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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.

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 has changed as social distancing removes most in-person selling and businesses quickly pivot to digital-led lead generation programmes. 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?
READ MORE

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.

READ MORE

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?

READ MORE

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. 

READ MORE

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. 
READ MORE

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? 

READ MORE

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.

READ MORE

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.

JULY 1, 2020 //     

How to Make an Impact as a Thought Leader Without In-Person Events

By Rachel Busch

The COVID-19 pandemic has essentially changed industry events as we know them for the remainder of 2020 and the foreseeable future. From full cancellations to conferences going virtual, there’s an opportunity to embrace alternative platforms to raise awareness for executives as thought leaders. Here are some key tactics to promote impactful thought leadership, without in-person events.

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Go Digital

Social media is the ideal tool to engage with followers and the larger community. According to new research from the British Heart Foundation, 55% of UK adults say they have spent more time on social media since the start of the lockdown. This highlights the potential influence even one post can make if it's shared with the right audience. Leverage existing thought-provoking blog content with pertinent information to create engaging social posts for your client's followers. 

The value of social media is that the conversation doesn't have to end with your followers. Use hashtags to comment on trending news, and join the larger conversation on relevant topics to shape executives as industry leaders on platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Social listening tools can help determine who drives the trending topics of online conversation, allowing you to give suggestions to your client about when to partake and add value by sharing thoughts with a strong perspective.

Transform Your Events Strategy

Many large-scale events, including Apple’s WWDC, Infosecurity Europe, and Cannes Lions, have digitally pivoted. Online events allow people to tune in from anywhere across the globe without travel expenses. According to the Web Summit CEO, digital events have been so successful that the future will consist of hybrid events featuring online and in-person elements. You have a unique opportunity to position clients as thought leaders because they can speak directly to a large audience, compared with in-person conferences. Therefore, you should tailor the client's messaging to resonate with a wider net of people who might be interested in broader trends.

Online events can also help maximise your digital strategy. You can use keynote or panel videos to create easily digestible and shareable clips on Instagram stories and TikTok and reach new audiences that may have not tuned into the event. You can apply the same strategies to company-wide events that were planned for the year and create hybrid elements that enforce social distancing but keep everyone engaged. Consider dynamic online tools to bring people together virtually, such as digital reality for immersive experiences, along with these effective strategies to elevate digital events. 

Build Relationships with New Reporters

Even though the mainstream news cycle changes rapidly and it’s important to be mindful of pitching sensitive topics, trade reporters are interested in receiving the sector-focused perspective and news updates. Take a look at media covering your client's industry and reassess if there are new reporters to introduce yourself to and offer unique commentary with a sector-focused spin.

It’s also important to consider how your client's brand or executives can add value to the business leaders and media at this point. Resist taking advantage of the global pandemic, and ensure you share helpful thoughts that can positively impact a certain industry. If you have the right expertise, now is the optimal time to distribute it to a world and media hungry for meaningful solutions.

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

Rachel Busch is a Senior Account Executive in the Corporate and Public Affairs practice at the agency. She focuses on external communications and media relations strategies for global technology accounts.

JUNE 29, 2020 //     

Pride is more than a month: Supporting the LGBTQ+ community all year

By Andrew Rogers

If you follow any brands on social media, it’s highly likely you’ve noticed them change their logo to one incorporating the rainbow flag. You might have also seen rainbow flags flying outside of government buildings and businesses’ head offices. All of this is to mark Pride month which takes place in June each year to advocate for rights and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

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Although cities globally hold their Pride events at different points in the year, many fall within June so they line up with the anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which lasted from June 28th until July 3rd. Stonewall is largely credited as the birth of the modern day Pride movement. What started as riots against police brutality in New York (led mainly by black trans members of the community) would evolve into marches around the world demanding acceptance, visibility and legal protections for LGBTQ+ folks.

This year will be different due to COVID-19. Most Pride marches have been called off to prevent further spread of the disease, and while there are plenty of fantastic events taking place online, the absence of Pride as a physical presence this year is very strange indeed. It’s a big loss for the community, particularly at a time when lockdowns have hit LGBTQ+ people particularly hard.

Why Pride still matters today

The biggest misconception people outside (and inside) the LGBTQ+ community have about Pride is that it’s a big party. It’s easy to see why. These days many marches feel more like a carnival than a protest. However this ignores the true history and purpose of Pride. Pride started as a riot and has always existed to protest and push for progress and change (and yes, to celebrate the progress we’ve made).

Pride matters today because the LGBTQ+ community still faces big challenges, at home and abroad. It’s still the norm for LGBTQ+ people to be bullied, and too many people still die by suicide. The rights of the trans* and non-binary community are continuously under attack and far from secure. And there are still 70 countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal, and 12 where homosexuality carries the death penalty. There is lots of work to do, and plenty to still protest.

Pride also does not exist within a vacuum. As a community we need to recognise that some parts of our community have made progress, but left other parts behind. The Black Lives Matter movement is just as important in the LGBTQ+ community as it is within wider society, and this year many Pride marches have evolved into Black Trans Lives Matter marches, with more in common with the first Pride marches in the 1970s than with the Pride parties of the last decade.

