Category Archives: Strategy

Brands in Trauma: Oscars 2022

The Academy Awards are an annual industry awards night – an event on the social calendar of some of the highest mediated human products in the world: Hollywood Actors.

The 2022 Awards ceremony proved a timely reminder of the power of the stories we tell ourselves, each other and the organisation’s role in aligning issues to action as they escalate to crisis.

UNDERSTANDING THE ENVIRONMENT

The Academy Awards are traditionally the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science‘s ‘Night of Nights’.

An industry celebration, that is preceeded by months of lobbying the people, the performances, the music and the final edits as a whole into the hearts and minds of the judges.

In a process reminiscent of the way politicians pitch themselves to the electorate or international governments justify their response to ‘threats’, The Oscars is the culmination of all of those individual and team efforts being celebrated by the community physically (mediated event).

A place in time where peer recognition is a featured objective across all contributions to the art of storytelling in variant forms and public declaration (Winner/ Nominee).

Where categories matter, success is tangible and economically rewarded via a piece of gold (an Oscar’s statue), resulting in heightened levels of social and economic capital bestowed upon the recipient.

THE EVENT

The 2022 event kicked off with no significant departures from recent history in the sense it celebrated all elements of performance – acting, dancing, singing – by the talented and seasoned industry performers.

There were red carpet fashions and commentary, comedian hosts and musical performances.

As always, there were tributes paid to those passed, as well as, those who continue to contribute despite their personal challenges.

Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli providing a timely reminder of the way to respect the process and each other. Legends of the Arts old and new, supporting peers through performance missteps with kindness and grace, in five words.

Then there was the Heckler…

2022 Nominee Will Smith, a professional performer (TV and film) dressed for the event by Dolce & Gabbana (promoted on his social media accounts prior to the event) physically and verbally assaulting a comedian during a live performance in which he promoted himself from audience member to speaking part.

The comedian employed for the night by The Academy to present the award for Best Documentary Feature was Chris Rock.

Rock is a professional performer (stage, TV and film) and given he was ‘at work’ on stage, his response to being heckled was as expected by a seasoned professional… however, the heckle came AFTER the physical assault.

The exchange between Smith and Rock is interesting for what it reveals about the impact of self narratives and environmental triggers on social behaviour and socialised modes of engagement.

THE WORKPLACE ASSAULT

Smith laughed along at the GI Jane comment at first, until he saw his wife’s displeasure.

Then he got physical and verbally abusive – repeatedly.

It is worthwhile to note here, The Academy Awards is the equivalent of a work function for BOTH of these men.

One acting professionally, the other one not.

THE INCIDENT

Additionally, it is highly plausible Rock’s script was cleared by the show’s producers prior.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

It has been reported that Smith was asked to leave the Dolby Theatre, but apparently refused. All of which is yet to be verified publically.

In the business, this is what we call a Crisis Management failure of epic proportions.

In proceeding with the schedule as planned, and not being agile enough on the ground at the event, the organisation (The Academy) empowered Smith.

Accordingly, Smith ‘set the narrative’ to be adopted by the media reporting on it, rather than the story of how The Academy fulfilled their position as a leader of best practice in the Industry.

Security should have restricted unscripted access to the stage.

Having failed to secure the stage, they should have escorted and detained Smith pending the arrival of the authorities.

The questions to ask of the organisation is: Why didn’t they?

The Academy needed to align their actions with their words on social media.

Their inaction at the time of the incident effectively negated any indignation they showed in social media posts.

Instead, they let a physical assault by one member fall through the cracks rather than one to be handled by security and then the relevant authorities.

By giving Chris Rock’s attacker their highest accolade – the title of winner – The Academy also gave him a global platform in which to celebrate and credit his behaviour – past and present – through a constructed narrative and thus dividing their members.

WHY AGILITY IS THE REAL AWARD WINNER

When caught off guard by unscripted moments, producers have to make split second decisions with the information they are given and the intelligence available to them.

Unfortunately for Will Packer, the producer of the 94th Academy awards, this was his first Academy Awards show and he had two legends of the Arts, members of the Academy, a presenter and soon-to-be award winner, in a physical altercation on stage during a live global (and sponsored) broadcast.

