Uber in crisis

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#DeleteUber is a social media campaign encouraging people to delete the Uber app and their accounts with their company. This campaign started during the mass protests against President Trump’s Executive Order which called for a ban of citizens from certain Muslim countries from entering the country. During these protests, Uber was perceived as trying to break a one-hour taxi strike at JFK Airport as they tweeted that they had turned off surge pricing for their services in that area. The whole situation was fueled by the fact that Uber’s Travis Kalanick was on Trump’s business advisory council at the time. The first phase of the #DeleteUber campaign went viral on social media as celebrities like Lena Durham backed it. This campaign lifted Uber’s competitor Lyft into the top five for apps downloaded on the Apple app store.

Uber’s handling of the whole issue was a shambles. Travis Kalanick failed to explain clearly what it meant to be part of Trump’s business advisory council and that it was not an endorsement of his policies. Something that other business leaders on the council who run Tesla, Disney, and Pepsi did well as their brands did not suffer similar reputational hits as Uber did.

During the protests and the subsequent #DeleteUber crisis, Uber’s responses were unapologetic and futile. In his memo to staff, CEO Travis Kalanick failed to address the matter directly as he opted to defend his decision to join the council.

The company could have benefitted significantly from taking a step down and apologise for their error of judgement. This is an approach which many businesses shy away from but is effective for reputation management’s sake.

A study by FTI Consulting on communicating through a crisis found that the cost of not saying sorry can have a significant impact on the credibility of management and the reputation of the wider firm. It also found that in some cases, if you don’t apologise, you will double your litigation costs in terms of value lost.

An early apology at that stage could have made a significant difference because fast forward to a few weeks later, Uber is now embroiled in another scandal as there are claims that there is a ‘systemic problem’ of sexism at the company. In her blog post that was shared on Twitter 22,000 times and refuelled the #DeleteUber campaign, Susan Fowler detailed how she experienced sexual harassment during her time at the company. She added that the human resources department refused to discipline the manager who had propositioned her on her first day.  Furthermore, Google’s Waymo has just filed a lawsuit against Uber over stolen trade secrets for their driverless car project.

Questions are now floating around Uber’s company culture and whether people want to associate themselves with such a toxic brand.  As the world changes, it’s important for brands to understand that it’s not business as usual and Uber could end up being a case study of how toxic corporate cultures can erode the value of a once loved brand. I can only speak for myself, but I am sure many would agree that Uber needs to take a good look under the hood and fix the leak before the whole engine blows.

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Tube 200 – challenging convention

england-rugby

There was a lot of back and forth on social media on Sunday during the England vs Italy Six Nations rugby game. The reason for all the furore was that Italy took quite an innovative (controversial) approach to the way they played and the England team had no idea how to deal with it. It was so bizarre that England forward James Haskell was heard through the ref’s mic, asking him what the law was. The bemused referee Jérôme Garcès replied, ‘I’m a referee, not a coach!’ Much to social media’s amusement.

By finely treading the line on a rucking law loophole, Italy turned what would’ve been a one-sided affair into somewhat of a close contest for much of the game.  A lot of people within the rugby circles especially the England coach, Eddie Jones, were infuriated by the way Italy played and some even called for the law to be changed.

However, the whole situation got me thinking. It got me thinking about how people often hate deviating from norms and things seen as disruptive to the current way of doing things are shot down. It got me thinking about companies such as Uber and Airbnb who have disruptively reshaped the taxi and hotel industries, respectively. It also got me thinking about a shift currently happening in the PR industry.

I am referring to the shift from the use of just the traditional methods and strategies of doing PR to the integration of earned, paid, and owned to achieving campaign objectives.  The idea of implementing things such as content marketing and promoted content to a PR campaign.

The backlash to the way Italy played on Sunday reminded of how as more agencies begin to explore these options,  some traditionalists continue to frown at them because these new approaches wreak of advertising.

I guess the jury is still out for both situations but it does make you wonder, what side of the argument do you want to be on when the dust settles? 

 

 

 

 

 

Tube 200 – Moonlight’s Oscars triumph!

mooonlightAfter waking up to the news that Moonlight had won best picture at the Oscars, it was easy to see how that’d be the focus of my first tube blog.

I believe that the win represents all that is beautiful about embracing diversity and giving the voiceless a platform to tell their stories.

It’s long been known that Hollywood struggles to embrace ‘black’ films because they are a hard sell and people struggle to relate to them. Traditionally movies like Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures are seen as risks by traditional studios and the directors of these movies find it difficult to get any funding from the industry for their projects.

Luckily, this year, there were resilient actors, directors, and producers who chose to do away with the old scripts and decided to change the narrative on what films should be made. Their efforts have paid off as all three of the movies mentioned have done well at the box office, and have amassed a ton of awards along the way. Nods from BAFTA, The Golden Globes, SAG, and the Oscars help cement the case for a more open-minded approach in Hollywood.

For me, Moonlight is a story I had never heard before that was told in a very powerful way. It represents the new wave of filmmaking and storytelling that transcends norms and changes perceptions. For that, I truly believe it deserves all the accolades it has received.

Moonlight is the first ultra-low-budget American film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. What a win for the cast and crew. More like this, please!

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Trying something new – Tube 200

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve always had a burning desire to do something different with it. I entertained the idea of doing a weekly review of some of the major issues of the week and what they meant, however, drafting this proved difficult. Then, I started considering doing weekly interviews with Comms industry professionals who I met through the Taylor Bennett Foundation but I realised that’d be a logistical nightmare.

