Reinventing the office space

3 ways the office space will be reinvented in the age of COVID-19

This is a guest post by Adam Smith, managing Director of Teamspirit.

Our lives have changed dramatically in the last few months as COVID-19 shook up our personal and working lives. For so many office workers, the home has become the office, the kitchen table the desk, the garden the new meeting room, and the five steps to the living room replacing the daily commute. While we all assumed this would be a temporary change to our lifestyles, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, we realised that our working lives may have pivoted for good.

While we all might be tired of hearing the phrase ‘the new normal’, it is the shift in our working patterns which is predicted to be one of the most significant changes. As the Government is now encouraging people to continue working from home where possible through the upcoming winter months, we won’t be returning to normality just yet. Now that we have acclimatised to successfully working from home, the office space has transformed, taking on a new meaning and purpose in an increasingly digital world.

What will the office look like for comms and creative professionals when it’s okay to return to the workplace? This is how we at Teamspirit expect the workplace to be reinvented…

1) Safety will come first, but efficiency is a close second
From the very start, the most important thing has been the safety of employees. This is why the workplace will look very different to what we are all used to, in order to minimise the risk of transmission and keep everyone feeling safe. Smart technology means that offices are able to better control the virus; from scanning QR codes to register when you enter the office, to temperature checks at the door. Keeping the workplace clean and clutter-free will take on a new importance. But the while the new processes may take some getting used to, it won’t compromise efficiency thanks to clever technology and clear rules.

2) Collaboration will be king
An overwhelming lesson from recent months is that, by and large, we can all get our work done efficiently and successfully from home, provided we have the right technology to support. But one of the biggest holes left from the mass exodus from the office is collaboration, which underpins everything we do. We’ve set up a group on Teams to replicate our group brainstorms, and we regularly share ideas over Zoom meetings, but it’s not quite the same as being shoulder to shoulder with peers.

Recent months have emphasised how important collaboration is in the comms and creative industry. When eventually returning to the office, we can expect to see more ‘break out’ spaces and meetings away from the desk to encourage working together more effectively when we’re in the same room. We’ll once again be able to bounce ideas off each other without dodgy WiFi and building work upsetting the flow.

3) The office will be a hub of creativity
For many of us, the kitchen table might not inspire the same creativity as being around colleagues in a busy office, despite the growing collection of house plants to keep you inspired. For the PR team, being in a newsroom means sharing headlines and jumping on opportunities the minute they’re hot off the press. When we are back in the office, this atmosphere should be cultivated with regular newspaper meetings, brainstorms and discussions to inspire work and keep us thinking imaginatively on the days that we are at home.

Concerned about an eventual move away from home working? Check out our previous post 11 ways to mentally prepare for an eventual return to the office.

GWPR Annual Index

GWPR Annual Index Survey 2020: will the progression of women PRs be slowed down by COVID-19?

GWPR (Global Women in PR) has extended its deadline for taking part in this year’s GWPR Annual Index to 30 September. Believing that the progress of women working in the PR industry is likely to be slower as a result of the pandemic, GWPR hopes the results of the survey, the second edition of a five-year initiative, will help to identify the main barriers to progression and career development.

GWPR co-founder Susan Hardwick shares the inspiration for the index, what she’s expecting to see in the results and how agencies can better support their employees and ensure opportunities are available to all.

What originally inspired the launch of the GWPR Annual Index?
The need to benchmark changes in our global industry over a five-year period – there is no other in-depth global research of its type that highlights the role of women working in PR and communications.

Are there any particular themes/trends you’re expecting to see in the results of the 2020 Annual Index Survey?
Yes – sadly, the effect of COVID-19 has not been good for women in business.

Our recent GWPR research during the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the belief that the progress of women in the global PR and Communications industry will be significantly slower as a direct result of the pandemic.

Two in three (65%) of those surveyed believe it will take longer to close the gender pay gap, over half (52%) believe progression will slow for women reaching leadership positions and 45% feel that with the looming economic downturn, job security is a real issue.

What can every agency do to ensure women in their organisation have fair opportunities to progress?
Be aware of the need to provide the right level of training and support to avoid women leaving at mid-career level – all too often having children becomes too difficult to manage while maintaining long working hours in the office. Leadership and mentoring programmes are key to help women rise to the top roles.

What do you see as the main barriers to gender equality in the PR and comms industry?
Not having flexible work practices, lack of effective training and mentoring and agency heads not accepting that such barriers still exist in 2020!

What difficulties have you personally faced as a woman working in PR?
Luckily, I have not had any really poor experiences – some sexism in the early stages of my career but, overall, my experiences have been positive, with great leaders giving me advice and a determination to succeed!

Who are some of your PR heroines?
One of the women I have admired hugely is Barri Rafferty, for her career successes while championing, supporting and helping women reach their potential. As CEO and President of Ketchum, Barri transformed a top-five global PR firm into a leading marketing communications consultancy. Disrupting the industry with a visionary approach to business, she helped Ketchum adapt to meet the needs of the global marketplace and learn how to be successful in a new world of clicks, reviews and likes. She was the founder of the women’s leadership network at Omnicom and continues to champion women through her external directorships of mentoring and support programmes in the US.

Other women I admire are the four ladies who established Women in PR over 50 years ago without the advantage of laptops, mobile phones or the internet! They were ahead of their time in establishing one of the few professional networks for business women. As a result of their foresight, the dynamic networking organisation for senior women in the industry remains, and WPR UK continues to go from strength to strength… and it was, of course, the inspiration for establishing Global Women in PR!

Take part in the 2020 GWPR Annual Index Survey here. Results from this report will be available in the Autumn. Findings from the 2019 Annual Index can be found here.

Just Nadiene

Beauty Blogger Spotlight: Nadiene Francis, Just Nadiene

If video chatting to friends and colleagues while sporting pjs and puffy eyes is starting to lose its appeal for you, get some tips for putting on a good face (and looking after yourself) super-quick with Nadiene Francis of Just Nadiene.

One of our top 10 UK beauty bloggers, Nadiene – ‘Although my name is spelt Nadiene, if you ever ask how to pronounce it then I will explain that it’s “just Nadine”’ – attracts readers from over 95 countries looking for selfcare and beauty advice. Learn more about this top blogger as well as her thoughts on gimmicks, cruelty-free brands and the best things about beauty.

What attracted you to beauty/grooming blogging and what keeps you passionate about it?
The thing I love about blogs is their ability to be read on-the-go and you always learn a new perspective. As a qualified Makeup Artist, I was keen to share my perspective around beauty, routines and taking care both inside and out. So JustNadiene incorporates all of these elements, including the physical and mental wellness. The main focus is always to write about things that educate around selfcare while inspiring and bringing joy.

What’s your favourite thing to post about?
Overall, my personal favourites have to be the educational posts. It’s where I will take a detailed look into something and provide a 360 review on it. A couple of examples are ones I’ve done on Vitamin C and another on blue light. Regular readers have also told me that they love the mental wellbeing educational posts. These include topics like ‘The truth about the martyr complex’ and more detailed reads.

How did you change your approach and content during lockdown?
Since the lockdown, I think we have all naturally gravitated towards the home and, for me, this is wellbeing and skincare. This is reflected in my topics which come with a refreshed variety of content.

Nadiene Francis

What selfcare or beauty advice would you give people who are unable to get out and access the new releases?
I have been converted to online shopping which is probably the same as many since lockdown. Delivery services have dramatically improved this year plus they are contact free and if you preorder, you can get new releases before anyone gets to the shops.

