London needs these entry-level digital roles

There are currently 40,000 technology businesses employing almost 200,000 people in London, which is 3.5% of the capital’s workforce.

To drive digital innovation and futureproof the workforce of London’s businesses, the Mayor of London launched a new £7 million Digital Talent Programme in December that will provide entry-level digital opportunities for young people.

The programme supports 1,500 young Londoners by offering work placements, providing learning opportunities, and matching academic prowess with real-world experience. One of its primary objectives is to provide work opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic groups.

To celebrate the launch, the programme has released their “Priorities for entry-level digital skills needs in Greater London” report, a result of a consultation made earlier in 2016, setting out the priority digital needs by companies in London.

I’ve read through the report so you don’t have to, picking out the key pieces of insight. It should be useful reading for anyone interested working in the digital industry as a whole, and sheds some light on the state of digital marketing in London.

Digital priorities are broad

The priority entry-level digital roles in London includes cyber security, which should be embedded across all business areas and has a real need for specialists. Games development is a profitable business area and is considered a priority beyond other software and applications roles. For digital business roles, digital marketing specialists are needed – as we know from the public relations industry, often this may involve introducing digital expertise to traditional companies.

Foundation knowledge for the digital industry

Businesses who responded to the consultation said that irrespective of the entry-level digital role, foundation knowledge in digital should include:

  • An understanding of the digital landscape that means knowing how different digital roles are interconnected with each other, along with how businesses are now using technology
  • Understanding cyber security and the best working practices
  • Entrepreneurial working approach and the ability to respond quickly to change

Shortage of cyber security specialists

Even though the report is aimed at entry-level roles, it admits roles in cyber security need to be more specialist. This means jobs tend to be more focused around operational functions, such as managers, risk analysts and penetration testers (*giggle*). If you want to enter the profession then a basic foundation in cyber security is obviously required, along with a foundation knowledge of coding, law, and ethics.

Software and game developers are needed

The biggest digital priority in London is the need for software and games developers. This covers everything from analysts, design, providing excellence for user-experience and implementing internet solutions. Most common skillsets required are those who can use the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, etc), with knowledge of the languages Unity3D, Unreal and Swift.

IT and Big Data

Alongside the need for straightforward IT support in businesses, are roles that cover the creation and maintenance of databases, plus the analysis of data. In this category knowledge of SQL Server is a must, Microsoft software, and Oracle EBS. Understanding of statistics tools R or SAS are needed for data analysis.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing is the single biggest priority area in business services across London. It includes everything from content creation, search engine optimisation, advertising, community management, email marketing – the list really does go on. There is an opportunity for the public relations industry to help plug many of the digital marketing gaps here, but also a realisation that with growth across online advertising and e-commerce roles, public relations may not be a suitable ‘umbrella’ discipline to futureproof businesses in London.

Lights, camera, action!

Jobs in film production are still the largest sub-sector in all film related employment and visual effects is a significant part of roles in London. A number of roles in these areas have to be filled by overseas work according to the Migration Advisory Committee, so the Mayor’s apprenticeship programme is aimed to plug this gap.

 

If you are currently looking for an entry-level digital role in London, then I encourage you to read the report to discover exactly the types of knowledge and skills that will be expected from you. For example, computer science degrees are still more naturally aligned to roles in the IT sector.

As I read this report, it’s clear that the public relations industry has a need to clearly outline its career journey and look at skills being asked for across other digital industries; such as video production, data analysts, and broader areas of digital marketing.

I fully support the Mayor’s Digital Talent Programme, especially as we’re now living in an age where rigid academic structures struggle to keep up with the pace of digital innovation – leaving real-world ‘hands on’ experience as a priority.

LinkedIn rolls out new features for business pages

LinkedIn has begun rolling out its new website design for business pages, three months after the initial announcement. The face-lift is intended to lure people into spending more time on the social network and includes a host of new features for business pages. For a long time LinkedIn has proudly kept a retro design, in a similar way to Reddit, but it seems modern functionally has required a revamp.

