Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such Babel blogs as ‘Krusty the Clown’s greatest PR missteps’… Okay, so that’s not a real Babel blog, but chances are if you’ve ever seen The Simpsons, then you probably started reading that sentence in Troy’s distinct voice. That’s how memorable a simple video clip can be if delivered with the right tone, right message and to the right audience. It sticks.
The irony of creating a written piece of content to explain how valuable video can be isn’t lost on me. However, this blog isn’t intended as a ‘copy is dead, long live video!’ war cry; a well-written article or whitepaper is still an absolute home-run. Today, companies who want the media’s attention need as many weapons in their arsenal as possible.
Standing out from the crowd and making sure your voice is heard is a bigger challenge than it’s ever been. The only medium consistently stemming the tide and stopping audiences from switching off and scrolling on is video. Journalists want more video content because their readers want more video content, and major creators like the BBC are increasingly turning towards video news stories online. When you’re not only trying to get your message across, but also trying to make sure people stay tuned to hear it, then video is one of the best not-so-secret weapons there is.
The numbers don’t lie
95% of a message is retained when we watch video content, versus only 10% when reading text. That’s a huge difference. It’s almost certainly why 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service, and why 59% of senior executives prefer to watch video if both text and video are available on the same topic on the same page.
Add to this a couple more facts – a third of all online activity is spent video-watching; people stay on pages longer when watching video than reading text; and videos get shared more by internet users than other types of content – and it becomes obvious why this media is so appealing to publishers! And now for the real kicker: 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video. That’s a pretty strong business case for investing in visual!
Let’s forget the numbers for a moment, and consider the personal and emotional element of video content. In a time of globalisation and corporate clichés, building trust, authenticity and one-to-one relationships with an audience isn’t easy. Sometimes there is no more genuine way to read a person than by being able to hear their voice and see the whites of their eyes. This is connection you can only get – bar face-face interaction – through video.
A simpler view
So how can you use it? Any way you see fit to be perfectly honest. One of the best uses though, particularly in the often-technical jargon-filled tech space that we operate in, is explainer video. This kind of short-form content (often animated) can be used to simplify and clarify a complex idea or solution in a more digestible way.
Trying to explain to my very non-technical parents some of the concepts that we work on (how a mobile signal reaches their phone, how our WiFi works, how computer viruses spread etc), can feel akin to trying to finish a thousand-piece puzzle wearing boxing gloves. However, a video that can demonstrate something in action or bring a metaphor to life through animation works a lot better.
Explainer videos are an ideal way to convey complicated ideas to consumers and technical experts alike, but they’re not the only type of video that’s effective. A simple video interview, taking the quotes that are already getting used in written copy and giving them some personality, is a simple but effective means of spreading your message with the media, and maximising the value of content.
It’s important here to also bust a bit of a myth that video content is ridiculously expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it can be costly if you want a really detailed animation full of graphics and snazzy effects, but if you’re putting together some straightforward visuals with a talking-head spokesperson then it needn’t break any budgets. Everyone and their dog has a smartphone nowadays, which means that that most of us also now have a video camera sitting in our pocket which is more than capable of capturing a crisp HD frame. Add in some affordable studio lights and a decent mic and you can produce something high-quality for a low spend.
Of course, you get out of video what you put into it, but the point here is that you don’t need to be Steven Spielberg and rent out Pinewood to produce effective content that appeals to the media and could sit comfortably on their website.
The media landscape is a visual one, and video content is only going to become more important in the coming years. Getting to grips with how video can improve visibility is a must for any business wanting to gain media traction. And funnily enough, I know an agency who can help…
Exam season is well underway for students up and down the country. Many will already have a graduate job lined up and, after throwing up their mortarboard in celebration of their time at University, will quickly enter the world of work. However, there are many others who will be unsure of their next steps, and of the path they want their career to take.
A career in public relations can be an extremely rewarding one, but there are a lot of unknowns about starting life in the industry. I’ve addressed some of the most common, which will hopefully prove useful advice for potential graduates of the future.
1. How important is prior experience for graduates?
Obviously, prior experience can be an advantage. However, despite what some graduates think, we don’t look for new starters based on previous PR experience as much as previous life experience and transferable skills. Equally, we don’t expect new starters to have a vast knowledge of the technology or telecommunications industry, but a general interest in technology will definitely help.
2. What skills stand out when you’re looking for candidates?
Strong writing skills are something we really look out for, so essay-based subjects stand out on a CV, as do things like personal blogs or experience writing for a student newspaper. It’s also important for a candidate to be organised and able to work well in a team; you can often get a feel for those skills through a person’s hobbies, clubs they belong to and activities they take part in outside of studying or work. As well as this, we look for candidates who are confident picking up the phone and talking to journalists – but that’s something you can spot during an interview.
3. What’s working life in PR like?
Daily tasks can be quite varied depending on the needs of the client at a given time. Generally speaking though, working life is collaborative and fluid. We start each day by going over the day’s news before getting on with campaign tasks, which could be anything from drafting content, pitching in a story to the media, talking strategy with a client or clipping lots of coverage!
4. Are there many training opportunities?
We have a bespoke training programme, which in practice means we offer our team the chance to go on as many training courses as they like to further their skills. We believe continued personal and professional development is extremely important. For new starters we often suggest courses and webinars that help them find their feet, but they too have the freedom to pick particular topics that interest them.
5. How could a candidate impress during a graduate PR job interview?
My advice would be the same as with any job interview: come prepared having researched where you’re applying to. Interviewers don’t want to trip you up with trick questions, but you can always tell if a candidate has done their research before they arrive. I’d also just say be confident and conversational. Interviews aren’t meant to feel like an exam and it’s just as important to get a feel for a person and how they might fit into a workplace environment as it is to know their skills.
6. What advice do you have for candidates considering a career in B2B tech PR?
B2B tech PR has its own specific challenges. A lot of the clients we work with provide services that impact our daily lives in terms of how we use our phones and computers. I’d recommend always keeping on top of the news so you have a good idea of what’s going on in the tech world – and how this impacts current affairs more generally – and you’re ready to jump on a story if something breaks.
7. How quickly can someone progress?
The short answer is: very quickly. Progressing from an entry-level role is all about a person’s ability to adapt and get stuck-in. Some people take time to feel comfortable and that’s fine, but there are no barriers in terms of a minimum time someone has to stay at an entry-level position. If they show their skills and a willingness to suggest ideas and contribute, they can progress very quickly. We’ve had graduates progress after only a few months in the past.
8. Do you have a graduate scheme at Babel? What does it involve?
Yes, we do! Due to an increase in client work, Babel will recruit an additional two new graduates in 2018, ideally starting in September. The application process involves completion of a series of questions which help us get to know the applicant and their skills. As well as that there are also a couple of short writing and presentation exercises at the interview stage. If successful, a new graduate starter will be given a line manager and mentor to help them acclimatise and settle in and will have every opportunity to contribute towards campaigns with the rest of the team. Please see our graduate page for further details.
The Premier League and Champions League are now behind us and another rousing summer of football is right around the corner. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty excited about the World Cup. Even if the prospect of watching England trudge to a 0-0 draw against Panama is lurking in the back of my mind, we should at least get a decent Shakira song out of it.
My lovely colleague Ben recently wrote a blog comparing the team here at Babel to his favourite wines. A well-crafted set of metaphors to reflect his sophisticated mind, and pallet. I thought it was a good idea. Are there as many likenesses between PR and the beautiful game as Ben found? Probably not, but, well… I like football, so it’ll be Cristiano instead of Cabernet here thank you very much.
Take a look through our squad reports, including some old favourites and some new qualifiers:
Ian Hood, CEO: Brazil
A long history of success but never one to dwell on the past, Ian is like Brazil; always looking to freshen things up and move forward to bigger and better things. He’s bold, entertaining and full of magic moments.
Narelle Morrison, COO: Germany
Narelle is like the reigning world champions Germany; strong, precise, always ready, and adapts to every new challenge with fresh vigour. She appreciates and values the strength of a cohesive team.
Matt Humphries, Managing Director: Spain
Spain are the team everyone else wants to watch, because they have a well-crafted style and are among the very best. They play the game how it should be played. Staying true to the essence of what’s made him so successful, Matt has a style that has brought superb results through a perfect mix of patience, skill and creativity.
