Summer is around the corner, and much of the goings-on in the tech space gives us that warm and comforting feeling. There’s innovation, there’s growth, there are moves in the right direction which are responding to societal needs. It’s very exciting! Here’s the roundup of the main stories.
The UK tech industry has grown tenfold in the past decade. In fact, London leads in Europe and is picking up the pace on Silicon Valley. British unicorns grew from eight in 2010 to 81 in 2020 – incredible! CityAM has all the stats from the government’s Digital Economy Council and Dealroom on the strength of the British tech industry.
Meanwhile, Google and Instagram have been making moves to improve diversity. Google added a feature to its Google Docs which suggests alternatives to gendered words in a move to help improve inclusivity. The idea is to use non-gendered language to not inadvertently offend colleagues or friends. The Daily Telegraph covers the news. Instagram’s move is slightly different, not removing gender from words, but adding the right gender terminology to profiles. The social network plans to offer users an easier way to specify their gender identity. The pre-approve list of common pronouns includes she, he, they, ze and others. This Guardian article has the details.
In the other corner of social media land you have Twitter, which launched a paid subscription service with some interesting new features. Twitter Blue – the name of the new service – will allow users to undo tweets and better curate tweets through a feature called ‘Collections’. The Independent reports that this service will cost $2.99 per month. Any takers?
Now, this next innovation I am definitely a taker. US researchers have found a way to turn thoughts into text. Just think, you’re on a refreshing lunchtime walk and you have a great idea, you just have to write it out in your head and a ‘brain-computer’ captures the mental handwriting. It involves having a brain implant, the size of an aspirin pill, according to the Daily Mail.
And finally, global vaccinations are going well but there is more to be done, especially to fight misinformation. YouTube, in collaboration with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, has launched a vaccination ad campaign, primarily targeted at younger people. The campaign is paid for by YouTube and comes after it was criticised for being slow at halting untrue content about Covid-19. BBC News has the full story.
All this positivity really gives us a real spring in our step ahead of summer. This May rain won’t dampen our spirit!
Communications is notorious for moving at breakneck speed; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say that a PR year is like a dog year. We juggle communicating with stakeholders from our own teams, to customers, to journalists, to analysts, and with partners, not to mention the higher-ups in our own companies – and they have stakeholders too! All this collaboration and co-ordination needs thought and not just snap judgments. But if you put that on top of all the other mental load that we’ve been experiencing this year, you’ve got a super-quick recipe for burnout.
The Roots of Slow Thinking
But why is this? It’s not just stress and fear of the pandemic – to really understand this we have to go a little deeper. We tend to quote Daniel Kahneman a lot, either in pieces for this newsletter or our own sales collateral, because his work is very important to reputation – and his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, is a banger*.
The primary thesis in TFAS is that humans prefer to ‘think fast’. We run on automatic, we take shortcuts, we become creatures of habit – whether that’s preferring Sainsbury’s over Tesco, McDonald’s over Burger King, or whatever else. This is because this automatic, ‘fast’ thinking is less energy-consuming than the alternative. Thinking ‘slowly’, deeply, or however you want to refer to it, is literally an energy drain. It’s tiring.
And during the pandemic, we’ve all had to think more slowly. Where do I need to wear a mask? How many people can I socialise with? Am I following the latest government guidelines? Am I more than two metres away from that dogwalker on the pavement? Do I have hand sanitiser with me? Is it safe to go to the cinema?
Every single time you force your brain to think, it’s working out like an Olympic athlete. When you add all of this to the fast-paced world of comms and it’s no wonder people are exhausted – it’s been a tiring year! Clearly, the same is true for other industries as well – it’s not just comms, it’s HR, it’s sales, and so on – any part of the business that went into over-drive has been running on empty for some time.
Can I Think Fast and Still Get the Job Done?
