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Welcome to The Stream: Allison+Partners’ content hub that features the latest news and trends making the biggest waves in media and marketing.

JUNE 18, 2021 //     

PODCAST: Digital Advertising - What's Hot and What's Not?

By Andrew Rogers

Digital advertising is an important part of any integrated campaign, but with a media landscape that's changing almost every day, it can be hard to keep up.

This episode we dive deep into the world of digital advertising and how to get the most from your budgets. From the impact of streaming services to the emergence of new social media platforms, we explore the key trends for the year ahead - as well as which outdated tactics you really need to ditch.

Andrew is joined by A+P London's Dan Whitney and Jess Docherty to discuss how brands can exceed their digital advertising goals this year.

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.

JUNE 8, 2021 //     

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – What We Read and Discussed (May 2021)

By Henry Mubiru

The 25th May marked one year since George Floyd, an African American man, was tragically murdered by police. His death reverberated far beyond Minneapolis. From police reform to decolonising U.S. history, last year’s racial reckoning sparked transformative conversations. It prompted many people to think about the racism they face in their own lives and saw protests in many different countries. Yet a year after the Floyd’s murder, the killings have not stopped. From Detroit, Michigan, to Laredo, Texas, they have continued to happen. There have been such deaths in 45 of the nation’s 50 states. In each of the cases, there is a constant: families, community members, and lawyers say there was no need for the officers to have used lethal force.  Statistics have also shown a disproportionate number of those killed by police are young men of colour. In the year since George Floyd lost his life, there have been widespread calls for reform and more accountability, from defunding police forces and creating community protection groups, to dismantling the powerful police unions, who have long been blamed for protecting “bad apple” officers. Channel 4 spoke with some Black people in the UK about why George Floyd’s death meant so much to them and what they hope will change in this country – you can watch it here.

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Also on 25th May, Africans around the globe celebrated Africa Day. The day commemorates the founding of the first union of African countries in 1963. On this day in 1963, African countries signed the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which later evolved into the African Union (AU). Only 30 of them were independent from colonial rule at the time. The charter called for greater unity among African countries. It supported the independence of African countries from colonialism and apartheid and promoted economic and political cooperation with a vision that all people on the continent would live freely and in prosperity. Africa Day is also an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by the African Union in achieving its goals, especially regarding protecting the human rights and freedoms of Africans. In an interview with Variety, Luther star Idris Elba spoke about hosting a virtual concert for Africa Day and the great importance of the day – have a read of the interview here.

Please see below for some of the DE&I content that we read and discussed in May.

RACE

BBC: George Floyd death: How do I talk to my son about race?

A year on from the death of George Floyd, BBC presenter Eddie Nestor examines his role as a father and how he should approach conversations with his own children about racism. Together with a group of fathers, his wife Lisa and the UK’s largest anti-racism charity, Show Racism the Red Card, Nestor takes a deep look into how both children and parents can be better equipped in these discussions.


LGBTQ+

The Guardian: Everyone Is Awesome: Lego to launch first LGBTQ+ set

The toy company, Lego, are set to launch their first LGBTQ+ set. The toy company’s designer says he was inspired to support the community with rainbow-themed creation. The colours of the stripes were chosen to reflect the original rainbow flag, along with pale blue, white and pink representing the trans community, and black and brown to acknowledge the diversity of skin tones and backgrounds within the LGBTQIA+ community.


DISABILITY

BBC: The disabled doctors not believed by their colleagues

People often feel nervous when they visit a doctor with some fearing their symptoms may not be believed. But what if you are the doctor, and your colleagues dismiss your disabilities and mental health difficulties? In this article, Miranda Schreiber explores this challenging relationship.


AGEISM

iNews: Naomi Campbell’s motherhood at 50 has caused a stir, but older dads do not get this reaction

When Naomi Campbell announced the birth of her child, social media feeds exploded with discussions about how privileged she is that she could have a child on her own at the age of 50. There is already a stigma associated with age, with women facing more ageism than men, and the label of “geriatric mother” associated with women over the age of 35 years old. In this article, Dr Pragya Agarwal examines why women’s choices around their fertility and reproduction are still open to debate and examination.

To learn more about Allison+Partners DE&I work in the company, please check out this blog post, “Bringing Diversity and Inclusion Into Your Brainstorms”, by Andrew Rogers and Adina James!


MAY 27, 2021 //     

Boosting Brand Exposure: Tips on how to Newsjack Effectively in 2021

By Emma Poleszuk and Taylor Burke 

Newsjacking is a crucial part of any PR campaign, and ensures brands stay informed, relevant and one step ahead of the curve. But how can you ensure you’re setting up your agencies for success when it comes to quick and nimble newsjacking, and giving them what they need to fully maximise these opportunities?READ MORE

The past year has shown us that things can change or pivot in an instant, and consumers expect brands to be culturally relevant with a finger on the pulse, at all times. Trends can last weeks or come and go in a 48 hour period, and it’s important to act quickly for maximum impact. 

Whether it’s enabling your brand to divert from the agreed social calendar to jump on the latest Instagram trend or prepping your hospitality spokespeople for a last minute interview on last night’s unexpected Covid regulations, remaining agile is key to ensure you’re getting it right at the right time. 

Because newsjacking is all about timeliness, it’s imperative that in-house teams and agencies work in lockstep. 

Here are three strategic opportunities when it comes to newsjacking: 

    1. Keep the bigger picture in mind: It’s important to realise that although self-serving content may seem like the easiest way to demonstrate your offering, consumers are looking for content that answers their questions and provides solutions to their personal circumstances. Taking the time to understand and monitor the external environment and how your brand is showing up in their world is so important. This relevant and personalised approach will help build meaningful relationships and ensure people remember your brand for the right reasons
    2. Trust your teams: No one person can monitor the news 100% of the time, but having an agency team comes close! Trust us to do the legwork and recognise what’s worth jumping on and what will be old news by tomorrow. It’s our responsibility, no matter the industry or sector, to monitor the news, whether that’s online, print, blogs, social. Wherever a story could start gaining momentum, chances are your PR team saw it yesterday. Trusting their expertise and allowing them to pivot from an agreed upon strategy can lead to impactful results. But trust is earned - to ensure success, align on agency collaboration roles and responsibilities early in your relationship around the topics your brand is comfortable having a voice in and potentially activating around. This will ensure teams can act agile and jump on trends that best suit your brand.
    3. Go big when it fits with your brand objectives: With recent lockdowns and remote working, consumers have been keyed into their smart devices more than ever - and this habit is likely to stay. Newsjacking is relevant for social media, digital publications and even seminars or events. By entering a current cultural conversation in a big way, you can instantly raise brand awareness and credibility. Set budget aside and be ready to invest in newsjacking assets and extra team hours so you can really make a splash when the impromptu moment is right for your brand. And - similarly to the above - lean on your agency team to tell you when, where and how much you should be activating for a strong return. 

Newsjacking is so critical to a brand’s communication plans that Allison+Partners has a separate division for the specialty. Called TapIN, colleagues across the globe scour countless platforms to identify the biggest and best trends in society. The result? Creative, clever ideas for brands to enter conversations and be in the limelight on the consumer stage. 

So go on: take the plunge and get your brand involved in the latest trends. And to really get started, tune in to our The Stream podcast, where we dive even more in-depth on the best newsjacking tips and tricks. Whether it be best timing practices, executing across platforms or something else, you’ll be ready to hit the newsjacking ground running. 

Emma Poleszuk and Taylor Burke are Account Directors at Allison+Partners. To find out more on how Allison+Partners can help your brand leverage newsjacking, get in touch with us here.
MAY 21, 2021 //     

4 Things To Do To Drive Higher Lead Generation Performance In 2021

By Gina Mossey

79% of marketers say their top priority for 2021 is to generate more quality leads, according to SEMRush’s recent “State of Content Marketing” report. As I’m sure many will point out, the attention should be drawn to the word, “quality”. Time and money spent nurturing, and then weeding out bad quality leads is valuable time sales and marketing teams need to put into leads with a higher chance of conversion. Here are our must-dos to improve your lead nurture and ultimately increase the lead quality in 2021.

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Smarter insights + measurement = faster improvement

Marketers can reap huge benefits from brand engagement being forced to flip to online-only over the past 12+ months; we have more content and channel performance data than ever to glean insights from. The most important question is – are you serving the right content and messages to your prospective customers at the right stage in their journey? It sounds obvious but many are just missing the mark. If a prospect is in the awareness phase and not too familiar with your brand or products, they need content that talks to their industry challenges and needs. Product features or “tech and spec” at this point is going to turn them off.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it on the KPIs, and underdoing it on the insight we draw from them, so stick to 3-4 key performance metrics to tell you whether you’ve got the content journey right. If your top of funnel content isn’t generating clicks something needs tweaking to help it resonate better. If your bottom of funnel content isn’t generating conversions you’ve missed a key step somewhere. SEMRush says 76% of content marketing teams consist of less than 3 people – so make sure your lean team has the data and insights they need to spend time on what matters.

 

Spend time on the story

With an increased volume of online content still being served daily, your story needs to work harder to cut through the noise. It’s never been more important spend time planning your storytelling and content strategy with your customer’s needs right at the heart. At the top of the funnel, your content needs to hook people in quickly so make sure you have a unique perspective. The topic of your content will likely not be new, but your perspective has to say something new to gain any traction.

At the middle and bottom of the funnel, have a super clear focus on your competitive set and where your offering sits amongst it – how do your products solve your audience’s challenges and what is your point of difference? While your product spec comes further into play here, think about features in terms of emotional benefits: how will your products and solutions help them achieve their goals? Our recent Talk Human To Me research report found a huge 97% of B2B marketers considered it important to humanise their brand and solutions this way – yet only 26% had managed to do so. Customer feedback surveys or focus groups will be a great investment here to find out what people really value about your products and therefore needs to be amplified in your lead gen content.

 

Carefully consider the format

On the B2B side we’ve seen a swathe of webinars over the past 12 months causing a certain amount of fatigue, but the Demand Gen 2021 Report finds over half of marketers say webinar is still the top-of-the-funnel format that generates the most high-quality leads. But once again this links back to careful consideration of where your prospects are in the funnel, the information they’re looking for and how they want to digest it.

The buyer’s journey varies between companies but as rules of thumb for 2021:

Awareness

Content Purpose: Establish Credibility

Content Format: People looking for answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insight. Blogs, advertising, social posts, whitepapers and ebooks, short videos and webinars can all work well here, but make sure the information the prospect needs is easy-to-find and engaging.

Consideration

Content Purpose: Create Differentiation

Content Formats: At this stage, people are interested in what sets you apart and researching whether or not your product or service is a good fit for them. Comparison blogs or guides or deeper dives into the benefits of key features will be well received here.

Action / Decision

Content Purpose: Show Success

Content Formats: Now we’re right into the details of what it would take to become a customer. Case studies or video testimonials, detailed pricing and license information, free trials and demos should be saved until this final stage.

 

Personalise, personalise, personalise

In a 2019 study, 79% of consumers surveyed believed companies knew too much about them, yet at the end of 2020, 81% of consumers were willing to share basic personal information to receive a personalised service. Accenture found 64% of consumers who believe they’ve received a personal or invasive brand experience say it was because the brand had information about them that they didn’t share knowingly or directly.

Here we must understand that the landscape has changed and it’s vital to spend time on the groundwork. Ensure your customer database has the correct consent in place, and is clean and rich enough to allow targeted, personalised campaigns that will speak to the hearts and minds of your existing customers. This will prove invaluable in driving quality leads and in the long-term, increasing customer lifetime value.

But there are small optimisations you can test right now. Something as simple as a personalised email subject line can increase open rates by up to 26%, according to Experian, or addressing your prospect by name in the email body. Plan simple A/B tests to identify the right level of personalisation for your customers.

 

Of course, customer behaviours are likely to evolve as we all adapt over the next few months to return back to offices and potentially take a well earned holiday – and of course budgets will remain unsteady as we continue to navigate the pandemic’s impact. Keep being driven by the data to ensure your lead generation efforts are in line with what your customers’ and prospects’ behaviour is telling you, ultimately scoring more better quality leads.

 

Gina Mossey is a Senior Account Director in the Marketing Innovation Team Europe, running lead generation programmes for clients across EMEA. Click here to learn how we could help you.

 

 

 

MAY 10, 2021 //     

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – What We Read and Discussed (April 2021)

By Henry Mubiru

April 2021 saw former police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty of all charges over George Floyd’s death. The death of George Floyd in May 2021 prompted international outrage and a movement against police brutality, and a global conversation around race and the black experience today. To some, the verdict was a surprise in a country where police are rarely prosecuted for custodial deaths. While this verdict has been celebrated as a long-awaited step in the right direction for racial justice in the US, it’s still just the beginning – sparking a new era of policing and accountability. In the US, police are responsible for the deaths of 319 people this year alone. Beyond these murders, police continue to have coercive but non-fatal interactions with people, especially Black, brown and people living in poverty, that do nothing to advance public safety. A study from the University College London’s institute for global city policing found that young black males in London were 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the general population. A criminal conviction for this incident is unlikely to change the systemic problems within policing, both in the U.S and the UK. In addition to the content below, we recommend reading this article from the Evening Standard, where senior ex-Metropolitan police officer, Leroy Logan speaks about the growing cycle of violence and retribution in London.

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Additionally, April is Autism Awareness Month and the 2nd April was also World Autism Awareness Day. This is an internationally recognised day and month that encourages every country to take measures to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome throughout the world. The UN General Assembly declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day to “highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.” While the pandemic has exposed glaring inequalities around the world, people with Autism have long faced many of these inequalities. This day and month aim to address these issues and create a conversation that advocates for inclusion of people on the Autistic spectrum. To learn more, have a read of this article from the UN which goes into greater depth on the meaning of World Autism Awareness Day.

Please see below for some of the DE&I content that we read and discussed in April.

GEORGE FLOYD

BBC: George Floyd: The murder that drove America to the brink

It was a landmark case for police violence against black people, and the verdict marks a significant victory for the activists who have pushed for policing reform: Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. This article from the BBC speaks on how this event will impact the police force and future cases that come before the court.

 

GENDER

Sky News: Disappearing Women: Artist paints portraits of all women killed by men in Britain in 2020

British artist, Henny Beaumont, has started a campaign to "remember and honour" every single woman killed by a man in Britain last year by painting their portrait. The North London artist got the idea after hearing Labour MP Jess Phillips read out all 118 names in the House of Commons on International Women's Day.

 

AGEISM

Evening Standard: Older drinkers without smartphones ‘at risk of discrimination in pubs’

Older drinkers are at risk of being discriminated against for not having smartphones to order food and drinks at pubs and restaurants, a charity has warned. As lockdown restrictions eased in England some pubs are asking punters to order beverages through an online app in order to minimise contact with staff. Age UK said the measure rules out half of those aged 65 to 74 and 70% of the over-75s because they do not use a smartphone.

 

RELIGION

iNews: As a Muslim teen my hijab was an expression of my spirituality – France’s ban is Islamophobia in action

The French Senate has voted in favour of banning Muslim women under the age of 18 from wearing the hijab in public places. The bill also seeks to outlaw Muslim mothers from accompanying their children on school trips while wearing the hijab, refuse women wearing a burkini entry to public swimming pools and ban the hijab in French universities. This article talks about why these discriminatory policies will restrict Muslim women in almost every aspect of their life.

 

To learn more about Allison+Partners DE&I work in the company, please check out our recent blog post, “Embracing A+P’s Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Differences”, by Adina James and Pearl Xu!

MAY 5, 2021 //     

PODCAST Tap In: Successful consumer issues hijacking

By Andrew Rogers

Issues hijacking is one of those classic PR agency terms, but what actually is it, and why is it a crucial part of any best-in-class press office campaign?

This episode is all about the humble issues hijack, an important but often under appreciated tactic. We talk about the best ways to hijack the cultural conversation and provide useful hints and tips to get you started from our global Tap In team. If you’re running a consumer focused marketing or communications campaign, this is the podcast for you. 

Andrew is joined by A+P London's Emma Poleszuk and Taylor Burke to discuss how brands can really nail the perfect issues hijack.

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.

MAY 4, 2021 //     

The Lowly Meeting Invite - The Most Powerful Tool to Drive Brand Relevance

By Paul Sears

I’m a recovering ad guy of nearly 15 years. Sure, there were highlights -- celebrities, commercials, multi-million-dollar campaigns. And some lowlights: among them, a constant game of chicken-and-egg between creative and media. I picture a stalled assembly line where no one can decide who goes first. This froze countless projects. But to be fair, I realise it’s hard to take that first leap of faith.

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Upon entering advertising rehab, I took a friend’s advice and became an Agile Scrum Master. Later I also became an Agile Scrum Product Owner. While the classes are for software creators, it was surprisingly easy to adapt the concepts to marketing. Agile helped me rethink the premise that creative and media have to happen in sequence. “What it says” and “where it goes” are one problem to solve, not two.

Let’s take the linear assembly line and make it a figure-eight shape. Tiny boxes containing small increments of brand value fly around at high velocity, colliding to spark compelling customer experiences. On the figure-eight, there’s no hierarchy, no sequence -- just one big team working in a continuous loop. “What it says” and “where it goes” always go together.

It starts with culture change. Good ideas don’t just spontaneously come from anywhere, they must be cultivated from everywhere.  

  • No egos: The creative and planning environment has to be flattened. Instead of hierarchies and siloed workgroups, the entire team becomes equal co-owners of the business outcome and the work that drives it.
  • No passengers: The whole team must lean into the hard work of nurturing good work.  No one is allowed to lean back and toss out lazy critiques.
  • No boundaries: It takes practice to see the hidden potential in the kernel of an idea. Today, this is no longer the sole purview of the creative director. All disciplines must be trained to respectfully review and elevate each other’s work. We must learn each other’s tribal language and acknowledge each other’s sensitivities. “Yes-and” becomes a core part of the vocabulary.

It also requires a big-picture view. I reminisce on the account planning convention of breaking every big problem down into tiny slices -- briefing, reviewing and approving each initiative in isolation. Perhaps one or two people on the team see the whole problem, while most others just make stuff. Agile thinking would suggest this vastly undersells the team’s capability. Good ideas come from access to information. The “smart people” need to get in the weeds, and the “doers” need to be invited up to 10,000 feet.  

