Tag Archive for communications

Fishing for Leadership in 2017

Ben Rowe – Account Executive

Most people would agree 2016 played host to a seismic shift in world politics. With Article 50 on the verge of being triggered, people from all walks of life are wondering what the future holds for them in post-Brexit Britain. Not least, the fishing industry.

You may think the challenges facing commercial fishing are well established. For example, fishing holds the longstanding title of ‘most dangerous occupation in the world’ with the fatal accident rate over 100 times that of the general workforce in the UK.

Additionally, fishing is an industry we are heavily reliant on and has rich historical ties with our island nation. Around 80% of us consume seafood at least once a month and the UK fishing industry remains crucially important to many coastal towns.

Criticism, however, is never far away. Organisations such as Greenpeace have run regular sensationalist campaigns condemning the effects of fishing, including excess bycatch, discards, diminishing stocks, environmental damage and animal welfare.

 

Source: BBC

 

 

External pressures are only going to add to an already turbulent discussion. Brexit negotiations throw quotas and the jurisdiction of waters up in the air, making the future for fishermen particularly hazy.

In January, Prime Minister Theresa May came under attack from UK fishermen for ‘betraying’ them when outlining the government’s plans for the negotiations with the EU after the triggering of Article 50. In a Brexit speech at Westminster, May was deemed to have failed to address the future of UK fisheries and the relationship with the rest of Europe once ties are cut on Union membership. Fears about fishing being used as a ‘bargaining chip’ in negotiations only served to raise the stakes for a proud industry which MEP Mike Hookem believes could be a ‘shot in the arm’ for the country post-Brexit.

This new political environment and subsequent change does, however, present an opportunity to those within the fishing industry. Customers will be looking for reliability, consistency and stability among the uncertainty. With strong communications there is the chance to be a leading light in what may appear an uncertain time. Building a strong media presence can position you as the voice of the industry. It is perhaps not a time to rock the boat, as being consistent and reliable can breed confidence and trust.

Currently, 66% of UK fish exports go to the EU, meaning tariff-free or low-tariff trade could be vital to Britain in the coming years. Brexit will mean the UK leaves the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and gains the right under international law to control who fishes within its waters.

Whilst many see the UK’s impending release from EU ties as positive for the fishing industry, there are warnings to be considered. The CFP is a taboo topic in many industry circles and whilst ‘taking back control’ of British waters is a popular mantra, those working in fisheries will have to act smartly to ensure any potential freedom is enjoyed responsibly.

 

Source: Press Association

 

 

These concerns, and more, highlight the need for communications to be carefully managed and balanced with good practice to maintain successful operations within fishing companies. If companies show good preparation in their handling of the media and act first, fast and frank in the case of an incident, it can put them on the front foot rather than relying on reactionary measures.

Acceleris has worked with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) since 2013, landing six awards in the process, at both national and European level.

Just days after starting work with the NFFO, we established an integrated crisis communications plan when they came up against a direct attack from Greenpeace, coinciding with ground-breaking European legislation change and a protest lobby led by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. From a standing start, Acceleris achieved five of seven annual objectives in the first month, landing 88 pieces of coverage (89% positive), 135 million positive opportunities to see and laid the foundations for a much higher media profile, including coverage on Newsnight and in The Times.

We have since challenged misconceptions about the fishing industry through campaigns such as ‘Let Them Eat Hake’, the championing of Britain’s most sustainable fish, in 2014. Through a radio day, celebrity endorsements, hake tasting sessions attended by opinion formers and the use of video, the celebration of sustainability changed the conversation from concerns about overfishing, generating significant positive coverage across media platforms over a prolonged period.

We have the experience and expertise to make a difference from the get-go.

Challenges to fishing are not going to go away in a hurry. The balance between operating successfully at a financial level and maintaining responsibility is a difficult one to manage. If you need support steering through these turbulent times, we are here to help. Give us a call today on 0845 4567 251 or send an email to ellies@acceleris-mc.com.

How Trump Blindsided the Media

Rebecca Jackson, Senior Account Manager

It was ‘the Sun wot won it’ in ‘92, but last year’s politics turned the media on its head, with unpredictable results from Brexit and across the pond in the Presidential elections.

