May 20, 2016 By FTI Consulting
Sorry to start off rather macabre but this week we’re going to kick things off with a quick look at the downing of yet another airliner. MS804, an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo, went missing over the Mediterranean, with the cause at this time still a mystery. Communicating to stakeholders in these situations is never easy, particularly while information is still fairly scarce. But we commend EgyptAir on their sincere efforts thus far. The company has placed a dedicated landing page with an update on the situation as the first place you will find going to the company’s website. On social media, news updates have been streaming in on Twitter and Facebook alongside consolation to the families of those so tragically lost. The company has also provided hotlines for people to engage directly offline. While we were slightly weirded out (culture clash?) by the chosen Twitter banner, the outreach generally has been genuine, informative and frequent – a laudable effort.
EgyptAir was not the only company to face a crisis this week. Tesla, Elon Musk’s automotive and energy storage company, faced claims of worker mistreatment after, following an injury in one of its factories, allegations were brought that workers were brought into the United States illegally and paid below the mandatory minimum wage. In response, the company posted a blog, which was broadcast by Musk in a very simply stated tweet. The blog is worth mentioning because of its strong wording and commitment to the company’s vision and values (pretty integral to luring investment while it remains unprofitable). While explaining its lack of culpability, the post goes on to assure readers that the company is dedicated to treating all those who work on its products well, whether they are direct employees, contractors or subcontractors. Well done to Tesla for being frank, committed to core company values and proposing further action to solve the problem. The brand advocates responding to Musk’s tweet above are a testament to the quality of the response.
Many of our UK readers are probably also readers of the Financial Times. About 15 per cent of those may likely have seen NextFT, the pink paper’s in-build next generation website. Digiday has posted a useful list of learnings from the FT’s tinkering over the last few years, highlighting the importance of website aspects like speed, personalisation and video content for user experience. One positive aspect of this story we want to highlight is the FT’s bold move to experiment out in the open. Rather than tinkering with its site in the dark, the publisher took it live to existing readers to get real and open feedback. We urge our clients to always allow a similar degree of malleability in online strategies. Never before has feedback on what content works and doesn’t been so accessible. Take advantage of it.
I’m about to go a little news nerd on you right now but this Facebook algorithm hullaballoo is still ramping up and bears at least the most terse analysis from a news-meets-social-media perspective. As some of you will have seen, Gizmodo published a pretty punchy piece quoting some Facebook employees claiming that what you see trending up in the little box in the upper right-hand corner of Facebook on desktops isn’t the result of some impartial algorithm. A quick look at what’s trending now might make this seem trivial – why do I care if somebody thinks it’s important for me to know that a killed-off character on EastEnders narrated a goodbye message to their fictitious son. But the implications are broader than inane soap opera updates. The former employees claimed that conservative news sources were overlooked, which could create a pretty big bias in users’ perspectives on current events.
As more publishers start moving their content to Facebook (the BBC created quite the kerfuffle this week by doing so) and pay to be on Snapchat (which is introducing its own algorithm for news content), the human influence behind algorithms will be important to understand. The moral issue, of course, is the potential politicised echo chamber so wonderfully demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal this week.
From our perspective, though, it begs the question of who to call during a crisis – the journalist at the FT or the guy in the basement at Facebook to tell them why it shouldn’t be trending. I’m reaching a little here, I know, but if you’re, say, an oil company, knowing that someone with a climate change agenda bent on vilifying your brand has command of what 1.6 billion people see is potentially a pretty big risk. Facebook has done wonderful, near-miraculous things in the connecting of people and spreading of information and the company feeds off of advertising dollars from brands for sustenance. So, is there a conspiracy here? Likely not (although there is one story conspicuously missing from the trending section). But is Facebook’s power to influence news and perceptions of users (which include customers, journalists, politicians, government regulators and corporate CEOs) worth keeping track of? Definitely, and you better believe we will. After all, we’re all in the influencing business right?
Twitter may remove photos and links from its 140-character limit [TechCrunch] (Thank. God.)
Google Cardboard platform picks up steam with 50M app downloads to date [TechCrunch]
Facebook is experimenting with adding videos in comments [VentureBeat]
YouTube’s new messenger means you’ll never have to leave YouTube [WIRED]
85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound [Digiday]