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MARCH 15, 2018 //     

The Anthropology of PR

Photo: Online Schools Center

By: Stephanie Libous

When you think anthropology, your first thought probably isn’t about its role in public relations. But while associating anthropology only with digging fossils isn’t wrong, it certainly falls short of the full picture. The purpose of anthropology is two-fold: To understand what it is to be human and to examine how different cultures shape human behaviour and communication.

At its core, cultural anthropology provides the fundamental tools for successful public relations – you need to understand your audience, what they do, why they do it and their behavioural motivations. While companies with an international brand should certainly take culture into consideration, it’s even more important to focus first on the impact this has on a company’s internal communications.


Understand what it is to be human 

In PR, the phrase “communication is key” is thrown around quite a bit. While this is true, how effective is it if we fail to understand the meaning behind what is actually being said? Communication is the means by which we express human behaviour. When you tune into the nuances of human behaviour and the motivators behind it, you begin to understand the purpose of that communication – both verbal or non-verbal.

In her book The Culture Map, Erin Meyer discusses the importance of both verbal and non-verbal communication: “Being a good listener is just as important for effective communication as being a good speaker. And both of these essential skills are equally variable from one culture to another.”

The culture you’re raised in will ultimately shape your human behaviour and it will have an impact on your communication style.

Examine how different cultures shape human behaviour and communication

Communication isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your way of communicating should be shaped by your culture. If it’s not your native culture, you need to learn and adapt to communicate effectively.

You must take a look at the different cultures and note their tendencies. For example, as Erin Meyer lays out in her culture mapping tool, the cultural communication traits of the U.S., U.K. and other Anglo-Saxon areas tend to be more direct and to the point. The less embellishment the better. However, as you move farther east into Asia to places such as India and China, you tend to find a more expressive lifestyle. Therefore, their communication styles have more subtext and narrative. When you look at European cultures such as France and Spain, you’ll find more of a middle ground.

I have experienced this first-hand. My native culture is in the U.S.; however, I have noticed differences in communication styles between home and in the U.K. One example is the amount of context provided when communicating. Though conversation is more direct and to the point in both the U.S. and U.K., when you look more closely, the “typical” U.S. style is sometimes seen as too embellished to native U.K. cultures.

A few months back, I was in a meeting in the U.K. where an American presented content he had delivered numerous times in the past – he explained and communicated why it was important to the U.K. audience. The only difference being he was used to explaining this to a U.S. audience, who preferred and expected the additional context. While this worked well back home, it had the opposite effect on the U.K. audience. Instead of appreciating the elaboration, the British found it unnecessary and felt like they were being talked at. Though it may seem like an insignificant variance, these minor nuances make a difference in how a message is interpreted and received when dealing with cross-border colleagues, clients and acquaintances in business.

The key takeaway is to understand who you are communicating with and what the cultural implications of their communication style are. Just because someone is silent in a meeting doesn’t mean they have nothing to contribute. Conversely, if someone is talking over you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are being rude. When companies take the time to ensure their employees across borders understand each other’s cultures, they will ultimately have a more productive and open line of communication, leading to better overall success.

Stephanie Libous is an Account Manager in Allison+Partners' London office. 

This blog was originally posted by PRCA.

MARCH 12, 2018 //     

It’s grammatically correct to split an infinitive and other ‘rules’ to throw out the window

Photo: EJournalz

By: Jacques Couret

I read etymologies for kicks. I find editing and proofing fun. I’ve carried my badge as a proud member of the Grammar Police for nearly four decades. But now, I might have to turn in my credentials.

As part of my professional development at Allison+Partners, I recently viewed an excellent grammar and style refresher on Poynter.News University called “Sweat This, Not That: Real Rules vs. Grammar Myths.” The University of Kansas’ Lisa McLendon, aka Madam Grammar, hosted the one-hour video, which teaches writers and editors about grammar rules and “rules” pounded into their skulls that have no real basis in English grammar.


As the product of a liberal arts education, I learned strict grammar rules, including “rules” I now must forsake reluctantly as grammar myths only posing as rules. For example: “Never end a sentence with a preposition.” We all know that one, right?

It’s a myth. Some Latin-obsessed English grammar enthusiasts decided centuries ago to apply Latin rules to English. That may have made sense during the Renaissance, but today it can lead to odd-sounding sentences. Sir Winston Churchill 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!" I, your editorial manager, approve of anything Ole Winnie said!

McLendon also believes it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition because it’s contextual -- If it sounds OK to the ear and the audience is informal, it’s fine. “This isn’t the grammar rule I came here with.” I, your editorial manager, still don’t like it!

