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OCTOBER 25, 2019 //     

PRovoke19 Recap: Day Two

By: Tara Chiarell

The second day of The Holmes Report’s PRovoke19 reinforced topics discussed on day one with in-depth conversations around the evolving role of communications, the importance of authenticity and the power in an ignited audience. Here are more insights from the two-day inspirational, thought-provoking conference with professionals from around the world.


Evolving Role of Communications

CCO, CMO, CRO, CIO, CTO – never before has the C-Suite been so deeply involved in the communications process and budget discussions. Part of this is because as practitioners become more integrated, so do our clients. Given the role tech plays in how we measure success, more comms departments report to CIOs and CTOs. But even more so, as we contemplate a possible recession on the horizon, CFOs and CROs now play a larger role in budget allocations.

We heard directly from a CFO (at a PR conference?!) about his concerns and how he pushes his comms and marketing teams to tie results back to business goals and show how they drive business/sales impact. They want more than awareness metrices, impressions, site click throughs; they want to see deeper ROI -- how do marketing teams drive conversion and purchase.

This is something we have struggled with as an industry. Not just because PR traditionally hasn’t been set up to have that direct sales impact, but navigating the channels inside our client organizations to get those metrics can be challenging. While there is more scrutiny than ever before on PR to justify dollars spent and resulting impact, the consensus remains it is the channel to invest; and budgets have risen as more traditional marketing activities, such as blended content, now reside in PR.

Brand Purpose + Authenticity

Authenticity was discussed again, but in relation to brand purpose. In the politically driven world we live in today, brands face immense pressure to take a stand on everything from gun violence and the travel ban to sustainability. While many CEOs and employees may feel personally passionate about an issue, it’s imperative to take a step back and really think about how this ties to our core business and our employees.

We heard from long-time IKEA CEO Lars Petersson, who ran the company through the lens of its motto “What’s good for people is good for IKEA.” This helped filter out and prioritize campaign efforts, weigh the benefits and fallout of taking risks, and remove inherent personal bias. Under his tenure, sustainability was a core focus, because Ikea uses 1% of the world’s wood and cotton in products; this was a natural tie to the business.

Lars also took a quick, strong stance against the travel ban in an employee letter because of his personal beliefs and how this would affect IKEA employees around the globe. The letter was leaked and created controversy around the brand. But in the end, he felt it was the right thing to stand up for his employees globally and for human rights.

March for Our Lives

The day ended in a powerful talk with three of the women who lead the March for Our Lives movement. They spoke about the communications strategy at inception and how it has evolved in the past 20 months.

  • Audience Platform: The students, who range in age from 14-18, understood the key to reaching your audience is to talk to them on channels where they are already active. This is an audience that grew up online and knows how to activate a base by communicating through Twitter and social media to share how they felt and knows where they can control the narrative. Social media is organic to this age group, so they used it to rally an audience that traditionally is not vocal around political issues.
  • Diversity: Self-proclaimed, the group was far from diverse at inception. But in listening to criticism, learning the history and larger issues of gun violence and who it affects, and wanting this to be more than about them, they took active steps to make the organization and effort as diverse as the issue itself. “You can’t cure one without the other.” Without evolving the effort to include voices of those who have been affected by gun violence for decades, they never would have had the impact they’ve achieved.
  • The Power of Silence: This group taught all communicators the power of staying silent as they led a moment of silence at a march in Washington, D.C. featuring 800,000 supporters – silence for as long as the rampage in Florida. All too often, we have an urge to say something, defend ourselves, our brand. But sometimes, silence says a lot more.

Tara Chiarell is the general manager of Allison+Partners’ Washington, D.C. office.

OCTOBER 23, 2019 //     

PRovoke19 Day One

By: Tara Chiarell 

Attending PRovoke19 was like bringing an integrated campaign to life -- the agenda spanned a variety of topics from measurement, media and influencers to leadership, diversity and culture.

While it would be impossible to capture every valuable insight from day one, there were several key themes that resonated:



Inclusion: Inclusiveness and participation by everyone is key to building a strong culture that supports diversity efforts. Creating an environment where different ideas and opinions can be shared is key to success. Without this foundation, diversity initiatives will not resonate or be successful.

Empathy. We must have empathy -- for oneself and for each other. Practice empathy for yourself and you will be happier, more engaged and more productive. This practice will also become a catalyst for empathy for others. Learn where others come from, what motivates them, what paralyzes them. Helping others self-actualize will drive team productivity and engagement.

Mirroring. Brands today are focused on reaching diverse external audiences. However, to achieve success, you must have a project team that mirrors your target audience. Sometimes you need to go outside your organization to find key perspectives who will take your idea from good to great.


Reliability. According to Elena Botelho of ghSMART, the most important behavior for a leader to demonstrate is reliability. This should shine through in every day activities from being on time to resisting the urge to overpromise. Many leaders struggle with the latter because they want to do-it-all and are driven to deliver results. Reliability is a mindset; habits of reliability need to be practiced; and leaders must surround themselves with people who can help them stay on track. Integrity is paramount, if leaders can’t live up to what they say, employees, partners and stakeholders will have trouble trusting them.

Authenticity. Balancing the idea of what a leader should be and who you are as a person is an antiquated mindset. Employees need to trust their leaders and feel connected to them through authentic interactions and conversations. Leaders who are true to themselves rather than playing a role, are more likely to motivate employees and drive business results. Leaders should set the example -- hold themselves and employees accountable and challenge other leaders to arrive at the best outcome.


Customization. Measurement requires a custom strategy for each company, brand and campaign. While the measurement will differ for each, the approach is the same. We must understand what the business goals are before we can understand how our campaign will impact business results. As we know, we must move beyond impressions. We must focus on how our activity and investment will move the needle for the business. As marketing and comms professionals, we must understand the metrics the C-Suite is focused on in order to showcase value.

Accountability. Marketers, internal and external, have a responsibility to manage spending responsibly. When requesting budget, we must challenge ourselves to answer the following questions:

  1. How much money are you requesting and why?
  2. What is the business impact of spending those dollars?
  3. Convince me why we should spend here instead of another idea?
  4. Is there something we should stop doing and move resources around?

MarComm has a great opportunity to educate brands about investing in Demand channels to drive revenue, provided we can show why and impact.

Stay tuned for more insights out of Day 2!

Tara Chiarell is the general manager of Allison+Partners’ Washington, D.C. office.

AGENCY NEWS // OCTOBER 14, 2019 //     

How Gen Z Impacts Urban Mobility

By Marcus Gamo

A short time ago, the auto industry viewed millennials as the lost generation. Automakers expected car sales to plummet and prepared for change. But that didn’t happen. Instead, millennials delayed their adoption of cars until they started getting married, having children and discovering the suburbs.

Simultaneously, the growth of the smart mobility movement with the introduction of rideshare, car share, e-bikes, high-speed rail, scooters and automaker-backed subscription models have transformed how we define transportation. This dramatic change has birthed a mobility culture. The “me” foundation of car culture – where a car takes “me,” how it makes “me” feel about myself and how it represents my values – has been replaced by a “we” perspective.

OCTOBER 3, 2019 //     

Don't Lose Your Head in a Crisis

By: Marcel Goldstein

What fascinates me most about a crisis is that it reveals a lot about human psychology. I personally don’t believe you can navigate a crisis effectively if you don’t take stock of the human emotions bubbling up around you during one. The crisis within the crisis — of people reacting to the events — often determines the effectiveness of business decisions and outcomes.

Psychologists have observed that when people feel under attack, it generates a fight-or-flight response. I believe when a business is threatened by outsiders, it simulates the same survival instincts our ancestors felt when their tribe was in the presence of a predatory animal.

Along with a crisis communications plan, I also believe you need an accompanying “psychology plan.” This should establish how you will handle the different reactions to a crisis that could either impede development of a thoughtful communications approach or skew the approach and steer your organization into greater trouble.


Put this lens on any recent crisis response you have witnessed. How often do you hear complaints nobody within an organization took responsibility for a crisis or the CEO left the response to a spokesperson or non-executive? This is the flight mentality in action. Lower-level employees often embrace the U.S. Secret Service mindset to “take the bullet.” Calls to “protect the CEO” and allow him or her to stay out of the “line of fire” are common. Meanwhile, a CEO with a flight mentality is comfortable staying out of plain sight.   

Alternatively, many organizations also fail to hear the cries of their critics and suit up for battle — the fight response. Organizational responses to crises commonly involve a variety of fight responses, including shifting blame to clients, partners or consumers, attacking critics for their perceived unreasonableness, accusing outsiders of lacking smarts or sufficient knowledge, or dismissing critics by defending their actions in only a legal context.

Notice how prevalent violence metaphors are in these situations. It is not a coincidence. When the tribe is attacked, it is a declaration of war. Or, so it seems. During a crisis, key leaders meet in a “war room” or “safe room.” While some of this is to preserve confidentiality and enable rapid decision-making, an “under-siege” psychological element is also very much at play and affects decision-making.

While an organizational crisis tests the best of us, I don’t think an organization under criticism can win by succumbing to human instincts of fight or flight. Those natural-instinct urges to flee or stand and fight must be resisted. While these instincts saved many lives in the wild, they don’t work well in our complex civilizations. A successful crisis counselor will have both a strategy to manage those psychological tendencies and the credibility to help guide key leaders to an approach that seeks a positive outcome for all stakeholders involved in a crisis.

Marcel Goldstein is an EVP in Allison+Partners corporate practice. 

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019 //     

Attention CEOs: The Digital Privacy Clock is Set for Midnight on New Year’s Day

Credit: caprivacy.orgBy: David Baum and David Wolf

As goes California, so goes the nation

The digital privacy tsunami is coming at last to the United States and, unsurprisingly, the wave will break first on the West Coast.

On Jan. 1, 2020, California will implement The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Under the law, any company that does business in California must reveal upon a resident’s request what personal information they have collected about any California resident. What is more, Californians will have legal grounds to require businesses and data brokers to cease the sale of that information and demand they delete it.

California has an outsized impact on U.S. law and policy for a range of reasons. Taken as a country, the state would boast the world's fifth-largest economy. Its concentration of entertainment, media and technology companies make it a cultural and business bellwether. California’s progressive voter base has also made it America’s policy proving-ground on issues ranging from workers’ rights to tax law to the environment. Indeed, in state capitals across the U.S., agencies and legislators have taken notice and lawmakers have begun drafting CCPA-inspired legislation.


But perhaps the greatest reason for the Golden State’s impact on business is its population. One out of nine Americans now call the state home. Most of the world's Fortune 1000 companies, along with more than 3 million small- and medium-sized businesses, interact daily with California residents. With online commerce accounting for a growing portion of consumer spending, at least a million other small businesses sell into the state every year.

For these reasons, a major change in California law concerns most U.S. businesses, particularly as CCPA appears to be the beginning of a groundswell. As ironic as it might be that the end of the internet’s “Wild West Era” should come from the cradle of the technology revolution, it is perhaps also fitting. 

How did we get here, and what should organizations think about with just a few months until the curtain rises on this new era of data transparency?

GDPR: The first data protection soldiers on the beach

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect on May 25, 2018. The law’s aim was both simple and, in the libertarian spirit that infused the Internet Revolution, laudable: to give each individual control over who collects their personal data and how that data gets used. Businesses that handle personal data would be required to inform consumers if they capture their information and to put into place safeguards to protect that data from unauthorized use.

The GDPR also comes with strong, practical and meaningful enforcement guidelines. Noncompliance can result in fines and penalties that would be material to the affected companies’ financial results and well-being. ­In just one recent example, the French data protection authority fined Google approximately $57 million (the highest fine to date) for violating the GDPR.

Today, many experts consider the GDPR to be the strongest data protection law in the world. And its passage despite the challenges of legislating across the entire EU is an inspiration to legislators previously stymied in their efforts to protect consumers. Inspired by the GDPR and frustrated with the pace of regulation at the federal level, California’s lawmakers took notice of GDPR and then did what Californians normally do: they innovated, built upon the core of GDPR and created a law that could be effective and withstand the rigors of the litigious U.S. regulatory environment.

Digital transformation has a cost

Recognizing the threat of the CCPA’s enactment and seeing an opportunity for innovation, the barons of Tech Capitalism have responded, starting the adjustment process to this new business and geopolitical reality.

In August, the Business Roundtable pledged to run their organizations with the interest of all stakeholders as a priority, not just shareholder value. A driving force behind this pledge from CEOs from some of the nation’s largest companies is the increased scrutiny of how companies handle personal data.

Sensing strong consumer support for the CCPA and similar initiatives, major players across a broad swath of sectors ranging from large banks to retail have already started the compliance process for Jan. 1. An open question remains: Are the majority of non-technology organizations as ready?

Conventional belief holds that the first company caught in CCPA’s enforcement net will be a “big tech company,” and enforcement officials will be tempted to make an example of a large firm. Yet, there is a chance one of the first targets will be a smaller non-tech organization.

A common chestnut in this era of digital transformation is “every company is a tech company, but they might not know it yet.” Nearly every business organization, regardless of size, is undergoing some form of digital transformation for survival or competitive advantage. The common deployment of “digital transformation platforms” for late-stage tech adopters is the use of e-commerce, CRM marketing, online purchases, cybersecurity, cloud adoption and social sales engagement. These are now considered common business practices for “non-tech” companies.

In the race to transform, many CIOs and CTOs have, often unwittingly, left privacy concerns behind other, more pressing imperatives. While this is understandable, and to this point has not been a costly decision, CCPA changes the calculus and starts a clock for each company. It is now no longer a question of “if” but of “when” a company will find itself called upon to account for its privacy practices.

With less than six months until the law is enacted, all companies and organizations operating in California or with the need to think about:

  • Conducting a complete audit of all customer engagement software
  • Close coordination between IT, sales, legal and marketing
  • Coordinating with all partners and third parties that operate within the sales cycle
  • Consulting with and informing stakeholders at all steps in the process
  • Understanding the monetary and reputational risks of noncompliance
  • Review of reputation management process and procedures

David Baum is a senior vice president in Allison+Partners’ Corporate practice. David Wolf is the managing director of Allison Advisory, a management consultancy focused on building lasting competitive advantage for its clients by helping them understand, manage, meet, and ultimately exceed stakeholder expectations throughout the enterprise. This is the first in an ongoing series about data collection and privacy.

AUGUST 22, 2019 //     

Doing Business in China

China is going to be a part of your business whether you like it or not. David Wolf, managing director of Allison Advisory, shares how we help the C-Suite set up their businesses for success in China. 

AUGUST 7, 2019 //     

Five lessons from five years of growth

By: Serina Tan

If someone had asked me five years ago, “Will you still be with Allison+Partners in 2019?,” I probably would have responded, “Unlikely.”

Let me explain. Before Allison+Partners, my longest tenure at any job was a mere two and a half years. So, five years seemed like an eternity. Not to mention, I started the Singapore office from the ground up. I started with literally nothing – no signage, no office, no chairs and desks, no other colleagues. It was difficult and almost impossible to imagine how things might look in a year, let alone five.


However, I’m grateful to have had a few secret weapons. I won our first retainer, had a vision to build something special, had plenty of fire in my belly, and, most importantly, had nothing to lose. It was an interesting combination that fortunately led to much success. 

As we celebrate our fifth anniversary with our growing team, here are five lessons I’ve learned along the way: 

  1. Visualisation is key. I set out with the vision of building a close-knit team committed to delivering only best-in-class work. It was meant to be an experiment, but it has since become a reality. I’m proud to say the team we have now is the best version of Allison+Partners Singapore we’ve ever had. If we can dream it, we can do it.
  2. Setting high standards is a competitive edge. It pays off. As an upstart a few years ago, we worked our socks off on a massive competitive pitch and ended up beating more than 15 other more established agencies to win a prestigious account. We surprised ourselves and made competitors who never heard of us sit up in bewilderment. Over the years, most of the business we won has been by word-of-mouth referrals from existing or previous clients who trust us to deliver high-quality results. 
  3. Progress is better than perfection. Many people who have worked closely with me in the past would call me a perfectionist. But during the course of this journey, I’ve learned nobody and nothing is perfect in this world. If we try to get something to be perfect, we will never get there. So, instead of beating ourselves up over life’s imperfections, let’s strive for continuous improvement and celebrate the successes along the way.
  4. Make data-informed decisions, but always trust your gut. Do your research and analyze the situation. But eventually, trust your instincts when making a decision – even if it could be unpopular. Being confident in yourself and your decision-making skills instils trust within your team, which is a key factor to success. 
  5. Best-selling author and psychiatrist Scott Peck said in his book, The Road Less Travelled, “To grow in any dimension, pain as well as joy will be the reward.” I remember how when we were just a three-person team in 2014, I stayed up until 2 a.m. for a few consecutive nights with a bad bout of food poisoning to work on a new business proposal. I felt miserable and wished we had a larger and more experienced team. Guess what – we did eventually win the pitch, and this client remains with Allison+Partners today. There will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way. But with hard work, belief in yourself and perseverance, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

Over the past five years, we’ve built a community – not just an office. We are a community of individuals, guided by company values but influenced by their own unique perspectives and experiences. There is a sense of purpose where we hold one another accountable for our shared success.

I come to work smiling every day, looking forward to the diverse perspectives and interactions with our colleagues from Singapore and all over the world. I know this is a work family that I can trust and rely on. Regardless of the ups and downs one would typically experience in a family, I know we will still have each other’s backs at the end of the day. This makes work all the more enjoyable, enabling us to always strive to be the best versions of ourselves.

Someone asked me last week what my best career moment was. Without a doubt, it was my decision to join Allison+Partners five years ago.

Serina Tan is managing director of Asia-Pacific. 

JULY 23, 2019 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 5: Why Pride is More Than a Month

Credit: CNN.comBy: Owen Clark

No, you don’t need to double-check your calendar. It’s July, and we are doing a podcast about Pride. The reason – while outward displays of support for Pride from brands big and small have exploded, many companies still literally and figuratively put their rainbow flags away when public sentiment shifts to other causes come July. 


