With December on our doorsteps, Christmas fever is about to take over the nation. But before you dust off your baubles and start roasting your chestnuts, let’s have a look back at our favourite tech stories from November.  

The month started off with fears of the chip shortage stealing the Grinch’s thunder this Christmas, leaving us with a distinct lack of electronic gifts sitting under the tree. As a result of the shortage, Nintendo warned the nation that they won’t be able to meet the demand for their popular Switch console after it was crowned the most successful game of all time

Whilst games console production slows, advancements in electric cars accelerate. Envision Virgin Racing have released the first electric Formula race car able to go from 0-60mph in just 3.2 seconds. Apple is expecting to release a fully autonomous car as soon as 2025. With no need for pedals or a steering wheel, you’ll have plenty of room for all your new sustainably made clothes – all you have to do is scan the QR code on the label and you’ll be able to find out where the item was made and which materials were used. 

Climate and sustainability continue to be hot topics in the news, with world leaders announcing a global plan to boost green tech. Whilst some of the industrialised nations are accused of dragging their feet on climate actions, for others, the sky is the limit – literally. Airbus’s solar-powered aircraft successfully delivered wireless internet from the stratosphere down to Arizona on its 18-day long flight. 

To finish off, we have to talk about the new way of communicating with your dog. If your pooch is feeling lonely and fancies a quick chat, all it has to do is pick up its new ball containing a special device. This sends a signal is to your laptop and launches a video call. Just imagine delivering that important presentation and on pops Scruffy to tell you he’s eaten your favourite slippers! 

That’s all for our November roundup. Want to receive a daily news roundup of the biggest tech stories? Sign up to our Firewire here

As the nights draw in and Christmas approaches, thoughts of 2019 planning are well underway but instead of looking to the future, we’re going to take a look back over the past year and highlight some of the key trends and events that have taken place in world of communications to give us some inspiration for the year ahead.

A lesson in ethics

Although it began in 2017, the fall of Bell Pottinger shocked the communications industry. The ill-advised campaign that led to a host of troubles in South Africa highlighted the need for proper ethical standards in the comms industry. In response to the Bell Pottinger downfall, the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) launched the #PowerofEthics campaign this year to encourage comms professionals to promote ethics in PR.


GDPR, the acronym you cannot escape. The General Data Protection Regulation can into force in May of this year and certainly shook up the industry. Despite knowing about the upcoming deadline for two years, businesses were still unprepared for the legislation. GDPR touched every industry and marcomms was no different. To prepare for the changes, we held a session on GDPR and what it meant for marketing data, to ensure industry experts were up to speed and in the know.

The rise (and fall) of the YouTube star

Celebrity YouTuber, Logan Paul, sparked outrage this year after posting a disrespectful video. After the event, the discussion around social media influencers and the monetisation of videos rippled through the industry. Social media influencers are growing and becoming more popular, perhaps in 2019 we’ll start to see some regulations surrounding them and their content?

The pace of growth

The industry is changing at a rapid pace, and the growth of digital channels has profoundly changed the way we work. New technologies, tighter budgets and politics are all major drivers of change and the changing media landscape is just another hurdle that marcomms professionals have to deal with. In 2018, PR professionals said they need new expertise in social media, data and analytics and multi-media content development to ensure they stay relevant in the ever-evolving world of work. It looks like we’ll all need to be comms chameleons.

A big tech crisis

For much of this year, Facebook and its owner Mark Zuckerberg, were in crisis mode. The revelations that Cambridge Analytica gathered the personal data of millions of Facebook users sent the company into a mass PR crisis. Facebook’s reputation was on the line and they suffered some serious damage. However, there was some light at the end of the tunnel, for us at least. Although this was of course, an incredibly serious case, we did enjoy the hilarious memes that were created off the back of the hearing.

