Over the past few days, two documentaries have been released on streaming platforms, one on Netflix and one on Hulu. The documentaries plot the hopeful beginnings and fateful end of Fyre Festival.

The festival, which didn’t make it past its first day, became a global laughing stock when droves of well-off millennials were flown to Exuma Island (not Norman’s Cay, the originally advertised island owned by Pablo Escobar) on a standard commercial plane (not the promised private jets) where their luxury villas were replaced by flooded disaster relief tents and their fine dining experience consisted of two sad looking slices of bread with an even more miserable slice of plastic cheese.

Much of the conversation about Fyre Festival has been an attempt to understand how people were so easily persuaded to part with their money (standard tickets started at $4000) by a slick social media marketing campaign, fronted by a team of Instagram influencers.

It was simple, really. Festival organisers (one of whom, Billy McFarland, who masterminded the whole thing, will be sitting in prison for the next six years) brought Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin, Chanel Iman and many more picture-perfect models to the Bahamas. Once there, they shot one of the most Instagram-ey videos imaginable, which was then promoted by over 250 influencers, who all posted a literal orange box on their Instagram feeds.

Then, a mixture of hedonism, fear of missing out, the promise of celebrity and good old content marketing kicked in, which meant that the festival sold out sooner than anyone had anticipated. The last hurdle, of course, was to actually start planning the thing…

There’s plenty of learning lessons to be taken from this utter mess, but one of the most interesting lessons to learn is that consumers’ relationship with influencers is starting to change quite significantly.

First of all, we are now being told that we’ve reached peak influencer, and that this particular method of marketing will start to decline, as users become more and more cynical about the picture-perfect and meticulously manicured lives that these influencers pretend to live online.

Secondly, horror stories like Fyre Festival will continue to happen, as marketers are finding themselves unable to keep up with the promises being made about their products and services on social media.

As well as this, the way that influencers declare their relationships with brands is starting to become solidified with rules and regulations, made startlingly clear on Thursday when a number of high-profile celebrities agreed to clearly state if they have been paid to promote a product on social media. This, of course didn’t happen out of choice, but due to intervention from the Competition and Markets Authority.

This more transparent approach to influencer marketing could be seen as a negative, but actually, a clear and invasive approach to marketing, coupled with a slightly more cynical consumer, could actually result in a much better environment for both consumers and these influencers.

If influencers start to recognise and appreciate the power they have, and maybe even pick and choose their brand partnerships with a little more care, we could end up with social media advertising that feels a little bit more natural. Couple this with a consumer who is actually able to identify when and how they are being marketed to, and maybe Instagram won’t become one huge advertisement for charcoal toothpaste after all.

So, what does influencer marketing look like post Fyre Festival? And what are the elements that every brand should seek to build into their social media marketing campaign? Here’s my top three examples of what the perfect influencer campaign needs to have.

1. Authenticity

Here’s a novel idea – social media is designed to be social! With plenty of opportunities to like, comment, retweet and repost, every post and every element of written copy should encourage a real and meaningful conversation. A simple question, for example asking your audience how their day is going, can go a very long way. This idea of being authentically you on social media, both from a brand and influencer perspective, is very important. Being able to proudly broadcast your brand partnership also creates a sense of authenticity.

2. Relevancy

If you are a brand that is marketing a music service to millennials, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of which influencers can help you communicate that message. However, what happens if it’s little bit more complex than that? Or if your product or service is location-specific? That’s where research skills become your greatest asset.

3. Creativity

This one should explain itself – the best campaign will always be the most creative, both in the way in looks and what is actually being said.

Have you got an example of your favourite influencer campaign (that isn’t Fyre Festival!)? Tweet your ideas to @agent_marketing, we’d love to hear them!

The Liverpool Waters project, managed by Peel Land and Property, is going to quite literally change the face of Liverpool – with an estimated value of £5 billion, it is the single largest development opportunity in the city and will bring a host of residential, business and leisure spaces to the waterfront area.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for the project, and with announcements coming out thick and fast, we thought we’d highlight some of the biggest headlines and our favourite pieces of work over the last year.

