For the past few years, PR professionals have been proclaiming that the press release is ‘dead.’ Yet despite this mantra, thousands of releases are distributed every day. So is death knell really sounding? And, more importantly, are press releases still a valuable tool to use to gain publicity?
Content is king, and news means news
Much of the debate stems from the fact that not all press releases are created equal. With most journalists receiving hundreds of emails a day, grabbing their attention in the first place is challenging enough. Add this to the fact that reporters spend less than a minute reading each release, and it’s clear that for a press release to be converted into coverage, it needs to really stand out.
To achieve this, content is key. As PR professionals, our role is to critically evaluate what makes a good story, so when advising on whether to put out a release, we should first ask ourselves if the news is actually interesting, and actually news. If it is, how can we align it with market trends to further bolster the story? Are there experts or customers we can cite to further support our argument? Once we’ve established this, the release needs to be written in a clear and compelling manner, and free from aggrandising statements that will cause skeptical hacks to dismiss the story right away.
Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t always happen. In a Press Gazette/PR Week survey, for example, journalists griped that “lots [of PRs] do not know what makes a news story, omit essential information, send releases claiming to be news when they are weeks old…” As a result, many have become frustrated with the medium, feeling that it’s no longer fit for purpose.
The PR who cried wolf
These frustrations are often compounded by poor targeting, with releases being sent blindly to a list of journalists irrespective of their interests or areas of focus. We hear from journalists that this happens on a daily basis, and can cause them to miss good stories. It is therefore critical that press release distribution lists are highly targeted, and journalists aren’t spammed with irrelevant content.
Providing interesting and focused stories in turn helps build reporters’ trust in the content we provide, and incentivises them to open emails and answer calls. Think of it like the boy who cried wolf – if you only ever send bad releases, no one will listen to you when you send something good.
Relationships, relationships, relationships
In a similar vein, having good relationships with journalists can also make a significant difference to the success of a press release. This is something we firmly believe in at Babel, and we hear time and time again that journalists are much more inclined to read releases from PRs they know and trust. In our digital age, where it’s a hurdle to get someone to even open your email, real, human interaction should not be underestimated.
This human interaction should also extend to having real, meaningful conversations with journalists about news stories, and not just relying on emailing out releases. Yes, some journalists express frustration with phone calls, but often this is because they’re spammed with irrelevant, untargeted interactions (see above). Giving reporters a heads up on an interesting story, and speaking to them in clear terms about what makes it interesting, can be instrumental in securing coverage.
Having these conversations also provides journalists with the opportunity to dig deeper into the story, and go beyond what’s written in the release. Interviews with spokespeople can be arranged ahead of the news being announced, and often leads to much more in-depth pieces being published. However, having a release handy to send a journalist after these initial conversations is undoubtedly helpful, as it can consolidate the key points, and serve to incentivise them to engage with the story.
While press releases have undoubtedly (and in some instances deservedly) got a bad rap, they can serve a valuable purpose, and can still help to publicise new products and company developments. But for press releases to be successful, it is critical that they are interesting, targeted, and not just emailed out on a whim. Without this, we might actually see them die once and for all.
Contact us to find out more about the work we do, and the results we deliver.
I’m sure many PR professionals will agree; public relations is one of the most misunderstood of industries. When I ask friends and family if they know what I do, I’m usually met with: “You try to convince the public that we should buy things we don’t actually need/believe things that aren’t true/trust organisations that aren’t trustworthy.” We are no strangers to misconceptions and stereotypes.
Some may visualise careers similar to Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, while others seem convinced we are event planners, wicked spin doctors or even celebrity publicists. In fact, Bill Gates once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” This quote clearly highlights the power of PR. However, there are unfortunately still many misconceptions of the industry we work in. Ironically, this could be due to the fact that PR hasn’t had such good PR over the years.
So, in this blog, I’ll aim to debunk some of the most common myths about the industry and show why it’s so much more than Samantha Jones portrays!
Myth 1: PR is easy
One of the biggest myths about PR is that is easy, which usually stems from people’s misunderstanding of what PR is and what a PR campaign comprises. PR isn’t just firing out press releases. It involves crafting messages that will resonate with both your target audience and industry influencers; it requires creativity in aligning your client’s voice with topical issues; and it should always be part of a strategic plan that supports business objectives.
PR requires you to constantly be aware of how people are thinking, interacting and talking about your client and their brand. It takes a lot of hard work, attention to detail and time to build a positive image and reputation, and often the coverage you see is the result of months of effort behind the scenes.
Myth 2: PR is slogans, spin and propaganda
Propaganda has been around for hundreds of years, and is typically used as a form of persuasion to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. It can be defined as the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. Spin is inherent in propaganda, but shouldn’t be present in PR. As professionals we hold ourselves to high ethical standards and avoid slogans, buzzwords and propaganda techniques at all costs. In fact, PR practitioners are held to codes of ethical and moral professional conduct.
Audiences today have never been more intuitive or switched on. Thanks to the explosion of social media there are now countless alternative sources for the public to gather information from, meaning they are less easily fooled by biased or ethically questionable content. At Babel, we engage in authentic and honest communication with our clients to achieve their goals through two-way conversations and interactions. Transparency is also key when communicating our clients’ messages, and we work closely with them to make sure content is accurate and effective. In essence, PR is far more than just spin, slogans and publicity stunts.
Myth #3: PR is all boozy lunches and glitz and glamour
Finally, many people think it’s prosecco, canapes and long lunches. I’m sorry if this comes as disappointment, but public relations is a highly strategic profession built on trust, knowledge and relationships.
We see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ business, which means our days are varied. Sometimes we spend our day with our clients to gain first-hand experience of the company and the people that make it a success. Other days we challenge, evaluate, create content, brainstorm, pitch, report and monitor. While there is undoubtedly a social element, and building relationships with journalists is an integral part of our role, PR is so much more than that, and so much more than just smoke, spin and mirrors.
There’s nothing quite like working in public relations. I hope that debunking some of these myths will help you better understand PR and, more importantly, how it can be used as an incredibly effective tool to help your business reach greater levels of success.
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
Having previously led some successful fintech PR campaigns for a number of clients, here at Babel we aim to keep abreast of news and trends in the sector. One of these we can’t help but notice is the surge of popularity around cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple. These are the cryptocurrencies that are bandied around when the conversation turns towards the burgeoning sector. Indeed, the rise of Bitcoin a couple of years ago had led some to start predicting that we were on the brink of a ‘crypto revolution.’ At one point a single Bitcoin was valued at around $20,000! These claims turned out to be wide of the mark, and Bitcoin’s partial collapse in the last six months or so has stifled the optimism somewhat.
Despite the momentum, to many the technology remains shrouded in mystery, while its volatility and association with illicit activities, such as cryptojacking and the Dark Web, can create an ominous perception. However, ominous or not, it remains a prominent dimension within the booming fintech sector, and now offers very real and legitimate investment opportunities for normal people, not just for those ‘in-the-know.’
What is cryptocurrency?
Fundamentally, cryptocurrency is a digital currency designed to help users exchange value securely. Bitcoin, for example, describes itself as “cash for the internet.” However, there are some more complicated underlying technologies that support it, including cryptography and blockchain, which “facilitate secure and anonymous transactions.” With this in mind, and before we delve any deeper into the world of cryptocurrency, it’s probably worth taking a closer look at these.
Originally conceived during the Second World War to conceal and secure sensitive communication, cryptography is “the process of converting legible information into an almost uncrackable code to track purchases and transfers.”
Blockchain, on the other hand, acts as a kind of ledger in lieu of a centralised bank that would otherwise keep a record of activity. A common analogy for blockchain compares the technology to a highly encrypted and verified Google Document. Cryptocurrencies run on this ‘Document,’ which acts as a record or tamper-proof log of all transactions and sensitive activity, updated and held by currency holders.
In tandem, cryptography and blockchain allow users to make secure payments and store money in a virtual setting, without needing to use their name or go through a bank.
Why all the fuss around crypto?
There are some obvious financial benefits to investing in cryptocurrency – there are multi-millionaires and billionaires who made their fortunes through crypto – but the likes of Bitcoin have also been notoriously volatile, so a poorly-timed investment could be just as likely to lose you your fortune as make it. And if you’re not in the crypto game for investment purposes, but rather as an alternative to centralised banks, what benefits are there?
Amongst the main advantages of cryptocurrency is freedom of payment. Bitcoin can be sent and received anywhere in the world. Transactions aren’t impeded by bank holidays, borders or bureaucracy.
Another commonly stated benefit is security. Payments and transactions can be made without personal information, meaning that identity theft is protected against. Finally, blockchain ensures that money is backed up and encrypted.
Then, of course, there is the transparent nature of the cryptocurrency supply chain. Because Bitcoin, for example, is cryptographically secure, no individual or organisation can control or manipulate its protocol. This “allows the core of Bitcoin to be trusted for being completely neutral, transparent and predictable.”
Meanwhile, Ethereum (another cryptocurrency) enables users to create smart contracts which release a digital currency called ‘ether’, only when certain conditions are met. This contract is also included in the ledger to avoid any corruption and misuse of documentation.
The flip side, as we’ve touched on, is the volatile nature of crypto, which makes owning and exchanging in Bitcoin, for example, a high-risk investment. This unpredictability is mainly due to the fact that there is a limited amount of coins in circulation. Founder Satoshi Nakamoto (this is an alias that could refer to one or a group of people who created Bitcoin) made sure that only 21 million Bitcoins could ever be mined. However, as the popularity of Bitcoin rises and the demand for it increases, so does the instability of the currency. Nonetheless, this hasn’t prevented both industry and ‘have-a-go’ investors from jumping on the band wagon.
The crypto revolution, so far
Naturally, the financial services industry is capitalising on the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies. In July, Mastercard won a patent for cryptocurrencies, while IBM has launched a blockchain platform aimed at banks. Challenger bank Revolut has introduced a function for exchange of cryptocurrencies to its mobile app.
In the world of football, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Southampton and Leicester City are among the nation’s leading football clubs that have set up trials or forged partnerships involving cryptocurrencies, after expert predicted that bitcoin could replace sterling in the player transfer market.
For those who are able to successfully navigate the peaks and troughs of the market, there is no shortage of opportunity to flaunt their crypto wealth. De Louvois is an ‘elite’ marketplace where the crypto -rich can buy all manner of rare, expensive and some, quite frankly, pointless items. These include a 360-350 BC Greek Drachm for ฿0.07711 (nearly £400), a 17th Century Dutch painting attributed to Michiel Van Miereveld (anyone?) for ฿1.58860 (around £7,800), a Malibu beach house for ฿2,077.40000 (over £10 million) and a 2014 ‘Cryptocurrency Astronaut Easter Bunny’, price available only on request.
Clearly, there is still a fair amount of momentum behind the industry. However, Bitcoin has declined by 70% since its peak of $20,000, leading sceptics to herald the doom of cryptocurrency. However, although cryptocurrency has become prominent in the public domain over the last few years, its demise was actually first anticipated back in 2010 when it was valued at a mere $0.23. Today its value is closer to £5,000.
I’ve tried to unearth and explain what crypto is all about – and the financial benefits it can bring – but there’s still a lot more we don’t know, and the future of crypto as an investment opportunity is still pretty murky. But, in a year when investment in fintech exceeded a record $100 billion in investment, it would be surprising to see too many hedge their bets against crypto just yet.
If you asked me where I’d be five years ago, the likelihood is I wouldn’t have said I’d be working in technology PR. Some people have the perception that tech, especially B2B, is dry and stagnant. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. We work in one of the fastest growing industries, serving clients that are innovating in consumer electronics, cybersecurity, adtech, ecommerce, mobile, IoT, fintech, software, communication, the list goes on. Behind each and every company – whether a tech giant or disruptive start up – there’s a story to unearth and tell.
I joined Babel fresh out of university without knowing a lot about technology. I’d always been interested in how it works but I certainly didn’t know LTE and OTT from ISP and SDE. Fast forward three years and, thanks to my role at Babel, a London-based technology PR agency, I now have an appreciation of the technical workings behind sending a Whatsapp from my iPhone, FaceTiming my friends across the globe, or asking Alexa what the weather is like.
I’ve been lucky enough to trial and launch new products in Europe, the US and even Canada, travel to various locations across the continent to attend shows, and even work with an ethical hacker. I’ve learnt an awful lot, it’s been a real eye opener and it’s certainly been exciting.
Still not convinced? Here are four reasons why tech PR is a rewarding career path:
Tech is a hot topic and impacts your everyday life
Firstly, technology is one of the most talked about topics in the world. It touches every single aspect of our lives. Facebook, Netflix, Google and Amazon may dominate the tech agenda but smaller, less known companies are also making a difference. From 3D printing rockets and inventing pizza-making robots to launching social networks to reduce food waste and developing nanotechnology to clean up pollution, there is so much going on this space.
