Communications professionals now have access to more information than ever before, across all industries. Today’s technological progress has helped to change the way we gather insights and with the help of tools such as Google Trend Data, YouGov’s Profiler Tool or SocialBakers, we’re now able to analyze an audience’s behaviour towards a particular brand or understand what their preferences are in great detail. No communications effort should even be started without first looking at the insights.
However, readership, views and even engagement statistics will no longer be the most important evaluation criteria for communications programmes, as the end result that really matters is what emotion the campaign generates. Emotive and behavioural technological advances will help to feed that information back to brands. The key is to ensure that there is a blend between machine and man and that the human factor is considered along with the data.
We can expect to see more micro-campaigns launched by brands looking to trigger specific emotive responses to their content. Short, sharp bursts of creative activity in response to changes in mood and behaviour will become the norm. Campaigns that launched without the necessary grounding in audience understanding will not be successful, as brands will have to work much harder to truly understand the audience they’re communicating with if they want to succeed.
On the other hand, we can also expect to see campaigns that fail due to the overreliance on automated research. Brands forgetting to blend the human touch with the automated insight will sometimes find that the results of their campaigns will not turn out as predicted or anticipated.
At the same time, communications teams will become much more comfortable with insight as a whole, and even though there will still be experts to turn to, communications professionals will have a far greater understanding and appreciation of insight, irrespective of whether gathering it is your day job or not.
Finally, we’ll see costs continue to drop for automated insight as technology continues to advance and big data becomes the norm. In contrast, real human-to-human qualitative research will rise in price and complexity as the ‘grunt’ work will already have been done.
There’s no doubt that we are living in an insight led era of communications, the question is whether the next 12 months will bring more investment in the technology or in the human side of insights and research. Our advice is to do a bit of both.
ولدي الحبيب …
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يا ترى كيف كيف ستكون؟ حتماً ستكون أنت الأجمل والأنقى والأروع، ستكون الحب والحنان والفرح، ستكون الجنة التي أتمناها، ستكون الأمل، ستكون السند، ستكون كل ما يكون.
سأنتظر ياولدي ذلك اليوم لسماع سورة الفاتحة منك وأنت ابن العامين ترددها على مسامعي فأضمك وأقبلك ونبدأ بحفظ سورة الإخلاص بعدها.
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سأنتظر اليوم الذي أهديك فيه ورداً عند اجتماعنا في مدرج الكلية التي درست فيها احتفالاً بتخرجك.
سأنتظر ذلك اليوم الذي تخبرني فيه عن قبولك في العمل الذي لطالما رغبت أن تعمل به.
سأنتظر يوماً أراك فيه عريساً ترقص فيه مع عروسك.
وسأنتظر اليوم الذي تكتب فيه رسالة إلى ولدك كما أكتب إليك اليوم تخبرني فيها عند مدى اشتياقك لرؤية أولادك.
سيطول انتظاري يا ولدي، ولكني سأنتظرك.
We all like taking on the big guys. Our David versus Goliath tendencies rise to the surface and with luck, the underdog wins. Business and sport are littered with examples of where the outsider has won in a seemingly uneven contest. And today, the concept of the disruptive challenger brand is well and truly established. Witness the rise of the sharing economy as just one example of where innovation has allowed small businesses to scale incredibly rapidly by taking on and beating established market leaders at their own game. Today it seems, the outsider can come through and beat the big guys.
But can this work in the cut throat world of PR and communications? Is there room for a new global challenger to the big ten owned networks? Is there a business model that can stand scrutiny and, more importantly, gain credibility among discerning clients around the world? These are the questions we wrestle with as Hotwire continues to expand globally and as we position ourselves as the global alternative to the mega owned networks.
So what lies behind our strategy and why do we think we are on to something? Well, it all starts with a look at the marketplace.
According to the 2015 The Holmes World PR Report, the big four holding groups account for around 34% of the overall global PR market, reporting $4.7bn in fees. On the surface this appears to be a dominant position but scratch away at the numbers and they tell a different story. The market share of the holding groups is slowing shrinking with the fee income of the independent PR firms outstripping the fees of the big four for the first time. The debate over the owned group versus independent agencies rages on, but it provides fuel to the belief that there is a gap for a different type of global agency.
The conventional choice faced by any PR firm with a growth mindset is acquire or be acquired. Bootstrapping the business in the way firms did in the past is no longer a viable option across multiple markets. It can work in isolated instances, but on a global scale it’s out of the question.