So we are extending that discussion, asking what are brands doing right when it comes to supporting LGBTQ issues? What do they need to do better? What lessons can we all learn from those within the community about how their experience is different now then at other points in the past?

To answer these questions, we turned to four colleagues who bring the unique perspectives of being both veteran marketers and members of the LGBTQ community. Their stories will touch you, and their insights will make you think differently about a complex but vitally important issue that impacts everyone.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

JUNE 27, 2019 //     

E3: Three gaming trends to watch

By: Cat Forgione

Video games are an increasingly important part of American culture and entertainment. According to our client, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry is valued at more than $43.4 billion and includes more than 166 million adults who play games. While marketers should aim to reach the video gaming audience, it’s a community that demands authenticity, which requires brands to spend time in the space to understand the culture and gain credibility.

Last week, I attended E3 in Los Angeles, where 66,100 people came together to discuss what is new in the video game industry. As a first-time attendee, I found the pure passion and breadth of the gaming audience electric and the evolution of opportunities for brands was on full display.


Hosted by ESA, the event packs the Los Angeles Convention Center with video game developers and designers, hardware creators, influencers and fans anxiously awaiting announcements about the latest games and products showcased in colorful booths and at highly-anticipated press conferences.

From the 25th annual E3, here are a few trends brands should keep an eye on:

Esports will be video gaming’s greatest opportunity

Esports operates similar to traditional sports with tournaments played by teams comprised of players with top skill. Tournaments are livestreamed from arenas with commentary from respected gaming personalities. Similar to traditional sports, esports gives audiences the ability to learn how to maximize their play, meet people with similar interests and cheer for those who play the same games as them at a professional level.

Estimates from Newzoo project the global esports market will exceed $1.4 billion by 2020. Though esports is more advanced in countries outside of the United States, E3 featured its own Esports Zone in partnerships with Subnation to spotlight esports through game play, expert talks and gaming cultural experiences.

With the growth of esports, the opportunity for companies to reach the video game audience will grow through tournament and team sponsorships, in-stream advertising and event partnerships. For example, as of this year, Miller Lite is the exclusive alcohol brand for Complexity Gaming, the esports sibling of the Dallas Cowboys.

Streamers are still the trusted source

Streamers play video games through a live, dual video recording – one video shows the gamer’s reactions and one video shows gameplay. These players have a high number of followers on social media and streaming platforms, such as Mixer and Twitch. Unlike other forms of entertainment, the audience is a key part of the experience because viewers can communicate with streamers through chat functions. Streamers respond via spoken word while simultaneously gaming. As a result of this relationship, streamers are viewed a trusted resource for product recommendations to those in the gaming community. 

At the “Borderlands” booth at E3, many streamers were seen on gaming PCs in glass rooms playing the game, discussing their experiences at the show and interviewing special guests for thousands of their followers. Many of these streaming personalities have sponsors, and their content changes continuously. The ESA Foundation and Red Bull partnered to drive the conversation about how to create compelling content with a panel featuring creators, including Mari Takahashi of Smosh Games, Sonja “OMGitsfirefoxx” Mel, Leah Ashe and Dana Pirkle of 3Blackdot.

Video game companies pay and provide products to influential streamers to play new releases, while technology hardware companies do the same in exchange for a mention in the gear section of an influencers’ streaming homepage. Additionally, other non-endemic brands, especially food and beverage brands, have partnered with streamers for product promotion, such as UberEats and Hershey's.

Mobile video gaming continues steady growth

With today’s demand for entertainment at our finger tips, consumers use smart phones for gameplay. According to eMarketer, mobile gamers make up nearly 89% of digital gamers and span all ages. Phone makers, including Asus and Razer, another A+P client, identified this trend and developed phones with high-resolution screens and fast response times for superior mobile gameplay.

Though E3 is known for console and PC game announcements, there were a few mobile game announcements, such as “Commander Keen” and “Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad.” Simultaneously, the conversation around 5G elevating mobile gaming continued with Verizon exhibiting at E3.

The development of mobile games creates a new opportunity for in-game advertisements. These advertisements should be short in length, in the same picture format as the game and convey the message without audio.

The current evolution of esports, technology and gaming on the go provide a great opportunity for marketers. Overall, the large gaming audience seeks authenticity from brands, so consider partnering with esports athletes, streamers and other brands that are trusted resources and good storytellers. By continuously investing in and understanding the culture of this target audience, your brand can also be a trusted resource.

 Cat Forgione is an account manager in Allison+Partners’ DC office.

JUNE 26, 2019 //     

Communicating with the LGBTQ+ community in the digital age

By: Gina Mossey

As part of our agency’s celebrations for Pride Month, we hosted a panel event in the London office in collaboration with Out in Tech, a global not-for-profit for the LGBTQ+ community in tech, to discuss how the internet has changed the way brands can and should communicate with the LGBTQ+ community.

Chaired in style by our very own Account Director Andrew Rogers, guest speakers who imparted their words of wisdom included:

  • Polly Shute, Director of Partnerships at Parallel Lifestyle
  • Alex Wood, Europe Editor at Forbes
  • Matt Risley, Digital Director at MTV UK
  • Saski, Pride Host and LGBTQ+ Educator

A thought-provoking and lively conversation left us all with a lot of food for thought. Here are the key takeaways.


Start with your staff

We’ve seen a lot of companies support Pride because other companies do – we all know brands are fast followers. But the most effective brands support LGBTQ+ communities year-round and get input and feedback from their employees to make sure they get it right.

Consistent communication with employees is the crucial piece of the puzzle between brands getting it right or wrong. The more they can be involved in the process, the better-informed senior teams will be. This will help you avoid falling into the pink washing trap, and instead show your company really listens to the challenges faced by real people.

LGBTQ+ is more than just one category

This umbrella community contains many subgroups, and brands can ignore this at their peril. Each subgroup needs to be marketed to in a different way, as each have their own pain points about their personal, historical and cultural experiences. Language is a key component here, as a positive term for one subgroup can be quite the opposite for another. However, empathy, consideration and kindness will speak across the community. Within any content, we need to make sure everyone is represented.

Getting the language right again brings us back to the workplace. For society to get used to modern usage, we need more training on what is positive and negative to whom. For example, “queer” is something of a reclaimed term for younger people, while older generations can find it offensive. The more educated society becomes on this, the more intelligent our ways of using these terms socially will be.

Digital targeting for LGBTQ+ groups is still in its infancy

Building on the discussion around language, the group showed digital targeting for the community isn’t as sophisticated as it needs to be. Differences in connotations between different parts of the LGBTQ+ community means positive and negative keywords are tough to define and is a bigger conversation for the global tech community to have.

The panel also advised brands to beware of “The City Bubble.” LGBTQ+ initiatives and messaging are more advanced in major cities. But brands looking to truly get their comms strategies right need to make sure those who live in less urban areas are also represented.

They also highlighted the struggle with internet users known as “lurkers.” These people view and consume content, but they do not comment or share, making it hard to ensure their views are taken into account. We need to make sure we reach and engage the people who don’t feel they have a voice. Putting efforts into physical focus groups and research will help brands navigate this.

Be wary of only using technology to communicate

The group agreed the explosion in digital platforms has been positive in terms of visibility for LGBTQ+ issues. But it’s important it complements, and does not replace, face-to-face interaction with the community. One-to-one level comms are important for any strategy.

Brands can tap into this by keeping events and meet-ups a key part of their strategy, such as hosting talks from key influencers in their sectors who have links to the LGBTQ+ community, putting emphasis on current topics and issues that have relevance to the subgroups.

Making mistakes is part of the journey

A key point the panel wanted brands to take away from the event is that it isn’t the end of the road if you make a mistake. It’s likely brands will get it wrong sometimes, and they shouldn’t take it personally. They advised that rather than pulling out all the stops to defend yourselves, listen to the community and put yourself in their shoes. Taking a step back and listening to the voices that matter will help you work out where to go from there.

The event’s open and honest discussion around these issues, thanks to our fantastic panel and the questions from our brilliant audience, is a perfect example of the collaborative conversations that need to happen to drive change on a bigger scale for the LGBTQ+ community. Brands that keep this at the core of their activity will be the ones that truly lead the way.

Gina Mossey is an account director in Allison+Partners London office.

JUNE 25, 2019 //     

Influencer Marketing Lessons from BlogHer Food 2019

Credit: BlogHer.comBy: Lucy Arnold

Influencer marketing is maturing, and this was certainly felt at the BlogHer conference last month where many key learnings were shared that can help influencers and marketers alike ensure they are optimizing their partnerships.

In May, the BlogHer community of female entrepreneurs, content creators and influencers brought 500 people together for the day in Brooklyn to hear from experts and discuss sustainability, influencer-driven food trends, engaging food content and the #MeToo movement in the food industry. Panels and keynotes included Bethenny Frankel, Ali Maffucci and Rayna Greenberg, among other notables. Here are some of the top influencer tips from the event:


Influencers are more savvy than ever

Many of the top-tier food influencers shared that they’re aware of their own metrics, conversion rates and audience demographics. They aren’t just blindly posting content with no understanding of how it may perform, and they can see which content is the most successful against benchmarks. They take this into consideration when discussing partnerships with brands. These influencers think brands should ask for this information in the negotiation phases because it shows they’re committed to working with the right influencer partners. On the flip side, it has made these influencers also more aware of what they’re worth and they’re going to ask for it.

Use your influencer partner’s audience

Influencers mentioned more than once Instagram is the platform they spend most of their time on. And they work with their brand partners in some interesting ways based on Instagram’s features. On Instagram Stories, users can poll their audience, quiz them and encourage them to donate to a nonprofit. One influencer mentioned she has used these capabilities to help define what kind of content she creates in her sponsorships. For example, she’ll poll her audience about which recipe they want to see and then work on the one more likely to have successful engagement metrics. Or she quizzes her audience to see how much they know (or don’t know) about a particular product, which can help her draft copy that raises awareness about key product messages. For brands, it’s a great way to get some inside info and help drive the influencer relationship to maximize returns.

Long-term partnerships and licensing

We keep hearing it from our influencer friendlies across verticals, but influencers reiterated at BlogHer – they want to work with brands in long-term partnerships. They are less interested in one-and-done posts because it devalues their audience’s trust and feels less authentic than working with a brand they love over a long period of time. Finally, a quick watch-out for brands: influencers want to know if brands will use their content. They are content creators and if their imagery ends up in the brand’s ads or website, they want to know about that in the negotiations. Using their content without permission outside of what was agreed upon isn’t best practice, and the creators should be additionally compensated for these uses.

Lucy Arnold is a Vice President of Digital focused on influencer marketing and social media strategy.

JUNE 13, 2019 //     

Empowering Women in the Workplace

Our North American President Anne Colaiacovo has always been dedicated to supporting and empowering female employees to reach their full potential. As a recent inductee to PRWeek’s Hall of Femme, she reflects on how women no longer have an expiration date on their career and describes how Allison+Partners supports their professional journey.  

JUNE 12, 2019 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 4: The Influence It Factor

Credit: Lex and the CityBy: Owen Clark

I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve interviewed on-camera over the past decade. But between being a TV reporter, a media trainer and a video director, I’d put the number well over 1,000. Of those 1,000-plus people, I’d say 99% had the same reaction when I showed them the footage of their interview: “Ugh, I hate seeing myself on camera.”

I’m convinced the reason for this sudden self-loathing is because even in our selfie-obsessed culture, when the proverbial red light comes on and we’re forced to actually deliver on-camera we realize it’s a really hard skill to master.  


So is taking good photos, writing interesting copy and publishing content that is relevant and engaging to your audience. Not to mention finding sponsors, balancing advertiser requests vs. audience credibility and generally doing all the things a content operation needs to do to pay the bills.

To succeed as an influencer in today’s landscape, all those duties fall on the individual. They  are host, photographer, sales rep and editorial board. They are responsible for balancing the needs of the brands that pay them and the audience who has trusted them enough to tune in, subscribe or share what they’re saying.

In this episode of The Stream Podcast, Owen and Micah dive into the world of the paid influencer with two content creators from opposite ends of the experience and audience spectrum: Alexis Holden of Lex and The City and James Hills of Mantripping. Topics include side-eyes while taking food selfies, best bucket list vacations and trying to get paid while not sounding like a walking commercial.

For more data and insight on today’s ecosystem of Influence check out Allison+Partners’ Influence 360.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.


JUNE 10, 2019 //     

A Bellwether for Affordable Housing

Credit: Seattle TimesBy: Hamilton McCulloh

Progress is very good for economic development. Longtime residents of the Pacific Northwest still recall the billboard in the 1970s on I-5 that asked, “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn off the lights?” following a massive layoff at Boeing. It was primarily a one-industry town at that time.

Fast forward 40 years, and the region is home to Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, Nordstrom, Zillow, Weyerhaeuser, Expedia, REI, and many others. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple are all expanding operations here. Progress is indeed good, but growth does pose significant challenges — traffic and affordable housing chief among them.


This issue is not unique to Seattle. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the United States has a shortage of seven million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income renters whose household incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or at 30% of their area median income. This is true in all 50 states, although it is extreme on the West Coast in markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles, among others.

This is what it looks like when tens of thousands of people move to one City every year. The rapid rise of new Seattle: Time-lapse video shot over 3 years captures city’s massive growth

Let’s park the traffic problem for now and focus on affordable housing. Thanks to a very innovative non-profit organization, Seattle may be unique in how to respond to the challenge.

Bellwether Housing was created by business and civic leaders through the Downtown Seattle Association in 1980 to help close the gap between income and ever-increasing rent. Its goal was (and is) to build diverse communities where people of all incomes and backgrounds share in the prosperity of the region. Bellwether believes it is vital to create stable communities and access to opportunity through affordable housing, even as demand far outpaces supply. The organization steps in to develop and manage homes for people with limited incomes near job centers.

Bellwether provides affordable homes to 3,500 people every year at 32 properties. But its next challenge is even greater, and Bellwether is going to need a lot of help.

Bringing the community together to help solve the problem

Affordable housing in rapidly growing cities is not a new challenge. And the solutions are not so easy to explain. So how does one go about developing a communications strategy to engage the local decision makers?

Allison+Partners’ Real Estate Group works with a wide range of real estate organizations, helping them to communicate to stakeholders what is being done to enhance affordability and livability in their communities. We recently hosted a reception on behalf of Bellwether Housing. In attendance were 60 of the region’s top developers, investors, contractors, brokers and architects, among other business and civic leaders, to hear from Bellwether CEO Susan Boyd about their new impact-investment opportunity.

By pulling this group together, key decision makers from across the region’s business and civic communities now have a much greater understanding of how they can help make this innovative vision a reality – collectively. 

Investing in opportunity, our neighbors and co-workers

In response to the accelerating need, Bellwether’s Building Opportunity Campaign offers socially minded, accredited investors a meaningful way to address the affordable housing challenge. Invested funds come to Bellwether and go directly into a targeted housing development. The housing financed today is preserved for future generations.

Building affordable housing costs just as much as building any other property. Bellwether is working to develop 750 new units in four buildings in the Puget Sound region to respond to the area’s increasing affordability gap. Each new development is located on the Sound Transit Light Rail line for easy and affordable transit.  

Rents continue to outpace salary growth for many. Bellwether Housing has secured $257 million through a variety public grants and non-profit partners but they need to raise an additional $9 million in private funding to fully leverage the power of the money raised to date. The private funding allows them to offer homes to a wider range of incomes and develop larger homes for families. Those who invest will receive a modest but guaranteed return on their investment over five, 10 and 15 years. But really, the idea of helping people have the security of a place to call home is a great investment.  

Here is video that provides more information.

Hamilton McCulloh is a vice president in Allison+Partners’ Real Estate Group. He has more than 20 years of experience overseeing communications, community engagement and media relations in the real estate industry.

JUNE 5, 2019 //     

For Women in PR, Challenging the Status Quo Means Letting Go

By: Anne Colaiacovo

Today I have the incredible honor of being named to PRWeek’s 2019 “Hall of Femme.” In PRWeek’s words, this distinction “honors leaders in the communications industry who challenge the status quo, move the needle in business and strive to make a difference.” As I read those words, I thought about each quality and how they relate to my career.

When I first started in the PR industry, and particularly at an agency, there were many preconceived notions about how my career would play out. Some of these were mine, while others were thrust upon me.


I would work long hard hours (OK, I can do that!).

I would be the youngest, and often the only, woman in more rooms than I could count (Bring it on!).

I would “fake it ‘til I made it” and never dream of letting down my boss, mentor, clients or team (That pressure was exhausting!).

If I worked hard, I would be rewarded. There would be no need to negotiate or lobby (This was fine, until it wasn’t.).

As a woman, my career had an expiration date. If I wanted to have children, I would likely have to pivot and change course to “have it all.” (That was BS!)

And so many more.

As I got years under my belt, I realized the “status quo” wasn’t just doing a disservice to me. More importantly, it was doing a disservice to my teams and our industry. For me, to really challenge the status quo, I had to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I had to leave a job I was comfortable in and take one that scared that sh*t out of me.

I learned to trust my gut, surround myself with people smarter than me, take chances and completely let go of the fear of failure. I wasn’t just going to come to work every day – I was going to build something. 

The exciting thing about viewing my career as a way to build something – something that lasts long beyond me – was that it gave this business I always loved a meaning it never had before. Now everything I did had a ripple effect for the people coming after me. So, now, I really meant business.

But all the preconceived notions had to go.

I wasn’t just going to work hard. I was going to work smart. Now I’ve got two kids to get home to. Some days, that means getting up and working at 5 a.m. so I can be at the dance class at 4 p.m. Some days, that means going to the mat for an idea I know is going to work. Some days, that means saying no to a client or piece of business because they don’t really value PR and what we bring to the table.

Now, I may no longer be the youngest woman in the room, but I must make a place for all the young women coming up in the agency. And that is my greatest honor.

