Social media marketing is an essential string to any comms professional’s bow in today’s industry landscape. Increasingly, B2B and B2C businesses alike are engaging with influencers as part of their social media marketing strategies, and this means managing influencer relations.
Influencer relations is a relatively new concept, meaning that global regulation is far from aligned. When working across Europe, it is therefore important that communications professionals know how to navigate the variety of legal restrictions they may encounter.
Influencer relations is about more than relationships with influencers
As comms professionals, relationships are our bread and butter. When brands engage with a comms agency for their social media strategy, they expect the agency to have great connections with relevant influencers in their sector.
Relationships are crucial, but they’re only one piece of the overall pie. Looking at this from a traditional media relations perspective, we can see why. Yes, it’s important to have that close connection with a journalist to secure press coverage, but comms professionals also need to be excellent content creators, top-notch organisers, and events management afficionados. We’re constantly wearing different hats – and we must do the same when developing an influencer relations programme.
Influencer marketing has legal implications
When scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, you will likely have noticed your favourite creators adding ‘#ad’ to the captions of their posts. This isn’t just a gesture of transparency, but a legal requirement for anyone creating content online in the UK.
In the UK, influencers are regulated by the Competition and Markets Authority. They have a handy guide which sets out how influencers can promote brands and products online. This helps both companies and influencers alike to comply with consumer protection law. Rules are similar in Germany.
Seems simple, right?
Ensuring compliance across borders is crucial
Influencer relations vary significantly across Europe. For example, in France, social media regulation recently shifted. Previously, influencers were not legally bound to signal product placements in their posts, but this is set to change to a more UK-style approach.
How can brands ensure they have an effective influencer relations strategy across Europe?
Thinking of boosting your influencer relations strategy in Europe? Get in touch!
We all aspire to be savvy buyers, of anything. However, consider how often you buy something you want, but you don’t really need. Or you find the perfect piece but find an identical item at a lower price somewhere else. Or think about a time where you bought something that is clearly the wrong size and can’t be returned.
We’ve all been there, and buyer’s remorse applies to business procurement decisions too. Business investments may not be coming out of your personal pocket but there is still an expectation to be savvy. As you could be dealing with figures that equate to a purchase of a decent car or property, it’s crucial to get it right, especially in these current economic conditions.
Embarking on a partnership with a PR agency is one of those business purchasing decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But how can you be sure you are choosing, or working with, the right-sized communications and PR agency and getting value out of every dollar, pound, or euro you spend on comms?
There are thousands of excellent communications agencies in Europe, of all shapes and sizes. We all have different expertise, strengths, experience and cultures, however the “client/agency relationship fit” is critical in the smooth running of a communications programme if you wish to yield the most impactful results.
A value buy
When searching for a new PR agency partner, quality and price are often the foremost factors under consideration. On quality, it’s imperative to establish whether the people on your team:
On price, ask yourself whether the service and results expected from the programme tie back to what is needed for your organisation. Basically, do the numbers add up so the spend yields enough impact to make the difference you need?
While a great cultural fit is harder to determine, as much of this decision is subjective, there are approaches you can take to make it more objective.
If you were interviewing new members for your team, what personal qualities would you look for? Consider applying a similar process when selecting an agency team. Engage with each member of the team to feel the strength of connection at every level.
Also interrogate the agency’s values – do they match up with your company’s values?
The right size
Looking at how your company is positioned on the PR agency roster is another factor to consider when rightsizing your agency choice.
Few clients want to be the smallest client or to be seen at the bottom of the pecking order. Most clients like to be the biggest or nearly the biggest client – at the top of the pecking order. And even fewer clients like the agency itself to be larger and with more people than their own organisation. For the most part, organisations like to know they will be considered a valued client by their agency – every one of them wants to be the favourite.
If you’re a medium-sized agile business, you may be better off selecting a small or medium-sized agile agency.
If you are a large global organisation on a global mission, perhaps you need the same large global agency representing you in every market where you operate. Be warned though, a large global network is only as strong as the weakest link, so be sure all links individually demonstrate and deliver strength.
Making the purchasing decision
A fundamental benefit of working with smaller agencies is that they tend to pay more attention to detail and are not only strong on developing strategies but also executing against those strategies and seeing the programme through. They are generally more agile and can offer more personalised and bespoke services or solutions.
