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.


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


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.


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.’


9 out 10 practitioners struggle with mental wellbeing

The PRCA and Opinium has conducted the industry’s largest piece of research on mental health, which has found that 89% of PR and communications practitioners have struggled with their mental wellbeing.

Launched today, on World Mental Health Day, Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing in Public Relations highlights the pressures facing PR practitioners and that overall levels of wellbeing in PR are lower than the UK average.

The report also reveals that 31% of PR professionals say they find their job very stressful and 59% says this stress is caused by their workload.

The report reflects the findings of this year’s Mental Wellbeing Audit, which gathered the views of more than 400 practitioners. The Audit incorporates The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, which is recognised as a best practice mechanism for gathering data on mental health and wellbeing.

Francis Ingham, Director General of the PRCA said: ‘The time for our industry to take action on mental health is now. And this is the latest in the PRCA’s concerted effort to do just that. While it’s encouraging to see more practitioners discussing mental health with colleagues, far too many of our colleagues are still suffering. For too long, our industry has tip-toed around this issue but we now have an opportunity to take action and create meaningful change. Attitudes are changing. Conversations are starting. Let’s now enact the recommendations of this report to create tangible change for the future of our workforce.’

If you would like to get involved in the PRCA’s campaigning work on mental health, please contact Neha.Khatwani@prca.org.uk.


Boris Johnson CPC19

‘Get Brexit Done’: the Conservative Party Conference 2019

The Conservative Conference will probably be judged by party insiders to have been a success. Certainly, the feedback from delegates in the bars and fringe meetings in Manchester was one of optimism and a determination to get Brexit delivered by the end of October.

The stories about Boris Johnson’s private life, either relating to Jennifer Arcuri or allegations by the journalist Charlotte Edwardes that he had squeezed her thigh at a Spectator lunch in 1999, seemed to have very little cut-through with Conservative party members and activists. They queued around the block to hear his first leader’s speech and it was well received in the conference hall, even though there was surprise from the press pack that not a single new policy was actually announced, with journalist Gaby Hinsliff calling it ‘a triumph of rhetoric over reality’.

It is likely that any new policy ideas are being saved for the inevitable General Election campaign or they will be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

Nonetheless the Prime Minister set out his vision for the UK post-Brexit with his characteristic optimism. His concluded with: ‘This country has long been a pioneer. We inaugurated the steam age, the atomic age, the age of the genome. We led the way in parliamentary democracy, in female emancipation. And when the whole world had succumbed to a different fashion, this country and this party pioneered ideas of free markets and privatisation that spread across the planet.

‘Every one of them was controversial, every one of them was difficult, but we have always had the courage to be original, to do things differently, and now we are about to take another giant step to do something no one thought we could do.

‘To reboot our politics, to relaunch ourselves into the world, and to dedicate ourselves again to that simple proposition that we are here to serve the democratic will of the British people.

‘And if we do that with optimism and confidence then I tell you we will not go wrong. Let’s get on with sensible moderate one nation but tax-cutting Tory government, and figuratively if not literally, let us send Jeremy Corbyn into orbit where he belongs.

‘Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s bring our country together.’

The conference also gave Mr Johnson’s newly appointed cabinet ministers opportunities to speak from the main stage and many were impressed with Sajid Javid’s authentic greeting to his mother, who was in the audience to see his first conference speech as Chancellor.

He spoke briefly in Punjabi as he addressed his mother who was in the audience attending her first ever Conservative conference. He said she had been proud when the first Asians moved into Coronation Street in Manchester 20 years ago, but now his family were the first Asians to move into Downing Street.

Another proud British Asian, Home Secretary Priti Patel also delivered a powerful address during the four-day conference, which made it clear how important restoring a sense of law and order will be to this Government, building on the Prime Minister’s ambition to recruit an additional 20,000 new police officers over the next five years.

The Home Secretary set out her ambition to end the free movement of people once and for all.

She concluded her speech with this rallying cry: ‘This party, our Conservative party, is backing those who put their lives on the line for our national security.

