Scrappy start-ups transforming financial services world

In just a few short years, technology start-ups have radically transformed traditional models of communication and consumption. Now, they’re disrupting long-standing models of banking, lending and investing by changing the way we access the financial marketplace. The August 3 edition […]


13 Aug
by Aspectus PR

Innovation_Aspectus PRIn just a few short years, technology start-ups have radically transformed traditional models of communication and consumption. Now, they’re disrupting long-standing models of banking, lending and investing by changing the way we access the financial marketplace.

The August 3 edition of The Economist featured a story profiling the scrappy financial technology start-ups shaking up the world of lending. Firms like Xoom, Lending Club and Wonga are enabling consumers to borrow and send money outside of the traditional methods that banks allow. Through web- and mobile-based technology, these companies are able to make intelligent decisions, collect funds and send them to recipients quicker than it takes for a bank associate to ask them how their day is going.

By cutting financial institutions out of the consumer lending chain, these financial technology start-ups are capitalizing on flaws in the traditional lending model. It’s no secret that consumers are fed up with paying fees for low-touch service. But since 2008, many of these individuals have been underserved or ignored completely, as major banks have tightened their lending.

The same story is being played out across the financial markets. In areas like retail trading, for example, financial technology firms are using social media to harness market intelligence from burgeoning volumes of data and by tapping into the collective power of networks. As a result, consumers have easier access to investment expertise or the watchful eye of a seasoned trader or fund manager without excessive costs.

We see it firsthand through our clients who are bringing their own form of disruption to financial services:

  • DCM Capital – launched the first trading platform with a social media sentiment feed
  • eToro – a social trading network allowing users to share and copy trades
  • FIG – a venture capital firm investing in the businesses of students and recent graduates
  • Knowsis – a firm mining social media for intelligence to enhance trading strategies
  • Maxxia – a firm looking to transform the asset financing market through transparency

The growing momentum of these businesses is evident in the quality and quantity of media attention they’ve received. This year alone, our ‘scrappy start-ups’ have been featured in the BBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, The Times, FOX News and the Daily Telegraph.

While we’re still some time away from seeing the long-lasting impact that these firms will have on the financial services industry, there’s no denying they’re bringing much-needed change to a marketplace that demands it. 


A Precise view of how journalists use Twitter

For the discerning PR professional, Twitter is a part of everyday life. At Aspectus, we know Twitter is an invaluable tool for keeping on top of the news, seeing what journalists are talking about, and identifying key influencers in the […]


09 Aug
by Aspectus PR

TwitterFor the discerning PR professional, Twitter is a part of everyday life. At Aspectus, we know Twitter is an invaluable tool for keeping on top of the news, seeing what journalists are talking about, and identifying key influencers in the spaces in which we operate.

So when Precise hosted a breakfast briefing entitled ‘How Twitter is transforming journalists’ working lives – or not…’ we jumped at the chance to attend and find out whether journalists are as keen on Twitter as we are.

Chaired by Helen Dunne, editor of CorpComms magazine, and with journalists from the top national media on the panel, the discussion proved fascinating and showed that, while Twitter does have its sceptics, it also brings myriad benefits to journalists and helps them work more efficiently. For example, there was almost unanimous agreement that Twitter has grown to become an alternative newswire for busy journos.

According to Harry Wallop, features writer at the Telegraph, Twitter has transformed his working life, allowing him to save time when researching a story by simply tweeting a request and subsequently being flooded with ideas and suggestions of useful people to talk to.

Meanwhile, Metro editor Kenny Campbell argued that while Twitter doesn’t fundamentally change the way journalists operate, it does allow them to react to stories quickly and follow events they cannot attend in person.

Engagement and the ability to reach out to a wider audience were also highlighted as key benefits that Twitter brings to journalists. Here, parallels can be drawn with how the PR world approaches Twitter.

Our approach for example, is to ensure that campaigns adopt an integrated approach to traditional and digital media. It’s no longer adequate to secure a piece of coverage and hope a client’s prospects will read that publication on a particular day. We make sure that any coverage is promoted via a wide range of social media channels.

Twitter is an essential channel not only because of the volume of people that can be reached through it, but because it allows messages to be disseminated in a highly targeted fashion to an audience that might already have indicated they have an interest in a specific topic.

The consensus at the Precise event was that Twitter is not the be all and end all for journalists, and that they are particularly careful not to take everything they read on Twitter as gospel.

