How marketing can leverage Augmented Reality

At this year’s Social Media Week event in London, Blippar’s President of Global Marketing, Omaid Hiwaizi, discussed how Augmented Reality (AR) can be introduced into a brand’s marketing objectives, commenting: “AR allows brands to deepen interactions and continue conversations with the content attached to their products”. Witnessing the heightened frequency of AR usage in the past year has filled the team at Conscious Communications with excitement about the potential it presents for the world of digital marketing.

Campaigns that wouldn’t have been feasible before are now possible because of AR. AR gives you the opportunity to deliver a more enriching experience for your audiences because of the interactive element the technology could bring to your campaign, resulting in a deeper connection and an opportunity to engage with a wider audience across more meaningful touch points. Last year, Maybelline launched an AR campaign where over 5,700 people shared images of themselves on social media, virtually trying on new nail varnishes. One clear benefit was that it brought an ample amount of media coverage, but it also allowed the brand to create a list of Twitter users – ‘engaged customers’ who can be targeted again through tailored audience ads on the social network.

Hiwaizi continued: “We are naturally curious creatures; we constantly want to know more about the world around us. AR offers consumers an exciting opportunity to turn everyday objects into a learning experience. Scanning an apple can bring up recipes, the history, calorific value or other content that might be of interest.”

One of our favourite brands using AR to date is Disney and its Color and Play product, an AR colouring book app that lets you colour and watch the characters on the page come to life. Better yet, you don’t have to replace a crayon with a stylus as the app uses a digital overlay, enhancing engagement. This isn’t the first time companies have used AR to enhance traditional colouring books – there’s Quiver, Crayola Color Alive and Paint My Cat.

AR can also be utilised to leverage traditional offline marketing too – if you have an offline presence at a conference or event for example, AR can be used to bring your brand and proposition to life.  Your exhibition banner could have video pop outs which demonstrate or explain your services/products or could take the visitor to a direct landing page. Better yet, why not bring your humble business cards to life? AR will add a personal touch to networking, and you’re guaranteed to be remembered.

This year, AR has moved beyond the cool factor, and provides real value to its users. We can’t wait to see what brands and campaigns bring to the AR table.

What to do when crisis strikes

By its very nature, when a crisis hits you will be on the back-foot.  But this is when the preparation you have done in advance, often many years ahead, will kick-in and the plan that was developed especially for this purpose will save your bacon.  If you don’t have a plan, then our advice is to develop one now.

When a crisis strikes, it is important not to respond in a knee-jerk fashion and your plan will allow you to respond efficiently.  It will take you through the steps you need to take to ensure that your response is appropriate and proportionate.

Spokespeople

One of the most important things is to make sure you have a spokesperson who is well trained. Media training is essential for everyone and the skills needs to be practised to keep them fresh and ensure that when they’re needed the spokesperson is able to deliver clear, unflustered messages that are factual and reassuring. In most cases, journalists will want to conduct their own interviews with company spokespeople who will, ideally be someone from within the company rather than an external consultant. There are some simple and very effective techniques that all trained spokespeople should be able to employ in live interview situations.  If you’re the designated spokesperson, preparation is always the best ammunition; anticipate the questions that will be asked, even the ones you hope won’t be, and prepare your answers, sticking to the facts and remembering that you represent the company, brand and reputation.  In all but a very few circumstances, interviews will be edited down to less than a couple of minutes, in most cases just 30 seconds or so.  So, be mindful of this when you’re talking and find ways to repeat your core message so that however the interview is edited, this message will be delivered loud and clear.

In times of crisis it is always important that your spokesperson expresses concern for the potential impact of the situation, whether it will have a direct or indirect effect on individual people, communities, the environment or wildlife. Never underestimate the power of empathy for taking the heat out of a situation.

If your company doesn’t have a spokesperson confident and able to deliver interviews, then the best advice is always to put your comment in writing – a written statement is far better than no statement at all and, if it’s in writing, you have complete control of your messaging.

Don’t try to hide

Bad news will not go away and should not be buried.  Think back to some of the massive media issues we have witnessed in our time and in many cases there was an initial attempt to bury or disguise the bad news – Edwina Curry and the salmonella in eggs crisis is a great example; the egg industry learned, at its great cost, that burying their heads was not the solution and it took them many years and the invention of a new quality lion mark to bring their industry back from the brink.  Those were the days before the Internet even existed and you can just imagine the magnified impact of a crisis like that now with the speed of social media. One ill-advised word from a spokesperson these days can spread across the globe in minutes.

Back-up team

As well as a reliable front-person, you also need a team in the background, who are responsible for the various different aspects of investigating the causes and managing the effects of the crisis, to bring the situation under control.  A simple, fast channel of communication involving these key people is essential and can be written into the crisis plan well before problems arise.

Media front-line

There should always be just one point of contact for the media – if journalists obtain their information from several sources the messages will undoubtedly become confused and it will be more difficult to contain stakeholders’ interest and concern. There will ideally be a team of people behind this first point of contact to handle the volume of enquiries that may arise.

