Trends

Add value or stay home: How marketing teams can approach Coronavirus

· Strategy, Trends, Tricks of the trade · , ,

Byline by Susan Horn, Head of Insights & Strategy

The speed with which Coronavirus has turned our world upside down has been dizzying. Some of us are still in the depths of denial, while others are coming to terms with the forced reality of social distancing and lockdowns. And while Information from China indicates that some form of normality may return after just three months, it’s clear that financial recovery from this crisis will take much longer.  

According to some reports, Australian consumers are coping relatively well (toilet paper and a flagrant disregard for social distancing rules aside), with GlobalWebIndex indicating that Australians on the whole remain relatively positive. But a survey by Omnipoll a week later argued that we’re also feeling helpless, scared and isolated. In reality, it depends who you ask and when you ask them. What we can be sure of, however, is that consumers will be racing through a vast range of emotions as they adapt to this new realityand brands need to keep pace. 

Business sectors that have been able to pivot quickly from offline to online and keep their customers connected, informed or entertained are the ones keeping their heads above water. With social media usage increasing as people spend more time alone at homeprioritising and adding value via your online channels now is non-negotiable 

But be warned. Consumers are being bombarded with messages from brands desperate to appear concerned, informed or empatheticBefore adding your brand voice to the melee, make sure it’s for the right reasons, as brands that are seen to be self-serving won’t do well.  

Add value, bring empowerment and provide comfort  

In times of uncertainty, people are looking for a sense of control – it’s why everyone panic bought loo roll. Sothink about how your brand can help customers regain that sense of empowerment. Brands that are also able to authentically add value now, and sustain it through the crisis, will come out the other side with loyal customers. 

Last week, UK fitness trainer Joe Wicks announced that he was launching ‘P.E. with Joe’, a livestreamed fitness class for kids in lockdown. The idea came after his planned tour of schools was cancelled. He achieved a perfect pivot from offline to online, with the first broadcast already amassing over 5 million views – many of whom are parents joining their kids and discovering just how unfit they really are – far greater than the original 10,000 kids he would have reached on tour. 

In one week, Wicks was elevated from the status of just another fitness influencer into a darling of the Nation because his classes add value. As Wicks says, “If this takes just a bit of pressure off parents, makes kids a little fitter and happier and gives them some structure to their day, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do”. Based on consumer feedback, he’s also landed on a fantastic way for kids and parents to connect in a crisis. 

Where can your brand add value or enhance comfort? What can you do that actively alleviates the pressure, boredom or challenges of combining living and working at home? How can you help make lockdown a more pleasant (or at least tolerable) experience?  

Adapt to new formats

To maintain connection with consumers over the coming months, consider what productsservices or content you can deliver direct into the homeThen, broaden your channel mix. We know engagement with podcasts, social media and livestreams is increasing. There’s also been a slight increase in usergenerated content, which may become more exaggerated as boredom kicks in. How can you adapt your marketing plan to suit these formatsCan you create new digital touchpoints for your audiences now that physical touchpoints are no longer there? 

Give a little

Before you jump in with service offerings at a price, it’s important to establish your objectives for any COVID-related activity. According to the GlobalWebIndex study54% of Australians believe brands should be offering free services during the outbreak. If your objective is to come out the other side with a loyal following, think carefully about what you charge for. 

Babbel has made its language learning app free for three months to students in the USA following a successful trial in Italy, and Cirque Du Soleil has launched a digital hub offering free livestreams, VR experiences and tutorials from performersJoe Wicks’ classes are free, and last week Nike joined the plethora of fitness and wellness brands offering free app access during the crisis.  

And it’s not just B2C businesses that can add value. Messaging provider MessageMedia just launched a free assistance package to help struggling Australian cafes and restaurants switch to an SMS-based ‘text in’ operating model for orders, which could help keep some businesses afloat through the crisis.

Taking into account that somewhere between 15-20% of free trials generally convert to paid customers, you could set yourself up for a positive recovery by foregoing short term revenue in favour of building brand affinity. 

Plan for the recovery

Finally, don’t wait until recovery starts to begin work on your post-Coronavirus strategy. To recover quickly, brands need to be ready to hit the ground running when the lockdowns are lifted. There will be opportunities to help customers re-establish social connections and start a new version of their life.  

You don’t want to be the one playing catch up when that time comes. Marketers always long for more time to focus on strategy and planning, so take this as permission to get started. 