In event production and producing terms, this is a perfect storm, for even the most seasoned professional.

However, THIS moment screamed something more than the insult of a comedic pun.

There was a story, that obviously very few were briefed on.

COMMUNICATIONS IS THE KEY

When ‘the shit hits the fan’ (as we say Down Under) response time contracts to now not later.

As a leader, your ability to ’make sense’ and ‘act in knowledge’ relies on your ability to put yourself, your role and your concerns aside, your ability to access ’the facts’ as best known to all and invariably, the quality of both your counsel and communications.

If their social media posts are anything to go by, The Academy was having the right discussions they simply failed to align the words of the organisation to their public facing actions.

THE ABUSER IS GIVEN THE MICROPHONE

Unsurprisingly, Smith rationalised his actions by drawing comparison’s between his actions at the event and those of his character as ‘a fierce defender of his family’.

A narrative swallowed by some of those in the room who cheered but seemingly not, from those present who didn’t need (nor want) anything from him.

AND THE GOLD

As anyone who feels they’ve ‘beaten the system’ Smith basked in the accolades and clung to the gold…

… seemingly tone deaf to the impact of his behaviour on the next generation. His offspring – also a performer – condoning the physical assault and verbal abuse in response to a verbal insult.

Self narratives are important, both internally and externally.

I won’t chastise the Academy award winner for casting himself as the lead antagonist during a mediated performance by a peer, for I am reminded of Ekhardt Tolle’s concept of pain-body.

WHEN PAIN MANIFESTS AS ANGER

Where there is anger there is pain underneath and this is true for EVERYONE – irrespective of the social profile of your job or the size of your bank account.

TRAUMA IS CYCLICAL

Trauma produces trauma – both internally and externally.

Socially we will follow and perpetuate trauma, if we rationalise the narrative and fail to heal from within.

These are the real lessons from the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony for the individual brands.

They also provide a looking glass through which we are able to glimpse the power of the alpha to dominate and lead a mob.

How inaction by the organisation (and peers) in the room at the time enabled the silent mob to remain inactive.

Leaving the target of the assault to weigh the consequences of his reaction at a workplace event while continuing with his presenting duties.

It also provides real insight into how rationalising the narrative has led to larger-scale atrocities being perpetuated throughout history.

Just imagine if we found our voice in the moment, like Denzel.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…

Imagine if Will had taken Jada’s lead – visibly displeased but dignified in her seat – we might be talking about the Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary feature – the award Chris Rock was presenting – Questlove’s Summer of Soul.

FB shows it’s claws

Google and Facebook are two Artificial Intelligence behemoths.

To them, we are data points and have been for the better part of two decades.

There is nothing that we think, do, say or act that they don’t have a detailed account of somewhere in the abyss of data that is ‘the cloud’.

So as the Australian Government leads the first real push back on these artificial intelligence (don’t be distracted by the marketing term social networking) companies, we have real insight into the intent of the organisations.

Now while the ACCC approach wasn’t the most refined. It was an unprecedented approach that sort to protect Australian interests online.

The response of the two organisations to the proposed News Media Bargaining Code was telling indeed.

Alphabet (on behalf of an all too arrogant Google Australia) could work with the concerns and come out in support of proactively nurturing locally produced news content.

Facebook, like all great white entities of entitlement, pulled it’s service without prior warning.

In a complete show of disregard let alone respect for the Australian community who have so loyally supported the business since its inception.

So if we’re smart, the question we should be asking:

Is Facebook an essential business need?

While that will take some habit breaking and reshaping across both the facebook and INSTAGRAM platforms, it might be a long overdue worthy consideration.

Facebook dropping the emergency services pages this morning – as part of their decision to cease providing Australians (both individual citizens and publishers) access to news content, following the new media laws coming into effect overnight, is exactly the type of ‘big end of town’ play that media organisations have been doing to advertisers for years.

But they don’t just cut news services.

Bloggers will no longer be able to share their musings via the FB related platforms.

