The Future of Directorship

On the 14th of March 2012 David Gonski made a presentation at the Australian Institute of Company Directors luncheon on the future of directorship.

His speech was thought provoking and whilst I didn’t agree with his position on all of the topics, the consensus on our table was that his views were thoughtfully developed and he was open to counterpoint views.

He contends that the most significant issue facing company directors in Australia at least, is that the general public doesn’t understand what directors do. Due to the complex nature of legal frameworks and competing stakeholder interests, perhaps many directors also aren’t sure what the requirements are to discharge their respective duties.

David Gonski at AICD Perth
David Gonski at AICD Perth

The public, perhaps many in government and some of judiciary think directors can be – and are – on the top of everything going on within the business – and this is simply not possible, particularly in businesses that are complex, and globally distributed.

In the past the paramount onus for directors has been to look after the company and its shareholders. Now that is no longer true, nor sufficient.

There is a responsibility to many different stakeholders, and it becomes a complex issue in determining how to manage them.

  • Shareholders may be very transient, having shares in the company for no more than 20 minutes during a trade – so acting in the shareholders long term interests in this scenario can seem somewhat counterintuitive.
  • Monitoring of the business is constant, and information is transferred to the web almost instantly.
  • Shareholder activists are not necessarily acting in company interest but one of an alternative agenda.

Gonski’s view – even given this complexity –  is that the duty of the director must be about company first and foremost. However in the current day and age, consideration must be given to the community “licence to operate” and market place perception, as well as purely the fiduciary duty to act.

Singapore provides an interesting case study in applying board diversity, says Gonski, and a model to follow. They have taken an view that diversity of age, gender, business discipline and geography is vital to achieve a robust world view, and better decision making, and have structured their boards accordingly.

Minds of directors need to be broadened, and Gonski encourages directors and CEO’s to have interests other than business to be more well rounded.

A few other observations:

Gonski states that the issue of executive remuneration is significant, and the distinction between the haves and have-nots will be better resolved with more communication. In a free market system, the need to get the best person, need to reward appropriately is important. Companies have typically done a poor job of explaining how they have arrived at their conclusions and remuneration reports. A pop star earns vast amounts of money yet a CEO is not considered to be in the same class in terms of talent or deserving of the same sort of rock star money.

My view is that this is one area where no amount of communication is going to allow the general public to feel comfortable with companies on one hand cutting jobs and on the other hand handing out large executive bonuses, irrespective of the level of explanation. There has been too many poor examples of poor company performance and high bonuses in recent times. Income inequality is growing significantly.

On AGM’s
Gonski’s point of view was that the current structure of AGM’s being a means of forcing votes for decisions isn’t ideal. He contends that the AGM could operate as more of a discussion forum rather than decision making, and as a means of building engagement with shareholders.

I believe this to be a really interesting idea, one that will need some work to execute well. If the prize is a much more engaged (and it theory, loyal) shareholder base, it will be a good outcome. Companies of course have to listen to their customers on a daily basis – particularly given the rise of social activism.

On Governance
David Gonski’s view is that the public are not ncessarily convinced directors on top of governance for their businesses. To my mind that highlights the points of the general public not understanding the role of a director, and the sensationalism of waste, excess and job cuts.

A concern expressed from the audience was that sometimes fear and a short term focus can lead decision making away from growth and towards a risk adverse approach. Committees focussing on specific risk areas are a very positive approach and do yield results.

Qualities in good directors

  • Need an open mind
  • Must be hardworking
  • Need to be able to put across their point of view strongly without offending or breaking down the collegiate atmosphere needed in a board setting

On Politics, Business and Academia

David Gonski expressed disappointment in that it is rare for politicians to have experience in business – and also academia. Business people rarely end up in politics, so as a result it is not diverse, and this is different to the USA in this regard.

Gonski’s closing message was the important of respecting people for what they do both in the workplace and personally. He certainly won over the audience with his clear thinking and well expressed point of view – the clear qualities of an excellent chairman.

Importantly he also got people talking about the issues he raised, and we had a lively debate on our table as a result. I hope that this post serves to stimulate more, and if you have the opportunity to hear David speak, take it….

 

Viral Marketing – How to Create and Unleash Viral Content

This guest Post is by Alex Petrovic, Advanced SEO strategist with Dejan SEO whom I met at Cebit 2010 in Sydney.

Viral content is something that existed way before internet was born; it was just in different forms. The internet allowed us the ability to create viral content much easier and to spread it faster, but with a big market comes big competition, so viral marketing can become quite difficult even with a huge fan base. Even so, getting your content to go viral can be a crucial step in your internet marketing campaign and is surely worth the effort. Once viral, your content will reach thousands of people and tell them about your services, products and your brand in general. The best form of advertising is when your users and customers promote your work on their own, which is what viral marketing is all about.