How brands can be allies

Most members of the LGBTQ+ community want brands to support us. However what is really needed and appreciated is authentic support, rather than virtue signalling. COVID-19 will lay bare this distinction. This year, it will be clearer than ever which brands genuinely supported the LGBTQ+ community, and which were doing so for some free advertising at Pride.

Being a true ally to the community means supporting LGBTQ+ causes when times are tough. If you’re a brand that usually spends big on sponsoring floats in Pride marches, but then pulls all budget out of Pride because marches are cancelled, it becomes pretty clear that this support wasn’t genuine.

The same goes for those rainbow logos. It’s nice when a brand changes its logo to include a rainbow, but what does it actually mean? If it’s not backed up by actions, it’s an empty gesture, and you’ll be called out pretty quick.

Listen to queer voices

Brands who want to authentically support the LGBTQ+ community need to listen to queer voices. The best place to start is with your own workforce, and this is why company Pride groups are so important. Action should be led by members of the LGBTQ+ community, and brands should then leverage their resources and platform to make these voices heard.

Brands should also put queer creators front and centre. Does your brand want to do something that authentically supports the black trans community, for example? Then write the cheques and pay for black trans content creators to help you create campaigns and shape your actions. Doing the right thing usually isn’t free, but building a brand that fights for causes alongside its customers is worth its weight in gold.

Pride is more than just a month

There’s a running joke on social media that as soon as Pride month ends, brands immediately ditch the LGBTQ+ community. It’s all tied up in the idea that brands never really cared, and it was all to sell a few more rainbow T-shirts.

If your brand truly wants to support its LGBTQ+ workforce, advocates, and customers, it needs to do so all year. As someone who volunteers with an LGBTQ+ network helping with brand partnerships, I can tell you we’re always way too busy in June, and never busy enough during the rest of the year. PR and marketing folks love to link activity to specific days and months, but this is one of those cases where you don’t need to wait for June to do something positive for the queer community.

How to support the LGBTQ+ community all year long

When it comes to your brand, here are some simple ways to make sure your support for the LGBTQ+ community is authentic:

  • Make it last after Pride month ends, and explain what you do to support LGBTQ+ people all year. That might be your policies for employees, or the causes you put your weight behind.
  • Build from the ground up, starting with your LGBTQ+ employees. Your Pride group should lead on how your brand can engage with and support their community.
  • Support queer talent, whether that’s with the influencers you engage with or the media you pitch to. Again, don’t stop talking to them at the end of June.
  • Donate time and money to community groups on the ground doing great work. If your brand can’t make an impact directly, work with and empower activists who can.
  • Be ready to defend your position. There will always be trolls on the Internet and those that take issue with a pro-LGBTQ+ position. A true ally needs to stand up and keep re-affirming their support even in the face of criticism.

Pride matters deeply to most members of the LGBTQ+ community, which is why it’s so disappointing when brands see it as a sales or marketing tool. Authentic support is hard, but as consumers make it increasingly clear that they want to buy from brands that align with their values, it’s worth getting right. As Pride month draws to a close in this unusual year, brands have an opportunity to step up and show that even without the party, Pride matters all year.

 

Andrew Rogers is an Account Director at Allison+Partners.

 

JUNE 12, 2020 //     

Reopening: Life after COVID-19 Lockdown

By Andrew Rodgers

It's the end of the beginning, and the start of the new normal, as COVID-19 lockdowns begin to lift across Europe. With different markets opening at different speeds, and different regions and demographics more or less severely affected, how should brands balance the seriousness of an ongoing pandemic, with the cautious optimism of reopening?
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Andrew is joined by Heike Schubert from A+P's Munich office to discuss how brands should start to adapt their communications for the new normal as we start to engage with shops, bars and restaurants again. With Germany a few weeks ahead of the UK in lifting restrictions, what can we learn from the change in consumer behaviour in Germany? And how can brands communicate a crucial message of safety and security to tempt consumers back?




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 11, 2020 //     

Key Consumer Trends in a Post-COVID World

By Jill Coomber

It is too early to know every impact of ‘life after lockdown’ – no event in living memory has had such an abrupt and sudden change on the way we work, play, think, finance and consume. So it is vital to focus on the key influences we as consumer marketers must bear in mind. 

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According to research by University College London (UCL) its takes 66 days for a new consumer habit to form.  Given that many of us have been in lockdown for at least as long as this, which behaviours stay and which disappear?

Kantar’s Nicki Morely recently summarised this very well.  People will adopt new behaviours when they are easier to maintain, more convenient, more satisfying and more rewarding than previous behaviours. 

So as well as new behaviours we are also yearning to go back to past behaviours to reassure ourselves that life can indeed go back to ‘normal’.

Whilst this situation is unique, we have lived through past disasters and uncovered useful insights..  A good example of this is the BSE crisis in the UK in the 90s which saw beef sales fall by 40%.  However, within just six months the industry pivoted adding in sourcing and tracing to reassure consumers, and beef sales were back to normal levels. This highlights how entrenched habits, in this case Brits love for beef, are fundamental to our lives and our culture, and they can be difficult to break.

So what trends are we bearing in mind?

A desire to have more fun

Many trendwatchers have identified a pent-up demand for rewards and special treats after this period of forced abstention.  We have witnessed in the last decade a rise in the treat and experience culture.  Many major luxury brands, for example, have tapped into this desire with ranges or tasters at lower price points to satisfy this demand. Think Karl Lagerfield vs H&M and Kate Moss vs Top Shop that inspired many a fashion related collaboration. 

To ensure fun continues – we are seeing brands across consumer categories get a virtual makeover. Sports, virtual experiences, and creative innovations like ‘cocktails to your door’ as growing markets will continue. With a long-term impact on live events and concerts it will be interesting to see how the industry responds.  Certainly, Sony is already predicating a final coming of age for virtual reality.

Thinking forward for trends

Covid has made the consumer pause and think inward – how do I care for myself and my community and what habits do I want to change. Many are rethinking how they travel to work in cities and big towns and how they enhance the quality of life around the home. Not surprisingly perhaps, among the latest trending items are garden furniture, bikes and electric scooters. It will be critical for marketers to not only stay on the pulse, but also anticipate how their products and services can best support the consumer in the near and distant future. 

Supporting our local enterprises

We have also become ultra-aware of the fragility of our economy, businesses, and jobs.  Many local enterprises that we took for granted are now struggling to create a profitable future in a changed world.  Small businesses account for three fifths of employment – they are vital to the economy.  We’re seeing a positive, rising trend on social media to call out and support these local businesses and entrepreneurs who literally won’t survive without our support.  Britain, our small businesses need us!

A rush to comfort brands

There is a need for familiarity in a crisis – comfort food, recognisable brand advertising, brand communities andknown CSR-friendly brands. Now people will be even more focused on these and will be specifically looking out for brands who are supporting key workers and the environment.

A good example of finding comfort in what’s familiar – the rise of watching out box sets. We’re seeing consumers reach back into the noughties and nineties for gold standards like The Godfather, Friends, Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory.

The role of online

There is no doubt the Internet has ‘saved’ many in retail through this period.  There is data everywhere on the superfast growth in mobile payments, contactless delivery, online health services and ecommerce for non-traditional items like furniture. Online sales at Majestic wine, for example, has increased by over 200% year on year. Whilst it’s clear there is a need to focus on the online offer more than ever before, this will be a high-water mark for online shopping.  We will be left with a permanent increase. However, giveniven most consumers already shop omni channel, this is unlikely to change in our new normal. 

Will the office as workplace ever recover?

For those of us who normally work from an office, the sudden and prolonged lockdown has shown what can be achieved remote.  It is an amazing and powerful argument for many companies to rethink.  Twitter, for example, has already announced a permanent shift to homeworking for those who can.  With social distancing measures dictating the short-term –many offices cannot go back to the old normal. And with these measures in place, what is the value of a physical presence?  A more permanent change is likely on the cards for many companies. 

Work-life balance is shifting

For those who can work from home there is a new challenge of creating a good work-life balance.Perhaps the the gain in commute time has allowed some to take on new hobbies.  It certainly relieves some of the monotony.  We are seeing a visible growth in hobbies on social media like baking, gardening, painting, drawing, photography, dancing, home cooking, fitness, and gaming.  Where passions have been ignited, we expect these trends to stay. On the other side, people are finding it difficult to step away from their computers – many working much longer hours and starting to feel a sense of burn out.

A new respect for key workers

We see every day a new respect for key workers. Not just those in the health services, but shop workers, refuse collectors, delivery services –everyone who is supporting the household  in these challenging times. We might see a shift in brands starting to tap into these groups as the face of their brand vs celebrity tack. Only time will tell.

A new level of care for the environment

Images showing environmental recovery – clearer skies in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, and sheep wandering around towns – continue to go viral. With everyone at home, the environment has benefited, and it is continuing to spark global conversations around the importance of sustainability measures. Will these images inspire a meaningful change in behaviour?  The previous recession nurtured a mass acceptance for less ownership and possession, particularly amongst millennials, and out of that came the sharing culture of Uber, AirBnB, Zipcar and others.  Given the complexity of this issue, the jury is out on this one.

Final thoughts

The economy will recover and we will get back – we just do not know the timeframe. It will be dictated in large part by events outside of our control, like a vaccine or a resurgence.  So for now, uncertainly will remain the new normal.  However, based on data from the previous recession, brands that implement a longer-term view, building plans around the right future trends and implementing growth strategies in markets with potential, have the opportunity to come out much stronger than their competitors.  




Jill Coomber is Managing Director, Integrated Marketing at Allison+Partners.

MAY 18, 2020 //     

Why Higher Education Needs to Consider Brand Reputation

By Paul Breton and Lydia Wilbanks

Campuses have shut down. Lectures and seminars are completely online for the foreseeable future. Sporting, recruiting and graduation events have been cancelled or postponed.

It’s a make-or-break moment for higher education. In the coming months, university leaders,  development officers and administrators will need to make complex and potentially unpopular decisions that can affect their long-term brand reputations. That’s why now is the optimal time to pivot their communications strategies and engage stakeholders differently.

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Students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and institutional donors each have myriad questions that need to be carefully messaged and addressed, not least of which include:

  • How and when will university spaces reopen and make it actually safe to return?
  • How will online vs. on-campus learning and fee decisions be managed?
  • How will international student admissions and enrolment be impacted if prospective students are unable to travel and take campus tours?
  • How will virtual, online stewardship keep alumni and donors engaged and connected – and for how long?
  • Are traditional methods of marketing outreach still effective?

Institutions that take decisive action to navigate these concerns creatively, empathetically and transparently will emerge stronger. They will build credibility and goodwill, especially when unpopular decisions become necessary. Schools that hesitate or underestimate the importance of their communications will face a long, uphill road to reputational and financial recovery.  

Here are four important communications initiatives school officials should focus on now to engage students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and institutional donors to shore up their long-term brand reputations:

Double down on digital

With in-person events and activities no longer viable options, colleges and universities need to shift resources and maximise the full range of digital capabilities to stay connected to their audiences online. Effective use of virtual events, online campus experiences, emotionally engaging videos, email newsletters, search engine marketing, social media influencer engagement and online conversation mining will give university communities the ability to remain visible and relevant during this prolonged time of social distancing.

Keep employees engaged

Now that everyone is working remotely, it’s even more important for school officials to increase connections with faculty and staff who are on the front lines with students, parents, donors and other stakeholders. While broad, one-way, top-down updates are customary, schools that rely on these types of communications exclusively will miss out on opportunities for valuable community temperature checks. Instead, communicators need to embrace virtual Q&As, department-wide video conferences, real-time employee surveys and other forms of remote social engagement.

Narrative matters

During times of high anxiety, people want reassurance and empathy from their leaders. They accept that decisions are being made in real time with incomplete and ever-changing information. While stakeholders don’t expect perfection, they do feel entitled to explanations of how and why important decisions are made and what they mean for the future. And they expect sincere contrition and quick corrections when leaders make the wrong call. 

Now more than usual, it’s important to consider how difficult messages are delivered and how they support an overarching brand narrative. Do stakeholders have a reason to trust and believe? Are they inspired? Can they see themselves as valued contributors to how the story gets written – or are they merely pawns in a game over which they have no meaningful control?

Tell stories that inspire

University marketers and fundraisers already appreciate the power of emotional stories about how higher education transforms lives and how researchers make new discoveries. Now is the time to delve even deeper and mine for inspiring stories that showcase the ingenuity and resilience of students, faculty, alumni and staff. 

How did professors come up with innovative ways to engage their students online? Which staff members truly went above and beyond the call of duty? How did the school community rally together to support each other or the community at large? How have alumni stepped up to hire students, establish internships and give back in new and inventive ways? 

These types of stories yearn to be discovered and disseminated.

While higher education faces an uncertain future, communications decisions that institutions make now will have brand reputation implications that endure long after students return and campuses once again safely open their doors.

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

Paul Breton is an executive vice president in the Corporate + Public Affairs practice. He counsels executives to communicate effectively and tell memorable stories that result in positive earned media coverage, stronger brand reputation, greater stakeholder engagement and more revenue. He has 20+ years of PR and marketing communications experience and specialises in executive thought leadership, brand storytelling, crisis and issues management, internal communications and employee engagement. His industry experience spans education, technology, financial and professional services, entertainment and healthcare.

Lydia Wilbanks brings more than three decades of consumer and corporate communications experience to Allison+Partners. She specialises in target market analysis, strategic planning and thought leadership. After owning her own award-winning agency, she now focuses on communication counsel and market development for Southeast based organisations.

MAY 14, 2020 //     

Communications in the Recovery Phase: Be Responsible and Honest in the Transition to a Better Tomorrow

By Heike Schubert

Slowly – some say too hastily – European countries including the UK, France and Germany are starting to ease lockdown restrictions.

The ‘Six Phases of the Disruption Life Cycle’ recently outlined by Allison+Partners communications professionals Tom Smith and David Wolf provided a useful guide on the key elements businesses must work through in of a period of crisis. We have just started coming out of the Command Phase (phase three) and are entering into the Recovery Phase (phase four). However, we are doing so tentatively – our governments are closely monitoring infection rates because we realistically cannot know the impact of eased lockdown measures until they are trialled. As we adjust to the ‘new normal’, minimising the spread of the virus, protecting people from it and taking care of those unwell will continue to be of the utmost importance.

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In the near future, uncertainty will continue to characterise every aspect of our lives. In the UK, France and Germany, one thing is certain – we know society will be forever changed. COVID-19 has forced us all to slow down and reflect on what is working and what can be improved.

So, what does the ‘new normal’ look like? The discussions have already begun. We need to rethink how we live, work and travel. We need to consider how to better acknowledge the high value of people in health and social care, retail, education and more. And we need to better prioritise our personal lives, families and mental well-being. Perhaps, everything will change. Nothing is off the table right now.

