Category Archives: Company Blog

The Story is Everything

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We all see stories play out in our heads before we turn them into something that we can communicate. Some of us spend a lot of our time turning those ideas into something that translates into images or even film. [OPEN TO A WIDE SHOT OF THE OFFICE]. You get the picture.

It’s called imagination. But if you’re trying to share your idea, how do you know that the way you are expressing it relates to the audience you want to connect with? How do you know that your idea will work? Well it’s simple, you don’t.

What you do know is that we are all subject to many of the same universal anxieties, hopes and fears; and the fact is that very few people think differently. On the whole, most people are watching the same news channels, playing the same games on their Xbox, playing the same sports on a Sunday morning and watching the same movies. That’s a good thing; it all feeds into a certain kind of literacy and universal understanding that’s called culture.

For the most part, the cinema industry knows that only a very specific style of storytelling works and it’s based on some pretty old solid story structure components. If you want to get a film financed in Hollywood and your script doesn’t have the right elements in the right places it won’t get funded. It’s that simple. Story is everything. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to say or what medium you’re trying to say it with.

Unfortunately many people making film content and often those writing in PR or working in advertising don’t get this basic fact. Very few have done their homework and know how a good story works on the page or on the screen. Without a few basic components in play it’s inevitable that you are going to get a big disconnect from your readers or viewers. That said, if you get it right the world is yours.

At this stage I could break it down and give you those much needed elements and insights to make your work perfect; but where’s the fun in that?  Isn’t it something you should find out for yourself? I will say this much – without some kind of catharsis in your corporate film, ad or newsletter it’s dead in the water.

By the way, catharsis is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. It happens at the end of every good movie you have ever seen – you know, the bit where you get choked up or want to stand up and clap. That’s it! It’s also the bit where you think you’ve learned something and you want to share it with the ocean of people out there and add a little to the sea of culture.

If you would like to hear more about how video can help bring your brand to life, get in touch with the Liberty team at info@libertycomms.com. In the meantime, here’s some of my recent work.

Berkeley and TechCrunch Creating the Mecca for Robotics

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The robots are coming! Whether you believe they’re coming to rule us or support us, it’s safe to say that what seemed like a far off, “science fiction-y” future in terms of robots, is closer than we think. In fact, Liberty got to meet a few of them at the TechCrunch Session for Robotics on May 11 on the UC Berkeley campus.

At the show, we got to meet a range of playful and life-changing robots that have clearly been in development for years. We loved Marty from the show. Based out of the UK, Marty is a fully programmable, walking robot. Marty helps teach programming, electronics, and mechanical engineering in a fun, challenging and engaging process. The brainchild of Robotical CEO Sandy Enoch, Marty was created to help Sandy’s niece learn how to code. Sandy’s goal was to create something that was accessible to makers and educators to help support blossoming interests in robotics in STEM programs.

Perhaps the most altruistic robotics company at the show was the SuitX. They offer an array of robotic modules that strap on as an exoskeleton to assist humans in performing everyday actions, such as walking, lifting, bending over and squatting. This includes the PhoeniX exoskeleton, intended to help those with mobility disorders to be upright and mobile, and the BackX exoskeleton that augments its wearers lower back strength by 60%, and greatly minimizes the risk of back injuries among workers.

Finally we have Multiply Labs, at first look, it might be easy to confuse them for a personalized vitamin offering, creating customizable supplements based on the individual’s needs. But upon further review, the capsules (and their ingredients) have been 3D printed by one of the Multiply Labs machines. So unlike the others, the robot itself is not meant for personal use, but instead has the capacity for use in hospitals and pharmacies to create personalized supplements for individuals.

In addition to meeting and seeing all these robots (plus more) first hand, the sessions included panels and workshops from roboticists working on advanced machinery that’s going to alter our futures drastically.

But for me, one of the most heartwarming parts of the whole day was watching the demonstrations from future roboticists that are guaranteed to shake things up – some still in high school who were dressed up and set to go to their prom later that evening.

Crisis CEOs: hero, villain or jelly?

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Think of a crisis. Do you remember the details? Probably not. But you very likely do remember the performance of the CEO in vivid detail.

Richard Branson in the Mojave Desert. Oscar Munoz ‘re-accommodating’ a passenger at United. Nick Varney on Sky after the Alton Towers tragedy. Mark Zuckerberg under pressure at Facebook.

It’s hard for a CEO to face the cameras when things are spinning out of control. Branson and Varney managed it… Munoz and Zuckerberg not so much.

Sincerity, empathy and bravery stabilise the P&L or stock-price. Confusion, coldness, panic and silence have the opposite effect.

This is why Liberty recommends crisis media training for all its clients’ spokespeople. Practice in handling aggressive questioning is worth its weight in gold.

In advance. When a crisis strikes it’s too late.

Apocalypse Narratives and Technology – the Terminator problem

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Last week I attended one of The Register’s lectures: AI turning on us? Let’s talk existential risk. The main speaker was Adrian Currie from The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge, who spoke about existential risk, challenges of science funding and the perception of AI.

CSER works to analyse the risks to species survival and threats that may cause the destruction of our social structures and society. This includes physically large threats like asteroids and small threats such as viruses. Adrian explained that whilst much of the research was dedicated to unlikely situations, why not dedicate a small bit of research to asking what we do if that 0.0001% event tries to kill us all.

The most relevant part to PR was how sensational narratives around technology can skew research funding and public interest to negatively impact our ability to look at future risk. The example given being that scientists researching AI from the perspective of safety and future risk must deal with the Terminator image every time. Currie argued that this can affect public perception and even where and if research funding is assigned.

There is a broad range of technologies that need to be researched with safety and future safety in mind. Yet, often the narratives in media and the public eye tend towards sensationalism, and are at risk of disproportionally making people focus on interesting but unlikely threats like the Terminator, rather than less flashy but more likely ones such as environmental population displacement.

AI, for example, needs a lot of research into how best to design the ‘boring’ systems that we make to do tasks more efficiently and easily. Otherwise we risk badly programmed AI (and here you see how easy it is to be sensationalist), such as a recent game where an industrial AI tasked with making paperclips with no limits turns the entire universe into paperclips!

Another example is recently developed algorithms that raise the question of ‘can’ vs ‘should’. Facebook, Google and social media platforms have all developed systems for providing content that the user wants, but not always what the user should see. For these companies, serving up content that a user wants to see increases engagement, which pushes the value of the advertising, generating revenue. But this particular process needs in-depth evaluation.

Potentially the government needs to intervene to force the algorithm to be less efficient, and instead provide ‘breaks’ from showing you content you approve of and creating a loop. However, you could see how perception of this research could be controlled by Facebook, which could in turn whip the public into a frenzy about ‘interference with freedom of speech’ and ‘government censorship’. This could then result in a researcher looking into this topic having their funding cut.

For PR professionals, we continue doing our jobs; asking questions about our clients, using the best language to describe their products, and creating narratives for the media. Yet, as part of our narrative creation, we should also take the time to ask what the implications of our narratives could be. As the ones in charge of storytelling, we should take responsibility for the narratives we create.

One of the ways we can do this is by creating narratives that foster discussion of all aspects of our clients’ business; increasing user engagement. Also ensuring we are creating constructive dialogue rather than focusing solely on reactive PR where all the messaging is tightly controlled.

Starship turn heads at Tech London Advocates’ 5th Anniversary

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Back when Russ Shaw founded Tech London Advocates (TLA) five years ago, people asked him whether London even had the capacity to cultivate a vibrant technology scene. Needless to say, no one asks him that question now.

It’s amazing just how much the technology sector in London has evolved over the last five years alone. Starship Technologies, which has itself grown from a small-time start-up to the world’s leading autonomous robot delivery company, is testament to this.

