It is absolutely inevitable that there will be protests at Margaret Thatcher's funeral. She polarised people in life and the same will be true of her death - which is why I think the whole notion of the 'pomp and circumstance' farewell she is being given (at huge expense, albeit shared between the British taxpayer and her estate) is a complete nonsense.
I was a young reporter when she came to power and that election was the first I ever covered. In the months and years that followed, I covered the riots, the job losses, the broken dreams and circumstances of many, many British people and watched as those more fortunately placed in the Thatcherite system did exceptionally well.
She was an astute politician, well served by her public relations practitioners of the time and her staunch-but-scary Chief Press Secretary Sir Bernard Ingham. Following her death, many people have remarked that Margaret Thatcher genuinely loved the country that she served. Trouble was, she never really seemed to like the real flesh-and-blood people of Britain very much at all. And it will be those people, the ones who watched their lives and livelihoods crumble to dust under her reign, who will turn their backs on the funeral cortege as it rumbles through London beneath a silent Big Ben.
She spoke a great deal about prudence in her time. A private funeral would have been a more prudent choice.
Imagine it is this time next year. Or even the year after when all the bugs are ironed out of the new web-enabled devices that will pop into Christmas stockings this December. Your organisation has some visitors arrive. They are all wearing Google Glass. What do you do? Ask them to remove their eyewear or accept that your interactions are likely to be live-streamed or captured on video to be shared with their stakeholders?
Or you're serving in a restaurant. The customers come in, again, with wearable transmitting devices. Do you quietly present them with their meal or, as was the case last year, create a scene that ends in physical assault because the augmented-reality digital eye-wear cannot be removed?
In the same way that ten years ago the developments on the web disrupted the way we communicate and interact with others, bringing us to today's point of ubiquitous mobile engagement, the next wave of wearable (or implanted) devices will change forever not just the way we communicate, but the way we live. I wonder how many people, organisations, businesses and governments are ready for this shift?
There are countless scenarios that can be conjured when you think about the effect the next wave technologies will have on our lives and, from a professional standpoint, they are scenarios that all public relations and communication practitioners should be rehearsing before they find themselves, and their organisations, 'always on'. It is a big leap for most - a leap highlighted by the recent instruction to journalists not to tweet from a press conference. Even today this is a redundant instruction, but how would the organisation concerned react to the press conference being live streamed through a device such as Glass? The journalist attends a press conference as the representative of others. The expected delay between briefing and publication is the assumption of the host, based on older communication speeds and use of technology. As a journalist, my expectation would be to get the information back as soon as possible, and, if that means as it happens, then all the better.
The reality is not what shall we do if this happens, it is actually what are we going to do when this happens - and that 'when' is just around the corner. It's not just Google Glass either. Many companies are working on wearable devices and the next 'next wave' is likely to include invisi-wear, such as contact lenses, implants and the like. Unlike today when people at least have to speak to their phone, pretty soon you simply won't know who is communicating 'elsewhere' when you meet as the process will be seamless and simultaneous.
I meet with a lot of people who debate and discuss their 'social media strategy'. Frequently it revolves around tactics on the big networks - Facebook, Twitter and the like rather than creating a digital strategy that underpins their organisational and communcation goals. Rarely does it include Google+ or Hangouts and it inevitably involves a discussion around how to convince the organisation involved that today's communication channels are chaotic, concurrent, confused and cannot be controlled.
Over the last ten to twelve years I've said many times that the available technologies we have at our disposal don't simply transform the way we communicate - they transform the organisations themselves. That's where the biggest changes occur. Individuals and organisations that meet with success in social communication have inevitably undergone this transformative process from the inside out. They have a clear understanding of their role, provision or service, they have identified the communities that are critical to their licence to operate then set about forming networks of engagement mutually beneficial for all those involved. Yet even those organisations will find themselves disturbed once again by the device-shifts ahead as the reality of what we do rather than what we say becomes the primary organisational asset it should have always been.
As a matter of urgency, I would hope that practitioners convince their organisations to focus on their inner workings and deliverables. To focus on their employees and how to equip them to be 'always on'. On their suppliers and customers and agreed levels of acceptable shareability.
As the mobile phone is replaced in its ubiquity by the wearable or implanted device the question every public relations professional should be asking is this: how ready are you for the technology waiting around the corner and the change it will bring to your organisation?
I thought it was a hoax when I first read the tweets from journalists at the State Services Commission press conference today - they had, apparently, been banned from tweeting. Then, later this afternoon, out came the story via the Herald and Newstalk ZB that this had, indeed, been the case.
It is beyond me that those in charge of this press conference could be so impossibly behind the times. Aside from demonstrating a complete lack of understanding as to mainstream media operation, how social networks, particularly Twitter, break and drive the news, not to mention the seismic culture shift of the last ten years, surely common sense would tell you that to 'ban' journalists from doing anything when you've called them together is a bit like the old red rag to a bull?
