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

Amec 2019

AMEC Global Summit 2019: Data and measuring the value of communications

The Vuelio team headed off to Prague to join the AMEC Global Summit which, this year, was focused on data and what the acceleration of trends from augmentation to AI mean for the communications industry. Day one included sessions that ranged from the implications of blockchain to how Diageo, Sage and Adobe have transformed their global evaluation frameworks.

There were a huge range of experiences and opinions but there was consensus that far more must be done to improve the sophistication of evaluation. Still, PR and communications professionals, whether agency or in-house, do not invest sufficient time or resource to understand impact. According to the PRCA Census, 26% of the industry admits they do no evaluation.

And this has significant knock-on effect. The industry is unable to prove its worth, unable to provide insights that drive business strategy, which puts budgets at risk and leaves PR the poor relation to all other marketing disciplines. Worse, it directly affects the ability of PR to sustain profile and attract data talent.

The good news is that industry groups are taking steps to help. AMEC recently launched M3, a free-to-use measurement framework that supports PR and communications leads to take their organisations (and clients) along a journey to understand and embed best practice evaluation.

It aligns with our view at Vuelio. Measuring the effectiveness (value) of PR and communications begins with understanding the audience the organisation has to reach and the change sought whether awareness, engagement or product purchase. Only if we think in this way will PR and communications evolve to be considered by its contribution to overall business performance. It is a shift essential to the future of the industry.

Find out more about measuring your value with Vuelio

Trust

Who can you trust? Newsguard ranks the UK’s news brands

Picking the right news brand used to mean careful considerations, such as: ‘Does this brand align with my ethics?’, ‘Can I open this one on the tube without elbowing someone in the face?’, ‘Do I really need to see past this paywall?’ But no more – here to help with the decision on what to read/cite/trust/work with comes NewsGuard’s UK launch, rolled out midweek with traffic lights to lead the way.

The US news rating tool is simple – green is good, red is bad – and decided by nine key factors:

  • Not repeatedly publishing false content
  • Gathering and presenting information responsibly
  • Regular corrections and clarifications (where necessary)
  • Handling the difference between news and opinion responsibly
  • Avoiding deceptive headlines
  • Disclosing ownership and source(s) of financing
  • Clearly labelling advertising
  • Revealing who is in charge and any conflicts of interest
  • Providing names of content creators with either contact or biographical information

Aside from a short stall with the MailOnline earlier this year – NewsGuard originally placed the brand as a red for its US product, later backtracking on the rating – the big UK news brands have, by and large, come out clean (well, green). Purely green reads include The Guardian, the Financial Times and Buzzfeed News UK, but the colour is also assigned to outlets that don’t get a full score across the nine factors.

These slightly fuzzier greens go to brands like BBC News (which failed on providing the names of content creators, and contact and biographical info), Sky News (not perfect on correcting and clarifying errors) and The Independent (issues with disclosing ownership and financing, and labelling its advertising, apparently).

As for the reds, PressGazette reports that Politicalite UK is the first to be publicly named.

Tastes may differ on which media outlets are most nourishing, but, according to Wikipedia co-founder and NewsGuard global advisory board member Jimmy Wales, NewsGuard offers a ‘unique tool for helping people understand who is feeding them the news’. And Wikipedia has form with this, having questioned the validity of Daily Mail reporting in the past (also backtracked, by the way).

It’s not just the usual suspects that have been classed as red or green, however, as 150 websites were reviewed by the news rating tool’s team for its UK launch – accounting for 90% of online engagement across the country, when it comes to traffic and social media statistics.

Not taken into consideration for each are issues like the arm span needed to open a print copy, or whether you should be embarrassed to be found with it on your mobile screen during the commute. But trustworthiness? That’s what everyone in the media, those working with it and those looking to consume it, need to be aware of.

A NewsGuard-commissioned YouGov poll for the launch found that nine in ten of those surveyed believe misleading information online is a problem. There’s proof of that easily found in the real-life impact of the online anti-vaxxer movement as we watch it play out across school playgrounds and in the media (both red and green). There’s the rise of fake news and other disturbing trends, like, say, the enduring belief that Goofy is actually a cow (he isn’t).