Donald Trump romped to a shock victory in November and journalists across the world were left dumbfounded by the result; but should we really have been surprised? Trump is a shrewd businessman and though his campaign may have appeared erratic at times, he knows how to manipulate the media effectively, overshadowing Hilary Clinton with his ready-built social media following and a series of stunts, outrageous claims and soundbites guaranteed to generate enormous media coverage.

Traditional media

This was the first American election in years where newspaper endorsements had little effect on the outcome. According to a report by the Guardian, in partnership with Columbia Journalism Review, The Nieman Lab counted 360 titles that backed Hilary Clinton in the race for the White House, including the Dallas Morning News, which voiced its support for a Democratic candidate for the first time since 1940, and USA Today which endorsed its first Presidential candidate ever.

Trump was supported by just 11 publications, but it made little difference. In fact, the media’s willingness to attack Trump is thought to have turned many people towards him, with broadcast channels whipping up such a frenzy around the Trump campaign, they inadvertently gave him substantial coverage at a critical time. According to a study by mediaQuant, Trump benefited from the equivalent of more than $5 billion worth of free airtime from earned media. In return, television channels enjoyed a massive ratings spike – meaning Trump’s messages were front of mind for the American public when going to the polls.

Social media

As for social media; this was pivotal in directly communicating with Trump’s supporters, and his tweets are more popular than those of any other American politician. Whilst his aides revoked Tweeting rights during the final weeks of the campaign according to the New York Times, the appeal of Trump’s stream of consciousness, un-edited, often late-night views led to direct media coverage almost every morning of the campaign as he attacked people and organisations with outrageous statements.

 

Source: twitchy.com

 

What next?

If the election campaign has taught us anything, it’s that anything could happen next. Trump is explosive and unpredictable and his Presidency is likely to be the same, with far-reaching consequences.

Last week, we saw BuzzFeed publish an unverified and unsubstantiated report detailing potentially classified information. Trump responded in typical fashion, but really we must question what level we have come to when a platform can run such a potentially damaging, and as yet unfounded, report, just days before the inauguration of the next President, a day after the farewell speech of President Obama and just hours before Trump delivered a press conference to journalists and media outlets who have made no secret of their dislike for the President elect.

And his media strategy doesn’t just impact on international relations; a San Francisco-based tech company, Trigger, has just launched a special feature on an app that will alert traders to the President elect’s latest comments about publically-listed companies, based on which they can then trade, due to Trump’s potential to “eradicate billions of dollars in market cap from large companies.”

Shares in Toyota plummeted within minutes of a negative tweet from Trump in January, causing the company to lose more than $1 billion in value.

 

Source: The Real Donald Trump

 

In many ways, last year showed us traditional media cannot influence politics and democracy in the ways it used to and social media is becoming increasingly important in connecting individuals and brands directly to their audiences. The media landscape is changing so it’s important to have a professional on your side when you’re navigating the journey – something we know more than a little bit about. We might not use Trump’s tactics to get you in the press, but get in touch today to find out how we can help your business generate great coverage – or avoid a crisis!

The key to cereal success?

Katie Wadsworth - Copywriter / Account Executive, Acceleris

Katie Wadsworth – Copywriter / Account Executive

On Monday 4th July, cereal giant Kellogg’s opened its first ever restaurant in New York’s Times Square. While it may seem a little strange to open a café dedicated to cereal, Kellogg’s is not the first, with similar outfits including the Cereal Killer Café in Camden and Brick Lane, London. Both businesses are capitalising on the experience economy which has evolved from the modern consumer’s desire to interact with brands and experience something which is, ultimately, Instagram worthy.

Kellogg’s is not the first brand to tap into the experience economy; other companies include Magnum which has created a series of ‘pleasure stores’ where customers can craft their perfect Magnum from a variety of indulgent toppings, and Italian fashion house Armani, which has its own luxury hotels in Milan and Dubai.

Magnum London

Source: Magnum

The move by the cereal giant to open a café comes as it was recently revealed that in the past 15 years, cereal sales have fallen by almost 30 per cent*. Cereal companies are often vilified for producing products containing too much sugar, fat and salt, and now they are struggling to impress a cynical, health-conscious audience.

Once considered the only breakfast option, and a fast one at that, cereal is no longer quick enough to keep up with our busy lives, with consumers favouring breakfast bars or yoghurt which they can transport more easily. Almost 40 per cent of millennials surveyed by Mintel* also said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it!