‘So, as we renew our place as the party of law and order in Britain, let the message go out from this hall today: To the British people – we hear you; to the police service – we back you; and to the criminals, I simply say this – we are coming after you.’

Away from the conference hall, Vuelio hosted a panel session with Prospect magazine on how social media is changing the relationships between MPs and the public, where Nicky Morgan admitted to no longer reading her messages or notifications due to online abuse.

In another fringe meeting, the Chancellor hinted that he is prepared to look at scrapping or reforming inheritance tax as he ‘understands the arguments against that tax’. Principally, these are taxing the value of someone’s money, property and possessions upon their death, when they have potentially already paid tax on it during their lifetime.

Also briefly dominating the conference media coverage on Tuesday was the altercation that took place in the International Lounge within the conference centre’s secure zone involving a senior backbench Conservative MP.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown was asked to leave the conference after he tried to enter a room with a guest without the relevant pass. He described the incident as ‘a minor verbal misunderstanding’.

The fracas resulted in a lockdown of part of the Manchester Central Convention Centre. The MP later apologised unreservedly, and a Conservative party spokesperson said: ‘The incident was totally unacceptable’.

Within hours of the conference concluding, the media discussion was dominated not by the PM’s speech, but by the release of his latest proposals to leave the EU with a deal. We await to see how they proceed and when MPs might get a vote on these proposals, possibly before or more likely after the EU Council meeting with a potential crunch Saturday sitting on 19 October.

While this is also the final day for a formal extension to be made to the EU to ensure the UK doesn’t leave on a no-deal basis, we are very unclear as to how the Government will proceed with this given they repeat that they will comply with the law but also that the Prime Minster has absolutely no intention of asking for such an extension.

The Vuelio team spent the week in Manchester and have put together a Canvas highlighting key speeches, fringe coverage and the top media reaction.

Prospect panel

Is social media changing the relationship between MPs and the public for good or bad?

On Monday, Vuelio co-hosted a panel debate with Prospect magazine at the Conservative Party Conference on how social media is changing the relationship between MPs and the public.

The panel session was chaired by Stephanie Boland, head of digital at Prospect magazine and she was joined by Nicky Morgan MP, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Damian Collins MP, chair of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee; Matt Warman MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for Digital and Broadband; Marie Le Conte, political freelance journalist; and Vuelio’s Kelly Scott, head of political and stakeholder strategy.

The session followed research that Vuelio commissioned from MPs across the House of Commons to understand the importance of social media in public engagement. The findings showed that 81% of MPs believe that public attitude has changed for the worse because of social media and 76% believe social media has made it difficult for the public to source credible information.

The panel session was wide ranging, with discussion covering abuse on social media and how to regulate this, the need for a global set of standards for social media, how we protect vulnerable people in a digital age and microtargeting.

When asked specifically about microtargeting on social media, Collins said: ‘Our electoral law should be established by parliament not Mark Zuckerberg’. He argued that all political advertising had to be clearly indicated, as this is not always the case with some campaign groups.

Warman pointed out that when it comes to microtargeting, ‘we’ve had [microtargeting] as long as we’ve had advertising’, and that we need to be realistic about what this means.

When it comes to managing and tackling abuse on social media, the panel had a mix of advice. Morgan admitted that she no longer looks at her notifications and messages on Twitter and said that the noisy abusers have drowned out those with genuine right and need to contact her, while Warman admitted that he still responds to pretty much everyone on Facebook and is currently trying to work out how to back out of this arrangement.

Vulnerable people are particularly susceptible to harmful images and as Scott highlighted, ‘there are whole groups of people who can’t use traditional forms of media’, which is why technology has to be the long answer when it comes to protecting these groups and making social media accessible and safe for all.

The panel all agreed that social media is now a fixed part of the political landscape with Le Conte commenting, ‘political discourse used to be tied to what happens in the Commons, now MPs end up arguing with journalists, each other and everyone else about the topic of the day and this never stops’.

Morgan reminded the audience that it is important to remember that ‘the whole of the public is not represented on Twitter or Facebook’, reflecting our research that face to face meetings are still considered the most important way to engage with constituents.

