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PODCASTS ARE A GROWING OPPORTUNITY FOR BUSINESS

PODCASTS

by Ben Anderson, Sound Rebel

 

Nowadays, the way in which people consume television programmes has changed dramatically, with the rise in popularity of on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV.

Until the recent warnings to stay home, the number of people listening to live radio had been dropping steadily and the same trend is expected to pick back up once the crisis has settled. Meanwhile, podcasts have become increasingly popular, with almost a quarter of 15 to 34-year-olds listening regularly, according to recent RAJAR data.

Podcasts are a set of digital audio files that are made available for people to listen to immediately or download for later use. Following a consistent and familiar format, these podcasts encourage users to subscribe, so they can engage with each instalment as soon as it comes out.

Currently, some of the biggest brands in the world are using podcasts to communicate with an engaged and captive audience, while enhancing their own brand awareness by sharing important company information.

 

Projecting your authority

Podcasts are used for a variety of purposes, whether it’s sharing information about new products, company updates or general industry-related insights. Some podcasts may only be suitable for the ears of employees due to the nature of the content.

Incorporating podcasts into your marketing strategy offers numerous benefits for your business and there’s never been a better time to get started.

Acting as a platform for your business to share its experience and expertise, these podcasts offer a different alternative to the written word, allowing you to present personality and enthusiasm for what you do.

Regular podcasts offering information, opinion and new ideas for discussion help establish you and your business as a leading authority, to be trusted by customers and new prospects alike.

Inviting similar respected individuals from within your business or from across your sector to help create the podcasts, will only add to your credibility and generate further trust from the audience, whilst expanding the number of likely listeners.

 

Building a stronger connection

Hearing people present sector news or discussing topics creates a stronger connection with the audience than them simply reading the information on a web page. When your podcasts are regular, listeners recognise your voice and presentation style, hopefully finding it a pleasant experience.

Listening to you explain in person helps the audience better understand your values and the way you run the business. You become a companion voice, a source for interesting news to be listened to whilst they undertake other tasks; unlike video or reading, which requires their undivided attention.

And if you’re good, there is the added benefit of your podcast being recommend to others who may be interested in what you have to say and sell.

In a survey conducted with 300,000 podcast listeners in the US, around 63% of respondents indicated they had bought what the host had been promoting, which demonstrates the power of podcasts to positively influence the buying decisions of the audience.

 

Creating a memorable podcast

A podcast may be relatively easy to produce, but the content is critical to the success and longevity of your activity. The mechanics are easy enough, requiring just a good microphone connected to your computer to make the recording and a way of editing the finished sound files.

However, whilst it is often lauded as a DIY project, it is easy to make a podcast that only you want to listen to and professional producers will enhance the quality of the output considerably.

The producer is also helpful for handling the transition between speakers, asking the questions, requesting clarification of unclear points or jargon and ultimately editing the hours of chat into a professional and efficient 25-minute sector specific podcast that thousands will enjoy.

The content can cover current events, changes in the sector, news specific to your business, a discussion around sector-specific topics, trends, legislation etc., but it must be interesting to the target audience and delivered in short sections.

 

Content is key

Thirty minutes on a single topic might bore the average listener, it’s easy to break the topic up into pieces and deliver several podcasts that revisit the subject. It’s also good to point listeners to your website if you have more detail on a topic, like a guide or catalogue they can download.

You don’t have to be funny or try hard to entertain. You just need to use your experience and imagination to deliver short bursts of interesting chat or discussion, in a professional manner, with the content tailored to your audience. And the more you do, the easier it will become.

Once finished, you can start promoting your podcast to increase its exposure to a larger audience. You would need to make the podcasts available on a variety of distribution channels, or enlist the help of a podcast producer, who will know the best channels to choose.

If you want to talk in detail about sensitive information only for your employees, perhaps explaining strategic decisions, or current lockdown policy, a private podcast can be created and a link emailed to specific recipients – it can be password protected if necessary.

 

And finally…

Remember, your podcasts can be tailored to meet the unique requirements of your business, whether you prefer to follow an informal or structured format is up to you.

It’s not all about well-edited scripts or carefully crafted questions, but about researching the topics carefully, agreeing what’s to be covered and then talking with friends as you would in the pub, not the boardroom – it’s where the authenticity comes from.

Everyone involved can be in a separate location, which at the time of writing makes podcasts the perfect tool for bringing people together to create memorable content that an engaged audience will find truly valuable, particularly when it comes to buying decisions.

