Tactics versus Strategy

Tactics are a bit of a dirty word in the business world. Often, they are positioned as remedial, reactive, rushed and unsophisticated. Whereas strategy takes the podium defined as measured, managed, structured and glorious.

But in reality, in practice – tactics beat strategy hands down…

Tactics beat strategy

The tactics that Captain James T Kirk employed to defeat the Starfleet Academy simulator Kobayashi Maru have spawned novels, blogs and many heated debates. The strategy behind the Starfleet simulator is to test a cadet’s character by placing them in a no-win situation. Strictly speaking what is being tested is leadership and in particular ethics where life and death are traded within the confines of Starfleet rules. In the latest rendition of Kobayashi Maru – Star Trek 2009 James T(Chris Pine) reprograms the simulation so that the enemy ship’s shields drop. He’s found out for cheating of course, but his defence is that a no-win situation quite simply does not ever exist.

So this begs the question – was something wrong with the strategy?

Was James T right to use a tactic to break a strategy that teaches acceptance of no-win situations. And that punishes a rejection of no-win situations with a disciplinary hearing.

You might be thinking – who cares, it doesn’t matter – Star Trek is made up.

Here’s something that is not made up for you.

Artificial Intelligence plays strategy and wins

In 2016 DeepMind (the new name for Google) played renowned boardgame player Lee Sedol at Go. At the time Lee was 18 times world Champion. Go is recognised as the most difficult strategic game on the planet. There were five matches where DeepMind, the computer; played Lee the human. Google won four out of five matches. Artificial Intelligence history was made. Match winnings of $1m were shared with charities and Lee who kept $170,000 for participating and winning one of the matches. DeepMind won the majority of matches because it was able to absorb strategic data and learn counter-strategies – how to win. Artificial Intelligence is advancing at a phenomenal rate. Machines (computers) can be programmed to teach other machines (computers) how to learn. This is great – incredible in fact; especially if you are talking about healthcare – but what happens if what machines are learning is wrong? For example; if a machine is fed bad data, or if there is an unlikely side-effect to winning or failure.

Data does not have all the answers

To give you a micro example of this I am a stroke survivor. I’ve had eight in total, though six were TIA’s – I didn’t even know that I’d had them. I had all eight episodes before I reached fifty years’ old. I baffled doctors because I have never smoked, I was not obese and to all intents I was thoroughly healthy. To make matters worse for doctors; I made miraculous recoveries to the point that doctors questioned if I’d ever been that ill, or if the results of scans were accurate. I eventually found a cure by ignoring the data and the science. I did a deep dive on internet-based research and tuned into metaphysics. I accessed every medical file that I had. Then I went to a teaching hospital and got three extremely bright consultants specialising in – neurology (brains), cardiology (hearts) and pulmonology (lungs) to work together, to collaborate. Of course; they put me through more tests and refused to test for one last thing because; all of the data from previous tests was contradictory. In the end I told them that there was no good reason not to have this one last test. They immediately spotted a problem with my lung, where I passed blood without oxygen in it to the heart. A problem with my lung, that had happened in the womb, was corrected following two minutes of nanotechnology surgery. My point – a tactical approach – one that focused on collaboration, recognising that brain, heart and lungs work together was what was needed.

Data does not recognise diversity

To macro up this micro example. Creating crop space to feed the world by cutting down rainforests is not going well for us. The lack of biodiversity that this has caused threatens the survival of our planet. Because choking off the world’s lungs is melting the ice caps faster which raises the temperature, which means a decline in seasonality and rainfall – and raising sea levels but reduction of habitat for land, ice and sae creatures. You know all this, I’m sure, already. But probably you haven’t realised that unwieldly strategies do not allow for tactical responses. That without ethics and purpose strategies kill innovation and diversity.

Contact siteAssets to talk nibble tactics.

