General

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet – The Guardian says Ciao to Berliner

Jake Setterfield – Account Manager

Last Monday, Guardian News & Media (GNM), publisher of The Guardian and The Observer, produced its daily newspaper in tabloid format for the first time in its history.

 

 

 

Touted as a brave move appealing to readers’ ever-changing media consumption by advocates of the redesign, critics cite the move as an unashamed cost cutting measure.

The change is the latest since the paper’s move to the modern Berliner format in 2005. The Berliner redesign was greeted with international design awards and welcomed with a rise in circulation from readers, enjoying the easy to read format of the eye-catching, full colour paper. At the same time, and with extraordinary prescience, Roy Jeans, the managing director of Magna Global UK predicted: “I believe that in ten years’ time, all newspapers will be tabloid” ….

However, despite the initial warm reception, the decade since hasn’t been so kind on the Berliner, with circulation halving to 161,000, resulting in a reported £38m of losses last year alone. The change to tabloid is hoped to return significant savings for the paper, forming part of its three-year plan to break even by 2019.

The paper has guaranteed that it will continue to offer quality journalism in a tabloid format, but it will be hard for the public to shake the conception that a newspaper’s class and quality is intrinsically linked with its format – something that will be put to the test in the paper’s forthcoming circulation reports.

As for design, the new masthead and typeface has been compared with that of the Evening Standard, seemingly a step back from the paper’s colourful predecessor with a rather traditional appearance.  The content is however driven by striking images, with ad placements popping out of the page and screen. It is also 40% smaller than the Berliner, which will affect ads sold on size, raising some concerns in the ad-world.

We work closely alongside our partner agency, Better, on creative rebrand projects. John Taylor, Creative Director of the Middlesbrough based branding experts, comments:

 

“Tabloid is certainly a lot more comfortable to hold, but from a design perspective the new format, somewhat counter-intuitively, offers a larger canvas area for the front page. This is because it neatly removes the need to cram content above the fold of the Berliner format, which should excite the designers by offering more personality, impact and flexibility.

 

“In terms of heading and masthead, it’s a pleasingly crisp and sober evolution rather than a radical change. Reintroducing the uppercase T and G in the masthead adds authority and confidence, while Commercial Type’s new ‘Guardian Headline’ font feels familiar yet sharper and more precise. A fitting solution for a newspaper that prides its journalism on clarity. I’m not 100% sold on the lock-up, it looks and feels much more authoritative.

 

“Only time will tell if it delivers towards longer term financial goals but the immediate impression is a more concise, sharper, cleaner experience with added gravitas. Refreshing and unlikely to alienate existing readers.”

 

Editorially, the paper was also criticised on its content last week, as it was seen as lacking character and hard-hitting scoops. However, investigative stories from the paper in the past (the likes of the Panama Papers and the phone hacking scandal) are few and far between in their occurrence and it could be forgiven for avoiding a big sensationalist splash to coincide with its reformat.

 

In summary, the content is intended to work seamlessly across the outlet’s platforms both in print and online, in order to assert the importance of impartial reporting in a digital world. On the launch, the outlet commented: “Guardian journalism itself will remain what it has always been: thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging; and, witty, stylish and fun”.

 

In a similar move, Acceleris’ client, the Maritime Trade Union, Nautilus International, has very recently redesigned its Telegraph newspaper, an outlet keeping its maritime professional membership base up to date on a wide range of industry issues.

 

Sent free to union members and available for subscription, the paper moved from a similar Berliner format towards an eye-catching, easier to read magazine. The move was a response from members’ requests for a bigger, better and faster manner for communications as they make the move to more digital driven content.

 

The Union wanted to retain the award-winning print outlet, but also taking advantage of digital opportunities, delivering news to members as it happens, accessing it wherever and whenever they want. Nautilus’ General Secretary, Mark Dickinson announced: “We need to provide news in a more immediate and dynamic manner… [the magazine] will provide readers with top news stories over the past month, together with in depth analysis and features on the industry”.

