By: Todd Sommers and Jacques Couret
What do Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They’re billionaires who created some of the most popular products and services on Earth. But in the process, they’ve also built some of the biggest social media followings.READ MORE
They each have an ever-growing and well-engaged audience of more than 7 million followers. Leaders of some of the largest and most innovative companies -- Google, Tesla, Facebook, Virgin, Expedia, Sales Force – all share regularly their thoughts on social media. More than company news, they’re shaping public opinion on the future. And unlike a Kardashian sharing their political views, people actually want to hear from business leaders.
Today, the C-Suite is almost expected to voice an opinion, political or otherwise, particularly by younger generations. Yet 60 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are not on any social networks. Examining the numbers, those executives are missing out because:
As an executive, you always keep at least one eye on the bottom line. So you wonder what’s the return on investment. The financial returns can be difficult to plot, but the benefits are clear. Adding a digital layer to your thought leadership strategy requires you to humanize your brand by sharing interesting stories, create a deeper connection with consumers to gain insights to inform your business strategy and develop a direct line to communicate your vision at the time you choose.
As an executive who aims to add a digital layer to your thought leadership strategy – and if you aren’t, you should be – it’ll comfort you to know audiences want more than just political opinions and pictures of your meals. There’s a big market out there for thoughtful content. And audiences, be they customers, fans or peers, have shown they won’t punish executives for voicing reasonable opinions. You just can’t cross the Kathy Griffin Line.
Social media gives Branson, Musk, Zuckerberg and other executives a direct method to share announcements and make news – plus, importantly, they get to control their messages. That’s a powerful tool if used wisely.
You don’t need to be to an iconic “tie-loathing philanthropist” like Branson or have a vision to colonize Mars like Musk to build a large audience for your thought leadership brand. You can build large audiences in several ways:
The bottom line is if you want a reporter to call to get your insights, give them a great reason. A speech at a conference will be heard by those in the room, but most of the audience will likely be on their phones looking for more engaging content anyway.
It’s time for more executives to realize their personal digital strategy is just as important as their company’s.
In our next digital thought leadership post, we’ll share some of the most interesting examples of that we’ve seen in 2017.
Todd Sommers is Vice President, Integrated Marketing. Jacques Couret is a former journalist who currently serves as editorial manager of All Told, Allison+Partners global integrated marketing offering.
Storytelling through video content is one of the most important and valuable marketing tools for a brand. In fact, according to a 2017 survey by HubSpot, four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it. That said, consumers are not blind. If your story isn’t authentic, they can and will see through it.
During my third month of my Remote Year program in Lisbon, Portugal, I had the opportunity to meet with a company that is taking advantage of the consumer trend towards video marketing with great results. Kinabuti is a Nigerian clothing label whose mission is to use fashion as a vehicle for the empowerment and development of Nigerian women. They believe that storytelling through video content is one of their most successful marketing tools. In 2014, the company launched a YouTube series called Dare2Dream, which focuses on young Nigerian women in the fashion, entertainment and creative arts sector. The series was started to help launch their line through a fashion show, and features local Nigerian women competing to be the face of the brand. Since the series’ first season, viewers grew by 70 percent and their highest-viewed episode attracted 39,000 views.
Another company I’ve observed during my global travels that’s using video content to effectively engage with audiences is Airbnb. The online marketplace where homeowners offer their properties to travelers uses “Stories from the Airbnb community” to give consumers an idea of what to expect from your stay. Airbnb teams up with local directors and photographers to help co-develop these stories with hosts and bring their brand to life. It should come as no surprise that a company like Airbnb, which continues to stay authentic and personally connect with its target audience, is listed second on Business Insider’s most valuable startup list.
In every country I’ve visited to date, having a nice way to capture your experiences is essential. That is how I also discovered GoPro’s “Video of the Day,” which allows you to get a first-hand look at what using the camera is like. Whether skydiving or cliff jumping, these videos give the illusion that these experiences can be your own and help make you feel more comfortable with the technology. User-generated content continues to become an important tool for brands to connect with consumers, giving GoPro an inherent advantage over others.
