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

DECEMBER 6, 2019 //     

PODCAST: 2020 Predictions: Here's to the new roaring '20s!

It's time to crack out the crystal ball and gaze into the future as we make our 2020 predictions. What can we expect from the year ahead in the worlds of PR, marketing and communications? 

Andrew is joined in the London studio by Account Director Lizzy Chesters as they break down what's hot and what's not in marketing for a new year and a new decade. From trust in tech to personal branding, we have everything you need to get set for the new roaring '20s. 

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.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.


AGENCY NEWS // NOVEMBER 28, 2019 //     

What’s Preventing Marketers Turning Data Into Gold?

Data-driven marketing is vital for today’s marketing teams. But a new report by global marketing communications agency Allison+Partners revealed that while marketers have made progress to becoming more data-driven, nearly all respondents cited numerous barriers preventing them from getting the most out of data.

The survey, which included input from 500 marketing directors in the UK and Germany, showed that...

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NOVEMBER 27, 2019 //     

What will be on Gen Z Christmas lists in 2019?

By Andrew Rogers


Have you noticed something a little different recently? Something about your last trip to the shops? Perhaps it’s something you’ve heard?

If you’ve been shopping this week, chances are you’ve heard the opening jingle bells of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You while making your purchase. It’s the annual reminder that the Christmas season is now well underway.

However, for anyone looking to buy Christmas presents for their teenage children (or as we marketing people call them, Generation Z), there’s much more that they want for Christmas.

It’s not just parents though that need to understand what makes Generation Z tick this Christmas. It’s also all brands trying to reach a generation that’s more difficult to reach and less brand loyal than ever before.

So, while you deck the halls, here’s our quick guide for brands looking to make the yuletide bright with Generation Z.

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Select brands with the right values

More than any other generation, Gen Z deeply care about the values that brands have. It’s not just enough to have the best product, it’s now vital to also have values that people want to be associated with. This extends to the online space, where brands that fall down can expect (perhaps rightly) to be called out on social media.

For parents (and brands) getting the right gift also means picking the right company behind the brand. It used to be that you just needed to select the brand that was cool. Now you also need to pick the brand that’s woke.

Don’t forget about the environment

Gen Z are increasingly dreaming of a Green Christmas. While other generations might see Christmas as a chance to splurge and over-indulge, younger generations believe that environmental responsibility needs to extend to every day of the year.

Brands should, therefore, avoid anything this Christmas that comes across as needlessly wasteful or unsustainable. Plastic toys in Christmas crackers are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. It’s about time.

Ownership is less important

It’s been true for a while that younger audiences value experiences over physical items. This is even truer when viewed through the frame of sustainability. Many younger shoppers don’t want throwaway presents and would rather opt for digital products, such as music subscriptions or video games. Similarly, experiences (particularly highly shareable ones) will continue to be a hot trend for Christmas shopping.

Brands still matter though

That all being said, most teenagers will still be putting specific brands on their Christmas lists. Having the ‘right’ brand is still a status symbol, particularly in a world where people feel the need to always share. Take for example the VSCO Girl craze. Named after the popular video editing app, the trend requires very specific brands. Fjällräven backpacks, anyone?

Parents and brands alike need to understand Gen Z if they want to get it right this Christmas. Either that or stick to the socks. You can never go wrong with socks.


Andrew Rogers is an account director in Allison+Partners’ London office.

NOVEMBER 22, 2019 //     

Christmas marketing campaigns that nailed the ‘Big Idea’ in 2019. Here’s what we can learn

By Gina Mossey

Successful ‘Big Ideas’ are composed of three fundamental elements – piercing insight, brand connection, and succinct expression. Without these, few integrated marketing campaigns can pierce through the barrage of noise around the festive quarter and be effective. We’ve selected three Christmas campaigns that have cultivated the ‘Big Idea’.

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IKEA


The Piercing Insight

When it comes to hosting over the festive season, we all have those little voices in the back of our heads that tell us our homes aren’t presentable enough. From the chipped mug, the crack in the wall to the living room without any personality, we all fear our homes are just not up to scratch.

The Brand Connection

IKEA believes every home is worthy of a festive gettogether, with a little imagination and some clever IKEA products. The Swedish furniture monolith has also tapped into a bigger cultural trend by using grime legend, MC D Double E.

The Succinct Expression

The Wonderful Everyday.


MCDONALD'S



The Piercing Insight

Kids all over the world leave snacks out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve.

The Brand Connection

McDonald’s celebrates the magic of Christmas through the eyes of Ellie, an imaginative little girl, in an advert which illustrates scenes recognised by parents across the country. The fast-food giant also garners lots of PR with the promise of giving out free ‘Reindeer Treats’ to families on Christmas Eve.

The Succinct Expression

McDonald's is back with its 'Reindeer Ready' message – which gives it strong message penetration and allows the marketing team to spend more on the production and execution. Win win!

M&S FOOD



The Piercing Insight

M&S Food provides its customers award-winning quality and innovative food.

The Brand Connection

The delicious M&S Christmas range of food and colleagues are the stars of the show. The Christmas marketing campaign also drives earned media by including M&S Food celebrity panel members Paddy McGuiness and Emma Willis. The duo wanders through a festive market with more than 100 M&S customers and a real school choir from Wales that sings a rework of Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, the iconic tune behind M&S' 'this is not just any' campaign. Now, where’s my nearest M&S Foodhall?

Succinct Expression

This is not just food; this is M&S Christmas food!

The winning formula for cultivating the ‘Big Idea’ sounds good, but sometimes the light bulb just doesn’t go off. Great ideas are usually the result of a combination of conversations, research, experience – and time. Allison+Partners has designed a ‘Big Ideas Lab’ to help brands connect with culture and creativity that sits in and outside of their organisations. For more information, get in touch with Jill Coomber at LondonOffice@allisonpr.com.


Gina Mossey is an account director in Allison+Partners' London office.

NOVEMBER 21, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Award Winning Campaigns: And the winner is...

What does it mean for a PR or communications campaign to be award winning? And why should we care about awards at all? Thanks to an action packed awards season in the PR world, we've been able to see some amazing campaigns that have brought home the trophies in 2019.

Andrew is joined in the London studio by Account Director Stephanie Libous, part of the UK Dexcom team that recently won big at the PR Week Awards. They discuss some of their favourite campaigns to be recognised, as well as what it means for a campaign to be award winning today. If you're aiming for that trophy in 2020, you should give this a listen.

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.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.


OCTOBER 31, 2019 //     

Brand storytelling with purpose

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

By Gina Mossey

Storytelling has been a key element of marketing since the industry’s inception. But as customers’ expectations of brand stories consistently evolve, the stakes keep getting higher for marketers.

After decades of being advertised to, modern consumers are more sceptical than ever. Gen Z in particular looks for their brands to have real purpose that gives them a reason to exist beyond making money. Nearly 60% said a brand’s association with a good cause is likely to spur a purchase.

Our recent trip to the PRWeek awards highlighted some fantastic examples of companies that think more laterally to find their purpose and the narrative around it: incredibly powerful stories that truly drive action. As the potential for brands to drive real change gets stronger, here are some pointers we’ve picked up along the way.

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Make sure the story is one shared company-wide

Those who will turn out to be the real drivers of your brand purpose are your exec team and your employees. Good causes are emotive. So, the more you can get a sense of the values your entire company strongly believes in, the more heart your narrative will have.

Surveys and focus groups can work wonders here. Including members of the C-suite at key points in the planning phase will mean they are several steps ahead and truly bought into the cause when it hits the airwaves across PESO channels. Workshops work really well in the early stages of bringing stakeholders together to tackle collaborative message development and creative campaign ideation.

All of this will ultimately give an engaging and consistent narrative that will spark connections with customers and make them want to adopt and share it as their own.

Answer the “why”

This question is more important than ever to answer in the early planning stages. Ask yourself why your brand supports this cause. Does it align with your brand mission and values? Not only that, but does it fit with the vision of your leadership team? Is there real potential for your company to make a difference? Do you have the resources to put behind this to make a measurable impact?

If the answer to any of these is “no”, more needs to be put in place to be able to truly drive the initiative forward. Taking a step back to ask yourselves the difficult questions here is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from those who do it well or speak to contacts in other markets to get an outsider’s perspective.

Think earned-first

As an integrated agency with its DNA in earned, we practice what we preach by bringing in the earned media specialists when working with brand purpose. The story needs to be genuine and evocative for the customer, skills that PR professionals have honed for years by working with journalists to build stories that capture imaginations. If a story is powerful enough to captivate your earned media, it’ll be one that flies when it comes to driving action across paid, shared and owned channels.

Think long term

Brands that have great purpose are those that are in it for the long haul. Once you’ve taken the time to find your “white space” – where your company can really make a difference – take the time to think about active, measurable commitments you can make. With so many brands storytelling around purpose, customers are sceptical of “window dressing”. They want something tangible to prove your cause is something you care about and are committed to doing right. Shoot for a long-term initiative or partnership that can evolve over time over one-off charity gigs.

If this year’s awards season is anything to go by, stories around brand purpose are here to stay. Driving real change is a marathon, not a sprint. We can’t wait to see what both market leaders and startups alike manage to achieve in the next 12 months. To hear more musings, predictions, and trends around storytelling and purpose, check out this month’s edition of The Stream podcast here: http://bit.ly/2MOgkUm.

Gina Mossey is an account director in Allison+Partners’ London office.

 

 

 

OCTOBER 25, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Purpose: Keeping it authentic

Do brands need to have a purpose? How can they find it, and importantly make it truly authentic? More than two-thirds of Gen Z consumers will now actively choose brands that have values they want to align themselves with, so it's never been more important to define what your brand's mission is, outside of making money. 

Andrew is joined in the London studio by Account Director Gina Mossey to discuss the best campaigns from the recent PR Week Awards, as well as some thought-provoking pre-dinner speeches. Plus, the two discuss how brands can both make a positive impact on the world and further their communications goals. 

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.


The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.
OCTOBER 17, 2019 //     

Mental Health: We All Have It

By Emily Spicer

Last week, Allison+Partners hosted a training session in the UK on World Mental Health Day to help raise awareness for mental health issues. During the course led by the MHFA, it was shared that one in four people experience some form of mental health issue in the course of a year.

There is still a stigma associated with mental health, and those suffering are often victims of discrimination, which can lead people to hide their difficulties. This is explored in more detail by the Mental Health Foundation who have said that 38% of Brits fear revealing a mental health problem at work would jeopardise their career. The only effective way of helping break the stigma is by building awareness for the issue and encouraging them to seek support. And the first place this starts is in the workplace. Work is where we tend to spend most of our time, and our colleagues are the people we tend to see the most and who are likely to become our close friends. It makes sense that work should then also be the place where we feel safest.

Programmes that work

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There are many different things that can help with mental wellbeing at work. For example, Supermarket chain Iceland highlights the importance of enjoying a good work-life balance. The retailer looks after employees by providing mental health support for those suffering from work-related stress and offers an Occupational Health Service to provide employees with a fast diagnosis and speedy referrals for treatment.

Barclays encourages staff to tell their own stories through its “This Is Me” campaign, in order to break the culture of silence. They’ve also signed up for “Time to Change,” to support employees facing challenges and normalise mental health issues.

At Allison+Partners, we offer support and resources through platforms like our Employee Assistance Programme, which offers a variation of advice through the confidential free helpline and referrals to mental health specialists who can help with bereavement, financial issues, legal rights, housing, wellbeing, etc. They also have a great app that provides useful articles and discussion pages on a wide range of mental health topics.

Our life insurance provider offers us two confidential helplines, legal issues, and bereavement, but they also offer us four free counselling sessions that can be face-to-face with a professional counsellor. This is a great resource, as professional guidance can be the best tool for recovery but is often one that could cost the individual a lot of money or it can take time to get a referral through the NHS. The sessions are very quick and straightforward to organise, and entirely confidential.

There are so many great resources out there that employees and employers can access. The NHS recently launched its ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign, which has a short quiz to help you better understand your own mental wellbeing. Other helpful workplace resources include Mind, Mental Health First Aid England, Mental Health At Work and Cruse.

Emily Spicer is an HR advisor in Allison+Partners’ London office.

AGENCY NEWS // OCTOBER 16, 2019 //     

PRWeek UK Awards Winners 2019: Healthcare: Ethical & OTC Consumer

The Healthcare: Ethical & OTC Consumer gong goes to 'Live Your Best Life with Type 1', by Allison+Partners for Dexcom, which successfully raised awareness - even in parliament - of what it means to live with this form of diabetes, while advocating for better education about the condition and affordable medication. READ MORE
SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 //     

Building executive visibility the right way

By Sarah Johns 

 

A strong strategy to build executive visibility starts with a good understanding of the current turbulent state of the communications industry.  

As PR professionals, we know how fast our industry changes. In early September, Marie Claire UK announced its decision to cease print publication. It joined a growing club now operating solely online, including NME and Now. But that’s not the full picture, of course. In the B2B market, we’ve seen Incisive Media close IT magazine V3.co.uk, while the commercial finance publication Bridging and Commercial launched in print. And that’s all happened within the span of a year!

In short, PR professionals must be ready for anything, and so do our execs. So, based on the current media landscape, what’s the best course of action?

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Decide how you will be successful 

It may seem obvious, but before embarking on building executive visibility you should re-visit your company strategy, short- and long-term goals, and the audience you want to target. Update your list of top and tier-one media and identify opportunities in the press that best allows you to build visibility in the right places. Achieving a full page of coverage in a national business supplement won’t be easy, especially if you’re not from a FTSE company. But your C-Suite will still expect you to aim high. 

Prepare the executive 

Involve the executive from the start. If they haven’t had much previous experience with the press, it’s vital to get them media trained. Be clear on what you need from them and what they need from you, be it a list of topics they would never want to comment on or access to their calendar to arrange a media briefing at the drop of a hat. Let your executive know they can trust you not to put them forward for opportunities that aren’t quite the right fit for them or aren’t the right audience for their message and be clear about what the right ones would look like. This helps avoid wasting time on the wrong opportunities and maximises time on the right ones.  

Foster a thought leader 

Encourage your spokesperson to build a voice of their own first on owned channels. Whether it’s having them write a blog post once a month or ensuring they regularly post on their LinkedIn profile, having your exec develop content will put your team in a better position to sell them to media. Blogs can be repurposed and placed as bylines, videos of the executive speaking at a company event can be used to pitch the exec for a seat on a roundtable and comments on news articles can be material for an issues hijack. 