From a communications perspective – we need to balance being cautious with being proactive in positive ways. Companies that are thinking innovatively and looking to solve problems that help people will succeed in generating positive brand awareness that they can carry into the future.

To be an effective communicator in the current environment, we recommend implementing three key steps:

1. Stay supportive – the threat isn’t over yet

Right now, it’s all about seeing the bigger picture and how your organisation fits into that.  Ultimately, every group represents a small part of a huge and complex system. It’s all about supporting each other to stay functionable as well as working towards one major goal: avoiding the spread of the virus in order to save lives.

So, how can you support this overarching objective? Whether you’re reorganising a manufacturing site to produce life-saving ventilators or you’re pivoting to sew masks instead of making clothes – decide what it is you will do to show you’re committed to playing your part in helping people during the crisis. In doing so, you will be remembered for the responsible role you have taken in society. It is imperative that companies and organisations not only exist to be successful, but also act to do good and develop trust within their community.

2. Don’t brag about success – stay humble

The majority of people, companies and state institutions are currently facing a plethora of challenges, from unemployment, to salary cuts, to failing business operations. The states are struggling to stay ahead of the infection wave on one side and are trying to support individuals, companies and organisations on the other in order to minimise disruption to the economy, avoid widespread bankruptcy and mass poverty.

In many European countries, government loan schemes and the existing social security systems are supporting the people to buffer the worst effects. It’s an incredibly difficult time – many small businesses and jobs are reliant on financial assistance for their survival. Therefore, any communication where a company is highlighting how successful they have been under these circumstances is inappropriate. It’s even counterproductive as it labels the successful players as a kind of ‘war profiteer’ – someone who is capitilising on the pandemic, rather than sharing the burden and supporting others.

No doubt there will be entities that are successful during this time – for instance companies selling food and groceries or important medical devices. However, it is how these companies are offering and communicating their products and services that will make the difference. For instance, reducing prices, services for the elderly and vulnerable, charitable giving and clear ethical programs will help companies be remembered in a positive way. It is critical that these activities and engagements come from the heart and that companies act authentically and transparently to give people confidence in them.

3. Become part of the better tomorrow

To create a better tomorrow, organisations need to think about how their product, strategy and company culture are perceived now. They need to evaluate their role in the new normal, map out a plan and take action.  

One organisation cannot solve every issue, but they can be really good at helping overcome one or two specific challenges close to home. Leaders need to review what products and services they sell and how they can do this better for people, the environment and the world.

If you have something to contribute – become a thought leader and have your say on what we can improve upon. Make sure your insights are valuable in the overall conversation and the aim of your communications is to explain how you are working towards a better tomorrow – not profiteering off the crisis.

The global pandemic is an opportunity to truly think and act globally. Together, we can all be a part of a better tomorrow.

 

 Heike Schubert is a General Manager in our German A+P office.

MAY 12, 2020 //     

PODCAST: Product Launches - Go-to-market during COVID-19

Brands are facing a difficult question: Should they launch new products or services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and how can they do so in an appropriate way? 

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Andrew is joined via Zoom by Jim Selman to discuss how the go-to-market strategy for new product launches works during lockdown, social distancing, and the eventual new normal. How can brands pivot to make the most of existing product launches already planned? How can they bring something new and genuinely useful to the market for the audiences that need them most?

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 11, 2020 //     

Great Company Culture is a Two-Way Street

By Courtney Newman

Some businesses will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis with stronger company cultures, while others will see the ties that bind staff weaken under shelter-in-place orders. The difference will be how well businesses engage their employees in a two-way dialogue. 

Here are five tips to help you build or maintain a strong company culture, whether employees are working remotely or back in the office.

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Establish the culture you want to see. Collaborate with staff to identify three to five core values that define a successful employee in your company and use them to recruit, onboard, evaluate and celebrate them. If your company hasn’t developed yours yet, start a conversation with the team about the strengths that help you weather the current crisis and get consensus on the most essential traits to grow the business.

Make time for facetime. Regular interaction between your leadership team and employees – via live, interactive town halls and educational events – not only enhances investment in the company’s vision, but also allows you to find out what is impact personnel. With staff quarantined at home, you can maintain communication by hosting virtual town halls, recording video messages from your leadership team and developing a CEO advisory council of staff from various levels, functions and geographies to share their insights on video chat. 

Be transparent about business challenges. During times of crisis, employees crave honest information about business performance and job security, and leaders who deliver this build trust and loyalty even when the news is bad. Solicit “Ask Me Anything” questions anonymously with an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey and have your CEO address them in a company-wide webinar. Given the ever-evolving nature of the global pandemic, biweekly sessions may be necessary.

Ask for feedback and act on it. It’s also essential to assess your team’s wellbeing and needs to tailor your internal communications and support systems accordingly. Conducting anonymous pulse surveys on a weekly basis will allow you to respond in real time as the crisis evolves. You also need to be explicit about how such input is being used. Neglecting this step can break down trust and will make staff less likely to engage.

