Monthly Archives: May 2018

Join us on 11th June 2018 to hear how PR can help you

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Our creative industries here in the UK are some of the strongest in the world. And now the data shows how much we are helping fuel Britain’s economy growing at twice the rate of the overall economy. The sector now makes up more than five per cent of the UK economy’s GVA with much of the increase being driven by a boom in computer and digital services.

As a player within both the booming creative and technology spheres, we are proud of how much our talented creative workforce is contributing to the economy, and whilst the UK Government is doing its bit to fuel future growth (such as the pledge to invest £500m into technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and full fibre broadband), as an industry we need to continue to challenge ourselves and innovate.

We also need to make sure we protect, support and nurture our precious creative industries as we approach Brexit.

At Liberty we are committed to supporting future creative talent through our Liberty Academy programme and on June 11th 2018 will be hosting the first of a series of free creative workshops focused on helping businesses understand a little more about how creativity in PR can help grow their business.

The workshops are open to anyone interested in hearing more – from strategic recommendations through to practical tips and more. We’ll be here at 30 Stamford Street (part of London’s buzzing South Bank) from 10am-1pm. Drop me a line if you’d like to join us: edavidson@libertycomms.com – we’d love to see you there!

That’s definitely maybe fake news

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Until a few years ago many weren’t familiar with the phrase ‘fake news’. News was either, well news, or it wasn’t and nothing more was ever said about it. However, today fake news has become a ubiquitous and tawdry phrase that’s turned from originally being something used to describe an inaccurate and often untruthful story, to something that people use to discredit anything they don’t favour or agree with.

Fake news is actually defined as propaganda containing deliberate misinformation, harmful or not, that is covered across various different forms of media including print, online and social media. This type of news has the ability to mimic trusted websites, reputable news outlets and organisations to deceive people and influence their views. As with most problems, there’s always a solution or two and for fake news it’s all about education. Educating the public on how to not only spot fake news, but also identifying the various different forms it comes in, can go a long way to tackling this issue that the media landscape is currently gripped by. Here are three of the most common types of fake news that everyone should be aware of.

Misleading headlines

Arguably one of the most common types of fake news, these stories are not always false, but they do convey dishonesty through hyperbolic and sensationalist headlines to attract a high number of readers. For example last year, a well-known tabloid newspaper inaccurately published a story with a headline stating that a lorry had mounted a curb and crashed into pedestrians on London’s Oxford Street. What had actually occurred was an altercation between two members of the public at Oxford Circus tube station. These types of stories can spread quickly on social media, causing unnecessary concern.

Clickbait

Similar to misleading headlines, this type of fake news is designed to garner higher readership figures and increase ad revenue, but that’s where the similarities end. Clickbait stories are almost always intentionally fabricated and carry little to no factual evidence. An example being: ‘The one secret that banks don’t want you to know that could make you an instant billionaire over night!’. Articles of this sort are becoming more and more commonplace, driving web traffic and click-throughs, but at the expense of the truth.

Propaganda

News stories often carry agendas and fake news is no different, except that in this case it is content deliberately constructed to influence and mislead the audience by promoting a biased/slanted view on a topic that feeds into and pushes a particular agenda. For example, during the 2016 US presidential election, it was reported that thirteen Russian nationals accused of using propaganda to influence the public vote were charged with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process by creating hundreds of fictitious active social media accounts to discredit Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party.

Unfortunately, fake news is not something that will disappear anytime in the near future so we all need to ensure we’re able to recognise it, filter it out and also warn others to do the same.

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.