The Christmas countdown

And of course, to wrap up how can I forget to mention this year’s Christmas adverts? Here at Firefly, we love an emotional advert and Iceland’s ‘Rang-Tang’ certainly tugged at the heart strings. Although it was pulled from TV for being ‘too political’, it became viral across social media with nearly half a million views on YouTube. Similarly, the long-awaited John Lewis advert returned this year with the legend that is Sir Elton John and the premise of their advert ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’, captured the hearts of British viewers. If you want to take a look at more of these powerful PR campaigns, check out this roundup of 2018’s festive ads.

There we have it, a look back at the big marcomms industry trends and events that occurred in 2018. As we reflect on the past year, there are certainly some lessons to be learned and, as the pace of change continues to grow in our industry, we as comms professionals need to ensure that we can keep up. So, as the festive season gets into full swing, start looking ahead to next year and see how you can focus and improve your marcomms strategy — who knows what 2019 has in store?

We all love shopping, especially at Christmas time for your nearest and dearest. But what if you could raise money for charity whilst you shopped, all for free…?

This is the essence of Give as you Live, which works with more than 4,000 of the world’s biggest retailers to redirect a percentage of each purchase to a charity of the shopper’s choice.

If it’s free money for charity, there must be a catch – right? For once, no, it’s all above board and bona fide. So far, Give as you Live has helped raised more than £6.5m for good causes across the UK.

This year, Firefly worked with Tots100, a community of active parenting bloggers, to raise awareness of the free charity donations that Give as you Live generates at Christmas.

Experian and trade group IMRG estimate that £1.1bn was spent online on Black Friday purchases this year – a whopping 36% increase on last year. If everybody used Give as you Live to do their online shopping, it could have generated £27.5m for good causes* without it costing shoppers a penny.

In order to make Give as you Live THE destination for smart and socially responsible Christmas shopping, Tots100 helped us recruit 20 prominent bloggers to write a festive gift guide for their readers.

Whether it’s food, furniture or family games and kids’ toys, we left it up to the bloggers to feature products that were right for them.

Each blog (see full list below) went live in November in order to coincide with Give as you Live’s Christmas campaign, #MerryGivemas. We saw some amazing creativity; one blogger – RocknRollMum – selected an array of beautiful vintage-style gifts, and another – Notanothermummyblog – chose lots of pretty and sparkly items.

We made sure all of the featured products had their own web links, including a tracking code, so we could monitor the number of clicks and sales through the blogs. Thousands of clicks were registered in the first few weeks, with new sign-ups and hundreds of pounds being spent as a result of the guides.

The numbers are still rolling in and the final count will be made after the last-minute Christmas sales rush is finally over.

In true Christmas spirit, Give as you Live will reward the most successful and creative blogger with a £250 high street voucher, there will also be five £50 vouchers for runners up.

To do your online Christmas shopping (or any online shopping for that matter), sign-up to Give as you Live today.

Full list of #MerryGivemas bloggers:

  2. Motherhood diaries – The Ultimate Parenting Gift Guide – Give as you Live #MerryGivemas
  3. Me and my shadow – Give as you live: Christmas Wish List for Foodies
  4. Baby Buddeting – My Give As You Live Gift Guide
  5. You Baby Me Mummy – Christmas Corkers for under £20 from Give as you Live
  6. The ramblings of a formerly rock N roll mum – Quirky and Pretty Gift Guide #MerryGivemas
  7. Zena’s Suitcase – Baby & toddler charity gift ideas
  8. Emma & Three – Christmas shopping for active fun teenagers
  9. Amuse your bouche – 11 brilliant Christmas gifts for bloggers
  10. Notanothermummyblog – My ultimate Christmas gift guide… with extra feelgood factor
  11. Hollybobbs – Top Toys For Christmas With Give As You Live
  12. Little Stuff – The Best Mug Gift Guide | #MerryGivemas
  13. Le Coin de Mel – 20 Christmas gifts £20 & under
  14. We’re going on an adventure – Christmas Gift List #MerryGivemas
  15. Cherished by Me – Give As You Live Gift Guide for Foodies
  16. OHSOAMELIA – 10 Great Gifts For Bloggers | The Bloggers Gift Guide
  17. Bark Time – Pimp Your Kitchen Gift Guide – The Power of Red
  18. Mum Mummy MUM! – Great Christmas Gifts from Give As You Live
  19. Jacintaz Three – Make Christmas Merry with Give as you Live
  20. Kiddy Charts – 8 great gifts to help your kids to love their food

