We are currently witnessing the dawn of large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT. These are changing the way we work and the way we learn – particularly the way we search for information. There has been a huge reaction from education leaders, worrying about such tools being used to help students cheat their way through their studies, or fearing that they will be fed incorrect information.
On the other hand, in the workplace, GenZ employees have bought into the AI hype. They are using the technology to help them with various work tasks, but have a huge fear of managers finding out. This is due to lack of company regulation around whether they should or shouldn’t be using these tools to support their work.
The real conversation here though is, how useful is ChatGPT and other similar tools when it comes to research? With over 80% of the search market share, Google is the household favourite, but even Google has its limitations. Google is set up to search by keywords, but not to dive into granular and complex questions. For example, if I use Google and search ‘AI’, the results come back with a multitude of news items, various descriptions of AI and a range of company articles using the term ‘AI’.
This is where tools like Chat GPT come in. Using an LLM, I have the ability to ask a question such as ‘Can you describe what AI is’, and it comes back with a detailed description of AI and its use cases. This is information that can be pulled into any written work without having to use a single brain cell. This type of language model has the ability to understand and respond to natural language and provide answers that are both informative and entertaining, generating a variety of responses to each user’s questions.
However, the major limitation of ChatGPT is that the data only runs up to 2021, so for many trying to use this tool, the information will be far too out of date to create current and reliable content. This is a major point for those working in tech comms, as the speed of innovation is so fast that information quickly becomes outdated.
Aside from this limitation, there have also been concerns around the ethical implications, including privacy, bias in training data and lack of human interaction. More commonly used search engines don’t have these same problems, and therefore are more reliable to use for research. Using a manual search engine relies on people to manually gather and organise their own data and information, based on the latest information available. On the other hand, an AI search engine relies on computers and algorithms and their pre-trained and installed data to produce results. This is one of the key differences when using either for searching.
However, a search tool is only as good as the data it provides. Google provides results to our keyword searches based on the algorithm it uses to deem information credible. ChatGPT hasn’t yet been transparent about its sources, which again makes using it for research difficult.
Looking at this from a comms perspective (as we’re comms people after all) these changes will be significant to our output. Firstly, we’re constantly researching to ensure we are knowledgeable for our clients. But secondly, and importantly, a lot of what we do influences Google results. An amazing article about our client in a national newspaper like the Financial Times, will feature at the top of search results and will have an impact on that company’s reputation. In B2B, the sales process often starts with Google! But as LLMs continue to develop, what will it mean for a company’s reputation and how they feature in LLM results?
There is no doubt that LLMs will continue to have a huge impact on the way we search, work, and learn. We’re at an important juncture, where not only the likes of Google will look to make significant changes to its platform, but we’ll also see a huge range of new players enter and compete in the ‘AI race’. It’s not too dissimilar to when we witnessed the disappearance of Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry as Apple and Microsoft became the dominant players in the mobile phone evolution. I think we’ll see something very similar happen here!
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.
When we think of sport we think of athletes. Athletes that are at the top of their physical game, with abilities that simply defy the laws of gravity. Basketball fans have long admired Michael Jordan’s hang time, and the game of football has never been able to understand Cristiano Ronaldo’s headers which seem to stop time entirely. As we witness various industries digitally transform, the world of sport has not been left behind.
There has been a huge shift in technological advancement which has made it easier for athletes to optimise their performance and improve the experience for spectators at sporting events. Looking 10 years ahead, we can only imagine where the world of technology will take us in sport, but for now, we can marvel at the newest innovations of today which continue to change the pace of the game.
Team Jumbo Visma tearing up Tour de France – 2022
This year, Team Jumbo-Visma led the way, charging ahead of their components for the majority of the races. Jonas Vingegaard won the men’s race, and Marianne Vos claimed the green jersey for most points. Both riders were among the favourites for their respective titles, but one stark difference was the men’s team adopted the use of simulation to fully capitalise on the talent of Vingegaard, and winning the La Grande Boucle.
How does simulation play into this you ask? Fighting air resistance represents up to 90% of the energy spent by the athletes. Team Jumbo-Visma works with some of the best athletic aerodynamics experts in the world, using digital simulation to optimise performance through better aerodynamics. It consisted of solving vast, complex systems of equations with millions of unknowns to improve their performance. Simulation proved to be a pivotal cog in the winning machine!
Data driving football analysis and spectator engagement
Major Spanish football league, LaLiga has looked to its data architecture to better understand its players performance and importantly create a better more personalised experience for its fans. This is all being done through a lakehouse data architecture.
By combining the best attributes of a data lake and a data warehouse, the lakehouse is able to deliver better data management and performance through low-cost, flexible object stores. LaLiga has created a world where data informs almost every aspect of how sports are played and experienced. The data team at LaLiga uses data and AI for match statistics and in-play analysis, based on data from cameras in each club’s stadium. It allows data scientists at the clubs to perform pre- and post-match analysis and predict player injuries before they occur.
The future of technology in sport
There are many more advancements in tech which are changing the world of sport, but the best is likely yet to come. We’re on the cusp of a sports technology revolution with the global sports technology market being currently valued at US $17.9 billion and expectations to reach US $40.2 billion by 2026. However, some avid football fans would agree that VAR technology needs some work – depending on which side of a team you’re on!
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.
As Monday rolls around, another episode of House of the Dragon is ready for me to watch. I hit play. But oh, the c-word is used again by one of the main characters. It’s really becoming annoying.
The c-word has always been very divisive, some people can easily say it, some just can’t. But the overuse of such a strong swear word is beginning to cheapen the script, in my opinion. Whilst dropping it in occasionally may make things a bit spicy, saying it so regularly loses its shock value and begins to grate.
