Category Archives: Company Blog

Liberty turns 21

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Liberty is 21 years old today. I remember the day that my bank manager told me the business would likely fail within the first two years so it’s good to think we’ve reached this milestone and we’ve had some successes along the way. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of the things that I believe make for good business advice. I hope you enjoy!

  1.  Be brave but trust your instincts

It’s a given that most people who start their own businesses are risk takers. It’s really part of the DNA that makes an entrepreneur. But risk taking for the sake of throwing caution to the wind isn’t a recipe for success. I’ve always believed in doing things differently and that’s really the Liberty “secret sauce.” We challenge the status quo and don’t settle for the same. Generally in business there is a balance between a crazy idea formed in the middle of a sleepless night and a tendency to not do anything that might rock the boat – but with all the decisions I’ve made, I have relied heavily on my own instincts and the instincts of the people around me I trust the most – professionally and personally. Call it a sixth sense, a feeling in your gut or whatever you like, but ultimately the buck stops with me and the decisions I have made, and continue to make on a daily basis affect others – it’s never a bad thing to remember that and whilst pushing forwards with new ideas through an innate self-belief it’s the right thing to do, it’s helpful to consider those your decision will affect too – this is what makes for a good decision.

  1.  Surround yourself with talent

Being the founder of a business doesn’t necessarily mean you are great at everything. In fact, every successful business owner needs a team of trusted, talented people to complement their own skill set. I’ve known from day one of Liberty that the business would only be successful if our workforce was diverse. I’m proud to say I’ve learned a lot from the people who have been on this journey with me. There is absolute truth in the adage “no man/woman is an island.” A team is just that, a culmination of a plethora of views, opinions, skills, ideas – and that teamwork is very often the thing that makes the difference for any business. People make it work.

  1.  Stick to your knitting

We hear a lot about diversification and very often a business can adapt, pivot and morph themselves successfully. But it can also have an adverse effect. Brand recognition matters and there is a reason your customers buy from you – so it’s never a good idea to try to become something you are not.

  1.  Do the maths

Business leaders are generally experts in their particular field and not good at the financial side of things. Yes, you’ve managed your own finances but running a profitable business is a skill. Understanding the P&L, being able to read a balance sheet and knowing the difference between debtors and creditors is paramount. Hire a great finance team who can crunch the numbers but also understand your business – together you are a powerful business asset – and believe me when I say “cashflow is king” – it sounds obvious, but it’s painfully true.

  1.  You can’t please all the people all the time!

Don’t be afraid to say “no”. Not all business is good business. Liberty’s ethos has always been based on working with likeminded clients in partnership for mutual success. If there is no relationship or partnership approach, it’s best to step away. In my experience there needs to be trust and respect on both sides to make things work – never be afraid to say no – it will benefit you and the business in the end.

  1.  Be yourself

Relationships matter. People will only want to work with you if they like you. Just because you run your own business, don’t get above your station. Remember where you started and treat people the way you would wish them to treat you. Most of the time you need the support of your network anyway, so being full of your own importance isn’t going to cut it. Liberty’s ethos was built on exceptional customer service and value for money. We want to make a difference to our clients’ businesses so we’ve always got them in mind first and foremost. Their success is our success in the end, so there is absolutely no reason to have to puff ourselves up and try to be something we aren’t. As with most things in life, honesty and integrity count for a lot – and in business it’s very much the same.

Here’s to the next 21 years!

 

World ATM Congress – Day Three

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As World ATM Congress 2019 draws to a close today I’ve been reflecting on what I’ll take away from the event. Admittedly this was my first time in attendance, but my main impression is that unmanned traffic management (UTM) has moved from the periphery of discussion in the aviation industry nearer to front and centre.

There were somewhere between 40-50 talks at the show that included UTM as a focus, and the prevailing message is that the opportunities provided by UTM are real. This isn’t the future, it’s here and now. Fully commercial operations (not trials) are happening all over the world, and AirMap, the leading global airspace management platform for drones, is at the forefront of many of these in partnership with air navigation service providers including skyguide and ANS CR.

It would appear that we’re at a hugely exciting time in the history of aviation, with the skies busier than ever. Indeed, according to a special report from Airbus distributed at World ATM Congress 2019, at any one time there are more than one million people airborne around the world.

However, digital change is upon us and the need for a UTM system to monitor and manage the increasingly busy skies is touted as being more paramount than ever before. Consider for example the rapidly increasing use of drones, not only by hobbyists but by enterprises in industries such as utilities, public safety, oil & gas, mining, construction, agriculture and many more.

Off the back of such operations, the value of the drone industry continues to soar. In 2016, Goldman Sachs estimated that drone technologies would reach a market size of $100bn by 2020, while a more recent report from PwC forecasts commercial drone applications have a total addressable market value of $127bn globally.

But what’s clear from discussions at World ATM Congress 2019 is that for commercial opportunities from drone use to be fully realised and for safety in airspace to be ensured, UTM technologies must be integrated into existing air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure.

My overriding feeling after three days in Madrid at the world’s biggest ATM event is that the future of flight has never looked more exciting. The sky’s the limit.

World ATM Congress – Day Two

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Discussions around UTM continued to be at the fore on the second day of World ATM Congress 2019. Indeed, the topic was front and centre in the show daily publication World ATM Now, following a panel session featuring AirMap Chairman and Co-founder Ben Marcus, which for the first time in the event’s seven year history didn’t include any air navigation service providers.

Following on from three significant announcements released on day one of the show, AirMap shared news of another milestone on day two. The company today announced a collaboration with Fortem Technologies, a leading airspace awareness, safety and security company. Together, AirMap and Fortem will provide an integrated solution that allows for the safe operation of drones within geofences while also enforcing no-fly zones in cities, around airports and other critical infrastructure.

Announcing the collaboration, Ben Marcus, said: “The rapid increase in drone operations brings tremendous benefit to society in the way of public safety, medical logistics, infrastructure inspection and more. However, at the same time we are seeing a rapid increase in airport disruptions due to drone sightings. Combining AirMap’s industry-leading UTM for ‘known’ good drones with Fortem’s industry-leading technology will detect both welcomed and ‘unknown’ bad drones.”

Meanwhile, during an afternoon panel session titled ‘Anatomy of the U-Space: Tools & Technologies for Drone Enablement’, Andi Lamprecht, AirMap’s CTO, talked about how the company is helping to bridge the gap between technology providers and drone operators. He also highlighted how digitisation and automation is key to enabling authorisation for safe and secure drone operations.

It may be the final day of World ATM Congress 2019 tomorrow, but there is still a busy schedule of talks and demonstrations. And if the estimates from day one alone are anything to go by when there were thought to be over 1,000 more people in attendance compared to last year, the 2019 edition is sure to wrap up in front of a big delegation.

World ATM Congress 2019 – Day One

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Today, the IFEMA, Feria de Madrid opened its doors to attendees from 100+ countries around the world as the world’s biggest air traffic management (ATM) event kicked off. A partnership between the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) and Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), World ATM Congress brings together stakeholders from across the aviation industry to discuss their visions and showcase their solutions for global airspace today and beyond.

The theme of World ATM Congress 2019 is ‘Tackling the Big Issues is ATM – Capacity, UTM Integration, People’. In this respect, much of the focus of this year’s event is around integrating and managing drones in today’s crowded airspace and exploring the best ways to expand UTM capacity.