*Based on 2.5% commission

It’s hard keeping track of all those social engagements at this time of year; and it’s even harder trying to organise them yourself, for all your business contacts, in the last couple of weeks before the big day.

While we may not be able to get you to a reservation at the latest hotspot in town just by reading this post, we can help you to make the right booking.  If you’re looking for the best place to eat the latest fusion food or to try the latest craze in uber-cool entertainment, search on.  But if you want the real life user’s guide to choosing a venue that is right for your genuine entertainment hopes and fears, than read on…

For if you want to break the ice with some new contacts: Very little makes a lunch more awkward, than not knowing or gelling with the people round the table.  Break the ice with some sharing platters from BKB.  Three courses, all delivered on sharing boards, mean that you will always have something to say to your neighbour.  And if all else fails, wow them with the fact that this is part of the Soho House group, or people watch – the restaurant that is right oppositeLondon’s notorious G-A-Y nightclub.

For if you want to save that awkward scramble to the bar: Or if you want to avoid the discussion about whose round it is, what could beat a table at Bob Bob Ricard?  Forget worrying about what wine to order, and just press the “more champagne” button to your heart’s content.  The English and Russian food is great for soaking all that fizz up, too.  And even better – ties are not required, so you can take those scruffy journalists in there too.

For if you want to look like you have spent more than you have: Oh how we love Brasserie Zedel.  Central location right next to the tube, so even the out-of-towners can’t get lost – check!  Huge chandeliers and plush decour – check!  Exquisite menu – check!  A bill that at the end of the night surprises and delights; and means that your boss might just give you a pat on the back for your thriftiness…  Waiter, cheque please!

And perhaps the ultimate tip from the team here at Firefly:

For if you want to encourage yourself not to get drunk: book yourself and your guests a table at NOPI.  Yes, theMediterranean, Middle-eastern and Asian cuisine is delicious; and yes it has the cool factor.  But have you ever found the ladies loo in there?  And if you have, have you ever found your way out of it?  With that mirror maze, you will definitely need to keep your wits about you if you ever want to get back to your table…

Christmas – the time of year when you spend as much time in one restaurant or bar or another, as you do at your desk.  And certainly a time when you spend more time out and about, than you do in your own bed or on your own sofa.  We hope that this little guide gives you some festive hosting inspiration; and have fun…

Our media friends have been busy publishing Christmas gift guides, left, right and centre.  You’ve seen them in print, you’ve seen them online; “for him”, “for her”, “for the oldies”, for “the young ones”, “for that woman in accounts who you got allocated in Secret Santa”…  While they’ve been busying away, have you considered what they might want for Christmas?

With a little help from the team at Give as you Live – which raises money for your favourite charity as you online shop, at no cost to you – us PR folk have thrown together the ultimate Christmas present list for our very favourite people of all: journalists.

1. The Bullshit Alarm – available at Hawkin’s Bazaar for £7, raises 15p for your favourite charity when bought through Give as you Live.

When interviewing spokespeople or talking to those with a less-than-considered pitch, this handy tool will alert hacks to stretched truths or outright lies. “Yes, we really are the world leaders…”

2. iPhone cover with charger – available at Dino Direct for £54.19, raises £1.53 for your favourite charity when bought through Give as you Live.

Keep your spokesperson talking. This iPhone cover with built in charger will make even the dullest of product briefings last and last, so that maybe you’ll give that little nugget of information that will lead you to a front page glory spread. Giving journalists no chance for escape.

