The rise of LinkedIn

Since its launch in 2008, LinkedIn has become an invaluable tool to businesses and professionals, and with a 300 million-strong global user base including more than 15 million registered UK users, the company should be able to maintain its leading position in the professional networking space.

Despite this success, LinkedIn’s communications manager Darain Faraz says, “a relative minority are using the site to its full potential”. That means many individuals and businesses aren’t making the most of the opportunity for putting themselves in the shop window.

First and foremost, LinkedIn is becoming the primary point of call for job hunters and employers. Due to the changing economic climate putting particular pressure on people beginning their career, the fastest-growing demographic on LinkedIn is students or graduates, with their numbers having doubled in the past year.

For business professionals, LinkedIn has changed networking irrevocably and now forms a large part of an individual’s business identity. It can often be that all-important first impression head-hunters or prospective employers will gain of you. You are no longer walking into a room of people who don’t know you, and it also gives you a chance to research the people you are meeting as well. This makes your first meeting slicker and it is now easier to have meaningful conversations from the outset, as you (and they) will be able to prepare more effectively beforehand.  

For this reason, ensuring your profile gives the right professional impression to those looking at it is important for making the most of the networking opportunities LinkedIn presents. LinkedIn is not a sales platform, it’s a way to be introduced to and meet business professionals. With the acquisition of Slideshare, LinkedIn will only continue to attract more businesses to its site.
For businesses, a presence on the LinkedIn company pages is vital. Below are our top tips for making sure your business page is a success:

  1. Ensure all your employees are linked to the company page; it will reach people outside your network without you having to make much of an effort.
  2. Fill it with content: take advantage of the variety of information you can put about your company on the page. Share your blog, coverage you’ve achieved in publications or even just articles that you’ve read and found interesting.
  3. Share your page – link your profiles across all social media where your organisation is active.
  4. Ensure all your personal LinkedIn contacts are following your company page.
  5. Show that you are active on LinkedIn – engage with other businesses and users by setting up groups and discussions, and join in with those set up by other organisations.

There is no doubt that LinkedIn will continue to rise in prominence and success, and businesses and professionals can’t afford to be left behind. Having a profile on the site is no longer enough, make the most of the world it opens up and ensure your business page is up to scratch.

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The Digital Marathon

Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the last few weeks, chances are the marathon season will not have passed you by unnoticed. Whether it’s seeing runners taking the to the parks in their masses, gatherings in the pubs becoming dominated by somewhat alien requests for soda and lime (or avoided all together) or Just Giving requests arriving in inboxes – marathon fever has been unavoidable.

As a runner guilty of all of the above, it has struck me that there is an overwhelming impact from technology on the entire event this year. Whereas, only five years ago, the options to get involved were limited to those taking part, going to support or watching from the comforts of an armchair, technology has changed this irrefutably. Marathons today are leading the way in terms of connecting consumers, whether running or not, to the complete experience, and the benefits to be gained from this are unbeatable.

Arriving in Paris earlier this month to take on 26.2 miles of the city, I was greeted with an email inviting me to download the official Paris Marathon app. Having being billed as the “Connected Marathon”, this seemed like a good place to start. Whilst providing all the expected information on the route and race, the more impressive element of the app was the real-time tracking it provided to enable friends and family to effectively see the race unfold, no matter where they were. This meant supporters knew where to stand along to the course and what time runners were expected at a certain point. It delivered up to the minute insights on how each individual race was going and most importantly gave indications on when a runner was expected to enter the final stretch. On crossing the finish line, results were delivered instantly to mobiles – the days of waiting an agonising 24 hours are gone. Suddenly the entire experience has become much more accessible, interactive and undeniably exciting for everyone.

Beyond this, social media has opened the marathon door more than ever before. Whether it’s through liking a start line photo, sharing a results status or enabling people to publicise their charity page – it’s all contributed to the buzz and positive experience. The smartphone revolution has played a vital role in enabling these instantaneous moments and it’s certainly something more brands should be looking to replicate.

Figures released this week state that Macmillan Cancer Support was the most talked about charity online around Sunday’s London Marathon, mentioned in 53 per cent of online conversations. The charity successfully demonstrated how to bring the experience to life and, most importantly, generate awareness and engagement through Twitter hashtags, Facebook profile photos and a well thought out social strategy – supported heavily by staff at the charity. With a cousin running for Macmillan, the Macmillan presence certainly didn’t go unnoticed on my Facebook news feed.

