New followers by party

Tactical voting spikes on social media in final days of #GE2019 campaigning

Vuelio’s sister company Pulsar has been tracking social media conversations across different platforms and highlighting the most popular policies, as well as what voters are saying and sharing online during the general election campaign.

The latest update of the Pulsar/89up social election index analysis of social media followers and content engagement across the main social networks and online sources reveals over 700,000 mentions of tactical voting on Twitter since the beginning of the general election, with a significant spike in interest from 5 December. The level of conversation on this topic has consistently risen since the start of the general election.

This follows prominent public figures with large social media followings endorsing tactical voting, including Hugh Grant and Deborah Meaden.

Graph 6

The 2019 General Election is primarily a two-horse race on social media with the Conservatives’ higher social media spend going toe-to-toe with the huge personal social media presence of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour campaign organisation Momentum and prominent party supporters like Owen Jones have also been amplifying the Labour campaign messages and directing activists to the most crucial electoral battlegrounds.

Analysis of social media followers and content engagement across the main social networks and online sources (blogs, forums, online news) between 8 November and 10 December 2019 reveals significantly higher volumes of engagement with content from Jeremy Corbyn in comparison to that from Boris Johnson. For both leaders, the engagement levels of their social media posts have dropped in the last week.

Post engagement

Media sources
The social election index also collated information on the media sources that have been shared most widely during the campaign. These point to sources which are arguably more favourable to the Labour campaign and show that the Guardian, the Independent and the Mirror are the three biggest websites shared during the campaign, with the BBC in fourth place.

Media sources

In terms of actual content, the most widely shared links during the campaign includes highly debated photo story of a four-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor due to a lack of beds. It also includes the ‘Register to vote’ link which ensured a large boost in voter registration early in the campaign. The impact of this spike in registrations will not be fully known until the results are in but it reveals new levels of engagement with politics.

Most shared links

Corbyn ahead
Jeremy Corbyn has been adding new followers at a much more rapid pace than Boris Johnson across social media platforms, with the Labour leader getting a major uplift in the number of his social media followers after his much-criticised interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on 26 November. Conversely Boris Johnson received heavy criticism for not agreeing to an interview with Neil despite all other party leaders doing one. A video clip by Andrew Neil with the topics he wanted to ask the Prime Minister about became one of the most widely shared pieces of content on social media.

New followers by party

Graph 2

The Jeremy Corbyn social media surge has had knock on impact on engagement for the respective political parties with Labour staying ahead of the Conservative party in terms of engagement across Twitter and Facebook. This could make a huge difference on election day itself in terms of boosting voter turnout and ensuring that party activists are campaigning in the constituencies where they can have the most impact on the overall result.

post engagement

The major issues of the campaign

Brexit remains the topic driving the most online conversation during the General Election, followed closely by the NHS. Yet, for arguably the first time in British history, the discussion about racism has driven almost as much conversation as the economy. Social media conversation about racism, whether anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, had 484,360 mentions compared 508,124 of the economy on Twitter in the period up to 10 December. Of the 484,360 mentions of racism, 86,108 are specifically mentions of Islamophobia (18%) and 203,224 mentions of anti-Semitism (42% of total mentions).

top issues in GE

On Monday 16 December, Pulsar will compare social media success with the results of the General Election to determine the impact of social media on the results. Whether Corbyn and the Labour party can use their current social media momentum to boost voter turnout remains to be seen.

Pulsar social election index

Corbyn’s winning the social media general election

Vuelio’s sister company Pulsar has been tracking social media conversations across different platforms and highlighting the most popular policies, as well as the most engaging political parties and their leaders during the general election campaign. The influence of social media on campaigning is greater than ever, and this analysis shows who is finding success.

The Pulsar/89up social election index analysis of social media followers and content engagement across the main social networks and online sources reveals significantly higher volumes of engagement with content from Jeremy Corbyn in comparison to that from Boris Johnson.

Pulsar social election index

Corbyn is also picking up new followers at a much faster rate than Johnson, with both finding more success on Twitter over Facebook.

Pulsar social election index

He had a major uplift in the number of his social media followers after his much-criticised interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on 26 November, as well as this tweet on 24 November, which was by far the most engaged with piece of content from the period we tracked.

Issues
The index also shows that people are developing and evolving their arguments on social media, with Brexit dominating the general election in terms of the volume of social media conversations, closely followed by the NHS.

The biggest surprise, compared with previous elections, is the dominance of Racism in the social media conversation, on par with the Economy in the discussion. This follows media coverage in recent weeks about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia largely affecting the two main parties.

Pulsar social election index

The comparatively low volume around Crime and Security and Defence, will presumably change in the final two weeks of the campaign leading up to polling day on 12 December, following the tragic terrorist incident in London on 29 November. It has already led to wider questions being asked about resourcing of the UK’s police and security services as well as the prison and probation service.

The breakdown of issues by party show which policy areas are cross-party in terms of the social media conversation and which are dominated by either Labour or the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems and the Brexit Party, who have polarised positions on Brexit, have their biggest share of the conversation around the EU, while the Green Party takes a larger share when it comes to Climate Change and the Environment as expected. Following media reports of the SNP’s position on Trident and the UK’s nuclear deterrent, it is unsurprising to see their highest share of the conversation is around Security and Defence.

Issues such as Housing, Pensions and Nationalisation see Labour dominate the social media conservation, whereas Privatisation, Crime and Immigration are dominated by the Conservatives.

Pulsar social election index

The index is noteworthy given the amount of influence social media is expected to have on the final two weeks of the campaign and the eventual outcome, which is reflected in widely reported party spend on social media advertising. Whether Labour can convert its social media success into votes remains to be seen, but this tracker will give an indication of the public’s behaviour online right up until 12 December.