3. Leather bag – available at Hush for £120, raises £6 for your favourite charity when bought through Give as you Live.

Always on the move, from briefing, to launch, to office, to pub. In order to keep ownership of the things held most dearly (iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iwallet, ineedmoretime) this bag comes with a ‘highly recommended’ tag. More glamorous than a carrier bag, and reusable too.

5. Eight cans of Starbucks Double shot – available at British Corner Shop for £23.12, raises 58p for your favourite charity when bought through Give as you Live.

They may not be paying their taxes, but Starbucks coffees keep journalists working those 25 hour days. Help them to stock up for morning/mid morning/pre-lunch/lunch/post lunch/afternoon/home time/pre-bed caffeine-fuelled pick ups.

6. King of Naps Pillow – available at CafePress  for £15, raises 1.13p for your favourite charity when bought through Give as you Live.

They’re up early, in the office by the time the rest of the world is debating what to wear and assessing Susannah’s style choice on BBC Breakfast. This King of Naps pillow allows journalists to capture those 40 winks in a bit of down time, perhaps when Nick Clegg is speaking, or at a Peter Andre book launch, for example. Capture some of that beauty sleep, not that they need it, they’re all gorgeous!

When did you say that bullshit alarm is arriving?

Merry Christmas to all our friends in the media, from the Firefly team



Rather than nurse a Jägermeister-infused hangover, in the hope of making a new connection for next year, I’ve stopped walking around town at Christmas time in a Santa hat sticking my business card to people’s foreheads. Instead I am finding out what is important to a few close people in the New Year, and taking a real interest in connecting them.

This time last year, I was walking through Buenos Aries listening to a podcast about blogging.  The guy being interviewed said the simplest thing yet: “I blog to reply to the questions people ask me about my product” – boom! How easy is that? And there I was looking to come up with the next Clue Train Manifesto every week.

My point is writing something constructive, educational and helpful for the web means you are saving time and making a connection. There is a strong case that the value we create is directly linked to how much worthy content we can produce. I still have a long way to go, but these days I send people a blog about something, and that comes back to me, people share it and learn something far deeper about me than when I got the next drinks round in, which was not that often anyway…

I was at a Christmas networking event many years ago and was giving my business card to everyone, including the bartender, the toilet attendant and the waiter. After shooting the breeze with a guy and telling him how cool what he did was, he looked me right in the eye and asked me, “Are you sure you want me to call you on Monday?” What he really meant was “You are saying ‘call me’ because you don’t know how to say that you are not interested”. I thought, “Wow! I bet that guy has a lot more time in his day than most people.”

So, if you’re thinking about networking opportunities this Christmas, here are my top five tips.

1. Don’t waste your time having your business card stuck to everyone’s forehead this Christmas; in fact, just forget selling for a moment…

2. Catch up with some people that you already know, maybe some contacts you haven’t made as much time for recently as you would have liked.

3. Identify five people you really want to do business or work with and get time in their 2013 diaries now – they’re probably free, but leave the first week clear.

4. If you are at a Christmas party, leave your smartphone in in your pocket/handbag. Always remember, Twitter and alcohol don’t mix!

5. Reflect on your year and consider some of the great people you’ve met. Think about writing a round-up blog post and include some of them – and then let them know they’ve been included. It’s a nice way of reminding them about you.

However you’re celebrating the Christmas break, make it count – 2013 is going to be a cracker.


Bernie Mitchell is owner of Engaging People, an agency dedicated to helping businesses join the dots between what happens online and offline. He is also the organiser of a host of regular events and workshops, including TagTribe, the Late Late Breakfast Show and London Bloggers’ Meetup.

It’s getting so close to Christmas that here at Firefly, we’re straining our ears for Santa and in true, highly- organised fashion, we’ve made a list of the top 12 gifts that should be on every well-behaved PR boy and PR girl’s list this year.

1. Emergency Phone Charger: you’re at a conference and pick up your phone, only to realise that you forgot to charge it. Panic hits, the sweats start. “What if (insert name of your most elusive, top tier journo here) is finally returning my call??” Never fear: this little helper means you’re just a fully-charged battery away from total PR world domination.

