Company scandals and crises hit the headlines on an almost weekly, if not daily, basis. Cloudflare has been in hot water recently, for instance, for the way the company handled mass layoffs. It was made worse by the now infamous video of a woman being let go by two people she’d never met prior, and the company has come under fire from the media, previous employees, and even current staff. There’s also the personal brand of Elon Musk, who continuously seems woefully unprepared for responding to criticism aimed at X (formerly Twitter).

As individuals, we’re taught that failure is an expected and unavoidable part of life, and that it’s how you deal with failing that really matters. The same mindset, really, should apply to companies. Mistakes are inevitable, and the effects can either be short-lived or they can have the potential to cause long-term damage to a brand’s reputation. As such, a blueprint of how to handle a crisis should be in place for every business – big or small.

One part of this is having a ‘handbook’ of sorts, with clear protocols and practices laid out. This could include approval processes for statements, timelines, at what point to involve legal, and hierarchies of responsibilities with who owns what clearly demarcated. Templates for statements and announcements can also be useful, helping speed-up reaction times when it matters most.

Bringing in a PR agency when a crisis occurs is one effective way of getting support and guidance. However, even more valuable is having a long-standing relationship already in place. Here’s a few reasons why that can be so valuable:

  • Skip the intros, they know you well – When you’ve been working alongside a PR partner for a long time, they know who you and your company are – the mission, values, and messaging. If a crisis hits, no time need be wasted making introductions to the company. They know you and your voice, and they can get stuck in offering support.
  • Avoid knee-jerk internal comms – If you’ve already been working with a PR team to bolster your internal communications, then rapport and trust will already be established among your employees. So, if a crisis hits, you’ll have a strong foundation in place to communicate next steps with staff.
  • Support with customers & stakeholders – Crises aren’t just bad for public image – they can be really damaging to relationships with customers and other stakeholders. A trusted PR partner can work closely with you to craft statements and strategies on how to protect these relationships in the wake of – and lead up to – a potential crisis.

These are just a handful of ways a PR partner can support when it comes to crisis comms – there are so many more. Ultimately, having an experienced and agile PR team alongside you is not only beneficial for day-to-day reputation building; it is critical for when a crisis hits and a reputation needs protecting.

LinkedIn turned twenty years old in 2023 and has undergone much transformation within its two decades. Once purely a place to find and list jobs, as well as connect with peers, the platform has morphed into something more akin to Instagram, or Facebook. It’s no longer just a professional networking site, but a social media platform in its own right.

With 60% of LinkedIn users being between the ages of 25-34 years old, it’s quite possible that the growing presence of millennials and Gen Zs in the job market has driven this transformation. These age groups have grown up alongside the ‘like’ button and understand quantifying the value of something (or someone) in reactions, likes and shares. So, just as Instagram has had influencers for years now, we’re seeing a growing rise of “LinkedInfluencers” today. And leaders in tech are tapping into this trend in a big way.

This has meant that company reputations have begun to blur with the personal reputations of their employees and (crucially) their leaders. Just as many of us take to Instagram and Facebook to showcase who we are and, perhaps unconsciously, to build our own personal brands, CEOs and business leaders are using LinkedIn for the same thing.

Leaders in tech, in particular, have taken to this “LinkedInfluencer” role – and there a few reasons for this. One major one is the crowded nature of the tech space – it’s a constant spinning wheel of opinions, breakthroughs and company news. There’s limited space in magazines and papers to capture everything being said, not to mention limited time with journalists. However, joining the conversation is still crucial and LinkedIn provides this megaphone.  

With the tech sector being plagued by skills shortages, LinkedIn has also become a platform for leaders and experts at tech firms to use their presence to entice talent. Many job seekers are looking to be inspired, not only by a company’s work, but by the words and vision of those at the helm. Being viewed as a leader, a fountain of knowledge, and an aspirational figure can be key in both attracting and retaining talent – helping to cultivate the next up and coming generation of leaders.

For tech leaders looking to shape their reputation on LinkedIn, here are some tips:

  • Know which topics you want to be known for having views on
  • Define your voice and style, and always stay consistent
  • Follow and interact with people that will inspire you
  • Invest time into this, it doesn’t happen overnight

And of course, remember to work with comms and your PR agency – these partners can help achieve all of the above, as well as create the content to complement the wider communication strategy of your organisation.

Generative AI, and more specifically ChatGPT, has dominated headlines since late last year. For months, the world and his wife has weighed in with views, concerns and predictions around the technology. But what about the tech companies whose bread and butter isn’t generative AI?