What’s great about it (if you choose to think outside the square), is social media managers and their superiors might actually see how they have been building their brand and adding VALUE to another entities asset ALL THIS TIME. for them to SELL BACK TO THEM!

Question is, will they be ballsy enough to say NO MORE and invest capital in building self managed and controlled assets, trusting in their own capacity and knowledge of market to amplify their messages effectively and efficiently in favour of the convenience of contrived community…?

Wake Up People! This is your time to REALLY shine!

I double dare ALL media and marketing managers to Tell Facebook to f*ck Off. To cut the necessity of them from their advertising budgets and support Australian grown media.

Why?

We’ve all given Facebook enough data these past 17 years.

They’ve got more than enough info on how we think, feel and do than they could ever use.

So back yourselves, get creative and stop relying on the convenience of the Facebook algorithm.

Build your own assets and insulate your business – for the first time in a couple of decades!

To those of you who find this a bitter pill to swallow… comment below so we can engage in informed and respectful debate.

Otherwise, it can be assumed you agree with me.

#ThereisNoSuchThingasSustainedOrganicFacebookGrowth #PayToPlay

#ShortTermPain for LongTermGain

#ThankYouFacebook

It’s time to re-think your approach to Social.

I spent a day with some of the brightest young minds in advertising last week.

The similarities

All were fabulous, capable, intelligent, hard-working ‘go-getters’. All were running some of the better social media campaigns in Australia.

Some were from boutique agencies doing really cool stuff, others had evolved to freelancers, some were in-house marketers, while others were clinging lovingly to the structural ropes at some of Australia’s biggest agencies.

All were social coordinators, social leaders, the agencies’ ‘social experts’.

Yet, throughout the course of the day, I felt myself go through all the stages of grief.

I took the next day off to get my head back into production mode and (as luck would have it) I was surrounded by social marketing and social media practitioners who also shattered my new media soul into a thousand pieces when they started telling me How2 Social through buzz phrases, which included (but painfully was not limited to) ‘personal brand’ in the same breath as ‘authenticity’ and ‘social measurement’ as Facebook metrics.

Over two separate days in two completely different environments, my grief was confounded.

Why?

In the short space of two days, it became abundantly clear that current practice is merely a hybrid of the platform ‘certified’ sales pitches. A regurgitation and adaption of the papers we were writing and the presentations we were giving back in 2012…

OVER FIVE YEARS AGO!

(and yes, I know I’m screaming, but seriously…?!)

Discussions around social media have traditionally been driven by the available technology, or social community management issues that have arisen through the event of participation.

Traditionally, advertising and media agencies have worked behind a thin veil of creative agency presenting ‘the solution’ as the requisite bridge between product/ sterile company and desired consumer.

Sadly however, a large percentage of Advertising, PR, Communications and Media Agencies are entrenched in outdated business practice when it comes to production for and distribution on social.

If these company representatives are anything to go by, even the agencies who have re-badged their Art Director to Creative Lead are missing the point somewhat entirely!

This only compounds my grief as Australian agencies should be leading the global creative charge in this space (and no don’t point me to the self-congratulatory industry statues corporations spend millions to win each year).

Creatives have the opportunity to lead, rather than dwell.

Directors have the opportunity to integrate and showcase, rather than merely direct traffic.

Oh.. and to the Preditors (the hybrid being that is both producer and editor) let’s make a concerted effort to lose the jargon.

It’s not about what you call yourself, it’s what you say and do that drives impact.

How do I shut down Twitter?

The mere question rings alarm bells.

Moreso when reports out of the recent HMV experience suggest they were the words of HMV’s marketing director as HMV’s official twitter account was hijacked by disgruntled staff.

I’m no lawyer, but there is a reason internal communications are structured and handled differently than its external counterpart. There are legal, political and economic repercussions for businesses, hence why corporate messages are often ‘crafted’ and ‘approved’.

Now before you get all indignant about ethics and freedom of speech, it is timely to remember these are common, respected practices and behaviours of business men and women (of all ages) within the global business community.

However, for the rest of corporate Australia (and elsewhere) now is not the time to look down your nose at HMV management or their disgruntled staff and keen tweeters (I’m sure HR and engaged lawyers will cover that debate sufficiently).

