Hacking and scamming

ninja-1507457__340Looks like today’s my day to be hacked – and scammed – both in one day!

A few minutes ago, I got a phone call from a client. Having misplaced my number, he looked it up on the website. “I had a good laugh at your little joke on your Contact Us page”, he said. “What joke?” I asked. “I don’t put any jokes up there”

I quickly pulled up that page and saw the word “Viagra” appearing before the “….please call…” text.

Yikes! I was mortified. This was no joke. I’d been hacked.

As it happened, I was in my computer’s dashboard making some revisions to my website copy, so I immediately deleted the “v” word and thanked him for pointing it out. How long it had been up there, I don’t know, but what I do know is that these vulgar additions are not helpful to anyone’s business reputation – especially if you’re operating as a small business.

Working in the area of risk and risk communication, I’m well aware of cyber hacks and their potential destruction, but somehow thought this wouldn’t happen to my own website.

So check your website copy every now and again to make sure it hasn’t been mysteriously altered by some outside (or inside) hackers. And, I’ve just learned, if you have a WordPress site, make sure it’s the latest version, so hackers can’t get in so easily.

cyber-security-1938338__340 hackedI could end this blog here, but there’s a strange footnote to this story. Literally, just minutes after this client call, I received another call – this time from an alleged member of a Microsoft technical support team. I’ve had these guys call me before so I’m well aware of their scam, but I decided to play along with it for a few minutes.

They tell you your computer is not running properly and that you need to download software so they can take over your computer and “fix the problem”.  Instead of fixing the problem, this software can capture sensitive data like personal banking information and passwords and/or infect your system with a virus. A close friend of mine got taken in a few months ago and had to pay lots of money to have her computer fixed by a legitimate tech geek.

Anyway, after a few minutes, I got tired of talking to this guy so I called him out on his scam and gave him a piece of my mind – and he hung up the phone instantly!

In some strange way, I suppose I should thank these guys for giving me a blog idea, but I sure hope there won’t be a third hacking attempt today – or ever!

Mental Models, Risk Communications, a New Book

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Mental models, mind sets, world views all mean basically the same thing – how humans perceive the world around them and how these perceptions affect their decision making and behaviour.

When it comes to communicating about risk, getting insight into people’s mental models goes a long way to helping your communications strategies and materials do what they’re supposed to do – convince people to make decisions and take actions to keep safe.

Whether it’s getting workers to wear proper protective equipment (PPE) and adopt safe work practices or helping consumers understand the risks and benefits of prescription drugs, risk communications is all about supplying lay people with the information they need to make informed decisions and judgments about risk to health, safety and the environment. It’s both an academic discipline and communications practice area.

Finding out what people need to know

A cardinal rule in risk communication is you need to understand what people don’t know that they need to know about a certain risk or complex issue. How does one do that?

One way is to study people’s mental models through in-depth one-on-one qualitative research interviews with a small sample of respondents using open-ended questions. The aim of this research is to not only know what they think, but why they think that way. This information and insight are then compared to the expert knowledge, often represented in a graphical form, called an “expert model”. This allows for gaps and alignments between expert and lay thinking on a particular topic to be identified, and then used to inform communications strategy and materials. One of the benefits of this research is that it can reveal unexpected insights that could not have been predicted by experts, and those insights can make a world of difference in whether your risk communications succeed or not.

This approach, sometimes called the “mental models research approach”, is at the heart of the research consulting work I do as Senior Researcher with Decision Partners, which brings me to some exciting news.

A new book – mental models case studies

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new book in this topic written by five of my colleagues and edited by yours truly. Mental Modeling: Risk Management Application Case Studies (Springer) was written to help communications specialists and others deal with risk communications challenges. It presents a cross-sectoral overview of the myriad ways this approach can be applied in real world settings. Case study examples include stakeholder consultation in the energy sector, mine worker safety, flood risk management, food safety and preparedness for a chemical release emergency.

For many of these projects, I was directly involved in the primary research through in-depth mental models interviews and am immensely proud to have participated in and contributed to this body of work.

Congratulations to the five authors and to all the contributors, and special thanks to Melinda (Lindy) Paul, our editor at Springer. What a wonderful way to wrap up 2016 and celebrate the holidays!

 

Reflections of a Proposal Writing Princess

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In my work I wear many hats. One is proposal writer. In fact, I’m a proposal princess.