The website design change comes 12 months after LinkedIn overhauled its tablet and smartphone app experience. Now that Microsoft has secured regulatory approval for its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the design change is no doubt to prepare for better integration with Microsoft services. Thankfully this has not meant adopting the 1980s-esk blocky metro design theme.

What’s new for business pages?

At the centre of the LinkedIn business page change is a clear focus on recruitment. Whilst LinkedIn proves valuable for B2B marketing efforts, this is mostly achieved through personal profiles, leaving LinkedIn business pages struggling to find purpose. The focus on recruitment isn’t just a design tweak, but shows LinkedIn is investing in a clear HR functionality for pages.

LinkedIn new design, overview

One of the biggest changes by LinkedIn is a ‘life’ page that focuses on showcasing the culture of a company. This provides the option of integrating a featured YouTube video, showing images of the workplace, profiling company leaders, and a spotlight section on what it’s like working in the company. In an age where companies are held accountable by their workforce to reviews on websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn is providing an opportunity for companies to have their own HR voice.

LinkedInLifePage

There is also a separate cultural insights section that uses information from registered employees on LinkedIn to profile seniority, working location, education level, and skills. Hopefully companies choose to profile the diversity of their companies in this section, rather than use higher education as a quality goal in its own right.

Content is still king

The new design change is akin to a Facebook page, as recently published content will appear high on the page. This shows that there is still a big role for content marketing on LinkedIn, beyond publishing content on individual personal profiles. It would be good to see LinkedIn Pulse article integration in the new business page design, but perhaps this is something for later this year.

What is Microsoft’s master plan?

We know that the Microsoft and LinkedIn leadership teams have been in discussions for a few months now and there is no doubt the design change plugs into Microsoft’s plans. Some of the features it has lined up that are useful for businesses are:

  • Extending the reach of sponsored content across Microsoft properties
  • Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365
  • Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365
  • LinkedIn notifications within the Windows action centre

Read The Verge’s full round-up here.

The new LinkedIn design is being rolled out gradually in the UK and if you are an admin of a business page, you should hopefully be given the option within the next few weeks.

My three words for 2017

Standing up

At the start of each year I share my three words, a way to guide my choices for the year ahead. It also summarises expectations of where I feel like I need to continue learning to develop personally and professionally. As this will be my sixth year of doing this (unbelievable!), I’m keen that this doesn’t become a meaningless formality.

Fancy joining in?

I joined in with Chris Brogan, an influential business blogger who began ‘three words’ in 2006. The aim is to pick three words or phrases that can either work together or separately to guide your decisions. You may want to use the words to focus on different aspects of your life. If you get stuck, pick up a dictionary!

Last year was about giving more to others

As I summarised in my three words from last year, change was a theme for 2015, therefore 2016 felt like an opportunity to give back by focusing on how to coach others, working as a member of the community, and not forgetting who I am when work gets busy. Charity and coaching will always be priorities, so this year it’s time to focus on something new.

My previous three words have been:

2016: Coaching. Charity. Adumbrate.

2015: Charity. Creativity. Insight.

2014: Balance. Contribute. Health.

2013: Stability. Growth. Decisiveness.

2012: Missed this year.

2011: Understand. Grow. Support.

My three words for 2017

Moderation – I loathe to be cliché and write ‘fitness’, so 2017 will be about moderation when it comes to food, drink, and even the amount of screen-time my eyes get. A balanced life is about moderation and knowing limits, something that is especially difficult in a modern age.

Seek – Social media is a bubble. Social sites such as Facebook are not driven by serving news that makes you think, but instead just wants you to click to fuel their goliath advertising network. So finding news and information that really challenges world views is becoming increasingly difficult and takes proactive work. This year I will seek more.

Generosity – This is about being ready to give more of something, not necessarily money but also time. It’s about approaching life showing more kindness and willingness towards others. It’s a key character trait, and not something I’ve forgotten, but at times I do need to focus on.

Top 10 Instagram photos of 2016

Mount Etna, Sicily

Before I moved from my last PR agency in 2015, a specialist recruitment consultant in the digital industry advised I go beyond strategy and implementation, and create. Not one to turn down a challenge, I started learning photography and publishing Instagram photos.

