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

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.


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.


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 [email protected].

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 [email protected].


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.