Those looking for information – whether vital, or frivolous – deserve trustworthy sources, and in a world filled with misinformation, the easier it is to access them, the better.

Know which news brands you want to work with but don’t have the right contacts? You need the Vuelio Media Database, which lists over 1 million contacts, influencers and opportunities. 

Innocent blue drink

3 social media lessons from the Easter weekend

We missed Monday PR Club, so for one week only we present Tuesday PR Club, with three very different examples of social media success and lessons for PRs from Twitter.  

1. Innocent’s Blue Drink

Over 10K likes and thousands of retweets and replies, Innocent is rocking wilful denial and baiting Twitter users into engagement. The company’s new drink, which is green, is called Bolt from the Blue and the drinks maker is claiming it’s the colour blue. Cue many thousands of people pointing out the obvious – it’s actually green.

But this drink isn’t called blue when it’s green by mistake, and Innocent has replied to hundreds of tweets correcting people who call it green.

Over…

…and over….

And over again…

What’s the lesson?
When you’ve built up a playful persona on Twitter, you can be playful with your audience and people don’t mind. Also – people love pointing out mistakes, and you can be sure of engagement if you make one.

UPDATE: We’ve received a request for a number of corrections from Innocent about some ‘errors’ in the above text. We’re delighted to update the post with the following:

 

2. M&S Mojito
Diane Abbot was snapped drinking from a can of Mojito from M&S on TFL’s Overground Line. The media picked up on the picture and it blew up on social media as Abbot was forced to apologise:

This may seem like a trivial matter but for M&S this was excellent coverage.

Many people started using the hashtag #IDrinkWithDiane and some even posted pictures of themselves enjoying alcoholic cans on the Underground. M&S didn’t even have to comment, all the work was done for them, and while Tesco tried to jump on the bandwagon – (the scamps):

The only real winner was M&S:

What’s the lesson?
Know when to comment and know when not to. But when a story breaks – and this story made headlines across nearly every major news site – make sure the rest of the business knows. Just because you’re not communicating publicly, doesn’t mean you can’t communicate internally and make sure your stock of ‘tinnies’ doesn’t run low…

 

3. A whole bunch of lessons
This is a bit of a cheat, like having three wishes from a genie and using one of them to wish for more wishes. But we came across a thread of excellent advice from Ben Jack Thomas, senior brand strategist at Twitter:

What’s the lesson?
When writing a listicle, find someone to do the heavy lifting for you.

 

Ready to launch the greatest social media campaign ever? Make sure you have the right tools for success

Lush Ltd

Is Lush building its own social network?

Lush hit the headlines last week when it announced the closure of its main UK social media accounts. The announcement claimed social media is ‘making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly’, the company is ‘tired of fighting with algorithms’ and Lush doesn’t want to ‘pay to appear in your newsfeed’.

Its plan is to highlight more voices, and some have read this as more influencer marketing, but that still requires a reliance on existing social media channels whether the company is using them directly or not. On the announcement to quit social media, Lush encouraged people to engage directly via live website chat, email or phone.

Within 24 hours, most major news sites, both mainstream and trade, had picked up the story in what’s undeniably a publicity win for a company that doesn’t spend money on traditional advertising. Unfortunately many of the stories focused on how confused Lush customers were by the news – like this story from the Mirror – with many suggesting that Lush’s target audience are unlikely to call, chat or email the company.

While there is likely to be a bigger plan to come (more on that in a moment), this is half an announcement. Without explaining the ‘What’s next’ part of ‘we’re quitting social media’, many have been left in the dark. To some, this tease may be exciting and the intrigued superfans will be on tenterhooks. But in the age of social media, where attention spans are measured in seconds, this tactic is also likely to lose members of its audience who lack the patience for a protracted stunt.

Not everyone is against the move though, Lush has a fan in David Parkinson, managing director of Brave & Heart who, writing for The Drum claims to have considered this type of move for many of his clients. He says: ‘For several global clients, my agency has looked at similar strategies […] we have started to think beyond the platform and back to the purpose and the people. Asking “who?”, “why?” and “where?”, not just “what?” and “when?”.

