We’ve all experienced the wonders of data-driven marketing campaigns. Search for a new mobile phone on one site and you will see a stream of targeted advertisements promoting special offers and the latest handsets as you continue to browse. These can be useful – I often get interrupted in the middle of searching and find an advert reminds me what I was doing earlier, or I see a good offer on a product I know that I want to buy. Equally, they can be annoying – continuing to appear even after you’ve made your purchase or starting to feel like you are being pestered or hounded into a purchasing decision.
Recently though, we’ve heard about other uses of our online data – how companies might use it to profile us, to make predictions about how we might act, not just in terms of which trainers we might buy, but also about how we intend to vote or what issues are most important to us. Stories such as those about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook or about the use of data by the Gold Coast council highlight the importance of the personal information we keep online. In a world where our data is increasingly ‘out there’ and searchable many questions are raised about how companies should behave.
For marketing professionals, these questions are an ever-present part of their day-to-day practice. As they act to advise clients on the creation of marketing campaigns these questions about the appropriate use of data come up regularly. Those starting a career in marketing need more and more knowledge about where data comes from and the ways in which data can be used in creating personalised content. This is one of the reasons that the new BA (Hons) Marketing course at the University of Suffolk contains modules that will develop skills in data manipulation and the creation of online content as well as those that discuss marketing theory and practice – and we also discuss Business Ethics! We understand that the marketing world isn’t about understanding ‘digital’ but it’s about understanding data – and this course will ensure that our graduates are ready for a career that will be dominated by data.
On Thursday 16 February, Prof David Collins, Head of the Suffolk Business School, presented some research on Make America Great…Again: The Excellence Project in Retrospect. A version of this paper, translated into Spanish, will appear in the journal ‘Debats’ in late 2017. In the meantime, a downloadable version is available here:
In my (ahem) master-class I will talk about Donald Trump. I will use words to talk about Donald Trump. It will be great. I have great words. You will be so proud of my words. My words are great (that’s enough now – editor). In my talk I will discuss Trump’s election; his promises and, more generally, our prospects. And I do mean all of our prospects!
But my presentation is not really about Trump. In truth – if we are still allowed to call upon such quaint things as truth – my talk is really a vehicle prepared to allow me to offer reflections on managerial storytelling. Why do I keep coming back to this? I always find myself back at storytelling because managerial work is essentially about talk. That’s why, as Head of Suffolk Business School, I now spend so much time in meetings!
Why must I spend so much time in meetings? Trust me, I do often ask myself this question! Yet while I grumble about the quantity of meetings I must attend (my calendar has just pinged to remind me to attend another in 15 minutes) the plain truth is that managers need to spend a lot of time talking to colleagues because work requires social co-operation within and across the boundaries that define our organizational arrangements. Talk – orders, commands, requests and exhortations – shape and define the activities that constitute managerial work. But if you really want to do something useful you will need to find a form of talk that goes beyond simply telling people what to do.
If you really want people to change; to commit; to do something extraordinary you will need a special form of purposeful talk that a) frames the activities that need to be undertaken and b) explains why these actions are actually useful and commendable. I call this special form of talk, ‘storytelling’.
Keen to learn more about the nature and – crucially- the limits of storytelling within a managerial context? Interested in a postgraduate degree that will prepare you for future leadership and executive roles?
Come along to the University of Suffolk Atrium on Thursday 16 February at 5:30pm and participate in my quote-unquote masterclass.