Scandic Hotels in PR crisis

Businesses are doing everything to make as much money as possible but, most of them aren’t doing enough to keep their customers happy. This is not what they promise in their marketing and PR messages, is it?!

Expectedly and rightly so, businesses focus on creating positive publicity; but what they have fundamentally got wrong is keeping the customer in mind. Although, every single business says that they put their customers at the heart of every decision they make. They don’t mean that, simply because they don’t care about people. The only thing that matters to them is money! Money buys them everything. At least, this is what they want to think. But they’re wrong; because their money can’t buy them credibility and authority. They might be running a big business and they might have a lot of money; but they don’t have personality and genuine intentions.

A business is successful when it’s trustworthy and not when it shows a healthy P&L account. Successful businesses do business with a purpose beyond making profit; making an impact and creating value. Successful businesses care about the sustainability of their brand because they know, they can’t buy loyalty. Loyalty is not to be bought but to be earned; and this is what many businesses such as Scandic Hotels have yet to learn.

Scandic Hotels created PR crisis for the brand

Businesses are taking real money from real people. Thus, it’s absolutely reasonable to expect them deliver value and exceptional service. In fact, delivering an exceptional customer service is the least a business can do for its customers. This is particularly true in events and hospitality sectors. A classic example here is Scandic Hotels for failing to provide their customers with what they paid for, let alone to meet their expectations.

Below is a real situation in which Scandic Hotels chose to do the least in order to get away with their obligations.

A couple of guests faced an unarmed reception upon arrival at one of Scandic Hotels in Europe and they had to wait for a while before a receptionist showed up. It took the receptionist some time to check the guests in. The receptionist failed to give more than one key to the guests, despite the prearrangement.

The guests weren’t told anything about the hotel, how to get to their room and how to use the inclusive services. The guests found their way to their room but they were unable to connect to the WiFi, for which they had to go back to the reception, because the telephone inside their room didn’t work. In addition, the guests were unable to take a shower due to plumbing issues in the bathroom, and not the cleanest bathroom for a hotel like Scandic.

The guests were unable to speak to the hotel manager on the following day, due to their strict travelling plans. As you can imagine, business-people are quite busy but when they receive a bad service, they vote with their feet; but they also make sure to give feedback to their service provider. When the guests offered their feedback to the hotel manager via email, they were offered “a complimentary breakfast” if they book with that particular Scandic Hotels again in the future.

Since the guests didn’t take that offer, the manager in charge changed his tone:

The only positive thing in the second email from manager is the “thank you” bit for informing the hotel about the problem with the bathroom. And the hotel chose to put a closure to this matter and never contacted the guests; despite the fact the guests replied to the email above and asked for a response.

Here are just a few more examples to see how badly Scandic Hotels is handling customer service:

As you can see Scandic Hotels chose to ignore every customer after a couple of messages. What do you call this?

Where Scandic Hotels should look to for inspiration

On the other hand, Novotel, part of Accor Hotels, is a great example when it comes to effective communication. And if we look at businesses like BA and KLM, they’re pioneering corporate communications. They’ve been integrating social media communications with their CRM systems to manage their customer expectations. They’ve created a collaborative internal communication culture and built a strong relationship with their audience. They truly engage with their community, rather than trying to be in “control” of conversations.

Being obsessed with control can have irreparable consequences to reputation and Scandic Hotels knows this very well because they’ve lost their appeal and failed to prove their relevancy to professional business-people. This is alarming to see how customer service is undermined by hotels such as Scandic Hotels at a time when it (customer service) makes or brakes the strategic growth and storytelling agenda.

MassChallenge Gave £500,000 Away in No-Equity Grants

Over 700 members of the London startup community gathered on Thursday 22 October 2015 to celebrate entrepreneurship at the first ever MassChallenge UK Awards Ceremony and Fundraiser. The event featured a showcase of the 90 MassChallenge UK startups, pitches from the Top 26, and speeches from Thomasina Miers, Cofounder and Executive Chef of Wahaca, and Azmat Yusuf, CEO and Founder of Citymapper.

Sinclair Fire“Our first year in London has been a huge success and tonight is the culmination of the hard work of our team, mentors and most importantly, our startups,” said MassChallenge CEO and Founder John Harthorne. “This year has set a solid foundation for growth and I look forward to great progress in the years to come.”

The 90 startups from MassChallenge UK now join an esteemed group of alumni, which includes 835 companies from around the world. Since 2010, startups accelerated by MassChallenge have raised $1.1 billion in funding, generated $520 million in revenue and created 6,500 jobs.