As a manager or director in comms, it’s a tough job to balance looking after your team and still getting the job done, because a lot of our work is ‘thinking slow’, deliberate, considered work. There will be some jobs – reports and the like – that can be done on automatic, but in general, it’s better to look at measures where you can save mental energy to begin with. So here are a few starters for ten:
– Know Thyself: You can’t do a good job if you’re not looking after yourself, so be aware of whether you’re having an especially bad / tiring day. Be kind to yourself and remember that we’re living through a pandemic and that’s incredibly hard.
– Know Your Team: They’ll be having ‘off days’ as well, and that’s ok. Everyone will have felt the strain of the pandemic differently, so keep an eye on them, force them to be kind to themselves. Above all, make sure they’re taking holidays!
– Trust (and use) Your Team: With any luck, not everyone will be having a bad day at the same time, and while we’re not saying to ‘push everything down’ and delegate wildly, your team is there to support you – so make use of them (and vice versa). Sometimes this means getting someone else to check that email you’ve just written if you know you’re having an off-day because you’ve exhausted yourself mentally and sometimes it’s doing that for someone else.
– Rest Properly: The urge to ‘fight back to normal’ at weekends can be strong, so if you’re busy during the week, don’t push yourself to catch up with *all* your friends and relatives at the weekend, because that requires lots of thought, and although it might be good for you on a social level, it’s also draining. Get the balance right.
– Insist on Routines: Routines are mental shortcuts (‘thinking fast’) – and as you build habits and get into them, you can ‘think fast’ about them, rather than always having to ‘think slow’. Similarly, avoid unnecessary distractions – unsubscribe from newsletters (not Firefly’s, obviously) and try not to multi-task too much. This will help to conserve that valuable mental energy!
As I write this, the government is issuing new guidelines on how many people can gather in public in the UK, and the news sites are speculating about the possibility of curfews being introduced. The Economist is warning that unless we can beat Covid globally, we won’t beat it at all – and even the most optimistic estimate doesn’t see us beating the pandemic before the end of 2020. In short – it ain’t over yet.
This means that we need to start – or continue – measures to adapt to this temporary (but lengthy) difficult period. Most of us have our masks, hand sanitiser and (where appropriate) home offices set up, but now it’s time to make sure that we’re being kind to ourselves, realise the impact that the pandemic has on our mental states, and adapt sustainably so that we can continue communicating efficiently and effectively.
* Put it next to Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything and Kotter’s Leading Change and you’ve got three of the best communications books in the world.
It’s hard to believe that autumn is almost upon us (especially with the ongoing heatwaves) – but with so much happening, it’s not surprising the year is flying past. If you’ve been struggling to keep track and worried you may have missed something, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our round up of the latest and greatest news in the world of tech.
One story that has been dominating the headlines is TikTok and its possible US ban. Needing to distance itself from Chinese parent company, ByteDance, TikTok started the quest for a US partner and the question of who this will be has finally been answered. It’s Oracle who has pipped others (including giant Microsoft) to the post. Will this deal satisfy all parties – and what’s Oracle going to do with the partnership? We’ll have to wait and see. You can read more about this story on the Guardian.
Another big deal that took place this month was Nvidia’s $40bn takeover of Softbank’s Arm. To find out more details, check out this article on the Financial Times. The pandemic has prompted many of these mergers and acquisitions, according to Reuters, global M&A volumes were booming in September – and it’s tech that’s leading the way. Tech is also seeing plenty of external investment this month, with the likes of Klarna receiving $650m in funding from BlackRock and GIC – and it’s now valued at a $11bn. Read more on that on the Financial Times.
There’s also more good news. Following the likes of Apple and Microsoft declaring their commitment to becoming carbon neutral, Google has announced that it’s actually successfully achieved that goal – its carbon footprint is now zero. Read more about how Google has managed to get there on BBC News.
For others, though, September wasn’t such a great month. Facebook had a falling out with Australia at the beginning of the month over the country’s planned news sharing law, requiring the company to pay publishers for their content. You can read more on this on the Telegraph. And matters haven’t much improved, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently coming under fire and accused of being a “right-wing echo chamber”. You can check out Zuckerberg’s interview with Axios on HBO here. Finally, Apple and Fortnite have also been continuing to battle it out after Fortnite developer, Epic, was removed from the App Store last month. For the latest on this story, go to BBC News.
