PR needs the BBC

Dead cat or party policy, the very real threat to end the BBC licence fee announced by culture secretary Nadine Dorries – before she partially backtracked – should be a concern to all in PR.

The announced two-year freeze to the BBC licence fee will impact its output, and director general Tim Davie has said ‘everything’s on the agenda’, including news and programming. While commentary on the small amount of money the freeze is saving each household – compared to the costs of rising energy bills or tax changes – suggests this move was politically motivated during ‘partygate’, the conversation around BBC reform and its replacement has been present in Westminster for many years.

Jessica Morgan, owner of Carnsight Communications, believes the end of the BBC ‘Would be devastating for so many.’ She added: ‘We are so lucky to have a quality national broadcaster in the BBC and I’ve benefited from it so much, both professionally and personally.’

The BBC is by no means perfect, questions continue to be raised on its editorial position on certain subjects, and its funding model is not as progressive as public broadcasters in some neighbouring countries. But it has the biggest audience, its output and content streams are vast and, though it is often criticised for not achieving it, the corporation is required to be impartial and deliver content without commercial association.

This is one of the reasons the BBC gets such a hard time in much of the press – in a digital age, it has become one of the news sector’s biggest competitors and it is not reliant on consumer payment to justify its content.

But for PR and comms professionals, this should be seen as one of its virtues.

Jessica said: ‘It’s still incredibly discerning – you always have to have a very strong angle to be featured, and I think that’s fantastic. No commercial tie ups ever come into it, certainly within the UK, and I think that makes the content all the more powerful.’

PR rightly focuses on the increasing threat of mis and disinformation, audience trust and journalistic independence. The BBC, despite its flaws, generally manages these issues to a high standard and trust in the organisation remains high. Securing PR coverage with the BBC means your story has passed quality control and will have a greater impact on your target audience.

And if your target audience is niche, which organisation is better able to serve them appropriate content than the BBC? Not needing consumer payment for content cuts both ways in this respect. All things to all people is usually a terrible approach – and the BBC has at times wildly missed the mark – but it is required to serve as much of the population as possible, often giving unique or underrepresented communities a greater platform.

Media strategist and How to make your company famous author Jon Card points to niche audiences as something that would be lost if the licence fee was scrapped: ‘The BBC produces such a broad range of content any reduction in its output would spell bad news for people in comms and PR.

‘It covers a lot of areas which are either quite niche or the public interest. I very much doubt the commercial sector would fill these voids if it stopped doing that.’

The BBC is under threat but 2027 is still a long way off and PR and communications is well placed to support and campaign for improvements to the BBC now, so it can benefit from the BBC of the future.

As Jon concluded: ‘Overall, we are better off for it and anyone working in media would miss it.’

Vuelio media monitoring covers BBC news and programming as well as every other media outlet and publisher.

Promoting finance products with non-money influencers

Why non-money influencers may be best placed to promote financial services

This is a guest post from award-winning parenting blogger Jo Middleton, Slummy Single Mummy.

As a financial organisation, you want to get your brand in front of as many people as possible, so you go to the money influencers, right?

Yes. And also no.

While niche money blogs and social media accounts have a wealth of experience in writing about finances, there are lots of benefits to thinking more widely about the influencers you ask to talk about your product or service.

Not convinced? Here are just a few reasons why non-money influencers may be best placed to promote financial services.

They make financial information accessible

When your day-to-day is all ISAs and defined benefits, it can be hard to step outside of that and create financial content that’s genuinely accessible and engaging. Financial inclusion is hugely important though, and one way to make sure that you reach traditionally marginalised groups, such as women, people living with a disability or people living in poverty, is to speak to them directly, through influencers who actually represent them and their circumstances.

If you want to reach a particular community, find that person who they can connect with, who can talk about you in a simple and authentic way.

They often have untapped expertise

Don’t assume that just because an influencer chooses to talk about fashion, food or travel, that they don’t have any financial value to add. For example, I happen to have an economics degree and I trained as an actuary – you probably wouldn’t get that from my Slummy Single Mummy blog name.

Donna, who writes the parenting blog What The Redhead Said, is another great example. Her experience as a family blogger, combined with her financial background, means she can talk in a relatable way but with the back up of expert knowledge.

‘I’m a family lifestyle blogger,’ says Donna, ‘but I also used to be a bank manager. I know all the banking jargon, from ISAs and TESSAs to SVRs and early redemption charges. I know that typical people don’t understand all the terms, though – they like to know about a wide range of topics but they want to hear about it in a way that they can understand. As family bloggers, we’re friendly and approachable and our followers know that if they don’t understand something, they can ask and we’ll explain.’

They can share relatable, personal experiences

Financial products aren’t always the aspirational savings and investment type services – sometimes we need to talk about the difficult subjects like debt or tools for managing a low income. In these cases what readers often need is a relatable story, a connection with a ‘normal’ person who can say ‘this happened to me, this is what I found useful.’

Nyxie writes Nyxie’s Nook, a mental health and wellness blog, which includes content around personal finance, often aimed at people on low income or experiencing debt.

‘Whether or not we like it, money and finances are always in our lives,’ says Nyxie. ‘Some people shy away from the topic, but talking about money and debt normalises it and can make it feel more manageable. I write about money from my personal experience and that makes it more relatable at the same time as bringing a fresh perspective. I hope that people reading my blog can think “Okay, she’s been through this too, it’s not just me” and feel empowered to work through difficult financial situations with more confidence.’

They can give a financial product or service context

Let’s say you’re trying to sell a savings product. Yes, you may have a decent interest rate and some cool product features, but what’s really motivating that potential customer to save? What’s the context?

Thinking about the customer in a broader context can help you connect with the influencers who might reach them, whatever their niche. For example, a single woman in her 20s who is saving for a dream travel experience is much more likely to follow young travel influencers than a money blog. A couple saving for their first home are following the crafters, the DIY and the interiors influencers.

‘Financial content always gets a reaction,’ says John, a well-established parent blogger at Dad Blog UK, ‘because everyone has an interest in financial services. In the early years you’re buying nappies and buggies, in the tween years you’re maybe looking at getting your child their first phone, then at secondary school you have to buy laptops.’

Every purchase of a financial product or service has a context, and influencers can really help you tap into this.

While there is still value in working with money influencers, we hope this article has shown you that thinking outside the box and expanding your pool of partners could have a positive impact on your next influencer outreach campaign.

Ready to find relevant influencers for your next finance campaign? Find them on the Vuelio Media Database – book a demo here

Wadds Inc Almanac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges and triumphs of 2021 in comms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trends in PR and communications for 2022

10 PR and Communications Trends For 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want more from the above thought leaders sharing their predictions?

accessmatters with Asad Dhunna from The Unmistakables

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

BDB Pitmans’ Stuart Thomson on public affairs in 2021

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

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

International campaigns

Ensuring effective and successful communications across different cultures

This is a guest post by Life Size‘s PR Intern Martha Lane.