The workflow looks a lot different. I lose creative friends when I talk about briefing on Monday, looking at work on Tuesday, outlining our presentation on Wednesday, polishing the deck on Thursday and presenting it to the client on Friday. It sounds like a death march, but it’s actually totally achievable, and I’d venture to say a lot more fun:

  • MVP: Thinking in minimum viable products, we focus only on the work that drives value right now. I’ll never forget as an advertising account director, sitting through 120 pages of layouts for six creative concepts, which took at least three weeks to create, yet none of which struck gold. Wouldn’t it be better to align early and let the client contribute to our thinking, rather than spending labour on a beautiful yet disappointing product? By focusing only on the minimum information needed to have a productive early discussion, we can achieve way more impact with much less effort.
  • We’re a team: There’s no pride of ownership if the media planner blurts out the perfect word of copy or if the art director recommends the perfect media placement. In baseball, when the first baseman has to stop a ground ball, the pitcher covers first base.  Everyone cheers getting the runner out -- and celebrates the dynamic change in roles.  Removing swim lanes fosters better ideation, relieves pressure and makes the whole process more enjoyable.
  • Hack it: It’s proven -- deadlines drive results. Clear the schedule, get together and make it happen. We recently did this for a genetic testing client. With only weeks until launch, the ad agency still hadn’t landed a concept. We brought together cross-functional client teams with our strategists, creatives and channel planners. Within a structured eight-hour session we landed four viable campaign concepts (with initial tactics and skeleton-plans) that already had client buy-in. With a little polish, we had award-winning paid, earned, shared and owned activity in-market within three weeks.  

 

In an age of radical fragmentation, brand relevance comes from delivering the right increment of value to the right person in the right place at the right time. It’s a four-dimensional moving target easier to miss than it is to hit. It requires opening minds, breaking down barriers, rethinking processes and empowering teams with a big picture view. It means solving “whole problems” together as a team and working in real time. Brand relevance all comes down to the lowly meeting invite. Answering “what it says” and “where it goes” the right way, requires everyone at the table.


Paul Sears is Executive Vice President, Brand & Engagement Strategy. With nearly 20 years in advertising, social media, content and brand strategy, Paul spends most of his time helping clients sharpen their strategic focus at the brand level or for individual products and campaigns. Find out how we can help drive your brand relevance here.

APRIL 30, 2021 //     

Press Start: Why brands should tap into video games communities online

By Andrew Rogers

When it comes to creating meaningful consumer campaigns, we always recommend that our clients live at the intersection between commerce and culture. This means not existing in your own bubble and being a part of the conversations that people are already having every day.

A part of culture that brands have traditionally been less successful at tapping into is video games. Today, 54% of people in the UK play games ‘on most days’, and people who play games are more diverse, with a pretty even 50:50 split between male and non-male players and over 46% over the age of 40. For people who play games every day, games are just as much culture as Netflix, soap operas, or reality TV.

Tapping into majority-gaming communities means taking a step outside the Facebook-Twitter-Instagram comfort zone. Don’t feel intimidated though. Here are some great places to start finding your current or future fans online.

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Start chatting on Discord

Discord is one of the world’s most popular voice and text chat platforms, with over 130 million registered users. In fact, you might have heard about it recently because of rumours that Microsoft was trying to buy the platform. It is largely used by gaming communities to connect and co-ordinate online play, but in recent years it has branched out into new areas as well.

For anyone not familiar, Discord looks most like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Some small businesses even use Discord for their internal communications. It is also crucially home to thousands of fan communities for all sorts of products and brands. If your brand is well known, it almost certainly has a fan community on Discord.

Those brands lucky enough to have a passionate fanbase should make sure they surprise and delight them. Get to know the people regularly posting in these channels and give them first access to new products or services. And if you don’t already have a Discord for your brand, you should consider setting one up yourself and populating it with great content that lives at the intersection of your brand and gaming.

 

Join a subreddit on Reddit

Reddit may now be more than 15 years old, but with its rapid growth and expanded options for brands, it’s increasingly a must-have for any brand looking to target its young and affluent users. Many Reddit users can’t be found on any other social media platforms too, meaning its 52 million daily active users won’t be covered by your other campaigns.

Reddit is home to hundreds of thousands of communities called subreddits. These cover a vast range of topics and interests, but the biggest category is gaming. The great thing about Reddit is that while you have a wide range of game fans on the platform, they are not just there for content about games.

Brands on Reddit should make sure they’re ‘reading the room’ and adding useful or entertaining content to subreddits. And as with Discord, it’s well worth taking the time to get to know the who run communities you want to work with.

 

Go live on Twitch

Twitch is the home of live streaming, and still dominates the gaming and esports live video space. Acquired by Amazon in 2014, Twitch now exceeds 40 million monthly active viewers that skew on the younger side. While gaming and esports content will be what you notice first on Twitch, dig a little deeper and you’ll find live streams of cooking, exercise, music production and art.

Brands looking to reach a mainly Gen Z or millennial audience are already finding that content on Twitch can deliver great results. This could be as simple as partnering up with a popular streamer or running your own streams with special guests. The most successful campaigns live at the authentic intersections of interests.

Take for example the charity Cats Protection, who tapped into the large number of streamers who go live with their beloved furry friends on their desks and are often as much a part of the stream as the human streamer. They launched their Pawsome Players programme so streamers can raise money on Twitch through charity streams, which in turn has raised thousands of pounds.

 

Get involved in the game

Finally, why not skip the middleman and get involved in the game directly. Many of the biggest games today now act more like platforms than they do traditional linear games. Fortnite, Minecraft and Animal Crossing are all games with millions of users and increasingly open to brand participation.

Famously, global music star Travis Scott hosted a live music concert within Fortnite. At a time when physical spaces were closed due to the pandemic, Fortnite players were treated to spectacular visual effects as a larger-than-life Travis Scott performed atop the Fortnite island.

Involvement need not be quite so expensive either, that is, so long as you have plenty of time on your hands. Check out the adorable island that clothing brand H&M built in Animal Crossing to support their recycling and sustainability campaigns.

 

A few thought starters to get your brand going

  • Gaming is a major part of culture, particularly when speaking to a younger target audience. If your brand is to live at the intersection of culture and commerce, you must tap into gaming conversations and the gaming audience.
  • Understand that people have multiple interests. The idea of ‘the gamer’ is way too simplistic, and people who play games are happy for brands outside the gaming space to be part of the conversation.
People love brands that meet them where they are. Live at these intersections and you might just be tapping into your biggest fans and creating new ones.

Find out how we can help you here.
APRIL 27, 2021 //     

How Striving for Wisdom Makes Us Better PR Pros

By Heike Schubert

Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. And it’s a quality that would benefit everyone in the communications business.

Communications professionals who want to excel in their roles should make wisdom the base of creative and strategic thinking and the core of our relationship to the people surrounding us. We’d be more thoughtful, inclusive and understanding, things that are also wins for us as human beings.

Here are five factors that contribute to wisdom and are also part of the communications business.

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Curiosity
 

Being curious throughout your life is an excellent sign you're on the right path to wisdom, as Judith Glück, a professor for developmental psychology, describes in her book “Weisheit” (German for wisdom). 

For communications pros, openness to new things is crucial for our profession – especially on the agency side. Serving clients from a variety of sectors requires a natural curiosity for their fields and how they fit into society’s bigger picture. Communicators must frequently ask: “Why? How? When? Who?” And many more questions. Only by asking can we understand the industry and the client in a way that enables us to guide them through all sorts of comms tasks and challenges. So, it’s crucial to be curious. But it’s also fundamental not to be judgmental or bring in your own biases. 

 

Ambiguity Tolerance 

When we talk about ambiguity tolerance, we mean listening without bias and taking things as they are. But it’s also about carrying on – head held high and focused – even though you might have a murky picture of the situation or, in the worst case, no clue about the right thing to do. Ambiguity tolerance is a must-have for all wise people – you accept there are things you cannot control. There will always be things that happen outside your comfort zone and outside your value base. There is constant change in life, and it is often not easy to maintain a clear view on the right path. 

Who in comms doesn’t understand this? Communicating around strategies that haven’t been thought through or navigating comms in crises demands calm and focus, taking things in stride making the best of them. It’s one thing to see the necessity of this characteristic – it’s another thing to actively live it. It’s tough, but it comes with practice. 

 
Regulation of Emotions 

Ambiguity tolerance doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have emotions or feelings. It means controlling and regulating emotions in a conscious way.

Emotions are essential indeed, but they tend to overwhelm us from time to time, making a cognitive approach in communications often tricky. It’s not about shutting off emotions. It’s about handling them in a productive way and dealing with a situation in an unbiased way.

Taking a deep breath before reacting or sleeping a night before answering a challenging email – there are many tactics to help control emotions and keep a clear head. Finding the one that works best for you can be a complete game-changer in your career. 

 

Empathy

The fourth resource is described perfectly with the German word “Einfühlungsvermögen” – “the ability to feel or empathize.” Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy. To picture yourself in someone’s situation enables us to change perspective and to feel the strains someone is caught in.

If you can master this shift in communications, this can be the base for relatable, trustful and authentic approaches that make a difference to your target group. How is my key audience coping with the Pandemic? Where are the challenges and hardships, and what would make their life easier? If you feel it, you can create powerful connections that lead to business success.

To me, this skill is THE must have for every communications professional. Sensitivity, the ability to read between the lines, and a positive, curious attitude toward others support this key requirement for wisdom – and communication pros. 

 

Reflection

All this isn’t complete without the skill to reflect and understand complex interdependencies. Questioning yourself regularly enables you to see the bigger picture and locate angles that carry the ability to improve any situation. Transferred to the world of communications, this is the resource that catapults anyone from being caught in operations to becoming a strategist - a game-changer.

Understanding a shut-down of whole societies has specific effects on people’s behaviors, economical processes and political decision-making can give you a head start in creating the spot-on communication approach.

A great example is Budweiser’s campaign for Super Bowl LV. For the first time in a decade, the beer brewing giant chose not to create a video spot and instead opted to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. With this choice, it made an impact that will save lives.

If you’re interested in more insights into wisdom science, check this out.

Heike Schubert, General Manager at Allison+Partners is based in the Munich office, from where she’s heading the A+P activities in Germany providing a broad range of communications services for clients operating in the DACH region.

 

APRIL 23, 2021 //     

Marketing Software Alone Won’t Solve Your Challenge, People Will

By Todd Sommers

A mentor gave me a great piece of advice when I got into triathlons. He said during the swim and the run, all competitors are equal. The bike is the longest leg of the race and the only place where you can legally buy a mechanical advantage. A well-trained athlete on a carbon fibre frame with upgraded wheels and aerodynamic handlebars has a significant advantage over the athlete on the average road bike. But this advantage is wasted on an athlete who doesn’t have the strength or endurance to sustain high speeds. If you don’t do the hard work, the bike doesn’t make an impact. It’s a lot like software available to marketers today.READ MORE

There are countless marketing software options. Software vendors pitch us and our clients daily. In my experience, no client has ever said “X software tool is perfect for my business”, and whether these products merge, get acquired, or change the logo, most toolsets still don’t do exactly what the clients need. These tools tend to automate routine tasks and offer clues to investigate and inspire. Making your data actionable requires putting in the work just like training for a triathlon.

If you invest in technology, you have to invest the same energy into getting the most out of it to gain a competitive advantage. Here are examples of how we’ve partnered with clients to get the most out of their data.

Demand Generation

Marketing working with sales and machines can drive phenomenal growth for many B2B companies, but more often than not we’re tasked with breaking down the silos between the two teams who often are measured by different goals. We also work in the marketing automation/CRM platform backend to set up the tracking, scoring, and workflows. This is another area where an expensive tool like Pardot, or Marketo, or HubSpot can be wasted if the campaign infrastructure is incorrect. In that case, the marketing automation platform becomes an expensive e-mail engine.

  • Each platform has its nuances, and teams need to continue to learn more about all of the available features. Triple checking workflows before launching a campaign ensures resources and leads are maximised.
  • When a prospect becomes “closed/won” that prospect’s journey deserves scrutiny. Understanding key touchpoints from a successful example can lead to adjustments in scoring that optimise programmes.
  • Ensure you have a fully integrated plan, including remarketing, CRM, SEM, and sales coordination. A white paper can also be versioned into an infographic or an email. Whatever form the campaign takes, colleagues on the sales team need to be aligned with the core messages. The beautiful design may pique interest but won’t close the sale for cloud computing services. The chasm between sales and marketing – and the software they use - persists at many organisations, and an agency can be a neutral party in helping both get more of what they need.
  • Planning for messages should also be aligned with data capture. The title and function of an individual should be augmented with company size, industry, potentially even growth. As more and more B2B firms focus on ABM, capturing prospect data will help ensure you are targeting the proper accounts.

Social Listening

We tend to see clients in two camps. First, those that leverage insights and metrics about their brand content performance either through the social platforms directly, or in combination with tools like Sprinklr, Khoros, or Sprout Social. Second, those leveraging broader trends and online conversations to expand their insights and audiences with tools like Brandwatch, Falcon.io, or Pulsar. Because of the social platform APIs, there is no single tool or report that leads to breakthroughs.  
  • The deeper, and more frequent, your social listening, the better your campaigns will perform. This holds especially when data from LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook isn't integrated into a single tool. You have to leverage insights from both camps explained above – the broader online conversation as well as what you’re seeing in the performance of your brand channels.
  • Don’t dismiss an insight when an initial piece of content underperforms. Test and learn because it might be the format, channel, time of day, or a small change required to deliver for your audience.
  • Consider reporting separate metrics for each channel using what the social platforms give you. We see clients spent a lot of time trying to compare LinkedIn’s apples to Facebook’s oranges. As long as those charts are moving up and to the right, you’re improving. Over time the automated reporting demonstrates progress, and your time is better spent searching for insights instead of reconfiguring data.

Content Marketing

Understanding data and when and how to use it with regards to your content strategy could be the difference between success and failure. "According to LinkedIn, 78 percent of marketers expect to increase their content budget this year,”* and if there’s one area I wish we focused on more in client discussions, it would be on the content distribution plan. Spend as much time creating that plan as the content itself. 
  • There are so many data points accessible, that often brand marketers just don't know where to start or what they should be looking at. In fact, only "36% of marketeers said they were satisfied with their companies’ ability to measure the success of content." Tools and software solutions will help to make sense of what you can measure and learn from, but having a clear strategic plan in the first instance is key.
  • If the insight for your content comes from search, focus the first 60-90 days of your distribution strategy on non-search distribution before those SEO benefits kick in. Budget for amplification through multiple channels even with sponsored content. Investing here improves ROI because most brand content doesn’t get the consumption levels it deserves.
  • Don’t overlook the opportunity to test multiple creative options to see what performs best with your audience before you launch. Competition for eyeballs is fierce. The first few seconds of a video, for example, can bring the audience in or steer them away, and there are tools to predict performance with your audience before content launches.
  • Branded content partnerships with top-tier outlets still require a distribution plan. Borrowing equity from those outlets offers a nice plate to serve your story to new audiences, but you should also trust past performance data to leverage on other channels.

The Road Ahead

The good news, at least for now, is that software hasn’t replaced marketers. The software makes marketers even better at their jobs – driving more actionable insights and better business outcomes. But the advantage of having technological resources drives of the most benefit when you put in the work. Remember that those first few pedals on a bicycle take the most energy to get moving, but it becomes easier and easier to maintain your momentum over time once you start putting in the work.

Todd Sommers is an executive vice president at Allison+Partners, where he leads a team of integrated marketers and brings together multi-disciplinary campaign elements to create compelling programmes for clients. Find out how we can help you with integrated marketing here.
APRIL 20, 2021 //     

COVID-19 One Year On – What I’ve Learnt

By Sue Grant

About the Business

As news of the virus spreading in the UK increased each day, we took the tough decision to shut the London office on 13th March 2020, the same day as our US colleagues. This was ten days prior to the UK government’s decision to lock down, by which time the virus had continued to escalate particularly across London substantially.

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I was proud that at A+P, we took this decision early on, before even our own government decided to do so.  As with the rest of the company, our top priority was to keep our teams safe and well. We of course thought we would all be back in a couple of weeks (my jacket still sits on the back of my office chair in Kings Cross), but little did we know. Over the years, we’ve been through financial crashes, dotcom busts, the London terrorist attacks, economic recessions, but never a pandemic that would fundamentally change the way we all worked overnight.

In the past year, I’ve learned many things about my team, myself and what I think the future holds.


My Team

As UK soul artist Billy Ocean’s lyrics say ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. And that’s exactly what happened here at A+P London. Our teams quickly made it work, no matter how challenging their own personal situation was. They ensured all client campaigns continued without a moment’s interruption.

Whether working on a bed, sharing a kitchen table with a beloved partner (well they were ’beloved’ at the beginning of lockdown), or taking it in turns for a quiet space, the personal challenges were many and varied. Having made sure everyone had the systems and processes to be able to work from home from laptops to Teams, it was business as usual. But everyone just got on with it and no one complained! Everyone rallied around and supported each other. Our teams continued to do amazing work for our clients and made sure we were still delivering impactful results. Our trust has never been stronger.


Myself

I quickly realised that I missed the interaction and face to face time with colleagues which Zoom calls can’t replace. I didn’t miss the 1.5 hour commute each way. I also missed the structure of the working day: getting dressed for work and leaving the house at 6.30am each day (smugly knowing which carriage on the train to get a seat).

I also missed visiting our other offices in Munich, Paris and San Francisco – again when that face-to-face time and physical contact can’t be replaced virtually. I missed networking, having breakfasts with contacts, former clients, and colleagues. I missed networking drinks on the way home too, often at Waterloo station. And though each previous year, I would yell, ‘This is that last year I am doing Mobile World Congress!” I actually missed that too!

While there have been true benefits to working from home – the extra time saved on my morning commute, my new sustainable standing desk in my attic study and learning local walks – I will now be forever grateful for the little things that make life “normal.”

We need the interaction of face-to-face time and meetings with colleagues and clients that remote working can’t give.


The Future

So, what next? Well, we are all watching the success of the vaccine roll out in UK and looking forward to the overused phrase ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ becoming reality. But with the EU’s COVID-19 cases rising and issues with the vaccine roll out, caution still needs to prevail.

We too will continue to be cautious and careful as a business, continuing to put our teams and their wellbeing and health first. Like many, we plan to have a cautious return to the office.

There has been much talk in the media about the workplace future ranging from the Nationwide Building Society who has declared it will let all employees work remotely, to Goldman Sachs who wants all staff back in the office as soon as possible.

Our research has begun, and we currently have a ‘working group’ talking to our teams to find out what they would like the future work environment to be. Once we have that information then we will make an informed decision about the best way forward.  Our foremost priority has always been to ensure our teams safety. And despite calls from the government to ‘get back to the office’, we do not rush back too soon and spread the virus again.

Whatever the future structure, we can be absolutely sure that our amazing UK team will do an awesome job of continuing to do award winning client campaigns and just in the same way as they did when the pandemic first struck. And as for me, I’m looking forward to the day I can chat on the mezzanine as we make a brew and with my pod of super A+Pers who come from all avenues of the agency, and of course share a glass or two of fizz at our legendary weekly Friday night drinks. 

Sue Grant heads up our Technology practice in Europe. To learn more about how we can help you, click here.
APRIL 14, 2021 //     

Find Your B2B Target Audience Even Without Third-Party Cookies

Sometimes, what’s old becomes new again... or at least very useful.