Kellogg’s has engaged top American chef, Christina Tosi, to devise new recipes from the home favourite cereals, including creations such as ‘Pistachio & Lemon’ (spiked Frosted Flakes and Special K) and ‘The Circus’ (Raisin Bran, peanuts and banana chips). Andrew Shripka, associate director of brand marketing at Kellogg’s, said: “We could have put a great recipe on the box. But this is much more powerful.”

‘Milk-based creations’ on display at Kellogg’s New York. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

‘Milk-based creations’ on display at Kellogg’s New York. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

It appears the company didn’t want to just stage a PR stunt – although the opening has been covered by everyone from Reuters, to The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian – instead they are trying to encourage consumers to experiment and look at cereal as a dining event rather than a mundane experience. Each customer also gets a free toy, which goes some way to recapturing the joy of childhood!

Tapping into the experience economy is a good way for companies to engage with their consumers, and while it may initially be the novelty factor which will draw people in to the café, the space will serve an important function for Kellogg’s in the long term. Other brands that have set up cafés, for example Chobani – an American yoghurt brand which opened a café in New York in 2012 – has seen its café double in size since opening, with sales growing annually by 40 per cent.

Chobani’s New York café has also served as a place for the company to try out new items and a number of new product lines, including a range of mezze dips, have been created following customer feedback and trials.

So while the venture may seem a little surreal at first mention, the Kellogg’s Times Square café could breathe new life into the brand and perhaps even become a cereal success!

Acceleris is no stranger to launching brands and has helped many companies – from local confectioners to large third sector organisations – build and maintain their reputations, both in the UK and worldwide. For more information on our credentials, take a look at our website.

*Mintel report, 2015

Keeping your reputation ship shape

Crucial in any industry – but why especially so for fishing?

The fishing industry has come in for a lot of undue criticism over the last few years, with NGOs, politicians, journalists and campaigners all lining up to take a swipe. Many of these attacks can be characterised as sweeping statements backed by precious little factual evidence. Yet, attacks like these, even when founded on incorrect allegations, can cause serious damage to a company’s, or an entire industry’s, reputation. Therefore it is crucial that reputation management is seen as a necessary element of running your business and keeping it shipshape.

Recent research from BDO LLP and the Quoted Companies Alliance has shown small and medium sized companies attach 28 per cent of their value directly to reputation. With the UK fishing industry valued at more than £860m[1], that’s clearly quite a significant amount. As the fishing industry comes in for constant and heavy scrutiny, far more so than many other industries, one misstep can have severe consequences.

So just how serious an impact can a badly managed crisis have? When thinking about reputation meltdown and its impact on business value, a recent example that comes to mind is that of Volkswagen. The company lost over a third of its value (35 per cent) in just two days following the ‘dieselgate’ crisis where the company was found to be using cheat devices during emissions tests. That’s a hit of approximately €25bn.

The emergence of a crisis is sometimes completely unavoidable. What we remain in control of, however, is the response. Thankfully this is by far the most important aspect of ensuring reputations remain untarnished. It’s not too much to say that a well-crafted response to a crisis can be the difference between a short term nuisance and a permanently damaged reputation.

Our advice would be to ensure you’re first, fast and frank in your response to the issue. By being proactive in taking control of your response to customers, employees, suppliers, wider stakeholders and the media, you can set the tone for how it’s perceived down the line. If you’re seen to be addressing the situation seriously with a joined up plan across all your communications channels you can actually improve rather than damage the perception of your business.

It sounds easy when you put it like that, but to swiftly and effectively manage a crisis you need to have a plan in place long before you can see a potential issue looming on the horizon. By having a procedure clearly laid out for dealing with any problems, you’ll ensure your response is professional and level-headed. This includes identifying all operational responsibilities to communicating your plan of action – with digital media now being at the forefront of any crisis strategy.

However, reputation management is not all about deflecting crises. Proactively promoting a consistent, positive message about a business and its operations can be a brilliant boost to a business’ reputation and pays dividends in ensuring any negative issues are placed in the context of a much wider, positive piece.

The Saucy Fish Company recently won plaudits and a prestigious award for its School of Fish campaign, which saw a team of children prepare, cook and serve Saucy Fish products to a packed central London restaurant. By planning such a creative event, along with the inevitable cuteness factor brought by kids, the company pulled off a great stunt which led to substantial positive feedback – and the approval and increased interest of potential customers.