Milena Stancati is marketing + business development manager for Allison+Partners who is currently spending one year working, traveling and living in 12 different cities throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
By: Jeffrey Miao
Allison+Partners is a global agency, but when we talk about creative production and building teams, we think locally. We think about regional teams serving regional needs. But new technologies are poised to transform creative production into a globalized industry.
Last summer, I joined Nimble Collective, a small crew of start-up animators, engineers, and designers, at its new office in Mountain View, Calif., to work on an animated short film called “Coin Operated.” Have no illusions, you won’t find any red carpet here – the office hides behind a converted strip mall between a self-storage facility and an extracurricular prep school. One of the engineers lives inside a silver Airstream trailer tucked into an out-of-sight corner in the parking lot. Sounds like Silicon Valley.READ MORE
“Coin Operated” is a charming little gem about a young boy who tries to fly to the moon with a toy rocket and handful of quarters. It looks and feels like a Pixar short. But as much as I’d like to advertise the film, the real story here is the new technology that created it.
“Coin Operated” was produced from start to finish in a computational cloud. As an artist working on this film, I logged onto a data center, built and saved the many different parts of the film in much the same way I stream movies on Netflix, and sent the project to an on-demand render farm. Using
Nimble Collective’s technology, I worked equally well from my workstation at home, on my laptop in a cafe, or on the road in Taipei.
The industry achieves more than ever with less, thanks to the computational power and creation tools now available widely to artists. Proprietary tools are no longer necessary for quality and production work decentralizes as a result.
Hollywood has already started moving away from former giants such as Rhythm & Hues (more than 1,500 employees at its peak) to agile medium-sized studios like Method (about 200 employees). Companies such as Adobe, Autodesk, and Foundry have rewritten their business models and now offer software-as-a-service subscriptions that are more accessible to individual artists and freelancers.
Fourteen years ago, an SGI Inferno license with custom hardware would cost a studio $520,000. Today, a studio can produce film-quality animation on a $5,000 workstation and spend monthly $60 to $800 a seat according to production demands.
Talented creatives take advantage of these opportunities by leaving traditional hubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City to start boutique studios in emerging creative enclaves such as Chicago; Portland; Ore.; and Salt Lake City. However, many of these new studios face the same problem: finding local talent. For decades, the film and animation talent pool was concentrated in a handful of hub cities, and many are reluctant to leave despite soaring costs and stagnated wages.
Post-production artists must usually be present on site to work. In a world where everything faces globalization, information technology limits have helped delay animation and post-production commoditization. When a film enters post-production, the biggest logistical hurdle is data storage. A typical two-hour film will record more than 1,200 minutes of footage and require at least 18 terabytes of storage. Animation and visual effects can occupy 1 terabyte a minute including assets, drafts, and renders. Add in sound design, and it’s clear why post-production artists work on site (security aside); it’s impractical to sync that much data constantly.
Many companies, including Nimble Collective, are close to cracking the problem. They are building new and expanded cloud services designed for the creative industry to make it easier for any studio to quickly ramp up full-spectrum production capability on demand. Even Google and Amazon are both piloting on-demand render solutions aimed at the film industry. These barriers of entry are lowering at an unprecedented pace, and I’m excited by the potential for creative expression. At the same time, this will pose a challenge for studios and agencies already balancing thin margins and high overhead against growing competition. We face the same problem that farmers, manufacturers, and programmers have wrestled with over the last 20 years.
Even A+P is not immune to the challenges of this new paradigm. In June, I collaborated with our creative team in Bangkok on a video project for a client based in Thailand. Some of the obstacles, beyond the time difference, our team encountered – storage, data transferring, software licensing – took some maneuvering to overcome, but we’re heartened to know technology now in development will eventually render those impediments inconveniences of a bygone era.