The growth in programmatic advertising has enabled advertisers to purchase access to third-party cookies – those placed by other organisations – and use them to display ads to their targets. Yet, Google plans to block third-party cookies in Chrome browsers in about a year, which could have a severe impact on advertisers that rely upon them. Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies.

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If that’s a key component of your B2B advertising strategy, you can still reach a large portion of your target as they browse myriad websites via a first-party cookie from your friendly trade publisher. When a publisher (or any website) places a cookie, it is first-party to them. Selling access to it makes it third-party. Therefore, publishers can target those browsers elsewhere, and they can deliver YOUR ad in front of THEIR audience.

The cookie represents the publisher’s data, and it recognises the direct relationship they have with visitors and subscribers. Publishers simply permit advertisers to leverage that relationship and “re-market” to their own site visitors. Sometimes called an “audience extension programme,” this technique lets publishers bid programmatically on ad inventory as it becomes available but display a message on an advertiser’s behalf.

A single trade publisher will not likely offer the reach you can acquire from many who provide third-party programmatic data, but it will offer some. And, depending on how it maintains its cookie pools, it can be a more engaged audience than some current data providers. The target audience must have visited the trade publisher’s site within the last 60 days or so to have that cookie.

This won’t be a panacea for advertisers with sophisticated programmatic campaigns, but B2B advertisers will have all of 2021 to experiment and understand how impactful a publisher or publishers can be. In fact, when returning to the vehicles that a decade ago were the common choice for trade advertisers, you may find they have a wealth of solutions to help you achieve your goals.

For a PPE client that recently sought to reach primary and secondary-level education decision-makers to generate bulk orders for schools and surrounding areas, Allison+Partners saw an opportunity with a media outlet called Education Week. The publisher was able to provide eBlasts to its subscribers, a white paper programme, on-site web banners AND an audience extension programme to offer reach, frequency and contextual targeting at varying levels. When combined with a content syndication effort and content amplification, the client achieved awareness via impressions, engagement via site visits and leads via form fills. Education Week uses first-party cookies, so its techniques will be available even after Chrome blocks third-party cookies.

Trade publishers already have an established, engaged audience. If a downside of advertising with them has been difficulty gaining frequency against an audience that may only visit on a weekly or monthly basis, audience-extension programmes bring them back to relevance. Because it is their audience advertisers will reach, the first-party cookie they place should continue to be valid even after Google implements its new rules.

If you’ve drifted from advertising with trade publishers or never used them at all, 2021 offers an opportunity to build relationships and experiment. You may already have a list of target publishers where you seek earned media coverage. Expanding those communications into the ad sales group may uncover some opportunities that keep advertising programmes cranking, even if the new rules disrupt some others.

 

Terry McDermott is a digital evangelist with expertise in turning objectives into strategic plans and developing, executing, and measuring demand generation programmes. He leverages his background in direct response techniques, including CRM marketing, to develop insights that build lead gen and customer acquisition campaigns. He also creates account-based marketing programmes for key prospects, selecting targets via predictive modelling and creating marketing automation campaigns to nurture and score leads. Additionally, McDermott advocates for investments in emerging digital products, technologies and channels, while building and managing teams to generate leads, boost sales and increase awareness.

Find out how we can help you with lead generation here.

 

APRIL 9, 2021 //     

PODCAST: Lead Generation: Driving higher performance in 2021

By Andrew Rogers

Lead generation is a key component of any sales and marketing campaign. Get it right and you'll set your sales team up for success. Get it wrong, and you risk investing big budgets into activities that do little to move the needle. 

Lead generation remains changed as social distancing removes most in-person selling and businesses' digital-led lead generation programmes continue as a priority. Some have seen their new strategies pay off thanks to a data and insights-led programme.

Andrew is joined over Zoom by A+P London's Jess Docherty and Gina Mossey to discuss what lead generation is, some of the key terminology, and how businesses can nail their lead generation using an insights-led approach.

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.

APRIL 7, 2021 //     

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – What We Read and Discussed (March 2021)

By Henry Mubiru

March is Women’s History Month, and we focused a great deal of our reading and learning around this important occasion to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society. Tragically, March was also the month that Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered – raising a national and global conversation about what it means to be a woman today, the ongoing safety issues women face, how we can be better allies and make our streets safer – in London and around the world. In addition to the below article on the recent tragedy, we recommend reviewing this editorial from The Guardian on the ongoing violence against women. You can also donate to UN Women UK, who are working to make sure that all public spaces in the UK are safe and inclusive for everyone.

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March 2021 also marked the year anniversary of when the UK went into lockdown due to COVID-19. It’s been recognised that the coronavirus pandemic has hit some communities harder than others. When we look at the social, economic, and environmental factors, we see clear differences in how people are being affected, particularly Black and South Asian ethic groups. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. In addition to this, a 2020 study from the UK Biobank found that Black people are four times more likely to require hospital admission for COVID-19 compared to White people. The reason is due to differences in the communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements. With these findings, it shines an important spotlight on the need for racial equality, where we see every person as having equal rights, respect, and dignity. We recommend reading this article from The Conversation, which goes into more depth on why Black and Asian people are at greater risk of coronavirus.

Please see below for some of the DE&I content that we read and discussed in March.

 

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

BBC: Sarah Everard: How a woman's death sparked a nation's soul-searching

Sarah Everard's journey from Clapham Common to Brixton had taken her through some of the capital's most populated, brightly lit, and well-walked parts. Hundreds of people – many of them young women – tread those pavements every day and consider the streets in and around them home. This article from the BBC highlights stories about women’s experiences walking the streets of London and the lengths they go to so that they feel safe.

 

BBC News: Why do women appear to bear the brunt of ageism at work?

As the workforce gets older, ageism is also becoming more of an issue. Statistics from charity Age UK show that ageism is the most common type of discrimination in Europe – and it is women who are bearing the brunt of it. It is believed that if you get older, especially as a woman, that your value diminishes, as our society praises youth.

 

RACE

Metro: Why Black women are so frequently accused of bullying

The nature of the criticism against Meghan Markle may fall into a well-trodden pattern that is frequently used as a tactic to undermine Black women. Meghan is far from the first woman with Black heritage to be accused of being a bully. In January this year, Love Island star Yewande Biala had to defend herself against claims of bullying from white co-star Lucie Donlan. In June 2020, Sugababes star Keisha Buchanan released a video explaining the trauma she experienced at being portrayed as a ‘bully’ and an ‘angry Black woman’ during her time in the girl band. Studies show that this archaic stereotype is still used today to characterise Black women as aggressive, ill tempered, illogical, overbearing, and ignorant ‘without provocation’ – and that it has been used to discredit Black women’s emotions since slavery.

 

LGBTQ+

Channel 4: Gay conversion therapy: when will the UK ban the practice?

Gay conversion therapy is the attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, through a range of methods, from prayer to sexual abuse. Reporter Minnie Stephenson investigates the distressing and painful practices members of the LGBT community are put through, and how, at its heart, this so-called therapy exploits the emotions of many LGBT people. The UK has pledged to ban gay conversion therapy, but 1,000 days after they made this promise, it’s still legal. When asked about the issue, the PM's spokesperson said the government is "considering both legislative and non-legislative options" to "end" conversion therapy.

 

DISABILITY

i-d: What does Sound of Metal mean to Deaf and hard of hearing audiences?

Sound of Metal is a 2019 American drama film starring Riz Ahmed as a metal drummer who loses his hearing. Most Deaf people don’t view their deafness as a disability or as a problem that should be fixed. For many of them, it’s a natural part of a cultural experience that they share with friends, both Deaf and hearing. Sound of Metal has been resoundingly successful among critics and hearing audiences, but its impact on the Deaf and hard of hearing (D/HoH) community has been overlooked. Touching as the film may be for hearing audiences, the response from the D/HoH community is varied, but largely negative. Sound of Metal is just another reminder that they haven’t been allowed to tell their own stories.

We welcome you to share this blog post and any thoughts or learnings with your wider community. Thank you for participating in our ongoing education, and we’ll share our next post in the series in May.

To learn more about Allison+Partners DE&I work in the UK, please check out our recent blog post, “Building a diverse and inclusive workplace” by Partner and Managing Director, Jim Selman.

MARCH 30, 2021 //     

7 UK marketing podcasts you should subscribe to in 2021

By Andrew Rogers

A year into the pandemic, we’re all starting to run low on new content to fill our spare time. So why not use your free evenings to tune into some excellent marketing and communications podcasts? Sometimes the best way to improve our expertise as comms professionals is to listen to our peers and learn from their challenges and successes.

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Make the most of your morning walk or lunchtime break by learning something new with these easy-to-digest podcasts. Here are the top seven from the UK you should subscribe to in 2021.

The PR Hub Podcast

Join hosts Adam Tuckwell and Jon Wilcox as they discuss the world of communications with leading guests from across the UK. Each episode takes a more relaxed yet always insightful look at the industry, featuring special guests from top agencies and brands.

Listen on Google Podcasts.

PR Squared

Join Aceil and Ellis, two London PR pros, as they discuss everything from the job to the exciting lives of PR professionals and navigating the future of their careers.

Listen on Spotify.

Two Geeks and a Marketing Podcast

Roger Edwards and Pascal Fintoni, two self-confessed marketing geeks, are here to keep you up to date with the latest news, tech, content and wisdom from the world of marketing. Each week you can find out what’s making headlines as well as diving back into the history of our profession.

Listen on Google Podcasts.

Marketing Week

The best way to get the latest insights from Marketing Week’s award-winning editorial team as they discuss key topics and are joined by some of the most interesting guests across the industry. This is one you don’t want to miss.

Listen on Google Podcasts.

Marketing Over Coffee

Get your weekly fix of marketing news and analysis from marketing experts John Wall and Christopher Penn. It’s the ideal podcast for learning something new while drinking your morning hot drink of choice.

Listen on Google Podcasts.

Whin Big

Here’s one for small business owners looking to do their own marketing. From effective social media strategies to building your email list, Katie Goudie delivers everything you need to know through a series of interviews with business owners and social media managers from across Scotland.

Listen on Google Podcasts.

The Stream UK

Get all the latest news and analysis from Allison+Partners in London with The Stream UK. We might be biased, but we think this is the best podcast on this list and a must listen in 2021. Not tuned in yet? You can catch up on all our episodes below!

MARCH 23, 2021 //     

Allison+Palette: Embracing A+P’s Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Differences 

By Adina James and Pearl Xu 

As conversations about race took prominence globally in 2020, organisations examined ways to better support underrepresented communities in society and in the workplace. As an industry that’s 88% white in the UK, the PR world felt particularly pressured by the demand for diversity brought forth by more recent horrific events that shook so many people to their core. While diversity, equity and inclusion have long been a priority at the highest levels of Allison+Partners, we took a moment to reflect on what we could improve.

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Our detailed DEI strategy covers learning and development, internal and external communications, client advisory work, talent acquisition and partnerships. We’ve completed work with partners that include Creative Access, The Taylor Bennett Foundation, Leeds Beckett University and Blueprint For All, with activities including specific D&I training, outreach programmes with local colleges, hosting virtual open day career workshops and fundraising. In addition to these external relationships, many of us also wondered how we could better embrace diversity within Allison+Partners. A group of us came together and created Allison+Palette – the agency’s first employee resource group (ERG) for celebrating racial, cultural and ethnic differences within the company – and the global community.

Allison+Palette is an employee-run entity that welcomes anyone from the agency to join. It aims to create a safe space for all to ensure their needs are met and various cultures are openly and fairly represented internally.  

When we officially kicked off in May 2020, many of us were justifiably frustrated at the world and angered by ignorance, denial and hate. By creating an employee-led group, we showed we were not alone in our exasperation and found strength and support in each other. The ERG quickly became a safe space for employees to share the latest news, a forum for respectful and insightful conversations with colleagues, and a symbol of Allison+Partners’ commitment to empowering all voices and embracing difficult conversations.  

At the same time, the ERG is open to anyone in the agency who seeks to actively broaden their knowledge around issues of race and cultural identity. We also publish content regularly to the wider agency to reach those who are not officially part of the ERG. By creating a space that is not exclusive, we hope to bring more people into the conversation, instead of being gatekeepers of discourse.  

As well as being a platform for discussing news, we also wanted Allison+Palette to help celebrate all our diverse cultures, ethnicities and heritages. To do so, we work with our ERG members to find out what matters most to them and help find creative formats to share information with the group and the agency. For example, timed with Black Music Month and Pride Month in June, we created a deck of musician “trading cards” to spotlight Black artists who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and highlighted their cultural contributions and discography. For the holidays, we sourced beloved family recipes from ERG members of different cultural backgrounds to create a digital global Christmas “cookbook.” For International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we curated a list of literature recommended by ERG members. It is this freedom for employees to share what matters most to them that has made the ERG so successful. 

We’re proud of our work so far and grateful for the support derived from the wider agency as our membership numbers began to grow. As a team of savvy communication professionals, we’re committed to driving genuine and sustained change from the bottom all the way to the top.  

As an employee-led initiative, Allison+Palette hopes to work even closer with company leadership as true partners and agents of change. We not only want to further equip all employees with resources and knowledge to help deliver meaningful client work, but also foster a workplace that supports underrepresented individuals across the agency. 

  

Adina is an Account Manager at Allison+Partners. She first started her career in the TV and entertainment industry working closely with diverse audiences across the emerging markets. She’s also a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a First Class Honours in Public Relations and Communications (B.A.) – her dissertation queried how crisis communication practices differ culturally across EMEA.    

Pearl is an Account Executive at Allison+Partners, working in the consumer, technology and environmental sectors. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, triple majoring in Media Studies, Political Science, and Sociology. Born in Shanghai and raised in Canada, Pearl looks to bring a global perspective to all projects she works on. 

Find out more about our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion here.

 

MARCH 19, 2021 //     

The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Reflection

By: Scott Allison

Chapter One

Jan. 26, 2020, Heathrow Airport, London. It is always difficult to pinpoint a certain moment in time when a higher level of awareness kicks in. They say before an earthquake, animals in the wild will have an inkling of coming trouble. I sat at the airport waiting to catch a flight back to the U.S. and watched a BBC report on COVID-19 that said contract tracing had failed and the virus was loose in the UK. I instinctively sensed trouble approaching.  

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Allison+Partners co-founder Andy Hardie-Brown and I had just completed the European segment of our Town Hall meetings. We had been monitoring the virus since its earliest days as we kept in close touch with our offices in China. After returning to the U.S., the next big decision was whether to complete the Asia leg of our scheduled Town Hall meetings. We decided we would, and left for South Korea in mid-February. We arrived to find a well-prepared community in the earliest stages of the pandemic. The hotels checked temperatures each time we went in, but masks were not widely worn.

On Feb. 23, we headed to the airport to fly to Singapore. And for the very first time, we donned masks. Singapore was as delightful as ever, and it was great to spend a week with our team. But storm clouds brewed. My flight home through Korea was cancelled. All flights through Korea were shut down. On Feb. 27, I flew back to San Francisco. Customs at SFO was empty. However, no temperature scans or any reference to the virus. There was a sense of naivete in the air.

Although our team thought we were over-reacting, Andy and I decided to quarantine for 10 days prior to returning to the office. Ten days seemed like a long time. If only...

On March 10, I made it back to the San Francisco office and had a chance to speak to the team. I brought up the virus and said we should continue to wash hands and be careful. I did not think it would be that serious. For the next three days, the news became progressively worse with hints of potential shutdowns. 

On March 12, we sent the team home early. And on Friday, March 13 – yes, Friday the 13th – we told everyone via conference call not to come into the office. By March 16, we had closed all offices in the U.S. and Europe, and everyone began working from home. Asia had gone into lockdown earlier. Thirty offices and 500 people just had their work life/home lives turned upside down. As one of my colleagues wrote in her blog post, quoting Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” We were going to have to figure out how to keep going, keep our people safe and keep the client work moving.

We launched into days that began at 5:30am and often did not finish until midnight. The TV news ran day and night, and images of suffering from China, Italy, the UK and finally the catastrophic loss of life in New York and New Jersey kept pouring in. If we didn’t recognise the courage of our healthcare community in the past, we certainly did now.

 

Chapter Two

As we all scrambled to set up shop at home, our problems were three-fold and changed quickly: Not everyone had the best set up to work from home, our clients needed enormous support and all our working parents were trying to figure out how to get their kids set up online. Clients struggled with the same issues. 

We decided to convene a morning global partner call at 8 am each day. Every CEO would like to think they are prepared for any crisis. I can honestly say, we were not prepared for a global pandemic that impacted every office and every employee. The global team worked almost around the clock for the next two weeks to shore up our business and support all clients. 

Allison+Partners Global President of the Corporate Division Matthew Della Croce took the lead and worked with his team to immediately develop programmes to assist our clients and their immediate corporate needs. In one weekend, we had created an entire COVID-19 communications platform. 

Our IT team went into overdrive to get everyone up and running. Microsoft Teams and the ability to chat and do live video conferencing was a major blessing. And I credit our Chief Technology Officer James Duffy for insisting we had that platform in place a year in advance. 

Global Chief Financial Officer Julia Farrell worked tirelessly with our finance team to get all of the costs out of the business with the exception of people and benefits.

Co-founder Scott Pansky led the charge on developing a programme for non-profits, since we knew they would be heavily impacted by the downturn. We offered a short term, 50% fee reduction to non-profit organisations.

Global President Jonathan Heit had moved his family to Tokyo for the year. They were now forced to stay shut down in their apartment as he continued to assist our Asia offices.

North America President Anne Colaiacovo pulled together all the GMs in the U.S., worked to create flexible schedules for anyone that needed them and pushed to keep client service moving forward.  

Demar Anderson and our lean, but mighty marketing team jumped in and began producing weekly content that helped educate clients and colleagues in developing programmes to support COVID-19 efforts, in addition to supporting all of our new business initiatives.

Our learning and development team, led by Courtney Newman, shifted from live learning events to support online efforts and marketing initiatives.

Ashleigh Butson and our global HR department played a major role in providing resources and supporting teams during this emotional time.

In our industry, we quickly saw many firms respond with layoffs and furloughs. It became our own battle cry that we would not lay off anyone due to the pandemic. This was not an easy decision, as we anticipated a hurricane of client budget cuts. This wasn’t the case until mid-April, when the cuts came fast and furious. We saw a breath-taking drop in revenue from April to May. We continued to cut all costs out of the business except for our colleagues, and it was a white-knuckle time as we limped through May and into June.

What kept us going was the dedicated and hard work from our teams around the world that responded so valiantly and kept the client work going. The major challenge was assisting many clients with their now, virtual events. Global President of the Marketing Innovation Team Cathy Planchard led the charge. Our first big event was Impossible Foods launching a new cookbook. It was supposed to be an in-person event, but we moved it to Facebook Live. The event was a major success and the starting point from where we began in earnest to help clients with their virtual events around the world.

In a meeting with the San Francisco team in late March. I predicted we would all be back in the office by May 1. I may have gotten that day right, but I was off by one year. What seemed like a short-term crisis was headed into a marathon.

 

Chapter Three

After a year in lockdown, what have we learned? The human spirit is shared globally and the resiliency of people and the ability to adapt and persevere crosses all borders. It hasn’t been easy, and I would be lying if I said it was. 

The anxiety and emotional toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on me and every person in the company is palpable. We all greatly miss the many things we took for granted in the past. Most of our kids have now been at home for more than year. Parents have had to juggle getting kids settled on Zoom calls while trying to keep work moving. Single colleagues living in isolation haven’t seen family to simply give them a hug. We have colleagues who have lost parents, grandparents and friends. The sadness can be overwhelming at times.

The emotional recovery from the pandemic will take years if not decades. Businesses have been damaged and lost, lives have been changed, and we will be forced to tackle unprecedented and enormous mental health issues.

Someday, I will try and reflect and make sense of all that was achieved. For now, I can only be grateful to the many colleagues and clients that got us through. We made mistakes during this timeframe. But in a crisis, you must move fast and do the best that you can.

When we kicked off our 2021 Town Hall meetings in January, we noted 2020 was one of the most difficult years in company history. Yet, it was one of our best. The work was exemplary, but the kindness and empathy extended to all was even better.

 

Scott is global chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners. His vision to build a positive and entrepreneurial environment where talented people at all levels could do great work and thrive has proven to be a key driver of growth for the business. The agency has an award-winning culture and employee retention rates that sit consistently above industry averages.

Find out more about how we can help you here.

 

MARCH 16, 2021 //     

The only way is up? Top go-to-market trends for CMOs in 2021

By Jill Coomber

There is no doubt that living through the pandemic has changed many marketing priorities for 2021. Doing more for less, finding growth from existing customer bases and pushing ROI to the next level are now CMOs go-to-market agendas, according to both Forrester and our own current client-centric perspectives.  

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Doing ‘more with less’ has been a constant drumbeat in marketing since I joined the industry a couple of decades ago.  With each seismic economic shock, like the pandemic now, comes a longer term shift in marketing priorities and campaigns. And with this a renewed focus on reappraisal and reinvention. This is also an exciting opportunity for increased marketing innovation and always a special time to be a leader in the industry.

Teams are Empowered to Be and Act Agile

One key trend that we are seeing is in-house teams becoming more agile in their approach. Many companies are driving to shorter decision-making times in response to an ever growing need to be agile in campaigns and delivery. The best teams are being given greater autonomy and are empowered to do more. Our advice is often being sought right now on what to do more, and less of, to optimise campaigns. One example of this is smart localisation. How best to create global content strategies that can be quickly and easily adapted for regional needs.

A New Prioritisation of Optimising Lifetime Revenue

Another key trend is the shift away from growing customer bases to optimising lifetime revenue.  This pivots our thinking and our work. It’s a given that people buy more from companies they trust and respect.  This is more than simply having a desirable product or service. It brings purpose front and centre into the brand’s messaging and content. From a business perspective, focusing on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’ and ‘what’ you offer is key to bring purpose into focus. 

Finding New Ways to Connect With Your Customer Community

Customer advocacy is also crucial here. Word of mouth recommendation has forever been at the centre of successful marketing strategies. Understanding how to fuel this advocacy is key for many marketers. The new focal point to this is community. Where is yours? How do you support them?  Make them feel special? Add value to them as people? Better customer experiences are often vital. Better virtual ones for example – more memorable and dynamic than another Zoom call or webinar.  Discussions and panels have taken off for a reason, look at the stellar success of Clubhouse and the rush of market leaders to imitate. And if we are looking at events as part of this strategy, then looking at how to engage before and after to optimise their effect. The ability for customers to interact personally with the brand is key.

Moving From Vanity Metrics to Mature Measurement

Turning now to ROI, how do you take this to the next level? We are finally moving away from vanity metrics like clicks, likes and favourites towards more mature measures of success. Measuring advocacy, awareness and conversion is where we should be. What you measure needs to align with your goals. It’s important to be realistic and understand where you are on your curve. A B2B company with a long, high value sales cycle starting from a low, or even no, base isn’t likely to create hundreds or thousands of SQLs in the first few months of a campaign. Equally investing a small test budget into a brand new consumer product from a new entrant isn’t likely to generate tens of thousands of sales. It’s important to invest in understanding customer journeys, the behaviour of your audience and market influences. Research and preparation are key.

Understanding How to Tell a Compelling Story in 2021

All of this means naught if it is not underpinned by a global strength story and content strategy.  Finding the storylines and developing standout creative ideas sits at the beating heart of any campaign. So many brands overlook the power of adding value to the conversation their customers want to talk about. The top of funnel content. Most often that does not begin with talking about your product. The same way it’s often tricky talking to the person at the party who is wrapped up in themselves versus how easy it is to sit with the witty, charming storyteller who can entertain you. 

This human-centric approach is growing even within the complex world of B2B storytelling. Whilst for consumer brands the trend ever increases to content strategies driven by actual conversations with real people rather than the SEO-heavy driven buzzword soups of yesteryear. Reflecting genuine interactions with your community is the order of the day. Your team then vitally sits at the centre of your marketing strategy. Figuring out how to balance their day jobs with being involved with their source communities more often is key to an innovative marketing future.

Moving forwards

Unintentionally, perhaps, 2020 sets the stage for an exciting and challenging 2021 for marketing teams. 2020 forced many marketers to look again at truisms and accepted practices and adapt. It amplified what worked and what did not. This sets up 2021 as a year to capitalise on these opportunities. To invest bigger in new or improved activities that really worked, perhaps some of the above, and make bold decisions to scale back on what did not. It demands great marketing from true leaders and inspired teams.

 
Jill Coomber is Managing Director of our Integrated Marketing practice in Europe. To find out more about how we can help you make the most of these trends, click here.

 

MARCH 11, 2021 //     

What is Clubhouse and How Can Brands Take Advantage?

By Lucy Arnold and David Imani

You may have heard people talking about the latest social media app Clubhouse (not to be confused with Clubhouse.io) and wondered what it is and what it means for your clients. We’re here to help break down the latest breakthrough social media phenomenon.

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What It Is

Clubhouse is an audio-based social media app self-described as “a social experience that felt more human – where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk.”

You can pop in and out of different audio chat rooms about different subjects, like a mixture of a live podcast session and a live panel discussion. Engadget likens it to the early chat room days of the internet, except now you can hear everyone. You can start your own, simply listen or choose to participate in the conversations (depending on the rules of the chat room). There’s no private messaging or written comments – it’s all audio.

And the audio stays on the app – conversations aren’t recorded or saved. The chat disappears as soon as it’s finished. 


How It’s Used

Right now, it’s still invite-only to join. The app launched early in 2020 but has since grown significantly – there are apparently two million active users and the app has already been valued at $1 billion. And it’s rumoured that after Elon Musk joined the app last week, the user base doubled to nearly five million.

Vogue said it best: “It’s easy to switch from room to room, taking part in discussions on the virtual stage once allowed by moderators (you request to speak by pressing the ‘raised hand’ emoji).” There are rooms for more ‘traditional’ virtual panels and Q&A with top speakers to more social rooms on all kinds of topic areas from dating, music, book clubs and professional networking chats. Whatever you’re interested in, chances are you can find people talking about it on Clubhouse.

 

How Can Brands Use It

Brands cannot yet have their own channels. It’s highly possible that in time brands will receive access to start accounts or there will be advertiser options, such as “sponsored” chats. For now, influencers, thought leaders, employees, brand advocates, loyalty club members and executives have many opportunities to have a voice on the platform.

To be sure, influencers are the currency here. Clubhouse even started a “Creator Pilot Programme” as an early insider focus group of some 40 influencers who provide the app with feedback and get early looks at upgrades. And the New York Times says some influencers in the pilot program have already started discussing brand deals and cross platform promotion.

Here are a few thought starters of ways to activate:

  • Work with an influencer to lead a chat about a key topic that relates to your brand, product or announcement (this should not be self-serving – it should instead be deeply conversational)
  • Inspire your brand’s loyalists/advocates to start chat rooms as a tactic for building digital community engagement
  • Tap brand executives to participate in rooms and chats about relevant areas they’re experts in (e.g. marketing chat rooms, beauty-focused chat rooms, innovation chat rooms, etc.)

 

Lucy Arnold and David Imani are part of the Allison+Partners Marketing Innovation Team. Both specialise in influencer relations and social media strategy. Click here to find out how we can help you.

 

MARCH 8, 2021 //     

PODCAST: European GTM - Launching across the continent

By Andrew Rogers

Launching a new product or service across Europe has changed dramatically over the last year. The twin impacts of the UK's departure from the EU and the coronavirus pandemic have meant traditional go to market (GTM) strategies need to be revisited.

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Andrew is joined over Zoom by A+P London's Sue Grant and A+P Munich's Heike Schubert to discuss how brands can find success launching across Europe. From localisation of assets to having the right spokespeople on the ground, we outline the steps brands need to take from day one.

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.

 

MARCH 5, 2021 //     

Has Brand Strategy Gone to the Dogs?

By Paul Sears 

Dog training is one of my life’s greatest joys, and I’ve been a prosumer at it for a little more than five years. I even got my Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) certification as groundwork for an eventual retirement side hustle. 

In real life, I’m a brand and engagement strategist, training companies large and small to adopt new beliefs and behaviours of their own. It starts with understanding internal and external perceptions, finding that all-important white space that makes them unique, and ultimately operationalising the narrative and strategy throughout the organisation. And while it’s in no way fair or appropriate to compare brands and companies to dogs – the process of motivating behaviour change is, in some ways, the same. 

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Today, brands have to be dynamic. The world continues to accelerate, and brands can’t hang their hats on a static position anymore. They need to have one foot planted while the other dances –  relentlessly iterating on products and services, business and operational models, storytelling and communications. It takes focus and orchestration (and to be fair, intelligent insights infrastructure) to be this agile. But when successful, dynamic brands can out-innovate and out-manoeuvre just about anybody.  

With the utmost respect, it’s not too dissimilar from training the pups. When working on a behaviour, changes to the training context require changes to the training process. In other words, we can’t just assume the same hand gesture that works at home will automatically work in the park with other dogs playing cheerfully nearby. The trainer must embrace a willingness to rapidly pivot their delivery of the same core training principle to suit the situation. Trainers actually have to be just as dynamic with the puppers as brands do with their customers.  

Likewise, in a world of fragmented attention, brands work hard to stay Relevant. When brands act, they must act everywhere in an orchestrated and cohesive way. It takes “Capital-A Agile” approaches to break down traditional silos and iteratively solve “what it says” and “where it goes” in the same stroke. Again, it’s not unlike dog training. The trainer faces a constant barrage of sights, sounds and smells competing for the attention of our four-legged “consumer”.  We have to plan two steps ahead, see around the corner and rapidly iterate new ways to remain the most interesting, tastiest thing on the block.

Finally, we believe brands must embrace their humanity, and be truly V.I.T.A.L. – Vision, Inspiration, Trust, Alignment and Leadership are the intangibles we use to measure the emotional connection brands create with their customers. Brands are just subjective concepts, heart-and-mind constructs that companies don’t and can’t actually own. That mental image can change at any moment and anytime anyone in the world tells our story for us. But when people truly believe, they are beyond happy to carry water for us.

When dealing with dogs, it’s also important to be VITAL. We should have a clear and consistent Vision for the behaviours we want, reinforced steadfastly in every interaction. We have to Inspire pups to perform – most often with treats, but also with play and love. We simply must cultivate Trust at every turn – the dog should see the trainer as a rock-solid partner to (quite literally) lean on. Our goals should be Aligned – one of the most fundamental things a trainer does is to see the world through the dog’s eyes. And we must Lead – a dog recognises a human as a guide through a wild and scary world; we must nurture that sacred responsibility.

Funnily enough, I’m just now in the process of helping “train” a global healthcare enterprise to express themselves more cohesively around the world. It’s the exact same approach – helping them improve their ability to be dynamic, by helping them be more agile and flexible. Teaching them to be relevant by being more consistent everywhere they are. And helping them embrace the VITAL-ity of the brand, by creating a shared Vision that Inspires internal and external constituents, creating Trust by Aligning their shared purpose, and positioning them to Lead. But instead of giving treats, it’s about enhancing business performance.

I realise it’s in no way fair to compare the brilliant minds of world-class talent at global enterprises to the charming, feeble little brains of dogs. But from a process standpoint, there are some vague similarities. Many of the techniques dog trainers employ actually come from some of the same psychologists (B.F. Skinner for example) who have shaped our understanding of human behaviour. So maybe there’s a little bit of connective tissue. 

All I know is, when brands are dynamic, relevant, and VITAL with their customers, it creates incredible enthusiasm and loyalty – just like when a trainer is dynamic, relevant, and VITAL with their pups. 

Click here to learn more about how we can help you with your branding needs.

Paul Sears is Executive Vice President, Integrated Marketing.  With nearly 20 years in advertising, social media, content and brand strategy, Paul spends most of his time helping clients sharpen their strategic focus – at the brand level or for individual products and campaigns.    

 

MARCH 2, 2021 //     

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – What We Read and Discussed (February 2021)

By Henry Mubiru

At Allison+Partners, we are dedicated to ongoing learning around the issues – both historically and presently – that marginalised communities have struggled with and unfortunately continue to face today. We know that it is through a strong commitment to education that we can start to create real change and begin to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive workplace. We strongly believe in fostering a culture where employees feel that they can bring their whole selves to work, and where we support, listen to, and encourage one another.

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As part of our larger programme, each week our DE&I committee curates an internal newsletter that covers the wide-ranging topics that fall under the DE&I umbrella – race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and others such as neuro diversity. We read, watch and listen to various pieces of content; discuss, and reflect on how these topics affect our lives as well as how we can learn from them to be better as individuals and at work. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this important work and have decided to launch a blog series, highlighting some of the most impactful content to help extend the dialogue beyond our organisation.

Please see below for some of the DE&I content highlights that we read and discussed in February. Some of the content does explore some very challenging issues, but we believe that being prepared to have uncomfortable conversations is key to creating real change.   

 

LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH

BBC Sport: Six LGBT+ sportspeople you should know more about

To mark the start of LGBT+ History Month, BBC Sport looked at the lives of six LGBT+ sportspeople who made history in their respective sports, but whose stories may not be as widely known. From the first known British transgender woman to a Wimbledon champion, an NFL Pro-Bowler and a sprinter who successfully challenged her sport's governing body.

BBC Three: Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay

This 1-hour documentary follows lead singer of Years & Years, Olly Alexander, as he uncovers the connection between the LGBTQ+ community and mental health. He also speaks with young people on their journeys in battling issues that mirror his own – from homophobic bullying, to eating and anxiety disorders – and along the way, he questions what can be done to address them.

 

Channel 4: It’s a Sin

It’s a Sin, which Olly also stars in, is about a group of gay men who move to London in 1981 and form a friendship group, but the fast-developing HIV/AIDS crisis in the United Kingdom impacts their lives.

 

BBC News: Owain Wyn Evan

BBC North West weather presenter Owain Wyn Evan spoke about what it was like growing up in South Wales, coming out at his first presenting job, and how he still receives homophobic messages on social media.

 

GENDER

The Independent: Why some young people need help exploring their gender identity

Young trans people face numerous challenges in life. These can include social discrimination, bullying, harassment and family rejection. It’s maybe not surprising then that trans youth are also at much higher risk of self-harm and suicide attempts than their peers. Research shows that for some young trans people, puberty blocking drugs can help while they explore their gender identity. Puberty blockers are medications that temporarily cause the body to stop producing sex hormones and so delay puberty.

 

RELIGION

BBC News: Supermodel Halima Aden: ‘Why I quit’

Halima Aden, the first hijab-wearing supermodel, quit the fashion industry in November saying it was incompatible with her Muslim religion. Here, in an exclusive interview, she tells BBC Global Religion reporter Sodaba Haidare the full story - how she became a model, and how she reached the decision to walk away.

 

RACE

Gal-dem: How Bridgerton, the ‘diverse’ period drama, actually treats people of colour

While the ills of racism have apparently been defeated in Bridgerton‘s depiction of 19th century England, the show itself suffers from aspects of prejudice and discrimination that persist today. The show’s diversity rings hollow given that dark-skinned Black women are mostly relegated to the background. Indeed, while people of colour are embraced into the fold of Bridgerton‘s noble families, the show still appears to indicate they are outliers, as the majority of its main cast is white.

 

To learn more about Allison+Partners DE&I work in the UK, please check out our recent blog post, “Building a diverse and inclusive workplace” by Partner and Managing Director, Jim Selman.

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 25, 2021 //     

How to Overcome 2021’s Biggest Measurement + Analytics Challenges

By Brent Diggins

Increased pressure to perform while budgets are constricting is an undesirable combination shaping early 2021 for many marketing leaders. This combination is why sound measurement and analytics is more important than ever—no longer a nice to have, but a need to have to drive strategy, optimise spend and showcase results to budget allocators.  

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In conversations with many marketing, communications and C-Suite leaders, several consistent measurement challenges have emerged as more poignant than ever for 2021. Here are our five biggest challenges and how to overcome them.

Executive Reporting vs. Campaign Reporting
Marketing leaders are often caught in a battle between executive reporting and campaign progress/optimisation reporting with little time to decipher a difference between the two. The result is that these reports, which should be two very different things, are often combined into one disjointed report that is irrelevant to some or all audiences. The cause is often due to lack of reporting strategy, process, or structure. Now is the time for organisations to really gather hold of their executive vs. campaign reporting and map their distinct purposes to showcase value internally and maximize marketing spend for growth. Missing out on either can be very detrimental in the current environment.

Telling a Clear, Succinct Data Driven Story
Many organisations have difficulty telling a clear, consumable story to those that reside outside of the marketing function like the CEO, CFO or board. A process-driven approach to data-informed storytelling is becoming an area of focus for those looking to justify budget allocation in 2021 and beyond. Defining the story, identifying the data that may help tell the story and crafting the story are all steps required to help overcome this challenge.

Proving Value to Maintain or Expand Budget
2021 will be the year where proving absolute value is essential, which means that leaders across the marketing mix will have to define their core contributions to an organisation. This fundamental question is often vague, undefined, or casually ignored, and when business and budgets are robust, that may suffice. However, each unit in the marketing mix should be prepared to develop their value proposition and marketing leaders should be prepared to tie them together using a data-driven story.

Global Consistency in Talent, Data and Technology
The difference in the global consistency of talent, data and technology is one of the biggest hurdles in unified reporting. With various levels of resources, access to data and availability of technology, data is often fragmented and different market to market. And that is before language and cultural nuances are accounted for. Connecting the fibres between local and global is where best-in-class organisations should be operating at or aiming for.

