One of the more important benefits of smart phones is that they are helping to bridge the “digital divide” between people who have access to the internet and those low-income Americans—particularly blacks and Latinos—who do not. For foundations that focus on workforce development, community-based organizations providing job training, and African-American and Hispanic-American advocacy groups this presents a great opportunity to collaborate with businesses to recruit, train and employ tech-savvy applicants.
According to the Pew Center, African Americans and Hispanic Americans are using their smart phones—particularly Android phones—to communicate ideas, access information and create content at greater rates than white Americans. As digital technology becomes increasingly more mobile, this would suggest that these communities are well-positioned to bridge the digital divide in a way that might overcome some of the historical challenges to economic success it has presented.
Take for example the unemployment situation, which is significantly higher amongst blacks and Latinos than whites. Right now, it is incredibly difficult to search for a job without access to the internet and perhaps even harder to apply for that job using a smart phone. Imagine if the “map” function on an Apple or Android phone, in addition to listing nearby restaurants, bars and movie theaters, also displayed those businesses looking to hire. People of color would then have greater awareness of employment opportunities in their neighborhoods. The next step would be to design job applications that are smart phone friendly, something that might not be too difficult given the amount of personal data stored on a typical smart phone.
Any organization looking to follow this path would have a strong partner in the federal government, which under the Federal Communications Commission just this month announced plans to expand broadband access and improve digital literacy for low-income Americans. They would also place themselves on the forefront of the kind of techniques any organization must use if it is looking to engage, educate or organize young Americans, who are also using mobile technology at an ever-increasing rate.
MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently published their annual global executive study and research report: Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point. Each year, they conduct a survey of nearly 3,000 executives asking them about the state of sustainability in their companies.
The results show the tremendous growth and support of sustainability all over the world. And, what is this tipping point they’re talking about? The point at which companies are not only seeing the need for implementing sustainable business practices (to maintain a competitive advantage) but they’re also starting to see the payoff.
This year’s results showed some very interesting trends that cut across industries including energy/utilities, consumer goods, commodities, chemicals and automobiles. A summary of results show that:
1. Seventy percent of the companies surveyed have included sustainability as part of their management agenda and have no interest in turning back;
2. Two-thirds view sustainability as necessary to being competitive in today’s marketplace; and
3. Many companies are increasing their commitment to sustainability.
Another interesting point is that emerging markets are strengthening their commitment to sustainability. That’s something that global corporations will want to keep in mind as they expand into these rapidly growing markets – not only does sustainability provide you with a competitive edge in the U.S. but it might also help as you grow your business abroad.
Lastly, the report classifies a new category of sustainability “embracers” as Harvesters. These are the companies that prioritize sustainability throughout all levels of the company, integrate sustainability as part of a long-term business strategy, engage external stakeholders including regulators, suppliers, NGOs and citizen groups, and view sustainability as more than a reputation-enhancement strategy; they view sustainability as a way to drive profit and innovation. The question has always been: Is sustainability profitable? The answer, according to the Harvesters: Yes, it is.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new sustainability tipping point.
Last week’s NYT iEconomy series has ignited a discussion around one of the most recognized and arguably loved brands of our time. The first article looks at why manufacturing jobs at Apple have gone overseas and are likely to stay there. The second reports on labor conditions inside Foxconn, one of Apple’s primary manufacturing partners.
As I read the second article about reported working conditions for the individuals who made the device I was holding, I began to consider:
What should Apple do?
To be fair, this issue is in no way limited to Apple. Foxconn is a manufacturing partner for several electronics companies bearing household names. However, Apple is a recognized leader in manufacturing and has significant influence. It raises the question of whether Apple has a strategic opportunity to leverage its influence and demand a dramatic change in working conditions.
We are familiar with the transition Wal-Mart has made from a villain to a pioneer in corporate sustainability, and the standards it has implemented among its suppliers. A reasonable argument is that Apple can and should do the same, but it’s more complicated than that.
At the end of the day, we know Apple is running a business, and arguably the best around at doing just that. In Q1 2012 they sold 37.04M iPhones. This exceeded industry expectations and if the numbers are accurate, @LukeW shared a staggering statistic with the Twittersphere:
“There are more iPhones sold per day (402k) than people born in the world per day (300k)”
With a demand like that, as a business, Apple must supply it. Which leads to my next question…
What should consumers do?
The role of the empowered consumer was one of most exciting things to watch in 2011 and will continue to be in 2012. The rapid adaptation and influence of social platforms continues to grow and the voice of consumers is getting louder. So, what is the tipping point at which consumers will tell Apple (and the industry at large) that they need to address labor conditions in the supply chain, and move from awareness to action?
Are consumers willing to accept that dramatic changes in manufacturing standards will likely impact availability (slower to market) and cost (likely to increase), and once that happens (assuming quality and service remain the same) are they willing to stick around?
Our Social Impact team is growing – and we’d love to hear from you if you share a passion for working with corporations, foundations and nonprofits on social issues.
You’d be based at Powell Tate, one of Washington’s leading strategic communications and public affairs firms, and a division of Weber Shandwick.
