Posts tagged ‘2013’


Facebook pages are broken

08.12.2013

While my personal Facebook page and profile continue to have good reach and engagement, the Lucire Facebook is down, especially compared with this time last year.
   We’ve increased fans and, on our site, readership, but it’s becoming more and more evident that traffic isn’t coming via the Facebook fan page.
   It makes you wonder, then, whether Facebook pages remain a useful marketing tool.
   Today is one of the high-traffic days of the year, one where had incredibly high Facebook engagement a year ago. We recorded a reach of 3,169 on the principal article posted that day, on Miss France 2013. Today’s figure for the 2014 competition: 45. (I’d give you a 2011 figure, but Facebook doesn’t allow me to scroll down that far on that page.)
   If we post something without an external link, then Facebook will share that with more of our fans, and these will be in the hundreds.
   This is probably the best example we have at Lucire for the declining effectiveness of Facebook, with two very comparable posts.

   Since the company introduced paid updates, fan page administrators saw an immediate decline in engagement numbers. These seem to have worsened even more in 2013. Facebook denied it then, even objected to the suggestion:

At the time, Facebook contended that algorithmic changes had been made to weed out spammy, non-engaging content, but that the median reach of pages hadn’t budged. It particularly objected to the inference that the changes had been made to spur marketers to spend more on ads to make up for lost reach.

However, now comes an admission of sorts in a sales’ deck sent to its partners, revealed by Advertising Age. Folks called BS then, and they were right.
   So while 2012 had research showing a 38 per cent year-on-year drop, we’ve seen that 2013 has seen the figure plunge in order for the Californian social network to make more money.
   Back to Advertising Age:

In the document, titled “Generating business results on Facebook,” the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.” …
   In other words, the main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make future Facebook ads work better.

   When I posted that Facebook was dying, I had plenty of people object—on Facebook, of course—because the network had become so ingrained. But, I thought, once upon a time it was habitual to check your Altavista or Excite home page. Once people find a better way to keep in touch, something that mirrors real-life interaction more, they’ll go.
   Facebook fatigue could well come from the lack of stimulation that the website represents today. While Timeline was rolled out to much fanfare in September 2011, and other nip–tucks had taken place regularly before then, Facebook has not innovated on such a grand scale since. However, like an operating system, or like some software, there’s little visual delight in Facebook in 2013 for me. The personal motive is far less than it was. And if there’s such a substantial drop-off in reach on fan pages—we are talking nearly 99 per cent—then there’s no supporting work reason to be there, either. Sure you could innovate and run competitions, but if the reach is this pathetic, does it give businesses much confidence to take the plunge? I don’t think so, not for the majority of small businesses.
   Facebook seemed like a recessionary tool: one where people could spend time to forget how bad the economy is. When things improve, we might just want to get out there and do stuff.
   All this potentially plays into Google’s hands, and that’s not something I’ll admit to lightly. Google News was Lucire’s friend today. We need reach to get engagement, and we’ll go where we can get it. The search is on.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 3 Comments »


Let’s improve on the Wellington logo

07.11.2013

The city’s new logo—it is not a rebrand if the underlying tenets are the same—has not met with much support.
   The next question must be: all right, if we’re all so smart, can we do better?
   Ian Apperley and I think we can. Ian approached me yesterday morning to ask whether we should do a competition and open it up to all Wellingtonians.
   At least that addresses the criticisms about getting people involved, and ensuring the internal audience—that’s us—is engaged.
   But to kick it off, we can’t just come up with another logo. I think we need to think seriously about how we might replace the 22-year-old Absolutely Positively Wellington brand (in the widest sense of that word).
   And here’s a head-start to make life easier: a discussion document with some Wellingtonians’ opinions on where the brand could go. In November 2010, I called a meeting with Hilary Beaton, Brian Calhoun, Nick Kapica, Christopher Lipscombe and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to discuss the ideas about rebranding our city. (In other words, the fact that a city rebrand was of concern to Wellingtonians prior to the Massey University–The Dominion Post mayoral debate was foreseen by yours truly.)
   The document was not released due to busy-ness at the end of 2010, then, the need to seek permission from the participants (which took a little while to secure). All have agreed that it can be released to the public.
   I didn’t want to use it as something to do with my campaign when it belonged to everyone. With the discussion around a city brand arising again, this seems as good a time as any.
   You can largely ignore the minutes of the discussion itself and go on to p. 6. In there, we felt that the Wellington brand should include these ideas, but stopped short at offering a concrete slogan.

