“What’s hot for you right now?” I remember asking an IT director at a retail firm, somewhat earlier in my career, looking for an insight into his business, possible campaign content and the like.
“Email,” he replied. “Email is a big priority for us this year.”
I didn’t think that was very sexy at the time, but with hindsight it makes a lot of sense. Technology isn’t all drones, swarm intelligence and hype – and even the worlds of virtual reality (despite the ready availability of headsets), 3D printing and the IoT are a reasonably long way from ubiquitous adoption across the UK. In an age where many rural areas still struggle to get broadband speeds of over 2Mbps, our industry is often guilty of looking at the ‘latest and greatest’, which runs the risk of turning us into a London-centric hype factory, rather than grounded thinkers with a pragmatic understanding of the here and now.
So, which sectors do we think will rise to red-hot levels of heated fame in 2017? Here’s a few of my top bets so far.
Igniting public understanding about Fintech:
The UK has been named a global Fintech hub, and rightly so. We’ve seen a cornucopia of retail banking, investment and information services spring up in the last few years and many of them have been hugely successful. If you’ve not come across the likes of Atom, Nutmeg, Bud, DueDil, Crowdcube, FundingCircle or Seedrs before, they’re all well worth a look – these are the companies which are radically changing how consumers and businesses handle their money.
A lot of these contenders launched a few years ago, but whilst almost any startup can make a splash (A compact doubling as a USB charger? Self-warming shoes?), it takes a lot more staying power to provide services to the financial services industry and thrive over three to four years.
These kinds of companies will have a virtuous effect on other, more established companies, showing traditional retail banks and investment companies how to do business better. That’s before we’ve even talked about the blockchain industry, which is slowly changing how transactions – effectively one of the cornerstones of modern society – are conducted and recorded.
Unfortunately, whilst fintech is lauded as a sector, it also poses a challenge to communications professionals. Fintech itself has many press titles dedicated to it, but it is often poorly understood in broader press circles: for example, in a recent video by a blockchain company, the main benefit of its technology was accelerating business transaction times from four days to a matter of seconds. To a consumer, or consumer journalist, this is unexciting: the likes of PayPal allow you to do the same – and has done for years. It is only by educating press about the technology and how it works in reality that comms professionals in emerging fintech sectors will be able to do their brands justice.
Accelerating change in the automotive industry:
After decades of incremental improvements, the automotive sector is finally becoming the bus that just won’t slow down. Hybrid and electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, better connected cars, not to mention the ever-present impact of Uber and its competitors – whilst not all of these will become mainstream in 2017, the UK will soon be glowing red and white hot from the benefits.
There will also be a wave of secondary benefits, including lower emissions and pollutants, significantly lower maintenance bills (electric cars have fewer moving parts, so require less work) and safe roads from smart vehicle detection systems.
However, many large, bold steps are still needed in this sector. For example, there are still too few charging stations in the broader UK for electric vehicles to be truly widespread. Most charging points are clustered in large cities and major motorways, giving a situation parallel to the UK’s broadband, where countryside locations suffer from poor connectivity and low speeds, whilst major cities enjoy a feast of fibre (optic cable, that is). Unless the automotive industry finds a creative solution to this, our electric and hybrid fleets may be stuck at a thirty limit for some time.
In this sector, communications professionals face a different challenge. There have been a number of trials of autonomous vehicles, for example, but the press have been quick to jump on any problems or accidents. This in turn affects how politicians regulate the sector, because it influences public sentiment. Many of these issues will verge on the philosophical, as people and organisations debate the ethics, morality and liability involved with autonomous vehicles – not least of all the impact on the insurance industry!
PR professionals in this area must address these wider industry issues and push for change, smarter regulation and solid commercial partnerships which will motor the industry forward, and not keep the brakes of fear, uncertainty or doubt firmly pushed down.
2017: A year of change
A lot of change was brewing in 2016, but 2017 will be a year of fruition as these developments start to pay off. The UK has invested a significant amount in technology, and whilst sometimes these initiatives can be slow to pay off, the time is finally arriving. In much the same way as our investment pre- and post- the London 2012 Olympics paved the way for our success in Rio last year, the hard graft that the technology community has made in the preceding years will make 2017 a bigger, better year for the sector.