Reputation; worse than being talked about

Worse than being talked about

Oscar Wilde famously said: ‘There is only one thing worse [in the world] than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’

But perhaps his view might be different if he had lived today. It is not so much that people are talked or gossiped about more now than they were in the Victorian era. It is the ease with which rumours are amplified on social media and given credibility by the sites that they are published on.

The Part Of Musical Amplifier Sound Amplifier Or Music Mixer Wit

Ricky Gervais’ latest standup HUMANITY explores this phenomena, drawing a distinction between fact and opinion.  Pointing out that turning up the volume on opinion and having it published online does not convert it to fact. The latter part of his standup focuses on fact versus opinion. He recounts how he dangles facts on Twitter, counting the seconds before they are taken, ripped apart and spat out by loud-mouth bigots.

Opinion over fact thinking

Speaking of which, opinion over fact thinking…

‘What you know matters less, than the volume with which; what you don’t know’s expressed!’

…is wonderfully told, or rather sung by Zinnia Wormwood, mother to Matilda [the Musical] in her song Loud.

We can go back further, OK magazine invited Katie Price to write an advice column between 2007 – 2009 after she disclosed to the media that she had suffered from post natal depression. Whilst it was admirable of Katie to share her experience of post natal depression; surviving the experience does not make her a mental health expert, nor does it qualify her to council other potentially vulnerable people.

A disregard to pay for ‘expert opinion’ or read journalistic quality news is a popular topic for siteAssets. This is because:

Businesses and individuals cannot make informed decisions unless they are based on facts.

And – opinions only matter if they come from an expert, someone with experience of what you are concerned about, or need advice with. That’s all very well and good but –

What do you do about wrong facts?

What do you do about being heard?

Managing reputation

If you are a business owner and someone has published a bad review about you, it can be very difficult to remove it from ‘the public eye’. We would advise that you respond to the bad review online, using the same platform on which the bad review was posted.

The exception to this is if the complainant is being foul-mouthes (it happens) or is expressing an ‘ism’ against you, your business or your staff. In which you should warn the individual of that – and state that you are taking the complaint offline. If you would like more advice please contact us.

If you are a business owner or you manage an organisation, such as a club or charity and you are struggling to attract customers or members. It may be because your website is not visible under the right industry categories, or that it is not visible on mobile phones or tablets. Both will bring your ranking and indexing by Google down. In addition you may lack reviews on eg TripAdvisor or on Google Maps. Again if you would like us to review your online presence and reputation please contact us.

You may have found that PR does not work for your business or organisation any more. This is because sadly, as print media has declined specialist journalists have been replaced with free-lance or more generic writers. This means that there may not be anyone at a local paper that understands why your ‘news story’ is important. And, PR consultants have struggled against the opinion trumps fact phenomena. They too cannot be heard above the din of social media. For advice on how to build a strong referral presence online please contact us.

Excited to be working with The Playground Theatre

A very quick update from siteAssets just to say how very excited we are to be working with London’s newest theatre: The Playground Theatre.

We will be helping to attract new audiences to this amazing theatre which is located off North Pole Road, in Latimer Road W10 on an industrial estate. A big hurrah to British innovation for the theatre owner Peter Tate, co-artistic director Anthony Biggs and exec producer Amanda Waggott for believing that a shed could host performing arts.

Dream of a King – a Martin Luther King Junior biopic is coming up 14-18 January.

UN and Equality Trust sponsored Speaking to Power is running on 19 January. This all day performing arts festival is for the local community, and will be replicated globally.

The Unknown Soldier – a powerful solo performance from writer actor Ross Ericson about a WWI veteran follows 22-27 January.

The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier

On 26 January Ross Ericson shares another solo performance in Gratiano – his take on what happened after The Merchant of Venice ended, but set in post WWII Italy.

On 26 & 27 January Dictating to the Estate is showing, a staged read through of events that lead to the Grenfell fire.

French theatre presents a charming comedy about Sacha Guitry: Ma Fille et Moi from 28 Jan to 2 Feb at The Playground.