10 Smarter Steps for Crisis Communications Management

The future is all about shared experience.Brands are under an increased pressure for total transparency by both their customers and the media. The entire decision making process is changing or in fact it has changed due to the power of social media.

Social Media_MeltwaterMeltwater, a Norwegian media intelligence business, believes there is no space to hide in the world of social media and brands should use media intelligence to gather outside insight; in order to remain in control of their reputation.

Heidi Myers, head of marketing for Meltwater said in her presentation about crisis management at Social Media Week in London on 16 September 2015 that smarter crisis communications plan includes crisis management plan on social media.

Media Intelligence_Meltwater

Media intelligence can serve brands well any day of the week but during a crisis it is indispensable in particular on social media; the virtual world that is being used for everything both by brands and their audience. As a result, any friction can spark a crisis in this virtual world with real and costly effects. However Heidi of Meltwater shared her opinion upon crisis management “people have short attention span” and “you can walk away from unproductive conversations”.

Meltwater has a 10 step guide to a smarter crisis management communications:

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As brands are often the first who know crisis is building; they therefor should be the first to respond and assure their audience that the right set of actions will be taken. Maybe the TART framework can be used as a guide.

Last but not least, bands must be beware of conversations that don’t allow critique or dissenting voices; therefore they must always listen and genuinely show authenticity in all aspects of their communications. There is no way to get rid of the digital breadcrumbs.

More mums are becoming entrepreneurs in the UK

63% of working mums in the UK have considered creating their own business. 21% of whom are interestingly in the early stages of setting up their startup and the rest are doing their research by looking at business ideas and plans.

Although 50% of those mums chose to experience the world of startup still don’t have an idea on the kind of business they could set up; but they are strong and exploring their options in the world of opportunities out there.

65% of these brave mums still need access to business funding and 52% need help with their business plan; but it is refreshing to to see mums aren’t afraid of getting out of their comfort zone.

working mums

The pic is from: theselfemployed.com

Few facts about social media

LinkedIn stopped supporting hashtags on its platform about 3 months ago but, many people are still including hashtags in their LinkedIn updates. I first spoke about this in an event in Denmark back in July and then in a conversation with the CEO of Havas Media, Paul Frampton; who has influence over all aspects of media planning in the UK. I certainly enjoy our conversations about data, social media and DOOH.

Surprisingly, those in senior social media positions and user experience profession are those who still include hashtags in their LinkedIn updates. This indicates how far away these individuals who are representing brands and agencies are from being relevant and meaningful in their communications.

On a separate note, but quite relevant to the conversation, there are baby boomers on Twitter and LinkedIn calling themselves ‘digital native’; without actually knowing what digital native means. These digital media professionals also confuse the concept of native advertising and often use the term in a very wrong context.

digital native

By listening to conversations on social media and in related industry events you’ll surprise yourself to learn, many believe native advertising is the same as social media advertising; something Jan Rezab of Socialbakers nicely touched in one of his tweets recently.

Native Advertising

Isn’t really about the time to get back to basics and communicate in plain English?

How to implement SEO on a budget

Many businesses have invested a lot of time and money in SEO; because they of course realise the benefits and impact it has on their business. SEO is not a complicated exercise; only if businesses play by the rules of search engines to begin with. However it is important to remember there’s more to SEO than the technology itself; and that is people. According to Jo Turnbull, an international SEO Consultant and founder of Search London (one of the most successful communities of SEO leaders in London), any business with any budget can do SEO. Jo believes businesses can implement SEO successfully and on budget through building relationships with people; while maximising their offline effort and certainly creating timely content. Jörgen Sundberg, CEO of Link Humans and founder of Social Media London, also is a believer of relationship building and adding value to your targeted community.

Jörgen always recommends his clients and friends create content that is not time-bound. This simple but effective advice helps content marketing and SEO people to stay in the forefront of minds. At the first glance it all seems common sense but, regular algorithm updates by major search engines, such as Google Panda Update, indicates otherwise. By far, many businesses put all their eggs on the gaming up the technology basket and nothing on the customer relationship building basket; what modern SEO seems to be all about.

Businesses may wish to start thinking more as humans and acknowledge the impact people have on their online presence and ranking on search engines. Consequently, it may be fair to say, SEO has one or two things to do with word of mouth; and it is not just about the tech but also about personality and attitude. Just to put this in context and prove the fact that SEO is powerful only with human touch; it is worth spending few minutes going through ‘how to implement SEO on a budget’ presentation:

Maria Sharapova wants you eat more sweets

Maria Sharapova

Too many people spend too much time on developing strategy but too little on understanding the needs and psychology of their audience; in order to create meaningful and trustworthy dialogue within their community. Unfortunately celebrities and even sports “icons” endorse or even set up their own businesses that they personally don’t believe in. They just use their “influence” to make money; and this is against the principles of ethics and authenticity. For example, Maria Sharapova, apparently a tennis star, set up a pop up sweet shop in Wimbledon targeting people, including children, living, working and going to Wimbledon for watching matches.

