The story of how the fake design agency Madbird ensnared unsuspecting job seekers into its web has gone viral, leaving readers shocked at the façade that was created.
Can you blame these unsuspecting employees who trusted that the company they were working for was in fact legitimate? The evidence presented across all aspects of the company set-up was convincing. After all, we were in the thick of a global pandemic and relied heavily on technology (and still do). It’s become an important conduit of communication in our professional and personal lives.
I myself made the decision to accept a job offer in London and immigrate to the UK – based solely on communication and interaction through technology with a dash of blind faith. Job interviews over Zoom/MS teams have become the norm. Fortunately, I evaded becoming a casualty of jobfishing and joined an established, reputable, and dynamic European tech PR agency.
Madbird was built lie upon lie and rotten to the core, using a technology-built façade as a blunt instrument to lure clients and employees. It created fake characters, fake imagery, fake campaigns and fake clients and it nearly succeeded. Is it possible the PR and comms industry might have fake imposters?
Let’s assume our industry is not immune to imposters – what steps can you take to flush out the fakes when looking to partner with a PR or communications agency?
Choosing a European tech PR agency
The first step is to establish if the agency in question is registered and has passed management consultancy standards by a notable industry body or association such as the PRCA. The agency should be accredited and committed to the development of its own industry.
Word of mouth
Reach out to your network to see if they’ve heard of the agency or its founder and establish if they have a favourable reputation, not only in the communications industry but business circles too.
Don’t be blinded by the flash
Establish whether the PR agency you’re considering partnering with has a passion for and experience in effective communications. Any company can put together a flashy presentation that is hugely impressive, but is there substance? Will the team deliver on promises? Is the agency demonstrating a proactive and brave yet focused? Is it an agency that could align with your company’s strategic imperatives and would the team know how to translate that into a communications strategy?
Chemistry is key
Your PR agency should be an extension of your team and be able to integrate seamlessly into your company and team culture. Setting up a chemistry session (in person if possible) should quickly tell you if these are the type of people you would like to work with – do they have the right energy and could you see them building strong interpersonal relationships with you and your team? Remember to trust your gut.
Take up referrals and references
Review the case studies or work the agency has executed (and verify it if you can) and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals whether from clients or journalists.
As a communications agency whose core business is servicing technology-driven clients, Firefly has been fortunate to collaborate with many great companies, large and small, whose technology has made a strong case for impacting human lives, business and our planet positively.
Technology may be our passion and an enabler in business, but we spend as much time as we can listening mostly but talking to our clients, and talking amongst ourselves about different ways, better ways or faster way to achieve results and greater impact. Speak to the people proposed on your team, and interview them as you would any potential joiner to your business. You buy into an agency culture, but really you buy a team of people.
I don’t think I’m wrong in thinking that many of us are very much looking forward to saying farewell, au revoir and auf wiedersehen to 2020. It has been quite the turbulent year, to say the least, and I’m sure almost people are exhausted and ready for the Christmas break. With vaccines preparing to be rolled out, 2021 is already starting to look more hopeful and ‘normality’ may actually start to return.
Whilst we’ll be quite glad to see the back of this year, we shouldn’t totally forget it. We’ve seen a lot of great things come out of 2020 that had a real impact on lives and society – from the generosity of people and companies offering their money and support to those in need, to finding a better work life balance through remote working –, so it’s not all been doom and gloom.
Here at Firefly, we have had many moments of inspiration throughout the year. If anything, the whirlwind of 2020 got us talking, debating and sharing so much more, with lots of great new ideas and reflections in the comms space. Launching Reputation Shapers was most definitely a highlight for us – more on that below! With every crisis comes creativity, new thinking and differing outlooks on life, and so I wanted to share some of our best pieces of content.
We look forward to writing more inspiring and thought-provoking content in 2021 and continuing to shape the reputation of tech-driven companies. Bring it on!
On Wednesday 21st October at 4pm BST, Firefly’s Europe experts are hosting a free webinar that will cover everything you need to know about how to ensure success in multi-country PR and comms campaigns.
As a taster, here are a handful of the key challenges that must be considered when running campaigns across Europe. The solutions to these challenges will be covered on the webinar.
