Knowledge Centre:
News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

The demographics of coolND


Scott Berinato, Harvard Business Review, November 2011

Traditional categories and ways of understanding demographics are changing. Technology has helped illustrate that variables for defining demographic profiles are increasingly complex and there is an excess of data that has been collected, crunched, re-crunched and cross-tabbed. But sometimes, age, race, income and location don’t matter — only the mindset does. This refers to a distinct trendy culture people have embraced that influences the definition of ‘cool’. Understanding this takes a more qualitative approach and is important for guiding how companies can present themselves and their products. For more information see www.hbr.org

What marketers say about working online: McKinsey Global Survey resultsND


McKinsey Quarterly, November 2011

Despite widespread agreement regarding the high value of digital tools and technologies for marketing, many companies struggle to measure the return on investment and to capture customer data. This untapped resource requires structural change on behalf of organisations wishing to engage with consumers via technologies such as social media. A recent survey of marketing executives revealed that despite acceptance of the need for an improved online presence, many organisations are held back by a lack of internal leadership and adequate resourcing to develop better analytical capabilities, and thus better insights about customers. For more see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

Our own worst enemiesND


Louis Carter, Strategy+Business, 29 October 2011

To adopt best practice in workplace innovation and performance, a company needs to first identify what they are. A common mistake in sourcing best practice approaches by a company is to overlook those occurring within other companies externally. On the other hand, some executives erroneously assume that best practice comes only from big companies within their industry. Recent research has discovered that the most valuable practices can come from companies that are completely different, and this can lead to innovative competitive advantages. For more information, see www.strategy-business.com

China’s new protectionismND


Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 27 October 2011

Local Chinese officials are at the forefront of a wave of new protectionism against Western businesses operating in China. As the slowing Chinese economy and competition hurts Chinese brands, officials are monitoring international companies more closely. In particular, Wal-mart stores and France’s Carrefour chain have been made to pay fines and deliver public apologies, by the Chinese government for some transgressions. This increased scrutiny by the Chinese government reflects the mounting competition among local and international firms for a share of China’s $70 billion-a-year market for large grocery stores, a figure that is expected to double by 2015. For more see www.businessweek.com

Our brains, our wallets: The field of neuromarketingND


Phillip Harris, Smart Company, 26 October 2011

While consumers like to imagine themselves as rational actors, capable of making decisions based on a reasoned cost-benefit analysis, growing research suggests that much decision-making occurs ‘below-the-surface’. These hidden, emotionally biased thought processes account for the long observed gap between consumers’ stated intentions and actual behaviour. Neuromarketing offers a range of new opportunities for marketers to target this area of decision-making but has been accompanied by controversy as ethicists express concern over the persuasive power of neuromarketing techniques. For more see www.smartcompany.com

Social media driving the growth of e-commerceND


Amit Bapna, The Economic Times India, 26 October 2011

Social media platforms are triggering greater social commerce across most categories. Deals on e-commerce sites get shared and re-tweeted creating more noise online. There is also increasing competition for online space between pure e-tailers and brick and mortar retailers who are moving online or have an online presence. The trend is also shifting in favour of group-buying sites establishing a new category of e-shoppers. It is questionable though whether too much crowding of e-tailers with little differentiation will lead to another dotcom bust. For more information see www.economictimes.indiatimes.com

Only your brand will save youND


Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review, 25 October, 2011

The current period of international economic uncertainty has prompted many workers to speculate on their job security. An effective method for anyone unsure of his or her job security is to focus on personal branding. This involves cultivating a reputation as a reliable leader within the company, developing a passionate following of people who value your perspective, and becoming widely known and discussed. These measures represent an insurance against hard times. For more see www.hbr.org

Four ways to 'hear' your consumersND


G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón, Bloomberg Businessweek, 24 October 2011

Listening to consumers is the key to innovation success. Yet understanding what consumers need and want (identifying a hole in the marketplace) is the most difficult part of creating a new product. Even industry experts are vulnerable to selectively listening to consumers, which can lead to companies ignoring customer needs. In overcoming this engagement gap between producers and consumers, businesses must be willing to challenge entrenched beliefs about the market, re-engage with consumer expectations, and consult outside experts. Such methods foster an entrepreneurial perspective, creating opportunities to recognise new products, services, or business models. For more information see www.businessweek.com

National Survey of VolunteeringND


Volunteering Australia

Volunteering Australia is conducting its annual National Survey of Volunteering. Companies with employee volunteering programs can participate through the following link: http://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/html/s02_article/article_view.asp?article_id=4326&nav_cat_id=-1&nav_top_id=-1

When sorry is not enoughND


John Greenwood, The Wall Street Journal, 19 October 2011

How companies protect their brands depends upon the way senior managers respond to issues publicly. In recent times, there has been a shift where accountability to stakeholders is as important as accountability to shareholders. The Internet and social media channels can damage a company’s reputation significantly if a company’s senior management does not communicate effectively in the wake of a crisis. With CEOs considered more trusted than NGO representatives by members of the public surveyed, strong messages (and public apologies when needed) from CEOs are key to repairing or limiting damage. For more information, see www.wsj.com

