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.
The metaverse is a word we are increasingly hearing throughout society these days. People like Mark Zuckerberg are trying to bring it into the mainstream with elaborate presentations and high-profile rebranding efforts, however it remains a word that people are aware of, but not a concept many people fully understand.
Some people are touting it as the future of communication – a virtual world in which people from all over the globe will be able to interact with each other as if they were standing in the same room. There’s no denying that the potential is enormous. Although the technology and application aren’t firmly established and people are slow on the uptake, we can already see some of the ways that it could revolutionise the world, especially for our ability to communicate with one another.
Communications in the working world
Remote and flexible working, a legacy of the pandemic-induced lockdowns, are here for the long-term. A recent survey revealed that over 30% of full-time UK employees are working a hybrid working schedule and consequently Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack and many other platforms have become an ever-present part of many of our working lives. This is one area that the metaverse has the potential to make a huge impact. Instead of being separate, only connected by looking at a 13-inch screen, whole teams could be fully immersed in a virtual world of their own design, interacting with each other as if they were in the office, a presentation hall, or event space.
From a communications point of view, it is clear to see the positive impact this could have on teamwork, collaboration and company culture. Although video calling has enormous advantages, and without which lockdown would have been even more of an ordeal, it still has its limitations. Non-verbal and visual communication are often limited, leading to stunted conversations and a lack of natural rhythm that so often is the cornerstone of developing meaning relationships with your colleagues. Through a customisable avatar, colleagues could move in and out of meeting rooms, relax in communal lounges or host presentations in a conference centre. NextMeet, a company based in India, have developed a platform which can be used to onboard colleagues. Instead of being talked at for hours with only a PDF for inspiration, they could walk round a virtual room or building, with several interactive stands where they can explore the company in a much more engaging way.
However, not only internally, the effect this could have when it comes to meeting clients or customers is also exciting. Potential or current clients could visit your ‘workplace’ in the metaverse and be given a proper welcome, introduced to the team and see the branding and environment that the company wants to portray with its design, layout and decoration. This would allow people to create a much greater connection with a company and its culture.
However, it is not simply in one-to-one interactions at a micro level that could be transformed. The ability for companies to create fully immersive and interactive communication campaigns on a macro scale to millions of people is also a possibility. Events can be hosted in the metaverse, with countless people able to attend. For example, Foo Fighters, Justin Bieber (unfortunately) and Travis Scott have all hosted concerts in the metaverse, with the latter being attended by 28 million people.
The possibilities this opens up are immense. Even with all the technological advancements we have enjoyed in recent years, our options don’t go much beyond words, visuals or sounds absorbed through either a phone or a computer. Using virtual reality, augmented reality or a mixture of the two, stakeholders could attend a town hall hosted by the CEO, get an in-person demo from the head of product, or be taken on a personal tour by head of client services, all from the comfort of their own home or office.
The jury is still out as to whether this will be the next big leap forward for connectivity, like the internet was, or if it won’t live up to its potential and be resigned to the history books like my beloved minidisk player. With the metaverse’s expected value to be upwards of $5 trillion by 2030, it seems like the momentum is unstoppable and I for one, am intrigued to see how it develops.
Either way, you won’t see me at a Bieber concert anytime soon.
The current global economic backdrop is not a pretty sight and many businesses have had to make cuts of various kinds. Whether it’s a restructure, layoffs, or re-evaluating big expenditure like office spaces, the pressure following a drop in consumer demand continues to mount.
There are glimmers of light, though. There was surprise growth in the UK economy in November 2022, and France and Germany are currently set to narrowly avoid recession. Plus, we’ve got to remember that we’ve been through the turmoil of COVID-19 – and we made it to the other side.
So, as leaders in PR and marketing, what did we learn then, that’s relevant now?
Showing deep business understanding: If the board is focused on profitability, show you can do more for less by being resourceful and demonstrating how to be more effective. If the board wants growth, show that you’re focused on lead generation, customer engagement etc. Proving that your marketing focus aligns completely to the priorities of the organisation means you’re less likely to have your resources cut.
Create connections: If you’re not already, get out of the marketing bubble and make stronger connections internally. Is there a way you can get closer to finance? And if not finance, the people that influence finance, for example the senior team in sales or other C-level executives. You want others to support your case to retain your budget – you need to make them realise ‘I cannot be successful without marketing’.
Visibility and promotion: A way to get closer to board members or others in leadership is to build their profile externally, showing the value directly. You’re probably already doing this by positioning experts and leadership as the faces of the company, but also look at your board and ask yourself: who could be more visible? Like the above, you’re creating more allies internally.