Offer perks that encourage teambuilding. Job satisfaction is enhanced when employees genuinely like each other, so it’s essential to offer perks that encourage them to have fun with each other and senior colleagues while they’re on the clock. Working remotely makes it harder for people to bond with each other, but there are many ways to boost happiness at work via video calls: group workouts, quizzes, book clubs, Friday night drinks and home tours in the style of “MTV Cribs,” which offers all-access tours of celebrity homes.

An honest, two-way relationship between leadership and employees will not only foster a strong workplace culture but will also help you realise great solutions to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and build a group of motivated volunteers to implement them.

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

Partner Courtney Newman leads learning and employee engagement for more than 500 A+Pers in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific. Her A+P career highlight is the agency being a perennial PRWeek Best Places to Work winner.

MAY 1, 2020 //     

Three Key Areas B2B Marketers Should Focus Investment and Resource For Our “New Normal”

By Sue Grant 

While certain sectors of the tech market continue to be incredibly busy (i.e. health tech, data analytics, AI and security) others are challenged with significant IT projects that have been put on hold while businesses wait to see what happens on the other side.

But it is fair to say that prior to the pandemic, the B2B tech market had been relatively resilient for some time and had been showing no signs of slowing. There are positive signs that the current situation will not have the same impact as previous tech downturns, such as the dotcom crash of 2000/2001, where it took several years to recover and return to growth.

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Given the industry was robust and strong before we entered this crisis, there is no reason why innovation and tech should not resume once the worst of the pandemic is over, albeit with a pivot in communications and messaging to reflect the “new normal.”

Here are some of our recommendations on navigating the current environment to position your business for success in the “new normal.”

The need for interesting stories is stronger now than ever.

From talking to reporters, though a few are now being furloughed, most titles are carrying on business as usual: it is fundamental that they keep producing interesting content for their audiences.  While there is currently less opportunity to get into the national media with so many pages prioritising COVID-19, trade and specialist titles are actively looking for new material. Trade reporters have shared that they are snowed under with pitches on working from home and security challenges, so make sure the story you are pitching something new – or at minimum a new and fresh perspective. Take a look at what has already been written and take time to think about ‘what’s next,’ – what are going to be the next key issues as we evolve from the current situation. Make sure any PR stories about COVID-19 are not self-promotional, but rather how your technology is making a positive impact during these unprecedented times.

B2B marketing needs to reflect what’s happening to customers and prospects alike.

Many B2B organisations are facing new sales challenges; either because their sales have dropped off dramatically or because of a huge volume of increased demand. Using marketing to combat these problems effectively will enable businesses to look to the future, by deploying short-term sales cycle initiatives to address immediate needs, while not ignoring the long-game plans to ensure business continuity. For example, if your business is making their services free or discounted to help others survive, this should be communicated effectively.

As marketers we should position ourselves as a source of vital information. Guidance on what to do in the short-term to cope with the unusual market conditions as well as guidance on the strategy for the longer-term as we come out the other side. This is not the time to retrench from marketing.

Revisit your messaging.

Do you have a clear brand purpose? If so, then relevant, detailed messaging can evolve from that, but you must be explicitly clear to avoid stakeholder confusion. With your workforce most likely spread across the country – or the globe – it is easy for mixed messaging to slip through the cracks.

But messaging is just the first stage. Tonality is equally as important, as is empathy for all those affected. This is the time for brands to engage customers authentically to maintain trust and brand loyalty. No exaggerations, no hype, just sober, transparent facts about what is being done.

Business must continue, the more we do, the more quickly we can begin to economically recover and come out the other side. However, be sensitive to the situation, no one should be capitalising on a pandemic in an exploitive way.

In reality, the tech sector could ultimately grow as we rise to the occasion and innovate quickly to meet the needs and demands that are placed upon us by this unprecedented situation. Innovation is the mother of invention after all.


Sue Grant is a Managing Director for B2B Tech in the UK office. 

APRIL 29, 2020 //     

Has COVID-19 Killed Techlash?

By Karyn Barr

Apple and Google announced a game-changing partnership on April 10, and the world took notice. The long-time rivals became allies in the fight against COVID-19, seemingly putting down their gloves to build large-scale contact tracing using their smartphone networks. Words like “bold,” “innovative” and “unprecedented” dominated the related headlines. Inc. magazine even went as far as hailing the tech giants for “building the only realistic way to get out of this shutdown.”

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It seems – at least in the immediate wake of the announcement – the partnership is a glimmer of hope emerging in the tech world. Not just in the sense that Apple and Google have provided a potential solution to flatten the curve, but also in the sense that collaboration itself may counteract some of the negativity that plagued large tech companies for much of the past two years.

Could COVID-19 be the unexpected antidote to “techlash”?

Two years ago, the word “techlash” was born, marring reputations within Silicon Valley and beyond. Big Tech’s integrity was called into question as scrutiny over companies’ ethics, social responsibility and intent skyrocketed toward an all-time high. A wave of negative reactions to tech’s power and influence dominated headlines. And the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google were pushed into the government spotlight with calls for regulation, data responsibility, privacy and so much more.

