When I told people that I was going into PR, aside from their complete and utter lack of knowledge as to what PR is and what exactly PR agencies do (which even now remains a debate within the industry itself), they all said one thing: “well, you are already quite good at drinking, so that’s half the battle won.”
We have the image in our heads of PR and advertising pros having boozy lunches, and even boozier parties. Mad Men’s Don Draper is rarely without glass in hand, Malcolm Tucker probably downs scotch by the gallon, and Les Hommes de l’Ombre/Spin’s Simon Kapita loves a red wine. There is however, strategy behind this.
So without further ado, I raise my glass-hand, and share with you the four things I’ve learnt about schmoozing.
- You don’t actually need to drink alcohol whilst schmoozing
I know this may be a bit of a shocker for a lot of people in the PR world, but some of the more entertaining and ideas-driven conversations I’ve had have been over lunch at the PRCA whilst in training sessions. Yes, even a training session can be a great opportunity to network and schmooze for PR agencies. These events present a forum for pure, unrefined discussion about all things PR. Ideas for your own campaigns come from the most unlikely of places, and these sessions can provide great food for thought. If anyone wants a lunch partner at the next PRCA all-day training session, let me know!
- Contrary to popular belief, sometimes a lunch or dinner is not the best way to get to know someone professionally
Whilst the above lunches are good fun, they do tend to last around 45 minutes, which could only be considered a semi-schmooze. For a good ol’ fashioned schmooze, say at an industry event or trade show, a standard hour to hour and a half is required. These, of course, aren’t sit down meals, but less formal and more mobile affairs. Canapés abound, and verrrry small glasses of wine (generally shiraz or tempranillo), and many people to talk, errr, schmooze with. These are almost the speed-dating of schmoozing, and can be excellent. Many a deal has been cut at these get-togethers, and undoubtedly many more deals will be made in such environments in the future. In fact, just a few weeks ago, our PR agency hosted its annual Roof Party in London – a capital schmooze if I do say so, which had exactly this type of vibe. Just bear in mind that, in some instances, those verrrry small glasses of wine will be swapped with margaritas halfway through the evening.
- You can talk shop, just not too much
The background to most schmoozes is invariably work-related. But let’s be honest: no one wants to talk about work. By all means, sometimes you must, and it is very definitely worth doing, but talking shop for the entire time will do you no good. Boredom will set in, and the schmooze will turn into the worst kind of schmooze – the chore. The same type of schmooze that you now as an adult feel obliged to attend because the neighbours once lent you their hose. Schmoozing is about building rapport, and whilst discussing work will help your professional relationship, it’s worth diverging on topics to build your personal one too. Work is important, but it isn’t the be all and end all. Which leads nicely to…
- Everyone is a person
Yes, I know it is hard to believe. But that journalist who won’t give you the time of day because they’re constantly busy, or the fabled names whispered down the hallowed halls of your office still put their trousers on one leg at a time, and still dislike the tube at rush hour. The sooner you can realise this, the sooner the nervousness dissipates when having to talk to them in a professional manner. They might like the triathlon, so why not start a call (the intention of which is a discussion on endpoint protection in the enterprise) by asking their opinion on Jan Frodeno pulling out of this year’s Kona? Do they like wine? Have you told them about the natural/organic/biodynamic wine joint down the road? Well that’s an excuse for another schmooze! Journalists have interests outside of work, as do we all, and we would all do well to remember that.
The fact is that schmoozing is an integral part of PR. It may not affect your work directly on a day to day basis, but when it does, it can all be traced back to that one glass that sparked a conversation about something inconsequential. It’s the butterfly effect, but significantly less weird than the film. Anyone care for a glass?
Ben Cole, Campaign Manager and Schmooze Baron, Babel PR
Another year, another Tour. Sadly this year’s is mired in controversy once again, with Team Sky exonerating Chris Froome from his alleged salbutamol shenanigans and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) changing the rules regarding the technology that can be used. Alongside these issues with the Tour itself, TV audiences are becoming increasingly frustrated with the viewing experience, risking fans abandoning the sport altogether.