It’s understandable if communications professionals that have primarily operated in one country fall into the trap of thinking that the communications landscape operates in a similar way in different countries. Most of the time, that’s not the case. They may be close on a map, but there can be major differences when running campaigns across borders.
This graph shows exactly that. It reveals the variation in media attitudes across a range of different criteria in France, Germany and the UK.
There will be times when a tactic and content can be used with minimal localisation for multiple countries. However, on most occasions this won’t be the case. There are a wide variety of hoops that you may need to jump through to make a plan or content suitable for multiple countries.
The important point to note at this stage is that a strategy/tactic/piece of content can’t simply be duplicated and expected to perform highly in different countries. Accept early on that certain activities will do well in some countries and not perform as highly in others.
Now, as the points above emphasise, taking a one-size-fits-all approach to comms across Europe won’t work. Neither will spreading resources too thinly. Trying to stretch a pre-determined, non-flexible budget to cover as many countries as possible is a common error.
It rarely works out and often leads to starting again 6-18 months down the line. During this time, competitors may have further established themselves.
Fortunately, there are many different financing options that are more sustainable than spreading a budget too thin.
Even if the differences between countries is understood, tactics have been localised, and budget is assigned effectively, there’s still the challenge of getting every country to sing from the same hymn sheet. It can be challenging.
Each country can interpret instructions differently, will have different questions, and will have to adapt to apply instructions/requests to their country. As a result, managing different countries can be time intensive. There’s also the possibility of teams going off in different directions, failing to align on strategy, tactics, and desired outcomes.
So, that’s the taster. A carefully chosen selection of the many common problems you need to know about – or may even have experienced first-hand. To get solutions to the above challenges in Firefly’s full rundown of PR and comms in Europe and how to ensure success in multi-country campaigns, register to attend the webinar on 21st October 2020 for free here: https://fireflycomms.com/en/pr-in-europe-webinar/.
Expansion into and across Europe is a major move for most businesses. Whether based in another continent such as North America and tackling Europe for the first time, or already established in one European country and now entering other markets, Europe presents significant opportunities to grow a business and reach new prospects.
Getting your communications strategy right is an important factor to break into the European market.
Representing France, Germany and the UK, Fireflies Zahra, Marco and I, joined Jill Creelman from our partner agency Inkhouse, based in NA, to share our tips for successfully expanding into Europe.
In this video, we answer the questions:
Inkhouse | A Video Q&A with Firefly from Inkhouse on Vimeo.
Think you’re ready and want to hear more?
We’re hosting a webinar on 21st October to go through the practical steps of creating and running a pan-European campaign – from the right tools to collaboration tips and tricks. Join us: https://fireflycomms.com/en/pr-in-europe-webinar/
ENGIE Impact, accelerator of sustainability transformation for corporations, cities and governments across the globe, has appointed Firefly Communications Group to handle communications in the UK, Germany and Belgium.
ENGIE Impact works with executives and organisational leaders to set tailored strategies and specific roadmaps to achieve their sustainability and zero-carbon objectives, across energy, water, waste, and more.
Firefly was selected to support ENGIE Impact’s launch and increase brand awareness across three European markets. Firefly will be working with ENGIE Impact to amplify expertise as well as showcase organisations making great strides towards a zero-carbon future.
Charlotte Stoel, Group Client Services Director at Firefly, commented, “To say sustainability and climate change is a huge talking point is an understatement – every paper, online publication, social channel and political agenda is flooded with news and views on the actions we’re all taking to protect the future of our planet. ENGIE Impact is playing a crucial part in accelerating this transformational shift within organisations. The company’s purpose is truly inspiring and has the whole team determined and focussed on getting the recognition ENGIE Impact deserves.”
“Now ENGIE Impact has launched, it’s time to establish ourselves in the European markets and drive awareness of our ability to support the worlds most influential cities and brands in accelerating their sustainability transformation”, said Raevyn West, Senior Director, Growth Marketing at ENGIE Impact. “Firefly’s off to a fast start this year and the team’s work has been recognised for its value in increasing awareness in Europe. We have ambitious plans for 2020 and we look to Firefly to support us in achieving our goals.”
Europe. It’s only one continent. It can’t be that hard to implement PR campaigns across, right?