What tips do you have for looking good on cam during video chats for work and keeping up with friends?
First and foremost is getting natural lighting, so sitting in front of a window, where you can, is key. If it’s last minute, then consider focusing on a good base, set of brows and refreshed eyes. Going for a nice tinted moisturiser, filling in your brows and popping on some mascara as a minimum. I’d also add some tinted lip balm to complete the look.

Do you think the big beauty/grooming brands are open enough about their cruelty-free status?
It’s really nice to see that the majority of brands are really beginning to embrace the importance for us, as consumers, to have cruelty-free beauty. As a result, I feel we are seeing more celebrate their cruelty-free status in a more obvious and overt way.

What have been some of the worst ‘gimmick’ products or trends over the last few years in the sector?
The unnaturally plump lip trend is probably one I’d consider the worse. I recall a suction tool gained popularity, which looked painful to use. We’re seeing a more naturally full looks now, which is much more complimentary.

How do you collaborate with brands, and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
A key consideration when collaborating with a brand is whether I use them currently or whether it is something of significant interest to my readers. Brands I love working with have some good strong and shared values. Also, I consider their customer experience and as a collaborator, how keen they are to build long-term relationships.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
If a PR has a beauty or selfcare related product or experience which they would like featured, then feel free to send an email.

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
I love reading a range of blogs. Here’s just a selection of what I love: Memoirs & Musings for travel, Whitney’s Wonderland for fashion, This Well Planned Life for planning and organising, Brown Beauty Talk for beauty and Curiously Conscious for conscious consuming.

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CIPR Presidency

What makes a good CIPR President?

What makes for a good CIPR President? ‘You definitely need resilience and patience and a bit of humour, too,’ says current President Jenni Field who, alongside the community she represents, has been working through a particularly challenging year. Yet alongside all the struggles of serving an industry that has been under increasing pressure, Jenni has been involved in the launch of several game-changing CIPR services and initiatives, including its Race in PR and AI in PR reports.

Now serving on the Board alongside President Elect Mandy Pearse, Jenni takes us through what goes into selecting a successor and the skills needed for the role. And for getting to know the President Elect a little better, Mandy shares why she put herself forward for the Presidency and what her aims are for the CIPR and its members through the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

What’s involved in the process of selecting a new President?
Jenni: It’s an election process at CIPR so we ask people to put themselves forward with ten nominations and a statement around what they will stand for. Sometimes there are several candidates and sometimes just one. If there are several, there is an election period and a chance for members to chat to the nominees. I’m hoping there will be a few people standing for the role for 2022!

Mandy: You need to have a passion for the profession to stand and you need to be prepared to campaign and have a clear vision. It can be challenging because there will be robust debate but that is good as long as it is conducted in a respectful manner.

Mandy, what went into deciding to put yourself forward for the Presidency?
When I was thinking about standing, I worked out how much time I could devote to the role if I was successful. I’m lucky as a business owner and freelance consultant/trainer that I can flex my business to devote enough time to the institute. I also wanted to be sure I could do a good job representing my profession to the wider world as well as delivering what members need. Former presidents have set a high bar in their commitment of time and energy to live up to.

What skills and approach make for a good CIPR President?

Jenni: I have volunteered for CIPR for a few years, so I have worked with several presidents, all of whom have brought different visions and strengths to the Institute. For me, it has been about a core focus on our members and ensuring we are doing things aligned to their needs, so I think having an approach that allows for focused activity is important. You definitely need resilience and patience and I always do things with a bit of humour, too. Empowering the team at HQ and the volunteers is also important – I’m a big fan of leading that way and it has served me well so far!

Jenni, what have you been most proud of accomplishing during your time in the role?
Well, it has been a difficult year! I’m most proud of the work we have done to come together as a team. It’s something that was important to me when I stood for the role and at our last Group Chair’s meeting it really showed me how much has changed over the years. We have launched some fantastic services for our members this year: iprovision mental health hotline, mentoring, employability hub, to name a few and we have also created more insight and support with reports into Race in PR and AI in PR. These are all things achieved by volunteers and the team at HQ so I’m just proud of what we have done together under such difficult circumstances.

What would you most like to accomplish as CIPR President, Mandy?
Three things: first, position PR with the C-suite as a strategic discipline; second, make progress on increasing diversity in the profession; and third, make CIPR more accessible to its members.

CIPR President Jenni Fields is the Director of Redefining Communications and can be found tweeting @mrsjennifield.

CIPR President Elect Mandy Pearse is the Director of Seashell Communications and can be found on Twitter @MandyPearse.

Find out more about the 2020 CIPR Board of Directors on the website here.

Besma Whayeb Curiously Conscious

Green Fashion Blogger Spotlight: Besma Whayeb, Curiously Conscious

Sustainability is what fuels Besma Whayeb, who blogs about green issues and sustainable fashion at Curiously Conscious. If you’re curious to know how to dump fast fashion in favour of cool second-hand and vintage finds, or some small changes you can start making to become a more sustainable citizen, read more from Besma below…

What initially drew you to blogging about fashion and what keeps your interest?
I initially started blogging after moving to Paris as part of my degree, where I recognised more sustainable ways to eat and live. From my interest in food sustainability, I grew more aware of sustainability in fashion, from natural fabrics through to supporting ethical supply chains.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
My current focus is on sustainable fashion, as clothes can be both visual, expressive, and also tell a story about people and planet.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I feel fortunate that so much of my work is digitally-focused, so my work hasn’t changed drastically. There was certainly a change in the number of small, independent businesses I’ve been able to work with, so a lot of my focus has been on supporting those, as well as staying positive and sharing my platform with voices educating on subjects like intersectional environmentalism and Black Lives Matter.

What are some of the environmental stories/issues happening at the moment that you’d wish more people knew about? 
For a long time, I’ve focused on inspiring people to start thinking about making more sustainable choices, but I’d like to add another layer to it by thinking about being a more sustainable citizen. How we can make collective change, in the economy and politics.

Besma Whayeb

Do you think the move away from ‘fast fashion’ will continue?
I think the move away from fast fashion started prior to lockdown, and the movement grows stronger every day. I recently published a guide to 70+ fast fashion brands and reasons to avoid them, so my hope is that this kind of content will enable more people to see why it’s an issue, and discover more sustainable fashion – be it second-hand, vintage, small designers, or innovative materials.

If you had to pick a character from film/TV/literature who embodies your style, who would it be?
I have to say Hermione Granger, as I’ve always been something of a goody-two-shoes, and Emma Watson is a brilliant role model in the sustainable fashion space, too.

What’s the least you’ve spent on an item of clothing/an accessory that you love?
I spent just £4 on my black leather belt with oval buckle, and I absolutely love it. I wear it with jeans, as well as garments to cinch in my waist. It’s so well made, and I’m glad I didn’t contribute to the leather industry when buying it, either.

Top tips for updating/bringing new life to an old outfit?
Look up any item of clothing on Pinterest! I love using Pinterest to see how other people style their clothes and go about re-working my wardrobe that way.

For those who are just getting into greener living, what are three small changes you would recommend people start with? 
Start by focusing on your habits and see what you can make marginal improvements on. You can make a sustained positive impact by simply shifting a few things you do. I recommend switching to a renewable energy provider, changing to a more ethical bank account and shopping for second-hand fashion.

Will the growth of veganism continue? 
I don’t tend to advocate for or against veganism. Personally, I don’t eat meat and avoid dairy, but diet choices have many other factors (intolerances, religion, etc.) and food is very social, too. Instead, I think we should start focusing on supporting local agriculture, regenerative farming, and eating seasonably, to really be more sustainable with food.

