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OCTOBER 11, 2018 //     

Data, storytelling and consumers in the boardroom: Key takeaways from Advertising Week 2018

By: Sara Stephens


New York City’s Upper West Side boomed with advertising, marketing and creative leaders from around the world attending 2018’s Advertising Week New York. This year, #AWNEWYORK held thoughtful conversations on the past, present and future of today’s global industries. Over the course of the week, I attended sessions that ranged in topics from digital fluency across generations to machine learning and creativity, to blockchain’s role in preventing advertising fraud to the changing role of the CMO. I walked away with the following key learnings:

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Measurement will drive the ‘future of’ everything

With ad campaign life cycles as short as a few days, data now drives impact and makes compelling campaigns scalable. All of the panels I watched discussed measurement in some way, shape or form. Whether it was measuring sales as a result of an integrated campaign, A/B testing an ad or conducting surveys on consumer attitudes, measurement tools and capabilities are must-haves for all marketers’ toolboxes.

While data-driven decision making is not a new concept, one of the more interesting perspectives on measurement was the idea that if we over index on data, we may lose creativity in the process. For example, will we no longer listen to our marketing “guts” that have made successful campaigns in the past? Will robots take our jobs? Thankfully, the answer to each question is no.

On one particularly interesting panel, “How Machine Learning Can be Used for Creativity,” executives from Amazon Web Services, VidMob and IHG discussed how leveraging AI will give creatives “more time to think.” Ultimately, advertising is still about delivering the right message to a target audience. And right now, humans still need to craft the messages. But we can use machine learning in various forms to analyze, optimize and unlock new ways to use data. 

 Empathy is critical to storytelling today

Analyzing data and storytelling are important capabilities, but marketers also need to apply empathy to derive purpose through data and stories. Nearly half the sessions referenced the wild success of Nike’s recent Colin Kaepernick ad. The data most likely would have told Nike to shy away from this. But one reason for the campaign’s success is that it told an authentic story relevant to the brand’s purpose.

The Female Quotient hosted The Girls’ Lounge and Men of Action Summit, where Gillette and Venus North America Director Pankaj Bhalla described bringing empathy to Gillette’s famous tagline: “The Best a Man Can Get.” He also discussed how his marketing team evolved it to fit the varying definition of a man in 2018.

Northwestern Mutual Chief Marketing Officer Aditi Javeri Gokhale noted a gap in the lack of financial advertisements targeted at women and saw an opportunity to target this critical market in a way that resonates with them.

It’s about asking – what do you stand for in addition to what you sell? How do you bring this purpose to life so you resonate with your consumers in an authentic way? While we use data to drive decisions, there is still a lot of room in marketing for thought leadership and standing for a purpose. And importantly, buyers look for this from brands when making their purchasing decisions.

CMOs are the bridge between buyers and the boardroom

CMOs are influencing their C-Suite counterparts through the consumer perspective by being the customers’ voice in the boardroom. Thanks to the wealth of available data, marketing is no longer just about brand awareness. CMOs and their teams understand the end-to-end customer experience better than anyone.

As a result, the CMO role has evolved into that of a general manager – a person who can work collaboratively with chief technology officers to leverage new technology, chief financial officers to prove marketing dollars are driving revenue and CEOs to establish and help align with brand purpose and be a thought leader. By bringing in the end buyers and their needs, desires and wants into the boardroom, the CMO can help drive meaningful change – and revenue – for their organizations.

As marketers, how can we adapt to these changing times? First and foremost, we need to be curious. Take a class, engage with a mentor who has taken a different path and get ahead of the curve by understanding new tools and capabilities available to use. There is no right way forward, but we certainly do not have the luxury of guessing what customers want and creating tone-deaf ads. We now have the data to help us fuel decisions. It’s an exciting time to work and learn in this space, and I look forward to applying data and storytelling to communicate a brand’s purpose.

Sara Stephens is an account director in Allison+Partners corporate practice.

OCTOBER 2, 2018 //     

2018 Marketing Trends: The 10-Insight Health Check

Credit: CIPR INFLUENCEBy: Jill Coomber

If there’s one constant in client’s briefs, it’s a desire to stay ahead. There’s a real sense of willingness to try new things whilst also delivering a solid ROI at the business level. This all starts from identifying great insights and key trends. So, when pulling together our latest report, we focused in on what’s changed since this time last year and how the big trends are faring so far. What is really worth investing in?

The ten trends we delve into span from the impact of affiliate partnerships on earned PR to how to maximise voice search; from getting Gen Z right to revitalising retail. Influencer marketing has been the hot trend for what feels like forever, but what do rapidly increasing influencer costs, fake followers and stricter advertising guidelines mean for brands? And what has the Cambridge Analytica scandal done for consumer trust in social media vs. traditional news outlets?

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In exploring which trends have taken off this year, we can see that marketers need to be more in tune with the new ways customers actually behave, rather than how we think they behave or how they did last year.

But consumers are making it easier for us. They are becoming increasingly straightforward with their expectations of brand experiences. For example, as we look ahead to no-nonsense Gen Z, simplicity and transparency are key to cutting through the noise. For them, it’s all about great brand values and stories consumers can comfortably believe in and fight for, combined with seamless shopping experiences we’ll all be happy to return to again and again.

Brands of all shapes and sizes have one thing in common – the need to do great work that also increases attributable revenues. Seemingly each month delivers us new options, so we need to take a step back to ensure the insights and trends our work is built on are still solid. Like other leaders, we’re focusing on real people: to engage, inspire and create behaviour change rather than simply sell product. With the right knowledge, you can do both.

To read more on the latest consumer trends, download the full report here.

On the 10 September, OneChocolate joined forces with Allison+Partners, an award-winning global communications agency with 29 offices and more than 400 employees worldwide.

Jill Coomber is managing director of consumer marketing in Europe for Allison+Partners. 

This blog was originally posted by  CIPR Influence.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018 //     

Snapchat: 2012 - ?

Credit: SnapchatBy: Maggie Familetti


Snapchat recently released its Q2 earnings report, noting loss of about 3 million daily active users (Source: 
Inc.). This marked the first drop in users in the company’s six-year history, and it’s news that, quite frankly, seemed to be a long time coming. A+P Digital Team member Maggie Familetti takes a look at Snap Inc.’s journey and discusses where future opportunity may exist for the popular but polarizing app.

When I first saw someone use Snapchat in 2012, I thought: “That’s it?” At the time, I still had a so-called “dumb” phone and I expected much more from smartphones. But all I saw was 2 seconds of a grainy picture that then disappeared before my eyes. Despite this, Snapchat was all the rage for those first few years. And when I got an iPhone in 2014, it was the first app I downloaded. Snapchat was almost a necessity for staying in touch with friends. With the addition of face filters, chat and video chat in the ensuing years, it seemed there was nothing not to love.

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Enter Instagram. In 2016, Instagram launched its “Stories” feature, which copied many elements of Snapchat’s own Stories feature. The stats that followed spoke for themselves: Snapchat growth slowed 82 percent after Instagram Stories launched. By June 2018, Instagram Stories had twice the amount of daily active users as Snapchat. It made sense – Instagram Stories presented a more easily usable medium for brands and influencers who were already on the platform, allowing them to use Snapchat-like tools without having to create another account on the app.

Then in late 2017, Snapchat released a full app redesign, which changed the location of Stories, Discover and other app features. The move was initially intended to clearly differentiate between content from friends and content from celebrities and influencers. In the words of Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, the goal was to separate “the ‘social’ from the ‘media’.

Consumers didn’t see this as a plus – in fact, 83 percent of the App Store reviews for the update were negative. Power user Kylie Jenner tweeted she had stopped opening the app, and a Change.org petition calling for Snapchat to reverse the redesign garnered more than 1.2 million signatures.

Snapchat’s missteps and misfortune seemed to culminate in August 2018, when the company reported it lost more than 3 million daily active users in the second quarter of 2018. Snapchat blamed the loss on the redesign, and Spiegel claimed the company’s monthly active users were actually growing.

But all these hits over the last year beg a question: is this the beginning of the end for Snapchat? Was the loss in daily active users the death knell some had been expecting for so long? The simple answer is no, probably not. Why? Because Snapchat has one thing that no other platform has: its specific, highly sought after audience.

Snapchat has long been popular with U.S. teens ages 12 to 17, first surpassing Facebook as the most popular social network among this age group in 2016. Now, according to an August 2018 study from eMarketer, there are 16.4 million 12-17 year olds on Snapchat compared with 12.8 million on Instagram. And the app is expected to remain dominant among teen users through 2022. Additionally, 78 percent of 18-24 year olds use the platform. This indicates that despite the snags of the last few years, Snapchat still has the ability to reach Generation Z in a way that few other social platforms can.

As a result, all signs point to advertising and brand partnerships as the way forward for Snapchat, and 2018 has already seen some unique and successful examples. In August, a partnership with Adidas saw the brand announce a new shoe on the Snapchat show “Fashion Five Ways,” with the goal of targeting a younger, more female audience who would “talk socially about the sneaker.” And it paid off – the shoe sold out in 6 hours, a clear indication the activation was successful in reaching the desired audience.

