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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:

Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions for 2019ND

Nic Newman, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford, January 2019

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s predictions for 2019 are outlined in great detail in this report, which notes that 2019 will be a ‘critical year’ for publishers and platforms in terms of rebuilding trust and credibility. 2019, it writes, will be a year of fundamental shifts. The labelling and prioritising of trusted content as a means to counter misinformation is well underway. Likewise, organisations like the New York Times are working on the basis that every piece of content they make should be worth paying for. This underpins the changing business model of news media, which sees subscriptions and private foundations becoming more and more important as advertising revenue continues to fall. The report predicts that more news organisations will go to the wall as economic conditions worsen, and that artificial intelligence will open up many possibilities for the way news is told.
This report is recommended reading for corporate public affairs practitioners to better understand the changing media environment.

To download the report click here

Data, Analytics & AI: How Trust Delivers ValueND

MIT SMR Connections, Custom Research Report, January 2019

This report, by SAS in collaboration with the MIT Sloane Management Review, examines how to derive more value from analytics and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. It presents a global survey of 2,400 business executives and managers to identify where recognised best practices are becoming mainstream and where they may still be exceptional. It found that respondents who have advanced their analytics practices to incorporate AI-based technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing work in organizations that do the most to foster data quality, safeguard data assets, and develop cultures of data literacy and innovation. A key finding was the gap between having data, and having the right data. And those executives who reported a higher level of trust in their data were more likely to have shown leadership in foundational activities that ensured the data was high quality. The research came to three main conclusions. First, better data governance is needed. Second, data privacy has emerged as an opportunity. And third, fostering an analytics culture improves innovation.

To download the full report click here

Google fined record €50m by French data protection watchdogND

Alex Hern, The Guardian, Monday 21st January 2019

The French data protection watchdog has fined Google a record €50m for failing to provide users with transparent and understandable information on its data use policies. It marks the first time a company has been fined under new terms laid out in the European general data protection regulation (GDPR). The maximum fine for large companies under the new law is four per cent of annual turnover, meaning that Google could theoretically face a maximum fine of €4bn. The French watchdog (CNIL), said Google was fined because it made it too difficult for users to find essential information, “such as the data-processing purposes, the data storage periods or the categories of personal data uses for the ads personalisation”, by splitting them across multiple documents, help pages and settings screens. Such a lack of clarity meant that users were effectively unable to exercise their right to opt out of data-processing for personalisation of ads. In a statement, Google said: “People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We’re deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR. We’re studying the decision to determine our next steps.” Dr Lukasz Olejnik, an independent privacy researcher and adviser, said the ruling was the world’s largest data protection fine. “This is a milestone in privacy enforcement, and the history of privacy. The whole European Union should welcome the fine. It loudly announced the advent of GDPR decade,” he said.

For the full story click here

Sustainability reporting: a best practiceND

The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, Fall Issue 2018

The reporting process and the resulting report has become essential for strategic decision-making, enabling stronger long-term planning, stakeholder relations, and data-driven insights. And as disclosure becomes more popular, reports become more sophisticated (and useful). According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s State of Corporate Citizenship 2017, executives appreciate the value of corporate citizenship reporting and are continuing to increase their investment in it. According to the report, more than 40 per cent of executives reported that their companies issued a report, and more than 65 per cent reported they plan to grow these investments. In addition to the business benefits, it is also fast becoming a legal requirement to report ESG metrics. In France, nonfinancial reporting requirements have been in place since 2015, and in Denmark, since 2009. Across the board, the clear trend is toward greater transparency in both financial and nonfinancial dimensions.

To read the full article from the BCCC’s magazine click here

Goldman boss apologises for 1MDB scandalND

BBC News, Wednesday 16th January 2019

The new boss of Goldman Sachs has apologised to Malaysia for the role an ex-partner played in the corruption scandal at one of the country’s wealth funds. CEO David Solomon also distanced the bank from the scheme, which saw billions of dollars embezzled from the state development fund, 1MDB. Goldman had helped raise money for the fund, and Mr Solomon said the bank had been deceived about details of the deals. Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman last month. Although the scandal has hurt the bank’s reputation, Mr Solomon said the overall impact on client relationships had been minimal. “This has been a difficult time, but I’m proud about how our firm has remained focused on our clients,” he said. According to authorities, Goldman earned $600m for its work underwriting more than $6bn in bonds between 2012 and 2013 for 1MDB. Much of the money meant for the fund was then allegedly embezzled, used to buy art, property, and a private jet among other things. Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak is among those who have been accused of pocketing the money – a charge which he denies. That case is scheduled for trial in Malaysia later this year.

