Monthly Archives: March 2018

A Public Relations View on the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Scandal

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About the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal:

In late 2015, Facebook learned about a data breach involving Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis and strategic communications company. A university professor created an app on Facebook that asked users who downloaded it a series of questions. Unbeknownst to users, once signed up, the app accessed their list of friends and other parts of their profiles including email, birthday, education, and photos. This app would end up compiling data on over 50 million Facebook users. Eventually, Cambridge Analytica came upon the results from the app’s survey. What happens next with the data is still speculation, but the end result was not good for the social media network.

After Facebook was notified about this, it requested that both the third-party app and Cambridge Analytica must delete the data – which they later learned was never deleted. The incident sparked national news last week when The New York Times and The Guardian published articles that raised controversy about the now infamous data analysis firm, Cambridge Analytica, claiming that the data was possibly used to influence the 2016 United States presidential election.

From a PR point of view:

Politics aside, the Cambridge Analytica data breach has put the social media giant under public scrutiny. This situation brings up ethical and procedural questions for the PR industry such as:

Should message accuracy be valued over timeliness?

What is an appropriate timeline for crisis response?

What can PR pros learn from this?

Regardless of company size or status, the news cycle waits for no one. It is generally best practice to get ahead of a news story by preparing a crisis communications response before an actual crisis occurs. Public relations professionals should be well prepared with a variety of responses ready to go in case of a crisis. Adequate preparation ensures timeliness, transparency and accuracy in reactive and proactive messaging.

It is our inherent job to create messaging for our clients. We have a responsibility to be proactive, transparent and timely. We can learn from the backlash Facebook has received regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal and adapt our execution to match the rapid pace of the media and the ever-changing news cycle.

Dee Gibbs | Global CEO

The power of partnership

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When I started Liberty Communications 20 years ago, I had just finished a 15-year in-house career working with some global technology corporations. I’d never worked in an agency before, nor had been a part of running one, but instinctively I knew what I wanted from Liberty for our clients and, more importantly, what I didn’t want. The concept of a partnership approach was something we laid down as a core pillar from the outset. Liberty is built on the idea that entering into any kind of business relationship relies on the same components of any relationship: trust, open-mindedness, truth, honesty, integrity and so on. These core life tenants are what make personal relationships work – and in business, it’s exactly the same. So Liberty was built on the foundation and belief that our support for clients would always be true and that we would deliver what we promised and offer impartial but professional advice.

At Liberty, we’ve always worked with our clients to better understand their business and their pain points as well as their successes and strengths. We’ve always believed we are an extension of our clients’ internal teams and the ultimate goal is to work together – in partnership – to achieve great things. Over the years however, we have also experienced client relationships that have, sadly, broken down due to a poor partnership sparked by mistrust or disrespect of what we do. As such, these relationships very rarely work well and in our experience, we’ve found it best to part ways and move on, just like any bad relationship in life.

In the same way that we’ve built some very successful partnerships with clients over the years, we’ve also built strong and in many cases personal relationships with the industry’s influencers. These are the press, industry analysts, the VC community and investors and more who can ultimately bridge our clients’ messages to the wider industry and evangelise on a business’s behalf. Despite what some clients may believe, not every introduction with an influencer will deliver a result, but if that first press briefing doesn’t yield coverage, the good news is that the relationship has begun paving the way to success in the future when your business message coincides with the media’s editorial agenda.

Liberty has been successful with this approach of mutual respect and collaboration. We are absolutely thrilled to be entering our next chapter with some breakthrough, innovative technology brands who believe in us as we believe in them. Like any great partnership, we’ll enjoy each other’s successes. It’s always good to remember that business is about working with like-minded people and we’ll always want to work with brands that appreciate our ethos as we respect theirs. In the end, it’s a 50/50 decision to work together and sometimes it’s liberating to recognise a bad partner and choose not to work with everyone who seeks us out. That might sound rash, but in the long term, it’s the right thing to do.

Here’s to the next 20 years! Viva Liberty!

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the ubiquitous USB flash drive

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Many of those who are old enough to remember the floppy disk will recall how revolutionary it was back in its day. But of course things change, and with a memory capacity of approximately 1.44 MB, the floppy disk eventually became obsolete in the fast moving and ever changing world of technology. Unlike its predecessor however, the USB 1.1 flash drive has become an omnipresent staple of office life around the world over the last 20 years.

Released in the summer of 1998, the USB flash drive was a revolutionary replacement for CDs and floppy disks. Small, portable, practical and with a large data storing capacity, the USB drive has many winning qualities.

Before the inception of the USB drive, one would have to carefully transfer a small file on to a floppy disk or a blank CD, find a safe and secure medium to carry and transport the device in, which usually was a carry case, and then finally transfer the data onto another computer – hoping it would work!

The USB drive is able to complete this at a much faster and efficient rate; and transportation is as simple as a handbag or a trouser pocket. Over the years, the memory storage capacity of the USB has gradually increased and now it’s able to carry data of up to 1TB in size, sometimes even more.

As with all technological innovations though, scrutiny will of course be placed on security. Due to its size and weight it is not that difficult to lose possession of, which could (and has in well publicised examples over the years) result in the loss of sensitive data. However, although not every USB drive contains built-in security protection, there are ample amounts of USB 1.1 drives that possess secure and encrypted security features.

Its importance may often be overlooked or simply underrated, but the USB is one of those devices that really has made a huge impact in terms of the way we share and transfer data. Here’s to another 20 years!

Revolving and Evolving

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One of the things we love best at Liberty, is being part of a wider team of fresh thinkers. We’ve employed a unique mix of talent to bring a 360 degree view to everything we do. This approach brings creativity and insight to campaigns and keeps everything we do relevant and current.

The people who share our mantra extend to industry leading personalities who make up Liberty’s senior team. We’ve assembled an amazing and talented group of advisors to join what we call our ‘revolving Board’. Based on the principle that diversity delivers better outcomes, our Board members have been hand-picked to bring their specific skill set to benefit the agency as a whole.

When we decided on a Board, we didn’t want to restrict ourselves to a static group – so we asked best-in-breed communications specialists to help make up a Board that is flexible, ever-evolving, different and above all, fluid and modern. This idea gives us a very unique approach to running our agency and keeps us all on our toes, striving for better.

Our Liberty journey is just beginning, even after 20 years in technology PR. We absolutely believe in doing things differently, in shaking up the status quo. Over the years we’ve won awards for this approach and for being a destination workplace – we’re proud of being an agency people want to work at.

But we’re just getting started on a whole new set of agency initiatives created to re-design and reinvent us once more. Our blueprint is a revolving plan and is set to keep Liberty and its 20/20 vision on track of the next 20 years. Sometimes older just means better!

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – The Evolution of Social Media

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Social media has become an integral part of modern society mostly driven by the apps on your smartphone like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Today, social media allows us to instantly connect with people and share content in real-time – can we even remember life before it? Apparently, there were other social platforms before Facebook and Snapchat that prove how far we’ve come over the last 20 years.

Let’s take a quick ride down memory lane to witness the evolution of social media.

1997: Six Degrees

Six Degrees launched in 1997 and was the first modern social network. The platform allowed users to create a profile and become friends with other users. At its peak, the site had around a million members and was later purchased in 2000 for $125 million before it eventually shut down in 2001.

2002: Friendster

Friendster, founded in 2002, was once deemed the hottest social networking tool. Even Google wanted to buy it for $30 million back in 2003. Burdened by technical glitches and Facebook, the tool was pretty much obsolete in the U.S. by 2006. The platform finally met its fate in 2009 when a site redesign crushed it.

2003: LinkedIn

Also founded in 2003, LinkedIn took a career-focused approach to social networking. The platform was devoted to business ‒ made for people to connect with other professionals, hence LinkedIn’s contacts are referred to as “connections”. Today, LinkedIn boasts more than 467 million members and was acquired by Microsoft in December 2016.

2003: Myspace

Founded in 2003, MySpace was the poster child for early social media success. By 2006, its user base had grown to make it the most popular social network in the world at that time. MySpace differentiated itself from competitors by allowing users to completely customize the look of their profiles. Myspace was notoriously known for its ‘top 8’, which allowed users to feature their top 8 friends on their profile page. Although the top 8 is now a mere memory, we’ll always remember Tom for being our first social media friend.

2004: Facebook

Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only exercise and opened to the general public in 2006. By 2009, Silicon Valley leaders invested tens of millions of dollars to see the platform flourish. Facebook now has 2.2 billion monthly active users and the rest is social media history.

2006: Twitter

Twitter was born in 2006 and has since developed a loyal user base of celebrities, politicians, athletes, journalists, etc. In 2008, Twitter denied Facebook’s attempt to buy the platform for $500 million. The platform is now home to 330 million monthly active users.

2010: Instagram

Instagram was released in 2010 as a photo sharing app. By 2012, Instagram was bought by Facebook for $1 billion. Today, Instagram has over 800 million users and remains the go-to photo app for iPhone and Android. 

