will lose you business.
So – I’ve got an upgrade to a new Blackberry device. There was a slight delivery snafu, but it arrived. I’d been told to ring a number to activate the SIM. Did that on Sunday – the rather irritating call centre chap told me I should have done it online (incidentally, when I DID try to do it on line, the service didn’t work), but then said he’d be able to sort it out. Monday morning – not done, so I called again. Monday afternoon, nothing happening, called again, assured that a supervisor would be activating my SIM. Late Monday afternoon, call again, recorded message tells me that a problem precludes me being connected to an operator, and I should call back. Monday evening, nothing doing, call again, put on hold for 20 minutes, then cut off. (Meanwhile, and while I’m on a roll, why do I have to go through umpteen ‘if you want this, press that’ prompts, every time I ‘phone, when I still end up with the same lacklustre call centre staff, all of whom (without exception) have to contact someone else to address my query? And what, in the name of all that’s holy, is a ‘magic number’?)
Tuesday morning – hallelujah – SIM activated. Attempt to connect to my internet email accounts. Wah-wah and, indeed, oops. Either I’ve got a purely enterprise device, not allowing (as I’m sure you know) connection to internet mail accounts, or I’m being stupid. Let’s take the latter option – it’s been known. I visit your Orange website – again, do you know how difficult and painful it is to find things on that site? Couldn’t find anything helpful. Today I braved your call centres again, looking for a resolution to the problem – who knows (not me) maybe Orange can tweak the B’Berry enterprise software and provide me, remotely, with a consumer-facing device. Suffice it to say, your operative either couldn’t, or didn’t, address the issue. Nor did she call me back when she said she was going to.
So, here I am, with device, without email. Perhaps unfortunately, I tend to rely on email to keep me in touch with career and business opportunities, so I’m a little stifled right now. Two questions:
How has Orange come to this? It was brilliant – now it’s rubbish. Is this the Everything Everywhere influence?
Can you sort this out for me – or do I, and with regret, take my business elsewhere? I know I’m just one punter, but on the basis of my recent experience, I won’t be the last.
Perhaps a little less spend on marketing and a little more on nuts and bolts and getting the experience right.
All the best
The Wordmonger
PS And, lest I be accused of not making enough effort (sigh), yes, I have emailed Orange, via the same difficult website, twice, once asking advice and once complaining. No response to date. I know it says ‘a response within 48 hours’ – but, really, 48 hours? In today’s social media-driven world? Time for reflection, I think.
PPS I know I wrote, earlier, ‘long story short’ – but, well, hey……….”

Social Media – Just Say ‘No’

OK, OK – keep your hair on. It’s only a headline, dear. For effect, dear. Yes, dear.

Obviously, I don’t mean ‘no’ – what I mean is ‘oh alright, but only if you really, really have to.’ (Engage in a bit of social, that is.) Reading my newspaper (my copy of the newspaper, obviously – I’m not some Murdoch-alike here) yesterday and drifted over a wee piece about some company’s social media policy (what do you mean ‘policy?’ Yes, you do need one, yes, it should be draconian and yes, it does apply to everyone) and the vaguely humorous conclusion the journalist had drawn was that the overall message was, simply, ‘don’t’.

(This drawn from what was, in effect, a long list of rules – don’t criticise the company or its competitors, don’t insult management or colleagues, don’t post on behalf of the company, don’t hide your identity if you ARE posting about your work – the list went on and on and on.)

Thing is, of course, while it was supposed to be humorous, it is, of course, true. If you are a company with a hard-won reputation, you do not want it pissed up the wall by some employee who’s very good at attaching spangle brackets to flange clips but who, when it comes to understanding boundaries and the nuances of self-expression, well……..not so much. (This is a sort of meta-metaphor as I fully understand that hardly any of you, blog trotters mine, are involved in the spangle-bracket-and-flange-clip industry. Despite it being, I am sure, a dynamic growth sector.)

Thus, arguably, spending days and weeks formulating a corporate social media policy, with all the guidelines, rules and strictures that it necessarily must have, then going through the approval and enrolment process and then attempting to instil it in your staff from president to postboy – well, it’s probably a waste of time, isn’t it. Like it or not, you’re not going to catch everyone and, of those you do, not all are going to understand what you’re telling them.