I’m incredibly lucky to work in a place where I feel like my value is known and acknowledged. But I also had to learn my own worth and ask for the roles and responsibilities I really wanted. It’s also up to me to create this same scenario for everyone. Whether that is through mentoring, overhauling our review process, throwing out and rewriting our parental leave policy, or simply diligently giving feedback and guidance.

Working at Allison+Partners for more than 10 years, I’ve been surrounded by the most creative, intelligent, strategic thinkers in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by leaders whose vision has shown me public relations can do more to drive results than any other discipline – and that there are no limits to what we can achieve if we stick to our agency’s core values and put people first.

Now, I know I can be president and a mom. I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of creating an environment that is flexible to this, and to every day be an example to those who may still struggle with the misconceptions I used to have. I’m still “faking it ‘til I make it!” But I’ve learned stress and fear are not tied to success. I’ve learned when I’m able to let go of the fear, the anxiety and the worry, I free up room in my brain to think, and to be creative, strategic and happy.

Anne Colaiacovo is the president of North America at Allison+Partners. In addition to being inducted to PRWeek’s 2019 “Hall of Femme,” she was was named one of the outlet’s “40 Under 40” in 2014.

APRIL 9, 2019 //     

Say So: Mobility Culture: Imagine What’s Possible

Credit: iStockBy: Marcus Gamo and Lisa Rosenberg

Allison+Partners’ latest industry report, The Birth of Mobility Culture, explores the implications for brand marketers of changing definitions of transportation. The study uncovered a shift from car culture to mobility culture, one that will be driven forward by Gen Z. Senior Vice President and Automotive Specialty Group Lead Marcus Gamo introduced the new study at a communications panel with executives from Toyota, Uber and Trōv.  In this installment of “Say So,” he and agency Chief Creative Officer Lisa Rosenberg discuss what stood out, as well as the impact mobility culture may have on the future of how we get from here to there.


Marcus: I’m still amazed at how far we’ve come so quickly in accepting and consuming new modes of transportation. I had to laugh during one of our conversations about the thought that we were warned not too long ago about the risks of getting together with a stranger you’d meet online … or getting into a car with a stranger for a ride. Now, it’s incredibly common, accepted and rewarded for using our smartphones to Uber to a bar or restaurant to meet someone you’ve only connected with through Tinder! This really does speak to a dramatic shift in our values and behavior. What really stood out to me from the study and our panel conversation was that the birth of this new culture was sparked by our youngest group of consumers – Gen Z. These consumers are placing more emphasis on “we” values, such as shared time and experiences, rather than “me” values, which have defined other generations … especially Millennials.

Lisa:  That is so funny! I remember telling my kids when they were little never to get in cars with strangers and, now that they are teenagers (and squarely Gen Z), they think nothing about hopping into an UberPool and heading to a party hosted by someone they “know” only on social. It will be interesting to see how mobility culture evolves as this generation drives it forward. I can imagine brands outside of the mobility space looking to partner with a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft as a way to capitalize on these “we” values and offer customized, branded experiences that can be shared and enjoyed with others. Who’s to say that in a few years you won’t be able to order up a “Beauty Bar Uber” so that you and a girlfriend can have your hair and makeup done while in route to a night on the town.

Marcus: I think you’re exactly right! If we look around our current mobility world today, there’s a real desire for drivers and passengers alike to rethink how they spend time on the road. The infotainment system of the past, with those in the car passively listening to music, a podcast or even taking a call, will look much more like James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. We heard from Gen Z that they value a connection between mobility and engagement, especially with each other. If the entertainment value of the drive or ride experience is determined by the time spent with others, we can imagine the positive benefits. No longer is that drive home from work a commute. It’s a happy hour that doesn’t focus on the total time spent in the car. This may open people to the idea of moving and traveling further out from a city center, and create new communities, jobs and economic centers.  

Lisa: I think you’re on to something, especially when you consider the behaviors and preferences of Gen Z. This is a generation that’s just now entering the workforce for the first time. From what we’ve seen, they are going to flip today’s discussion of work-life balance on its head and will expect flexibility when it comes to how, when and where they work. If a commute is no longer the dreaded drag that it is for many today, we may see a generational shift away from urban centers and a return to the great outdoors. I can see it now – 20-somethings traversing the New York tri-state in the Jetson’s-like pods from my favorite television show growing up, while enjoying breakfast with friends before parachuting down to their offices’ drop zone in time for their first morning meeting. If that’s the mobility culture we’re driving towards, sign me up – it sounds like fun!

Marcus Gamo is a Senior Vice President and the agency's Automotive Specialty Group Lead and Lisa Rosenberg is the agency's Chief Creative Officer.

APRIL 5, 2019 //     

New AP Style and grammar changes: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the change

Credit: TeachingEnglishBy: Jacques Couret

You can’t teach a dog new tricks, and the same often holds true for copy editors.

We’re a critical bunch, naturally adverse to changes to grammar and style rules after decades of upholding them and acting as the last line of defense between creative copy and an audience eager to find an embarrassing error. I believe the young kids call these people “Grammar Nazis”? I digress…

So when the Associated Press Stylebook update and American Copy Editors Society Conference hit every spring, people like me clench their teeth, cross their fingers and hope the higher powers don’t mess with beloved tradition. Inevitably, they do mess with beloved tradition and set off nerdy online and intra-newsroom grammar debates I enjoy as much as a glass of Islay scotch.

For those not as inclined to such fussy academic quarreling, I present some key AP Style and English grammar changes that will make writing in your professional life much easier.


New AP Stylebook Rules

Percent vs. % – It is now acceptable to use “%” instead of having to write out “percent.” There should be no space between the numeral and the symbol. If the percentage is less than one, place a “0” before the decimal. Correct: “A survey shows 99.9% of Allison+Partners employees agree The Beatles are the greatest rock band of all time. Who cares what the 0.1% think?”

Hyphenated race – Race designations, such as African American, Asian American, Italian American and so forth, no longer require hyphens.

Casualty/Casualties – do not use the word “casualty” or “casualties” because AP deems the word “vague and can refer to either injuries or deaths. Instead, be specific about what is meant. If authorities use the term, press for specifics. If specifics aren’t available, say so: Officer Riya Kumar said the crash resulted in casualties, but she did not know whether those were injuries or deaths.”

Cocktail – it is no longer acceptable to use the word “cocktail” to describe a mixture of drugs. It’s now proper to write “drug combination,” “drugs” or “medications.”

Suspect – do not use the word “suspect” to describe “a person of unknown identity who definitely committed a crime. In other words, don’t substitute suspect for robber, killer, rapist, etc., in describing an event, even if authorities phrase it that way. Correct: Police said the robber stole 14 diamond rings; the thief ran away. Incorrect: Police said the suspect stole 14 diamond rings; the suspect ran away. Conversely, don’t substitute robber, killer, rapist, etc., when suspect is indeed the correct word. Correct: Police arrested the suspect the next day. Incorrect: Police arrested the robber the next day.”

Grammar change from the American Copy Editors Society

Split Infinitives – In a nod to the spoken word, it is now OK to split an infinitive in professional writing. For those who took naps in English 101, an infinitive is the “to form” of the verb. To go. To eat. To sleep. The old rule was to always place an adverb after the verb and never between the “to” and the verb. An example from Star Trek: “To boldly go where no man has gone before…” is now correct. Formerly, a copy editor would have corrected that phrase to read “to go boldly.” Split infinitives are now acceptable, meaning the written word will sound better to the ear.

In a related note, most contemporary grammarians now give their blessing to end sentences with prepositions. The great Sir Winston Churchill himself once mocked someone who criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition by saying: "That is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!"

The “never end a sentence with a preposition” rule is arbitrary. It’s a rule a British essayist popularized centuries ago based on language roots in Latin, where it is not possible to end a  sentence with a preposition. Scholarly English grammarians who wished to apply Latin rules to English (a square peg in a round hole if there ever was one) should not dictate how we write today. If we have to rewrite sentences to avoid putting prepositions at the end, it can read and sound awkward. It’s better to go with what sounds better.

These are all rules you can live easily with.

Jacques Couret is editorial manager for All Told.

APRIL 2, 2019 //     

Shouldn’t every day be Equal Pay Day?

Credit: CNN.comBy: Anne Colaiacovo

When I began my career, it was understood that men needed to make more money faster than women because men, “had different financial pressures,” or “were responsible for caring for a family” or “had certain expectations for themselves by certain ages.” The thought was that women would wait. We’d be patient, understanding… because we’re women and that’s what we’re good at, right?

Not this woman! Not the women who came before me. And, thankfully, not the women AND men ahead of me.

Today is Equal Pay Day, which the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) started in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned the previous year.


Unfortunately for millions of women, today is still not an equal pay day. I’m grateful this hasn’t been my experience, thanks in part to my own doing and in part to the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I’ve been blessed with the luxury of choice, while most women are not.

Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee voted to advance legislation that would strengthen protections for female workers and help close the gender wage gap. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), aims to advance women’s pay by prohibiting employers from requesting salary histories and preventing them from retaliating against employees for disclosing their pay. The bill also calls for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect wage data based on sex, race and national origin to better determine if employers are responsible for discriminatory practices. It will next go for a vote in the Senate.

Those of us with the luxury of choice must now choose to speak for those who do not have it -- speak with our votes, speak with our actions and speak with our power.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “it will take until 2059 for women to reach pay parity if change continues at the current pace. Black women would have to wait until 2119 for equal pay, and Latina women until 2224.” We simply cannot wait that long.

In my role at Allison+Partners, I work with my partners and colleagues to ensure pay gaps do not exist at our agency. I’m proud of that, but it’s a small piece. For those of us who can, we must choose the companies we work at wisely. Ask the right questions. Do the research not just for ourselves, but for others. If employers know the best female talent in the country simply won’t work for their organizations, they will be forced to address their shortcomings.

We have the power to hold our companies responsible, to hold our industries responsible, to hold our politicians responsible and to hold ourselves responsible.

Anne Colaiacovo is President, North America at Allison+Partners.

MARCH 22, 2019 //     

The Perfection Fallacy: Four Ways to Achieve Your Career Goals That Have Nothing to Do with Being Perfect

By: Lauren Bayse and Chelsea Russo

“It’s OK not to have everything done perfectly.” If you’re like us, you’ve heard this before and you know it’s true, but it can be hard to truly believe. However, when it comes from Padma Lakshmi—producer, actress, model and host of Top Chef—you start to actually believe perhaps perfection isn’t an attainable or worthwhile goal.

The theme of perfection and how it can hinder women from “getting things done,” resonated during The Cut’s 2019 “How I Get It Done” event, which featured a roster of impressive “lady bosses,” including Robin Roberts, Aidy Bryant, Hope Solo and Maya Rudolph. All of these women agreed collectively perfection is an unfair, unproductive goal with which women burden themselves. So, the next time you find yourself obsessing over perfection at work, try obsessing over these four things instead:



Building a network of female (and male) cohorts is the most important thing you can do for your career. You can never truly know how your career trajectory will play out, so it’s important to cultivate meaningful connections wherever you can.

It’s equally important to remember building a network doesn’t mean setting up a few coffee dates to hastily compile a list of people you can ask to serve as references. Rather, networking is about finding people who appreciate and support your ambitions and passions. Natasha Lyonne and Greta Lee of Netflix’s “Russian Doll” shared their now strong and steady working relationship was born through a series of meetings and shared passion projects over time—it wasn’t built overnight. The pair’s relationship started as two women simply admiring and supporting each other’s long-term career goals.


Change is uncomfortable, challenging and often unwanted. However, it’s also inevitable. Author A.M. Homes summed up: “[Change] is super important, because I think it gets dangerous when you become so routinized that you actually can’t do something another way.” This is particularly true for those of us in industries, like public relations, constantly impacted by technology’s evolution.

While it’s natural to react apprehensively to an organizational restructure, a new colleague or a different role, take solace that navigating change challenges everyone. Seek advice from friends and mentors, and remember there is no such thing as managing change perfectly. Be kind to yourself and know—more often than not—change is good.  


It’s easy to recognize our flaws, but it’s much harder to identify and leverage our strengths. Topeka Sam, founder of The Ladies of Hope Ministries and Hope House NYC, witnessed firsthand in federal prison the disparity of incarceration on women. Realizing her affinity for community building and fundraising, she used her voice and network to advocate successfully for prison reform and help women transition out of the federal prison system.

In moments of perceived failure, it can be remarkably difficult to recognize our strengths. Lean on friends and reflect on past triumphs to help you identify the unique qualities you bring to the table. We all have strengths—it’s just a matter of finding them and acting on them.


Perfection’s ability to stifle women’s career progression came up in different ways during the event. But at the day’s close, The Cut Editor-in-Chief Stella Bugbee really summed it up: “You don’t have to be perfect to set out and achieve your goals. The best thing you can do is just start doing.”

So often, as women, we feel the need to anticipate every possible outcome of our actions to avoid our own self-imposed notions of failure. This type of thinking holds us back from taking the risks necessary to get ahead in our careers. It’s easier to talk ourselves out of having difficult conversations, like asking for that promotion, instead of just going for it and seeing what happens. The next time you prepare pros and cons ahead of a big meeting or new venture, feel empowered to throw the “plan” out the window and just put the wheels in motion. Your instincts are stronger than you think.

So, here’s to saying “no” to perfection and “yes” to ambition, tenacity and empowerment. We’ll never be perfect, but we don’t need to be.

Lauren Bayse is a director and Chelsea Russo is an account manager in Allison+Partners' corporate practice.

MARCH 18, 2019 //     

Remembering My Mentor, Henri Bollinger

Embed from Getty Images

By: Scott Pansky

Starting to write something on a blank piece of paper is always the hardest place to begin. Most of us find it easier to edit than to write something from scratch. What most don’t recognize is that’s how our life begins, and we can take our directions anywhere we want to go.

I start here, because when I think about mentorship, I think of ways we are mentored, where mentorship comes from or even signals that we might miss and come back to when someone provides us counsel. Some provide you with their gut instincts, some provide you with knowledge and some tell stories about how they have learned lessons the hard way.


When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was asked to open a public relations office for Connors Communications, the agency Scott Allison, Andy Hardie Brown, Jonathan Heit and I worked at together before Allison+Partners. I still remember my conversation with Scott when he asked me to open the office. I shared my fears of building something new, in a location that I had never lived and in a space I was not yet comfortable in. As a true friend and mentor, Scott told me not to worry, and that he would surround me with great people.

Two of those people came out from Connors’ New York office. One of those was Jonathan Heit who, today, has grown to become our company’s global president and a good friend. Another person was a gentleman named Jeffrey Bollinger. Jeffrey asked me if I had heard of his father, a famous entertainment publicist. I had not. So, he brought his dad to our office. You never know how one meeting could change your life and how being open to new opportunities can lead you down new trails. Just like the blank piece of paper, Henri asked what my goals were to build our office. I shared that we wanted to be the leading firm that helped build entertainment and tech companies as they began to transition content onto the web and other platforms, not yet knowing how mobile was ready to blast off.

Henri said he could help. He introduced me to the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, which he had started with industry friends. Less than a year later after chairing a technology committee, I became the president of the organization. Over the next four years, I helped grow the membership from 200 people to more than 600. Networking with industry leaders, helped build a solid foundation of relationships that I still have today. Henri also introduced me to UCLA Extension, where I taught for more than 17 years in his shadow.

What I remember most about Henri’s mentorship, is his ongoing personal counsel. He was the father of three kids, and understood the balancing act of juggling work and a large family. His advice was always on mark. He never provided answers, just stories, and let his experiences help guide mine. He saw each choice as an opportunity to do something new. He inspired me greatly, contributing so much to who I am today. And through our recently established scholarship program at UCLA in his name, I know he will continue to have an impact on others for years to come.

At Allison+Partners, we recognize the importance of mentorship and developed a program many years ago that empower our team members to find peer-to-peer relationships or even outside mentorships in areas that they are passionate in. Each is a blank piece of paper waiting to be shaped and groomed for a career that can take them anywhere. I will miss Henri, as my paper is only halfway done. Yet his guidance and positivity will continue to direct me.

Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners. 

FEBRUARY 27, 2019 //     

Unleash Your Inner Writer: Tips for Writing in An Agency Environment

Credit: Next Avenue

By: Riley McBride Smith

In marketing and communications, writing is arguably one of the most critical skills to master. Yet, drafting messaging, a blog post, a complex press release, a speech or a byline is often just listed as another item on our to-do list rather than being recognized as a task that requires a unique environment and significantly more time.

Early on in my career, I struggled to find the time and the mind space I knew was needed to write well in the hustle of an agency environment. However, along the way, I’ve learned some best practices that have helped set me up for success.


Don’t Rush the Process

The communications industry is fast-moving and deadlines are pretty much always ASAP. However, while some tasks can be expedited, more time should be allotted for complex writing projects. If you’re drafting a longer piece of content in 30 – 45 minutes without the opportunity to set it down and revisit, there’s a good chance it won’t be nearly as polished, thoughtful, or well-written as a piece written over several hours. Managers can help by giving writers on their teams enough lead time to tackle complex writing projects and by also weighing the time needed to complete the assignment appropriately and reallocating work as needed.

Set Aside Dedicated and Uninterrupted Writing Time

One thing that makes writing different than other tasks is the level of focus and uninterrupted time required to write. Spending ten minutes here and 15 minutes there in between calls and answering emails will lead to disjointed work that inevitably will take longer to draft. Writers will find they are much more efficient when they’re able to draft without frequent interruptions. Finding your rhythm and focus is important and so try to set aside several hours (depending on the length and type of writing project) so you can pull together a complete first draft or a full section. In our line of work, several hours of uninterrupted time will rarely emerge in your busy day, so the onus is on you to find ways to create that interrupted writing time in your schedule. Whether that means getting into the office earlier or finding a block of time in the evening, it’s important to create the environment you need to produce your best work.