Instagram is a place for self-expression and must be one of the few social media sites where there is still a profound community and sense of belonging. Instagram has become a staple part of my life and has accidentally catalogued some of the most exciting moments of 2016.

Whilst in no way a Steve McCurry or Anne Geddes, I’m pleased by some of the Instagram photos captured this year and will continue the hobby throughout 2017.

Top 10 Instagram posts of 2016

Wonderful day at @YeoviltonAirDay. 1,300 photos, but this has to be one of my favs. Will sort the others soon.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

One of my favourite photos of the year that was captured by complete chance. The sound of the explosion prompted me to turn around and snap a few photos.

Another one from #aldeburgh. #hightide2016

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

In an annual kind gesture by Lansons, we visited HighTide Festival earlier this year. In-between the talks, theatre, and comedy, I managed to snap this peaceful moment on the beach.

If you’re in Sicily then Catania is worth a visit for half the day, if only just to witness the only city in the world built of lava stone from Mount Etna’s historic eruptions. Whatever you do though, don’t drive.

And of course, Mount Etna herself. This photo was taken on the back terrace of our rented holiday apartment.

Incoming! Couldn't resist a photo on the tracks this afternoon.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

To think, five months after this photo was taken one of the trams on this network crashed and caused a number of fatalities. A little haunting in hindsight.

Of all the crickets in #hatchlandspark, this one got a photo.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

Just look at the detail!

Rufus, the amateur dog model.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

Strange, at this very moment Rufus is lying in almost exactly the same place as when I took this photo.

I have no words for this! #wellscarnival

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

As part of the Somerset carnival season, dozens of floats brimming with light bulbs, dry ice, and pumping music make their way through the tiny city.

Not alone in the garden. Amusing how an innocent looking statue can appear like a dark metaphor in a certain light.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

I’ve got a ‘thing’ for black and white photography, although according to artificial intelligence this could be a sign of depression. Either way, this statue in my grandparent’s garden takes on a life of its own when dark.

Have hundreds of photos from #chesterzoo today, here's one. Got up close to this #giraffe at feeding time.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

And we’re ending with a giraffe pic.

Have something you’re proud of?

Then I would love to see your best Instagram photos of 2016, plus I’ll give you a follow if I’m not already.

Managing Reputations in Regulated Industries

Lansons podcast

If you work in a regulated industry such as pharmaceuticals, financial services or energy, then you will know how internal teams and agencies have a requirement to ensure compliant communications. I frequently refer to this as a case of balancing risk and innovation; as digital programmes certainly require robust procedures before online engagement can be safely implemented. Of course, the same could be said across the whole marketing mix.

So last week Lansons held a partnership event with Reputation Institute, an organisation that measures the reputations of some of the world’s best known companies. The topic was Reputation Management for Regulated Industries.

The influential panel discussed why pharma companies are coming out on top, how financial services can move on from the ongoing reputational damage of the recession, and how energy companies can overcome UK consumers’ negative perceptions.

The panel was:

  • Nick Adams, Vice President of Corporate Branding, Novo Nordisk
  • Danny Rogers, Editor, PR Week
  • Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Executive Partner, Reputation Institute
  • Tony Langham, CEO, Lansons

If you haven’t seen it in PR Week already, then do have a listen to a podcast from the event below:

The importance of digital content for asset managers

Lansons asset management

Whilst many asset managers in the US have invested in digital and social media, in the UK it feels like we’re still catching up; representing an era before the internet really became useful. So yesterday morning Lansons hosted an event alongside Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group to discuss websites and digital content for asset managers.

In a packed room hosted at Lansons HQ four panellists (I was one of them), along with input from the audience, navigated the digital world to reach useful advice and understanding around compliance challenges.

I joined the panel alongside…

Rosalia Engchuan, Analyst at My Private Banking Research

Rosalia has a research focus on the mobile and web presences of wealth and fund managers as well as on the impact of disruptive technologies on the wealth management sector. She specializes in online communication technologies and mobile channel strategies. She previously worked as a CSR Analyst in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and as digital media consultant.

Cordelia Hughes, Director of Sales for the Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group

Cordelia has worked with asset management clients for over a decade. Donnelley Financial is a global communications provider. The Language Solutions Group specialises multilingual content for financial institutions, with a particular focus on asset managers.