What Maria Sharapova and her PR team are trying to do is to make as much money as they can by selling high in sugar sweets to people; just in the midst of serious campaigns against sugary food and snack in the UK. This action by the tennis star deems to be taking advantage of the “popularity” she has gained in the world of sport to sell the public and their children stuff that she wouldn’t be consuming herself. This behaviour is certainly open to interpretation. One may even argue that Maria Sharapova is deliberating misleading the public by selling them sweets with high sugar level; while she is training few hours a day.

Such approach to branding is too old fashion and it is the time for those aiming at setting up a business to act differently. The public are savvy these days and rightly question the credibility and believability of the brand owners; so brands can no longer afford underestimate the intelligence of people. Since, Maria Sharapova has certainly plans for her pop up sweet shop, which seems has undermined and underestimated the investments made in the public health research; and the need for cut in sugar level from the food and snacks sold to the public. The BBC News found Maria Sharapova’s pop up candy shop has online presence as well as operations in other physical locations. The BBC News interviewed the public in and around Wimbledon and almost everyone is shocked to see such business is created by Maria Sharapova.

Branding is no longer, and in fact it has never been, about an opportunity to expose people with logos and more importantly with messages which can be questioned under the principles of authenticity and transparency. Targeting children, either through direct or indirect approaches, can be a lucrative business but due to certain rules and regulations as well as concerns over health and obesity; it can be challenging. OF course there is nothing wrong with selling sweets but as one may argue this water is too hot for her own good.

Branding has always been about creating a loyal customer base; advocates who talk about your brand wherever; AKA doing your marketing as opposed to attract criticism. Maria Sharapova’s spokesperson however said to the BBC News that the sweets are high quality but did not mention anything with regards to the sugar level. Does this sweet business founded by Maria Sharapova appear trustworthy and sustainable to you?

You don’t have the right to know; I have the right to be forgotten

Saying and publishing untrue statements about someone or an organisation has always been immoral and in many cases in many countries, illegal. People now have the right to be “forgotten” by search engines; such as Google and Yahoo!. This means anyone or any organisation doesn’t like what they see in the search result, they can make a request to remove such information. This however is not as simple and straightforward as it may sound; because the search engine has to authenticate “take down” requests to ensure they are speaking with the right person.

As it is evident, this can be an expensive operation for search engines and a time consuming process for those wishing to be “forgotten” because they think it is their right; but how about the right of knowing? If few argue about the right to be forgotten; there’s a strong counter-argument to be remembered; the right to know. Needless to say, even under the new ruling of being forgotten on the search engines, you can still find the content you are looking for; you just need to search in social media and blogger sphere or message your contacts on Whatsapp, Viber, Wechat etc.

So, one may ask, who will be funding the operation and how the costs are going to be justifies in the days where economic growth is yet to be sustainable. This table shows just an estimate of the weekly costs to every search engine in EU alone; if the average hourly wage is assumed £10:

Google, Net Neutrality, social media, search engines, SEO, Bing, Yahoo, PPC, PR, Publicity, PR, Public Relations, Europe, EU

It is however important to mention that each case has to be reviewed by the legal and senior staff within each search engine; and that would possibly bring the weekly costs to something between £800k to £1m for every search engine. So, who would fund this exercise and where they get the money from?

Being forgotten on the search engines is just about certain links being removed from the public eye, not the actual content; because search engines don’t own the contents that appear in the search results when one is searching for specific information. Accordingly, this move is highly likely to be challenged and possibly ruled to be “forgotten”; because it will harm more than any good to the society.

Maybe it’s worth mentioning, the ruling is currently applicable to the search engines but, social media is next; as social media is the biggest search engine and more importantly it is in real time. Owners of search engines are using social media as source of information; they even invested a lot of money in social media and blogging platforms such as Google Plus or G+, Google Hangout, Blogger and Tumblr etc.