Time of Day Matters

I recently attended the Digital Summit in Washington D.C. where social scientist Daniel Pink delivered a keynote inspired by his recent book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which provides a fascinating look at how time of day impacts cognitive function and ability. The research overwhelmingly shows that the most productive time of day for most people is in the morning. During this time of the day, people are more focused, able to ignore distractions and generally more positive and optimistic. Unfortunately, research shows that productivity begins to decline in early afternoon during what Pink calls the “trough” of your day. During this time, your mood and focus are both at all day lows and as a result, concentration and efficiency will suffer. You begin to recover later in the day and, while you won’t reach the peak of productivity you had in the morning, your mood will improve and you will become slightly more flexible, collaborative and creative. While each individual is different, keeping this in mind as you prioritize your writing projects may help. Most importantly, try to focus on what time of day YOU feel best. There is a small subset of people that are true night owls and can produce some of their best work in the evenings. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg notoriously works past midnight!) It’s up to you to find those magic hours when the writing comes easiest.

The Secret to Great Writing is Rewriting

The more you reread, redraft and refine your writing, the better it will be. Sometimes getting the first draft down on paper is the biggest challenge. Take a mental break and revisit it with fresh eyes, spend more time wordsmithing and streamlining. You may be shocked by how much your writing can improve between the first, second draft and third drafts. Also always try to pass it along to a third party, as even the best writers can benefit from an outside perspective.  

In the agency world, there are times when you won’t have the luxury of uninterrupted time to deliver great writing, but when you do, try to create an environment that will set you up for success.

Riley McBride Smith is an account director in Allison+Partners’ Washington D.C. office.

FEBRUARY 26, 2019 //     

What Influencers Wish Marketers Knew

Credit: Allison+PartnersBy: Brent Diggins

Studies about influencer marketing are often eager to dissect every detail and produce endless data on marketers, things like marketer pain points, spends or perceived effectiveness. And there are mounds of them. 

But what about the influencers? Marketers continue to devote more spend to them and rely on their creative ability and network to produce results in this flexible and unique marketing channel. Yet, few have sat down with influencers at broad scale to uncover their opinions, particularly in context with marketer viewpoints.

To uncover more about the marketer/influencer dynamic, Allison+Partners conducted qualitative interviews of both marketers and influencers that operate in the same arenas and asked them complementary questions. The study found there was a large divide between influencers and marketers on many topics, from the length of an ideal engagement to the essential question of return on investment.

While exploring the divide with influencers, there were topics that screamed to the top. These insights are things that influencers wished marketers knew for the sake of mutual success, improvement and continued growth of the industry.

We Can Help Optimize Your Campaign

Optimization is a standard practice for most marketing channels. Not so much in influencer marketing, according the influencers surveyed. Influencers indicated that it is rare for marketers to ask for active campaign data and even more unusual that adjustments are made midstream.

It is easy for influencers to see what type of content is performing best (or not) in both numbers and by understanding the pulse of their audience. They can help marketers understand the channel mix, where to allocate resources or even what message is resonating. This leads to better outcomes.  

Longer Engagements Produce Better Results

One topic that the influencers strongly agreed upon is that longer engagements would produce better results. They believe their followers will see brand partnerships as more authentic and will become more familiar with the brand as they see it more. They also feel that micro-relationships, like one-post campaigns, are ad-like, which can discredit both the brand and influencer.

Content Lives Longer than You Realize

Many influencers provided anecdotes of high-performing content, especially on blogs, that lived long after the influencer marketing campaign ended. Examples of continued performance include content interaction, traffic generated to a website and appearance in search results.

As an opportunity, marketers could engage with the influencer to amplify that content where it lives or extend it through paid support. At the very least, reengaging past successful partners or content should be top of mind.

We Know Our Audience Better than You Can  

Often, marketers are going blindly into relationships with influencers. Influencers said that marketers rarely work with them to understand their audience and what may resonate, everything from tone to type of content. Sure, marketers may have tools to gain audience insights or more in-depth information about influencer, but influencers believe that their innate understanding of their audience, what they like and what they don’t like, is something that can only be truly understood by them.

If given the opportunity to provide deeper audience insights, influencers believe they can add great value to marketers at multiple stages, from planning to optimization.

Be Open to Changes in Your Creative Asks

If you offer no flexibility in your creative brief or campaign, you may not get the results that you want. Since influencers believe they know their audience better than anyone, they also believe that, if given flexibility in creative, they can produce better outcomes.

Many influencers bemoaned stringent creative briefs, especially those that provide canned content and copy with no room for personalization, which leads to a lack of authenticity and ultimately performance.

You Need to Ask Us for Our Opinions

Influencers believe that marketers need to learn to work outside of accustomed transactional relationships. Many insist that marketers see them only as a contractor, not a partner, and therefore rarely ask them for their opinions.

At the same time, influencers are self-admittedly bashful about sharing their unsolicited opinions. While some of this communication gap is surely a two-way issue, marketers need to understand that influencers do have useful insights to share.

Search for Authenticity

One topic that influencers strongly believe in is “authenticity.” They believe that authenticity is one of their greatest attributes and is a strong indicator of success. However, authenticity most often emerges in comments and interactions, places that marketers don’t typically look. They also believe that marketers can spot inauthentic influencers by going deeper and looking for posts with little quality interaction.

We Have Data You Probably Want

Influencers have a mine of untapped data that marketers rarely ask for. Influencers said the most requested data points are page views, reach or engagements and little else beyond. However, influencers aren’t sharing more than is asked, as they are unsure if it would be wanted or useful.

With platform analytics continuing to advance, there is more data available to influencers than ever. In addition to platform-driven data, influencers also can provide anecdotal data including messages they may have received and benchmark context.

Moving Forward as Partners

As the industry continues to invest in influencer marketing, it is time to revisit the marketer and influencer relationship. It is time to look at influencers not only as conduits, but as partners. As marketers, we must take the step forward to bridge the gaps that exist. It is our responsibility to unleash the full potential of influencer marketing. See our infographic for tips we recommend for both marketers and influencers to help bridge the gap.

Brent Diggins is the managing director of measurement + analytics at Allison+Partners, a global marketing and communications firm. 

This article was originally posted on

FEBRUARY 21, 2019 //     

The Stream Episode 3: Unpacking a Viral Video’s Success

By: Owen Clark

Sometimes there is a great story behind a great story. Such is the case in the third episode of The Stream podcast, which takes us the behind-the-scenes of the “shockingly successful” “Close Before You Doze” video campaign from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI).

If you aren’t one of the 10M+ people who have already watched the video, stop what you’re doing and check it out now. It might save your life. It will also make you think twice about how a simple message and a creative approach to storytelling can spread like…well, you get the idea. 


Fire is just the beginning of what went into the production of this officially “viral” video sensation. There are literal hurricanes, metaphorical production headwinds and a host of opportunities where the project would have gone sideways if it wasn’t for a creative team effort from everyone involved.

To tell this story properly, we switched from the Q&A format you heard in the first two podcast episodes and pivoted to an “oral history,” where we hear first-hand from folks at UL, Luntz Global and Allison+Partners who brought the video to life. By listening to what they have to say, you’ll learn about what it takes to create a viral video and what the project’s success says about the positive potential for social information sharing.

Thanks for listening, and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

FEBRUARY 8, 2019 //     

When Your Mobile Phone Can’t Help You

Credit: Your Black WorldBy: Scott Allison 

Like many people, I’m addicted to my smartphone and all the incredible things it can do. However, as a communicator and public speaker, I’ve seen firsthand how this great technological advance has impacted peoples’ ability to communicate in person. It’s now much easier to deliver stories from behind a shiny device than to stand up in public and present your point of view. And, for those who’d rather face death than face an audience, public speaking has become a lot scarier.


I was one of those people. I had a massive fear of public speaking and, ironically, I was just launching a career in public relations. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) pointed out how it was an unfortunate career choice when public speaking would play such a significant role. Thanks.

Instead of hiding, I decided to join Toastmasters though and tackle the problem head on. It was a great chapter that met on Tuesday mornings in downtown San Diego. This was 30 years ago and some of the people in that group are still friends of mine today. We were all just starting out in our careers and recognizing the importance that public speaking would play. I gradually overcame the fear and recognized that I enjoyed speaking. I started to do it competitively, and ultimately became president of the local Toastmasters chapter.

As my career evolved, I realized I could take the skills I had learned and help others who were uncomfortable speaking. At Allison+Partners, I’ve had the opportunity to work with colleagues to assist many CEOs, filmmakers, marketing executives and even high-school students with their presentation skills. I know we’ve made a material difference in helping them find their voice, build authenticity and over-come roadblocks. I’m proud of the impact we may have made when I see people like filmmaker Peter Ramsey, who we media trained when he directed “Rise of the Guardians,” give a compelling speech after winning a Golden Globe Award last month. 

At the end of the day, technology cannot replace or even enhance one’s ability to give a powerful in-person presentation. Sometimes you must stand and deliver, and I worry the frenzy on digital and mobile platforms is detracting from building human interaction skills. I’m grateful for the time I’ve invested on my public speaking skills and I believe what I learned was essential to advancing my career, and is also important for others. Technology is amazing, but not everything can be disrupted.  People spend a lot of time focused on their “personal brand” which is largely focused online. But how about the real brand …  the brand people see when you stand up and speak?

Many, many people are still terrified of public speaking and most are doing nothing to improve these skills. However, at some point in time, almost everyone will need to stand up and deliver a presentation to colleagues, a sales target or group they’re involved with. Their mobile won’t be there to save them.

Scott Allison is the chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners

JANUARY 24, 2019 //     

Startup Roulette: Why The House Usually Wins

Credit: Don Mason / Getty ImagesBy: Scott Allison 

There’s always great anticipation when new companies with old ideas and old companies with new ideas flock to CES. Las Vegas provides the perfect backdrop to the startup community as the place where gamblers come in droves hoping and expecting to “win big” at the casino. But there’s a reason they keep building humongous new hotels and casinos there … the house almost always wins.


The odds aren’t much better for startup companies. The failure rate is 95%, which is about the same odds you get on a roulette table. As a fellow entrepreneur who has been fortunate to study startups closely from a three-dimensional vantage point over a 20-year period, I would not want to discourage anyone. Starting and owning your own company is an amazing experience, but a reality check is also in order.

Eighteen years ago, Allison+Partners was a tiny startup that was woefully under-capitalized. Yet we were able to make it profitable in under 12 months and have delivered an astounding 6,000% growth since then. Now, we have 30 offices and more than 450 people around the globe. During our trajectory, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best and most disruptive startups, including YouTube, Dropbox and Whatsapp, as well as many small companies that never made it. I’ve also been fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) to do some angel investing on the side.

The culmination of these experiences has given me a clear perspective on why startups are so difficult to get off the ground and why so many fail. To the brave of heart who decide to roll the dice, I offer a few nuggets of advice…   

Having more money to invest does not mean you’ll survive.

We built our company with an initial investment of $300,000. It wasn’t enough, but we made it work. We knew that as a professional services company, few outside investors would be interested and we’d have to bootstrap it on our own. But we had a clear business plan in place and were very cautious with how we invested and spent.

Entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature and always believe they could be successful if they could only raise one more round. Unfortunately, many startups raise tons of money and then waste it. I won’t ever forget working with a startup in 2000 that raised and blew $750 million. The challenge wasn’t that they didn’t have enough money. It was that they couldn’t clearly articulate what their company stood for and were constantly changing their business model. Put simply, they did not know who they were. If you’re not clear on your objectives and your business strategy is wrong, more money won’t solve the problem. 

Know who you’re selling to and if there’s a viable market. 

Seems easy, right? Wrong. I’m always amazed at how many startups haven’t done their homework and don’t understand the marketplace. Many also don’t focus on sales or fall victim to “fascination with shiny objects” – constantly changing their product or service.  

When we launched our company, the founding partners had all been in the business for 15+ years. We knew the market and how our services would resonate in the marketplace. This deep understanding, combined with our focus on investing in our core offerings, laid the foundation for our success today.

Profits matter.  

We’re all familiar with Uber and know the company isn’t yet profitable. Think you can survive the same way? Sorry, you’re not Uber. Very few companies are. You need to make money. 

The startup graveyard is littered with companies that had great ideas but couldn’t turn a profit. This theory was proven many times in the era and still persists today. Turning a great idea into a great company is not easy, which is why I’ve always admired successful entrepreneurs like Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum. They had great ideas, focused on building robust and sustainable companies and surrounded themselves with good, smart people to help bring their visions to life. They had passion, but also knew there is seldom a substitute for being profitable through both good and bad times.  

Scott Allison is the chairman and CEO of Allison+Partners.

JANUARY 9, 2019 //     

Effective media relations strategies amid the changing media landscape

By: Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald

In the public relations industry, media relationships are important to secure earned media stories that add business value for clients. We consistently take out editors, pitch our clients and build important, lasting relationships. But beyond standard relationship-building practices, how do we elevate our company and relationships in unique ways as editorial staffs continue to shrink and face-to-face time increasingly diminishes?


As the landscape continues to shift rapidly – print editions closing, frequent editor moves, etc. – it’s critical to hear directly from the source on a regular basis to learn how we can most effectively work with our key media contacts.

Cue the launch of Allison+Partners’ Media Maven Panel, an initiative developed in fall 2018 with Allison+Partners’ unique entrepreneurial spirit in mind to offer employees at all levels direct access to coveted media we frequently work with. The first panel’s theme, “Media 101,” presented an incredible opportunity to hear from three top-tier editors about how PR professionals can shine with a strong aptitude of media relations basics.

We hosted the below editors in our NYC office for an engaging discussion:

  • Amy Marturana, SELF senior fitness editor
  • Kerry Flynn, Digiday marketing reporter
  • Mike Murphy, Quartz deputy technology editor

We purposefully recruited editors from three different verticals (lifestyle, marketing, tech) to get a well-rounded perspective on best practices. We covered all things media – from a day-in-the-life, to the stories they’re most passionate about and the qualities they most respect in their favorite PR practitioners.

The Media Maven panel success is two-fold – we learn directly from editors excited to share best practices that, in turn, make our working relationship much stronger. And it’s a fantastic relationship-building opportunity, unique to our company. Hosting editors in our office gives them a special inside look at the Allison+Partners culture – another incredibly special differentiator to our agency and an energy and enthusiasm felt immediately upon entering one of our offices. 

Stemming from the panel, we walked away with three key learnings that can help any PR professional break through the pitching clutter:

Do your research – While this might seem obvious, not everyone does it (especially when on a tight deadline). Know the publication you pitch, what it covers/what it doesn’t and how your client most strategically fits in. Editors appreciate when you pitch them specific sections that prove you’ve done your research and know the publication or call out an article you’ve recently read and liked. Also, if an editor has just covered a topic, don’t pitch them on the same story. Doing your research also means knowing the editors’ beat and if they report for the print or online version – this of course informs their reporting timeframe and deadlines.

When to pitch, when not to and how-to follow-up appropriately –  Editors receive an influx of pitches between the 9-10 a.m. hour. When possible, try to pitch outside this timeframe so your note doesn’t get lost. Also – avoid addressing multiple editors in one email. This often creates a bystander effect, and no one ends up responding. It’s more impactful to address the one editor that’s the best fit. When not to pitch? Right before a holiday (stories are typically already baked, they’re not starting anything new), before a life event (i.e. if an editor is getting married) and avoid the weekends. Regarding follow-up, all editors said: “Do not call!” According to the editors, the only appropriate time to call is when you’re offering a publication an exclusive with a tight deadline. Otherwise, follow-up via email with a maximum of two emails. Pro-tip – when following up, consider reframing the angle of your initial pitch to appeal to the editor in a fresh way.

Relationship building is critical, so invest in it – Again, something that might seem obvious, but it needs to continue to be a top priority for PR practitioners. Relationship building is important beyond securing placements for clients. It makes the editor more comfortable to share candid feedback (which our clients always appreciate!). Some editors might avoid transparency when it comes to candid feedback if they don’t know you. When setting up meetings, ask what’s most convenient for that specific editor – everyone’s schedule and preference is different. Some might only have time for a morning coffee where others are more open to lunch or after work drinks/activities. Not in the same market as a key editor? No worries. Nowadays, editors are often open to building relationships via social media or email. Comment on an Instagram you thought was interesting or flag a story you loved over email. If you notice an editor is visiting in your market, reach out to make plans. Editors will appreciate the effort.

In 2019, we look forward to hosting additional Media Maven panels across the network in different offices and markets – ensuring we’re always up-to-date on our media relations knowledge and putting forward the most thoughtful, and impactful media strategies. Because, ultimately, it’s about the work.

Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald are account directors in Allison+Partners’ NYC office, specializing in media relations across the consumer and technology industries.

DECEMBER 7, 2018 //     

AI drives tech in China: Dispatches from the “Saudi Arabia of Data”

Credit: CNBC.comBy: Paul Mottram

As trade tensions between the United States and China dominate economic news, the world’s second-largest economy has accelerated in terms of tech. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine, and data is the fuel. And China has become, quite simply, the Saudi Arabia of data.

Those were the sentiments of Chinese and international tech leaders and investors who gathered at CNBC’s East Tech West conference at the Nansha new economic zone of Guangzhou in late November to investigate and discuss the outlook for China’s tech sector.


A series of speakers illuminated the reasons why. The Chinese consumer is the hero. Consumer spending now represents almost 66 percent of GDP -- a huge shift from the country’s traditionally investment-dominated economy. Consumers are also young, accepting of technology and increasingly demanding. Central, provincial and local governments actively support innovation. And there’s a critical mass of tech talent, both entering the workforce and returning from overseas.

AI as enabler

Alibaba Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist Wanli Min described AI and cloud technologies as the “twin turbo drive engine” of the new Chinese economy.

Take urban transportation, for example. China’s dominant ride-hailing service Didi handles more than 30 million trips every day, which in turn generates more than 100 terabytes of data. Didi not only has the data to plan trips in real time, but also claims to accurately forecast traffic patterns 15-30 minutes in advance. Meanwhile, a system pioneered by Alibaba controls traffic signals in the city of Hangzhou and reduces average ambulance arrival times by 48 percent.

Another example includes cutting-edge software development accompanied by hardware. New 5G mobile infrastructure enables the low latency necessary for effective autonomous driving applications, while AI-enabled chipsets allow vision systems to increase simultaneous recognition from around 20 discrete objects to more than 100.

This kind of technology and experience favorably positions Chinese companies to extend their reach overseas. As one AI company CEO pointed out, driving is rules-based. And if systems can be developed for relatively relaxed – in other words, unpredictable – societies, they will have fewer problems in more orderly places like Europe and North America.

“If you can do autonomous driving in India, you can do it anywhere,” he said.

Retail, banking and healthcare

In addition to transportation, tech-enabled transformation is also increasingly happening across other sectors in China.

Events, such as the annual Singles Day, have already brought Chinese e-commerce to the world’s attention. But speakers at East Tech West talked mostly about completing the retail system to encompass developments in payment and logistics and transforming shopping as we know it. While technologies, such as facial recognition, may appear to give retailers new, tailored sales opportunities, the ultimate power in the retail relationship will shift to consumers on the one hand and manufacturers on the other. Salespeople will act as mediators, but stores themselves will be simply showrooms and warehouses.

Similar fundamental shifts have begun in consumer banking. As Yang Qiang of Tencent’s WeBank pointed out, “on the Internet, everyone is a VIP customer.” He predicted banking is not so much being disintermediated as much as being more integrated into people’s lives.

“Banking will be like oxygen,” he said. “In your pocket, in your home and in your car.”

China’s healthcare system is one sector speakers agreed is most ripe for innovation. With more than 8 billion annual healthcare visits in China, that’s a lot of pain points – literally and figuratively. Machine learning and AI play a significant role. One smartphone picture of your eye can be used to diagnose more than 1,000 vision conditions and disorders. And as more data is gathered, the more effective the system will be.

Desensitizing data

In healthcare as with financial services, a key recurring concept was the “desensitizing” of data, whereby useful personal information collected by big-data systems is effectively separated from the identity of the user. While the topic of government access to data was studiously avoided by speakers and interviewers alike, there was clear recognition of the need for privacy and trust in the commercial world.

Overall, two days of presentations painted a picture of optimism and opportunity backed up with concrete examples of innovation impacting people’s lives now. Macroeconomic headlines and geopolitical realities weren’t ignored, but it will clearly take more than a trade war to stop the Chinese tech juggernaut.

Paul Mottram is managing director of All Told, Asia Pacific.

NOVEMBER 26, 2018 //     

Is #GivingTuesday just a forced fundraising moment?

Credit: Good360By: Scott Pansky

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. and major shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This movement kicks off the charitable season, when many people focus on their end-of-year giving.

However, as the day draws near, my email box is again filling up with requests for donations, and I can’t help but question some of the organizations that only use this strategy to participate once a year. Am I just another name in a data base? Wouldn’t it be a better to reach out more often and build a deeper relationship with your donors rather than competing with numerous causes for year-end donations?


Don’t get me wrong, #GivingTuesday has helped charities raise more than $300 million dollars since its inception, but this effort now feels like a charity requirement – a box to be checked – rather than an opportunity to build deeper, authentic relationships with donors. I even received an email from asking me to select my favorite nonprofit and invite my friends and family to give to my favorite cause #GivingTuesday.

Having worked with charities for more than 26 years, I want to take this holiday season to remind them, and those making donations, the importance of building long-term and engaging relationships and promoting an organization’s impact year-round. Here are some tips for nonprofits to consider when participating in post #GivingTuesday this year and next:

  • Share the impact of your funding efforts, not just money raised, but how the funds were usede. how many meals were served, how many scholarships were awarded, research grants distributed, gallons of water secured, services provided.
  • Don’t always ask for donations. Utilize your database (with opt-in or out options) to share your best stories. This can include testimonials from patients or families impacted by an issue, research findings, or stories of success.
  • Thank your donors often. Each donation, no matter the size is a gift. Donors want to feel appreciated and know that their gift is making a difference. Show them your appreciation and let them know they are an important part of your organization i.e. donor spotlights.
  • Ask them to share your organization’s results with friends and associates. Each of your donors are micro-influencers that can help you raise additional funds if they love your organization.
  • Give donors the chance to share their stories. Ask them to post to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram sites. Their followers may start following your cause too.

One example of an organization that is optimizing #GivingTuesday is one of our clients, Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA). The charity realized over the past few years it had received numerous donations, yet strong recognition systems were not supported on crowdfunding platforms to recognize the new donors on an ongoing basis. This year, PWNA adjusted its campaign to focus on public education and lead generation by asking donors to register for a chance to win a grand prize drawing, in addition to a "soft ask" for donations. Online visitors now have different ways to sign up for targeted or regular updates and can donate through a gift or purchase of a T-shirt branded for Native American Heritage Month, which is also in November. The charity segues their Heritage Month Campaign into #GivingTuesday via an update to registrants on #GivingTuesday that includes an additional soft ask. Samples of their campaign components may be viewed here.

These types of efforts will not only help deepen relationships, but may also increase your reach and donations, making the final impact more about the good work you do more than a once-a-year donation request. Start this #GivingTuesday and let’s see what responses you get next year.

Happy holidays!

Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners, who also leads the agency’s Social Impact group.

NOVEMBER 19, 2018 //     

With midterms over, does healthcare get to retake the test?

Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

By: Brian Feldman

Healthcare was the No. 1 political issue voters cited in last week’s midterm elections. The results are in, and it’s clear voters remain unhappy.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed, voters decided to target the Republican party to express their frustrations. Even after recounts in California, Georgia and Florida, the message remained clear: voters believe healthcare costs too much, we need to protect people with pre-existing conditions and, although we do not love what we have, the good news is we are still moving forward. Aside from that general sentiment, what did the election really mean for healthcare in the United States?


The government share of the market will grow, but there are incredible opportunities to provide services and products to government markets.

Voters in red states, such as Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, passed ballot measures to expand Medicaid and Kansas elected a new Democratic governor who is likely to do the same. Many of the new enrollees will be people who have never had insurance before; therefore, many of these states will ask the private sector to compete for these patients. In addition, all the government payers, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, will seek new ways to save money and provide better care. The private sector will have unlimited opportunities to market new ideas, products and services to these agencies. With the aging of our population and growing number of people having coverage, the healthcare market is an unlimited opportunity.

A wholesale takeover of healthcare via “Medicare for All” or a single-payer system isn’t happening any time soon but….

This issue won’t disappear. Numerous polls show voters of all types, especially young people, are open to the idea of the government being the payer for healthcare. Polls also show people under 65 favor being allowed to join the Medicare program. While costs estimates are widely disputed and the tax consequences are still unknown, insights prove this issue is going to be the subject of much debate. In fact, most of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates support “Medicare for All.”

The 2020 presidential campaign began last Wednesday, and the constant media attention about the 2020 election will include lots of discussion around this topic. The Medicare program has a very high approval rating, so labeling something “Medicare for All” sure seems like a popular way to approach this issue. In addition, some candidates will propose variations of this idea, such as a buy-in for those over 55 years of age, adding fuel to the fire.

In conclusion, the question remains: Can anything get done?

Drug pricing is one area where both President Donald Trump and the Democrats seem to want to focus their efforts. But given the president’s unpredictable behavior, it’s difficult to say whether he would follow through on any of his proposals. However, if he sees it as a political winner, especially with seniors, action is possible. 2018 marked the first election in decades where Democrats got the same share of the senior vote as Republicans, so it’s likely both sides will try to figure out ways to court this high-turnout segment of the population. For companies trying to get a message out about what they do or sell in the healthcare marketplace, the best advice is to stick to script, deliver value and take advantage of the opportunities our never-ending healthcare debate may provide.

Brian Feldman is a partner, general counsel and co-leads the agency’s healthcare practice.

OCTOBER 31, 2018 //     

The Stream Podcast Episode 2: Inside the Twitch Matrix

Credit: TwitchBy: Owen Clark

We’re back! After an extended hiatus due to client commitments and crazy travel schedules, the Stream Podcast returns with Episode 2 -- a look inside the world of the streaming service Twitch.

There are a lot of reasons to be fascinated by the world of Twitch. There’s the explosive user growth, the massive dollars streamers rake in, the democratization of content creation and even the way the platform reflects how we connect as humans in today’s “anxiety ridden” digital age (more on that from Micah in the episode).


My favorite thing about Twitch is the bright line that exists between users and non-users. Go ahead and ask somebody if they have heard of Twitch and you will find they are either way in, to the point that it has become a main course in their media consumption diet. Or they have never used it, don’t understand it and are openly incredulous about the very idea of people watching other people play video games. It’s sort of like Fight Club, to borrow another movie analogy, but if Fight Club was operated by one of the largest and most well-known companies in the world and everyone who participated wore branded purple hoodies.

For the podcast, we wanted to offer something for both types of Twitch audiences: a beginner’s guide for those who aren’t among the initiated and a deeper dive into the future of the platform for streamers who already have their Bob Ross Emotes on lock.

Lending their insight on the episode is Newsweek Writer Steven Asarch, whose excellent primer on the platform is a must-read for anyone interested in the Twitch world. Also along for the ride is our colleague and Twitch super fan Mark DeRutte, who among other things offers an entrée into some of the other interesting things happening on the platform that don’t involve video games. Hint: There are shaving-cream-covered, ear-shaped microphones involved.

Thanks for listening and please remember to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platforms. We promise future episodes will be delivered to your feed at more regular intervals.

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play MusiciTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

OCTOBER 26, 2018 //     

The Ultimate Messaging Question

Credit: Notion Capital

By: Harry Ronaldson

Watching a re-run of the popular television series “Dragon’s Den” the other day, I was struck by just how many of the contestants seemed incapable of articulating their idea in a way that enticed the assorted investors.

Aside from the odd bout of nerves, entrepreneurs that failed to convince the Dragons left empty-handed, not because they could not explain what their company did, but rather why it does it.


In the fast-paced world of technology, it’s easy to get caught up on features and benefits. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into bringing a product to market, not to mention sleepless nights. It’s only natural that you want to tell the world how clever it is. No doubt those in the know will be suitably impressed. But focusing entirely on product features fails to address the most important question that every customer or prospect will ask: “Why should I give a sh*t?”

A lot of messaging used by B2B companies isn’t aligned with what the customers they are trying to reach really value. Instead of addressing these points, they pack sentences with adjectives designed to prove how much better they are than the competition.

Many technology companies proudly claim to be a “disruptor.” But in order to be truly disruptive, companies need to change perception of what is possible. That means articulating why potential customers should believe in your product and how it will make their lives better.

So how do you get to that point? Below are a few tips to get you started.

Do your research

Invest time to understand what your customers really care about, and the type of language they’re using when they talk about those issues. Look at the newspapers and magazines your customers are likely to read. What are the issues they’re focusing on? Imagine you were being interviewed on one of those issues – what would you say?

Look at blogs and social media. Who are the influencers driving conversation and how are they framing different issues? Analyse how your competitors are positioning themselves. What are they saying, and more importantly, what are they not saying? Finally, don’t forget to involve your customers in the process. More often than not it will be their words that make it into the final cut of a great messaging document.

Get creative

Getting the messaging right is hard, but there are ways to make the process a little bit more fun and a little less intense. One exercise we run involves giving everyone in the room a stack of magazines. They then have 30 minutes to pull together an RFI for a client by cutting out clippings from the magazines and placing them on a board. This type of exercise won’t be for everyone (a stack of post-it notes will often suffice), but the important thing is to find a way that stops you staring blankly at a whiteboard for half a day.

Be ruthless

When you fill a room with senior people, you inevitably get a range of strong opinions all wanting to be heard. It can be tempting to try to please everyone by cramming everything into one all-encompassing “super-message.” This kind of messaging by committee might prevent a few bruised egos, but it will leave your customers baffled.

Great messages are short – ideally no more than a few carefully chosen words. They use simple, straightforward language that anyone can understand. And they actively avoid the use of buzzwords. You might genuinely believe you are creating a “paradigm shift” for your industry. But the reality is that this type of language just forms a barrier between you and the individuals you are trying to reach. I know journalists who have finely tuned their spam filters to junk any email with the words “best-of-breed” and “solution-provider” in the headline. You’ve been warned

 Seek an impartial perspective

Bringing an outsider in to help facilitate your messaging session can be an effective way to keep you focused and on track. Having an unbiased perspective in the room can also help you avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned above.

Once you’re happy with the way your messaging looks, seek an outside perspective again. Continue testing, refining and shortening until you’re convinced that absolutely every word needs to be there. Make sure every statement you make is tied to a specific proof point.

Then, test with customers and prospects, and remember to keep coming back to your messaging over time. Your business might evolve quickly, so it’s crucial that your messaging keeps pace with that journey.

If you’re keen to hear more, get in touch with Harry Ronaldson at Allison+Partners at:

Harry Ronaldson is a VP in Allison+Partners London office. 

This blog was originally posted by Notion Capital.

OCTOBER 18, 2018 //     

The CMO is evolving: Here’s how we can keep up

Credit: Adweek

By: Lauren Bayse

The modern marketer’s role is complex, dynamic and crucial to drive business growth. Long gone are the days when being a marketer meant serving as a brand “hype woman.” Thanks to the last decade of swift technological advancement, marketers are at the heart of business growth—they are the keepers of data and the connector between brand and audience.


At this year’s Advertising Week NY conference, I heard from a number of marketers across industries who have embraced this new role, but also grapple with their dichotomous friend/foe relationship with technology. On the one hand, technology has given them access to seemingly endless data-driven insights that allow them to more effectively connect with their target audiences in new ways. On the other hand, technology has given birth to an exhaustive list of new challenges, such as achieving brand safety, protecting consumer privacy and upskilling talent, to name just a few.

As communications professionals, we too know intimately the double-edged sword that is technology. For example, we curse the speed with which social media can ignite a crisis, but revel in our newly-found ability to measure top-of-funnel results.

As we navigate the impact of technology evolution, it’s important to remember this should change the way we support and communicate with our clients. Their jobs are changing. And as a result, ours must as well. Here’s how we can start:

Lean into data  

Measuring the impact of public relations campaigns has historically been quite difficult. Many times, we work to build “awareness,” rather than directly convert customers. So, we operate in a gray area that’s difficult to explain with numbers.

That is quickly changing. When I interviewed at Allison+Partners nearly four years ago, I was impressed by the capabilities of our dedicated Measurement team and the agency’s understanding that measurement should be part of every single scope of work. As marketers become increasingly reliant on data to drive decision-making, we need to step up to the plate. It is more imperative than ever that we regularly share success metrics and then use them to guide our own strategic planning efforts.

Speak business  

As communications and marketing professionals, we can spend all day talking about lead generation, reach and conversion rates (seriously, I lost count of how many times “customer journey” was said during Advertising Week). But when a CMO walks into the boardroom to discuss the bottom line, the rest of the C-Suite isn’t going to understand the jargon.

To help our clients more effectively communicate how their “wins” ladder up to business objectives, we need to ask questions that help us better understand how they expect our partnership to positively impact their business. Do they hope to see an increase in job applicants? Increase customer loyalty? Win over more first-time customers?  

Once we have the answers to these questions, every strategy should be delivered with these goals in mind. And we should consistently relay updates that demonstrate how our work is helping the business achieve these goals (sans jargon!).

Assemble diverse teams

Today’s consumers and business decision-makers are more diverse than ever. Despite this reality, our industry hasn’t kept pace. Only 11 percent of creative directors are women, and people of color continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions across the board. There’s a lot of work to be done, but after spending nearly a full day at The Female Quotient’s Girls Lounge during Advertising Week, I feel confident our industry is fostering leaders—both men and women—who prioritize and champion diversity.

It’s an exciting time to work in our industry—we’re seeing it through a period of major transformation. But, the technology revolution is not without its challenges, and to ensure client success, we need to embrace data, understand business objectives and strive for diversity.

Lauren Bayse is a director in Allison+Partners' corporate practice.

OCTOBER 16, 2018 //     

Storytelling in the age of fake news and implications for communicators

By: Pranav Kumar

Fake news’ emergence has been top of mind for communicators all over the world, and India is no exception. As of late, India’s brands have also been subject to errant fake news stories exacerbated by the rise of social media and democratisation of data.


At this year’s edition of PRAXIS in Hyderabad, India, the largest assemblage of communications professionals in the country, we discussed the rise of fake news and what it means for practitioners in our industry. Here are a few key takeaways from an insightful and lively panel discussion with a mix of industry leaders from brands and agencies, moderated by International Institute of Public Relations Director of Research Sarab Kochhar:

In its annual “State of the Industry” report released at the September event, The Public Relations Council of India (PRCAI) concluded 50 percent of industry professionals see the need for quality counsel and fake news combating capabilities as opportunities for expanded services.

While trust in institutions continues to decline, mainstream media have a pivotal role to play as ultimate vanguards of the truth. Having said that, fake news still finds its way to mainstream media at times, underscoring a need for increasing editorial caution and emphasis on objectivity.

International fact-checker Snopes compiles lists of trending fake news stories. In its recent analysis, it concluded that from 50 such examples, at least 12 stories involved brands in a fake or manipulated story. Big brands in particular are more vulnerable because of the large audiences they engage with. As for India, while there may be fewer instances of fake news involving brands, this will only continue to steadily increase presenting challenges. But it will also create opportunities.

In an age of misinformation and disinformation, fake news assumes varying proportions. Those perpetuating it have an agenda, and brands need to be cautious in choosing when and how to respond. From Internet trolls trying to get unscrupulous attention to deliberate and vicious attacks, different situations call for specific response mechanisms (or no response at all), making investments in monitoring and analytics tools critical.

Earned media is an effective bulwark in an age of the real-time news cycle and algorithm-fuelled content. Brands need to include paid media in their arsenals to dissipate any fake news triggered vitriol and take control of the narrative.

The timeless principle of brands exemplifying strong values on a consistent basis is invaluable. Having those virtues to fend-off impending fake news attacks can help them emerge even stronger.

