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Why long form will always be the winner in the content wars



1,000+ is the magic number for sharable content – that’s according to a report released this week. An in-depth analysis of millions of blog posts published over the course of a year revealed that longer articles generated 56% more social shares on average. This number increased even further when it came to posts of 3,000 words and more, responsible for 77.2% more referring links.

 

The research landed at the perfect time, as I was already busy drafting a blog on the benefits of longer form content. So, aside from the increased likelihood of social sharing, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I believe this type of content will be crucial to any business or media outlet moving forward.

 

Value

Longer form content really enables writers to tell a story and build up a narrative around a topic, enabling them to put across more than one point of view in the piece (which I consider to be hugely valuable these days where a lot of the news we consume is restricted to one view point or another). These longer form pieces give us access to so many alternative viewpoints that you wouldn’t necessarily get with a shorter piece.  All of this serves to create increased value for readers.

Two of my favourite articles of the past week have taken me at least 20 minutes to read each, but the fact I’ve invested my time in doing so says to me that I value the content (and therefore who wrote it) much more.

 

Trust

The value of longer form writing has always been clear in my eyes, however, I think it will become increasingly important as our trust in media diminishes, largely due to the rise of fake news. Pieces that have clearly had a lot of effort and research invested in them will automatically gain the trust of reader (and Google – more below) much more than short articles. The ongoing problem of fake news is something that isn’t going away any time soon so long pieces will remain crucial to gain (and keep) consumer trust.

 

Search engine rankings

Getting traffic to websites is hugely important which is why clickbait and shorter form content, which is quick and easy to push out, tends to dominate the web. And there is absolutely still a place for it, meaning it’s unlikely that it will never go away. However, search engines do rank high quality content better. Google isn’t stupid, and it wants to see content that is authoritative, trustworthy and valued by readers.  

 

In addition, in depth content keeps those eyes on page for longer and gets bounce rates down, which is crucial for search rankings and media outlets - specifically when it comes to selling advertising.

 

Builds brand loyalty

As longer form content serves to keep visitors on a site for longer, it also helps to build brand loyalty and continuous discovery. Keeping a reader on a site for longer reinforces why they are there and tends to make them more likely to explore other sections of the site, rather than clicking straight off. Businesses should seriously consider this fact, and use it to inform their online experiences by thinking: how can I use these increased eyes on page to our benefit?

 

The future of long-form 

Clearly, longer form content delivers great value to readers. However, one of the things we now must consider – specifically when we look at long-form journalism – is how we can ensure its continuation?

 

Businesses can invest their own budgets in writing great longer form content, but it gets a little trickier when it comes to media outlets. In a world that believes information should be free, who forks out for these brilliant investigative pieces? In my eyes, information should be inclusive and available to all – whether they’re able to pay for it or not. However, I’m more than happy to pay a few quid out of my own pocket each week to help keep great journalism alive. 

 

If we want to continue to hear the views of many different people – rather than the select viewpoints of those media outlets that dominate much of the ‘free’ news agenda – I truly think this is the right thing to do. So, if you do have a spare few quid a month and really value a certain news outlet or blog, pay to get yourself behind that firewall; the future of great writing depends on it.

 

One final note: ironic that I haven’t managed to get this blog up to 1,000 words, eh?

 

 

Tagged with: creative PR writing, Tech PR Manchester agency, Tech PR. Digital PR

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Three takeaways from Manchester Digital’s 2019 skills festival



Earlier this week I spent the afternoon at Manchester Digital’s annual skills audit launch – part of its week-long annual skills festival – and I wanted to share some of the key points I took away from the event.

 

Want some insight into what's on the minds of the North West’s tech businesses? Brexit and brainpower…

 

Revealing the results of its latest audit at its Manchester Tech Incubator HQ on Monday afternoon, Manchester Digital reported that 37% of firms in the region had suffered a negative business impact from Brexit concerns over the past year. Additionally, growth slowdown was reported amongst tech firms across the North West, with just 54% reporting turnover growth this year compared to 83% in 2014 – much of this attributed to Brexit worries.

