Event businesses risk all

Leading law practice Irwin Mitchell have recently conducted a survey of 2,129 senior decision makers within business and the results are pretty astonishing.

With just under a year to go until implementation, only three in every ten have started to prepare for GDPR and 35% are unaware of the new rules, including fines for data breaches.

You would like to hope that one sector at least, marketing and advertising, would be completely up to speed; but no, only 34% admitted in the survey that they were aware of the GDPR and 17% admitted that the maximum punishment would force them out of business. Given that event companies are often included in this sector, it would not be too much of a stretch to apply the findings to them as well.

We do need to reign back on the worst case scenario a little, because it is the job of law firms to paint the picture as black as possible, but there is no doubt that any organisation that is not taking the legislation seriously could find themselves in dire straits. The fines are likely to be at their largest for those which cannot demonstrate the measures and processes they have taken to keep data secure and the mechanisms for spotting a data breach.

Firstly, what constitutes a breach? Essentially this is an incident where there is an impact on an individual’s privacy. At one end there is a wholesale hack of customer data, at the other a confidential letter put into an envelope addressed to someone else, with the downloading of un-encrypted data onto an unprotected laptop somewhere in between. Not forgetting of course, the member of staff who leaves you to go elsewhere taking your sales/marketing database with them. Where this begins to impact the business is that in certain instances you need to report the breach to the ICO within 72 hours.

So, if you can’t identify that you have a breach, possibly because you don’t know where all of your data is, how are you going to report it at all, let alone within three days? If you, like 63% of the marketing and advertising companies in the survey, aren’t confident that you can notify the relevant stakeholders within the timeframe, then you are automatically putting yourself in the frame for a fine.

Plus, just being able to identify and, potentially, report the breach isn’t the end of the matter. There is a specified format for the type of information you will need to provide, including the number of records affected and your mitigation procedures. If your data isn’t secure, compliant, your contracts with your Data Processors cast iron and your procedures professional, not only could you be facing a financial penalty, but you could find your business tied up in knots for a considerable period. If you are running a really lean operation, this could prove catastrophic.

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So you think you own me?

The previous post You’ve got to deliver what the audience really  wants has provoked discussion in a number of forums and the responses have made for interesting reading, not least because of the seeming inability to move on from old arguments.

So let’s look at the topic from a different angle, by considering two industries closely related to producing live events; so closely related in fact that you would consider them siblings; i.e. publishing and broadcasting.

In both of these industries, the key players are referred to as Media Owners. Because they own the medium through which the content is broadcast. And for years this is exactly what they have done; decided when, where and what information and entertainment their audiences or readerships were going to consume.  They have made and broken many a star, politician or company profit, simply through the editorial decisions they have taken which have influenced the masses.

Conference and exhibition organisers, be they commercial operations, industry bodies or associations, continue to believe that they must operate in a similar way.  Developing programmes of content that they perceive the audience wants, choosing speakers and selecting participating exhibitors (via an economic filter it is true) and presenting a finished product to the visitors at a time, date and venue over which the latter has no control.

Then along came the Internet and social media and the shift in power from owner to audience was seismic.

Because the concept of expertise ownership by a few large corporations doesn’t fit any more.  You can’t tell me what I should be watching, what information I need, or who I should be networking with.  You can’t stop me finding organisations who can’t afford to exhibit at your event or who haven’t got a charismatic speaker, because if their Search and SM strategies are good I can do this on my own.  And, you can’t stop me telling people, a lot of people, about the experience your organisation offers me, within minutes if I so choose.

So let’s bin the argument about virtual not replacing face-to-face; because we all know it won’t.  Let’s stop finding fault with virtual technologies, because frankly some of them are pretty amazing.  And let’s stop pretending that we still own audiences and industries because of the events we produce because we don’t. Let’s embrace the new to enhance the old rather than dismissing it as a fad that has nothing to do with us.

What we need to be doing, with or without the help of virtual technologies, is to work out how we build and maintain relationships with our communities; how we facilitate communication and collaboration between individuals both through a single live day and an online presence; and how we use the unfettered enthusiasm of our audiences to create a profitable business model for the future.

hellen @missioncontrol

Sense of location will no longer be important in business

It’s a concept that is of no surprise to consumers.  Buying goods from eBAY or Amazon is commonplace and unless the purchase is bulky enough to be collection only then the location of the seller is of no concern.

In business, there are some forerunners who eulogise on the benefits of teleworking and have a network of customer service representatives using leading edge technology to answer queries; and in the respond and repair sector every customer-facing representative is, quite literally, out on their own.

The quote in the title comes from a paper written by O’Brien et al in 1992 and shows that nearly 20 years ago, someone writing an academic paper had already recognised that where you conducted your business was going to be the least of your worries.  Not having read all of the paper, it’s difficult to know exactly what aspect of business the authors were talking about.  You would hazard a guess, given the timing, that maybe outsourcing was involved, or even the beginnings of the teleworking revolution since the Internet didn’t really start to take off until 1996/97.

But their words now look very prescient.  A business in Delhi may have the same issues as one in Dallas, a clinician in Sydney will share issues with one in Stockholm.  Until now, unless they happen to have met one another at an international conference, exhibition, training course or something similar, they would be unable to connect, compare notes and find solutions that transcend national boundaries. 

Social media networks have already shown that business people like to connect with other business people.  Why do they do it?  Because there is safety in numbers.  Just as we talked about yesterday in the post on Consensus of Subjectivity. What businesses need to do is to understand how to harness the power of this desire for connectivity and sharing, while embracing an individual’s need, or desire, to work somewhere else other than Head Office, and that by building a relationship with someone on the other side of the world may just be the answer they need to deliver impeccable results locally.