Whilst I may have a (slightly) biased view on the positivity a marathon can bring (unless asked at mile 21), the impact technology has had in connecting people to the experience, beyond the individual runner, is something more brands should being looking to replicate. Creating brand loyalty is deeply rooted in the customer experience being delivered at every point. As the recent transformation of the marathon experience illustrates, the tools are out there to deliver a personalised, instant and gratifying experience to all.

Like a marathon runner, brands must be looking at investing for the long-term, adjusting as the experience changes and always looking at how to improve – the organisations who fail to take this on board will find themselves quickly lagging behind their competition.

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25 Ways the Web Has Changed The World

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This month our omnipresent friend fathered by Sir Tim Berners-Lee turned 25. The World Wide Web has been with us for a quarter of a century now and has irrefutably changed our lives.

It has turned us into information-holics, changing our working lives and how we spend our social time.

Here’s our list of the top 25 ways the Web has shaped the world we live in:

  1. Email: It’s changed communication forever and made the world a much smaller place. Business now relies on instantaneous contact and response, wherever you are in the world.
  2. Breaking news: Gone are the days when you relied on the broadsheets for the latest news. Online updates and social networks mean information moves so fast nowadays that Mark Twain was nearly right: if you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed; if you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed. Take the New York plane crash for example; onlooker Jim Hanrahan broke the news on Twitter in 2009, a whole 15 minutes before mainstream news outlets.
  3. Smartphones: The smartphone, made possible by the Internet, has made remote working possible. No longer are you confined to a desk, you can work on the move, allowing efficiency and productivity to soar. Some 72% of people have smartphones in the UK, which means 46 million phones performing a variety of tasks and connections that no one would have thought possible 10 years ago.
  4. Search engines: Platforms like Google and Yahoo! have provided us with access to a vast bank of information. Not only does this give people the ability to become experts in every field imaginable, it has also granted businesses a new way to promote themselves. Meanwhile, consumers have wrested some control back from business with the Web extending choice.
  5. Twitter: It’s made everyone’s voice count – frequently breaking news and opinions on subjects ranging from conflicts to entertainment and sport. It’s also a great way for companies to engage with their most valuable asset: customers.
  6. Online shopping: Commerce has greatly changed over the last 25 years thanks to the Internet. As a country we’re spending half a billion pounds a week with online retailers who can deliver straight to our homes, resulting in a huge shift in the importance of the high street. Retailers have had to alter their business models or risk going the same way as HMV and Blockbuster.
  7. On-demand TV: The average adult will spend 3 hours 41 minutes a day consuming digital media through computers, tablets and mobile phones in 2014, an increase of 34 minutes from the previous year, according to new estimates from eMarketer. This has revolutionised the advertising and marketing industries, helping advertisers target the right demographics. Netflix has revolutionised broadcast, allowing content such as House of Cards to be produced purely for online audiences.
  8. Big data: Without doubt the hottest tech trend at the moment. Data companies now know more about you than you probably do yourself, resulting in tailored content and advertising based on your preferences, hailing an end to spam and irrelevant advertising.
  9. LinkedIn: LinkedIn has changed business networking irrevocably. The first impression of someone is no longer made at your first meeting, as search engines and social networks allow you to research the person beforehand. Another initiative making the most of Web-based connections is recently launched ‘GetLunched’, a website aimed at connecting people in business during their lunch hour.
  10. Skype: Like email, video chat software such as Skype and FaceTime has opened up the world of business and lets you keep in touch with connections across the world – helping you to be in two places at once.
  11. Cloud-based services:  Don’t fancy the rush-hour commute today, or staying in for the plumber? No problem. Just log in remotely and work via a host of cloud-based services.
  12. Facebook: It completely revolutionised how people and businesses interact online, as well as still being the most popular social media network. Despite its bad press recently, we mustn’t forget the impact Facebook has had over the last decade in revolutionising the way we connect.
  13. Local businesses: Your local travel agent, car dealership or estate agent will soon be on permanent vacation. According to eMarketer, in 2012 seven out of 10 travellers booked their own rooms and flights online. The automated nature of companies is becoming commonplace during the purchasing process because of the Internet, and although it’s unlikely to ever become completely agent free, the Web has made holiday bookings, second-hand car buying and viewing properties much more accessible.
  14. Recruitment: The way the business world recruits its staff has been revolutionised by the Internet. Job sites have enabled recruiters to target the right people with the right jobs, making the process of finding the right person easier. The CV has also been changed beyond recognition, with creative types displaying their work online and the use of infographics and videos to display previous experience all helping the job hunter stand out from the crowd.
  15. Pinterest: In 1911, Arthur Brisbane, editor of the New York Times, said: “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” His thought has never been more relevant than today. With the popularity of picture-sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram, alongside YouTube, Vimeo and Vine, the Web has revolutionised the way we consume content, and made it a lot easier for a picture to be worth a thousand words.
  16. Getting lost and knowing where to be: There’s no excuse for being late any more, as the Web allows you to find that company or restaurant wherever you are. There’s now a plethora of Apps and GPS-based services available to us through our smartphones. Cloud-based calendars and connected diaries have revolutionised the disorganised employee and helped many of us meet business and social commitments.
  17. Wikipedia: With the birth of Wikipedia came the death of the encyclopaedia. Wikipedia is a great source for non-partisan content listing some 30 million articles in 287 languages, allowing everyone to research whatever they choose, making the world a much more informed place.
  18. Blogging: Forget Speakers’ Corner, platforms like WordPress and Tumblr have given the general public the ability to share their views on any number of subjects with whoever wants to read it.
  19. Tech start-ups: London is built on constantly evolving communities and Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout is the latest addition. It has provided entrepreneurs with the space and infrastructure to put new ideas to the test and helped the UK become one of the world leaders in an increasingly lucrative and expanding industry worldwide.
  20. Online magazines: While the Internet has been at least partly responsible for a number of magazine closures in the last decade especially, it has seen the birth of the online magazine, making quality content available for free, or at a smaller cost than print, wherever you are in the world.
  21. Online market places: Sites like Gumtree and Etsy have made everyone an entrepreneur.
  22. Vouchers: Groupon, Wowcher and Secret Escapes have put the consumer in control, allowing them to never have to pay full price, as well as providing brands with an innovative route to new customers.
  23. eBay: More so than any other platform, eBay makes even the smallest of businesses accessible to the general public, worldwide. Figures last year showed that eight million Britons run online businesses from home with the top 5% of sellers on eBay recording annual turnovers of more than £18,000 each.
  24. Crowdfunding: Finding new ideas, raising money, or improving awareness has become easier with Crowdfunding. In Kickstarter’s first year of business, more than £22.5m was pledged to projects in this country, with £17.1m going to successful self-starters.
  25. Digital health:The advent of the Internet has brought a new wave to the healthcare sector. From self-diagnosis on NHS Direct, to fitness applications such as Nike Fuel Band and monitoring systems linked directly to your GP, the Web has provided the industry with new ways to provide services to patients and relieve the pressure on an overstretched system.

