Time to go native? How PRs can get the best out of the ‘new advertorial’

How do PR professionals ensure they are getting the most from content, and context, when trying to secure significant engagement between clients and their audiences in a creative, innovative and cost-effective way?

By Maria Loupa

A few months back, at CIPR HQ in Russell Square, the London GLG Committee had a great panel share their thoughts on the value of advertorials in 21st century communications – it’s been a while, but since this topic is all the more relevant, we wanted to share a few highlights; especially with advertising spend set to reach $253bn by 2018, it’s definitely an untapped market worth exploring for communications professionals. Our panel included Tiffanie Darke, Creative Content Director, News UK (@tiffaniedarke), Jon Tickner, Creative Development Director at IPC Media, and Samantha Cope, Creative Editorial Director at Trinity Mirror plc (@SamanthaCope2); they all provided valuable insight from their respective publishing houses, with their host being former GLG Chair Julio Romo (@twofourseven).

The event kicked off with an introduction of what the speakers’ jobs entail. They all work as part of internal creative departments a lot of comms professionals in the audience didn’t even know existed, to help brand and comms teams create better content solutions for their clients. Sam Cope works within a team of 40 people, from account directors, to designers and everything in between, who make-up the Invention team; it’s been more than a year since Trinity Mirror launched its creative content studio and Sam works across their portfolio of news brands. Trinity Mirror has 110 regional titles, which means campaigns need to be able to talk at a local level, while maintaining a national impact.

Tiffany Darke’s team is Method, the strategic content agency at News UK. They work with The Sunday Times, The Times, The Sun and the entire News UK portfolio; they have cached a creative agency, Method, to produce content for advertising partners across sites, and they now have a sales’ arm and a customer management arm, offering an end to end experience, working with brands on creative campaigns they want to activate. Jon Tickner’s team at Time Inc, work with over 60 media brands and offer their cross-platform editorial expertise, and much more, focusing on a variety of topics from men’s hobbies, to mass market women’s publications such as Woman’s Own, Marie Claire, Wallpaper and Ideal Home.

Why media organisations form creative agencies

The conversation started by discussing what forces media organisations to form creative agencies to develop solutions instead of using PR agencies, content and advertising agencies. All speakers agreed that they know their audiences and the audiences’ needs, that’s why they are the best people to do this instead of a ‘generic’ agency. One of the many interesting things when working with media owners is that brands have the opportunity to work with a platform where people are hunting for content on. “It’s then that you realise certain things about the British public that you can’t assume, unless you’re working with them every single day. They are not marketeers, and that’s a bonus in a sense, because they are like a very intelligent consumer”, as Samantha commented. “We can offer valuable insight in what we call “Modal Britain”, the changing face of Britain which, at the middle percent, has grown and flattened in its wealth, distribution and attitudes”.

Tiffanie commented, “There is currently an ‘agency fight’ – you have digital, social, advertising, video agencies; brands have 6-7 agencies working for them and they have to co-ordinate all of these messages, as part of the whole shifting media landscape right now. It’s all about what’s relevant and useful, and who’s providing the best content and responses”.

However, PR definitely has its place in the paid space, as much as the editorial, as PR professionals are in the best position to broker this kind of deals. They are uniquely positioned in that they understand the publishers, and the audience, and the commercial side of things because they work for commercial clients and understand both sides of the contract. Tiffanie added “It’s a real opportunity for PR professionals. You already understand the audience, so you will sit halfway between us and the client. It’s a useful tool as well for you, especially for pitches and presentations to the client, as you can say ‘we spoke to the Times and they said this and that’.”

A word on audience

Content now flows across platforms, however, there’s still a large print audience present, according to the panel. “There is massive value, trust, massive circulation and communities from both a regional and a national perspective. Communities are everything – it’s a range of people who readily want to engage with you, so brands shouldn’t bother if they can’t manage this engagement”, Sam commented. Increasingly, with digital, where brands are publishers and there is an awful lot of commercial content, the bar has gotten higher. According to the panel, advertorials were considered “second” class, and the quality would have been almost purposely lower so that people wouldn’t confuse it with editorials. In Tiffanie’s word, “the truth is, that people don’t mind watching a good video if it’s for Nike or Coca Cola. So why not make it really good content, engaging and as good as an editorial?”

