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FEBRUARY 21, 2019 //     

The Stream Episode 3: Unpacking a Viral Video’s Success

By: Owen Clark


Sometimes there is a great story behind a great story. Such is the case in the third episode of The Stream podcast, which takes us the behind-the-scenes of the “shockingly successful” “Close Before You Doze” video campaign from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI).

If you aren’t one of the 10M+ people who have already watched the video, stop what you’re doing and check it out now. It might save your life. It will also make you think twice about how a simple message and a creative approach to storytelling can spread like…well, you get the idea. 

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Fire is just the beginning of what went into the production of this officially “viral” video sensation. There are literal hurricanes, metaphorical production headwinds and a host of opportunities where the project would have gone sideways if it wasn’t for a creative team effort from everyone involved.

To tell this story properly, we switched from the Q&A format you heard in the first two podcast episodes and pivoted to an “oral history,” where we hear first-hand from folks at UL, Luntz Global and Allison+Partners who brought the video to life. By listening to what they have to say, you’ll learn about what it takes to create a viral video and what the project’s success says about the positive potential for social information sharing.

Thanks for listening, and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

FEBRUARY 8, 2019 //     

When Your Mobile Phone Can’t Help You

Credit: Your Black WorldBy: Scott Allison 

Like many people, I’m addicted to my smartphone and all the incredible things it can do. However, as a communicator and public speaker, I’ve seen firsthand how this great technological advance has impacted peoples’ ability to communicate in person. It’s now much easier to deliver stories from behind a shiny device than to stand up in public and present your point of view. And, for those who’d rather face death than face an audience, public speaking has become a lot scarier.

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I was one of those people. I had a massive fear of public speaking and, ironically, I was just launching a career in public relations. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) pointed out how it was an unfortunate career choice when public speaking would play such a significant role. Thanks.

Instead of hiding, I decided to join Toastmasters though and tackle the problem head on. It was a great chapter that met on Tuesday mornings in downtown San Diego. This was 30 years ago and some of the people in that group are still friends of mine today. We were all just starting out in our careers and recognizing the importance that public speaking would play. I gradually overcame the fear and recognized that I enjoyed speaking. I started to do it competitively, and ultimately became president of the local Toastmasters chapter.

As my career evolved, I realized I could take the skills I had learned and help others who were uncomfortable speaking. At Allison+Partners, I’ve had the opportunity to work with colleagues to assist many CEOs, filmmakers, marketing executives and even high-school students with their presentation skills. I know we’ve made a material difference in helping them find their voice, build authenticity and over-come roadblocks. I’m proud of the impact we may have made when I see people like filmmaker Peter Ramsey, who we media trained when he directed “Rise of the Guardians,” give a compelling speech after winning a Golden Globe Award last month. 

At the end of the day, technology cannot replace or even enhance one’s ability to give a powerful in-person presentation. Sometimes you must stand and deliver, and I worry the frenzy on digital and mobile platforms is detracting from building human interaction skills. I’m grateful for the time I’ve invested on my public speaking skills and I believe what I learned was essential to advancing my career, and is also important for others. Technology is amazing, but not everything can be disrupted.  People spend a lot of time focused on their “personal brand” which is largely focused online. But how about the real brand …  the brand people see when you stand up and speak?

Many, many people are still terrified of public speaking and most are doing nothing to improve these skills. However, at some point in time, almost everyone will need to stand up and deliver a presentation to colleagues, a sales target or group they’re involved with. Their mobile won’t be there to save them.

Scott Allison is the chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners

JANUARY 24, 2019 //     

Startup Roulette: Why The House Usually Wins

Credit: Don Mason / Getty ImagesBy: Scott Allison 

There’s always great anticipation when new companies with old ideas and old companies with new ideas flock to CES. Las Vegas provides the perfect backdrop to the startup community as the place where gamblers come in droves hoping and expecting to “win big” at the casino. But there’s a reason they keep building humongous new hotels and casinos there … the house almost always wins.