‘This is why a brand the size of Lush gets my thumbs up; its big enough for people to take notice, small enough to have the chops to do it.’

Signs of a new network
On the surface it may seem like a baffling move for a company such as Lush, for whom social media engagement seems to come easily for both its products and ethical campaigns. And it’s that level of content engagement that Lush won’t want to lose, which is why the final line of the announcement points at more to come: ‘This isn’t the end, it’s just the start of something new. #LushCommunity – see you there.’

The accompanying image says Lush is ‘switching up social’ – not abandoning it. Clarity can perhaps be found in the company’s annual report, which was published the week before this announcement. The report highlights a growth in online sales and the claim that it is ‘optimistic that our new global website launch will help generate further growth’.

The company is investing heavily in its ‘digital estate’, which is being created to ensure a ‘safe haven for our Lush communities online’. It is continuing to focus on ‘developing features in beta, an evolving brand led commerce experience online’. Beta.lush.com, or #LUSHLABS, is already open to UK customers with plans for it to roll out globally by the end of June.

At the moment the site is ‘by invitation only’ and encourages registered users to ‘invite collaborators’. Users – who have to create an account – will ‘hear it here first’ with ‘early-bird content reveals and news’.

The homepage finishes with the line ‘Want to know a secret? By joining you’re helping us build a new Lush platform. Lush has always been a community-led company. Lush Labs is the next step in putting your feedback at the front and centre’.

An online community with free-flowing engagement for registered users? Sounds like a social network to me.

What do you think of Lush’s move? Tempted to quit the Gram or leave Facebook? We’re still on social media so let us know your thoughts on Twitter @Vuelio.

Online Harms white paper

Reaction to Government proposals to tackle ‘online harms’

The Government has published a white paper that proposes a new regulator to oversee and enforce a ‘statutory duty of care’ by online tech companies. Enforcement includes the ability to issue ‘substantial fines’ and to ‘impose liability on individual members of senior management’.

The detailed white paper proposals draw a particular focus to terrorist activity and child sexual exploitation and abuse online, and say the Home Secretary would have final sign-off on the codes of practice that govern these harms. In what may be seen as a big threat to social and search giants’ proprietary practices, the proposals also call for the regulator to have the ability to see the impact of algorithms in selecting content for users.

This white paper comes off the back of Mark Zuckerberg calling for government regulation of the internet – and though cynics may suggest a tech boss requesting specific regulation is not as wholesome as it appears, ‘harmful content’ is an area he wants more regulation over. Of course, having read the Government’s white paper, Zuckerberg may now regret inviting this in to his company’s ethos.

Reaction to the proposals has been mixed, with many questioning the ethics of Government intervention in online spaces in what could be perceived as an attack on free speech. The fact the white paper claims it has a vision for ‘a free, open and secure internet’ with ‘freedom of expression online’, seems in many ways to directly contradict the requirement for tech companies to actively remove harmful content.

The Guardian has summarised many of the fears around the proposals here, which includes the line, ‘critics say online harms white paper could lead to North Korean-style censorship’.

These concerns were reflected across Twitter:

Though the voices in the media may not fully reflect the public’s perception (imagine), as this Martin Lewis Twitter poll suggests:

It’s very possible that the high-profile stories of tech giants and social platforms accused of failing their users, such as in the death of Molly Russell, have perhaps permeated the public’s collective conscience more than the media’s ingrained fear of Government censorship.

In PR land, the reaction has not been as strong, which is perhaps surprising as media concerns are typically comms concerns. The difficulties of strongly taking one side (Government potentially threatening freedom of speech) against another (we want children to be safe online) is summed up by the PRCA’s director general, Francis Ingham; he said: ‘The Online Harms White Paper builds on the political consensus around online safety, public concern, and the need to “rebuild” public confidence. The question of online platform regulation touches on sensitive subjects such as freedom of speech and our shared desire to keep people (especially children) safe online.