Over the last 9 years I’ve pulled together dozens of proposals of varying scope, budget and complexity. Some are very long (over 100 pages), technical and/or scientific, and require collaboration with many people – say, in response to a formal solicitation from a large corporation or federal agency.

Others are shorter, simpler and less formal – the kind one might prepare for a non-profit organization, industry association or existing client.

It’s not a job for everyone and certainly not for folks who crack under pressure and tight deadlines. I liken it to herding cats – rounding up a team of folks from different organizations, disciplines, locations, schedules and time zones. You need flexibility, diplomacy and the ability to manage many moving parts and minute details at once without losing sight of the big picture.

Much as I try to adhere to my defined proposal management process, there are times when things fly at me from all directions and I’m forced to rely on a quirky memory and multi-tasking skills to keep it all straight.

As the person who typically holds the pen (or “master editor” in proposal parlance),  I’m often the first to review the opportunity – be it a Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Quotation (RFQ), Request for Information (RFI) Request for Vendor of Record (RVOR) – or, on occasion, research grant application. If the opportunity looks like a fit for our firm’s capabilities, I let my colleagues know, along with the critical deadlines (including the deadline to ask questions of the contracting officer) and an estimate of how long it’ll take to complete. If it’s a “go” decision, we have a team meeting to determine our strategy, approach and who does what by when.

Next step is to start blocking out headings of the draft master proposal, according to what RFP asks for – company information, team qualifications, background, proposed approach, work plan, budget, team bios/CVs, project summaries, references and anything else that may be required.

Then the fun begins and my role as proposal princess gains momentum. The further I get into “populating” the various sections with content, assembling the draft and sending and receiving sections for review, editing and insertion, the faster I have to work my magic.  Keeping track of which iteration I need to insert into the master document is a formidable task, as various sections can undergo many changes between now and submission time. Hey, no pressure!

Sometimes the RFP issuer will issue an Addendum (or five) which will cause us to make additional changes or edits. Occasionally they might issue Addendum announcing a deadline extension. Love those!

Throughout the proposal life cycle deadlines are obviously important, but so are conventions, protocols and etiquette. Gaffes in any of these can disqualify your bid – and cost you dearly as a small business. Some very formal solicitations have an official “blackout period”, meaning that there can be no contact between the proposal issuer and the bidder from the time the blackout period starts right up to award notification – or your bid will be unresponsive. If you didn’t manage to get your questions in before the question deadline, now’s not the time.

Clarity, unity and consistency are also very important. That’s not always easy when people from different and disparate disciplines are contributing. Engineers and subject matter experts write one way; communications specialists another way. The challenge is to make sure that the language is consistent and understandable throughout, and let us not forget that technical terms and acronyms must be explained on first mention.

As with all aspects of life, stuff happens, and proposal writing is no exception. Your fellow contributor has a family emergency, your email server goes down, or your formatting function refuses to cooperate moments before deadline. Mishaps and misadventures can also happen after proposal submission. Once, after pulling off a particularly intense proposal in record time, I decided to reward myself with a celebratory cookie – only to break a tooth, requiring an emergency dental visit. Not the reward I had hoped for!

Of course, the reward we all hope for is to get the winning bid, and when we do, I know I can wear my proposal princess tiara proudly!

After 9 years in the business, I’ve learned a thing or two about successful proposal preparation so here are my 9 tips to help other proposal princesses – and princes – ensure a winning bid:

  1. Read the solicitation carefully – I mean very carefully and several times. Note the key deadlines (including the deadline to ask questions), submission rules, mandatory requirements and evaluation criteria. Be 100% sure you can handle all of these before you make your “go” decision.
  2. Keep in mind the devil’s in the details – One missed key detail can cost you the submission and all the time and money you invested, so when it comes to proposal writing, remember that details count.
  3. Focus on the issuer’s need – The potential client wants to know what you can do for him/her, so make sure your proposal shows that. How are you helping that organization solve a problem?
  4. Have a document control system – This is critical when multiple contributors and multiple versions of the document are circulating. Having a file labeling convention and insisting that all contributors adhere to it goes a long way to avoid the wrong content going into the wrong place in the master proposal.
  5. Have a quick reference sheet – Something that has up to date information on your company and all the material you use on a frequent basis all in one file. This will save you time and stress in the long run.
  6. Request team cooperation – Remind them that this job is not as easy as it might appear to them and that you’d appreciate their not leaving their input until the last minute.
  7. Remember Murphy’s Law – No, I’m not a negative person, but experience has taught me that Murphy’s Law is alive and well in the proposal writing realm. Make sure you have a back-up plan.
  8. Be careful when overwriting a previous document – Recycling material from previous submission is common in the proposal writing business, but make sure you don’t recycle the material that’s not supposed to be there. Use the edit/find tool when you do your final proofing to ensure you’ve removed them all.
  9. Allow ample time for proofing – A clean, well-written and error free proposal makes a good impression on those evaluating your bid, so make sure that you allow time for careful proofing. Not always easy or possible, I know, but try!

