Business Perspectives Webinar – Strategic Marketing: Digital Disruption

The OUBS is delighted to announce the upcoming webinar following our latest event in the Business Perspectives series – a Marketing Masterclass.

Join host Peter Wainwright, Professor Robin Wensley and Dr Terry O’Sullivan to explore the themes raised in the ‘Strategic Marketing, Digital Disruption’ event that included Peter Duffy European Marketing Director of EasyJet and Claire Davenport International Marketing Director of FutureLearn, looking at changing business models, issues of scalability and the changing nature of the relationship between suppliers, intermediaries and customers. We will also explore the role of marketing in the arts and cultural sector as well as hearing from our guest speakers to gain their local and global business perspectives.

The webinar will blend recorded presentations from the event, polls and Q&A sessions enabling you to leave this webinar equipped with new insight on how other organisations have implemented marketing strategies.

The informative session will be hosted by Peter Wainwright, Associate Lecturer at The Open University Business School.




Host – Peter Wainwright, Facilitator and Director of ASKYRA Limited 

Peter Wainwright has an MBA from the Open University Business School, where he is an Associate Lecturer in the ‘Dynamics of Strategy’ and ‘Management Beyond The Mainstream’.  He is a member of the OUBS Alumni Association Advisory Board, and has already been very involved with the Business Perspectives series, having hosted the previous webinars. Alongside his work with the OUBS, Peter is Director of Askyra Ltd, where he works with organisations and individuals to enable them to be more creative, to innovate, and to develop successful business strategies.

Professor Robin Wensley, Professor of Strategic Marketing at The Open University Business School

Professor of Strategic Marketing at the OUBS and Emeritus Professor of Policy and Marketing at the Warwick Business School.  Professor at Warwick since 1986 and Chair of the School from 1989 to 1994, and Chair of the Faculty of Social Studies from 1997 to 1999. Most recently Director of the AIM Research initiative from 2004 to 2011. He was previously with RHM Foods, Tube Investments and the London Business School and was visiting Professor at UCLA (twice) and University of Florida. He was Chair of the Council of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations from 1998 until 2003 and a member of the Sunningdale Institute.


Dr Terry O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in Management and Head of the Department for Strategy and Marketing at The Open University Business School

Terry is Senior Lecturer in Management and Head of the Department for Strategy and Marketing at The Open University Business School. Prior to joining the OUBS, Terry was Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Media at Trinity and All Saints, a college of the University of Leeds where he had institution-wide responsibility for international links. He has written two popular marketing books, Foundation Marketing published by FT Pearson, and Creative Arts Marketing from Butterworth Heinemann, the leading UK text in its field. Until recently he was Senior Examiner for the Chartered Institute of Marketing, having developed and written the CIM Introductory Certificate in Marketing qualification.


Richard Byford, Panellist and Director of ForeVu Ltd

Richard has an MBA from the Open University Business School, and is the Director of ForeVu Ltd.  Richard is a solution-focussed business leader who combines recognised best-practice with a healthy measure of creativity.  Across his career he has enjoyed helping teams to discover that they can do things better – and get increased satisfaction from doing so. As an entrepreneur, he has started up and run successful software development and management training companies and is a recognised expert and an award-winning innovator in the field of public-sector procurement and outsourcing.

REGISTER FREE  to reserve your place on this webinar.

The Rise of Content Marketing


Guest blogger:

Nick Gregg is CEO of StrategyEye (@StrategyEyewhich delivers EditorEye as a hosted content discovery and publishing platform with a unique topic-based indexing approach.  EditorEye is used by brands and publishers (including Starcom, Hearst, Haymarket, IPC and  Press Association) for powering their content marketing and digital publication strategies

There is a fundamental shift occurring in brand promotion online. Brands and marketers’ budgets are moving toward two battlefronts:The first, real-time bidding platforms, see traditional advertisers attempting to maximise the use of the near-infinite pool of ad inventory online and beat rivals to the punch. It has already gained traction with display ads, credited as creating a more transparent and efficient digital ad market and formats such as mobile and video are tipped to follow. 