2. The iPad: multi-tasking is the ultimate PR skill, enabling you to email a colleague, phone your client, finish a press release, or Tweet (work-related, of course), whilst drinking your body weight in caffeine. The iPad helps you do nearly all this, from one device; and they’re probably working on a coffee barista app, already.

3. Lie Detector Kit: to be used on clients to make sure they will stick to deadlines, or on journos to ensure the (good) story will run when they say it will. Also handy for cheating partners.

4. Cross Townsend Rollerball Pen: iPads are all very well, but you can’t use them to deface your client’s no. 1 competitor’s glowing coverage in the Metro on your commute to work.

5 The iPhone 4S: because it’s top of the range, darling.

6. An iPhone Cover: would you turn up naked to a client meeting? Didn’t think so. Hence, imbue your iPhone with modesty via a classy cover-up. It also comes with a handy notepad for those brilliant ideas you’re constantly coming up with.

7. Vivienne Westwood Derby Laptop Holder: you’ve covered your iPhone, so why should your laptop not be draped in luxury, too?

8. USB Computer Laptop Vacuum Keyboard Cleaner: for hoovering up crumbs from all those Tesco  sandwiches you inevitably end up eating whilst sat in front of your computer for lunch…and dinner…and breakfast.

9. Oxygen Instant Energizing Eye Mask: working all day and partying all night really do take their toll. On your face. Pop a couple of these on and no one will ever know you slept under your desk all week.

10. An iTunes Gift Card: ever wanted a motivational coach right in your pocket? (Not literally, of course.) Rehearsal 2, the iPad or iPhone application, will make sure you are pitch-perfect for that new biz presentation.

11. Massage Chair: dreading that conference call? Recline on this and provide counsel in pure pleasure…just make sure you’re on mute if using one of the noisier settings.

12. Hangover Kit: team drinks, client drinks, Christmas parties, networking dos: life’s hard for a PR pro. But this kit will erase the tell-tale signs of too many nights propping up the bar. But then again, how would you know?

Firefly has organised four Christmas events for client, Give as you Live this Christmas. Three are still to come, as this week, we prepare to take over a beautiful room in Liberty department store to educate our print, broadcast and digital press on charitable giving via Give as you Live (if you’re in media and would like an invitation, get in touch!).

But one of the events has already happened, and happened on a big scale, taking over TweetDecks worldwide.

Last week, on behalf of Give as you Live, Firefly partnered with mummy blogger network, BritMums to host a Christmas-themed Twitter Party. The aim of the partnership was to engage Britain’s biggest parent blogging network with our easy way to increase digital donations for UK charities. With Give as you Live, thousands of stores will donate money from online shopping baskets to a nominated charity, at no cost to the consumer.

Using the hash tag ‘xmastips’, BritMums started the Twitter Party discussion, encouraging tweets of advice for getting prepared for Christmas amongst their mummy blogger community.

Within an hour, almost two million (1,945,462) impressions were achieved, with 1,040 participants in the conversation. Thirty minutes into the hour-long Twitter Party, #xmastips was trending worldwide at number two, and @giveasyoulive had received 195 related direct tweets.

Like any good party, the buzz continued long after the event itself. Tips were continually being posted after the party ended. Conversations on the topic and related links continue to this day. And most importantly, our clients have seen hard business results. Give as you Live enjoyed a significant uplift in hits to their website and an increase (by more than 100) in Twitter followers. During the day of, and days immediately after the party, Give as you Live’s average daily shoppers increased by 65 per cent.

With the Twitter Party, Firefly helped Give as you Live to own the Christmas shopping conversation, which so many big brands are clamoring to be a part of.

And like any good party, we were talked about. You can read about the Twitter Party success in PR Week’s Week In Technology.

Want to get involved?
So do Vogue, who are working with Give as you Live to power online charitable donations during Online Fashion week, as well as Mumsnet, who have created a Give as you Live Christmas gift guide.

This Christmas, like us, you can create your own Give as you Live Wish List. With your Wish List, you can both request the gifts you want and specify the charity you want to benefit. Then, when anyone buys an item from your Wish List through Give as you Live, a donation of up to 10 per cent of the cost of the gift will go direct to your charity of choice. All this, without costing the shopper a penny more, since it’s the retailer who gives the donation.

And for that extra bit of festive cheer, Firefly urges everyone out there to do their shopping through Give as you Live this Christmas. That’s Christmas partying the entirely guilt-free way.

There may be a recession looming, but according to research commissioned by Give as You Live, more than half (57%) of Brits will be spending a total of £200 on Christmas gifts this year. Eight is the average number of people gift-givers will be buying for, making the average gift value £25. Not bad: this should go a long way towards avoiding the “worst-ever gifts received” which according to the GAYL survey, included used toiletries.

It’s a 21st century maxim that our economy needs Christmas. I imagine many retailers are already wringing their hands over some Christmas 2011 forecasts. But what’s the impact of Christmas for communicators?

The Consumer PR Juggernaut

I’ve worked with some great consumer public relations talent over the years, and I think most would agree that during the Christmas rush, preparation and an organised mind are just as valuable as the bright, shiny object you’re trying to place in Stuff, Stylist or Self.

Good PRs have gotten Christmas down to a science:
• The broad tactics will have been developed and agreed with the client in the first half of the calendar year
• Consumer tech product launches will be optimally timed for the period between CES and spring, to make that product the must-have item come Christmastime, following an aggressive product review programme
• Late summer is when the Christmas countdown will officially start, when longer lead publications are sent gift guide ideas to run in October/November issues
• “One hundred days ‘til Christmas” is another popular wrapper for seasonal pitches and events
• And right about now is when PR folks are revving up the gift guide engine once more, in time to reach weeklies, nationals and onlines

And this is just a partial list! The devil is in the detail: everything from product photography, to the user guide, to the international pricing details must be pitch perfect weeks and months in advance.

If you think this is all a bit much, consider that many companies count on a massive spike in revenues during the 9-12 week run-up to Christmas to make their annual numbers.

BSOs: Not the Only Path to Success

Savvy PRs have also mastered the art of working up pitches into eye-grabbing headlines. My favourite so far has been, “how to create an alternative Christmas”, which is intriguing enough to make you want to read further, without appearing totally self-serving. Media resources like Response Source or Gorkana Media Requests also give you an insight into angles that float the editor’s boat and are generally a great, complementary resource for the opportunity-hungry PR.

Even if you’re not promoting this season’s bright shiny object (BSO), there is hope for using the winter holidays as a reputation-booster for business-to-business brands. Sometimes, it’s a question of timing and opportunism.

“Christmas is a mixed blessing for us. Our main sectors, as reflected in the business and legal press, are a lot quieter mid December-mid January, yet traditionally this is a time when we sign big international contracts for the coming year,” said Andy Rogers, director of communications at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), who provide professional mediation services to private and public sector clients. When communications are timed around the holiday season, Andy cautions that above all, PRs should be buttoned up and as organised as possible, to secure the best outcome.

“Over the holidays you have to be well-prepared for your activity. Whether a mailing or a press release, if you have really thought ahead, you can still successfully undertake most marcomms activities. You might not hit everyone but you will certainly be competing against less activity. On New Year’s Day, a story which might not make it on to page 23 of a national can stand a chance getting on to front page with the right sell-in.”

Last but not least, if you’re in a business that dispenses advice to consumers or other businesses,
or work in a generally forward-looking industry, having your 2012 predictions published in a relevant title can be a great way to demonstrate industry thought leadership. Just make sure they’re not a blatant pitch for your wares; and instead, offer insights into 2012 trends that will impact your customers or industry at-large, and communicate what you’re doing that relates to these future developments.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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