I meant – do you actually know what you’re dealing with? You want to have a rummage around the back of Facebook and see the sort of thing you dig up. This is why Vodafone had to clean up its Twitter feed after it fell victim to a twat, and why Dixons/PC World had to take down a Facebook group entitled (something along the lines of) ‘Our Customers – What A Bunch of Culture Secretaries’.

You see on recent evidence, even the professional communicators cannot get it right. Cue PR advisor to some manufacturer of electronic games (if, indeed, Duke Nukem can be included in the sunlit and carefree category that is ‘game’) who used his 140 to threaten bloggers who gave his client’s product a bad review. I take it that this guy wasn’t a numpty and had had some success on the field of PR – but he got it wrong. Going back to our metaphorical spangle-bracket attacher, what chance does he (or she – but I tend to associate spangle brackets with he) actually have.

Nope, my convictions are firm and remain unchanged – by all means noodle with social if you feel you must, but do it sensibly. And in a corporate context, for the bulk of your employees, the answer has to be no. No way, no how, no never. And the punishment for breaking the rules needs to be frightening. More frightening than, say, Rebekah Brooks.

Social Media In The Workplace – The Debate Rageth On

It’s been a long time, gentle readers, since I came across something that deserves an award for its icky, sticky, company hippy nature, its inherent stupidity and intellectual laziness and its truly horrible smug and self-satisfied tone. But today is the day – it chills my very soul to introduce this, the Stop Blocking website and it disheartens me even further to link to this, a piece entitled ‘Demolishing Barclays Communications’ Blocking Argument Point-by-Point’.

Now, for this post to make sense to you, you’re going to have to do the clickety-dickety and read the article. You may wish to have a bucket and a towel handy while you do so and also to warn anyone in the immediate vicinity that your anguished howling is nothing to be alarmed about. Unless it goes on for longer than – say – thirty minutes, in which case it may be the onset of PTSD.

In brief, this is a continuation of the battle between two diametrically opposed viewpoints – that employees in the workplace should have no access to social networks during work hours whatsoever (which I do not believe to be a workable solution to the insidious eville of social) and that employees should be free to do what they want, when they want, simply girdled with a loose set of suggestions and guidelines. Which, as a solution to the problem of social media in a corporate context (and it is a problem, mark my words) is also a nasty pile of cattle droppings. In a nutshell, it’s the Corporate Nazi vs Company Hippy debate, which I have posted about before.

Thing is, the Company Hippy arguments for social media, used here, are the same ones that have been trotted out since social media began. And they didn’t make sense then, and they don’t make sense now. On top of that, here they are dusted with the icing of  ‘research’ and ‘example’ – and we all know how easy it is to find support for an argument. Any argument. (Don’t make me give you specifics.)

Here’s just a few idiocies:

  • Apparently, all workers, regardless of status or paygrade, put in extra hours and therefore compensate for any time that they may waste using social networks. Of course they do. In the same way that they all love the company that they work for, its senior management and its brands
  • Productivity suffers if employees can’t connect to social networks at work (thanks, University of Melbourne!). Apparently use of social media ‘resets an employee’s concentration’. How DID we manage to concentrate before?
  • Because the US Department of Defense has opened its networks to social media, does not mean that LargeCorp Industries LLC (in the business of profit, not homeland security) should – it’s not a question of risk from cyber-attack, it’s a question of perceived need and value. (In any case, I would ask whether the ‘private in the field in Afghanistan’ is free to change his status willy-nilly (‘Safe behind a wall’ to ‘In a ditch with blast concussion’) or to share any sort of geographic or temporal information)
  • Company ‘confidentiality can be violated anywhere, even an elevator’. True – but your average elevator holds 12 people and Facebook holds a potentially eavesdropping audience of 450 million. Go figure
  • ‘Many employees carry smartphones – or they can (access social media) from home after work’ – again, true. But what they do on their own time is their own business – unless it contravenes company policy on how they may represent themselves as employees, or the laws of the land – in which case they get fired. In the workplace – well, the clue is in the name – ‘work’place. Not ‘fun’place or ‘do-your-own-thing’place
  • ‘If normal use of bandwidth (this refers to employee use of social media) is slowing (your) network to a crawl, get more bandwidth.’ Just go to your finance guys and ask them to approve an increase in your budget, to purchase bandwidth to allow your employees to update their Facebook statii. That’s bound to work. Job done

All of this is hopelessly Utopian – the ideals of an imaginary world where everyone is nice, contented, loyal and trustworthy. Well, here’s the wake-up call. They’re not, and you need to bear that in mind when thinking about social media use in the workplace.