Examples like this prove that there is still success to be found in Snapchat. A large amount of that success can be achieved through advertising, potentially with an e-commerce play attached. Snapchat itself sees where its future lies – on Aug. 29, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced the lineup for its West Coast iteration of the annual Digital Content NewFronts. For the first time ever, Snapchat will be a participant. These events are typically a chance for digital companies to “impress advertisers and persuade them to support video endeavors” such as shows and other original content, and Snapchat’s participation may signal an internal realization these solutions are its best path forward.

So where does this leave brands? Overall, it seems not much has changed in terms of how brands should view the platform. There may be a shift if and when Snapchat rolls out new advertising solutions in the coming months, but for now it would appear to be business as usual. Brands may choose to advertise on the platform, but should have clear, audience-specific goals in mind when planning campaigns and creating highly-tailored content.

If possible, brands should choose Snapchat only if their audience already exists on the platform, in order to maximize their advertising. Content should be relatable, inviting, and not too polished – Jessica Taylor, a former digital ad manager for Google, says that ads should look like “messages from friends.”

Overall, the future could still be bright for both Snapchat and the brands that buy its ads. With new formats on the horizon and successful campaigns in the rearview, Snapchat needs to lean into its identity as a more niche platform with a specific audience. And brands need to fully embrace the opportunities that come with this.

Happy Snapping!

Maggie Familetti is an account executive on Allison+Partners digital team. 

AUGUST 23, 2018 //     

Berlin: Hub for tech innovation and capital of cool

By: Martina Muller

Berlin was devastated and divided after World War II. Industries deserted the city and it took half a century for them to return. In the 1990s, the decade after the Berlin Wall came down, it was a city searching for an identity. The eastern, formerly communist part of the city and the western part were suddenly united again and Berlin emerged as a new city profoundly loaded with history. During those times, Berlin was underdeveloped, housing was cheap and options for entertainment were limitless. The city had a vibrant art scene and subculture thrived. However, there were few businesses in Berlin and a job was hard to find. So, when I finished my studies at the Free University of Berlin in 1998, I moved to Frankfurt to start my career, since there were hardly any PR agencies in Berlin at that time.

I never thought I would move back to Berlin, but I did four years ago. The city has changed tremendously. Its economy thrives and plenty of PR agencies have set up shop, thanks in part to a start-up scene that discovered Berlin about 10 years ago. Berlin provided perfect conditions for trying out new ideas, as the cost of living was cheap and the city’s universities produced a stream of well-educated people. Over the years, the start-ups have become successful and this has attracted even more businesses to set up in Berlin.

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Today, Berlin is Germany’s largest city with 3.6 million residents. It is a hub for tech innovation in Europe. In fact, in 2017, Berlin secured $3.4 billion (€3 billion) in venture capital, making it Europe’s second-largest city for start-ups. It’s been fascinating to watch the city redevelop and find its way back to its old glory.

Increasingly, international investors swarm to Berlin because they recognize its huge business potential. Company- and university-based incubators and venture-capital funds pop up across the city. Since Berlin has remained a fun and vibrant place, young people from around the globe flock to live here and work at one of the numerous start-ups. More than 40,000 people move to Berlin each year. In 2016, 42 percent of Berlin’s start-up employees were foreign nationals, according to the European Startup Monitor Report.

With the local start-up scene heating up, a new work style has emerged. Co-working spaces have infiltrated the city, offering flexible areas for individuals, teams and larger companies. These spaces are meant for people to get to know each other, exchange ideas, connect and possibly do business together. To make work there even more fun, parties are organized in the evening and interesting founders from Silicon Valley visit regularly and give talks to share their stories and experiences.

The Berlin start-up community encourages its employees to work on something truly innovative. This appeals more to millennials than climbing the corporate ladder, especially in Berlin-Mitte (the center). English is spoken everywhere, and it sometimes feel like you’re in London or New York rather than Germany. Often waiters at restaurants only speak English, since they’ve come to Berlin from Australia, Lebanon or Italy for a gap year after high school.

Ultimately, there is a downside to this development. Berlin is no longer cheap. Rents have risen dramatically and a good apartment is hard to find. The city is less affordable, especially for people with lower paying jobs. The government is trying to drive new apartment construction to overcome this shortage and ease the housing situation. And for the PR industry? The agency space has become intensely competitive, with many agencies competing to help start-ups further build their brands.

But it will take a lot more than rent prices and intense competition to diminish Berlin’s attraction. The vibrant, inspiring atmosphere, opportunities and well-educated talent from around the globe create a unique breeding ground – so much so that maybe the next big thing will come from Berlin instead of Silicon Valley.