   Edge. The notion of “edge” came from this first part. Coastal cycleways are on the edge of the city, literally. Biodiversity is celebrated as an “edgy” concept. Cutting-edge is a concept Wellingtonians can relate to. The Sevens are edgy as a concept; as is concentrated diversity.
   Connections to science and technology. Following Brisbane’s example, Wellington already has research institutes that can help with R&D in the city.
   Empowerment. Other ideas that surfaced from the discussion of a producer culture led to the notion of empowering individuals, which could relate not just to technology, but simpler ideas of growing fruit trees in public gardens, or poetry readings when meeting together.
   Encourage diversity. The carrot is better than the stick. Ideas of tolerance, and showing a better way need to be promoted.
   Nimble. Wellington can move quickly thanks to size and innovation.
   Contests. The idea of competition needs to be built in to the Wellington brand, as discussed above.
   Youth. Get young people involved and allow them ownership.
   Economic drivers. We identified the beauty of the city, diversity, public spaces, technology and the arts as important drivers for Wellington.
   The waterfront. It is a public space that is at the core of much of Wellington’s beauty and is a driver of creativity.
   Creative locations. Already Downstage is becoming an incubator for productions, allowing producers to retain their IP—a shift in how theatres could be managed, and totally in line with a creative city. This shift answers how we work today. What if it extended incubation to designers and other creatives?
   The weightless economy. Design, IP, and related services can help raise New Zealand’s OECD rankings and can overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’. Royalty-based products, such as Apollo 13 and others, paint a way forward.
   Ownership and shifting to an individual culture. By providing ownership of ideas, Wellington can shift to a more individualistic culture, rather than the team one that tends to hold entrepreneurship back.

   A competition page for submitting your ideas can be found here.

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Posted in branding, culture, design, general, internet, New Zealand, Wellington | 3 Comments »


Being answerable to your public (or, if you can’t engage now, can we expect you to in office?)

22.08.2013

One of my supporters Tweeted to say I was the only candidate at Vote.co.nz who has bothered to reply to citizens’ questions. It’s good for me, but sad to see my opponents so disengaged. I was also surprised to see that only three of us have bothered to register for the website this time, despite its reasonably high traffic in each election.
   We each get notifications of these questions via email. I receive over 300 emails a day, which I gather is just slightly below what the current mayor gets. I take the questions seriously because they are often about things that I have failed to cover in my manifesto in sufficient depth. I don’t wish citizens to conclude that I haven’t given them a lot of thought, too, especially since I’ve had my manifesto out for such a long time—months before anyone else decided they had policies they could share.
   Here are a few for your interest.

Mr Vasquez asks:

What will you do to ensure a racially tolerant, diverse and peaceful Wellington City?
   Recently, we saw on the news the appalling racial tirade against a Pakistani-born taxi driver. While everyone seemed to rebuke the actions of Mr Shuttleworth, I found that Ms Devoy’s response was weak and non-committal. This is the excerpt of her response that I found very disturbing: “Freedom of expression and freedom of speech allows us to be as offensive as we like without being able to do anything…” Really?? Are we now supposed to condone this type of behaviour and just shrug our shoulders? New Zealand law prohibits this type of behaviour as detailed in the Human Rights Act 1993. In the UK, Australia and US, ‘Hate speech’ is punishable by imprisonment.
   I would like to know what your views are on this issue, and how you yourself would have responded. Also, what can you offer to do as Mayor of Wellington to ensure we remain a racially tolerant, diverse and peaceful society?