Qualitative Research to Improve Electrical Worker Safety

electrician-1080586_960_720To work live or not work live. That is the question and decision that electricians face on a daily basis, purchase and it’s an important one. It can mean the difference between life and death.

According to the Ontario Electrical Safety Authority, troche the probable cause of 70% electrical related fatalities over 2004 to 2013 in Ontario was improper procedures. Despite improved worker training and education, serious electrical injuries and fatalities were not declining as much as expected. Many of these tragedies were the result of working on live wires.

Last fall, through my affiliation with Decision Partners, I was part of a research team contracted to study this on behalf of the ESA. We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with 60 Ontario electrical apprentices, journeymen and inspectors to discover the influences on their decision making to adhere to safe work practices – in particular, their decisions to work live.

One key finding was that nearly 90% of the electricians reported working live, either by choice or inadvertently. Another key finding was that the decision to work live is not always so clear cut – meaning it’s not always single decision with a single right choice. In some cases there are no other options. Linesmen working on overhead power lines, for example, have to work “live”.
We also learned that the workplace is complex and dynamic, yet only 50% of electricians reported doing a hazard assessment before starting a job. workers-846123_960_720

The results of the research are now being used to help develop ESA’s risk communication strategy and materials, with the goal of reducing the number of critical occupational injuries and fatalities among Ontario’s electrical safety workers.

You can learn more about this important research and the mental modeling approach that we used through this webinar, presented to the Ontario Risk and Insurance Management Society (ORIMS) on April 20, 2016 by Sarah Thorne, Co-Founder and President of Decision Partners and Joel Moody, ESA’s Director of Safety, Risk, Policy and Innovation.

What I Learned About Resilience at a Greek Funeral

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Clarinets and Community Engagement

clarinet-86157_640A few weeks ago I attended Clarinet Day  at Western University’s Faculty of Music. There were about 40 of us clarinetists of all ages, sale levels and ability. The entire day was devoted to clarinet matters – clinics, dosage master classes, ed faculty member performances, vendor exhibits, and rehearsals for our end-of-day clarinet choir concert. Some of us, myself included, got a half hour private lesson with a Western clarinet student. As if that weren’t enough, there was a recital the night before by the invited guest artist, Canada’s preeminent clarinet virtuoso, James Campbell which, sadly, I could not attend (heard it was great though!).The event left me energized and wanting to practice more. It also got me reflecting on the concept of “community outreach” or “community engagement”.

In the area of environmental sustainability or corporate social responsibility “stakeholder engagement” is a well-known term. It means involving people who might affect or be affected by the decisions and actions of your organization. Stakeholders can be employees, customers, suppliers, community members, activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Aboriginal groups, politicians, media and the academic community. Companies engage with stakeholders through various means – face-to-face meetings, dialogue sessions, community advisory panels, focus groups, telephone research interviews, town hall meetings and social media.

Why do they engage? The simple answer is that it’s good business and good PR. Taking a “listen and learn” approach shows interest in building relationships and working towards a win-win outcome. If a company wants to gain community support for a proposed project, they have a better chance of succeeding by engaging with local residents than they do by arbitrarily telling them they’re going to build something in the neighbourhood. Where local opposition to a project is strong, stakeholder engagement can help the company make a decision early on whether to proceed or pull out, before investing further money, time and resources. This is especially important for companies that want to do business in emerging markets.

But there are other benefits to such engagement such as strategic knowledge and institutional learning. Take employee engagement as one example. Getting front line workers to give their perspectives, thoughts and ideas for improvement can pave the way for more efficient processes, ideas reducing costs and improved employee retention – all good for the bottom line as well as company’s reputation as a good place to work. Customer engagement is another example. In recent months, I’ve worked on a few research consulting projects, interviewing customers of local energy distribution companies to get their feedback to help the company formulate its long-term plan. This feedback, in addition to being a regulatory requirement in Ontario, helps the company learn where it can improve its customer service, prices and communications.

