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Measuring success – the importance of transparency between agency and client

Measuring success – the importance of transparency between agency and client

We’re now well into Q4 – notoriously the toughest time of year for small and medium-sized businesses – with budgets squeezed, targets to hit and stakeholders to please ahead of the new year.

Value for money and a sound return on investment have never been more important, and a key element of this for many SMEs is the relationship with their PR agency.

The best agencies have emerged from the dark ages of measuring the success of a PR campaign against Equivalent Advertising Value – challenged to find more tangible, realistic ways of measuring coverage for their clients. From SEO ranking to share of voice, there are various metrics to show the impact of our work, but aside from these, there is a wider point here about transparency in general.

It’s a tough time of year, but transparency is for life, not just for Christmas, so here’s how to ensure that agency and client remain on the same page and establish a long and fruitful relationship.

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Transparency from the start

The first pitch or introductory meeting often sets a precedent for rest of the contract, so an open, honest approach from the off – from both sides – is important. As the client, what are your primary objectives and ultimately what do you want to get out of the PR campaign? As the agency, do you fully understand the client’s brief and are you clear on how they view success? These are two key questions to get out in the open early on.

Just as it’s the client’s responsibility to be clear with the brief, the agency must be crystal clear on how achievable these objectives are – and in what timeframe – from the moment the contract kicks off, to avoid any ambiguity on either side later on.

Agree a target audience

The ultimate aim of any PR campaign is to achieve press coverage, first and foremost. But what use is an interview, news announcement, thought leadership article or case study if it won’t be read by your brand’s target audience? This is a key factor for an agency and client to establish early on, in order for the agency to deliver a PR campaign that will add true value, rather than coverage for coverage’s sake.

As the client, feel free to tell your agency what your dream piece of coverage would be, and why. We’ll often ask our clients this question the first time we meet, as it helps us understand a) the audience they wish to communicate with, and b) their expectations – it’s then our job to manage these expectations and advise on a strategy to suit.

Within the Tech & Innovation team we work with a fascinating variety of businesses – from start-ups to larger, international brands, operating in the B2B and B2C tech space. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that such a variety of companies have such different priorities when it comes to press coverage. Some would like a few stand-out features in the national press, whereas others see more value in a regular stream of thought leadership in the key industry press. If both parties are clear from the beginning, delivery will ultimately benefit.

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As simple as 1,2,3

PR analytics tools – such as our own service, PHA Pulse – are able to quantify the impact of PR in a way that the agency and client can understand, therefore allowing them to optimise their PR strategy accordingly.

But these tools do come at a price and aren’t always suitable for a start-up or SME with a small budget for marketing & PR. For this reason, we’ve developed a system that our clients love – simply because it’s transparent, measurable and, ultimately, simple.

We attribute a 1,2,3 points system to coverage and cross-reference this with the client’s priority media, largely informed by their target audiences (3 points for a priority title, 2 for a secondary title, 1 for a less important title). Our KPI is to hit a pre-agreed number of points in a certain timeframe – you can agree to measure this monthly or quarterly, depending on client objectives. This is a great example of transparency between agency and client, introduced early on in the relationship, and can even be factored into the contract – to encourage mutual agreement and understanding, and set clear expectations.

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Speak up

Underpinning all of this is clear communication between the agency and the client. It’s so important that either party makes it clear at any point if they’re not happy with how things are going. The majority of qualms are easily put right on a call or meeting, and without openness and honesty, a successful long-term agency-client relationship will never be possible.

What Does the Future Hold For Peer-2-Peer Lenders?

In the UK today, 99% of all business are classified as SME’s (Small or Medium Enterprise). These companies all start with an idea, a eureka moment of an opportunity just waiting to be grabbed. However, before many of these ideas even get off the ground they are met with the massive problem of funding. Banks are still unwilling to lend to small and invariably riskier businesses and often the founders have little cash to invest themselves.

Going through traditional funding methods often fails to lead to tangible, capital investment results. This means alternative finance is key to the success of British enterprise. The explosion of alternative lenders and the popularity of them shows that people are more than ready to invest in small UK businesses. But with recent issues around regulation and falling interest rates, what does the future hold for P2P lenders?

Borrower numbers vs lender numbers

With many lenders and fewer borrowers, businesses are able to borrow funds at a lower interest rate. This, however, is possibly the main issue facing the current swathe of P2P lenders. With the explosion of interest in alternative finance, many people have invested thousands of pounds via these platforms. Much of the publicity that has been put out by these platforms has been based on attracting lenders.

However, now they find themselves in a situation where they have too much cash and not enough people to lend it to. A recent drive by platforms to find more borrowers has been slow to catch on which has resulted in interest rates on these platforms stalling – making it less appealing than it once was.

Slowdown in Investment

Thanks to this lender-borrower imbalance, people are starting to look elsewhere for investment options. The lowering of interest rates and slower take up of that lent capital has meant that investors have been reluctant to invest or increase their existing investment. This is because its either bringing in small amounts of money despite the investment remaining risky or because they are not having their investments accepted by anyone – offering them no returns at all.

Increasing Regulation

This is more of an issue in the US of late but certainly something that UK platforms need to keep an eye out for. Many new platforms are being slowed down in the application process by the FCA after the implementation of regulations on the sector over the past couple of years.

Releasing unused capital in the UK

Research carried out by the Social Market Foundation said that £90 Billion was missed out on because people left money in savings accounts and did not invest in small business. Making your cash work harder for you has been the major driver behind why people looked to and continue to look at alternative finance platforms to secure extra income.

Fast and easy investment process

One thing these platforms have in their arsenal is the ease of securing funding from the point of view of the company. With less stringent checks required, SME’s can secure funding far quicker than if they were to go through banks or building societies to raise capital.

Key to small businesses’ success is being able to react quickly to what is, inevitably, fast and ever-changing conditions. Access to funding at short notice through these platforms makes them very attractive to SME’s.

So, is the future for P2P lenders bright?

The slowdown of these sorts of platforms was always to be expected. The predictable flood of older millennials looking to make a little extra cash was always going to lead to a glut of lenders that would lead to borrowers being in short supply. However, with Zopa gaining full FCA approval in May of this year and Funding Circle also being approved soon after, there is plenty of hope for the future of this sector to continue to grow and flourish in the future.

The slowdown in interest rates has undoubtedly had an effect on the perception of the sector but it still offers far higher interest rates than the banks are currently offering. From the borrower side, the lower rates for short term sums are still very attractive, and along with the less bureaucratic and faster loaning system this is still a great way for SME’s to finance themselves in the short term.

#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.



How to Rebuild Trust in Your Tech Brand

Scandal, scandal, scandal. Security breaches, data hoarding and ethical ambiguity – if the likes of Apple, Snapchat and Sony are anything to go by in terms of trust in technology, they certainly didn’t do SMEs and entrepreneurs any favours in 2014.

Our trust in technology brands was found to have dipped last year.

Our trust in technology brands was found to have dipped last year.

Last week, a report highlighted that Brits’ trust in technology had substantially dipped in the last year. Consumer electronics and telecoms, in particular, both took a tumble, and now, as other countries enthusiastically steam ahead with innovation, Brits’ trust (or lack thereof) in tech is significantly impeding our progression towards a connected future.

So what can tech companies do to reassure British consumers? Here are our top three tips to inspire, maintain, or, in some cases, rebuild trust in your tech brand.

Data and Security

After numerous high profile data hacks and security breaches in 2014, consumers are understandably concerned about how their details are mined, managed and manipulated. For tech brands, ensuring you are plain and transparent with your use, storage and trading of data is vital to allay the fears stoked by these incidents and strengthen that all-important consumer trust.

High profile hacks have left consumers wondered whether their data is safe.

High profile hacks have left consumers wondering whether their data is safe.

Only a couple of months ago, MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee were compelled to call for new guidelines for apps and websites, requiring them to explain clearly their use of personal data. Increasingly, regulation is making it difficult for technology to evolve, so instead of waiting for more guidelines and possibly laws to be introduced, why not prove to society that tech brands can be responsible, transparent and effectively self-regulate? As Andrew Miller, chair of the committee, noted: “Socially responsible companies wouldn’t want to bamboozle their users”.

Quality and Safety

Technology as a topic can often seem inaccessible – after all, there’s a lot of jargon and few people understand how software and hardware is actually built. So when there are rapid developments, it almost appears too good to be true, leaving some sceptical and mistrusting consumers questioning the validity of research and the quality of the design of a product.

In fact, nearly half of UK consumers believe that innovation is happening too quickly – but then, it’s not in the best interests of tech developers to slam on the brakes. Instead, it’s vital that tech companies address these concerns directly, by allowing people to trial and test their capabilities. Demonstrating quality by offering your product for high profile reviews is a good way of gaining advocacy from trusted, independent parties.

Positioning your company as experts in a relevant field – through thought leadership pieces and interviews – will also reassure consumers that the same intelligence and conscientiousness has been baked into your product or service.


Perhaps one of the most surprising snippets to come out of the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show 2015 earlier this month was an admission from Gary Shapiro, CEO of the event. He acknowledged that over-reliance on digital products is a “Natural trend that people are talking about”, and that he believes in the good of “everything, in reason.”

A digital detox, it seems, may well be on the horizon – and tech companies must be prepared. Consumers mistrust products and brands that serve no true purpose, or that bombard them with so many that they can’t discern what the product is really for. So decide what problem you want to solve and where your niche lies, instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Less is more – or, in the immortal words of Coco Chanel, “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.”

In your communications, tech brands should ensure that the value your product adds to the market is conveyed clearly and consistently. If consumers can see how your product will save them time, bring them new information or simply entertain them, trust in your brand will strengthen. That one must-have feature of your offering should shine through: purpose over puff.

As we move forward into 2015, it seems that innovation is no longer enough. Trust in your tech brand must be built upon a foundation of transparency, independent advocacy and clear communications – only then will Brits embrace the advances you have nurtured. How will trust in your brand fare this year?