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Learning from kids' TV



So I admit that I watch a fair amount of kids' TV these days. It's mostly inane ramblings and offers little to keep me amused. So yesterday I tried to see if I could learn anything about communicating in an informative yet fun way. This is a fairly whimsical post so please don't take it too seriously.

• A double act can work - We often think a campaign should have a single figurehead but a partnership can be more charming; offer a range of emotions; or cater to different audiences. Who can forget Hale and Pace’s famous firework safety ads back in the 80s? On the other extreme, the mother and daughter pairing of Sharon and Kelly Osbourne, when backing Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, packed a more poignant punch then any one of them could alone.


• Repetition, repetition - If your audience knows little about your topic of choice - a public information campaign, for example - then don't be shy to keep repeating your key messages, although you could give them a different spin each time - in song, rhyme or dance?

• Animation - How many organisations have truly captured the beautiful medium of the animated cartoon? It could be a great alternative to the ever-popular infographic and we all know adults love cartoons too. Check out this campaign video for Amnesty. The Guardian commission quite a few eye-pleasing animations.



• Be dreamy - Kids' programme aren't scared of being ethereal. It captures the imagination. Too many businesses communicate in a dull, overly ‘sensible’ way which is a turn off if you're wanting them to consume your content for fun or in their spare time.

• Bring in the customer voice - I see my little boy lean in when he hears another child talking or doing something on screen. The best programmes don't rely on adult presenters but bring in a rabble of enthusiastic amateurs who their viewers will relate to better.

PS normally I don't get cultural references because they are too high brow; too low brow; too trendy or too old. The title of this post refers to a popular children's TV programme on CBeebies. The one with Chris and Pui. Pui is the female presenter whose main role is to make Chris look like a superb actor.

Julie Kangisser
Charities need great content

Anyone working in marketing or fundraising for a charity will understand the importance of producing great content that engages emotionally and stands out from the plethora of other information vying for supporters' attention.

Charity Comms is a great organisation that champions best practice in this area. I've written another thought piece for their members which you can read at

There's plenty of other interesting reads on this site so do take a look.

Julie Kangisser
Numbers and pictures

Visualising data

I've always had a visual brain, have a bit of a penchant for reading maps and used to work in television journalism. So I've never felt confined to conveying information by the written word. So it's little surprise that I like the smart use of graphics to illustrate complicated points. I like infographics which usually convey lots of disparate information into a connected flow but also great diagrams, maps and charts that convey a point more powerfully than any spreadsheet ever could. The British Library currently has a small, free exhibition called Beautiful Science - picturing data, inspiring insight. Or to use a term of the moment, "data visualisation". It's not worth a visit in its own right but if you're passing then you may enjoy it (the Georgians exhibition is also fab - I learnt a lot about the origins of much of the popular culture we share today).

Back at Beautiful Science there were a whole series of really interesting maps, produced for Public Health England by the Ordnance Survey. You're hit with the impression that public health is a postcode lottery in this country. These so-called cartograms, which distort the shape of geographic regions to make their areas proportional to their populations, are used in PHE's annual report. I'd like to ask a good graphic designer to have some fun making them more eye catching for campaign purposes. Wouldn't this diagram of fast food outlet concentrations look more (un)appealing if the unhealthiest areas looked like they were oozing fat whilst the areas with fewer junk food eateries had an appearance which conjured up lean and wholesome food?


More could be done to bring this map to life, but it makes its point well. Londoners are living in fast food hell; Manchester is swimming in oil too, by looks of things.

Julie Kangisser
Open as unusual

I wandered past the Wellcome Collection yesterday, which is undergoing a spot of renovation. I smiled to myself when I saw this sign. Love the fact that they've used a potential disruption to customers to convey some brand personality. 


This reminded me what they're about - feeding the curious with strange facts

I did actually pop in but only had time to sample their clementine and almond cake - I obviously have curious tastebuds!

Julie Kangisser
MINI GUIDE Content is King

Did you know it was Bill Gates who coined the term “content is king” as far back as 1996? He was talking at the advent of the internet and was excited “that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create”. Every organisation under the sun has upped its game with online and offline content creation since those early years, with some major corporates now creating Chief Content Officer roles.

Whichever stage you are at, following these ten headline tips will stand you in good stead:

  1. Think like your audience
  2. Be bold
  3. Keep it simple stupid (KISS).
  4. Help people share and distribute your content
  5. User generated content works well
  6. Create emotionally engaging and visual content
  7. Harness third party credibility
  8. Issues jump
  9. Be authentic
  10. Always on

If you can view the document in the window above then please try clicking here

Julie Kangisser
Do you research, make headlines

Do your research. Make headlines

20 November 2013

There have been times when I’ve sensed an air of derision from journalists at the thought of a ‘PR survey’ which they perhaps regard as an insubstantial news hook for a serious publication. Yet venerated outlets, from the Today programme to the Wall Street Journal, report daily on stories that are centred on statistics and insights that have been commissioned or disseminated with publicity in mind.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with boosting the relevance and appeal of a news story an opinion poll or other insight into the way people think and behave. From a client’s perspective, market research can allow them to comment on a topic with the weight of public opinion behind them (or to veil an organisational opinion through the guise of public comment) and to strengthen its association with an area of expertise.

If done properly, I see no problem with this. The Market Research Society recognises that many of its members are engaged in activity that is ‘not designed exclusively to enhance understanding’. The MRS has regulations in place to ensure that valid results are produced when applying research techniques to areas of policy development, marketing and other commercial disciplines.

One study suggested that in the UK, 25000 news stories a year quoted surveys. I bet a large proportion will have been distributed by communications professionals, but I’d also like to broaden your thinking towards other forms of research that could unleash new communications opportunities.

Using research and data to make news

1. Harnessing external, independent research such as academic papers and Government statistics.
When I worked for the DWP, I created a series of feature pitches based around Labour Market Statistics with supporting information from Sector Skills bodies and others. Features appeared widely and frequently in the national careers pages over the course of a year. The stats were publicly available but not so easy to locate and analyse.

2. Devising and running an Index or Tracker.
Nationwide has the longest unbroken run of house price data stretching back to 1952 and they are now synonymous with the Nationwide House Price Index.

3. Co-creating quasi-independent research with academics, think tanks and similar.
On behalf of BT Business, I commissioned futurologist Professor Frank Shaw to do an in-depth examination into the impact of mobile working on management style. The resultant White Paper which was launched with a media roundtable event was covered and even uploaded by a variety of online tech and business sites.

4. Making the most of internal analysts, research teams and archives.
You may be sitting on some of your best stories. Can you get access to recent internal reports or company archives? There are loads of examples where this has been done well. Working for a division of the former London Development Agency, whilst at Fishburn Hedges, we were able to access internal reports analysing growth of employment within an underestimated sector of the economy and turn the key facts into mini-guides which were distributed to journalists alongside an introduction to the Director of the division. Results were gradual but, over time, a number of the media approached him for comment.

Working for Jobcentre Plus, I was blessed with access to official archives documenting the locations of the first Jobcentres; sample job listings; details of employee pay and conditions etc. It lead to nostalgic and favourable feature articles on the BBC website and national media to mark the service’s 100th anniversary. It also provided a springboard to highlight the vast improvements made within Jobcentres in recent years.

5. Using elements of product development market research.
If sharing such insights outweighs the risk of ceding proprietary information to competitors then go ahead. You’ll always have first mover association with your innovation. A classic example of this was the Coke Zero product launch which was overtly based on their own insight that showed that men think Diet Coke is too girly. It seemed to work.

6. Made for PR surveys
When working forRecycle for London some years ago, a moderate investment in borough level research with primary school children resulted in neatly localised stories about the role of pester power in getting parents to recycle. The local and London media lapped it up. This kind of research can also lead to interesting comparison or league table stories, if that’s not too contoversial.

7. Focus groups
It can be hard to generate definitive news angles from qualitative research but it can be done. Focus groups on political issues are particularly well reported.

Behind the scenes

8. Using market research to determine PR strategy and messaging
This seems to be done most effectively by Government campaigns where a sizeable budget is invested in market research to understand customer behaviour. Although this is often commissioned to inform policy development or to allocate advertising budgets, it provides a treasure trove of information to steer PR activity. At the DWP, I was able to know with certainty the behaviours of the most successful job seekers and directly feed this in to messaging. At Recycle Now, a national campaign run by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), detailed market research into barriers to recycling, with demographic analysis, provided fertile territory for myth busting campaigns.

9. Running focus group or one-on-one depth interviews to evaluate the impact of marketing and communications activity.
Sometimes the size, composition or seniority of a stakeholder audience makes quantitative surveys into recall and perceptions impossible. Shell ran a stakeholder engagement programme targeting global decision makers and commissioned a specialist research agency to conduct in-depth interviews with selected decision makers across several markets to capture their views on the company and its response to the energy challenge, as well as their exposure to stakeholder and media outreach.

10. Social media is the world’s largest focus group.
Social media is sometimes regarded primarily as a communications channel. However, the best brands use it to listen and track comments; to gauge reputation and to welcome direct input into product or service development.  Another advantage of social media is the ability to use readily available metrics to understand an amazing amount about your followers. Several new social media analytics firms are rapidly pushing out the boundaries of what can be extracted from this immense data pool. This isn’t a substitute for market research as social media posts tend to reflect the views of extreme advocates or rejectors rather than the silent majority.