 

Skills also remained a top concern for digital businesses in the region, with almost a third having to turn away work as a result of not being able to find the right talent to fulfil it and 60% having to inflate salaries to compete for staff.

 

As someone that has been present at the skills audit reveal for the past few years, the skills issue is recurring; something which threatens to hamper the growth of the entire sector. And while there are a number of great initiatives now in place from lots of businesses and universities across the region to change this, the impacts of these efforts still haven’t been felt to their full extent yet. I think it will be another few years until the sector starts reaping the full rewards of these initiatives.

 

It’s worth mentioning here that we’re working closely with Manchester Digital to help the organisation shout about the work it does in the region, particularly around closing the skills gap. You can read more about Manchester Digital and check out the 2019 skills audit here: https://www.manchesterdigital.com/digital-skills-audit-2019

 

The robots are coming (but with the right prep, we shouldn’t be scared)

 

One of the most interesting talks of the day for me came from Matthew Gould, Director General from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. One of the topics he covered was the impending convulsion of the labour market as a result of AI advances. Matthew talked about a ‘serious displacement of people’ who are currently in what were previously thought of as ‘rock solid’ jobs.

 

This is the first time I have properly heard this being seriously acknowledged by someone in Government, which I thought was really refreshing. I agree with Matthew that this is going to be a huge issue and we should adequately prepare for it. Granted, it will be the monotonous, repetitive tasks in immediate danger, many of which have already gone.

 

To ensure that this doesn’t cause the catastrophe that many sensationalist headlines are currently “predicting”, I believe we now need to think carefully about those roles which are going to be harder to impact and consider how we can go about fostering skills and development in these areas. For me personally, this is where creative roles really come into their own - anything which requires creative thinking which can’t be done by an algorithm. I’m hoping this will lead to a bigger focus on creative and arts roles, something which was also echoed by Matthew, who emphasised the sector’s growth relies on these skills, as well as the more technical STEM ones.

 

The traditional ‘computer science’ degree taker stereotype is wrong, and corrosive

 

Sticking with the ever-apparent skills theme, my third key takeaway is something I’ve been discussing with various people for a while - and something Josh Smith from DEMOS made a very clear point of: the whole idea of what a ‘computer scientist’ is, is totally wrong. There are thousands of computer science degrees across various institutions in the UK – so why are we still suffering at the helm of a skills shortage?

 

Josh talked about the fact that many people have a singular view of what a job in computer science is, saying that the idea that technical skills are for certain types of people is bad. The idea that coders have to have a naturally brilliant technical mind is extremely corrosive. I’d agree that there are certain stereotypes attached to technical roles which are damaging for the talent pipeline. White man sat in a dark room behind a computer drinking red bull spring to mind?

 

I think the entire sector would benefit greatly from the removal of this stereotype. For me, it’s crucial to enhance the pipeline and get more people from diverse backgrounds to consider a role in the sector. For me, this starts with shouting about the huge breadth of roles available in the tech sector, and the fact that they aren’t only accessible if you have a technical background; whether you have a psychology background that would do you well in a user experience (UX) role, or a creative background which would work well in a game or app design role.

 

I really believe that in order to solve its talent pipeline issues, the tech sector needs to start pulling more on the talent pools of other sectors, as well as people from more diverse backgrounds - the UK’s fourth industrial revolution depends on it.

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Tech PR Manchester agency, Tech PR. Digital PR

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The not-so-smart market of smart speakers



“Google, how long will it take me to get to work today?”

 

This request rings out from my living room every, single, morning as my husband asks our personal assistant, Google Home Mini, to do the job he could do perfectly well himself just one month ago.

 

When it came to deciding which smart home assistant we should purchase, there was a lot of deliberation. After all, there are a wealth of options now available to compare. But it was decided, a Google Home Mini would tick all our boxes. And we’re not the only family venturing in to this arena.

 

It’s predicted that 164 million smart speakers will be purchased worldwide in 2019, according to Deloitte. If achieved, this figure will be up 67 per cent on the previous year; so, there’s no denying, uptake is strong. Will 2019 be the year of the smart speaker?