Creating Viral Content

The biggest problem with viral marketing is creating a viral campaign. For those who know something about SEO the principles are the same as with link bait, but viral content requires more effort over a longer period of time. Let’s get this straight, anyone can create viral content material, but not everyone can make it go viral without doing their research properly.

He Already Reached the Stars, Can You Do the Same?

The first step is to come up with an idea that can go viral. This depends on your market, but in most cases you can rely on trends. If you investigate the upcoming trends in your niche you can find out which topic has the best chances of going viral. This is not an easy task and requires a lot of understanding about trending, but this is your best shot to predict the success of your viral content and to find something worthy of creating and sharing.

If you are not sure what to go for then simply investigate something that is already popular and feels like there is room for more. Start with things you already know. We did an experimental viral marketing campaign with a video that was supposed to tap “the biggest, the ugliest, the greatest” category. With hours and hours of research and quality implementation of the project, hiring professional voice actors, professional designers, we managed to achieve just that. But the idea was already there, we didn’t come up with something new, we took what already existed and made it interesting by adding a hook. With some promotion we managed to get the video become viral and even to this day it is often tweeted, shared on Facebook and talked about. Just the comment feedback was amazing.

A certain news website makes almost every single one of their posts go viral. What they do is they monitor the news feeds and as soon as something comes up they write a 300 word post talking about the news and they publish it, tweet it, digg it, stumble it and post it on Facebook. If you visit the same page few minutes later you will see more content, a few minutes later you will see some images or even a video, and 30 minutes after the post was published you will see a full news article with details and everything. So what is the idea here? Be first to break the news and you are pushing your viral campaign though the door with ease, everyone remembers who the source was and who was the first to publish some news.

Upcoming Trends
This is just an example, but creating viral content is all about being first or being original, and both are hard. So knowing what might work is essential. Investigate your market and come up with trending topics you can work on to create something of value.

Easy Sharing
One of the reasons why most viral marketing campaigns fail is because the content is not easily shared and is often fragmented. Consolidating your content and create a one strict URL where the content will be shared from, where all the tweets and digs and likes will point to is crucial if you want the post to go viral, this all comes down to building the critical mass and tipping point.

You will never create a viral campaign if your post has duplicate pages and people can share it from various sources, as that way you will never reach the tipping point, you will lose your critical mass. So make sure that your content can be shared only from a single URL, and make sure that you add your preferred methods of sharing.

The first Pitch
Some marketers believe that the first pitch is the most important one. Although it definitely is one of the crucial aspects of success, it is not the only one, as most viral marketing campaigns tend to be long term and your tipping point may happen months after the content is live. But to make sure you get the right exposure from the start you need to maximize your first round and you can do that by engaging influential people connected to your market.

If I want something to be heard in the SEO world I would do anything I can for SEOmoz and their crew to share that content, which will allow me to have maximum exposure in the first round. You need to find influencers in your market and think of a way to engage them and have them share your content. But don’t stress if they don’t, most of the times the content that has quality will come to them sooner or later, through some other channel, some long tail user. After all, viral content circulates the web, so it is no surprise if some influencers you haven’t thought of become the ones that make your tipping point explode.

If your content was done based on someone’s research you need to make sure to cite and content the original researchers. If they share your content that will not only help your promote it, but it will give your content the needed authority. Focus on providing quality, something of interest for your market, be that a video, an inforgraphic or an article and the quality along with some authority shares will push your content where it belongs to.
Not every viral campaign manages to go viral, but that I mostly due to mistakes made during your efforts. The best part is that there is no time limitation when your content can become viral, so be patient. Makes sure you do your research and engage the right people in the beginning, and most of all, make sure that your content is easily shared and that all roads lead to one single page in order to accumulate your critical mass.

Author bio:

Thanks to Alex Petrovic, Advanced SEO strategist – Dejan SEO for this guest post.

You can connect to him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Alex_DejanSEO and follow Dejan SEO at http://twitter.com/dejanseo

Old Spice Guy viral marketing in Australia

Once upon time Old Spice used to be the product that, well, old men wore. I remember it being cool when I was 10.

However the Old Spice guy viral marketing campaign changed all of that with one of the funniest viral marketing campaigns to date. A quick search on Youtube will yield the results of many many clips shot following comments from followers including the names of the commenters. The interactive nature drew large attention.

Now the Old Spice guy is heading to Australia to help sell a (we think) Windows product. Interesting cross marketing that reinforces both brands. For your enjoyment, I’ve also included below Grover from Sesame St doing a send up – terrific stuff from one of my favourite muppets.

Online Business Strategy Case Study

This presentation provides an overview of what you need to think about in putting together an online business strategy. Enjoy!


Enterprise 2 – Collaborations New Frontier and its Profound Impact on the Enterprise

Here is a recent presentation I’ve completed on this topic, hope you enjoy!