AUGUST 21, 2018 //     

Influencer Marketing Tips from the 2018 BlogHer Creators Summit

By: Lucy Arnold

Views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Empowering words from Gabrielle Union. A surprise appearance by Amy Schumer. Star power was on display at the 2018 BlogHer’s Creators Summit in NYC – but that’s not all. It was also a two-day event that celebrated and inspired female content creators and storytellers. Panels included top-tier digital influencers such as Color Me Courtney, Mary Orton and Chastity Garner Valentine, celebrities and leaders across industries, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Dr. Alaa Murabit and Jessica Alba, and brand and platform insights from Facebook, Pinterest, Moet & Chandon, Away and more.


More than 1,000 people attended, mostly women, and a strong online conversation developed (nearly 128 million potential impressions on Twitter and Instagram alone during the two-day event). Here are a few of the notable influencer tips to take away this year:

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Influencer engagement trumps reach: The representatives from Moet & Chandon and trendy luggage brand Away both spoke about how they use influencers to help tell their brand story vs. “just selling luggage.” They look for content creators who share their brand ethos, can help build a lifestyle story and have strong engagement. When identifying influencers to partner with, they look at their social media engagement (are their followers fanatic about what they have to say?) as well as their saturation (are they sharing branded content too often?). Are they working with other brands that align with yours? An influencer on the same panel also said when she begins conversations with potential brand partners, she always asks them “Why do you want to work with me?” and stresses brands should come up with a better answer than “because you have 1 million followers.”

Creative ways to work with influencer partners:
Throughout the two-day conference, influencers and brands shared several ways they’ve partnered that were more creative than a standard agreement to post once or twice on Instagram. Some examples include:
  • Moet & Chandon worked with Jamie Chung for the 75th annual Golden Globes to create the official cocktail for the ceremony and then pitched that recipe to media.
  • Away entered the European market with pop-ups in select cities and collaborated with local style experts, who were also in-store frequently to entice shoppers.
  • Away also recently launched its first Times Square billboard with exclusively user- and influencer-generated content. It then invited the influencers who were featured on a trip to NYC to see the billboard and create additional travel-related content for the brand.
  • Influencers themselves noted they are more regularly banding together to go on trips or do photo shoots as a group, increasing the likelihood for brand partnerships. For example, MomTrends took a group of parenting influencers to a resort in Tulum and featured a swimsuit brand in all of its beach content. The swimsuit brand didn’t sponsor the trip but as a result, did begin working in a paid relationship with two of the influencers.
Consider “owned” platforms: An influencer humorously asked the audience if we remembered Tila Tequila. She said Tila became a huge sensation on MySpace, but then became rather obsolete when the MySpace platform did. All to say, keep the platforms that you own strong – your blog, your email newsletter. Instagram may be hot right now, but who knows what could happen. And, in the end, those are just channels where you “share” content vs. “own” it. Furthermore, brands should focus more on asking for their partnership content to be created and shared on the influencer’s owned channels.

Facebook monetization updates:
There are new Facebook products available and in the works that support influencer marketing. Of course, there’s the branded content tool that allows influencers to share and disclose their collaborations. There’s also the Brand Collabs Manager, which is a way for brands and creators to connect. Currently being tested in the United States, the tool allows content creators to showcase their work (can apply if you have 20,000 followers or more) and for advertisers to search for and discover influencers based on their content, data and demographics. Facebook is also testing ad revenue products for content creators. First, an ad revenue-sharing feature is in the works – allowing creators to include a brand’s ad spot within their own video and Facebook will share the revenue with the creator when someone watches the ad. For now, they believe longer videos will be able to be monetized (three minutes or longer). Secondly, they mentioned a fan subscription model where, for a fee such as $4.99, fans can sign up to receive exclusive content from influencers.


Lucy Arnold is a Digital Director in the New York office focused on influencer marketing and social media strategy.

AUGUST 14, 2018 //     

Following the FTC’s Influencer Marketing Guidelines

By: Lucy Arnold and Nycole Hampton

Your client asks for an influencer marketing campaign, but wants to be “subtle” about how the influencer discloses the engagement.

Which of the following does the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consider a proper social media hashtag disclosure?

  1. #spon
  2. #[BRAND]partner
  3. #collab
  4. #sponsored
  5. #ad

If you answered 4 or 5, you are correct. The FTC has made it clear it monitors brand and influencer activity to ensure compliance with federal endorsement guidelines. In a nutshell, if a brand and an influencer have a “material connection” to promote a service or product, they must clearly and conspicuously disclose that connection. There’s very little subtlety.

As part of our influencer relations work at Allison+Partners, we’ve been in touch with the FTC to help build out some of its endorsement guidelines. As influencer marketing evolves, we break down some of the finer details for you. Call it the FTC FAQ.

