This is a post from the Firefly archives – timeless advice, as relevant today as it was in 2015! 

Memes, public Instagram images, and screenshots of funny things that’ve made it into the media via Facebook are just a few examples of the popular content we see constantly in today’s digital world.

They’re increasingly popular across the internet for both commercial and non-commercial reasons, and with the ease of consumption and sharing, it’s no surprise the lines are a little blurred between what constitutes copyright infringement or image plagiarism.

Avoiding hot water

PRs and journalists are not immune to this – we use and re-use a vast amount on content on a daily basis. For example. someone’s hashtagged a nice picture with your client’s brand on it? Seen a funny picture in a forum that would make a viral-worthy news piece? Great! But before you use these for your own advantage, consider these tips to avoid image plagiarism:

1. Make sure it is credible

Is the person who posted this image the first person to post it? Try your best to ensure that it’s original content. Likewise, if the content is associated with a news event, it’s vital you’re publishing true information and won’t have to retract items later.

2. Get consent

Always get in contact with the person who posted the image and ask their permission to use it. You can tweet them, direct message, comment – it all depends on the platform, but make sure you get consent. If the picture is on sites such as Flickr, you might also need to consider Creative Commons attribution. Don’t forget, if you’re using the image for a client or employer, it’s being used commercially, rather than for personal use.

3. Attribute the author

Again, this will depend on any applicable Creative Commons licences, but if you’re using someone else’s image it’s generally good practice to attribute their name. Better yet, tag the social media account it was sourced from or embed the image directly from the source.

4. Do it yourself

If possible, why not try and take a picture yourself? In a lot of cases, this might be just as easy and save the wait-time for user consent. You need is your smartphone and a few filters or an editing app, and you’ve got a picture!

5. Or keep it clean

While user-generated images can make excellent and authentic social fodder, any media buffs concerned about getting into trouble can always stick to stock images. They aren’t always as engaging (and they can cost you money), but you’ll know you’re not breaking the law. When you’re using free stock images, please do note that it’s still polite to reference the creator! For ideas, check out Unsplash, Pexels and PxHere.

That said, it’s always worth looking at the terms and conditions before you use them. For example, you can’t usually use a stock photo as part of a logo or trademark.

In practice, image plagiarism online is a bit of a legal grey area, it’s better to be safe than to lose a client contract or risk fines. Photo agencies have expensive lawyers and aren’t afraid to use them.

Learning more…

Getty Images has teamed up with the BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies) and PACA (Picture Archive Council of America) to set up, a useful guide to using stock photography and understanding image rights. There is a helpful FAQ, which is well worth bookmarking.

(Photo credit: Bonnie Kittle, Unsplash)

Every now and then something floors me. Quite a few years ago now, ‘DIG’ was a one-word email reply from a client. And yes, it was in capital letters too for added emphasis.

Could it have meant appreciation? Could it have meant ‘I like it a lot’? How dangerous to assume. What it meant was ‘I haven’t got time to help you, please work it out yourselves’.

I was reminded of this moment when a prospect recently talked about her frustrations with her ‘soon-to-be ex’ agency and what promoted the change. She just didn’t have the time to explain something twice, and nor should she have to. She didn’t expect to train up new team members. But she did expect her agency to work out problems, and only go to her if they hit a dead end.

Reasonable, right?

So, what happened and why the lack of resourcefulness? It’s worth a quick look at the flip side.

There’s a narrow path between being too dependent and being too independent. The former is needy, the latter an unguided missile.  But the middle ground between working unchecked, unguided and not needing so much handholding is where agencies must strike the right balance.

Whether you’re reading this in-house side or agency-side, there are measures you can put in place to make sure you’re ‘digging’ right:

And even with all this in place, your agency must have the DIG mindset. Without it, it’s like giving them the shovel, pointing them in the right direction but useless if they don’t get on with it.

Is your team often asking themselves…Is there another way to get what I need? Who else could help me with this? Can I recall anything similar that might also help me? What is one more thing I can try before I ask for help?

Plus, when you do dig you never know what you can find. A curious and open-minded agency may find you some PR gold even though their initial intention was to problem-solve.

But please, be the right kind of gold digger!

What are the most annoying elements of social media? Trolling, definitely. Boast posts, absolutely. How about when you see a post – perhaps a video or a recipe – that you want to look at again later, but then you can’t find it again when you want or need it? Infuriating!

A new app has been released that lets you save content from all major social channels in one place, to look at again whenever you want. Videos, GIFs, memes, music files, notes – you can collate them all on Figgle. It’s like a digital pinboard for your favourite content – so no more trawling through your social feeds searching for that content you wanted to forward to colleagues or friends.

The app is available on all iPhones free of charge – check it out here.