Here we go…

Work begins on Plaza 1821

A ground-breaking ceremony at the start of 2018 kicked started the development of Plaza 1821, a £21 million, sixteen-storey residential tower which will house 105 one and two bedroom apartments, as well as a dedicated amenity space on the ground floor.

The commencement of this work signifies a huge step forward for the project, and is the first time a shovel has hit the ground since Peel unveiled its vison for the 60-hectre site (that’s big!) over ten years ago.


The Current launches

With so much going on with the project, sometimes you need just one place to get your Liverpool Waters fix. That’s where The Current comes in.

We worked with the Liverpool Waters team to create this quarterly print newspaper, which not only includes all the latest updates, but also delves deeper into the project and gives you an introduction to some of the members of the Liverpool Waters team.

There’s lots of interesting stories in the publication teamed with some of the best images of the past 12 months and with a whole host of interesting stats and figures included, there’s something in The Current for everyone to enjoy.

Drop in at one of the locations near the waterfront to pick up a copy, or for the more digitally-savvy amongst us, read the latest issue online.

Everton announces move to the waterfront

Whether you’re a ‘blue’, a ‘red’ or something different all together, we can all celebrate the fantastic news that Everton Stadium Development Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Everton Football Club) has formally committed to lease land at Bramley Moore Dock from Peel to build their new stadium.

This is really great news – not only will Everton FC have a prime location on the waterfront to hold their matches, those attending the games will have plenty of options for a bite to eat or something to drink in one of the many planned leisure spaces, all against the backdrop of the stunning waterfront. It’s a win-win!

Peel wins top award for community achievements

The company behind the Liverpool Waters project, The Peel Group, was awarded the Responsible Business of the Year award at the Liverpool and Sefton Chamber of Commerce awards for their innovative programme of engagement which aims to deliver on-going social, economic and health and wellbeing benefits to local communities.

At the awards, Peel were commended for the time and energy the entire company has put into local charities and social organisations, including the 250+ hours the team have volunteered to causes like Armed Forces Day, the International Festival of Business, Sound City and much, much more.

Creating a stir online

The Liverpool Waters website, which was hand-crafted by Agent with love and affection, is one of the best ways to learn more about the project and all of the exciting announcements coming out about the upcoming developments. We love the way it looks and functions, and the stats are telling us that there’s plenty of people out there who also enjoy visiting the website!

Since it was launched in October 2017, there’s been over 22,000 visits to the website. This huge number of visits clearly demonstrates just how exciting the Liverpool Waters project is, as well as the demand for news and updates from those who are interested in the project.

On the website, you’ll also find ‘Discover what makes a place’, the animation created by our very own creative team, which highlights the vision of the project and the variety of ways Liverpool Waters will serve Liverpool and those who live and work here.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the site yet, now’s your chance! Head on over to liverpoolwaters.co.uk and see what you’ve been missing out on.

 

Making a decision about your career can sometimes be a scary task – you have to think carefully about the direction you want to go in life, and where you think you want to be in the next few years. For me, working somewhere where I know the values of the organisation aligns perfectly with my own is incredibly important, so when the advert for campaigns consultant role at Agent came up – I just had to apply.

When people asked me why I wanted to work at Agent, many answers came to mind, but here’s a select few…

1. The clients

Agent has worked with some really spectacular clients, and have put together some amazing campaigns. The Better by Bus campaign, which includes a fantastic website, an interactive game and a hilarious advert demonstrates Agent’s ability to create a multi-disciplinary campaign, which is integrated across a number of platforms and shows off the incredible work of everyone in the team.