25 years ago it would have been hard to believe that just a few clicks of a mouse would open up vast streams of content, not to mention untapped revenue stream opportunities across the world. While the world isn’t getting any smaller, our ability to scale it down into sizeable sections has become much greater and the Web has been an integral part of this.

 

‘New Year, New Home’ – Our January Retox Party

We celebrated the move to our new Oxford Street offices at the end of January with our long awaited Retox party. The evening brought together clients, friends and journalists, and was a resounding success. Drinks flowed, canapés circulated and the conversation was booming. We were so delighted by its success that we are already planning our summer party!

Below is a quick snapshot of what we got up to, and gives you a glimpse of our fabulous new offices! We’ve also put all the photos into a video, can you spot yourself? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3qhuocRbBU&feature=em-upload_owner

Take a peek, and we hope to see you at our summer party!

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14 PR trends to watch out for in 2014

The positive mood among people I have already met this year makes me certain that 2014 could be a very good year. Companies are more open to the idea of PR and it really feels like the recession we have all endured in the last five years has finally lifted. I feel incredibly optimistic and can’t wait to see what changes and challenges lie in store for the PR industry.

Here are my predictions for the year ahead:

1. Economic recovery

As I mentioned, all signs are pointing to 2014 being the year the UK economy gets back on track. This will only have a positive effect on the PR industry. We will see business confidence increasing and more investment in PR, marketing and advertising services to demonstrate this confidence. In a recession, these budgets are often deemed ‘discretionary spend’, but in more confident times they are seen as essential. Budgets cut by large businesses at the beginning of the recession are already begin reinstated, proved by the IPA Bellwether report, which found that British companies increased their advertising and marketing budgets for the fifth quarter in a row at the end of 2013.

