Constantly Curious

Our Thoughts and Insights

Media relations isn’t dead, but we need to be realistic about the future

Tomorrow will look like today, and It won’t.

The world of media relations is not going to change overnight but it’s also possible to see where threats and opportunities heading, for both PR agencies and in-house communications teams.

(Real) Journalism is back

Deep, detailed investigative journalism is finally being funded properly. A select number of publishers are betting big on quality and on their ability to build a sustainable audience of paying readers. Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows they are wise to do so, as trust in specific, known journalists has rocketed in recent years in direct counterpoint to falling levels of trust in the media overall.

Genuine, pragmatic and long-term relationships with global top tier media will become more important than ever.  The best media handlers will deliver relevant, exclusive data (and commentary) and place their brands at the heart of interesting long-form journalism.

On the other hand, brands who fail to prepare for crises or are not on top of their own issues will be buffeted by harsh winds as investigative journalism uncovers issues anywhere from their supply chain through to their accounting practices.

Paying for coverage will come out of the shadows

Every market and media vertical has its own specific relationship between advertising spend and coverage.  This spectrum has at one end media houses such as the BBC with stringent rules, editorial codes and blanket bans on paying-to-play.  At the other end, paying influencers per post or a trade magazine with an unofficial pricelist for coverage.

Of course, the daily reality for PRs usually lies somewhere in the middle.  Navigating this world is a challenge and one which raises many questions.  At the forefront of these decisions must be the expectations of the audience, largely driven by the transparency of the arrangement.

Where social media leads, traditional media will follow. Media relations nous will need to be combined with commercial acumen in order to identify and forge effective collaborative journalism efforts and deliver earned-centric branded content and partnerships.

Clickbait will get worse, because we can’t help ourselves   

The search for clicks will continue, and the proliferation of low-value online content will continue to expand.  This trend will become even more painful because more and more communicators will adopt a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mindset and pump out even greater quantities of their own clickbait.

Smarter communicators won’t ignore this trend, though, but rather than lowering brand equity they’ll use analytics and semi-automation (with human safeguards and oversight) to create stories in near real-time which insert their brand into popular culture in authentic, credible ways. Think of it as the sell-in at scale.

As all of these trends continue, traditional PR skills such as strong relationship management and an eye for story will be as important as ever – but new skills such as better commercial acumen, literacy with data and coding will also be in the arsenal of the smart communications team or agency.

Completing your final communications preparations before GDPR. Need help?

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) take force on 25 May, less than a month away.  In most organisations, multiple departments from legal through to IT, marketing and communications will need to take action to ensure compliance with these new data privacy rules which, in simple terms, apply to any organisation which processes the personal data of EU citizens.

In the last few weeks we have seen a real shift in our client work in preparation of this change, moving from helping clients to evaluate the broad contours of their messaging on privacy, as part of general preparation within the communications department, through to communications team driving final cross-organisational preparations.

It seems that the item highest on our clients’ agendas is the notification requirement of GDPR.  Under GDPR, companies must notify supervisors and data subjects within 72 hours of first becoming aware of a data breach.  Potential consequences for non-compliance with these notification requirements include hefty financial fines of up to €10 million (or up to 2 percent of the total worldwide turnover), but also failure to comply with this requirement would open another vulnerability for the company and add a complex dimension to reputation risk.

With this in mind, we’ve been helping clients to make plans and test them through a simulation.  Whether a more limited desktop exercise in order to gain familiarity with an existing crisis playbook, or a fuller all-day simulation with core incident response team members, leaders and subject matter experts from across the company, these provide a useful way of ensuring everything is in place before May 25.

Edelman has experts available to co-create GDPR-compliant data breach response plans and prepare and run crisis simulations before the launch of GDPR. 

If you would like to take advantage of this, please get in touch.

Steve Heywood
Deputy General Manager and GDPR Lead
Edelman Amsterdam

Voice Marketing: Five Opportunities and Challenges

23% of marketing professionals think that the increased use of voice-controlled assistants and smart speakers will influence their marketing strategies in 2021

In a few months, Google will launch the Dutch language version of Google Assistant, opening the door for an increased use in voice activated assistants in Dutch households. That being said, it is already a quickly moving development: Apple speech assistant Siri is used on almost 500 million mobile devices and it is expected in the next year that more than 59 million people worldwide will use a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. For many marketeers this will have a huge impact on their strategies for the coming few years, but which opportunities and challenges come with it? Here are 5 things to keep in mind for a voice-driven marketing strategy.

