Most people associate this time of year with autumn leaves and darker nights. However, for mobile sector specialists like myself, this time of year marks the acceleration of the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) cycle. Preparations for MWC19 Barcelona are already under way, if we’re lucky we’ll get a short break for Christmas and activity won’t calm down until mid-March, when the dust finally settles on the show. But, what does this preparation and activity look like?
Preparing for MWC success
Over the next couple of months, my priority will be to sit down with clients for a detailed review of their commercial objectives for the show, with a view to developing and implementing communication strategies designed to meet those objectives.
From a communications standpoint, MWC provides companies with a platform to significantly raise their profile in the industry. However, PR agencies should never forget that companies attending MWC want to hold meetings, convert leads and renew relationships. They are there, first and foremost, to do business. And it’s the business of PR agencies to ensure that they make the most of their clients’ presence at the show.
We use a variety of methods to ensure our clients make their mark at MWC. Whether it’s launch events, filming spokespeople on the ground at the Fira, drafting daily blogs reflecting clients’ views on current affairs in Barcelona or managing social channels; every campaign output and every touchpoint with an influencer must be of strategic value to the client.
We do all of this besides managing packed schedules of briefings, while also facilitating awards, speaking slots, and live broadcast opportunities. And that’s just at the show itself. In the months leading up to MWC, we make sure that our clients are highly visible in trade and industry press, and business media, so that by the time they arrive in Barcelona, awareness of their brand is already high.
Any content we create for clients will ultimately drive awareness and visibility. It will shape conversations and stimulate debate; it may drive consensus or lead to debate, but it should always leave an impression. It’s down to the agency to ensure that a client is seen to be a credible and informed resource; one whose contribution to new and ongoing discussions is well received by industry peers. Clients don’t want to find themselves left out of the MWC conversation, they want to be leading it.
Just what are the media looking for at MWC?
Which brings me to the media, simply because media relations is so integral to any MWC programme. Many vendors and brands find it difficult to validate their message without media endorsement, particularly in and around an event of the size and importance of MWC19 Barcelona, where so many companies are vying for media attention.
So, just what is it that the media are looking to cover at a show like MWC? What type of information is of value to the press? Is it news? If so, what type of news is likely to get their attention? Is it informed industry comment and insight? If so, what level of insight are the press looking for? What makes a good story and how should that story be packaged?
Here at Babel, we figured that the easiest way to get answers to these questions was to go directly to the media themselves. So, we have brought together a panel of business and trade journalists, together with a well-respected industry analyst, to discuss the media agenda for MWC and how companies can best interact with influencers covering the show.
Babel will be holding a panel event at the Covent Garden Hotel on the morning of Friday, November 23rd to give MWC attendees insight into how to best communicate with influencers covering the show. Zoe Kleinman, technology reporter at the BBC, will chair the panel discussion about what media are likely to report on at MWC19 Barcelona.
The full panel line up is as follows:
- Zoe Kleinman, technology reporter, The BBC
- Paul Sandle, technology correspondent, Reuters
- Julian Bright, senior analyst, Ovum
- James Pearce, deputy editor, Capacity
If you’d like to attend the event and hear the views of the panel, then please fill out the form on this page to register your place. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at [email protected].
We look forward to seeing you there!
Babel MWC event registration
Babel may be headquartered in central London, but we are an agency with an international reach, and have invested heavily in one particular territory, possibly the most important in terms of technology and innovation: the US.
We have an established presence in the US market. This includes feet on the ground at this week’s RSA Conference in San Francisco. Hacking, data breaches and threats to cyber security are reported almost daily in the press, so it’s little surprise that the event has attracted around 50,000 attendees this year. There are a number of Babel clients listed among the delegates and exhibitors at the show, some of which are US-based businesses that we’ve been working with for a number of years.
Babel’s US team is currently coordinating a schedule of one-to-one briefings with key media, which we secured for our clients ahead of the show. With so much attention on cyber security at the moment, RSA provides an ideal opportunity for clients to meet with a cross-section of influencers from the business press to key trade and technology journalists.
RSA is just one date in a comprehensive programme of conferences and trade shows that provide our clients with the platform to drive awareness, meet with influencers and make a splash with a big scoop or speaking opportunity. Event support aside, we offer our clients in the US a full range of PR activity and we are constantly working with them to raise their profile in a busy and crowded marketplace. The same applies to companies from outside of the US that are looking to break into the world’s foremost technology market.
Closer to home we have London’s Silicon Roundabout and the burgeoning tech scene of the South East’s Golden Triangle. However, the US remains a crucial market for Babel, with reach and visibility among media and potential customers a key requirement for many of our clients. Babel has been in the US in some way, shape or form for over ten years.
Covering all time zones from the East to the West coast, Babel has built up an extensive book of contacts, established solid relationships with media, and our team continues to grow in size and influence.
Importantly, Babel also understands that, as playwright George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” Despite many similarities with our friends across the pond, there remain differences in how we communicate – and how we interpret this communication.
In PR this goes beyond simply how we utilise/utilize language. There are subtle variations (and sometimes major differences) between PR in the US and PR in the UK, including how (and how much) the media prefer to be contacted; the style, tone and type of content which has the most impact; the process of relationship-building; and the use of social media. Of course, this isn’t to mention the differences in business culture and working practices of organisations in the UK and US.
Babel’s global team acknowledges and leverages these variations to deliver the best results for clients and press, wherever they are in the world. But the UK and US teams remain united by a shared, common approach: pro-active outreach.
It’s good old-fashioned hard work, dedication and ongoing media engagement that have helped make this week’s RSA a success for our clients. And it’s a strategy we’ll continue to use to drive results for upcoming events like MWC Americas and DAS Congress in America, and IBC in Europe.
Babel is planning further announcements from US this year, so keep an eye out for an update in the coming months.
Babel’s in Barcelona! The first day of meetings, briefings, demos and – brand new for 2018 – adverse weather conditions, is done and dusted. So now’s the opportune moment to review the news and views from exhibitors and attendees.
One of the biggest ‘reveals’ of the day wasn’t exactly news; many of the details of Samsung’s S9 and S9+ had been leaked ahead of MWC, but the show still provided a platform for the official launch. The focus of the new handsets was image: both still and moving. The S9 is able to slow down high-definition video, allowing users to capture super slow-mo, and a new lens aims to boost the quality of low-light photography. These developments come at a price though; the S9 is available for £739 and the S9+ £869.
Samsung’s new handsets may be able to take great photos, but can they control a smart car? This is the claim made by Huawei, with its AI-powered Huawei Mate 10 reportedly being the first device capable of powering a driverless vehicle. This is the result of the company’s RoadReader project, which incorporates image recognition technology, meaning the vehicle can reportedly ‘understand’ its surroundings, distinguishing between objects and adjusting its course of action as a result.
Whether we’ll be using our smartphones to drive cars or pursue careers in photography, these developments won’t be possible without improvements in mobile network infrastructure. The GSMA released findings from its Global Report, which forecasts that 4G will account for 53% of global connections by 2025, while 5G networks will grow to account for a further 14%, following the roll-out of the first 5G networks this year.
On the topic of 5G, progress from all sectors of the market was evident at MWC. Announcements included Huawei’s Balong 5G01 chip; reportedly the first to support 5G. This marks a competitive challenge to the likes of chip manufacturers Qualcomm and Intel, and having invested $600 million in 5G technology over the past decade, it seems Huawei’s financial commitments to the next-gen standard are paying off.
Cisco was another industry player showing off its 5G prowess. The company revealed ‘5G Now’, a portfolio of solutions and services aimed at supporting service providers’ 5G strategies. Cisco’s Yvette Kanouff sums up the difference between 4G and 5G – and what the company hopes to facilitate with 5G Now: “4G was about buying connectivity, and 5G is about buying experiences. 5G creates a new environment for service creation, giving operators what they need to deliver next-level entertainment experiences.”
Those experiences have been demoed on stands up and down the halls and walkways of the Fira. Between supporting clients, and meeting with journalists and analysts, the Babel team has been enjoying glimpses of what the 5G future holds.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update on day two of the show!
Mobile operators are renowned for being slow moving, but they’re large organisations and by virtue of being a large organisation they tread carefully and don’t take earth shattering decisions lightly. So, don’t expect the carriers to be leading the news agenda at MWC this year. They tend to stay out of the limelight these days and let someone else grab the headlines. The question is who, or what, will steal the show at MWC 2018?
The floor will be awash with companies discussing the business of the day, mainly 5G and NFV related matters, as well as cloud and the shift to open source. All highly essential, but probably not enough to get the attention of the international press or become the talking point of the show.
So what can we expect? It can be difficult to predict. Put it this way, four years ago there were no rumours before the show to suggest that Facebook was set to dominate proceedings by acquiring WhatsApp. It’s hard to compete with a $19 billion takeover, its best just to get on with the show and firm up contract talks with customers.
New devices will be unveiled at MWC. Remember last year, when we were treated to a retro device from Nokia, in the form of a shiny new/old 3310? Looking ahead to next month, what were once rumours have now been confirmed: Samsung is planning to launch the next iteration of the Galaxy. But, Samsung is not alone, there will be a raft of new devices from the likes of Sony, LG and Motorola. And who knows, maybe we’ll be treated to another retro phone. Nokia could help us to relive our Matrix fantasies with an updated version of the 8110. It would be a welcome return for the distinctive ‘slider’ phone.
MWC has also become a platform for a number of vertical industries. You’re just as likely to see a connected car on the show floor these days as you would a base station antenna, or if you’re lucky, maybe even a network server! So, be mindful that an automotive brand could be planning a major announcement or that someone else could come out of leftfield with a big IoT play.
Don’t be disappointed if your press release is swamped at the show by M&A, new devices and maybe, just maybe, a game-changing announcement from an international carrier.
At Babel we always advise our clients to get news out ahead of the show to avoid the deluge of announcements from big brands. Vendors that are prepared get the most out of MWC. Let the PR agency do all the hard work for you over the next few weeks, so that by the time you’ve set foot on terra firma in Barcelona you can focus on business rather than promotion. Your competitors will look on enviously at your busy stand, upset that the press already covered your news, while theirs has disappeared in the MWC vortex of misplaced press releases.
Babel has been sending an MWC contingent to Barcelona for more than a decade. However, if like me, you just missed out on Cannes, you’ve probably heard ‘things’ haven’t been the same since the GSMA relocated its flagship event to Catalonia. I first attended 3GSM as it was then known in 2005, a year before the event was re-branded. During that fateful year, I chatted with many forlorn industry veterans and journalists who harboured a longing for Cannes. Note the maritime pun there, I’ll return to Cannes or at least the spirit of Cannes shortly.
My first MWC experience as a member of the Babel team was back in 2009 and the 2018 event will mark the agency’s twelfth year at the show. In that space of time, we’ve represented scores of companies, secured hundreds of briefings, and hosted standing-room only events.
Instead of trying to sum up over a decade of Mobile World Congress activity into c. 500 words, I’ve included a potted history of Babel at MWC below.
The Early Days
During the late 2000s, a time when journalists were still presented with physical press packs at trade shows and your Blackberry was an indispensable device, I found myself on the ground with the Babel team for what proved to be an eventful first stint at MWC with the agency. This was down to some ingenious guerrilla marketing that involved strapping femtocells to remote-controlled cars. The femto cars found their way into different halls around the Fira and while they proved a hit with the media and the client, they were greeted with much less enthusiasm by the security guards. They eventually caught up with us and put a stop to our unauthorised femto rally.
The Middle Years
Montjuic Castle used to play host to dinners and awards, a throwback to a more civilised era when after a hard day’s slog across the Fira’s many halls you’d have to find somewhere to get cleaned up and change into black tie and painful shoes. One year my CEO and I were dining at the Global Mobile Awards, enjoying a pleasant evening with a victorious client, when all hell broke loose on the stage as a sponsor went into meltdown. After spending the last couple of days managing a programme of press events, briefings and speaker slots we didn’t expect to see a crisis unfold in front of us in the hallowed halls of Montjuic.
Introducing his company on stage, the sponsor managed to fluff his lines, backtracked and then attempted to cover the blunder. The audience may have been forgiving and the sponsor may have been able to retain his dignity had it not been for the evening’s host Michael McIntyre. The UK comedian proceeded to ridicule, deride and mock, in a cringe-worthy display of humiliation.
We watched. We shuddered. We concluded: never work with kids, animals, or comedians.
The (football) Away Days
You can’t visit Barcelona and not take time to enjoy all of the history and culture the city has to offer. This year we took the team out earlier than usual so that we could visit Gaudi’s iconic Park Guell to take in the architecture and the stunning views of the city. Besides this we have made it a Babel MWC tradition to take our favourite journalists to watch FC Barcelona if they’re playing at home. In fact, the team is playing at home the night before next year’s show! Another trip to the Camp Nou beckons.
Looking after your clients is a given, but as an agency we make sure we devote time to building and maintaining relationships with the press, simply because MWC is the one time of year you can guarantee all the key industry influencers will be in the same place. Catching up with press is great from a relationship perspective, but it’s also really good fun.
Anchored for Success
Thanks to our hard work at every MWC – and every intervening month – Babel is now firmly aligned with the event. We’re so established we even hold a boat party at Barcelona’s prestigious yacht club, an event that aims to recapture the spirit of Cannes (see I told you we’d get back to Cannes). Many a beleaguered executive has found refuge aboard for what has become a regular event in the MWC schedule.
Whatever you’re planning for next year’s event, I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you in Barcelona in February.
The evolution of the technology has no doubt had a profound and positive impact on our daily lives, but in tandem, it has (and continues to) increase the threat vector, as entry points for cyber criminals have grown exponentially. This has in turn encouraged a worrying increase in the frequency and sophistication of attacks.
In mid-May the news of the global WannaCry Ransomware attack broke – an attack which crippled systems and organisations across 150 countries including the NHS! This attack unsurprisingly has pushed cyber security right to the top of the international news agenda, but even before this, you could barely go a day without reading about a new high profile data breach – it was actually before this attack took place that we decided to investigate cyber security coverage in the media.
From a media perspective, the result of this is blanket coverage of the challenges around cyber security and the impact of high profile attacks, but also a multitude of voices competing for that trusted advisor position when it comes to cyber security. As consumers and businesses; we are constantly advised on how to combat the risks we face when it comes to cyber security, but the deluge of information can make it hard to know where to turn.
Getting your message heard depends on the fast moving news agenda, but also on tapping into the types of stories and commentary different publications are most open to. In order to provide a view into cyber security in the media, we have developed a whitepaper analysing media coverage of this field on a more granular level.
As a search term, ‘cyber security’ is extremely broad, so we narrowed this down and examined the results related to four types of threat which pose a major challenge to businesses and consumers, which have provided major talking points in the industry for some time, and which receive consistent media coverage today. These were ransomware, malware, phishing and spyware.
To gain insight into coverage trends in cyber security and see more about our conclusions and recommendations on how you can stand out through your PR campaigns, you can read our whitepaper for free.
The last five to ten years has seen a lot of change and upheaval in the UK telecoms sector. Change has been welcome on the most part, we have access to fixed and mobile broadband, and we can access TV and other media via our internet connection, while we can also manage our finances and households using a mobile device. Sounds great, but while most of us take broadband access for granted there are still residences and businesses throughout the UK that struggle to get a good connection.
This week I was audience to a panel debate hosted by Ofcom and Which? I was able to hear the reflections of key industry players on the progress which has been made in the past decade or so of digital disruption that has dominated our lives and livelihoods. The panel hosted by Alex Neill, MD of Home Products and Services at Which?, included Ofcom CEO Sharon White, John Petter, CEO of BT Consumer and Gary Pickering Director of Sales and Retention at SSE. BBC Breakfast’s Ben Thompson was on hand to chair the discussion and take questions from the audience.
Sharon White led the discussion with a speech laying out Ofcom’s policies and focus over the coming years. White came across as a real consumer champion, she was informed and engaging, emphasising the need for ‘cultural change’ across the UK telecoms sector. Particularly in relation to how the providers interact with customers, the quality of the services they offer and how those services are marketed and sold to the end user. She referred to the initiatives outlined in the Digital Economy Bill and a new Universal Service Obligation to ensure all UK homes and businesses will receive at least 10MB of broadband.
I admire White and Ofcom’s efforts to improve UK network services, but some of the challenges the regulator and the providers face became apparent during the debate. Mainly, infrastructure and investment challenges. For example, the issue of poor rural broadband connectivity (fixed and mobile) came up and the business case for operators to install superfast broadband in some areas was discussed. The topic of competition and greater freedom of choice was a concurrent theme throughout the debate. This included discussion around the separation of BT Openreach – the provider’s network arm – from BT itself and how this may lead to greater investment opportunities and new delivery models driven by the other players in the market. We’ll watch developments at Openreach with keen interest.
Ultimately, this was a discussion about empowering the customer, the impact of tariffs, pricing and broadband speeds. How customers perceive the operators, not just BT, and what kind of service they expect. So the Q&A featured questions from consumer groups raising issues about consumer protection and industry codes of practice. It appears that Ofcom and the providers are well aware of, and responding to, customer concerns. The UK telecoms market is a vibrant and exciting space, new market entrants include energy companies like SSE, that now provide home broadband, which puts a whole new slant on the ‘4th utility’. Power to the people, literally.
Mobile video traffic is forecast to grow by around 50% annually through to 2022, when it will account for nearly three quarters of all mobile data traffic. It was of little surprise then that MWC 2017 welcomed Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who gave a keynote speech at the show.
The Netflix experience is now available across the world, and is accessible in 130 countries. Other content providers too are expanding their reach – Amazon Prime is available in over 200 countries, and YouTube has a equally global audience. The mobile TV experience is now even better than ever, due in part to advances in smartphone screen technology. On Monday for instance, Sony launched its new Xperia XZ Premium handset here at MWC, which features the world’s first 4K HDR screen.
Mobile content is big business, and MWC is attracting a growing number of content producers. During a quick dash around the stands I was able to visit the likes of FashionTV, SPB TV, NBA, and Discovery, as well as spying countless companies which support and profit from the mobile broadcast industry. These include experts in content management, mobile advertising, audience data analytics and video platform development.
The mobile content experience can now also be immersive, thanks to advances in virtual reality. VR launches at MWC this year included the Samsung Gear VR and OPTO Air headsets. The tech is impressive, but the VR isn’t just about high-end gadgets; the huge variety of content available to download and low-cost headsets for the cost-conscious user make the virtual reality experience accessible to all.
I visited Discovery’s stand to try out its VR app, and was instantly whisked half way around the world and deposited precariously on the ledge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The video follows a man’s leap into one of the world’s deepest gorges, and the 360-degree visuals, vibrant images and accompanying audio make for an exhilarating – and slightly nauseating – experience.
VR for the consumer was a major theme at the show this year, but Adobe was showing how the tech can also be used for business. The company was demoing its prototype project, which involves viewing 2D adverts theatre-style, with additional product information available around the content, and social media functionality.
Whether you’re a TV addict wanting to binge-watch shows on the go, or are looking for something more thrilling, the demos and products on show at MWC really prove the power and potential of mobile content today and beyond.
We’re at the midpoint of Mobile World Congress, and as there’s so much to see and such little time left, I decided to turn technology tourist and take part in an ‘Emerging Technology’ guided tour at the show.
The first stop for our group was the Samsung stand. Traditional handsets took a back seat, with the electronics manufacturer instead reserving the spotlight for its tablets and wearables, including the new Galaxy Tab S3 and S Pen stylus, and the LTE Gear S3 smart watch. This device could potentially replace your smartphone and wallet, allowing the wearer to send texts and emails, make calls, and pay for goods via Samsung Pay technology.
MWC is no longer just about smartphones, and the Samsung stand echoes this loud and clear. With its range of solutions for security, retail and marketing, VR, automation, as well as accessories segmented into consumer lifestyle types, Samsung showed how its tech could power any aspect of consumer or enterprise life.
Next up on the tour was a visit to Ericsson. Here the focus was firmly on 5G as an “innovation platform”; “we want to make 5G a living technology,” explained an Ericsson rep. Demos included an “internet of skills” application that could revolutionise healthcare and training. This involved a VR headset and haptic glove that remotely controlled a robotic arm, and demonstrated how medical professionals could touch, hear and manipulate procedures and patients from a remote location.
We are not quite there with 5G yet, and Ericsson remained rightly reticent to estimate a future adoption date. Whenever it arrives, 5G is sure to usher in exciting new possibilities, across all industries.
The Emerging Technology tour was greeted at the next stand not by a human, but by a robot. SoftBank’s Pepper, with its distinct Disney-esque eyes and humanoid movements, is capable of analysing facial expressions and voice tones. “Pepper is not intended to replace a human”, our SoftBank guide reassuringly informed us. It offers extensive memory and information-gathering ability, but emotion and interpretation remain “impossible to do with machines”.
Finally, the Graphene Experience Zone, which focuses on innovative uses of the material discovered in 2004. We saw a graphene-bodied supercar, data bracelets, environmentally-friendly electronic key made with paper, a spray-on heater, and even an example of how graphene could be used to improve retinal implants, allowing people with sight loss to recover up to 15% of their vision.
Most guided tours in Barcelona will typically take in the Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and Park Güell. A guided tour MWC-style also offers an opportunity to see some interesting sights, and whilst you may not get to see much history, you’ll certainly see the future.
Mobile World Congress 2017 has arrived and we’re already processing the news and trends from day one.
So, what’s new? Interestingly, despite the focus and speculation on the next big thing(s) in mobile technology, this year there has also been palpable excitement about a high profile handset reboot.
HMD Global unveiled a line of next generation Nokia handsets – the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 – but the (re)launch which really got people talking was that of the 3310. A decade after it first hit shop shelves, the iconic device has been revamped, with web browsing functionality and souped-up battery power; it has 22-hour talk time and in stand-by mode will run for a month. Fans of the original were pleased to learn that the new iteration of the device has retained the cherished vintage Nokia ringtones, and Snake game. The 3310 will sell for around £41, is available in a new range of colours and, whilst it may not outsell the original (120 million units) the retro revamp is sure to do well.
BlackBerry is also using the MWC stage to promote a handset revival. The new KeyOne has been built by Chinese manufacturer TCL Communications and, rather than trying to emulate its design of rival devices, BlackBerry has sought to redirect potential buyers down technology memory lane. The new model features the smartphone staple touchscreen, but also offers users a traditional keyboard in the classic Blackberry style.
Aside from the reportage on handset launches came the announcement of an initiative established by the GSMA that aims to address humanitarian crises, including natural disasters and epidemics. The Big Data for Social Good scheme will address incidents in Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar, and involves a number of operators including Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Orange.
These operators will leverage their big data capabilities and offer insights into emergency scenarios, helping to accelerate and support response teams. The GSMA gave the example of how the movement of people could be monitored in certain areas impacted by an epidemic crisis. This information could then being shared with public health organisations to protect the health and wellbeing of those affected and improve relief efforts.
Trials of the UN-backed project will be put into action this June, and form part of the GSMA’s wider commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which the body committed to last year. It will be interesting to see how the project develops, and I look forward to learning the results of the trials at MWC 2018. Roll on day two.