Liberty recently joined Starship at a special event to celebrate TLA’s 5th birthday. Starship gave a demo of their very cute delivery robot while the company’s VP of Marketing, Henry Harris-Burland, addressed an audience made up of leading figures from the London technology scene across sectors including cyber security, robotics and AI.

Henry explained why maintaining and developing social acceptance for disruptive technology will be key to the overall success of London’s tech scene in the near future. This is a view echoed by responses to the latest TLA Future of London Tech survey, in which over a third (34%) of respondents said that they believe AI and robotics will define the success of emerging tech in London within the next five years.

London, and by extension the UK, is clearly playing a leading role on the disruptive stage, and the onus is on everyone involved to make sure that the city remains competitive and steps up its innovation game. Companies like Starship are certainly shining examples for smaller start-ups who are getting their feet off the ground in the capital.

4 Mistakes Communicators Make on Social Media and How to Fix Them

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Social media, like PR, is constantly evolving. There was a time where Twitter users were only able to tweet 140 characters or less. The change to 280 characters may seem like it happened eons ago, but we just have to look back to November 2017. Wow, I feel old all of a sudden.

A long-forgotten aspect of Twitter, even before the extended tweet-storms, were the other character limits Twitter imposed. Originally, Twitter handles and photo/video attachments were a part of the 140-character count. While social media platforms are evolving, why aren’t its users following suit? Here are some of the mistakes social media users are still making and how to fix them.

1) What’s the Plan?

Your social media content will succeed only when there’s effort and a plan put into effect. Creating a strategy or schedule for your content will keep your social media channels organized and scattered. It will also give a reason for your followers to tune in and engage. Planning ahead is key; if you don’t, you might be tweeting to an empty followers list.

2) One Size Doesn’t Fit All

On social media, “cookie cutter” content won’t get you far. Always tailor content to fit a particular social media platform. Your followers don’t want to see the same thing plastered across three or four social media platforms. Make sure you’re creating and writing different copy for each of the channels you’re on – your followers will thank you.


3) Respond!

Pressing “tweet” is half of the job. You must interact; I recently tweeted at an organization regarding more information for an upcoming release; it’s been a week and a half and I haven’t heard back yet. Why are you on social media if you’re not social? Always engage! Otherwise, rest assured, your followers will look elsewhere for their answers, including your competitors.

4) Demographics, Demographics, Demographics

Before you hit send on a scheduled post, do you know who you’re trying to reach? Many companies still don’t know their target audience. Before blindly posting a tweet or LinkedIn post, do the research. All platforms offer free analytics tools, that offer a helpful – if just basic – look into who the people that follow your organization are.

If you have tips and tricks of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet us at @LibertyComms – we’ll be sure to retweet our favorites!

 

Technology re-creating the past

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

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

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

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

A Public Relations View on the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Scandal

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About the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal:

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

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

From a PR point of view:

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

Should message accuracy be valued over timeliness?

What is an appropriate timeline for crisis response?

What can PR pros learn from this?

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

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

Dee Gibbs | Global CEO

The power of partnership

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the ubiquitous USB flash drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revolving and Evolving

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – The Evolution of Social Media

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

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

1997: Six Degrees

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

2002: Friendster

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

2003: LinkedIn

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

2003: Myspace

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

2004: Facebook

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

2006: Twitter

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

2010: Instagram

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

2011: Snapchat

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

 

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

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – PR in Real-Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating 20 years of technology: Making commuting tolerable since 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating 20 Years of Technology – Play On!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating 20 years of technology – Attenborough on demand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day Three and 5G is still the talk of the halls

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It may be three quarters of the way through Mobile World Congress 2018, but 5G continues to dominate most of the headlines. Today saw another leading operator draw a line in the sand and commit to timeframes for launching 5G services, as T-Mobile US confirmed plans to build 5G in 30 US cities this year. Top of the list, according to the operator’s CTO Neville Ray, are ‘places that matter’ – namely New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Dallas.

While Ray acknowledged that it won’t be until 2019 that 5G mobile devices can take advantage of the network, he explained that T-Mobile will use equipment from Nokia and Ericsson to build a network spanning the operator’s 600MHz, 28GHz and 39GHz airwaves.

But it isn’t just American operators aiming to lead the 5G charge. Telenor Norway’s CEO Berit Svendsen today expressed confidence in her country’s capability to continue its impressive track record with 4G and keep the ‘leader jersey’ in 5G while speaking to Mobile World Daily. Given Norway’s similarly impressive pedigree in the Winter Olympics, I’d have been tempted to go with ‘flag bearer’. But that’s just me.

Outside of 5G, one of the other big stories to emerge from day three of MWC 2018 was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the GSMA and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Signed by GSMA Director General Mats Granryd and ICANN President & CEO Göran Marby, the MoU aims to advance the organisations’ shared objective of fostering the continuous expansion of interoperable networks and ongoing deployment of information and communication technology. Both organisations have committed to a number of joint activities as part of the agreement, including a series of workshops and regional events.

Away from the technology talk, the weather has been a topic of conversation amongst many. Reports and pictures of the aftermath of the ‘Beast from the East’ have caused many here in Barcelona to worry about flights being cancelled, redirected or rescheduled.

It’s a far cry from the warmth on display from the 900+ exhibitors welcoming thousands of delegates to their stands; not to mention the heat sensing cameras on display between halls 5 and 6, which we couldn’t help but stop for a selfie in front of.

So bring on tomorrow MWC and the final day of what has been another fascinating show.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – when the apocalypse comes, beep me

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These days we buzz about the latest technologies. But back in the late 90’s, the latest technology buzzed us!

As part of Liberty’s look back on 20 years of technology, I’m talking about the pager, or what the cool kids colloquially coined, “the beeper”. Before there were texts, Slack channels, Tweets, Facebook messages, and emails, the best way to reach someone was sending them a beep. And if you really wanted someone’s attention, you’d thumb out a “911” beep, which was code for a VIB (Very Important Beep). 

Pagers were the status symbol of the day, and the more beeps you got, the more VIP you were. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that “my beeper is blowing up” was a saying, but each generation has their own unique idiosyncrasies, and this was ours.

These days we stay glued to our emails and phones, even when we leave the workplace. But back then, if you were on call at work, then you were on “beeper duty”. And that meant having your beeper positioned snugly in your waistband at all times, not wanting to miss something important. It’s how bosses stayed in touch with employees, how moms stayed in touch with kids, and how loved ones checked in on you.  

So, what happened to the pager? It’s the same story as anything else that becomes obsolete; something new and shiny came along, in the form of the cell phone. But at its cultural and technological peak in the mid-to-late 90s, there were roughly 61 million pagers in use. That’s a lot of buzzing.

It was a different time, a different place, and a different way to communicate. And for a generation on the cusp of some of the greatest technological advances in history, the pager will always hold a special place in our hearts. Or at least within our belt buckles.

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day Two and we’re heading to the moon!

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It’s day two at Mobile World Congress 2018 and the news keeps coming. This morning was dominated again by 5G. FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, told the conference in his keynote that the US plans to launch 5G auctions later this year. Pai stated that the US needed “modern, flexible, light touch network regulation,” to help it progress rapidly with the development and roll out of 5G services.

Meanwhile, for the UK, the national telecoms regulator, Ofcom, announced it has approved six telecoms operators to take part in the forthcoming auction of 4G and 5G friendly radio spectrum, which will see 40MHz of frequency in the 2.3GHz band and 150MHz in the 3.4GHz band being distributed. Vendor, Airspan and urban Wi-Fi provider, Connexin have been named as two surprise bidders alongside mobile operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

In further 5G related news, Sprint announced that it will be bringing 5G networks to Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston first, with the six cities beginning to experience “5G-like capabilities” from April whilst China Mobile plans to start large scale 5G trials in the second quarter across 17 cities.