However, to make the most of this, and continue to drive the improvements needed in the sector, communications professionals must knuckle down, identify the areas where they can make the most impact and find partners who will help them to accelerate this change. It is only through the combined work of PR professionals and technologists that we can continue to make the UK technology industry great – and get it the recognition it deserves.
This is the second in a two part series, where I provide tips on how to get the most out of a PR video interview. My background is teaching video skills to would-be journalists and bloggers in Vietnam. What I learnt there translates beautifully to the UK – after all, the art of communication is not limited by geography or language.
Last week I looked at interviewing skills, but this week is all about the filming component – an aspect that can make or break the success of your video interviews.
The ability to interview and film like a journalist (or as close as you can) is becoming an increasingly important part of our business.
While interviewing is not too hard of a skill to pick up for PRs, learning the ins and outs of a video camera can be a little more painstaking. Here’s how we prepare for and complete our filming on the day:
Before you go to do any kind of video interview, you need to make sure all your equipment is ready. Have you charged all the batteries? Do you have spare batteries? Do you have SD cards with plentiful space with you? Do you have lighting capabilities? Do you have several places to back up your files once you’ve finished filming?
These are must-have elements of the preparation process. If you answer “no” to any of these, you’re planning for disaster. There is nothing more embarrassing than realising you’ve forgotten something or haven’t got enough battery in front of your talent. Create an inventory checklist of what you need to do, and go through it one to two days before your scheduled interview.
Ideally you’ll be filming in a location that gives context to your interview and your talent will be dressed accordingly – for example, a doctor dressed in scrubs with a background that looks like a hospital or GP’s office.
This can be challenging if your client can’t elaborate on what your location will look like in advance or if you know you’ll be in a dull setting, but do your best to dress the background appropriately and bring props if necessary.
Regardless, ensure there’s nothing distracting happening in the background of your picture, such as extra people, signs with text, and bright objects (or inappropriate content!). Likewise, avoid filming in front of things that may look like they’re protruding from the talent’s head or body, such as trees or poles.
Set up an interview in a (right-angle) triangle. Your interviewee should be positioned in a straight line from the camera lens, while your interviewer stands slightly to the side of the camera. This will ensure your talent is looking at a slight diagonal to your interviewer without looking too front-on or side-on.
We like to remind the talent to maintain eye contact with the interviewer for the duration of the interview too, so that they don’t get nervous and look down the middle of the camera. If you’re the interviewer, also do your best to be at the same eye level as the talent, so the talent doesn’t appear to be looking up or down at you in the footage.
Use a tripod wherever possible and ensure it is set at a height at the eye level of the talent. There is nothing worse than shaky footage!
If you’re stuck without one, try to find a solid wall or post to lean against and clamp your elbows together to help reduce the shakes while you film.
If there’s nothing to lean on, crouch in on yourself as much as possible. Keep your elbows locked, bend your knees, and rock in gentle, small, and very slow side to side motions as you film so any shakes are controlled. It sounds ridiculous, but it works!
Always monitor the audio as you film with a pair of headphones to ensure it’s clear throughout. Ideally your talent should be speaking at -6dB (not over -3dB) – you will usually be able to check this level is being met on the visual display – at their usual talking volume to get the best results.
Keep your microphone as close as possible to the talent without obstructing the visual, and take care to ensure the talent removes anything that may jewellery ‘jingle’ in the microphone, such as necklaces, bracelets, or watches.
Have them say a few lines before you start filming to ensure everything sounds correct and that they’re sounding clear. We often ask clients to introduce themselves to the camera with their name and title – this comes in handy in editing too if you need to confirm surnames or positions for title slides.
A well-framed shot is essential for video interviews. Generally for an interview, a medium-to-close shot of the subject is good, but ensure you aren’t cutting them off at the elbows or the tops of their shoulders.
Another important part of framing is the looking space. If your interviewee is looking to the left at your interviewer, ensure there’s background showing to their left of the frame and vice versa. You don’t want your talent to look like they’re too centred or as though they’re staring into the edge of the shot. Similarly, ensure you leave a small amount of space above their head and to the side of their body that’s not on the looking space side.
This is where things get a bit more technical. The best way to ensure a perfectly lit video interview is to use natural light wherever possible. If you’re outdoors, stick to the shade (but ensure no harsh shadows are falling across the talent); if you’re inside try to make sure the talent is near a window and the light falls on their face and shoulders (there’ll be a shadow if they have their back to it). If the light is falling strongly to one side of their face, you may need to use a prop light to balance the unlit side and ensure they aren’t too shadowed.
