Meet our Staff: London GM Amanda Moulson on Culture, Commerce and Transparency

Meet our Staff: London GM Amanda Moulson on Culture, Commerce and Transparency

David Gallagher, Senior Partner /CEO Ketchum Europe, originally published this conversation with Access Emanate London GM Amanda Moulson on LinkedIn.

I don’t remember when I first met Amanda.  It probably involved tacos and bourbon.  Two expats from the American South, thrown into management roles for Omnicom agencies in the scrappy east end of London, we’ve been comparing notes for nearly a decade.  

She runs a creative PR shop, newly rechristened after a merger with another Omnicom agency in the US, and we wave at each other from the two towers at our mega facility at Bankside in south London.  Very happy to have her profile here, among the interesting and inspiring people I’ve met in PR over the years. 

Name: Amanda Moulson

Twitter: @itsmoley

Job: General Manager, Access Emanate Communications (London)

Hometown: I’m itinerant, but I claim NY

Current city: London

Nationality: Just like you, dual US/UK

That’s awesome.  But I don’t think I’ve ever asked, how did you land in London?  You haven’t! As an art history major, my plan was to be a curator — at the Met no less.

So, that didn’t work out.

But having to be precise in my expression led me straight into PR in NYC – starting at Ogilvy and moving through a few agencies – boutique, to large, to mid-size, from NY to Atlanta to the UK – before settling into London life and Access Emanate, a place that I truly believe embodies the best of all worlds — entrepreneurial spirit, strong culture and with ample support and intellectual rigour.

So what’s your main focus now? I started here as a Director of Insight, Strategy and Creativity, and in many ways those areas remain my heartland.  And now as General Manager, I spend a lot of time in new spaces of my brain: the analytical side that looks after the P&L and commercial strategy; the interpersonal side of keeping a strong culture and looking after talent; the tactical nature of office operations; the big picture vision needed to look around corners.

I wear a lot of hats but I guess it’s like kids – you love them all equally, but differently.

And what about the green beans – those just starting out? Be curious. Be open minded about talent – not just that around you, but your own. Aptitude and attitude is everything. This industry has never before benefitted so much from diverse points of view, work styles and experience, and we are in a time where PR needs to innovate. If you have ideas to make change happen, step forward — or listen carefully to someone else who volunteers them.

Where’s the business going?  I won’t lie, there was a time when I wasn’t that excited about PR. The days felt a little same-y. Draft release. Sell-in release. Draft plan. Revise plan. Repeat.

But those days are long gone.

The way we communicate is changing before our eyes and, as above, PR needs to innovate to carve out a lasting role for itself. I’m excited about how many products are services we can invent to help change behaviours and attitudes in the comms space we’re living in. Oddly, I also think PR is going to start standing for — wait for it — transparency. With so many media outlets getting savvy about monetising branded content, I often wonder if it’s our industry that is going to set the standard for disclosure and pave the way for more authentic interactions and communities.

Anything else? Nope – just a repeat. Be curious. As an Access Emanate team, we watch films together; we attend lectures (shameless plug for Intelligence Squared); we have regular meetings to predict and discuss trends (whilst guzzling wine and eating chocolate). We debate current affairs like a family at a dinner table. We use all of our holiday days to experience the world. All of these things are as important as ‘traditional’ training, if not more so. There are good ideas everywhere, so long as we are open to receive them.

Thanks, Amanda- see you on the sky terrace.  Oh, you definitely will.

From Peer Heroes to Nail Polish That Uncracks: 6 Consumer Trends for 2016

From Peer Heroes to Nail Polish That Uncracks: 6 Consumer Trends for 2016

At Access Emanate Communications, we’ve been busy looking into our crystal balls and tapping into our psychic powers…and just being super observant about the world around us. Here’s our take on next six trends we’ll see in 2016 and beyond.

Peer Heroes – Gen Z is changing the game on who they view as heroes. Gone might be the days of Kardashian Queens and Kings. Tomorrow’s icons will be those that are real, authentic peers of this group (note the rise of the YouTube Influencer, Malala Yousafzai, Jazz Jennings, among others).

Big Emotions – We’re more in touch with our emotions than ever before (“Inside Out,” journaling apps and even something called “sound healing”). We’re also more in touch with big data than ever before. Enter the rise of Big Emotions – where we advance our psychological selves through cognitive technology. Things like Hello Barbie and Cognitoys are the early players.

New Languages of Organization – We’re a words culture. Until now. Info is shape shifting and will see a huge push towards visualization and new mediums we can’t even interpret today. Early examples are the (not so) new language of emojis – and on the further end of the spectrum – new ways companies are thinking about how information is searched and sorted – think spatial structures vs linear lists.

Gender Neutrality – A conscientious effort to not associate by typical female or male stereotypes has led to the normalizing of gender neutrality. Sweden uses the word “hen” as a way to describe he/she. Moppa has become a new word in pop culture. Bathrooms, products and retail identification are becoming more open and interpretive to the consumer.

Proliferation of VR – It’s not news that VR is here to stay. Only that it has and will continue to infiltrate not just the entertainment parts of our lives but the functional as well. Holographic health and predictive climate change will be the new frontier of VR moving from theater to solving the world’s problems.

An Errorless Society – Will today’s smart technology lead to a world without human error? While extreme, “self healing” products like nail polish that “uncracks” to airplane wings that “unbreak,” we’re seeing a new wave of technology that goes well beyond the smart, connected devices of our lives.

Sources: TrendWatching, Iconoculture, Mintel, J. Walter Thompson Intelligence

Hello in There! Beware the Echo Chamber

Hello in There! Beware the Echo Chamber

Let’s get something straight: I like to hear what I like to hear. I like to say what I like to say. And I like for everyone else to agree with me. I’m not asking for much…

As free-thinking and open-minded as I like to believe I am (and I am…really!), I can be as attached to my cozy echo chamber as the next person. Who doesn’t occasionally wish they were three years old again, the center of the universe, and oblivious to the needs of others?! Seems like Sharper Image would have solved this by now by offering us one-size-fits-all, wearable echo chambers (easy to accessorize with chrome trim and hand-held remote control!).

The term “Echo Chamber” typically refers to communications constructs (created organically by broader culture and/or conscious or unconscious design within organizations) in which people 1) surround themselves with the information they want to hear and 2) shut out anything that feels like dissent or does not fit with their worldview, support their agenda, or cater to their psychological comfort. (re-read Orwell’s 1984 if you need an extreme, dystopian refresher course).

Conversation, interaction and information exchange without friction is a very attractive notion. But without that friction very little (if any) meaningful progress gets made. This is true for family units, peer groups, Little League teams, PTAs and, yes, large organizations as well. Even countries, and nations states, and geo-political regions…you get the idea.

In fact, recent studies regarding the impact of echo chambers on public policy have mapped, quantified, pinpointed, and proven out the role that this missing friction can play when really big decisions are being made.

Last year, Yale researchers published “Media ‘Echo Chambers’ and Climate Change” in the Journal of Communication. The writers asked themselves if the steady rise of partisan news allows Americans to insulate themselves in echo chambers where they are only exposed to content that is consistent with their opinions – while simultaneously shielding them from dissenting views. I’ll save you the effort of trying to get your head around their application of a “reinforcing spirals framework”: the answer to their question was “yes.”

Then, just last month, researchers from the University of Maryland went a step further. They were able to demonstrate that the climate change debate (“contentious” on a good day) is fueled, at least in part, by how information flows through policy networks as well (not just media networks). In other words, our elected officials are people, too. People that consume media just like the rest of us, while also having direct access to other voices (some scientifically legit, others not so much) in the climate change debate.

