Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why does technology struggle to attract women?

By | Corporate Blog | No Comments

Looking at the technology industry from the outside in, one might be forgiven for thinking that it is a place of contradictions; the IT world’s geek image generating ‘cool’ brands, social media initiating anti-social behaviour, well, you get the picture.


Women in tech: Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman


However, as writer Ayn Rand once said: ‘Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.’


This week had me addressing my own premises to understand the contradiction of women in technology and here is why: the technology industry, and IT in particular, struggles to make careers attractive to women.


To start with the positive, Fortune announced its annual Most Powerful Women Ranking this week, showing that the technology sector dominates when it comes to the world’s most influential women. At number one was IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, with Hewlett-Packard¹s Meg Whitman, Facebook¹s Sheryl Sandberg and Oracle’s Safra Catz appearing in the top ten.


A total of 16 per cent of the women in the league came from the technology sector, the highest proportion of any industry named.


So clearly something is working to attract some of the best female business minds to technology.


However, after witnessing two recent cases of institutionalised sexism, generated from two key institutions of the technology sector, as people looked on unphased, no comment made, I was left perplexed, trying to understand the lack of reaction.


First, at the Gartner Security & Risk Symposium, an analyst made a joke about people being available to answer technical questions ‘unlike the ones in short-skirts’.


The second case came in the form of a headline on the Computer Weekly site, reading: “Wives of Computer Weekly readers rejoice we’re no longer in print.”


Not the most favourable moments from these pillars of the technology industry I think you and, indeed, they, would agree.


Only in March this year, the Guardian’s technology editor Charles Arthur asked in an article: “Why aren’t there more women in technology?” He cited several cases that had occurred at that time on the US west coast, a pivotal home to technology, where women had been treated with contempt under the guise of jokes and flip remarks.


The key point raised, for me, came as Arthur posed, to his male readers, the question: “How much of this behaviour goes on which you just don’t notice?”

Country Land and Business Association hits out at Government’s management of rural broadband provision

By | Company Blog | No Comments

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has slammed the Government’s attempts to meet its two-megabyte target level for rural broadband provision by the 2015 deadline.


Challenges: rural broadband provision


Describing the process as ‘slow, cumbersome and excessively mired in red tape’, the CLA’s report stated that the Government’s chances of reaching its target on time would be ‘very unlikely’.



Inside Networks editor and IT expert Rob Shepherd said: “There is clearly a disconnect between different rural areas of Britain; for example, broadband speeds in some parts of East Anglia are indeed up to the two megabyte target level set by the Government, however, large parts of Wales and the South West don’t even come close.”



However, the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Ed Vaizey, is confident that the Government will steer the project to success on time: “The broadband programme is on track and Government targets can be achieved.



“It is an important point to make, that getting broadband out to rural areas is not simply a nice thing to do; it is very important for economic growth of many businesses, particularly farmers.”



In a report released this month by the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, it was suggested: “… in rural areas of Wales the existence of broadband notspots and slowspots has hindered the operations of existing businesses and deterred new businesses from choosing to locate there – to the cost of the local economy.”



Chair of the Committee, David Davies MP said: “Broadband will become an increasingly important generator of economic success and a means of addressing social exclusion.”

Tech firms run risk of ‘diluting’ brands with celebrity endorsements, warns industry expert

By | Company Blog | No Comments

An industry expert has warned technology firms of ‘diluting’ their brands with celebrity endorsements, following Guardian journalist Jean-Louis Gassée’s attack on Apple’s Siri adverts.


Celebrity endorsements: Nintendo

Gassée hit out at the super-brand’s star-studded campaign, branding it ‘pernicious’, adding: “… they detract from Apple products’ own well-deserved and well-earned celebrity.”



Starring glittering Hollywood names including Zooey Deschanel, Samuel L Jackson and Martin Scorsese, Gassée believes the campaign communicates a ‘new message’ for the brand.



“Until the Siri celebrity campaign, Apple products had always been the focus of Apple marketing. The product is the hero.



“The recourse to celebrity endorsement sends a new message: the product isn’t strong enough, it needs the propinquity of the famous.”



The article comes just a few weeks after gaming firm Nintendo added the Cruz sisters to its array of celebrity endorsers. Freelance technology and showbiz writer Bertan Budak say technology brands should take a step back when choosing celebrity endorsers and base decisions on a connection to the brand rather than on notoriety.

He explained: “A lot of brands choose celebrities that seem to have no logical connection to the product or service.



“The volume of celebrities seems to dilute the message rather than enhance it. The real value is in building long term relationships that create a face for a brand.”



Paul Berney, CMO and managing director, EMEA for the Mobile Marketing Association also believes that these relationships bring the most benefit to technology companies: “A lot of companies look to capitalise on the short-term benefits of celebrity sparkle but it is the brands that find credible endorsers that reap the highestrewards.



“Ambassadors that combine credibility in their own field as well as the field of the brand with common long term aims can be a powerful asset. But the balance needs to be right.”

Liberty appoints Alexis Dalrymple to lead business tech

By | Agency News | No Comments

Alexis Dalrymple has joined Liberty Communications as head of business and enterprise technology from GolinHarris where he was director of technology.