Is the fashion industry doing enough to be more inclusive?
No. There’s been a lot of performative inclusion – for example, posting ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Instagram, or working with diverse models – but many brands are still hiding and exploiting their supply chains (the majority of which are women of colour). Even in the sustainable fashion space, there’s a need for more work, such as increasing the range of sizes available to purchase.

Do you think the ‘VSCO girl’ trend has ultimately been a good or bad thing for the awareness of green issues? 
Hey, anything that raises awareness of the climate crisis is good. What’s harder to measure is whether there’s any action being taken off the back of it!

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I tend to work with one to two brands per month in creating sponsored blog posts and Instagram posts. I like working with brands who have sustainable values, especially small independents who are revolutionising their industries. My favourite posts have to be my sustainable shopping guides (which outperform most of my content too).

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Most PRs pitch really well now, highlighting the benefits of the product/campaign, as well as the values of the brand as a whole. If you’re a really savvy PR, you’ll also know what content you’d like created, and outline a budget – I can tailor my work to what you’re looking for.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether fashion-related or not)?
Ah, I can’t have too much bias as I run EthicalInfluencers.co.uk, a free community platform with 700+ fellow influencers and creatives. So, all of them!

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Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act turns 20: 3 tips for PRs

This is a guest post from Luke Budka, Head of Digital PR and SEO for TopLine Comms.

‘You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.’

That’s how Tony Blair described the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in his memoirs. He subsequently described it as ‘the worst mistake’ of his career. However, it introduced a level of government transparency that became the envy of citizens around the world.

The FOIA was passed on 30 November 2000 in the UK and since then has laid bare, among other things, a parliamentary expenses scandal, the sale of 20 tonnes of nuclear materials to Israel in 1958 and a plan to search for the Loch Ness monster using a team of dolphins. It’s been reviewed, and restrictions such as charges for access to info have been considered (£10 per request back in 2015), but it has survived, almost unaltered, for 20 years come November.

A simple search on Google shows 20 stories on the BBC in the last 12 months related to FoI requests either made or reported by the institution and it continues to be used by news organisations everywhere.

The best PR stories (in our experience) are based on data. That’s why the FOIA is one of the most powerful weapons in a PR’s armoury.

Our latest FoI requests, for example, were in reaction to news that hackers had extorted $1.14m from the University of California. On hearing this, we sent requests to every UK university asking if they’d been targeted: within 30-odd working days (COVID-19 is slowing things down) we found out that one third of UK universities have been subjected to ransomware attacks. The story was covered by leading cyber outlets.

If you’ve never submitted an FoI request before and you’re wondering how to develop a story using the Act, here are a few tips.

1) Generating FoI request ideas and sense checking
As with any story you’ll work on, research into a seedling of an idea, combined with one of the core emotions required for a story to be shareable, will ultimately lead to your angle. Be sure to Google your hypothesised headline to see if it’s been done before. If it has, then great, you’ve hit upon a newsworthy idea, but if it’s been covered recently, then it may be hard to put a new spin on it. Having said that, in this topsy-turvy world we’re currently living in, normal behaviours have changed; a request made today may reveal drastically different information to a request that was made in January.

It’s definitely also worth checking WhatDoTheyKnow and the government’s own FoI repository to see if the request you’re considering has already been made. Responses recorded on these sites will help you craft your questions. You’ll, hopefully, be able to avoid the most common FoI refusals: too much time and expense required to answer the request (£600 for central government or £450 for all other public authorities) or the information simply not being held.

If, for example, you see a public authority has refused five years’ worth of data because it’ll take too long to extract, then you know if you ask for a year’s worth you’ll have a higher chance of success. Section 16 of the FOIA stipulates a public authority has to provide ‘advice and assistance’, so you can state in your request that you’re prepared to take a shorter time period’s worth of data, and they should do their best to provide the info/work with you on a successful request. Section 16 also helps if you approach the wrong authority – they should advise on who you should ask instead (you can call the authority in advance if you want to find out if they hold the data you’re interested in).

2) Submission, data collection and analysis
This is a pain. There are professionals tools out there that you can use to manage the process but we’ve always used good old fashioned email and spreadsheets. You can also submit via the aforementioned WhatDoTheyKnow website (however, the request and any subsequent response will then be in the public domain forever). Ultimately, spreadsheets are what you’ll need to analyse the data, so it makes sense to use them to collect it.

Requests can be sent en masse to multiple authorities using the blind copy function in a single email, which means you can send requests to every university in the country, for example, in one fell swoop. You’ll then receive an emailed receipt from every authority you’ve emailed explaining that they’ll aim to respond in 20 working days (COVID-19, as mentioned, is slowing things down). File the receipts in one folder in your email client and file the actual responses containing the data in another. Whenever a response comes in, add it to your spreadsheet and start analysing. Worth pointing out: you don’t need to send requests to multiple authorities to generate a newsworthy headline – you could be interested in a single body, for example – it’s going to come down to the questions you’re asking and the headline you’re looking to generate.

A few notes:
• Be polite – real people will be responding to your request. It’s always nice to be nice – you don’t need to be demanding or rude. Strike up a dialogue; it’s more likely they’ll help you get what you want then anyway.
• Be specific – research the exact terminology related to your request. Do not leave any ambiguity in your questions; get a colleague to check your questions before you send.
• Collection of FoI addresses takes time. Thankfully, journalist Matt Burgess has compiled spreadsheets of addresses that you can use (though I don’t know if he maintains them) – find them here.
• Don’t send unnecessary requests – it costs the government a lot of money to respond to FoI requests and it’s a privilege that should not be abused. This doesn’t mean don’t use it, but if you submit requests, I personally feel that you have an obligation to do something with them.

3) Story creation
You’ve sent your requests and you’ve collected the data – now what? Does the data prove your hypothesis? If so, then you’ve already got your headline. Draft your press release, prepare your pitch and package the data up and host it on your site – it will always be useful to use as a source (and invaluable for link building purposes) plus it saves the media having to ask you for it (as they’ll normally want to double check your analysis). Worth noting: you don’t need every authority to respond for you to have a decent story. You’ll almost always see news organisations caveat their FoI stories by making the point that only a certain number of authorities responded. Ultimately, it’s your call as to whether you’ve got the data required for your story to work.

Books have been written on the FOIA (and they’re well worth reading if you’re interested in the topic) and it’s impossible to do it justice in a single blog. It’s an amazing tool that PRs can use for the benefit of their clients. But, with great power comes great responsibility – don’t abuse it, or you’ll ruin it for everyone.

Happy birthday, FOIA – long may you continue to inform the public and keep the watchmen accountable.

FuturePRoof 4

#FuturePRoof 4 launches with a look at BME talent

#FuturePRoof’s fourth edition, published today, centres on BAME talent in the public relations industry and features advice from in-house and agency practitioners, academics, journalists and recruiters.

Aiming to highlight the role of PR in strategic management and to share best practice, crowdsourced content covers subjects including social media, partnerships, managing reputation, pitching, internal communication, leadership, coaching and public relations in the time of COVID-19. Media diversity is the topic for a piece on the importance of journalists representing the communities they serve, and there are chapters on hiring and developing team members from diverse backgrounds.

#FuturePRoof founder and editor Sarah Waddington said: ‘This was never meant to be a book about ‘black issues’, which are in fact cultural and societal issues, not black or BME – just like pay inequality isn’t a women’s issue. This was always to be a forward-thinking look at best practice within public relations, with the purpose of reasserting PR’s value to business.

