Net Zero New Statesman

The rewards of net zero

The relatively short break the climate got from harmful emissions during lockdowns across the world is over – the planning for net zero has to start now. That ‘E’ part of ESG planning – environment – is of even more importance for government, organisations and individuals worldwide as we get closer to November’s COP26.

Both corporate and consumer-focused businesses have big decisions to make on what their role will be on climate change – what are the potential risks, and rewards, of leading on environmental action?

The New Statesman panel ‘Making Sense of Net Zero – Corporate rewards of being in the climate action driving seat’ featured advice from contributors Luke Herbert, Communications Director for The Climate Group, JLL’s Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten and Vuelio’s Insights Lead Amy Parry on the considerations and consequences for decision makers tasked with making change – here are some of the key takeaways…

Revenues and rewards
JLL is a worldwide real estate organisation with what its Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten calls a ‘strange footprint’, yet the organisation has already made its 2040 net zero commitment.

‘If you’re thinking of going down this route, take small steps. You need to feel your way in – you have to get the data and analyse it. Start projecting what you can do, then you can start pushing the envelope. It’s a bit like peeling an onion – it takes time to understand your business.

‘There’s no doubt there are financial rewards to aiming for net zero, and it helps with the strategy of your business,’ added Luke Herbert, who works to drive change with The Climate Group.

‘Not long ago, we had Brexit, Trump and the start of COVID-19 hurting comms and PR team abilities to plan for the future – but now there’s a path; we have to go renewable in this decade. That gives a lot of clarity – you’re going to be pretty much future-proof if you do this. If you’re behind, you’re at risk of disturbance.’

‘If the financials are there, you will be able to influence your board members’.

Vuelio’s Insight Lead Amy Parry agreed on the rewards of net zero when it comes to positive influence – for all stakeholders.

‘For internal stakeholders, the rewards are in future proofing and knowing where to invest money. For consumers, it’s that feel-good factor – the more that consumers feel that they’re buying into something, that they’re doing good, it’s going to result in better sales. That’s really important… alongside the goals of climate action itself, of course.’

Reputation
ESG action (or in-action) is already impacting the reputations of companies worldwide and Amy had data for organisations who don’t yet have the right plans and promises in place:

‘Our media and insights team examined case studies around climate action and how that impacts government and organisations – we looked at banking, which is more traditional and institutional. Historically, it’s already seen negativity for supporting areas like coal financing. We also looked at a very different sector – meal delivery services in the UK; a very modern service that’s grown during the pandemic.

Read the Vuelio Insights case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.

‘We were surprised by some of the similarities in coverage for the two very different sectors. Around 23% of all banking mentions in the media were linked to sustainability – that’s tens of thousands of articles in a short time. 37% of meal service mentions were linked to those topics. Across both sectors, initiatives and coverage fell into two pools – sustainability as a vehicle for change and as a vehicle for business growth. The first lends itself more to the corporate side; abolition of pollution financing, for example. The second is aimed at consumers – green bonds and business loans. There are reputational opportunities in sustainability topics for both sides of business.

‘We found that organisations that made more press announcements through traditional press releases weren’t necessary getting more coverage, however. Sometimes, maybe, it’s possible to push the message too much. It’s action and delivery on promises that will work.’

The right thing to do
‘We have hundreds of businesses who are signed up to science-based targets… but there are hundreds who haven’t,’ said Luke.

‘We can’t just do this in 2029 when it’s too late – this needs accumulative reduction. Most of our conversations with businesses are constructive, but the challenge is those are that aren’t engaging with the issue.’

‘The biggest argument for working towards net zero, aside from reputation and revenue, is that we have to do it; the world has to do it, else we have a problem,’ said Richard.

‘We can’t tell our clients what to do. But we can make some decisions about which clients we want to work with going forward. Until then, we have to collaborate. If you’re already on top of your own business, you shouldn’t need too much persuading.’

For more insight on how policy impacts your business sector and for tracking your organisation’s own reputation, demo Vuelio’s Political Monitoring and Media Analysis services.

Further information on research from the Vuelio Insights team mentioned during this session can be found in the Vuelio case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.  

Christmas in September - Journalist Enquiry Service

Christmas in September: what journalists are requesting for the festive season

While it can feel like the Christmas season comes earlier every year, journalists are already busy putting their festive features for Xmas 2021 together (and it’s not even Halloween yet).

During August, the helpful elves (media researchers) on the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service team received around 150 requests with a mention of the word ‘Christmas’, with the majority focusing on ‘gift guides’, some looking for generic Christmassy stories and case studies, and a handful asking for help with advent calendars, food and drink and competition prizes.

It’s shaping up to get even busier during September – if you haven’t used the service before, book a demo here. In the meantime, here are a taster of themes we’re seeing so far from titles including Pick Me Up!, the Daily Mail, Good Housekeeping, PlantBased and more – could you help the media with any of these topics?

What to put under the tree
– Gifts you can find in garden centres – ornaments, crystals, candles, plant pots
– Prezzies for your pets
– Eco- and vegan-friendly beauty, food and drink
– Books of all genres
– Sustainable or handmade decorations, tableware and craft kits
– Geek-worthy gamer and streamer tech
– Educational stocking stuffers for children
– Slick skateboards for review

Ways to get in the Christmas mood
– Juicy Christmas-related stories involving relationship woes, quirky health anecdotes and love rats (these are not just for Christmas, of course)
– Food, sock, pet, beauty, alcohol and, of course, chocolate advent calendars
– Santa grottos worth a visit this year
– Chutney recipes to pair with wine
– Ethical and sustainable or personalised loungewear for Christmas chill time
– Festively-filled sandwiches for review

Spokespeople or expert commentary*
– Commentary on the pet gifting industry
– Interviews with women who’ll be working over the Christmas
– Business details and stories from black-owned hamper brands
– Uplifting stories from women who’ve experienced something inspiring over the course of the pandemic and would like to share
– Real-life Christmas community stories
– Advice for how to bring Christmas cheer back to events after the UK’s lockdowns
– How to stay calm when things get stressful with the family
– Comment on how the HGV driver shortage and shipping costs could impact Christmas shopping options this year

Could you help with filling up these Christmas features this year? Try out the Journalist Enquiry Service to have enquiries from journalists looking for help delivered straight to your inbox – no sleigh or reindeer set up needed.

*Father Christmas is not available for comment this time of year – very busy

Want to know how to make the most of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service? Read our tips for responding to journalists.

AMEC logo

Vuelio joins AMEC

The measurement and analysis of communications data is vital for understanding the strength and impact of PR and determining future plans for campaigns and the direction of business, which is why Vuelio is proud to join AMEC as a Full Member.

The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) is the leading international professional body for media intelligence and insights, and a renowned mark of excellence with a 25-year record of representing specialists in media evaluation and communications research. Vuelio joins AMEC’s membership of over 200 organisations and 1,000 professionals, which spans more than 86 countries worldwide.

AMEC’s ongoing international education outreach, strategic partnerships with associations including PRSA and ICCO, and the sharing of industry-wide best practice includes its ‘Say No to AVEs’ campaign, which advocates a move away from the use of Advertising Value Equivalent (AVEs) in PR and communications work. This commitment to fairer and more accurate measurement within the industry is something Vuelio supports and bolsters with Vuelio Insights, which uses a mix of qualitive metrics, enriched data monitoring and tailored reporting for strategic recommendations.

‘Evaluating key comms activity accurately – making judgements on which parts of your business and strategy are working effectively – is complicated. Gone are the days of meaningless AVEs and vanity metrics; forward-thinking organisations demand communications measurement that directly impact business goals and moves the dial forward’ says Vuelio Insights lead Amy Parry.

‘As advocates for strategic planning based on true performance and actionable insights, we’re truly delighted to be members of a community dedicated to valuable and data-driven research and evaluation.’

AMEC global managing director Johna Burke says: ‘We are delighted to welcome Vuelio into the AMEC Member Community. The team’s expertise and enthusiasm will enrich the discussions and make us all the better as we tackle the challenges of measurement and evaluation of communication.’

For more on Vuelio’s media monitoring and analysis solutions, click here to book a demo/consultation with the Insights team.

Do your customers care about your political affiliations?

Do your customers care about your political affiliations?

