Tom Idle
20th November 2018 - 5 mins read
T

his was Baptista’s revenge protest against a betting industry he claims regularly exploits people like him—those that have lost thousands of pounds betting on FOBTs and are encouraged to keep doing so, regardless of the consequences.

His actions, while destructive and illegal, garnered a wealth of sympathy across the media, raising serious ethical questions about the validity of FOBTs in high street betting shops. A lunchtime flutter on the horses has become legend across the generations. But offering the option of pouring hundreds of pounds into an algorithm- controlled giant computer is a relatively new phenomenon—and one that has raised concerns, particularly among local councillors and MPs. They continually face questions as to the social benefits (or otherwise) of betting shops popping up on every high street across the UK, especially when two million people are said to be addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.

Of course, it is a narrative of which the gambling industry is only too aware. Being a socially (and environmentally) responsible business that plays a useful role for people and the communities in which they live, is front of mind for many CEOs—even those running companies in a sector constantly battling claims it is devoid of any positive social value whatsoever.

For those of you still unsure about whether it's worth ‘doing sustainability’ (largely defined as investing in measures to ensure your organisation is fit, proper and able to stay competitive for the long-term), you can stop it right now. More and more evidence suggests that those companies proactively looking for ways to make sure they are viable and attractive entities 50 years from now are already reaping the benefits. Just look at the consumer goods giant Unilever.

When addressing shareholder meetings, the softly spoken boss Paul Polman sounds more like Bono than a CEO, opting for soliloquies on global warming rather than detailed analysis of quarterly financial returns.

For the past six years the business has been building what it calls ‘Sustainable Living’ (SL) brands, such as Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Hellmann’s—businesses with a social or environmental purpose strongly attached to their operations or customers. For example, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s exists to “make and sell the finest quality ice cream” all the while sourcing natural ingredients and making sure its operations have zero negative impact on the planet.

All of the company’s brands are said to be focused on reducing their environmental footprint and boosting their positive social impact. Those that are furthest ahead are tagged as ‘SL brands’ and, collectively, they grew over 50 per cent faster than the rest of the business last year, delivering more than 60 per cent of Unilever’s growth. “Our results show that sustainability is good for business,” says Polman, pointing to a spurring of innovation, strengthened supply chains and reduced costs.

The telecoms business BT is another good example. It has spent plenty of energy and resources in recent years making sure its product and service offering can help its business customers be more responsible and efficient too. As part of its 3:1 goal, BT's consumer operations and products that contribute to carbon savings now represent 22 per cent of annual revenues and are worth more than £5 billion.

Waking up to the realisation that customers, of all shapes and sizes, care about what it is their favourite brands are doing to create a better world, or not, companies should know that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility—or whatever you want to call it) is increasingly valuable.

And that’s largely because the next generation of consumers and customers want to know why companies exist, how they operate and whether their core business is having a negative impact on people and planet. A new study by Cone Communications reveals that 87 per cent of consumers say they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while more than 75 per cent say they would boycott a product or company if the brand supported an issue contrary to their ethics and values.

It is a trend only likely to grow with Millennials and the Gen Z putting their money where their mouths are, purposefully backing more socially responsible brands over any others. Even if they don’t care about issues like climate change, pressured by peers on social media, they know they ought to so are more easily swayed to ‘do the right thing’.

So, if CSR has real value, why aren’t more companies talking about the good, positive things they are doing?

A lack of confidence and an absence of good, simple storytelling lies at the heart of the lacklustre response by all but a handful of progressive businesses. Ultimately, customers want their relationships with brands to possess the very same qualities they value in their personal relationships: Trust, empathy, respect, openness.

But in a corporate world defined by quarterly growth stats, companies blindly believe that acting more human will destroy any chance of economic success—a view that flies in the face of a growing mountain of evidence.

Maybe it’s too early for the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes to gamble on ripping out their valuable FOBTs, a move that would stake a claim to the moral high ground.

But what might the future CSR payback look like among a consumer base keen to defend and support companies that take an ethical stand? Might we see gamblers flock in unison to any betting shop willing to gamble on first mover advantage in positively responding to Baptista’s argument that they in fact may be destroying the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

In a world of continued divestment from companies unwilling to accept and respond to environmental and social risks, the corporate world can no longer bury its head in the sand.

Instead, it must rise in response to the big challenges the world faces—from poverty and human rights abuse, to global warming and water scarcity. To avoid being left behind forever, companies must change their course. But in doing so they must engage their customers effectively—a task that demands transparency, accountability, honesty and, above all else, fantastic communication and storytelling to bring them along for the ride.



At 
Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

 

Marketing

Are you striking the right tone?

Graham Jones 19th February 2018 — 5 mins read
A

fter all, I might be saying this with a smile on my face, in a light-hearted way so you’d know that I was mucking about. On the other hand, I might have a stern look, wagging my finger at you and making you realise I was rather forthright about this topic.

The written word can only communicate part of the way. Without vocal tone, facial expressions and body language, it’s all too easy to get the wrong end of the stick when we read something.

These days we write and read more than ever before. Emails, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs—the list goes on. Nowadays, the typical office worker actually writes around 20,000 words a week. That means you are writing the equivalent of a novel every month.

The result is that every office worker will have developed a style of their own; a way of writing that is unique to them. And therein lies the problem for business communication.

It means that the way in which one member of the team writes on social media, for instance, can be vastly different to the style used by another staffer. That leads to inconsistency among the readership and the followers; they are confused about your company’s personality.

Many firms realise this and so they develop a corporate style guide or tone of voice document. And that can often lead to another problem; the company’s communication on social media in particular is no longer human. Corporate style allows things to be consistent but it turns most text into boring, business-speak.

Companies are often afraid that if they allow their style to be more human they’ll be in danger of trivialising themselves on social media. They get a sense of the more human approach devaluing their operation.

These firms worry that you might get maverick behaviour, with staff saying things in all kinds of negative ways on Twitter or Facebook. They don’t want to be like Channel 4, for instance, that Tweeted “BREAKING: It's definitely better to be nice to people and not be a dick. We'll update you as and when we have more on this story.” Or, perhaps, the Tweet from KFC in Australia which said “Something hot and spicy is coming soon” above a picture of a woman looking down at a man’s genital area.




Social media activity like this seems fun and human, but it is the kind of tone of voice that puts off the corporate style police. That, though, is a problem. It means that millions of social media messages are just plain boring. People skim straight past them, meaning they are a complete waste of time for the companies in the first place.

So, is there a way out of this conundrum? How can your company come across as human without people going bananas?

One way is to train people in writing skills. Given that the typical office worker is producing a novel’s worth of material each month, it’s worthwhile taking stock and thinking “are they trained for that?” People get trained in the technical skills of using email, for instance, but how much training do people get for writing? These days, writing is one of the most common activities for office workers and few are trained in this skill.

A key feature of learning to write well is understanding how your material sounds, so that even though the reader cannot see your facial expressions they can still get a jolly good idea of your meaning through the way you use phrases, sentences and punctuation.

Staff that are well-trained in writing are going to be much less likely to make the mistakes of businesses trying—and failing—to strike that human tone on social media. That’s because trained writers tend to stop and think more before they commit finger to keyboard.

It’s also about seeing the reader in your mind’s eye. Professional writers visualise the people for which they are writing, rather than just focusing on the words. Skills like this can be taught and learned and can create a significant advantage on social media. That’s because, with everyone trained, the personality of the company can shine through and the maverick behaviour can be diminished.

Essential to getting it right is understanding your audience very well indeed. Taco Bell, for instance, does this brilliantly. Its social media posts are light, fun and humorous, reflecting the fact that what the company offers is a fast snack that is usually eaten socially.

Similarly, the airline JetBlue manages to strike a good balance between fun and being serious. It doesn’t trivialise air travel but it does emphasise that travelling itself should be fun and enjoyable. Its Twitter feed is consistent in that it contains a sprinkling of humour among the more serious tweets.

Another good example is the bookstore Waterstones. It provides informative social media posts as well as humour and conversation with its followers. It has a consistent tone that is light when needed and serious when talking about something that demands it. In other words, it understands the connection between the topic and the reader very well.

Fundamentally, what these companies share is a solid understanding of their readership. They may well be using trained writers, but their social media posts reveal that they truly understand their audience. You can only write in the right tone if you understand who is going to read your material and their motivations.

For some companies this will mean you can be light, fun and entertaining. For others it will mean that you need to be conversational and witty. And for a few it will mean you need to strike a balance between serious and light. The only “right answer” about tone of voice on the internet is “it depends”. It depends on your product, your sector and your audience. Two things will help you get this working properly—trained writers and a solid, well- researched understanding of your target audience. 


At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Graham Jones
19th February 2018 - 5 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.