A few years ago, New Zealand's State Services Commission were actually quite innovative when it came to social and digital policy. Obviously something has gone wrong - very wrong - for this to have happened today. I would recommend a refresher course in basic communication management along with a PR101 session for all those involved.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Committee on Food Security met in Rome. Among the many grave warnings they issued was one concerning the effect of extreme weather on the United States' crops and grain reserves - extreme weather that, when described, was a lot like today's Hurricane Sandy.
A combination of rising food prices, extreme weather, falling grain stocks and overconsumption has led to the warnings that we will all face a global food crisis in 2013. The UK's Guardian newspaper had the most rounded report but there was slim coverage of this critical subject to be found elsewhere.
The official reports from the CFS meeting - here - include strong recommendations that governments must ensure that social protection is available for citizens to ensure an adequate supply of food and nutrition. All well and good - but social protection measures need planning now, not when we get into 2013 and find our cupboards bare or discover that the price of basic foodstuffs is so high it cannot be purchased.
Over the last four days, we have seen presidents and candidates, mayors and congressmen urge people to safety, told them to listen, told them that danger was coming. Hopefully, the result of the warnings will be that loss of life and injuries are kept to a minimum. Without the warnings - and the necessary actions being taken - it would be a very different and far more tragic story.
Here, on the doorstep of 2013, should there not be similar warnings about the oncoming problems with food pricing and availability? Will we see social protection programmes established to help those who will, without doubt, find themselves in direst need? Somehow I think not.
In New Zealand we currently have a government that has a slash-and-burn approach to any policy or provision that smacks of social justice or social protection, with disenfranchised young people unable to get the support they need and families struggling in difficult economic circumstances faced with losing what little support they have. We are not alone in this with millions around the world dealing with austerity measures, hardship and - right this minute - food crises of their own.
A long time ago, politics and government became about power and holding on to power. Protecting power so political parties could continue on their particular ideological way. If, as a global society, we are going to tackle the real and common problems we all face - this year, next year and the years beyond - then political protectionism has to stop and be replaced with social protection for the people, by the people.
In 2008, I highlighted some of the problems ahead with regard to food poverty and food shortages. That's four years ago and nothing has improved. My very real concern is that it is starting to look like it's too late to take cover on this one.
Stumbled over this video from Altaeros Energies today. It's a few months old and I can't track the company down via its website (which is only returning cached results at the moment, so it could be a start-up still starting-up) but I thought the innovation was exciting. I also thought it would have enormous potential to help in certain types of disaster situations, given its transportability. There were lots of hyper-critical comments on the channel and while I'm sure it's not a perfect solution this type of thinking needs to be done. Exploring different ways to harness natural forms of energy can only be a good thing for the future.
We live in a switched-on world with an insatiable appetite for power and the poor old planet can't go on forever suffering the things we do to it for energy's sake. I hope we see more of this thinking along with a greater understanding of geothermal, photovoltaic and tidal energy generation.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Neil Armstrong yesterday. There are many people I admire and deeply respect for their contribution to this world but Neil Armstrong has, for me, been a hero since childhood - and not just for his incredible achievements as an astronaut and explorer.
He conducted himself with great dignity and humility throughout his life, eschewing the temptation to 'celebrity', even though he really had boldly gone where none had gone before.
His family's statement following his death was, inevitably, in keeping with his life:
"We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.
He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.
As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.
While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an exampe to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink"
I am sure thousands of us - if not millions - looked up at the moon last night and winked - as well as offering a prayer of thanks and appreciation for such a wonderful, brave and inspiring human being.
The beginning of August saw Pacific Fibre close its doors after valiant attempts to finance and construct a second cable to secure New Zealand's connections to all things web. At the moment we have only the Southern Cross cable to keep us going, which to me seems utterly foolhardy - if not reckless.
I've been really enjoying the spread of Azonto these last few months - and you know something has reached critical mass when the BBC starts analysing a trend and getting its reporters into the swing.
From a work perspective, I've been delighting in the fact that the dance blends fun and heaps of non-verbal communication. It started out as a means of communicating what you were doing, what you were working at and how you were spending your time, before evolving into the Azonto that's tipping off dancers as to those in the room who'd like their phone number.
As we move ever deeper into our socially connected world, with mobiles on, emails constant and tweets round the clock, how do we make sure we get a break?
Personally, I don't think it is the 'always on' challenge that's the problem - more the constant noise. Organisations need to think long and hard about how they give their people time to refresh and restore their brains away from the kerfuffles of highly demanding social engagement.
In Germany, as this piece from the BBC explains, they are looking long and hard at how they can minimise after-work intrusion. I believe the biggest challenge rests in the way we change working patterns in a world where an immediate reply is an employment expectation. Many people work 'round the clock' as they serve markets away from their own time zone or geographic border, so surely there must be some merit in creating new jobs so that communicators and others who find themselves a slave to the web can operate a shift pattern - providing new work for some and rest periods for others.
It is high time that everyone looked for a solution to this conundrum, before those who find themselves 'always on' and immersed in noise end up burning out and switching off for good.
Google's announcements today of its latest projects - the Knowledge Graph - sounds fascinating but takes us closer to a world history written according to Wikipedia. Google admits that much of the 'knowledge' powering their new search results - see their video below - is sourced from Freebase, bought by them in 2010, who in turn got heaps of data from Wikipedia and other data bases around the web.
