Blog PR

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!

Getting women to the top of the PR industry

by ballou_admin | 30th August, 2018 | PR

PR is often thought of as a female profession. This is true up to a point. Research from Global Women in PR showed that while two thirds of the global PR industry as a whole is female, only 22% of CEOs in the top PR agencies around the world are women [World PR report 2017].

What this means in practice is that while roles on the lower and middle rungs of the PR industry  are filled by women, those at the top, on the executive board, are overwhelmingly made up of men.

Why, when there are so many educated, enthusiastic and qualified women in the PR industry, are the boardrooms so dominated by men? And how do we change this?

Back in 2014, The Atlantic interviewed several women who worked in PR to try and answer why the industry was so female-dominated. The answer is complicated, but a number of the qualities inherent to PR, such as collaboration, communication and working behind the scenes, are also often associated with women. Women have been socialised to be better at these skills – so it’s no surprise that they are attracted to a career that allows them to utilise them.

But why, when many women are both attracted to and often well-suited to PR, don’t they make it all the way to the top? It’s not uncommon to see an agency that is almost entirely made of us women, led by a man. What happens?

In part, this is the same issue that almost every industry is currently grappling with. There is an enormous network of reasons why women don’t end up in the C-suite, ranging from a structural bias, to a lack of confidence in women to ask for promotions, to the pressure or desire to start a family.

What’s more, the skills that make a good flack can’t necessarily be translated to leadership positions. Once you make it to the top of the PR profession, you’re not actually doing that much PR. Rather, you’re making strategic decisions for the company and the team you lead.

But these aren’t excuses. We need to make sure that the diversity of the world we live in is reflected by the people making the decisions. Not only is it fair: it also makes good business sense. A study by McKinsey showed that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.  A 2011 government review showed that for every woman added to a board the business’ chance of bankruptcy is reduced by 20%.

The benefits are clear. And when, in PR, we’re lucky enough to have an enormous pool of exceptionally talented women, we have no excuse for not making the most of them. PR firms should boost opportunities for women right from the start, providing sensible careers advice and training and implementing mentoring schemes, such as those created by Women in PR.

We need to be setting an example by ensuring that inspiring women are visible right at the top. At Ballou PR, we’re lucky enough to be led by a fantastic and accomplished woman who built an international PR agency up from the ground. We’re proud that our board is 75% female. Other female PR leaders include Tanya Ridd, Snapchat’s director of communications EMEA, and Ali Jeremy, director of communications at the NSPCC. Being able to look up to these inspiring women goes a long way.

The tech sector, where only 17% of employees are female, can learn from PR when it comes to hiring women in junior and middle management roles. But both our industries have a long way to go when it comes to attracting, accommodating and retaining women at the very top. We need to take a serious look at why this is the case, make sure that we have some outstanding role models, and nurture talented women in order to show them that they can also be leaders.

Building out our financial PR practice

by ballou_admin | 18th January, 2018 | PR

We are proud to have worked on a number of high-profile tech company transactions, notably having advised both trivago and Box on their respective NASDAQ IPOs. Our goal is to support our clients at every stage of their growth – from series A to IPO and beyond. To that end, we have just added another experienced financial PR consultant to our London team. Harry Ashcroft joins us from the Corporate and Capital Markets team at Instinctif Partners, having previously worked as a tech analyst at Megabuyte. We’re excited to have him on board to support the team in providing market leading financial communications advice to our clients.

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