It is however, time for management the world over to do an audit of strategic web-based marketing communications operations, focusing on process, procedures and governance.

Not sure where to start?

1.Start by acknowledging a title doesn’t determine superior knowledge. While it should reflect experience, in the constantly evolving world of ICT communication (embodying web-based, digital and social communications) a few conferences, or campaigns, an expert, it does not you make. (Not sure why, but Yoda seemed appropriate all of a sudden). Most companies are placing juniors in charge of digital communications (web and social media). I cringe every time a first or second year student seeks guidance for a job interview in social media which starts with: ‘how do I use it for business’ only to tell me the following week they are now the social media manager!

The savvy traditional marketing communications ‘experts’ (a term I cringe at whenever I hear it) are ‘dipping their toe in’, and playing it safe by applying the age old ‘suck and see method’ based on hunches, recommendations and gut instinct. When in doubt, this is a sensible, albeit soon to be dated approach (especially, if they’re outsourcing it!). More on that later…

2. Ask yourself, do I know who we (brand/ business) are?
That’s right, take it back to basics and ask yourself point blank, do I know who we (brand/ business/ team) are? You’d be stunned by how many successful business practitioners (and their staff) have NO IDEA how to answer this question comprehensively and succinctly.
If you’ve just discovered you’re one of them, then you have you’re opening question to your senior management team brainstorm right there.

3. Where are your team members in the great cycle that posits their professional life with your business/brand life cycle. Are they complimentary? Where are the gaps? Opportunities for growth? How and where can you best provide the necessary supports to lift your team as individuals as well as, a well-oiled marcomms machine to support your business…?

4. If you’re one of the few who answered question #2 with relative ease, then congratulations. You’re off to a great start. As the lead executive, ask yourself how you communicate down through your team, department, business and across key target markets and media. Be sure to identify the key points of variations within those communications, your teams’ response (as individuals and a group) and where they may be improved upon.

This step takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve realised you’re moving a littler slower all of a sudden…

As senior leaders, this is actually our FIRST real step in the process. It’s the one that exposes whether we have the entrepreneurial mindset that enables agility in strategic thinking and multi-channel campaign design. Thinking that drives market-leading specialists. It also enables clear aims, researched objectives and practical processes to be successfully married to the prerequisite sense and intrinsic response.

This is skill that in acquisition, is challenging and demanding in the most honest of ways. Don’t worry, if it doesn’t come straight away. It’s a skill that develops overtime.

A process that enables you as a professional to reflect on how you can better contribute to the success of your team and your business through applying thought leadership to management practice. A process that does not include (at any time) the question: How do I shut down anything.

Why? Because you saw the potential problem before it had the chance to arise.

Future Social Government, Canberra, Australia

The last time I spoke about sport and social media, Black Caviar provided the living breathing example of how great sports brands can tweet.

Today, Quade Cooper’s weekend tweets provided a great example of twi-versations that occur during an employer/ employee divide.

Noone likes an unhappy workplace, however, two tweets can say a lot about a person and a company.

While ‘toxic’ may be an apt description of any organisational approach that uses traditional media management methodologies to ‘manage’ it’s new media relations…

The reality is, social technologies require a socialised approach to communications.

Irrespective of whether the organisation is using them or not,the employee is, and in Cooper’s case, actually leveraging the technology the way it was intended.

Could this be the ‘nudge’ Australian Rugby needs to finally heed the call and develop a comprehensive governance framework (think widely distributed social media guidelines, policy and contracts) for their employees both on and off the pitch around social technologies..? Let’s hope so.

Why? Because if Quade Cooper leaves rugby, he’ll also take over 580,000 Twitter ‘followers’ with him, and that’s just stating the bleeding obvious. #FoodForThought

Cybermedicine Symposia

Following an invitation from Clinical director and obstetrician to the rugby stars, Dr Vijay Roach, I recently presented a lecture on social media and medicine at the Northern Clinical School, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney Australia.

Here are a copy of the slides presented


As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me, should you have any questions.

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