As we look ahead to operationalizing our creative development process in the spirit of our One Global philosophy, we take solace in having firsthand experience, and all the learning moments therein, adapting to the inevitable shift of collaborating and creating across countries and time zones. It’s the dawn of a new age. Are you ready?
Jeffrey Miao is a senior animator at Allison+Partners.
The second stop in my Remote Year adventure was Prague, Czech Republic. When I first arrived, I immediately felt that the communication barrier between our group and those living in the city was more pronounced. I later learned that the Czech people have a very defined history that was greatly impacted by World War II, between the Nazi takeover in the early 1940’s and the Communist rule through 1989. Because of these impactful moments in time, Czech citizens are often more guarded and reserved in their interactions with newcomers. Once they do take the time to get to know you, they begin to feel like they can trust you more and build a strong bond.READ MORE
During our first month abroad, we developed a group known as “Personal Growth” where we seek to better understand personalities – both our own, and those of our peers – and learn of new ways to communicate with others. This includes delving into our personal strengths and weaknesses, and determining what our life aspirations look like. We brainstorm ways to help one another achieve our goals through accountability groups, and meet weekly to discuss how listening can be just as important as communicating. We also take part in activities that teach us how to better approach tough conversations and what pieces of them are most important to observe.
In attending these sessions, we gathered that learning the history helps better inform our understanding of the culture and people in each city we visit. This was an eye-opening conversation for us all, as we realized how we all struggle to communicate more than we know.
One of the most difficult things to convey in day-to-day conversations is intent – what do we truly mean by what we are saying? What is the core motivation behind our words? When these questions are mixed with differences in language and culture, it can easily add an extra layer of confusion and misperception.
In comparing my own communication style with the individuals I met in Prague, I realize how important it is to practice active listening to better serve those around you. What this means is rather than trying to guide a conversation by your own words, take a moment to listen and take in what they are saying. Learn about the person’s background, and understand who they are. We are all so vastly different, and it’s imperative to take the time to disseminate those differences to understand how to best communicate with one another.
Milena Stancati is a Marketing + Business Development Manager for Allison+Partners who is currently spending one year working, traveling and living in 12 different cities throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
In our latest Influence Impact Report, Allison+Partners looked at the intersection between cause and influencer marketing.
The biggest takeaway for PR professionals trying to drive donations, awareness or engagement for their cause? Take the time to find influencers who have a real connection to your cause or issue.
This may seem like common sense. But all too often influencers are selected because of their reach alone. It’s easy to be seduced by a vision of millions of eager followers seeing your message. However, this ignores a critical reality of modern audiences. If the message your influencer is passing along isn’t authentic, the audience won’t trust it – and they certainly won’t act on it.READ MORE
Has the political debate over the American healthcare system created an irreparable rift between the nation’s two major political parties and its citizens, or are we closer than we think to crafting a solution?
The issue is a complicated one.
The nation’s healthcare system, as it stands, is a hybrid between government programs with some private contractors (VA, Medicare and Medicaid) and private insurance coverage of every type and sort. In other words, the system is half of what Democrats want, half of what Republicans want. Still, the parties cast the other side’s goals in apocalyptic terms.READ MORE
The left favors moving to a single-payer system – one where a public or semi-public agencies pay for care provided by the private sector. Basically, Medicare for all. It argues the right favors unfettered capitalism, doesn’t care about people and only wants to preserve profit margins for insurance companies. To the left, healthcare is a right the government should safeguard and a service it should oversee and sometimes provide.
The right favors the private sector with as little regulation as is practical. It argues the left wants socialism and it despises Obamacare. To the right, healthcare is a personal responsibility and not a role the federal government should assume outside of seniors and veterans.
The endless cycle of political retribution and reaction in this debate means the U.S. Congress will not fix or replace Obamacare. While the fate of U.S. healthcare hangs in the balance here are three things going on that won’t change regardless of the political standoff:
We are getting older and have 11,000 seniors joining Medicare every day. Technology has become a huge factor and presents an opportunity for improvement. Some 90 percent of patients use digital health tools. New cures and discoveries will keep flowing from public and private research labs.