For the full story click here

Gillette faces backlash and boycott over ‘#MeToo advert’ND

Michael Baggs, BBC News, Tuesday 15th January 2019

A Gillette advertisement which references bullying, the #MeToo movement and toxic masculinity has split opnion online. The company’s short film plays on their famous slogan ‘the best a man can get’, replacing it with ‘the best men can be’. And while some have praised the message of the advert, others have declared they will boycott the razor brand. The ad has garnered more than nine million views on YouTube, with more than 500,000 ‘dislikes’ compared to 125,000 ‘likes’. Comments on the video are largely negative, with one angry viewer writing that ‘in less than two minutes you managed to alienate your biggest sales group for your products.’ But the brand believes the new advertisement aligns with its slogan and says it believes in ‘the best of men’. "By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behaviour, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come," says its president, Gary Coombe. Rob Saunders, an account manager for UK advertising company the Media Agency Group, told the BBC that there was no need for widespread panic at Gillette just yet. "Their ad is getting them good publicity and good numbers and causing a debate - which they must have known when they put out this ad… This ad would have been approved by many people high up at Gillette,” he said.

For the full story click here

Tech workers unite to fight forced arbitrationND

Nitasha Tiku, Wired, Monday 14th January 2019

In November 2018, a walkout of 20,000 Google employees made headlines. But the changes it led to fell short of the organisers’ demands, and now some activists inside Google have broadened the fight. On Tuesday January 15 (US time), the group called Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration will launch a social media campaign about mandatory arbitration agreements, arguing that employers use them to suppress workers’ rights. “Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace,” the group wrote in a blog post on Medium. The social media campaign represents big change for tech’s labour movement, as it involves several companies. Although most of the action has come from Google, in December, the group started soliciting copies of employment contracts from colleagues at Facebook, Uber, and other tech companies and third party contractors, to understand how employers convince both workers and contractors to sign arbitration agreements that inhibit their right to bring sexual harassment or discrimination claims in front of a jury. Google declined to comment to Wired.

For the full story click here

Patagonia’s billionaire founder to give away the millions his company saved from Trump’s tax cuts to save the planetND

Angel Au-Yeung, Forbes, Thursday November 29 2018

Patagonia has announced it has an extra $10 million in profits due to to President Trump’s tax cuts last year, which lowered corporate tax in the US to 21% from 35%. Instead of investing the additional dollars back into its business, Patagonia said it would give $10 million to grassroot groups fighting climate change, including organizations that work in regenerative organic agriculture to help reverse global warming. “Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouniard said in a statement. “It’s pure evil.” This isn’t the first time the company has taken a stand against President Trump’s policies, and it hasn’t hurt their business. “Any time that we do something good for the environment, we make more money,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario told students at UC Berkeley in April 2017.

For the full story click here

Why the Google walkout was a watershed moment in techND

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times, Wednesday November 7 2018

At 11 a.m. local time last Thursday, more than 20,000 employees walked out to protest the company’s history of protecting executives accused of sexual harassment. For two years, regulators, lawmakers, academics and the media have pushed Silicon Valley to alter its ways. But outsiders have few points of leverage in tech. Protests by workers are an important new avenue for pressure; the very people who make these companies work can change what they do in the world. In Google’s case, the organisers used Google’s own collaborative tools, and leveraged its open company culture to create a wide-ranging movement. ”We have an incredibly engaged group of people, and we aren’t going to stop escalating this,” said Claire Stapleton, a marketing manager at Google-owned YouTube who created the internal discussion forum that organisers used to plan the walkout. “The group isn’t really going to back down from this or a host of other things. The walkout was not like a blowing-off-steam exercise.”

For the full story click here

Phillip Morris accused of hypocrisy over anti-smoking adND

BBC News, Monday October 22 2018

Phillip Morris, one of the world’s largest tobacco firms, has been accused of hypocrisy over its new ad campaign that urges smokers to quit. The firm, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, said the move was “an important next step” in its aim to “ultimately stop selling cigarettes. But Cancer Research accused the firm of “staggering hypocrisy”, pointing out that it still promotes smoking outside the United Kingdom. “The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes,” George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager said. Philip Morris’s managing director Peter Nixon said its new advertising campaign was “about supporting smokers in finding alternatives”. Asked why the firm does not simply stop making cigarettes if it truly wants smokers to quit, Mr Nixon said it was because smokers would then switch to a rival product. “Cigarettes still generate 87% of our business. We want to get to [smoke-free] as soon as possible, and we want to be selling alternatives, but it does take time,” he said.