My reply: As probably the only candidate who has been a victim of racism in our own city, I would have been firmer, because I can speak from the heart about such matters more sincerely. I don’t consider intoxication to be an excuse and that Mr Shuttleworth needs to get to the root cause of just why he acted in this way. I believe the incident to have been inappropriate and would have said so, assuming I had been asked for comment. I did not condone, for instance, the Paul Henry attacks on Indians on television (and was public about it). Sadly, we are faced with a great deal of casual racism where minorities have to come forth and say, ‘Hey, I heard that, and I’m not thrilled by it.’ This can only change by people seeing more from different communities serve in public roles, and this is one of the many reasons I have chosen to stand.
   However, the decision to charge Mr Shuttleworth had to come from the police or, if it was a breach of the Human Rights Act, then from the Human Rights Commission, and I do not believe I would have interfered with their decision.
   One of my policies from day one, since I announced them in April, is to promote unity. A mayor has to live by example. This means engaging with all sectors of our community, regardless of class or ethnic origin, and giving everyone the equal opportunity to have a voice and to have access to me.

Marcus asks: ‘What will you do to make Wellington a more child friendly city?’
   My reply: When I said I would reach out to all sectors of our community, I meant children as well. Too often they are ignored because politicians don’t see value in non-voters. As for me, I’ve put my hand up because at some stage, I’d like to start a family here, and I’ve retained my connections with St Mark’s and Scots College, where I was educated, running the alumni association of the former and serving on the Old Boys’ Association of the latter.
   The best way to find out how a city can be more child-friendly is not to ask an adult, but to ask children. That means allowing them access to the mayor. I’ve actually been living this through social media over the last six years, where I have been able to hear from teens. As to even younger groups, I can foresee visiting schools—which I have done regularly as well.
   One of the reasons I’ve put so much effort into innovation and creativity is that I want our city’s youngest minds to have the right stimuli. At libraries and some public sites, I would love to see small workstations that can keep children entertained with educational programs, especially as they can be acquired for low cost and help alleviate the cuts in library funding.
   I’ve seen how the Shakespeare Globe Centre here in Wellington promotes theatre, again targeting youth (albeit a slightly older group), and our city should continue providing funding to such bodies that encourage creativity.
   We need to invest in physical education with the cuts to these programmes in a lot of schools. Wellington should have set activities that lead to the physical health of our youth and that means encouraging volunteers and allowing kids easy access to community and sport centres. These programmes can be child-created online, with parental supervision, so it’s kids creating for kids.
   Essentially, if we don’t hear from children today, then how can we claim to create a city for our future? We need them to know they are being listened to, so that they don’t have the same cynicism about local government that many of us adults possess. Treat children as valuable members of society and not talk down to them, and they will step up to the mark.

Peter asks: ‘What’s your position on fluoridation of water?’
   Peter, I support ongoing fluoridation. One of my friends has a son with a congenital heart defect, so fluoride helps him for a start, to avoid dental infections that can bring on myocarditis. A few of my friends are against fluoridation, and I admire their conviction, but I have to look at what the academic research says (especially as a candidate who says we need to work with our tertiary institutions more closely). Since I contribute to academic journals myself and am on the editorial board of one, I know the processes, and I take peer review seriously.

Claire asks: ‘What’s your position on cycling as a mode of transport in Wellington, and how would you support (or not) an increase in the number of people riding for transport and the safety of the mode?’
   Thanks to my work overseas, especially in København and Stockholm, I support cycling, for the obvious health and environmental benefits. One of my policies in both elections was the idea of a market weekend, where we close off the central city to traffic in the summer, apeing what we do for the movie premières. This would allow people to enjoy Wellington in a friendly, enjoyable environment. Cyclists would be encouraged. Longer-term, this would allow us to see how we could manage greater pedestrianization for our city, in line with what is happening in western Europe, and such a setting would encourage cycling as a more acceptable mode of transport.
   Safety has to come about through road-use education and I accept it is hairy for cyclists out there. Putting money into driver education, and working with the police to target difficult motorists, would be on the agenda. In theory, I would like to get eDrive involved, too, as an excellent virtual reality simulator to help with driver observation, but as it is a company that I have an involvement with, I would have to recuse myself from taking part in that decision.

