Taboo topics

5 tips for approaching taboo topics in healthcare comms

This is a guest post from Abbie Moujaes, marketing manager at online clinic for men Numan.

‘Do something about erectile dysfunction’. That’s the tagline that runs across Numan’s TV ads on Sky Sports, on our social posts dotted between holiday snaps, and is the driving force behind all of Numan’s comms. Awkward? Yes. Effective? Definitely. When it comes to taboo topics in healthcare, the best approach is head-on.

1) Be bold… and be everywhere
I’ll never forget my surprise when I learned that Bodyform’s 2017 Blood Normal campaign was the first time red blood had ever been shown on an advert about periods. Only then did it dawn on me how strange it was to use the blue liquid of the ads before. If you’re trying to get people on board with taboo topics, being bold and doing things that defy the norm can pay off massively in terms of coverage and brand awareness.

2) Get into the detail
While 60-second TikToks and 50-character memes seem like an appealing way to communicate, there’s still much to be said for longer-form content. When a survey at Numan found that over 62% of men thought that the penis was a muscle, we wrote a book explaining exactly what the penis was, how it worked, and why it sometimes didn’t. We called this the Book of Erections. Written by an NHS doctor, this was more than an attention grabbing PR headline – it followed a genuine need for men and women to have more information about the male body. Health issues are complex and there can never be too much trustworthy content about them.

3) Get expert help
There’s a lot of B.S. out there when it comes to medical information in the tabloids, social media and even on TV. Pseudoscience fills our feeds and minds with inaccurate and often conflicting information. Creating a group of like-minded, scientifically-educated professionals who can clear up the space and provide a trusted, reliable voice when it comes to health issues is one of the best things you can do. Joining forces with already established campaigns can also help your cause. Numan’s team of GPs, clinicians, nutritionists and psychosexual therapists will be at the forefront of comms during Urology Week in September – a campaign with its own aim to ‘break the taboo around urological issues’.

4) Talk to your customers
Reading reviews, receiving regular updates from your customer service team, setting up calls (incentivised, if necessary) with customers can do wonders for your comms strategy. Who better to help you get a first-hand experience of the awkward subject at hand? And if you don’t have direct access to customers, or want to get a feel for people that haven’t yet sought a solution, try sites such as Reddit for some in-depth conversations about practically every health topic out there.

5) Find those success stories
Focusing on a positive solution can help break the taboo around any issue. Sharing success stories, complete with customers who are proud to reveal their identity, images to boot, are a sure-fire way to communicate the goals of your company. They publicise the outcome rather than the problem, giving confidence to others that they can reach the same result.

The hard part – finding customers who are willing to do this. But, if you’re doing all of the above, sooner rather than later, this should be easy.

AIinPR Ethics Guide

CIPR and CPRS publish world’s first AI in PR Ethics Guide

The Chartered Institute of Publication Relations (CIPR) and the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) have published an AI in PR Ethics Guide to provide practical advice on working with AI build and deployment teams to make ethical decisions.

Taking the position that public relations practitioners have a responsibility to act as ethical guardians in the use of artificial intelligence, the guide posits that the industry must have a working understanding of its possible applications and ask the questions tech AI seniors and specialists may miss.

While legal regulations can often be too slow to keep up with modern technologies, PRs are urged by the AIinPR Panel to help keep their organisation’s use of AI ethical and safe when it comes to products, tools, platforms and services.

The panel said: ‘Understanding ethics is hard enough, understanding the potential pitfalls and ethical challenges of AI makes it even harder.’

‘We wanted to do two things with this guide: first, take public relations professionals through a decision-making framework that will educate them on AI itself and the bigger issues it generates. Second, guide them through some challenging ethical specifics such as using the LinkedIn Insight tag and facial recognition software. Writing this guide has been new territory and a huge and complex job.’

AIinPR panel chair Kerry Sheehan believes knowledge of AI is essential for the public relations industry going forward:

‘With the possibility of serious negative consequences, to businesses, organisations and society, springing directly from AI projects, there needs to be the utmost focus by PRs on ensuring ethics is at the forefront and ethical standards are upheld. AI readiness isn’t just a tech issue, it is an ethics issue.’

Find out more about the CIPR AIinPR Panel and download the new ethics guide on the website. Read up on the launch of its literature repository ‘The Effects of AI on the Professions’ here.

Caroline Coskry

PR Spotlight: Caroline Coskry, Chief Executive, The Oracle Group and Marketing On Board

After work experience with a police station, Caroline Coskry dropped early dreams of becoming a paramedic or policewoman and went in a very different direction – work experience for the comms team at St George’s Hospital, paid work during the summer, five years at TTA and then time at Golley Slater, Think BDW and Adventis Group.

Now ten years since her launch of creative communications agency The Oracle Group, Caroline has put all of her experience into pushing the reputation of public relations forward and is now hoping to help out smaller businesses with new venture Marketing On Board.

What did you want to do differently from other agencies with The Oracle Group when you launched ten years ago?

Honesty and fairness are two things which I value the most in business and unfortunately PR doesn’t have the greatest reputation for either of these. Together with the old-fashioned retainer that clients would pay regardless of the level of service (which can only really work on crisis comms), it didn’t sit right with me and I saw an opportunity to offer something different.

At Oracle, we are very open with our clients from the moment we pitch. We provide training in how PR works and ensure they have a real understanding of what works and what doesn’t. For example, we aren’t led by the client. If they hire us, it is for our advice and knowledge of the press and an exemplary level of service that begins from day one and doesn’t drop off, which is why we have an excellent record for retained clients.

What led you to launch Marketing On Board?
I came up with the idea for MOB a few years ago but it really needed the right time to launch, which is now. Small businesses won’t grow unless they have some idea of who their clients are, where they are coming from and what makes them engage. For many small businesses and start-ups, their skill is their service or product, not digital, social media or marketing. With MOB they can tap into a service that offers support as and when they have a small budget to spend on marketing but without the large retainer fees. The offering is very different to Oracle in many ways. It’s simple but effective marketing for small businesses who need help to grow.

Has lockdown changed the way you work?
It has in terms of how audiences are consuming news and where from. Digital PR and social influencers are such an important part of marketing now, much more so than before. Newspapers have changed significantly over the last three-four months and we have had to adapt quickly to find out what journalists are looking for and how to keep the coverage coming for our clients. I must say I am incredibly proud of how my team have adapted during this time in order to facilitate the changes and achieve some really amazing headlines, including the front page of the Evening Standard, which is very unusual for a property-led story!

Do you think the PR industry can ever return to the way things were before the COVID-19 crisis?
The good thing about the PR industry is it can adapt quickly. Everyone wants their voice heard, particularly in these times, so the business is definitely there for the taking. But it is competitive and unfortunately some won’t survive. I’m of the mind to never return, only to move forwards, whatever that may bring. So, even if the industry could return to the way it was before, the question is, do we want it to or indeed, should it? I see it as a good opportunity to revive it!

With so many journalists being furloughed, has contact with the media been harder over the last few months?
Contact has been easier if anything – journalists seem to have more time to discuss ideas and are happier to receive phone calls and pitches with relevant content to the world we are currently in.

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?
From my point of view, the people that are best at the job get promoted, regardless of their background. We ran a campaign a few years ago to try to encourage more males to apply for roles at The Oracle Group and we did have some good candidates. We employed one of them and it really helped the balance in the office, which is something I think is incredibly important – 20 women altogether is not always a good thing. However, I still will only ever promote or hire the best person for the role.

