Snapchat and what it offers communicators

I’ll be the first to admit, that Snapchat is still a mystery to me. And, judging by my conversations with others, I’m not the only one. However, Snapchat is the social network for young millennials, with 60% of users in the US aged between 13 and 24 years. The service has over 150 million daily users (these numbers are higher than Twitter’s own daily usage). The service reaches 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds in the US. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see similar numbers over here in the Gulf.

As communicators, we have to embrace Snapchat (whether we understand it or not). While much has been written on Snapchat, on how to use it, as well as how Snapchat compares to other products such as Instagram, I wanted to share different ideas on how to reach an audience via the hottest social media channel for youth in the Middle East region.

Several of the most effective options that we communicators have to reach out via Snapchat are paid-for. Snapchat’s advertising solutions are very different to what you’ll be used to on other social media platforms. Here’s three of their top solutions.

Your Traditional Video Ads

Let’s start with the basic Snapchat ad. Called Snap Ads, these products begin with an up to 10-second vertical, full screen video ad that appears in the context of other Snaps. Brands can give Snapchatters the choice to swipe up and see more, just like they do elsewhere on Snapchat. Snap Ads give brands the opportunity to embed further content as well; by swiping up on the video, the Snapchatter will be able to access extended content including long form videos, articles, app install ads, or a mobile website. Snapchat claims that the swipe-up rate for Snap Ads is 5x higher than the average click-through rate on comparable platforms.

Sponsored Lenses

And now we get to the fun stuff. Sponsored Lenses offer a different take on brand activation, offering not just an impression, but what Snapchat calls “play time” — the time Snapchatters spend playing with the interactive ad you’ve created for your brand.

It couldn’t be easier for Snapchatters to use the Sponsored Lens product. To activate Lenses, Snapchatters press and hold on their faces. The product is designed to promote engagement; lenses can include prompts like “raise your eyebrows” to trigger an animation. Snapchatters can send Lenses to a friend or post a Lens to their Story. On average, Snapchatters play with a Sponsored Lens for 20 seconds.

Sponsored Lenses can prove extremely popular – take the example of Taco Bell and its Cinco de Mayo Snapchat Lens which was viewed 224 million times.

taco-bell-filter

The Taco Bell Sponsored Lens was the most popular in the app’s history, and was used by millions of Snapchatters.

Sponsored Geofilters

The third option for creating paid-for engagement on Snapchat is sponsored geofilters. This product does what it says; when Snapchatters in a specific location(s) take a Snap, they’ll be able to see the Geofilter and use it to explain where, when, and why they took the Snap. The campaign can cover a country, a city, or even a location such as a mall, an airport, a monument or a hotel. In the US, a single National Sponsored Geofilter typically reaches 40% to 60% of daily Snapchatters. A good, simple example of a Geofilter is shown below from Yankee Stadium, and was created by 6S Marketing.

6s-snapchat-sponsored-geofilter

Snapchat Geofilters give Snapchatters the option of branding their Snap with your location-specific messaging. Check this out this filter from Yankee Stadium courtesy of 6S Marketing

The Drawbacks

These options aren’t available as of today in the MENA region. However, my hope is (well, it’s more than a hope) that Snapchat will be opening up soon in Dubai and provide these products to brands locally. The other caveat is cost. Snapchat advertising products don’t come cheap. The Fast Company reported that Snapchat was asking US-based advertisers to cough up hefty sums of cash for a Sponsored Lens: $450,000 per day for Sunday to Thursday, $500,000 for Fridays and Saturdays, and $700,000 for holidays. There are cheaper options, but you’ll have to have a decent budget to play on Snapchat.

However, if budgets allow and once Snapchat expands into the Middle East, be prepared to go Snapchat crazy!

#CIPRElection – What do the CIPR’s international members want?

The CIPR can do much to promote public relations overseas, and, most importantly, support its international membership.

The CIPR can do much to promote public relations overseas, and, most importantly, support its international membership.

As part of my bid to stand for the CIPR Council this year, I’ve written about what I want to bring to the table on behalf my fellow CIPR members who are not based in the United Kingdom.

I’d like to turn the tables slightly and talk about what the CIPR needs to do when it comes to its members abroad, many of whom (including myself) look to the CIPR for leadership and guidance when it comes to the industry. Let’s start with the obvious.