Day one of the show was particularly significant for AirMap, the leading global airspace management platform for drones. The company announced three new significant developments, starting with its work with the Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic to enable SmartSky, the country’s strategy to enable and support the safe operation of drones and the development of drone-related services.

AirMap also announced the deployment of Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) for drone flights in Geneva and Lugano in collaboration with skyguide, the Swiss air navigation service provider, as well as the development of a cost-effective drone tracking solution in partnership with Honeywell.

Events at Gatwick before Christmas last year where the airport was brought to a standstill due to suspected malicious drone use also dominated much of the discussions during the various talks given at the event on day one. The true scale of the disruption caused is estimated to have cost the UK economy somewhere between £5om-£70m, with over 100,000 passengers affected and 1,000 flights cancelled.

However, rather than dwell on the incident itself, the focus at World ATM Congress has been to move the discussion on to what needs to be done in order to prevent such incidents, which appear to be becoming more commonplace, from happening again. Key to this is the need to integrate a UTM platform/solution with Counter-UAS and ATM.

Celebrating International Women’s Day at Liberty

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Under the theme of ‘Balance for Better’, this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) kicks off today with a whole range of activities and events designed to celebrate the achievements of women and call for a balanced and fair society. Brands too are leaning on the day as an opportunity for marketing – some with more purpose than others.

For us though International Women’s Day celebrates the achievement of our Founder Dee Gibbs as she founded the agency 21 years ago this month and this week also celebrated being listed in PR Week’s Power Book 2019. Dee has always called for a balanced workforce.

It was one of the agency’s founding principles and remains key to the way we work today. We pride ourselves on having a diverse and fair workforce – one centred around equality and opportunity for all. We work together to support and help each other and have a very special culture focused on getting the best out of people.

We’re proud of how far we have come and as we celebrate Dee and Liberty’s success we also use the opportunity to support the call for #balanceforbetter.

If you’re interested in the work we do get in touch!

Mobile World Congress – Day Four

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So the final day of Mobile World Congress 2019. A last chance to explore – and try to make it to Hall 8.1. It’s a long way from Hall 1…

Away from that, much buzz was created late yesterday and continued into today with discussion around the first ever tele-mentored surgery over a 5G connection. This was performed between the Fira Gran Via and Hospital Clinic de Barcelona with, reassuringly, the full consent of the patient.

A medical expert advised the surgeon during the live operation, with Vodafone providing the 5G connection in partnership with Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, Mobile World Capital and online education portal, the Advances in Surgery Channel.

Although interestingly elsewhere at MWC, a panel discussion featuring a representative from McKinsey among others, highlighted a lack of capabilities within the mobile sector to capitalise on opportunities within the (digital) health sector.

I had a chance to wander round today and I have to say my personal highlight was learning all about liquid repellent nanotechnology. Basically you can drop your phone in the bath or swimming pool and it will still work afterwards. The aim of P2i, the company behind the technology, “is to bring liquid protection to the mass market.”

As I wandered round some other halls I saw similar variations of the same technology, with a fish tank type object housing 10 iPhones in various stages of immersion. Each had a clock showing how long the device had been submerged. Not that anyone would leave their phone in the water of course, but as a gimmick it was certainly attracting attention.

I’ve been thinking about how this year’s event compares to last year’s, and the main conclusion I have drawn is that if anything the technology, gadgets and gizmos on display just continue to get more, well, whacky! The bar has very much been raised for MWC 2020.

Mobile World Congress – Day Three

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We’re now three quarters of the way through Mobile World Congress 2019 and the themes of social good and diversity have been evident throughout the week so far. This included a keynote session delivered by UN deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed who highlighted that work is needed to increase gender diversity across the mobile industry.

She also issued a note of caution, pointing out that while new technologies increase convenience for a large proportion of the population, they also risk further widening the digital divide and so the need for inclusive innovations is paramount.

Meanwhile, Telefonica O2’s chief digital and strategy officer, Jo Bertram told those in attendance at 4YFN, the startup event at MWC 2019, that the operator is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce. She highlighted the initiatives O2 runs to promote a workforce reflective of society today, including apprenticeship and graduate schemes.

Elsewhere, the winners of the 2019 GLOMO Awards have also been announced, with TV and Radio presenter, Remel London and BBC Africa Business Editor, Larry Madowo presenting the awards. John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA Ltd, emphasised that the GLOMOs celebrate and showcase the companies and individuals driving innovation across the mobile industry.

For a full breakdown of all of the winners, visit the website, but some of those successful include:

  • Ericsson – Best Mobile Network Infrastructure
  • Nokia – 5G Leadership Award
  • Huawei – Best Smartphone – The Judges’ Choice
  • Accenture – Best Mobile VR or AR

In further awards news, the 4YFN Startup of the Year Award, which is focused on accelerating business development, was announced live earlier this afternoon in Hall 8 in front of packed audience, with NanoLock Security taking home the prize. The company provides the industry’s only lightweight, low-cost security and management solution for connected edge devices.

So three days down and one to go. Tomorrow we can likely expect the GSMA to reveal details around attendance numbers and a comparison to last year’s event. It certainly feels busier, but the numbers will not lie!

Mobile World Congress 2019 – Day Two

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Much of the talk on day two of Mobile World Congress 2019 has been centred on security, and specifically network security for 5G.

Conversations have followed on from a keynote session given late on day one by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for digital economy and society, addressing what she described as unrest amongst the mobile industry on potential legislation related to 5G rollout and wider national security. She sought to reassure attendees that the European Commission is taking all of the industry’s concerns very seriously and is committed to finding a solution as a priority.

Despite these concerns however, operators are continuing to press ahead, with T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray, announcing today that the company would build a 5G network in 30 US cities this year. Ray revealed that the operator’s first 5G sites could run on mmWave spectrum even though the company has previously touted a 600MHz rollout.

But others within the industry are less convinced. BT’s Consumer CEO Marc Allera, told delegates today that the deployment of commercial 5G will not go to plan, and flexibility is key to operators as EE, which Allera also heads up, prepares to launch 5G across 16 UK cities this summer.

Elsewhere away from 5G but still very much focused on security, Kevin Riley, Ribbon Communication’s CTO delivered a very well received presentation during the afternoon focusing on migrating and securing real-time communications on AWS.

Kevin discussed how attitudes to the cloud have changed dramatically in the last few years from a sense of fear about putting digital assets and critical data into public cloud infrastructure to the view of public cloud being more secure than many private cloud offerings. This is highlighted by the growth of AWS, which today accounts for over a third (35%) of the public cloud market.

He also talked about the growing sophistication of attacks today, including highlighting the work of bad actors who stole the records of millions of Home Depot customers a few years ago by infiltrating an IoT enabled air conditioning unit on the roof one of the company’s stores!

That’s now half of MWC 2019 complete and we’re looking forward to seeing what day three brings tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Mobile World Congress 2019 – Day One

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The theme for Mobile World Congress 2019 is Intelligent Connectivity, and it was no surprise to see 5G dominate much of the headlines on day one of the show. A study released by the GSMA forecasts that the fifth generation of mobile communications will account for 15% of all global mobile traffic by 2025, with around half of these connections expected to be in the US and a further 30% in China and Europe.

The financial impact for the global economy is also expected to be enormous, with the GSMA report estimating 5G to contribute $2.2 trillion over the next 15 years. Sectors including manufacturing, professional and financial services as well as utilities are expected to see the most financial benefit from the new technology.

