James Ohene-Djan: After the riots – a new digital opportunity


In the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, companies have a golden opportunity to show their true colours to the world, says James Ohene-Djan

I’ve lived in London all my life and run businesses in the capital since the early 1990s – so it’s great to be invited to contribute to this exciting new site.

Recent events in London have illustrated two important things.

First: now it’s less than a year until the greatest sporting show on earth arrives in the capital, it’s crucial that London firms show the quintessentially British character and welcome with which they are famed to the millions of potential customers visiting the UK in 2012 and beyond.

Second: the tumultuous summer on London’s streets have made it clear that the city’s businesses share a strong sense of community.

“The emotional power of video could be harnessed by businesses to make a real difference”

These observations prompted an idea: wouldn’t it be amazing if London businesses could illustrate to the world – via video – the charm of their proprietors, the range of their products and services, and the welcome they can afford to visitors?

The success of many a London enterprise is driven by the enthusiastic characters of those who work in them. Looking online, this is often lost in the dry, wordy descriptions of businesses found in directories and most websites.

When graphics and/or video are used, they nearly always lack the personality of the people behind the businesses. Good photographic stills of a restaurant cannot match watching the charismatic proprietor telling you why his is the best in London, and that if you’ve only got one night left in the city, you should eat there.

The emotional power of video could be harnessed by businesses to make a real difference. Watching a proud manager explain to the world on video why their bakery is the most tantalising in London; seeing customers giving enthusiastic reviews of a music venue at the end of a great evening; and listening to real Londoners recommending exciting evenings out: that would convey the real passion powering so many businesses across London.

Managers and PR companies can consider adding this vital aspect to their companies’ websites –  video content is now vital to all web communication, if we listen to the internet experts of the last 12 months – in several different ways, many at little or low cost. Video content can be created by many types of companies – filmmakers can come to interview managers and members of staff, for example, and provide a brief “shop window” tour of a London business’ flagship products and services.

Customer’s experiences can also be filmed – either by appointment during the filming of a business, or by webcam on an ongoing basis, or even via a video station set up on the company premises to capture the enthusiasm of customer testimonials as they occur. This not only ensures that London businesses have regular customer feedback channels, but can also ensure that future visitors to London feel that they are being personally recommended a service or supplier – everybody’s favourite way to choose a new brand to consume.

These video clips can be managed in many different ways to maximise the potential for every business’ unique market segment: they can be edited into a film or viral video, which can be hosted and distributed via various platforms, including Twitter, WinkBall or Facebook; updates can easily be made; and online directories can link both companies and customers in the wake of re-ignighted community spirits sparked by recent events.

In this way, the very special qualities of London businesses can be personalised and distributed to the millions who will have a window into London in less than 12 months. London can continue to be the world’s most influential city: by combining its unique character with the latest technology, we can all make the most of the opportunities the Olympics can bring.

Dr James Ohene-Djan is Managing Director of WinkBall and has spearheaded a UK internet phenomenon in a US-dominated market. James’ passion for video communication began when he combined the knowledge gained from being a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the prestigious and fashionable Goldsmiths, University of London, with a realisation of the potential of video on the web in an increasingly faceless internet. WinkBall has grown into a global brand with nearly 40 million hits.