miércoles, agosto 19, 2009

"Madrid sigue patas arriba. Disculpen las molestias."

"Agosto es el mejor mes para estar en Madrid". Estoy ya harto de escuchar el refrán de los que tenemos la fortuna/ desfortuno de encontrarnos en la ciudad cuando todos los demás se han ido a la playa. Los demás, opino yo, son los más listos.

¡Hace 40 grados! No se puede estar en la calle. El otro día fui a tomar una clara en una terraza del Parque de Calero a las 18,30h. No había más clientes pero igual la camarera me dijo que no entendía por qué alguien quería estar al sol a esas horas. Hacía demasiado calor.

Ayer dí un paseo por La Latina, mi antiguo barrio. El edificio que era la piscina municipal es ahora un montón de escombros con lo cual hay aún menos sombra, las calles están sucias, se amontona el polvo, por la Costanilla de San Andrés hay gente durmiendo en la calle a plena luz del día. Una hora antes me encontraba en la terraza del Café Central, disfrutando de su excelente menú del día, y aguantando los indigentes que se acercaban cada dos por tres para pedir limosnas. Había escasos turistas. Razón tienen. ¿Quién quiere estar en Madrid cuando toda la ciudad está convertida en una obra?

Los españoles tampoco quieren estar en el centro. Madrid se ha convertido en Los Ángeles (pero más cutre y ya cerró Planet Hollywood) y todo el que se lo puede permitir se ha ido a vivir a las afueras, donde la arquitectura es más fea, apenas hay vida callejera, pero al menos hay limpieza y calidad de vida. El alcalde lleva años prometiendo reformar el centro pero lo veo cada vez más degradado. En Nueva York, El Bronx se ha convertido en un barrio burgués. En cambio, en Madrid el centro se ha convertido en lo que El Bronx era en los '80. Pobreza, indigencia, y total abandono municipal. Sin servicios, sin comercios de barrio, sin instalaciones deportivas. La más pura decadencia.

No me lo explico. Cuando llegué aquí hace 9 años me encantaba la imagen de dinamismo de la ciudad. Siempre se mejoraba algo, el Metro crecía sin parar, se modernizaba, se reformaban las calles . Parecía que Madrid se iba a convertir en una ciudad cada vez más sofisticada, más moderna, más civilizada. Pasa el tiempo y todo sigue igual, o peor. Las obras son una cortina de humo, nunca mejor dicho. Llevan haciendo obras desde la Guerra Civil, nunca acaban y la ciudad no cambia de cara. Caos, desorden, mala leche.

En Londres parecía que nunca se hacía nada. Tardan 30 años en construir 10 paradas de metro. No se ven tantas obras como en Madrid, y en 3 años será sede olímpica. Pero cada vez que voy parece que la ciudad se ha mejorado. Más espacio para peatones, más limpio, más ordenado, más sofisticado. Será que las obras son más discretas, que no tienen que ensuciar todo para reformar una esquina y no tardan ni la mitad del tiempo que tardan aquí.

Las mujeres siempre critican a los hombres porque cuando queremos cambiar algo, primero tenemos que poner la casa patas arriba. Nuestra creatividad, al parecer, surge del caos. En cambio, ellas saben hacer las cosas de manera ordenada, sin trastornos o contratiempos. Se ve que los que rigen en Madrid tienen mentalidad de hombre. ¿Algún día cambiará?

sábado, febrero 07, 2009

Online Reputation: A new breed of opinion leaders

Safeguarding a company or brand's reputation is no longer just a case of communicating a series of messages to a reduced group of opinion leaders in the media. When something goes wrong, in minutes the information can appear on a blog, in a comment in a social network, or in an online forum, and, once the damage has been done, it is difficult to fix.

One popular anecdote relating to online reputation management in Spain is about a well known furniture chain. A straightforward search on the Spanish version of Google brings up a series of links, the first two of which are from the corporate site. Number three, however, is a link to an entry from a well known technology blog, relating specifically to this company, titled "How they lie to their clients". In spite of being aware of this situation for over a year, the company in question has not managed to remedy it.

This illustrates the democratising power of internet but also the risks that that power brings. Safeguarding a company or brand's reputation is no longer just a case of communicating a series of messages to a reduced group of opinion leaders in the media. When something goes wrong, in minutes the information can appear on a blog, in a comment in a social network, or in an online forum, and, once the damage has been done, it is difficult to fix.

However, with sufficient anticipation, there are a number of strategies that can be adopted in order to ensure that the inevitable views of disenchanted customers or stakeholders are balanced with the company's messages, thus mitigating the long term effects on reputation.

The most important task is for businesses to themselves participate in the online conversation. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there and attempting to influence all of them is impractical. However, most bloggers base their information on each other's opinions so it is much easier to identify the smaller number of 'online advocates' who are capable of influencing the rest.

Secondly, companies should be alert to the kind of stories that may have repercussions online and ensure that their official line is already out there. While many bloggers are amateurs, the more influential are to an extent “professionals” who want to have the truth at their disposal in order to maintain their own reputation. The key is to discover the tools they use to get informed: Social Networks, RSS feeds, news aggregators, etc. and find ways of ensuring that they are never more than a couple of clicks away from our client's viewpoint.