The panel briefly touched on market differences and similarities from an audience perspective. Jon commented “Although it’s hard to say whether the UK audience is different or not, I feel it may be more similar to the French than we may think, and different to Americans. In general, most clients aren’t set up to have such a global voice, unless it’s a completely clean of character, cross-territory voice that is entirely meaningless to anyone”. Tiffanie added: “Sadly not many clients appreciate buying globally and tailoring to markets – and we all have clients like that. Great, this campaign means nothing; PERFECT!”.

However, there is content that is more ‘transglobal’ and can break down barriers. As an example of this, Jon said that the audience shows an increased interest in ‘comparison’ pieces, especially around sporting or music events, such as the Ashes; i.e. an Australian and UK comparison of the Ashes’ coverage always performs quite well. Samantha added that hyperlocal has been giving their team a real edge, as they can reach people at a very local level, with topics that matter to them, such as the NHS.


Leveraging social media communities

According to the panel, a few of the key trends for 2016 are unquestionably mobile and video, as well as personalisation. Social media communities swing content very fast and are pretty much asked to spend their time and money when they can get a lot of it for free. That’s why media organisations have a growing responsibility to let them know when content is of editorial or advertorial nature. As Tiffanie mentioned, “A neat way around it that’s kind of a shortcut currency for everybody, is to hashtag/label it ‘spawn,’ so that they know it’s not purely editorial”.

The audience needs to be offered both high quality editorial and advertorial content for them to consume. It would almost be like undermining them, if it was assumed that they’re not interested in commercial content, in print or online; commercial message can and should be the level of editorial. “Advertorials never really concerned the audience per se; it’s all about respecting audiences enough to entertain them along the way,” according to the panel.

“If you’re fulfilling the product for engaging with the right audience, if you raise it to that level, you simply can’t fail. And that’s always a long battle, to reach it to the level it should be and educate clients accordingly. In terms of content, editorial is way more issue-based, so that’s the best way to approach it, by making your content more relevant”, the panel agreed. Different platforms simply require different content. Tiffanie explained, “If we’re running a business campaign for Santander for example and they want some Facebook activation, it would dry as a shriveled raisin, so you have to find creative ways around it. For Xbox, we did something around pig semen that did really well on Facebook, as it was a funny, Facebook-friendly post.”

Communities can empower a brand, and adding a certain tone of voice to advertorials can help brands reach them. When it comes to TOV and different platforms, the ‘would a C-suite’s daughter read/understand this’ test doesn’t always apply. “We’re humans, therefore different to each other, and that’s part of the beauty of the media world; if your daughter isn’t reading the print version product, who says that others aren’t? And if you’re a C-suite working in banking, why on earth are you looking at your daughter? She’s not your target audience”.

Furthermore, the panel argued that their teams can provide insights that only media organisations can – they can approach a huge national and regional audience via social media. They use reader panels of around 6-7k people, who can provide feedback anonymously and unknowingly, by their interactions on the content.  As an example, Tiffanie mentioned that they ran a campaign around perceptions on an online shopping brand by the panel, with the goal to justify cart abandonment. As it turned out, none of the values to purchase were what the client thought, which were the fit of certain ranges and difficulties in the return process. It was simply that potential customers couldn’t picture themselves in  any of the products, so it was just a matter of approach.

How editorial and advertorial work together

Regardless of a budget on a marketing campaign, the panel underlined that publishers can never promise editorial space as it’s not best practice, regardless of how big a marketing budget is for a campaign. Tiffanie commented, “Editorial credits are offered in their own way and media houses need to be accountable; and if you’ve been promised, you need to ask for it. We try to facilitate conversations as much as possible and produce content of the highest possible standard to be able to achieve this. An example of this was McMillan – they are already successful in what they do; they wanted to reach a new audience, so a campaign we did for them opened the door to conversations with the features desks and lead to editorial. Explaining the aspects of the campaign allowed them to alter their PR approach.”