It can be tough when your point of view doesn’t slot into the current news cycle. Periods of less coverage and less contact with the press can feel like a step back. But, instead of feeling frustrated or panicked, this period of time should be seen as one filled with opportunity.

Here’s a couple things non-generative-AI tech companies, and their PR partners should consider at times like this…

You don’t need to join every conversation

This is something that most companies and PRs already innately know. If something isn’t relevant to your offering or market share, don’t weigh in. But when something like ChatGPT comes along and sweeps every journalist, publication and broadcast house off their feet for months on end, confidence in remaining quiet can wane. A ‘let the storm pass’ mentally can quickly shift to a ‘what can we say about this?’ panic.

But it’s important to remember that not every conversation is relevant to your company or brand. A company needs to focus on its own product, service and value offering, and not get distracted by hype that isn’t relevant to where they are positioned in the market. 

Don’t rush a POV

Joining conversations is a key part of PR. But it needs to be done effectively, with thought and strategy to back statements. The last thing a company needs is to rush messaging without properly interrogating how they match up with what they do and who they are – their offering, ethos and purpose.

Clumsy messaging runs the risk of getting sniffed out. If you’re lucky, coverage will be small and under the radar – or even non-existent. If you’re unlucky, the pickup could be huge only to bring with it questions and scrutiny. Backpedalling from statements is a headache which can be so easily avoided.

Quiet time can be valuable, use it

So, rushing to have your voice heard isn’t always the right approach at times like this. Equally, doing nothing with the time is a missed opportunity. Instead, use this period of quiet from press relations as a chance to turn your attention elsewhere. This could be towards improving internal comms, boosting employee relationships and thereby your own reputation as a business. It could be through building up the website, through new content like blogs or a bit of a makeover. It could be a chance to strengthen customer relationships, leading to case studies that could in turn find their way onto the site or even as hooks for press interviews later down the line. It could be revamping social media presence, company messaging, media training for spokespeople and so much more. Rather use this time to focus on your wider PR and reputation strategy.  

In short, don’t be afraid to sit some conversations out. Just use your time on the bench wisely, leaning on your PR partners for guidance and support.

You step outside your house into a mild November morning. Walking down the road you see something out of the corner of your eye – something red, round and suspiciously Santa-shaped. Surely not, it’s only November. You shake yourself. You’re just seeing things! That email your Mum sent you about which dates you’re coming home has spooked you. You’re playing tricks on yourself. It’s too early.

You pop into the local off licence for a paper. As you’re browsing, the song playing on the radio drifts into your consciousness. The blood drains from your face. You hurry from the shop, paperless. It can’t be, you mutter, as you pass a man in his sixties hanging lights on his roof, the ladder beneath him shaking violently. It’s too early.

Fighting the urge to look behind you, you arrive at your local station. But something catches your eye. You freeze. A group of church-going, festive-jumper-wearing carol singers stands opposite you. As you watch in horror, they are counted in by a woman wearing antlers. You fall to your knees.

“But it…it can’t be! It’s too early!

But your screams are drowned out by the sounds of 12 voices belting out Good King Wenceslas – all at different times, all in completely different keys.

***

Nowadays, it seems to be universally accepted that the moment the Halloween pumpkins are chucked onto the compost, it’s Christmas time. That’s nearly two months of Christmas jingles, adverts, music, window displays and carol singers. The Christmas build up is all-encompassing, even for those who don’t celebrate it. By the time it actually rolls around, a lot of us are fatigued.

As PRs, we can learn something from this. Especially when it comes to pitching in news.

Raise your hand if you’ve considered pre-pitching news weeks before it goes live, and sometimes even before all the details are ironed out? That’s probably most of us.  

Of course, a heads up that the news is coming, followed by updates as and when they are required, is a strong strategic approach. However, attempting to sell-in news too far in advance, and too aggressively, can quickly become grating to journalists. Imagine seeing the same news with the same embargo date appearing in your inbox, every few days, for weeks. And if details aren’t completely ironed out, you can run the risk of the incorrect information being published.

That said, pre-pitching is a tactic that can work and that some journalists appreciate, but it really depends on the strength of the news. It shouldn’t be an approach with every piece of news, but with the ones that make the most sense, for example, a significant company announcement where a journalist will have questions or may want to do an interview, or a piece of news that ties to a moment in time like an event.

As PRs we need to be tactful in how we approach pitching. Journalists’ inboxes are growing increasingly crowded by the day, and we should not be adding to the noise until it is the right time for what we have to say. Just as with Christmas, not everyone is going to care about, or like, our news. There is usually a good window to inform in advance, but not so far in advance that it’s forgotten by ‘go live’ day or that they feel fatigued talking about it.   