Readiness for brands to handle any form of fake news and related maelstroms is pivotal. That means having crisis play-books with expanded scenarios to deftly and definitively manage potential situations. Additionally, pledging to information accuracy, authentic storytelling, choosing credible channels and engaging with quality influencers is a prerequisite for brands.

In the end, the basic tenets of public relations -- quality relationships, engagement and authenticity -- are vital tools in the fake news armour and effective deterrents in today’s post-factual, post-truth world.

Pranav Kumar is managing director of Allison+Partners in India.

OCTOBER 15, 2018 //     

Upwards and Onwards: Building a best-in-class mid-sized agency in Singapore

By: Serina Tan

Two weeks ago, our Singapore team hosted a party to officially open our new office – an amazing space on level 38 in a prime building that overlooks the gorgeous cityscape. We had an incredible turnout, and were delighted to celebrate this milestone together with our past and present clients and business partners. We were also honored to have Co-Founder and Vice Chairman Andy Hardie-Brown and Co-Founder and Global President Jonathan Heit, join us in the celebration.


But this party meant so much more than just breaking in a new office space. Our move 25 floors up within the same building may seem uneventful to some. But it represents the remarkable progress we have made since our establishment here in 2014 – an achievement that far surpassed our imagination. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

I began my journey with Allison+Partners in February 2014 from my apartment in Malaysia, initially working on a couple of project clients. As A+P’s first employee in Southeast Asia, I certainly never dreamed that one day, I would work together with such a wonderful team in such a stunning office.

In June 2014, we won our first retainer account and I had to move back to Singapore with my family to formally kickstart our office. I was allowed to hire my first "sidekick." Somehow, even though A+P had no office, no presence, no brand and only a couple of clients in Singapore, I managed to convince a young, laid-back, phone-addicted millennial to join us as an entry-level consultant. The rest is history.

From a solo journey, we embarked as a team of two. We didn't have an office, worked from home and met once a week at Gloria Jeans. It was a dream job for many.

We won a few more clients. Three months later, we moved into a two-seater office in Regus. I was ecstatic, as we didn’t have to roam around anymore. At our tightest, we had four people squeezed into that tiny room. Subsequently we moved to a five-seater, then a 10-seater office. Every time we moved, the team relished that growing achievement. However, we still didn’t have any sense of belonging because we were in a serviced office. 

Eventually in September 2015, we moved to our first permanent space. Finally, we found a home and were no longer nomads. Our close-knit A+P family was involved in putting every part of the office together, from selecting the cabinet colours, wall decorations and $600 ergonomic chairs. I used to go to the shops after work to pick up loose furniture, many pieces of which we’ve managed to bring to our new office so we can retain some physical memories of our journey. 

Like our previous space, our new office is a collection of our team’s ideas and contributions. As a progressive agency, we want to build a meaningful space that inspires our team to do great work.

Each time we move, our culture board -- the first item I received from the company -- travels with us. No matter where we move and how large we grow, our strong culture and core values of collaboration, entrepreneurship, empowerment, passion and excellence will always remain the guiding principles of how we operate. 

During our short four-and-a-half year journey, we’ve grown the team from one to 15. We’ve won world-class accounts and prestigious awards, including the recent 2018 Holmes Report “Best Regional Campaign for APAC.”

None of these achievements would have been possible without everyone’s hard work and support -- from my boss Andy’s constant support, to the trust of my first hire Lewis,  who is still with us today; to the invaluable mentorship from Shen our trusty consultant; to the collaboration of our global team and the loyalty of our clients. The Singapore team is grateful for the part everyone has played in getting us to where we are today, both in the success of our agency and in our swanky new office space. 

Serina Tan is general manager of Allison+Partners Singapore office.

OCTOBER 11, 2018 //     

Data, storytelling and consumers in the boardroom: Key takeaways from Advertising Week 2018

By: Sara Stephens

New York City’s Upper West Side boomed with advertising, marketing and creative leaders from around the world attending 2018’s Advertising Week New York. This year, #AWNEWYORK held thoughtful conversations on the past, present and future of today’s global industries. Over the course of the week, I attended sessions that ranged in topics from digital fluency across generations to machine learning and creativity, to blockchain’s role in preventing advertising fraud to the changing role of the CMO. I walked away with the following key learnings:


Measurement will drive the ‘future of’ everything

With ad campaign life cycles as short as a few days, data now drives impact and makes compelling campaigns scalable. All of the panels I watched discussed measurement in some way, shape or form. Whether it was measuring sales as a result of an integrated campaign, A/B testing an ad or conducting surveys on consumer attitudes, measurement tools and capabilities are must-haves for all marketers’ toolboxes.

While data-driven decision making is not a new concept, one of the more interesting perspectives on measurement was the idea that if we over index on data, we may lose creativity in the process. For example, will we no longer listen to our marketing “guts” that have made successful campaigns in the past? Will robots take our jobs? Thankfully, the answer to each question is no.

On one particularly interesting panel, “How Machine Learning Can be Used for Creativity,” executives from Amazon Web Services, VidMob and IHG discussed how leveraging AI will give creatives “more time to think.” Ultimately, advertising is still about delivering the right message to a target audience. And right now, humans still need to craft the messages. But we can use machine learning in various forms to analyze, optimize and unlock new ways to use data. 

 Empathy is critical to storytelling today

Analyzing data and storytelling are important capabilities, but marketers also need to apply empathy to derive purpose through data and stories. Nearly half the sessions referenced the wild success of Nike’s recent Colin Kaepernick ad. The data most likely would have told Nike to shy away from this. But one reason for the campaign’s success is that it told an authentic story relevant to the brand’s purpose.

The Female Quotient hosted The Girls’ Lounge and Men of Action Summit, where Gillette and Venus North America Director Pankaj Bhalla described bringing empathy to Gillette’s famous tagline: “The Best a Man Can Get.” He also discussed how his marketing team evolved it to fit the varying definition of a man in 2018.

Northwestern Mutual Chief Marketing Officer Aditi Javeri Gokhale noted a gap in the lack of financial advertisements targeted at women and saw an opportunity to target this critical market in a way that resonates with them.

It’s about asking – what do you stand for in addition to what you sell? How do you bring this purpose to life so you resonate with your consumers in an authentic way? While we use data to drive decisions, there is still a lot of room in marketing for thought leadership and standing for a purpose. And importantly, buyers look for this from brands when making their purchasing decisions.

CMOs are the bridge between buyers and the boardroom

CMOs are influencing their C-Suite counterparts through the consumer perspective by being the customers’ voice in the boardroom. Thanks to the wealth of available data, marketing is no longer just about brand awareness. CMOs and their teams understand the end-to-end customer experience better than anyone.

As a result, the CMO role has evolved into that of a general manager – a person who can work collaboratively with chief technology officers to leverage new technology, chief financial officers to prove marketing dollars are driving revenue and CEOs to establish and help align with brand purpose and be a thought leader. By bringing in the end buyers and their needs, desires and wants into the boardroom, the CMO can help drive meaningful change – and revenue – for their organizations.

As marketers, how can we adapt to these changing times? First and foremost, we need to be curious. Take a class, engage with a mentor who has taken a different path and get ahead of the curve by understanding new tools and capabilities available to use. There is no right way forward, but we certainly do not have the luxury of guessing what customers want and creating tone-deaf ads. We now have the data to help us fuel decisions. It’s an exciting time to work and learn in this space, and I look forward to applying data and storytelling to communicate a brand’s purpose.

Sara Stephens is an account director in Allison+Partners corporate practice.

OCTOBER 2, 2018 //     

2018 Marketing Trends: The 10-Insight Health Check

Credit: CIPR INFLUENCEBy: Jill Coomber

If there’s one constant in client’s briefs, it’s a desire to stay ahead. There’s a real sense of willingness to try new things whilst also delivering a solid ROI at the business level. This all starts from identifying great insights and key trends. So, when pulling together our latest report, we focused in on what’s changed since this time last year and how the big trends are faring so far. What is really worth investing in?

The ten trends we delve into span from the impact of affiliate partnerships on earned PR to how to maximise voice search; from getting Gen Z right to revitalising retail. Influencer marketing has been the hot trend for what feels like forever, but what do rapidly increasing influencer costs, fake followers and stricter advertising guidelines mean for brands? And what has the Cambridge Analytica scandal done for consumer trust in social media vs. traditional news outlets?


In exploring which trends have taken off this year, we can see that marketers need to be more in tune with the new ways customers actually behave, rather than how we think they behave or how they did last year.

But consumers are making it easier for us. They are becoming increasingly straightforward with their expectations of brand experiences. For example, as we look ahead to no-nonsense Gen Z, simplicity and transparency are key to cutting through the noise. For them, it’s all about great brand values and stories consumers can comfortably believe in and fight for, combined with seamless shopping experiences we’ll all be happy to return to again and again.

Brands of all shapes and sizes have one thing in common – the need to do great work that also increases attributable revenues. Seemingly each month delivers us new options, so we need to take a step back to ensure the insights and trends our work is built on are still solid. Like other leaders, we’re focusing on real people: to engage, inspire and create behaviour change rather than simply sell product. With the right knowledge, you can do both.

To read more on the latest consumer trends, download the full report here.

On the 10 September, OneChocolate joined forces with Allison+Partners, an award-winning global communications agency with 29 offices and more than 400 employees worldwide.

Jill Coomber is managing director of consumer marketing in Europe for Allison+Partners. 

This blog was originally posted by  CIPR Influence.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018 //     

Snapchat: 2012 - ?

Credit: SnapchatBy: Maggie Familetti

Snapchat recently released its Q2 earnings report, noting loss of about 3 million daily active users (Source: 
Inc.). This marked the first drop in users in the company’s six-year history, and it’s news that, quite frankly, seemed to be a long time coming. A+P Digital Team member Maggie Familetti takes a look at Snap Inc.’s journey and discusses where future opportunity may exist for the popular but polarizing app.

When I first saw someone use Snapchat in 2012, I thought: “That’s it?” At the time, I still had a so-called “dumb” phone and I expected much more from smartphones. But all I saw was 2 seconds of a grainy picture that then disappeared before my eyes. Despite this, Snapchat was all the rage for those first few years. And when I got an iPhone in 2014, it was the first app I downloaded. Snapchat was almost a necessity for staying in touch with friends. With the addition of face filters, chat and video chat in the ensuing years, it seemed there was nothing not to love.


Enter Instagram. In 2016, Instagram launched its “Stories” feature, which copied many elements of Snapchat’s own Stories feature. The stats that followed spoke for themselves: Snapchat growth slowed 82 percent after Instagram Stories launched. By June 2018, Instagram Stories had twice the amount of daily active users as Snapchat. It made sense – Instagram Stories presented a more easily usable medium for brands and influencers who were already on the platform, allowing them to use Snapchat-like tools without having to create another account on the app.

Then in late 2017, Snapchat released a full app redesign, which changed the location of Stories, Discover and other app features. The move was initially intended to clearly differentiate between content from friends and content from celebrities and influencers. In the words of Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, the goal was to separate “the ‘social’ from the ‘media’.

Consumers didn’t see this as a plus – in fact, 83 percent of the App Store reviews for the update were negative. Power user Kylie Jenner tweeted she had stopped opening the app, and a petition calling for Snapchat to reverse the redesign garnered more than 1.2 million signatures.

Snapchat’s missteps and misfortune seemed to culminate in August 2018, when the company reported it lost more than 3 million daily active users in the second quarter of 2018. Snapchat blamed the loss on the redesign, and Spiegel claimed the company’s monthly active users were actually growing.

But all these hits over the last year beg a question: is this the beginning of the end for Snapchat? Was the loss in daily active users the death knell some had been expecting for so long? The simple answer is no, probably not. Why? Because Snapchat has one thing that no other platform has: its specific, highly sought after audience.

Snapchat has long been popular with U.S. teens ages 12 to 17, first surpassing Facebook as the most popular social network among this age group in 2016. Now, according to an August 2018 study from eMarketer, there are 16.4 million 12-17 year olds on Snapchat compared with 12.8 million on Instagram. And the app is expected to remain dominant among teen users through 2022. Additionally, 78 percent of 18-24 year olds use the platform. This indicates that despite the snags of the last few years, Snapchat still has the ability to reach Generation Z in a way that few other social platforms can.

As a result, all signs point to advertising and brand partnerships as the way forward for Snapchat, and 2018 has already seen some unique and successful examples. In August, a partnership with Adidas saw the brand announce a new shoe on the Snapchat show “Fashion Five Ways,” with the goal of targeting a younger, more female audience who would “talk socially about the sneaker.” And it paid off – the shoe sold out in 6 hours, a clear indication the activation was successful in reaching the desired audience.

Examples like this prove that there is still success to be found in Snapchat. A large amount of that success can be achieved through advertising, potentially with an e-commerce play attached. Snapchat itself sees where its future lies – on Aug. 29, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced the lineup for its West Coast iteration of the annual Digital Content NewFronts. For the first time ever, Snapchat will be a participant. These events are typically a chance for digital companies to “impress advertisers and persuade them to support video endeavors” such as shows and other original content, and Snapchat’s participation may signal an internal realization these solutions are its best path forward.

So where does this leave brands? Overall, it seems not much has changed in terms of how brands should view the platform. There may be a shift if and when Snapchat rolls out new advertising solutions in the coming months, but for now it would appear to be business as usual. Brands may choose to advertise on the platform, but should have clear, audience-specific goals in mind when planning campaigns and creating highly-tailored content.

If possible, brands should choose Snapchat only if their audience already exists on the platform, in order to maximize their advertising. Content should be relatable, inviting, and not too polished – Jessica Taylor, a former digital ad manager for Google, says that ads should look like “messages from friends.”

Overall, the future could still be bright for both Snapchat and the brands that buy its ads. With new formats on the horizon and successful campaigns in the rearview, Snapchat needs to lean into its identity as a more niche platform with a specific audience. And brands need to fully embrace the opportunities that come with this.

Happy Snapping!

Maggie Familetti is an account executive on Allison+Partners digital team. 

AUGUST 23, 2018 //     

Berlin: Hub for tech innovation and capital of cool

By: Martina Muller

Berlin was devastated and divided after World War II. Industries deserted the city and it took half a century for them to return. In the 1990s, the decade after the Berlin Wall came down, it was a city searching for an identity. The eastern, formerly communist part of the city and the western part were suddenly united again and Berlin emerged as a new city profoundly loaded with history. During those times, Berlin was underdeveloped, housing was cheap and options for entertainment were limitless. The city had a vibrant art scene and subculture thrived. However, there were few businesses in Berlin and a job was hard to find. So, when I finished my studies at the Free University of Berlin in 1998, I moved to Frankfurt to start my career, since there were hardly any PR agencies in Berlin at that time.

I never thought I would move back to Berlin, but I did four years ago. The city has changed tremendously. Its economy thrives and plenty of PR agencies have set up shop, thanks in part to a start-up scene that discovered Berlin about 10 years ago. Berlin provided perfect conditions for trying out new ideas, as the cost of living was cheap and the city’s universities produced a stream of well-educated people. Over the years, the start-ups have become successful and this has attracted even more businesses to set up in Berlin.


Today, Berlin is Germany’s largest city with 3.6 million residents. It is a hub for tech innovation in Europe. In fact, in 2017, Berlin secured $3.4 billion (€3 billion) in venture capital, making it Europe’s second-largest city for start-ups. It’s been fascinating to watch the city redevelop and find its way back to its old glory.

Increasingly, international investors swarm to Berlin because they recognize its huge business potential. Company- and university-based incubators and venture-capital funds pop up across the city. Since Berlin has remained a fun and vibrant place, young people from around the globe flock to live here and work at one of the numerous start-ups. More than 40,000 people move to Berlin each year. In 2016, 42 percent of Berlin’s start-up employees were foreign nationals, according to the European Startup Monitor Report.

With the local start-up scene heating up, a new work style has emerged. Co-working spaces have infiltrated the city, offering flexible areas for individuals, teams and larger companies. These spaces are meant for people to get to know each other, exchange ideas, connect and possibly do business together. To make work there even more fun, parties are organized in the evening and interesting founders from Silicon Valley visit regularly and give talks to share their stories and experiences.

The Berlin start-up community encourages its employees to work on something truly innovative. This appeals more to millennials than climbing the corporate ladder, especially in Berlin-Mitte (the center). English is spoken everywhere, and it sometimes feel like you’re in London or New York rather than Germany. Often waiters at restaurants only speak English, since they’ve come to Berlin from Australia, Lebanon or Italy for a gap year after high school.

Ultimately, there is a downside to this development. Berlin is no longer cheap. Rents have risen dramatically and a good apartment is hard to find. The city is less affordable, especially for people with lower paying jobs. The government is trying to drive new apartment construction to overcome this shortage and ease the housing situation. And for the PR industry? The agency space has become intensely competitive, with many agencies competing to help start-ups further build their brands.

But it will take a lot more than rent prices and intense competition to diminish Berlin’s attraction. The vibrant, inspiring atmosphere, opportunities and well-educated talent from around the globe create a unique breeding ground – so much so that maybe the next big thing will come from Berlin instead of Silicon Valley.

AUGUST 21, 2018 //     

Influencer Marketing Tips from the 2018 BlogHer Creators Summit

By: Lucy Arnold

Views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Empowering words from Gabrielle Union. A surprise appearance by Amy Schumer. Star power was on display at the 2018 BlogHer’s Creators Summit in NYC – but that’s not all. It was also a two-day event that celebrated and inspired female content creators and storytellers. Panels included top-tier digital influencers such as Color Me Courtney, Mary Orton and Chastity Garner Valentine, celebrities and leaders across industries, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Dr. Alaa Murabit and Jessica Alba, and brand and platform insights from Facebook, Pinterest, Moet & Chandon, Away and more.