You’d be surprised how often that attitude is taken when businesses expand their operations into Europe. The reality is that it’s considerably more complex than many firms anticipate.
There are 51 countries, speaking 24 official languages (and more than 100 unofficial ones). Cultures vary wildly too; France is the country closest to the UK in proximity, yet the two countries are vastly different – there are different languages, different attitudes, different traditions, and different cultural references. Now, consider that every country will vary in at least one of these ways to all other countries in Europe and you can quickly see the challenge for cross-Europe PR.
With this in mind, here are my top three (and a half) tips for getting your PR across Europe right first time:
Bundling is a common, but usually ill-advised, approach to PR when entering or expanding in Europe. Primarily, this relates to budget – companies will create a budget that is shared among multiple countries. Having one pot quickly proves inefficient, since different countries have different requirements for the budget, so spend – and results – can be disproportionate. Instead, establish clear, separate budgets for each country and tailor those budgets to the needs of each country.
Regions are often bundled too. The Nordics, for example, is five separate countries, with five languages, and five media landscapes. Allocating the same budget for the Nordics as you would for France or Germany is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, break down the region into individual countries and target the individual audience and media.
To bypass budget limitations, companies sometimes take the switch on and switch off approach. Here, a chunk of budget is invested in a country for a specific period, such as three months, to “make a splash” or “boost presence”, and then switched off in that country and switched on in another. It means multiple countries can secure coverage, but long-term has minimal effect on brand awareness or reputation. You’re better to establish the company in two key countries, than spread resources too thin and have a fleeting presence in four switch on, switch off countries.
Another common faux pas is bundling results. Success is different in every country – six pieces of coverage per quarter in Belgium may not compare in numbers to Italy’s 20, but given Belgium’s smaller media landscape, the fierce commitment to local stories only, and the focus on quality over quantity, the six hits in Belgium may be equally as impressive as Italy’s haul. It’s important not to play countries off against each other; set KPIs for each country and avoid the temptation to compare.
This is often one of the most challenging aspects of communications in Europe to get to grips with. No two countries’ media landscapes are the same. A tactic that may secure outstanding results in one country, may not be picked up in another.
In many cases, the expectation is that content simply needs translating into local languages and can be pushed out. The reality is that there must be “localisation”, in addition to the translation. Localisation relates to every box you have to tick to make content suitable for a country different to the one it was initially prepared for. This includes a range of considerations, from tone and structure, the communication channel, through to the suitability of the topic that’s the focus of the story, to the use of local spokespeople, and even the time content is distributed across time zones.
Learning about, understanding, and remembering all the local preferences and practices for each country being targeted can be a huge challenge at the start. You’ll benefit from consultancy from your chosen PR agency that educates you on the local media and social media landscape. Over time, you’ll build the level of understanding required to develop strategies for stories that satisfy your audience in the various countries you’re targeting.
Given the different budget requirements and media landscapes across regions, expectations of what a PR campaign will look like and what it will deliver can sometimes be skewed. It’s important to know what success looks like before you start. A good PR agency will be upfront about a disparity between expectation in a brief and the reality of what can be delivered. They’ll also explain why – and there are a number of different reasons why that disparity exists, many of which go beyond budget restrictions.
Local spokespeople, either based in the country you’re targeting or who speak the local language, play a pivotal role in developing a company’s profile among media and their audience. For example, when pitching a big news story in France or Germany, a journalist may request an interview to gather more information for their write-up of the news – if there isn’t a French or German speaker available, the interview request may be rescinded, and the opportunity could evaporate. In this scenario, ‘investment’ is in the availability of employees, not the monetary cost of PR activities.
If local spokespeople are available, the next hurdle to overcome is engaging them. The best campaigns are usually those where the spokespeople provide local insights and expertise. Again, this isn’t about budget, it’s about employees making the time to support on PR efforts.
3.5. Find the right partners
It’s obvious, really, isn’t it – hence why it’s a half tip, not a full tip – but working with the right agency or agencies is critical. The ‘right’ agency is, of course, subjective and will look different to every company. The best way to find the one that suits your need requires due diligence to find a pool of quality options and a clear brief that sets out the objective(s) for each country, otherwise it’s easy to partner with the wrong one, and then you’ll be no further forward a year after the activity kicks off.