Patrick asks: ‘What are your policies on climate change?’
   I applaud the city for establishing a target for a low-carbon, eco-conscious future but we need to move toward it actively. In 2003, I began working with the United Nations Environment Programme on one of our businesses, and the same year, I was one of the authors of an early Carbon Neutral business book, Beyond Branding (back when people were asking, ‘What is carbon-neutral and why should I care?’). My policy of working with the C40 is to share best-practice ideas on managing climate change, while my policy on transparency covers our need to disclose, manage and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. That way we know which areas need addressing, and set an example. By having greater engagement—something I have been doing anyway in my businesses—we will share this knowledge with others in the city, and encourage all Wellingtonians, especially businesses, to adopt these best practices. Solar energy is also another area in which I want to make real advances, and I am already working with businesses to see what solutions can be cost-effectively promoted to Wellingtonians, beyond what current energy providers can do. I believe, due to the limited size of the industry at present, there is huge growth potential here, which will be good for the environment as well as jobs—I’m already excited about what new innovations will stem from Wellington-created solutions that we can license to others and export.

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Posted in business, globalization, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


The statistics back up my manifesto: we need to help young Wellingtonians

06.07.2013

One of the things I hear when campaigning is that one should not focus too much on youth, because young people do not vote as much. I think the first part of that is bollocks.
   While it’s true that the youth vote has never been strong, no one can claim to represent a city without getting a sense of where young people are at. They have the most to lose if political leaders mess things up. And being the youngest candidate (at 40), I have the most to lose among those running—because I’ll want to keep living in Wellington and I want to make sure everything’s right the next generation.
   It’s why my manifesto contained policies for younger Wellingtonians as well as other groups. You can’t shun one for another. Published in April, I allowed people to give me feedback on it, to discuss and enhance the policies in there. While I technically authored it, it’s really one that you’ve written—through my interacting with you in person and on the social networks for the past six or more years.
   And it’s lucky I did. One of the policies, about providing internship programmes, was one that came out of my own experience with them at my company. Dozens have come through Jack Yan & Associates and Lucire. Many continue to live in Wellington and establish careers here, and become ratepayers or, in some cases, business owners. Some go off on their OEs but come back here. When Mayor Dave Cull of Dunedin told me about the DCC’s one, I thought: it is doable within a city’s budget. It can help with companies’ recruitment, encourage young people to stay in the city, equip them with skills, and show them that the industries they want to work in have a future that includes them. Of course, we would need to look at the ROI more closely, but there are few down sides from helping younger Wellingtonians starting out in their adult lives.
   Of course we’ll need to get the other parts of the economy right, too, which my manifesto addresses.
   Six weeks after my manifesto was released, this has become vital, with statistics showing that unemployment for 15- to 19-year-olds is 25 per cent. That’s what the aggregate figure of 7·5 per cent across Wellington hides. When you look at pre-loading and the other issues relating to alcohol policy, it’s not impossible to see a connection: there’s a sense of hopelessness for some of our young people, that we have to get right.
   As I said time and time again: it cannot be politics as usual.
   If the creative sector is one where we can have high-value jobs, then maybe we need to elect someone from that very sector with a history of entrepreneurship.
   In April, I noted, under the section on ‘Uniting Wellingtonians’:

There have been relatively few programmes to help younger Wellingtonians. Probably because politicians don’t see them as big voters. It shouldn’t matter: mayoral policies should look to future voters because the brain drain to Auckland, Australia, and the UK is doing us little good.
   Not only will I advocate internship and apprenticeship programmes such as Media Lab, which will see young people placed with our tech and creative firms with the city supporting the venture. It will be a priority for the programme to meet a high conversion rate to real jobs—something I have practised in my own firm.
   Young people should rightly participate in our city’s decisions, because they have more to lose if we mess things up. That means opening the city up to greater participation online and encouraging input from them in every area, from the arts to commerce, including a city branding campaign where they can have their say over Wellington’s direction.
   In 2010, I was the most connected candidate, and I promise to remain accessible through major social networks in this one, and after getting office.
   I believe some minor crimes such as tagging stem from a sense of hopelessness, something that should not be happening in a first-world country. By giving youth a say, we can reverse their pessimism and let them know that the system is working for their futures.

