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Another fine mess for business to cope with, David Smith, Editor, The Sunday Times


June 2017 |

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In the days leading up to the general election, I had a lot of discussions with people on the theme of what was the worst that could happen for Theresa May. The general view was that a similarly small majority to the one she went into the election with would be humiliating, while even a larger majority, but under 50, would fall short of the convincing mandate she sought.

We now know it was a lot worse than that. Two years ago, a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party was the expected election outcome. This time it clearly was not. Mrs May is said to have remarked that, instead of “strong and stable” she now looks stupid, having taken a gamble that backfired spectacularly. When the response to an election is not whether but when she will have to step down before the next one, which surely will be well before 2022, you know how badly it went.

What does it mean for business? There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that the election outcome will have a damaging impact on business and the economy, particularly in the context of Brexit. A few weeks ago, business thought it knew where it was with a Tory majority government and the prime minister’s 12-point plan for leaving the European Union. Now it does not. How much of that plan can survive the failure to secure a majority is not yet clear, though speculation has centred on a “softer” Brexit. That, which could yet involve membership of the single market or something close to it, would be good news for many in business. The uncertainty of course is not.

That uncertainty has already been reflected in a drop in business confidence. The Institute of Directors, which conducted a snap poll of its members after the election, found that only a fifth of firms were optimistic about prospects for the economy over the next 12 months, while 57% were pessimistic. The net balance, -37%, represented a sharp deterioration compared with the IoD’s -3% reading when it conducted a similar survey in May. Some 72% of firms said the political instability was of concern for their organisation, and 92% said it was of concern for the economic outlook.

How gloomy does this mean that the economic outlook is? There is no doubt that political uncertainty will have an impact. It gives firms an additional reason to sit on their hands and to hold back on investment. Consumers are being squeezed by a combination of rising inflation and stagnant wage growth. It is important, however, not to overdo the gloom. The initial sharp fall in business confidence after the election had strong echoes of its plunge after the EU referendum last year, after which the economy’s performance surprised on the upside.    

This is because the second way of looking at the situation we are in it is that the only realistic response for business is accept that politics is not going to do it any favours and get on with it. Politics has thrown a huge amount of uncertainty at business over the past few years. In Europe, it looked at one stage as if the politics of the eurozone could lead to its break-up, while Donald Trump’s victory in America last November – and his often erratic conduct as president – continues to be one of those “pinch me and I’ll wake up” events.



US v UK internal communications - results from the US Business Panel Research


June 2017 |

report-cover.pngOur Richmond survey of US corporations gives very similar findings to last month’s UK survey.

Both surveys are available on request and the US Survey headlines are detailed below.

US Business optimism and increases in headcount are both looking more positive.

Only 7% of the panel describe their organization’s internal communications as excellent, and 37% as good. 48% feel they’re a mixed bag, some clearly good and some less so.

There are 3 primary purposes for an organization’s internal communications: to build support for the organization’s vision, (for) staff motivation / employee engagement and to communicate senior management decisions and viewpoints.  

Two thirds of the panel feel internal communications are essential for keeping their whole organization up to speed with what’s going on.  This is followed by 45% who believe it’s a key motivator in terms of employee engagement.

No real surprise that the Comms department leads the way in terms of being responsible for an organization’s internal communications, with this being the case for 29% of the panel (though you could argue the figure would be higher).

The most popular channels for organizations to communicate with its employees are through email and in person.  These are followed by live events and conferences, their organizations’ website and then new internal social media channels such as Yammer.   

At the other end of the scale only 5% of organizations use You Tube, Twitter and Facebook, whilst 4% use LinkedIn

Most of the panel are mainly satisfied with the ease in which they can locate information; 18% saying it’s easy and a further 66% saying not too bad.

Almost two thirds of the panel agree with the statement ‘the volume of social media often dilutes the messages delivered’, 21% are unsure and 17% disagree.

Less than a third of the panel engage with their organization’s internal communications on a daily basis.
 



How to choose a digital marketing agency - a best practice guide


June 2017 |

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Ten delegates at the recent Richmond Digital Marketing Forum on 9th March took part in an hour long discussion on how to develop and maintain a relationship with a digital marketing agency.

