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NOTE TO SELF: BE MORE INTERESTING

It shouldn’t be news that it’s important to be interesting. Surely we all know that? But it’s something many brands are still struggling with. In the past, the big dogs held everyone’s attention – the big news outlets, the big brands, the big financial institutions, the big record labels. Whatever they produced, we consumed.

Then content production exploded. It’s not just that more brands started creating, but everybody did. YouTuber pedestrians launching music careers, NFT bros influencing the financial market from their bedrooms, TikTok creators impacting political tides.

It’s busy out there. Established brands know this, but a lot of them are slow to really do anything about it.

Before, brands often traded on legacy. “We’re XXX”, a company might say. “We’ve got clout. We’ve got a right to a voice in this market. We’re the big dogs.”  

But if there’s a theme of this decade, it’s a rejection of that idea. More than ever before, people pride themselves on being independent. With so many competing sources of information, people are going their own way, choosing who they subscribe to – metaphorically and literally.

Trust in brands is decreasing. According to Salesforce, even by 2020 only 50% of Millennials said they trust companies. That figure dropped to 42% for Gen Z. Just 61% of Millennials said that companies generally come off as authentic, dropping to 53% of Gen Z’ers. 

Be interesting

This brings me back to my first point. It’s not enough to just keep publishing. It’s not enough to keep stamping your feet and saying, “why doesn’t anyone want to read my whitepaper about how great all my products are?”

People don’t care. They’re watching videos of bulldogs skateboarding.

If you want people to care, if you want them to take time out of their busy day to engage with your content, you have to be more interesting. Catch my eye, tell me a story and don’t bang on about yourself in the first two seconds. And try to talk to me like a person, not like Alexa reading a spec sheet.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. A lot of marketers will have a shrine to Red Bull. What does Red Bull do? It’s an F1 team. It sponsors athletes to do mad stunts that millions of people watch on YouTube. Oh, and it does drinks. It’s often cited as the first brand to start putting engagement before product.

About 15 years on, it’s not the only one doing it. It’s everywhere in B2C and being interesting is even taking over the B2B space.

Historically people have often drawn lines between what will work for B2C and what will work for B2B, but we’re all people. And whether I’m scrolling through LinkedIn or Instagram, I’m still the same person.

Mailchimp recently partnered with VICE Video to make a documentary about small businesses coping with the global pandemic. SAP and Adobe made online hubs collating news, research and insights that might be useful to the people they sell to – no mention of their own products.  

The bottom line is that people don’t really want your advice. They want to make up their own mind. 87% of B2B buyers now want to self-serve part or all of their buying journey[1]. 57% make their purchasing decision without ever talking with a vendor representative.

What brands need to focus on is generating interest in the first place.  With any content you create, ask yourself – would I read this in my spare time?

From owned to earned

For a lot of marketing people out there, this is obvious. The issue is a wider culture internally. While marketers are at the forefront of industry change and can see what’s working, internal stakeholders and product people often can’t see the wood for the trees. As the sole purpose of their work is to champion the product they put their time into developing, it simply doesn’t make sense to stop putting it first.

So it’s tough to be a marketer. And it’s tough to be the person telling your colleagues that what they have to say isn’t interesting enough, or that they need to stop talking about the speeds and feeds they’ve been perfecting.

And here we start to see how PR and marketing have started to converge. For PR people, this conversation is as old as time.

“No, the journalist will not publish a 200-word description of your product’s features.”

“Why not?”

“Because people don’t find it interesting.”

So why is it in our marketing content? Sometimes marketers come under such pressure to sell that they’re forced to skip the wooing process at all. It’s the equivalent of coming up to a stranger at a party and monologuing your CV and interests, then repeatedly requesting their phone number. 

Yes, marketing typically still happens in owned channels, but there’s a lot to learn from PR in terms of what it takes to earn attention. In short: cut the hard sell and focus less on churning out content and more about whether anyone would want to read it.

[1] https://www.trustradius.com/vendor-blog/b2b-buying-disconnect-2021

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LIVE YOUR BEST PR LIFE

I was recently asked how people can get the most out of their PR career. It is such a personal question. For some, money is everything. For others, it’s about promotion, recognition and progression. And that’s before you even talk about the work itself. Whatever your motivations, satisfaction comes down to being happy. Find that thing – and do it on repeat. 

PR is a brilliant career. It offers a really special blend of challenge, reward and satisfaction. So much focus today is – and rightly so – given to breaking into the industry. About talent, diversity and opportunity. But it is also vital that people have the confidence to build and own their careers as they progress within PR. That is a vital principle of life at Nelson Bostock; and why we pride ourselves on our brilliant people and unique culture.

My advice is to be brave and curious. Never stand still. Try and learn something new every day. Work with new people. Get involved in projects that sound interesting and might stretch you in different ways.

That might lead you to find the one thing that makes you jump out of bed in the morning. It could be working with a global brand on global campaigns; working on bleeding-edge innovation; losing yourself in the crazy and dynamic start up world; or dedicating yourself to a vital challenge facing the world like sustainability.

The key to happiness is to know yourself. Then, find a company that helps you to explore your potential. Never underestimate the importance of your team and environment. If they value you, they will listen and support your ambitions. Only then will you live your best PR life!

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NB Poetry: Thoughts on loneliness

A collection of poems about loneliness, and resources to help, organised by the Winning Minds Matter team for Mental Health Awareness Week ’22.

For the past four years, the Mental Health Foundation has chosen a theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) – past years’ have been body image, kindness and nature. The human experience is infinite and getting more complex by the day, so it’s nice to have something to focus on and connect with.

This year, the theme is loneliness. Whether in ourselves, our friends, our Princess Dianas or our pets – or even our encounters with strangers – we all know how it can be.

Enter our poetry collection: a series of words, thoughts and feelings from Nelson Bostockers, inspired by MHAW’s theme for 2022. Thank you to everyone who contributed, and to the Mental Health Foundation for orchestrating such an important national event. Not only did we raise awareness and spark much-needed conversations, but we also got to hear some beautiful poetry written by people we work with every day.

It was very hard to choose, but here’s a small selection that we think is lovely:

Loneliness can strike
When I’m all by myself or
In a busy place
Fiona Rush

Sometimes, it’s fine, sometimes you’ll shine
But we can’t be our best all of the time,
It’s OK to be mad, and sometimes sad,
Just remember it’s never that bad.
Little by little you learn to grow,
Like the spring after the snow,
As summer shines, most of the time,
Just remember you’ll be fine.
Stand up tall, even if you feel small,
And if you’re staring at your phone, give someone a call,
Time after time we forgive and forget,
Never believe your future is set.
You are only human it’s how we were made,
But time to time we head into the shade,
Your happiness is paramount,
So when you can make every moment count.
Ash Scott

Does it sound like a buzzing current, a loose cable
Harmonising with you every day?
Or a tube train, wailing along a route
You so often commute?
The daily score of bots, create storms of online chatter
Rumbles on like your mind doesn’t matter.
But if you’re feeling alone
Pick up the phone
Friends in green bubbles
They know what to do when you’re in trouble.
Blur the lines between lonely
And the loved ones you see
Because balance is necessary
It’s alright to be sad,
That’s how you’ll know when you’re happy.
Rowley Sadler

Thanks everyone. For the Mental Health Foundation’s recommended resources and helplines for dealing with loneliness, and anything else on your mind, please visit this page.

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Game-on for MSI!

Here’s some good news. Nelson Bostock has started to work with leading computer hardware manufacturer and gaming laptop specialist, MSI.

In recent years, MSI has established itself as one of the world’s top laptop brands. It is known for industry leading innovation and its bold ambition to create the perfect gaming laptop. The integrated brief will deliver a mix of media relations, content marketing, community management, influencer relations and events.

The goal is to continue to develop MSI’s reputation in the UK – strengthening its leadership in gaming, and broadening its reach into creative, business and performance segments.

Jeff Kuo, General Manager, MSI Notebook Division, says, “Nelson Bostock understands our products and our aspirations, and we’re excited to achieve some outstanding results together.”

The appointment will utilise 30+ years’ of consumer tech experience, and our use of human understanding to better connect with key audiences. Now let’s start playing er… I mean… get to work.

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Meet Elaura – our latest Winning Mind

Elaura Lacey scooped this month’s Winning Mind award. We find out what’s the best piece of advice she was given and how she can totally rock the dance floor.

Why did you pick a career in PR and Communications?

I love being creative and getting to use my writing skills, so a career in PR was the perfect fit for me! I really enjoy having the opportunity to work with exciting clients, meet journalists, and think of fun and interesting ways to land coverage or execute a campaign – there’s so much to learn and great people to learn it all from!

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t bite off more than you can chew – as a junior, it’s easy to put your hand up for everything but it’s important to think about what’s realistic to achieve and not to overload yourself with work. This sentiment doesn’t work in the context of a client lunch though – in that case, tuck in!

Tell us a bit more about your interests – how would you spend an ideal Saturday afternoon? 

If the previous answer doesn’t make it clear, I’m a big foodie and love exploring so my ideal Saturday afternoon would be spent looking around different London markets and trying as many different dishes my tummy will allow.

And what are your hobbies?

I’ll say right now reading – I’ve got my book challenge set at one a month and it’s probably the first new year’s resolution that’s stuck past February. My theme so far is feminist literature, having read Little Women and Pride and Prejudice but there was an interval with James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes – not as high-brow but darn funny.

What’s one thing that people should know about you?

I have two little black cats at home named Winnie and Binx after the cinematic masterpiece that is Hocus Pocus.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about you?

For six years, I competed nationally and internationally as a ballroom and Latin dancer.   

What makes you a Winning Mind?

I’m very proactive on my accounts and think creatively about new ways to land announcements and look for new opportunities to further coverage. Back in November, I won Winning Minds for successfully hijacking a relevant news moment and landing additional coverage for Twilio in two tier 1* retail titles.

Any advice for future Winning Minds contenders?

Winning Minds is about going the extra mile and being a credit to your team, so giving your 100% and being there to support those around you will put you in a good chance to win!

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Meet Nicole – this month’s Winning Minds

This month’s Winning Minds Award went to Nicole Louis. Nicole tells us more about her passions (Tottenham) and how to talk to yourself as you’d talk to your best friend.

Why did you pick a career in PR and Communications?

I’d never considered a career in PR – or what it entailed – until I was 22. I knew I wanted to do something creative where I could write and a colleague at the time suggested PR. It was a perfect match.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Talk to yourself as you’d talk to your best friend. It’s so easy to give yourself a hard time when you make a mistake or if something goes wrong. But if your friend made a mistake, you wouldn’t tell them that they’re stupid and it’s the end of the world. So why do we so often do that to ourselves?

Tell us a bit more about your interests – how would you spend an ideal Saturday afternoon? 

I love going to a new place and trying out all the good food and drink spots. That’s always the best part about visiting somewhere new.

And what are your hobbies?

Pretending to be Britney at karaoke, practicando mi español, watching Spurs.

What’s one thing that people should know about you?

I can’t keep a plant alive, but I can make your press office thrive.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about you?

I did a course with the Academy of Cheese in lockdown and it’s probably up there as one of the best things I’ve ever done.

What makes you a Winning Mind?

It’s a great feeling when you deliver an idea or piece of work that hits a client’s objective for a campaign. I want to be proud of the work that I do and to know that it made a difference.

Any advice for future Winning Minds contenders?

It’s easy to get sucked into your to do list. But sometimes carving out 30 mins to just think about your client, a problem they’re facing, or what’s coming up, can lead you to your next big idea.

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Is the cost of living crisis a blessing or bombshell for BNPL?

Buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) is quickly changing the face of consumer finance. If used correctly, BNPL has many benefits for consumers, including convenience, efficiency, and customer experience. Younger people in particular are embracing the chance to alleviate their financial pressures by staggering payments through installments. 

From a business perspective too, everyone is entering the BNPL arena – traditional banks, retailers, fintechs and more recently, even tech giants. While it has been around for years – Klarna was established in Sweden in 2005 after all – we now have a perfect mix of consumer demand and understanding; and the innovation from key B2C and B2B players to realise its potential.

However, danger and risk are threatening its continued rise. Inflation is at its highest rate for about 30 years, and it is about to accelerate even further throughout April, causing more and more people to fall into debt as they struggle to pay bills. The majority of people up and down the country are feeling the pressure, not only from the energy prices that are fuelling the rise in living costs, but also from the likes of consumer goods and fuel prices.

As the rise in the cost of living squeezes wallets, does BNPL become a blessing or a bombshell? And reputationally, does it face an uncertain future?

Approach with caution

Understandably there is a degree of caution surrounding BNPL, notably with credit bureaus now considering factoring it into credit records. And it’s increasingly clear that those who are financially vulnerable are at higher risk of falling into debt, especially when they start using BNPL schemes for essentials such as groceries. 

Record rises in the cost of living have accelerated these concerns, and what was once seen as a ‘godsend’ payment solution has morphed into something a lot more complicated for many people who are struggling financially.

Our own research surveying 2,010 GB consumers found that over half of 18-24 (52%) and 25-34 year olds (53%) admit they are less confident at making their BNPL payments following rising prices and living costs. 

However, we also found the consumer appetite for BNPL is still prevalent, with over half of  18-25 (60%), 25-34 (57%) and 35-44 (53%) year olds feeling that BNPL is a great option when they are short of cash. As well as this, almost 1 in 3 (29%) say they are “more likely” to use BNPL in 2022 than last year. 

This demonstrates that while the rise in living costs is causing a lack of confidence amongst consumers, the demand for this payment solution prevails; and will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. It is a powerful innovation and can bring about enormous consumer benefit. The industry needs to tread softly and appreciate that at this time, when life is getting harder, it is more important than ever to act responsibly and gain trust. The industry must not be seen to capitalise on consumer desperation. 

Responsibility of regulation

In the short term, the industry is still unregulated. So BNPL providers will be under the spotlight. Lots of attention will be on how and when the UK will regulate BNPL products. Attempts have already been made to prevent users from delaying payments for too long and encourage responsible spending. For example, Klarna’s rewards programme allows consumers to earn points every time they use the immediate payment option or make an on-time repayment. Acts of compliance will be fundamental in making the payment option more appealing and trustworthy for consumers. This is especially the case for those BNPL providers that are now in direct competition with banks that are compliant by default. 

BNPL providers that welcome regulatory intervention with open arms will earn their reputation. Doing this ahead of the enforcement will help win over both consumers and regulators. The PR priority right now is to build reputation and recognition for responsible lending; and to understand that the cost of living crisis represents more danger than opportunity for BNPL players. 

If you like what you see, and want to know how Nelson Bostock can help your brand, then email info@nelsonbostock.com.

Methodology

Walnut Unlimited conducted a nationally representative omnibus survey of 2,010 adults across GB between 23rd and 25th March 2022. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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My Metaverse Meeting

When I was invited to a meeting in the metaverse, my heart sank a little. Was it fear of the unknown or fighting the buzz and all-round obsession with the Metaverse? Who knows?

We do know that we must embrace the ‘Future of work’. Be that hybrid or fully remote. Let’s be honest, the likelihood of many of us ever coming back into the office five days a week is slim. And most of us are happy about that. So, it’s no surprise that the use of technology to bring us all virtually together – even if we are physically far apart – is being explored.

So back to the metaverse. What exactly is it? In summary, the “metaverse” describes a fully realised digital world that exists beyond the one in which we live. Impressive hey!? Well, perhaps it is not quite as “wow” as you think. The metaverse is not new at all. It actually just hit its 30th birthday. The word was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, but then it was still just an idea. It came more into fruition just over a decade later in 2003 with the launch of Second Life.

So, if it’s been around for a while, why now are we seeing so much chatter?

Google is an excellent barometer of consumer sentiment and interest. I googled ‘Why is everyone…’ and it automatically suggested ‘Why is everyone talking about metaverse’. So, I guess everyone is asking the same question.

Anyway, back to my meeting.  I sat at my home office desk as normal and joined my metaverse meeting with my talented colleagues at Splendid UNLIMITED. Connecting on Horizon Workrooms, we talked all about the potential of this technology. Although still in beta phase, the Workrooms world truly showcased to me the opportunities to interact with people be those colleagues, clients, suppliers ‘in-person, from home’. Then we left the virtual office and played some metaverse mini golf!

Now, don’t get me wrong it felt very strange to be sitting at my desk wearing a headset. But really… what is normal anymore? The metaverse has the potential to unlock some truly incredible opportunities. It is admittedly early days – headsets are still pricey and supplying an entire workforce with them might be a pipedream – but competition, innovation and time will help.

Many big-name brands are already onboard. Microsoft is positioning its products for better business collaboration in the metaverse, McDonald’s recently filed several trademark applications (including one for a virtual restaurant that would deliver to an actual home!), and just last week at Mobile World Congress HTC unveiled its ‘Viverse’ vision of the metaverse.

My view is that any innovation which brings people together is brilliant and must be explored and embraced. In the modern-day, where most of us are working flexibly, communication channels that allow us to collaborate in fun ways should be championed.

My Metaverse meeting was memorable for all the right reasons. I’m excited to see how the technology develops and the creativity it inspires.

So, drop me a line, let’s meet up in the Metaverse… and play some mini golf!

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What you need to know about communicating your sustainability credentials

Think you’re ready to promote your sustainability credentials? Truly understanding your audience is a vital starting point.

Check out this 3 minute summary of research which reveals the three society attitudes towards sustainability and what they mean for your comms strategy.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to hear more about what audience attitudes to sustainability mean for comms. Or read the full research from our Human Understanding Lab here.

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Why are we seeing tech brands enter the automotive space?

Through 2022 we can expect to see a range of new automotive brands coming to the UK, from Nio to Byton to Rivian. While many of these are either electric brands from established automotive manufacturers or start-ups, perhaps the most interesting new entrant to the car market is Sony, which earlier this year unveiled its second EV and just last week announced a partnership with Honda to form a new company to design and sell electric vehicles together. In our latest episode of Mobility Bytes – a PR & Communications perspective on the mobility sector – we explore this latest trend and what it means for both tech and automotive brands.