 

Through our copywriting division, Writers Inc, we work closely with our clients on creating engaging and eye-catching content, whether it’s an anniversary publication, a staff magazine, or an annual report. Feel free to get in touch (jakes@acceleris-mc.com), if you’re thinking about changing your branding or considering a refresh of your collateral.

An Intern’s Insight: Henry, Research Assistant

Acceleris offers internship through Disability Action Yorkshire

Henry Acceleris Research Assistant Disability Action Yorkshire internships

Henry, Acceleris Research Assistant

“Going to Acceleris has helped me feel more confident in myself and more positive about finding a job…”

Henry recently joined the Acceleris Academy programme as an intern through the agency’s partnership with Disability Action Yorkshire. Henry, 20, is from Ripon and is currently enrolled at York College studying Hospitality, having also done an ICT course last year.

He joins us for a couple of hours each week as Research Assistant, supporting the team on vital tasks such as media coverage books, researching diary dates and events, and creating spreadsheets. He has even helped with magazine content plans for the Writers Inc. department.

We sat down with Henry in between tasks to get to know him a bit better. Continue reading

Intern’s Insight at Acceleris

Lucy Bune – Acceleris Work Experience Placement

Lucy Bune shares her Acceleris experience

I’ll admit I was nervous on the morning of Monday 3 July, getting ready in new ‘business- casual’ clothes that felt very formal, preparing for five days I was going to spend working at the Harrogate Office of Acceleris. I had been to the office once before to fill in several forms of the health and safety variety, given to me by the careers department of my school, which had organised the work experience programme, and encouraged us to independently seek out placements., which would take place in the 10 week long summer holiday after we finished our GCSE exams. I had contacted Acceleris after I read their information on the North Yorkshire work experience website, and felt it would suit me – I enjoyed media and English lessons and thought that PR or journalism would be a good fit for a future career, although I was not completely sure what ‘PR’ entailed and meant.

As I climbed the (many, many) stairs up to the office, I had absolutely no idea what to expect – I didn’t know the jobs I would be doing, or who (or what!) I would be working with. However my fears were soon put to rest when I met the team who were all extremely welcoming and friendly. I was given my very own desk with a computer and a phone, which I very much hoped I wouldn’t have to use.

Unfortunately, that was my first task – to contact the IT office and sort out my email address. When I got it set up, I was set straight into my second task, one which became a daily occurrence, reading through the newspaper to find any interesting articles.  It allowed me to settle into my new space and get to grips with the computer and email systems which I would have no idea how to use otherwise!

Over my week I have enjoyed a great deal of varied tasks which have been given to me – from creating social media posts, to research, editing photos and, of course, writing this blog, I have done much more than I thought happened in a PR office. My eyes have been opened to how much work goes into marketing, research, communications and the many other things that PR entails. I have found my experience very interesting and think it has given me some skills to boost my CV (the one everybody keeps going on about, that I’ve not actually made), an insight into the world of PR and I have also met some very lovely and hard working people who have made me feel welcome and that the work I was doing was important.

My favourite job has definitely been creating social media posts and graphics, particularly for twitter, and it has made me realise that this could be something to pursue in the future, especially for the growing need for companies to have social media profiles and strong online presences.

I would definitely advise any young person who is interested in PR, social media or any aspect of the media to try out a work experience or an internship at Acceleris as it will really help you understand what goes on in the world of public relations. My experience also helped me improve invaluable skills, not just on the computer, but also face to face communication, confidence, and talking on the phone! My advice to those preparing for an internship would be that you really don’t need to worry – this sound like a cliché, but it’s true – all the staff at Acceleris are extremely kind and warm, and you will soon feel like you fit right in. Keep on task and get your work done in order to maximise the potential of your work experience and give you the full range of the types of tasks that you could deal within a PR office.

And, finally, another cliché – have fun! I certainly did!

 

To read more on Acceleris’ current job vacancies, click here.

Well, That Was Quite A Year!!!

Peter Davenport, Chief Executive at Acceleris

If there was a single, unifying factor to a calendar of events that shook up the accepted order of things it was, ‘Expect the Unexpected.’