And taking a more stratospheric view, Nokia and Vodafone Germany have launched plans to build a network weighing less than a bag of sugar to live stream HD video from the moon. In addition to Nokia, Vodafone Germany is working with PTScientists, a volunteer group of scientists and engineers, and Audi in what has been described as the first privately funded moon landing.

What will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned and we’ll fill you in! As for us, we’re off to apply our blister plasters and hand sanitiser and walk the halls with a tortilla sandwich at the ready! See you tomorrow!

Make sure to follow Liberty on Twitter for all the latest updates at MWC this week.

 

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day One

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Mobile World Congress Barcelona has once again welcomed thousands of delegates to see the latest innovations, hear from industry leaders and network with the great and good of the technology world. With a healthy selection of AR/VR, 5G, IoT and AI there’s more than enough to get the blood pumping – especially for those of us inclined to appreciate a good abbreviation.

This year’s overarching theme is ‘Creating a Better Future’, a concept that ties together devices and content along with the likes of 5G, IoT and AI to highlight the maturity of the global tech ecosystem. In 2018, MWC is about showing how these technologies are all transforming the tech playing field on a global scale.

Take 5G for example. According to new GSMA Intelligence research, 5 billion people will be connected to mobile internet by 2025, representing an increase of almost 1.7 billion from today. As 5G quickly turns dreams into deployments, millions of people around the world will enjoy high-speed access to the internet, opening up new possibilities for work, education and leisure. Meanwhile, as 5G grabs the limelight, vendors are turning their attention to the next-generation mobiles to harness the powerful new networks. Nokia in particular impressed onlookers with the reveal of its Sirocco 8 model, showcasing a high-end device that includes wireless charging and an ultra high definition curved display.

With day one drawing to a close we’ve already seen flying taxis, next-generation virtual reality (as modelled by Liberty’s very own Finbarr Goode Begley) and more lightning fast connectivity solutions than we ever imagined.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the company with a vision for the future

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As we continue to celebrate the last 20 years of technological innovation, I’ve chosen to give credit to video-sharing platform, YouTube.

As a member of the so-called ‘millennial’ generation, I was 13 when YouTube launched in 2005. At the time, it was difficult to predict just how ubiquitous the platform would become.

The most successful video in YouTube’s first year was an online tutorial for paint design titled ‘I/O Brush’. It’s a pretty dry video and amassed just 247,000 views that year. By contrast, as of January 2017 – the latest figures to be announced – the music video ‘Despacito’ had been seen almost three billion times.

YouTube’s growth in views year on year correlates perfectly with how video content has shaped our daily lives. The founders behind YouTube predicted the move towards video consumption, which left a lot of industries playing catch up – not least our beloved journalism sector.

13 years since the platform’s inception, however, it is common for users to associate YouTube with cute (or grumpy) cat videos or getting “Rickrolled”. It’s easy to forget that YouTube is a platform for all kinds of content. From video game walkthroughs to party political broadcasts, YouTube has a user base of over a billion users who benefit from the platform almost every day. That’s almost one-third of everyone on the Internet – so YouTube says.

It’s important to note that YouTube has its problems, too, most recently in battling the spread of terrorist videos. These problems must be addressed, but it’s also important to recognise the positive impact that online video content has had on society, and few companies have been as instrumental in that movement as YouTube. I look forward to seeing how the company adapts its technology the next 20 years!

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the birth of GPS

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As we continue the countdown to our 20th anniversary next month, so we resume with our series of blogs detailing our favourite technology innovations of the last 20 years. And today it’s the turn of in-car GPS navigation.

The best way to celebrate how fantastic an innovation it was when the likes of Garmin, Magellan, TomTom and others flooded the market around the mid-2000s, is to think back to how it was before.

Remember those joyous car journeys of 20 years ago with the front seat passenger sifting through a stack of print out directions from AA Route Planner? Ah the heady days of mum and dad cursing at each other as the final piece of paper highlighted that you’d ‘arrived at your destination’ and you glanced out the car window from a layby on the A466 to see a herd of cows staring back at you.

In many ways it can be difficult today to imagine how people actually got anywhere 20 years ago. Having a strong sense of direction and being able to recall every inch of the M6 from the trip you’d done the week before seems almost superhero-esque. Nowadays we are surely guilty of taking being able to get from A to B so easily for granted.

The introduction of in-car GPS navigation really was quite revolutionary. A perhaps little known fact is that publicly available GPS devices had actually been around since the 1980s, but it was only after an intervention from Bill Clinton that the accuracy of consumer-based GPS navigation systems increased dramatically and devices became more mainstream.

While it’s true that sales of TomToms and the equivalent have fallen over the past few years, largely due to market saturation and the exponential growth of smartphone technologies, many of the cars of today continue to offer the very latest by way of in-built and voice activated GPS systems.

Unfortunate incidents aside (driving into a Canadian lake is never a good idea), today it really is easier than it has ever been to simply not get lost. Go back 15 years or so and we have in-car GPS navigation to thank for taking us on that journey.

On the Day Liberty was Born

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Twenty years ago, our fearless leader Dee Gibbs decided to drop the shackles of company life and start her own agency. Thank God, she did, because that was how Liberty was born.

Let’s take a look at what was going on March 15th, 1998, a day we might consider the birthday of Liberty Communications:

Music
The songs at the top of the charts that day were: My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion in the UK and Getting’ Jiggy Wit It by Will Smith in the US.

Two pretty drastically different musical choices if you ask me. But Liberty ourselves are pretty different on both continents, but combined we know how to get hit after hit. If these two songs combined, the mashup could be called My Heart Will Get Jiggy Wit It (probably NOT going to be a hit).

Movies & TV
On that day, the Titanic rose back up from the depths and surpassed the stars (Star Wars) to become the highest grossing film in North American box offices. And the show If I Ruled the World starring Clive Anderson was, in fact, ruling the UK airwaves as the leading show on TV.

Books
In a somewhat, unsurprising way, the best-selling book was the Beanie Baby Handbook, 1998 edition. Why people needed a handbook for a toy stuffed with tiny plastic beans we might never know, and even more perplexing was the fact that there were yearly editions of it.

However, the publishers clearly knew what the audience wanted to read, much like Liberty stays on top of the trends that help our clients stay relevant and get their brands in the hands of the public.

News
At the core of Liberty, we strive to have our finger to the pulse of what news is breaking every day. On that day, the headlines were:
Bay of Pigs: the Secret Death of Pete Ray in the LA Times
FedEx Worker Trapped in Belly of Cargo Jet in the Associated Press
PBJ Takes on New Meaning for Kids; This ‘Headmistress’ is Cloaked in Surprise; Reprise of Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’ on Cable’s Family in the LA Times
I do – and Hang the Expense Wedding Bills are Soaring in the Daily Mail
A Stew of Hatred Stirred by Hacks in the Independent

Sounds like 20 years ago was a pretty interesting time. I’m personally looking forward to the day in 20 years’ time, when we look back on today’s news and wonder, “What the heck was going on back then?”

Happy Birthday Liberty – 20 technology innovations from the last 20 years

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In our first series of blog posts as we enter the 30 day countdown to our 20th anniversary in March we thought we’d have fun looking look at some of our favourite technology highs and lows.

It’s incredible thinking back 20 years and remembering we didn’t have much of the technology that today we take for granted. Much of this technology has helped shape our current lives – helping make it easier to connect with and enjoy the things we love. For me one of the main things was the introduction of online streaming and it’s add on services.

I can still remember the times I would go to Blockbuster to rent a film which came in a big plastic box. In 2007, Netflix introduced online streaming to personal computers and the next year saw the addition of streaming to Xbox 360s, blue ray disc players, and TV set-top boxes. At Liberty we have been lucky enough to have worked with some of the biggest names in this space helping make TV on demand a reality for many.

