The Biden affair: emerging stock phrases for harassment allegations?

Since the #MeToo movement, one of the dreaded developments for male politicians in America must be to be accused of inappropriate behavior toward women colleagues.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden was accused last week of “inappropriate behavior” by a Nevada politician. She said he tried to kiss the back of her head.

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Nevada politician Lucy Flores started the ball rolling by accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate behavior

This was followed by another woman who also alleged that Biden acted inappropriately toward her.

Was this it for Biden, who may still want to run in the upcoming presidential elections? Has Uncle Joe morphed into Creepy Joe almost overnight? And what is one to do in the face of such potentially damaging allegations at a time when men in high and powerful have regularly been outed for inappropriate behavior toward women and have had their careers destroyed, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not?

Biden’s carefully crafted response to the allegations is worthwhile looking into for crisis managers looking for clues to handle such situations.

In many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort and not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested that I did so I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.

I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention, and I will.

I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisors who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own.

And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.

It is a clever response. Not apologizing and not admitting to any wrong doing or inappropriate behavior yet not dismissing the allegation. In fact he paid lip service to the importance of how we have “arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention”

All reverential and paying tribute to women and their views. Then he moves on to his track record of defending women’s rights and how he will continue to do so.

The rest of the response was in the hands of his defenders – co-workers and colleagues. There is little else that he can do really. To try to defend himself more would make him sound defensive and only third party voices would have credibility at this stage.

One of his defenders was Susan Rice, the US’s Ambassador to the United nations during the Obama administration. Her choice of words was also interesting and her words, taken together with Joe Biden’s statement, seems to suggest that some new stock phrases for facing allegations of inappropriate behavior may be in the making.

Rice tweeted:

I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously. I have worked closely with @JoeBiden for many years. In my experience, he is warm and affectionate with women (and men). But never have I found his actions inappropriate or uncomfortable. I have always appreciated his kindness and warmth.”

Most importantly, I know @JoeBidento be a dedicated ally, champion and defender of women and all of our rights. There is no one I would rather be with in a foxhole. He is one of the most decent, honorable men I have been privileged to work with.

There it is again. That reverence (I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously) before stating her position supporting Biden.

So you have it, expect to see more of the  reverence-denial stock phrases cropping up more in the future.

 

Did Bukalapak’s Achmad Zaky really apologize?

For years we have been using Achmad Zaky interview tapes to demonstrate to media training clients what not to do when speaking to the Press or, in his case, to anybody really.

That’s because when he speaks before cameras the performance is usually cringeworthy for any PR professional. he usually comes across as cavalier, gruff and unpolished and saying things that aren’t always relevant and sometimes comes across as offensive.

Now, of course, Achmad Zaky has outdone himself.

Yesterday he took to Twitter to rail against the Government’s allocation to R&D:

Bad enough that he implicitly criticized the government for paying lip service to Industry 4.0 (if anyone knows what 4.0 is supposed to mean please let me) without providing the funding for it.

The biggest mistake in his Tweet, however, is when her seeming attacked the president personally in this sensitive runup to the president elections. “Hopefully, the next president would be able to increase (the funding).”

This Tweet caused a Tweetstorm from Jokowi’s supporters using the hashtag #uninstallbukalapak They feel particularly betrayed because Jokowi recently graced Bukalapak’s anniversary celebrations and appeared side-by-side with Zaky before the Press.

This is a favor, according to industry insiders, that Ahmad Zaky has been clamoring for. They say that Zaky has been envious his rival, Tokopedia’s William Tanuwijaya who seem to get much more attention from the media and the President than Zaky. So when Zaky was seen criticising the president and asking for his ouster with the “next president” reference, it hurt particularly bad.

When the criticisms started raining down on him Zaky tried to explain his way out of it with another Tweets:

It’s one of those non-apology apologies where he explained how his intent was misconstrued and misrepresented.

He then tried the maaf  word, but here again it was a non-apology apology. “Sorry to Jokowi’s supporters if there was anything amiss in my words has caused any misconceptions. I know Jokowi as someone who is good whom I consider like my own father (we’re both from Solo). Recently he visited us at our anniversary. There is certainly no ill will in my Tweet.