Pulsar Access Intelligence

Access Intelligence acquires Pulsar to accelerate social media capability

Access Intelligence, the parent company of Vuelio, has acquired Pulsar, the leading insights and social listening company.

Pulsar uses AI to analyse conversational and behavioural social media data to help brands understand their audiences and create impactful content.

It will join the Access Intelligence portfolio of products that enable businesses to understand, target and engage key opinion leaders according to their brand, product or industry. This includes Vuelio, the platform that helps organisations make their stories matter, and ResponseSource, a network connecting journalists and influencers to the resources they need, fast.

The deal will drive improvements in our capabilities, notably in trend forecasting, social listening, audience segmentation and evaluation including campaign attribution. The combined customer base will now include more than 3,500 global brands, as well as over 200 employees across London and the US.

Joanna Arnold, CEO of Access Intelligence said: ‘Pulsar is the best enterprise social intelligence platform in the market and a great addition to the Access Intelligence Group. This acquisition will enable us to keep our clients ahead in a world where influence shifts in real-time across multiple channels.’

Joining Access Intelligence will allow Pulsar to create a proposition directly connecting insight generation to marketing strategy and activation, while unlocking opportunities to reach new audiences.

Francesco D’orazio, CEO of Pulsar said: ‘Access Intelligence is an ideal new home for Pulsar, and their focus on SaaS makes them a great strategic partner to scale the business and expand our footprint in the PR and communications industry’.

The deal took the form of stock-swap between Access Intelligence and Cello Health, Pulsar’s previous owner. Cello Health will be retaining an interest in Pulsar through Consideration Shares.

Politics of social media

MPs and the public: is social media changing the relationship for good or bad?

Vuelio is hosting a fringe event at Conservative party conference to discuss the very timely question of what impact social media is having on the relationship between voters and politicians.

Given the last three years of UK politics, there can be no doubt we live in uncertain political times, and it is very clear that social media is playing an increasingly central role in politics, at every level.

With an early general election now inevitable, we know that social media will be a key tool during that campaign for all parties, given it dominated the last two elections and the EU referendum.

A growing proportion of voters also rely on it as a source for news and information, as well as a place for them to post their own opinions on stories.

Vuelio wanted to better understand what impact this was having so commissioned a survey of MPs, completed in July, into their perception of the difference social media is making to the political discourse.

The results present a number of surprising headlines:

  • Four in five MPs (81%) believing ‘public attitudes had been changed for the worse’ because of social media.
  • Two in five (42%) MPs believe social media has changed the policy making process for the worse
  • A third (36%) believe it has changed public understanding of policy for the worse.

But it is not all bad news.

In our poll, MPs acknowledge that social media is now one of the most effective ways to reach constituents and gauge their opinions, and social channels make it possible for them to reach a far broader number of voters who won’t engage through print, meetings or traditional campaigning.

The importance of social media in sharing information and gaining insight and opinion is not changing and likely to only become more important in the future.

Technology has a fundamental role to play by providing MPs with the monitoring, evaluation and engagement tools they need to engage more effectively with their voters on social media.

If you are attending the Conservative Party Conference, please come along to our event:


MPs and the public: is social media changing the relationship for good or bad?

Date: Monday 30 September

Time: 12.45 – 2pm

Venue: Central 6, Manchester Central


Speakers include:

  • Nicky Morgan MP – Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Damian Collins MP – Chair, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
  • Marie Le Conte – Political Freelance Journalist
  • Matt Warman MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Digital and Broadband (DCMS)


We will be tweeting throughout the event, follow us @Vuelio_Politics and join in using the hashtag #ClarityinConfusion.

Stuart Lambert Blurred

Does your PR have purpose?

The PRCA National Conference is taking place today with a number of big name industry speakers discussing next generation PR. But while future gazing was very much on the agenda, it was PR purpose that dominated the morning sessions as every speaker made it clear that without purpose, PR is at risk.  

The PR industry continues to struggle with its self-identity crisis, with a need to differentiate itself from marketing, be valued for its strategic input and prove its worth through results. Purpose is an answer to all these points.