Don’t think you can hide: All costs are on the P&L and a discussion about your budget will happen if it hasn’t yet. Be proactive and think of solutions that work for both you and the business. In this current environment, the finance team will currently be focused on cashflow so maybe there are ways to create an impact now and pay later. For example, working with a PR agency, the payment terms can be 30-60 days, meaning results today, payment the following month. Not many organisations have cut their way to survival, rather it’s more about keeping costs down within acceptable limits.
More for less: Ensure you are doing the majority right and fast and don’t let perfection slow you down. Timelines have shrunk meaning the time for change is today, this week –- forget about plans looking eight weeks down the line. And repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Be as resourceful as you can.
It may feel gloomy right now, but this is the time for marketing, because once we’re on the up, growth will come fast again. Being prepared will mean you can go after every opportunity and look back at this time as just another blip!
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.
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.
Loneliness. A feeling that most people have experienced at some point in their life. Nearly half of England’s adult population, according to Campaign to End Loneliness, a startling 45%, express feeling lonely occasionally and sometimes even often. Needless to say, the crisis of loneliness and social disconnect was only further exacerbated during the height of the pandemic with strict isolation and social-distancing measures being implemented.
The good news is that from 9th July- 1st August 2022, it is Free Hugs Month. The Free Hugs Campaign began in 2004, founded by an Australian man under the pseudonym Juan Mann, where volunteers offer hugs to complete strangers in public as a random act of kindness. The aim? To spread the love.
According to scientists, the benefits of hugging go far beyond that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from being in somebody’s arms. Hugs have been shown to reduce stress, protect against illness, boost heart health, release the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin which leads to feelings of contentment, and even reduce pain. In fact, according to family therapist Virginia Satir, humans need four hugs per day for basic survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth. So yes, hugs seem like a win-win, if not an absolute necessity. But what does this have to do with leading a successful campaign? Well bear (hug) with me and I’ll explain…
As a successful B2C campaign, the Free Hugs Campaign has been going strong for nearly two decades. So, from a PR perspective, there’s still a lot we can learn in the B2B space. After all, businesses might be selling to other businesses, but it’s important to note that it’s still humans talking to other humans, The secret behind the campaign’s success is predominantly down to two factors: creating a campaign that encourages a level of ‘shareability’ and evoking an emotional response from potential clients and customers.
The Free Hugs Campaign has not shied away from the public gaze and our culture of sharing, capturing, and recording anything attention-grabbing for others to view online. Instead, the campaign used the way in which the public interact to its advantage. In other words, for a campaign with a minimal budget, the Free Hugs Campaign left the public to share and interact with their simple message themselves.
But, of course, not all brands fit into this style of campaign ‘shareability’. Fortunately, however, social media has become our biggest ally and can produce incredible traction if a campaign’s message is eye-catching, memorable, and simple to understand. Even a snappy slogan or retweet can go a long way.
But the question then is, what is it about the Free Hugs Campaign that has made it stand the test of time, and go viral with 78 million views in the Sick Puppies music video alone?
The secret behind this campaign is very clear, yet mystifyingly under-used in many campaigns- understanding and manipulating the power of human psychology, especially that of the buyer. What are most people lacking? Human connection and a feeling of belonging and comfort. What does the Free Hugs Campaign offer? An answer to a societal hug deficiency.
The campaign isn’t complex, in fact, oftentimes the simpler a campaign, the better. The Free Hugs Campaign, touches its audience in an emotive way, giving them a feeling or emotion that was lacking in their life, whilst also adding an element of joy. After all, who doesn’t secretly like to make someone’s day by being kind and loving? Through evoking this emotion, it taps into our intrinsic nature to share the joy, even if just virtually.
As such, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your buyer, such as the HR Director you are trying to grab the attention of. Perhaps they are feeling overwhelmed with how post-Covid life has completely transformed their workforce, and as a result, are operating at a million miles an hour unable to catch a breath…
So, what are you waiting for? Get hugging!
It’s all too common a question for a communications agency to hear – “but show me how a comms plan will generate sales and new leads”. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as X+Y=Z. The foremost purpose of a communications agency is to shape the reputation of the company it’s working for. Influencing the opinions of customers, partners and even the company’s own employees. Organisations oftentimes underestimate the value of reputation shaping and instead, only want to see facts, figures and a solid ROI.
Now I am by no means suggesting that there isn’t an ROI on comms, it is just notoriously difficult to measure. But if you want to follow the maths to see how the distribution of a press release results in sales then knock yourself out with this blog by Greg Jarboe.
So hopefully I’ve got the numbers people on board by now and with the introduction of Google Analytics 4, this tracking process is only set to become easier. GA4 will use AI and predictive analytics to provide highly granular visitor data. This will mean better tracking of visitors from initial arrival, through various stages of engagement to the end goal, so lots to look forward to!
But in all honestly, the impact of communications stretches far beyond tracing clicks to a website. It’s clear, of course, that you can attribute economic results to comms activities, but the true value lies in the shaping of your organisations reputation.
In this day and age, customer loyalty is as fragile as ever. One poor user experience, a single bad review or even a certain political standing can deter customers from your website. So how do you change these opinions? Here are four simple steps to take to make your brand, and your reputation, shine.
So, moral of the story – limiting comms to numbers and stats is like limiting an artist to only one colour. The painting will be complete but missing a wealth of potential and creativity. So, open your mind, broaden your paint palette, and let your reputation become a masterpiece.
Happy Pride Month! No doubt we’ve all seen a flurry of rainbow flags hit our social media feeds this month, along with several hit inclusive campaigns in the media. Some of my personal favourites include the gender-neutral shaving campaign from Harry’s and Flamingo, and Absolut Vodka’s out and open campaign.
What do these excellent campaigns have in common? To put it simply, they engage in brand reputation shaping, rather than so-called ‘rainbow washing’ – using rainbow colours and imagery to suggest to consumers that a brand supports LGBTQ+ equality, without backing these campaigns up with concrete action.
When done right, Pride Month can be a special time to uplift the actions your organisation is doing for the LGBTQ+ community all year round, contributing to an overall inclusive reputation. But when done poorly, Pride campaigns can at best look cheap, and at worst, reflect tokenism.
Why leverage Pride Month for inclusive campaigns?
It’s easy to see why brands choose to jump on the Pride bandwagon for their campaigns. Globally, the LGBTQ+ community possesses a whopping $3.7 trillion in purchasing power. Brands looking to increase their revenue want to market to LGBTQ+ consumers and can be led to believe that Pride Month is the appropriate time to do so.
This isn’t a million miles away from the truth. Events like Pride seek to uncover the stories of marginalised communities, which is evidently a noble cause. And as is the case with Pride, often such dates have historical relevance, marking events that may otherwise fly under the radar.
The issue therefore isn’t that brands are honouring Pride Month. On the contrary, the more people that celebrate Pride, the more effective the month becomes. Marking Pride becomes an issue when it’s done only to drive sales in one specific month, and when LGBTQ+ inclusivity is not part of an organisation’s longer-term reputation programme.
How can organisations do better this Pride Month and beyond?
It’s clear that a one-off, tokenistic Pride Month campaign isn’t the right way to go when it comes to building an inclusive company reputation. Instead, businesses should focus on implementing genuine, year-round strategies to support marginalised communities, and match these efforts with appropriate PR campaigns. Here are some concrete examples for organisations to consider:
Crucially, building an inclusive reputation begins within. It’s all well and good talking about your support of the LGBTQ+ community externally during Pride Month, but if your LGBTQ+ employees and customers do not receive your support all year round, it doesn’t appear authentic. Ultimately, shaping and managing a reputation involves taking accountability for actions and demonstrating strong company values, consistently.
Want to learn more about shaping a brand’s reputation? Check out The Firefly Guide to Shaping Your Reputation.
May has been a month of innovation and continued regulatory shifts in the tech sector. It can be difficult to keep up with the endless waves of change (Elon Musk’s continual indecision over purchasing Twitter spring to mind for anyone?), but the Firefly team always havs our finger on the pulse. Here’s our lowdown on what you might have missed.
It’s no secret that supply chain issues and the candidate crisis have plagued businesses significantly recently. But what if AI innovation could offer the solution?
A growing number of startups are applying AI technology alongside established logistics firms to help businesses ease supply concerns. In the recruitment arena, AI is becoming an increasingly effective tool for hiring strong candidates. Google has even gone as far to develop almost human-level intelligence. Increasing efficiencies is always beneficial; we will certainly be tracking these developments closely.
As the power of AI innovation grows, so do the legal restrictions within the technology sector. The UK Government is set to introduce new competition rules for large tech companies, paving the way for innovation among smaller businesses.
When it comes to user safety, the discussion on the Online Safety Bill continues. Campaigners argue the current provisions do not sufficiently address violence against women and girls, showing that greater protections are needed. We’re also seeing a crackdown on Big Tech’s data collection, with the global central bank calling for individuals to be given more control.
These moves highlight greater oversight is needed over the sector to ensure that everyone can engage with technology safely and freely.
June has been a less than ideal month for the crypto world, as several stablecoins crashed in a historic market collapse. Though, if anyone fancies a trip to Gucci’s US-based stores, rest assured you can use bitcoin to complete your purchase there, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Finally, let’s not forget about the ever-expanding possibilities of VR innovation. Everyone’s favourite music streaming service is now on board, and even the sunny seaside city of Portsmouth has recently launched a VR centre, so that we can all get our fix whilst on our summer holidays.
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