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Do influencers have to use #sponsored or #ad in every post?

Sort of. Again, the best rule of thumb is to answer this question: is it clear and conspicuous the brand (my client) and the influencer have a connection? The language you use to disclose that relationship can be tweaked slightly. The #sponsored and #ad hashtags on social media posts are space-savers, and they are safe. On a blog post, the disclosure must be at the top of the post, in the same font, font size and font color as the rest of the post (i.e. “This post is sponsored by [BRAND]”). In a video, the disclosure must be at the beginning of the video and in the video description.

What if we just gave the influencer something for free, like a hotel stay or a loaner car?

The influencer must disclose that material connection. They could say something such as “Thanks [BRAND] for the free stay/free car!” or “[BRAND] gave me this product/meal/hotel room as a gift.”

What if we send out an influencer mailer for our clients and one of the influencers posts her unboxing on Instagram?

In this case, the influencer is not required to review or post about the product we send them. If they do, the onus is on them to say the product was sent to them as a gift. But without any agreement or other value exchange, the brand does not have to require the disclosure.  

Shouldn’t influencers use the “paid” tools on Facebook and Instagram to disclose their brand partnerships?

Yes! But actually, this is for a different reason. Those branded content tools allow brands access to insights and metrics on the influencer’s post, including reach, engagement and more. On Facebook, it also allows the brand to boost the post to drive additional value (This is not yet the case on Instagram. So, if you plan to boost influencer content on this channel, you should avoid this tool.) Although these tools also label the post as “paid,” indicating a material connection between brand and influencer, the FTC doesn’t find the disclosure from these tools alone conspicuous enough because the text is small, in a lighter color font and consumers may not see it. Therefore, we recommend using the branded content tools for insights and including an approved disclosure in the social media copy, such as #ad.

If we contracted an influencer to post about [BRAND] on Instagram but they took it upon themselves to also post content to their Facebook and Twitter channels, do all these posts need disclosure?

Yes. If an influencer has a material connection in one context, it has to be disclosed no matter the platform.

Do these disclosures have an effect on engagement?

No. Including the disclosure is the most authentic thing to do – otherwise the influencer is being misleading, and that affects their credibility. What’s important is to do proper research and identification for influencer partners to build a sound influencer strategy for a successful program. If the influencer partner is appropriately vetted and selected for their affinity to the brand and relevance to the same demographic/target audience, these disclosures should not alter engagement because the nature of the content is genuine.

If #collab or #partner aren’t compliant disclosures, why do influencers still use them?

We’re not sure! It could be they don’t care, but we venture to guess most people simply don’t know about the proper guidelines and agencies or brands aren’t directing them appropriately. It’s our job as client representatives to ensure all our influencer partners are aware of the proper disclosures and execute appropriately.

Does all of this seem kind of nuanced? We’re here to help. The principle is rather basic – if you met someone whose opinion you trust and they raved about [BRAND], would you be influenced to go out and try it? Probably. Now suppose you found out that person got paid to tell you about [BRAND]. Wouldn’t that affect how you evaluated their recommendation? You bet. Therefore, any material connection that would affect the endorsement’s weight or credibility must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

Lucy Arnold and Nycole Hampton are both directors in the digital practice where they lead many influencer relations programs for Allison+Partners.

AUGUST 6, 2018 //     

Media relations – how to stack the odds in your favour

By: Harry Ronaldson

“I hope you’ve got a strong liver for all those boozy lunches.”

This was the reaction from my father when, a little under 15 years ago, I told him I’d got a job as a trainee PR exec. The idea that PR was all about plying journalists with alcohol until they agreed to write a story about your client still retained a tiny grain of truth back then. And I was pretty good at it.

But somewhere along the line, things started to get a little more serious. Journalists stopped coming to the pub and phone-calls went unanswered. I realised I’d gone 72 hours without drinking.

Securing quality media coverage has become progressively more challenging over the years, requiring a blend of creativity, flexibility and tenacity. I like to think I’m still pretty good at it. But I have to work harder at it. And I’m not the only one who thinks things have gotten tougher.

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A recent survey of communications professionals found just over half (51 percent) said they thought media relations had become harder in the past year. Just 3 percent thought securing media coverage for clients had become easier.

There are some solid reasons behind this. For one thing, the pool of journalists and media are getting smaller. According to the annual British Labour Force Survey, the number of full-time journalists in the UK has fallen by 11,000 in the past year, with 73,000 now employed in the sector.

While the number of professional journalists continues to dwindle, the volume of people wanting to pitch them stories has continued to expand. Recent estimates suggest there are somewhere in the region of 4,000 PR agencies in the UK, and 83,000 full-time employees.

With journalists now outnumbered by the people wanting them to cover stories, the competition for media coverage has intensified. One journalist I speak to regularly told me he receives an average of 300 pitches a week from companies and their PR representatives. He writes around three stories per day, of which 50 percent are in some way PR-driven. So, of the 15,000 pitches he receives in a year, roughly 14,500 end up in the deleted items folder.

An old boss of mine once told me media relations can sometimes feel a little bit like a game of pin the tail on the donkey, only there are 100 other people trying to pin their tail onto one donkey. The trick, he told me, is to make sure you’re the only one not wearing a blindfold.

Competition for coverage might be fiercer than ever, but the rewards of reaching your audience through a trusted third party remain significant. Here are a few ways to stack the odds in your favour:

Get personal: Firing out a generic pitch to a long list of media contacts is a waste of time. Rather than trying to create the world’s most exhaustive list of contacts who might cover your story, focus on the journalists that matter most and familiarise yourself with the content they’re putting out. You want your reporters to feel like you’ve read what they’re writing, and that you’ve truly chosen them for this story based on what you expect they’d be interested in. Do they write long features, or do they tend to focus on straight news? Do they like to include case studies in their articles? Do they have a particular writing style? Gather together this type of information and use it to craft your pitch.

Be timely: Few companies have the luxury of being able to set the news agenda. The vast majority will need to demonstrate how they fit into the wider events, trends and issues that influence news output. That means keeping a keen eye on the news and being ready to react in real-time whenever there’s an opportunity to insert your point of view. Likewise, if you’re thinking about putting out an announcement, factor the news agenda into your planning at every stage. Is there a broader issue you can hook into to give the news a sense of urgency? Can you say something in your quote that roots your story in the here and now? And unless there’s a specific reason for releasing a story on a particular day, be flexible. If there’s big breaking news, then pick another day to go out. Or give the story to a journalist to mull over for a few days before it goes live. Most journalists will respect clear embargos and will appreciate the breathing space this affords them to plan in a story.

Show why you’re different: It’s not enough to be the biggest or the fastest. Your job is to convince a journalist you have answers to questions that no other brand could articulate. Take blockchain, for example. Right now, journalists are bombarded with generic, high-level content on the issue. But few companies can provide specific and detailed answers to the myriad questions which sit under this topic. Once you’ve identified a set of issues you want to own, drill down deeper until your position becomes something that’s unique to you and credible for the journalists you’re trying to reach.

Show an opinion: Journalists want experts who can help them to articulate an issue in a humanising and interesting way. Once they’ve found people who can fulfil that role, they keep coming back for more. Establishing yourself as a go-to commentator doesn’t have to mean taking an extreme point of view. Delivering something out of the ordinary can be as simple as showing a clear personality, avoiding industry buzzwords and answering questions with insight, new information, personal experience or a customer reference with no direct mention of your company. Still unsure? If you’re providing a written comment, then read it aloud. Does it sound like something you would actually say? Would you say it to a friend, or someone you’d just met? If the answer’s no, then start again.

Get to the point: You live and breathe your product. You could probably write a book about it. But if you can’t sum up what you want to say in a few lines, then all that enthusiasm is going to fall on deaf ears. One legendary tech journalist tried to force the issue by insisting PR people pitch him only on Twitter. Needless to say, he was none too impressed when Twitter upped its character limit and promptly announced his retirement!

Good coverage is certainly harder to come by than it was when I first entered the communications industry, but good spokespeople and stories remain highly prized by journalists who are under pressure to deliver a quality product people will pay for.

Get your approach right and you’ll quickly find journalists are seeking you out, rather than the other way around.

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

This blog was originally posted by Notion Capital.

JULY 26, 2018 //     

Will chatbots take over content marketing?

Credit: WordstreamBy: Vivian Dadamio


The robots are coming, and they want your job!

Artificial Intelligence is on the rise and, automation will soon dramatically change the workforce. According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 20 percent of Germans could lose their jobs to AI in the next two decades due to its strong industrial sector. However, while the job-loss risk varies by country and industry, it’s important to understand and prepare for the implications AI will have on our job functions and the services we provide to customers.

For communications agencies, AI’s implications are still up for debate. While automation can help optimize some tasks, those that require strategic thinking and planning will always benefit from a human touch. Take content marketing, for example. Automation can help optimize the quantity of content produced and its reach but may negatively affect its quality as perceived by consumers.

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How can AI help?

Marketers increasingly look to automation to produce high quality content with less effort and costs. The data-based approach of AI offers several benefits in content marketing:

  • Streamlining complex omnichannel approaches to allow distribution of personalized content across all channels, everywhere and at any time
  • Merging user behavior data from different sources and analyzing data for a 360-degree customer view to enable intelligent content targeting
  • Improving customer experience with personalized content
  • Providing real-time customer interaction to increase customer loyalty

A recent example of the potential of algorithms is a German start-up (still in beta) that wants to automate content marketing with a chatbot. The intelligent assistant guides marketers through the whole content marketing process – from strategy, structuring and writing to distribution and content analysis. The company claims they enable brand marketers, bloggers and the like to produce and distribute valuable content without the help of external consultants or writers.

Master vs. machine

Will algorithms jeopardize the agency business model? Will our clients turn to chatbots for their content marketing? This is not a scenario that I foresee in the near future. Successful content marketing requires a long-term strategy and is a complex, multi-level process – especially for big brands. Goals, target groups, suitable topics and channels must be defined. Experts will still be needed, especially to develop the content strategy based on their experience and human ingenuity. And a closer look at the German chatbot start-up example shows their loud promises about making agencies redundant has limitations. In an interview with German marketing publication W&V they say their potential customers are tiny companies and individuals.

Despite its limitations, I predict AI will be useful in our daily agency work to help us become more efficient and more precise. In content marketing, I see strong potential in its ability to help us produce and distribute content across channels. We should embrace the new technology and use these intelligent tools to augment our human capabilities. A chatbot for content marketing can be a helpful assistant, but we will still be the masters of our work.

Vivian is a senior vice president and leads Allison+Partners’ Munich office.

JULY 23, 2018 //     

The 2018 Fancy Food Show unwrapped

By: Cheryl Weissman

Each July, thousands of food and drinks companies, product press and industry insiders descend upon NYC’s Jacob Javits Center for the Fancy Food Show -- a veritable feast for the eyes and stomach. The show features rows upon rows of brands hoping to make it big on grocers’ shelves and in consumers’ shopping carts.

This year’s show was no different. Walking from booth to booth, we tasted a dizzying amount of new foods (pro tip: come hungry, and wear elastic waist pants). Here are a few trends we spotted, along with some of the best products we sampled this year: 

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  • Raising the Bar on Bars: The nutrition/granola/protein/meal replacement bar landscape continues to shift and expand. And while RXBar remains the leader of the pack, there are countless new brands breaking through the clutter with unique offerings. We saw and tried tons from recognized and new companies alike. JonesBar and 88 Acres rose to the top as ones to watch. Both are handmade simply in small batches with organic ingredients.
  • Spreading the Love: Single-serve products are on the rise, catering to an increasingly mobile consumer. When it comes to spreads, single-serve packets are an especially convenient way to boost flavor for those looking to indulge. The best way to do it is with Spread Delights’ line of indulgent offerings -- some of the most delicious things we had a chance to taste at the show. For those looking for an alternative to the single-serve nut butters on the market, RXBar is now offering nut butter spreads with their latest launch --  almond butter, a quick and tasty way to get some protein in your day while on the run.
  • Boozy Booch: When Kombucha started going mainstream, many people claimed drinking a bottle made them feel a bit tipsy. Well Kombucha companies like Wild Tonic are now making that a reality, serving up alcoholic kombuchas in an effort to keep your gut healthy while simultaneously enjoying a cocktail.
  • Chocolate + Candy FTW: It’s not hard to entice people with delicious chocolate, but the ways in which the industry continues to innovate are impressive. From Biena’s Girl Scouts Thin Mints Chickpea Snacks and ethically sourced, eco-friendly, nothing-artificial chocolate treats from Unreal, to Tony’s Chocoloney -- a brand on a mission to make 100 percent slave-free the norm in chocolate -- chocoholics have lots to be excited about. And a deeper look into sweets revealed a variety of beautifully packaged brands that not only taste great but are eye candy too. Look out for Salty Road Salt Water Taffy and Olive & Sinclair Southern Artisan Chocolates for treats that are Instagrammable AND delicious.
  • Crazy for Cold Brew: Coffee has gotten a reboot with the rise of amped-up cold-brew brands, many reminiscent of small-batch, craft-beer brands. NYC-grown Rise Brewing Co., with its Nitro Cold Brew Coffee in flavors like Blood Orange and Lemonade, is one to keep an eye out for next time you need a pick-me-up.

This year, exhibitors big and small across all categories continued to level up on transparency, bringing free-from labels to the forefront while focusing on natural ways to deliver the tastes consumers want with ingredients they recognize.

Cheryl Weissman is a senior vice president in Allison+Partners' consumer practice, where she oversees the agency's food + beverage specialty.

