By Andrew Rogers
Issues hijacking is one of those classic PR agency terms, but what actually is it, and why is it a crucial part of any best-in-class press office campaign?
This episode is all about the humble issues hijack, an important but often under appreciated tactic. We talk about the best ways to hijack the cultural conversation and provide useful hints and tips to get you started from our global Tap In team. If you’re running a consumer focused marketing or communications campaign, this is the podcast for you.
Andrew is joined by A+P London's Emma Poleszuk and Taylor Burke to discuss how brands can really nail the perfect issues hijack.
Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.
By Paul Sears
I’m a recovering ad guy of nearly 15 years. Sure, there were highlights -- celebrities, commercials, multi-million-dollar campaigns. And some lowlights: among them, a constant game of chicken-and-egg between creative and media. I picture a stalled assembly line where no one can decide who goes first. This froze countless projects. But to be fair, I realise it’s hard to take that first leap of faith.
Upon entering advertising rehab, I took a friend’s advice and became an Agile Scrum Master. Later I also became an Agile Scrum Product Owner. While the classes are for software creators, it was surprisingly easy to adapt the concepts to marketing. Agile helped me rethink the premise that creative and media have to happen in sequence. “What it says” and “where it goes” are one problem to solve, not two.
Let’s take the linear assembly line and make it a figure-eight shape. Tiny boxes containing small increments of brand value fly around at high velocity, colliding to spark compelling customer experiences. On the figure-eight, there’s no hierarchy, no sequence -- just one big team working in a continuous loop. “What it says” and “where it goes” always go together.
It starts with culture change. Good ideas don’t just spontaneously come from anywhere, they must be cultivated from everywhere.
It also requires a big-picture view. I reminisce on the account planning convention of breaking every big problem down into tiny slices -- briefing, reviewing and approving each initiative in isolation. Perhaps one or two people on the team see the whole problem, while most others just make stuff. Agile thinking would suggest this vastly undersells the team’s capability. Good ideas come from access to information. The “smart people” need to get in the weeds, and the “doers” need to be invited up to 10,000 feet.
The workflow looks a lot different. I lose creative friends when I talk about briefing on Monday, looking at work on Tuesday, outlining our presentation on Wednesday, polishing the deck on Thursday and presenting it to the client on Friday. It sounds like a death march, but it’s actually totally achievable, and I’d venture to say a lot more fun:
In an age of radical fragmentation, brand relevance comes from delivering the right increment of value to the right person in the right place at the right time. It’s a four-dimensional moving target easier to miss than it is to hit. It requires opening minds, breaking down barriers, rethinking processes and empowering teams with a big picture view. It means solving “whole problems” together as a team and working in real time. Brand relevance all comes down to the lowly meeting invite. Answering “what it says” and “where it goes” the right way, requires everyone at the table.
Paul Sears is Executive Vice President, Brand & Engagement Strategy. With nearly 20 years in advertising, social media, content and brand strategy, Paul spends most of his time helping clients sharpen their strategic focus at the brand level or for individual products and campaigns. Find out how we can help drive your brand relevance here.
By Andrew Rogers
When it comes to creating meaningful consumer campaigns, we always recommend that our clients live at the intersection between commerce and culture. This means not existing in your own bubble and being a part of the conversations that people are already having every day.
A part of culture that brands have traditionally been less successful at tapping into is video games. Today, 54% of people in the UK play games ‘on most days’, and people who play games are more diverse, with a pretty even 50:50 split between male and non-male players and over 46% over the age of 40. For people who play games every day, games are just as much culture as Netflix, soap operas, or reality TV.
Tapping into majority-gaming communities means taking a step outside the Facebook-Twitter-Instagram comfort zone. Don’t feel intimidated though. Here are some great places to start finding your current or future fans online.
Start chatting on Discord
Discord is one of the world’s most popular voice and text chat platforms, with over 130 million registered users. In fact, you might have heard about it recently because of rumours that Microsoft was trying to buy the platform. It is largely used by gaming communities to connect and co-ordinate online play, but in recent years it has branched out into new areas as well.
For anyone not familiar, Discord looks most like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Some small businesses even use Discord for their internal communications. It is also crucially home to thousands of fan communities for all sorts of products and brands. If your brand is well known, it almost certainly has a fan community on Discord.
Those brands lucky enough to have a passionate fanbase should make sure they surprise and delight them. Get to know the people regularly posting in these channels and give them first access to new products or services. And if you don’t already have a Discord for your brand, you should consider setting one up yourself and populating it with great content that lives at the intersection of your brand and gaming.
Join a subreddit on Reddit
Reddit may now be more than 15 years old, but with its rapid growth and expanded options for brands, it’s increasingly a must-have for any brand looking to target its young and affluent users. Many Reddit users can’t be found on any other social media platforms too, meaning its 52 million daily active users won’t be covered by your other campaigns.
Reddit is home to hundreds of thousands of communities called subreddits. These cover a vast range of topics and interests, but the biggest category is gaming. The great thing about Reddit is that while you have a wide range of game fans on the platform, they are not just there for content about games.