It is apologies like this that infuriate people. Explanations and justifications instead of an admission of wrong doing followed by an absence of proper contrition. It would not be surprising if it inflames rather than abates the fury of Jakowi’s supporters toward Zaky.

Indonesia has few unicorns as it is and Bukalapak provides a good challenge to Tokopedia and other other players. It would be a pity if Zaky’s lack of communications skills sinks his promising business.

He should get professional help, or at least listen to his professional PR advisors if they are any good, before he utters the next public statement or Tweets his thoughts. And while he’s at it he would do well to also whether his gruff communication style has rubbed off on the rest of Bukalapak, resulting in his minions treating their vendors and partners with the same perceived lack of care and respect.

 

 

 

Crisis Management Observers: Watch how Pertamina manages the Balikpapan oil spill

So far so bad. The company for four days ruled out the possibility that it was responsible for the oil spill.

It only admitted late yesterday that a raptured undersea pipe belonging to the company caused the oil spill that caused the deaths of several fishermen when part of the spill caught fire.

To jump to conclusions without first finding the facts and verifying them before making an major announcement is an early sign that this company has not been trained properly in crisis management principles.

Let’s wait to see how it makes this crisis situation in the next coming days.

Two sides of IDX head Tito Sulistio in balcony collapse incident

Is Indonesian Exchange President Director Tito Sulistio a callused, professional devoid of any empathy or a caring man of action who responded selflessly and bravely to the disaster when the balcony of the stock exchange building collapsed yesterday?

Well, it depends on which aspect you see and base your impression of the man on.

If you see how he reacted to reporter’s questions, as in the videoclip below that went viral on Twitter, you’d probably come to the conclusion that he’s insensitive, and a bit of a self-perceived macho kinda guy.

https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/952808410243739649

That was the conclusion you’d come to when watching the video. The almost defensive insistence that the trading system is unaffected against a few injuries, gives one the impression that he doesn’t care about the injured victims and all he’s concerned with is that the trading resumes. Visually he had a couple of buttons undone on his shirt and a gelang (bracelet) that is more associated with preman than professionals (The parking attendandant at Beautika on Jalan Moestopo sports one as well).

But there is more than meets the eye with Tito.

Apparently he was looking a bit dishevelled in the interview because he had been busy helping carry victims to safety and, according to the Twitter user below, had had his jacket on but had used it to wipe the blood from the would of one of the victims. So it seems that his unkempt look came because he was too busy attending to the victims rather than his looks.

So there we have it: the appearance and the reality. Which should public office holders prioritize in emergency situations?

Both, is the answer. The reason is that the thousands and maybe millions of people out there who have no easy and thorough access to information will judge Tito and the IDX based on what he says, and how he says it, to reporters. They will see only what is on a videoclip or television segment and react from there.

On this score Tirto and the IDX seems ill prepared. He should have expressed sympathy for the victims, explained to the best of his knowledge what happened, why and what he plans to do about the situation. This is called the 3Rs of crisis communications – Regret, Reason and Remedy. Anything less than three elements in a crisis-like situation and the audience is likely to come to the wrong conclusions about your motives, sensitivity and ability to bring things under control.

The visual cues the spokesperson sends during his media interview, even door-stop ones, are also important. If he has to stop to speak to the media he should be trained to ensure that he looks composed and in control. He may roll up his sleeves but a couple of buttons undone sends the wrong signal. And that bracelet. Tirto needs to ask himself what signs that sends out, even in non-crisis-like situations.

Some would say that it’s not fair to expect him to be mindful of being media savvy in such a turbulent moment, but hie is in public office and during moments of crisis or disasters the public needs people like him to stand forth and point the way. It is not fair but that is one of the demands of high office. Its not fair but its life. Like it or not, one has to deal with it.

