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Veda Launches 2011 “Credit Management in Australia” Report

The challenge:

Veda enlisted Howorth to develop and execute a two-week media strategy to release the results of its 2011 Credit Management in Australia, a report providing insights into how global and local economic factors are affecting the credit management processes of Australian businesses. Veda conducted the survey amongst 220 credit managers from a cross-section of Australian industry. Veda works closely with a large proportion of Australia’s credit professionals which gives the company a detailed understanding of local credit management issues within a national and global context.

Our approach:

The hot topic in Australian media in the week and days leading up to the launch of the report was the announcement by the Reserve Bank of Australia to drop interest rates in December and whether the big banks would pass it on – which was seen as a welcome relief to businesses – especially small and medium sized enterprises - and consumers.

The Howorth team spotted the opportunity to capitalise on the announced rate cuts by linking the credit management report to the topic. We worked closely with Veda’s spokesperson Moses Samaha, Head of Commercial Risk, to craft an interesting story for media on these topics. We also advised Veda to bring in a third party spokesperson, and as a result were able to work with Terry Collins, CEO AICM to strengthen our story even further.

The results:

We targeted selected business and financial media for a preview on the report setting up two interviews with Sky Business News and AAP ahead of the official launch. This resulted in 29 pieces of editorial across TV, newswires and online in the week following the release of the Credit Management in Australia 2011 report. Articles reported on the results of the report as well as giving Veda’s view on the state of credit management in Australia.

Highlights included:

• An 4 minute interview on Sky Business News with Moses Samaha;

• Moses Samaha and Terry Collins featured in tier one media targets including AAP, Daily Telegraph, The Australian, Herald Sun, The Age, etc.

• As a result from our outreach, Veda received a number of requests for more information from government agencies such as the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, and from Credit Managers across a wide range of industries in Australia and New Zealand.

Part 3: John Bell on getting the timing right to launch your social media strategy

When John Bell, head of the global 360° Digital Influence team – Ogilvy’s global social media marketing and communications practice, was in Sydney in June, Ogilvy PR’s Heather Jacobs caught up with him to talk about social media.

Following is the final post in a three-part series on how brands can get started in social media, measure its impact, how Australia compares to the rest of the world when it comes to social media and the challenge of finding social media experts who also understand marketing and communications.

Q: How do brands know they are ready to go to market with their social media program?

John Bell: In markets where social media hasn’t necessarily created a huge momentum, and Australia might be this way, the biggest challenge for communications and marketing professionals is timing. When do I get involved? When does it become essential that I do something?  When will my involvement and investment in social media be critical to my business compared to what I’m investing in now?

Those who have benefitted the most from social media are those who haven’t started too early, but early enough to get experience with it and start to understand inside their organisation how to manage their social network presence to be of the greatest benefit and create more two-way conversations between customers and stakeholders. It’s not like you can study up on it and then one day pull the trigger.

Research by The McKenzie Institute found that 20 per cent of brands using social media for marketing communication purposes across the enterprise are reaping 80 per cent of the benefit which leaves a lot of brands scratching their head and saying, “Does this do anything?”

I think that 20 per cent are the brands with the most experience and the most resources and commitment to social media. It’s the minority of brands right now who are applying social media to their business and feel confident and understand how it’s positively impacting them. I think this year in many markets, Australia included, we’re going to see brands that have been dabbling, start to get truly committed.

Question: How does Australia compare to some of the other markets you have experienced?

John Bell: The adoption curve has been tremendous with the growth in brands using social media for professional reasons skyrocketing. For a relatively small country of twenty million people, connectivity is fairly strong, there a lot of the conditions for marketplace readiness, including the growing use of smartphones, and strong levels of broadband connectivity, although I’ve heard there are some issues about the speed of the broadband. There’s a lot of experimentation occurring in Australia right now and I see a lot of companies hungry to move from experimentation to meaningful operationalizing. How can we get more out of it?

Question: This joke was doing the rounds on Twitter recently: “My boss found me asleep under my desk and was going to fire me, but I said I was planking so he made me vice president of social media”. Are jokes like this a reflection of the reputation that anyone can be an expert in social media?

John Bell: That’s probably happened all too often with companies investing some kind of key token staff hires for people who showed an aptitude in this space. They then realise they have no marketing communication skills, and can do nothing besides introducing them to Foursquare, etc.

