Embracing the backstage of public relations

Experiencing Public Relations: International Voices is no ordinary public relations textbook.  It brings together stories of public relations in daily life throughout the world, examining both its positive and negative sides.  Here, co-editor Elizabeth Bridgen from Sheffield Hallam University explains why we need to delve beneath the surface of public relations practice if we are to ever understand and explain it.

You'll learn…

  • Why it's OK to be impressed by good public relations carried out for bad organisations
  • Why we should celebrate individual practitioners in public relations
  • Why the less glamorous 'backstage' of public relations is just as important as the celebrated 'frontstage'

Embracing the backstage of public relations

Why is there a photo of a slightly bored-looking woman with tattoos on the front of a book about public relations? I predict that those who see public relations as a strategic management function will feel awkward about this - that's not how those at the top of public relations perceive public relations or want others to see it.

Public relations leaders have a knowledge and experience (and possibly a well-read blog) which has given them status in the world of public relations.  They understand how communication fits into broader leadership behaviour and, for that reason, they belong to the dominant coalition in their organization – in other words, they are among those people at the top who make the real decisions. This is the image that students get from text books, this is how practitioners tell their ‘war stories’ at conferences and how they present their best case studies for public relations awards. This is, in the words of the sociologist Erving Goffman, the public relations frontstage.

In his book Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Goffman developed a metaphor of theatrical production to describe social behaviour. We all live in a duality of frontstage and backstage behaviour. For instance, we wear comfortable clothes at home, and dress up when we leave the house. We have parts of our houses which are presentable to our guests and we have rooms which are rather more chaotic and into which we usually don’t invite guests. Essentially, we talk, behave, and interact differently in backstage than frontstage. Frontstage is a public place, backstage is private - and public relations is no different.

An image that represents reality

The woman with the tattoos is not telling the story of public relations that we see presented at conferences or in industry blogs and articles. She tells the story of the hidden in public relations - those grafting in the background, running Twitter feeds and running around after clients.   

These are the public relations practitioners who go home, pour a glass of wine and start a second shift of work liaising with online influencers. These are the public relations practitioners who get shouted by journalists and ignored by the agents of D-list celebrities. Sometimes they're bored, sometimes they're stressed, sometimes they hate their job and other times they love it. They're multi-taskers and have their own lives outside public relations.  They don’t hold managerial positions and they don’t belong to the dominant coalition. 

And if we scrutinise public relations literature, they barely exist - even though there are thousands of them across the world.

In public relations literature, public relations is often only discussed as a ‘thing’ or in the abstract; the individual is frequently forgotten.   When a junior practitioner is remembered, it's only on account of the 'great work' they have done (such as in the '30 under 30' lists) or as a 'problem' which can be solved with a little hard work (such as gender or diversity or education - the individual's problem is acknowledged, but they are often absent from the conversation about the solution in favour of industry 'greats' giving their views).

However, the individual matters, and without them public relations wouldn't happen.  The problem is, however (as we have explained above) that they don't tell the story that public relations leaders want to hear.  Get a group of public relations practitioners together and they will tell you stories of how they had to break the rules to get an impossible task finished for their boss or a client.  Or they might whisper stories of the unethical practice that goes on in agencies with the highest ethical standards. 

Time for a different story to be told

These practitioners experience public relations in different ways and carry different understandings of the work they do. They also have their own strategies and models – not the grand models of academic papers but strategies which give them a way of surviving the workplace or carrying out the work they are asked to do. The stories of these people remain largely untold in favour of the ‘big stories’ or the frontstage of public relations. However, these are the people who try to bring these ‘big stories’ – and the everyday plans and campaigns that accompany them – to life. They are also the people who are told to carry out the unpleasant side of public relations as well as the everyday, the trivial or irrelevant within the industry.

And here we get to the heart of the matter.  Public relations has a problem with its image, as all the op eds about the reputation of public relations will testify. The truth is that some public relations activity is unethical and wrong, with work carried out for unpalatable organizations and on dubious campaigns where language is used to manipulate. Meanwhile, other aspects are worthy. And a lot of public relations exists somewhere between the two. 

The fact that the less than savoury side of public relations puts the new and reputationally rather fragile public relations industry in an unfavourable light doesn’t mean that this aspect shouldn’t be discussed. 

Is the ‘unpleasant’ side of public relations too horrid to write about apart from when commentators use it to 'bash' the public relations industry? Confusingly, some offensive organisations (such as terrorist organisations, or oppressive governments) use public relations techniques to an incredibly high standard and have enviable corporate narratives - that we refuse to discuss them in case they put public relations in a 'bad light' means that perhaps, we refuse to learn (and counteract their effects).

A 360° view on the profession

Whether we like it or not, we need to understand all representations of the everyday life of public relations- not just to learn from it but also to help inexperienced as well as seasoned practitioners make sense of their personal feelings about their jobs and what they see at work. 

By digging into the dirt, you can obtain valuable insights into how things operate. This knowledge is useful for orientation in the universe, not only in its physical landscape, but also within our heads. 

It’s the sign of the maturity of a practice that it can also confess and articulate its darker and muddier sides. Humans and our actions are not perfect, and telling people that they can expect only the best in their lives (which is often the picture painted by 'how to' public relations texts)  may make them miserable later down the road. 

This book is about the public relations that happens while managers are busy making their strategic plans.


Experiencing Public Relations: International Voices, edited by Elizabeth Bridgen and Dejan Verčič is published by Routledge https://www.routledge.com/Experiencing-Public-Relations-International-Voices/Bridgen-Vercic/p/book/9781138632448


Twitter: @lizbridgen

All Quiet At The Top - Why the voices of authority have fallen silent

To understand the true meaning of stories in the news, the public needs to hear from genuine voices of authority. But in today's world of fast-moving media, we hear from them less and less. Ex-BBC and ITN newsreader Andrew Harvey looks at why this is happening and calls on true experts to make their voices heard.

You'll learn…

  • What makes a genuine expert, and how they can contribute to a news story
  • Why 24 hour news makes it difficult for their voices to be heard
  • How they can step up, assert themselves and get their message across

All Quiet At The Top - Why the voices of authority have fallen silent

The constant, shifting flow of big stories and events is what makes news so fascinating, both to the journalist and the audience. But to get the true picture, we need to hear real voices of authority, instead of relying solely on soundbites and snatched interviews.

The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean spawned dozens of angles on the same story. After the meteorological phenomenon came the rescue effort. That quickly developed into a blame game over the speed of rescue response and the insularity of the US aid effort which, it was claimed, was aimed almost entirely at American victims. Then came the cost, the clear-up, and the comparison with events in Houston just days earlier. And for weeks to come there will be stories of heroism, of communities coming together - and, inevitably, of those exploiting the distress and damage.

Each of these aspects of the hurricane story - the news angles - involve people. Ordinary people have extraordinary stories to tell, and vox pops with survivors help to convey the fear and the personal ordeal.

But for a wider appreciation of the causes and the effects we also need to hear from the experts, those with the knowledge and the experience to make sense of the event and its aftermath. For example, how will businesses pick themselves up after the damage they have suffered? What happens now to tourism in the area? How does the insurance industry sort out the mess? What about hearing from serious meteorologists, instead of TV weathermen and women?

The need for true experts

The words of key players in any event like this add crucially to our understanding. Without that expert input, we are left under-informed. The journalist’s job is to make the complex simple. It’s not easy, but the process of simplification can often leave a sense of incompleteness, a feeling that there is more to the story, that the treatment of the subject has left important areas unexplored.

Journalists, even specialist correspondents, can rarely claim to be true experts in their subject. But they know where to go to for the information they need. What a pity that we don't hear directly from their informants with their voices of authority. The question is, why don't we?

As a former BBC and ITN News Channel broadcaster it pains me to admit it, but the 24-hour news machine is largely to blame. It is too often superficial in dealing with major issues, while in the next moment it can beat a subject to death, simply because there is nothing else around and the hours have to be filled somehow.

The result is that a sense of context is lost and something that merits little more than a couple of paragraphs on an inside page is elevated to major news status. At the same time, to keep the programme moving, items are kept deliberately short and the coverage is scanty at best.

In this type of climate, interviewees frequently fall victim. Politicians speak privately about their dread of the minor slip, the badly-expressed thought that is then chewed over hour after hour. For example, an unfounded claim or unintended disclosure excavated by John Humphrys on the Today programme becomes an item near the top of the World At One running order, only to be explored from a different angle by Eddie Mair on PM, before it is given the final treatment on The World Tonight. Throughout the day, social media will be snapping at the heels of the story...and still to come is the commentary in the next morning’s papers.

Is it any wonder that those whose views would be most valuable simply shrug their shoulders and decide not to get involved?

Experts at the heart of the story

But as they turn away, somebody has to step in to take their place. Very often the space is filled by “the industry expert”. We all know their names and voices. Those who pop up in the aftermath of a disaster like a rail accident or airliner crash and deliver what is often a useful commentary on the event. They have knowledge, they have insight, but they are not at the heart of the story and therefore their words do not carry the weight of a senior rail manager or an airline boss. 

Two subjects dominate much of the current news coverage and social media comment - Brexit and the possibility of terrorist attack. Both are so complex that expert voices are urgently needed. Details of the Brexit negotiations will gradually emerge, but other Brexit-related issues are going unanswered. How are the financial services preparing? What about those industries reliant on foreign workers? What would be the result of resorting to WTO rules? One or two leaders have come forward, but we need more voices like Sir James Dyson to put their point of view. 

And how enlightening - perhaps comforting, perhaps not - to hear from someone at the heart of the anti-terrorist campaign. While accepting totally the need for some secrecy, there is still much that could be said about so many aspects of the current campaign - the size of the task, the path to radicalisation, the growing importance of CCTV, and so on. The need for secrecy is a valuable excuse, but the appearance of a senior officer on the steps of New Scotland Yard offering the same soundbites about the “ongoing investigation”, the “deployment of officers” and the “need for vigilance” only fuels the public anxiety. 

Making their voices heard

It is unlikely that instant news and combat-style interviewing will die away soon, so spokespeople must assert themselves and make their voices heard.

Training and practice can help nurture the confidence to handle the media. That in turn will produce the information and the insight from a spokesperson that ensures a successful interview - and an invitation to return.

Knowledge delivered with confidence and clarity will always be in demand, now more than ever.


Andrew Harvey was one of the main news presenters on BBC TV News, fronting all their daily news programmes. More recently he was senior presenter on the 24-hour ITV news channel. He covered many major events in that period, from 9/11 and the London bombings in 2005, to nine general elections and two Royal funerals. He now runs the media training company HarveyLeach (www.harveyleach.co.uk).

Twitter: @harveyleach

Ethnic diversity woefully under estimated in UK public relations

Karan Chadda crunches the numbers and suggests that the UK public relations profession has a much bigger issue with diversity than even it realises.

The diversity debate can become quite personal and bruising.

Those who sit at the top of an industry can feel like their accomplishments and hard work are being questioned or devalued.

Meanwhile those who are battling to change the status quo are often framed as loud mouthed or troublesome.

It’s often helpful to view issues through the objective prism of data and economics.

At the outset, a basic assumption. Let’s assume that no ethnic group has a greater proportion of creative or talented people. I hope no one will find this controversial.

Now let’s gather some data.

CIPR Census: 8% practitioners from BME or mixed background

The CIPR’s last census, found eight percent of respondents identified as black, Asian, mixed or other (page 31). It tallies with the PRCA’s figure of nine percent BME practitioners from its 2016 census.


Figure 1: Analysis from PRCA Public Relations Census 2016

ONS: 13% of UK public is BME or mixed background

ONS data from the 2011 Census found that the BME or mixed ethnicity population of the country as a whole was 13%.

These two data points are often used together to state that the public relations business needs to up its ethnic minority practitioners up to the national average.

Job done. Or is it? Let’s take a harder look.

London Mayor’s office: 58% of UK public relations business London-based

In a report published in November 2016 GLA Economics, part of the Mayor of London’s office, estimated that 58% of public relations roles are London based (page 601).


Figure 2: Professional activities in London (GLA Economics, 2016)

That means three in every five people that work in public relations, work in London.

ONS: 40% of London population is BME or mixed background

If we jump back to the ONS data from the 2011 census, it found that those from BME or mixed ethnicity background made up 40% of London’s population.

Let’s assume that the 42% of public relations practitioners outside London are living, in aggregate, in areas with a BME or mixed ethnicity population that matches the national average (13%). 

Adjusting for London and the South East

We now have two sets of numbers.

Let’s calculate the proportion of BME practitioners that would in theory work in public relations, if the industry recruited in proportion to the local populations where it is based.

For that, we need to calculate the 40% BME populations of London as a proportion of 58% of public relations jobs, and combine that with the BME population as a proportion of public relations jobs outside London (13% and 42% respectively).

It gives us 29%. 

That’s a blended national rate for the proportion of public relations professionals who should come from BME or mixed ethnicity backgrounds in a perfect labour market.

At this point, the model has a glaring failure in that it doesn’t account for the fact that people move for work and sometimes commute long distances for work. For example, someone living in Cambridge might commute to work in London.

ONS: 24% of London and South East population is BME or mixed background

Let’s make a simplifying assumption.

Let’s take the combined ethnic minority population of London and the South East (24% according to ONS data) and treat that as the employment pool for London’s public relations jobs. I’m going to leave calculations for the rest of the country as it stands.

So we’re still taking 13% of 42% and now we’re adding onto that 24% of the 58%. 

That gives us 19%.

We’re currently at 8% BME representation in public relations, according to the CIPR. We should be aspiring to reach 19% because so much of the profession is based in London.

To put those numbers into context. When you next walk into a room full of public relations people, at best one in 12 of them will be BME. Our goal should be to get that to one in five.

The industry’s response

Taylor Bennett Foundation

Prior to publication, this analysis was shared with the Taylor Bennett Foundation, the PRCA and the CIPR who were all kind enough to provide their responses to the findings.