While your product in the hand of the right person can do great things for your brand, the grasp of someone you’d rather not be affiliated with can do great harm. In a time where ethics are demanded of companies just as much as they are of our politicians, is the combination of business and politics a good idea?

Whether political affiliations are welcomed or not, it’s very likely to happen at some point in the lifespan of a big brand. Remember ‘Milkshaking’? Since its inception in May 2019, throwing food and drink stuffs to make a political point has earned its own entry on Wikipedia as well as lots of laughs over social media, and it’s now unavoidably connected with particular makers of milkshake. As a police request to McDonald’s to stop selling the drinks during Nigel Farage’s visit to Scotland that year went viral on Twitter, Burger King countered with a reminder tweet to their Scottish fans that milkshakes would be sold in their stores all weekend.

The reaction towards each of the fast-food giants in relation to the Milkshaking phenomenon was very different. While the signage in McDonald’s was met with ‘urine it is, then’ joke tweets from the public, Burger King’s tweet was branded ‘irresponsible’ by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and criticised by political figures including Tony Blair. It had also, however, cannily positioned Burger King as politically engaged with the younger portion of its consumer base… and, very importantly, as a restaurant reliably stocked with milkshakes.

Reactions to political movements, campaigns and protest have the potential to lock consumer loyalties in, but we see it go wrong regularly, too. In the US in the 70s, there was the gay community’s boycott of orange juice in reaction to the homophobic stance of Anita Bryant, a figurehead for the Florida Citrus Commission. At the time, Bryant herself claimed that ‘sales are up 15 percent over last year’ due to retaliation from the ‘mothers of America’, but the commission’s PR spokesperson called for her resignation, and the impact of the boycott was felt for years (it also inspired some fantastic OJ-alternative Screwdriver cocktails).

Fast-forward to 2019, and a US brand looking to make a new home in the UK, Chick-Fil-A, was rejected by its new target consumer base due to its political affiliations. The Oracle shopping centre in Reading announced the closure of Chick-Fil-A’s first UK-based branch eight days after its debut following media outrage over the restaurant’s history of donating to anti-LGBTQ organisations, calling it ‘the right thing to do’.

The Chick-Fil-A brand is unavoidably entangled in right-wing politics to this day – as of July this year, Senate member Lindsey Graham even vowed to ‘go to war’ for the chicken restaurant as University of Notre Dame students protested the opening of a branch on their campus. Whether support from those who vote Graham’s way will bring good fortune to the brand, or further protests will cause a dent in its profits, it will be useful to note for brands who have not yet had to tackle unplanned-for political connections.

Just as brands hop on political bandwagons to make their ethics clear to consumers, politicians have been quick to align themselves with certain products to tap into new bases, too. Brands don’t get a choice in this; so is it better to accept it or distance from it? Fred Perry famously backed themselves away from the Proud Boys, and Nintendo updated its guidelines following the pull of Animal Crossing New Horizon’s into the US presidential race with a request to ‘please refrain from bringing politics into the game’ in November of last year.

One thing brands can’t do is ignore their connection to politics when it happens – in 2018, 64% of consumers chose to avoid or boycott brands if their stance on societal issues didn’t match their own, and there’s no doubt that number will be much higher following the last 18 months or so of increased accountability, questioning of big business and ethical consumer decisions.

If your brand becomes connected to a political moment and you’re preparing to lean in closer or break away, ask yourself first – will your customers, and future customers, want to be aligned with you?

Read more about finding the right connections for your brand in our previous piece on picking the right ambassadors and taking an ethical stance.

And make sure your PR strategy is aligned with your public affairs to understand the whole issue. Vuelio provides both in its platform.

Inclusion in public relations

Fairer representations of disability in PR: starting the conversation with Mark Webb and Sudha Singh

‘It feels like disability is last to the table at any diversity discussion. If it gets there at all. And yet we’re the biggest minority’ – as the host of the PRCA’s new podcast Disability@thetable, Mark Webb is making sure hidden and visible disability is part of the inclusion discussions happening across the industry.

Launched as part of the PRCA’s recently-rebranded Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council’s new initiatives, Disability@thetable shares stories and best practice advice to push conversations forward. ‘It’s some peoples’ calling to chain themselves to railings to drive change. And there’s a definite place for that, but I’m hoping to help push the story from another angle,’ says Mark. ‘A happy, positive, “look what you’re missing” tone.’

Including everyone at the table
That PR and comms so often misses out consideration and representation of disability is a severe failing – not just of the audiences we seek to address and engage, but of our workforce and its future. As quoted in this 2016 piece from Ashley Phillips, PRCA’s UK PR Census that year found that just 2% of the 83,000 practitioners working in PR were disabled people. This isn’t representative of society at large and can be incredibly isolating, as InFusion Comms’ founder and managing director Sara Hawthorn shared in an accessmatters session last year about her own experiences as a deaf person in the industry:

‘I worked in the media on and off since I was 17. There was a point before starting InFusion Comms where I had never come across another media or PR professional with a disability or impairment at all, and I’d never spoken to anyone else in the industry who was going through anything similar. I thought; this must be something missing from our organisations. Who’s missing?’

While visibility is slowly increasing in some areas of the media – Channel 4 has promised that disabled people will make up at least 70% of its presenting team for the Paralympics this year (‘lovely,’ says Mark, ‘big, positive gestures can only help nudge the diversity and disability dials’) – there’s far to go.

‘Things are getting better’, says Mark. ‘But way too slowly.’

Authenticity over tokenism
‘The comms industry can only speak from a position of knowledge and authenticity if we stop being tokenistic and become more intentional about our journey to equity and inclusion,’ believes Sudha Singh, co-chair of the PRCA Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council (EIAC).

Rebranded this year, the EIAC’s new name reflects its new, more inclusive, purpose: ‘For the longest time, organisations have been focusing on diversity as a way to correct institutional and historic inequalities,’ says Sudha. ‘Referring to people as diverse actually “others” those who don’t belong to the dominant group/privileged groups. We deliberated on the name change – it now reflects our purpose – who we are and what we are trying to do.

‘We want organisations to focus on the equity inspired designs for bringing about that change – to create equitable workplaces where talented people can thrive, no matter where they come from, what they look like. And this will require organisations to actually identify the problem areas and it is not helpful if you are determined to treat everyone equally. Inclusion of course is an outcome and has diversity at its core – do people feel valued, can they bring their true self to work? What is their experience of the workplace? Do they belong?’

Initiatives and progress
The work to ensure everyone can belong within our industry is well underway – the EIAC recently hosted its first ever #ChangeforGood Conference, supported by APCO, with over 20 speakers covering Gender, Social Mobility, Race and Disability, with more initiatives and partnerships to follow.

For Mark, the Disability@thetable podcast will be leading the charge:

‘Dream guests that won’t happen? Michael J Fox, the Back to the Future legend, now with Parkinson’s and doing amazing advocacy and fundraising work. And – showing my age, here – Gloria Estefan. I worked with her briefly in the early 90s, just as my Multiple Sclerosis was about to start sneaking up on me. Her family has been impacted by MS too. Both great communicators!

‘Aiming high but vaguely feasible? The likes of Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Rory Cellan-Jones, Frank Gardner. All of them living a good, positive, public eye life and not defined by their disability.

Booked in already? Talented, brilliant communicators and PR people either living with, or impacted by disability… And I’m hoping I can tease out others.’

While big brands are doing their own long-overdue work on inclusivity, it has to be done properly, something Mark acknowledges is likely to be difficult going for some:

‘It’s a horribly fine line for any brand to be treading,’ says Mark. ‘It’s a strange kind of gold-rush going on in the desperate bid to be inclusive, “politically correct” and all too often, tick-box. I will single out Lego positively, for their work across pretty much all flavours of diversity. And I dine out on stories of how brilliant the senior team at Dixons Retail, then Dixons Carphone, were with me. But listen to our podcasts for that!’

The first thing organisations can do to be more inclusive of disability within their teams, their campaigns and their creative? Join the conversation that’s happening now. ‘Consult with us, engage with us’, says Mark. ‘Don’t just assume job done by slapping a wheelchair into something you’re up to.’

Find out more about the Disability@thetable podcast and more PRCA Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council initiatives here.

For more experiences from people working across the comms industry, catch up with our accessmatters sessions.