Here are five things most Americans agree about when it comes to healthcare:
There is even a group of Senators willing to work on a bipartisan basis but they get little attention. Even that is contingent upon the failure of the pending legislation and the abandonment of ACA repeal efforts.
Regardless of how Congress acts on healthcare policy, tremendous opportunities remain for consumers, medical providers, healthcare payers, and investors to shape and improve the healthcare system.
The question is will we ever decide to stop fighting and work to fix what we have?
Brian Feldman is a partner at Allison+Partners, who is a lead of the agency’s healthcare practice and general manager of the Atlanta office.
The ever-expanding foodopolis known as the Summer Fancy Food Show arrived in New York on Sunday, June 25, offering three days of gustatory exploration for intrepid foodies. Among the thousands of products and brands on display, here are the top five foods and ingredients that emerged as ones to watch:Three Cheers for Chickpeas – The love for plant based proteins continues with chickpeas taking the limelight this year. From chocolate covered varieties at Biena snacks to Watusee’s organic Chickpeatos, crispy chickpeas roasted in olive oil, this mighty little legume appeared in a variety of novel formats at the show.READ MORE
Howdy to Honey – While more and more consumers eschew sugar and artificial sweeteners, they still want a little touch of sweet in their foods and beverages. Enter honey as a key natural ingredient to provide that pinch of sweetness people crave. Products such as Droga chocolate caramels, BeeBad energy drink and bee’s water all highlighted honey as their core ingredient.
Ice Cream-ish – Alternatives to the traditional cow’s milk based frozen treat abounded, with unusual core ingredients and unexpected flavors replacing the tried and true. Standard ice cream ingredients were replaced by novel substitutes, from LàLoo’s goat milk ice cream to the banana based Snow Monkey brand. Flavors like Blueberry Boy Bait from San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe and Masala Chai from Malai provided unexpected tastes coupled with an indulgent mouth feel.
A Bouquet of Beverages - Whether still or carbonated, a host of subtly flavored drinks appeared throughout the show, weighted heavily towards floral flavors with a touch of fruit or herbs. Lighter on the palate than traditional colas or juices, these products included blossom water all natural essence water in flavors like Plum Jasmine and Pomegranate Geranium, to Element shrub drinking or cocktail vinegars in varieties like Cranberry Hibiscus and Blood Orange Saffron.
Portable Grains Pack a Punch – The demand for portable foods coupled with packaging innovations has spread to the cereal grains category. Cucina & Amore’s ready to eat farro meals and Melanie’s Medleys ready to eat breakfast bowls of artisan grain blends were just two examples of conveniently packaged, on-the-go meals.
This year’s exhibitors creatively riffed off of the continuing interest in low sugar, protein and portable bites, while bringing more savory flavors and untapped natural ingredients to the forefront. The result? An exciting path for food in the coming year that offers consumers more “better for you” and real ingredients in unexpected formats.
Sherri Poall is an executive vice president in Allison+Partners' consumer practice, where she oversees the agency's food + beverage specialty.
By: Jessica Dunten, Lucy Arnold and Clarissa Dickinson
Often taking the internet by storm, online food trends can turn ordinary meals into extraordinarily share-worthy pieces of content. The hottest trends may be hard to predict, but they tend to follow the same path to popularity. What starts small is pushed to the forefront by a hurried onslaught of media and digital influencers transforming their food into the latest buzzworthy creation.READ MORE
It’s important to note that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to how a food item, recipe or technique becomes viral. To help understand the different paths to fame, we will be sharing a series of research and analysis, diving into the latest food trends and how they ended up on your social feed.
First up on the menu, we have “Cloud Eggs,” which took Instagram by storm last month. In case you didn’t catch it on your newsfeed, it’s a technique where you separate the whites and yolk, whip up the whites into cloudlike puffs and bake with the yolk on top.
The Origin of Cloud Eggs
At first glance, there isn’t a clear “first” image or recipe or “creator” of Cloud Eggs. In fact, Cloud Eggs, also known as “Eggs in Snow” have been around for centuries . Previously called Snow Eggs, the French recipe from 1651, which originated thanks to various food science discoveries made at the time, is now available online for modern chefs to attempt.
So why hadn’t we heard about it before? You may have missed its brief media blitz back in 2012 when Rachael Ray did a recipe, which was picked up by several bloggers. Five years ago, viral food trends weren’t like they are today. The social media climate during that time was still young. Remember, Facebook was only 8 years old, Twitter was only 6 and Instagram and Pinterest were barely toddlers at 2. And social platforms have evolved since then thanks to new features and algorithms.
Cloud Eggs Rise to Fame
Media coverage out of the U.K., with the first few articles deeming Cloud Eggs a trend from sites including the Daily Mail and other local outlets, came to life in early May 2017. There isn’t a clear or direct link as to why the Daily Mail picked up on this as a trend, as the Instagram photos they reference in their article date back to 2015 and aren’t from users with large reach or well-known influencers. Some refer to their Cloud Egg creations as #pinterestwin, indicating that while it wasn’t a viral trend back in 2014 or 2015, it was making its way around social media sites at that time.
Shortly after taking off in the U.K., Cloud Eggs were trending in the U.S. thanks to the TODAY Show, which featured the creation as the latest new breakfast trend. The TODAY Show sourced the recipe from blogger Framed Cooks (who posted her original recipe back in 2014.) From the TV segment, we saw a huge boost in popularity as social media posts spiked the days and weeks following.
Cloud Eggs Mentions in the Media
On the media front, Cloud Eggs have lasted more than a hot minute. While we saw the highest number of media features, blog posts, and social mentions on Cloud Eggs in the first few weeks of May, the conversation has continued with a constant cadence of folks testing or sharing recipes. It’s fair to say curiousity has driven this trend to stick around.
The Roadmap of Cloud Eggs
To recap, Cloud Eggs proved that an old technique that has been around for hundreds of years can come back to life as a new, viral trend thanks to a formulation of media and influencers. A reinvention of a commodity ingredient coupled with a simple recipe and sophisticated look gave the recipe the fuel to spread like wildfire on social media and make every food beat reporter try it for themselves. All Cloud Eggs needed was a spring board, seeded with micro-influencer posts, to get the attention it needed for Kathie Lee and Hoda to try it on air. And the rest is history.
Jessica Dunten is an Account Manager, Lucy Arnold is a Digital Account Manager and Clarissa Dickinson is an Assistant Account Executive in Allison+Partners’ New York of
“You are a mistake and you should never have been born”
-- Brittani Louise Taylor, 1.3 million YouTube subscribers
As a father of three girls, hearing a statement like this taken from the Ad Council’s “#IAmAWitness” anti-bullying campaign hits me right in the heart. My daughters follow several of the people in the video, which features YouTubers who have been cyberbullied, and it hurts to think my kids might be exposed to online bullying. However, I have come to appreciate the authenticity of the campaign, as it was directly targeted to an audience of 11-17-year-old teens. I don’t know if all my girls were ready to hear the messages, but it came from sources they trusted, created dialogue and empowered them to tackle the issue.READ MORE
Having served in the social impact space for more than 25 years, I have seen how the industry has evolved from putting a charity logo on a product and calling it cause marketing to developing very strategic and impactful campaigns. Digital influencers like Brittani now drive interaction between brands and the issues they champion, allowing them to reach their target audiences more directly and in a more authentic and powerful way.
The key to the effectiveness of this relationship is authenticity. In Allison+Partners’ latest Influence Impact Report released this week, we note that 60 percent of those who follow digital influencers are more likely to trust information from a digital influencer if that influencer has an authentic connection to the issue. This could mean that they or someone they know have been personally affected by the issue, or that they donate time or money to the organization.
But today’s consumers aren’t waiting for information from brands to be pushed to them, as they are constantly bombarded by marketing, publicity and advertising campaigns. Instead, as we addressed in our inaugural Influence Impact Report, consumers have flipped the old marketing model and pull information from sources that they follow and trust. This is the “magic sauce” and a huge opportunity for brands to identify and select the right influencers to speak directly to their target audiences. The influencer does not have to be a celebrity with a large reach, but someone who connects with audiences in their own voice.
That’s what made the #IAmAWitness campaign so powerful. By featuring influencers like Brittani that had been cyberbullied and had an authentic connection to a large audience of teens, the campaign generated more than 30 million video views and won a 2016 Cannes Lions Award, among several other accolades.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll share more insights from our “Powerful Connections: How Influence, Empathy and Engagement Have Transformed Cause in the Digital Era.”
Scott Pansky is a co-founder and partner at Allison+Partners, who leads the agency’s Social Impact group.
Working with influencers in China is becoming more straightforward; indeed, it is more purely transactional here than in many other markets. For companies flush with cash, this is good news, making engagement refreshingly simple. The more fiscally challenged companies – most of us – will find this driving the cost of influencer engagement all but out of reach.
This need not be the case, provided that companies approach their key opinion-leader (KOL) programmes with three insights: an acute feeling for who and what drives your audiences; a clear picture of the influencer landscape and how it is evolving; and a full kit of tools and techniques for engaging with influencers.READ MORE
By: Jacques Couret
Our success as media professionals often depends on our ability to relate to journalists and their editors, so it’s wise to know who you’re dealing with when you make a pitch.
Business Insider reported recently a neuroscientist’s study found journalists “have a below-average ability to regulate their emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and show creative and flexible thinking.”READ MORE
Ouch! But it gets worse.
The study also found “journalists' brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, particularly because of dehydration and the tendency of journalists to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and high-sugar foods.” And they “have a hard time preventing themselves from worrying about the future or regretting the past.”
The worry and stress stem from “deadlines, accountability to the public, unpredictable and heavy workloads, public scrutiny, repercussions on social media, and lower pay.”
This used to be my world.
I joined All Told in April 2017 after more than two decades in print journalism. I’ve been the lowly obit-writing cub reporter and the editor responsible for running a newspaper’s website and social media. I’ve witnessed and documented the best and worst of humanity. And by the end, I may or may not have resembled the study results above.
Here’s the reality – as a journalist, you work for editors who are often disgruntled, difficult to please and who criticize you every day (It’s their job). You serve an audience that sometimes doesn’t trust or like you, wants to argue with you and is rarely pleased no matter what you do. Deadlines are never-ending because the news cycle never stops. You have rivals in the field you must beat to the scoop to maintain your credibility, and despite hundreds of successes, your editor will only recall the one time you got beat.
Then there’s the uncertainty. You have no idea when the place is going to kill the print product, as people continue to gravitate from paper to online news. You witness the ongoing struggle to monetize a digital product to ensure the long-term stability of the newsroom. You hear whispers about ad revenue shrinking rapidly. You wonder when the next round of layoffs will hit. You talk to your industry peers and they don’t have it much better. And you get to carry all these burdens for a wage that equals the U.S. media income, if you’re lucky.
Just like journalists need to know their audiences to write effectively, we need to know the audience we pitch to – in this case, when you’re pitching to a journalist, you’re likely pitching to a moody, underpaid, anxious lush. This is one reason why journalists sometimes seem cranky when you call to check if they got your release, are unhelpful if you cannot grant exclusivity or just seem generally adversarial.
But if you want to get your pitches heard and clients placed, here are some things this crusty old reporter always wished PR people knew:
Jacques Couret is a former journalist who currently serves as editorial manager of All Told, Allison+Partners global integrated marketing offering.