Sector: Social and Digital

Elon Musk’s Twitter move re-awakens the debate on freedom of speech and content moderation online

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In April 2022, businessman and Tesla owner Elon Musk stated in a letter to Twitter’s chair that the site was not thriving as a tool for improving freedom of speech and needed to be transformed as a private company. He then made his offer to purchase the social media company for $44 billion. While later in July Musk declared that he wanted to end his deal to buy Twitter, his plan and related statements still sparked a wave of concerns that highlighted unresolved issues around content moderation and freedom of speech online. This could lead to stricter rules for online platforms not only on illegal, but also on harmful content moderation.

After Musk’s statement, industry experts and civil rights advocates raised the alarm noting that the executive’s past critiques of social media suggest he would favor a hands-off approach to content moderation, at odds with Twitter’s current approach to curb hate speech, misinformation, harassment and other harmful content.

This reflects an ongoing policy debate on whether online platforms should only be obliged to remove illegal content or whether they should go further and moderate harmful (but legal) content such as, for example, disinformation, online harassment, cyberbullying, threats, and self-harm. While Musk seems to believe that moderation of harmful content could threaten free speech, most social media platforms tend to remove such content even if they are not legally obliged to do so.

Ethics and business interests behind moderation of harmful content
One could argue that social media companies are private entities which should be allowed to decide which kind of content they want to host – in the same way a newspaper chooses their editorial line. On social media however, this can have extremely dangerous and far-reaching consequences – Capitol Hill events and Covid disinformation are just two examples. Today, just four companies, Alphabet (Google and YouTube), Meta (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), ByteDance (TikTok), and Twitter, dominate the social media space.

The concentration of this industry has raised numerous concerns and led many to call for the breaking up some or all of these companies. In a world where a growing number of people get their news online, these firms have extraordinary, state-like power to shape social and political views on a wide range of issues.

Musk’s concerns therefore reflect the highly problematic issue of leaving a few private businesses decide what content should be displayed online. This could be used to effectively censor political ideas or to silence vulnerable groups.

Musk’s proposed solution of halting all content moderation except for illegal content is, however, a tricky one and risks creating a more unsafe online environment. Ironically, this is not considered to be good for businesses either as moderation of harmful content is often based on commercial considerations. Without it, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok would be quickly overwhelmed by spam, pornography, hate speech and violent incitement, misinformation, and conspiracy theories, which would drive away both users and advertisers. That happened for instance with Parler, Gettr and now Truth Social.

Some kind of moderation is therefore necessary not only to avoid a dangerous online environment, but it is also in the interest of mainstream platforms’ business model – including a hypothetical Musk’s Twitter.

A balance between free speech and content moderation – is transparency enough?
The real problem is not whether to moderate or not, but how to make sure that moderation actually targets harmful content and is not abused to pursue an arbitrary agenda of a handful of social media company. While the discussion around Twitter, Musk and freedom of speech has been extremely politicized, concrete solutions are needed, and fast.

Policymakers around the world are working on initiatives to tackle illegal, but also increasingly harmful content online – for instance with the Digital Services Act in the EU and the Online Safety Bill in the UK. The Digital Services Act has a focus on illegal content, but also contains provisions that could make moderation of harmful content more transparent, making it more difficult to arbitrarily remove certain content. Transparency requirements also apply to recommender systems such as newsfeeds, which often favour polemic and controversial content – making platforms accountable when they promote such harmful content.

The UK’s Online Safety Bill on the other hand also takes into consideration harmful content such as abuse, harassment, or exposure to content encouraging self-harm or eating disorders. Companies will need to make clear in their terms and conditions what is and is not acceptable on their site, and enforce it.

While transparency is one of the solutions put forward so far to ensure a safer online space, more is likely to be explored depending on the specific issues. Policymakers are already considering specific measures against particular kinds of harmful content, such as for instance the EU Code of Conduct on Disinformation. The debate is therefore likely to continue and involve different categories of harmful content, from cyberbullying to online harassment, from disinformation to self-harm – with the possibility of new rules for online platforms to comply with.

New problems call for new solutions, which we will explore in our series of articles around harmful content moderation online, starting with disinformation. Stay tuned!

Twitter missed a trick

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Twitter is the latest brand to jump on the ‘manifest’ trend, with its ‘Tweet It into Existence’ ad campaign which saw the brand unveil billboards across the US and Canada displaying aspirational tweets which have since become a reality from celebrities including Megan Thee Stallion, Issa Rae and Demi Lovato.

It is Twitters biggest celebrity campaign of all time, and aims to demonstrate that dreams can come true – especially if you talk about them repeatedly on Twitter. 

But did it have to be celebrities fronting this? Celebrities with millions of Twitter followers between them whose lives feel so far removed from ours? 

I am happy Niall Horan got through his X-Factor audition because it gave me the best six years of my life, and I am pleased Demi Lovato finally got to sing the national anthem at the SuperBowl because it genuinely was stunning.

This might just be the start of the campaign but it would be more refreshing to see examples from relatable people. Non-celebrities whose wishful thinking has become a reality. Whose dreams involve something more…attainable. 

More brands should be using real people as ambassadors. Celebrity-fronted campaigns alone are not enough to build credible consumer engagement, which is why this is a missed opportunity for Twitter. 

Audiences are bored of inauthentic celebrity interactions, and are falling out of love with the rich and famous. It’s why we’re seeing new creators soar on TikTok and users flocking to the platform to discover new and relatable content created by real people. 

If, as Twitter claims, there have been 59 million ‘manifestation’ tweets posted over the past three years, there must be loads of examples featuring people who’ve turned aspirational dreams into practical reality. 

Like my mate Louis, who turned his hobby of designing puzzle quizzes into a published book. Or Grayling recruit Ally from Aus, who fulfilled her dream of living on the other side of the world.

Imagine if Twitter launched this campaign globally with billboards celebrating every-day users, sharing stories from around the world, and demonstrating that ‘manifesting’ your desires on Twitter can be a powerful catalyst for action and change – even if your dreams don’t involve being a multimillionaire entertainment star.

Encouraging users to delve into their archives and RT their old tweets which have since become a reality – rewarding some of the best with a billboard in their hometown. A celebration of our local heroes.

Grayling named Large Consultancy of the Year at the European Excellence Awards

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Grayling has been named Large Consultancy of the Year at the European Excellence Awards 2021. The awards, which took place on Friday 10 December, also saw Grayling win across four other campaign categories including Food & Beverage (UK), NGOs & Associations (Russia), Benelux & France, and Germany, Switzerland & Austria.

These awards cap a stellar 2021 for Grayling across Europe. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Grayling has delivered double digit revenue growth across the continent. Underpinning this growth has been a strategy which has driven greater integration and collaborative working across all European offices. In the past year, Grayling has focused further on blended services, particularly higher margin, strategic consultancy work. The existing diverse set of skills has been bolstered by key hires across Grayling’s pan-European teams.

The multiple awards reflect the hard work of Grayling’s staff across Europe. Despite the pandemic, Grayling colleagues have delivered the highest quality of service for the clients.

Sarah Scholefield, Global CEO said: “We are delighted to be named Large Consultancy of the Year at the European Excellence Awards, alongside four wins for outstanding client campaigns across the region. These incredible results are testament to the dedication and hard work of our staff across Europe. The pandemic has presented many challenges for our people, but they have all consistently delivered outstanding campaigns and results. I couldn’t be prouder of the work they have done and we’re all looking forward to continuing this success in 2022.”

European Excellence Award wins:
  • Large Agency of the Year category – Grayling won the prestigious Large Agency of the Year award following a year which saw growth across all our European teams, in both revenue and employee numbers, and a number of landmark client wins.
  • Food & BeverageGrayling in London picked up the award for their work with fish-free brand Good Catch with OurWay, a campaign described by Ad Week as “promotional gold”.
  • NGOs & Associations – the Grayling Moscow team capped off a brilliant year – having already been named Russia/CIS Consultancy of the Year at the PRovoke Awards – with a win for their work with the Social Partnership Development fund, on the campaign No more Chemistry with Chemo which tackled the issue of social isolation for women with cancer in Russia.
  • Benelux & FranceGrayling in Paris were recognised for their work with client Badoo in the Benelux & France category. The campaign, entitled Yes to Real Encounters, Yes to Beautiful Encounters, addressed the issue of microaggressions in the dating process and involved the production of a short film to raise awareness and educate the public on the issue.
  • Germany, Switzerland & Austria – The team at Grayling Vienna have been named in the regional Germany, Austria and Switzerland category for their campaign Raising Worldwide Awareness about Old Age Poverty. This campaign was carried out with Vollpension Generationencafé and aimed to raise awareness about age-poverty and Covid-induced isolation for elderly citizens around the world.