The call to boycott Traveloka

I posted this in the Maverick blog today:

 

A snarky comment on the eagerness of the mob to boycott brands at every slight whiff of suspicion

 

Deliberate misunderstandings and righteous piety seems to be the order of the day in Indonesia’s poisoned and acrimonious political settingThe latest flap involves a call to boycott travel site Traveloka and uninstall their mobile app following a walkout by detractors when newly installed Governor Anies Baswedan delivered the keynote speech at Canisius College’s 90th anniversary on November 11.

The walkout was led by well-known composer Ananda Sukarlan who objected Anies’s politicking methods to win the gubernatorial election.  The walkout generated lots of publicity and social media chatter and somewhere out of this mess t someone somewhere gan to spread information that one of Traveloka’s founders, Derianto Kusuma, had walked out on Anies together with Sukarlan. Derianto had been slotted to receive a recognition award from the College.

From there things snowballed an soon a “movement” was formed where its supporters asked other netizens to uninstall the Traveloka app on their mobile phones as a sign of protest against Derianto’s action.

The fact of the matter, however, was that Derianto, as explained by Traveloka in a press release, was unable to attend the event as he was traveling overseas. So he couldn’t have joined the walkout.

read more

Adding a role at The Palm Scribe

Recently I added another role to my LinkedIn account and have since been getting lots of well wishes but also a number of concerned questions on whether I had stopped working at Maverick to become advisor at The Palm Scribe.

So here’s a note of explanation to the concerned and the curious.

Palm Scribe Logo

The first thing to point out is that the new title does not change anything at Maverick.

I continue to work there but because I’ve been fortunate to have found a very capable team who are able to take over much of what I do, I have decided to take Fridays off to reflect and have some me time; as well as to take on more of a mentor and advisory rather than operational role.

At the end of the day, however, this is a people and relationship business and if the clients need me I’m always there for them.

In the meantime, however, I’ve taken on the role as advisor in a platform run under the auspices of Maverick, The Palm Scribe.

What is The Palm Scribe?

In short The Palm Scribe is a platform that supports the development of the Indonesian palm oil industry through constructive journalism.

Like all elevator pitches, that description is meant to pique rather than provide a comprehensive explanation.

So if you’re piqued here’s the reasoning behind The Palm Scribe.

To start with, consider the palm oil industry.

It is complex and controversial because it is the frontline of many opposing issues: Sustainability vs environmental destruction, conversation vs deforestation, development vs conservation, East versus West, developed vs developing countries, palm oil vs soy, people vs big business, NGOs vs planters…

Strong opinions are expressed on all sides but the playing field is a bit uneven as its tilted in favor of the Western/Green advocates. There are several reasons why this is so.

  1. The Western players are more sophisticated in lobbying and communication techniques. They take their communications seriously and are more able to put their side of the story across. Their Asian/African counterparts do not take communications seriously and are usually outflanked.
  2. NGOs are social media savvy. They are hungrier because they have to earn their funding and as a result they are more innovative and creative in using paid, earned, shared and owned media to make themselves known. Many of them also realize that to persuade is to appeal to the emotions first and foremost an they succeed admirably.
  3. The mainstream media is devastated by falling readership and revenue. As a result they have few journalists and resources left to raise the right questions and issues and to ask the right questions of and hold accountable the policymakers, players and NGOs. Reactive journalism, click baiting stories and cut and paste reporting happens more often than we would want them to be.
  4. Most journalists think that palm oil players are slimeballs because they often do not act like they are open, accessible or accountable. Combined with #3, they are disposed to carry any attacks on the palm oil players prominently and tag on their responses (if they get around to issuing one at all in a timely manner) later in the story. By then the damage is done.
  5. The palm oil players themselves are bad communicators. Many of them are owned and run by business people more accustomed to deal making in backrooms than realizing that public opinion can affect their businesses. Others are run by families where bloodlines rather than competencies determine who is the decision maker. The result is that there are almost no oil palm player that can communicate in a persuasive, authentic and credible manner.
  6. Ineffective committees and trade associations. Apart from Malaysia that has quite an active lobbying and communications effort, their Indonesian counterparts are more mired in bureaucracy and pleasing all stakeholders rather than projecting a favorable image for the industry.
  7. Most importantly, however, because of all the elements mentioned above the public discourse on palm oil has gone askew. There is a world shortage of food and in edible oil that will be more acute with time. Of all the oil crops, palm oil is the most efficient oil to help address this shortage. As such you would think that the discourse on palm oil should be on how to make the industry strong, viable and sustainable. Unfortunately, however, most of the conversation and discourse on palm oil is about violations to conservation and sustainability standards (some arbitrarily advanced by this body or that) and the wrongdoings of the players. Something needs to be done about this if palm oil is indeed the crop for the future.