My question is, if the source information is pulled out of areas such as Wikipedia - which is, despite their best efforts - still prone to inaccuracy, 'editing-out' and edit wars - how long before our history and the things we are 'allowed' to find are either rewritten, rubbed out or removed from actual experience or alternatively distorted by indiviual perspectives that can manipulate the systems?
It all sounds very useful and I am sure it will be. But - and it is a big but - the Knowledge Graph is filled with bear-traps and Orwellian group-think. It might seem that our knowledge is 'extended' by this - I fear wisdom is being left behind.
Lost count of the times you've struggled a bit when someone has said: "What are we going to do about social media"?
Rest easy - because that's the wrong question. The question that today's leadership teams need to be addressing is this: "What do we need to do to create a social business"? Of course, that question needs to be proceeded by 'Why do we need to create a social business'? I hope you'll find some signposts to that answer here.
Disruptive technologies come, go - and stay around for a while. Books, telephones, televisions, the typewriter, all changed the way business was conducted. For the main part however, those technologies were initially retained by few and used as a means of command and control. Hierarchical organisations employed disruptive technologies to increase profits, shareholder returns and, of course, power.
The speed of change and access to the latest disruptive technologies means that they can't be retained or held by a few. Although moves are afoot to try and change this, for the time being at least, the combinations of change, access and low-cost means that the notions we had of business, leadership and social order have changed. Expectations are different. We have not only a right to choose, but a right to demand, cajole, influence and - in some cases - insist.
Social media changes business for good. And not simply 'good' in terms of finality.
The 'good business' of the future will be just that. Good in terms of its impact on society as well as its contribution. Financially sound and sustainably grown. The integrated reporting and global reporting initiatives will make all organisations accountable for their actions - financial, environmental and societal. In order to report performance effectively and truthfully, many organisations will have to turn themselves inside out, changing from within and working out how, once changed, they can meet their business and organisational goals.
Given the seismic shift in the financial world markets since 2008, it is extremely likely that G3 and other integrated reporting guidelines will become mandatory. South Africa is the first country to have made integrated reporting a legal requirement. This type of initiative, combined with the force of social media, creates a new style of business in which listening comes first.
The new business won't just make and sell things. It won't even declare itself by putting its ingredients on the pack. The new business will have full support of the community in which it operates. The resources it uses will be tracked to origin. The packaging - QR code or otherwise - will explain exactly where, how and why it fits into people's lives. It will declare its own risks and benefits in equal measures. It will create and foster a clear understanding with its user community who will report back publicly on their views, experience and satisfaction with the product or service and make suggestions for improvement.
The user will be able to choose how, where and when they make their purchase and whether they do that with hard currency - currently under threat - or network credits. If they are bought with network credits then the network too will assume responsibility as part of the new supply chain. Those supplying goods and services through the network will be held to terms and conditions and, if they are found to be in breach, will be cut off.
Each stage of the process will be designed to foster the trust of all the stakeholders involved. Monitoring and implementing the process will demand a new skill set from everyone involved, not least the organisational leaders who will have not just organisational reputations to defend, but their own personal ones as the line between the profession and the person gradually disappears.
That's one scenario - but keep in mind that it isn't simply social shift we are witnessing. It is a business shift as well. Welcome to the Brave New World.
This post is taken from a piece I wrote at the back end of last year - and in discussing social business with a few people today, thought I'd dig it out and put it here for them to have a read. Hope it gave you some food for thought too.
If you are looking for the latest technology developments to dazzle your friends - or yourself - then look no further than the International Consumer Electronics Show which has just kicked off in Vegas.
One thing's for sure - the interconnectedness of the technologies now available means that we have moved right into a year where we can work anything from anywhere. I can switch on my aircon in NZ - even if I was in Vegas - or turn on the home monitoring micro-camera from the office to see the faces of those who have just triggered my house alarm. I can tap my credit card on my ultrabook to pay for stuff and turn my phone into a gaming console for a quick play while I wait.
Here are my top five 'most excited about' announcements so far:
If you like checking out the new and you can't get across to Vegas in the next couple of days (I wish) then you can follow the updates and breaking news on CESweb.org/news or check out the YouTube channel from CES Unveiled.
Here's some honourable mentions, including 'print your own objects' now available for the consumer.
A neat scanner mouse that will cause more copyright havoc no doubt...
And for a general round up of things green, comfort-inducing 'work it from anywhere' innovations, here's their taster:
Facebook published its 'top 40 list of most shared stories today - and what interesting reading it made. Dominating the shares were stories via CNN and the list, unsurprisingly, has a heavy US bias. It will be interesting to see how this Facebook list has changed in November 2012 when the social graph apps have been in use for more than a month or two. I suspect we'll see more European media shares for starters, with a bunch more online channels. Sadly, I don't expect to see much change in the type or style of the majority of stories that are shared - performing cats, oddball photos and laughing babies have dominated news cycles for decades. Online channels just show that some things never change...