The sports technology
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In recent years, technology has become an integral part of the Tour, making the event an exciting place to see the latest in velo-tech. The race now counts a host of technology and software companies amongst its backers, including new addition, cyber security company, Sophos, sponsoring Team BMC. Old favourites Team DimensionData are back once again, sporting rather snazzy new helmets from Oakley with no less innovation in them than the skinsuits that are used for the Individual and Team Time Trials.
It’s not surprising that these technology companies are involved, given the impressive range of tech used by each and every team. For example: helmets. Oakley has been developing a new offering to the world of road cycling, and this year Team DiData are sporting the particularly panache Aro 5, with MIPS technology. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which is a leading slip-plane technology inside the helmet designed to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts. This is very fancy sounding, and undoubtedly high tech.
The thing is, unless you’re a cyclist who enjoys donning the lycra now and again and having to eat dust for a month because you’ve, *ahem*, “invested” in some Carbon wheels, the above paragraph won’t be of much interest.
What if you just like watching sport? Unfortunately, when it comes to cycling, the innovation on the screen doesn’t match that on the roads. Whereas other sports such as Formula 1 have sought to enhance the viewing experience through different driver streams, personalised content and post-race interviews, rights holders for the Tour have yet to think outside the box.
The broadcast technology
For broadcasters, driving interest in sports in the age of OTT providers, particularly amongst younger viewers, presents an industry-wide challenge. Research from Ampere Analysis found that young millennial identification with strong sentiment questions is lower for sport than it is for other forms of content. As a result, it is critical that broadcasters find new ways to engage with younger audiences, who have come to expect personalised, on-demand services.
These challenges are further compounded when it comes to cycling. The sport is already seen from the outside as elitist, and the UCI isn’t known for being that progressive as a sporting body. To keep the sport moving forwards and bring in new blood- and, crucially, new ways of doing things – something needs to change for the fans. Those who line the route get an excellent experience. Those who can’t be there, I’m afraid to say, do not. I only got into cycling due to watching the Tour a couple of years back when AR and VR weren’t quite there. But now, with AR apps on smartphones (which are pretty ubiquitous), why are we not seeing more official apps? Even something as basic as a team profiler would add to the whole thing. I have to use my iPhone 7plus for something, right?
Sports broadcasting generally could do with more supporting technology, and this is undoubtedly an argument that will be going on for a number of years into the future. eSports is probably the newest development in sport, and it is doing a lot right. Maybe the more traditional offerings can learn a bit from these upstarts? We will have to see. For now, I guess I’ll have to make do with ITV Hub.
Find out more about Babel’s experience in the broadcast technology space.
Let’s go back a couple of years to when I was young(er), perhaps a touch naïve, and eager to prove my worth.
I had just moved back to London after a few years away at uni, and knew that a daily commute would be an unescapable part of starting a career in PR. In my eyes, it was those agencies based in central London which had the best reputation, and as I too wanted a reputation, travelling from zone 5 to zone 1 seemed like the (only) way forward. I applied for a role at Babel – based at its Fitzrovia HQ – interviewed, and got the job. Life was good.
Fast forward a couple of years – and a great many more daily commutes – and I hated nearly everything that South West Trains stood for: the weird frog-in-a-sock type smell that lingers on the escalator from the Bakerloo line to the main concourse at London Waterloo, the constant fatigue and stress that I felt, and the fact that I could only overcome this by drinking about three cups of strong coffee. On a bad day this would often reach five.
I was unhealthy, tired, grumpy, and probably had lungs that were – instead of a nice pink – greyed by pollution. They probably had knobbly bits on them too. I decided one October day after chatting with my partner, that enough was enough. Life was bad. It was time to move.
I broached the subject of moving and working remotely with my boss, to which she replied: “well, I expect a lot more people in the future will do this anyway, so, sure!” or words to that effect. So, we organised ourselves and moved back to our uni town – Cardiff. This was a great move from a career perspective, given Cardiff’s growing reputation as an innovation and tech hub, but there were other benefits which swayed the decision (including the £2.50 pints).
The only challenge was that I’d never worked from home for any significant stretch of time; this threw up a number of questions. Would I go stir crazy? Would people forget that I am a member of the team? Was I going to be as much of an asset when I’m working remotely? Would I have the self-discipline to sit in an office by myself without faffing!?
