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Augur Unbound at Web Summit

They say it’s bad form to turn up to an occasion empty handed.

So for Web Summit, as well as supporting Lisbon superstars Unbabel, we wanted to bring a little extra with us.

For the first time, we’ll be bringing our Augur Unbound programme to Web Summit.

Free PR

The idea of Augur Unbound is that “unsexy tech” companies pre Series A shouldn’t be wasting their time thinking too much about PR.

And at the same time, our real service for ongoing clients is much more than just emailing news to journalists.

Therefore, if we meet a company that has an interesting story pre Series A, we’ll share it with a handful of the right influencers for free.

And if it’s not a story, we have the perfect incentive to tell you honestly.

Why do we do it?

  • There’s no better source for journalists than a story shared without financial incentive. It sets the precedent for everything we share and helps calibrate our awareness of which stories help.
  • Helping the right companies thrive earlier on benefits the entire ecosystem.
  • Our mission is to re-engineer PR and Comms for fast-growing tech companies. By “giving away” what people think of as part of the main proposition, it helps us concentrate on the areas that really provide value over the longer term.

Why listen to us?

Augur’s founder (or, me, as I like to call myself), has experience in this space and the honesty to dispense it concisely:

  • Worked briefly at Wired and has written about tech and culture for Quartz, TechCrunch, the Guardian, Telegraph, tech.eu and more.
  • Led comms from Series A – C for Tradeshift, a now $750M+ valutation B2B tech giant
  • Ran a community of 3500+ tech journalists and PRs, with members from Apple to the Economist

Who and How?

As you may have noticed, our specialism is “unsexy tech” — think Fintech like GoCardless, Tradeshift or Pleo, omnichannel tech like BookingBug and Birdback, devtech like Pusher and SaaS like Apperio or Glofox.

This is the sweet spot and really the lens for our experience and advice.

If you’re just another consumer app, crowdfunding permutation or (god forbid) a Transferwise ripoff (what’s with those), you might be better off seeking help elsewhere.

If you think you have a story, get in touch and we’ll let you know.

Augur: Desert Island Podcasts

I feel like podcasts can be one of the most convenient ways to stay up to date on what smart people are talking about today.

As a result, a lot of our thinking is informed by this channel, playing to our interest in areas like writing, strategy and modern workflow.

It seemed about time we assembled some of these recommendations for anyone else looking to expand their selection.

Exponent

Ben Thomson and James Allworth host this weekly session discussing the latest news from the tech industry, from what I’d call the “MBA” perspective.

That means considering areas like bundling and unbundling to create value, digging into the real incentives behind decisions made and just generally taking the analysis one step deeper than most other sources I find.

The Talk Show

John Gruber continues his deep look at Apple from Daring Fireball — I think he describes this podcast as a kind of Director’s Commentary to the posts there.

What’s great about Gruber is I can’t think of many other writers who so fully get under the skin and mentality of a business. That can extend a little too far, to the point where he really can’t quite conceive why a company like Google takes a different direction — but that’s fine, because he doesn’t claim to be a journalist, he’s just a guy sharing how he sees the world.

Also a good pick because the podcast has timestamps throughout, letting you jump to the sections you are most interested in.

Startup

Each series has explored slightly different aspects of starting a business. Series 1 was the story of the company that publishes the podcast, it’s attempts to get funding and its eventual success. Series 2 mapped another business in a similar way. Since then, they seem to have moved into shorter series focusing on a wider variety of entrepreneurs.

Recommended for its easy listening tone and its acceptance that the startup world is not at all glamorous.

How I Built This

Like startup but each episode interviews a different founder, and across a broader range of industry.

The Ezra Klein Show

Interviews with thinkers, generally toward media and politics. Ezra seems as interested in process and productivity as we are — and interviews with the writer of Deep Work have provided recent inspiration for improving our workflow.

Longform

If you truly care about how editorial is created and where great writing comes from, this is a masterpiece. It speaks with some of the most influential and prolific writers of modern times, about the challenges of what they do, how they consider and piece together narrative.

Account Executives cranking out press releases, it is not.

Start the Week

A Radio 4 classic, but if you’re not familiar, a kind of magazine show that focuses on a particular topic each week with experts from the area. This is the kind of source that gets us thinking about tribes of “I vs We” in PR.

Page 94: Private Eye

Politics is only ever a small hop from the PR world, and Private Eye continues to balance fearless scrutiny with casual humour as it considers the area. I find it a good reminder that the truth is not as far beneath the surface in society as it can sometimes feel.

Chopper’s Brexit Podcast

I’m desperately trying to get outside my bubble and hear views that conflict with my own. I tried some Breitbart podcasts, but couldn’t bear it after a certain point — by contrast, I feel the Telegraph is just pro-Brexit enough to give me a taste of the other perspective without driving me mad.

It’s a useful reminder of the importance of seeing both sides.

BONUS App recommendation: Overcast.fm

This is my preferred podcast app, created by Marco Arment of Tumblr/ Instapaper fame.

Its SmartSpeed function accelerates a podcast by removing the silence between words, meaning you don’t end up with everyone sounding like chipmunks.

Apparently it has saved me 148 hours, so just excuse me while I decide what to do with all that spare time.

Image credit Gizmodo

There’s no need to define PR — we must do different things.

From Max’s recent piece for Influence, the official publication of the CIPR:

Augur exists to focus on strategic plans and implementation – above all else.

Everything we do is designed, and redesigned toward that priority. For us, it’s a more important core competency than any specific hands on skill or specialism, and that means there are many types of work and projects we choose not to do.

That means, despite the fact I’ve written for all sorts of publications and our team includes members trained by the BBC, we choose not to sell our time writing. Instead, we use that experience to be a great editor, and consider how an editor would generate great material.

That’s the thinking behind Augur Edits – instead of developing ideas that imitate journalists, we brief them and invite ideas they would normally pitch to top tier editors.

Similarly, we don’t believe the future of this industry is in high-pressure ‘sell-ins’ where you claim your value is being able to smash your way into the news agenda and justify every call and ‘did you get my press release?’ Instead, Augur Unbound is a programme by which we will pitch good stories to influencers, for free, from anyone who really needs it.”

Work at Augur

One of the reasons I founded Augur is because I believe too many agencies take really talented people and completely waste their time.

They squeeze them dry on hopeless, demanding clients, shackled to ancient inefficient processes and force them to crawl across coals just to be rewarded fairly.

We can do better.

Augur is growing and we are looking for the people who will become new cornerstones of what we build.

We believe the people who make agencies thrive are the hard workers that short-circuit bureaucracy and prioritise ruthlessly to make things that matter happen.

We don’t believe everyone has to be a jack-of-all-trades. We believe there is one core unit of success in this business: getting shit done. If you get that right, you can involve your specialism alongside it, whether that’s data, creating material, delighting clients, or anything else.

Benefits of working at Augur include:

  • Unlimited R&R days
  • Quarterly bonus scheme
  • Company iPhone and MacBook
  • Gym contribution
  • Mobile working kit

Here’s what we’re looking for — but, if these ideas resonate with you, we should talk anyway, regardless of anything you read below. Email augur+jobs@augur.london.

Strategists

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This is the primary unit of Augur. Our Strategists make things happen.

If you have 4+ years of experience and are looking for an environment where everything is designed around delivering strategy, measuring it effectively and iterating on it for clients, this is for you.

It includes:

  • Campaign management and execution
  • Campaign iteration: suggesting strategic, creative campaigns that grow the business
  • Development of skills inc. attention to detail and refining systems
  • Market awareness, including new channels and industry trends

This is a sketch. If you think it sounds interesting, fill in the blanks for us by emailing augur+jobs@augur.london and let’s have a coffee to improve it together.

Incubation and Acceleration

Duckling
The future of Augur will be built on finding fresh, raw talent that we can nurture and train before other agencies get their grubby mitts on them.

The focus of our Incubation programme is similar to the startup world: We invite intern-level individuals to pitch us an idea for a project to work on across 3 – 6 months. We will then commission the best ideas, and support them to achieve it, while they learn about how we work.

The project should relate roughly to areas where our interests overlap — for example:

  • Delving into Google Analytics, measurement and evaluation in excruciating detail
  • Writing every single day, including regular features ideas that will help them learn about our industry
  • A video project that gets under the skin of our clients’ challenges and produces an episode a week

They will have to justify this endeavour against their wages, building in a mindset that is aware of the value of the work we do, against the effort we put into it.

If they thrive in this unique opportunity, we will move their project into Acceleration, providing more resources or learning from it to integrate it into Augur’s processes.

This project is an experiment, and will be driven by the success of the first participants.

To take part, contact augur+jobs@augur.london and tell us how you would use the time.

Augur talks to Notion Capital about SaaS PR

Notion Capital asked us what makes great PR for B2B Software-as-a-Service businesses.

We tried to break it to them gently that most shouldn’t even think about it until they reach the right stage.

Listen in to learn more.

Notes + Quotes: Fintech Investor Forum 2017

We recently attended the London Stock Exchange’s Fintech Investor Forum 2017, where Ahmed Badr from GoCardless was involved in a panel on Infrastructure.

Sometimes it’s just nice to have a brief selection of notes, quotes and highlights. Read on to see what caught our attention.

Are larger investors switched on to thriving fintech opportunities

Juan Lobato, Ebury

“The reality is that even some very successful fintech cos have been going for 8 years or so and even then, it’s not clear enough that it’s a safe bet.

The company needs to be stable before you get institutional in. For many B2B finetch cos, it’s not there yet.”

Jon Prideaux, Boku

“Big investors aren’t even necessarily desirable from the startup side either. A 5% change in meeting your target can have real consequences. And you may see that if a customer ships just slightly late, which can easily happen.”

Difference between B2C and B2B fintech

Todd Latham, Currency Cloud

“Customer acquisition is substantially higher but when you get it, is more predictable, sticky, margin rich. Businesses will pay for value.”

Ronni Zehavi, Hibob

“It’s B2B2C for us. Had to build the ultimate experience for B2B with the employer. Then also handle large old-fashioned systems of suppliers. And then consumers.”

Ahmed Badr, GoCardless

“You attract different types of individuals at a B2B fintech.”

“Also, scale has a completely different meaning. 20000 customers may be poor for a B2C play, but for us that would work very well.”

Challenges

Todd L, Currency Cloud

“Competitors can become ambiguous. Look at ClearBank. They can compete but also be a partner.”

“I worked at Microsoft when Linux became a thing, and you could position against them. You don’t have that luxury here — it moves to fast and you have to be nimble.”

“It’s also too easy to get wrapped up in any single piece of news. You should drive and execute your plan. That’s where success lies.”

Juan L, Ebury (re. Brexit)

“On a beautiful day like today, people want to be in London. But we have people interested in living in Paris, in Madrid. And these cities are giving you amazing tax breaks.”

“These cities will attract talent and I don’t think it’s a bad thing out have talent spread out. And the reality is, London can only cope with so many people.”

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.

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.