Archive for the ‘Digital strategy’ Category

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]I recently sat through a movie which I hated – it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. It’s a familiarly painful experience. You spend the first half of the movie wanting to believe it could get better and the second half painfully accepting that you’ve sat through the first half so better see the rest through!

The experience is not too dissimilar to being asked to execute a poorly devised Digital Strategy. What could be worse than being stuck in the middle of a 5 year strategy which is conservative, stale, lacking in innovation and was only every going to achieve moderate success in the first place?

It’s a trend we’re seeing more of recently here ‘agency side’. It seems we’ve spent years convincing and educating clients on the need for Digital Strategy, whilst today we’re in a position of needing to challenge those very strategies we’ve been selling in!

You can see the effects all over the place. Facebook pages with 1000’s of fans but no real engagement models; Great new eCommerce web sites launching with no consideration for mobile commerce; Apps costing thousands of dollars, devoid of purpose or function; or perhaps more simply a failure to embrace new and relevant technologies or solutions.

Lacklustre digital initiatives are tell-tale signs of digital strategies which prescribe executional not strategic objectives. Like the moment you realise you won’t be enjoying a movie, you can sense a Digital Strategy is failing when you feel that the very people the strategy was devised to engage with are losing interest and it is here where innovation plays a key role.

Teams delivering Digital Strategy need to be guided by a strategy, but be given the space to interpret them too. They need timeframes and objectives, but they also need to be challenged along the way. There is no shortage of new innovation which can challenge today’s best Digital Strategy, whether it’s new payment methods on offer by the likes of Facebook or Dwolla; Location based services; Your customers ever increasing Klout or PROskore; or new ways to connect like Google+ business pages.

A good Digital Strategy should provide a clear framework for assessing why jump on bandwagons when they arise, instead of prescribing when or how to do so.

It’s not easy of course. Digital Strategy often gets sold in at the very highest levels and it’s at those levels where people find it difficult to accept that “this part of our strategy is being left open for interpretation”, but that’s exactly what needs to happen if a strategy is expected to deliver meaningful results from start to end.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]There is nothing more disheartening when a client relationship takes a turn for the worse. It happens. Being the person who ends up taking ultimate responsibility for things, I do take it personally when these instances arise. Whether due to poor communications, over commitments, under delivery – mishaps are a reality that comes with agency life.

But, when things go right the feeling is ever so much the opposite! When you can look back and “WOW” yourself at what’s been achieved in partnership with a client,  you’re reminded why you work ‘agency side’. And that’s what this overdue blog post is all about (I’ll save the disaster stories for another time!!).

Our relationship with Thames Water started over 3 years ago, when we helped them launch their new corporate website. We won the competitive tender  off the back of our solid corporate experience; and since that launch the website has stood alone as Thames Water’ main digital asset.

Fast forward to today however and both our understanding and that of Thames Water’ for  how  digital strategy can serve to dramatically improve  their customer engagement, has without doubt developed greatly.

Thames Water - the new customer website

Thames Water - the new customer website delivers a far greater user centred experience

But the new customer website is just the start of it. Whilst  the new site delivers a far more user centric IA and task focussed design, the site now sits at the heart of what is far more widespread digital strategy, aimed at increasing direct engagement with their customers and winning advocacy as well increasing transparency and creating brand affinity. Take a look at just some of the results which the broader digital strategy has achieved and I’m sure you’ll agree – utility companies don’t need to be boring!

tw_live

Interactive roadwork

Thames Water - Twitter page

Over 2,000 followers

Thames Water - mobile site and app

Soon to launch mob' site

Thames Water - Waterwisely

Waterwisely

Thames Water - water saving calculator

Water saving calculator

Thames Water - facebook virals

Facebook viral

Thames Water - one safety hub

One safety hub

Thames Water - interactive maps

Interactive maps

Thames Water - digital guidelines

Digital guidelines

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]I recently came across the interesting theory of Prediction Markets, which could have a profound effect on how we apply social networking initiatives in a business context.

Before I go on I’d like to state … that whilst I’d love to stake claim to the concept of Prediction Markets or suggestions for how to apply it, the best I’d be able to do is take claim for bringing this to your attention today! Prediction Market theory is long standing and the idea of applying it come from people far smarter than my humble self. The premise is simple however…

Prediction Markets are speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions – where people who buy low and sell high are rewarded for improving the market prediction.

It’s when the theory of prediction markets is combined with Web 2.0 mechanisms of today, that  powerful outcomes for business could be unlocked. Indeed, many social initiatives today have allowed large groups to work to a common goal. In the public domain things like the Pepsi Refresh challenge have allowed the public to (together) decide what social initiatives Pepsi will sponsor. This is now nothing new with My Starbucks Idea, Dell Idea Storm, M&S ‘Plan A’ and many other similar initiatives already around for a while.

The quest is on for how these initiatives can evolve and produce better results yet. Introducing Prediction Markets to the above scenarios could create a whole new level of engagement and perhaps more importantly, enable the successful ideas to be predicated with far greater accuracy.

Practical applications are not too difficult to imagine. Consider then for example in a corporate context, if staff could ‘bet’ on the next years R&D spend. And if those ideas were to get selected and subsequently launched into products, that staff who backed the ideas would reap rewards of some sort. Imagine the interest this would evoke in that companies R&D strategy.

The key for this to work would be establishing a reward mechanism, so the people who back successful ideas get rewarded too. The more successful the idea becomes, the greater the reward. Likewise, backing the wrong ideas would result in perceived losses too. In this model, it is not only the original contributor of the idea that get’s rewarded (by having their ideas selected), but all those that ‘invested’ in the idea too.

Needless to say, the concept of introducing Prediction Markets into today’s social initiatives has it’s risks, ranging from accuracy, the ability for some to manipulate the system and perhaps even just the addictiveness of it and time consumed by it (especially in a corporate environment).

But, if the boffins are correct in their assertions that Prediction Markets result in greater accuracy of trend prediction, then businesses may have a good way to evolve their social networking initiatives into something of greater value than the ‘Like’ buttons of today.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Over the past few years there has been a subtle yet significant change in the communications agenda.

Taking a look back, it seems clear that many successful corporates have been busy understanding how to communicate their successes online; and from this, a form of ‘best practice’ approach has been created. Stakeholders sit at the heart of this approach. Just take a look at the similarities at the Bowan Craggs Index of Corporate Website Effectiveness Top 5Shell, BP, Siemens, Roche and Rio Tinto to see what I mean.

Whilst I don’t think that there is anything wrong with addressing investors, press, careers and communicating the business successes clearly (hell, one of those top 5’s is our doing!), I do think that change is upon us. In part this change is being driven by businesses starting to ask “where’s the ROI in spending on our online strategy?”.  But it’s also being driven by the good work that communication teams around the globe have been doing in implementing the best practice approach and are now all starting to ask “where to from here?!

So, where to from here indeed! Things like Social Networking and the CSR agenda have proved to be interesting interludes, but interestingly it’s the recession that has brought the next real agenda to the table – true alignment with business strategy.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why we are here too. After all how many CEO’s and executive boards really understand the benefits that online can bring to their businesses? How many agencies have even bothered pushing this angle? Knowing that it would fall on deaf ears, falling back to the common line – the stakeholders – has clearly been the easiest door to push against. Coupled with strong design and clarity of message, you can begin to see where todays best practices have derived from.

The recent downfall of a major UK company, Connaaught serves as a perfect example of this. They too have gone through the journey from poorly communicating their business to a place where their business is being very well represented today. Now, I’m not professing that ‘online strategy’ would have changed the outcome of their recent issues but certainly looking at their website today does give an indication of what they could have done differently online and indeed provides lessons for others to learn from.

Previous Connaught Website

The Connaught Website as it was just a few years ago

Connaught website today

Connaught website, as it is today - a much clearer presence, but is that what it's all about?

Being a company that services a diverse mix of end customers with a range of different services, Connaught spent little time leveraging their online presence to … SELL.

The site does ‘best practice’ very well – branding – tick; successes shared – tick; industry talk – tick; CSR agenda – tick! But this is yesterdays agenda drafted in a time when business was flowing. Today it has be about clarity and alignment with the broader business strategy. Selling and selling more must sit at the heart of this. Demonstrating your services and value. Leveraging your customer base to cross sell. Translating interest in your business into tangible business leads.

And this is the agenda that we see many more large businesses defining for their digital strategies. Taking it beyond the stakeholders. To focus less on delivering investors with new tools, communicating the latest CSR agenda or the organisational structure (after all, this is now simply – best practice!); and to focus more on bolstering the bottom line, turning interest in the business into interest for the business!

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Many agencies say they do digital strategy,  it’s an easy thing to claim after all. But how easy is it really?

Recently we were approached by a successful FTSE 100 outfit who in turn had approached a number of agencies for thoughts on how best to plan their digital strategy. They have a complex business structure granted, but the responses they received were surprisingly underwhelming, to the point that two were immediately written off. These are reputable agencies we are talking about.

An agency is only as good as it’s people. This much, anybody would agree with – it’s something you’ll often hear. Indeed delivering strong strategy must come from experienced knowledgable and opinionated individuals. But an agency is also only as good as its ability to learn and build from it’s experiences.

We’ve been going for 17 years and have been delivering corporate communications ever since. We moved into digital early on in the game. But, if we were only as good as our staff today, then the past 17 years of experience working with established brands on their communications strategies and challenges would be wasted. The good experiences and the bad. The successes and the failures. From the strategies to the micro-sites. These are the things that make us exclusively us and ultimately what ensures that we can be strategic with the things we do.

It all sounds obvious, I know. But what it boils down to, if you subscribe to this, is the importance of learning and building from past experiences; to cultivate a teach and learn environment; to ensure that past experiences are not forgotten, but that they actively (and naturally) becomes part the way you work – with your staff and with your clients. This is building strategic value. Fail to do this, and you are indeed only as good as your people.