   I know: of that group, only 40 per cent can vote. But as we are voting for the future of our city, then we need to consider those who are going to be affected for the long term.
   As the only Wellington-bred candidate who did all his schooling here, I know that we ignore younger Wellingtonians’ demands and participation in our society at our peril.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Cities are, or at least should be, driving globalization

06.06.2013

My friend and colleague William Shepherd directed me to a piece at Quartz by Michele Acuto and Parag Khanna, on how cities are driving globalization more than nations—a theme I touched upon on this blog in March 2010. As he said, I had called it three years ago, though admittedly Acuto and Khanna have fleshed things out far better.
   It’s not just the fact that cities elicit less pluralistic feelings among the populationWellingtonians felt pretty strongly when PM John Key made his comment that our city was ‘dying’—but there are practical reasons for cities to lead the way.
   First, we can’t afford to wait for central government to take the lead on a lot of policies. When it comes to economic development, cities should be able to mobilize a lot more quickly. The idea is that cities are leaner, flatter and more responsive to change. The reality is that some are mired in bureaucracy, and if voters agree that that has to change, then I would love to see that reflected in this year’s local body elections. Based on what I’ve seen, you won’t find the agent for change within politics, however—they have had more than enough opportunity to voice this very view. This has to come from outside politics, from people who understand what cities are truly capable of, especially when they engage and realize their potential.
   Acuto and Khanna cite several examples where cities have had to go above and beyond what their national governments have provided, in the areas of security, climate change and academia. Even stock exchanges are merging between cities:

Stock exchange mergers testify to this changing geography of influence: the popularized link between New York and Frankfurt via the 2011 talks on the NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse merger only hinted at a wider trend that, in the past two years alone, has seen negotiations between London’s and Toronto’s stock exchanges, and similar discussions between Sydney and Singapore, Chicago and Sao Paulo, Dubai and Mumbai or the Shenzhen–Hong Kong–Shanghai triangle, all of which indicate how global finance networks are being redrawn through emerging global cities.

   In my discussions with MBIE, the New Zealand Government has been aware of this trend, but other than the discussions about regional reform, very little of it has surfaced in Wellington. Yet the government has a focus on Auckland, and Christchurch will be state of the art once its rebuilding is completed. We have a perfect opportunity to use our inherent agility, if only we had our eyes on the prize, and moved forward rather than played politics, stuck with “think local, act local” thinking.
   Secondly, cities should find the task of marketing themselves less confusing. A nation-branding exercise, for example, hits a snag early on. When I quizzed Wally Olins about this many years ago, he identified a very obvious problem: which government department pays for it? Is this the province of tourism, internal affairs, foreign affairs, trade, or something else? A city should be able to establish sufficient channels of communications between its organizations and trust in one—in Wellington’s case, tourism—to handle it. If these channels are broken, again, it’s going to take some new blood and real change to fix them and inspire a spirit of cooperation. There’s a pressing enough need to do so, with a vision that can be readily shared. We need to think differently in the 2010s.
   Thirdly, cities can foster offshore relationships more effectively. New Zealand, as a country, has not done as well as it should in promoting itself in various Asian cities, for instance. In one major city, I have had feedback that New Zealand stands out for the wrong reasons, in not having its chief diplomat join other countries in celebrating a particular national holiday. We seem to be on auto-pilot, not being as active as we should. Yet, as Acuto and Khanna point out, almost all global economic activity is being driven by 400 cities. Wellington, especially, should be able to take the initiative and head to the world’s major cities, promoting ourselves and ensuring that the innovators and enterprises here can hook up with others. We can establish trade and cultural links more quickly if we go to the source. Many cities and provinces even have their own economic offices, so they expect such approaches: they want to work at the city level.
   And if we head offshore to promote our own, then we should expect that foreign direct investment can flow more effectively inward, too, having established that relationship.
   This all makes sense if you consider how democratization has changed the world we live in. On so many things already, we cut out the middle man: in printing, we no longer need to go to typesetters or plate-makers; online publishing has meant our words can go to the public on blogs; social media have allowed us greater access to companies and politicians. Air travel is more affordable than it was 30 years ago. Cities have the resources to engage with citizens and learn about their needs. Offshore relationships can be maintained between trips using Skype and other digital resources. The nation-state will remain relevant for some time, but cities can deliver more relevant, more specialized and more customized programmes in a more timely fashion. Now, do we have the courage to declare that we no longer want “politics as usual” this year?

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Posted in branding, business, culture, globalization, internet, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Staying a step ahead: the economic benefit of gimmicks

05.06.2013


Wifi on the waterfront is now a normal part of Wellington life—but in 2009 some felt it was a gimmick.