Successful candidates will have experience developing and implementing programs to communicate how companies are creating business and social value, and/or working with nonprofits on brand-building, stakeholder outreach and public education campaigns.
Core required skills include strategic counsel of client teams, project management, writing communications plans, conducting media relations, building partnerships and leading social media engagement. Experience working on environmental sustainability issues is a plus.
A sense of humor is a must, as is an ability to navigate a fast-paced environment.
Qualified candidates will have a minimum of 5-10 years of CSR and nonprofit communications experience, preferably in an agency environment.
To apply, please send cover letter, resume and compensation history to firstname.lastname@example.org, referencing CSR/Nonprofit in the subject line.
Powell Tate is an equal opportunity employer. EEO/AA.M/F/D/V.
A new year, a new space, a new perspective on the issues of the day.
After more than 10 years on 13th Street, Powell Tate has moved to 733 10th St., NW, in the recently constructed, LEED-certified, all-glass Skansa building in the heart of Penn Quarter.
We open our doors today with expansive, contemporary digs for our accomplished team of thinkers and doers – eager to bring fresh ideas about the issues our clients care about most.
We’re excited about this change – and are already lining up a number of events with newsmakers who will share their insights with our clients, staff and friends.
Here’s to new beginnings!
See pictures of our new location.
[Also authored by Crystal Benton and Nicole Todd]
With Congress returning for what will be a very busy year, we surveyed our Powell Tate staff who served in Congressional offices and a number of current Congressional staff to develop a list of rules for effectively engaging Congressional offices. Here are our best practices for delivering your message and making an impact on Capitol Hill.
1. Staff are Busy – Prepare to Tell Your Story Clearly: The one thing we always hear from Congressional staff is that they are overwhelmed with work and information. Meetings and requests blur into each other. It is important to stand out and make an impact. Spend time before your meeting or outreach to Congressional staff to develop a clear message, narrative, and request, supported by graphically compelling materials — in both printed and electronic formats. Tell your story and deliver your message in a clear, concise and easily understood manner.
2. Know What You Want – What is the “To-Do”: Congressional staff are focused on and motivated by action items. Too often staff walk out of a meeting not knowing what the request (or “ask”) is. Without clear requests for action they can take to their Member for a decision nothing will come of the meeting. Clearly define what action you want the Member of Congress to take on your behalf.
3. Keep it Relevant — Politics is Local: Explain up front why you’re asking what you’re asking from the staff member. They may not make the connection between the subject matter, your request and why their Member of Congress may be interested. Be clear: Is the issue relevant to the Member of Congress’ district, state, Committee assignment? How will constituents be impacted? Never assume the staff will make the connection.
4. Keep it Short — Get to the Point: Staff in Congressional offices are handling multiple issues at a time. In emails and in meetings, tell them what you are asking for first and then follow with the details of your request. That will get them focused on the purpose of the meeting and thinking about how they can help. Provide background information in both written and electronic format.
5. Help Them Tell Your Story — Think Cut-and-Paste: Congressional staff are always looking for useful statistics and facts to use in floor statements, speeches and letters to constituents. Make it easy for them to support your case by providing information in a format where they can cut and paste directly from information you provided. Become a go-to resource for them by providing useful information (short facts, infographics, statements, etc.) on your website, Facebook page, etc. so staff can easily find the information that helps them help you. Cite experts and opinion leaders who support your position to show trends and consensus.
6. Share Information — Knowledge is Power: Help the staff members stay up on the latest intelligence on an issue. Never assume they see everything that is written on a subject or have heard the latest news. Send them timely updates or share what you have heard from other offices in your meetings. Always remember to keep it short and avoid too frequent contact. (See #1-Staff are Busy.) And always send a “Thank You” note after your meeting.
7. Engage on Social Media — Help Them Spread News: Congressional staff, particularly the communications offices, seek content they can use on their social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Seek opportunities to engage on social media. Subscribe to their social media platforms and redistribute posts relevant to your issues. Also, post content on your platforms that the office may find useful, such as references to the Member of Congress.
8. Every Office is Unique — Do Your Research: Remember that every Congressional office is unique. There is no one way to approach a Congressional office, so take time to research the office to ensure you are reaching out to the appropriate staff member with the most effective message and materials.
Greg McCarthy spent 12 years working for U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Bill Bradley. Crystal Benton served as Senator John McCain’s press secretary and as deputy communications director to his 2008 presidential campaign. Nicole Todd spent two years working for U.S. Senator Harry Reid.
With so many issues dominating the news, from the GOP Primary, to the economy, to foreign affairs, it is often difficult to break through on any legislation, let alone one that deals with complex legal and technical issues. But some of the largest Internet companies did manage to secure front page attention with their efforts in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
As you undoubtedly know, Internet companies including Facebook, Google, Reddit and Wikipedia blacked out or altered their websites with a political call to action to protest SOPA to coincide with a hearing before the House Oversight Committee.
And this tactic met with undeniable PR success. Not only were these companies successful in elevating their issue to national prominence, but it would appear that they were successful in garnering political results as Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., John Cornyn, R-Tex., and Mark Rubio, R-Fla., who had all supported the legislation, either reversed themselves or called for more time to study the issue.
