Top 10 Instagram photos of 2016

Mount Etna, Sicily

Before I moved from my last PR agency in 2015, a specialist recruitment consultant in the digital industry advised I go beyond strategy and implementation, and create. Not one to turn down a challenge, I started learning photography and publishing Instagram photos.

Instagram is a place for self-expression and must be one of the few social media sites where there is still a profound community and sense of belonging. Instagram has become a staple part of my life and has accidentally catalogued some of the most exciting moments of 2016.

Whilst in no way a Steve McCurry or Anne Geddes, I’m pleased by some of the Instagram photos captured this year and will continue the hobby throughout 2017.

Top 10 Instagram posts of 2016

Wonderful day at @YeoviltonAirDay. 1,300 photos, but this has to be one of my favs. Will sort the others soon.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

One of my favourite photos of the year that was captured by complete chance. The sound of the explosion prompted me to turn around and snap a few photos.

Another one from #aldeburgh. #hightide2016

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In an annual kind gesture by Lansons, we visited HighTide Festival earlier this year. In-between the talks, theatre, and comedy, I managed to snap this peaceful moment on the beach.

If you’re in Sicily then Catania is worth a visit for half the day, if only just to witness the only city in the world built of lava stone from Mount Etna’s historic eruptions. Whatever you do though, don’t drive.

And of course, Mount Etna herself. This photo was taken on the back terrace of our rented holiday apartment.

Incoming! Couldn't resist a photo on the tracks this afternoon.

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To think, five months after this photo was taken one of the trams on this network crashed and caused a number of fatalities. A little haunting in hindsight.

Of all the crickets in #hatchlandspark, this one got a photo.

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Just look at the detail!

Rufus, the amateur dog model.

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Strange, at this very moment Rufus is lying in almost exactly the same place as when I took this photo.

I have no words for this! #wellscarnival

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As part of the Somerset carnival season, dozens of floats brimming with light bulbs, dry ice, and pumping music make their way through the tiny city.

Not alone in the garden. Amusing how an innocent looking statue can appear like a dark metaphor in a certain light.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

I’ve got a ‘thing’ for black and white photography, although according to artificial intelligence this could be a sign of depression. Either way, this statue in my grandparent’s garden takes on a life of its own when dark.

Have hundreds of photos from #chesterzoo today, here's one. Got up close to this #giraffe at feeding time.

A post shared by Michael White (@michaelwhite1) on

And we’re ending with a giraffe pic.

Have something you’re proud of?

Then I would love to see your best Instagram photos of 2016, plus I’ll give you a follow if I’m not already.

Blogging is part of who I am

Rain on window

Blogging is more than just a side project. It has become part of who I am. The pages of this blog act as a diary documenting a student life, entry-level PR experience, and now as a senior practitioner. Past articles can make for awkward or difficult reading, but it’s history.

So it’s disappointing to reach the end of a successful professional and personal year, to then reflect on a blog that at times did feel abandoned, at least in comparison to other years. Visits to this blog peaked at 50,000 in 2014, but this year it has dropped. Whilst posts may show quality, blogging still requires constant feeding to grow and create community.

Despite only publishing 32 posts throughout the whole of 2016 (around 2 a month) the benefits of blogging still shine through. Through my everyday work I’m always pleased to hear how often this blog is read, especially when it contributes to new business efforts and talking about Lansons initiatives.

The challenge is balancing the responsibilities of a more senior role in a busy London consultancy, being mentally available after work (rather than an exhausted husk) to feed a personal life, and then blogging. This year practical work in my career took priority over the blog as I adapted to an account director role after promotion end of 2015. It was the right decision.

Still, it’s been a wonderful year and here are the top five posts of 2016.

SEO is no longer a discipline, it’s a skillset

After attending the well-known BrightonSEO conference, I reflected on how Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an integral skillset for PR practitioners.

See beyond your age: 26 life lessons at age 26

A very personal post that attempted to explain some life lessons and reaffirm parts of my personality on this blog.

UK Blogger Survey 2016: It’s all about fashion and poor PR pitches

Good old Vuelio conducted a survey with 500 UK bloggers revealing the pitches they receive and ways of working.

Britain’s best PR student bloggers 2016 #bestPRblogs

There are so many talented student PR bloggers worth keeping your eye on, this post ranks the best based on Behind the Spin’s #bestPRblogs competition.

The Independent: where print declines, online soars

The title of this post is not true, online clearly does not guarantee success. However, online does provide opportunity and more immersive ways to engage readership.

Looking to 2017, it is clear that blogging needs to come back onto the agenda in a big way. I’ve continued to feel the benefits this year and if I refocus, then this may lead to even more opportunities.


