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?

Augur’s #PRstack

You might expect that we spend every day thinking about Augur’s future and how to build something better than the old model of PR agencies. But it’s every bit as important to us to share what we learn and raise the standards across this industry. I’ve written a little about the importance of PR’s stakeholders to its evolution before.

Having helped launch #PRstack with Prezly and Stephen Waddington earlier this year, it was natural to contribute to the upcoming book and give away some of what we’ve learned so far.

In our chapter, we talk about how Asana gives us a real advantage working with clients that allows us to concentrate on the work that really matters. Check out our original intro below or download the full book for free.

Nobody really built the way we work in PR. And for a long time, it probably didn’t even matter. But we don’t live in that time.

Anyone creating a business today should be looking for every opportunity to build something more fit for purpose as a distinct advantage over the last generation.

At Augur, we believe that starts right at the top of the stack. Communication is the oil that removes friction from any successful project — but most tools in use in the agency world today just don’t suit modern workflows.

It’s for that reason that almost every single thing a client sees from a project with Augur runs through Asana.

cover

Why Augur – 1 year on

Today, if you can imagine something, it’s easier than ever to create it. But in such a world, where anything is possible, intent has become crucial. Why must this particular thing exist?

At the same time, it’s not rare to see competitors race ahead of worthier foes simply by virtue of communicating their take on that ‘why’ with more volume or more breadth. It’s clear that even though you are patently great at what you do, that doesn’t immediately equip you to squeeze every drop of value out of your story.

It doesn’t have to be like this. And for Augur, this leads in to why we believe great PR matters today.

Augur is built on a simple concept:

“If you can communicate your true strength accurately, success will follow.”

Reputation reputation reputation

More than ever, PR and communications strategy isn’t a glossy sheen applied at the last minute, (or worse: in moments of crisis), it’s rooted in the bones of a good business. It’s exhaled with the excellence of your service.

PR has historically claimed to help you punch above your weight. Today, it can help you put on real muscle instead. In a world where where your reputation is inevitably jabbed day in day out, this is more important than ever. Especially since those punches are often coming, not from trolls, but newly enfranchised stakeholders with a way to get real attention.

Only substance can weather such incessant scrutiny.

Getting started

In the last year, we’ve learned a lot and we’ve done a lot. The new systems and business model we are pioneering are now certified ISO compliant, we’re PRCA audited (as well as running the PRCA Technology group), we’re active CIPR a members, helped launch #PRstack, have worked with 20+ companies and have grown the team in our HQ at Somerset House.

The exciting thing about writing up what we’ve learned in these 12 quick months is not just the substance of how we have developed. It’s the prospect of where we, our work and our clients will be in another 12. Then another. And another.

Thank you to everyone that has given us the opportunity to prove PR can be better and do better. And welcome to everyone reading this who may be considering that remit.

We’re ready for the next stage. I hope we’ll see you there.

For the guardian

You may know we have more strings to our bow than just agency life here at Augur. We write — in this case for the Guardian, making the front page of the tech section.

It’s our strong opinion that great material has value. But, from music to writing, somewhere along the chain this perception of value faltered.

In the Guardian, we looked at where this started, what this means and how humans might cope with the diminishing respect (let alone cash) that we pay creators.

I can pinpoint the moment it all went wrong. “It holds 1,000 songs – and it goes right in my pocket,” he said. That’s when the value of digital content was irrevocably changed for the masses. No longer was it good enough to shuffle around an envelope of your five favourite albums or half a dozen mini discs. It became all or nothing.

 

For the Guardian: Marketers must get over their social newsfeed obsession.

We’ve started writing for the Guardian. First up, about how it’s hard to properly understand changing use of social networks if you stay hung up on your own expectations.

When your Facebook includes everyone you know, the feed is inevitably going to become like “an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave”. You haven’t selected what’s showing up anymore, it’s just aggregated noise. Why should it reflect your interests? Especially when it’s only one of a number of sources most people frequent these days.

Read the full article on The Guardian here — and let us know what you think.

Augur talks PR, stories and pitching

(For the record, if you want to understand why it’s so important to say as little as possible, this video is a pretty good demo in itself too. At such moments, I sympathise for every client that I’ve advised to control their passion for the subject in favour of clarity.)

Making Content Matter

I’ve written before about the difficulties of the word “content”. It’s too often bandied around in discussions that lose sight of its meaning to viewers versus its importance in their strategy. And that blindness is costly.

But you quickly find yourself drawing on it because it’s the common reference. Much of the time, that will remain true.

Sometimes, however, it’s worth thinking again to see if there’s another descriptor more suitable. Perhaps another descriptor that can focus on a different detail and a different priority and help you concentrate on what matters.

Made of more

I recently had the following conversation on Twitter. (Incidentally, it’s also one of those incredibly moments that hits home to me how social accounts and interactions can become such an enjoyable scratchpad for new ideas.)

Content’s not included

Material is like the fabric of something actually useful. It’s a bit more tangible. It’s something you iterate on and bang around in different directions — certainly when it’s commonly used in stand-up comedy.

It’s craft-like and something you develop and improve over time. You gather techniques to become competent then workmanlike then artisan. You invent or invest in technology to gain an advantage producing better material than your competition.

Material has customers rather than consumers. Your material must be top notch, it’s not just a snack between courses — it is a product in its own sense.

I’d love to hear suggestions of other words. Even if they aren’t used in conversation, I think clearer definition helps you think about things more strategically and accurately. The power of language is only beaten by the power of the meaning and association that underlies it.

What would you call content to make you appreciate it more?

Photo Credit: ch.weidinger via Compfight cc