Proving New Channel Efficacy
New channels are consistently emerging, requiring marketers to evaluate and prove value. In a budget-constricted environment, a method to develop learning questions and test the waters before full-fledged spends are deployed will be more essential than ever. Channel budget diversification and predictive modeling will also be a consistent requirement in the world of ever-changing channel mixes and end customer nuances.


With these trending challenges, there are a few things that marketing leaders can start thinking about now to troubleshoot and position themselves for success in the coming year and beyond – including auditing their current technology stack and spend, aligning internal teams for unified reporting and continually optimising spend by deploying test and learn methodologies.

 

Brent Diggins is Managing Director of Measurement and Analytics. To find out more on how our European teams can help you take forward effective measurement and analytics planning and programming, click here.

FEBRUARY 17, 2021 //     

Bringing Diversity and Inclusion Into Your Brainstorms

By Andrew Rogers and Adina James


As creative professionals, we love coming up with new ideas, concepts, and campaigns. It’s probably one of the most fun parts of our jobs. Taking an amazing idea from the page and into the real world can be hugely satisfying for us and our clients.

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A challenge that our profession has long wrestled with is creating campaigns that cater to everyone, not just to those in our relatively homogenous bubble. It’s simply not good enough to create campaign concepts that might exclude people or reinforce harmful stereotypes. People want to see themselves represented in marketing in ways that are authentic and empowering, and brands want to make sure they are appealing to everyone, while also crucially doing the right thing. Social justice movements, in particular Black Lives Matter, have reminded us that we still have much work to do.

Diversity and inclusion is far too important to be retrofitted on to existing campaigns. To make them work, diverse perspectives need to be present from the very formation of campaigns. And in most cases, that’s when we run brainstorms. So how can you bring diversity and inclusion into your brainstorms, and ultimately create better, more diverse and more inclusive campaigns?  

 

Getting started

When faced with a new programme opportunity, it can be tempting to jump ahead with all sorts of creative ideas. Brainstorming (if done right) is fun, and so it’s usually the first thing we put into the diary. Whether it’s in a room or on Zoom, we can’t wait to start bouncing ideas around.

The best brainstorms however require planning and preparation, and that extends to making sure brainstorms are diverse and inclusive. Before you book in the brainstorm, ask yourself some key questions. How can this brief be made accessible? Whose insights during the brainstorm will be most invaluable? What lived experience might be useful in the room?

Then make sure you’re inviting a wide and diverse group to your brainstorm. It’s important to strike the right balance between making sure you have people with relevant lived experiences in the room, while not placing an unfair amount of burden on team members from less well represented backgrounds. Where possible though, make sure you’re widening out your brainstorm to be inclusive.

 

Look beyond your team

Your immediate team will not always have all the answers and understanding your limits when it comes to brainstorming is important too. Fortunately, there are people out there able to help and share their knowledge. Engaging with advocacy groups is a great way to make sure your campaigns thrive with groups traditionally less well represented by our profession. Make sure you offer to fairly compensate people for their time too – we of all people understand that insights have value.

 

How to run a brainstorm well

Inviting a diverse group to a brainstorm only delivers great results if people can contribute and are listened to. Make sure there are a range of ways people can contribute, as everyone works differently. Consider appointing a mediator for the session whose responsibility it is to ask tough questions and ensure everyone has a chance to speak. Finally, make sure everyone acknowledges, respects, and values personal first-hand experience.

It can also help to personify the brainstorm. Remind everyone in the room or on the Zoom that this is a people-first brainstorm and that they should think about specific personas that the campaign needs to reach. This helps people to break out of their bubbles and avoid simply designing campaigns that cater to themselves and who and what they know.  

 

Make sure to keep educating yourself

Remember throughout that no one is perfect. We cannot expect everyone to become experts at everything overnight, and that applies to developing campaigns that better represent all communities. What matters is that everyone is continuously educating themselves and remains openminded and accepting of new experiences and different ideas. It’s our duty to do this, not just as members of society, but as communications professionals providing the best advice and campaigns to our clients.

So, for your next brainstorm remember to:

  • Keep diversity and inclusion front of mind from the get-go
  • Ask yourself the right questions before, during and after the brainstorm
  • Get the right people in the room, or on Zoom, and listen to them
  • Tap external organisations as a solid gut check and fairly compensate them for their time

To find out more about Allison + Partners' approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, click here.
FEBRUARY 11, 2021 //     

Generating Leads From Podcasts

By Terry McDermott

Omnicom’s commitment to purchase £14 million worth of podcast ads with Spotify by the end of 2020 confirms the streaming platform’s investment in  Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI), a new, proprietary podcast ad technology that delivers Spotify’s full digital suite of planning, reporting and measurement capabilities. The technology offers more precise measurement of impressions and may be a key development in bringing large brands into the podcast advertising sphere. But even without the measurement technology, podcasts have worked and will continue to work for advertisers seeking leads.

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For example, after Fearne Cotton talks about her comfortable loungewear to her ‘Happy Place’ podcast audience, she tells them they can save 20% on all purchases when they go to stripeandstare.com and use the code ‘Happy 20’. Comedian Joe Rogan explains to his podcast audience the MasterClass product offering, he then tells his audience they can save 15% when they type masterclass.com/Rogan.  And HelloFresh.com/officeladies80 is the URL to which Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey of Office Ladies direct their listeners. Again, to receive a discount.

Advertisers track traffic and conversions at those URLs like nobody’s business, producing ROI reports in the blink of an eye. Their continued presence advertising with podcasters helps prove podcasts can be effective for lead generation. 

Moving away from the direct-to-consumer advertisers, using podcasts to generate leads requires some additional work. For years, print ads promoted /XYZ after a URL with uneven impact. It turns out even the most “memorable” URLs were difficult to remember. But podcasts visitors can simply hit the rewind button or replay an episode. And podcasters themselves use free podcasts to promote premium services.

With a clear definition of a lead, advertisers can use podcasts to generate leads and connect those leads to sales. In the US, retailers such as Trader Joe’s, have advertised their own podcasts on National Public Radio’s podcast network. It is easy to imagine how a retailer can track the confluence of podcast listeners and shoppers by highlighting exclusive offers on their own podcasts.

The absence of real-time conversion data is where the art of media buying and the science of media measurement collide – an advertiser that wants leads can seek the demographic data of the listeners of a specific podcast and match that with the topics typically discussed. If it seems Giovanna Fletcher’s ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’ podcast has the right audience discussing the right things, an audio ad for baby clothes by, let’s call it brand X, makes sense. But, beyond simply making sense, the advertiser can check to see the total traffic to brandx.com/happymumhappybaby. Those are the leads easily tracked back to the ad on the podcast.

For B2B advertisers, where the definition of a lead may require explicit contact information added to a CRM database, similar techniques can be used. SquareSpace.com/StarTalk is the key for listeners of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast to unlock a discount. Garyvee.com/marketingforthenow is how the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk advertised his content webinar series via his podcast. Register for the webinar – voila, you are a lead.

A more typical path in B2B will follow the example set out by Adobe in its Experience Essentials series. The series itself burnishes Adobe’s reputation as a thought leader in customer experience, and assists marketers in understanding how multi-channel marketing can boost performance. But Adobe also uses its podcast to drive traffic to https://www.adobe.com/experience-cloud/role/marketer.html

From there, live chat, the contact us button and the ability to register for free virtual events or download analyst reports turn podcast traffic into actionable leads. It may not be certain the lead came from a podcast – yet, if the podcast performs a different role, adding a lead gen component is an easy way to squeeze even more value out of the tactic.

Thus, whether explicitly to deliver leads or serve another purpose, our advice to marketers producing podcasts is simple: create and promote a unique URL extension to which you will direct podcast listeners. From there, promote the same offers that are available to traffic from other sources (paid search, re-marketing banners, trade eNewsletters). Existing tracking can then be used to understand which leads are attributable to the podcast, and marketers have another channel they can measure, optimise and compute ROI on their way to filling the sales pipe. Improvements in ad measurement have arrived, and more may come. But there is no reason to wait.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your integrated marketing needs, get in touch at terrance.mcdermott@allisonpr.com 

Terry McDermott is a digital evangelist with expertise in turning objectives into strategic plans and developing, executing, and measuring demand generation programs. He leverages his background in direct response techniques, including CRM marketing, to develop insights that build lead gen and customer acquisition campaigns. He also creates account-based marketing programs for key prospects, selecting targets via predictive modelling and creating marketing automation campaigns to nurture and score leads. Additionally, McDermott advocates for investments in emerging digital products, technologies and channels, while building and managing teams to generate leads, boost sales and increase awareness.

 

FEBRUARY 1, 2021 //     

PODCAST: Return on Investment - Measurement and Metrics

By Andrew Rogers

With campaign plans now in full swing for 2021, we're turning our attention to the all important, yet often overlooked topic of return on investment and measurement. Budgets are being squeezed across the board, and showing the value of our campaigns has never been more important.READ MORE


Andrew is joined over Zoom by A+P London's Dan Whitney and Gina Mossey to discuss the biggest challenges when it comes to demonstrating the value of campaigns. Join us as we take a look at the past, present, and future of communications measurement.

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.

 

JANUARY 18, 2021 //     

CES 2021 Reveals the Latest Consumer Tech Trends, and Why Having a Virtual Presence is Key for Brands

By Taylor Burke

In a year where few things were normal and many things were cancelled, the world’s biggest tech show carried on. Last January, shortly before many of us moved to a remote format, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held its 2020 show in Las Vegas’ Convention Center, where brands from coast to coast and from countries all over the world gathered to share their latest innovations. Though it may seem hard to visualise now, Lenovo unveiled its 5G laptop to attendees face-to-face and LG shared its Rollable OLED TV with interested editors and consumers IRL.

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This year, CES came back – but this time, virtually. It was the first time since its inception in 1967 that CES put on an all-digital convention. Throughout the January 11-14 show, brands didn’t showcase interactive displays on a convention floor, but effectively featured their latest technology online: for example, they showcased robots who can clean, entertain, educate and so much more (a stark contrast to the first solid-state TV unveiled at the premiere show 54 years ago). Through this new approach, CES proved more than ever that technology has the power to keep us connected no matter the circumstance.

If 2020 taught us anything, to maintain interconnectivity and stay relevant in a new, increasingly fast-paced (and mostly digital) environment, brands must now leverage virtual tools to showcase their latest offerings. This is done most effectively while continuing to tap into evolving consumer and technology trends. Companies who attended this year’s CES showcased smart innovations via online showrooms, live streamed press events and press releases. CES boasts the world’s best technology and most innovative thinking – so what can we glean from a broader consumer perspective regarding the hottest upcoming trends and best-in-class virtual presentations? Here are some of the most noteworthy themes and brand adaptions from this year’s virtual show:

Personalisation is still preferred
The closer to an in-person demo a brand can provide, the better. Hi-res product and lifestyle images are table stakes, but brands should consider internally captured b-roll as a compelling way to simulate a hands-on experience (and make it dynamic, both from a storytelling perspective as well as for use in coverage). From smaller to larger companies, those that did this during the first virtual CES left a lasting impression on editors and overall attendees.

Digitised healthcare is here to stay
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of health-focused innovations now – and in the future. With more of an emphasis on stay-at-home care, people have come to realise the benefit of remote monitoring when it comes to not only COVID-19, but diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea (among other syndromes). Brands whose offerings enable people to manage their health care remotely fared well at CES: for example, Medwand showcased its tool that connects to a smartphone or tablet so physicians can remotely check vital signs and other health parameters.

Novelty makes headlines
Technology has become such a part of our everyday lives that new advances hardly surprise us anymore. Most of us own and operate a computer, a smart phone, a tablet – and many even a smart microwave or mirror. To stay ahead of competitors and really make a splash, brands in all industries have to be creative and think outside the box. Case-in-point: beauty brand Ninu received notable media coverage for revealing its smart fragrance that connects to cell phones and allows users to mix and match scents.

Technology is one of our most trusted resources
As people have become increasingly reliant on and confident in in-home technologies to support their needs this year, brands tuning into this are meeting with great success. CES participants were excited to experience the positive impact technology can have on their everyday lives (i.e. VOYs’ new glasses and sunglasses that enable wearers to change their prescription with a simple dial twist).

Consumers want - and expect - customisation 
Customisable offerings can create compelling storyline opportunities (i.e. an explanation of how a brand determines which styles are offered to consumers) that ultimately bolster awareness. Samsung announced its Bespoke refrigerators at this year’s show, and the line’s range of colors, materials and finishes garnered a lot of traction due to the creative power it provided to shoppers.

As 2021 moves forward, brands can maximise their impact by leveraging these trends in new product launches, service updates, thought leadership narratives, social content and more. Further, businesses will need to prioritise virtual PR and marketing tactics - such as digital, compelling desk sides and livestreamed announcements - to reach consumers where they are today: at home, connected to their devices and eager to hear how companies and their technologies can improve their lives.

To find out more on how Allison+Partners can help your brand leverage the latest trends and virtual events, click here.

 

JANUARY 13, 2021 //     

PODCAST - 2021 Predictions: Back to the crystal ball

By Andrew Rogers

A New Year means a new set of communications and marketing predictions from the team at Allison+Partners in London. We're blowing the dust off our crystal ball and taking another look into the future, breaking down the top trends for 2021. 
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Andrew is joined by Jill Coomber, Sue Grant, and Kate Lynch as they discuss what you can expect from a busy PR landscape in the year ahead. From cut-through content to meaningful thought leadership, this podcast will set you off in the right direction as you roll out your 2021 communications plans.


Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.
JANUARY 11, 2021 //     

Building a diverse and inclusive workplace

By Jim Selman 

When the history books on the year 2020 are finalised, it will certainly be an annual for the ages.  The unfathomable level of hardship and challenge on the mental, physical, and social aspects of our lives has been extraordinary and has not yet subsided.  At the same time, the very best of human nature can seize this opportunity to be better and to improve the lives of future generations.

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The current discourse around social justice is a historic opportunity to create real permanent change, and as business leaders we have a moral responsibility to build diverse organisations where everyone feels empowered to bring their whole self to work.  We can also now recite the well-known McKinsey statistic that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform the competition.

But the challenge is still significant. The updated 2020 Parker Review earlier this year left a stark reminder.  Out of the 256 companies with meaningful data, almost 60% had yet to appoint a board director from a BAME background.  A similar report by the recruitment consultancy Green Park in 2019 found that the number of BAME board members decreased to 7.4% from 2018’s 9%.  Within our own industry the picture is equally challenging, as only 9% of colleagues come from a racially diverse background.  On the senior end of our industry, 87% of Chairmen and Managing Directors identify as White British.

As the tragic events around the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others lit the touchpaper for the global growth of the Black Lives Matter movement into the mainstream, we wanted to discuss what was happening and to explore the issue of prejudice as it manifests here in the UK.  We checked in with each other, discussing the issues, and sharing as much information, insight, and personal experience as possible.  Identity is intensely personal, intersectional, and nuanced.  The issues of prejudice are numerous, and they impact us on so many levels that we knew we needed to act.

Our discourse led to the identification of key challenges that we need to tackle to be better, and to evolve our organisation so that we can truly realise the transformative power of diversity and inclusion.  To deliver on this mission, we began to explore the following aspects of our business:

How we communicate: Evolve how we communicate internally to ensure we respect and empower identity.  Create regular, challenging conversations, explore the topics that enrich us and strengthen our professional relationships, from quarterly discussion groups and external speakers to weekly newsletters, essays and personal accounts. We are also improving our approach to external communications to better convey our agency approach to DE+I and encourage like-minded professionals to come and join our organisation. 

Making us more representative: Pivot our approach to hiring to ensure we can field a more diverse set of candidates and manage an evolved interview process to ensure each candidate has an equal opportunity to succeed.  We have updated our onboarding programme to ensure all new hires feel empowered to bring their whole self to work, and from the first day, build out our career development programmes to help equip tomorrow’s leaders for long-term careers in our organisation. 

Building an ecosystem of like-minded partners:  Work closely to develop long-term partnerships with like-minded groups, dedicated to diversity and inclusion.  We have already been privileged to create a community around our organisation with others from the non-profit sector, training companies, academic institutions, and pre-competitive relationships in the private sector. Developing this ecosystem of relationships is key to supporting new talent, our colleagues and driving the cultural and social change that is so clearly needed.

Developing advisory capabilities for our clients: Develop capabilities, tools, data and insight to support our clients and the work we do to ensure it sets the very highest bar for diversity.  This includes everything from our upstream work on marketing strategy and planning, to identifying diverse voices in the media and influencer space, the work of our industry leading measurement and analytics team, and our new creative review board that assesses ideas to ensure that our work is as diverse and inclusive as possible.

Our work so far gives us confidence for what lies ahead but there is a huge amount to be done.  As a group of marketers and communicators, we are committed to real change in our organisation and a future where a diverse and inclusive workplace is the norm, rather than the exception. 

DECEMBER 16, 2020 //     

Five 2021 Predictions from Marketing and PR Pros

By Jill, Sue and Kate

It’s nothing new to say that the world was turned on its head in 2020. Every person within every industry has been affected in one way or another and the PR and marketing industries are no exception. While the nature of our job is to inform, drive and capitalise upon trends and insights, the emergence of COVID-19, as well as the tumultuous political landscape, made this challenging to say the least.

How do you inform trends in an – and we’re sorry to use this word – ‘unprecedented’ situation? How do you meet client objectives, while the landscape is witnessing an upheaval, and consumer and B2B habits and entire industries are being changed forever?
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The short answer is, no one knows. We’re all navigating blind and learning as we go because this is a situation that no one has ever been in before. This makes 2021 predictions all the more challenging, given the unpredictable nature of the world we currently live in. However, as we reflect on what we have learned this year, we have shared five predictions below of what we expect to trend in the coming year for both Consumer and B2B PR and marketing. 

1. Spokespeople with a POV will be more important than ever. A spokesperson that plays it safe or sticks to a branded script will no longer make news. The competition for media presence will be even more fierce. As industries continue to evolve and shift in unprecedented ways, media crave brand representatives who stand for something and aren't afraid to say it, and can offer insightful commentary and content on what the future holds.

2. Bylines are back. While we’ve talked about bylines since the dawn of PR time, there will be a new importance to them in 2021. As media teams continue to shrink, publications are more open to receiving byline content from PR practitioners. Content will still need to be fresh, so it’s worth baking bylines into 2021 PR plans to best prepare the most compelling narratives.

3. Investing in unique ways to make and maintain media relationships will pay off. In 2020, it often felt like walking on eggshells when reaching out to journalists. Is now a smart or sensitive time to pitch? Is my pitch still timely with the current news cycle? Building relationships with the contacts you work regularly with will continue to be critically important. And to do this might range from investing time (allocating time for teams to read journalists’ content and share kind feedback separate to outreach on behalf of a client) to investing in resources (perhaps you Deliveroo the journalist’s favourite meal to chat about your news over a virtual lunch). Taking the time to be thoughtful, appreciative and supportive will continue to pay dividends.