The second is the increasing investment in paid-for content to market a business or brand. The increasing amount of time consumers spend on the internet means brands must come up with ever-more ingenious ways to chase them across digital channels and that can mean anything from email to Pinterest. Smart marketers are blurring the boundaries and using new media to communicate via content. Executed properly, this can be a more effective form of marketing than anything else in their advertising arsenal.
This is also all, however, coupled with two distinct developments for businesses as content marketing moves forward at a fast pace:

1. “Time to Content”
a. The days of long-form content creation alone are gone. For any brand to become a thought leader, responsiveness is key so producing high frequency curated content on breaking topics is essential – but alongside the more traditional thought pieces which are still crucial to underpinning

2. “CXO Writers”

a. The other change is that the guys with the quick-fire insight on breaking news or trends are often the most senior people in an organisation. However, time is in short supply and these executives can’t use Google alerts coupled with submissions and direct WordPress uploads to convey a viewpoint. They need a single tool they can use on the train on their iPad which allows them to spot highly relevant content as it breaks, add their 5-10 line insightful comment and then push one button to have it published directly into all their Web, WordPress, Social and other channels before their next meeting.

Overall, the content marketing sector is moving fast – and tools to deliver content fast are rapidly emerging, along with the major software companies from Oracle to Salesforce investing in marketing automation solutions to take advantage of the market growth. We expect a lot more moves and consolidation as 2013 develops.



¤ It was previously much easier for brands to control and distribute their marketing, as traditionally there were relatively few formats, with a set strategy for each. Whether it was TV, print or direct marketing there were established approaches. The internet changed all that. Now, companies must be much smarter about which channels are most suitable for them, where their audience is and how best their content can be adapted for those outlets.

¤ And then the internet changed again and kept changing. Web 2.0 as an umbrella term was almost obsolete by the time the mainstream embraced it, but it did signal a sea change in the way people interact online. Now, companies need to consider fast-changing online usage habits. As the likes of Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr illustrate there is a consumer preference for highly visual, shareable content.

¤ There is a risk that brands will become bamboozled by the wealth of new channels available to them. As the Content Marketing Association points out, brands must maintain the basic rules of content marketing – formulating a strategy, building an editorial plan and having objectives – before working out which distribution channel is best for them. That might be Pinterest, but it also might be a magazine.

¤ Underlying all of this is the fact that consumers have always preferred articles to ads. As a survey from Roper Public Affairs claims, 80% of business decision makers prefer getting to know companies via articles rather than ads. And more and more consumers are becoming adept at ignoring traditional methods of marketing, partly due to technological disruption.


¤ The Custom Content Council estimates that more than USD40bn was spent on content marketing across all media in the US last year. In this context more and more brands are becoming publishers. Within this, two overlapping strategies are emerging. Brands are not just publishing content, but creating it themselves. In one scenario this consists of pre-planned story arcs around specific or particular marketing promotions. In another scenario brands are actually reporting or breaking the ‘news’ and becoming trusted authorities for their audiences on relevant topics.

¤ There is a trend not just towards publishing, but creating stories, with more companies planning editorial-like content calendars. According to a study by Econsultancy and Outbrain, more than 90% of respondents from publishers and advertising agencies believe content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months. Around 34% of companies have dedicated budgets, while 46% have dedicated individuals for content marketing. In addition, some 55% of in-house and 58% of agency respondents are planning content marketing strategies in the future.

¤ With so many new channels available, content discovery is a continuing challenge. The Content Marketing Institute says one of the greatest challenges for companies is producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers. Conceiving or discovering that content are two elements of the same issue.
¤ The Content Marketing Institute says approximately 55% of marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months. Currently, 86% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are using content marketing, compared to 91% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers.


¤ Used correctly, social media is clearly an effective content marketing tool. The majority of in-house marketers (83%) use social posts to make marketing updates, which is more than any other type of content, according to the Econsultancy/Outbrain study. Many marketers also believe in the efficacy of social media, with 46% stating that this is one of their three most effective types of content.

¤ But although social media is becoming increasingly popular with content marketers, for full effect it needs to be integrated and combined with other channels. A brand’s website and online mailing list remain vital tools. According to Econsultancy and Outbrain, 50% of marketers say email is the most popular way of pushing branded content to consumers, with social media next at 46% and 29% saying news articles are their favoured approach. The most effective way is to combine all three.

¤ Marketers are still in a ‘metrics mentality’ and it is difficult to determine what is the most-effective metric for social media. Despite the fact that social media is the second-most popular way for marketers to publish content, just 59% measure social shares as a mark of success. Instead, companies rely on more traditional metrics such as unique visitors and page views.


¤ With traditional publishing in decline, media houses such as Condé Nast and Future have spotted an opportunity to make use of their brand contacts and evolve into agency-like entities. Publishers can step in and help brands plan and create content. This is leading to convergence between contract publishers and advertising agencies, with both offering similar content marketing support to brands.