But in his company’s press conference today, Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm issued a plea to authorities to address the issues he said are holding back 5G in Europe. Ekholm stated high spectrum fees, uncertain spectrum duration and heavy regulation are all putting Europe at risk of falling far behind Asia and North America in the 5G race.

There has also been much talk of IoT connectivity at MWC so far, with the GSMA study also predicting that global IoT revenue will quadruple to $1.1 trillion by 2025 as the number of global IoT connections triples to 25 billion in the same period. Meanwhile during a panel session on the eve of the show, the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Summit, the overriding message was that the IoT ecosystem is now mature enough to cope with mobile IoT services entering the market.

Of course it wouldn’t be MWC without the unveiling of the latest and greatest handsets, and this year’s event has not disappointed with the show kicking off with a number of manufacturers revealing their visions for the next generation of smartphones.

Huawei revealed its new foldable 5G device, the Mate X, with the promise of availability for consumers by the middle of the year at a price point of €2,299. The CEO of the company’s Consumer Unit, Richard Yu, emphasised that the device would support both non-standalone and standalone 5G, meaning it’s “not only for today’s 5G, but for the future 5G.”

Samsung had of course already released details of the Galaxy Fold at its own Unpacked events in San Francisco and London in the run up to MWC, but it did unveil a pair of new phones to its midrange Galaxy A series in Barcelona – the Galaxy A50 and the A30.

LG meanwhile showcased its V50 ThinQ, its first 5G smartphone, which comes with an optional accessory called Dual Screen. The company said this is its own spin on the foldable device trend and that while it had no plans to release a foldable screen this year, it will at some point in the near future as this is what it believes everyone will be using soon.

With day one drawing to a close amidst a planned metro strike, it’s a rush to the exit doors before regrouping and retuning for day two and everything that MWC 2019 has in store tomorrow.

The Biggest Buzz from CES 2019

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CES, the Consumer Electrics Show that takes place in Las Vegas every year, has become the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years — a global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.

At the beginning of every year, consumers and tech fans alike keep all eyes on the announcements and product launches coming out of this exciting conference. Some of the biggest names in gadgetry work all year, aiming to have their products ready by the show, hoping to top their competitors in the news.

Here’s a list of some of the most buzzworthy news from this year’s show:

Google vs. Amazon

Most of the hype centered on two companies: Google and Amazon. It’s turning into an annual tradition for the two tech titans to head to Las Vegas in January to battle it out in the desert and see who can gain the most ground in the war for your smart home, smart car and smartphone. But this year Google made headlines with an over the top rollercoaster at their booth, and by plastering the words “Hey Google” all across town. Amazon was subtler in approach but made an effort to be omnipresent at the show through partners’ booths, stage presentations and loads of “Works with Alexa” tags on all kinds of products.

Apple Makes New Friends

Apple usually skips CES in favor of its own events, but this year it made a rare attempt to steal the show without actually announcing any products of its own. The biggest news is that Apple is making a bigger effort to work with third-party products and make its services accessible without using Apple devices themselves. Users will now be able to stream content from an iPhone to a Vizio, Samsung, or LG TV via the Airplay 2 standard that all three of these big TV manufacturers will be baking into their sets.

Samsung for Everything

Samsung stole the show with multiple product announcements, including a “pre-announcement” that it’ll show off its next smartphone at an Unpacked event next month.

Samsung may be best-known for its Galaxy smartphones, but TVs, laptops and appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, are a big part of its product lineup. And it typically unveils a lot of news related to those devices at CES. This year brought lots of TVs, the Apple partnership, a smarter Bixby voice assistant and its first foray into consumer robotics with: Bot Air for air purification, Bot Care for health monitoring, Bot Retail for restaurants and shops, and GEMS (Gait Enhancing and Motivating System) to help with mobility issues.

CES is perhaps best known for its spectacle, the grand showcase of the products you’ll likely never see outside of CES, much less ever purchase. This year, things were a little different in the CES news coverage. Sure, there was plenty of spectacle and unnecessary stuff — one just needs to hear about a toilet with Alexa to affirm that — but there was also a lot of useful iteration on the ideas we’ve been seeing at CES for years, and we’re looking forward to seeing how these practical products develop in the coming years.

How to Track Your Social Media ROI

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Social media is one of those tricky topics that businesses know can positively influence their revenue, but many don’t know how to measure and prove it. One of the most rewarding aspects of using social media as a marketing tool is the ability to track results in real-time, and figuring out the right social media metrics can help gauge ROI.

First off, the two types of social media measurement are:

1. Ongoing Analytics – Ongoing monitoring that tracks activity over time. Necessary for keeping up with the overall pulse of general conversation about a brand and company.
2. Campaign-Focused Metrics – Campaign or event analytics with a clear beginning and end. These help demonstrate the impact of targeted marketing initiatives and will vary from campaign to campaign, depending on the goals.

An effective social media measurement program will likely include both ongoing and campaign-specific measurement.

First step
Before jumping into measuring every single tweet, photo and Facebook comment posted, think about your company’s reasons for having social media. Social media can serve a variety of purposes, from broadcasting news and information, to answering customer questions and engaging with a community. What is your company trying to accomplish?

Second Step
Once the goals have been established, consider what metrics are necessary to support the tracking of each goal. For example, if the goal is to achieve:

Awareness – use metrics like volume, reach, exposure, and amplification. How far is your message spreading?

Drive website traffic – track URL shares, clicks and conversions. Are people moving through social media to your external site and what do they do once they’re on your site?

Engagement – look for metrics around retweets, comments, replies, and participants. How many people are participating, how often are they participating, and in what forms are they participating? Real effort needs to be made to engage with your audience, as well as relevant industry influencers, and lazy attempts at engagement are easily spotted. Your audience will not allow themselves to be underestimated and they’ll see the difference between a truly engaged brand and one which simply fires out the “Thanks for the RT” style tweets.

Increase Share of Voice – track your volume relative to your closest competitors. How much of the overall conversation around your industry or product category is about your brand?

Third Step
Now that you’ve established goals and metrics, you need to find the tools to track them. There are some free analytics offered by the platforms themselves, but there’s a good amount of raw data there, that isn’t very granular, and often means a fair amount of additional tracking and pulling data by hand, to calculate impact. Alternatively there are paid social media metric tools such as SproutSocial, Zuum or Quintly that can do some of the analysis for you in a report format that’s ready to share.

Final Step
The most important part of tracking the results of any campaign is applying the learnings. It’s vital to review your reports and track if the metrics are supporting your goals and, if not, what needs to be implemented to do so. Figure out what you can improve, make changes and then measure again.

It’s important to know going into a social media project that it’s going to be a trial and error process as your audience grows and evolves. You’ll need to consistently check back in with the goals you set initially and make sure your metrics actually help you address those goals.

 

If you’d like to know more about how to create and measure a social media strategy that will drive results, be sure to get in touch with us at Liberty to see how we can help!

Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have been the technology buzz words of 2018. For some they have been welcomed but for others there are concerns over the prospect of robots taking over our jobs.

Despite the hype and interest around AI’s commercial potential, it’s fair to say that the technology is still at its infancy and arguably excels best at specific tasks and under certain conditions. In other words, AI is currently only as good as we allow it to be, but equally, great results can be achieved with the help of AI to augment the work humans already do. Much of the talk around the uses of AI has been centred on the technology occupying the more time consuming and trivial tasks, freeing people to deal with more creative and complex work.