1) Ethics – While the industry has come a long way in terms of ethics since the days of Edward Bernays, ethics is still an issue for communicators. For people who are tasked with managing reputations, professionalism must be at the top of the list when it comes to engagement with all CIPR members. To its credit, the organization has one of the strongest and most robust codes of conducts I’ve ever read. In addition, the recent launch of a compulsory ethics CPD module is also a step in the right direction.

I’d like the CIPR to build on these steps, and launch ethics campaigns outside of the UK throughout ethics month (which is normally held in September), as well as all-year round. This can take a number of forms, such as social media dialogues and webinars. It could also include working with other public relations bodies, to share best practices. For those of use who care about the reputation of our industry, I’m sure this would be more than welcome.

2) Training and Development – The CIPR has the best development program in the industry, full stop. Its Continuing Professional Development program is exceptional, and covers everything any communicator needs to develop (I’m even talking Chief Communication Officers here). Likewise, the range of academic qualifications offered by the CIPR is outstanding. I have the utmost respect for anyone who has undertaken and completed a CIPR qualification.

This positive attitude needs to spread. We need more communicators outside of the UK to understand the importance of ongoing training and development. We also need more employers to understand that when they look to hire, they should look for CIPR qualifications. We have far too many communicators who haven’t studied communications, either because they don’t understand the importance of doing so (I hope these are far and few between), or because there are no institutions that offer courses in subjects such as internal comms, public affairs or public relations. The CIPR needs to step into this gap, and bring its know-how to bear, to promote a respect for training and development and to offer the tools needed for CIPR members outside the UK to enhance their own abilities.

3) Networking – We’re part of the family, but sometimes out-of-sight can be out-of-mind. One aspect of my membership that I enjoy the most is networking with my fellow CIPR members. I’ve had the good fortune to visit the CIPR offices in London and meet with the organization’s leadership. But many others who are abroad haven’t. We can use technology to bridge that gap (the CIPR International has done great work, with webinars on countries outside of the UK for its home-based members), as well as promoting the development of local chapters outside of the UK where numbers allow. The more we feel that we’re one family, the more we’ll benefit from what the CIPR has to offer.

These are but a few ideas that the CIPR can use to engage with members abroad. I hope to be able to provide a voice for those members, and bridge that gap. The CIPR is an incredible organization, and I have benefited enormously from all that is has to offer. I want others who live outside of the UK to have the same experience that I have had with the CIPR. I hope you agree, and will support me during the #CIPRElection.

CIPR and why I want to speak up for International Members

I'm standing to bring a voice to CIPR's members outside the UK, and support CIPR's growth in markets where we could benefit from CIPR's leadership

I’m standing to bring a voice to CIPR’s members outside the UK, and support CIPR’s growth in markets where we could benefit from CIPR’s leadership

I’ve been a proud member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for a number of years, and it’s an honour and a privilege to be part of an organization that puts the industry and its professionals first, that promotes what we do, and pushes for change for the better.

I was asked several weeks back by Jason MacKenzie a number of weeks ago if I’d stand for the Council. His thinking was clear; he wants to broaden CIPR’s scope, to reach out to the hundreds of CIPR members who live and practise their trade outside of the United Kingdom.

CIPR and the Need to Cross Borders

Both Jason and I share the same sentiments. While I am a member of the CIPR and have benefited from its world-class training and its ability to bring the industry together to tackle challenging issues, I want the CIPR to do more for all of us who aren’t in the United Kingdom.

Take my region, for example. Dubai and the wider Gulf are home to thousands of UK nationals who are public relations and communications professionals. Many of us here know the CIPR, we respect the work done by the CIPR, and we’d love to see the CIPR bring that gravitas to bear for issues that matter to us.

Representation for CIPR Members Abroad

As an organization that represents many in the communications industry, the CIPR has a strong membership base outside of the United Kingdom. Many of my own associates, colleagues and friends in the United Arab Emirates are members of the CIPR. While the CIPR International has done stellar work, it is time to step up representation on the Council for CIPR’s members abroad, for them to voice their needs. More international voices on the Council will also help promote to CIPR’s members the industry outside of the UK.

The Bridge Between the CIPR and the Global Industry

I’d also bring my experience to bear, as a board member of both the Middle East Public Relations Association and the International Association of Business Communicators, to promote mutual interests across a wider region for the benefit of all (an example of this is bringing the Chartered Status to the Middle East through the agreement with MEPRA). As an industry we are much stronger when we work together to engage on what we do and its value. I want to bring my board experience and the work I’ve done in emerging markets on behalf of the industry to bear for others in the CIPR.