¤ The market is currently divided between brands who are ‘going it alone’ and appointing in-house editors and writers and brands who are working with agencies with established skillsets in writing to order. In an underlying sense this is the way was before digital disruption and agencies are always likely to have a role going forward.

¤ The blurring of boundaries has led to the emergence of a new generation of publications, such as Quartz, which are willing to integrate brand content with their own. Alongside this, old-school publishers are altering their approach, with the Daily Telegraph introducing ‘Sponsored Content’ hubs.
¤ Traditional agencies meanwhile, are learning to be more innovative in their approach, and the definition of a content marketer is changing. The CMA says that its membership comprises not just agencies, but startups and media companies.

¤ There is also an ‘amplification’ trend. Social media is an amplifier and there are a variety of digital methods to promote brand content once it is out in the wild, with services such as Outbrain and HubSpot springing up to promote content into, say, newspaper websites. A study from Hubspot this year champions the growing importance of blogs, while a white paper from Contentplus says that blogs on company websites result in 55% more visitors and are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than magazines.

This post was originally published on the Internet World blog.

Why mobile is eclipsing TV as ‘first screen’ for consumers

David-Sear Guest blogger:

David Sear is the CEO of Weve, the new m-commerce platform set up as a joint  venture by EE, O2 and Vodafone.

The rapid pace of development in mobile media and technology is taking no one by surprise. For decades now mobile technology has empowered a new era of connectivity. But to imagine the mobile as the first screen in our lives, from media to messaging, from from shopping to entertainment, even ahead of the television set, is something of a watershed moment that is fast becoming a reality.

The dominant role of TV is changing, and as we approach a new age of digital disruption, mobile is taking over the market.  We are ‘always on’ with mobile, constantly receiving and sharing information across multiple channels and screens. It’s safe to say that mobile devices are now firmly established as competitors to conventional media channels in the UK.

At Weve we carried out a 2,000-person UK-wide piece of research into this and found that nearly half of all 18- to 34-year-olds consider mobile their first and most important screen. Nearly one in 10 consumers turn to their mobile first to make online purchases and over 1 in 3 cite their mobile device as the screen they look at most often. Our study conclusively demonstrates the rapid ascent of mobile devices to ‘first screen’ status.

Sixty-eight per cent of all consumers said that they receive just the right amount or would like to receive more messages, with the female demographic slightly more responsive to messaging than male. The top five consumer behaviours as a result of receiving a message are downloading an app, researching online, sharing information with family and friends, visiting a store and redeeming a voucher.

Recent data released by Internet analytics company ComScore backs up this notion. It found that young Brits have a higher recall of mobile advertising. A comparison of multiple mobile ad formats shows that UK smartphone users aged 18-24 have an especially high recall of mobile advertising, compared to the general population.

This research shows the true extent of consumers’ changing relationship with the devices in their pockets. Today, over 32% of Weve’s 20-million, opted-in customer base are actively using their mobile as their first screen and most importantly going online and purchasing through their device.

Mobile is the present and the future for the 18-24 year-old demographic, who use it as a first screen religiously – so it is my view that the market needs to respond by talking to them where they are, rather than to try to engage the consumer on TV or online.

We polled Weve’s customer base and the findings show how this insight-led approach to mobile relationship-building is already paying dividends. The top five areas that consumers are most interested in receiving messaging about, according to our data, are entertainment, food and drink, technology, travel and finally health and beauty.  With fashion, cars and finance following closely behind.

The status quo of the traditional media mix of TV, radio, online and print has remained unchanged for over a decade – mobile has been catching up fast, but it’s never quite sat at the same table as the better-established media channels. This research shows how fast mobile is now changing consumer behaviour, particularly among younger people, and how it has now become our first screen.

This post was originally published on the Wallblog on 21 October.

What will Google Glass bring to advertising?

ImageGuest blogger:

Frederico Roberto works and blogs for

A few months ago I remember  Google Glass being mentioned in the news on a daily basis so what has happened to it and all of the hype it generated? The world of marketing stood up and took note of the search engine’s latest breakthrough invention but has it really done much to shape up the sector? I believe not but yet this is a great post from Frederico Roberto on its capabilities of doing so.