Similarly, the rule about not splitting infinitives and correct adverb placement also have Latin roots. And they’re both myths. It’s correct when Star Trek’s Capt. Kirk says, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” It’s also acceptable to write, “I quickly read The Stream.” Your editorial manager harrumphs at all of this!

McLendon gave her blessing to start sentences with conjunctions. Again, if it sounds good to the ear and the audience is informal, no worries. Your editorial manager always broke that rule anyway as a matter of personal choice!

The Serial Comma and Oxford Comma are both grammatically correct, she noted. Your editorial manager suggests deferring to your audience or personal preference and notes McLendon and her Ph.D. in Slavic languages can go jump in the lake with her Oxford Commas!

You may also noun a verb and verb a noun without fear of breaking grammar rules. What’s that mean, you ask? Nouning a verb: “Here’s an ask.” Verbing a noun: “God, I hate adulting.” Your editorial manager is “finalizing” his Grammar Police resignation papers as we speak.

English is such a complex and beautiful mélange of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Greek, German, French, Spanish, Persian and damn near everything else. Even India has left its mark – the word “shampoo.” You can thank Arabic for “alcohol.” Your editorial manager now dreams of a lovely single-malt scotch!

But grammar myths and professional styles also developed as English evolved over the centuries. In service to our clients, and with respect for the predominant American tongue, we PR professionals must always communicate well by sticking to the rules of grammar. But we must also be comfortable breaking a grammar “rule” or two in the interest of communication that calls to action, changes hearts and delivers feeling.

Take Apple’s wildly successful campaign: “Think Different.” Grammatically speaking, it’s not even a true sentence and “different” should be an adverb here -- “differently.” But who would argue the grammatically correct “You should think differently” is better?

As McLendon emphasized, the guiding grammar principle must be to defer to what is most clear, clean and concise for the reader. We should never let a rule of style guide trump clarity, she said. Your editorial manager now clings for dear life to his beloved Associated Press Stylebook!

“Writing is hard enough without worrying about manufactured distinctions that add nothing to a sentence,” McLendon said. “Writers and editors, and teachers of writing and editing, need to focus on the grammar problems — and there are plenty — that can impede understanding, mislead readers, or simply make a writer look sloppy and unprofessional, instead of sending more grammar myths around the Internet.”

I urge you to check out McClendon’s seminar during a lunch break and refresh yourselves on English grammar rules, and perhaps rekindle your love for the written word with all its contradictions and complexities.

Jacques Couret is a former journalist who currently serves as editorial manager of All Told, Allison+Partners’ global integrated marketing offering. 

FEBRUARY 22, 2018 //     

What journos want, what they really really want

Credit: TekGroupBy: Jacques Couret

What do journalists think about the content we create for clients? What do they want from us and them?

TekGroup has chimed in with its 18th annual Online Newsroom Survey Report, which asks professional journalists about their needs. Their wants in a nutshell:

  • Current and accurate contact info
  • Executive photographs
  • Content should be updated timely with social media not significantly after the fact
  • Don’t make us jump through hoops to get high resolution photographs
  • The phone number for a real person that has the authority to speak to products, activities and issues into which the company is involved
  • Positive feel-good stories

As a former journalist, the only surprise to me is “positive feel-good stories.” That might be my own cynicism or a bias from having toiled in hard news for 20 years.

Unsurprisingly, journalists said email alerts and social distribution are key. In fact, 92 percent prefer to get news and story pitches by email and 50 percent said they visited an online newsroom once a month. As a reporter, I certainly preferred email pitches over a phone call or snail mail. I also visited online newsrooms, though more frequently, and always appreciated a well-designed site with plenty of current information, a good searchable news archive and an extensive photo library.

Download the report here and get more intel about how editors, reporters, producers, correspondents and bloggers work with online newsrooms, digital audio and video, press release distribution services and PR professionals. 

Jacques Couret is a former journalist who currently serves as editorial manager of All Told, Allison+Partners global integrated marketing offering. 

FEBRUARY 6, 2018 //     

Avocado craze continues in Super Bowl ad wars

For the third consecutive year, we rank the brands that scored big online with their more than $5 million Super Bowl LII ad spends. In previous years, we saw a variety of tactics employed to gain consumer conversation – Snickers ran a live ad, Persil and Mercedes tried hiring celebrity directors for their 30-second spots and others aimed for political and emotional resonance. Last year’s winners included T-Mobile, Budweiser, 84 Lumber, Audi and Coca-Cola.

Our social listening tools looked at each brand individually for mentions. For example, we did not lump Mountain Dew, Doritos and Pepsi’s commercials into an overall “Pepsi” brand bucket. We included all mentions the week prior to the game and the day after, Jan. 28 – Feb. 5 to determine which brands generated the most chatter.