Sarah Alonze, Associate Director: Argentina
Argentina! Lively, full of creativity and passion. Sarah is always good value for entertainment and capable of some truly special things. Equally as unlikely to know what makes a good centre back as the Argentinians are.
Katie Finn, Senior Campaign Director: France
The French have all the tools to win in 2018, and so does Katie. Able to seamlessly shift tactics and still maintain an incredible level of quality, she has class and talent in abundance.
Paul Campbell, Campaign Director: Switzerland
Switzerland, due to this quote from their manager Vladimir Petkovic: “My team has an excellent team spirit and a tremendous will to succeed.” Paul is a people person who brings the best out of everyone. A strong core mixed in with top-level creativity. Everyone likes Switzerland.
Sally Douglas, Associate Director: Portugal
Sally is like Ronaldo’s Portugal. An obvious abundance of talent in key areas is hard not to notice, but there’s a crucial work ethic there that can’t be understated. She has the right balance of tactical understanding and determination that mean she’s a match for anyone.
Holly Ashford, Senior Content Writer: Nigeria
Nigeria have reached five of the last six World Cups and qualified for Russia with ease. That remarkable level of consistency screams Holly. She’s always able to adapt to a challenge and produce when it matters. Plus, she’s got a pretty cool style, and I mean, have you seen Nigeria’s kit for this tournament?!
Jen Atkinson, Campaign Manager: Sweden
Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden have had to rely on hard work and togetherness to get them to Russia. Hard work and Jen are basically synonyms. No ego, just a winning resolve and a willingness to support the team.
Ben Cole, Campaign Manager: Belgium
Belgium. Definitely. Ben oozes talent and creativity, but stays focused on delivering good work. The pieces have come together to form something really exciting that could spell lots of success this year and beyond.
Sophie Payne, Campaign Manager: Egypt
Sophie is Egypt. A dynamic mix of youth and experience that deserves to be on the biggest stage. She’s organised and intelligent, but with enough creative spark to really light things up. Momentum behind her, she’s definitely one to watch.
Suraj Mashru, Senior Campaign Manager: England
Suraj is our media relations guru and first on the (phone) front line, so it only makes sense to give him the team we’re all going to be talking about; England. Gareth Southgate has given his squad the freedom to just play and enjoy themselves this summer, and Suraj always does his work with a smile.
Dan Parris, Senior Campaign Executive: Uruguay
Dan is like Uruguay; somehow you just can’t imagine him not being there. He’s comfortable on the front foot and has all the talent required to create openings and get results. Thankfully less likely to bite you than Luis Suarez.
Ed Cooper, Campaign Executive: Morocco
Morocco coach Herve Renard has managed to bring both discipline and flair to a young group that is developing an exciting brand of play. Ed gets it. He has the fundamentals down and has the potential to fly alongside the best in the game.
Declan Bradshaw, Campaign Executive: Peru
Peru. Young, hungry and full of commitment. Proper guidance and a bit of luck could see them cause a few upsets.
Pippa Woodruff, Campaign Executive: Iceland
Pippa is Iceland *Thunderclap*. A new kid on the block who isn’t to be underestimated. *Thunderclap*. Tactically flexible, loud, unafraid and ready to show she belongs among the very best. *Thunderclap*
Simon Judges, Content Specialist: Costa Rica
This will be Costa Rica’s fifth World Cup, not bad for a country with a population just under five million. Simon has been here before but hasn’t lost any hunger to continue to overdeliver with flair by the bucketload.
Sani Aweida, Bookkeeper: Italy
Italy. Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup. Sani has no time for such frivolous blogs. Books don’t keep themselves.
I returned home from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week to be greeted by the freezing Beast from the East. As I tried to stay warm, I also took the time to reflect on my first MWC after experiencing the show first-hand from the Fira floor.
Having never been to a major tradeshow or expo before, certainly not one of this size anyway, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, my fellow Babelites – all MWC veterans – had shared titbits and tales of years gone by before we flew out, but that still didn’t really prepare me for the scale of MWC. I’d been to Barcelona plenty of times before as a tourist but was totally oblivious to the sprawling set of exhibition halls that make up the Europa Fira, and it was quite mind boggling to take in at first. I’ve definitely done my months’ worth of exercise walking around the halls all day!
Once I’d got my head around the size of the Congress the first thing I noticed, was that really, I wasn’t in a telecoms tradeshow at all, but rather a tech one. I’d expected to be greeted with hundreds of operators and vendors showcasing their latest handsets, demonstrating their developments in 5G and discussing everything going on in the telecoms world. While of course all of those things were there in Barcelona, there was so much more to the show.
Robots operating on the latest AI seemed to be on every corner; flash cars full of gadgets and gizmos were never far away; VR headsets allowed attendees to do everything from design custom trainers to shoot rogue cowboys. The Champions League trophy was even on display, which gave the sports nerd in me a bit of a kick!
I guess that was my main takeaway from my first MWC: that mobile tech is becoming increasingly diversified and its use spans infinitely beyond making calls and sending texts. Don’t get me wrong, some of what I saw in Barcelona has left my head swimming in a sea of jargon and acronyms that I don’t fully understand. But even a Fira fresher like myself couldn’t help but notice that the industry is hurtling towards exciting new developments that will impact so much of our everyday lives.
One key topic that kept cropping up in every hall was smart cities. Whether it was the host of connected ‘things’ set to improve our urban environments, or the stringent network tests being done to facilitate network capacity, every exhibitor seemed to be able to comment on smart cities somehow. Nokia deserves a shout-out for making its entire stand into a smart city. Whilst some competitors threw millions at their stands to make them big and bullish, I enjoyed seeing Nokia’s creativity in bringing its smart city work to life.
I also overheard plenty of discussion on spectrum space, and what it means for everyone from mobile operators to cable and satellite providers. Being an impatient millennial who’s been known to binge-watch video content on my phone, all the talk of super-fast, super-reliable 5G networks was, well, super interesting! There was plenty of discussion about how increased consumption of video is impacting network capacity; a trend which will definitely continue as we head through the year and into 2019.Until then, if someone could invent an IoT device that can clear the railway lines and warm my hands up, that would be great.
Augmented Reality, or AR, is mobile tech’s cool kid. It’s a technology that once seemed to only exist in superhero or sci-fi movies, but now is so widely used that everyone and their dog (filter) is familiar with how it works.
Brands have been trying to capitalise on the technology for a while, sponsoring Snaps and developing apps with the goal of building familiarity, identity and going viral. Yet one of the markets that could capitalise most on AR – sports – is only just beginning to wake up to the true power of the technology.
Sports broadcasting has been using AR elements in its presentation for some time now. Fans are accustomed to the use of Hawkeye and other similar technologies in tennis and cricket to help explain or review decisions, and football has seen some especially snazzy AR graphics used for team line-ups. In fact, just this month AR was used extensively by NBC Sports during its broadcast of Super Bowl 52, beaming giant-scale animations of Nick Fowles and Tom Brady onto the field in real time.
Something I learned while over in America is that our transatlantic cousins do sporting events far better than we do. Say what you want about how long their matches take, but they have ‘gameday experience’ down to a fine art. Part of the reason for this is their ready embrace of new technology, in everything from stadium design to mobile apps, and yes that includes AR.
Major League Baseball has been at the forefront of AR development with its ‘At Bat’ app allowing fans in the stadium to instantly obtain a comprehensive picture of each player’s statistics right there on their phone.
By simply opening the app and pointing their device toward the field, the app populates the user’s mobile screen with individual player profiles, including arm strength and catch probability in addition to staples, like on-base percentage and batting averages.
Then, for a further ‘wow’ experience, the app allows users to follow the speed and trajectory of every single hit. Essentially, ‘At Bat’ empowers baseball fans to serve as analysts, fuelling the debates sports fans love in the stands and bars.
Away from the stadium, sport has managed to thrive in a dying TV industry because of its live nature. It’s exciting, it’s now, it’s full of those “I was there” moments that get people talking… but what if you weren’t there? How can you still be involved in these moments of history?
No matter how big and impressive modern stadiums are, major clubs and event organisers can’t pack every spectator into a game. Enter AR technology, which enables those same clubs and organisers to extend a sense of community from the stadium to any fan, anywhere they want.
One club making strides in this area is the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. The team has utilised AR face painting tech in its own app, courtesy of a partnership with AR firm Faceware Interactive, to allow fans to select any one of 13 different looks. Like Snapchat filters, the images appear virtually on the user’s face and are shareable on social media.
One criticism you could throw at all this from a business perspective is that, is it really worth it? Is there a notable ROI to investing time and money into AR? Will a fan sat at home and not in the stadium, who uses an AR app to paint their face, be more inclined to go online and buy some merchandise because they felt more involved? Who knows, but ultimately does that matter?
Sport is inherently tribal. Whether it’s an individual, a club, or a country, we all have favourites that we love to follow, and we want them to succeed. If AR can further a sense of belonging, a sense of community, and increase social interactions around a common great experience, then I’m all for it! Plus, washing face paint off is a pain anyway…
VAR: the latest tech for footie fans to moan about
“Lampard! That’s in! It’s surely crossed the line, but it’s not been given!”
The words of BBC commentator Guy Mowbray still linger in the memory as he described the Frank Lampard goal that never was, during England’s World Cup Last 16 exit to Germany back in 2010.
And let’s face it, if it wasn’t for that obvious goal not being given in an obviously incorrect decision then England would have obviously gone on to beat Germany and quite obviously won the World Cup….. obviously.
At least, it was obvious to naïve teenage me sat watching the game at a summer BBQ. However, one good thing did come out of that ghost goal – it kickstarted football’s flirtation with technology.
The goal decision system is now part and parcel of Premier League football, widely accepted as benefitting the game, but it wasn’t always that way.
When the technology was first introduced to the game by Hawk-Eye there was widespread criticism that it would slow the game down too much, remove the human element, remove the drama we all love debating over a pint.
Well, if you’ve been following the news, those same arguments are cropping up again, but this time there’s a new tech in town that’s taking all the flack.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology made its debut in English football last week, during the Brighton vs Crystal Palace FA Cup game, following the system’s use in Australia, Germany, Italy and the United States, yet just like its predecessor VAR is being red carded before it’s even got on the field.
The system is (for now at least) only intended to intervene during four key incidents; goals, penalty decisions, red cards and cases of mistaken identity, with the main criticisms again coming from the length of delay and the removal of the human drama a referee’s error brings to a game.
First of all, a goal is a natural break of play anyway. Moaning about a delay to review whether it should have stood because of a missed offside or handball is pretty ridiculous, but I do understand concerns about the other incidents.
However, they are a tad overstated. Okay, VAR can’t review decisions quite as instantaneously as the goal decision system, where the referee’s watch vibrates if the ball has crossed the goal line, but it’s not as if VAR takes years. In fact, estimates put the average wait time at 45 seconds, hardly an eternity to wait to find out if the referee has just wronged your team out of a cup final-deciding penalty.
Then there are the criticisms about losing the spirit of the game, that tech is making sport too precise (and that it removes the drama of a wrong decision).
In Germany, fans unfurled banners asking for it to be scrapped, and there’s still confusion over when VARs can intervene. Over in Italy there’s been a mixed reception; referees are still adapting to the change and therefore feel stressed, but have noted how players are reacting better to decisions knowing they’ve been checked by someone else.
VAR isn’t perfect yet, but nor is it intended to be. The system isn’t meant to preside over every single decision, there can still be controversy over decisions and incidents. With a bit of tidying up I think VAR will go on to be widely accepted as just another part of elite level football.
Whether those changes are a coach’s challenge system similar to the NFL, or making a bigger spectacle of video reviews for the live crowd like in tennis or cricket, remains to be seen.
People love to moan about referees, and with VAR looking to reduce that issue, people are moaning about VAR instead. In spite of this, the technology and the systems of using it will eventually be refined and perfected, until it’s an integral, unnoticeable part of the game.
For me, VAR is a necessary development, not just for my own sanity in terms of having no future Lampard-esque horror stories, but for the betterment of the game overall.