All posts by Dee Gibbs

Technology re-creating the past

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As a child growing up in the 60’s in Britain, everything seemed new and fresh and exciting.  It seemed that the sun was always shining and that if you set your mind to it, you could do whatever you wanted to in a brave new, swinging 60’s scene.  It was exhilarating and creativity was everywhere – our school teachers seemed to be getting younger and hipper, the post-war blues had long gone and there was a real feeling of hope and openness all around.  In Britain consumerism had taken hold – we had the best music, best fashion and pop culture.  We had well paid jobs and money in our pockets.  The youth of the 60’s were really liberated and believed the world was their oyster.  On the other side of the pond, in the United States of America, a young inspiring political personality was making waves and challenging the status quo.  John F Kennedy, his wife Jackie and the entire Kennedy dynasty oozed with cachet and glamour.  They represented the times which were as Dillon sang it, “a-changing” – and for the better.  Of course, things were not quite as bright as I remember.  The backdrop to all this was the disastrous Vietnam war which claimed so many young lives and an ever vivid drug scene as the world, and particularly the young, experimented with LSD.

In many ways living in that decade and the one that followed shaped who I became.  We were allowed to be free; allowed to challenge the thinking of our parents and those before them; we were encouraged to expand our minds and learn – and of course all things tech began to change our lives in more ways than we could have imagined before.  Convenience became the order of the day at home and energy saving gadgets became part of the new, mid-century modern home – homes which most people could afford to buy with help from the banks.  Young people became their own personalities – not a mirror image of their parents and unlike their parents, they could afford to buy small luxuries.  Sound systems, hifi’s, microwave ovens, colour tv’s all became attainable to the modern family and technology certainly played its part.

In some ways when I remember those years, a lot of the changes and progress made back then seems to have slid backwards in recent years.  The geo-political climate of today seems less about wanting to progress and be open and has become more insular and protectionist.  Technology, however, marches on.  This is why I was excited to learn that the voice of JFK had been reconstructed by technology to reproduce the speech he was due to give when he was assassinated in Dallas all those decades ago.  Not only was this a colossal engineering and technological undertaking, but on hearing the speech he never gave, the words in the current day still ring so true and are possibly even more relevant to society.  Listening to JFK’s voice again, augmented and delivered with passion, made me think about the power of words AND the power of technology – two of the things that have driven my professional career in the technology industry.  Long may technology thrive – not only to recreate the past, but to cement our future wherever it takes us.

If you want to take a listen for yourself, check out the video below.

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!

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 – 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!

2016 Wrap Up

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I am confident we can all agree that 2016 has been quite an eventful year on the world stage.  In the UK the news that BREXIT was going to happen came as a shock to most, and in the US, the presidential elections completed the uncertainty double.  With the political climate changes and some fairly radical shifts, we’ve been thinking about what that means for the Liberty Comms team as we come to the end of 2016 and embark on a new year which promises continued technological advances whatever happens on the world political stage.

Our global Liberty team has had plenty of positives to share from both sides of the Atlantic.

At Liberty in London, we announced a new managing director for the UK business with Elena Davidson taking the reigns.  We welcomed Riikka Heinaaho and Michael Walker and in San Francisco the team continued to expand.  Just two short years after launching our office in California, we’ve grown the business with some fantastic client support and welcomed new team members who brought the best of the Silicon Valley PR scene to Liberty’s door.  We welcomed Megan Keesee as a Senior Account Executive and two new Junior Account Executives, Leah Monteleone and Anna Palagi. Adding to the senior team,  Liberty’s senior consultant, Mark Button supports from San Diego.  We’re on the lookout for more new talent for 2017 as we plan for further growth – in our world nothing stands still and we’re looking forward to the next phase of Liberty’s story.

2016 brought exciting new clients to our already outstanding roster. In the UK, we forged partnerships with iTalent Corp., Smart IoT, Fleep and WaveOptics. In the US this year, we had the pleasure of working on projects with the Estonian government’s e-Residency Program, Kobi Technologies and Devicescape and established continuing partnerships with Blis, FutureDial, Teleport, Efima, and THINKWARE. It has been a busy and hugely rewarding year – and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We love being part of our clients’ teams and being part of their success in the technology sector around the globe.