“At the Foundation we would like the industry to at least aim for the 13% figure, but we are acutely aware that with the prominence of London this doesn’t go far enough to reflect the true diversity of the regions the industry operates in and we welcome this analysis,” said Sarah Stimson, CEO, Taylor Bennett Foundation.

“With the 2021 census looming, we would expect to see an increase in the number of BME people living across the UK. The 2016 National School Census showed that more than one in four school children under 10 years old are from a non-white background. Those children will be entering the workforce in the next 8 to 15 years and we need to be preparing for that.”

“The numbers are useful because they allow us to set aspirational targets, but they should be the minimum not the ultimate goal. We can’t have too much diversity.”


"Thank you to Karan for these insightful observations into the data around the diversity of the UK public relations and communications industry,” said Pema Seely, Co-Chairman, PRCA Diversity Network.

“The integration of ethnic diversity figures with regional demographics provides a valuable layer of sophistication. This only serves to further prove that the public relations and communications industry has a lot more work to do to provide equal access to careers for people from all backgrounds."


“These statistics evidence the scale of the diversity challenge facing public relations,” said Koray Camgoz, Public Relations Manager, CIPR.

“Comparing PR’s ethnicity statistics with average figures for the UK unquestionably understates the size of the problem.”

“These figures show that even if the number of BME professionals in public relations doubled overnight, the industry would still fall short of delivering equal representation.” 

“Public relations’ progress on this issue has been inexcusably slow for years. Whether the target is 13% or 19%, the irrevocable fact remains the industry has collectively failed to make any positive steps towards addressing the issue.”

“We should absolutely be working towards higher targets. But a sustainable increase of diverse professionals will only be achieved when we cultivate genuinely inclusive environments in our organisations and agencies.”

“Increasing the percentage of diverse professionals is critical but efforts will be wasted if those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds find themselves in an industry that doesn’t value their contribution and lacks the willingness to adapt its culture. How many BME practitioners are truly thriving in our industry today?"

Post script

This isn’t particularly sophisticated modelling, but it’s far more sophisticated than existing data in public relations.

More detailed regional data would help produce a more accurate target figure. As would data about regional candidate pools. Above all, the availability of data with regional breakdowns of the ethnic make-up of the working age population would be useful.

However, even with that data, the dominance of London means the percentage will be in the mid-to-high teens regardless of other regional variations.

Moreover, we can safely state that most public relations jobs exist in cities or larger towns and these locations tend to have higher BME populations than the national average, so better regional data may actually drive that figure up.


Karan Chadda creates brands, marketing frameworks and content that build stronger businesses. He is the founder of Evolving Influence, a marketing consultancy. He has also founded Poetry by Numbers, a data poetry project, and Read.Think.Discuss., a business book club.


Twitter: @kchadda
Online: www.evolvinginfluence.co.uk

The key mindsets to make your business futureproof

A guest article by Minter Dial.

As a veteran marketer, I shudder at the ways my inbox gets filled with unsolicited, impersonal and pushy emails. The bad practices range from vapid content, spelling mistakes and evermore clickbaity titles, to increasing frequency of emails (in response to lower open rates) and, worse, hiding the unsubscribe option. Like so many other sectors and roles, PR and Communications have been completely upended. But, what to do about it? In my new book, Futureproof, How to get your business ready for the next disruption (Pearson Sep 2017), with my entrepreneurial co-author, Caleb Storkey, we look at the 3 key mindsets and the 12 most disruptive technological forces.

If the new technologies are highly exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, it is our conviction that the biggest disruption is one of mindset. This comes from a confluence of events and situations that have been revolutionising the way we work, but more importantly have been changing what we want out of life.

Whether it is to become the disruptor or to avoid disruption, and whether you are an entrepreneur or a business leader, the attitude with which you approach these new disruptive technologies will determine your success. On this front, there are many buzzwords and concepts bandied about, such as agility, trial and error, pivot, MVP, intrapreneurialism… They may all have validity in certain situations. We know that technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, the next generation of smartphones and, even, genomics will alter the future of marketing and communications. But, it is our conviction that, above all, you will need a combination of three mindsets in order to navigate through the changing landscape and leverage these disruptive forces.


Insofar as the choices available seem to be plethoric, many companies get overwhelmed. Whether it is FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOBO (fear of becoming obsolete), companies have been systematically mobilizing themselves to onboard new tech, become more entrepreneurial and implement digital transformation. Yet, many of these companies will fall short in their efforts. It takes energy at every level of the organization to power through. But if everyone is burning the midnight oil, frustration, burnout and failure are the inevitable outcomes. The real challenge is to tie the initiative(s) directly to a clear strategy that is linked to a genuine purpose. We call this the quest for meaningfulness. 

TO DO: Make sure you know why your organisation exists beyond generating revenues and profit. Host an internal team day for formulating vision together and use a listening. 


There are two aspects to Responsibility. The first is the notion of being civically and ethically responsible. As with having purpose in one’s job, employees – especially the younger ones – are acutely aware of the earthly and societal issues facing us. One’s corporate approach to these questions is a legitimate criterion of attractivity for prospective employees. However, the second aspect is more complicated as it is about individual responsibility. In order to leverage these new disruptive forces, from digital skills to ongoing learning to cyber security, everyone has their part to play. From the top to the bottom of the organisation, each person in the company must take personal responsibility for their ongoing learning, their personal presence online and the way they manage incoming links and unknown devices that may carry malicious software. Hiring and firing for attitude has never been more relevant.

TO DO: Evaluate honestly whether the mixture of talents and/or resources you have is adapted to deliver the best performance. Also, to what extent is expertise and knowledge mixing together and being shared throughout the organisation?


The final mindset is labeled collaboration, but we might have also called it the sharing attitude. We believe that most of the disruption is happening not with one singular technology and, certainly, not through one specific expertise. Sharing economy initiatives (ranging from Lyft and OneFineStay to Suppershare (IT), Skillshare or Popexpert) involve a cocktail of technologies. To properly tackle the “big data” question or the massive amount of communications, if artificial intelligence is not part of the strategy, there is a low likelihood of success. As such, companies will need to figure out how to ally and align themselves with other actors where their own expertise might be missing. Going it alone may mean you go faster (and that’s not even sure), but going together, you are more likely to go far further. To properly exploit the disruption, it will inevitably involve finding the right partnerships, whether that’s joining up with the best accelerators, startups or even, in certain cases, with competitors. The challenge inside the company, especially if they’ve been around for a long time, is that the internal departments too often don’t even want to collaborate with one another. How can one collaborate externally if the different department heads are at loggerheads? 

TO DO: By focusing on these three mindsets, we believe companies will be best served to achieve three important goals:

  • Attract the best talent
  • Better serve the customer
  • Create longer lasting profits.

It’s hardly an ABC process. Like with human relationships, it’s bound to be messy, complex and uncertain. But, the journey will be considerably aided if the company resolves to embrace meaningfulness, responsibility and collaboration. In Futureproof, we explore all the 12 most disruptive forces, look at specific cases and solutions, as well as provide a practical roadmap for any person looking to take on the future with gusto.


Minter Dial is President and founder of the boutique agency, The Myndset Company and an international professional speaker & consultant on Branding and Digital Strategy, working with major global brands, such as Samsung, Remy Cointreau, Kering and Tencent. He is author and producer of the award-winning WWII documentary film and book, The Last Ring Home. His latest book, Futureproof, How to get your business ready for the next disruption (Pearson) comes out in September 2017.

Prior to the Myndset, Minter led a 16-year international career with the L'Oréal Group – including 9 different assignments in France, England, USA and Canada. Among these, Minter was MD Worldwide of REDKEN, then of the Professional Division for the Canadian subsidiary. In his final position at L’Oreal, he was a member of the Executive Committee worldwide, in charge of eBusiness, Business Development and Education. 

Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). 

Minter is currently a Board member of the ECV School (Paris) and previously served as NED Board Member of Lastminute.com Group.

Twitter: @mdial

LinkedIn and the rise of individual influence

Everybody wants to contribute to a company’s social media calendar: recruiting, marketing, communications and PR. The problem is that many of these teams still often sit in silos, and that can make a coherent plan for social difficult to achieve. A potentially bigger problem is that control of social media channels often sits far away from the PR silo. Yet there’s no denying the evidence that PR can and should be a major contributor to social media strategy – and a results driver for the business.

In this dedicated #FuturePRoof post, content marketing evangelist Jaime Pham looks at how social media has democratized influence and how media owners are no longer the keeper of the conversations. Instantaneous, viral public sentiment means those conversations are created and dissipated in a matter of hours. A rumour becomes a headline and the headline becomes the story. It looks like the wild west of digital communications with all bets – and all previously valued skill sets – off the table. But is this really the case?

You'll learn…

  • Social media is just an enabler of conversations and digital relationships
  • Relationships require trust and PR has a role to play in earning it
  • Employees now play a bigger and more influential role in earning that trust

Social media’s role in conversations and relationships

Social media is really just a relatively new tool for executing the core competency of great PR teams: building and maintaining relationships with key audiences. 

What is the one thing that all healthy and sustainable relationships require? Trust. This is why Edelman has been reporting on levels of trust in institutions since 2001. 

Trust requires consistency over time. Content marketing requires consistency over time. Hence why PR firms were among the prime movers in the rise of content marketing. Today, that continuing rise is being driven on social media: a natural platform for regular communication through content. 

LinkedIn is at the heart of this, because of its rich profile data, and the opportunity it therefore provides to communicate with multiple constituencies. Journalists, bloggers, investors, government think tanks, employees, alumni, clients and prospects are all using LinkedIn to stay up to date with news and industry trends. All of these groups can be targeted with sponsored content or encouraged to follow a company page. 

Beyond consistency, trust also requires transparency. Effective participation in social media demands that companies communicate regularly and honestly. However, there is a flipside: honesty and transparency require vulnerability, and this is where traditional communications organisations often fall short. Communications and PR teams have historically been trained to control the flow of information, where now they must monitor and harness it in order to guide it.

Social media and the opportunity for PR

Encouraging greater transparency is where the real opportunity lies for the PR industry. Tapping that opportunity involves overcoming three barriers to change:

  1. Social media channels have been taken over by marketing teams and “influencer agencies” that have little-to-no connection to what corporate communications and PR are working on. Closer collaboration is needed in almost every organisation I have worked with.
  2. Social media marketing teams tend to focus on the “media” part of the title, treating it like another megaphone. PR has an opportunity to focus on the “social” part of the channel, unlocking its true value: the ability to make and maintain connections.
  3. PR as an industry has not been quick enough to empower employees and other advocates to participate in the storytelling process. When was the last time your executive team took a look at the company’s social media policy? When was the last time the policy was updated, or circulated within the company? 

Building greater collaboration with social media marketing teams is an essential starting point for PR to make the contribution to social that it should. However, the biggest gains can be unlocked when the industry addresses the third of these barriers – and starts building momentum for employee advocacy. 

People trust people more than logos. Let’s repeat that again for emphasis. People trust people more than logos. The Edelman Trust Barometer report1 illustrates this beautifully, through the fact that people trust employees at their own level more than they trust CEOs.


LinkedIn’s own audience research also confirms that content coming from peers and colleagues is more influential than content coming from brands.


Content that comes from peers and colleagues is most influential in encouraging engagement.



This reflects LinkedIn’s evolution to a content and learning platform, where shared content is an essential currency in conversations and interactions, and over 150,000 articles are published every week. This is the democratization of influence at scale. It should inform how PR engages in the space – and there’s great opportunity when it does.

In January 2017 [3], nearly 25% of the top posts on LinkedIn were about companies and the policies and issues they stand behind. However, less than 10% of the top posts actually came from leaders or employees themselves. These companies were happy to allow others to craft their reputations. They weren’t participating and they weren’t being seen to participate by their audiences.

When leaders are participating, the best of them do so in their own voice. They write their own messages, passing them through communications teams only for a speedy review, and for as little editing as possible. When business leaders communicate directly, it feels forthright and relatable – and earned media often follows. 

PR practitioners, this is your opportunity space on LinkedIn: help your organisations empower employees to create their own content and share their own stories. Make sure that your brand narrative or CSR story aligns with the actual operating priorities of the business and then gather stories of employees making those priorities a reality. Train leaders and employees in the power of social media to build individual and corporate brands. Hire writers. Teach the socially active members in your community to be better writers themselves. Recognize top contributors and help them be more successful just as they are helping your organization to be more successful. Your core competency of building and maintaining relationships is as important as ever. However, you have a whole lot more partners to work with on making it happen.


[1] http://www.edelman.com/global-results/
[2] LinkedIn content research, June 2016 
[3]  LinkedIn engagement data


Jaime Pham is a content marketing evangelist. Jaime has spent eight years at the forefront of social media development, and the last four years specializing in the intersection of content marketing and social. She currently spends her professional time helping companies with their social content strategy, and her personal time with her husband and daughter in London

Twitter: @jaimelynn09

Workplace by Facebook has the ability to fundamentally change the way that organisations work.

Workplace, Facebook’s newest enterprise product, is a promising tool for the marketing communications industry. Workplace fosters cross-border working and employee engagement resulting in the best
end-product for clients.  Here Ketchum's Melissa Barry gives the full low down.

You'll learn…

  • All about Facebook’s newest enterprise product, Workplace 
  • The benefits of implementing Workplace at a large, global marketing communications agency
  • The adoption process and challenges of introducing a new agency-wide, global platform


Workplace by Facebook has the ability to fundamentally change the way that organisations work. Workplace is Facebook’s enterprise product where employees can connect, communicate, and collaborate in a secure space. Having launched at the end of 2016, there are currently over 14,000 companies using the platform across a variety of industries throughout the globe. 

One of the best things about Workplace is that it is familiar and easy to use. For marketing and communications professionals who are often active on this social network in their personal lives, there is no training required.


Workplace has many similar features to Facebook such as a News Feed, messages, and most importantly, groups. It looks great on your desktop or on your mobile device. I like to describe Workplace as being very similar to your personal account, but with fewer political rants and cat memes. 

