In a year when financial crisis rocked Europe, ‘hactivism’ outed everyone from Sony to Scientology, Apple mourned the loss of Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch had “the most humbling day of his life”, it’s difficult to identify any single event that had most impact on business and reputation in the last 12 months.
While the storm clouds continue gathering over the Eurozone, natural disasters in the shape of Fukushima, Hurricane Irene, the Christchurch Earthquake and Melbourne floods took a heavy toll on communities and market confidence alike. This coupled with riots, strikes and protest camps on the streets of London will see 2011 go down as one of the most volatile years of recent times for UK plc.
Within financial circles we have witnessed policy dithering in response to the excess leverage of investment banks, regulatory failures, global economic imbalances, the sovereign debt squeeze and now the threat to Europe’s single currency. In today’s intricately interconnected world, a crisis is very hard to contain once it spreads. The Eurozone’s banking crisis is posing a threat to global stability and prosperity. This is why continued procrastination by policymakers is so costly and why the solution is no longer only in Europe’s hand.
In the midst of the mayhem, however, there has perhaps been one force to emerge triumphant. 2011 is the year social media really came of age and didn’t just follow the news, but broke it. Everything from the Arab Spring and the deaths of Gadaffi and Bin Laden, to Charlie Sheen’s meltdown and Beyonce’s pregnancy – Twitter has evolved from a news feed to a news source; one set to rival (if not unravel) traditional media and severely test the dexterity of corporate communications professionals in the years to come.
In the words of one Occupy Wall St placard: “Now is the winter of our discount tents” and the mood of protest looks unlikely to slacken as we enter a year of continued confrontation in 2012. Not least as we bear witness to continued political infighting as Nick Clegg attacks the Prime Minister over his EU Treaty veto.
With the triple prospect of a double-dip, defaults and debt crisis on the cards, the economic outlook for business remains grim. The Euro celebrates its tenth and potentially last birthday in January, unemployment shows little sign of improving and grievances over bankers’ bonuses and public sector pensions seem set to persist long into the next year.
And discontent is not the only New Year hangover. With ongoing investigations and inquiries continually implicating more people and more papers beyond the Murdoch empire, the phone hacking scandal looks set to make an indelible mark on British media and press freedoms next year.
On a positive note, however, London, still basking in the glow of Will and Kate’s nuptials and readying itself for the Jubilee, the Olympics and a mayoral contest, is destined to take centre stage in 2012. Everyone from major corporates, to small independents will be looking to get on the capital’s bandwagon in the hope that the Olympic bounce will bring at least some temporary respite to Britain’s ailing high streets.