4. Content will be the King of Overwhelming. In the face of the pandemic, the seas of content have turned into oceans, and target audiences are drowning in it. This will continue in 2021. What does this mean for marketing and PR pros? To stand out, you will need to say something different to your competitors. “Quality over quantity” has never been more meaningful. Instead of pushing out loads of content without a unique perspective, it’s critical to invest the time and resources to understand the DNA of your brand, monitoring the competitive set, and thus producing content that shares something different to breakthrough and offers your target something meaningful.

5. Companies will be held accountable for Diversity & Inclusion promises. In 2020, Diversity & Inclusion issues were catapulted to the forefront of conversation as companies and individuals were challenged to recognise biases and injustices, and put an action plan forward to do better. The importance of doing better isn’t going anywhere, and companies and industries will be held accountable. It will be critical for organisations to continue to act upon Diversity & Inclusion initiatives and keep it top of mind to make change-forward decisions and campaigns. 

Looking to 2021, one thing is for sure - marketing and PR practitioners will need to stay agile and nimble. The quickly changing landscape will continue to shift and surprise us as we face new challenges. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s our resilience. Game on, 2021. 


To find out more on how our European teams can help you take forward new PR and marketing strategies and programmes for 2021, click here.

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 //     

PODCAST: Localisation - Speaking the right language

By Andrew Rogers

When it comes to running international campaigns, localisation is so important. From digital marketing, to print ads, to the humble press release, a simple translation without localisation just doesn't cut it. But with a never ending list of cultural differences to consider, how can you get your European and global campaigns right?READ MORE

Andrew is joined over Zoom by an international panel of experts across A+P's London and Munich offices to discuss all things localisation. Gina Mossey, Sophie Konigsberger, Jess Docherty and Dan Whitney are all on hand to run through the good, the bad and the ugly of running multi-market and international campaigns. 


Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.


NOVEMBER 26, 2020 //     

Bridging the Geographical Gap in a Global Workforce

By Stephanie Libous

If you go to the front page of Allisonpr.com, you’ll see it says that “Allison+Partners is a global marketing and communications agency driven by a collaborative approach to innovation and creativity.” Having spent the past six and a half years of my career at A+P, I can without a doubt say that this descriptor only scratches the surface.

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Nearing a decade into my career, I have had the opportunity to call both the US and the UK my home. In 2017, I moved from our New York office over to London. It didn’t take long to fully appreciate the global and collaborative nature that Allison+Partners fosters, and how important that is to being a successful organisation.

Whether you’re from New York, Phoenix, London, Singapore or Mumbai, when you step into your agency’s local office, you should immediately feel as though you are in your own office amongst colleagues you work with every day. With all of the modern technology we have at our fingertips, in theory this is an easy task. However, many of us know all too well the resistance of adopting new technology, particularly as we’re already using quite a few – how many of us can even count on one hand the number of communication platforms we’re on?

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of technology and pushed us to embrace it with open arms. During this time, communication and collaboration has drastically changed, in my opinion, for the better. Below are three key elements and lessons for working globally in 2020 and beyond.

Over-communicate and actively listen

In public relations, the phrase “communication is key” is thrown around quite a bit. While this is true, how effective is it if we fail to understand the meaning behind what is actually being said? When working in global teams, you have to bridge not just the geographical divide, but the cultural divide as well.

The first step is to never assume anything. This means stepping outside of your own preconceptions and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand their position. Communication is the means by which we express human behaviour. When you tune into the nuances of human behaviour and the motivators behind it, you begin to understand the purpose of that communication – both verbal and non-verbal.

Second, employ active listening skills through non-verbal behavior and reflective statements while checking for understanding throughout conversations. In-person, this would mean closing your laptop and putting your phone down. Virtually, it means closing down other apps and directing your full attention to the meeting at hand - no multitasking!

Third, be descriptive and choose the communication medium most appropriate to the person, task and need at hand. This could be in an email, a chat, phone or video call, or even a voice memo. Because we can no longer just “pop over” to someone’s desk, we need to think through the best way to communicate our needs.

The importance of cross-team collaboration

Since COVID-19 restrictions have left many of us working from home for extended periods of time, I have personally found working with cross office teams much easier. For me, it has felt like the barrier of not being together in-person is broken down and I have refined my remote working style, allowing me to better collaborate with those I’m not around every day.

A few ways to effectively achieve this include making an effort to know who is on your team, actively seeking contributions and views from each of them, and maintaining openness to their opinions and suggestions.

The majority of my teams are global, the largest spanning across nine different markets. I’ve been able to facilitate a collaborative work environment by recognising their local expertise and valuing their strategic insight. Further, I try to make myself as available as possible for one-on-one and group touch bases. This fosters a sense of strong partnership amongst the team.

Strike a balance

Organisations need help navigating this new landscape, balancing human sensitivity with an ever-changing set of guardrails. As technology is bringing us closer together, the idea of a work-life balance has stepped aside in favour of a work-life blend. However, we need to be mindful of our colleagues’ boundaries and how they have adjusted their daily routines to fit the remote working conditions we are currently in, not to mention the added stress on mental health that has come from lockdown, dealing with an ill family member or possibly being ill themselves.

Demonstrating empathy by acting in a caring and supportive manner is probably the most important takeaway here. Dr. Brené Brown explains this quite well in a short animation from The RSA, where she talks about the difference between sympathy and empathy, and argues that to be truly empathetic you have to be vulnerable by connecting with someone's pain in yourself.

Where do we go from here

The PR and marketing landscape is constantly changing, even when it’s not the middle of a pandemic. Adding the uncertainty of COVID-19, the industry shapeshifting is at an all-time high. The remote nature of working has shed light on the value of global thinking and global campaigns, relying on global teams to bring diverse experiences and local expertise.

As we head into 2021, it will be important to remember that just because we are remote, doesn’t mean we can’t still interact and learn. Make the most of knowledge sharing by continuing to utilise your content hubs with professional development lessons, podcasts, newsletters, etc; leaning on your global colleagues for different points of views and ways of working; and taking breaks to avoid burnout.

Communication and workstyles aren’t one-size-fits-all, and this is especially true when working with a global team. When organisations take the time to ensure their employees across borders are taking a collaborative approach to communication and innovation, they will ultimately have a more productive and open line of communication, leading to better overall success.

 

To learn how our international teams can help you, click here.

NOVEMBER 20, 2020 //     

London’s Lockdown 2.0: What We’ve Learned

By Gina Mossey

It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks here in the UK. COVID-19 rates climbed in a second wave, creeping up county by county around the nation. As we awaited Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official confirmation of the widespread lockdown we all saw coming, we watched on tenterhooks as the stress of the U.S. election affected our friends and colleagues across the pond.

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As we reach the (official) halfway point of Lockdown 2.0, this time around it’s taken a lot less getting used to. It closes out a year full of ups and downs and twists and turns for us all, plus too many buzzwords to count: plenty of “pivoting”, “adapting” and “evolving”. It also brings with it some time for reflection.

I spoke to A+Pers across the UK team to find out the biggest lessons we’ve learned this year to take forward into 2021.

Dan Whitney, Managing Director, Content Strategies

“Working from home has really brought a renewed sense of personalisation to our working relationships. Before, you only saw clients on the other side of a boardroom table: now we are inside each other’s lounges, bedrooms and studies! While perhaps not our ideal scenario, the insight into our personal lives has removed barriers and allowed for a mutual respect and understanding of what we’re collectively going through. Re-evaluating how we work and where we work is something we can all carry forward to next year.”

George Collins, Account Executive 

“I really enjoyed Partner and Co-founder Scott Pansky’s recent advice in a training session on trying our best to avoid using “but” and replacing it with “and…” Encouragement of conversation is something, particularly in 2020, we must carry forward in work and personal life.

I’m proud of how I’ve embedded myself as a member of the London team, considering I only had 1.5 days working out of the Kings Cross office before lockdown started! Despite not being physically present with my colleagues, I’ve been warmly welcomed into the team and feel mutual trust as a colleague to my co-workers.”

Andrew Rogers, Account Director

“It sounds obvious, but actually talking to people is still the best way to get things done. Yes, Zoom can be awkward and weird, but it’s always best to find a way to talk, whether that’s with clients, journalists or other team members. You get more done in a 5-minute video call than in an hour of emails going back and forth.” 

Jess Docherty, Senior Account Manager, Integrated Marketing

“I have loved watching communities come together. Where I live in Kentish Town, a local graphic designer Karishma Puri started an incredible photographic project @isolating.together, which shares stories of how my local community has come together to support and uplift each other.

This inspired me to value the small moments and invest time in connecting with neighbours and local projects, and live the project’s motto that “no matter how difficult times get, together we are capable of extraordinary things.“

Jim Selman, Partner + Managing Director, UK + Ireland

“We have made more of a priority to talk to each other about matters not necessarily directly linked to work, and I think that has been extraordinarily enlightening, as well as helping to strengthen relationships, and our culture.”

Jill Coomber, Managing Director, Integrated Marketing Europe

“We could not be prouder of the team than we have been this year. Their agility, passion, energy and commitment through these challenging times has been beyond outstanding.

Best advice? Take a moment, step back, see the bigger picture and think in threes: the now, the near [future] and the long [term].”

And finally, a word from me. I’m so proud of how all of my colleagues at A+P have tackled this year with gusto, exceeding expectations all year round. Nelson Mandela once said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” For me, this nails the ethos we’ve all shared this year.

Collaborating with colleagues and clients throughout the uncertainty has led to new projects, scopes and skills across the board. As we look forward to recharging over Christmas and New Year, we will return wiser and stronger, ready for whatever 2021 brings.

To find out more on how our European teams can help you take forward new PR and marketing strategies and programmes for 2021, click here.


Gina Mossey is an Account Director on the All Told Europe team, delivering outstanding integrated client campaigns, and she also leads our A+P Europe in-house marketing team. Her eight years at A+P span both B2B and consumer work, and her specialisms include brand storytelling, content strategy, lead generation and influencer marketing. 

NOVEMBER 18, 2020 //     

B2B Lead Gen While Social Distancing

By Terrance McDermott 

Reactions to the pandemic have all but eliminated in-person contact between B2B sales professionals and prospects, leaving some wondering, “How do I promote my business now?” The looming economic uncertainty also adds the marketing challenge of potentially generating and pursuing prospects who may not even know their true budget authorisation or their organisation’s near-term needs.

One clear pivot is to focus on strengthening relationships with existing customers. In the best case, perhaps it leads to an upgrade, an upsell or new users within an existing customer organisation. At a minimum, it is an effort at customer retention.

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Unlock the Value of Your CRM Data

All organisations should take another look at their CRM database. No matter the sophistication of the marcom tech stack, the CRM system can yield a gold mine of avenues for marketers to pursue. Minimal contact information, even for key daily contacts? Figure out how to add name and phone number. Ask the sales team, search for the e-mail naming convention. If need be, call the main number! Extensive information about various influencers and decision-makers? Email them your most recent industry information. And if you don’t have something recent, create it! Build an infographic, create a survey and share results. Find a video of an industry thought leader and share the link. And there is a lot of room in between.

Understand Your Customers

In addition to strengthening relationships, marketers can also seek data. Now is the time to become a LinkedIn expert. Is the LinkedIn insight tag loaded on your website? Add it and begin learning more about the visitors to your website, and a small re-marketing campaign will be a quick addition. From there, you can learn more about the content consumed by the industry you market to. That provides direction for the next piece of content you’ll produce.

An organisation with extensive CRM data can use LinkedIn’s matched audience features for an ad campaign that will reach the exact people in the CRM database and others at the company. Then, the current environment presents a perfect opportunity for marketers to declare which other contacts at a current customer can influence upsell or retention. We often work with clients to define the buying group early in the sales cycle, but it is just as relevant for retention or upsell. Determine the title of end-users for your product, understand who may have originally created a vendor search with the assistance of procurement and investigate who within a client organisation helps determine “value.” Small marketing campaigns to reach those individuals at an important client will help make them advocates for you – either in the face of a competitor, or for an add-on that will more fully use your product. 

Make a Plan for Growth

Now you have an expanded audience of influencers for whom you can adjust existing content or create something new. By this point, you have built an account-based marketing plan without ever making the declaration. You know the companies who are your current customers, thus similar companies are easier to determine. You know the content those customers consume. You know the titles at those companies who use your product. Now you can fill out your database with added information to strengthen relationships.

Of course, LinkedIn is just a first step, and many marketers already use its capabilities to the fullest. Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn, has slowly expanded opportunities to use LinkedIn profiles outside of LinkedIn itself. You may now be in a position to push further with data vendors who can help build a stronger and updated list, media vendors who can help you target the exact people you want to reach, trade publishers who can burnish your thought-leadership credentials, and other martech providers who can help push you up the learning curve. There’s no shortage of martech vendors.

But the best way to put them to work for you is to first understand your customers, the individual influencers and end-users within customer organisations, and what they need from your product or service. From there, whether you are equipped to go fast or you must go slowly, upgrades and upsells are the clear next steps. 

If you'd like to sign up for our weekly COVID-19 updates, click here.

Terry McDermott is a digital evangelist with expertise in turning objectives into strategic plans and developing, executing, and measuring demand generation programs. He leverages his background in direct response techniques, including CRM marketing, to develop insights that build lead gen and customer acquisition campaigns. He also creates account-based marketing programs for key prospects, selecting targets via predictive modeling and creating marketing automation campaigns to nurture and score leads. Additionally, McDermott advocates for investments in emerging digital products, technologies and channels, while building and managing teams to generate leads, boost sales and increase awareness.

NOVEMBER 11, 2020 //     

CES 2021 Confirms Need for Marketers and Brands to Reimagine, Not Replace

Organisations that spent the first half of 2020 adjusting to meet the pandemic’s challenges learned by mid-summer their pivots would be longer and deeper than expected. This became more evident when events and trade shows had to be cancelled, postponed or moved online, particularly CES 2021.

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The world’s largest trade show, which brings 175,000 people to Las Vegas every year, will be fully virtual for the first time. For brands “exhibiting,” the implications of CES’ move run far and wide. With over 67 UK businesses promoting the UK’s technology sectors at CES this year, how will the industry adapt and change to the new virtual event?  Probably more than any other sector the exhibitors and brands attending should be able to adapt and re-image how they sell themselves, but there is still much we can learn and do ahead of the event in January 2021. How can you showcase your technologies in an environment where they can’t be touched? How can you still get media attention when you can’t physically track down reporters to bring them to your booths? What about all the in-person prospecting and deals you expected to make? What new digital opportunities are there for UK challenger brands who may have been unable to attend CES physically before?

The solution is too reimagine, not replace.

We recently ran a webinar that include some insights and best practices shared by our seasoned CES pros to maximise your investments in 2021, click here to learn more.

Production values

We’re no longer restricted to the same old formats, which can be an advantage. You can turn a previously physical event into a digital experience and/or reimagine the purpose to drive even more value. But it’s not as simple as just moving the speech, meeting, experience or demo online.

As a brand or marketer, consider – does the presentation, panel or demo really need to be live? Unless you offer the audience a chance to actively engage with the content, the answer is no. If you planned to do a quick product demo or give a speech without audience participation, there’s no reason to go live virtually. Instead, tape in advance with high production values and premiere it, similar to a new song or movie premiere. Present content in a moment in time to build buzz and anticipation.

Marketers also now have the opportunity to use a mix of different platforms to offer a better overall experience. Think about your past in-person speeches or product demos. Most of the audience was likely far away from the stage and struggled to see, while the speaker was likely confined to a podium. But with recorded video, you can change the perspective, use multiple cameras and angles, and showcase products in ways you couldn’t in-person. Bring the audience into settings they haven’t been able to see before. Because you’re no longer confined to a stage, now everyone can have the best seat in the house.

While production values are important, equally so is the presentation itself. During the pandemic, many have learned the hard way that reading scripts on a Zoom camera or self-shot video doesn’t create a quality or engaging experience. The medium is intimate, the camera is close and reading from a script comes off as robotic or wooden.

It’s even more important now to be personable and approachable to convey warmth, emotion and excitement. Words matter. Without being there in person to see, hear or touch the latest product, you must choose the right descriptive words. Delivery also matters. You can’t hide emotions from a camera that’s just inches from your face, so the delivery must have genuine energy and enthusiasm.

Brands and marketers should also factor in the audience’s accessibility and experience in ways they might not have previously. For example, you can use many custom online platforms and interfaces to connect with audiences. But some might require audiences to install new software or set up unusual or new camera configurations. Avoid putting the technological or logistical burdens on your audience.

Also think about what would best serve them. Would it be awkward to put 10 strangers in a virtual room and force them to chat? Do they even want to be on camera? You might need to create ice breakers or only put people together who already have a relationship, just like you would when assigning seating at tables for in-person events.

Likewise, rethink opportunities to personally meet the media. At past CES tradeshows, exhibitors connected with working media at parties, dinners, drinks and other hospitality events to pitch their wares and build relationships. Now, those meetings will migrate to the virtual world. Don’t force a Zoom happy hour on random media members and create awkward moments.

Also reimagine pre-briefings to make them more engaging and relevant. In the past, brands did not reveal everything in the pre-brief, opting instead to announce the big surprises at live, in-person press conferences. The possibility of surprise was a good way to lure media to your stage. Not anymore. Reporters can’t be at all live online press events and may opt to watch a replay instead. And it will be more difficult to get media attention at the last minute. It’s better to give reporters as much information upfront in the pre-brief and not sit on the big surprise. Giving reporters as much information in advance to write a full story is also something they will appreciate and remember.

Media matters

The fully virtual CES format eliminates the chance to let the media literally get its hands on new products. If or when possible, brands should consider including products in media kits or care packages or arranging one-on-one meetings with the most important media targets to give them a change to get hands-on. Given the pandemic, any one-on-ones should obviously be done under strict protocols to protect everyone’s health.

In addition, Media Day moved a week later than usual to 11 Jan.. As a result, reporters will likely have a long day of online events, so make sure your presentations are as direct and engaging as possible. During the past six months of virtual meetings, we’ve learned the media has not been shy about using social media to complain about terrible online presentations or to praise when they’ve gone well. And don’t hold a standalone online event unless it’s genuinely warranted, especially in a crowded week like CES.

The reality is CES may not have the same attendance or impact this year either as it competes for attention. Focus on your core group of media, prioritising quality over quantity. Paid content distribution will also be essential to replace your impact with media, key opinion leaders and influencers. Consider paid amplification of key media coverage and other brand assets to help boost impressions.