Craig Rogers, Partner in technology and outsourcing at Eversheds LLP

Craig has a focus on the financial services sector and regulatory compliance. He advises on a wide range of matters including the roll-out of strategic technology platforms, complex outsourcing arrangements, application and website development and cloud services.  His clients include retail and investment banks, asset managers, general and specialist insurers and pension funds.

It really was a superb discussion that had no sign of dying even after an hour into proceedings. Afterwards we all headed downstairs to record our views on a podcast. Do have a listen – hopefully more of these events to come!

Markets are international conversations

This article was first published in the Lansons newsletter, focusing on an international theme.

I’ve often obsessed about the social connections between humans, as if somehow the act of touching one’s hand passes on a secret ingredient. In the first year of University I got to shake hands with Stephen Fry, if only that was required for passing a degree. Imagine all the people who he had met, who in turn had met others.

It was American playwright John Guare who first publicised through his play Six Degrees of Separation that the world may be smaller than we think. The theory is that between you and David Cameron (or your uncomfortable Tinder date) is five other points of contact. Just five people are between you and anybody else in the world. Microsoft provided some meat for this theory in 2008 by analysing 30 billion messages on Microsoft Messenger in 2006 that concluded a 6.6 degree of separation[i].

Now Facebook, arguably one of the most connected and actively used social networks in the world has revealed that we’re just 3.57 degrees away from each other (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook). Leaving our next question not to dwell on degrees of separation but to think, why did we feel the world is bigger than it is?

You can find out your average distance through your Facebook account here (mine is a lower than average 3.32). No matter where you were born, what your upbringing was like, or what you do for a living, the human race really is one big family; all 7 billion of us are connected with each other. It’s only been in the last 10 years that social media has allowed us to explore the depth of this truth for the first time. Not only as an impact on our social lives, but as a fundamental truth about the internet, it’s international.

It’s also never been more accessible. Across the European Union (EU) the average internet penetration rate stands at 79.3% – that’s 402,937,674 people with internet access. Of all 28 countries only 11 fall below the accumulative average; Romania the lowest at 56%. In a global study of 240 countries 3 billion people were found to use social media, with 2 billion social media accounts detected, 1.6 billion of these used frequently, considered active.

EU Internet penetration rate

Think of it this way, there are now more internet connected devices on the planet than humans. Not surprising considering the average British household owns over 7 internet-connected devices[ii]. An infrastructural challenge recognised in the late 1980s when IP address exhaustion was mentioned for the first time[iii].

Organisations need to adapt

Our ability to quickly access information and express ourselves online has fundamentally reshaped our public, private, and personal lives. The World Economic Forum’s report on Digital Media and Society focused specifically on this aspect of modern living, “Around the world, people now spend more time using laptop computers and smartphones than they do in other daily activities, and our ‘connected time’ is on the rise”[iv]. Increased usage has proliferated into an array of varying internet-connected devices such as laptop and desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, and wearable technology.

Such developments challenge traditional business models across a multitude of industries as peoples’ behaviours and expectations change in an internet-connected age.

In the UK electronic patient records challenge patients to be data literate with their health[v], in financial services banks across the EU will need to soon face the challenge of providing standardised API access[vi], and in media relations web 2.0[vii] has challenged traditional news structures. Only recently The Independent confirmed an end to its print edition, instead working towards a digital future[viii].These advances challenge organisations to make a cultural shift, maintaining an internal infrastructure that is able to join in with online conversations. This is because markets are conversations and consist of humans with interests, not demographic sectors[ix].

Social networks encourage connections, interactions, and relationships between people. They are more than cold channels to push marketing materials, they provide the infrastructural means for social connections to be made between people, regardless of geographical boundaries.

An active international social networking community exists for all organisations, as media relations becomes an optional part of public relations. For highly regulated industries, such as financial services and health, social media can be challenging to adopt and require investment. Regardless of whether this investment happens, online conversations continue globally.

The challenge today is to think beyond publications and digital communication ‘channels’. These are not mindless pipes to broadcast information, but international communities who gather around interests. Whether these are passions, questions to solve, industries – degrees of separation haven’t just shown the world is smaller, but highlights pockets of activity.

