Monthly Archives: February 2015

Business ethics and corporate social responsibility

Business ethics and corporate social responsibility

by Ingrida Andrijauskaite

Business-Ethics

Every year the watchdog of ethics focuses on ethical values in business. The desire to have an ethical and responsible business is developing a colaboration between small and large corporations. Ethical organisations, such as the Institute of Business Ethics, are seeking to unite all companies to join and share knowledge concerning the best ethical practices, activities and solutions.

The ethics of a business depends on the company’s culture. The decision to do activities ethically is an example of  moral behaviour. All corporations have to decide what to do and how to do it in order to align their behaviour with their ethical values.

A Cadbury Schweppes – Business Case Studies[1] presents some examples of the positive impact that ethical behaviour and corporate social responsibility has on a business:

  • Attracts customers to the firm’s products, thereby boosting sales and profits.
  • Makes employees want to stay with the business, reducing labour turnover and therefore increase productivity.
  • Increases the number of employees wanting to work for the business, reducing recruitment costs and enabling the company to obtain the most talented employees.
  • Attracts investors and keeps the company’s share price high, thereby protecting the business from takeover.

So, ethical behaviour and social responsibility in business is considered the key to success for a company. Also, it is a way for businesses to gain the publics’ trust.

Business Ethics 003

Attitudes of the British Public on Business Ethics

Every years Ipsos MORI, a market research company, conducts a survey about the British publics’ view on ethical behaviour of British business and the issues that most need solving. The survey results revealed that in 2014 the majority of the British public considered that the general behaviour of British enterprises is fairly or very ethical. 58 % of the respondents thought that British business was more ethical than unethical. However, 40 % of the respondents thought that the behaviour of British businesses was “not very” or “not at all” ethical.

This survey also asked the British public to compare the behaviour of British businesses to how it was 10 years ago. The data of Ipsos MORI showed that 36% of the British public thought that businesses were behaving “less ethically” than 10 years ago. Just 25 % of the respondents believed businesses were more ethical. 36 % thought that businesses looked the “same”.[2]

We can assume that, although the majority of the British trust and think positively about the behaviour of businesses, there is a large percentage of the public who acknowledge the lack of ethical behaviour in business. It is very important for businesses to incorporate social responsibility, integrity, and honesty.

The main issues mentioned by the British public were corporate tax avoidance ( 35%) and executive pay (34%). However, the data of the survey revealed that bribery and corruption has also increased one place (19%).

ethics bu

Also, this information shows us that the British public wants to see more honesty from the business community, especially from employers who could inform companies about unethical behaviour or wrongdoing.

Perhaps, we can hope that this data could encourage the business community to focus more on forging reliable and honest connections with society. Also, it is vital not to forget to emphasize the practical applications of a company’s ethics in the public arena so that people can find out about a corporation’s social responsibility and their efforts to incorporate ethics into their business strategies.

HSBC tax scandal – an example of unethical behaviour

images

The HSBC tax scandal, is a clear example of corporate unethical behaviour. HSBC has been shaken by leaked financial documents, most from around 2005-2007, that reveal that it helped wealthy customers evade taxes. The documents were leaked by Hervé Falciani, a former systems engineer from HSBC’s Geneva branch.

This secret data revealed that the bank not only helped rich customers evade taxes but also provided accounts for international criminals, corrupt businessmen and other high-risk individuals. HSBC presented a general letter to the public, in which they apologized for this tax dodging scandal and emphasized that they have made changes since the period which is covered by the documents, and that it’s Swiss private bank had been “completely overhauled.”

Such scandles are the reason for why corporate tax avoidance is a public concern. This is one of the biggest problems in businesses. How did HSBC manage their reputation crisis? They sent a public notice in which they sincerely apologized about the tax scandal. Also, they tried to emphasize how now everything has changed and improved.

What about HSBC’s current culture? As HSBC’s group Chief Executive, Stuart Gulliver said: HSBC has been working tirelessly and with great dedication to build a stronger bank with fully global businesses and functions, rigorous controls and the highest global standards, all underpinned by a clear strategy to serve our millions of loyal customers. We can try to believe it, but now HSBC have to prove their integrity and focus on ethical standards.