1. ‘Marketing in the Moment’ Becomes Essential
The rise in popularity of the voice assistant offers the chance for your brand to – both literally and figuratively – enter the homes of your target audiences and become a part of their daily lives. While only a fraction of current users have indicated that they like receiving branded content via their smart speakers, there is still huge potential for service and commercial purposes. Determining the when and how of using the speakers to approach customers is essential.

With the right insights into the (daily) usage of smart speakers, you can assess where you can create added value. Is it between 17:00 and 19:00 – when people are mostly using their assistants to search for restaurants and recipes – or when users are using their speakers to listen to music together with friends or family? There are plenty of chances to tune into the different phases of the customer journey.

2. The Revolution of Voice Search
More than 20% of all mobile searches via Google are voice search queries, which has already made voice search relevant for SEO marketeers in the last few years. But the real revolution will come in the next few years as use of smart speakers increases. Through more voice-based searches…

…search subjects will become more diverse and complex, based on various forms of speech.

…the search result needs of the users will change. More focus on audio will have an impact on the optimal audiovisual design of your brand’s various channels.

… even greater competition is created for the top positions in search engines – since only the top results are considered by the speech assistants, and ultimately only these results are heard by the users.

These are just a few reasons for marketeers to change the direction of their search strategy. Because there is not much existing data available about spoken searches, qualitative user research is advisable to find out which spoken search queries your target groups use and in which domains these searches are. You might conclude that it is more efficient to focus on long-tail in order to be able to claim more specific search domains.

3. Brands are (quite literally) getting a voice more and more
Where music and voiceovers in traditional advertising have helped brands get attention or form an emotional bond with customers for decades, the rise of voice assistants gives a new dimension to the importance of audio. For example, the translation of tone – in many companies an integral part of the brand identity – into the sound of a voice becomes necessary. It’s not for nothing that ‘voice designer’ is an up and coming career choice among talented designers.

Make a conscious choice for the voice of your brand. One that is in line with your brand values and keeps the forward-thinking target group of the smart speaker user in mind. In the world of speech assistants, your brand – and its representation in voice design – must be of service to the target group and ensure recognizability and trust. Do not make your voice design too obedient either: dare to be different, while ensuring an intelligent design with a human quality. That way, you also build a connection with your target audience via this channel.

4. Traditional channels are also getting smarter – and speech controlled
With the increasing number of chatbots, Conversational UI – the web design facilitating interaction between human users and robots – is implemented on different platforms: from Facebook Messenger to customer service pages. The next development, however, is already happening: Voice Conversational UI, in which speech is central.

Keep this in mind when (developing) your channel strategy: as people become increasingly accustomed to communicating with voice assistants, in the future they also expect your brand to facilitate them: via a chatbot, website or even at physical service points. Because of this change in user experience, it is becoming less important what you want to say as a marketeer and more important what the consumer wants to hear. This means that listening to your target groups – and that is a possibility that voice-driven platforms will offer – is also becoming increasingly important.

5. Measurability and Determining Your Tone
Because your brand’s success via smart speakers is determined by user experiences, measuring and optimizing these experiences is essential. This is likely to be another big challenge in 2021, especially for the modern marketeer who is used to testing, measuring and optimizing everything in detail.

Fortunately, there is hope, due to enough potential KPIs and metrics for voice marketing. For example, based on stored voice-activated messages, it should be possible to map the customer or service journey and identify any bottlenecks. By 2021, user statistics such as length of audio sessions and frequency of use should also be available to brands. The statistics from other channels, and possibly qualitative user research, form an excellent basis for measuring brand performance in this area and for optimizing communication, marketing and service programs.

In the coming years Dutch brands will also look at the possibilities to respond to the role voice assistants and smart speakers play in the way that the public changes their consumption of media. However, smart(er) brands are already laying the foundation for this by, among other things, making their media channels and search strategies futureproof. Pioneers will dare to experiment and – as soon as the first smart speakers in the Netherlands are available – use this innovation to reach and serve their target audiences.