2. Commercially focused PR

Despite the testing times they bring to most organisations, recessions make business leaders think differently and often shake things up in a good way: after all, necessity is the mother of invention. Yet PR still needs to work on its status in the business hierachy. Commercial creativity will need to be the driving force of any PR and communications plan, ensuring all campaigns and ongoing activity are enhancing business value and generating leads.

3. Measurement

Measuring PR has always been difficult, but things are changing. Sponsored content allows us to directly compare a placed article with a paid-for piece; website analytics allow us to track when people move straight from an article to a company website, and clever use of research has led directly to sales meetings. PR can now be very realistically measured and demonstrated to clients, meaning we can be more accountable. This will go a long way to securing the confidence of clients and prospects as we prove the value PR can add with a quantifiable ROI figure.

4. Research and insight

Research and insight are becoming the twin pillars on which many businesses are built, and they will also be a huge part of our activity in 2014. Astonishingly, according to IBM, 90% of the world’s data has been collected over the last two years and businesses are gradually understanding how to make the most of it. They are now not only employing insight to use this information to become thought leaders in their field, they are using research to help validate a story and make what they are saying more reputable when approaching the media.

Research and insight also helps businesses target their customers by providing increased understanding of what they need and what they want, and will help them make smarter decisions faster.

5. Client-led agency integration

In-house PR no longer acts as a separate function to the rest of a business; PR activity already sits alongside corporate communications, sales, marketing, HR, client services, events and even legal departments. I see 2014 being the year that businesses follow suit with their agencies and begin to integrate PR, marketing and advertising to create seamless strategies that complement each other and help businesses head off their rivals by reaping the insights of that co-operation.

6. The end of unpaid internships

For years, internships have been the route into a PR career. Unfortunately these are often low or even unpaid roles, meaning the industry had limited itself to only a minority of people who could afford to do them. In 2013, PR Week and the PRCA drew attention to unfair treatment of interns in the PR industry, and the tax man issued warnings that HMRC will carry out targeted checks – including office visits – to make sure all interns are paid the National Minimum Wage.

I hope 2014 will be the year that sees the end of unpaid internships altogether.

7. The rise of Google+

Since its launch in 2011, Google+’s impact on the world has been distinctly muted. It has struggled to find its purpose, and therefore failed to make much a mark on the social media landscape. But Google+ hangouts have the ability to become a great PR tool to bring throught leaders together to discuss industry topics, and broadcast to wider relevent circles. This might just be the year when Google+ comes into its own.

8. Social Social Social

I have touched on the growth of Google+ this year, but I do not see that as being to the detriment of the other social networks. Twitter will continue to grow, as will Pinterest, as PR’s increase the value they put on the power of an image. I hope 2014 may also see the emergence of a new social media the PR world can utilise.

2013 brought us more examples of how social media is becoming more central in determining PR success and failure and how to use social media and brand personality to manage a potential PR crisis – think O2 and its incredible communications plan during their network failure. 2014 will see the growth of this beyond consumer PR to B2B, with businesses communicating with one another, not just the consumer.

 9. The Power of pictures

In 1911 Arthur Brisbane, editor of the New York Times, said: “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”– This is as true in 2014 as it was in 1911. With the popularity of picture-sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram, alongside YouTube, Vimeo and Vine, 2014 will be the year of visual communication.

The Sunday People has already cut the majority of text from its home page, instead telling stories through pictures. While we won’t be seeing GIFs and video replacing the written word in the broadsheets just yet, we will notice more imagery embedded within our news.

PR needs to follow the media’s lead, and ensure releases are as visually pleasing as the stories they support by including infographics, images and video when sending out client collateral.

10. SEO –  Pandas and Penguins have changed the world

For years, great SEO has thrived on quantity of keywords. Google’s Panda and Penguin initatives in 2013, much to our delight, finally throw the focus on valuing high-quality, original content. While this is a challenge to many, it’s a minor shift for the PR industry which has been generating this kind of content for decades.

11. Content creation

The phrase came to the fore in 2013. But 2014’s challenge will be to stand out from the noisy content crowd. Taking into account our point about Pandas and Penguins, the PR industry is more than well versed to ensure this quality is business as usual.

12. Putting the Public back into Public Relations

2014 will see a major increase in the value of the face-to-face meeting. The explosive growth of online networking through a multitude of different digital channels has really changed the style and confidence with which some people communicate. It might be easy to forget, but as a business, and an individual, if you are able to develop rapport in both the online and the real world, you will be at a distinct advantage.  