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The odds aren’t much better for startup companies. The failure rate is 95%, which is about the same odds you get on a roulette table. As a fellow entrepreneur who has been fortunate to study startups closely from a three-dimensional vantage point over a 20-year period, I would not want to discourage anyone. Starting and owning your own company is an amazing experience, but a reality check is also in order.

Eighteen years ago, Allison+Partners was a tiny startup that was woefully under-capitalized. Yet we were able to make it profitable in under 12 months and have delivered an astounding 6,000% growth since then. Now, we have 30 offices and more than 450 people around the globe. During our trajectory, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best and most disruptive startups, including YouTube, Dropbox and Whatsapp, as well as many small companies that never made it. I’ve also been fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) to do some angel investing on the side.

The culmination of these experiences has given me a clear perspective on why startups are so difficult to get off the ground and why so many fail. To the brave of heart who decide to roll the dice, I offer a few nuggets of advice…   

Having more money to invest does not mean you’ll survive.

We built our company with an initial investment of $300,000. It wasn’t enough, but we made it work. We knew that as a professional services company, few outside investors would be interested and we’d have to bootstrap it on our own. But we had a clear business plan in place and were very cautious with how we invested and spent.

Entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature and always believe they could be successful if they could only raise one more round. Unfortunately, many startups raise tons of money and then waste it. I won’t ever forget working with a startup in 2000 that raised and blew $750 million. The challenge wasn’t that they didn’t have enough money. It was that they couldn’t clearly articulate what their company stood for and were constantly changing their business model. Put simply, they did not know who they were. If you’re not clear on your objectives and your business strategy is wrong, more money won’t solve the problem. 

Know who you’re selling to and if there’s a viable market. 

Seems easy, right? Wrong. I’m always amazed at how many startups haven’t done their homework and don’t understand the marketplace. Many also don’t focus on sales or fall victim to “fascination with shiny objects” – constantly changing their product or service.  

When we launched our company, the founding partners had all been in the business for 15+ years. We knew the market and how our services would resonate in the marketplace. This deep understanding, combined with our focus on investing in our core offerings, laid the foundation for our success today.

Profits matter.  

We’re all familiar with Uber and know the company isn’t yet profitable. Think you can survive the same way? Sorry, you’re not Uber. Very few companies are. You need to make money. 

The startup graveyard is littered with companies that had great ideas but couldn’t turn a profit. This theory was proven many times in the dot.com era and still persists today. Turning a great idea into a great company is not easy, which is why I’ve always admired successful entrepreneurs like Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum. They had great ideas, focused on building robust and sustainable companies and surrounded themselves with good, smart people to help bring their visions to life. They had passion, but also knew there is seldom a substitute for being profitable through both good and bad times.  

Scott Allison is the chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners.

JANUARY 9, 2019 //     

Effective media relations strategies amid the changing media landscape

By: Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald

In the public relations industry, media relationships are important to secure earned media stories that add business value for clients. We consistently take out editors, pitch our clients and build important, lasting relationships. But beyond standard relationship-building practices, how do we elevate our company and relationships in unique ways as editorial staffs continue to shrink and face-to-face time increasingly diminishes?

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As the landscape continues to shift rapidly – print editions closing, frequent editor moves, etc. – it’s critical to hear directly from the source on a regular basis to learn how we can most effectively work with our key media contacts.

Cue the launch of Allison+Partners’ Media Maven Panel, an initiative developed in fall 2018 with Allison+Partners’ unique entrepreneurial spirit in mind to offer employees at all levels direct access to coveted media we frequently work with. The first panel’s theme, “Media 101,” presented an incredible opportunity to hear from three top-tier editors about how PR professionals can shine with a strong aptitude of media relations basics.

We hosted the below editors in our NYC office for an engaging discussion:

  • Amy Marturana, SELF senior fitness editor
  • Kerry Flynn, Digiday marketing reporter
  • Mike Murphy, Quartz deputy technology editor

We purposefully recruited editors from three different verticals (lifestyle, marketing, tech) to get a well-rounded perspective on best practices. We covered all things media – from a day-in-the-life, to the stories they’re most passionate about and the qualities they most respect in their favorite PR practitioners.

The Media Maven panel success is two-fold – we learn directly from editors excited to share best practices that, in turn, make our working relationship much stronger. And it’s a fantastic relationship-building opportunity, unique to our company. Hosting editors in our office gives them a special inside look at the Allison+Partners culture – another incredibly special differentiator to our agency and an energy and enthusiasm felt immediately upon entering one of our offices. 

Stemming from the panel, we walked away with three key learnings that can help any PR professional break through the pitching clutter:

Do your research – While this might seem obvious, not everyone does it (especially when on a tight deadline). Know the publication you pitch, what it covers/what it doesn’t and how your client most strategically fits in. Editors appreciate when you pitch them specific sections that prove you’ve done your research and know the publication or call out an article you’ve recently read and liked. Also, if an editor has just covered a topic, don’t pitch them on the same story. Doing your research also means knowing the editors’ beat and if they report for the print or online version – this of course informs their reporting timeframe and deadlines.

When to pitch, when not to and how-to follow-up appropriately –  Editors receive an influx of pitches between the 9-10 a.m. hour. When possible, try to pitch outside this timeframe so your note doesn’t get lost. Also – avoid addressing multiple editors in one email. This often creates a bystander effect, and no one ends up responding. It’s more impactful to address the one editor that’s the best fit. When not to pitch? Right before a holiday (stories are typically already baked, they’re not starting anything new), before a life event (i.e. if an editor is getting married) and avoid the weekends. Regarding follow-up, all editors said: “Do not call!” According to the editors, the only appropriate time to call is when you’re offering a publication an exclusive with a tight deadline. Otherwise, follow-up via email with a maximum of two emails. Pro-tip – when following up, consider reframing the angle of your initial pitch to appeal to the editor in a fresh way.

Relationship building is critical, so invest in it – Again, something that might seem obvious, but it needs to continue to be a top priority for PR practitioners. Relationship building is important beyond securing placements for clients. It makes the editor more comfortable to share candid feedback (which our clients always appreciate!). Some editors might avoid transparency when it comes to candid feedback if they don’t know you. When setting up meetings, ask what’s most convenient for that specific editor – everyone’s schedule and preference is different. Some might only have time for a morning coffee where others are more open to lunch or after work drinks/activities. Not in the same market as a key editor? No worries. Nowadays, editors are often open to building relationships via social media or email. Comment on an Instagram you thought was interesting or flag a story you loved over email. If you notice an editor is visiting in your market, reach out to make plans. Editors will appreciate the effort.

In 2019, we look forward to hosting additional Media Maven panels across the network in different offices and markets – ensuring we’re always up-to-date on our media relations knowledge and putting forward the most thoughtful, and impactful media strategies. Because, ultimately, it’s about the work.

Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald are account directors in Allison+Partners’ NYC office, specializing in media relations across the consumer and technology industries.

DECEMBER 7, 2018 //     

AI drives tech in China: Dispatches from the “Saudi Arabia of Data”

Credit: CNBC.comBy: Paul Mottram

As trade tensions between the United States and China dominate economic news, the world’s second-largest economy has accelerated in terms of tech. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine, and data is the fuel. And China has become, quite simply, the Saudi Arabia of data.

Those were the sentiments of Chinese and international tech leaders and investors who gathered at CNBC’s East Tech West conference at the Nansha new economic zone of Guangzhou in late November to investigate and discuss the outlook for China’s tech sector.

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A series of speakers illuminated the reasons why. The Chinese consumer is the hero. Consumer spending now represents almost 66 percent of GDP -- a huge shift from the country’s traditionally investment-dominated economy. Consumers are also young, accepting of technology and increasingly demanding. Central, provincial and local governments actively support innovation. And there’s a critical mass of tech talent, both entering the workforce and returning from overseas.

AI as enabler

Alibaba Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist Wanli Min described AI and cloud technologies as the “twin turbo drive engine” of the new Chinese economy.

Take urban transportation, for example. China’s dominant ride-hailing service Didi handles more than 30 million trips every day, which in turn generates more than 100 terabytes of data. Didi not only has the data to plan trips in real time, but also claims to accurately forecast traffic patterns 15-30 minutes in advance. Meanwhile, a system pioneered by Alibaba controls traffic signals in the city of Hangzhou and reduces average ambulance arrival times by 48 percent.

Another example includes cutting-edge software development accompanied by hardware. New 5G mobile infrastructure enables the low latency necessary for effective autonomous driving applications, while AI-enabled chipsets allow vision systems to increase simultaneous recognition from around 20 discrete objects to more than 100.

This kind of technology and experience favorably positions Chinese companies to extend their reach overseas. As one AI company CEO pointed out, driving is rules-based. And if systems can be developed for relatively relaxed – in other words, unpredictable – societies, they will have fewer problems in more orderly places like Europe and North America.

“If you can do autonomous driving in India, you can do it anywhere,” he said.

Retail, banking and healthcare

In addition to transportation, tech-enabled transformation is also increasingly happening across other sectors in China.

Events, such as the annual Singles Day, have already brought Chinese e-commerce to the world’s attention. But speakers at East Tech West talked mostly about completing the retail system to encompass developments in payment and logistics and transforming shopping as we know it. While technologies, such as facial recognition, may appear to give retailers new, tailored sales opportunities, the ultimate power in the retail relationship will shift to consumers on the one hand and manufacturers on the other. Salespeople will act as mediators, but stores themselves will be simply showrooms and warehouses.

Similar fundamental shifts have begun in consumer banking. As Yang Qiang of Tencent’s WeBank pointed out, “on the Internet, everyone is a VIP customer.” He predicted banking is not so much being disintermediated as much as being more integrated into people’s lives.

“Banking will be like oxygen,” he said. “In your pocket, in your home and in your car.”

China’s healthcare system is one sector speakers agreed is most ripe for innovation. With more than 8 billion annual healthcare visits in China, that’s a lot of pain points – literally and figuratively. Machine learning and AI play a significant role. One smartphone picture of your eye can be used to diagnose more than 1,000 vision conditions and disorders. And as more data is gathered, the more effective the system will be.

Desensitizing data

In healthcare as with financial services, a key recurring concept was the “desensitizing” of data, whereby useful personal information collected by big-data systems is effectively separated from the identity of the user. While the topic of government access to data was studiously avoided by speakers and interviewers alike, there was clear recognition of the need for privacy and trust in the commercial world.

Overall, two days of presentations painted a picture of optimism and opportunity backed up with concrete examples of innovation impacting people’s lives now. Macroeconomic headlines and geopolitical realities weren’t ignored, but it will clearly take more than a trade war to stop the Chinese tech juggernaut.

Paul Mottram is managing director of All Told, Asia Pacific.

NOVEMBER 26, 2018 //     

Is #GivingTuesday just a forced fundraising moment?

Credit: Good360By: Scott Pansky

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. and major shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This movement kicks off the charitable season, when many people focus on their end-of-year giving.

However, as the day draws near, my email box is again filling up with requests for donations, and I can’t help but question some of the organizations that only use this strategy to participate once a year. Am I just another name in a data base? Wouldn’t it be a better to reach out more often and build a deeper relationship with your donors rather than competing with numerous causes for year-end donations?

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Don’t get me wrong, #GivingTuesday has helped charities raise more than $300 million dollars since its inception, but this effort now feels like a charity requirement – a box to be checked – rather than an opportunity to build deeper, authentic relationships with donors. I even received an email from GoFundMe.com asking me to select my favorite nonprofit and invite my friends and family to give to my favorite cause #GivingTuesday.

Having worked with charities for more than 26 years, I want to take this holiday season to remind them, and those making donations, the importance of building long-term and engaging relationships and promoting an organization’s impact year-round. Here are some tips for nonprofits to consider when participating in post #GivingTuesday this year and next:

  • Share the impact of your funding efforts, not just money raised, but how the funds were usede. how many meals were served, how many scholarships were awarded, research grants distributed, gallons of water secured, services provided.
  • Don’t always ask for donations. Utilize your database (with opt-in or out options) to share your best stories. This can include testimonials from patients or families impacted by an issue, research findings, or stories of success.
  • Thank your donors often. Each donation, no matter the size is a gift. Donors want to feel appreciated and know that their gift is making a difference. Show them your appreciation and let them know they are an important part of your organization i.e. donor spotlights.
  • Ask them to share your organization’s results with friends and associates. Each of your donors are micro-influencers that can help you raise additional funds if they love your organization.
  • Give donors the chance to share their stories. Ask them to post to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram sites. Their followers may start following your cause too.

One example of an organization that is optimizing #GivingTuesday is one of our clients, Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA). The charity realized over the past few years it had received numerous donations, yet strong recognition systems were not supported on crowdfunding platforms to recognize the new donors on an ongoing basis. This year, PWNA adjusted its campaign to focus on public education and lead generation by asking donors to register for a chance to win a grand prize drawing, in addition to a "soft ask" for donations. Online visitors now have different ways to sign up for targeted or regular updates and can donate through a gift or purchase of a T-shirt branded for Native American Heritage Month, which is also in November. The charity segues their Heritage Month Campaign into #GivingTuesday via an update to registrants on #GivingTuesday that includes an additional soft ask. Samples of their campaign components may be viewed here.

These types of efforts will not only help deepen relationships, but may also increase your reach and donations, making the final impact more about the good work you do more than a once-a-year donation request. Start this #GivingTuesday and let’s see what responses you get next year.

Happy holidays!

Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners, who also leads the agency’s Social Impact group.

NOVEMBER 19, 2018 //     

With midterms over, does healthcare get to retake the test?

Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

By: Brian Feldman

Healthcare was the No. 1 political issue voters cited in last week’s midterm elections. The results are in, and it’s clear voters remain unhappy.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed, voters decided to target the Republican party to express their frustrations. Even after recounts in California, Georgia and Florida, the message remained clear: voters believe healthcare costs too much, we need to protect people with pre-existing conditions and, although we do not love what we have, the good news is we are still moving forward. Aside from that general sentiment, what did the election really mean for healthcare in the United States?

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The government share of the market will grow, but there are incredible opportunities to provide services and products to government markets.

Voters in red states, such as Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, passed ballot measures to expand Medicaid and Kansas elected a new Democratic governor who is likely to do the same. Many of the new enrollees will be people who have never had insurance before; therefore, many of these states will ask the private sector to compete for these patients. In addition, all the government payers, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, will seek new ways to save money and provide better care. The private sector will have unlimited opportunities to market new ideas, products and services to these agencies. With the aging of our population and growing number of people having coverage, the healthcare market is an unlimited opportunity.

A wholesale takeover of healthcare via “Medicare for All” or a single-payer system isn’t happening any time soon but….

This issue won’t disappear. Numerous polls show voters of all types, especially young people, are open to the idea of the government being the payer for healthcare. Polls also show people under 65 favor being allowed to join the Medicare program. While costs estimates are widely disputed and the tax consequences are still unknown, insights prove this issue is going to be the subject of much debate. In fact, most of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates support “Medicare for All.”

The 2020 presidential campaign began last Wednesday, and the constant media attention about the 2020 election will include lots of discussion around this topic. The Medicare program has a very high approval rating, so labeling something “Medicare for All” sure seems like a popular way to approach this issue. In addition, some candidates will propose variations of this idea, such as a buy-in for those over 55 years of age, adding fuel to the fire.

In conclusion, the question remains: Can anything get done?

Drug pricing is one area where both President Donald Trump and the Democrats seem to want to focus their efforts. But given the president’s unpredictable behavior, it’s difficult to say whether he would follow through on any of his proposals. However, if he sees it as a political winner, especially with seniors, action is possible. 2018 marked the first election in decades where Democrats got the same share of the senior vote as Republicans, so it’s likely both sides will try to figure out ways to court this high-turnout segment of the population. For companies trying to get a message out about what they do or sell in the healthcare marketplace, the best advice is to stick to script, deliver value and take advantage of the opportunities our never-ending healthcare debate may provide.

Brian Feldman is a partner, general counsel and co-leads the agency’s healthcare practice.

OCTOBER 31, 2018 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 2: Inside the Twitch Matrix

Credit: TwitchBy: Owen Clark

We’re back! After an extended hiatus due to client commitments and crazy travel schedules, the Stream Podcast returns with Episode 2 -- a look inside the world of the streaming service Twitch.

There are a lot of reasons to be fascinated by the world of Twitch. There’s the explosive user growth, the massive dollars streamers rake in, the democratization of content creation and even the way the platform reflects how we connect as humans in today’s “anxiety ridden” digital age (more on that from Micah in the episode).

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My favorite thing about Twitch is the bright line that exists between users and non-users. Go ahead and ask somebody if they have heard of Twitch and you will find they are either way in, to the point that it has become a main course in their media consumption diet. Or they have never used it, don’t understand it and are openly incredulous about the very idea of people watching other people play video games. It’s sort of like Fight Club, to borrow another movie analogy, but if Fight Club was operated by one of the largest and most well-known companies in the world and everyone who participated wore branded purple hoodies.

For the podcast, we wanted to offer something for both types of Twitch audiences: a beginner’s guide for those who aren’t among the initiated and a deeper dive into the future of the platform for streamers who already have their Bob Ross Emotes on lock.

Lending their insight on the episode is Newsweek Writer Steven Asarch, whose excellent primer on the platform is a must-read for anyone interested in the Twitch world. Also along for the ride is our colleague and Twitch super fan Mark DeRutte, who among other things offers an entrée into some of the other interesting things happening on the platform that don’t involve video games. Hint: There are shaving-cream-covered, ear-shaped microphones involved.

Thanks for listening and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms. We promise future episodes will be delivered to your feed at more regular intervals.


The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

OCTOBER 26, 2018 //     

The Ultimate Messaging Question

Credit: Notion Capital

By: Harry Ronaldson

Watching a re-run of the popular television series “Dragon’s Den” the other day, I was struck by just how many of the contestants seemed incapable of articulating their idea in a way that enticed the assorted investors.

Aside from the odd bout of nerves, entrepreneurs that failed to convince the Dragons left empty-handed, not because they could not explain what their company did, but rather why it does it.

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In the fast-paced world of technology, it’s easy to get caught up on features and benefits. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into bringing a product to market, not to mention sleepless nights. It’s only natural that you want to tell the world how clever it is. No doubt those in the know will be suitably impressed. But focusing entirely on product features fails to address the most important question that every customer or prospect will ask: “Why should I give a sh*t?”

A lot of messaging used by B2B companies isn’t aligned with what the customers they are trying to reach really value. Instead of addressing these points, they pack sentences with adjectives designed to prove how much better they are than the competition.

Many technology companies proudly claim to be a “disruptor.” But in order to be truly disruptive, companies need to change perception of what is possible. That means articulating why potential customers should believe in your product and how it will make their lives better.

So how do you get to that point? Below are a few tips to get you started.

Do your research

Invest time to understand what your customers really care about, and the type of language they’re using when they talk about those issues. Look at the newspapers and magazines your customers are likely to read. What are the issues they’re focusing on? Imagine you were being interviewed on one of those issues – what would you say?