The News Feed acts as a “smart inbox” and will bring trending conversations or posts from senior leadership to the top. Messages act like an instant messages and allow you to immediately reach your colleagues. Groups are the essential feature and the main way employees communicate on the platform; you can have a group for a specific team or project (e.g. – Corporate Team), a social employee group (e.g. – Ketchum Book Club) or even an all-company group to reach your entire organisation. 

Workplace Fosters a Borderless Agency

Workplace allows a company to work in a borderless fashion connecting employees from San Francisco to Stuttgart to Singapore. With many office and team groups being open for anyone to join, transparency is increased throughout the agency. Employees can join groups or can simply take a glance into the open groups to see what going on with a specific office or team. 

Cross-geography groups allow employees to knowledge share and provide updates at a much faster pace. Recently, an employee from Chicago had asked if anyone had experience with a specific automotive brand. Within hours, she received case studies from automotive experts from around the globe, she learned about specifics from individuals who have direct previous experience with this client, and she was able to learn about competitors doing work in this space. 

Without this platform, this would have taken several days and many emails. Important to note, with this platform, the counsel was elevated for the client. This person never would have known to tap many of the individuals who offered their expertise as she did not personally know them as we are such a large agency.  The platform helped to create a much stronger result. 

Distance Bias: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Workplace helps to foster a borderless agency by decreasing distance bias which is defined as the tendency to favour people who are physically closer to us and to even think that somebody further away from us provides less value. 

As someone who works on a global team with members in New York, London, and Düsseldorf, and with many of us often traveling, I can personally attest that this platform has reduced distance bias. We are constantly connected through Workplace sharing daily updates ranging from where we will be that day, real-time learnings, and of course fun, social sorts of things such as what we are eating on an international business trip. Also, Workplace has a video chat capability. Actually seeing each other and easily connecting via video has helped to alleviate distance bias. 

Workplace has brought us together and made us a true part of each other’s daily lives that would not have been possible in any other way. Our work has been enhanced due to our stronger connection. 

Engaging Employees

According to Mindshare and Dynamic Signal, 74% of employees feel like they are missing out on company information and news. Engagement experts say strong connections with team members will lead to more satisfied employees. With Workplace, teams can engage with each other about exciting news (e.g. – “We won the pitch!), learning moments (e.g. – “I am at a conference and I want to share key facts that apply to our client.”), and general information sharing (e.g. – using Workplace Live during a Town Hall to engage those who aren’t able to physically attend). This tool involves employees which will drive engagement in an organisation. 

Hello, Introverts! 

Workplace accommodates different styles which is increasingly important in marketing communications. It is sometimes hard for more introverted, analytical people to share ideas during a large meeting or call. Workplace allows for written and visual communication, two methods to express ideas that are not always accommodated in an office environment. Those who need more time to process ideas to come up with smart thinking appreciate this platform. Including our introverted and extroverted employees helps our agency come up with varied and diverse strategies.

Creating Better Work for Clients

Workplace is positively impacting our client work. As mentioned, increased collaboration across teams and offices leads to better creative ideas. We have increased best practice circulation and knowledge sharing around the network. 

Another key feature of the platform is trending topics. If there is a hot topic trending within Ketchum, this will show up on the top corner, similar to personal Facebook. Employees will see if many people are talking about a specific subject which can help us be better strategic counsellors.

Launching Workplace

We were selected to be part of the Workplace beta test with a small group of 200 companies. We were thrilled to try it out launching a “pilot” for our agency. I put the word “pilot” in quotes because we had so many employees ask to join the initial group, about a quarter of our organisation, that it no longer felt like a pilot. There was huge enthusiasm over a collaboration platform that everyone instinctively understood. Additionally, as PR professionals, many were simply excited being part of Facebook’s newest product. 

Continued Adoption and Challenges

Excitement and momentum of the tool continued to grow, but as of publication, engagement has slightly plateaued. We have about 70% of the agency with accounts and about half of the organisation as monthly active users. 

With any new technology or change, there are those who are innovators and early adopters. The innovators and early adopters were those who self-selected into the initial pilot. Commitment and enthusiasm around the platform is still strong with this audience. The early majority has engaged, and now we need to conquer the late majority and the laggard populations.

One of challenges in adoption includes lack of mobile engagement. The team at Facebook explains that those involved on the app are much more engaged on the platform than those who are not. This rings true to my personal experience. We need to push the app out to more of our employees to drive adoption and engagement. 

Another challenge for our organisation includes not removing other platforms. We send out a daily agency wide email and we also have a separate intranet. With these two things still active, along with a heavy email culture, it makes Workplace seem like another thing that people need to check, and like most busy communications experts, people simply do not have the time. I would advise to look at all internal communications platforms and tools when implementing a tool like Workplace.


Overall, Workplace, and other enterprise social networks, have huge potential. Workplace has been a smashing success in some pockets of the agency, and I see it as a major area of opportunity for other areas of the business that are currently less engaged. If we can get 80% or more of our business as active monthly users, I think this can positively shift our agency resulting in a more borderless organisation with engaged employees who create the best ideas and programs for our clients. 


[1] http://dynamicsignal.com/resources/?_ga=1.218571545.1242960641.1487177752#ufh-i-152140923-survey-your-biggest-brand-champions-are-missing-out
[2] Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo  


Melissa Barry is an organisational psychologist at Ketchum, a global marketing communications agency. She helps to counsel groups and teams on strategy implementation, change management, and team dynamics. In her free time she enjoys traveling and searching for the best dim sum.

Twitter: @melissabarry

Mental health typically managed as a performance issue in public relations

A #FuturePRoof report published by the PRCA explores the mental health of the public relations profession.

Our first project investigated the future of the public relations agency. Today we’re publishing a report exploring mental health within the public relations profession.

The defining moment for the project came during the research phase when we were contacted by someone with an employment contract that cited mental illness as grounds for dismissal.

It’s an extreme example of how mental illness is managed within the public relations profession. It’s also illegal.

But the reality is that mental illness in public relations is frequently ignored, or managed as a line management or performance issue.

The #FuturePRoof report lifts the lid on mental health in the public relations profession, and attempts to characterise the issue, signpost potential solutions, and identify best practice.

We're publishing the report under a Creative Commons licence. We hope that you find it useful. Please share, reuse and remix the content.

Recommendations for employers

The report makes three recommendations for employers and managers.

  1. The cost of mental health to public relations and the broader business community is well known. Make mental health and wellbeing a management issue within your management team.
  2. Company policies and procedures should cover sickness due to mental health. Provide clear signposting and training to all employees and managers on policies and procedures.
  3. Where resources do not exist within an organisation, access external support such as the resources listed in this report. Small organisations should consider retaining specialised support.

“We fully support the recommendations in this report. The industry still operates on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and unfortunately this report highlights the stigma surrounding mental health. We know that improving mental health and wellbeing among employees is a key business issue yet many organisations have been slow to implement mental health management policies," said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA.

"It is important to talk about this issue, but we need action as well. The PRCA will be campaigning on raising awareness about mental health and more importantly we will be working with key players in the industry to deliver a programme on how to tackle the issue.”

As part of our investigation #FuturePRoof carried out qualitative and quantitative research, engaging with practitioners ranging from assistants and interns to communication directors and managing directors.

A wide range of issues were identified as symptoms of poor mental health in the workplace ranging from absentmindedness to anxiety, and from anger to depression.

Attributing factors included financial pressures; service delivery including always on, long hours and deadlines; office politics including culture, and poor management; trauma, particularly in emergency services; and a lack of respect and understanding for public relations.

The report found that attitudes to mental health in the workplace are polarised.

36.6% people said that they would be comfortable or very comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace with colleagues. 56.7% said they would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable.

Many practitioners are unaware whether their sickness policy at work specifically addresses mental health. 53.3% said they were unaware; 14.2% reported that it did; and 32.5% reported that it did not.

35.8% respondents reported that their organisation had workplace schemes aimed at enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of staff. These included employee assistant programmes; subsidised exercise; mental health awareness training; and wellness action plans.

Cost of mental health to public relations

It’s not hard to quantify impact of mental health on the public relations profession or the broader UK economy. Indeed, data highlighted by recent surveys prompted the #FuturePRoof report.

30% of respondents in the 2016 CIPR State of the Profession Survey state that they are ‘somewhat unhappy’ or ‘not at all happy’ when indicating their level of well-being in their jobs.

Nearly a third of UK staff persistently turn up to work ill and only 35% are generally healthy and present, according to the CIPD’s Absence Management Report.

The 2016 PRCA Census reports that 12% of those in public relations changing their job opted to leave the industry completely for a new career. And the overall level of staff turnover within the public relations industry is around 25% per year.

The statistics are alarming. And the cost to the communications industry of failing to adequately address these issues is huge.

Mental health issues cost the UK £70 billion per year while the annual cost of presenteeism is twice that of absenteeism.

Thank you

#FuturePRoof would like to thank everyone involved in this project. Mental health in the workplace is a sensitive issue that we have only been able to address thanks to all the contributors and in particular the support of Paul Sutton, Chris Owen, Carol Featherstone and Julia Fenwick.

This blog was originally posted on Stephen Waddington's blog.

Could an open CPD standard in public relations accelerate professionalism?

In the latest in the series of #FuturePRoof blogs, here its founder and editor Sarah Hall asks whether continuous professional development (CPD) should be an open standard in public relations.

Open standards are a proven way of quickly creating scale.

The PRCA has launched a new continuous professional development (CPD) platform that allows points to be accrued from training and learning outside its own provision.

It has signed up 17 partner organisations from across the communications industry, all of which organise activities that can be logged against career progression. 

The CIPR isn't a partner. 

Although I've been transparent about my desire for the two organisations to work together, whether it should be become one isn't the question here. 

The CIPR has its own, well established system which, while the main focus is on CIPR content and training, allows bespoke activities to be logged.

Progress is slow.

In the UK around 60,000 to 80,000 work in public relations. 1,600 people met the requirement for the CIPR’s accredited practitioners and participated in its CPD scheme in 2015. 

The PRCA provides an opportunity to rapidly increase commitment to CPD. Many agency employers also have their own CPD system.

The question is whether it's time for an open standard for CPD across the industry. 

Unlike the CIPR's offer, the PRCA's new system is open to non members. 

It's a welcome move at a time when the industry is striving to become more diverse and professional.

It sends a clear message to the marketplace that it wants to scale CPD and widen participation from all area of the communications industry.  

Should our industry bodies look to introduce a single standard for CPD in public relations, while marketing their own content and training workshops?

Is this an area in which the CIPR, PRCA and partners should collaborate, if that was a possibility?

Why the PR industry should be the big winner from influencer marketing

In the latest of our #FuturePRoof guest blogs, Sam Oakley from Stashmetrics, looks at influencer marketing and the opportunity for public relations. 

PR  has a golden opportunity when it comes to influencer marketing, but the industry needs to learn from its mistakes.

I worked through, and saw first hand, the way the industry’s eyes lit up when social first became a thing – it was new area of practice that was all about relationships and dialogue, (stuff we were good at), and there was real budget available.

However, while I’ve seen some fantastic social media work delivered by PR agencies, broadly speaking the bulk of budget for owned social has gone elsewhere and looks like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Stay upbeat

I don’t see this as a reason for despondency though, there’s a ton we can learn from how the explosion in owned social channels brought value into agencies and a lot we can apply to other growth areas.

I’m going to focus on influencer marketing for the sake of this post simply because it’s the only area I’m even vaguely qualified to talk about. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that broader lessons will be applicable to other growth areas.

What is the opportunity, and is it worth going for?

Whilst it’s hard to put an exact figure on the size of the influencer marketing opportunity, it’s safe to say it is both significant now and growing fast.

Only a couple of weeks ago a PRCA / YouGov survey showed that digital budgets were up 9% on last year and that influencer outreach was the most commonly requested digital PR service by brands (12%).

With regards to whether the opportunity is worth it I’d argue that, whilst it’s hard to find numbers that definitively make a case, it’s very easy to argue that it can’t be ignored.

Why can’t it be ignored?

A lot of behavioural factors are coming together on this. I don’t need to talk about shifts to online consumption here, but combined with ongoing media fragmentation we are left with an inescapable equation.

More media titles / the same number of people = fewer eyeballs per title, and in a business where the bulk of junior – mid-level work is spent on leveraging those media, it means the same amount of work takes place, but with lesser gain.

The third factor to really play into the PR industry’s hands is the rise of ad-blocking. The PR mindset is built around earned media; if you’re earning your reach then it won’t get blocked.

Finally, there’s the evolution of search. Google is getting really good at helping people to find what they want to find, and as a result the defining lines between individual publishers and media titles are blurring.

How can the industry position itself to capitalise on the growth in influencer budgets?

We work with some amazingly smart agencies who are already make great, organisation-wide steps to do this and it’s been fascinating over the last 12 months to see how best practice begins to coalesce around a few key principles.

1 – Measure better than anyone else. PR measurement frameworks are much more easy to adapt to influencer work than ad / digital measurement. Influencers are generally reticent to share their measurement data but are much more likely to do so if they’re part of a targeted, relationship-driven campaign, than if they’re one of 500 people whose audience has been bought through a marketplace. The Barcelona principles need pretty much zero adaptation to work well in an influencer marketing context. 

2 – Don’t be afraid to push back against a bad brief. There is a lot of ambiguity / confusion around what influencer marketing is and how it should be delivered – this can lead to inappropriate briefs that you know will go nowhere. If that’s the case, ask yourself “should the first time this client is exposed to this kind of marketing take place in the context of a flawed project?” 

3 - A bad brief is also one where there’s no money for measurement. If this is new for the client then measurement is doubly important - without it you’ll find it hard to make a case for ongoing influencer work.

4 – Recognise that influencers can fulfil a multitude of roles. We’ve seen staggeringly good results from campaigns using influencers in a wide variety of ways - everything from using massive celebrities to start a waterfall effect (with smaller, related influencers amplifying the celebrity content to brilliant effect), down to a company that uses micro-influencers to create a constant flow of authentic UGC for the brand’s owned channels. It’s not just about paying someone to make you a YouTube Video

What are the pitfalls the industry has to avoid?