Aside from better results, working with an agency with a network of carefully selected teams across Europe will deliver cost and resource gains. Activities will be streamlined, enabling the network to focus more time on those that deliver results, as well as being easier for in-house teams to manage.
Hopefully these tips have revealed the types of factors that must be considered when embarking on a pan-Europe PR campaign. We’ll be exploring these factors, and more, in greater depth in a free webinar in April 2020. If you’d like more information on this, email us to let us know.
In the meantime, if you’d like to see how a multi-country European PR campaign plays out in practice, check out this case study about boosting awareness of PathMotion in the UK and France. Alternatively, if you have any questions on pan-European PR, don’t hesitate to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a guest post from Jill Gerig, Account Director at US agency Inkhouse
Global expansion. It’s an intimidating yet exciting time for any company, whether the business is 10 years old with an office in another country or two years old with organic growth happening around the world. Before officially taking your brand abroad, it’s important to consider a couple key items that will be critical to the expansion success overall.
According to Index Ventures, nearly all successful North American tech companies have an average of 30 percent of revenue coming from international markets, usually led by Europe. With that, it’s no surprise that a financial, tech and media hub like London is often a first choice for American companies to expand.
Ensure clear objectives and goals are in place
There’s nothing worse than expanding services to a country just for the sake of doing it. When you make the jump abroad, you have to be able to give stakeholders — prospects, customers, partners and employees — the support and the assets they need to succeed and get things off the ground.
It’s critical when telling your story externally and elevating the brand that your company has accessible, relevant spokespeople, data, news and POVs too. Prematurely entering a new market can also hinder growth. You need to have a clear plan in place or you run the risk of missing opportunities with potential customers, partners or new hires.
It’s important to go into a new market with very clear goals – is it customer acquisition? Is it organic customer growth you’re trying to capitalize on? Be sure that your key stakeholders, and your team on the ground in the new market, are fully aligned. It will be an investment of time and resources to make this possible, but having clear goals in mind will be helpful when looking back a year later to determine the success of a new market. PR programs and marketing efforts can help move the needle for a company in a new market, but clear objectives and goals from a business perspective are critical, not only to focus the effort but to create alignment between marketing, sales and business strategy.
Having a local presence and team are critical elements
It’s one thing to have an executive travel abroad to the new country you’re expanding into, but it’s a lot more impactful when there’s a team on the ground locally to help support. Even better if they speak the local language and understand the cultural norms. Timing is also important when it comes to elevating the brand – you need to invest the time to lay the foundation before you can build a reputable brand. If timing is off, you likely won’t see as much return on the investment.
Everything from customer support to marketing and PR efforts are likely to be more successful when there’s a local team, in the time zone that is familiar with the market. Opposite time zones can present a challenge, so having someone local can help avoid these roadblocks.
If there’s a new office opening in the market, it presents a great location for reporters, partners and other key audiences to come visit and get a sense of the company’s culture and focus areas. There is plenty of tech and business innovation happening in London and co-working spaces may be a sensible option for an American company looking for office space locally – especially if the team is small – you’ll get immersed in the workplace culture and community immediately that way.
It is very important for company spokespeople and representatives to spend time networking and getting to know the local market. Having a native team member can help ensure the company representatives from America are prepared for any unique hurdles that may come up in the market. A partner strategy is also beneficial as you build your network and credibility for the company – it is something we often see our clients building into their international expansion plans.
Getting to know the market and culture nuances (no one ever hated meeting at a pub, right?) are absolutely critical for success. It’s important to spend time investing in this so that the brand and external spokespeople are authentic.
So now is the time to ask yourself: is your company ready?
Unicorns, next-generation CRM platforms and household names all joined the Firefly roster last quarter.
Firefly Communications Group is poised for an excellent 2019, following a series of client wins which helped increased its revenue by 18% in the last quarter of 2018. The pan-European technology PR agency, which also celebrated its 30th year in operation last year, secured significant success in 2018, helping to shape the reputations of technology firms across the world.
The London, Paris and Munich offices all secured a number of client wins last quarter with a range of technology-based companies. Following a major funding round, AI-based HR platform PathMotion appointed Firefly UK and France to help announce and raise awareness of its funding to the UK and French media. Meanwhile, Firefly Germany helped health tech company, MaxQ-AI, forge relationships with key decision makers through a paid social campaign.