It seems like a lifetime ago that we saw a wave of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ memes sweeping the UK. However, many of the communications from Boris Johnson and the Queen have had a decidedly wartime tone, so it seems fitting to bring them back into the spotlight again.
During the ‘Great Pause’ we’ve ‘Kept Calm’, and now there are mutterings of ‘A Gradual Return’ which won’t be big and won’t be fast. The worst thing that you can do is ‘Carry On’ as you were, and pretend that nothing changed.
Because at the risk of sounding like one of the glib ‘experts’, a lot has changed, and perhaps most importantly, people have changed. On the flip side, change is stressful, and people hate uncertainty, so many communications leaders (and I daresay our PM is included in this group) have been struggling to strike a balance between keeping plans flexible and presenting a stable vision of the future.
So how can (and should) you change your plans and recast your thoughts, being mindful of everything that has happened? It would be wrong of me to offer ‘concrete’ answers, because every single person’s experience will be different, and every organisation has adapted in varying degrees – but at the same time, we’re also conscious that during stressful times, it can be hard to see the big picture, so here are some prompts to help you keep your thinking straight.
Planning from the End
Boris Johnson’s announcement on the 10th of May left a lot of room for manoeuvring, especially if the UK sees a ‘second spike’. However, with the news that some of the technology giants will be working from home until Christmas, it’s fair to say that it’ll be at least Q4 before we see a return to anything resembling what we’d usually call normal.
However, this does give us a firm timeline; marketing and communications staff should plan for a linear return to (a new) normal over this period. Of course, there will be spikes and dips – especially if or when we see another outbreak – but you can plan for that too.
And before you think of what to communicate, it’s important to think of who you’re communicating with. To help keep your thoughts in order, here are a few starters for ten.
Your staff and partners are the single most important group to communicate with, and they will have had a very broad base of experiences during lockdown. From parents caring for children, to new recruits working in small flats, everyone has been managing differently. However, there are a few constants in what they’ll be looking for.
– Clarity: Although government guidance may be less than crystal clear, there’s still time – and a need – to give concise, well-reasoned guidance to staff about working patterns, support during work hours, and an anticipated timeline for any changes. With the furlough scheme potentially extended until September, now is the time to plan how to communicate with staff, as well as making sure that non-furloughed employees understand where they stand, and also feel appreciated.
– Plan from the end: You also need to plan back from the end of the lockdown; as my colleague Charlotte said in her ‘Communicators dealing with Sudden Change’ Playbook, people might not remember what you did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel. Were you inspiring, honest and did you treat them fairly? Or were you indecisive, secretive and sneaky? How will your current communication plans make them feel – and how do you need to plan for this? It’s perfectly acceptable to be firm and fair, but do be realistic: you may need a plan for re-hiring if a number of staff decide to leave, for example.
Customers, Prospects and Partners:
Covid-19 will undoubtedly have affected your customers, whether that’s the general public or other businesses. Unless you’re the likes of Zoom or a hand sanitiser manufacturer, experts like Sir Martin Sorrell have advised that you can’t ‘spend [on advertising] your way out of a recession’. Similarly, a number of pieces of research have suggested that whilst consumers don’t want brands to stop advertising during this time, they do want brands to be more sensitive to their needs – in some cases, switching to advice and wellbeing messages, rather than offers and promotions. With that in mind, it’s important to consider:
– New priorities: Many customers will have shifted to what’s truly important – for example, essentials and products that can be used at home, like family technology, loungewear and indoor sports equipment. It’s important to remember that this won’t last forever, but making it easy for customers to find what they need will absolutely be remembered post-Covid.
– Content consumption: Customers may well have changed how they consume content – for example, not many of us are commuting past billboards anymore! At the same time, with general stress levels higher than before, it’s important to be concise, clear, and unless it’s constructive and necessary, not present overly negative views – we’ve all heard them on the news and social channels!