JULY 19, 2018 //     

When telling stories, one size doesn't fit all

Credit: AmelioBy: Marcel Goldstein


“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” - Khalil Gibran

We all hunger for stories. We relate to them, are moved by them and remember them. We can even argue storytelling is in our DNA, because before the written word emerged, oral storytelling provided the means to share and remember information critical to our survival.

But do we all hunger for the same type of stories? Can the stories you tell about your business work around the world in all countries and with all cultures?

Last week, I led a storytelling workshop in Frankfurt, Germany. And through an engaging, dynamic conversation with a cross-section of thoughtful people from different countries, I learned a lot about both the power and limitations of telling stories globally.

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The late great Joseph Campbell, a scholar in comparative mythology and religion, believed there’s only one story in the world: the hero’s journey. Found frequently in books and movies today, this story type begins with the origin or background of the hero, followed by a transformative moment that forces the hero onto a journey to change the world, and finally concludes with the resolution of his or her struggles and a return home.

Business communications often use this framework. In those cases, the hero might be an employee who solved a customer’s problem, or it might be a customer who solved a broader societal problem. The hero can also be a company, as many companies are quick to move directly into a conversation about their solutions. However, this leaves out crucial elements of storytelling, such as the beginning (“once upon a time”) and middle (a problem, challenge or obstacle—i.e., something to overcome).

While this is a common framework, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is ideal. When asked if that type of story would resonate around the world, my Frankfurt discussion group gave a resounding “no.” In many parts of the world, this level of individualism would not be welcomed. In fact, in many countries, only the government can be the hero of any story, I learned. So, while I believe the key elements of storytelling and even the hero’s journey framework can work, the specific application of this story type must be framed within the recipients’ context.

For those businesses hoping to achieve centralized content development efficiencies, this will be a big disappointment. However, to be a truly successful global enterprise, investments in local storytelling are necessary. Cultural references also require more investments in local storytelling. For example, good stories use analogies and metaphors, but those references are rarely shared universally. 

Now, there’s another side to this story. We are more globalized today than at any other time in history. Advances in transportation and communications have made us more aware of other cultures and increased our understanding of them and their references. Hollywood, one of the great storytelling factories in the world, produces movies today that are as popular in China as the United States. The stories of many authors are translated and have found large audiences in foreign countries. As a result of incredible worldwide demand for the tale, French author Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” can be read in any of 253 languages -- more than any other book.

The world is drawing closer fundamentally, but vast differences remain. At a high level, some stories and story types seem to resonate in multiple regions of the world, and cultural references cross boundaries better than in the past due to globalization. Having said that, we are still a world of many different peoples and societies, and one story may not always work universally. Successful business storytellers will invest in localization of stories when necessary and integrate local teams to contribute to their storytelling.

Marcel is an executive vice president in Allison+Partners’ Corporate practice.

JUNE 19, 2018 //     

Understanding the ROI of Influencer Relations in Asia

By: Susie Hughes

In recent years, interest has grown in using influencer relations as a tool for building brand awareness and growing a customer base for B2B and B2C organizations in Asia. However, there is still much uncertainty about how to measure ROI in the investment. Allison+Partners’ Paul Mottram, managing director of the agency’s All Told group in Asia, recently told the audience at the Tech in Asia conference in Singapore that the key will always be to first properly research and understand the people, topics and channels that make the most sense for their brand.

Mottram shared the findings from Allison+Partners’ “Harnessing the Power of Influence in Asia Pacific” research, which offers insights on achieving the always-elusive “buzz” through the effective use of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs).

Here are a few of the questions he addressed at the conference.

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At which stage of the marketing journey should KOLs and influencers be engaged?

It’s ideal to apply influence through the entire customer journey, although it can be best to use different influencers at different stages. For example, for a new company or product, reach coupled with sufficient credibility are going to be the most important factors to gain brand awareness. However, as customers get closer to the purchase stage (such as having questions about the product or service), then it may make sense to engage specific subject matter experts who might have less reach but have outstanding credibility.

How much should companies pay influencers for their involvement?

Different industries and markets will have different pay scales for influencers. It also depends on how experienced and valuable an influencer is to a brand. That’s why it’s critical to implement a rigorous scoring system that can be optimized over time. When doing so, it’s important to look not only at reach, but also at how authentic and credible an influencer is, and compare a “cost per thousand” against that. It’s also important to take into account the influencers who are most credible for your business, and realize the market rate might not reflect that. All brands will have to undertake some experimentation and learn what works best over time.

Are high-reach influencers as impactful as micro-influencers?

There has been a trend away from super high-reach influencers and towards micro-influencers. While it’s certainly effective to use them for some products and services, five engaged influencers that reach 20,000 people each will drive more impact than a single influencer with 100,000 followers.

Susie Hughes is vice president in Allison+Partners’ Singapore office.

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