Why am I talking about this? Comms professionals are the masters of words – how, when, where we use them, as well as what we want to hammer home. It’s important to use big powerful words so people sit up and take notice, but it requires careful balance to make an impact.
Getting the messaging on point
It’s important to spend time on messaging because it’ll give you the exact words to sum up what your company does, concisely, as well as create consistency when it comes to the company tone and characteristics. And the smart use of these words is the difference between your audience tuning in, versus switching off, or worse, actively disliking you (nobody wants that!).
For any company, your starting point is analysing your competitors and the words you’re currently using. Ask yourself:
Breaking it down
The messaging I’m talking about here is for communications, not ads. Remember that you’re not creating a strapline, you’re creating clear and concise ways of describing your company. The best way to write this initially is three sentences – what the company does (and for who), why it’s different and what the benefits are to the customer. Those three lines are your messaging anchors so it’s worth spending time on these, very carefully choosing the words and structure of the sentences.
These three anchor sentences are your framework. Once you have these you need to consider your audiences – i.e. how do you tweak these for current customers versus new customers? How about employees and future hires? Again, look at proof points, making sure you have ways of backing everything you say.
And now the balancing act
You’ve now got a framework, you have your proof points, you have the tailored versions, now you’ve got to make sure it’s all being used in a way that makes an impact. The first step is to bring consistency across all your communication channels – digital and physical. The second, is knowing your ‘shock value’ words (and I advise not to use the c-word!) and making sure that’s used at the right moments. Shock value words could be for securing someone’s attention in the first instance, or when you want to highlight a certain point. Just be smarter than the script writers of House of the Dragon when it comes to the reaction from your audience!
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.
This is a post from the Firefly archives – timeless advice, as relevant today as it was in 2015!
Memes, public Instagram images, and screenshots of funny things that’ve made it into the media via Facebook are just a few examples of the popular content we see constantly in today’s digital world.
They’re increasingly popular across the internet for both commercial and non-commercial reasons, and with the ease of consumption and sharing, it’s no surprise the lines are a little blurred between what constitutes copyright infringement or image plagiarism.
PRs and journalists are not immune to this – we use and re-use a vast amount on content on a daily basis. For example. someone’s hashtagged a nice picture with your client’s brand on it? Seen a funny picture in a forum that would make a viral-worthy news piece? Great! But before you use these for your own advantage, consider these tips to avoid image plagiarism:
Is the person who posted this image the first person to post it? Try your best to ensure that it’s original content. Likewise, if the content is associated with a news event, it’s vital you’re publishing true information and won’t have to retract items later.
Always get in contact with the person who posted the image and ask their permission to use it. You can tweet them, direct message, comment – it all depends on the platform, but make sure you get consent. If the picture is on sites such as Flickr, you might also need to consider Creative Commons attribution. Don’t forget, if you’re using the image for a client or employer, it’s being used commercially, rather than for personal use.
Again, this will depend on any applicable Creative Commons licences, but if you’re using someone else’s image it’s generally good practice to attribute their name. Better yet, tag the social media account it was sourced from or embed the image directly from the source.
If possible, why not try and take a picture yourself? In a lot of cases, this might be just as easy and save the wait-time for user consent. You need is your smartphone and a few filters or an editing app, and you’ve got a picture!
While user-generated images can make excellent and authentic social fodder, any media buffs concerned about getting into trouble can always stick to stock images. They aren’t always as engaging (and they can cost you money), but you’ll know you’re not breaking the law. When you’re using free stock images, please do note that it’s still polite to reference the creator! For ideas, check out Unsplash, Pexels and PxHere.
That said, it’s always worth looking at the terms and conditions before you use them. For example, you can’t usually use a stock photo as part of a logo or trademark.
In practice, image plagiarism online is a bit of a legal grey area, it’s better to be safe than to lose a client contract or risk fines. Photo agencies have expensive lawyers and aren’t afraid to use them.
Getty Images has teamed up with the BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies) and PACA (Picture Archive Council of America) to set up Stockphotorights.com, a useful guide to using stock photography and understanding image rights. There is a helpful FAQ, which is well worth bookmarking.
(Photo credit: Bonnie Kittle, Unsplash)
Every now and then something floors me. Quite a few years ago now, ‘DIG’ was a one-word email reply from a client. And yes, it was in capital letters too for added emphasis.
Could it have meant appreciation? Could it have meant ‘I like it a lot’? How dangerous to assume. What it meant was ‘I haven’t got time to help you, please work it out yourselves’.
I was reminded of this moment when a prospect recently talked about her frustrations with her ‘soon-to-be ex’ agency and what promoted the change. She just didn’t have the time to explain something twice, and nor should she have to. She didn’t expect to train up new team members. But she did expect her agency to work out problems, and only go to her if they hit a dead end.
So, what happened and why the lack of resourcefulness? It’s worth a quick look at the flip side.
There’s a narrow path between being too dependent and being too independent. The former is needy, the latter an unguided missile. But the middle ground between working unchecked, unguided and not needing so much handholding is where agencies must strike the right balance.
Whether you’re reading this in-house side or agency-side, there are measures you can put in place to make sure you’re ‘digging’ right:
And even with all this in place, your agency must have the DIG mindset. Without it, it’s like giving them the shovel, pointing them in the right direction but useless if they don’t get on with it.
Is your team often asking themselves…Is there another way to get what I need? Who else could help me with this? Can I recall anything similar that might also help me? What is one more thing I can try before I ask for help?
Plus, when you do dig you never know what you can find. A curious and open-minded agency may find you some PR gold even though their initial intention was to problem-solve.
But please, be the right kind of gold digger!
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