If you’re running an international communications campaign, adapting your approach towards each individual audience is essential. However, this means much more than simply translating content into the appropriate language. Instead, a deep understanding of each of your target cultures must form the basis of your campaign. Here is how to achieve this and set your international communications campaign up for success.

Stage 1: Check the relevance of your topic in your target country
A good place to start is to dedicate some time to researching how the topic of your campaign is viewed in your target country. While it would be easy to assume that consensus on your topic is similar to your native country, this won’t necessarily be the case. Your research should provide answers to some key questions, such as:

– Is your topic widely discussed in the news there? Is it discussed by the mainstream media, or is it limited to industry press?
– What is the political importance of this topic? Is there any relevant legislation in place in your target country that you should be aware of?
– What are the current societal or environmental impacts and benefits relating to this topic? How do they meet the current discussion about the environment or other ongoing social issues?
– Has it received any negative press, or do you get the impression that it is a sensitive topic? If so, it would be worth offering a fresh perspective that can provide a positive spin on the topic.

It is worth noting that negative or lukewarm press coverage on your topic does not have to be a disadvantage. Rather, you can utilise your communications campaign to be one of the first to highlight the benefits of what you are offering, giving you a unique position in the target market.

This is also an excellent time to identify your audience and decide who will be the best group to direct your campaign in a particular country. Once you have identified who you are communicating with, you can move on to the next vital step: working out how to talk to them.

Stage 2: Take the time to understand the culture of your country
At this point, it’s essential to get to the very root of your target country’s culture, such as identifying the values and beliefs that form its basis. This may sound quite overwhelming, but some useful models can be used to break down cultures into a handful of the most important underlying characteristics.

Hofstede and Trompenaars are two cultural experts who have created models that, though built with business management in mind, are equally applicable in the world of international communications. Both see culture as existing on various spectrums, within which any culture can be placed with considerable accuracy. This way of quantifying culture makes the job of communicators slightly easier.

Of course, there is variation within cultures, so the models should be applied with a degree of caution to avoid stereotyping, as personal experiences within cultures create differentiation. But the research of these experts has found that there are some predictable ways in which people within a certain culture are the same, especially when it comes to the workplace, making them valuable guides.

Stage 3: Use research to adapt content to your culture
Having researched the reception of your topic in your country, now is the time to use the understanding you have gained from the cultural models to adapt your tone. Ask yourself, how does your audience want to be spoken to? This is a crucial stage of the process that requires thorough planning. It’s easy to lose your audience in the delivery of your campaign due to cultural misunderstanding, no matter how relevant your product or service is to them.

Final stage: Don’t forget the simple things
There are the more routine details of a communications campaign to consider that may seem obvious but can be easily missed when dealing with the more complex aspects. Before releasing content, make sure to consider:

– Translation: aside from making sure your communications are translated accurately into your target language, check the translation of your product or service – make sure it isn’t offensive or hasn’t got a confusing double-meaning.
– Time zone: what time are you sending out content for your campaign in your target country? Make sure you respect any time difference and different working days.
– Visual materials: the images you use as part of the campaign may also need to be adapted. For instance, make sure that images such as landscapes are relevant to your target country as they will then resonate more with the audience there.

Following all these steps should ensure that your international communications campaign will be a success. Admittedly, it can be a long and sometimes monotonous process. However, the potential negative impact if done incorrectly, and the high rewards if the time is taken to do so properly, make the thorough process outlined above worthwhile.

Connect with the right journalists, political contacts and influencers from around the world for your international campaigns with the Vuelio Media Database – find out more and book a demo

PR Recruitment Crisis

Doing things differently – how to tackle the PR recruitment crisis by growing an agency from the ground up.

This is a guest post from Alex Blyth, managing partner of design agency PR specialist Red Setter.

‘Hire people smarter than you,’ is a truism of business management. Variously ascribed to everyone from Steve Jobs to David Ogilvy, Richard Branson, and… err… former Leeds FC manager Howard Wilkinson, it always seemed like sound advice to me, so I followed it for years.

In the early days of Red Setter I interpreted it to mean I should hire experienced PR professionals. So that’s what I did. I hired people who’d been at the biggest agencies or who’d held senior in-house roles. However, with our tenth anniversary on the horizon, and our team of 20 now known globally as the go-to people in our brand design niche, I’ve realised I was wrong.

Like many people, I’ve done a lot of thinking during the pandemic. One conclusion I’ve come to is that we need to stop hiring senior people. We need to do things differently and grow our team from the ground up. In 2021 we’ve brought in four account executives, and one journalist in her first PR role.

It’s transforming our agency for the better, and has left us relatively insulated from the highs and lows of the recruitment market many agencies have struggled with this year. Here’s the why and how of we’re doing it.

Less gambling, more learning
In the early days, the allure of those senior hires is clear. You’re buying in expertise, credibility and perhaps above all else confidence. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve learnt a huge amount from many of those people. Our agency wouldn’t be where it is today without them.

But it’s not always the ‘here’s a job spec, client base, and large salary, now off you go’ scenario that many might hope for. Especially in a highly-niched agency like Red Setter, there is a lot to learn – about the brand design sector, our clients, our media, and the very specific way of working we’ve developed over the years. We’ve learnt that we need to invest time in training joiners on all this, regardless of how much experience they’ve had.

Those earlier in their careers are typically very open to learning. They rightly demand it. They’re in the habit of it. They come with a fresh perspective, unencumbered by what was hard-won expertise elsewhere, but which here can be limiting assumptions. You also tend to avoid high salaries, recruiter costs and organisational disruption by bringing in people earlier in their careers.

You then need to make sure you deliver the learning and development they expect. We’ve had to reshape our agency from one that was focussed solely on client delivery to build in space for workshops, on-the-job coaching, and ongoing conversations around progression. We’re building a set of sessions and materials for joiners, we’re growing education skills in the team (involvement, not lectures!), everyone from account manager up has development and coaching of colleagues in their KPIs, once a week we meet as a company to share expertise, team members have been on external courses ranging from a Guardian masterclass on what journalists want to a day workshop on vocal confidence. In our weekly catch-ups, each team shares not only a highlight but also something they’ve learnt. We do a lot but it’s still very much a work in progress.

That’s just the learning aspect – we’ve also had to find new sources of this raw talent. We’ve set up an annual internship programme with the University of Sussex. The first on it is now a valued member of our team, and recently gave a talk to this year’s PR students about life in our very specific type of PR. We’re doing more and more with the University and hope to expand the internship programme in 2022.

Right time, right approach
It’s not easy, but we’re discovering benefits far beyond our original intentions. A culture of learning is adding to our skills and knowledge at all levels. That makes us not only better able to deliver to our clients but also more inspired in the work we’re doing together. And as the PR talent pool dried up throughout 2021 it was far less of a problem for us that it would have been.

I don’t think this approach is right for everyone. Larger, more generalist agencies can bring in more transferable experience. When you’re starting out, you probably need to hire expertise in key areas – we wouldn’t be able to do this if we didn’t have an experienced, talented, senior team already in place. But for us right now it feels like the right approach.