13. The changing relationship between PR’s and Journalists

There has been a lot of debate about how digital will change our relationship with journalists. While these relationships are continuing to evolve and change, and journalists are still carving out their place in the digital landscape, ultimately there is still, and will be for a long time coming, value in a strong piece in a national or quality trade publication. At Limelight we do not see the relationship between PR’s and journalists becoming any less valuable over the coming year.

14. Power of the people

Social media and online content have given the reader more power than ever in deciding what they want to digest. Not only can they choose what they read, their opinions reflect the news other people see, be it on Buzzfeed which displays the most read stories on their home page, or Twitter, where retweeted news stories will be seen by more people. 2014 will see PR’s having to appeal to the reader with content that is more relevant and clever than ever before, or risk their stories being spiked before they see the light of day.

Limelight’s Hiring!

Background

Limelight is an award-winning, independent B2B PR agency with a proven track-record built on more than a decade in the business. We exist to give talented and ambitious companies the recognition and reward they deserve, and deliver everything we do with ideas and energy.

Our work covers everything that you would typically expect from a leading PR agency, such as traditional media relations, social media engagement and blogging. But what makes us different is our ability to take PR beyond pure visibility and profile to position a company as a thought leader in its field, and to directly align our work to a client’s sales and new business strategy so it both supports and feeds the sales process.

We have a busy team of 15 people working in our stunning Regent Street offices led by founder and MD Susanna Simpson.

Job Summary

We are looking to recruit a Consultant. The company needs a client-facing, highly organised, energetic, charming and creative person to join the b2b PR team. You’ll report to the Senior Consultant team and ultimately to the MD. You will:

  • have at least 18 months’ experience in a client-facing agency role or as part of an in-house team. This means you will ideally have reached AE/SAE level and are looking to move up quickly to JAM/AM.
  • have achieved a high standard in education, with a degree or excellent A-level results
  • be confident when speaking to clients either face-to-face, on the phone or via email
  • demonstrate an excellent command of English and understanding of clients’ businesses in everything you write
  • be highly organised and know client strategy and account workloads inside-out
  • have some experience of crisis management issues in a previous role
  • show a ‘can-do’ attitude at all times and make yourself available to support the Senior Consultants wherever possible.

To learn more about this role or to apply please contact recruitment@limelightpr.co.uk

A Mormon Masterclass in communication.

I returned from holiday this week and as I rose to the top of the escalator at Piccadilly Circus Tube station I was greeted by pictures of warm, approachable smiles from people I’d like to know.  I then noticed that these ordinary people, looking just like you or me were proudly emblazoned with the words “I’m a Mormon”.

I’m inspired by this foresight, modernity and lateral thinking by The Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) and I think anyone in the communications business should be fascinated by this live case study.

Unless you’ve been in hiding during the past month you will realise that these posters are a Mormon driven campaign designed to coincide with the already smash hit show “The Book of Mormon” now showing in the West End.  In a press release announcing The LDS Church “I’m a Mormon” campaign, church leader Elder Clifford Herbertson explained the rationale, stating: “There is a great amount of interest in Mormons right now in the U.K. and Ireland… People are asking the question, ‘Who are the Mormons?’ and when people are asking questions, we want to be here to provide them with the answers of how and why we follow Jesus Christ.”  If you want to be a great thought leader take a lesson from The Mormons.

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As part of the clever campaign 250 double-decker buses will circulate around London and the rest of the UK will feature the advertisements, along with sites at the Charing Cross mainline station and 10 tube stations.

The Church has even created a specific website to support the print ads – http://mormon.org.uk/ and – in what is a genius move – is also running ads in the show’s theatre programme, which say, “You’ve seen the play, now read the book,” and “The book is always better”.

In an environment where so many brands shy away from being contentious, the Mormons have delivered a golden lesson in crisis management and how to make the most of any opportunity.  They have reacted wholly differently to how I, and I’m sure many others, would have expected them to respond.  There was no protest, uproar or damnation from the LDS – instead they have taken a positive and fun stance.  Quite simply, the Mormons have flipped it into a PR gift!

If you want to be a thought leader I’d suggest taking a leaf out of (and pardon the pun) The Book of Mormon.  Positive, poignant, provocative and punchy; It’s got people talking and we’re engaging with it, and therefore the Mormon Church, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

As for becoming a Mormon, do you know what, I might just think about it; they seem a smart and inspired bunch to me if this campaign is anything to go by.

I’m a believer!

Susanna Simpson