Here are the 2018 winners:

Let’s start with avocados. After some more digging, we found Avocados From Mexico incorporated its ad into what resembles a fully integrated campaign. It had a partnership with Funny or Die that included game-day social media content, had terrific live community management that commented on all the commercials throughout the game, included a hashtag (#GuacWorld) that unified the messages and wrapped it all in an interactive microsite that let users explore GuacWorld. And finally -- the kicker -- it enlisted a “tweet to win” sweepstakes for consumers to win avocados for a year. The sweepstakes led to its online chatter winnings – the tweet reach is only 50 million (compared to 166.5 million reach for the Pepsi ad chatter), which indicates Avocados From Mexico had a lot conversation from the general consumer or purchaser.

On the flip side, conversation surrounding Dodge Ram’s ad had the highest reach of all the brands with 418 million users reached. Its ad used a Martin Luther King Jr. sermon and was criticized widely – 60 percent of the Twitter conversation was neutral or negative, indicating brands don’t have to delight folks to win in online brand mentions.

Tide ran several ads spoofing the Super Bowl ad genre and toyed with tropes from other brand ads (Budweiser Clydesdales, the Old Spice guy). Its hero was David Harbour from Stranger Things – one of the most talked about shows of 2017 – guaranteeing mentions from an already loyal following.

Amazon Alexa and the NFL aired two of the funniest ads of the evening. Alexa also gained notable chatter for using four celebrities. Celebrity endorsements is a stalwart tactic; in all the year’s we’ve performed this exercise, using a celebrity in an ad is a good indication of how the brand will fare in online conversation. Case in point, the Pepsi throwback ad with Cindy Crawford had only 7,700 online mentions but a reach of 166.5 million thanks to online plugs from Britney Spears, Michael Jackson’s official Twitter feed and a mix of business and entertainment news.

Finally, a shout-out goes to Bud Light for figuring out a way to make its Super Bowl ad conversation last for days after the game. Philly Philly, Dilly Dilly.

Lucy Arnold is a digital manager at Allison+Partners. 

FEBRUARY 5, 2018 //     

Newsjacking the Big Game: How the Kardashian’s empress of excess did it to us again

By: Kevin Nabipour

Try as we might, we just can’t keep up with the Kardashians.

Super Bowl LII was a thrilling game with the two best-performing teams in the regular season. It featured a jaw-dropping offensive explosion and the improbable journey of Nick Foles from backup QB to Super Bowl MVP. It had Justin Timberlake as the halftime performer. The commercials featured some outstanding work by Tide. There was a #AlMichaelsShakeYourBooty hashtag campaign. It had it all.

And then Kris Jenner went and stole the whole damn thing.


Newsjacking the Super Bowl is the holy grail of subversive marketing maneuvers. By peeling away a captive, built-in and global audience that spans the entire spectrum of humanity and one glued to not only the game but every break in between is tricky; there’s a reason commercials cost $5 million per 30-second spot and are the predominant format. But the Kardashians have never been your traditional marketers.

In a family that has leveraged a daughter’s sex tape, a father’s transitioning, an in-law’s drug-fueled descent and another’s fascinating madness (Kanye!), you’d be forgiven if you believed most of the controversial firepower to draw attention to and obsession of America’s First Family of Fame has already been deployed to remarkable effect. But you’d be wrong.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Kylie Jenner (no doubt with her mother and publicist Kris Jenner by her side) released an 11-minute love letter welcoming her “baby girl” to the world in a film that is a mixture of home-movie, behind-the-scenes documentary, and the type of addressing-the-camera commentary reserved for tear-jerkers and most often featuring a dying parent passing on hard-earned life lessons to their unborn child.

Shot by Tyler Ross, known on Instagram as White Trash Tyler and a collaborator of Kayne West and Kylie Jenner’s boyfriend Travis Scott, we see a private pregnancy of one of the world’s most public personalities in intimate detail.

“Baby Girl” Jenner – no name has been released yet – was actually born on Feb. 1, three days before the Super Bowl. While the pregnancy was held secret and away from the public glare, they engineered the announcement for maximum audience impact. Super Bowl LII likely recorded 100 million viewers, but Ms. Jenner notched 23 million views for “To My Daughter” in just 16 hours – all without paying a dime.

For the Kardashian matriarch, you could call the whole thing a proud mother’s giddiness for her new granddaughter, or vengeance for the Kendall Jenner/Pepsi fiasco (Pepsi is a stalwart Super Bowl advertiser and sponsors the halftime show). As Bustle stated, “People Want to Cancel This Super Bowl to Celebrate Kylie’s Baby News Instead.” A Mom-ager’s work is never done.