 

Business

ALLIANZ BENELUX IS USING GRAPH TECHNOLOGY TO BEAT FRAUD AND BOOST CUSTOMER-CENTRICITY

Amy Hodler, Director, Analytics and AI Program Manager at Neo4j.

 

Data expert Amy Hodler examines how graph technology is reducing insurance fraud and providing customer insight at one of the world’s largest financial services companies

Financial services firms constantly have to fight financial criminals, but it is getting more demanding for organisations to identify and stop fraudulent activity at the scale it now occurs.

Traditional methods for monitoring fraud, such as setting up rules to examine deviations from normal purchasing patterns, use discrete data. This is useful for catching individual criminals acting alone, but this approach falls short when it comes to detecting fraud rings. Sophisticated criminals continuously alter their strategies to circumvent detection. They utilise synthetic accounts to carry out what appear to be unrelated activities by unconnected individuals. However, these activities are in fact well-coordinated and criminally linked.

The financial services sector needs a better way to follow the trail from one account to another to determine how activities that on the surface appear unrelated are in fact connected. This requires having a 360-degree view of the intricate fraud network to determine how suspicious events are linked.

 

Fraud detection with graphs

Graph database technology may be an invaluable tool in fighting fraud. In contrast to traditional relational databases, graphs not only interpret individual items of data, but also their relationships with one another. An increasing number of the world’s leading financial institutions are using graph databases to model and monitor data about customers, accounts, devices, locations and other attributes to identify fraudulent activity. Allianz, a multinational financial services company offering insurance products and services to 100 million customers in more than 70 countries, is one such.

As a truly customer-centric insurer, Allianz Benelux takes a zero-tolerance stance on fraud. As the subsidiary’s chief data and analytics officer, Sudaman Thoppan Mohanchandralal, explains, “We need to secure customers from risk – not just today, but into the future. We can only do that by having full insight into the risk environment and with an ability to predict it for our customers.”

 

Relational data model problems

Mohanchandralal’s colleague, Dr. Jan Doumen, strategic lead for Customer & Broker Information and Insights, agrees. “The best way to understand your customers and the risks they are exposed to on a daily basis is by storing, analysing and visualising them through connected data.

“Graph technology does this at scale, which means we no longer have to rely only on highly demanding, traditional relational technologies.”

Historically, building internal visualisations of suspicious behaviours with relational technology had been too demanding, Doumen confirms. The latest fraud countermeasures, such as network tracking, were too complex to build in a relational database. Sudaman calls this process a ‘2 by 2’ approach, where SQL database-style tables with rows and columns don’t offer the data connections fraud detection and prevention requires.

Working with a relational data model doesn’t allow the Allianz Benelux team to extract useful data on the fly. In contrast, graph technologies spot potentially fraudulent activity in Allianz Benelux’s ecosystem by disclosing concealed illicit connections. Bringing all the customer data into a graph database permits the Allianz Benelux anti-fraud team to reveal the risk exposures in a motor or household context.

“It is the combination of multi-node, multi-connection snapshots of customers and the much more efficient search possibilities coming from graph technology that we believed would revolutionise the way our internal business handles customers’ risks,” Doumen confirms.

 

Clear business benefit

Equally important for the Allianz Benelux team is having a 360-degree view of the customer. The Belelux operation has gone through a series of mergers and acquisitions and its customer data has become dispersed in separate silos, which has led to a number of operational inefficiencies.

“When we were able to get to a level with graphs to show colleagues this holistic view of a customer, it was so much easier for them to understand rather than through a table with rows and columns. This will enable them to personalise their services towards our customers,” Doumen adds.

Allianz Benelux’s success using the native graph approach has resulted in clear business benefits. Over the course of two years, €2 million of operational profit value was identified. Given the advantages realised with graphs, the Allianz Benelux team plans on offering the solution to other parts of the organisation.

Graph databases can future-proof an organisation’s fraud prevention initiatives by providing insight based on data relationships and connected intelligence. They can also unlock data silos and generate a more unified view of customers – helping you achieve full ‘customer-centricity’, as well as drive more revenue. Sounds well worth investigating.

 

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Business

5 SIMPLE WAYS TO PREVENT A DATA BREACH FROM PUTTING YOUR ACCOUNTANCY PRACTICE OUT OF BUSINESS

By Bruce Penson, Managing Director at Pro Drive IT

 

As an accountancy firm, you hold a huge amount of confidential and sensitive information. Personal details on clients, banking and social security information, confidential material about businesses and their staff: all of this data presents a massive problem.