The party with the greatest social media influence will also have an advantage on election day itself in terms of ensuring members and supporters are amplifying the party’s ‘Get out the vote’ messages and are also directed to the most critical target seats.

The social media analysis in the Pulsar/89up social election index offers insight into the general election campaign across social networks and other web sources, such as Blogs, Forums, Reddit, Online News and YouTube from the 8 November to 2 December. The report tracks mentions of key political issues and UK political parties and their leaders.

Rachel Friend

Weber Shandwick’s Rachel Friend Elected PRCA 2020-2022 Chairman

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has elected Rachel Friend, CEO of UK & Ireland, Weber Shandwick, as its 2020-2022 Chairman, following a vote at the AGM. 

Friend is responsible for Weber Shandwick’s network of offices across the UK. With over 20 years’ experience in the industry, she has spearheaded marketing and communications campaigns some of the world’s leading brands.

Friend will succeed Jim Donaldson when his term as Chairman concludes Autumn 2020.

Francis Ingham, Director-General of the PRCA said: ‘It’s a sign of the PRCA’s strength and size that someone of Rachel’s global standing will become our Chairman in 2020. In following Jim Donaldson, she will oversee the next phase of the PRCA’s story, as we build on our status as by far the world’s largest and most dynamic PR association.’

Rachel Friend said: ‘I am pleased to take on the role of Chairman of the PRCA. We are living through a period of unprecedented change; politics, sustainability, diversity, technology.  Our industry must continue to evolve at a rapid pace to engage audiences.  I’m very much looking forward to working with the PRCA to fuel the change.’

Fielding Communications

How to become an independent consultant: an interview with Kate Fielding, Fielding Communications

Kate Fielding is the founder of Fielding Communications, a new strategic consultancy that helps organisations achieve profile, positioning and impact through effective brand and communications strategies. Formerly head of strategic communications at the Natural History Museum, Kate’s background is in-house at well-known organisations.

We caught up with Kate to find out how she decided to make the switch and go independent, the benefits of freedom and her top advice for anyone thinking of becoming independent.

Kate Fielding Natural History Museum

How did you make the decision to become independent?
It’s a seed that’s been germinating for a long time. I was at a School of Life event seven years ago about finding fulfilling work. The central idea was finding the place where your values and your talents cross – the thing that you do well that makes the most difference to the world around you. When you advance in lots of careers you can end up moving away from a lot of what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Becoming independent was about going back to my roots in many ways and finding that sweet spot.

When I started out my plan was to be an actress, then I did two literature degrees and somehow found myself doing comms roles for scientific organisations. I spent a lot of time trying to mould myself to fit what I thought I should be in those roles. But more recently I’ve come to realise that the quirks in my background are actually an excellent combination to help my clients: a bit of drama, great copywriting, knowing how to tell their story and communicate it in an engaging way. The strength I bring is in combining incongruous skills and abilities that can unlock a fresh perspective.

What were the biggest challenges you faced/are facing?
You could always be more prepared and have more plans in place before you make the switch but there may never be a point when it feels like it’s enough. Some of the biggest challenges, especially as I’ve always worked in-house for fairly large organisations, is dealing with a lot of tasks that are business critical but that other teams have always taken care of. Suddenly I’m not just the comms person, but the finance, IT, admin and design person. I’ve been lucky to get loads of help and advice from my network, but it’s also worth thinking about what you can outsource if it’s not your area of expertise.

Time management is a challenge now because I use the Eisenhower matrix, but there’s no one to delegate the ‘not urgent or important’ stuff to! It forces you to be clearer up front about how you’re going to allocate your time – so I’ll spend a certain percentage on contacting my network, on marketing and on writing etc, where in a bigger organisation this all happens at the same time across different teams.

What’s the best thing about being independent?
Freedom. Obviously you’re constrained by the need to make money and you can’t sit on the sofa all day watching Cash in the Attic, but freedom in the sense of being able to steer a course and set my own standards – I’m now the arbiter of that. I have a very clear sense of what I can do and what I can achieve at any time.

I’ve also loved having the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of my network and spend my time in ways I previously wasn’t able. Yes, there’s an element that you’re hoping it will eventually turn into a future project or work somewhere, but these are people I know and like, and they have loads of interesting ideas and perspectives, so it has enormous value in its own right.

What’s the dream long term plan?
I’m not sure I know yet. The short-term plan is to prove I’ve got a viable business within the next 12 months – so it’s very much about hitting my financial targets each month. Beyond that, I’d like to get to the point where I can make choices about what I take on, so that I’m really honing in on that point where I’m using my skills and talents to make the world a better place.

What advice would you give others thinking of going independent?
I got lots of excellent practical and philosophical advice from other people who had made the leap, particularly Paul Sweetman of SweetComms who told me about the ‘rule of 3s’ – so as soon as you finish one task, contact three people you’ve not been in touch with for a while. Otherwise I guess the big piece of advice I’d give is – just do it! You can wait for years for the perfect time, or to get one more job under your belt, but sooner or later you’ve just got to take a leap into the unknown. I’ll let you know how it works out in about 12 months…

Video content

5 steps to stronger video content marketing

This is a guest post by Chris Shields, CCO and Co-founder, Binumi Pro.

From Fake News to Fyre Festival, a growing culture of scepticism has meant PR professionals are under pressure to change the way they create and distribute content. With online video expected to make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022, it is the most effective medium to reach audiences – yet over a quarter of PR and in-house agencies are struggling to make it work.

A recent study from The Pulse Business and PRCA, in partnership with video platform Binumi Pro, showed that 26% of PR agency bosses and in-house comms leaders are aware of the value of video, but have yet to find a way to make it work to their advantage.