The editors always have the final word; if there is anything of editorial value, they will use it. Tiffanie added “We had a big retailer, who bought Sunday Times’ four page pull-out on the main news section, and they were convinced this was worth a front page news story; especially during the weekend of the Paris attacks, everything got wiped out”. It’s all about providing investment for editorial and serve up the client with something that is directly on brand, that you know will totally engage the reader; you’re not taking readers’ eyes away, you’re just giving them more content to consume”, Tiffanie explained. “Last week as part of the Vodafone campaign, we worked on a start-up list with the Times’ editorial team – an ‘everything you need to know’, hands-on guide and an overview of the best start-ups. We said to Vodafone, “do you want to get involved?” and we produced something really good, that transcended to editorial.”

“Integration is everything in quality press, and there are always ways to open conversations towards this; a few more consumer-focused sectors are ‘easier’, like travel, film, charity (CSR angles) – if it’s a bank for example, it may be tricky to get them on the Telegraph; and it should be. It’s integrity that makes up our products.” Advertorials are sense-checked to fit in seamlessly, clearly marked and of the same standard and feel as editorials. The panel agreed that if content is tailored to be part of the publication and add value to the product, then the readers will back it. Sam shared another example of this “We’re run a  blood-donation campaign as a case study and ended up running it as a feature – it’s what we call ‘earned editorial’”. The advertorial team like to get the editorial’s perspective all the time, in terms of testing new products they’re developing; it’s an amazing resource due to its immediacy, and very good for AB testing. Ultimately, media houses can provide a combination of insight from editorial, creative teams and reader panels.

Church and state – direct editorial conflicts

“As a media owner, you have to not be greedy, and choose the right clients carefully. We once had a cereal brand and they insisted on working with us on a campaign to highlight how healthy their cereals are, but actually, across all our titles we’ve been telling everyone how unhealthy they are, making their children obese; so we decided we weren’t going to pitch for this campaign, as this would cost on integrity and readers’ trust. Regardless, even if we put something on the advertorial side that directly contravenes, the editor will chuck it out”, Tiffanie commented. Sam’s views reflected this “Our audiences trust us and trust editorial teams, so when it comes to KPIs, it’s always readers first. If we know our audiences aren’t going to like something, we are not going to run it”.

Setting benchmarks

“There is massive value on top of the traditional channels, that is why when working on multi-platform campaigns, there is a growing need for our industry to measure and monetise our social media strategies”, Jon commented. Tiffanie added, “Martin Sowers, Mr WPP, was quite clear that the bar for measuring digital engagement is really low and needs to be higher, because people aren’t engaging with it the way they would engage with a print or a native digital product.” There is also a disparity of ad spend compared to the reach of print and the reach of mobile. When it comes to ROI of print sales, these offer more ‘solid’ calculations; mobile channels are enormous and cannot be sold out in the same sense; their reach is in the  millions, but clients don’t buy as much as they should and don’t use it as innovatively as they’d like. Tiffanie added “Have you seen a piece of mobile advertising lately? It’s a really annoying distraction – if you watch someone reading a newspaper, they have a one to one relationship spending 20 mins reading it, which is really interesting in the online era”.

In terms of measuring results, Tiffanie mentioned that her team use Unruly, the video sharing agency; they predict how successful a campaign can be, not by views but by shares. They use a different way of measuring engagement, a different level of analytics. Other agencies may run top 10 videos in terms of views for example, but anyone can buy views by buying space. The key is behind paywalls, measuring real engagement, not via watch. Facebook is trying to go in with publishing organisations, and its targeting has certainly the ability to target, as Tiffanie mentioned, but the issue is the level of engagement they claim; “video view is 3 seconds, as much as it takes you to scroll from the top to the bottom of the screen, which a lot of sensible people would argue is not a decent level of engagement”.