Luckily, I have a solid support network. My immediate boss on a couple of accounts, Sarah (of Malbec fame), kept me on the straight and narrow with account functions and has helped out immensely. My other colleagues (and friends) keep me sane with great chat over Skype; we have video calls every Monday to go over the week’s priorities, and then extra (virtual) meetings to catch up on various campaigns.
The experience really has been excellent and, aside from not being able to slide my chair over to ask my desk neighbour’s advice, in many ways it’s felt like haven’t left at all. Since the move to Cardiff and the removal of my daily commute, I’m no longer tired, have started cooking properly again, have disposable income to buy books, and can devote free time to exercise and exploring other interests.
The downsides? My goldfish doesn’t have the best chat and my desk here is slightly too shallow, but hardly worth writing home about. Fortunately, I now have a shrimp and snail for extra entertainment, and an Ikea down the road for a new desk in the future.
The point is, if you want to work from home, just ask. Technology has made it incredibly easy to do so and you might just learn something about yourself along the way. Why not go for it? The only thing that could be stopping you is…you.
This week marked a major point in everyone’s data regulation diaries: one month to GDPR compliance. There was a time when we had to spell out this acronym, but by now, understanding of this privacy law is far more widespread and reaches beyond Europe’s borders.
Knowledge is also gradually permeating the public sphere, thanks in part to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal which alerted many of us to the ways in which our data is used, and misused.
Babel has a number of clients in the cyber security and data protection sectors, so GDPR is nothing new. Yet for many working in PR and comms, there may still be much to learn (and not much time to learn it!) As such, it’s not just clients who need to be prepared; the PR industry too must ensure compliancy.
In a recent webinar I attended, Rowenna Fielding, Senior Data Protection Lead at Protecture, described GDPR as, “like the Data Protection Act, on steroids, with teeth.” As ominous as this sounds, she also reassured her audience that, contrary to popular belief, many of the requirements are based on principles which already exist.
Whether its data on clients, journalists, other PR agencies, analysts or staff: any body which holds information must be able to prove that its owners have ‘opted in’ to their data being collected and stored and be able to demonstrate that it is held securely.
The way in which you use this data must be fair, reasonable and appropriate: one of the GDPR’s main aims is to guarantee the right of individuals to have information about them treated with respect, and in a way that’s lawful and transparent.
This means that from May onwards, PR agencies and others must consider how data on individuals was obtained, if permission was explicitly and freely given, and then must make this clear to those using its resources.
What may seem like an upheaval can instead be approached creatively – we work in PR so are a pretty creative bunch, after all! You’ve probably been receiving those automated emails from brands, social sites, publications etc. requiring you to opt in? And you’ve probably been put off doing so as they the almost-identical messages give no stand-out reason to do so?
Think about how your clients, journalists and other ‘data subjects’ (GDPR speak) prefer to receive and engage in communication. EasyJet, for instance created a video on the subject. As long as the outcome is that they understand what you’re doing with their data, why and how, and communication is clear, accessible, and updated as required – you’ve no fear of (GDPR overlord) the Information Commissioner’s Office.
GDPR is a boon, not a burden, to the PR industry and beyond. It will make us all more aware of the value of data – to individuals and organisations – and more carefully consider the ethical and moral implications of data gathering, processing and management.
Finally, 25th May is not the guillotine over PR heads. Yes, it’s the deadline for compliance, but if you’ve been planning, engaging, educating and informing (both your own team and those who you hold data on) GDPR will be herald a positive cultural change.
I like wine. One of the main reasons why is because, not unlike the world around us, wine is varied and diverse. The same can be said for the team here at Babel. A wide range of backgrounds, strengths, expertise and points of view all add up to a strong team and a great bunch of people that will (hopefully) broaden horizons and push you in directions you never thought you’d go.
Take a trip into Babel’s wine cellar, with a look at our 2018 PR team and some new additions to our racks. And given my overenthusiasm for wine, I’ve compared each team member to their closest wine counterpart. You never know, you might find something you like. You may even want to join us…
Ian Hood, CEO: Ian is akin to a Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon – strong, flavoursome and ready to go. He is the PR oracle, if PR had an oracle. 14.5% proof, so you know you’re in for a good time whenever Ian is around.
