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Coverage Cup round up

Coverage cupWith Summer just around the corner and the blazing sun hanging low in the Western sky, it’s fitting that Spark has embarked on a blinding run of national coverage. Verizon led the charge, securing coverage on both the BBC and Financial Times for a report which found email to be the most popular phishing tool. Also, angling for the coveted Spark Coverage Cup was the ViaSat team, who achieved coverage in Financial Times regarding the communications provider partnership with the European Space Agency. The New Stateman Tech also covered the announcement – so a great effort all round.

Making hay while the sun shines, The Venafi team struck with lightning reactions, responding to the Qatar National Bank hack and securing comment on IT Pro. The JDA team also had its finger on the pulse to respond to BHS entering administration, for which they were rewarded with coverage on Bloomberg, Essential Retail and Internet Retailing amongst others.

The full list of coverage cup nominations can be found below:

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What broadcast and online video can do for your brand

monitor-1054710_640We can all remember at least one TV appearance that has gone horribly wrong. Paxman repeating the same question to an increasingly awkward Michael Howard. From the fictitious meltdown of Frank Underwood to the all-too-real Anderson and the Bee Gees, we all cringe at the idea of being embarrassed on live television. From a PR perspective, this means that broadcast can be a risky proposition. While briefings with newspaper journalists often happen in the presence of a PR rep who can step in and diffuse difficult situations, there is no such person in a live broadcast. Spokespeople must be able to handle any tricky questions confidently and without support.

All of that being said, it is important not to overlook the huge potential of broadcast. Company spokespeople are liberated to a degree which just isn’t the case when speaking to a newspaper or magazine journalist. While written coverage is mediated through the journalist writing the article, a live television interview gives a much greater level of freedom to speak. If there is a point that you feel needs to be made on live television, you can address it directly and, given how often a company message can get lost in the news agenda, broadcast slots, therefore, offer a golden chance to speak clearly and concisely to viewers and potential customers.

Moreover, the internet is now preserving video and audio appearances, meaning that a broadcast slot is no longer a one-off appearance on the airwaves – video streaming sites mean that clips have a lasting shelf-life online. This matters as it has been proven that the impact of seeing or hearing someone speaking as an expert is much greater than reading words on a page. Research has found that video is 600% more effective than print and that audiences also have stronger retention rates for videos over written content. Most importantly, business execs prefer watching video, too. Specifically, 59% of senior executives prefer video over text. And of course, we’ve all heard the headline statistic from Forrester Research that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.

As more information emerges about how we consume content online, the shift to video and broadcast is only going to get more pronounced. The advantages are clear, but only businesses with a clear strategy around how to master the format are going to see the full benefits. After all, nobody wants to be remembered forever as an embarrassing YouTube clip, do they?

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Bouncing ideas around: Bubble football with journalists

At Spark, we are known for our close relationships with journalists. Far from soulless press release churning machines, we have human conversations while speaking about our clients, and love to get the chance to meet key contacts in person. Recently that manifested itself in somewhat unconventional form, as we invited people to climb into large zorb-like inflatable balls and play a game of football.

We really enjoyed playing Bubble football during a Spark team day out last summer, so thought it was something worth sharing with some of the journalists we work with on a regular basis. I was delighted that some of our friends from national and trade publications responded to our rallying call and made their way to a leisure centre in Whitechapel with nothing more than a kitbag and high hopes for a fun evening.

None of us are going to get a call from Roy Hodgson to join his Euro 2016 squad, but the matches provided a good mix of pile-ups and goals, and the evening was rounded off with bubbles of a different kind at a nearby drinking establishment. It was great to put some faces to a few names, and the lines of conversation were a case in point that PRs and journalists are ultimately playing for the same team – aiming to provide interesting stories to readers.

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PR: Turning a negative into a positive

Positive NegativeThe ‘selfie bench’ is now a thing. Last month a local council managed to turn a pretty fundamental foul-up into a massive publicity generator. Fans of the popular seafront at Porthcawl were left flummoxed when the Council installed two benches facing toward the road rather than toward the scenic ocean view. One of the reasons given was apparently to give people weary of the ocean view ‘another option’ but later someone had the crazy/inspired idea to rebrand the bench as a “selfie bench”. While this further enraged some Porthcawl residents, the idea began to gain momentum, with several people posting selfies from the bench.

So what is the lesson? Whether you agree with the idea or not the fact is that the Council has managed to produce positive coverage out of an initially negative story and is trying to appeal (wrongly or rightly) to a contemporary generation and expand their audience. Whether this means that the town will be inundated by surges of selfie-taking teens remains to be seen, but the story has generated coverage in all the major nationals. The hashtag #SelfieBench has also been used prolifically on social media, with other opportunists using it to promote their own agendas. For a sleepy seaside town on the edge of the Welsh coast, this has turned into quite a cost-effective way to put your name on the map and create a buzz out of a pretty minor event.

In our industry, sometimes it’s best to respond directly to negative publicity, such as responding as soon as possible to any customer complaints on social media, while other times it is best to try and resolve the situation quietly without drawing more attention to it. The “selfie bench” also tells us, however, that a negative story can be turned into a positive. Looking to a specific example from the technology industry, Google was recently criticised for not paying musical artists enough for showing their work on YouTube, despite earning a sizeable amount of advertising revenue through the videos. A spokesperson responded well by highlighting that its “ad-supported business…allows artists and labels to monetize the 80% music listeners who historically have never paid for music.” A good counterargument and one which positions the company as a champion of, rather than an exploiter of, musical talent.

Whatever you think of Bridgend Council or Google, these examples show us that, if done the right way, turning a negative into a positive can generate a lot of publicity, diffuse some tension and make your company come out in a much better light.

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 4 April 2016

Coverage cupThis week coverage was secured across a number of key media titles. Egress was quick to respond to WhatsApp announcing end-to-end encryption with the company’s CEO Tony Pepper quoted in CBR. The Verizon team also achieved CBR coverage for its IoT report which asserted that the Internet of Things network has finally gone mainstream. The Dynatrace team set up a briefing with Cloud Tech, which resulted in a brilliant in-depth article on the challenge of managing performance through SDI. Finally, Elsevier was quoted in an Internet of Business’ article on wearables being used to treat Parkinson’s disease. 

The full list of coverage cup nominations can be found below:


CBR –  Privacy victory as WhatsApp secures everything with end-to-end encryption: A landmark event in the security vs. privacy debate?

CBR – IoT declared mainstream with Analytics of Things, start-ups & PaaS named adoption game changers

Cloud Tech – SDN and the software-defined data centre: Opportunities and challenges ahead

BCN – What the buzz is DevOps?

Internet of Business – Pfizer, IBM team up on wearables to treat Parkinson’s disease

Data Centre News – Dynatrace simplifies transition to dynamic data centres with new performance analytics

Bobsguide – Payments (R)Evolution – The Death of the Password

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