The last 20 years has also seen a whole slew of new mobile technologies capture the public’s imagination – from smartphones to MP3 players, USB sticks and touchscreens to Wi-Fi, 3G and now 5G and more. As a nation we have become increasingly plugged into an always-on, totally portable, always-connected existence.

But whilst these innovations may have helped change the quality of our lives in the lucky developed world, it’s the technological changes further afield that I think really matter – those advances that have literally changed lives – helping give people access to clean water and electricity for the very first time, to immunisations and healthcare services and to education.

As consumers in the UK and US, our view of ‘technology’ is often limited to smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that make our daily lives better but there is so much innovation happening –ways in which technology is changing people’s lives for the better, where poverty is high and quality of life can be poor.

It’s this innovation which I think is so humbling. It certainly makes me proud to be involved in tech!

Celebrating 20 years of Storytelling

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It’s hard to believe, but today marks the 30 day countdown to our 20th anniversary celebrations. And what an incredible 20 years it has been! We’ve worked with some of the best in the industry, partnered with some amazing companies, connected with inspiring people and helped launch the careers of so many rising PR stars.

In this next succession of blog posts we will look back on the last 20 years – celebrate some of the milestones that have helped shape our industry, make predictions for the next 20 years ahead and have fun remembering some of our highlights.

Thanks for sharing the ride with us – we are looking forward to continued collaboration with you all in the months, years, and decades ahead.

How to tackle the payola tombola

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Communications and public relations can be confusing at the best of times.

The suite of services that PR professionals provide to clients can appear overwhelming; the methods that firms employ strikingly diverse.

But from pitching, event hosting and press release distribution to social media management, an important line in the sand bisects all communications activity: the distinction between editorial and non-editorial content.

By way of context, editorial content refers to ‘earned’ media, that is to say, content penned– (or facilitated by) a member of the press based on its value to the story alone. ‘Unearned’, meanwhile, refers to content placed using additional funds provided directly by the client on a sort of ‘pay-to-play’ basis.

This type of article, while   still legitimate, often appears as an ‘advertorial’ or ‘partnership’ piece that, crucially, looks markedly different from an earned, editorial opportunity.

Over the last few months, a number of articles have surfaced that claim a new type of practice is quickly gathering momentum – one that straddles the imaginary line in the sand. This ‘payola’ journalism looks to take something of a Hovis approach: supposedly embracing the best qualities of each with the limitations of neither. Yet in reality, payola sees some members of the press offered unofficial and undisclosed compensation in return for including a business in a seemingly editorial capacity, directly contravening journalistic norms in the process.

In 2018, where the boundaries between earned and unearned media seem to appear more blurred than ever, the onus is on responsible agencies to communicate the distinction between editorial and non-editorial content to their clientele.

With a renewed emphasis on transparency and trust, public relations and communications specialists can ensure clients understand the different types of media, their own unique value to businesses and the dangers of diluting editorial integrity now and in the future.

What We Learned at Learning Technologies

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I’ve just got back from Learning Technologies at Olympia – with more than 8,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors it was buzzing! I was lucky enough to meet with some fascinating people – all of whom shared the same view that development in education technology is moving at a rapid pace. In fact the EdTech market has changed more in the last 5 years than in the previous 100 years that came before it. Digitisation, personalisation, automation and globalisation are ripping up old models, bringing out a massive change in how people learn and train.

But looking at the long view – where do we go now? How do you create brands that are global and will be digitally recognised? Currently, 2.5% of education has been digitised but we need much more than that to truly drive change. According to one person I spoke to we need to see a $100 billion spend in digitisation in education by 2020. The money is there but we need the drive behind it to make it happen. Done right, education could be the economic driver of the 21st century. That’s really exciting and makes events like the one today feel so important.

If you want to talk through how we could help your brand do get in touch!

The World of Work is Changing

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The workplace of today is dramatically different than it was a few years ago. From the ways in which people find their jobs to the means with which a workforce communicates with each other, the differences are stark. The professional spaces people also use to work have also changed. Hot desking and flexible working are now the norm and the idea of a traditional 9-5pm job seems to be disappearing.

The traditional hierarchical structures which used to exist years ago have also given way to a more flexible, flat system – with opportunities for everyone (regardless of their level) to be part of something bigger.

At Liberty we are really trying to embrace these cultural and social shifts for the benefit of our clients, the business and our team. Whilst for our clients a global team means 24-7 support, for our team it means the opportunity to work flexibly, collaborate more across time zones and work in a strategically more efficient way. We are a modern business with a modern team but to make it work we need to listen to each other, to trust each other, be sensitive and never forget the human touch.

Liberty is more than just a PR consultancy – we are a brand of our own using all of the tools available to us (many of which we are lucky enough to count as clients) to keep growing our company across time zones and geographies. We are not an agency made up of separate offices – we are one company with one team and one vision. So as we approach our 20th anniversary this year, whilst we’ll never be able to predict perfectly what the future will hold, we can be sure we will be prepared, constantly learning and evolving and listening to each other so we are in a stronger position for whatever the future holds.

Introducing: Olivia Mora

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Tell us a little about your background

I’ve worked in public relations in a variety of industries including entertainment, non-profit and my favorite – technology. I find creating messaging in the technology industry exciting because there is a lot of room to be creative and introduce a new product that could revolutionize the way people live life.  As public relations professionals, we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of cutting edge and disruptive technology.

I have experience in both agency and in-house positions, where I was able to learn about all the different aspects of PR.  I’ve worked on social media at Hortonworks, pitched campaigns to Warner Bros., created messaging for Chick-fil-A and got to witness, first hand, my agency supporting Pepsi when they were under siege.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

When I came to interview at Liberty Communications I knew right away that this was an agency I wanted to work at. Liberty demonstrates quality clients, quality work and quality team members. It’s important to me that I am able to work on accounts that I am passionate about and work with people who are also passionate about their work– at Liberty I get to fulfill both of those needs.

What are some of your hobbies?

Some of my favorite hobbies include listening to true-crime podcasts, finding new recipes online to test out on my family, hiking 6-mile trails, browsing farmers markets and scouting out the best Thai food in the Bay Area.

What was the last book you read/song you listened to?

I love memoirs because they are little snippets into someone’s life. The Glass Castle is the last book I read and it is a set of stories that depict the unorthodox childhood of author, Jeanette Walls.  Currently, I am catching up on modern politics with Michael Wolff’s, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump Whitehouse.

The last song I listened to was Finesse (Remix) by Bruno Mars and Cardi B.  I love that the two artists came together to collaborate on today’s RnB and gave it a ‘90s hip-hop twist.

Liberty US Holiday Retreat Hits the Mark

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We here at the Liberty Communication always aim to hit our targets. So, what better location for a holiday team building retreat than a place where we can hone our targeting skills, the archery range located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

We sharpened our focus under the guidance of an experienced instructor, and our outing hit the bullseye, literally! And we rewarded ourselves with a little picnic.

To top off the day, we sang our hearts out doing karaoke over sushi. We’re usually known for our pitches, but that night we might have been a little off our game, but we did light up the restaurant with some yuletide cheer!

Introducing: Vito Gallo

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Tell us a little about your background:

Originally from New England, I moved to the Bay Area in April of 2016. I graduated from Suffolk University in Boston with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Political Science. Shortly after graduating, I was offered a position with Kel & Partners, a medium sized communications agency in Boston, where I created social media content for B2B and B2C clients.

I made the journey to the west coast last Spring and joined UPRAISE PR, a boutique agency in San Francisco. During my time there, I worked with a variety of clients including a robot laundry folding machine and a nonprofit organization focused on teaching and empowering girls to code. I wore many hats, including leading a client team, creating content, and launching a viral campaign.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

I’m eager to join an agency that represents a diverse set of clients, each with their own needs, wants, and challenges. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with “mainstream” companies as well as niche organizations and startups. Liberty Communications represents that range of clientele, as well.