Before filming, check if your camera has a button or dial called ‘zebra’. This will bring up moving, zebra-stripe like lines on the footage to show how exposed your footage is. Turn the zebra stripes to their lowest point (the shot may go dark), and slowly bring them back up until the stripes are just falling onto the talent’s face. Your shot should now be well exposed.
If there’s no natural light or you can’t bring in your own lighting, look for a setting on your camera titled ‘gain’. Set this to low, or L, and see how the shot looks. Ideally you will be able to keep the setting on low, but you can increase it to medium, or M, if it’s too dark. However, the more you increase your gain the grainier your footage will get – this is particularly bad if you’re going to display your video on a large screen. The lower the better!
Having gone through these, you should be safe to film. But there’s a few more things to ensure you’ve done before you wrap it up. If you’re going to be editing your interview to include the questions being spoken from the interviewer, set up your camera after the interview so it faces the interviewer and film them re-asking the questions. You’ll also need to film the interviewer’s reaction-shots of them nodding, laughing and so on. You never know what you’ll need in editing!
Similarly, if it’s a long interview you may like to include other footage of the interviewee doing something that relates to their answers – called overlay – to keep the visuals interesting. The more footage and angles you can get, the easier the editing process will be.
At the end of the process, it’s better to end up with too much footage than too little, and the more you can get right before the editing process starts the easier it will be to create polished video interviews. Don’t rely on post-production – always fix everything you can while filming. Good luck!
Go back to Part One: Interviewing.
In the final video of the #Firefly25 interview series, Claire Walker reflects on Firefly throughout the ages and looks to the future.
Claire explains how the agency has changed radically over 25 years but how the change has been less about what Firefly does and more about the type of clients it works for and how it goes about it…
What will the future bring? In this video, Firefly founder and CEO Claire Walker gives a summary of what current PR trends are emerging and the overall direction of the PR industry.
What lessons can we learn from PR in the present? In this video, Firefly founder and CEO Claire Walker gives a summary of what current PR trends are disappearing as digital and social take over.
We also hear highlights from the #Firefly25 interview series on what PR activities are here to stay.
Recently, Firefly Communications celebrated our 25th anniversary, a major achievement for an independent agency. With such a rich background and a variety of experience within the agency, we’re always discussing how PR has changed during our time in the industry.
Admittedly I’ve only worked in PR for just over 3 years, but even so, the change during that period has been astonishing. When I joined my first agency, social media was just something you’d engage with your friends on, now it’s being used as the bedrock of communications, with it’s unique ability to reach virtually every demographic on a global and local scale.
I’ve also noticed a growing trend of content marketing coming into play, with content such as infographics, video content, white papers and case studies becoming more popular in their use. News is no longer just focused on a press release and some images, a rich variety of content can enhance how we tell our story and we just have to be clever in how we present it.
Everyone else will have similar experiences to mine, but for those of you who’ve been in the industry for longer than me, there will have been an even bigger shift in how PR works.
The invention and application of the internet has made virtually all processes much easier for both PRs and journalists alike. Gone are the days when typewriters, fax machines and photocopiers were the norm, now we’re googling and working in the cloud.
The media landscape has also changed rapidly. Once upon a time you’d have never dreamed of placing your news anywhere other than in print, now online is part and parcel of our practise. The rise of digital media has changed how we approach getting our news out there.
At Firefly, we’re keen to know what everybody else thinks. PR has changed tremendously over the years and as a result, it’s virtually unrecognisable from how things were 25 years ago.
The past, present and future of PR is a topic that is regularly discussed and one of great interest to everyone in the industry. We’ve put together a survey, to get your opinions on how much you think the PR industry has changed, what things you don’t miss doing, what things you think you’ll stop doing and hot new PR trends that are due to explode in popularity in the near future.
Please click here to fill out the survey. We’d greatly appreciate your input and there are 5 x £20 Amazon vouchers up for grabs.
This post was written by Tom. Contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter.
This weekend, I received an email from Trendwatching, the monthly trends newsletter (you can sign up here).
The November topic itself interested me; it being about “Presumers” – a term for the consumers who want to engage with products and services pre-launch. Passionately supporting, pushing, promoting and sometimes even funding brands, these are the people giving love to the products and services before the mainstream launch, or even before they’re fully conceived.
