Fitness Spotlight with Annie Brooks, Tales of Annie Bean

Don’t feel downhearted if you’re still struggling to get back into a fitness regime after the festive season – blogger Annie Brooks from Tales of Annie Bean is here to help you get your routine back on track.

Fitness blogging is now Annie’s main passion after getting into triathlon training with her partner (and co-blogger) Nick following her time in the fashion community. Having found her fit, the active blogger is an expert on finding the right sport and the right soundtrack for getting set to sweat…

How did you get started with blogging about fitness?
Believe it or not, I wasn’t really into exercise. I did a fitness class now and again but I wouldn’t call it a big part of my life. I started blogging as a fashion blogger, actually… like most people! But when I was diagnosed in later life with epilepsy, I decided to do a triathlon to raise money for charity. My husband was an iron distance triathlete and I thought I could do the triathlon as my challenge and that would be it. That sort of backfired because I completely fell in love with triathlon! I got far more active because of it, so not only was I racing, I was also trying new sports and activities. I decided to document it all and move into fitness.

What’s your favourite thing to post about on your blog (training tips, reviews, experiences)?
I love to share all of those things, but mainly my personal experiences. The whole point of a blog for me is the personal side, and the writer’s perspective and their views. I know that’s what I’d read other blogs for.

What are your tips for getting back into an exercise routine after the festive season?
Firstly, don’t be too hard on yourself because everyone has a break over Christmas and often we do over-indulge. I don’t like to think of the festive season as a setback, but instead of working on the physical side you’re actually working on the mental health side. Having time to unwind, catch up with loved ones, and switching off from the normal routine can’t easily be achieved any other time of the year. So, appreciate it.

Next? You pick up where you left off, but the last thing you do is stress out over how many Quality Streets you’ve consumed, or how many extra helpings of your Auntie’s bread and butter pudding you had. It’s happened, so draw a line. I’d start by slowly reintroducing your routine, if you exercise four times a week, start with two then bring it back to whatever your normal sessions are. You’ll get it back.

What makes the fitness blogging community different (and better!) than others?
As previously mentioned, I used to do fashion blogging many years ago now, and I always felt that bit more intimidated. Perhaps I’ve just grown up, but I do find the fitness blogging community to be so friendly, inspiring and helpful! We all know how hard it is to train for races, juggle full-time jobs and blog… so we’re all on the same page.

Annie Brooks 1

Weirdest fitness trend you’ve tried/heard about?
I know it is a ‘thing’, but Dog Yoga. I mean, how can anyone feel mindful when there are cute dogs everywhere, and if I took mine she wouldn’t be practising her downward dog (she does actually do that), she’d be more interested in the other dogs!

Annie Brooks 3

What are the best songs to get you fired up to work out?
Honestly, people are going to judge me based on my musical taste here. I’m mildly trapped in the 80s and have a ridiculous love for 80s’ hair metal! My top 5 are…
1. Motley Crue – Kickstart My Heart.
2. ACDC – Thunderstruck
3. Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl
4. The Clash – Should I stay or should I go
5. ZZ Top – Gimme all your lovin’

Who are your fitness heroes/inspirations?
Lucy Charles, Scott Jurek, Angela Naeth, Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller.

How do you work with PRs and brands?
It varies, to be honest – I sometimes work on blog content with them or via video creations. I only work with brands and on campaigns I am truly passionate about, though.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog, how would you prefer they approach you?
Drop me an email, pick up the phone – just a nice personal message reaching out.

What other blogs do you read?
Huge fan of all the blogs on the Fitness & Exercise UK Top 10 and actually read the majority of them already. But I must admit I’m quite the YouTube girl, especially when it comes to trainer reviews.

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Creating content inhouse

How to start creating content in-house

2020 is the year for in-house content creation. In 2019, a third of marketing teams surveyed by Canto and Sapio Research were planning to reduce agency spend and start sourcing internally.

If you’re one of the nine in 10 comms directors surveyed by Speak Media who still struggle with putting content together, getting started is going to be the hardest part. Skip the stage of staring at a blank Word doc and get straight to writing/filming/surveying with this advice from PRs already content with their content creation.

Content can come from anywhere… but surveys and suggestions are a good place to start
‘We’ve had success doing research pieces from surveys but also received coverage just by making sure that we’re watching what’s going on across media outlets and seeing what comments and added value we can offer. Suggestions from the team are crucial though, you have to have that buy in from the wider business. That’s when you get someone from an area completely unrelated to content and marketing come to you with an idea.’
Cartridge People SEO manager Andy Davies

There’s no such thing as a bad idea
‘I know its cliché, but it’s true. In our ideation meetings, we encourage people to be as adventurous and as wild as possible with their thoughts. There have been times where someone has suggested something that they thought was a ridiculous idea, but it ended up being one of our top performing campaigns due to its originality and wackiness.’
Liberty Marketing digital PR executive Emma Hull

‘We have a very healthy attitude towards ideas and never shoot them down early on, which I think is key to making people feel confident about sharing. Even if they aren’t gold, some ‘bad’ ideas can lead to greatness after a discussion. The truth is that if we established an atmosphere where only great ideas are expected to be shared, then there wouldn’t be much getting said. Instead, we never write off ideas and it’s that approach that can get us the best ones – even if it is after some tinkering.’
Add People senior content and off page SEO specialist Jack Bird

Watercooler walks: talk to people outside of your own team
‘Communicating content ideas to the people in your business is arguably more important than when you’re looking to talk to journalists. Other teams can act as that first set of eyes and offer insights that don’t just look at how it can help build the brand. There are techniques to try and help that idea sharing, such as the 6-3-5 method, and this is one we’ve found useful.

‘Regular meetings and shared sheets can be a good way to formalise things, but we’ve found that just by talking to other departments, even in passing, makes sure that everyone is aware of the type of content that’s being produced.’
Andy Davies

Make the most of the people and the skills you have around you
‘While you can utilise other sources, nobody knows your brand like you do and if you have in-house content writers, they will understand your business better, which pages are more critical and to add internal links to, how to add in your business goals or call-to-actions. There is a lower level of research required with inhouse content writers and the costs are far lower when writing in bulk.

‘The length of content required now is vastly higher than years gone by. We also need to not just look at the question we’re trying to answer when our audience arrives from Google, but their follow-up thought-track and predict their next questions, so they don’t return to Google for another search. This requires a lot of research around the subject area and associated questions, customer intent, as well as truly understanding our target audience and building out personas. This would be very difficult to do from outside and really requires staff members that are fully enveloped into our system and writing all day to help our content strategy.’
The Stag Company SEO expert and senior digital marketer Tom Bourlet

‘There are obvious advantages to creating your content in-house. Of course, these people already work for you and are already paid by you, so you don’t have to worry about allocating a budget for external work. Additionally, your staff already know the industry because they’re in it. They’re experts in the subject (hopefully!) and understand your client base.’
Carrington Communications junior PR account executive Leah Benthin

Created something great? Don’t just share it once
‘All too often great content is used once by one team and then gets left in the proverbial drawer, never to be seen again. This is such a waste. If good content is produced, I personally like to “wring it dry”. It should be used across multiple teams (where relevant) and also reused across different mediums too. For instance, there is nothing to stop a brand taking snippets from a longer whitepaper and turning these into social media posts, or likewise using some of that copy to draft an opinion article. They could even use that same copy to hijack the news agenda in a reactive comment, which can be distributed to the media. Doing this will not only mean you get far more eyes on that content, but will also guarantee a consistent voice, tone and message across multiple channels, too.’
Tribe PR MD and founder Holly Pither

Check what’s working
‘We use Google Analytics to look at the actual traffic and engagement of the blog, whereas Majestic is also used to look at the Trust Flow and Citation Flow, and Rank Checker to review rankings for longtail. As for content campaigns, we measure the success of these by making note of any links we have built.