Look at blogs and social media. Who are the influencers driving conversation and how are they framing different issues? Analyse how your competitors are positioning themselves. What are they saying, and more importantly, what are they not saying? Finally, don’t forget to involve your customers in the process. More often than not it will be their words that make it into the final cut of a great messaging document.

Get creative

Getting the messaging right is hard, but there are ways to make the process a little bit more fun and a little less intense. One exercise we run involves giving everyone in the room a stack of magazines. They then have 30 minutes to pull together an RFI for a client by cutting out clippings from the magazines and placing them on a board. This type of exercise won’t be for everyone (a stack of post-it notes will often suffice), but the important thing is to find a way that stops you staring blankly at a whiteboard for half a day.

Be ruthless

When you fill a room with senior people, you inevitably get a range of strong opinions all wanting to be heard. It can be tempting to try to please everyone by cramming everything into one all-encompassing “super-message.” This kind of messaging by committee might prevent a few bruised egos, but it will leave your customers baffled.

Great messages are short – ideally no more than a few carefully chosen words. They use simple, straightforward language that anyone can understand. And they actively avoid the use of buzzwords. You might genuinely believe you are creating a “paradigm shift” for your industry. But the reality is that this type of language just forms a barrier between you and the individuals you are trying to reach. I know journalists who have finely tuned their spam filters to junk any email with the words “best-of-breed” and “solution-provider” in the headline. You’ve been warned

 Seek an impartial perspective

Bringing an outsider in to help facilitate your messaging session can be an effective way to keep you focused and on track. Having an unbiased perspective in the room can also help you avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned above.

Once you’re happy with the way your messaging looks, seek an outside perspective again. Continue testing, refining and shortening until you’re convinced that absolutely every word needs to be there. Make sure every statement you make is tied to a specific proof point.

Then, test with customers and prospects, and remember to keep coming back to your messaging over time. Your business might evolve quickly, so it’s crucial that your messaging keeps pace with that journey.

If you’re keen to hear more, get in touch with Harry Ronaldson at Allison+Partners at: harry.ronaldson@allisonpr.com.

Harry Ronaldson is a VP in Allison+Partners London office. 

This blog was originally posted by Notion Capital.

OCTOBER 18, 2018 //     

The CMO is evolving: Here’s how we can keep up

Credit: Adweek

By: Lauren Bayse

The modern marketer’s role is complex, dynamic and crucial to drive business growth. Long gone are the days when being a marketer meant serving as a brand “hype woman.” Thanks to the last decade of swift technological advancement, marketers are at the heart of business growth—they are the keepers of data and the connector between brand and audience.

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At this year’s Advertising Week NY conference, I heard from a number of marketers across industries who have embraced this new role, but also grapple with their dichotomous friend/foe relationship with technology. On the one hand, technology has given them access to seemingly endless data-driven insights that allow them to more effectively connect with their target audiences in new ways. On the other hand, technology has given birth to an exhaustive list of new challenges, such as achieving brand safety, protecting consumer privacy and upskilling talent, to name just a few.

As communications professionals, we too know intimately the double-edged sword that is technology. For example, we curse the speed with which social media can ignite a crisis, but revel in our newly-found ability to measure top-of-funnel results.

As we navigate the impact of technology evolution, it’s important to remember this should change the way we support and communicate with our clients. Their jobs are changing. And as a result, ours must as well. Here’s how we can start:

Lean into data  

Measuring the impact of public relations campaigns has historically been quite difficult. Many times, we work to build “awareness,” rather than directly convert customers. So, we operate in a gray area that’s difficult to explain with numbers.

That is quickly changing. When I interviewed at Allison+Partners nearly four years ago, I was impressed by the capabilities of our dedicated Measurement team and the agency’s understanding that measurement should be part of every single scope of work. As marketers become increasingly reliant on data to drive decision-making, we need to step up to the plate. It is more imperative than ever that we regularly share success metrics and then use them to guide our own strategic planning efforts.

Speak business  

As communications and marketing professionals, we can spend all day talking about lead generation, reach and conversion rates (seriously, I lost count of how many times “customer journey” was said during Advertising Week). But when a CMO walks into the boardroom to discuss the bottom line, the rest of the C-Suite isn’t going to understand the jargon.

To help our clients more effectively communicate how their “wins” ladder up to business objectives, we need to ask questions that help us better understand how they expect our partnership to positively impact their business. Do they hope to see an increase in job applicants? Increase customer loyalty? Win over more first-time customers?  

Once we have the answers to these questions, every strategy should be delivered with these goals in mind. And we should consistently relay updates that demonstrate how our work is helping the business achieve these goals (sans jargon!).

Assemble diverse teams

Today’s consumers and business decision-makers are more diverse than ever. Despite this reality, our industry hasn’t kept pace. Only 11 percent of creative directors are women, and people of color continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions across the board. There’s a lot of work to be done, but after spending nearly a full day at The Female Quotient’s Girls Lounge during Advertising Week, I feel confident our industry is fostering leaders—both men and women—who prioritize and champion diversity.

It’s an exciting time to work in our industry—we’re seeing it through a period of major transformation. But, the technology revolution is not without its challenges, and to ensure client success, we need to embrace data, understand business objectives and strive for diversity.

Lauren Bayse is a director in Allison+Partners' corporate practice.

OCTOBER 16, 2018 //     

Storytelling in the age of fake news and implications for communicators

By: Pranav Kumar

Fake news’ emergence has been top of mind for communicators all over the world, and India is no exception. As of late, India’s brands have also been subject to errant fake news stories exacerbated by the rise of social media and democratisation of data.

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At this year’s edition of PRAXIS in Hyderabad, India, the largest assemblage of communications professionals in the country, we discussed the rise of fake news and what it means for practitioners in our industry. Here are a few key takeaways from an insightful and lively panel discussion with a mix of industry leaders from brands and agencies, moderated by International Institute of Public Relations Director of Research Sarab Kochhar:

In its annual “State of the Industry” report released at the September event, The Public Relations Council of India (PRCAI) concluded 50 percent of industry professionals see the need for quality counsel and fake news combating capabilities as opportunities for expanded services.

While trust in institutions continues to decline, mainstream media have a pivotal role to play as ultimate vanguards of the truth. Having said that, fake news still finds its way to mainstream media at times, underscoring a need for increasing editorial caution and emphasis on objectivity.

International fact-checker Snopes compiles lists of trending fake news stories. In its recent analysis, it concluded that from 50 such examples, at least 12 stories involved brands in a fake or manipulated story. Big brands in particular are more vulnerable because of the large audiences they engage with. As for India, while there may be fewer instances of fake news involving brands, this will only continue to steadily increase presenting challenges. But it will also create opportunities.

In an age of misinformation and disinformation, fake news assumes varying proportions. Those perpetuating it have an agenda, and brands need to be cautious in choosing when and how to respond. From Internet trolls trying to get unscrupulous attention to deliberate and vicious attacks, different situations call for specific response mechanisms (or no response at all), making investments in monitoring and analytics tools critical.

Earned media is an effective bulwark in an age of the real-time news cycle and algorithm-fuelled content. Brands need to include paid media in their arsenals to dissipate any fake news triggered vitriol and take control of the narrative.

The timeless principle of brands exemplifying strong values on a consistent basis is invaluable. Having those virtues to fend-off impending fake news attacks can help them emerge even stronger.

Readiness for brands to handle any form of fake news and related maelstroms is pivotal. That means having crisis play-books with expanded scenarios to deftly and definitively manage potential situations. Additionally, pledging to information accuracy, authentic storytelling, choosing credible channels and engaging with quality influencers is a prerequisite for brands.

In the end, the basic tenets of public relations -- quality relationships, engagement and authenticity -- are vital tools in the fake news armour and effective deterrents in today’s post-factual, post-truth world.

Pranav Kumar is managing director of Allison+Partners in India.

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