I couldn’t be happier to be joining the US team at Liberty Communications as an Account Executive. I look forward to whatever challenges come my way; I learn best when the tasks are challenging and require creative thought. I’m excited to bring my own skill set into this position, while learning more tools of the trade.

What are some of your hobbies?

When I’m not creating stories or content for clients, I’m usually exploring San Francisco –  there’s so much to see and do. As mentioned below, I’m a bit of a nerd, so I like to take some time each week to play video games. It’s a hobby I’ve had since 1998, when I was catching Pokémon on my Gameboy.

What was the last book you read/song you listened to?

I’ve been investing in graphic novels and recently read seven volumes of the “Saga” series. It’s a blend of Romeo and Juliet, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones. It’s beautifully written and illustrated; a must read if sci-fi is of any interest.

I’m a “Top 40” person, so anything that’s mainstream piques my interest. Lorde’s new album, Melodrama, is one of my favorites of 2017. Currently listening to “Supercut” as I type this!

Liberty Presents our Senior Executives – An Interview with Jim Lubinskas

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This month we’re continuing our series of profiling our senior executives. We sat down with Jim Lubinskas, a Managing Director at Liberty in our San Francisco office. Let’s learn more about him:

Hi Jim, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Our first question is, what is your management style?

I tend to manage like I like being managed. Namely, I give people lots of room to develop their own style and manage their own work flow. That being said, I also want to make sure everyone is on the same page so I like to have frequent check ins to make sure things are running smoothly. Luckily, Liberty employees tend to be self-sufficient and responsible. So it is the right environment for this management style.

If you could predict the future, where would you like to see Liberty in 5 years?

Liberty is in the enviable position of growing steadily through good work and referrals. This is the best way to grow, especially in PR as great performance and superior service are highly praised among all clients. We are a well-regarded agency amongst reporters and other PR professionals in the Silicon Valley so we must be doing something right. As we grow, we have to keep our reputation for high standards in mind.

What is your favorite/proudest memory during your time at Liberty?

One thing that stands out is getting recommended by a client who we had only been representing for a few months. To be able to make such an impression upon a customer in that short a time is very pleasing. It is always nice to be noted for doing good work.

Beyond that, I’d say just the day to day energy amongst our Liberty US team has been great. We have a small but efficient team in San Francisco. There are a lot of moving parts but the team handles things with a degree of efficiency that I had not seen before. Plus, everyone has a really great attitude and wants to be here working in tech PR. That makes a big difference.

On a more personal note, if you could live in a book, TV show or film, what would it be?

 Mad Men. I know it is dramatized but the 1960s were a key time for the marketing industry. Maybe I could have handled PR for Sterling Cooper! The early 60’s especially seemed to have an energy and drive that I would have liked to have been a part of. The characters remind me of my older family members and I love the style. Of course, I would have hated all the smoking and would have had to wait until after work to start drinking!

Besides being a PR super star, what was your dream job growing up?

I was into sports and dreamed of being a professional athlete.

Jim, thanks so much for sharing your answers with us today. We appreciate all your contributions to Liberty US.

Make sure to tune in next time, as we continue to interview the senior management team here at Liberty Comms.

Liberty US Away Day

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This year, for our summer away day in the US office, we took a trip to Napa. The wine country escape offered beautiful views, delicious treats and abundant team bonding experiences.

We hope you enjoy our album and we already can’t wait to go back!

Liberty Presents our Senior Executives – An Interview with Katie Finn

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This month we’re continuing our series of profiling our senior executives. We sat down with Katie Finn, a Senior Account Director at Liberty in our London office. She has been with Liberty since 2014 and has played a role in Liberty’s continued success. Let’s learn more about her:

Hi Katie, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Our first question is, what is your management style?

I aim to create a positive workplace environment, where people feel supported and rewarded for their achievements. I believe that when people are happy and motivated they go the extra mile for both their clients and teams, which in turn helps to fuel a good atmosphere and results in excellent client service – it really is a win-win situation!

If you could predict the future, where would you like to see Liberty in the next 5 years?

So far in my time at Liberty it has been really exciting to see Liberty US grow, and our client base continue to expand with really innovative and cutting edge technology companies. Both the technology and the media landscape are changing rapidly, so it’s important for us as an agency to keep pace with these trends, and make sure we’re always ahead of the game. In the next five years, I’d like to see our client portfolio continue to grow, while still offering the boutique service we’re renowned for, and possibly opening a new Liberty overseas!

What is your favorite/proudest memory during your time at Liberty?

My proudest memory at Liberty was winning the annual client services prize.

On a more personal note, if you could live in a book, TV show or film, what would it be?

I’d probably have to say Arrested Development, for the brilliant California sunshine and so I could hang out with the Bluth family.

Besides being a PR super star, what was your dream job growing up?

I wanted to be an actress, which needless to say hasn’t materialised!

Katie, thanks so much for sharing your answers with us today. We appreciate all your contributions to Liberty UK and US.

Make sure to tune in next time, as we continue to interview the senior management team here at Liberty to see what makes them tick.

Introducing: James Meredith

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Tell us a little about your background:

I graduated from Cardiff University in 2007 with a BA in English Language Studies. After completing three work experience placements at PR companies in the South West of England, I secured my first full time position as a Junior Account Executive at an agency that specialised in technology in Bath.

Within a couple of years, I worked my way up to Account Manager level, supporting a mix of B2B and B2C clients across the UK, Europe and US in a range of sectors including cybersecurity, gaming and healthcare.

After I had been with the agency for three years, I felt it was time for a new challenge, and I joined a B2B agency in Bristol specialising predominantly in professional services, cybersecurity and manufacturing. During my three and a half years at the agency, I was promoted to Account Director.

My next position was in the business & corporate division of a larger agency in Bristol. This was a fantastic opportunity, with the agency’s parent company consisting of an AIM-listed network of integrated, multi-discipline, multi-sector agencies specialising in marketing/comms and employing over 1,000 people in 20 offices around the world.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

After two and a half years with my previous agency, it felt that the time was right to make the move to London before life had completely passed me by! I had interviews at a few agencies, but Liberty was the one that caught my attention.

My immediate impression was that Liberty is an agency with a strong people-focus and collaborative culture, which is exactly what I was looking for. As for the clients, it feels to a degree that I have come full circle, with a great opportunity to get back into the world of technology.

What are some of your hobbies?

I enjoy watching and playing most sports, but particularly love tennis and football. I’m also a big fan of quizzes and have embarrassed myself on UK TV quiz shows including Eggheads, Brainteaser and Revenge of the Egghead! From time to time I’m also guilty of binge watching a TV series with my all-time favourites being Breaking Bad, The Wire and The Sopranos.

What was the last book you read or song you listened to?

I’m an avid reader, particularly of crime fiction thriller novels by the likes of Linwood Barclay, Harlan Coben, Lee Child and Tom Wood. But the last book I read (well technically re-read!) was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It’s set in Barcelona just after the Spanish Civil War and follows the life of a young boy who is taken to a secret library by his father and allowed to choose any book to keep on the condition that he must protect it for life.

Without giving too much away, he picks a book called The Shadow of the Wind – and from there it starts to become clear that the novel is actually a story within a story. I highly recommend it!

Introducing: Rick Judge

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Tell us a little about your background:

I’ve always lived my life by one simple quote: “The journey is better than the end.” That journey has led me from New York to South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and now San Francisco. I am a Senior Account Manager here at Liberty, working out of our 17th floor office in the busy Financial District.

I have my B.A. in Mass Communications and Philosophy from SUNY Oneonta, and earned my M.A. in Public Communications from American University in Washington. In my former life, I was an aspiring journalist who worked in various television newsroom roles in New York and South Carolina. I’ve been practicing public relations for over a decade, working for Fortune 500 companies, global enterprises, fast growing startups, trade associations and non-profits.

Why are excited to support Liberty and our clients?