Choosing the right brand ambassador

Seeking: the right brand ambassador for long-term engagement

Is there a public figure you just can’t stand? Or a celebrity you’ll go and see in anything, even if it’s likely to be terrible? Are you more likely to give a new product a go if it’s introduced to you by a face you know and trust?

Parasocial relationships – ‘that feeling of closeness and authenticity’ you can build with a person you don’t even know, as YouTuber: How YouTube shook up TV and created a new generation of stars author Chris Stokel-Walker put it – are a powerful part of modern-day brand awareness and engagement. There’s no escaping its influence if you engage in media of almost any type.

Type ‘George Clooney coffee’ into Google, for example, and you’ll find that People Also Ask ‘Does George Clooney own Nespresso?’, ‘How much does George Clooney get paid for Nespresso?’ and ‘Why does George Clooney do Nespresso?’. No, he doesn’t own Nespresso, but we associate him with the brand closely since he began working with them in 2006, and he is said to have earned over $40million from a recent campaign. Why? Because brand partnerships can pay off, for everybody involved.

The financial pay-off for brands, and their ambassadors, is undeniable – ‘parasocial interaction mediates the relationship between celebrity images and purchase intentions […] It has significant implications for marketers and academicians,’ reads a study from the University Business School in India from May. ‘Status affect[s] the strength of parasocial relationships, source credibility, and evaluation,’ finds a report published in the International Journal of Advertising earlier this year.

For which brands are making smart choices for their ambassadors – and potential subjects of parasocial engagement – right now, you need only watch the adverts between shows on TV/before YouTube videos/in pop-ups. We’re mid-Olympics 2020, and Dina Asher-Smith is busy creating with Muller. Lynx has teamed up with boxer Anthony Joshua, YouTubers Calfreezy and Chunkz, and rapper Aitch. Tapping into niches, subcultures and fandoms can also attract consumers to a brand – Subway is acknowledging its passionate-about-plant-based clients by teaming up with vegan Grime artists, and Star Wars’ Adam Driver is doing brand ambassador duty in a new campaign for Burberry Hero.

The consumer, the follower – those watching and engaging – can benefit from brand ambassadorship, too. It’s the consumers’ choice, after all, whether or not to engage in a one-sided, fully-voluntary parasocial entanglement with Tom Hiddleston over breakfast – plenty of consumers were happy to be the recipient of a plate and a Centrum from his hand, just as others suddenly weren’t very hungry, actually.

Studies show that parasocial engagements like these provide feelings of companionship, as well as ‘affection, gratitude, longing, encouragement, and loyalty’. It’s that careful back-and-forth that makes ambassadorship so powerful for building long-term relationships with a customer and a reliable, resilient consumer base.

Understanding which media personalities would be most likely to engage an intended audience, and keep on message authentically, was a key part of Zero Waste Scotland’s Scotland is Stunning – Let’s Keep It That Way award-winning campaign of last year. ‘Influencers were essential to this campaign, in particular for the under-25 audience,’ said communications programme manager for the campaign Claire Munro. ‘We wouldn’t have been able to reach them as directly or persuasively via traditional media channels, stakeholder channels or traditional toolkit. They gave the campaign real pop.’

‘When deciding on an ambassador for your brand, look at who their audience is and what kind of content they use,’ says Claire. ‘Does that marry up with your values and your objectives?’

It’s an important question to ask, as ‘authentic’ personalities, and the choices they make, can cause real problems. There are plenty of examples where brands and ambassadors didn’t make for ideal mixes. While Scarlett Johansson claimed to have ‘no regrets’ over her decision to work with SodaStream (a company headquartered in Israel with a factory on the West Bank) in 2014, the Hollywood actress stepped down from her ambassador position with Oxfam following its criticism of her affiliation with the drinks brand. Popular YouTuber Shane Dawson, who had found success across a range of mediums and with many brands, over many years, was swiftly dropped by both Target and Morphe after controversy surrounding his older videos resurfaced.

‘It’s important that PR people fully appreciate who they’re representing, their personality and what is a good or bad endorsement for them,’ says Stokel-Walker. ‘An influencer’s stock in trade is their authenticity, but any bad decision an influencer makes to support or endorse a product will be picked up on very quickly.’

Want to start your own meaningful relationships with perfect brand ambassadors and a loyal – perhaps parasocially-tinged – customer base? Make sure you pick the right people, that share your purpose, aims, ethics, moral outlook and your brands’ plans for the future. After all, it could be the start of a long and meaningful relationship, to everyone’s benefit.

For more on influencer culture, read our feature on Chris Stokel-Walker’s YouTubers: How YouTube shook up TV and created a new generation of stars. Find out more about choosing the right brand ambassador for your campaign with our interview on Zero Waste Scotland’s campaign ‘Scotland is Stunning – Let’s Keep It That Way’

 

Freedom Day in the UK

Freedom or Freedumb Day: how the media and the public reacted to 19 July

Have you embraced the increased flexibility post-Freedom Day in the UK, or were you more skeptical of the Government’s decision to relax COVID-19 restrictions on 19 July?

Freedom Day has been a busy conversation across both traditional and social media. Here we take a look at the reaction from the public across social platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and what topics the media focused on with data from Vuelio and Pulsar from Saturday 17 July (two days before ‘Freedom Day’) to Friday 23 July.

Did the UK see Freedom Day as a shining beacon for #freedom, or a darker display of #Freedumb?

#FreedomDay versus #Freedumb
Away from each of our carefully curated online echo chambers, what were the most popular hashtags leading up to, and just after, Freedom Day? Unsurprisingly, the #freedomday hashtag was being used a lot, followed by the more critical tags of #freedumbday, #novaccinepass and even #johnsonvariant.Freedom Day hashtags

However, the biggest engagements went to posts offering competition prizes – always a draw, whichever way you lean politically – as brands jumped on the exposure opportunity for travel and holiday giveaways. Also drawing big online engagement – a cautiously optimistic tweet from digital channel Dave and a just-plain-cautious tweet from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on COVID cases numbers.

What were we planning to do with our freedom?
For the places we were most looking forward to returning to – or most tentative about – it was Nightclubs (26.8%) and Retail (13.4%) that took up most of the conversation across social media channels.

Perhaps surprisingly, international travel wasn’t a chief concern (maybe the UK heatwave helped), with Airports being only 1.2% of the location conversation. However, potential holidays were more interesting to post about than fitness, with Gym talk taking up just 1.1% of the posting on social media.

School was a chief concern for many (10.2%) as well as the office/working from home (12.8%). How we’d travel to these newly-opened locations was also on our minds; 7.6% of the social media conversation was taken up with Public Transport.

Location conversation on social media from Pulsar

Did the media predict which locations we’d be most concerned about? Largely, yes – Vuelio data shows Nightclubs as the location most written about (21%) regarding Freedom Day, while Retail only got 8% of write ups. Almost taking up another fifth of media content, however, was returns to the office/WFH. Did the media overestimate how much the public would be concerned about work? Or would people just rather not think about it when on social media?

Media coverage of locations from Vuelio

Most influential?
When it came to sharing links and information across social media, The Guardian was the most popular news outlet according to Pulsar data. It was followed by the Mirror, the FT, the Telegraph, the Independent and the BBC (its placing in this list is surprising, given the size of the broadcaster).

Pulsar articles being shared

While these were the most shared outlets, we know from the Vuelio data that they were not the most prolific in their coverage. That title goes to MSN UK closely followed by MailOnline, each publishing over 30 articles about Freedom Day. We can also see a large number of local sites in this list, many of which carry syndicated news based on popular topics.

Vuelio volume of articles

Which political figures were being talked about?
The orchestrator/announcer of ‘Freedom Day’, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was also the politician with the most mentions across social media – well over half (69.3%) of social media posts talking politics were focused on him. Second most popular was health secretary Sajid Javid – who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 himself – with just under a quarter of the politician conversation online. Taking a much smaller bite of the attention apple were Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (3.8%), Labour Leader Keir Starmer (2.1%) and Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (0.7%).

Pulsar political coverage on social media

While Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer only got 2.1% of the draw on social, 10% of the coverage on political leaders focused on him across the UK media. Boris Johnson was the subject of 55% of news and features, and Sajid Javid another fifth (22%). Rishi Sunak took up 12% of the UK media’s reporting on political leaders.