After much pondering, I decided that I would try to do a short 200-word blog post each day on the first topic that comes to mind when I wake up. The idea for this lies in the hope that if I stick with it, I can be able to map out some of my subconscious interests, what issues worry me the most, and what excites me.

I decided to title this section of my blog as Tube 200, an indication of where I’ll be doing my writing (to any prospective employers, I’m more creative than this).

Why the tube? Well, after 7 weeks of trying to figure out what my tube thing would be, I figured this would be a better alternative to flappy bird as I’ll never break my current high score of 38.

PR opportunities

PR has traditionally relied heavily on having a healthy relationship with the print media, especially journos at the national papers. These guys had the ability to turn a campaign into a national story and I guess that was the whole point. Recently, the story has changed a bit as the print is now in an uncontrolled decline as other platforms are gaining momentum in terms of their reach and influence.

However, a very timely study by Prof Neil Thurman found that:

88% of time Brits spent with national newspapers was still in print while mobile equated to a measly 7% and PC accounted for only 4%. Therefore, although newspapers have spent decades investing in digital distribution, their online channels are not attracting anywhere near the levels of attention commanded by their print editions

The same theme was echoed in a December report by Deloitte in which the News Media Association pointed out that:

Average annual revenue per print media user is estimated at around £124 currently, while that per digital media user is estimated at just £15.50

So, what does this all mean? Well, as things currently stand, PR people still look to print when looking for opportunities for some good old fashioned publicity, despite its worrying decline. Why? Because people still pay attention to what they read in print papers and because newspapers will continue to try and sustain their print presence until it ceases to make (financial) sense.

With that in mind, I will look at a current affairs issue which has dominated the print news agenda each week and analyse the PR opportunities that lie within the storylines.

Brexit

Easily the biggest story this side of the pond (Europe), Brexit presents a wide range of PR challenges and opportunities for because of a lack of clarity on what Britain will look like after it is all said and done. However, a closer look at the simple implications of this political move will highlight that the mainly affected sectors would be real estate and travel. Of course many other more prominent sectors will feel the pinch but for this post, I’ll only focus on the two I’ve mentioned.

Real Estate – here lies a Brexit PR goldmine as property companies on the other side of the channel can truly make a play on the current uncertainty by advertising their properties. Something that is already growing, as highlighted in the FT Weekend Houses & Homes supplement which was filled with properties in Berlin. The properties advertised are padded with accompanying articles which seek to highlight how much cheaper it is there than in London. And that is only one example.

Travel – Again, another sector which is bound to benefit from this Brexit dominated period. Travel agents can push low-cost packages by playing on the fact that these could become unaffordable and may be more logistically straining in the future as the UK’s position in Europe changes. By focusing on the unknown future, travel agents and other travel companies can hijack the agenda with offers of pre-Brexit package deals.

So, I guess the opportunity to make a play on something that is already dominating the news agenda in print media is an option that is increasingly available to companies who can see the benefits of reactive PR. However, lessons from the #DeleteUber furore suggest that there is a need to tread with caution.

On diversity in PR

I think this must be the blog post I’ve struggled with the most to draft. This is not only because of the subject matter but also because I’m actually addressing my own views on the issue. The subject is diversity and the issue is the lack thereof in PR.

Being a trainee on the Taylor Bennett Foundation can be blinding at times because we get the opportunity to meet some of the most influential people at top PR agencies and In-House teams. Blinding in the sense that the opportunities the programme provides are what many people like us (those from BAME backgrounds) would never be delusional enough to dream of. I say delusional because, within reason, you must get a certain level of success in your applications and subsequent career to be awarded the opportunity to meet the Global Head of Communications at Vodafone.  BAMEs looking to get into PR rarely ever get past the first stage.

I would concede and accept that there are steps being taken but they don’t really go far enough. As something that is increasingly being regarded as a hot agenda in the industry, several experts have made their comments on the issue of diversity.

Jo-ann Robertson, deputy CEO at Ketchum London, argues more diversity would improve the profession.

‘As a profession, PR is about connecting to people by telling authentic and creative stories. Having a workforce that is representative of our society enables us to connect in a truly authentic way. If we don’t embrace diversity, we risk missing out on talent within our workforce. And without diversity of thinking, we risk omitting – if not alienating – a very significant market for us and our clients.

I agree so much with what Jo-Ann says because not only does she recognise how that lack of diversity means lack of holistic campaigns but also the missed opportunities to make truly authentic connections.

The debate goes beyond PR because an article by the Harvard Business Review claims how diverse teams are smarter. ‘Nonhomogeneous teams are simply smarter’ it argues. It adds to that by stating how ‘working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.’

When you add numbers to the mix, you’ll find that the reward of achieving a more diverse workforce is having an organisation that can outperform its competitors by up to 35%, according to a recent report by management consultants McKinsey.
So, what does this all mean? Well, it’s simple. Diversity should go beyond being a buzzword and be a key focus for PR companies and In-House teams looking to provide their clients with the best they could creatively offer. Those in charge of recruitment for agencies should really consider the masses of talent that are not being provided with an opportunity to thrive in the industry. Why? Well, that’s the simple part because diverse PR teams would enable the industry to produce campaigns which can resonate to all stakeholders in a way that they don’t as things currently stand.

As a trainee on the Taylor Bennett Foundation, my aim is to showcase that we (BAMEs) can do it too!