If you’re practicing tech PR, there’s no place else you’d rather be than San Francisco. The opportunity to work with Liberty’s creative team, plus the ability to partner with some of the most innovative companies is why I chose this career path. I’m looking forward to watching our clients grow with us, and I’m excited to share their stories.

What are some of your hobbies?

I thrive on creativity. I’m constantly on the lookout for new endeavors that push my creative limits. Along with PR, one of my passions is filmmaking. I am a director/editor, creating award-winning short films and documentaries with my production company. I also enjoy walking around the city on the weekends with my Canon Mark II, sharpening my photography skills. On top of all that, I’m also a graphic designer and fledgling guitar player.

What was the last book you read/song you listened to?

I recently finished reading Animal Farm, again. I enjoy revisiting the classics that I forgot about. The last song I listened to is Ophelia, by the Lumineers. It’s a great song that is definitely worth listening to!

The Age of Algorithms

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There is no doubt that living in the Age of the Algorithm has transformed the way we make decisions. Mechanisation has saved the world time, money, and (in the case of the emergency services) even lives. In addition, there are obvious business and marketing advantages to using intelligent technology that claims to “personalise” our online experience and helps us find what we’re looking for. But are we at risk of letting the use of algorithms and ‘big data’ shape our decision-making, and influence our individuality?

In the late 1990s, book editors for Amazon were writing hundreds of reviews for the increasing number of books being published annually. With demand on staff increasing, Greg Linden, an engineer at the online retailer, used correlation data for products that were often bought together by consumers to create automatic recommendations. Ironically, whilst the algorithms used had the effect of creating a “personal” recommendation, in reality they were not linked in any way with the individual’s purchasing history, and so were devoid of anything classically categorised as personal. In spite of this, the effect this has had on sales since is undeniable, with estimates showing that currently a third of Amazon’s sales arise from these mechanised recommendations.

More recently, Facebook, a company that’s growth is due in part to its complex use of big data, has continued its global domination and grossed almost $6 billion in the first three quarters of 2016. Even more incredible is its 1.79 billion monthly active users, which make Facebook (a company claiming it isn’t in fact a media company) the most powerful media organisation in history. Scarily, Facebook’s “walled garden” approach to news feeds, paired with its goal to “deliver the right content to the right people at the right time” using controversially secret algorithms, means that our exposure to information is being restricted, albeit by the mechanised mirroring of our own choices.

It seems fair to surmise that the use of algorithms online can be a double-edged sword. No consumer can deny the convenience of such appropriate and tailored suggestions, nor is the effect that they have had on streamlining online services and augmenting profitability in business in question. However, at a point where big data weaves itself almost inextricably through facets of society people are beginning to ask themselves whether they really know what they’re looking for, and wondering how accurate these online assumptions can be. It seems that, as a result, in the midst of this Age of Algorithms, human sensibilities are still in demand.

The Weekend that was SXSW 2017

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Liberty’s own Megan Keesee attended SXSW in Austin – an annual conference that covers the future of everything. It is perhaps the most generalized professional conference in existence today, organized from chaos to coherence by categorizing all events into one of four tracks: Interactive, Film, Music, and Comedy. There’s literally something for everyone. Megan attended the interactive track, focusing on the most exciting tech developments in the connected world.

There was tangible excitement in the air as the streets of Austin filled with hopeful millennials, entrepreneurs, and creatives from all walks of life, conference badges hanging proudly around their necks as they sauntered out of local bars and hip restaurants where events were being held by Silicon Valley’s best.

Megan’s weekend was spent supporting our clients who were speaking or attending; sitting in on panels and sessions providing insight into the top trends, and attending the most anticipated media parties and pop-ups. Here’s what she observed, learned and brought back with her.

Standout Sessions

Keynote speakers like Corey Booker and Joe Biden as well as event subtracks on European government and “Trump’s America” electrified the conference with political undertones and pushed a polito-innovation agenda. Perhaps the most memorable session included Joe Biden’s appearance as part of SXSW’s Connect to End Cancer series, and not just because Megan is in fact his #1 fan. His talk outlined the plans for the Biden Foundation’s Cancer Initiative, calling on attendees to join him in his efforts to cure cancer by 2020. Biden energized the crowd with his passion and optimism, and he even stuck around for a few selfies with fans afterward.

Another session close to the hearts of all our Libertinis was a panel titled“Brexit: How UK/European Tech Companies Are Coping,” which we secured and managed at SXSW. The panel explored the changes that tech companies in Europe have experienced and will continue to experience as the effects of Brexit take shape. The panelists included our friends and clients from Wire, WaveOptics, Blis and Jobbatical, who candidly shared anecdotes on how they are  managing the changes brought on by an evolving political landscape and how they plan to face the challenges that lie ahead. The session brought perspective from a diverse group of companies and leaders. Perhaps we’re a bit biased, but this session had to be one of our favorites because of the honesty amidst uncertainty that was shared by panelists.

Pop Ups and Panels

In addition to the main event, one thing that makes SXSW unique to the conference grind is the volume of pop ups and “house parties” hosted by brands on the side. During the week of the festival, most of the venues downtown Austin are completely booked for these side events, and there’s no lack of daytime or evening activities. Megan was able to chat with  Tim Ferriss, who turned  up at the SXSW bookstore to sign copies of his latest work Tools of Titans and also stumbled upon a pop-up promoting one of her all-time favorite books turned television show, American Gods.

In true PR fashion, Megan spent quality time talking to journalists at the TechCrunch Day Party, complete with musical appearances from Kishi Bashi and Madame Gandhi. She made sure not to miss out on good ole Texas bbq and Tex-Mex which she shared with our attending clients. She saved up enough conference momentum on her last night in town to make it to the annual and ever-notorious #MashBash party hosted by the editors at Mashable to celebrate the first weekend of SXSW. Who says you can’t work and play at the same time?

Looking Forward

In the heart of Austin, an oasis of modern thinking in the middle of traditional Texas, SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. The conference features a variety of tracks that allow attendees to explore the realm of unfolding possibilities in the worlds of entertainment, culture and technology.

In the last decade SXSW has built a reputation for highlighting the technology and trends that  shape industries, empower people and enable new possibilities. This year, that meant focusing on the geopolitical changes taking place internationally, as the technology of politics and politics of technology took center stage. The biggest takeaway from individual sessions was that the tech community has the power to influence public debate and shape our future.
The larger takeaway, though, in a conference that has become a behemoth of innovation and trade events, is how brands can cut through the noise to make that impact. Those that attended SXSW certainly had the opportunity to practice.

From Liberty US: A World’s Fair Nano Conference Recap

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Liberty’s own Megan Keesee and Leah Monteleone attended the World’s Fair Nano Conference in San Francisco – a festival featuring virtual reality, drones, motorized skateboards, wearable tech, robotics, IoT, 3D printing, and more. This event provided a sneak peak into the future of tech with an all-star speaker lineup of founders and CEOs to share their experiences and insight. Read on for a recap.

To set the scene, this conference looked like Coachella met SXSW in 2050. The day was spent listening to speakers discuss the future of journalism, feminism, AI, robotics, medicine, automation and human connection.

Standout Sessions

With a variety of great talks from neuroscientists to NGOs, the conference truly had everything. Some of the most memorable talks were The Future of IoT and The Future of the Brain. In the Future of IoT session, If This Then That (IFTTT) CEO, Linden Tibbets, pegged the big compatibility problem with the accelerated development of IoT and all our smart appliances. IFTTT’s vision for common, secure API standards looks very bright.

David Eagleman, PhD and Neuroscientist at Stanford University, blew us away with his research on the brain’s perception of senses. He has  developed a vibrating vest that can help the deaf hear, the blind see, and the rest of us develop brand new senses and perceive things like infrared light, radio waves, even the pulse of other human beings.