– Reassurance: Many customers, prospects and investors will also want to know that if they’re buying from you – whether it’s products or shares – that you’re a stable provider. What has Covid-19 done to your 3-year plan, for example? Does your company roadmap still feature the key products and services that you promised last year? Is your company financially stable, and what are your ambitions? Staff may be blindsided by these questions during sales or marketing meetings, so it’s important to be prepared for them.
Where do we go now?
Coronavirus has meant a significant rethinking of business plans and processes, but now that a phased return to ‘normal’ is in sight, it’s time for you to keep calm and to get back to planning, working out what your phased return to normal will look like.
And whatever you do, remember our two principles of good communications during Covid-19 – be kind, and remove uncertainty where you can. If your communication ticks these two boxes, you’re safe to proceed, but if not, it might just need a fresh pair of eyes or (better yet) a fresh brain.
We have a wealth of assets that can help you set out your communications plan, whatever the audience. So regardless of the audience and the changes you’ve been through, we’ve got you covered – and if you’d like to discuss further how you can keep calm and carry on (differently) please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on email@example.com.
Editors. Reporters. Columnists. These are three traditional job titles in the journalism world which have been around for over a century. They’re the main players that make up the journalist line-up that you’ll find in every national newspaper in the UK today.
Recently, though, it dawned on me just how much this line-up is changing. Sure, editors, reporters and columnists continue to be the so-called top jobs in journalism, but there’s been a significant shift in recent years in terms of topics and sectors that are being covered, how the media is responding to changing demand from readers and the critical focus on digital.
While the below isn’t a completely exhaustive list, you’ll find what I believe to be the most interesting changes that every professional working on – or responsible for – public relations needs to be aware of.
The freelance dance
While we tend to think of ‘the gig economy’ being made up of the likes of musicians, drivers for ridesharing companies and delivery jobs, it refers to anyone working on a short-term contract or freelance – and that includes journalists and writers. The gig economy as a whole has boomed in the UK in recent years and the media has benefited from this; the number of freelancers contributing to newspapers and magazines feels at an all-time high.
You may think that’s great, as it means there’s more journalists to reach out to, but it can make placing stories more of a challenge. Many years ago, there may have been one or two people per publication suited to the story you could offer. Now, there’s an army of freelancers who are technically relevant. The problem is that many of them offer a general service whereby they cover multiple topics to fulfil the needs of the publication – for example, they’re not simply health reporters covering developments in the health sector, but instead might cover health alongside all sorts of different types of consumer stories. And they’re not always available – some might work reduced hours, only cover stories their editor delegates to them, not make their contact details publicly available, or have certain rules you must abide by, such as not doing interviews.
So, do you pitch to an editor in the hope they pass the story to a freelancer? Go direct to a freelancer and hope they pick it up and sell it in to a publication you think is suited to your story? Pitch to a reporter, but then go to a freelancer later if the journalist isn’t interested? Well, they’re all valid options, depending on the situation and story. This is where good PR work comes in – there is no fixed rule; an effective media relations practitioner just knows.
The age of social
With social media now king of the internet, and a critical tool for media outlets to share their content and reach their audience, many of the top stories we read each day are posted by dedicated Social Media Editors on Twitter and Facebook.
There’s a misconception that these Social Media Editors post what they’re told to. This couldn’t be further from the reality – they have autonomy to post what they believe is best for the channel and its audience. Sometimes, that means developing the content themselves or at least helping in the process. As such, this makes them a target in public relations campaigns.
A story that is right for social media and has the potential to go viral may not immediately capture the imagination of a traditional journalist. Liaising with a Social Media Editor on ideas is a different route to coverage – since they can champion an idea internally and work with journalists to develop the content they need for social.
Given how social channels are proving essential for securing click-throughs from the likes of Twitter to a media outlet’s website, and how those higher visitor numbers help secure advertising money, Social Media Editors will likely become more commonplace at bigger outlets, especially the nationals and those with a consumer and entertainment focus.