The solution, however (and it’s the one point on which I vaguely coincide with Stop Blocking) is not to shut down employee access to the internet. You see, it’s the internet that is (or can be) a useful corporate tool, it’s the internet which – as much as I still think this is a sucky argument – ‘resets concentration’ – not social media. Social media is wasteful and vainglorious. The internet is (partly) full of useful information, commentary and viewpoint.  Social media is full of weak-minded individuals who honestly believe that what they do and think is of interest to others (see Twitter).

How can you do it? Some companies have a couple of open-access machines in their public areas, for employees to use when they’re on breaks and time spent on these machines is (obviously) monitored by other employees – much like smokers on smoking breaks, internet users will be kept honest by their peers. Other companies make internet access a privilege, granted to those who’ve achieved – promotion, sales targets, whatever – although this is obviously a little elitist. Others allow internet access, but block social media sites – possibly the best of the options.

What is essential, however, is a good, solid, draconian Use of Social Media Policy and an internal communication plan to make sure that no-one can claim ignorance of it. Needless to say, this Policy should outline clearly how an employee may represent the company or brand online and in social media – what is acceptable and what is not – and, most importantly, make it clear that it applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enforce it rigorously, because there’s nothing like a public hanging to make people understand that you are – and it is – serious.

Corporate Reputation – Toyota And The Need For Purpose

I am very fond of the internet. (Even though, obviously, I don’t know all of it.) It’s mostly the way that things just crop up, without one necessarily looking for them, which provide insight into, and opinion on, stuff that is instantly resonant and relevant. There’s always someone out there in webworld who sees the connection between events and best practice, in any field, or sector, or discipline, even when you haven’t. Everything I’ve just said here is, of course, stating the obvious – that’s what you’d expect from the feral communities engendered by the net – and it’s not that which astounds. No – it’s the serendipity with which the net throws things one’s way – almost as if there was some sort of a fate lending an ethereal hand.

Most likely, it’s to do with quantum. Algorithm’s gonna get you.

Anyway – here’s a piece that I think is splendid. It’s from a blog called Decision to Lead – Expanding the Practice of Leadership and it’s by a lady called Frances Frei, who is (according to the blurb) ‘Harvard Business School’s resident expert of service excellence’. Which, to my mind, gives her a bit of gravitas.

The piece is about the whole ongoing Toyota situation of which we are all aware, even if we’re not sure how many cars have been recalled and what, exactly, they’ve been recalled for. Mechanical bloopers, shall we say. Frances comes at it from the angle of what I will call ‘corporate religion’ and what she calls a purpose. You can read the post yourselves, dear blog snorkellers, but Frances posits that Toyota lost its focus on its corporate purpose of ‘improvement’ – improvement of its product and improvement in the way its product was constructed. From the pursuit of this purpose came business success – sales and profits. Toyoat lost its focus – or rather its focus shifted, from improvement as a corporate purpose, to sales and profits as goals in themselves. As these became the goals of the company, so corners were cut, so the pride and motivation of the workforce became less – and it was then but a matter of time before what happened, happened.

It’s a great lesson – shame that it takes a global product recall, and its affect on the consumer, to teach it. The lesson is that businesses and organisations that have true longevity, that are the ones that enjoy enduring success (in the form of sales and profits), that are the ones that engender respect and admiration in their stakeholders – these are businesses for whom sales and profits are not goals in themselves. They are function of the bigger corporate purpose – the mission, the vision, the intent, the corporate religion – whatever you’d wish to call it. With a clearly defined and articulated purpose comes pride and motivation and – yes – reward for the people that make the business or organisation run.

(PS. Lest I be accused of being an unreconstructed, irredeemable hippy, I know that there are industries and business sectors where the purpose is nothing more or less than profit, and the people who are involved in them are wholly subsumed in the pursuit of the purpose – banking, mostly. I will be hippy-ish, mind, and ask whether we’d be in such a global economic bind right now if, perhaps, the bankers had had another purpose, other than sheer greed.)

(PPS. The need for corporate purpose has been around forever. I say this to prevent anyone trying to tell me that it’s part of the New Age of business, where everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice is important, which has been brought about by that life-changing, world-shaping phenomenon, social media. Horse droppings.)