Vuelio political coverage across press

When comparing the data regarding Freedom Day, it’s clear that the UK press continues to be a reliable signifier, and influencer, of the public discourse. We also know that for publishers, high quantity doesn’t necessarily lead to high engagement, which is an important consideration for PRs and their media outreach.

Want to understand your audience more, and track trends in real-time on social media? Check out Pulsar. And to find the publishers and outlets that will work for your pitching, check out Vuelio.

In the event of an emergency webinar

In the event of an emergency – communicating a summer of live events webinar

For our latest webinar we spoke to the people behind the planning as we ready for the return of in-person events. Sharing the big challenges from the last year were Cheltenham Festival’s PR and communications manager Bairbre Lloyd and ME Travel founder Hannah Mursal, who have successfully battled through cancellations, changing restrictions and internationally-inconsistent rules on travel and event attendance.

Part of the relaxation of social-distancing rules in the UK is the uncertainty over what is to come over the next few months. Read on for practical advice on how to prepare for every eventuality regarding events.

Challenges of the last 18 months
‘It’s been tricky!’ said Hannah. Looking after every element of booking for ME Travel’s entertainment clients, their bands and their crew has required increased flexibility as well as patience.

‘In the UK and across Europe, it’s been quiet – people have been doing music videos and virtual performances instead of touring. In the US, it’s been more focused on domestic travel. They haven’t really stopped; people were still travelling to do gigs. We’re looking at the bulk of events coming back in September. It’s been a waiting game to book tours in and find new venue dates.

‘Restrictions are changing constantly, but it all depends on who’s going where. I’ve got Jamaican artists, but their crews are American, English, German. There are times where you could only get half of the crew there.
‘You have to know what every country is allowing in. Do they need forms, vaccination – you can’t really book in advance, either. You can’t book today to fly next week, because it will change by mid-week.’

Plus points of the pandemic (there have been a few)
For Bairbre, juggling different priorities has brought positives as well as challenges.

‘When you’re a location putting on a festival, you can make your own decisions but you have to think about the audience if you want people to come.

‘Some of our speakers were delighted to get out of where they were, and others were… not so keen. What it has opened up to us is the idea of dialling in. Our Literature Festival was a hybrid of a socially-distanced audience and streaming online. There were people on stage while guests from the US were able to join digitally. That will have repercussions in the future – when this all finally lifts. It’s another string to our bow. It worked for us.

‘Like a lot of our fellow cultural organisations found, there was a huge appetite for us to provide support for the community. Our Science Festival was a godsend to lots of parents schooling from home. Our audience has increased enormously and that’s something we want to develop.

‘It has been difficult, but it’s jump-started our digital ambitions. We had to do all of this in five weeks – it would otherwise have probably taken us about five years.’

Lessons learned
‘We were making decisions as late as possible to have maximum flexibility – we were on tenterhooks waiting for the go-head for things,’ said Bairbre.

‘While we brought in lots of technology, there wasn’t really time to test it. We could have done with more user experience for next time. It worked, but it was hairy.’

For Hannah, the importance of communication and relationships has been a main takeaway:
‘We were all in it together, we became a family – I know how my clients’ mums are doing, their dads. It was panic stations in the beginning, so it was good to keep that communication going. In terms of hotels, the entertainment reps were the first to lose their jobs. My contacts all got made redundant. It was important to keep in the loop of what everyone was doing.

‘It was useful to know when someone was in the studio recording – it tells me when things lift, they have an album to tour. Building these relationships lets me know when are going back to work.’

Contingency plans
‘We’re planning for a full capacity without social distancing for our next Literature Festival in October – we made that call fairly early on,’ shared Bairbre.

‘I think if restrictions are put back in place, however, we will go back to what we’ve done before. This will be the eighth festival we’ve done in lockdown – we can bring in distancing and Covid-secure measures. Our senior management team will be in HQ cooking up plans. We were lucky last year because we slipped in between lockdowns. And I think we were the first literary festival to do a hybrid version.’

‘Not to sound complacent, but I’ve done so many cancellation announcements that we have our contingency plan for if it’s needed. If you’ve got a plan written and ready to go, you roll that out; you know that it works. Having those comms ready to run, is the key for me.

‘People are still going to be a bit insecure with events. One of the things we were conscious of were that some people were going to be really gung-ho and ready to come out, some would be more cautious. You need to be really clear with everybody with how you’re managing your event. If the audience knows what to expert – that they’ve got to sit in bubbles, wash their hands, have e-tickets and wear masks – they will accept it. It’s the not-knowing that makes people angry.’

Practical tips for planning events during COVID-19
‘Have your communications plan ready in advance,’ advises Bairbre.

‘We went through looking at scenarios, what negative reactions we could potentially have to safety onsite. We thought about all the things that could be picked up on and made sure we were proactive with our safety measures. And with sending comms out, make sure your stakeholders are onboard and informed – artists, staff and suppliers.’

‘Insurance has been huge in my world,’ Hannah added. ‘It’s hard to get event insurance that covers COVID now. Make sure you’re covered with your suppliers.’

‘Be prepared; have that contingency plan. The rug may be pulled from under you at any moment.’

For more trends to prepare for when it comes to getting back outside, download our white paper PR & Media Travel Trends 2021.

Simon Mouncey Transport for London

‘Start by speaking the same language as the person you are talking with’ – Simon Mouncey, Transport for London

Everyone in society is different and has different experiences of the same things. This is a fundamental truth that everyone in PR must accept in order to design the right comms strategy and speak to the right audiences in the right way.

In this guest post, Transport for London’s communities and partnerships specialist Simon Mouncey shares the importance of listening to your audience and taking on new approaches to embrace inclusivity.

‘I’ve been in PR for as long as I can remember, indeed long before emails, when you used carbon paper and did things in triplicate. I even remember a training session on how to put the paperclip on the right way round so it didn’t catch with all the other memos in the tray. Thankfully most priorities have changed since then, from how you did things to making change happen. I can now say I have changed people’s lives for the better. That’s a nice feeling. It’s nice being able to say you did the right things than just did things the right way.

What is the right way now anyway?

Something we’ve learnt over the past year is there is a disconnect to what we believe to be true and what others know is true. This has turned into a discussion on inclusive leadership. Whatever you think inclusive leadership is, the bottom line is that you cannot possibly know what it is like to be judged unless you too have been judged the same way. So, decisions affecting people’s lives need to be made by the people whose lives are being affected. Call it Ivory Towers or call it what it is, a systemic failing in our society based on opportunities and therefore positions of power reserved for those who look and sound like the people who are already in those positions.

No amount of unconscious bias training or other gestures will change how you are hardwired; it is just another easy tickbox. As a society, we surround ourselves with people who reinforce our beliefs, values and prejudices. Real unconscious bias training will parachute you into a life totally alien to you, an escape room, where you have to find new friends and allies to achieve your aim. Maybe, subconsciously, that’s why escape rooms are so popular. But to be effective you will need to be with total strangers, randomly picked from society.

The place to start is speaking the same language as the person you are talking with. The only way you can do that is to let them do the talking and listen and learn. So, don’t restrict them to a survey with questions based on your own experiences, views, opinions, perceptions and so on. But also amplify their voice. If they have no experience of being listened to then you have to bring them up to the same level as you, in knowledge of what your outcome is, and skills in making it happen.

I learnt this very early on, when I was charged with implementing national policy for people with learning disabilities. I think being naïve back then I was given it not as a challenge but as something everyone else had turned down (I was asked to become a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate after that and turned it down, but that’s one of life’s crossroad moments). The policy was that adults with learning disabilities should be able to decide their own lives. They had new personal care packages known as Independent Living allowances, which is an income they could spend on what they wanted, like ice cream and holidays. But how do you know what they want if they have never been listened to before, been institutionalised, and had other people make decisions for them? Many of those living in institutional care had never had a voice and therefore never developed speech well enough to have a conversation. There are many aspects of society where that is still true today. Well, in this case a pictorial language was developed, that meant they could say what they wanted in a conversation and their voice was heard for the first time, unfiltered by other people who had their own values and opinions.

