Do all brands have to be human in their communications?

My mate Rob tweeted a spectacularly cold and impersonal text message from his insurance company the other day, asking quite understandably where the ‘humanity’ was in this particular brand.

One of the replies we got (after my retweet) was as follows

As a believer in companies having a strong tone and voice, Oliver’s reply made me stop and think. Obviously, insurance isn’t a sexy or even particularly personal industry, but does that absolve those sorts of companies from being ‘human’ in their communications? Continue reading “Do all brands have to be human in their communications?”

So what is the future of mobile?

I went to an entertaining and intriguing event on Tuesday.

Hosted by Harvard Business Review, it was billed as the ‘future of mobile for publishers online and offline’, but rather inevitably ended up in a conversation about digital privacy, fragmentation and “the problem with the BBC”.

The one thing all the panellists agreed on (an esteemed bunch including Nathalie Nahai, Malcolm Coles, Paul Swaddle, Eric Hellweg and Carsten Sorenson) was that it’s probably pointless making predictions.

As Paul Swaddle pointed out. Ten years ago, no-one would have anticipated today’s state of affairs. Why should 2025 be any different?

There was general agreement on the needs of the user being – by and large – paramount, regardless of the size and power of the brand.

The ability of a commercial publisher to compete with the BBC (who aren’t subject to the same stringent ROI models as others) was deemed a risk, although many would argue the BBC has been a force for good when it comes to web development.

Ultimately, Nathalie Nahai put a strong case for the vast collection of personal data being hugely detrimental to general consumers as privacy will be gradually eroded.

Malcolm Coles vehemently disagreed, suggesting that when a tipping point is reached the consumer will win out.

However, Carsten Sorenson summed it up neatly by saying: “The only certainty with mobile is change.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: why one-on-one meetings are so important

I’ve just finished Ben Horowitz’s brilliant book The Hard Thing About Hard Things – in which he shares his own widsom gleaned from being CEO of a start-up (Opsware) that was inches away from liquidation and ultimately went on to become very successful.

There’s no grandstanding in the book – Horowitz openly admits when he got things wrong, how he’d change things if he did them again and lifts the lid on some of the stuff most employees never give a second thought to when they do their regular hours.

Make sure you use those 1-2-1s effectively

Horowitz is particularly interesting on company culture, how important it is and why it’s way more than allowing people to play table tennis and use scooters to get around the office.

He talks very passionately about the regular catch-ups managers have with direct reports and why they’re so important for employees.

The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting… During the meeting, since it’s the employee’s meeting, the manager should do 10 percent of the talking and 90 percent of the listening. Note that this is the opposite of most one-on-ones.

Many managers treat catch-ups as a way of imparting information that they could easily deliver via email, or a casual conversation at a desk. Continue reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: why one-on-one meetings are so important”