Augur Unbound: Fintech PR for Pleo’s UK launch

With Augur Unbound, we pitch great stories, for companies that need it, at no cost.

 The range of new, smart banks are great. Companies like Monzo are turning bank accounts into software. And, if you want to know you’re spending too much on sandwiches, that’s all well and good.

But if you apply the same kind of insight and mechanisms to a virtual payment card for business, you hit something much more interesting.

That’s Pleo.

You create an incredibly easy way for employees to manage expenses. Location, who you’re meeting, receipts can all be managed through notifications and smartphone sensors.

It’s the kind of thing that deserves more attention, right.

That’s what Augur Unbound is for. So we helped the burgeoning Danish fintech star introduce itself to the UK market with a few choice introductions.

They made a splash, they won Pioneers, they’re now hard at work on the next challenge.

It was a pleasure to be part of their journey.

How Augur Works: Pitching vs Planning

We get it. Everyone in our business wants to be Don Draper.

Big pitch day. Stand up, leaf through the cards, standing ovation.

But then reality strikes. You do the kick off meetings and start trying to implement things, only to find that the “big idea” in your strategy isn’t possible for another year (if at all.) Or that the founders’ real passion isn’t “OPPORTUNALISING ENTERPRISE SOLUTION BEST EXCELLENCE”, but something rooted in the reality of their industry and experience.

For a couple of years now, we’ve been trying a different approach to the traditional pitch. And it’s based around a simple question:

How can a company who hasn’t spent any time with you write a realistic plan that reflects your true strength accurately?

So here’s what we do.

Phase 1: Discovery

After gathering a few top line details, we’ll talk on Zoom or Skype. Having written up interviews for places like tech.eu and Wired, we like to think we know how to ask the right questions.

The idea is to really listen carefully, pin down the specifics of the next challenge and determine what we think might conquer it. It often gives you an opportunity to learn more about us and our experience too.

If we don’t think it’s a match, we can help you find someone who is. Remember, Augur is designed for one thing: companies at Series A upwards, in “Unsexy” tech categories, looking for integrated comms against business challenges.

Alternatively, we might suggest we help out with Augur Unbound, our free service to share great stories from younger companies with key media.

Once we have what we need, we’ll start on the Strategic Spec document.

Phase 2: The Strategic Spec

This is a very simple one pager, designed to take the minimum time possible to create a first outline of what we might recommend, based on our previous experience.

It’s a starting point for you to provide feedback, to start the conversation going, instead of disappearing for weeks in Powerpoint with only the occasional question.

It includes:

  • Diagnosis — what is the problem, as we see it?
  • Guiding Strategy — what is our topline mechanism to tackle it?
  • Example Objectives and Key Results — what’s the goal and deliverables?
  • Estimated Timelines & Resourcing — how long will it take, and cost?
  • Next steps

Beat it up, tell us what you love or hate, tell us what you think of our measurement and evaluation suggestions, or how it may need to fit into other plans.

The result is designed to give you an estimate of how the plan might look, at the top level, if we start working together.

It establishes an agreed rough outline, so you know what to expect if you go ahead with the next step: The Planning Project.

Phase 3: The Planning Project

Now this is the big difference.

Augur will come to your office, spend time with you, interview key members of the team and really dig into what makes your company great. It’s about finding what you believe, holding a mirror up to your most talented people, helping identify the insights you may not even quite be aware of.

We try to find the signal in the noise.

Instead of going away and making up ideas by ourselves, we look to your strenths to build our plan. And we work with your team to identify what’s practical and possible for the first phase and further down the line.

We worth together, with just a little of your time, to flesh out the skeleton of assumptions from the Strategic Spec.

We deliver on questions like:

  • What is your pitch and key campaign ideas you will keep coming back to?
  • Who should you be introducing the company to?
  • Do we have a customer pipeline for case studies and other stories?

Once we’re done, the planning document usually looks about a dozen pages long, full of everything you need to hit the ground running.

It literally gets everyone on the same page with what to expect in the first episode of activity.

And it’s yours. In the past, we have actually recommended to one company that they take the Planning document and run with it themselves. Because it is a paid project, we are not incentivised to try and close you on a long programme, just to justify our costs on the pitch.

The resourcing costs for this project tend to be about half the anticipated monthly total we expect to end up at.

We think it makes sense, and our clients agree.

Don has earned a rest.

Augur updates operating system to suit tech scaleup needs

  • Increases specialisation on running strategy and delivery
  • Launching two new services:

The point is: agencies say what they want but while their incentives don’t change, their actions won’t either.

This update refines Augur’s focus further around strategy and iteration in house, while introducing new ways to create value for the tech ecosystem alongside it. A great agency does not try and do all things for all people — and Augur is being designed very intentionally for a specific purpose.

Two example programmes in particular reflect how Augur differs from other PR agencies in its actions, not just words.

Revealing Augur Edits

Augur Edits

In trial with retail tech clients in late 2016, Augur Edits invites freelancers from Retail Week, the FT and more to pitch their best ideas to Augur’s clients. Not PR fluff — but exactly the kind of ideas they are already pitching to traditional editors.

Clients get access to the best editorial, great journalists can place more ideas (with 24 hour payment terms) and Augur manages the back and forth, providing a brief to ensure it is perfectly in sync with the rest of the strategy.

Find out more about Augur Edits.

Announcing Augur Unbound

Augur Unbound

Augur Unbound subverts the idea that PR agencies are a channel to media. Great news stories are easy to pitch — so we will take any good piece of news and pitch it to the most relevant influencers for free.

Clients hire Augur to build and optimise ongoing, channel-agnostic strategies, not to spam journalists. This is about sending a message about exactly what we believe is really valuable, while helping great companies get their message out.

If you agree with what we’re thinking, we’re inviting other agencies to join us in this mission. Contact us here to take part.

Find out more about Augur Unbound.

Following up

This is not the end. It’s the other thing. More to come, to be revealed.


 

How Augur Works

Of all disciplines, you should expect technology PR to change with the times.

Here’s a 10 facts about how we work, and most importantly, the actions we take to deliver a demonstrably different service.

1. ENGINEERED MORE EFFICIENTLY

Modern work can be a mess of information overload, sprawling spreadsheet plans and bureaucracy that slows action to a crawl.

We put everything in one place: Asana. Here, you can see all upcoming tasks, find every document and directly comment or ask questions. And we support it with intelligence channels in Slackand files in Google Drive.

2. MEASUREMENT MADE MEANINGFUL

Ad Value Equivalent, coverage, estimated reach are all pointless if your comms plan doesn’t relate to your sales funnel.

Augur’s measurement process is driven from Google Analytics (or better, if you’re using it). Choose from a measurement menu that asks questions like: “of every visitor last month that became a lead, how many saw content in their journey?”

3. WORKING FACE-TO-FACE

How can an agency accurately represent someone they don’t understand?

By spending time with your team in person every week, we get under the skin of the company faster. So when we tell the world what you think, it’s the truth.

4. OWN YOUR STORY, OR DIE TRYING

You are a newswire. And the opinions section of your vertical target media. And an industry commentator. And an advocate of your customers. And an educator of your users.

If you want to be.

If you want authority, you need to start authoring it. Shuffled press releases behind closed doors pale in comparison to publishing your story on a regular basis anyway and giving the right people an early peek because it’s relevant.

Don’t duplicate and add to the noise. Find your signal and amplify it.

5. AMPLIFY WITH CARE

Embrace the real cadence of your company story. Not every step you take is a moon shot, and that’s okay. A flash in the pan will always appear less natural than consistent, growing fission.

Proper amplification should push more out of a story engine that’s already working independently — not compensate for its absence.

And a word about paid social. If we can directly target the people that journalists used to, in an easily measurable manner and on a basic budget, we’re doing it.

6. EXPERIENCE BEYOND AGENCIES

We have written for Wired, Quartz, The Guardian, Telegraph, Tech.eu and more. We’ve led PR and Comms for a $750m global tech startup from Series A to C. We’ve managed communities of 3000+ tech journalists and PRs, with members from Apple to the Economist, TechCrunch and beyond. Variety of experience spices our advice.

7. RESOURCING ATTENTION

The ‘hours’ agencies sell don’t exist, they are just 8 units of abstract value. That works great if you want to sell a dozen hours of an office junior and moments of the MD.

Augur simplifies this by resourcing teams across 4 units of attention per week. By being less granular, our plans reflect the value we offer across Strategy, Creation and Engagement. You pay for our value, not just our time.

8. UNSEXY IS THE NEW SEXY

How do you persuade a trendy teenager to become an advocate of a fizzy drink brand? Honestly? We can’t see why they should.

But if you ask what a decision-maker or industry commentator has to gain by being aware of the coming wave of change in their sector, that’s something else. Our clients’ technologies help other companies grow. And that shows how good they are at their job.

9. RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST

Every time a journalist simply copies and pastes a news announcement, the world becomes a worse place. We want key people to question and engage with why you matter, not just trot out easy coverage.

That’s what generates the kind of third party endorsement your team can use to reach new people and drive sales. If you can build understanding, then solid coverage and customers will come.

10. A BETTER PROPOSAL PROCESS

Agencies traditionally try and knock your socks off with grand pitches before they have even spent a day working on your account.

At Augur, we start with a one page strategic spec — our diagnosis, guiding strategy and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). If we agree this is along the right lines, we kick off a small proposal project, where we interview your leadership, your team, everyone we can get our hands on to help us write a full 6 – 12 month plan.

Makes sense, right?

Get in touch.

GoCardless and Pleo choose Augur for Fintech PR

  • Joining BookingBug and card-linked offers platform Birdback
  • Augur mentoring at Level 39, Barclays Techstars Fintech Accelerator, Notion Capital and more

Money makes the world go round. But often too slowly, inconveniently and on the bank’s terms.

Fintech promises to present a glass of icewater in this hellish landscape. What’s more, London’s history as a financial capital means it is literally made to nurture the greatest fintech companies in the world.

In the consumer world, yes, there are wiser ways to transfer money across borders now. But in the B2B world, that’s where fintech is really rewriting what’s possible.

We know, because in 2016, we made leaps in helping them tell that fintech story.

Win-Tech

With GoCardless, we have been working together since its latest funding round, revealing its unique position to build the first global payments network on debit.

Soon after the initial work, Co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi said:

“Our first project with Augur was intended to be a one off around an important piece of news. However, the speed and effectiveness with which they advanced key relationships and delivered against our KPIs convinced us to add ongoing PR to the marketing mix.

“We are now working together on a smart, integrated PR strategy that will support the next stage of GoCardless’s growth.”

With Pleo, we helped introduce the product to the UK community, amplifying its launch and its victory at Pioneers.

Co-founder and CEO Jeppe Rindom said:

“Even a great story will flounder without great implementation. Augur helped us refine our pitch for the UK, identify key audiences and kickstart the relationships that will serve us as we grow.”

“Their understanding of what’s important in B2B and Fintech is outstanding in their industry.”

For Augur

2017 is about really showing the world what a PR agency can do when you re-engineer it to better fit for fast-growing technology companies.

Coming next, we will reveal what Augur has been doing to create a PR service that isn’t just different in rhetoric — but demonstrably different in its design. Rethinking the old PR incentives, we are aiming to do what older established agencies can’t (or won’t.)

More to be revealed very soon.

A review from my seat on the PRCA Digital Report launch panel

I was very pleased to recently be asked to sit on a panel at the launch of the PRCA Digital Report. But it quickly became clear that many of the problems keeping big agencies awake at night are simply not things we have to worry about.

I also couldn’t help but agree with a few familiar faces in the audience that there really is no “analogue” and “digital” PR. Often, Digital is just a word used to replace “new”.

It’s a bit like when people use the word “millennial” instead of just saying “young people”.

So, looking at the findings, what’s not new?

Online media. Once new, now ordinary (special mention to “online press release distribution.”)

Blogger outreach. Once new, now ordinary.

Is it really that hard to see things like making videos and continuing to integrate social into strategy seamlessly becoming normal?

All technology is really just a matter of evolution. It’s about enhancement and adaptation — all words that describe starting with something and gradually growing or changing that thing.

The thing about this is, we can expand into these new areas most successfully by using what we have been great at historically.

Look at two of the fastest-growing budget areas: Video and sponsored social.

Who is better suited than PRs to find stories, interviews, customers, great material that can be used for video?

Who is better suited than PRs to help produce short, focused stories and pitch-like snippets to amplify on social — especially then we have often been the genesis of the great owned or earner material being megaphoned?

If you already do case studies, think about how you can record and flip the output of those interviews in a constellation of different ways.

If you already pitch stories to journalists and influencers online, why not interview them back about the wider context for your own blog?

I’m a firm believer that what made us great at “old” PR will continue to make us great at the new.

Stop asking if you can do something digital. Start thinking about how you can do something new.

Augur writes about the future of journalism on TechCrunch

One thing we think is really important at Augur is to be properly connected to the world of the companies we work with. So we often end up writing for places like Quartz, Wired, The Guardian about technology and culture trends that are changing behaviour.

Most recently, the editors at TechCrunch published Max’s piece about how payment for journalism must work online. Check out the full piece here or read on below for a taster. (Impressively, it also marks our first crossing of the Great Firewall with a Mandarin version on TechCrunch China here!)

I write. I work with writers. Many of my friends are journalists. The future of being able to charge for quality material online is really important to me.

However, to make progress in this area, I think the industry needs to stop pinning its hopes on the same dead ends that come up again and again. To me, one of these is microtransactions for material.

Leading this field, Blendle has recently been on a PR push around its U.S. launch. Twenty U.S. publications will share with an audience of 10,000 test users articles for between $0.09 and $0.49 (9-49 cents).

Basically, none of this matters. It’s a wasteful diversion. Because to make real impact on this challenge, you need three key things — and Blendle has none of them.

Augur kicks off 2016 with AVG Innovation Labs win. So what?

(For the full story, find today’s news at The Holmes Report and PR Week)

“Who cares when agencies win clients?” I hear you say. And you’re quite right.

Yes, of course we’re all glad to hear that Augur, a communications agency for unsexy tech companies, is working with AVG’s Innovation Labs to share projects like their now infamous “privacy glasses”.

But it’s also about what we are trying to build. Every project matters to Augur as much as its clients. The standard we set will drive this agency’s future, and great work cultivates more great work.

So for every project we kicked off in 2015, we passed on many more. Some too early in their story, some not techie enough, some too consumer.

We are building an agency that helps a very specific kind of “unsexy tech” company reach the customers they were made for. Because actually, we think those businesses have stories with serious and satisfying substance.

For example

Take Pusher, whose Data Delivery Network now serves over 100 BILLION realtime updates a month and has been able to fund its own growth since 2011. Or Notion Capital, a team of ex-entrepreneurs launching the biggest SaaS fund in Europe. Or BookingBug announcing 10x growth, as the biggest retailers in the world use it to bring life back to high street stores.

We don’t work with everyone. In fact, it should be clear that we think very carefully before we start working with anyone.

But we believe that this approach is what will develop a valuable specialism for our clients over the years to come. It’s more important to us to build something right on the foundations for the next decade than rush something to a ‘liquidation event’ as the doors close on an old operating model.

The Team

2015 also saw Sam Golden join the team as Augur’s first Strategist. Shipped from journalist training to London for a role with the BBC, he quickly moved on to a career at the UK’s leading PR agencies while building an award-winning music community on the side.

Meanwhile, I joined PR Week’s 30 to 30 list, managed the PRCA Technology group, hosted office hours at Level 39 and Barclays Fintech Accelerator and helped launch the #PRstack initiative.

We’re looking for the next person to join Augur and, if you’re reading this, maybe it’s you.

The best way I can describe the way we try to work is unstifled. If you think you could do a better job, could handle being more in control of your time and your destiny, then get in touch for a chat.

We’ll be glad to help however we can.

Augur on Qz

We wrote a piece about technology and culture in Qz.com.

Future technologies must be designed to free us from our screen addiction

Looking back at technology over the years, it’s funny how quaint the older stuff seems: From simple telephones to basic games, innovation used to focus on functionality, task and purpose.

Since then, tech has gone from Space Invaders to literal space invaders, with software eating the world and devices crawling their way up from our pockets and onto our bodies. But the real change has come from how they now hook into our minds.

Every digital experience is self-aware, tweaking and customizing itself to be better, more enticing—to suck users further in and increase its all important “active users” metric. But that begs the question: in this time of ruthlessly efficient entertainment design systems, are we still having fun?

Read the full article here

Augur founder voted PR Week 30 Under 30

When you’re trying to do something new, you don’t always automatically get the establishment on your side. We’ve worked hard to balance the ways we are innovating in PR with the responsibility to ground it in responsible processes — that’s why, even early on, we pushed hard to achieve ISO 9001 compliance via the PRCA’s industry standard audit.

But even so, we’re delighted to have out innovation endorsed with the selection of Augur’s founder as PR Week’s 30 under 30. Read the interview, watch the video and see photos here — or see our answers to the interview below.

1) What has been your proudest achievement in PR?

I’m pleased my achievements have come from doing what I believed was right. But I’m most proud of developing my ability to learn from when I was wrong. The former opened lots of doors but I think it’s the latter that rescued me from being just another frustrated, precocious AE.

2) How do you expect PR to change over the next 10-15 years?

I think there’s a common dishonour in old PR. Insincerity, insecurity, ineptitude.

We need to refocus agencies on what they once were and can be again: smaller teams of unusually talented individuals delivering really focused strategy. Personal chefs instead of McDonalds lackies.

Great PR will help companies create value by communicating their true strengths accurately. Meanwhile, a subclass of opportunistic bottom feeders will continue to see their value erode as everyone from SEOs to ‘social media gurus’ bid their price down.

3) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I hope to have made progress offering great PRs a better way to spend their time, doing great work for great clients. If Augur continues to thrive, I play with the idea of handing it to one of the team to refound and reforge.

After all, they say life begins at 40, right?