Does it mean we’ll never employ at a senior level again? Never say never. And does it mean that Jobs, Branson and Ogilvy were all wrong? Of course not. The people we’ve hired this year might be less experienced than me, but I’m pretty certain they’re also smarter than me. I’m looking forward to seeing that smartness grow into expertise over the coming years.

For more on the importance of mentoring and investing in PRs early in their career, catch up on our interviews with A Leader Like Me’s Advita Patel and the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s Melissa Lawrence

In need of a central hub to keep track of your internal and external stakeholder relationships? Find out more about Vuelio’s Stakeholder Management solutions and book a demo here

Combating COVID

Communications and Combating the Omicron Variant

This is a guest post by Louise Flintoft, associate director at Onyx Health.

The UK’s public health is in a precarious position. We’ve all seen in the news that the Omicron COVID-19 variant has been identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

At the time of writing, there are still a lot of unknowns about the new variant. However, early indications are that it is likely to be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and that our existing vaccinations are less effective against it.

In response to the uncertainty, the Government has announced a series of new measures to reduce the spread of the new variant. These currently include compulsory facemasks for public transport and retail, expanding the booster jab programme to all UK adults, new requirements PCR tests and isolation for people entering the country, and ten-day quarantine for people in contact with an infected person

The last cycle of lockdowns and compulsory COVID-19 restriction prompted one of the biggest acts of civil obedience in our peacetime history. With new restrictions looming, the Government will need to communicate behaviour change again to avoid a potential crisis. At Onyx Health, we are healthcare communication specialists and have some ideas about how we use the power of PR to re-engage the public.

Fighting COVID-19 fatigue
Let’s be honest; we’re all sick and tired of the pandemic. The success of the Government’s initial vaccine rollout and the removal of official legal restrictions earlier in the year had led many people to conclude that it was mission accomplished. However, the threat has never gone away, and it risks getting worse again.

One of the biggest dangers from a public health communication perspective is that complacency, and an unwillingness to take the potential new threat seriously, derails the effectiveness of the new rules. Re-engaging the public will be essential to make the latest changes work in practice. There is also a balance to be struck between taking things seriously and avoiding mass panic. This needs a strong, emotionally resonant message that the public can connect with.

Encouraging people to get masked up and booster jabbed to save Christmas can link behaviour change to a shared desirable outcome. Last Christmas was tough for us all. We all want to make this year’s festive season better than the last.

Helping our healthcare heroes avoid a winter crisis
The NHS is always close to the nation’s heart, but this is especially true during a public health crisis. It is arguably the closest thing we have to a national religion. During the first lockdown, the weekly clap for healthcare workers brought the nation together to thank those frontline staff who risked their lives to help us through the pandemic.

Today, the NHS faces a perfect storm of a new COVID-19 variant, the seasonal spike in winter flu cases and a general public fed up with the pandemic. Calling on people to follow the rules to help our healthcare heroes has the potential to reconnect people with that shared sense of solidarity we saw at the beginning of the pandemic. People may be willing to go the extra mile to help those who got us through the COVID-19 crisis by caring for our friends and loved ones.

Accelerating booster jabs and getting people doubled dosed
The booster jab programme was originally targeted at the elderly and vulnerable to increase their immunity to COVID-19. This week, the Government announced that it will be extended to all adults over 18 in the UK. Problems beset the initial rollout of booster vaccines for complex reasons, including the rollout’s speed, limited uptake, and confusion over eligibility. The expansion of the programme magnifies the scale of the communication challenge.

There are specific audience demographics that require specialised targeting. Increasing the immunity of those most at-risk through medical education is a key priority. We need to reach out to the elderly, vulnerable and underrepresented groups using community groups, local champions and NGOs to foster grassroots engagement and build trust from the ground up.

Another big issue is getting younger people doubled dosed. The figures show that people aged 25-29 are more vaccine-resistant and statistically less likely to have taken up the offer of a single or double vaccine dose. Targeting young people through viral content, social media influencers and pop-cultural icons provides part of the answer to create a generational mindset change. Getting through the latest stage of the pandemic requires a renewed collective national effort; as communicators, we need to do our bit.

Keep track of the conversation in the media with Vuelio’s Media Monitoring services and our sister brand Pulsar’s series of social listening solutions

Successful email campaigns

How to build strong foundations for a successful email campaign

Elliot Ross, Email Evangelist, Taxi for Email (a SparkPost company), discusses the foundation of a successful email campaign, and it all starts with your messaging.

How’s your inbox looking? If you are anything like me you receive dozens of emails every day, a good chunk of which you don’t have the time or the inclination to open, let alone read.

The question of how to get your branded email messages opened has been focusing the minds of marketing managers for well over two decades now. As the number of emails people receive has increased, so marketers have been forced to adopt ever more cunning ways of securing an opening. But why is it that we read some emails and consign others to the junk folder?

In spite of what some gurus claim there is no magic formula to getting your brand’s emails opened. There are however some golden rules to follow which will maximise your email’s chances of success and set you on the path to becoming an expert at creating the right branding and messaging for your emails.

Begin with a strategy rooted in your brand’s values
Before you even think about sending your first branded emails you need to ask yourself a few questions. Why am I sending emails as opposed to engaging on other platforms? What am I hoping to achieve? And most important of all, what does success look like?

There are five key things to consider when you are setting out your strategy:
1. What are your email goals? Think about what you want to achieve from the emails you are sending and whether email really is the right channel to help you reach that goal.
2. Who is your audience – your subscribers? What email clients do they use? What’s the support for these devices/web clients?
3. What is the one thing you want your reader to do after opening your email? This is another key place to ask yourself if email is the right channel to use?

Think about the timing of your email send. Don’t just guess when the best time to send your email will be. Look back at previous send data and make a decision informed by this previous data. 5. Outline success measures before you start. Tracking things like downloads, clicks, opens, and revenue is great, but consider setting up A/B testing for different copy or segments.

By detailing the above into an overarching strategy before you start sending your emails, you can make creative emails whilst not going off-track with the email’s overall purpose – keeping you emails in sync and recognisable to subscribers.

What kind of language are you going to use?
The most important factor when writing copy for the email is that the wording should be authentic and reflect your brand. If you work for a B2B company whose target is senior executives write in an appropriate way for that audience. Authenticity is essential for building trust and ensuring that people know that what you are saying is legitimate.

Being able to personalise email content could also help build up authenticity and trust. Is there a way you can address an individual that takes into consideration the data you already have on them? Optimising your email by making it relevant to specific audience groups will also help. Think about geographical regions, types of customers, customer preferences, etc. That way you can deliver relevant messages to either audience as opposed to one blanket email.

Remember what your email’s primary role is too. Do you want it to be informative and supportive in building a relationship between you and your customer or are you more focussed on seeking instant clicks through to your website?

The winning formula for effective email design
Creating an email strategy also encompasses working on design guidelines. These are not just helpful for designers, but anyone involved in the email process. Guidelines can be a huge time-saver and enable you to produce high-quality emails without spending too much time going back and forth with your designer. You will need to consider ideas around fonts, colours, spacing and dimensions to keep your emails recognisable with your readers.