Liberty is gearing up for a new year with fresh eyes, open minds and new ideas. I am confident that my international team of PR professionals will kick off 2017 with greater momentum and enthusiasm than ever. As always, we want to extend our gratitude to our amazing clients and partners. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you. Cheers to a successful 2016 and a prosperous new year!

2015 Wrap Up

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Wow! What an exciting year 2015 has been here at Liberty Communications.

Following the success of Liberty’s San Francisco presence, we’ve been growing our US team footprint. We welcomed Rene Musech who has recently enjoyed a promotion to Account Director status after only 6 months with the Liberty team and   Kourtney Evans, who joined our junior team members. New hires meant more space so we’ve also celebrated moving into brand new San Francisco offices in the heart of the tech hub, overlooking beautiful city views offering easy access to our growing roster of West Coast based clients.

At Liberty’s London office we’ve also seen team additions welcoming Molly Andruskevicius to the junior team, Maria Loupa to the account management team and Donna Airey to our account directors. We’ve also moved our London office suite upstairs at The Plaza and now have access to additional brainstorm seating areas and a dart board no less!

We launched our brand new website in December at www.libertycomms.com offering a wealth of information about who we are and what we do. Liberty is a boutique agency with a global reach, so we’re proud to offer our clients best in breed services with a regional footprint all for exceptional value. Why choose anyone else?

Liberty has been delighted at the response to our global footprint. 2015 saw us bring on a fantastic roster of technology focused companies including GENBAND, including Kandy and the fring Alliance, Company Cue, Exact Ventures, Mobileum, Globetouch, Pryvate and Starship Technologies. Liberty’s existing clients Quickplay, CBNL and WeDo Technologies have also enjoyed Liberty’s support for the North American market and the recommendations from the industry keep coming, so we’re confident that 2016 is going to bring new and exciting client accounts for the agency as a whole. In the UK, new clients have included all of the above plus SmartIoT – a brand new trade event taking place in London in April 2016.

We’ve been delighted with our momentum from the past year and can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us on both sides of the Atlantic! A huge thank you to all Liberty partners, here’s to another successful year! We’ll be sure to bring an update on our activities in a few months.

 

Rolling Thunder – integrated digital campaigns and measurement

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We are at the brink of a watershed moment when it comes to integrated digital campaigns and measurement.

 

 

Today, like never before, marketing executives are working hard to create a seamless online presence across all digital platforms.

 

The days of simply worrying about your website are long gone as digital communication offers the ability to measure, optimise and pivot mid-campaign. The end result: a deeper understanding of your target customers and the generation of quality leads.

 

Why Integrate?
Rolling Thunder is critical. As marketers we must create a constant stream of quality content that is seen as “authority” content by the search engines and our target audience.

 

If digital assets such as email broadcasts or custom landing pages are not integrated, then your messaging and brand will feel disjointed. Remember, people choose what they understand, and the top business goal is for your products and services to be chosen.

 

In other words, it’s about being found and selected, and with 97% of customers searching online, achieving high rankings on search engines is critical.

 

What to Integrate?
Today, there are so many digital platforms to think about. Rolling Thunder is about populating these modalities with quality content which, in turn, drives potential customers to your website or campaign site.  Channels to integrate include:

  • Social Networking Sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare)
  • Micro-blogging (Twitter)
  • Virtual press room (housing press releases, articles, op-eds)
  • Blogs
  • Banner advertising
  • Google Adwords
  • Podcasting
  • Video, Photo and Content Sharing Sites (YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, SlideShare)
  • Forums and Discussion Boards (Google Groups, Yahoo! Groups)
  • Online Encyclopedias (Wikipedia)

And remember, social media is not a replacement for traditional marketing tactics or earned media and public relations, but works best when integrated with digital channels.

 

How to Integrate?
With all these channels to integrate, a clear content marketing plan and a monthly calendar built around powerful themes are paramount. With the advent of “COPE” (Create Once Publish Everywhere) marketers can stagger content and share it in different guises across various channels.

 

For example, a contributed article can be converted into a series of tweets linked to an image placed on Instagram, which is published on your company’s Facebook wall and LinkedIn homepage, driving visitors to your campaign website so they can learn more and purchase your new product.

 

Again, the idea is to create one piece of quality content and leverage it across multiple channels. There are also many cost-effective SaaS solutions available that can link your digital campaigns together.

 

What to Measure?
A complete and actionable integrated digital campaign and measurement model will focus on:

  • Awareness (visits, bounce rates)
  • Behaviour (page views, engagement time)
  • Consideration (downloads, completed forms, qualified leads to campaign site)
  • Lead Activities (conversations, revenue, repeat purchase)

Overall, the business goal is to make your brand, products and services easy to find, understand and choose. Integrating your digital channels and producing quality content will allow you to map a journey to success and over the past year, Google has been pushing marketers to focus less on link building and more on building quality content. Truly, in this watershed moment, content is king.

4K TV – is it really the future?

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There has been a lot of hype over the last few months about the future of television.   Following CES in Las Vegas in January, curved screens and 4K (ultra-HD) TVs are being touted as the next big thing for your living room with industry analysts suggesting that ultra HD TV shipments could reach 12.7 million this year (source NPD DisplaySearch).

 

 

Even smartphones, such as the new Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G Pro 2, are boasting 4K capture and playback to provide users with a better quality experience.    But new technology such as this often faces a chicken-and-egg problem.   Even if you bought a 4K TV or had a smartphone that supported 4K, what can you watch on it?

 

It is evident that there is a huge enthusiasm around the industry for 4K content production. Camera technology with 4K and greater capability has been around for a while and it has been rumoured that Panasonic will debut its production model of the 4K VariCam 35 at NAB in April.   While Sony has been driving its 4K agenda over the past few months with demonstrations of 4K acquisition and display products and its recently launched Sony professional camera and audio line up.   A number of video editing tools are also capable of editing 4K including Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Apple Final Cut Pro X.

 

However, the current lack of availability of widespread 4K content could contribute to consumer hesitancy in investing in a 4K/ultra HD TV in the near future.  Very few movies support the new resolution, networks are only just launching the HD versions of their channels, and some Blu-Ray players say that they convert high-definition video to something approximating ultra HD. Yet it appears that online companies such as Netflix and TV manufacturers have taken the lead in ensuring that this content is available for consumers to view now.

 

On 14th February, the second season of ‘House Of Cards premiered on Netflix in 4K. The video-streaming service will also present all five seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’ and many of Netflix’s future original series in 4K.   Netflix also announced it has made an undisclosed payment to Comcast for direct access to the cable company’s broadband network, in order to ensure smooth delivery of its content. The end result is that Netflix customers should see much higher quality streams than they have been doing, especially for higher resolution HD and 4K content.  The implications of this deal for 4K content could be massive – after all, Netflix’s bandwidth throttling problems were most acute during peak times, and could get worse when shows as ‘House of Cards’ is broadcast in 4K Ultra HD. With the company promising even more 4K content to come later this year, it appears as though the biggest single obstacle in the way of it doing this has been removed for viewers in the US.

 

Sony also has its own library of 4K films that customers can rent and purchase for download on Sony’s 4K Ultra HD Media Player for playback on Sony 4K Ultra HD televisions.  Similarly Samsung has a partnership with Amazon that will give those with Samsung TVs access to 4K content from a range of partner providers including Warner Bros, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox and Discovery.

 

With these great investments it does look like 4K is here to stay.  The industry is embracing it fully and it appears as though those at the helm are going to the efforts to get more native 4K content to consumers.  But will it really take off?  Will we all have 4K TVs by the end of the year?  Or will consumers see it as a fad as they did with 3D TV? Only time will tell…

 

Let us know what you think.  Would you invest in a 4K TV or 4K phone now?

The (digital) future of jazz

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As a technology-focused consultancy we spend a lot of time talking about our industry specifically but in reality, communications and the use of technology touches every industry and everyone. There’s no escaping it.

 

 

So, to look at things from a different perspective, I decided to talk to Michael Linney, AKA The Hedonist about digital channels and all that jazz. After all, the world of entertainment is built solely on communications – where better to start. Here’s what he had to say:

 

Q:  I understand that you are a Jazz DJ in your own time, can you tell me about that and who you DJ for?