These tech organizations employed a higher-risk political advocacy – they deliberately inconvenienced their customers in order to draw their attention to a policy issue. The impact this tactic will have on the relationships between these organizations and their customers and constituents is yet to be seen.
Similar to the risk professional sports take in alienating their fan base every time players strike or a protracted lockout ensues, these companies are taking a risk in shutting down websites that many of us have come to enjoy, if not rely on, for both business and personal reasons. As MPAA President and SOPA supporter Chris Dodd pointed out, there may be the perception that these companies are “punish(ing) their users… who rely on them for information and use their services.”
Indeed, the outlook according to Polipulse, our online monitoring tool that measures conversations on social media channels such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook, shows that while 42 percent of social media users oppose SOPA, only 21 percent support the site blackouts and boycotts.
Whether you agree with their position or not, it is hard to deny the effectiveness of the “Internet Blackout of 2012.” But with only 21% of conversations strongly supporting blackout tactics, even when you win, going nuclear should remain a tactic of last resort.
On the other hand, this could launch a new era of cyber advocacy.
Only time will tell.
As some of you know, and one or two might believe, I am a registered independent. Please bear that in mind when I explain why people outside Washington look with disdain on people inside the Beltway.
President Obama today proposed merging six government agencies that deal with trade matters into a single department. It sounds like a logical thing to do and may streamline the making and execution of Federal trade policy. Good idea or not, it would seem something worth taking a look at.
The response from Sen. Mitch McConnell’s spokesman: “Americans want a government that’s simpler, streamlined, and secure.” So far, so good. Then: “So after presiding over one of the largest expansions of government in history, and a year after raising the issue in his last State of Union, it’s interesting to see the president finally acknowledge that Washington is out of control.” Argumentative, gratuitous and insulting.
A simple “This is an idea worth considering and seemingly in agreement with Republican ideas to streamline government and we look forward to seeing the details” would have sufficed. When are people in Washington (on both sides of the aisle) going to realize that demeaning every idea that comes from their political opponents, simply because it comes from their opponents, hurts the accusers more than the accused.
While appearing live on national TV, I recently learned all over again a lesson about an issue close to everyone connected with public relations: the matter of brevity.
I was to be a guest on “The CBS Early Show” for a segment about parents’ new year’s resolutions for 2012.
At 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning in the CBS studio I rehearsed my intro. Afterward, the producer came over to me and said, “You went a minute and 15 seconds. That’s much too long, babe. You need to cut it in half. Thirty seconds, tops.”
Great. Now I had to take the messages I had crafted, all the while imagining myself as Michaelangelo sculpting David, and chip away morethan half. And for the next two hours, as I prepared to go before the cameras and the blinding studio lights to say my piece in front of about 2 million viewers, my attitude somewhere roughly in the middle of the spectrum between absolute confidence and petrified panic, I chiseled like a diamond cutter on 47th Street. I also practiced my lines at least 10 times.
You already no doubt appreciate the value of brevity in communications. In the recent Republican presidential debates you can hear how the candidates have come to speak fluently the language known as sound bite. Good. You recognize that, as studies have shown, the less you say, the morelikely your words will be remembered. Doubly good.
Maybe you’re even familiar with the observation about brevity, my favorite of all time, from the versatile French genius Blaise Pascal. Roughly translated: “My letter is too long only because I lacked the time to make it shorter.”
And that’s the key right there. Brevity seldom happens by accident. Brevity is the result of the strictest discipline. You can achieve that brevity, on behalf of yourself or your organization, only if and when you know, with absolute certainty, exactly what you need to say.
So how did my CBS close-up go? You tell me:
One of my favorite parts of the New Year is reading through the abundance of “year in review” and “predictions for the new year” articles. It’s always interesting to see where the experts think we’ve moved the needle in 2011, and where emphasis will be placed in 2012. One of my favorites this year came from GreenBiz.com’s Tilde Herrera, who asked executives from a range of companies and organizations what they thought would be the biggest driver for sustainability in 2012.
A couple of drivers came up time and again in the responses- the first of which was building trust with their stakeholders. In 2012, companies such as Hasbro and Molson Coors are focusing their efforts on building trust with their employees, customers, and shareholders by making decisions around sustainability that are not only good for the environment, but that have economic value for the company’s bottom line. This is a driver for many companies as they realize the value in responding to stakeholder demands and desires for sustainability.
This driver points to the next recurring theme- that in 2012, companies will increasingly seek to invest in sustainability efforts because they’ll recognize the economic benefits that result from resource efficiency. Organizations such as the USGBC, Sprint, Dow Chemical, and Intuit echoed this sentiment. This driver illustrates the recent shift in the way companies consider their CSR efforts, which has been brought on in part by the current economic climate. What was once a “nice to have,” or an obligation that was seen as a financial burden, is now more often seen as an opportunity to innovate and find efficiencies that serve the bottom line.
To see the responses given by the executives GreenBiz interviewed, visit Green Biz.
Here’s to a happy (and green) 2012!
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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