Ultimately the two key principles of email design are:
· Create something that is both beautiful and functional that will entice your recipients into reading to the end.
· Create a design that reflects your existing brand values, which are then consistent across every communication you send.

The answer? Use an email design system (EDS), where you can set up structured templates that empower your designers creatively, but at the same time enable them to work quickly and efficiently within set boundaries.

Once the structure is agreed you can work on the design elements and start to bring in other elements of your brand, such as bespoke imagery or illustrations, GIFs and embedded videos.

Consistency is king and the importance of branding
No matter who is making and sending your branded emails, they should always be consistent, even if you work with dispersed teams who are responsible for creating emails for different products or services.

Unless it is the first email you have sent, it won’t be seen by your reader in isolation. They will have seen and interacted with your branding on other platforms, so in order to strengthen your brands perception, your email design needs to be consistent with these.

Creating a library of assets your team can use to speed up email creation whilst adhering to consistency will help. If you have a core EDS for all parts of the business, updating brand assets will be much more manageable and spotting anomalies will be far easier. You could also look into building a set of sub-templates for each product or service within the brand, with altered footers, contact details and logos, so anyone creating an email will have the elements they need to create something aligned with the brand.

Navigating the minefield that is dark mode and accessibility, and how to get it right
One of the biggest challenges for email designers is to create striking emails that also work in dark mode – the extension that helps you quickly turn the screen (browser) to dark at night-time.

To ensure your emails adapt to recipients using dark mode, you may want to consider using transparent PNGs and add a white outline around elements in your EDS. You will want to think about designing your default images for dark mode, such as social icons, logos, link colours etc. and how they’re going to contrast with the dark background.

You will need to think about accessibility too. Smaller text and thin fonts might enable you to pack more into your email, but if short-sighted readers can’t see what you have written then you have wasted your time. It is also imperative to avoid walls of text. If the copy looks too cluttered, try to split it into a few paragraphs.

Preparation, strategy and messaging are everything to an email marketer – giving customers a consistent experience regardless of where they see your brand. And if you can construct creative, yet stringent guidelines you will save yourself and your design team so much time.

Email isn’t a website, but it is a good opportunity to replicate key website aspects such as navigation and CTA style. The chances are, if someone has seen your website you will be retargeting them at multiple touchpoints. And email needs to sit within the brand framework to offer users the consistency they would expect.

Find the right journalists, influencers and high-profile people in politics to target with your upcoming campaigns with the Vuelio Media Database – find out more and book a demo

How to get inclusion right in PR and comms

‘How do we get this right?’ – accessmatters with The Unmistakables’ Asad Dhunna

‘How do you introduce yourself? Listing jobs and experiences, what that does is put a mask up over who I am as a person’ – for our latest accessmatters session, The Unmistakables’ Asad Dhunna talked how ‘not fitting in’ was a spark for him create space where everyone can.

‘Throughout my life, I recognised I didn’t really fit in. Right from Primary School. At home, my family pronounces my name in the Hindi way, so who I am in the world and who I am at home is different, automatically.

‘I did languages and people were like, “Shouldn’t you be doing Sciences or Maths?” It’s what people expected me to do. When I got to university, I had people say “Obviously, you’ll do accountancy” or “You’ll do law – something that’s expected of someone like you”. I realised by that they meant “Asian” or “of Indian heritage”.

‘That feeling of not fitting in carried on – I lived in Germany for a year and people would ask “Where are you really from?”

‘I went to work in marketing and comms. I had a push and pull – push of family saying “Really, you could get a job in a bank”. And I was thinking, do people like me belong in this industry; should I be here? In the early days of my career, I was trying to use “not fitting in” as a value rather than as a bad thing. Then I started to realise, as I became a leader, that people didn’t look like me, or have my experiences.’

The Past
The way the communications and media industries have tried to welcome people from communities and backgrounds other than the predominantly white, middle-class, university-educated and heterosexual mould has often been very well-intentioned, but not quite right.

‘Back then, people were starting to use “ERG”, “LGBTQ”, “BAME” and set up networks. I had this funny moment of people asking if I wanted to be part of the BAME or LGBTQ network – I thought I didn’t quite fit into either of these. And then someone told me about the word “intersectional”…

‘How do we make the industry more inclusive? People that look like me are more likely to set up a shop on the high street than set up an agency – I set up The Unmistakables.’

The Present
The world has had to change since the pandemic, forcing conversations that have previously been avoided or given short-shrift – businesses are having to do the work.

‘Having conversations with clients now: “how do we get this right?” – inclusivity is treated really differently today. The pandemic and George Floyd’s murder made us all sit up and engage with the conversation. Partly because we were stuck at home and we were all going through the same experience. The brutality towards marginalised communities and the systems in place made us confront that privilege is in how we live. Society has been structured in ways that doesn’t benefit all.

‘We realised the only way we could help with inclusion was an “inside-out” approach – campaigns backed by more inclusive cultures. Marketing and comms is what we see in the world, how we are communicated to and how culture evolves. And within businesses, how do employees feel with their inclusion levels? You might be really good at your job, but you might not feel included. We spent a lot of time trying to work that out.’

The Future
The Diversity & Confusion Report, released by The Unmistakables this year, found that people are more comfortable taking about death than topics like race and sexuality at work.

‘Language is always changing – people don’t know how to talk about this. 40% of professionals in our industry are afraid to use the word “black”. Why? There are political nuances with that term, so some people don’t feel comfortable using it. People are also afraid to use the terms “gay” or “disabled”. One-in-six fear that they could lose their job if they use the wrong terms. If you’re in marketing and comms, fear is the biggest thing that stops creativity.

‘We also found that people would rather use the wrong term than say what they mean. We hear “diversity” a lot – our question to those we work with is, what do you mean by “diverse”? Is it background and class, sexuality, race? I always like to encourage people to see what’s inside of that word.

‘We’re at a time where we’re rethinking a lot and we don’t want to go backwards. There’s a curve of change, and not everyone is going to be on top tomorrow, but we’ve got an opportunity to think how we want to do things differently.’

For more from our accessmatters sessions with The Unmistakables’ Asad Dhunna, read his five tips for creating inclusive campaigns.

Find influencers and media professionals to work with on your upcoming campaigns with the Vuelio Media Database and keep track of your stakeholder relationships with our Stakeholder Management services – find out more here.

Alex Silver

PR Interview: Alex Silver, director of Alex Silver PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 tips for creating inclusive PR and communications campaigns

5 tips for creating inclusive campaigns

Our latest accessmatters session focused on inclusivity and featured Asad Dhunna, founder and CEO of The Unmistakables. Recognised as a marketing industry changemaker and thought leader, Asad shared his experiences as someone who ‘didn’t quite fit in’ and decided to help with creating spaces for everyone.

Here is just some of the advice Asad shared for bringing inclusion into organisations and campaigns to represent and engage every audience out there…

1) Make space to make change within your organisation
Asad spoke about the importance of ‘inside-out inclusion’ – ensuring your own team is inclusive will build inclusive-thinking into your work, right from the start. Even the upcoming Christmas party brings opportunities to think about making changes for the better:

‘In my team, we’ve been talking about the Christmas party – the organisation of that can rely on what we’ve done previously – but how and who will feel included?