The main areas where we’ve seen people struggle are all linked to a lack of self-confidence amongst PR agencies. The industry can’t afford to get caught in echo-chamber debates, there simply isn’t the time. Nor can it afford to get sucked into the “innovation bubble” where campaigns are pitched based on innovative delivery over and above sound strategic work. The winners in the space will be those who get on with delivering brilliant work and who prove its brilliance with smart measurement. 

When it comes down to it, the opportunity is reasonably clear – behavioural shifts in consumers are creating an industry that dovetails almost perfectly with PR skillsets.

Yes, we’ve been here before but if we learn from mistakes this could and should be a major driver of value for the industry in the years to come.

Stashmetrics is a tool that helps agencies and brands find and collaborate with brilliant people online. Before co-founding the business Sam worked in digital PR for brands ranging from Sony Mobile to Unilever. 

The importance and art of articulating thanks: Lessons from non-governmental organisations (NGOS)


Thanking helps organisations to build relationships. In particular, charities need to thank as they build up coalitions of interest around issues, and as, in many cases, they raise income. So what can be learned from some professional thankers, and scholars, in the NGO sector?

You’ll learn:
•    The importance of thanks in interpersonal communications and NGO communications
•    What we can learn from NGO sector best practice and guidance
•    A framework for thanking built on NGO research

The importance of thanks

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy” - Jacques Maritain

In interpersonal communications, thanking is an important social lubricant. As psychologists Anthony Arhens and Courtney Forbes observe: “expressions of gratitude are woven into the social fabric of our lives” [1]. For example, children are taught to thank, there are etiquettes of writing letters of thanks [2], and authors testify appreciation in acknowledgements.

NGO communicators and marketers can seek to engage their stakeholders’ emotions when harnessing support. Negative emotions like fear and guilt [3] are sometimes used. However, guilt has been used to the point of ‘compassion fatigue’ [4]. Furthermore, negative imagery has been criticised for being an emotional ‘abuse’ [5].

Positive emotions like love [6] and gratitude can also be expressed to enrol support. Appreciation is a form of gratitude. Its most common articulation is “thank you”, observes Katherine Kelly [7]

In the context of relationship management in the fundraising arena, Kelly [7], identifies reciprocity as a key strategy for stewardship. She argues that ‘At the applied level, reciprocity simply means that organisations show gratitude to those who support them’. 

Thanking has long been associated with fundraising. Thanking donors helps build organisation-donor relationships [8], secure repeat donations [8] [7] [3] and retain donor interest [7]. The motivation of volunteers through thanks has also been noted [9] [3].

Authors additionally highlight the importance of NGOs thanking more stakeholders than donors – from staff to beneficiaries. Recognition and appreciation fosters stakeholders’ loyalty and motivation [10]. Support can be political, moral, through the media, voluntary or fundraising, notes Westman Wilson [9]

What we can learn from the NGO sector

The importance of thanking is one lesson that comes from the NGO sector. This is documented through the advice of NGO scholars. It is also evident from some NGOs’ communications. 

Thanking and not thanking have impact. ‘The two most important words in a fundraiser’s vocabulary’, states Victoria Canning [3], ‘are “thank you”’. Significantly, Merchant et al [8] found that thanking donors produces positive emotions and that contrastingly, not thanking donors prompts negative emotions. Hence, when appreciation is expected, not thanking is detrimental to relationships.

NGO narratives include thanks. Thanks are communicated on social media and videos, in publications, correspondence and face-to-face communications, and on websites and artefacts.

For example, thanking is a pronounced theme in Non Profit Organisations’ (NPO) tweets in the UK and US. In a content analysis of over 2,400 tweets, from 50 top ranking charities in nfpSynergy’s UK’s ‘Social Media League Table’ [11], Garsten and de Quincey [12] found that the most common words (apart from small words like the articles ‘a’ and ‘the’) related to gratitude. 

Figure 1 Word cloud depicting the most frequent words that appeared in over 2,400 charity tweets [12]

The word cloud depicts the most frequent words used in the charities’ tweets; the larger the font, the more times the word has been used. In total, “thanks” and “thank” were used 459 times, representing 20% of all the tweets.

The importance of thanks in American NPO tweets is also evident. For instance, Kristen Lovejoy and Gregory Saxton [13] identified thanks as part of relationship building tweets in their analysis. They identified messages of thanks in 13% of the 4,655 tweets that they examined from 73 NPOs.

Framework for the art of thanking based on NGO literature

We get insights into how to thank from literature about NGO communications and marketing. We learn that thanks should be specific, immediate and personalized, as represented in our framework below.

Figure 2 The SIP framework for quality thanking

The specifics of what is appreciated

Thanks should be specific to show ‘fulsome’ and ‘genuine’ gratitude [10]. For instance, a fundraiser could be acknowledged for the ‘long hours’ they spent with ‘a collecting tin on windy Grosvenor Street’ rather than in a general way that does not indicate an understanding of the effort made. 

An ability to identify others’ endeavours requires empathy. For, as psychologist Barbara Fredrickson observes, gratitude ‘requires the capacity to empathize with others’ [14].

Timely, personalised thanks

Thanks should also be prompt [10] [9] [7]. Tardy appreciation can look like an ‘afterthought’ [10]. As Canning (1999) reflects, ‘immediate and personal gestures of thanks cannot be bettered’ [3].

Appreciation needs to be personalised [3] [7]

This relates to individuals being addressed in recognition. Personalisation might take the form of communicating through a bespoke, rather than a mass, email, using @replies on Twitter, or naming benefactors on plaques or in publications. It also concerns a specific person expressing the thanks. 

For instance, a Chief Executive handwriting a letter of thanks rather than sending a typed template of thanks. An outstanding example of personalised thanks is of charity: water’s personalised videos of thanks to its supporters [15] [16].


Giving thanks is a characteristic of NGO communications. Best practice and research shows that giving thanks is important. Nevertheless, to communicate genuine appreciation, the way that thanks is articulated needs care too. Our SIP framework provides a guide to the art of thanking based on current literature from NGOs. Be precise about what you are giving thanks for; express gratitude quickly, and in a personal way.


[1] Arhens, A. and Forbes, C. (2014), ‘Gratitude’. In (eds) Michele M. Tugade; Michelle N. Shiota; Leslie D. Kirby, 
Handbook of Positive Emotions. New York, Guildford Press: 342-361.
[2] Pilato, Donna, About Home, ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Write Thank You Letters’. 
URL: http://entertaining.about.com/cs/etiquette/a/thankyou.htm. Accessed 4th August, 2016.
[3] Canning, V. (1999) A Practical Guide to Fundraising and Public Relations. London: ICSA.
[4] Brill, P. and Marrocco, C. (2012), ‘Not-for-profit public relations’. In A. Theaker, The Public Relations Handbook. 
London: Routledge
[5] Cartmell, M. (2011). ‘Aid agencies criticised for overuse of negative imagery to gain public support’. PR Week. 15 November. URL: http://www.prweek.com/article/1104332/aid-agencies-criticised-overuse-negative-imagery-gain-public-support#BQrR6kVF8Gh64VPX.99 Accessed 3 August 2016.
[6] Guéguen, N., Jacob, C., and Charles-Sire, V. (2011) ‘The effect of the word “Loving” on compliance to a fundraising request: evidence from a French field study’. International Journal of Nonprofit Voluntary Sector Marketing 16. pp371-380.
[7] Kelly, K. (2001) ‘Stewardship: The Fifth Step in the Public Relations Process’. In (ed.) R. Heath Handbook of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
[8] Merchant, A., Ford, B., and Sargeant, A. (2010) ‘”Don’t forget to say thank you’: The effect of an acknowledgement on donor relationships”. Journal of Marketing Management. 26 (7-8). pp593-611.
[9] Westman Wilson, E., (2001) Building credibility, the foundation for fundraising. London: ITDG
[10] Bruce, I. (2011) Charity Marketing: Delivering income, services and campaigns. 4th edn. London: ICSA.
[11] Murphy and Larking, (2011) The researchers manually checked and identified sixty-three twitter accounts of these fifty charities in November 2011. The main national account of all the charities that had them was included. The reason for there being a higher number of twitter accounts than charities is because some charities have an international/national account. The tweets were collected over one week. 2,241 tweets were posted by the 63 accounts. http://nfpsynergy.net/social-media-league-table
[12] Garsten, N. and de Quincey, E. (2012) ‘Tweeting Credibility and Thankfulness An Exploratory Study of Charity Twitter Accounts in the UK’. Presentation at 5th EUPRERA Spring Symposium: Web 2.0 in Governmental and NGO Communication in Europe. Berlin, February 17th.
[13] Lovejoy, Kristen and Saxton, Gregory D. (2012) ‘Information, Community, and Action: How Nonprofit Organizations Use Social Media’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 337-353. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2039815
[14] Fredrickson, B.L. (2004) ‘Gratitude, Like Other Positive Emotions, Broadens and Builds’ The Psychology of Gratitude. R. A. Emmons; and M. E. McCullough. Oxford, OUP: 147-166.
[15] Kanter, Beth (2011) Beth’s Blog, ‘Charity:Water Sends Personal Video of Thank Yous’. 
URL: http://www.bethkanter.org/say-thanks/. Accessed 4 August, 2016.
[16] charity: water (2011) charity: water turns five years old and we want to thank you. Video. 
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCSvXMTe1oY. Accessed 4 August 2016


Dr Nicky Garsten is Programme Director of the BA (hons) in PR and Communications at the University of Greenwich. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Prior to attaining her PhD at SOAS, she was an Associate Director at MS&L, a top 5 global PR consultancy within the Publicis Groupe. 

Twitter: @GreenwichNickyG
Online: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicky-garsten-phd-733248b

Dr Ed de Quincey is a Lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at Keele University, a Visiting Researcher at the eCentre at the University of Greenwich and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has worked in the area of online human behaviour for 13 years, looking into the usability and impact of websites as well as uses of the information that they collect. He is currently studying how health issues can be identified via social media usage as well as investigating the use of Learning Analytics to support teaching and learning.

Twitter: @eddequincey
Online: https://www.keele.ac.uk/scm/staff/academic/eddequincey/

Professor Ian Bruce CBE, is Founder and President, Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School of City University London. Professor Bruce is also Vice President of RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). His book Charity Marketing is in its fourth edition. He founded and is currently Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Charity Special Interest Group. Previously he was Director General of RNIB; Chief Executive of Volunteering England; Assistant Chief Executive of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham; Assistant Chief Executive of Age Concern England; and a marketing manager with Unilever.

Online: http://bunhill.city.ac.uk/research/cassexperts.nsf/(smarturl)/I.Bruce

#Futureproofing communications Evaluation


The #FuturePRoof project clearly shows how far the world of PR and communications has changed in recent years. But how is it best to measure effectiveness in this dynamic and complex environment?

You’ll learn:
•    PR and communications strategy and tactics have changed significantly. Frequently measurement lags behind
•    Modern communicators have embraced the PESO model but struggle to measure integrated communications effectively
•    Future proofing communications measurement requires a change of mind set and a new approach if we are to prove value and demonstrate effect successfully

A complex world

The communications industry has undergone significant change in the last 10 years driven by seismic changes in the media. Audiences have fragmented, seeking out news and information on their own terms, in their own time, and on the platforms of their choice. 

To adapt to these changes many modern communicators have embraced the PESO model. Working across Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media, communication strategies are focussed on engaging with audiences wherever they might be.

Communications strategy and tactics have changed, but what about its measurement?

Stuck in the past

Many organisations are failing to evolve their communications measurement to the same degree as their communication activity. They are continuing to rely on measurement techniques that have served them well in the past but are now being found to be increasingly inadequate in this new environment. 

Traditional media content analysis continues to be the dominant form of communication measurement despite its limitations. These include that it’s too slow, too expensive, doesn’t scale and is too backward looking, lacking in genuine insights. Additionally, on its own, it only offers a measure of ‘output’ – and fails to connect the effect of communications with the objectives and outcomes that organisations seek. 

New tools

Embracing the digital era, many vendors now offer online, real-time and largely automated portal based evaluation solutions. 

With their dynamic dashboards and flashy charts, it can be easy to forget that many of these tools are not measuring what matters, but are instead just counting what is easy to count. They share the ‘output-only’ limitations of traditional media analysis, but in addition, suffer from little to no tailoring of measurement against specific organisational objectives. As a result they frequently leave the user frustrated, inundated with a whole host of numbers that fail to answer the critical ‘so-what’ questions that are needed to prove value.

Media metrics losing relevancy

Many of the metrics themselves that have been relied upon for so long are starting to lose their relevancy. Thanks to the Barcelona Principles, AVEs have been denounced as a flawed metric and largely consigned to the dustbin of best practice history. 

Beyond AVEs, other metrics are being questioned too. For example, what is the relevance of volume of content as a metric in an environment where the universe of publisher sources and contributors is ever increasing? Along with volume of content, reach and impressions are also being questioned. Many of these numbers are impossible to measure accurately and are all too easy to gain and cheat. 

They also fail to answer the all-important so-what question – it doesn’t matter who may or may not have seen your content – organisations need to know what happened as a result of it.

AMEC integrated evaluation framework

Into these challenges stepped global measurement trade organisation AMEC (the International Association for the Evaluation of Communications). 

AMEC’s view was that it is not new metrics or new tools that are needed but a credible, meaningful and consistent approach that all organisations can use. It needs to take into account all of the new channels available to communications professionals, but also show the way to link organisational objectives to outputs to outtakes and ultimately to outcomes and organisational impact. 

To answer these challenges, AMEC put together a project team that included academics, PR agency heads, global measurement agencies and in-house communication professionals to create its new integrated evaluation framework. The framework is non-proprietary, free to use, and designed for the benefit of organisations of any size working with any measurement partner. 

It’s not a measurement ‘tool’, rather a best practice workflow that supports the user through every step of the process to create their own campaign plan and measurement report. 