Finally, the limitations facing bloggers in terms of time and resources are an opportunity. If we provide specific bloggers who have already demonstrated their interest in issues relevant to a client with regular first hand industry information, it should not be too difficult to build loyalty and for them to one day come to us asking us for information. However, bloggers do not generally like to be approached by companies trying to 'use' them in order to get free plugs for their service and products. This is where the PR consultancy comes in. In the same way that we have worked for so long in building our relationships and contacts in offline media, good PR consultants are now establishing themselves as the correct path to influencing 'online advocates'. We have been qualifying for this role by being there ourselves, blogging, participating in social networks, and above all, providing something positive to the overall online debate.

Original post in Trimedia blog

domingo, febrero 01, 2009

¿Qué esperar del Gobierno 2.0 de Obama?


El Washington Post nos ofrece un interesante artículo sobre el uso que Obama hará de las nuevas tecnologías en su papel de Presidente de Estados Unidos. Los principales objetivos en esta materia son: la comunicación, la transparencia, y la participación:

Comunicación


Las herramientas sociales fueron claves durante la campaña de Obama, tal y como señalé en un anterior post.YouTube llegó a sustituir a la radio como medio para alcanzar a millones de ciudadanos nacionales y globales con los mensajes principales de Obama. Ahora, como Presidente, lo seguirá utilizando para transmitir cercanía con sus audiencias y para no perder esa capacidad de estar 'conectado' con las preocupaciones de los votantes.

El portal, Whitehouse.gov servirá como uno de los principales canales de comunicación con los ciudadanos, e incluye una sala de 'briefings' virtual donde los usuarios podrán descargar los principales mensajes de su Presidencia, en formato de vídeo o de 'slideshow'. Lo que no podía faltar, el portal también incluye un blog, aunque eso sí, sin comentarios de los lectores.

Twitter será una de las herramientas clave. Por cierto, esta herramienta para el microblogging, y otras parecidas tendrán un papel fundamental para la comunicación en general en los próximos años, incluso en España en el que sigue siendo un terreno demasiado 'friki' para la mayoría de los mortales. Hernán Pablo Nadal nos ofrece unas claves sobre cómo nos puede servir. Para que tengamos una idea del peso de Twitter, Obama ya tiene más de 168.000 fans, aunque sigue siendo mucho menos de los 4 millones con los que cuenta en Facebook.

Transparencia


El esfuerzo de Obama por mantener una administración 'abierta' a los ciudadanos no se limita a su empeño por permitir que le sigan llegando los e-mails a su Blackberry. Como Presidente electo, Obama publicó el minutado de sus reuniones privadas durante el periodo de transición y licenció la página Change.gov para su difusión mediante una licencia de Creative Commons. Podemos esperar que mantenga esta filosofía como Presidente, o por lo menos, en parte.

Participación


El Citizen's Briefing Book es una de las principales pruebas de que Obama busca que su administración sea auténticamente 2.0. Con esta iniciativa ha permitido que sean los propios ciudadanos los que propongan los temas que deben ser prioridad para el Presidente. Además, ha demostrado una clara voluntad de incorporar tecnologías participativas de algunas de las principales empresas de Internet: Google, Facebook, Salesforce.com y blist.

lunes, enero 05, 2009

The Spanish media and the Middle East

According to a straw poll conducted by the Catalan newspaper, La Vanguardia, 58% of readers consider the Israeli incursion into Gaza to be justified, ‘providing it achieves the objective of destroying Hamas’s bases’. Only 42% of readers are opposed considering Israel’s reaction to be out of proportion.

Assuming that this is faithful measure of public opinion, and even if the figures are slightly skewed one way or the other, we can conclude that a considerable portion of public opinion in Catalonia, and presumably elsewhere in Spain, is supportive of Israel’s mission in Operation Solid Lead. The question I therefore put is this: If more than half the Spanish / Catalan public support Israel, why has the great part of the Spanish media expressed outrage and miscomprehension at the Czech President’s suggestion that the operation is defensive, and why has almost all reporting of the Israeli side of the story been blacked out? Are they really in touch with their readers? One would imagine that were the reporting more evenly balanced a considerably larger part of public opinion would favour Israel.

It is too easy to jump to simplistic conclusions. No, I do not honestly believe that the Spanish media is anti-Semitic. I also find it difficult to accept accusations of a conspiracy aimed at offering biased coverage of the conflict. Something however must explain why Italian, German, British or American newspapers are offering a more even account of events as they unfold, and not the Spanish.

