Category: Insights

Winter is coming: How to prepare for a social media storm

The words ‘social media crisis’ or ‘online issues management’ can conjure images of pitchforks, burning torches and mobs of angry villagers. It may sound like a scene from Game of Thrones, but with a little stretch of the imagination, it’s not difficult to see how the thick storm of a social media crisis/issue could feel like a chapter straight from George R. R. Martin’s bloody saga.

While social media has given consumers a platform to keep brands and corporates honest, it has also given them weapons powerful enough to destroy the strongest of reputations.

The results can be ugly; a barrage of abusive comments splattered across Facebook and streams of tweets as thick as blood. Ask any marketer who has navigated through the sensitivities of Halal Certification uproar and it’s possible you’ll get a nod of agreement.

But like all conflicts, there are strategies you can effectively employ to prevent issues from turning into crises, at the same time as minimising long-term risk to reputation (and employee sanity!).

Here are four strategies to consider when dealing with issues via social media:

#1 Plan ahead

Ask yourself this question: If a major issue or crisis hit your company or brand tomorrow, would you be ready to handle the floods of fiery comments?

Are you and your team prepared with:

  • A tried and tested escalation plan?
  • Community compliance rules that are clear and accessible to your audience?
  • Company policies and procedures, and any legal or regulatory constraints?
  • Have you undertaken scenario planning and developed pre-approved Q&As?
  • Are you adequately resourced?

If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail (disclaimer: this is probably our favourite quote at FORWARD). If you haven’t ticked the items listed above, it may be time to refresh your internal social media processes and procedures.

#2 Don’t broadcast the message, individualise it instead

Picture this: Your community manager has reported an influx of complaints made via the Facebook page about one of your products. The comments are coming through thick and fast, and you’re given the option to post a generic holding statement via Facebook. Would you consider this the best course of action?

There is definitely a time and a place for a broadcasted message, but when it comes to dealing with disgruntled customers, a more individualised approach can be more effective.

UK telco O2 faced a similar problem when, during a massive network outage, O2’s Twitter account became inundated with tweets from angry customers. Instead of issuing a generic statement, the company made the decision to respond directly to disgruntled customers with authentic, personalised comments. Their individual-centric approach received mass support from O2 customers, turning a negative crisis into a positive brand experience.

#3 Be true and authentic

Now is not the time for corporate jargon, wishy-washy statements or half-hearted responses.

If you have a position or particular viewpoint on an issue – i.e. your company agrees with halal certification – it must be stated clearly and communicated authentically with the utmost respect to those with opposing opinions.

Vegemite demonstrated this well when recently confronted by the nasty war over Halal Certification – an issue that saw dairy manufactures, The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company, pressured by consumers to drop certification resulting in the termination of a $50K Emirates contract.

Facing a consumer boycott if the Halal Certification wasn’t dropped (but let’s face it, who would ever really boycott this delicious spread) Vegemite responded with the following:

VEGEMITE is proud to be a spread for all Aussies. Thats why we’re Kosher & Halal certified, as well as suitable for vegetarians. While we enjoy a bit of banter as much as the next breakfast spread, anyone who insists on posting comments of hate, religious vilification or unwarranted grumpiness will be removed from our social media pages. So, no matter how you spread your Vegemite, remember – we’re just here to #SpredTheLove.

This respectful yet firm response ensured Australia’s most beloved breakfast food did not bow to pressures that were against their corporate philosophy.

#4 If you made a mistake – own it

As tempting as it is to justify your reasoning and prove your competency, it’s near impossible to stir up support and empathy if you cannot first take responsibility for your mistakes.

There are countless examples of brands that have owned their mistakes, and gone on to turn their situation into a positive.

One of the most memorable is from the Red Cross, when one of their social media employees accidentally posted this:

“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”

The company’s social media director subsequently followed with a humorous tweet, acknowledging the mistake.

“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys”

Although the mistake was one individual’s, Red Cross took responsibility as a company. Their quick thinking and instant acknowledgement of the tweet may have prevented more serious corporate embarrassment.

In summary, try not to justify or act defensively – even if there is a legitimate excuse for the mistake, your audience need you to own-up before they can see your side of the story.


It goes without saying that preparation, considered thought, and a fast response can be enough to quell the angry crowds when an issue arises via social. If you’re not already set-up to weather a social media storm, act now. Because if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that disaster can indeed strike when you least expect it.

Four Big Ideas From TEDx Sydney 2015

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of being in the audience of TEDx Sydney 2015 at the Opera House. It is the first time I have attended TEDx, and after years of watching amazing TED Talks on YouTube, the day did not disappoint.

There were 19 incredible speakers and eight musical and entertainment acts that inspired and moved us. It was a full day and at the end, although we nearly all had TEDxhaustion (thanks, Julian Morrow), it was a truly inspiring, educational, challenging and entertaining day.