While authoritative and trustworthy links are important to a website, coverage without a backlink is still a positive. It has become increasingly hard over the past twelve months to ensure that sites are linking back to a website as a lot of publications refrain from doing so as they think it is ‘harmful’ to their own site or they restrict this SEO benefit to affiliates.

Once our content campaign has been pushed, I check whether it is also being talked about on social media, too.’
Emma Hull

Still not sure about getting started with creating content in-house? If you can write an email, you’ve got the skills already
‘If you’re working in PR, then chances are that you’ve already written some of the hardest content around – emails. There are thousands of articles dedicated to writing the perfect one – hell, even just a decent subject line. With words such a valuable currency and attention spans so fleeting, it takes a lot of practice and talent to write a good message. That’s why I’m willing to bet that if you’re confident about writing emails, then you should at least have the confidence to try your hand at longer content pieces. Trust me, they’re a lot more fun.’
Jack Bird

Measure the success of your campaigns (whether sourced outside or in-house) with Vuelio media monitoring – find out more here.

Sadiq Khan

Defending public relations from its ‘bad PR’ problem

‘Too often, our industry is a soft-target for lazy attacks by those who lack an understanding of what public relations entails.’

The response from PRCA head of communications Koray Camgoz to last week’s City A.M. piece on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s increased press office spend – reportedly £920,967.95 on communications officers in 2018-19 – will probably have resonated with anyone working in PR who’s had to explain their job to people unfamiliar with the industry.

At Vuelio, we hear the complaint a lot from our PR community that the industry is misunderstood and unjustly painted in a negative light, despite recent drives towards more transparency across the communications discipline.

Outdated notions of desperate grasps for publicity, unfocused ‘spray and pray’ mail merge campaigns and badly-timed phone calls persist particularly for journalists, who’ve probably had their own bad experiences with PRs.

Portrayals of morally questionable and Machiavellian PR people on TV and film haven’t helped – think Ab Fab, Siobhan Sharpe or Colin Farrell in Phone Booth when he says: ‘I lie to newspapers and magazines who sell my lies to more and more people. I am just a part of a big cycle of lies.’

This controversy was stirred up again by the report of a 26% increase on the Mayor of London’s press operation. For Koray, the negative interpretations are due to a misunderstanding of the aims of PR: ‘The article suggests Khan is ‘“more concerned about PR than policy”’, but what many fail to grasp is that you cannot have effective policy unless you understand the people you’re trying to reach’.

‘PR professionals play an essential role in helping businesses to understand these parameters. Our practice is not obsessed with publicity as has been reported – it encompasses a range of disciplines that are integral to any professionally run businesses.’

Defending public relations against decades of, well, bad PR is a big task, particularly when it intersects with politics (another oft-maligned career choice). Chapman Poole director Andy Poole feels there is a natural connection between the two communities: ‘Khan’s increased press office spend is hardly surprising. If anything, investing more in PR is a savvy move. He’s competing in a world of politics where the value of personality and reputation has become the ultimate currency’.

Andy continues: ‘The likes of Johnson, Corbyn, Trump and Sturgeon have all polarised public opinion and sentiment, and their personalities have played a large part in this. How often do you hear someone talk about politicians now, making comments like; “‘I like their policies, but don’t like them as a person”. Khan gets this. He knows ‘“personality”’ is just as important as what he’s saying and what he stands for.’

Increasingly, transparency and authenticity are expected from politicians and any public figure, business or service. In spite of its reputation for smoke and mirrors, the reality is that PR has evolved and is now more focused on highlighting bigger ideas around ethics and moral standpoints. This function of public relations is still overlooked or invisible to the public (as good PR often is).

For business expert Erica Wolfe-Murray, there’s good reason for the dim view: ‘PR and lobbying teams paid by large conglomerates have been seen time and again to reinforce vested interests that we know are bad for us, our health, the environment. Tobacco, sugar, fast-food, oil, fracking. These industries have used PR extensively to promulgate stories that science has long since proven deleterious. Is it any wonder that the industry is regarded with cynicism?’

‘Transparency, honesty and global responsibility’ is what Erica believes the PR industry must prioritise in order to overhaul its reputation – if not a rebrand in line with the evolution of audience engagement.

Erica continues: ‘Perhaps the term ‘public relations’ should be retired. I infinitely prefer the term ‘communications’ as it is about just that – communicating. In the past, PR was a one-way street. Your release, story or interview went out to a selected publication or platform as the intermediary between you and the public. Now public figures and businesses can have a two-way intimate dialogue with their fans, their critics and the customers – for everyone else to see.’

This back-and-forth dialogue between subject, PR and public has never been more transparent, yet PR is still often called ‘the dark side’ by journalists and much of its positive effects go unrecognised. For Stone Junction’s Richard Stone, the best defence is the work itself: ‘PR has the power to raise Governments, change the course of nations and build businesses, from scratch, into global players. The importance of PR should require no defence; you can topple or grow a business with a tweet if it’s done correctly. As professionals we need to hold ourselves to the strictest standards and deliver useful work using the budget we have — then the value of our labour will be obvious.’

The City A.M. piece on Sadiq Khan’s PR spend is not the first negative take on PR expenditure, and it won’t be the last. Koray Camgoz rightly summarises the value of investing in public relations in his response: ‘Ultimately, PR professionals build trust between organisations and their stakeholders by delivering honest, timely and accurate information to those who need it’. And so say all of us…

Anne-Gregory-AIinPR

CIPR #AIinPR report urges preparation for ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ of artificial intelligence

Robo-PRs aren’t on their way to take over public relations agencies across the globe, according to the speakers at the launch of the CIPR’s #AIinPR Panel report at The Alan Turing Institute this morning. That our industry should still prepare for other possibilities of machine learning and AI (beyond cyborg comms experts) was urged by Chair Kerry Sheehan, co-author Professor Anne Gregory and Drs David Leslie and Bertie Vidgen.

The nature of our work will change over the next five years as the technology we use gets smarter – so how can PRs prepare for the unavoidable impact of AI?

One main takeaway of ‘The Effects of AI on the Professions: A Literature Repository’ for PRs is the increasing importance of ethics. How will we use all the new data we’ll soon have at our disposal, and where should we draw the line?

‘A positive – AI is free from bias,’ said Professor Anne Gregory on the automated data gathering and content generation that will soon be possible. ‘We have to govern ourselves, however. We call ourselves “ethical guardians” – we need to keep asking ourselves those tough questions. Just because we can, should we?’

Anne highlighted a future of people ‘AI-empowered’ and those who’ll be lacking, with PRs – reassuringly – being in a ‘privileged position’. Alongside the bonus of its access to new tech, PR is made up of people with skills that AI can’t duplicate. YetShe said: ‘Social and emotional skills – crucial in our profession – are going to be more important’.

For Anne, communication is what will put PRs ‘at the heart of strategy’ – translators of context and experts in meaning-making when it comes to reams of meaning-free numbers and statistics. This is encouraging for anyone who has picked PR as a career, certainly, but drastic changes are still on their way.

A big topic of discussion was that a whole rung of the PR career ladder – entry-level positions – will likely be taken away by machine learning. How we as an industry will look after and continue to nurture young PR talent needs to be prepared for within agencies, now. ‘The jury is out on whether AI will replace all our jobs,’ said Anne. ‘That it is going to change the nature of work is indisputable’.

Perhaps the most important key point from the launch of the #AIinPR report is that PR needs to start practicing what it preaches. ‘PR talks a good game, but doesn’t listen to itself’, said Kerry Sheehan of PR’s tendency to promote, publicise and then ignore useful reports and studies… such as the one being launched. AI will change the nature of work, across all industries. It will bring in new questions around ethics not yet covered by GDPR regulations, and spark new discussions around regulations and equality (can AI really be completely unbiased? We’ll find out)

PR is in a position of privilege as technology will continue to change how the world of work looks, but also a position of great responsibility.

‘This report doesn’t advise how to navigate the use of AI,’ admitted Anne, ‘But it is designed to enable direct access to a suite of resources for readers to inform themselves.’

‘PR has a vital societal and organisational role to play in the debate on AI but it needs to better prepare itself with practitioners upskilling to work smarter and faster in their roles but also becoming equipped to advise on AI adoption and deployment within organisations and business, and to its stakeholders and society,’ said Kerry. ‘It is our role to no longer debate on our own swim lanes – we must help drive business and organisations forward. This report is the first step in that preparation and I am delighted our partners such as CBI, The Alan Turing Institute and the UK Government Office for AI are supportive of our work.’

Prepare for the upcoming impact of AI on your work: read more about ‘The Effects of AI on the Professions: A Literature Repository’ here. Want more about the future of PR? Check out our write up on the incoming rise of VIs (virtual influencers) and lessons from last year’s CIPR National Conference on ‘Preparing for the Digital Future’.

Sam Ajilore

Music Blogger Spotlight with Sam Ajilore, That Grape Juice

‘That Grape Juice is effectively a site for music fans by music fans. We aim to inform, but also entertain in equal measure’. Here to entertain and inform us on music blog That Grape Juice, is Sam Ajilore who started the website as a hobby in 2007 and now draws in music fans across the world with in-depth features and interviews.

Read on to find out what makes the music sector such an interesting space to blog in, whether The Voice is still a good idea for new musicians and what lyric comes after ‘Hello’…

How did you get started with writing about music?
In school! My sister would always buy Urban magazines such as Essence, Pride and S2S – all of which I’d pick up and get lost in. The stories, the interviews, the reader feedback. It was such an immersive experience.

So, when blog culture had its initial boom in the mid-late 00s, I had a firm grasp on my Pop cultural palette and knew what the tone and approach of my site would be if I ever had one.

As history has it, I did launch That Grape Juice in 2007, but initially as a hobby. So to be here chatting with you, 13 years later (especially for this feature), is an honour!

What’s your favourite thing to post about on That Grape Juice?
At this point, it’s definitely original content! Celeb interviews, in-depth articles and editor round tables, as well as exclusive stories. Sure, the ‘trending’ finger-on-the-pulse stuff is the key driver (as is the case for most sites), but we have really realised the value of cultivating content people quite literally can’t find anywhere else.

What makes That Grape Juice different than others?
A few things! That Grape Juice has a distinctive tone of voice. It’s rooted in fact and is reliable, but it can also skew cheeky and get involved in the conversation it’s igniting.

Unlike pure celeb or gossip platforms (which I do enjoy, too), we also cater to the niche that are interested in music sales, industry trends and the behind-the-scenes happenings. Put simply, those who (like me) pick up a CD and get lost in the credits: who wrote what song, which label released it, so on and so forth.

That Grape Juice is effectively a site for music fans by music fans. We aim to inform, but also entertain in equal measure.

Mainly, though, I’d say it’s our emphasis on sparking discussion and debate. Humbly speaking, our comment section is popping! Which is something I’m really proud of; especially at a time where so much of the pop cultural dialogue has shifted to social media (an arena we also enjoy solid engagement in, too).

Do you think shows like The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent are still a good route into the music industry for wannabe musicians? What are the pros and cons?
I think it depends. On one hand, we live in such a DIY time that it totally makes sense for someone to appear on shows of this ilk – if the simple goal is exposure to acquire a bigger audience and leverage that towards a long-term plan. Winning, from that angle, would essentially be a bonus.

Yet, given how few stars are being churned out by such platforms these days, it does beg the question of whether it’s more valuable investing time and resources in direct-to-consumer approaches such as YouTube and playlisting on streaming services.

Ultimately, there are multiple ways of breaking in. The one consistent necessity though is having a DIY mentality. So, rather than waiting for a show to make one a star or dropping one song on YouTube with no strategy, it’s about having a plan. If it doesn’t work, then hatch another, then another and then another. Whatever the approach, acts today have to take agency over their careers if they want to advance.

Do you see the increase in the intersection of tech with music as a good thing – VR shows, holograms of musicians who are no longer with us?
I think it’s too soon to tell. I’m a tech geek at heart and a lover of spectacle, so I’m super intrigued about the elevation of the live music experience. At the same time, there are definitely ethical points of consideration that make it tricky terrain.

Beyond the growing fascination of reviving those who’ve passed away, I’d much prefer to see such technology used to cultivate exciting concert experiences for acts that are still here. Like a ‘Live In Your Living Room With _______’.

What was the first song/album you bought (and would you still listen to it)?
I honestly can’t remember! Much of my childhood was spent hounding my mum to buy us singles from Our Price, Virgin Megastore and HMV. By the time I was old enough to do so for myself, net culture meant anything you wanted to listen to was at your fingertips. Cornerstone albums for me, though, are Thriller, Janet and The Emancipation Of Mimi.

Favourite song lyric of all time?
Too many to name! But, I do find it fun watching what people follow with when singing the word ‘Hello…’

It’s pretty 50/50. Either Adele (‘…it’s me’) or Lionel Ritchie (‘…is it me you’re looking for’).

How do you work with PRs and brands?
On the PR front, it’s everything from content (hundreds of press releases a day), to arranging interviews, live reviews and original features.

With brands, it tends to be sponsorships and event coverage.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you?
We love working with PRs; it’s pretty much one of the most integral parts of our operation.

I think first it’s imperative those reaching out know the platform they’re contacting. For example, trying to solicit a feature for a heavy metal band on That Grape Juice is unlikely to yield fruitful results. While something of the pop or urban skew is much more on-brand.

I also find myself much more inclined to reply to personalised emails rather than the generic ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

What other blogs do you read (whether music-related or not)?
I find myself super into lifestyle blogs of late. Randomly, interior design blogs, too.

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Jo-Middleton

Slummy Single Mummy to share the Untold Stories of parenting bloggers

Award-winning parenting blogger Jo Middleton has launched Untold Stories – a space on Slummy Single Mummy where parents can anonymously share the issues they struggle with.

Finding a balance between public and private as a blogger sharing her parenting life, Jo’s aim with the section is to create a ‘safe, non-judgemental space for support and feedback’. As a popular blogger in the sector – number one in the Top 10 Mummy Blogs – Jo provides advice on food, money, love and travel alongside family life, as well as answers to other issues she faces in her Rants section. The parts of life that don’t fit neatly into these topics is what she’s now hoping to cover.

‘As a writer in a public space there is always a balance between sharing enough to connect with people and keeping enough private that you respect other people’s privacy,’ said Jo, of the difficulties of balance in blogging and parenting. ‘Talking to other parents and parent bloggers recently I’ve found that it’s not just me that finds this hard.’

‘What I’ve decided to do is create a space for people to anonymously share their stories – the sort of stories that we normally keep to ourselves but that shape our lives.’

With the pressures of sharing a successful family life now extending beyond those blogging or vlogging as a parent and to anybody with a social media presence, the less than perfect elements and vulnerabilities that come with modern life can be harder than ever to share with honesty. When even those with carefully locked-down Facebook profiles for close family rarely share authentically, online spaces for parents to ask questions and find others with the same issues, anonymously if needed, are increasingly important.

‘For me, as a parent using social media, it’s not so much that I don’t WANT to share the less Instagrammable parts of my life, it’s that I don’t feel able to because everything I share is accessible by my children,’ said Jo. ‘I’ve loved how the more “real” side of parenting has become so much more talked about online, but it’s normally focused on parents of younger children and can tend to be a little tongue in cheek, a bit more – “fish fingers for tea again lol!”

‘For me it feels like there’s a real gap in this kind of content but for parents of older children, because we are much more restricted by what we can respectfully share. This is the issue for me, that as much as we all want to be honest, sometimes you just can’t. Having spoken to several parent bloggers with teenagers I know they feel the same.

‘I’d also like to dig a bit deeper than the daily grind and pick out some trickier topics that might not otherwise be spoken about. Ultimately parenting can be a lonely business and I want other parents to feel like they’re not alone, that other people are experiencing the same struggles.’

