Madano breaks into the top ten of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ ranking

Madano breaks into the top ten of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ ranking

Madano was named by Great Place to Work® as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ in the Small category (organisations with 20-49 employees) in its annual Best Workplaces™ ranking announced at a gala dinner on 26th April. 

Ranked 10th this year – an increase from last year’s position of 18th in the same category – Madano was the highest ranking communications consultancy in the Small category. Judging is based on honest feedback from employees, analysis of management of the company and evaluation of company culture, and the award recognises Madano as having a high trust, engaged workplace. 

The news comes on back of Madano’s highest placement ever in the PRWeek UK Top 150 PR consultancies list, and an average annual growth of 25 per cent over the past three years.

Madano’s Managing Partner Michael Evans said, “Being named one of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ again this year – and moving up in the rankings – is all down to Madano’s talented people. It’s a pleasure to work alongside such a curious and motivated team.

“Madano’s three-year strategy is underpinned by talent development – with a focus on strengthening leadership in our core sectors, enhancing engagement with our employees throughout their careers, and getting the right structures and processes in place – all contributing to our employer brand.”

The Great WorkplacesSpecial Report has also now been published; it can be downloaded online here.

Social media and the knowledge illusion

Social media and the knowledge illusion

Written by Gareth Morrell, Head of Insights

Donald Rumsfeld once made an infamous statement to the UN about things that we know and things that we don’t. He was largely ridiculed at the time, perhaps because of his associations and what he was perceived to stand for as much as careful critique of his speech. While convoluted, the passage culminating in the concept of “unknown unknowns – things we don’t know we don’t know” not only became the title of his memoirs but is actually a useful way to think about our own capacity for knowledge.

In their book the Knowledge Illusion, Stephen Sloman and Philip Fernbach provide a more articulate and rigorously argued case for the importance of spending time considering things we don’t know and areas in which we may be unaware of our ignorance. The recent revelations about how personal details given to social media providers are used by third parties makes it timely to consider what their book is getting at.

Sloman and Fernbach are cognitive scientists, interested in what the human mind is capable of and, importantly, how it is fallible. Underpinning their central argument is the assertion that we can’t possibly hold in our mind all the knowledge we need for everything we do on a day to day basis. The problem, though, is that we often think we can; we typically think we know more about how things actually work than we really do in practice.

The authors cite a simple experiment to back up this claim. Graduate students at an ivy league university in the US were asked to rate their ability out of ten to explain how a zip on a jacket works. They were then asked to write down a detailed explanation of how the zip works. The task was challenging and quite an eye-opener for these students: when asked a second time to rate their ability to explain how the zip works, they were much more modest, scoring themselves much lower than the first time they were asked.

The zip experiment has been repeated plenty of times with many alternatives to the zip but always the same outcome. There are two important implications here for consumers and users of social media. Firstly, we often think we know how even the most basic things work when we don’t. In reality, we often need to rely on experts, media, friends, colleagues and others to help us understand things when we need to. Some of the commentary around the Cambridge Analytica scandal has tried to open our eyes to how social media platforms work and the data they hold on us, yet a recent survey exposes the unknown unknowns around social media advertising. Nearly half of people surveyed did not know that ads targeted at them were based on information they’ve entered about themselves into a website or social media channel.

Following on from this, the second implication of the simple zip experiment is that it can’t really be possible for any single person or collection of people to know how all of Facebook’s targeting algorithms work – not completely. They are complex, ever-evolving and self-learning calculations. And this is not to absolve Facebook of any responsibility, but significant and deliberate effort would be required to understand the total wider impact of their targeting algorithms on individuals and social structures.

If we need others to provide us with information to make simple decisions, we certainly need others to help us with more complex, important decisions, in particular democratic decisions. Relying on the likes of Facebook to provide news and commentary presents two challenges. First, as the content we see is increasingly targeted, we can’t be sure that we’re being exposed to alternative arguments and it may be difficult for Facebook to ensure this; we may even already have stopped caring about alternative arguments. Second, even if we do find a plurality of voices, it becomes much less natural for us to discriminate between the different arguments based on the content rather than who is delivering them.

In Knowledge Illusion, our mind is described as a problem solver, not a hard drive; we need to feed it the right information at the right time for it to spring into action. There is a responsibility on companies like Facebook and Google to provide more collective transparency about how information is reaching us and who is behind it. They are making money from these adverts and can control how they work; they are not simply a disinterested medium through which they reach us. But, as consumers and citizens, we also need to acknowledge the fallibility of our own knowledge and ask more questions – just because the information we receive is immediate and accessible, it shouldn’t be spared interrogation. And when users start turning away from these platforms or blocking more content, and ad revenue falls, it will be difficult for Facebook and Google not to change.

Plastic bottle deposit-return schemes – a fudge or a nudge?

Plastic bottle deposit-return schemes – a fudge or a nudge?

Written by Harry Spencer, Senior Account Manager – Madano Energy

You may not be familiar with the work of Danny Kahneman, but Environment Secretary Michael Gove definitely is.

Kahneman won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work with Amos Tversky into the psychological biases that influence decision-making.

During his brief leadership campaign, Michael Gove referred to some of Kahneman’s research, and now he is staking his flagship policy on one of Kahneman’s insights – loss aversion.

The idea is that people feel losses much more significantly than gains of equal value – and that this bias shows itself in how they behave. Typically, that losses are felt roughly twice as strongly as gains of the same actual value.