Another great client is the Health Equalities Group, who Agent worked with on Give Up Loving Pop (GULP). This campaign was all about encouraging people to ditch the fizzy drinks for a healthier alternative, and I really love the visually stunning campaign Agent created which featured this fantastic animation. Having previously worked in healthcare marketing, this unique approach to changing people’s behaviour really stuck with me, and I can’t wait to hopefully get stuck into a similar campaign

2. The team

The Agent team are a really spectacular group of people, whose knowledge and creative energy shine through in every campaign Agent produces. When you’re working with award winners and selfie lovers, there’s no competition really!

Having a great team makes such a difference when you’re juggling multiple deadlines and responsibilities, and at Agent I feel like I’m part of one big happy family.

3. The office

This really needs no explanation – Agent HQ isn’t only a fantastic office where the team can get lots of work done, it’s also an inspiring creative space, with lots of room to brainstorm ideas, meet with clients and bring whatever is on the whiteboards from initial concept to full campaign.

Agent HQ is a great demonstration of how Agent understands and loves campaigns and marketing, and how the small details mean just as much as the big ones. It’s a pleasure to walk into the office every morning!

4. The perks

We all love a yoga session, meditation and a relaxing massage, but at Agent you get that on the regular due to the Agent Wellbeing programme. Throw in some flexible working on top, and I’m sold!

These aren’t just added extras however – it’s an important part of working at Agent, where your happiness and mental wellbeing are taken into consideration, because happy staff are better at their job.

5. Leo!

Who could say no to that gorgeous face? While having a dog roaming around the office may be unconventional for some, Leo does an incredibly important job at Agent as head of security, and of course is always available for chats and cuddles when needed. He’s also pitched in many times with campaign work, and I have found that he’s great for proof reading emails and casting his eye over blog posts (like this one – he loves it!).

So there we have it – five reasons why I felt Agent was the right place for me. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, and if you ever want to talk campaigns, drop me a line some time!

We’ve all been there. It was 9am on a Monday morning. The project team had gathered in a small meeting room to share thoughts on the week ahead. Several cups of coffee were dotted around the desk.

“We need the Exec to take a helicopter view before we can cascade relevant information.”

Here we go.

“Frank, I need you to speak to customer services and do a deep dive on CRM. I also need you to see if we have enough bandwidth to crosslink our functionality.”

Slumped in my chair, I stared at the cups of coffee and instantly regretted my decision to pass.

[image_with_animation image_url=”4472″ animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self”]

In defence of my former colleagues, every industry has its own language. To the initiated, it feels natural. Almost comforting. It is, in effect, a secret handshake.

We all like to feel empowered. And insider language, characterised by jargon, acronyms and clichés, does just that. It empowers us by making us think we sound authoritative. ‘He just used an acronym I’ve never heard of, he must know what he’s talking about.’

But, by its very nature, insider language is exclusive. To the uninitiated, it makes no sense. Within industries, different companies and even individual business departments can cut themselves off by becoming over reliant on jargon and acronyms that are essentially meaningless.

Going back to that Monday morning meeting, what I wasn’t prepared for was what happened next.

“Oh come on, cut the crap.”

All of a sudden, I didn’t need coffee.

“If we can’t even speak to each other properly, how can we expect our customers to understand us?”

Finally. Someone said it. I wish it had been me who saved that meeting. Or any of the 20 that preceded it. But it wasn’t. So, I’m writing this to make up for it.

Insider language may feel empowering, but it switches people off. Even worse, it can stifle critical thinking and do long-term harm to a business.

As someone who communicates for a living, I accept the possibility that I am overly sensitive to this issue. After all, it’s far more efficient to use acronyms instead of actual words.

But. And it’s a big but. Using plain English is not only more inclusive, it helps you to develop your thoughts. By forcing yourself to speak in terms that everybody understands, it soon becomes clear if you’re making sense.

Every business on the planet needs to be able to communicate with people outside of the company. Speaking in plain English, and encouraging colleagues to do the same, helps everyone to be more effective.

And you can do the planet a favour by significantly reducing the demand for Monday morning coffee.

I am vegan. People always seem surprised, but being meat-free is something that has played a big part in my life as I have always been vegetarian. Rumour has it I was sworn off meat at the tender age of two when I refused to eat a famously-branded chicken nugget – however, I like to think it was because I was an animal in my past life…

Turning vegan was a natural transition. I don’t like cheese, eggs or milk, which admittedly did cause a stir when I would be invited for tea at a friend’s house. But, I could always rely on my pal ‘the humble chip’ in times of need. A friendship that is documented loud and proud on my business card.

We’re lucky to live in a time when content is so easily accessible. We no longer need to wait for reruns of Ainsley on Ready, Steady, Cook and instead can be awakened to whole new, vibrant world of food via our laptops and smartphones.

This leads me onto my next point – the vlogging (video blogging) phenomenon.

For anybody who doesn’t know, I am a little bit obsessed with Youtube. My generation is the first to grow up consuming online media, and it’s an exciting time to be young. We no longer watch television, it’s all about ‘What I Eat Wednesdays’ and ‘What I Ate in a Day’. Sounds boring, but you must admit we’re all a tad voyeuristic.

As it’s January, and we’re all promising to shape up, tone up and mix things up, I have decided to compile a guide for Veganuary. It’s a trend that is about giving up animal products to get you through this sluggish time of year. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to go completely cold turkey… you can simply make the most of our city’s plant-based independent eateries.

Here are just a few of my favourite places to eat with my favourite vegan food vloggers throw in for good measure:

Maray

Maray is an all-round Agent team favourite (We LOVE it) It does vegan and vegetarian food well, and even has something for my meat-loving friends. Plus, anything independent is a winner in my book. I highly recommend their ‘half a cauliflower’ that I think about daily, falafel, hummus, chips (obviously), sweet potato wedges…

Maray also does Meat-free Mondays, something I’ll talk a bit more about later.

maray

Mowgli

I love Mowgli. Although it’s not completely vegan, I think it deserves an honourable mention for its stellar vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options.

If you try anything this Veganuary opt for their Picnic Potato Curry, Temple Dahl and Treacle Tamarind Fries. Plus, their Water Street branch is a must visit for all those Insta-worthy shots.

mowgli

Italfresh

Italfresh is another favourite of mine. They’re a locally-owned, Caribbean and plant-based who have pop-ups across Liverpool City Centre – whether it’s at The Bagelry or Baltic Triangle. If I could have their salads and coconut quinoa for every lunch, I would.

Definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled for – so check out their social media to see when they’re about!

ital

The Egg

An oldie, but a goodie. The Egg will always have a place in my heart as being the first place I ordered a meal without chips. Seriously. But, I do think it will always hold its own as a go-to place for all things zero-meat.

It’s perfect for Veganuary as its warm, cozy and most meals are under £5-6. I’m a big fan of their veggie burger with salad, pasta and plenty of chit-chat.

egg

Hot for Food

This is my favourite food vlog channel and blog. The team focuses on creating vegan meals that mimic not just their meat counterparts, but slay them. If you’re looking to change up your diet, want a different packed lunch or even fancy applying for the next series of Dinner Date then you need to check them out.

Fact: My Dad’s favourite food is well-done steak and he has become a big fan of Hot for Food’s siriacha-coated cauliflower wings. Which he is convinced tastes like chicken.

Cheap Lazy Vegan

Let’s face it, we’re all feeling the pinch this time of year. That’s where Cheap Lazy Vegan steps in. I turn to her (very successful) Youtube channel for when I need fast, healthy food on a budget.

She’s the Queen of meal prep, and if you’re not inspired by her turning two cans of chickpeas and a whole load of vegetables into a week of lunches then there’s no hope.

cheap-lazy-vegan

And finally…

Meat-free Mondays

Did you know that Meat-free Mondays were started by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney? Well, you do now – and all you need to do to take part is limit your Monday meat intake. Simple.

It’s a great way to get in some hearty greens, have fun with your diet and do something good for the planet. After all, we do have to live here.