I’ve heard it said that your mind is like a parachute and that it only works when it is open. Well, TEDx Sydney 2015 opened my mind, made me think and challenged my beliefs about what is possible for my life, our future and the future of humanity.

My big four takeaways of the day clustered content from different speakers that really moved and inspired me. 

1) Hope and courage trumps everything

TEDx Sydney 2015 was book ended by two incredible speakers, Charlie Teo and Nadine Champion.

Charlie Teo is an Australian neurosurgeon who is a world leader in some of the most difficult and innovative keyhole techniques that saves the lives of people with brain cancer.

Charlie spoke about being shunned by the medical fraternity and, despite this, pushing forward to conduct surgeries with incredibly slim chances of success, based in some part, on the hope of his patients and their families.

In particular, he talked about quality of life and importance of the patient’s self-determination. He reminded us that while there is still life there is hope and where there is still hope there is still a chance that things can change for the better.

Nadine Champion is literally a champion (and apparently she hasn’t changed her name). She is a martial arts sensei and undefeated fighter. Through her talk, we followed her journey of growth to become a champion fighter by changing her thinking, confronting her fears, tapping into depths of courage and not turning away from pain. What we didn’t know is that she is also a recent Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer survivor. It took all of her martial training to get her through her chemo and conquer the disease. She finished her inspirational talk with a demonstration of breaking a board of wood with her bare hand, the first time since the cancer. Inspirational, and not a dry eye in the house.

2) Our world is fragile but fixable 

A consistent theme of the day was the fragility and interconnectivity of the ecosystems of our planet, and the negative impact humanity is having on it. But there were also some great ideas on how we can change things for the better by thinking and acting differently.

Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist, shared some very compelling and frankly damning statistics about legal and illegal industrial fishing of our oceans. He provided a graphic warning to Australia that if we don’t think beyond our coastline and start protecting this great resource we may end up a great desert in our oceans with no life at all.

Hamish Skermer also known as “MC Faeces” is an Australian who has invented a compost toilet that is an environmentally friendly dry toilet that turns human waste into something useful – compost. He was entertaining, but at the same time brought home a serious message: We need change our perception about “number twos” and think of it as a resource.

3) Words count more than ever 

Unexpectedly for me, the highlight of the day was Susan Butler, the editor of the Macquarie Dictionary. She handles the selection and writing of new words. Far from being a nerdish job, Susan says she brings out “a mop and bucket” each year to pick up the genuinely new words left behind “after the party” and toss out the rubbish. Susan convinced us that the dictionary was not an anachronism in a digital world. Far from it. It still has relevance and by not being constrained to physical number of pages, new words and usages of words are not limited. Who knew charityf**k was an actual word? Apparently it is. So is dadbod. The people have spoken.

4) For things to change, first I have to change 

One of my most important takeaways from TEDx Sydney 2015 was that for our world to change, each of us has a role to play in affecting that change. Whether it is how we think, how we behave or what we will no longer tolerate. We cannot be passengers. From how we consume and what we waste, to what we create or what we demand from our governments and legal systems – we, the people, have the power to change the world.

Barrister Julian Burnside (a Living National Treasure) gave an incredible talk about the importance of justice and fairness and how he came to work in the field of human rights. His message was clear: Stand up for justice. Stand up for fairness. Needless to say, he got a standing ovation.

I could not possibly attempt to provide a review of the entire day or provide a review of each speaker. It was truly inspirational. I’d highly recommend going and watching the video of the event. Who knows, perhaps your parachute may open too! If you have the opportunity to attend TEDx next year I’d highly recommend it.

Also check out this video: Archaics Anonymous – In the Thicket one of the several great video presentations of the day.

FK TEDX Pass.jpeg copy

4 minutes with: Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Brand ambassadors can be a powerful way to support PR and influence campaigns. They provide expert voices to tell brands’ stories and can help establish a brand’s credibility and authenticity with the media, bloggers and other influencers.

We love to showcase the people we work with and for this month’s ‘4 minutes with’ we chatted with a brand ambassador we work with: nutritionist, chef, co-star of Good Chef Bad Chef and Vitasoy ambassador, Zoe Bingley-Pullin.

What do you love about your job?

I think of what I do as an evolution. I wasn’t very good at school when I was younger – I’m dyslexic and this affected my confidence. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished, but I’d always loved food so I went and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in London. I then combined this with a Diploma of Nutrition.

Nutrition and the socialisation of food is something I’ve found really freeing and fun. Being able to help people improve their knowledge and relationship with food makes me feel good and I love creating healthy dishes for others and myself and get such a kick out of seeing everyone enjoy it.

How has PR and media played a role in your career?

PR and media have been integral to my career and my work as a nutritionist, chef and brand ambassador. For me, food is all about enjoyment and I want to help people find joy in food through educating them on healthy choices, and PR and media have helped me get this message out there. Specifically I’ve worked closely with brands and PR teams through my role as a brand ambassador, where I raised awareness about nutritious eating.

