The big debate

The big debate in education at the moment is whether GCSE examinations should be continued, replaced by other exams or should be scrapped altogether. We arranged for two of our clients to be involved in the discussion, St Mary’s School, Cambridge and International Baccalaureate were featured in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 22 August highlighting their views.  Educational establishments, organisations and politicians have all been involved in discussing whether exams in UK schools are fit for purpose for a number of years, yet the debate continues.

In recent weeks the national newspapers have been packed with conflicting stories on the success of state schools versus private schools, disputing The Telegraph’s headline: “state pupils put private schools in the shade”. This headline was purportedly based on an analysis of A Level results showing that private school students were being outclassed by top performing state schools.  The Guardian begs to differ – according to the chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) The Telegraph has compared the top 500 state Sixth Forms with almost every private school in the country that offers A Levels (amounting to almost 500), not a fair comparison after all.

Fuelling what is already a raging fire is a think tank’s claims that schools should be “fined” if their pupils fail to get at least a C grade in English and Mathematics at GCSE.  Policy Exchange, the think tank responsible for the report, believes that the money gained from fining schools should go towards teaching the thousands of pupils who will have to sit those exams again under new government legislation.

So, not only do schools have the pressure of competing in the league tables and being compared against their state or independent ‘equivalents’ but they now have monetary fines to contend with too.

While we welcome this lively debate we can’t help but wonder when discussion will finally translate into action.

Upping your blog game

It’s true there is an art and science to blogging, starting with where to host your blog, what you want to write about and how often you are going to post, to the finer details of what style and tone each blog post will follow. A blog can be hugely beneficial to your business as a marketing tool, and better yet – it’s cost-effective!

In a previous post, we gave our top 10 tips on how to break through the noise of the digital marketing landscape and create compelling, meaningful and timely content, but running a successful blog is no easy task so here are a few tips on how to get your blog off the ground.

Getting started

Choosing the right platform for your blog is the first hurdle you need to cross. There are plenty of free options out there including WordPress, Tumblr, Typepad and Blogger. Each hosting site offers design themes to choose from or you can upload your own design. If you’re not sure how to use them, there are a selection of online video tutorials to be found on the Internet.

Goals

It is important to think about what your blog is setting out to achieve. Having a successful blog can help your business in a number of ways by:

1.     Driving traffic to your website

2.     Generating leads

3.     Establishing authority in your industry

4.     Building community engagement

Plan, plan and plan

The easiest way to ensure your blog has a healthy mix of posts is to create a blog content plan. It is the simplest way to keep on top of your posts and it’s also handy to keep as a record of your posting history – you don’t want to be reguritating the same old content. There are five elements you need to include within your content plan:

1.     Publish date

2.     Author

3.     Type of post (‘top tips’, ‘how-to’, ‘opinion’, etc.)

4.     Vehicle (text, video, audio, image, infographic)

5.     Category (the broad topic of the post)

Consistency

Consistency is one of the most important things that bloggers tend to forget. A study by Hubspot shows that consistent blogging leads to higher subscriber growth rates. However, it is important to remain realistic – how often do you think you will really be able to post? It is always better to start with a manageable target and build from that.

Keep it short and snappy

Deciding on the length of your blog posts can be difficult. You generally need around 300 words minimum to get indexed by search engines, but otherwise the length of your post is up to you. We would recommend a post around of 400 words. If you have a lengthy article on one topic then consider breaking it up into several installments.

Use tools

There are some great online tools out there that can help you organise, plan and even structure your blogs. If your website is in WordPress, try using its content-planning widget – great for collaboration – which lets you drag and drop as you change and rearrange ideas. One of CC’s favourite tools is Trello. The platform allows you to wave goodbye to lengthy email threads and see everything ongoing in your project at a glance – and even better, it’s free!

Our copywriting team develops and utilises original, curated and repurposed content to promote its clients as thought leaders, while building engagement with audiences and stakeholders through traditional, digital and social media, blogs and websites.

Want to find out more? Get in touch via info@consciouscomms.com

Let’s get vertical, vertical!

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“People just don’t rotate their phones… who can be bothered?”

This ‘revelation’ from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is the driving force behind the latest digital trend marketers are having to contend with, or risk getting left behind; providing vertical video and image content.

To those of us who aren’t millennials, this may seem like exaggeration. But Troy Young, president of Hearst Digital, supports Spiegel’s thinking, saying: “Mobile phones are vertical devices… turning it sideways is a lot of work.” What’s more, Darren Tome, VP of product management at Mashable, believes that “phones are the dominant device for content consumption with the young, digital generation” so it’s vital that marketers heed the lessons shared by those platforms which are proving so successful with the younger generations; ensuring that content is created “in an aspect ratio that’s native and natural for mobile”.

The statistics show that there is some truth in these claims: on the Snapchat platform, vertical ads are viewed to the end nine times more frequently than horizontal ones, and this is on a platform which is significant in reaching millennials, boasting 35 million daily users aged 13-34 in the U.S. alone. What’s more, as mobile increasingly becomes the primary device for accessing the internet, having accounted for more than half of e-commerce transactions for some time now, it may not just be those marketers catering to millennials who need to invest in vertical content.    

Snapchat isn’t the only platform to focus on vertical content. Meerkat and Periscope, both of which stream live video, are also configured for vertical content.

Acknowledging the trend and being keen to adopt vertical content, however, is only the first hurdle in the race to ‘go vertical’. Unless you are in the same position as Snapchat, Meerkat or Periscope’s content teams, which only have to provide content to suit their vertical display channels, you almost certainly will need to produce horizontal content as well. The majority of outlets are set up to display horizontal content, whether this is a brand website, most social media channels, or mainstream advertising channels. So in practice, to incorporate vertical content in to your strategy, you are most likely going to need to create two distinct pieces of content if you’re to continue sharing on existing channels while also investing in vertical channels. It’s not as simple as repurposing horizontal content for vertical distribution, nor is it easy to repurpose vertical for traditional horizontal distribution. Twice as much work often means twice as much budget.

Some brands and publishers are beginning to show vertical content within special vertical display boxes on their sites, for instance Mashable recently shared its first piece of cross-platform vertical content, on desktop, mobile and iOS, to some extent negating the need to duplicate content. We would have to question whether this could go too far though, as our wide screen televisions, laptops and desktops clearly benefit from wide angle filming; you can experience more from your content when it’s wide screen! Furthermore, TV advertising, cinema advertising, and horizontal billboard advertising are going to continue to require horizontal content.

It will be interesting to see how far vertical content reaches in ‘cross platform’ distribution. We would much prefer to see vertical content prioritised for mobile, but horizontal content retained everywhere else. It’s just a question of time and budget, versus optimal user experience which varies from platform to platform. We wonder which will win!

Top tips for graduates trying to get into PR

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Leaving university can be frightening; the world you have
grown accustomed to for the last few years no longer exists and you are faced
with the very real task of finding a job in a market where candidates typically
outnumber open positions. If you are a graduate on the search for your first
job and are interested in getting into the world of public relations, here are
our five top tips to help you get your foot in the door:

1. Know what is going on – it is essential in PR to be up to date with trade,
regional and national news particularly in the sector you are hoping to work in.
Demonstrating up to date knowledge on digital and social media trends that are affecting
a client’s industry sector will set you apart from other candidates.

 2. Network
communicating is the pillar of PR so it is essential that you are comfortable
talking to people. Networking at events and online is a key skill that you need
to learn and hone in order to show yourself and the company you are working for
in the best light. Digital networking will enhance your presence in the
industry; joining relevant groups on LinkedIn and getting involved in
discussions will help you make connections with appropriate people.

3. Research
before showing up for an interview make sure you have done your research. Often
you will be asked to discuss a favourite PR campaign or stunt and it is
important you have one picked out so you can explain why you feel it was
successful.

4. Work experience
– getting as much industry experience as possible will work in your favour when
looking for a full time position. During your placements you will have been
given the opportunity to draft press releases, gain an understanding of the
day-to-day running of a  press office and
the organisational skills necessary to be successful in this industry. Any work
experience will be a great learning curve and a fantastic opportunity for you
to polish your skills in researching and writing.

5. Build a portfolio
– having a portfolio is a great way of showcasing what you can do, whether it’s
working on your own or as part of a team. Employers are looking for individuals
who are going to deliver results for their clients. Choose case studies that
are relevant to the sector you want to get into, and successful campaigns you
have been involved in that have achieved a spread of coverage in broadcast,
print and online media, and be prepared to talk about how their success was
measured.  

Recently at Conscious Communications…

Here is a little taste of what we have been up to during the past month…

Marshal Papworth on
Countryfile

We love arranging
great coverage for our clients.  At the
beginning of July, we worked with BBC Countryfile to showcase the great work of
the Marshal Papworth Fund in building knowledge and skills in sustainable
agriculture in developing countries. If you missed the students, look for them
on iPlayer (episode available until the beginning of August) or become a Friend
here.

Cambridge Science
Centre – Cosmic exhibition

This month we have been getting creative with
Cambridge Science Centre to help promote its brand new exhibition, Cosmic,
launching on 23rd July.  To
celebrate the launch of the new exhibition, we have invited press and VIPs to
witness the world’s first attempt to rocket power a punt down the River Cam fuelled
with nothing more than Fitzbillies’ buns – the most potent rocket fuel known to
Cambridge! We have been busy out and about filming each of the rocket tests,
the making of the famous Fitzbillies’ Chelsea Bun, and the reaction of the
general public in Cambridge to this world first! 

Calling all
Professors and Industry – Cambridge University Press needs you!

We have been
working with Cambridge University Press to develop Education Digital – a series
of thought leadership articles aimed at an international audience of teachers,
students and their families. With a focus on key subject areas including STEM
subjects, Psychology, Modern Foreign Languages and History, each article will
aim to strengthen the link between education and potential career paths, while
helping to inspire a love of learning.

If you have something
you would like to contribute or if you want to know a little more, please contact
us on 01223 421 831.

Magna Carta: For the Digital Age

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Monday 15 June saw the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, a historic document which formed the foundations of democracy, human rights and the supremacy of law for all subsequent centuries, not just for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, but across the world. Prime Minister, David Cameron, emphasised the relevance of the document to current society, saying: “it falls to us in this generation to restore the reputation of those rights and their critical underpinning of our legal system. It is our duty to safeguard the legacy, the idea, the momentous achievement.” At a time when Mr Cameron is trying to reform current Human Rights laws in response to ‘modern day’ issues, such as terrorism, at Conscious Communications we find ourselves thinking about human rights in relation to the internet.

March of this year marked the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Those of us old enough to have seen the advance of the  World Wide Web from the start will have noticed a marked change in ‘acceptable online behaviour’, which to a large extent has been allowed to flourish, unchecked, thanks to a lack of precedent or relevant laws, making the World Wide Web a difficult place to police.

In recognition of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the British Library in conjunction with the World Wide Web Foundation, Southbank Centre and British Council has given the public the opportunity to shape a ‘Magna Carta for the Digital Age’; encouraging young people to consider what their Digital Human Rights should be. This is a pertinent question for our modern society, and an important point for young people – who will not have had the chance to experience life before the digital influence – to ponder. School students across the world were invited to create clauses to be added to the Magna Carta for the Digital Age, before the general public voted on which clauses they thought should be included.

Clauses submitted covered issues including whether connectivity is a human right; the importance of freedom of speech and access to information; whether companies can have too much control over how the internet is run; and whether a right to privacy is important in the digital arena. According to the organisers of the Magna Carta for the Digital Age, “the clauses from students are striking: rather than a call for freedom or openness half of the submissions reveal a marked concern about safety and security online”.

Two of the students’ suggested clauses were:

•  The web we want will not let governments restrict our right to information

•  The web we want will be private and not allow the government to see what we do online

Many of the suggested clauses focus on freedom of information while, in stark contrast, others want to prioritise individuals’ privacy online.  So, how do we proceed when the proposed rights oppose each other? It is bound to be difficult to create an exhaustive list of Digital Human Rights which contains no conflicting clauses, especially when the digital arena and associated behaviours are constantly changing at such an alarming rate.