The unethical financial situation of HSBC has showed us how employees are able to speak up about companies’ wrongdoing. Hervé Falciani’s behaviour could be considered criminal, as he secretely stole private company financial data. Nevertheless, this is evidence that large corporations do not always respect the ethical standards or even the law, and do not focus on their compliance.

The advantages of Ethical behaviour in business

business-ethics1

In summary, all companies should not forget the advantages of ethical behavior in business. It is very important to build and improve customer loyalty – consumers have to know that a company appreciates and respects them. Also, a company’s reputation built around it’s ethical behaviour can help to create a more positive image in the marketplace and allows them to reach a greater number of potential clients.

On the contrary,  if a company has an unethical reputation, the chances of obtaining new customers decreases, especially in this era of innovative social networks, where all customers are able to quickly find negative information about a company’s  activities.

The improvement of internal communications. It is significant to share information within an organization so that all employees are aware of the values of a company. Focusing on the improvement of professional skills is important to employees, as talented individuals want to  improve their skills and knowledge, in order to advance in their career.

In addition, every employee wants to be part of an organisation where they know the truth about whats is going on, particularly in crisis situations. Those companies which are responsible and open with their employees have a better chance of attracting and retaining more talented staff.

Avoid Legal Problems  a company has to respect and abide by the law. Also,  companies must focus on environmental regulations and labour laws, and also not ignore workers’ safety. If these factors are not taken into account, a company’s reputation can be damaged. Those companies which focus on the highest ethical standards can build a strong protection of their fundamental values.

 

[1]Business Case Studies: http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/cadbury-schweppes/ethical-business-practices/the-importance-of-ethics-in-business.html#axzz3Ru3WMJWB

[2]The survey results of the Institute of Business Ethics: http://www.ibe.org.uk/userassets/surveys/attitudes2014.pdf

The flatter the better? A look at the emerging shift towards flatter organisations

The flatter the better? A look at the emerging shift towards flatter organisations

flatter organisations

More and more companies nowadays are morphing into flatter organisations. This new layout in the business world is not just a physical ongoing re-organisation but instead represents a paradgimatic shift within society. The social media usage of young people – contacting celebrities, ‘sharing’ information readily and instant messaging people across the globe – has had implications for the workplace.

The age of the flatter organisations is slowly being ushered in. One company at the forefront of this is Google, which has a more communicative and open work environment, whereby everyone can talk to everyone. There is a distinct lack of the bureaucracy seen in more hierarchical organisations. Its work culture was developed initially with the intention of making their company more appealing to younger generations, but it is debatable whether this underlies the company’s success – there are probably a plethora of reasons for this. It is very likely, however, that this is why Google has topped Fortune 500‘s list of the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ for the past few years.

Hiring and holding onto younger people is obviously of interest to companies who prioritise insight, innovation and creativity over experience, and for whom young people constitute a large portion of their demographic. Several years ago, the policy expert David Eaves conducted a report evaluating how the Canadian public could improve the hiring and retention of young employees, and he concluded that they were more drawn to environments where they had the freedom to express their ideas and where there was immediate feedback from managers – i.e. flatter organisations.

The issue with hierarchical companies is that an idea has to pass through a chain of command, and its survival to get to the top depends on the opinions of the managers responsible for passing it on. If, in contrast, a young entry-level employee can propose an idea to a top-level, senior manager and there are no barriers to this, physical or figurative, then this should create a workplace which fosters ingenuity and adaptability. Flatter organisations also allow managers to monitor progress more easily and fully inform and include every employee in the implementation of new management strategies.

flatter organisations

Jason Fried, co-founder of US software firm 37signals and author of the book ‘Rework’, states that flatter organisations free workers “from the often toxic labour-versus-management dynamic, in which neither party truly understands what it’s like to be on the other side”. More hierarchical, less flatter organisations are designed in such a way as to foment competition between colleagues, a kind of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ mentality to produce progress – referred to as tournament theory. However, many theorists on the topic believe that this competition actually ends up hindering progress, as it reduces productivity as co-workers do not receive the benefits of co-operation and collaboration.