Whatever the reason, the buzzing conversation once again demonstrates a powerful brand with a loyal and highly-engaged audience can still disrupt one of the most hallowed marketing institutions if the provocation is compelling enough. The Super Bowl’s magic is partly the lingering effect of talking about it the next day. When that social exchange is compromised by an intruder, the benefit of paying premium dollars for a commercial is also called into question.

Oh, and Pink did a roaring National Anthem while under the weather with the flu – did you catch that lozenge moment right before she started singing? But no one is talking about that either.  

Kevin Nabipour is managing director, content strategies at Allison+Partners. 

JANUARY 19, 2018 //     

The Future of Healthcare: A View of 2018

By: Virginia Anderson

Healthcare has long been in the throes of massive change, and the escalation point is fast approaching thanks to the progress and tumult of 2017. Putting politics aside, in the last year the industry has made tremendous advancements in technology, patient-care delivery, analytics and significant mergers/acquisitions. These moves have set us up for an even more pivotal year ahead, where we’ll begin to solve some of the toughest issues in healthcare, create new categories, and put patient empowerment at an all-time high.

Although I’m not a futurist, I fully expect 2018 to bring more exciting advancements in health and wellness. For brands and healthcare marketers, this means that 2018 is the year to: capitalize on unfolding events by being a thought leader on their implications and gain the trust of patients by providing needed education. With that in mind, here are the key trends to look out for in the year ahead:


Surge in mHealth and telehealth popularity 

The exam room is no longer confined by walls thanks to mHealth technologies that evolve the patient experience. More patients receive exam results by text, consult patient portals on their phones and access treatment instructions through an app, which empowers them to manage better their health and wellness – anywhere and at any time.

In the same breath, telehealth is taking off successfully with patients. It has never been more convenient, seamless and helpful for patients to seek diagnosis and support from the comfort of their own homes.

More mergers and acquisitions

It is no surprise mergers and acquisitions will continue to reshape the health and wellness category, and dominate the headlines. However, the companies involved may take us by surprise, as they will occur across categories beyond hospitals. Case in point, Aetna’s acquisition of CVS last year. In fact, experts expect to see large tech giants such as Amazon and Google make more moves in healthcare. In October 2017, Modern Healthcare reported “consolidation among hospitals and health systems in 2017 will likely outpace 2016’s mark and continue at that same pace through next year.” The cost efficiencies and expanded resources achieved with M&As are important to delivering the care patients demand. It will be telling to see if this results in any cost savings to payers.

Disrupting technology

In 2018, the future of healthcare shines bright with companies dedicated to disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and education through technological solutions. Just look at the announcements from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month as well as HIMSS 2018 in March! From drones that deliver medicine to remote areas to life-size robot companions for seniors, these innovations show we have much to expect in the next year, let alone 10 years in the health space.

Continued opioid abuse

Unfortunately, the opioid health crisis will continue to dominate healthcare headlines in 2018. Deaths from opioids have risen sharply for years, and drug overdoses have already killed more Americans under the age of 50 than any other cause. Tackling this health crisis is complex and multi-pronged, and a turnaround isn’t expected for years. However, it is our greatest hope to see progress this year in addressing the root causes of the problem.

Patient engagement

Thanks to wearable technologies, mobile health apps, online support communities and telehealth consultations, patients have more personalized information at their fingertips than ever before. More impressive than the surging volume of wearables is the adoption rate at all ages. We fully expect more niche technologies to launch this year that will only continue to support specific health conditions as well as health self-management.

New treatments

As a Fortune headline noted, 2017 saw the most U.S. Food and Drug Administration drug approvals in 20 years, with 46 medicines receiving approval. While 2018 will likely not see the same volume of approvals per the current pipeline, the impact of these now-approved treatments will come to life with patients this year. Interestingly, many drugs up for approval this year focus on rare diseases and sub-types of cancer.

It's time to put on your seat belt, because the ride in 2018 is going to be fast, perhaps a bit bumpy, and on uncharted territory. And, the scenery just might amaze us: life-saving technologies, improved patient care, and results we never thought possible.

Virginia Anderson is a vice president in Allison+Partners’ healthcare practice.

JANUARY 9, 2018 //     

Four PR Resolutions to Stay Sharp in the New Year

By: Sarah Morgan

New Year’s Resolutions might seem cliché, but I do think a new year brings the perfect opportunity to decide what is important and what to focus on to better yourself - and not just by heading to the gym or drinking more water. I think we focus too often on personal goals, but as anyone in public relations knows, we spend a whole lot of time working. Why not give some TLC to professional goals as well?

The following will hopefully ease you into a 2018 full of learning and self-care in your professional life without the fear of the dreaded resolution fail.