Zoom (pun intended) forward to 2021 and many have woken up to the realisation that so many are excluded from society by their voice being excluded from decisions and have therefore developed their own communication methods. That can be rage, a protest, a counter-culture or just opting out of society. All of them, whatever your perception or judgement is, are methods of communication because they aren’t listened to the way the decision makers will hear. I call it prismatic thinking, where all the colours of the rainbow are there but when you apply your own filter to it you see just one colour. When decision makers say ‘limit the right to protest’, they are in effect masking those voices. And glass isn’t just in ceilings, it is all around us, and we see what we want to see based on our own reflections.

What I’m looking for in someone to communicate for me when I can’t is sincerity and authenticity. They need to believe in the message and what they are trying to achieve, and they need to tell it how it is. And when they look for what comes back it needs to be unfiltered. When people talk about a Green future what they mean is panic; we are feeling the effects of climate change now and it will only get worse, do something now. Relate that to what we are doing to make people’s lives in London better. What is better for them? Is it to be treated fairly and equally, a home, a job, a future? So there is a disconnect between getting more people cycling and walking and what we really mean is that all our futures are at risk if we don’t panic.

As professionals we need to get across to decision makers that everyone is starting from a different place and you can’t apply the same policy to everyone. Someone reminded me recently of the big tent idea. Where, in our western colonial culture, we get all the friendly like-minded experts together to agree what needs to be done. When in fact the name originates from native Americans where to deal with threats, like to their way of life, they would bring all the tribal leaders together, most of them enemies, leave their weapons outside and not be able to leave the tent until they agree what they need to do.

I’ve always advocated for local decision making, so you give the problem to a local community, you give them the skills and opportunities to become leaders (which by default is inclusive leadership), any risks, constraints and a framework to reach a consensus – in other words, everything you do to reach your conclusion – and you help them make a decision. It has become known as Citizen Assemblies. But call it what it is; people deciding how they as individuals and members of a wider society will achieve the same future as everyone else wants. That could be cycling where you can, it could be driving just for essential trips, it could be anything the individual can and knows they need to do. But to get there you need to abandon the structures and processes put in place that limits their voice. Amplify the hardest to hear and turn the volume down on the loudest heard all the time.

Take the example of going cashless on London Buses. Just like when I was in social care policy, I leapt at the chance to do it. Only then was I told TfL had been trying to do it forever and no one had attempted it in case in went wrong. My first thought was what was ‘going wrong’; it shouldn’t be about image. Failure to me was someone being hurt because they were carrying cash. Or someone trying to get somewhere just in time only to have to wait for people paying their fare with pennies. Or the person who is just a few pence short but trying to get the bus to get away from being hurt. So it was presented to people as, these are your friends and family, your neighbours, your community. We will help you engage with them so you can tell us what you’ve agreed. We helped communities find their leaders and supported them. I called it Co-Production.

In a later project involving a school, the headteacher told me I had changed the life chances of the students involved in the project, their confidence, hopes and aspirations and how they had just expected to leave school with nothing but were now planning a degree, career and a future for themselves, as lawyers, engineers and business leaders to help their communities.

I don’t have any plans for the future; I’m a water sign so go with the flow. Who knows the next thing around the corner. Another pandemic, certainly. The warnings were given years ago that with the climate and ecological emergency there was likely to be more diseases jumping species. And then there have been record after record tumbling on temperature, drought, rain. My advice would be, be nice to people, open your heart and that will open your mind. Make friends with people who are really different from you. Take a leap of faith and trust people to do the right thing. Forget the hashtag and campaign slogans. Give them your knowledge and skills and watch people reshape society in everyone’s image.’

For more on communicating with different audiences, read insight from this year’s PRFest on keeping PR sustainable

Judith Lewis SEO PR webinar

The latest Google update – what PR professionals need to know

Remember when Google used a cute animal like Panda or Penguin to signify that it was changing its algorithm?

Sadly, those gentler days are behind us, but Google still announces a core update around four times a year. These are significant changes that Google makes to its ranking algorithm that affects a large number of indexed web pages.

Knowing when Google announces core updates and what those updates are is important for PR professionals because of the potential impact on the visibility of your website, or your clients’ websites in the search engine.

This was just one of the areas of SEO that search expert Judith Lewis covered in our recent webinar to support the publication of our free SEO best practice guide for PR.

Here’s a summary of some of the questions about SEO and PR that Judith answered:

What is the latest Google core update and what do PRs need to know about it?
“The Google core update focuses a lot on expertise, authority and trust (EAT) which is explained fully in the guide. We also link to the guidelines that Google’s human quality raters use.

It’s a complex area that’s all about how you demonstrate EAT to Google. Google is tweaking those dials and really bumping up the emphasis that it’s placing on demonstrated expertise and authoritativeness, which is finding mentions about you on other sites.

So PR is all about establishing EAT and the latest Google update is actually increasing its valuing of EAT.

There are two more updates coming, so this will change over time. and I’ve seen that clients of mine are fluctuating, they’re going up, they’re going down, it’s like a roller coaster! So right now the algorithm update does still seem to be finding its level balance. I’m seeing more US search results in the UK, so I’m thinking it’s still rolling out, but this core update is really focused on quality.

Later this month is a long announced update to website speed.

Basically if your website is not fast and it does not pass ‘core vitals’, you will lose out to other people who do. So Google will rate you against your competitors in the search results, and you will go down, if competitors websites are faster and more efficient at delivering web experience to people.

‘Core vitals’ is later this month, and then in July we have another core update coming. So, this one was about more about quality, and the next two are going to be about landing page experience, and then more on quality.”

What are the differences between ‘follow’ and ‘no follow links’?
Do ‘no follow links’ in online coverage and do they have any impact on search engine visibility?
‘No follow’ and ‘follow ‘are technical attributions that are put on a link, and it’s a little bit more code techie, but don’t be put off by it, it’s a checkbox in WordPress. So if you’re working with bloggers or influencers, they can select the Checkmark, and that will make all of their links on their blog nofollow.

What does that mean? Well, it tells Google, not to pass any points from the origin page to the destination page.

However, from a human point of view, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a follow or nofollow, it is still a link. And that enables someone to go from where they are to where your clients information, or your information is.

I obviously would prefer a follow link, because it helps with search ranking. But I will accept the follow or nofollow link, because we’re pushing our clients or our company’s information and details out there and so any link is good because it draws the readers back to our websites.

If you don’t get a link in coverage, do citations or mentions of your brand or organisation help with SEO and search visibility?

It does help.

A citation – where there’s no link but a mention – is incredibly important for Google, because the more of those that you get, the more the increase of perception that Google has that there is something important about that company or that organisation going on.

It increases the words around the company and increases the relevance of that company name to those to those pieces of content. What’s happening is Google is seeing the word that is a brand and it recognises the brand usually because it’s usually in a URL or something similar and then it looks at the words around that citation. It looks at these words around the brand and increases the relevance of those words for that brand.

Google is already recalculating what that brand is possibly relevant for now. It doesn’t have as big an impact as when we get a link – a link is, is the key – but it does increase Google’s perceived relevance of those keywords of the brand and how popular the brand is.

Update ‘Vince’, many years ago was all about brand and rewarding brands. So the better that you can establish a brand, the better it is and citations are part of that because not everybody gives you a link.

If everybody gives you a link it looks artificial. If some people don’t then it looks much more natural and Google is more likely to trust it. Therefore if you get a citations with no link, it’s good, and it does help people.

Do shares on social media and closed or private social networks/communities like Facebook Groups or Guild have any impact on SEO or search engine visibility?

I think the problem is that people’s perception of links is that all links help Google rankings, but in my opinion, all links help people – and that’s the most important thing.

In closed ecosystems like Facebook and Guild links don’t necessarily impact on Google’s rankings but when someone is talking a lot about something, and links are being shared a lot, whether they’re shared through Guild, WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram, they will reach a critical point after which people will start to blog and write about them.

And journalists may pick up on this ambient noise, and publish something with either a nofollow or a follow link.

When that happens, then Google will possibly increase the ranking of that page, because we’re increasing the perceived relevance of that page to that topic. Even though a nofollow link says to not pass any points, it still helps Google contextualise what a target page is about.

If Google was struggling up to that point, and then somebody blogs, even if it’s a nofollow link, then it will instantly help Google understand it better – and that means that it could increase in rankings, simply because Google understands more.

Here’s the video and the Q&A with Judith is from 43:17 seconds.

