Recently, I was lucky enough to be speaker at The PRCA’s first international event, entitled “PR and Communications in a Shrinking World – How to Make Best Practice Work Across Borders.” This one-day conference focused on topics relevant to communicators in the increasingly-globalized business environment, with discussions on diversity, cross-cultural communications, and, of course, Brexit.

My panel, “Going Global,” had myself and several other international agency executives sharing our personal experiences and advice on how to successfully work on international business. When asked for the secret to running global campaigns, it occurred to me that, while it’s very easy to focus on what makes communications around the world different, the real trick is to focus on what makes us the same.

Yes. There are cultural nuances you have to respect, the media works in very different ways, budgets fluctuate significantly, there are varying time zones and languages to navigate, but there are also people. And people are really far more similar than they are different. Also, people are what take a campaign from OK to awesome.

That’s why, when working with an international company, you need to focus on getting the right people on board. The key qualities I look for in a candidate are those that make us most human, such as an innate level of kindness and consideration that will make them a good team player as well as a genuine love for the work, the client and for doing an incredible job. A great sense of humor is also very important, because,  while working on global campaigns can be a ton of fun and very exciting, it can also be one of the toughest jobs in an agency. When you have to go straight into a series of media briefings with a demanding CEO after an 8 hour flight next to a screaming child, it’s easy to forget that you’re meant to be enjoying it.

But if you pick people who understand what an incredible opportunity it is to be part of a global team, you’ll find they get over those tough times much quicker. It’s very hard to retrofit that kind of global outlook, so, at Clarity, we invest in bringing in people who are naturally curious about the wider world around them. We look for people who travel, speak languages, have studied or lived in other countries or who have family around the world. Even an interest in global food is a bonus! Global isn’t a set of offices, it’s a state of mind. Global comms doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right team, the campaign will look after itself.
 

We’re really pleased to announce that Clarity is now providing pro bono PR support to not-for-profit organisation, the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN).

CAN was created to ensure the advertising industry follows ethical best practices, especially in technology becomes a bigger and bigger part. There are currently 30 member companies from the spectrum of stakeholder groups, including such notable names as Accenture Interactive, method, The Body Shop, VaynerMedia, KIND and Fenestra.

Clarity first worked with CAN on the official launch event earlier this year, and the response was incredible. We had a standing room only crowd with guests from every corner of the advertising and media industries, and we got great coverage from Campaign, The Drum and Marketing Week.

Co-founder Jake Dubbins commented, “We’re delighted with the response we’ve received so far. Having a PR agency on board to help draw media attention to CAN is invaluable, and we’re really grateful for all of their support.”

We look forward to working with Jake and the entire CAN team!

 

It was gorgeous and hot, just as you’d imagine the French Riviera to be in June, helped somewhat by the wretched weather back home.

The Mediterranean mercilessly calling you to ignore the sessions you said you would attend, the Croisette packed with the bold and the beautiful⁠—this is where the Maxi dress takes on an entire life form of it’s own. And the rosé really does flow all day. Locating drinking water was something akin to finding Wally in a sea of bubbles and straws.

And yet, I’ve returned underwhelmed and perhaps a little embarrassed.

I didn’t go because we’d been shortlisted for an award – that’s a BHAG for the next 5 years!

The Culture Curse Panelists: Mia Pawinska Sims, Rohan Shah, Adam Clyne, Ruth Allchurch and me

I went out because I was asked to speak on a panel about culture and values, hosted by Reuben Sinclair at The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) House of PR, which was sponsored by The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) for the third year. It was a great excuse to network with interesting people. And if I’m completely honest, I jumped at the chance to check out an event because I’d thought, up to this point, I had no discerning right to be at. Like a PR dinghy in a sea of advertising, media and creative network superyachts.

I was wrong. Michelle Hutton, the President of the PR Jury Panel, gave a passionate talk about what makes a winning award entry and her belief that it’s never been a better time for PR to take it’s place amongst the good and the great of the creative world. Size, as we all know, isn’t a measure of success. Having an insight, a laser strategy and results that deliver impact, that’s what the jury is looking for.

We do that. All day, everyday. We’re good at corporate consultancy, at crisis management, at employee and internal comms. We’ve been delivering integrated campaigns for our clients for years, and PR has been at the heart of so many successful campaigns. And yet, we weren’t there. Not really. Not in anyway that would make you feel you worked in an industry that rocked it with the good and the great. You could have scraped the independent and smaller networked PR bods together and you’d still have struggled to fill a table of 30!