Purpose was one of four pillars in a lively keynote from Finsbury’s Roland Rudd. The others, Crisis, Social and Relevance, are also foundations of PR’s unique proposition but it is purpose which will help drive the industry into the future.

That was the view of the Stuart Lambert, founding partner of Blurred, who said it was about deciding what kind of industry you work in and what kind of industry you want to work in. He believes, as many in our industry do, that companies need to fix the world, not deplete it.

Lambert challenged the agencies in the room: ‘Have you asked your clients about the problems they face that we can help with? And if not, why not?’

PR agencies need to solve not just the problems being presented by clients but push them to solve bigger problems all businesses and industries are facing. He argued that we’re in an age of fear but it is PR that is uniquely placed to get us out of that fear.

True purpose pays us all back, and it is PR that can achieve it.

Purpose was in Dove’s global PR director Firdaous El-Honsali’s session under the guide of ‘Brand Do’. She discussed Project #ShowUs, a huge stock library of real women from all backgrounds and lifestyles, that is not a campaign but a commitment to create a resource the media and advertising industry can use again and again.

PRCA National Conference 2019 DOVE

Like Lambert, El-Honsali challenged to room to push their clients and media contacts to use the #ShowUs photo library. Again, PR is uniquely placed to make a difference and a change in the world by leading their companies and clients towards purpose.

The Purpose of PR was the name of Ed Williams, Edelman UK’s CEO’s session. He argued that purpose was inextricably linked to trust, and brands and businesses needed to take bold public positions on the issues that matter. Words are good, but words need to be built on deeds.

Williams linked the absence of trust in modern society to the root cause of many of the world’s problematic political situations. He argued that people had lost trust in government and they now looked to businesses and brands to fill the void and do the right thing.

Trust has many other tangible benefits, from the obvious – 81% of people say trusting a brand to do the right thing is a major purchasing decision making factor for them – to the less measurable; Williams said that trust allows businesses to make mistakes and still bounce back.

Trust and reputation can be built on purpose and it is PR that is most uniquely placed to create purpose and push businesses into the future.

Next generation PR is purpose. So, what’s yours?

PRCA National Conference 2019 DOVE

PRCA Announces 12% Financial Growth

The PRCA has announced 12.1% growth in 2018-19 and welcomed a record 183 new corporate members. Speaking at the National Conference, director general Francis Ingham also set out plans for investment in regional and national services and announced a new agency-client mediation service.

The financial increase takes the PRCA’s revenues up to £3.86m and is the twelfth consecutive year of financial growth for the association.

The PRCA is buoyant in its 50th anniversary year and Ingham highlighted other achievements in 2019 including 124 free-to-attend events since April; nine new Groups, including PRCA Channel Islands last week; 1,483 enrolments onto its CPD programme, which is up 80% year on year; and increasing its training programme offering from 156 courses to 170.

He then went on to set out plans for the future, which include:

  • The launch of a major and long-term piece of work addressing the client-consultancy relationship, and offering an objective mediation service for when things go wrong
  • New investment in Regional and National Groups, with an increase in the PRCA’s conference, free event and training offering in every part of the country, plus National and Regional coordinators to complement existing staff in Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Newcastle.
  • Plans to continue the PRCA’s recent work to merge with, or assume management of, other PR associations in the UK and internationally.

Ingham said: ‘2019 marks 50 years of the PRCA. We are today the world’s largest PR association. Our industry has never been bigger, more influential or more confident, and neither has the PRCA.

‘We take enormous pride in standing up for our industry; in campaigning on its behalf; in making the case for its ethical professionalism. And we have never done so with more strength.

‘Our plan for the next twelve months is more ambitious than ever. We’re going to double down on our investment in services in the regions and nations of the UK. We’re going to turn sustained attention to the client-consultancy relationship, with a new mediation service for the industry. And we’re going to continue our work to consolidate industry representation under the voice and the banner of the PRCA. All with the goal of speaking up for our industry as the ethical, professional force for good we know it to be.’

PRPays Danske

Are you a trusted adviser?