Building positive relationships with multiple stakeholders can be a challenge, but its value cannot be overestimated. In the case of Western’s Clarinet Day, this community engagement scored many benefits for both sides. It provided tremendous value to the participants, showcased the immense skill and talent of its faculty and students, enabled participants and their families to witness the instrument’s remarkable range and versatility, and served as a means to help recruit talented students. Above all, it reinforced a positive relationship between the institution and the community. As for me, I got the side benefit of meeting and networking with some interesting folks! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice!

In Praise of Versatility

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a good holiday and ready for 2016. No doubt many of you have drawn up some new year’s resolutions –get in shape, recipe sleep more, cialis yell at the kids less. I’ve long stopped making them as I fail to keep any for more than a week, medicine Instead, I spend every January 1st doing some strategic planning and goal setting, reflecting on where I’m at, where I want to be, what I need to do to get there.

I also review my folder of notes from various webinars, seminars and networking events featuring guest speakers that I attend during the year. These are full of useful tips and pearls of wisdom from business coaches and seasoned entrepreneurs. One is to pick one thing you’re good at and stick with it. That’s very good advice, but this year I’ve decided to ignore it. This is the year I celebrate versatility.

See, I’m the type of person who gets bored doing the same thing every day. I like variety in my work. Sure, I could brand myself strictly as a content marketing practice or a communications research consultant, but if I did, I would miss other types of writing opportunities that I enjoy just as much.

It’s not like I’m trying to offer all things to all people, but over the years, through the work that has come my way, I’ve had to adapt to different writing styles and genres. This has actually served me well and led to some interesting projects that would not have come to me had I promoted myself as a one-note specialist. Truth be told, I like to do many different things and offer that versatility to my clients. Writing engaging content marketing for financial firms is great fun but there’s also something very satisfying about contributing to scholarly research, either as an editor or writer. Then again, I revel in the challenge of taking tech jargon and translating it to plain language non-tech folks can understand. And once in a while, I can indulge in a lyrical outburst in a blog or piece of creative writing.

Let 2016 be my year to be authentic (how unauthentic of me to use that word!) and invite folks to bring it on. I’ve got my Canadian Press Stylebook and American Psychology Association Guidelines at the ready!

 

Roofing and Strategic Risk Communiations

I’m getting a new roof installed today. It’s not easy writing to the bang, bang, bang of the roofers’ hammers and shovels, but write I must. My roofing woes started about a year and a half ago when the shingles on the southern slopes started to curl and buckle. The south end always gets hit the worst, I learned. I’ve learned lots of other things about roofs lately; namely, that the shingles used in the previous roof installation were not up to the job.

About five years ago, I chanced across a notice by a local law firm about a class action suit against a particular shingle maker, alleging that these shingles didn’t live up to their guarantee and started to wear after only a few years. Turned out those were the same shingles on my roof. Though they weren’t giving me any trouble at the time, I decided to contact the law firm for more information in case they did later on. Everything seemed fine until the spring of last year. There they were – those curled, crumbling fragments of asphalt, ready to slide off or blow into the eves troughs any moment. So I joined the class action suit. I had hoped to postpone replacing the roof until a settlement with the shingle manufacturer had been reached, but there’s no way when your roof looks like this.

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As I step out the door to check on progress, I watch for flying roof debris. One of the roofers comes into the house to wash some dust out of his eye. He asks me what I do. “I’m a writer,” I reply. “Really?” he asks. “You mean like books and stuff?” “No,” I respond. “I write proposals, reports, articles and blogs. And I’m also a research consultant.” I explain what that means. “I do lots of telephone research interviews with different folks to understand how they make decisions about risk.” He thoughtfully takes in this information and then says, “You know, there’s lots of risks in roofing.”

True enough, as there are in many other trade disciplines and industries – construction, electrical and mining. As we chat further I explain how, through the research consulting company I contract with, we sometimes interview people from these high risk trades and industries to learn how workers make decisions to use safety equipment and practice worker safety on the job. We present this insight to our clients through our reports and give recommendations (based on the research) on communicating strategically to help change worker behaviour and improve the organization’s overall safety performance. It’s called strategic risk communications and it emphasizes two-way dialogue and information exchange between the communicator and the recipient of information.

Its roots can be traced to a series of chemical accidents in the U.S. and elsewhere (particularly the chemical explosion at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India)  in the 1980s that resulted in Congressional action to mandate organizations or institutions (especially those in the chemical and manufacturing industries) to inform communities of any potential risks of their existence and operations. This was considered part of the public’s “right-to-know.” Risk communications specialists would engage with the public to gain an understanding on how to better focus their messaging, based on what audiences wanted to know. Over time, the discipline deepened to examine how audiences process and act on messages, resulting in a substantial body of risk communication research.

One obvious application area for such research is Occupational Health and Safety, but others include emergency planning and preparedness, public health, product safety, environmental management and assessment, and industrial infrastructure siting (think wind turbines, gas plants or nuclear power plants).

Much of the data is gathered from primary research — in-depth telephone interviews with people (stakeholders) using mostly open-ended questions designed to elicit what they think and why they think that way. What influences their thinking, perception or “mental model” about a particular issue?  The stakeholder mental models are then compared to graphical models depicting expert knowledge about the issue: gaps and alignments between the two are identified and used to design communications strategy and materials. One great feature of this type of research is that it can yields gems of information and insight that could not have been predicted by the experts studying the problem. But that makes sense. When it comes to occupational health and safety, you need to talk to the folks in the field.

Interestingly, I learned one such key insight from my brief conversation with the roofer this morning when he said “we’re supposed to wear safety harnesses when we’re up there, but sometimes the safety harnesses can be risky because we can trip over them”. I found this very interesting and told him that had he mentioned this in a formal research interview on roofer safety, his insight likely would have appeared in a client report.  Ironically, there may be circumstances that warrant deviating from the standard safety procedure to ensure one’s own safety and sometimes those are obvious only to the people actually doing the job. Strategic risk communications research is a useful tool to help uncover that information.

Pity no one communicated with me on the risks of my old shingles. But my new roof is now done and looks terrific, and I come away deeper understanding of the safety risks and reasoning of roofers. I like to think the roofer learned something about strategic risk communications research from me.

The Content Marketing Bug

It seems everyone’s caught the content marketing bug these days. And there’s no shortage of information on it either. Google the term and you’ll find links on everything from what it is to how to use it to free e-books, manuals and guides that you can download. You can read about content marketing trends, how to develop a content marketing plan, how to create content, and how to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your content marketing activities. Companies are hiring content creators, content strategists and content managers.

How does content marketing differ from regular marketing? The simple answer is it’s more subtle and comes without the hype or overblown claims we tend to associate with traditional marketing. Instead, the idea is to show how a product or service is helpful to consumers so that based on the strength and credibility of your informative content, they’ll want to buy what you’re selling.

Why are companies shifting to content marketing? According to The Content Marketing Institute , “Consumers have shut off the traditional world of marketing. They own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant).” To put it bluntly, traditional marketing no longer works that well.

I recently added content marketing to my service offerings, though I’m not new to it. Years ago, before it was called that, I wrote a series of content marketing pieces for various financial and insurance firms. The articles were intended to help the reader make a well-informed purchasing decision.  Generic in nature, they described features and benefits of a good life insurance or financial product, rather than proclaim how this product was better than the competitor’s. Now that I’m back at it, I’m overwhelmed at how fast it’s taken off and how quickly it’s moving. To give you an idea, I recently came across an article on the Contently’s  The Content Strategist newsletter called 21 Content Marketing Predictions for the 2nd half of 2015. The article was written as an add-on to an article published about six months earlier on content marketing predictions for 2015. Hey, a lot can happen in six months!

To be honest, I find it a refreshing shift from the more report and research-based writing I do on a regular basis (not that I don’t like that too). As a content creator, I have the freedom to tap into the less structured, more creative lobe of my brain and produce content that engages the reader while coaching them on making a good purchasing decision. I can ignore some of the rules of formal writing and use colloquialisms, idioms and contractions. At the same time, I love the challenge of writing something that makes the reader stop, pause, think and – if I’ve really done my job well – buy the sponsoring company’s product.

I also get to draw on real life experience and tell stories. Yes, stories. One hears a lot about stories these days. In fact,  “storytelling” and “storifying” are industry buzzwords. And it seems that everyone, from bloggers to content marketers, thinks they are natural storytellers. Not so, writes Dan Shewan in his blog Storytelling in Content Marketing: What it Is, What it Isn’t & How to Do it Right. “Bloggers and content producers with no demonstrable experience in storytelling who claim otherwise are misleading themselves and their clients or future employers. Just because I’ve filed tax returns in the past doesn’t make me a certified public accountant, and just because I drive a car doesn’t mean I can quit writing and join the professional stock car racing circuit.”

He further notes that few content marketers have the ability to truly tell stories through content, and that long-form content isn’t storytelling. That doesn’t mean that this skill cannot be learned, but, as he points out, there are individuals who already have this skill – journalists – and they can make a valuable contribution to a content marketing team. As a former journalist myself, I like his reasoning. Focussing on the basic five questions (who, what, where, when and why), we know how to “distill a potentially complex topic into a digestible news story”. How is this skill good for content marketing? It enables us  to take the story “far beyond the confines of a brief, impersonal news report and begin to craft a compelling narrative with a beginning, middle and end – in other words, a story.” And on top of that, we’re used to deadlines!

Certainly, not all content marketing needs to tell a story, but when it does, it pays to get the professional storytellers to tell it for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millennials, Content Consumption and Books

 

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A couple of weeks ago, medical I went to the Toboggan Brewing Company here in London to hear Duncan Stewart of Deloitte Canada give his Technology Media and Telecommunications Predictions for 2015.

Yep, the event was held in a brewery with a giant toboggan pinned to the ceiling – a bit weird, but in a fun way. After downing some great munchies and drinks, courtesy of the London Economic Development Corporation, we listened and laughed our way through Duncan’s lively talk on upcoming trends in consumer and enterprise technology and media communication trends. Part forecasting geek, part stand-up comic, Duncan touched on everything from mobile payments, to smart phones, 3D printers, wearable technology (think Apple watch) and hard copy book sales – and their impacts for business.

Duncan warned you can’t trust predictions too much, naming several from previous years that failed to take off with consumers. Smart meters is one. When he asked how many of us had actually read our utility’s smart meter dashboard at least once over the past year, only a couple of folks raised their hands (I wasn’t one of them). When he asked how many had looked at it a second time, virtually no hands went up. (By the way, did you know that if you do your laundry at 3:00 a.m., you can save 11 cents off your electricity bill?)

This spontaneous poll mirrored what several utilities have reported – that individual consumers don’t see such smart technologies being able to do much for them. But ask what they can do for your company and, well, that’s another story. For governments and big business these devices offer savings at 5 – 10 times greater than those to the consumer. His advice: don’t buy the hype and remember that unless a technology solves a mass market need and drives back large return on investment (ROI) numbers to the enterprise, similar to the cell phone or tablet, consumer pickup will piggyback enterprise adoption, not the other way around.

Several of his trend predictions focused on millennials and that word that we communications folks are enamoured with – content! The 18 – 34-year old demographic is expected to spend an average of $750 a year on media content. While traditional content is down, it’s not out and millennials are expected to spend over $60 billion on books, movies, concerts and festivals, games, streaming and traditional TV services.

What he said next really floored me. With detail and flourish, he relayed how his millennial daughter confessed at the dinner table to committing a crime. She ‘stole’ one of his books. It was “The Brothers Karamazov” by the 19th century Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Not only did she steal it, she read all 900 plus pages of it, and then started to re-read it. When interrogated as to her motive, she replied that something that good needs to be read again and again. Despite our perceptions that millennials read nothing more than their emails, text messages and smart phones, many seem just as connected to print books as we older generations are. The prediction – print books are expected to account for more than 80% of books sold in the developed world.

But it seems that not everyone buys books solely for intellectual edification. Ever ask people with volumes of exquisitely bound books on their home or office bookshelves if they’ve read them? What do they typically answer? ‘No.’ So why have them? As Duncan put it: “You can’t tell a book by its cover but you can tell a person by the covers of their books.” Turns out that books are a bit of a status symbol. People like the look, feel and even smell of books. It makes them look and feel smart and they like that people can see what they’re reading.

But status symbol or not, I liked hearing that books are trendy. Part of it is because I’m a technophobe myself (despite the fact I write about technology) and a liberal arts graduate. This then got me thinking about the ROI from – you know – reading books, especially great works of literature. Hard core business and financial folks may scoff at this idea, but I beg to differ. In the communications world, where I operate, lots of us have liberal arts degrees where we studied literature of some sort – the great classics – and had to write essays based on these books. Consuming good books, masterfully written content, written by an imaginative writer has many benefits. It sharpens your analytical skills, provides insight into human behaviour and psychology, and stimulates critical thinking. It also boosts cultural, historical and geographical awareness and all round general knowledge and intellectual curiosity. In a global business world, these qualities are valued. So here’s to more millennials consuming real, old fashioned, hard copy books!

 

 

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