International AIDS Society selects Edelman Amsterdam for AIDS 2018 Conference

Edelman announced today that it was selected by the International AIDS Society (IAS) to be the local communications agency to support the upcoming 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018), taking place on 23-27 July 2018 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Edelman is providing national and local media relations and content development support, as well as national communications strategy guidance, in the months leading up to the event, as well as onsite.

The International AIDS Conference is the largest gathering in the world on HIV and AIDS. First convened during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, this conference continues to provide a unique forum for the intersection of science and advocacy, and an opportunity to strengthen policies and programmes to ensure an evidence-based response to the epidemic. The conference also serves as a focal point to intensify political and financial commitments to AIDS.

“Through our work with global healthcare clients, we have been confronted with how many lives are still affected by HIV and AIDS,” said Arent Jan Hesselink, General Manager of Edelman Amsterdam.  “The Amsterdam office has a highly developed specialization in Health and Health Tech, and we’re proud to bring that expertise to support a world-changing organization such as the IAS.”

“It is important for us to build strong national and local media relationships in each host country of the conference,” said Mandy Sugrue, Communications Director, IAS. “Edelman’s passion and enthusiasm for AIDS 2018 really came through in the bid process for this position and we are looking forward to working with them to ensure that the conference communications and outreach efforts resonate and connect with our Dutch audiences.”

Trust Barometer 2018: CEOs Must Restore Trust in Truth and Leadership

The involvement of CEOs at conferences such as the World Economic Forum represents an interesting paradox, when viewed through the lens of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. The newest edition of the global survey shows that whereas the public expect and want CEOs’ to work to tackle societal challenges, they also distrust them, with the majority of the public viewing them as motivated by greed and representing an institution that is distrusted in more than half of the 28 countries surveyed.

The 2018 edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that despite the fact that every major economy in the world has returned to growth, the world remains in a state of distrust. Public trust in institutions in many countries is down significantly, led by the United States, where trust levels dropped farther than ever recorded in a country in a single year. In the Netherlands, business is the only trusted institution among the four institutions surveyed. With a trust score of 60% it falls only just within the trust zone. Government (54%) and the media (55%) score lower within the so-called neutral zone, and NGO’s (45%) are distrusted.

A majority of people (60%) see CEOs as being driven primarily by greed rather than the desire to make a positive impact on society. And respondents rank CEOs among the least credible people in society: they receive a 44% credibility rating as spokespeople, well in the distrust zone. In the Netherlands, the situation is even worse: the public give CEOs one of the lowest credibility ratings in the world: 27%.

On the flip side, the public sees that business can and should play a role in effecting change in society. Seven out of ten believe that a business’s making a profit can be compatible with contributing to society. Going a step further, 64% expect CEOs take the lead on change in society rather than wait for the government to impose it through legislation. Given that 63% of the Dutch population believe it is equally important for CEOs to create trust in their companies as it is to deliver high quality products and services, restoring trust and leading change should be CEOs’ highest priority.

In restoring trust in their companies, CEOs will have to start with rebuilding trust in the truth itself. In the battle for trust over the past twelve months, the biggest victim has been people’s confidence in truth. Persistent references to fake news have had a cumulative, toxic effect. 63% of the general population finds it difficult to distinguish between what is real news and what is fake. We are witnessing an erosion of a collective understanding what is fact and what is fiction and what is progress and what is decline. Without such understanding there can be no rational discourse, and by extension, no societal cohesion, economic or political security or progress.

As the leaders of the institution most trusted in the Netherlands, CEOs must lead from the front in the battle to reestablish trust in the truth. That endeavor begins with proactive and vocal efforts to build a common understanding of issues and developments central to the sector in which the company operates and relevant to the communities in which it is present. CEOs must paint a clear and compelling picture of how the company will work to address the central issues and concerns and tap opportunities to add value to the community. Doing so will require honesty, transparency, commitment and action – delivering on promises and taking accountability on crises.

In today’s landscape of credibility, CEOs must complement their own external engagement by leading from within their organizations. As people seek for terra firma in their own efforts to establish the truth, they are turning more than in the past to credentialed experts such as academics and technical experts within companies, according to the survey. And they continue to view a company’s employees as its most credible spokespeople by a wide margin. Cultivating a culture reinforces values of integrity, honesty and transparency and that empowers experts and employees to engage externally on the company’s behalf should be at the top of every CEO’s list.