PR and comms professionals should be trusted advisers to senior management and the board in any organisation. In the CIPR’s latest #PRPays interview, deputy CEO of Danske Bank UK Vicky Davies explains what Northern Ireland’s largest bank looks for from communications.

Davies said: ‘A great PR and comms team is as good at managing your reputation when things don’t go well, as promotion when things do go well’.

Banking is particularly sensitive to the need for good crisis communications when things don’t go well as issues often get noticed immediately. But no comms team is immune to the need for preparation as every business has risk factors.

For Davies, good organisation and having a strategic approach for crisis is one of the three things she looks for in a communications team. The other two are calmness under pressure, and building and nurturing external relationships for the benefit the bank and customers.

The interview for #PRPays, which demonstrates the value of PR to the business community, also covers the importance of PR in the banking industry for branch closures and mergers as well as the essential role it plays for the business.

Jo Swinson Lib Dems

Preparing for Government or a Bournemouth echo chamber?

The Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth offered a warm and sunny start to the party conference season for journalists and public affairs folk. Lobby journalists were even spotted heading down to the beach in swimming shorts, while others took part in the traditional Glee Club sing song, which has to be seen to be believed.

For party activists it was brighter still. The party is in good heart with a general election looming, perhaps now only 12 weeks away. Conference was also attended by a record-breaking number of delegates (3,234) and Lib Dem membership now exceeds 120,000.

Jo Swinson, elected as the party’s first ever female leader in July, is already making a serious impact on UK politics. She declared in her speech: ‘There is no limit to my ambition for our party’ and argued that ‘People across Britain deserve a better choice than an entitled Etonian or a 1970s socialist’.

The recent string of MP defections to the party have largely been positively received. Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Sarah Wollaston, Angela Smith and Philip Lee all attended conference and were welcomed by members and their new parliamentary colleagues alike. The widely trailed big name defection announced by Jo Swinson on Saturday at the conference rally was Sam Gyimah, a former minister, PPS to David Cameron and, in the early stages of the Conservative leadership race, a candidate for the highest office in the land.

The party also welcomed Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds to its House of Commons benches, the first by-election gain from the Conservatives for 19 years, regaining the former Lib Dem seat of Brecon and Radnorshire in August and putting the party on the political map in Wales, having been narrowly wiped off it in 2017.

Conference debates were uncontroversial apart from the main motion on Brexit with the section calling for a Lib Dem majority Government to revoke Article 50 on its first day in office the most unpalatable for some. While the motion passed successfully, several prominent critics, including former MPs Simon Hughes and Andrew George, called it ‘controversial’ and ‘counterproductive and unworkable’. Andrew George is standing in St Ives in Cornwall where he seeks to overturn a Tory majority of 312 votes. He warned that the policy risked a Government run by Dominic Cummings portraying the Lib Dems as ‘undemocratic and illiberal’ and warned from past experience that the Conservatives were ‘past masters at being able to turn things into slogans and throw them back at us’.

None the less, the party is clearly confident that an unequivocal revoke stance in the upcoming election will ensure a substantial number of MPs are elected. As well as former Lib Dem held seats like Cheltenham, Winchester, Yeovil and North Cornwall; the party is eyeing up constituencies it has never held before but where polling points to a strong chance such as: St Albans, Cities of London and Westminster, Wimbledon and Vauxhall. The party is also heavily promoting its London Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita, who is a former civil servant and fought the 2012 Mayoral election as an independent. Together with Jo Swinson and a large number of female candidates in winnable or held seats at the election, this is very different to the party that as recently as 2016 numbered only eight white male MPs.

So, with 18 MPs in the House of Commons, a record 16 MEPs elected to the party in the European elections in June, 50 Liberal Democrat council leaders or co-leaders now running local authorities, the party may be right to be optimistic ahead of the general election. The leadership is presenting Jo Swinson as the party’s candidate for Prime Minister and her conference speech was relatively light on policy announcements, but promised a wellbeing budget, additional spending for youthwork and mental health services. The only question remains, how a substantial number of Lib Dem MPs would seek to work with either larger party if called upon, given a coalition with either of them has effectively been ruled out already. Only time will tell.