Kahneman gives a less scientific story to summarise the idea:

“In my classes, I say: ‘I’m going to toss a coin, and if it’s tails, you lose $10. How much would you have to gain on winning in order for this gamble to be acceptable to you?’ People want more than $20 before it is acceptable.”

This insight has been at the core of one of the Government’s biggest environmental successes of recent years – the charge on single-use plastic bags. The charge has reduced use by an estimated 83% resulting in 9 billion fewer bags being sold.

Yet it has had such a dramatic effect despite being an additional cost of only 5p per bag.

This isn’t a one-off either: other countries which introduced similar charges found similarly huge effects. When Denmark introduced it in 2003, they found a 66% drop in use of single-use plastic bags.

Loss aversion explains why such a tiny charge can have such a big impact. People had been used to receiving the bag for free. The introduction of a charge, however minimal, was felt as a direct loss.

In addition, the fact that people are asked whether they wish to pay 5p for an additional plastic bag – rather than simply having 5p added to their bill for every bag they use without being asked – heightens its impact. Many customers would not even notice a 5p surcharge to their overall bill, but will certainly notice if asked whether they want to spend 5p to get a plastic bag.

So when Michael Gove announced last month that the Government will introduce a deposit-return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, whereby customers have to pay an additional charge at point of purchase, which they can recover if they recycle the products in question, it is reasonable to assume he has been reading his behavioural economics again.

But can the UK be nudged into becoming a more sustainable society?

Scepticism is justified. It’s notable that while the use of single-use plastic bags may have dropped dramatically, there is little sign of total waste dropping – in fact, it has risen modestly since the plastic bag charge was brought in.

More broadly, while carefully designed policies like the plastic bag charge can have a huge effect on consumer behaviour there are three problems with this approach.

Firstly, a large proportion of waste occurs in the supply chain, before it ever reaches the customer.

Second, sometimes nudges fail to produce significant consumer effects. Certainly, as the stubbornly low recycling rate indicates, there are problems which defy simple nudges.

Finally, nudges are subject to the law of diminishing returns. Simply replicating the plastic bag charge on lots of other items is likely to dilute the effectiveness of all these approaches. And while the plastic bag charge substantially cut use on its introduction, it’s not clear that the policy alone will further reduce use, and therefore waste, in future.

The crunch point coming later this year is the broader review of taxation of plastic. To make a substantial difference, it will very likely take more than a few nudges from Government. 

Madano helps clients define their strategy and deliver objectives through insight, creativity and communication. If you’d like to know more about our expertise in energy, resources and sustainability please get in touch.

Silence may not be golden for UK and EU tech companies and trade bodies on Brexit

Silence may not be golden for UK and EU tech companies and trade bodies on Brexit

Written by Dominic Weeks, Head of Technology

Last month, Madano joined forces with Brussels-based peer BOLDT to launch the first ever social media study of industry attitudes to Brexit, thanks to rigorous analysis conducted by Madano’s Insights team.

What is surprising in the technology industry is how quiet the various UK and European companies and trade bodies analysed were in 2017.  Largely, in all other sectors, trade bodies were putting themselves front and centre and outlining industry concerns and priorities and commenting frequently. In the technology industry, that’s not been happening at the same level. 16 technology, media & telecoms trade bodies were analysed and combined for 280 posts on the subject of Brexit, which per head was the lowest of any other sector analysed barring the construction and property industry. In contrast, nine financial trade bodies were analysed, combining for a whopping 535 tweets on Brexit. 

The 118 individual technology companies analysed combined for a paltry 100 tweets relating to Brexit, a considerably lower ratio than seen in finance, insurance, chemicals and engineering, but much higher than industries like pharmaceuticals and property.

It is perhaps understandable that individual firms would not want to speak out volubly on such a hot button issue and precisely why they might chivvy their trade bodies to lead the debate. However, the joint picture is one of relatively low public comment on the topic and suggests a lack of coordinated response from the technology industry as a whole.

Areas of commentary

According to our research, the two major issues that technology trade bodies have engaged upon via social media are, perhaps unsurprisingly, market access (33% of tweets analysed) and labour shortage (28%). Tech London Associates issued a powerful survey to highlight the hiring uncertainties and Tech UK has spoken about the damage to the competitiveness of the wider tech ecosystem of labour restrictions.

What’s more, many individual figures have been highly vocal and active in surfacing issues relating to the split. TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher, for example, has led industry figures in research and debate and been active in promoting TechForUK as part of the Best for Britain movement, looking to secure a public vote on the final deal.

Why the wallflower?

There are potentially more questions than answers about the comparative lack of social media conversation on this topic from companies and trade bodies in the technology sphere. Is it because the industry is still waiting to see how it all shakes out and get a grasp of what Brexit will mean? Is it because many expect a second referendum? Or is it simply because the conversations that matter were happening offline and required less public pressure than they did in the financial and insurance sectors?

Whatever the answer, it may make companies within the technology sector that have a lot to lose or gain on the outcome of Brexit, consider their own communications and engagement strategy on key issues, especially as the final details are thrashed out over the next year.

Speak now or forever hold your peace, as the vicar would say.

Madano is a full service communications consultancy with sector specialisms in technology, energy, transport, healthcare and infrastructure.

Madano and BOLDT have recently launched a Brexit partnership group to support companies as they try to navigate the related communications issues.

To get in touch, please contact me – [email protected].

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