Effective PR campaigns can help bring these stories to life and get a company’s message out there and heard by the people that matter. Working behind the scenes to make this happen means you’ll often be among the first to hear about new ideas, innovations and products.
Tech PR gived you the oppertunity to work in a fast-paced enviroment
For some of us, it’s difficult to imagine a life without Netflix, Amazon or Apple. A decade ago, there was no iPhone to order an Uber, scroll through Instagram or find that restaurant on Google Maps. Spotify launched in 2008, Apple only released its first iPad in 2010 and 4G wasn’t available on all smartphones until 2011. My point here is that in the last ten years, we’ve seen incredible innovation in technology and, with the arrival of artificial intelligence, VR and AR, it’s likely that we’ll see dramatic advances in the next decade.
Working in technology PR means that you’ll never stop expanding your knowledge of the sector, so you’ll need to learn to think on your feet and pick up new concepts quickly. Quick career progression in PR relies on constant learning and discovering new ways to build narratives and engage your target audience. There are opportunities to advance rapidly, with many agencies having clear career paths, supported by training and mentoring.
No two days are the same
If you ask anyone working in PR, I’m sure they’ll tell you there’s no such thing as a ‘typical day.’ Technology PR is no exception. As the lines between marketing, advertising and PR continue to blur, today’s tech PR professional has become skilled in a range of areas. One day you’ll find yourself on the phone pitching a story to journalists or managing a client’s social media accounts, and the next you’ll be researching a prospect’s industry and market, writing blog posts, website copy or contributed articles. The very nature of the job means you’re often working on multiple projects at once. This variety is something I’ve found to be extremely gratifying.
Tech PR is social
I’m not talking about social media here, although, it’s obviously a very important tool for PRs in today’s digital era. Us PR professionals are a social bunch. Events, meet-ups and networking are all part of our calendar. However, it’s not just about building rapport with your colleagues. Developing relationships with journalists is a crucial part of our job. Editorial teams like to talk to real people and have interests outside of their work so if you’re a people person like me, tech PR is probably the job for you.
Does this sound like your cup of tea? Are you ticking all the boxes? If so, head over to our Careers page and find out what job opportunities we have available.
The summer of 2018 will be remembered for many reasons in the UK. Most people will recall the heat and the heady, emotional days of England’s World Cup campaign. But, simultaneously to the international tournament, a much younger football team on the other side of the world were facing a far more serious plight which also captured the nation’s attention.
As it transpired, neither the English, nor the eventually victorious French, were the most discussed football team this summer. The mantel instead fell to the Wild Boars’ junior team of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. The story of the teammates trapped in the Tham Luang caves gripped international media for the best part of three weeks as the world watched on, hoping and praying that the boys would be rescued safely.
At one point when the rescue efforts were looking particularly desperate, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, ordered engineers from two of his companies to design a “kid-sized” submarine to help the rescue effort. Initially this seemed like a selfless act which drew parallels between Musk and the fictional Tony Stark, aka Ironman.
But, what happened next was not a slip-up Ironman would have made. The Thai authorities actually declined Musk’s offer to help as they did not feel his contribution would be suitable for this rescue mission. Instead, they went ahead with their own plan and successfully rescued the boys; thanks in no small part to 63-year-old Britain, Vernon Unsworth.
Expat Unsworth, who is also based in the Chiang Rai province, was the first foreign rescuer on the scene. Proving himself invaluable, with a knowledge of the Tham Luang cave system where the boys were trapped, Unsworth played a vital role in freeing the boys.
However, not everyone was a fan. A few poorly chosen jibes at the expense of Musk’s attempt to join the search and rescue mission did not go down very well: Unsworth branded the Tesla boss’ efforts to offer help as a “PR stunt” and mocked him, saying he could “stick the submarine where it hurts.”
Unsworth’s comments may have been unnecessary, but Musk’s exaggerated response will go down in the annals as one of the great social media meltdowns. On July 15th, Musk went on a bizarre Twitter rant, referring to Unsworth as a sex offender, whilst simultaneously questioning how involved the Brit had actually been in the rescue efforts. You could almost hear the wails of the Tesla board as their CEO lashed out at Unsworth, his pride dented. Overt aggression is not a trait investors or board members typically want from their CEO.
The incident led to Unsworth suing Musk for defamation of character in both the US and UK court systems. But despite this, Musk’s erratic behaviour on Twitter continued.
In August, Musk tweeted that he was looking at taking Tesla private and had “funding secured.” The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) then filed a lawsuit against Musk due to the fact that he didn’t have funding secured at all, and was in fact misleading investors.
Every time Musk tweets about a topic best avoided, he not only damages his own reputation, but also causes a PR crisis his companies. Tesla investors have been pleading with him to show restraint, as every outlandish post he makes knocks value off their shares. People want to continue supporting the forward-thinking automotive company, but at times the enigmatic Musk makes it very difficult.
Tesla is quite a rare commodity in the sense it is a corporation ‘doing good’: the more people drive electric cars, the better it will be for the environment we all live in. The sad truth is however, the more Musk is attracted to the world of outspoken celebrity, the more Tesla will likely suffer. Some successful tech companies have thrived in part due to the personalities of their narcissistic leaders, for example, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. But as a general rule of thumb, it is possible for the world to see too much personality from captains of industry.
Social media provides a platform for athletes, film stars, presidents and CEOs alike to be more relatable. The general public gets a previously unseen snapshot into the world of the rich and famous. There’s no question that a lot of people find Musk both interesting and inspiring. He has achieved an incredible amount in his 47 years, with his contribution to Tesla being a jewel in the crown alongside his foray into space travel.
But Musk’s relationship with social media raises many interesting PR questions. Should CEOs of listed companies be left to run their own social media pages? Do the benefits of social media outweigh the costly consequences of a senior spokesperson putting their foot in the proverbial? What can be done to avert the most modern of PR crises, the social media controversy?
With so much at stake, it might be best for Musk to take a moment to reflect, before he reaches for his smartphone to share his unedited opinions with the world.
Browse our case studies to see how Babel has delivered world class corporate and consumer PR campaigns for a range of businesses.
Multiple Guinness World Records. A number of world firsts. One of Time Magazine’s ‘25 Most Influential People on the Planet’ for two consecutive years. A record for the highest number of online views for a music video in 24 hours. The most Tweeted about celebrity in 2017. No, I’m not talking about Taylor Swift, Beyoncé or Kanye West. Those are the accomplishments of Korean pop (K-Pop) sensations BTS.
If you didn’t know about this band when they debuted five years ago, you will once you’ve read this blog. Just last week, BTS kicked off the European leg of its ‘Love Yourself’ tour in London, leaving an impressive trail of PR activity which included; interviews, media coverage, an exclusive UK performance on the Graham Norton Show, and two sold-out concerts at the o2 in its wake. And this is a band that sings mainly in Korean, with a sprinkling of English!
Despite the obvious language barriers, BTS is a textbook example of PR at its finest. Here we look at three reasons why BTS has become a phenomenon, rather than a band whose albums are confined to the bargain bins of record shops.
Like no other
In the communications industry, we’re always telling our clients that to stand out, they need to be different – have a unique message or offer an alternative solution than others in the market. Don’t be ‘me-too.’ BTS ticks all the boxes when it comes to marching to its own drumbeat.
The septet’s members – Jin, Suga, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, J-Hope, and V – all have unique personalities that play off against each other in interviews. RM is the designated leader of the group, given he’s the only one who can speak English relatively fluently. Jin introduces himself as ‘worldwide handsome’ in almost every single interview he gives, compared to the infectious positivity of the aptly named J-Hope. As evidenced with the likes of the Spice Girls or similar boybands from days gone by, fans like to pick their favourites (or ‘bias’ as it’s called in K-Pop) based on the relatability and likability of these different personalities. Add to this a back catalogue of catchy tunes, ridiculously creative, colourful and cinematic music videos and backbreaking, super-precise dance routines and you’ve got a recipe for success that no other band can replicate.
A band with heart
BTS, along with its record label Big Hit Entertainment, has given back to local and global communities since the band first appeared on the music scene in 2013. According to reports, in 2017 BTS donated 70 million won (approximately £47,000) to the Sewol Ferry Disaster 416 Family Council – a group comprising the families of the victims who died in the sinking of a ferry off the coast of South Korea in 2014. In September this year, BTS became the first K-Pop act to speak at the United Nations, as part of an anti-violence campaign with UNICEF. The ‘Love Myself’ campaign saw BTS donate a portion of the income from physical sales of its Love Yourself series of albums to the cause – which currently stands at $1.03 million. Band member RM eloquently gave a speech, in English, to a room full of diplomats and heads of states, to encourage awareness of and support for the cause worldwide.
While the band’s songs are written and performed largely in Korean, within the lyrics the members have been open and honest about the troubles their target demographics face in today’s modern age – privacy, mental health, love. Taking a cue from Suga, a member of the band who has struggled with mental health himself, many fans have since shared their own stories in a bid to open up the conversation on a topic tarnished by stigma.
An engaged audience
BTS’ use of social media to share insight into what’s going on behind the scenes has set it apart from any other celebrity on social media today. Members take it in turns to post pictures on a shared Twitter handle, with candid, post-concert live videos streamed on YouTube or via broadcasting app V-Live. So it’s no surprise the band snatched the ‘Favorite Social Media Artist’ award at this year’s American Music Awards.
It’s clear the record label has a tight handle on what can and can’t be posted; the members do have a certain reputation to uphold given the conservative nature of their home country. However, speaking directly to fans – collectively known as the ARMY – has helped BTS create and nurture an engaged audience in the Western world, as well as among Asian fan bases closer to their native South Korea.
The members of BTS undoubtedly work hard at their many crafts, with 12-hour-a-day practice schedules and strict daily routines. However, PR – and particularly social media – has been a crucial component in propelling the band into new markets, bridging a significant language gap with creativity, personality and a warmth that most celebrities these days just don’t possess. And if the BTS train keeps picking up pace, you’ll be singing along to their latest track in broken Korean in no time (just like I am!)
Find out how Babel develops unique PR campaigns to make businesses stand out.
You hear it on the news almost daily: a well-known company has been breached, often on a catastrophic scale.
Cyber security has become one of the most urgent issues facing modern businesses, with attacks increasing, impacting all kinds of organisations, and now even several governments. In the past year alone, we have seen major breaches at multinational companies such as Facebook and British Airways –firms we hoped we could trust to protect our data.
While there is still no magic formula to eradicate cyber crime, there are steps that organisations and government bodies can take, as well as things we can do individually, to help reduce risk.
Firstly, there are a number of ways businesses can protect themselves from falling victim hackers. These include assessing the possible risks and pinpointing exactly where the threat to their company lies, and what sector of the business could be targeted. Cyber security consultancies offer services which make it possible to ‘hack’ a company’s infrastructure, enabling them to identify weaknesses and the area’s most vulnerable to threats. Once identified, solutions can be put in place to strengthen systems and data.
However, businesses also need to educate employees, as they can be a vulnerability factor; 88% of UK data breaches in the last two years were caused by human error. No matter how strong your defences are, one malicious email could allow a criminal to break into your IT systems and access sensitive information, such company files, internal communications and employees’ personal data.
To mitigate risk, businesses should make sure that all employees are aware of potential cyber security threats such as phishing emails and using an unsecured network. Security should be built into the culture of an organisation. Companies must have a robust security system in place, but this will become a wasted investment if companies don’t also train their staff, which means going beyond the standard PowerPoint presentations and box ticking exercises.
So, companies are responsible for educating employees, employees are responsible for implementing these teachings. However, should device manufacturers also take responsibility for bolstering the security of devices? California seems to think so. The proposed legislation, which if approved would come into effect in January 2020, requires connected devices to have a ‘reasonable’ security feature or features included at the point of manufacture. This means that whether the products are cars, phones or even fridges, they must come equipped with unique passwords, or a feature requiring the user to set their own unique password. Supporters of the bill say that the threat of litigation will make manufacturers quite rightly turn their attention to security. Similarly, following the introduction of the EU’s GDPR, companies now have a responsibility to ensure data protection is ‘by design and by default,’ placing further onus on device manufacturers to inbuild security into products from the very beginning.
Initiatives such as these show that cyber security is increasingly becoming a legal issue, which may incentivise companies to take greater responsibility for data protection. However, to best mitigate risk, a three pronged-approach, where businesses, governments and individuals all play a role in tackling cybercrime, will undoubtedly be most effective.
Find out more about Babel’s work and experience in the cyber security sector.
Last week, Babel’s CEO and co-founder, Ian, spoke to Cision Gorkana about his years of experience in the PR industry, the rise of alternative media, and the importance of creating a great story.
What made you found Babel PR?
Sheer arrogance. No, seriously, I’d worked a number of years in-house with a large public company and it was all becoming just a little bit boring and the only real challenge was having to deal with the communications impact of yet another new CEO (six in six years!).
I struck out on my own for a period, which was lucrative but isolating at the same time, so I decided to mix things up and move to my first position with an agency. I soon realised that having in-house experience meant that I had a better understanding of what clients are looking for.
That experience, something I think all agency people would find useful, allows you to take account of a variety of factors that aren’t always obvious and can make the difference between winning and losing new business.
I enjoyed working for an agency but the reality is that I didn’t always agree with the agency principals and if that’s the case, you only have two choices – stay, or go and do it your own way.
Fortunately, I’d also met someone who was thinking in the same way, and who had complementary skills – my now-business partner Narelle Morrison. The decision to start Babel PR happened quickly and it’s one I’ve never regretted.
Why did you choose to have Babel PR specialise in the tech sector?
The obvious answer would be to say our combined experience. Between Narelle and I, we’d built up a considerable amount of campaign experience, in terms of design and implementation, across a wide variety of technology sectors, from mobile and television to enterprise and digital media environments.
More importantly though, the last 20 years or so have been defined by technological developments enabling new business models across every sector, from healthcare and education, to retail, travel and manufacturing.
Tech seemed like – and still is – a huge growth opportunity, but because of its inherent complexity, there’s a limited number of people who can get their heads around it, especially in the B2B world. You need to understand the complexity but also have the skills and experience to translate that complexity into something mere mortals can understand.
What would you say is the biggest change in the sector since you founded Babel PR?
The rise of alternative media (including social) along with the corresponding decline in the traditional media and the inevitable pressure placed on journalists today.
When I started in the business, social media didn’t exist, we still used the fax regularly (hideous technology) and if I was going to leak a story the details may well have been delivered anonymously in an unmarked brown paper envelope.
I have fond memories of being called by former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, who was running a cable TV channel at the time, with him saying: “I know it was you that put that story out you f***er, I’ll f***ing crucify you, you bastard!”
I personally think it’s a tragedy that it’s becoming more and more difficult to make high quality journalism pay, but unfortunately, we have to accept that it’s now a very different environment in terms of the channels we operate in and the skills we need to deliver great work.
Fortunately, one thing hasn’t changed – great PR is still all about being able to identify or create a great story. If you get that right you are 90% of the way to success.
Why did you decide to expand the agency internationally and what opportunities does this bring?
Pretty much all of our clients operate in multiple geographies, and each of them have different communications requirements. A presence on the ground is needed to support this demand, so it’s important to make sure we’ve either employed individuals working in specific locations, or are working with like-minded regional agencies.
Coupled with this, there are some companies that will only consider an agency which has multiple market representations, even though a network of specialists may be able to support them more effectively. That forces you think about international expansion so that you don’t miss out on the opportunities you know you can deliver on.
The trick is to select your markets carefully to avoid overstretching your management resources – I’ve seen far too many good agencies do exactly that and fail miserably.
What are the challenges of working across multiple regions and time-zones?
The obvious thing is the time zones themselves but there are ways to deal with that effectively and let’s face it, PR has never been a nine to five job.
Less obvious are the cultural differences, and that doesn’t just mean the customs and social behaviour of the society in question – the PR industries in every country have their own distinct micro-cultures and you need to understand those.
The relationships, expectations and ways of doing things can all be very different. If you don’t get to grips with the differences you’ll find yourself always saying things like: “Why on earth can’t PRs in [insert country] ever do [insert task]?”
How do you look to measure your PR output at Babel PR?
I believe there are two fundamental measures of campaign success when it comes to PR: firstly, brand awareness, and secondly, the contribution of PR to overall sales performance.
Internally we measure PR campaigns in multiple ways – the volume, quality, placement, sentiment, message delivery, relationships built; the list goes on – but ultimately it comes down to brand awareness and/or sales performance, and PRs should not lose sight of this.
What is your most memorable moment from your time in PR?
Being taught the difference between ‘off the record’ and ‘not for publication.’
Early in my PR career I was working in-house and talking to a journalist who was writing for a well-known national publication about one of my clients, a FTSE 100 company, and a particularly thorny issue.
I gave said journalist a thorough briefing including some (very) sensitive ‘off the record’ comments. I got a terrible shock the next morning when I discovered my ‘off the record’ comments had made it to the front page of the national publication.
My phone rang off the hook that day with internal and external calls and when I’d finally managed to get hold of the journalist to ask him why on earth he’d published my comments, he calmly explained the difference between ‘off the record’ and ‘not for publication’.
Lesson learned and it’s safe to say, I’ve never made the same mistake again!
“YOU ARE FAKE NEWS!”
“Zero credibility, it’s all fake news.”
“The news is fake because so much of the news is fake”.
Sound familiar? These are the words of the infamous US President, Donald Trump. But, although he might be laughable, fake news is no joke.
The 2016 presidential campaign was a scary game of true or false. Remember when Hillary Clinton was so ill she was replaced by a body double? Or when Trump labelled Republican voters the dumbest in the country? These stories went viral during the campaign, despite being completely untrue.
Named 2017’s word of the year, ‘fake news’ seized the public’s attention due to the outpouring of fabricated stories appearing on social media. Critics pointed the finger at social media as the main propagator of false information, and put Twitter and Facebook right in the firing line.
Fighting back, tech firms have signed a code of conduct vowing to do more to tackle fake news, due to concerns that it can influence elections. Facebook, Google and Twitter have all signed the document agreeing to hire fact checkers, but a new wave of fraudulent behaviour might make their job harder than first imagined.
Using technology to create fake news
A new breed of fake news has risen up from video and audio manipulation technology that can, quite literally, put words into people’s mouths.
The technology behind this type of fake news has been developed by companies like PinScreen, Lyrebird and Face2Face.
By synthesising people’s voices, and using AI and computer graphics, it is now possible to create realistic footage of public figures saying, well, anything. A world leader could declare war, or admit they have an alcohol problem!
This is the future of fake news. We’re often told not to believe everything we read, but what about things we see or hear?
Software researched at the University of Washington is able to manipulate footage of public figures and, using audio from interviews, create a whole new speech that never took place. The fake Obama created by the University of Washington trolled the internet last year and is proof of how convincing the footage can be.
It involved taking over 14 hours of Obama clips, mainly sourced from YouTube, to create a fake speech. If the software got into the wrong hands, anyone who has a large portfolio of speeches or videos available online could be at risk.
In another example, Lyrebird has created fake voice technology. By using just 60 seconds of a human voice, the innovation can create a scarily accurate synthesised copy. It could easily convince humans that they’re listening to the real person.
Voice-morphing when combined with face manipulation, could create a dystopian future where we won’t be able to tell what is true or false online. Fake news can have real-life implications, from spreading malicious gossip about politicians, to disrupting the stock market: When a tweet went viral in 2008 claiming Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack, Apple’s stock dropped 10 points.
Social media is at the root of these problems. With 82 per cent of young adults in the UK relying on social media for their daily news consumption, and tweets going viral in minutes, it is the easiest platform to spread fake videos.
Using technology to combat fake news
People and news organisations have a responsibility to scrutinise content, but what if the technology evolves beyond human detection?
In the US, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is attempting to find a solution to the problem of fake videos on social media, creating its own software to try and detect the authenticity of video footage, by detecting inconsistencies in lighting and hair movement.
DARPA is calling on social media platforms to screen every video through its program before they are uploaded, however Facebook and Twitter have not discussed exactly what they are doing to stop fake videos spreading.
Other companies are attempting to tackle fake videos, including start-up company Truepic, who has received over $10 million in funding to start researching AI in videos.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Truepic CEO, Jeff McGregor said: “The internet has quickly become a dumpster fire of disinformation.
“Fraudsters have taken full advantage of unsuspecting consumers and social platforms facilitate the swift spread of false narratives, leaving over 3.2 billion people on the internet to make self-determinations over what’s trustworthy vs. fake online… we intend to fix that by bringing a layer of trust back to the internet.”
The future of fake news could lead to a digital revolution in content validation. As the battle of computers commences, let’s hope authentication comes out on top before social media becomes a minefield of ‘alternative facts’.