News been framed!
While social media has already established itself as a critical part of media outlets’ procedures, we’re also seeing video content become widely used on their websites. The Independent is an excellent case in point. Even a brief visit to the home page and you can quickly see how many stories have a video embedded on the page – simply look for the red play button in the bottom left corner of the thumbnail images next to the headlines.
While occasionally a video is useful support content for news, the primary reasoning I can see for loading every page with a video is to increase advertising revenue. Before each video plays, usually there’s a short advert. The Daily Mail is also adding videos to each page, but it’s mainly adverts in the bottom right hand corner and not related to the news story you’re reading.
The Independent has a team of video journalists, who research, produce, film, edit, and even present news pieces for the website. Like Social Media Editors, these journalists should be considered as targets for public relations campaigns. Working with them to develop, or at least submit, video content enables them to embed video on the page featuring your story, while also contributing to their ad revenue.
Welcome to the party, the environment
It’s not often a topic or industry not already widely reported by journalists will boom in importance or coverage. The likes of sport, politics and business, among others, have always had dedicated departments, with their own reporters and editors. It’s impressive, then, that the environment is forcing itself into the mainstream and demanding that publishing houses and newspapers give it more airtime.
Historically, environmental news and opinion would’ve been covered by the relevant department it was linked to. For example, if it was a story about business impact on the environment, if it was covered then it would have been done so by a business reporter. And while this is still the case for some newspapers, the growing national interest in the environment and sustainability issues has inspired others to create new departments and hire dedicated environment journalists. The Guardian and The Times are leading the way in this, and I expect to see others follow suit. Who knows, even the climate change naysayers in the right-wing media may eventually indulge a readership that demands more news on the topic.
Are we bidding farewell to investigative journalism?
“Bloody hell, how much?!” – is what I imagine goes through the minds of editors when they see the final bill for a journalist’s nine-month long investigation. Throw in the costs of being taken to court or the costs of fighting an injunction and the bill grows even larger.
As newspapers continue to face the challenges of lower hard copy sales, the investment in investigative journalism has seen a drop. They simply don’t consider such high costs as worth the time, effort and resources at this point in time.
Is investigative journalism dead though? Definitely not. There will always be stories, whether taken on by hunches of journalists or resulting from whistle-blowers, that require more in-depth investigations. In the short-term, we’ll see publications selecting them more carefully to avoid court action, but long-term, once they’ve established a steadier business model, investigative journalism could well be in vogue again.
As public relations professionals, we must stay on top of these changes in how the media operates and who does what. The way in which we secure coverage is changing rapidly and there’s never been more importance placed on the need to be as considered as possible in who to contact, about what and how. Yes, these changes pose new challenges, but there’s plenty of opportunities for us all too.
“Fake news, fake news! Read all about it!” It’s a bit of an oxymoron – news about fake news – and the lines are blurred, making it harder to distinguish what is truly “real”.
You would have been hard-pressed to miss the recent speculation around the potential Russian influence on the US presidential elections. It has now been confirmed that Facebook helped endorse Russian content, reaching 126 million Americans. Claims – such as Hilary Clinton having a 69% disapproval rate among veterans- circulated around the social network, influencing voters.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook is now undergoing a major revamp. As of next month, it will be introducing measures to increase ad transparency, allowing users to simply click and view all the ads being run by one organisation. The policy will be particularly tight on political adverts, which will have to be fully vetted and clearly state any political intent.
It’s not only Facebook that is hoping to clear the smoke screen around its advertising. Twitter has also just launched an Advertising Transparency Centre after its potential role in helping to promote Russian-backed content. This centre lets users view all the ads running on Twitter, making it public knowledge as to who buys what ads and even letting users report ads that they simply don’t like.
But is this all just too little, too late? Some may argue that the damage has already been done and that the trust and faith of the public has already been irretrievably lost.
So, what does this mean for the wider industry? How is this impacting and reflecting on marketers and PRs? After all, we do generate news and content, but people are now more likely to believe search engines than human editors. How then, can we win (back) the public’s trust? And in the so-deemed “post-truth era” how can PR be more transparent?