‘Take the time to ask yourself and not rush. If an event is centred around alcohol, will everyone be comfortable, will people feel safe? Create some space to think about this – how do we do things differently now?’

2) Market to your leadership team, too
‘If leadership don’t see a problem with inclusion at your business, show and frame it in a way that will be in line with what they’re thinking about.

‘If you work for an agency – you need to win new business. More and more, clients want to know what businesses are doing about this. If you’re taking a stance, this will attract new clients.

‘If you’re selling, how do you reach more people? If it’s a charity, how do you reach more donors. There is always a link between the bottom line and D&I.’

3) Support your organisation with long-term thinking
‘In marketing, we get addicted to the dopamine of “we’ve done something!” But how do you make inclusion a strategic priority?

‘Do a vision-setting exercise – what are the metrics we’d use as part of that? The sceond thing is to set those metrics, what are the KPIs? Ask, when we work with boards, is this a recurring item?

‘Because the change takes time and we live in an attention-deficit world, we want everything tomorrow. But we need to celebrate the small wins – we’re getting there. That helps keep the energy up.’

4) Avoid tokenism by amplifying the right voices
‘One way to avoid tokenism in campaigns is to define what we mean by ‘representation’– representative, of what, of where? If you’re targeting a certain demographic, is what you’re doing representing them, or the people you’d like to buy the product. How do you bring those people into the process?

‘Ask yourself what kind of representation you’re striving for. Is everyone on the team aligned on that? How does casting sit with the brand and who you’re trying to reach?’

5) Tell authentic stories
‘I think sometimes in the campaign development process, people can get attached to trends, and the latest influencers. It’s crucial to strip it all back – what’s the story? Who is telling it, and do they have the right to tell it?’

‘A past HSBC campaign I was involved in centred on transgender and nonbinary people being able to change their account details. They weren’t the first bank to do this, but their campaign told the story of Stuart, the person training employees on this. We didn’t put lots of bells and whistles on it – some people were going to hate it, because they hate the issue, but others would really love it. That’s how you do the authentic bit – tell the story.’

Find out more about our accessmatters here and catch up on some you may have missed this year in our round-up of previous sessions with industry thought leaders including Manifest’s Julian Obubo, The Social Mobility Foundation’s Sarah Atkinson and Taylor Bennett Foundation’s Melissa Lawrence.

Global ethics data

PRCA AND ECI collaborate on nation-specific ethics insight

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI) have rolled-out their collaboration on nation-specific ethics and compliance data, featuring commentary and insight from PR industry experts.

The data, pulled from the ECI Global Business Ethics Survey (GBES), will form country-specific fact sheets to be published over the following months. Each will highlight five key metrics: ethical culture strength; pressure to compromise ethical standards; observations of misconduct; reporting misconduct; and retaliation perceived by employees after they report misconduct.

The countries to be profiled are Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. With the mix of data and insight, the PRCA and ECI hope to start conversations on, and the adoption of, ethical management and strong standards across the global PR and comms industry.

ECI CEO Dr. Patricia Harned, who also serves on the PRCA Ethics Council, said:

‘Findings from the GBES provide indications of the strength of efforts by organisations to reduce wrongdoing and to promote integrity. To that end, we are pleased to partner with PRCA to distribute these profiles, and we hope that they will inspire authentic conversations in workplaces around the world.’
PRCA Director General Francis Ingham also commented:

‘The PRCA is committed to a truly global remit of elevating standards in the PR industry and beyond, inclusive of diverse nations and cultures, and with an understanding that PR ethics dialogues should not transpire solely through a Western construct. We share ECI’s commitment toward a data-centric approach, and the PRCA is most pleased to partner with the ECI team on this particular project, in service to the PR industry worldwide.’

The publishing of country-based GBES data with PR insights will begin this month and continue through the first quarter of 2022. The PRCA and ECI are also set to field GBES among PR/Communications professionals in 2022, with the results expected to be shared by April 2022.

With future GBES research projects, ECI aims to expand the quantity and diversity of data sets, with global inclusion. Find out more about the research here.

sustainability initiatives and the impact on business

Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses

sustainability initiatives and the impact on business

ESG press coverage reveals how brands and organisations are communicating and being discussed in the media, which shapes their public perceptions.

This case study by Vuelio Insights looks at two specific sectors: Banking and Meal-kit retailers, which are both facing unique challenges in their approach to sustainability and wider ESG risk management.

Download the report to see messaging tactics, and their success, sentiment and the top media outlets covering sustainability and ESG.

Net Zero New Statesman

The rewards of net zero

The relatively short break the climate got from harmful emissions during lockdowns across the world is over – the planning for net zero has to start now. That ‘E’ part of ESG planning – environment – is of even more importance for government, organisations and individuals worldwide as we get closer to November’s COP26.

Both corporate and consumer-focused businesses have big decisions to make on what their role will be on climate change – what are the potential risks, and rewards, of leading on environmental action?

The New Statesman panel ‘Making Sense of Net Zero – Corporate rewards of being in the climate action driving seat’ featured advice from contributors Luke Herbert, Communications Director for The Climate Group, JLL’s Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten and Vuelio’s Insights Lead Amy Parry on the considerations and consequences for decision makers tasked with making change – here are some of the key takeaways…

Revenues and rewards
JLL is a worldwide real estate organisation with what its Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten calls a ‘strange footprint’, yet the organisation has already made its 2040 net zero commitment.

‘If you’re thinking of going down this route, take small steps. You need to feel your way in – you have to get the data and analyse it. Start projecting what you can do, then you can start pushing the envelope. It’s a bit like peeling an onion – it takes time to understand your business.

‘There’s no doubt there are financial rewards to aiming for net zero, and it helps with the strategy of your business,’ added Luke Herbert, who works to drive change with The Climate Group.

‘Not long ago, we had Brexit, Trump and the start of COVID-19 hurting comms and PR team abilities to plan for the future – but now there’s a path; we have to go renewable in this decade. That gives a lot of clarity – you’re going to be pretty much future-proof if you do this. If you’re behind, you’re at risk of disturbance.’

‘If the financials are there, you will be able to influence your board members’.

Vuelio’s Insight Lead Amy Parry agreed on the rewards of net zero when it comes to positive influence – for all stakeholders.

‘For internal stakeholders, the rewards are in future proofing and knowing where to invest money. For consumers, it’s that feel-good factor – the more that consumers feel that they’re buying into something, that they’re doing good, it’s going to result in better sales. That’s really important… alongside the goals of climate action itself, of course.’

ESG action (or in-action) is already impacting the reputations of companies worldwide and Amy had data for organisations who don’t yet have the right plans and promises in place:

‘Our media and insights team examined case studies around climate action and how that impacts government and organisations – we looked at banking, which is more traditional and institutional. Historically, it’s already seen negativity for supporting areas like coal financing. We also looked at a very different sector – meal delivery services in the UK; a very modern service that’s grown during the pandemic.

Read the Vuelio Insights case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.

‘We were surprised by some of the similarities in coverage for the two very different sectors. Around 23% of all banking mentions in the media were linked to sustainability – that’s tens of thousands of articles in a short time. 37% of meal service mentions were linked to those topics. Across both sectors, initiatives and coverage fell into two pools – sustainability as a vehicle for change and as a vehicle for business growth. The first lends itself more to the corporate side; abolition of pollution financing, for example. The second is aimed at consumers – green bonds and business loans. There are reputational opportunities in sustainability topics for both sides of business.

‘We found that organisations that made more press announcements through traditional press releases weren’t necessary getting more coverage, however. Sometimes, maybe, it’s possible to push the message too much. It’s action and delivery on promises that will work.’

The right thing to do
‘We have hundreds of businesses who are signed up to science-based targets… but there are hundreds who haven’t,’ said Luke.

‘We can’t just do this in 2029 when it’s too late – this needs accumulative reduction. Most of our conversations with businesses are constructive, but the challenge is those are that aren’t engaging with the issue.’

‘The biggest argument for working towards net zero, aside from reputation and revenue, is that we have to do it; the world has to do it, else we have a problem,’ said Richard.

‘We can’t tell our clients what to do. But we can make some decisions about which clients we want to work with going forward. Until then, we have to collaborate. If you’re already on top of your own business, you shouldn’t need too much persuading.’

For more insight on how policy impacts your business sector and for tracking your organisation’s own reputation, demo Vuelio’s Political Monitoring and Media Analysis services.

Further information on research from the Vuelio Insights team mentioned during this session can be found in the Vuelio case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.  

accessmatters with Cassius Naylor Proud FT

‘This is where we all can make a discernable difference’ – accessmatters with Cassius Naylor, Proud FT

While the UK PR, comms and media industries are making efforts to improve on inclusivity, one marginalised group in particular is the focus for Cassius Naylor in his work as chair of the Financial Times employee network Proud FT. Empowerment, support and protection of transgender and nonbinary people working within the FT structure, and fair representation of the community in the press, is a passion for Cassius, who shared his experiences and advice in our latest accessmatters session.

Watch the full accessmatters session with Cassius Naylor here.

Proud FT is working to lead the way and model how the UK media should be supporting transgender and nonbinary people. As Cassius highlighted during the session, the reporting of transgender and nonbinary-related issues in the mainstream UK press right now needs to change, very drastically and very quickly.

‘This community is the most at-risk and marginalised, yet we’ve all seen how trans issues are being reported in the UK right now.’

Those who work with the media can make a difference – especially those who engage with the public to drive opinion and tell stories. What can the PR industry do to fight transphobia and better represent transgender and nonbinary people?

The inclusion of pronoun information on social media is particularly popular among Generation Z – ‘Gen Z are getting queerer and more liberal because they’re plugged into others’ experiences. Culturally, with my younger brother, for example – it’s like he’s from a different planet. He came out at the age of 15 – if I had, I wouldn’t have got through school’. Pronouns frequently receive scoffing comments on social media platforms. Is pronoun information on social media useful and worth adding?

‘Absolutely,’ says Cassius.

‘We need to engender a place where pronouns are as normalised as sharing names. “Not seeing gender” is not helping to dismantle structural transphobia. It’s like those who say “I don’t see race” – that’s not helpful, at all’.

‘I’m a bisexual man and secondly a disabled man, but I’m still learning the lessons of inclusion, too – I’m still trying to get better at this. There’s nothing wrong with getting it wrong – it’s okay to be on a learning curve. Yes, pronouns are very important.’

That’s a small thing that can help with your outward-facing communication, but what about within the workplace? Gendered language seeps into work speech without us even realising it – starting a meeting with ‘Ladies and Gentleman’ (that does not cover everybody) or ‘Guys’ (sometimes used as a gender-neutral term, which it obviously is not).

‘There are many non-gendered alternatives – I go with “Hi everyone” or “Hi all”,’ says Cassius. ‘Those are easy to adopt – just adjust and move on. Practice, practice, practice.’

The recognition of phrases that are used to disempower – dog whistles – are also worth listening out for and actively questioning. ‘Recognise where that kind of language – “gender critical”, “biological female”, etc. – is being used; it’s insidious and it’s subtle.

‘Listen to your transgender and nonbinary colleagues – don’t talk over them, don’t talk for them. Cisgender people can use our privilege to create spaces of safely for our trans colleagues. If you see someone being dogpiled on Twitter, a simple DM or tweet of support can change things for people – it’s a real battle ground out there.’

If this conversation is new to you and you want to learn more, there are many resources you can engage with to empower yourself with the right information to go on and empower others. Influencers are already sharing what you need to know – ‘There’s so many people out sharing insight,’ says Cassius. ‘The internet is both a wonderful and occasionally terrible thing. It’s given us access to the breadth of human experience’.

Cassius advised following Abigail Thorn – ‘look up the speech she did at Trans Pride this year – an inspiring moment of defiance against transphobia’, Kat Blaque, and Jay Hulme. Groups like Gendered Intelligence, GenderGP, Stonewall and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau have even more information.

‘Take a holistic view of this. It’s a worldwide struggle to be intersectional while making sure we treat everyone’s experiences as individual. Filling your space with the richness of other people’s experiences helps.

‘There’s an endless web, a massive community,’ says Cassius. ‘Make sure you’re not just absorbing white voices and male voices. Go out there and absorb and amplify the multiplicity of experience.’

For more from our accessmatters session with Cassius Naylor, read our write up for journalists on the ResponseSource blog.

Want to watch the full session and catch up with past accessmatters videos? Check out the accessmatters hub here.

Why introverts make great PRs

4 Reasons Why Introverts Make Great PRs

This is a guest post from Prezzybox PR & marketing executive Alex Spencer.

It can sometimes feel like the world of PR is reserved for the extroverted, that those who need time to recharge after social gatherings, events or team meetings aren’t best-suited to this competitive environment.

But while I had my reservations when I started my career in PR, as an introvert who much prefers a night in with a blanket, hot chocolate and Netflix binge to a night out, I quickly realised that the qualities I thought would hinder my progress can actually be huge assets.

Here’s four important reasons why introverts can make wonderful PRs.

1. Introverts are great reflectors
When starting out in PR, it can seem like charging ahead at full speed is the best way to get your clients or the brand you’re working for noticed.

But I quickly learned that this really isn’t the case. At Prezzybox, we’re big believers in not doing something just because we’ve always done it. Instead, we slow down, taking the time to reflect on what’s worked well in the past, what hasn’t, and how we make things better.

We used to send untargeted press releases to hundreds of journalists at a time, resulting in, unsurprisingly, little interest and lots of unsubscribers. We learned from our mistakes and now, we take a more methodical approach to outreach.

Reflecting is what introverts do best, and this is key to honing your communications strategy.