Take a class

In the constantly evolving communications landscape, where digital marketing has become more important, it’s critical to learn new skills outside of traditional media relations and publicity. Earned media is just one piece of a robust communications strategy -- and as agency PR professionals, understanding owned and paid strategies is essential to deliver well-rounded results.

Thanks to the Internet, there’s a class for just about everything to make sure you stay up-to-speed on the latest strategies and platforms in the marketing and communications world. One example is LinkedIn’s Learning channel, which has a great library of video courses covering everything from social media marketing to working with influencers.

Tweet more

If you don’t have a Twitter account, sign up for one now. Twitter is a great resource to connect with journalists, influencers, brands and fellow media mavens and marketing pros. It’s a fairly easy way to keep your finger on the pulse of the news and media, while offering new and old practitioners the chance to be a part of conversations happening outside of their bubbles. I’m connecting with more reporters who tell me they tweet about stories they’re writing as another means to find sources.

In a world where we’re constantly connected, joining another social media platform may sound like a chore. But if there’s one that’s most useful for your PR career, it’s Twitter. Just remember to pick an avatar -- no one trusts an egghead.

Build a career ladder

Having a mentor is one of the most valuable resources an entry or mid-level professional can count on in this hectic industry, and being a mentor can be an incredibly rewarding experience. According to a recent study on mentorship by Heidrick & Struggles, “more than three-fourths of respondents say their most impactful mentoring relationship was either ‘very important ‘or ‘extremely important’ to their career development.”

Check to see if your company offers a mentor program -- many companies do. If they don’t, work with your human resources department to get one started. You can find some tips and tricks here. If that sounds like too big an undertaking, then simply send a note to someone you admire professionally, or someone who is your #careergoals, to ask if they’d be willing to meet for coffee. It can seem intimidating, especially in the PR industry where people seem to be constantly going 100 MPH, but it’s worth the effort for the value you may find.

Get some R&R

Alongside firefighters and airline pilots, Forbes recently ranked public relations executives as one of the 10 most stressful jobs of 2017 -- and it’s not the first time PR has landed on one of these lists. My last professional resolution for PR practitioners is decidedly personal -- remember that working 24/7 isn’t always the ticket to a rewarding career; a well-balanced life can do wonders for your productivity and work quality.

Ellen Galinsky, co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, said in an article in The Cut:  “Everyone needs to have more than one thing in their life. We find people who are dual-centric to be most satisfied. If people put an equivalent stress on their life outside of their job they get further ahead and are more satisfied at their job.”

In 2018, make it a priority to pick a hobby -- any hobby -- outside of work you can focus on in the long term without the pressure of a deadline or fixed outcome. Pick up a crochet hook and some thread, dive into that epic fantasy trilogy you’ve been eyeing for a while or volunteer with an organization in your neighborhood. Whatever it is, just make sure it brings you joy and offers you some quality “me” time outside of your daily duties.

Sarah Morgan is a senior account executive in Allison+Partners' Washington, D.C. office.
JANUARY 4, 2018 //     

What to expect for B2B Tech in 2018

Credit: Getty Images

By: Allison+Partners’ B2B Technology Council

With technology upending nearly all aspects of society, business and daily life, it’s important to understand the trends that will impact business in the new year. As members of Allison+Partners’ B2B Technology Council, a group of senior leaders across the agency’s U.S. offices, we came together to discuss important trends and the types of conversations business leaders have about this new era of technology. Here are our thoughts:


Karyn Barr: As we look at the PR industry, it’s no secret B2B MarCom is a driving force for innovative campaigns. What’s more, B2B tech companies are increasingly more comfortable with the concept of integrated marketing campaigns/approaches that have been traditionally associated with B2C. I abhor cliché, so I say we bury the word “disruption” in 2018. With that said, we are witnessing a shift in the mindset of legacy companies at unprecedented speed. Status quo for press operations no longer applies and we will continue to see a hard charge by B2B tech organizations to embrace fully an integrated approach to how they communicate with key stakeholders.

Holly Barnett: While analysts have been important to IT for years, today’s technology decisions are increasingly influenced and made by line-of-business organizations throughout the enterprise. Likewise, emerging technologies, the growing adoption of IoT and the ever-present issues related to cybersecurity continue to expand the range of personas who turn to analysts for information, opinions and advice. These trends are reflected in the analyst community itself, with the largest firms becoming even bigger and smaller specialized firms gaining influence. Savvy marketing and product management teams have leveraged analysts’ knowledge and expertise for some time. But as we enter the new year, we need to open up the aperture to take advantage of their expanding influence. Even one new analyst relationship can make a big difference, with a new voice, new insights and a path to new customers and bigger deals.