The summary of their views and recommendations was carried out in partnership with xSpeediency research consultancy

The five golden rules for developing a good relationship with a digital marketing agency are:

  1. Efficient tendering - weeding out the wildcards and incompatibles prior to the formal tendering process.
  2. Setting meeting ground rules (type and frequency) from the outset.
  3. Setting measurable targets from the outset.
  4. Ensuring regular face-to-face meetings and integrate the agency team into internal processes and culture.
  5. Developing buy-in from senior staff in the client organisation.
Digital Marketing Agency Best Practice



The Market Insight Forum 2017


June 2017 |

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The Market Insight Forum celebrated its 10th anniversary this month at the impressive newly-refurbished Savoy Place.  Richmond Events welcomed 200 of the UKs most senior insight professionals, the highest number of attendees since its launch in 2007. 

This event is now firmly established as the UK’s leading meeting place for senior research and insight executives and the day started with a fascinating opening address from Will Gompertz, a world expert on modern art and BBC Arts Editor.

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The conference programme covered a wide range of topics. The most highly rated sessions being an interview with Edwina Dunn CEO, Starcount (co-founder of customer science company Dunnhumby).  Tom de Ruyck from the School of Management (Lille, France) -  The modern insight team.

The feedback from our delegates reflected the quality of the content through the day as well as the invaluable supplier meetings that make this event the industry’s most prestigious gathering.

Here are just a few of the comments from those who attended

“Stimulating; intensive; rewarding; insightful”

“It was a useful, interesting, informative, well-choreographed day.”

“Inspiring, energising and stimulating!  I really enjoyed it and have come back to work with some new ideas to follow up.” 

“An amazing day and absolutely worthwhile. Met some great people and spent the day talking about what I need and thinking strategically about new ways of working and being challenged by amazing people.”

“Very good - plenty of inspiration and help for solving the Insight issues I have.”

“Intense but very useful! You have the possibility to use the time with the agencies to talk about real business issues |”

The Market Insight Forum was fully subscribed in 2017.  If you are interested in attending in 2018 please contact us as soon as possible. 

If you would like to attend as a delegate please contact Christine Smith.  For agency packages please contact either Neil Tait or Emma Doniger.
 



Politics v Economics and post-election Brexit, Nick Turner


June 2017 |
Poll Card EU referendum
Each month and within the pages of our newsletter we see the reports, and studies from within the business world as to the confidence indicators going forward regarding expectations and concerns following on from the fallout, if any, from Brexit.

The recent General Election in the UK was, in reality, a campaign fought primarily about the economy, on the one part, and a reaction to austerity on the other.

It is clear that whatever vote you cast over Brexit, that the universal political wish was for the period of transition, that will begin in earnest, post-election, to be conducted with as little disruption to the economy as possible.

So far, a weakened pound has seen exports steady and rise in many quarters, and at the same time inward inflationary pressures caused by the increased cost of imports is hitting the family budgets. Food, fuel, and clothing have all seen increases above the rate of wage increases.

The public sector has increasingly become a cause for concern. Wage freezes for 8 to 9 years, services weakened by cuts, and all public services  under huge strain  with security, justice, policing and non-health public services bearing the brunt.  The atrocities in Manchester and London could not have happened at a worse time for the mandate demanded by Theresa May.

The internal infrastructure, with delay after delay for HS2 and the third runway at Heathrow, plus localised trouble spots such as Southern Rail and a national road system in such disrepair that authorities are paying out without question, substantial sums each month to motorists complaining of damaged steering, suspension and tyres caused as a result of potholes, and shattered road surfaces, is in substantial distress.

Despite good monthly economic figures there remains the unwillingness to raise funds for public spending through personal taxation, and there is, equally, no appetite to burden businesses either.

So the business world, up until June 8th, was optimistic about the economy in the short term; however, that figure which had been well over 50% stood at 22% according to polls conducted post-election.
 
Security and policing have become a much more important feature in the minds of many people, particularly in the aftermath of the Manchester suicide bombing and the London atrocities.

But there are further underlying issues that should worry the politicians and that is the amount of credit out there. Families continue to rely on credit and alarmingly those credit levels per capita, are higher than they have ever been, even pre-2008, and our reliance and appetite for credit is increasing.

