s Blog - Ballou


Greek startup scene 2018: A maturing ecosystem pointing to a brighter future

by ballou_admin | 14th December, 2018 | PR

Greece isn’t yet known for its startup scene, but when we went to Athens for our annual company offsite last week, we thought it would be a great chance to look into it and see if we can offer any of our experience. With Maria Loupa from our UK team and Loukianos Zaganiaris from our French team both being Greek born and bred, it felt like a golden opportunity to see what’s been happening on the Greek startup front.

Over the course of two days, Maria and Loukianos met with some of the leading incubators, VC firms and co-working spaces in the capital. And their reception was incredibly positive.

They heard about the challenges the startups are facing and offered some tips on how to tackle comms and content with a ‘PR 101 from Ballou’ workshop. Below is an overview of some of the organisations they met with:

  • The Egg, a CSR initiative by Eurobank, designed to encourage young entrepreneurs to bring innovative ideas and turn them into successful enterprises.
  • The Impact Hub, a local and international connected network, where business and creative professionals are working to design and implement business models that will define the future of entrepreneurship.
  • ACEin, The Athens Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEin), offering support to researchers and potential young entrepreneurs in order to help them develop innovative business ideas and bring them to the market.
  • Found.ation, acting as a startup hub, a digital transformation accelerator for corporations and a tech education hive, igniting innovation and driving transformation through digital technologies, new business models and culture shift.
  • Velocity Partners, a team of founders, operators and investors with hands-on experience and skills that match and complement the vision and ambition of entrepreneurs.

The ‘PR 101’ sessions were really well received by investors and promising startups alike, such as Lefko and TechTalent.jobs, among others. While the Greek startup scene is very much in its infancy, there are some exciting signs of growth. A new report analysing the Greek Startup Ecosystem, labelled ‘Startups in Greece 2018: A maturing ecosystem points to a brighter future’ has been published this week by some of the experts we met with, across Found.ation, Velocity Partners and EIT DIGITAL EIT Digital. It provides a realistic overview and presents opportunities to engage with startups, doing great things across tech, life sciences, agri-tech, travel-travel, health-tech and maritime.

Local startups are maturing, offering innovative solutions and competitive services. Thankfully, this is now gradually being matched with great funding prospects, such as EquiFund, an initiative created by the Hellenic Republic in cooperation with the European Investment Fund (EIF). By leveraging the top-notch research Greek universities and research centers are producing, the available human capital and the relevant historical knowledge, the much-needed investment injections will come. And while Greece may still be the “The Ugly Duckling” of the investment world for some, it may just be the next black swan, kick-starting technologically-fuelled economic growth.

Brexit looms but the PR Industry carries on regardless

by ballou_admin | 30th November, 2018 | PR, UK

As Brexit gloom continues, you’d be forgiven for thinking that prospects for business aren’t looking too rosy.

But even as Jacob Rees Mogg launches a scathing personal attack on the governor of the Bank of England over his less-than-optimistic no deal predictions, and the Johnson brothers rift widens, there is some good news on the horizon for industry. Or at least the PR industry.

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) launched its World PR Report this week, revealing that agency heads in every global region predict increased profitability this year compared with last year, and are broadly optimistic about the state of the global PR industry.

While PR people being optimistic is hardly surprising, the findings are backed by some solid credentials and convincing evidence. Now in its fifth year, the ICCO report regularly takes the temperature of the industry in terms of growth and investment, as well as looking ahead at some of the common challenges.

For example, on a scale of 1-10, the global average for optimism is 7.7 with the most optimism in Africa and Asia. What is surprising is that optimism in the UK is actually slightly higher than it is in Western Europe or North America, despite Brexit worries.

With optimism and predictions for growth across the board it seems that the PR community is taking the current economic instability in its stride. So, what does the industry see as the key challenges looking ahead?

Here the story is quite familiar. Lack of funding and perceived short-termism from clients top the list, along with lack of understanding of PR and increased competition from other marketing disciplines. And of course, the perennial issue of talent retention is a major concern for many.

The good news is that there is evidence the industry is already taking steps to tackle these ongoing issues. For example, measurement is being taken more seriously and the dreaded ‘advertising value equivalent’ (AVE) seems to be finally on the wane. Measurement lies at the heart of many of the challenges highlighted. Proving the value of PR is increasingly important in growing and keeping clients, and increased sophistication in measurement techniques can only help with this.

In the words of ICCO chief executive Francis Ingham “All around the world, PR is growing in size and in influence. Our time in the sun is now – and in the years to come.”

We couldn’t agree more.

You may be tempted to knock your competition. Don’t

by ballou_admin | 21st November, 2018 | PR

An interesting article appeared this week on TechCrunch, surfacing an investigation by the New York Times into dubious tactics by Facebook. Facebook had, it claimed, sought to discredit its critics by using a third party to create particularly nasty whispering campaigns which, in some cases, even leveraged anti-Semitic sentiments.