‘Where contributors asked if they could write from a racial diversity and inclusivity standpoint, that was in their gift. And I’m glad some of the amazing authors took that decision. Every single contributor has done a brilliant job and I’m grateful to them for sharing their expertise.’

PRCA Diversity Network Chair Rax Lakhani believes the focus of #FuturePRoof 4 is particular timely, aiming attention ‘on the stark reality of our industry’s poor record on racial and ethnic diversity.

‘This anthology of essays demonstrates beyond any doubt the abundance of BAME talent that is prevalent within our profession and it is reassuring to see issues of race, ethnicity and cultural diversity being given the prominence and urgency they clearly deserve.’

For Chair of the CIPR’s Diversity and Inclusion Network Avril Lee, now ‘is the time to celebrate BAME talent – and more importantly, now is the time to progress and reward it equally.’

#FuturePRoof’s fourth edition is dedicated to Elizabeth Bananuka for her work on BME PR Pros and The Blueprint diversity mark. Contributions come from Advita Patel, Alicia Solanki, Andrea Ttofa, Annique Simpson, Anouchka Burton, Arvind Hickman, Asif Choudry, Evadney Campbell, Harriet Small Okot, Joanna Abeyie, Julian Obubo, Katrina Marshall, Katy Howell, Koray Camgöz, Mita Dhullipala, Nathalie Abiodun, Rohan Shah, Trudy Lewis and Zaiba Malik.

To read #FuturePRoof 4, copies can be purchased via Blurb and Kindle, and a chapter a day will be released on the #FuturePRoof blog and on Twitter @weareproofed.

Red Ted Art Maggy Woodley

Craft Blogger Spotlight: Maggy Woodley, Red Ted Art

‘Once you have the knack of a new craft and the confidence to persevere, you will most definitely do more,’ believes Red Ted Art’s Maggy Woodley, who happens to have the knack for both crafting and blogging about it. Read on for what keeps Maggy passionate about creativity and what you can try crafting the next time you find yourself in a period of ‘meh’.

What keeps you passionate about craft and blogging about it?
As everyone knows (or should know), you should blog about something that you are passionate about. That way, the passion keeps you going, naturally. Of course, even with a topic that I love, there are moments of writer’s block (or in my case, craft block). That is only natural. The key thing is not to be put off by those days or weeks, but to persevere… you always come back out at the other end.

On my blog, I have always shared at least one or two new crafts per week (if not more), so even in periods of ‘meh’, I just stick to my schedule. Yes, I may have made something I am not that excited about that week, but usually it leads to something new and wonderful eventually. So, the passion and love for crafts came well before the blogging started.

What originally got you into creating things?
Crafting is something that I have enjoyed ever since I was a child. I have many fond memories of crafting with my grandmother and in the classroom and over the years continued with being creative and crafty (e.g. sending homemade birthday cards to friends). When my kids where born, I wanted to recreate this love for crafts with them… which naturally went on to starting the blog!

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
Not particularly. I think the only thing I did differently was to take care to craft with items that I thought most people should have around the house and to focus on crafts that are really accessible to all (i.e. easy and don’t take too long to make!). I did, however, republish a lot of old content that I felt was suited to the being-stuck-at-home period, as well as encouraging kids to try something new – like sewing or knitting.

Do you think those who took up knitting/sewing/other traditional crafts during lockdown will continue?
Oh yes; I am certain of it. Once you have the knack of a new craft and the confidence to persevere, you will most definitely do more. Maybe not as much as during lockdown, as you have less time, but I can see it being picked up time and again.

One craft you’d love to master but haven’t quite managed it yet?
Needle felting – mainly because I haven’t had much time for it (yet).

Favourite crafty ideas you’ve shared on your blog?
Oh, there are so, so many from over the years. But I do love ‘useful’ crafts or crafts you can play with afterwards. Our Corner Bookmark Design collection is something I am proud of. Or fun crafts, like these Toilet Paper Roll Dancing Giraffes. Or these super-easy finger puppets (we actually used paper from the recycling bin for these!).

How important is it for people to pay crafters and artists for what they create?
Like in all industries, though we are passionate about what we create, this is also our job. And because crafting is my job, payment is very important – if I had to go back to traditional employment, there would be no time for crafting – be it on Red Ted Art or a third party. If third parties want to continue getting great content, they have to pay the artists and crafters! It is as simple as – we are providing time and energy to create something special and we also have mortgages to pay! Similarly, when it comes to our online presence, our social media profiles have taken years to grow, and third parties are paying for access to a loyal audience that we have built and nurtured over time!

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
Most brand work I have had in the past was creating bespoke crafts related to a campaign – this could be a craft to go with a new movie release or a craft making something out of recycled packaging. Though, of course, I work with many craft brands too, my clients are usually ‘not creative’ industries, but industries in the family sector.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
An email outlining the campaign and budget available is perfect. I love creating crafts bespoke to a campaign that is family orientated.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether craft-related or not)?
Oh, it is probably my fellow craft community that I am connected with on Facebook or Instagram! There are so many and we often do projects together.

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Christmas Gift Guide Requests

‘Tis the season (for contributing to Christmas gift guides)

While the start of Christmas 2020 feels both too far away and yet too soon, we’re already firmly into Christmas gift guide compilation season in the world of magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites and TV shows. Journalists from outlets spanning national press and television, trade titles, regional magazines and more are busy arranging contributions from PRs for their Xmas 2020 product round-ups and festive features via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Here are just some of the requests sent out so far for filling up features and readers’ stockings this year…

Pricey and budget product round-ups
– Boutique-y fashion, tech and homeware accessories available for retailers to start stocking.
– Pet gifts (cat beds, dog baskets, fish tanks, bird boxes, those fancy hamster cages that have the fluorescent tunnels/look like a holiday park).
– Healthy foods for those on a SmartPoint saver plan who still want to indulge in the stickiest and sweetest of stuff.
– Top toys and tech, decorations and boardgames for a series of on-air Christmas gift guides.
– Finds for foodies, yoga-lovers, outdoorsy people, hikers and sports fans who’d rather watch from home and stay sitting down, thank you.
– Must-have hair products and treatments for shiny blinged-out tresses.
– The best artificial trees, mirror balls and special selection spirit gift packs.

Advice for making Christmas 2020 the best ever
– Ethical Christmas ideas (reducing waste while ripping open reindeer-themed wrapping, alternatives to plastic decorations, where to regift unwanted presents).
– Catering for Christmas in Care homes – how to safely cater for the elderly and the vulnerable concerning dietary needs, food intolerance, religious and cultural requirements and entertaining while distancing.
– Recommendations from celebrity chefs on how to get the perfect glazed ham and potatoes for Christmas Day.

Snazzy spokespeople or comment
– Women over the age of 35 who are planning to volunteer for charity over Christmas in soup kitchens, on the streets or with animals.
– Experts to comment on the best time to do your Christmas food shop (early and easy vs. last minute deal hunting).
– Real-life stories with a Christmas hook (cheaters, false friends, shenanigans with saving companies, etc.)
– Christmas cooking and eating anecdotes from British chefs and cooks.
– Advice on the best kinds of kitchen-diner set ups for hosting festive dinners, including entertainment zones, storage, surfaces and finding enough seating for extra uncles and grandmas.

Do you have Christmas-related products ready for review, access to celebrity spokespeople, expert commentary or clients with real-life stories involving Santa to share? Get journalist requests and coverage opportunities delivered straight to your inbox with the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Online Influence Awards 2020

Nomination process overhaul for Online Influence Awards 2020

Since the launch of its first incarnation back in 2014, Vuelio’s Online Influence Awards have been celebrating the good work of influencers, bloggers, vloggers and social media professionals across all channels and a variety of niches. Just as the industry we hope to hype-up and highlight has expanded, developed and grown, so too must the awards process and ceremony.

This year, we’re inviting more influencers than ever to take part in the run up to our fully-online awards night on Friday 20 November to reflect the true diversity and breadth of experience being shared across this burgeoning community.

For the first time, influencers themselves, as well as their peers, followers and fans, can nominate (for free) with this quick online form. All we need is the name, social media handles, why it’s a winning entry, and five picks for the top skills you, or your nominee, have as an influencer. These skills have been weighted by industry experts to give us a final score for whittling down eventual shortlists. This is not a popularity contest, so you can be shortlisted as a finalist with just one nomination or 100.

Deadline for entries is Friday 9 October and the 14 categories for this years’ awards span Arts & Entertainment, Beauty, Current Affairs, Disruptor/Changemaker, Fashion, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Interior Design, LGBTQ+, Lifestyle, Parenting, PR & Comms, Travel & Leisure and Best Newcomer.

We’re hoping this approach will create a more inclusive awards night, with influencers from across all channels and backgrounds highlighted and celebrated.
PR, comms and influencer marketing professionals are also invited to enter for their own categories – Best Campaign and Best Cause-Led Influencer Campaign – with dedicated entry forms.

Long-overdue conversations and actions are happening regarding inclusion across all industries, including the influencer, communications and journalism communities Vuelio works with. We’re listening, learning and working to do better, which is why the Online Influence Awards will this year be more reflective of the community they celebrate.

We want to hear all about the great work you and those you follow are doing – nominate, encourage others and join us on 20 November from 5 to 7pm for the extravaganza (black tie/ballgown/bedazzled tux or pyjamas fully optional).

Find out more about the Online Influence Awards nomination process, awards night and the winners from previous years here.

Groups supporting PRs

6 industry bodies supporting people in PR and communications

Here’s our round-up of industry bodies, associations, institutes, platforms and networks supporting PR, marketing and communications professionals in their career development and lives outside of work. This list includes many initialisms but more importantly, supportive places to turn to for networking, training, and a community for everyone in the industry. In no particular order…

BME PR Pros
Originally founded by senior comms consultant Elizabeth Bananuka as ‘a side-hussle and hobby that’s got a little out of control,’ BME PR Pros works to promote black, Asian and ethnic minority diversity in PR and comms. The platform offers a mentoring scheme, which has included mentors working at agencies and associations like Edelman, Ketchum, Transport for London, LinkedIn, PA Media Group and MoneySuperMarket – and has a ‘Pros We Love’ section bigging up people making waves in public relations. Elizabeth is also one of the people behind The Blueprint mark, helping organisations to attract, welcome, retain and nurture diverse talent groups. And for how you can help the BME PR Pros platform? As Elizabeth says, ‘Simple, do what you can to promote diversity in your organisation and the sector. The more initiatives? The better. More voices calling out the diversity problem? Even better.’

CIPR – Chartered Institute of Public Relations
As the world’s only Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners, the CIPR’s mission is a grand one: ‘we work with and for our members to set, maintain and advance standards… Moreover, through our ethical Code of Conduct and searchable PR registers, we make our members accountable to their employers, clients and the wider public’. To help develop and support its members, both in terms of their careers and wellbeing, the institute offers qualifications including its Continuing Professional Development scheme and Accreditation and Chartership programmes, in-house and bespoke training as well as industry research, conferences and best practice and skills guidance. Check out its Diversity & Inclusion hub for reports and resources highlighting the work that still needs to be done to open the industry to everybody.

PRCA – Public Relations and Communications Association
Representing PR professionals across 70 countries globally – with offices in London, Singapore, Dubai and Buenos Aires – the PRCA aims to advocate for those working in public relations across the world. Championing professional standards with their Professional Charter and Code of Conduct, the association offers its members training as well as networking and personal development opportunities. The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) and LGComms (Local Government Communications), are also managed by the PRCA. Working to make meaningful change in the industry, the association recently shook up its Board of Directors to welcome in wider experience and knowledge of the sector it serves, and has a dedicated Diversity Network in place.

Taylor Bennett Foundation
The Taylor Bennett Foundation charity was founded by communications executive search firm Taylor Bennett with the University of East London and founding agency Brunswick in 2008 to ‘encourage black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) graduates to pursue a career in communications’. Its award-winning PR, mentoring and internship programmes have enabled participants to enter the PR industry with the skillsets, knowledge and networking group to pursue successful careers. Employers can host visits for the Foundation’s trainees – 2019 hosts included Hope & Glory, Just Eat and Bupa – and live opportunities from agencies and in-house comms teams are available on the Jobs Board. For more about the work of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, read our interview with its chief executive Melissa Lawrence.

UK Black Comms Network
Gearing up for a full launch this Winter, the UK Black Comms Network’s mission is to increase the seniority of Black PR and communications professionals of African or Caribbean heritage in the UK to the point of true ‘equalityin the UK PR industry, with Black people authentically represented, in full colour and shade, in the UK media’. Join them on Wednesday, 16 September, to hear the full vision for the UK Black Comms Network and a conversation with its wellbeing consultant, and digital creator and found of wellbeing brand thy.self Chloe Pierre on Self Care September and why looking after yourself isn’t selfish – go sign up.

Women in PR
‘The PR & communications industry is female dominated (67%) overall. However, at senior levels, it becomes male dominated… Women in PR exists to address this imbalance.’ Aiming to increase the number of women in leadership roles across the PR and communications industry, Women in PR focuses on four key methods: inspiring, enabling, empowering and advocating. This includes speakers and knowledge-sharing events, the opportunity to network with other female leaders, mentoring and training, and fighting for change in work practices, policy and company culture. You can find updates from the group on the Blog channel as well as advice and think pieces from Women in PR members – including those from agency, in-house, public, and third sector and freelancers – with know-how to share.

If there are associations, unions or groups you’ve found supportive during your career in PR that we can highlight, please do get in touch and let us know.

Kat Buckley

Baking Blogger Spotlight: Kat Buckley, Baking Explorer

Ready for the upcoming return of The Great British Bake Off later this month? To help get you in the baking mood, we catch up with Baking Explorer Kat Buckley to find out the best recipes to seek out in September as well as which ones are less likely to get a Paul Hollywood Handshake.

What keeps you passionate about baking and blogging about it?
All the wonderful comments and kind feedback from my readers, seeing how much joy and happiness it brings them to make my recipes – that’s the stuff that makes what I do worthwhile.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I asked my followers and they were happy for me to carry on as normal, even if they couldn’t get the ingredients to bake my recipes they said that they liked seeing nice photos of cakes as it made them happy. I’ve shared lots of my recipes that use pantry staples, or don’t need a common ingredient like eggs for example, to try and help people struggling to bake with few ingredients.

Have you tried any of the recipes that have gone viral/been popular during lockdown?
I made some dalgona coffee for my boyfriend (I don’t drink coffee) and he loved it!

What the worst bake you’ve ever attempted to make?
A tarte tatin, I’ve tried to make it a few times, although not for a while. I’ve burnt it, made the caramel hard as rock and messed up the pastry!!