So when sizing up your options, don’t rule out a smaller agile agency – they may just be hungrier and the fit you’re looking for!
Europe is a fascinating place. Its history, cultural diversity and impact on the globe make it truly unique. And although it has gone through many challenges in recent decades, including some questionable decisions and a surprising election or two, Europe still remains a great place to do business.
It is also a pivotal market for many companies’ global success and for anyone looking to establish a good base for doing business throughout the region it is critical to establish a strong reputation. To achieve this, a comprehensive PR strategy is crucial. However, Europe is comprised of over 40 countries and 23 languages, and subsequently requires a lot of nuanced thought, particularly as it relates to measuring success.
When compared to other markets, such as the US, there are several key things to bear in mind when assessing how impactful your PR efforts in Europe have been, most important of which is to look beyond the numbers.
Although in simple terms it may seem that the larger the audience and reach of your content, the better, this is not always the case. It’s true you should always look to maximise the impact of your content, but there are a few important aspects to consider when measuring success. Firstly, if you are used to numbers that can be generated in a market such as the US, numbers in Europe can seem underwhelming. Ensure that you are aware of the size of the markets you are dealing with – the population of the Netherlands for example is smaller than that of New York State.
However, also think carefully about comparisons between countries within Europe. Due to the variety within the region, there can be vast differences in reach between countries – you shouldn’t be disheartened if your figures from outreach in the Vatican City aren’t quite on the same level as those in Germany, for example.
Quality not quantity
Be sure you are putting things in context. Instead of counting pieces and their impressions, develop a scoring system in line with your business goals that focuses more on the quality of your content and its specific impact. Measurements like type, tier, message penetration could be a much better indicator of success compared to straight numbers. Part of this is looking at target audiences in those markets you are focusing on and assessing what opportunities they can provide. For example, a readership of a few thousand people in Sweden, may seem like a tiny number, however if these are business or industry leaders with a very specific interest in your sector, that number all of a sudden looks very appealing. However, beyond that think of what it is you are trying to achieve and perhaps target a specific country for a specific industry or goal – for example, manufacturing in Germany, or financial services in the UK.
Additionally, look into measuring a reusability score. We are all having to look after the pennies these days, and as a result anything that can be done to get the most value out of your work should be pursued. If money spent on a single effort can act as your Swiss army knife, generating press releases, media alerts, commentary, thought leadership and beyond, this can be a great indicator of the overall impact that your strategy is having.
Different markets. Different appetites
Media appetites vary hugely throughout the region – in the same way that fish and chips is not a delicacy in France, nor frogs’ legs in Germany, the media is also hungry for different things. It is crucial to have a good understanding of the cultural differences between countries. For example, in a situation where you have a press release to send out that will be localised in a few key languages and distributed throughout Europe, it could be tempting to directly compare results between countries. However, it is highly likely you will see significant differences in the coverage numbers between these countries, even adjusted for population. For example, media in France and Germany have a big appetite for press releases, whereas the UK media is not so keen, and this will have a big impact on results. Other examples include the French and German media’s preference for local spokespeople and brands, meaning you will most likely see increased competition in those markets and coverage numbers could be lower if you do not have a local flavour.
Clearly, measuring success is a crucial aspect of any effort, especially when dealing with limited time and budget. If you are keen to kick off a PR campaign in Europe, be sure to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and avoid comparing between countries.
For a small continent, Europe is full of a wide variety of different attitudes, tastes and quirks. To understand them all is an almost impossible task, however a little effort can go a long way. By ensuring that you take the time to understand key differences in media attitudes, specific areas of expertise and potential reach you can maximise your ability to measure success.
Most of us who frequent social media platforms will have probably given in to the recommendations of an influencer in one way or another. Whether it be an Amazon gadget or a new trending celeb recipe, influencers have the power to impact decisions of consumers across all age groups.
Over the years, influencer marketing has been on the rise. In 2021, 44% of B2C brands in Europe said they planned to increase their influencer marketing budget. What was a $1.7 billion industry, in 2016 has since grown to become worth $16 billion in 2022, with expectations for it to grow to $21 billion this year. But with all the emphasis put on these influencers to build a brand’s reputation, what are the implications if this falls apart? The new ‘de-influencer’ trend might be the first sign of cracks in the influencer world.