Be clear on what not to do 

Bear in mind that to get the best traction, executive content should be unique but on-brand. Remember that saying the same thing as everyone else isn’t going to grab headlines but being too provocative can undermine credibility and land you in trouble. In today’s digital-first world, it only takes one tweet to ruin a reputation that took years to build.  

Done right, building executive visibility can help develop great brand awareness, authority on topics your company wants to be known for and ultimately boost sales. However, executing it seamlessly requires a plan, preparation, and a story. 

 

Sarah Johns is a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ London office. 

 

SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 //     

The evolution of the communications agency model: Q&A with Scott Allison

By Ellis Reid and Scott Allison

As Allison+Partners turns 18, we sat down with CEO and founder Scott Allison to discuss the evolution of our agency, our offerings and the way we leverage senior leadership for client accounts. 

How has PR changed since the agency started in 2001? 

Scott: The evolution has been dramatic. In 2001, there was a much heavier emphasis on just media relations, generating press releases, media pitching, and placement. Earned media was a key focus. The lanes were much tighter. Now I joke that all the lanes have been taken out of the pool – it’s a mosh-pit where best ideas win, and it doesn’t matter where they come from. 

When we launched the business, there were a few things we wanted to differentiate in. One was how much we embraced media relations and earned media and continue to do so today. We took the view that every agency says they have great media contacts, but that’s not entirely true. We invested in setting up a separate media department, with folks who are heavily engaged in building those media relationships. 

Do you see that the way we use senior leaders’ time has changed? 

Scott: The idea of having a senior strategist on all accounts is a key differentiator for us. In this environment, you can’t get away with a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all communications programme. It needs some real thought-provoking insight to be successful. And we’re seeing more and more that clients are seeing the value that senior leadership can bring to the table. 

Is the way our clients behave driving this change and ultimately having a fundamental impact on these offerings? 

Scott: It’s a very competitive world; our clients are under a lot of strain to deliver results. The CMO or the chief comms officer is being held accountable for delivering results and making a true measurable impact on the business. The communications function is now seen as so important, these people are reporting directly to the CEO and have tremendous access to the board. It’s a trend that’s absolutely going to keep continuing. Our clients are craving strategy, and they’re also craving navigation through a very tumultuous communications world. This goes hand in hand with having a counterpart on the agency side who is really smart, strategic and has deep industry experience.  

Where do you see the services lie where we can offer the most value with our senior leadership team? 

Scott: One of the areas we continue to thrive in, and an area I personally lead a lot of, is media training – consistently training senior executives to prepare them for media interviews. That’s since evolved into a presentation offering. Many of our clients are doing major TEDtalks or keynote speeches, and we spend a lot of time working with senior executives to help them to get their storytelling down. 

Continuing on from that would be the strategic insight of messaging; how to build a story arc from early on and clearly putting down a communications roadmap.  

Another area is internal comms. We launched a new product last year called Workplace. And we are already working with several clients in the U.S., helping them with their internal communication to position them as fantastic employers. That also goes in issues and crisis management that we also do a lot on. 

So, we offer value on the strategic side at the forefront, prepping and getting clients engaged in moving forward. But you also have the reactive side. There could be a crisis or issues management piece and getting these two sides aligned can sometimes be a challenge. 

In a recent pitch, we presented a strategy using an American football analogy, explaining that you need to build your offense and your defense. And if you get mired in issues management or a crisis, usually the proactive piece completely falls apart. But we talked about an approach where you have both an offense and a defense to make sure the proactive approach never stops no matter what.  

So why is A+P best placed for providing these services over someone in a more traditional consulting role for instance? 

Scott: Being grounded in communications and PR has always given us the opportunity to see different insights for a company. It was then a very natural progression to move into more integrated offerings. Since then, we have continued to expand and invest in the company. 

We bought a film company; they are now doing world-class film production all around the world. We’ve built a research and analytics group from the ground up and invested heavily into those platforms. We’ve brought in creative talent; people that really understand content and are well-versed in the social media aspect. Then we have people who have come from the ad and planning world to ensure we have all the pieces of the puzzle available to our clients.  

There is an incredibly rich diversity of experience within the agency. If you look at a lot of the hires we’ve made over the last two years, a number of them come from the advertising or research sector, which is vastly different from 18 years ago when we were looking at former journalists to form the backbone of the company.  

We also see the global element being extremely important, having local talent all over the world in our 30 offices. We are increasingly going after big global brands. And what we find is once we start working with them and build a trusted relationship, we can grow into other markets. Underwriters Laboratory is a great example of this. We’ve worked with them for almost seven years, and they now work with 20 different offices throughout the A+P network.  

Why should clients choose A+P overtaking these skills in-house? 

Scott: Agencies are incredibly well-positioned because we can deliver this expertise in all the things we have invested in. We have a production company, animation studios in Thailand and a very sophisticated offering in San Francisco. But how do you replicate that in-house? Bringing in a freelance videographer is great, but you won’t be able to deliver what we can deliver. Taking these skills in-house you have a very myopic view. As an outside observer, we see ourselves as someone that has to give very candid, sometimes critical feedback that has to be heard at the highest levels.  

This is a golden era for communications agencies.  

Looking to the next 18 years, what can we expect? 

Scott: 18 years can be a lifetime. The speed of change is being driven by technology as well as how the media landscape has collapsed in many ways and rebuilt itself in other ways. The impact of AI and data analytics and similar areas are going to advance at the speed of sound. It’s going to be difficult for some of the smaller agencies to keep up with this, so we have been investing back in the business to prepare us for these changes.  

For us, we’ll continue to grow. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet. We represent some of the world’s best brands, but it will be up to us and our leadership team to not take our eye off the ball.

We need to focus on what got us here; hiring great people, empowering people to be entrepreneurial and grow their careers and keep an eye on the technology and investments to know what will truly be impactful.  

 

Ellis Reid is a senior account director in Allison+Partners’ London office. 

 

SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 //     

Not prepared? You’re asking for a crisis!

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

By Jim Selman


As we enter the 50th year of the PRCA here in the UK, we have been reminiscing with industry leaders about what PR was like back in the day and marvelling at how the sector has professionalised over the years. Based on the evolution of the industry, we all have come to expect that crisis preparedness is at the foundation of every reputation strategy. But that is not always the case.

It is common knowledge that a strong reputation can drive value and that a serious crisis can sometimes erase a business altogether. In addition, the prevalence of crises is increasing.  According to the 2018 Deloitte Annual Crisis Survey, 80% of organisations worldwide reported having to mobilise their crisis management teams at least once in the previous two years.

Unexpectedly, another consulting firm found companies can actually come out stronger after a crisis. However, 41% of those companies that came out in a better place allocated budget to crisis management before the crisis hit – and 39% actually saw their revenues grow as a result. Preparedness works. The same survey showed by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, organisations with a response plan in place fared better than those who didn’t. More importantly, those who keep their crisis plans up to date and implement the lessons learned are four times more likely to come out on top.

Years ago, a huge amount of time was often spent drafting and redrafting crisis documents that when finally prepared, would need to be specially bound and carried with both arms using a safety belt to avoid severe back problems. Those huge static documents would then sit on a shelf decaying slowly and only made accessible to a small group of specially trained people. Then when the crisis arose, the team, contact information, and the response were all out of date.

So, what does preparedness look like?

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It needs to be collaborative, exhaustive and always on.

The Deloitte survey showed 21% of companies with board participation in the crisis management plan say the number of crises has declined over the last decade. Among companies without board involvement, only 2% believe this to be true. Senior leadership in any organisation must collaborate in the planning process and be as visible as possible during the crisis itself. As mentioned previously, a crisis is a crucial moment where trust can either be lost, mitigated or even increased depending on how those with the greatest responsibility act in front of their stakeholders. It is not good enough for communicators to have drafted and rehearsed, business leaders also need to feel a level of responsibility in the creation of their crisis response.

In EMEA, Deloitte also found almost 80% of respondents participate in crisis exercises with third parties, examine third parties’ crisis plans or both. Again, the outdated principle that only the communicators inside a client organisation should have visibility to and responsibility for their crisis plan is short-sighted and ineffective. Teams should collaborate both inside and out to plan and test their processes, not simply to ensure a joined-up approach (e.g. throughout the supply chain) but also to get a valuable external opinion.

Crises certainly aren’t a laughing matter. But sometimes there are a few wry smiles in the room when trying to wade through a scenario planning session, discussing every possible awful situation however obscure they may sound at the time. Crises have become more volatile as mass communication has evolved. These days, a relatively small issue can snowball into a massive ongoing nightmare within an hour. Therefore, regardless of what constitutes a “red light” crisis for an organisation, it is important to prepare for EVERYTHING.

Finally, it is important to be always on. This doesn’t mean walking around the office in a tin hat. But wise investment in people and technology allows organisations to regularly train, monitor and analyse to be best prepared. Crisis training is a team sport and should be conducted as such with senior leaders, communicators and other key stakeholders all practicing together.

Organisational strategy, processes, and responses should be kept in digital form and tested several times a year, so they can be easily adjusted and deployed. In a crisis, timing is everything. Training must push everyone involved to work efficiently and ensure monitoring services are up to scratch, always on and plugged into the response process. External monitoring work with human analysis is sometimes overlooked, but it may still be one of the most important tasks undertaken on behalf of an organisation.

The ever-increasing probability of a crisis means readiness is everything. The better prepared an organisation is to take on a crisis, the greater the opportunity is to not only protect its reputation but to rebuild the trust that puts the organisation in a better place.

 

Jim Selman is the UK MD in Allison+Partners’ London office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Value Added Services: Featuring special guest Scott Allison

Happy Birthday Allison+Partners! We’re 18 years old today, and to celebrate Andrew is joined by a very special guest in our London studio. Global Chairman, CEO and Founder Scott Allison is here to talk about how the industry has changed over the last two decades, and what impact that has had on the services that we offer our clients.

From speaker training and strategy, to crisis communications and video development, the services that agencies like A+P offer are more diverse than ever before. What does that mean for our clients, and how has the relationship between in-house and agency changed for the better?

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.



The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.
AUGUST 28, 2019 //     

Not playing around: What was new at Gamescom 2019

Not playing around: What was new at Gamescom 2019

By: Andrew Rogers

If you’re looking for a visual example of just how big the games industry is, look no further than Gamescom. Held in Cologne, Germany, Gamescom is Europe’s biggest video games conference and convention. It’s rivalled only by E3 in Los Angeles and has drawn brands and fans from around the world since 2010.

Gamescom blends business and fun, with a specified “business area” and “entertainment area.” On one side is a relatively traditional looking B2B trade show, while the other side hosts more than 350,000 passionate fans who have come to try out the latest and greatest games and upcoming releases.

As the industry has evolved, so too has Gamescom. Having attended this year’s conference, here are the main trends we saw (in-between playing the latest Pokémon and Zelda games).

Big tech is now big gaming

Big and recognisable brands are everywhere you look at Gamescom. Nintendo, Microsoft and PlayStation all had massive stands, both in the business- and consumer-focused areas of the show. Square Enix also had a noticeably big presence for its upcoming Avengers and Final Fantasy games, as did EA for FIFA 20.

More surprising was the greatly increased muscle of brands traditionally not in the world of gaming. Facebook and Google in particular really upped their footprint – with Google even bringing its own three-story slide!

Of course, this is all in anticipation of both companies launching brand new gaming platforms. In Facebook’s case, it’s the launch of Oculus Quest, which shrinks down powerful VR into a headset with no wired connection. For Google, it’s the launch of cloud-based virtual console Stadia. Big tech is now also big gaming.

And it’s not just new hardware. Both Facebook and Google heavily pushed their streaming and publishing platforms, looking to attract more high profile and aspiring game streamers to their sites and take a bite out of current market leader Twitch.

Missing in action

There were some notable absences from the show too, including the aforementioned Twitch. While in previous years they’ve had stands that dominate the show, this year Twitch’s booth was quite limited. But with so many brands and fans clearly streaming live on Twitch of their own accord anyway, perhaps Twitch doesn’t need a booth to win Gamescom?

Activision and its associated brands, Candy Crush-maker King and World of Warcraft’s Blizzard were also noticeably quiet at the show this year, and world-leading Fortnite barely showed up at all.

We’re ramping up for a much bigger 2020

While 2019’s Gamescom felt big up close and personal, it’s going to seem quiet compared with next year. For all major companies, perhaps with the exception of Nintendo, 2019 is the end of the current console lifecycle. And while there are some big games coming out, market analysts have pointed to a pretty thin line up of blockbuster games this Christmas.

Next year will see the launch of the new PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s new Xbox codenamed Project Scarlett, and the full public release of Google Stadia. The next generation will bring far more power to consoles, allowing for bigger games and deeper experiences. PlayStation may well also update its PlayStation VR kit to maintain its strong position against Facebook’s Oculus.

Even more fans will descend on Cologne to get the latest controllers in their hands and try games that up until now have not been possible without incredibly expensive gaming PCs.

Live content is key

Though not necessarily new for 2019, this year’s Gamescom did underline the importance of generating live content at the show. Almost all the big stands had either a booth for live streaming, or a full stage with presenters broadcasted across Twitch (or similar platforms).

Gamescom is not just a trade show – it’s also a live event, and one where your live content and reveals must compete with other brand attendees. The best stands hosted live competitions, audience participation and even competitive esports matches. It’s no longer enough to just offer a game demo. Brands also need to find the right presenters, activities and run their own week-long, multilingual TV channel.

From B2B stand management and press briefings, to massive consumer stands and live content, Gamescom has always challenged brands to perfect their events communications. Part B2B trade show, part gaming fan convention, Gamescom shows just how intertwined the B2B and B2C worlds are when it comes to video games. And while 2019 was a great year, the next console generation will force brands to take their comms strategy to the next level in 2020.

Andrew Rogers is an account director in Allison+Partners’ London office.

AUGUST 20, 2019 //     

The importance of taking an integrated approach

An interview with Paul Sears, Executive Vice President, Integrated Marketing.

By Jess Docherty

Allison Partners’ integrated marketing expert Paul Sears is spending six months in London to help expand our existing integrated capabilities in the region and foster deeper integration across the network. While he is here, I thought I’d pick his brain on integrated marketing and why it’s crucial for PR and marketing professionals to implement in their overall communications strategies.  

How does Allison+Partners help clients with integrated marketing?

We prefer to approach all our client work from a holistic perspective. Starting with segmentation, targeting and positioning and the classical 4 P’s of marketing we all know and love (product, price, place, promotion). And asking, “Who is the customer, what do they need, and how do I create something (a product, a service, a campaign, a loyalty program) that fulfils that need?”