At Acceleris, we recently ran a proactive campaign of our own to dispel some of the myths surrounding the European fishing industry, communicating a more positive, consumer-friendly face for the sector. Working with Europêche, the European trade body representing 80,000 fishermen and 45,000 vessels from nine EU countries, Acceleris developed the consumer information portal iFish, designed to address the growing consumer appetite for information on the industry. The site provides facts and figures on the industry while boosting its favourability in the eyes of the public. The associated campaign secured almost 200 pieces of press coverage across Europe, reaching an audience of 140 million people. Every piece of coverage contained a positive message about the work of the industry and the campaign beat global brands including BP, BASF and Unilever to the European Excellence Award in Communications in Stockholm last December.

Clearly, the fishing industry has made good headway in recent years on improving its reputation and it’s great to see sympathetic programmes like The Catch and Trawlermen Tales hitting the mainstream. On the back of this, it’s brilliant to see the Fishing News Awards return after an eight year break. The awards, set to be held in Aberdeen on 26 May 2016, will celebrate the best commercial fishermen from across the UK and Ireland. With a fantastic buzz already surrounding the awards, this kind of event is exactly what the industry needs to capitalise, and improve even further, on its recent reputation boost.

Of course, everyday activity is crucial too – managing reputation is a continuing job. Most businesses don’t have the resources to put on a constant stream of events of this scale – likewise, it’s not simply enough to start trying to garner good favour once a crisis is already on your plate. Regularly share good news stories and CSR initiatives so people know the good work your business does. Not only is this good practice generally, it may determine how people react if a crisis does hit your company. It will also help you to develop strong relationships within the media which are useful to promote good news, but could also become handy when you have not-so good news to share.

The UK fishing industry provides over 31,000 jobs[2], almost £1bn to the economy and food security to the nation and abroad. Yet, these positive messages are in danger of becoming drowned out by well financed and well-resourced detractors. It’s time the industry took back the narrative and restored fishermen’s position as the heroes of the seas.

[1] The value of the 756,000 tonnes of sea fish landed by UK vessels into the UK and abroad.

[2] There are 11,800 active fishermen and 19,511 fish processors in the UK as of 2014

Putting a price on reputation!

The true value of business communications is well-known for being tough to measure, especially in the flinty eyes of accountants who expect to see a clear Return on Investment for their PR spend. But if the goal of your communications is to boost or protect reputation, how do you attach a financial figure to that?

Well, for UK-listed companies alone reputation is worth £1.7 trillion. That’s according to research by BDO LLP and the Quoted Companies Alliance. They spoke directly to businesses and asked them how much they thought their reputation was worth. Based on the impact on sales, share price and employee morale, it found small and mid-cap businesses attach 28 per cent of their value directly to reputation. This compares with the 2015 UK Reputation Dividend Report, which indicated that 30 per cent of the market value of the FTSE 100 is attributable to reputation.

When thinking about reputation meltdown and its impact on business value, a recent example that comes to mind is that of Volkswagen. The company lost about a third of its value (35 per cent) in just two days following what the media imaginatively called ‘dieselgate’. That’s approximately €25bn.

Of course the threat of large scale fines, costly vehicle recalls, private settlements and the shredding of trust and integrity all play a part in damaging the company’s worth. But a huge part is also the impact on VW’s future sales. One study says that for a company involved in fraud, the financial punishment imposed by the market (this means reduced future sales) is 7.5 times greater than the legal penalties they receive.

So, in answer to the initial question, can you put a price on reputation, I guess you can. Time to ask yourself what losing 28-35 per cent of your business would mean for you and your employees.

While you think on that, here are some tips for protecting that valuable reputation:

  1. Have a crisis management plan in place.

When the proverbial does hit the fan, having a plan already in place will help you minimise any impact. In fact, dealing with a crisis well can actually improve a business’ public standing. Try treating the situation as an opportunity. A crisis badly handled can severely damage the financial, operational as well as reputational viability of a business. A crisis well managed can actually enhance its reputation.

  1. Build and boost your reputation on a continuing basis.

Share good news stories and CSR initiatives so that people know the good work your business does. This may determine how people react when a crisis does hit your company. It will also help you develop strong relationships within the media that could become handy when you have not-so good news to share.