As we headed into 2020, the world’s trust and patience had begun to disappear. The one-time tech darlings were well on their way to becoming Public Enemy No. 1.

Then COVID-19 hit, changing everything we once knew and forcing us to adjust personally and professionally to a new norm. Technology – whether we consciously think about it – has made all our adjusted lives more palatable. We’ve connected with colleagues, teachers, friends and family on a variety of platforms like never before. We’ve relied on fixed and mobile networks to maintain business continuity, tested bandwidth boundaries and proved a work-from-home life, while not desirable for some, is actually feasible and efficient. And we’ve relied on delivery services, telehealth and social networks to provide creature comforts when we’re all on edge.

We cannot deny technology has become our connective tissue. But great power begs for great responsibility. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that.

Apple and Google took an admirable first step with their collaboration. And, yes, it’s initially helping big tech emerge from the shadows of techlash. However, we must see how the partnership plays out. Promising “privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance” was appreciated as both companies look to stop the spread of coronavirus. But maintaining that public, socially responsible commitment well-beyond this critical time will be the most important test.

After all, this pandemic has potentially permanently changed the way we live. As a result, we now have even higher expectations of technology, its reliability and security, and its impact at a global scale.

COVID-19 hasn’t cured the fundamentals of why techlash emerged in the first place. Techlash was never just about a company being “bad” or “capitalistic.” Instead, it was centered on the actual business decisions tech companies made – decisions that called into question and sometimes egregiously compromised our privacy and security. Even after this pandemic, consumers, governments and businesses will still demand transparency and consent, while debates around greater, more serious regulation will continue.

But what COVID-19 has done – and will continue to do – is trigger tech to be accountable. Thus far, tech companies of all sizes have responded. The glimmers of hope are there. Security measures have tightened. “Tech for good” partnerships have emerged. And some techlash-ed reputations have started to mend.

So maybe, just maybe, the tech world gained a little more perspective – a game-changing perspective that will help define how every company needs to operate to regain brand trust today and well into tomorrow.

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

Karyn Barr is Head of B2B Technology at Allison+Partners and primarily counselling clients inside and outside of Silicon Valley on global growth strategies, brand positioning and C-Suite thought leadership programs. A long-time agency veteran, she had led award-winning work across numerous industries, including artificial intelligence, data analytics, additive manufacturing, cybersecurity and more. Karyn resides in the Bay Area where she and her family are rehabbing their 110-year-old home.

APRIL 27, 2020 //     

The COVID-19 Landscape Through the Eyes of An Influencer

By Lexi Holden

Once more and more countries began to go into enforced lockdown, and the media coverage focused solely on COVID-19, influencers finally realised the pandemic was real and lasting. They started posting their pre-planned sponsored collaborations earlier than previously agreed upon, worried contracts would terminate and their expected source of income would evaporate. Posting agreed-upon pieces of content meant guaranteed payment – perhaps the last for several months.

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While there are plenty of opportunities right now for wine and spirits brands, packaged foods, beauty products, home décor and fitness programmes, other companies are not as lucky. Travel brands and goods, clothing meant to be worn outside the home, restaurants, hotels, anything that gets you off your feet and outside your home – they all struggle. Still, other brands find themselves in the middle. For example, food and alcohol delivery services are at a peak and business booms. Yet, they have no marketing budget to put toward influencer programming because consumer demand is too high and the need to have influencers promote no longer exists.

As a blogger who also specialises in influencer relations at Allison+Partners, the influencer landscape seems in flux. Based on conversations I’ve had with fellow influencers, some said their partnerships are quiet, although a handful of brands still reach out to do exchange partnerships instead of paid partnerships. Others said partnerships have been put on hold until further notice. I’ve had a handful of my partnerships put on hold until later months, with the goal to resume as normal once things improve. On a brighter note, I’ve also had a few partnerships that focus on the “at-home” angle, which shows brands still believe in the influencer industry even during this stressful time.

That said, even in this weird flux, the pandemic won’t drastically change things for all influencers. For example, home products brands will continue influencer marketing and might even put more budget behind their programmes as marketing around COVID-19 quickly becomes a saturated space. But once the pandemic is over, where will influencer marketing stand? Will budgets be the same? Will influencers still be able to effectively influence? Where will marketing needs turn?

At first I was hesitant to post content – both content surrounding my daily life and paid content. I polled my audience to see if anyone disagreed with posting branded content, and about 85% of the people who took the poll said they don’t mind #sponsored content. Of course, I wanted to be mindful of everything going on. But it was nice to receive reassuring messages that noted how Instagram is an outlet that gets people away from the negativity going on in the world and provides happy and positive entertainment.

I have lost count of the number of times a kind follower has told me this is “the content we need right now!” So for me, my goal is to bring positive and humorous content to my channel. Because if I feel like I need that, I am certain others do too.

As a micro influencer, I believe business for micro influencers will stay the same and potentially be more fruitful – brands with a decent budget will want to reach a variety of people across the nation and partner with more influencers, as opposed to one macro influencer. It will vary based on programme goals, but micro influencers – those who people feel like they can relate to more on a personal level – will have ample amounts of opportunities in the coming months. Brands will have a chance to build up their content channels too by using unique pieces of content from their influencer partners.