Think’s Jackie Scully on Influence, her marathon wedding and five inspirational challenges

Jackie Scully is the deputy managing director of Think, the membership publishing agency behind CIPR’s Influence magazine. Known for pushing boundaries, Influence has won a heap of industry awards and is often recognised for its cutting-edge approach to the medium of print.

Jackie is not only known for being a driving force professionally at Think but also using that infectious energy to push personal boundaries, defeating cancer and achieving incredible feats of endurance at the same time.

We spoke to Jackie about her work with Influence as well as her extraordinary personal story and using her platform to raise money for charities, including her five challenges to mark five years clear of cancer.

Anyone wishing to donate to Jackie can do so here.

How does Influence fit in with your other magazines, and how does it stand out?
Influence is unlike any other magazine I’ve ever worked on. This is a membership magazine that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – to the point that even editorial planning meetings are challenging. This is a magazine that swears and puts a picture of marijuana on the cover (I drew the line at scratch and sniff for obvious reasons), manipulates its magazine tagline (a sacred constant) to get its point across, gave column inches to (whisper it) Katie Hopkins and is the proud owner of its very own signature theme tune (linked to a piece around the power of sonic branding). I have genuinely lost more sleep over this magazine than any other project (for all the right reasons). But, when you take risks, you reap the rewards (in terms of reader engagement and awards). You should see the awards shelf!

Influence magazine

What’s the importance of Influence to the PR industry?
Influence is a daring, intelligent and playful magazine with a serious point (or points) to make. PR professionals need new skills to futureproof themselves, for example, so we don’t just talk about the future, we actually roll up our sleeves and test it out (the world’s first-ever video cover for a membership magazine is a good example of this). More importantly, after working hard in the early years to establish the brand, we are now in a position to open doors few can – and tell brilliant stories that give the industry profile.

Who did George Osborne speak to for his first interview as editor of the Evening Standard? Influence (and it got a mention on the Today programme). Who was allowed to do a photo shoot with a Barbie and a mini magazine, getting behind the scenes at a famously-secretive company in the process? Influence. This credibility meant that when we launched a mental health campaign this year (in light of statistics revealing a growing concern in this area for PR professionals), included a blank spread in the magazine, a near-blank cover and encouraged people to take ten minutes out of their day to join our #influencetakesten initiative, we had a reach of more than 1.3m.

What’s your role with the magazine?
The buck ultimately stops with me as publisher of the title, which means that when an illustration about rebranding Saudi Arabia hits my desk, for example, I don’t just think ‘that’s bright and colourful’, I think ‘lose the weapons’. With a magazine that makes a point of going further than everyone else, I do have to spend a lot of time holding my nerve – while also organising and pushing the team, managing deadlines, budgets and paper orders and ensuring revenue targets are hit, all while  thinking strategically about the future. The best part of my role is challenging the team to think bigger in every planning session. It has led to some really creative thinking and I am proud to play a small part in making that possible.

Jackie weddingYou’re an incredibly inspirational person, if you don’t mind me saying. Can you tell us about your wedding?
Well, I am not sure about that, but thank you for saying so. I guess, the way I see it, any inspiration I provide is purely accidental. My wedding (in my head) was supposed to be an edible affair (think edible invites, centrepieces, favours etc) to support the fact there is a lot of baking in our house. But, after waiting 13 years for a proposal and then getting diagnosed with breast cancer just three weeks later (at the age of 32), everything changed. I started running through treatment (with a hip full of metal following completely-unrelated surgery in my 20s) to prove to my body I was done with it throwing major health obstacles in my path. I ended up doing my first-ever 10k for charity just a week before my last chemo.

So, when my treatment finished and my boyfriend hinted at the wedding plans, I said there was only one way to do it – and that involved running and fundraising. So, on 23 April 2017, my husband and I became the first couple in the world to get married on the Cutty Sark before the London Marathon, run the marathon and then trek the Great Wall of China for honeymoon. It was an incredible moment in our lives (David Seaman’s wife Frankie – of Dancing on Ice fame – even made my wedding dress).