Common pain points like high agency fees and a lack of understanding mean that, although 65% of agencies regularly include video in their marcomms activity, they are often disappointed with the results.

With that in mind, we have identified five key elements that will ensure your video content is strong enough to succeed.

1. Be authentic
Consumer trust is at an all time low. Research from Ipsos Connect showed that almost 70% of consumers distrust advertising, while 42% are sceptical of brands. The key to authenticity is letting your story be told by others. And who are the truest ambassadors of your brand? Your employees.

More often than not, these are the people that understand the connection between your message and your audience, and embody your values and ideals in a way that is relatable. Empowering your employees to define a narrative that is open and honest gives consumers a reason to believe in what you have to say.

2. Speak the language
Talk to your audience in a way they understand — and we don’t mean by scraping Urban Dictionary for slang. Identify their concerns, wants and needs, and the topics that spark conversation. When you speak to your audience on an emotional personal level, your message will resonate.

3. Snackable content
Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text. As 45% of consumers stop watching after 45 seconds, keeping video short and sweet is a must.

‘Bitesize’ content between 15-35 seconds is easily digestible, making for a higher view rate, and a more engaged audience. To ensure your video can land its message with or without sound, include responsive subtitles and hard coded text.

4. Stand out creatively
Differentiate yourself from the sea of sameness. With video, visuals are everything; the first three seconds of any video are the most important to capture the attention of your audience.

By employing eye catching visuals, dynamic text and effects, you create a ‘thumbstopper’ moment that elicits active engagement. Don’t underestimate the importance of a great thumbnail image either — autoplay isn’t a given.

5. Be nimble
The 24-hour news cycle means that timing is more important than ever, but the costs associated with using video production companies are still prohibitive for many, and the timeliness means they often miss out on what they set out to achieve.

Be smart about your approach to video content production and streamline your process for faster turnaround. Utilise user and employee generated content, create branded templates and frames, and develop a repository of clips to dip into as and when needed to captialise on trending stories and moments.

If you invest in the process, not just the product, you will find that video can become a high-performing element of any successful content marketing strategy.

 

Binumi Pro offers businesses a scalable way to take control of their video communications – at a fraction of the cost of traditional video production. Their unique offering enables your employees to shoot high-quality video content from a smartphone, edited to professional standard by their in-house team. The cloud-based platform offer comprehensive levels of client administration, and integrations for centralised corporate control to ensure Brand compliance.

CIPR AiinPR

AIinPR: The PR industry is not ready for AI

Public relations needs to get ready for artificial intelligence or risk being left behind according to #AIinPR, the CIPR’s panel on the impact AI will have on the profession.

Its 12-month global research project looked at close to 200 global publications on AI in the industry to date and found that PR is behind in understanding and usage.

‘Public relations is significantly behind the curve,’ said AIinPR panel member and PR academic Anne Gregory. ‘Other professions have already done major work on the shape of their future workforce, reviewing education and training, looking at their future role in organisations and society and at the ethics of AI. We need to get cracking, and get on with some serious work in all these areas.’

To help with this gap between PR and professions already upskilling in AI, machine learning and data, the AIinPR panel is putting together an AI Literature Repository where Government Reports, think tank findings, books and academic literature will be available for those looking to learn.

That this is an area the PR industry needs to catch up with quickly was clear throughout yesterday’s CIPR National Conference: Preparing for the Digital Future. Speakers including Tony Langham, Dr Stephanie Hare and Dr Lawrence Ampofo spoke passionately about the need for those in PR to understand our responsibilities with how the data we use is gathered and the emerging technologies at our disposal. For Government Digital Service’s Joanna Blackburn in her talk ‘Helping government meet the accelerated pace of users’ digital expectations’, the rate of change even within office environments is too slow, with technology advances far outpacing the rate of adoption.

AIinPR panel Chair Kerry Sheehan (taking over from Stephen Waddington’s work with CIPR on AI over the last two years) said the research on the understanding of AI in PR has made for stark reading. She said: ‘If, as a profession, we do not educate ourselves on AI and machine learning we really will risk getting left behind.

‘As the ones who provide a strategic management function driving business, profiles, profits and purpose; and, more importantly, the ones who should be best placing and promoting AI to aid the public’s adoption of good AI to realise its benefits, we have a vital role to play – we need to take this seriously. We are determined to encourage our profession, across the globe, to really own the AI agenda.’

Communicators interested in AI are encouraged to contribute to the AlinPR panel by adding academic materials to the Google document. The final repository of information, as well as the AIinPR 2020 plan, will launch on 16 January at The Turing Institute. If you’re ready to get ahead of the curve now, more information AIinPR can be found at cipr.co.uk/ai.

ICCO logo

ICCO World PR Report reveals optimism in the public relations market

PR agency bosses are optimistic about the growth of public relations in 2020 and beyond, according to findings from the International Communications Consultancy Organisation’s World PR Report published in partnership with Opinium.

The overview of the worldwide PR landscape uncovered profitability alongside optimism – on a 10-point scale, overall optimism about the growth of the public relations market hit 7 among surveyed PR leaders (as high as 7.7 in North America). Expectations for profit in 2020 scored 6.7 across all regions surveyed, with confidence in increased profits particularly high in Latin America (7.3) and Eastern Europe (7).

Drilling down further to see where market growth is being triggered and where potential challenges may be, the World PR Report also found that:

  • Increases in investment from Asia Pacific consultancies is expected for the influencer marketing space
  • Creativity skills will be most important for Western European leaders in PR
  • The most popular B2B social media platform for Middle East and Africa is LinkedIn (followed by Twitter and Facebook)
  • Retaining talent is a big industry challenge for agency heads, who cite high salaries as a difficulty for recruiting outside of the industry

ICCO chief executive Francis Ingham said: ‘The global PR industry faces the future in fine shape. However, we must not take our position of strength for granted. At every level of the industry and in every region of the world, we have a talent problem. We simply do not attract and retain enough of it.

‘That is because we do not pay enough. And we do not pay enough because we charge too little. At the heart of this is our failure to adequately measure the effect of our work. The global fall in AVE usage is a welcome sign of our progress on this issue. Along with AMEC, ICCO will continue to champion professional standards on measurement so that our industry can continue its growth with renewed confidence in its value to business and society’.

Will the future be filled with virtual influencers?

When locking in an influencer for your next project, someone with 1.7m followers on Instagram who’s guaranteed not to embarrass or drop your brand could be hard to find – if you’re looking among humanity, that is. The world of virtual influence is where you should be looking, according to the Virtual Influencer Agency’s Dudley Nevill-Spencer who held a session on the opportunities in the sector at this year’s Influencer Marketing Show.

In the virtual space, you can find Lil Miquela (she of the 1.7m followers) or Cade Harper (93K followers). They won’t push back on the artistic direction you’re going for in the campaign you’ve teamed up on, or openly criticise your brand if a collaboration goes wrong.

Virtual influencers could be a good choice for some brands, and they’re also unavoidable. Even if you’re not posting on their timelines on social media yet, you will have communicated with a virtual avatar or NLP (Natural Language Processing) while online shopping or looking for help online. Vuelio’s own virtual Licia is very helpful, for example (but she does have a real-life Licia counterpart).

Virtual help Licia

And there’s a science behind why they work so well, aside from never needing sleep, sustenance or HR intervention – our brains are hardwired to trust things with faces. Or, as the Wikipedia entry for the phenomenon of Pareidolia, puts it ‘cognitive processes are activated by the ‘face-like’ object, which alert the observer to the emotional state of the subject even before the conscious mind begins to process the information’. We have no choice to feel a bond, even for those of us who would never comment on a Cade Harper post to tell him that yes, friendship is so important.

Even when we know for certain that what we’re communicating with isn’t human, but a programme designed to elicit a set reaction, we trust them. And in some cases, more than our fellow humans. Research undertaken by DARPA, and mentioned during Nevill-Spencer’s talk, involving virtual therapists for soldiers showed that the robo-counsellors did better than their human colleagues during sessions, because patients felt no judgement while sharing with them and seeking advice.

Lil Miquela, as an influencer, will reply to her followers’ comments without any sense of judgement. Her recommendations and collaborations can elicit a similar reaction as a human influencer from her followers with no worry. What she, and her fellow virtual celebrities, can’t avoid, however, are the bad choices of those who plan out and license her career – Miquela’s controversial advert for Calvin Klein with Bella Hadid being a prime example. Not all collaborations will be good ideas for them and their creator/owners, or the brands they’re collaborating with.

Other uses of the technology are seen as worse than adverts with supermodels – deepfake technology use in elections could be particularly sinister. And if the uncanny valley smooth skin and designed-by-community personalities of the most popular virtual personalities muffle your automatic trust response at the moment (or trigger thoughts of Skynet, Black Mirror and Ultron), consider the possibilities these types of influencers have and are already demonstrating today. Nevill-Spencer believes that NLP tools can increase influencer/brand engagements from 2% (around where they sit currently) to over 15% in the future.

Paired with personality traits that inspire loyalty, virtual influencers look set to become part of the influence landscape. But they’re not real people, with real emotions, opinions or creativity – they can only respond within the limits of their creator’s coding so far. So while a future of virtual personalities to help and offer advice may be on the way, their real-life human versions are still worth building relationships with now and in the future.

Find the right (human) influencers for your campaign with the Vuelio Media Database.

Video

Over a quarter of PR agencies still haven’t found a way to make video work

Despite its value as a marcomms tool, 26% of PR agency bosses admit that they are yet to find a way to make video work in their communications. This is according to research undertaken by The Pulse Business and PRCA in partnership with video editing platform Binumi Pro.

Outside of the 64% of agencies that do use video regularly for comms, the reasons for those that don’t vary. For Chelgate CEO Liam Herbert, video can be a disappointing experience due to a ‘lack of understanding internally, poor briefing and application of the finished product’. In fact, a big cause of dissatisfaction in agencies was cost – with 38% that have recently used video production companies finding it more expensive than they would have wanted.

Cost is a factor global CEO and co-founder of M&C Saatchi Public Relations Molly Aldridge also considers: ‘I still think production houses are expensive. We have an in-house producer that creates them but we do outsource on occasion and those costs seem to rack up and quickly’. Yet it’s still a worthwhile investment for her work – ‘film is a super powerful way to convey creative platforms and ideas and we create a lot of videos to deliver client ideas and then as part of the media outreach to engage customers too’.

For those already utilising video, it’s a vital part of the comms tool box; ‘an important and persuasive part of our comms mix’ for managing director Elin de Zoete at PLMR; and ‘used frequently and will be used even more’ by Milk and Honey founder Kirsty Leighton’s agency.

‘PR and communications leaders on every side of the industry recognise that video is a hugely important element of their comms arsenal,’ Bimuni Pro CCO and co-founder Christopher Bo Shields commented. ‘The costs associated with using video production companies are still prohibitive for many, and the lack of speed means that videos often miss out on what they set out to achieve. Professional-standard video needs to be democratised out of the hands of video production companies and into the hands of the people that are actually using it.’

A breakfast roundtable discussion of this research into how video is being used in marcomms will be held by Binumi Pro and the PRCA in January 2020.

Online Influence Awards 2019

Lights, camera, action! The Online Influence Awards 2019

There’s just two weeks to go until the Online Influence Awards 2019. Celebrating the hottest talent from the world of influencer marketing, the Online Influence Awards will have top guests, critically-acclaimed host Jen Brister, fine food and entertainment into the very early hours.

The most influential night of the year is at The Bloomsbury Ballroom on Friday 22 November. We’re currently finalising a number of surprises for our guests, which this year will include the all-important photo booth from London-based Showtime Photo Booth. This special GIF photo booth is perfect for influencers as it will allow our superstar guests to create their very own GIFs live, which can then be easily shared across social media.

Unlike the traditional photo booth there’s no limit to the number of photos, or in this case, GIFs, you can create plus as soon as it’s made, you can get it sent directly to you through Twitter. Good news for our groups of guests, unlike traditional booths, this is not contained in a small room, so you can grab your whole table and all your friends, and make a GIF memory of the evening (dad bloggers, that means you).

Congratulations again to all our finalists, the Online Influence Awards is a night where we celebrate the best in blogging, vlogging, podcasting and Instagramming alongside agencies and brands who have collaborated with influencers to set the agenda and lead the conversation.

It’s not possible without the continued support from both influencers and brands, and the excellence they display in their work. We’re proud to work with and recognise the finest names in the industry.

The final available tickets are available for the awards here. If you’re not able to attend you can still keep up with all the excitement of the evening on social media by following our hashtag #OIAwards19.

A Question of Ethics

Keeping the influencer industry responsible

Despite growing pains and continuing flux, the influencer industry continues to expand into mainstream culture and creep its way further into marketing and PR budgets. According to a Markets and Markets report cited in the #FuturePRoof guide We’re All Influencers Now, the international influencer marketing sector is predicted to grow 30% by 2024 – that’s £4.5 billion to £18.4 billion.

Big money means big responsibility for an industry still catching up with the accountability that comes with success, and ethics and regulation is what many speakers at this year’s Influencer Marketing Show were advocating for.

Speakers across the breadth of agency, creator, brand and tech brought up the issue of how to keep the industry accountable and ethical. For influencer marketing guru Scott Guthrie, influencers themselves have a moral obligation, as well as a legal requirement, to do the right thing by their audience.

Some obviously poor choices from those making a living from social media were highlighted by Scott – the hijacking of California wildfire hashtags by some Instagram influencers being one particularly unfortunate example. That influencers should make more ethical choices was also urged by artist and activist Alice Skinner. Fully aware of the responsibility she has to the young girls who make up a large portion of her following, she works to stay true to them as well as her own values: ‘It’s hard, but I want to be able to live with myself. I’m learning not to work with brands that don’t align with what I make, that don’t align with my beliefs and ethics’.

Working with those brands that align with their values doesn’t just help influencers avoid a guilty conscience, it also helps with keeping that authentic voice necessary for holding on to an engaged following.

During the panel with Alice Skinner on re-defining influence, fellow creator Rob Eades mentioned the dwindling effectiveness of product review posts, an early mainstay of the industry that don’t work as well in a post-sponcon world. In Rob’s experience, ‘people see through that stuff now’. After missteps like the Kardashians using their influence to advertise weight-loss teas, followers are smarter and are less likely to engage with inauthentic brand alignment or unethical promotions (which the slimming tea controversy most definitely was).

But what of the brands and agencies that work with influencers? Industry professionals certainly don’t escape the blame. Being an ethical industry extends to finding influencers and high-profile voices that match with what’s being promoted – actress and vocal feminist Maisie Williams working with The Body Shop on its #ForeverAgainstAnimalTesting campaign being a good example of a natural fit. A bad example was Mystery Brand working with Jake Paul, whose young audience shouldn’t, ideally, be visiting gambling websites.

Agencies have a responsibility to choose the right influencers, and that includes making sure their choices and reach are diverse. Stephanie Yeboah (interviewed in Vuelio’s Women of Colour series), on noticing brands choosing to only work with white influencers, spoke up about it on Twitter and wrote a Metro piece that got a lot of attention in the industry. ‘Brands are actually trying’, said creator Adanna David during the panel with Alice and Rob, but they need to go beyond tokenism, ‘Sometimes I have been a token. But maybe it’s a sign that things are changing’.

Where individual sense and conscience checking won’t do it, future regulations on the influencer industry will. For Gary Csiszar, CEO and Founder of Post for Rent, speaking during a panel on creators and branded content at IMS, the future is going to bring restrictions: ‘Regulation will be more strict on influencer marketing – that’s what I’ve started to experience in different countries.’ It’s unavoidable, and bound to bring positive change, but self-regulation for individuals and companies working in the sphere is a good foundation. Asking: is this authentic? Is this ethical? Is this inclusive?

And not promoting gambling sites and slimming teas to children – that’s a given.

For more on ethics in influence and influencer marketing governance in public relations, sign up for our upcoming webinar ‘We’re all influencers now with Stephen Waddington, Sarah Waddington and Andrew Terry. The guide from FuturePRoof can be read here.

TwitterForBrands

Getting ready for launch – #TwitterForBrands

Gone are the days of launching your business, redesign, or new products purely in paper or in a TV spot. Brands have to launch on Twitter to take off, according to the platform’s director of business marketing Carlos Cantu, speaking on #TwitterForBrands at #MarTechFest 2019.  

Cantu came with the statistics to back up the importance of Twitter – citing that three in four people say that their Twitter community are the first people they look to for advice when wanting to learn more about a topic. And the immediacy of the response this social media channel can give isn’t the only advantage. Audience research has also shown that a 31% increase in memory encoding occurs when content is discovered in Twitter versus other online platforms, making it particularly sticky. Launch leaders (brands who are particularly good at this kind of thing) know the importance of using the platform to make things stick – another stat shared during the session was that launch leaders are 2.4 times more likely to use social listening (like Pulsar, which recently joined the Access Intelligence Group) as a guide for their strategies.

So how can the rest of us tap into Twitter as a tool when working on a launch? Research, timing, relevance, and reinforcement is key, advised Cantu. Start with finding the right audience for your product and message, and make sure to connect with what’s already happening. Coming into a conversation halfway is as weird online as in life, so tap into what’s going on in the space you’re entering. Pick the right time (the window for a successful launch has shortened, along with our attention spans) and be ready to adjust your strategy and collateral with all the real-time data at your disposal. And for better brand awareness? Cultural relevance. When Thea Lauryn Chippendale was mocked for her ASOS outfit on Tinder and went viral on Twitter, ASOS smartly invited her to model for the website.

Not every effort on Twitter is going to go viral, but reinforcement will keep the momentum going for your launch. Cantu’s advice was to go big on the reveal (another number to remember – 40% of launch budget was spent by the launch leaders on launch day and the days leading up to it), and then keep the conversation going with good creative that will resonate. Concise and clear copy, good visuals, and clear branding works when you don’t have a Tinder match nightmare to help tell your story.

In summary, it’s tweeting strategic and creative content that can get brands better results for their launches. With only 15% of brands interviewed in a recent Bain & Company study meeting their KPIs for social, there’s ample opportunity to make more use of Twitter as a launching pad. Did we mention we launched our new look this week, by the way?

ICCO logo

ICCO reveals 2019 Global Awards shortlist

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has unveiled a shortlist of world-leading agencies, in-house teams, and professionals for its 2019 Global Awards.

The Global Awards celebrate outstanding of PR practice from across the world. This year, entries for the 27 awards came from more than 30 countries and were judged by an international panel of experts spanning four continents.

Hosted by broadcaster and journalist, Ayesha Hazarika MBE, the prestigious awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday, 3 December, at The Savoy, London, uniting PR professionals from a diverse range of cultures and countries for a night of networking and celebration.

Chair of Judges, Loretta Ahmed, CEO, Grayling Middle East: “Once again we’ve had a stellar set of entries into this year’s ICCO awards. Work from so many countries around the world showed the judges time and again the power of storytelling done well in many different contexts. Winning agencies are to be commended on the dedication to stand-out creativity and flawless execution, with campaign measurement in particular improving year on year.  In many categories the winners secured their award by a fraction of a point, proving the quality of all agencies shortlisted. So, to every agency that was shortlisted and made it to the screens of judges around the world we commend you!”

Best of luck so everyone shortlisted and we look forward to hearing who the winners are in December.

Find the full 2019 shortlist here.

Ronan IMS

Vulnerability is a natural part of being a creative

With 89% of PR and communications experiencing issues with mental wellbeing, how can we implement change within our own organisations to find a healthier way of working through, and with, our vulnerabilities? Ronan Harrington of Alter Ego and Extinction Rebellion shared some of his ideas for change during ‘New Work Needs Inner Work’ at the Performance In Live, sister show to Influencer Marketing Live.

‘Overwhelmed is the default’, is how Ronan Harrington summed up work in the PR and marketing industry during his keynote speech. Looking out into an audience of communications professionals, Ronan proposed a new way of working based on emotional honesty and growing comfortable with uncertainty.

Marketers and PRs use stories and each of us brings aspects of our own story to our work, whether or not we mean to. Ronan told of childhood experiences being what drives him in his career and the importance of saying ‘Yes, and’ to each challenge that arises.

For him, vulnerability is a natural part of being a creative and shouldn’t be shied away from or hidden. Rerouting this scary aspect of work into honest and healthy office interactions is what will change experiences on this career path for the better.

Pretending traditional office hierarchies are normal ‘isn’t normal’
Hierarchy was pinpointed by Ronan as a ‘way of hiding’ for many workers in the world of PR and marketing – a way to avoid making decisions and staying in a space of self-doubt. A move to circular structures rather than a top-down approach was proposed – a formula Extinction Rebellion has adopted for its own organisation.

Whether the commuters in the audience agreed with the format some of the group’s recent protests took (Ronan himself acknowledged a few of the examples that may have impacted those in the room ‘build a culture where you can acknowledge mistakes and grow through them’), this structure is one that aims to encourage a less-toxic environment and accountability without blame.

Moving towards a ‘culture of wholeness and self-management’
The advocation of self-organisation and regular emotional check-ins with colleagues was met with an anonymous audience question about the importance of funding for these efforts – how can every company afford to bring in consultants for making a happier and mentally healthier environment for their employees, or therapists for regular check-ins during stressful projects?

Surveys and co-counselling within teams was recommended in response – small things that acknowledge the stresses and vulnerabilities of working in this creative sector and enable people to work through and perhaps be inspired by them.

Read practical advice on improving mental wellbeing in PR.

We're all influencers now

#FuturePRoof guide tackles influencer marketing governance for public relations

#FuturePRoof has published a guide that addresses the need for influencer marketing governance in public relations, with clear guidance for practitioners and influencers. 

According to Markets & Markets the global influencer market is currently estimated to £4.5 billion in 2019.

The #FuturePRoof guide aims to give public relations a voice around the critical area of governance for influencer marketing. It’s a challenging area of practice that sits between marketing and public relations, and earned and paid media.

Click here to read the guide: We’re all influencers now. 

Sarah Waddington, founder and editor of #FuturePRoof said: ‘The #FuturePRoof guide highlights best practice for brands, agencies and influencers. Everyone involved in a campaign has a responsibility to adhere to relevant advertising and media law’.

In the UK influencer campaigns are governed by existing Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) laws. Chartered Institute or Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) members are also covered by their own codes of conduct.

Francis Ingham, Director General of the PRCA said: ‘Influencer marketing is a burgeoning area of our practice, but the number of cases brought by the ASA and CMA proves that too many influencers and practitioners are falling foul of the standards we expect. All PR professionals working with influencers have an ethical duty to ensure they – and those they work with – comply with the law. The PRCA Code of Conduct compels professionals to deal honestly with the public – that includes being transparent over any commercial agreements with third parties. Failure to uphold these standards damages trust in our industry.’

The #FuturePRoof guide characterises the market, includes applicable media law and guidance from advertising, marketing and public relations. It covers guidance for campaigns where no money is exchanged, gifts in kind such as accommodation or travel, and financial payment.

The tension between earned and paid campaigns isn’t only a challenge for marketing and public relations practitioners, it has also led to influencers breaching advertising and trading standards law.

#FuturePRoof says that there is a growing need and opportunity for formal representation for influencers. What’s clear from the guide is that PR is in the best position to take ownership of influencer marketing, giving it both structure and clear standards for the benefit of business, influencers and the public.

Scott Guthrie, independent influencer marketing consultant and co-author of the guide, said: ‘The public relations industry has been slow to offer leadership on influencer marketing to practitioners and influencers. We’ve been here before with search engine optimisation (SEO), social media, and content marketing. It’s important that PR doesn’t miss out again’.

The guide has been written by Scott Guthrie, and independent influencer marketing consultant, and Stephen Waddington, managing director, Metia, and Visiting Professor, Newcastle University.

It includes contributions from Rupa Shah, Founder and Director of Hashtag Ad Consulting; Andrew Terry, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property & Media, Eversheds Sutherland; and Vuelio’s Jake O’Neill.

Vuelio is delighted to support the publication and will be hosting an exclusive webinar with Sarah Waddington, Stephen Waddington and Andrew Terry on 7 November. It is free to sign up, and if you can’t join us live a recording will be sent to all registrants after. Register here

Brexit

Boris Johnson: ‘A very good deal both for the EU and the UK’

A new Brexit deal has been agreed with the European Union only hours before the start of the EU Council meeting in Brussels.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted:

President Juncker added: ‘We now have a newly agreed Protocol that protects peace and stability on the island of Ireland and fully protects our Single Market. I hope that we can now bring this over the line and provide the certainty our citizens and businesses so deserve.’

The new Withdrawal Agreement says in specific relation to Northern Ireland that both sides are:
‘Determined that the application of this Protocol should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland’

It also underlined ‘the firm commitment to no customs and regulatory checks or controls and related physical infrastructure at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland’.

There is a clear view from the EU that while many key figures in Brussels might regret the UK’s referendum decision in 2016, the time has now come to pass a Withdrawal Agreement and to move forward to the second stage of negotiating the UK’s future partnership with the EU.

In a joint press conference with President Juncker, Boris Johnson said: ‘I do think that this deal represents a very good deal both for the EU and the UK. It represents a reasonable, fair outcome and reflects the large amount of work that’s been undertaken by both sides.’

The PM was also keen to stress that today’s agreement does protect the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Johnson called on his fellow MPs in Westminster to: ‘come together to get Brexit done, to get this excellent deal over the line and to deliver Brexit without any more delay so that we can focus on the priorities of the British people.’

He added that the UK was keen to leave the EU on good terms: ‘We are a quintessential European country. Solid European friends, neighbours and supporters.’

For many, the risk of the EU lowering environmental standards and workers’ rights has been a concern addressed by the ‘Level playing field for open and fair competition’. This is crucial to securing the votes of as many Labour MPs as possible, who will presumably have to vote against their party whip in order to support the deal.

This aspect has been moved from the legally binding withdrawal agreement to the non-legally binding political declaration. This might be a major stumbling block to securing the votes of Labour MPs in leave-voting seats, who have expressed a desire to leave the EU with a deal swiftly. Labour’s Seb Dance MEP said moving the level playing field measures is ‘as sure a sign as any, Johnson has no intention of honouring them’.

After days of intense talks, the Conservative Party’s confidence and supply partners, the Democratic Unionist Party, have not actually signed up to this latest deal. Some wonder if they will change their view before Saturday’s crucial votes or if the PM feels he has sufficient MPs on side, not to need the ten DUP votes. Equally will they abstain or vote against the deal? This will have a significant impact on the final result. On 30 March 2019 in Theresa May’s final attempt to get her Brexit deal passed by MPs, only four MPs abstained, as well as the MPs who never take part in votes like the Speaker, his deputies and the seven Sinn Fein MPs.

It is also worth reflecting on where the UK is heading if MPs reject a deal for the fourth time on Saturday. It seems the EU is minded not to offer the UK a further extension so in reality the votes on Saturday will be all the more crucial if voting against the deal will mean MPs are bring a no-deal exit a step closer. Equally MPs have voted for the motion on Saturday to be amendable, so it is expected that there will be another opportunity for MPs to vote on whether or not to have a second EU referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘As it stands we cannot support this deal and we will oppose it in parliament on Saturday’, and there are reports that Labour will whip its MPs to back a second referendum option on Saturday.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has said that the PM is in a ‘desperate situation’ and that this new deal is similar to Theresa May’s Brexit deal but that it is ‘going to be worse for the economy’.

Nigel Farage is not supporting this new deal, he said: ‘It’s just not Brexit. We will never be able to properly break free of the EU if we sign up to this’.

Equally with a Queen’s Speech vote looming next week, which without a majority the Government is likely to lose, it is unclear how close the country could be to a general election campaign starting and whether this deal is actually an attempt to bring about a general election, according to the Guardian’s Brexit correspondent Lisa O’Carroll.

PRCA

2020 PR and Communications Council: elections are open

The PRCA has announced that elections are open for the 2020 PR and Communications Council.

The PR and Communications Council provides a formal mechanism for the industry’s most senior practitioners to consult on the key issues impacting PR and communications. The Council – which acts as a think-tank for the industry – informs the PRCA’s strategic priorities and delivers best-practice guidance for professionals.

Elections are open to all PRCA Members, including those who have sat on the council previously. Members are eligible to nominate themselves, as well as other practitioners.

Elections will close October 30th, 2019.

Following the election, a new Chair and Vice Chair will also be chosen. Please inform Isobel Arrowsmith if you’re interested in nominating yourself for Chair/Vice-Chair, and submit a manifesto detailing your plans for the Council (no more than 200 words).

Amanda Coleman FPRCA, head of corporate communications at Greater Manchester Police, and current Chair of the PR and Communications Council, said: ‘I have enjoyed every minute as Chair of the PRCA Council this year. It has given me an opportunity to discuss the PR and communication issues of the day and the future with fellow practitioners from across the industry. It has been personally eye opening and very rewarding to see both the similarities and the differences in what we all deliver.”

To nominate yourself for the 2020 PR and Communications Council please email Isobel Arrowsmith at Isobel.Arrowsmith@prca.org.uk.

No deal Brexit

PR Industry prepares for no deal Brexit

Both the PRCA and CIPR have been awarded grants from the Government’s Business Readiness Fund to help the PR industry prepare for the potential of a no deal Brexit.

The PRCA plans to use its grant to deliver a programme of events and resources before the current Brexit deadline, 31 October. It will include legal guidance to ensure PR professionals remain compliant with the law after the UK’s exit.

Renna Markson, engagement director at the PRCA, said: ‘The prospect of a No Deal Brexit presents Public Relations businesses with an extensive list of logistical challenges. These include the management of personal data across borders to issues facing EU nationals employed by UK agencies. The PRCA will deliver practical information in a clear and digestible format to ensure the industry is as prepared as possible by October 31st.’

The CIPR will use its grant to launch a series of video shorts advising businesses on communicating effectively in advance of a no deal Brexit. Designed for a range of small businesses, the videos will feature PRs providing advice on general preparation related to comms activities, covering specific sectors such as Transport, Health and Construction as well as small and medium-sized PR agencies.

Alastair McCapra, chief executive of the CIPR said: ‘Most businesses in the UK are SMEs and many have not yet prepared for a no deal Brexit. How they communicate with their stakeholders in the final days before we leave the EU may be crucial to their future success. Our role at the CIPR is to help SMEs communicate effectively in these uncertain times; these videos will provide some certainty.’

The CIPR videos are being developed and delivered by Launch PR. They will be shared in paid promotion campaigns on social media between 16 October and 31 October.

Further information on the PRCA’s programme will be announced shortly.

Mental health 2019

3 ways to improve mental wellbeing in PR

Last week, to coincide with World Mental Health Day, the PRCA and Opinium published research into mental health in our industry. The study found that 89% of PR and comms practitioners have struggled with their mental wellbeing and that overall levels of wellbeing in PR are lower than the UK average.

There are many ways to contribute to better mental health in the workplace, from buddy systems and mental health first aiders to no-evening-email policies and encouraging digital switch offs.

These generally focus on two of the biggest problem areas: not being able to open up, which ultimately leads to more pressure and stress, and the stress of workload creating a bad work/life balance.

The PRCA and Opinium research, Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing in Public Relations, helps to define these main areas with three takeaways for employers to help their employees thrive:

  1. Recognising the impact of workload on mental health and introducing effective workload management techniques
  2. Offer mental wellbeing initiatives that enhance mental wellbeing and encourage their usage
  3. Embrace mental wellbeing throughout the whole organisation

All three foster company cultures that promote positive mental wellbeing and help to create a space where employees and colleagues feel comfortable to talk about their mental health.

What is clear is that more needs to be done to help improve mental health in the industry and give it a bigger focus. Studies like this help to shine a light on issues and provide practical advice but ultimately, it’s up to the agencies and in-house teams to adopt these for the benefit of all.

Victoria Del Rico relevance LA

New York, London, Los Angeles: Relevance International expands its global offering

Relevance International has opened its third office in Los Angeles, California. The new location is the third for the leading real estate, hospitality and luxury goods PR agency, with offices also in New York and London.  

The new office is strategically located between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills and will be led by director Victoria Del Rico. Del Rico is an experienced lifestyle PR specialist whose previous work includes press and social media campaigns for brands such a Piero Lissoni Associati, Acqua di Parma, Verono Homes and The Four Seasons in Florence.

Del Rico is fluent in Spanish and Italian, which brings the agency’s spoken languages up to seven, and specializes in foreign luxury companies looking to enter the US market.

Suzanne Rosnowski, founder and CEO of Relevance International, said: ‘With an undeniable synergy between the New York, London and Los Angeles markets, opening an office on the west coast has been an integral part of the global vision from the start.

‘As our client list has expanded to include projects and companies in the region, being on the ground in LA was a natural next step to further establish Relevance International as a premier global agency spanning reach into even more time zones – because media never sleeps.’

Consistently ranked in the Observer’s PR Power List as one of New York’s Top Specialty PR Agencies, Relevance International has a unique combination of boutique sensibility and international reach. The LA opening also marks the second anniversary of the UK office, which is now headed up by Fiona Harris.

It’s clear Relevance International is looking to continue with its current momentum, Rosnowski said: ‘Next, we’ll be exploring opportunities in the east – perhaps fairly far east.’