Brands on Reddit should make sure they’re ‘reading the room’ and adding useful or entertaining content to subreddits. And as with Discord, it’s well worth taking the time to get to know the who run communities you want to work with.
Go live on Twitch
Twitch is the home of live streaming, and still dominates the gaming and esports live video space. Acquired by Amazon in 2014, Twitch now exceeds 40 million monthly active viewers that skew on the younger side. While gaming and esports content will be what you notice first on Twitch, dig a little deeper and you’ll find live streams of cooking, exercise, music production and art.
Brands looking to reach a mainly Gen Z or millennial audience are already finding that content on Twitch can deliver great results. This could be as simple as partnering up with a popular streamer or running your own streams with special guests. The most successful campaigns live at the authentic intersections of interests.
Take for example the charity Cats Protection, who tapped into the large number of streamers who go live with their beloved furry friends on their desks and are often as much a part of the stream as the human streamer. They launched their Pawsome Players programme so streamers can raise money on Twitch through charity streams, which in turn has raised thousands of pounds.
Get involved in the game
Finally, why not skip the middleman and get involved in the game directly. Many of the biggest games today now act more like platforms than they do traditional linear games. Fortnite, Minecraft and Animal Crossing are all games with millions of users and increasingly open to brand participation.
Famously, global music star Travis Scott hosted a live music concert within Fortnite. At a time when physical spaces were closed due to the pandemic, Fortnite players were treated to spectacular visual effects as a larger-than-life Travis Scott performed atop the Fortnite island.
Involvement need not be quite so expensive either, that is, so long as you have plenty of time on your hands. Check out the adorable island that clothing brand H&M built in Animal Crossing to support their recycling and sustainability campaigns.
A few thought starters to get your brand going
By Heike Schubert
Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. And it’s a quality that would benefit everyone in the communications business.
Communications professionals who want to excel in their roles should make wisdom the base of creative and strategic thinking and the core of our relationship to the people surrounding us. We’d be more thoughtful, inclusive and understanding, things that are also wins for us as human beings.
Here are five factors that contribute to wisdom and are also part of the communications business.
Being curious throughout your life is an excellent sign you're on the right path to wisdom, as Judith Glück, a professor for developmental psychology, describes in her book “Weisheit” (German for wisdom).
For communications pros, openness to new things is crucial for our profession – especially on the agency side. Serving clients from a variety of sectors requires a natural curiosity for their fields and how they fit into society’s bigger picture. Communicators must frequently ask: “Why? How? When? Who?” And many more questions. Only by asking can we understand the industry and the client in a way that enables us to guide them through all sorts of comms tasks and challenges. So, it’s crucial to be curious. But it’s also fundamental not to be judgmental or bring in your own biases.
When we talk about ambiguity tolerance, we mean listening without bias and taking things as they are. But it’s also about carrying on – head held high and focused – even though you might have a murky picture of the situation or, in the worst case, no clue about the right thing to do. Ambiguity tolerance is a must-have for all wise people – you accept there are things you cannot control. There will always be things that happen outside your comfort zone and outside your value base. There is constant change in life, and it is often not easy to maintain a clear view on the right path.
Who in comms doesn’t understand this? Communicating around strategies that haven’t been thought through or navigating comms in crises demands calm and focus, taking things in stride making the best of them. It’s one thing to see the necessity of this characteristic – it’s another thing to actively live it. It’s tough, but it comes with practice.
Regulation of Emotions
Ambiguity tolerance doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have emotions or feelings. It means controlling and regulating emotions in a conscious way.
Emotions are essential indeed, but they tend to overwhelm us from time to time, making a cognitive approach in communications often tricky. It’s not about shutting off emotions. It’s about handling them in a productive way and dealing with a situation in an unbiased way.
Taking a deep breath before reacting or sleeping a night before answering a challenging email – there are many tactics to help control emotions and keep a clear head. Finding the one that works best for you can be a complete game-changer in your career.
The fourth resource is described perfectly with the German word “Einfühlungsvermögen” – “the ability to feel or empathize.” Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy. To picture yourself in someone’s situation enables us to change perspective and to feel the strains someone is caught in.
If you can master this shift in communications, this can be the base for relatable, trustful and authentic approaches that make a difference to your target group. How is my key audience coping with the Pandemic? Where are the challenges and hardships, and what would make their life easier? If you feel it, you can create powerful connections that lead to business success.
To me, this skill is THE must have for every communications professional. Sensitivity, the ability to read between the lines, and a positive, curious attitude toward others support this key requirement for wisdom – and communication pros.
All this isn’t complete without the skill to reflect and understand complex interdependencies. Questioning yourself regularly enables you to see the bigger picture and locate angles that carry the ability to improve any situation. Transferred to the world of communications, this is the resource that catapults anyone from being caught in operations to becoming a strategist - a game-changer.
