CereProc, the Edinburgh-based text-to-speech company that creates digital voices with character, has engaged Firefly Communications UK as its PR agency.

Founded in 2005, CereProc has forty-five digital voices for any platform, with accents ranging from Austrian to Brazilian and Russian to Japanese. It has ‘cloned’ the voices of people suffering from issues that result in voice loss or degradation, such as thyroid cancer and motor neurone disease, helping them retain the power of speech. The team has also cloned the voices of celebrities including George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“The applications of CereProc’s technology are vast,” said Christian Sharp, Senior Account Director at Firefly Communications. “Not only is it giving speech and song back to the speechless, but the applications of its technology in the fields of virtual assistants, gaming, academia – to name but a few – are staggering. We can’t wait to get to grips with CereProc’s digital voicebox and spread the word.”

The PR campaign will focus on UK media relations, social campaigns and an awards programme for the brand, gaining recognition for its cutting-edge technology. Unlike other digital voices, CereProc’s technology has a more ‘human’ flow, and was used by film critic Roger Ebert to deliver part of his TED talk after he lost his lower jaw to cancer. CereProc’s voices can also speak in regional accents, rather than the synthetic ‘android’ voices that tools such as Siri and Alexa use.

“CereProc’s ethos is focused on continuous innovation,” said Paul Welham, Chief Executive at CereProc. “We’re continually developing new voices, smarter technology and different applications for these voices, so it’s great to have Firefly on-board to help spread the word about our work.”

“It’s not often that you come across an organisation that has made Donald Trump sing, created a Glaswegian voice for an escape room and restored the power of speech to an eminent Motor Neurone Disease sufferer,” continued Sharp. “We’re delighted to be working with CereProc and showcasing its innovative and worthy technology to the world at large.”


With the amount of online content and social media in our everyday lifestyle, it’s no surprise that digital PR campaigns are now an important staple in modern PR and advertising.

Give as you Live wanted a stronger social presence and to reach a younger audience that likes to shop, and Firefly advised collaborating with a fashion YouTube vlogger. While traditional media is still valuable, YouTuber popularity is growing fast, and would provide access to a younger audience as well as an authentic assessment of Give as you Live and how they see it in their everyday lives. youtubecomments

Firefly created a campaign plan, including researching the right talent, reaching out and securing a YouTuber within the allocated budget, and working with the vlogger to create a video that maintained their style while weaving in Give as you Live in a way that would resonate with their viewers.

Following the structure of her classic videos, Amy Valentine produced a haul video about products she purchased through Give as you Live. Viewed more than 5,600 times in one week, Amy’s video helped Give as you Live reach self proclaimed shop-a-holics, drove traffic and sign-ups on its website, and increased its social profile thanks to Amy’s mentions.

Ace 1: one winning strategy for one amazing cause

What a wonderful and inspirational fundraising and PR campaign from tennis ace Ross Hutchins.  He bought together the LTA, the Aegon Championships and The Queens Club, to stage Rally Against Cancer for The Royal Marsden – a doubles exhibition match followed by a pro-am display on finals day.

SCORE – 15:love

Rally against cancer logo

Ace 2: main PR spokespeople on message

Ross himself did a sterling job of raising the profile of this PR campaign; being shipped out as the main spokesperson to the media over the preceding months.  All this whilst undergoing some intensive and probably very debilitating treatment at The Royal Marsden for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer.

And if ever a PR spokesman was 150% on message, Andy Murray’s emotional winning speech to the crowd, broadcast live by the BCC, was a joy to listen to. Asked by Sue Barker who he was blowing kisses to on the balcony as his girlfriend sat on the side lines, Murray explained it was to his great friend Ross Hutchins, perhaps a private confirmation nod to promise a winning gift.

SCORE – 30:love

Ace 3: Star-studded entertainment

The pro-am players entertained the tennis crowd in a way never seen before on Queen’s Club’s Centre Court.

The revolving comedy players included Jimmy Carr, Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre. Boris Johnson, Eddie Redmayne and Sir Richard Branson were also such good sports to take part.

The creative scoring (bribery of first-class upgrades to the umpire), questionable line calls from players and linesmen, inventive cautions of ‘Abuse of a Knight’, as Jimmy Carr demonstrated cruel gamesmanship shouting at Sir Richard Branson to hurry up and serve his second serve. On a few occasions, in-between some air shots, they all managed to hit some blinding, if unconventional, winners.