What will Google Glass bring to advertising? A lot! Plain simply, we’re on a brink of something that could definitely change most of the entertainment industries, not only advertising. And in my opinion, it will do so with a bang, since we’re basically about to witness a shift from usable technology to wearable technology. Or, in other words, a shift from active technology to passive technology.

And for advertising for instance, that means that brands won’t have to rely on people putting a smartphone or a tablet in between of something so the impact can take place. Sure, we still have to wear them and use the magic words: “Ok, glass….”, but we’re well on our way to make brands’ interaction with people a lot more fun, a lot more engaging and, most of all, a lot more relevant.

It will change the way we shop. Imagine that you’re on a supermarket, Google Glass set up and ready to use, you pick up a box of cereals and you access the device for a ton of information, games, ads, a million ways to make you decide for that product rather than any other.

It will change the way we dress. Women will have to pull their hair behind to use it; imagine the fashion accessories, the hair styles, the clothing design that will have to match the need of no hair in a woman’s (or man’s) right side of the head.

It will change the way we act. People will get so distracted, they’ll miss their exiting bus stop (this actually already happened to some of the Google Explorers that tried the product), thus the need for some sort of alarms or louder bus announcements.

It will change the way we consume entertainment. The adult industry (15% of all of the internet) will massively use it – it already started to do so – powering it as it did to the VHS industry, the CD-Rom and the Internet. The gaming industry will use it for a proper and ultimate integration with the real world. The movie industry will adapt and start to create shorter content for it. Known platforms such as YouTube (part of Google) and Facebook will redefine their UI for a better and smoother performance.

And advertising…well, it will just become more personal. And if it becomes more personal, there are7 billion reasons in the world for Google Glass to succeed.

Google Glass won’t be alone in this wearable technology new trend. We’ve heard of the upcoming-patented iWatch from Apple and Samsung, Nokia, and several other tech giants won’t stay behind. Not to mention all of the similar products from more affordable brands.

Still, I would like you to think a little bit on the implications that a device such as this, which we know so much by now (the opposite to the usual Apple products, surrounded with so much secrecy), will have on your brand, on your creativity, on your life. And seeing a pattern here, in which every device is influenced by the previous one (smartphones tried to incorporate years of Windows usability and UI, the same way the Google Glass is replicating how we use smartphones right now), what will the next big thing, after the Glass, be?

Are we ready to completely put ourselves out in the open like this? And to answer to my title question: are we, advertisers, ready for the gargantuan responsibility that comes with interfering people’s lives this much?

This post was originally published on the Inferno Group Blog on 25 July.

Will “Minority Report” style personal advertising finally become a reality?

ImageGuest blogger:

Andrew Grill

Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is a Partner with IBM, with a focus on Social Business.

Follow Andrew on Google+ 

With the news that Tesco has teamed up with Lord Sugar’s Amscreen to launch “face enabled advertising”, one has to wonder if the scenarios presented in the movie Minority Report are set to become a reality.

If you have not seen the movie starring Tom Cruise, in the future, the movie suggests we will be presented with personalised advertising as we walk past digital billboards.

The Amscreen move is significant, and my point of view is it will either be an amazing success, or an unmitigated failure.

Below is how the BBC’s Click program reported on the technology.

When you play with personal advertising, you can’t afford to get it wrong.

This is not the first time that face recognition has been used with advertising.

Last year I blogged about a billboard on Oxford Street in London promoting the work of the charity Plan UK.

Here, different advertising was shown depending if you were male or female, as decided by the face recognition technology.

See an example below.

Jon Silk in today’s Telegraph asks if this type of technology might lead to “personal shopper recognition” – something that I know the privacy advocates in the UK will have a field day with.

My view is that while this type of technology might lead to more targeted advertising, it still falls short of real, targeted advertising.

The Amstrad technology is market changing, but will it tell advertisers if they actually glanced at the ad, and looked away, or engaged with it which lead to a purchase in-store?

I don’t believe though that if you ask people on the high street, or those waiting in a Tesco store to pay for their shopping that many would say “yes please send me more targeted advertising”.

The challenge that advertisers face worldwide is that consumers are now exposed to so many advertisements, that the effectiveness is on the decline.

The Amscreen approach also simply uses existing displays, as has been done for many years now.

How social can help provide more relevant information to consumers

My strong view is that a new approach is needed – not just for the presentation of the advertising message, but also in the way we engage with customers.

I no longer look at ads. Having a degree in marketing, and working in the industry I know only too well how advertising works.

Instead, if I am after information about a new product, I will turn to my social networks and ask for a genuine recommendation.