What’s the most valuable career lesson you’ve learnt?

The most valuable career lesson I’ve learnt is to always say when you can’t do something. And if you realise you can’t do something, don’t pretend that you can. If you’re unable to deliver on something, it could have a negative impact on your business or brand.

I’ve also learnt the benefits of partnering with experts myself. There’s a wealth of talent out there than can help you, which has been especially important since becoming a mother. I’m trying to expand my business and I’m now working with a business coach to do this.

How do you choose which brands to work with?

I’m very strict about the brands I work with. I only work with brands that I love and that I’d give to my whole family. I also look to work with brands that are aligned with my views on nutrition and wholefoods, so that we can work together to build Australians’ knowledge on nutrition and healthy eating.

And a final question we’re all dying to know from a foodie – what’s been your most memorable meal?

One of my most memorable meals was in Rome with my husband, at a restaurant called Maccheroni. The dish was a simple pasta dish with olive oil, sea salt, chili and black truffle. I’m not talking about a little truffle either – there was so much truffle on there! I had it with a crisp green salad and a glass of rosé. It was a beautiful time and just showed that food doesn’t have to be overcomplicated.


NOTE: FORWARD has been working with nutritionist, chef and co-star of Good Chef Bad Chef, Zoe Bingley-Pullin for the past year as an expert for Vitasoy.

4 minutes with Emma Koubayssi

Your first job in PR?

I first got a taste of PR and publicity when I was studying at Glasgow University. I was hosting a radio show on Subcity Radio for four years and in my final year I joined the Comms team to help promote and raise money for the station.

It was an incredible experience and I was responsible for hosting and promoting three key events throughout the year. They were all music and arts focused and I was pursuing my passion.

It was a huge team effort and I did everything from helping to secure the artists and venue but ultimately promote the gigs and boost tickets sales. One of my proudest moments was our flagship event at The Arches – where we had 6- 7 acts and 800+ people through the door, a record in the history of the station.

It was tough juggling the role with final year dissertation, exams and general uni stresses but I loved it. You could say I was hooked!

After that I went on to work in one of Scotland’s busiest press offices. In Scotland they are passionate about two things – politics and football. And usually football comes first. So I cut my teeth at one of Glasgow’s famous football clubs – Glasgow Rangers, also known as one half of the Old Firm.

It was an eye opener to say the least. I didn’t know anything about football before started but I learnt a few things:

  1. To survive you need to adapt and you need to learn quick
  2. High profile often means high adrenaline and severe scrutiny from the media, your fans and your enemies
  3. Building relationships really is the crux of what we do

What is it you enjoy about working in this industry?

I guess that it is constantly changing and we are always learning.

No two days are the same and I like the variety of that. I also like that we can influence decisions and behaviours.

I learnt a huge amount about behavioural economics when I worked at London’s Kindred Agency and how it could drive social action and change. It really is quite fascinating.

From all of the marketing disciplines I also find that PR, influencer and content marketing is the most agile and frankly the most interesting. It’s not for everyone but I truly believe story telling is in our DNA. And I like telling stories and sharing useful, helpful content with people – in my personal life and also my professional.

We are often connectors. We like to join the dots, understand the whys and wherefores and then make things happen.   I often think I was born to communicate and bring ideas to life.

I probably had two career paths either PR or psychology and they are fairly similar when you think about it.

Best campaign to date?

It has to be the first project I ever worked on for the Scottish Government called Determined to Broadcast. We single handily converted a double decker bus into a radio studio, partnered with commercial stations to make it happen and secured local radio DJs and musicians as ambassadors.

The purpose of the project was to inspire and educate young people, using music and radio production to help develop their softer skills such as team working, problem solving and communication.

I was very junior but was the only team member in the country. My directors were working remotely so by default I got a huge amount of responsibility and it was the steepest learning curve of my life.

I got to manage the design & build and was the key point of contact for the school liaison, workshop training and facilitation, ambassador team and press and publicity. We managed a very high profile Ministerial launch with a live truck broadcast, it was fantastic.

That year I probably had the least amount of sleep I’ve ever had in my life but it was well worth it. I also won my first industry award and thought this is something I could get used to.


FORWARD is a boutique agency but with big clients and big thinking. I enjoy working in a small team and for an independent company that values excellent work, creative minds, responsiveness and the people who make FORWARD.

The team is nimble and bold. We are on the front foot and able to offer clients something different to many agencies in the market – influencer and content marketing which is underpinned by strategic communications.

One last thing…

There are three kinds of people in the world – people people, places people and things people. Once you figure out which one you are it will all fall into place. I promise.

Emma is an Account Director at FORWARD

The 15 most powerful verbs for 2015

Everyone loves a list. I do too. So I thought I would share my new years list. Ta dah! But rather than technology trends or social media predictions, here are my 15 top verb predictions for 2015. Perhaps you could call these my new years verb resolutions:

1. Reflect

Take stock. Step back. Look at where you are now. What is really going on? What are your assets? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What’s in your blind spot? What do you need to work on? Be honest. Become more self-aware. Take some time to reflect everyday. What went well, what did you learn, what will you do differently tomorrow?

2. Plan

How will you know this year has been a success? Failing to plan is planning to fail. Now is the time to set some goals. Make 2015 the year to follow your plan, report against your KPIs, track how you are progressing and importantly be agile enough to re-set, re-frame or re-boot if required.

3. Align

Get everyone working on your projects turning and facing the same direction and reading from the same playbook. Nothing will kill a project faster than confusion and obfuscation. Align early and realign mid-project if needed.

4. Create

Whatever your category or brand, create a content SweetSpot: be informative, helpful or entertaining. Just don’t be bland. From there think creatively about how you can share the most relevant content with your audiences and influencers.

5. Collaborate

Whether it be internally or externally; with partners, customers or consumers; make 2015 a year of new and interesting collaborations and partnerships. Whether it is creating a co-branded experience, a media partnership or just a creative brainstorm with a client; collaboration multiplies your efforts, creates synergy and helps you reach a bigger audience.

6. Reciprocate

Pay it forward. Pay it back. Be generous. There is no better way to build relationships than giving freely of your time, energy, and insight (or if you are a brand, giving something for nothing). If you want someone to do something for you, think first what you can do for them? And if they did something for you how can you return the favour. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

7. Share

Be open with your communication, be generous with your time, and definitely give stuff you no longer need away. We all have enough, so how could you help someone who doesn’t? And share more on Social Media, obviously!

8. Think

Before you say, write or send anything. Think about your audience and how they will receive the message. It is always good to have a filter between your brain and your mouth. One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” Let’s add “Think first, speak second”.

9. Check

Check your spelling. Check your punctuation. Check your facts. Enough said. And don’t rely on auto-spell check on Word. Get someone to peer-review for you, especially if this is not your strong suit. Always triple check the spelling of a hashtag (think Sephora).

10. Publish

This is the year we are all going to become publishers. Especially if you want to be an authority on a topic or a go to brand that people come to for help and advice. Re-purpose your content. Write once and publish many times.

11. Update

Resolve to keep your profile up to date. Whether it is your personal profile, your corporate profile or brand profile. You can’t set and forget. It should be something that you regularly revisit – and update often.

12. Be curious

(OK technically not a verb, but whatever). Watch. Listen. Look up. Look out. Ask questions. Investigate. It is only by reaching outside ourselves that we get fresh insights into the world around us. Make time to read the paper, follow some bloggers, and resolve to read a book a month. Go and see an indie film. Watch SBS. Get out of your bubble. Go for a walk.

13. Outreach

No one is an island. To be successful, you have to reach out to others. We do this all the time in PR, but it is something that everyone should do. Who are your clients, your stakeholders, your influencers, and your consumers? Reach out to them. Have conversations. Never eat lunch alone.

14. Stretch

Stretch yourself. You can do more than you think you can. We all can. So push yourself a little. Go on. (oh and perhaps literally stretch your body, as well – this is the year to get flexible, people!)

15. Celebrate

Go back to your goals and KPIs. Celebrate every major (and minor) win. How will you reward yourself? How will you reward your team? Make sure you take some time out regularly and acknowledge what you have achieved. Have fun.

So there you have it the 15 most powerful verbs for 2015. For your personal life or your professional life. Do a little bit more of each of these in 2015, and you will have a brilliant year. I promise.


5 Reasons why bloggers add brand value

Blogging has become big business. Not only do agencies and brands liaise with established bloggers to create and amplify campaigns, but also the industry of brand publishing platforms and business blogs are increasing in value.

Major bloggers are now commonly represented by specialist agents and draw big crowds and dollars, successfully leveraging their audience share for conversion into social and economic capital. Leandra Medine’s curated blog on outrageous fashion trends adored by women and despised by men, Man Repeller, is estimated to be worth $8.1 million, with more than 1.5 million unique page views a month. Similarly, Australian blogs such as Gary Pepper Girl, Substance Blog and Fat Mum Slim all have powerhouse followings.

‘Ordinary’ individuals are well and truly cementing their place as authoritative voices in the competitive fashion, beauty, health and lifestyle industries, but why should businesses reach out to bloggers to engage with their brands?

1. Your audience is hanging out there

There are approximately 214 million blogs on Tumblr alone. The general popularity of blogging can be traced back to the ease and low cost associated to connect with like-minded individuals, share personal views and spark conversation. Humans are social beings, blogging and social media just expands the friendship circle.

2. Personality counts

Blogging is such a powerful tool for brands as the flexible linking of text, pictures and video content assists in engaging audiences with a powerful brand message, story or personality. We recently introduced Rentokil to a new audience and made the issue of pest control approachable with a sponsored post and giveaway on Retro Mummy.