Similarly, although we believe you cannot underestimate the power of Twitter, it is worth remembering that it is fundamentally a social network. In the context of B2B PR, it needs to be approached in a way that resonates with users, and should be employed as part of a campaign that includes more professional-style networks such as LinkedIn, in order to have the greatest impact.


The need for balanced reporting on the fracking debate

The political debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – remains divisive. Preceding Michael Fallon’s comment that fracking for shale gas would “make houses’ walls shake”, George Osborne had argued that placing Britain at the forefront of the “shale gas […]


06 Aug
by Aspectus PR

Fracking debate_Aspectus PRThe political debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – remains divisive. Preceding Michael Fallon’s comment that fracking for shale gas would “make houses’ walls shake”, George Osborne had argued that placing Britain at the forefront of the “shale gas revolution” had “the potential to create thousands of jobs and keep energy bills low for millions of people”.

Despite the clear dichotomy that exists within the rhetoric, media coverage has responded in relatively uniform fashion. Ever since the documentary ‘Gasland’ brought the detrimental effects of unsafe practices during the process of shale gas retrieval to the world’s attention, the term “fracking” has more often than not been a staple of negative headlines. Yet the outcome has been positive for the industry, as it has prompted urgent regulation to prevent water table contamination.

The success of these regulatory measures was confirmed this month with the publication of a report by the US Department of Energy (DOE). Having monitored the progress of a fracking site in western Pennsylvania, the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory found no presence of contaminators making their way into water reserves.

The key difference separating the hydraulic fracturing of the moment from the unnerving scenes pictured in ‘Gasland’ is the depth of knowledge that has since been acquired. With the implementation of adequate research into the location of an area’s water table prior to retrieval, the risk of contamination is virtually non-existent. Similarly, Fallon’s claims of wall shaking tremors have been proven to be unfounded. Studies published in the journal of Marine and Petroleum Geology state that there have only been three tremors detectable by humans since 1929.

The impact of hydraulic fracturing in the US has been truly bilateral, enabling a dramatic fall in energy bills while boosting the economy with the creation of over half a million jobs. However, in the UK, President Obama’s recent statement that the US must “tap into this natural gas revolution that’s bringing energy costs down in this country” has failed to attract the same media response that Lord Howell’s PR blunder has.

Lord Howell’s comments may have dented confidence in the emerging UK market for hydraulic fracturing, but it serves as a timely reminder that a more considered and balanced approach from the nation’s media is necessary to re-frame the debate surrounding what has the potential to be a critical source of energy for the UK.


James joins as Aspectus goes on strike

The Aspectus team headed out to Holborn’s All Star Lanes recently to welcome James Reynolds in his new role as Account Manager. James brings with him a wealth of PR knowledge and has already proven to be a valuable addition […]


02 Aug
by Aspectus PR

Aspectus PR_bowlingThe Aspectus team headed out to Holborn’s All Star Lanes recently to welcome James Reynolds in his new role as Account Manager. James brings with him a wealth of PR knowledge and has already proven to be a valuable addition to the FS team (even if not on the bowling lanes!).

The trash-talk had been flying across the office all week, and only intensified as the boys lined up against the girls and collected the evening’s questionable footwear. James made an immediate impact in the boy’s lane with a quick-fire spare, before ending on a respectable 85, while the indomitable Amy (undisputed Aspectus bowling champion) recovered from a stuttering start to take the overall honours with 107.

Luckily for the boys, just as James faltered, Garry and Ian (the slayers of pins) were in the ascendancy and, despite Amy’s devastating action backed by valiant efforts from Jess and Mariko, the girls couldn’t pip the boys to the post.

After the dust had settled, so too did the Aspectus team, replenishing the energy stocks (and rehydrating) with a meal and cocktails. With James still getting to know the office, and Head of North America Steph Johnson over from New York, it was a great opportunity for the ever-expanding Aspectus family to spend some time getting to know each other. Meanwhile, Global Group Director Alastair Turner presided over the evening, supping cocktails from a crystal skull like an affable Bond villain.

The next day at Aspectus Towers, the colourful drinks gave way to the usual teas and coffees as the focus switched back from bowling balls to making calls.

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Innovation through diversity: the PR benefits of hiring out of leftfield

With Apple preparing for its next big launch – the rumoured iWatch – the recruitment of former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve raised a few eyebrows in some quarters. Nevertheless, it provides a timely reminder of the advantages that a […]


31 Jul
by Aspectus PR

Aspectus PR_right fitWith Apple preparing for its next big launch – the rumoured iWatch – the recruitment of former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve raised a few eyebrows in some quarters. Nevertheless, it provides a timely reminder of the advantages that a fresh perspective can bring to even the most successful of businesses. Finding the right fit can sometimes feel like an impossible task, but when done correctly, it can ensure priceless mutual learning and great results.