Bryan Thomas: IoT. Edge Computing. Ambient Computing. Call it what you may – computing as we know it today is fading into the background, changing how we interact (or don’t interact) with technology, and requiring the C-suite to rethink their data strategies and policies. Likewise, this will be a breakout year for AI, machine learning and deep learning by breaking free from the hype and demonstrating meaningful business and societal results. Meanwhile, security will continue to be top of mind for anyone in tech, especially those concerned about securing the mountains of data generated by the trillions of sensors and connected devices. Expect to see a host of social issues being debated as well, as people grapple with the ease with which data is gathered, analyzed and shared.

Lisa Kelaita: Technology has advanced to the point where you don’t know if you’re communicating with a tool or a person. AI is transforming the use of voice and video and is providing customers the highest touch experience possible. For years, making customer experiences better was achieved through advanced data schemes targeting directly to a customer’s needs and preferences. This result was a clear revenue boost for companies. While targeting is step one, it does not always lead to personal engagement. Targeting grabs attention, but the holy grail is creating real connections through sophisticated machine learning and AI tools that facilitate real human-like engagement.   

Melissa Muskett: It’s been fascinating to witness the transfer of power from the CIO/CTO to other members of the C-Suite and their line of business leaders. With AI and analytics putting the power of data in the hands of people who lead day-to-day business and develop new products and services, there’s a new group of leaders emerging as critical decision makers in the IT space. While this creates new challenges for IT professionals, it also gives them the opportunity to provide a higher level of strategic value to their organizations.  As someone who has always championed the idea that technology will change the way we work and live, it’s exciting to see this all come together.

David Baum: 2018 is the year that Technology News Aggregates, aka social media, finally embrace the responsibility they have to protect data and help humanity distinguish what is fake and what is real news. In 2017, we saw the inkling of reform with new policies established by this next generation of news outlets (Facebook and Twitter). From rooting out hate speech, to codifying news sources, these organizations have recognized that with great power comes great responsibility. The drumbeat for transparency and standards has only increased from users, politicians and investors. As reform takes, hold there will be opportunity for organizations to embark on new communication campaigns that embody this new era.  

Karyn Barr, Holly Barnett, Bryan Thomas, Lisa Kelaita, Melissa Muskett and David Baum are senior leaders in various Allison+Partners offices that serve on the agency’s B2B Technology Council.

DECEMBER 21, 2017 //     

Overcoming milestone announcement blues: using data and research to bring your real estate story to life

Credit: Zillow.com

By: Steve Smith

Working in a niche public relations practice area like real estate, I am often asked for ideas about driving coverage for clients outside of the typical announcements around project milestones, sales and marketing activities, new tenants and similar traditional news cycles.

What we hear frequently from reporters and editors – and not just those covering housing, real estate, business and economics – is they’re interested in hard data for stories. Professional opinions on current trends and market activity alone are not enough.


As real estate PR practitioners, this presents us with an opportunity to take a broad view of the resources available within our communities to help our clients tell and secure coverage for stories that rely on research, data and their unique insights.

While we could include many more, here are four best practices we employ to add color to industry data, secure compelling coverage for our clients and elevate their stories beyond the same old recycled announcement themes.

  • Leverage Brokerage Research: Whether you’re helping a client reposition an industrial asset or secure a tenant for a new office project, chances are your local commercial real estate brokerage will have recent market research and data to support your client’s public relations objectives. Brokerages such as JLL, CBRE, Colliers and Kidder Matthews publish extensive volumes of valuable market research data across the country. Build relationships with the research teams and subject matter experts at these firms. You will likely find they can help guide you to a wealth of research and data that can serve as a proof point for your PR strategies and tactics.
  • Position Residential Housing Studies: Studies and reports from real estate companies on a wide range of housing market topics, such as Zillow’s annual Consumer Housing Trends Report, Redfin’s special reports or Realtor.com interactive reports, provide compelling content that can be used to validate or draw contrasts to a client’s offerings. In addition, recurring monthly reports on sales trends from your local Multiple Listing Service, housing price data from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices or new residential construction data from the S. Census Bureau are released on a monthly or quarterly basis. This leads to the next best practice…
  • Recognize Timing is Everything: I cannot overstate this one enough. Particularly in the case of the recurring data sets referenced above, you need to know exactly when these housing reports will be released. As with the commercial real estate brokerages, get to know key individuals at these organizations and companies. Ask to be included on their press distribution list – so you know when reporters know. Once the data is released, you’ll have mere hours to get a reporter’s attention. Try to anticipate what trends you’ll see and identify quickly your pitch angle. Or reach out to the reporter first thing in the morning to let them know you have an industry expert available to provide commentary on the new numbers, the trends they’re seeing in the marketplace (and how they compare to what is reported) and how these trends are impacting renter, buyers, sellers, etc. in the area.
  • Create a Survey: Lastly, one of my favorite ways to leverage data to tell nuanced real estate stories is to commission an independent survey or study. The Allison+Partners Research team, for example, can help conduct telephone or online surveys. Ask survey participants provocative questions about their perceptions of the market. Think about what headlines you would like to see and how your client’s asset fits into the overall narrative. Do baby boomers really want to downsize and move to a shiny new condo or apartment in the city? Does the white picket fence and suburban home still epitomize “the American Dream” for millennials? How do living space and amenities needs differ between generations? These are simplistic examples, of course, but they can help fuel a storyline that positions your client as a thought leader in their industry.
Packaged the right way, with timely, crisp and engaging data or industry research paired with an effective narrative, you can find new opportunities to bring to life your real estate story and help your client gain exposure beyond the typical project milestone and routine news announcements.

Steve Smith is a director in Allison+Partners’ Seattle office.

DECEMBER 20, 2017 //     

5 Social Media Trends for 2018

Credit: Marketing LandBy: Allison+Partners' Digital Team

It seems like every day social media platforms get a new update – a small snapshot of the latest includes Twitter expanding its character count to 280, Pinterest adding new board “sections” and Instagram allowing Story content that’s older than 24 hours. It can be hard to keep up, and more importantly, to know which updates will affect your social strategies and business objectives. We’re here to help… we like this stuff! We stay up to date on what’s changing in the social sphere and help our clients navigate the landscape. So, as a digital team, we investigated the new year’s emerging trends and why that matters for our clients.

1. Instagram finishing touches

Instagram will continue to thrive and diversify, and it will find ways to give users more control over their experience. Everyone’s engagement took a hit this year when algorithms rolled out and many complained they no longer see the newest content. In 2018, it’s likely Instagram will give us a chance to tag our favorite people so we always see their content in our feeds. The notifications option didn’t satisfy the desire to see friends first, so it will keep working on it.

Next, it will perform the final Mortal Kombat style spin move on Snapchat and copy all its strongest features. It will upgrade the filters and features it has already copied from Snapchat, continuing to consistently steal Snap’s users. In 2018, it just has to put the last nail in the coffin (see Trend 4).

It will also roll out shopping to more stores and everyday retail shops. It’s such a great way to get brands involved and active. With this, it will focus on more sophisticated advertising on the phone platform and through Facebook.

2. Messaging platforms are SO in

As we wave goodbye to 2017, we welcome 2018 with more ways to say hello -- especially with the assistance of instant messaging platforms. We all remember the days of spending countless hours coming up with the perfect AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) username. And while we saw regrettably that trend fade away in the ‘00s, it’ll get a bigger and better revival in the new year.

Even though more than 2.5 billion people use messaging platforms worldwide, brands are still focused on connecting with consumers solely through social networks. In 2018, we expect -- even encourage -- brands to invest time, money and strategy to connect with followers through messaging platforms.

We are entering a digital age of artificial intelligence (AI), chatbox and voice assistant products. Raise your hand if you own a Google Home or Alexa. *raises hand*

According to Geomarketing.com, roughly 65 percent of voice assistant owners couldn’t imagine going back to the days before they had a smart speaker. This digital transformation is a sign for brands to get on the bandwagon and offer personalized experiences through messaging platforms. The main takeaway is to keep communication interesting and innovative. As a result, brands should use messaging platforms to go beyond traditional services.

Here’s a list of the top five messaging platforms we predict will continue to rise and make an impact in 2018:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Kik
  • WeChat
  • Line and/or Viber
3. Snapchat sale

On Dec. 7, 2017, a Google News search of “Snapchat” revealed these top headlines:

  • “Nobody Knows if Snapchat Shows are Actually Successful” (Engadget)
  • “Is The Worst Finally Over for Snapchat?” (CNNMoney)
  • “Could Snap Finally Turn Things Around in 2018?” (TheStreet)

Six months ago, at a social media bootcamp event, one speaker said definitively, “Snapchat is dead.” It seems the jury is still out.

This year, Snap went public at $17 a share and has seen little growth since then causing some to wonder if the ad platform has value. (The Engadget headline above doesn’t seem to be a vote of confidence in that department.) After its IPO, Snap decided its niche would be mobile-first, short-form, original video programming. NBCUniversal was one of the first to sign up, but it apparently has only 4 million subscribers. With 178 million daily active users, that’s not a lot. And then, like Instagram launching Stories to compete, Facebook announced in August its own original video content hub called Watch. Finally, perhaps a last-ditch effort, in November, Snapchat underwent a large redesign. Is it too little too late? All in all, it’s losing money, losing users and struggling to convince advertisers to spend. The 2018 prediction: Snapchat will get bought. The likely buyer? Chinese tech giant Tencent, owner of WeChat, since it invested in Snap in 2017 and could use it as a U.S. entrance.