According to a new LinkedIn study, two-thirds of B2B marketers regard video as a priority format. The vast majority of respondents are already generating more leads, and of a higher quality, thanks to existing B2B videos.

However, generating new video content is seen as an expensive and time intensive task. But, where explainer videos are concerned, it doesn’t have to be, thanks to Moovly’s easy-to-use, online ‘make your own explainer video’ tool.

The process is simple. First, you pick a video template or opt to start from scratch. Then, choose from a huge range of free images, video clips and audio, easily dragging and dropping each into your video. Finally, once complete, simply export and share your video.

The length and complexity of your video will decide how long the process takes, but we’ve found a good product video will take only a few hours – not bad compared with the usual time shooting and editing a video takes!

Once exported, you can use your video on social media, on your website, in e-newsletters, in new business pitches, for recruitment, and in any other way you see fit.

Check out Moovly here and start creating great explainer videos today.

A few years ago, I went to Glastonbury Festival and quite enjoyed almost a full week without using my smartphone. Now I’m quite cynical about the concept of digital detoxes (or indeed, any kind of detox) but that’s not true for everyone. And sometimes – looking at you, Brexit – we can hear too much about a topic, particularly on Twitter.

For this problem, there’s now Supermute. Install this plugin, define your time period and your term and then any mentions of said term will be muted for up to a week. Voila – you can live Brexit free (at least on twitter) for a week or more.

Now, if only someone would create one of these for the broader internet – or my annoying neighbours!

Building chatbots is all the rage, but if you don’t have the time to learn code, there’s now a bot that will develop your bot for you! Check out BotBot if this takes your fancy: Simply select your template from answer bot, food bot, fitness bot, delivery tracking bot or shopping bot, and the bot will integrate with other common services, such as fitness class booking systems or food delivery services and automate the process.

At the moment, there are only five templates, but we’re certain that more will be added before too long. And of course, it can’t be long before there’s another service that creates bot-creating services like this on demand so that you can offer even more complex and recursive services…

Eureka! Finally, you have thought up the perfect new creative campaign for your client. As PRs, we are naturally creative but that does not always mean that the first idea we come up with is necessarily the best.

It takes time to conjure up an amazing idea, and of course those brilliant moments of inspiration can happen at the most random and inconvenient times – often when you aren’t able to share them with your colleagues. This is where comes in, hoping to make sure that no great ideas are missed and to help transform thoughts into an actionable project.

Sure, you had a really productive brainstorm, but that doesn’t mean that the idea generation will or should stop there. If a brainwave strikes later on, lets you record it. Even your most abstract ideas can be captured and logged in whatever form works best for you – words, links or images.

Once you have noted those first few ideas, aims to then help organically develop your project, creating logical next steps to build up your campaign from inspiration to execution. Throughout this process, you can also share all your thoughts with colleagues and create internal discussions to further fuel and spark your creativity – meaning that anyone can contribute and you don’t have to wait to get everyone together in one room. Comprehensive tracking also makes sure that you are always on top of each project to ensure that nothing gets lost when running parallel campaigns and all ideas make it to completion.

If your creativity is running a little dry and you are struggling to see the bigger picture, also has the option to use ready-made templates which include best practices, resources and basic thoughts, so that you can just concentrate on adding in the little details.

If you want to make sure you never miss that Eureka moment again, why not give a go.

Over the past three years, virtual reality (VR) has evolved from a lab experiment to a platform for the media and consumers to engage with. And as it grows, more news organisations, marketers and PRs want to get involved to explore its new storytelling possibilities. Due to the immersive nature of VR, brands can give people an incredibly powerful experience.

But is it too early for brands to invest in VR? Digital priorities are based on audiences’ needs, and with good quality headsets costing around £500, it is unlikely that many people will be able to engage with VR content. Yes, there is Google Cardboard but it’s hardly the same quality of experience. Similarly, due to technological restrictions, great VR content is limited.

So, should brands be using VR now – demonstrating innovative thinking? Or should they wait until the technology has evolved?

Bad content will kill VR

People’s early experiences of VR will make or break it. 3D TV died due to bad content and the lack of universal use, and it’s a good reminder for those investing in VR.

If brands want to jump into VR with two feet they need to invest in producing amazing VR content. Companies are now devoting more time into thinking about what works in VR and the challenges involved in VR storytelling and 360° content. The key is to create compelling VR content that gets people coming back for more. And that’s not necessarily the right format for all brands. Not yet, anyway.

Niko Chauls of USA Today said that “Nothing is going to be more effective in getting people to consume more than compelling content experiences in any content category, and nothing is going to be more effective in getting people to NOT pick up a VR headset than bad content.”