Alexis Dalrymple: heads to Liberty
Dalrymple adds to Liberty’s new business management line-up, joining Nick Lane, the recently appointed head of telecoms and media.
Earlier this year Liberty hired Peter Hay as head of digital and Matt Wood as creative planner.



Before Golin Harris, Dalrymple held roles at Dynamo and Hotwire, working across clients such as Everything Everywhere, Nokia and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.
Liberty Comms managing director and founder Dee Gibbs said: ‘Alexis’ experience in the enterprise technology space complements our client services approach. His knowledge of the industry means we can offer our clients a real value-added approach and his support on existing clients thus far has already borne significant results.’
Dalrymple said: ‘Liberty’s ambitious growth plans offer real opportunities to expand the enterprise side of the business. It is an expanding and fast-moving sector, making it one of the most exciting areas to be delivering effective communications.
‘We are working with some great names already and have a number of really exciting campaigns in the pipeline, and I can’t wait to start building out our portfolio.’
Liberty recently restructured into four new business divisions covering telecoms and media, enterprise, cleantech and consumer tech.

Apple’s Genius Training Workbook – a guide to great customer service?

By | Corporate Blog | No Comments

Recently, you may have seen that Gizmodo reported on a leaked copy of Apple’s Genius Training Workbook. Described by Gizmodo as “an exhaustive manual to understanding customers and making them happy”, it provides a fascinating look into Apple’s approach to customer service.



Whether their motive is to genuinely provide the best client service possible or something more commercial to increase revenue, one thing remains: they are still a brand universally known as keeping their customers at the heart of their business.


If you have ever worked in customer service for any company this guide won’t come as much of a surprise. I remember something similar when I took my first job in HR for women’s fashion retailer, Principles. Their mantra was to create a fantastic customer journey, which was felt from the moment you walked into the shop. The company invested thousands in creating the right look and feel for customers – from the music playing as people entered the shop, through to the perfume at the cash desks, the lay out of the store and most of all the people. Everyone was trained on the right approach to greeting and engaging with people – with the aim to make you more comfortable and happy, in order to increase sales.


This is something we do at Liberty too. We have developed our global standards document of procedures and processes to make sure our team always provides our clients with the best possible experience. There’s nothing more disappointing to us than a disappointed client and we invest in our teams to make sure they are the best they can be. Now, this comes down to people being willing to grow and learn and take on new approaches but with the right attitude, correct training and fantastic reward and recognition policies we can help our teams to make sure they are the best they can be.


The key is also encouraging everyone to listen – truly listen – to clients. It’s only then can we truly develop campaigns that will make a real difference. We communicate regularly, ask for feedback and never rest on our laurels. The personal touch goes a long way too – remembering to offer a hand of help if they have a particularly busy week, saying thank you and sending surprise gifts and flowers go a long way – as well as the obligatory well deserved lunch of course.


Now no company will become the largest company in the world (like Apple) by being nice just for the sake of being nice. Apple is cool, but it is a much more disciplined cool, that is focused on the bottom line. But I don’t think that being nice is a bad thing. After all, it’s much nicer to go into a store where you are treated nicely with empathy, get polite answers to your questions and actual help with your problems. It’s no wonder their team of “geniuses” actually help to generate sales. In fact, on the same day Gizmodo reported their story, TechCrunch reported that according to a study by NPD Group, “nine of every ten Apple owners are somewhat or much more likely to make another Apple purchase following their tech support experience.” Furthermore, one percent of those polled said they have a better perception of Apple after getting technical help at the Genius Bar.
One thing is for sure – would we really complain if we got a positive experience from a store we visited or organisation we had dealt with? I don’t think so.

Tips for a better appraisal system

By | Corporate Blog | No Comments

In my role I am often asked whether I feel appraisals are a waste of time and what we can do as either the appraiser or appraisee to make them more effective. In this blog post I have tried to answer some of these questions and help provide some tips to getting the most out of appraisals.


In my opinion, most people’s dislike of appraisals comes down to the experience they have had with them. For appraisees their dislike can be a result of feeling like appraisals are used as a stick for management to beat them with – rather than a forum to focus on their development and growth.  For appraisers (managers) their dislike can result from knowing they are expected to get people to change but not knowing how. However, done in the right they can be a fantastic tool to help inspire and grow your employees.
In my view the key to a good appraisal system hinges on these key elements:


  • Communication – many appraisal systems are introduced without spelling out the benefits which means people participate half-heartedly because they are forced to. Like anything communication is key
  • Training – Most managers are not trained in conducting appraisal interviews. As a result, almost everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The appraisees don’t get the motivating feedback necessary to improve their commitment and productivity; the appraiser doesn’t learn how he or she could manage better; and the company doesn’t get the data it needs for planning and improving what it does. Poor interviewing by appraisers reinforces people’s worst fears and sometimes creates more problems. Likewise setting unclear or unrealistic  objectives and measurement following reviews can also be detrimental
  • Job descriptions – Without adequate job descriptions there is no sound starting point for the appraisal and there is no way of measuring improved performance. It is the performance of the various tasks in the job description that must be appraised and improved
  • 360 degree feedback – without gathering feedback both from above and below it is impossible to get a rounded picture of a person’s performance. Annual reviews should be 360 degree reviews with feedback taken form a cross section of people and teams the individual works with.
  • Time – the biggest reason appraisals fail is often due to time. People don’t prioritise the development of their staff and push appraisal meetings back. It’s easily done especially in a busy communications agency where client commitments often take precedent. But making sure appraisals happen is so important. Making sure the right preparation is done too is key. All too often, prep is often left to the last minute meaning the right investment is not made
  • Ongoing improvement – the final area which is often missed is to leave meetings about a person’s development until appraisal times. For an appraisal system to be effective a person’s performance should be appraised more regularly than every year. In my view appraisals should be done every 6 months with more regular catch ups scheduled in between (as is deemed appropriate for the individual). Obviously for very junior members of staff their development should be driven by their line manager and helped and supported through the process of line management. However, for managers and above (especially those with experience of line management) it’s important for the individual themselves to drive their own development. Everyone is different so being able to tailor an approach accordingly is key to making sure everyone gets the most out of the process


Without doubt, properly conducted appraisals are one of the most powerful tools for enhancing your people’s performance and your business’s profits. Find ways to avoid these mistakes and your people will learn to enjoy appraisals with all the benefits of improved performance.

if content is King, then conversation is still Queen

By | Corporate Blog | No Comments

Social media has certainly shaken things up in more ways than one over the last six years.


To date, companies have embraced social networks and channels by setting up Facebook and LinkedIn pages amongst other social tools.Many view these as an extension of their current marketing mix and offer product information, sales notices and contact information similar to that on their corporate websites.


Companies have started using Twitter as a broadcast medium; tweeting when they have new products or are having a clearance sale as a syndicated one-way communication with their followers, but it’s the collaboration and innovation afforded to companies and individuals by social media that really sets it apart as a game changer.


Social media channels and the Internet generation as a whole are by default, all about working collaborations. Digital networking is la mode du jour; but for those who have grown up amidst the digitally enabled world, can it actually lead to social isolation?


Isolation in this sense comes from the fact that whilst actively engaging with others in real-time, often being part of a wider conversation or community, they are doing so sitting in front of a screen on a device enabled with social media tools, never actually having to physically communicate in face-to-face conversation at all.


Does that matter I hear you ask? Email didn’t kill the conversation, so why should social networking kill social skills? Isn’t it enough to converse via a screen and keypad? Each generation has used different forms of technology to interact with each other; surely this is simply the next stage in the evolution of communications? In some respects this is fine, and the younger generation have for the most part become experts at writing compelling content, because at the heart of social media – as in PR – content is very much king.


Collaborative working is a team thing – after all, no man is an island as the saying goes! But to work successfully in a collaborative way, it is imperative the digital youth of today be able to communicate with others in the tried and tested, old-fashioned art of conversation.


Social media channels and digitally enabled workforces are here to stay – it’s not something that can be uninvented, and there is no way back now. Twitter, Facebook and email or IM are commonplace in the businesses of today and tomorrow, and it’s only likely to become more so as workforces become less centralised thanks to technology and the proliferation of mobile communications.


Now it is a question of how the new rules of engagement will better the business environment. Ultimately it’s down to the individual to make the time, and take the initiative to remember that there are different ways to communicate other than an IM or email: the phone (fixed line or mobile) is still a great way to converse and get an immediate and unscripted response. If content remains King – which in all businesses it undoubtedly is – even in the digital, social media orientated world of today, personal conversation is still very much Queen


Centurions Connected

By | Corporate Blog | No Comments

It was a sunny day almost three years ago that myself, Mitch Lazar and Graeme Ferguson were sitting on the terrace bar in the Century Club ploughing through our second bottle of Sauvignon Blanc when we got into a discussion on how we loathed networking events.



Perhaps being jaded 40 something’s had a lot to do with it, we had all been to hundreds of networking over the years but the thought of wearing a name badge and being sold to by a 19 year old whipper snapper was no longer our idea of a fun networking event. And there you have it – networking events had become boring oversubscribed sales pitches.


We have an idea! Let’s start our own event. Let’s bring fun back into networking and let’s meet people we actually want to meet. And with that the Centurions was born and suitably named after the bar we were drinking in.


Three years on, 2000+ members later, events in London, New York, Munich and Istanbul has proved our theory right! Networking events can be fun.


There are two things that make a good networking event,1) the venue, 2) the people. All our events have been in incredible venues, in London our home is the Century Club but we recently had an exclusive event on the top floor bar of The Gherkin. The uber cool Standard Hotel in NY and Munich’s hottest club The Heart Bar have hosted past events. VIP Invitation only has kept the quality of our members a ‘who’s who’ of the digital entertainment industry.
Deals have been struck, friends have been made and drinks have been drunk. We welcome you to join our growing membership and to network your heart out at one of our events. Come and join us at


Tony Pearce
Centurions Co-Founder