For more information about the European Excellence Awards click here.

Grayling Austria 2x auf der Shortlist für den Staatspreis PR

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Gleich zwei Projekte von Grayling sind für die wichtigste Auszeichnung der Branche – den Staatspreis PR – nominiert: Der Launch von ‚alle jobs‘, umgesetzt im Auftrag des AMS Österreich sowie die #BakeAgainstPoverty Kampagne, die in Kooperation mit dem Vollpension Generationencafé ins Leben gerufen wurde.

Der digitale Talk der zum Launch der AMS Job-Suchmaschine ‚alle jobs‘ veröffentlicht wurde, ist in der Kategorie „PR-Spezialprojekte und Innovationen“ nominiert. Das Projekt wurde von Grayling in Arbeitsgemeinschaft mit UniqueFessler entwickelt und implementiert.

Die von Grayling begleitete Kampagne #BakeAgainstPoverty – der weltweite Aufruf des Generationencafés Vollpension an ‚backkundige‘ Senior*innen – hat es in der Kategorie „Corporate Social Responsibility, gesellschaftspol. Anliegen, Diversity und Inclusion“ auf die Shortlist geschafft.

Der Public Relations Verband Austria (PRVA) richtet den vom Bundesministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort ausgelobten Staatspreis Public Relations aus. In diesem Jahr wurden aus 77 Einreichungen jeweils drei Projekte in fünf Staatspreis-Kategorien nominiert. Die Gewinner werden im Rahmen der PR-Staatspreis-Gala am 24. November 2021 bekannt gegeben.


Kunde: AMS
Johannes Kopf, Gudrun Pallierer

Agenturteam: ARGE Grayling Austria/UniqueFessler
Moritz Arnold, Michaela Desch, Anna Steiner, Theresa Steffner, Sophia Hintermayer – Grayling
Robert Judtmann, Thomas Appl, Nathalie Neuwirth – UniqueFessler

Mit Unterstützung von: Uschi Juno, Beraterin für Onlinekommunikation, Geschäftsführerin MOKS und Fabian Pimminger, Web-Developer und IT-Experte

Kunde: Vollpension
Hannah Lux, Moriz Piffl-Percevic, Manuel Gruber, David Haller, Stephanie Cox, Annemarie Bernhardt

Agenturteam: Grayling Austria
Moritz Arnold, Kilian v. Dallwitz, Michaela Schützinger, Johanna Wenzl


Für Rückfragen:
Berith Hagvaag, Grayling Austria,

Targeted advertising in the EU: to regulate or to ban, that is the question

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The current European Commission has a strong digital agenda and has made Internet regulation one of its key priorities. Sofia Calabrese, Senior Consultant in Grayling Brussels’ New Technologies practice assesses what this might mean for targeted advertising.

“We are building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.” said sociologist Zeynep Tufekci in a popular TED talk, echoing concerns from policymakers, academics and civil society. It was 2017. Four years later, we still have not answered the question of whether should regulate online advertising – and if yes, how? This remains one of the essential questions around Internet regulation, particularly in the EU’s Digital Services Act and Artificial Intelligence Act proposals, encompassing issues ranging from data protection to Artificial Intelligence and from disinformation to democracy.

Since the adoption of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation in 2016, targeted advertising has been a shadow looming over EU policy discussions. The current European Commission has a strong digital agenda and has made Internet regulation one of its key priorities. Although there is no legislation solely dedicated to targeted advertising (yet), some of the most political digital files would attempt to address such issues. In particular, the Digital Services Act will introduce new transparency obligations to inform users if, and why, they are targeted by each ad and who paid for it. Some policymakers went further and asked for an outright ban on targeted advertising. This could happen if EU policymakers do not manage to find effective rules to tackle the matter, despite the subsequent negative consequences on the advertising industry and the online ecosystem. But why is targeted advertising such a delicate issue for Internet regulation?