I’m happy to field any questions from any CIPR member. I’m all for transparency and engagement, and I’m always keen to talk about the industry and how we move forward.

On a final note, I’d like to thank my nominators: Eva Maclaine; Jason MacKenzie; Donald Steel; Sarah Pinch, and Julio Romo. They’re all communicators who I admire for their abilities, their passion and their commitment to giving back to the industry. I hope I’ll do you all proud.

The need to move comms past window-dressing: Adopting a standard certification for comms

For many companies, it feels as if communications is simply window-dressing. We have to change perceptions about our profession (image source: http://www.hansboodtmannequins.com)

There are times when I have no other reaction but to laugh. I was sat with an acquaintance and we were talking about a company which was hiring for a senior comms role. Me being me, I wanted to help out and recommend someone, and I asked the obvious question.

“What are they looking for?” I said.

“A pretty Lebanese girl,” was the response.

My friend was part joking, but also part serious. And here’s why. For far too long, communications has been seen as a nice-to-have, a function that isn’t really strategic. Unfortunately, what has often happened is that communications has become the department where either someone senior is left to ‘retire’, or it’s the place where an inexperienced but attractive character is brought in.

This Has To Change

We need to stop treating communications as a window dressing. Reputation matters, in both good and bad times (ask anyone who works at Volkswagen about the importance of reputation and its cost to the business). Today, thanks to social media, any one consumer or stakeholder can call out your company, for both good reasons and bad. And yet, few companies in the MENA region have people who can effectively steward and build reputations.

So, how do we do it?

Firstly, the industry needs to talk more about what communications truly is and what it can do for organizations and their publics. Many of us will work tirelessly for our brands, but we’re awful at doing public relations for ourselves. There’s not enough people out there, particularly among the C-level crowd and within human resources who actually know what communications is about. As an industry we have to spend more time educating our peers, so that they know what we do and the value of our work.

Secondly, we need a universally accepted certification. Would you go to a lawyer who doesn’t have a degree. Or how about a doctor who didn’t attend medical school? And yet, most of us in the communications industry have never studied public relations and understood the theory underpinning our work. If we’re to evolve, and become better at what we do, then we need to go forward as an industry and adopt a standard certification, be it that advocated by the CIPR or IABC. We need people who are accredited, who have invested time in their development, and who can say, “I know my communications theory and this is how I can prove it.”

I’m used to the status quo. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t want change. I want our profession to be respected, to have a seat at the table, and to be strategic. I hope you’ll join me, so that together we can push for change.

@Wadds on uncertainty and life in the UK post-Brexit

In another guest post, I’ve asked the respected public relations industry figure Stephen Waddington to share his thoughts on Brexit. Strap yourself in for the read.

The vote for Brexit will have many consequences for the UK, including for its communications industry, argues Wadds (image source: http://www.fortune.com)

The lack of planning and political fallout from the UK’s European Referendum mean that Brexit will remain a work in progress for a long time to come.

Alex asked to me to draft a guest blog post reflecting on life in Britain post Brexit shortly after the European Union (EU) Referendum result at the end of June.

I dodged the opportunity initially, not because I didn’t have a view, but because for three or four weeks it was really difficult to make sense of what was happening in the UK.

It’s has taken me the summer to come to terms with the fact that the UK voted to leave the EU. I was convinced by conversations on Facebook and Twitter that UK citizens would vote remain. I was stuck in a filter bubble.

The Referendum divided the country. The remain campaign was based on rational argument; the Brexit campaign, by contrast, on emotion.

UK citizens used the Referendum as an opportunity to vent their anger at the political classes in London and Brussels. It exposed a split between London, Northern Ireland and Scotland which all voted remain and the rest of the UK which voted Brexit.

More than two months after the result we’re becoming used to living with the uncertainty. What Brexit means and how it will happen are both a work in process.

The Conservative Prime Minster resigned and was replaced without a leadership election. The Labour party remains in the midst of leadership election.

The new Prime Minister Theresa May has created a Ministry for Brexit led by Eurosceptic David Davis, and has appointed Brexit campaigners Liam Fox and Boris Johnson as trade secretary and foreign secretary respectively.

Both Davis and Fox are recruiting the small army of people needed to work on the exit negotiation with the EU. 1,250 positions have been created in trade and diplomacy.