One possible answer can be traced back to the history of the media in democratic Spain. Let us remember that Spain’s recent fascist dictatorship ended with the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975. The democratic transition would follow however even in the latter years of Franco’s despotic regime, liberal minded Spaniards were already preparing the ground for the creation of a free press. Many of the journalists that founded newspapers such as El País and the now defunct leftish Diario 16 were trained in journalism in the editorial offices of Le Monde, now with strong ties to El País. The French student uprising in May 1968 had led to a new current of opinion in Europe favouring pacifism and upholding as its standard figures such as the Argentinian born guerilla Che Guevara, now equally or even more controversially superseeded by that of the deceased PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

The Spanish media is in a great part modelled on the French and with the exception of Latin America, where the Spanish state news agency, EFE, has a strong hold, it relies for much of its coverage of international events on Agence France Press (AFP). It is not unusual for Spanish politicians to express indignation at the reporting of the Basque conflict by the official French news agency. AFP's reports are the most common factor leading to media across the world to refer to the armed Basque organization, ETA, as a separatist rather than a terrorist group. The reports transmitted from Gaza by AFP have also been put into question, following accusations that they too readily emit Hamas propaganda images without making all the necessary checks. The media in Spain does not seem to be so worried about that. "Blood and fire" ("sangre y fuego") sells well when it is not too close to home.

But would this in itself explain why, in a television report broadcast yesterday from a hospital on the Israeli side of the Gaza strip, it was suggested that the fact that the hospital lay almost empty was an outrage given that just across the border hundreds of Palestinians (many of them terrorists) were leading Gaza’s hospitals to overflow. The reality was that the patients had been moved to other hospitals in order to keep this one in reserve in case of serious Israeli fatalities: A move that any country that cares about its citizens would take, especially when they are under regular bombardment from rockets launched by Islamic militants from just across the border.

It is not easy to offer an opinion on a conflict at such an early stage when reliable information is so scarce. A wide range of factors influence media coverage and this is even more the case with TV since the images are so fundamental to the story. Israel is a democracy and does not spend its time harvesting images of Israelis suffering every time Hamas bombards their cities. Most of the images available to the international press are from Gaza and given the number of Palestinian casualties, there is no doubt that many of these images are indeed horrific. This conflict has been going on for many years and the Palestinians have always been very good at using this kind of material as propaganda aimed at turning worldwide public opinion against Israel. I am not suggesting that Israel’s record is untainted, however a media schooled in Europe in the aftermath of the ‘revolution of ‘68’ sees these images and quite naturally expresses horror and disgust. And I may add that in this case it is not just Spanish journalists who are indignant. But the palestinians are not the only victims in this conflict, and their suffering in fact has less to do with Israel and a lot more to do with the terrorist government they themselves elected.

In the face of these obstacles, Israel has a tough task to turn the worldwide, and particularly the opinion of the Spanish media back in its favour. Although I accept that there are many divergent opinions on this subject, on the whole I support Israel’s incursion into Gaza. I have visited Israel on more than one occasion, most recently when the country was still under the premiership of Yitzak Rabin – not exactly a hawk. Walking around Jerusalem one could feel the tension and our Israeli friends had to be constantly on the alert with gas masks close at hand in case of a chemical attack from Sadam Hussein’s Iraq. This was the time of the first Gulf War and since then things have got considerably worse.

On this occasion, notwithstanding past errors in Lebanon, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has done all that is in its hands to ensure minimum civilian casualties. Total success on this front is impossible since as part of its propaganda war, Hamas has installed its bases in residential areas in order to maximize the number of civilian casualties and is accused of using small children as human shields. (There is no understanding the minds of a bloody terrorist organisation). Israeli air attacks are preceded by the dropping of leaflets warning people to vacate the area, and they have even been reported to have been making phone calls to people’s houses. You could hardly imagine Hamas doing this prior to a strike on an Israeli village. IDF weaponry is extremely precise and even the exact angle of fire is closely calculated in order to ensure that damage is focussed precisely on target. Israel has been allowing the regular access of basic humanitarian aid and medical supplies into the Gaza strip, and supplies Gaza with 70% of its electricity.

Much of this is not reported in our media and all we hear are the calls for a ceasefire, without any suggestion of what should go in its place. Should Israel just accept that Hamas continue to fire rockets, and to build tunnels into neighbouring countries in order to supply itself with deadly weaponry and threaten to wipe Israel of the face of the earth? If they did not act now, what would happen when Gaza is armed to the teeth?

The Hamas propaganda war is unfortunately proving rather successful, however I know many of the people who oppose Israel’s actions in the current conflict, I have discussed this with them, and at least as far as I can gauge they are not in any way anti-Semitic. They are quite genuinely moved by the visible human damage. Perhaps something needs to be done to educate people more effectively about the history of the Middle East. I must admit that I do too often hear people suggest that Israel should never have been created. This is an outrageous assertion. In spite of all the past invasions and crusades, Jerusalem has always had an essentially Jewish population and the area that is nowadays Israel, was originally not much more than bare desert. Its economic success is evidence of the enormous effort put in by Israel ever since its foundation in 1948. Israel has the right to defend itself from the neighbouring theocracies whose main intent is for their destruction.

But before Israel can get these messages across, it needs to accept that its critics in Europe are not in the most part anti-Semitic. The solution is not to side with the Spanish right and organize debates on TV stations like Libertad Digital, but to initiate the enormous task of getting their messages across to the mainstream liberal media. A challenge: I wish them the best of luck.