For the final rally Ross Hutchins even got on court himself in his suit and brogues and roped in the BBC commentator Andrew Castle in his suit and tie (for the comedy element, go to 1m 44 secs).

SCORE – 40:love

Ace 4: A huge team effort, and almost doubled by the champion

The imaginative and enthusiastic team from The Royal Marsden and the LTA made this happen, supported by a small army of volunteers, working all week long collecting donations, selling raffle tickets and raising the profile of the charity and the exhibition match.

Most importantly was the crowd, giving so generously every day – there were online donations, text donations and raffle ticket purchases a plenty. It all helped boost The Royal Marsden coffers to ensure they reached their target of £100,000.

But then before the end of the day it was announced that that not only had The Royal Marsden beaten it’s fundraising targets, but that Andy Murray has eclipsed everyone’s efforts by donating his winning prize money of £75,000 to the cause.

SCORE – Game, set and match to The Royal Marsden, and thanks to the wonderful crowd, and one amazing man who conceived the idea, Ross Hutchins.

Contact Claire on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Ask 10 different people what media they consume, and they’ll give you 10 different answers. As social sharing, search engines and ‘trending topics’ become the go-to places for fast access to the hottest stories that instant, it gives rise to a thirst for small, impactful and easily digestible nuggets of information.

Just take the most shared article on Facebook last year. It wasn’t Justin Beiber’s new haircut. Perhaps more comfortingly it was ‘The world at seven billion’ – a widget which shows where you fit into the story of human life.

Data is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s easily shared and can be represented in various formats. The media is hungry for more! So what if your company has no original data assets? Research is the answer.

We run lots of research for our clients – from simple, low-cost consumer omnibus surveys:

‘Is David Bowie a) over the hill b) still rocking it c) Who?? (I was born in the 90s)’

To targeted, more complex B2B telephone surveys:

‘In your role as an HR manager, what proportion (%) of your time is spent resolving conflict in the workplace?’

There are many options, but the result is the same – more coverage for campaigns, by more influencers, across more channels. Especially if you can challenge pre-conceived ideas or stereotypes.

Here are some of our recent favourites:

Scots are NOT tight-fisted finds survey of tipping as Welsh emerged as Britain’s stingiest people

Company: Click A Taxi, a mobile phone app

Why it works: It challenges a long-held perception, and its findings apply to a whole nation of people. Nothing niche about this study.

1. Scots are NOT tight-fisted finds survey of tipping as Welsh emerged as Britain’s stingiest people

Company: Click A Taxi, a mobile phone app

Why it works: It challenges a long-held perception, and its findings apply to a whole nation of people. Nothing niche about this study.

2. Drivers sleep in car to save fuel

Company: RAC, breakdown recovery

Why it works: Soaring fuel prices are a real concern for a nation of car-lovers. This research adds fuel to the debate, and supports The Sun’s own campaign to keep prices low – it is also well integrated back into the brand’s own proposition and not all surveys are.

3. Blue Monday’s job hunt

Company: Job Bounties

Why it works: tapping into cyclical calendar events that media editors are looking for, and capturing the mood of a nation.

4. Suited and Loubouted: Women spend a FIFTH of their salary on work clothes every year

Company: Brother UK, printers and electronics

Why it works: Minimum 50% of the population will be able to relate to this and have an opinion on it across social sites. Brother UK cleverly partnered with a celebrity, columnist Grace Dent, to add a bit of extra sparkle and credibility to the findings.

5. Bookshop numbers halve in just seven years

Company: Experian, credit services for individuals and businesses
Why it works: The findings present the trend from bricks to clicks in hard numbers. It’s impactful and can be supported by testimonials.

6. Small business owners trust energy firms less than banks, finds new study

Company: MakeItCheaper, energy switching service

Why it works: The Robin Hood sentiment. It publicises the plight of small business owners trying to survive against rising energy prices and ‘fat cat bankers’.

Occasionally the numbers are right under your nose, already within the company. They just need mining, such as this simple study from Match.com – Looking for love online? Log on at 8.52pm tonight – and this from payroll company Vocalink – Workers ‘£89 a month worse off’ than before crisis.

Partners and customers are another potential sample for research through simple, low-cost surveys.  We’re working with Give as you Live to carry out the ‘Digital Giving Review’ and ‘Digital Donor Review’, using its reach within the charity and charity giving spaces. The first report – which produced online giving insights from over 500 charities – was so successful that this year we are mid-way through surveying charity supporters, in order to get their perspective on the same subject.