Howeve.r credit levels do not pose a threat until the confidence in the ability to repay that debt is lost. The US, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all have far higher credit levels per capita than the UK. However, post-election, the international ratings agencies are warning that the UK’s own rating is under threat because the political uncertainty will create economic uncertainty.

And for the first time in this brief analysis we have a non-statistical word creep in. That word is “confidence”.

 

It is confidence that gives a banker a peaceful night’s sleep, and confidence that fires the gambling instincts of the financial traders and brokers, and the currency markets and just about everything else.
This is where politics should have been relevant for the choppy seas ahead.

I opened by saying that this UK election was about the economy, and that being so, then the function of our politicians, post-election, is to do nothing that undermines confidence in the economy going forward.
The perceived pre-election strategy of Theresa May as described by those in opposition, was of a leader who had painted herself into a corner, angered those she was proposing to negotiate with, and has then gone onto to indicate that NO negotiation  NO deal may have some merit if she didn’t get what she wanted. A poor campaign did not help.

However, politically, the election was called strategically as the best time she could see to seize a full mandate from the country to continue a firm (uncompromising) line in Brexit negotiations.

That strategy has failed. The referendum in June 2016, and the General Election in June 2017 were both called after advice that these were the best times to secure political certainty. Both elections have caused the exact opposite.

Democracy has the habit of being an unruly child.

Common sense, protection of the economy, and here I mean a bilateral trade deal that mirrors the existing trade arrangements is, in reality, all the UK positively wants out of the negotiations. The rest is politics, and movement of labour.

The European Union bureaucracy will demand a penance, if only to deter a further disintegration of their Union. They will have been buoyed by the election results in Austria, Holland, and France. However, their business leaders equally want as little disruption to trade as possible.

It is fortunate that we never joined the Euro, as the pound continues to be a significant enough currency to enjoy a flexibility envied by those in the Euro zone, and as such that alone, should focus our European partners into tying down an economic deal sooner rather than later.

Politicians on both sides have an unfortunate ability to drag negotiations out over many months, sometimes years, failing throughout to see the woods for the trees.

But I fear that now with no real mandate in place, the Government will be shackled by even more political issues internally. A party governing with a hung Parliament is no use at a negotiating table, it is akin to Carlisle United taking on Real Madrid. I believe that it will be about “compromise” when it should  have been about “confidence” and common sense.

I think the posturing will stop from both sides and the penance the UK pays may be something along the lines of a structured flow of labour, dressed up as a simple entry requirement form, together with a ten year “repayment” plan (exit fee), and inevitably a statutory concession to EEC product regulations. In other words, a poor deal politically.

However, it is imperative that the economic needs of the business world are highlighted above all to support strong growth, and promote inward investment and maintain a vibrant healthy economy.

Only the politicians can make a mess of this but if this election was, as said, about the economy then the politicians need to think pragmatically, and act with speed, talk with sense and above all avoid rhetoric and personal posturing. Accept the political weakness but do not forget that essentially Brexit is about maintaining the trading relationships status quo above all.



Political chaos - business as usual, Mark Rayner


June 2017 |
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The world of politics continues to look chaotic.
 
In the US, the Trump-Comey debate continues and the country remains divided politically, as testimonies and lawyers take centre stage.
 
In the UK (as covered this month by David Smith and Nick Turner) the General Election confounds predictions and poses many more questions than it answers: 
  • How long will Teresa May remain Conservative leader?
  • Who will be the next Conservative leader and when?
  • Could Jeremy Corbyn actually become Prime Minister?
  • What now for Brexit? 
The chaos in British politics makes the European Union look almost stable.
 
However, the Czechs, Poles & Hungarians are refusing to accept EU rulings on refugees and are being threatened with punishments, Italy is talking about early elections, no solution has been found for Greek debt, and generally the ECB keeps printing money and debt keeps rising.
 
Despite all this, business seems to continue as usual. By business I don’t mean self-interested, selfish corporations. I mean ordinary people going to work to earn a living and the companies they work for and with. The people who drive the economy. We all seem to get on with our lives, despite politics and politicians.
 
From Richmond Events’ point of view, we have a growing number of customers coming to a growing number of events in a growing number of markets.
 
Despite the politicians, I expect that’s likely to continue.


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