So, I’m wondering. Next year, couldn’t we pool our industry smarts and resources and go out in force, making Cannes 2020 the celebration of creativity across every channel?  If we don’t take a seat at the table, which, by the way, has always been on offer (albeit more lacklustre than we would have liked), then we can’t complain about not enjoying the spoils. We say we struggle to have our craft respected, and we’re the poor relation. Much of that has been true, but we’re not going to make a difference unless we’re right in the thick of it.

Is it expensive? It is if you buy a ticket to the Palais. But stats that came out mid week suggested only 41% of attendees bought those tickets. Much of the business goes on at the fringe events, in the beach bars, the pop ups and the Cabanas.

Next year, we need our Cabana on the beach. We need a venue where we celebrate the PR awards shortlisted and won and where we network with clients who know that comms is crucial to delivering business value. We’ll meet up with agencies that want to collaborate with us because they know they can’t bring to the table what we will, and we’ll pull in favours from our influencers and celeb and comedy friends to come and entertain, because if there is one thing comms people know how to do, it’s throw a party.

And remember, we’re not gatecrashing their party because it’s our party too; we just conveniently made out we’d lost our invitation and then got slightly sneery at the injustice of it all.
 

Three questions to Volker Schmidt and Alexander Fink on the new powerhouse for IT and disruption PR

Akima Media and Clarity PR have announced their cooperation. It will create a new full-service provider of PR and digital communications consulting in the DACH region, with an international network for extensive national and international client support in more than 20 markets worldwide. That is good reason to talk about the new setup with the two directors. Who benefits and how? What precisely is the business model and why are new agencies needed in the first place?

Let’s start with the most exciting question: Why is Akima Clarity needed? Aren’t there enough agencies already in the market?

Alexander Fink: Not at all. Digitalization is also not leaving the communication sector untouched. And that’s why we need new agencies that support in particular clients from small and medium-sized enterprises in a global and digital environment – they have to think and work like SMEs, yet also have global expertise. That’s what differentiates us. Smaller agencies often have too local an orientation, while large networks are usually too expensive and are often not interested in this type of clients. We’re the right partner here – one that thinks and works in an agile, international and pragmatic way. But our new setup means we also offer global companies a feasible alternative to the big networks, which are all undergoing a significant, very inward-looking transformation at the moment.

Volker Schmidt: It’s also not about “more” agencies, but rather a new consulting approach, a new and innovative agency model. And that’s exactly what we offer with Akima Clarity – a genuine powerhouse for IT and disruptive PR that combines a comprehensive traditional and digital communication and marries in-depth IT tech expertise with an understanding of the digital economy, the related change processes and the insights from the Silicon Valley. It means we can provide even more extensive advice not only to local and international clients in the fields of IT, technology and digital disruption, i.e. SMEs with new, digital business models, but also serve established players who want to actively shape the digital transformation

That makes sense. But what precisely are the two partners contributing?

Alexander Fink: First, Akima is contributing its many years of experience in the entire development of tech PR. It has the right media contacts, an impressive client portfolio, a powerful shareholder in Faktenkontor that comes from the media analytics sector and significantly expands the analytics expertise available to clients, as well as Volker Schmidt and his excellent team, with whom I’ve already worked with very successfully in the past. Our business is a people business relying on well proven values among us and towards the clients. For its part, Clarity brings with it an understanding of the dynamics of the digital economy, a range of exciting tools for the PR industry, and extensive experience in transformation and crisis communication, especially in the context of the digitalization of companies and business models.

Volker Schmidt: Not to forget our network of highly specialized, owner-managed agencies comprising over 400 communications experts in more than 20 markets worldwide. At the end of the day, it is a perfect match – not only because we complement each other perfectly in terms of expertise, competencies, client portfolio and tools, but also because the working relationship between Alexander and me has proven its worth over the years and now two agencies with a very similar spirit are coming together.

What does the new business model look like? And what does that mean for existing and new clients?

Volker Schmidt: Akima Clarity is the result of a strategic partnership. It goes without saying that the existing client relationships and contractual provisions will not change. Instead, existing and new clients will now get additional competences and skills that both partners will mutually contribute – in particular expertise, but also manpower, networks and tools.

Alexander Fink: Clients being supported in their crisis communication can now benefit from enhanced digital crisis prevention programs and tools, for example, while companies can leverage our expanded analytics portfolio or strong, integrated campaigning skills. All in all, we at
Akima Clarity are now able to provide holistic consulting with a much stronger range of services, especially for digitally transforming B2B companies – from the well-funded start-up to a large group – within a wide range of different industries.

Want to learn more about Akima Clarity or arrange an initial, non-binding consultation? Then get in touch with us!
 

It’s been nearly two weeks since Bill Shine announced he was resigning his post as White House Communications Director, a position he was the sixth person to fill. In theory, the search is now on for Comms Director Seven, and under normal circumstances, you’d think any public relations professional would jump at the chance to hold such a high-profile, career-making job.

But these are far from normal circumstances, at least according to a survey conducted by Clarity. We asked 100 communications professionals: If you were offered the job of White House Communications Director, would you take it? Why or why not?

For 85 percent of our respondents, the answer was, in short, “no.”

The “why or why not” responses were,as one could expect given they’re from a bunch of communications people, considerably more colorful. Said one respondent:

“[I] would rather explode in a fiery fireball of damnation than suck up to that bloated gasbag.”

More on the nos in a bit. Let’s talk about the 15 percent who said yes. For those brave souls, the number one cited reason was essentially benevolent. They would do it for the love and good of the country. The second most common reason was more for the good of themselves, with respondents indicating the career opportunity or money was too good to pass up.

Then there were a few whose reasons could be closer to “spite.”

It literally doesn’t matter what you say. There are no wrong answers.

“For the chance to have one day to stand on a national stage and tell the truth about the idiot in the White House.”

The last sentiment was echoed by one of the “no” respondents, who said,

…there’s part of me that wishes I’d say “yes.” Then, at my first briefing, I’d tell the truth about EVERYTHING. This would, of course, get me fired so fast I’d make Scaramucci look like a long-term employee. Fantasy me would make an over-the-top exit, too. If it was on Airforce One, I could do like that JetBlue flight attendant and go down the inflatable slide (straight to the Rachel Maddow show).”

Which brings us to the reasons why don’t people don’t want the white house job (and that plural is appropriate, because many indeed had more than one).

Upon analyzing all of the comments, we found reasons fell into 7 basic categories. From least to most cited:

7. The Job Environment: The word “chaos” was used by a number of respondents, and another described the White House comms shop as an “insane asylum.” Another noted,

“Toxic place. The people at the job matter as much as or more than the job itself. It also burns through talent and tends to tarnish vs. burnish the CVs of those who left.”

6. The Lies: The only surprise here may be how far down the list it is.

5. Just Flat out Couldn’t: These respondents “couldn’t be associated,” “couldn’t be part of” and “couldn’t work for” Trump and this administration. Or as one person said,

“I wouldn’t work for this man even if I was offered $50 million!”

4. Inability to Support or Believe In Him: This is where Trump as a brand entered into the conversation, with responses like,

“I have to believe somewhat in the product, service or individual I promote.”

“The President is as big as the office in determining brand identity [and] I don’t believe in the brand.”

3. The job Itself: For these respondents, the current occupants of the White House mattered less than the rigors of working there, with the role being described as “thankless,” “impossible” and “24/7.”

A former Gubernatorial communications office holder noted:

“The stress, loss of any semblance of a life outside work, and the public scrutiny and blasting on social media just isn’t worth it.”

2. Qualities of Trump & the Administration: Our respondents certainly weren’t shy about saying how they really feel, using terms like, “anti-Semitic,” “corrupt,” “destructive,” impulsive,” “racist” and “Russian stooge.”

Still, being ever the professionals, the respondents’ often concluded the name calling with the sentiment that, with his track record of doing whatever he wants, Trump would be a bad client:

“While it is a GREAT gig, and would look amazing on a resume, I would not take the offer as Trump runs his own communications and does not seem inclined to let anyone else manage that, or help him truly tailor his message. In that environment, any communications professional is only going to become frustrated and will likely not be able to make an impact in the way they hoped.”

1. Their Personal Ethics: It was surprising how many responses contained this exact word, as well as similar terms like “dignity,” “values,” “conscience” and “integrity.”

“Are you kidding? I won’t work for a racist/anti-Semitic/misogynistic/Russian stooge. And I won’t work for an organization with “ethics” that pale in comparison to those found in an organized crime family…What’s going on here with Trump’s abuse of the role of the media is, to use one of the favorite words from his quite limited vocabulary, a ‘disgrace.’”

Perhaps the administration won’t even try to find #CD7, but their best chance is to find one of those “Best People” with a sense of duty to the country along with an ability to tolerate a with whom they don’t agree and probably won’t listen, anyway.

Otherwise, I think Sean Spicer is still looking for a job. Melissa McCarthy I’m not sure about.

Thank you to all of my professional peers who took part in this survey!
 

If current trends continue, “What’s your favorite podcast?” may replace “What’s your favorite TV show?” as conversation opener.

Last week, Edison Research and Triton Digital released the 21st annual Infinite Dial report, which reconfirmed what we all already know: podcasts are getting really popular. In fact, this year’s data revealed that about one-third of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast in the past month. That’s over 90 million people! The report also showed that the once largely male dominated medium is increasingly being enjoyed by women.

Since Edison’s stats are all based on U.S. figures, Clarity client Voxnest, a provider of end-to-end technology for podcasting, wanted to add some global insights to the conversation. Based on usage stats from February 2018 and February 2019, they created some charts to show how trends worldwide are matching up with those revealed in the Infinite Dial report.

What did we find? Well, there’s a lot of similarity – in fact, the 2019 metrics for both show nearly exactly the same gender balance.


The split in 2018 was a bit more inequitable. On the Voxnest side, it confirms that growth in podcast listening among women is picking up speed. Edison’s data has a slightly different story – the proportion of women was actually higher in 2018 than 2019. We’re not sure why this might be, especially with the popularity of true crime podcasts, a genre with a large female audience.

And since we were doing a lot of math, we thought we’d look at the breakdown of listening by age, as well. While our age groups don’t exactly match up – Voxnest could only provide 18 to 24 while Edison looks at 12 to 24 – the big takeaway is the same: the biggest group of listeners are aged 25 to 54, and that group is getting bigger, too.

Just a cautionary caveat:
Because Voxnest’s data is all based on podcast listeners, we had to recalculate the Edison research numbers to apply to just listeners and not the entire population. Since we don’t have access to the full dataset, we had to make some assumptions. Short story long, the reader should keep in mind this is less than scientific. But we still thought it shed some light on how podcasting is growing worldwide in comparison to the US.

In the end, both sets of data are further proof that the pivot to audio continues, and if you aren’t podcasting now, perhaps you should be. After all, platforms like Voxnest make it easy – all you need is an app and you can podcast right from your phone.
 

Today we launch our new brand and new website.

Developed 100% in-house, our visual identity has undergone a radical transformation.  

Our original brand was functional but uninspiring. It was cold, boring and clinical. All adjectives you couldn’t possibly ascribe to Clarity today.

The same could be said for our old website, which failed miserably when it came to bringing-to-life the spirit and culture of our company.

In contrast, our new brand and website is vibrant, dynamic and bold, which are all characteristics I’m proud to say Clarity exhibits in spades, every single day.

There will doubtless be some eyebrows raised over the transformation: our new brand is effervescent and playful, which some might consider inconsistent with the fact that we are a b2b company. The vast majority of professional services brands — including many of our agency competitors — are sober and conservative. They slip discreetly into the background.

However, we’re building Clarity with an approach more typical of a technology startup. We feel much closer to that community than to the agency world. Our new brand reflects this.

We therefore approached the task of rebranding by taking inspiration from b2b technology companies — not from our agency competitors.

A quick look at some of the most successful b2b companies in recent years quickly reveals that companies selling to businesses are increasingly looking and feeling like consumer brands.

The so-called ‘consumerization’ of b2b brands is immediately evident in some of the most successful b2b brands of recent years —  MailChimp, Slack, Trello and WeWork to name just a few obvious examples.

At the root of this trend is an acknowledgement that buyers of b2b services are equally as human as buyers of consumer goods.

Consumer brands focus on driving an emotional response from people they’re selling to.

The likes of WeWork recognized this, and have reaped the benefits of differentiating so clearly by building a playful, human brand. Just take a look at Regus.com if you need persuading that WeWork are onto something.

We developed a brand that elicits a human response amongst our people and our clients, whilst bringing-to-life the best things about Clarity today: our entrepreneurial spirit, our dynamism and our warmth.

Creating predictions for the new year is, in some ways, a bit of a mug’s game. That’s because twelve months on and anyone can see instantly whether you were right or wrong.

Still, here at Clarity we have never been afraid of sticking our necks out a little. We asked the team then to come up with predictions for 2019 and here’s what they came up with from brand activism through to the growth of owned content.

Kathy Sampey from our New York team writes…

If you were browsing the news online and saw an ad served up next to a story about a brutal murder, a plane crash or sexually graphic content, chances are you would take notice. You might also wonder why a brand marketer would have one of their ads in such close proximity to something negative or unsavory.

You’re not alone. In fact, if you’re like a lot of consumers, you might have even concluded that the ad was placed next to such content intentionally to gather more eyeballs and drive awareness and possible purchase intent. And you would probably think poorly of that brand.

At Clarity we have had an intriguing year working with a number of clients who are either preparing for an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) or are looking to consolidate and increase brand awareness after a raise.

We have written about ICOs in the past – but now is a good time to take stock and look to see if we can spot any emerging trends that will shape ICOs in the new year. Has the ICO had its day? Will it evolve into something else? Here are our thoughts.

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