To put it bluntly, the lead researcher tells us the “research shows how the echo chamber can block progress toward a political resolution on climate change. Individuals who get their information from the same sources with the same perspective may be under the impression that theirs is the dominant perspective, regardless of what the science says.”

The report is packed with plenty of depressing findings about who our leaders listen to and who they block out, but, in the end it underscores how important it is “for people on both sides of the climate debate to be careful about where they get their information. If their sources are limited to those that repeat and amplify a single perspective, they can’t be certain about the reliability or objectivity of their information.”

First we have to admit we have a problem. Don’t deny that you live in an echo chamber (at least one!). Accept its likelihood and be willing to exercise your listening, speaking, and messaging in new ways.

So let’s leave the big picture (national climate policy) and start bringing it closer to home (and by home, I mean work). Ask yourself if there are echo chambers within the field of Communications, Public Relations, your clients’ organizations, your agency, your team, etc. I’ll wait. OK, like the Yale study, your answer here is “yes.”

What can we do to escape the fate of our legislators? First we have to admit we have a problem. Don’t deny that you live in an echo chamber (at least one!). Accept its likelihood and be willing to exercise your listening, speaking, and messaging in new ways.

Here are some Echo Chamber Busters to consider:

1. Fix the Mix

The best remedies start at home. Begin by mixing up the channels from which you get information. Read outside your silo. Watch something so far off your radar it frightens you a little. Get your teams to do the same. Skip a few weeks of Electronics Minutiae Today and replace it with Puppetry International – I guarantee you’ll see things differently, which leads to discussing different things differently, which staves off and mutes the echo chamber (FYI – only one of these publications actually exists. Google them for the answer.).

2. Disrupt the Signal

In Public Relations we constantly complain about how difficult it is to penetrate the shell and culture of our clients’ worlds. Now that you know how their information intake cycles can impact them, change up your care-and-feeding routine a bit. Consider implementing a section at the bottom of your weekly coverage recap called “Outside Reading” and throw in a new, random article each week from somewhere way outside their category. They may not read it every week, but eventually your tech client will click on that link about the hydrothermal vent eelpout fish and they’ll be hooked (like said fish) – steering your relationship down the road to more reception and less echo.

3. Get Micro

The previous two tips are really basic, kick-starters for changing daily practice, disrupting your information rhythm, and impacting habitus. This one is really about changing the way we do what we do in 2015 and beyond. It’s about implementing strategies that can shake up and infiltrate echo chambers when you activate a campaign or launch a new product. By engaging in fixing the mix and disrupting the signal, your mind will be more open to getting micro with your actual work…

One of the conclusions the Yale team reached from their research was a proposal that “the development of communication campaigns focused on specific media outlets and audiences that align climate change and energy insecurity solutions with conservative ideals of limited government” could be the way forward out of gridlock. At Emanate we practice Relevance Marketing, which is certainly a very close cousin to what the researchers are proposing here, but I think they’re talking about a kind of uber-targeting and message alignment that we could all stand to do even more of each day.

Imagine not only targeting media outlets by specific audiences to which they cater, but further customizing pitches that align your messaging with very specific solutions and ideals that are proven hot topics with a group of people conditioned by a particular type of echo chamber. Based on budgets, we often cannot afford to get that far into the weeds when making news, but I’d argue that we also can’t afford to “boil the ocean” in the same way anymore and expect to get traction with – and certainly not infiltrate – the target groups deeply rooted in particular beliefs and cultures.

Yelling loud makes great echoes, but if you’re seeking to break reception patterns in a target group it might be better to talk softly and cater much more closely to what they want to hear.

One ongoing question in our own Public Relations echo chamber is “What the hell do we have to do to break through the clutter?” Now, through the magic of scientific study, we know we’ve got our work cut out for us in the echo chamber department – and blunt force won’t cut it anymore (if it ever did).

Yelling loud makes great echoes, but if you’re seeking to break reception patterns in a target group it might be better to talk softly and cater much more closely to what they want to hear. If you get it right, chances are good that they’ll start repeating your message for you.

