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Tech & Innovation’s Smarter Working Initiative Shortlisted for PR Campaign of the Year

Tech & Innovation’s Smarter Working Initiative Shortlisted for PR Campaign of the Year

The PHA Group’s Technology & Innovation team is delighted to have its work recognised in this year’s B2B Marketing Awards – shortlisted for ‘PR Campaign of the Year’.

The Smarter Working Initiative (SWI), which the T&I team first developed in 2016 with long-standing client Powwownow, has been listed alongside eight other PR campaigns, with the winner due to be announced at a gala dinner on 23rd November.

The T&I team worked closely with Powowwnow to develop the inaugural campaign designed to have significant longevity. The brief was to challenge existing perceptions of flexible working and promote the benefits of embracing a working culture that aligns with employees’ personal lives.

As a business with a core ethos of efficiency, productivity, and collaboration, Powwownow’s objective in 2016 was to increase awareness of the benefits of smarter working among UK business leaders and employers. Aware that only 6% of UK businesses proactively offered flexible working to their employees, the team set out to fundamentally change how employers think about smarter working practices.

The SWI was foremost an awareness day: Monday 25th July 2016 – the first day of the school summer holidays. A supporting integrated PR strategy, combining cut-through thought leadership content, data stories, news agenda hijacking and relevant and insightful broadcast interviews for members of the senior management team, helped position Powwownow as a leading authority on smarter working across a range of business sectors.

In the build-up to and following Monday 25th July, the team achieved over 30 pieces of media coverage, reaching a significant business audience across the UK and Europe. MD Jason Downes and FD Andrew Johnson appeared on BBC News ‘Business Live’, Sky News, London Live, talkRadio and Share Radio discussing topics including business efficiency and the rise of technology to facilitate flexible working.

Powwownow FD Andrew Johnson on Sky News


The team’s efforts saw Powwownow more than double their initial target of business sign-ups by securing over 120 businesses, including leading UK employers such as, RED Driving School and Orebar Brown. Over 100,000 UK employees worked flexibly on the day thanks to the initiative.

The SWI received prominent coverage across online and traditional media. Online, we reached business leaders through thought leadership pieces for MD Jason Downes, CTO Chris Martin and FD Andrew Johnson in a variety of publications including and Real Business. Targeting employees, the team also secured press on consumer-led websites such as Metro and Marie Claire, using unique data stories supported by thought leadership. The initiative was also covered nationally in The Telegraph and The Sun, with a prominent photo story in the latter reporting the social media campaign which ran over the course of a week.

Not only did the SWI reach a far wider audience than originally anticipated, it established positive brand awareness and positively changed assumptions about flexible working. After the initiative, 78 percent of business owners who did not previously offer flexible working to their employees said they would do so in 2017 and beyond – a tangible change in attitudes towards smarter working.

Most importantly, Powwownow were delighted with the campaign and last month the Tech & Innovation team oversaw the SWI 2017, which saw over 200,000 employees from over 200 businesses work flexibly on Monday 24th July, resulting in MD Jason Downes appearing on BBC News.

Powwownow MD Jason Downes on BBC News

#AlreadyFiltered: Instagram Announces Newsfeed Algorithm


Instagram is changing its newsfeed.

In perhaps one of the most pat-on-the-head press releases ever put out on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, Instagram announced plans to start ‘personalising’ the content its users see. With an algorithm.

According to the New York Times, who first reported the story, moving the platform away from its reverse chronological feed will mean that photos will be bumped to the top of your page based on your history of interactions with certain friends and accounts.

As the release tech-‘splained, “To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimising the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”

No longer will you have to worry about missing that all-important photo of your cousin’s new puppy or that blogger’s avocado toast breakfast whilst sitting on a long-haul, wifi-free flight. Those photos will be at the top when you touch down.

Similarly, you won’t have to worry about drowning out your favourite accounts when you follow more users. The algorithm will provide a safety net for the photos that really matter to you – at least in theory.

It also means the photo-sharing app will look a lot more like the ever-popular Facebook, which purchased the company for $1bn in 2012.

As you can imagine, the news went down like boots tied to boulders. Especially when it came with the addition that advertisers will be exempt from the changes. And that it’s not just the people you interact with most that will be bumped up, but ‘most popular’ posts as well. This suggests if you follow any brands, celebrities or well-established bloggers, they too will receive space precedence over smaller accounts.

The algorithm thusly has many concerned and you have only to glance through news feeds to find posts like these:

instagram algorithm

Instagram image courtesy of Valerie Tejeda, author of Hollywood Witch Hunter


Image Courtesy of @Dropandgivemenerdy on Instagram

Image Courtesy of @dropandgivemenerdy on Instagram

The post from @dropandgivemenerdy conveys just one of the issues being raised by community users with small and micro-businesses. As a book blogger and cover designer, the account creator, Alexis Lampley, quit her full-time job in order to more fully commit to her startup business.

Lampley further explains her worries in the comments, saying “Instagram is the only place I am building this business, and this new algorithm base could destroy that. I’ll never be able to compete with companies who have a larger follower base if I never show up in my followers’ feeds.”

It’s a valid concern. For thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of Igers (Instagram users), their feed acts as the main marketing channel for their business.