Deneve has a wealth of experience garnered from the world of design and fashion, something that many believe the Silicon Valley giant needs in order to rejuvenate its iconic brand. At the same time, hiring out of leftfield is a risk. One only has to look at the rise and fall of Apple’s previous Head of Retail, John Browett, who lasted just six months at the company.

Hiring the right people for the right job is easier said than done, but as Apple’s approach illustrates, if the underlying strategy is well thought out then the selection itself can be surprisingly straightforward. Deneve was clearly a calculated choice that took into account the fact he had previously worked for Apple and also been an advisor to a number of tech start-ups.

The same mantra applies when it comes to selecting the right commercial partner. For example, Aspectus PR has been hired by a variety of companies for our experience in the vertical markets that they are selling to, such as healthcare or construction, rather than necessarily our experience in the sector they come from.

Similarly, we have a number of colleagues here at Aspectus who have left successful careers in a number of industries such as journalism, management consultancy, and retail, to work in PR. As a result, we can draw on their wider industry experience, and unique skills and perspectives to build informed and innovative campaigns that deliver real results for our clients.

Just as we noted in our recent blog on Women in the Boardroom, the debate about encouraging diversity has moved on. Today, it’s all about ensuring your business benefits from a broader mix of people with different backgrounds, careers and life experiences. For us, sector knowledge is hugely important but so too is aptitude and attitude.

So while someone may at first glance seem an unlikely match for a specific role or project, it is important to consider a much broader range of factors in terms of the qualities they might bring, as ultimately they might prove to be the missing piece in the puzzle. For Apple’s latest iWatch venture, only time will tell.


PR media tours and why you can’t beat a bit of good ol’ fashioned face time in the digital era

Digital developments like Apple’s FaceTime continue to transform the way we communicate across borders. However, here at Aspectus we recognise how important it is to maintain the more traditional methods too, especially when it comes to building and cementing relationships […]


30 Jul
by Aspectus PR

Aspectus PR eToro media tourDigital developments like Apple’s FaceTime continue to transform the way we communicate across borders. However, here at Aspectus we recognise how important it is to maintain the more traditional methods too, especially when it comes to building and cementing relationships between our clients and key members of the media.

So, when one of our newest clients, eToro – the world’s largest social investment network – let us know they were in London for a few days, we got the wheels in motion to plan an action-packed media tour. However, old fashioned ‘face time’ requires much more than just contact details and a wifi connection.

Indeed, there is a lot to think about when embarking on a media tour, especially one that delivers real value to clients. The following outlines the three main things we believe a media tour simply cannot be without:

  • A hook – this is our raison d’être for the meeting and how we entice even the most senior journalists to take time out of their day to meet our clients. The strength of the story is key and crafting this in a way that suits each individual journalist pays dividends, quite literally.
  • Journalist insight – we know what makes our journalists tick. We know their style, how their publications work, how they like to receive information and the hooks that work best for them. This is our inside information, our special sauce, and we have it by the bottle load so that when our clients ask to get in front of Bloomberg, Wired and The Economist, we’re able to not only deliver, but do so with confidence.
  • Preparation – that’s how we transfer our inside information into the minds of our clients so they have the best possible chance to impress. And in our mind, the old briefing book simply doesn’t cut it, we think bigger than that.

So three key steps, all as important as each other, especially when you can’t blame the wifi for a bad connection.


Will you accept this rose? How to grow budding journalist relationships

For PR professionals, developing relationships with journalists is like a fine wine or a waltz. If done correctly, great success is achieved. But when it’s handled poorly, it can knock you off your feet, spilling the red wine all down […]


23 Jul
by Aspectus PR

PR journlists media relationsFor PR professionals, developing relationships with journalists is like a fine wine or a waltz. If done correctly, great success is achieved. But when it’s handled poorly, it can knock you off your feet, spilling the red wine all down the front of your formal waltzing attire.

At Aspectus PR, we pride ourselves on establishing sound relationships with the media. It’s crucial for our clients and for our business.