3. Click this way

Blogs, and online in general, provide an important digital point-of-sale for customers that can drive traffic or influence purchase decisions. Today it is fair game to spot something on a blog, check Instagram and link to an online store to check price and availability all before buying. Bloggers are now realising the power of their influence and receiving up to $200,000 commission a year on sales driven by their sites, through platforms such as RewardStyle.

4. Community spirit

People look to blogs to document life experiences, express emotion, involve in community forums and present opinions or ideas in writing (hence the need for effective community management – the good, the bad, the ugly). Working with blogs, brands have an opportunity to speak with audiences through a trusted influencer in a familiar online community space. Helpfully, bloggers are your audience, “they are as much consumers as they are media to be consumed”, so they know how to tap into their audience (and yours).

5. Be like the cool kids

Successful bloggers engage with relevant brands in an exchange of their social following and cultural influence. The illusive idea of ‘coolness’ is forever being chased by marketers to add brand value, but it isn’t so easily attained. Coolness is most often attributed to cultural objects (people, brands, products, trends, etc.) inferred to be autonomous. AKA: zero cares given.

Bloggers are considered an independent and trendy alternative to the mainstream media. This concept is particularly prominent in the fashion blogging industry – there is a reason girls with messy hair and a nonchalant attitude have the biggest online followings.

To wrap things up, here are two of my favourite major blogger x brand collabs:

Oraclefox x Billabong
Stab Mag x Corona Extra

10 things I learnt in 2014

It’s the end of the year. It seems like yesterday I was drafting New Year’s resolutions, writing top trends for 2014, and gearing us all up to rocket into orbit. It has been a big year, an exciting year and year of terrific expansion. With just one day left to go, I thought I would spend some time and reflect on what I have learnt this year.

In truth, some of these are things that I had forgotten and simply remembered or been re-shown, but there were also some big new lessons that really have helped me and F4 grow and mature.

1. There are surprises around every corner

Whatever you think is going to happen may not and you probably can’t even imagine what will. Definitely have a plan, but be aware that new things will always get thrown into the mix. Be nimble, flexible and open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Adapt. Pivot. Embrace change.

2. Hope is not a strategy

If you want something to happen, go make it happen. Sitting and hoping for the phone to ring, for the next big thing to happen, or for an awesome new team member to find you isn’t really a great strategy – go out there and make it happen, find them yourself. Use your networks. Fortune favours the bold, and all that!

3. Persistence pays off

Hard work. Sweat capital. Never say die. Persistence is one of our values for a reason. I’ve discovered that “no” can also mean “not now”. For me persistence is about respect, consistency, maintaining contact. To get results, sometimes you need to just peddle a bit harder…but boy it pays off when you do.

4. Be brave

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop once said to me “Fergus, be courageous: it is one of the few places left uncrowded”. I really should have this as a tattoo, and maybe one day I will. We are just about to turn three. Without the courage to take that first step, and the second, and the third and every other step after that we wouldn’t be where we are now. Importantly, don’t worry so much what other people think.

5. People make the business

The outcomes we achieve are all because of people, not technology. We have amazing technology but without an amazing team we’d be nowhere. At the end of the day we are in a people business and always will be.

6. Slow down. Take time to look up and out

It is really important to step back and smell the roses and see the big picture. We get so caught up in the detail sometimes we forget to see what is really going on. Getting inspired and looking outside is like oxygen for us. We need it to survive.

7. Don’t panic

When something goes wrong, and it will; stop, breathe, get the facts, pause, regroup, align and take action. The most important thing is not to freeze. In most cases it is not as bad as you think. Don’t catastrophise.

8. Learn from your mistakes

This follows on from 7. When things do turn out to smell a bit on the whiffy side we always try and understand what we could have done differently instead of pushing it under the carpet. Best practice isn’t something that just happens – it happens because you never stop learning, and passing on the lessons to those around you.

9. Celebrate success and be grateful

Every day. Every week. Every month. Every quarter. We are not machines. Success can be its own reward, but so can celebrating regularly. Wasting time together, blowing off steam, and showing pride in what we do energises everyone on the team to keep pushing, keep driving, keep being creative and keep on winning.

10. Pay it forward

There were and are an abundance of people helping us be successful and I really like helping others do the same. I have started mentoring a start up, and have spent some time with incubators. I get a lot out of this, too, and often come away with new ideas for F4 and how we can improve. I don’t ever want to lose the start up passion, energy and exuberance – it is actually a lot of fun.

I hope these few insights may inspire you and your teams into the New Year. So, from the team at F4 and myself, wishing you prosperity, fulfillment and job satisfaction in 2015.

Forward Thinking

Integrating content into your PR Planning

PR has changed. And we’re glad it has, change is good. Change signifies growth, evolution and if we’re lucky, transformation.

A culmination of digital media exploding, newsrooms shrinking, shortened news cycles and the epic rise of “everyone” as a publisher, there is no going back for PR.

PR has always been about influencing public opinion, and it still is about that. However, how we do this has changed. Content now sits centre stage within our strategies, and the way we incorporate content into these plans is changing rapidly.

Media releases are no longer the default go-to. Whilst they continue to remain useful to support the brand’s storytelling, they are not the only way to influence. It is crucial that news generation is now supported by solid content plans.

So how do you navigate through this unfamiliar territory?  What tools do you need?  Here is the process we follow at FORWARD when we are integrating content into our communications planning.

Identify the Content SweetSpot

Before you start any strategic or creative thinking around content, we recommend identifying your Content SweetSpot. FORWARD has created a planning tool which helps determine the most impactful content and whether it can meet your brief.

It will help you understand “the story”, assists with crafting the narrative, prompts you to consider what will grab people’s attention and ultimately change people’s attitudes and behaviours.

Through this process, you can question the uniqueness and originality of the content and how purposively it’s linked to your brand. We have four filters to identify how relevant and newsworthy content is:

1. Category & Brand Messages

This is effectively the pure brand and product message. Previously there was likely to be interest if you had a ‘newer’, ‘faster’, ‘better’ model. However, these messages alone no longer hold much weight in the earned space. Consider how your product is better and different to any others in your category.

What is the most important thing you are trying to convince people of as a marketer? What is your most persuasive and compelling message? Why would I want to try or buy or buy any more of your product?

2. Target Audience Interest

What’s it about what you’re doing that will make the consumer sit-up, care and want to take action? What’s in it for them? What insights are you connecting with? What triggers or barriers are you addressing?

3. Cultural Relevance

Look at the bigger picture, including research. Are there any meta trends that you can use which will influence and enhance your campaign?

Depending on your category this could be a nutritional, popular culture or even environmental trend for example.

4. Leverability & Reach

Why will media, bloggers or consumers think about and want to share your content? What is different and shocking about what you are trying to do? Remember they have an audience too!

Why will this be interesting to their viewers or readers? You may need to carve up your content and tailor it to the different outlets. It’s unlikely that everyone will be interested in the same angle or story.

Using these filters consider how informative, useful and entertaining the content is:

–       Will people learn something different?

–       Will it make them smarter?

–       Will it make them feel inspired, happy or moved?

If they are not left feeling enlightened, entertained or enriched then sadly it is unlikely you have identified the Content SweetSpot.

sweet spot

The Dumb Ways to Die campaign is an excellent example of what can happen if you successfully identify the Content SweetSpot. The campaign received unanimous applause from the creative community not only here in Australia but across the globe.

No doubt one of the most popular public service announcements ever created. It’s not surprising that it went on to become the most awarded campaign in the history of Cannes.

Why it worked?

  • Category & Brand Messages – the message was brought to life in an offbeat, unexpected and unconventionally funny way. It worked because it was innovative and fresh – a must when entering the earned space.
  • Target Audience Interest – the campaign song was super catchy smashing into the top 10 charts of iTunes within 24 hours and then was later developed into a game.
  • Cultural Relevance – ‘death’ is almost as big picture as it gets.  So what better way to engage a hard to reach target audience with a safety message around ‘death’ than with humour and fun loving sharable content (video, games and music).
  • Leverability and Reach – we couldn’t get enough of those covetable little characters, what was not to love! The campaign also had legs ramping up its messaging at key times of the year. Recently the stars of the campaign dawned ghoulish outfits to warn Melbournians about the recent dangers of Halloween – it’s the campaign that no-one wants to die!


Greenpeace hit the Content SweetSpot jackpot when it created its ‘Save the Arctic’ campaign. The campaign called on LEGO to end its longstanding partnership with Shell.

Why it worked?

  • Category & Brand Messages – this was simple Greenpeace wanted LEGO to call quits on its 50-year relationship with Shell. After all Greenpeace believed Shell was leading the charge in exploiting the Arctic’s oil supplies.
  • Target Audience Interest – the video parodied the hit song “Everything is Awesome” from the LEGO Movie to amplify its message.
  • Cultural Relevance – tapping into the love affair with LEGO, Greenpeace where careful not to vilify the much loved brand and created a beautiful yet hard hitting video which pulled on our heart strings and inspired people to take action.
  • Leverability & Reach – The emotive video was picked up by every major news desk in the UK and then spread like rapid fire across the world, clocking up 6 million+ views which accompanied the petition of 1 million signatures.


If you feel more comfortable embracing a tried and tested approach, just make sure you add a new spin on it. Capitalising on an existing trend can work but you will need to make it relevant to your audience to drive interest and ultimately sales for your brand.

Mobile fashion forward boutiques are quickly becoming all the rage. You could go as far to say they are tipped to be THE hot ‘vehicle’ being rolled out to revitalise the retail experience.

One of our favourites has to be Henry Holland’s Mobile Ice Cream Van probably the first ever roving fashion flagship store!

Why it worked?

  • Category & Brand Messages – launching a new fashion line is news but how can you make it really stand out in a very cluttered market? Well the team at House of Holland created a ‘first’ – a simple concept which often gets people to sit up and take notice of what you are doing.
  • Target Audience Interest – House of Holland tapped into the fan’s love of 50s vintage, the general fascination with pop-ups and extended the idea into a full-blown fashion truck tour of the British Isles – creating (most probably) the first ever. Not only did this campaign produce awesome content for his brand but it also provided his team with insights around potential new spots to open a store whilst building relationships with different high streets across the country.
  • Culture Relevance  – Mr Whippy ice cream is a household name in the UK, loved by the masses and sold predominately in ice cream trucks. Inspired by this, fashion designer Henry Holland used this cultural quirk to form the basis of his summer collection providing excellent content for his PR campaign. Launching his first flagship store in a truck named Mr Quiffy (named after his infamous hair) Holland transformed a traditional ice cream van into a roving capsule wardrobe which returned to London just in time to create hype at London Fashion Week.
  • Leverability & Reach – amplified across the robust Henry Holland network, content was seeded to the most influential fashion bloggers in the industry, such as Susie Bubble – alerting fashionistas that they could purchase a limited item from the new range.


It’s a wrap

Don’t lose sight of the importance of audience, messaging and the general nuts and bolts stuff but do reassess how you include content into your wider planning and strategy. Content is here to stay.

Hopefully, this has helped demystify how you can approach content and weave it into your planning and strategy.

We’ve been telling stories in PR since day dot, and we still need to do this. The new world of PR, packed full of influencer campaigns and content seeding, can and does work side by side with the established art forms of traditional media.

Content is merely another way that communications professionals can influence habits and behaviours.

5 ways to build your brand’s Instagram following

With an estimated two million plus Australian active users last month*, Instagram has evolved from a simple photo-sharing app when it launched in October 2010, to the powerful storytelling platform it is today. And with the introduction of Instagram advertising, its reach and influence is tipped to grow exponentially.

There’s no set formula to building a healthy Instagram following, and unlike Facebook and Twitter, it’s not as easy to promote your posts (although Instagram ads have just launched in Australia, there’s no self-service tool yet).

Growing a following takes time, but with the right tactics, you can significantly boost your brand’s exposure. Here are some tips.

 1. Start with a hashtag strategy

Don’t use a hashtag just because it’s popular. #love #instagood and #picoftheday are amongst the most overused hashtags on the ‘gram, but do they really lead you to your target audience?

Instead, think niche and think local. If you’re Instagram strategy focuses on healthy eating and wellbeing, why not pair a popular hashtag like #paleo or #cleaneating with Sarah Wilson’s #iqs. And if your post is relevant and location based, tap into local hashtags like #bondilife or #brisbaneanyday.

Think about your own, unique hashtag too. People often share images of products and brands they love, so make sure your hashtag is discoverable in your Instagram profile. And don’t forget to keep it short – we’re more likely to add #FUIC than #farmersunionicedcoffee.

2. Work with the Instagram influencers

The power of the Instagram ‘influencer’ (for want of a better term) is undeniable. From models and fashionistas to food and mummy bloggers, some of these users reach more people with one post than a magazine might do in one monthly edition.

Collaborating with Instagram influencers usually requires an additional cost, either in the form of paid sponsorship or product, but the investment can pay back in spades.

FORWARD recently teamed up with Rachael Finch to launch Vitasoy Coconut Milk. Rachael has a following of over 67K on Instagram, many of whom share her health and nutritional values. Rachael was given the opportunity to create a number of Vitasoy Coconut Milk smoothies and breakfast recipes, which she later shared with her followers. The response was dramatic. Hundreds of followers liked and commented on each post, giving Vitasoy a chance to gauge public opinion of the new product.

If you’re thinking of partnering with an Instagram influencers, it’s worth considering these points.

 3. Take advantage of special events

Special events provide us with opportunities to give handles and hashtags a little extra exposure. Whether it’s a media and influencer dinner, product briefing, launch party or experiential activity – special events give your audience an opportunity to capture content for their own Instagram channels.

FORWARD recently hosted a series of intimate dining events for one of our clients, and a number of highly influential guests were invited to attend.  To maximise the chances of guests snapping content for their social channels, the following was taken into consideration:

  • The hashtag and brand handle were seeded before the event via invitation or in email correspondence
  • Hashtags and handles were printed on event materials – signage and menus
  • Guests’ Instagram handles were followed by the brand before each event
  • Our MC was asked to politely remind guests (in a charming way) of the hashtag before the start of each event

When planning your event, it’s also worth considering what visual opportunities will be available to guests throughout the event. How’s the lighting? Do guests have time to capture the images they need?

Most importantly, don’t forget to like and repost your guests’ images and thank them for posting and attending.

 4. Run a competition

Another simple way of boosting your follower count is through an Instagram competition. Contests are relatively easy to execute and the prize pool doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive.

There are two main types of Instagram comps:

  • Enter to win, which requires users to post a photo with the relevant hashtag and your handle
  • Share to win, where the user is required to share your content (including your hashtag and handle)

Some things to consider when running Instagram comps are:

  • Make sure you ask fans to follow your account
  • Remember to draft Ts&Cs, and host them somewhere people have access to them – a Facebook note is a good back-up. And don’t forget to make sure your Ts&Cs comply with Instagram’s
  • Don’t make the entry mechanic too difficult – you won’t receive many entries if users are required to take a pic of themselves bungee jumping from the Harbour Bridge

For more tips, explore the Instagram blog here.

 5. Instagram ads

And finally, you could consider paid media as a means of boosting numbers.

Instagram has just launched ads in Australia, with Vegemite, Toyota and McDonald’s among the first to go live. The platform is still in a testing phase, so it might be a while before brands have access to a self-service tool like Facebook.

Keep in mind, all ads are required to go through a centralised global process – including approval by co-founder Kevin Systrom – so premium execution is a must.

For more info on Instagram ads and general tips for brands click here.

*Data estimate obtained via


4 essentials for selecting a brand ambassador

Brand ambassadors can be a powerful tool in any PR and influence campaign on the proviso that you choose the right one. It’s a big decision for any brand and needs to be carefully considered as they can either propel or tarnish a brand.

Remember Kate Moss’ infamous cocaine photo in the UK’s Daily Mirror that led her to being dropped as ambassador for H&M, Chanel, and Burberry in 2005? Or the 2009 revelations of Tiger Woods’ sexual indiscretions that cost him lucrative deals with TAG Heuer and Accenture.

Yes, they’re extreme examples but something every brand wants to steer clear of! On the flip side, there are good examples we can learn from…

I was interested to see Jennifer Hawkins in Sydney Confidential today, as a celebrity ambassador for a property development in Newcastle – it just goes to show you the power of an ambassador.

Australian celebrities do a particularly good job in this area, but you could also put this down to sound, strategic choices by brands. A couple of the biggest, Myer and David Jones, spring to mind with Jennifer Hawkins and Megan Gale, both have squeaky clean profiles and they’re aspirational, yet approachable at the same time. They definitely set the standards high for other Australian celebrities.

With a brand ambassador putting a face to your product and service, it can be an effective way to increase brand awareness but, in this social age there is even more pressure to find trusted ambassador that is the right fit for your brand.

To do so, you have to define what you mean by ‘right fit’. Do they already use your products or services? Do they fit a similar demographic profile to your customers? Could your customers relate to them? These are just some questions to ask when you’re thinking about the right brand fit.

Further to being the right fit for your brand, there are some other general considerations; here are four essentials we believe your chosen ambassador should have:

1. Profile

First things first, your ambassador needs to be highly recognisable. They need to have a profile and a decent one at that to ensure your get the reach and awareness you’re after, particularly when you’re paying the big bucks! When I say decent I don’t necessarily mean the biggest, you could have a brand that offers niche or unique products or services, so the market you are trying to connect with could be small. The key here is relevancy – make sure your ambassadors audience is relevant to your target market.

2. Reputation

To take a famous line from a Bond movie, “Your reputation precedes you,” know what people think and say about your ambassador. This will give you a good indication of how your audience will feel about them and how the ambassador will perform in their role. Do your research to unearth skeletons early, It can be quite obvious, but if your brand ambassador is trying to promote your health supplements and they are a chain smoker and have been photographed by the social pages, then that’s probably not the best look!

3. Credibility

This one is important – would your customers trust your ambassador? Would they easily identify the connection between your brand and your ambassador and genuinely believe they use your products or services? You don’t want a situation like Bonds’ ambassador Nick Kyrgios who admitted to not actually wearing underwear! Also, are they a brand tart – what other brands are they associated with and how would that affect your brand? You should make this clear at the outset how this could hinder or restrict your own ambassador campaigns.

4. The ‘X-Factor’

Ah, the ‘X-Factor’, by the way, I’m not talking about the show, but the concept is similar. This essential consideration is not usually rational or logical – it’s just a bit of je ne sais quoi! Your ambassador should have the ability to make others stand up and pay attention, the thing that makes them the most photographed or followed person of the moment, think Rachel Finch*, she is very hot right now. Customers should have a sense of admiration for them – ‘I want to be like them’ or ‘I want to do what they’re doing’.

Now, go forth and find your ambassadors and make sure you pop back soon to read my next blog on how to get the most out of your brand ambassador!

*Vitasoy is a client of F4