Fact: According to Office for National Statistics figures for 2014, the average UK family spends £15.80 a week on meat and fish. The cost of meat has risen 10 per cent since 2007, yet most of the staples of a meat-free diet are cheaper. Eat less meat + more veg = save money!

I hope I’ve inspired you to go forward and conquer Veganuary*. Even if you decide that plant life isn’t for you, please do pay a visit to some of Liverpool’s amazing independent restaurants. You won’t regret it.

*Vegan hack: Oreos are vegan, if they’re bought in the U.K. Do with that information what you will.

Do you ever stop in the street, take a look around, and realise just how stunning our city is? Maybe it’s the awe-inspiring gothic magnitude of the Anglican, the faded marble facades above the shops on Bold Street or the breathtaking view of the city from Everton Park? Or just the Mersey ferry rolling by. Whatever floats your boat.

 

Well, we certainly get struck by the beauty of our city’s streets. Only not enough. It’s time we really embrace that, and that’s why we want everyone to get their phones out, point them at nice things, and get involved in the #WhereILiverpool competition. There’s the chance to win a year’s free membership to citybike, plus plenty of other brilliant treats up for grabs.

 

county-road

 

Over the past few months, we’ve been working on Liverpool’s The 20 Effect campaign. The team have been encouraging everyone living near Liverpool city centre to get walking and cycling more, rather than relying on cars to get from A to B. There’s so much of the city that you just can’t appreciate from inside a car, and that’s why we want everyone to put their best photos of the city taken on a walk or a cycle up on to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, using the #WhereILiverpool hashtag.

 

To really get noticed, you can tag The 20 Effect in, using @The20Effect handle. They’ll be sharing their favourites and the best photos will get some pretty special prizes.

 

The winner will receive a year’s free use of citybike, an Independent Liverpool card and a printed and framed copy of their winning photo. Two runners-up will get a card and their photo printed and framed.

 

river-mersey

 

To enter, all you have to do is show us a side of Liverpool we perhaps haven’t seen before, or something familiar at a new angle – something or somewhere that strikes you.

 

It doesn’t have to be anything incredible – just anything interesting you see on your cycle to work or your walk to the shops. The competition will run until Friday 30th September, and the prizes will  be announced the week after.

 

So get out there and get snapping: Let everyone know that this city is gorgeous and it’s #WhereILiverpool.

 

kensington

 

Okay, I have something to confess. My name is Laura and I am your generic ‘#Millienial’ who is addicted to technology.

Whether it’s social media (apart from Twitter, as I talk too much to be able be condensed into 140 characters) or perusing the internet for anything from shoes to supermarket vouchers for my Mum – you name it, I Google it.

However, before we talk about my mission into the non-digital abyss (spoiler alert), I want to talk about you. Raise your hand if you’ve found yourself swapping quality time with your dearly beloveds for quality time with your smartphone? Has dinner ever been spent with one eye on your Instagram and the other haphazardly trying to engage in real life conversation? I know, we’ve all been there.

But this was where I drew the line. When I noticed I could reel off more intricate details of Youtuber’s lives than of my friends, or I was spending a lot of time dissecting my appearance whilst simultaneously comparing myself to the ‘Insta-famous’, versus having conversations with meaning – I just knew something had to be done.

As they say, Facebook likes are not a currency and I would rather have ‘Here lies Laura, a good listener’ on my gravestone rather than ‘Here lies Laura, the girl who got 100 likes on her status’.

Phone for lauras blog

So, after spending one Monday night psychoanalysing myself, I decided to embark on an epic voyage of a ‘digital detox’. In short, this means:

1. My smartphone would be banished to the bottom of my bag. Switched off.

2. if I’m unsure of anything I have to actually ASK A PERSON, and erm…

3. I have to log out of all social media.

This experiment would last three days, Friday-Sunday, and I planned to document my journey in the form of a diary; for extra dramatics.

Here it goes…

Friday (Day 1)

After switching off my phone, it felt like dropping my (hypothetical) first born off at school. But I am committed to having a weekend that doesn’t involve a large amount of time selecting filters. Power to the tangible world!

With it being Friday, that means I would usually be chatting away on Whatsapp about weekend plans, then tune into a couple of vlogs, before hitting the open web for a peep at my favourite shopping sites. However, as it’s my digital detox I decided to take it back to the old school and go to my friend’s house unannounced. If house phones were still a thing, I’d have asked my Mum to hold on the dial-up internet so I could talk to my friend, but it’s not 2003.

Something else also happened on Friday: we got ready for a gig and didn’t take any photographs. This was very liberating as we could actually talk, catch up and not have to worry about perfectly positioning our angles to complement our social media ‘brands’. Bliss.

After heading to the gig, another monumental event occurred – the band started and we didn’t grab our phones to get a Snapchat. Well, wasn’t that a revelation! I didn’t realise how much time I would spend watching things through the screen of my phone – whether a gig or a night out.

All in all, Friday was a great beginning to my time as a digital dinosaur – not living vicariously through other people’s social media presence was also a plus.

Saturday (Day 2)

Saturday was my first full day of being in technological darkness. It was strange to wake up and not check my phone – believe it or not I made a breakfast that wasn’t mimicked from an Instagram account. Not having the internet for back-up also meant that I spoke to my family a lot more, rather than sitting in the kitchen with my eyes glued to pixels.

One thing I noticed is that I didn’t feel as self-conscious, there were no ‘morning after the night before’ pictures that I would ultimately compare my outfit/eyebrows to or most importantly, I didn’t have any video evidence of night out antics. Have I really found the cure for beer fear?

I did find it difficult making plans. How did the previous generation cope without the humble text? However, I was savvy and made a booking with my friends on Friday. But, I still had the potential drama of them trying to find me at our meeting point – being the awkward one sans phone.

When the time arrived to head out, I found myself having a conversation with the taxi driver rather than staring at my phone. Being away from technology made me appreciate people more.

Similar to Friday, I spent the day (and night) without documenting my every move via every app. Most importantly, when ready to paint the town red I didn’t feel the need for yet another session of online comparison. For the first time in a long time I felt 100% confident.

Sunday (Day 3)

Hello Sunday! Yet again it was refreshing to wake up without reaching for that phone, and I noticed even my family found it fulfilling to have a conversation minus being distracted by notifications.

Although I did feel at times insecure about walking down the street not glued to a device, which meant having to make eye contact with passers-by. I made a fair swap on Sunday to read a book instead, making a change from my usual three-hour blog session. My eyes have definitely thanked me for it!

I prepared for the week ahead without staring at a screen until 11pm, again, my eyes and mind felt a lot more rested and surprisingly I slept a lot more easily. I can’t believe the difference a weekend can make.

woman-hand-smartphone-desk-large

The Verdict:

I’d recommend stepping back from the digital sphere once in a while. Social media is a brilliant tool for people to connect, share views, or to become a budding entrepreneur – but there is such thing as too much.

Us Millenials are all guilty of finding validation through the means of likes and comments, however this can be extremely destructive. Nobody wants to be creating Snapchats, Vines or Instagram posts for acceptance from peers – social media should be used to support and share creativity rather than about creating a façade.

Females especially are inundated with content that pushes a particular aesthetic, and I for one was caught in that vicious circle of comparison. Stepping away from social media for just three days made me realise that there is life beyond the screen – we all have flaws and quirks but that’s what makes things interesting! Imagine if everybody’s contour was always on fleek? Yeah, we’d look good but it would be boring.

Most of all, I enjoyed real life conversation. Having to engage with people beyond texting or social media gave a lot more opportunity for a genuine connection, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of limiting your characters to 140, or losing touch with friends because they’re ‘always at the other end of the phone’ – I found it so liberating to talk about non-digi life.

So, if you’re going to do one thing before the end of 2016, step away from your phone for even one night and see how much more connected you feel with the world around you. The one that doesn’t include pixels, of course.

And always remember, everything looks better with a filter – so don’t get yourself down.

 

“When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

Alan Watts

This week is mental health awareness week, a time to take a good hard think about what we mean by mental health and what we can do to keep ourselves calm, clear and in control.

Asking why we even have a mental health awareness week is a good place to start. Each year in the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience an episode of a mental health problem, and about 10% of the population is affected with bouts of acute anxiety and depression from time to time. Yet despite this ubiquity, we still treat it as a taboo subject and we’re uncomfortable talking openly about it: especially with the people we work under the same roof with. Why?

I think this partly stems from the way that many of us still treat mental health as a binary issue. In other words, we regard people as either mentally ill, or not. This attitude probably has its roots in the way the UK and the US approached mental health during the Cold War, with the looming spectre of the psychiatric institution discouraging people from simply putting their hand up and admitting that they are not feeling totally okay.

Thankfully, psychiatrists have now realised that the issue is not so clear-cut, and that in vhealthportal.com/product-category/anti-anxiety/ reality mental health is a vast series of scales and spectrums upon which we are all placed. It’s not black-and-white, but a series of lighter and darker greys of different degrees, all running off in different directions. And we’re all in it somewhere.

Fortunately, this understanding is gradually trickling down to everybody. But there are still things we can do to accelerate the process. We can take a good hard look at ourselves and be honest about how we’re doing. We can weigh up whether or not our thinking habits are healthy, and we can talk about it rather than letting it manifest itself as frustration and alienation, both from ourselves and each other. This is something we all need to do, both in and out of work.

This may seem daunting, dull, or simply lame, but it’s crucial. And there is one practical and simple way of becoming aware of how you are, who you are, and how you think.

If I were to say ‘meditation’ to you right now, what mental image would that immediately conjure? Chances are that it involves someone with their legs awkwardly contorted into the lotus position, grubby face poking out amidst a great mane of beaded dreadlocks, chanting out an incessant, obnoxious drone of OM. But this just isn’t the case. Let’s talk about the relationship between mental health and meditation.

Each day at Agent, we all try and take 15 minutes to find somewhere quiet and gain some perspective on how we’re doing. Before you write us off as a bunch of crusty New Age hippies, I want to try and make you reassess meditation and its potential benefits, especially in the workplace. I want to reassure you that meditation doesn’t have to be something grandiose at all: it doesn’t even have to be particularly ‘spiritual’.

Meditation, in the secular sense, is simply the practice of exercising and focusing attention. It’s about rising above the mental swamp we spend so much time in – emails to be sent, who has or hasn’t called back, what was on television last night, what you’re currently missing out on, whether or not to have your top button fastened, what’s trending on Twitter, what’s for lunch, who liked your photo on Facebook, who didn’t, etc. – and achieving sustained clarity of mind.

Meditation, in this approach, is more of a means than an end. You are not striving towards anything, but simply exercising your capacity to stay alert, awake, and in control, no matter what you are doing.

When you are practicing meditation, you are not trying to force yourself into some profound out-of-body experience, but rather the complete opposite of that. You are not forcing your own agenda over each and every moment and building a foundation for disappointment and frustration. You are simply focusing your attention utterly upon the act that you are engaged in, whatever it is. It’s about being here, being present and being utterly with it.

With this understanding, you can quickly see how its benefits go far beyond the one-hour (or fifteen-minute) meditation session. Although classes or sessions are certainly helpful, the true test and application of meditation occurs in your work, in your day-to-day life and in how efficiently and masterfully you can exercise control over your own mind.

With the right approach, something as mundane as queuing up for a supermarket checkout or cleaning your kitchen can become endowed with a deeper meaning. Rather than being tasks to merely endure, they can become opportunities to engage with the wealth of experience around you, and to appreciate the here and now. They can become processes of self-realisation and mental clarification, and a chance to secure a victory in the ongoing mental battle between stress and peace of mind. As the late, great author David Foster Wallace said in a lecture about focus and mental control:

“It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars-compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.”