The framework links the need for clear objective setting, alignment with organisational goals and shows how to tell the measurement story with a blend of output, outtake and outcome metrics that all support the organisational impact of the work. It shows how to include the right metrics from each of the Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned channels and suggests which metrics might be used in different scenarios. 

Importantly AMEC’s integrated evaluation framework is provided with a comprehensive resource centre including supporting materials, case studies, thought leader opinion pieces, a dictionary of terms, a comprehensive measurement taxonomy and a whole wealth of further information that will help answer even the most demanding evaluation challenges. 

The framework and resource centre was launched to global acclaim at AMEC’s international summit in June 2016, being endorsed, supported and used by the PRCA, CIPR, ICCO, GCS (The Government Communication Service) and many leading PR agencies.

It’s free to use to all interested parties and is available right now. So head on over to: www.amecorg.com/amecframework [1] and start using it today. We are sure you too will find it useful.



[1] www.amecorg.com/amecframework

Richard Bagnall is CEO of PRIME Research UK, a global communications measurement specialist consulting firm. Originally working in PR, Richard has for the last 20 years specialised in communications measurement having been a founding director of Metrica, and a board director of Gorkana Group before joining PRIME. Richard is chair-elect of AMEC and was the leader of AMEC’s team that created the integrated evaluation framework. 

Twitter: @richardbagnall
Online: www.prime-research.com

Creativity in PR - are practitioners successfully harnessing the power of storytelling and narration?


Creativity is a key driver for change. Yet, the nature of doing creativity in PR needs to change in order to be effective.

You’ll learn:
•    Growing complexity means traditional creative PR responses are increasingly inadequate to deliver ‘big multi-channel ideas’. You need strategic narratives
•    Creative PR people need to change from being magicians pulling rabbits out of a hat, to skillful collaborators, co-creators and master storytellers
•    Changes are paradoxical: you need more data yet more intuition

Traditional PR skills in news storytelling and media relations are insufficient for outstanding results beyond 2016.

Failure to adapt could witness public relations being marginalised with less influence, budgets or status, even subsumed within the growth of integrated communications.

The key drivers for change are growing complexity coupled with greater convergence of communications, along with the need for greater emotional connections within communications.

Add to the mix the need to tell your story through images / moving images, plus the growth of content marketing, and recognition of public relations’ distinct skills in managing wider relationships and building social capital - all this adds up to massive, yet achievable opportunities for creative PR.

The nature of the problems facing public relations is changing. Problems can be one of three types. Using the London Underground map as a metaphor, problems can be:

•    Zone 1 problems - with a neat middle and end
•    Zone 6 problems - more complex, yet still solvable
•    Zone 10 problems - issues that are off the map, unfamiliar, systemic, chaotic and unsolvable in isolation

Previously, much PR work was primarily of the Zone 1 type; a news release and photocall could oft suffice for an award-winning campaign.

Today, the typical PR programme has migrated to at least Zone 6 complexity: even the most basic campaigns require more. 

The media channels explosion has created infinite tactical opportunities for digital marketing, social media and content marketing. As creative guru Mark Borkowski observes: “Everything is blurred. It’s all about creating robust content to go through the channels.”

Ideas now need to be coherent and resolute across different channels and over longer time periods. We are now in the age of ‘big multi-channel ideas’ operating in Zone 6 or Zone 10 complexity.

The age of narrative

Most PR practitioners, from personal experience, fail to appreciate the distinction between narrative and story, assuming that ‘story’ and ‘narrative’ are added to a reality, like a veneer of packaging.

Narrative runs, however, like a thread through everything you do, providing a script for your past, your expectation of the future, to frame and define your story of now. Pearls in a pearl necklace are the stories, the string is the narrative, holding the individual pearls together to create a coherent whole.

Creative PR is now more than just creating a series of news stories. You need to listen out for, identify, nurture and amplify the inherent narrative within a reality. This puts you in the strategic driving seat of communications.

In a world of greater complexity, simplicity - not being simplistic - is at the heart of communications. Leveraging profound insights at a deeper, more emotional level, at the heart of your brand, creates more powerful engagement for your communications. 

Recent Cannes winners such as Always #LikeAGirl are part of a growing breed of campaigns that have a brand purpose - a sense of view that provide a narrative. This creates an emotional bridge to overcome barriers put up by increasingly cynical or commercial-wary consumers. 

But how do you find the purpose of a brand? 

Here, the graphic design industry has traditionally had an advantage over old school public relations. The talented designer looks at a single element to visually capture a brand’s purpose, unlike traditional PR focussing instead on a multitude of news story opportunities. 

Creative PR practitioners need to improve their storytelling skills by harnessing the ‘theme’ to a story - a one, two, three word emotional bridge that connects with the target audience. LINPAC Packaging for example, moved from being a packaging supplier to delivering ‘Fresh Thinking’.

Mememasters and collaborators

You don’t just need to emotionally connect with consumers but also develop broader engagement.

The ‘Pokemon Go’ craze reflects the growing trend for gamification. You don’t just communicate to, but participate with, and engage in common activity.

Creative PR professionals will also be greater ‘mememasters’ - creators of ‘sticky’, viral-friendly content. Why did the Leave vote win the Brexit Referendum? They had more powerful memes - messages that replicate and spread of their own volition. Remember #ProjectFear or #TakeBackControl? I suspect you can’t even remember the Remain campaign’s memes.

Responding to growing complexity the creative PR will need to be a better collaborator. 

The creative public relations practitioner needs to evolve, away from the brand archetype of a ‘magician’ - a lone ranger using their creative talents to pull the metaphorical rabbit out of a hat - to the brand archetype of ‘creator’, working in a more co-ordinated way with other specialists, creating powerful strategic narratives to deliver and achieve results.

The lone maverick will find themselves increasingly alone. The act of collaboration itself extends through greater use of community co-creation and ‘Brand Kultura’ - content independently created by a brand’s fan community.

Bad news on the awards front

Creative PR can also leverage greater results in parts where other disciplines cannot reach.

PR consultants have the distinct role of being corporate listeners. Counselling on the authenticity of a brand’s actions, building social capital, and earning trust all provide creative opportunities to achieve profound creative impact for an organisation or brand’s future. 

Unfortunately, for recognition-seeking creative PR’s, these are all areas which are Zone 6 or even Zone 10 in character. PR award schemes are inherently biased to reward work that has a neat beginning, middle and end in its story - the Zone 1 type problems.

The character of creative thinking is also changing, moving away from ‘dialectical’ thinking which operates within well-defined boxes or paradigms to more ‘dialogical’ open, free-flowing thinking. Creative mindfulness will increasingly be recognised as a key facet for generating new insights and ideas.

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable

The ability to be comfortable with paradox is a critical skill for creative PR. The author Scott F. Fitzgerald observed: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.”

The rise of big data and digital analysis rather than being inimical to original creative thinking can, instead, be the key for greater insight and greater creative accountability through better evaluation. As Rick Guttridge of Smoking Gun PR describes: “Ingenious insight requires intelligent measurement.” 

The ‘House of Clicks’ winner of Cannes 2016 by Swedish agency Prime is a good example of data-driven insight. The campaign engaged a team of data scientists analysing over 200 million clicks on the property website Hemnet to unearth what Swedes dream about in their future home.

Coping with complexity will necessitate more ‘painting-by-numbers creativity’ through greater use of checklists and the growing availability of Artificial Intelligence. Tools like Nuzzle can now identify the tastes and interests of your community to cultivate and curate new content for them.

The creative mind will harness both mechanical creativity as well as intuitively stretch new thinking to the further parts of their galaxy or the deepest parts of their soul.

Creative public relations has the opportunity to create a new narrative for the future of public relations. It could face a future of being marginalised, further down the pecking order or be in the strategic driving seat, directing and managing the corporate narrative and wider relationships. 

Creative opportunities abound. Will we take them?

Andy Green is a Brand Story expert and an associate director at four UK PR agencies, founder of social enterprise the Flexible Thinking Forum, and lectures on the Masters programme in Global Communications at Cardiff University. He is the author of 7 books on brand communications.

Twitter: @starts_story
Online: www.storystartshere.today

Horizon scanning


The world is in the midst of the digital age and the resulting rate of change is moving quicker than society can keep up. Technology continues to evolve at a blistering pace disrupting businesses, business models and entire industries in its wake.

You’ll learn:
•    How public relations practitioners able to quickly adapt to technological change will benefit from being in the vanguard of new developments
•    About Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality and more
•    How upskilling in these areas will lead to success for PR teams

From healthcare to hospitality and from finance to farming no industry is immune to the relentless and transformative way technology is transforming the world. 

One industry that has been in a perpetual state of disruption since the advent of the internet is the media. 

The way in which information is created, distributed and consumed is in a constant state of flux thanks to new platforms and networks overlaid on the infrastructure of the world wide web and mobile networks.

As an industry that is part of the wider media industry, public relations too has had to adapt to stay relevant. 

In fact, PR has changed considerably over the last few years, and while the principles of good communication and reputation management have remained the same, the way in which they are achieved have not.

For PR to thrive in the digital age agility is a necessary quality. 

The world in which we communicate, share and consume information has changed fundamentally in the last ten years. The rate of change over the coming years, we can assume, will only continue. The necessity to adapt and change has never been greater. 

To make the point, let’s go back to 2006. 

Ten years ago the smartphone had yet to be invented and those apps that you depend on each day obviously weren’t around either. 

It would be unlikely you had a Facebook account since it was only for college students until the end of the year. Twitter didn’t launch until March and barely anyone used it for the first twelve months. 

YouTube was a less than a year old and was considered as a site for grainy cat videos. Instagram, Snapchat, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Kindle, DropBox, Google Chrome and Android were all twinkles in their developers’ eyes. 

Over the years these new technologies and channels have spawned new kinds of roles. Social data analyst, community manager, influencer relations, app developer, content specialist and growth hacker were terms unimagined in 2006. 

They did, eventually, turn PR into a more technology-driven discipline and those who adopted to the change have reaped the rewards. 

We have come a long way since then but innovation is unforgiving and all the signs are pointing to more disruption over the coming years as new emerging technologies move to the forefront. 

The PR team that can show agility in the face of it will ultimately be the one that thrives. 

The emerging technologies that will impact PR

Rise of the machines: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The growing field of AI has polarised many of today’s great thinkers and technologists. Some believe that a machine with superintelligence will be a force for good whereas others are concerned that, without regulation, it could cause problems for the human race. 

Tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft are all investing heavily in AI so, whatever your stance, it’s likely to increasingly permeate our lives in the coming years. 

AI has already made its way into newsrooms writing financial reports, covering sports events and even clickbait articles. 

The Associated Press, one of the earliest users of AI journalists, uses it to write quarterly earnings reports for 4,000 companies. Previously they covered only 400. BuzzFeed has created a ‘political bot’ using Facebook’s chatbot messaging system. The LA Times uses a robot to write an article whenever an earthquake in the region occurs. 

If AI can make its way into the newsroom, then there is no reason why it can’t make its way into the press office. 

The possibility is high of AI robots crafting word-perfect press releases, optimising social media content, responding to journalists via chatbots, monitoring online brand mentions and developing appropriate responses, and potentially a host of other PR-related tasks. All based on ongoing machine learning and data feedback. 

New kinds of reality: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) 

There are two similar emerging technologies with tremendous potential. AR overlays computer generated imagery over an existing, or ‘real’, reality and VR is a computer generated simulation that immerses the user so they feel they’re in it. 

The huge success of Pokémon Go has thrust AR into the limelight as scores of the human race run incessantly around streets looking for a Gyrados, Blastoise and their ilk. Snapchat too uses AR to create facial lenses to make you look either sexy or just plain weird. 

AR is not just for gaming however and will increasingly make its way into PR related campaigns. Take product launches where an AR overlay may create more interaction with the use of entertaining and informative content. Likewise, AR can provide an additional layer of interaction around press conferences too. 

VR is already being trialed in PR related settings and it’s easy to see why. Providing a virtual experience can help brands of all kinds from fashion, tourism, hospitality, sport and everything in between. Its limitations are only restricted by the imagination. 

More of the same but different: Social media

From its humble beginnings social media has morphed from a nice-to-have promotional tool into a required business function impacting all levels from HR to customer service to the C-Suite. Any sentiments of it being a passing fad are over. 

Social media will play a part in supporting the rise of AI, AR and VR, and will likely serve as the platform on which new services are launched. Already Facebook chatbots and Microsoft’s spectacular AI experiment failure on Twitter are illustrating this. 

The future of social media also lies firmly in video. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has gone on record saying Facebook will be “mostly video” in five years’ time. 

The recent launch of Facebook Live and the development of its 360-degree video platform align with this prediction. They will also serve as ways to facilitate the usage of its VR headset, Oculus Rift, which it purchased in 2014 for $2bn (£1.5bn). 

Twitter too sees live video as a means to generate more eyeballs and has made it seamlessly easy to post live videos directly from its app. Google owned YouTube has almost a billion viewers generating billions of views each day. Facebook owned Instagram recently launched one minute videos reporting that video ads on the platform are flourishing. 

So what does this all mean? Firstly, ongoing learning and upskilling will be required to ensure PR stays relevant in the increasingly technical media landscape. The skills needed (and still often lacking) today may not be as useful in the future. 

Some of the smart ones among us will choose to specialise in AI where they will utilise the API services from the likes of Facebook and IBM to create campaign specific AI robots. Expect also some agencies and inhouse teams to form production departments that provide live 360 video, AR and VR among other things as service offerings. 

Someone once said, the best way to predict the future is to create it. Time will tell if PR is up for the challenge. 


Stephen Davies is a communications consultant and has been specialising in digital communications for the last twelve years. He has worked both agency and brand side for some of the world’s most well-known companies. 

Twitter: @stedavies
Online: www.stedavies.com

Crowdfunding: Understanding, influencing and managing group behaviour


What is crowdfunding? Why do most campaigns fail? Why shouldn’t you aim to raise a million? This chapter answers these questions and offers tips learnt from raising over $30M for clients, to help you navigate through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

You’ll learn:
•    How different crowdfunding platforms work
•    Tips and tricks to help your crowdfunding campaign succeed
•    When not to launch a crowdfunding campaign

Understanding crowdfunding is a great asset to have in your modern PR toolkit. You can predict how individuals will act as they wait, try to be first, or follow others reacting to a campaign.