And it’s been highly effective. Because of its image-focused nature, Instagram makes it simple for small businesses to define a brand, create relevant content, drive and build engagement, as well as establish a unique community. For fashion, fitness, and food brands, this has been highly successful too because it allows them to sell lifestyle choices in an authentic, immediate format. To illustrate, household names such as Joe Wicks, the online nutrition and fitness coach, began on the platform. And there are more business success stories emerging every day.

What will the new algorithm mean for such businesses and the entrepreneurs behind them? In all likelihood, it’ll make things harder. How they launch and drive sales will need a thorough rethink. Click-throughs from Instagram to product sites or retailers is essential for the business growth of these companies. Using concepts such as giveaways and competitions, they have been able to maximise their reach on the reverse chronological feed. The new system has the potential to scupper this if an account lacks high engagement or established popularity.

There’s an argument that says Instagram’s increasing popularity means the platform does need to change in order to stay relevant. With around 400 million users, so much content is now generated every minute that the average Iger misses around 70% of the photos in their feed. Even the really great ones with more likes than said average user might receive in a year.

Relevancy-optimisation, therefore, does make some sense.

However, the general opinion appears to be that this is in the best interest of the platform, not those that use it. It’s about monetising, about making Facebook’s purchase a fully viable business. Sure it goes against the Lean Startup model underpinning the current Instagram. Given that it’s still free, however, there’s a certain absurdity to thinking it could remain the same forever when there’s so much other competition out there.

At the end of the day, #RIPInstagram might be trending now but many had the same furious reaction when ads started showing too.

Almost every other week there seems to be a headline about one social media app or another making changes to its format or tweaking it’s products, adding and taking away like some small, indecisive child playing god with their Legos. In zero cases did these social edits receive overwhelming love and support from users. No one likes change – remember the Twitter favourite furore? – but give it a week and the sadface emojis and hashtag petitions vanish into the Ethernet.

The question is, will this be the case for Instagram?

It has already weathered three rounds of backlash from previous changes, so it seems likely. But when the platform’s most treasured asset appears in jeopardy – it’s simplicity – will users come round to the changes?

Will it help Instagram grow?

Might it do so at the expense of those content creators most passionate about the platform?

Time will tell.

Just not in reverse chronological order.



Controversy at Cannes

Planning a successful event can be extremely stressful and in my experience there are often hundreds of details to consider, from larger aspects such as the venue down to tiny details such as place cards. As part of this it is amazingly easy for problems to arise, especially when dealing with the media, which can then spiral out of control.

A great example of this that I’ve seen recently was with the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where the media and the general public were outraged following the reports that women were turned away by security at the event because they weren’t wearing high heels.

The event saw a huge amount of negative press coverage that included public statements from many high profile celebrities. Models Kendall Jenner and Laura Stone were both spotted flouting the Cannes dress code by wearing flat shoes with their gowns, actress Emily Blunt spoke out against the organisation stating that the dress code was “disappointing” and that “everyone should wear flats, to be honest”, fellow actress Rashida Jones also weighed in stating the rule was ‘sexist’ and was quoted saying that “It’s part of a larger problem, which is heels are the worst. They make your legs look better, whatever, but mainly it’s men designing them and setting these rules. If they make a rule where that I have to wear heels on the carpet, then I’m making a rule that I’m just going to wear flats any time I’m asked to wear heels”.

A spokesperson for Cannes Film Festival has since attempted to defend the event organisers claiming that “regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years. There is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s. Thus, in order to make sure that this rule is respected, the Festival’s hosts and hostesses were reminded of it.” This then sparked even more media outrage, and saw numerous comments from the public on social media channels with the phrase #cannesheels becoming a trending topic on twitter.

How can other brands ensure that they run a successful event? Outlined below are my top tips to avoid making the same mistakes:

Pay attention to detail

At any event it is more often than not, the smallest details that attendees remember. This can be both positive and negative, for example people may be talking for years about one delicious canapé served, or alternatively they could always remember the time that they were spoken to rudely by the staff at an event. This being said, it is crucial to plan all aspects of the event and pay attention to even the smallest details i.e. if you want to implement a dress code make sure it is clearly and effectively communicated to all attendees prior to the event and always allow for there to be exceptions to the rule.

 Your workforce

Plan in time to train all staff that will be working at the event, making sure they are briefed to act professionally at all times. The people working for you are a representation on your brand, and therefore can reflect positively or negatively on your company. A helpful and polite workforce will ensure that the attendees have the best time possible and will remember the event for all the right reasons.

Dealing with the media

Be sure to prepare all your press materials ahead of your event, having quotes/statements ready if needed. Also try to pre-empt any questions that the press will ask, and have the answers ready especially when you are dealing with sensitive subject matter.

Crisis Management

Ahead of your event try to avoid any potential crises at all costs, make sure to have a full ‘run through’ with all event staff and highlight anything and everything that could possibly go wrong and discuss the solutions you can put in place.

If something does go wrong then make sure you have the right team in place that is able to deal with it quickly so that you can try to avoid the news reaching the media, or to make sure it is reported in the right way by the media.

Lastly apologise if needed. Acknowledge what has gone wrong and speak directly to those affected, making amends where possible. It is often too easy to make excuses and become defensive in difficult situations, but it’s amazing how far a simple apology can go.