And now you’re doing five challenges, and are already on number five?
Yep, to celebrate being five years clear of cancer, I decided not to go down the pub, but instead attempt five massive endurance events to try and raise £5k for five amazing charities (all the fives!) that supported me through treatment and are doing amazing things every day for those facing serious illness. So far, I’ve walked 66 miles round the Isle of Wight (it took 28 hours and was brutal), completed a 70.3 ironman in 8hrs 50m, climbed Ben Nevis and ran a 34-mile ultramarathon up and down the cliffs of the south coast. Now all that stands between me and that ultimate finish line is a 137-mile Coast to Coast cycle across the UK.

I am so grateful (and proud) that my body is still in one piece with just one challenge to go. It has been tough. I think I might even be the first woman in the world to have run an ultramarathon with my rather colourful health history. How cool is that? (or maybe stupid depending on your appetite for long-distance anything).

The big five for blog

What’s going through your mind when you’re doing these incredible endurance events?
When it gets really tough, I remind myself of those who are less fortunate. I have lost so many friends to cancer (under 40). I know people who struggle to walk up the stairs (and having had to learn to walk again in my 20s, I know how demoralising that can be). I know that pushing myself and moving forward helps other people move forward. So, I just keep going. I also try not to think about the distance or the time (thanks to the guy on the microphone at one event, who pointed out loudly that in finishing a 21k stage walking, we only had another 85k to go)! And, most importantly, I think about all the food I can eat at the end without even the smallest hint of guilt.


How important do you think it is for other people to see what you’ve achieved?
What makes me smile so much is thinking that by pursuing my own edges (and I haven’t found them yet, yay), I have, in some small way, motivated other people to do the same – whether that’s a couch to 5k or doing their first-ever running race. I have seen what exercise can do to change the course of a day and it feels amazing to think that I have helped other people carve out time and space for themselves. While gifting our wedding to charity was a wonderful experience, it was the hope we offered to those struggling with illness and mobility that meant the most. One woman, who heard the story and saw me running, decided to get out of a wheelchair and walk for the first time in a year. Her daughter wrote to me the day after the marathon and said that I’d given her a hope she couldn’t find for herself. I’ll never forget her words.

What’s it like to be recognised by the industry for the person you are, alongside the work you do, for example receiving the PPA’s Unsung Hero award and being named a Champion of Kindness?
It feels absolutely awesome. I am the same person whether I am at the top of a mountain, mentoring a young person in the industry or leading a meeting. Someone recently said to me that being in a meeting with me was like being hooked up to the mains electricity (I think that’s a good thing). I put energy into everything and everyone and that’s what keeps me going.

I have learned the hard way that if you rush through life just trying to take on the world of work – expecting others to want and do the same – you forget to live. It is only when you put effort into your life as well as your work (rather than simply being a workaholic) that you can taste genuine success.

What messages do you give other people who look up to you?
My favourite mantra is ‘say yes unless you really really really really should say no’. Do something that scares you (you will remember the brave decisions not the safe ones). Embrace change (life won’t go according to plan and that’s ok). Don’t be afraid of searching for your edges (and helping others to do the same). Back yourself (believe you can and you will). Choose kindness (both for yourself and for others for when the currency is kindness we are all millionaires). And, when you are having a bad day, look up! It is only by turning your face to the sky that you can see a way through life’s clouds.

If you could leave us with one message today, what would it be?
Write your own definition of success. Not the one society has written for you (big career, big house, family, etc). I am my imperfections, a product of the things in life I would never have chosen. I am grateful every day for that fact. And (if I am allowed two), make your life mean something. When I was in hospital after life-saving surgery, a nurse stopped me and said ‘Jackie, are you doing something every day you’d be proud to put on your gravestone?’ The answer, of course, was no. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to change what will one day be written there. No longer the Jackie who just worked too hard. My wish is that when I do leave this world (my consultant thinks I’ll make the age of 92 so I’ve got a fair way to go) I am remembered as the woman who gave people hope, made them believe anything was possible and gave them a reason to smile. I hope the same for you.

It’s never too late to make what you do matter.