The customer is always right
First and foremost, with the recent revelations from Facebook and Twitter (among many others), there is a huge increase in public demand for transparency – so give consumers what they want.
The public’s opinion is critical and can influence a company’s reputation – just one negative review, comment or social media post can have a big impact. But, if a brand is upfront about what it is doing and keeps its customers properly informed, there should be less room for misinterpretation, discrediting those who make unfounded claims. Proper transparency is all about letting customers have a say and creating a real, two-way conversation between brands and the public.
On the other hand, if you are evasive and cagey, it will convince the public that you do have something to hide – even if you don’t. Few of us have forgotten that infamous Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman and Michael Howard, the epitome of the importance of just answering the question.
When it comes to transparency, it’s important to establish a real understanding of who you are and what your business stands for, then you can work on promoting this message to the public. Even though businesses change through time, it’s important to keep hold of your core values – most of us still remember when Google removed ‘don’t be evil’ from its motto back in 2015!
Every market is saturated, but a straightforward, unique voice can help cut through the noise and make sure you stand out for the right reasons. A continuous message will also help to build up recognisability and eventually, trust.
Don’t over promise either, instead create authenticity. Yes, promote everything that the company can do and what is great about it, but also be open about its limitations. Failing to deliver will have far worse consequences than outlining what you will not do, and runs the risk of completely alienating even the most loyal of customers.
Honesty is the best policy – honest!
When something goes wrong, be honest about it.
It is far better to admit a mistake and nip it in the bud than for the issue to be swept under the rug and re-surface at a later date, from an outside source. If you admit the problem first, you have more say and control over how the problem is communicated to the public – you can tell your story, rather than letting someone else play storyteller and potentially making the situation much worse.
Putting your cards on the table can also help to dispel any anger or worry around the situation. Frank openness always elicits a more positive response, generating a greater feeling of trust.
But remember, it is not enough to simply talk about the problem, you also need to show what you are doing to resolve it. Take action, don’t just talk.
“Fake news” may be THE word of 2017, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we should all jump on the bandwagon. Half-truths or using ‘truthful facts’ to deceive the public will also eventually come back to bite you. To shine through the muddy waters of today’s news, be transparent and you will make your brand’s voice and message crystal clear.
This is a question pondered by many communication professionals. You’ve collected your insights, your campaign has been planned and you’ve got your coverage, but what now? It’s all well and good celebrating a great piece of coverage or PR content, but you also need to think about what’s next.
Many businesses don’t utilise the content they produce and the coverage they achieve to help deliver business results. Taking content and coverage one step further should be part and parcel of any campaign, and to do this, you can deploy tactics following the PESO model.
PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned media – is a great model to follow and can help you think about how else to amplify PR results. Doing this can help you retarget your current audience and reach a new audience. When it comes to amplifying content, you’ve already got your earned piece of coverage, but there are things you can do to help improve the impact.
Do you have a link in your article/piece of content and is it trackable? You can create trackable links using Google’s Campaign URL Builder to help measure the impact of coverage and PR content on your website traffic, which you can track in Google Analytics. These links are quite long, but you can use services like bit.ly to shorten them and embed them in the content. This can tell you which campaigns are the most successful, which channels are bringing in the most traffic, and how much of this traffic converts into results.
Over the coming weeks, Firefly will be sharing tactics on how to use owned, shared and paid options to help take your earned media and PR content further. Tune in next week to learn about how to amplify coverage and content using your owned channels.
“It’s a private matter.” From the second Downing Street uttered those words, they almost immediately lost control of the situation with David Cameron’s tax affairs. It took four days and four separate statements before the truth came out.
Because Downing Street failed to take hold of the situation early on, Cameron’s crusade against tax avoidance was put to question, his reputation was forever tarnished and there were even calls for his resignation. And all because of a poorly thought out media response.
But for media spokespeople, it’s not just about what you don’t say, it’s about what you do say as well.