2. Many journalists are introverts too… obviously
It’s not that I’m completely against giving a journalist a call. In fact, I’ve had some very productive conversations with journalists by phone, and some where we compare notes on our incredibly ungrateful cats.

But it’s obvious that many journalists prefer to be contacted by email only, and that can be for myriad reasons. Of course, their day is jam-packed and an email usually fits in better with their hectic schedule than a call. But, like the rest of us, all journalists are different. Some will love attending events, meeting PRs and the social side of their job. Others are pretty happy to communicate by email only, and need time, like I do, to spend time alone and recharge.

I’ve seen many journalists request no calls on their profile because they don’t like talking to people. And I don’t think many of us would blame them.

3. Introverts are great listeners
Social listening is key to the success of any communications strategy or PR campaign. And if introverts do anything well, it’s letting others do the talking. Listening is especially important at events and whenever you’re meeting journalists in person, like Prezzybox will be doing next at our first in-person event since January 2020. It can be incredibly tempting to use the short time you may have with them pitching your product, brand or campaign at full speed, with a few short breaths in-between your spiel to avoid collapsing in an exhausted heap on the floor.

But while you certainly need to make the most of the time you have, communicating the salient points in a (hopefully) engaging way, being talked at isn’t fun for anyone. Introverts are great at two-way communication, watching for subtle signs in body language and intonation that tell you when you need to slow down, pick up the pace, change topic or let the other person do the talking.

It goes without saying that asking journalists what they’re looking for is crucial, before you spend ten minutes pitching your health and wellness brand to a finance journalist.

4. We think before we speak!
They say all press is good press. But brand sentiment is a fragile thing, with one wrong move having the potential to push you off the top spot in minutes. It’s wonderful to see so many brands disrupting the market with innovative campaigns, but these have to be well thought-out. Introverts are brilliant at thinking before making moves, and this is exactly what PRs should do in this fast-paced, competitive world.

Thierry Alain, Head of Data Insights at Rise At Seven, shares some brilliant insights into brand sentiment and how quickly this can change over on Twitter. It demonstrates the power of thinking before you speak. Burger King might have gone viral with their ‘Women belong in the kitchen’ tweet, but it didn’t quite have the effect they were hoping for.

The Takeaway
PR is now much more suited to communicators on both sides of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, with the focus for many brands shifting to digital PR and building links. People from all walks of life, with different communication styles will love a career in PR, if they’re tenacious, enthusiastic and, perhaps most importantly, resilient. We all know the knock-backs can be tough…

And introverts can bring special qualities to the plate when it comes to getting amazing coverage. Our ability to reflect, to connect with others and think before we speak make us great communicators, and therefore, great PRs.

Provided we’re given plenty of time to recharge our batteries, that is. Cuddles with the office dogs also help.

For more on how to engage with journalists in ways they find useful, download our How to Pitch to Journalists white paper here.

Want a more methodical approach to media outreach? Try the Vuelio Media Database, which includes how journalists like to be contacted, the topics they cover and recent article information. Social listening part of your campaign planning? Try out Pulsar’s platform of products

Neuro PR Vuelio webinar

How to strengthen connections to your brand with neuro PR

Using neuro connections to form unconscious and potentially unbreakable bonds between brands and consumers – sounds kind of sci-fi, perhaps. But don’t be worried – it’s perfectly natural.

Why are we drawn to particular cans of baked beans when we’re shopping, even if we don’t care what they taste like? Why is it so automatic to blurt out a certain chocolate bar’s tagline when someone mentions ‘taking a break’? This is the power of the subconscious and it’s something Harvey & Hugo PR’s managing director and Leader of the Pack Charlotte Nichols believes all PRs need to be aware of as part of their work.

Leading our latest webinar Neuro PR: Strengthening the Brain and Brand Connection, Charlotte showed that good PR takes the way our minds work into account and works with it. If your mind is now conjuring up those old stories of cinemas splicing pictures of popcorn into the adverts before films to boost concession sales, certain scenes of similar splices in Fight Club or the messages hidden in billboards in They Live, be assured that neuro PR isn’t anywhere near as nefarious – it’s just very clever.

Here are some of the useful ways Charlotte shared for creating memorable campaigns and locking in loyalty with brain science…

Get eyes, and brains, on you
‘We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brain. We think we’re in control of our focus – we’re not,’ said Charlotte.

‘For example, think of ‘the cocktail party effect’. You’re deep in conversation with someone. All of a sudden, you hear your name from somewhere else in the room. Your subconscious scans the room all the time, no matter where you are, and picks up little alerts.

‘When you say “I’ve got a feeling about it”, it’s actually your subconscious. Often, we make decisions with our ‘gut feeling’, then use our rational thoughts to justify our decisions.

‘In the marketing sector, people say that “adverts don’t work”. Sometimes you can’t remember the adverts, sure, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t gone into your brain. It’s always there, in your “gut feeling”.’

Attract the right kind of attention
Full attention from an audience can have its drawbacks. According to research, there are negatives that come with ‘high involvement attention’ – watching a perfume advert – versus ‘low involvement attention’ – checking your phone while the ad plays on a TV on the other side of the room.

Perhaps while watching a perfume advert, you realise you don’t like the model or actor chosen to represent the product. This can cause ‘inattentional blindness’ – ‘where you’re so distracted by one thing, you miss the message,’ says Charlotte. Letting messages seep through into the subconscious may be more effective. Certainly better than a potential customer watching an expensively-produced commercial with an internationally-famous actor and only thinking ‘Ugh, I really hate that guy’.

Enhance powerful emotions
‘Emotions exist to move us as humans,’ says Charlotte. ‘We feel first and then the brain interprets it.’
‘Feeling is an unconscious experience – you cannot control the way you feel. We frame things with our rational conscious thought, sometimes even doing that can’t take away the feeling of it.

‘There are also sematic markers when we feel emotions. Sweaty palms – that happens before our brain registers that emotion. We start running from a bear before our brain processes what’s going on. We feel first, and then our brain interprets it. That’s why all these small touch points add up to a massive experience of emotions.’

Brands that are making good use of their customers’ emotions right now that we can learn from? Charlotte pointed to McDonald’s current focus on friendship groups meeting up again after the isolation of lockdown: ‘They’re doing really well with their recent ads, it appeals to your emotion – wanting to meet up with your friends… and maybe you just really want chips, too.’

Show your brand’s personality, story and purpose
While brands like Tesla push brand personality first and foremost in campaigns focusing on sustainability, there are some standard personality traits that are tried and true, whatever your brand, product or service.

‘Listen and engage,’ says Charlotte.

‘You don’t always have to be doing anything. It can do your brand so well to just listen to your customers – social media is great for this. It helps build that emotional connection.’

Make good memories and good first impressions
‘The language we use is so important. We’re told imagery is more important, but never underestimate the words we use.’

‘As PRs, we are the artists of semantic memory networks. You can change these networks, it just takes a long time to do.’

The saying goes that first impressions are particularly important and, as Charlotte showed, there is evidence to back this up. Brains don’t always want to work so hard – ‘the brain uses 25% energy at rest,’ shared Charlotte. ‘You won’t remember something that’s really hard to understand, so don’t underestimate the power of a catchy tagline’.