Want to add SEO to your PR and communications strategy or to get the very latest SEO tips specifically designed for PR practitioners?

Download our free educational SEO best practice guide for PR

Vuelio has the world’s most comprehensive media database, providing up to date contact details and preferences of >1million journalists and content creators. Learn more about this essential tool for successful coverage generation and linkbuilding by requesting a demo

Bank in London

Barclays dominates the launch of the Vuelio Banking Comms Index

Today, Vuelio launches the Banking Comms Index as an industry benchmark. Using Vuelio Media Monitoring and Analysis, the Banking Comms Index is a free weekly resource that compares the Share of Voice of the UK’s top retail banks.

Share of Voice has long been used as a key metric in both PR and marketing, with evidence to show that increased Share of Voice, leading to ‘Excess Share of Voice’ – where a brand’s Share of Voice is significantly higher than its market share – can lead to growth.

The Banking Comms Index measures the earned online media coverage of 21 top retail banking brands and selected challenger banks in Britain. The coverage all appears in Tier 1 publications, with a reading list including national news and financial trades.

Barclays has dominated over the last three weeks in top spot, while challengers, including Starling Bank, Monzo and Revolut manage to take a bigger share of voice than more established brands like First Direct and Bank of Scotland.

Updated weekly, the Index will provide an archived comparison, as well as insight into the biggest movers and shakers. The monitoring in Vuelio also allows for further exploration to see how these retail banks compare on key issues in the media, whether that is ESG, financial policy changes or a breaking scandal.

Oliver Grant, senior consultant and financial services specialist at Vuelio, said: ‘We are thrilled to launch the Banking Comms Index that will, week on week, give a snapshot of how these major retail banks are performing in the press. Share of Voice allows brands to benchmark their earned media coverage against the competition in a meaningful way.

‘We will also use our proprietary data to regularly analyse the retail banking sector and see how each organisation tackles the big issues, from the pandemic and Brexit to advances in governance.’

BlAME game

The BlAME game

Charlotte KingThis is a guest post from Charlotte King, fellowships and communications coordinator at the Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Leicester. Her work here is her own views and does not reflect those of the university.

The pandemic has profoundly impacted the ways in which we think about health and risk within and beyond our immediate community. While common anxieties surround the frank fear of death and wellbeing, nothing has exposed societal inequalities quite like COVID-19. 

Our information environment has engaged with the somewhat misleading meta-narrative that the virus is an equaliser, yet ‘we’re all in this together’ is a more problematic phrase for those experiencing the brunt of the pandemic than those often responsible for producing the messaging. If our understanding of society is largely shaped by information flow through the platforms we access, there is an inherent danger that our perception is tainted by bias frames toward particular socio-political issues. As the city of Leicester experienced the first prolonged lockdown in the UK, the narrative of the pandemic soon became discriminatory against BAME communities, many of whom already experience systematic racism.

Many have noted the messaging that BAME communities are at increased risk, yet few messages illustrate why this is the case. The lack of clarity has led to a stigma surrounding BAME communities which has seen an exacerbation from anti-Asian sentiment to the targeting of BAME communities more widely. While it is clear that those who have continued employment in the workplace are more exposed to the virus than those sheltering, what is less clear is how our personal environments disproportionately impact the agency one has over their health and risk-taking during this time.

Multi-dimensional factors surrounding underlying health conditions, access to healthcare and health communications, class, employment, diet and the status of accommodation all reveal disproportionate ways in which people are able to adhere to health guidance. While these are far too expansive to discuss here, it is important to note that the issue of inequality and public health is sensitive, and far too complex to understand through hegemonic stories surrounding it.

Here I will unpack just a few issues on disproportionate vulnerability. Economic stability has weighed on the minds of many in the UK, and those who are pressured into working during the pandemic are undoubtedly exposed to an extent others are not. Adding salt to the wound, there is a disproportionate effect on BAME communities through the lens of economic stability. This divide is further emphasised by those who lack the luxury of social distancing, contributing towards the extent to which one can safely operate during the pandemic. This reveals a profound disparity between the rich and poor, and while many experience mental health concerns during lockdown, it is evident that it is not the same for everybody.

Alongside circumstantial differences, language also plays a significant role for migrant communities. Leicester City Council distributed health guidance in a variety of the main languages spoken within the city, yet this is an anomaly to otherwise English-dominant communications. The danger surrounding this is the further stigmatisation of migrants on the basis of immersion and integration, when discussion of public health should remain an issue of health as a human right; regardless of language, race, gender or nationality. As researchers and scientists are working hard to demystify the issue of ethnicity, class and health, it must be brought to the forefront of public opinion, through the narrative of public health, that the alienation of certain groups within a profoundly multicultural nation is causing a rift among UK citizens.

Generally, when it comes to public health, we have cultivated a culture of trust between ourselves and the top-down news stories. Yet the human aspect behind the BAME story is omitted from headlines, unmasking the frailty of our society. As we move our news sources online, algorithms cause us to become, often unknowingly, immersed into dominant stories and misinformation, undermining a complete narrative to be shaped when it comes to public health. Herein lies the paradox of pluralistic societies; we live side by side with differential signifiers of our times, with little common understanding of our wider cultural makeup.

We have a societal responsibility to incorporate BAME stories into our national health narrative, or the profound effects of alienation and systemic discrimination of BAME communities will be exacerbated to an unknown end. A bottom-up approach would demand a shift towards a more divisive social understanding, and would offer a platform for the all too often silenced voices to be heard, rather than blanketed through the stories we currently receive.

For the pandemic, a fundamentally human story, we are missing the perspective of so many, causing us to drift further away from having the complete picture of how our society is coping with the current context.

Measurement and reporting

3 tips to improve your PR measurement and reporting

As part of Vuelio’s Customer Voice series, we host regular focus groups to hear from our clients, track the latest sector trends and make sure we’re delivering what the industry needs.

Our most recent session focused on measurement and reporting, and the impact of PR campaigns on your organisation’s goals. A few clear challenges came out of the discussions along with practical advice to improve best practice.

1. Coverage quality vs coverage quantity
Reach is a common way of reporting on the potential number of people who could have seen your coverage. While reach figures look impressive to the board, on their own they provide little indication of the quality of coverage. For example, while the BBC might have a reach of 500 million, this doesn’t reflect how many of your target audience your coverage actually reached.

Providing context to the success of PR activity is a real challenge. Part of the problem is educating the board how a piece of coverage from an online influencer can be just as impactful as a piece in a national newspaper. The reach figure maybe vastly different but the reach of an influencer/blogger is much more targeted.

Pivoting from quantitative to qualitative reporting means moving away from numbers such as reach and circulation.

2. (Un)Integrated measurement
While PR teams are working closer with marketing and social media teams, when it comes to planning integrated campaigns they are all still reporting separately.

One option is to align PR KPIs with the marketing funnel to demonstrate that what they do helps fill up the top of the funnel and provides marketing with an engaged audience. Another option is to create KPIs together with all related departments to ensure you’re reporting on the same tactics in the same way.

3. Frameworks? Give us practical advice!
The approaches our group took to reporting were similar and everyone had a real appetite for practical best practice advice on measurement and reporting. With all the talk of how to tackle the challenge of evaluating PR in a meaningful way, there appears to be a knowledge gap between those leading the measurement conversation and those on the ground looking for credible methods to demonstrate how PR impacts on organisational goals.

This means if you’re involved in measurement in your organisation or in the wider industry, you need to do more to bring your colleagues, who are often at the coalface, into the conversation. It’s something we’re focusing on at Vuelio and we’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can all improve this process. Get in touch and let us know.

Are you a Vuelio client? We’d love to hear from you – get involved in our Customer Voice series.

Podcasts image

The evolution of PR and communications for You are The Media

It was a great pleasure to join Mark Masters for the You are the Media (YATM) podcast to discuss what lies ahead for the communications industry. If you haven’t come across YATM before it’s a treasure trove of inspiration for how to create content that inspires engagement regardless of whether you’re a PR, marketeer or in-house comms pro. It also reinforces one of my guiding principles that building an audience rests on a magic mix of being useful and entertaining.