  1. Be first, fast and frank.

You can’t always prevent a crisis hitting. But you do have some control over how the media covers the story. Being the first to publically announce it, rather than an unhappy customer, journalist or whistle blower, can help you set the tone. Of course, you also need to be frank and honest. It won’t make a difference being the first to announce the news if you’re found to be dishonest later down the line.

For a final thought, and as our chief executive likes to say, reputation is hard-earned and quickly lost. Be sure to look after it.

Acceleris recently won the ‘Issues and Reputation Management’ trophy at the prestigious European Communications Excellence awards. It is the second time the agency has scooped the award, winning it last in December 2013.

Jack Williams
Jack Williams - Account Manager, Acceleris

Jack Williams – Account Manager

What does 2016 hold for PR?

It’s been so informative reading through the insightful array of peer predictions pinning down industry trends for 2016 on PR Moment. No-one in communications today can deny that there is opportunity in deep, intuitive knowledge of unmissable content, brought to life through an unimaginably diverse and perpetually changing spread of tactical approaches that clients now expect. I can’t be the only person drenched in simultaneous fright and delight thinking of the smorgasbord of widgets at our disposal as it explodes into a stellar galaxy spinning with opportunity. And then explodes a bit more for good measure.

Could 2016 be the last time we see press releases?

Could 2016 be the last time we see press releases?

From the death of the press release (I’m definitely with you on that one @AnnaPRstar) to ‘mobilegeddon’, Google’s search prioritisation for mobile friendly sites (which Jas of @VitisPR believes will ultimately morph into a fully blown propriety OS), the inevitable has come to pass – exploiting patterns of digital adoption will define our future success. Not the tech. Not the channels. But who uses them. And if they keep using them. And trying to spot who will use what, next.

For 2016, I believe technology is becoming simultaneously our greatest strength and potentially, our biggest weakness.

Our greatest strength because of the value in well-placed, enduring and high quality content in creating the sticky paths that lead to conversions and profits.

Our greatest weakness because of the sheer vastness and momentum of change – place a foot wrong and your content will be kicked to the kerb or smashed under the weight of the rest of the traffic on the information superhighway. And yes I’m showing my age there.

My two buzzwords? Adoption and aggregation. More power to the communications professional who can spot where those two are headed.

According to @richard_dobbs, James Manyika and @Jonathan_Woetzel of McKinsey, “It took more than 50 years for after the telephone was invented until half of all American homes had one. It took radio 38 years to attract 50m listeners. But Facebook attracted 6 million users in its first year and that number will multiply 100 times over the next five years”.

Measuring success is more important to PR than ever

Measuring success is more important to PR than ever

What’s remarkable is that now (mostly) everyone has joined the party, we’re at the stage of trying to simplify how people interact with full screens of information from tools and platforms as they grow more complex; at the same time a data deluge gives us knowledge like never before.

We used to log on to a branded site, read why we should get involved and buy direct. Next, price comparison sites brought us the best options from across the market. Where does this aggregation end? I know Uber ratings system for customers has given another side to that dynamic, perhaps we’ll see graded consumers getting different messaging to drive loyalty. Only adoption will tell.

Another of my favourite themes is our enduring (and now totally frantic) obsession with measurement, which according to Bryan Garvie of the BIG Partnership, should now be solid as a rock thanks to the hard evidence provided by digital. Whilst we do have a razor sharp ability to microsegment our audiences based on their behaviours, clicks, comments and tweets, @DeborahCopeland of BT hit on the theme of ‘data landfill’ that still haunts me to this day.

@googleanalytics, @TweetDeck and the measurement tools in @coveragebooks have the potential to become the next AVE if we’re not consistently testing and challenging, so a rigorous approach to data quality when measuring is in everyone’s interest.

I trialled coverage book recently and was instantly mesmerised by its beautiful magic stats, revealed like symbols lined up in the winning window of a one arm bandit.

I’d no idea what wizardry put them there, so as freemium tools nibble at us on a daily basis with their promise of an answer to our endless quest for measurement’s holy grail, we do need to be cautious in using data as they can be perceived as the new stats as far as clients are concerned, massaged to say what we want them to. How efficient we are in comparing different sets of data to build a bigger more robust picture will be an ever-evolving art for our industry.

futureproofAlso, almost overnight, tried and tested methods can be rendered useless if a feature is withdrawn from an aggregate measurement tool for example as happened with Coverage Book and Twitter.