Someone with a good deal of practice in meditation will be able to truly know themselves, and keep track of the ways they are changing every day. They will be able to remain alert and switched on to whatever task they are currently doing. They will be able to squeeze more productivity out of a shorter space of time, and switch off from work when the time comes.

I’m sure you can instantly see how this could be invaluable in an office environment, where our attention spans and tendencies to fret are so often our biggest obstacles to producing brilliant work with plenty of time to spare.

It might not be the answer to everything, but it’s certainly a good place to start in the ongoing process of becoming aware of our mental health, each and every day.

With over 100 million monthly users and more than 15 billion Shazams, I’m clearly not alone in my love for the music app. Just to put it into perspective, Spotify, in comparison, currently attracts 75m active users, whilst Apple Music has somewhere around 11m. Essentially, Shazam uses a plethora of information to recognise and analyse music preferences from around the world.

Where would we be without Shazam? I’m ready to admit it: Shazam is my favourite app. Ever.

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It’s that clever that even the music industry is now using it to plan artists’ tours as the app can narrow the searches down to locations. Demi Lovato put her fans into the driver’s seat of her tour bus by announcing a partnership with Shazam which allowed Demi’s fans to pick where she would play on her European tour based on the amount of tags she received from each city. In turn Shazam increased not only its users, but also its brand awareness. Shazam and Demi got over two million Shazams in just 24 hours. It was a win-win situation for both.

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Record companies have now cottoned on to the fact that Shazam is a potential musical data goldmine. Through the sheer amount of tags that Shazam receives, it allows them to predict future hits – something that is priceless to record companies. Warner Music Group capitalised on this by becoming the first label to sign an official deal with the music app last year. This allows the label to be able to analyse Shazam’s data which has even resulted in them creating a smaller division focusing solely on artists found on Shazam.

Shazam has really progressed from just being the app you open to find out a song. It’s now shaping the career paths of future stars. Rachel Platten’s Fight Song has a lot to thank Shazam for. The song was played on just one American Radio station and the sheer amount of attention it gained on Shazam earned Rachel a record deal just 72 hours after the song aired. The song is now an international hit and supports Shazam’s theory that it can predict chart number ones 33 days in advance. The organisation even got 67% accuracy when predicting this year’s Grammy winners.

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The impact that these partnerships have had on Shazam is evident, now positioning the app as a vital player in the music industry. These partnerships as well as additional ones with companies including Disney and Google (this partnership has resulted in Shazam now officially being a verb)has secured $30million of investment into the business. The company is now valued at more than $1 billion.

Pretty impressive for the app known for just letting you know what that song is.

2016 has got off to a pretty spectacular start for us. In the first week of January we were featured on an episode of BBC’s The One Show which focused on our trial of the six-hour working day.

This piece in turn kicked off a national conversation all about work/life balance that we found ourselves right at the centre of. It was thrilling, intense, and exceeded all our expectations. We had television crews flock to Agent HQ and journalists from national newspapers on the phone, with Jeanette and I (the Comms team in full force) kept busy with all the non-stop press enquiries.

Below, we’ve put together a ‘Best Of’ collection of last week’s press. Browse, watch, read, enjoy and let us know what your favourite piece is!

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[image_with_animation image_url=”3312″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_blank” img_link=”http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/01/07/six-hour-working-day-sweden-uk_n_8928280.html”]
[image_with_animation animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self” image_url=”3305″ alignment=”center” img_link=”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/swedens-six-hour-day-comes-to-the-uk-at-agent-marketing-in-liverpool-a6802101.html”]
[image_with_animation animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self” image_url=”3309″ alignment=”center” img_link=”http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/01/08/liverpool-based-marketing-agency-institutes-mandatory-six-hour-working-day”]
[image_with_animation image_url=”3310″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_blank” img_link=”http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/08/a-uk-company-has-been-inspired-by-sweden-to-trial-a-6-hour-working-day-5609105/”]
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