The US might be all a-twitter with news of Wills and Kate’s visit, but forget that. The real news this side of the pond is that MediaWorks, our media strategy and brand storytelling consultancy, is now officially open for business!
Industry movers and shakers, including friends and customers of Nelson Bostock Group Unlimited, gathered in Soho on Wednesday night to hear Head of MediaWorks Matt Cowan introduce the Group’s new offering. We were honoured to be joined by Unruly’s Sarah Wood, who spoke to Matt and the audience about how video is changing the way we communicate online – and what she thinks 2015 hold for video content
Thanks to everyone who came along to help us launch this exciting new string to the Nelson Bostock Group Unlimited bow.
As self-confessed internet addicts, it’s hard not to know about Pottermore, the online Harry Potter community. It’s an immersive way to experience the hit series online – a completely original way to extend the Harry Potter world, filled with puzzles and hidden content, where you can cast spells, brew portions and even learn what Hogwarts house you’re destined for.
Now, with the festive season underway Rowling’s back, and she’s offering us even more new content. If you’re getting bored of your chocolate advent calendar (ours have featured some truly terrible jokes!), you can indulge in an altogether different guilty pleasure at 1pm each day, when Rowling releases a little more of the story. Once you’ve solved a Harry Potter themed riddle, you can find out more on subjects ranging from unpublished subplots about Diagon Alley’s ice cream parlour owner, to exactly what kinds of enchantments Harry Potter’s cauldron has on it.
As PR goes, it’s a bit of a dream. It builds on the legacy and the whole site is a pretty incredible idea for engaging with fans. Not only does it let us keep our Harry Potter fantasy world alive, but it makes sure that everyone’s favourite author remains at the forefront of our mind.
This week CES, hailed as the primo event in every gadget aficionado’s calendar, has caused our attention to bounce (like caffeine-fuelled Minions in a banana plantation) from one new “must have” to the next. Having seemingly lost its shine in previous years with blasé coverage that reacted to “yet more 4K” with the editorial equivalent of a yawn, this year it feels like it’s back with a bang with autonomous cars, new takes on wearables and so so so much more.
Here are five of the coolest things that caught our eye – as well as a goodly amount of media buzz:
Gogoro may have been set up by some ex-clients of ours but we’re TOTALLY unbiased when we say that it’s clear why the Smartscooter scooped the Best of CES awards from Engadget and Mashable. It has the potential to completely change how to view electric transportation in the future and the design actually makes it an object of desire… Definitely more Tesla than Prius!
The moment when your battery reaches just 5% of its life is one of the most fear-generating, stress-inducing, arse-clenching first-world problems to have. Imagine the smile on your face when you realise that in just 30 seconds, you could be fully-charged once more and ready to take on the world via Twitter, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Instagram and, errr, email. This is the world that many of us, very embarrassingly, inhabit.
This HAD to be in our top five as it combines two of our great loves – tech and cooking! This Bluetooth enabled sous-vide cooking tool lets you pick a pre-programmed recipe, and an app will let you know when your cut of meat is cooked to perfection. Honestly why wouldn’t you??
A tiny addition from a huge company, Intel’s Curie aims to push the Internet of Things ever further. We’ve got a long time to wait before it’s released, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on and will hopefully take wearables to the next level.
TGIF! We’re off for a lie down in a dark room (and to plan our 2015 letters to Santa for some of this brilliant new tech).
The other day, Pebble rocked the boat on Kickstarter (again) with the launch of Pebble Time, its next-generation colour display smartwatch, complete with microphone and brand new operating system.
But exciting tech aside, many people are bristling at the use of crowdfunding platforms by established (and funded) businesses.
Pebble made history with the $10 million it raised on Kickstarter for its debut product – something new and exciting and different. Pebble Time shattered records as the money was raised at lightning speed.
Pebble’s CEO and founder Eric Migicovsky claims that re-using Kickstarter is not about the money but rather “a throwback to the original Pebble”, and although the company is, by his own admission, a “profitable company”, it’s still “small” and “battling the largest company in the world”.
So was Pebble Time a legitimate fundraising effort, or an attempt at a PR stunt? We’re leaning towards the latter.
Previous large flies in the ointment have included celebrity-backed projects such as Zach Braff’sWish I Was Here (raised $3.1 million) and the Veronica Mars movie, which held the record for the project with most backers until Exploding Kittens crushed it (a card game “for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats” – there’s not even a shred of doubt that we’ll be playing it in the office non-stop when it comes out).
Companies such as PonoMusic have also caused upset due to financial backing gained prior to using Kickstarter – there is clearly a growing realisation of the platform’s tremendous PR value, but can Kickstarter retain its position as an empowering tool for the people if this continues?
In a brilliant and somewhat unexpected move, SpaceX has released over 100 pictures on Flickr, documenting its pursuit of soaring in the constellations. Whether your passion is for snazzy artistic shots of air force bases in the twilight, or artist depictions of the Crew Dragon spacecraft floating in the blackness of space, it’s all available at the click of a button.
What’s even more remarkable, is that SpaceX has released the pictures without any conditions on usage. In an age where many people and brands are increasingly careful about what they do and don’t allow into the public domain, it’s a refreshing change to see this kind of imagery free-to-use, especially on the back of a tweet!
It’s the latest in a string of impressive moves from SpaceX. Elon Musk’s approach has always been pretty open and public-facing about what his company does – from detailed Reddit AMAs, to engaging in public debate on Twitter. Even better was just how blasé Musk was about the announcement, that the pictures were now full public domain, as if it was no big deal – remarkably smooth.
It’s no surprise that fans (including our Space Club) are impressed, and watching SpaceX closely!
Culture Vulture, our new scheme offering discounts on the latest shows and exhibitions in London, has spread its wings for an inaugural flight. Here’s how Carlly got on:
The other night, I went to watch Dior and I – a film delivering a rare peek behind-the-scenes at the haute couture department of Christian Dior.
The film opens with the new creative director Raf Simons, as he creates his first haute couture collection. Having started in furniture design and then ready-to-wear, this was a very different world to what he was used to.
As a viewer I could tell – from every self-comforting gesture, to every nervous glance he directed to the camera – he was demanding, highly-strung and direct with what he wants. When he needs a last minute alteration, he drives a frustrated premiere seamstress to devour Haribo – something I’m sure that we’ve all done at one point or another.
Couture is intricate and involved – every stitch, seam and dart is thought out with care. Prints, fabrics and shapes are especially created for these one-of-a-kind pieces. What’s a surprise though are the individuals who buy these pieces. Yes, celebrities borrow the occasional frock for an awards ceremony but the real clients are the patrons of the house. If they need a fitting, halfway across the world, or want dibs on an exclusive embroidered cape, then they receive it without hesitation.
It’s interesting to see the PR side as well. Dior’s PR manager spends many-a-scene with an expression of thinly veiled exasperation at the lack of media-awareness that Raf has. He balances on that thin line between doing what’s right for the Dior brand and caring about Raf’s feelings and thoughts. It’s a great example of how PR people need to be master multitaskers and pros at boosting a client’s confidence.
Finally, the sheer scale of the teams behind each piece is an eye-opener. An army of seamstresses, pattern cutters and embroiders fit into a warm but hectic Paris atelier. Everyone has specialties and incredible attention-to-detail. I’m definitely more high-street than high-end but I really appreciate and admire the passion it takes to create such labours of love.
There’s an interesting piece over on Holmes Report you should read – “The Resurgence Of PR Generalists?”
Our MD, Nick Clark, had some thoughts on it:
As is often the case, a trend quickly becomes fact and tends to get slightly blown out of proportion. That’s certainly the case with the shift away from generalists towards specialists in the PR industry. Of course there’s more diversification in the industry than ever and a rise in specialists, but you need generalists as they are the gatekeepers managing key ongoing client relationships, keeping clients happy and revenues stable – both particularly important during a period of potential transition.
The reality is that it’s really hard to predict what the future holds but one thing that the whole industry agrees on is that PR needs to continue to evolve. In order to do this we need different skills and this means investing in talent and potentially specialists from other disciplines – but you can’t throw away years of work building an agency just because someone says you need re-think your operating model.
PR agencies have traditionally been more agile than other creative agencies as we work in smaller teams and don’t outsource elements of the planning or creative process to separate teams. It’s important we don’t lose this agility in a more specialist world but there’s certainly things that we can learn from how other marketing agencies operate and tapping into deep specialism in certain areas can only improve our offering to clients.
Right now, we feel that we have the balance just right – we’re doing the most exciting work for clients that we’ve ever done and much of this is the brave new world of ‘content’. We have also created a number of specialist roles and will continue to do so but many of our clients still want traditional PR, meaning great media relations and reputation management. If you’re talking about specialisms, they are areas where the PR industry really holds its own and represent fundamental pillars on which everything else we do can be built on.
In collaboration with airbag manufacturer Alva Sweden, and in development since 2005, Hövding has just released the second version of its ‘Airbag for Cyclists’. Rather than the traditional cycling helmet made from plastic and polystyrene, this is a hi-tech collar.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to trade a helmet for a collar but this one will sense when you are involved in an accident, deploying an inflatable helmet in just 0.1 seconds.
It also covers far more of your head and neck, reducing the chances of whiplash, and is three times more shock absorbent than a standard helmet. Charged via USB, you get roughly nine hours of continuous cycling time with Airbag deployment guaranteed.
Here’s an excellent overview from the Stuff.tv team.
The stats are pretty staggering too. It has been tested by stunt bikers in every conceivable accident situation, thereby creating an algorithm that can determine when exactly an accident is taking place. Apparently common-or-garden variety helmets will still result in serious head injuries for their wearers over 90% of the time – for Airbag wearers that’s reduced right down to under 2%.
Unfortunately, this technology comes with a £250 price tag for one-time use. Hövding will, however, allow you to buy a second one at a reduced price and is always keen to get its paws on the black boxes of used Airbags for future analysis.
We’re really big fans of tech, as you might expect, but so far we’ve had some pretty hit and miss experiences with wearables.
Recently Sophie and Sohaib were trying out Xiaomi Mi bands. They’re small and sleek (the Mi bands, not Sophie or Sohaib) – tracking steps and monitoring sleep. But despite some positive reviews from press, we’ve been left wanting more…
You set your daily target, and you can see how well you’re doing through the day, being rewarded with a buzz when you hit your goal. It’s great that it’s waterproof because that means you take it off less, but it doesn’t track swimming and that’s disappointing.
I didn’t think I’d look at the stats as much as I did. I play football on Wednesdays, so found it really interesting to see how much ground I covered (or rather, didn’t).
After just a few weeks of wearing it, I was much more aware of how many steps I take during a day and made more of an effort to walk part of the way to work. I had noticed that the rubber wristband was starting to develop a bit of a gap around the tracker itself, but there’s not a lot you can do about that?
I wore it for Tough Mudder, and knew I was in for a long day when 3 miles into the 10.8 mile course, I had the buzz saying I’d reached my daily step count! It was put through its paces in Tough Mudder and survived being drenched three times, but annoyingly at one point the strap came loose and it was pure luck that I realised and fixed it.
Then, last week, I got home from playing football and got a bit of a shock. Normally, I’d be happy to see the hairs on my wrist… but not through the now-empty wristband. The tracker had fallen out while playing football, and I hadn’t noticed.
Despite the cheap price, I wouldn’t buy one again, I’d look to get something a bit more robust and versatile.
Wearable critics have argued that the measure of a successful device is whether it stays on your wrist or winds up forgotten in a drawer somewhere. I can be fickle in the early days of using a gadget, so I’ve personally found if I have to take a wearable off too frequently, it tends to wind up there eventually. But this was why this band appealed to me – as it was waterproof I didn’t have to worry about missing valuable recorded steps by leaving it next to the sink after washing up, or on my bedside table after a shower.
The battery life was also a huge selling point, as a power pause often tends to throw a spanner in the works of my usual routine, which again edges a device towards a random drawer. Several weeks in and it was still going strong on a single charge, which I loved.
On another positive note, I found I gradually became much more addicted to getting that celebratory buzz to confirm I’d reached my steps each day. I was surprisingly fascinated by the sleep tracking available with it too, which highlights if you woke up at all and how much deep and light sleep you benefit from. After a week or so I realised if I went to bed after 11.30pm I had significantly less deep sleep, so it made me more aware of the effects an extra episode of something on Netflix was having on my quality of sleep. The sit ups tracker was a little less to be desired though – it’s supposed to ping each time you complete one, but I found it really inconsistent and a little demotivating after a while. I wanted a congratulatory ding after each sit-up, not every five or six!
Unfortunately the band holding the tracker was the main thing which let it down for me. The design itself wasn’t offensive, but there’s a clear flaw with the structure of it because I also looked down one evening to see an empty wristband, which I wasn’t impressed with considering I’d only taken it out of its holder a small handful of times. This was disappointing, because I was just getting into the swing of it!
I could be tempted to try the next iteration of the Mi band, provided there’s a more robust strap at the ready next time.
We’re not giving up on wearables, obviously. It’s way too exciting a field for that. Fi is still loving her smartwatch, and we’re keeping an eye out for the next health-related wearables we can play with.