In an industry that prides itself on being one step ahead, dealing with the creative and cutting edge ways in which to do very specific tasks more efficiently and effectively for clients can be unnerving. Yet at the same time sharing and collaborating – our own aggregation – has become essential just to make sense of the volume of information at our disposal and to navigate mutually beneficial paths through.

If digital tech is stellar, the Internet of Things is also going to send opportunity stratospheric. Think designing communications campaigns to include talking robots in people’s homes and you’ll be on the money. Perhaps not for 2016 but I don’t think we’re far off. And copies of #FuturePRoof the ICCO and PRCA’s progressive thoughts on the future of public relations management is available now to make sure we’ve an eye on 2017 and beyond.

 

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.

Serial Thrillers: Is PR ready to podcast?

** WARNING – THIS BLOG CONTAINS (UNNECESSARY) TV & FILM SPOILERS **

Audio podcasts have been about since around 2007. In that time there have been a few big hits and of course a few channels with hopelessly devoted subscribers. Some have even managed to build celebrity careers out of the most popular podcasts, Karl Pilkington for example, who first came to wider attention on The Ricky Gervais Show.

Yet there hasn’t really been a podcast that brought the media format to the masses and dictated a cultural mood. Until Serial that is.

For those outside the zeitgeist, very quickly, Serial is a podcast first released in October 2014 that explores the 15 year old murder of an American teenager over 12 audio episodes led by broadcast journalist Sarah Koenig. It has become an absolute smash hit and is at the forefront of a trend for armchair detectives also containing nonfiction TV programmes like The Jinx (best documentary I’ve ever watched), dramas such as True Detective and even the BBC’s digital whodunit The Last Hours of Laura K.

Serial

It ranked at No. 1 on iTunes even before it débuted, reached five million downloads faster than any other podcast before it and won a prestigious Peabody award, the first podcast to be recognised with the award for excellence in radio, TV or online media. But perhaps the greatest demonstration of its cultural effect is the online forum Reddit creating a separate page purely for listeners to discuss the podcast in-depth and share their theories on what really happened to the high-school student.

But can a podcast become a marketing tool?

A recent article on Digiday.com suggests absolutely, yes. According to the piece, Serial’s producers have been in Cannes over the last week wooing brands for advertising ahead of the release of the second series later this year. And they’ve got the numbers for some pretty persuasive negotiations.

A survey of Serial subscribers found that 81 per cent of listeners could correctly recall a season one sponsor. Averaging seven million listeners each week it knocks out the park many hit TV shows. The recent Game of Thrones season five finale where *** **** was unexpectedly murdered, for example, achieved just 1.7 million viewers.

Spoliers

So advertising is a shoo-in for the podcast market, but can communications enter this space?

Perhaps if we take a look at why Serial has so enraptured its audience you’ll see why PR might be an easy fit.

Essentially it is just long form journalism and storytelling (albeit done to a very high standard). So nothing new and in fact two skills PRs have possessed since the dawn of comms. Sarah Koenig is a recognised master at the art of storytelling, but so is PR, which is why marketers are really secretly super jealous of what we do.

Side note: It’s also really promising for those of us who lament news becoming nothing more than 140 character headlines and click-bait images to see there really is appetite for in-depth analysis and newsgathering.

Clickbait
How can podcasting work for clients?

As has been seen with the growth in owned media, audiences are open to receiving branded content, provided it serves a purpose. This could mean entertainment, or perhaps it is instructive or could just be plain interesting. If your client has something to say and an audience wants to hear it, why not consider making a podcast?

In terms of what to do once you’ve got your podcast the principle is no different to any other content – share, share and share! Growing subscribers is the same for any returning audience medium, like Twitter or a newsletter – create good content consistently and they’ll come.

Your client may not become the next Serial or Karl Pilkington – fingers crossed on that last one – but communications isn’t about being the loudest. It’s about being clear with a message and perhaps audio will help you do that in a way an article, tweet or even video simply can’t. And with brand recall figures and listener devotion at the level seen from the Serial podcast, it seems foolish not to at least try.