As we prepare to unveil our new redesign this month, another site has also received a face lift of sorts: say hello to Facebook Lite - a sleeker, cleaner version of the popular social networking site.
Launched in the U.S. this week, Facebook Lite has now reportedly become accessible to European users as well - which could explain all the page load errors I'm receiving.
Judging by the buzz around the trimmed down site, looks like it's catching on fast. A few of my Facebook friends have already given it the thumbs up, and from what I've seen, it definitely appears much less cluttered than its parent site. There are far less ads and the information/categories are more condensed, resulting in a lay-out that's easier on the eyes.
If you're not a champion of instant messaging (much like myself), then
you'll definitely like Facebook Lite since it does not offer the
chatting option. Is that the sound of productivity I'm hearing?
One critical aspect to keep in mind is that there doesn't appear to be a way to navigate between the original Facebook and Facebook Lite; it's either one or the other. In my case, I think I'll keep things "lite".
We reflect, we look back and shake our heads, but as a communicator I've observed with great interest the level of remembrance exhibited on the televised tributes and memorials. And by that I mean the eulogies.
Yesterday I watched with misty eyes as Ted Kennedy Jr. remembered his father at the late Senator's funeral. His eloquence, eye contact and powerful use of storytelling should be a lesson for any presenter. I, myself, had always been a bit iffy where Ted Sr. was concerned (Chappaquiddick anyone?); but after hearing his son's moving anecdote of Ted Sr. helping him climb a hill after losing a leg to bone cancer, he suddenly became a regular father to me. The image of a shady 1969 politician possibly having an affair on the side was suddenly wiped away in my mind.
Ted Jr.'s eulogy personalized his father and brought him to a level that the rest of us could better understand. He triggered the emotions of audiences around the world by offering an inside look of what was beneath John and Bobby's brother and one of the most influential politicians in Washington.
The definition? It's basically how it sounds: having fun while unemployed. The above website offers a bevy of affordable social activities for people who are currently out of work in San Francisco, Washington DC, Los Angeles and New York. Or as the Washington DC site explains, the website is also meant to target "the
unpaid interns, the exploited, the indebted and the just plain cheap."
Happily, I am not unemployed but I have been spending time with a few people who are. And they are absolutely loving life. Rather than wallow in self-pity about being the victim of company lay-offs, they're taking advantage of everything the summer has to offer: the beach (last I checked most of them are free), happy hours (who can beat $1.50 oysters and $5.00 martinis?) and free outdoor concerts. And heck, if they get the yen for a nice lunch or dinner, their severance package has to go somewhere, right?
Just the other day, I had lunch with a former colleague who was let go after 15 years. She was actually happy about it! Turns out, conditions at the company had gotten so bad after it had been bought out that people were begging to be fired. And now that she's out of work, she's enjoying the first chunk of real down time she's had in years including spending quality time with family and friends.
Another former co-worker of mine left the troubled company before she could be made redundant. After working there 8 years, she barely got a goodbye from the new powers-that-be. Talk about a lack of employee recognition...
So for any of our readers who are experiencing lay-offs or have simply told their bosses to take this job and shove it, fear not: what lies ahead doesn't necessarily have to be scary. Just make the best of these warm summer months and start looking in the Fall.
The BBC are doing an excellent drama series on medicine and Breaking The Mould had a particular resonance for me. Prof Norman Heatley was the young chemist who despite having few resources and less money helped Florey manufacture enough Penicillin to prove that it really was the wonder drug of the 20th Century. Surely it was Sir Alexender Fleming who discovered penicillin you ask; after all he got all the credit.
Well as the drama shows, Fleming discovered the powers of penicillin by accident then completely ignored the global potential of it as a life-saving treatment. It was Florey, Chain and Heatley who made it a viable treatment in time to help save the lives of thousands of troops in WWII and millions of people around the world. Every one of us has used it to stop an infection that otherwise had the potential to kill us.
Many years later, in 1979 I came across Prof Norman Heatley when my wife found us digs for our third year at Oxford. He was a genial, small, sun-tanned man who struck me as being an eccentric Professor Brainstorm type character. He drilled holes into the boot of his brand new Ford to insert a wooden contraption to help carry large loads. His phone was kept in a cradle that he would unplug and take from room to room in a precursor of a wireless handset. He pulped apples and made beer and even had a canoe with a sail which he plied on the River Cherwell. But most of all he was the most generous man I ever met in my life.
Some students were coming from Australia to tour Europe and asked him to help them rent a camper van. He bought one and lent it to them. Whenever we had a noisy party in the flat which abutted his bedroom he would ask solicitously in the morning whether he had disturbed us with his snoring. He gave us free run of his garden - including an ingenious summer house that rotated to catch the sun's rays.
By chance he was a Fellow at my own college, and once I started asking about the man stories came pouring out of the panelled walls of Lincoln College. He used to keep the menus from High Table; not - as younger dons thought - for sentimental reasons, but because their reverse side was blank and he could use them for his card index. Of an evening he would break a wine glass into a bowl and glue it back together to keep his hands dexterous enough for the chemistry lab.
But perhaps the most important quality of Norman's was that he willingly gave away the patent for the manufacture of Penicillin - a patent worth hundreds of millions. He believed (along with Florey) that penicillin was a naturally-occurring organism and that it should not be patented. Needless to say when he went to America to help them manufacture it in industrial quantities he, and Oxford University, were ripped off unconscionably. When I asked him about how he felt about forgoing all those millions, he was amused at my question.
For a young man in his early twenties I could not understand his point of view, and indeed Oxford and other universities now guard their patents far more jealously. But perhaps Norman was onto something. All he cared about back in the dark days of the war was getting the drug replicated as quickly and as widely as possible. That was his reward - to know that he was part of something that has really changed the human race. No money can buy you that level of self-actualisation. So by the time I met him he was as serene as Ghandi and emotionally wealthy as Mother Theresa.
It's only now that I understand that what makes a man is not how much he acquires in his lifetime; it's how much he gives away.
Long long ago – when most people thought ‘duck island’ was a
Branson Caribbean retreat. March in fact! I tootled off to a small but
compelling exhibition at The Hayward with the intriguing title of The Russian Linesman,
curated by white horse man himself artist, Mark Wallinger.
The title refers to the Soviet linesman whose onside flag
gave the third tipping point goal ‘in’ thereby steering England on to win the
1966 FIFA World Cup.
The linesman was as history later proved - wrong! As if we
care!His perception was that the
player was onside. Wallberg’s small exhibition was artfully about boundaries
and the concept of ‘perception’. The subject is timely.
2009 will possibly go down as the ‘year of perception’. It’s
not what we know or indeed what we think we know – it’s all about what we
perceive. Not all people in banks are out to take high risks at any cost – but
the public perceive them to be. Not all MPs spend hours in their constituencies
fiddling their expenses – but the perception is that they are!
The wealthy still shop furiously but they want to be
perceived as tightening their Gucci belts and sharing our common economic pain!
They shop discreetly!
The Government are doubtless still in absolute control but
the perception is that they have lost it.
Perception can be a dangerous thing or it can be a real
plus. It depends on how you see it!
In the world of internal communications perception is
everything. Management are reluctant to talk to employees right now – who can
blame them - there are some difficult conversations being had out there right
now! But they must be seen to be talking – the perception must be that they are.
And for us poor creatives its hell – the brief today is
always ‘this mustn’t look like we’ve spent a lot of money on it’. As if!
Tone is everything.
Of course we’ll swing out of this brief era of self-scrutiny
sooner or later. Perceptions will shift and 2009 and will fade away as quietly
and as swiftly as a 1966 German football supporter. But we’re not there yet. So
meanwhile let’s all just enjoy this ‘hottest summer on record’ and go out and clean
the moat – I mean help with the local community pond!
Our intrepid editor, Kelly Kass went to Microsoft HQ in Redmond to interview the Phil Morel and Paolo Tosolini who are doing great things with Academy Mobile - a video channel that streams straight to staff's PDAs. But while she was there she tried to break into the secret development centre to see if the rumours are true about SharePoint 2010. Apparently it's become a Microsoft rising star with ambitions of turning it into a $5bn product.
Sadly even Kelly's charms could not get past the security guards (are they made of ice?) but in the meantime we have teamed up with the SharePoint experts at Core to put together the definitive workshop for internal communicators on how to learn to love the biggest thing to hit corporate IT since Lotus Notes.
On Thursday evening we celebrated our simply summer party at the offices in Soho and launched the Gower Handbook of Internal Communication. Close on a hundred guests packed the place, but the sun was out so the terrace was a useful overspill. The gift tree showered copies of the Handbook as well as a few booby prizes such as map of the Gower Peninsula. The lady for Karian & Box won the free makeover with stylists Coathanger and many guests walked away with an on-the-spot caricature of themselves. Judge the Poet did an amazing job; guest were asked to give him three words or phrases and he created an instant poem that rhymed and amused. The Gower Handbook of Internal Communication has taken 2 years to write and features the advice of 29 expert communicators from around the world including, Bill Quirke, Euan Semple, Hillary Scarlett, Susan Walker, Liam FitzPatrick and many more. The Handbook was edited by our own Marc Wright. It's selling fast and if you order online you can get 10% off.
Over the last couple of weeks, two
companies that I know well have been involved in M&A action. Nokia Siemens
Networks, who I worked with since its inception to 2008 on internal communications, has
announced that it is interested in purchasing parts (specifically the LTE
and CDMA assets) of Nortel, the beleaguered Canadian telecoms company that
filed for protection from creditors at the beginning of the year.
Last week it was
also announced that Pleon, the communications consultancy that I once worked for, is merging with Ketchum, another Omnicom owned agency.
What I find interesting about both mergers are the publicly accessible microsites that have been specially created for the event. Here'sNokia Siemens Networks dedicated microsite for Nortel employees.
The content on
both temporary sites aims to answer questions that stakeholders could
have (in Nokia Siemens Networks case, just employees), by combining the marketing, investor relations, internal communications and customer service
information about the respective deals.
Think of it as
the press release for the future – a fully working comms centre
ready to go as soon as big news is announced. Another one that was created
ahead of a merger – and was subsequently taken offline once the merger was
completed – was the Delta and Northwest merger site. Created by Delta, the site
could be found at www.newglobalairline.com and was neatly designed around
employees, customers and communities.
The amount of
information on these sites is impressive. Employees at Pleon and Ketchum
worried about layoffs, for example, are able to get a detailed FAQ answering that specific question as well as where the key markets will be on Day One, the merger timeline and reasons behind the deal.
with the mix of text, visuals, video and more seem more effective than
sending the traditional one page press release, simply because they are more
interactive. The content can be more relevant to a wider audience and reach many more than a traditional press release could. It also focuses the minds of what the message is,
cutting down on awkward questions from employees and the press, and the even more awkward stumbling answers from spokespeople, once the deal is announced.
And these sites can
be created quickly. According to WHOIS data,
the Pleon Ketchum merger site was registered on 29 May 2009 and the merger
announced around two weeks later. Seemingly day by day, It's becoming easier and cheaper to create an impressive fully-functioning multimedia site.
These microsites are going to become increasingly common as companies aim to get their side of
the story out to information hungry stakeholders who, in the Google age, have
come to expect answers to their questions straightaway. If there isn’t a microsite to give
them the wealth of information they are looking for, the company stands to lose its voice and ultimately control of the