Research is simple and doesn’t need to be expensive. It just takes a newsworthy idea and the right questions. Whether you’re targeting consumers or businesses, it’s an excellent mechanic to increase brand recognition – and offers all departments original data to use again and again. 99% of comms professionals consider it an essential item in their toolkit.

The US Presidential Election which concluded earlier this month, marked what many are terming ‘the first social media election.’ Millions of users across the world took to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other social networks to air their views and offer commentary as events unfolded – culminating in a peak of 31 million users on Twitter alone on election night and, as results broke: 327,452 tweets per minute.

And it wasn’t just viewers and voters getting involved. A photograph posted from President Obama’s Twitter account has since reached a record level of viral engagement, becoming the most liked and retweeted post ever. The photograph, which shows the newly re-elected president embracing his wife, with the caption “4 more years,” has been retweeted over half a million times (and counting) and has been liked by over 3.23 million people.

Indeed, this level of social engagement very much speaks for the campaign as a whole. Both Obama and Romney were quick to recognise the importance of social media as they rolled out their respective campaigns in the lead up to the election, reaching an entire demographic via sites including Twitter – which 4 years ago, in the last election, was little more than a fledging community.

While it’s clear, however, that the conversations taking place online played a colossal part in setting the scene for the election, how accurately did these conversations gauge overall sentiment? Is it possible to analyse posts, in all their millions, to see if they could have predicted the end result? Or would an in-depth analysis reveal an altogether more random collection of posts, dominated by irrelevant puns and Big Bird memes?

It’s an interesting question, and one posed by this article on Mashable. It takes a closer look at Twitter activity in the lead-up to the election revealing that, although the breakdown of positive vs. negative tweets indicates a largely equal split between the two candidates, just prior to Election Day there was a comprehensive shift in Obama’s favour.

On a broader scale, social media sentiment analysis is important for PRs and communications professionals to take into consideration. While there are a number of tools available to monitor and report on social activity in terms of quantity – tweets, retweets or likes, for instance – there remain relatively few which are able to provide a more qualitative insight.

Frankly, this is unsurprising, given the vast amounts of social data being generated (each minute, 100,000 tweets are sent, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content and YouTube users upload 48 hours of new video, to give just a few examples)! Sentiment analysis itself is a complex science – tasked with grappling with thousands of key words and terms, not to mention a vast range of linguistic curve balls such as sarcasm. And as the amount of data only continues to proliferate, the task isn’t getting any easier.

Luckily however, the technology involved is getting smarter! Within just the last few months we’ve seen EDF light up the London Eye according to Twitter users’ sentiment around the London 2012 Olympics, while one particular tool has recently been launched which uses information from social media to drive investment decisions.

So what does the future hold in store? For PRs, the rise and rise of sentiment analysis will mean KPIs and deliverables are realigned and reassessed. As we begin to see social media ‘reach’ come into play when it comes to campaign planning, strategizing and reporting, the ability to incorporate automatic sentiment analysis across large volumes of posts will become more and more important. The worlds of ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ communications continue to merge ever-closer – as so clearly demonstrated by the US Election – and the ability to analyse, and understand, these online conversations is surely the next step.

And in four years time, as the next US election comes around? Well, who knows…?


We are delighted to start 2012 with the news that Firefly has been shortlisted in the The Golden Hedgehog PR Awards for the work we’ve done for client, Give as you Live.

PR agencies like award nominations and wins for the same reasons that many of our clients do.  They offer us (in no particular order):

Our Give as you Live Christmas campaign, which we talked about in a blog post back in November, has made the Golden Hedgehog shortlist.  We’re honoured to be on the list with the likes of 1000heads for Nokia, Frank for Beatbullying and Splendid for Smirnoff; and we’re looking forward to hearing the judges’ verdicts in March.

But the shortlist itself, threw up some interesting observations amongst the Firefly team.

Firstly, that the shortlist for the ‘Social Media Campaign of the Year’ consisted of the maximum eight campaigns.  This tells us that, according to the Golden Hedgehog shortlist, suddenly ‘Social Media Campaign of the Year’ awards are amongst the most hotly contended out there.  That’s more shortlisted campaigns than in ‘Integrated Comms Campaign of the Year’ (a huge favourite of the early-to-mid 2000s, in response to our clients’ “360-degree campaign briefs”) and ‘Best Use of Research’.  This is a landscape that even a year or two ago, would have been entirely different; these are truly exciting times for social media evangelists.