Understanding the future for PR and communications starts with reflecting on where we were. Ten years ago, I was starting up a PR agency and spending my time trying to meet anyone who could be vaguely relevant for lunch or a drink. Face to face meetings to gossip and spot opportunities took nearly all my time – albeit too often leading to lasting hangovers that definitely reduced productivity the next day.

Fast forward to today, and as I discussed with YATM, one of the biggest shifts I’ve seen is in the evolution of how the industry approaches connections. Relationships remain vital but your network today has to be more diverse. Rather than a black book dominated by journalists at individual titles, the most successful PR and communicators are those who have networks representing the many audiences that engage with any organisation. Beyond knowing print, broadcast and online media, it is now vital to know politicos, influencers and those publishing in a constantly evolving social media landscape.

It isn’t that ‘old’ behaviours such as lunching with a journalist aren’t important, they just have to go with investing time to talk with those who are becoming just as important as the media to reputation build and management. And this shift in focus goes hand in hand with the transformation in how the industry reports on success. Again, just as it is no longer enough to ‘only’ know media it is no longer enough to ‘only’ report on coverage reach or sentiment. We have to understand how to track, analyse and report on the multiple ways the content we create has impact – from web traffic, click throughs or interactions. This is an opportunity to align PR to marketing which, if we get right, will deliver growth by opening new budget streams.

We ended our conversation talking about the biggest mistakes made with PR and communications by senior decision makers. Answering this made me feel every one of the 19 years I had worked in the industry because I can remember discussing the majority of these at the start of my career. That PR too often is seen as a one-off transaction rather than a sustainable investment that adds value over time. That PRs are expected to create compelling, effective content without insight into customer or product needs. And finally, that understanding ROI is vital but too often PR budgets don’t allow for the depth of research needed. If there is good news it is that these themes are now front of centre for nearly every organisation – and that technology, by enabling real time management of vast data, has the potential to at last solve them.

A huge thanks to Mark and YATM for having me on the podcast.

Listen to the podcast here.

China live streaming market

How can brands navigate China’s live streaming market?

This is a guest post and infographic [below] by Balvinder Kataora, marketing executive at Comms8.

An astounding 98% of people in China experience the internet through their mobile phone, which instantly makes over 800 million users a formidable cohort for marketers to tap into. When combined with the steady growth of the Chinese middle-class, it is clear to see business opportunities in what is now the world’s biggest retail market.

While the market is ripe for marketers, a unique set of technological and cultural factors has led the internet to develop differently from the UK. Having a large population, being awash with cash from a booming economy, and excellent mobile coverage roll out means the mobile app ecosystem is leaning towards innovative uses and high-bandwidth applications. Demand for long-distance communications, entertainment and hassle-free payments has propelled instant messaging, fintech apps and live streaming platforms to become a mainstay of the internet east of the Himalayas.

Live streaming has noticeably become a cultural mass phenomenon that is arguably the most popular form of online entertainment. Sitting between the crossroads of a modern-day QVC and communal socialising, platforms such as Kuaishou, Douyu, Meipai, Inke, and Momo are offering wide-spectrum appeal in any niche with seamless shopping and gifting options for fans.

The context for these live shows is often thematic and involves a presenter documenting their life and thoughts to an audience from tens of people to even millions. While intimate, some often weave product reviews and demonstrations during their shows to drive click-throughs to their own mini shops online, generating sales. Others, however, opt for the endorsement route whereby large brands, often luxury or fashion orientated, provide free samples in exchange for ‘air-time’ on their regular shows.

An increasing number of live streamers have pursued a more controversial option of gifting. Viewers buy virtual gifts with real money to effectively ‘tip’ live streamers. During these shows you will often see animated diamond icons, emoticons and sometimes richly animated flying jets and rockets shooting into space for the big spenders to show their ‘boss status’.

This business model has received criticism, as younger viewers may feel pressurised to financially support their online idols, or that the process of patronage does not manifest a physical item. The ephemeral nature of the performance makes it difficult to accurately price the value of gifts; is your favourite online star worth $2 or $200 per stream? A hard question to answer, but the value is sure to increase if the audience enjoys the stream.

Despite being relatively new, compared to more established digital trends, Deloitte has estimated the value of the live streaming market to be $4.4 billion in 2018, an 86% increase from 2016.

The attraction for the format, just as with social media, is the convenience it offers to meet like-minded people and share common interests in real time – and for free. For a nation that has witnessed radical demographic change over the last 50 years, much is out of balance. The preference for parents to have boys, has meant that the gender ratio has widened to the degree that there are almost 35 million more men than women, which is more than the population of Malaysia.

The gender disparity in the country is also reflected in the viewing audiences too. In 2016, IResearch found that approximately 63% of viewers were male with 35.5% being female. These platforms are in some cases allowing the socially isolated to instantly be adored with attention and praise from their most preferred online star, who happens to be from the opposite sex.

The biggest hurdle for brands is how to enter methodically into a fast-moving market without succumbing to social or legal faux-pas. The line between advertiser, endorser, advocate and consumer is increasingly blurred. So much so, there are concerns to whether viewers will be sure they are being marketed to, as per requirements of legalisation for online endorsements and sponsorships.

Given the rise of live streaming in China what can international brands learn from the market in the East?

New forms of sales relationships
It is almost unheard of to use pay-per-click (PPC) marketing or pay-per-sale (PPS) as arrangements are almost always a flat rate fee. That said, platforms like Bangtuike are trying to make all live streamers and online influencers advertisers, no matter how small their audience is. The desire to work with micro content providers is seeing greater demand as brands are able to capitalise on a wider audience market.

Being mindful of corporate social responsibility
Unlike TV and Radio, regulatory bodies are still catching up to the technology and so there is a legal blind spot in the way brands are able to use the platform. Brands need to step back from their campaign from time to time and assess how the overall impact might be interpreted, rightly or wrongly.

Localising content
As David Ogilvy once said, if you going to sell to someone it is best to do so in their own language. Localising content is the key to winning hearts and minds.

One way to do this is to use influencers who are not only based in the large metropolises. Knowing that the next 20 cities after Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong still hold a huge retail population, and moving away from a well-beaten path, could reap huge rewards.

In essence, developing a Chinese voice for the brand is key to gaining market share and have your brand, in a way, speak Chinese.

Measurement

How metrics are helping us prove the value of PR

This is a guest post by Sarah Evans, senior digital strategist at Bottle.

It’s no longer acceptable to say PR has a measurement problem. As an industry we’ve been (fairly) challenged to demonstrate what value our campaigns, our work, that piece of coverage had in real terms. How does that feed into business objectives?

At Bottle, we believe brands grow when their stories flow. To measure the effectiveness of that, we need a blend of short- and long-term metrics. A regular flow of stories being published – audience-first content and coverage, both on and offsite – builds a momentum that cumulatively shifts a larger dial over time that indicates brand growth.

Are your stories flowing?
We still need to keep sight of things like coverage itself, for example: how many pieces, the quality of the sites that are linking, how many unique referring domains link back to your site? These help us keep on top of the momentum and frequency that we’re building. In previous reports, we may have stopped there, however now we know we’re influencing behaviour beyond that initial burst of activity.

Next, we need to look at the immediate impact of that activity. Indicators that our coverage is valuable to its intended audience are things like social shares and comments. If there are any links in the piece, did anyone click on them (and if they did, were they ‘long clicks’ or did they bounce?). If coverage doesn’t have a link, and people like what they see, they’ll have to either Google you or come directly to your website to find out more. Google Analytics (or other website tracking software) can tell you all of this, and more.

How is your content performing? Are people reading and engaging with your content? You can look at this through pages per visit, bounce rate and time on page. Is your content doing the job it set out to do? And what do people do next on the site?

Is your brand growing?
As well as short-term metrics, we also need to balance that by zooming out and understanding how all that activity is laddering up into wider marketing objectives. We may not have sales-led objectives, however a common KPI we look at is site traffic (as a whole, or specifically from channels that we’re most likely to influence with ‘brand building’ activity, like organic search or direct).

These metrics by their nature can take consistent, sustained activity to shift (which is why we set the pace with the shorter-term metrics). Things like the number of people searching for the brand, direct traffic and positions for target keywords, topics and products are all key indicators that your brand is growing in visibility and authority.