Digital advertising is a form of advertising which uses the Internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to consumers. Targeted advertising is a form of online advertising that exploits users’ data to recommend products or services it expects the user will like. It is said to be more efficient for companies, as it minimises advertisement to non-interested consumers, and more beneficial for consumers as they will only receive advertisements for products they are interested in.

To be effective, targeted advertising requires huge amounts of data. According to David Hansson, cofounder of web software company Basecamp, targeted advertising is one of the main causes for privacy concerns online. If companies could not use data to target ads, they would not need to obtain the data in the first place and misuse it later. If this sounds extreme, think about the Facebook hearing by the US Senate at the peak of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked how Facebook could make money by offering a free service: “Senator, we run ads,” Zuckerberg simply replied.

Regulating targeted advertising: is it possible?

Privacy is the first issue posed by targeted ads that has been addressed by EU policymakers, notably with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the e-Privacy Regulation; the latter contains rules on cookies and is still under discussion. IAB Europe, representing the advertising industry, argues that such rules are sufficient, if properly enforced. Some policymakers, however, are pushing to include additional rules on targeted advertising in the Digital Service Act, the new EU legislation to regulate online content. Such rules would not only be limited to privacy, but also include transparency obligations and codes of conduct.

Furthermore, targeted advertising is managed by algorithms and algorithms are known to pick up and perpetuate existing biases. It is common knowledge that women tend to see more ads for lower paid jobs, while people of certain ethnicities are more likely to see ads on legal advice for petty crimes. This reinforces stereotypes and increases inequality. Artificial Intelligence regulation is one of the top priorities in the EU with the recent proposal on an Artificial Intelligence Act. This legislation will attempt to avoid discrimination and ensure high-quality datasets for certain high-risk AI applications. Such applications do not include targeted advertising – yet. More discussions on the issue are still to come.

Finally, many think that issues related to the effect of disinformation on democracy are exclusively linked to political ads, but this is wrong. Algorithms favour news with controversial headlines and tendentious material, as users are more likely to click on the link and get access to the page containing the ads. This eventually favours one-sided, polemical and fallacious content leading to more disinformation around all sort of topics, including on politics. Judging from the severe consequences of disinformation in real life, such as the events of Capitol Hill or the anti-vax movements, policymakers are finding it hard to fight disinformation online. Attempts such as the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation, transparency measures and promoting the role of fact-checkers do not seem to have succeeded yet.

Banning targeted advertising: is it worth it?

Currently, effective policies to address targeted advertising have not yet been found. Given the serious concerns around ads, it is therefore not surprising to hear requests for a more radical solution: an outright ban on targeted advertising. Some also argue that the benefits of targeted advertising are not as significant as they are presented, and that contextualized advertising would be a valid alternative to address some of the issues described above while maintaining equal profits for companies.

Is this the end of targeted advertising? There is no straightforward answer. At this stage, most policymakers are trying to find new rules that would not ban targeted advertising completely. Should that not work, banning targeted advertising altogether could represent the last resort. However, if policymakers manage to work with relevant stakeholders towards establishing efficient rules to address the main concerns – data protection, algorithmic discrimination and disinformation – it will be possible to make the Internet a safe environment for users while preserving the opportunities offered by targeted advertising.


Interested in further updates on the EU’s digital policies? Get in touch with our tech experts in Brussels:



First pan-European study published on the way politicians are using social media

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Grayling has published the first pan-European study on the way in which politicians across Europe are using social media, revealing the impact of geography, gender, age and political alignment on social media communications.

The study, which was conducted in partnership with social media intelligence firm Linkfluence, analysed almost 3 million pieces of content posted by members of Parliament across 17 European countries, as well as the European Parliament, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The role of social media as a channel for engaging policy-makers has been on the agenda for Public Affairs professionals for a long time – certainly since the power of social media in political campaigning became clear, which has been obvious at least since Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008.


But how are politicians in Europe actually using social media?

The volume of activity varies quite significantly in different parts of Europe:

“The results are, to say the least, fascinating but it’s not easy to pick out clear explanations for the geographical discrepancies we see in how much MPs/MEPs are posting on social media. It’s much easier to refute theories than to suggest explanations which fit the data. There are no doubt multiple factors, and that’s ok with us. We love data but, like all good Public Affairs professionals, we like speculation and a good debate even more”, said Russell Patten, CEO of Grayling Brussels & Grayling’s Chairman of European Public Affairs.


MPs are not focusing on the same platforms as their constituents

In all bar one of the 17 countries, Facebook ranks as the most popular of the three platforms amongst the general public, with Instagram second and Twitter third (Russia is the only exception; there, Instagram ranks first, followed by Facebook and then Twitter).

However, MPs are publishing 67% of their posts on Twitter, with 28% on Facebook and 5% on Instagram. And the data for followers are similar: Twitter accounts for 79%, Facebook for 14% and Instagram for 7%.

“The fact that Twitter is the most popular social media platform probably won’t surprise many people. However, the results also highlight the diversity that exists across Europe, as there are some very local exceptions to regional trends, even between neighbouring countries. For example, given that the Czech Republic and Slovakia were one country for many decades before 1993, you would expect Czech and Slovak MPs to behave in a very similar manner on social media. But the opposite is true. Twitter dominates in the Czech Republic; in Slovakia, on the other hand, more than 80% of posts are on Facebook – with Twitter playing a negligible role. There are many factors that might explain this, but without understanding these local dynamics, it is impossible for businesses to run effective multi-country digital advocacy campaigns”, said Jakub Hudec, Head of Public Affairs, Grayling Czech Republic.


MPs are genuine influencers online

The ‘engagement rate’ is simply the number of engagements (likes, shares, retweets, comments etc.) with a piece of content divided by the number of people who follow that account:

“Looking at the average engagement rate for Members of Parliament across Europe, they engage their audiences via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter much more effectively than the average social media industry benchmarks for brands, and even ‘influencers’. There could be several reasons for this. First, while Twitter, Facebook or Instagram users may choose to follow lifestyle accounts in a more ‘passive’ capacity, the action of following a politician will usually translate into ‘active’ political engagement and followers voicing their opinions on the posts. Second, politicians rapidly understood that social media platforms constitute a unique opportunity to transform the way they communicate to citizens. This means moving away from broadcasting to stimulating an actual debate which allows politicians to ‘survey’ their voters’ positions in real time, ahead of electoral milestones”, said Delphine Millot, Managing Director, Grayling Brussels.


Male and female MPs are using social media differently

Male MPs are posting slightly more on Facebook than their female counterparts, while women are posting more than men on Twitter (and Instagram). Average engagement rates for female MPs are also higher than for male MPs – at least on Facebook and Twitter:

“The fact that female MPs favour Twitter even more than men is a surprise given that Twitter is the most male-dominated of the three platforms amongst the general public. There’s also, let’s face it, the abuse that politicians receive on social media, particularly on Twitter – and which afflicts female MPs even more seriously than it does men. It is partly explained by the fact that female MPs are, on average, younger (our analysis shows that younger MPs favour Twitter and Instagram) and are also more likely to be on the Left (particularly the Centre Left, where Twitter is clearly the favoured platform). And why are female MPs seeing higher engagement rates for their posts on both Twitter and Facebook? Based on a couple of micro analyses, posts which generate the strongest engagement are those which find the right tone for the moment, are constructive and avoid trying to score cheap political points. Maybe this is where female politicians have an edge over some of their male counterparts?”, said Geraldine Schroeder, Managing Director, Grayling Germany.


Age is also a factor

“The fact that age affects social media use isn’t exactly a bombshell – most of us know that from our own families. What is surprising is that the very youngest MPs (the under 35s, who account for approximately 10% of the total) are not the most active group on social media. They are, though, the most active on Instagram and their content generates the highest engagement rates across all three platforms. This suggests that it’s quality rather than quantity for the youngest MPs: they understand how to use social media and prioritise generating comments, likes, shares and retweets over a high volume of posts”, said Ben Petter, Chief Operating Officer, Europe at Grayling.


The extreme ends of the political spectrum are disproportionately active


“This data shows that the Right have been the most effective at building a following on social media. The Right’s messaging is also spread more evenly across all three platforms, suggesting they are the most efficient in sharing content and certainly the most consistent in using them. The Right also has the highest level of engagement on Twitter – although this includes opponents engaging to criticise. All in all, the Right are winning on social media at the moment, by a very wide margin on Twitter and Instagram. This has also provided them with a platform to get noticed by traditional media in a way that hasn’t been available to similar parties in the past. It remains to be seen if this is a long-lasting structural benefit for the Right, as a result of social media making it difficult to convey political context, complexity and nuance or whether a combination of platforms moderating content more and other groups improving their messaging on social media mean this trend will change in the future”, said Clare Moody, former MEP and Senior Strategic Director at Grayling.


Interested in a bespoke analysis focused on priority topics for your company?

Grayling, in partnership with Linkfluence, has launched ‘GPol’, a social media monitoring and digital advocacy service. GPol combines the social listening capabilities of Linkfluence with the local market knowledge of Grayling’s unrivalled network of Public Affairs consultants across Europe. Find out more about how GPol will help you turn those insights into effective advocacy campaigns here.

For more details on our European research, or to explore the data for a specific country, please contact Ben Petter: or send an email to

MORE THAN goes the extra mile with Grayling

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Grayling has been appointed as a retained PR agency for MORE THAN insurance, part of RSA Group, as the insurer looks to build more emotional connections with consumers and reinforce its purpose of ‘doing more’ in the UK’s insurance sector.

Grayling will be responsible for driving brand awareness for MORE THAN across its home, motor and pet product lines, as well as providing creative communications and strategic counsel for the brand.

MORE THAN, first launched in 2001 with a mission to freshen up the consumer finance market, is currently undertaking a revamp of its marketing strategy across PR, social, digital and ATL. Brand communications is being underpinned by principles based on simplicity, ‘more-ness’ and forward-thinking to position MORE THAN as an insurer going the extra mile for customers, delivering more than words and treating customers as individuals.

Jonathan Curtis, Managing Director at Grayling, says: “We’re thrilled to be working with MORE THAN to reconnect consumers with its original brand ethos of doing more through compelling storytelling. As the UK’s best-connected agency, this brief plays right into our strengths of understanding both local nuances right through to what is happening at a national level. We’re excited about working in partnership with MORE THAN as it enters a milestone anniversary this year and deliver insight-led and creative campaigns.”

As part of the new brand refresh, MORE THAN recently launched a new website, putting simplicity, ease of use and care at the heart of its design.

James Loder, Chief Marketing Officer at MORE THAN, says: “PR and communications play a vital role in insurance, giving consumers reassurance that their provider will go above and beyond when they need them most, but also through using our insights to guide them on ways they can best manage their risks.

“Grayling stood out for us as the agency that can get truly get under the skin of the issues facing our customers, and has already been helping us creatively communicating how we as MORE THAN can be part of the solution.

“As MORE THAN celebrates 20 years of going above and beyond for our customers, we’re looking forward to beginning this new chapter with Grayling to deliver emotive, category-leading campaigns that puts more-ness front and centre.”



Grayling launches FIVE GUYS in Austria

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Slightly delayed by lockdown restrictions, Austria’s first FIVE GUYS restaurant finally opened its doors in Vienna on 25 January 2021. In addition to the set-up and management of FIVE GUYS’ local Instagram channel, Grayling Austria accompanied the launch with creative media relations work, including a Covid-proof event for selected media representatives and influencers. Furthermore, the full-service agency will continue to provide strategic communications support for the Austrian branch of the world-famous restaurant chain.

FIVE GUYS’ legendary burgers, hot dogs, fries and milkshakes were eagerly awaited in Austria. The restaurant that opened in the centre of Vienna on 25 January is the 20th FIVE GUYS restaurant in Europe. Founded in 1986 in Arlington, Virginia, the restaurant chain brings handmade food prepared with fresh ingredients and American flair to Austria. And while only available for takeaway and delivery for the time being, FIVE GUYS provides a welcome change to the home menu in times of lockdown.

For the market launch, FIVE GUYS relied on the expertise of Grayling Austria, and it will continue to do so for ongoing awareness building. The Vienna-based communications agency developed a customised communications and social media marketing programme. The Grayling client team around Managing Director Nicole Hall and Associate Director Julia Sommer is responsible for the overall communication concept and implementation.

“As an international communications agency with a compatible mindset and top English skills, our choice fell on Grayling. The team convinced us with its local expertise, strong network in Austria as well as deep know-how in social media marketing and media relations. Our market entry in Austria was a great success and we are looking forward to sitting down with the Grayling team to share a burger as soon as the pandemic allows it”, said Joel Bearden, Senior Director, International & Marketing at FIVE GUYS.

“We know the legendary FIVE GUYS burgers from the time when we could all still travel the world carefree. All the more reason for us to be excited about the opportunity to present this ‘love brand’ in Austria and to accompany it on its expansion journey. The account does not only let us reminisce, it is further confirmation of our expertise in launching international brands on the local market”, said Grayling CEO Sigrid Krupica.

Clouds gather for another year of growth in 2021: How can SaaS providers stand out?

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2020 demonstrated that business continuity relies heavily on cloud solutions. Many organisations had to pivot quickly to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, such as Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams to continue to function, and analyst group Gartner predicts a big couple of years ahead for cloud application services growth. The challenge for SaaS providers now is how to stand out and be heard in a noisy marketplace. We’ve explored four critical factors to consider, below.

A typical challenge for every technology business is to prove to customers and investors that its products can deliver business value. After a year when many organisations have gone either fully or partially virtual, SaaS has come into its own. SaaS companies are not quite pushing at an open door, but they are finding a market that is far more receptive to new ways of working.

A solid communications strategy is therefore going to be critical to generating awareness, and informing and persuading audiences throughout what will be an entirely virtual sales and training process.

How can SaaS vendors stand out in 2021?

  • Get your messaging right

As I highlighted last year, brands need to ‘read the room’ during the pandemic and communicate with empathy, understanding the challenges that their target audiences are experiencing. Unlike much of last year, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This means that messaging may need to adapt for a world that will – at some point this year – emerge from a year of significant disruption. The key thing is to highlight how your product or service will not just enable businesses to operate more efficiently in a remote environment now but also into the medium and long-term too.

  • Get creative – and be authentic

Brands always need to be creative to stand out, but during the pandemic we have seen creativity take a different course – often homespun and within the context of the current situation. Your customers will want to see the real you and the faces behind the brand before they invest their time and money in your product or service. Are your brand heroes and experts front and centre of your campaigns? If not, can they be?

A great example of getting creative around a topic in the context of the pandemic was a campaign Grayling devised and ran for Lloyds Bank in 2020 to highlight the important subject of fraud. We looked at users’ social media profiles to see what potentially compromising information they had put out about themselves and got a barber to slip those personal details into casual conversation during a haircut. The responses from the unsuspecting customers who had just turned up for a haircut were priceless, but it did draw attention to a serious issue. SaaS PR teams should be adopting the same approach: find a critical topic that the company’s solution addresses, explore a human-interest angle to get people to take notice, and execute in a content-rich, newsworthy way.

  • Prioritise customer care

Many brands are still getting used to operating cloud-based tech. Not only will the sales process be virtual, but so will customer care. Chatbots can only get you so far and – with word-of-mouth marketing so important to winning new business – personal and attentive customer service is more important than ever and can help you stand out.

Interactive online conferences and webinars are plentiful, so it is key to innovate, stand out and add value with any webinar or online conference that you run.

  • Demonstrate a higher purpose

One of the big themes around communications even before the pandemic was around brand purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR). How are you making a difference beyond your day-to-day and how can that be tied back to your product or service? A great example of this in action is Scottish brewer BrewDog, which has dedicated resource to creating hand sanitiser and offered its empty pubs for vaccination stations.

It is going to be very hard to predict how 2021 will pan out, especially the first half of the year. What is clear is that SaaS is going to continue to feature heavily in organisations’ day-to-day as they look at ways to operate more efficiently and productively.

If you need help with your messaging, positioning or with raising your organisation’s profile during 2021, do please get in touch: