Best financial services PR agency award nomination caps off a great year, but roll on 2015!

It has been a fine year for Aspectus PR. Being shortlisted for two Financial Services Forum (FSF) awards – best financial services PR agency and best financial services PR campaign – are great accolades. Our congratulations obviously go to the […]


19 Nov
by Aspectus PR

Aspectus PR - PR logoIt has been a fine year for Aspectus PR. Being shortlisted for two Financial Services Forum (FSF) awards – best financial services PR agency and best financial services PR campaign – are great accolades.

Our congratulations obviously go to the winners, and while smiles still shine bright across our London, New York and Singapore offices following our nominations, we can’t help but get even more excited about what 2015 has in store.

We have already been busy producing an increasing amount of visual content, while continuing to integrate PR with SEO. However, combining this with our creativity and laser-focused sector expertise will be key to surpassing the success we have achieved thus far.

Surprisingly, a recent PR newswire study showed that less than five per cent of PR budgets were dedicated to producing visual content in 2014. Undoubtedly this number will increase next year, and we anticipate pictures and visuals becoming just as important as the written word in the not-too-distant future.

Nevertheless, for visual content to lift off, it needs to be part of a fully integrated PR campaign, with search engine optimisation (SEO) also being an integral part of the future media communications landscape.

As such, our plans centre around the Media, Content, Search (MCS) model. And we are convinced MCS will be the secret to going that one step further at next year’s FSF awards and bringing home that top financial services PR agency award.

Watch this space…


Savvy tech PR execs – WE WANT YOU!

Or to be more precise, Aspectus PR’s Head of Tech Sophie Hodgson does. Recruiting in tech PR is always a pain. You could be forgiven for asking why, given that the sector is seemingly rammed full of people. And maybe […]


14 Nov
by Aspectus PR

Or to be more precise, Aspectus PR’s Head of Tech Sophie Hodgson does.

technology-pr-account-executiveRecruiting in tech PR is always a pain. You could be forgiven for asking why, given that the sector is seemingly rammed full of people. And maybe it is; but I don’t want just any old people. I want the brightest, the funniest (GSOH is a must) and the best. And to be frank, these people are not so easy to find.

Perhaps it is simply that people are happy where they are. There’s no shame in that. Or perhaps it is that people aren’t sure what the world outside their current position has to offer. If you fall into the latter category, then I would like to offer up three key reasons why Aspectus PR could be an excellent home for you:

  • Ambitious? Fab. Just what I want. I can’t offer you the big boys of IT to work on, but I can offer you the opportunity to help me build a global tech practice that in a couple of years time will mean we can pitch for those big brands – and win!
  • Fighting long and hard for a piece of coverage that really makes a difference to a client’s business is extremely rewarding. Not everyone has massive budgets, but there’s nowt wrong with that as it engenders a need to tap-in to your creative side.
  • We really are rather nice. Of course, everyone says that. But creating a nice place to work was one of the main reasons why our Global Group Director set up Aspectus. So not only is it one of our core values, it’s on the wall and everything.

If you like the sound of this and think you’ve got what it takes, please check out this blog and get in touch with me – sophie.hodgson@aspectuspr.com


Technology doesn’t always equate to money in the bank

While any investment in technology should be considered good news for customers, adapting to change is not without its challenges. I experienced this recently when I visited my local bank branch to open a current account. Since I didn’t have an […]


05 Nov
by Aspectus PR

LloydsWhile any investment in technology should be considered good news for customers, adapting to change is not without its challenges. I experienced this recently when I visited my local bank branch to open a current account. Since I didn’t have an appointment, the cashier advised me to apply online. “It should only take a couple of minutes, and the account will be open in a few business days”. I left the bank smiling, because it’s a great feeling when efficiency is the result of integrating technology into daily business.

Lloyds Bank affirmed this belief last Tuesday when it announced a £1 billion investment in digital technology. Over the next three years, customers will increasingly rely on the internet and digital tools to complete deposits, withdrawals and other transactions. Similar shifts have already taken place at banks in North America and Asia, where cash points can dispense exact change and help users apply for loans. If problems arise, customer service representatives are available via video chat to offer assistance, even outside traditional business hours.

Of course, some users will inevitably have difficulties when transitioning to new processes, and not everything will go perfectly. That’s natural. But it’s critical that employees are able to fully support customers during times of change. This comes in the form of sufficient staffing, but also from having personnel on hand with the necessary knowledge to guide customers and ensure that new technology isn’t a deterrent to continued business.

The latter point became painfully obvious when I took the cashier’s advice and applied for a current account online. After waiting a week, I returned to the bank and was told she had missed a step; not all of the necessary information had been collected. “It should only take a few more days”.

Another week later, my account still wasn’t functional because it hadn’t been fully processed. Only on the third week was everything in place for my inaugural transaction. When I learnt accounts opened the traditional way (in person at the bank) work in a single day, I was tempted to cross the street and take my money elsewhere.

Technology and progress are vital to survival in today’s world, but they don’t automatically make business more efficient. Only a fool buys a new calculator one day and dismisses his accountant the next. Therefore, while innovating and strategising, it is important to bear in mind the words of Caesar Augustus: festina lente – or hasten slowly.

This is valuable PR advice for companies planning to incorporate technology in new ways. Business should look to improve efficiency and ability, yet ensure that people don’t feel left in the wake of moving ahead too quickly. If customers lose patience, and confidence in a company wanes due to overambitious change, existing business will be undermined and future prosperity jeopardised.

Technological change is an ally to commercial success. It can sometimes bring challenges, but even the greatest of these can be overcome with proper planning and careful consideration of how customers will respond. And this is what puts money in the bank.


Privacy and safety: Two ideals of modern technology

We live in a digital world that was unimaginable 50 years ago. Technology now permeates every facet of life, and its sudden disappearance – such as a drained battery or loss of the internet – can wreak havoc on a […]


27 Oct
by Aspectus PR

privacy-security-tech-prWe live in a digital world that was unimaginable 50 years ago. Technology now permeates every facet of life, and its sudden disappearance – such as a drained battery or loss of the internet – can wreak havoc on a day. The products of companies like Samsung and Google make everyday tasks easier, but is the gadgetry around us making the world a safer place?

Automakers incorporate technology into car designs to increase safety with results that are often great. Reversing cameras and blind spot detection systems have been so effective in accident prevention that the US is making them mandatory on all new vehicles from 2018. However, a recent article in the Telegraph points out that some in-car safety systems can be difficult to use and prove more distracting to drivers than using hand-held mobiles.

It’s counterintuitive that something designed for the public’s wellbeing might actually increase risk, but this conundrum is at the core of discussions regarding Apple’s release of iOS 8 for mobile devices. The operating system features encryption software so advanced that not even Apple can access user data. Undoubtedly, many were pleased by this news and agreed with the sentiments of the tech giant’s CEO Tim Cook, “…A great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.”

Although used as a selling point by Apple, the ironclad encryption hasn’t been welcome news to everyone – particularly law enforcement agencies. FBI Director James Comey said he was confounded that companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” Others go further, saying the iPhone will become the mobile of choice for criminals and terrorists, signalling that raising personal privacy will lower societal safety.

Mobile data has been a modern magnifying glass for today’s sleuths, but increased encryption takes it from their hands and gives it to the public as a shield. Does this mean that security and privacy are on opposite sides of a spectrum? If so, which should be the priority for technological development?

Such questions are difficult to answer but necessary to consider for tech companies. If a product is manipulated or malfunctions to become a malevolent force, its manufacturer can be placed in hot water.

Regardless of whether privacy or safety is made the chief objective, the underlying moral from a PR perspective is the same: preventative action is much more effective than repair efforts. The best strategy involves foresight, testing, and exhaustive consideration of all possible negative outcomes before a product is released. This can be a hefty task, but it ensures that new technology optimally contributes to society and also secures the future welfare of the company itself.


The weekend’s gambling review, courtesy of Google Glass

It is fair to say that Google Glass has had its short history punctuated by a fair amount of controversy. From identity theft, to people being assaulted for wearing them in bars, the news has been far from rosy for […]


24 Oct
by Aspectus PR

Barry OrrIt is fair to say that Google Glass has had its short history punctuated by a fair amount of controversy. From identity theft, to people being assaulted for wearing them in bars, the news has been far from rosy for the technology’s fleeting lifespan. Another problem with Glass is that it still seems akin to a pipedream. Working in and commuting through central London, I have spied the Glass once, which is probably something to do with its current £1,000 price tag. However, this tally doubled over the weekend.

I had scored myself discounted tickets to the QIPCO day at Ascot, the final day of the racing calendar. In the company of mum, dad and a tie pin I was convinced had been designed as an early stage dietary aid, I found myself sampling the delights of the racecourse on the Saturday. In between the first and second races (minimal losses, honest), I glanced up at the big screen, and instead of the usual interview with a DJ from the ‘after party’ or the winner of a new Mini courtesy of the sponsors, I was confronted by a man calmly surveying the course while periodically checking his Google eyewear.

The tech fiend within me stirred, and I began to pay closer attention to the interview taking place. The man was Barry Orr, a spokesperson for Betfair, who was explaining that while he was taking in the temperamental weather, he was also looking at the best current odds for the upcoming races alongside non-runners. Old school punters alongside me seemed suitably unimpressed, grunting and returning to the Racing Post, but something about Barry stuck with me. Has he found a Google Glass niche? As I slalomed through the myriad independent bookies and their sputtering, mobile LED boards looking to turn 7/1 into 8/1, I began to think that Barry could well be the unofficial saviour of Glass.

Technology needs to have a clear application in order for it to maximise its market potential, and using Glass within the betting industry is one of the best ‘practical’ applications for the technology I’ve seen so far. Take BlackBerry as an example. For all its email power, long battery life and encryption software, if it hadn’t been marketed as a business phone, then it could have faltered for being a little dull. In a similar communication space, if Bluetooth headsets hadn’t been specifically tied to hands-free for drivers, then the novelty of walking along with ‘I take myself too seriously’ plastered on the side of your face may well have been lost to a huge number of eventual users.

This focus can extend to businesses and their communications strategies. Approaching PR with a scattergun approach to letting the world and his dog (neigh horse) know about what you can do means that many companies’ messaging lacks vigour. A focused approach, targeting specific verticals and industries with a clear message of what’s in it for them, allows your company to make a lasting impression on potential customers far more than spreading a generalised message in a haphazard way. Think cannonball rather than confetti.

This was the first time I had seen Google Glass being used for a specific task that suited it, and the middle-aged man standing in the drizzle made far more of an impression on me than a dozen glossy Silicon Valley ads. And if I’d picked a winner, perhaps I would have even been able to buy a pair of Google’s web-enabled eyewear.


Planning, hacking and measurement at Measurefest 2014

Returning to London’s learned university district for its second year, Measurefest boasted expert talks from the world of data analysis, digital marketing and communications. In this post, Aspectus runs the rule on three talks demonstrating Measurefest’s assortment of riches. Mark Fassbender […]


23 Oct
by Aspectus PR

measurefestReturning to London’s learned university district for its second year, Measurefest boasted expert talks from the world of data analysis, digital marketing and communications. In this post, Aspectus runs the rule on three talks demonstrating Measurefest’s assortment of riches.

Mark Fassbender – User-centred web design

Following an introduction by Phil Haslehurst that examined a variety of applications for heatmap technology, Mark Fassbender (@flashbender) took to the podium to discuss planning and executing a future-proofed website development project.

The importance of the website as a digital home typically sees it redeveloped every few years to keep pace with advancements in technology and trends. Naturally, this means large amounts of resource and cash goes into website development – and all too frequently for many companies.

Fassbender therefore suggested that as a means of improving the long-term efficiency of running such a vital resource, website development should entail at least five ‘rounds’ of planning and refinement prior to money being spent on aspects such as coding, programming and supporting technology.

planning-refinement-development-monitoring

The idea, said Fassbender, is that a combination of stakeholders can be involved from the beginning, and throughout the process. For larger organisations, this could include project managers, website designers and developers, company executives, and even customers and website users if possible.

Such an approach can also help decisions about what is really needed on a website. Crucially, these sessions can help achieve a better balance between the needs of the business and those of the customer. As Fassbender said, it’s important to always remember that “people are not on the web to enjoy your web design, but to get something done.”

Ela Osterberger – Don’t be afraid of APIs

Data hacking is not normal activity for communications professionals, yet much of the recent industry chatter (not to mention an official government survey) suggests that IT-based roles are currently the most in demand in the UK. One could therefore argue that there is an advantage to be gained in understanding how the various pieces of software and technology that permeate the web work.

Ela Osterberger’s talk successfully showed that taking something scary sounding like an application programming interface (API) and extracting its data can be achieved in as little as three minutes and thirty seconds, as her video demonstrated. Furthermore, one slide entitled “curiosity over skills” seemed to go down well in the room, possibly because many members of the audience were not from programming or ‘coding’ backgrounds.

To take a specific example, Osterberger showed how it is possible to use one of Google Analytics’ APIs to extract data and create a report that can alert recipients when something is above or below a specific range, which could have a direct impact on business decisions.

For communications professionals, it is worth thinking that in a web environment awash with data, there are myriad ways of getting hold of, and using data, to the advantage of clients and businesses alike.

Elayne Philipps – Measuring behaviour change in government

This talk probably had the closest bond to the communications industry, primarily due to the fact it was by Elayne Phillips (@LayneyP), Head of Strategy, Performance and Evaluation at Defra Communications. She outlined an interesting example and framework that can be applied to the main goal of any comms strategy: getting people to do something.

While meaningless acronyms are much maligned, public-facing government communications must adhere to the EAST (easy, attractive, social, timely) structure, said Phillips. Simply put, all communications need to be easy to understand, attractively presented, ‘social’ in that they are easy to share, and timely in order to be relevant to peoples’ lives.

The example given in the talk was of an initiative to encourage dog owners to get their pets microchipped before it becomes mandatory in 2016. The campaign included information on how, why and where dog microchipping can be done. In addition, Defra partnered with the charity Dogs Trust, enabling widespread promotion over social media using the hashtag #chipmydog to encompass the main message.

The campaign was measured using frameworks set by the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication and endorsed by the Cabinet Office, CIPR and PRCA (more on this here).

Measuring the effectiveness of the campaign, Defra found that 500% more dogs were microchipped in 2013/14 compared to 2012/13.

There were plenty more thought provoking talks at Measurefest and its focus on practical advice is one of its strengths. Perhaps the overriding message of the day was that while data and analysis may be superficially incongruous with communications and marketing, it is frequently a useful place to look not only to prove the value of these activities, but also as a place for creative inspiration.