I believe the days of mass-advertising are on the way out, and as Tesco has realised, a more targeted/personalised approach is required.

Social media, if used properly, with consumers that are truly interested in your product or service can be a very powerful way to promote your product over another alternative.

The Tesco trial with Amscreen will I am sure be watched very closely to see if advertisers can get closet to that “holy grail” or personalised advertising as proposed in Minority Report.

This post was originally published on the London Calling blog on 04 November.

How Personal Injury Marketing Has Been Affected by Disruption and Digital


  Guest blogger:

  Josh Whiten is the founder of Webscape and has worked in marketing for over 20 years including   the last 10 years in SEO and digital, so is something of a veteran.

Follow Josh Whiten on Google+

Discover how classic market disruption, the dawn of digital marketing and a ban on referral fees  have combined to create challenges and opportunities for legal marketing in the UK Personal  Injury claims sector. This review of the marketing conditions faced by the personal injury sector identifies some of the challenges faced by individual law firms.


Recent UK law changes affecting the handling of referral fees in the personal injury claim sector present an example of how wider changes in the external macro environment combined with developments in digital marketing can disrupt an industry vertical and force the reshaping of business models.

The Market

The personal injury sector of the UK legal market has exploded in recent years with the rise of marketing groups, national brands and new intermediaries such as claims management companies (numbering 2, 435 CMC’s in March 2012) all marketing to consumers and receiving referral fees from law firms in return for passing on details of potential claimants.

Some aspects of the sector have been dismissed as ambulance chasing or even ridiculed for unintentionally amusing daytime TV ads, but none the less the Personal Injury market has become worth a small fortune, with over £6 billion of costs awarded to over 800,000 successful personal injury claims in 2008/09 according to research from Datamonitor. This sector is also serviced by a sizeable tail of legal and administration jobs managing claims.

Referral Fee Ban

However concerns about the PI sector at both consumer and government level have grown just as quickly as the market itself. These concerns, chiefly whether the market and its use of middlemen actually encourages increased or fraudulent claims, gave rise to a judicial review by Lord Justice Jackson which resulted in new legislation being introduced in April 2013 as part of LASPO (the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012).

The new rules have put claims management middlemen out of business by outlawing the payment of personal injury referral fees for receiving details of potential claimants. The payment of such fees were seen as ‘money for nothing’ which merely served to inflate costs of pay outs by the insurance sector, although this view does not take into account the marketing costs incurred by middlemen in generating their leads.

The effectiveness of using a blunt tool such as LASPO to tackle some of these issues was argued at length by the legal sector, especially as the insurance industry which blamed growing premium prices on false injury claims was also benefiting from receiving referral fees from solicitors for passing on details of their clients who had been in an accident.
It was also argued that the personal injury claims sector merely reflected society itself – if consumers didn’t want to claim the market wouldn’t exist, somewhat similar to the conflict between society criticising the moral standards of tabloid newspapers but then buying the very papers in question by the million.

However one thing is clear, the referral fee industry model which was in existence for the last few years and which many firms profited from has come to an end. This caused a state of flux within the sector, which of course created challenges for some but opportunities for others.

The Macro Environment

Those who have studied marketing at any formal level may find some of these developments familiar. Marketing professionals have long been taught to consider trends or changes in the wider external macro environment as part of the strategic marketing planning process. The acronym of SLEPT springs to mind, the well-established analysis tool which reminds marketers to look at Social, Legal, Economic, Political and Technological factors that could potentially impact upon their business.

The LASPO reform which affected the legal sector ticked several of these boxes:

• Concerns in society over the rise of so called compensation culture (fuelled in part by tabloid media) contrasted with the growing trend to make a claim following an accident or injury;
• A political desire to be seen to tackle issues of concern to voters such as rising insurance premiums and claim culture;
• The legal impact of new legislation, through the introduction of LASPO;
• Growing use of technology by consumers to find lawyers to help them claim and by law firms to reach consumers.

Impact on Law Firms

Law firms which in the past had relied on external third parties for personal injury leads were left facing difficult decisions. Should they invest rapidly in their own marketing campaigns direct to consumers and embark on a very steep learning curve? This with the risk that their individual marketing budget won’t go far in a sector where average cost per clicks for PPC advertising on Google Adwords can often reach £50-60 per click. Or do they pull out of the PI market altogether but then how is this fee revenue going to be replaced and sizeable PI departments sustained?

Some marketing umbrella brands already existed in the market and represented some of its best known players through extensive use of above the line advertising. However membership of these schemes proved prohibitively high and in some cases blocked to new entrants. There were also concerns over the compliance of such models in the post-LASPO world, with schemes facing the same challenges of ensuring no payments made by panel solicitors could be defined as outlawed referral fees. To overcome this some national networks developed a model whereby law firms would purchase a small share in the business and in return receive a proportion of PI leads.

Another new business model to emerge from the chaos was that of the marketing collective. These typically leaner operations utilised lower costs and more measurable below the line marketing techniques such as digital, direct marketing and field marketing. As well as operating in a more stealthy fashion, collectives have taken a more creative approach to overcoming the new rules on payment of referral fees.

One such example is the Simply Lawyers brand which offers its panel of personal injury solicitor’s membership via a fixed monthly marketing fee to be paid by each firm. The collective then pools these resources to reach target consumers more effectively and provides the details of potential clients to its panel members based on their specialism and the level of their membership plan. To further ensure compliance with the ban on personal injury referral fees a wider range of legal services are targeted.

Collectives such as Simply Lawyers are especially embracing digital marketing communication channels, due to the lower cost per acquisition and the opportunity to compete on a more level playing field with often much larger competitors particularly using some of the latest digital marketing techniques like social media, mobile and inbound marketing.

The Future

So in summary the personal injury sector has seen a fascinating set of conditions come together to disrupt a high value market and create new opportunities. Political, media and social pressures have combined to bring about a legal change that’s being exploited by a new generation of smaller tech savvy participants, eager to steal market share and deliver future value from under the noses of more established industry players. Meanwhile individual law firms which have decided to go it alone with their marketing are still working hard to identify affordable marketing channels which can be effectively managed within their firm’s resources and marketing skill-set.

If it can be assumed that there won’t be a sudden decline in the number of consumers wishing to claim for personal injury compensation, then the near future could see continued growth for legal marketing groups and collectives balanced with perhaps a fall in numbers of individual law practices operating in the personal injury sector, unless law firms are able to grasp new ways of doing things and seek the support of specialist marketing advice.

This post was originally published on the webscapeseo blog on 30 October.

Three ways to communicate change

Guest blogger:

Sarah_PlattsSarah Platts, Open University Business School MBA Alumnus, Change Consultant at FreshNetworks 

This is the final post in my little three-part series looking at change management (see part one and part two), and it uses the extremely interesting material covered by Dr Ben Hardy at the recent Open University Business School event.

changes-coming1. Make your message as good and clear as possible

Here are some easy ways to work on the messages you’re conveying in order to maximise their impact and appropriateness, and minimise the extent to which they can be interpreted in different ways:

  • Create an open culture – listen and engage with employees, and ask them how they want to be communicated with. Then build that into your communications plan.
  • Define things, if possible – e.g. create a concise, precise, and memorable definition of your company strategy, thereby reducing the potential for wildly differing interpretations.
  • Data is not information – data are raw facts, whereas information is data processed and made meaningful. So don’t try to distract or bamboozle employees with data, but convey useful information and context around the change taking place.
  • According to the language philosopher Paul Grice, effective communication should be of appropriate:
    • Quantity – not too much
    • Quality – no lies
    • Relation – be relevant
    • Manner – not ambiguous, obscure, or overly wordy (as Dr Hardy says, “eschew prolixity”!)

So at a minimum hygiene level, it’s wise to observe these “Gricean maxims”.

2. Be aware of how and why people may interpret your message in different ways

It’s obviously helpful to think carefully about your message and how to deliver it, to stand you in good stead. However, the next important thing is to then forget what your message actually says, and focus instead on how it’s received. Although you may have minimised the range of different interpretations somewhat, there will still be plenty for you to deal with. Just some ways in which people’s interpretations will be shaped include:

  • Word / sentence structure – remember that your exact choice of words, and how you combine them in a sentence, really matters and can significantly impact meaning.
  • Cognitive defaults – ways in which the brain works by default, and is naturally wired for each individual.
  • Social and cultural assumptions and defaults – e.g. each person’s own background, personal experiences, demographics, etc.
  • If there’s no communication, this means bad news – negative information has approximately 3 times the impact of positive communication, so if nothing’s communicated then people fear the worst. Apparently this is derived from our age-old human survival mechanism, and the fact that something negative (like a predator) would often kill us, whereas positive things didn’t tend to have the same effect (!).
  • Me, me, me! We tend to see things from our own perspective, so it’s important to try and see them from other people’s point of view. A handy and simple exercise to counter this is to jot down two columns, one for making notes in relation to “my perspective”, and the other for “their perspective”.
  • Confirmation bias – people tend to find information which confirms their beliefs, and discount information which doesn’t.
  • Fundamental attribution error – in a bad situation, we tend to overestimate character traits in others (e.g. the company failed because she was a terrible megalomaniac CEO), and situational pressures in relation to ourselves (e.g. the company failed because the economic situation was extremely difficult). Whereas, the truth probably lies somewhere in between character and situation.