An extreme example of negative PR, certainly, but the case highlights an important issue for those of us working in PR and marketing. Whether you are agency or client-side there will almost certainly come a moment in your career when you’re tempted to knock your competitors (or knock the competition on your client’s behalf).

Maybe a competitor stole your idea and was more successful at publicising it. Or it is making claims about its product or service that you feel sure are bogus. You need to set the record straight, right? And this isn’t just about your bottom line – customers and journalists alike will thank you for being so up front and honest and bringing all of this to their attention, won’t they?

Well, no. Tempting as it is to react publicly there are very good reasons for not doing so;

  1. It makes the story all about them. – The thing about mentioning a competitor, even when it is to criticise them, is that you’re bringing them to the reader’s attention. This will add to all the other mentions that they have presumably already had, (let’s face it, if they weren’t already getting a lot of exposure you probably wouldn’t be doing this in the first place). A casual reader often won’t remember why they’ve heard of a company, only that they have – unless there’s a major scandal of course. By making the story about your competitor you’re actually helping them do their PR.
  2. It makes you look like a follower, not a leader. – Ok, Facebook is a leader, but in general, leaders don’t get down in the mud and fight over the details. They rise above and pursue their own agenda regardless of what their competition is up to. In fact, the same is also true of good challenger brands. Both understand point 1.
  3. It ups the ante. – Ever had one of those arguments that you start in anger which then drags on and on, long after your anger has subsided, until you can’t even remember what you were arguing about and you’re exhausted? Like that. But more expensive.
  4. You are not objective, and your target audience isn’t stupid. – Context is everything. However justified your criticism of your competition, it will more than likely be viewed as a case of sour grapes by those reading it, many of whom will be your customers or potential customers. It is clear that you have a stake in, and can financially gain from, your competitor’s bad press. Better that the criticism come from a source who is objective in the eyes of the reader.

These points considered, there are ways in which competitors can be handled more subtly, without resorting to the kind of underhand tactics that Facebook is alleged to have employed. We’ll explore these in more detail in a future post, or if you can’t wait that long, get in touch for a free chat. No strings attached!

Budget 2018: Slaying the Giants or killing the Golden Goose?

by ballou_admin | 31st October, 2018 | Tech Industry, UK

HMRC has finally had enough, it seems. After much talk of taking on the tech giants over the issue of tax payments (or rather the lack of) in the UK, Chancellor Philip Hammond used this week’s budget to announce the introduction of his “Digital Services Tax”.

From April 2020, the Government will introduce a new two per cent Digital Services Tax on the revenues of certain digital businesses to ensure that the amount of tax paid in the UK is reflective of the value they derive from their UK users. In other words, Google et al will be taxed on revenues generated here, rather than on profits.

But what does this move mean for the wider technology industry? And will it, as some commentators have warned, stifle innovation at a very uncertain time for the UK economy and business growth?

The chancellor insists not. Only “established tech giants” will be targeted he says, not start-ups.

Others don’t agree. In his response to the announcement, techUK CEO Julian David pointed out that the £500 million threshold the Chancellor proposed is too low and risks capturing much smaller companies than anticipated. He also questioned the logic of implementing a tax that seeks to target businesses simply because they are digital.

And this is perhaps at the heart of the matter for the industry. Everyone agrees that major corporations should pay fair taxes, but the issue is a complex one and an overly simplistic solution risks doing more harm than good. Just Eat is the first tech company to complain about being disproportionally affected by the tax this week but expect many more to follow.

Set this against the major surge in firms going insolvent and you have a perfect storm of economic slowdown, more assertive banks, and restrictive tax regimes on a sector normally relied on to generate growth in such conditions.

The tech industry needs to pull together to navigate the choppy waters ahead.

Stay the interview course – nothing is ‘off limits’

by ballou_admin | 19th October, 2018 | Uncategorized

There’s nothing that gets everyone talking (and sharing), quite like a good ‘walk off camera’ story. The drama of the escalating conflict, the anticipation of ‘the moment’, the post walk-off analysis.. it’s all very entertaining, particularly if it’s a celebrity or CEO with skeletons in the closet.

For person doing the walking off, however, the situation is far from fun.

Today Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn became the latest high-profile business person to find himself in this position during a BBC interview – not so much walking off (although this is how the BBC billed it), but refusing to go on when asked about his £75m bonus, on the advice of his off-camera PR adviser.

The serious question for the PR industry is why?  Why was Persimmon’s PR team not prepared for such an obvious media ambush?  And why, instead of trying to enforce what is, at best, a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ (that the BBC journalist not ask about the CEO’s controversial bonus), did they not simply brief him on how to answer, or at least handle, the question in an authentic way.

By instead trying to micro manage a broadcast interview and stepping in to enforce ‘off limits’ subjects they’ve simply embarrassed their CEO and drawn greater attention to the issue. It’s now a more prominent story for all the wrong reasons.

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