What do you love most about working in the PR industry, and would you recommend this as a career?
PR itself is diverse; every day is different. The opportunity to work with a wide variety of people and clients, the fast pace of media, particularly digital media and how consumers behave and engage with products and services. I find it fascinating and for those who are happy to be thrown into the deep end with weekly challenges, it is perfect… Just make sure you can write. As so many PRs can’t!

DIY Daddy

Parenting Blogger Spotlight: Nigel Higgins, DIY Daddy

Painting, decorating, family blogging – jack of all trades (and master of parenting blogging, in particular) Nigel Higgins shares what led him to become DIY Daddy and what he thinks could be the long-term effects of lockdown on families across the globe.

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
I started out writing my blog about parenting literally by accident. I’m a painter and decorator and about seven years ago I fell from a ladder while working and broke my wrist in four places. After about three days at home and bored out of my brain, my wife suggested I started a blog and DIY Daddy was born.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
Over the years my favourite types of posts have changed, but what I’ve always found most satisfying are personal posts about me and the struggles I have had at different times in my life. In particular, my struggle with depression. I found a great form of therapy in writing about it and it’s helped me identify when I may be heading towards a bout of depression.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I haven’t really changed that much. I decided I didn’t want to write content that was constantly referencing COVID-19. I have had posts that were related to COVID-19 but I kept it to a minimum. My collaborations with brands didn’t really slow during lockdown so I was able to mix up my content with an element of organic and paid work.

How will lockdown have the way co-parents share responsibilities – will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads?
I’m sure that many men will change the way they approach parenting, especially if they are the main breadwinner. They will have had an insight into how difficult it is to parent 24/7. I definitely don’t think there will be a rise in more dads becoming stay at home dads, but hopefully they will share the family duties a bit more evenly.

How would you recommend parents balance working from home with their family duties?
Every family dynamic is different and, of course, now working from home is obviously something that has to be added into the situation as well as home schooling. For us as a family, from the beginning of lockdown we organised how everything was going to work out, but when it didn’t go to plan we didn’t worry about it. We would adjust our day accordingly. My advice is to be organised and just go with the flow until it settles into a routine.

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?
Spaghetti bolognese is easy to make, can be cooked in advance, and makes for a very stress-free mealtime.

Did you get what you wanted for Father’s Day this year?
I got exactly what I wanted – all of my children together for a couple of hours. It was a bit different as it was in the garden (socially-distanced, of course).

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I collaborate with brands in many different ways. It could be reviews or sponsored posts. I like to work with brands that are in keeping with my blog. The brands I prefer to work with are those that make a brief challenging and interesting.

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’m happy to be approached in whatever way suits the brand. That could be email or a phone call. I’m happy to cover any content as long as it is relevant to my blog.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?
I regularly read Dad’s Delicious Dinners, and I read a lot of cycling blogs. Too many too mention. However, I’m a big fan of As Easy As Riding A Bike.

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Making a Difference

5 tips for marketing professionals who want to make a difference

This is a guest post from the team at AM&A, a PR and marketing agency specialising in sustainability, travel, lifestyle and culture.

We are currently standing at the crossroads of our planet’s future. The climate emergency is at a critical point, social justice is at the forefront of our global consciousness and we, as a species, have some major choices to make soon.

Here are five top tips for how you and your organisation can help make a difference and improve the world through marketing.

1) Create a conversation

The development of digital media over the last decade has made a huge difference in the way we receive campaigns. For a long time, communications had been very one-way and broadcast to audiences. Now, it’s essential and even expected that audiences are engaged in conversation, especially campaigns that have some form of social justice element. If your company has expertise, this may mean holding back slightly to engage people in conversation.

Tip: By empowering people to come up with their own answers to problems, you increase the amount of people who form an opinion and become actively involved.

2) Know when you have won
When creating a campaign, aim to work backwards from a single goal. You can never have a good campaign with multiple objectives; you need to know when you have won. For an issue like climate change, for example, you can’t just have a climate change campaign, you’ve got to define what it is in the short and medium term that you are going to achieve.

Tip: Think about the ‘photograph moment’. Whether it’s a piece of legislation being passed or a number of sign-ups to a petition, you have to have a clear idea of what that ‘winning moment’ looks like. Then you can focus on achieving it.

3) Tell stories and write from the heart
The human angle is always the strongest way to form a connection between the consumer and your campaign. The new digital age makes storytelling easier and more immersive than ever before, meaning we can form deeper connections and mobilise people in huge numbers.

Tip: Whether you are writing copy, creating visuals or designing graphics, your passion and the story have to cut through the noise.

4) Identify and know your audience
It may seem obvious, but the starting point of any kind of communications initiative has to be ‘who is it we are trying to reach?’. The approaches and messaging that will work for one segment of your audience will almost certainly not work with another. However you decide to segment, be it social class, age or income, it’s vital to understand what each of these groups want to hear.

Tip: There’s no right or wrong, you just have to know which audience you are talking about and not generalise too much. Once you have done this, you need to really get to know that audience and learn what makes them tick.

5) Be an activist
Be an active part of the story. As a marketing, PR or digital person you need to immerse yourself in what the story is and capture it for yourself. Be an activist in the sense of ‘being active’, whether it’s rebuilding, rewilding or marching – get in there and tell the story for yourself.

Tip: There are plenty of brands that tag along with the ‘make the world a better place’ attitude, but they don’t always walk the walk. It’s important that as an organisation or as an individual, you really live that mantra if you want to make real change.

Daddy & Dad

Parenting Blogger Spotlight: Jamie Beaglehole, Daddy & Dad

Finding a lack of real-life accounts of the adoption process when adopting their own children around seven years ago, Jamie and Tom started Daddy & Dad to share their experiences with others starting on the same journey.

Jamie tell us what goes into creating a super successful parenting blog (Daddy & Dad feature in our Top 20 UK Parenting Blogs and Top 10 UK Dad Blogs), how you can join in with Pride At Home UK on Saturday 29 August and why there’s no better time to get political.

How did you originally get started with writing about LGBTQ+ parenting?
When we adopted our sons almost seven years ago, there was a void where ‘real life’ accounts of the adoption process should have been. We were presented with loads of corporate information about adoption, but it lacked feeling. I was already writing blogs for brands at work, so I decided to put my creative aptitude to good use and start a blog about our experience. And so, Daddy & Dad was born!

Before I started the blog, I consumed Helen Fielding’s and Dawn French’s novels and Miranda Hart’s book – I really wanted my blog to read as a first-hand, humorous peek into our lives.

The fact we’re LGBTQ is supplementary, really, to the key message of adoptive parenting with all its unique challenges and milestones.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
While we plan content about adoption, tech reviews and travel, my favourite blog posts and articles to write are off-the-cuff, spontaneous accounts of something funny that’s happened that day. The boys squabble (a lot) and they’re quite a handful, with bags of personality. They have a wonderful, innocent sense of humour. Their chirpy outlook on life provides me with more engaging content than any parent blogger would ever need! I often write about their behaviour, or their reaction to punishments or household chores – that kind of thing is a joy to write.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
As a Leicester-based family, we’ve been looking forward to the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Life at home used to be quite varied, spontaneous and interesting. But over the last five months-or-so our routine has become quite repetitive – not so easy to draw inspiration from.
However, our work with brands has flourished during the pandemic, as businesses utilise blogging families like ours to promote a healthy, active lifestyle at home. As a result, we’ve produced a lot of home, baking and garden-based content in partnership with brands like eBay, Google and Tesco. It’s a new direction for us as we were previously quite an out-and-about, ‘days out’ type family but it’s kept us very busy and we’ve made some excellent memories.

How are you celebrating Pride this year?
When we heard our local Pride events were cancelled, I teamed up with mum-blogger Kate (of LesBeMums fame) to come up with a positive way to celebrate our LGBTQ community and boost our visibility.

So… on August bank holiday weekend, Saturday 29 August, we are hosting this year’s biggest family-friendly virtual Pride event – Pride At Home UK! We’re encouraging our LGBTQ friends, families and allies (so, basically everybody) to get out into their garden with their pride flags, to enjoy a picnic or BBQ together and to flood social media with pics using the hashtag #PrideAtHomeUK.

Meanwhile, Kate and I been very busy assembling a team of amazing LGBTQ pop and drag stars to put on an exclusive set in the afternoon of the event. It’ll be broadcast from our Facebook pages and it’s free to join in (https://www.facebook.com/events/296640968012578/).

Have you been covering the intersection of race and LGBTQ+ issues on your blog?
Our blog is home to parenting content, predominantly although we do host LGBTQ special guests, Q&As and opinion pieces, too. In support of the #BLM movement, I enlisted the help of some influential BAME and ally friends, including Beverley Knight, Gabriel Sey and Steven McKell to produce a blog post, celebrating our BAME childhood heroes.

Instagram has become our main channel for sharing supportive stories, posts and comments about LGBTQ and race issues. As a same-sex family, we’re well-tuned into issues of discrimination and prejudice. So, we’re using our biggest platform to share messages of inclusion and diversity wherever we can.

What is one thing you wish straight cis people would take on in their day to day lives to be better allies to LGBTQ+ people?
Oh god – I don’t wish to get political; there is a time and place, but I think this is it. We know that people generally subscribe to issues that affect them directly – Brexit, COVID-19, the BLM movement and the economy are top of the pile. That’s what our allies are currently focused on. Meanwhile, we’ve noticed they’re not being nearly as loud and outraged when LGBTQ rights are debated.

Behind the smokescreen caused by these prevailing issues, our Government, and particularly our Minister for ‘equalities’, are quietly rolling back the rights of LGBTQ people. That might sound a little extreme, but unfortunately it’s true. Our leaders are aligning with trans-exclusionary radical feminists and far-right leaders from other countries. Our own PM sent a public message of congratulations to the Polish PM, Andrzej Duda – a dangerously anti-LGBTQ political figure. He’s declared ‘LGBT-free zones’ in Poland, equal in size to a country like Hungary, forcing innocent LGBTQ people into hiding and removing all their rights. Where is the outrage from our allies? We’re not seeing it.

We’d like straight, cis people to speak out – be outraged, stand up for us. As LGBTQ influencers, our audiences are modest and arguably niche – we depend on our straight allies to shine the spotlight on issues affecting us. After all, a country that’s inclusive to LGBTQ people is a country that’s inclusive to everybody.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
We partner with brands to create social media content for Instagram. We incorporate our sponsored content into our feed and stories naturally so we generally look for campaigns that fit seamlessly into our everyday family life. At the moment, that means home and garden, supermarkets, home technology, home entertainment and toy brands are working with us to promote an active, healthy lifestyle at home.

Our favourite campaigns tend to run over several weeks or months, adding consistency and taking our followers on a fun journey with us. eBay work with us each month on a ‘mini-makeover style’ challenge where we spruce up a corner of our home or garden with items sourced from their small businesses. We also work with Tesco Food ad-hoc on their Food Love Stories – creating recipes and dedicating them to people we love. Also, brands like Google, Fitbit, Vodafone, Mars and Sky have appeared on our Instagram feed this year.

When we collaborate with a brand, we get the whole family involved. Content featuring the family performs really well because people love to see all four of us having fun together.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
We love to hear from brands and their PR agencies. We’re very approachable – happy to be contacted via Instagram DM, although email or phone are best for a quick response. What kind of content? We’re open to suggestions!

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
Oh gosh, loads. I love the LesBeMums for their days out and Howeydon for his stylish ‘father and son’ and skincare ideas. Fran at Whinge Whinge Wine is great for a dose of parenting realness and the girls from Our Transitional Life are inspiring. My favourite dad bloggers are probably John and Tim from Dad Blog UK and Slouching Towards Thatcham, respectively – they’re both great fun to read but include serious, enlightening opinion pieces. I do a lot of blog-reading in the evenings; I could probably list about fifty faves!

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Social impact

PRCA launches drive to highlight social impact suppliers

The PRCA is inviting charities, social enterprises and community businesses to apply to join a supplier directory launched to highlight positive social impacts.

Relevant organisations offering services and products for PR and communications agencies can apply online to have their credentials assessed by the PRCA Council. The Directory is due to be finalised by the end of this year, with applications closing on Friday 18 September.

‘The social impact of PR is hugely important, but hardly talked about,’ said PRCA Director General Francis Ingham of the need for the Directory launch. ‘From the impact of campaigns on target audiences to hiring more PR apprentices and encouraging workforce diversity, the communications industry can have a hugely positive role to play in the world.’

CharityComms’ Head of Membership Sarah Clarke also sees this initiative as another way the PR and communications industry can make a difference:

‘The charity and non-profit sector offers a wide range of services, such as venue hire or courses and training on everything from team building and mental health first aid to diversity and digital skills. By using charities to fulfil their supplier needs, companies can play a vital role in making a positive social impact.’

In its analysis of the social impact of PR and comms agencies in 2019, the PRCA found that 80% of practitioners have helped meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their work, while just 17% had chosen to use social enterprises in their supply chain.

Find out more about PRCA’s social impact Directory on the website.

Collective creativity that arose as a result of the pandemic

This is a guest post from Alec Samways, CEO and head of creative strategy at Splendid Communications.

Alec SamwaysThe seemingly never-ending newsworthiness of a pandemic that has delivered daily stats, statements, scares and scandals for weeks on end has meant ‘hard’ news dominated media space and ‘softer’ consumer PR campaigns needed a rethink. Here are a few strategies that I believe will continue to work however COVID-19 continues to dominate the media.

Bringing people together virtually
The events business has been sadly decimated by coronavirus, but smart operators have found clever ways round the constraints. Defected Records were quick to show a positive way forward in the first week of lockdown. Taking over an empty Ministry of Sound nightclub, the record label’s resident DJs played back to back sets for a ‘virtual festival’ with label boss Simon Dunmore diligently cleaning the DJ decks between sets with antiseptic wipes. It was livestreamed on the label’s social channels and garnered a huge global audience, showing that even while under siege from a pandemic, virtual connections can harness an inspiring community spirit. We at Splendid went all in on the virtual dancefloor. I was also impressed by the way Ascot at Home generated all kinds of content ideas to engage racing fans from their living rooms and Lost Horizon took things to the next level with an amazing online AI festival experience.

Using spare time for good
Those of us lucky enough to have been working safely from home have regained time formerly lost to a daily commute. There have been so many examples of brands and celebrities encouraging us to use that time for good. We carried out research for the Tesco Food Love Stories campaign that revealed a fifth of households were now cooking every meal from scratch (and long may that continue). I’m a big fan of Joe Wicks, and his daily free PE lessons were a boost for those of us struggling to adapt to home schooling; his boundless energy and enthusiasm helping parents and kids start the day well in challenging times. Let’s hope there has been an increased awareness and better habits formed for healthy eating and exercise as a result of the crisis.

Finding creative ways to support serious messages
Lots of brands and their PRs have played it safe during the pandemic. Faced with business closures or the challenges of operating within social distancing guidelines, many decided to communicate strictly by the rule book or not communicate at all. I take my hat off to Burger King and its hilarious attempts to promote social distancing in novel ways, from its 2m wide cardboard crowns in Germany and adding an extra onion option to its burgers in Italy. For ultimate creativity though, my prize goes to the New Zealand government, whose response to the crisis in general was a masterclass in empathetic leadership communication. In a campaign to highlight the dangers to children of increased time spent online during COVID-19, ‘Keep it Real Online’ featured a video where porn stars arrived at a family home to tell parents what their son had been up to on his computer. Other videos addressed violent content, grooming and cyber-bullying.

Spreading hope and supporting good causes
Captain Sir Thomas Moore emerged as a hero of coronavirus with his charity fund-raising efforts and the subsequent national spotlight came at just the right time. When the centenarian legend told the nation ‘We will get through this and come out of it stronger, more united and ready to face any challenge together’ it was exactly what we needed to hear. More recently, artisan candle producer Earl of East found a rather unique way to remind us there is hope for a life beyond the virus with its ‘Scents of Normal’ range. Three candles supplied the smells of pub, festival and cinema. The scent descriptions made us both chuckle and excited to return to each of those environments. Proceeds from the sales of candles went to Hospitality Action meaning what would otherwise have been dismissed as a cringe worthy gimmick was for a good cause.

Digital Presence

5 tips to up your digital presence

This is a guest post from Charlie Terry, founder & managing director at CEEK Marketing.

Every modern-day PR knows that adding an element of digital marketing to a campaign can work wonders, and with the decline of print media it’s almost a necessity to implement it not only to your clients strategies, but your own! Here are five tips for upping your digital presence.

1) Reviews are key
Invent and create innovative techniques to encourage your clients/audience to leave reviews on Google my Business (GMB) or TripAdvisor. Optimal reviews should always be keyword and location-driven. GMB also provides indispensable analytical tools as members list their location, phone number, and website. We recommend displaying google review widgets on business websites to add customer value.

2) Guest blogging
Create valuable optimised content and exchange SEO value with other brands by guest posting on each other’s website blogs. Utilising the keywords you want your business to rank for is key, make sure you do a previous competitor check and create similar but improved content. Create a mixture of news and industry updates and long-form evergreen content that will be relevant to your customers today but also in 12 months’ time. The technique is to produce content that offers general industry ‘tips’ and ‘how-to content’ with lists. Backlinks are an inbound-marketing priority which could significantly boost your digital presence if done correctly.

3) Content Marketing
Highly engaging and branded content which is consistent throughout. Invest in graphic design, photography and videography services and make yourself remembered. Brands need stories. Make yourself heard, get in contact with local podcasts and share industry insights. Podcasts are a great way to create your own self-brand and advertise your business on multiple platforms.

4) Brand Trust
Work with macro and micro-influencers in your space who will add indispensable and cost-efficient value to your product/brand while creating unique curated content which is relevant to your targeted audience. Remember that their following trusts their opinion! Influencers are like any other client and can be approached from all angles, from gifting experiences in exchange for content to paid partnerships that can lead to long-term business relationships.

5) Website optimisation
Ensure the health of your website is sharp and check simple but unnoticeable things such as ‘alt tags’ or image descriptions, keyword optimised content and correct contact information (NAPs: name, address, phone number).

image of a man blogging

The evolution of blogging

What started for many as a creative outlet has now become a full-time career, as our Influencer Survey 2020 showed there is a record number of bloggers who are professional, with their work providing their main source of income.

At Vuelio, one of the things we’re famous for is our weekly blog rankings, celebrating the top 10 blogs across a huge variety of categories, including mainstream topics such as fashion and parenting to more niche interests like craft and beer. Many of these bloggers have told us they started out wanting a place to share their thoughts on topics and issues close to their heart. With the explosion of influencer marketing over recent years, blogging for a lot of those in our rankings has gone from being a hobby to a full-time job, with blogging now an established career path.

Not only has blogging become a profession, but blogs have become credible sources of information, with people following their favourites for recipe inspiration, beauty tips or fitness workouts – all of which have been particularly useful in lockdown! This has allowed creators and their audiences to share experiences and led to the creation of new communities.

A perfect example of community is with mental health bloggers. Last month we sponsored the Mental Health Blog Awards, which brought together and celebrated the work of those blogging, podcasting and vlogging about mental health.

And in a few months, we’ll be celebrating our own community of bloggers, vloggers, podcasters and influencers at the annual Online Influence Awards. For the first time, nominations are open for a chance to be shortlisted, before our independent judging panel selects winners. There are 14 categories from fashion, food and fitness to disruptor and newcomer – and entry is free.

The phrase ‘write what you know’ has never been more true when it comes to blogging, so whether you’re passionate about pets or bonkers for baking why not get creative and share your love through the power of words with your very own blog – and if it’s before 9 October, you could be our next Best Newcomer.

Top 5 tips for starting a blog

1. Find your passion and stick to it – a single topic or niche can help you grow a loyal and engaged audience

2. Don’t waste time trying to be everywhere at once – work out what channels work, and don’t work, for you

3. Post consistently – if it’s once a week or once a day, a consistent schedule keeps your audience engaged

4. Read other blogs and comment – blogging is a community, you don’t have to be part of it but if you’re looking to reach more people then the community can help you grow

5. Make sure you’re listed in Vuelio – only blogs listed in the Vuelio Media Database can be ranked in our top 10s

tips for selling in a crisis

How to sell in a pandemic

This is a guest post from Darryl Sparey, Managing Director at Hard Numbers.

“I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell / I am a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a well.”

These are the words of philosopher, poet, business mogul, tech entrepreneur, philanthropist and billionaire Shawn Corey Carter, also known by a host of other nicknames, including Jay-Z.

And that ‘can-do’ spirit, the mindset that whatever adverse conditions you face you will find a way to succeed, the focus on results over externalities, are things that definitely speak to anyone founding an agency or a business in a global pandemic, and the ensuing recession that has followed it. The market conditions aren’t quite ‘hell’, but they’re not far from it.

And yet new agencies abound in 2020, despite the challenging headwinds that face us. Coldr, Shook, Play, Boldspace, Mixology Communications, Priestley, Authentic Comms, Made by Giants, and a host of others have all started in the last few months. And another agency that’s been added to this crowded starting line-up is my own, Hard Numbers. The thing that will define success or failure for all of these agencies, including my own, will be our ability to create opportunities to pitch for and competitively win new business.

Fortunately for me and the Hard Numbers team, I’ve a wee bit of experience on the business development side of things, which has been incredibly useful in the last few weeks. So here’s a few things I’ve learned from the last twenty years, which I’ve been putting into practice in the last two months or so…

1) Have a demonstrable, provable point of difference
There are thousands of agencies out there, and as many freelancers. It’s a buyers’ market. So your proposition needs to be genuinely differentiated. You need to have a unique selling point which is of benefit to your prospective client, and defensible externally. And ‘we’ve got great people’ or ‘we’ve won awards’ does not cut the mustard, because everyone else is saying that.

2) Have an idea of your ICP/define your Ideal Customer Prospect
This should be based on your current or previous client expertise, and the desired sectors you want to grow in. You should know the size and stage of business that you do your best work for, and the verticals they are in (clue: it is NOT ‘B2B businesses’) and the typical role that you sell into within these organisations. Then go and find these prospects online. This is your prospect database.