Secondly, we noticed that amongst the shortlisted entries three are squarely in the tech/consumer tech space, two are cause-related marketing, and all, including our own, seem to have been communicating to a consumer audience.

Why is it that, when it comes to social media, B2C campaigns are so ahead of the curve?  Friend of Firefly Peter Thomson has some interesting points to make in his blog around why B2B businesses aren’t taking enough responsibility for their social media.

Interestingly, the myths that his post goes out to bust, are very similar to many of the myths that we have found ourselves tackling over the years with our B2C clients, too. Take for example, “social media isn’t about selling”.  It can be, used correctly.  Or, “social media doesn’t have a clear ROI”.  It does – and it is our job to communicate it.  “Social media can replace offline marketing.” Show us the brief – but we suspect it’s better used in combination.

We’re excited about our award nomination, as it helps us to tell the story of how we can help brands and businesses to use social media more effectively. And we suspect that the landscape will continue to change: next year, how about some B2B businesses fighting for those award nominations?

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.

Far from a ‘charity begins at home’ attitude that you might expect in hard times, the gloom is bringing out the good in people. Imaginations have certainly been captured in Japan, where a small act of kindnesshas snowballed into a new craze for giving.

The concept – guerrilla kindness – is based around surreptitiously doing something nice for someone else, without expecting anything in return.

Be it big or small, another example literally crossed my path a while ago when a friend and I were stopped at Charing Cross Station and given hugs. I found it nice and somewhat intriguing (and my purse was still safely buried in my handbag)! Having Googled the act a bit later, I found out that it was International Free Hugs Day.

The year 2010 was the year of the flash mob and PR campaigns across the country embraced this. Is guerrilla kindness, as an identified trend by trendwatching.com, set to capture the imaginations of PRs in 2011?

Would you, your company or your clients have anything at all to offer, on a random basis, to someone who would so appreciate it? That’s the key, giving the random act of kindness to an appreciative and worthy recipient.

A sprinkling of selfless kindness goes a long way.

This post was written by Charlotte.

Whilst on the tube this week I noticed how The Metro has tentatively embraced QR codes (QR means quick response). These funny little squiggly square boxes are popping up in poster ads, on cartons, cans and bottles, and on business cards – I notice more and more every day.

And there is more evidence of mainstream barcode use with the Starbucks story in the FT today. In the US you will be able to wave your mobile at a scanner, instead of a loyalty card. Hallelujah! I can never find my loyalty card.

QR codes have been around a while, but are becoming mainstream. We’ve been monitoring this for a while and when relevant, building QR codes into our PR strategies for event details, competitions, helping people catch the information the moment they see it. Through all our research, this is what we found:

Easiest, fastest and free QR barcode generator – http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/

Easiest, fastest and free reader app – http://www.i-nigma.com/i-nigmahp.html

And this is me….

The Firefly team were positively salivating when given the task of developing a digital PR  campaign for the Anthony Nolan Trust’s  innovative saliva donation process – a simple test which eliminates the need to take blood samples, making testing for a bone marrow match quick, easy and pain free.

The creative juices were flowing as we brainstormed funny yet convincing ways of showcasing this campaign to our target audience – men between the ages of 18 and 35.

We devised the concept of “spit happens – put it to good use” and created three viral videos to demonstrate situations when men might drool – for example: over a beer; a plate of fish and chips; and, ultimately, a woman! When thinking of writing, producing and ultimately starring in a series of videos, the scenes would be broken up with slates showing the words “save it” and the final slate saying “save it – save a life.”

After sourcing our actors (thank you Nital, Marcus, Pete and the boys from aspiring band ‘The Cold One Hundred’ who were all willing to dribble incessantly whilst pub goers looked on in horror) and securing the infamous Soho pub The Coach and Horses as our venue, we all congregated on Friday 2nd July for a day’s slobbering.

Due to fantastic script writing, the scenes were cut perfectly and we’ve since had a lot of fun fitting appropriate music to the scenes. The film is currently in final editing and we are looking forward to seeding it online to Ladz Magz.

Thanks to all who helped us in the production of this film – the actors, Alastair the pub landlord (and his pretty waitress), Tsunami Music for supplying us with the Gnome song, and most especially GUM TV for spending a day getting up close and personal with salivary juices…you did an awesome job.

Watch this space closely. The videos will appear online very shortly and don’t forget…spit happens, so put it to good use.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information