Published on Sunday, May 19, 2019

Top BBC journalist delivers dire warning to travel industry

High-profile BBC journalist Sarah Smith has warned the travel industry that large, well-established brands no longer have the trust they once enjoyed.

Speaking at the Advantage conference in Cadiz, Smith, who is the BBC's Scotland Editor, told delegates: "Trust matters more than ever and yet trust is an increasingly scarce commodity."

And she warned agents that someone 'can no longer command respect by representing a well-known organisation, whether that's the BBC or an established travel company'.

"We are living through a crisis of trust. The era of authority is over," added Smith.

She told the audience in Cadiz that people are 'sick of being told what to do or what to think'. There had been a collapse in public trust, she said, since the financial crisis in 2008.

"People are asking if the institutions they previously trusted have their best interests at heart. Now a well-known brand invites suspicion that you are part of the rigged system.

"Look at the way BBC is now being accused of bias. It is part of the dreaded elite. Its very reputation is being used as a weapon against it - that could happen to any organisation because there has been this huge break down in trust. It has consequences for all of you."

However, Smith said that what's a problem for bigger established brands is an opportunity for smaller independent brands.

She said that instead of listening to 'experts' or 'institutions', people now put more faith in the opinions of their colleagues, or their friends on Facebook.

"We live in an age where feelings resonate more than facts. People now value empathy over expertise. You all need to work out how this means about how you should talk to customers."

She said new generations 'want something completely different' and urged delegates to work out how to speak to people in a way that's relevant to them - including learning how to use Instagram to their best advantage. "There's a danger for any industry that doesn't adapt quickly enough to new audiences," warned Smith.

However, she cautioned against speaking to customers in way that lacked authenticity, saying the BBC's attempt at 'cool, Youtubey videos' were compared to 'dad dancing' by focus groups, and it was mocked when it posted a story on its website on 'Brazilan butt lifts'.

Joining Smith on stage, Advantage non-executive chairman Steve Esom pointed out that in the last 18 months there have been more retail failures than since the start of the century, adding: "Many brands have lost the art of communicating with the marketplace. They don't know how to engage with customers."

Esom added: "Businesses have to be much more agile. Agility is something that old-style monolithic businesses are having trouble with. When I look at Advantage businesses, it is something we can bring to the market."

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  • Chatbots

    Oh deep joy, let's all talk to a f-----g machine, just what we all want! I do have another suggestion, why don't we start talking human to human, I know it's radical but who knows, it might just catch on! Chatbots might be clever tech but who the hell really needs or prefers them.

    By Keith Standen, Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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