And in the meantime, if you can’t truly add value right nowStay Home. 

Content Marketing in the time of Coronavirus

· Content Marketing, Digital and Experience, Trends, Tricks of the trade

With the latest Coronavirus update, Australia and the world at large is entering a period of extreme uncertainty. Government regulations, socialisation restrictions and economic forecasts we have not seen in our lifetime are impacting every industry, with many businesses going into damage control to reduce the potential impact over the coming months.  

As Australia moves towards a lockdown, social media platforms and online publications will be our biggest connections with our community – and Facebook is already reporting higher than usual uptake as social isolation is on the rise across the globe. This presents an opportunity for brands to ‘stay in the game’ and continue engaging their audiences online, but there’s a fine line between keeping morale up and capitalising on a global pandemic.  

While this situation is highly unprecedented and we’re all wading through these uncharted waters together, we have developed some guiding principles to help our clients (and ourselves) engage with audiences during this time.   

Don’t stick your head in the sand

Unless you’re in an industry that is called out directly by the government regulations or pose a high risk to the public, it may not be necessary to send out daily updates on the situation or your response. It is however important to acknowledge the current climate and how you can continue to support your audiences during the pandemic. This can be as simple as an eDM, LinkedIn or social media post letting your customers or stakeholders know how your business is reacting and the measures you’re putting in place to support your staff. It’s also important to alert them if any of your services may be affected in this time and how you’re working to maintain them in the coming year. 

Be respectful with your ads

It has never been more important to ‘read the room’ when planning your content and review the tone and content of your ads. Is it relevant to the current climate? Is it empathic to your audience’s situation? Run a careful eye over your copy for any seemingly playful phrases that could be misinterpretedThe public are looking for good news stories, but overly joyful visuals can be a bit jarring in the current climate. Promoting your coronavirus update itself can also rub your audience the wrong way so consider whether it is truly urgent before you amplify. Review everything three times before posting, just to be safe.  

Prepare to pivot

From the arts sector to sports, we’ve seen some of our biggest industries crumble in the past weeks. How you’re able to adapt is a strong sign of stability and resilience, so contingency planning should be a part of every conversation. Sure, nobody wants to plan for the worst, but by considering these options you just may develop a solution that could be even better for your business. From live streamed events to delivery services, this could be an opportunity for your business to evolve in ways you never expected. 

Shake up your strategy

While you’re pivoting your offering, make sure your strategy is agile so you can respond to the needs of your brand in this time. Customer-focussed and real-world conversions might need to be replaced with brand awareness strategies. Or focus on educational content that answers some of your audience’s biggest questions in isolation. All businesses are preparing for impact, particularly those in service-based industries, so building a strong brand foundation and stating in front of mind now can help support your business in the second half of the year. 

Don’t be a digital drain

The most important thing right now is that you’re being supportive: to your customers, your suppliers and your employees. We’re all going to get incredibly fatigued by any mention of COVID-19 this year, so even if you’re sharing content that feels relevant to these times, it may be best if you just leave the obvious thing unsaid and keep the COVID out of your captions. As much as possible, allude to the situation without spelling it out. For example, when you talk about spending more time at home, the public will understand the background without needing to be reminded about the virus. 

It can be difficult to feel positive when we’re faced with uncertainty about our futures and fistfights over toilet paper, but as content marketers we have an amazing capacity to support our online communities in this time, as long as the tone and strategy is right. For brands, consumers will want to be entertained, educated and inspired in the coming months, giving us plenty of opportunities to connect with them. After all, there’s only so much Netflix each person can binge. 

Why marketers need to ditch clip count as the measure of PR success

· Public Relations, Trends · , ,

Volume KPIs are detrimental to the PR profession, encourage transactional media relationships and undermine a marketers’ ability to measure their true impact.

These days, marketers need to add ‘mathematician’ to their job description. The focus on developing data-led strategies, optimising campaigns and reporting back on business impact with hard metrics mean marketers are plugging numbers into spreadsheets, calculating percentages and compiling platform analytics like a data scientist.

Yet, for too long, public relations, or more specifically media relations programs, have sat as a separate, touchy feely, enigmatic and intangible part of the marketing mix. Unmeasurable by anything but the most basic of metrics – clip count and circulation.

It’s worth pausing for a second and reflecting on how archaic a metric clip count really is: the count of how many media stories a brand is mentioned in, initiated or influenced by a PR team.