It’s about information, not technologyND


Paul Taylor, Financial Times, 18 October 2011

Traditionally, business leaders outside of the technology sector have a limited understanding of their IT departments. It is important for CEOs to know about IT in a strategic sense as technology can offer better staff mobility and connectedness through online platforms. However, if CEOs aren’t aware of technology than their companies’ business models could be vulnerable to lack of innovation or strategic developments. For more information see www.ft.com

The tyranny of eventsND


William Lyons, The Wall Street Journal, 18 October 2011

For global companies with regional and local offices in countries with volatile socio-political climates, corporate responsibility for local employees has never been so important. Companies working in high- risk environments should undertake objective risk analysis on a regular basis and have emergency crisis plans in place. Corporations have an obligation to all employees to ensure their safety, and there is increased reputation risk for firms where they do not develop positive relationships with local communities, provide adequate security measures and approach potential corruption and political risk ethically. For more information, see www.wsj.com

Rising export prices from China add inflationary pressure to India ND


Smriti Seth, Times of India, 17 October 2011

China’s high inflation is triggering inflationary pressures in India. A third of India’s imported consumer goods currently come from China. India’s steady rise in interest rates has proven unable to offset the impact of the 15 per cent appreciation of the Chinese currency in the past six months and rising labour costs, resulting in increasing prices of China’s manufactured products. This situation reflects findings by the IMF that China’s supply and demand shocks have significant impacts upon its international trading partners. For more information see www.timesofindia.com

Mandarin has the edge in Europe’s classrooms ND


Stanley Pignal, Financial Times, 16 October 2011

Nine Belgian schools have recently commenced a pilot project promoting Chinese language learning. In the UK the teaching of Mandarin in classrooms has grown rapidly in the past 15 years, now the fourth most studied language behind French, Spanish and German. The US has also seen an explosion in the study of Mandarin, from one in 300 elementary school in 1997, to almost one in 30 in 2008. Perceptions of the growing economic importance of China and the country’s significance in the job market of the future is understood to be driving demand. For more information see www.ft.com

A quest for hybrid companies that profit, but can tap charityND


Stephanie Strom, New York Times, 12 October 2011

Hybrid not-for-profit and profit companies are partly designed for social benefit but also low-profit. Unlike for-profits, investors can prioritise social missions and can be funded by foundations. Unlike non-profits, conventional capital markets can be accessed. Hybrid companies have resulted from hard lobbying, and allow directors to do the right thing without facing the pitfalls of failing to maximise profits. Their business model attempts to synergise and combine the best of both worlds. For more information, see www.nytimes.com

Social business is no longer optionalND


Chris Perry, Forbes, 12 October 2011

Successful use of social media can create a community of loyal advocates, but if done badly, businesses can brand themselves as inauthentic, out-of-touch and boring. Online reviews on products and services have become the key influence in purchasing. Currently, companies admit that an online presence is essential to brand reputation. However, a very small number consider their online efforts as ‘world class’. Businesses find it difficult to establish clear goals for social media strategy, assessing impact and complexity in navigating. Companies must maintain constant interaction with customers and understand their preferences in products, experiences and campaign ideas. For more information see www.forbes.com

CEOs should activate their company’s stakeholdersND


Francis Gouillart, Harvard Business Review, 10 October 2011

The extensive networks of stakeholders that surround large companies (including suppliers, employees, distributors, and customers) represent a microcosm of the global economy. CEOs have the potential to trigger beneficial processes of collective engagement by organising theme-based communities along the value chain to facilitate interactions. This shift in thinking away from value-chain-centric views of business towards the creation and maintenance of multi-stakeholder communities holds the key to business success and is already being mobilised in emerging markets. For more information see www.hbr.org

Latest game theory: Mixing work and playND


Rachel Emma Sullivan, The Wall Street Journal, 10 October 2011

International Business Machines Corp, Deloitte and Touch Tohmatsu and other comanies are applying social media in-house to make business tasks more engaging and to encourage collaboration between employees. Tasks such as management training, data entry and brainstorming are ‘gamified’. The concept is that employees receive points or badges for completing tasks within time limits and are then ranked on leader-boards. It is estimated seventy per cent of compoanies will introduce these or similar workplace practices by 2014. For more information see, www.wsj.com

Breakthrough ideas for the talent war in Asia ND


Joel Backaler, Forbes, 4 October 2011

Expectations of aggressive growth in high-growth emerging markets in Asia are being obstructed by high attrition rates among key local talent. The intense demand for local talent has created a seller’s market, with aggressive recruiters offering significantly higher wages in order to headhunt new staff. This strategy has led to escalating wage costs and has prompted the need for more sustainable recruitment strategies. Successful attempts to overcome attrition have focused upon building local HR capacity, investments in localised talent engagement, and management commitments to ongoing innovation in HR tactics. For more see www.forbes.com

The business of sustainabilityND


Sheila Bonini, McKinsey Quarterly, October 2011

McKinsey has found that larger numbers of executives are better-integrating sustainability goals beyond concern for reputation. Sustainability is approached more actively to improve operational efficiency and lower costs. But there is much room for improvement. Firstly, sustainability can be integrated into internal communications and engagement knowing that sustainability performance attracts and retains employees. Secondly, different industries use different levers (growth, return on capital, and risk management) so companies must identify the biggest opportunities for optimal value creation. Lastly, companies must factor sustainability into ‘hard’ areas of business, such as supply chain and the budget. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

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