So far, the de-influencing hashtag has garnered 180 million TikTok views since the trend began in January this year. De-influencing is when content creators uncover the truth about products consumers have been pushed to purchase, all in a bid to address overconsumption.
Like consumers, businesses face difficulties in the current economic climate. Layoffs have continued to dominate the headlines, putting the decisions of business leaders centre stage – they’re not only being judged by their employees but the general public too. In a similar vein, the de-influencer movement gives consumers the ‘right information’ they need to make better decisions with their money. Society craves authenticity, and with ‘cancel culture’ still present, no brand or business is safe from judgment. The jury is fierce and they take no prisoners. Now more than ever, shaping reputation is crucial.
This isn’t the first sign of consumers becoming savvier to how and where they should be spending their money. During the last decade we saw a huge rise in the importance of a business having the right ESG credentials, driven not only by government regulation but also investor and stakeholder demand. However, ESG’s critics believe that companies are using the loosely defined term to “greenwash,” or make unrealistic or misleading claims, especially about their environmental credentials.
As B2B marketing strategies look to use business influencers on TikTok to complement product content on LinkedIn, they must ensure they know exactly who their audiences are and more importantly use the right influencers. After all, partnering with the wrong influencer can dramatically affect a brand’s credibility and ruin its reputation.
Whilst the de-influencer movement isn’t completely exempt from its own criticism of its authenticity, it’s brought up some really important conversations. It’s provided us with the space we need to stop and think about our decisions more closely, focusing on becoming better humans overall. As consumers, investors and end users are all focused on making the right decisions – whether it’s buying a dress from an environmentally charged retailer or investing in the most ethical AI driven product – businesses should focus on creating clear and concise messaging and communicating through the most effective means possible.
Zooming out of the detail of these trends to looking at a company’s reputation as a whole, it’s important for leaders in comms to build meaningful relationships based on trust. This trust influences more than just purchasing, permeating all aspects of the company. There’s nowhere for organisations to hide, and any step of the way there’s judgement, so shaping a reputation in this new era, is about gaining trust through a comms strategy that puts transparency and authenticity at the forefront.
Since its big reveal in November 2022, OpenAI’s ChatGPT has dominated headlines all across the world. It is being touted as a technology with the potential to change our lives – for better, or worse. Across the internet, we’ve seen examples of how the AI-powered language model can complete tasks faster, and in some cases better, than humans. Tasks ranged from writing emails, to composing song lyrics, drafting academic essays and everything in between.
AI that can create new content, also known as generative AI, has faced its share of ethical concerns over the past months. If a chatbot can write articles and generate images in a matter of seconds, what will that mean for the humans who rely on these skills to earn a living? However, it needn’t be all doom and gloom. This technology holds the potentially to enable people to do their jobs better, faster and with greater ease.
In the B2B tech PR and communications industry, there are several ways that generative AI could revolutionise how we work. As an experiment, I asked ChatGPT: ‘’What are the top four ways that generative AI will change the PR and communications industry for the better?’’ This is what it said:
1. Media monitoring and outreach
One key area ChatGPT said it could help comms professionals is in monitoring and analysing media coverage more efficiently. It answered, ‘’Generative AI can quickly scan and categorise articles, tweets, and other social media posts, enabling PR teams to stay on top of the news and respond to emerging trends and issues.’’
The chatbot identified media outreach as another way to support PR teams, assisting them in ‘’identifying relevant journalists and influencers, quickly scanning databases of journalists and their previous articles, enabling PR teams to tailor their pitches to specific reporters and outlets.’’
2. Reputation management
Reputation management is another area of specialisation for PR professionals, which ChatGPT said it could enable them to do with greater ease. It stated, ‘’Generative AI can help PR teams manage their clients’ online reputation by monitoring social media and other online channels for mentions of the brand or key executives. This technology can quickly flag negative comments or reviews and provide insights into sentiment and key topics.’’