As a firm with a clear vision to be the alternative to the huge owned networks, Hotwire has adopted a hybrid approach to growth. Coming off the back of the acquisition of Eastwick Communications in the US, we continue to build out a global network of exclusive partners and affiliates to provide the geographic footprint required by our 200 or so clients. While strategic acquisitions such as in the US lie at the heart of our strategy, the broader approach is to continue to develop extremely close partnerships with trusted firms in key local markets.
This is not a unique approach as many others have sought to partner to provide global coverage to clients. While there are a large number of networks made up of independent agencies that collaborate under an umbrella brand, the success rate and credibility of such entities is patchy. All too often in conversations with both international prospects and partner agencies, we hear war stories of loose affiliations, overzealous bureaucracy, inconsistent working practices, and more worryingly, a lack of shared values.
In building the Hotwire global network, we’ve very deliberately taken a true partnership approach. Much in the same way as international PR management requires true collaboration and a balance of centralized versus decentralized functions, so the Hotwire network abides by similar ideals.
Our confidence in the partnership route is underpinned by the principles that have guided Hotwire from its launch back in 2000. Shared values, strong culture and a fanatical dedication to transparency and accountability – these are foundations upon which the business has been built. And we’ve taken this philosophy into our partnership approach.
While many independent networks are little more than pins on a map, each exclusive partner and affiliate are long standing friends of the agency. There are many years of shared experiences behind the relationship and, most importantly, a clear set of shared values.
But it has to go deeper – friendships and shared values mean little to clients who rightly demand high standards. So today, investments are being made in ensuring all Hotwire exclusive partners share the working platforms and practices that the owned Hotwire offices employ. It’s about delivering a consistent Hotwire experience regardless of the agency ownership. And each of the three exclusive co-branded partners in the current structure have committed to this principle. What’s more, many of our affiliates – agencies that have yet to take the step toward exclusive status with us – also embrace the same philosophy.
It’s this scaled approach that lies behind our confidence that the partnership route can truly build out an alternative to the owned networks. Small is indeed beautiful and the ability of the agency to provide a truly personalized service through local specialists that are unencumbered by the restrictions of large network ownership; or who are free from regional infighting over profit and loss accounts truly does liberate the potential of global communications.
Over the next three to five years, we will see more PR spend taken by entrepreneurial agencies capable of providing the level of service required by discerning clients. And while the big owned networks will always have a good share of the overall market, the trend will continue toward best of breed and that’s where the opportunity lies. A hybrid partnership model such as our provides the best of all worlds. Local expertise, shared values & cultures, strong processes and a consistent approach. Try finding that from the Big Four.
How will marketers remember 2017? This might be an impetuous question, given that the year has just started, but in my experience, it will pass by in the blink of an eye. So let’s just skip forward and pretend to look back at what a year this has turned out to be. Who knows, I might even get it right and repost this in December.
Emotion was king. We learned this last year, through different experiences from around the world, so it isn’t a novelty, but it is a trend that stayed on in 2017. Brands, sociologists and politicians that continued to rely on hard facts and data, statistics and numbers, continued to be disappointed by the reality that their audience is driven by emotions. Brands that triggered emotional responses, engagement and truly connected with their audience through storytelling and valuable content are the ones that came out victorious.
Video killed the radio star
Video dominated social media, and pretty much all communications channels, with even radio stations broadcasting live videos from their studios. Digital publications have all covered news, interviews, special reports and events through video stories, since four times as many consumers preferred to watch video content instead of reading it. In fact, 74% of all internet traffic was video content. And through platforms like FaceBook Live and Instagram Stories, not to mention Snapchat which surpassed all other social media channels in popularity, we can see why video became the main digital content.
Mobiles stopped ringing
Because who needs to make phone calls when you have so many chat and calling apps to choose from? With the UAE having one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world, people used mobiles for pretty much everything else but calling. The number of mobile users further surpassed the number of desktop users. Mobile penetration didn’t only allow brands to be closer to their customers, but allowed them to even monitor their physical location and offer even more targeted promotions and incentives. Mobile friendly websites, adapted content and mobile apps became an integral part of any marketing strategy.
Influencers are now an integral part of any marketing campaign, and after years of arbitrary rate cards, bought followers and brands choosing “ambassadors” according to numbers of followers, companies have begun to pay much closer attention to the engagement driven by bloggers and online influencers. With audiences being more discerning, bloggers have also started to disclose their endorsements as paid ads.
Did you think Pokemon Go was a fad? It might have lost some of its popularity, but other brands have understood how virtual and augmented reality can enhance the user experience and complement their offerings to bridge the line between real life and digital and truly engage their audience at a whole new level. With VR gear becoming more accessible, affordable and applicable, there was no excuse for companies not to give it a go.
How do you think you will look back on 2017?