‘The devil is in the detail here and the Government itself argues that voluntary action from the industry has not “gone far enough”. While most people would support the intentions behind this White Paper, if all of these online harms are not clearly defined then the consequence would be far larger than intended.’

The CIPR similarly highlights that in theory this white paper is a positive step to protect people online but that any regulation must also allow tech companies to operate freely, a tightrope balancing act. Jon Gerlis, CIPR senior policy office, said: ‘This Paper is a welcome addition to the conversation around tackling the ills of harmful online content and the spread of disinformation online. The paper accepts that self-regulation has failed.

‘It is therefore right that the law addresses this in a way that allows it to keep pace with advances in the digital world and ensure tech companies operate freely but regulated to a clear set of standards expected of any other kind of business.’

What do you think of the regulation? Long overdue to keep people safe or the end of freedom of speech? Let us know on Twitter @Vuelio.

Article 13

Industry associations react to EU copyright vote

The European Parliament’s vote to pass new laws for copyright on the internet has been met with criticism from industry giants like Google, high-profile Youtubers, and associations including the CIPR and PRCA.

‘Memes’ and parody are safe under the Article 13 – passed on Tuesday with a 348-274 vote – but reuse of material beyond reaction gifs created for sharing on Twitter or Tumblr could be subject to censor. Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA said: ‘We risk chilling online engagement with overreaching roles on copyright. This comes, ironically, at a time when we need the public to engage with the news more than ever’.

Though Article 13 has the aim of passing accountability for copyright-breaking content from the public and onto the digital companies that host its distribution, this may still have unintended negative consequences for individuals looking to share their thoughts on current events online. The directive’s upload filters – though intended to support news organisations and providers – may silence public opinion before it can be shared and, according to the CIPR’s stance, ‘damage the rights of internet users’. For CIPR Chief Executive Alastair McCapra, ‘Mandatory licenses and content filters are a disproportionate response to the problem and will not tackle the problem of the illegal sharing of right-protected content online.’

High-profile figures are on each side of the argument regarding the new laws, such as musicians Wyclef Jean (against) and Debbie Harry (for). Companies who had protested the passing of Article 13 include PornHub – a platform that has previously provided a haven for users leaving the social blogging platform Tumblr post-censorship to instead create and share GIFs with them [This link is surprisingly safe for work]. Tumblr’s ban on ‘NSFW’ content in December 2018 has already seen the social blogging site lose 30% of its web traffic, and though Article 13’s copyright focus is far from Tumblr’s ‘female-presenting nipples’ aversion, social sharing sites could still be negatively affected in a similar way when it comes to engagement and user numbers.

For journalists and content creators, the new laws are designed to support and protect their work from companies sharing without payment or proper accreditation. A noble aim, but one that comes with caveats and consequences that won’t always be conducive to creativity and reward. Laws that could curb future controversies like that of the @fuckjerry account aggregating without consent may also harm journalistic free thought, and that’s something that will have an impact on the PR industry.

McCapra said: ‘[Article 13] will force restrictions on the way PR professionals work and deliver value for clients and businesses across Europe’, which is a view that many PRs are likely to share in the coming months. However the industry reacts to the new laws as their reality sets in, PR firms and freelancers (and the content creators they work with) are going to have to get creative to work with the incoming filters and restrictions… or the new opportunities, depending if you’re team Jean or team Harry.

Magazine rack

ABC releases magazine circulation figures for the second half of 2018

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), many magazines saw a decline in circulation for the second half of last year.

For women’s magazines, Red and Bella grew the most, by 7% and 6% respectively but for a large number of magazines it was a different story. The biggest year-on-year falls were experienced by Now magazine (43% decline) and Cosmopolitan (23% decline).

Mark Winterton, managing director for women’s weeklies and TV at TI Media, told Press Gazette: ‘We are starting to see the benefit of our bold decision to go against the grain and remove our women’s weeklies titles from bigger packs.

‘While the overall ABC results reflect the initial impact of stripping out the bigger packs from our promotional activity, which inflates sales figures, these single copy sales are indicative of the rewards of doing so. Our investment in audience research and editorial redevelopment will continue across all titles in the portfolio.’