The evolution of our living rooms

One common misconception is that VR is the ‘next TV’. You cannot expect people to wear a headset in their living room and engage with your content every day. If you do start trialling VR content with your customers, you must consider their surroundings. Are they viewing this in their home? If so, should they be standing, sitting? Our living rooms weren’t designed for VR, our sofas are static and furniture is placed so we’re sat comfortably. VR needs us to move and look around.

At the moment, VR is a gimmick that needs to find its USP and provide a unique, worthwhile experience. Until then, it will be something that people use once or twice but then set aside. So, if you want to start experimenting with VR content you should first think about how people are already consuming it. It is unclear as to how many people are using their headsets and how frequently. Therefore, you need to know your demographic and try user experience testing to see if your customers will respond well and engage with your content. Furthermore, don’t create VR content because you want to jump on the VR bandwagon. Your content must be appropriate for VR and have a level of specificity that is unique to your brand and audience.

For example, a couple of years ago, outdoor retailer Merrell launched its advanced hiking shoe. To accompany the launch, the team created a VR experience at the Sundance festival. The experience involved users wearing an Oculus Rift headset while walking across bridges, holding physical ropes and touching a rock wall. The aim was to make people feel as though they were going on a hike. The Merrell team was able to look beyond the living room and create an environment for VR to be enjoyed in, resulting in a more immersive and exciting experience.

Headsets: Mind the gap

Of course, many brands will be tempted to reach the masses with VR, producing content for Google Cardboard and other lower-budget headsets. However, this content – and these headsets – face the very real possibility of being written off as a gimmick and discarded after several uses.  At this stage of VR’s evolution, it is perhaps best to focus on producing excellent content for one platform and engaging a smaller audience than trying to put all your eggs in one basket. This will help VR to ‘take root’ rather than simply providing mass-market, disposable material.

It’s a question of who not how…for now

What do you want from your VR content? Do you want to focus on quality, experience, or reach? For brands wanting to reach the masses, there’s no point in investing in VR. It’s too early. However, if you want to make an impact on a small group, a VR experience could be incredibly powerful.

For example, Marriot Hotels recently created the first-ever travel experience. Using the Oculus Rift, they sent guests to Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach in Maui and the top of Tower 42 in London. They create a real experience, considering the environment and the audience they want to reach, which gives people a glimpse of what it is like to be there in reality. If VR is going to be a long-term strategy for your company, then brands need to invest like Marriot Hotels.

Virtually educated

The truth is that VR is still at its early stages and hasn’t yet found its niche. Whilst the technology develops and consolidates, there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the public about VR and its uses. Brands have a responsibility to show consumers why VR content is worth engaging with.

It’s definitely still worth brands experimenting with VR, and there are low barriers to entry like using basic VR approaches such as 360 and Google Cardboard. But to bring to life the immersive, exciting storytelling experiences that come with VR, it is essential that tech companies, brands, news organisations and media agencies all work together to overcome the challenges that come with it.

Are you artistically inept? Can you barely draw a stick person? Well look no further, we have found the perfect platform for you – Autodraw.

Google’s Autodraw allows even the most artistically challenged to turn their drawings into beautiful pieces of art.

The drawing tool allows you to scribble some shapes on a blank canvas and, through machine learning, it will guess what you’re trying to draw by replacing your original drawing with a significantly better one. The platform uses drawings from talented artists to help you create anything you fancy and it provides some ‘best guesses’, allowing you to pick your favourite templated picture and pass it off as your own.

It works on desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets and it’s completely free.

So, go and draw some weird lines and shaky shapes and see how Autodraw can turn your basic drawings into a masterpiece.

Facebook Live has been brilliant for communicating with audiences globally, but recently people have been using Facebook Live as audio only, whilst having a still image to accompany their broadcast. Facebook has spotted this trend and has sought to develop a new platform for brands to reach their audience, Facebook Live Audio. The premise is the same as Facebook Live, one click, and you’re live on the internet.

Facebook hopes that brands will use Facebook Live Audio for book readings, interviews and of course talk radio, bringing low-bandwidth, real-time audio broadcast content to news feeds and Facebook pages.

Another thing Facebook hopes to see on this service is podcasts – with the idea being that podcasters use Facebook Live Audio as a new distribution platform for their episodes. This would be attractive for many, being a free streaming format and having huge audience potential.

For businesses, podcasting is a great way to show that you know what you’re talking about and help to win business, so whilst it has a consumer focus, the potential of Facebook Live Audio as a platform for the corporate world is high. The power of the human voice lets you get your personality and expertise across and assure listeners that you’re someone they can trust and do business with. By developing discussions and Facebook Live sessions about industry topics and then promoting these events via social media and emails, you can draw in an audience to listen to your spokespeople using a highly accessible social media platform.

Facebook Live Audio is something that you should definitely keep on your radar should you have plans for boosting your thought leadership PR programme this year, providing an alternative way of reaching out to your target audience.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

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