Rethink the hospitality and entertaining format

While the media will be pulled in many different virtual directions, so too will brands, marketers and customers who had expected to prospect and make deals face-to-face. Traditionally, there would have been hospitality suites with a variety of people coming and going, not necessarily having to interact with others unless by choice. Online, there won’t be a chance for them to just watch or participate passively.

Again, make sure their experiences are meaningful and not awkward. Create experiences both online and offline that feel highly curated and special. Make meaningful connections by sending direct mail kits, premium swag and brand assets. They can still come into an online environment, get brand messaging and learn all about the products and things they were supposed to. But they need to also have a fun, highly entertaining experience. Combining online and offline elements will add a much-needed interlude from continuous screen time.

As January quickly approaches, if marketers think about approaching CES in the same manner as past years, they will reap disappointment. Brands must actively reshape their marketing and communications strategies to find new ways to connect and garner attention in a crowded online environment. No more standing in line waiting to get into a press conference or the 2-hour cab queue, you can do and see more than ever as long as the exhibitors are ready.

With better tech solutions tracking who is “virtually” attending, focused digital targeting to really drive engagement and key messages and an on-demand audience that are ready and more than ever to be involved, brands have an opportunity to establish a personal dialogue with the audience and turn what could have been seen as a negative into a positive profitable experience for all.  

Cathy Planchard is Global President of All Told and Dan Whitney is Managing Director Content Strategies of All Told Europe.

NOVEMBER 5, 2020 //     

PODCAST: Brand Purpose - Why it Matters For B2B Brands

By Andrew Rogers

What do we mean by brand purpose? Why does it matter that B2B brands  have one? And what do we recommend to B2B brands looking to get started on this journey? READ MORE

Andrew is joined over Zoom by Steph Libous to discuss brand purpose for B2B businesses, taking a deep dive into research from our recent Talk Human To Me report. Make sure you tune in to find out how you can define your brand purpose and get started on finding the whitespace for your business.  


Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.


NOVEMBER 3, 2020 //     

Purpose in the COVID era

By Jim Selman

If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it is that there are times when the state cannot manage alone.  Sometimes, the challenge is so big that it requires a truly collective responsibility to find a solution, to keep us safe, to recognise the risks and to run towards the problem rather than expect it to be handled by somebody else. 

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During the first lockdown, COVID seemed to get its unofficial positioning in the UK next to the Second World War.  Lots of comparisons were made about the challenges to our civil liberties, the sense of loss that we would need to come to terms with, and ultimately the scale of the effort required to overcome this global pandemic.  Together with the subsequent, global, era-defining social justice movement, pushing us to evolve as a society, we face a truly unique set of challenges and a clear expectation to act.  The inevitable question then comes… “What did you do during the war?” 

The private sector has a renewed sense of responsibility to step forward, and their stakeholders will rightly ask the hard questions to understand whether they are doing so.  We have known for years that corporate reputation and purpose are inextricably linked.  The days of simply managing the external communication of performance are long gone.  Customers, government, media, consumers, suppliers, academia, and others are themselves being judged by the decisions they make and the company they keep.  They want to know that the businesses behind the services and brands they choose are active beyond profit and hold themselves to the highest possible standards.

Even before the extraordinary events of 2020, purpose was a term in a perpetual state of evolution.  It is often part of a lexicon that includes CSR, social impact, cause, sustainability, beyond profit, and conscious capitalism.  Although the label for purpose can differ, the key is how you best deploy it in your organisation:

  • Do not delegate:  The gravity and sensitivity of this work requires it to sit at the very top of the organisation, led by its most senior stakeholders.  This group is expected to partner with others to plan and execute, and it is very important to consult with and get input from employees.  However, the ultimate responsibility for an organisation’s purpose sits squarely in the boardroom.  Our role as consultants is to facilitate this process and to ensure it is kept honest.
  • Don’t try to boil the ocean:  Purpose should make sense to your organisation.  Remember it is a foundational strategy, linked to the operation of your business.  Use all available data to help guide the development process, and make sure to look both externally and internally to gain insight.
  • Communicate Inside – Out:  It is important to build consensus around purpose internally first.  Your organisation is full of potential advocates who can support, and it is key that you bring them along with you.
  • Be transparent:  By its very nature, a long-term sense of purpose should keep your organisation honest and ensure that the highest possible standards are being held.  Therefore, transparency is mandatory.  You build a more credible relationship with your stakeholders if you can speak to how your organisation is not delivering its purpose, and therefore what you are doing to overcome this.  Don’t be afraid to share the good and the bad.
  • Be brave:  When the world around us is creaking under the strain of a global combination of once-in-a-generation challenges, you need to come out swinging.  Take a risk and demonstrate how far you are willing to go.  Everyone else is making sacrifices, so you need to step up too.
  • Make it measurable:  Perhaps an obvious point, but like every other business strategy, your purpose will need to be measurable so that you can prove its value beyond profit.
  • Be agile:  Purpose may address something foundational to the operation of your organisation.  But if change is required elsewhere, then don’t be afraid to pull it back in the boardroom.  Make purpose part of the agenda.

Creating, nurturing, and sustaining purpose requires a long-term approach.  The overly used term, the “new normal” often feels a little nebulous.  But ultimately, it is true.  The world may never return to life as it was before lockdown. Therefore, the expectation to act is a permanent one and needs to be addressed now. 

Click here for more information on how we can help you with brand purpose in the COVID era, or contact us – we’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 22, 2020 //     

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) at Allison+Partners, and why they matter

By Andrew Rogers 

Diverse teams create better quality work. Particularly in our creative industry, where understanding your audience is so important, homogenous teams are less able to produce the best possible campaigns for our clients.  

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It’s important that we continue improving the ways that we discuss diversity, inclusion and equity within our agency, while also advising our clients on the steps they can take. One key way businesses can help to create more inclusion and advocacy in their organisations is through Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs. 

ERGs have been around since the 1960s in some form but have become more common and visible in the past decade. These voluntary employee-led groups create a safe space for the communities they are representing, while also acting as a place to organise and advocate for change within the organisation. ERGs help bring representation to less represented communities, or those who face specific challenges in the workplace.  

According to TopMBA, you can find an ERG in 90% of Fortune 500 companies. Not only have they provided an important space for the communities they serve, they have also helped leadership better understand diverse perspectives as they set out their diversity and inclusion goals and initiatives.   

Many organisations specifically struggle with the inclusion part of diversity and inclusion. They might be able to hire more diverse teams, but that’s only effective if these individuals are included in the decision-making process and are able to build long-term happiness and careers within the company. ERGs ensure people are given a voice and allow them to organise and advocate for change when needed. They also show company’s commitment to listening to the unique experiences of people from various backgrounds who bring different perspectives to their teams.  

Creativity can only flourish when employees feel safe and heard at work. People must feel that they can bring their whole selves to the office (or the virtual office as it stands right now). Whether organised from the grassroots by employees, or created by leadership, ERGs create vital spaces and connection for employees.  

We’re proud of the ERGs at Allison+Partners that cross borders and connect communities from around the world. We actively promote a vibrant ecosystem of ERGs to connect and empower less represented communities at our agency and ensure their voices are heard. Our ERGs include: 

  • Allison+Palette-Our global network striving to increase awareness of racial, cultural and ethnic differences within Allison+Partners, as well as the global community at large, and create a safe “home base” for people of colour to ensure their needs are met and various cultures are openly and fairly represented internally. 
  • Allison+Proud-Our global network for LGBTQ+employees and allies at Allison+Partners, ensuring everyone can bring their true selves to work, and campaigning for the empowerment of LGBTQ+ people around the world.  
  • Allison+ParentsOur group providingresourcesfor all facets of family life, from being a new or aging parent, to navigating life with toddlers, tweens, teens. 
  • Allison+AbilityOur global network working to increase awareness and inclusion for people with disabilities. We seek to provide a safe space for people with disabilities and their allies, to share stories and be heard, understood and supported. 
  • Women’s Leadership Program: Our global program with a mission to promote leadership throughout the agency, focusing on skills and knowledge-building activities that will help all staff at Allison+Partnersrealise their full potential.  

Of course, we recognise that ERGs are only one step in the continuous journey to a more diverse and inclusive workplaceHowever their ability to make a positive impact should not be underestimated.  

OCTOBER 21, 2020 //     

Building B2B influence: Our Top Tips

Online influence and engagement has never been more important for B2B brands. But there’s a wealth of online competition to contend with as companies invest heavily in content to capture mindshare during this unique time for driving sales.

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The shift we’ve seen from “tech and spec” content to more human, emotive, conversational B2B marketing is something we explored in our “Talk Human to Me” research report. Our surveyed B2B decision makers said they expected humanising their brand to lead to higher sales, more engaged customers and increased customer retention. Influencer marketing emerged as an important tactic to do this: 71% said they considered it more important for brand building than five years ago.

Couple this with McKinsey’s findings that UK sales leaders rate digital channels almost three times as important now as they were before. Collaborating with influencers on podcasts, social Q&As and webinars is critical for your business to thrive in 2020.

But industry influence takes time to build. So how do you prioritise the influencer relationships and opportunities that will really help put your brand on the map? And how do you build your internal influencers into consistent online thought leaders?

Here are our top tips on where to invest for long term success:

Understand where you can play

Your influencer strategy won’t reach its full potential unless you’ve put in the time at the strategy stage. Its important to analyse the storylines and viewpoints already out there in the industry conversation, and where your competitors are strong. Collaboration opportunities with influencers really take off when you have something truly interesting to discuss, not a repetition of what’s already been said. work really well to nail down their passion points and opinions, finding their unique viewpoints to offer.

Discover the right influencers to build long term relationships with

The most successful influencer partnerships are those which go beyond a one-off collaboration. Thorough research to find influencers which align with your brand values is the key to creating relationships which will offer up regular, mutually beneficial content opportunities. You likely know some of the podcasters, analysts, industry speakers, bloggers and journalists that you’d like to engage, so this stage is about ensuring they’re the right ones for your long-term strategy. For example, our Influencer Impact scoring methodology goes beyond reach metrics to also analyse influencers on their authenticity and power to find those who will really help you achieve cut-through in the market.

Variety is the spice of life

A recent study found B2B buyers consume an average of 13 pieces of content from multiple sources on their purchasing journey: eight items from the brand and five from third parties. So varied content across multiple channels is key to achieving an always-on presence across all stages of the marketing funnel. Pairing your spokespeople with industry influencers for discussion on online Q+A panels, podcasts and webinars sparks prospects’ interest at the top of the funnel in the awareness stage. Working with your existing customers as influencers on written and video case studies further down the funnel seals the deal with valuable third party endorsement.

Plan ahead for an integrated Launch

Influencer marketing often straddles both PR and marketing teams. It’s important to make sure everyone is aligned to amplify influencer content across all paid, earned, shared and owned channels to achieve maximum engagement. Set aside budget to invest in “hero” collaborative content with influencers such as webinars and podcasts, but also to create assets for your owned social channels and put spend behind the content. As part of your contract negotiations with your influencer, agree whether they are happy to include earned media interviews, and line up PR and comms teams to work on additional bylines and Q+A pieces to extend the reach of your content.

Analyse and optimise

Consider your goals and align success metrics with these at the beginning of the campaign. Then work with your relevant teams to set up tracking links ahead of time to ensure that content engagements evolve into clicks, conversations and conversions. It’s also important to bear in mind the point we made above on prospects engaging with multiple content pieces before purchasing. With an always-on influencer strategy, your leads will build incrementally over time as prospects see your credibility and strength within the market more often.

OCTOBER 12, 2020 //     

PODCAST: B2B influencers - Social selling

By Andrew Rogers

How can you connect the world of influencers with your B2B marketing strategy? What do we even mean by a B2B influencer? And how can you take your activity beyond LinkedIn?
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Andrew is joined over Zoom by Gina Mossey and Jess Docherty to discuss the latest trends in B2B influencers and how you can put in place a strategy that activates strong social selling. If you're looking to engage with influencers in your industry, or even create some influential voices of your own, this is the episode for you. 


Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.


SEPTEMBER 25, 2020 //     

Here are the 4 things PR pros should know about consumer media right now

By Alexa Hershy 

COVID-19 continues to impact the current and future trajectory of the consumer media landscape. It has exposed the vulnerabilities in print media and highlighted the advantages of digital, which has been able to quickly react to current events and pivot to write the timeliest stories for their readers – and of course, effectively reach the masses.

READ MORE

For PR practitioners, this pandemic has changed the way we develop smart media relations programmes. We need to acutely understand the new reality in which journalists live and work in, and how to pitch them in a way that is sensitive, but newsworthy enough to breakthrough.

 

Because the landscape is changing so quickly, it can feel difficult to keep up. There is nothing quite like hearing from the source, so I sat down with Sophia Panych, content director at PopSugar UK, to learn more about what it is like to be an editor right now and what PR practitioners should know in order to be successful in the current environment.

 

Here is a summary of my learnings:


The highly irregular news cycle poses unique challenges for editors

Every year, publicists and editors plan programmes and coverage for key holidays and moments in time – from summer travel to back-to-school to Christmas. Editors use year-over-year site data to prepare their stories to ensure they are writing the pieces that best appeal to their readers.

 

In the current environment, nothing can be planned for and site data is no longer as useful. Every event and holiday is now filtered through the lens of COVID-19 and other timely happenings. For example, PopSugar is currently re-examining their holiday coverage plans, asking themselves questions like, “Does it make sense to publish a luxury holiday gift guide when so many of our readers are struggling financially?” and tweaking plans accordingly. 

 

In addition, with a never-ending flow of breaking news, editors’ priorities can change in a heartbeat. More than ever editors need to be incredibly agile and in tune with current events to draft stories that resonate. From a PR perspective, it means we need to be just as agile, as well as sensitive and flexible, with our planning and outreach.


Feel good and informative stories are breaking through

According to PopSugar UK data and site traffic, pieces showcasing feel good events, products, experiences and stories are doing really well, as consumers are looking for a welcomed distraction to the otherwise daunting news of the day. They’ve also noted that informative articles, specifically in regard to COVID-19 and other current events, are generating higher engagement.

 

Knowing this, how do we as PR professionals frame our clients’ news and thought leadership to deliver on either of these fronts?


Editors are putting everything through a diversity lens

The BLM movement has propelled this critical topic to the forefront and is demanding companies and industries of all kinds to commit to initiatives that create long lasting change. For media, they are revaluating the brands and celebrities they cover, the experts they feature and the topics they spotlight to support diversity. It is the aspiration that publications become a much more representative space for all different voices across the UK.

 

For the work we’re doing in PR, it is important that we think this way too – showing how our brands appeal to and represent a wide range of individuals and groups and putting forward spokespeople and experts that offer diverse perspectives.


Keep Zoom briefings to 30 minutes

While there is definitely fatigue, Zoom presentations are still the best way for editors to receive news and connect with spokespeople. Given their hectic schedules (they are busier now than ever), the sweet spot tends to be 30 minutes. Be respectful of media’s time and plan organised and newsworthy meetings and events.  

 

To learn more, listen to the full conversation with Sophia on The Stream, an Allison+Partners podcast. 

 

SEPTEMBER 17, 2020 //     

PODCAST: Consumer Media - What You Need to Know Now

COVID-19 continues to impact the current and future trajectory of the consumer media landscape. It has exposed the vulnerabilities in print media and highlighted the advantages of digital, which has been able to quickly react to current events and pivot to write the timeliest stories for their readers – and of course, effectively reach the masses. READ MORE

For PR practitioners, this pandemic has changed the way we develop smart media relations programmes. We need to acutely understand the new reality in which journalists live and work in, and how to pitch them in a way that is sensitive, but newsworthy enough to breakthrough. 


Alexa Hershy is joined by Sophia Panych, content director at PopSugar UK, to learn more about what it's like to be an editor right now and what PR practitioners should know in order to be successful in the current environment. 

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.
SEPTEMBER 15, 2020 //     

Listen Now: Talk Human to Me

Welcome to the ''New Normal'' for B2B storytelling.

In the marketing world, it’s commonly said brands must innovate or die. This is truer now than ever before.

As empathy, trust and care become increasingly vital brand currencies, it has never been more critical for B2B brands to connect with customers on a human, emotional level. We surveyed B2B marketers to find out how this trend is evolving.

READ MORE

As it turns out, while B2B brands know their goal, many are struggling to progress. Here we explore the challenges to talking ‘human’ and offer our insight and advice on how to move forward.

LISTEN TO OUR FULL REPORT TO LEARN:

  • The state of play: How effectively B2B brands are currently at speaking human
  • The common challenges marketers are facing and how to overcome them
  • Implications for the future: how should you talk human?
AUGUST 26, 2020 //     

Employee Insight Should Inform Employee Communications: Three Things to Consider When Communicating Return-to-Work Plans

By Brooke Fevrier and Todd Sommers

Like most of my colleagues, I frequently worked remotely – in client conference rooms, airport restaurants, hotel lobbies, the middle seat – but spent most of my time in an Allison+Partners office. As the COVID-19 pandemic transformed A+P into a remote work instant adopter, the senior leadership team saw a need to understand the newfound challenges our roughly 500 global team members faced.

To capture these insights, our in-house Research team began fielding short and frequent “pulse surveys” from early March through to the beginning of June. They then shared aggregated results and findings with leadership to inform the agency’s approach to remote work policies and communications.

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This wasn’t a tool we had available when I worked in-house, and I wanted to see what the Research team learned about this process that could be applied to other companies’ future employee communications. The following are excerpts of a Q&A with A+P Research Analyst Brooke Fevrier, who led the pulse survey process.

  1. To set the stage, can you share the kinds of questions the Research team asked A+P’ers in our pulse surveys?
     
    A. Our main priority was to keep the pulse surveys quick and easy for team members, while digging into the potential emotional factors the pandemic played in their day-to-day workflow. We asked employees to simply tell us how they felt that day, with answer options ranging from extra stormy, a little rainy, mild, partly sunny and finally all sunshine. We asked what communication channels and frequency would be most effective, and about their pre-pandemic life to better understand the level of disruption teams faced. For instance, did they normally work from home, always work in an office or, for some APAC employees, had already started returning to the office?
     
    Q. And to be clear, these frequent employee check-ins weren’t something we did as a company before the March lockdown. This was a unique challenge with everyone suddenly working from home, and the Research team was tapped to help. What kinds of questions were most useful – asking how people felt, how their lives had changed or open-ended questions?
     
    A. That’s right, we didn’t conduct employee pulse surveys prior to March. The A+P Research team is usually focused on developing consumer and B2B surveys to uncover strategic insights for our clients and ensure the agency remains a thought leader. But as Cathy Planchardnoted in her recent post on “The Economics of Employee Engagement,” we realised quickly that capturing employee feedback could be a powerful tool to surface insights.
     