A truly integrated approach puts the customer in the centre of the room, then looks at how to position the brand or product to be truly helpful to them. Sometimes we’re helping clients develop and name new products, creating brand and product architecture systems, and working with the client to create new or optimise existing distribution channels. And of course, Promotion – the fourth P, that’s a huge part of what we do as an agency. As a full-service marketing communications agency, we spend a great deal of time creating campaigns to launch and sustain awareness, drive consideration and purchase, and create consumer advocacy and referral. Integrated marketing requires a customer-centric approach and several different disciplines working together.

Why is taking an integrated approach important?

Today’s clients face constant pressure to do more with less.  It’s incredibly difficult to manage a diverse roster of agencies. CMO’s need a strong strategic partner that can answer the big questions about what the firm should make and do, and be truly 360-degree in its go-to-market approach. With more than 80 folks globally working on cross-functional marketing, our clients get access to consultative brand and product marketing, as well as campaign execution.  We’re able to have a single point of contact that understands the client’s business goals and the needs of the customer, as well as every channel we’re activating in.

A basic breakdown of approach:

Research and insight
  • A surgeon presented with a patient who has a mystery illness, wouldn’t just start operating immediately – they’d do some x-rays, and try to find the problem. It’s the same with integrated marketing. We don’t want to rush to market based on assumptions. We take time to conduct research and find unexpected ways of looking at the issues, so we can surprise and delight. But like the surgeon, we know the patient needs help right away, so we’re not going to research ourselves out of the window of opportunity. We balance rigor and agility to get going quickly.
Strategy based on insights
  • First, we want to make sure we’re solving the right problem. Then we’ll mine for that unexpected insight. Then take the insight, and build our work around that, and find the best channels to invest in.
Big umbrella ideas
  • When considering the big idea, we look for inspiration everywhere in our organisation and aim to generate a reaction in people that makes them stop and think. We use viewpoints from all corners to build out the umbrella story that fuels the entire program.
Implementation with agile and nimble optimisation
  • Once we have a well-reasoned “why” then we can start to direct the investment and activity into paid, earned, shared or owned channels. We let research and data do the heavy lifting to help in selecting each channel, so we can thoughtfully consider each step in the customer journey.
  • To make the program effective we work hard to connect dispersed teams so that everyone is aware and can learn from every action. If the PR team have landed a great piece of coverage, we want our social teams looking for ways to expand its reach. We want our creative team to create infographics and social objects from it, we want to boost it with paid and get influencers and consumers talking about it.
Measure and adjust
  • With each of the steps above it is important to fail fast and move on. Measurement is about really being able to understand in depth how the consumer ecosystem is engaging with the work. Interrogate the data, interpret the movement and then start to develop a plan to accelerate channels and activities that are working.

What keeps you inspired?

The most important thing for me is continuous learning and development.  I feel like I don’t know what I don’t know. I love doing research projects in entirely new categories, I try to get one or two new academic certifications each year, I stay connected with my professional network, and I read up on thought leadership as much as I can. I think it’s really fun seeing creativity coming to life in innovative tech-driven campaigns like “The Whopper Detour” or bold cultural stances like “Nike’s Dream Crazy.” 

Jess Docherty is a digital account manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.

AUGUST 15, 2019 //     

10 top tips for a tremendous trade show

By Lizzy Chesters

The trade show world can be a daunting one. The variety and sheer number of events make it difficult to decide which are the best to attend. So, what can be done from a public relations perspective to make attending truly worth the spend and help fuel the all-important sales funnel?

Here are the top 10 things to bear in mind.

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  1. Pick the right show: In our latest podcast episode, I mentioned the average price of a B2B trade show is roughly £350 per square meter, and that doesn’t take into account all the marketing material and human resources needed. Before choosing your show, it is crucial to think about your business goals. By considering whether you want to network, gain industry insight or capture new leads, you can whittle down your list. Similarly, looking back at the history of shows, researching the audience and reading previous reviews can help determine whether this is the right show for you. There are loads of event lists and tools, which can also help.
  2. Secure a speaking slot: This is the best way to reach as much of your audience as possible and can help encourage people to visit your company’s stand. To secure that all-important opportunity, pitch a topic at the forefront of your industry to position your firm as a thought leader. And make sure you get in there early – at least eight months prior to the event itself. In addition, you can use that presentation for further PR opportunities after the event itself; turning it into a byline to pitch later, for instance, can be a great way to maximise the content.
  3. Ask to see the media attendee list: Are there any journalists attending whom you want to meet? It is becoming increasingly difficult to get in front of a journalist, so approaching them at a trade show is a great way to start building a relationship that may eventually lead to future coverage. For the more popular shows, journalists’ schedules can get booked up to a month in advance, so plan ahead. If you don’t manage to meet, follow up afterwards with media who couldn’t attend.
  4. Take notes of the keynote themes/topics: Making a note of what your peers discuss is a good starting point for your own thought leadership – what is your opinion? Is it different? And does your company offer a unique solution to any problems currently facing your industry? For larger industry events, consider writing a ‘round-up’ piece, which includes key takeaways and predictions for the year ahead.
  5. Should you launch a new product/service? Be careful here – if you exhibit alongside FTSE 250 companies, your launch will likely get lost. Sometimes it pays off to attend a particularly niche show, where a more targeted audience will hear your voice. Alternatively, undertaking a piece of research, which can support the announcement, is a good way to generate additional interest.
  6. Savvy social: Before, during and after the event, make sure your business tweets about the show. Always use the event hashtag to amplify your content and ensure influential people see it. Make sure to incorporate images into those posts, so they get as much traction as possible. Also, including relevant links to content on the event website is a great way to drive target audiences to your own website. Include your booth number and/or location at the event to drive attendees to your stand.
  7. Speak to your sales team: Do they have any targets attending the event? How can you work together to secure that business? By working together, you are more likely to get that all-important new business lead, which is the ultimate measure of ROI.
  8. Don’t ignore the analysts: If your company is featured in any technical research (such as Gartner or Forrester), trade shows are an excellent way to get in front of the analysts writing those papers. Contacting the analysts beforehand to arrange a briefing to discuss the benefits and uniqueness of what your company offers is a brilliant time-saver.
  9. Influence the influencers: Attend their talks to gain valuable insights. If they make any comments that resonate with your company’s messages, then send them a link to relevant content on your website to try and ignite a relationship with them. It could also be beneficial to undertake a paid relationship with an influencer around an event. This would involve them promoting your organisation’s attendance across their social channels, attending double-headed briefings, support any announcement you might make and be an additional draw to your stand or presentations.
  10. Maximise your mobile: The cameras on smartphones are of an incredibly high quality these days. Buying a cheap phone stand means you immediately have a camera to document the event. It’s easy to create great video just using your mobile. This content can then be used across social, website or podcasts.


Lizzy Chesters is a senior account manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.

AUGUST 14, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Trade shows - It’s more than just a stand

There are a staggering 1.3 million business events of all shapes and sizes held each year in the UK, so it's no wonder the exhibition and trade show sector is worth a massive £19.2bn to the UK economy. But with a generally high cost of entry, companies want to ensure that they make a splash at trade shows they attend and stand out in their industry. So what are the best ways to grab attention, and how can and should trade show activity go beyond the traditional press briefings?

Andrew Rogers is joined in the London studio by Senior Account Manager Lizzy Chesters to give a step-by-step guide on the dos and don'ts of trade shows, including the best ways to interact with the press and how to make sure your brand stands out amongst all the noise.

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.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.

AGENCY NEWS // JULY 24, 2019 //     

PR WEEK UK Awards 2019: shortlist revealed

The shortlist for the PRWeek UK Awards 2019 has been announced, after an intense judging process that saw hundreds of award entries.

The expert jury panel of more than 100 leading global brands and agencies have decided which entrants are in with a chance of winning at the glitzy annual awards night on Tuesday 15 October at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House in Park Lane.

Allison+Partners UK has been shortlisted for the Healthcare: Ethical and OTC Consumer category for Dexcom UK.


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JULY 18, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Diversity and Inclusion - Why diverse teams make for better campaigns

By: Andrew Rogers and Ellis Reid

Do public relations professionals really reflect the general public? Why does it matter that the communications industry be as diverse as the audiences that we’re trying to speak to? And are we doing enough to foster inclusive teams so everyone can be heard? 

Andrew is joined in the London studio by Senior Account Director Ellis Reid to discuss why both diversity and inclusion are important for creating better, more effective campaigns and discuss where the communications industry can and should go from here.

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.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.
JULY 17, 2019 //     

What to do when your content fails

By: Jide Adesesan 

 

As PR professionals, we are great content creators who know what good content looks like. However, every so often, even the best can sometimes produce a dud. So, what do you do when your content fails? 

First, don’t be hard on yourself – it’s difficult to create and develop great content. A lot of time, strategy and effort go into creating a quality research paperblog or video, so we despair when things don’t go our way. Instead, if the content doesn’t meet expectations – i.e. low viewing numbers, click-throughs or download rates – follow one of these steps below to turn it around and get that campaign back on track. 

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What did you miss? 

For your content to work, it must be relevant and timely. The sweet spot is where your audience’s interests and challenges overlap with you and the client’s business objectives. 

Reflect on what you might have missed the first time around. Consider if you have taken the audiences into account: did you misjudge what they want or find important?  

The most common problem when it comes to failing content is misunderstanding the audience and what it takes to coax them into action. 

What’s your content tilt? 

So, you’ve found your sweet spot and understand what your audience wantto read about. Now what?  

It’s time to find out why the original content failed your expectations. Ideally, you want to create a piece of content that can compete with the hundreds of thousands of links on the internet that promise the same thing you are selling.  

Be sure to scan what your competitors say about the topic and find the gap – the tilt – that separates your content and gives it a fighting a chance. For instance, if your content is around the keys to a successful digital transformation, then I’ve got bad news for you, pal! 

Also, think about your headline – you only have one chance to make a good first impression. 

Raise visibility 

Help your customers find you by investing in content distribution. There are a number of cost-effective channels available, such as social media paid campaigns and email marketing.  

It’s also worth putting in the time to make sure your work is optimised to improve your online visibility. Check out these free SEO tools. Better yet, speak to one of our All Told colleagues to support your effort.  

Manage expectations 

This is the most difficult aspect of correcting failing contentand it’s also the most critical. What are you trying to achieve with this piece of content? Are you trying to drive sales or raise awareness? And, can your content really help achieve all these objectives? How do we measure success? 

If you haven’t already, this is when you need to have an honest conversation with your team to discuss what’s gone wrong and how you propose to fix it. But you also need to be forthright about expectations and what the content is likely to deliver. 

What do you do with bad, unengaging content?  

The question of whether to purge any particular piece of work depends on a number of factors – is this content useful to anyone? If I removed it from the website or archive, would anyone miss it? Does it damage the brand?  

We are not perfect and sometimes get it wrong. But the important thing to remember is all is not lost and almost any piece of work is salvageable. Start again with the basics and give your content time to do well.  

 

Jide Adesesan is a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ London office. 

JULY 17, 2019 //     

THE STREAM UK PODCAST





The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.
JULY 10, 2019 //     

Four ways to make the most of a media tour

By: Ellis Mendon

 

While much of public relations has gone digital, there is still tremendous value in facilitating good, old-fashioned facetime between journalists and company executives. Media tours are critical for relationship building and help increase chances for deeper coverage on a company and its products or services.

So, how do you make the most out of one? Here are our four tips for ensuring success.

 

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1. Consider the calendar

Before you nail down dates for your trip, have a thorough look through an events board to make sure your visit isn’t overlapping with other key events going on. The last thing you want to do is have to compete for a journalist’s attention and time. A helpful and reliable site to use when planning is Techmeme.

If you’re travelling internationally, be sure to consider national holidays. You don’t want to wind up booking your trip when journalists are off work.

2. Engage with journalists

When it comes to securing interest for briefings, it’s important to make sure you are pitching them effectively and meeting journalists via their preferred style of communication, whether that be email, text message or social media platforms like Twitter. Do your research before conducting outreach. If you know that a journalist is active on Twitter and their bio says they are open to receiving pitches via DM, shoot them a message on the social platform.

And yes, while the overall group is a dying breed, there are still some journalists that have a desk phone that they answer. No two journalists are the same.

3. Make the narrative relevant

It’s safe to say that no matter what media market you are working in, journalists are interested in learning how your announcement or story fits into the wider picture. You can guarantee that at some point during a journalist briefing, he or she will broach the subject of current events or introduce a recent trend. They will want to hear your spokesperson’s POV on the matter and learn how the announcement and/or company ties into what’s happening.

Do your homework ahead of the interview and prep your spokesperson for success. If the publication you are meeting with has a specific focus that fits nicely with your business’ focus or point of view, have your spokesperson reference it to show they are familiar with the publication and were thoughtful in scheduling the meeting.

4. Foster relationships

If your company executive is on social media, have them follow the journalist on Twitter and take the time to read through some of their recent coverage before the meeting. This will help him/her understand the journalist’s tone and provide insight into what topics they have written about.

Having this background knowledge can also be a good way for the spokesperson to break the ice with the journalist and relate to their interests, finding a common ground for where they can connect beyond the company news.

After the media tour is finished, it’s important to follow up with journalists on any lingering items you promised. It’s also nice added touch for your executive to handwrite or email a note to the journalists who they met with thanking them for their time. After all, the overall intent of this process is about bettering relationships with influential media.


Ellis Mendon is a senior account executive in Allison+Partners’ London office.

JUNE 27, 2019 //     

Communicating with the LGBTQ+ community in the digital age

By: Gina Mossey

As part of our agency’s celebrations for Pride Month, we hosted a panel event in the London office in collaboration with Out in Tech, a global not-for-profit for the LGBTQ+ community in tech, to discuss how the internet has changed the way brands can and should communicate with the LGBTQ+ community.

Chaired in style by our very own Account Director Andrew Rogers, guest speakers who imparted their words of wisdom included:

  • Polly Shute, Director of Partnerships at Parallel Lifestyle
  • Alex Wood, Europe Editor at Forbes
  • Matt Risley, Digital Director at MTV UK
  • Saski, Pride Host and LGBTQ+ Educator

A thought-provoking and lively conversation left us all with a lot of food for thought. Here are the key takeaways.

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Start with your staff

We’ve seen a lot of companies support Pride because other companies do – we all know brands are fast followers. But the most effective brands support LGBTQ+ communities year-round and get input and feedback from their employees to make sure they get it right.