As with the original Magna Carta we expect the Digital Human Rights to be refined on an ongoing basis.

Well done to the British Library et al for raising awareness of the need for these Digital Human Rights, and for publishing a Magna Carta for the Digital Age – setting the conversation off on the right track and encouraging young people to participate.

The top 10 clauses can be seen below, or click here for more information on the selected clauses.

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Investors In People Awards 2015

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As you may have previously read in our blog, we were shortlisted for Best Newcomer at the IIP Awards 2015. We had an amazing night, and it was a real honour to be shortlisted from submissions from 77 countries! Many congratulations to The Boxing Academy for its well deserved win! Here are a few highlights:

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Social Media: 15 minutes is all you need!

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We know that social media isn’t right for all
organisations, and certainly not all channels will be right for you, but it is
possible to manage your social media accounts in just 15 minutes a day so it
doesn’t have to be the arduous task that you dread.

But first for some general pointers…

Dos:

  1. Assess and audit which platforms are best
    suited to your business – does Facebook really offer the right target
    demographic for your business?
  2. Plan your time and resources effectively –
    there are many platforms out there which allow you to schedule your posts (e.g.
    Hootsuite and Tweetdeck) so you don’t have to be creating content every day
    when you log in, just monitoring
  3. Try and block out the same 15 minutes each
    day for social media activity – it’s a good lunchtime distraction!

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t just repeat the same sales message
    across multiple channels
  2. Don’t ignore or delete negative comments –
    they require a response and your followers will respect you for being open and
    transparent
  3. Don’t join a social media channel and leave a
    half completed profile for months on end; your potential customers and business
    partners will come across it and draw conclusions from what they find online

Ready,
set, go!

0-5
minutes

Login to your accounts and check your brand mentions – this
is your opportunity to respond to queries or negative comments.

6-10
minutes

Spend this time scanning your social media feeds and if
appropriate like, favourite, retweet and share posts which you think will be of
interest to your followers.

11-15
minutes

Find some great content to post – whether it is your own
company or product news, news from the industry, or something a bit more
light-hearted like a #FunFactFriday. No need to post it straight away; use a
tool to schedule a few throughout the day.

The future is bright, the future is Instagram

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Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform year on year. With 300 million monthly active users, the app has moved quickly from the trendy iOS-only app, to a huge social network, now also accessible via Android and the internet.

In the last year, socially-astute companies and brands have stepped up their marketing initiatives on Instagram. Brands that are strategically active on Instagram have instant access to a platform to share personality and be creative and, in turn, immerse themselves in their fans’ daily lives. This growing trend of producing innovative imagery and video content has meant that volume of publications and cleverly crafted campaigns posted on the app has grown significantly. 

Last week Ballantine’s published a new magazine about whisky exclusively on Instagram. The cleverly dubbed ‘Insta-zine’ is titled W and you can find the first issue at @w_issueone. It features a mosaic style grid of images that together make up the front page – users can tap on individual posts leading them to different articles.

Could this be the future for magazine publishing?

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Brands have toyed with the Instagram grid before; one of our favourite examples was last year’s art-directed campaign by Mazda and JWT Canada. However, the fact that users do not typically view the images in the mosaic grid form seen in the above image, but rather as a feed of stand along images, impacts how visually successful these campaigns really are. 

This month will see the first ever book to be published via the app. Jason Sperling’s new book Look At Me When I’m Talking To You, will publish one illustrated page each day for 160 days, starting on 25 June at @lookatmebook. The idea is to reach people where they are already consuming media on a daily basis, rather than try to force them into a different pattern of behaviour – a key point of the book as well.

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Sperling said: “The Instagram idea was a reactionary thing. I gave the book to several people to read, and after several weeks, no one, not one person, had started to read it…that led to the ‘a-ha’ insight/connection that these days people are ingesting content in small, mobile chunks. So, why can’t a book be built that way?”

Will you be upping your Instagram game?

Click here to start building your PR and marketing strategies