Another memorable talk was given by Dave Pell, writer and publisher of NextDraft – an email newsletter of the day’s top ten most fascinating news items. He spoke on the future of journalism and how PR will continue to evolve in a society where fake news and alternative facts have become commonplace. He also discussed the relevance of biased news sources and stressed the importance of educating ourselves on both sides of every news story. As PR professionals, we cannot just expose ourselves to news consistent with our thoughts and beliefs.

Tech on Display

In addition to the presentations, the conference had row upon row of cutting edge tech on display. We saw consumer and enterprise drones, virtual reality headsets, artificial reality demo booths, smart baby monitors, new and improved wearables and more.

Looking Forward

Our main takeaway? The tech world is continuously evolving. In order to remain relevant as tech PR professionals, we must make sure we remain nimble and change with the times. It is essential we continue to challenge ourselves as an agency and our clients in this ever-changing digital world to ensure we stay at the forefront of the tech industry.

An introduction to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): What you need to know

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With a whopping 2.5 quintillion bytes of data now being produced every single day, the debate around data privacy is showing no signs of slowing down;  consumers and businesses are still asking the same fundamental question – how, where and by whom is our data gathered and stored? This issue is at the heart of the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Designed to bring more transparency and structure to data protection, it is the first major legislative change to European Data Protection law since Directive (95/46/EC) in 1995, which regulated the processing of personal data.

Despite the importance of this regulation, lots of British companies are seemingly unaware of it. This has been partially due to indecision on the part of UK businesses about whether to invest resources in achieving GDPR compliance, given the lack of clarity around the power of European directives and acts post-Brexit. However, following the UK government’s confirmation that it will implement the GDPR, despite the decision to leave the EU, businesses will need to be compliant by 25 May 2018 or face enforcement action.

In light of this, now is a good time to look at exactly what the GDPR is, what it will mean for UK businesses and how your organisation can prepare for it.

What is it?

Simply put, the GDPR is the new regulation framework to create tighter limits on the processing of personal data and give greater rights to individuals. It essentially protects the right of European residents to regain control over how their personal information is shared and used. It will apply to EU-based organisations, as well as the data processing activities of those who target EU data subjects – meaning that if your business is involved in the acquisition, use, transmission, storage, destruction and breach of personal data in any way, you will be affected, regardless of whether your business stores or processes data on EU soil.

The act contains eight principles data processors must abide by when it comes to personal data – these include provisions that data need to be processed fairly and lawfully, be obtained only for specific purposes, be accurate and kept up to date. Finally, anyone holding the data must take measures to protect it, with data not transferred to a country outside the EU unless that country also has rules in place to adequately protect it. There are also new limitations surrounding consent, as data owners must grant separate consent for different processing activities and can withdraw them at any time, or have their data erased under the GDPR. Furthermore, if a company has already made information public, then they have an obligation to pass the deletion request along to others.

It is important to note that GDPR only applies to Personably Identifiable Information (PII), which may comprise a very small percentage of an organisation’s data. However, GDPR covers a wide range of PII and can include URLs, pseudonymised data, physical data and so on. Personal details such as email, for example, may not hold PII and therefore do not need to become part of the compliance envelope.

Why you should care

As discussed, the GDPR will define how organisations can collect, use and transfer personal data. Not only will businesses need to adhere to local laws governing information retention in every market they operate in, but they also need to re-evaluate their individual business requirements and risk appetite. Failure to comply with the GDPR risks a maximum penalty of either €20 million or 4 percent of worldwide turnover (whichever is greater) – it can cost your business money, reputation, credibility and more. Equally, the first organisations to become compliant can use it as an accolade, highlighting that personal data is safe in their hands.

In addition, service providers or ‘data processors’, which  were not previously subject to the more restrictive aspects of data protection legislation, will also now be affected. Organisations that use third parties will have to ensure that their data provider complies with the regulations as, in case of a breach, both data processor and data controller will be considered to have shared liability and will be penalised. Furthermore, all public authorities and organisations where core activities involve ‘regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale’ or large-scale processing of ‘special categories of personal data’ will be required to employ a dedicated Data Protection Officer.

Always be prepared

Ahead of the GDPR, it is very likely that most businesses will need to overhaul their framework to ensure compliance and that they are aware of what data they hold, why they hold it, where it’s kept and how long it should be kept for. They will also need to re-think what data is actually needed to manage business and employment relationships.

Organisations will be required to build a transparency framework that re-thinks how they engage with individuals, from contracting and permissions processes to providing clear and comprehensive information on how they handle personal data. The next step is to review contracts with third parties, and include a right of audit in their contracts. As part of this process, there is a huge education element involved. Regular data protection training will of course be required and will have to be extended to contractors and other third parties.

Becoming GDPR compliant will no doubt be a long and laborious task, but will also be a significant achievement, and potentially one of the screening criteria for tenders in the future. Let’s not forget that all businesses handling personal data will be required by law to become GDPR compliant by 25 May 2018, so it’s crucial to start planning and revisiting your data strategy today.

Welcome to Liberty, FutureDial!

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Liberty is excited to welcome on board the latest client to our San Francisco HQ, FutureDial.

Based in Sunnyvale, California, FutureDial is the leading provider-of-choice of mobile device processing solutions for Wireless Carriers, Retailers, Mobile Device Buy-Back Trade-In companies, Third-Party Logistics, and ITAD Providers. It has appointed Liberty to provide public relations communications and counsel, with Liberty supporting FutureDial’s core North American business and its ongoing operational expansion in Asia and Europe.

2016 was a record year for FutureDial, marking its highest recorded business volume. Given year-end residual value averages, FutureDial solutions processed over $6 billion worth of smartphones worldwide, within secondary markets. Looking at 2017, mobile device processing volume is expected to further increase with more trade-ins and buy-backs. FutureDial offers its customer base of mobile device reverse logistics operators, wireless carriers and retail operators powerful software to receive, triage and clear devices via its proprietary Lean One-Touch™ as well as its other solutions, which all improve efficiencies and increase throughput for faster turnaround times in mobile device processing operations and retail centers.

Dee Gibbs, Founder and Global CEO at Liberty, said: “We’re delighted to be working with a market leader such as FutureDial. Mobile device processing is a very dynamic market driven by the continual evolution of mobile technology to offer ever greater functionality and increased processing power. Our goal is to reinforce the position of FutureDial at the forefront of mobile device processing and strategic solutions through innovative insight, thought leadership and compelling storytelling.”

Thomas Rayas, SVP Marketing & Customer Success for FutureDial, commented: “Liberty has a reputation for their focus on mobile technology and telecom markets, which aligns well with our go-to-market strategies. Liberty’s communication efforts are already yielding positive results and we look forward to a successful partnership.”

We are thrilled to welcome FutureDial to our list of clients!

Introducing: Grace Simpson

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Tell us a little about your background:

My background is in professional dance, which is perhaps a little unorthodox compared to most in tech PR. I graduated from Northern Ballet School in the Summer of 2012 and traveled for 2 years abroad Celebrity cruise ships performing in their theatre productions and teaching ballroom dancing. I was lucky enough to explore the southern Caribbean, Norwegian Fiords, Russia and Scandinavia as well as the more familiar sights of the Mediterranean.

Whilst this experience was truly amazing the constant changes involved in this career had me pining for a more stable profession, so, I hung up my dance shoes and moved to London in 2014 and had a brief venture into sales and event planning with Wimbledon based music agency, Earcandy. At the end of 2016, I  joined Liberty’s work experience program. I felt drawn to tech PR in particular because of the rapid pace: on a day-to-day basis I might be looking at anything from AR to cyber-security, and staying on the pulse with the media and latest technology advancements is really exciting.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

During my initial experience at Liberty, I was struck by the dynamic and creative atmosphere just as much as I was by the exciting prospect of working with such a wide variety of clients, all at the forefront of technology today. I see no better way to learn about this fascinating industry than by being exposed to such a wealth of shared knowledge and experience and of course the ever changing and developing landscape of technology itself.

