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:

  • Are you standing out?
  • Are you consistent across your digital channels?
  • Are your employees consistent in how they describe the company?
  • Does the style and tone of the words work with the type of company you are?
  • When a customer says something nice about you, what do you love?

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.

Remember to:

  • Avoid jargon (or use it very carefully if it’s a word that your customers heavily use)
  • Be believable and true to your organisation
  • Have proof points and the ability to back up anything you’re saying
  • Make it relatable to your primary audience’s needs

Tailoring

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

Accreditation

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.

Avoiding hot water

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:

1. Make sure it is credible

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.

2. Get consent

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.

3. Attribute the author

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.

4. Do it yourself

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!

5. Or keep it clean

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.

Learning more…

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.

Reasonable, right?

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!

Cambridge Analytica, Huawei and the GDPR, of course, have all helped to bring data privacy into the spotlight and people are becoming more wary of how companies are collecting and using their data (Just check out our client, the Internet Society’s, latest report on consumers’ security concerns with IoT devices – it turns out we think Alexa is pretty creepy!).

And because there is so much of our data stored on the internet – whether it’s on social media or Google, there is also risk of old data being exposed and potentially used against us and out of context – remember when Disney fired (and subsequently re-hired) James Gunn because of decade-old tweets?

Whether we’re worried about how secure our social media account is, where our voice notes are stored in our Alexa, or if we just want to do a bit of a data spring clean, look no further! Because Jumbo is here.

Jumbo is a handy little app that aims to protect your privacy online and there are three ways it can help: it can make your tweets ephemeral by automatically deleting them after a certain period of time, it has a Smart Facebook Privacy Setting which cleans your data on Facebook in a more simple way than Facebook’s own settings, and it can also automatically delete your Google Searches and Alexa recordings.

So the next time the data privacy demons are whispering in your ear, threatening to expose all those times you asked Alexa to play the Vengaboys, make sure you grab your Jumbo app to safeguard your guilty pleasures (and the other important data too).

Despite what the name may suggest, this has nothing to do with the infamous ride-hailing service, but it could help drive up your SEO.

Certainly, when it comes to finding the perfect keywords and pushing you up the SERPs, it never hurts to have an extra helping hand, especially when your Google juice inspiration is running a little low.

That’s exactly what Neil Patel is hoping to provide with Ubersuggest (if you haven’t heard of him, by the way, it could be worth looking him up ‒ it seems he’s a pretty big deal in the US entrepreneurial and marketing world). We’re sure that you will all be aware of the likes of Moz for your SEO needs but Ubersuggest hopes to take this one step further.

What content are people actually reading and sharing? Or, if you’re struggling for ideas, what other keywords could you be using? Ubersuggest looks to answers all of these questions, outlining the top-performing content for certain keywords and generating keyword suggestions based on what people are actually typing into Google.

Furthermore, it also offers insights into your competitors, so you can see what’s working (and what isn’t) for the rest of your industry.  Not just so you can do the same but so you can do it better.

Best of all ‒ its free!

So, we suggest you give it a go. And if you’d still like some additional advice, we’ve written a whole guide and eBook on SEO.

What are the most annoying elements of social media? Trolling, definitely. Boast posts, absolutely. How about when you see a post – perhaps a video or a recipe – that you want to look at again later, but then you can’t find it again when you want or need it? Infuriating!

A new app has been released that lets you save content from all major social channels in one place, to look at again whenever you want. Videos, GIFs, memes, music files, notes – you can collate them all on Figgle. It’s like a digital pinboard for your favourite content – so no more trawling through your social feeds searching for that content you wanted to forward to colleagues or friends.

The app is available on all iPhones free of charge – check it out here.

The privacy war has been one of the slowest revolutions in the 21st century: the Snowden revelations weren’t enough, Wikileaks didn’t do it, but the vast and ongoing data breaches have begun to effect a change – starting with Ashley Madison and ending with … well, it hasn’t ended yet, although almost every major platform has experienced one or another kind of data breach.

As a result, people are slowly starting to take privacy more seriously and one consequence of this is that there has been a slow erosion in the number of consumers using the major social and browsing platforms like Facebook and services from the likes of Google.

Unfortunately, we’ve only just found an alternative to our go-to browser of choice, Chrome. Brave offers fast browsing speeds – equal to or better than Chrome – with no weird functionality, just plain and simply surfing.

But under the hood, Brave gives you the opportunity to stay private. On one side of the URL bar, clicking one icon allows you to turn on ad blocking, avoid tracking cookies, encrypt your connection and run scripts – or not. It’s as simple as flicking a switch, and Brave also boasts a host of features from importing bookmarks (phew) to integration with Tor functionality for privacy pros.

So if you’re concerned, or just fancy a change, check it out.

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