When I started my career as an issues and crisis management specialist over a decade ago, the thought of measuring our achievements by clip count would have been laughable. In fact, no story at all was often a win.

When I moved into a more traditional PR agency role at Keep Left, the majority of our campaigns were focussed on achieving as many pieces of coverage for our clients’ stories. Our approach is much more nuanced these days – more on that later – but the reliance on clip count as the most important and widely understood metric persists across many of our clients and the broader industry today.

With the terrible news of AAP’s closure, I believe it’s now more important than ever to be promoting quality journalism and meaningful relationships with media. Rather than an approach to PR focussed on hitting a volume KPI, we need to be pursuing respectful media relationships built on value for audiences and the objectives of our clients.

Why is PR measurement stuck in the dark ages?

If I tapped one of my digital marketing colleagues on the shoulder and asked about the great work they’d been up to lately, they wouldn’t say, ‘I ran three link ads on Facebook, a sponsored story on Instagram and 30 display ads”. They’d talk about the impact of their work. The results of their campaigns driving engagement, traffic, or generating conversions that aligns with business objectives.

Why?  Because marketers are looking for efficiencies. Analysing what works and what doesn’t and optimising campaigns to minimise wasted resources and dollars along the way.

So why is this not the philosophy when it comes to earned media? Why can’t we reframe our picture of success from the pure existence of a story – to it being the right story, reaching the right audience at the right time and driving real business objectives?

pr- reporting

Striving for quality over quantity

I’ve seen first-hand the impact that just one high-quality piece of coverage can achieve for a client. And how ineffective one hundred pieces of tier two coverage can be.

We recently secured a profile piece for one of our start-up clients in a tier one airline magazine which resulted in more investor engagement and support for the business than the 15 other pieces combined. Because it was a high-quality engaging story that included all our key messages, stood out on the page and most importantly targeted the right ‘captive’ audience.

For the last 5 years at Keep Left we’ve been evolving a more qualitative approach to assessing and reporting on the impact of media coverage. It involves having clarity on a single set of metrics that paint a picture of the ideal piece of coverage for each individual client and campaign.

Essentially it asks us to think about what a ‘home run’ looks like for your business and makes that the benchmark. The type of coverage which generates a round of high-fives. The perfect score out of 100. We call it the Impact Score.

While it’s still a simple, one number metric, it packs some punch.

The Impact Score factors in elements like publication tier, length, sentiment, key messages penetration, social media shares, brand mentions and dozens of other factors. And because it’s 2020, we’ve proudly evolved it into a cloud-based digital platform accessible anywhere to our clients, on any device, at any time.

This more qualitative and customised approach to measurement has enabled our clients to think beyond just volume, to a more value-driven mindset, that’s aligned to their business strategy.

Being a live digital platform, we don’t have to wait until the end of a quarter or end of a campaign to know if we’re hitting the mark. We can learn, adjust and optimise as we go. Again, you wouldn’t let a Facebook campaign run for three months without checking its performance.

Ultimately, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So, let’s start thinking about earned media reporting in a more sophisticated way – and weening ourselves off the belief that more equals better.

Click here to learn more about Keep Left’s Impact Score.

The demise of the AAP could harm local journalism and have fatal consequences

· Trends · , ,

As someone that works in the media, I’ve been struck more immediately than most ‘fresh off the boat’ Brits by the strength of local press over here [in Australia] as is.

I read the Manly Daily every week now that I live in Sydney but haven’t read my local papers back home for at least a decade.

The problem for local British press is a lack of ad revenues. This is a problem shared by the Australian local press thanks to our digital overlords Facebook and Google, but in the UK it’s compounded by the overall dominance of the BBC.

Just last year the BBC announced it was planning a local press charity foundation to undo some of the damage. However, I fear it’s too little too late.

Why? There’s an element of local press reporting that’s muscle memory for starters. Understanding the implications of paragraph b subsection c of the local planning laws, as well as being able to piece together the vast array of colourful personalities that often make up a local council isn’t something anyone can pick up overnight.

More than that, the appetite for local press has dwindled too. A whole generation of Brits have grown up with very little connection to their local area, instead fed news by far more commercial entities, or a Westminster-centric BBC.

But it’s also too little too late in far more nefarious ways, the extent of which we will never really be able to understand. For example, following the Grenfell Tower fire – the beginning of the cladding issue which claimed 72 lives – the press was alive with pundits claiming that this could have been prevented by stronger local press.

And that’s entirely correct – especially given the local Grenfell residents association had long been making noise about power surges in the building, unchecked fire equipment, and congestion in the hallways – but with no local media outlet to hear them, it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Even now, 2.5 years later, little has been done to rectify this dearth of local reporting.

This is why the closure of the AAP yesterday fills me with dread. The organisation plays a huge role in court and parliamentary reporting, something that local papers often don’t have the resources to cover. And it’s even more concerning at a time when Australia is on the frontline of battling the reality of climate change, something that’s hitting more rural areas especially hard.

My hope would be that Australia galvanizes to shore up the future of the media platforms that care for its people (spoiler alert, that’s not Facebook or Google), especially as impact investment is on the rise. Surely as we look to clean up the flow of capital in our economy and ensure positive impact there’s a place for these bastions of local democracy.

Ultimately, the harsh reality is that when nobody is there reporting objectively on what local councils are doing, democracy starts to slide, and the results can be life threatening.

The Super Bowl ads worth watching

· Creative, Office updates, Trends

Let’s face it, super bowl commercials can be more entertaining than the game itself.

For us, super bowl isn’t just about athleticism, it’s about creativity. It’s wild, whacky ideas that are shared by advertising giants across the globe. Millions of dollars are injected into these ads, that are bolstered by creative insights and set advertising trends for the year ahead.

There is a whole lot more to these commercials than their 30 seconds of airtime, so we’ve jumped in and analysed what makes these videos so memorable.

Here are our top four…

Cheetos popcorn

We’ve all been there. Someone needs you to do something, but your fingers are covered in bright orange Cheetos dust. This universally shared experience is what makes this commercial so easy to connect with. We love the reversal of roles, where the hero uses this perceived inconvenience to his advantage. However, we did question the inclusion of MC Hammer. Cheetos nailed it, without the need for a cameo.

Hyundai Smaht Pahk

2019 was the year of ‘not behd, good syze’. Hyundai has capitalised on butchering the English language with a new catchphrase ‘smaht pahk’, coined by Rachel Dracht. By the end of this 30-second spot, you will be enthusiastically repeating the trademarked Hyundai phrase to your family and friends. When a commercial can influence your behaviour like this, you know it’s powerful advertising.

Mr Peanut

There’s nothing like the fiery death of a corporate mascot to imbue feelings of warmth for a brand during peak messaging season. It says the brand doesn’t take themselves too seriously, which is a smart move for fast-moving consumer goods, like peanuts. Mr Peanut may be dead, but the brand will live on in the minds of consumers across the globe.

Amazon Alexa

When you pitch a comedy to a movie studio they say “great, this will be cheap – you just need a few people on a road trip.” When you pitch a funny commercial to a producer, the first thing they ask is “how many dragons do you need?” This ad is a classic example of exuberant amounts of money being spent on CGI, celebrity cameos and costumes. But we love it, nonetheless. Where would we be without Amazon Alexa?

Do you have a favourite commercial that didn’t make it to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Keep Left’s Impact Score quantifies the value of earned media

· Public Relations, Trends

How to effectively measure and communicate the value of earned media, is a question that’s plagued the PR industry for years.

Marketing communications agency Keep Left has taken a step forward in solving this with a major update of its proprietary earned media evaluation and reporting tool, the Impact Score.

Available from February 2020, the all-new Impact Score will allow clients to better understand the quality and impact of their earned media coverage through live reporting and in the context of their specific business or communications objectives.

The Impact Score’s algorithm grades each piece of media coverage out of a possible score of 100, based on how well it performs against a broad set of success metrics, as well a specific metrics relevant to that client. The higher the score, the greater the impact.

The Impact Score is now a cloud-based, digital dashboard that can provide live reporting, supporting a more data-driven approach to public relations, with greater accountability.

Keep Left CEO, Caroline Catterall, said: “The Impact Score ensures our team really has their finger on the pulse in terms of campaign performance, and can share live updates with clients.

“This means we don’t have to wait until the end of quarter or end of campaign to know if we’ve generated the results our clients care about, and that truly add value for their business.”

Catterall added this major update to the Impact Score had been born out of half a decade of learning and fine-tuning. “We first launched the Impact Score in 2014 and over the last five years have refined the evaluation methodology to factor in shifts in media landscape. The new algorithm applies all these learnings.”

Charlie Spendlove, Head of Marketing & Communications at Guide Dogs Victoria and NSW/ACT said: “Guide Dogs have worked with Keep Left for the past seven years. We introduced the Impact Score as part of our earned media analysis when it launched in 2014. It ensures activity is always results-driven and based on Guide Dogs’ overarching communications objectives.”

Other updates to the Impact Score include customer KPI tracking against a project’s scope of work, the ability to measure syndicated coverage, coverage log generation, and the inclusion of podcasts as a measurement option alongside TV, radio, online and print.

The Impact Score is available free of charge to Keep Left’s clients. From mid-2020, multinational clients will have the option to licence the platform to their international agency partners so that all markets can report on their impact, using the same methodology and platform.

Three reasons we ‘like’ the removal of social media likes

· Content Marketing, Trends, Tricks of the trade

When Instagram announced the removal of likes on the platform, we mourned the easy access we had to an influencer’s top line engagement metrics; concerned about what it would mean for social media and influencer marketing.

Three months on, Facebook has now decided to trial the removal of likes in Australia. This is a bold decision for the social media giant who made the ‘thumbs up’ a globally recognised symbol of online popularity and approval.

When Facebook announced the major platform change on Monday, the social media giant cited similar motivations that led Instagram to remove the like count. Mia Farlick, the ANZ Director of Policy at Facebook said, ‘the test aimed to help people focus less on likes and more on telling a story’. From this, we can conclude that it’s a way of harnessing the social elements of the platform and shifting away from the popularity contest that negatively affected the mental health of many Australians.

Three months on, we also believe this change has also benefitted the world of social media and influencer marketing.

Here are 3 reasons why we should be celebrating the removal of likes:

We can measure what matters

While likes are a great way to measure how engaged your audience is with your content, it has been known to overshadow more important metrics, like driving traffic to a website. Now that this ‘vanity’ metric is hidden, it gives us the opportunity to explore other measurement options that are likely more important for a client’s bottom line.

It could lead to more authentic content from influencers

The removal of likes allows influencers to experiment with new types of creative that break away from highly curated feeds and ‘polished’ content. This could be beneficial for brand collaborations by making their endorsements carry more weight due to the influencers not being so dependent on the validation of likes.

It could create more genuine communities

By removing the like count, we can use social media platforms to create more conversation. This means encouraging comments and creating a space where a consumer’s opinions are valued. Perhaps this change will entice consumers to write a comment or send a DM instead of hitting the like button, creating genuine consumer-brand relationships.

What’s next?

At this stage, we don’t know if the removal of likes will become the platform’s standard operating procedure. But we’re hoping this change is here to stay.

Could the follower count be next to go?

Putting a spin on data: media relations in the digital age

· Trends, Tricks of the trade

Australia’s lagging broadband speed aside, the amount of data we produce daily is astronomical. And it’s only set to increase. By 2020, there will be 40 times more bytes of data than there are stars in the universe.

This data economy has paved the way for whole new industries – tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook wouldn’t be where they are today if not for their complex algorithms which analyse trillions of data points on billions of people every day.

For traditional industries like media, understanding data has become a matter of survival. The changing ways we consume media has put a strain on traditional news outlets, which have seen major contraction.

But in true Darwinist fashion – data savvy media are thriving.

Australia’s most visited online news outlets (the likes of your News.com.au and Daily Mail) have seen readership surge through the adoption of a churn and burn publishing model, which feeds data on article clicks, shares and search performance straight back into editorial planning.

Successful online publications are agile, reactive and (thanks to data) understand their readers implicitly. As a result, their stories consistently climb to the top of our news feeds.

Media has evolved, it’s time we did too

Public relations professionals have traditionally relied less on data and more on experience to inform strategy, at least compared to their counterparts in other marketing disciplines.

You could argue that an industry built on relationships doesn’t have the same need to digitise its practices – but to really claim a deep understanding of today’s media, we need to start looking at the news cycle with the same analytical lens.

When applied to PR, data is an amazing tool. You can use data to predict news cycles and trends, discover the topics and content formats that track higher for social engagement, and even pinpoint the best day of the week or time of the day to go out with your story.

On top of ideation, data can help identify the publications and journalists that have the highest share of voice on a given topic, allowing us to better tailor the news we share with them, and ultimately get our clients’ word in front of the right audiences.

With journalists increasingly measured by clicks, shares and search performance, data allows us to unearth new insights and story hooks to turn a good story into a great one.

You don’t have to be a data scientist to get started

A tool you can get going with right away is Google Trends, an effort born from Google’s News Initiative to help journalists thrive in a digital context.

With 5 billion searches made on the internet every day, search data is a powerful tool for gauging public sentiment on current affairs and breaking news, which can be used to inform a direction of thinking, or even generate a story in itself.

Following mass bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, we uncovered a spike in public concern which provided a timely hook to the work our client, Greening Australia is doing to improve water quality in the region. News.com.au’s environment editor even worked the search trend into her coverage.

More recently, we worked with NT News on a story revealing Territorians made more searches on average around access to legal medicinal cannabis. The insights were coupled with survey data and commentary from Australian medicinal cannabis company Althea, allowing our client to add expert context to the data.

Digging for a story? Proprietary data is a goldmine

Most brands, consumer facing or not, are collectors of data. While their data might not seem like much on face value, when analysed correctly it could be just the type of information that journalists are hungry for.

For those unequipped to analyse spreadsheets or databases, there are others who will do the hard yards for you; Data Journalists are a new breed of journalist, exploring the vast amount of digital information being made available and finding digestible ways of presenting it.

We not long ago partnered with Fairfax Data Journalist Craig Butt to create traffic-led stories using Traffic Analytics tools from HERE Technologies, a global provider of mapping services and location data intelligence technology.

Thanks to a strong local appetite for traffic and congestion stories, the result was a series of in-depth articles rolled out across Fairfax’s mastheads utilising HERE’s powerful data and featuring commentary from HERE’s traffic and location technology experts. The data was brought to life through interactives displaying how traffic congestion impacts commuting, which are used in breaking traffic stories to this day.

The Fairfax team are so proud of this collaboration that they have twice put forward the joint project for Australian journalism awards.

And there’s no reason this approach can’t work with other industries. Any data that creates debate, sparks a conversation with audiences or illustrates the problem your brand is solving has the potential to increase awareness through column inches.

Just like we’re seeing with the media industry, the growing ubiquity of data has the power to transform public relations for the better – if we as communicators are willing to learn and adapt.

RIP listicles: Resurrecting quality content in the wake of Buzzfeed’s fall

· Content Marketing, Trends, Tricks of the trade

For almost a decade now, eight big red letters have ruled our news feeds. But has the virality behind BuzzFeed’s infamous startup success story seen its peak?

Last week, the $2.4 billion company announced it was cutting 15% of their workforce in their biggest reshuffle to date. Eleven out of those 200 roles are currently held by Australian employees. Financial performance lies at the core of this crash, with an impending defamation lawsuit also on the cards.

While we remain hopeful that the digital outlet will find its feet, we must ask ourselves: where would our media landscape be without mass listicles, click-bait quizzes and meme-driven blog posts?

And, should we have to live without them, how can we mould our content strategies to suit the incoming status quo – now and over the next few years?

Other free digital outlets are showing similar cause for concern, with Conde Nast rumoured to be putting up paywalls on all their US titles, and free online news sites taking knocks in all corners.

In the wake of these changes, brands need to be able to bring understanding of their audiences in-house and avoid simply imitating trending media formats – in other words, learn to stand on their own two feet. Here, a renewed focus on what the people want, and how best to give it to them, is imperative.

A few things we learnt from the red giant

BuzzFeed’s growth story is a real crash course in digital disruption, altering their offerings and constantly improving their content for search optimisation and mass engagement. They played into the waiting thumbs of young audiences around the world. What do the people want? Cat GIFs. What are the people going to get? You guessed it. Cat GIFs.

At some level, they helped to invent a new media landscape: the biggest-scale digital model for revenue production they could come up with. And then they kept evolving.

They branched out to feed the outliers, with more sophisticated platforms like the Pulitzer Prize-nominated BuzzFeed News. They saturated the social media space – when Facebook became all about the video, they did too, and very effectively at that. And they partnered with brands to create bespoke native advertising, providing an “authentic” means of talking to millennials when brands didn’t know how to.

Their agility has been remarkable, hinged on a dedication to understanding their audiences’ interests. But with so many shifts in consumer perception, brands can’t just outsource their audiences to the big players.

Know your audience, and how best to speak to them

These days, in a world of increasing automation, algorithms and fake news, consumers are craving the one thing that we won’t likely lose in a hurry: genuine humanity. Authentic stories told by real people that really connect and provide value to the reader are the way forward in a market where consumer trust is hard-won and cut-through is nigh on impossible.

According to Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber, millennial influence is a key driver of this shift: “They want committed brands with authentic products. Natural, simpler, more local and if possible small, as small as you can.”

In fact, a study showed that big brands in the US were losing $22bn market share over only five years owing to the audience’s favour of small companies. And VICE’s new youth survey The Big Shrink surveyed 3,700 16-38 year-olds, finding that avoiding stereotypes and hero-ing credibility and authenticity is the only way forward for media in the 21st century.

So, yes. The “Which Melancholy Vegetable Matches your Personality?”quiz will always be great for a mindless scroll on the morning tram commute (I’m a ‘downcast cabbage’ if anyone is interested). But in a world now over-saturated with this kind of viral celeb-centred content, and fraught with global disaster, readers are beginning to want to know more about real stories and real value closer to home.

Blended, owned content strategies are the future

The news of BuzzFeed’s potential diminishment in the market signals a need for organisations to build blended content strategies, where their owned assets (such as a website, content hub or, god forbid, a database) live at the centre of their publishing priorities.

This is firstly because we clearly can’t rely on the digital media gods (Vice, Vox, Refinery and more) to provide their services in perpetuity, or rely on the fact that their model will be relevant in perpetuity. They are as prone to market weakness as anyone is, and shouldn’t be leant on in place of internal innovation.

But it’s also because a healthy mix of owned and quality earned media will prove more sustainable in the long run, and paint a more holistic view of your brand from the outset. By tapping into your own amplification and distribution channels, you can engage your (well-defined) audiences on a more intimate level amongst their daily highs and lows to truly create resonance and connection – rather than relying on a third party or superficial templated posts.

Owning and creating your own brand of storytelling with authentic, engaging and actually interesting content that caters to the right audiences, is a sure way to weather the digital storm.

Change is inevitable, but real stories last forever.

Article originally published on Mumbrella,

5 food photography tips with our studio manager

· Trends, Tricks of the trade

We know a thing or two about food at Keep Left – just check out our Instagram stories for proof!

To celebrate our new kitchen and photography studio being open for business, we sat down with our Studio Manager, Natasha Pavlou to find out her top five tips for creating the perfect foodie photo.

Planning is key

As with any creative project – planning and preparation is key to getting the result you want.

Natasha recommends visualising what you want the final image to look like and working backwards from there.

“When we are doing a shoot we always plan out the shot list and break down the suggested styling and background elements.

Think about the dish itself – if you’re baking a layered cake and want to photograph it from a 45 degree angle, a cake stand may be the way to go. Or perhaps you’re baking cookies then placing them on a cooling rack. In this case, it may be better to shoot from above to add some texture and layers to the shot.”

Find great light

Lighting can be tricky in food shoots.

“Making food look delicious on camera can be a lot trickier than you think. Sometimes blending a natural light source from a window works with some additional fill light to bring any highlights or shadows into the shot. When using natural light – we usually use something to diffuse and soften the light so it’s not too direct on the subject.”

Get some work-in-progress shots

It can be easy to focus on getting the final plated-up food shot, but you miss out on some great opportunities for content along the way.

“If your photographer can set up the lighting early and then take the camera off to be able to capture some work-in-progress shots then why not! Make sure you capture some shots during the preparation and cooking process. It’s a great way to capture the story of your dish and highlight the freshness of your ingredients.”

Emphasise the natural beauty of the food

Think about what makes a dish delicious and then serve it in a way that flaunts that.

“There is nothing better than the crispy, golden skin on a roast turkey – so photograph the whole bird to highlight the crunchy skin, rather than slicing it up. If you’re photographing sausage rolls, capture the texture of the puff pastry to make your audience’s mouth water.”

Craft your story

The job of a food stylist and photographer isn’t just to make the food look delicious. It’s to bring it to life and to tell a story.

“Work your shot for the audience it is intended for. Are your audience into more home cooked food? If so, then you might be in a more homely setting with some plates on the side with some serving elements and a chair in the background with some natural light coming in.

Or does your audience prefer fine dining? If so, then you might create a perfect place setting and shoot the image from above to show the intricate details of the meal.”

Need the perfect space to shoot your next campaign or recipe book?

Contact Natasha for more details about our kitchen studio.