For the full story click here

Google stays above the fray in Corporate Responsibility RepTrakND

Vicky Valet, Forbes, Friday October 11 2018

Much of the global business community – including big tech companies – has been in damage control this past year. And while Apple and Facebook have seen their brands tarnished, Google appears to have stayed above the fray. “Google is still viewed as an employer of choice. It’s an aspirational, ‘do no evil’ kind of company,” says Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer of the Reputation Institute, a reputation measurement and management services firm. This is the first year the RepTrak study has omitted the term ‘social’, opting just to use the term ‘corporate responsibility’. “Corporate responsibility is quadrilateral between social, fiscal, employer and environmental responsibility. That is the new rubric for success,” says Hahn-Griffiths. Although the name of the game has changed, the key to lifting corporate responsibility is the same as it always has been, according to Hahn-Griffiths. ““Creating a company that is viewed as having high corporate responsibility begins from the inside out… When you have internal alignment, the external story becomes much more powerful.”

For the full story click here

Google+ shutting down after users' data is exposedND

Dave Lee, BBC News, Tuesday October 9 2018

Google+ will shut down much of its social network Google + following a data breach. It said a bug in its software meant that information users believed to be private had been accessible by third parties. Google said up to 500,000 users had been affected, and the Wall Street Journal reported that the company knew about the issue in March but did not disclose it. The WSJ report quoted an internal Google memo that said disclosing the information would draw “immediate regulatory interest”. In a statement, Google responded that the issue was not serious enough to warrant informing the public. "Our Privacy and Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met here."

For the full story click here

Corporate sponsorship may be diverting research and distorts public policy, claims reportND

Christopher Knaus, The Guardian, Wednesday September 26 2018

A new study published by University of Sydney researchers in the American Journal of Public Health on Wednesday suggests that corporate support of academic studies could be diverting researchers away from important public health questions. The paper, which seeks to understand how corporate support of research shapes the agendas of researchers, cites examination of 36 articles from 1986 to 2017 – four papers on tobacco, three on the food industry, three on plant or animal biotechnology and others relating to the alcohol, chemical or mining industries. “They use the same strategies,” the lead author, Alice Fabbri, told Guardian Australia. “They (corporations) fund research that can be used to promote their products or distract from the harms of their products, or to drive the research away from policies that will tend to harm them.” The article comes at a time when rising community distrust of some corporations and in some industry sectors is fuelling calls for universities to reduce their connections with business, at the same time that many governments, universities, and industry groups are calling for more companies to partner with higher education on applied innovation and research.

For the full story click here

Nike ‘proud’ of Kaepernick campaignND

BBC News, Wednesday September 26 2018

Nike CEO Mark Parker has called the advertising campaign featuring NFL star Colin Kaepernick a success following early reports that the campaign had driven growth in Nike sales. “It's resonated... quite strongly with consumers, obviously here in North America, but also around the world," Mr Parker told analysts. "Like many campaigns, it's driving a real uptick in traffic and engagement, both socially as well as commercially." Mr Kaepernick is known for his refusal to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism. Nike said revenues in the period increased 10% year-on-year to US $9.9bn.

For the full story see

To grow your business abroad, partner with local influencersND

Joel Backaler, Harvard Business Review, Tuesday September 25 2018

The rise of social media has created a new type of local business partner: local digital influencers. These people spend their days developing content and engaging followers and have become local thought leaders on social media. They build active communities both online and offline around a multitude of topics, and their audience turns to them to provide insights on these topics. So, rather than starting your brand from scratch, why not weave them into your story? This practice is called influencer marketing, and is much more than just paying models and celebrities to promote a product on Instagram. These influencers aren’t simply ‘Instafamous’ – they are diverse individuals with established expertise, expansive platforms, and refined strategies of engaging target audiences and shaping their behaviour. At the end of the day, digital influence is an extension of the age-old practice of word of mouth – now via new virtual platforms to reach mass audiences all around the world. It’s time for marketing departments to recognise the potential of these voices and engage them to accelerate global expansion.