So, don’t be like the Christmas pushers. It’s important to take a smart, respectful, and efficient approach. And when there is news to share, always ask yourself, is it too early?  

The last couple of years have brought what has felt like near non-stop economic turbulence. Brexit, Covid-19, the outbreak of war in Ukraine and now the spiralling cost of living and energy prices have all created shockwaves to global economies. At a time where the pinch is being felt by businesses and consumers alike, communications – both internal and external – must be approached delicately.

Communicating how a product or service can genuinely help customers during this period – whether it’s through cutting back IT costs, speeding up internal processes, reskilling talent quickly, and so on – is important, yes. But it is also important to recognise that this may not be the time to apply huge amounts of pressure to existing and prospective customers. Consumers and businesses alike are being cautious with their spending. There are nerves, fear even, about what’s to come. An aggressive sales and communication strategy might seem the way to go, but it’s certainly not the most empathetic.

At times like this, the art of communication becomes more nuanced than ever. It’s vital to show your customers that you see them, that you understand the challenges they’re facing as well as their fears and reservations. It’s important you don’t adopt a blanket approach but instead understand how the economic downturn might be affecting each of your key target industries differently, and what the different needs are. Businesses can show this understanding and expertise through website content like blogs and whitepapers, email marketing, and social media that adds value – sharing relevant insights and advice. Thought leadership pieces from a company’s experts and executives is another great way of communicating value and advice. A renewed focus on customer advocacy could also earn you more loyalty as it allows existing or potential customers to see the value of your product or service through the eyes and experiences of others.

Of course, communicating with customers or external stakeholders is only one side of the coin. Internal communications during an economic downturn are also crucial. Staff must be made to feel safe and valued in their roles. And, if redundancies do need to happen, your internal communication plan needs to ensure that transparency, empathy and consistency are incorporated. The manner in which layoffs are carried out can truly make or break a company’s reputation, as demonstrated by SnapChat’s CEO saying layoffs were a way to weed out the company’s ‘haters’.

Having communications partners by your side to share their expertise and help guide you and your business through these coming months – or even years – is hugely valuable. Brands and reputations don’t stop in an economic downturn. In fact, these are the very moments in time when they are moulded.

The value of data has become an inescapable fact of the modern world. No sector, industry or market could claim to be better off without data-driven insights that allow them to make informed decisions. Today, business success is so often shaped by how well data is being used. Predicting the future, understanding the past, navigating the present – it all comes down to data.  

So, what are some examples of the ways data has driven real life change in different markets? Let’s take a look.  

Data-driven goals, on and off pitch  

One example of the power of data in sports is in LaLiga. The sports league is using real-time streaming data generated by hundreds of cameras across stadiums, and deriving levels of actionable insights that were previously simply not possible.  

Football teams are then using these insights to revolutionise the way the game is coached and played, amplifying performance. This means helping players get better at their game, and delivering more personalised fan experiences that change the way the game is enjoyed.  

Media and Gaming  

Online gaming is another sector which can reap huge amounts of understanding and insights by properly harnessing data. SEGA, a worldwide leader in interactive entertainment, is using real-time data to drive community activities, improve player experiences, and offer more personalised interactions. By harnessing data properly, the company has transformed the role of data science in the business, making it a key pillar for decision making.  

This has also helped to fuel a collaborative culture when it comes to data, with the company’s internal data teams working with teams from external game studios – pooling together ideas and solutions to drive innovation and create an ever-improving experience. 

Energy 

Elsewhere, the energy industry is also reliant on data. Particularly at a time when prices are such a concern, and when pressures of climate change mean energy providers are needing to transform their operations. An example of this is Shell. Shell is acting on data analysis to change its model and cut down emissions and, according to its first energy transition progress report, published in April 2022, the company has already cut total emissions by 16% since 2016.  

The data is being used for business intelligence as well as to spot problems at early stages, and before they cause major problems. For instance, in a plant in Nigeria, Shell has been able to remove bottlenecks and reduce boil-off gas from evaporation and associated flaring by 70%. This has the potential to cut carbon dioxide emissions at the plant by 130,000 tonnes a year.  

It’s clear that the value of data is felt everywhere. From the world of sport, to gaming, energy, medicine, construction, and more. Harnessing data effectively is they key to driving long-lasting, tangible business success.  

At this point, most of us will have seen the latest Netflix-induced cultural phenomenon – The Tinder Swindler. If not, you’ll likely have heard about it through friends, news outlets and every existing social media platform you happen to be active on. But here’s something you’ve maybe not thought about: what can the Tinder Swindler teach us about comms, PR and branding?  