“Have any metrics ever made any sense at all?” Jon added. “Don’t always measure it – I’d argue that, in our lives, not all things are about sharing nor are solid or can be measured. It could be that someone clicked the wrong link and they’re trying to close the video; we all need to be honest and that’s not easy when a client is asking for something that’s not possible”. As an example of this, Jon mentioned that his team worked on a campaign with “Time To Change”, around depression and mental illness. “People immediately switch off when they feel uncomfortable, and they may not share content due to the associations attached. So we needed a different way to measure results beyond video shares; we reached out to our regular celebrity contacts and that became our social campaign, simple to do and easy to measure”.

Evidently, reader panels are also part of every campaign produced and every report sent to clients; they are used usually at the beginning, middle, and end of the campaign to measure effectiveness. As an example, Tiffanie mentioned a Hunger Games’ campaign from last year “We ran a feature around ‘what you need to know if you haven’t watched it’ by the reader panel; three weeks later, they have acted upon it by watching the movie, because we triggered their curiosity”. Tiffanie added “You’ve got to be able to measure; digital platforms need to be measured real time, that’s why they are unique”.


How to work with media houses on content solutions

The panel agreed that it’s best to get in touch with them at the beginning, get them involved early so they can draft a content plan based on their audience insight. Tiffanie commented, “the sooner we can get around the table, the better. Be open and truthful – say we have a brand, and these are their challenges; for brands, it’s easy to focus on product facts, but we can advise in depth as we know that these facts alone are not always engaging with people”.  The next steps are for the planning team, the PR team and the brand to sit together, and use audience insights to come up with the central concept, which will later be broken down by platform.

In terms of budgets, Sam and Tiffanie highlighted that no budget is too small, as they’ve run campaigns between £10-30k, while Jon’s team worked with a client who simply wanted all the potato recipes in their archive; “we had about 12,000 they bought 5 and they didn’t cost a lot at all, almost the combined change in our pockets right now, so I’ve beat you both!”.


PRstack – the ultimate guide to digital PR


The changing nature of the PR industry has been a topic of discussion and debate for years. Now, we’ve reached a point where it can’t be argued anymore whether going digital is the right move; it’s vital to be able to offer integrated communication services in order to not only survive in this competitive market, but to make sure you offer the best results possible for your clients across all platforms.

While attending relevant industry events, taking webinars or even digital training is always beneficial in terms of professional development and taking your business to the next level, what was missing was a hands-on guide, a PR toolkit where professionals can turn for advice and tips on how to modernize their workflow via the use of digital tools. Before PRStack no one had thought to bring these multiple technologies together for the benefit of PR practitioners, especially for free.

There are countless tools on offer, from those we use to engage with online influencers to how we manage online communities, and PRstack aims to cut through the noise that characterises the public relations third-party tool market, and help PR practitioners get the digital education they deserve and get better at digital PR.

So … the second PRstack book is out since the first of October and I couldn’t be prouder of being a part of this amazing project. If you’re in this industry and you’ re looking to find out more about how to be more digital, look no further – PRstack is an invaluable resource for anyone who works in PR circa 2015.

What you need to know

In case you are not aware, #PRstack is the largest crowd-sourced education effort in the history of PR practice, collecting 250+ PR tools and 48 guides in total.

Each agency or communications team has its own approach and favoured tools and vendors but there is limited understanding of how an individual tool fits into modern workflow. Vendors often push features over outcomes and the market is complicated by a huge number of options – PRstack was developed with that very thinking in mind, to help PR professionals make sense of the growing market of tools’ vendors.

The story so far

The first PRstack book started from Stephen Waddington ‘s idea of applying the cooperative spirit that exists in open source communities, especially when it comes to tackling issues that the industries are facing and aid learning and development.

The PR industry tends to be quite introvert and competitive, but many professionals have gathered to prove that PR can too, do open source – and through collaboration and open learning, PR Stack was born. The project started with a Google doc as a crowd-sourced list of PR tools; a community gathered around the idea of making sense of the PR tools market and shared their favourite tools.

PRstack volume two

The second #PRstack book aims to improve the public relations workflow and comprises a series of case studies by public relations practitioners exploring modern aspects of PR practice. 30 contributors created over 40 practical examples of tools used in public relations, content marketing, and search engine optimisation (SEO).