Use your brain
After all this talk about other people’s brains, don’t forget to make the most of your own. Take time to think and really ruminate about the projects you’re working on.

‘Our subconscious is so powerful. As PRs and marketers, we can be guilty of measuring results the same way, over and over again. Meditation will boost creativity and it’s just good for our health.

‘I believe in the future we’ll be doing more of this to get to know ourselves, and our brands, much more.’

Watch the webinar here.

Want help listening to your audience to make connections? Try out Pulsar’s social listening solutions and the Vuelio media database.

AMEC logo

Vuelio joins AMEC

The measurement and analysis of communications data is vital for understanding the strength and impact of PR and determining future plans for campaigns and the direction of business, which is why Vuelio is proud to join AMEC as a Full Member.

The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) is the leading international professional body for media intelligence and insights, and a renowned mark of excellence with a 25-year record of representing specialists in media evaluation and communications research. Vuelio joins AMEC’s membership of over 200 organisations and 1,000 professionals, which spans more than 86 countries worldwide.

AMEC’s ongoing international education outreach, strategic partnerships with associations including PRSA and ICCO, and the sharing of industry-wide best practice includes its ‘Say No to AVEs’ campaign, which advocates a move away from the use of Advertising Value Equivalent (AVEs) in PR and communications work. This commitment to fairer and more accurate measurement within the industry is something Vuelio supports and bolsters with Vuelio Insights, which uses a mix of qualitive metrics, enriched data monitoring and tailored reporting for strategic recommendations.

‘Evaluating key comms activity accurately – making judgements on which parts of your business and strategy are working effectively – is complicated. Gone are the days of meaningless AVEs and vanity metrics; forward-thinking organisations demand communications measurement that directly impact business goals and moves the dial forward’ says Vuelio Insights lead Amy Parry.

‘As advocates for strategic planning based on true performance and actionable insights, we’re truly delighted to be members of a community dedicated to valuable and data-driven research and evaluation.’

AMEC global managing director Johna Burke says: ‘We are delighted to welcome Vuelio into the AMEC Member Community. The team’s expertise and enthusiasm will enrich the discussions and make us all the better as we tackle the challenges of measurement and evaluation of communication.’

For more on Vuelio’s media monitoring and analysis solutions, click here to book a demo/consultation with the Insights team.

Inclusion in public relations

Fairer representations of disability in PR: starting the conversation with Mark Webb and Sudha Singh

‘It feels like disability is last to the table at any diversity discussion. If it gets there at all. And yet we’re the biggest minority’ – as the host of the PRCA’s new podcast Disability@thetable, Mark Webb is making sure hidden and visible disability is part of the inclusion discussions happening across the industry.

Launched as part of the PRCA’s recently-rebranded Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council’s new initiatives, Disability@thetable shares stories and best practice advice to push conversations forward. ‘It’s some peoples’ calling to chain themselves to railings to drive change. And there’s a definite place for that, but I’m hoping to help push the story from another angle,’ says Mark. ‘A happy, positive, “look what you’re missing” tone.’

Including everyone at the table
That PR and comms so often misses out consideration and representation of disability is a severe failing – not just of the audiences we seek to address and engage, but of our workforce and its future. As quoted in this 2016 piece from Ashley Phillips, PRCA’s UK PR Census that year found that just 2% of the 83,000 practitioners working in PR were disabled people. This isn’t representative of society at large and can be incredibly isolating, as InFusion Comms’ founder and managing director Sara Hawthorn shared in an accessmatters session last year about her own experiences as a deaf person in the industry:

‘I worked in the media on and off since I was 17. There was a point before starting InFusion Comms where I had never come across another media or PR professional with a disability or impairment at all, and I’d never spoken to anyone else in the industry who was going through anything similar. I thought; this must be something missing from our organisations. Who’s missing?’

While visibility is slowly increasing in some areas of the media – Channel 4 has promised that disabled people will make up at least 70% of its presenting team for the Paralympics this year (‘lovely,’ says Mark, ‘big, positive gestures can only help nudge the diversity and disability dials’) – there’s far to go.

‘Things are getting better’, says Mark. ‘But way too slowly.’

Authenticity over tokenism
‘The comms industry can only speak from a position of knowledge and authenticity if we stop being tokenistic and become more intentional about our journey to equity and inclusion,’ believes Sudha Singh, co-chair of the PRCA Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council (EIAC).

Rebranded this year, the EIAC’s new name reflects its new, more inclusive, purpose: ‘For the longest time, organisations have been focusing on diversity as a way to correct institutional and historic inequalities,’ says Sudha. ‘Referring to people as diverse actually “others” those who don’t belong to the dominant group/privileged groups. We deliberated on the name change – it now reflects our purpose – who we are and what we are trying to do.

‘We want organisations to focus on the equity inspired designs for bringing about that change – to create equitable workplaces where talented people can thrive, no matter where they come from, what they look like. And this will require organisations to actually identify the problem areas and it is not helpful if you are determined to treat everyone equally. Inclusion of course is an outcome and has diversity at its core – do people feel valued, can they bring their true self to work? What is their experience of the workplace? Do they belong?’

Initiatives and progress
The work to ensure everyone can belong within our industry is well underway – the EIAC recently hosted its first ever #ChangeforGood Conference, supported by APCO, with over 20 speakers covering Gender, Social Mobility, Race and Disability, with more initiatives and partnerships to follow.

For Mark, the Disability@thetable podcast will be leading the charge:

‘Dream guests that won’t happen? Michael J Fox, the Back to the Future legend, now with Parkinson’s and doing amazing advocacy and fundraising work. And – showing my age, here – Gloria Estefan. I worked with her briefly in the early 90s, just as my Multiple Sclerosis was about to start sneaking up on me. Her family has been impacted by MS too. Both great communicators!

‘Aiming high but vaguely feasible? The likes of Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Rory Cellan-Jones, Frank Gardner. All of them living a good, positive, public eye life and not defined by their disability.

Booked in already? Talented, brilliant communicators and PR people either living with, or impacted by disability… And I’m hoping I can tease out others.’

While big brands are doing their own long-overdue work on inclusivity, it has to be done properly, something Mark acknowledges is likely to be difficult going for some:

‘It’s a horribly fine line for any brand to be treading,’ says Mark. ‘It’s a strange kind of gold-rush going on in the desperate bid to be inclusive, “politically correct” and all too often, tick-box. I will single out Lego positively, for their work across pretty much all flavours of diversity. And I dine out on stories of how brilliant the senior team at Dixons Retail, then Dixons Carphone, were with me. But listen to our podcasts for that!’

The first thing organisations can do to be more inclusive of disability within their teams, their campaigns and their creative? Join the conversation that’s happening now. ‘Consult with us, engage with us’, says Mark. ‘Don’t just assume job done by slapping a wheelchair into something you’re up to.’

Find out more about the Disability@thetable podcast and more PRCA Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council initiatives here.

For more experiences from people working across the comms industry, catch up with our accessmatters sessions.