4. Trust and Transparency

Every year, information fatigue grows as material becomes even more accessible for both readers and content creators. 2017 was overwhelming to say the least (fake news, anyone?), but it brought manipulative media practices into the spotlight and got people thinking about how digital media is created and curated strategically.

From politics to products, audiences will start to use more scrutiny when absorbing information – particularly when it comes to sources. This will make finding and working with trusted influencers even more important for brands. Earlier this year, we spoke with Reesa Lake from influencer talent agency Digital Brand Architects about where influencer marketing is heading and she underscored the importance of authenticity in endorsement deals. And, as more influencers partner with brands in 2018, consumers will become savvier about authentic and transparent relationships.

5. LinkedIn unleashes data and grows video

It took little time for LinkedIn to start rolling out new features after Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of the platform, but change is coming. We’ve witnessed a new home-page feed, inclusion of chat messaging and the launch of video. So, what’s next in 2018? Look for LinkedIn to become a serious player with data and upsell those insights to recruiters and job seekers. Also, look for the 500 million-users platform to expand its video capabilities.

We can see LinkedIn providing recruiters with better insights on how candidates may fit within an organization – Think metrics such as the size of companies the candidate has worked for, keyword analysis in recommendations and ratios of connections of former employers. From a job seeker’s perspective, look for data focused on company turnover rates, promotions and career growth trajectory within an organization. With Facebook starting to become more involved with workplace services, these enhanced data offerings should answer the Mark Zuckerberg challenge for now.

When it comes to video, it's only natural for LinkedIn to grow this new feature and start integrating it into its advertising suite. With the inconsistencies that come from other online channels that have video ads available, LinkedIn has an opportunity to be more than a shiny new toy and give us something unique. Perhaps the video ads contribute to their data revolution in 2018.

Allison+Partners' digital team members include: Nycole Hampton, Christina Mlynski, Lucy Arnold, Jessica Fix and Patrick Hodgson

DECEMBER 19, 2017 //     

Show up and stand up: What Teen Vogue’s Summit taught us about the socially aware and empowered youth

By: Rosie de Queljoe and Casey Brogan

Teen Vogue held their first-ever Summit this month, drawing more than 500 young people over a two-day period to educate, empower and inspire through panels and keynotes with top civic, entertainment and tech leaders. The theme was centered around female empowerment and standing up for what is right, which mirrored the public stance Teen Vogue took when it published the "Donald Trump is Gaslighting America" op-ed that shocked America with how intellectual it had become.

The summit kicked-off with keynote speaker Hillary Clinton, who was interviewed by 17-year-old Yara Shahidi, an actress best-known for her leading role on the sitcom, “black-ish.” Their conversation included fully charged topics like gun control, women in the workplace, gender discrimination and the power of midterm elections. Hillary implored the attendees to affect inclusive policy change by encouraging those who turn 18 in 2018 to vote and speak out during midterms.


During the course of the event, it became very apparent that Millennial and Gen-Z girls (those born between 1998 and 2016) are a socially aware and “woke” group. Eighty-one percent of Millennials expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship. And more Gen Z’ers than anyone else (68 percent), feel the US is headed in the wrong direction, while 32 percent feel the country is heading the right direction. This was certainly apparent as these young women showed up to discuss heavy women’s rights topics during a time of complicated change...on a Saturday nonetheless. 

In addition to tapping into consumers’ social and civic priorities, the conference also highlighted how important relatable and authentic content is to attracting and retaining the attention of this demographic. Some examples highlighted during the conference included:

  • "Insecure" director Melina Matsoukas and cast member Yvonne Orji touched on how celebrating diversity and “realness” has increased popularity of the show because viewers see faces on the screen that match the real faces people see in the mirror.
  • During a "13 Reasons Why" workshop with ItsOnUs.org, cast members and sexual assault survivors discussed how the rape culture in Hollywood mirrors that in American high schools. Now, students on campuses across the U.S. feel they will be supported when they come forward with their own experiences.

As Teen Vogue builds on this inaugural event in future years, it will only further increase relevance and credibility with its chic, yet socially-conscious readership. It will also provide brand marketers with an opportunity to participate in important conversations and gain new insight on the next generations of consumers.

Rosie de Queljoe is an account executive and Casey Brogan is an assistant account executive in Allison+Partners’ LA office.

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