Consistent communication with employees is the crucial piece of the puzzle between brands getting it right or wrong. The more they can be involved in the process, the better-informed senior teams will be. This will help you avoid falling into the pinkwashing trap, and instead show your company really listens to the challenges faced by real people.

LGBTQ+ is more than just one category

This umbrella community contains many subgroups, and brands can ignore this at their peril. Each subgroup needs to be marketed to in a different way, as each have their own pain points about their personal, historical and cultural experiences. Language is a key component here, as a positive term for one subgroup can be quite the opposite for another. However, empathy, consideration, and kindness will speak across the community. Within any content, we need to make sure everyone is represented.

Getting the language right again brings us back to the workplace. For society to get used to modern usage, we need more training on what is positive and negative to whom. For example, “queer” is something of a reclaimed term for younger people, while older generations can find it offensive. The more educated society becomes on this, the more intelligent our ways of using these terms socially will be.

Digital targeting for LGBTQ+ groups is still in its infancy

Building on the discussion around language, the group showed digital targeting for the community isn’t as sophisticated as it needs to be. Differences in connotations between different parts of the LGBTQ+ community means positive and negative keywords are tough to define and is a bigger conversation for the global tech community to have.

The panel also advised brands to beware of “The City Bubble.” LGBTQ+ initiatives and messaging are more advanced in major cities. But brands looking to truly get their comms strategies right need to make sure those who live in less urban areas are also represented.

They also highlighted the struggle with internet users known as “lurkers.” These people view and consume content, but they do not comment or share, making it hard to ensure their views are taken into account. We need to make sure we reach and engage the people who don’t feel they have a voice. Putting efforts into physical focus groups and research will help brands navigate this.

Be wary of only using technology to communicate

The group agreed the explosion in digital platforms has been positive in terms of visibility for LGBTQ+ issues. But it’s important it complements and does not replace, face-to-face interaction with the community. One-to-one level comms are important for any strategy.

Brands can tap into this by keeping events and meet-ups a key part of their strategy, such as hosting talks from key influencers in their sectors who have links to the LGBTQ+ community, putting emphasis on current topics and issues that have relevance to the subgroups.

Making mistakes is part of the journey

A key point the panel wanted brands to take away from the event is that it isn’t the end of the road if you make a mistake. It’s likely brands will get it wrong sometimes, and they shouldn’t take it personally. They advised that rather than pulling out all the stops to defend yourselves, listen to the community and put yourself in their shoes. Taking a step back and listening to the voices that matter will help you work out where to go from there.

The event’s open and honest discussion around these issues, thanks to our fantastic panel and the questions from our brilliant audience, is a perfect example of the collaborative conversations that need to happen to drive change on a bigger scale for the LGBTQ+ community. Brands that keep this at the core of their activity will be the ones that truly lead the way.

Gina Mossey is an account director in Allison+Partners' London office.

JUNE 18, 2019 //     

Our top takeaways from London Tech Week 2019

By: Lizzy Chesters

Sceptics may suggest the UK’s technology sector feels the pressure of Brexit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on all the events, conferences, product launches, hackathons, forums and company announcements out of London Tech Week.

The capital was abuzz last week with the annual event that brings together the good and the great of the international business community for a celebration of all-things-technology.

Theresa May kicked-off the festivities with a series of investment commitments, including £153 million ($192 million) of government funding plus a £205 million ($257 million) pledge by the industry to invest in technologies such as accelerated drug development from quantum computing. May said the UK sits "on the cusp of the next great industrial revolution." She also announced the availability of 2,500 AI and data conversion courses to commence in 2020, as well as the launch of a study into tech competitiveness to identify opportunities and support for digital businesses to ensure the UK remains the most attractive place to build a technology company.

In other positive news, the UK is now home to more than 70 tech unicorns, having created more $1 billion companies every month in the last year. The figures released by TechNation and Dealroom also revealed London has the most fintech unicorns of any European city, and it has more $1 billion start-ups than San Francisco.

Here are some more stand-out highlights from this year.

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Tech giants were seen and heard

In a philanthropic move, Square, the payments company co-founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, launched an initiative alongside The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network to enable refugee entrepreneurs to accept card and mobile payments to help get their businesses off the ground.

In addition, Facebook chose the event to announce it will open an engineering centre in London that will build tech tools designed to keep harmful content off its site. The company will create more than 500 new tech jobs, including 100 in AI, for the new hub by the end of 2019.

The future of 5G

Of course, it would be silly to think we could get through the week without someone mentioning 5G. Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright broke the silence, revealing the government will invest £40 million ($50 million) in 5G testbed and trial projects as part of plans to improve mobile connectivity across the UK. This latest investment round is through a wider £200 million ($250 million) project to test 5G technology that can support more than a million devices per square kilometre and speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G.

Fintech crosses borders

Leading UK fintech companies Monzo and Revolut rounded off the week with a couple of major announcements.

Monzo said it officially plans to expand to the U.S. (Los Angeles) led by CEO Tom Blomfield. From there, the firm will carry out its first launch events before expanding to other cities around the world.

Revolut reported it will open its public beta in Australia. A lucky 20,000 people on the waitlist will soon be able to use features such as money management and foreign exchange, with the fintech eventually offering these services to more people in the coming weeks.

With London being hailed as the global centre of fintech, it is great to see some of the country’s most promising businesses share their amazing expansion plans. The UK has solidified its well-deserved reputation as a major tech player on the global stage, and the next 12 months should be just as progressive and exciting as the last.

 

Lizzy Chesters is a Senior Account Manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.

JUNE 13, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Podcast marketing and getting brands behind the microphone

Episode 2

1 in 5 young adults now listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, and more podcast content is being created than ever before. No wonder then that brands are trying to get in on a slice of the action. 

Andrew is joined in the London studio by Digital Account Manager and podcast aficionado Jess Docherty to discuss how brands can and should get involved in the world of podcasts, from creating their own to sponsoring content we already know and love. 

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






The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.
JUNE 11, 2019 //     

5 Top tips: Creating mobile optimised content

By: Sian Hobday

Getting content to perform well on mobile is no longer optional – it’s essential to improve user experience and increase views.

For better or worse, mobile phones are now the most popular way of accessing the internet. In 2018, 62% of total time spent online was on a smartphone, according to Ofcom. The average UK person spends more than a day online each week, with 78% of the population now checking their smartphones within five minutes of waking up.

Most brands now adapt their existing content for mobile, and the most successful companies create content mobile-first. Nearly a quarter of all ad spend now goes on mobile, Ofcom notes. By evolving your content strategy to match user behaviours, your readers will thank you for it with views.

Here are our five top tips for ensuring your content is mobile ready:

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Consider reading patterns

There is a lot of research on how we consume content on our screens. Heat maps trace where our eyes and mouses travel as we navigate through a website or app. In most cases, it follows an “F pattern,” where users focus on the top left-hand side. The first few words and sentences are important for these types of readers. Others may only scan headlines and subheadings. Think carefully about the placement of key content and make it easy for users to take the next step.

Format content for the small screen

Keep content short and simple, so it can easily be scanned. Shorter headlines attract clicks too. If you need help, tools like Hemingway Editor can show how to improve your writing. Don’t forget simple tactics, such as bullet points and headings, to break up longer pieces of content.

It’s important to check how your content actually appears on mobile. Does it fit onto the screen? Are the images too large? Is the copy easy to read? Something as simple as the fonts and background colour can affect legibility.

So much content is shared on social media now – the average person has seven social accounts, with most of them connecting via mobile. How “shareable” your content is on mobile devices is increasingly important. It can provide a great opportunity to increase views if you make it as easy as possible for people to share.

Optimise for Google

Optimising for Google featured snippets has become more important due to the changes in the way we search for content. These snippets have higher click-through rates than regular organic search results. They also feature on the first page of the search engine results page and aim to answer queries as specific as possible.

Can you make summaries of your content or numbered lists that answer the most common search queries, so they are more likely to appear as a featured snippet?

Use images and video to add value

Images and videos have become the key drivers of attracting users’ attention online. This isn’t limited to simply using more photos or pictures of your product. Infographics or appropriate GIFs are a great way to enhance your message. Be wary of size and avoid taking up too much space, as large media makes content hard to read and can distract from the main purpose of the content. Too many images can have an adverse effect and cause users to switch off.

Finally, make sure it loads quickly!

The optimum time for a web page to load is three seconds, according to Google. Any longer, and users lose patience and click away. More than half of mobile website visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. And for every one-second delay in site load time, conversions fall by 12%, according to Google.

Sian Hobday is an Account Manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.

 

 

 

JUNE 7, 2019 //     

InfoSec 2019: Challenges and Opportunities facing Cybersecurity

By: Sarah Johns

Over 14,500 cybersecurity professionals and 400 suppliers descended on Olympia London this week for Infosecurity Europe 2019, arguably the most important cybersecurity event of the year.

Given the size of the event, it was no surprise to see vendors pulling out all the stops to grab the attention of attendees. Stands were adorned with arcade games, water features and escape rooms, and there were freebies galore, with stands giving out everything from free pens to socks and webcam covers to popcorn doused in liquid nitrogen.

It was great to see brands building awareness of their cybersecurity tools and engaging potential customers through gamification and other marketing initiatives in the exhibition hall. However, the conference programme remains an equally important part of the event, giving companies the chance to hear from each other’s security experts on the key challenges they are facing and how they can counter-act threats. So, what were the key takeaways?

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Cybersecurity professionals face increasing complexity and uncertainty

What came up time and time again was how challenging cybersecurity work has become. CISOs and their teams must contend with an increasing number of threats. In fact, according to the National Cyber Security Centre, the average number of cyber-attacks on UK businesses has grown from four in 2018 to six in 2019. These threats are also more complex, as highlighted by the commons public accounts committee in The Times. Jane Frankland, author of “Women in Cybersecurity,” stressed that one way companies can deal with this complexity is by hiring more diverse teams. Non-homogenous groups can offer a wide range of approaches and perspectives, therefore often proving more adept at problem-solving than ones primarily made up of personnel from similar backgrounds.

Humans remain the weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity

Whether it’s using easy-to-guess passwords, not using multi-factor authentication or configuring the cloud incorrectly, all too often human error is to blame when it comes to cybersecurity. On the keynote stage on day 1, Dan Raywood, contributing editor at Infosecurity Magazine, chaired an excellent panel discussion on rethinking cyber defence to combat complex risks, threats and vulnerabilities. He discussed the many reasons for it but noted that humans are usually at fault. An interesting point was that it is human nature to assume you will not experience “the worst,” such as a major hack unless it has happened to you.

However, as recognised in the discussion, organisations are cottoning onto this and improving their security procedures following high-profile breaches such as the global 2017 WannaCry attack. This case was somewhat of a turning point for many organisations, serving as a widespread awareness campaign and prompting many organisations, not just those affected by this particular ransomware, to patch their systems more regularly.

Technology is key to bridging the gap

In conversation with one systems engineer, it was noted that no matter how many employees a company has in its SOC (security operations centre) team, there simply will never be enough to deal with all the cyber alerts and incidents manually. Technologies such as AI, automation, and analytics are therefore playing a vital role in helping security teams do their jobs well. For example, there was software being demoed at Infosec that enabled employees to constantly monitor for threats and gauge their risk to the organisation, and easily see which ones they needed to prioritise in order to manage their time effectively.

Infosec 2019 has been another hugely valuable opportunity for European cybersecurity professionals to review the most pressing issues facing the industry today as well as share best practices for securing networks, from cloud to endpoint. But it is not just security specialists that have a responsibility to stay secure. It is up to all of us to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our networks and all the data stored on them.

Sarah Johns is Senior Account Executive in Allison+Partners London office.

MAY 29, 2019 //     

PODCAST: Toys and Games: Predicting the hot trends for 2019

Episode 1

What will be the must-have toy this Christmas? How has the market for toys and games changed this year, and what can we expect to see under every Christmas tree this December?


Andrew Rogers, Account Director at Allison+Partners, is joined in the London studio by Jill Coomber, MD Consumer Europe, and Gina Mossey, Account Director, to discuss the weird and wacky world of toys. From YouTube unboxing videos to blockbuster licenses, the team digs into what kids (and adults) just can't wait to get their hands on this year. 

Like our podcast? Why not leave us a review and subscribe on Spotify? 



The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Spotify and iTunes.
APRIL 29, 2019 //     

Why Cause-Led Campaigns Benefit from Influencers and Social Engagement

By: Emma Poleszuk


From the influencer-backed 
Fyre Festival that didn’t exist to the Kardashian’s controversially promoting an appetite-suppressing lollipop, the authenticity of influencer marketing has been brought under the spotlight recently and covered widely in the media across the globe.  

However, it can be argued that there is a genuine benefit in engaging with influencers to promote your cause-led campaign, whether this is related to charity, animal conservation or fundraising. 

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Authenticity is Key 

Consumers have become increasingly social media savvy as platforms and the concept of influencer marketing has continued to develop, often scrolling past paid promotions and #sponsored posts deeming them disingenuous.  

Engaging with those known for dedicating their lives to your cause such as raising awareness of plastic in the oceans, for example, would be a natural fit to promote your latest recycling initiative, with resulting content coming across as more authentic. Chances are, their following will also be passionate about whatever cause it is you’re promoting and find the content engaging, making them more likely to make the necessary call-to-action, whether this is buying your product, signing your petition or donating to charity. 

Celebrity Isn’t Everything 

It’s easy to get hung up on numbers, and assume the higher the following, the higher the return on investment. However, the rise of the micro to macro influencer, defined as those with between 10k-100k+ followers, has shown that an engaged audience often lies in these numbers, with followers choosing to engage in content that resonates with them and the passions and causes they align themselves with, as opposed to the following of the latest fleeting reality star who click subscribe because 1.5+ million others have. 

It’s worth noting too that your brand’s influencer army doesn’t have to be led by celebrities in the traditional sense. Those who can carry an authentic message for your brand and mission can range from industry leaders, lecturers, and business executives to politicians and charity ambassadors, again boosting the integrity of your message with backing from respected SMEs.  

The platform you broadcast your message on should also vary depending on the content, with digestible videos and memes working better on Instagram and polls or links to longer articles gaining more traction on Twitter. Once you know who your audience is, you can work out who they listen to and where they consume their content to ensure maximum exposure and awareness of your cause. 