Social Media – PR ‘Students’ And Twitter

You couldn’t make it up. This is another one of those jaw-dropping, what-the-f*ck moments. A moment when – for someone who’s spent the best part of two decades in the corporate communications business – I actually begin to question why I’m here and why the industry exists.

Here is a link to a post on the Teaching PR blog (May 2009), from Grady College, University of Georgia. I can only presume that this is a seat of learning with the same level of gravitas and respect that is accorded to Keele here in the UK.

It provides some hints and tips to PR students on ‘what not to tweet’. I’m not going to paraphrase it here. Trust me, you need to read it in all its truly frightening originality.

Without beating about the bush, the hints about ‘what not to tweet’ are not bad. Basic, but good guidelines for those embarking on a Twitter feed. But they’re all about image and communication – things that, arguably, a student of PR should have a natural feel for.

Personally, if I came across a potential communications practitioner making any of these mistakes, I would advise them that perhaps they have made the wrong career choice and that they should f*ck off and trouble some other industry with their ridiculous and naïve viewpoints and attitudes. (Hey – call me harsh.)

On top of that, if Grady College feel the need to give these hints and tips to their students, then they have wholly failed to engender any sort of PR sense into them – thus, arguably, their course should be shut down.

It’s this sort of misunderstanding, naivety and ill-informed behaviour that will provide the comms industry with the next generation of PR lovelies – all blonde hair and parties – that will perpetuate the crass mythology of PR as a business of fluff and spin and will continue to deny the industry its seat at the top table.

My faithful blog snorkellers will know my feelings on social media. This scary nonsense does nothing to change my opinions, or give me any faith in the future of our profession. I’ll leave you with the following:

“Earlier this semester, @BarbaraNixon tweeted a wise suggestion to her students: go to the Web and look at your last page of tweets. Is that really how you want to represent yourself to the world?

If not, it’s time to rethink your twitter strategy.”

No, it’s time to rethink your life.

Social Media – Vodafone Twit Highlights Need For Corporate Social Media Control

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – corporate use of social media is a dangerous thing, and if you are going to dip your toe, then you need a frankly medieval ‘corporate use of social media’ policy in place to ensure the wingnuts do not scupper your dinghy.

As happened earlier this month over at Vodafone, a rather large purveyor of telecommunications services to the global community. Vodafone’s on Twitter, d’you see, and although it’s only managed to garner some 9.5k followers with its 5k-odd tweets, it’s pursuing its strategy with verve.

Suddenly, last week, a tweet was tweeted suggesting that – avert your eyes, those of a sensitive disposition – “@VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's (sic) and is going after beaver”. Well. Here’s commentary from www.pocketlint.com, suggesting that Voodoofone’s Twitter account is internally compromised.

Of course, it wasn’t, and – whether you choose to believe it or not, you have to give credit to Mojambofone’s crisis management people – pocketlint posted this yesterday, recounting Jujufone’s official explanation. For those of my blog snorkellers what is hard of de clickery, the explanation is pretty much ‘a big boy did it and ran away’. Only in this case, they appear to have found the big boy, and I can only imagine that he (or she, even) is in a small room somewhere, tied to a chair, while some HR lovelies get all 16th century on his ass.

 Moral of the story? There need to be rules. Perhaps Blackmagicfone has a ‘corporate use of social media’ policy, but it sure as hell ain’t working. As I’ve postulated before, there’s always a proportion of employees – and of the general public, as it happens – terminally afflicted with Twitterette’s. This is the unholy urge to shout ‘bum!’ and ‘poo!’ in public places and at inappropriate times. Generally when confronted with a mass medium (like Twitter, or Facebook), the implications of which they do not fully understand. They do not understand that their ‘bum!’ has a potential audience of – ooooh – everyone. (Luckily, in this case, it was an immediate audience of 9.5k people – although you can still find the post, because it’s been re-tweeted and re-tweeted – whatever that means.)

Anyway, bottom line – a proper use of social media policy, with proper rules, is absolutely imperative. It won’t stop this sort of nonsense altogether, but it may make the f*ckwits think twice. I recommend really, really serious disciplinary action. Boilings in oil. Skinnings alive.

But really, the way to deal with it – folks – is NOT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

How many times do I have to say this?