Now a lot of brands are looking for people with the right blend of serious marketing communication skills and expertise in social media.

The next generation does come in with an advantage because of their intuitive personal knowledge of the space, but to expect them to go launch a multinational social media based marketing program a day after graduation is not realistic.

Part 2: John Bell on the challenges of measuring social media

When John Bell, head of the global 360° Digital Influence team – Ogilvy’s global social media marketing and communications practice, was in Sydney in June, Ogilvy PR’s Heather Jacobs caught up with him to talk about social media.

Following is part two of a three-part series on how brands can get started in social media, measure its impact, how Australia compares to the rest of the world when it comes to social media and the challenge of finding social media experts who also understand marketing and communications.

Question: There isn’t a global standard for measuring social media. Is there a push towards this and what are some of the challenges in measuring the impact?

John Bell: Everyone wants a standard measurement model that all their colleagues and peers will rely on. I predict that will happen, or a series of standards will emerge, over the next 10-20 years, but right now we just have to take it upon ourselves to measure impact for what’s good for the brand.

Question: What are some of the ways marketers are already using the measure the impact, such as engagement?

John Bell: Brand marketers are measuring engagement, but there’s no way to understand the ROI of engagement. It’s based on factors such as time spent, number of interactions, anything that’s indicative of me doing something with the brand, even something superficial such as “liking” it on Facebook or commenting on a post, or watching a video.

These actions are all indicative of some greater level of involvement and if you believe traditional sales funnel mechanisms, saying that people are aware of your brand means you now have them more involved and engaged.

A smaller number of that audience is now considering if the product suits their needs, whether they will buy it and a smaller number still will go ahead and buy it. That degree of engagement is useful to understand: are people engaged or not? So you can look on the Facebook admin wall and get a number of metrics or interaction metrics that are helpful.

The other trend is that a lot brands are putting value on the volume and quality of ‘word-of-mouth’. What are people saying about the brand? Are they being positive or negative? Are they associating the brand with what the brand wants? For example, are people associating Ford vehicles with fuel efficiency? Ford is trying very hard to make some of the most fuel efficient cars in the world, and emphasises that in all of its communications and is this reflected in the conversations online?

What a few of us are trying to do is to prove what we intuitively believe to be true - that the greater the volume of talk, and the greater the positive share of voice in the marketplace for a particular brand is indicative of preference for that brand over its competitors. And depending on what they are saying, of course, it could indicate intent to purchase.

Question: What if people are using social media to complain about a brand? How can brands deal with negative comments online?

John Bell: What’s interesting about negative comments is that there’s been an unintentional effect of brands developing social customer care outlets online. Twitter handles are meant to grab your attention if you’ve got something going wrong. If I were a cable service, Time Warner Cable, for example, the Twitter handles of other cable providers are meant to capture people who are complaining or having problems and take them into service, get them to customer care and get their problem solved.

Because it’s through Twitter, in this example, they are doing it and quite publicly, so they are getting a marketing side effect in that people are thinking, ‘Time Warner is listening to us, that’s good’.

The problem there is that we have trained consumers that if they have a problem with a product or service the first protocol is to complain about it to their friends online because that’s when the brand will step in and come to their aid.

It’s an interesting problem. I don’t think we, as marketers yet understand what -- if anything --  we can do to both serve the customer service needs that are happening in the public space but not encourage more of them.

Part 1: John Bell: Moving beyond the experimentation phase of social media

When John Bell, head of the global 360° Digital Influence team - Ogilvy's global social media marketing and communications practice, was in Sydney in June, Ogilvy PR’s Heather Jacobs caught up with him to talk about social media.

Based in Washington DC, Bell heads up the global team of Digital Influence Strategists integrating the power of social media - social networks, blogs, Web 2.0 applications - with digital marketing to produce measureable results. He’s developed strategy and executed award-winning programs for clients including Ford, Lenovo, Unilever, BP and American Express.

Following is a three-part series on how brands can get started in social media, measure its impact, how Australia compares to the rest of the world when it comes to social media and the challenge of finding social media experts who also understand marketing and communications.

Part 1: Moving beyond the experimentation phase

Question: You have a theory that brands are moving through what you call ‘the experimentation stage’ in social media? Can you explain this?

John Bell: The enterprise adoption curve shows there’s a path brands typically move along. It starts with phase zero, where people are nervous and full of anticipation, and shifts into the listening stage where brands want to know what people are saying about them online.

From there it moves onto the experimentation stage, where brands try things in social media - implement programs, encourage various regions around the world to try different things and allow entrepreneurial drive within the company to push forward experiments.

Pretty soon brands find that this approach doesn’t produce a significant business result so they want to get efficiencies or ‘operationalize’ their approach to social media.

This is largely trying to take all the experiments and align them with a business purpose, trying to manage the brand online so there’s isn’t 25 different Facebook pages. Instead, there’s one voice for the brand online that is purposeful, not simply whatever the person who did the feed decided on.

There’s a measurement model around everything that’s done so they can learn from their efforts, see what’s having a business impact, what’s creating customer value, what’s helping them build brand reputation and what’s helping them sell product through social media.

Beyond this is the promised land of full integration where social media becomes a part of everyone’s job delivering greater efficiency, greater customer value, and building good culture. I’m not sure if there are too many examples of that yet.

Q: Which companies are close to getting there?

John Bell: A company in the middle of operationalizing is Ogilvy client IBM, which has a long history of applying social media internally – and is an Ogilvy client. Unilever and Proctor & Gamble really started with social media as an external marketing communications discipline.

Q: Is there a sense that a company will think, ‘We’d better open a Twitter account and Facebook page to build up people to like them and once they get negative feedback or aren’t seeing immediate business results, they’ll think it’s not worth it.

John Bell: A lot of brands reactively get involved in social media and then realise, “Now what?” Along the way to getting reactively involved, they probably haven’t built the best foundation or put thought into their conversation calendar and the online space they are going to engage with people in.

They probably haven’t thought too hard about roles and responsibilities in the organisation and goals for those people.  They’ll wake up one morning after pulling the trigger on a Facebook program and blog program and say, “Is this all there is? Is this all I get?”

You would expect them to pull out, but hopefully in most cases, they then say there must be a better way.

We can’t leave social media. We all intuitively believe it has promise for our business – if nothing else a competitive colleague insists it’s the next big thing.

So brands try to find guidance from people who talk about social media as a business driven discipline as opposed to a fluffy “get in the conversation” type-way. Hopefully they find us. We’re trying to play that role for our clients because we understand social media has tremendous potential to drive sales and impact business. But only when you marry it with the best of marketing communications discipline do you get that.

People overestimate how social media has inverted the world. I think the impact is tremendous: it will transform us, make us better marketers, better product and service developers, but it hasn’t completely rewritten the old rules from marketing communications. They remain relevant today.

The obvious starting point is for brands to deliver some authentic value to their customers. We can’t just message people because we want them to understand something and then do it a dozen times to beat them over the head. We have to try and earn their attention and involvement by figuring out what they want from our brand.

TEDX Sydney: a crash course in ideas

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be 'accepted' to be in the audience at the TEDX Sydney conference where I got a crash course in what some of Australia’s smartest, most entertaining and intelligent people -- and the odd flying trapeze artists -- are up to.

As part of Alan Jones’ social media team, my tweets formed part of a live Twitter feed on screens in the foyer of Redfern’s CarriageWorks where a crowd had gathered on LoveSacs. As word spread via social media that you could watch the event ‘live’ at the venue along with the 800 ‘chosen ones’ granted a seat in the auditorium, more people turned up and the tweet feed exploded.

Hundreds more watched the live stream on YouTube or listened to it on Radio National and Jones re-tweeted the best comments.

My top 10 moments of the day were:

1. When Mango, the blue and yellow macaw  flew on-stage as bird whisperer Josh Cook called him.

2. Biomedical animator Drew Berry – who has won an award for being a ‘Genius’ – showing computer graphics of DNA moving through the body and malaria infiltrating a baby’s vital organs after a bite from a malaria-infected mosquito.

3. The radical idea that taking time out and being bored helps the brain re-set itself. We don’t need to be connected 24/7. That’s what Genevieve Bell said and Intel is a client.

4. Geneticist Richard Cotton’s idea that sometime in the next two decades we’ll start carrying our gene sequence around in our phones. When a couple want to start a family they can compare genomes and a database will tell them if they have mutations that can cause diseases.

5. Richard Gill’s infectious enthusiasm for song that had us clapping along and the idea that every child deserves a great music teacher.

6. Astronomer Bryan Gaensler’s revelation that Australia has developed a telescope that can take pictures of the sky wider and deeper than we have ever seen, taking us back to the Big Bang.

7. Inventor Saul Griffith’s idea of wind turbines that soar like kites and harness strong winds to generate electricity. And his suggestion we ditch the monorail for ziplines and rollercoasters.

8. Shaun Tan’s Oscar-winning ‘The Lost Thing’, which was particularly magical  accompanied by the original score performed by Michael Yezerski.

9. The discovery that Daniel Johns is rather attractive. Especially when he sings. Even if he did split up Silverchair and spends most of his time at the Ivy pool bar.

10. And just as I was exhausTED* and couldn’t take another genius Paul Kelly was on hand to sing a song and tell a yarn.

*Pun stolen from the Chaser’s Craig Reucassel wrap-up.

By the way, TEDX Sydney is an offshoot of TED (Technology Entertainment and Design), the annual conference in Long Beach California featuring 50 speakers who give an 18-minute talk on ‘Ideas worth spreading’.

Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

To be one of the 1000 people in the US audience you need to be “a leader in your field and can make a strong contribution to the TED community through your energy, influence and connections to change the world”. And have a spare $6000. Applications for TED 2012 in California have already closed.

Call it elitist, but a whole community has built up around the conference globally with 500 local events similar to TEDX Sydney held around the world each year and the online TED talks attracting more than 290 million views.

The Sydney license is held by Remo Giuffre, who runs REMO, and thanks to his merry team of volunteers it's free to attend, but you still have to apply for a seat in the main theatre.

TEDX Sydney: Were the ideas worth spreading?

The first people Ogilvy PR's Heather Jacobs ran into a TEDX Sydney were a team from Ogilvy & Mather. So, she roped American Express creative director Simon Bloomfield into writing up a piece for the website on his experience.

The second annual TEDx Sydney has come and gone (or the 3rd if you count the one not organized by Remo), and a few days later I sit pondering what I found of it.

There’s no doubt it was a brilliantly organised, thoroughly fascinating, and somewhat overwhelming day in the Carriageworks surrounds, but there’s been one thing gnawing away at me: I didn’t walk away from it as inspired to do something as I did after attending TEDx Sydney 2010.

Was I the cynical old hand, compared to the many starry-eyed TEDx virgins in attendance? Or was it something else?

I’ll be honest and say things didn’t start well when everyone bar the back two rows (containing the designated “blogging community”) were asked to switch off all electrical devices. How were we supposed to spread the ideas if we couldn’t take note of them? (#tweettweet?) I confess I didn’t turn my iPad off but felt conspicuous when I did try to jot something down.

But I don’t think that was the main problem.

Try as I might, five days later I can’t really recall hearing any big ideas that were really worth spreading. At 2010’s event, Rachel Botsman delivered her first presentation on Collaborative Consumption, and whether you were into it or not, it was an idea that has well and truly spread from that point to all corners of the world.

Sure there were plenty of ideas that made sense – Katherine Samaras’ presentation on obesity certainly was that. But if parts of the US are already looking at it – read here about Arizona’s plans to tax the obese – then it’s hardly revolutionary.

And there were ideas I certainly agreed with – I went home and told my wife I wanted to take my girls out of ballet and get them into an instrumental music program thanks to Richard Gill’s speech. But after two years of end of year concerts that look like someone’s trying to herd cats - it was hardly going to require a big push. (Question is will screeching cats be any better?)

There were loads of interesting people doing loads of interesting things – Drew Berry the biomedical animator; Josh Cook the bird behaviourist; Bryan Gaensler the astronomer; Johanna Featherstone the poetry advocate (yep, not sure what that means, but she was cool) … the list could go on. Everyone was really interesting to listen to.

But I reckon other than Saul Griffith – who wanted to (re)spread the idea that the future should be awesome (robot shark submarines, anyone?); and Genevieve Bell, who told me it was OK to be bored every once in a while (and revived my faith in big corporations like Intel at the same time), there was no one else that really got me thinking.

Except I did think that the upcoming Daniel Johns/Josh Wakely collaboration was likely to end in disaster. But boy can he sing.

Yes, I loved the day, and yes I’ll be clamouring for a ticket again next year (providing this post doesn’t put me on the outer with the organisers), but I just hope third time round I walk out burning to make a difference somewhere.

Then it’s up to me spread something.

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