However, there are some downsides to flatter organisations. Herd mentality might be a problem if there is no one to give direction or to have the final say when making decisions. Barriers created by differing experience and status are all present in every aspect of the job-seeking process – from the acceptance of a CV to the interview and then the initial training and developing phase. Perhaps it is how life is supposed to be; humans have naturally been settling into social hierarchies for thousands of years.

Maybe the answer is to have flatter organisations but with some hierarchical features still intact. A workplace which combines everything in the ‘pro’ column for each; the components of hierarchy that could be kept are that someone has the final say and is responsible for overseeing others’ work. However, the flatness of the organisation will lend itself to allowing this ‘final say’ to be communicated readily and effectively. Employees of different levels would work in close proximity and there would be collaboration, allowing for creativity and the sharing of experience and expertise.

flatter organisations

There are advantages and disadvantages to the old vertical chain of command, and also for this new one, so a combination of the two would appear to be the best solution.

The power of Storytelling in Brand communications

by Ingrida Andrijauskaite

The power of Storytelling in Brand communications

Storytel

It‘s no mystery how businesses are reaching the best results with their brand communications. We can find a lot of advice or look at the examples of Apple, Google, CocaCola, McDonald’s, Microsoft etc. We all know how companies use mass social media and digital media channels to help advertise their brand’s products and services.

However a company’s aim is to come up with the “best idea”, which could be different from their competitors’ strategies. The “best idea”  is that which helps a company improve their business, by reaching the target audience or by increasing exposure of their brand to the general public.

Today the trend of “storytelling” has captured the attention of the advertising world. It is believed that great stories help to sell products, motivate consumers and outperform competition in the  business environment. The winner is often the most original story. Telling the story behind a brand is considered a very good way to convey experiences to an audience and allow them to feel emotionally involved. The best brand stories are always based on real facts, contain surprises and are appealing to the company’s selective target audience.

Good stories surprise us and they have interesting characters. Also, storytelling makes us think and feel. The story stays in our minds and the main ideas and concepts are memorable. We can admire the beautiful images and sounds which we can see in video advertisement and, at the same time, listen to the compelling story. If we like and believe in the story then we persuaded to buy the brand’s products/services.

storytelling

Basic principles of storytelling in B2B marketing

Storytelling has started to be considered a communication priority in both indirect and direct brand marketing strategies. These days, businesses have to find away to engage their audience and show them why they need to be a part of what they are doing.

The majority of communication experts state that, firstly, all businesses have to know their audience very well. To create inspiration for people to believe in your company, you have to outline who your target audience is. When you understand who your audience is, it is easier to start to design a marketing campaign and decide how to convey your brand’s message via advertising.

The story needs an effective concept. This means that there is a need to focus on creating persuasive and memorable ideas associated to your products. The effective idea is the core of the story – a positive and bright message about why your brand is good and appreciable. So, you need to combine this idea with digital and visual solutions in oder to create something unique and delicious for your audience.

Inspirational elements. It‘s said that a good storyteller has to inspire others with their stories. It means that your brand’s message needs to have a marvelous aspect which can inspire people to believe in the story and to be passionate about it! For this part of the campaign, there needs to be in-depth research, creative thoughts, design and a good development and promotion of the story. Also, you have to understand in great detail what your audience cares about.

The execution of this high-quality idea is fundamental. This means this idea in a manner with both sound and a visual-digital “language”, which can help you to make your audience admire your product due to its charm. It is no secret that now people like advertisements if they contain more  attractive, innovative images and do not last too long.

Also, it is necessary to remember to incorporate more personal, human elements. If you can create a story via personal experience, this has greater potential to touch people on an individual level than an impersonal, fictional one. Also, it will show that the core valuesof the company do not lie solely in their product details but in their appreciation of their consumers as people with emotions, not statistics. This contrasts with the negative side of mass consumerism.