Boy meets girl, boy scams girl… 

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid knowledge of the new Netflix documentary entirely, let me summarise it for you…spoiler alert! A man meets women on the dating app Tinder, presenting himself as extremely wealthy with a lavish lifestyle. He embarks on relationships with these women  and then, a few months down the line, he convinces them that he is in imminent danger from his ‘enemies’. He then persuades them to send him money so he can escape – only, he keeps needing more. Using this method, he’s defrauded his victims of an estimated $10million.  

You might be thinking: sorry, how does this tie into PR and comms again? I’m getting there, I promise.  

Honesty is the best policy 

Let’s talk about image. The Tinder Swindler was an extremely convincing communicator when it came to his image. He portrayed himself as charming, genuine and immensely wealthy – and his victims believed him. But, of course, this was a complete lie. A lie that was ultimately exposed. And, while some might view having a Netflix documentary made about you as a form of success, he’s now known globally as a con artist and his face is not one that many women will be swiping right on anymore.  

The lesson we can all take from this is that honesty is integral when it comes to any branding or comms strategy. Putting a false, romanticised version of a company or brand out into the world may bring some initial success. But without honesty and integrity at its core, any comms plan will eventually crumble.  

PRs are your partners  

Now we know our clients aren’t out to con anyone – as most companies aren’t! That’s not what we’re implying. But it’s certainly not unheard of to get wrapped up in the excitement of appearing in the press. And sometimes, in an effort to achieve this, companies can lose sight of what it is they should be communicating, and how.  

It should be a shared responsibility between the company itself, and the PR agency they partner with, to manage this. Lots of PRs are yes men, and of course there’s an element of this required in any service industry. But it’s also vital that we remember our role as partners and advisors. Companies need PR agencies that will keep them honest, challenge them when PR, comms or branding strategy is overstepping the mark, and provide push back where necessary.  

Substance over splash, always  

For instance, companies can often fall into the trap of wanting to overhype all and any company news, whether it’s a genuinely interesting new acquisition or simply a change of office. The press quickly grow tired of exaggerated news of success and so, as PRs, it’s our job to call out when hyperbole might be in play and push back on forcing this news out to sceptical journalists.   

Another area companies can get carried away with is employer branding. With the current employment market the way it is, every company is naturally keen to appeal to candidates. But it’s vital to remember – before launching into any awards, speaker opportunities, or weighing in on any news – that the work actually needs to be done internally first. A company that is 90% male should do tangible work on improving inclusivity before commenting on International Women’s Day, for instance.  

PRs should be ready and willing to point things like this out, helping keep our clients honest and on the straight and narrow. This partnership will lay the foundation for a strong PR and comms strategy, with truth-telling at its core.  

The end of last year seemed somewhat of a blur with the scramble to finish off campaigns, deliver end of year reports, start prepping for 2022 and not to mention personal planning for the holidays. So, for some, keeping abreast of technology news last month may not have been a priority.

Not to worry though, we have you covered. Here is a roundup of some tech news from the past month.

The battle for online safety privacy continued as Twitter prevented users from sharing pictures and videos of others without their permission, and Twitch rolled out  AI to prevent banned users from rejoining the site. Shortly after this, proposals to make big changes to the UK’s Online Safety Bill were also announced.

The end of the year also announced a number of firsts:

  • A NASA spacecraft ‘touched’ the surface of the sun for the first time in history.
  • The US authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 pill, the first ever oral at-home treatment for the illness.
  • A robotic hand, strong enough to crush cans and dexterous enough to use tweezers, was developed.
  • Apple also became the first company to hit $3 trillion market value, and while it did later slip it was still marked a landmark moment in tech.

There were also challenges for some of the biggest names in tech, with many placed under scrutiny. The Uber business model was challenged by both the UK and EU and, not long after, gig economy workers demanded visibility into how the apps they worked for used algorithms to make decisions.  Apple and Google also faced criticism for holding a smartphone market monopoly by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Finally, separate outages hit AWS and Google’s calendar app, affecting thousands of customers.

In more positive news, there was lots of evidence that 2021 was a good year for many. The UK’s Digital Economy Council found that a quarter of the UK’s unicorns were created in 2021 alone, spotlighting the year as a time for innovation in the tech sector. And, on the ground, Strava’s data showed that people were 38% more active in 2021 than 2020. It’s good to hear we’ve all been taking care of ourselves! Although, let’s be honest, that may have tailed off during the festive period for some (most) of us…

And that’s it for our January roundup! Want to receive a daily news roundup of the biggest tech stories? Sign up to our Firewire here

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