3. Embrace and work with the (inevitable) different interpretations

So how can we deal with all these different influences, and resultant interpretations? How can we reduce the communication gap between our own perceptions, assumptions, confirmation biases, and fundamental attribution errors, and those of others?

  1. Accept that not communicating is not an option – you have to say something, so make it as effective as possible, as outlined in section one, and communicate openly and regularly (but don’t just “throw sludge at people”, as Dr Hardy warns).
  2. Accept that once your communication is out, it’s out of your control – people will be starting to interpret it, so talk to them and try and understand how it’s been received (section 2). This will enable you to:
  3. Offset some of their interpretations, and build their trust – which will help counter the fundamental attribution error issue (i.e. people will be less likely to call you a terrible megalomaniac CEO if they know from personal experience that you aren’t, or trust that it’s not in your nature).
  4. Admit fallibility and mistakes – rather than making you seem weak, it shows bravery and the ability to reflect and take on board feedback.

communicate change So those are the 3 great ways to communicate change – and arguably to  communicate in general!

 This article was originally published on FreshNetworks on 26 July.

 Photo credit: and Ecbud.

Three ways to ensure your change effort is a success

Guest blogger:

Sarah_PlattsSarah Platts, Open University Business School MBA Alumnus, Change Consultant at FreshNetworks 


As explored in my last post, and at the recent Open University Business School event on change management: focusing on the implementation of change is obviously hugely important. In addition, focusing on the following three messages will further maximise the chances of your change effort being a success:

1. Be consistent, and persistent

A common message was that change takes more time than you think, particularly if you want people to genuinely live and breathe it. Therefore:

  • Be patient, and don’t get side-tracked by short-term goals – change is about the long-term view, so maintain your focus and be prepared for results to take longer than you think to materialise (i.e. years as opposed to days, months). Key to this is also not trying to change too much, but focusing on a handful of projects (e.g. no more than 5 at any one time). It’s also important to keep reinforcing why you’re STILL working on the change, as it involves a significant process of education, as well as considering everyone involved in an interconnected and holistic way. Also ensure to prioritise all the change projects you’re working on so you know which ones are most and least important overall.
  • Focus – it’s worth reiterating this again! Just as it’s important to keep focused on the change and not get side-tracked, it’s also important to focus within each change project on the 1 – 3 core things which will really crack it and make it succeed. Robin Tucker of New World Consulting referred to this as focusing on “the essence”, and not getting bogged down by the detail or minutiae.
  • Measure the change – all the same, don’t just wait and hope! Ensure to have measures in place so the results of the change can be determined, but don’t get too fixated with deadlines. Instead, focus on the outputs expected by those deadlines, and if they were really achieved (again, no box ticking). Finally, check in on the results on a regular basis; be agile and check the change is still aligned with overall company strategy, and if not tweak and realign things as necessary. Basically, beware of “analysis without synthesis”, and ask “So What?” at least every month.

2.  Know what your company is good and bad at in relation to change

Companies have to deal with the following aspects of change:

  1. Directional decisions – i.e. does the overall direction of travel make sense?
  2. Translation & specificity – have you worked out and communicated what the change will mean for and require of each team and individual within the business? “Vision hubbing” requires translating the central vision “hub” of the company wheel through to each of the individual spokes.
  3. Change management – governance of the delivery itself , which is often under-managed (e.g. Terminal 5).
  4. Delivery & operations – how to avoid a bad landing.
  5. Leadership & communication (people) – change is often poorly led and poorly communicated.

According to Robin Tucker, companies typically suffer most in relation to 2, 3, and 5. His advice is to focus on your company’s particular weak areas, and then start optimising each one.