When I proposed free wifi as a campaign policy in 2009, it was seen as gimmicky by some. I wasn’t a serious candidate, some thought. But those ideas that have demand, such as wifi, have a way of becoming mainstream. The gimmicky tag is lost.
   Just as it was lost with the microwave oven, the compact disc, or the cellular phone.
   Not that the wifi idea was anything that new. Nor was it that original. It was simply a logical thing to propose for anyone who had done a spot of travelling (perhaps I did more than my rivals that time?), and had seen the potential of having the internet on tap to those using mobile devices. (The irony of this is, of course, I was not a regular user of mobile devices, at least not till they got to the technology that I expected of them.) If by providing such infrastructure, others could benefit, then was there anything to lose?
   Former Wellington mayor Mark Blumsky had a target to make our city the first capital in the world to be half-wired, that is, to have half its population on the internet. In the 1990s, when people were still wondering what on earth the internet was, that seemed an unnecessary goal. But leadership demands that one stays ahead of the curve, otherwise what point is there? If people wanted leaders to be reactive, then they may as well vote same-again politicians.
   I’m still pushing for extending wifi, especially in the places where library funding cuts have hurt resources for Wellingtonians. During a recent visit to the Johnsonville library, where staff could not discuss the impact of the cuts, I at least solicited the librarians’ belief that their places of work were used by all sectors of the community. Every age, every culture. And this library was particularly buzzing, as a community library should be.
   It’s going to take rebuilding our business sector—which forms a good part of the only published mayoral campaign manifesto to date—to at least get our economy moving and our rates’ base less dependent on citizens. But on the library issues, extending wifi into certain suburbs can help, especially those hardest hit by the cuts. Provide an uncapped service for those accessing certain educational sites, for instance—it’s technically not that hard to distinguish those from merely social ones.
   We’ve seen how the waterfront system is used through the year, and how it helps people connect. But as with the original system, it sends a signal to others, including those wanting to invest in our city, that Wellington is open to high-value, high-tech businesses. Why should our suburbs not receive the same “open for business” invitation?
   Collaboration, after all, helps fuel the human mind, toward new ideas and innovations.
   On that note, too, other things can be open. The 2010 campaign saw my support for open source. It’s still there, since I work with both commercial and open-source platforms myself. I’ve seen first-hand, through a mash-up competition I helped on a few years back (I mentored one of the winners), how providing open data gets creative juices flowing.
   So why not, in line with all of the above, make our bus and train data open to the public? Presently, Metlink won’t be releasing its real-time information (RTI) to the public, but if it did, potentially, an innovative Wellington company can use these data for live maps, for instance. Find out more information than the RTI that’s being delivered at bus stops. It is called public transport, after all, so why not public data? The most obvious app is a live map of buses that works much like the computer graphics in an America’s Cup race—once gimmicky, now also mainstream. In fact, it’s demanded by broadcasters. The New Zealand innovation of high-resolution, three-dimensional TV weather maps is now de rigueur around the world, too.
   If I can think of something like that, imagine what our really creative, lateral thinkers can come up with.
   While some city data are open, we should continue this trend, especially when it comes to data that innovations can stem from. At the risk of sounding trite, ‘It’s limited only by your imagination.’
   And what if such technology became so highly demanded that another exporter, another high-growth firm, was created right here in Wellington?
   The potential economic impact of “gimmicks” is very serious indeed.

As always, feedback and dialogue are welcome, either via this blog, my campaign Facebook group, or my Facebook page.

PS.: Here’s a prime example from Bangor, Maine of how these data can help the public, which Hamish McConnochie shared with me.—JY

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


In Wellington, the players need to change

23.05.2013

The below was written on April 22, 2013, in response to an article in The Dominion Post. It was offered to the newspaper as an op–ed, then to The Wellingtonian, but it was eventually declined.