 

The UK voting to quit the EU, America electing Donald Trump as President and Leicester City winning the Premier League. Each and every one against the prevailing odds, confounding the experts, defying the pollsters.

 

To the pessimists, it meant that ‘nothing will ever be the same again.’ To the optimists it meant, ‘nothing will ever be the same again.’

 

Diametrically opposing views of the same situation!

 

So what does the future hold?

 

The same experts who so confidently, but mistakenly, predicted the outcomes of those events above – and many others – are now in full flow forecasting what is to come. The reality is that no-one really knows what 2017 holds other than ‘uncertainty.’ At times like this, you just have hold your nerve and focus on the things you can affect rather than over-worrying about the things you can’t.

 

Here at Acceleris it’s also been quite a year.  Like many other businesses, we experienced the pre and post EU Referendum doldrums as clients struggled to understand the implications for them and either cancelled or delayed projects. But with the dawning realisation that, apart from in the financial markets where the pound took a battering, in the ‘real-world’ of day-to-day business, not a lot had changed since the vote, and may not until the result of the Article 50 negotiations are known. The final months of 2016 proved to be exceptionally busy with new clients and new projects on existing accounts.

 

The year also marked 10 years since the agency was founded with a vision to deliver outstanding service and innovative PR and Communications solutions to clients throughout the UK and in Europe. Whilst we always strive to live up to our vision – for instance delivering our first VR project for a major client this month –  it’s especially rewarding when those qualities are recognised by our peers.

 

And in 2016 we continued to add to our trophy cabinet and awards wall.

 

For the second year in succession, we were named  Agency of the Year’ at the UK Public Sector Communications Awards at a ceremony at The Emirates Stadium in London in July and this month in Berlin, we won the Issues and Reputation Management’ trophy at the prestigious European Communications Excellence Awards, beating off challenges from the likes of IBM and Lidl. It’s a remarkable third time in four years we have collected this award – in Munich in 2013 and Stockholm in 2015 when we beat Unilever, BASF and BP to the accolade. We also won two Golds in the regional CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) PRide Awards.

 

I believe these awards are testimony to the intelligent, insightful and innovative way in which we approach our work. We can certainly do ‘fun’ but we also excel at the ‘serious.’

 

The turn of the year also marks a time of personal change.

 

For the last decade I have been privileged to lead Acceleris, latterly as CEO. From the New Year, I am changing my relationship with the agency of which I am so proud, to facilitate a more flexible way of working. I am stepping down as Chief Executive, leaving the running of the agency in the more than capable hands of my much admired colleague, Managing Director Louise Vaughan, to work as a strategic consultant across some key client accounts and to focus on business development, something I particularly enjoy.

 

I have no doubt that Acceleris will go on to build on its impressive achievements to date and I look forward to playing a somewhat  different – but hopefully valuable – part in the next stage of its story.

Peak Tech: Are We In The Midst Of a Backlash?

Jack Williams - Account Manager, Acceleris

Jack Williams – Account Manager

Last month Amazon announced the Dash, their one button device that lets you order a product at a single push. I guess it’s a pretty good idea really (if you ignore the fact that courier businesses are already failing to cope with the cost of free one day deliveries and supermarkets are operating at a loss for the privilege of bringing cabbage to your door). We are a lazy and forgetful bunch, and ordering supplies the minute we need them is clever work.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

But I want to suggest that now, as a society, we’re at peak technology and the public has had enough. And here’s my reasoning:

Earlier this year sales of eBooks fell for the first time since the digital age began[i]. In fact, at the end of 2015 Waterstones said it would stop selling Kindles all together because it was “getting virtually no sales”. We’re seeing this tech backlash in other sectors too: vinyl record sales reached a 28-year high this year[ii]. And it’s not just the hipsters that are buying them. Taylor Swift released her ‘classic concept album, 1989’[iii] on vinyl too.

Source: The Bookseller

Source: The Bookseller

And there’s one more thing. That ultimate piece of tech. The black mirror that we see everywhere and that sees us. The iPhone.

So it obviously hasn’t gone completely. Last week the launch date for the iPhone 7 was announced, which could end up being the most bought phone of all time and see me and this entire blog become a waste of time! BUT, as I write right now, smartphone sales have … slumped!