3.  Don’t bother with creating “Change managers” and “Change departments”

  • Successful change is brought about by boundary spanners – managers with T-shaped as opposed to I-shaped skills (i.e. generalists rather than occupational specialists).
  • No change functions! Making change into a “function” with specific “change managers” is a problem because it becomes part of a political system, and a target, rather than a boundary spanner. Change should be driven forward by programme and project managers, and be project-based. Accordingly, make change the responsibility of all organisational departments – that’s the only way to get everyone involved and aligned. Ultimately, change is a process, not a function.

This article was originally published on FreshNetworks on 25 July.

Photo credit:

Why do so many change efforts fail? Bad implementation and embedding

Guest blogger:

Sarah_PlattsSarah Platts, Open University Business School MBA Alumnus, Change Consultant at FreshNetworks    

Having previously written about innovation and leadership following Open University Business School events, I went to another one recently on the topic of change management. According to research, over half of change efforts fail (52%) – but what’s the main cause of failure?

According to Professor David Wilson, the main issue nowadays isn’t getting the change going or sustaining it so much as embedding and locking it in. So how can companies improve the change implementation process?

1.  Provide effective strategic leadership

  • Create a compelling vision – senior managers should stop over-prioritising controls and mere box-ticking, and provide a compelling company vision and strong organisational culture and processes which facilitate change.

2.  Invest in smart people

  • Create a strong knowledge base – which is full of smart people who can create the required culture, rather than trying to change organisational culture and structures first and foremost. Phil Smith, CEO of Cisco UK & Ireland, also emphasised the importance of hiring the right people; self-starters adept at using an organisation’s network and resources, connecting with people, and collaborating across boundaries.
  • Invest in young people too – Mr Smith referred to Cisco’s interesting process of “reverse mentoring”, whereby a graduate employee can “mentor” an SMT member, enabling each of them to explore things from the other’s perspective.

3.  Embed change throughout the organisation at all levels, and lead from the top down

  • View change as habit – not an occasional exercise. However, while it’s important to ensure there’s enough change, there should equally not be too much. Furthermore, be positive rather than negative about change, and never think there’s more change now than ever before (there was plenty going on during the industrial revolution, and following all the many inventions that have changed the world!).
  • The CEO, Finance, and Sales & Marketing are key roles / departments which need to lead the change – and leading from the top-down is crucial. However, everyone in the organisation and all managers also need to be involved and share “ownership” of the change (it’s a team sport according to Professor Wilson). So the right balance between controls and structure, and empowering people at every level to suggest and shape things, is key.
  • Incentives and rewards are important – the economic piece of the change puzzle needs to be tight, and align everyone with organisational objectives.

4.  Use the right management styles, methods, and structures to aid implementation

In his session, Professor Brian D Smith recommended:

  • Consult and then decide (stop being so democratic!) – don’t overly focus on gaining cross-functional team buy-in, as collaborative decision-making actually diffuses ownership.
  • Engender commitment to the organisation as opposed to commitment to individual teams, or groups within the organisation.
  • Set up interdependencies within functions / teams – to promote collaboration and working together to get things done.
  • Establish a productive mix of SMART non-discretionary activities (the hard stuff that can be measured), and discretionary activities (the softer stuff which cannot be measured). The latter often get eclipsed (in practice, and change management theory) by the former, but discretionary activities lead to greater “affective commitment” (positive emotional attachment) which trumps mere “continuance commitment” (whereby an employee needs to work for the organisation more than they would otherwise want and choose to).
  • Get rid of matrix structures – which promote conflict over collaboration, and set up project teams instead, with project team leaders who have line management responsibilities.

I’ll be writing another two posts over the next few days, looking at 3 ways to ensure your change effort is a success, and also 3 ways to communicate change.

This article was originally published on Read more at Business 2 Community website on 24 July 2013. 

Change Management Webinar 30 July 2013

Does change need talent? What are the myths of change?  Communication, is it lost in translation?  The webinar held on 30 July answered these topical questions on implementing change management and putting it to the acid test.

The session was facilitated by Peter Wainwright, Director, Askyra Limited and OU Associate Lecturer; the panellists consisted of Professor David Wilson, Professor in Organisation Studies and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, OUBS, and David Montgomery, MBA (OU), Director, Hand Stirling.

Included in the webinar are video clips taken from the change management workshop held on the 11 July 2013 in London.

To view the webinar click onto the podcast website.

You can also see what delegates had to say about the event by following #OU_BP on Twitter, and get the latest updates on events, offers and thought leadership pieces by following us @OUBSchool.