2011: Snapchat

Snapchat launched in 2011 as a message and photo sharing app popular amongst tweens, teens and young adults. Just one year after its launch, Mark Zuckerberg reportedly tried to buy the app for $3 billion, which Snapchat denied. Snapchat now has 150 million daily active users globally, and Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, went public in March 2017.

 

What will come next? Only time will tell. While you’re here, make sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – PR in Real-Time

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There is one universal truth in PR; the role of the public relations professional is always evolving and PR is now squarely in the era of real-time.

There was once a time where morning print editions and 6 o’clock news programs dominated the news cycles. Today, journalists must tame the 24-hour news cycle beast. The move to the round-the-clock news has forever changed our job description, from mainly media relations to proactive public image management, hijacking news and utilizing social media for crisis communications.

Not long-ago PR professionals cold-called reporters to pitch them stories (and some still do). However, just like the well-known “March to Progress” scientific illustration, public relations professionals now pitch reporters through email, secure messaging platforms and in some cases – sliding into a reporter’s Twitter DM’s.

Social media platforms, namely Twitter, have become an integral part of public relations professionals daily job. When Twitter began, users were not taking advantage of the instantaneous communications that the platform provided. The movie Easy A did a great job of capturing the way the public understood the platform in 2010. A character in the movie states:

“I don’t know what your generation’s fascination is with documenting your every thought… but I can assure you, they’re not all diamonds. “Roman is having an OK day and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof.” Who gives a rat’s ass?”

Today, it’s the ongoing documentation of online thoughts that exaggerate the need for PR professionals. These platforms have made our job simultaneously easier and more difficult. For influencers like Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, Twitter acts as a PR megaphone broadcasting out their news in 280 characters or less. Likewise, the Googles of the world can tweet out a media alert, and forgo issuing a press release altogether. However, for the vast majority of companies that tweet out or create videos about their story on a daily basis, it is our job to make sure that we help them do it in the most strategic way possible.

Now more than ever, technology has taught us to be cautious in the ways we do our jobs as PR pros. The world is now real-time, it is our job to evolve with it and utilize the skills we have learned to be timely, efficient and transparent.

Celebrating 20 years of technology: Making commuting tolerable since 2007

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The London Underground is fast, reliable (mostly), and gives us a bit of time to detach from the rest of the world for a moment or two, whether that be through listening to music, sleeping, or reading a book.

But have you ever tried turning the pages of a book whilst pressed up against other commuters who are, probably like you, trying their best to avoid eye contact?

It wasn’t until 2007 when Amazon released the first Kindle that these travel woes could be cast aside. Since then, Amazon has kept us turning their e-pages with over 10 different iterations of the original model, and we can now access a vast database on the go, with over 20,000 books available.

Despite the first e-reader being introduced in 1998 with the Rocket Ebook, e-readers weren’t fully adopted into our cultural psyche until the Kindle, which uses electronic paper technology to mimic paper ink on its display screens.

While it’s true that there have been concerns that the Kindle would see people begin to choose ‘pixels’ over ‘paper’; rather than wiping out the printed press, e-readers and traditional paper books have instead ‘kindled’ together ten years on. People seem to use both in equal measure, depending on where they are and what they’re doing.

This is most likely because of the balance between the sheer portability of the Kindle and the ‘homey’ sentimentality one gets with a physical book. For people who are on the move a lot of the time, the Kindle lends itself useful in countless scenarios where you’re out and about.

It’s also helping to change our general perceptions of the environment. Kindle brought paperless technology to the mainstream foray, and in the last ten years there’s been a flurry of organisations going paperless, both to become more environmentally-friendly and more cost-effective as a business. But perhaps as importantly, the Kindle has made tube rides just that little bit more bearable!

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – ATM: It’s got nothing to do with cash machines!

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According to Wikipedia, Asynchronous Transfer Mode – or ATM – for short is defined as a telecoms industry switching technology for the transfer of voice, data and video in the network. You can read all about it here.

When Liberty Communications was born in 1998 this technology was still in its early years and was being touted as the new kid on the block to replace traditional methods of passing content through the telecom network. ATM offered service providers the opportunity to quickly, efficiently and cost effectively transport information and deliver ground-breaking applications.

In those days, these applications were things that today we take for granted such as remote medical diagnosis/procedures and long distance learning. This fixed cells-based networking protocol became the darling of all the major telecom operators who adopted it as their backbone choice of the day. ATM also enabled operators to manage precious bandwidth and deliver higher transport speeds.

You would recognise many of the major telecom suppliers who sold ATM equipment; they were then household names like Nortel, GDC, Bay Networks, Fore Systems and more. Cisco were in the mix of course and they focused on delivering solutions for the enterprise. As with most technologies, it wouldn’t be complete without an industry standards body whose work included forging the technical standards and promoting the assets and uses of the technology beyond the lab.

In this case, it was the aptly-named ATM Forum whose Board consisted of representatives from the great and the good of the networking industry. The ATM Forum was formed as an international non-profit organisation to encourage the use of ATM via interoperability specifications and also to promote awareness. It was founded in 1991 and ultimately became a Liberty client – in fact, one of our very first clients and really helped to put us on the map with the technology media.

Back in 1998, Liberty’s client roster included a plethora of ‘technology inside’ offerings. The agency’s ability to grasp complex technology topics and create meaningful messaging has always stood us out from the crowd. Our early client portfolio paved the way for so many of the technology developments of today – we represented start-ups and innovators, new ideas and bleeding edge technology but back then, it was Asynchronous Transfer Mode that floated our boat – it was an incredibly important development and paved the way for all manner of solutions aimed at solving the bandwidth problem.

It was exciting to be a part of its journey at a time when the network desperately needed it. And today? Well, we’re still excited to be at the forefront of technological innovation whether it’s robotics or augmented reality, that’s where we’re at our best!

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – Play On!

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Another day, another blog! As we inch closer to Liberty’s 20th anniversary, join in celebrating one of my favorite tech hobbies – gaming.

I owe my love for technology to gaming. Instead of sticking to what was the “norm,” gaming offered me and many other fans a world that provided thought provoking questions and objectives. And other times, it just had you smash boxes or asked you to catch ’em all.

In 1998, as Liberty opened its doors, gamers around the world were playing classic consoles; the record smashing Sony Playstation or the Nintendo Game Boy / Game Boy Color. These consoles were revolutionary for the companies who created them; the Playstation was the first home console by Sony and the Game Boy the first portable console by Nintendo. Each console went on to sell millions and had an influential impact on the industry driving Sony to eventually make the Playstation one of its three main priorities and Nintendo to fight its way out of near bankruptcy.

Fast forward to 2018, and as Liberty has continued to be ahead of technology and PR needs for our clients, console makers Sony and Nintendo (as well as Microsoft who joined the video game business with their “Xbox”), have introduced concepts that dictate where their industry is heading.

Nintendo’s Wii, for instance, was the first to introduce a motion sensing controller. This idea of using the motion controls in the world to change something in the game would be replicated by competitors in the space (as well as by smartphone makers). It would also revolutionize the gaming industry forever and have a dramatic impact on consumer tech. The Wii, for instance, went on to become one of the best selling consoles ever.

 

Though not a novel idea at the time, Sony created its own iteration of VR taking gamers from the couch to the virtual reality world, not unlike the Oculus and HTC Vive.

The gaming industry and our agency share something in common; we’re constantly evolving and striving to be ahead of the tech curve. Now if you don’t mind, I have a high score to beat.

BONUS: Sony Playstation may be known for offering great games and experiences, but some of its consoles’ advertisements have been downright creepy. How creepy? Click the picture below.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – how streaming galvanized the music industry

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As we continue our blog series celebrating the transformative technology innovations of the last 20 years, we wanted to showcase the disruptive technology that has permeated the music industry – streaming.

Even as I write this I’m conscious of the fact that the music surrounding me is being streamed through an app on my smart phone, which is wirelessly connected via Bluetooth to a speaker a few feet away. But go back 20, 30, or 40 years and beyond and the picture was vastly different.

Throughout its evolution, music has had a vast array of physical incarnations, from the phonograph in 1877 to the iconic vinyl long-play records of the mid-20th century and latterly compact discs. Directly following the likes of Napster and its popular music sharing platform, it was in the early 2000s that a number of music startups began to emerge that would drastically change things.

United by a common vision and fuelled by the advent of the internet, these forerunners wanted to leverage the potential of modern technology to galvanize the music industry. From giving artists more control of distributing their content to improving the music listening experience for consumers.

Two of the earliest pioneers of this included Last.fm, which launched in 2002 and deemed itself ‘the social music revolution,’ preceding many others in its use of algorithms that analysed user data to intelligently recommend new music to its users. Then there was Pandora, launching three years later, which became the forerunner of the ‘freemium model,’ a platform that offered users unlimited free streaming with intermittent adverts.

Fast-forward another decade or so and Spotify, a Swedish-based media streaming service launched in October 2008, is leading the musical revolution. With a global subscriber base of 70 million, a user base of 140 million, and a 320kbps stream rate, Spotify is outstripping market competitors including Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited.

With music platforms such as these offering slick, fast and intuitive streaming technology, music is more accessible than it has ever been. In 2017, the BPI, reported the sharpest incline in music consumption since the 1990s in the UK, with music streaming accounting for over half of the total music consumption.

Though, with every revolution comes a rebellion. Whilst the masses continue to opt for the convenience of music streaming platforms, there remain a staunch few that will continue to cling to the reminiscence of a record, or perhaps one day, a CD.

Whatever its evolution or tangible form, music will always be a cherished art form. But with today’s burgeoning consumer demand, there has never been a better time to embrace the potential of modern music technology.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – Attenborough on demand

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Has there been a greater presence to grace our television screens in the last few decades than Sir David Attenborough? Has any other TV personality managed to outshine the great naturalist, broadcaster, and narrator extraordinaire?

After a straw poll of the Liberty office, we can confirm that the answer is definitively no.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed nature shows. Giraffes in the Sahara? Sure. Penguins in Antarctica? Yes please. Kakapos in New Zealand? Absolutely.

With that in mind, you can imagine how much time I spend watching the likes of Blue Planet II and The Hunt on mobile, on mac, but most importantly – on demand. It’s hard to imagine from inside our gig economy, instant gratification-giving universe – but apparently this wasn’t always the case.

When the BBC announced its new iPlayer platform in 2007, tentatively introducing a brave new world of on-demand shows to an unsuspecting public, many of my friends were initially underwhelmed or uninterested. “You watched Planet Earth on the i-what?” seemed to be a common response.

It certainly took a while for the full enormity of the BBC’s new service to hit me – but once it did – there was no going back. I, like everyone else, was introduced to a new universe of content, with all the shows that I couldn’t quite make time for now at my fingertips. iPlayer offered a new way to watch TV, taking a page from the YouTube playbook to put the viewer front and centre. Each person now had their own personal BBC, customised exactly to their liking.

And of course, Sir David Attenborough’s shows were there for viewing, reviewing and re-reviewing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the original series of Life, a feat (if you could call it that) that would never be possible without our friends at the BBC.

At this point, the only thing left for me to say is that BBC iPlayer turns eleven at midnight on July 31st 2018. I’ll be giving heartfelt thanks and raising a glass – and I hope you’ll all be joining me.

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day Four and it’s a connected 5G wrap

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MWC has seen some fantastic buzz this year, and the Liberty team have definitely been enjoying it from the show floor. There has been lots of discussion of 5G that we won’t recap, but safe to say it has been an exciting show for everyone.

On this final day of MWC until next year, Stephen Stokols, Founder and CEO of FreedomPop, argued in a panel session that if your technology is good enough then you shouldn’t need customer services. FreedomPop is known for its Freemium model, offering a baseline free mobile service that comes with optional premium additions to generate revenue for the company.

This is quite an interesting notion, and one that has been echoed across MWC – tech is replacing human interaction, not because it’s better for companies, but because consumers want it. For example, in Hall 8 there were Pepper Robots that people could interact with. In a world led by technology, the question many are asking now is do we prefer do-it-yourself and automated self-service platforms to talking to real customer service representatives?

The final day of MWC 2018 also saw what has become an annual Women in Tech Event, featuring inspirational speakers such as Emma McGuigan from Accenture, Berit Svendsen from Telenor Norway, and Julia Woods-Moss from Tata Communications. These speakers joined the stage for the final keynote on what was a thought provoking series of panel discussions covering diverse issues including how to build pipelines, evaluate best practice, and work to close the gender gap through role models, internships, and many more programmes.

One key question posed was that since we are now seeing the global participation of women in politics increase, can we expect a similar shift in tech soon as younger women joining politics and the workforce now get more aspirational figures to emulate in their own lives?

The final day also included the GSMA’s own announcement about the show. We now know that more than 107,000 visitors from 205 countries and territories attended Mobile World Congress 2018. With over 55% of this year’s attendees holding senior-level positions, including more than 7,700 CEOs, that’s a lot of suits! The Women-in-Tech speakers may be right, as 28% of all speakers in the conference programme were female, up from 21% in 2017.

And there we have it, another exciting MWC. Thanks to all our clients who were with us at the show – it was great to see and support you all. Thanks also to all the media and analysts who came to meet our clients and discuss the latest developments in their respective industries. It was great to meet so many new faces and learn about new technologies, and we are already looking forward to MWC 2019!