Rob Munro-Hall, group managing director at Bauer Magazine Media UK, owner of second highest circulation magazine Bella, said: ‘Our focus on curating the highest quality content continues to drive engagement on all platforms – with print remaining proudly at the heart of what we do.’

For men’s interest magazines, Stuff’s circulation fell 27% year-on-year between July and December 2018. The now-closed free magazine Shortlist recorded the highest circulation, shifting an average 500,000 copies per issue.

For news magazines, The Week’s circulation fell by over 25%, while its sister title The Week Junior grew by as much.

Marina Haydn, managing director of circulation at The Economist, said it has worked with ABC to change how its circulation figures are reported, consolidating its print offerings and separating it from its digital publication figures. Haydn said this reflected The Economist’s “product neutrality” as customers can choose between print and digital’.

This new format shows The Economist with a print circulation drop of 38%, as print figures are being compared to combined print and digital figures from last year.

According to the Economist, like-for-like figures would put its print circulation down by 10% year-on-year and its digital circulation up by 83% year-on-year.

All the ABCs are updated in the Vuelio Media Database, helping you to make informed decisions about which outlets work for you. 

Media outlets - job cuts and closures

Journalism job cuts and closure of publications

BuzzFeed, HuffPost, The Pool, and Vice are just some of the outlets that have announced cuts and closures over the last couple of weeks, with thousands of media jobs already cut in 2019.

Across the UK, US, and Australia, BuzzFeed has cut editorial roles and closed BuzzFeed Spain entirely. In London, almost half of editorial roles have been cut, down 17 from an original 37. Roles being sliced are primarily across the Buzz team, but also the news and celeb teams. BuzzFeed has also made its head of quizzes redundant because free user-generated content is proving more popular.

The Guardian reported: ‘BuzzFeed founder and chief executive, Jonah Peretti, said the company would reduce headcount by 15 percent, or about 250 jobs, to around 1,100 employees globally.’

 

 

In the US, Verizon, owner of HuffPost, Yahoo and AOL, has reportedly announced cuts for up to 1,000 staff. This would trim seven percent from its media team across all brands. Verizon began by laying off 20 employees at HuffPost on 23 January, including opinion writers and political reporters.

CNET reported that in a memo to staff, Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media said: ‘These were difficult decisions, and we will ensure that our colleagues are treated with respect and fairness, and given the support they need.’

Next was Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the US, cutting around two percent of its workforce. Poynter reported on cuts that affected editors and senior journalists at local papers owned by Gannett in regions across the US. The New York Post reports that cuts affected as many as 400 people.

Last week, women-focused online magazine, The Pool shared the news of its closure on Friday, after almost four years.

 

 

Also on Friday, Vice Media announced cuts across the US, UK and Canada, laying off 10% of staff following reorganisation from new CEO Nancy Dubuc.

Business Insider reported: ‘Vice Media will reportedly refocus around its TV production unit, its international news team, it’s digital properties, and its original TV content.’

Press Gazette editor Freddy Mayhew said: ‘There seems to be no end in sight to redundancies at online publications.

‘If the likes of The Pool, Buzzfeed and HuffPost can’t make digital journalism pay when they’re the experts, who purely publish online with no print offering, then the industry truly is in crisis.’

 

As journalists move on to new roles and freelance careers, all changes and updates are made in the Vuelio Media Database.

Facebook market research

Facebook’s market research app accused of spying

An Apple and Android app called ‘Facebook Research’ paid users, including teens, to provide access to the content they access on their phones.

Facebook is in the news once again for its use of data. Working through the Facebook Research app, the company has been paying participants for access to the content on their devices.

The app allowed Facebook to access the majority of a user’s device, including:

  • Private messages in chat apps including photos and videos
  • Emails
  • Web browsing activity
  • Logs of what apps were installed, and when they were used
  • A location history of where the owner had physically been
  • Data usage

Aimed at getting research from 13-35 year olds, the app has since been removed from Apple, however is still available on Android.

A spokesperson from Apple told TechCrunch that Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple.

Fortune said: ‘What was particularly eye-catching about TechCrunch’s report was the fact that the $20 monthly reward was on offer to users between the ages of 13 and 35, meaning Facebook has been paying teens to monitor their phone usage.’

A spokesperson for Facebook told the BBC: ‘It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.
‘Finally, less than 5% of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.’

The Verge reported: ‘The Research app requires that users install a custom root certificate, giving Facebook the ability to see users’ private messages, emails, web searches, and browsing activity. That’s in apparent violation of Apple’s system-level functionality, which is intended to grant employers access to employees’ work devices. The policy prohibits developers from installing the certificates on customers’ phones.’

The Independent highlighted that participants were told not to share their involvement with others: ‘Users were recruited through sign-up pages that make clear the data is being collected to improve Facebook’s services and that they should not tell people about the project.’

Although the app was well labelled, the secrecy behind the project and the violation of Apple’s terms mean that Facebook is facing scrutiny once again for the way it uses data and conducts research.

Top 50 political influencers

Coming January 2019: the UK’s Top 50 Political Influencers

Vuelio is renowned for its rankings, with the top blog rankings, compiled by our in-house media research team, famous the world over. To prepare for what could possibly be the most tumultuous year in politics, we’ve now turned our attention to political influencers from the world of media including broadcasters, editors, columnists, journalists and bloggers.

Launching in January, the Top 50 Political Influencers is being compiled using automated metrics as well as human intelligence. It will be the most comprehensive guide to media commentators, and those with the power of persuasion, ever produced.

Each entry in the ranking will be profiled, making it the who’s who of political media influencers of 2019.

Make sure you don’t miss out on the Top 50 Political Influencers – sign up to Vuelio political updates here.

Vuelio specialises in both media and political communications software, allowing a truly integrated approach to both stakeholder and reputation management. There’s an increasing expectation on many PR teams to also understand the political landscape, and those in public affairs to also understand the media.

Find out more about identifying, understanding and engaging with both media and political influencers.

Hijacking christmas

How to hijack Christmas

The John Lewis Christmas advert has been a cultural phenomenon ever since a little boy couldn’t wait to present his parents with a mystery box in 2011. In recent years, it’s appeal has drawn increased competition from both traditional and new competitors all vying to be the season’s best. This year, the competition is as fierce as ever but now it’s the imitations, parodies and hijacks of the John Lewis [JL] advert that are stealing focus.

What are the benefits of a parody?
Due to the status of the JL advert in society, anything that is a pastiche, or at least alludes to it, has more chance to attract attention, allowing relatively low budget campaigns to ride the JL wave.

This is clear in a majority of the highest profile parodies that have come to light, including this single image from Lidl:

Topping 25K likes on Twitter alone, the image has everything – Christmas-themed border, a pun that works with Lidl and the JL advert and messaging that pushes the budget-friendly angle Lidl is famous for.

Parodies also work as part of existing campaigns. Iceland, who broke ranks early in the Christmas advert stakes and managed to gain a huge amount of coverage for its ‘banned’ advert, has since been maximising its palm oil/orangutan angle including this simple tweet:

In-house hijack
While everyone from Pizza Hut to Frank PR has made use of JL advert, perhaps the greatest parody of all comes from John Lewis’ sister brand, Waitrose. Part of its #TooGoodToWait campaign, Waitrose is hijacking the hijacks with this TV spot:

By showing awareness that brands parody the JL Christmas advert, Waitrose is effectively ‘giving permission’ for all other parodies while taking a friendly swipe at the JL ad’s place in society. This is a tactic Waitrose has used before but never so explicitly.

It also shows that the brands are very much linked, which is something they’re keen to promote as evidenced by their first joint advert in September.

Parodies and pastiches are a great way to make tight budgets go far but require quick, reactive teams. Being able to see what’s trending, especially among your competitors, allows you to join in the conversation as it happens, rewarding smart PRs.

Find out how Vuelio Media Monitoring can help stay up to date with your sector and keep an eye on your competitors.

As a special bonus, because it’s not a parody as such, here’s Twitter’s take on a John Lewis Christmas: