How to measure the impact of your campaign with social listening

How to measure the impact of your campaign with social listening

Having launched and shared your campaign where your target audiences are most likely to engage, now is the time to pull the data, crunch the numbers and manage your metrics to examine the successes and could-do-betters.

As part of our series on how social listening can add insight to your campaign planning, creation and measurement, here is what it can do for you in the post-campaign phase.

Going beyond traditional metrics

Volumes, impressions and reach scores – you may be used to sending out PowerPoints filled with graphs and pie charts to prove the success of your campaign to your stakeholders and C-suite, but does all this data tell its full story?

Positive and negative sentiment and share of voice are established methods for determining key accomplishments. They are useful for those higher-up in the management hierarchy, those slightly removed from the coal face of the work, as an overview – they cannot be skipped. Without context, however, these traditional metrics can only go so far. What do the engagements achieved really mean?

Offering wider possibilities

In conjunction with those reach scores, impressions, et al, social listening can provide more insight and actionable learning.

Which audience did you actually engage?
At the pre-campaign phrase, you will have decided which audiences would be most interested in and most useful for your client or your brand. All the data you’ve collected will show engagements, but how do you know if your campaign hit the intended audience, or another entirely?

With social listening, it is possible to answer that question with more accuracy, ultimately making for a more meaningful report to share with stakeholders.

Did you reach a wider audience?
With this extra level of detail, you can benchmark against your established audience/previous engagements, unearthing which new communities you have linked with.

Did your campaign have a meaningful impact?
Beyond impressions and positive and negative impact, social listening services like those offered by Pulsar can add in extra detail, such as brand pillars and dimensions of reputation to check your data against.

Additional context against your brand dimensions
As each campaign adds up to a full display of your brand or clients’ story, approach and personality (alongside the services offered, naturally), there is a compelling and useful through-line that can be tracked. Future campaigns can either build on this, or take a detour if needed. Higher-ups in your company hierarchy might look at a campaign’s metrics once, but extra context means extra direction for the future.

Opening routes through crisis

Whether working in-house or agency-side for other brands, a crisis communications plan has to be in place, just in case. Press releases, public apologies or product recalls will not work for every brand in a crisis; different routes have to be uncovered and social listening can point out the right direction.

Are first impressions what they seem?
A crisis for a brand means social media impressions – conversations and coverage potentially spanning the globe and steadily chipping away at reputation. High impressions may automatically signal disaster… but are those online conversations actually connected, spreading and reaching high-profile publications?

Social listening services like Pulsar can pinpoint the key influencers engaging in the crisis around a brand and track their reach – how many audiences they connect to, and how far a story is spreading. The numbers may look frightening, but the story might not be going anywhere – keep that press release to yourself for now…

Has the crisis even hit your audience?
Social listening allows for segmentations of the audiences sharing particular stories – by community, political affiliations, age, nationality, media consumption patterns and much more. Did the story you need to combat and subdue reach your target community? If not, a wide-reaching public apology could do more damage to global brand reputation.

Where do you need to rebuild relationships?
Your client base may not be engaging with the crisis, but it needs to be combatted within the communities it has impacted. Social listening will help with finding those people and determining how to reestablish trust with them. Which media do they engage with, how do they engage with them? Learning more about them will show you the approach to take.

Key takeways

– Metrics will not always give you the full story and can be easily built upon with data from social media.
– Benchmarking is a necessity – no benchmarking can mean data in isolation and only part of the story.
– Measurement criteria placed in context is key for future planning.

Impressions, reach and sentiment are established in our industry for a reason, but will your stakeholders really care without the extra meaning of context? Your campaign told a story to your audience, here is where you tell the story of your campaign to your bosses.

For more on how social listening can add extra insight to your campaigns, check out previous posts in this series: 

An introduction to social listening for PR, comms and public affairs teams

How social listening can help you plan and boost your PR campaigns 

Top tips for timing your comms right

Top tips for timing your PR content and comms to perfection

This is a guest post from freelance journalist Dakota Murphey.

In PR, timing is everything. Get the timing right and it can mean the PR content that you painstakingly planned for months on end is picked up and run with. Get it wrong and it can feel like an awful lot of wasted effort for no reward. It is not surprising, then, that businesses are increasingly focused on the perfect timing for their PR work. 

Well-planned and executed PR campaigns can be hugely beneficial to your business. They can help to build a connection with customers, limit and quickly manage any damage in a PR crisis as well as establish your business as a leading authority in the sector. Over time this is an incredibly rewarding form of marketing that can result in additional sales and boosted profits.

In this article, we will look at some top tips for timing your PR content and comms more effectively.

Being smart with social media

There can be no doubt that social media have revolutionised how we approach PR. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be used by PR professionals to get far more opportunities to connect with an audience online, as well as to provide a much larger potential audience for the content.

It is common for PR professionals to work closely with social media marketing to get the best possible results for their campaigns. Some of the most effective ways to use social media include engaging with press members, as well as identifying trending topics that are gaining popularity and momentum.

Writing engaging content

It is often an overlooked factor of PR: your content needs to stand out from the crowd. Remember that when you are conducting PR you are asking members of the press to take the content you give them and publish it online. That means you need to put a lot of effort and investment into creating truly engaging content.

The last thing you want is content that comes across as promotional or simply acts as an advert for your business. It can be easily seen through, not just by those publishing the work, but also by anyone who ends up reading it.

Writing timely content is an essential part of impressing those looking to publish your work, and you are much more likely to get work out if it has a time-relevant theme.

Responding to the pandemic

For many businesses, planning for PR content and large-scale communications can be done months or even years in advance. It may well be the case that a large part of your company’s business model was actually conceived before the Covid-19 pandemic took place. If this is the case for you, it is important to consider the effect that the pandemic has had on your marketplace and your audience.

“You should recognise that the pandemic has changed things significantly – and this might have to affect your business strategy moving forward,” explains Chris Plumridge, Director at Wellden Turnbull. “It may be the case that the kinds of products and services you offer may need to be re-thought and updated. This can be a painful process, but it is important to ensure that the company is sustainable.”

If you have planned for PR content that is no longer applicable, or perhaps no longer as relevant as it once was, you really need to reconsider the work and think about how you can put it out more effectively. The pandemic is continuing to influence business decisions, so this can be a key part of your strategy.

Building your relationships

There’s no doubt that relationship building is a key part of any PR role. Knowing who to go to with a particular piece of content and how to get them to accept it is the bread-and-butter of the role. A huge part of the good timing of your work is knowing when is the right time to send over a piece to a particular contact.

You should never be sending out a dull press release to generic channels. It is best to take every possible opportunity to build that personal connection – offer a story to a particular journalist, and do your research on them before you send it over.

Using a digital asset management system

One of the biggest challenges of always being timely with your PR content is the fact that you have to manage multiple media outlets at once. As such it can be an extremely good idea to invest in a digital asset management (DAM) system. This is a useful way to manage assets such as images, videos, infographics and more.

Check out previous guest posts published as part of our PR Club series on best practice in PR and comms here.

What will the new Prime Minister mean for public affairs

What the new Prime Minister means for public affairs

This is a guest post from Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs at law firm BDB Pitmans.

Stuart Thomson

There are only days left before the name of the new Prime Minister will be announced. What will this decision mean for those in public affairs?

Liz vs Rishi seems to have created a long drawn-out debate with plenty of antagonism on both sides. But however much the candidates try to talk about a range of policies, a victory is likely to come down to plans around tax. Both agree that tax cuts are needed but one says now, the other later. All the indications are that Liz Truss, who wishes to take immediate action, will win.

The incoming PM will bring a new approach and a new agenda. They will want to demonstrate some distance from the previous incumbent and may, as a General Election gets ever closer, feel compelled to blame others for failings, perhaps even including the Johnson Government. However, it remains too early for that yet.

There will be differences of approach depending on who wins, but many similarities as well. The big challenge facing both is the cost-of-living crisis and energy prices. They will also both need to prove their Conservative, free market credentials and move away from simply exerting the power of the State.

But what will the election of a new leader and Prime Minister mean for public affairs? Here are 10 things to think about.

1) The need to deliver – the emphasis of the new PM will be on delivery and measures that support economic growth. Ideas that can help support that agenda are more likely to find a favourable ear and obstacles in their way swept aside. Those in public affairs need to seek out those sorts of opportunities and get their campaigns ready.
2) Reviews – policies that were in favour with the last PM, may be cast aside. That could open up opportunities as well.
3) Re-badging – Levelling Up is an example of a policy that, while not being explicitly abandoned, will doubtless be downgraded – even if it still has a Secretary of State. The need to address regional disparities will remain.
4) Short timescale – we have to remember that the longest date for delivery is late 2024 / very early 2025 which is the latest a General Election can be held. There will be extreme pressure on the new PM to demonstrate that they have made a difference by then.
5) New teams – be ready to brief news teams and advisers as those initial conversations could be critical. Grabbing attention early and making a positive impression means that you are in with the best chance of securing the influence you are seeking.
6) Pressure to be party political – there will be increased pressure as all the parties will want to demonstrate support for their approach. Don’t be afraid to rebut such approaches unless they really suit your agenda or campaign.
7) Avoid the blame game – when inevitably things go wrong then the new PM will lash out and look for someone to blame. They will, at least initially, try to avoid past Conservative Governments but blaming Labour will only take them so far. They will look for outside bodies to act as a fall guy. Make sure you have protected yourselves politically.
8) Build your reputation – another way of avoiding potential fallout is to consider your external reputation. Integrity offers protection in the event of political attack but also prevents others from being too critical. An attack on someone with a strong reputation could rebound on them.
9) Opposition parties – there is no doubt that the Conservatives look more vulnerable now than they have for some time. Whoever succeeds Johnson will face a monumental task. Good public affairs is about managing your political risk and that means, in the current environment, building relationships across all political parties. In other words, the result of the next General Election is not a foregone outcome.
10) Consider the long term – while there will be immediate political pressures, don’t let tactical opportunities detract from your longer-term overall strategy. It is very easy to get distracted by the bright lights of a new Government and PM but stay true to your goals.

The introduction of a new PM will bring opportunities and threats in equal measure. Recognise and consider them as early on as possible to ensure you are prepared.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Top 5 Measurement Mistakes and How to Fix Them

If you are just getting started in measuring your performance, there are a few common mistakes and misunderstandings that are easy to make. Below are a few of the errors we see most often on the Vuelio Insights team and quick solutions to fix them, so you can be confident in the accuracy and reliability of your results:

Using AVE

While some companies still use AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent), it is now largely discredited and considered an outdated metric by many professionals and global communication trade associations. There are many reasons for this, but primarily, AVE is a restrictive metric that falsely implies the cost of advertising is reflective of its value.

Depending on your goals, purely quantitative measurement can sometimes distort results and provide limited insights — AVE being an example. It does not take into account the ROI or quality of coverage, such as the sentiment. All coverage is considered the same, which provides little opportunity for evaluation and effective strategy.

Vuelio Quick Fix: In order to provide a representative insight into how well you’ve achieved your goals, select a consistent set of both qualitative and quantitative metrics based on your specific performance targets.

Using Share of Voice as a Singular KPI

Share of Voice (SoV) is a highly popular metric of choice when measuring against competitors. However, as we have already discussed, a purely quantitative metric can sometimes provide a limited and inaccurate insight of your performance — high SoV is not necessarily a success and low SoV is not necessarily a failure.

For example, over the past six months, Virgin Atlantic had the lowest SoV compared to competitors, but the strongest ratio of positive coverage. On the other hand, while other airlines had a significantly higher volume of coverage, it was more than 90% negative or neutral in sentiment.

Another example could be that the competitor with the highest SoV has mostly passing mentions, whereas the lowest has a stronger proportion of headline mentions. These are just a few of many reasons why a single figure is not enough to achieve proper performance results and insights to improve future strategies.

Vuelio Quick Fix: Before reporting your SoV (or any other quantitative metric), explore how you can further segment the data from a qualitative angle. What was the sentiment? What were the media types? How many key speakers were mentioned? Was there a dominant location? Referring to your SMART KPIs will help you to pick the right questions and explore the right data in an efficient, relevant and targeted manner.

 

Not setting SMART KPIs

Before embarking on performance measurement, a common mistake we often see is a lack of specific planning. SMART KPIs allow you to outline your specific performance goals and align them with the most relevant metrics ahead of time, enhancing the insight and accuracy of your results. For example, if your goal is to increase awareness of a new animal welfare campaign by 30% in Scottish broadcast media, you know to segment your data by key messages, location and media type. If your KPIs are too broad, you could spend hours exploring how your goal has been achieved from a very broad perspective without producing any real specific and insightful data.

So, how do you create a set of relevant, efficient and effective metrics that are tailored to your goals?

Vuelio Quick Fix: Create a set of SMART KPIs for both overall performance and specific campaigns. Whereas the former may be measured and revisited on a monthly or quarterly basis, campaign KPIs may differ each time. When you have confirmed your SMART goals, plan which metrics you will use alongside this to measure your success.

TIP: What is SMART?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. They are criteria to keep in mind when setting your KPIs to ensure they are realistic within the framework of time, tools and support that you have.

 

Lacking Consistency

Lacking a specific search framework when measuring performance can drastically impact reliability and accuracy of results. For example, if you were measuring a campaign, do you want to filter by print, broadcast or online media? Are you looking for local or national coverage? Which competitors are you monitoring?