And in a groundbreaking move acclaimed actor/writer Steven Berkoff will be Harvey Weinstein in Harvey 12-18 Feb at The Playground Theatre.

Never mind ‘Don’t be evil’; How about ‘Do good’

Since 2000 ‘Don’t be evil’ was the overriding principal of Google’s corporate code of conduct. It was changed to ‘Do the right thing’ by AI specialist firm Alphabet; Google’s new parent company, during 2015.

However, adoption of ‘Do the right thing’ was slow and Google has been embroiled in several high profile corporate conduct scandals.

siteAssets positive reward theory at work

siteAssets positive reward theory at work

Non-payment or avoidance of corporation tax across Europe recently lead Google to pay a £259m tax settlement bill. Italian authorities received the payment and halted a criminal investigation. Philip Hammond announced a crack-down on tax avoidance by digital giants in his autumn statement of 2017, specifically naming Google and Facebook.

Google eventually revealed gender pay gap figures after considerable pressure from government and the media. Female Google employees in the UK earn on average 17% less than men as regards salaried pay, and 43% less than men in bonus payments. Google has said that like-for-like roles show no gender pay bias, which unfortunately leads on to the next point.

Perhaps most shamefully, because it was in direct conflict with ‘Do the right thing’, Google employee James Damore posted a 10-page memo on an internal message board stating that: women were less suited to engineering than men because biologically they are pre-disposed to neurosis. The comments led to his high-profile sacking in 2017, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai defended the decision saying that it “was about ensuring women at Google felt like the company was committed to creating a welcoming environment.”

Google introduced new corporate conduct guidelines in May 2018. Pichai warned employees in July that if they behaved badly online they could be disciplined, demoted, and even fired.

The new corporate conduct code states that when communicating Google Values should be kept in mind, namely respect of the user, the opportunity and of each other. The codes go on to encourage staff to keep Google a safe, productive and inclusive environment for everyone. Further; any discussions that make Googlers feel like they do not belong, have no place at Google. Lastly employees are warned about the reach of their words – specifically “Your actions on our corporate systems leave a footprint and may be discoverable in court or shared externally without your permission.”

But, there is a problem with conduct codes in general.

As any manager, parent, coach, teacher or mentor will know punitive only does not work.

We live in a reward society.

You work hard for an exam – you get a higher grade, you train for a race, you improve your time.

This might explain why ‘Don’t be evil’ was not enough. From a mentor’s perspective ‘Do the right thing’ still falls short on several counts…

  1. It is not explicit.
  2. It is punitive.
  3. It is without example, it does not describe the positive behaviours that are required.
  4. It does not state how ‘good behaviour’ will be rewarded.

The management and leadership style it is autocratic or telling.

Where an organisation has a culture and behavioural challenge, other leadership styles such as selling (democratic) and coaching, supporting and paternalistic would produce fast and lasting behavioural shifts.

When it comes to positive reward theory and paternalistic leadership styles; the work of child psychiatry and psychology professor Alan Kazdin provides much insight.

The principal of positive reward theory is that ‘Do the right thing’ would evolve into ‘Do good’ supported by examples of good behaviour in the workplace. And good behaviours would be rewarded, more time doing ‘fun projects’ or perhaps attending a cookery class, funded by the employer. Visibility of positive reward theory can galvanise teams and cascade learning quickly.

For many the biggest hurdle for positive reward theory is flipping the negative behaviour to show the positive behaviour that is required in the workplace.

Here are some examples:

  • Thou shalt not kill – Save lives
  • Don’t shout – Speak quietly even when sad, angry or disappointed
  • Do not troll – Show support for good ideas, comments or campaigns
  • Be respectful – Show consideration to others, treating them how you like to be treated

Of course, behavioural change very often happens bottom-up or from within. Google employees recently pressured the company not to work on military projects. Goole CEO Sundar Pichai promised Googlers that the company would never help the military to build artificially intelligent weapons.