People want to help  

Consumers can feel bombarded with paid promotions, brand collaborations and #gifted content across social media, and if it appears to be pushing materialistic products for corporate profit and gain, it’s easy to switch off. The ratio between this kind of content and influencer content looking to genuinely make a difference and raise awareness of issues in society is likely quite uneven. Focusing on cause-led content increases the chance of your message standing out, giving those scrolling something worthwhile to engage with. 

A recent survey from The Charities Aid Foundation found that whilst 59% of charities believe they are using new technology and social media effectively, only 29% are using tech effectively to increase giving and donations, which as discussed, is where influencers can help. Digital platforms and the influencers that inhabit them are key to reaching new audiences with your cause-led message and could result in unprecedented results for your campaign. 

 

APRIL 15, 2019 //     

A quick-start guide for brands using podcasts

By Andrew Rogers


Unless you’ve been living under a rock – and even if you have been – you’ve no doubt been hearing the buzz about podcasts. In 
a matter of a few years, podcasts have gone from niche medium to mainstream phenomenon. Many podcasts now boast more listeners than radio shows. Increasingly too, the boundaries between podcasts and radio are becoming blurredBBC Sounds, for example, mixes them all up into a single audio product.  

1 in 5 young adults now listens to podcasts at least once a week. The biggest series have a huge reach, as well as an audience that generally skews towards more affluent and influential consumers (1 in 5 podcast listeners earn over £100k and 42% are business decision makers). The sheer variety of podcasts now available also means you can target consumers with specific interests or demographics.  

It’s a no-brainer that any marketing professional should at least consider using podcasts as part of their 2019 plans. However, as with anything new, getting involved can be intimidating.  

Never fear though – we’ve put together our very own podcast marketing quick-start guide. Here are the three main ways that your brand can get involved in the wonderful world of podcasts.  

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Be a guest on a podcast 

Podcasts and traditional radio shows have plenty in common, and that includes the need for great guests. While some podcasts have the same hosts each week, many more will include guests to keep each episode fresh.  

For brands, this means opportunities to secure guest slots for spokespeople or talent. For consumer entertainment brands, placing talent on podcasts is a great way to plug their upcoming projects. For B2B brands, placing a CEO on a key trade publication’s podcast can mean speaking directly to the decision makers in your target industry.  

Importantly though, you need to do your homework and pick the right podcasts. Guest interviews work when they’re engaging and where there’s real chemistry and conversation. Pair the wrong spokesperson with the wrong show, and you’ll get a flat interview that may never see the light of day. Get the combination right and you’re in for an episode that’s entertaining while getting your key messages out there 

Sponsor a great podcast 

Sometimes it’s best to go for the direct approach, particularly when you’re looking to drive sales or subscriptions. Sponsoring podcasts is effective, measurable, and easier than you might think. While you can go ‘door-to-door’ for some of the smaller podcasts to ask about advertising rates, most now work through bigger podcast platforms.  

Take Acast, for example, which represents some of the most popular shows including The Football RambleMy Dad Wrote A Porno and The Allusionist. By bringing so many popular podcasts in one place, brands can now advertise at scale. New technology also means that ads can be placed into podcast episodes for a limited time period, or for different geographies. You can now, for example, run ad campaigns that target just UK listeners, even for shows produced in the US.  

Podcast advertising is highly effective, with 76% of listeners taking action after hearing a brand advertised. It’s also measurable by using a system of bespoke trackable discount codes. Most of the time, you can even get hosts to create the ads for you, making them more engaging and authentic.  

Create your own series 

Want to take things to the next level? If you have plenty to say and want to get a clear message out to the world, you might want to create your own podcast series. Podcasts make for great content and are a much more digestible way to get your thought leadership across, particularly for B2B brands. As we become increasingly time-poor, many of us prefer to listen to opinion through headphones than to read it on our screens.  

This is, of course, the more time-intensive of the three routes. You will need good content, an engaging host, and guests that create enough conversation. Podcasts also need at least one series – a single episode won’t cut it.  

The potential pay-offs though are huge. Podcasts take thought leadership to the next level or can create a series that entertains while sharing key brand messages. Take for example the Why We Eat What We Eat podcasts which were created by the meal-box delivery service Blue Apron. The show uses popular food author and historian Cathay Erway to look at a new interesting food story each week. The podcast delivers content that a foody audience will want to hear, and by building that audience creates the perfect space to share their brand messages and drive subscription sign-ups.   

Have we whetted your appetite for podcasts? Our team can help you to get onto the right podcasts, or to start creating your own. Just get in touch with the team to find out more. 

Or if you want to listen to more podcasts yourself, check out our list of the top 5 marketing and PR podcasts you should subscribe to right now 

MARCH 6, 2019 //     

International Women’s Day 2019: Gender inequality in the tech sector

By Lizzy Chesters


In the last twelve months, gender inequality and the mistreatment of women in the technology sector has been a consistent topic in the media. On International Women’s Day, we look at what is happening in the industry to tackle the issues at hand.
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Of course, technology is well-known as a male-dominated sector. According to Tech Nation, only 19 percent of technology workers, and only 22 percent of technology directors are women. All companies with 250+ employees need to publish figures comparing the average pay of men and women across the organisation. The tech sector did not do well. An article by Wired found that across 18 major tech companies, women earn a mean average of 85p an hour for every pound a man earns. Women also receive bonuses that are around 35 percent smaller.

Sexism in the industry is also rife. A recent global survey by Ivanti found that 63 percent of women think gender bias continues to damage their professional opportunities. It also undermines their work environments. In a separate piece of research by Kaspersky Lab revealed that over a quarter of female IT decision makers say they witnessed mansplaining in their day jobs, contributing to the feeling of gender imbalance.

This International Women’s Day, the Campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter. The aim is to promote a more gender-balanced world. The technology sector needs to embrace this ideology. Even at the most prolific tech industry events, the gender imbalance is evident: where are the female attendees? Why is there a lack of women keynote speakers? It is time for a change.

What can we do to tackle gender inequality in tech?

Fortunately, there are a range of initiatives and technologies being created to tackle the problem. Firstly, technology companies themselves are trying to get more women to work for them. Sky is offering five women a £25,000 bursary, as well as an expert mentor, to inspire them to get into technology. Yes, it’s only five – but it’s a step in the right direction.


There are also several mentoring programmes for women in technology springing up around the country. Structur3dpeople and DevelopHer want to empower women. They want to bring women together to network and share knowledge to help them progress in what is a tough environment in which to excel.

There’s an app for that

In addition, there are a few new UK start-ups which are tapping into a need for employees to discreetly report sexual harassment. Vault Platform, uses blockchain technology to enable members of staff to record a private, time-stamped reports. These reports can include evidence such as text messages, voice recordings and emails. Then the victim can choose when they would like to submit the report to human resources. A digital receipt of the report is then kept on the blockchain, so it can’t be changed, stolen or deleted on purpose or by accident.

Are the big players helping?

Some of the major tech players have recognised that they are part of the problem. They are willing to spend some time and money to help. Apple has recently launched its Entrepreneur Camp, a programme designed to support women entrepreneurs building businesses around apps. The initiative incorporates an intensive technology lab, specialised support, and ongoing mentoring to help support women into a tech career. Google has a similar initiative with its Women Techmakers programme. A range of networking events all over the world which acts as a platform for women in technology to help further their careers.


Sadly, gender inequality in the technology industry is deeply ingrained and won’t disappear overnight. International Women’s Day is particularly significant as it can serve as an important milestone to track progress on an annual basis. More importantly, it helps to create a gender-balanced world.

MARCH 1, 2019 //     

MWC 2019 roundup: 5G, foldable smartphones and more

By Sarah Johns


This week, over 100,000 mobile communications professionals descended upon Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via for one of the biggest trade shows in the world, Mobile World Congress. We take a look at the key takeaways from the 32
nd year of this epic annual event.READ MORE

Technology buzzwords galore

As anticipated, topics including AI, cybersecurity and IoT were hot on the agenda. Talks included a session on how we can democratise AI and avoid algorithmic bias, how to secure a connected digital society and how we can maintain consumer trust in a digital economy. Indeed, with GSMA noting that 81% of consumers have some concern about the safety of their personal information, there were also talks around the use of consumer data in the mobile industry. There was also a full programme on IoT and even a dedicated Internet of Things Zone which invited attendees to try out new products and discover how IoT is changing business.

However, there were two indisputable stars of the 2019 show, foldable smartphones, and the connectivity buzzword on everybody’s lips (and Twitter feeds), 5G.

Foldable phones excite

Mobile phone providers already face fierce competition for sales, and last year, the global smartphone market experienced its first annual decline ever – a fall of 3 percent (Source: IDC) So, there is more pressure than ever before to secure consumer interest, drive sales and grow market share. This is prompting manufacturers to pull out all the stops when it comes to new mobile design and innovation. It’s no surprise then that we’ve seen so many manufacturers reveal their first foldable phones at this year’s show. These flexible phones are a great example of out-of-the-box thinking and breaking away from tradition. It’s exciting to see the industry as a whole attempt to literally break the mould of what a smartphone should look like.

5G took centre stage

It wasn’t just folding phones that were on display. MWC continues to be huge for companies involved in the back end of service delivery and legislation around communication networks, and the work they do this year will be pivotal to the future of 5G connectivity.

There is a lot to be done to conclude the testing and rolling out of 5G infrastructure and decisions to make around how we can properly regulate the use of 5G. At MWC, we witnessed several important discussions on the challenges we are facing around 5G deployment, particularly from a regulation perspective. For example, Gilles Bregant, CEO of the French administrative body and National Frequency Agency ANFR and Ricardo Tavares of consultancy TechPolis Inc had their say on how we can align 5G technology and policy.

Overall, MWC was a great success. From innovation in mobile phones to creative approaches to 5G deployment, there’s no feeling quite like witnessing how technology is changing the world literally in front of your eyes. Still, there is no doubt industry players have an uphill battle to climb when it comes to the myriad of challenges they face, including responding to changing consumer demands for innovative new tech, keeping data safe and rolling out 5G connectivity.

The industry urgently needs to break out of its siloed mindset and take a more holistic approach to meet the challenges it faces, working for common goals instead of corporate and national self-interest. By adopting such an approach, improving global connectivity and inspiring the next generation of mobile industry leaders will be achieved faster than you can say ‘foldable phone’.

FEBRUARY 13, 2019 //     

Keeping up with global consumer trends in 2019

By Andrew Rogers


What’s hot and what’s not? It’s crucial in consumer comms to have your finger on the pulse. For any brand looking to widen their appeal, it’s vital to not only know what consumers want, but also how their tastes and opinions are changing. Mintel recently released their latest global 
consumer trends in 2019 report, pulling out their key predictions for the year ahead. So, what should your brand know, and how should you react?READ MORE
It's time to rethink plastic

Plastic waste is a mainstream concern for consumers across the world. As we try and become more ethical consumers, plastic waste is now in the firing line. Inspired in part by the latest series of Blue Planet and high-profile initiatives such as Sky News’ Ocean Rescue, the fightback against plastic waste is very much on.

All brands should consider what they can do in 2019 to reduce plastic waste. Even small changes at the consumer level can make a huge positive impact on the environment on aggregate. Meanwhile, brands and industries that don’t appear to be doing anything are often called out on social media and in the press (The Independent recently looked at the beauty industry). At a time when consumers want to support brands that align with their values, make sure you’re on the right side of history.

Challenge accepted!?

It used to be that setting yourself challenges was something reserved for the New Year. Now consumers are setting themselves new challenges all year round. From Veganuary to Movember, consumers are always looking for a new challenge that they can engage with. Not only does it give people a great opportunity to connect with their friends both near and around the world, but it also lets them show off what they care about most.

Brands can and should be encouraging consumers to set goals and be a part of their success when they smash them. Just look at all the promotion for alcohol-free brands of beer during January. Brands need to act as cheerleaders, making consumers feel better, stronger and happier.

Tackling social isolation

The way that brands have used social media and online marketing has evolved over the last 12 months. This is because social media is no longer viewed as something overwhelmingly positiveConsumers have a more complex relationship with online services. For example, research shows that people feel more isolated when they use social media more.

Brands in 2019 need to think about how to make connections, both online and offline, feel more meaningful and real. Building a community of passionate fans online is meaningful. Seeing an influencer that only makes you feel worse about yourself holding a product is not. Brands that can bring people together and help them disconnect from their digital lives will find a willing audience of happier and healthier consumers.

We’re redefining adulthood?

What it means to be an adult has changed massively over the last few decades. Young adults might be running a Tough Mudder race with their friends, while their parents would have been looking after their new baby. Young families today are more likely to be renting, spending money on experiences, and living in cities. Their needs as consumers are therefore different (think subscription boxes instead of out-of-town mega supermarkets).

Consumers are also happier to jettison the ‘traditional’ parts of adulthood that they don’t want. As social pressures fall, more people live lives that don’t fit the mould. No wonder that more adult couples without kids are visiting Disneyland, while the growth in so-called ‘kidult’ toys shows no sign of stopping. Brands shouldn’t be afraid to embrace this change and adapt to consumers trying to live their best lives.

It used to be that brands that fell behind on consumer trends used to look a little old-fashioned. No longer. Now brands are being called out online when they don’t keep up with what consumers want. Make sure that in 2019 your brand is delivering campaigns that make you look relevant and fresh, and not last year’s news.  

JANUARY 28, 2019 //     

Davos 2019: the technology round-up

By Lizzy Chesters


Last week, the great and the good came together at The World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Due to the high calibre of attendees, the discussions that occur during the event have the potential to make a huge impact on global affairs and across many industries.

Globalisation 4.0 was the key theme for this year. So, who was saying what over the past seven days? Here’s our round-up of the tech news stories that deserve your attention.

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Global rules on technology

A common subject that encroached into several speeches was a need for countries to collaborate on the tightening of global rules on technology. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that his country would use its chairmanship of the Group of 20 nations this year to develop an official international protocol for oversight of data use.

Angela Merkel also supported the need for a “common digital market” across the EU to cope with the ongoing problem of data misuse.

And yet, Alibaba Chairman, Jack Ma, came out against the necessity for increased tech regulation. Ma said he is “not a person who likes regulation first”. He believes that implementing strict regulation could stunt progression. Especially when humans are still fledglings in the evolution of technology. He argued, “We should not make a pair of shoes for a three-year-old boy and say, ‘All your life you have to wear these shoes. We know so little about the future.”

Europe is falling behind in the space race

The changing competition in the international space race was also highlighted. According to Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, China and the US are forging ahead in the space race and Europe should start to worry. He said, “It is very important for Europe to get their act together and define a clear vision for European space and for us a European supplier… The US and China are definitely moving faster right now.”