Best tasting thing you’ve ever made?
My favourite cake of all time is my Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream, but I also love anything chocolate orange!

For those who haven’t yet started baking, which basic tools would you suggest they stock the kitchen up with?
Digital kitchen scales, silicone spatulas and a decorating turntable.

Favourite TV chefs?
Mary Berry will forever be the queen of baking!

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I love working with brands that have a passion for baking! I most often do sponsored blog posts as I love to create new recipes the showcase all the fabulous baking products and ingredients out there.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
By email, and with anything to do with baking!

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether baking-related or not)?
I love Easy Cheesy Vegetarian for meal inspiration and ideas.

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Grey fox by Tom Edwards

Fashion Blogger Spotlight: David Evans, Grey Fox

Writing about the challenges of finding fashionable fits as an older man, David Evans at Grey Fox knows what works when it comes to staying comfortable and casual while keeping things suave and stylish.

In today’s Spotlight, we talk the evils of sneaker/suits combos, the move to sustainable fashion and what to wear for the steadily approaching Autumn/Winter season.

What keeps you passionate about fashion blogging?
The creativity of working with words and images to reflect my tastes and interests. I also love meeting people though my media – brands, PRs and, in particular, my audience with whom I share so many enthusiasms.

What originally got you into writing about it?
I wanted to write and thought a blog would be a good outlet for this. I hadn’t a clue what to write about at first. After a few weeks thought, I decided to write, as an older man, about the difficulties and challenges of finding clothes, establishing a personal style and knowing what to buy. I thought I’d find something more interesting to write about eventually, but after nearly nine years of blogging, I’m still writing about a search for style.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
The lockdown encouraged me to focus on improving engagement with my audience. I was already working on this, but the common shared experience of COVID-19 encouraged communication and I worked hard on this aspect. I didn’t change content particularly; although I still aim to improve the quality of my content, I’m not keen to do that at the expense of authenticity. Being too polished can look too promotional.

Best lockdown fits you can recommend?
Lockdown was all about combining comfort and style. This is hard to do in the era of ugly and shapeless athleisure wear, but classic casual styles came to the fore.

Worst fashion trend in men’s fashion over the last few years?
Trainers and sneakers with suits. A few fashion journalists tried to make this something, but it was never going to work!

What trends can we watch out for in Autumn/Winter?
In menswear, quality knits with bright but natural colours, tailored trousers with pleats and higher waists, and a move towards a slightly vintage vibe.

What are some of the favourite pieces of clothing/accessories you own and why?
Tweed is always a favourite. I love its robustness, practicality, heritage and the kaleidoscope of colours that hide within the weave. Classic British-made footwear, such as brogues and suede derbies.

Do you think the move away from fast fashion to sustainable clothing/long-term wear will continue?
Without any doubt at all. Consumers are beginning to understand the link between cheap clothes and unethical and unsustainable manufacturing, and the related issues of waste and environmental damage. They see the advantages of buying fewer and better, and this trend is set to continue.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I like to work with small and brands and those that make high quality products – often, but not exclusively manufacturing in the UK. I wear clothes from my favourite brands and only feature those I can try myself. I rarely do paid collaborations, but do so from time to time as I have to manage the costs of running the blog. I only collaborate with brands whose products I like or think will suit my audience.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I like to work with PRs who understand what Grey Fox stands for and have looked at my media before contacting me. I like to present well-made and sustainably produced and stylish products to my following in a way that is authentic. I do not take part in affiliate arrangements and do not expect payment or product in return for my work, although I appreciate it when brands and their PRs recognise that I have costs to cover in running my blog. I prefer personal contact and am rarely impressed with the impersonal ‘Hi, How’s your day been? Here are some cool products for you to feature on your blog’ sort of approach.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether fashion-related or not)?
I don’t have time to check out specific blogs but follow many menswear style influencers and creatives on Instagram.

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Freelance PR Groups

6 groups for freelance PRs

The part of freelancing that is working through uncertainty and unpredictability in sometimes solitary circumstances has been ramped up to 11 during the pandemic, which has impacted clients’ budgets, confidence and creativity.

Here are six groups to check out if you’re a freelancer looking for extra support, advice or a quick way to pick up new commissions and clients as the industry works its way towards recovery.

1) Leapers.co
For freelancers and the self-employed, Leapers has 3,500 members across 22 time zones. Join for access to its free supportive slack channel, regular articles on self-employment and mental health, and conversations with other freelancers. There’s the Slack channel for #askanything questions, #brainfood for inspiration or #littlewins for celebrating, and ebooks to download for techniques on looking after yourself while working for yourself.

2) No. 1 Freelance Media Women
Freelancers working across all areas of the media are welcome here, so that’s PRs as well as writers, photographers and designers. While this Facebook group was originally created back in September 2008 as a place for female freelance journalists to connect, there’s a flourishing and supportive community for people in public relations, too – PR Hour is at 11am every Monday.

3) The Work Crowd
In this crowd are over 2,000 freelancers working across marketing, digital communications and public relations. The platform enables freelancers to set up profiles to win project work, pitch and engage clients, and you can find highlights from recent masterclasses and its Bootcamp Series on its blog – topics include PR and reputation management, knowing your audience in content marketing and new markets and territories.

4) Freelance PRs
This private Facebook group is where freelance PRs and copywriters can connect with others who understand their working woes. Run ideas for new briefs past others in the community, get advice on, as the About page puts it, ‘all the bits that Gwyneth Paltrow never had to do in Sliding Doors when she gracefully set up her own PR agency and launched a restaurant with flowers in her hair’. Share, collaborate and support each other, without any naming and shaming of clients (bad 90s films, though – name and shame away).

5) The KitchenTable Community
Maybe sitting at the kitchen table on your own is losing its appeal and you’re considering starting up your own small agency to start taking on bigger projects. The KitchenTable Community is for solo creatives – freelancers, and staffers, too – to find others with the info and advice they need to get started. The way the community itself puts it as part of its mission statement: ‘people do their best work when they are happiest, and they tend to be happiest when left alone and given the freedom to base their career around their personal needs’.

6) The PR Cavalry
From the man that brought you the Freelance PRs Facebook group is The PR Cavalry. Nigel Sarbutts’ second outing on this round-up connects freelancers with agencies using a ‘PR Heat Map’ with over 700 data points to determine the right fit. A little like Match.com for commissions and projects, but without the awkwardness, perhaps.

If there are associations, unions or groups you’ve found supportive during your career in PR that we can highlight, please do get in touch and let us know.

CIPR-Employability-Hub

CIPR to support members effected by COVID-19 with Employability Hub

CIPR has launched its Employability Hub in an effort to support members who have lost their job or are at risk of redundancy during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hub will host webinars, skill guides and resources from third parties with advice for online interviews, improving LinkedIn profiles and finding employment. A video series covering the topics of ‘Coping with Redundancy’, ‘CVs and Interviews’, ‘Personal Branding’, ‘Mental Health’, and ‘Going Independent’ will feature presenters including CIPR Talent Partner Rohan Shah and Another Door’s Eleanor Tweddell.

The launch of the Hub is the latest in a series of CIPR initiates to support its members during the pandemic, including its confirmation of the availability of three-month payment breaks for members who have been made redundant, varying depending on years of membership.

‘In our recent COVID-19 member survey, just under half of respondents said they are looking for a job now or plan to in the near future,’ said CIPR President Jenni Field. ‘The Employability Hub is in response to this survey and feedback from members that they would like help to improve their employability. The Hub will continue to grow and adapt and be a great resource to anyone thinking about looking for their next role.’

