Thursday, April 25, 2013

Concepts Are King

The phrase 'Content is King' has a long history. Its origination is usually ascribed to one Bill Gates from a 1996 article. Smart dude.

But I suspect it goes back rather longer. Those of us with a traditional media background always knew it was the content people bought our stuff for, for example.

Then there was the build - that not Content, but Conversation is King. Cory Doctorow memorably put it that "Conversation is King... Content is just something to talk about."

Content is pointless without conversation. Conversation needs 'something to talk about'.
Neither is king. It's the interaction of people and ideas that drives us to action. The web has lowered the barrier for millions to interact with ideas.

And no one is describing what they are interacting with as 'content'. In fact 'content' has some rather unhelpful connotations in the context of what the web is best at enabling - ie adhoc self-forming groups of purpose.

Content implies constraint; An idea boxed and kept within - a thing inside with limitations.
This isn't how people behave with ideas. We take, shape, add, delete, remodel - hack ideas in our every interaction. And the web is a splendid evolutionary environment for them.

So I'm going to suggest Concepts Are King is a better 'catch-all' for what is really important in connecting folk. I can take your boxed up piece of content and share it, of course. That's old-style viral. Pass it on unmolestered. Don't expect evolution.

Or I can connect with and play with a concept. We can.

And in so doing we add value - not mere distribution.

Image attribution: By Enoch Lau (Own work (photo)) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thatcher's legacy? Getting away with it is not a strategy

Had the Labour Government that preceded Margaret Thatcher’s first election win had access to accurate data they would never have needed to go cap in hand to the IMF, to devalue the pound and accept swingeing cuts demanded of them for getting the loan. They were operating on a false premise – that the economy was in a far more parlous state than it actually was. This miscalculation changed the way Britain was governed

Mrs Thatcher was lucky. She got away with it.

Had a few more Argentine bombs been correctly fused, a few more Exocet missiles supplied, a few less brave men acted a little less heroicly, The US been less generous with its clandestine support, Britain would have slumped to ignoble defeat in The Falklands. It was very touch and go.

Mrs Thatcher was lucky. She got away with it.

Had the technology and the will to access and surface Britain’s biggest ever bag of gold – black gold from the North Sea – not coincided with her Premiership  she would not have been able to tilt the electoral playing field with the massive privatisation share price give-away that the oil funded, or the cut-price transfer of council housing to private ownership that followed.

Many got lucky, cashed in, took the money and ran. And thought they’d got away with it.

But far from her dream of giving more people a stake in a capitalist economy, she’d succeeded only in creating a society ever more fixated on and dominated by consumerism. Mrs T thought we aspired to prudent stewardship through ownership - but what she actually created were the conditions for rampant consumerism.

Still she believed she was right – and kept ploughing on with unpopular cut after unpopular policy because..? She kept on getting away with it.

What did we learn? Belief is important. But in the end it won’t out run the truth.

Getting away with it is not a strategy. Lucky generals don’t always win.

Gather the evidence. Act on the data.
Make a better fit with reality.

I'm a big believer in belief - but never at the cost of reality.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

BT holds its hands up and pays out credits

In my previous post I shared how I felt BT had got their CRM badly wrong - making an offer to current customers it then appeared reneged on. You can read the whole sorry saga here.

The very encouraging news is that after making my feelings known via twitter and blog, BT admitted it had got it wrong, said sorry, and has been brilliant at putting things right.

And for this we should heap praise. I publish this today to thank them for that - and to make sure others who received the same misleading mail-shot are empowered to benefit as I have.

Here's what BT had to say:
Having now looked into this matter in detail, I can confirm that we had two different direct mailings (DM) for Essential Extra [The extra channels and HD deal the letters promoted]. One of which was aimed at customers on our “free Vision Essential for one year” offer, and the other at customer paying the standard £5 a month for their Vision Essential subscription. 
We had an error on our mailing system that meant the latter group of customers were incorrectly sent the DM containing the claims “from just £2 more a month” and “£2 extra on top of your current TV subscription”. 
We appreciate that the overall impression of this mailing was therefore misleading for customers who are not currently paying for their Vision subscription. Please accept this letter as a sincere apology for our mistake. 
It is of the upmost importance to BT that we are clear and honest with our customers and to ensure that they are not misled by either marketing or customer service communications. We are in the process of reviewing how we target marketing communications to ensure that errors like this don’t happen again. 
We will of course honour this price point and arrange a bill credit of £60 should you sign up for Essential Extra (this being the difference of £5 per month, over the 12 month minimum term). You will therefore pay just £2 more a month, as was stated in the mailing you received. 
If you would like to go ahead with Essential Extra please let me know and I can place the order and arrange the credit for you. I hope you find this satisfactory but if you require any more help or information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

And I have done - and the customer service team have been excellent at making sure everything has happened as it should have done.

Neil O'Shea and Colleen McElhatton from the BT Social Media Team deserve particular praise.So well done BT - it's great to hear you are reviewing how you target.

Other companies would do well to take note - getting your CRM wrong can not only annoy customers - it can end up adding hefty costs.

I've no idea how many more people will now be able to claim a £60 credit - but I'm guessing it'll be rather more than a handful.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?