Having helped some palm oil companies manage attacks agains them as well as helping to tell their side of the story when it coms to sustainability issues, one of the things I realized is that many of the palm players are so traumatized by what they perceive is an antagonistic media/NGO environment that they do not know what to do. So many of them opt to keep their heads below the parapet instead. This does not serve them well because every negative story or article gets accumulated in Google and when investors and others want to find out about you, guess where they go to first?

Out of all this the idea of The Palm Scribe was born. Instead of fault-finding journalism we would adopt the principles of Constructive Journalism (a concept I personally poo pooed until I started to research more about it).

We would cover the palm oil industry, raise the issues that ned to be raised, ask the right questions. We would focus on the solutions the companies adopt or put in place in response to allegations of wrong doing. And we would also provide them a “non-editorial” space on our website to showcase their CSR, sustainability and community engagement efforts as well as space of their announcements and press releases.

In going into this we were aware that the success of such a platform rests on its credibility, judged by the quality of it content. As such, we scouted around and was fortunate to be able to enlist the talents of Bhimanto Suwasteyo, a veteran Indonesian journalist who has worked for AFP for years and one of the founding editors of The Jakarta Globe to generate our content. He works with Wicaksono, better known as Ndoro Kakung, who is a very respected name in social media circles, as well as a team that supports the content generation in the platform.

On the question of credibility, some might question whether a platform run by a PR consultancy can be trusted not to spin things. To them I can only say that if they understand what PR truly does they would understand that it is about getting companies and clients to communicate authentically and credibly. You cannot do that if your words are not matched with your actions.

Will The Palm Scribe work? Who knows. We live in an age of disruption where old ways of doing things no longer work and nobody can say with great certainty what does and what does not. We at Maverick think that this is worth a try because if we succeed we could potentially change how companies in controversial industries can communicate.

If you are still interested in The Palm Scribe, write to me at ong[at]maverick.co.id or check out its website.

Some questions about #SayaPancasila

The hallmark of a good campaign is that it spurs public discourse on a particular subject. In this sense, the #SayaPancasila campaign can be said to be successful, if the preponderance of the hashtag and profile pictures bering the message on social media are concerned.

Effective public discourse, however, exists when there are differences of opinion and when the participants abide by rules of rhetorical fair play. So here goes Unspun‘s contribution to the public discourse on the#SayaPancasila campaign.

Three questions spring to mind from all the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila profile photos being used on Facebook Instagram and other social media channels:

  1. Are atheists allowed to proclaim #SayaPancasila? Pancasila requires the belief God, in whatever form she exists. Arising from this should there be a discussion on which is more appropriate for Indonesia today – a concept from 1945 repurposed to knit together Indonesia in 2017; or would Embracing Diversity be a more appropriate idea to campaign on?
  2. When people these days declare #SayaPancasila can it be taken as their full subscription to the five principles formulated by Sukarno in 1945 as an instrument to rally people round Indonesian Nationalism? Or is it more a talisman to signal their rejection of the more extreme and intolerant elements of Indonesia today, i.e. Rizieq and the FPI as well as other assorted hardliners? There is a difference here: one is an embrace of something, another is a rejection of another thing.
  3. Are all these declarations of #SayaPancasila on the internet missing the target? One of the things the internet is notorious for is to create bubbles where like-minded people reinforce their own ideas and convictions. How many of these #SayaPancila proclamations are actually seen by the real targets? These are the 50+ percent who voted for Anies, the thousands of easter-clad protesters who came out on 212 and other demonstrations, that part of Indonesia who get their information more from mosques and grassroots institutions than the social media. There is also the question of whether seeing such #SayaPancasila declarations would persuade them to change their minds or reinforce their believes so that they dig down even deeper in the embrace of hardline attitudes and beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that any effort to claw Indonesia back from the clutches of the hardliners is something good for this country and society. But will it be effective? Or wilt be a distraction when resources could have been channeled elsewhere for greater effect?

So where do people stand on these three questions?

 

 

 

Making war with unreason

This is something I wrote for the Maverick blog. I hope PR professionals will find it useful.

How to Battle the Forces of Unreason

How many of you PR consultants, facing a client in a crisis-like situation, are asked to highlight he good deeds they have done, their CSR commitments, the amount of taxes they’ve paid and the rightness of their cause?

These requests come as if some good news about the company can mitigate or balance out the negative stories that are being written about the client.

How many you have succumbed to such requests and have therefore done an injustice to the client?

Read more here

 

 

Breaking potential crisis: Telkomsel and its hacked website

Crisis Management Students: Fire up your twitter apps and browsers and train them on Telkomsel’s website and their Twitter responses.

Someone has hacked into Telkomsel’s website and filled it with vitriol and animal references –  and being generally lauded by netizens for doing so.

Although hacking is a crime and should be condemned. The hackers are instead getting plaudits because for years Telkomsel has been perceived to be arrogant, expensive and treating its customers with contempt.

There is a marketing and customer service lesson here somewhere that tells the story of how you may be dominant in a market but not loved. If only a competitor could get its act together and run a disruptive campaign enlisting Freedom Fighters against obscurantism, bad service and expensive service, you’d be toast.

In the meanwhile Telkomsel’s Twitter handle is telling all and sundry that they are restoring the website so people can use them again, as if nothing untoward has happened.

More: something’s very wrong or it’s just absolutely bad timing when your agency peeps posts this just as the issue is escalating. 


 

 

 

Breaking Bread with Sari Roti

Here’s what I posted on the Maverick blog today about the brouhaha over Sari Roti:

What corporations can learn from the Sari Roti incident

Out of the blue, the bread manufacterer Sari Roti came under attack by unverified news postings on social media in the past week.

The attacks came in the form of postings claiming that Sari Roti was supporting the 212 demonstrations by giving out free bread to the demonstrators. Photos were posted of Sari Roti tricycles with a handwritten sign “Free for the mujahids”.

sari1

Similar posting kept cropping up and the usual supporters and critics weighed in. By Saturday, the noise had grown so much that Sari Roti’s management felt compelled to make their stand clear.

The issued a press release on their website, ostensibly saying some PR-ese about appreciating how the Super Peaceful 212 rally went on peacefully, how they were committed to uphold the values of democracy, diversity and national integrity of the country and how the incident involving the signs on the tricycles were not officially approved by Sari Roti because they were politically neutral.

It also said that the signs appeared because an unidentified customer bought the bread from the tricycle hawkers, asked them to go to the Monas entrance and put the signs on to feed the demonstrators – all without the knowledge or approval from the Sari Roti management.

 

sariroti

Read more…

So who’s behind #NoWitchHuntKarHut?

Update August 28: One of the buzzers involved in the campaign has admitted to being asked to Tweet, the client remains a mystery, and he has apologised for taking on the assignment here.  Unspun thinks it takes a big man to admit that they were wrong and to ask for forgiveness. Perhaps the Netizens should cut him some slack from now on.

Since my post some netizens have named the alleged digital agency and one of them have come up with a shitlist of all the buzzers involved. The company or alliance financing the campaign remains a mystery (at least to Unspun).

The original post:

The hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut (KarHut stands for Kebakaran Hutan or Forest Fire) began life on Twitter ostensibly on August 20, three days ago, by a buzzer. It sat there innocuously until this morning, when it seemingly caused a civil war among the Twitterati of Indonesia.

What was it about and why did it cause such a furore?

burning-13As far as can be pieced together the hashtag was a campaign initiated by a digital agency based in Jakarta. It gathered and paid some buzzers to use the hastag and get through the message that large corporations have been unfairly singled out when apportioning blame for forest fires. The unfairness resulted from the fact that smaller corporations were just as guilty for starting forest fires.

All sorts of buzzers were recruited, even those who normally would be more comfortable with lifestyle and consumer consumption than environment and public affairs. They were apparently told by the digital agency that the campaign was also an Indonesian reaction against Singapore that has been trying to assert pressure on Indonesia. Naively some of the buzzers swallowed that story, hook, line and sinker.

So when the buzzers got to work, a civil war, not unlike that in  Marvel comic that many of them are fond of,  broke out between them and the other buzzers who smelt something fishy about their fellow-buzzers suddenly taking up the cause of Big Palm Oil. Not being wall flowers, they spoke, or rather tweeted their minds, and soon there seemed to be a groundswell of sentiment against their fellow buzzers that had apparently sold out to land grubbing, environment-destroying, cynical large corporations.

The war  got so bad that one prominent buzzer was reported to have closed his account because of all the criticisms he was receiving.

Being curious about such things and having a suspicious mind Unspun thought that the usual large corporation suspects were behind the move so he checked with friends he had in their woodwork. They told him that they were flummoxed as anyone as to who was behind the campaign as they weren’t. These are friends, not the organisations, talking so Unspun tended to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So if it is not the usual suspects who could it be? Who was sophisticated enough to engineer a campaign ostensibly on behalf of the large corporations but in reality aimed to discredit them? And who else would have the kind of money to pay the digital agency to run the campaign and pay the buzzers? And why that peculiar hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut? It is a clumsily long hashtag. The use of the “no withch hunt” idiom suggests a Western mind or one brought up on western education (or an agency whose strategy is led by a Westerner).

One source, who corroborated on the identity of the agency, said he heard that an alliance of companies (that was not part of the usual suspects) was behind the funding of the campaign. But there was no more information. This deepens the mystery. Are there other players out there out there trying to discredit the established Big Boys? Who would gain from such a move, if true? Are we about to see a round of musical chairs in the Palm Oil industry? What is going on?

Go Jek, Uber, Grab and other ride-hailing services is a KPPU issue

The demonstration by taxi and the public transport rivers yesterday received much criticism from the Netcitizenship, who naturally gravitate to things Webby, disruptive and saves them money.

The transport drivers are apparently disgruntled over dwindling income caused by their ride-hailing services and the ostensible reason for objecting to the latter’s presence are claims that they do not pay tax, do not have proper permits and may be foreign companies invading Indonesian turf.

 

These are wrong reasons to demonstrate, even though a demonstration is justified. It is justified because the ride-hailing services are engaging in unfair trade practices. It is unfair to the taxi and other public transport drivers because they cannot compete against heavily subsidised prices of Go Jek and the other ride hailers. The ride hailers aren’t making money at this stage but trying to win market share through heavily discounted prices. They can sustain their discounts because they have investors who are willing to pump money into them in the gamble that they would turn out to be the Next Big Thing.25d067bf-a9b8-4276-b8a9-53df94733391_169

How long will these subsidies last? As long as investors are willing to inject capital into the ride hailers. It may be six months ayear or beyond but what’s interesting are the repercussions they cause in the meantime.

Never mind the fly-by-night and dubious taxi companies who provide shoddy and unreliable service. They deserve to perish. But a company such as Blue Bird that has won the trust of many Indonesians because they had relative clean and serviceable cars and reliable drivers when the market was full of bad ones are affected too.

So a scenario could develop where the taxi companies, even Blue Bird, all start to fold or deteriorate because of reduced revenues. This situation, however, is no guarantee that the ride hailers would succeed or become a viable replacement. What if most of them fold because the investors got bored or dismayed by the continual financial losses? Where would we be then? Bereft of quality traditional public  transport as well as affordable ride hailers?

This issue also raises a question of how much and how long it is fair to provide discounts to win market share. Most products hold promotions and provide discounts to do just that but they are usually short-lived ones as the real economic pressures assert themselves. But with ride hailers the only economic hidden hand is that of the investor, often with access to huge funds.

So is this unfair business practices, that should be looked at by the KPPU? Or is this the new world of disruption that will herald new business models for public transport?