#RefugeesWelcome

This can be visually seen when ‘memes’ are shared as shown in the tragic case of Twitter’s most influential moment last year with #RefugeesWelcome. It’s impossible to shift the image of the three year-old Alan Kurdi whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey.

It sparked an international movement, tweets that had the potential to influence foreign policy. Data shows how the first tweet appeared of Alan Kurdi in Turkey, which in 12 hours reached 20 million people around the world[x]. Conversations shifted from ‘migrants’ to ‘refugees’ overnight. #RefugeesWelcome is a sensitive case that examples a significant ability of modern public relations; tracking message changes and influencer connections to the minute.

pulsar

I’ve always obsessed about the social connections between people and organisations, and this has never been more important, especially as international social media usage increases. Social media sites are not cold marketing ‘channels’, they are communities who organisations need to engage with as peoples’ behaviours broaden from traditional media relations.

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/aug/03/internet.email
[ii] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/apr/09/online-all-the-time-average-british-household-owns-74-internet-devices
[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPv4_address_exhaustion
[iv] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEFUSA_DigitalMediaAndSociety_Report2016.pdf
[v] http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/records/healthrecords/Pages/overview.aspx
[vi] https://www.finextra.com/news/fullstory.aspx?newsitemid=27327
[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
[viii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/12153947/The-Independent-newspaper-confirms-an-end-to-print-production.html
[ix] http://www.cluetrain.com/
[x] http://www.pulsarplatform.com/blog/2015/the-iconic-image-on-social-media-a-rapid-research-response-to-the-death-of-aylan-kurdi/

Has Google just removed the business purpose of Google+ overnight?

Google+ and Google Local disconnected

As the New Year approaches Google has decided to roll out significant updates to its struggling social network Google+. It’s no secret that Google+ whilst attracting billions of sign-ups has a tiny active user-base, just 9%. Of these hopefuls I would love to see a breakdown of communities of people Vs companies who just pump information out on the network.

When Google announced in November that it was rolling out a new design for Google+, it was really signalling a fundamental change for the network. The focus is now on communities and ‘interest’ collections; technically useful features but only if active users on the network increase and spam limitations are put in place.

It warranted a sort of ‘meh’ response, but then Google sneaked in something big. When Google+ launched it was seen as the central hub of Google online, connecting services such as YouTube and Local; in the same way it disconnected ‘mandatory’ YouTube integration, it’s now completely disconnected Google Local.

This means Google Local business information such as reviews, categories, directions, star ratings, photo uploads, interior photos, maps, hours, and app integrations are no longer seen by people on Google+ business profiles. Not only this, but thousands of unverifiable business accounts (considered spam) were removed without notice.

Has Google just removed the business purpose of Google+ overnight?

The integration between Google Local and Google+ kept businesses tied to the network, knowing that their business profile information would make branded search listings and their activity on Google+ previewed above paid-for AdWord links in search. In some ways, it was the Google authorship (another archaic feature) of business.

It’s worth noting that this is a staged roll out by Google, available when choosing to view the new design of Google+. It will likely go the same way as Google Maps, the old version will be provided as an option but once all fixes have been made, the new version will remain permanent.

What does this mean for businesses?

  • It may no longer be worth maintaining a Google+ page, as business critical ‘local page’ information has been moved across to ‘Google My Business’. None of the information in Google+ will appear high in search and the SEO benefits are now questionable;
  • Google+ is going through a radical redesign; it’s deleted and disconnected a number of features over the last year. As a result, Google+ is an unpredictable network with a low number of active users – expect no engagement and little traffic directed to websites;
  • Word on the cyber street is that businesses should stop investing time into Google+, and focus purely on Google Local. The only exception to this rule may be visual businesses who are able to valuable contribute to community and interest discussions.

If you do run Google+ business pages then you’re likely to either encounter that your page has been removed or its turned into a basic profile without the Google Local information. Either way, think if Google+ is now worth it for business. Unless a business friendly update happens, then the message from Google is that ‘our social network is just for people’.