The Dominion Post’s headline on April 22 confirmed what many of us knew after numerous friends and colleagues left Wellington over the last several years.
   Our population growth is below the national average, as are our employment and economic growth. In fact, the regional Wellington economy is stagnant.
   In 2010, I stated that we needed to look at our creative sector, and encourage creative clusters, to get Wellington’s economy back on track. Even then it was evident that the early 2010s were not going to get off to a healthy start. If we were to get central government’s support for any projects—even the Mayor’s light-rail programme—then surely the wisest thing would be to increase the industry in our city first?
   The free wifi I campaigned on was never meant to be seen in isolation. It was a signal to international businesses in that sector that Wellington was open to investment and collaboration. That inward investment and sharing of knowledge could, in turn, help local firms expand and export.
   We had reached the limits of our natural resources, so we needed to start using intellectual property, and increase R&D in our city. While ICT is healthy in Wellington, the priority must be to identify companies, in this and other high-value sectors, that can become nationally or internationally competitive with the right nudge. We should not be, as the late Sir Paul Callaghan stated in a 2011 address, locked into a single sector—and that was what the clusters were all about.
   With my 2013 candidacy, not much has changed about these ideas. The real difference is that they have become far more pressing.
   The next mayor needs to work with one’s counterparts in the region and agree on identifying, using rigorous criteria, which are our next champions. Which firms, for instance, are those that are sitting on $1 million revenues today that can be at $10 million shortly, if they were given the right exposure, contacts or opportunities?
   And since nationally, high-tech exports are growing at 11 per cent per annum, according to the World Bank, it’s not a bad sector to start with. It just shouldn’t be the only one.
   Wellington businesses are not asking for hand-outs, but the right connections. These firms also need to be encouraged to look beyond just being content with a small patch, when Wellington business-people often hold great ideals and more socially responsible ways of doing things. These can, in fact, inform the way business is conducted in other cities, and contribute to how New Zealand is marketed and seen abroad.
   I do not advocate a policy of “growth for growth’s sake”. But I do argue that the innovative way successful Wellington businesses have approached their sectors can take a larger share of the global pie.
   In my case, it’s putting 26 years’ experience on the line, the majority of that in exporting frictionless products and services.
   We can opt for politics as usual, or identify and nurture the right players in our business sector.
   When it comes to business, it must be international in scope, inspiring politicians at the national level about what Wellington is made of.
   We can consider electing people who have spent time bridging cultures and creating those international links, which we need right now if two other cities are getting the government’s focus. Wellington’s businesses have gone under the radar for too long, and they need an ally who can balance their needs while ensuring citizens’ rights are protected.
   I see our city having spent too much time breaking its own rules, and being forced to answer through formal proceedings brought by Waterfront Watch and other groups.
   The system and its rules are healthy, but the players need to change, and a cultural change, internally and externally, is needed for Wellington in its local body elections.

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Wellington isn’t ‘dying’, but we’re going to have to prove our mettle

07.05.2013

That didn’t take long, John.
   I know, the economic statistics aren’t pleasant.
   Wellington’s economy is stagnant and our population growth lags behind Auckland’s and Christchurch’s. I did predict this in 2010.
   The difference is that I don’t give up on us quite so quickly.
   I don’t think political leaders should.
   Not if we’re looking at a long-term view. Yes, the last three years haven’t been great, but then we’re not rebuilding from as large a shock as our brothers and sisters in Christchurch.
   In fact, if you have spent any time here, and I suspect that since you work here, you would have seen that the ingredients that men like the late Sir Paul Callaghan believed could lead an export recovery are here. Innovative thinking, intellectual capital. We just haven’t nurtured it properly because we’ve entrusted same-again politicians to do the job.
   But, Prime Minister, you’re right to at least raise your points, because at least we’ve kicked off a debate.
   A debate about just what Wellington is, and should be in the next half-century.
   This is not just a knee-jerk, defensive response from a little town so offended by comments made in Takapuna.
   We recognize that there are problems, and since it’s election year, it’s our opportunity to fix them.
   You’ll see from today’s reactions, in the video that Andy Boreham has filmed here, that there’s civic pride in Wellington, most likely because Wellingtonians see what I do: a more cultured, globally minded workforce that’s intelligent and savvy. We know Sir Peter Jackson’s not alone—because there are so many other innovators here, not necessarily in something as glamorous as film. They’re the backbone of our city’s economy.
   You’ll also see that this identification with and sticking up for Wellington is the same energy that drives everything from trade to Olympic bids, more so than nation branding efforts have ever managed.
   My plans, if elected, call for not only identifying and promoting those great firms that are innovative and socially responsible, but the use of my knowledge globally to do just what is needed for Wellington. Like the city’s next big firms—those who have Weta, Trade Me, 42 Below potentials—they’re all waiting there, their latent energies ready to be released. I see them regularly, and the region’s mayors and I can work with Grow Wellington to identify them with a new set of criteria, then market them properly.
   It’s why in 2010, and again in 2013, I’ve made innovation a priority. Free wifi, which I proposed and we now have, was only a signal to say Wellington is open for business. The costs of extending it are relatively low. Pedestrianization, greening the CBD, and transportation improvements are needed—and we have the nous and the knowledge to get them done.
   If prime ministers can lose faith in a city in three years, I believe we can begin rebuilding it in less time—since, as you’ve seen, we’re united. You’ve given us the perfect opportunity to prove our mettle.
   And you know my record, Prime Minister. If I can work at the C-level with companies around the world, I can work with central government, whomever is in power, for a fair deal for Wellingtonians. We’re not asking for sympathy—we’re getting ready to show you what we’re made of.