I’m a radio show host for UK Jazz Radio which airs my weekly programme known as “Hedonist Jazz”.  I’m also an active cloudcaster on Mixcloud where I hold the title of Jazz Embassador.  In that role, I promote and encourage the jazz category which is really bringing the genre of jazz to a whole new online and digital audience.

 

Q:  So, tell me how your passion for jazz music came about?

Initially my passion was fuelled by my father who loved the 1950’s-style crooners (Frank, Dean, Sammy etc) as well as others like Buddy Rich, Cleo Lane and Johnny Dankworth.  But really it was the jazz funk scene of the 1980’s – I was listening to bands like Brass Construction, BTExpress and Ohio Players and the roots for me began from there.  I was always frequenting the clubs in London and the occasional weekender at Caister when I could afford it.  This introduced me to the CTI and Blue Note labels – and then the seeds were truly sewn.

 

Q:  So, what does the future hold for jazz music – it always sounds so old fashioned?

I believe the future of jazz music lies in innovation and improvisation.  The answer is in its own history.  Mixing jazz with RAP, hip-hop and spoken word is updating things for today’s audience.  I don’t like to think as jazz as a sound, it’s more than that.  It’s a feeling.

 

Q:  What have the new digital channels done for Jazz and why did you choose to work with an alternative outlet for your music?

It’s now so much easier to mix and sample digital music than it ever was on more traditional things like vinyl.  For live gigs, I no longer need to load a small mini bus with crates of vinyl, I simply turn up with my MacBook and USB connected turntable and can perform. At live gigs I also use Mixlr for live broadcasting across the net. Today, for sampling tracks, I use WhoSampled which identifies the track used for sampling so I can recognise an artist in a track.  For new mixes use Audicity for building a mix which I do by adding samples and loops over traditional jazz tracks which gives the track an updated sound.  So, it’s become so much easier.  I no longer have to dig for music in second hand shops because sites like iTunes, JunoRecords.com and others allow me to source rare tracks which would have eluded me or caused me to spend hours searching in the past.

 

I build my shows via Audicity and upload my shows to the MixCloud platform where I have amassed over 20,000 unique followers in the last three years.  I usually promote the shows via Twitter and Facebook and MixCloud provides automatic links to do this so that each time I upload a new show, my followers are notified and can listen, share, leave comments, favourite my shows etc.  For me, that makes all the effort that goes into building a show worthwhile.  I regularly receive positive comments from my listeners around the globe which inspires me to continue and challenges me to be even better at the quality of mixes and shows I put together.

 

In addition, I voice over the tracks on the show and this has helped me to build a digital personality – otherwise it would just be playing records which anyone can do, without the added value of the information on the music I provide.

 

Q:  Do you think this is the way forward for music generally?

The digital channels and internet radio stations are definitely the way forward; the traditional FM channels are being replaced.  We’re seeing music hosting sites being created on an almost weekly and real-time basis.  I’m excited by this as it’s really helping to move jazz music and the new jazz pioneers to a younger and more dynamic audience.

 

Q:  Do you have a brand and how have you established and built that brand?

Yes, I thought it would be good to promote that feeling I talked about.  The pleasure is all in the mix.  So my brand, The Hedonist, is a nod to that.

 

Through digital channels and this brand I’ve managed to befriend established, well known artists and bands such as Greg Foat, Nialah Porter, Jessica Lauren & Empirical to discuss their work, receive exclusive promo copies of their work and wherever possible meet up for interviews.  In terms of variety of artists that I’ve worked with, I’m proud to promote the ecosystem of the industry too.  People like B.Lowe (a rapper), Christopher D Sims (spoken word), Jazz Jousters (music producers), Gary Reader (a saxophonist) and Ian Chalk (a trumpeter) are all part of my world.

 

Q:  What’s next for 2014?  Tell me about your idea for a New Jazz Collective?

For 2014, I’m involved in something called “The New Jazz Collective”.  Over the last 3 years on MixCloud I’ve met (virtually) some amazing, like-minded jazz DJ’s / broadcasters who share my passion in its many shapes and forms.  Julian in the US, Max in Italy, Dick in Belgium, Jake and I in the UK have recently launched this collaborative project where we regularly record sound clashes between us and other invited guests.  We also recently added our recordings of interviews with established and up-and-coming artists to attempt to get under their passion for jazz.  This collective is all about what we believe to be the future of jazz and these shows are also available via MixCloud to our collective followers and fans.  What we are doing is bringing jazz up to the minute.  It’s not just for the passionate few – together we have over 100,000 followers and our objective is to build a wider and deeper audience and recognition for this incredible music genre.

 

The potential for us lies in promoting new artists and eventually launching our own digital recording label.

 

Q:  How popular have channels like MixCloud become?

I could probably list about 100 channels to upload your music to, but unless you have a dedicated promotional team working for you then you’re not going to have much time available to keep 100 different sites updated with your latest news and latest tracks.  In my view the top 10 places that are essential for hosting a web presence for your music are these. From our collective digital experience, we have gained the most listeners from this list of sites and therefore we believe they are a must for uploading your tracks.  From the top and in no particular order;

  • SoundCloud – This site has some great looking widgets which allow you to paste your tracks elsewhere and we especially love the comment system where you can comment on a specific point in a track. Upload up to 10 tracks on a standard free account. If you want more you have to pay. But the free account is pretty decent.
  • ReverbNation – While you cannot directly upload your music on Facebook, by using ReverbNation you can easily post your music to your Facebook account using their Facebook Apps. You will probably get some listeners through ReverbNation too and get to use lots of their cool features.
  • TheSixtyOne – Upload your music and the name of the track stays hidden for 24 hours. Members of the site will spend their credits on liking your track, if lots of members like your track you’re going to get on the front page. This site is a great way to get listeners and ultimately new fans.
  • OurStage – Upload your music into their monthly contest and you will be paired up randomly with other tracks for people to vote on which one they like the best. More votes get you to the top of the leaderboard and ultimately to win prizes at the end of the month.
  • Jamendo – This site lists tracks that have been released under a Creative Commons license, if you’ve made yourself an album there’s no reason why you can’t upload a few tracks to promote your other music. Maybe place some of your older tracks on there to draw in some new fans.
  • MySpace – I doubt that anyone with an internet connection hasn’t come across this site. It is almost essential to have a web presence here. Upload your tracks into the MySpace player, design your page and keep the MySpace blog updated with important news about your music.
  • Imeem – Create an artist account here and you can upload your tracks into their huge database of music. It is also a very social site allowing people to share music with each other.
  • Last.fm – People who have the Last.fm application installed can share with friends what they’ve been listening to, but if you sign up for an account you can upload your music and it will appear on your artist page and be discovered when people search for similar musicians to ones that they already like.
  • SoundClick – Upload your music to the SoundClick community and you’ll be placed into the charts for each genre, you’ll also get an artist page to link to your other social network accounts.
  • iLike – Allows you to upload your music and more, apparently there is 50 million people using the service so it’s a place you can’t ignore. Also allows you to paste your music into Facebook like ReverbNation does above.

 

Q:  How compelling is social media in raising your profile and following for the music?

Digital communication channels have revitalised my love for my passion, I’ve been able to share my work and my feeling for this wonderful music in so many new ways and generate real interest, following and finding new friends through the medium of the Internet.  I’m not sure what my Father would think about it all if he were alive today, but I do know that if he’d been able to influence a wider audience and educate them to the magic of jazz, he too would be joining me at my virtual digital decks.

 

To follow The Hedonist, visit MixCloud or log in to UK Jazz Radio – you might find that jazz isn’t what you thought it was!

 

 

Get better connected!

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About 4 years ago now,  a few digital entertainment gurus got together with their respective little (virtual) black books and launched a VIP industry networking group called the Centurions.  Today, the network has a global footprint with chapters in London, Istanbul, Munich and New York with other cities being planned for 2014 including a Silicon Valley chapter.

 

 

Unlike other gatherings of this sort, it’s purely all about meeting in a relaxed environment in an urban and hip venue to share news and views from the industry.  There’s no sales talks, no name badges and no hidden agenda, it’s all about bringing like-minded people together and allowing them to make of the occasion what they will.
Today, the membership (you simply have to be recommended and then register via the website) is still growing in popularity and the bi-monthly social get-togethers are over-subscribed with the great and the good of the digital industry.  It’s not just people from the big industry corporations although they attend too, it’s the entire landscape of the digital world from VCs and PE investors, the legal profession, entrepreneurs – from music, gaming, mobile, internet companies and more.  Quite simply, it’s one of the best mixers I’ve ever been to and that’s why I became part of the founding team and have provided free support to help market the Centurions and make it even more successful.

 

Despite the advantages of social networking sites, Centurions proves that there is still a real need for people to connect face to face – to enjoy a community of peers and actually TALK to each other in real-time in a physical environment.  This is how I’ve built my agency over the years – I certainly subscribe to the “who you know” theory of business.  People still buy from people.   The Centurions is also online, we’ve got a LinkedIn group, we tweet and we’re on Facebook, but the popularity and growth of this networking model would not be the same without the meet-ups and the bond we’ve created with our members.

 

Business is now being done.  Deals are being talked about.  People are being introduced and talent and information is being shared.  And it’s a showcase for how generous this industry can be to each other.  I’m really proud to belong to the founding team and I’m looking forward to getting the next chapter off the ground.  For more information about Centurions events and to register your interest, visit www.centurionsconnected.com and get involved.  Happy networking!

Marketing your mind up!

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I love it when I read articles that concur with my own thinking – well, don’t we all?

I was particularly chuffed to read a predictions piece by Nicola Kemp in November’s edition of Marketing entitled Forward 50 which stated that while we’re in a brave new digital world, the ‘always on’ environment it has created is actually distracting us from what really matters when planning a strategic and creative plan for success. (In many ways, this blog is proof of that as every time I’ve sat down to write it I’ve been distracted by a time sensitive email or critical tweet I just had to respond to!)

Going through the trends Nicola highlighted, there were three which really stood out for me as they play such a critical role in the ethos and approach of Liberty:

  1. Post-Digital Behaviour – This first trend calls out the need for marketers not to fear being out of date or behind the times with digital innovation; instead they should be focused on the needs of the audiences they market to.  I loved the fact that this very first paragraph reverted to remind us that we shouldn’t forget the business drivers and what audiences need. These differ between one business and another and can’t be met with a ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Post-Digital Behaviour does mention big data and how having this information at our digital fingertips can be helpful, but what I really like is that it reminds us that there are also emotional drivers to any sale too.
  2. The role of brands as curators and its growing importance –  This is so dear to my heart that I actually caught myself smiling as I read.  Really, it’s similar to the above point in that it focuses on the need to remember consumers’ needs must come first and providing services that they love, will breed that brand loyalty companies crave.  I also remember thinking that this is something I’ve understood for an age and being an avid consumer of brands or those services that give me a great feeling,  is almost too basic to need to list as a marketing trend in 2014. Yet, despite my feelings on the matter, it’s so very true that so many products or companies try to sell what they want to sell rather than appealing to the consumers’ needs.
  3. The Analogue Revival – I think this is my favourite future trend. It details exactly what it says on the tin, a revert to more traditional physical elements of marketing that not only look good, but feel good and yet again – appeals to the senses.   So in a world where the digital storefront seems to have almost wiped out the high street as we knew it, isn’t it good to know that something well made, good to touch, smell and feel still has a place in brand marketing?  To that end, I’ll continue to collect physical copies of Vogue magazine – each edition filled with all the things that make me want to own them.  Smart marketing I’d say!

What do you think?

 

Top 40 Tech listing – PR Week – it’s out!

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The Top 40 tech consultancies listing came out in today’s PR week and I’m pleased to note that Liberty has come in at number 14, climbing a place from last year’s position. The feature accompanying the listing highlights the changing requirements of clients and the changing communications landscape.  It highlights a growing focus on speaking directly to consumers which explains why revenues have climbed across the sector.

 

 

 

As a company, we are demonstrating our vision.  The 13 agencies above us are all significantly larger agencies.  Liberty’s FY12 revenue sits comfortably within the top third of earnings listed in the table and Liberty leads the table for the size of agency we are.  As a boutique technology specialist this listing position shows off our strengths in our chosen industry.