Perhaps not big news in the traditional ‘man bites dog’ sense of it, but I bring it up because the slump has coincided with a rise in sales of ‘dumb phones’ (essentially the most rudimentary of handsets with the ability to call and text and little more). In 2015 there were 24.2 million dumb phones shipped in the US alone[iv]. That’s a two million increase on the previous year.

 

Source: Nokia Remember this indestructible handset?

Source: Nokia
Remember this indestructible handset?

So am I just a Luddite rejoicing in the backlash? Yes and no. I do hate seeing people glued to their phones when out in social situations, but I happily admit I am an iPhone user – and a polite one at that. Never on a date – first date at least!

The real reason this interests me is because today so much of our communications is built around technology. We can reach far higher, more niche audiences through social media than we can through traditional newspapers and outlets. We build apps that send push notifications right to people’s wristwatches. Pretty soon we’ll be advertising on private messaging apps like WhatsApp. But as people’s relationships with technology changes, we need to know and respond to this.

Like Taylor Swift putting out the LP, as professional communicators we need to always be listening to our target audience and bending our approach. At Acceleris we have developed an in-depth content marketing strategy that puts the audience – and everything we can know about them – at the heart of our strategies. Once we know who they are, we can deliver them the right content on behalf of our clients, and through the right medium.

In my headline I had a question. And like all question-headlines, mine can be answered thusly: “probably not”. But the trends are true as people decide that an always-on, government tracked, internet-enabled world isn’t one for them. Or they prefer the warm sound of vinyl and needle to the eerily clear mp3. Either way, more tech may not always be the best way to speak to your audience.

[i] The Guardian, Ebook sales falling for the first time, finds new report (Feb 2016)

[ii] Fortune, Vinyl Record Sales Are At A 28-Year High (April 2016)

[iii] Said no one ever

[iv] Phonearena.com As flagship smartphone sales fall flat, ‘dumb’ phone sales in America are on the rise (May 2016)

A New Look to Mark Our Tenth Anniversary

Peter Davenport, Chief Executive at Acceleris

By Peter Davenport, Chief Executive

If you are reading this, then you will already have seen that we look rather different today than we did before!

We have a new brand, a new logo and a new website to mark this, our tenth anniversary year.

But why change what has served us so well to date?

Well, it’s not just because we want to avoid the ‘cobbler’s children’  syndrome, where he’s so busy caring for the footwear of customers that his own family are walking around with holes in the soles of their shoes. We spend a lot of our time advising clients on the importance of brand and reputation, of how to remain consistent to their core values but yet still be relevant and contemporary in a world that is changing at ever-increasing speed. A key element of that is how you look to the outside world and what your brand and logo is intended to communicate.

We founded Acceleris in November 2006, just a few months after the first ever tweet was sent and YouTube was launched. And if you want to reflect on how the world we work in has changed and the pace at which it has – and still is – developing, consider these simple but staggering statistics. There are now 500 million tweets sent a day around the world (that’s 200 billion a year); YouTube attracts one billion views of its videos each month.

Breaking through all that ‘noise’ calls for communications that are creative, not for their own sake but to achieve a client’s objectives.

Over the years we have earned a reputation for our creative approach to communications for clients in diverse sectors, from commercial fishing to social housing, from health and wellbeing to automotive, from the corporate world  to the charity sector – and at a national and international level. We are proud of our growing collection of awards that are a testament to that reputation. It’s something we never take for granted and we work on it every single day.

As communications channels proliferate and the attention span of individuals shortens as a coping mechanism for the daily deluge of information they have to process, then choosing the right combination of activity to deliver client objectives becomes ever more crucial. That means we are constantly learning and developing our knowledge and skills.

So, for all these reasons, we decided to embrace ‘creative communications’ as the core definition of what we do. We also wanted a new brand that summed up our approach to communications, which is to listen before we speak, and really get to understand a client’s business, its challenges and objectives before we propose a campaign or course of action.

And like any good branding exercise, we’ve carried it right through all aspects of our agency, including across our offices in Harrogate and London. It’s given us a fresh, bright and stimulating working environment.