Firefly UK also helped travel site unicorn, Klook, to launch in the UK, supported Hitachi Consulting with a high-street retail project, and built up UK awareness and presence for productivity CRM platform, Copper (formerly ProsperWorks).
Elsewhere, during 2018, engineering simulation business, ANSYS, and application delivery and development platform, NGINX, appointed all three of Firefly’s agencies in the UK, France and Germany to handle their communications campaigns, following competitive pitch processes for each.
Claire Walker, Group CEO at Firefly Communications Group commented, “2018 was a strong year for Firefly Communications Group, from catching our first ‘unicorn’ to ongoing work with two organisations (NGINX and ANSYS) that both collaborate with NASA. It is clear evidence that the market has a growing appetite for smart, tightly-focused communications campaigns that make a tangible impact on a company’s reputation. It is also proof that if you are responsive to change, hire intelligently and execute brilliant campaigns, you can be successful for three decades – and beyond!”
If you’d like to read more from Firefly and stay in touch, please click here to sign up: https://fireflycomms.com/newsletters/
There’s never a dull moment in the communications industry, and 2018 has certainly been no slouch. This year, we’ve seen the roll-out of GDPR, 1.9bn people tuning in to watch Harry and Meghan getting married, Apple achieving a market cap of $1tn, as well as the UK gradually limping towards Brexit.
And we’re sure that 2019 will be no different; in fact, here’s how we think it’ll shape up.
For many brands, the New Year brings new budgets, and with them, new marketing campaigns. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of planning a new campaign, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The sheer volume of channels and tactics available to every single marketer today is daunting by itself, let alone trying to corral them into a coherent, impactful campaign.
And it’s a New Year! Are you worried if you haven’t kicked off an exciting new campaign by the first week of January? Be careful and don’t rush – starting a campaign with rushed objectives can backfire badly.
This confusion and concern about disciplines, channels and tactics doesn’t have an impact on just you. Unless you’re absolutely crystal clear on what you’re looking to achieve, then your marketing or communications team – and any suppliers you work with – could fire off in completely the wrong direction as well. If your remit is broader than our UK shores and you have pan European marketing, communications or PR campaigns kicking off in many countries, how do you give enough guidance in a brief without being overly prescriptive?
We’ve had written briefs that are 180 pages, and briefs that are one page. We’ve had verbal briefs lasting between four hours and sometimes just five minutes. If you’re looking for some agency inspiration, the clue is in the name – be brief – allow them to ask questions, give room for some elasticity and imagination. If a brief is so lengthy and descriptive, it becomes more of an instruction manual rather than an invitation to suggest ideas and solutions to problems.
Metaphorically speaking, it’s times like this that trying to give an appropriate length brief might have you wondering if you need thermal long johns or lightweight tighty-whities, but don’t worry – we’ve got some helpful suggestions to cover all bases.
The three B’s for perfect-sized briefs are: Business, Brevity and Budget.
Regardless of whether you’re the founder of a start-up and handling the marketing yourself, or a senior marketer with a large team and a diktat from the C-level, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think about your business goals. That is what you should be working towards. That’s the top line of what your brief should specify, and sometimes that’s almost everything an agency needs to know.
Once you’ve got a bit more clarity and a good download from wider stakeholders, you can embark on writing the RFP. Regardless of whether you’re putting pen to paper, or talking an agency through the specifics face-to-face or via Webex, there are a few things that you should remember if you want to get the most back from an ‘elastic’ brief:
Agencies understand that no-one has unlimited funds, and not everyone can go over the budget. Any client should have realistic guidelines as to how much they want to spend. Then you should be able to compare agencies and work out what you can and can’t expect to be achieved.
If in doubt – and if you work with other countries that manage similar marketing, communications or PR agencies – look at what they’re spending and take that as a starter.
Investing the time to create a thoughtful, business-oriented brief that provides transparency about what your business is really looking for in a communications partner is key. This process ensures that you receive quality proposals and pitches that are directly aligned with the business strategy of the organisation, allowing you to handpick the most suitable PR partner going forward, whose strategies will complement and drive your communications programme forward to achieve your desired business outcomes. Read here for more guidance.
Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk