Category Archives: Corporate Blog

The Future of Food

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Last month, Liberty US attended the Future of Food, an event hosted by our office organization, WeWork. Earlier this year, WeWork declared that it would no longer serve meat at company events, nor allow employees to expense meat on the company dollar. We in San Francisco have an inclination to support sustainable initiatives, especially any that are tech focused. As such, a few of us in the San Francisco office attended the panel to gain insight on the green conversation. This is important, as we look to support clients with likeminded initiatives, like sustainable robotic delivery service, Starship Technologies and Natufia, a home garden that is bringing the future of food to your kitchen.

The event consisted of a panel of sustainable tech/ food experts who discussed ways we can integrate green practices into our daily lives and the gaining relevance of food conservation and diminishing waste.

The panel members included:

CEO Josh Tetrick, JUST

CEO Ryan Bethencourt, Wild Earth Pets

VP of Sustainability and Wellbeing, Lindsay Baker, WeWork

Leg Director, Katerina Robin, Senator Nancy Skinner, California State Senate (SD-9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All panelists educated the audience on the positive environmental impact of plant-based foods. CEO Ryan Bethencourt explored ways in which technology is the most viable option for creating sustainable food options, including integrating other species of plants for food and using engineering to manifest the most pleasant dietary options feasible. Bethencourt focused on technology as the greatest solution for food deficits and how we should be creating new sources of sustenance through the technological advancements available today.

CEO Josh Tetrick of JUST – a company that has the first-ever patent covering machine learning methods and systems for food ingredient discovery – focused on normalizing the conversation around plant-based foods by discussing meat-alternative products alongside meat, by pointing out similarities, not differences. As a communications professional it was interesting to hear how others are using rhetorical techniques to advance their agenda. Tetrick raised great points about the power of language and how products are positioned to play a major role with any brands’ identity.

The panel was met with overall enthusiasm and eagerness to fast forward the sustainability agenda through working together as a community and resetting defaults on learned behavior. The event was followed by a reception catered by plant-based companies, Impossible foods, OmSabor, Alpha, among a variety of others. Looks like we’re in for a tasty (and sustainable) future!

Big Tech’s Midlife Crisis

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Sitting on my couch watching one of my favorite sporting events this week, the World Cup, I had an epiphany. No, I didn’t suddenly realize how beautiful the game of fútbol is, or how a sport can transcend cultures. Instead, while watching the commercials I discovered that a lot of tech companies out there just can’t stop apologizing to me.

From Uber to Facebook, Silicon Valley is having an “I’m sorry” moment. Even Snapchat has got in on the act. Of course, not everyone has joined the apology tour just yet. Apple aims to stay above the fray by positioning itself as one of the more high-minded tech companies, but even they have a complicated relationship with this newfound “techlash” sweeping the globe.

Several tech companies have taken a public browbeating over a laundry list of issues as of late, and it’s natural to use PR to try and change the narrative. One could even suggest that ‘Big Tech’ is having a very public, midlife crisis.

With expanding workforces and a growing list of stakeholders, the tech industry can’t afford to play fast and loose with crisis communications. There’s just too much at stake. But unlike many other established industries who have dealt well with crises on the highest levels, much of the tech industry still has its ‘training wheels’ on, which has resulted in a lot of growing pains.

The poster child right now is Facebook, which was run through the coals for initially bungling its response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with blaring headlines such as “Where is Mark Zuckerberg?” only serving to fan the flames. In the key hours and days after The Guardian and The New York Times broke the story, the public face of Facebook was silent. With no solid, cohesive response they not only lost the public narrative – they practically handed it away.

Facebook and others are working hard to bounce back, but it’s arguable that to at least some extent that the damage has already been done. Having had first-hand experience working in newsrooms, I can tell you that the media often thinks in narratives, and establishes patterns over time. Bad crisis communications only feeds into this.

However, just as important as what the media thinks, is where the court of public opinion stands. Negative tweets and other social media comments in the heat of a crisis might as well be permanent tattoos, because they’ll never be erased.

There’s a common misconception that the impact of a crisis is measured in minutes and hours, but the reality is that it’s measured in years and decades. So, from startups to tech luminaries, it’s time to get used to the fact that the industry’s slate isn’t clean anymore. Crisis communications should be ingrained in every company’s long-term plans from day one.

And, what do I think? Well sitting on my couch, I silently nod my head as I begrudgingly accept Big Tech’s perfuse apologies. But please don’t do it again, I have another World Cup match to watch, where the most pressing crisis is whether my chips and guacamole will run out before halftime.

Are you sitting comfortably? The art of brand communications

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Communication is an art. Great communicators have the power to really engage with their audience and captivate their attention, encouraging them to buy into both their brand and their message.

On the other hand, it is not an ability that comes naturally to everyone. To those not naturally skilled at communication, it might look like everything good communicators say is improvised and off the cuff, whereas in reality they’ve probably told the same story a thousand times, know exactly how it sounds, what the typical reactions are and how to tweak it for each audience.

 

Whilst undoubtedly some do have a natural gift, the techniques used by good communicators can be learned. So, whether you’re talking to the press, writing to shareholders, or communicating what your brand’s all about on your website, these ten techniques can help you create your happily ever after business story….

 

Liberty’s Top Ten Tips for Crafting and Presenting a Fantastic Brand Story

  1. First things first, get your messaging right. It’s important to establish how you want the audience to perceive your brand, and make sure that what you’re saying is in line with this.
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  3. Secondly, stand out. Make sure your message is distinctive and that you know why your brand or product beats others on the market, and why your audience should listen to what you’re saying. Journalists, investors, consumers and other stakeholders will have lots of other companies competing for their attention, so what you’re saying needs to be memorable.
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  5. Once you’ve established a message, be consistent with it. Make sure all content and spokespeople are aligned with the company’s messaging to ensure that what you’re saying doesn’t become confused or diluted by conflicting voices.
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  7. When crafting content or preparing for an interview be credible. Provide tangible evidence to support your claims and show they aren’t over-hyped.
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  9. Make sure to talk in simple terms and easily understood concepts. Speak directly to your customers’ needs, and don’t use industry jargon that could get lost.
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  11. Whether writing content or speaking to an audience, make sure that you have a great beginning and an end. No one’s going to remember every element of a story, but the beginning and end should stick with an audience. The start should be attention-grabbing, while the end should leave your listeners with key messages to take away.
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  13. Chronology isn’t important, so you don’t need to start at the beginning, especially as, generally speaking, the interesting bits are unlikely to be the things that happened first. Nor do you need to detail every step of your journey like a historical journey. Instead, give your story an interesting trajectory that builds to the conclusion.
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  15. Give it some personality. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to or trying to reach, the number one thing to remember is that they are all human beings with their own thoughts, feelings and emotional triggers (no matter how hard they’re trying to hide them). Facts, figures and proof points are important, especially for the left-brain thinkers out there, but they’re not the be all and end all. Emotion has proven to be an effective marketing tool so whatever your company’s area of expertise, relate it to personal experience in some way and create a degree of emotive contact. People buy from people after all, and genuine sentiment goes a long way to belief in you and your brand.
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  17. Show not tell. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is more than the product of folk wisdom. In the age of digital and social media, the importance of imagery and short, snappy messages has sky-rocketed.
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  19. If you’re talking to a live audience, be it at a press conference, speaking at a congress or even a webinar, practice really does make perfect!

 

The Liberty team know how important it is to communicate the right message to the right audience, so whether it’s support with content creation, branding, or knowing how to talk to your target audience, we can help! To talk to someone from the Liberty team about what we can do to sell your brand’s story, please call us on +44(0) 207 751 4444.

 

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!

The Instant Nature of Communication

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Yesterday, I sent a text from California to a colleague in London. Considering the distance (5,468 miles / 8,800 km), I paid close attention to the delivery confirmation, which came almost instantly via iMessage.

 

 

This sparked my curiosity…how fast did that message actually travel?

 

While it’s hard to say for sure, since these tiny bits of data within a computer don’t physically exist, it’s reasonable to assume that such messages travel at near the speed of light…186,282 miles (300K km) per second! Putting that into greater perspective, the speed of light travels at 670+ million miles an hour, and items travelling at this rate, would hypothetically require 1.3 seconds to reach the moon from earth…it might as well be next door!

 

A few decades ago, an equivalent letter could have taken a week or more to travel from California to London, via a mail carrier.

 

Mankind has communicated using largely the same words and grammatical structures for centuries. Today, the QWERTY keyboard layout, which remains hugely popular, has been in use since 1873! So while good things can last a long time, it’s important to be prepared to leverage the modern tools of the times that we live in.

 

Today, the material that we read, write or otherwise create (blogs, tweets, Instagram posts, vine videos, Facebook likes, emails, marketing collateral, ads etc.) are distributed and absorbed at an unimaginable rate. I can see even the grandest science fiction minds of the past being in awe of today’s possibilities!

 

Communication advancements directly impact how we interact with our friends and family…and the same is true in business. Companies of all sizes, can’t afford to exclusively communicate through 20th century tactics in a 21st century world!

 

At Liberty, we believe in and execute, a “follow the sun” integrated communications methodology, where marketing, public relations, social media, web design, etc. are designed and implemented as part of a single consistent discipline.

 

Technology helps us ensure that no matter the time of day, our clients’ messages are promoted and delivered consistently across mediums, in the targeted manner that works best for the markets and influencers that matter most to them!

 

After all, your innovation and information is rocketing at the speed of light, and your message(s) should be aligned to work together to hit the mark and be delivered on time.

The Instant Nature of Communication

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Yesterday, I sent a text from California to a colleague in London. Considering the distance (5,468 miles / 8,800 km), I paid close attention to the delivery confirmation, which came almost instantly via iMessage.

 

 

This sparked my curiosity…how fast did that message actually travel?

 

While it’s hard to say for sure, since these tiny bits of data within a computer don’t physically exist, it’s reasonable to assume that such messages travel at near the speed of light…186,282 miles (300K km) per second! Putting that into greater perspective, the speed of light travels at 670+ million miles an hour, and items travelling at this rate, would hypothetically require 1.3 seconds to reach the moon from earth…it might as well be next door!

 

A few decades ago, an equivalent letter could have taken a week or more to travel from California to London, via a mail carrier.

 

Mankind has communicated using largely the same words and grammatical structures for centuries. Today, the QWERTY keyboard layout, which remains hugely popular, has been in use since 1873! So while good things can last a long time, it’s important to be prepared to leverage the modern tools of the times that we live in.

 

Today, the material that we read, write or otherwise create (blogs, tweets, Instagram posts, vine videos, Facebook likes, emails, marketing collateral, ads etc.) are distributed and absorbed at an unimaginable rate. I can see even the grandest science fiction minds of the past being in awe of today’s possibilities!

 

Communication advancements directly impact how we interact with our friends and family…and the same is true in business. Companies of all sizes, can’t afford to exclusively communicate through 20th century tactics in a 21st century world!

 

At Liberty, we believe in and execute, a “follow the sun” integrated communications methodology, where marketing, public relations, social media, web design, etc. are designed and implemented as part of a single consistent discipline.

 

Technology helps us ensure that no matter the time of day, our clients’ messages are promoted and delivered consistently across mediums, in the targeted manner that works best for the markets and influencers that matter most to them!

 

After all, your innovation and information is rocketing at the speed of light, and your message(s) should be aligned to work together to hit the mark and be delivered on time.

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!

My Take on TV

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A few years ago, I attended a conference that focused on the convergence of technology and entertainment. During one session in particular, 5 executives from various cable and broadcast networks debated the place and benefit of the Internet as a complete delivery method of their content, live and on-demand.

 

 

Everyone on that stage was largely against doing anything that might disrupt the traditional content delivery model and partnership that has been immensely profitable for decades.

 

Flash-forward to today…online content delivery and resources have improved dramatically for cable and satellite subscribers, yet there are key barriers facing so-called “cord cutters”.

 

For example, in the United States, the big three broadcast networks: ABC, CBS and NBC allow access to their content through various mediums and devices. Mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and Internet-connected devices (Apple TV, Roku, Vudu, Boxee, etc) can easily access nearly any TV episode over cellular or WIFI.

 

But, if you’ve cut cable completely and rely upon online streaming, you typically must wait until “tomorrow” to enjoy “tonight’s” episodes. In an era where consumers want to enjoy content, when and where they choose, this minor inconvenience inspires tech-savvy consumers to develop alternate means of accessing content.

 

Enter Aereo…“Watch Real, Live TV on the Internet. Finally.”

 

Now, I don’t want to debate the pros and cons of Aereo, but rather highlight what could become a watershed moment for the entertainment industry. I “cut the cable” two years ago, and haven’t missed a show that I’ve wanted to watch, except live local sports (ugh!).

 

Perhaps in the future I will be able to turn on my Internet-connected device, select the ABC (or CBS…NBC…ESPN…etc) app, and with a single click access to both live and previously recorded content. Seamlessly.

 

Internet-connected boxes, such as Apple TV, are beginning to see robust and sustained growth, which begs the question, is there a place for another distribution model?

  • Over-the-Air (OTA)
  • Cable
  • Satellite
  • Internet???

 

In the U.S., there are more than 115 million paid TV households (not people), and a staggering 500 million iTunes users (with active credit cards). These are huge markets! With these total in mind, imagine if ABC (or any of the other players) offered its full catalogue on-demand, as well as their live broadcast stream for $7.99 per month (Hulu Premium’s pricing). If they secured 29 million customers, or just 6% of the active credit card users on iTunes…ABC could generate an additional $232 million per month in fees, and $2.8 billion per year.

 

Remember, these figures are general in nature, but nevertheless they paint an intriguing picture regarding the revenue potential of diversifying content distribution to include, full-fledged streaming.

 

What do you think?

 

P.S. Take a look at how Netflix and BYUtv are addressing this market:

 

  • House of Cards: airs exclusively on Netflix with a $7.99 subscription
  • Granite Flats, BYUtv’s first scripted show, can be watched ‘live’ and on-demand, free

Can global campaigns follow the same formula?

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PR Week recently published an article that delved into how large businesses organised their global communications programmes.