Taking the Suck Out of 360

Gone are the days of PR living separate and apart from advertising. And it goes without saying that social media has to be a part of pretty much every conversation these days. Today, the strength of the troika is real. Often times our agency partners come up with some great media-able antics that give us more stories to tell. And we all know the power of an ad and social campaign that tells the same storyline as our PR program. Hit that consumer over the head from many angles with the same message and something is going to seep in.

While PR, advertising and social or — the 360 integrated model — isn’t new, the means to collaborate can often be fraught with “PR 101” moments. I have had to bite my share of tongue to walk many a colleague through what I call “who would write that story”. But getting there, to that one cohesive deck where all mediums align, is like the unveiling of the pyramids. So how do we navigate the “go PR this” directives of our counterparts? How do we alleviate potential tension over “my idea was cut”!

  • Coat in butter.
  • Add in a bit of your own herbs and spices.
  • Bake at 360.
  • Break bread together.

Once all parties have had a chance to showcase their ideas, here are some tactics that have worked for me…and the order is important. You shouldn’t come out of the gate with a PR 101 session because, well, it’s bitchy.

OUR PLAN
Love the heck out of your partner’s ideas by telling them exactly how it helps your cause i.e. how it gives you fodder for media. There is something worth loving in every ad, media or social campaign — even if just a nugget of genius. This is an opportunity for us to show our partners how those elements WOULD be covered by media. Perhaps we suggest a slight twist or amplification so that we can engage media in a way we know they’ll want to be approached. All the while the light shines on the concept our partners brought to the table. And often I find that this gives our ideas more love too. Mutual love.

This sentence right here is the kiss of 360 death, “So, let me explain how PR works”. Yeah, that silence on the other end of the line? It’s disdain on mute.

OUR RATIONALE
Whether it’s something our PR/Comms lead has told us “must be included” or something we know will pop with the media who reach the target we need to get at, walk partners through the rationale behind why we didn’t feel there were PR legs. Not like they’re idiots. But with quips like “your team is so lucky to live in the creative! Unfortunately our audience, the journalist, needs facts first and then we wow them with creative.” or “we would love for them to write that storyline but if we give them that angle, they’ll black list us for crossing the publicist/reporter barrier”. Never say anything condescendingly. This sentence right here is the kiss of 360 death, “So, let me explain how PR works”. Yeah, that silence on the other end of the line? It’s disdain on mute.

OUR APPROACH
Whether a loose timeline or robust media relations roll out, putting pen to paper and showing your partners who you’ll approach, at what outlet, with what type of angle, at what time and what assets you’ll need to support that is the ultimate NO DUH, document. Yes it may need translation. And repeating. And translation. And repeating. But by then they can never feign ignorance. Once you know, you can’t go back to not knowing.

OUR VICTORY
The growing pains that we had to get us here are all worth it when the coverage is sick and the campaign flows brilliantly in one unified voice. And even if there are a few hiccups along the way, what your partners and your team will remember most is how well you all worked together. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. OVER COMMUNICATE where possible. And call yourself the “Queen of Nag” because self-deprecation is adorable.

What We’re Reading: Instagram comes to the web and more

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all in the news this week. Instagram is now more web-friendly, Facebook is developing a new location-tracking app and Twitter made a big purchase. Let us know what caught your attention this week by tweeting us @accesspr.

Instagram users can now view their photo feeds through any web browser.

Facebook is looking to capitalize on its large pool of mobile users with a mobile location-tracking app.

GetGlue updated its iOS app with new features like a news feed and specific show pages.

Twitter acquired social TV startup Bluefin Labs to help create new ad products.

Some great tips regarding how to connect with the younger generation on social media.

Still looking for a perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Mashable shared a list of gifts for the techie in your life.

Analyst Bryan Hopkins presented Forrester’s top 15 emerging technologies to watch between now and 2018.