Julie Kangisser
How to counter the risk of social media fatigue

Social media has changed our lives. Not only in terms of the way we communicate and share information with each other, but also fundamentally in terms of the relationship we have with brands. 

Guest blog

Or has it? Are we really closer to brands just because we can Tweet them or Like them on Facebook? Does a Facebook-led campaign truly deliver the holy grail of deeper engagement between brands and their users? And ultimately, does the ever-increasing investment by brands in their social media activity actually deliver greater consumption? Are things about to change?

Over the past year or so, in highly developed markets such as Australia, UK and USA,  the phenomenon of ‘social media fatigue’ is on the rise.  Data is showing that some users of Facebook in particular are beginning to spend time on it less.  Facebook themselves have said in recent corporate updates that they are struggling to grow revenue from users – particularly those connecting via their mobiles – and they are having to look again at how they can better monetise the way brands and consumers connect and interact with each other on Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, mainstream traditional media is seizing its chance to take a shot at social media – a Dispatches programme on Channel 4 in August 2013 was dedicated to unlocking the real truth behind Likes on Facebook for brands and the rise of ‘fake’ Tweets.  They suggested that it’s all too easy to manipulate social media and to mislead consumers into thinking that some brands on Facebook are more popular than they really are and that tweets from celebrities appearing to endorse products are often not as genuine as they may seem, actually breaching ASA guidelines on promotional activity.

What does this mean for brands?

Given the strength of Facebook, Google and Twitter and their huge importance to brands, it might appear to be counterintuitive to suggest that brands should be thinking more carefully about how they use social media.  However, if all of the above is really true and that there is starting to be a slow but steady backlash from some consumers against social media, as market researchers it is crucial for us to understand why it is happening and what the implications and the potential risks are for brands?

It’s not just about Likes

It’s not new news to say it’s not enough any more to simply chase Likes and build followers – and this is despite the revelations made in the Dispatches programme. However, with short attention spans and large numbers of brands competing for attention, if there’s nothing beyond a discount coupon or special offer in return for the click (as is still often the case), then users quickly forget that they even liked or follow the brand or product.  Insights gleaned from a number of recent communications research projects undertaken by See | Research & Planning suggest that consumers aren’t even aware of how many and what brands they like on Facebook.  And even if they are getting status updates in their news feed, they are ignoring them or don’t even remember when or why they signed up to them in the first place.

Content is king

In exchange for Liking a brand and being open to starting a conversation, consumers are seeking content.  But this is not just a little information about the brand’s history and what it sells or its latest ad campaign, or else another means by which to complain.  More than ever, they want new and interesting content, which gives added depth and meaning to their relationship with the brand.  They are seeking ways to learn from the brand itself and from other people who share their Like in common.  They want to be given real and meaningful opportunities to interact and talk to the brand – to be able to listen to and to discuss with; to share and to be informed.

There are now some leading lights shining a dynamic new way to engage with consumers online, particularly in the e-commerce sector.  Websites such as and have fundamentally changed the way brands sell online.  Whilst still clearly being a shop, these sites are much more content led than their rivals.  They actively encourage visitors to learn more about drinks and fashion in an engaging, exciting and meaningful way.  They cleverly use social media to tell new news to their army of followers, all the while with the aim of driving users to access content on the website itself, rather than through social media alone.

This evolving approach is supported by David Hilton, former marketing director of Sony Mobile.  He firmly believes that in order to generate a strong return on investment, the best role for social media is one of brand reputation and advocacy.  He says that when he felt his brand was less strong, he focused resources towards social media channels to create a ‘TestLab’ on Facebook.  This allowed Sonyto take some of their biggest critics and fans and give them greater knowledge through access to the team and products.  As a result, he found that that they proactively acted as consumer brand advocates better managing Sony’s brand throughout social media channels with greater credibility and lower cost than relying on a PR agency alone.

What does the future hold?

For many brands their online activity, particularly when it comes to social media, continues to be too fragmented. This is despite the fact that the boundaries between on-line and off-line are more blurred than ever.

It’s important to understand that just because something exists online, there are still real people clicking on the other end of the computer and the same challenges around engagement and need for strong content exists.  Arguably, they are getting even harder as the competition grows.  Market researchers have a privileged opportunity to show brands the way. By truly understanding what consumers want, research can be at the forefront of shaping social media and online strategy and developing content for brands that will truly engage and inspire to meaningfully deepen relationships.

Howard Josephs is Director of See | Research & Planning and an associate of Think Communications

Julie Kangisser