More than 1,000 people attended, mostly women, and a strong online conversation developed (nearly 128 million potential impressions on Twitter and Instagram alone during the two-day event). Here are a few of the notable influencer tips to take away this year:

Influencer engagement trumps reach: The representatives from Moet & Chandon and trendy luggage brand Away both spoke about how they use influencers to help tell their brand story vs. “just selling luggage.” They look for content creators who share their brand ethos, can help build a lifestyle story and have strong engagement. When identifying influencers to partner with, they look at their social media engagement (are their followers fanatic about what they have to say?) as well as their saturation (are they sharing branded content too often?). Are they working with other brands that align with yours? An influencer on the same panel also said when she begins conversations with potential brand partners, she always asks them “Why do you want to work with me?” and stresses brands should come up with a better answer than “because you have 1 million followers.”

Creative ways to work with influencer partners:
Throughout the two-day conference, influencers and brands shared several ways they’ve partnered that were more creative than a standard agreement to post once or twice on Instagram. Some examples include:
  • Moet & Chandon worked with Jamie Chung for the 75th annual Golden Globes to create the official cocktail for the ceremony and then pitched that recipe to media.
  • Away entered the European market with pop-ups in select cities and collaborated with local style experts, who were also in-store frequently to entice shoppers.
  • Away also recently launched its first Times Square billboard with exclusively user- and influencer-generated content. It then invited the influencers who were featured on a trip to NYC to see the billboard and create additional travel-related content for the brand.
  • Influencers themselves noted they are more regularly banding together to go on trips or do photo shoots as a group, increasing the likelihood for brand partnerships. For example, MomTrends took a group of parenting influencers to a resort in Tulum and featured a swimsuit brand in all of its beach content. The swimsuit brand didn’t sponsor the trip but as a result, did begin working in a paid relationship with two of the influencers.
Consider “owned” platforms: An influencer humorously asked the audience if we remembered Tila Tequila. She said Tila became a huge sensation on MySpace, but then became rather obsolete when the MySpace platform did. All to say, keep the platforms that you own strong – your blog, your email newsletter. Instagram may be hot right now, but who knows what could happen. And, in the end, those are just channels where you “share” content vs. “own” it. Furthermore, brands should focus more on asking for their partnership content to be created and shared on the influencer’s owned channels.

Facebook monetization updates:
There are new Facebook products available and in the works that support influencer marketing. Of course, there’s the branded content tool that allows influencers to share and disclose their collaborations. There’s also the Brand Collabs Manager, which is a way for brands and creators to connect. Currently being tested in the United States, the tool allows content creators to showcase their work (can apply if you have 20,000 followers or more) and for advertisers to search for and discover influencers based on their content, data and demographics. Facebook is also testing ad revenue products for content creators. First, an ad revenue-sharing feature is in the works – allowing creators to include a brand’s ad spot within their own video and Facebook will share the revenue with the creator when someone watches the ad. For now, they believe longer videos will be able to be monetized (three minutes or longer). Secondly, they mentioned a fan subscription model where, for a fee such as $4.99, fans can sign up to receive exclusive content from influencers.

Lucy Arnold is a Digital Director in the New York office focused on influencer marketing and social media strategy.

AUGUST 14, 2018 //     

Following the FTC’s Influencer Marketing Guidelines

By: Lucy Arnold and Nycole Hampton

Your client asks for an influencer marketing campaign, but wants to be “subtle” about how the influencer discloses the engagement.

Which of the following does the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consider a proper social media hashtag disclosure?

  1. #spon
  2. #[BRAND]partner
  3. #collab
  4. #sponsored
  5. #ad

If you answered 4 or 5, you are correct. The FTC has made it clear it monitors brand and influencer activity to ensure compliance with federal endorsement guidelines. In a nutshell, if a brand and an influencer have a “material connection” to promote a service or product, they must clearly and conspicuously disclose that connection. There’s very little subtlety.

As part of our influencer relations work at Allison+Partners, we’ve been in touch with the FTC to help build out some of its endorsement guidelines. As influencer marketing evolves, we break down some of the finer details for you. Call it the FTC FAQ.


Do influencers have to use #sponsored or #ad in every post?

Sort of. Again, the best rule of thumb is to answer this question: is it clear and conspicuous the brand (my client) and the influencer have a connection? The language you use to disclose that relationship can be tweaked slightly. The #sponsored and #ad hashtags on social media posts are space-savers, and they are safe. On a blog post, the disclosure must be at the top of the post, in the same font, font size and font color as the rest of the post (i.e. “This post is sponsored by [BRAND]”). In a video, the disclosure must be at the beginning of the video and in the video description.

What if we just gave the influencer something for free, like a hotel stay or a loaner car?

The influencer must disclose that material connection. They could say something such as “Thanks [BRAND] for the free stay/free car!” or “[BRAND] gave me this product/meal/hotel room as a gift.”

What if we send out an influencer mailer for our clients and one of the influencers posts her unboxing on Instagram?

In this case, the influencer is not required to review or post about the product we send them. If they do, the onus is on them to say the product was sent to them as a gift. But without any agreement or other value exchange, the brand does not have to require the disclosure.  

Shouldn’t influencers use the “paid” tools on Facebook and Instagram to disclose their brand partnerships?

Yes! But actually, this is for a different reason. Those branded content tools allow brands access to insights and metrics on the influencer’s post, including reach, engagement and more. On Facebook, it also allows the brand to boost the post to drive additional value (This is not yet the case on Instagram. So, if you plan to boost influencer content on this channel, you should avoid this tool.) Although these tools also label the post as “paid,” indicating a material connection between brand and influencer, the FTC doesn’t find the disclosure from these tools alone conspicuous enough because the text is small, in a lighter color font and consumers may not see it. Therefore, we recommend using the branded content tools for insights and including an approved disclosure in the social media copy, such as #ad.

If we contracted an influencer to post about [BRAND] on Instagram but they took it upon themselves to also post content to their Facebook and Twitter channels, do all these posts need disclosure?

Yes. If an influencer has a material connection in one context, it has to be disclosed no matter the platform.

Do these disclosures have an effect on engagement?

No. Including the disclosure is the most authentic thing to do – otherwise the influencer is being misleading, and that affects their credibility. What’s important is to do proper research and identification for influencer partners to build a sound influencer strategy for a successful program. If the influencer partner is appropriately vetted and selected for their affinity to the brand and relevance to the same demographic/target audience, these disclosures should not alter engagement because the nature of the content is genuine.

If #collab or #partner aren’t compliant disclosures, why do influencers still use them?

We’re not sure! It could be they don’t care, but we venture to guess most people simply don’t know about the proper guidelines and agencies or brands aren’t directing them appropriately. It’s our job as client representatives to ensure all our influencer partners are aware of the proper disclosures and execute appropriately.

Does all of this seem kind of nuanced? We’re here to help. The principle is rather basic – if you met someone whose opinion you trust and they raved about [BRAND], would you be influenced to go out and try it? Probably. Now suppose you found out that person got paid to tell you about [BRAND]. Wouldn’t that affect how you evaluated their recommendation? You bet. Therefore, any material connection that would affect the endorsement’s weight or credibility must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

Lucy Arnold and Nycole Hampton are both directors in the digital practice where they lead many influencer relations programs for Allison+Partners.

AUGUST 6, 2018 //     

Media relations – how to stack the odds in your favour

By: Harry Ronaldson

“I hope you’ve got a strong liver for all those boozy lunches.”

This was the reaction from my father when, a little under 15 years ago, I told him I’d got a job as a trainee PR exec. The idea that PR was all about plying journalists with alcohol until they agreed to write a story about your client still retained a tiny grain of truth back then. And I was pretty good at it.

But somewhere along the line, things started to get a little more serious. Journalists stopped coming to the pub and phone-calls went unanswered. I realised I’d gone 72 hours without drinking.

Securing quality media coverage has become progressively more challenging over the years, requiring a blend of creativity, flexibility and tenacity. I like to think I’m still pretty good at it. But I have to work harder at it. And I’m not the only one who thinks things have gotten tougher.


A recent survey of communications professionals found just over half (51 percent) said they thought media relations had become harder in the past year. Just 3 percent thought securing media coverage for clients had become easier.

There are some solid reasons behind this. For one thing, the pool of journalists and media are getting smaller. According to the annual British Labour Force Survey, the number of full-time journalists in the UK has fallen by 11,000 in the past year, with 73,000 now employed in the sector.

While the number of professional journalists continues to dwindle, the volume of people wanting to pitch them stories has continued to expand. Recent estimates suggest there are somewhere in the region of 4,000 PR agencies in the UK, and 83,000 full-time employees.

With journalists now outnumbered by the people wanting them to cover stories, the competition for media coverage has intensified. One journalist I speak to regularly told me he receives an average of 300 pitches a week from companies and their PR representatives. He writes around three stories per day, of which 50 percent are in some way PR-driven. So, of the 15,000 pitches he receives in a year, roughly 14,500 end up in the deleted items folder.

An old boss of mine once told me media relations can sometimes feel a little bit like a game of pin the tail on the donkey, only there are 100 other people trying to pin their tail onto one donkey. The trick, he told me, is to make sure you’re the only one not wearing a blindfold.

Competition for coverage might be fiercer than ever, but the rewards of reaching your audience through a trusted third party remain significant. Here are a few ways to stack the odds in your favour:

Get personal: Firing out a generic pitch to a long list of media contacts is a waste of time. Rather than trying to create the world’s most exhaustive list of contacts who might cover your story, focus on the journalists that matter most and familiarise yourself with the content they’re putting out. You want your reporters to feel like you’ve read what they’re writing, and that you’ve truly chosen them for this story based on what you expect they’d be interested in. Do they write long features, or do they tend to focus on straight news? Do they like to include case studies in their articles? Do they have a particular writing style? Gather together this type of information and use it to craft your pitch.

Be timely: Few companies have the luxury of being able to set the news agenda. The vast majority will need to demonstrate how they fit into the wider events, trends and issues that influence news output. That means keeping a keen eye on the news and being ready to react in real-time whenever there’s an opportunity to insert your point of view. Likewise, if you’re thinking about putting out an announcement, factor the news agenda into your planning at every stage. Is there a broader issue you can hook into to give the news a sense of urgency? Can you say something in your quote that roots your story in the here and now? And unless there’s a specific reason for releasing a story on a particular day, be flexible. If there’s big breaking news, then pick another day to go out. Or give the story to a journalist to mull over for a few days before it goes live. Most journalists will respect clear embargos and will appreciate the breathing space this affords them to plan in a story.

Show why you’re different: It’s not enough to be the biggest or the fastest. Your job is to convince a journalist you have answers to questions that no other brand could articulate. Take blockchain, for example. Right now, journalists are bombarded with generic, high-level content on the issue. But few companies can provide specific and detailed answers to the myriad questions which sit under this topic. Once you’ve identified a set of issues you want to own, drill down deeper until your position becomes something that’s unique to you and credible for the journalists you’re trying to reach.

Show an opinion: Journalists want experts who can help them to articulate an issue in a humanising and interesting way. Once they’ve found people who can fulfil that role, they keep coming back for more. Establishing yourself as a go-to commentator doesn’t have to mean taking an extreme point of view. Delivering something out of the ordinary can be as simple as showing a clear personality, avoiding industry buzzwords and answering questions with insight, new information, personal experience or a customer reference with no direct mention of your company. Still unsure? If you’re providing a written comment, then read it aloud. Does it sound like something you would actually say? Would you say it to a friend, or someone you’d just met? If the answer’s no, then start again.

Get to the point: You live and breathe your product. You could probably write a book about it. But if you can’t sum up what you want to say in a few lines, then all that enthusiasm is going to fall on deaf ears. One legendary tech journalist tried to force the issue by insisting PR people pitch him only on Twitter. Needless to say, he was none too impressed when Twitter upped its character limit and promptly announced his retirement!

Good coverage is certainly harder to come by than it was when I first entered the communications industry, but good spokespeople and stories remain highly prized by journalists who are under pressure to deliver a quality product people will pay for.

Get your approach right and you’ll quickly find journalists are seeking you out, rather than the other way around.

Harry Ronaldson is a VP in Allison+Partners London office.

This blog was originally posted by Notion Capital.

JULY 26, 2018 //     

Will chatbots take over content marketing?

Credit: WordstreamBy: Vivian Dadamio

The robots are coming, and they want your job!

Artificial Intelligence is on the rise and, automation will soon dramatically change the workforce. According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 20 percent of Germans could lose their jobs to AI in the next two decades due to its strong industrial sector. However, while the job-loss risk varies by country and industry, it’s important to understand and prepare for the implications AI will have on our job functions and the services we provide to customers.

For communications agencies, AI’s implications are still up for debate. While automation can help optimize some tasks, those that require strategic thinking and planning will always benefit from a human touch. Take content marketing, for example. Automation can help optimize the quantity of content produced and its reach but may negatively affect its quality as perceived by consumers.


How can AI help?

Marketers increasingly look to automation to produce high quality content with less effort and costs. The data-based approach of AI offers several benefits in content marketing:

  • Streamlining complex omnichannel approaches to allow distribution of personalized content across all channels, everywhere and at any time
  • Merging user behavior data from different sources and analyzing data for a 360-degree customer view to enable intelligent content targeting
  • Improving customer experience with personalized content
  • Providing real-time customer interaction to increase customer loyalty

A recent example of the potential of algorithms is a German start-up (still in beta) that wants to automate content marketing with a chatbot. The intelligent assistant guides marketers through the whole content marketing process – from strategy, structuring and writing to distribution and content analysis. The company claims they enable brand marketers, bloggers and the like to produce and distribute valuable content without the help of external consultants or writers.

Master vs. machine

Will algorithms jeopardize the agency business model? Will our clients turn to chatbots for their content marketing? This is not a scenario that I foresee in the near future. Successful content marketing requires a long-term strategy and is a complex, multi-level process – especially for big brands. Goals, target groups, suitable topics and channels must be defined. Experts will still be needed, especially to develop the content strategy based on their experience and human ingenuity. And a closer look at the German chatbot start-up example shows their loud promises about making agencies redundant has limitations. In an interview with German marketing publication W&V they say their potential customers are tiny companies and individuals.

Despite its limitations, I predict AI will be useful in our daily agency work to help us become more efficient and more precise. In content marketing, I see strong potential in its ability to help us produce and distribute content across channels. We should embrace the new technology and use these intelligent tools to augment our human capabilities. A chatbot for content marketing can be a helpful assistant, but we will still be the masters of our work.

Vivian is a senior vice president and leads Allison+Partners’ Munich office.

JULY 23, 2018 //     

The 2018 Fancy Food Show unwrapped

By: Cheryl Weissman

Each July, thousands of food and drinks companies, product press and industry insiders descend upon NYC’s Jacob Javits Center for the Fancy Food Show -- a veritable feast for the eyes and stomach. The show features rows upon rows of brands hoping to make it big on grocers’ shelves and in consumers’ shopping carts.

This year’s show was no different. Walking from booth to booth, we tasted a dizzying amount of new foods (pro tip: come hungry, and wear elastic waist pants). Here are a few trends we spotted, along with some of the best products we sampled this year: 

  • Raising the Bar on Bars: The nutrition/granola/protein/meal replacement bar landscape continues to shift and expand. And while RXBar remains the leader of the pack, there are countless new brands breaking through the clutter with unique offerings. We saw and tried tons from recognized and new companies alike. JonesBar and 88 Acres rose to the top as ones to watch. Both are handmade simply in small batches with organic ingredients.
  • Spreading the Love: Single-serve products are on the rise, catering to an increasingly mobile consumer. When it comes to spreads, single-serve packets are an especially convenient way to boost flavor for those looking to indulge. The best way to do it is with Spread Delights’ line of indulgent offerings -- some of the most delicious things we had a chance to taste at the show. For those looking for an alternative to the single-serve nut butters on the market, RXBar is now offering nut butter spreads with their latest launch --  almond butter, a quick and tasty way to get some protein in your day while on the run.
  • Boozy Booch: When Kombucha started going mainstream, many people claimed drinking a bottle made them feel a bit tipsy. Well Kombucha companies like Wild Tonic are now making that a reality, serving up alcoholic kombuchas in an effort to keep your gut healthy while simultaneously enjoying a cocktail.
  • Chocolate + Candy FTW: It’s not hard to entice people with delicious chocolate, but the ways in which the industry continues to innovate are impressive. From Biena’s Girl Scouts Thin Mints Chickpea Snacks and ethically sourced, eco-friendly, nothing-artificial chocolate treats from Unreal, to Tony’s Chocoloney -- a brand on a mission to make 100 percent slave-free the norm in chocolate -- chocoholics have lots to be excited about. And a deeper look into sweets revealed a variety of beautifully packaged brands that not only taste great but are eye candy too. Look out for Salty Road Salt Water Taffy and Olive & Sinclair Southern Artisan Chocolates for treats that are Instagrammable AND delicious.
  • Crazy for Cold Brew: Coffee has gotten a reboot with the rise of amped-up cold-brew brands, many reminiscent of small-batch, craft-beer brands. NYC-grown Rise Brewing Co., with its Nitro Cold Brew Coffee in flavors like Blood Orange and Lemonade, is one to keep an eye out for next time you need a pick-me-up.

This year, exhibitors big and small across all categories continued to level up on transparency, bringing free-from labels to the forefront while focusing on natural ways to deliver the tastes consumers want with ingredients they recognize.

Cheryl Weissman is a senior vice president in Allison+Partners' consumer practice, where she oversees the agency's food + beverage specialty.

JULY 19, 2018 //     

When telling stories, one size doesn't fit all

Credit: AmelioBy: Marcel Goldstein

“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” - Khalil Gibran

We all hunger for stories. We relate to them, are moved by them and remember them. We can even argue storytelling is in our DNA, because before the written word emerged, oral storytelling provided the means to share and remember information critical to our survival.

But do we all hunger for the same type of stories? Can the stories you tell about your business work around the world in all countries and with all cultures?

Last week, I led a storytelling workshop in Frankfurt, Germany. And through an engaging, dynamic conversation with a cross-section of thoughtful people from different countries, I learned a lot about both the power and limitations of telling stories globally.


The late great Joseph Campbell, a scholar in comparative mythology and religion, believed there’s only one story in the world: the hero’s journey. Found frequently in books and movies today, this story type begins with the origin or background of the hero, followed by a transformative moment that forces the hero onto a journey to change the world, and finally concludes with the resolution of his or her struggles and a return home.

Business communications often use this framework. In those cases, the hero might be an employee who solved a customer’s problem, or it might be a customer who solved a broader societal problem. The hero can also be a company, as many companies are quick to move directly into a conversation about their solutions. However, this leaves out crucial elements of storytelling, such as the beginning (“once upon a time”) and middle (a problem, challenge or obstacle—i.e., something to overcome).

While this is a common framework, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is ideal. When asked if that type of story would resonate around the world, my Frankfurt discussion group gave a resounding “no.” In many parts of the world, this level of individualism would not be welcomed. In fact, in many countries, only the government can be the hero of any story, I learned. So, while I believe the key elements of storytelling and even the hero’s journey framework can work, the specific application of this story type must be framed within the recipients’ context.

For those businesses hoping to achieve centralized content development efficiencies, this will be a big disappointment. However, to be a truly successful global enterprise, investments in local storytelling are necessary. Cultural references also require more investments in local storytelling. For example, good stories use analogies and metaphors, but those references are rarely shared universally. 

Now, there’s another side to this story. We are more globalized today than at any other time in history. Advances in transportation and communications have made us more aware of other cultures and increased our understanding of them and their references. Hollywood, one of the great storytelling factories in the world, produces movies today that are as popular in China as the United States. The stories of many authors are translated and have found large audiences in foreign countries. As a result of incredible worldwide demand for the tale, French author Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” can be read in any of 253 languages -- more than any other book.

The world is drawing closer fundamentally, but vast differences remain. At a high level, some stories and story types seem to resonate in multiple regions of the world, and cultural references cross boundaries better than in the past due to globalization. Having said that, we are still a world of many different peoples and societies, and one story may not always work universally. Successful business storytellers will invest in localization of stories when necessary and integrate local teams to contribute to their storytelling.

Marcel is an executive vice president in Allison+Partners’ Corporate practice.

JUNE 19, 2018 //     

Understanding the ROI of Influencer Relations in Asia

By: Susie Hughes

In recent years, interest has grown in using influencer relations as a tool for building brand awareness and growing a customer base for B2B and B2C organizations in Asia. However, there is still much uncertainty about how to measure ROI in the investment. Allison+Partners’ Paul Mottram, managing director of the agency’s All Told group in Asia, recently told the audience at the Tech in Asia conference in Singapore that the key will always be to first properly research and understand the people, topics and channels that make the most sense for their brand.

Mottram shared the findings from Allison+Partners’ “Harnessing the Power of Influence in Asia Pacific” research, which offers insights on achieving the always-elusive “buzz” through the effective use of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs).

Here are a few of the questions he addressed at the conference.


At which stage of the marketing journey should KOLs and influencers be engaged?

It’s ideal to apply influence through the entire customer journey, although it can be best to use different influencers at different stages. For example, for a new company or product, reach coupled with sufficient credibility are going to be the most important factors to gain brand awareness. However, as customers get closer to the purchase stage (such as having questions about the product or service), then it may make sense to engage specific subject matter experts who might have less reach but have outstanding credibility.

How much should companies pay influencers for their involvement?

Different industries and markets will have different pay scales for influencers. It also depends on how experienced and valuable an influencer is to a brand. That’s why it’s critical to implement a rigorous scoring system that can be optimized over time. When doing so, it’s important to look not only at reach, but also at how authentic and credible an influencer is, and compare a “cost per thousand” against that. It’s also important to take into account the influencers who are most credible for your business, and realize the market rate might not reflect that. All brands will have to undertake some experimentation and learn what works best over time.

Are high-reach influencers as impactful as micro-influencers?

There has been a trend away from super high-reach influencers and towards micro-influencers. While it’s certainly effective to use them for some products and services, five engaged influencers that reach 20,000 people each will drive more impact than a single influencer with 100,000 followers.

Susie Hughes is vice president in Allison+Partners’ Singapore office.

JUNE 12, 2018 //     

IHOP's New "B": Boon or Blunder?

Credit: IHObBy: Paul Sears

On June 4, IHOP teased us all with a big flip. That is, flipping the “P” in the logo upside-down to become a lower-case letter “b.” From this moment forward, executives told the media IHOP would henceforth be known as “IHOb.” The brand changed its logo on its website and social media profiles, as well as its sign in at least one restaurant. 

But, what did it all mean? IHOP asked us to patiently wait seven days until we could all tune in for the big reveal. 

And tune in we did, although, not without a hilarious response from social media. From Chiquita hoping the “b” meant “bananas” to Netflix tweeting it was changing its name to “Netflib,” the web was determined to crack the riddle. There was even some initial backlash, as influencers noticed the similarity to the logo of feminine products maker, o.b.  On June 11, the wait was over and we all learned the answer: “b” was for “burgers.” 


But was it the right move? The Internet didn’t think so, and negative memes exploded after the announcement. One communications pro featured LeBron’s Game 1 antics and captioned his tweet: “International House of Bankruptcy.” Burger King attacked with a “Pancake King” logo, and Wendy’s said it was “not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard.” IHOP was steadfast, replacing every “P” with a “b” all day long.  When one influencer asked on Twitter if it was a joke, IHOP quickly replied “Nobe, it’s real!” 

When the dust settles, what will IHOP gain and what will it lose? Brand value can account for up to 30 percent of a firm’s stock price, and brands with strong reputations can outperform global averages by up to 31 percent.  IHOP is playing high stakes poker with a brand that took 60 years to build. 

On the surface it may seem like a worthy gambit. Sales for IHOP have recently plateaued and, in recent years, other QSRs have branched out beyond their niches.  When expanding into new products and markets, marketers seek out competitive advantage. Yet, for IHOP, the burger segment is already highly saturated with competitors… and with fat.  

Consumer tastes align with healthier, sustainably sourced restaurant meals with bolder flavors and ethnic flair, according to Forbes’ 2018 restaurant trends report. Fast-casual consumers have stepped up to fine-casual, and are willing to pay more for an experience. Meanwhile, brand loyalty in the hyper-competitive restaurant industry can evaporate almost overnight. IHOP’s social media woes demonstrate it didn’t have adequate permission from consumers to make this kind of pivot.  It’s also arguable whether consumers actually want more burger options these days.

For 60 years, IHOP has been a go-to for breakfast, and consumers have come to expect a reliable product and experience. It’s natural for the brand to want to push harder on its lunch offerings as a way to drive sales (and it has been selling burgers for years). But it doesn’t have enough credibility to take an ownership stake in burgers at a brand level, compared to established players. IHOP’s brand-level flip suggests its entire offering is taking a 180-degree turn. They are about only one thing, but now that’s burgers. 

While more than a year in the making, IHOP’s move is simply a short-term marketing campaign that uses an iconic brand as a pawn to create buzz.  Much like “fake news” which plagues social media, IHOP has now introduced the “fake rebrand.”  It may or may not translate into increased lunch sales. What happens if sales don’t get that needed boost? At what point does a bold move on offense turn into a strategic retreat?  

IHOP executives have said there will be a moment in time where the “b” will eventually become a “P” again, regardless of sales performance. And, unlike sunsetting a product promotion, that brand-level change-back will be front and center for all to see. At that moment, will consumers find themselves nostalgic for June 11, when restaurant history was made?  Or, will they witness a tail-tucked run for the hills from yet another business that errantly put short-term sales above the enduring value of its brand? 

Time will tell. But luckily for IHOP, the Internet will still be there to watch it all unfold.

Paul Sears is senior vice president of Integrated Marketing for Allison+Partners.

JUNE 7, 2018 //     

Agencies Need Moms

By: Tracey Cassidy

Agency life needs a rebranding campaign and firms with programs in place to support working parents need to lead this charge.

A recent Adweek article touching on “returnships” caught my attention and reminded me agency life hasn’t always been welcoming to working parents, especially moms. Twenty years ago, I started my first agency job at a PR firm on Sixth Avenue in New York City that was reminiscent of Mad Men. As an eager recent college grad, I didn’t know anything different than an office led by chain-smoking men who ordered their “assistants” to do everything under the sun. Fortunately, since then, great female mentors and role models have debunked the perils of that 1998 gender scene and demonstrated to me that moms can have undisrupted careers if they so choose. 


The article explains intern-type programs that get mothers back to work after taking time off to raise children. And it profiles several advertising agencies, including Allison+Partners’ sister agency 72andSunny, for their efforts to create programs that welcome moms back to the industry. While I applaud these efforts, there is still a lot of work to be done. How can agencies do a better job of enticing new moms to stay engaged in their career while balancing motherhood? It might not be a returnship, but rather a “stay-the-course ship” for new moms. 

At Allison+Partners, we meet with all expecting moms to help them plot out the course for returning to work post-baby. It’s an individualized program customized for both the employee and manager, but all include a seamless transition. Most of our new moms choose to work remotely for at least one day a week as they re-engage in work life after maternity leave.

I’m incredibly proud of the programs we’ve implemented at Allison+Partners to encourage new moms to stay the course and support them through all of parenthood’s wonderful and challenging milestones. Below are some of our offerings:

  • Five-month paid maternity leave
  • Flex work time post maternity leave
  • Dependent FSA programs, that allow parents to put aside pre-taxed funds to offset childcare costs

Allison+Partners has an extremely high retention rate for returning mothers. We also have an abundance of female executives (female executives with children make up half of our C-Suite and we now have a female president of North America) who lead by example and are doing the juggle every day.

Returnships might work for some, but I’m passionate about doing more to ensure that new moms don’t see that bleak future I once did. I want new moms to know that Allison+Partners is an agency that understands what they are going through. From our fantastic maternity leave policy to flex time and unlimited vacation, we trust and empower everyone, including new moms. And by doing that, everyone wins. It’s time to pay it forward. 

Tracey Cassidy is general manager of Allison+Partners’ New York office and a mother of two.

MAY 29, 2018 //     

Introducing The Stream Podcast

By: Owen Clark

It’s been almost eight years since I quit being a reporter. I made the decision while driving back from a courthouse in Quincy, Calif., where I’d been covering the murder of two high-school students who had been killed on prom night. 

While thinking of ways to re-edit the quote I’d gotten from the grieving mother into good web copy, I got an alert on my newly purchased smartphone. A blog I had been assigned to write on the “NFL’s Best Beards” for the fledging online sport site Bleacher Report had passed 10,000 views, which meant I got a “gold medal.” The medal was in place of real money, since all the writers for B/R wrote on-spec to help build their “digital profile.” 

Still, the reality was 10 times more people would read my hot takes on facial hair than would ever see, or read, my coverage of the double-murder for my local CBS television. Suddenly the absurdity of the whole journalism profession seemed to hit me like a tackle from Steelers linebacker Brett Keisel, who, if you were wondering, was my No. 1 choice for the NFL’s best beard.

So, what does all this have to do with a podcast launch? Well first off, the state of the modern reporter is the focus of our kick-off episode, “Faces of the Monolith.” In it, we hear from veteran print reporter Jacques Couret about what it’s like to have the SEC story you’ve slaved over for weeks be crushed in the click war by a slideshow of new Chick-fil-A menu items. Meanwhile, former TV journalist Sierra Oshrin explains the problem of literally not having enough hands to tweet, shoot B-roll and do a Facebook Live Stream all at the same time.


Bigger picture, these stories illustrate what we want to do with The Stream -- bring you a podcast to keep you entertained and offer perspectives about the communications landscape to make you see things a little differently. If the name feels familiar, it’s because the podcast is the next chapter of what we’ve already built with great content you read on The Stream Blog.

The recipe for that content starts by tapping our insider experts, such as Jacques and Sierra, who can go beyond the binary narrative of Fox News vs. CNN and give insight into what it actually means to be a reporter in an era when the very nature of news is questioned. We combine that exclusive insight with perspectives from outside experts, such as University of Colorado Journalism Chair Elizabeth Skewes, who joined us on our first episode to discuss where future of reporting is headed as a profession, institution and an estate that protects and informs a democratic system.

The final piece will be the hot takes I dish up with co-host and super producer Micah Baro. Micah and I have spent the last 10 years weaving our way across career paths that include journalism, corporate sales, PR, media training and finally video production as part of the Allison+Partners Content Team. We hope our unique perspectives on the overlooked or misunderstood trends and topics in media and marketing help guide you through the turbulent waters of today’s communications landscape.

It should be a fun ride, and we hope you’ll join us. 

The Stream Podcast can be downloaded via Google Play Music and  iTunes.

MAY 24, 2018 //     

Feature Forward: Evolving the movie theater experience for today’s consumer

Credit: Samsung

By: Niki Hetchkop

A trip to the movie theater can transport you to different worlds, make you laugh uncontrollably, take you on an adventure, or make you shed tears for a fictitious character portraying a real-life tragedy. Some of my favorite memories growing up revolve around going to the movie theater, including 11 p.m. Star Wars premieres with my dad on school nights.

Movie theaters have come a long way since the first silent film premiered in 1894. But with domestic movie theater attendance hitting a 25-year low in 2017, there’s an obvious need for big advancements. The industry is challenged with finding enticing ways to bring people out of the comfort of their living rooms and into theaters to watch movies on the big screen. To combat this, movie industry decision makers have adopted some innovative and future-focused technology to lure more customers without having to rely on blockbuster hits such as “Black Panther” and “The Avengers.” 

Here are some of the latest advancements:


First-Ever LED Cinema Screen: This past month, Samsung (an Allison+Partners client) launched the first ever DCI-compliant LED movie screen. At 34 feet wide by 17 feet high and featuring 9 million pixels, the new “Samsung Onyx” delivers exceptional visual quality and unmatched technical performance, projector-free. Showcasing the truest blacks and peak brightness, this screen allows for ambient lighting, flexibility in seating arrangements with no need for a projection room, and, most importantly, the ability to see the movies the exact way filmmakers and directors envisioned.

I may be biased, but once you see a movie on the Samsung Onyx, you can’t go back to projection. The difference is real and totally worth jumping out of the comfort of your home (still in your sweatpants) to go see a movie on this screen.

4DX with Screen X: Featuring smells, moving chairs and special effects, consumers will start to see 4DX with Screen X theater options for those who want to take immersive movie-watching to the next level. Pairing 4DX with Screen X allows for seats to move in-sync with the action and flow of the movie, in addition to the picture expanding to the sides of the theater. According to Business Insider, “There are 500 4DX screens in existence and 142 that are Screen X. It's unclear when theaters will have the combined version (one is opening in South Korea), but it's almost inevitable that it's coming.”

I had the chance to try out new 4DX seating at CinemaCon this year. It is unlike any other movie experience. Not for the faint of heart!

More Convenience and Loyalty Apps: In a world where smartphone users have unlimited conveniences at their fingertips, it’s important for the movie industry to adapt to a seamless mobile-user experience. Consumers will see the rise of ticketless entrances, more opportunities for advance ticket purchases and additional options for reserved seating in the near future. Movie theater subscription models are also on the rise with MoviePass competitor Sinemia gaining popularity in the U.S. market. Fandango also recently announced its VIP+ loyalty-rewards program that will offer monetary credits to returning customers.

Technology from Entrance to Exit: The cinema experience extends way beyond the confines of the theater. Outdoor displays showcasing the latest movie ads, digital menu boards at snack bars, mirror displays in the bathrooms, tablets to order food straight from your seat and interactive photo booths for consumers to insert themselves into a picture with their favorite stars are just a few examples of how movie owners are investing in technology beyond the auditorium. Movie-goers will see an uptick in technology throughout movie theater venues similar to how retailers have upped in-store attractions to yield more engagement and excitement.

My hope is these new technologies will enhance the movie-going experience and encourage consumers to get back into the theaters. It’s the best place in the world to grab a large popcorn (with extra butter, depending on your preference) pair it with a fountain drink and your favorite classic movie candy and put your phone on silent. Or even, if you dare, turn it completely off, and allow yourself to truly disconnect from the “real world.”

Niki Hetchkop is a director in Allison+Partners' DC office.

MAY 21, 2018 //     

Where are we headed in U.S. healthcare? Implications from WHCC

By: Brian Feldman

As the 15TH Annual World Health Care Congress (WHCC) in May wrapped up in Washington, the question remains: where are we headed in healthcare? Some of the topics highlighted below serve as a guide to where we may be going, offering insights on how brands and marketers should adapt their communications.


Telemedicine growth and concerns

While some continue to herald telemedicine as a solution to access and cost concerns, rural communities still need the technology to make more access possible. It’s clear the use of telemedicine will grow and payers will become more comfortable reimbursing for these services. Like everything in American healthcare, telemedicine has the potential to be fragmented and implemented inefficiently. For healthcare organizations and marketers, it’s important to recognize the challenges that still exist with telemedicine and be ready to answer patient cynicism.   

Shift toward value

The market economy in healthcare is having an impact despite the Washington standoff. The sources of payment are voting with their feet and regardless of what system, public or private, some of the same forces effecting travel, consumer products and technology are saying “prove that what you are doing adds value and we will pay.” For organizations and communicators, it has never been more important to show value through outcomes, behavioral change, etc.

Criticism and “sabotage” of ACA

While President Barack Obama’s signature legislation retains its newfound post-repeal-effort popularity and Republicans have largely given up on getting rid of it, changes to the tax code and the desire by some to undermine it, put the system on unsteady ground. Consumers will gravitate toward options that give them value and likely ignore the partisan background noise. Marketers should take note that consumers will align with brands and organizations that have moved past the politics.

We continue to be a divided country on healthcare, but less on ideology and more about what we want versus what we can afford. As we head toward November, it’s obvious Americans are open to anybody, government or private sector, who can offer options to improve healthcare and lower costs. While we continue to explore uncharted territory, marketers should steer their brands with sincere, nonpartisan and outcome-centric messages.

Brian Feldman is a partner at Allison+Partners, who is a lead of the agency’s healthcare practice and general manager of the Atlanta office.

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