We’re delighted with the result.

The new Acceleris logo

Our shiny new logo!

But there is one thing that hasn’t changed and will remain a constant part of our DNA. And that is our absolute commitment to delivering outstanding service and for being a team that our clients and partners really enjoy working with. After all, in this digitally connected world, it’s still people relationships that count!

Please feel free to visit our new website and check out our new look for yourself: www.acceleris-mc.com

Acceleris: a review of 2015

The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a time for both reflection and anticipation. Reflection on the successes – and disappointments – of the past 12 months and anticipation of what the coming year has in store. In an uncertain world, however, the only certainty is that events will happen that none of us can currently predict.

With  a presidential election in the United States, a potential EU referendum in the UK, the continuing migrant crisis enveloping Europe and the insidious spread of terrorism, it can sometimes feel as though we are at the mercy of tumultuous events beyond our control. Institutions that once seemed to be the pillars of a stable society – Parliament, the Church, banking, the media, business and even sport – have all been mired in controversy.

So it is important at this time of year to reflect on the success of the things upon which we do have control.

In the case of Acceleris, on the verge of our 10th anniversary year, there has been much of which we can be justly proud.

We have won major national and international awards – named  as ‘Large Agency of the Year’ in the UK Public Sector Communications Awards held at The Emirates Stadium in London and winner of the fiercely contested ‘Issues and Reputation Management’ trophy in the prestigious European Communications Excellence Awards in Stockholm. Such accolades are credit to the creativity, intelligence and commitment of the people who make up the Acceleris team in Yorkshire and London.

We recently won another European Excellence Award in 'Issues and Reputation Management'

We recently won another European Excellence Award in ‘Issues and Reputation Management’

We have delivered campaigns for international clients  in multiple languages in almost a dozen countries; we have launched new companies, re-branded existing ones, worked with Paralympian athlete Baroness (Tanni) Grey-Thompson to get a better deal for wheelchair users, produced our first hard back book to commemorate a charity client’s remarkable 150 year history and seen our team presented to its Patron, HRH The Princess Royal. We have seen our clients dominate the front pages of national newspapers, feature in television and radio news programmes and increase their social media profiles to positive effect.

We launched the Wheelchair Leadership Alliance this summer with the help of Baroness Grey-Thompson

We launched the Wheelchair Leadership Alliance this summer with the help of Baroness Grey-Thompson

In an increasingly ‘noisy’ world, where the amount of information is already at levels which the human brain finds hard to assimilate, the challenge for all organisations – be they in  the public, private or third sector – is how to achieve ‘cut-through’ with their messages to ensure they reach the audiences they want to address.

That’s what we will be working to achieve for all our clients in 2016. We will do it by retaining a consistent desire to deliver a high quality service based on intelligence, insight and innovation allied to an enthusiasm to embrace new ideas and new thinking.

To all our clients, partners and friends, we thank you for your support in 2015 and wish you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Feet-up Friday!

Simon's fancy footwear!

Simon’s fancy footwear!

We are a charitable bunch here at Acceleris and last week saw us get in the festive spirit to raise money for UK housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

The #SlippersforShelter campaign aims to support children and their families facing homelessness this Christmas and as we work in both the housing and charity sectors, it seemed like a good idea to get behind the campaign.

The fundraising began on cue with an in-house pool tournament organised by our resident housing specialist, Simon Baylis. The rules were simple – or so we thought. Each participant was ranked on their pool ability from 1-10 and knockout matches were drawn by an independent adjudicator.

Despite intense competition and some controversial tactics from certain players, the tournament resulted in a final three-way play-off.

Alex and Rebecca

Quiz winners Alex and Rebecca

However it was Alex Whitaker’s calm, composed display in the final which saw him crowned champion in the Crucible. He earned himself the coveted grand-prize (and some fantastically festive footwear).

Alongside the drama of the balls and pockets, we also organised fundraising quizzes for clients, suppliers and staff. These tested our musical knowledge and our ability to identify flags, films and fish. Once again Renaissance man Alex triumphed alongside quiz partner Rebecca Jackson.