 

Well, seemingly not. Further research from Deloitte shows that even though lots of us are out there purchasing smart speakers, we’re nowhere near making them a part of our daily lives. In fact, smart speakers are our seventh most used device every day, coming behind the likes of smart watches, tablets and even the desktop computer. Why, when it was predicted that smart speakers would become a fundamental part of our connected homes, are they not achieving their envisaged potential, from both a personal and professional perspective?

 

Our preferred smart speaker has so many capabilities, it is almost mind-blowing such technology is possible from a device 10cm in diameter. But the fact is, I don’t have time to figure out all its functions (of which there are hundreds); to release its full potential would require significant investment time from me and my family. I just want it to work quickly, and to make my life easier. I’m not marrying it so therefore I don’t need to know its intricacies. Has overthinking the possibilities of smart speakers in turn, turned us off as consumers?

 

From a business perspective, to achieve voice search-Nirvana and be the business Google and its equivalents recommend when tasked with finding ‘the best garage in Manchester’ or ‘Cardiff’s number one restaurant’, a huge amount of background work is needed. The way voice search works requires another level of expertise entirely to SEO, and by the time we have engineers trained to meet this need, we’ll be on to our next gadget. Either that, or businesses must spend thousands on the relevant search engines, and I’m not sure it’s a good business model to base your success on, when the top uses of smart speakers, Deloitte says, are listening to music, checking the weather and setting alarms.

 

The market saturation of smart speakers is leading to a race to the bottom on price, so while sales and revenue are up, margins are dropping quickly. Not until a manufacturer creates a smart speaker that is by nature intuitive, rather than requiring training, will they be part and parcel of family life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , Marketing, North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Product Placement, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, smart speakers, Tech PR Manchester agency, Tech PR. Digital PR

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Is social media starting to change?



As years go, 2018 was not a good one for Facebook. The social media giant seemed to lurch from one crisis to another facing down not only the Cambridge Analytica scandal but also the fallout of a security breach that affected 50 million users.

 

And the pain didn’t stop there, as following the introduction of GDPR the company lost a million active users a day in Europe between June and September while failing to gain significant numbers of new users in other territories to offset its losses.  To round out the year from hell for the company, it saw its shares plummet by nearly a quarter over the course of the year.

 

Against this backdrop it perhaps should have come as no surprise to see experiential app ‘One Second Everyday’ overtake Facebook in terms of downloads at the end of 2018. Nonetheless when I saw these figures, I found it interesting to see that the application, which allows users to record one second of video every day, before chronologically editing them together into a single film, was outperforming the Daddy of all social media. 

 

The fall of Goliath?

Firstly, it raises interesting questions around why downloads of Facebook are stagnating. Is it because there has been a number of issues around trust following the recent scandals it has encountered? Has it now reached the point of market saturation after its 11-year romp of dominance? Or is it because the interface is becoming tired, and its user experience less appealing to younger demographics that now tend to gravitate towards other platforms? It probably can’t be attributed to any single one of these factors and is instead the result of a combination of all of them causing the platform to falter.

 

Ultimately the audience of Facebook and their needs have changed – it’s not current for the demographic it was initially aimed at anymore. It’s gaining an older following who want to connect with those they have lost touch with. And those of us who grew up with it almost use it as a habit now rather than anything else.

 

Changing user habits

In contrast to this, One Second Everyday (OSE) has a slick user interface which feels very different from the established social media platforms. OSE is really easy to use and is not being constantly plugged with new ideas (i.e. Marketplace, stories, etc) – it’s clean and the no frills element is appealing.

 

On a personal level, OSE provides a really easy way to capture the best parts of my life, giving me the option to choose whether or not to share it with others. Simultaneously it is enabling me to record, and reminisce about, the great things I’m doing NOW, unlike Facebook which provides me with a reminder of the embarrassing things I did 10 years ago!

 

At a more general level the very premise of OSE, requires users to take an action every single day. This not only increases engagement with the app; it also gives it a purpose that goes beyond aimless scrolling.  

 

As such, the shift towards OSE versus Facebook is likely reflective of a shift in our general use of apps.  It seems to me that we are becoming less inclined to use social media and instead are preferring to use apps that are more wholesome and private, confined to just our friends and family. Against the backdrop of trust issues with Facebook resulting from its data breaches, coupled with the user experience offered by other apps, it’s easy to see the appeal of platforms which are more private.

 

A look to the future

While the current rise of OSE and decline of Facebook is perhaps indicative of a general change in consumer attitudes towards social media, it would be remiss to assume that this will be sustained. After all, it’s important to remember that despite its recent issues Facebook remains the most used social media platform in the world.

 

What’s more there is nothing to say that OSE won’t start to tune in to this new era of vanity social media, where we are showing off how fantastic our lives are. If this is a route it goes down, seeing people use it to self-promote rather than using it for the greater good, in time it could become similar to Facebook. And who knows at that point it could even become an attractive acquisition target for Zuckerberg and co.

 

Regardless of what the future may hold it’s exciting to see new, fresh platforms taking off, challenging existing ones to up their game.

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Social Media, Tech PR Manchester agency, Tech PR. Digital PR

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Manchester now rivals some of the top cities in the world for tech: why the sector needs to shout about it more



I’ve come out of two events in recent weeks, centred around Manchester’s digital tech sector – Manchester Digital’s ‘digital revolution’ and Insider’s ‘Northern Powerhouse digital and tech conference’ – feeling energised, excited and proud to work in the sector. I genuinely think you’d struggle to find a more exciting place in Europe to be doing business in the tech sector than Manchester.

 

While skills, talent acquisition and retention, the region’s digital ecosystem, and investment were of course high up on the agenda at both events, I wanted to write a few words about something else: marketing and promotion. Attending these events and hearing about the exciting things going on in our city and region, I’m often taken aback at the number of companies that are doing brilliant things in the sector, but forgetting to shout about it.

 

Why it’s important

For companies with their heads in R&D, their latest round of investment, trying to attract and retain staff, or any of the other critical focuses of an innovative tech company, it’s easy to see why promotion often falls to the bottom of the pile.

 

However, prioritising promotion will often lead to benefits in a number of the above areas – whether that’s more investment opportunities through increased awareness in the right places, at the right time, or attracting staff due to prioritising building a great brand on social or sharing regular positive news stories, for example.

 

How tech companies can do more of it  

But, with PR options often feeling like a minefield, how can time-strapped entrepreneurs choose which tactics will benefit them most? Of course, that’s down to the goals and objectives of each individual organisation, but there are number of ways to get you started:

 

Figure out what you need from PR

It’s easy to fall down the route of taking a scatter gun approach to PR, particularly in the early stages. This can, however, leave you time poor, stressed, and unable to realise all of the opportunities afforded to you through it. Start by working out your PR aim by asking yourself why you need PR and how it can feed in to the wider business goals? Cleverly thought out PR campaigns can help you achieve a number of core business objectives - from gearing your business up for investment or sale, to launching a new product or increasing sales – so it’s crucial you identify the business need and mould your PR around it. 

 

Make a name for yourself at events

Events will always be a great way of meeting likeminded people and sharing your story. Securing a speaker or panellist slot is a great way of raising your profile and demonstrating expertise on key topics, themes or issues. You’ll often find that these opportunities don’t start and end with you up on that stage: there are lots of opportunities for cross promotion, whether that’s blogging ahead of the event, being included in post-event press coverage, or tagging onto social media campaigns around it. In terms of the events to target, it’s worth considering getting out of your comfort zone and instead of going to solely tech-focused events, seek out ones in other sectors, where you’re keen to make inroads.

 

Make the most of industry bodies

If you’re member of a trade organisation, such as Manchester Digital, ensure you make the most of your membership. Many of these organisations will offer promotion as part of your membership – whether that’s a profile page on their website, shout outs on social media, allowing you to draft content for their websites and eShots, or even be part of news stories they’re putting out to media. Speak to your contact at any trade body you’re a member of about how you can get involved.  

 

Get out there!

Network, network, network. The more people you meet, the more you’ll be able to spread the word about what you do: simple. While it can be difficult to find time to get out to these events, if you select them wisely, they can bring huge benefits. Consider making the most out of networking sessions by talking to as many people as you can while you’re there, engaging in any social media before or after the event by following event hashtags, for example, or writing up a short LinkedIn or blog post following the event to give your time there more longevity.

 

Leading the way

Manchester and the wider North West are making strides towards becoming one of Europe’s top tech destinations. However, in order to ensure sustained growth, businesses must understand the importance of PR and marketing, whether that’s starting small and testing the waters or employing the help of a specialist PR company to elevate your business to the next level.

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , Manchester, Networking Event, North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Product Placement, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Tech PR Manchester agency, Tech PR. Digital PR

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Tech and Construction Key to Manchester’s Next Wave of Growth



At Refresh PR two of our passions are the built environment and technology, so there was great excitement in the office last week when a new report identified the tech and construction sectors as key to Manchester’s - our home city - next wave of growth.

 

Published by property consultants Knight Frank, the report flagged that, generally speaking, the more commonly used definitions of tech are not broad enough and don’t take into consideration verticals including energy and environmental services, advanced manufacturing and media, advanced materials, life sciences, and marketing and entertainment. According to the study, this oversight puts the future depth and vitality of the city’s tech sector at risk.

 

For instance, in the five years preceding 2017, IT and telecoms businesses accounted for 144 occupier agreements taking 700,000 sq ft of space in Manchester. However, when broadened to include these five specialist verticals, that number soars to 406 occupancy agreements amounting to 1.4m sq ft of office space.

 

A booming sector needs space to grow

 

As such, while Manchester’s technology sector is already booming (the latest 2018 Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 featured eight Greater Manchester companies) it’s critical that the city’s real estate continues to support the needs of tech businesses. As the sector continues to grow businesses will increasingly demand office space that can flexibily cater for, and support, their needs as they evolve. Occupiers want the opportunity to scale-up and down when necessary and will be prepared to pay a premium for this privilege.

 

Indeed, the 28-page report, Catching the Next Wave: Manchester, Technology and Real Estate, emphasised that office space in the city must be both adaptable and supportive in order for tech to thrive. This way, the city can nurture the development of small, fast-growing companies that are key to attracting the attention of tech titans searching for secondary HQ locations outside the capital.

 

Success attracts success

 

Already, Manchester’s thriving technology sector has begun to attract global behemoths such as Amazon, which recently confirmed that it will take over 90,000 sq ft of space in Hanover House in the Northern Quarter. The new Northern hub will be the tech giant’s first corporate office outside of London in the UK and home to 600 staff specialising in software development, machine learning and research and development.

 

In addition to Amazon, advertising giant WPP, also announced that it is close to finalising a deal to move its entire Manchester workforce to the former Granada Studios development. The move would see 450 communications experts from Code Computerlove, MediaCom, JWT, Wavemaker and possibly Kantar consolidating offices under one roof. While not a ‘traditional tech’ company this is a prime example of a business that falls into the broader definitions of technology outlined in the Knight Frank report.

 

These two recent announcements follow on from technology services giant CGI announcing that it is set to take over 7,000 sq ft of Salford’s former Soapworks as its Northern headquarters. The £400K transformation of the former Colgate Palmolive factory is already home to a cluster of tech corporates including TalkTalk and the government’s national cybercrime operation.

 

Manchester – the second city

 

It is perhaps not surprising that so many tech giants are turning to Manchester as a second home for their UK operations. The most recent Tech Nation report revealed that almost 70% of tech investment in 2016 took place outside of London, with £78 million of this invested in Manchester, making it the UK’s second largest tech cluster with nearly 70,000 employees.

 

Tech companies are without doubt the industrial giants of our age, and Manchester’s real estate market is fast becoming a hotbed to house them. Whilst the current growth is very promising, it is vital that the city continues to build on this momentum by providing diverse, collaborative and adaptable work spaces too keep up with demand.

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , Manchester, North West , PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester, PR campaign essential, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Tech PR Manchester agency, Tech PR. Digital PR