13 June 2017 | Issue 20
Market corner

by Ghillie Little
Head of Corporate Consulting, SBC London
Uber rival gets a Lyft from Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover joins other high-fliers, the likes of General Motors and Google's Waymo, with a £20M investment in Lyft.  The investment was part of the start-up's $600m fundraising round in April and was made by JLR's innovation arm InMotion Ventures. The investment by Britain's biggest carmaker goes even further by also providing a fleet of vehicles to work with Lyft on autonomous vehicle testing. A major partnership for both companies, a move to not only compete for a stake in the future of electric and smart vehicles but also a strategic partnership for commercial self-driving tech.

Changing of the lightbulb
GE's CEO Jeff Immelt is to step down this summer after leading one of the world's biggest industrial companies for 16 years. Taking up the cudgel is long-time GE exec, current head of health care, John Flannery. Investors appear optimistic as GE jumped more than 3% on Monday after the announcement and has been steady ever since. 

GE's stock price has seen better days and investors are eager to see boosted profits. Immelt is known for restructuring GE following the 2008 crisis, moving away from a large financial business back to it's industrial roots, with a heavy focus on digitisation - an expensive shift that hurt profits in the near term. That said, long-term GE could be reaping the rewards from the investments led by Immelt. Whether this ends up being the case remains to be seen. In the meantime, Immelt imparted some sound advice for the man replacing him. 
Empty seats for Sky
Even factoring in the new types of viewing on smartphones and computers, Sky TV has seen a record low in average viewership for the English Premier League with a 7.6% decline. The numbers are reliant on usage statistics that can be incomplete and although SKY Plc has not been significantly effected, this is reminiscent of the live sport viewership pains ESPN has been struggling with across the pond and an indication of the evolving relationship viewers have with live sports and TV in general. 

Can you hear me now? 
Verizon and Yahoo! have finally sealed the deal! Yahoo Sports and Finance will be rolled into Verizon's Oath unit, home to other well-known brands like AOL, TechCrunch and HuffPost. The remaining collection of Yahoo assets will be renamed Altaba Inc. with a former Yahoo board member at the helm. Yahoo will be saying farewell to Marissa Mayer and the $23 million that she will take with her.

Who's having a good week?

Lost Jackson Pollock painting found in a garage

One man's trash...

Corridors of power

by Louis Rynsard
Director, Reputation & Strategy, SBC London

So yeah, that happened

Where to begin? The General Election last week was a shock result to everyone except YouGov (props on the new polling method, guys - very impressive). What followed is so much in flux it is hard to make any reasoned analysis and evaluation, never mind a prediction, so naturally that means hundreds of people already have.
We won’t know until the dust settles what this new political paradigm means for business, individuals and the country as a whole. As things stand, instability is the order of the day and a deal between the Tories and the DUP could happen, or not, today or tomorrow or not. However, one thing is sure, political commentators, experts, and former staffers like myself, indeed anyone who thinks they know what’s what in the political world, should learn to expect the unexpected. Life has always come at politicos fast. That’s truer now than ever. Literally anything could happen in modern UK politics.

The march continues

Over the English Channel one politician who has no problem winning elections, Emmanuel Macron, keeps up his winning ways. With results of the first round of the National Assembly elections in and it is increasingly clear that the En Marche (or LREM as it is now known) locomotive is picking up steam.
Macron, the youngest leader of France since Napoleon, will have all the legislative support and political capital he needs to pursue his agenda. However, the easy part is nearly over. Despite how commendable Macron’s achievements have been so far, he will need to up his game once again if he has any hope of delivering lasting, effective change in France, Europe and the world. The poster boy of the liberal, pro-business, globalist centre has a lot riding on him. Time to see if he can pull it off.

Not getting on with the job

While Westminster is focused on reshuffles, deals, aborted leadership coups and plots, behind the scenes in Brussels a group of people are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, while a great timer counts down. Negotiations with the EU on Brexit were supposed to start next week. That is now in doubt.
The EU has yet to receive the UK’s negotiating position, which may be in flux and only today the Department for Exiting the European Union, has had a change of Ministers. Whatever you think of Brexit, if it’s going to go ahead and be a potential success we really need to get on with it.

Who's having a rough week?

Cristiano Ronald
The world's highest-paid sports star face charges in Spain for allegedly evading tax of €14.7m.
Silicon passage

by Louis Rynsard
Director, Reputation & Strategy, SBC London

It's kicked

For years people have questioned the viability of the Kickstarter model. Name an exciting product that has used it, and I will show you an exciting product that is constantly delayed.
Well now, those naysayers have one more example. One of Kickstarter’s great success stories has today, collapsed. Despite over $40 million in funding and the backing of major tech leaders such as David Marcus of Facebook Messenger fame, sleep monitor Hello, is saying goodbye. The problem for the Kickstarter model is that it is hard to turn an exciting idea into a successful business; often there just isn’t enough support to pull of this transition. Even more often, the appeal of a product is not beyond the 15% of early adopters and innovators who will buy something new just to have it.

Another day, another 'plan'

It seems nowadays that barely a week goes by without some politician, somewhere announcing something to crackdown on some awfulness online. Today it is the turn of the UK and France, with plans to fine social media companies.
While it is the duty of Governments to regulate industries and keep people safe, it would help if this started from a place of knowledge and expertise, not assumption. The lack of technology knowledge in our political process is really starting to become a problem. The solution has to come from the tech industry itself. In the same way as governments and regulators seek the advice of finance experts, so should they seek the advice of tech leaders. And if they don’t seek it out, tech leaders have to shove it into their faces.

Stocks down but industry still on the rise

Tech stocks are continuing their decline in recent days, which has some people if not worried a little concerned.  

Well don’t be.

No matter what the day-to-day level of shares in tech firms, the trend for the industry has nowhere to go but up. Yes, there may be booms and busts for companies; we may even see a really bad year or two at some point. However, technology is spreading into every area of our lives and providing a service we want and need.
So stocks may be down in the short term. But there is no future, short of an apocalyptic one, where tech isn’t the most important part of our work and even our lives.

Notable Headline

If you tell Amazon's Alexa you're 'feeling sexy' it'll 'set the mood'

...Alexa gets physical

C-suite steer

by Lief Anya Schneider
CEO, SBC London
Walking the line between Pollyanna and the Grim Reaper: How to keep your reputation about you, when all around you are losing theirs...
A new piece of research by KPMG shows that, for the UK’s CEOs, worries about reputation outstrip worries about Brexit. 

No wonder. Political and public scrutiny of business has reached fever pitch. With social media, every Tom, Dick and Harry can, with very little data or real knowledge, attack a firm that’s taken 100 years to build, and cause damage. Free speech is the best of all possible worlds, but a by-product is the risk of a certain amount of ugly abuse.

At the moment, there’s a spot of bother going on with the Government. In fact, there’s even a spot of confusion as to who, what or which exactly constitutes the Government. The bravest of business leaders have commented on how this will affect the economy, doing themselves proud by showing that whatever their opinion, they had one.

At times like this, those who stay quiet and do not speak to their stakeholders will be assumed to be confused. Even admitting you’re confused is less confusing to your stakeholders than saying nothing – it gives a clear and understandable reference point and an implicit promise that you are seeking to understand and you have the humility to admit that in the absence of a crystal ball you are human and don’t know the future. Humility has been in short supply recently on the national and international stage.

Grim Reaper doom and gloom does not send out a good message.  It is the privilege of those who are waiting to be led. It smacks of giving up.

But at least it’s not rictus-grin-come-along-children-let’s-be-jolly annoying. The last few weeks have shown that platitudinous phrases oft-repeated and made to multitask are not useful* for politicians. They are even worse for business leaders. Don’t let your comms team convince you otherwise. Many company mission statements could have been written by Pollyanna herself.

At times like this, stakeholders need to know that you have a realistic plan, that you are honest, and that you don’t take them for three year olds. And they need to see you show, not tell, that you possess Darwinian adaptability and Special Forces-level rapid reaction.

Leaders like that will get us through.  

(*If you’re reading from outside the UK, I refer here to the phrase "strong and stable", forced into every media interview and speech by our PM during her campaign.)

Poem of the week


Picked by Ghillie Little

The SPIT is produced weekly by SBC London.
SBC London is a corporate reputation and communications advisory firm based in the City of London. 

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