Communication professionals have an essential role to play helping company leadership work to restore trust. In a world in which truth is under siege, doing the hard work of fact-checking and ensuring accuracy and consistency of the CEO’s and the company’s messages is more important than ever. Equally important is aligning communication consistently with a vision and anchoring it in a single set of values. This consistency should extend across all channels – in engagement with and through the traditional media and on social media, brand channels or through other commercial or non-commercial engagement.

In considering the optimal channel strategy for company leadership, it is helpful to note that despite the Dutch public’s lack of trust in its own ability to distinguish good from bad journalism, their trust in credentialed traditional journalists and journalism reaches into the trust zone, creating a significant gap with social media, about which they are far more skeptical.

Whereas today’s trust landscape presents all business leaders – not just those who gathered in Davos – with unprecedented challenges – in the battle to restore trust in truth and trust in leadership, silence is no option. CEOs must engage. They must lead, and their communication teams have a central role to play in their efforts to do so with success.

The next step in Influencer Marketing: a deep and comprehensive way of influencer discovery

Influencer Marketing on Instagram doubled in size in 2017, making it one of the fastest growing marketing tools of the last several years. Influencer Marketing is here to stay and increasingly seen as the most effective form of advertising, but the question is how do we professionalize it in the ever-evolving digital landscape?

Over the past year we’ve seen some impressive partnerships, but 2017 has also been the year of influencer #fails. As each campaign and brand is different, it’s imperative to think strategically about your influencer partnerships and overall Marketing plan for 2018. Influencers can help you increase brand awareness, user acquisition, purchase intent, downloads or direct sales, but also carry significant risks to your reputation. Working with influencers is not a one size fits all process. You should select influencers who really fit the message, brand, product and campaign. Whether you invest in micro-influencers in your niche, experts for authority or big-budget large-scale influencers.

With this newest addition to the marketing mix and Edelman’s Integrated Communication and Marketing approach the below three elements of the Communications Marketing paradigm are key:

Evolve: Look around the corner to predict what will happen, listen to community feedback and adapt the strategy for brands. You must have action before communication.

Promote: Grounded in our storytelling heritage, with ideas designed to start movements, with an emphasis on experiences that are true to life and add value to relationships.

Protect: This goes beyond crisis management. We need to hold the organization to its promises where it matters most, on issues as diverse as human rights, tax and product safety. Globalization and transparency are the game changers.

Especially with the guidelines from ‘Social Code: YouTube’, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) rules that set new requirements for transparency, as well as the criticism that some campaigns faced in the recent past it’s important to have a strong understanding of the possible risks an influencer campaign poses and that we professionalize how we work with influencers. To mitigate these risks and at the same time create a strong campaign that answers your objectives, we work with the RARA-framework which stands for Relevance, Authority, Reach and Accessibility.

Relevance is about the suitability of a person for association with the brand. We first look at the content of the person’s account. How relevant are they to the proposed campaign’s main themes? Are they already talking about the brand? Finally, are there any controversies that might make them less of a brand fit?

Authority is about the degree to which a person is taken seriously with regards to the topic at hand. More importantly, are they seen as such by others? Would you trust them to recommend a product, company or behavior in this range? In general, specialists will have a higher authority and trust rating which makes the chance of a potential issue smaller. Social media engagement rates, and other data complete the picture here.

Reach is about the size of the target audience reachable through a person. We don’t just look at the overall number of followers, but specifically the followers within a desired audience type (age, location, etc.) within a recent timeframe. Instead of just looking at lifetime statistics, such as follower count, consider current statistics, like audience engagement.

Accessibility is about the likeliness the influencer would be interested in working with a specific brand. Are they likely to shift brands easily or are they mentioning competitors? If so, this will have a huge impact on the credibility of your partnership and content.

The analysis based on the RARA-framework can be executed in several ways. We can research the four dimensions manually or we can go deeper into your search as each of the four RARA dimensions are quantifiable. Embracing a quantified approach, including a comprehensive risk analysis is vital to your Influencer Marketing campaign and that’s why Edelman developed APEX. APEX is data-based methodology that allows us to identify the right influencers for any communications challenge. It’s the deepest and most comprehensive method of influencer discovery that we can deploy. It runs on a custom stack of software, collecting hard data on the relevance, authority, reach and accessibility of millions of potential influencers.

Embracing this methodology, including a thorough risk analysis,  is crucial for an effective campaign and enables successful partnerships with influencers, without any major setbacks.

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