Contributors share practical advice on different areas of public relations workflow including planning, content, engagement, and monitoring and measurement. There’s also guidance from experts on implementing change within an agency or communication team, and some simple hacks to get you started.

Anyone can now access the chapters online or download the complete book for free on prstack.co. It is also available in print from Blurb.

The 124-page book is distributed free under a Creative Commons license via the PRstack community. The second book, like the first, is available as an ebook (12MB PDF download) from Prezly and in print from Blurb priced £16.00.

During October, a new mini-chapter of the book gets published every day on the website as well, if you want to get a little digital nugget each time. I will do a separate blog post on my mini-section of the book focusing on Sysomos, after the post is live on prstack.co.


Contributors to the second #PRstack book

Many thanks to: Matt Anderson; Matt Appleby; Stella Bayles; Michael Blowers; Liz Bridgen; Stuart Bruce; Gini Dietrich; Erica Eliasson; Helen Laurence; Rich Leigh; Hannah Lennox; Tim Lloyd; Kevin Lorch; Maria Loupa; Rachel Miller; Lauren Old; Adam Parker; Laura Petrolino; Andy Ross; David Sawyer; Aly Saxe; Laura Sutherland; Max Tatton-Brown; Frederik Tautz; Abha Thakor; Frederik Vincx; Angharad Welsh; Livi Wilkes; Arianne Williams; and Michael White.

Will social media determine the outcome of the General Election?

London Enterprise Festival – The place to be this March

LEF Poster

London, being the innovation and enterprise hub that it is, offers a range of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

A festival running for the first time promises to take the focus out of the Silicon Roundabout and into the heart of Camden, and celebrate the diverse range of business opportunities available in London by going well beyond the traditional finance and tech sectors.

Why you should go: cool event, great venue, unparalleled opportunity to engage with big names in the enterprise world & network with like-minded people, get insights and tips on how to set up your own business, organised by and for inspiring local entrepreneurs.

When: Taking place between the 8th – 19th of March, the London Enterprise Festival (LEF) is a two week long bonanza of world-class discussion, debate and sight from global business leaders on topical industry themes.

What is it: The festival plans to hold a unique series of speaker events featuring 50 influential CEOs and senior executives from EMEA, who will share their vast knowledge on what it takes to start and grow successful companies in today’s business climate. Each day will cover a different industry, with sector-specific events designed to connect London’s aspiring entrepreneurs with the relevant knowledge and local networks they need to succeed in the industries they love.

The industry focused speakers include senior leaders and founders from RBS, Microsoft, Heal’s, The Big Issue, Dezeen, Time Out Group, Innocent, Jaeger, Sony, Etsy and more! For all the details and the full list of speakers, you can check out the LEF website directly and also the Eventbrite site where the tickets are currently on sale, and at a pretty accessible price too. The sectored events are focused on the specific enterprise themes below:

8th – Communications

9th – Education & Learning

10th – Social Enterprise

11th – Food and Beverage

12th – Financial Services

15th – Health and Wellbeing

16th – Design and Fashion

17th – Entertainment and Gaming

18th – Marketplaces

19th – Finale


Where: With intimate, informal-style Q&A session, and a stage set-up that resembles an underground late-night talk show, the Festival is taking place at The Foundry, set within the fantastic Camden Stables, which fits the freshness and innovative spirit of the event as a glove.

The Foundry 6The Foundry 12

The festival launched this Sunday with the Communications event, and saw UK based PR and comms moguls such as Graham Goodkind, Chairman & Founder, Frank PR; Nicola Green, Director of Communications & Reputation, O2; Andrew McGuinness, CEO, Freuds; Jim Hawker, CEO, Threepipe and Richard Sunderland, Chairman & Founder, Heavenly.


With the Education event already under LEF’s belt, there’s still plenty to look forward to! The festival will culminate in a forward-looking finale that brings everyone and everything together, aspiring to be the biggest entrepreneurship celebration to date.

