Monday, August 27, 2012

Fortune Validates

Back in Feb., we issued the prediction that focus on mobile payments would increase.

Last month, Fortune joined the New York Times and Wall St. Journal and other top-tier media in validating our prediction. Check out the cover story: "The Death of Cash: Tech giants - and startups like Square - want you to use your phone to pay for everything from gum to train rides. Here's how they plan to achieve cash-free nirvana."

We predicted that e-wallets would be mainstream in five years but we may move that up to four years, based on the kind of media coverage we've been seeing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bloomberg BusinessWeek Validates Cybercrime Prediction

Cybercrime -- which we also predicted (see original column here) as one of the top ongoing stories the media will cover in 2012 -- continues to generate media headlines.

The latest is from Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "Life in Cyberia: A new brand of warfare is under way. Our five experts discuss the best defenses."

With news just this month of malware attacks on Lebanese banks (potentially to uncover links to terrorists; check out Forbes' article on Gauss) and airports (see a separate BusinessWeek's article), expect coverage of cyberattacks and cyber warfare to continue into 2013.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Even Comcast's CEO Talks about Cord Cutting

Beyond multiple articles in the Wall St. Journal, New York Times and other publications that have validated our "Cutting the Cable" prediction that people are moving away from cable, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was quoted in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek interview addressing "cord cutting" by saying:
"So with all the press about cord-cutting, facts would say that [Netflix] has really been more additive. There are more multichannel video subscribers today than there were a year ago. People want more control, more choice, and more personalization."
Of course he'd say that cord cutting isn't an issue for Comcast. What else would you expect him to say?

And while I do think of Netflix as additive, today, I don't think that will necessarily be the case in the future. People do like the control of being able to watch programs on whatever device they've got or will buy, and if traditional cable companies don't provide that choice, people will cut the cord.

That will increasingly be the future of how we access the kind of content formerly known as TV shows. After all, in our always tethered to the Internet world, you really don't need cable as a transmission vehicle. Or satellite, either.

You just need Internet, which you're already paying for.

And if you access TV shows on a device, there are already many ways to connect tablets to your TV. All I'm saying is that cable is an easier way, today, to access that sort of content. But it soon won't be. I can access HBO shows on HBO to Go, its iPad/iPhone app, because I'm a cable subscriber. But I see no reason that I shouldn't be able to subscribe directly to HBO, and not have to go through a third-party like Verizon to get it.

Just saying that cord cutting will continue to gain momentum.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Progressive Insurance's Crisis Response Looks a Little Regressive

People like to complain about several types of businesses: among them, cable companies, airlines, telemarketers, used car dealers, and insurance companies.

So on Monday, when comedian Matt Fisher published a devastating blog post entitled "My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court," about how Progressive mishandled (from his perspective) issues after his sister was killed in a car accident, the story took off and became a social media crisis.

From a crisis communications perspective, Progressive also mishandled this crisis.

That's surprising because Progressive has a Twitter team of 11 people, posting more than 6,100 total tweets, averaging a couple of tweets per day. So I might have thought the company would be more nimble to the negative response to how Progressive handled the Fisher case.

Yet, Progressive did not post any tweets on Monday. And did not post anything until nearly 3pm on Tuesday.

Instead, Progressive's initial reaction was an auto-response tweet, “This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they've had to endure. We fully investigated this claim ... and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations.”

Part of the problem with Progressive's response is that it seems biolerplate, detailed by legal counsel, not by actual human beings with real empathy for the situation.  

It's yet another example of by-the-book crisis communications that turns people off.  

As a public company, Progressive has to balance the necessity of its fiduciary responsibilities to its shareholders -- the fact that the company feels it "properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations" -- along with its need to maintain a brand that appeals to consumers.  One other variable affecting Progressive's strategy is that its stock price actually improved a few cents after the social media storm hit (from a low on Monday of $19.67 to a high of $19.96 midday Tuesday).

Progressive seems to have made the decision to ride out the social media storm, and cynically, that may be the best approach. Even if the company communicates its fiduciary responsibilities and explains more fully its "contractual obligations," those obligations can't hold up in a court of public opinion when compared to Fisher's horrible story. Progressive's approach: if we can't win, we won't play...for a few days.

Finally, just before 3pm on Tuesday -- basically 20 hours since Fisher's post -- Progressive finally posted a response to the criticisms.

It's a better response, and I think it's because someone inside Progressive realized that its brand image was being affected, even if its stock price was relatively unaffected. Progressive has invested years and millions of dollars to develop a recognizable brand epitomized by good-natured, slightly wacky Flo -- while portraying the other guys as working for a company that places "contractual obligations" over policy holders. 

Progressive finally recognized that they had to make a change to its response, and did so by putting a specific person's name to the response, and while it wasn't warm-and-fuzzy, the explanation -- "There was a question as to who was at fault, and a jury decided in the Fisher family’s favor just last week. We respect the verdict and now can continue to work with the Fisher family to reach a resolution" -- shows them moving for a solution. 

In this case, I hope they follow "contractual obligations" and pay the Fisher family the full balance owed them under the policy.

But Progressive's reaction -- its officious initial comment, the delay in responding -- shows the failure of following by-the-book response crisis management that generates a generic response that can be used in almost any crisis.  Instead, crisis communication templates should always provide room to customize the response to address the specifics of the current crisis. That's something a number of recent responses to crises have forgotten.