    The most useful questions were really a combination of all of them, as the data allows us to understand how each question response plays into employees’ likelihood to then respond a particular way to the remaining survey questions. So, how did daily emotions correlate with the positive or negative sentiment expressed in employees’ open-ended feedback? Was the way they felt that day due to overall pandemic anxieties, or was it something our senior leadership could help address? That’s where the data’s strategic value really came through – providing actionable insights that could help improve employees’ work life and ultimately strengthen the agency’s culture.
     
    Q. Can you share how the data was used to inform A+P policies? Did this have an impact on internal communications?
     
    A. Feedback from these surveys informed a number of our internal initiatives and communications, including weekly CEO updates, short videos from partners, monthly company calls and other one-off communications. We created an internal communications channel to share news, WFH life updates, best practices and lists of cancelled events. By providing company leadership with a multilayered sense of how people were doing across 30 offices, they were able to make data-driven and, importantly, employee-centric decisions. The surveys also gave a clear picture of employees’ comfort levels with returning to the office, which will now be completely voluntary when offices reopen based on employee responses.
     
    Q. The range of topics covered changed dramatically over time from March and April shutdowns to the partial reopening of some regions, the Black Lives Matter movement and now the realisation this new reality might last for all of 2020. Not every organisation has a pulse survey programme in place to inform communications. For those organisations, are there any insights you can share from our programme that might better inform their future employee communications?

    A. Three areas stand out to me that apply to other organisations. 
    First, we noticed the volume of internal communications increased dramatically in mid-to-late March, and it was just too much information for teams to digest. For companies that plan to adopt new safety procedures, begin bringing people back to the office or introduce new policies, it’s invaluable to understand the channel, timing and frequency needed to ensure employees at all levels understand internal messaging or changes being implemented.

The second challenge will be the lack of a shared experience. Every market is different. New York in April was very different to New York today. Working mums with toddlers at home have a completely different experience to recent university graduates living alone. Many parents did their best to balance homeschooling and conference calls, but it was a major adjustment. You really need to think about the human experience, not just the corporate need to communicate.

Third, feelings about personal safety have also shifted throughout the process, and undoubtedly will continue to do so. Flexibility is a must – companies should be prepared to modify policies at a local level as conditions and overall sentiment change, keeping both employers and employees’ needs top of mind. 

Our biggest takeaway is that giving employees the opportunity to provide feedback and letting their voices be heard – whether in a pulse survey format or otherwise – has a tremendous ripple effect that results in more engaged employees and, in turn, better client service.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our research team can help you during this time, email us at research@allisonpr.com.

Brooke is a content analyst on the Allison+Partners Research + Insights team, specialising in turning quantitative data patterns into strategic insights and effective communication tactics for clients across all industries.

Todd Sommers is a senior vice president at Allison+Partners, where he leads a team of integrated marketers and brings together multi-disciplinary campaign elements to create compelling programmes for clients.

AUGUST 19, 2020 //     

Rapid Iteration of Brand: Using a Fast Insights Framework to Remain Essential in a Time of Transformation

By Paul Sears

Modern life had already transformed the idea of brand. As the pace of change continued to accelerate, consumers became more and more fragmented and storytelling moved further outside the brand’s control. The beachhead of brand loyalty washed into a sea of choice and immediacy. Gone were the days where product and service defined the brand – experience, purpose and social responsibility were the new currency.READ MORE

And then COVID-19 happened. We thought that we might briefly cocoon in spring and quickly re-emerge to a flat curve and a near-normal life. Yet here we are in the heat of summer, still at home, still social distancing and still unsure what back to school will look like for the upcoming school year.  We’ve taken to calling it the “now normal” since it’s clearly here to stay.   

As the world copes with unprecedented change, brands must prove they are essential if they are to survive. That means being even more dynamic – bringing the future roadmap into the present, innovating product and service delivery, streamlining operations, and inventing new business models.  That means finding faster pathways to customer insights, to stay two steps ahead of emerging customer needs. Throughout these transformations, a brand must also remain true to its core, reaffirming why its customers view it as essential in the first place.

The need to be dynamic creates tension between truth and trajectory. A brand that honours its core truth reinforces its customers’ trust and loyalty. Yet every new product, every new acquisition and every new executive hire hurtle the brand forward along its trajectory. Unchecked, these moves have enough kinetic energy to shift the brand off its centre of gravity.

To keep pace with transformation, we must speed up the process of slowing down. To guide effective innovation, brand leaders must pause and answer the fundamental questions – why will customers give us permission to enter this new market and how will we serve customers consistent with our values.  Brand leaders need a finger on the pulse of evolving customer behaviour in order to rapidly respond with effective new strategies.  Yet they must also take time to vet those new trajectories through the truth of the brand.  A fast insights framework is needed to speed up the process of reconciling trajectory with truth.

A fast insights framework enables brand leaders to quickly analyse emerging customer trends using real-time data, while also providing clear criteria for brand governance around new innovations. Through AI and automation, customer interviews and ethnographic studies can be analysed in minutes. Online discussion boards capture customer needs and preferences in near real time. Millions of digital conversations can be parsed to show motivations and barriers along the buying journey.  And a wealth of secondary sources provide macro-trends from ongoing studies.  A modern data toolkit must be at the ready, along with a smart strategy team to interpret the signals into actionable insights.  

Once empowered with insights, brand leaders must then address the fundamental questions that make an innovation effective. Having an established process to quickly align the organisation around the why and the how are key.  It’s easy to chase a flashy new initiative, but it’s much more costly to walk it back. And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, what the market needs today will probably change tomorrow. Using a fast insights framework, the brand can quickly assess emerging customer needs, iterate new expressions of the brand, and align trajectory and truth to ensure long-term success.

As we all wait for a treatment or vaccine, a chorus of analysts, journalists and brand leaders chant “there’s no going back.” Many new consumer behaviours created during COVID-19 are here to stay for the long haul. The pandemic will leave its mark upon the world, making it more important than ever for brands to be dynamic – with a fast insights framework that helps them stay essential and stay alive.

AUGUST 17, 2020 //     

Influencer Marketing - You Better “Like” It, It’s Here to Stay in a Major Way

By Alexa Hershy

The importance of influencer marketing is nothing new, but its staying power is. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of chatter about what would happen to the influencer space. Is there influencer fatigue? Are audiences still finding what influencers share relatable? For those not taking a stance on social issues, is their content landing flat amongst the incredibly important global topics at hand? Will influencer marketing survive?

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While there were certainly some bumps in the road (cue influencers sharing content from their lockdown yachts or mansions – not relatable), it has become undeniably clear that when done right, influencers have a very important role to play in today’s marketing mix.

Unsurprisingly, according to research by Edge Retail Insight, online sales in the UK are now expected to grow 19 percent year-on-year – a significant increase from the pre-pandemic estimates of 11 percent. And now more than ever, consumers are looking to influencers for inspiration – on what to like and what to buy. A report published by Influencer and GlobalWebIndex found that two-thirds of consumers who follow influencers say they’re likely to continue using social media to the same extent once restrictions are lifted – hence the importance of smart programming. Influencers, with their savvy content, can play a critical a role in driving sales through their content with attributable ROI.

So how should a marketer strategically approach an influencer marketing campaign today? Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Know your goals & set clear KPIs – While this might seem obvious, it is perhaps the most important part of pulling together a smart campaign. What are the key barriers to purchase for your audience and what will be the most effective messages to address them? Influencer marketing is evolving from something that was once quite simple to a rather sophisticated part of the marketing mix that can be leveraged at each stage of the funnel. Knowing exactly what you hope to achieve at the onset will help you work to identify the most strategic use cases for your influencer partnerships and how they can be positioned to drive tangible business growth.  
  2. Adopt an agile model & be prepared to take calculated risks – The social landscape changes quickly and is constantly evolving. What is popular today, might not be tomorrow. In fact, what exists today, might not tomorrow – both in terms of changes to current platforms (i.e. what’s happening with TikTok in the U.S.) or the emergence of new platforms on a daily basis. When pulling together an influencer programme, marketers need to think creatively and take risks with contracting influencers on new platforms. Investing in premium content across a variety of platforms ensures stability and that you reach the widest audience. You do not want to put all of your eggs in one basket. Instead, consider earmarking a test and learn budget to pilot new platforms, placements and offerings.   
  3. Invest in impactful partners – And invest the time to find the most strategic partners. Influencer content is no longer standalone – it can be so much more than a one-and-done post. Collaborating with the right influencer partners for meaningful contracts pays dividends, especially when they provide a unique pathway to engaging your target audience both online and off. The right influencers can help you communicate effectively – especially during tough news cycles that are difficult to break through. Sometimes social media is the only place you can have soft news conversations sensitively and appropriately. Influencers who become genuine, loyal ambassadors can participate in speaking and thought leadership opportunities. It takes influence and the relationship to a much deeper level. Influencers know their audiences better than anyone else, allowing you the opportunity to glean direct feedback from them about the campaigns and programme elements that will or will not resonate.
  4. Diversify experiences – Marketers need to think creatively and digitally as COVID-19 continues to impact in-person events. Influencer isn’t slowing down in this environment, it’s getting creative. Invite influencers for 1:1 trips or work with them to create digital event opportunities (i.e. speaking engagements or panels). As virtual experiences thrive, continue to find opportunities to not only bring your brand and product to influencers, but ways to seamlessly integrate into passion projects spearheaded by aspirational partners.
  5. Commit to championing diversity – Influencers are now looking to partner with brands who are making bold commitments to champion diversity, as well as taking actions that follow through with these commitments. In fact, some influencers will not work with brands who are not vocal on this important issue. Marketers that commit to integrating proactive diversity measures at every level of their business will see big results.

At the end of the day, authenticity and relevancy still reign king – and these two attributes have become increasingly more important as people look to connect on a deeper level. We are living in a unique environment where people are paying careful attention to brands and their purpose and also rapidly purchasing at a higher frequency online than ever before. Creating human connection, digitally, is where brands can really shine alongside strategic partners.

AUGUST 5, 2020 //     

What Should My Brand Post on Social? Advice for Crisis Comms and Beyond

By Cameron Davis-Bean  

First, take a moment today to thank your social media managers.   

The past five months have kept them in constant crisis communications mode. They’ve fielded questions and criticisms about your brand they likely never anticipated, and the content strategies they spent hours carefully crafting have been entirely disrupted. Immersing themselves in a nearly constant swirl of anxiety and outrage, because that’s their job. 

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It’s OK to push pause while you refine your strategy 

There is no handbook for social media during a pandemic, and it may be uncomfortable for a brand to address issues like racism, inequality and injustice. In many cases, brands smartly chose to temporarily stop posting on social media while they determined the most helpful role they could play. 

I recommend this approach for a few reasons. It shows your brand understands that in times of international crisis, people don’t want to hear your marketing pitch. It also gives you a chance to examine any content you created before the crisis, and ensure it’s reflective of the helpful, supportive role your brand can take in times of cultural challenge and change. Once COVID-19 sparked lockdown, any content mentioning travel, going out, gathering in large groups or any other activities outside the home became temporarily useless. Furthermore, taking a pause allows you to listen to your audience to better understand what they need from you in that moment. 

Pivoting your social strategy for the new normal 

As we move from crisis communications to a “new normal,” you might struggle with how to adjust your social content strategy to the new reality. That’s OK, and we can help. By following the framework below and revisiting it often, you can plan social content that will drive results for your business while staying sensitive to current events. 

Identify and understand your audience 

  • Which audience are you trying to reach? Be specific and develop audience personas if you don’t have them already. Are you targeting new prospects or current customers? What are their demographics?  
  • What does your audience care about right now? What are they posting on their own feeds or in the comment sections of your posts (or your competitors’ posts)? What problem do they have, and how can you help solve them? Social listening insights are key here.
Determine why you’re talking to them
  • What action do you want your audience to take after seeing your content? Different goals will require different messages and content types. Being specific here will help you understand what content you need to create.
  • Too often brands start with content creation before thinking strategically about why the content is needed.  
Choose where you will reach them
  • Social media is not a monolith, and different audiences gravitate toward different platforms. In simple terms and generally speaking, reaching Gen Z on Facebook is much more difficult than on TikTok, and LinkedIn is a more natural home for B2B content than Instagram.
  • Content requirements also differ by platform, so it’s important to identify your channels at this point in the process. 
Create the content
  • With the preparation work from the previous stages done, you should now have a strong understanding of what kind of message will resonate with your audience and where you should reach them. With that in hand, you can enter the content creation phase with confidence. 
  • Remember not all content has to come from the brand. Sharing user-generated content (with the proper permissions) is an excellent way to show other potential customers what a great product you have while also building pride among your existing customers. Reward your most passionate advocates by amplifying their voices. 
Measure the results
  • After sharing your content, it’s essential to measure how it performed. Examine your engagement rates, link clicks, reach and impressions. Track and measure these at least monthly to understand how your content performed over time and what types of content perform best. 
  • In addition to the quantitative data, be sure to factor the qualitative feedback you receive into this process. Look at the sentiment of the comments you receive – not simply the volume – to ensure your content resonated positively. 

Learn, adapt and repeat 

Change is the only constant in social media. By repeating this cycle on a regular basis, you can continue to improve your content with the learnings you generate. Each time you sit down to create new content, do a quick check-in on steps 1-3 above and consider whether you’ve learned anything new that can better inform what you create next. Measure your efforts on a regular basis, and don’t be afraid to make a change when you see something doesn’t work. By leading with listening and consistently crafting content with your audience in mind, you’ll find success over time.  

Cameron Davis-Bean leads campaign development and execution for integrated marketing programs as an Account Manager at Allison+Partners. He works to find the perfect blend of earned, owned, paid and shared media to drive business results for clients. 

JULY 29, 2020 //     

PODCAST: Talk Human to Me

In the marketing world, brands must innovate or die.

This is truer now than ever before. As empathy, trust and care become increasingly vital brand currencies, it's never been more important for B2B brands to connect with customers on a human, emotional level. 
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Andrew is joined by Jill Coomber, MD Integrated Marketing and Dan Whitney, MD Content Strategies from our All Told team to explore these challenges and offer advice for B2B brands on how to move forward.

It's all part of our brand new report Talk Human to Me, available to download now by clicking here.

Read the full report to discover:

  • The state of play: How effectively are B2B brands speaking human currently?
  • The common challenges marketers are facing and how to overcome them
  • Implications for the future: how shouldyou talk human?

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.

JULY 27, 2020 //     

Why it pays to have marketing and PR under one roof

By Dan Whitney 

Marketing and PR are no longer separate, or even complementary disciplines. They are one and the same.

In agency land it’s comforting to think of marketing agencies as distinct from PR agencies. It balances books, it inflates agency rosters and it maintains the all-important status quo. After all, two specialist marketing and PR agencies are better than one, right? 

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In the agency mix, all too often marketing and PR agencies become embroiled in a roles and responsibilities land grab. Two separate agencies battling it out for the budgetary spoils.

Separate agencies with separate agendas. 

Multiple agencies covering distinct marketing and PR functions isn’t just an ROI risk, it’s also a messaging consistency risk, particularly with so many channels to oversee.

In the past decade marketing and PR channels have increased rapidly at a breakneck pace. With more opportunities than ever to reach audiences at every touchpoint of their digital and analogue journeys, it's inevitable that the lines between PR and marketing have become blurred. 

The advent of social media management and influencer marketing was arguably the first clue that marketing and PR were beginning to converge. Social offers incredible opportunities for personalised messaging – that’s marketing. But also provides the opportunity to interact with brand advocates and build relationships – which is PR.

Influencer marketing further muddied the waters. Replacing, or at least augmenting, traditional marketing channels, while providing another parallel PR channel to traditional PR/journalist comms. 

With disciplines such as online reputation management complicating matters further, and PR and marketing agencies boasting so many complementary and competing skillsets, it’s often difficult to distinguish between them.

But there’s one area that PR agencies excel that marketing agencies – at least up to this point – haven't strayed into. PR in itself is the management of a narrative. That goes beyond mere campaign messaging to seeding a story and ensuring that messaging is on-brand, regardless of which outlet that message emanates from. 

That’s distinct from the ’storytelling’ we so often hear about these days from marketing agencies. PR shapes the story for others to tell, rather than disseminating it itself… and if that sounds familiar, it’s the very reason PR agencies are as adept at influencer marketing as they are at journalist outreach. 

The clients that question their agency rosters and who make the move to combine these disciplines, will in the short-term see greater alignment of key messages and stories – elevating the brand above the competition.  

From a longer-term perspective, there is a real opportunity to plan and activate through the line campaigns that communicate to the audience consistently at every touch point.  The brands that start to understand the entire communications and storytelling journey, and join up the dots between PR and marketing, are the ones that will ultimately have a more consistent voice and greater success.

This is all great for the brand – but crucially, by combining these disciplines into one shop, they maximise their budgets and become a leaner, more efficient marketing outfit delivering greater returns on the investment.

So when you consider where your marketing and PR spend is going this year, it’s worth thinking about your agency roster and looking at the economies of both in monetary terms and in simplicity of messaging (not to mention time spent briefing agencies) that could be exploited by bringing marketing and PR functions under one roof. 



At Allison + Partners we have an agile planning process that delivers a holistic go to market program across paid, earned, shared and owned media. This allows us to apply a consistent message along the entire customer journey, effectively building the brand narrative and driving measurable results.

If you’d like to learn more, get in touch, we’d love to explore what’s possible.  

Dan Whitney
MD Content strategies Europe
Dan.whitney@allisonpr.com

JULY 16, 2020 //     

Our new research report, Talk Human to Me, is here!

Welcome to the “new normal” for B2B storytelling.

In the marketing world, it’s commonly said brands must innovate or die. This is truer now than ever before.

As empathy, trust and care become increasingly vital brand currencies, it has never been more critical for B2B brands to connect with customers on a human, emotional level. In our new research report,Talk Human to Me, we surveyed B2B marketers to find out how this trend is evolving.

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We define human storytelling as “Brand storytelling that uses and appeals to human emotion and empathy, as opposed to purely focusing on the practical application of the product or service”.

 As it turns out, while B2B brands know their goal, many are struggling to progress. 97% of respondents considered it important to humanise their brand, yet only 26% say they have managed to do so already. Marketers face numerous challenges, including truly understanding their customers’ needs and creating messaging and content that really caters to their pain points on a human level.

Our report explores these challenges to talking ‘human’ and offers insight and advice on how to move forward.

Read the full report to find out:

  • The state of play: How effectively are B2B brands speaking human currently?
  • The common challenges marketers are facing and how to overcome them
  • Implications for the future: how should you talk human?

 

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE

All Told is Allison+Partners’ global marketing team offering research, strategy, storytelling, content creation, lead gen, measurement and analytics. In 2020 the firm has been recognised as Provoke’s #2 Best Agencies to Work For, EMEA, and Fastest Growing Agency in PRWeek UK’s Top 150 Consultancies. For more information, visit All Told in Europe.

Please click here if you would like to subscribe to All Told Europe’s insights service.

If you’d like for us to share more examples and best practices, please contact us at TalkHuman@allisonpr.com.

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