Tell your business stories in a smarter, more attractice and more effective way. Provide your audience something they could can relate to and find appealing.

Examples of Storytelling

It‘s very useful to use storytelling methods for companies, because this allows them to show real-life scenarios, gain more exposure and present themselves as reliable. Also the real-life stories create a stronger connection with the audience and this relationship then becomes more important and central to future commmunications. So, let’s look at some examples of businesses trying to communicate with people via storytelling methods.

Dove – Real Beauty Sketches

The company Dove tried to find another way to advertise their beauty products. They created an authentically touching campaign which aimed to make women feel more beautiful and confident. They wanted to conduct a social experiment researching how woman look at their own beauty in cotrast to how others describe them. The results clearly exhibited that women are much more attractive  to others than they suppose. Everything was created in a ‘story-telling’ way.

This new marketing campaign of storytelling helped for Dove to find a new way to send a message about beauty to people. And this advertisement with a story helped to find a means of professionally presenting a product whilst also focusing on the needs of your target audience.

The next example of storytelling is the British Airways campaign – India – A Ticket to Visit Mum

British Airways focused on the touching true-life story of a man who planned a surprise visit to his mother in Mumbai. It was created in the style of a documentary to show the journey of the man. British Airways in this story was presented as the “bridge” in the long distance between your true home and your work and new life environment. This type of advert creates more connectivity between the airline and the general public.

Hovewer, it also has to be said that using the storytelling generally increases the length of the advert. It could easily become boring to watch if the viewer’s interest is not sustained during this time. Therefore, it is important to find an original idea and original context when presenting this type of advert, in order to better connect with your intended audience.

The evolution of brand communication strategies: a visual approach

The evolution of brand communication strategies: a visual approach

by Sasha Seddon

brand communication evolution

Social media has undergone an evolution, changing from lengthier, text-based communication to a more visual approach. William J Ward, Social Media Professor at Syracuse University has described a gradual movement towards visual strategies, from the early blog changing to the status update of Facebook, to the current state where “we are skipping words altogether and moving towards more visual communication with social-sharing sites like Pinterest”.

It could be argued that those brands implementing visual social media strategies will attain the social currency of likes, shares and follows necessary to survive and flourish in the online Darwinian struggle. Detavio Samuals, Director of Client Services at the successful advertising agency GlobalHue, postures that using pictures has “become a short form way of communicating lots of information quickly and succinctly…for publishers, it was evolve or risk losing their audience”.

A study by ROI Research in 2012 discovered that almost half of respondents were more likely to engage with a brand if they posted images as opposed to other forms of media. The market research company World Wide Worx has reported a ‘visual revolution’ in social media usage in South Africa. The MD, Arthur Goldstuck, summarizes the future of brand communication as such: “once the cost of mobile data comes down for the emerging smartphone market, video will become a dominant medium, strongly supported by other visual media.”

In an analysis by the lead generation marketing experts Wishpond, the predictions for 2014 were that visual content would predominate in brand communication strategies. Their reasons for this were based on research finding that: videos on landing pages increase average page conversion rates by 86%, social media posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than those without, and 67% of consumers value detailed images over customer ratings or product information, amongst other findings.

Furthermore, a 2013 report by Shareaholic found that, from 2012-13 there was a 66.52% growth in traffic referrals from Pinterest. This increase was the greatest for all the networks examined. YouTube also displayed a high increase, of 52.86%. This shows that social media platforms predominantly focusing on visual material (photos/video posts) have recently shown the greatest improvement when it comes to converting viewers into potential customers. It suggests that the demographic swayed or enticed by visual brand communication material has increased in recent years.

But why has this trend become prominent in brand communication?

Images will always be more appealing and informative for humans. With images, there isn’t the same ambiguity as in text, which deals with the issues of rhetoric and semantics, language barriers and the literacy level of the reader. Pictures may not always say a thousand words, but they can compensate for these pitfalls in the written word, conveying a simple idea to a universal audience. From a psychological perspective, our brains are incredibly receptive to visual stimuli; many of our letters and symbols are based on shapes and morphologies found in nature. We also process visual stimuli 60,000 times faster than text, as all the information an image possesses is absorbed simultaneously – there is no linear narrative as with text – and they are assimilated into long-term memory much more readily.

We are now living in an era of constant multi-tasking and in which our brains are flooded by continual advertisements. We trawl through social media networks while watching TV. Adverts appear on the periphery of websites and on search engines; even when we’re reading news, researching for an essay, trying to find nightlife in our local area, nowhere online is safe from the threat of advertising and brand communication. Internet users and avid social media users in particular have therefore in a way been inoculated against this – we don’t pay attention to ads lurking on the fringes of pages, we install software to block pop-ups, we often only ‘like’ brands when they offer us something in return.

brand communication

What determines whether the information seeping in will have any impact is the question perpetually asked by advertisers and marketers. It is not that the answer is elusive, it is that it is by nature continually changing. Companies have to carry on adapting their brand communication strategies in response to changes in technology and the inevitable trickle-down effect this has on social media. The evolution of technology and social media marketing go hand-in-hand, somewhat similar to the predator-prey co-evolution of the social media marketer and the online user.

What is important to acknowledge is that, nowadays, there is a shift occurring towards more visual forms of brand communication on social media channels. This may change in the future; a preference for text may resurge or a form of media not yet invented may pop up and revolutionize the world of social media.

Living in the here and now

This visual-centric paradigm is present now as it is the most adapted or ‘fit’ for our current environment. Using imagery means that brands can attempt to blast through the bombardment of brand communication we receive. In a world where social interaction can mean scrolling through news feeds and picking out items of interest, those items which immediately grab your attention (rather than slowly creeping up on you) will win. Images should do better than long pieces of text which you have to stop and concentrate in order to take in.

What should be considered for a visual brand communication strategy

Incorporating visual communication into social media strategies gives a company a way of showing, instead of telling, their story and showcasing their products. Also, a consistent brand message can be channelled if the company’s logo and pictures all bear similar connotations or themes – whether this be a playful/authoritative, ethical, luxurious/economical, innocent/fiendishly tempting voice.

It is also important for brand communication to account for the impact and connotations of different colours – colour psychology. Coca-Cola’s distinctive red denotes vibrancy, excitement and flavour, Facebook’s dark blue makes it seem trustworthy and secure, which is obviously important for a company involved in handling online security issues and the creation and maintenance of the users’ virtual social lives.

With regards to logos, symbolism is also a crucial factor in brand communication – the logo should not be confusing or complex, but should be unique. Bearing in mind the target audience is also of importance when choosing a colour palette or a design for the logo and brand images.

brand communication

Brand Journalism – a new hybrid of PR and business ?

by Ingrida Andrijauskaite

Brand Journalism – a new hybrid of PR and business ?

brndj

It happened ten years ago, when one of the most famous companies in the world – McDonald’s decided to take a new look at advertising and the marketing of their products to consumers. In 2004 McDonald’s started to call it “brand journalism” strategy. This was the first time this trend appeared in the public space. McDonald’s wanted to show that a brand’s story can’t be an over-simplification of a complex idea.

McDonald’s showed that there is a need to look more deeply at the product and the methods of communication which can help to reach the different demographics – different people in varying situations with different needs.

This was exemplified by the new “I’m lovin’ it” campaign; McDonald’s rejected the traditional marketing and advertising approaches focusing on a single, recurrent message in preference of a “content stream approach,” which involves various messages via different channels to multiple audiences.

What is Brand Journalism and why is there a need for it in business?

atsisiųsti

Firstly, it is interesting to look deeper at the meaning of brand journalism and try to ascertain why this method has become increasingly popular in the business area.

It can’t be said that this trend is very new in business, because it appeared ten years ago. However, it is just now that this term is beginning to be used in the communication strategies of business companies with a selective target audience.

There are many professionals who analyse brand journalism, but as of yet there is no strict theoretical definition of brand journalism. Brand Journalism is considered as the first wide–ranging practical guide to this hybrid form of traditional journalism, marketing and public relations. Therefore, it can also be referred to as corporate journalism or corporate media. This trend has come from the practical nature of business communications strategies.

