It's About the Work





On Friday, it was confirmed by a national referendum that the UK electorate wishes to leave the European Union.

We are still only on day 5 after the vote, and as one economist put it on Friday, “Today is a great day for journalism.”  The real impact of the vote will not be truly felt for some time and the immediate reaction is, as usual, being elevated by media coverage that in turn goads global markets to react. For now, this is what we know:

Immediate Consequences

The immediate consequences over the last few days have been political and economic.  Many millions of pounds have been wiped off the value of companies traded on global markets, and the value of the pound (£) decreased to the lowest it has been since 1985.  According to Merrill Lynch, we expect a UK recession in the next two quarters and a significant shock for the Euro as well as the wider global economy.  But the Bank of England under Mark Carney will, together with the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne attempt to steady the ship in terms of reassuring investors. They have been contingency planning for some time and Carney was among the first to release a statement on Friday.

Economic Opportunity

The pound is now worth $1.32 which actually presents an exciting opportunity for agency acquisitions in the UK. And, as it always comes back to soccer (proper football), you may see more American groups buying teams in England and potential difficulties in bringing non-British talent into the league.  Players may begin to prioritise other European markets instead.

Political Implications

On the political side, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, which has triggered a leadership contest.  This will allow members of the parliamentary Conservative party to select a new leader outside a public voting process. However, it could also mean a snap general election as early as this October when the new leader is in place. In addition, members of the Labour party have submitted a vote of no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn. Many in media and political circles are saying that he is responsible for the result of the vote because of his failure to campaign hard enough in support of a “Remain” vote. We are also hearing a whole range of other signals from across the UK, including a call from Scottish Nationalist Leader Nicola Sturgeon for another Scottish Referendum, as well as a call from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Northern Ireland to have a referendum on a united Ireland. There are even echoes from other European countries to follow suit after the UK’s decision.

The Campaign & The Vote

Commentators have said that it was the less affluent communities in the middle and north of England, who feel disenfranchised by austerity measures made by the current government, that ultimately fueled the “Leave” vote.  Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson said on Friday that the UK had a “glorious opportunity” to re-establish itself on the world stage and “find our voice in the world again.”  UKIP leader Nigel Farage who led a very strong campaign for many years to leave the EU, became labelled as the more aggressive face of “Leave,” often accused of racism and being anti-immigration.  Since Friday, the mix of signals coming from the “Leave” camp has been confusing, with comments and clips trending on social media that expose potential gaps in their strategy.

The campaign on both sides has been fragmented, complex and aggressive.  It has torn apart parties and relationships on both sides of the House of Commons, and sadly one MP was brutally murdered in the days leading up to the vote.

MPs across both sides of the House of Commons have also called for calm in light of an increase in racist attacks since Friday, fueled by an ill-placed, un-British and unjustified prejudice.

What’s next?

Does this mean the end of the United Kingdom?  The end of the European Union

It is the nature of media and public relations to react to a terrific event. However, at this point, it is merely a thought fueled by fear and excitement and based on very little fact.  Even the dramatic changes in global markets will clearly not be permanent. The emotional responses from politicians and voters alike will all eventually have to find their way to a practical conclusion and as always, life will go on.

There is change ahead but it is change that has been mandated by the people and therefore will happen lawfully and with process. This result has shaken both sides but it will become another challenge for our government and our people to overcome.  Will we be better or worse off?  Only time will tell.

Jim Selman is a managing director in Allison+Partners’ London office. 



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Two months after Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States, Twitter spun off into its own company. Instagram was three years away from launch.

As the first presidential candidate – and the first President of the United States – to be faced with the power of social media, Barack Obama has ushered in a new era of digital engagement for the White House and its staff. Looking beyond traditional media, his administration has launched dozens of online accounts, some with audiences that rival traditional media companies – including an Instagram account with more than 2 million followers and aTwitter account with more than 10 million followers. Two months into his first term, President Obama held an Online Town Hall and answered some of the 104,000 user-submitted questions.

Now, in the final months of his presidency, the first social media handoff in the history of the American presidency is looming. Questions arise, such as who will take over access to the network of online profiles, how will the channels change and will innovative use of social media continue with the new president? And, will they even bother with the @POTUS social accounts? Since 2007, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have started their own social media handles and amassed sizable followings.

There’s more to consider than the social media handles, too. The Obama administration created (a flashier site than the previous, an Office of Digital Strategy to sit alongside the Office of Communications and online tools such as “We the People” and a Medium account with more than 100,000 readers.

If this were a business hand-off between agencies or new administrators, social media strategy would typically recommend maintaining a consistent tone and voice, revisiting content strategy and evaluating what’s resonating with each audience. In this situation though, the voice should change and the content will follow a new perspective and news/events cycle.

Whichever channels the 45th President of the United States decides to use, one thing is for sure, the world will be watching…and tweeting.

Read more from International Business Times.



The Future IS the Platform

Copyright: alexsl
Copyright: alexsl


When looking for the right platform to create content, the least utilized yet most powerful approach is to envision the future.

Tech companies dominate future-focused discussions, as they’re perceived to be creating the next era of human experiences with new technologies. For example, GE and Oracle are masterfully touting a vision of the Internet of Things. But these companies, and their peers, won’t be the only firms in the market in 2050.

Having worked in China for the past 20 years, I can say with confidence that few markets in the world are as obsessed with the future or offer brands so many opportunities to discuss their role in shaping a better tomorrow. It’s for these reasons that we emphasize the power of future-based communications with our clients.

For example, I have worked with a Swedish home furnishings company to create a vision of China 2030 to accelerate internal communications and planning. I’ve also assisted a medical devices company in the development of a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss China’s role in the future medical technology innovation network. Right now we’re working with a global leader in aviation to communicate a vision of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, in which regional airports and utility aircraft contribute equally to economic integration as will rail links and ports.

Unfortunately, most brands are hesitant to leverage the future and their vision of it. This is because the future is a complex and seemingly unknowable thing. Also, while reluctant to admit it, many CEOs and their management teams don’t have a clear vision of their place in the market over the next few decades. This is understandable, as having an MBA doesn’t automatically turn a business leader into the Oracle of Delphi. However, communicators should make the future a platform for content creation, engagement and influencer initiatives exactly because it’s such a big, complex and critical topic.

Here are some reasons and recommendations to consider:

  1. If your firm doesn’t already have a vision of the future, and its place in it, get one. Your shareholders, employees and customers will thank you for it. The future-focused vision answers questions such as: Why should I invest in your firm? Why should I work for your firm? And, why should I partner with your firm? Building a vision involves getting smart people in a room to have a thoughtful conversation about your market, trends impacting it, a thorough analysis of what this means for your business and how you will respond.
  1. Building a vision of the future is a valuable exercise in stakeholder engagement, risk management and innovation. Developing a vision of the future is an opportunity to invite your leadership, partners, regulators, researchers, and others, to share insights and knowledge. Leading the conversation about the future of your market positions your firm as forward thinking and prepared to capitalize on opportunities. Furthermore, the exchange that follows is likely to reveal risks, such as previously unexplored market trends, as well as spur innovation as potential new products and services are identified.
  1. Once you have defined your vision, continually test it and don’t be afraid to tinker. The megatrends affecting the global economy and shaping your market will shift and you should adjust your vision accordingly. Discussions about the future are fluid by nature and never become stale. This is what makes a future-focused platform so powerful.

Bill Adams is an executive vice president in Allison+Partners’ Global China Practice and market leader in Shanghai.

Originally posted on O’Dwyer’s PR Blog



Is Conventional Storytelling Dead?



This was the question asked and answered during a panel session at the In2 Innovation Summit in EMEA, moderated by our very own Jim Selman, managing director of the UK. Below are some highlights from the 40-minute discussion with Kaspersky Lab’s Head of Strategic Projects, Rainer Bock; former Mirror Deputy Features Editor, Shiraz Lalani, and Stack Overflow’s EMEA Marketing Manager, Natalia Radcliffe-Brine.:

Was the ‘old’ method really storytelling?

It is accepted that the traditional PR model of simply faxing, posting or hitting send on a self-serving press release will no longer generate meaningful results for a brand. The 24-hour news cycle and the emergence of community-driven content through a myriad of channels has meant a significant loss of control for a brand in developing and driving an impactful story.

However, did the old method really create compelling stories? According to the panelists, we used to not have to think about what it meant to generate a captivating story that was consistent with the brand and how it drove ongoing value. The level of control we had over this meant we could say what we want, giving little thought to the long-term implications. As noted by Shiraz, “It’s easy to control a brand in a product like a magazine, but much harder to do this online”.

This level of control isn’t compatible with effective storytelling which should be interesting, lively and develop its own life.

Stories have to be authentic, and often community-led, in order to be successful.

Today’s landscape means there is a struggle in creating a message that the company wants and what the community wants to tell. It’s critical that brands are listening closely to their community in order to be successful. The stories should be shaped in this way as it lends a crucial authenticity to your stories. What’s more, it encourages your community to develop the story in a positive way.

While the community was always a consideration when developing stories for brands, it wasn’t the primary consideration it now is. The community gives life to the story and controls how it evolves. While the purpose of conventional method of storytelling was to retain control of the message, the opposite is true in today’s environment. It also means that storytellers have to be quick to react and shift to another story that’s more interesting and engaging.

As explained by Natalia Radcliffe-Brine, “When we have failed, it’s when we tried to control it too much.”

Internal storytelling can be just as important.

According to the panelists, it can prove challenging to demonstrate the value of this new approach to storytelling to business stakeholders, many of whom are fixated on the traditional press release and old methods of disseminating a brand’s message. There are also more people that want to input on these stories including marketing and sales teams. As a result, another part of a PR professional’s role is to tell the story in the right ‘language’ internally as well as externally, and ensure to demonstrate its value. We need to also convince other disciplines that if we have a story, each will get a return on it.

What does this mean for the industry?

As discussed by the panel, having strong writing skills and a good network were previously the most important skills you could have for this profession. These days, these skills are being pushed down the list.

Today, it’s crucial to have an understanding of how to develop stories and how they could unfold through many different channels. It’s necessary to be experienced in dealing with stakeholders. Most importantly, people have to be adaptable and immersed in the world around them to help identify, shape and predict the path of stories while remaining consistent with your brand values.

So, is conventional storytelling dead? Not exactly. While it was and always will be the crux of what we do as PR professionals, a new, adaptable and shared storytelling process is now becoming more prevalent. Storytelling will always be our currency. As concluded by Shiraz, “If we don’t have a story, it’s a bad day in the office”.

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