The story of how the fake design agency Madbird ensnared unsuspecting job seekers into its web has gone viral, leaving readers shocked at the façade that was created.

Can you blame these unsuspecting employees who trusted that the company they were working for was in fact legitimate? The evidence presented across all aspects of the company set-up was convincing. After all, we were in the thick of a global pandemic and relied heavily on technology (and still do). It’s become an important conduit of communication in our professional and personal lives.

I myself made the decision to accept a job offer in London and immigrate to the UK – based solely on communication and interaction through technology with a dash of blind faith. Job interviews over Zoom/MS teams have become the norm. Fortunately, I evaded becoming a casualty of jobfishing and joined an established, reputable, and dynamic European tech PR agency.   

Madbird was built lie upon lie and rotten to the core, using a technology-built façade as a blunt instrument to lure clients and employees. It created fake characters, fake imagery, fake campaigns and fake clients and it nearly succeeded. Is it possible the PR and comms industry might have fake imposters?

Let’s assume our industry is not immune to imposters – what steps can you take to flush out the fakes when looking to partner with a PR or communications agency?

Choosing a European tech PR agency


The first step is to establish if the agency in question is registered and has passed management consultancy standards by a notable industry body or association such as the PRCA.  The agency should be accredited and committed to the development of its own industry.

Word of mouth

Reach out to your network to see if they’ve heard of the agency or its founder and establish if they have a favourable reputation, not only in the communications industry but business circles too.

Don’t be blinded by the flash

Establish whether the PR agency you’re considering partnering with has a passion for and experience in effective communications. Any company can put together a flashy presentation that is hugely impressive, but is there substance? Will the team deliver on promises? Is the agency demonstrating a proactive and brave yet focused? Is it an agency that could align with your company’s strategic imperatives and would the team know how to translate that into a communications strategy?

Chemistry is key

Your PR agency should be an extension of your team and be able to integrate seamlessly into your company and team culture. Setting up a chemistry session (in person if possible) should quickly tell you if these are the type of people you would like to work with – do they have the right energy and could you see them building strong interpersonal relationships with you and your team? Remember to trust your gut.

Take up referrals and references

Review the case studies or work the agency has executed (and verify it if you can) and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals whether from clients or journalists.

As a communications agency whose core business is servicing technology-driven clients, Firefly has been fortunate to collaborate with many great companies, large and small, whose technology has made a strong case for impacting human lives, business and our planet positively.

Technology may be our passion and an enabler in business, but we spend as much time as we can listening mostly but talking to our clients, and talking amongst ourselves about different ways, better ways or faster way to achieve results and greater impact. Speak to the people proposed on your team, and interview them as you would any potential joiner to your business. You buy into an agency culture, but really you buy a team of people.

Well, well, well, we’re officially at the halfway point of 2021 (no, we can’t believe it either!). This year has certainly flown by and who would have thought a year ago that we would have almost the whole of the UK population vaccinated against coronavirus? An amazing achievement for the healthcare sector and everyone involved.

As always, it’s been a busy month in tech and as lockdown restrictions are continuing to ease, we’re also beginning to see a real picture of how the tech sector is planning to return to the office, if they are even returning at all! Here are the stories that we’ve been digesting this month.

There’s been a lot of hype about the electric scooter trial launch in London, which kicked off this month. Admittedly, I’ve given them a go already and can confirm they are pretty convenient for those quick trips to the shop to grab snacks. Probably not so great for shifting the lockdown pounds but it’s a super fun way to get around to say the least! There is concern that these e-scooters need tighter regulation, however, after research in Berlin found that injuries are most likely to occur at the weekend, when riders have been drinking – oops!

The return to the office (for real, this time) has been a hot topic this month, with research saying that the majority of London office workers are not planning to return to the office full-time and 86% of tech professionals want to work from home. The big tech companies are also announcing their plans for the return to the office (or not) with the likes of Facebook extending remote working to all staff, while Apple employees are pushing back on the company’s plans to return to the office after its CEO, Tim Cook, said all staff must return for three days a week from September. Whether a full return to the office is on the cards or not for companies, we’ve not seen the end of this debate quite yet.

More insight on the accelerated growth of the UK tech ecosystem now and it’s been revealed that our tech sector now has 100 companies valued at $1bn, which is more than the rest of Europe combined. It seems we’re quite the Unicorn hangout, and this also bodes well for the two-thirds of UK companies that plan to increase investments in tech and IT over the next year.

Onto AI now, and one of the most interesting pieces in the media around this huge topic from this month was Rory Cellan-Jones’ piece in BBC News. The tech journalist was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2019 and has been trying out different pieces of technology that can help with the disease. It is a fascinating read and really shows how far the parameters of tech can go.

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It’s been a month of twists and turns! The US has a new President, there has been a breakthrough in finding a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK economy has grown… It’s exciting but there’s still a way to go before getting to anywhere resembling normal. It has been a busy time for tech too, accelerating innovations and navigating new regulations. Here’s a roundup of this month’s top technology news stories.  

The pandemic has given a real kick to retailers as more tech gets rolled out in supermarkets. M&S has expanded its scan-and-pay technology to all stores; stores director Helen Milford told the BBC that “With the current restrictions in place, making shopping as easy and efficient as possible is really important to us and our customers.” Meanwhile, Ocado is automating more warehouse tasks that handle online orders.

Online shopping has truly soared but we’re being warned on the impact of our spending ahead of Black Friday. Emission levels are expected to boom. The advice to reduce our carbon footprint is to not expect – or demand – next day delivery.

Big tech also continues to face antitrust crackdowns around the world. Regulators in China are drawing up new rules to keep firms in check, whilst the EU has announced charges against Amazon – news via the FT. And to add to that, 165 organisations have clubbed together to push the EU to take a tougher line against Google. Read more on this in this Reuters article.