3. Crisis management
In a similar vein to the points above, ChatGPT said that its ability to quickly scan and monitor media trends can support comms professionals with managing a crisis. ‘’By monitoring social media and news sources, generative AI can assist PR teams in identifying emerging issues and responding proactively to mitigate damage to the brand’s reputation,’’ it wrote.
4. Content creation
Generative AI also has the ability to support with content creation by ‘’quickly generating press releases, blog posts, and social media updates, freeing up PR teams to focus on higher-level strategy and relationship-building activities.’’
Interestingly, ChatGPT revealed that, on its own, generative AI cannot replace the valuable time and effort communications professionals spend on strategy, planning, pitching and relationship building. Additionally, while it can create content quickly, the content is not necessarily better in quality than what would be produced by an experienced comms professional.
This technology has the potential to enable teams to do their jobs faster and more effectively by drawing on data that already exists to help reduce manual processes. It’s clear that there is still much more on the horizon for generative AI and how it will change daily operations. For now, it appears that it will be an innovative way to help teams go above and beyond for clients, allowing them to focus the majority of their time on the aspects of our jobs that are most valuable – devising new and creative campaigns, as well as producing original, thought-provoking content that makes an impact.
It’s the month of love, so what better time to take a good look at your PR crush and why you admire them so. I’m talking about organisations, not necessarily PR professionals, but actually there’s always an incredible team behind great PR so it’s good to look at the drivers of the comms engine too.
When speaking to organisations, I often ask the question, ‘who do you admire?’, ‘what is it that they do in comms that gets you excited?’. The answer I get most of the time is, ‘good question, I’ll have to think about that one.’ I don’t forget to go back and ask the question again, because there is so much to learn from what a person says in response to that question – and all the more interesting when it’s an organisation outside their industry.
Could admiration be a reputation measure of success?
Measuring PR impact is a topic continually discussed – it takes many forms and can get a little heated with many differing opinions.
But to use a phrase that doesn’t prompt the nicest visual, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There are many tools and methodologies to help PRs and marketing folk calculate the impact of PR. The starting point is to determine what’s important to the business and work backwards from there.
A very familiar metric is share of voice, which measures a company’s presence in comparison to a set of competitors. Another often used metric is ‘share of conversation’, which measures a company’s presence in conversations around a certain topic. That’s a great way to look outside of your industry and understand broader points of view and how your company fits in.
I’m adding ‘share of admiration’ to the mix, and this would be measured against companies that you do not compete with, at a sales level, but you may at a reputation level. You essentially benchmark yourself against their reputational strength. To make this measurement a fair comparison, you need to look at universal reputation metrics. This can include:
There are numerous ways to measure these elements, and various sources you can pull from – within and outside your organisation. For comprehensive reputational intelligence, we work with our partner, RepTrak, who have a proven model for corporate reputation management, taking multiple data points and applying its algorithm to create actionable insights.
Whichever way you measure, the most important thing is looking at reputation from all angles. Reputation often feels intangible, but it’s simply the sum total of perceptions and actions, good and bad.
Why it’s important to look outside your industry
Looking at competitors is important, of course, as you’ll be competing with them on sales which is a key driver for growth and success. Often competitive insight either shows what they’re doing differently (where you may need to play catch-up) or certain aspects where your company may be ahead. However, it can be limiting. By looking at companies outside of your industry, it can help with creativity or ideas that can differentiate your company further, not on a service/product level, but in the way your organisation behaves and engages with stakeholders. Getting out the industry bubble can bring real freshness to a comms strategy, and possibly something your industry may not have seen before.
So, who do you admire?
The current economic outlook is not what we’ve hoped for. With inflation rising to its highest level in 40 years, many businesses are rightly concerned about the future. Even some of the biggest tech companies are struggling with the current economic headwinds. Meta are slashing their hiring plans, while others are being forced to trim their current workforce.
While tough times lie ahead, managing the reputation of your company is a business imperative. After all, brand loyalty driven by a good reputation will keep your stakeholders in your corner, even when the going gets tough.
Businesses that have made it through pandemics and economic downturns have all had one thing in common – they’ve placed prominence on their company reputation, internally and externally.