Only 36% of PR practitioners admit digital efforts are “very effective”

Woman using laptop

New research shows that the Public Relations (PR) industry still seems to be struggling to remain relevant in an online world. One of the headline stats reveals that only 36% of PR practitioners admit that their digital campaign efforts are effective, with 24% claiming little to no effectiveness at all.

When surveyed about the greatest challenges expected in their industry over the next 12 months, prepare for difficult reading as a lack of investment, time, and training appear top of the list:

  • 61.9% say they expect a lack of resources or funds
  • 57.7% find it challenging to find the right measures/metrics to evaluate work results
  • 58.8% expect a lack of time to try new strategies/technologies
  • 51% say there is a challenge when it comes to internal skills and competencies

This is unchanged from 2015 as PR practitioners are forced to deal with growing workloads and expectations to produce creative campaigns without always the budget to support.

Appropriate measurement for PR programmes is an important area for me as it helps demonstrate the value of investment into digital activities. Whilst 61% of respondents say that return on investment is an important measure, 84% use follower increases as the most frequent measurement. Whilst nothing wrong with this, it does suggest that the PR industry is generally finding it difficult to deliver business results. Of course, this could also be a general symptom of social media and its challenge to be an acquisition channel without paid-for support.

The research that surveyed 2,500 PR practitioners across nine different countries was conducted by Mynewsdesk and Berghs School of Communication. Respondents work across local, regional and global PR firms across 17 different industries including media and entertainment, business services, software and internet, government, and non-profits. The results of the survey are being compiled into a three-part eBook series that is being published between December 2016 and March 2017.

Digital PR study

The first eBook boldly begins by explaining PR has an opportunity to implement digital tactics, potentially replacing traditional advertising that “… is often viewed by consumers as an imposition and an unwelcome intruder…”. A deep marketing transformation partly driven by consumer trends of streaming or recording television, paying for music services, and using AdBlocking software, provides the PR industry an opportunity to have a “revolution”.

The revolution of PR is a passionate ideal I once held when studying PR at University and practicing in entry-level roles, but today I’ve changed my mind. Looking back at my work throughout 2016 I would say only 50% of what I do could be considered traditional PR in the sense of issues management or media relations. The other half consists of digital marketing, working alongside public affairs, contributing to change and employee engagement programmes… PR cannot be an umbrella term, it’s too misinterpreted by its media relations undertones and it’s not practical for PR industry bodies to represent the entire marketing mix and management consultancy space.

Draw your own conclusions from the new research. Sign-up for the PR Revolution e-book series to discover more of the challenges, opportunities, and solutions the communications industry is facing.


2016: The year social media hit maturity

iPhone 3G Launch 2007

What better way to close off the year than with another Lansons newsletter? Predictions are for weather presenters, so I’ve instead written about a topic that has been weighing on my mind – the year social media hit maturity. This article first appeared in the Lansons newsletter.

Mainstream social media sites have reached maturity, they have come of age; either hitting the precipice of user registrations or continuing to climb further into the millions. They should definitely not be considered ‘new channels’ anymore as more than seven in ten internet users have a social media profile. They are even commissioning journalists and companies to create stories, and public relations teams must be more experimental with sharing stories to be heard among the online noise.

This means there is a pressure for us to create immersive content, such as using 360 video or broadcasting live. It’s no longer about creating a community around stories/campaigns/products, but being noticed by a mature social media audience who expect you to speak their language.

If 2007 was the year of technological innovation when Apple entered the mobile market with the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter began to really gain registrations, and the Amazon Kindle was launched – among many others; then 2017 will see the continuing maturity of the same social sites and a growing field of experimental marketing led by products such as augmented reality headset Microsoft HoloLens.

Aside from the maturity of social media, internet usage as a whole has matured with people consistently spending the same amount of time online, and accessing familiar apps and websites. Ofcom’s “Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes” report reveals that almost nine in ten UK adults use the internet, on any device, in any location and are spending an average of 21.6 hours online each week, which is unchanged since 2014.

Maturity has also spurred some big business deals and content developments. To name a few:

  • Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2 billion in an all-cash transaction, a move that is likely to see better LinkedIn integrations across Microsoft products.
  • Live video is now the hot content marketing opportunity. More Facebook Pages are live streaming, 529,000 in total in June 2016, now expected to be nearer a million. 10 million people are using Periscope, with over 200 broadcasts to date.
  • It’s been the year of messaging apps. Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat have all seen huge user growth, giving public relations practitioners the challenge of knowing the conversations that are taking place in private and often encrypted parts of the internet.