 

 

The conclusion after gathering insight from a number of in-house and agency sources was that there isn’t necessarily a best practice, rather a list of ways in which this can be done.  This is a fair reflection of the reality of global comms; there isn’t a one size fits all solution and it very much depends on what you are trying to achieve.  It also isn’t the case that multi-territory campaigns always require pots of cash to implement.  Many clients are taking advantage of media globalisation and realise that by choosing the right media, creating engaging content, and carefully controlling messaging, you can be very frugal in your approach.

 

Liberty works with a number of clients on global campaigns.  One of our multi-territory clients is a global contract manufacturer in the high tech space for whom we’re helping to extend its marketing beyond the US and into Europe, directly supporting sales activity.  The campaign is centrally managed out of the UK and includes developing digital assets and then using global digital media outlets to engage and take audiences on a journey through to sales.  Regionalisation is handled centrally, and because messaging is sales focused, on-the-ground sales teams will feed into approvals and amendments, through our global client in San Francisco.

 

Similar to this, but in consumer marketing, was the recent launch of the new Range Rover Sport in New York.  This a great example of a centrally managed global campaign without local territory support.  Hiring a global icon to front the launch – Daniel Craig, aka James Bond – and the controlled use of global media distribution channels via Richard Young, an iconic society photographer in his own right, meant that this story was always going to cross borders.  So no need for regional offices to curate the content; it was a media juggernaut that had to be managed centrally.

 

Where local offices can be very effective is on-going marketing and PR support where there is a clear benefit.  Regional press offices, for example, that simply must be on the ground to recognise locally-specific issues and cultural differences, particularly where politics is involved.  Another is media buying, either at a country by country level or wider regional level, such as APAC, where relationships and volume can make a big difference to placement and buying power.

 

Because there will never be a one size fits all global model, the most sensible happy medium for marketing agencies that work on global business is to take the central hub approach covering off key regions; that way you’re never too far away from being able to tailor your approach from campaign to campaign and client to client.

Glacial Shifts – Advancing Social Agenda

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If you’ve had the chance to observe the glacial cliffs in Alaska, you can attest to their elegance and grandeur. Massive sheets of ice, built-up over centuries, slowly creep forward, until a thunderous roar snaps the silence and a massive glacial shift sends a mass of ice and snow tumbling into the ocean.

 

 

Advancing social agenda

 

It’s spectacular!
If I can take the liberty, I would like to apply this thinking to this week’s market shifting news by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
On Tuesday, the SEC outlined a new rule, that for the first time it will allow companies to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to disclose key financial  information.
The Caveat?
Corporations must clearly inform investors about their change in disclosure policy and strategy. With this move, a HUGE barrier to corporate social media adoption experienced a major glacial shift; catapulting the investor relations status quo deep into the ocean.
While some may be concerned about this change in policy. In the world of business communication, this change is both healthy and necessary,  because:

 

 

  •  Businesses can communicate financials with vast audiences, for minimal cost
  •  Companies can begin moving towards a conversation style that’s more natural
  •  Business models will evolve, and jobs will be created
  •  PR teams have the opportunity to further improve their corporation’s voice

This shift by the SEC was slow, and adoption by corporations might be even slower. But, as a colleague of mine (and fabulous blogger), Ron Ploof  , wrote in his book, Read This First:
Transition isn’t easy. In order to adopt some of these methods [social], corporate executives must rethink traditional marketing and public relations roles….such radical changes require tough executive decisions.
I believe that the use of integrated digital communication principles is more important than ever, and this move by the SEC validates this point.
Remember, Change comes slow…but when it comes, we need to be ready to act…or we might just find our way of doing business at the bottom of the ocean of old ideas.

Finding Focus

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In my office, I am surrounded by meaningful, funny and generally inspirational statements by some of history’s most influential minds.

 

 

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”

 

“Don’t nag yourself with thoughts of failure, Simply do”

 

“Keep Calm and Carry on”

 

I love these quotes for many reasons, but there is a particular quote by Mark Twain, the famed American author, that left a lasting impression upon my mind:

 

“There are no trivial occurrences in life if we get the right focus on them”

 

It is important that we always keep in mind that nothing we do in life, whether in business or privately, is trivial. Brick-by-brick, step-by-step, precept-upon-precept, if we consciously seize and focus upon life’s moments, these experiences will directly influence everything we do…for the better.

 

I strive to apply this principle everyday. As a professional communicator, it is especially important to realize that delivering lasting quality, creativity and success is realized by streamlining the specifics, focusing on the details and remembering that everything (and everyone) contributes to the end result.

 

There is great stagnation in settling for an ordinary level of accomplishment. And, most importantly when we deliver less than our best effort, we betray our client’s trust. This trust means everything to me.

 

Remember there are no trivial occurrences if we…Find the proper focus…
Share our client’s passion….Never settle for mediocrity…Act with honesty and integrity…Fearlessly communicate….everyday!

 

This is what I believe in, and what Liberty promises to deliver.

MWC Briefing Express places media and clients on perfect track to Barcelona

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A new venue, and clients requesting more briefings than ever before. It can only be Mobile World Congress 2013, and the chance for Liberty to unleash its latest mediovation (media innovation), the MWC Briefing Express.

 

Liberty’s latest mediovation, the MWC Briefing Express is full steam ahead for next year after a successful start in its first year.

 

The ingredients for our mediovation were simple. Take eight clients, 19 media, and select members of the Liberty team on a luxurious train journey from London to Barcelona via Paris, and a night’s stopover at Perpignan. Add some fine wine and gastronomic food along the way ‑ the whole way granted ‑ and you have the making for a memorable media trip that will become a mainstay around MWC for years to come.

 

The MWC Briefing Express combined the necessity of travelling to the world’s biggest mobile festival with not only the desire to maximise the number of media briefings for clients, but to serve news and thought leadership to the media before the noise of the Congress.

 

With the client-media briefings scheduled for the afternoon’s Paris-to-Perpignan leg of the journey, eager clients talked shop while the media scribbled furiously as the Eurostar made its way early Saturday morning on February 23rd from London to Paris.

 

Having successfully negotiated Paris, the TGV to Perpignan was a 5-hour journey with each client undertaking eight 30-minute interviews. In the relaxed surroundings of the TGV as it raced south through the stunning French countryside, it was perhaps the first time conversations on a French train on a Saturday afternoon ranged from mobile marketing effectiveness, mobile operator payments and deep packet inspection, to mobile consumer research, mobile apps and business assurance.

 

As the MWC Briefing Express Party relaxed over sumptuous French food and fragrant wine at the Perpignan hotel that evening, and networking into the early hours – not to mention the Full Monty in the swimming pool!!!! – it was s time to reflect on an incredibly successful days work.

 

In total, 71 briefings took place over a 10-hour period between London and Perpignan. Stories from those briefings started to emerge as early as Sunday afternoon. And to date, there have been over 40 stories, with countless others to be published over the coming months. What’s more, every client achieved their 15 minutes of fame with a recorded interview on TelecomTV.

Liberty’s MWC Briefing Express not only delivered an unprecedented number of briefings in such a short time in a unique and innovative manner, it also provided a platform for ongoing media coverage, and perhaps most important of all, lasting relationships between the media and clients were forged.

 

A massive thanks to everyone that helped make the Express happen, but also to the clients and media that embraced the concept wholeheartedly and made it a truly memorable expedition for all.

 

Planning for next year has already commenced. Watch this space for more mediovation.

 

So there you have it; one truly successful media trip, but don’t just take our word for it:

 

“It [the Express] was a great idea. I talked to loads of people at MWC about it. You should definitely repeat it.”

Paul Berney, MMA

 

“Let’s make it [the Express] a tradition!”

Alan Burkitt-Gray, Global Telecoms Business

 

“I found the access to companies that the Express provided, together with the chance to outline certain thoughts before the event itself and get to know companies better over a longer time frame was absolutely invaluable.”

Keith Dyer, The Mobile Network

 

“It [the Express] was an awesome trip, and I really appreciate being a part of it.”

Mike Shaw, Mobile Choice

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!

In the flurry of MWC news, there were some themes that quickly came through.

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The venue – we had a shiny new venue – I liked it. One of the aspects that went down especially well was the central concourse as it brought in the ‘serendipity effect’ of bumping in to people. This was something that some of you may remember when the show was based in Cannes.

 

Mobile World Congress 2013

 

On topics – M2M (the internet of things) truly arrived. While M2M is a fairly mature industry the depth and breadth of it at the show was a sight to behold. At the centre of this was the Connected City which showed applications from mobile health to e-learning.

 

It was also the year of challengers – from Ubuntu to the Firefox (and even Sony and Nokia), there were some interesting announcements which have the potential to change the mobile landscape.

 

Mobile security, device management and the enterprise were all big topics too – combined with BYOD. This we know but the threat landscape means that enterprise grade services and security are becoming an increasing priority for handset manufacturers, operators, app developers and system integrators. There were a pleasing number of exhibitors really focussing on these crucial areas. We’re looking forward to what next year will bring already!

Predictions for MWC 2013

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The thing about predictions is you either need to make them so obvious you won’t be wrong or so generic so you won’t look foolish; otherwise the only thing you can predict with any certainty is that you will get something wrong.

 

Mirror mirror on the wall…

 

That said we all enjoy a bit of educated speculation – to test this theory I polled my friends and colleagues for their predictions. The trends highlighted this year are pretty much the same as those that were highlighted in previous years.

 

So ignoring them and the current crop of predictions and themes in the media (which mainly revolve around handsets), I decided to look at some of the topics and trends that businesses actually care about.

 

 

Mobile payments: just as we are reading about plastic cards being the death of cash, so too are we beginning to see mobiles have credible applications in this space. I think this year’s MWC will see a good deal of news from the big players (the likes of Mastercard & Visa), as well as the mobile operators around this topic

 

Internet of things: many people said that M2M was one of the key trends in 2012. I agree, though it was a fairly quiet one. We are set for more of this in 2013 as the industry looks to define itself and becomes more relevant to the wider vertical markets. So beyond the fridge ordering my groceries, telehealth and smart-metering will be two key areas to watch

 

Services: BYOD has certainly had an impact on businesses – this we all know. There is however a second wave that is crashing in to organisations via services and applications. We’ll hear more from young pretenders like Box and DropBox but also expect to hear more from the old-guard, like Oracle, Nokia, BlackBerry and Microsoft

 

Security: the mobile world is no longer immune from hacks and attacks. With governments and their agencies warning about cyber security and likening it to the ‘Wild West’, we will hear a lot about mobile malware, hacks, and the importance of encryption

 

Other topics that will inevitably creep in are big data, cloud (though I would lump than under services), second screen and LTE. One company I will be keeping an eye on is that erstwhile titan of the business device RIM BlackBerry. MWC is its first major outing since its new devices were launched earlier this month so it is bound to have something to say in Barcelona.

 

I’ll leave you with a thought from Steve Wozniack who was probably right when he opined that; ‘the smartphone and tablet will become the remote control and wallet for individuals the world over.’

Deep Digs – and we’re not talking about Richard III

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When you work in the technology sector – as Liberty has for the last 15 years – you work with clients ranging from start-ups to established corporations and everything in between.  Briefs are often very similar in the broader sense – ‘we want to change the face of the sector’ and ‘we want to disrupt’ or ‘what we offer is totally unique’.

 

Richard III & the great communication challenge

 

In order to meet these ambitions, it’s not always enough to work with the news agenda alone.  As a communications agency, we need to do a deep dig on the company as a whole; in other words look at the brand, its positioning, how it relates to competitors, and lay the groundwork for a new set of communication challenges.

 

 

It’s a joined up approach that we, as an industry, have been talking about for a while, but still there are client companies that split the roles of strategic brand development, and communications through owned, bought and earned media.  At Liberty we believe it’s essential to be involved in the entire brand journey and industry positioning work, because whether we like it or not, the credibility of a communication will be judged as a package, not just as a headline in a press release, a slogan on an ad or a claim made on LinkedIn – it all has to work together.

 

 

This brand development can apply to brand extensions, straplines and divisional positioning; it’s rarely about a major overhaul anyway, no matter the size of the business. We’ve created entire industry events for billion dollar global clients to meet strategic goals – extending the brand, coming up with an event name, developing full brand guidelines and producing collateral.

 

 

If your technology business needs a communication consultancy, expect us to dig a little deeper than you might expect; we may just uncover something vitally important about the way you talk about your brand.

Three things all companies should know about Social Media…

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HMV’s verified account has suffered a mishap with a series of tweets outlining that a group of staff were being made redundant. This is very probably the work of a ‘rogue’ employee (read deeply hacked off) though there was some speculation it had been ‘hacked’.

 

Social Media’s ticking time bomb.

 

My guess is that it’s more likely to simply be the case that nobody had changed the password since (according to a maverick tweet) the intern set-up the feed two years ago.

 

By the time you read this I imagine the tweets will already have been taken down.

 

It is important to understand the bigger picture here – there are people going through a tough time, so in one sense this is completely understandable.

 

What I do hope however, is that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we start see a social version of being marched out the building with a black plastic sack as a result, and sadly there does seem to be a sense of resignation and inevitability about it – I just hope I’m wrong.

 

In the era of social and immediate communications I think we will see an increasing amount of these maverick tweets. Especially as marketing and PR departments can be notoriously bad at changing log-in and passwords to subscription services, taxi accounts, extranets and the like. In this respect we really need to do better.

 

I am sure there are some lessons to be learned in the long-term here, but the immediate ones that springs to mind:

 

  • Change your passwords regularly
  • Make sure you can access those passwords
  • Make sure you know who knows your passwords

New Year, New Approach – a fresh look at Mobile World Congress

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In 2012, more than 67,000 visitors from 205 countries attended Mobile World Congress – a new record for the mobile industry’s premier event.

 

MWC Express

 

This year the venue is changing to accommodate in excess of 70,000 attendees, with more than 3,500 international print, online, broadcast media and analysts expected to participate – that’s a valuable audience for anyone in the mobile space and certainly an opportunity not to be missed! But with so many companies vying for space and media inundated from December onwards with pitches and briefing requests, how can you ensure your voice is heard?