Social media, unlike search engines, show the actual content as well as links for further reading; the new ruling either has a flaw or left a loophole. According to Science Daily, over 90% of the world’s data has been produced in the last two years. There are over 500 million tweets posted on Twitter everyday or almost 6,000 tweets every second; this is while Facebook receives over 60 million updates on a daily basis. If we take all updates on all other social media channels, the overall figure will become astronomical; therefore the next ruling might be removing content from social media platforms.

right to be forgotten, social media, net neutrality, pr, public relations, eu, europe21st century is meant to be all about transparency and a sweet goodbye to all sort of manipulations such as emotional intelligence; which used to appear in form of “justifying” and “proving”. Links may get removed from search engines and social media is highly likely to be the next in the censorship line; but how about news websites, blogs, investigative journalism and citizen journalism?

Engage to promote your best content

The nature of marketing communication has changed and is changing; thanks to savvier audience and the advancement in technology. Brands and agencies have been trying to change behaviour and maximise revenue through creating needs; while attracting attention through advertising and certain PR techniques. Social media and mobile are now challenging the traditional techniques to some extent.

Luckily we’re living in a world where finding information is very easy; we can follow the news on Twitter and follow thought leaders; while keeping up to date with stuff interest us on Instagram. Social media changed everything for businesses around the world and analytics software businesses such Socialbakers made it their business to provide insights for brands to make sensible decisions using social media; would it be for CSR, PR, customer service or marketing.

Socialbakers invited some of the world’s leading brands to speak in Engage London 2014; a conference described as ‘for social marketers delivered by social marketers’.

Socialbakers, Engage 2014, Engage London, Engage2014

Engage2014, Engage London 2014, Socialbakers, social media, social business, Twitter

What truly differentiates Engage 2014 is the emphasis on ‘insights’ into what makes successful social marketing and the importance of ‘social data’. This conference is the place where doers and strategic thinkers will get together to engage and share wisdom; because they know engaging the right people always help you promoting your best content.

How basic human responses can build you a strong brand

It is important to remember, email is a form of communication and communication is a two way street; where meaningfulness and relevancy are the parameters to success.

People are familiar with cheesy terms some marketers use to “capture” attention and increase open rates. It is quite surprising to see some marketers get excited by open rate alone and disregard actions such as report the sender as spam, delete the email straight after opening it, unsubscribe and even complain about on social media by annoyed targeted email recipients.

Of course classic email marketing mistakes are still around, excessive use of bold letters, tacky colours, spelling mistakes, broken links, capital letters and exclamation mark. We see all these happening since email has become an official mode of communication and marketing; maybe it is quite harsh to expect seeing them all disappear overnight. But this is not the point of this article, the point of this article is to know your customers and prospects very well; buying database and pray and spray may not be the most efficient and sufficient way of running sustainable marketing campaigns. Such activities may even harm the brand image and its market position in long run; like the old school SEO activities; which all faced sanctions and penalties by Google.

In-depth understanding of consumer behaviour and psychology is the prerequisite to planning for an effective email marketing campaign and strategic execution of plans. People are busy these days and receive tens of emails everyday; they tend to prioritise and open emails from those they know and trust. So, it is not enough to have good content, it is crucial to build trust with people, your audience; and that can begin with your email subject line or simple but meaningful social media updates. Although email and social media are not games but the name of the game is optimisation. All aspects of business communication activities, including PR and SEO, go hand in hand; in particular email and social media. Thus, there is great power in optimising subject lines; this is the first impression that your email communication will make.

People tend to read email subject lines and judge the content; therefore creativity and relevancy of the subject line content is another important task in creating an email marketing campaign that drives result and ROI. So, the shorter and more meaningful the subject line the more chances for emails to be read; exactly like what editors at newspapers do when creating headlines for their stories and news.

Although traditionally everyone believes content is king but, it is important to realise purposeful and meaningful conversations upon communicating content can and will add value and give authority to the king. Therefore, creating context to tell your story through your content is crucial; this is the only sustainable way that you see your content, either in form of email or social media updates, go viral. Simply because your audience see value in consuming your content; this not only multiplies the chances of shareability of your content but also earns you trust and market credibility.

It is always great to keep up with your industry benchmarks about email marketing, open rates, response rates; but also important to do your own analysis on your own email marketing campaigns. This will help you to fully understand your audience psychology, behaviour, attitude and personality; factors that help you understand why and how they interact with your stories. Needless to say how important it is to have clean databases for email marketing; this will not only help you target effectively but also help you to increase your open rate, CTR; which will lead to favourable responses and actions.

The future of sourcing is engagement, technology made it really simple to engage with your audience at all times; taking advantage of this golden opportunity will lead you to building a strong and sustainable brand. This can start from the moment your email hits your recipients’ Inbox folder or you receive a question on Twitter; your priority must be your customers not your time.