Powa has been in the news this month for all the wrong reasons. Just before Christmas 2015, Powa briefed the media on an amazing deal that would see its PowaTag gain access to the lucrative Chinese payments market. Dan Wagner, the CEO, was understandably triumphant and when speaking to the BBC said, “Why did China UnionPay decide to partner with a little British technology company? We’ve trumped Apple Pay and the rest of the world here.”
The rest as they say, is ancient history. An article by Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC claimed that the team which negotiated the deal were shocked, having told Mr Wagner not to make a big deal out of it. As a result China Union Pay sent a “cease and desist” letter to Powa. The next day, Apple Pay announced it was entering the Chinese payments market. Powa Technologies has since entered administration.
For a company spokesperson the consequences are very high, and when responding to the media you need to get your story and message straight the first time around. You need to strike that balance between human, normal and interesting commentary, without being either a robot parroting the company line, or a loose cannon liability.
I’ve run media training for hundreds of spokespeople, helping them to ensure they get it right first time when responding to the media, as well as help clients to identify the best spokespeople to represent their brand. I’ve pulled together my top five tips for spokespeople on how to become a great voice in the media.
Before you do anything, think about what you want to achieve from your response or input. What do you want the headlines and story layers to look like, and what messages do you want to put across? Any messages must be believable, simple, direct, jargon free and must relate back to what the media wants, with proof points.
A key part of preparation is knowing what to talk about in case things start to get difficult. These are topics you can easily speak about without having to even think about it. It gives you something to say in case you get stuck and also buys you a bit of time to think about a proper response.
Preparation should always cover facts and figures you can reference to back up anything you say. Always try to test these on someone to make sure they make sense and are clearly related to what you are saying.
Consider who you are talking to and what the content is for. Different journalists are looking for different things, in the same way different types of media are looking for varying degrees of information. For example, a trade media magazine is looking for in-depth knowledge of its sector and wants a spokesperson to take a deep dive into industry issues. However, with a national newspaper, they’re looking for someone who can talk broadly about the industry issues, without the need to give a detailed description. News writers will also be looking for something different to a feature writer and be under different time pressures. In the new media environment, you also have to take into account the kind of content bloggers and YouTubers are looking for as well.
To be a great spokesperson you must be three things; knowledgeable, accessible and quotable. Journalists love speaking to people who are enthusiastic about what they do and can provide notes, quotes and anecdotes. The best spokespeople come armed with facts and figures and approved points of reference, such as a customer story. If you get all of this right the media will love you.
It’s also really important to listen and respond accordingly. Bad spokespeople tend to avoid doing this and talk in jargon, use superlatives and make unsubstantiated claims. They also use complex language, talk down to journalists and tend to waffle. Good preparation can avoid this.
The PR team needs to ensure that you know enough background information about each publication, including readership and audience, as well as supporting you by attending the interview. They will also give you background on the journalist you are speaking with, giving information on recent articles they’ve written, insight from social media feeds and any other tips based on previous interviews. Your PR team is there to ensure you get all the information you need to deliver a great media response or interview.
Get it right the first time
It’s important for any spokesperson to make sure they get it right first time because what goes online, will stay online. But by making sure you take time to consider the above points and think about what you want the headlines to say, you’ll always have some control over how that affects your reputation in the media and your market.
I run regular media training courses where spokespeople are put through their paces with a real journalist. Our media training partners are the real deal, with the small exception that they are ex-journalists and won’t publish what you say. It’s all about giving you a real experience and teaching that it’s definitely better to say something, than saying no comment, or as recently demonstrated…, “it’s a private matter.”
It’s that time again when every man and his dog make predictions about what will happen next year [I’d like to hear the dog’s predictions. – Ed]. Most of these will be either too dry, dusty or saccharine to stomach, with others jumping the shark and swinging their lightsabers purely for column inches. At Firefly we’ve got a bird’s eye view from our fifth floor office, so we’ve been wracking our brains for predictions that aren’t too outrageous, but stand a good chance of making an impact on the communications landscape next year. So bear with us with one final animal metaphor as we present our ‘not too hot and not too cold’ 2016 predictions:
In 2016, traditional media publications will come to terms with new ways to monetise content. While PR experts have been dipping their toes into paid media – largely through social channels in my experience – journalists have been slower to deal with advertorial, native advertising and sponsored content as a core part of what they do. In 2016, it will be part and parcel of their role.
Other media channels will slowly continue to formalise their monetisation. PR predictions that don’t mention Zoella are like tech predictions without Uber, and with the news last February that the lifestyle vlogger bought a £6m house in Brighton, you can’t deny her importance. Zoella’s spot product placement fee is now around £4,000, meaning that there’s little doubt paid ‘Tubing can work. However, the vlogosphere is still a confusing arena to work in, with little fee consistency or ROI. That’s largely because it’s risen up from the grass roots, rather than with defined advertising teams. This will not become any clearer in 2016, making it vital that PR consultants do their homework.
As Google (and others) get smarter and move towards natural language rather than just keywords, off-site SEO practitioners may find themselves getting squeezed out. A lot of PRs aren’t dabbling in large scale pay-per-click campaigns, but as Google ascribes more kudos to brand mentions occurring within a curated source, i.e. with an editorial team, public relations practitioners may find themselves with an unexpected opportunity.
Driving app downloads will continue to require sophisticated programmes. Google’s (and Microsoft’s) app indexing proposition – driving app use from mobile search – will help a great deal with what has been a tricky challenge for a lot of brands. Getting users to download an app – rather than simply signing up for a newsletter – without a clear understanding of benefits, user re-assurance (i.e. reviews), and brand ‘buzz’ via earned and shared channels is tough, making a combination of PR, social and paid activity necessary to drive success.
In 2016, we’ll get over the wearable hype and get into more useful wearable applications. To some extent, this has been going on for a while with Fitbits and FuelBands etc. but the iWatch has really tipped this over the edge. It’ll be an interesting challenge for PR and marketing folk to work out how they optimise content for an ever more fragmented tech landscape – many haven’t even got to grips with mobile yet, let alone wearable or virtual reality (VR).
Regardless of whether you spend your holiday break calibrating your Fitbit, messing around with Google cardboard, or simply stuffing your face with turkey and … uh … stuffing, we hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and look forward to bringing you more insights and success in 2016.
For any consumer technology firm, product reviews and launch coverage are a vital part of the product sales life cycle, attracting early adopters to purchase the product on the day of launch.
This is something Firefly Comms recently helped Crucial to achieve, through the launch of its consumer-focused solid-state drive (SSD) the BX200. This new SSD is designed to start weaning people off slower, less energy efficient hard drives, which in turn slow down desktops and laptops. SSDs are easy to install as a replacement for your hard drive, and with prices constantly falling, they’re becoming a cheaper option to extend the life of your PC or laptop.
To fully maximise this launch opportunity, Firefly created a strategic review programme targeting the right publications. This didn’t necessarily mean going to the sites with the most readers, but the sites read by those most likely to purchase a new SSD, or those with an ageing hard drive that they were itching to replace. Firefly was also keen to help the Crucial BX200 appear highly in search results, so was keen to target websites that had a high domain authority. This would help the Crucial BX200 SSD appear higher in search terms like “SSD reviews”, “Best SSD”, “PC upgrades” and “hard drive replacement”.
Firefly set up product briefings with key press and also shared product samples for review weeks in advance, to ensure reviews and news coverage was hitting on the same day.
Firefly secured 10 pre-launch product briefings with tier one press, which helped to achieve four day one reviews on eTeknix, bit-tech, Hardware Heaven and Vortez, and over 20 pieces of news coverage, including articles in TechRadar, The Register, The Inquirer, KitGuru, HEXUS and Tech Power Up.
Review samples were given to 100% of tier one media, with news coverage appearing in over 70% of tier one media publications. In total, the Crucial BX200 launch reached an audience of over 30m people.
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