Understanding a shut-down of whole societies has specific effects on people’s behaviors, economical processes and political decision-making can give you a head start in creating the spot-on communication approach.
A great example is Budweiser’s campaign for Super Bowl LV. For the first time in a decade, the beer brewing giant chose not to create a video spot and instead opted to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts. With this choice, it made an impact that will save lives.
If you’re interested in more insights into wisdom science, check this out.
Heike Schubert, General Manager at Allison+Partners is based in the Munich office, from where she’s heading the A+P activities in Germany providing a broad range of communications services for clients operating in the DACH region.
Sometimes, what’s old becomes new again... or at least very useful.
The growth in programmatic advertising has enabled advertisers to purchase access to third-party cookies – those placed by other organisations – and use them to display ads to their targets. Yet, Google plans to block third-party cookies in Chrome browsers in about a year, which could have a severe impact on advertisers that rely upon them. Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies.READ MORE
If that’s a key component of your B2B advertising strategy, you can still reach a large portion of your target as they browse myriad websites via a first-party cookie from your friendly trade publisher. When a publisher (or any website) places a cookie, it is first-party to them. Selling access to it makes it third-party. Therefore, publishers can target those browsers elsewhere, and they can deliver YOUR ad in front of THEIR audience.
The cookie represents the publisher’s data, and it recognises the direct relationship they have with visitors and subscribers. Publishers simply permit advertisers to leverage that relationship and “re-market” to their own site visitors. Sometimes called an “audience extension programme,” this technique lets publishers bid programmatically on ad inventory as it becomes available but display a message on an advertiser’s behalf.
A single trade publisher will not likely offer the reach you can acquire from many who provide third-party programmatic data, but it will offer some. And, depending on how it maintains its cookie pools, it can be a more engaged audience than some current data providers. The target audience must have visited the trade publisher’s site within the last 60 days or so to have that cookie.
This won’t be a panacea for advertisers with sophisticated programmatic campaigns, but B2B advertisers will have all of 2021 to experiment and understand how impactful a publisher or publishers can be. In fact, when returning to the vehicles that a decade ago were the common choice for trade advertisers, you may find they have a wealth of solutions to help you achieve your goals.
For a PPE client that recently sought to reach primary and secondary-level education decision-makers to generate bulk orders for schools and surrounding areas, Allison+Partners saw an opportunity with a media outlet called Education Week. The publisher was able to provide eBlasts to its subscribers, a white paper programme, on-site web banners AND an audience extension programme to offer reach, frequency and contextual targeting at varying levels. When combined with a content syndication effort and content amplification, the client achieved awareness via impressions, engagement via site visits and leads via form fills. Education Week uses first-party cookies, so its techniques will be available even after Chrome blocks third-party cookies.
Trade publishers already have an established, engaged audience. If a downside of advertising with them has been difficulty gaining frequency against an audience that may only visit on a weekly or monthly basis, audience-extension programmes bring them back to relevance. Because it is their audience advertisers will reach, the first-party cookie they place should continue to be valid even after Google implements its new rules.
If you’ve drifted from advertising with trade publishers or never used them at all, 2021 offers an opportunity to build relationships and experiment. You may already have a list of target publishers where you seek earned media coverage. Expanding those communications into the ad sales group may uncover some opportunities that keep advertising programmes cranking, even if the new rules disrupt some others.
Terry McDermott is a digital evangelist with expertise in turning objectives into strategic plans and developing, executing, and measuring demand generation programmes. He leverages his background in direct response techniques, including CRM marketing, to develop insights that build lead gen and customer acquisition campaigns. He also creates account-based marketing programmes for key prospects, selecting targets via predictive modelling and creating marketing automation campaigns to nurture and score leads. Additionally, McDermott advocates for investments in emerging digital products, technologies and channels, while building and managing teams to generate leads, boost sales and increase awareness.
Find out how we can help you with lead generation here.
Lead generation is a key component of any sales and marketing campaign. Get it right and you'll set your sales team up for success. Get it wrong, and you risk investing big budgets into activities that do little to move the needle.
Lead generation remains changed as social distancing removes most in-person selling and businesses' digital-led lead generation programmes continue as a priority. Some have seen their new strategies pay off thanks to a data and insights-led programme.
Andrew is joined over Zoom by A+P London's Jess Docherty and Gina Mossey to discuss what lead generation is, some of the key terminology, and how businesses can nail their lead generation using an insights-led approach.
Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review? And don't forget you can always find out more about the team here at Allison+Partners at www.allisonpr.co.uk.
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.READ MORE
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.READ MORE
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.
By: Scott Allison
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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:
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.READ MORE
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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:
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.
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.READ MORE
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 a 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:
Of course, we recognise that ERGs are only one step in the continuous journey to a more diverse and inclusive workplace. However their ability to make a positive impact should not be underestimated.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 email@example.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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
MD Content strategies Europe
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.
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.
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.READ MORE
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.
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.READ MORE
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Paul Breton and Lydia Wilbanks
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.READ MORE
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:
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.
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.
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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.