If you are this side of the pond (near Blighty) and need help changing behaviour at work contact our good friends careerbalance on: 020 3051 1054.

Fake news, it’s just gossip

Fake news, it’s just gossip…

Really is anyone surprised to find that if you enable people to publish and share what they like online, via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Word.Press – the list is long…some of it is complete tosh. Publishing it and sharing it does not make it credible.

If my car broke down I wouldn’t leave it in the street with a note on it saying “Please mend for free.”

News is the same. You get what you pay for.

But the investment in news, media and quality journalism is a big one. And always there is commercial conflict between integrity of news and selling advertising space. Without advert sales and paid for subscriptions whether via a ‘pay-wall’ or not; print costs and news quite simply can not be funded.


It is the content not the technology that makes the expert

So just exactly how do the figures stack up for UK news groups?

The Economist Group is a limited company made up of famous brands such as: The Economist and EuroFinance. The Group has three types of share ownership, including trust shares and special shares. This means that the integrity of how the Group operates and the quality of its news reporting is protected by the structure and ownership of the company. In fact over 43% of the Group is made up of special shares and trust shares, meaning that integrity is a core value.
The Guardian Media Group (GMG) parent company for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers; is also trust owned at around 50.1%. GMG reported losses of £62.6m last financial year (2015-16) the majority of which funded the trust ownership of newspaper.  As quoted in the GMG financial statement: ‘The sole purpose [of this type of funding] is to secure the editorial independence and financial security of the Guardian in perpetuity.’

Whereas if we look at Facebook it had total assets of $64.96m at 2016 year-end, and total liabilities including stockholder equity, at $5.77m. Google on the other hand made $111,649.51m in total revenue at 2016 year-end with a gross profit of $68,275m.

Hmmm… this points to the money being in advertising, and if all you have to do as a publishing platform owner is – well erhh – publish then the outcome is lucrative. Thankfully both advertising platform owners are now taking steps to block fake news, and Facebook is piloting news feeds that contain interest and industry related news only, the feeds will not contain news updates from friends.

As to Twitter let’s hope it gets acquired by a trust or by a foundation, so that it can continue its heritage as a news micro-blog publisher and retain Wikipedia (or Wikimedia Foundation) credibility. For businesses and thinking people everywhere the lesson is to check the source of the news first, unless it comes from a trusted brand.

Google News pledges £107m to publishers over next three years

So Google News is in the news again, this time Google has pledged £107m to European publishers and news start-ups. As well as offering funding Google staff will be sharing knowledge with journalists on how to publish content so that it gets indexed correctly by Google.

What’s the point?


…if the ethos is that the best news is that which comes up in your search results, how do publishers fund that news, and make sure it’s indexed properly?

‘Ethical’ and well researched news doesn’t come for free, it’s written by experts who have niche knowledge. And if Google News want to stand out from Social Media as credible, and business orientated then they can’t go down the ‘most talked about’ route. ‘Most talked about’ might mean gossip or rumour, anyway it is unsubstantiated – sure it may be breaking news but it hasn’t been qualified yet. And until that journo is on the ground speaking to the authorities as well as eye witnesses who’s to say it’s true.

As regards Google compliance and the indexing of content, this takes different skills to that of journalism. There is a fine balance to be struck between a snappy headline and one that will make sense to the user that is seeking news or information. The blend of the dark art of SEO, not to mention responsive content, and intelligently written prose is the Editor’s daily challenge.

The move again highlights Google’s differentiation from other news sources, the recent partnership with Twitter emphasises a preference for trade, industry or business news as opposed to consumer-led interest.

Is there money in it?

Yes, businesses want to share their news, and speak directly to their clients or share holders – and not just from a pitching perspective. Business owners have sector knowledge and industry insight – who better to share news. And as traditional marketing continues to flag from cold calling to trade events, establishing credibility and therefore referral and recommendation has to be a more effective way to sell. And if the business sells ancillary products or services, advertising against relevant news in the right ‘section’ or ‘channel’ so that potential customers will understand the business proposition is  acost effective way to promote and position the product or service.

Reassuring too that the Financial Times, the Guardian and Die Zeit have joined the Google News foundation. It shows that regardless of history and credibility future proofing the freedom of the press is hard to do without funding or the support of Google.

Why Twitter and Google kissed and made up; it’s all about news

Okay so you may think that this is old hat – the Twitter Google reunion happened last month, before Valentine’s Day when my headline may have worked better but…

…Do you remember the first split?

Three years ago 21 Feb 2012 Twitter partnered with Yandex – the leading Russian search engine, so that Tweets could be published in realtime as news. This followed a split from LinkedIn and also Google; meaning that LinkedIn was no longer able to publish ‘trade news’ from it’s business member audience for which it had ranked so well. This was also true of Google, which was cut off overnight from real-time ‘trade news’ posted by Twitter members. Don’t forget that Facebook didn’t IPO until 18 May 2012, LinkedIn having IPO’d in late 2011 – the jury was out on Facebook as to what it what it would grow into. There had been some notable news partnerships ie with the Guardian, but many ‘news feeds’ on Facebook were app-led.  Twitter was to become associated with live trade news, causes and sport – winning the Olympics coverage later on in 2012.

Now flip forward to November 2014 and some European news publishers were mightily miffed with Google News for aggregating their paid content and deciding where it ranked. Why’s that a problem you may ask, Google indexes content well, it’s the biggest global advertising platform. If you ever worked in a news desk you will know that advertising is a dirty word – wash your mouth out. Journalists (rightly) pride themselves on being experts at sniffing out a story and validating information around it also providing context. Unlike gossip column writers they don’t dumb it down for us, but are able to relate it to their economics, politics or mechanical engineering degree. They also rub shoulders with the celebrities of their sector, our captain’s of industry, which means that they really are in the know. All this knowledge doesn’t come cheap, and publishers prize it – and we should too. There is a big difference between breaking a story – because you see it happen, and reporting on a story as it unfolds. Enough of my homage to journalists; the beef being that publishers invest in ‘expert comment’ whereas corporate communications (produced by copy writers and marketeers) serve a different purpose (to sell stuff) and don’t carry the same investment of time and learning. Therefore corporate comms should not out rank ‘independent’ and ‘credible’ news the publisher would say. They do have a point, however great editorial content – does sell ad space, and Google are the indexing experts also great at selling ad space – could the fight really be about ad revenue?

Some bloggers are industry experts, I would relate their challenging style to investigative journalism – the difference being how they get paid.

In addition this whole real-time news piece is relevant to us business people because we will check into our trade news channels Twitter, Mashable, Business Intelligence and professional networks like LinkedIn. Any self-respecting radio broadcaster or journalist will also have a Twitter channel. And let’s not get started on firewalls – they are just anti freedom of speech and curtail knowledge sharing, once more us business folk are rather into that.

Can you just climb aboard the news and media roller coaster with me one more time and flip forward to erhm yesterday – cool.

A little ity-bity change that Google News have made (11 March 2015) will have a big impact on the ranking of trade and corporate news. The change allows company statements (share holder investment news, press releases or published trading accounts) to rank above ‘news’. Previously only recognised ‘news’ providers TV stations, radio broadcasters and publishers were allowed to rank but now (Dah dah daah) corporate news, from small publishers, and or businesses themselves can also rank.

Here’s what Google had to say about it:

“The goal of search is to get users the right answer, at any one time, as quickly as possible. That may mean returning an article from an established publisher, a smaller niche publisher or indeed it might be a press article.”
[Exert taken from Business Insider UK/Tech]

Now who’s old hat!

Thanks for reading.


Facebook launches job board

Watch out LinkedIn

Facebook are playing down the launch of their job board (recruitment site) a little in the media, but we’re not fooled. Over at siteAssets we’ve been warning the recruitment and talent sourcing industry that as soon as Facebook got their act together they were a huge threat. Why is this so….

  1. Over half of US jobseekers use Facebook when job hunting;
  2. Of the companies that have Facebook pages and engage with applicants via these pages 54% anticipate recruiting heavily through these pages in the future;
  3. And the real biggie – Facebook’s Social Jobs Partnership with the US Labour department aggregates over 1.7m jobs, creating a fully interactive experience where candidates can apply within Facebook, sharing likes for jobs with friends.

What this means for Facebook’s competition

  • UK jobs boards that don’t already have a partnership with Facebook or BranchOut will have to fight harder to get applicants to their sites;
  • In particular danger is LinkedIn because they do not have a Social Media partnership (their partnership with Twitter ended in the spring and they are in direct competition with Facebook); moreover as they, like most recruitment sites and jobs boards, are not an original news owner, and without fresh ‘trade’ content they will struggle for visibility online.

What this means for candidates

  • Whoop-di-dooooo – at last a candidate’s interests, location, skills and professional network can speak for itself – gone are the concerns over whether or not the candidates ever actually was at Southampton Uni and took Maths it’s all on Facebook and;
  • Oooooops guys and gals please think about privacy settings – Facebook can sell you or finish you with a prospective employer – ditch the drunk poses and stop swearing on Fb, also please don’t slag off your employers…

For more tips please follow our blog

Good luck peeps

siteAssets founder Sophie Relf

siteAssets founder Sophie Relf has over 10 years’ senior business development and marketing experience within leading media companies. Working for publishers such as the Guardian Media Group and Reed Elsevier owned totaljobs Sophie has had a wealth of cross-sector experience.

After leaving Totaljobs Group in early 2009, Sophie launched siteAssets. She quickly picked up a New Business and Marketing project with award winning media planner buyers agenda21 digital. Here Sophie gained rich insight and experience of cross-channel marketing. Whilst with agenda21 the agency picked up several awards and finalist positions for Social Media, SEO and Paid search campaigns. Sophie went on to audit Guardian Business and Professional, the commercial wing of GNM, and took a further project heading up Marketing Strategy  commercial with the Guardian. The focus was on unifying the marketing effort, and improving the Guardian’s portfolio of sites in terms of visibility and conversion. She also managed Guardian Jobs events, and ran several workshops and seminars on Social Media, Reputation Management, working with the Media, e-PR, Fair Access and Social Mobility.

Sophie has developed an unifying approach with organisations, able to spot gaps in the market and new opportunities. Big on resourcefulness, she looks for ways to leverage existing assets be they brand equity, individuals and team members, or unique products, or services.

Sophie is an award winner with OnRec 2006 for Best Marketing Innovation CLICK! and GradU8 – two virtual graduate recruitment fairs in the UK and also in NL. In 2012 Sophie was shortlisted by OnRec in the Technology Innovation category, and by the AoP in the Marketing Innovation category for the Guardian Jobs Facebook app that she developed for the Guardian.

Sophie has recently taken on the role of Campaigns Director for futuristic career social enterprise Enfuse Youth and is busy securing sponsorship for the NEW Campaign 2013.

Sophie is an IAB and an IPA member, and a published author on career management.


We think the best advocates for siteAssets consultancy are our customers hear what they say…

Pete Robins agenda21 Digital Founder/owner IPA Digital Board Director

We had the pleasure of working with Sophie when she was our client at totaljobs. We liked her so much we asked her to help us with our business development! Suffice to say her can-do / no-mess approach was a welcome fresh air, and I would gladly recommend her.

Wendy Berliner Education Publisher Guardian News & Media

Sophie has an extraordinarily detailed and practical knowledge of the best methods to deliver strategic marketing objectives effectively in the digital space.  She is a great enthusiast for what she does and brings energy and passion to the table and the day. A hard worker who makes a difference.