I sense brands are quiet right now because they are planning their comebacks once things improve and normality returns. For brands that move forward business as usual during the pandemic, they try their best to partner with influencers that make the most sense for them while respecting our new norm.

I have taken this time to re-evaluate my brand goals and plan for the year ahead. What do I want to accomplish and what do my followers want to see the most? People still want to relate to something real. So, I will continue to walk through this new norm with a mindset of being relatable and real.

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

Lexi Holden is a senior account executive at Allison+Partners and the founder of Lex and the City, a blog focusing on city life and style in Chicago and beyond, with a love for fashion, fitness, beauty and travel. Lexi has partnered with brands such as Swarovski, Madewell, Park City Tourism Board and Lyft, among others.

APRIL 22, 2020 //     

How an Online Community Can Help Your Business Through COVID-19

By Stephanie Cinque

COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of our lives and left many confused and overwhelmed. Companies and organisations have postponed or overhauled conferences and events, employees now work remotely and many businesses that thrive off face-to-face interaction are in crisis mode as social distancing becomes the norm. 

As we are forced to embrace the world of Wi-Fi, virtual interactions and digital communications, online communities can be the answer to maintain internal communications and keep customers engaged at home.READ MORE

Allison+Partners’ measurement and analytics team shared the insight that “with physical distancing recommendations in place, there’s a growing ask from consumers for creative ways to entertain family members at home.” Likewise, employees expect their employers to maintain company culture and engage them in a WFH environment. An online community can be an essential tool to connect with both audiences.  

If your business is new to an online community, these best practices will help you create a successful space for your business’s employees, clients or customers to connect. 

Consider your audience needs

A community is not only an effective way to push out communications, but it can provide needed support and guidance for team members or customers. Community managers and administrators are responsible for maintaining that safe space while giving individuals the opportunity to manoeuvre together through these unique times.

Fitness class provider Frame launched FRAME ONLINE offering instant access to all of its online classes to help members look after their physical and mental health from home. It is also driving up engagement with its community via social media by running Facebook lives and competitions on Instagram.

Another example of a brand that has adapted to COVID-19 well is Pret a Manger. The coffee and fresh food chain has published the recipes to some of its popular products including its dark chocolate chunk cookies and kale & cauliflower macaroni cheese, much to the excitement of its loyal customers.

Allison+Partners launched an COVID-19 Resources and Updates microsite and internal community to keep employees informed of company-wide announcements and resources related to this evolving situation. An agency priority remains to ensure employees, clients and communities are safe and healthy. We also launched support forums to encourage sharing work-from-home tips and tricks, photos, client best practices and case studies. Employees use the forums to share photos of pets, creative work from home setups and their new school-aged co-workers. It’s become a needed connection as we all navigate uncertainty and prepare to adjust to a new normal. 

Put collaboration first

For employees, a community can help keep projects organised and moving forward, especially in a virtual environment. Teams can brainstorm best practices and work together to pivot marketing strategies and manage a crisis in real time.  

Try the below tips to manage an effective virtual collaboration group:

  • Create topic communities and resource sharing groups for specific workstreams, deliverables and brands. This will help everyone manage their workloads and stay engaged. 
  • Reward participation through gamification, employee spotlights and content features. 
  • Provide ownership. Give employees responsibility as moderators. By doing so, message threads will be well-organised and aligned with the community guidelines.
  • Launch user-generated newsletters. Incorporate daily or weekly emails summarising leadership announcements, news updates, relevant discussion threads and link directly back to the community to drive participation. Learn more about the importance of internal communications during a crisis here

Run virtual gatherings

While companies and organisations have cancelled many in-person events, they have created ways to bring their gatherings online. Virtual gatherings are new for many, and an online community can help make the transition easier. 

Brand Innovators, an exclusive community of brand marketers from the world's top brands, is known for gathering regularly for thought leadership conferences and social events. As the world has pivoted to the virtual sphere, it had no choice but to pivot as well. To remain a safe haven and resource for the marketing, adtech and media industries amid the chaos, Brand Innovators launched a virtual livecast series that brings online its community the greatest portions of its physical events, such as compelling keynotes, panel discussions and fireside chats with industry leaders.

Netflix extended its party feature, so friends and families can watch the same content in real time while social distancing. Not only does it give viewers a virtual experience of being part of something and connecting with others simultaneously, it also provides the ability to discuss in real time. 

We all must continue to adapt to a new normal, which involves creating innovative methods of connecting online. By learning from this pandemic’s threat, we can build lasting opportunities for customers, colleagues and businesses alike to inspire and innovate together online. 

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

Stephanie Cinque is a Content Marketing Manager at Allison+Partners and specialises in online community management and building successful engagement strategies for clients. With a passion for social media management, influencer marketing, and the beauty industry, Stephanie works on several integrated projects for the agency. Born and raised in New York, Stephanie currently resides in sunny Arizona. 

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