There are over 400 crowdfunding platforms, but I’m going to share Dynamo’s experiences from Kickstarter and Indiegogo – two platforms which have raised more than £2.5 billion for projects.

This background knowledge combined with tips and tricks will help you understand why some campaigns can be set up to succeed, whilst others are destined to fail.

1.    How crowdfunding works

In most cases, creators launch a time-limited campaign to fund a project or product, asking the public to donate or pre-buy products (usually called pledge levels or perks), frequently discounted and delivered before the product goes on sale to the wider public.

When a pre-set funding goal is reached, the campaign is deemed ‘successful’ and once the campaign finishes the creators go ahead with development, and manufacturing if required, delivering the project or product into its backers hands some months (years) later. 

2.    Why you should crowdfund

Crowdfunding is not new. In ancient Egypt and Roman times the public were taxed to raise funds. 

Modern crowdfunding really started in 1997, when Marillion used the internet to source funds from fans so they could tour the US.

Raising money is not the only benefit you can get from launching a campaign, which may help also explain why well-funded companies launch products on a crowdfunding site.


2.1    Early feedback

Launching publicly, and prior to production, you get immediate feedback for the viability and appetite for your project from a diverse public. Some of the ‘public’ can also be experts in associated fields and help suggest improvements that dramatically affect the direction, adoption and success of your project.


2.2    Community development

Running a campaign can help grow an interested, and invested community prior to product launch. If this community is managed well, they can also become powerful and vocal advocates helping further sales.


2.3    Generating publicity and subsequent interest

Sometimes creators just want publicity and use crowdfunding as a tool. Others want this as a stepping stone to demonstrate initial demand for their project, encouraging further investment from VCs and investors.

But beware. Launching a crowdfunding campaign is no longer in itself news. Media may not be interested, or may only cover you when your campaign is successful.

3.    The risks of crowdfunding

On Kickstarter, 65% of campaigns fail to reach their goal. 

You’re most at risk if you launch a technology-based campaign, with 82% failing. You’re best off launching a local theatre or arts project, with 61% hitting their goals.

Other platforms, which often have less stringent checks for campaigns, have higher failure rates.

Backers to projects also share risk. Many campaigns have been funded, sometimes into the $millions, and the creators simply didn’t have the skills, experience, or ability to deliver products at scale.

Whilst Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform (your money is only taken if it reaches its goal), the risks for a backer on Indiegogo can be higher as some creators will set campaigns to take backers’ money regardless of whether it hits its goal or not.

Campaigns fail mostly through lack of planning and preparation; poor content; inability to drive an audience to your page; and trying to rush the launch. And perhaps, of course, the product that friends and family found so amazing fails to interest the wider public.

Most of these can be de-risked by learning the right approach from successful campaigns and allowing time for meticulous preparation, planning, and execution. Even then, there are no certainties it will succeed. You will only find this out by launching. 

Figure 1 Distribution of funding failure or success since 2008 © DynamoPR

4.    The importance of speed and size

Successful campaigns tend to have high velocity of funding, and high numbers of backers within a few days of launch.

The faster a campaign is being funded, the more likely that others will experience Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and want to snap up perks or offers before they disappear.

The more people back a campaign, the more legitimate it will appear, diminishing its risk in others’ minds. Campaign viewers will also look at how people are engaging in a campaign, whether through sharing across social media or leaving comments on the campaign page.

The great news is that velocity and crowd engagement can be planned for in advance.


5.    How to create a successful campaign

There are many things you can do to de-risk failure. In an increasingly crowded, noisy and competitive market I’ve listed the essentials. These need time, so if I were to suggest just one tip it’s to start planning communications three to four months ahead of launch.


5.1    Video and imagery first

Apart from the headline title, the video is the most critical asset on the campaign page to hold and keep visitors’ attention. They need to be short (less than 2-3 mins), concise, appealing, and look professionally produced. They need to convince the viewer that the creators can deliver. We’ve seen an 80% increase in rate of backer conversion by changing the thumbnail.


5.2    Pledge or perk level strategy

Limiting the availability of certain pledges increases FOMO and hence velocity of backing. Having some heavily discounted pledges also increases backers’ desire to take advantage of time-limited offers.

Some backers will be happy just to donate $1 to keep updated with the campaign, without anything else offered in return. Literally paying to be on a mailing list!


5.3    Build your community in advance

You can’t rely on media alone to make campaigns successful. Ideally you want to have built up a community prior to launch, ready to push the button and back when you go live helping the velocity and number of backers.

Communities take time to build, whether through networking, previews, events, speaking, but are now critical to campaign success. We’ve seen campaigns where communities have accounted for more than 20% of initial backing.


5.4    Plan your communications

It can be an incredibly hectic time post launch, so plan all of your communications before you go live.

This will mean pre-briefing media under embargo. Preparing all of your Q&A for the community, as well as the press. Agreeing a news release of passing the goal, ready to go live (on more than one occasion we’ve had to release this within a few hours of launching).

You should also prepare campaign updates, such as introducing ‘stretch’ targets for when the campaign reaches its goal. Community updates show that you’re talking and investing time in your backers.

As with any public launch, you will have supporters and detractors. Be prepared to respond quickly to any criticism in an open and honest way. This way you’ll generate support from other backers who will more often come to your aid.


6.    Don’t publicly aim to raise a million

We’ve had clients walking through Dynamo’s door wanting to raise millions, and we’ve launched a campaign for them where the public goal is under £50,000.

This may seem counter-productive, but we’ve found the lower your goal, the faster that you’ll hit it, and the more you’re subsequently likely to raise.

When you understand that the crowd is waiting for sure-fire hits to back, you’ll understand why many more backers will come on-board when they see a campaign succeed in hitting its goal.

In many of the public’s eyes, a successful campaign is much more of a sure thing. So you want to hit your campaign goal ideally within the first 10 days of your campaign.

That a campaign is ‘successful’ is also news worthy, and an increasing amount of journalists and media will only write about campaigns that have passed their goal, again sharing the campaign wider and increasing chances of further funding.


7.    Final thoughts

Crowdfunding is increasingly becoming a popular way to test, develop, and promote a product so that funds and feedback are received before it reaches peoples’ hands. 

As I’ve said, nearly two-thirds of all campaigns fail. You stand the best chance of success for your clients if you plan early, focus on communications and content, and lower goals and pledges.

A final warning. If your campaign is wildly successful, you may also need to worry. The more backers you have, the more people you have to communicate with. 

We start all client engagements by checking their manufacturing capabilities. Can they scale from an ideal 10,000 units to close to a million? Communication doesn’t end when the campaign ends. We’ve seen many wildly successful campaigns end up in spectacular failure as the complexity of design, manufacturing and delivery increase. 

And I have one final disclaimer. I’m assuming throughout that the product you’re planning on launching is novel, interesting, and different. If it’s not, simply don’t bother.

Paul Cockerton is the co-CEO of Dynamo PR, a consumer and technology PR company based in London and Silicon Valley. Dynamo launched the world’s first crowdfunding PR team in 2013, and has won multiple global awards for its work on some of the world’s most successful crowdfunding campaigns. 

Twitter: @pcockerton
Online: www.dynamopr.com

How the #FuturePRoof PR can embrace the opportunities of SEO


PR practitioners need to have a more detailed understanding of SEO and the impact this has on the work they do. Combining this knowledge with the ability to measure its effectiveness creates a situation in which public relations teams can confidently ask for more budget and reduce the risk of SEO agencies securing the work.

You’ll learn:
•    About the ever-increasing relevance of SEO to PR, and vice versa
•    The key factors which are shaping PR’s place within that
•    What the #FuturePRoof PR professional needs to do to have a greater understand of SEO, and incorporate it into their work

Stop worrying about the Mad Men and focus on the geeks

Following the Cannes Lions festival in the summer of 2016 there has been a significant debate in the PR industry about its ability to create the most compelling campaigns when compared with its advertising and media counterparts. Almost all of the winners of the PR Lions in 2016, including the Grand Prix, were from advertising agencies. 

I’d argue that this fits into a narrative I have seen played out over the last 15 years in the communications industry, whereby PR professionals have looked enviously at the bright lights, brands and budgets of their close relatives in the advertising space. 

I would also argue that whilst the PR industry has focussed its starry-eyed attention enviously on its seemingly more attractive elder sibling, it has ignored the increasing importance of its upstart smaller relative – the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) industry. And all the while this has been happening, the SEO industry has been winning more marketing budget, winning more business, and even winning awards at PR events. 

In my last role within a digital marketing agency I knew of more than one household brand name that was spending more on SEO annually than it was on PR, and this is a pattern that is repeated elsewhere, particularly for brands with some kind of ecommerce function. 

For reasons I’ll go on to discuss in this chapter, the PR and SEO industries have never been closer together, and more competitive for budget with one another. I believe, however, that a number of factors have come to the aid of the PR industry, which have prevented the SEO industry from completely eating PR’s lunch.

The #FuturePRoof PR practitioner needs to be aware of these and, I would contend, needs to have a more detailed understanding of the SEO impact of the work they do, and the ability to measure its effectiveness in this light, and to confidently ask for more budget as a result. 

Why are PR and SEO so relevant to one another?

Every year, SEO industry expert MOZ, led by the wizard with the wonderful facial hair Rand Fishkin, produces an analysis of the top “Search Engine Ranking Factors” – the on-site and off-site elements which affect your site’s search engine ranking position. 

You can find the latest report here - http://bit.ly/2aKrd5Q [1] - and whilst there is fluctuation each year in how much importance there may be in one element or another, it is widely held that there are three key factors which affect search engine ranking:

•    On-site technical factors – Technical elements of a website, including things like XML sitemaps, which help Google find its way around your site

•    On-site content – What is says on the tin – the body copy on the page 

•    Off-site links – The quality and quantity of links from third party websites to your site

Two of these are directly relevant to PR – on-site content, and off-site links. PR people are the original content originators, many of whom have backgrounds in journalism. Off-site links should be within the purview of PRs too – it’s simply asking for a link back from a third party website when you place your content on there. In light of this, it’s worth thinking about what strengths the PR sector has in these areas versus the SEO sector.

What strengths does the PR industry have that it can leverage here?

I would argue that there are four key strengths that the PR sector has, which have helped to stop SEO agencies make further in-roads into areas traditionally owned by public relations:

Existing, established relationships with high “Domain Authority” sites – A key measure used in SEO to assess the value or quality of a link is Moz’s “Domain Authority” metric – a score of 1 to 100, with the most reputable and valuable websites scoring 90-100. And tier one media websites typically have a very high Domain Authority. At Hotwire, we have carefully cultivated relationships with journalists since our inception in 2000, and there are many PR agencies around that are older than us. Looking at the top 10 PR agencies in the UK by revenue, the average age of the agencies is just over 30 years old (Source: PR Week and Companies House). The average age of the top ten digital agencies by revenue is, by contrast, 11.8 years (Source: The Drum and Companies House). The hard-won, carefully nurtured relationships over many years with major media outlets and their journalists is a key strength that the best PR agencies have.

Reputation – The PR industry may occasionally fret about its perception. However, various “black hat” approaches and high profile Google penalties to websites which have used them has led the SEO industry to having a significant reputational challenge. In addition, the PR industry has two very well established industry bodies – the CIPR and the PRCA – and both organisations have a Code of Conduct which members need to comply with (the CIPR’s is here: http://bit.ly/2aVxj66 [2] and PRCA’s is here: http://bit.ly/2aVxz4Y [3]). The SEO industry still doesn’t have a recognisable industry body, and some very questionable tactics continue to abound in some quarters. 

No gimmicks – Google has consistently cracked down on SEO practices which have been used at scale to try and “game” website ranking positions. Google’s Penguin update in April 2012 was designed to do just this. Google has recently issued guidance (here: http://bit.ly/2ayu0OF [4]) on using free products to get reviews from bloggers, and it may only be a matter of time before Google takes further steps with its algorithm to prevent this.

Ability to build brand awareness – When I was plying my trade in the SEO space, whenever I was working for a brand which was doing well online, they invariably had a very high level of “brand search” online. I always said to clients that brand search volume is a good proxy for brand awareness, and PR is a central way in which most brands build brand awareness. 

What the #FuturePRoof PR professional can do to get ahead

The PR industry has seen some benefits from these factors, some of which are beyond its control. I believe there are three key ways in which the #FuturePRoof PR professional can proactively and actively adapt in the future to stay ahead of the game:

Learn the lingo – Domain Authority, NoFollow Links, SERPs, canonical URLs… Yes, there is a lot of new and alien terminology to use, but the #FuturePRoof PR professional is not scared of learning something new, and embraces it! There are some good guides which can be found on Search Engine Watch (http://bit.ly/2aVzIhc [5]) and, as always, MOZ (http://bit.ly/2aVz6bn [6]). At Hotwire we have also embraced some SEO-oriented measurement of our work, reporting the Domain Authority of links achieved back to clients for example. Across the industry this is a trend I expect to see develop.

Get using Google Analytics – The #FuturePRoof PR professional is as comfortable using Google Analytics as they are using Gorkana. At Hotwire, we are now routinely asking for access to Google Analytics from our clients, and bringing this data into the Insight discussions we have with clients. If this is something you’re not doing currently, there are numerous low-cost training programmes for Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Work collaboratively – The #FuturePRoof PR consultant will actively find out if there is an SEO agency working with their clients, or an in-house SEO manager. If there is, they will reach out to them and see if there are ways they can collaborate together to either help extend the reach of their content or to reach channels they typically don’t engage with. Similarly, the in-house #FuturePRoof PR professional will reach out to in-house SEO and PPC teams to make sure that the full digital benefit of the activity can be realised, and that paid investment can be made to help extend reach if needs be.

The #FuturePRoof PR professional can and should embrace the opportunities to learn new skills and make new friends in new departments and agencies. If they stop worrying about the Don Drapers and start focussing on the Eric Enges of this world, there’s a whole new raft of opportunities and budgets to be had. Don’t believe me? Just Google it.


[1] https://moz.com/search-ranking-factors
[2] https://www.cipr.co.uk/content/about-us/public-relations-register/cipr-code-conduct
[3] http://www.prca.org.uk/assets/files/PRCAProfessionalCharterandCodes(October2013).pdf
[4] https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/03/best-practices-for-bloggers-reviewing.html
[5] https://searchenginewatch.com/static/glossary
[6] https://moz.com/blog/smwc-and-other-essential-seo-jargon

Darryl Sparey is the Business Development Director at Hotwire PR, the global PR and communications agency. Before this Darryl spent two years running the London office of digital marketing agency Mediaworks. Previously, Darryl was Group New Business Director at WPP-owned Precise Media (now Kantar Media). Darryl tweets about SEO, PR, digital and running in a straight line for a long time win @rundemcrew and to raise money for @parkinsonuk on his twitter feed @DarrylSparey.

Twitter: @DarrylSparey
Online: www.hotwirepr.com

Public consultations: Engaging with your audience


Public consultations are changing the way we make decisions – meaningful decisions. They’re no longer a tick box exercise for the public sector, but a way to engage with and have consequential conversations with our communities. A good consultation can change culture and behaviours. Good communication is absolutely at the heart of a good consultation.

You’ll learn:
•    The role of communications in a public consultation
•    How to develop engagement and trust through public consultation
•    How communicating ethically and with conscience builds relationships that last beyond the consultation

There are some great guidelines and publications available that provide a solid framework to plan and implement good public consultations – check out Gov.UK Consultation Principles: Guidance.

This chapter provides additional tips, tricks and things to consider when designing a consultation campaign with a difference.

1.    What’s the why?

First things first - start with the why. What’s the purpose of consulting with the public and your community? What are the objectives? How can you ensure your consultation is meaningful? 

It’s important that the Communications Team has a seat at the table when the objectives of the consultation are being set. This is your opportunity to speak up, challenge and advise. It’s also an opportunity for you to understand in full the consultation details from your Leadership directive and start to develop a story and narrative based on that.

2.    Agree your consultation principles – including your own

There are of course the standard principles that PR professionals should adopt for any campaign, including integrity, accessibility, transparency and commitment. 

Additionally, a wise contact of mine (thanks Jim Owen) shared the principles of Involve, Consult and Inform. These simple principles of engagement provide clarity to both employees and public. This transparency helps our stakeholders understand how they can contribute and - more importantly - what engagement has already taken place.

3.    Who are you trying to reach?

Your audience isn’t necessarily (and is unlikely to be) the whole wide world. 

In a recent consultation, we focused on one county and then specific areas within that county where change was proposed. If there’s one area I recommend you spend time on, it’s researching and preparing a detailed audience profile and stakeholder map. By understanding who you need to be engaging with and reaching, you can tailor your messages, choose the right channel/s and sequence for the most appropriate timing. Don’t forget about your employees too (see point 6 below).

4.    Leadership buy-in

You’ve got to have buy-in from your Leaders (and their Leaders) on how you’re proposing to communicate and reach members of the public. Draft a communications plan and get their input and feedback. Be clear that the plan is fluid – great communicators adapt and refine their plans to deliver the best results. Your Leaders need to be the voice of your organisation. They need to be on message and transparent. Look at ways they can interact directly with the public; face-to-face sessions, videos, social media and so on. 

5.    Engage with the media

Invite the media to be a part of the consultation journey. Working with media and journalists helps build the narrative, helping the public understand the basis upon which changes are being recommended. Offer up embargoed interviews with your Leaders ahead of the consultation going live. That way your message hits the papers the day you push the button on your consultation.

6.    Don’t forget your employees

In fact, this should really be titled start with your employees. Your employees need to be fully aware of the consultation journey. Is there an opportunity for them to be involved with designing the consultation? Are they affected by the consultation proposal? Think about the channels you use to reach them. They absolutely need to be a core part of your communication plan.

7.    More than channels

As communicators we have a number of quick, easy and cheap channels available to “push” messages out to the public. But great communication is more than just that. How can you engage with and talk to your audience? Who is your audience? Are they likely to be at work during the day and miss the face-to-face sessions you are planning to host during working hours? What’s your budget? Look at the channels that are more cost effective, targeted and measurable – for example Facebook adverts.

8.    Measurement. Plan, do, check, act. 

Measuring and checking in on your communication efforts, outputs and of course outcomes is a must throughout the consultation. Think about how you can engage and keep your Leaders and stakeholders up to date. In a recent consultation, our measurement and evaluation demonstrated that there were some areas where large amounts of change were being proposed, but we had received little public consultation feedback. By checking in, we enhanced our communications plan to incorporate targeted communication campaigns specifically to those areas. 

What does a successful consultation look like? Steer away from communication outputs. It’s much more than the number of social media posts you published. What is the public saying about your brand and your organisation on social media? What behavioural change can you identify? How can the feedback you have gathered be used to help your organisation make better and more informed decisions?

9.    What happens when it’s over?

Well it’s not over. You’ve just spent a number of weeks talking with your employees and the public in an open and engaging way. Don’t lose that relationship. Make a commitment as to what the next steps are and stick to them.

Remember, consultations aren’t just a numbers game. Consulting with integrity is about the public understanding what you are consulting on, and engaging with the process. This continues after the consultation deadline.

10.    What can possibly go wrong?

Nothing right? Well, I can’t finish this chapter without making reference to the #NameOurShip campaign. NERC’s objectives were to engage with the UK public to promote a new research ship, demonstrate the role their organisation plays and highlight the importance of natural science.

The comms team behind this asked the general public to name the boat. One popular one was put forward: Boaty McBoatface. This went viral – globally. While the campaign certainly achieved NERC’s objectives, the decision not to go with naming the ship Boaty McBoatface certainly caused a stir.

What can we learn from this? Well, consult and communicate with integrity. Basically - be clear. Be clear about everything. Consultations are more than just crowd sourcing. Effective consultation is about building relationships between organisations and the public, transparency and cultural shift.

Emily Osborne Chart.PR is a corporate communications specialist with a passion for taking on complex change management and cultural change programmes. Founder of Know How Communications, an award winning communications consultancy, Emily has 14 years’ experience gained across the UK and Middle East. Emily has achieved her Chartership status with CIPR, and is a CIPR Chartership Assessor.

Twitter: @em_cathryn
Online: www.knowhowcomms.com

Overhauling public affairs: much needed modernisation


Public affairs has a reputation issue and a modernisation drive is long overdue. This chapter looks at how the discipline has evolved and new opportunities for practitioners. 

You’ll learn:
•    Why public affairs needs to modernise, adopt a strategic approach and offer greater transparency
•    How public affairs is much more than access and should incorporate media relations and social media
•    About grassroots campaigns as a beneficial means to an end

If ever there was a time for public affairs to sit back and take a good, hard look at itself, it is right now. And quickly. The full force of insurgent voter power is in full swing in most mature democracies. Precisely the places in which public affairs is supposed to be at its most well honed!

Whether it’s Brexit, Trump, the Italian Five Star Movement, Le Pen, Alternative For Deutschland, Scottish Independence or just good old social media - same old, same old public affairs just won’t do anymore. 

It is as disconnected from the politics around us as the so called ‘elites’ are too.

In fact many of the ‘insurgent’ groups I mentioned above are now effortlessly mainstream in the body politic. But this comes at a big price for the public affairs sector. They view traditional lobbying as being the enemy. Sometimes it is.

Where do we sit?

In some ways public affairs is indeed viewed as part of that ‘elites’ problem. 

Being interviewed on Channel 4 News by Jon Snow back in 2015, he asked me something I really had not prepared for. “Are you part of the establishment,” he inquired? 

As someone who has never thought of themselves as part of that group, I was genuinely shocked. But perhaps I should not have been.

It’s too easy to characterise public affairs in this way. Most people see it as purely lobbying and for those who only represent BIG business. 

This, of course, ignores that many of the most powerful and successful public affairs strategies don’t come from the corporate sector at all.

We need to bury the black book

But the issue remains one of perception - a perception enhanced by public affairs practice which continues to place emphasis on access.

The idea that the ‘little black book of who you know’ can suffice any more - if it ever did - must now be surely dead and buried forever. 

The question of ‘access’ is just not one that stands the test of external scrutiny anymore. This is something that I wanted to expose head on during the passage of the Westminster legislation to create the UK Government’s lobbying register back in 2013/14.

Appearing before the Public Administration Select Committee - a rather useful body which has been disbanded in the current UK parliament and which I hope comes back in a future guise - I was constantly asked the question by MPs - isn’t lobbying all about access?

You could see the MPs look rather disappointed when I told them that I could run a highly effective public affairs strategy without ever going anywhere near an MP or a minister. And that’s just the point now - access for access’s sake seems to the starting point for so much public affairs and that’s plain wrong.

Digital and media relations are equally effective

Digital and media strategies are just as good - if not better - public affairs strategies as meeting policymakers themselves these days. This emphasises why so much of the so called lobbying legislation starts from just the wrong place. Meetings rather than ideas.

So let’s hit the refresh button right here. Creating monstrous lists of top policymaker targets should not be the starting point any more. Looking at just what you want to achieve and looking at the right levers to achieve that objective has to be a better approach. It should always have been this way. 

The push back on access has to start at the beginning of any campaign. It is just too tempting to give in to clients or internal bosses who ask that perennial question: ‘Who do you know’.

Just like digital strategies, the good news is more and more serious buyers of public affairs understand that lobbying is today an all encompassing part of the communications mix. In fact sometimes a media relations approach towards a public affairs problem is going to prove much faster and much more effective.

Start from the ground up

Grassroots campaigning is also something that public affairs needs to get a handle on. If you go to the US there is an entire industry devoted to this. Some of the techniques of micro targeting used there need to be adopted here. 

For digitally savvy politicians and media respond to a bottom up, grassroots work impact much more than top down activities.

The use of polling too needs a refresh. Battered by the inability of the political polling industry to correctly predict much these days - policymakers have become super wary of any macro, national polling which suggests voters want or don’t want something to happen. I believe the lobbying sector needs to sit down with the polling sector and work out a new way.

Finally governance around public affairs needs to be robust. I have been happy to campaign with Transparency International on many issues. For example, I was happy to speak on a platform to help them launch one of the reports on the lobbying sector. While I don’t agree with every dot and comma of their approach - I do agree that the sector must not appear to operate in the shadows.

Good governance means everyone in the sector signing up to robust standards that work and are seen to work - that’s both agencies and in house teams. In that regard I have been delighted to play a part in seeing FTSE companies signing up to greater governance and also ensuring more public affairs agencies than ever now sign up to robust standards.

There’s lots more to do. But for me closing the little black book is the best start.

Iain Anderson is the Executive Chairman at Cicero and an expert in global public policy issues affecting financial services. He has over 20 years’ experience in communications, as a business journalist and then as a founding shareholder at Incisive Media. He has worked for a range of UK politicians, including Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP on his leadership bids.

Twitter: @iain_w_anderson
Online: www.cicero-group.com

Live streaming tools: a best practice guide


Live broadcast apps are the latest fashion when it comes to online communications. Learn how PR initiatives could – and should -- take advantage of these tools utilising them in a strategic way. 

You’ll learn:
•    Why streaming apps are in high demand
•    The opportunities and benefits of using live broadcasting within a PR strategy
•    The success factors for live broadcasting

The increase in the use of smartphones, the amount of time users spend on their devices and the growth in online video consumption are a few factors that justify the success of live streaming tools such as Meerkat, Periscope and Facebook Live. 

When used in a strategic fashion, live streaming resources can be a powerful communication tool for brands and organisations. The benefits of using such resources include increased brand awareness, audience engagement and message cut through. 

A key asset is the ability of such tools (apps) to humanize the relationship between brands and their audience, bringing them closer together, often a natural result of live broadcasting. 

The ‘live’ presence is seen by the public as an act of courage for being unedited in nature, giving a sense of spontaneity, authenticity and transparency to this form of communication. A willingness to answer and interact in real time is key to ensure genuine engagement from consumers and fans. 

There is also a technical and cost benefit to be derived: the digital era has caused channels to fragment and multiply and, as a result, live streaming apps have become a useful resource for brands looking to amplify their message with target audiences in a much more cost effective manner than previously. 

In a scenario that sees users connected to their smartphones on a full time basis, live broadcasting enables brands to engage audiences in a new way, at different times of the day, and spearhead the intense battle for consumer attention. 

When to use live streaming tools

There are countless opportunities for using live streaming tools but not all of them are right for every market or company. It is imperative to take into account the characteristics of the audience, the spokespeople and the organisation in question. 

Examples include: 

•    Product launch: Live streaming a product review is a more natural approach to a product launch. Being exposed to real time queries from users brings authenticity, transparency and life to the brand. 

•    Q&As: Conducting chats with business leaders. For instance, a HR staffing company can schedule periodic Q&As on career challenges or include live streaming as a strategy for launching the results of a study or research.

•    Backstage: We often do not know how the products we consume are produced or the environment in which they’re manufactured. Showing these elements via live broadcasting can help communicate company values and show the corporate culture behind products and services, particularly good for organisations wishing to show green credentials or how well they look after their staff.

•    Press conferences and events: Journalists have increasingly less time to leave the newsroom to secure news footage and distance can be a limiting factor. Therefore, live streaming tools have the potential to amplify media coverage at events and press conferences. 

•    Teaser: Live streaming is a great way to generate curiosity about a product or service. The best example is Facebook’s very first live streaming when Mark Zuckerberg debuted the new feature presenting Facebook’s workplace, meeting rooms and his personal working space. 

•    Hits: Live streaming can piggyback on trending topics and take advantage of hitting an audience in the heat of the moment, enhancing interaction and engagement. 

•    Borrowed audience: Brands and companies can leverage the audiences of media outlets to start surfing the live streaming wave. Pitch creative opportunities to the media to secure interviews, launches and live chats using the social media channels of those media outlets.

Moving from a tactical approach to a strategic one

When embracing any new comms activity, it’s important to ensure this fits with the organisational objectives and will be an effective tool within the overall comms campaign. 

Here are a few recommendations for live streaming successfully and achieving your corporate goals while retaining viewers’ attention:

•    Planning: From the moment you decide to include live streaming in your strategy, it is critical to plan the content or script in order to ensure that you are embracing your company’s goals and key messages.

•    Frequency: The best way to gain and maintain people’s attention is to live stream regularly and even create a schedule that the audience organically includes as part of their routine without even noticing.

•    Training: Not all employees, especially senior management, are born to perform live presentations or are able to keep streaming consistently. It takes practice and it is imperative to provide training for presenters, including improvisation skills, because it is common for ongoing interaction to determine the content and flow of the video. 

•    Confidentiality: Caution is required when producing the script for a live broadcast. Any small oversight can reveal confidential information or strategic data that a company doesn’t want shared. Advance planning and ongoing checks are critical. 

•    Interaction: The main asset of live streaming tools is real time interaction. If you ignore or prevent this, the communication loses its appeal and the audience can soon get frustrated. 

•    Connection: Before going live make sure you have a high quality connection, strong enough to support the streaming without interruptions or audio/video problems as these soon scare away fans.


There are many opportunities to use live streaming tools to great benefit, as explored in this chapter. However, if these are not deployed as part of an overall strategy their use can be at best an expensive mistake and at worst reputationally damaging. The organisations which plan well and take advantage of this new way of communicating have an unprecedented chance to better understand and engage with their audiences, add authenticity, and further humanise their brand. Why not give it a go. 

Leonardo Stavale is the Corporate Communications Manager at Perspectiva Comunicação with more than 10 years of experience. He is responsible for driving public relations and content strategies for his clients. 

Twitter: @leonardostavale
Online: http://www.perspectivabrasil.com.br/


Video as a communications channel


Video has quietly been driving the arms race between tech companies and between social media platforms. That’s a race that communications teams can take advantage of.

You’ll learn:

•    Video has become an important channel for how people use the media
•    Most communications teams don’t have the understanding or the skills to use video
•    The days of needing to bring in a film crew to shoot video are over. You can do it

Okay, so if you hear Google saying that 90 per cent of the internet is going to be video within the next few years what goes through your mind? 

If it’s surprise, take a look around your home and see what your family are doing. Mine? As I write this, my son is using his phone to watch YouTube clips of people playing computer games. My daughter is watching Tracey Beaker episodes on iplayer on a tablet. My wife is watching catch-up TV texting her friend.

It’s an everyday story of a family passing the time. 

Go on a train or a bus and the story is broadly the same. People are using devices to watch, play and share.

Now think for a second about what your team is good at. Does that include video? Use your YouTube channel as a yardstick. How’s that looking? There’s more than 40 million users in the UK. What’s your most recent video? How many are there and how many views - a few thousand? A few dozen?

Facebook’s future is video

Let’s put some numbers on that. Ofcom tell us that more than 70 per cent of the UK population have a smartphone and more than 40 per cent of people are happy to watch short videos on it. That’s more than half download TV programmes to watch back.

Earlier this year Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg was asked to talk about how he saw the future panning out. That future, he said, was video.

“Most of the content 10 years ago was text, and then photos, and now it’s quickly becoming videos,” Zuckerberg said. “I just think that we’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.”

Smartphone technology is powering video

The reason why video has grown so quickly is the mobile phone in your pocket. As each new phone’s spec rises you are able to watch more content that chews through more of your bandwidth. So video on your phone is within easy reach. 

Every leading social platform has woken up to the fact that people can watch video on their devices. It has become the new battleground for audience. Currently in 2016 there are rewards for posting video direct to channels. For example, the Facebook algorithm is framed to reward you for uploading content directly to the platform. The rewards and encouragement are even higher for Facebook Live.

Look at how Twitter is pushing video posted in its app. Look at Snapchat stories and how Instagram is upping the limit to 60 seconds of video content.

Video prevented a military coup from happening

Video is also the news. As events happen, often within seconds mobile phone footage is posted online.

Such is the role that video is playing that an entire coup d’état was averted simply through the use of video. When elements of the Turkish military staged an uprising they parked their tanks outside the TV stations. How retro. They’d forgotten that people had the ability to livestream from their mobile phones. So, the President Facetimed and the footage was broadcast. The population responded to a call to take to the streets. As they did they livestreamed it.

Closer to home, newspapers have stripped out their newsrooms and turned into media producers. Video content gets priority shared across online platforms. 

So what does this mean for comms?

For a start, it means knowing your audience really well. It means checking the Ofcom data for what media they are likely to use. It also means checking with them what their favoured channels are. It means that your Facebook strategy has become your Facebook video strategy. It means that you need to be thinking of what video content you can harness and use. 

It means equipping your team with the tech for them to shoot content. For flexibility this isn’t a video camera or a DSLR. It’s a smartphone. It also means devolving access to people across the organisation. In the Environment Agency, for example, having officers on the ground trained-up and able to shoot video as flooding strikes gives an eye-on-the-ground immediacy that works well with social media.

For the public sector, the comms team that upskills people on the frontline will get back footage of real people doing things out and about for the people they serve.

Think this isn’t a private sector thing? How much more effective would your internal comms be if staff themselves could be seen on video talking about their Comic Relief bed push or how the internal change programme was making the job easier for them. 

The first steps are within reach

You don’t need to be a filmmaker to take advantage of video. You can do so yourself. As with any new channel, spend some time getting to know it. Kick the tyres. Experiment. Watch what works and sign-up to the feeds of people who create content you find engaging. Which videos are being shared with you on Facebook? How long are they? What is your 11-year-old son watching? Or your 42-year-old partner?

Good video content that comms and PR people can learn from isn’t even hidden within plain sight. It’s all around us.

Almost all mobile and tablets phones now can shoot broadcast quality footage. The app ecosystem around Android and iOS has pulled away from Windows and BlackBerry. The App Store and Google Play have plenty of good editing software apps. iMovie works well on iOS devices and KineMaster can achieve on your phone what it would have cost more than £1,000 to achieve a few short years ago. 

For the past 18 months I’ve been running workshops with my colleague Steven Davies in which we give people the understanding of where video is so they know the strategy. We then give them the technical skills to shoot good video. This includes the law of thirds which sees what you are filming framed a third of the way along the image. Then we give them editing skills. But the parting advice is always the same.

The advice is this. Don’t make the next video be work related. Let it be your cat, your dog or your journey home. The more you use your phone for video the greater your confidence. 

But what works as a video?

This is the reassuring bit. Human beings interacting with other human beings work. Yes, cats do. So do dogs. Something that looks as though it has had nothing spent on it is very often fine. It’s how the internet rolls.

One video we always show in training is ‘Dr Olivia’s Guide to A&E’. Children play the role of doctors and adults are the patients in a role reversal. Dr Olivia tells each grown up who turns up at A&E with a minor ailment where to get help instead of waiting.

Why does it work? Because humans are talking to other humans. And Dr Olivia’s Mum frantically shared it on Facebook to all her friends. The old newsroom value that ‘news is people’ still works on video. Why would they not follow suit?

Length of video matters. On Facebook, 21 seconds is the optimum time. On YouTube go beyond three minutes or so and you’ll be the only one watching. 

If you’re livestreaming via Facebook Live or Periscope, the advice is to have a good WiFi connection and tell people in advance to build an audience.

On Snapchat, shoot upright. Elsewhere, try and shoot landscape.

Give it a go, the time and investment will pay dividends.

Figure 1 Video: optimum length chart

Dan Slee is co-founder and director of comms2point0. He has more than 20 years experience working for and with the media as a journalist and then in a senior role in a local government communications team. 

Twitter: @danslee
Online: http://comms2point0.co.uk/


How to use the latest technology to achieve employee engagement


The time has come for us to rethink our engagement approach and apply lessons learned from the consumer sphere. Mobile technology has already changed how companies do business but they have yet to exploit its many merits in the name of employee engagement.

You’ll learn:
•    To rethink the current approach of reaching and engaging every employee
•    The opportunity available by introducing mobile technology
•    How to achieve the best employee engagement results from deploying mobile technology

Who are we trying to engage?

You may think this is a strange question to ask but unfortunately, it’s necessary. If I were to ask every employee engagement professional, most would say ‘everyone’. I agree. We should be trying to engage everyone. But, for decades, we have been casually ignoring the majority of our employees. 

80% (2.4 billion globally) are non-desk employees (NDEs). These ‘untethered’ workers are difficult to reach and near impossible to hear from. Rather than collectively doing something about it, we have been sticking our heads in the sand and continuing to focus on engaging those we can see and reach – the office employee. 

Traditional approaches

Traditional digital channels, such as intranets and most enterprise social networks (ESNs), primarily serve employees who are desk-based. Of the 80% of NDEs around the world, 83% have no corporate email address - so accessing a corporate intranet or ESN is near impossible. 84% say they receive not enough communication to perform their jobs effectively. These employees are making products and serving customers as the face of the brand.

I’m not advocating a focus only on NDEs. Of course a holistic approach is the only way to drive end-to-end engagement. The continued increase in work flexibility, often referred to as the digital workplace, means that desk-based employees also expect to be connected with their colleagues, systems and customers, while on the go. Systems which are mobile and easy to access anytime, anywhere, are now becoming the norm. 

Gone are the days of top-down communications, archaic document libraries, corporate newsfeeds, and ghost written letters from the CEO.

Going mobile

A mobile revolution happened in the consumer sphere over nine years ago. Why is the world of enterprise lagging? 

Employees are consumers also; they have become accustomed to using intuitive tools, which provide relevant information, in real time. They are no longer waiting for their employers to provide them with these tools. If the company doesn’t provide them, they will use externally available tools for work purposes. Evernote and Facebook are great examples. This presents the IT team with a host of issues, such as loss of control, data security and knowledge management.

Mobile can be an extremely effective engagement channel as it knows who you are, where you are and what you like. 

We are becoming addicted to our smartphones, relying on them to complete ever-increasingly critical tasks. The average person checks their phone over 150 times a day. Despite this, productivity is barely rising. Companies must adopt employee experiences that put employees at the heart. 

Enterprise seems wedded to desktop experiences, a one-size-fits-all approach, which focuses on push communications and document management. Yet, when we look at consumer experiences, this approach has long gone. 

Consumer mobile experiences use the best of peer-to-peer, democratized, media-rich, crowd-sourced communication and innovation. Imagine the transformation in employee engagement if the organisation was to adopt even half of these approaches. 

A recent survey found that small companies, which were defined as “mobile leaders” - due to the intensity of mobile usage - saw 200% greater revenue growth and hired people at a rate 800% faster than “mobile laggards.”

Transformational technology

If we wish to transform how enterprises engage their employees, then we have to adopt transformational approaches. Given the technological era we are currently in, adopting transformational technology as part of the approach is an obvious choice.

Transformational technology brings together social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) capabilities with a new platform to improve every employee experience.

Enabling employees to engage with anyone, anytime, anywhere and being able to accurately measure the engagement, spot trends and opportunities would transform the way companies do business.

The winning trinity

For companies who are looking at introducing a mobile channel, there are three aspects that are critical to success – the winning trinity.

1.    Immediacy – providing employees with content in real time. Finding out about company news as it happens, internally rather than via external sources, like Google alerts.

2.    Context – delivering only relevant news and updates so employees are seeing what they need to know rather than ‘noise’ from across the business. Many companies deploy internet solutions which quickly overwhelm their employees as they start to drown in a sea of information. Important content gets missed while content that is irrelevant to the individual gets pride of place.

3.    Design – enterprise grade solutions are no longer going to cut it. As mentioned earlier, employees expect a consumer-like experience. If you don’t provide them with one, they will source their own tool externally and ignore yours. 

Content strategy and approach

The content you publish on a mobile platform is as important as the channel itself. Publishing desktop content on a mobile platform won’t get you the engagement you are looking for. 

The following are guidelines for copy length:

Mobile content should be short, to the point, solicit interaction where possible, and include rich media such as images and videos.

A shortcut to driving engagement on a mobile channel is to enable user-generated content. This means giving employees a voice. Most channels will provide a moderation layer, reassuring administrators that control is not lost. However, the message it gives employees is integral to engagement: ‘We trust you, we want to hear from you, your opinion really matters’.

Crowd-sourcing video

If you wish to take the engagement experience up a notch, encourage crowd-sourced video content. This may work better in certain cultures (company and geographic) but when it does, it is a very powerful engagement driver. 

Encouraging leaders to create video via their smartphone rather than expensive and often dry, scripted captures, will be very well received by employees. Replacing a letter from the CEO, which is often farmed out to the communications team, with a short authentic video will receive more engagement that you would imagine.


Jump on or get left behind

Mobile technology continues to change the world. It has already changed how we do business, for the better. If you wish to transform the employee experience, take the first step and explore how mobile technology can improve the company. 

There are many options out there to suit every type of business, budget and culture. Those who grasp the strategic opportunity, will lead the way over the coming years. Those who wait to see what others will do, will join the laggards.


[1] Kevin Spain: https://techcrunch.com/2015/03/30/the-next-billion-dollar-market-opportunity-is-mobile-enterprise/

[2] Tribe Report 2012: https://www.joomag.com/magazine/mag/0431351001428434202?feature=archive

[3] Tribe Report 2012: https://www.joomag.com/magazine/mag/0431351001428434202?feature=archive

[4] Mary Meeker, Liang Wu. KPCB Internet Trends 2013. Available at: www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/kpcb-internet-trends-2013

[5] Boston Consulting Group (BCG): 

Ciara O’Keeffe, is VP of Product and Customer Delivery, StaffConnect. She is a digital communications leader, speaker, author and judge. Having gained experience within HR and Internal Communication roles at Unilever, L’Oréal and Diageo, she now specializes in enterprise mobile technology. Ciara has led multiple projects to launch apps in enterprises around the world.

Twitter: @CommsOKeeffe
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