 

We are making great headway to reaching our goals and we’re really proud of the growth we’ve seen over the last 12 months. My personal thanks goes out to a fantastic team – the Liberty team is what makes Liberty successful  – I’m really proud!

From strength to strength

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The last 12 months has seen a lot of exciting change at Liberty as we have grown and evolved as an agency and we are proud to see that this is being recognised across the industry.

 

 

With that I’m happy to announce that we have been shortlisted for the second year running in the Best PR Agency category for this year’s ME awards. A prestigious award given our heritage in the mobile space and winners voted for by several hundred impartial judges we are so excited to be in the running for the honour.

 

This is a challenging economic climate and companies need partners they can rely on. Achieving cut through for our clients is what we thrive on and industry recognition that we are doing that successfully only spurs us on as a team to do more and more.

 

Fingers crossed for November!

Social networking – no, not that kind!

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Two words that have had a modern-day overhaul are social AND networking.  Together they conjure up some digital jiggery-pokery that only the young and geeky can get involved with.  Funny how time can change the meaning of words in our English language.  But the social networking that I’m writing about today is not about the online community, it’s about how to network – socially – with your peers.

 

 

I’m often asked about how I approach new business for Liberty and how the agency has retained its clients.  It’s been a wonderful experience over the past 15 years requiring hard work and attention to detail, building knowledge of my subject matter and working with some fantastic talented communication professionals; all the ingredients that have led to success.  However, when I look at the companies and the industry people that make up our client base, more often than not, they are contacts with whom I have crossed paths over the course of my working life and who have lent their support to my business ideals – and made Liberty what it is today.

 

I’ve never considered myself a salesperson, far from it.  I’m certainly not going to cold call anyone, or door stop someone at an industry event in the hope they might consider dropping their existing communication consultancy for Liberty Communications.  My approach is much more subtle and it starts as every relationship should, with an open mind, an ability to listen and a willingness to share – whatever the outcome.  Like all relationships in life, they should be based on mutual trust and respect and not on the assumption that if you cozy up to someone, they will automatically reward you with their business.  In my experience it’s all about the depth and breadth of the relationship between two like-minded professionals.  On that basis, you can bring something to each other and mutually benefit from the pairing.

 

I’m lucky enough to be involved with an amazing VIP networking organisation called the Centurions.  We’re dedicated to mixing socially with peers and sharing ideas.  Centurions is for the great and the good from the digital entertainment world.  We don’t hold presentations or wear name badges, we just relax with good conversation and great stories shared.  Whether business follows is not the point, but it has and that’s the outcome, not the upside.  Networking socially for me is what Centurions is all about – it’s not the hard sell and it’s an absolute pleasure!

 

I’m off now to join over 100 like-minded digital industry folk – I know I’m in for an inspiring evening!

 

For more information on Centurions, visit www.centurionsconnected.com – and mention my name

Startup PR – making the right outsourcing decision

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If you’re a VentureBeat reader, you may have read a recent guest post by startup CEO Kevin Leu on why startups shouldn’t hire a PR agency.

 

 

In it, he asserts that, from his experience, a PR agency cannot provide sufficient value for a startup with limited resources. Now naturally we’re inclined to disagree, not just because we know which side our bread is buttered on, but because we have real experience of building startups from scratch which successfully used PR as a major strategy to produce sales leads and brand recognition, as well as having a front row seat for some of the alleged tricks (and overall lack thereof) that Mr. Leu speaks of in his article.

 

Contrary to what Mr. Leu espouses for startups, PR done well can be the cheapest form of lead generation for any company – including startups.   This has been proven time and time again by empirical studies. The issue lies NOT in the discipline of PR, but in how the startup selects an agency (or employee) and manages the agency (or employee) on a day-day basis.

 

To create a successful relationship with a PR provider, startups must understand how to hire, or when to hire, an agency. Based on our experience, hiring an agency should be viewed in exactly the same light as hiring an employee. In fact, hiring an agency should be an “outsourcing” decision where you’ve made the decision NOT to hire a full-time person, but instead trust an outsourced company to handle the work for you that a full-time employee would. Would you hire a person full-time as Kevin Leu suggests that “doesn’t know how to tell a story”, “rests on their laurels”, “takes more credit than they deserve”, etc?  Of course not, especially in a startup where every hire is critical, and a bad hire can set you back months if not man years in progress.

 

And would a decent agency take you on as a client if they felt they could not produce results?  No.  Just like a really sharp candidate for a job will be the first to drop discussions when he / she realizes there is not a great mutual fit, a reputable agency will do the same.

 

Hiring an agency requires the same level of requirement as hiring an employee and involves skill definition, recruiting, due diligence, and then hand-holding at first to ensure clarity exists between goals, deliverables and measurement. Any agency worth its salt will get under the skin of your company as quickly as possible, but there is a bedding in time and they cannot be expected to be some kind of fairy godmother figure who should and will wave their magic wand constantly to magic up unrealistic results in a matter of minutes. To minimise this bedding in time, the fit is very important. If you are a mobile games startup, you should probably look to “hire” a full-time or outsourced agency who has proven expertise in the mobile gaming space.  Hiring someone who has spent 25 years doing PR around real estate will likely not produce the results you seek any more than hiring a COBOL programmer will meet your Ruby on Rails needs.

 

Second, an agency must be part of your team. They are an outsourced part of your team, so treat them as such. Properly defined and managed, the “bait and switch” that Mr. Leu asserts is commonplace (whereby senior executives who win the business disappear, delegating all account work to their junior ‘underlings’) will not occur any more than hiring an employee and having their second cousin show up for work will. Have you defined your requirements up front?  Have you in your due diligence defined who will be on your team if you sign an agreement with the agency and have you clearly defined what each person’s daily role will be?

 

I am sorry that Mr. Leu has had such bad experiences that it taints his view of agencies. But writing such an article to say that ALL agencies are bad and a waste of money for startups is simply untrue. If we take his arguments seriously, then I suppose no startup should also ever consider outsourcing some development tasks to very talented outsourced developers either, and always hiring full-time staff. His complaint that an agency has other clients than you on their roster and therefore isn’t always solely thinking about you is baffling. If an agency is producing the value and return we agreed to, such that the $ being spent monthly is generating the required return in exposure, lead generation and revenue, then how does this argument really stand up? If I hire a full-time employee for the same, or less costs, but they do not deliver results, then how is this better?  Moreover, agencies often find that the cross-pollination of their client base can deliver dividends in terms of selling stories and gaining coverage – what’s better than pitching one client to a journalist than a range of clients who can represent different angles and present a wealth of perspectives?

 

There are plenty of GREAT agencies that cater to startups, and understand how to derive the best value for a client based on their clearly-defined business goals. The onus is on the entrepreneur to understand how to hire, manage and fire an agency (as well as employees), to understand what he / she wants out of marketing, and how to measure results to know what’s working and what’s not. Agency or employee, if you don’t have a clue what you’re getting, then how do you ever know what’s working?

Success with Sabre

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Liberty secures a double whammy of success with the Sabre Awards

 

 

Celebrations started early this morning with some great news from the Sabre Awards nominees list. We have not only been awarded a certificate of excellence for our Liberty Index (our home grown measurement tool to track campaign results and highlight ROI), but we have also received a nomination for best consumer electronics campaign for our work with Root Classic!  Run by the Holmes Report we feel privileged to be nominated for the Sabre Awards. We follow them closely and feel honoured to have been included in this year’s list. A big thank you to my team who have worked really hard. It’s true testament to their creativity and hard work that we are here.  We have everything crossed for the final announcement on 30th May so wish us luck!

Happy 15th Birthday Liberty

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On 15th March 1998, Liberty opened its doors to the technology world for the first time. Sat in my PJ’s in a back bedroom at my home in Berkshire, we had one client based in Connecticut, North America.

 

 

From those humble beginnings, we’ve worked across a variety of clients, a variety of technology solutions and a variety of time zones and everyone at Liberty today should be really proud of what we’ve built together. In a year when Liberty USA has been launched and our London HQ has been dramatically refurbished, it seems fitting to think about all the fantastic things still to come and to look forward to sharing many more great career moments as we go.

 

I’d like to personally thank everyone who has either worked with or worked for Liberty over the last 15 years and supported me in making Liberty what it is today – and for realising my professional dream.

 

Happy 15th birthday Liberty – let’s celebrate!