Here are some key actions to consider when looking to create a recession proof reputation:
Embed reputation management into your company culture, so that your entire organisation is onboard with its importance. After all, the reputation of your organisation doesn’t just exist in the C-suite, it cuts across the entire organisation. For IT, it’s about protecting a company’s assets, no consumer wants their data leaked by a company. Whereas for HR, it’s important to be viewed as a good employer.
Stand out from the crowd
Not every company can be a Tesla or a Meta, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out. Most organisations have something worth shouting about. Find what that uniqueness is and leverage it and use it to connect with your employees and customers. Having a reputation for innovation, resilience, and agility will help engage your stakeholders and create a ‘halo effect’ with shareholders.
Reputation in the round
As well as engaging internal stakeholders, you should think carefully about your reputation in the round, by considering every avenue of your reputation. Your executives, press coverage, share of conversation, among other things, can have an impact on your reputation. There are multiple touchpoints, and you should be addressing each one.
‘Ensurance’ is the best policy Investing in your employees, suppliers, customers, and third parties is crucial and will pay dividends in the long run. Additionally, you should regularly audit internal policies, as well as those of your partners. While this is a laboursome process, it will ensure you’re covering all your bases. Above all, actions speak louder than words, so don’t be afraid to replace out of date policies or end relationships that no longer align with the values of your company or could be seen as harmful to your reputation.
The world has changed quite a bit recently and, arguably, this difference is most prominent in the working world. Although the amount of people working from home had been rising steadily for some time, homeworking has more than doubled over the past two years compared to pre-pandemic levels. 42% of UK workers now work a mixture of at home and in the office. Clearly, this meteoric shift in such a short space of time has profound implications for working life in general, but especially for the way that organisations communicate.
Maintaining robust internal communications
Internal communication has always been vital to the overall strategy of any firm. Multi-year Gallup research found that employee disengagement costs the UK economy £52-£70 billion per year. In this new working world of ours, with the significant shift towards remote/flexible working, serious questions have arisen as to how to communicate effectively within your team, in multiple locations, via the myriad technological platforms we now have at our disposal.
Critical to this venture is being aware of what personalities you have within your organisation, and subsequently knowing the most effective way to keep them happy, informed and engaged. With people being in the office a lot less, knowing and understanding your colleagues has become a much more complicated task. Video conferencing technology is an incredible tool and without it the last couple of years would have been very rocky indeed, but it can also be stunted. As we lack reading non-verbal cues and body language as well as simply not being around people for extended periods of time, it can be difficult to get a true impression of who someone is. This is particularly challenging for new members of staff who may have joined during periods of lockdown, in many cases not meeting their colleagues in-person for months.
There are many ways we can learn a bit more about each other. The Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator is a great tool to be able to gain this perspective and give valuable insight into the types of people that are working in your team and what makes them tick. It’s like your star sign with a bit of science behind it. There are 16 personalities, split between introvert and extrovert, each with different traits. It is not to say that these are by any means locked in, but more an indicator of the way someone is likely to react to a given circumstance.
Its questions give indications as to whether you sense or use intuition to gather information; whether you make decisions more by feeling or thinking; and whether you judge or perceive the outside world. All of these traits, none of them necessarily good or bad, have an enormous impact on how you communicate and how you like to be communicated with. The awareness that knowing the makeup of your staff gives you when devising internal communication strategies is critical. It allows you to choose the best channels and tone of voice depending on your audience. It can also point out those members of the team that may benefit from a slightly tweaked strategy or a particular focus in order to fully engage them.
Not only will you learn about your team, but very likely you will learn something about yourself. The introspection that comes from your result and the nuances in your personality that are revealed will allow you to tweak and improve your own communication style when dealing with other team members or managers.
It can also be a great team bonding exercise as shouts of, ‘that is scarily accurate’ bound around the room. When my wife saw my results, the cry of ‘that’s what I’ve been saying!’ was deafening.
Being in the office 9 to 5 streamlined communications. People had no choice but to be involved in conversation, managers had many different face-to-face tools to keep everybody on the same page, and the informal chats at the coffee machine or on lunch breaks allowed strong emotional bonds to be formed. Now that we are often miles apart in our own little worlds, more effort must be made to understand each other and stay connected. Only with this can we maintain robust and meaningful communications that contribute to our organisations’ success.
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!
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