Inform all other staff that they are not to engage with the media and make sure you give them adequate information and/or training in how not to engage – journalists can be extremely persistent and will use many ‘tricks’ to get the inside track if they feel the resulting story may be worth it.

Never, ever say ‘no comment’.  This simply implies guilt.  Much better to give a comment that provides very little information if that information isn’t yet available and will satisfy the media that action is being taken, for example ‘we are aware that xyz and an internal investigation is being conducted’.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as ‘off the record’.  It is a journalist’s job to find news and they will invest time in building relationships to get their story – remember that no matter how friendly they may seem, they can and will use your words to get their scoop.

Make friends on social

Social media can be your friend and your enemy in times of crisis.  One of the important elements of your crisis plan will be the monitoring of and response to on-line conversations.  Great crisis communicators will use the relationships they’ve built up with customers and suppliers on social media to their advantage when a crisis strikes.  These people, loyal to your business, can provide an independent and objective endorsement of the company, its practices and ethos and, as long as they are treated with respect and honesty, will support the company’s position.  Remember that the vast majority of journalists are active on Twitter and use it as a source for stories, so take advantage of this to spread your reassuring messages in times of crisis.

Video

Video forms an integral part of many communications strategies these days and can be used effectively in a crisis too to deliver a clear, personal message to stakeholders which can be posted easily across many owned platforms, as well as being offered to the media.  A crisis will never happen at a convenient time, so ensure that you have a process in place for fast and efficient filming of statements at all times of day and night.

Internal ambassadors

Finally, don’t forget that your employees can and should be your most valuable ambassadors. While they may have been instructed not to speak to the media, they will be talking with clients, suppliers, colleagues, family and friends, so make sure they are well informed as soon as a crisis happens so that they’re able to clearly communicate the ‘party line’.

Five tips to protect your online reputation

Earlier this month Debrett’s, the go-to resource for all
things ‘proper’, announced a new course for 13 to 16 year olds called Coming of
Age, the main aim of which is to help young people to manage their online
reputations, highlighting the importance of online profiles for both employers
and employees.  

Frankly, we’re surprised it has taken this long! For those
people now nearing their mid-twenties, who were among the first to be impacted
by constant connectivity from their teenage years, this may come as too little
too late.  

It is increasingly common to look up job candidates,
potential first dates, and persons of interest from news reports or reality TV
on social media, search engines, and any other portal which can be used to gain
information on individuals and those of us who lived our teenage years without
every statement or action being publicly documented, share an enormous sense of
relief.

The story of Paris Brown, who in 2013 was appointed as the UK’s
first youth police and crime commissioner aged just 17, highlights the
pitfalls of constant connectivity. Her
achievement was short lived due to the ramifications of living of her teenage
years ‘online’.  Paris felt pressured to
resign from the post after tweets, which she had sent between the ages of 14
and 16 and since deleted from her profile, were discovered and deemed inappropriate.
Bearing in mind that the role this teenager was hired to do was to improve
relationships between the police force and the young people in Kent, you would have
thought that Paris’ ‘misdemeanour’ might have been overlooked, or put down as a
consequence of youth. If someone who was hired specifically to build bridges
with young people was made an example of based on her online history, the rest
of us should be quite certain that we will be subject to similar repercussions
should our online history prove inappropriate in the eyes of our employers.

So, while Debrett’s digital etiquette guide is aimed at
teens (who we hope will heed the advice and protect themselves against being
the next public example of how online history can come back to haunt you), we
think anyone not yet familiar with the most essential do’s and don’ts of online
behaviour, should pay heed to the following tips. After all, people already in
the world of work are not beyond making statements they might regret, or
behaving in a way they wish hadn’t been captured on a phone camera!  

What’s more, many individuals set up social media accounts
for use in a professional capacity, from small business owners to employees of
global businesses. It can become unclear whether an individual’s post is
‘authorised’ by the brand, or is an individual’s personal opinion. If you’re a
business leader, ensuring your team’s personal accounts aren’t negatively impacting
your business is essential, as is encouraging your team to create a positive
social media presence which can give your business an enormous boost.

Top five tips to
protect your reputation online:

1.      
Don’t overshare; stop yourself from venting
about the traffic, your day at work (including your colleagues or cleaner), or
airing any type of dirty laundry!

2.      
Consider privacy settings on your personal social
media accounts –remember that once you have shared, it may never be possible to
completely erase a status or uploaded photo or video, as people can download
your media, and even screenshot your posts, comments and responses (and do tend
to if you have said something you’re likely to regret)

3.      
Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t be
happy to say in person. Stay positive and respectful, and try to offer
something that is fun, informative, or inspirational for your audience

4.      
Think about the image of yourself or the business
you are representing; try to show the best of yourself, but also try to avoid
showing off

5.      
Take care to write using correct spelling and
grammar. It may feel unnecessary, but avoiding ‘text-speak’, overly abbreviated
phrases or acronyms, poor punctuation and spelling mistakes will give a better
first impression to new audiences.

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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