In the following, we’ve listed five top tips for cultivating connections with reporters on behalf of your clients:

1. Keep it simple
Do you ever have those moments of panic, nausea, and/or blurred vision when you receive what seems like a Charles Dickens-length email in your inbox? Keeping pitches tight and concise can be inversely correlated to your success with the media. The longer and more mundane your email is, the less inclined the journalist will be to respond. Be snappy with the news or storyline, relate it back to the particular writer’s beat and why it’s interesting to them, and elaborate a tad. (There’s no need to list out everything you had to eat that day or the names of your last three pets.)

2. Reporters aren’t robots, and neither are you
It’s important to be professional when building rapport with the media, but that doesn’t mean you have to sound like a robot. A little bit of friendly reporter/PR banter can be healthy for a budding relationship. If you find out they were out of the office on vacation, it’s perfectly normal to ask them how their trip was and where they went. Finding connections through hobbies and interests like travel can propel your relationship forward with that reporter, and they’ll be more inclined to discuss your pitches in the future.

3. “If you build it, they will come”
Though we’re referencing the iconic quote from the hit 1989 movie Field of Dreams, we aren’t recommending that a strong journalist relationship means that you plow down a bunch of corn crops in the middle of Iowa to build a baseball diamond. Instead, help journalists hone their story. If they liked your pitch, build out the story with commentary from industry analysts or talking clients. The power of being able to provide multiple sources is not lost on a media guru.

4. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.
Connecting with journalists isn’t done just through emails, phone calls and drinks anymore. Reach out to them in the social media universe, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. More often than not, journalists will be commentating on beat-related topics, but their posts might also give you an inside track as to where their next story is coming from. Helping to craft a story off of their recent observations made through social media is organic and less rigid than the traditional way of building out a relationship through emails and phone calls – and you avoid the risk of your pitch getting lost in their inbox.

5. What’s the magic word?
A simple “thank you” can go a long way. Journalists often take time out of their day to conduct interviews, travel to a meet and greet, and attend events held by your clients. Sending a quick email to acknowledge this shows you appreciate them devoting time to you and your client. In a world where PR pros are constantly in action, niceties are critical to maintaining a pleasant relationship with the media.

The above tips don’t necessarily mean that you’ll instantly accelerate your relationships with journalists as if you were on The Bachelorette (although what better way to bond than to hang glide off of a mountaintop and land in a field of roses where you are greeted immediately by champagne and caviar?). Time plays a factor in harvesting these connections. If you remain friendly, professional, and take a few of the tips above to heart, you’ll build a great foundation on which your media relationships can grow and flourish.


Don’t Call it a Comeback, Hostess has been here for months – thanks to its communications efforts

Americans faced a crisis of apocalyptic proportions recently as the Twinkie faced extinction. So distraught were we about the Hostess Brands’ bankruptcy that we blogged about it in November. However, it was not only the thought of life without Twinkies that […]


19 Jul
by Aspectus PR

Twinkie_comeback_AspectusAmericans faced a crisis of apocalyptic proportions recently as the Twinkie faced extinction. So distraught were we about the Hostess Brands’ bankruptcy that we blogged about it in November. However, it was not only the thought of life without Twinkies that caught our imagination, but Hostess Brands’ use of the Twinkie’s iconic status to power a strategic public relations campaign that deflected the media glare away from the intense political debate surrounding who was to blame for the bankruptcy.

So successful was this campaign that the nation’s favorite sweet treat was elevated to being an almost essential commodity, akin to that of clean water or oil. And while Twinkies might not have been on the shelves, they were certainly in the news, as numerous firms lined up to buy Hostess Brands.

It was private equity firms Apollo Group Management and Metropoulos & Co. that won out, snapping up the majority of Hostess Brands’ snack business – including CupCakes, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos – for $410 million. This week, it was confirmed that all of these snacks will be returning to stores across the US.

The Hostess comeback is not all sweetness and light amidst the potential job losses and wage cuts, but it does serve as a timely reminder of how important it is for companies to maintain a strong, concerted PR effort both during and after a storm of bad publicity if they are to minimize the impact on their brand.  The most effective communications campaigns are also designed to restore a battered reputation in the eyes of all constituents.

Hostess is using its current PR effort to expand its customer base, launching the #CakeFace Campaign, which encourages individuals to submit pictures of themselves pretending to eat cake. Though this might seem a tad juvenile, it is aimed at a younger generation that has yet to grow up with its snacks. It has also announced that the Twinkie will have a longer shelf life, feeding into the decades old perception that the only thing that would survive the apocalypse is a Twinkie.

Having successfully been brought back from the brink, Twinkies are now reported to be flying off the shelves. Panic not however. Hostess has conveniently provided a Locator should this blog have whetted your appetite.


Hot shot account executive needed for our energy team

Have you got a year’s PR experience and absolutely LOVE the energy sector? Then please come and talk to us about why you revel in renewables, are gaga about gas and ecstatic about electricity. We are looking for enthusiasm and […]


12 Jul
by Aspectus PR

twitter-energyHave you got a year’s PR experience and absolutely LOVE the energy sector? Then please come and talk to us about why you revel in renewables, are gaga about gas and ecstatic about electricity.

We are looking for enthusiasm and a real commitment to becoming an energy industry PR specialist from someone who has already got a good grounding in all the basic PR skills. That means being a fast writer, a fearless pitcher and a great workload manager.

We have stacks of energy clients in all areas and we are BUSY.

Send a cracking email to kate.garratt@aspectuspr.com with a copy of your CV.


Happy birthday to the Tube: Celebrating a 150-year-old brand in the digital age

It has been almost impossible to miss this year’s communications campaign celebrating 150 years of the Tube. From posters to TV programmes, articles to stunts, barely a day has passed when the Tube wasn’t in the news and for once […]


11 Jul
by Aspectus PR

TFL The TubeIt has been almost impossible to miss this year’s communications campaign celebrating 150 years of the Tube. From posters to TV programmes, articles to stunts, barely a day has passed when the Tube wasn’t in the news and for once at least, the coverage has been overwhelmingly positive.

Last week, The Chartered Institute of Public Relations invited TFL’s in-house PR team to one of its monthly gatherings to discuss how they’d achieved these results. Aspectus jumped at the chance to attend and gain insight into the strategy and ideas behind the award-winning campaign. The evening was hosted by The London Transport Museum, which provided the perfect setting for a discussion on how a brand’s heritage and future were juxtaposed to create an exciting and engaging campaign.

TFL’s comms team set out to celebrate both the heritage of the Underground, but at the same time encourage modern Londoners to appreciate the service they use today. Despite being such an iconic brand, for many Londoners the phrase ‘The Tube’ brings to mind delayed trains, stale air and being pressed into a sweaty armpit after a long day in the office. This was the first hurdle the team had to overcome and the team approached it by making the romantic history of the Tube tangible, most notably by organising a steam train to run through Farringdon station.

They also went to great lengths to show just how difficult it is to manage the Tube service, and the passion and energy that’s required. Perhaps the most touching element of the campaign was last year’s six-part series entitled ‘The Tube’, which culminated in the documentary, ‘The Tube: An Underground History’. These programmes painted a candid portrait of the service today and demonstrated how it has touched the lives of millions over the course of several generations – not least of all the lives of underground workers, who clearly loved the brand they represented. The show proved a huge success and attracted 2.2 million viewers.

The campaign also contrasted the past and present with a view of the Underground of the future, which teased the press with glimpses of new projects, such as Crossrail. Invites were extended to only a handful of news organisations but this in turn generated interest from a range of other publications eager to discover what was happening behind the scenes.

The team went on to show how, when a brand’s influence is at its peak, it can pull other powerful brands into its orbit. The Tube was able to partner with Penguin, The Royal Mint and even the Royal Family, which not only guaranteed reams of coverage, but also emphasised the cultural importance of the Tube for Great Britain. This was best demonstrated by the tongue-in-cheek image of Kate Middleton boarding a Tube train with a ‘baby on board’ badge pinned to her coat.

Using the rich history of design on the Underground, the comms team also reached out to brands such as Google and Lego, who used the famous multi-coloured map to create a Lego model and a Google Doodle. Again, these proved rewarding partnerships. The Google Doodle alone generated 400 pieces of coverage.

Social media was employed to tie all of the various audiences together, and acted as a platform for Tube users to share their stories and access all of the content generated over the course of the campaign.

As if the success of the campaign was in any doubt, the Head of PR for TFL concluded the presentation by explaining how the team had reported on their marketing activity. In a series of graphs, he showed how 64 per cent of Londoners had heard of the anniversary and when Londoners were asked how they felt about the Tube, 55 per cent replied positively (up from 24 per cent in 2011).

‘What’s the story?’ is a common question for PR agencies looking to communicate their client’s message to the press and this campaign undoubtedly had an interesting and rich story to tell. But by encouraging others to tell their own stories about the Underground, and by combining a wide range of innovative methods and channels, the TFL comms team also got people to truly appreciate a service that perhaps many of us have taken for granted. No mean feat for a 20th Century brand in the 21st Century.