The UK will have two years to negotiate its exit once it triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

In that time it will need to determine how to manage more than four decades of law that are entwined with the EU, and negotiate trade deals on an industry-by-industry basis with the 27 member states, and major countries around the world.

There’s also the issue of the free movement of people. Take back control [of UK borders] was a campaign slogan for the remain campaign.

It’s an issue that impacts the UK’s future trade agreements but also impacts UK citizens living in EU countries and EU citizens living in the UK.

People like markets don’t respond well to uncertainty. The government needs to move quickly to reassure people and investment that the UK remains a good place to both invest and build a career.

The UK is a centre of excellence for talent in the creative industries, including my own trade, public relations. I’m keen to see this remain the case.

The emergency budget, and recession, both predicted by the remain campaign haven’t happened. But UK currency shows no sign of returning to pre-referendum levels.

£1 was worth $1.50 on the day of the Referendum. Today the £ is trading at an average of $1.30. The foreign exchange markets have priced down UK assets by more than 15%. It’s the one area of absolute certainty.

The rest is yet to be seen.

Stephen Waddington is Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. He blog at wadds.co.uk and you can connect with him on Twitter @wadds.

Two-Thirds of UAE Residents Will Take Advice from Social Media Influencers on a Purchase, Apparently…

Now, this may shock you. But, we’re all now listening to social media celebrities to decide what we want to buy and eat. At least, that’s the result of research carried out by PR agency BPG Cohn & Wolfe with YouGov. Out of over a thousand people surveyed, 71 percent of those aged between 18 and 40 said they’d be happy to take advice from their favorite social media influencer before buying. And if you don’t believe me, Results for BPG Survey (Fashion Food, & Beauty Influencer), see the press release or have a look at the infographic below.

The growing power of social media influencers and bloggers has been borne out by new research from Dubai-based PR agency BPG Cohn & Wolfe that shows that 71 per cent of UAE residents aged 18-40 are happy to take advice online before purchasing.

 

Beauty, fashion and food are the areas where residents are most likely to turn to leading social media influencers for recommendations say the results of the research undertaken for the agency by YouGov who interviewed 1000 men and women across the country.

 

Tech-savvy residents used their smartphones to follow their favourite influencers with 68 per cent of those polled admitting that where they eat out can be prompted by online recommendations or reviews and 63 per cent more likely to buy fashion or beauty products based on what these influencers might say.

 

BPG Cohn & Wolfe PR Director, Consumer Practice, Taghreed Oraibi managed the research process and said: “We are working closer than ever with bloggers and influencers and wanted to find out just how influential they have become in a country that is more switched on and digital than many all over the world.

 

“The results have clearly shown that companies now have to take these online influencers seriously and listen to what they have to say and find creative and engaging ways to work with them to tell their story and reach customers in that vital 18-40 demographic.

 

“BPG Cohn & Wolfe has identified the rise in influence of bloggers for some time and this led to commissioning the research to assess just how widespread their influence is and in what areas they have the most impact.”

 

BPG's research has found that over two thirds of UAE consumers will take advice from social media influencers before they buy. But what does this really mean?

BPG’s research has found that over two thirds of UAE consumers will take advice from social media influencers before they buy. But what does this really mean?

The issue of social media influencers is controversial (have a read of this guest blog post from yesterday by Rijosh Joseph). I’m personally a fan of working with social media influencers when they’re used strategically (i.e. who they are and what they do is aligned to the brand they are working with), when there’s a long-term commitment rather than an agreement for a single post or three, and when the goals are clear and there’s a sensible set of measurement metrics in place.

And, I’ll be honest, I don’t see many organizations in the region thinking through what influencer engagement can do for their brands or customers. Instead, it’s a ‘me-too’ approach. I hope I’m wrong.on this (if I’m wrong, then tell me). In the meantime, I’ll be listening to my influencers when making my next purchase, namely my wife and daughter.

Birth of digital influencers = death of true journalism! Who’s to blame?

Have social media influencers negatively impacted our profession?

I’ll be hosting more guest bloggers on the site. This piece is from Rijosh Joseph, and focuses on the contentious issue of social media influencers and their impact on the media and the concept of public relations in general. Enjoy the read, and thank you Rijosh!

Call me old-fashioned, but I am quite annoyed with the evolution of modern day PR! I often wonder, if not all but at least, some of us PR folks, have lost the plot or whether we are passing the buck to the modern-day advertisers?

The topic had been “vocal” both in my mind and among a few of my peers within this industry. A recent YouGov report published by BPG stirred further debate and hence I find the need to put forth a lay opinion.

When this study was posted as a pitch for editorial opportunities in “UAE Journalists”, a private Facebook group that has members within the media and communications industry, it laid the platform for members to “engage” with their views. And honestly, it was a very interesting thread to follow.

Coming back to the point, it frustrates me to sit with PR teams (clients + agency) only to educate them on the incorrect notion of treating journalists inferior to digital “influencers”.

For instance, a certified journalist, are in most cases, served with a press release, which PR folks expect them to carry in their publication. Yet a blogger or digital influencer, plugged to the cage of technology, and who does not possess any insights on journalism, gets pampered at an all-inclusive media event. I agree, product reviews, giveaways and meals never pay their bills. However, we hardly realize that it is a lifestyle choice that they made.

In my honest opinion, digital influencers could strive for a path wherein the real essence of journalism and the need for materialism, can co-exist. Instead of just showing up at events for the freebies, one can get creative in myriad ways of generating revenue while preserving the quality of good writing.

For starters, one can turn a blog into a revenue generating business-model with meaningful campaigns, rather than a platform for paid editorials or tainted and biased op-eds. For example, if you love travelling, then creating a memorable travel experience alongside partnering with brands that are willing to collaborate and for the same cause will let you fill your pocket and keep the sanctity of good blogging.

If one is in to fashion and beauty, then developing a fashion line or partnering with make-up brands they believe in for workshops etc., will lead consumers to their webpage, at the same time maintain the dignity of unbiased content with a penchant for money.

The core essence of blogging is channeling one’s opinion based on their passion points. It does not become a blog if it turns out to be a tool to endorse commercial products.

In the last couple of years I have come across several bloggers and digital influencers who “review” products, but end up in situations wherein they stoop-down to cringe-worthy negotiations, like refusing to publish the review without payments or price-tags being involved. It had also got to the point where they create a drama when we politely decline the opportunity and request to collect the product to return to the client as they are all part of a rotating media review sample quota.

Similarly for media events, if influencers expect them to be invited, it is only fair for PR folks to expect them to cover it. Be it, positive, negative or neutral – give us the coverage if you have shown up to the event and taken a press kit. It is highly frustrating when they send an email with their rate card following the event to publish or cover it. Instead, stop asking to be paid to be part of a media experience and honestly write your thoughts about it. That isn’t the role of true bloggers.

The point here is, I’m not trying to fully kill or disapprove influencer marketing. As communications professionals, we must tie up with influencers only if they can provide clients with tangible analytics to back up exactly what ROI they can bring to a campaign. But with the current state-of-affairs, too many lines have been crossed and it is appalling that we are forced to please every new kid on the block who claims to be an influencer and, worse, bend and break to their whims and fancies.

From the debate on this topic in the “UAE Journalists” Facebook post, there was one comment, which caught my attention to also reflect from the other side of the spectrum. The post stated:

“What is the difference between a paid influencer and a journalist who has absolutely no freedom or inclination to write a story unless there’s significant advertising spend? What’s the difference when a journalist calls you up, asking if you can get them tickets for a concert or movie, etc. Not saying all journalists do this, but let’s be honest, most do. Whether we like it or not, celebrity influencers have always been a part of the marketing and comms-mix, now with social media, the rise of the “digital influencer” is inevitable. You and I, may not have let an influencer sway our opinion on a product or service, but I think most of us, have tried out that new restaurant just because we heard everyone talk about it.”

And it is sad that I have to fully agree to the above post. All UAE journalists are not saints. We all have had our countless experiences that make us wonder as to why chose to be in PR. It is also a fact that in this region, the ethics in journalism among journalists have gone down. This might also be a reason for incessant rise in influencer marketing.

So, what can be done to clean up the mess?

To begin with, from a digital perspective, I feel it is time the scene becomes regulated by relevant authorities of the media council to make it mandatory that all paid editorial content on digital platforms get declared as “sponsored content” as opposed to how it is being offered to readers now. This should bring about a sense of equilibrium among all stakeholders playing within this sphere of media and communications.

And on that note, it is high-time, members within digital fraternity consider ways to stop asking for money merely to be part of a media experience. And as responsible PR professionals, we must not dig our own grave by fostering current practices with influencer marketing.