Never has the internet, social media, and any other online touchpoint been so crucial for all industries across the UK. Especially highly regulated industries such as financial services and health, many of whom have developed social media compliance procedures to meet the expectations of their stakeholders – whether business-to-business or direct to consumer.

In 2016 we’ve seen social media come of age, witnessed continued growth of digital services, and many companies have become comfortable producing immersive video content. 2017 will be about building on these developments to reach their audiences in more creative ways

Experiencing augmented reality with Microsoft HoloLens

It was only when I had taken the Microsoft HoloLens off that I had appreciated what I had witnessed. For a few moments the digital displays on my Apple Watch, iPhone, Windows PC, even games consoles had been one and the same world. Graphics were no longer confined to screens, but a tangible real-world thing.

It felt so natural at the time, but the graphical human skeleton standing before me that Microsoft HoloLens had projected into my eyes felt real. It stood neatly on the floor, you could walk behind it, even stick your head inside to see different parts of the body. When I used the internet for the first time, I knew it was different, marking the next technological leap – the same emotions were with me when I took off that headset.

In the same week I saw the Virtual Reality (VR)/augmented reality power of Microsoft HoloLens at the Integrated Live show at the ExCeL London and then at Lansons’ GIANT healthcare event, held at the edgy start-up-esque venue The Coronet. The first time the headset was being used it showed how prototype cars could be engineered without physically having to build. At GIANT it was being used to train medical students about parts of the human body.

Just imagine, using augmented reality in healthcare could mean loading up a virtual human tragedy in front of 10 students to explore. Together they would witness the same simulation, knowing how to tend for different crash victims. Alternatively interior designers could load up the finished product of 3 months of work, before their work has even started. The possibilities are endless.

Whilst experimental digital marketing isn’t new, over the last 12 months the discipline has thrived thanks to the availability of VR and augmented reality. You can pre-order Microsoft HoloLens for £2,719 today, but prices will considerably crash over the next three years. It’s only a matter of time before this experimental technology becomes a mainstream consumer option.

The same applies for other technologies making our shopping lists. Virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana continue to become more intelligent, and Amazon’s Echo is bound to make shopping lists in the US and UK this Christmas. In addition, wearable technology such as fitness devices and smartwatches offer platforms for PR campaigns to target. A few years ago my mobile was just for simple games, texting and phone calls – today it knows my heartrate, GPS positioning, and even the number of stairs I’ve climbed.

The “diffusion of innovations” theory shows us the rate of how new ideas and technology spread. You can read more about the theory on Wikipedia. When the late majority adopt a piece of technology, such as smartphones in 2007/8, it’s easy to begin taking the technology for granted. Today the innovators are creating software for the early adopters to use on VR headsets.


As I write this, I can’t imagine taking VR or augmented reality for granted, but it will happen… fast. Will you offer it to your client first or will your client request it?

Keep up with 350+ news sources without breaking a sweat

‘Don’t you ever worry that you’ll run out of things to say?’ was a bemused line delivered by a University friend back in 2008. Today it’s amusing; a Public Relations person running out of things to say? Bah… as if! Although oddly, I feel like he was onto an idea that I actually believe in today, if I’m to provide consultancy to organisations then I must have done my reading.

If you work in PR then you’ll relate to this next bit, if not then you’ll soon understand. Explaining what PR is to normal people is tough.

The industry agrees it is primarily about managing reputation but the growth of online has spurred evolution in the industry. Instead of speaking to journalists, the steady growth of social media over the last eight years has changed the way reputation needs to be managed. As a digital account director at Lansons my primary focus is how to manage the online reputations of organisations.

It’s a big job, but I’m thankful it’s not a physical one. The intensity is on the brain and I need to know the pulse of the digital industry including social media news, search engine optimisation updates, and online analytics. Keeping up-to-date about an industry that changes on an hourly basis is challenging and if I enter a client meeting without the latest news then my consultancy will be poor.

So whilst my friend’s innocent question was quaint, it touched on a truth; for every 10% of consultancy I provide it must be backed up by 90% research. In my professional life I treat clients like essays, the hardest part is the learning and analysing, the easiest part is the delivery of information. This balance of knowledge is part of what makes a good or poor consultant; in the agency world this is financial life or death.

Of course there are other factors at play. For instance, you could be the smartest person in the room but a real arse to deal with!

I know for certain that to be a successful consultant then you need to have a timely plan for how to digest and analyse news. This needs to stand tall even when your working weeks go into the interstellar 50+ hour mark. In the PR industry we’ve recently started calling the mixture of internal business cultures and balance of tools part of a business workflow.

Using Feedly to make news digestible

I’m dependent on Feedly, an online platform and app that delivers me the latest news from every blog, magazine and newspaper I choose to follow. Without Feedly most people would struggle to keep up-to-date with one newspaper, let alone that and 349 other news sources!

Feedly, overview of topics

As social media sites have progressed, Feedly has been a reliable tool to return to. Twitter has become too noisy, Facebook prioritises old viral videos, and Google+ is near extinct. For in-depth news my first visit is Feedly; on iPhone during commutes and via the browser whilst at work. It’s even played a small role helping position myself professionally in the industry through the Feedly app’s ease of social sharing.

Feedly finance

Whether you’re new to the industry or an old-timer, Feedly remains a simple and free way to keep up-to-date with the news. After having used the tool since the closure of Google Reader in 2013 I’m beginning to consider pro features such as collection sharing to help inform my client teams. As it’s my source for news, it has helped me maintain relationships with fellow bloggers and has been integral to the consultancy I’ve delivered for the last five years.

So my honest (unpaid!) advice for PR professionals is to consider Feedly as part of your PR workflow. It will only help make you smarter.



Why doesn’t anyone want to buy Twitter?

Twitter on iPhone

This article first appeared in the Lansons Autumn Newsletter, which reflects on the world of business since the UK referendum result. Read the entire newsletter here.

Twitter’s mission is ‘To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers’, but it looks like these dreams were not possible for the social network as an independent company. The process of selling Twitter has begun.

Potential suiters Google, Apple, Disney, and Salesforce have all reportedly ruled out the possibility of a takeover. Leaving only turbulent times ahead for Twitter as the social network tumbled another 5 per cent and future bids look abysmally unlikely, a disappointment to investors much like its stalled user growth.

It’s no secret that Twitter has never made a profit in all its history and continues to struggle with trolls (people who start arguments and upset people, mostly for fun, on the internet). The social intricacies of interaction has no doubt been a barrier to new user growth and the shift to video has put pressure on Twitter to move beyond its limited 140 character count.

Whilst the latest statistics from Twitter may paint a picture of doom and gloom for investors, arguably for its users there is another story. Twitter has become the social network for customer services interaction, still giving those with profile the ability to build their own following and not rely so heavily on traditional media, and regularly informs mainstream media of breaking stories and insider information.

The challenge to remain relevant and deliver revenue

Twitter faces three critical issues: It needs to be profitable, user growth must be rekindled, and the culture of the social network needs reviving/cleaning out.

These issues formed the bedrock of Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, returning to the social network he co-founded, replacing Dick Costolo. In that time the social network has made an effort to monetise its 313 million monthly active users through offering new ways to share content and introducing features that simplify the Twitter experience for new users.

Only a week after Dorsey’s appointment, Twitter launched Moments, a product that provides a magazine view of Twitter’s most popular news stories and shared items. Apart from acting as a social news service, Moments is easy to understand, allowing people to enjoy Twitter without necessarily engaging in parts of its technical social etiquette. Some companies have advertised with Moments, with the first being Tesco and their #FeelGoodCookBook.

Other developments have taken place, especially when it comes to video. Twitter’s acquisition of Vine in 2012 was fully realised when Vine videos could be integrated into tweets in 2015. This was the same year Twitter acquired streaming start-up Periscope, which was integrated into tweets in early 2016.

Twitter’s new capabilities provide a rich tapestry of possibilities for businesses looking to become their own media companies, joining in conversations with customers or even B2B stakeholders. It’s just that tricky question of how to make a profit that needs answering.

The $20 billion question

When Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 billion, the share price of Twitter jumped as investors licked their lips at the possibility a similar bid coming their way. Ever since the dot com bubble burst, you would have thought investors would have been more restrained when investing into social media ventures. It’s easy to be carried along with the hype and when Twitter had its IPO in 2013, the mood was that this could be the next Google and its advertising network would be sure to grow, along with its user-base. Now we’re three years on and the picture is far different.

Arguably, Twitter needs to convince potential buyers that there is something unique to purchase. As the conclusion of this Recode article quite rightly observes,

“While Twitter’s foray into mobile video distribution is compelling, sources note that Apple can benefit from that without owning or managing it. And, of course, paying upward of $20 billion for it.”

Why invest in a service that would be cheaper to build yourself? The only possible answer to that would be if a certain internet culture already exists that is profitable.

Whether social media is an online touchpoint for purchase or simply referral is a debate that continues in the marketing industry. Quite often this isn’t a case of a social network’s capabilities, but if users are willing to transact through a social site.