Narelle Morrison, COO: Narelle is a striking Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (although she’s actually from Australia). Distinctive and refreshing, everyone in PR knows what you’re talking about when you mention this wine.
Matt Humphries, Managing Director: A fruity Australian Shiraz, Matt likes a good time, has a beard, but knows his stuff and is the foundation to many a good evening. Matt conducts PR like a shiraz would – with added spice.
Sarah Alonze, Associate Director: An in-your-face, ready-to-go Argentinian Malbec. Full of heart and soul, you need Malbec in your life if you don’t have it already. If not, you’re missing out. Sarah does PR with fire in her belly and warmth in her blood, but also takes care of you.
Katie Finn, Senior Campaign Director: Otherwise known as Pinot Noir, Katie takes on the flavour of a Red Burgundy a soft and potentially unassuming wine. But once you crack one open, you know that there is substance here. Strategy and tactics: it’s all good in Katie’s eyes, and you know it will be sound – especially with telecoms.
Paul Campbell, Campaign Director – Paul is a natural orange wine. He’s cool, and you know it, because sometimes he wears jeans that are too short for him. He does PR like PR has been done in the past – on the phone; and it works.
Holly Ashford, Senior Content Writer – Nothing artificial added, cultured, and at one with nature, Holly is a natural white wine, but different to Paul. You won’t find sulphites here, nor will you find artificial yeast, but you will find interesting things that you hadn’t considered before.
Jen Atkinson, Campaign Manager – A New Zealand Pinot Noir, preferably from the Martinborough region. This is worlds apart from the red burgundy mentioned above, but no less interesting. Aftertaste of game meat; fitting as Jen lives for the countryside, not fitting as she is a pescatarian. Does PR with aplomb and vigour.
Ben Cole, Campaign Manager – A nice bottle of Meursault. A bit of a challenge sometimes, but quite rewarding if you can get through to the gooey centre. Does PR like he thinks it should be done (with guidance), and it works.
Sophie Payne, Campaign Manager – A slightly fruit Riesling, which can be a little stony sometimes (normally when there aren’t any biscuits). But it’s all part of the charm, and once you catch a whiff, you know the evening is going to be a fun one. Does PR like a Riesling – efficiently and crisply.
Dan Parris, Senior Campaign Executive – A Beaujolais: Fruity, light on his feet, and definitely not the same stuff that was around in the 80s. Dan does PR as you’d expect a nice Beaujolais to: with conversational wizardry on the phone.
Ed Cooper, Campaign Executive – Cotes du Rhone. Friendly, he is familiar and good for conversation, dependable and gets the job done. A good drop. Does PR and gets results, like Nike (and CdR) he just does it.
Declan Bradshaw, Campaign Executive – Declan is 100% a Tokaji, a dessert wine from Hungary with a dry savoury note. It’s quite an interesting drop if you take the plunge and broaden your horizons. No one can resist a dessert, after all.
Pippa Woodruff, Campaign Executive – A Rosé Provençale. HEYYYYYYY, it’s time for rosé and you know it! Doesn’t like the cold, needs surrounding warmth to be truly appreciated. Does PR with a twinkle in her eye and a smile, just like a rosé would.
Sani Aweida, Bookkeeper – Vodka. It’s not wine, but accountancy doesn’t lend itself to wine anyway, and definitely needs something stronger.
In the world of tech, perhaps the most influential piece of legislation is coming into effect: ‘Regulation on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC’ or its marginally snappier title ‘The General Data Protection Regulation’. This piece of law will implement fines for companies that have their data breached, and bring the power of individual data back to those whose data it is i.e. the European citizen. It also addresses however, the export of personal data outside the EU.
This means that, if you are the customer of a European company or from the US, Djibouti, even Peru, doing business with Europeans, you will be subject to that same regulation. Indeed, this is one of the challenges, as the implementation of GDPR will mean huge changes to business practice for companies that had not implemented a comparable level of privacy before the regulation entered into force, especially when it comes to non-European companies handling EU personal data.
In short, GDPR is a truly global piece of legislation which makes you wonder: why did the UK government think it necessary to launch a new Data Protection Bill? The Data Protection Act (DPA) was last updated in 1998, and the revision announced this month intends to bring it into the 21st century. However, it beggars belief that the government saw fit to devote time, money, and effort into something that will essentially do the same thing as GDPR.
The latest iteration put forward by Minister for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP can be viewed in a few ways: Was it one last twist of the knife following the Brexit referendum? A further way to say “Hey, we aren’t beholden to you any more Brussels! Ha!”. Was it an exercise in putting the UK back to the top of the global rankings in at least something? Was it just an activity to prove the legitimacy of the current government; to be seen to be doing something? I’ll get off my soap box, as this is perhaps another discussion for another time.
Back to the regulation.
A huge proportion of the British economy is propped up by small to medium sized businesses that turn over less than £10 million per annum, and which do a lot of trade with Europe. These companies will categorically not be able to swallow the fines of GDPR if they are breached. A large company, think BAE Systems, Goldman Sachs, Unilever, will. There is a distinct lack of clarity in what the DPA amendment will actually achieve, other than mirror GDPR, and what it will mean for these smaller businesses. Once again it comes down to communication. The National Center for Cyber Security (NCSC), has been doing quite a good job at explaining the regulation, but it is down to government, specifically DCMS and UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to be helping these organisations become GDPR compliant at the very least. Business needs to understand this, not just comply blindly.
Which brings me to another point; when it comes to PR, we are going to have to understand this regulation for our clients. Whether B2B or B2C, telecoms or Thai restaurants, the ability to help our clients understand what GDPR means, before the ‘Worst Case Scenario’, is going to be crucial to our industry. After all, if a business loses money due to a breach, then loses more due to reputational damage, we go out of business. I think we will see a new breed of cyber-savvy PRs, not only from a communications point of view, but potentially also from a technological standpoint, and this is something I’m quite looking forward to observing.
Now where’s my Networking Textbook…
Forgive the awful adaptation of Latin taken from the darkest recesses of secondary school, but the above reigns quite true. The phrase coined by Juvenal in his Satires “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”, or “who will guard the guards?” has a certain poignancy when it comes to PR. Let’s be honest, we’re not a hugely popular profession.
Whenever I have a chat with people I’ve just met, or family friends, or family for that matter, I get the question “So what do you do?”
Cue profuse sweating, shaky voice, and a quick racking of the cerebrum to explain what PR actually is. My standard tongue in cheek response is ‘making companies look good’, which I think sums it up quite well. However, most people hear public relations and probably think something along the lines of “So you exaggerate the truth?” or “Ah! A spin-doctor” Neither of which are true; I do not exaggerate, and I am nowhere near talented enough to be considered a spin-doctor of any sort.
But it does beg the question of how can PR raise its own reputation?
Come with me on a journey into the past where we explore at (a high level) one of the defining moments where reputation management was plunged into the abyss of distrust. It all starts in Scotland…
…with farmed salmon. A study was published that said Scottish farmed salmon had high levels of a certain chemical which was linked to developing cancer. Naturally the industry body representing these farmers didn’t want this to affect the status quo, so it briefed Chrome Consulting, a reputation management consultancy and said “fix this”.
What happened next? Discrediting every source that said the above, a long battle to get the name of Scottish Farmed Salmon cleared, along with other practices that the industry would (perhaps) balk at were it to happen tomorrow. All of this can be read in an outstanding yet highly critical academic article written by David Miller on the subject. It’s a good’un. What’s the real kicker though? Chrome won an award for the campaign.
This does however lead us to the question of how to shed that label of ‘spin’? If we’re optimistic the term might fade into obscurity by 2123, but if we’re realistic it probably won’t. Whether we like it or not, we have all been tarred with the same brush; it’s proving awfully sticky and there are more than a few feathers along with it. So how do we go about washing the tar off? How do we become less Malcolm Tucker (Very NSFW), and more…Toby Ziegler?
It’s a tricky question, and one that doesn’t have any one right answer. Accountability is one aspect we should be incorporating into our practice, subscribing and adhering to industry body rules and codes of ethics is another (the PRCA and CIPR are prime examples of this). Finally and perhaps most importantly should be: transparency. Think MP expenses (ha) or the Government Accountability Office in the US. If someone has the chance to find something out, people are less likely to carry out unsightly activities.
But perhaps it’s a bit simpler than that. Maybe if we just had a bit of moral standing and ethical backbone in regards to our practice, we might become a bit more respected. After all, no one wants to become the next textbook example of what not to do, do they?
General Election fever has returned to the Babel office.
In true British form, few have openly divulged who they’re voting for. However, from various indirect conversations I’ve had, not all minds are yet made up.
So I have taken it upon myself to help in the decision making process, and have looked at a brief breakdown of the technology policies which feature in the major manifestos (thanks to TechUK!). If this blog does influence your vote, please remember that there is no guarantee that any of the parties will actually deliver on these promises.
Top points include protection of personal data, and to “institute an expert Data Use and Ethics Commission” to advise parliament. They could have established this in time for the leave campaign, but better late than never.
Cybersecurity is something that the Conservative Party has been going on about for a while. They’re now pledging to build on the National Cyber Security Centre and continue the promised £1.9 billion investment in cybersecurity more generally.
An expansion of mobile coverage is planned; to 95% of the UK by 2022, and there’s also good news for 5G. Spectrum will be released from public sector use to allow more private sector access for 5G network deployment which should lead to “gigaspeed connections for your smartphone”. This seems pretty ambitious, but won’t mean much to the majority who don’t have VoLTE.
Verdict? This seems good. Mobile coverage can lead to more broadband coverage, diminishing the digital divide we see between city and country, and more investment into cybersecurity can only be a good thing, given the changing nature of crime. However, the prospect of Theresa May continuing to govern the country terrifies me.
I like Labour’s idea of a Digital Ambassador. Given our departure from the EU, a need to promote Britain as a great place to start a digital company is crucial. The economy is data driven and if we don’t support digital firms we could hit a data recession. Now there’s a buzzword.
On data, provisions will be made for officers, community support officers, and civilian staff to provide them with the “equipment and people they need to provide effective policing services, including from the growing threat of cybercrime”.
When it comes to digital communications infrastructure, Labour has pledged universal superfast broadband availability by 2022! Seems like a running theme, or rather a continuation of a theme we have heard of time and time again.
Mobile coverage and 4G will be improved, through the expanded provision of free public Wi-Fi in city centres and public transport. Labour has also promised uninterrupted 5G coverage in city centres, major roads, and railways. Good to see, although similarly, it might be sensible to have nationwide 4G coverage first.
Verdict? The Digital Ambassador got my attention, other than that; it’s kind of the same as the Conservative manifesto. Another similarity: the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn governing the country terrifies me.
The promise to build on the success of various incubators such as Tech City, Tech North, and the Cambridge Tech Cluster stood out. We’ve seen the benefit of the Cambridge Tech Cluster ourselves, opening an office there last year.
The Lib Dems have called for a Digital Bill of Rights – a Magna Data if you will – protecting powers of the individual over their own information, supporting citizens over large corporations. Whilst a good idea, what will it mean if people don’t want their data kept on the world’s largest ad platform and search engine? Will that lead to profit loss and Google’s exit from the UK? Doubtful, but something to consider in the long run.
The plan for digitisation of public services sounds good. With the private sector transforming digitally, it makes sense for the public sector to follow suit.
Verdict? This one seems like it has some substance to it, rather than just ideas. However, the prospect of Tim Farron governing the country terrifies me.
So who to vote for? I can’t help you there, but if it makes you feel any better I, too have no idea. The important thing is to get out there and vote.
Well, it’s begun.
Election fever has gripped everyone, and we will be lucky to hear anything else of substance in the next few weeks until 8th June. Then we will hear about it some more until the next one. But it isn’t just us; I met my Kiwi relatives who were in London the other evening. They too were being bombarded with election news. Their politics seems so much more interesting than ours, but that is another story for another time.
I thought I’d get started as soon as possible on what looks to be a very…interesting election. Consider this my first foray into something vaguely akin to public affairs and political commentary.