Disclaimer: Having worked with LEF, the event is definitely something I would have attended either way as it is spot on on my personal interests, and as you will know by now I support causes I am passionate about.

x M

How to land your first job (in PR)

So you graduated from your undergrad or just started a MA and you begin to realise  how much of a competitive market this is.

Well hello there!

Don’t freak out – the market is much broader than you may originally think, if you are a dedicated and hard-working individual that is.

At work, like in life, there isn’t always time and space – but you can make time and create space. If you mean business, you will get business – as simple as that. But enough with the cliches.

I have been in comms for about 3 years now; I did start from scratch coming from a different country, where PR is sadly often linked to a club opening or free shots. However, I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of talented and supportive people along the way, who helped me realise what my dream was and pursue it.

In a nutshell, by no means an expert myself, I am just offering a few bits of advice which I thought you may find useful on your PR journey:

Seek experience 

While still at uni, get as involved as you can with external and internal projects. Volunteer to participate to anything from online and print outlets, to ad hoc small projects within the university, the community etc. You would be surprised by the amount of opportunities which can pop up if you look around. A good starting point would be to ask at your university, and explore ideas you normally wouldn’t – even a journalism project can work wonders for your confidence, your CV and your writing skills. You can also ask for paid placements, which will also earn you a little extra something something to keep you – partially – financially supported.

You may do it for the sake of your CV at first, but you will eventually get the greatest sense of joy and personal fulfillment in the process, while helping others and building on strong connections.

Be curious

Use all existing support and resources. Your professors are -usually- great and supportive people who are there to help you and offer their wisdom. For me, luckily they were there to answer all of my – gazillion – questions. Don’t be afraid to ask – I’ve been asking so many questions that it was like a class joke, which I never minded.

I heard as a joke recently that there are no stupid questions, only stupid people – while I find this extremely funny and true at times, I was always a supporter of the notion that it’s better to seem stupid than ignorant; you may run the risk of being politely annoying, but you will also be memorable – which means you’re half way there.

Live & Learn

Yes, life-long learning is a thing. Don’t consider a degree your “get out of jail” card; it’s not a destination, just a stop of your journey. Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way – lectures, webinars, events. For instance, there are many universities offering free online courses, such as Coursera etc. which can help you dig deeper in whatever it is that interests you.

Be relevant 

Read; read online, offline, stay informed on topics you consider important and  that you would like to work on. However, make sure to get all-rounded knowledge as well, which is an absolute must in our profession. You will find this particularly useful during job interviews as well. Research successful comms campaigns – what worked, what didn’t work, what inspired you.What’s in the news, how you can use existing knowledge to move ahead. There is no virgin birth if you ask me – we are all the combined effort of everyone and everything we’ve ever known, so don’t be afraid to use this as a starting point.

Be present online. Yes, you know you will eventually have to produce and share content on all platforms so it’s crucial that you familiarise yourself at least with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media and digital skills are completely transferable and are growingly not considered  an advantage but a pre-requisite, so make sure you are on top of your game. A good starting point would be comms professionals and bloggers, such as http://wadds.co.uk/http://adaywithoutoj.com/,

http://www.comms2point0.co.uk/ among others and media outlets.

Network, network, network

I find the UK a fair market – if you’re good, sooner than later you will be recognised. To put it simply, it’s not about who you know most f the times, however, it is always good to broaden your network as you never know who you may cross paths with. Someone may end up being a client, a colleague, a journalist. This will not help you get ahead; it will help you learn from others, meet like-minded people and may help you get a foot in the door – i.e. for a job opportunity or a reference.

Build your online community; start following people who you consider influencers online, try and get engaged in conversations, listen and learn. It’s like everything else – no one will will ask you to join their club, come up to you and ask to be friends or offer you a job out of nowhere. You will have to earn it, by putting yourself out there.

Industry bodies are always a good option to help you grow as a professional and network, such as CIPR and PRCA.

Last but not least, be memorable, be creative, be yourself.

Don’t think for once that you will have to change who you are to fit the industry. There will be a bunch of compromises to be made, but don’t let your talent get suffocated. You will not get to make the rules – at least not just yet, but  as mentioned previously, you can bend them and make room for your aspirations if you work as hard.

Be polite; be respective; find your own style and pace to do things. There will always be someone more organised, or more creative, or more skilled on the phone. So what? Try and learn from them, and make that an incentive to get better – you will find your own way of delivering everything else in the process when working on your craft. Think of how you want to be perceived and be it.

* #iworkinpr is a pretty fun blog which can give you a taste of PR every day shenanigans – imagine it with the Benny Hill soundtrack on the background.


By Maria Loupa

One of the biggest European Wearable shows took place in London’s Olympia last week, on the 18-19 March. In this year’s expo, we saw a variety of companies tapping in the wearable market, from smart watches, fitness trackers, face-mounted computers, and smart jewellery. Differentiators depend on capability, design and of course, price. Taking a variety of forms, from clip-ons and wristbands to “smart” onesies, bras and socks, the list was endless.

The two-day conference saw speakers and vendors from around the world. It’s definitely an exciting time for wearables, and we were there getting our hands on as many smart devices as possible.

The different types of wearables covered fashion, sports and fitness, health and M2M, which more often than not crossed paths. There was also a developer hack fest and a business start up track, as well as live product demo and an exhibition, giving companies the chance to show off products to anyone attending the event. Finally, the event also hosted ‘The Wearables’, an awards ceremony recognising the UK’s leading large and small companies in the sector.

Smartwatches and wristbands

Plain and simple, bulky or sophisticated, one thing is for sure:  smartwatches have potential but their success will be directly proportional to how easy they will be to use and of course, whether they are serving a useful purpose. Additional elements would be being fashionable, comfortable and supporting a wide variety of apps.


Among others, a screen-less, seemingly traditional watch that works with a SIM card and a handful of pressable keys and can both place and receive calls caught my eye. Ideal for a night out without having to worry for anyone nicking your £600 phone I’d say.


One of my favourite gadgets will have to be the gesture band concept which looks as if taken out of the movie “Click”. Working on simple pointing and waving gestures, with receivers hooked up to appliances around the home or office, its application can expand on pretty much any field but can be incredibly beneficial for healthcare purposes.

Fitness trackers

Smart clothing is a seemingly peculiar but promising area. With a lot of the items at the expo resembling super-hero costumes, the tight kind, it’s obvious that the focus is on tracking and feedback based on data from sensors close to the body. Tracking pretty much everything that uses current applied through the skin, you can keep track of your heart-rate, sleep, perspiration, skin temperature, stress levels, fat content, muscle strength and so on. The same goes for wristbands as well.

Health-related recommendations are taking a more practical approach. Smart clothes with inbuilt heating system to keep you warm when your temperature lowers; super-thin stainless steel fibres that feel like wool; smart bands that can be snapped around your wrist; UVA measuring wrist-bands that can measure light and UV exposure can support a variety of smart features. Trackers that can be attached on any piece of sport equipment like a snowboard can provide an accurate reading of measurements of each move of an athlete’s performance.

Jewellery & fashion
























Fashion is gradually becoming more important in the world of wearable tech, as more gadgets take fashionability, wearablility and durability into consideration. But as the Expo proved, they can work the other way around too, with predominantly fashion items borrowing tech elements. Interactive NFC technology can be used to imbue jewellery and skirts with a personal emotive message, video or photos, while seemingly normal shoes can light up upon a camera flash.

Eyewear & Ear wear


Augmented reality goggles are definitely a strong player in wearables. From riding a roller-coaster to checking if a chest of drawers you want to order can fit in your apartment, the simple and cool 3D headset along with an augmented reality app held a special place in my heart. From gaming to interior design, whatever it may be that you want to experience, you can basically customise your own virtual reality by downloading the app, sliding your own smartphone across the front of the goggles and enjoy!



Another notable series of eyewear, brings sci-fi movies to mind due to its design and capabilities.  Aimed mostly at enterprise, it offers hands-free access to information; it’s built around an Android smartphone without the cellular connectivity, camera complete with zoom, responds to voice commands and allows headset to headset communication. Additionally, experimentation with lenses on the inside and the outside of the frame and tiny high-res screens that won’t draw unwanted attention are definitely a great platform for innovation in the field.

What can complement an augmented reality experience can also come from… the ears!  We tried on a smart headset with 3D audio, which was particularly fun when demoed as part of a live concert experience. 3D audio effectively means that you can hear sounds differently depending on how you’re positioned, thanks to location-aware technology. It would be interesting to see how this one evolves passed the obvious entertainment applications.

As an alternative to scanners and QR code reading apps, the concept of a piece of eyewear with an embedded QR code and barcode reader was also appealing.

Finally, nano-coating technology seems to be a definite emerging trend. With nanotechnology applied to the inside of devices that can protect electronics from failure due to full submersion in water and other corrosive liquids. This advancement can have many applications, including potentially a solution to the overheating and prolonging life span of computers.

Final thoughts

The majority of the gadgets at the Expo are already available at the market or being released after May this year. Eventually, we’ll see a retail price tag on most of them. With more and more big and small companies involved, the pressure will be on releasing a competing product from every aspect.

However, the real challenge with wearables would be to show some real end-user benefit. While the focus is largely put on the technology, a lot of these devices are taking tracking and measurement a step further. It will be interesting to watch the developments on how the data will be gathered and interpreted to enhance customer experiences.

*As it appeared on http://www.techbm.co.uk/wearable-tech-show-2014-trends-to-watch/.

For more information on the Wearable Technology show you can visit http://www.wearabletechnologyshow.net/.


Digital Communication Awards 2013


It’s been a while.. Since the last time I blogged, a lot has happened. The most significant change being that Tales from the North East moved South- I moved from Newcastle to London, therefore the name of this blog had to be changed slightly!

Another very, very important thing that happened in this time, is that I was shortlisted for a Digital Communication Award for my master thesis,  “Social media in the Public Sector: Hit or Miss? A comparative study on the effectiveness of social media as a PR tool”, which I consider a great honour and true testament that if you love what you do, great things can happen.

Hosted by the Quadriga University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, the Digital Communication Awards are the first awards in European PR and communications that exclusively honour outstanding achievements in online communication. There are 38 award categories that cover all disciplines from social media communications to digital public affairs and explore the full range of the profession, providing a comprehensive look at exemplary best cases. 

In its third year, almost 600 applications from 38 countries were submitted for the Digital Communication Awards, and we all presented our digital communication projects and campaigns to an international jury. Unfortunately, due to a series of unfortunate events, I was unable to showcase my work in the way I would have wanted to.

However, overall it was a great experience and I can’t thank Quadriga University enough for their kind invitation and impeccable hosting. Meeting a “jury of legends” -as they were called in my head- was humbling and thrilling at the same time. A massive thank you should also go to Northumberland & Monmouthshire County Councils, as well as many UK PR professionals who contributed to my research.

The gala ceremony was hosted at Berlin’s Meistersaal. Stars like David Bowie, U2 and Depeche Mode once turned the stunning Meistersaal into a modern legend. The charming presenter Hadnet Tesfai led through the evening, making every winner feel comfortable on stage and the show unforgettable. The event itself was a great opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people within the PR and Communications industry from around the world and talk about their work and their -shortlisted or winning- campaigns.

The experience of joining the Awards this year benefitted me more on an academic level- a few days after the ceremony, I was contacted by a person working on a project in the Energy Sector of US Government, interesting in my research. In my opinion, sharing best practice is one of the best things that one can do, that is why I was not only flattered but truly interested in helping. Digital media strategies in the public -and energy sector- is a very intriguing matter and to see more and more people looking into it is a massive step forward. As an extension to this, I was also invited to speak to a conference in Canada next year, and hopefully I will be able to share some information in the immediate future.

Going back to the event, do I wish I’ve done certain things differently? Every day. Would I do it again? Absolutely. And better.


For more information on the awards, you can visit http://www.digital-awards.eu/.

You can download the complete list of the winners 2013 here.

%d bloggers like this: