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How to Rule the Seven Kingdoms of the PR World by Tom Lord

Winter’s not only coming, it’s here! Game of Thrones is back on our screens for its eighth and final series and it’s fair to say that its many fans are hyped.  

Where there’s hype there are also lots of great PR opportunities. In fact, some of our favourite campaigns to come through so far include a global quest to find the hidden thrones, GoT shaped biscuit bites a blood donation drive and even a dragon skin sofa. But, before we find out once and for all who’ll reside on the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms, here are seven lessons that we believe PR and creative agencies can take from the series so far.

  1. Research the company you keep

Nothing highlights the consequences of misjudging the company you keep like the ‘Red Wedding’! Now, we’re fairly confident that incorrect audience insight won’t result in bloodshed (certainly not to this scale). However, it can end up with uncomfortable conversations, poor performing campaigns or lacklustre engagement (which to us is surely as bad?). Whether it’s crunching your social feed figures or simply spending time listening to your consumer, getting to know your audiences and their interests is key to surviving the comms game. It’s why insight forms the foundation of any campaign we create.

  1. Collaborate

Despite their initial savagery towards one another, the men of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings knew that they had to join forces in order to have a chance of defeating the White Walkers. Collaborations can create beautiful content and opportunities. A great example of this is the ‘All in. Leeds’ movement, which saw an army of creative agencies join forces in a bid to welcome Channel 4 to the city of Leeds.

  1. Knowledge is power

Samwell Tarly might not be the greatest warrior, but he’s shown us that knowledge truly is power by unearthing the secret to potentially defeating the White Walkers – dragon glass! Knowledge is key to supporting any PR or content campaign and the use of a credible source or a strong research piece will always add weight to your work.

  1. Be brave

It’s fair to say that GoT has never played it safe. From the incest scenes it featured in the very first episode to each brutally graphic death scene along the way, the show continues to push boundaries and get people talking. You’re never going to set the world alight like Daenerys’ dragons without pushing boundaries and taking calculated risks from time to time– be brave!

  1. Be true to yourself

Whether you love her or hate her, nobody can question Cersei Lannister’s strength or ability to stay true to herself! After losing her children – and having been dragged through the streets of King’s Landing in her birthday suit – she remained as feisty and fearless as ever. Her motives and approach have always been clear and, although she’s not your textbook heroine, she’s a character you’ll always remember and has built a loyal following because of this. In the world of communications, it can be easy to lose your voice. When trying to please everyone, you’re in danger of talking directly to no-one. Have a voice, stand for something, stay true to your values, passion or mission and your fans will find you – whoever you are!

  1. Up your game!

The PR world is an ever-changing landscape and it’s essential to keep ahead of the game wherever you can – perfecting your strategy, approach and tactics with every step. Just like in Oberyn Martell’s showdown with The Mountain, the consequences of taking your eye off the ball can be devastating.  Thanks to our I&I team, we’re constantly updated with the latest tools, topics and techniques to go to battle for our brands and it’s an approach we can thoroughly recommend.

  1. Famous faces aren’t always the answer

Using a celeb to head up a campaign can have amazing results if the fit is right – but it isn’t a sure-fire way of guaranteeing success. Remember when Ed Sheeran popped up as Lannister soldier in series seven? Let’s just leave that one there.

Keep it relevant – Facebook News Feed changes, By Brett Cullen

Facebook is ramping up its efforts to make scrolling through News Feed a better experience with a series of recent updates aimed at making it a place full of content that’s more relevant to an individual users’ needs. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that the way brands communicate on the social media juggernaut’s platform adds genuine value and not just more lazy, hazy noise.

The News Feed algorithm is constantly under review as Facebook tries to find the delicate balance to keep everyone happy. There are lots of what Facebook call ‘signals’ which help to decide what they think may be relevant to each user. We know that the key signals in deciding what is in News Feed are who posted content, what type of content is posted, the number and type of engagements with that content and when the content is posted.

The latest updates include new signals to show users more authentic and timely stories, plus adding more value to video completion rates.

Pages that are posting spam, consistently trying to game feed (asking for Likes, Comments, Shares) or have their posts hidden by users, may be in trouble. Facebook could deem that the content those Pages (Brands) post isn’t authentic, which will only have a negative impact on its News Feed status. On the flip side, if the new signals judge a post to be authentic, it may show up higher in users’ News Feed. As an aside, Facebook’s high-profile attempts at clamping down on fake news is likely to be a long, on-going process using some sort of AI/human verification process. It’s a major topic on the wider news agenda so FB are ploughing major resource in to fighting it and improving the overall authenticity of the site.

A lot has been made in the past about posting content at a specific time. As mentioned, Facebook’s algorithm has been updated to weight other signals more heavily in deciding what’s relevant, meaning there’s less focus on content having to be posted at a specific time of day (who posted, type of content etc). However, the new ‘real time’ update is designed look at how signals change on the fly. For example, if lots of people engage on a particular post or topic in a short space of time, Facebook may judge that it would be temporarily more important to you. A recent example of where this would have come in to effect could have been with the SuperBowl which captured the attention of 60 million people on Facebook, who created over 200 million posts, comments and likes.

Video is just one of the many types of content that a user, or brand, can post and Facebook wants to organically serve relevant videos to users. With regards to News Feed rankings, it has taken in to account whether it’s Live, how long it’s been watched for, whether people turn sound on or opt to view full screen. Now (finally), it’s giving more weighting to completion rates. This means that if you watch most (at least half) or all of a video, you’re telling FB that you find it compelling as completing (or getting to halfway) on a longer video is a bigger commitment than with a shorter one. Facebook is therefore weighting completion rates more heavily the longer the video is to avoid penalising longer videos. This is also good news for users who enjoy watching long-form videos as they’re now likely to see more in their News Feed.

Here are some things to take from these updates:

1. Make your content relevant to your audience – this is always the message. Don’t get lazy and add to the noise. Think about whether it’s authentic or telling a meaningful story. Ask the question: is this going to add value to my audience?

2. Make use of Paid – it’s hard to cut through the noise and sometimes it’s not enough to make what looks like good content on paper and expect it to perform exactly how you hoped organically. Paid is a good way to target a specific audience in News Feed, but you’ve still got to make sure they’re seeing relevant content.

3. The ideal length of a video is whatever time is required to tell a compelling story that engages with your audience. Look at your analytics to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Making the Most of Switch Search Fever by Rebecca Mann

With March’s release of the Nintendo Switch console drawing closer, the internet is buzzing with the promise of new gaming experiences for 2017. Whether it’s the return of our favourite plumber pal in Super Mario Odyssey or the console’s unique combination of portable/home gaming, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate its arrival. And, as the hype only builds prior to 3rd March, we can look forward to being updated with conversations, reviews and analysis articles across the media for the foreseeable future.

Watching Google Trends over the past months, and seeing the visible leaps in search traffic every time a new announcement or trailer is shared, it’s not just gamers that will be excited about the Nintendo Switch. As we saw with Pokémon GO in 2016, innovations in gaming also provide the PR and content creation communities with lots of opportunities too!

From topical blog posts timed perfectly to support SEO plans to witty graphics that help reach new audiences on social feeds, there are numerous ways that brands can utilise trending topics to help their engagement/awareness strategies. It is important to note, however, that jumping on a band wagon is NOT a guaranteed recipe for success as can be seen in the below Pokémon GO example from 2016.

Super mario post image 2

With launches that have such an avid following and die-hard fan base, expectations and competition for content is especially high. So, if you’re planning to make the most of Switch search fever this year, here are five questions you may want to ask yourself before you get posting:

-Is the topic relevant to my audience/is there a brand benefit to joining in the conversation

-Have I got anything to offer to/further the conversation on this topic?

-What are my objectives and when will I need to post my content to support them?

-Will my content make my audience feel anything/want to respond/engage?

-Have I done my research (including everything from the sensitivities involved to the correct hashtag I should use)?

Less roadrunner, more ostrich, by Morgan Mitchell

One thing you don’t expect to see during a morning commute to work is a man riding an ostrich. But that’s exactly what many people thought they’d witnessed when a video of the before mentioned act went viral. The online community went mad trying to figure out the story of how a man managed to hitch a ride with an ostrich and the video was soon being shared across social media.

But the amateur cyber detectives out there were forced to put this case to one side as The Bank of Astana came clean and announced it was the company behind the video. The point of the video was to highlight that society is living “bored and pragmatic lives” and that we should instead be living our dreams.

Putting aside the subject of ostrich riding, here are the top four things we loved about the strategy and approach behind this video.

  1. Simple and short, the video is easy to digest.
  2. The idea has come from an aspirational brand message rather than trying to force a functional product-focus.
  3. As with many great viral videos, it balances something unexpected with an edge of possibility.
  4. Without overt branding (or any in this case), the content gives the audience time to wonder, explore and share the content before the reveal takes place. This type of video creates that all important mystery and excitement that encourages people to pass videos on and comment. It’s also more media-friendly.

In social media video production, there is often a battle to balance the level of branding included in a video. If the branding is too heavy, it can suffocate the feeling of mystery, discovery and raw realism that viral videos often thrive on. If it is non-existent, you risk not being associated with the content at all or receiving no brand value for your spend.

The Bank of Astana chose not to brand its original video at all. Instead, it created a grand reveal on Facebook which included additional footage showing how they made the video to build further engagement and cash in on the intrigue it had built. As a result, the company achieved coverage in a plethora of national titles and links are being shared across the internet. Granted, it’s just one of many viral video approaches to have celebrated success but we look forward to seeing what The Bank of Astana come up with next!