Why? Because this information is highly valuable to cyber criminals. They know you hold it, they know who you are, and they will be trying to find ways into your IT systems to get access to it. Today’s cyber criminals are no longer hobbyists or ‘geeks’ sitting in a darkened room behind a computer. They are organised gangs with a considerable amount of knowledge and access to more sophisticated IT resources than a typical SME could ever hope to own.

This presents a real problem for accountancy firms — one for which many are inadequately prepared.

There is good news though. It is possible to make very real improvements to your defences and significantly reduce the risk of a breach without the need for complex technical solutions. In this eBook, we are going to cover five simple changes you can make at your accountancy practice to protect it from cyber criminals.

 

  1. Take control of your passwords

With all the different websites and apps we use in both our personal and work lives, we have a lot of passwords to remember. Memorising all of them is an almost-impossible task. Yet with many breaches of firm’s IT systems coming as a result of staff reusing passwords or having easy-to-guess ones, it is an area that accountancy practices cannot afford to ignore.

The UK Government recommends using password managers to address this problem. A password manager stores your valuable passwords in a secure online vault to keep them out of the prying hands of cyber criminals. Our favourite is LastPass, which costs just £3 per user per month for the business version. As well as providing an area for your team to store their passwords, the business edition of LastPass also alerts you to staff storing insecure passwords or reusing them for other websites — ensuring you can maintain best password practice across your firm.

If you are not ready to commit to spending at this stage, LastPass also provides a free of charge service — you can follow our handy guide on how to set this up. There really is no excuse: make sure you setup your password manager today!

 

  1. Switch on two-factor authentication

As we have already discussed, the most common form of data breach comes from passwords being stolen. For web-based accounts and applications, this is a problem as once a cyber criminal has your password and email address, they will also have access to any accounts that use them.

Using automated software, they will quickly find these accounts — meaning they will have gained access before you are even aware you have a problem. At the moment, the most effective way to stop this is to enable two-step authentication. You most likely already use this on your online banking — where you might have to supply a randomly generated code in addition to your password. Most websites and web-based applications will have the option for two-step authentication at no additional cost. Where available, you should ensure this is activated and enforce it for your entire organisation.

This is absolutely essential if you use Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. For more information on two-step authentication, view these simple-to-follow guides from the popular two-step authentication app Authy.

 

  1. Use an ‘External Email Banner’

Time and time again, we’ve commented on the fact emails are the source of most cyber security breaches.

As such, it can be very useful to identify any emails you receive that are from outside of your business. If you can do this and you receive an email tagged as being from an ‘external sender’, but it appears to come from a colleague of yours, there is a good chance it is a fraudulent email. Adding a simple banner such as the one below is a very short job for your IT team and should cost you nothing — yet it could save you a fortune.

 

  1. Train Your Staff

It is a well-publicised fact that almost all cyber security breaches require some kind of human interaction to be successful. It is, therefore, somewhat puzzling that the majority of SME accountancy firms do not have a regular cyber security training program in place — especially when you consider that CPD courses and anti-bribery training are deemed so important. Part of the issue is that cyber security training is considered expensive, time consuming to deliver and not at all engaging to the people receiving it. But this is far from true. Some systems cost from as little as £2–3 per member of staff per month and deliver cyber security training in short, digestible blocks. These ‘short and snappy’ training sessions will not take up large amounts of your billable time but will still get the message across in an engaging way.

 

  1. Keep Your Team Aware

One of the challenges in any firm is keeping the threats from cyber security fresh in the minds of your team whilst they have their day jobs to focus on. Although training undoubtedly helps, often this is seen as a ‘point-in-time’ initiative in response to a breach or security incident occurring. Once the memory of this has faded, awareness amongst staff often does too.

The good news is that this is easy to address and even better, it should cost you no more than a little time to administer it. Here is our suggested approach: Nominate a member of staff to be your ‘cyber threat co-ordinator’. This should not necessarily be someone from IT. Ideally, it would be the person involved in running your office and organising staff communications: most likely your practice manager. Your co-ordinator should sign up to some email feeds on the latest threats — a good starting point is the government backed Action Fraud site and the security training service DynaRisk. Your co-ordinator should also review some online blogs such those from the Independent, which offers an easy-to-understand news feed on the latest cyber security threats. The information from these feeds should then be used to create content in staff newsletters, presented regularly in team meetings, posted to your intranet or circulated via email or an instant messaging feed.

 

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