3) Shy bairns get nowt
My fiancé is from the North East, and she bought me a keyring with this saying on. It goes everywhere with me, literally. And it means, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Business is not won by waiting for people to ask you.

4) Always be getting commitment
Like shell suits, smoking in PG movies and Calvin Harris tunes, ‘always be closing’ was acceptable in the 80s. But things are different now. At every stage of the sales process, you should be looking to secure your prospects’ commitment to the next stage. If not, you’ll run the very distinct risk of being ghosted, and there’s no Peter Venkman or Egon Spengler to help you out in that scenario.

5) Make time for new business
Too many agency owners run to the comfort of existing client work, or think that ‘liking’ stuff their prospects put on LinkedIn is sales. You need to carve out dedicated time in a disciplined fashion on a weekly basis to make approaches, set-up calls and meetings, and get in front of your target prospects.

6) Use a CRM
You cannot manage a pipeline effectively on a shared Google doc or spreadsheet. Invest in a CRM system to help you manage your contacts, visualise and forecast your pipeline, and execute marketing campaigns. HubSpot is a CRM which is free to use, and there are many others like Pipedrive, Sugar CRM, Copper, Insightly and, the big one, Salesforce. If you’re serious about it, plug this data into QuarterOne, and give yourself unrivalled ability to forecast pipeline. If you’re at a larger agency and you’re REALLY serious about it, use Kluster’s AI product to diagnose problems in your sales acquisition strategy.

If you do all of the above, you’ve got more than a puncher’s chance of having success, in any climate. And whether you find yourself in the coldest winter, with nothing to sell but ice, or somewhere rather hotter (which, frankly could be anywhere in the UK based on mid-August) with just fire to shift, you’ll be OK.

Crafts on Sea bee

Crafty Blogger Spotlight: Kate Williams, Crafts on Sea

If you’re running low on ideas when it comes to your next family macramé project, or you just want to know what that word means (pro tip: a textile that uses knotting techniques), Kate Williams has all the makings for cute crafts for kids at Crafts on Sea.

In today’s Spotlight, Kate talks scavenger hunts during lockdown, downloadable trees and the importance of paying people for their work.

What keeps you passionate about craft and blogging about it?
I think like a lot of people, I go through phases where I just get a block and think there’s literally nothing else new left to make, but then I have an idea and suddenly my notebooks are filled with things to make. I started this week with no ideas, and by Wednesday I was running around the garden with my daughter making and photographing. Once it’s photographed, I’m desperate to share it!

What originally got you into creating things?
After I had my son, I started my blog as a way of sharing the things that I was making, sewing, silversmithing, that sort of thing. Then I realised that my kids’ crafts were way more popular than mine, so I stuck with that!

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
Having both children at home has meant that I’ve had much less time available to work, as looking after them is my main priority (I realise that I’m very privileged to be able to just drop things a bit and concentrate on them). During the main part of lockdown, I wrote up a scavenger hunt that I’d made for them to do with their cousins on Zoom and that was a big hit. So many parents are in the same boat trying to think of ways to keep our kids entertained.

Do you think those who took up knitting/sewing/other traditional crafts during lockdown will continue now it’s being relaxed?
I hope so. I know quite a few friends who’ve taken up embroidery or macramé and their crafts have looked fantastic.

One craft you’d love to master but haven’t quite managed it yet?
Crochet. I’ve tried a few times but I think I just don’t have the patience for it.

Favourite crafty ideas you’ve shared on your blog?
I have a tree template that kids can decorate. During lockdown, I realised a lot of schools were linking to it for kids to use and that made me really happy!

How important is it for people to pay crafters and artists for what they create?
Everyone I know who is a craft blogger does it as a proper job that pays their mortgage. It’s absolutely fine (and a good thing!) to create purely for the joy of it but if it’s as your work then obviously there’s a financial obligation involved with that which I think most people understand.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I love it when brands have a clear idea of what they want but likewise it’s good to be able to suggest things that I think will appeal to 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?
Just email me. I’m always happy to discuss what’s worked well previously and how we could learn from that to create something new.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether craft-related or not)?
Maggie who writes Red Ted Art and Cerys at Rainy Day Mum are both lovely people and write fantastic blogs.

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LesBeMum's Kate Everall (Left)

LGBTQ+ Blogger Spotlight Kate Everall, LesBeMums

‘Listen and learn! The best thing people can do is educate themselves on basic terms such as pronouns and to not make so many assumptions,’ says Kate Everall, who blogs about LGBTQ+ issues and life with her wife Sharon and their family at LesBeMums.

Read on for how Kate continues to campaign for her community despite the COVID-19 lockdown and how to celebrate Pride from home in August.

How did you originally get started with writing about LGBTQ+ issues?
Pretty much as soon as we started trying for a baby! We’ve always been active members of our community, but we never put pen to paper. So, when we started documenting our conception journey (and then later our family life) it was rare that we didn’t speak about comparisons with heterosexual families and how LGBTQ+ people are still underrepresented.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
Just like any other parent, I LOVE talking about my child, but second place to that are LGBTQ-related topics such as LGBTQ-inclusive books for children or ways people can be better allies to our community. Anything that will basically increase visibility and raise awareness.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I’ve certainly had to balance my time a bit better and make use of scheduling tools! Children don’t quite understand the terms ‘deadlines’ or ‘Mummy needs to jump on to a Zoom call’. Plus, with my wife also working from home, our poor WiFi has been stretched to the limit!

How did you celebrate Pride this year?
Virtually! With the cancellations of Pride events we had to take our campaigning to social media. Jamie (Daddy & Dad) and I even set up ‘Pride At Home UK’ to encourage rainbow families and allies to get together at the end of August to wash social media with rainbows.

Have you been covering the intersection of race and LGBTQ+ issues on your blog?
I’ve always thought our blog was inclusive and diverse, but we could absolutely do more! My main outlet for getting messages out there has primarily been on social media, as blogs aren’t often fast enough to get a message out there, but over the next few weeks I intend on writing about ways I plan to tackle racism and how I can be a better ally to BIPOC communities. This is so I can hold myself accountable as well as encourage others to have the same conversations.

What is one thing you wish straight cis people would take on in their day to day lives to be better allies to LGBTQ+ people?
Listen and learn! It’s no longer acceptable to automatically think that families are made up of one husband and one wife. Even today I find myself coming out to people, having to correct their assumption that I have a husband or that my son has a father. The best thing people can do is educate themselves on basic terms such as pronouns and to not make so many assumptions.

Do you think people should boycott Harry Potter books in light of JK Rowling’s sharing of harmful ideologies?
I was devastated when I read what JKR had written about the Trans community, but that didn’t make me want to burn all my Harry Potter merchandise. I think people should avoid giving people like JKR a platform, but the universe she’s created is still important as it’s a community in itself. There are people who have become the people they are today by reading Harry Potter and I think it still deserves a space in society. That being said, I may think twice about endorsing anything in future that may line her pockets!

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
Collaborations seem to come like buses at the moment. I can go months between campaigns (which is a perfect time to do some admin!) and then suddenly I’m working flat out, so I don’t really have any advice in regards to keeping the work flowing. For me though, the most important thing about working with brands and building those relationships is being genuine. We only work with brands we genuinely like, and more often than not, I’ve been a customer of theirs in the past anyway. Engage with their content and show them what you have to offer.

I love working with family brands who are inclusive and diverse, as well as those who are generous with their time and transparent with disclosure! It’s so reassuring to see a contract that says work MUST be suitably advertised as such and when I’ve been given ample time to create the best work. Some of the best collaborations have been when respect is given from both sides.

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 the time, my DMs are always open on social media, but once the conversation starts to go down the route of collaborations (and money!) I prefer to move onto email.

We’re a pretty mixed bag content wise (although we haven’t yet ventured much into YouTube), but if you want a bright and colourful family to showcase your brand (or holiday resort! Haha!) then look no further. Being an LGBTQ+ family, we like to think we bring something different to the table.

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
Gosh, where do I start? My reading list is ever-changing, but at the moment I’m currently reading (and watching) Sareta Fontaine and the back catalogues of Tinuke Bernard, who was previously CircusMum.com. I also love catching up on the adventures of Two Dads UK.

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Mental Health Blog Awards

Mental Health Blog Awards Moves To Online Delivery

This is a guest post by Mike Douglas, host of the Mental Health Blog Awards and blogger at Mike’s Open Journal.

On Saturday 25th July 2020, I hosted the third Mental Health Blog Awards. Once again, I was proud and privileged to be the host, but this year was very different.

The Beginning
After 18 months of planning, the first Mental Health Blog Awards was held in Portsmouth on the final Saturday in July 2018, bringing together like-minded passionate individuals who were invested in mental health blogging.

Inclusion was a big part of the planning for me. I know you can never do everything, but I really wanted everyone to have the option to attend. So venues had to have accessible rooms and toilets, I wanted to make sure there was an outside space (for anyone that wanted or needed to take a break from the event), and there needed to be space for our speakers (which we added to our programme for that second year). Additionally, a good line of sight and lighting for those that may have difficulties hearing or not wanting to be sat ‘at the front’.

I am hugely delighted that we are able to hold the awards ceremony and provide that recognition to our winners.. Their wins showed that mental health blogging is recognised, respected, valued and is helping people tofeel less alone andto signpost to resources and support. It’s helping people become more educated, including knowing that mental health is not just about illness. It can be and is, about our wellbeing, about the things we do to feel good, happy, positive. You don’t need to have experienced a diagnosable illness to talk about mental health.

Replanning 2020
This year was more than a little different. A worldwide pandemic made our planned venue for 2020 in Oxford inaccessible and the whole day had to be rethought. Fairly quickly the plan was made to shift to an online event, there were limited options available.Honestly, it was online or cancel.

I was super fortunate to have some amazing speakers who agreed to adapt slightly and record their sessions before the event, so they could be played as a pre-recorded section. This proved to be a huge plus on the day, as the sessions could be lined up and signal/ connection was slightly less of a concern. Additionally, this meant our speakers where available to reply live via the chat box to attendees thoughts, feedback and questions.

That interaction was key to keeping the day running and ensuring a good flow throughout the day. With the event running 11.30am/12pm to 4pm attendees wellbeing was a big consideration when replanning the event. In addition to the planned midway break, short intervals were added after each workshop, with the encouragement that attendees looked away from the screen for five minute intervals and moved around. Four+ hours is a long time to be on a video call, so these breaks became super important.
Moving to online had another big change – no big hugs, waves across the room, no private chats with that person you know from online but are now meeting for the first time. That was something I really noticed and something I still think about.

But whoosh, the positive. Having no location, being online massively fitted in with the idea of being more accessible and having attendees from across the UK showed that there is a desire to attend from people that may not be able to travel to a location because of the travel time or cost. Having an online option really fits well with one of our key themes, being inclusive/ accessible – keeping an online option is definitely something that will be looked at for 2021.

Looking Forward
There is a growing number of tasks, thought processes and considerations that need to be made with an event such as this. I am super-glad that from September 2020 there will be MHBA Community Leaders who will be helping me with the evolution of the Awards and our journey moving forward.

One group of people I have not mentioned yet is our sponsors, these awesome people have helped the event run, provide insight, support and encouragement at needed times. A huge thanks to our sponsors who this year were: Damien Smith, Know Yourself Podcast, Big Man Beard, Mental Movement Magazine, Instant Counselling and Vuelio.

I am delighted there was still a Mental Health Blog Awards 2020, but being honest it was a lot of effort and stress. Hopefully we are in person next year, but whatever happens, however the event is delivered; I feel much more confident that we can be hosted online and that it opens up possibilities for us in terms of inclusion and accessibility. I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you at next year’s Mental Health Blog Awards.

Work-related stress

CIPR survey finds mental health of 8 in 10 PRs has been impacted by COVID-19

82% of PR and communications professionals surveyed by CIPR’s Health Group answered ‘yes’ to having felt an impact on their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey, exploring the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on those within the industry, asked questions focusing on the pandemic’s effect on both teams and individuals, how prepared companies had been, as well the continuing value of communications. The results show an industry working harder than ever through increasingly stressful times, on both personal and professional levels.

Findings from the CIPR Health Group:

– Nearly 50% of PR practitioners have been working longer hours, with one-third of practitioners working an extra 1-2 hours per day. Over 15% have been working five or more extra hours a day
– Around 85% worked overtime unpaid
– Just over 59% have seen their role and responsibilities change as a result of COVID-19
– 28% hadn’t taken any annual leave
– Less than a quarter had accessed mental health support over the last six months
– More than half of respondents said their organisation placed ‘a lot’ of value on communications during the crisis

That PR practitioners are pushing themselves to the limit while working through such challenging circumstances follows on from the flagging of mental health issues within the industry in last year’s CIPR State of the Profession survey. The 2019 report found a quarter (23%) of PRs had taken sickness absence from work on the grounds of stress, anxiety or depression.

Speaking on the results from the latest survey of its members, CIPR Health Group Chair Rachel Royall summed up the extraordinary stress happening within the industry: ‘Many people have made huge personal sacrifices in relation to not being able to see vulnerable family members, to dealing with the challenges of bereavement or family members being diagnosed with illness. Many individuals were furloughed, or grappled with maintaining their business, not to mention the stress of homeschooling.

‘I have been astounded by the excellence in professional practice that I have observed over the last few months – however, we must now make sure we look after our healthcare comms community and their wellbeing. Check in on your colleagues, take a break and be kind to yourself.’

To help with the increased pressures of work during the pandemic, free access to the iprovision Mental Health Hotline, accredited counsellors, as well as support for those with personal, legal and financial difficulties, has been made available by the CIPR to its members.

Read more from the results of this CIPR Health Group survey on the website.

Natalie Trice

4 ways to celebrate your wins – big, small or hardly there at all

This is a guest post from Natalie Trice, award winning PR coach and lecturer.

While PE with Joe Wicks, growing veg in the garden, and clapping for carers on Thursday nights may have been part of the honeymoon period of COVID-19, nearly six months into this ‘new normal’ and there is no denying that for some PR professionals it’s been a hard slog.

Going to networking and attending meetings, catching up with colleagues, after work drinks with friends and simply having the freedom to do as you please, are an integral part of the job, and when they’re snatched away all of a sudden, things can start to feel a little bit fragile and the ‘not good enough’ gremlins can come crawling back to you haunt you.

Let’s face it, working in PR is great but it also takes nerves of steel, bags of resilience and a tenacious spirit to get on with the job and keep coming up with the goods. When you are pitching into a void, your press contacts are on furlough and client budgets are being cut faster than the banana bread you’ve been baking for the past few months, it’s little surprise you might start questioning yourself and your abilities.

Everyone’s situation is different, and the pandemic is coming at us all at different angles, but those age-old feelings of not being good enough can snap at our heels when we least expect it and Imposter Syndrome has a tendency to make an unwelcome appearance when the chips are down, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have some tips to share with you that I hope will help you to keep calm and carry on the way I know you can.

1) Forget the filters
Yes, it might seem that everyone else has got their stuff together on social media, but look beyond the posts and think about what is really going on. Seeing daily client wins on Facebook and cool, colourful co-ordinated content on Instagram isn’t always a true reflection of what is really happening (I’ve been known to bribe my kids for perfect pics), so don’t let those things dial-up the negative frequencies in your life. Look at the content you put out there, see how true you are being to yourself, cheer on your peers but just keep the filters in check, and remember that we never really know what is going on with someone else.

2) Remember that this isn’t the end of the world
Rather than going right for the worst-case scenario, that it’s all going totally wrong, just steady yourself and see what your truth is. When your mind wanders towards worry and the frightening feelings of uncertainty return, refocus your mind on the present moment, look at what you can do in the here and now and remember, you are going to get through this. Yes, losing work and having uncertainty about the career you have been working hard to build over the years isn’t great, but putting one foot in front of the other, looking at what you still have to do and creating a plan, is one way to move ahead.

3) Get it down on paper
I haven’t kept a diary for many years, but over the past few months I’ve started to do it again, and love it. It’s part thoughts, part memes, the odd drawing, a lot of lists and at the end of the day I write down three good things – something that we do in The PR Pro Hub as well. I won’t be winning any Booker Prizes for my journal, but it’s great to have somewhere to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper, and it could help you too.

4) Celebrate your wins

Big, small or hardly there at all – a win, is a win. You might think that you can only shout about a new job or a client getting a double page spread in The Times, but to get there you will have taken many smaller steps and they all deserve some recognition. Whether it’s finally doing your accounts, writing a blog post for your website or even drinking a hot cuppa without reheating it in the microwave, twice, give yourself a break and see the progress you are making.

Remember that you can do this. Things might feel tough right now, but they will get better.

Find out more about Natalie Trice’s work at her website. Her three-month group programme The PR Pro Collective launches in September.

Heart Handmade UK

A Crafty Blogger Spotlight with Claire Donovan, Heart Handmade UK

If the rising summer heat has you happy to stay indoors this weekend, try out a new hobby with help from Claire Donavan of Heart Handmade UK. Crafting doesn’t have to be too complicated, as Claire shares tutorials and mini-courses that won’t take up too much energy but will result in something pretty cool. Unless it’s inking calligraphy while on a new Chaise Lounge – leave that craft to the experts…

What keeps you passionate about craft and blogging about it?
Craft has been the one constant in the past 13 years that has been great for my mental health. The fact that I was able to deal with a mystery illness that ended up being a rare genetic disorder (which we didn’t discover for eight years), experiencing a brand new seizure disorder, years of hospital visits, tests, becoming bed bound then housebound…

Crafting and creativity is the light that shone for me and continues to shine. Blogging about it is my way of sharing my skills and contributing to society through my business. It’s part of a great coping strategy that also ends up decorating my home in the most stunning way. I’m physically unable to do a lot of things, but I can make stuff and do it well. Why would I not cultivate that passion!?

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
My approach hasn’t really changed since I’ve kind of been in lockdown since 2009 and the skills people wanted to learn during that time were all on my site. Either through tutorials, list posts or mini-courses, as everything I do is fairly low energy/high ROI and almost all indoors.

Do you think those who took up knitting/sewing/other traditional crafts during lockdown will continue now it’s being relaxed?
Some will, of course, some will have found it to be incredibly relaxing and others may have found it an intensely frustrating experience.

One craft you’d love to master but haven’t quite managed it yet?
Dip pen calligraphy. After an incident with some hot pink ink and a custom-made Chaise, I haven’t returned to dip pen calligraphy. But I love it; the style is breath-taking. Those upstrokes always caused problems but I’m able to do it on the iPad now so I may venture back to dip pen calligraphy at some point.

Favourite crafty ideas you’ve shared on your blog?
There are a decades’ worth on there! I’ve created a lot of crafting templates, craft magazines and tutorials as well as having some expert guests sharing their favourite projects. My favourite craft is quite possibly the Ping Pong Polka Dot Party Lights I created using Sharpie paint pens.

How important is it for people to pay crafters and artists for what they create?
It’s incredibly important. If anyone does work, they deserve to be paid in some way. Whether it’s the reader of the free tutorial who really enjoyed it and ‘pays’ by sharing or clicking on an ad that interests them, or a brand who wants to collaborate, with a budget included. Either way, folks should be compensated if they make things for you that you use and enjoy.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I create a photo or video tutorials or even collaborate by having something like a year-long Pinterest marketing campaign by creating a tutorial a month and sharing the collage on Pinterest to my 1.2 million followers.

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 PRs want to get in touch with me, I prefer personalised emails instead of PR blasts (which I automatically delete). If they want me to do something specific, reach out, say hello, tell me what is coming up and what you would love for me to do with that information. It saves us both a lot of time and makes work much easier for us both, and helps to avoid disappointment.

Kids craft and creative content is always popular with my readers; if promoting a new book, instead of sending me a copy to review, create a guest post with an example project from the book and I would happily add it to my site.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether craft-related or not)?
Mostly industry-related blogs like RankMath, Neil Patel and Skimlinks. A few crafty/arty blogs I enjoy are EasyOnTheTongue, KerryMayMakes and ZiniaRedo.

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DRIVEN Pledge

PRFest launches the DRIVEN Pledge

PRFest has launched the DRIVEN Pledge to help tackle inclusion, diversity and equality issues within the PR and communications industry.

The DRIVEN Pledge tool is available free to industry leaders and professionals working to make change in their organisations and follows the launch of the DRIVEN Framework at PRFest in June.

Founder Laura Sutherland cites insight shared during this year’s panels – including Reuben Sinclair co-founder and managing director Rohan Shah’s ‘How to recruit based on values and purpose’ and the Taylor Bennett Foundation chief executive Melissa Lawrence, PRCA director general Francis Ingham, CIPR President Jenni Field and CIPR chief executive Alastair McCapra discussion of accountability – as major contributors to the DRIVEN Pledge: ‘We had really great conversations around challenges and solutions this year. This insight and content turned into the Pledge, with a view to getting practitioners to commit to change.’

‘Being collaborative is essential in my view,’ believes Laura. ‘The final event, featuring CIPR, PRCA and Taylor Bennett Foundation, was geared to being an industry-wide conversation to discuss accountability, but it was also an opportunity to be aligned and to outline why and how leaders and individual practitioners should be making progress in their own way.

‘It was essential to have these organisations involved, and to have their endorsements. As an active industry ambassador for both CIPR and PRCA, I know how important it is for both organisations to be on the same platform, for such important conversations.

‘I’ve publicly declared my pledges and now I urge practitioners, teams and agencies to make theirs!’

Francis Ingham said: ‘Our industry has faced some very hard truths in recent months about the levels of discrimination faced by Black and ethnic minority professionals. It’s essential we all proactively play our part to help the industry achieve the aspirations we have for it. I urge members and the wider industry to take the DRIVEN Pledge so we can hold each other accountable in achieving workplace diversity and inclusivity.’

For Melissa Lawrence at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, change has been too slow so far: ‘The PR industry has had an inconsistent record of successfully delivering Diversity and Inclusion programmes. Progress has been made, but at a glacial pace. PRFest’s new DRIVEN Pledge gives industry leaders a roadmap to create real change through well-meaning action.

‘This resource is fluid and allows businesses to adapt it to suit their organisations individual needs. Now is the time for change!’

Find out more about the DRIVEN Pledge on the PRFest website, and watch the video outlining the aims and inspiration behind it. For more on the work of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, read our interview with chief executive Melissa Lawrence here.

Online Influence Awards 2020

Call for nominations: The Online Influence Awards 2020

This year’s Online Influence Awards, the UK’s leading celebration of the best bloggers, vloggers and digital storytellers, will take place on Friday 20 November, 5-7pm.

While the impact of COVID-19 has meant a move away from a physical event to an online extravaganza, Vuelio has taken the opportunity to reevaluate all aspects of the awards, from nominations and shortlisting to the announcement of winners, ensuring every part of the industry is recognised.

The launch follows the publication of the annual UK Influencer Survey, which revealed that one in five (19%) influencers say it is now their main source of income – indicating an increasing number of professional influencers. On the brand side, a recent study from TopRank Marketing found that 63% of marketers agree they would have better results if they included an influencer marketing programme.

To expand our recognition of this burgeoning industry, the 2020 all-virtual event invites influencers, as well as their fans, friends and supporters, to nominate themselves. A shortlist will be drawn from those that demonstrate the highest quality of content and impact, which will be reviewed by a judging panel of industry experts. The process is designed to be as inclusive as possible from start to finish, highlighting and celebrating true talent within the influencer community.

Entrants to this year’s awards can use any channel in their role as an influencer, from blogging and vlogging to Instagramming and Podcasting. The 16 categories for this year’s Online Influence Awards are:

Arts & Entertainment

Beauty

Parenting

Food & Drink

Health & Fitness

Interior Design

LGBTQ+

Fashion

Travel & Leisure

Current Affairs

PR & Comms

Lifestyle

Newcomer

Disruptor/Changemaker

Best Campaign

Cause-led influencer campaign

You can find the nomination form for the Online Influence Awards 2020 here – best of luck to everyone taking part.

Lucy Werner

A hyped-up spotlight on Lucy Werner, author of Hype Yourself

For no-nonsense tips on how to hype up your business, Lucy Werner is here to help. Founder of The Wern and author of Hype Yourself: A no-nonsense DIY PR toolkit for small businesses, Lucy wants to share her wealth of PR and comms experience with people just starting out with public relations, as well as PR book charts too often dominated by male writers.

With so much having changed within the industry and across the globe since the original publication of the book, Lucy tells us the extra advice she would give if she could add another chapter, and what have been the main challenges for her as a PR working through lockdown.

What inspired you to write the book?
A lot of PR books are written by male journalists-turned-PR-experts. I wanted to explain the strategy behind a PR campaign based on my agency experience as well as represent the female PR folk out there. The PR industry is made up of nearly two-thirds women, but this isn’t represented in the Amazon PR book charts.

Hype Yourself by Lucy Werner

In light of how the PR industry has had to adapt in light of the current health pandemic, what would you add if you could include another chapter?
I lightly mention crisis PR in the book and for many businesses, the pandemic did warrant a crisis PR response. I would actually borrow an internal mantra from Mailchimp: ‘Listen Hard, Change Fast’. I would also add that keeping open, honest and regular communication is key. Getting ahead of consumer backlash is always the one. We don’t mind mistakes, but we do want people to own them. And talk through how you are dealing with them, even if it’s just a holding note or message while you figure out a solution – say something.

I also think that beyond the health pandemic, it is especially important for businesses that have now woken up to unconscious bias in their communications. We have learnt a lot in the aftermath of George Floyd, but being actively anti-racist needs to be more than just a black square. It feels like a pivotal moment that must maintain momentum. If I was to write it again, I would definitely look to include more information from a diversity and inclusion expert to help inform businesses of practical steps they can take to not just be anti-racist but to consider all aspects of inclusivity.

How has the COVID-19 impacted your own day-to-day life and work in the industry?
In all honestly, the changes I have made have been my own choice rather than what has been put upon me, such as running ‘Pay what you can afford’ lunchtime workshops. I run my agency from my garden office and we have both PR and a branding side. There was definitely an initial hit and we lost a few projects but I have deliberately moved away from the traditional PR agency model which I don’t think serves the small business and entrepreneur community as well. It means that a lot of the PR work I do is split across workshops, lecturing, coaching as well as direct consultancy work so I have a lot of flexibility in income while I juggled lack of childcare.

What would be your first tip for small businesses looking to start putting a PR strategy together in-house in the current climate?
I walk you through a PR strategy in the first chapter of my book and you can download a free PDF template to complete. But the biggest tip I would give from that as a takeaway is, don’t start with the places you want your press coverage to appear. Start with what your business objectives are and tailor the PR accordingly. It may be that you need to focus on more digital marketing than publicity if your budget is tight.

For you, what are the main advantages for businesses doing their own publicity, rather than bringing in an external PR agency?
No publicist is ever going to have the same passion and knowledge about your business as you do. For me, there is a unique magic energy in the way that business founders are able to tell their own story.

Are there any campaigns you’ve seen from small businesses you’d pinpoint as great examples of no-nonsense PR?
I always cite the two women behind Squiggly Career as an excellent example of a service business smashing their personal branding. The rise of the personal brand has been hard to ignore, particularly during the pandemic and I definitely believe they give straight, no BS advice.

During the pandemic, there were some amazing business pivots from businesses like Crosstown Doughnuts who were also co-founders of independent delivery platform Slerp. Cat Food Cakes, who read my book, also smashed it with her own PR and bagged herself a prime-time slot on the BBC talking about her own business pivot. The sales from this spot of press coverage helped cover her business costs for the following few months!

As someone who trains, blogs, speaks and writes on the subject, do you think anyone can pick up the basics of PR?
Yes – I do. PR isn’t rocket science. At a basic level, it’s finding creative ways to tell a good story. I think it’s a myth that you need loads of great journalist contacts. From my own experiences, and that of people I teach to do it for themselves, the people who succeed are the ones who know how to get straight to the matter at the right time!

You’ve worked with big brands during your time in PR as founder of The Wern – how did you get your own start in PR/what attracted you to the industry?
My older brother helped out Way To Blue with their I.T. when they were based in Broadwick Street and focused only on music online PR. He managed to get me a work experience placement when I was 17 and I fell in love. Even though I was doing the office donkey work, I was having a great time.

PR has a diversity problem – what can those working in the industry do to encourage inclusion on their teams and in their work with clients?
It needs to start from the top down. I know all too well from experience that junior staff fear rocking the boat by raising difficult questions. Senior staff need to be more vocal about this being important to them and inviting constructive feedback and input from their teams. More effort needs to be placed on recruiting work experience, PR apprentices and junior positions from a wider pool and, most importantly, paying them fairly.

When it comes to working with clients, a lot of white able-bodied folk still don’t have the language or confidence to communicate effectively in this area. I believe all communications consultancies have a responsibility to continually train and develop their staff in this area.

How have you noticed the relationship between PR and journalism changing during your career?
I think there is a lot more crossover between PR/journalism and marketing in general with the decline in print media, and the rise of digital media and the opportunities that come with that. I don’t, however, think this has changed the love/hate relationship between journalists and PRs. I just think there is maybe more empathy with people who straddle more than one vocation.

Hype Yourself: A no-nonsense DIY PR toolkit for small businesses is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. Follow Lucy Werner on Twitter @LucyWern, on Instagram @wernchat and check out her work with The Wern on the website.