Find out more and access the Employability Hub at cipr.co.uk/employability.

Sarah Ismail

Healthcare Blogger Spotlight: Sarah Ismail, Same Difference

Same Difference is where blogger Sarah Ismail shares sides of health often ignored, including the progression of rights for people with disabilities and portrayals in the media. As a DisAbled writer herself, Sarah seeks to prove and highlight the ability of those with disabilities – read on for what keeps her passionate about blogging and how the coronavirus pandemic has changed how she approaches her work.

What initially drew you to blogging and what keeps your interest?
I discovered a political blog run by a journalist I highly respect and I wanted a blog of my own. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and have spent my life trying to prove my intelligence and my ability, with the right support, to do positive things. I know that all disabled people have the same ability and wanted to highlight this through Same Difference. That’s what keeps me going, too.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I have launched a coronavirus category which contains stories of how COVID-19 has affected disabled people worldwide as well as tips on how to explain the pandemic to people with learning disabilities.

Have you noticed an increased focus on mental and physical wellbeing from the public during lockdown?
Yes, particularly exercise and mental wellbeing.

Is enough being done to break down stigmas around mental health issues?
More is being done in this area in recent years but there’s a long way to go.

What’s a topic you’ve always wanted to cover in more detail on your blog?
Rare conditions from the point of view of people living with them. Sadly, such people are very hard to find.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start blogging about health-related topics?
Know your topic well. Try to learn as much as you can about the topic you’re covering and be open to learning new things about it.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I publicise information and events for charities and disability organisations. Being a disability issues site, some link to disability, however small, is a requirement for everything I publicise.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
By email, with press releases linked to disability in some way.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether healthcare-related or not)?
Left Foot Forward and Lib Dem Voice.

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Lucy Parissi

Baking Blogger Spotlight: Lucy Parissi, Supergolden Bakes

If you’ve been bitten by the baking bug and are in need of new recipes to try, Lucy Parissi has a blog bountiful with straightforward ideas for bakes.

Read on for what goes into the creation of a successful blog like Supergolden Bakes and whether it’s possible to make something with Nutella that tastes bad (you may be surprised…).

What keeps you passionate about baking and blogging about it?
I have enjoyed baking since I was very young – it is what got me into blogging back in 2012. I find baking very therapeutic, but it is also creative and obviously enjoyable to sample and share the results. I don’t think I will ever tire of trying new baking recipes or giving traditional recipes a new twist.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I started baking a lot more! Initially I created recipes that dealt with certain ingredient shortages (no eggs/yeast) and I also got bitten by the sourdough bug!

Have you tried any of the recipes that have gone viral/been popular during lockdown?
I tried the viral Dalgona Coffee (whipped coffee) and it is worth the hype! I actually created a whipped coffee cocktail for my blog.

What’s the worst bake you’ve ever attempted to make?
I recently tried a three ingredient Nutella cake during the early days of lockdown. It looked fantastic but didn’t really taste good, which surprised me. I didn’t share the recipe in the end as I wasn’t happy with it.

Best tasting thing you’ve ever made?
This changes daily! The Biscoff Cheesecake and Chocolate Poke Cake I made recently have both gotten rave reviews.

For those who haven’t yet started baking, which basic tools would you suggest they stock the kitchen up with?
A hand mixer is great for beginners and very budget friendly. But if you intend to do a lot of baking, then invest in a good stand mixer like the Kenwood kMix or KitchenAid. Then you can build up your collection of cake pans and tools as you get more proficient and try new recipes and techniques.

Favourite TV chefs?
I don’t really watch that many food shows on TV! I like Nigella Lawson and Rick Stein, and enjoy the American Chef’s Table series on Netflix, though.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I get approached by a lot of brands. The ones I enjoy with the most are those who allow me to approach a campaign or brief creatively without being boxed in by too many guidelines. I have enjoyed long term partnerships with several brands/campaigns such as Lamb, Try it Love it, Thermapen, Amarula and Angostura Bitters.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I prefer to create recipes and videos for my site as opposed to just on Instagram. I always enjoy using ingredients in a creative way and prefer to create original recipes. Other than that, I am open to all ideas! I have worked with brands on a freelance basis to create recipes and photography for their exclusive use. I used to work as a designer and art director on magazines and cookbooks so working as a freelance photographer and recipe developer is something I relish.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether baking-related or not)?
To be honest, I actually don’t have much time to read blogs regularly anymore! I keep up with new content on Instagram where I follow a lot of food bloggers from around the world. If a recipe or post catches my eye, I will hop on to read it. I recently discovered Lion’s Bread when I got into sourdough baking.

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CovidComms Awards

Time to reflect and recognise

The last five months have seen nearly every aspect of the way we work changed. PR and Comms teams have managed fast changing news and policy against a backdrop of job losses, media fragmentation and an increasingly complex stakeholder landscape. It has been hugely challenging – but has also prompted an outstanding response.

As we begin to adjust to the ‘new normal’, we want to create a record of lockdown and share lessons learnt but also celebrate the brilliant efforts made. This is why we’re delighted to partner with CorpComms Magazine on the CovidComms Awards that will take place in November. This week, I caught up with Helen Dunne, Editor of CorpComms, to discuss what they’re all about and how people can enter.

Our webinar kicked off with Helen explaining how she had been inspired to develop the CovidComms Awards by a series of conversations with industry leaders who were determined that the exceptional work since the crisis began wouldn’t be forgotten. In their view, too often the industry moves on without reflecting on what has gone before and the improvements that could be made.

For Helen, lockdown and the sustained crisis management had accelerated key trends that the industry had been trying to address for a number of years. How to make senior leaders more accessible and able to talk to internal and external audiences with authenticity. These are issues that have been quickly solved by Zoom calls where senior leaders are interrupted by children or pets and home decorations are on display.

The ‘radical transparency’ we’ve seen is part of a broader trend where PR strategy is increasingly aligned to customer and employee engagement. At last, internal and external communications are on equal footing with both critical to overall reputation.

Against this backdrop, Helen came on to talk about the awards and why she hopes people will enter. Firstly, the award categories have been designed based on what has emerged as critical during the crisis including leadership, wellbeing and comms designed for essential workers. The hope is for the awards to be as accessible as possible with reduced entry fees and nomination forms that require only 500 words (max). Judging will happen remotely and shortlisted alongside winning entries invited to share their insights with the industry. It will create a record that we hope inspires the industry into the future.

Finally, recognising that many still feel uncomfortable about ‘mass’ events, the awards night itself is being planned to be entirely virtual but with options for ‘at home’ celebrations to take place simultaneously. Knowing CorpComms, it will still be a night to remember even if radically different to what would normally happen!

To find out more, and most importantly, to enter before the early bird deadline on 4 September, go to covidcommsawards.com/about.

PRCAethics-Month

PRCA Ethics Council launches #PRCAethics month

The PRCA Ethics Council has launched #PRCAethics Month with the theme of ‘The PoweR of Ethical PR’ to move PR dialogues towards ethics-driven action and behaviors.

Throughout September #PRCAethics will release educational content focusing on issues affecting the PR industry across the globe, building to the 2020 PRCA UK National Conference on 24 September, which takes the theme of ‘PR as a Force for Positive Change’.

The PRCA Ethics council has also confirmed a research audit project with the remit ‘to raise ethical standards around the world’, with results due in early 2021.

PRCA Ethics Council Chair David Gallagher said of the launch: ‘In a calendar year defined by utter disruption and chaos at transformative levels, one thing in our industry has remained steadfast: the importance of ethical decision-making, relationship-management and communications. This September, the PRCA will join once more with our members to drive ethics as a global topic to the larger public. It’s an inherent part of our organisational brand.’

Formed in May 2020, the PRCA Ethics Council is set to announce further appointments and ambassadorships. Recent members welcomed include Fletcher Marketing PR Senior Strategist Mary Beth West as Co-Chair.

More on #PRCAethics Month can be found on the PRCA website.

Sheena Thomson

PR Spotlight: Sheena Thomson, Conduit Associates

‘Work-wise, nothing fazes me and I am known to bring calm to chaos and conflict’ – while 2020 is turning out to be a particularly tumultuous time for the PR industry, Sheena Thomson has the mettle to weather the storm. With leadership training in the Royal Navy, time consulting overseas in Thailand and the Middle East, and experience of stressful and sometimes life-threatening situations, crisis comms is just one part of the Conduit Associates founder’s particular set of skills.

Read on for Sheena’s advice on staying calm in a crisis, how well military skills can transfer to a career in communications and why working in PR is well worth sticking with.

Tell us a bit about your career so far and what led you to PR…
My career always seems to raise eyebrows as it has been pretty unconventional. After studying fashion, I went into retail and ended up as a production buyer for Laura Ashley. As much as I enjoyed it, I felt it wasn’t challenging enough, so joined the Royal Navy to get leadership training and follow a clear career path. Although I specialised in personnel selection, my last job before leaving was running the press office at the huge Royal Navy base at Faslane in Scotland. It is home to the strategic nuclear deterrent, so it was a busy job. It was a mix of issues and crisis management, community engagement and traditional media relations. It was a great start to my PR career, and I have stuck with PR since.

What helped you decided to start your own consultancy, and what were your initial aims with Conduit Associates?
I had established a small consultancy before in Thailand and enjoyed the independence this gave me. I was living in Thailand at the time it became politically unstable, leading up to the military coup in 2014, so decided to return to the UK. I had been overseas for nearly 12 years, including time in the Middle East, so when I came home, I found the job market had both changed considerably and it took time to see where my skills and experience fitted in to the market. I decided to return to my roots specialising in issues and crisis communications, setting up Conduit Associates. This also enables me to still support my clients overseas, as well as build my client base in the UK.

What skills from your military background transfer well to public relations?
Teamwork is essential in the military environment, and effectively leading or working with people is at the heart of any mission or task success. This has been the most directly transferrable skill. Understanding the true concept of strategy and tactics, both military disciplines that have transferred into the civilian space, are the other skills that have remained with me throughout my career. They have provided me with a natural instinct to think short, medium and long-term with any PR task or client brief.

My training from psychologists as a personnel selection officer was also useful. My job for five years was to interview people, listen, analyse the answers and evaluate. These listening and analysis skills have also remained with me throughout my career and transfer extremely well to public relations, in particular crisis communications.

How has lockdown changed the way you work?
Before lockdown, I worked from home two days a week, and spent the remainder in London in front of people or working remotely. So, for me, the biggest change is that I am, of course, now in front of people on screens. I have adapted pretty well, although part of my offering is soft skills training, and there are limits to what can be achieved online when you are developing individual skills, confidence and capability online in our respective home environments.

Do you think the PR industry can ever return to the way things were before the COVID-19 crisis?
I don’t think any industry or sector can completely return to how things were before the COVID-19 crisis. I think it is a watershed moment as we have all seen what is possible when we are compelled to adapt and change. In normal times, change and transformation of any kind takes effort and planning, but this has been blown out of the water as we have pivoted to pretty much whatever we need to do to keep productive and present. We have also seen such monumental change in all sectors, many of which simply won’t return to how they were before e.g. retail, aviation, etc. The PR industry will be no different. We are already seeing new agencies and restructuring of in-house teams to reflect PR and communication needs going forward as the economy starts stepping towards recovery.

Having worked in hostile environments during your career, how do you deal with work-related stress now?
My mantra is to ‘take a moment’ if I feel stressed, and walk away from the task – or whatever the trigger is – to recalibrate my thinking and put things into perspective. It doesn’t happen often, though; I have been in so many stressful situations dealing with both dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations during my time in very busy press offices in my post-conflict days. These days, my stress threshold is very high and rarely triggered. This is why crisis communications is such a great fit for me. Work-wise, nothing fazes me and I am known to bring calm to chaos and conflict.

Which particular sectors among your client base do you see making the quickest recovery post-pandemic?
I think we are already seeing the shoots of recovery through consumer and healthcare demands. We have all been locked up and had our freedom of movement restricted, so the leisure, fitness and travel industry will continue to adapt to the demand, despite the obvious public health challenges. People want to get out and enjoy themselves again!

The UK tourism sector in particular will recover quickly. I also think we will see a return, in part, to manufacturing of goods of national strategic importance that had moved to offshore production. A good example is PPE. We simply couldn’t get enough of it when we needed it most and were completely dependent on offshore supplies, with luxury brands like Burberry manufacturing scrubs in response to desperate hospital pleas. The stockpiling strategy failed too, compounding the issue. We may pay more for UK manufactured goods, but we will have flexibility and access to them when we need them. There will also be the added benefit of transparent governance in the supply chain and we won’t be flying goods around the world.

With so many journalists being furloughed, has contact with the media been harder over the last few months?
I have not experienced issues with this – I have always found news desks helpful in signposting and directing me to who I need to speak to when routines are disrupted, for whatever reason. In general though, I think it is quite worrying how journalists have been furloughed – they are absolutely critical to society as they are there to hold people to account on behalf of the public. In fact, I blogged about it a few weeks ago. We need journalists and, along with all other severely impacted sectors, I hope journalism recovers quickly.

The PR industry has a diversity problem – what can agencies do to create diverse teams and promote people from a variety of backgrounds into higher roles?
Talent is talent, and I am a firm believer that everyone deserves a chance to let that talent shine. Racism is a blight on society – I still struggle to understand how people can discriminate on the basis of skin colour. Skin is an organ which we all have, just like the rest of our vital organs, so why some people think the colour of an organ makes us different, to me, just doesn’t make rational sense. Our brains and hearts underneath the skin are the same and I wish that mindset was more widespread as our brains and hearts is what drives what we bring to society as individuals, among many other things.

Back to the issue, I believe an integrated approach works best, based on my experience working with diversity and other cultures overseas. Provide talent with the opportunities that will allow their interests and skills to shine vs opportunities that tick boxes. Be courageous and bold, and where systemic issues and biases linger, sort it out. But most of all, take action to rectify the problem, as diversity is part of our society and it needs to be the case in the PR industry also to properly serve the needs of our society and our clients.

What have you enjoyed most about your career and what advice would you give to those considering working in the PR industry?
There are many things to draw upon, but I think the reason I have stuck with PR for so long is that it always gives me the opportunity to be constantly curious, be a great listener, be analytical and think through problems, strengths and opportunities. I also enjoy developing and applying creative and relevant ideas and recommendations, but most of all, using my seemingly natural people skills. I think this is what has helped define my success, along with seizing opportunities as they present themselves. Of all these skills, being a people person is the most important for a successful communicator, regardless of what discipline you choose in PR. My advice – if you have any or all of these skills, PR is a good fit and can be immensely interesting and rewarding when you seize opportunity. Even in these challenging times, opportunity is already starting to re-emerge.