 

The main event however, was the novelty of wearing slippers around the workplace as we uploaded our ‘slipper selfies’ on Twitter. Last year, Shelter documented over 400 photos and – we sought to better this all by ourselves!

 

The 2015 prize for ‘Most Homemade Effort’ went to Simon Baylis for his creation and elsewhere, bells jingled and tinsel glistened underfoot as the tweets flew out on social media.

 

At the end of the day, we had managed to raise an impressive £170 (and nine pence) for Shelter!

Thank you to everyone who took part and helped support an incredible charity whose campaign is giving hope to those without a home this Christmas.

Fancy footwear on display

Fancy footwear on display

 

Stay safe on social

Social media is now not only a key component of how companies communicate with their customers and clients, but is often the first point of contact between public and organisation beyond well-crafted marketing, advertising and PR messages cultivated to develop a brand. However, while these messages are the result of countless hours and financial investment, a brand can be severely damaged by one misfiring tweet sent in a second of misjudgement.

Convincing much?

Convincing much?

You may be surprised how many major companies have had their fair share of Facebook fiascos and Twitter troubles – take a look at a few of the worst and see where it’s all gone wrong!

Don’t underestimate the power of Twitter

While tweeting plot snippets may seem a great way to drum up interest for an upcoming video game, live-tweeting a hyper-realistic, but thankfully fictional, terrorist attack definitely isn’t. However, this is exactly what the Call of Duty Twitter account did in a series of tweets that detailed an unfolding ‘attack’ in Singapore.

Not only were the tweets closely modelled on the way real news organisations tweet about terrorist attacks as news rolls in, but the account had convincingly rebranded itself to mimic a real news site.

While the tweets did progressively become more far-fetched, leading many to realise this was a PR stunt, the initial shock fooled quite a few of the account’s 2.8 million followers – a good example of the importance of understanding the power Twitter can hold and how quickly something can spread!

Use common sense!police

Tweeting about serious matters is something which should always be handled delicately. One definite no-no, however, is piggybacking on a tragedy and its related hashtags to try and sell a product.

You’d be surprised how many big brands have fallen for this one; from Build-a-Bear’s tweet featuring a bear in combat fatigues on the anniversary of 9/11 to Kenneth Cole’s tweet during the Arab Spring suggesting that the uproar was due to the release of its new spring collection, it’s shocking how often companies have trivialised serious events in an effort to promote themselves.

However, social media gaffes of this ilk are not always a crass attempt at selling products – sometimes badly misjudging a response can be even worse. After Everton defeated Sunderland 6-2 a Twitter user, in a poor attempt at humour, decided to tweet to the official Merseyside Police account.

For an institution such as the police to trivialise something as severe as rape with an insensitive joke is nothing less than shocking and led to a huge backlash. Of course, the individual in question has been sacked, but the damage to the organisation had been done.

Check and double check

Disney Japan fell foul of a lack of due care when a seemingly innocuous tweet referencing the lyrics of an Alice in Wonderland song turned into a nightmare due to a combination of unfortunate translation and poor timing. The offending lyrics “A very merry unbirthday to you!” seem harmless enough in English – however in Japanese this read more like “Congratulations on a not special day.” Coupled with the fact that this was tweeted on the 70th anniversary of the US nuclear bombing of Nagasaki it created a rather awkward situation. While there was no intended malice or insensitivity in this tweet, a bit of thought would have saved a few red faces!

morrisonsSpelling

While it may not cause offense in the same manner as the above examples, getting your spelling wrong makes your brand seem amateurish and unprofessional. Morrison’s attempt to tweet about Bonfire Night last week was a bit of a facepalm moment:

 

Of course, it’s not all bad news! A well-managed social media account is a crucial arm of developing an approachable, human face for companies. These bad examples are vastly outweighed by stories of social media being used to an organisation’s advantage – often generating excellent results, both commercially and in terms of public goodwill.

Here at Acceleris we’re experts in developing and managing social media accounts to ensure our clients are engaging with their target audience in the best way possible. Why not give us a call to see what we can do for you?