We know online advertising works, Facebook has successfully shifted from a social network to becoming an advertising network – people just aren’t buying on Twitter. The closest you can get is pushing traffic to a website, but this means comparing Twitter to successful services like Google AdWords. Forays in social video and socially curated magazines (Moments) deliver results on Twitter, but the marketing industry hasn’t made these primary or default advertising tools.

The birth pains of change have begun. Buzzfeed has reported that a number of Twitter’s 25-person commerce team have left the company and others reallocated into two separate product teams. Rumours and reports have continued throughout the year of senior hires leaving the company. It’s unclear how related Twitter’s financial performance is to the news that Twitter is shutting down their global engineering operations in India.

Is Twitter really worth a similar investment as Microsoft made in LinkedIn? Can Twitter offer itself as a package rather than a business formed of separate service acquisitions? What will happen if a buyer isn’t found?

Time will tell

The crystal ball remains foggy at present. Unless new buyers emerge, then Twitter looks unsaleable, at least for the expected price tag. As communications consultants, this could reveal a glimmer of doubt in our investment in Twitter as a social network. The mood in the media industry is indifferent: Twitter continues business as usual, but everyone acknowledges that changes/investment is required to maintain the network long-term.

For the moment, nothing changes. Twitter continues as a critical part of most social media programmes and an established communication channel among consumers. It remains (in my opinion) the most lucid social network available, the only real way for normal people to connect with the rich and famous, and a flexible site for businesses to establish their brand.

If the worst happens, and no buyers step forward, then we may see Twitter being dismantled piece-by-piece. The data will remain as it’s a social currency, but only the useful parts of Twitter will survive. It will happen slowly, similar to the process Google Plus is currently experiencing, and the successful services that once formed Twitter could be bought by the very tech companies who are currently rejecting the social sites’ current hefty price tag.

BrightonSEO: 46 billion reasons why public relations needs search

BrightonSEO, Sept 2016

To have BrightonSEO happen twice a year feels like a guilty treat. For a flagship digital event covering niche topics with practical advice, the amount of preparation must be astronomical. The BrightonSEO banner proudly proclaimed “a long way from a room above a pub”, and unlike most slogans, this one is true. I can’t remember the official numbers, but there must have been 3,500 digital marketing professionals; the Brighton Centre was packed.

When I last attended BrightonSEO earlier this year I wrote how SEO is no longer a discipline, it’s a skillset. After sitting through hours’ worth of talks and networking with highly intelligent digital professionals, it’s tempting to carry on beating the same drum. For modern public relations to be successful it’s important to have an intermediate knowledge of SEO.

I stand by that post earlier this year because it’s not just what the public relations industry should be aspiring to, but clients also request it. It’s the key to managing reputation online, driving website traffic, and ensuring products/services get heard amongst the noise online. How else will you get your website/clients noticed among 46 billion web pages?

Watching SEO agencies pitch

As I listened to talks, especially Yiğit Konur’s on keyword research (I was certain my brain was about to melt out of my ears), I couldn’t help but wonder if staple public relations skillsets that HR teams and practitioners request will remain relevant. My mind was filled with doubts over the quality of industry training available to practitioners, especially if SEO specialisms are important to generating awareness and engagement online.

A few months ago I found myself in a meeting with a financial organisation hearing from an SEO agency. For programme integration purposes they were running through their SEO pitch, a rare chance to see how their research, strategy, and tactics were formed. It was an excellent presentation that in many ways imitated the conclusions of our PR programme. The difference was that the presentation was underpinned by solid SEO research, based on facts and figures.

If you’ve ever seen an advertising agency pitch, it was like that. These are the types of programmes that can monitor return on investment so closely that companies will spend confidently, knowing the return can be tracked. It’s a very different business compared to straight forward media relations. Although as BrightonSEO reinforced again this year, the public relations industry has an opportunity to embrace basic SEO practices into client delivery. In case this isn’t obvious, that’s why I attended on behalf of Lansons – it’s an area we consult in.

BrightonSEO talks

Before not too long I’m sure a post will appear on the Lansons website about BrightonSEO but for the beautifully geeky readers of this blog, I highly recommend you check out the following three talks.

Hannah Smith: Art, virtual snowballs, and the feels (or why beer is rarely the answer)

Yiğit Konur: Keyword research in autopilot by Google Spreadsheet Macros

Paddy Moogan: Sustainable content marketing

It can feel like the public relations industry is in a constant state of reinvention, the impact of the Internet on society has accelerated this pace further. Today we’re a management discipline, we’re more than media relations, and if we claim to be about reputation management, we can’t ignore developments in the SEO industry.