China’s recent mission to the dark side of the moon, which proved an enormous success, sparked Hoke’s comments.

New partnerships

One announcement particularly relevant for Great Britain is the new partnership between the UK and World Economic Forum. It’s intended to help lead a regulation revolution in the country. It will also help the companies, industries and services that will emerge as a result of new technologies.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, spoke out about the new relationship, saying, “The speed of technological innovation across the globe is faster than ever. New technology is creating whole new industries and business models”. Clark championed the UK’s position as a leader in fostering an effective regulatory environment. There’s a focus on the protection of consumers whilst preserving an openness to innovation. Mr Clarke claimed that the British framework has the potential to be replicated around the world.

Bitcoin is doomed

2018 will forever be remembered as the year of cryptocurrencies. Despite its recent fall from grace, it was to be expected that that future of this technology would crop up at some point during Davos 2019. 

Yet, it seems that the success of bitcoin is still up for debate. During a panel discussion on the future of blockchain technology, some participants were skeptical. In fact, founder of BCG Digital Ventures, Jeff Schumacher, commented that bitcoin is on the trajectory to zero. He claims that the technology behind the cryptocurrency is full of potential. But it will never become ubiquitous because “it’s not based on anything”.

Digital skills gap

The STEM skills gap is one that keeps rearing its head. It popped up again during the ‘Making Digital Globalisation Inclusive’ panel discussion. Bringing together the CEOs of Microsoft, HCL, Dell and Salesforce, all the leaders expressed their growing concerns about the widening skills gaps that are facing our industries.

Headlines in the media about how robots are set to steal our jobs are all too common. But Dell founder and CEO, Michael Dell, rebuked these concerns claiming, “Countries that are most roboticised actually have the lowest unemployment rates, so I’m not convinced that technology is necessarily a big part of the problem”.

In a separate panel discussion, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, also highlighted the topic of STEM skills, when he asked the audience, “We know that the jobs of the future will require different skills, so how do we equip the youth of the world for these jobs?” In all cases, reskilling and upskilling were heralded as the most appropriate means of tackling the problem across the board.

There are many concerns about how the role of technology is going to transform the future. Let’s hope that the conversations held during Davos 2019 will prove to be a starting point in helping to address these issues going forward.

JANUARY 11, 2019 //     

4 top toy trends for 2019 revealed

By Andrew Rogers


While Christmas feels like a distant memory for most of us, the toy industry is busy getting ready for the next one. January kicks off some of the world’s biggest toy fairs where we get a first taste of the top toy trends for the year ahead.

What will be the must-haves in Christmas 2019, and how will the wider economy affect the toy trade? Here are our 2019 toy trend predictions for the year.

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Pocket money toys will help keep parents on trend?

Pocket money toys saw strong growth in 2018, and 2019 will be another big year for the category. With growing uncertainty in many parts of the global economy, parents are turning away from bigger box items and instead picking up smaller pocket money items.

These usually cost less than £5 and provide a fun gift for kids without a big investment. After all, the biggest risk is that expensive toys are quickly discarded by kids if they get bored. Cheaper pocket money buys reduces that worry. Plus, they have the advantage of being stocked across a wider range of retailers, including smaller supermarkets. This year, as trends continue to evolve, pocket money toys will provide a great way for parents to stay on-trend without breaking the bank.

We haven’t reached peak kidult yet

Kidult toys are products aimed at an adult audience but with the usual appeal of kids’ toys. Often, these are collectables. Think of the runaway success of Funko POPs or the LEGO Millennium Falcon replica. 2019 will see the kidult category increase its share of overall toy spending, as more adults buy more toys, more often for themselves.

This is in many ways linked to long and short terms economic factors. As mentioned, 2019 looks to include more economic uncertainty. This will likely reduce consumer confidence in big purchases such as holidays. But it may boost smaller treat purchases such as kidult toys. In the same way that economic slowdowns increase demand for fancy ready meals as a substitute for dining out, kidult toy spending should be an overall winner in the toy category.

New licenses are here, but the big names will still dominate

It’s no surprise to say that big licenses will be important once again in 2019. What will change are the licenses battling for our attention. 2018 saw the popularity of video game Fortnite explode worldwide. 2019 will be the year when we see the brand everywhere, from toys to collectables. If they see strong sales in Q1, expect to see even more video game studios follow their lead.

That said, it’s important not to overstate the effect of new challengers. It will still be the usual big names licenses that dominate in 2019. But predictions can of course follow the biggest film and TV releases. Expect new lines to accompany the fourth installment in the Avengers series and a new line of toys as Toy Story 4 returns after almost a decade.

Toys will compete for the biggest ‘wow’ moment

Like never before, toys in 2019 will compete for the biggest wow moments. Thanks to the rise of toy unboxing on YouTube, toy manufacturers will compete to make their toy’s introduction to the world as exciting as possible. Expect more mystery with random collectables, or big moments when the toys are revealed. LOL Surprise was just a taste of what’s to come.

As well as making products exciting in the hope they go viral with toy influencers, toys will battle for organic sharing from parents. With parents sharing more of their kids’ lives online, big toy moments will also make for better Instagram stories. The battle for 2019’s biggest wow moment is now well underway.

One thing is for sure – it’s set to be another fun-filled year for the toy industry. The fight to be Christmas number one has already started, and products will continue to innovate. So reload those Nerf guns, power up those Buzz Lightyears, and charge up those RC cars as we head into an exciting 2019.  

OCTOBER 3, 2018 //     

The 5 Best Marketing and PR Podcasts in 2018

By Jess Docherty


We all know how important it is to keep up to date with the latest news and opinions within the industry. While creating our latest Marketing Trends report, we found increasingly people are turning to podcasts to stay informed. They are exceptional resources for inspiration and help us reflect and improve our own campaigns. It’s also a great way to level up an otherwise uneventful commute!

With over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes to choose from it can be tricky to know where to start. In this post, we share some of our favourite Marketing and PR podcasts to inspire you and hopefully(!) improve your campaigns.

Let’s get started.

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The Science of Social Media

By Buffer

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Buffer’s content is consistently high-quality, and the team focuses on community and authenticity. So it’s no surprise they turned to podcasting as a way of connecting with their users. This weekly podcast is bitesize at an average of 15 mins so even the busiest person out there can squeeze in some time for social. They give updates on the latest and greatest news in social and often include case studies with clear metrics of success which makes it easy to reflect on how you can improve your own campaigns each week.

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Conversations of inspiration

By Holly Tucker

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If you’re looking for a lift and a little inspiration this could be the one for you. Founder of Not On The High Street, Holly Tucker, host a new founder each week and chats through the highs and lows of building their business and shares plenty of advice and inspiration along the way. Previous episodes have included innovators like Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella, Jo Malone, Julie Deane of The Cambridge Satchel Company).

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Inside PR

by Gini Dietrich, Joseph Thornley & Martin Waxman

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This weekly PR-focused podcast explores the state of Public Relations. It covers a range of topics and entry points so it’s great if you’re just getting started. Each week they interview a new guest on the show and regularly discuss successful and controversial campaigns. If you want to keep up with current events and crisis communications, this is the one for you.

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Copyblogger FM

By Sonia Simone

Listen on iTunes

Copyblogger FM is crammed with useful tools and how-tos. What sets this podcast apart is that the host really tries to break down advice into actionable steps. It’s a weekly podcast that covers everything from content marketing to copywriting, to email marketing and much more. If you’re looking for a regular way to improve your all-round marketing efforts, this is a great place to start.

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Social Minds

By Social Chain

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Started in August 2018, this British podcast is a recent addition to my favourite list. The team invites guests to take a deep dive into the latest social media headlines. A key theme of this podcast that I find particularly interesting is how social and an always online world is impacting human behaviours. So if you’re keen to learn more about how social media is changing the way users and brands interact on social, then give this a listen.

Share your favourite Marketing and PR Podcasts

Do you have a podcast you enjoy? Or maybe you run a great marketing or PR podcast? Let us know, we’re always looking for new content.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2018 //     

Game on! Tapping into Twitch for your communications campaigns

By Andrew Rogers


Is Twitch something you should consider as part of your digital marketing strategy? Twitch is finding itself on the radar of more marketers outside of the video games industry. But is the platform right for you?
READ MORE

For those not already familiar, Twitch is the largest online community for video game live streams. If you’re looking to watch the world’s best speedrunners race through Super Mario Sunshine, or pro esports players dominate in Overwatch, Twitch is the place to be. The platform currently sees an average of 15 million daily active users, putting it on par with many national broadcasters . There’s also a very large and active community of content creators. Over 2.2 million Twitch creators broadcast their games live on Twitch monthly.

Twitch has been the go-to video game streaming platform for a few years now. It’s been grabbing even more attention recently thanks to gaming phenomenon Fortnite. Many would argue that without Twitch, Fortnite would not have ballooned into the global juggernaut it is today . It currently stands as the most streamed game on Twitch.

For those not familiar with gamer culture, Twitch can feel like an intimidating and impenetrable platform. This shouldn’t put brands off, even those slightly outside of the video games industry. Any brand looking to appeal to Twitch’s core demographic should consider how they can partner with the platform and its community of creators. Many have already done so, as Twitch’s Partner Programme has now climbed to 27,000 Partners . Before you get started though, make sure you’ve considered the following:

Is the Twitch audience the right demographic for my brand?

There’s a risk of stereotyping gamers too much. Too often, we see gamers as young, male, and perhaps even a little antisocial. This stereotype is completely out of date. Gamers are more diverse than ever before, and Twitch itself has run initiatives to encourage more women and LGBT people to watch and stream.

That said, some of these assumptions do still ring true for those logging onto Twitch. Twitch’s core users are 82% male, and 55% are under 34 . If your brand is targeting older, female consumers, then Twitch may not be for you.

Can I get a streamer that fits with my brand?

There are thousands of streams available at any one time on Twitch. So why do some channels do so much better than others? As with any other influencer marketing project, it all comes down to the personality of the streamer. Twitch users have their favourites for different reasons, whether it’s the way they react to games, the kinds of games they play, or the way that they speak to and engage with their audience.

There is plenty of variety out there. So brands need to make sure they put in the time and research to find a streamer that fits well with their brand. They need to uphold your brand values too, so make sure you’re watching their streams to avoid bringing on board a potentially embarrassing and damaging ambassador.

Have I briefed my streamer properly?

Twitch content is live, and any activity should come with the usual health warnings. You won’t be able to edit or amend what happens or what is said, so your streamer needs to make sure they’re fully on board and understand any brand messages you’re looking to include. Put in the work ahead of time to avoid any nail-biting moments when the live streams go out.

Twitch is only growing in popularity as watching people play games becomes a more accepted way to spend time online. As more money is pumped into global esports, Twitch will also continue to grow. Don’t shy away if you’re not a video gaming brand – Twitch can and should be a consideration for your digital marketing strategy.

 

SEPTEMBER 19, 2018 //     

Marketing Trends Report 2018: The Truth So Far

By Gina Mossey


We’ve just released our latest report, this time looking at the marketing trends that were tipped to be big this year – how are they faring?

Both consumer habits and developments in marketing platforms seem to be changing consistently. If there’s one thing we’re hearing from our clients it’s a desire to stay ahead and try new things… but how do we make sure we show ROI from these shifting marketing tactics?

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The Truth So Far: Where Should You Be Investing?

In the report, we look at what’s changed since this time last year. We delve into how the trends are performing and where brands are putting their money. But more importantly, where should they be putting it? From affiliate partnerships to the role of broadcast in PR; getting Gen Z right to revitalising retail. It’s all here.

Download the report today
AGENCY NEWS // SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 //     

Allison+Partners Acquires OneChocolate To Strengthen Global Presence

Allison+Partners has acquired OneChocolate Communications, based in London, to strengthen UK and European offer.READ MORE
Scott Allison, Global CEO of Allison+Partners told the Holmes Report: “This was part of a strategy that was launched in 2015 to expand in Europe. A big part was getting Jim Selman on board as general manager and then we started looking for acquisitions. We talked to dozens of firms; we had to find the perfect fit, culture, business and leadership wise.

“When we met, Jill and Sue’s entrepreneurial approach to the business and the impressive way they have built the company reminded us of our own. And their approach to storytelling, digital expertise, focus on measurement and philosophy on creating a collaborative and supportive culture couldn’t align anymore perfectly with ours.”

Read the full story on The Holmes Report.
JULY 31, 2018 //     

Affiliate marketing: is it right for your brand?

By Gina Mossey


Smaller scale affiliate marketing partnerships are certainly on the up. Our recent report on micro partnerships revealed that the number of marketers investing in this tactic has doubled year-on-year; 8% in 2017-18 vs. 16% planning to invest more for 2018-19. We can put this down in part to shifts in influencer marketing. Many influencers now have affiliate deals of their own in place with certain retailers across their social channels and blogs. Companies looking to work with them have to integrate with the existing partnerships or offer them something better.

But is an affiliate programme right for your brand? And how can you make sure you’re getting the best ROI for your efforts?

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Should I be doing affiliate marketing?

If you’re a company who sells product through a large retailer such as Amazon, chances are you’re already benefitting from affiliate partnerships even if you didn’t create them. They have successful existing programmes with many online media sites, bloggers and social influencers already on board. So, when you secure coverage with these, they’ll link to your Amazon product page. You get the traffic to purchase and the sites get the commission. Win win.

However, if you’re looking to drive traffic to your own site, you’ll need to create your own branded affiliate programme. Here, the main currency is the time and resources to manage your affiliates, ensuring they have enough content to be able to successfully drive traffic through to your site, and that they are performing as they should. Make sure you have the resources to manage a programme before you start one.

Secrets to success

Speaking of content, this is a crucial area to get right. To get the best ROI from your affiliate programme, you’ll need to supply your partners with assets to engage their audiences and drive them through to purchase. Be sure to carefully consider what the audience will connect with.

If it’s a smaller scale purchase, such as a beauty product or a children’s toy, this may be as simple as a special discount. If it’s a more considered product like a camera, for example, you need to think about what will engage your potential customers at that point in their purchasing cycle. Do they need educating on the different features offered by different cameras? Do they need a how-to guide? Match your content to your end user.

Knowing me, knowing you

It’s crucial that your PR, influencer marketing and link building teams have a solid understanding of your sales strategy at all times. If you are wanting to drive traffic to your own site, but any one of those then secure coverage with a site with an existing affiliate relationship with Amazon, the result will be pointless. Publishers will always stick with their affiliate partner, no matter how nicely you ask them to include a different link. Teams need to take a thorough look at their online target sites at the beginning of a campaign to ensure each will be willing to include links through to your call-to-action page. If not, either the call-to-action needs to be changed, or the site is out of bounds.

We predict that brands investing in affiliate marketing will continue to rise as the number of publishers in affiliate partnerships increases. Be wary of following the crowd; doing the upfront research to make sure it works for your brand will pay dividends further down the line.

JULY 19, 2018 //     

How to use a keyword map for SEO

By Jess Docherty


There’s no doubt that a keyword map can help focus your content creation and help you rank better on the SERP. So, if you’d like to clean up your keyword strategy and improve your ranking, this is the blog for you. Let’s start with the basics.

What is a keyword map?
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A keyword map brings together your keyword research, content strategy and competition for your key topics and interests. It is best to gather all this information into a single spreadsheet. On there you should include data that shows how difficult it might be to try to rank for each keyword or phrase. The end result is a clear map. It tells you where to make improvements to existing content and offers a space to track the rise (and sometimes fall) of your target keywords and topics. By keeping a close eye on this you can improve the visibility of your site to customers at their point of need.

Why bother using a keyword map?

Google serves millions of search results in less than a second. Not ten seconds. Not even two. All because we don’t wait around that long for answers. Therefore, asking your target audience to patiently scroll to the 20th, 13th or even 6th position just isn’t realistic.

Human beings are pretty lazy. So, we don’t like to scroll and we trust search engines to provide us with the best information for our query without much relative thought. This becomes even clearer when you consider the Google Click Through Rates (CTR) by position:

1 – 41.91%

2 – 16.35%

3 – 10.06%

4 – 6.66%

5 – 4.76%

6 – 3.56%

7 – 2.68%

8 – 2.14%

9 – 1.67%

10 – 1.46%

[Data from Advanced Web Ranking’s CTR Study – International Desktop Search in June 2018]

On the first page alone, the first five organic results account for 79.74% of all the clicks. So when people go looking for answers, how do you make sure you’re first in line? A keyword map is a good place to start. It can help you not only assess the quality of your existing content but also identify gaps in your strategy and track your progress.

How to use a keyword map

It’s not enough to say ‘I want to rank number one’ for any given keyword. Similarly to most big goals in life and business, it’s best to break down this down into achievable steps. That’s where your keyword map comes in. It is the backbone of your digital strategy. In my mind, there are a few key pieces of information that any good keyword map should offer you. So, let’s go through them now:

One, it should be easy to identify any pages that do not have a unique keyword allocated to them.

There is nothing worse than spending time creating awesome content for no-one to see it. In the first place, make sure that each new page you create (and those already on your site) is optimised for a unique keyword or phrase.

Two, it should give you the details of which content currently ranks for your chosen keyword.

This gives you a great place to start pulling ahead of the competition. By reviewing your competitors’ strategy and content you can identify changes you need to make to your content to help get the edge.

Three, it should show you the gaps in your strategy.

Your keyword map should open up new areas and topics for consideration where the difficulty is low and potential reward is high, so don’t forget to track this.

Four, it should prove its own worth.

A great keyword map should give clear metrics and focus to your content strategy. Correspondingly, with each new piece of content you add or edit you make your keyword map should make it clear and simple to see what’s driving more traffic and hopefully sales!

Once you’ve mastered your keyword map you can start to set your sights on the holy grail: SERP features. 

If you need help building your own keyword map, we’d love to hear from you.

JULY 13, 2018 //     

Navigating the new marketing must-have: the Micro Partnership

By Gina Mossey


We’re excited to announce our brand-new report on the marketing trend sweeping across sectors: the 
micro partnership.

Our research reveals UK marketers are flocking to invest in small scale, mutual benefit collaborations. They are cost-effective, and when done well they can show great ROI and add heaps of value to your brand.

But what are they? Why are companies investing? Who should you partner with? How do you measure the impact? Our report reveals all.

READ MORE

We collected from marketing decision makers across sectors; the information shows which partnership types are coming out on top and which are in decline, from brand collaborations to influencers, retailer relationships to affiliate marketing. What’s evident is that the individuals and organisations brands are partnering with and how much they’re spending is changing.

Jill Coomber, MD of Consumer Marketing, Europe says, “What’s interesting is the shift away from traditional sales metrics towards more meaningful brand value measures; a trend that really takes shape in this report. While they aren’t without their challenges, micro partnerships are great for moving the needle for both awareness and engagement over the long-term. Brands are seeing that in spades now. This means the challenge becomes how to tool up to be able to evaluate and prove that impact.”

To read more on what’s hot and what’s not, entering the right micro partnership and proving ROI, download the full report here.

JULY 10, 2018 //     

How Fortnite shows the changing economics of video games

By Andrew Rogers


It’s no understatement to say that the video game, Fortnite, has become a global phenomenon. Even those that don’t actively play the ridiculously popular Battle Royale game will have seen front-page stories about children who supposedly 
can’t stop playing the gameworries about its promotion of violence, and teachers concerned about its effect on students’ sleep. Everywhere you look, there is Fortnite. Its popularity is driven by a combination of competitive gameplay, watchability and it’s totally free to play.

Free-to-play is not a new concept in the games industry. As it became clear that mobile gamers wouldn’t pay high prices (or any price really) for smartphone-based games it was adopted by default. Candy Crush, Pokémon Go and Clash of Clans have shown how lucrative a game can be using the freemium model with unlimited optional micro-transactions.

However, micro-transactions have faced criticism recently that they made games frustrating and boring to play – a criticism aimed at the recent Harry Potter mobile game – or they give such big advantages in-game that playing competitively online for free is a waste of time.

READ MORE

Fortnite: A level playing field?

Fortnite sidestepped these criticisms by offering micro-transactions that give players weapons and costumes that look different but don’t confer any real game advantages. This means theoretically there’s a level playing field between a brand-new player and one who has bought everything on offer. There is one less barrier to entry for new players to jump into online play. Unsurprising then that the launch of the Nintendo Switch version of the game was downloaded 2 million times in under 24 hours.

Does this strategy work though? New research carried out by LendEDU says that it absolutely does. On Fortnite, 69% of players have bought in-game purchases. The average spend is just over $85, in line with the retail price of a ‘traditional’ boxed game. Interestingly, 1 in 5 of those spending didn’t realise that paying for items didn’t give them an advantage during play.

The need for a clear communications strategy

Crucially though this all highlights the need for clear and transparent messaging when it comes to in-game transactions. Free-to-play games are the standard and consumers won’t accept price increases in the best games. So faced with rising development costs, it makes sense to turn to in-game transactions as a revenue stream. However, gamers want to feel that these transactions are clearly explained. EA’s recent problems with Loot Boxes have shown what happens when a muddled communication strategy makes an entire game toxic.

Engaging with influencers and stakeholders is key for games companies. Transparency on how transactions work and why certain revenue models are adopted engenders loyalty. This filters down from the most passionate gamers, to average gamers and then to gaming forums like Reddit and YouTube.

There is, after all, a fine line between being the next Fortnite and being the next Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Get it right, and you’re a global phenomenon. Get it wrong, and it can be Game Over.

 

JUNE 29, 2018 //     

Digital Transformation Process: From Bricks-and-Mortar to Ecommerce Giant

By Charlotte Firth


If you’re speculating whether brick-and-mortar retailers might last in the UK economy, the results are in: probably not. At least, not without a clear digital transformation process and online presence.

Shoppers are choosing to spend their money online so businesses need to adapt or get left behind. But in a competitive online market, how can businesses go from a basic online presence to becoming e-commerce leaders?
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SaleCycle recently released their 2017 Ecommerce report which reveals that last year alone, global e-commerce sales grew by an enormous 16%. Although Amazon still accounts for 40% of that revenue, the remainder is still a pretty penny for other online businesses.

It seems that the real secret to success lies in the implementation of an effective intelligence platform. A platform helps guide the business and IT team through the digital transformation process.

Better together

For businesses that haven’t succeeded in digitally transforming their operations, they typically have one thing in common – they view technology and applications as individual tools which need to be implemented rather than as part of an overarching ecosystem. As a result, many IT teams will continue to have their applications sprawled across their entire internal network and their data stored in disconnected pockets in much the same way (where little meaning can be derived from the numbers).

As such, the success of any transformation project, whether it involves disrupting business models or not, should depend on that organisation’s ability to create a connected business: a business which brings together people, processes and technology investments, at scale.

As companies attempt to achieve the status of the connected business, they must first ensure all systems and apps – whether on-premise or in the cloud – are communicating with each other, as well as sharing activity, accurate data, and enabling the right investments. This is where digital intelligence platforms come in – allowing developers, ops and technical teams to measure and monitor the performance of their applications simultaneously and successfully.

Knowledge is power

For smaller retailers, especially, investing in an effective digital intelligence platform early on in the digital transformation process will lead to greater visibility into relevant data sets which, then, can be effectively used to calculate their return on investment and help them to then make smarter decisions as their online presence begins to grow. This is invaluable when investing vast amounts of money in your company’s digital presence.

By implementing a digital intelligence platform, firms are able to monitor whether their digital transformation is successful through real-time metrics which then enable them to address issues early, as well as understand cloud infrastructure and how it might best be leveraged for their success.

The customer is always right

One major challenge in retail – whether on or offline – is customer service and keeping customers coming back again and again. If businesses are monitoring their staff’s customer service skills in store, the same should be happening for their website online – does the customer have everything they need? Do they know where to go for a particular item? How and where do they pay? These are all questions that retail customers need the answer to wherever they are, and digital intelligence platforms allow businesses to provide that same level of customer care – and therefore customer loyalty in future – online.

For instance, via an external platform, a business is able to track performance issues on their site which can be identified and addressed in real-time, thus minimising the chances of a customer becoming frustrated with a website which has broken links and choosing not to return again.

Similarly, through relevant metrics businesses can monitor how long it takes for a customer to make a purchase and whether this time is too long and needs to be addressed. For instance, is the website difficult to navigate for new customers, and, if yes, are they leaving behind their purchases because they don’t want to have to fill in so many details. In the same way, you would hire more staff if this was the case in store, you can decide to change the buying process on the website and monitor how a reduction in buying time may or may not lead to a surge in profits.

Planning an effective Digital Transformation Process

Digital intelligence platforms, and monitoring your website’s metrics through them, are key to an effective digital transformation process which – if executed properly – could see the savviest retailers taking advantage of the demand for online sales and become the newest e-commerce giant.

JUNE 28, 2018 //     

AR and mobile gaming gets nostalgic

By Sian Hobday


Mobile gaming is taking the gaming industry by storm. Now making up more than half of worldwide gaming revenue. Its growth is expected to reach 59% by 2021, more than the steadfast console or PC Games.

The rise of mobile gaming can be attributed to improvements in handsets, screens, and speed but it also reflects a change in lifestyle. We simply don’t have time to dedicate sitting down to play on a console as much as before. Our busy day to day lives means we are out and about more so we play on the train, tube or bus. In 2017, games were the most downloaded type of app.

READ MORE

The ultimate 90s comeback

The 90s is back in fashion and the trend has recently spread even further into the mobile gaming world. It started with Pokémon and you can even play the classics like Battleships and Bust-A-Move too. Now the playground is coming to your mobile device once again: The latest game to stage a comeback is POGs. Yes, we’re surprised too. The twist here being it’s had a 21st Century tech upgrade – players can now use Augmented Reality (AR).

You’re probably wondering how? Well, by using AR, players use the camera on their phone or tablet to scan in their collection of POGs and slammers. The principles are the same as the original cardboard POGs. But now players don’t have to carry around a stack in their bag or risk losing them.

The news of the POGs return came within days of Pokémon Go announcing a new trading feature to reclaim some of the initial hype for their AR game. It’s a feature that was in high demand from players and original fans.

Pokémon Go broke boundaries with AR by finding a real-world application for this exciting new technology. As with all new tech, AR predictions may have gone wild initially but it’s great to see it prove valuable in mobile gaming.

AR and mobile gaming  a match made in heaven?

AR technology has found a place within the mobile gaming world, making it accessible to everyday folk. POGs are another example of developers exploring what's possible with AR. By using this new tech in entertainment, we can start to assess how people interact with it and what functions will be both possible and enjoyable for the consumers of the future.

As camera quality, WiFi and bezel-less screens improve on mobile devices, AR has more opportunity to grow. Performance and high screen resolution capabilities will need to remain a focus for mobile manufacturers for their next device iterations to cater for the increasing mobile gaming demand. There are also plenty of other classic 90s playground games that are yet to make a comeback. We’d love to see Crazy Bones or a mobile version of Crash Bandicoot make a comeback in the app store next. Which classic 90s game would you like to get a 21st Century reboot?

JUNE 7, 2018 //     

10 tools to improve your social media marketing

By Jess Docherty


When it comes to the social media platforms you use – less is more. Try to focus on creating awesome content and sharing it with your target audience. If your customers don’t dig Snap or they just don’t use LinkedIn, don’t sweat it. Focus your efforts on making sure the channels you do use are crammed with useful and remarkable content that your customers can’t help but share and react to.

Here’s our top ten list of the brightest and best tools to enhance your social media strategy.

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  1. Buffer

buffer.com | @buffer

Social media scheduling, made simple

If you do manage multiple channels, there’s no better scheduling tool than Buffer. You can manage any type of post across all the main channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest.

The customer support is incredibly personal; Bonnie and the team are there to help you get the best out of Buffer and your social media channels. They are only ever a tweet away and we really rate their blog and podcast for keeping up to date with the latest trends and tips for optimising ROI on social media.

     2. Giphy

giphy.com | @GIPHY

Gifs glorious gifs

With more than 500 million tweets sent per day and a staggering 800 million active users on Instagram each month, it’s never been more difficult to make your content stand out and capture the attention of your audience.

If a picture tells a thousand words then, according to Giphy’s CEO, Alex Chung, “the average GIF is capable of conveying 60,000 words – the same as the average novel”. It’s easy to grab your followers’ attention with relatable gifs from Giphy’s extensive library, or even create your own for free.

     3. Brandwatch  

brandwatch.com | @Brandwatch

Social super intelligence

Track brand mentions, respond to customers and analyse sentiment with Brandwatch. We love this tool because it gives you real-time updates on customer conversations wherever they happen online. Identifying influencers is a breeze, meaning you can put your budget behind amplifying proven campaigns and individuals.

Brandwatch regularly releases insightful research papers that can help direct your overall digital marketing strategy, so even if you don’t have the budget for the tool now, go ahead and sign up to their mailing list and check out their research papers and guides.

     4. Crowdfire

web.crowdfireapp.com | @Crowdfire

A marketing assistant in your pocket

Get tips for growing your social presence. This friendly chatbot acts as your marketing assistant. It asks you to outline your social media goals and recommends what to do to reach them. Plus, if you’re ever in any doubt about what to post next, then the article recommendation engine has your back.

     5. The Latest

latest.is | @latest_is

Explore the topics everyone is talking about

Content curation is a hugely important part of effective social media management, but it can also be a huge time sink. The Latest is an automatically generated list of the top ten trending links on Twitter at any moment. Use this neat tool to keep on top of trending news in next to no time.

     6. Forekast

Forekast.com | @theforekast

Stay ahead of the trends

Ever feel like no matter how many social media schedules you put together there’s always some trending topics and celebration days that slip the net? If you do, then go ahead and check out the monthly calendar that Twitter share on their business blog. If you want to take it a step further, add this nifty tool to your bookmark. Forekast helps you discover unofficial holidays and popular events, you can even upvote the ones you like the sound of and plan to post about.

     7. Canva

canva.com | @canva

Create visual assets optimised for any platform

Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than those without and LinkedIn posts that include images receive a whopping 200% more engagement than text-only posts. So, it’s important to make sure your visual assets stand out and are optimised for each platform. But each channel has its own requirements when it comes to image dimension and resolution. If, like a lot of us, you’re not a professional graphic designer, then I highly recommend giving Canva a try. Canva’s templates, magic resize and brand functions make it super simple to keep your content looking its best.

     8. Mememaker

imgflip.com/memegenerator

This one makes memes… it’s as simple as that.  



     9. Mentionmapp

mentionmapp.com | @mentionmapp

Explore your twittersphere

This tool allows you to explore your network on Twitter. You can see how any Twitter user is connected to others with MentionMapp. It visualises all of your connections, making the landscape easy to understand and navigate. It’s a great way to find relevant influencers to follow and to discover the topics and hashtags your network engage and react to most.

     10. Edgar

MeetEdgar

meetedgar.com | @MeetEdgar

Automated social media management

Research on almost 1 billion pages by Ahrefs found that 91% of content online gets zero traffic from Google. Zero. Don’t waste your content!

Edgar asks you to categorise your existing posts and choose which channel they should be shared on, then produces a schedule for you to help you get the most out of your evergreen content. So, if you have created tonnes of great content but just don’t have time to manage your social media manually give this tool a try to make sure your social media schedule never sits empty.

MAY 24, 2018 //     

No rest for cybersecurity after May GDPR madness

GDPR and the waves of real (Wannacry) and feared (Russian state actors turning off our water/broadband/electricity) are pushing cybersecurity to the top of the media agenda and, possibly, have made cybersecurity a strategic issue for businesses and public bodies.

Like no other year before, Infosec will be buzzing but many will be asking what’s the next big thing?.

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By Daniel Couzens


May has been a merry old month for cybersecurity PR. Deadline dates for both GDPR and the lesser known NIS regulations have fallen in the month, and long PR and communications campaigns have reached a frenzied crescendo.

So, June should be a time of thankful rest with marketers and PR teams resting on their laurels and taking a well-earned rest.

Well, don’t expect the biggest cybersecurity tech show, Infosec, to be an oasis of calm, free from heavy marketing clamour.

Artificial intelligence and its application in security data analytics (even early detection and prevention of attacks) and remediation (AI and robot process automation that does the difficult work of ensuring a security posture is up to scratch or does the clean up to shut down and quarantine an incident rapidly and cleanly) are going to be common themes. Another will be how, like other industries, there’s more talk about cybersecurity platforms (previously AKA as firewalls and devices) and doing more cybersecurity in the cloud. The latter is particularly profound as a short time ago cybersecurity and cloud were regarded as close to being an oxymoron. Today, vendors are following their customers into the cloud, bringing forward security solutions to protect apps and data in the cloud, as well as leverage the cloud itself to run the faster, more data-hungry analytics and proactive prevention processes required for how organisations run their operations digitally.

And when it comes to those regulations, after May the trend will be how to stay complaint and avoid being the first big name fined for a breach – so systems that expose and give early warnings of vulnerabilities and threats are going to be key. But, how to rank the best options will hinge on how much they avoid information overload and actually help a stressed CISO prioritise what to do and even automate fixes and patches.

Setting aside how much Infosec can be about FUD (fear, uncertainty and dread) marketing, some parts of the exhibition floor should reflect themes of cybersecurity as a strategic issue for both business and technology leadership. How good cybersecurity gives organisations the power to be stronger, more confident and successful digital businesses or agencies of government, and how the next wave of cybersecurity will be smarter and use developments in AI to prevent attacks happening in the first place.

For the above, you’ll still need to kick the tyres of the slogans plastered across stands and stalls at Infosec. Like any show, there’ll remain a tendency for exhibitors to be fairground hucksters, enticing visitors to death by PowerPoint with a stress ball, candy floss or Alexa Dot (I did badly last year and only got a pair of green socks).

Sample these pleasures but also check out after the show and online how much their spokespeople are quoted in the media talking about organisations’ pragmatic ways of making cybersecurity a positive capability rather than a panic attack.

The old days of cybersecurity PR being about chasing after every breach and offering pithy comment are dimming; the new game in town is thought leadership that raises cybersecurity as a preventative philosophy, empowering not blocking digital transformation and a discipline that everyone from CEO to consumer to citizen should know and promulgate.

MAY 16, 2018 //     

Link building and PR: integration is key

By Gina Mossey


While integrated marketing campaigns are now commonplace and winning praise left, right and centre, it can still be tricky to ensure the implementation of PR and digital tactics happens smoothly, and different teams are able to work together. One of the areas we most often see this is between PR activities and link acquisition campaigns, despite these two disciplines arguably having the most in common; both are audience-centric, content-driven and based on relationship building.

But fear not, this can be avoided with a few simple checks and considerations. Here are our top tips.

Repeat the mantra: make once, use many times

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Provided the content is suitable for it, anything being created for PR should be used for link building wherever possible, and vice versa, along with use on social media, newsletters, events, websites, and in-store. However, it’s surprising how often this doesn’t happen. Not only does it make for a much more cost-effective strategy to invest in one piece of content to use for multiple purposes, but it also creates a streamlined brand identity. Whichever touch point your audience engages at, they will have the same experience.

Get everyone aligned

Whether you have separate agencies or in-house teams looking after PR and SEO or they come under the same umbrella, make sure everyone is aware of the content being created and any other major activities plus, crucially, the timeframe. Both PR outreach and link building take time to complete, so make sure both sides are aware at least six weeks in advance of any timely or topical content (something tying into a TV series launch or national awareness day, for example) so they can really make your assets work hard.

Embrace the overlap

Just one referral link secured with a high authority “golden” site has the power to catapult your website visits and sales. But a lot of these key titles will be sitting on your PR team’s media list as well as your link target list. Our best advice here is to keep the targeting strategy clean and avoid the publication being approached by both sides; being contacted about the same thing multiple times is a real bugbear for journalists.

Realise the measurement potential

Traditionally, PR has been notoriously difficult to measure, but with the increased integration of PR and digital comes a wealth of opportunity to prove ROI. Sitting your PR campaign side by side with your link acquisition efforts allows you to see which content and coverage is really doing its job – driving all-important traffic and conversions. The data gleaned here is invaluable when it comes to planning future strategies, so make sure your KPIs are defined right at the beginning.

Collaboration is key to any successful marketing strategy and the relationship between PR and SEO is no different. Defining a process for effective collaboration early on in your campaign makes it much more likely to succeed.

APRIL 17, 2018 //     

Information Security 2018: What Does the Future Hold?

By Sarah Johns


The world is looking at data protection and information security with increased scrutiny. So, what better time to look towards the Infosecurity Europe conference in June, and the trends we expect to see there and throughout 2018?
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Prioritisation

We have already been seeing a steady growth in the importance of information security over the last couple of years, however, recent news means we can expect to see even more of an increased focus on it and the need for organisations to prepare for cyber-attacks.

In October’s Gartner Survey of over 3,000 CIO’s, digital security was ranked as the second most problematic technology to implement (following AI) for 2018. 36% stated they planned to implement a plan, while 35% had already (at least in part) begun to address digital security concerns. This is a huge step up from the same priorities that were set for 2017, in which infosec was ranked 7th on the list of CIO primacies, and it will be interesting to see how recent events affect this.

Throughout 2018, as the need for information and cyber security grows, we can expect to see infosec gain traction in the market place, and undoubtedly for spending in this area to dramatically increase.

Tackling the skills gap

A huge priority throughout 2018 for the infosec community will be addressing the lack of skilled workers there are in this industry. The statistic that by has been thrown around a lot, meaning that in the case of an attack in the future, organisations will be less able to respond. This deficit already puts organisations at risk in the current infosec climate, and as the threat landscape develops and matures the potential cost to the UK and European economies could be immeasurable. So, over the next twelve months, and indeed for the foreseeable future, a focus for the infosec community will be tackling the skills gap, and the management of data protection while operating at a skills deficit.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate against the lack of skilled workers in this arena. In fact, at Infosec Europe, there is a talk devoted to implementing cyber security on a budget and ways to stretch resources. This includes advice on what skills are key to building a strong team, how to develop security professionals and what strategies are needed during the recruitment process.

It’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when’

One quick look at the Infosec event website shows that a huge number of the speakers will be focusing on improving an organisation’s network defenses, as companies come to terms with the likeliness of cyber-attack, and these strategies cannot ignore the financial consequences. Across the UK, companies are facing the stark reality that they have no financial back up plan in the event of a breach, with 80% of businesses polled at the Cyber Beyond IT event this year admitting to being concerned about the financial implications of a cyber-attack, and 1 in 10 business leaders saying they would pay over £1m ransom to retrieve their data, if stolen.

Throughout the InfoSec conference, we’ll see talks on building in-house response teams, defending the borderless enterprise and strengthening defense to mitigate cybersecurity risks. With high profile attacks, including the NHS, Target, and FedEx, companies are facing the reality that bad actors cannot be stopped, and cyber-attacks are now an inevitable cost of doing business.

Information risk and GDPR

Thus, with the acceptance of attack comes a shift in mindset,­ coinciding with the implementation of GDPR. As organisations accept that they cannot prevent attacks, we will witness a shift towards addressing the information behind the firewall.

Data clean-up is at the forefront of the European business mindset, as the race to ensure compliance before implementation of GDPR in May ensues. However, data privacy and clean-up is something that, regardless of regulation, would need to be addressed by organisations as the importance of information security takes hold. As companies face the fact that, currently, they are lacking in proper defences, then reducing the impact of attack by limiting the amount of data stored will become a focus.

So, there we have it, a look into some of the infosec trends for 2018, both at InfoSec Europe and in general. As we continue through the year, it will be interesting to watch how recent events continue to shape both these trends, and other technological developments in the sector that will emerge for 2019.

FEBRUARY 27, 2018 //     

Consumer spending in 2018: Where are we splashing the cash?

By Sian Hobday


After a well-documented challenging Christmas period for many brands in 2017 the purse strings are tightening, so spotting the hot areas of consumer spending and where the opportunities lie for brands in 2018 is very important.
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It’s no secret that high-street shopping and consumer spending have been in tricky waters for some time now, and the latest data from Visa showed that UK consumer spending in January fell for the first time in five years, despite the draw of sales. Shoppers just don’t like going out in the cold and prefer the comfort and warmth of their living rooms and iPad.

Miscellaneous goods, including things like health, beauty, and jewellery also performed well in January, seeing an increase of 6.1% in January, suggesting that small products were preferred over big-ticket items. Transport and comms suffered the most, however.

Market challenges: the high-street battle

The online vs bricks and mortar saga continues to roll on into 2018 as we have already seen the likes of Toys R Us making headlines as it faces bankruptcy, but online sales are performing well.

One solution that seems to be succeeding with Londoners is turning in-store shopping into entertainment experiences. It’s not just about offering the latest toy or gadget at a good price (though pricing is obviously an important factor as many online alternatives offer competitive rates), it’s about offering experiences to consumers when they come to shop. Things that have proven popular so far include celebrity meet and greets, and in-store fitness classes.

In 2017, Barclaycard revealed that consumers were happy to spend more on entertainment and experiences, as Brits coughed up 10.5% more than before. This shopping experience trend is proving to be a winner for retailers where fine margins are everything: retailers enjoyed a 14% increase Year on Year in 2017 as a result.

Did someone say Brexit? GDPR?

These two factors will undoubtedly have an impact on UK retailers, the service they provide and how they market themselves to consumers, ultimately affecting where money gets spent. How customer data is collected and used will be impacted, and it remains to be seen how the Brexit deal will change retail spending and consumer confidence.

Tech consumer spending trends

So, in the tech market, where will shoppers are looking to spend their pennies? What markets should brands be looking out for?

Smart home

Smart home technology has become the new must-have tech. As the smartphone market begins to level out, tech giants are battling it out in the smart home world, continuously innovating to become top dog.

It’s not just early tech adopters or the more enthusiastic tech folk that are buying them either. Smart home speakers, heating and lighting have become much more mainstream as the tech develops and becomes more affordable. After a slow start, consumers are seeing the reality and benefits of a connected smart home. According to GfK, 25% of us own a smart home device, leaving plenty of opportunities for brands to stake a claim to a piece of the market.

Wireless tech: headphones and chargers

Upon taking a closer look at the wireless headphone market, it is clear it’s enjoying major growth. 15% of the headphones and mobile stereo headsets sold in H1 2017 were Bluetooth-enabled (GfK).

Positive music experiences are becoming more important in general. The increasing use of smartphones for streaming music, movies and watching funny videos from friends on Instagram is driving growth in this area. Furthermore, the health and fitness trend means people are looking for wire-free, hassle-free headphones to listen to their favourite workout tunes.

With this increased use of mobile streaming, battery life is being gobbled up even more. In steps the wireless charger. Global Market Insights expect the market to hit $14bn by 2024 as people look to stay fully charged whilst on the go, and phone manufacturers continue to work on improving battery life.

Whilst inflation, market uncertainty, and pressures may continue to dent consumer confidence and overall spending, there are still plenty of opportunities for tech brands in 2018, as consumer choices of where to spend their hard-earned cash evolves.

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