 

As a PR agency with its roots in the mobile industry, we’ve been representing our clients at Mobile World Congress for more than twenty years. Indeed, for the last eight years Liberty has also been proud to be the GSMA’s agency of record for media management at the event, looking after the needs of the thousands of international press attending. We know that media are pulled every which way at the event and with pressure to cover the big news as it hits, many are less willing to commit to briefing slots, preferring to keep their diaries open for breaking news. In order to get our clients in front of the media they want to meet, we know that we have to make life for the press on the ground easier and take a fresh approach.

 

Introducing the Liberty MWC Express 2013 – a new way to work with the media

 

As a result, we have created a compelling new strategy to drive press briefings and cement long-term relationships between our clients and their target media. The Liberty MWC Briefing Express combines the necessity of travelling to Barcelona for the Congress with the opportunity to deliver key messages, company updates or news to the media that matter before the noise of MWC truly kicks in. More importantly, it provides Liberty’s clients with the opportunity to brief and develop long-term relationships with some of Europe’s leading technology press.

 

The Express will commence its journey in London, stopover for lunch in Paris, and then move onwards to Perpignan, France, while clients can spend time briefing the media. After an overnight stay in a 5-star Perpignan hotel and a relaxed media dinner, the journey will culminate the following morning when the train departs for Barcelona on the last 2-hour leg of the journey. On arrival in Barcelona, Liberty will provide the media with their press passes and transfer them to their boutique hotel for three nights’ stay for the course of MWC2013.

 

We’ve already secured a number of tier one technology journalists for the journey – contact us today to find out more about who they are and to get a tailored quote to join us on board! Email nlane@libertycomms.com or call +44 207 751 4444.

What a Difference a Year Makes

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365 days from PR to new mum and back again

 

This time last year I had just said goodbye to my clients and colleagues to start a new life as a mum. 52 weeks and more than a few sleepless nights later here I am back in the office trying to catch up on everything that’s happened since I left, but where do I start?

 
Now I like to think that I have been keeping abreast of news and business trends. A positive spin on having a baby who’s keen on 6am starts (or earlier) is that I’ve been able to listen to the entire three hours of Radio 4’s Today programme on a daily basis and at least start the day feeling extremely well informed. But that’s not enough. PR – and PR for the mobile industry at that – is unbelievably fast paced and the landscape has changed dramatically both for my clients and for me as a PR professional.

 
In the year that I’ve been away, for example, the mobile world has seen widespread deployment of LTE networks, with 209 predicted to be commercial by year end by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). This move towards 4G, improved 3G coverage and the increasing popularity of Wi-Fi offload has enabled a whole new level of mobile interactivity and content consumption. Supported by huge penetration of ever more sophisticated devices such as the iPhone 5 and the increasing popularity of the tablet, which is expected to generate huge Christmas sales and take off as a leading form factor next year, 2012 really has seen mobile take over from the desktop and laptop. Indeed, the rise of the tablet and the smartphone before it now means we live in a world where users expect to access the same services and experiences, whether browsing, communication, commerce or video, irrespective of the device or their location.

 
Couple this mobile growth with the evolution that has taken place in social media over the past 12 months, and indeed the way in which social network interactions have been impacted by the mobile device, and we are facing a new playing field for communication strategies. Businesses now have more options than ever to reach their target audience and a new set of rules for doing so. Mobile sites and apps are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an essential part of any communications strategy. Social media, once an add-on to many PR campaigns and run fairly separately, is (or should be) firmly integrated into any comms plan. The growing popularity of newer additions to the social landscape such as Pinterest and Google+ has necessitated a multi-platform and integrated approach rather than a token facebook page or Twitter feed. And as social media interactions have become a mainstream and trusted means of interaction with brands, it seems that in-house communication teams are finally starting to understand the importance of the buy-in and participation of their executives – particularly in B2B communication.

 
So a year on and I find that there’s a lot to learn, re-learn and start putting into practice for clients old and new. This may be a slightly daunting prospect at times but I’m discovering that it’s also a really good thing – forcing me to take a step back and adopt a fresh approach, looking at old problems with new eyes. Maybe everyone should take a year out every now and again?!

Our winning ways!

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Last night saw us reach a really significant milestone in our history. We are delighted to have won the 14th annual Media Employer of the Year Award at the W Hotel in London.

 

 

The awards, which recognise and celebrate the innovative talent attraction and retention initiatives from organisations within the media sector, was judged by an independent panel who included Martyn Hill, Business Development Manager of Firefish and 2011 winner of Media Employer of the Year; Katherine Varian, Head of HR at Cohn & Wolfe; Bruce Macrae, IIP assessor & owner of Media Network; and Aliya Vigor-Robertson, Managing Partner at Journey HR.

 

Suffice to say the competition was significant with big names such as Publicis and Total Media all very worthy shortlisted candidates. We gained a significant amount from the whole process (with fantastic support from the team at Pathfinders throughout) but to hear our name called out as the winner was incredible!

 

For us, it means a tremendous amount. As an agency we are embarking on a significant chapter in the agency’s growth and to know our employee strategy and approach to staff can support this growth is important. It also marks an important personal achievement for our MD, Dee Gibbs who has grown the agency over the last 16 years to what it is today.

 

As we look to 2013 our top 5 tips for helping other companies in the same position are as follows:

 

  • Work as a team – you may have brilliant products and fantastic clients, but unless your people are working together as an effective team, your company is unlikely to fulfill its potential.
  • Put a people strategy in place which matches your culture and ethos – Getting the most out of staff is of course a matter of leadership, but in all except the smallest companies it also essential to have a people or workforce strategy in place. Key to our strategy has been understanding the requirements of our organisation as we have grown. That means listening to what our employees and clients say and reflecting the feedback in the support, policies and procedures we have put in place. Equally important is recognising how efficiently our team has been working. You can’t do things alone so having a team that is behind you and working towards the same goals is critical
  • Drive performance – Creating a motivated, loyal and efficient team has been the bedrock to our growth. You need to incentivise and encourage staff though fair and competitive benefits (regularly bench marked), pro-active approaches to training, robust appraisal systems and of course the magic word, thank you. Remembering to take the time to say thank you for a good job well done goes a long way!
  • Recruitment – as with the retention and motivation of existing staff, finding the best people as you grow does come down to competitive salaries, company benefits and opportunities for advancement. But it’s also worth remembering that the way your business presents itself is important. If you wish to attract self-starting, entrepreneurial and creative members of staff, that’s the image that your company should present. Also, don’t forget to get out and about. We live in a small world – knowing people opens doors!
  • Have fun! Work becomes so much more engaging if you not only enjoy the work but also the people who work with you. Take the time to get to know your team and don’t forget the socials – let your hair down and enjoy yourself – especially as the Christmas party time approaches!

New survey proves social media plays a key role in delivering great customer service

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There’s no doubt that social media has (and is still) changing the way consumers interact with brands.

 

Social media key to customer service?

 

From a customer service perspective it has never been more important for brands to recognise this and put strategies in place to ensure they are quickly and accurately responding to customer requests. According to a recent survey from NM Incite, nearly half of social media users have sought customer service via social channels, with 71% of those who did so (and had a positive experience) stating they would recommend the brand or company publicly, compared with just 19% of those who got no response.

 
It’s clear that people engaging with social media channels expect a quick response from the company they are engaging with. It’s clear too that if they are happy with the response that they will endorse the organisation to their networks. There’s a lot of potential reward in having a good social media strategy in place – if you would like more info on how we can help you do this we’d love to chat to you!

Fun House voted Liberty’s favourite kids TV show – Pat Sharp invited to Liquid Lunch

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A survey across all Liberty staff has revealed that the agency’s favourite children’s TV show of all time is Fun House.

Will Pat Sharp come?

 

The wacky kids programme ran on C-ITV from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, hosted by Pat Sharp and twins Melanie and Martina Grant.

 
To pay homage to this heavyweight of kids TV programmes, Liberty takes great delight in inviting host Pat Sharp as Special Guest to its Liquid Lunch celebration in central London on Nov 21st.

 
Pat Sharp, nurturing his pet mullet, rose to fame in the mid-80s by not only presenting Fun House, but as Video Jockey (VJ) for Sky presenting the Coca-Cola Eurochart Top 50 and Nescafe UK Top 50. More recently, Sharp has appeared on Come Dine With Me and in 2011 was a contestant on the eleventh series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Presently, Pat (to his friends) is the Weekend Breakfast presenter on Smooth Radio.

 
Liberty is delighted to announce that Pat Sharp could be the Guest of Honour at its Liquid Lunch next week.

 
And to complete your journey down memory lane, here is a list of Fun House obstacles, courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

 

  • Wild slide – A very steep and fast tube slide
  • Sneaky slip ‘n’ slide – Another tube slide opposite the wild slide but less steep and fast.
  • Skelter Belter – A helter-skelter like slide which leads to the bottom ball pool of the Fun House
  • The flying fox – A zip line which went from one end of the fun house to the other
  • The ball run – A long ball pit at the back of the fun house
  • Firemans pole – A long pole similar to a firemans pole to slide down from the top of the fun house to the bottom.
  • Crawl tube – A big plastic tube to crawl through. (Renamed the Tumbling Tube)
  • Balloon Tunnel – A tunnel filled with balloons
  • Monster Maze – An area at the front of the fun house filled with monsters
  • The bob sleigh – A bob sleigh which goes down a large slide from the top of the fun house which leads to the sneaky slip ‘n’ slide.
  • The danger net – A net bridge which leads too the wild slide.
  • Hole in the wall – A wall with holes in, the tag hides behind one of the holes
  • Angular triangular – A box with two triangle-shaped spinning shelves inside
  • The turning twister – A box, oppose to Angular Triangular, with spinning circles
  • Magic curtain – A foam rubber curtain which you could walk through
  • Target the trash cans – 3 rubbish bins filled with rubbish, the tag is hidden inside one of them.
  • Beat the bully – A giant head of a bully with giant teeth, you have to punch his teeth to get the tag.
  • The tall tower – Very large tower with a ladder to climb up
  • Snakes in a box – A box filled with springy snakes.
  • The A frame – A climbing frame in the shape of a capital A
  • The sunken well – 4 long narrow tubes with ropes inside, the tag is attached to one of them
  • The climbing net – A net to climb up (Renamed the Net Ladder in earlier versions)
  • The big leap – A big firemans pole
  • The giant steps – A giant staircase
  • Gong crazy! – A large box with a polystyrene gong at the front, smash it open to get the tag.
  • The big drop – A zip-line seat built to carry the player from the top of the Fun House to the bottom ball pool

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon….it’s a classic

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Working in PR we spend a lot of time coming up with great ideas that help tell our clients’ story.

 

What’s your bacon number?

 

Sometimes they are fun and sometimes they are serious. Occasionally we managed to blend the two.  Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a meme that virtually every PR in tech-land has tried to use over the last ten years or so but I have never seen anyone do it, or at least enough for me to notice.

This is despite the rise of the internet, the connected home, online collaboration, social networks et al. To put it in to context, I think I first suggested/brainstormed using Kevin in about 1999/2000 having been emailed a link on which I spent many happy an hour trying to get a Bacon Score of more than six.

 

One of the reasons I like the Six Degrees is that it brings to life the idea that we are all connected or only a few steps away from anyone else on the planet (if you’re on Facebook apparently it’s only 3.74). I believe treated properly this idea can be used with business and consumers alike. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could be used to illustrate a business message.

 

Which is why I am pleased to see this idea being given a prime-time television slot spearheading EE’s new advertising. Hat tip to the team over there and I am sure we will see this idea percolate down to the B2B level.  Watch and enjoy:

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Kevin_Bacon

 

It just goes to show that there is no such thing as an old idea* as long as you implement it well and it is relevant.

 

* you’ll  probably never hear me suggest a treasure hunt though

Show-Show-Show, Mobile World Congress comes but once a year

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Is there really any difference between Christmas and the Mobile World Congress?

 

All aboard the Liberty MWC Briefing Express

 

Both happen once a year, come round quicker than you think, involve an immense amount of preparation for a short period of time, intense daytime activity, the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, and of course spending precious time with loved ones. OK, the analogy falls on weakened ground at this last point (well for the majority, for the minority, you know who you are), but the comparison has been made.

 

The fact remains that the Mobile World Congress is only 114 days away. Seems like a long time? Well, it feels like only yesterday since the London Olympics finished. That was 80 days ago.
Business preparations for MWC 2013 started as MWC 2012 closed its doors. But it’s always a different tale when it comes to media planning. MWC media briefings should never be an afterthought, but as a PR agency, you would expect us to say that. Planning for media briefings, regardless of whether you will have news at the event or not (get those research projects kicked-off now), should already underway, primarily because there are greater considerations to be accounted for at MWC 2013. Not least because MWC has moved home, from the old Fira to a new Fira that is 50% bigger.
From a media perspective, that could potentially spell “briefing mayhem”. As an ex-journalist that has been attending the event since 1998, I can tell you exactly what that means: Missed briefings; and plenty of them. The layout has changed, companies are no longer where they once were, and the distance between one briefing and the next is unknown. Journalists will have no bearings of the venue, and therefore location for briefings.
For PRs, it will mean a lot of “I’m sure they’re on their way”, or “I’ll just give them a call to see where they are”, to disgruntled and increasingly frustrated clients. Sounds harsh, but it will happen, just as it did when the-then 3GSM event moved from Cannes to its previous home in Barcelona.
No doubt all good PR agencies will have introduced a series of measures to ensure missed media briefings are minimised and that the media enter MWC 2013 with a good degree of familiarity already. A great PR agency will develop an innovative concept that provides a compelling solution to clients and the media, and guarantees a seamless transition to the new Fira.
Based on the previous sentence, you will now not be surprised to hear that we have created exactly that. We call it the Liberty MWC Briefing Express, and it involves a luxury train journey from London-to-Paris-to-Barcelona, with an overnight stop at Perpignan for some fine French refreshment. It combines the necessity of travel with the opportunity to conduct media briefings and develop media relations over a 24-hour period.
From the media’s perspective, it replaces the burden of organising travel and accommodation (we have done that) and provides them with copy and numerous stories before they have even reached Barcelona. For clients, besides ensuring they have conducted multiple briefings prior to the event and started to develop strong relations with their core media, it also means they have more time for client or new business meetings during the Congress when upwards of 70,000 people will traversing the show floor.
One person that won’t be traversing the show floor is Father Christmas, whom will no doubt be chilling in the North Pole after another busy Christmas period. But if there are other comparisons to be drawn from Christmas and MWC, it would not be between Father Christmas and GSMA CEO John Hoffman. That said, I know exactly what I’d do with my iPhone 4 if Hoffman came down my chimney on Christmas Eve. I know there is not an app for that!
Bookings for the Liberty MWC Briefing Express are now being taken. For full information, please call +44 (0) 207 751 4444.

Is it time trade bodies looked at Facebook’s mobile advertising model?

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Facebook has announced advertising revenues of $1.1 billion for the third quarter. It’s the first time the social network’s quarterly ad revenues have topped $1 billion, but more importantly, the company can now start to say that it is generating meaningful revenues from mobile.

 

Advertising model could raise industry eyebrows

 

On the back of this news, Facebook’s share price leapt 23%, and investors, initially concerned at the lack of appeal of its sponsored stories mobile advertising model, are starting to see some return from the mobile channel.

 

In terms of numbers, the third quarter saw Facebook generate mobile ad revenues of $152 million, approximately 14% of total ad revenues. While this is merely a toe-in-the-water for the social behemoth, the majority of mobile ad networks around the world would leap through tiny flaming hoops to achieve even a quarter of these quarterly sales figures.

 

Let’s not simply dismiss this figure. If mobile represented 14% of total global advertising spend right now, it would be worth somewhere in the region of $65 billion per year. So perhaps Facebook should be given significantly more credit than it has received to date.

 

Let’s put these numbers into context. Globally, Facebook generated average revenue per user (ARPU) of $1.29 ‑ though in North America, ARPU stands at an impressive $3.40. On mobile only, which Facebook says it now has 604 million users, ARPU is $0.25. So while Facebook might be patting itself on the back for generating $152 million in mobile ad spend, a harsh reality check reveals that mobile users are, at least for the time being, worth one-fifth of online users.

 

And there is good reason for this disparity between total ARPU and mobile-only ARPU. Sponsored stories as a concept are fundamentally flawed. It relies on a user having at one stage liked a company, and this has morphed into an opt-in permitting Facebook to deliver ads onto a fuser’s (Facebook user) news feed from said same liked company. Historically, liking a company was a fairly worthless and meaningless act. Now, fusers will think twice before committing that extra click on their mouse when confronted with a company on Facebook.

 

But before brands view Facebook as an amazing channel for them to connect with customers, consider this: research carried out by mobileSQUARED highlighted that only 10% of fusers wanted brands to communicate with them on their mobile Facebook page. If mobile advertising is going to become truly effective on Facebook, brands must identify those 10% first.

 

The only conceivable way in which mobile advertising can work on mobile is if Facebook encourages its 604 million mobile users to opt-in again. This is certainly an area that a trade body like the MMA should investigate. After all, fusers originally signed up to Facebook to connect to friends and family on a social basis, but the emerging commercial side of Facebook will mean fusers are increasingly being coerced in to connecting with companies.

 

Why does technology struggle to attract women?

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Looking at the technology industry from the outside in, one might be forgiven for thinking that it is a place of contradictions; the IT world’s geek image generating ‘cool’ brands, social media initiating anti-social behaviour, well, you get the picture.

 

Women in tech: Hewlett-Packard’s Meg Whitman

 

However, as writer Ayn Rand once said: ‘Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.’

 

This week had me addressing my own premises to understand the contradiction of women in technology and here is why: the technology industry, and IT in particular, struggles to make careers attractive to women.

 

To start with the positive, Fortune announced its annual Most Powerful Women Ranking this week, showing that the technology sector dominates when it comes to the world’s most influential women. At number one was IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, with Hewlett-Packard¹s Meg Whitman, Facebook¹s Sheryl Sandberg and Oracle’s Safra Catz appearing in the top ten.

 

A total of 16 per cent of the women in the league came from the technology sector, the highest proportion of any industry named.

 

So clearly something is working to attract some of the best female business minds to technology.

 

However, after witnessing two recent cases of institutionalised sexism, generated from two key institutions of the technology sector, as people looked on unphased, no comment made, I was left perplexed, trying to understand the lack of reaction.

 

First, at the Gartner Security & Risk Symposium, an analyst made a joke about people being available to answer technical questions ‘unlike the ones in short-skirts’.

 

The second case came in the form of a headline on the Computer Weekly site, reading: “Wives of Computer Weekly readers rejoice we’re no longer in print.”

 

Not the most favourable moments from these pillars of the technology industry I think you and, indeed, they, would agree.

 

Only in March this year, the Guardian’s technology editor Charles Arthur asked in an article: “Why aren’t there more women in technology?” He cited several cases that had occurred at that time on the US west coast, a pivotal home to technology, where women had been treated with contempt under the guise of jokes and flip remarks.

 

The key point raised, for me, came as Arthur posed, to his male readers, the question: “How much of this behaviour goes on which you just don’t notice?”

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/women-in-tech-dominate-fortunes-annual-power-ranking/2012/09/20/bf02593c-0349-11e2-91e7-2962c74e7738_story.html

Apple’s Genius Training Workbook – a guide to great customer service?

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Recently, you may have seen that Gizmodo reported on a leaked copy of Apple’s Genius Training Workbook. Described by Gizmodo as “an exhaustive manual to understanding customers and making them happy”, it provides a fascinating look into Apple’s approach to customer service.

 

 

Whether their motive is to genuinely provide the best client service possible or something more commercial to increase revenue, one thing remains: they are still a brand universally known as keeping their customers at the heart of their business.

 

If you have ever worked in customer service for any company this guide won’t come as much of a surprise. I remember something similar when I took my first job in HR for women’s fashion retailer, Principles. Their mantra was to create a fantastic customer journey, which was felt from the moment you walked into the shop. The company invested thousands in creating the right look and feel for customers – from the music playing as people entered the shop, through to the perfume at the cash desks, the lay out of the store and most of all the people. Everyone was trained on the right approach to greeting and engaging with people – with the aim to make you more comfortable and happy, in order to increase sales.

 

This is something we do at Liberty too. We have developed our global standards document of procedures and processes to make sure our team always provides our clients with the best possible experience. There’s nothing more disappointing to us than a disappointed client and we invest in our teams to make sure they are the best they can be. Now, this comes down to people being willing to grow and learn and take on new approaches but with the right attitude, correct training and fantastic reward and recognition policies we can help our teams to make sure they are the best they can be.

 

The key is also encouraging everyone to listen – truly listen – to clients. It’s only then can we truly develop campaigns that will make a real difference. We communicate regularly, ask for feedback and never rest on our laurels. The personal touch goes a long way too – remembering to offer a hand of help if they have a particularly busy week, saying thank you and sending surprise gifts and flowers go a long way – as well as the obligatory well deserved lunch of course.

 

Now no company will become the largest company in the world (like Apple) by being nice just for the sake of being nice. Apple is cool, but it is a much more disciplined cool, that is focused on the bottom line. But I don’t think that being nice is a bad thing. After all, it’s much nicer to go into a store where you are treated nicely with empathy, get polite answers to your questions and actual help with your problems. It’s no wonder their team of “geniuses” actually help to generate sales. In fact, on the same day Gizmodo reported their story, TechCrunch reported that according to a study by NPD Group, “nine of every ten Apple owners are somewhat or much more likely to make another Apple purchase following their tech support experience.” Furthermore, one percent of those polled said they have a better perception of Apple after getting technical help at the Genius Bar.
One thing is for sure – would we really complain if we got a positive experience from a store we visited or organisation we had dealt with? I don’t think so.

Tips for a better appraisal system

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In my role I am often asked whether I feel appraisals are a waste of time and what we can do as either the appraiser or appraisee to make them more effective. In this blog post I have tried to answer some of these questions and help provide some tips to getting the most out of appraisals.

 


In my opinion, most people’s dislike of appraisals comes down to the experience they have had with them. For appraisees their dislike can be a result of feeling like appraisals are used as a stick for management to beat them with – rather than a forum to focus on their development and growth.  For appraisers (managers) their dislike can result from knowing they are expected to get people to change but not knowing how. However, done in the right they can be a fantastic tool to help inspire and grow your employees.
In my view the key to a good appraisal system hinges on these key elements:

 

  • Communication – many appraisal systems are introduced without spelling out the benefits which means people participate half-heartedly because they are forced to. Like anything communication is key
  • Training – Most managers are not trained in conducting appraisal interviews. As a result, almost everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The appraisees don’t get the motivating feedback necessary to improve their commitment and productivity; the appraiser doesn’t learn how he or she could manage better; and the company doesn’t get the data it needs for planning and improving what it does. Poor interviewing by appraisers reinforces people’s worst fears and sometimes creates more problems. Likewise setting unclear or unrealistic  objectives and measurement following reviews can also be detrimental
  • Job descriptions – Without adequate job descriptions there is no sound starting point for the appraisal and there is no way of measuring improved performance. It is the performance of the various tasks in the job description that must be appraised and improved
  • 360 degree feedback – without gathering feedback both from above and below it is impossible to get a rounded picture of a person’s performance. Annual reviews should be 360 degree reviews with feedback taken form a cross section of people and teams the individual works with.
  • Time – the biggest reason appraisals fail is often due to time. People don’t prioritise the development of their staff and push appraisal meetings back. It’s easily done especially in a busy communications agency where client commitments often take precedent. But making sure appraisals happen is so important. Making sure the right preparation is done too is key. All too often, prep is often left to the last minute meaning the right investment is not made
  • Ongoing improvement – the final area which is often missed is to leave meetings about a person’s development until appraisal times. For an appraisal system to be effective a person’s performance should be appraised more regularly than every year. In my view appraisals should be done every 6 months with more regular catch ups scheduled in between (as is deemed appropriate for the individual). Obviously for very junior members of staff their development should be driven by their line manager and helped and supported through the process of line management. However, for managers and above (especially those with experience of line management) it’s important for the individual themselves to drive their own development. Everyone is different so being able to tailor an approach accordingly is key to making sure everyone gets the most out of the process

 

Without doubt, properly conducted appraisals are one of the most powerful tools for enhancing your people’s performance and your business’s profits. Find ways to avoid these mistakes and your people will learn to enjoy appraisals with all the benefits of improved performance.

 

http://www.prmoment.com/1133/are-appraisals-a-waste-of-time.aspx

if content is King, then conversation is still Queen

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Social media has certainly shaken things up in more ways than one over the last six years.


 

To date, companies have embraced social networks and channels by setting up Facebook and LinkedIn pages amongst other social tools.Many view these as an extension of their current marketing mix and offer product information, sales notices and contact information similar to that on their corporate websites.

 

Companies have started using Twitter as a broadcast medium; tweeting when they have new products or are having a clearance sale as a syndicated one-way communication with their followers, but it’s the collaboration and innovation afforded to companies and individuals by social media that really sets it apart as a game changer.

 

Social media channels and the Internet generation as a whole are by default, all about working collaborations. Digital networking is la mode du jour; but for those who have grown up amidst the digitally enabled world, can it actually lead to social isolation?

 

Isolation in this sense comes from the fact that whilst actively engaging with others in real-time, often being part of a wider conversation or community, they are doing so sitting in front of a screen on a device enabled with social media tools, never actually having to physically communicate in face-to-face conversation at all.

 

Does that matter I hear you ask? Email didn’t kill the conversation, so why should social networking kill social skills? Isn’t it enough to converse via a screen and keypad? Each generation has used different forms of technology to interact with each other; surely this is simply the next stage in the evolution of communications? In some respects this is fine, and the younger generation have for the most part become experts at writing compelling content, because at the heart of social media – as in PR – content is very much king.

 

Collaborative working is a team thing – after all, no man is an island as the saying goes! But to work successfully in a collaborative way, it is imperative the digital youth of today be able to communicate with others in the tried and tested, old-fashioned art of conversation.

 

Social media channels and digitally enabled workforces are here to stay – it’s not something that can be uninvented, and there is no way back now. Twitter, Facebook and email or IM are commonplace in the businesses of today and tomorrow, and it’s only likely to become more so as workforces become less centralised thanks to technology and the proliferation of mobile communications.

 

Now it is a question of how the new rules of engagement will better the business environment. Ultimately it’s down to the individual to make the time, and take the initiative to remember that there are different ways to communicate other than an IM or email: the phone (fixed line or mobile) is still a great way to converse and get an immediate and unscripted response. If content remains King – which in all businesses it undoubtedly is – even in the digital, social media orientated world of today, personal conversation is still very much Queen

 

Centurions Connected

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It was a sunny day almost three years ago that myself, Mitch Lazar and Graeme Ferguson were sitting on the terrace bar in the Century Club ploughing through our second bottle of Sauvignon Blanc when we got into a discussion on how we loathed networking events.

 

 

Perhaps being jaded 40 something’s had a lot to do with it, we had all been to hundreds of networking over the years but the thought of wearing a name badge and being sold to by a 19 year old whipper snapper was no longer our idea of a fun networking event. And there you have it – networking events had become boring oversubscribed sales pitches.

 

We have an idea! Let’s start our own event. Let’s bring fun back into networking and let’s meet people we actually want to meet. And with that the Centurions was born and suitably named after the bar we were drinking in.

 

Three years on, 2000+ members later, events in London, New York, Munich and Istanbul has proved our theory right! Networking events can be fun.

 

There are two things that make a good networking event,1) the venue, 2) the people. All our events have been in incredible venues, in London our home is the Century Club but we recently had an exclusive event on the top floor bar of The Gherkin. The uber cool Standard Hotel in NY and Munich’s hottest club The Heart Bar have hosted past events. VIP Invitation only has kept the quality of our members a ‘who’s who’ of the digital entertainment industry.
Deals have been struck, friends have been made and drinks have been drunk. We welcome you to join our growing membership and to network your heart out at one of our events. Come and join us at www.centurionsconnected.com

 

Tony Pearce
Centurions Co-Founder