The piece itself is well worth a read. I enjoyed thinking about how much the concept of “early adopters” (as brands used to talk about, and try to reach) has moved on; for an age where brands have so much more of a direct voice with a wider consumer audience. And it struck me that really, Presumers are the natural result of more consumer opportunity to converse direct with brands. You will inevitably get the “pick me please!” consumers, who want more direct engagement with their chosen products and services.
But what really got me thinking was how Trendwatching so efficiently delivered their monthly trend to me – and how much alignment there was with a well-delivered news story.
It used to be really important for public relations agencies to help brands to create compelling “stories” for their communications campaigns; it was the key to getting your clients media coverage. Identifying and telling the right stories is still hugely important in PR of course, but in this media-rich universe, it’s also about working it as hard as possible, to really get the stories out there…
More than ever, anyone delivering a story has to think about optimum timing. It should no longer be for brands, just about issuing a story/news for the next day’s papers, or being aware of the editorial deadlines of the weekly trade publications. It is now as much a case of utilising a social media and online strategy to drive that story to the national/print press agenda, as it is co-ordinating an offline strategy with a faster-moving online strategy.
It is also about making the information really easily shared. Going back to the Trendwatching monthly trend. Trendwatching put together a PowerPoint presentation (that mainstay of the media and marketing worlds) and shared it on Slideshare. It created a 1-minute infographic, for those who wanted it bite-size and/or visual. When I checked Twitter, of course the “Presumers” piece had been tweeted. When I checked Linked In, the piece had of course been shared there. All at the same time as the email newsletter had hit inboxes. Very slick.
So Trendwatching’s content distribution got me thinking; and reminded me about what the best PR campaigns do… Yes, PR is about creating news around your client’s product and service. And making that as relevant and newsworthy as possible to the right audience, is as huge part of our job. But increasingly, so too is distributing the news in the right way. Taking the newsworthy content we create and making it as accessible as possible, via the most appropriate routes.
That’s what creates cut-through in this cluttered space, and that’s what gets PR bang for your buck.
As we begin to scribble appointments in the 2012 diary, how do you feel about the year ahead? None of this hovering over a crystal ball nonsense (what is Mystic Meg up to these days?), we’ve listened to our clients and monitored recent developments to come up with what we think will be the trends to watch out for in 2012. Based on these predictions, 2012 will turn out to be a triumphant year for sharing, authenticity, the “everyman/woman” and more. Let’s take a look:
1. Pitch restraint: agencies and consultancies will take greater care when pitching their services; post-Bell Pottinger, they are more likely to think twice before making any sweeping, hyperbolic statements (dark arts, anyone?).
2. Hyper-personal PR: visibility into things like online sentiment is improving with the availability of more sophisticated analysis tools. PR will use this insight to deliver more targeted, one-to-one content to individuals. Alternatively, smart, quick opportunism – especially on Twitter – will increase.
3. What’s mine is yours: the future is bright for curation platforms like Pinterest, Evernote or bo.lt, which allow you to collect, edit and share information and data. We see this relatively new phenomenon becoming a key, digital tool for brands and individuals wanting to share, share, share.
4. Reviewing the reviewers: consumers are wisely watching where every penny is spent and scouring third-party reviews is the norm. In 2012, the key will be authenticity: consumers will no longer put up with blatantly paid-for endorsement, and will even question hyper-negative reviews that smack of rant versus reality. It places a greater burden on the individual consumer, but is also a huge opportunity for technology to harness opinions in new and more transparent ways.
5. Digital couch potatoes, unite! With YouTube set to launch scheduled programming and the debut of Google TV, increasingly, TV fans will engage with brands via telly-on-demand. This is already happening to a degree (see BBC i-Player, 4 On-Demand); the key difference being that it will integrate intelligent search and product placement – giving brands the power to target you with more relevant offers and the ability to buy at the click of a button through your TV screen.
6. Happy campaigning: Times are tough. Morale-boosting campaigns, in which the general public play a central role, will reach fever pitch in 2012. Also – prompted by the popularity of flashmobs, campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty, and irreverent responses to viral sensations like Awkward Family Photos.com – companies will increasingly encourage real people to use their communications assets as a platform for positive self-expression.
7. Olympics fatigue? The event will offer rich content ideas and pitches for PRs and clients, with every aspect offering up timely and competitive opportunities for businesses. The trick will be in keeping it original and creative!
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