A Consensus of Subjectivity…

…which is another way of saying Birds of a feather flock together and goes some way to explaining why social networking is such a success, although only for some.

Jeremy Bullmore used the term in 1998 in the context of shared perception of brand personality; the premise being that each and every one of many millions of people gathers a set of feelings that are to some extent autonomous but which further research shows to be closely related, i.e. we like to think we are taking unique decisions for ourselves, but in actual fact we often make them in the context of wanting to be part of a group.  It isn’t much fun being out there on your own.

Back in the dark ages of videotape, why did VHS succeed when BetaMax did not when the latter was universally acknowledged to be the better platform?  When faced with a decision, the consumer went with the crowd.  Similarly, why has LinkedIn grown exponentially while other similar business networks haven’t been able to tap into the same groundswell?  And Facebook wasn’t the first social networking site, so how come it is now almost the biggest community on the planet?

There is, perhaps, a single defining factor.  The consensus on the examples above is that the winners took time to listen to their users and potential users. They created entry points which were attractive, laid out their wares, watched to see how their consumers behaved and tweaked their offering accordingly, and keep on tweaking it (although in VHS’s case a seismic shift in technology eventually put paid to their dominance) to make it less and less attractive to go elsewhere.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes should take note.  There isn’t a marketing text book, essay or lecture today that isn’t trying to hammer home the message of listening:

Listening+action=success

How you and your organisation do this is up to you.  But do it you must.  And the first step has to be that you engage your clients, customers, partners and potential audience in a conversation where you can hear what they are saying about you, your products, your competitors, your competitors products etc. etc.  You need to find where they are having these conversations and join in, you need to be part of the People-Driven Economy which exists in social networks because if you aren’t someone else who does what you do is.

The choice is no longer whether or not you and your organisation embrace social media, the choice is how successfully you do it.

Should I work for free…

This was sent to us today by a designer friend who is plagued by requests to work for free by the PTA who just want a poster for an event or a mate who is “sure it won’t take you more than five minutes…”

So, if you are a freelancer or someone whose working environment/talents makes you a valuable commodity to all and sundry, here’s a little something to help you decide…

How to decide if you should be giving up your valuable time

Driving through the efficiency agenda

Clear road aheadWe’re going on an efficiency drive…

Just the phrase is guaranteed to send shivers down the spine of any employee or organisation.  And with justification as this has become the thinly-veiled way of saying “we need to make budgetary savings and the easiest way to do this is by cutting our largest expense” – i.e. the labour-force.

While fiscal pressures may mean that production needs to be cut back to match a shrinking order book, and consequently less manpower is required, but shouldn’t this be a last resort rather than a first?  If an organisation sheds valuable intellectual capital and/or the means to re-engineer its operation too quickly, can it ever recover its place in the market or reputation for delivery of excellence.

The dictionary definition of efficiency is that it is the state or quality of being efficient,  and interestingly the definition of this word suggests that efficiency is achieved more by interrogating systems and working patterns than simply slicing numbers off the bottom line.

ef·fi·cient/iˈfiSHənt/Adjective

(esp. of a system or machine) Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.
(of a person) Working in a well-organized and competent way.

Organisations that top the efficiency leagues come in all shapes and sizes, but a common denominator between them is that they also tend to top the best places to work lists as well.  Their employees feel involved and able to contribute to discussion and decision-making processes: the organisation benefits by being able to tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience that can deliver custom-fit best practice… and efficiency.

By moving from a top-down decision-making to a collaborative process, board-rooms can exploit the experience of all areas of their operation, allowing innovation to spring up from every quarter and be properly dissected and discussed.  The difficulty for large organisations (small ones really don’t have any excuse unless they have multiple office sites) is how to action this process effectively.

Large scale meetings don’t really fit the bill because: a) they are expensive; and b) only the people with the loudest voices get to contribute unless they are very carefully designed.  Enter the virtual business solution… companies like Cisco, HP, Kaiser Permanente and GE have been using this technology for some time now to enable effective communication that reduces time out of the office, carbon footprint and the timelag in disseminating a message to a large number of people while increasing knowledge, motivation and challenging the efficacy of existing working practices.

If ever there was an efficent way to drive the efficiency agenda – this is it.

Overcoming human nature to deliver success

If the human brain performs best in situations of conflict and the human psyche thrives on competition, how do we reconcile this with the human race’s dependence on cooperation for survival?

Even organisations where we would expect individuals to work together for a singular common aim, such as healthcare, have been permeated by competitive tendencies, whether this be the personality of the major decision maker or in the tendering for the provision of services.  Will this human instinct to incentivise by prize ultimately lead to our demise?

Or could there be a better way?

If you were to take a look at The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies 2011  list, and spent some time drilling down into the narrative for some of the organisations, you will find some common themes:

  • Inspirational leadership
  • Employees who feel valued and that they have a voice
  • A common ownership of purpose
  • Excitement in the direction the organisation is taking
  • A sense that ‘doing it right’ is as important as the drive for profit

All of these boil down to just two key factors: listening and ownership.

But if you have 20,000 employees/associates/partners, how can you possibly deliver this?  How can you pick out the important bits from a multitude of conversations?  How can you ensure that people having the same conversation in different geographical locations are brought together?

Once upon a time it would have been nearly impossible.  Virtual technologies have changed the status quo.