Believing there to be a gap online between what information is available and genuine support for parents, Jo is open to suggestions about subjects as well as contributions for Untold Stories. More about the launching section can be found on the Slummy Single Mummy blog here.

Holly Pither Tribe PR

PR, social and comms predictions for 2020

This is a guest post by Holly Pither, MD and founder of Tribe PR.

January is always a great time to reflect on the year just gone, and spend some time thinking about what’s to come. For me, 2019 was year full of ground-breaking marketing campaigns, exciting PR activations, big tech advances, what can only be described as influencer madness and some big industry shakeups too.

But what does 2020 have in store? To find out I have crowdsourced some industry heavyweights for their opinion and here’s what they’ve been saying…

B2B comms will get more human

I have always felt that B2B marketers and PRs have set themselves apart from their fellow B2C professionals, and certainly up until a few years ago the nature of their work and how they talked to their audience was, in fairness, quite different. However, the last few years have brought B2B and B2C comms much closer together. And now instead of a corporate brand talking to its corporate customers in a professional and (dare I say it) staged manner, it should be talking to its audience in a very different tone; a human tone.

Today, and moving forward, good brand communication will be all about engaging directly with people, understanding what makes them tick, responding to their needs and then consequently turning them into brand advocates. Never before has the mantra that we live and breathe here at Tribe PR; ‘people don’t buy brands, they join them’ been more true.

Influence marketing will move away from influence to focus on talent

When I asked William Soulier, CEO and co-founder of Talent Village, about his 2020 predictions, he contended that the future of the influencer marketing industry needed to move away from influence and prioritise talent.

He said: ‘Certainly, one of the biggest challenges the industry faced in 2019 were the vociferous headlines and editorial pieces forecasting the demise of influencer marketing. We predict 2020 will be about rebuilding trust in the industry, which can be achieved by working with true talent over and above influence.’

William said that by Talent Village adopting a talent-led approach, they will be ‘better able to solve growing concerns regarding fake followers, promote diversity and increase advocacy as we continue to focus on building long-term partnerships and deliver authentic and credible results’.

Prioritising advocacy over loyalty

The words ‘loyalty’ and ‘advocacy’ often get mixed up in the whole host of buzzwords we use across the industry on a daily basis. Loyal customers are people who keep returning to your brand, but they might not actively be talking about it to other people. On the other hand, brand advocates are people who are both loyal to your brand and proactively share it. The big difference is that your advocates will tell your story for you. I think 2020 has to be about turning brand loyalists into brand advocates and getting them to play a part in your storytelling, too.

An increased and renewed focus on purpose

Annabel Wallis, marketing business partner at Outsource UK, explained that while digitalisation and AI is pushing people further away from real interaction, she thinks that in 2020 there will be increased focus on the ethos and purpose of business (wholehearted values).

‘I anticipate the balance between ethical consumerism and convenience will tip towards the former, especially as climate panic grows,’ Annabel said. ‘Digital can only help with this as long as its purpose is wholehearted, so programmatic advertising will go into overdrive.’

Removing Likes means we need to work harder to create standout content

When Instagram announced last year that it was removing likes, it said it was predominantly to remove the element of ‘pressure’ and to stop it feeling so competitive on the social platform. Certainly, this decision by the social giant has made waves in the industry, with many worried about how best to measure their activity moving forward if likes are removed. But I believe that with the removal of likes, brands will need to engage with their followers on a much deeper level. This can only be a good thing, especially as content will have to be far more interesting, engaging and authentic.

I think it will also force B2B brands to become more personal and talk to their audience on a far more human level (which is all so often missing B2B brand communications). As William Soulier says, by Instagram removing likes, brands will need to ‘realign their affiliation with the right kind of talent; those who match their values and have the credibility to talk authentically in this space to create good compelling and authentic content’.

Integrating paid and earned

MD and owner of  Cherish PR Rebecca Oatley believes that 2020 will see more of an integration of paid and earned media – ‘I see PR agencies being more proactive in negotiating digital spend alongside stories. We will see this with influencers in particular’. She said that Cherish is already running whitelisting within their influencer campaigns and she expects this to become more prominent in 2020.

Brands will need to accept that they can’t be everything to everyone

If a brand is 100% clear about what they stand for, then they will always find that some people will be left out – and that’s okay. I think 2020 will be the year to reassure ourselves that we cannot be all things to everyone. I would like to see brands using 2020 to focus in on their key messages and ensure that they know exactly who they are trying to bring into their tribe, and likewise who they would prefer simply didn’t join.

Creating human connections

As a result of the widely-publicised issues around data privacy, the novelty of social media wearing off and the poor use of automation and personalisation, we are seeing more and more consumers rebelling against the overuse of technology.

Paul Sutton, the digital marketing consultant behind Digital Download Podcast said, ‘as a society, trust has plummeted and we’re clamouring for genuine connections with human beings. Marketers with any sense of the real world are trying to follow suit, some with more success than others as this is a mindset shift for many. Though it’s been prompted by advances in mobile and internet technology, the explosion of podcasts is a prime example of the sort of ‘authentic’ content that people are now demanding. Whether it’s audio, video, imagery or written content, the medium in 2020 will be less important than the marketer’s ability to create a human connection’.

It feels that the ways we will absorb our news and the platforms on which we will do so will be more extensive than ever before. With this in mind, it feels that the words ‘content, content, content’ will continue to fill our inboxes and weekly update meetings for a long time to come (even if we do all shudder at the word). Though hopefully that content will be more human, more personalised and far more authentic.

As Natasha Hill, MD of Bottle so eloquently sums up when she reflected on the coming decade, ‘the ‘news’ will be read, watched, listened to, on many more platforms than Ofcom currently bulk into Other Online Media’.

And what an opportunity this presents…

Holly Pither is MD and founder of Tribe PR. Tribe PR is an independent communications agency, specialising in earned media to help organisations of all sizes increase their brand advocacy. Holly has built the business based on the mantra that ‘people don’t buy brands, they join them.’

2020 New Year Resolution

UK PR New Year’s Resolutions: more video, team lunches and headspace

Made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2020? We asked members of the UK PR industry what they were hoping to achieve this year for their agency, their clients and themselves – read on to see which aims are realistic and worth taking on in your own teams… and which resolutions might have been broken already.

Realistic goals and a ’mint’ office
Stone Junction managing director Richard Stone

Richard Stone
‘Our main resolution for the year ahead is entirely retention based. While the new offices [with a working bar!] should give the team additional and comfortable space to work, we’re also improving our working benefits every year to include more holiday, additional spend in vouchers, CIPR accreditation, charity days and more.

I’m passionate about making this a mint place to work and so looking after the team here is always a priority moving into every new year — plus we figured this resolution was far more realistic than giving up alcohol.’

Team bonding/outside lunches
Hockerty.uk marketing manager Salva Jovells

Salva Jovells
‘We have a small office in Zürich with six people but everyone is in the marketing team. So for this year, we are planning to create stronger bonds by having group activities three times a year and outside lunch every month.’

Worldwide domination with video (kinda)
PHD Marketing & Strategy managing director Jo Stephenson

Jo Stephenson
‘To use video more regularly for our clients, particularly in our core sectors of print, packaging and biosciences. We’re also resolving to push our international communications forward, by seeking a translation partner that retains the technical detail we’re known for, across the globe.’

Adapting and tailoring
Cherish PR managing director Rebecca Oatley

Rebecca Oatley
‘2020 is going to be a very different year for the UK. Fresh out of Europe, the UK will be negotiating and entering new trade deals with the world and potentially could begin a new era of national pride. With that said, my resolution is to help new businesses adapt and tailor their communications to a wider agenda, which means that they begin and remain relevant and stay in the minds and the hearts of their customers.’

Veganism
Mad Promotions director Karin Ridgers

Karin Ridgers
‘I am looking to work with even more vegan brands in 2020. It is my biggest passion and as a vegan for nearly 25 years seeing this growth is incredible. Even five years ago it could have put off a journalist – now they love it! (I run www.veggievision.tv as well as working in PR, so always welcome hearing vegan news).’

Outsourcing, podcasting and cutting down on snacks
Boss Your PR founder Fiona Minett

Fiona-Minett-BYPR-Featured
‘Outsource and collaborate. My focus is on supporting and training small businesses in tackling PR, but it’s easy to get distracted by the day-to-day of running a business, so, I’ll be expanding through outsourcing but also looking to collaboration when it comes to communicating the power and potential of PR for small business. Plans are in the works for a podcast with women’s network DiscovHer and I’m exploring weaving in a charitable collaboration which I’m really excited about. Also, I’m determined to keep my office tidier and stop snacking so much (one of the perils of being a ‘homeworker’)!’

Fewer! Exclamation! Points!
Hallam PR specialist Rebecca Peel

Rebecca Peel
‘Be a bit more sparing with the enthusiasm! I don’t talk! like! this! in real life… so why do I include so many exclamation marks to clients? I’m going to limit myself to just one per email unless I’m telling someone news which is out of this world.

I’m also going to promote myself more – being seen as credible in the industry is so important, and I might be good at promoting others, but what about myself?’

Remembering there’s a world outside of work
PR consultant Natalie Trice

Natalie Trice
‘Mine is to make sure that I get up from my desk and walk on the beach with my dogs every day – with my phone turned off. Quite often I am here all day, not looking up from plans and media requests and forget that there is a world out there and that I need to get some headspace and exercise.’

Starting better habits in 2020? Let the Vuelio Media Contacts Database help (find the right journalists, influencers and bloggers for your campaign, all year round).

The Creative Shootout 2020 finalists

Finalists announced for The Creative Shootout 2020

Eight agencies have made it through to the live final of The Creative Shootout 2020 on Thursday 23 January, which will be held at Picturehouse Central.

The eight finalists were chosen by a high-profile judging panel after they had all submitted their 60-second content. The finalists will take to the stage to show off their creative clout for a cause that needs bold solutions: homelessness. This year The Creative Shootout’s charity of the year is Crisis, who will provide the all-important brief on the day, which the agencies will use to create their 10-minute live pitch in the hopes of taking home the top prize.

The eight PR and marketing agencies who have made the final cover a range of disciplines:

  • Alpaca Communications – PR agency
  • Epoch Design – Design consultancy
  • Fever – PR, social and influencer agency
  • FleishmanHillard Fishburn – Communications agency
  • Grayling – Integrated communications agency
  • Haygarth – Brand engagement agency
  • TracyLocke – Advertising agency
  • Wavemaker – Media agency

To enter The Creative Shootout, these agencies had to submit a 60-second piece of content to demonstrate their creativity.  The entry format was open and not restricted to a specific type of content.

Creative Shootout founder Johnny Pitt said: ‘With entries ranging from ads to vinyl records, to films and bespoke board games, the entry creativity was jaw-dropping this year. The Shootout exists to showcase the extraordinary talent and thinking in our industry, whilst giving back – and year five looks set to be a blockbuster of a live final.’

At the live final, the finalists will draw straws to determine the running order with each agency having just 10 minutes to pitch their idea to the judges and a live audience of 350. The winning agency is crowned on stage and will get to work with Crisis to see their idea come to life, aided by a £10,000 prize fund – as last year’s winner Wire did with A Plastic Planet.

Matt Downie, director of policy & external affairs at Crisis said: ‘Ending homelessness will require brave people and brave thinking. The Creative Shootout is about just that, and everyone at Crisis is looking forward to seeing what happens in January.’

Vuelio is proud to sponsor The Creative Shootout for the third year in a row and we are looking forward to seeing the creative ideas from all the finalists.

The 2020 judging panel includes:

  • Victoria Buchanan, executive creative director, Tribal Worldwide
  • Kate Davies, head of brand, Guardian News and Media
  • Matt Downie, MBE, director of policy and external affairs, Crisis
  • Nils Leonard, founder, Uncommon Creative Studio
  • Elspeth Lynn, executive creative director, Geometry
  • Johnny Pitt, founder, The Creative Shootout
  • Laurent Simon, chief creative officer, VMLY&R
  • Gary Wheeldon, co-founder, Talker Tailor Trouble Maker
  • Ann Wixley, executive creative director, Wavemaker

Want to attend the live final? Get in touch here.

pr planning for the future

2020 Vision – PR Planning for the Year Ahead

pr planning for the future

A call for ethics, a need for more regulation, the rise of churnalism and traditional mediums making way for new: 2019 was the year for PR to make changes.

Our latest white paper, 2020 Vision: PR planning for the year ahead, hears from the industry on how we can use the lessons learned this year to take on the challenges and opportunities in the next.

Covering influencer marketing, the digital landscape and fake news, contributions have come from Colin Cather, creative director at Bottle; Adam Smith, managing director at Teamspirit; Gemma Flinders, senior digital PR specialist at Receptional; Scott Guthrie, influencer marketing consultant and all-round supremo; and Dominic Baliszewski, co-founder and director of YOURS . SINCERELY.

Start 2020 ahead of the competition, download your complimentary copy below.

PRCA-appointments-2019

PRCA Council announces chairman and vice-chairman for 2020

Simon Francis CMPRCA and Julia Herd CMPRCA have been confirmed as the chairman and vice-chairman of the PRCA’s PR and Communications Council for 2020.

On his appointment to chairman, founder member of the Campaign Collective and chair of PRCA Charity & Not For Profit Group Simon Francis commended the council’s ‘bold steps in agreeing a definition for social impact, but we need a dedicated drive to move this agenda forward.

‘Demonstrating our social impact will improve recruitment and retention, ensure we are talking the language of board rooms and procurement teams and show to the public that we are a globally aware, responsible profession. As part of the social impact agenda, we will be encouraging PR and communications agencies to ‘buy social’ from social enterprises in 2020.’

Five in a Boat managing director Julia Herd also highlighted the important work the council will continue in 2020: ‘I look forward to contributing to the advancement of the stature and standing of comms professionals everywhere. Placing our members at the heart of change and driving forward the industry in a positive way will be key for me.’

Enabling consultation of senior practitioners as an industry think-tank, the PR and Communications Council aims to advise on best practice for those in the professional and to inform strategic priorities for the PRCA.

Amanda Coleman and Jessica Ozdemir were thanked by PRCA director general Francis Ingham MPRCA for their work leading the council throughout 2019.

The winning 2020 council manifestos can be read here on the PRCA website.

Content-Screen-Featured

Investment increased in-house for content creation in 2020

UK PR and marketing firms are confident in their in-house abilities to create quality content for campaigns in 2020, according to research from digital asset management specialist Canto and Sapio Research.

Analysis of responses from decision makers in SME, enterprise and blue-chip marketing departments found an upcoming average increase of 9% in PR and marketing content creation, with a third of marketing teams planning to reduce agency spend and create more content in-house than a year ago. In bigger companies with over 100 employees around half (49%) plan to in-source more of their content next year.

One of the barriers the companies surveyed frequently come up against with sourcing content includes information silos within their organisations – 71% of respondents cited examples of missing or overlooking potentially useful content due to employees not sharing outside of their own teams (a factor also raised in a recent study from Survey Media). More than three quarters of the respondents (80%) believed that content is often buried within the business and hard to find.

Unsurprisingly, improving the ROI on content produced in-house, as well as that sourced from outside, will only get more important – 51% intend to make better use of market research to get clearer results on what’s working next year. 42% are planning to use better technology, 37% will repurpose existing content, 34% will implement better measurement and 29% will reduce their spend on agencies.

‘What is clear is that higher content output must demonstrate value for organisations,’ said Canto’s head of UK business development Mike Paxton of the growth in content creation due to happen in-house. ‘Research shows that the need for high quality content is only growing in significance as brands continue to battle to boost awareness and reputation in crowded markets’.

Measure the impact of your content and campaigning with media monitoring from Vuelio.

The-Cornish-Dog-Featured

Pet Blogger Spotlight with Hattie Day, The Cornish Dog

‘I try my best to portray a realistic representation of owning and fostering dogs, sharing both the good and bad sides,’ says Hattie Day about her aims with The Cornish Dog. ‘It’s all part of the fun of having dogs!’

Since 2017, Hattie has been posting about her adventures around Cornwall with dog Woody. Now also out adventuring with Hen (who joined the family in June of this year), Hattie is an expert on the best walks the area has to offer. Read on to find out how Hattie hopes to help more dogs find their forever home and what she loves best about the pet blogging community.

How did you get started with blogging about pets?
I started The Cornish Dog shortly after adopting my black working cocker spaniel Woody in 2017. He was the first dog I’d owned in Cornwall and while I knew there were so many exciting new walks to explore, I wasn’t sure where they were or what to expect. In the early days, Woody’s recall was unreliable and he still loves running off and exploring on his own. I wanted to know it was safe to let him off without having to worry about busy roads, fields of livestock, steep cliff falls or other hazards. I started The Cornish Dog as a way of reviewing our walks to help other first-time dog owners and those visiting Cornwall better plan their dog-friendly adventures.

What’s your favourite thing to post about?
I really enjoy posting about new walks and beaches we’ve tried. This summer we embarked on a 125-mile hiking adventure on the Cornish Coast Path, tackling the whole of the North Coast. I can’t wait to share the rest of our 300-mile adventure next year!

 

I also love sharing our experience as fosterers for Spaniel Aid UK. Since signing up in February 2019, Woody and I have fostered six dogs. Of course, we also failed as fosterers and adopted Hen (short for Henry) in June 2019. Through fostering for Spaniel Aid, I hope I inspire others to consider fostering or adopting a dog of their own. I believe every dog deserves a life full of adventure and I want to help dispel the negative stereotypes of rescue/adopted dogs while doing my bit to help them find their forever homes.

What are the best things about the pet blogging community that other blogging sectors might not have?
I really value the diversity of the industry and how approachable the community is. When I first adopted Woody, I reached out to a number of dog accounts I followed to ask all sorts of questions. Owning a dog can feel daunting at first but knowing I had friends to turn to online to help me through was really reassuring.

I also love how adventurous the community is and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. I’ve made friends with owners across the UK through The Cornish Dog and have been on so many incredible adventures. There’s no way I would have climbed Snowdon, visited The Cotswolds or hiked the Coast Path had I not started The Cornish Dog.

 

What are your thoughts on pets/animals becoming celebrities through blogging and featuring on social media?
I don’t consider Woody and Hen as celebrities and it definitely wasn’t my aim when starting The Cornish Dog. I do worry that the rise in pet influencers could negatively contribute to the number of dogs being surrendered to rescue centres and organisations every year. I’m very conscious of this and try my best to portray a realistic representation of owning and fostering dogs, sharing both the good and bad sides. After all, neither Woody, Hen nor any dog is perfect; they’ve all got their quirks and some days are definitely better than others. It’s all part of the fun of having dogs!

I would never advise getting a dog based solely on accounts you follow on Instagram and it’s incredibly important to thoroughly research every aspect of dog ownership. Different breeds have different needs and it’s vital you choose a dog that fits into your lifestyle – and remember owning a dog is often a ten plus year commitment.

Is there something you would never feature/write about on your blog?
The Cornish Dog is all about inspiring others to get outside adventuring with their dogs and my website attracts readers with similar aspirations. I often discuss difficult topics on my blog, particularly surrounding sustainability and the dog industry, and am always open to new topics and projects. However, I would never write a feature that doesn’t align with my audience, their aspirations and outdoorsy lifestyle. My readers always come first and I often turn down partnerships that I feel aren’t relevant or in alignment with The Cornish Dog’s brand.

Do you think it’s necessary to have pets of your own to blog about pets/animals?
Not necessarily, but it definitely helps. It depends what your niche is and the topics you choose to discuss. I found Rachel from The Paw Post’s articles about losing her dog Daisy really insightful and reassuring, as it’s something I definitely worry about as an owner.

For me personally, I know The Cornish Dog wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have dogs of my own. Having Woody and Hen helps me tailor my content to other dog owners and really relate to their experiences and struggles. Walking is so different when you’ve got a dog in tow and both Woody and Hen’s quirky personalities definitely bring added charm to the articles and features I write.

Which are better, cats or dogs?
Seeing as I’m allergic to cats, I’m going to have to say dogs!

How do you work with PRs and brands – are review products and new launches useful?
I often work with PRs and brands to promote dog friendly things to do in Cornwall. We’ve been invited on a number of complimentary stays across the Duchy in exchange for blog posts and features on social media. Occasionally we receive products to review too, with a particular focus on sustainability and eco-conscious brands.

I am also a photographer by trade, working with dog businesses to shoot product and lifestyle photography for their websites and social media. I’m very grateful for every opportunity the dogs and I receive and enjoy hearing how our projects positively impact businesses and brands.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog, how would you prefer they approach you?
Email is the best way to contact me if you’re interested in working together. My portfolio contains examples of my work, as well as testimonials and case studies from previous clients.

What other blogs do you read (whether pet-related or not)?
I enjoy reading blogposts about outdoor adventure, both in the UK and abroad. I love learning about climbing, long distance hiking, water sports and (of course) adventuring with dogs. Some of my favourite accounts include @ace_the_jrt, @cockapoomarley, @mywhiskeygirl, @mycaninelife, @roman.around.scotland, @trailsandbears, @theadventuresofjosieandedie and @jessyyandthewonderdogs.

Reach-the-right-influencers-with-the-Vuelio-media-database

Unsplash

Stock image provider Unsplash dives into the digital marketing space

Media platform Unsplash has launched a digital marketing arm for companies looking to leverage branded images for online and distribution. Brands will now be able to curate and share their native content with 300 million monthly users on the Unsplash media platform.

Starting life as a Tumblr blog in 2013, Unsplash is now the largest image provider across the globe with free access to one million images for its community of users.

‘People want to connect with brands in a way that doesn’t feel fake or forced. We knew that we could offer brands a positive and authentic opportunity to engage with people at scale, in a way that doesn’t feel like any of the traditional ad products,’ said Unsplash co-founder/CEO Mikael Cho of the launch.

Although currently invite-only, the ability to publish branded images, align them with relevant search terms and syndicate them to creators across the world provides value for both brands and their PR agencies. Images spread across the Unsplash website will also be shared on over 1,400 popular online platforms with the potential for earned media and authentic influence.

Brands already working with the newly-launched digital marketing arm are Google, Harley Davidson and Square.

More information about the platform can be found at unsplash.com/brands.

Want to get coverage for the brands you’re working with? Reach relevant media contacts with the Vuelio Database.

(Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash)

Katzenworld's-Marc-and-Iain-Featured

Pet Blogger Spotlight with Marc-Andre Runcie-Unger, Katzenworld

‘Everyone has a soulmate pet!’ believes blogger Marc-Andre Runcie-Unger, who covers all things cats with Iain Runcie-Unger on Katzenworld. Feline friends are the focus for Marc-Andre, who recommends ways to keep them in all the treats, empty boxes and feather toys they could want.

But alongside all the fluffy stuff, is there a darker side of pet blogging?

How did you get started with blogging about pets?
We adopted two rescue cats and at the time there weren’t many cat-focused blogs around. That’s how Iain and I, with a few friends, founded Katzenworld during a board game evening!

What’s your favourite thing to post about?
My personal favourite is content that helps people. Tips and advice to help other people out there know more about how to care for their feline friends.

What are the best things about the pet blogging community that other blogging sectors might not have?
Everyone has a soulmate pet! Might it be a cat, dog, rabbit or even reptile. It really seems to set the scene apart.

What are your thoughts on pets/animals becoming celebrities through blogging and featuring on social media?
I personally think that one needs to listen to their pet and recognise what their limits are. There sadly are some celebrity pets out there that don’t seem happy about the ‘fame’.

Is there something you would never feature/write about on your blog?
A lot of Americans are still into the declawing of cats… there is nothing beneficial about this and it’s outright cruel. I would therefore never permit any content promoting such a barbaric practice.

Do you think it’s necessary to have pets of your own to blog about pets/animals?
Yes! While there are general pet blogs out there from people without animals, their content does not manage to have the same appeal as those of bloggers with animals.

Very important question here – which are really better, cats or dogs?
Cats, of course.

How do you work with PRs and brands – are review products and new launches useful?
I try to have a two-way beneficial collaboration with PRs and brands and treat everyone as uniquely as they should be treated. Review products and new launches are most certainly useful.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog, how would you prefer they approach you?
Initially via email with a pitch followed by a phone chat.

What other blogs do you read (whether pet-related or not)?
Nintendo Insider, Bionic Basil and Cat Chat With Caren and Cody.

Reach-the-right-influencers-with-the-Vuelio-media-database

Winners revealed at the PRCA Public Affairs Awards 2019

Leading public affairs and lobbying experts came together last week to celebrate the best in the industry for the PRCA Public Affairs Awards 2019. The black-tie event at the Park Plaza Riverbank hosted by BBC Politics Live presenter Jo Coburn awarded winners across 21 categories, recognising voluntary, corporate and in-house across the country.

Successful in the Corporate Campaign of the Year category as well as Social Media Campaign of the Year was Battersea and APCO Worldwide. Also winning double on the night was Big innovation, taking home the prize for both Party Conference Fringe Event of the Year and Think Tank of the Year. The Douglas Smith Prize 2019 was given to Atlas Partners’ researcher Sophia Stileman MPRCA and political consultant Lionel Zetter FPRCA (pictured) was recognised for Outstanding Contribution.

PRCA director general Francis Ingham MPRCA said: ‘It was an enormous pleasure to recognise Lionel Zetter’s forty years of achievement with the Outstanding Contribution award. His status in public affairs is truly legendary, so this award was a fitting way to mark his retirement earlier this year, and to thank him for all that he has done to advance the interests of ethical lobbying’.

‘This is the sixth year of the PRCA Public Affairs Awards, and once again it was a night to remember. The standard of entries has never been higher, and is evidence of a thriving, rapidly-growing, and highly ethical industry. Congratulations to everyone who took home an awards, and indeed to all finalists.’

Here is the full list of this year’s winners:

  • Best Campaign in Scotland – 3×1 and Viridor
  • Best Campaign in Wales – Deryn
  • Best Campaign in Northern Ireland – British Heart Foundation NI & Donate4Daithi
  • Corporate Campaign of the Year – APCO Worldwide
  • Trade Body Campaign of the Year – Federation of Small Businesses
  • Public Sector Campaign of the Year – BCW
  • Planning Campaign of the Year – Connect
  • Voluntary Sector Campaign of the Year – Dogs Trust
  • Social Media Campaign of the Year – APCO Worldwide
  • Best In-House Consultancy Collaboration – OVID Health and NHS Confederation
  • Consultancy Campaign of the Year – PB Consulting
  • Party Conference Fringe Event of the Year – Big Innovation Centre
  • Party Conference Reception of the Year – PLMR
  • Party Conference Stand of the Year – NFU
  • In-house Professional of the Year – Hannah Marwood
  • Consultant of the Year – Rob Dale
  • Think Tank of the Year – Big Innovation Centre
  • In-house Team of the Year – The Investment Association
  • Consultancy of the Year – Atlas Partners
  • Douglas Smith Prize – Sophia Stileman
  • Outstanding Contribution – Lionel Zetter
Positive Marketing's Paul Maher

A Positive PR Spotlight with Paul Maher

‘There is no finer place to be than tech PR,’ believes Positive Marketing founder and CEO Paul Maher. Originally started in 2009 with an aim to reach across the Atlantic divide to tech leaders in the US, the agency is now a top thirty PR firm and award-winning consultancy, using all the technology at the PR industry’s disposal – video, memes, AI – to tell a story.

Bringing together experience from diverse backgrounds is how Positive promotes the new tech it’s excited about, with graduates from law, chemistry, economics and even art on the team. Paul’s past as a tech journalist as well as in-house roles at HP, VMWare and Mercury have helped – Positive is the only European agency to have been certified by the creators of B2B Tech Category Design, authors of ‘Play Bigger’.

Paul shares what he sees as the big challenges coming up for tech PR in 2020 and what he misses from the PR industry of ten years ago (it’s been a busy decade).

What were your original aims when founding Positive?
We wanted to create a way for UK-based tech leaders to gain the awareness of tech leaders in the US. I knew, from my time at HP and VMware, if we did this and stayed true to our roots in B2B tech we would be able to create amazing careers for young European talent.

Having worked in both journalism and PR, what do you bring to Positive in approach and skillset?
Our approach is entirely-driven by the excellent British tradition of independent journalism. Even if these days we may be delivering a video, a meme or an entire campaign fronted by PR, we have never forgotten the basics of storytelling. It’s all about angles, headlines and deadlines.

The Positive team has experience in a diverse set of sectors including Law, Chemistry, Economics and Art – how do these give Positive a different perspective on the tech industry?
Almost every industry has been ‘eaten by software’, so our diverse backgrounds really are a key differentiator. While everyone at the firm shares a massive love of tech, it’s what we do, they also bring specific experiences which really help. For instance, when you think about data compliance, it helps to have legally-trained team members, when we work with industrial software companies, it pays to understand what a catalyst is. The blend of tech and sector-specific experience is becoming critical to stand out in a world of PR generalists.

What do you see as upcoming challenges for the tech sector in 2020, and how are you preparing to help clients with them?
The tech sector is about to see change like never before. Politicians have woken up, some would say decades too late, to the power of tech to provide and eliminate jobs, to evolve economies and to simultaneously boost and hinder personal freedoms built on privacy. Not being ready for techlash, or thinking tech for tech’s sake is good enough, will not cut it. We are working with upscaling our clients’ messages to meet these new challenges. Soon we believe there will be nowhere for the disinterested or apathetic to hide.

Do you work with influencers? How, and which kind of campaigns do you think they work particularly well for?
The traditional influencers in this market are analysts like Gartner and IDC. A lot of people pay their ‘taxes’ and hate doing so. We work with an increasing number of experts who work in the grey space between analysts and consultants, often what is unfairly called ‘Tier 2’. This is a much smarter use of time and budget. Often these are people motivated by a professional passion and who can help us broadcast a message, with some degree of independence, which our clients value greatly. The proliferation of podcasts and vlogs, both owner and earned, are now a regular part of our repertoire.

What is an example of great PR you’ve seen over the last few years that made you think ‘I wish we’d worked on that’?
In B2B tech it is hard to think of a more inspiring shot than when Space-X synchronised the landing of their rockets. Poetry, ballet and literally a picture that launched a million words. The rebel in us loved Amazon switching off Oracle kits – regardless of the veracity of the story. On the B2C side, Paddy Power and Greggs are our sort of irreverent brands.

AI is a big story in PR and journalism at the moment – do you see it having an impact at Positive?
As the agency behind Big Data London, the largest data show in Europe now, we know more than most about AI. As it relates to our work, there will be a lot of change from bot-written financial stories, to deeper online sentiment analysis. Ultimately stories are not what AI does, it merely pulls together data points, so we will be augmented by AI, as we already are with several of the digital tools we use. As you might expect, we are very much up for embracing this exciting new tech.

With so much having changed in the industry over the last decade, what do you miss about the PR industry from ten years ago?
Easier to say what is not missed; pointless product launches, snooty entitled tech analysts, advertorial masquerading as earned media, heaving printed press packs around shows and clippings books. If we do have to get misty-eyed, perhaps we miss proper off-site agency planning days, international press trips and the sheer joy of explaining at social gatherings that tech PR is not tech support and they would have to fix their printer or WiFi themselves. These days most people actually understand what tech PR is all about.

Which magazines, columnists, blogs, or podcasts are vital reading/listening for people working in tech PR?
This has changed a lot. Clearly the tech writers on nationals and broadcast media are of interest, but we need to be ‘more upstream’ to predict what will interest them and the general public they cater to. This means now tech PRs need to be across the blogs and podcasts of all the major players as well as the core tech media and it also helps to keep an eye on what the VC industry is funding. There’s never enough time and so being smart about feeds is just good business.

What’s the most positive thing about working in PR today?
If you like technology and have the sort of crazy curiosity which we all share, there is no finer place to be than tech PR. Because tech touches everything and B2B tech remains the foundation of almost every human innovation today, this is the perfect moment to be at the forefront. Apart from coding, there is no better way to get to the heart of the human genius which drives the world’s economies. Who would not want to be a critical part of that?

Find Paul and Positive Marketing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and connect with top tech influencers and journalists on the Vuelio Media Database.

Content Chaos

9 in 10 communications directors struggle with creating content

Concerns about content creation is one of the big obstacles the comms industry will face in 2020, according to a new survey commissioned by Speak Media and conducted by The Pulse Business.

Among comms directors responding to the survey, 90% regularly struggle to produce content, citing lack of measurement and analytics as the main issue. Content silos also cause stagnation in teams, with 29% of comms leaders finding themselves stuck due to a lack of communication and sharing within their own organisations.

Slimming World director of external affairs Jenny Caven recognised the issues: ‘Business units are fragmented and used to being measured on the success of their own initiatives. Working to tight deadlines doesn’t help when you need to take time out to pause and reflect on better ways of doing things’.

Other struggles uncovered in the survey included teams having to work with poor video and imagery as well as a lack of editorial strategy to guide them. According to an anonymous respondent, too much ‘random content’ is generated as a result of ‘too many competing pressures and no prioritisation, because we don’t know what works and what matters’.

Lack of skill across the team was another issue being faced – another anonymous comms professional sharing the view that ‘we need to be more rigorous in checking what content generates the most engagement’.

Though 10% of those surveyed reported no challenge at all, the tight deadlines, lack of direction and skill the rest of the comms industry faces needs to be addressed and remedied according to Speak Media head of content George Theohari: ‘Content Chaos is going to cause some huge issues for organisations in 2020, as the breadth, ambition and time-sensitivity of content needed to fill their channels now rival that of some traditional news outlets’.

‘Many large-scale communications teams can lack the specific editorial expertise needed to lead and coordinate the kind of multi-channel news team that will satisfy a brand’s many channels and stakeholders. This development can create huge challenges for communications leaders.’

Raindrops of Sapphire

Fashion Blogger Spotlight with Lorna Burford, Raindrops of Sapphire

Get some style tips in our catch-up with Raindrops of Sapphire’s Lorna Burford, who recommends a good pair of jeans (she previously edited the DenimBlog), loves Dior and sees a fashionable future in blogging despite some of her fellow stylistas moving over to social media.

As well as getting some notes on what to wear this winter, read about some of Lorna’s favourite collaborations and how you can work with her (jeans optional).

How do you describe what you do to other people?
I usually say it’s a mixture of modelling, writing and photography if they don’t know what blogging means. I find it depends who you’re speaking to as ‘blogger’ is still a relatively new career term.

How much of a community is there around fashion bloggers?
I would say there’s quite a large one. All the girls I have met or spoken to are usually lovely and there’s a lot of support from followers, too.

What’s the best thing about being a professional blogger (if that’s how you refer to yourself)?
I do refer to myself as that, or self-employed; either one. I would say the best thing is the freedom you have. You make your own hours, everything is on your terms (usually, unless there’s some specific collabs) and you generally just get to be creative how you see fit, so it’s very rewarding. However, it does always come with a downside of having next to no breaks or shut-off time.

What does the future of blogging look like?
I was worried for a while that everyone is going in the direction of social media instead, and I know a lot of blogs have dropped and been given up on because of this, but I would hope blogging still remains a popular and huge thing.

How do you describe your style?
It depends purely on the season and my mood, but I would say currently it’s got a little bit of a country mix in it, and I have been wearing a lot of black lately. Mostly it’s classic, though – wearable, with an element of statement here and there in the form of a bag or boots.

Which designer(s) should we keep an eye on?
Dior are having their moment right now and I’m also feeling Saint Laurent lately!

What one fashion item or accessory could you not live without?
That would be a pair of jeans, probably. Good-fitting jeans are everything! However, I am always in need of a pair of amazing boots!

What’s the best collaboration you’ve worked on with an agency or brand?
I’m going to say Clarks Village! I did a collaboration with them in the summer and it was fantastic! Not only were the ladies handling this campaign incredibly friendly and nice, and a joy to get on with, the village is great and I had such a fun experience with it all at the same time!

What advice would you give PRs looking to get in touch?
I would say try and make your emails personal. I receive a high amount of cold/spam emails every single day, so if you really want to work with a blogger or form some kind of relationship, please be personal and friendly in the email. Mention things they have recently been up to or take an interest in their blog first, before reaching out. I’m pretty certain you will get a reply then as the blogger knows you’re serious and won’t just delete the email in among the mass amounts of others.

What other blogs do you read?
I mostly read Cupcakes & Cashmere and Brooklyn Blonde. Love those two ladies!

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The Looneychick blog

Mental Health Blogger Spotlight: Vicky Williams, The Looneychick blog

‘Blogging is a great outlet for me and has grown into a tool to share, educate and connect with others,’ says Vicky Williams about her work on The Looneychick blog. Sharing stories about people who suffer with mental illness, Vicky also features articles and tips on staying mentally healthy to raise awareness of the issues so many struggle with.

Despite the growing awareness around mental health issues in the media, Vicky feels more can be done – learn more about Vicky’s work and some of the campaigns she feels are helping.

How do you describe what you do to other people?
I started my mental health blog as a healthy outlet to let people know that they aren’t alone, no matter how bad things get. I was in a very dark place when I started this blog and at the time there wasn’t a lot of information on my experiences out there. I’m now in a place where I can share my experiences, good and bad, with people all over the world.

How much of a community is there around mental health bloggers?
Since I started the blog three years ago there are a lot more mental health bloggers out there. There is still a huge stigma around mental health and sadly not much help on the NHS, but at least everyone can share their experiences with fellow bloggers with so many blogs and social media MH groups online now. I find most of my mental health audience are active on Twitter; it tends to be more popular than Instagram and Facebook.

What’s the best thing about being a professional blogger (if you consider yourself to be one!)?
I don’t consider myself as a professional blogger. Blogging is a great outlet for me and has grown into a tool to share, educate and connect with others.

What does the future of blogging look like?
I think blogging is continuing to grow and more people are sharing their experiences online. Businesses are even starting to blog about their daily activities as well.

It seems like mental health is attracting more attention in society recently, why do you think that is?
This is due to the fact that royalty and celebrities are getting in on the act and making mental health more fashionable. The fact is there isn’t much help available out there in terms of the NHS – if you look at the statistics in the UK, most mental health teams are poor.

Are businesses/employers doing enough to support the mental health of their staff?
No – the law doesn’t protect people with mental illness and there is still a stigma around employing people with mental health issues because of the amount of sick leave we require. Many employers can’t tolerate some of the behaviours that people with mental illnesses show.

What’s the best mental health initiative you’ve seen?
The work of charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, Time To Change and Mind is so important.

How do you work with PRS and brands?
I work with brands I believe in that match the outlook of the blog. PRs often send me press releases and sometimes I will review mental health books or fitness and wellbeing products.

What advice do you have for PRs looking to get in touch?
I am a mental health blogger, so please send me something relevant to this that I can include on the blog. I am also a 36-year-old woman, so anything around fitness, beauty or wellness is also good to review.

What other blogs do you read?
I like reading Cara’s Corner.

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