But what value can be placed on the (potential) impact of AI? Well a recent report from McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that it has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13tn by 2030. This is 16% higher cumulative GDP compared with today, amounting to 1.2% annual GDP growth per year. The report also predicts that by 2030, around 70% of companies might have adopted at least one type of AI technology.

Here are just a few examples of industries that AI could impact for the better:

Healthcare – In the field of Radiology, AI can complement the work that practitioners do by diagnosing the simpler yet repetitive cases, leaving the more experienced radiologists to focus on more complex issues, patient diagnosis and supervising diagnostic plans.

Customer service – AI can help customer service teams provide greater assistance to customers through AI-powered virtual help desks. These virtual assistants can be programed to confidently and efficiently interact with customers answering the easier preliminary questions before escalating the various different issues to humans to deal with more complex problems.

Manufacturing – AI could benefit the manufacturing industry just as much as automation and advanced IT. The technology can help support manufacturers and significantly improve processes in a number of ways including stronger product design and quality, decreased unplanned downtime, improved work efficiency and a safer environment for employees.

The key theme here is ‘support’. Humans are competitive creatures and if the threat of AI replacing jobs will bring out a competitive mind for innovation, then surely this can only be a good thing? Not only can AI help support us, but it can also push us to find solutions to harder problems or come up with better solutions for existing problems.

AI is in effect just like any other technology that’s here to serve a single purpose – to help us do much better than we already are doing. And if it helps fuel such a significant boost to our economy, surely that’s no bad thing.

The ‘Gin and Tonic Effect’

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I’ve sat in many a brand strategy meeting where those around the table have been trying to get to the bottom of what their USP is. My advice is, don’t spend time looking for something that 99% of the time doesn’t exist.

Your product or service is unlikely to be unique. Even so, in a crowded marketplace we all need to find a way to stand out from our competitors. So, how can we do this?

Here’s an example: You and I are both flying to New York. We both choose different airlines. I am flying British Airways, you are flying Virgin Atlantic. The cost is roughly the same. Flying from, and to, the same airports. Both planes get to their destination safely and on time. So, what’s the difference?

The difference is in the different personalities of the two brands. Your brand creates your difference. But what is a brand? Well think of a brand as a person. When you meet that person for the first time, you judge them by how they speak, their behaviour, what they believe or the principles they stand for and what they look like.

Their tone of voice – how they speak.
Their vision – what they believe.
Their values – how they behave.
Their identity – how they look, how they are dressed.

How to find the difference? Let’s call it the ‘gin and tonic’ effect. Back to our airline flights. We have returned from our trips and swap notes. You ask: “How was your flight?” I don’t answer: “It was fine. The plane didn’t break down and we didn’t crash – we landed on time.”

What I might say is: “The service was great. On the way, I asked for a gin and tonic, and on the return flight they recognised me and remembered my drink. They even added a slice of lemon from first class!”

So, it’s the little, ‘added value’ extra elements that get remembered, talked about, and will differentiate your brand from your competitors’. Here are 5 steps to work through that will help you to find your difference.

1) Make time to sit down with your directors and re-visit your company’s brand values or define them if they don’t exist.
2) Aim for no more than five or six values to describe your brand’s personality. What you believe in and stand for.
3) Be honest – don’t pretend the brand is ‘passionate’ if it’s not.
4) Think about your brand’s vision. What is its purpose?
5) Now define your point of difference.

If you have a truly unique proposition, then you are pretty much home and dry. But if your products or services are similar to your competitors’, you’ll need to dig deep and find a difference. Remember, it may well be an emotional, rather than rational, point of difference – like the Gin and Tonic.

Data, Data Everywhere

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Einstein wrote a riddle about data when he was just a child. At least that’s the apocryphal claim. He, allegedly, claimed that 98% of the world’s population wouldn’t be able to solve it. Personally I’m not convinced he got his numbers right as I managed to solve it in 15 minutes – and I’m no Einstein.

But the point he was making (or at least that I’m inferring) is that at first glance the data we have access to might appear of little or no value. Look a bit deeper however, and you’ll find that data provides a whole host of links and crucial pieces of information. And of course there’s a lot more data about today than there was in Einstein’s day.

At Liberty, we’ve been working with one of the leading companies at helping organisations extract value from their data for just over a year now. MarkLogic Corporation, the leading operational and transactional Enterprise NoSQL database provider, empowers its customers to build modern applications on a unified, 360-degree view of their data.

And the use cases for MarkLogic’s technology are vast. From financial services and insurance to pharmaceutical and the public sector, the number of industries that are overwhelmed by data is in many ways like the data itself, seemingly endless.

In the last month we have worked closely with MarkLogic to maximise attendance at key industry events in the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors and help drive the message of the value that these industries can gain by integrating their data quickly and efficiently.

But as we know from many high profile incidents over the last year, gaining actionable intelligence from data is one thing, but being able to secure that data is vital. Where MarkLogic play a key role here is reducing risk. Using a NoSQL database, such as MarkLogic’s, makes the whole process of integrating data faster and more seamless. No data gets discarded and you can track the details across the data lifecycle – its provenance, who can see it and how it changed – all in a single system.

We’re very pleased to have been able to champion the work of MarkLogic over the last 12+ months, and will be keeping a keen on the results of the 2018 Computing Security Excellence Awards next month, where MarkLogic is nominated in three categories.

And as for Einstein’s riddle – here’s the answer if you’ve given up.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Five: The day after the night before

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The main headlines to first emerge on the final day of the IBC2018 conference were focused around the big winners from the night before at the event’s prestigious Awards ceremony. The flagship International Honour for Excellence Award, as announced in the run up to the show, went to Joan Ganz Cooney, Co-Founder of the long-running and hit TV show Sesame Street.

In a video message broadcast during the ceremony, Cooney said she did not want to talk about her or Sesame’s Street legacy because “this is not over.” Other winners to be crowned on the night were:

  • Eurosport and DiscoveryIBC Innovation Award for Content Creation
  • Medialaan – IBC Innovation Award for Content Distribution
  • RTÉ – IBC Innovation Award for Content Everywhere
  • Econet Media – IBC Judges’ Prize
  • BBC (Civilisations AR) – IBC Special Award
  • BBC R&D – Best Technical Paper Award

Other discussions on day five included a conference session on public service media and the coming of age of AI and cloud-based workflows.

The panel included George Wright, Head of Internet Research & Future Services Section at the BBC, who told the audience that the broadcaster did not view as Netflix as a threat or as competition. He outlined that the BBC is in fact currently one of the OTT media services provider’s biggest suppliers.

Wright also recapped an amusing discussion he and the R&D team at the BBC had with the public broadcaster’s ethics team, when the question was posed on if footage that has been edited by AI can be held accountable for satire, sarcasm and parody. Answers on a postcard please.

When questioned on if increased use of AI at the BBC would see people losing their jobs, Wright was keen to stress that the opposite is in fact true. He revealed that while computers are being used in more incidences to help select the best shots to go out, it is a myth to think that this means people will be replaced in the process,.

Rather he outlined that the BBC produces 1,080 hours of content every hour and that AI requires more people rather than less; to train, analyse and supervise the systems. Ultimately, Wright said, the end goal is to provide viewers with a better shot or a shot that they have not seen before, and that these are not necessarily the same thing.

In one of the final afternoon sessions at the IBC Content Everywhere Hub, there was another discussion on one of the big topics of this year’s event – the convergence between the telecoms and media industries.

One of the key takeaways was a word of warning from Gilles Domartini, CEO of Cleeng, about what he called ‘content fatigue’. In other words, that producing more and more content might drive engagement, at least in the short term, but it won’t necessarily engender the most crucial aspect – customer retention.

And that’s a wrap for IBC2018. It has been five packed days of discussion, debate and collaboration at the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show. Thanks to all of the team at IBC for putting on such a fantastic show. Here’s to 2019!

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Four: From Sesame Street to Amsterdam

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The conference track delivered just before the mass exodus for lunch on day four of IBC2018 provided a fascinating insight into how the digital revolution is driving the world of sports broadcasting to attract new audiences.

Ralph Rivera, EVP & MD at Eurosport Digital, highlighted how what differentiates digital is consumer choice as people (viewers) can now go beyond what a broadcaster prioritises on its schedule. He described the big challenge this creates for broadcasters: delivering the principal reliability provided by traditional TV with the desired level of interactivity that TV alone cannot.

Strides in the right direction are being taken, but Rivera stressed that the industry is in a transition period that will take at least a couple of years. He revealed that Eurosport will be focusing a lot of efforts towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where the broadcaster wants to utilise up to 360 cameras on track and field for better use of athlete data.

He also emphasised that storytelling is intrinsic in bringing data to life. Take the biathlon for example; getting the heart rate of a biathlete during cross-country skiing is great for viewers, but they also need to have the understanding that biathletes need to bring their heart rate down for rifle shooting.

Also on day four was a presentation from Julina Tatlock, Founder & CEO of 30 Ninjas, who talked about the opportunities for new media forms in 5G, which she said will provide massive connectivity possibilities for new forms of storytelling.

The key, Tatlock said, when it comes to 5G and content creation is that while you can hypothesise as much as you like, you only really learn through ‘making and doing’. She gave the example of being able to turn a self-driving car into a moving movie theatre through VR enabled by 5G connectivity.

And how about working with Tom Cruise? Well as an actor who prides himself on always knowing where the camera is, Tatlock revealed the struggles Cruise had on the set of 2017 film American Made.

Directed by 30 Ninjas’ other founder Doug Liman, who has a predilection for quickly cutting sequences (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith etc), the ever so cool Cruise stopped a scene at one point to shout: “Where’s the camera?!” The truth Tom, I’m not sure you could handle it.

But Mr Cruise was not the only Hollywood A-Lister to crop up on day four of IBC2018. No, the real red carpet treatment was saved for Ernie who travelled all the way from Sesame Street to collect the IBC International Honour for Excellence Award on behalf of Joan Ganz Cooney, Co-Founder of the long-running and hit TV show.

More on the Awards tomorrow after what is sure to be a fantastic ceremony this evening.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Three: Pugafly, giggles and gigabytes

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With it following a Friday, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that day three of IBC2018 would be host to a few bleary eyes. But in actual fact you couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The third day of the world’s most influential media, entertainment & technology show kicked off with a 4k charity run completed by over 500 IBC participants, raising over $40k in the process for two fantastic Dutch charities: Stichting NewTechKids (NewTechKids Foundation) and Iridescent.

Meanwhile, during a press conference in the media centre, some of the key figures at IBC revealed some of the early successes of this year’s show. This included the fact that the number of female speakers on stage this year has more than doubled last year’s line-up, while IBC2018 has also attracted a record number of 1,700 exhibitors.

5G also continued to be a key topic of discussion during the day’s conference programme. Mark Hyung-Joon Kim, EVP & Head of Global Business Unit at Korea Telecom (KT), provided a fantastic behind-the-scenes glimpse from into how KT was able to deliver the world’s first trial of 5G services at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Mr Hyung-Joon Kim set the scene by walking a captivated audience (most definitely including yours truly) through a brief history of both the Summer and Winter Olympics’ longstanding history with technology and innovation:

  • 1936 (Berlin) – The first live broadcasting in black and white TV
  • 1964 (Tokyo) – The first satellite coverage in colour TV
  • 2006 (Turin) – The first mobile live broadcasting
  • 2016 (Rio) – The first 4K UHD live broadcasting
  • 2018 (Pyeongchang) – The world’s first 5G trial services to provide an ‘inside the track, first-hand experience of the Olympics’

He then revealed how 2,294 minutes of coverage (including highlights) during the 2018 Games had been broadcast and delivered through KT’s 5G technologies. This included providing audiences with a live feed from the viewpoint of athletes competing in the bobsleigh, which was facilitated via a sync camera embedded within the front of the bobsleigh in real time via a 5G module and network.

After a brief interlude, Mark Hyung-Joon Kim joined a number of other panellists on the stage in the Forum to discuss the road to 5G. Christian Harris, Head of Digital Entertainment at Three, perhaps best described the current state of affairs by stating that “we know what the destination is, just not the journey that will get us there.”

Harris also described how Three is working hard to change its business model and public perception. He outlined a commitment to stay relevant by changing the company’s organisational culture to better engage with the whole media-telco ecosystem.

Three’s partnership with Snapchat, Harris emphasised, is a fantastic demonstration of this through the much loved (he assured everyone) ‘pugafly’. After all, as a colleague of Harris’ has said on 5G: “it’s about giggles, not gigabytes.”

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Two: A Scot and two aliens walk into a bar

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Day two of IBC2018 kicked off in esteemed fashion with a welcome from the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, before attention turned to the main topic of the day’s keynote session – blockchain.

Buzzword? Hype? Ground-breaking technology? Well Kim Jackson, Co-Founder & President of Entertainment at SingularDTV, detailed how blockchain is being utilised by her business to empower content creators to retain control of their IP and evolve the entertainment industry.

Jackson explained that blockchain is essentially a public digital ledger of transactions, and that with a decentralised system in place you can create an ecosystem where everything is connected. It also, Jackson said, eliminates the need for an intermediary, thereby creating a peer-to-peer value chain and fair exchange process between creators, producers and buyers.

But how is blockchain being used in practice by content creators to do this? Well joining Jackson on stage was Maurice Schutte, Producer & Co-Creator of Space Beers, described as ‘an insane alien abduction film where beer is the only hope of survival.’ Brilliant.

Schutte explained how and why he and his team have used blockchain to tokenise the whole brand. He emphasised the importance of all financial supporters of the project (who purchase Space Beers Tokens) reaping the benefits of its (hopeful) success.

There were further blockchain discussions during an afternoon session in the IBC Content Everywhere Hub, as well as an in depth look into 5G. Andreas Westhoff, CEO of Smart Mobile Labs, talked a packed audience through a number of use cases his company has been supporting, including in Formula One, e-Sports, live music festivals and football.

However, he also highlighted that market adoption for 5G is a case of evolution not revolution, with full functionality likely at least three years away, and complete widespread network coverage realistically taking up to a decade.

In other news on day two, Maria Ferreras, VP Business Development for EMEA at Netflix, was asked if the over-the-top media services provider would be following the lead of Amazon and others and expanding into live sports.

While admitting “you can never say never”, Ferreras explained that ultimately there isn’t any value in Netflix doing so because they wouldn’t be able to do it any better than current broadcasters. As for the next chapter, Ferreras revealed that Netflix’s revenues are currently growing 43% year-on-year.

But as for Space Beers and a Scot vs two aliens in a drinking contest at an intergalactic bar, well I know who my money would be on.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day One: BBC, Beyoncé and Mr Bean

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Over the next week, around 60,000 visitors from over 170 countries will descend on the RAI in Amsterdam for the prestigious annual IBC show.

Today was day one of IBC2018, and things kicked off in style with a welcome from Keith Underwood, Chief Operating Officer of Channel 4, followed by the Opening Keynote from Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Studios.

Davie wasted little time before announcing a significant new deal for BBC Studios, which will see it collaborate with Clerkenwell Films and Anton Corp to develop and fund a schedule of high-end, short-form drama and comedy projects.

The agreement will see the creation of premium, high volume, short-form content produced for digital and linear platforms, with additional funds set aside to self-commission. This, Davie highlighted, represents a major move from BBC Studios into more short form content, with several other initiatives being pursued at significant investment.

When asked to comment on rumours of a bid for Endemol Shine Group, Davie didn’t shy away. He ruled out bidding, stating that the BBC is focused on premium British content and suitably scaled in certain areas.

Davie also explained that he is “exhausted” by events and conferences that review the threat of online to the industry. He emphasised that a growth market should be welcomed as good news, and content makers who can’t make this work should probably look at alternative employment.

Not long after, Peter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer of Endemol Shine Group took to the Forum stage to discuss how broadcasters can best create content for the connected generation. Leaving the question of a rumoured bid from BBC Studios to those “above his pay grade”, Salmon discussed the “war for attention” driven by the huge premiums for successfully connecting with today’s young, connected audiences.

He highlighted the success Endemol has had by focusing on constructed reality content through shows such as Hunted and The Island, as well as a brand new programme he revealed is set to air soon: The Heist. It is the non-scripted element, which makes up around 70% of all of Endemol’s shows, and ‘box-settable’ nature that mainstream audiences buy into, Salmon explained.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, at least to yours truly, was when Salmon revealed that one of Endemol Shine Group’s biggest success stories is a comedy animation series following the daily trials and tribulations of Mr Bean and his best friend Teddy. With some 79m+ fans, Salmon confidently stated that this is the biggest media brand on Facebook – ahead of Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Harry Potter and The Simpsons. Who’d have thought it.

So here’s looking forward to day two and what other surprises are in store.

The Netflix effect

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The battleground for viewing figures has arguably never been as hard fought as it is today, with legacy media companies being forced to play catch up and offer multiple services in order to compete, thanks in no small part to the ‘Netflix effect’.

The capabilities offered by Netflix’s video on demand streaming service, which allows subscribers to stream films and TV series on any number of platforms and devices, has seen the over-the-top media services provider reach 130 million total subscribers worldwide as of July 2018.

This success has not been missed by more traditional broadcasters, with Sky agreeing a deal earlier this year to integrate Netflix’s subscription VOD offering into its pay-TV service for customers with its ultra HD Sky Q platform.

These strategic business moves and partnerships are continuing to become more commonplace, with arguably the biggest of more recent times being the bidding war between Comcast and Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox. The latter won the battle, at a reported cost of more than $70bn, but rather than lick its wounds, Comcast simply turned attention to acquiring a controlling stake in Sky plc.

While we can consider Netflix as one of the biggest catalysts behind many of these major partnerships in terms of the need to provide and deliver exclusive and original content, sport is also a driving force.

Amazon in particular has been making a major play in this market, including breaking the stranglehold of Sky and BT for Premier League football rights earlier this year. The online retail giant has also made a foray into tennis, outbidding Sky last year to obtain exclusive rights to broadcast men’s top flight matches from 2019, as well as more recently securing a £30m deal to exclusively broadcast the US Open in the UK next month and for the following four years.

In such a competitive and fast moving marketplace it’s difficult to predict what the future will hold or where the next partnership will come from, but what is clear is that the FAANG giants (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) are re-shaping the rules of the game at all levels.

But this doesn’t just bring challenges, it also opens the door to new opportunities for telcos in particular, through broadening their offerings by adding content assets and exploring partnerships with these leading content providers. AT&T has already paved the way with its acquisition of Time Warner, and now it’s time to see if anyone else will follow suit.

Liberty will be at IBC2018, the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show at the RAI in Amsterdam from Thursday 13 to Tuesday 18 September 2018. If anyone would like to meet up at the event please get in touch – info@libertycomms.com.

5G: the latest rural fantasy?

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By Jasmine Gray

The global race to launch 5G is on. In the midst of ongoing British commitments to adopt 5G, the population of rural Britain still remain some of the least connected people in Europe.

A recent study by GoCompare outlines how London, along with major cities Manchester and Nottingham have access to more than 60% of total mobile data coverage, whilst Exeter and Devon, barely sees more than 6%.

The upgrade to 4G in 2012 echoed much of the current 5G hype, promising faster download and upload speeds, faster connectivity and more stable internet access. This has undoubtedly been delivered to those residing in the capital. Money well spent, right?

Securing 5G for Britain has already exceeded £1bn, but the 4G dream is yet to be realised by most of the UK – London boasts up to ten times as much data coverage as most parts of the UK!

This is not a problem that 5G will solve – no matter how innovative the tech. Unfortunately, the huge costs of creating the service will mean limited access for the foreseeable future.

The problem rests in providers’ hands. Companies are left without incentives to create access to their 4G services in the more remote areas of Britain, where the government is reluctant to subsidise. Although the NIC has made recommendations of exactly this kind, they have also suggested a roll-out of full fibre across the whole of the UK. Despite providing a longer-term solution, it could take up to 15 years to execute, leaving rural Britain a decade behind once again.

Government commitments to ‘connect the unconnected’ need to have a real impact. Rolling out the latest mobile data services in rural areas is a positive step forward, but both the government and the providers risk getting less for their money.

Disproportionate shortcomings faced by those without fast broadband and wireless mobile data access continue to undercut government humanitarian commitments. Plans to make access to fast broadband a legal right by 2020 has seen pushback by big providers like BT. If the public sector and providers can reach an agreement, and if these plans are executed effectively, it might just be the parallel policy we need to start bridging the gap in wireless access.

As providers push towards the inevitable 5G launch, city dwellers can look forward to what new technology has to offer.

For the rest, 5G remains painfully out of reach.

Steam: It’s all about Quantity, not Quality (or so it seems)

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Steam was launched in 2003, and PC gaming would never be the same again. Since then, indie developers worldwide have used Steam as a platform on which to showcase their creative talents to the world.

Over the years, Steam has implemented multiple schemes to encourage developers to create their own games, such as Greenlight in 2012 and, more recently, the Early Access and Steam Direct initiatives. As a result, the number of indie games available to download on Steam has skyrocketed from 450 in 2015 to 1,107 in 2017.

Despite giving indie developers such tremendous opportunities, the sheer volume of games being published on the platform renders it unprofitable, both for the Steam platform and for indie devs. Shockingly, they’re often being paid minimum wages, which means they are not able to create quality games because of a lack of budget or incentive.

What doesn’t help is that Steam has a sort of ‘free-for-all’ policy, in which pretty much anything goes as long as it is not illegal or a troll. This essentially means that Steam are going for ‘quantity’ rather than ‘quality’. In principle this is a fine code to live by, but what happens to the truly talented developers who become sidelined because they couldn’t cut through the noise?

Commentators have stated that the huge growth in the number of games available on Steam is directly attributable to schemes like Greenlight and Early Access, and Steam’s unproductive policy of ‘anything goes’. Tomas Rawlings, of Auroch Digital, even stated that it has caused a ‘Steampocalpyse’; the idea that the growth in the number of games makes Steam a highly unpredictable storefront, and it’s driving down the average amount of money that every game makes – especially independent developers. In effect Steam has, ironically, played itself.

Ultimately this means that the big triple-A game developers, that have dominated the industry for so long, will continue to dominate it even more. Perhaps if there were stronger auditing procedures and a drive for higher quality games, the market would see more and more game development companies come to the fore. Only time will tell what impact new technologies like VR will have on ‘Steampocalypse’.

Introducing: Janel Steinberg

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Tell us a little about your background:

I’ve done PR for a large variety of industries from high tech to consumer, representing some of the world’s top brands such as Oracle, PayPal, Rolls-Royce, Nestlé and Johnson & Johnson.

My work has included strategy and planning, media outreach, event planning and execution, material development, executive communications, content development and crisis communications. I love bringing creative solutions to my work and finding interesting stories to tell for the brands I’ve worked with.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

I’m excited to work with Liberty because they are not only smart and good at what they do but they are also genuinely nice people, which is not a given in this field. The clients represent technology that people will be talking about in the future or they offer a unique take on something that is already being done, both of which make them fun to work on.

What are some of your hobbies?

Travel is something that’s very important to me; if there’s an opportunity to explore a new place or visit an old favorite, I’m in! I also love to try new restaurants and I probably watch far more movies and TV shows than the average person.

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

The last book I read was Elon Musk’s biography, which I thought was fascinating.

What was your favourite top tech trend of the last 20 years?

The smartphone is so ubiquitous that I can’t imagine life without one.

What makes customers tick?

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How do you know who you are marketing to?

You’ve done the customer surveys, read the online profiles, and spent hours curating content for your audience to download all so that you can build a profile of the perfect customer.

So how are you breaking this information down? We’ll bet it’s by age, or perhaps by gender, maybe both. But why can’t a 46-year-old female be interested in why the Huawei P20 has a better camera than the iPhone X?

That’s a classic b2c example and most of us typically assume it’s easier to market to consumers than to other businesses. After all, isn’t it only men over 50 who make the buying decisions when an enterprise decides to replace its cloud infrastructure?

Clearly the answer is no, but what’s the point? The point is that too often businesses focus their marketing efforts on demographics and binary characteristics like gender rather than focusing on personas or what makes people tick.

At Liberty, we like to advise our clients to think differently and not abide by this traditional maxim. When planning our marketing efforts alongside clients, we want to know who their customers really are. This means knowing what fills their heads, what they care about and how that translates to their activity both online and offline.

With this information, we are seeing forward thinking clients blaze a trail away from traditional demographic and geographic segmentation marketing. Instead, the innovators are exploring the value of psychographic and behavioural segmentation, and how this impacts marketing strategy.

Many may be thinking of the controversies surrounding Cambridge Analytica when reading this. In reality, what we are talking about is much simpler than that. By using publicly available customer behavioural data, as well as surveys and a bit of good old-fashioned desk research, marketing and communications strategies can better link their output to the neurons that help customers make that buying decision.

This is not a new marketing theory. It’s been around for years, but there are still marketing teams in b2b and b2c organisations that still have not got the hang of it. We’re able to help. Get in touch for a chat or some advice.

The tech transforming the 2018 FIFA World Cup

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As the world’s biggest sporting event, attracting an estimated 3.4 billion viewers globally this year, it isn’t surprising that the FIFA World Cup presents an attractive opportunity to showcase the latest and greatest in tech innovations as well as sporting finesse. This year’s Russia-hosted showpiece has been no different.

VAR

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been a hotly contested addition to the technology roster for this year’s World Cup. Simply put, the technology allows referees to refer “game changing situations,” such as penalties, red cards, goals and mistaken player identities, to a video referee who is able to review numerous camera feeds to correct and clarify decisions as well as identify misjudgements.

Despite the relative simplicity of the tech, the uptake has been anything but seamless. Wrong decisions have still been made, crucial camera angles have not always been available and, having only been introduced to professional football in 2017, many referees have little or no experience working with VAR. In spite of this, FIFA has reported that VAR has contributed to 99.3% of refereeing decisions at this year’s World Cup being correct. ‘VARce’ or not, this is one innovation that may well define the 2018 World Cup.

5G

As perhaps the biggest of the tech buzzwords today, it’s unsurprising that 5G has made its way onto the list of impressive technologies being showcased in Russia this summer. Though we’re still a little way off the commercial rollout of 5G, Russian Operator MTS and Megafon, the official communications partner for the World Cup, have been hosting trials of the technology to coincide with the event.

Perhaps most notable, was the partnership between MTS and global network infrastructure provider Ericsson, to deploy Europe’s largest Massive MIMO (an advanced mobile technology) and install 5G-capable radio equipment across more than 40 sites across the host cities to facilitate better connectivity across stadiums, fan zones and transport hubs.

4K UHD Video

With billions of viewers tuning in around the world, each World Cup tends to coincide with the unveiling of new broadcast technology. In 2014 it was the trials for 4K video; this year, the World Cup has provided a platform for 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video.

Available to viewers with compatible TV sets, the technology boasts four times the level of detail in terms of picture clarity with enough pixels to fill four full HD 1080p screens – 8,294,200 to be exact.

Championing the cause for the UK, the BBC has made 4K UHD video feed available to stream via iPlayer. However, with this tech still in its infancy and streaming capacity limited to only tens of thousands of the millions of UK viewers, we may have to wait a few more years before we can tune in en masse to share the experience.

This week’s semi-finals are looming and with technology equipping supporters to watch the games almost anywhere – be it on a connected device waiting for the tube or with 200+ fans in one of London’s busy bars – the widespread excitement is perhaps more tangible now than for any World Cup previous. Fuelling the enthusiasm, social media delivers a continuous flow of news and commentary to our handsets and invites even the more reticent amongst us to engage and take part.

The final games are yet to be played and the scores to be determined, but perhaps the greatest win for the 2018 World Cup will be for the technology that has cultivated this football culture.

Forbes Europe forging a new identity after The Memo merge

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Liberty recently attended a media briefing with Alex Wood, European Editor at Forbes, who talked about big plans for Forbes Europe over the next year.

In 2015, Wood founded an ‘edgy’ tech publication called The Memo. Its mission? ‘Make the Future More Human.’ Fast-forward to 2018 and The Memo has merged with Forbes, making him European Editor.

Since then, Wood has cultivated an ethos he cemented at The Memo. Traditionally, Forbes magazine is associated with the ‘Warren Buffets’ of the business world. Although it’s still the face of the biz bigwigs, Wood is reshaping Forbes into a brand that empowers startups and early stage companies with significant column inches. Moving forward, this is a huge opportunity for smaller organisations who want to be featured in one of the biggest business publications.

Wood also hit the nail on the head when it comes to the modern media landscape – “we can’t be everywhere, and we can’t do everything.”

From a PR perspective, this speaks volumes. PR consultants not only need to give journalists a compelling story that’s relevant to their publication, but it needs to be tailored to a specific writer’s topic specialism and pertinent to the hot topic of the day. Even then, it’s simply impossible for journalists these days, who are limited by budgeting and staff constraints, to pick up and run with everything. This especially rings true for top tier business titles like Forbes.

That said, this Forbes Europe team is determined to widen the net of its contributor model, with plans to expand on the 2,000 contributors that make it the world’s biggest business site.

Big plans are also in the works for a dedicated European section in the print edition, and the contributor model is also going to be supplemented with high quality new profiling series’ like the ‘How to Boss it Like’ series. These elements are certainly testament to Wood’s ambition, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the bureau develops over the course of the year.

One thing’s for sure, Alex Wood is still determined to ‘make the future more human’.

The Liberty London Tech Week

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Last week saw thousands of eager fans from all over the world gather in one of Europe’s most prominent cities for a celebration like no other. Nope, not that one. While the World Cup kicked off in Moscow, we had our own celebration right here in London.

As the title suggests, we enjoyed our very own London Tech Week. For the uninitiated, London Tech Week is a five-day festival that highlights the best of tech in the UK, Europe and across the globe. Every year thousands descend on the city for a festival like no other. With 300 events and over 55,000 attendees, the Liberty team were hard at work joining speeches on blockchain, networking with developers and reflecting on the coming of the robot apocalypse (well, perhaps not that last part).

In any case, London Tech Week is a great excuse to celebrate UK innovation. With the announcement of new visa rules for tech professionals and figures from London & Partners showing that British tech firms are attracting nearly three times more VC investment than any other European country, surely there are a few reasons to be cheerful?

CSR: Improving Media Literacy

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As part of our corporate social responsibility initiative (CSR), Liberty has been working towards improving media literacy and increasing general knowledge of the public relations field. Our two most recent efforts stem from both sides of the pond.

Liberty U.S. – Career Day

In April, Liberty U.S. hosted a career day for three students from West County Charter Middle School. They were originally unclear on what public relations was, but by the end of their visit, they were PR pros. Or at least aspiring ones!

The students’ visit started off with a pastry breakfast and a short discussion about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Originally, the students were unsure of what kind of job they wanted to apply for or field they wanted to explore when they were older. However, they loved the idea of living and working in San Francisco.

Following our career brainstorm, we gave the students a briefing on public relations including:

  • In-house vs. agency PR
  • Verticals within PR
  • Tasks of a public relations professional
  • Traits of an exceptional public relations professional
  • The “traditional” PR career path

Our goal throughout career day was to touch on the importance of media literacy and teach the students about rhetoric and word choice. The students were both attentive and interested in the knowledge shared and walked away knowing that public relations professionals can be found in any industry (and that we eat a lot of pastries)!

 

Liberty UK – PR Workshops

At Liberty, we strive to engage people with our work, which is why our second initiative, which was held today in London was the first in a series of free creative workshops focused on helping businesses understand a little more about how PR can help them.

The workshop was a great success so it’s something we aim to continue on a more regular basis on both sides of the pond. Watch this space for more information but if you have any questions in the meantime or would like to hear more, drop us a line at info@libertycomms.com We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Brand or branding – what do they really mean?

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We talk a lot these days about brand and branding, but do we actually know the difference?

Potentially it’s confusing straight away, as the word ‘brand’ is both a noun and a verb.

But, let’s simplify matters.

Imagine you are a sheep farmer five hundred years ago. You are Farmer Smith. Your sheep are sharing a field with six other farmers. You don’t want to get your sheep mixed up with Farmer Jones’ sheep, because Farmer Jones doesn’t look after his animals as well as you do and yours are worth more at market.

So, you BRAND your sheep.

Literally, with a BRANDING iron. You apply your unique, individual mark to identify your sheep.

The mark on the sheep – the ‘brand mark’ or ‘logo’ that we refer to is not the BRAND. It’s a mark that identifies the sheep as a ‘quality product’ to be trusted because it belongs to Farmer Smith and he’s a reputable farmer. Unlike that Farmer Jones, who isn’t!

Farmer Smith’s reputation is THE BRAND.

‘BRANDING’ is what Farmer Smith does when he stamps his sheep with the iron.

What does this mean to your business?

Don’t think of your logo as your ‘brand’. Your brand mark, yes. But, your brand is so much more than just the logo.

Think of your brand as your reputation.

When the Volkswagen brand suffered due to the emissions scandal, it was nothing to do with the logo. It was all about reputation.

Nowadays, branding is a highly valuable marketing tool, practised by skilled brand designers.

Branding your organisation creatively, distinctively and consistently will help you engage with your customers and inspire pride in your brand.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help with your branding strategy get in touch at info@libertycomms.com

Time to change the rules on digital transformation

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Meet Dick Fosbury. Checking in at 1.93m tall as a modest rookie sportsman in the 1960s, Dick had tried out a number of sporting challenges, but showed little promise in any of them.

Undeterred, he went in search of greatness. What followed was a pioneering journey which made him a household name and an innovator whose discovery still carries his name today.

Fosbury’s fascination with jumping higher than any other athlete led to an innovative approach which had never been attempted before. Harnessing a law of physics Fosbury worked out that he could beat the competitors by jumping backwards and keeping a lower ‘centre of mass’ than traditional high jumpers could ever manage by jumping forwards over the bar. If you’re interested, check out this short video on YouTube.

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Fosbury won the gold medal and set a new Olympic record at 2.24m, displaying the potential of the new technique. Despite the initial sceptical reactions from the high jump community, the ‘Fosbury flop’ quickly gained acceptance. Four years later, almost all competitors at the 1972 Olympics had adopted his technique.

My fascination with Fosbury
So why does this matter? I’ve become fascinated by Fosbury and his innovation for two reasons. First, one of my daughters has set her sights on winning high jump competitions, and is using the Fosbury Flop technique to do so.

Second, Fosbury’s innovation is a very handy metaphor for a topic I’m spending a lot of my life working on at the moment: helping CEOs and CMOs to tackle the challenges they face with digital transformation.

Digital is fascinating for many reasons: first and foremost, there is no blueprint, and digital demands rapid innovation. While we can look to the GAFA pioneers – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – to understand how to build world leading digital businesses, enterprises born in the analogue age have unique challenges.

Legacy processes, technologies and databases – coupled with outdated business models and management approaches – form formidable obstacles, which can be sidestepped by fleet-of-foot challengers like Fosbury.

Three points come to mind here:

1. Creative problem solving

Being the biggest and best resourced is no guarantee of success in the digital age. Just consider how many venture capital-backed challenger business have made the headlines, won share and created a major headache for incumbent market leaders. Uber. Just Eat. Monzo. They all share a desire to understand the customer need, and invent solutions which meet those needs quickly, without the shackles of established processes and the straightjacket of conformist thinking.

2. Going backwards makes a lot of sense
This may sound absurd to you, but just think about it. As human beings, we have always struggled with predicting the future. We have always been very good at recording the past – tracking which factors led to our present condition – and piecing together the evidence to build a hypothesis about cause and effect.

Getting specific here – if we want to best serve our customers with the right message, delivered at the right time in their purchase cycle, on the most effective channel, at the lowest cost – it’s a very smart idea to examine closely the touchpoints and influencers our customers connect with before making their purchase decisions, and use the same channels to influence future brand and performance marketing investment.

3. Trial and error
It took Fosbury many years to perfect his technique, and deliver his Olympic record breaking jump. It took his competitors just months to copy his technique.

If you want to develop market leading solutions and have your competitors catching up, an agile mindset, which tolerates mistakes and expects rapid iteration, is key to innovation and success.

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.

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.