I clasped my hands with glee when I saw this story. What it boils down to is that political parties may have been using personal data to shape their political campaigning and are now being investigated for it. Normally this wouldn’t be sniffed at: it’s a form of marketing. However this activity then falls under data protection laws. So what happened? People were reporting direct contact from political parties, despite not ever giving explicit consent.
Tricky, n’est-ce pas?
We do live in an era of data, and it would be ignorant to suggest otherwise. As I’ve said in a previous blog, data is the new currency when it comes to enterprising endeavours. It would be silly to assume politics would be any different. However, in a land and time where social media and technology generally means greater transparency, it’s a careful line to tread. Either it means success (elected), failure (not elected), or catastrophic failure (the above article).
This isn’t a new idea, but more recent examples include President Trump, the new President Macron and his opponent Jean-Luc Mélénchon – who all used social media to great effect. These methods of campaigning are destined to play a greater role in the future of politics; the Conservative party spent £1.2 million on Facebook campaigns for the 2015 election, compared to Labour’s £16,000 – and we all know how that turned out.
So what to do? Politics is a bit of a murky world (unless you’re Finland) and it probably won’t change any time soon. But data? Data is just that: data. It isn’t murky per se, but it can be manipulated, it can be interpreted, and it can be the basis of what someone does in a political campaign. Actual currency has moved from newspaper advertisements and billboard campaigning to virtual campaigning and targeted ads. Data, quite simply, is the future of all things – including politics.
What does the future hold in terms of politics adopting technology? What about voting from a distance with biometrics? How about dropping ads into online gaming around election time? How long will it be before politics moves into livestreaming on VR headsets? Can’t attend a rally or event yourself? Maybe in the not so distant future you’ll be able to experience such events from your sofa.
I can’t imagine why you would though when soon you’ll be able to do this.
I jest, but the above is topical.
Recently, after an inevitable legal back and forth, a defendant in a murder case in Arkansas gave Amazon permission to hand over his Echo’s recordings to prosecutors. Equally, detectives have recently used FitBit data to dismiss an alibi and charge someone with murder.
The amount of data that is collected, and subsequently held by companies from us, is inordinate. At a time when policy such as the Snooper’s Charter is being enshrined into law, it shouldn’t be surprising that people are becoming far more interested in their own data privacy than before. This being said, people still gloss over the Terms and Conditions when they sign up for social media, upgrade the software on their iPhones, or indeed purchase an Echo or Echo Dot. So will this newfound urge to protect one’s data actually make any difference?
The fact is that our data has been used for marketing purposes for years, and it is only recent hacks and leaks of said data that has given people the impetus to be up in arms about it. You could argue that this outrage has brought in more staunch data protection guidelines and changes to laws. It is, however, a bit of a sword of Damocles – one is in a precarious position. Your data can be used against you, as it has done in the above examples. Most people probably don’t give this a second thought.
We hear quite often in the tech industry that data is the new currency, the price of doing business is having the right data at the right time, and that data is driving our newfound digital way of life. However it also seems to have left people uninspired. A recent survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), worryingly revealed that tech companies are the least trusted in handling and managing consumer data, with a mighty 6% of consumers handing over their trust. Banks and financial services companies, as you’d expect or rather hope, fare better – but not by a lot.
So what can be done? Informing the consumer, informing the enterprise customer if you provide a XaaS, informing people where their data will be held and how it will be used. “Inform” is the root word of information, and in our world driven by information we should be explicitly informed a lot more than we are. To paraphrase Aragorn: not idly to the cyber defences of companies fall. When they do however, people should know what data of theirs has been compromised and what the company is going to do about it. The responsibility is on the company, not the individual, to see that their data is secured, and this is often where there is some disparity in terms of perceived responsibility. How often do we hear “change your passwords”, “make your password have a reference to your star sign”, and “be sure to include your favourite Starbucks beverage in your password”? Ok maybe not the last one, but you catch my drift.
On that, let me end with a couple of questions: Will people start actively reading Terms and Conditions? Probably not, but it does now give a bit of food for thought. Will people care enough to not give companies any data? Probably not, but then again it’s nigh on impossible to not give data these days. Will I manage to paraphrase more Lord of the Rings characters in future blogs? I’ll give it a go.