As we stay inside during these colder months ahead, there will be plenty to keep us busy in the run up to the festive season, particularly for gamers! The recently released Xbox Series X has already triggered record spike in internet traffic. Daily Mail has all the details. If you’re more of a PlayStation person, the PS5 has also just launched and promises ‘more horsepower and [will] run faster with better graphics’.

And if gaming is not your thing, TV and film streaming sites will have you covered. In fact, Netflix is testing linear style programming, specifically for those who can never pick a programme or film. It’s only in France at the moment but if successful, it may be rolled out elsewhere!

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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.

For a while now, Domino’s has been regarded as a pretty forward-looking tech company, but this is a particularly nice application of its tech. The brand has set up a number of pre-set rule integrations with IFTT (If This Then That) allowing users to set up rules for pizza ordering – so if it snows, rains, or you get a particularly good running time / cycling time on a pre-set route, IFTTT (or rather IFTTD) can automatically order a pre-set pizza, no ‘user intervention’ necessary.

So if like us, you love a good half and half, hold the tomato sauce, lay on the barbecue sauce and jalapenos, check it out:


defSo our approach to life is rational eh? We like to think so, but anyone who’s studied psychology will know it’s absolutely not the case. Why is this important for people in communications? We need to understand that people are less rational and more unpredictable than we believe. All businesses rely on selling something (product, service or an idea) to someone and behavioural economics bridges the gap between rational and emotional thinking as a proven science. Everyone likes to think they take a considered approach to decision making, but in fact they really don’t. And neither do they realise it.

I’m no brain scientist but here’s a quick 101 explaining why. There are two modes of decision making:

We like to think we’re using system 2 for all choices but in fact system 1 kicks in first, with system 2 adding the rational reason later. We’ve all joked about post-rational decision making. People need a rational excuse to justify their lust, their emotional decisions and desires. So why not make it simple and always include an easy option?

Emotions versus rationality in monetary decisions – what PR professionals need to know

As an industry, we need to remember the people we’re trying to reach are very likely to be swayed by various others things that we may have never thought of, overriding rationality. Knowing this, here’s a list of dos and don’ts to abide by as a communications professional:

DO work on priming an idea to ease the decision making. The king of priming is Derren Brown. Take this example where he proposes an unusual task to advertising executives. Two men have half an hour to come up with a company name, logo and an advert of a chain of stores following a seemingly loose brief from Derren. Watch the magic:

It’s this reason why at Firefly we advocate continued and consistent communication to your target audience(s). For example, with peak activity like the launch of a new product or service, we ensure good ‘surround sound’ building PR campaigns that include build up, the ‘boom’ bit and follow-up. People have short memories.

DO work on the context and don’t under estimate the mood people need to be in. We all know that a chilled glass of rosé tastes better when you’re sat on a terrace in the South of France, but people who drink wine while listening to music perceive the wine to have the same taste characteristics as the artist. Mood is a powerful determinant of actions – so deploy compliments judiciously to put your audience in a good mood at the start of a meeting, or at the start of an interaction. Put people at ease and in the right mood.

DON’T think more information helps us make better decisions. Eliciting emotions can make people feel differently about a topic, creating a mental shortcut for future behaviours. However, we also trust brands that have familiarity and continuity in our minds – we trust brands we know, we buy from brands we trust, and we forgive the brands for whom we are fans. Sometimes, all it takes is persistence to build that trust and belief!

DO think beyond income based demographics. You need to think of what emotion binds your audiences together as a group – but don’t over-simplify things. As David Ogilvy once said “The customer is not a moron, she is your wife” relating to the patronising adverts in the late 50s. This emotional binding is further complicated by the fact that people are often complex and contradictory because of System 1 and System 2 thinking.

At Firefly we use a ‘high definition’ approach to PR, during which we analyse the audience closely, looking beyond income, gender and age and what drives them and what motivates them to change their behaviour. We consider what will prompt the emotional and rational decisions.

So, before crafting your next PR programme or campaign, remember that people don’t always think as rationally as we’d believe. The emotional subconscious often plays a role in determining our thought process and we need to make sure we account for that when setting our next PR plan to ensure success.

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.

London Technology Week (16th – 21st June 2015) brings together the capital’s tech scene for a week comprising 250 events, covering topics such as gaming, big data, IT, wearables, education, music, sport, fashion, finance and science.
London Technology Week logo

It’s a busy week for the media, analysts, digital influencers – and the tech brands themselves – as each party looks to digest and report on breaking news, announcements, analysis and commentary.

Our client CenturyLink decided to get involved for the second year running staging an evening event, having a presence at Interop – including a hands-on developer session and keynote presentation – and holding an industry analyst event.

With a new managing director on board and top talent in the city from the company’s US HQ, it was a busy week for Firefly supporting these events and maximising the opportunity to talk to the media and amplify its marketing efforts through digital channels.

A lively panel debate on #hybridIT and the future of cloud hosted by @daveshac, here at #LDNTechWeek

— CenturyLink EMEA (@CenturyLinkEMEA) June 17, 2015

It’s the second year that London Technology Week has run and we can see it becoming more of a fixture still next year, as London cements its position as Europe’s ‘capital of technology’. We’ve noticed a significant uplift of PR around the fintech scene – which London is arguably a world leader – and our credentials as a city made for flourishing tech start ups.

If London Technology Week returns to be bigger and better in 2016, it will undoubtably become even more difficult for companies to be heard above the noise. However, we feel there’s an opportunity to build on the first two years and encourage more national and international media attention, which can only boost London’s reputation as a tech leader further still.



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.

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