Branded searches are a proxy for awareness, and even loyalty if someone already knows who they want to buy from. Direct traffic (although a bit of a messy, catch-all channel) indicates how many people have been to your site before, have you bookmarked, or type your URL in as their destination. A growth in search visibility (or how many times Google has served up your site as an answer to someone’s question) tells us that Google is confident that people will get what they need from your site, in turn driving more organic traffic.

Reporting is empowering
As the boundaries between PR, marketing and SEO activity are merging ever closer, there’s no excuse for PR to shy away from measurement any longer. It’s empowering to demonstrate the value of your work; it unlocks budget, helps us plan the next campaign and sometimes it even makes great case studies. We’ve been influencing these metrics all along, without taking any of the credit. We’re not a direct acquisition channel, but a valid and vital part of the journey. Understanding and articulating the role it plays, both long and short term, is the key to PR’s digital evolution.

5 PR tips from the hotel industry

5 PR tips from the hotel industry

This is a guest post from Frank Marr of AM+A Marketing and Media Relations.

Frank has compiled a list of AM+A’s top tips for creating and putting into action an effective hotel PR and marketing strategy, which the whole PR industry can benefit from. From adopting an integrated approach to channelling your inner journalist, every successful PR and marketing campaign should consider these five steps.

1. Regularly update creative strategies
The media, PR and marketing industries are extremely fluid. Regular creative brainstorms are useful for keeping your brand on trend. Launching a hotel or product is easy, keeping it in the press is not. Creating a major annual event or unique promotion will help maintain exposure. Big events should also be supplemented with smaller, tactical ideas. This is a fine line to tread. You want to keep your brand in the media and engaged with customers without bombarding journalists/ audiences to the point of apathy.

2. An organised integrated PR & digital approach
The key to any successful PR campaign is organisation. It’s true that we must react to news and trends as they emerge, but the best campaigns involve a proactive 12 to 18 month plan incorporating key dates throughout the year from national days to major holidays. Creating smaller, six-month plans allows you to regularly catch long lead media and consistently keep your hotel in the news.

3. Build a network of influencers
As social media continues to hold its position, the importance of building a high-quality influencer network cannot be overstated. According to Havas Group’s Meaningful Brands 2019 report, 81% of brands sold across Europe could disappear and consumers would not care. Building a trustworthy brand is therefore vital for engaging consumers. Create a rapport with your influencers, bring them back time and time again and utilise their contacts to create an even greater reach for your brand.

Influencer marketing is still a murky area but there are a few pointers to help you get ahead: to ensure you make the most out of the relationship include looking for an engagement rate of 4% – 6% on posts; define expectations beforehand to ensure they are met; and aim to state what you want before working with them, so if you want 10 photos, ask for 10 photos.

It’s important to research your influencers and ensure they’re a good fit for your target audience to produce content that maximises your assets.

4. Think like a journalist and blogger

To generate publicity for your brand, try to understand what appeals to journalists and online audiences – and what doesn’t. By thinking like a journalist, you can tailor your campaign and present your assets in a way that is far more likely to be picked up. To be able to think like a journalist or your audiences, you should be constantly monitoring media not just within your industry, but a wide variety. Devour the media, find the angles behind features and learn to spot current trends, journalists love anything new and anything that taps into their calendars. Winning the media over is vital to a successful marketing campaign.

5. Maximise your assets and production
Even if you use all of these tactics and create an innovative, well-structured campaign, you cannot succeed if you don’t have the assets in place to maximise your product. Stay on brand and build up a vault of high-quality images, videos, blog posts, graphics, animations, infographics and articles while ensuring any logos and branding materials are designed to the highest standard. This should be your starting point for any successful campaign.

Looking to make new relationships? Monitor the press? Prove and report on your success? You need Vuelio

Impact vs Value

Impact vs Value in PR

One of the questions our clients often ask us is how to calculate the value of editorial coverage. In the past, the accepted measure was Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) but this is now held in such low esteem that PR industry bodies actively campaign against its use.

AVE is flawed because it doesn’t consider the influence that editorial coverage has beyond advertising. It doesn’t consider that impact on a target audience is determined by the sentiment of coverage or the type (and reach) of a publication. Above all, in a world where Google ranking is king, AVE doesn’t consider search engine optimisation (SEO) benefit.

So, what’s the alternative? The Barcelona Principles 2.0 went a long way to improving how the industry considers evaluation. It reinforced our view that the value of PR is in terms of outcome not output.

To understand outcome, at the beginning of any activity you must define the key audiences you want to reach and the action you want PR activity to prompt. It could be a shift in awareness, understanding or engagement, which is then evaluated using quantitative measures such as website traffic, downloads of content or interactions on social media. For a complete picture, these should be combined with qualitative research into likelihood to recommend and buy.

By aligning PR to strategic targets, the value of PR is in terms of impact against ‘bottom line’ beyond an arbitrary measure of AVE. There’s no doubt this is a more involved approach, but by applying it you’ll create irrefutable evidence of the importance of PR to the ambition of the organisation. It helps move PR from being considered a ‘nice to have’ to essential for overall success.

Want to understand the true value of your PR? Find out how Vuelio can help

PRCA

PRCA announces five new fellows

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has announced today that they have appointed five new Fellows. Congratulations to everyone, we look forward to seeing your ideas for the PR industry in action.

Joining the esteemed list are Paul Bristow FPRCA, managing director, PB Consulting; Mark Glover FPRCA, chief executive, Newington; Richard Millar FPRCA, global president, H+K Strategies; Warwick Smith FPRCA, managing partner, Instinctif Partners; Donna Zurcher FPRCA, former managing partner, Instinctif Partners.

Three of the newly appointed Fellows (Paul Bristow, Mark Glover and Warwick Smith) have all been recognised for the work they have done to integrate the PRCA and APPC into the Public Affairs Board. Bristow says, ‘I’m proud to have worked as a public affairs practitioner and to have played my part in creating the Public Affairs Board.’

Glover praised the PRCA describing it as, ‘the pre-eminent organisation for representing the interests of public affairs practitioners’ and Smith echoed these comments stating, ‘It is humbling to be recognised by the industry which has given me so much satisfaction over the years’.

Both Richard Millar and Donna Zurcher have been recognised as an outgoing member of the PRCA Board of Management. Millar says, ‘Working on the PRCA Board of Management has been very rewarding and I look forward to further working for the good of the industry as a member of the PRCA Fellows’ and Zurcher heartily agrees saying, ‘I am absolutely delighted to have been selected. It is a great honour’.

David Gallagher FPRCA, President, Growth and Development, International, Omnicom Public Relations Group, and Chairman, PRCA Fellows, said: ‘The Fellows have become an essential sounding board for the PRCA and the 2019 class join at an especially exciting time for the association and discipline. Congratulations and welcome.’

On behalf of everyone at Vuelio congratulations to the newly appointed Fellows, we look forward to seeing your ideas for the PR industry in action!

Amec 2019

AMEC Global Summit 2019: Data, algorithms and analytics

In its eleventh year, the Amec Global summit last week in Prague was focussed on data, algorithms and analytics. Panels discussed the future of measurement and the need to link PR and communications to audience behaviour. Conversations were inspiring and reminded the team there from Vuelio of the importance for ongoing development in media measurement.

A core theme of the presentations and workshops across the two days was audience. As the media landscape changes to reflect the dynamics of consumer behaviour, measurement and analysis must do the same. We need models that are flexible so that we can measure what matters to the business.

Fundamentally, this means that rather than working in silos, a more holistic approach is taken to how we consider every aspect of evaluation and how we incorporate data; such as demographic data, internal and external stakeholder surveys and call-to-action engagement. We have to work towards measuring beyond outputs to outcomes of the entire communications input. For too long measurement has concentrated heavily on outputs that do not link to business objectives and don’t provide PR functions with the tools they need to bring to the table which prove the worth of PR.

While media measurement and analysis has certainly come a long way, such as the transition away from AVEs, it is crucial that we continue to develop. In the future, this could mean that evaluation frameworks include:

  • Clever data collection techniques to link influencers to audiences with the goal of linking communications to business objectives
  • Development of algorithms to understand audience behaviour and increase efficiency and accuracy of NLP techniques
  • Continue to use best practice analytics methods, such as the tools and frameworks available from AMEC, to prove the worth and credibility of PR, moving away from vanity metrics.

Find out more about measuring your value with Vuelio