What are some of your hobbies?

Given my background in the arts I have at times been obsessive about fitness and nutrition. Some of this remains (though thankfully with less of the original intensity) as I regularly run to decompress after a long day. I love to cook for my fiancé, family and friends as eating together has always played a fundamental role in my understanding of family time from childhood to now. I also salsa dance at various clubs in the city from time to time but deny that this is any sort of prep for an elaborate first dance!

What was the last book you read/song you listened to?

The last book I read was Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. I studied World War I  and II  literature during my schooling and find they offer important perspective for life today; and there’s nothing like losing yourself in the facts or fiction.

The last song I listened to was 1999 by Prince. I’m ashamed to say I’m only just educating myself since his music has been available on Spotify -but I love it!

Introducing: Jim Lubinskas

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Tell us a little about your background:

I was born and raised in Connecticut but attended Catholic University in Washington D.C. and ended up staying in the area. I studied philosophy and, while I enjoyed my classes, I decided there was not much of a job market for philosophy majors. Hence my move into public relations.

I have nearly 20 years of public relations experience in agency, association and corporate environments. This includes directing PR campaigns for clients including: Microsoft, Cisco, USA TODAY and Monster Government Solutions. I have also worked with smaller companies and start-ups to create media strategies and generate market visibility.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

I couldn’t be more excited to have joined Liberty, and looking forward to supporting its clients.

In fact, I will be moving to San Francisco for both family and career reasons, which is a great position to be in. The San Francisco area is home to some of the greatest technology brands and visionaries in the world. Any tech PR professional would be thrilled to work in this booming area which is home to many key journalists and influencers. This is especially true with regard to Liberty, as we are continuing to build out our San Francisco office to grow alongside the thriving tech sector in Silicon Valley. It is a very exciting time and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

What are some of your hobbies?

I have two young kids so that takes up a lot of my time. I like to stay in shape with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, boxing and kickboxing. I also love music, movies, books and hanging out with family and friends.

Introducing: Riikka Heinäaho

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Tell us a little about your background:

I’m originally from central Finland, where I studied at Jyvaskylan Kristillinen Opisto and received a degree in Children and Family Welfare. After graduating, I became an Au Pair in a small coastal town in Scotland. In 2014, I moved to London as I wanted to pursue career in the technology field.

Prior to Liberty, I worked at a startup called AnyVan and this is where I fell in love with communications and PR. From AnyVan I moved to a PR agency that was fully consumer tech based, where I supported Acer with their communications and PR in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

My past experience and interest in tech were the main factors I wanted to join the Liberty team. I was really impressed by the company’s client base and am excited to start as an Account Executive.

So far I am really enjoying my time at Liberty because of the fast paced environment.

What are some of your hobbies?

I enjoy walking, hiking and anything outdoors related; luckily London has many great green spaces to offer!

I also love taking advantage of all of the amazing museums and art galleries that London has to offer.

What was the last book you read/song you listened to?

I’m currently reading a couple of very different books; Tess Gerritse’s, Playing with Fire and Ernst Fischer’s, A Kim Jong‑Il Production.

Last song I listened to was; Friends – Tom Misch remix. This song is really bittersweet and anyone who has friends overseas can relate!

Looking Ahead in 2017

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It is time to look ahead to what the New Year might have in store…

Predictions are always a tricky thing to make. Fast forward twelve months and you will either look smug or red faced – as an agency with fee paying clients, neither is particularly desirable. So rather than risk the annual prognostication gauntlet, this year we are going to suggest a couple of trends that as communications professionals, (in-house and agency-side) you might like to consider.

You can bet that trade shows and events will be on agenda for our clients in this year and one of the perennial challenges in PR and marketing is how to elevate a brand message above the crowd and thus making clients stand-out. The start of the 2016 saw a big ground-swell for VR, and while this will no doubt continue, the success of Pokémon Go (to us at least) highlights the great opportunity represented by AR from a comms perspective in 2017 too. Being less immersive and more interactive with the physical world, AR must be on the radar of comms people as a genuine tactic for events and campaigns alike in the New Year.

Content will always be king for my money, but what has changed however, is the type of content that agencies should look to be encouraging with clients in the New Year. We would definitely keep an eye out for visual storytelling trends; for example, how brands implement Instagram stories or Twitter videos into their online marketing and communications strategies – done well they can offer the ‘wow-factor’ and attract attention to core brand values and messages.

Artificial Intelligence is big news across the pantheon of global media. Whether it’s autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity or marketing orientated news, AI is here to stay and with the ‘Big 5’ all vying for a piece of the pie, with various offerings such as Siri, Cortana, Alexa & Echo, 2017 will see plenty more developments.

But have we thought of the potential of AI from a comms perspective? What if you could have a link to a chatbot at the end of an email or press release rather than a stagnant corporate boilerplate or URL to a ‘press section’ on a company’s website… wouldn’t that be different? It would certainly be something innovative and could even serve to elevate awareness of the brand over its competitors.

Finally, part of our job is to remain at the cutting edge of the comms space as it grows, morphs and changes direction. A favourite in terms of discoveries in 2016 was Medium (essentially long-form Twitter), and Ghost runs a close second!

As 2017 in upon us, keep your eyes wide open for new platforms that might provide a good fit for presenting client messages untapped to areas and audiences – it is no longer enough to simply revert to ‘type’ and the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as the social media platforms when considering campaigns.

So there you have it, 2017 in a nutshell… let us know if you agree, or indeed if you have any ideas of what you think will be big in the comms space in the New Year – we’d love to hear your opinions too!

Introducing: Mike Walker

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Tell us a little about your background:

I graduated in September from the University of Lincoln with a degree in English, but have been working since late April, when university all of a sudden, sadly, no longer was a thing.

Prior to arriving at Liberty, I was a freelancer for Hotwire PR’s B2B and consumer tech accounts, drafting by-lined articles along many verticals including robotics, AR/VR, home technology devices and 3D printing.

Before I started working in PR, I was the Lifestyle Editor of the university paper, The Linc, and I wrote articles for my regional newspaper, the Leicester Mercury, over the course of my degree as an intern. In my second year of university, I wrote a theatrical play, which was performed in February 2016, for which I won an award at the end of year awards ceremony. During the production, I headed a marketing campaign for the play, which achieved several pieces of regional coverage; technically my first PR experience!

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

The main reason I wanted to be in PR was because I am passionate about writing and creativity, and I’m also keen to work for brands that develop products that are perpetually changing. Therefore, tech PR is the space to be a part of in this evolving new digital age.

Liberty’s fantastic range of clients caters towards many of my personal interests, and I am ecstatic to be working not only with a brilliant team here in London, but also with the great team over in the US. What also attracted me to the agency is its global presence. The fact that the agency has offices in the UK and US is testament to the fact that it is doing very well, and I love having the opportunity to work with people from all over the world on a daily basis!

Another big reason why I am excited to be supporting the team at Liberty is that I really want to build my media network. Clearly, Liberty has extensive connections in all corners of the media world. To build my own network through Liberty is not only great for me professionally, but also highly satisfying on a personal level.

What are some of your hobbies?

My passion has always been writing, especially stage and film scripts. My friend and I are currently in the early stages of producing two short films that I have written. We eventually aim to get funding to film them on a larger scale! I also love reading (I’m thankful for books on the long tube commute), swimming and travelling – you can find my travel ramblings on my blog, if you have nothing better to do!

What was the last book you read or song you listened to?

Ironically, the last book I read was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick.  Inevitably, this has resulted in some seriously dangerous existential thinking whilst at work, but I’m comforted by the fact that a robot apocalypse perpetrated by the robots we work with won’t be TOO bad… right?

2016 Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

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