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.

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?

Well..

…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.

 

Twitter dumps LinkedIn – Ouch!

Twitter has ended its three-year partnership with LinkedIn, showing that LinkedIn always needed Twitter a whole lot more than Twitter needed LinkedIn. Why is this? Because LinkedIn lacks Social Media buzz, it’s a flat as Friends Reunited, and the end of this partnership means that LI may be headed that way too.

Why the partnership was so great for linkedIn; explained from an internet marketing perspective:

  • LinkedIn made Tweets visible in Google search results by publishing LinkedIn member news (in the form of individual Tweets) on their site;
  • This meant they were able to attract lots of professional users to their site;
  • This is why when you looked at what people [used to] search for before they arrived on the LinkedIn site you could see users searched on trade news items/hot topics (eg iPhone);
  • This was a bit of a coup considering that LinkedIn is not (and was not) an original news owner or publisher. In addition almost all (98%) of the traffic they got from their audience’s shared news and LinkedIn brand name searches was natural (organic or SEO) search traffic – which means that it was free!
  • So for three years LinkedIn overtook trade news owners from Brand Republic to the Guardian and also jobs boards growing their audience to over 4m unique visitors a month – that’s a lot. But now without visibility of all that trade news in the form of Tweets
And without…
Five months grace from 21 Feb* when LinkedIn member Tweets were still be published on LinkedIn and so were still being made visible by Google…
Now we (marketers, recruiters and jobseekers alike) need to look for some alternatives!
*Twitter shut Google out (21 Feb 2012) by partnering with Google’s biggest rival Yandex effectively bringing down an iron curtain on Google and its access to Twitter functionality and Tweet visibility in search results.

What this means for you as a jobseeker:

Think about your professional online brand, if you haven’t set up a Twitter account do it, and do it now. Check your privacy settings on Facebook and what you are saying during work hours. You are entitled to a social life, but consider having a professional Facebook account, one that you’d be happy to show a prospective employer. Whilst you are on Facebook check our BranchOut it is LinkedIn’s biggest threat. Based on what you do on Facebook and what you have put on your profile, you can connect with like-minded professionals on Facebook. Remember what’s visible on Facebook is down to you and your privacy settings, the BranchOut app is great – give it a go. Never share your Social Media logins. Do give yourself the best chance of getting hired.

What this means for you as a recruiter/hiring manager/HR professional/marketer:

If LinkedIn don’t start to pay to attract a trade reader (professional) audience the quality and volume of traffic hitting (and staying) on their site will fall. Check out BranchOut on Facebook, the app leverages a Facebook user’s network connections and has sophisticated likes and preferences data behind it. You are more likely to find talented professionals via this app.

What this means for LinkedIn:

They need to hire some skilled digital marketers!

For more web-savvy tips visit siteAssets, we run Social Media Recruitment workshops at a very reasonable price.

Good luck peeps.