Advertising technology takes flight at Adtech

Following my morning at #adtech_London today, my head is, quite frankly, in a spin. And not just at the cost of a cup of coffee (£3.40, in case you’re wondering). But aside from having to get a mortgage in order […]


22 Oct
by Aspectus PR

adtech_london_tech_prFollowing my morning at #adtech_London today, my head is, quite frankly, in a spin. And not just at the cost of a cup of coffee (£3.40, in case you’re wondering). But aside from having to get a mortgage in order to feed my caffeine addiction, my other key takeaways from the event were:

  1. Ben Fennell, CEO of BBH, gave an inspiring keynote. Having spent seven months immersed in the re-pitch for BA, he is a man who knows a thing or two about what the agency of the future might look like. And for Fennell, it’s about celebrating and respecting specialists, then providing a collaborative environment for those specialists to work in. As he put it: ‘collaboration between hybrid teams equals magic’ (more about this later in the week). And he had plenty of examples of this magic at his fingertips. However, I have to say that I thought this Ikea video was taking the Michael out of Apple, whereas actually it’s about the back and forth between the physical and digital world. OK…
  2. Fennell also recommended this book – Creativity, Inc., which looks like a goody. And it has Buzz Lightyear on the front. In this case, I think a book should be judged by its cover.
  3. Next up was Kenny Jacobs, CMO of Ryanair. Did you know that in the UK, after eBay and Amazon, Ryanair’s website gets the most hits? I’m serious. Jacobs addressed the fact that as an industry, travel has been slow to adapt to the possibilities presented by new technologies, but Ryanair believes it is now making good headway. Jacobs is also a man with a plan to improve the customer experience and sees ad tech as key to that. For those of you wondering if this plan will lead to cabin crew having an attitude makeover, they start their ‘always trying to be better’ training in two weeks…
  4. ‘Programmatic’ was a big agenda item at this year’s show, and the seminar on mobile programmatic by moPub and StrikeAd provided a really good overview of the growth areas within mobile, and how programmatic is helping companies to drive relevancy through better targeting. If the Net-a-Porter case study that they flashed up on screen is anything to go by, the programmatic industry is likely to not only meet but exceed its projected growth targets.
  5. In the ‘Next Big Thing’ section was Sliide, a really interesting company that has come up with a novel solution to the tricky to crack/target/engage 18-25 demographic. It works by serving up content to the lock screen on your mobile. If you want to read it you swipe to the right, and if you don’t then you go to the left. Or is it the other way around? Either way, my joke suggestion that it was modelled on the Tinder ‘accept or reject’ model didn’t go down too well. Interestingly, it loops in users by sharing its commission with them, very much putting the person in control of what messages they receive and from whom.
  6. Did I mention the cost of the coffee? Oh I did…

Unfortunately I missed the main event – Sir Martin Sorrell – but still came away with plenty to think about. Looking forward to next year!


How drilling for resources will create the next frontier

Drilling has long been an integral part in expanding the US frontier. In the 1850s, it enabled the California Gold Rush and bought about the Texas oil boom in the mid-nineteenth century. The ability to extract valuable resources encouraged mass […]


10 Oct
by Aspectus PR

1015-water-moon-more-than-thought_full_600Drilling has long been an integral part in expanding the US frontier. In the 1850s, it enabled the California Gold Rush and bought about the Texas oil boom in the mid-nineteenth century. The ability to extract valuable resources encouraged mass migration, as US citizens moved to seek their fortune from these resources. Now, the pursuit of new resources and usable lands has moved into space.

This week NASA announced that it has established a set of projects to study how to mine resources from the moon. The projects – aptly named Lunar Flashlight and Resource Prospector Mission – are due to commence in late 2017 and will assess the possibility of drilling resources from the moon to establish a sustainable outpost on the satellite.

The projects will first assess the locations of water on the moon. Then, NASA intends to design a model for how an outpost could be put on the moon, which will host the drills that will extract the water. The water will be used for both consumption and separating hydrogen and oxygen for the creation of rocket fuel. But NASA is not the only institution eyeing up the moon’s resources; a number of private enterprises – such as Moon Express and Shackleton Energy Co. – have set their sights on mining and using the moon’s water sources to create fuel.

This is exciting news and will undoubtedly be the next step in the hollowing out of the state. But why are we in PR excited? A project as large as trying to mine the moon for energy resources, and the establishment of an outpost, requires a huge public relations campaign to garner civilian support and taxpayer money. At the same time, it creates yet another new frontier for an energy industry so rapidly breaking with the conventional.


Tower blocks, heritage and the art of persuasion

How do you make a horse that is good for glue seem like a stallion? As with most conversations about the use of language and perception, the majority of people would say: by employing the art of persuasion. And this […]


08 Oct
by Aspectus PR

Balfron Tower beforeHow do you make a horse that is good for glue seem like a stallion? As with most conversations about the use of language and perception, the majority of people would say: by employing the art of persuasion. And this is exactly what the National Trust has done with a 1960s tower block in London’s Tower Hamlets. The concrete tower is getting a new lease of life as tourists are told that it is an architectural marvel, symbolic of the glass-plate designs of the yesteryear.

As odd as it might seem for a heritage institution such as the National Trust to try and protect something that many people would think is best forgotten, it is actually quite common. The United Kingdom is littered with impractical, outdated, and physically unsymmetrical buildings that have been deemed beautiful and wonderful because of how certain institutions believe they reflect an era. A nation so obsessed with its history has its understanding of the past defined by what powerful and wealthy bodies consider worthy of being preserved and remembered (or forgotten and abandoned).

Some great examples of beautiful buildings that have historical importance and yet have been forgotten because heritage institutions did not think they are worth restoration include Canterbury Castle, Wilton’s Music Hall, and BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. On the other hand, the Barbican Centre and the Lloyd’s building have been granted listed status by English Heritage.

Thus it rings true that buildings do not have a guaranteed longevity because they are beautiful or historical. They have a ring-fenced future if a body of individuals think that it is worth protecting and promoting to people. This is the PR side of engineering and architecture coming through. Selling people a marvel does not rely upon beauty or importance alone, but an idea and a campaign to promote it.

Due to the paradox of many important and beautiful buildings being left to ruin whilst unimportant and aesthetically lacking constructions gain protection, it is hard to tell the difference between a dead horse and a show jumper. And such, I conclude that PR does not make a horse that is good for glue seem like a stallion, for there are no standard measures for what determines beauty and importance in architecture. Instead, PR defines whether a building remains a mere construction, or if it gains legs and the chance to be revered as a thoroughbred.


#CPC14: A lesson in sticking to your core messages from an Aussie

Tim Focas explains how B2B agencies can take a leaf out of the book of the political comms world when it comes to articulating key messages From TV interviews, to fringe meetings, and booze fuelled evening events, the presence of […]


07 Oct
by Aspectus PR

Tim Focas explains how B2B agencies can take a leaf out of the book of the political comms world when it comes to articulating key messages

From TV interviews, to fringe meetings, and booze fuelled evening events, the presence of a certain Australian communications strategist loomed over Symphony Hall in Birmingham last week. “Securing Britain’s economic recovery” was the buzz phrase at #CPC14, and it is the brain child of one man, Lynton Crosby, AKA David Cameron’s answer to Alastair Campbell.

While only a Conservative majority will justify the Crosby way in the eyes of disgruntled backbenchers, from an agency comms perspective, it was fascinating to see his plan in action. The Cabinet stuck rigorously to his brief, regardless of the questions thrown at them, and the art of bridging was very much on show. It was easy to lose count of the number of times Cabinet ministers would deflect tricky questions around sex scandals and party defectors, and get back on to the “long term economic plan”. But this wasn’t just in evidence when the camera was rolling. From Twitter to the blogosphere, the economic message was front and centre of everything.

The Crosby approach reinforces the importance of clients focusing on just a few key messages. This advice seems obvious, but is often forgotten during the interview pre-briefing process. It never does any harm to spend that extra time ensuring that briefing documents explain points such as when and how to bridge, and that thought is given to exactly what the message should be. Also, that all important pre-brief call to a client before he speaks to the Financial Times. For this alone, comms professionals – regardless of the sector they work in – could do worse than take a few tips from Cameron’s wizard of Oz.