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Posted in branding, business, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington | No Comments »


Dialogue on my campaign’s Facebook group: Wellington buses and student discounts

06.05.2013

My Facebook campaign group (Back Jack 2013) is getting some traction, though my Facebook page does have more members. Nevertheless, I’m very open to discuss my policies—as much as I have been around Wellington soliciting ideas and feedback, there’s nothing like getting your views on how I’ve interpreted them in my manifesto.
   Today, Jonathan Ball asked on my Facebook group: ‘Do you have a view on the Wellington bus services not offering a student discount like they do in other centers?’
   My response: ‘Hi Jonathan: my feeling is that this is a regional issue (as the Regional Council looks after transport), and we would work with the Regional Council to ensure a fairer deal for all Wellingtonians, not just students. As I said with transport issues in 2010—the year there was a huge fare increase—we need to demonstrate that we have policies that can show GWRC we are headed on an upward economic path. There was no clear illustration of this three years ago, and the latest statistics show that this is still absent. They may be inclined, then, to put up fares again to cover their costs. The GWRC has gone on record to say that this is their reason—that it’s expensive to run public transport in Wellington. By putting up fares (annually, incidentally), they say that they can spare ratepayers rates’ increases.
   ‘Short of having a policy that can improve our economy sustainably and responsibly, the pattern is bound to continue. It’s why I’ve highlighted economic issues in my manifesto, and why I plan to identify the real high-growth firms in our city and connect them to international markets so they can expand sensibly. We then provide a more compelling model for those who partner with us on funding.
   ‘That’s my answer at a general level. More specifically, I understand that some of the student discounts being discussed will see those from further out (e.g. Hutt City) derive a greater benefit. Is this a fair scenario if Wellington City has to bear a good deal of the cost? Are there sufficient buses going from those areas to the city? This is where I’d like public input, and it leans toward the need to consider regional reform, to aid transportation issues.
   ‘One easily implemented plan we have discussed on our team is to encourage lower off-peak fares for students, which will in the short term get around the GWRC’s fears about the cost of providing public transport here. If the buses are already travelling certain routes during off-peak times, then why not have them as occupied as possible?
   ‘If we are to have a model, I want to make sure that it’s fair for everyone, and works for everyone. It would be something I would be happy to work on for Wellingtonians at the regional level.’
   The dialogue has continued at the Facebook group—I invite you to share your thoughts.
   Some other topics have already been raised there since I announced my campaign last month, and your input would be welcome there, too.

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Posted in business, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Regional reform explained, animated and in less than 90 seconds

30.04.2013

I’ve already had my say on regional reform but I’d like to encourage everyone else to. I favour Wellington including Wairarapa, as I’ve outlined earlier, but regardless of what I say, it’s important to hear from as many people in our region as possible. And if you don’t like my long blog posts, above is a great animation summarizing a lot of the relevant issues, produced by my friends at Mohawk Media.
   After you’ve watched it, head over to this form to put in your thoughts. Only three answers need a bit of writing—the rest is clicking buttons. Submissions close May 3.

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Posted in New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 2 Comments »