For more tips and the full story see

4 ways busy people sabotage themselvesND

Alice Boyes, Harvard Business Review, Thursday September 20 2018

You haven’t replied to an email, even though it would only take 10 minutes. Maybe you have left another important task undone for weeks – you just don’t have the time, right? These self sabotaging patterns maintain a cycle of always having too much to do (or at least feeling like it). Here are four ways you might do this, and some possible solutions. First, you keep ploughing away without stepping back and prioritising. Stress causes our focus to narrow, but it’s important to use the ‘pay yourself first’ principle and accomplish the items on your priority list first. Second, you completely overlook easy solutions for getting things done. To get out of the trap of avoiding easy solutions, take a step back and question your assumptions. Next, you ‘kick the can down the road’ instead of making easy solutions to conundrums. Remedies for recurring problems are often simple if you can step back enough to get perspective. And by gradually accumulating winning strategies over time, you can significantly erode your problem, bit by bit. Finally, you use avoid or escape methods for coping with anxiety. If you want to deal constructively with situations that trigger anxiety for you, you’ll need to engineer some flexibility and space into your life so that you can work through your emotions and thoughts when your anxiety is set off. With practice, you’ll start to notice when you’re just doing something to avoid doing something else.

For the full breakdown, visit

A 4-step plan to make your Q&A more audience-friendlyND

Lauren Weinstein & Matt Abrahams, Harvard Business Review, Tuesday September 18 2018

Here is a four step plan – remembered by the acronym FIRE – derived from the teaching and coaching experience at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business which aim to improve the Q&A sessions at conferences and town-halls. First, Framing. In preparing for interviews, most guests ask ‘What do I want to say?’ But the most effective guests ask ‘What does my audience need to hear?’ You will also benefit from having a clear speaking goal: what do you want your audience to know, how do you want them to feel, and what do you want your audience to do? Second, Inclusion. A good Q&A invites the audience into the experience. This can be done by using inclusive language (e.g. using ‘you’ and ‘we’ whenever possible) and by polling the audience. Next, Rails. Like a train needs rails, your content needs structure. Our favourite structure is the What?>So what?> Now what? structure. Finally, Examples. As you prepare for your next interview, we suggest the following: make a list of all the key points, themes, best practices, etc. you’d like to be prepared to share with your audience. Then provide examples and case studies for every one of them – these can be real or imagined.

For the full story, see

Facebook accused of allowing bias against women in job adsND

Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Tuesday September 18 2018

A group of job-seekers is accusing Facebook of helping employers to exclude female candidates from recruiting campaigns. The employers appear to have used Facebook’s targeting technology to exclude women from the users who received their advertisements, which highlighted openings for jobs like truck driver or window installer. Washington-based employment lawyer Debra Katz, who is not involved with the case, said the campaigns appeared to violate Federal US law, which forbids employers and employment agencies like recruiting firms from discriminating on the basis of gender. “There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. “We are reviewing the complaint and look forward to defending our practices.”

For the full story see:

Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoint presentations at Amazon meetings. Here’s what replaced themND

Robert Glazer, Forbes, Wednesday August 22 2018

Instead of reading bullet points on a projector screen, Amazon employees have recently started reading memos setting the tone of the meeting before anyone actually starts talking. Sounds crazy right? I decided to try it out in my organisation, and here are the top five benefits we have seen so far. First, efficiency. The memos give people a chance to get up to speed on a topic in advance, meaning we can hit the ground running. Next, better questions and discussions. Since everyone now starts with the same information and has time to process it, questions are a lot deeper and more thought-provoking, which makes the discussion more robust. Third, a more level playing field. Using memos gives all participants a chance to be heard and to share their thinking clearly, which makes it more likely that the best ideas and thinking will surface. Fourth, strategic thinking. While a PowerPoint slide can list facts and figures, a memo requires deep thinking and a narrative, and writers have to really make their case. And finally, memos provide a historical record of ideas and decisions. If anyone misses a meeting, the memo is available to provide background and context. These memos also serve as a record of the reasoning behind decisions over time.

For the full breakdown see:

Fake accounts, tweets and 'morons': Could a bot take down your company?ND

Ariel Bogle, ABC News, Wednesday September 12 2018

In June, the CEO of Harley-Davidson Matt Levatich stared down a problem facing many modern CEOs: how can you ensure nobody thinks you called the US President a moron? “It’s shameful we live in a time when people create fake quotes,” he wrote, following a tweet which falsely claimed he had called Donald Trump a moron. The repudiation worked, but for a little while there it looked like a viral tweet could take control of the 100-year-old company’s corporate narrative. The spread of misinformation on social media is now considered a severe socio-political threat, but corporations too are getting hit. In the US, former political strategist Josh Ginsberg has co-founded analytics firm Zignal Labs, which tries to identify networks of fake accounts on social media and alert their clients before a bad story crashes into mainstream media or hits their stock price. Misinformation is a big issue for corporations that is only growing, as a recent study found that fake news spreads quicker and more deeply than real news.

For the full story see:

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