The companies are increasingly using and creating journalistic content in their brand communications to the public. They are hiring camera crew and journalists to help prepare the video montage, the text of the news and the content of the brand communications, and to find the best ways of properly representing the company to their target audience.

However, the most popular definition of this trend which is mentioned by communications experts is a method of journalistic storytelling that focuses on communicating messages that consumers care about. It helps attract, inform and engage the target audience of every business companies.

The journalist and author of the book “Brand Journalism”, Andy Bull,  states that this new trend is a response to the fact that any organization can now use journalistic techniques to tell it‘s story directly to the public.[1]

Andy Bull

A journalist has defined the concept as “Journalism produced on behalf of a brand.” This definition sees it as techniques used by any organisations which have ongoing contact with the public. Andy Bull claims that the startegy of brand journalism is also used by companies working in the B2B sector. Brand journalism can be implemented to help businesses sell their products and services to orther organisations and to establish themselves as reliable and trustworthy institutions within their field.

The opinion of McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer, Larry Light, discussed in “Six Rules for Brand Revitalization” is that mass marketing and mass media no longer work. He explained this: “We no longer live in a world where mass marketing to masses of consumers with a mass message delivered through mass media makes money. In fact, mass marketing as we know it is dead.”

Andy Bull states that it is just as true for mass journalism: “Journalism has always been seen as serving a mass audience. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio – they are all mass media. Or they were. Now journalists are facing just the challenge that Light defined for marketers.”

We all know that every journalist has to focus on comprehensively researching and gathering information without any corruption or influence from corporations, powerful individuals, politicians, or public organizations. Journalists must be reliable informer and presenters of the news to the public. According to this, brand journalism must also focus on the reliable content of a brand and attaining the trust of the public.

One of the reasons why a method of storytelling is very important for all businesses – is that it improves the trust society has in the brand being presented to her. And the main aim is to show that the company is socially responsible across all of their services, products and promises in accordance with the ethical standards of society.

What can be taken from all of this is that brand journalism tries to help businesses to create interesting and original stories about their brand and team. Some great examples of campaigns are HSBC Business without Borders, Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp who are in the lead with their efforts concerning brand journalism.

It is important for companies to remember to create and foster a reliable connection with society. If the company is open and genuine to the public, it helps to build fundamental trust and increasingly garners more interest in the brand.

Whats-Your-Brands-Story-300x199

Does Brand Journalism split traditional journalism?

Brand Journalism is an ever-evolving discipline within public relations (PR) and business. It‘s not suprising that this trend creates a great deal of disagreement amongst professional journalists and media experts regarding its validity, values and potential harmful impact on traditional journalism.

The watchdog of traditional journalism state that the term of Brand journalism should be referred to as brand communications or content marketing, shedding the word “journalism”. This term is considered to aptly describe the manner of information transfer in the marketing and PR fields. This could be misleading to users and the public, as it does not have the same connotations of media transparency and corporation integrity.

So all the problems with ethics, values or social responsibilities of business will be applied to traditional journalism. This may decrease the trust society to journalism has in journalism and the ethics and worth of traditional journalism. If brand journalism is actively used in the public domain, it may be very difficult to ensure that it is distinguished from traditional journalism. This is the main reason why the majority of media professionals are looking very carefully at this new hybrid – brand journalism.

The new opportunities for business

Although it is harder to find the results obtained by brand journalism, marketing and PR professionals agree that this is one of the best methods to encourage companies to actively use ‘storytelling’ in their brand communications or in the public space.

Brand journalists concentrate on the overall positive impact of brand journalism, because it will provide the novelty, courage, variety and authenticity to companies’ communications. Also, the storytelling part is informative and engaging for audiences, and makes them want to know  how the story ends.

On a final note, Brand journalism can help businesses to improve by finding more effective ways to communicate with their existing and potential clients.

Check out the interview about Brand Journalism and its value for business:

[1] http://www.brand-journalism.co.uk/introduction-to-the-subject/what-brand-journalism-is/