Things can change, but consistency is key for future benchmarking.

Vuelio Quick Fix: Apply specific and ongoing parameters to your analysis. Be sure to apply them to future benchmarking reports in order to accurately compare results.

For example:

KPI: Increase regional media presence of environmental spokesperson by 10% over the next six months, with a focus on sustainability messaging in the Somerset region.

Parameters:

  • Somerset media outlets only
  • Online and broadcast only
  • Local news and political publications
  • Mentions our new climate-action regime in the local area

Performance Metrics: Coverage volume, spokesperson quotes, prominence, industry type split, key message penetration

 

Overloading Data

Be aware of not overloading reports with multiple types and styles of measurement. Doing so can quickly confuse and overwhelm C-Suite recipients and other viewers who may possess less knowledge on what each metric means.

Vuelio Quick Fix: Using a small and targeted array of metrics will help you to focus on the key messages you are trying to get across and ensure they are accessible to viewers. While it is important to apply both quantitative and qualitative analysis where necessary,  it is not always essential to extrapolate every type of data possible from your figures. You can also source PR services that do this for you, for example, Vuelio provides an efficient metric known as ‘Impact’ Score which combines both qualitative and quantitative results into one.

 

Start with the basics

There are a few running themes throughout each of these points that should be factored in every time you measure your performance — consistency, relevance and a balance of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. If you are new to this, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with so many new terminologies and processes. The most important thing is to not overcomplicate it in the early stages – start small and you will build your way up in no time.

Want to know more about how the Vuelio Insights team can support your PR and communications goals? Find out more.

Cost of living crisis Love Energy Savings

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis: Love Energy Savings’ Rosie Macdonald

‘When a campaign takes root within the heart of the community, you are laying the foundations,’ believes Love Energy Savings’ senior digital PR strategist Rosie Macdonald.

In an effort to help those struggling in the Greater Manchester area during the cost-of-living crisis, the business utilities and price comparison retailer has teamed up with Lancashire-based brands to make a real difference. One initiative – distributing food to as many children in Bolton throughout the summer as possible while raising awareness of poverty in the area.

Tell us a bit about the initiatives you’re working on related to the cost-of-living crisis?

One of the campaigns we’ve launched is a programme to help provide one meal each working day to as many school children in Bolton during the summer holidays as possible.

More than a third of Bolton’s children are living in poverty and almost half (46%) of children living in the Bolton South East were living in poverty in 2020/21 – a figure which has only increased since the cost-of-living crisis.

Working with other Lancashire-local brands, like Robinsons, Dewlay and Fiddler’s Lancashire Crisps, we have put together donations to be circulated by Bolton Lads and Girls Club, a charity very dear to our hearts which helps provide activities, care and support to children and their families in the Greater-Manchester area. These meals are then delivered by a different Love Energy Savings volunteer each day and given to those who need it most.

We made sure to divide the donation requests into incredibly small quantities per brand, so that what we were asking for was so minute it would be difficult to refuse.

What have been the unique challenges you’ve faced with this work?

The logistical planning of getting all the food donations into the packed lunches and delivered by a LES volunteer each day to Bolton Lads and Girls Club for distribution was the initial hurdle, but the real challenge, funnily enough, was persuading local businesses that we weren’t trying to sell them anything.

It’s understandable why many would be wary of an ulterior motive, which is why we asked very small businesses for a significantly smaller quantity of items than a larger brand, which enabled them to get involved and still have their brand name attached to the project, should they wish. One local brand (Dewlay), actually donated double the amount of product that we asked for because of this.

What were your specific aims?

The aims of this campaign were two-fold. Firstly, and most importantly, we wanted to do something to alleviate the knock-on effects of the increased gas prices and the huge increases to the cost of living in our local community of Bolton.

The second purpose of the project was to aid in the regeneration of Bolton, something very close to our CEO Phil Foster’s heart. Phil has recently been a member on a Regenerating Bolton panel alongside other key pillars of the community and said: ‘To regenerate Bolton for a brighter future, we must invest in our youth to give them the best start we possibly can. We need to do this across everything from education and life skills all the way through to work.

‘However, children can’t concentrate when they’re starving and learning to skip meals is not one of the life lessons we need to be teaching them.

‘When the cost of living is so high that increasing numbers of parents aren’t able to provide the basics for their families, despite doing their absolute best, as brands that’s when we all have to sit up, take notice and do what we can to help.’

What have been your main successes?

As the campaign is still part-way through we’re hoping for significantly more successes to come. We hope that when the campaign reaches its conclusion, one of these will be the increased awareness drawn to the issue of child poverty in the Greater Manchester area. However, it is already evident that one of the biggest wins will be the relationships forged with fellow Lancashire brands.

Building those relationships and contacts will enable us to do campaigns on a larger scale in the future. This will ensure that when we’re setting the next campaign into motion, we can point to the success of the previous and embark on a bigger, bolder endeavour.

What advice would you offer to other organisations, initiatives and charities hoping to be heard by politicians and other change-makers on this issue?

Building a campaign that will reach the ears of politicians and enact change is no mean feat. Our advice would be to focus on the message and ensure that those your campaign is intended for remain front and centre.

Driving a thorough focus into the local area (if applicable) is the key starting point. When a campaign takes root within the heart of the community, you are laying the foundations.

Building strong foundations is incredibly key – from there you can diversify the angles you push, move onto national press and then become a part of the conversation on TV and media outlets. Lots of leg-work, a strong message and consistency are the most important ingredients for success.

How would you advise others with approaching the media to gain coverage on these issues?

Understanding the angles within your campaign is always step one. Once you understand the audience you can target accordingly. Different emails tailored for each angle and for each individual, coupled with follow-up phone calls is a winner.

Research is also vital. Knowing the right person to target, the right publication and timing are all factors that need to be juggled to achieve coverage success.

How do you ensure that your approach is sensitive to those particularly vulnerable during this crisis?

Common sense is key here, especially using language. Words like ‘impoverished’, ‘lower-class’, or any phrase that could bear negative connotations or pigeon-hole are an absolute no-go.

It’s also vital to treat the people you’re trying to help like people. It can be tempting to over-egg a story to play at the heartstrings of the public, but this has to be weighted with understanding that you aren’t just quoting statistics – these are real people’s lives.

When looking for case studies, forums and Facebook groups are a brilliant place to go to reach out, in addition to submitting case study ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service requests. Approach-wise, it’s always so important to be gentle and position your request as an opportunity for them to help share their story to shed a light on how bad the situation is for others – this goes hand in hand with acknowledgement. Understanding the difficulties and possible pride, shame or anguish that can be wrapped up in someone speaking to you is so important. Sensitivity will always get you further.

Which areas related to cost-of-living are underrepresented, in your opinion – what else should the media and politicians be paying more attention to/reporting on?

This winter we are likely to see a huge wave of people unable to afford to heat their homes. While this is being discussed, the alternatives – should immediate financial aid not be announced – are hardly touched on.

Public spaces and establishments open later are likely to see an influx of individuals looking to stay warm and save on energy costs. Are these places prepared? Are businesses and those with heated buildings doing enough to make sure they’re ready to invite people in?

Travel ingenuity also does not seem to be as widely covered as it ought to be. With petrol prices through the roof, what are individuals doing to save on costs? Have there been an increase in car-pooling schemes, or an increase in company cycle-to-work programmes? It could be argued that the possible benefits of increased fuel costs are not being addressed. Understandable, given how dire the situation is for so many who cannot travel in any other way – but what about those who can?

Have families hugely downsized the amount of cars they have? Are couples now sharing one car as opposed to two? Could this perhaps be a benefit to the planet and see a decrease in emissions?

Are there particular journalists/sectors of the media you’d like to highlight as doing a good job on reporting on the cost-of-living crisis?

There are so many to choose from. Miranda Bryant and Kirsty McEwan of The Guardian instantly come to mind. I do think a lot of top press are missing the tone, however. Money saving tips to save a few pence in a year seem to be rife, with the line between useful and absurdity often tipping to the wrong side of the balance.

How important is PR and comms for helping the public on this and making change to policy?

Incredibly important. PR is the man behind the curtain of the media – pushing for the right attention, ensuring journalists hear about the relevant news, the latest facts and figures. Without PR, a significant amount of information would never be seen by the general public.

For more on the communicating during cost-of-living crisis, check out our report on how the top six UK supermarkets are communicating inflation as well as how to implement a PR strategy for a local charity.

Why young people are better equipped for inflation

Amid a predicted two-year economic crisis, the financial future is often painted black for young Britons. However, with the rise of ‘fin-fluencers’ and a strong selection of youth-branded fintech platforms to explore, our research suggests that both millenials and Gen Z are on track to be the most financially literate generations ever.

Given that nearly half of under 40s spend their entire monthly income on living costs, it is easy to presume that wealth opportunities are scarce for young people. In 2017, Australian real estate mogul Tim Gurner went viral across international news media for saying that millenials should ‘stop buying avocado toast’ if they want to afford a house. This reference took the world by storm, also transcending into a long-standing part of meme culture. Ever since, millennials have been associated with little savings, careless spending and lavish lifestyle choices — but this could not be further from the truth.

The number of UK millennial and Gen Z millionaires has hit a record high, doubling to 2,000 in 2021 from 1,000 the previous year, shows research by Bowmore Wealth Group. The growth in high-earning millennials comes in contrast to the decrease in high-earning Baby Boomers, who have seen a five-year low in declaring an income between £150,000 – £1m.

While the assets of older generations were hard hit throughout the pandemic, 60% of Gen Z subjects reported they used the COVID-19 lockdown to become more financially confident than they were beforehand. Complemented by a keen interest in financial education, they’re also saving earlier for retirement than their predecessors and spending less money on non-necessities.

 

Top Topics: Financial Perspectives of Young People

Over the past three months, several positive observations have been made of Britain’s youth that forecast an optimistic financial future. While Gen Z already have an average £1,000 in their savings, seven out of 10 millennials are regularly setting money aside, with an average of £174 put away per month. As part of Paypal’s Gen Z Financial Wellness Study, 80% of 1,000 18-25 year olds said they felt confident they’ll achieve their financial goals, with over half (55%) believing they will reach them within the next six years.

 

The money-saving generation

Generation X (1965-1980) households spend around £126.39 per week on ‘lifestyle products’ such as new smartphones and weekend trips – more than any other generation. On the other hand, a growing body of international research has shown that young people are far from financially excessive.

As part of  The Millenial Money Survey, which looked at the life goals of over 4,000 UK adults aged 35 or younger, 68% said they have firm plans to save more this year than last year. An additional 30% have saving strategies in place, including eating out less and cutting unnecessary spending such as takeaway coffees (or avocado toast).

‘The majority [of millennials] are far from a reckless generation. Most are sensible spenders who want to take more control over their money, despite a lack of formal financial education and income. They simply aspire to achieve what previous generations have enjoyed. Many only need to shift their money mind-set slightly to get their money working harder’ — Ross Duncton, Head of Marketing, BMO Global Asset Management

 

Side Hustles

Gen Z are also taking matters into their own hands to secure their financial future and source extra income, with half of them (51%) working a second job or side hustle – rising to 61% in London –  producing an extra £248 on average each month. Scottish young adults lead in the UK for this entrepreneurial spirit (at 83%), while South East England comes out at the bottom, at 50%.

What are the top side hustles for UK Gen Z?

  • Making and selling items or food (16%)
  • Content creation and gaming (14%)
  • Looking after children or animals (10%)
  • Putting money into shares/stocks (10%)

 

Digital Finances

The digitised financial landscape is massive. Online banking is now an outdated concept next to NFTs and a diverse array of fintech apps:

 

Most Popular Digital Finance Services by Generation

Sources: Cybercrew, Divide Buy, This is Money, Gemini

Among the most popular digital finance services, fintech banking apps like Revolut, Nude and Lumio have the strongest ratio of usage across all demographics. In fact, the UK has a 71% adoption rate of FinTech companies, much higher than the global average of 64%.

Nevertheless, Gen Z and millenials are the consistently higher share of users overall throughout the digital economy. Millenials currently hold more online banking services than any other generation, while the number of Brits with digital-only accounts could go up to 23 million in the next five years.

Cash in hand is becoming a thing of the past for Gen Z, with 58% using money-transfer services and two in five getting paid via mobile apps for their side-hustle. As discussion evolves around the world about becoming a ‘cashless society’ — a term used 1,381 times by national financial and general news sources since March 1 — 51% of millenials have a positive attitude towards the idea. Moreover, they are readily preparing by educating themselves in new and innovative financial opportunities.

Investments and Cryptocurrency

Of course, one of the most prolific examples of financial innovation over the last decade is cryptocurrency. While the average investor is just 28 on UK app Plum, Gen Zers are also investment buffs, with 54% holding some kind of investment already. 86% of teens are interested in investing, and those that do not say they do not feel confident or their parents do not know how to get started. Furthermore, 56% of Gen Z adults state they are including cryptocurrency or NFTs as part of their retirement strategy.

On the other hand, in a 2021 UK study with cryptocurrency firm Gemini, 57% of over 55s expressed no interest at all. The risks of loss involved may be a strong causational factor behind this, particularly due to strong international news coverage of such dangers. Since May 1, the term ‘crash’ has been used 461 times by leading online news sources in the UK, whereas positive sentiment towards the topic is scarce.

Despite their controversial interest in digital currencies, a large-scale study with Standard Life retirement scheme, 53% of Gen Zers and 51% of Millennials reported an interest in sustainable investing, compared to only 44% among Gen Xers and 36% among Baby Boomers.

 

Financial Literacy and Fin-fluencers

While traditional banks have offered youth-focused educational schemes for some time, the short and snappy format of the ‘fin-fluencer’ (financial influencer) is driving a stronger interest for financial literacy in younger generations than any other method.

Finance trends regularly go viral, from money-saving challenges to crypto and investment. For example, Dogecoin value increased by 40% after going viral on Tiktok. There is a huge 989.3 million views attributed to the #finance hashtag on TikTok and thousands of ‘financial’ series and content posts that have Gen Z coming back for more. The Financial Diet, The Financial Burrito and Millenial Money Man are just a few of these ‘fin-fluencers’ to make a living from sharing such information with their young audiences.

Considering the UK fintech Tally has reported that Tiktok ads are over 300% more effective than Instagram, many fintech brands are spotting opportunities to specifically represent and target Gen Z and millennials. UK fintech Plum (an AI ‘assistant’ helping you save money) is reaping the benefits of early entry to TikTok, seeing strong growth in the 25-34 age group following a series of strong fin-fluencer partnerships. Plum’s debut was well-timed: COVID meant more people were on TikTok, but also led to a 180% increase in investment as people naturally thought about saving more money.

 

‘Millennials are often named as the generation of no income, no job, no assets. Our data proves that for our investors at least, this stereotype is incorrect, as they have shown themselves to be savvy with their smart investment tactics during the pandemic.’Victor Trokoudes, CEO & co-founder of Plum

As part of a recent Barclaycard study, young people from the UK, US and Germany were asked what role their favourite brands played in their lives and what they expected from the Barclaycard brand.

It was revealed that they prize ‘good quality’ and ‘trendiness’ above all else, followed by ‘good value’, ‘good design’ and ‘nostalgia’. Good design finds the sweet spot between function and aesthetic, while also streamlined to appeal to short, eight-second attention spans. Nude is a leading example to this regard, demonstrating both ease of use, accessibility and fun visuals for all user types. Another example is Quirk, a UK-based savings app that factors in your financial personality and spending habits as a tool to budget more wisely.

 

The Digital Solution

While the cost of living is rapidly increasing, millennials and Gen Zers have less to lose and more passion to learn. Our research shows they have responded to inflation with an immense amount of financial maturity and are taking on the responsibilities required to prevent economic destruction in their future.

They are more financially transparent than any other generation and are finding ways to profit from sharing financial education to the masses, which can only be an incentive for further learning. They possess the strongest share of investments in both crypto and the stock market, not to mention they’re being guided on where to put their earnings through fintech, who are now building apps both functionally and aesthetically catered to their generations.

While there is no doubt that most of us are facing major setbacks throughout the financial crisis, our research suggests that this does not have to be a long-term representation of the UK economy. Despite being some of the most negatively impacted, young people are already demonstrating their resilience and confident ability to find innovative and optimistic solutions.

Want to know more about this data or how media insights can support your PR and communications? Find out more.

Choosing food items in a supermarket

Cost of Living: How the top 6 British supermarkets are communicating inflation

As costs continue to soar in energy, fuel and produce, the cost of groceries is a strong concern for 76% of the UK. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the number of people skipping meals or using food banks has risen from around one in ten in March 2021, to nearly one in six this March — with a strong upsurge in middle class families needing support. Research suggests this uncertainty will remain for at least the next three years.

In a bid to maintain sales, supermarkets across the UK have had to rethink their internal and external communications, with value and support now at the forefront.

With inflation now at a 40-year high of 9.1%, the average shopper will spend £380 more on groceries in 2022. Prices are as much as 5.9% higher in April than a year ago, the biggest increase since December 2011. As a result, the volume of goods being sold in the UK is now falling — with food purchases the number one culprit.

For a second consecutive month the GfK consumer confidence barometer has set a record low, falling 41% in June. Consumer sentiment is dropping rapidly as a result of tighter budgets – for example, price limits are being set at checkouts and the switch to cheaper brands and stores is at an all-time high. Convenience stores are also performing far better than big stores, as consumers search for bargains and value.

Top speakers

Overall,  Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts had the most coverage across national print and online news in relation to cost of living commentary. Among the most popular topics was Roberts’ statement that financial pressures ‘will only intensify’ this year, which was featured in 148 print and online publications related to national news, grocery sales, agriculture and stock market updates. Of this total, 84% featured both Roberts’ name and quotation in the headline.

On the other hand, while ASDA’s Lord Stuart Rose’s volume was lower overall, his statements created stronger spikes in volume and a wider distribution rate. For example, he was quoted 341 times between 22-30 June for reporting that ASDA shoppers are ‘setting £30 limits at the till’ and ‘asking staff to put shopping back’ after that point.

Rose has also held a strong political voice in recent months, calling out Rishi Sunak’s attempts to solve the crisis. Between May-July, he was quoted 55 times by national newspapers after calling Sunak’s £15bn cost of living package ‘not enough’ in a Radio 4 interview.

Wage gap across UK supermarkets

Among the top speakers, all but Giles Hurley (Aldi) and Ryan McDonnell (Lidl) had negative coverage related to wage raises in their top-performing stories. On 6 June, Simon Roberts’ raise of £3.8m was covered by The Guardian and later syndicated a further 214 times by local and national news sources.

Ken Murphy also received a negative salary-related spike on 13 May due to his 2.4% increased pay package of £4.74m — 224 times higher than Tesco staff. On the other hand, Clare Grainger, group people director at Morrisons, was quoted 29 times in retail and grocery-focused magazines as ‘pleased to be maintaining our position as the highest paying UK national supermarket.’ This lead to 19 headline mentions between 8-12 June referring to Morrisons as the best wage-related supermarket.

Negative sentiment towards Sainsbury’s wages spiked for a second time between 27 June – 7 July when senior management rejected a call by ShareAction, HSBC and other investors to become a ‘Real Living Wage’ employer for all company staff. This topic was covered 179 times throughout July, during which ALDI received a peak in positive coverage for increasing staff pay a second time this year.

Since 1 May, all of Sainsbury’s major competitors have received positive coverage tied to wage increases, which has fed into the rapidly growing trend of consumer-led price comparison reports. Overall, wage ratios contributed to overall share of sentiment:

 

UK supermarkets: national share of voice   (1 May – 1 Aug 2022)

In a comparison of the top six supermarkets most often used by Britons, Tesco had the strongest share of voice among UK-wide online news sources in response to the cost-of-living crisis. While the majority was neutral in sentiment, it also received the highest rates of positive and negative coverage. Whereas 86% of neutral coverage was a passing mention, 64% of positive coverage was a dedicated article towards free kids’ meals over the summer period. This incentive has been a competitive theme over the July period,  with Tesco’s move following Asda’s £1 kids’ meal charge earlier in July.

Aside from wage-related backlash, negative coverage has also had consistent ties to the increase of low-cost meal prices. The term ‘shrinkflation’ has been trending since 13 May – the term for charging the same or more for reduced-size products. For example, Tesco was accused over this period of ‘secretly’ shrinking the size of ready meals while keeping them the same price.

Similarly, Sainsbury’s received controversial press for its commitment to banning ‘HFSS’ deals by October. Just one week after debates around this decision, Morrisons received a spike in national positive coverage for opting to delay the ban to support cost of living.

Key campaigns: cost of living

Media discussion around inflation has swiftly evolved since February, as the cost of living in the UK increases alongside Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Supermarkets and high-profile brands are rapidly changing their messaging to reflect value and support.

For example, John Lewis Partnership transition from its popular ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ to a focus on ‘Quality and Value’ demonstrates a direct response to consumer needs given rising inflation.

For marketers and marketing to really demonstrate the value it can add, it must go beyond campaigns to the broader actions that sit behind the campaigns that make the difference.

This is evident in that while Aldi and Lidl have the lowest number of inflation-related campaigns, they benefited from a surge in new customers, with sales increasing at both retailers over the last 12 weeks. Clearly, consistently low prices have had a stronger focus than diverse marketing messages for consumers who prioritise value for money.

Similarly, Tesco has added 100 products to its Low Everyday Prices range over the past month. Ken Murphy was quoted 38 times in national online headlines in a statement around the brand’s ‘laser-focus on value’ and plans to be the last of the big UK supermarkets to pass on inflation costs to customers.

Low-cost kids’ meals

As part of the Government’s Help for Households scheme, major retailers across the UK are offering discounts and support over the summer holidays to help families through the cost of living crisis. Tesco, ASDA and Sainsbury’s have signed up  through the summer holidays, into the back-to-school season and through to Christmas. Tesco and ASDA received a strong ratio of high-reaching national coverage in relation to this scheme.

Aldi Price Match

The ever-popular Aldi price-match program has also been a strong and consistent theme over the past four months. Sainsbury’s performed particularly well due to its ’doubling-down’ campaign, which matched a further 250 high-volume fresh products to the same prices as its German competitor. This headline created a strong surge of positive sentiment for Sainsbury’s in the middle of June. On the other hand, Tesco had a spike in negative sentiment in the middle of May following the decision to pull at least 18 products from its Aldi price-match programme.

As the heated competition to beat Aldi’s low costs evolves in the media, ASDA reaped the benefits of introducing its new and tactful Home Bargains price-match programme. Not only was this ASDA’s highest performing campaign, but it also set it apart from its competitors in the trending fight to make ‘essentials’ accessible to all families.

ASDA also introduced its ‘Just Essentials’ line and an Essential Living Hub, providing essential guidance and promotions to those who need it. Its press release was shared 57 times by local and regional media following the launch in early May, all of which provided a link directly to the hub in the body of the article.

 Changes and cuts to marketing

Despite warnings to the contrary, advertising budgets are often the first thing to get cut during an economic downturn. For example, while he did not indicate how much of this cost reduction would come out of marketing spend, Simon Roberts has said the retailer’s focus at this moment is to get its messages to customers, which has involved increasing its use of digital channels and decrease in other areas of traditional messaging.

In an article with Marketing Week, Roberts said Sainsbury’s was ‘using digital way more extensively than we were before’ and ‘really using every channel to make sure we get our value, innovation and quality messages to customers’.

On the other hand, Tesco’s CEO Ken Murphy also reported to Marketing Week that marketing is crucial ‘now more than ever’ and that it is not a cost ‘but more as an investment’ in prioritising crucial cost-of-living communications with customers.

 

 

Demonstrating value and empathy

As inflation continues to induce concern for families across the UK, it is evident that the highest-performing supermarkets in terms of sales and positive coverage are those that continue to drive value and empathy in their communications.

While Aldi and Lidl have the competitive edge of consistently low prices, reporter Chris Kelly commented that this won’t be enough in the long-term and the need to continue driving value-focused messaging is imperative:

‘Don’t assume that your only response to this inflationary moment has to be to cut prices. Think about ways in which you can add value as well, and that will then help you over the long run’, he said.

These doctrines apply to staff as much as customers — which was made evident when Sainsbury’s took a nationwide hit in the media for rejecting to pay all staff the national living wage. Similarly, CEOs saw a spike in negative coverage that questioned their annual salaries against the rising cost of essential household items.

As for who will prevail in the financial crisis, it appears to be those who continue to make care, value and empathy the undercurrent of every decision — from price cuts and loyalty incentives to staff wellness and changes in overall brand voice.

Aldi’s low-cost reputation means it can afford to run fewer campaigns and maintain a highly competitive status. However, other supermarkets that have previously been associated with luxury brands like Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ are seeing a clear upsurge in sales and positive media coverage when prioritising diverse loyalty campaigns and the accessibility of household essentials.

Want to know more about this data or how media insights can support your PR and communications? Find out more.

Six statistics about generation Z

6 statistics about Gen Z to consider when planning your next PR campaign

Are you engaging with Generation Z with your comms and campaigns? According to research from our latest white paper The PR guide to communicating with Gen Z, around a fifth of the UK PR industry aren’t yet factoring the under-25s into their planning – that’s a huge missed opportunity. 

Download The PR guide to communicating with Gen Z

Not sure how Gen Z differ to Millennials in their motivations and interests? Which social media platforms you should be investing your time in? The kind of content you should be creating to engage and inspire them? Here are six statistics about the age group to get you started:

1. Play

42% of Gen Z consumers would participate in an online game for a brand campaign, according to data from the National Retail Federation and IBM Institute of Business Value’s ‘Gen Z Brand Relationships global study’ from 2017. ITV utilised this by recreating its ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ castle in Fortnite, while plenty of other big brands have spaces set up in Roblox. Is there a way to incorporate gaming into your own upcoming campaigns?

2. Be social

Almost all Gen Zers (95%) use YouTube, half (50%) ‘can’t live without it’, while 69% of the Gen Zers use Instagram, according to findings from Ad Week’s 2017 report on the age group. Most valuable platforms alongside YouTube and Instagram – Facebook (67%), Snapchat (67%) and Twitter (52%).

3. Be quick and concise

Gen Zers have an eight-second attention span, according to research from Microsoft. That’s a whole four-seconds shorter than the 12-second span of Millennials. What they need from PR, comms pros and marketers are streamlined and concise communications, whichever platform you’re using. With this challenge comes opportunity – Gen Z has a high ability, and natural tendency, to multitask when consuming content. For engaging with Gen Zers busy streaming a show or film while tweeting about it on social media, check out this Vuelio webinar on utilising high and low involvement attention with Neuro PR.

4. Educate and empower

Over half (52%) of teenagers used YouTube and other social media channels for research assignments or school work, was the findings in the Pew Research Center study ‘How Teens Do Research in the Digital World’ – social sites aren’t just for entertainment or consumption for Generation Z. If your niche is in education, raising awareness or the third sector, don’t overlook social platforms as a way to connect with the younger generation. For more on making use of social media to raise awareness, check out how charities including Tiny Tickers and The Wildlife Trusts are doing it here.

5. Collaborate

Over three quarters (77%) of Gen Z employees are willing to be technology mentors for their co-workers, according to Dell Technologies research piece ‘The Gen Z effect‘.

Not quite sure how to work TikTok and other new(ish) technologies into your upcoming campaign set pieces? If you’re one of the 37% of teams that have under-25s on your team, as found in research for our Vuelio white paper, make the most of their skillsets and get them working on it.

6. Help them to create and communicate their message and motivations, too

76% of Generation Z believe they can turn their hobbies into a full-time career, according to this piece from Forbes.

With all of their ability to utilise and adapt to evolving communication styles, platforms and formats, Generation Z are born communicators and creators. They’re hungry for fresh content they can enjoy, interact with, add to and transform. That’s a lot of opportunity, and responsibility, for those looking to engage with and learn from them.

For more on how to communicate with and engage Generation Z in your PR and comms, check out the full white paper The PR guide to communicating with Gen Z

British Grand Prix 2022 F1

How F1 Driver Attitudes Evolved Ahead of the British Grand Prix

Last Sunday, Carlos Sainz scored his first Formula 1 win at the 2022 British Grand Prix, overcoming Oracle Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who lost his lead in the first few laps due to bodywork damage. Verstappen and Perez top the leaderboard and Oracle Red Bull Racing tops the constructors, which is reflected in media coverage as the team has also been the strongest competitor in overall media presence since F1 began in March.

In the month leading up to the GB race, pressure has grown on UK-based teams following heightened array of discriminatory language towards this year’s drivers. Piquet’s attack on Lewis Hamilton made national headlines in the final week of June, alongside the suspension of Red Bull’s Juri Vips due to racial slurs used on Twitch. Between 20 June and 4 July, ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’ were the third and fourth most popular search terms on an international scale in relation to Formula 1.

Overall, Oracle Red Bull received an 82% positive sentiment on all UK coverage between 1 June – 1 July. This is largely due to Verstappen’s current lead in the FIA Formula 1 Standings, alongside a selection of bespoke modifications on his vehicle ahead of the GB race. However, while the team’s victories have been greatly supported by positive attitudes across UK press, Verstappen’s personal relationship with the Piquet family ultimately created a spike in national negative coverage between 26 June – 5 July. Of the 1,106 print and online news sources that associated Verstappen with the racial attacks on Hamilton, 92% were negative in overall sentiment.

Commentary was also amplified around this time by the booing that took place over the race weekend, which Verstappen was quoted as calling a ‘bit of a problem’ but he still called the Silverstone Circuit a ‘great track and great atmosphere in general’ (AutoSport, 02.07.22).

Most Mentioned Drivers

 

While Sainz achieved victory at the British F1, Verstappen’s heightened media exposure has created the highest volume in both national press and UK-based automotive media since 1 June. Despite ongoing controversies, Verstappen’s consistent wins and crowd-pleasing car upgrades means he has maintained an overall 62% positive coverage sentiment over the past month. In addition, Sainz downplayed his win over Verstappen as ‘nothing special’, which has been quoted 159 times by UK-based F1 news sources since 3 July.

Between June 25 – July 2, Mercedes also received a spike in positive coverage as Hamilton teased significant improvements to their vehicle ahead of the GB race. Having won eight times in the same location, he referred to Silverstone as the ‘best track there is’, describing the corners as ‘hair-raising and just epic to drive’ (Sky Sports, 02.07.22). These statements were used 173 times between 20 June – 2 July, with the majority of coverage coming from online F1 sources like Planet F1.com and local/regional radio stations, such as Isle of Wight Radio.

Fan Expectations

While Verstappen has previously told AutoSport that it was ‘never straightforward’ to meet high fan expectations, Oracle Red Bull Racing’s modifications have received the strongest representation of positive international coverage since the start of June. This was complemented by commentary from former F1 driver Gerhard Berger, who claimed Oracle Red Bull Racing ‘knew they had a good car’ and were likely to drive at the front.

The most popular upgrade to receive attention across UK print, broadcast and online media was the ‘well thought-out slimming method’ that made the car nearly five pounds lighter than it was at the Canadian Grand Prix, worth an estimated 0.2 seconds per lap.

Following closely behind, Mercedes received the second-strongest volume of coverage on updates to their W13 car ahead of the British Grand Prix, including a ‘revised front suspension, sidepod vanes, floor, rear wings and bib wing tweaks’ (Auto Breaking News, 22.06.22). According to Motorsport.com, the team was ‘pushing to take a step forward in performance’ and ‘ease some of the bouncing that has blighted both Hamilton and Russel’s efforts’ so far this season.

Hamilton was quoted 84 times between 20 June – 1 July in calling these changes a ‘small step forwards’, while urging that Mercedes have ‘got to keep working’ in response to the issue. The Mirror called this an ‘optimistic British Grand Prix message’ and a ‘vow to fans’ in their headline, which was syndicated a further 28 times by local and regional online media.

Most Active Authors

Between 6 June – 6 July, Luke Chillingsworth has led the F1 conversation across UK media. His commentary on the progression of UK-based teams, as well as the fluctuating relationship between Mercedes and Oracle Red Bull Racing, has featured across 539 articles in national and regional online publications. Both Michelle Foster and George Dagless have also maintained high coverage volumes over the 30-day cycle, with Foster offering an array of high-reaching exclusive insights into how GB drivers were feeling days before the Silverstone race. In a prominent article with Planet F1, Foster wrote of George Russell’s belief that ‘Red Bull and Ferrari will be ahead’ but maintained ‘high hopes’ for Mercedes’ overall performance.

Amicable Attitudes and Short-Lived Sportsmanship

While the public remains averse to Verstappen’s defensive relationship with Piquet, his performance throughout the F1 Grand Prix has greatly supported the continued positive media presence of Oracle Red Bull Racing. As crowds booed Verstappen on 2 July, Mercedes received a direct positive spike in sentiment as Hamilton asked fans to stop.

As the multi-layered conflict evolves, coverage for McLaren, Alpine, Aston Martin and Williams remains much lower, with the strongest coverage and highest reaching sources coming from automotive and lifestyle publications. So long as Verstappen remains in the lead, it is likely that the overall F1 focus will remain in favour of Oracle Red Bull Racing as well as the correlative impact on both Hamilton and Mercedes.

Want to know more about this data or how media insights can support your PR and communications? Find out more.

The Mass Conflict Behind Gene-Edited Produce

Earlier this month, the UK Government announced plans to bring forward ‘The Genetic Technology Bill’, a new legislation that takes certain precision breeding techniques out of otherwise restrictive GMO rules.

With firm support from George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, scientists across the UK argue that these modifications to British produce would create significant benefits to our health, environment and food security. The decision has received strong criticism from the Scottish and Welsh governments, while the public has demonstrated concerns over the lack of labelling required when these products hit the shelves.

In July 2019, as part of his first speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson announced the goal to ‘liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti genetic modification rules’ and ‘develop blight-resistant crops’ that will feed the world (Royal Society of Biology, 31.07.19). Officials and food scientists have clarified the difference between gene editing, which involves the manipulation of genes within a single species or genus, and genetic modification (GM), in which DNA from one species is introduced to another. Since November last year, 236 news sources reported this distinction within the body of their coverage, first published by the UK Food Council.

At the John Innes Centre in Norwich, specialists have taken huge steps towards this goal with the creation of the first gene-edited tomato. In this instance, the fruit was enhanced with Vitamin D, a nutrient that over 40% of Europeans are deficient in (Science Daily, 23.05.22). Similar developments are being made in other British foods, such as anti-carcinogenic wheat and pigs immune to swine flu.

Volume of Coverage

Over the last 12 months, 2,306 gene-editing focused articles have been produced by print, media and online news sources across the UK. National coverage has seen significant growth over the past eight weeks, peaking in the final week of May:

As part of the initial research process, the fortified tomato case study received nationwide coverage as it evolved – the final stages of work and subsequent breakthrough were the highest source of volume over the last four months. The majority of this coverage was tied to print and online media until 10 May, which then saw a 309% upsurge in overall engagement due to a broadcasted mention of The Genetic Technology Bill in The Queen’s Speech. As the John Innes Centre also shared its final press release on 23 May, this was and will likely remain the highest performing month for volume + reach combined.

Top Speakers

Between May 2021-2022, The John Innes Centre was mentioned 694 times in relation to its gene-editing research, with regular contributions and comments offered from the associated scientists throughout. Professor Cathie Martin, group leader, was the second-most-mentioned name after George Eustice.

Top Topics

Since 1 March, the ‘sped-up’ progression of The Genetic Technology Bill was a headline in 288 UK-based news sources, with Mail Online and Agriland.co.uk creating the most content on this area of the discussion. Heightened media exposure through The Queen’s Speech was the key reason behind this, while the gene-edited tomato breakthrough came in a close second.

Ethical Concerns

Between March and June, 20% of all coverage focused on two overarching issues for the public. The first is the lack of labelling that will be required when gene-edited products hit the shelves of British supermarkets. This has prompted an outcry from some consumers who claim they ‘should be given a choice’ (Daily Mail, 27.05.22). Half of all label-related coverage had the term ‘frankenfoods’ in the headline, which started with an article by Mail Online and was syndicated a further 54 times by local and regional media until 5 June.

‘What has been removed is the need for an independent risk assessment and the need for transparency’Liz O’Neill, Director, GM Freeze

The other public issue is around the genetic modification of livestock. UK-based charities have also stepped into this discussion, with RSPCA leading the conversation. David Bowles, head of public affairs, was quoted by 21 national publications in calling the new legislation a ‘serious step back’ for animal welfare. In the RSPCA’s press release on 26 May, Bowles further argued that ‘there are potentially serious implications’ on both farm animals and people, stating we ‘simply do not know the long-term consequences’. Similarly, Kierra Box, of Friends of the Earth, believes gene-editing is genetic modification by a different name, that it ‘still focuses on altering the genetic code of plants and animals to deal with the problems caused by poor soils, the over-use of pesticides and intensive farming’ (The Guardian, 25.05.22).

Among the coverage that outlined potential issues with the bill, five were top national media outlets. The remaining 113 were regional and local news sources, science journals and agriculture websites.

Food Security

As the war in Ukraine and global inflation evolves, concerns around food security have been a significant incentive behind ‘speeding-up’ The Genetic Technology Bill. The topic of shortages has been widely distributed across UK media, while 25% of all coverage was produced by The Telegraph.

Independent farmers across Scotland and Wales have held the strongest share of voice on this issue, warning that we are ‘sleep-walking’ into a full-on crisis (The Independent, 25.04.22). The Government has used this angle in the press to suggest that gene-edited food is a way to become less dependent on importation and therefore less vulnerable to restrictions made by Eastern European regions (Farmers Weekly, 24.05.22). Moreover, National Farmers Union Scotland president Martin Kennedy has agreed that precision breeding techniques could ‘deliver benefits for food, agriculture and climate change’ (The Telegraph, 27.05.22).

Cross-Border Divide

Despite food shortage concerns, the Welsh and Scottish governments have repeatedly stated their opposition to genetically modified produce. Scotland, which has hopes to return to the EU, has been keen to ‘maintain alignment’ with the same stringent controls on organisms which contain no additional genes or DNA (The Scotsman, 25.05.22).

Màiri McAllan, environment minister for Scotland, has called the UK Government’s decision ‘unacceptable’ and insists that Scotland would not make the same changes as England if the Bill passed (Inverness Courier, 11.06.22). 7% of all coverage over the past four months has discussed this conflict, with the leading headline: ‘Gene-editing Bill should not “force products on Scotland” says minister’ (The National, 11.06.22). This article, which wrote extensively of McAllan’s ethical and financial concerns, was repurposed 24 times throughout the beginning of June.

The Welsh opposition received less coverage, though it has been confirmed that UK ministers plan to try to persuade devolved counterparts to align on policy at a cross-government meeting at the Royal Welsh Show on 20 July (The Times, 14.06.22).

George Eustice has written to the Scottish and Welsh governments to urge them to reconsider their opposition to the technique, stating that by joining in taking forward this legislation, the UK would be able to ensure consistency in food regulation and the approach to the precision-bred organisms across the UK, upholding our priority of ensuring consumer safety’ (BBC, 24.05.22).

Professor Lord Trees, a cross-bench peer and former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, was quoted 106 times since 1 March, in his warning that a failure to embrace more precise breeding technologies such as gene editing could be a ‘missed opportunity’ to deliver significant improvements in animal health and welfare.

A Need for Transparency

Both Eustice and the Government, supported by leading scientists around the UK, have made expansive efforts to change the gene-editing narrative in the media over the past 12 months. However, with a perceived lack of transparency on what genetically modified produce could look like for the consumer, public scepticism remains high.

In Scotland, a strong proportion of the farming population are in favour of the transition, whereas the environment minister remains firmly against the idea of a ‘forced’ legislation while trying to make amends with the EU. Similarly, leading climate activism and animal welfare non-profits have firmly expressed the unknown dangers behind making long-term modifications to the organic cycles of nature.

While local and regional media have remained closely in touch with ethical concerns by the public and opposing institutions, the positive aspects of gene-editing has been favourably represented by national online media. The first set of gene-edited produce is set to hit the shelves as early as next year, at which point both the Welsh and Scottish governments will have made their final decision on whether they are included in the first step towards the UK’s ‘extraordinary bioscience sector’.

As the war in Ukraine continues and inflation builds pressure on family support shelters, internal disagreements remain less of a concern to UK Government. Rather, food security is being treated as a priority and will continue to be a key motivator behind the swift progression of this change.

Want to know more about this data or how media insights can support your PR and communications? Find out more.

The Rise of Ethical Branding: Is Fast Fashion Dying Out?

Last week, news across the UK broke out that online fast-fashion retailer Missguided has gone into administration. 204 national and international outlets reported on the story, with an additional 1,751 publications coming from top regional sources and fashion-focused media. Frasers Group PLC, who bought out Missguided for £20m, has received equally prominent coverage for ‘rescuing’ the brand — a term used 535 times since the announcement on 30 May.

Michael Murray, CEO at Frasers Group, has been quoted in 23% of all coverage as ‘delighted to secure a long term future for Missguided’, which will ‘benefit from the strength and scale of Frasers Group’s platform and our operational excellence’ (The Guardian, 01.06.22). However, a long list of angry suppliers and a ‘limited knowledge’ of the young female demographic has many questioning if the acquisition was a ‘misstep’ or ‘masterful’ (Retail Week, 06.06.22).

Aside from logistical concerns, over half of all UK coverage has used the opportunity to discuss how the rising ethical concerns behind fast-fashion are effecting consumer choices. Missguided has received a variety of bad press over the years for its ‘unsustainable’ prices and ‘unethical’ working conditions (Financial Times, 17.05.18), as well as expansive contributions to climate change (Daily Mail, 17.06.19). With a correlative rise in sustainable fashion influencers such as Venetia La Manna and Mikaela Loach, more than two-thirds (68%) of Gen Z (18-24 year olds) say they avoid ecommerce companies which they believe to have dubious business practices (Charged Retail, 14.02.22). Moreover, a 2022 report by Barclays revealed that UK retailers have cancelled £7.1 bn in contracts across the last 12 months with suppliers that did not meet their ethical standards (Barclays, 10.02.22).

Love Island Drops Missguided For Sustainable Fashion

With this significant shift in values among the young female market, it’s no surprise that Missguided was one of multiple fast-fashion brands dropped by Love Island this year. The hit reality series has announced it will instead be sponsored by eBay, while all contestants will be wearing second-hand clothing (The Independent, 19.05.22). This environmentally-friendly move was reported 1,001 times only a week before Missguided went into administration, creating a huge upsurge in diverse negative sentiment that has been increasing since January:

Prior to the administration announcement on 30 May, positive coverage remained low as influencer marketing dropped in both volume and engagement. During this time, fashion magazines began talking more about ‘influencer fatigue’ — a term used 104 times since April. With influencer marketing being one of Missguided’s strongest sources of positive coverage, the decline in interest and relatability among the young female demographic has had a correlative impact on its performance and reputation. This approach also applies to other fast-fashion outlets, such as SHEIN and Boohoo, meaning the same effect may apply outside of Missguided if this social media engagement decline continues.

Female-Focused Brands: Common Trends

Since January, Missguided has taken the spotlight for the strongest array of controversies across UK media. Prior to the ‘company collapse’, continuous job losses and unhappy suppliers were the most popular areas of coverage between Jan-June. However, some of these topics also feed into the wider fast-fashion market. Both online and high street brands like Boohoo, SHEN, Zara and ASOS have had the spotlight cast upon them for unpaid workers and unethical practises. All of the above (and more) were called out by the viral ‘Gender Pay Gap Bot’, a Twitter account that rose to fame by using International Women’s Day to highlight continuous inequities in the workplace.

The Affordability Argument

Among positive coverage, common themes were almost exclusively based on affordability and celebrity style. For example, titles like ‘10 affordable corset tops that are giving us Kourtney Kardashian vibes from £11.99’ and ‘Cassie from Euphoria’s best outfits and where to buy them’ consumed just over 95% of all positive coverage between January-June. In these articles, Missguided and alike are praised for offering accessible ways to look like influencers. When Love Island chose to publicise their sustainable changes, local and regional media outlets used the term ‘woke’ or ‘wokeism’ in 242 publications between 8 May – 8 June, as fans accused the show of ‘virtue signalling’ and ruining their ‘guilty pleasures’.
The neurological pleasures of buying cheap clothing is the primary incentive that keeps fast fashion running, but as more people uncover the true cost, brands are being lead into a new era of transparency that is forcing many to change their approach.

Attempts of Changing the Narrative

The rise of sustainability trends is evident in the way that brands are swiftly changing their approach to labour, production and transparency. For example, Urban Outfitters has been called out 78 times since September last year for its contributions to climate change. Three days ago, PETA released a statement about three sustainability influencers who are now drawing the line and confronting the brand with demands for climate-focused vegan alternatives.

Large and ongoing backlash from target audiences has led brands to create eco-friendly collections that appeals to the new demand. ASOS, who created its ‘Responsible Edit’ on 2019, is one of many FMCG clothing companies attempting to use recycled materials as an avenue to appearing ‘conscious’ to consumers. Despite the attempts, the term ‘greenwashing’ has been used 5,445 times since 1 March, with significant peaks around the announcement of the Missguided sale and Love Island sustainability switch.

 

Despite their attempts, sustainable fashion advocates are calling out fast fashion brands for imitating green attitudes with misleading information about their production process. Good On You, a leading digital platform in ethical clothing, describes sustainable fashion as striving to ‘create good and avoid harm, whether to people, the planet, or animals’ (Good On You, 16.07.21). Under these terms, newfound FMCG eco-lines fail to meet the quota in comparison to 100% sustainable companies. For example, while Missguided followed suit in April 2021 with the launch of its ‘green’ collection RE_STYLD, some reports have focused on its history of not paying workers or suppliers.

Sustainable trends / Successful brands

In a two-month analysis of top UK fashion and general news sources, fast-fashion giant SHEIN received the highest proportion of negative and neutral coverage as well as the lowest volume of output overall. On the other hand, Patagonia, which is globally recognised for extensive environmental advocacy and company welfare policies, is continuously growing in the press as an inspirational standard for all fashion retailers. UK-based thrifting service Depop also outperformed SHEIN in both volume and sentiment ratio.

With the cost of living continuously increasing, the low-cost incentive of fast fashion likely means that it will not be going anywhere for the moment. However, with a visible decline in the impact of influencer marketing and an increase in demand for transparency and ethical branding, the foundations that allow such retailers to have such competitive prices may not be achievable for much longer. On 31 May, Primark announced that there will be ‘selective price increases’ in the Autumn due to inflation and the war in Ukraine (BBC, 31.05.22). With current events impacting fast-fashion’s long-established place on the UK high street, its future, ironically, could be unsustainable.

fintech investment boom in travel

Is a Fintech ‘Investment Boom’ Emerging in the Travel Sector?  

In an effort to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel industry is exploring contemporary payment trends that suit the varying new financial perspectives on tourism. Whereas some have more money than ever to spend, others are seeking new ways to budget for their next getaway. The increasing convergence of fintech and travel is significant – with many predicting an ‘investment boom’ on the near horizon. 

Financial technology (Fintech) is a term used for several types of specialised software that digitise financial services.​​​ Companies, business owners and consumers use fintech to better manage their finances and operations, while also opening the door to significant growth in revenue and market share. Examples of successful fintech brands include Paypal, Experian, Klarna, Monzo and so many more.

Forecasts by Eurocontrol have predicted that, by August 2022, travel volumes will return to 89% of what they were in 2019. In response to the post-pandemic changes in personal finance and global cost-of-living crisis, firms are investing in fintech more than ever to provide new and accessible payment options. Media discussion around the emergence of financial technologies in the travel sector has been growing since January, with significant peaks across national online publications (i.e. The Financial Times) in May:

 

In an Amedeus report from this month with 90 leading travel agencies, an ‘investment boom’ was predicted following a survey of airline and travel agency leaders — a term used by 1,753 national publications in travel and fintech sectors since January. Four out of five companies said they plan to match or surpass their 2019 FinTech investment this year, with nine out of 10 identifying payments as a priority (Travolution, 18.05.22).

Huge steps are already being taken towards achieving this brand image – on 28 January, Air Asia rebranded its corporate name to ‘Capital A’ to better reflect its mission to become a diversified ‘digital travel and lifestyle group’, with fintech playing a major role in its new revenue strategy.

Additionally, Booking.com recently hired 400 experts for its newly created fintech division with a view to ‘simplify the payment experience’ across its brands (Skift, 22.07.21). While travel agencies are benefitting from investing in fintech, fintech is also benefiting from investing in travel. For example, UK-based Revolut, which claims 16 million users, branched out beyond banking and financial services for the first time recently and began selling stays in hotels, homes, and guest houses.

Media Type Split: Who is talking about the emerging ‘investment boom’?

Data analyses all UK online media since January 1, 2022.

‘Fintech stands out as an area of the travel business where you can provide new value-added services that bring revenue while improving the traveller experience’
— David Doctor, Amadeus Executive

Areas of interest

With fintech viewed as a high priority by 90% of UK-based airlines, what are the key areas of interest in travel and fintech publications?

Buy Now, Pay Later

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) has become a de facto payment option in retail and fashion and is swiftly making the same impact on travel. In a survey with 5,000 travel consumers, 68% said they would be likely to spend more on a trip if they could buy now, pay later, as it is quicker than a traditional loan (PhocusWire, 07.01.22). Since January, 328 travel and fintech publications have commented on this option in relation to Gen Z and millennial demographics. Around half of all Brits under 40 now use BNPL whenever it is available, meaning it is a huge source of revenue from those with flexible credit (WalesOnline, 20.05.22).

Multi-currency charges

In order to find the best deals, many consumers find themselves working with multiple currencies when arranging a holiday. The conversion charges associated with traditional banks is a significant barrier that a third of all travel agencies are prioritising this year, an area that fintech has proven successful at overcoming (FinExtra, 14.04.22). Wise is one of many digital banking services that allows users to hold multiple currencies in the same account, alongside highly competitive exchange rates. By leveraging this sort of financial technology, travel firms can alleviate losses tied to such international fees.

Leading FX fintech companies in National UK Media

A correlative increase in brand mentions has followed the emerging interest of travel and fintech – particularly banking apps that offer competitive foreign exchange services:

Drawbacks to the public

While fintech may benefit a certain portion of society in both financial management and expenditures, some believe it exacerbates the privileges of those above working class and is not as accessible to those who truly need it. Lord Chris Holmes of Richmond, co-chair of the APPG on banking and fintech (financial technology), commented that the UK is ‘home to hundreds of fintechs’ who are creating products that help people manage their money or create saving pots. However, the reality is that ‘if you don’t have access to a smartphone, broadband or the necessary skills or confidence, then you are effectively cut out’ (The Independent, 04.03.22).

Investment boom?

While there may be some consumer diversity and accessibility issues, the convergence of both travel and fintech is mutually beneficial; both industries may eventually become dependent on one another to be sustainable. For example, while BNPL app Klarna has announced plans to lay off 10% of its workforce (CNBC, 26.05.22), rival fintech firms Revolut and Wise say they’re hiring for hundreds of open roles. The difference between the former and the latter has been an early investment in the rapid changes of tourism.

As tourism returns to a steady volume, media discussion is rapidly growing around the clear fintech-focused response by the travel industry. The ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ system holds the strongest share of public interest and potential ROI, whereas competitive foreign exchange services are considered valuable but already have established names in the sector (i.e. Revolut, RHB). Since January alone, the upsurge in new fintech hires and rebrands has significantly increased – meaning that the anticipated ‘investment boom’ is no longer on the horizon, but already here.

Want to know more about this data or how media insights can support your PR and communications? Find out more

Earth Day 2022 COP26 comms

Earth Day 2022 – did COP26 comms make a change?

This year’s Earth Day has a lot to live up to. Coming after the highly-anticipated and high-pressure COP26, today brings opportunity for those who made big promises in October 2021 to hold themselves to account. Did the global event make real change to how organisations operate and communicate their purpose to the public?

One impact COP26 made in the minds of those paying attention to its message of climate change was the installation of a growing impatience; a need for accountability from those with the power and influence to drive action.

‘COP26 and many other political events within the last six months have highlighted the public’s growing lack of tolerance for hypocrisy,’ says Propel Technology’s lead communications consultant Claire Dumbreck.

‘For many, COP26 will be remembered for the rich elite jamming up Prestwick Airport with their private jets and then preaching to the masses about how they should give things up for the greater good.’

Perception of the global event – the success of which was predicted by Sir Vince Cable beforehand to be 60:40: ‘my heart is with the 60%; my head with the 40%’ – wasn’t 100% positive. While its failures ultimately fall on political promises that were short of expectations, the PR and comms sector had a part, too:

‘Some businesses and comms teams could have been more considered in their approaches – there were a lot of campaigns with fairly (very) loose connections to COP26!’ believes One Nine Nine managing director Barnaby Patchett.

‘The issue here was that the press was flooded with transparent attempts to ‘cash in’ on COP26 – with no real connection to the goals and aims of the conference. The best campaigns were underpinned with a clear, authentic link to COP26, from organisations making tangible, significant progress on sustainability.’

Consumers and stakeholders increasingly expect integrity from organisations, not greenwashing, and PR and comms teams are being tasked with the practicalities of that responsibility.

‘As an industry, comms was both part of the post-COP26 climate change discussion and has since had to respond to it,’ says senior PR consultant Katy Barney, who heads up Ambitious PR’s ESG & Sustainability PR services.

‘Agency-side, this has meant more clients coming to us and asking for advice on how to communicate around sustainability, meaning an imperative to upskill rapidly and get to grips with the issues.’

Accessibility of language around climate change is a must-have skill for PRs in the wake of COP26, but as an industry we’re not quite there yet, according to research conducted by the Hanover Group Strategy & Insights unit, which targeted the general public in the UK and Ireland, and business leaders across Europe:

‘Only 1 in 4 people (25%) were comfortable defining “net zero” and much less so with terms like “carbon trading” and “climate refugees”,’ says Hanover Group’s strategy & insights director Teodora Coste.

‘23% were uncomfortable defining any of the terms most often used at COP26.’

The obfuscating and grand-standing that reverberated around October’s summit isn’t necessary, or useful, for building climate considerations into campaign work. For Earth Day 2022, here are more practical steps:

‘Wind the sanctimoniousness right down!’ says Claire Dumbreck. ‘Address any perception of “us and them” before more scepticism takes hold. Demonstrate genuine short-term human benefits of acting with the environment in mind (beyond the luxury of just feeling good about it).’

‘Start at home and focus on reducing your own carbon emissions and environmental impacts,’ says Lexington’s director and head of responsible business Andrew Wilson. ‘Do you really need to fly to that client meeting? Second, be critical friends to clients, provide constructive challenge on their own operations. Do agencies have the in-house expertise to advise on Net Zero strategies and approaches to reduce environmental impacts? Third, work with brands to produce communications that help to change consumer attitudes and bring about a shift in behaviour.’

Ultimately, use your skill as a PR; if you’re part of the comms industry, you already have the tools to get the message out there:

‘Zero and environmental change are so much more than a single-issue topic – there are lots of opportunities for PR teams to get creative,’ says Katy Barney.

‘There will always be another story or angle if you’re committed to making change.’

For more on climate change and how the communications sector can help make a difference, check out this post on what PR and comms teams should know about sustainability, a reflection on the success of COP26 from the Vuelio political team, and this guest post from Sir Vince Cable featuring his predictions ahead of the summit. 

 

How to communicate in the metaverse

How to communicate in the metaverse… also, what is the metaverse?

If you’re up on your PR and comms trends for 2022 and the years ahead, you will have read about the metaverse and just how important it is going to be for the industry. But… do you actually know what that word means? Do you understand how you and your team might use it for upcoming campaigns? How to talk about it to clients and other brands?

To help prevent you from any out-of-touch floundering in future stakeholder presentations and competitive pitches, here’s how the industry is already making great use of the metaverse and how you can join, too.

What is the metaverse?
To cut through all the jargon: it’s a virtual space for interacting. With other people, with places, with items.

‘The way I try to explain it to friends is, it’s like a hybrid of The Sims, Rollercoaster Tycoon & GTA (without the crime),’ said The Playbook’s senior sport and brand communications executive Rob Baney.

‘Creating your own The Sims-like dream world, building your entertainment offering Rollercoaster Tycoon-style, and then having you and your mates explore this world in the best clothes and with the coolest car, like your character in GTA.’

If you aren’t a gamer, the concept of a metaverse has long been established in science fiction and regularly features in film (Ready Player One and The Matrix, for some dystopian examples), and even portrayed quite poorly in 90s thrillers you may have seen, like The Lawnmower Man and Disclosure. In the latter, for example, it’s shown as already being a part of work tech. Michael Douglas needs to hack a computer – instead of sitting down to type, he dons a VR headset and gloves for his search and walks through a Virtual Reality Database.

You could say that’s a prediction of how the metaverse may shape up in the next few years – full integration into our lives, even office documents. You could also say ‘why did Michael bother when Ctrl + F is right there – who has the time for that’. But that would be overlooking the allure of realistic interactions with surroundings otherwise closed off, and plenty of us want that.

Why is the metaverse so popular right now?
While a metaverse is not a new concept – not even to the comms industry, who had the opportunity to explore it in ‘Second Life Marketing Safaris’ as far back as 2007 – it’s resonating strongly now, particularly in the wake of Facebook’s widely-publicised rebrand to Meta and new strategy to build ‘the’ metaverse, as we search for new ways to connect in our day-to-day.

When people wanted to be with those they couldn’t see in the flesh in the early days of the pandemic, downloads of applications like Zoom, Teams and Houseparty boomed. Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons broke records, with advertising from Nintendo showing family members and friends using their Switch consoles to fly out for quality time on each other’s virtual islands.

Conversations while fishing for bass couldn’t happen in reality during lockdown, but it could online. Connection is the value of digital spaces – that’s the value a presence in the metaverse can provide to your audience.

How are brands and businesses already using the metaverse?
Using Animal Crossing: New Horizons as an example, businesses, charities and even US politicians quickly realised its potential for engaging with consumers and integrated their branding and messages into the pre-existing world of the game. But many brands and agencies have since gone further into the metaverse – this isn’t something to get ready for in the future, this is happening now.

Recreating reality: VCCP built virtual offices in gaming and social platform Roblox, using its London Victoria office as a base design, but building in extras impossible in real life, such as an enclosure for meerkats.

Connection in virtual spaces: A Roblox-based ceremony and gig was held as part of the Brit Awards this year, with a virtual version of PinkPantheress booked to perform. Artists including Lil Nas X have also teamed up with the platform for performances.

In-metaverse living: Nike invested in the possibility of virtual footwear with its December 2021 purchase of digital collectable creators RTFKT. ‘This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation […] and extend[s] Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities,’ said Nike president and chief executive John Donahoe.

Comms and campaigns: To publicise the new series of I’m A Celebrity… late last year, ITV launched a virtual version of the show’s castle with Fortnite Creative for viewers to explore. In fact, ITV has created a number of new ways for viewers to connect with its programming via the metaverse in this way, including an in-game Fortnite version of its entertainment show The Void.

So, should you care?
In summary – yes. At its most simple, the metaverse can be a recreation of what we know, but it can also be a fantastic version of what we want, or an overlay of extras to make life easier.

While data from We Are Social’s latest Think Forward report found that 90% of social users were ‘clueless’ about the metaverse, its quick adoption across the industry in real ways is meaningful. Current excitement about these virtual spaces may dim, but applications of them will embed into our culture and lives, long-term.

Virtual influencers are already here, and NLP (Natural Language Processing)/virtual avatars are an accepted part of online customer service. For those who need other ways to access events and experiences beyond getting on a train to a crowded gathering at a city centre, the metaverse opens up a whole world of possibility and connection. For business, it offers new ways to engage consumers continuously bombarded with images and messages in ways that will stick.

In a real world that has become increasingly unpredictable, filled with situations we can’t control, it’s unsurprising that the possibility to create others we can is appealing. And at the very least, what’s on the way should be a lot cooler than that scene in Disclosure. The metaverse can be whatever we want to make it.

If you’re ready to enter the metaverse, visit our visit to those brands setting up in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and check out our look at the influence of virtual influencers

Want more on ways to engage the minds of  your audience? Here’s a write-up of our webinar on Neuro PR with Harvey & Hugo PR’s managing director and Leader of the Pack Charlotte Nichols 

Channel 4

Media Response and Controversy Behind Channel 4’s Privatisation

The Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced that the Government is privatising Channel 4 in response to increasing pressures from streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon. Dorries believes a change of ownership will grant Channel 4 the ‘freedom to flourish’ and allow it to ‘thrive as a public service broadcaster long into the future’ (via Twitter, 04.04.22).

In the week that followed the announcement on 4 April, we tracked broad, large-scale media coverage as well as a sample of articles from 280 journalists across 356 UK-based publications. 104 international publications also reported on the growing spectrum of controversy arising from this decision.

Mutual Consensus Across UK and international Media

UK and international media reaction

Opinions towards the sale were relatively mutual between the UK and international coverage, with an almost even split between negative and neutral sentiment. As Conservative MPs expressed their shared concerns, The Telegraph commented on the rarity of such widely-shared agreement across the media and political parties, describing it as ‘very odd’ (The Telegraph, 07.04.22). With multiple layers of controversy embedded in the decision, very few have attempted to outline a positive response.

Trending areas of controversy

Trending categories

Among the 4,186 headlines that emerged in the UK in the five days that followed, three focus areas gained significant attention in the media: representation, revenge and job loss.

In a sample taken from the top international, national and business news sources, over half referenced the concerns of ‘cultural vandalism’ that may occur from likely foreign ownership. Dorothy Byrne, former head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, has had a particularly strong voice in this area; 75 journalists across the UK quoted her extensive opinions on the matter.

Byrne exemplified her concerns in stating: ‘We would no longer, for example, hear “gay people in Glasgow” on the channel. Mass [global] audiences don’t want to hear the perspective of the nations and regions of Britain particularly’ (iNews, 05.04.22).

Similarly, Kirstie Allsopp has also held the spotlight for her opinions as an established Channel 4 presenter. Several UK news articles embedded her viral tweet, which concluded that ‘Profit will be king and the passion & inclusion of Channel 4 will be lost’ (BBC News, 06.04.22).

Many journalists have also opted to outline the chronological timeline of Channel 4, referencing Margaret Thatcher’s goals to serve the ‘underrepresented voices’ (The Guardian, 06.04.22). The topic is by far the most popular for reach among the public, with one trending article titled ‘Hands off Channel 4 – it helped me embrace my sexuality’ (The Independent, 06.04.22).

An act of revenge for Brexit bias?

With a strong adoption by US media, 27.5% of the sample focused on speculations that the sale is an act of ‘revenge’ due to Channel 4’s loaded commentary and ‘bias’ in coverage against both Brexit and Boris Johnson (Sky News, 05.04.22). Back in 2019, Channel 4 made the news for replacing Johnson with a melting block of ice during a debate he was unable to attend (referencing his lack of response to the climate emergency). This led to a “threat” from the Conservatives, who said they would review Channel 4’s broadcasting remit if they won the election (The Guardian, 28.11.19).

With this decision now confirmed, 770 publications quoted Conservative MP Julian Knight (also chair of the influential Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee), who initiated the concerns that this could be an act of strategic retaliation. He said the Government’s decision to push ahead represents ‘a big risk” with uncertain benefits (Sky News, 05.04.22).

Impact of privatisation on Scottish production companies

Scottish production companies have also been highlighted as an area of emphasised loss by UK media, particularly in the job sector. Since 2007, Channel 4 has played an ‘important role’ in the ‘growing success of the screen sector in Scotland’, including £200 million for Scottish-based productions and support for 400 jobs (The National, 04.04.22).

Following Armando Iannucci’s opinion piece in The Guardian on April 6th, 557 media outlets across the country reported on his views. He is a prominent Scottish writer and producer with an established relationship to Channel 4. Iannucci tweeted ‘Why do they want to make the UK’s great TV industry worse? Why? It makes no business, economic or even patriotic sense’ (Sky News, 05.04.22).

The ‘Red Meat’ Agenda

In an interview with Times Radio, the aforementioned Dorothy Byrne also accused Boris Johnson of ‘throwing red meat to right-wing voters’ (The Independent, 05.04.22). Since the discussion, this has been a trending phrase in 127 media outlets across the UK and United States.

Huffington Post further added that this will please the PM’s ‘Brexiteer base’, who have expressed a growing displeasure for the ‘pro-Remain, left-of-centre’ news coverage by Channel 4 (Huffington Post, 05.04.22).

Over 300 news sources shared excerpts from Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s interview with LBC Radio, who expressed his joy for the sale. Javid was often quoted saying the sale will ‘set it free’ to ‘compete in what is a fast-changing landscape’ (The Independent, 06.04.22). Additionally, Dan Wootton, the GB News presenter known for his opposition to left-wing views, took to social media to share his optimism for the sale:

Dan Wootton tweet

Valuation and loss

Two days after the announcement, BBC News shared the estimation that Channel 4 is worth between £600m and £1.5bn—which has since been quoted 60 times across several UK sources (BBC News, 05.04.22).

Aside from the impact on Scottish employment, The Guardian reported that analysts believe the company would face 40% to 50% cuts to its £660 million programming budget – which, in turn, could lead to cuts to content (Metro.co.uk, 04.04.22).

Key facts of the study
• Over 4,186 articles were analysed from 3 – 8 April, with a focus on UK media and occasional focus on the international response.
• The analysis was a blend of Vuelio Media Monitoring and Analysis, enriched by the Vuelio Insights team.
• When discussing controversies embedded in the privatisation of Channel 4, a sample of coverage was studied in depth in order to provide reliable and trust-worthy insights from the top international, national and business news sources.

Want to understand more about this story and data, or find out how the Vuelio Insights team can support you? Get in touch.

Email marketing trends

Email marketing: Top industry trends for 2022

This is a guest post from April Mullen, director of brand and content marketing at SparkPost.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to marketing, especially in email. In order to keep ahead of fierce competition, it is vital that brands are on top of changes within the industry. Failing to adhere to new practices can damage brand trust and reputation and risk losing subscribers.

Generating more sophisticated email content can help increase customer engagement. This, in turn, leads to better deliverability, more conversions, and a stronger community for your brand.

With these challenges in mind, here are some key trends for this year, and how marketers can stay ahead of the curve.

1) Email design: the balance between engagement and accessibility
On the one hand, emails need to stand out with bold, engaging designs. But at the same time, they need to be easy to engage with. Are these two key email trends compatible? Sure! They just require marketers to be a little more thoughtful about how they construct their communications.

Dark mode: Over the past couple of years more and more marketers have been experimenting with dark mode in their emails. They are responding to consumers who like the option for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s easier on the eyes – especially in low light reading environments. Secondly, low brightness means more battery life can be preserved on mobile devices, and lastly some people just prefer it that way.

Dark mode should be treated like an email necessity, not an afterthought. If your designers are worried that it might limit their creativity, they needn’t be. In many ways it has the opposite effect. More thought goes into logos, brand colours, and layouts when considering dark mode.

Accessibility: It’s a golden rule of email marketing that messages should be able to be read by everyone no matter where they are, what device they are using or what their ability level is. But there is still some catching-up for marketers to do to achieve this. Not complying with accessibility can cause brand reputation challenges.

15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability. Why should they be prevented from interacting with your emails for the sake of a few lines of code and thoughtful design? Ensuring that minimum font sizes are used and that the text is properly aligned, among other tweaks, to meet accessibility requirements in 2022.

Emojis: Everyone loves a good emoji and for the most part, they work well in email – adding a sense of fun that is universally understood.
In 2021 more marketers began using emojis in email subject lines and headlines in a rather careless way. Some forgot that if emojis replace actual words, the overall message won’t make sense if images are blocked or won’t load.

The key, if you are going to use emojis in your subject line, header or in the main body of the text (which is good for mobile viewers as copy space is often limited), is to test and test again for effectiveness before you press send.

GIFs: A properly executed GIF in a marketing email can be a very powerful way of expressing brand values in a light-hearted way. But they must be used in the right way and within the right context.

Marketers need to ensure that GIFs used:
– Aren’t too flashy or overwhelming by having smooth transitions between each frame
– Include a static fallback just in case the GIF doesn’t load
– Always include ALT text for screen readers

2) Privacy changes continue to rock the boat
Privacy continues to be a hot topic for email senders, especially marketers. As the demand for relevant and personalised email increases in 2022, the barriers to collecting the actionable data necessary to meet that demand will increase as well. The loss of third-party cookies and new features, such as Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, are likely only the beginnings of a paradigm shift that will continue to drive marketers to rethink data collection and usage practices.

Loss of third-party cookies: Third-party tracking involves data that’s not owned by the website you’re on – and it’s used after you leave. Let’s say you’re on Currys and look at a Camera, and then you go to John Lewis and see that same camera in an ad in your sidebar. That’s a third-party cookie tracking your internet habits. Firefox and Safari no longer support third-party tracking, and Google has announced they’ll follow suit with plans to sunset third-party cookies in 2022. The demise of third-party cookies puts a tailwind behind channels that leverage first-party data – email being the most pervasive channel using first-party data. We should all be gearing up for more investment in email and SMS because owned data is about to be more valuable than ever.

Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP): Back in June 2021, Apple announced MMP would be coming to their Mail app on all compatible Apple devices. According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. It prevents senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address, so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

At a very high-level, since MPP will prefetch all images in an email, senders will need to be aware of the following:
– Open rates will be inflated
– Open times will be random and unreliable
– Device information will be unavailable
– User location will be approximated

As 2022 progresses, upwards of 50% of open data will become unreliable and no longer useful as a success metric. This means that marketers will need to take a more holistic approach to measuring the success of email programs. Below are some example alternative success metrics that senders can use:
– Clicks
– Conversion
– Engagement from other channels, such as your mobile apps

3) Generating personalised content with limited resources
Creating an engaging, interesting and personalised email can be a challenge especially if a marketer is limited in terms of time and resources. There are however a few shortcuts that they can employ to speed the process up.

Personalisation: Personalised content used to be the icing on the top of the cake in email marketing. In 2022 it is arguably the whole cake. With brands having to contend with privacy changes across the marketing spectrum there is more and more pressure to build personal relationships with customers and delivering bespoke emails is a highly effective way of achieving this.

Ultimately, brands that employ personalisation in a responsible way that truly drives value to customers and isn’t self-serving to the brand, will have happy customers.

Agile content: This is when marketers use feeds to pull in content such as product listings, job advertisements, properties, recent news directly from an organisation’s external source/website, etc.

Images, links, and copy can all be added in a few clicks without the marketer having to resort to additional technology to be able to do this.

4) Email production: the final step
Email production can involve a lot of different people within a company, often working remotely and invariably focusing on their own specific niche. Fortunately, there are tools that simplify the process while simultaneously unlocking the creativity of email teams.
Email Design Systems: The days of constantly creating an email from scratch will soon be gone forever. Email Design Systems are essentially modular templates that have been pre-coded. They enable marketers to deliver marketing emails quickly as automation means that there are fewer elements for them to be concerned about.

Email Design Systems enable:
– Seamless collaboration between everyone involved in email
– Fewer risks – e.g. less typos, more consistent branding, etc.
– Email campaigns that are quicker to produce and get to market
– More time to invest in better quality code, which means better quality email

BIMI: Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is an initiative that was launched in 2019 that enables brands to send out emails with their logo appearing next to the email in the inbox.

BIMI is bound to be embraced by more and more companies this year for a number of reasons:
– Design: it helps emails stand out in an inbox
– Authentication: BIMI incentivises brands to adopt proper email authentication – DMARC in particular – when sending mass messages to consumers. Senders who put in the effort to implement DMARC are rewarded with the display of their logo
– Protection Implementing – BIMI protects brands against spoofing and phishing as customers can more easily recognise that the messages are legitimate

In our recent Benchmark survey, we asked which email innovations email marketers are considering adopting this year? BIMI was one of the main responses with 28% saying they are contemplating using it.

It’s never been more important to stay ahead of trends
Design, content and process are year-on-year major focuses for email marketers, but more so this year as privacy updates occur, changes to ways of working continue to take hold and brands fight to retain once loyal customers. If you haven’t got your design, content or process right, you can be sure that your email marketing will see an effect.

Ensure you’re targeting the right people for your campaigns with Vuelio’s Media Database and Monitoring.

Want more on email marketing and trends in PR and comms this year? Read this previous guest post from SparkPost company Taxi for Email on building strong foundations for a successful email campaign and this round-up of insight from industry thought leaders on what you need to plan for in 2022.

Wadds Inc Almanac

Wadds Inc. publishes Almanac to provide guidance on the big issues for PR in 2022

To ready the public relations industry for the big issues ahead, Stephen Waddington has published the Wadds Inc. Almanac: Challenges and opportunities for public relations 2022.

The eight short essays, with links to further reading for more information, provide guidance on topics including strategy, misinformation, inclusion and even office politics.

Among the issues highlighted for PR practitioners to include in strategic plans for next year are investment in artificial intelligence – an area touted by many in the industry, including CIPR’s AIinPR group, as ripe with opportunity as well as the potential for misuse. Upskilling and investment is also recommended for ESG concerns including climate risk and carbon as a metric. The lessons from COP26 this year will reverberate through the work of the comms sector, in-house, agency-level, political and public affairs-side next year – find out more in the essay here.

‘Misinformation: The internet is a sewer’ includes worrying statistics on the continuing spread of incorrect data across social media and the growth of mistrust in the Government and asks whether this can be curtailed by clever comms.

Diversity and inclusion is, finally and rightfully, a big conversation happening in the comms sphere – as mentioned by The Unmistakables’ Asad Dhunna in our accessmatters session in November, many clients are now asking how they should approach inclusivity and do a better job of engaging with every audience going forward. The Almanac’s guidance includes data to remind us all how far the industry is from true parity and highlights the work of initiatives including A Leader Like Me, warning that this will take longer than a generation to fix.

And while shared office working has always been fertile ground for the growth of long-term grudges and hostility, hybrid working may very well provide similar, and new, avenues for work-related anger. How can managers help those working from home? Check out advice and supporting data in ‘Home comforts and office politics’.

Inspired by what Stephen Waddington calls ‘the noisiest conversations in our community of practice’, you can read all eight essays included in the Almanac online, or download in PDF or HTML, here.

Want more on what to plan for in 2022? Check out our round-up of trend predictions from practitioners across the industry, as well as our look back at the challenges and triumphs of 2021.

Challenges and triumphs of 2021 in comms

What were the biggest challenges and triumphs for comms in 2021?

And we thought 2020 in comms, marketing and PR was difficult – 2021 brought yet more challenges, forcing everyone to adapt to the constantly changing environment we found ourselves in.

In this part of our series of features looking back at this year, and forward to the next, seven practitioners from across the industry share what they saw as the biggest challenges of 2021 and some of the organisations, people and brands that did great work in 2021.

Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof
Main challenges of 2021?
‘The biggest challenge for comms practitioners this year has been battling fatigue. Working practices and client expectations have changed throughout the pandemic, in part through people working from home, and it seems to have exacerbated the ‘always on’ culture we’ve been trying to move away from. The biggest challenge for the year ahead will be managing this and re-establishing boundaries so the workplace is a happy and healthy one.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I thought the Don’t Be That Guy video by Police Scotland was particularly well thought out and timed in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and following the wave of anger up and down the country relating to violence against women. It actually looked at the cause of the problem, rather than place responsibility onto women to stay safe.’

Sudha Singh, The Purpose Room
Main challenges of 2021?
‘The world has changed and like everyone else comms practitioners have had to adapt to the fast-changing world. I think the biggest challenge has been to understand how best we can serve our clients’ needs, help them to stay authentic and relevant. The other big challenge was providing adequate support to the disparate (and ever evolving) needs of team members and employees.’

Comms winners this year?
‘Brands that were true to their core purpose and were authentic were the winners – Zoom, IKEA, UK Gov Comms (…not politicians), Deliveroo, football campaign against racism, Raheem Sterling’s campaign, and the Aldi Free Cuthbert campaign.’

Gavin Devine, Park Street Partners
Main challenges of 2021?
‘Maintaining focus has been really difficult in 2021. The year has been a rollercoaster of lockdowns and normality, international travel being impossible and then opening up, office working prohibited, frowned upon and then encouraged. It hasn’t always been easy to know how in practice to deliver for clients and to keep colleagues motivated and positive. These challenges are not unique to comms but we perhaps feel them particularly acutely because often we have been called in to help clients shape and communicate their responses to COVID-19. Entering more of a ‘steady state’ of near-normality in the last couple of months has been an enormous relief.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I can think of so many individuals and organisations who had a bad year in terms of comms in 2021. There were few real winners, although it would be hard to argue that Kate Bingham and Nadhim Zahawi didn’t have a great year in terms of their personal ‘brands’.’

Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah, Mercer
Main challenges of 2021?
‘One clear challenge has been constant news flow and sheer amount of change since the pandemic hit. This has made it harder for clients and stakeholders stories to penetrate into the mainstream. PRs really need to think about what they are sharing externally and what key messages they want to get across. There has also been a shift with organisations focusing more on ESG and sustainability issues which has required practitioners to think outside of the box to get their stories heard.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I was blow away by the FIFA and EA Sports campaign for The Kiyan Prince Foundation and QPR. It was a genius creative idea from Engine Group with such a strong and moving message following such an unfortunate incident. I know many young people will be inspired by the campaign.’

Anne Gregory, University of Huddersfield
Main challenges of 2021?
‘Resilience and stamina, given the relentless nature of the on-going crisis. Working remotely – the watercooler moments are so important to ‘temperature check’ the organisation, particularly what is happening internally. Major flop to digital/online working. Educating senior managers on how to be really competent in genuine communication and not talking in soundbites.’

Comms winners this year?
‘Pfizer, Unilever and health scientists!’

Tolu Rachel Akisanya, Ariatu PR
Main challenges of 2021?
‘Not just this year, but for several years now, is the industry has struggled with the ability – or lack of – to switch off. This has always been an issue, however with the pandemic and working from home, it’s been harder to separate work life and personal life. Especially when both happen in the same room now (my front room is both my office space and leisure space). Additionally, with the growth of new social media platforms and media outlets, it means we’re constantly consuming media, even in our downtime, which often means we never really ever switching off. Whether we consciously or subconsciously realise it, we’re always looking for the next opportunity or connecting with a new contact online or horizon scanning – it can sometimes be information overload.

‘However, this has led to a positive movement and we’ve seen the wider industry acknowledge this issue and work towards raising awareness, providing support and resources, and creating more open and wider discussions about how to improve the mental health and well-being of PR practitioners.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I’ve really enjoyed seeing the work Ariatu PR has done with podcasts, such as Broccoli Content and Coiled. In a market that is oversaturated, being able to ‘cut through the noise’ and deliver impactful campaigns, generate coverage (in the likes of the Financial Times and Stylist magazine) to raise awareness and lead to listeners, for shows that are not celebrity led, has been incredible.’

Stuart Thomson, BDB Pitmans
Main challenges of 2021?
‘In public affairs, we have had to put up with seemingly continuous outrage caused by the behaviour of some serving and former Parliamentarians and their lobbying activities. It has done little to help the reputation of politics or public affairs. The CIPR and PRCA have been very firm in their condemnation of the activities but sadly such behaviour damages us all.

‘A large part of public affairs is the development of relationships and, however good online activity is, there is nothing to really replace face-to-face interaction. The extended lockdown at the start of the year and now worries about another wave has curtailed that. We really do need to get back to normal in-person political activity.’

Comms winners this year?
‘The Beatles. The brand of a band that ceased to exist before even I was born continues to astound. The release of Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary Get Back has been trailed and tantalised for more than a year building up on the anticipation of its release on Disney+. A great piece of communications.’

Read predictions for the trends PR and comms professionals can expect in 2022 here and start your campaign planning with Vuelio’s media, PR, public affairs and political services – find out more here.

Trends in PR and communications for 2022

10 PR and Communications Trends For 2022

2022 has certainly been… a year. At the start, hopes were high for an easing of the setbacks caused by the pandemic and that the lessons we’d all learned would help us evolve our purpose and ways of working. Did this happen?

In some ways, yes. And despite the challenges we’re all still working through, we can do even better as an industry in 2022.

Here are predictions from nine public relations, communications, marketing and public affairs experts on what the big trends to plan and prepare for will be for the year ahead.

1) Sustainability and purpose
‘It feels to me like purpose is becoming more and more important for organisations, and communicating it is a really important task. A big plank of that is of course sustainability but we have been talking about the environment for years; a big growth area in terms of messaging is likely to be fairness and social inclusion. Particularly in a time of inflation and with the UK Government still trying to define what it means by ‘levelling up’, being able to talk about the impact of clients on less advantaged areas is going to be more important than ever.’
Gavin Devine, Park Street Partners

2) Inclusion
‘There has been an increased focus on diversity and inclusion within the industry with many new initiatives launched. As a Board Member of the PRCA’s Race and Ethnicity Equity Board I am keen to see how firms continue to push for greater equality within our industry. It is important to see leaders from diverse backgrounds and we just do not have enough within the PR industry. A key challenge will be moving from talking about increasing diversity to now making it a reality at more senior levels.’
Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah, Mercer

4) Net Zero
‘We have hundreds of businesses who are signed up to science-based targets… but there are hundreds who haven’t.
‘We can’t just do this in 2029 when it’s too late – this needs accumulative reduction.’
Luke Herbert, The Climate Group

5) AI + human effort
‘AI will transform the tactical, ‘doing’ bit of our work even more, leaving space for us to be more strategic… are we up to it? We need to regulate the social media platforms and ourselves – the basic business model that drives the social media algorithms needs changing. We have to do something about the polarisation in society. The ESG agenda will become more pressing, too.’
Anne Gregory, University of Huddersfield

3) Hybrid working (for good and bad)
‘Finding, keeping and training more junior colleagues looks set to be a major issue in 2022 and beyond. Working from home and even hybrid working is great for people with comfortable home offices and at a more settled stage of their careers; it is self-evidently less so for those at the start of their careers. And honing your skills is so much less easy if you and your senior colleagues are not in the office every day. At the same time, the pandemic has led many people to question their career choices and think about alternatives. All of this means we are likely to see a shortage of high-quality people with a few years’ experience. That will fuel a race for talent; retention will be an issue.

‘One way that this will manifest itself may well be in pressure on pay. This will be part of an economy-wide challenge, the like of which we haven’t seen for years: inflation. Life is about to become more expensive and this will be true for comms agencies as much as it is for anyone else. We will also have to think of new messages for our clients to use in the media and with stakeholders about why prices are going up.’
Gavin Devine

6) Personal development, with healthy boundaries
‘Working practices and client expectations have changed throughout the pandemic, in part through people working from home, and it seems to have exacerbated the ‘always on’ culture we’ve been trying to move away from. The biggest challenge for the year ahead will be managing this and re-establishing boundaries so the workplace is a happy and healthy one.

‘PR practitioners can help businesses deliver their objectives in terms of articulating purpose, managing change and communicating with stakeholders. With the right skillset, there are plenty of opportunities to be had but personal development is crucial to success.’
Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof

7) Flexibility to new working models
‘Both a challenge and opportunity for the industry will be how we continue to adapt and evolve new working models. A lot has changed in just two years, new social media platforms, media outlets, key stakeholders, and influencers are developing at a rapid pace, the industry is constantly learning, paired with the pandemic and working from home, stricter/looser social distancing restrictions (depending on what the Government feels like that week), we have successfully made it work to our benefit and for our clients. I think we must embrace this and try not to rush or force employees to return back into the office and rigid working conditions. What the last few years have proven is that we as PR practitioners are resourceful and creative. We must continue to adapt and be flexible.’
Tolu Rachel Akisanya, Ariatu PR

8) Realistic risk management
‘We need to be realistic about the economic situation and the potential for growth.  It is likely to be a challenging year and if growth isn’t as high as hoped then that could affect the spending available to government.  The implications would be enormous.

‘Government will want to continue to be interventionist and any organisation that simply leaves them to it is playing a very dangerous game. Engagement with government should focus on the development of trusted relationships, which needs to be built over time.  For those that choose not to invest in their engagement there could be a lot of emergency public affairs required.  Aside from the obvious failure to manage risk, the success of that approach is much more variable and more expensive.’
Stuart Thomson, BDB Pitmans

9) New metrics and measurements
‘One of the big challenges for measurement is the starting point of any campaign – do we have clear measurable business objectives; do we have data on the starting point or audience insights? In the last year we have definitely moved from impressions/clicks and likes to measuring engagement and that is going to be the direction of travel.’
Sudha Singh, The Purpose Room

10) Listening
‘You can involve everyone in the process of D&I. I’ve learned about navigating my own space, my own bias and what I bring. And really listening. Taking that time to stop my voice and hearing what people are feeling.’
Asad Dhunna, The Unmistakables

Want more from the above thought leaders sharing their predictions?

accessmatters with Asad Dhunna from The Unmistakables

Interview with Sudha Singh and Mark Webb on fairer representations of disability in PR

BDB Pitmans’ Stuart Thomson on public affairs in 2021

The Climate Group’s Luke Herbert on the New Statesman panel Making Sense of Net Zero 

Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah on PRCA’s Race & Ethnicity Equity Board

Alex Silver

PR Interview: Alex Silver, director of Alex Silver PR

Moving from a career as a Junior Sister in the Casualty Ward to beauty PR extraordinaire probably isn’t the most common way of getting into comms, but it’s led to 25 years of industry success for Alex Silver and her beauty, celebrity and digital agency Alex Silver PR.

Having started her business from her kitchen table, Alex has been at the forefront of many star-studded events, red carpet moments and headline campaigns over the years. Alongside a passion for building start up brands into household names, Alex also happens to be the publicist for some well-known and long-established clients (including Dame Joan Collins, no less).

Read on for the lessons she’s learned on building strong relationships with the media, why inclusivity is so important for success, and what to do if your client hasn’t been behaving quite as they should…

What are the main lessons you’ve learned through your career?
Always have a plan B! Things can change with the drop of a hat so having a backup option and being able to think on your feet is essential in PR.

It’s not a done deal until the papers are signed – contracts and agreements can still fall through, even at the last stages of negotiations.

Credibility is everything – bringing credible experts to a campaign is like gold dust.

Don’t skip the venue recce. Even if you’ve been recommended a venue by a reputable source, I always recommend popping down to map out your event – you don’t want any nasty surprises on the big day.

How do you think the pandemic has changed comms, and are the changes here to stay?
Well, we’ve certainly all mastered the art of zoom-events, but joking aside, I believe the pandemic has helped shape a modern communication approach in many ways. Many companies (including press houses) are still testing the water when it comes to their new hybrid working arrangements, and I don’t think we’ll fully see the outcome of this until the dust from the pandemic settles.

In the meantime, communications should accommodate both in-person and online arrangements across meetings, events, launches, briefings and so on. Journalist contacts have shared that they enjoy online events as they don’t lose precious time travelling to/from venues and a recent influencer poll that we ran showed a 50/50 split in their popularity.

Celebrities are being increasingly held to account for bad behaviour/outdated views – what approach would you take with a high-profile client that runs into trouble with this?
Crisis management is at the core of many PR campaigns, whether you’re working with a celebrity or not. The art of addressing issues in a sensitive, effective and timely manner is an art that takes a carefully thought-out strategy.

It’s a case-by-case issue but sometimes it’s simply best to hold up your hands and apologise. Education and information on the topic at hand is key here – why has this caused upset and how can the talent become informed on this so that this doesn’t happen in the future.

Which high-profile celebrities/politicians/brands do you feel have really great PR teams (apart from your own clients, of course!)?
People change teams often and can make a blunder at any point so it’s hard to say, however I did see something recently that I was impressed by! At the end of October, Chief Exec and Founder of Spanx surprised employees with two first-class plane ticket and $10,000 each to celebrate the company’s $1.2billion deal with Blackstone. The announcement was filmed live on Instagram and showed employees crying with happiness. The news was quickly shared around the word on national news sites such as The Independent, Good Morning America, MSN and the New York Post. I think this was a very clever, effective, and of course, generous communication strategy. It certainly grabbed the headlines!

Which campaigns have you seen from big brands that have made you think ‘I wish I’d worked on that’?
I really loved the recent Dove Self Esteem Project. The campaign aimed to bring light to young people’s self esteem and help to raise awareness of the pressures that social media puts on developing minds. With a 15-year-old daughter, this really resonated with me and I’d loved to have been part of this campaign with Dove’s aim to have helped a quarter of a billion young people with educational courses by 2030.

Over your time in the industry, how have things improved for women practitioners?
Working within the beauty sector, the industry is saturated with women so, luckily, I haven’t felt being female ever held me back. I understand this is a big contrast to other sectors and that while some areas have drastically improved, there is still a lot to be done in order to close the gender equality gap.

What more needs to be done to make the industry more inclusive and welcoming, on gender, race and class?
An inclusive workplace culture is essential for a strong workforce of empowered employees. It needs to come from the top and I think the more people in power address these issues, speaking about them openly, the bigger changes we’re going to see. There’s so much that can and needs to be done. Everything from integrating inclusivity into core company values to building trust by encouraging a culture of frequent check-ins and creating safe spaces. There are small changes that everyone can do, no matter their company structure, and I think smaller companies need to incorporate this as much as larger ones.

How do you maintain good relationships with journalists?
Do your research! Journo friends often share frustrations at being pitched stories and items that would never fit within their column space. Keep up-to date with what your target journos are writing so that you can make your communications relevant and targeted. Building relationships is a hard balance in today’s climate; journalists are under more pressure and time constraints than ever. A catch up over zoom/coffee, carefully curated pitches and developing events/mailers that will attract attention, all go a long way.

It can be hard for people in PR to keep a healthy work/life balance – how do you manage this (If you do…)?
While there’s definitely a work-hard, play-hard culture in PR, I think it’s about striking balance in all areas of your life. I like to get up earlier in the week so that I can have a bit of ‘me’ time, I’ll kick off with a run around Primrose Hill with my puppy Bella or a yoga session. In the evenings you’ll either find me catching up with a friend over a cocktail (or two) or unwinding with my latest book in an aromatherapy bath. My advice? Find what works for you and block out that time for yourself!

What do you think the big trends will be for comms and PR in 2022?
Honesty, transparency and sustainability. Gone are the days when we printed out press releases and posted them out in thick paper packages! Journalists, influencers and celebrities are rightly conscious of the packaging brands are using. It’s the PR’s job to advise on the most sustainable, eco-friendly ways of gifting and sampling products. This is a theme I expect to see become even more prevalent in 2022 with brands delivering what consumers are striving for – products which don’t harm the planet in their making. Online sharing of files and information is here to stay. In the same vein, while gifting can be a super effective way of communicating new launches, USPs and brand values, items should be considered, useful and something that the receiver will actually want or use. We’re increasingly seeing brands choose to give a charitable donation in the receiver’s name and I think this is another trend which might grow in popularity next year.

Authenticity is also a big theme in beauty. Consumers are highly informed on ingredients, ethos and social purpose. PR communications need to be carefully structured to authentically convey what the business stands for. I believe this movement for transparency, equality and positivity will continue to snowball in 2022. Good PR teams will set out guidelines and continue to learn, grow and adapt as the year progresses.

Monitor how your brand or clients are faring in the media with Vuelio Media Monitoring and get deeper analysis from our Insights team – find out more here.