Why young people are better equipped for inflation

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

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

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

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

 

Top Topics: Financial Perspectives of Young People

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

 

The money-saving generation

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

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

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

 

Side Hustles

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

What are the top side hustles for UK Gen Z?

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

 

Digital Finances

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

 

Most Popular Digital Finance Services by Generation

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

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

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

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

Investments and Cryptocurrency

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

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

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

 

Financial Literacy and Fin-fluencers

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

The Digital Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top speakers

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

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

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

Wage gap across UK supermarkets

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Key campaigns: cost of living

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

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

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

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

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

Low-cost kids’ meals

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

Aldi Price Match

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

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

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

 Changes and cuts to marketing

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

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

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

 

 

Demonstrating value and empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

why press releases still matter in PR crises

UK Airline Index: Why Press Releases Still Matter in PR Crises

why press releases still matter in PR crises

Since the Easter period, British tourists have experienced continued dismay as UK-based airlines cancelled a record-breaking number of flights – roughly 17,000 over three months. Alongside the extensive impact of staff shortages and COVID-19 revenue loss, the ethical demand for Ukraine support has added further pressures on overall performance.

While press releases are developing an ‘aged’ and outdated reputation in recent years, our data shows that they made a significant difference to the positive:negative sentiment ratio in a state of PR crisis. In addition, they have acted as a tool for some, such as Virgin Atlantic, to leverage control and limit masses of negative second-hand news that other airlines have experienced.

Hollie Parry has written this white paper for Vuelio, ‘UK Airline Index: Why Press Releases Still Matter in PR Crises’, which explores how the top five UK airlines have performed over the first six months of 2022.

The research outlines how high volume and positive sentiment alone does not equal stronger performance, as well as the most effective tools used by airlines for controlling key messages across print, online and broadcast media.

Check it out by filling in the form below.

What's next? The new generation of journalists

‘Don’t talk to me! (email me instead)’: How to work with Gen Z journalists

It is a frequent ask from writers to PRs: don’t phone to pitch, don’t call to follow up on an email you have just sent. Unsurprisingly, it is no different for up-and-coming Generation Z journalists, the 25-year-olds (and younger) making their way in the media now.

That doesn’t mean young journalists are unapproachable. In fact, the three Gen Z freelance writers on the panel of our Vuelio webinar ‘What’s Next? The new generation of journalists’ love to work with PRs, fully appreciating what those in the comms sector can bring to their content. Provided it is not pitched in an ‘awkward’ way, of course…

Watch the full ‘What’s Next? The new generation of journalists’ webinar.

Here are just some of the insights shared by freelancers Zesha Saleem, Michele Theil and Hannah Bradfield on the internal workings of the modern media industry and how they like to work with comms pros.

1) Gen Z journos LOVE working with PRs (these writers do, anyway)

Freelance journalist Zesha Saleem – who has racked up commissions from Metro, British Vogue and The Guardian so far – considers PRs really helpful for her writing:

‘PRs do such an amazing and important job. I used to reply to every PR who contacted me – I try to reply to as many as I can now, but now I tend to reply to the ones I can definitely work on.

‘If I don’t reply, assume that I don’t have the capability to work on it. I don’t work five days a week; I do limited shifts. Sometimes PRs will email three or four times in a day. Journalists are told not to pitch the same thing three or four times… That’s just one thing I’d say to keep in mind…’

2) Young journalists see the common ground between PRs and journos

Michele Theil – currently under contract at the BBC and a freelancer for outlets including VICE and The Independent – understands just how similar job-related pressures are for both journalists and PRs:

‘I try to respond as much as possible – a PR friend told me people that take the time to reply are their favourite journalists. From my perspective, when I’m pitching to an editor, I hate not getting a response.

3) Don’t take it personally if you don’t get a response

‘Sometimes there are so many emails and not enough time in the day,’ added Michele.

‘I understand that PRs have to chase, but give us some time. Sometimes I don’t have the emotional energy to reply to things. I hope that no one ever takes it personally; I never ever mean it personally. It’s nothing to do with you or the content; just right now, in the moment, it’s not right for what I’m working on.’

4) To DM, or to not DM?

‘I prefer emails to be honest,’ said Zesha.

‘I don’t work all the time, so if it’s a press release, I’ll move it into a folder and get back to it later. My DMs are a mess, first of all. Things can get lost and sometimes I don’t open them until months later. Sometimes it’s something great that I can’t really work on anymore – definitely send an email.’

Michele agrees: ‘I mostly get contacted by email, which is great, especially when I’ve put out a call or a request. Sometimes I get a DM, and I’m not completely averse to that, but don’t be annoyed if I don’t reply to your DM. If I haven’t responded in a few hours, drop me an email because I’m more likely to see it there.’

5) Respect their work/life dynamic

Hannah, a fellow freelance journalist alongside her duties as a Journo Resources trainee prefers email for media outreach: ‘It’s just easier to regulate. With Twitter, the lines can be blurred a little.’

‘It offers a degree of separation,’ agreed Michele, highlighting the importance of maintaining a healthy work/life balance – hard for freelance journalists, and frequently an issue for PRs, too.

‘I can choose when I respond with an email – it gives everyone agency. A lot of our work blurs into our personal life as freelancers – give me the choice to reply tomorrow.

6) Media outreach: don’t make it awkward

What makes email so useful for media outreach isn’t just its convenience for journalists. It also skips any forced social interactions. Meeting up for coffee, offering to buy them a drink? Way too 90s/early-00s an approach.

‘Building long-term relationships with PRs is great,’ said Michele. ‘But I have this weird thing, when PRs offer to pay for everything. That’s nice; that’s lovely… but it makes me feel a bit awkward? It can be really awkward for people of our generation. “Let me buy you a coffee”. Like… why?’

And not to belabour the point, but before you pick up the phone to call them – rethink it.

‘Gen Zs don’t like phone calls – don’t talk to me,’ Michele joked.

Just email to start the conversation when you’re doing media outreach in future – it is less awkward for everyone.

Watch the webinar here for more from these three journalists and how they work with PRs, and check out more advice on pitching to different sections of the media in our white paper How to pitch to journalists.

Want requests from UK journalists straight through to your inbox? Book a demo of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Sustainable comms right from the start

4 practical steps for building sustainability into your PR

COP26 is long over, but sustainability and climate change are still very much on the agenda in comms, with Greenpeace protests at this year’s Cannes Lions festival gaining plenty of coverage alongside the big winners.

We recently caught up with Aura’s Laura Sutherland to talk about her approach to building sustainability into her work – here is extra advice on how to start your own journey towards sustainable PR that will make a difference.

1) Start with research

‘It would be silly of me to say there was anything ‘quick’ about sustainability as it is a long-term game,’ admitted Laura. ‘But there are things you can put into action right now, to help you get started:

– Read the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their actions
– Subscribe to sustainability podcasts and blogs
– Take the PRCA’s new half day course ‘How to Communicate about Climate Change Accurately and Effectively’ – this was a result of our work in the Strategy Group and in partnership with the Royal Meteorological Society
– Start to measure in terms of carbon footprint – the research shows that 59% of respondents don’t do carbon footprint measurement
– Advise! Have the confidence to advise on strategy and stop jumping on the bandwagon, greenwashing and help inform them of better ways
– Call out the bad stuff.

‘Or, give me a shout!’

2) Avoid the pitfalls of greenwashing

‘As mentioned above, jumping on the bandwagon and just spouting! As we know, brands love to add to the noise when there is something newsy happening. Don’t do it for the sake of it!

‘If there is a strategy and action plan to deliver, then the measurement and evaluation should speak for itself. Don’t let clients push back on research, strategy or evaluation. It’s not a nice to have!

‘Don’t be scared to get someone in to help you get started. Not everyone is an expert in all areas.’

3) Keep the conversation going

‘It should be added to board agendas, team meeting agendas and it should be a regular point for data collection and reporting. The more it’s built into our work, the more normal it will be to take action. I personally think it should be included in your CPD plans, too.

‘Hold workshops internally or with clients to explore the stakeholder audit and mapping, do some long-term planning and horizon scanning. Our work is not all about campaigns. Our work is about thinking about how we build relationships and trust with stakeholders. And please, don’t forget internal stakeholders! I’ve done a lot of work in internal communication in recent years and it’s been obvious that it’s been an after-thought and not integrated across the organisation. Integration is so important. That’s why a collaborative approach is essential.’

4) Bring your internal and external stakeholders onboard ASAP

‘There’s definitely an education piece to be done with internal stakeholders. Both the industry research and consumer research the Strategy Group carried out say that we’re not doing enough to fight the climate crisis and I think that’s the point. We need to start taking action. Action starts from within. Personal action which translates into our work and then filters out.

PWC’s 2021 ESG consumer report said that 83% of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG best practice, 91% of leaders believe their company has a responsibility to act on ESG and that 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.

‘This is epic. It means people know it’s needed, but now, what we need more than anything, is ACTION. If not now, when?’

Read our full interview with Laura Sutherland on her launch of the Aura PR Synergy Framework and which brands are already putting in the work on sustainability, as well as more about the PRCA Climate Misinformation Group’s second annual report.

Want more on how to engage your stakeholders? Take a look at Vuelio’s Stakeholder Management solutions.

Laura Sutherland on sustainability in PR

‘If not now, when?’ – Aura’s Laura Sutherland on sustainable PR

‘We know work is needed on sustainability. What is needed more than anything is ACTION; if not now, when?’

Aura and PRFest founder Laura Sutherland is passionate about is sustainability. Having centred last year’s PRFest around the subject, Laura is also working with the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group to highlight what those in PR can do to boost and share the right information. Her latest initiative to aid the PR industry in making a positive impact on climate change – the launch of the Synergy Framework; a sustainable approach to comms.

Read on for Laura’s aims, the responsibilities that PR cannot ignore and which brands are already doing the work.

What sparked the launch of the Synergy Framework?

Businesses and organisations struggle to know where to start with sustainability; there’s so much information and also misinformation. They often either don’t make an attempt, stick their head in the sand, or worse, greenwash, as a result. I want to show there is a huge opportunity ahead, for us all!

The work I’ve been doing in stakeholder relations over the past few years has shown that businesses are not good at auditing, mapping and scoring them, therefore they don’t really know what they need or want. Equally, we all know that measurement and evaluation is an ongoing push to drive up standards in our industry.

Aura’s Synergy Framework integrates all of the essential aspects of a successful strategy and plan, but importantly, incorporates the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the strategy. They are global and there to be used, but, married with the stakeholder work and the roll out of plans with action, it’s a ready-made framework which any size of business or organisation can use.

This also means that businesses and organisations aren’t just focused on one thing. Yes, the goals need to be prioritised, but if you know the SDGs, they cover everything from wellbeing to diversity and recycling to finance. It’s comprehensive.

It’s a way forward and a great starting point to move to a sustainable future. I want to lead with a positive approach and do as much as the client needs me to. I want to help agencies get better at this too by showing them how the framework can be used in their work. For me, this is a massive opportunity for collaboration for good.

Where does the PR industry – in-house and agency-side – need to start doing more on sustainability?

I’m part of the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and we recently announced the results of our second piece of industry research.

While our industry is getting better at learning, advising and even pushing back on what might be greenwashing, we have a way to go. 45% have noticed their clients/organisation attempting to greenwash. 89% (of the 45%) have pushed back and 57% managed to change the approach as a result.

It starts with our own learning about what we can do to help our clients and organisations.

Then, it’s about building confidence in what we are advising, who we are collaborating with, bringing everyone along on the journey and then, of course, how we are telling that sustainability story. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s about leaders in our industry actually leading. 45% of respondents to the second annual survey from the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group said their boss having a better understanding of the importance of addressing the climate crisis would help them prioritise it in relation to their work.

Which brand work/campaigns from recent years do you think are great examples of PR pushing forward on sustainability concerns and topics?

Patagonia is always a brand to look to for all things sustainability. They do it so well! Of course, we have my fellow Strategy Group and Chair John Brown’s agency’s work with Meridian, fighting deforestation.

And I can’t miss my own work with Mercat Tours, which is the first client I’ve used the Synergy Framework with – that’s kind of how it evolved, actually. We’re working on an impact report now, to bring all the work of the last 12 months together. It’s not all about pomp and show… businesses can be sustainable, do their bit for society, economy and the planet, tell their story without fancy, costly campaigns.

Find out more about Laura Sutherland’s work in her previous guest post about PRFest and take a look at more statistics from the second annual PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and Opinion report here.

PRCA

PR needs to lead on climate change, finds PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group

The PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and Opinium have launched their second annual report, revealing PR’s important role in leading action on climate issues and the industry’s increasing confidence in the difference it can make.

The study of over 200 UK PR and communications professionals that took place in the six months following COP26 found that almost all (96%) were already advising clients and coworkers on climate change – a raise of 14% since last year.

Advising clients on climate change

On growing confidence to tackle climate-related issues and misinformation in their work, almost half said they’d encountered greenwashing, with 89% having pushed against false claims, and 57% having changed an organisation’s response.

Greenwashing

Other findings from the report include:

  • While almost all respondents (97%) said they have taken action to address the climate crisis, only 48% measure their carbon footprint
  • 71% of consumers say they would stop buying from a brand if they knew it had misled its customers on having a positive environmental impact
  • 57% of the general public do not know the outcome of COP26. A third (33%) felt the agreements made at the conference didn’t impact them.

Adding to that 48% of PR and comms people who don’t yet measure carbon footprints, only a quarter (24%) currently set science-based targets.

On information from the public included in the study, 31% believed poverty to be the most impactful issue, and only half (50%) saw the man-made climate crisis posing an ‘existential threat’ to the planet – highlighting the need for inclusive and relatable communications from PRs when covering these issues.

‘We have a responsibility to ensure any unethical communication or attempts are challenged,’ said PRCA Climate Misfinformation Strategy Group representative Laura Sutherland.

‘The call to action to industry is this: be more brave – learn about ESG, learn how to approach a difficult situation with your boss or your client, start setting your own agency targets and communicate the action you’re taking.

‘Let’s lead by example and be the change we want to see.’

Chief executive of Opinium James Endersby added:

‘With seven in 10 consumers saying they would stop buying from a brand if they knew it had misled its customers about having a positive environmental impact, it is more important than ever that PR and Communications professionals support, consult and walk hand-in-hand with their clients on their journey to being better forces of good for our planet.’

Read the full second annual report from the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and Opinium and compare with results from the first study here.

For more on greenwashing and how PR can combat it, check out these lessons from CIPR’s 2021 conference Climate Change and the Role of PR featuring insight from Climate Group’s Luke Herbert, Plastic Planet UK’s Sian Sutherland and #EthicalHour’s Sian Conway.

Six statistics about generation Z

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

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

Download The PR guide to communicating with Gen Z

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

1. Play

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

2. Be social

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

3. Be quick and concise

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

4. Educate and empower

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

5. Collaborate

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Grand Prix 2022 F1

How F1 Driver Attitudes Evolved Ahead of the British Grand Prix

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

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

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

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

Most Mentioned Drivers

 

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

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

Fan Expectations

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

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

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

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

Most Active Authors

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

Amicable Attitudes and Short-Lived Sportsmanship

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

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

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

The PR Guide to communicating with Gen Z

If you work in the creative industries, you need to know who your audiences are. The latest segment that needs your attention is Generation Z, AKA Gen Z, AKA ‘Zoomers’, AKA those that come after the Millennials.

In this whitepaper The PR Guide to communicating with Gen Z, Phoebe-Jane Boyd explores what Gen Z cares about, how UK media engages with Gen Z by surveying 115 UK practitioners, and useful statistics to consider while planning your campaigns for them.

This is a generation particularly hungry to learn, grow and achieve, holding themselves and others
to account. Want to engage them? Do not skip due diligence or research on the right messaging and approach for Gen Z, because if you think Generation Y are demanding…

Check it out by filling in the form below.

Social listening introduction

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

If you work in public relations, communications or public affairs and you’re only tracking your brand or client’s reputation and impact across the media, you might be missing a significant part of the conversation.

For the basics of social listening and how it can inform your work and success rate, read on below…

What is social listening?

Social listening, in essence, is listening to any conversation that’s happening on the World Wide Web – it’s much more than a buzzword banded around by PR teams keen to appear in-the-know when it comes to digital.

Social listening can include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, right through to blogs and online forums. Pulsar’s social listening solutions are also expanding to ‘newer’ platforms like TikTok and Twitch, beloved of younger, incredibly-engaged online demographics.

There are two forms of social listening particularly useful when planning for upcoming campaigns and tracking their impact.

Pre-mediated listening: Are there trends you want to track, like sustainability, rising sea levels, or air travel, but you aren’t exactly sure what the conversation around them looks like? Pre-mediated listening is where you can start zeroing-in on these conversational topics. They can be specific to your brand, your competitors, or sectors you wish to be associated with.

Organic listening: Perhaps you don’t know a lot about your intended audience yet – what topics do they care about, how do they feel about them? How should you position your own brand on the topic? This is where organic listening comes in.

Is social listening… legal?

In a word – yes. All social platforms have terms and conditions that social listening services such as Pulsar must adhere to. For social platforms that have both public and private profiles, only the datasets from the public ones, those that are in the public domain, can be listened to by third parties like Pulsar.

As for what social listening platforms are listening to, there’s a lot – keywords (topics), audience panels (focus groups of media users – demographic, political affiliation, even detractors or supporters of your band around your brand), and specific content and URLs (a press release, a YouTube video, or perhaps your website).

With social listening, you can understand who’s sharing what, what they’re saying about it, and the impact it has.

Is social media monitoring the same as social listening?

No – think of social media monitoring as more ‘top line’. It will give you the metrics, but not necessarily the ‘why’ behind all the sharing, or the silence.

Social listening can be more actionable – what’s happening in the conversation, is this something you want to react to? Using crisis comms as an example – should you ‘fan the flames’, or let them die down?

What does social listening offer?

On that subject of metrics, there are plenty that social listening can give you. There’s visibility (impact of content across different mediums), impressions, reach, shares, comments. Pulsar, for example, gives context; making metrics more useable.

There’s conversational insight – what is driving positivity, or negativity? What’s should your narrative be on specific topics?

For audience insights – you can find out who exactly is engaging with your content, whether you’ve reached your intended audience, and whether there are segments you should have been considering from the start.

Social listening allows us to track how information flows from person to person, how people engage with influencers, and where the information goes next. It helps to understand who is most central to specific online communities – is it bloggers who are making stories go viral? Who do you want to work with?

How can PR, comms and public affairs teams use social listening?

Extra insight on online conversations can slot into and enrich any part of a campaign cycle.

For pre-activity analysis, social listening can help you decide what your brand, clients, or spokespeople should be saying, including the tone. This data can even provide insight on whether you should engage at all.

Throughout your campaign, social listening will show you which media is useful for your audience. Your client may want to be on the front page of a red-top newspaper, but will the intended audience be picking up that paper from the newsagent?

For finding the right journalists, broadcasters and influencers for your next campaign, book a demo of the Vuelio Media Database.

Post-activity is where you can determine ROI and prove that what you’re doing is working. Benchmark against your previous activity, or your competitors’, check out real-time reaction, and the ebb and flow of engagement throughout your campaign. Did you reach the audience you wanted to reach, new sectors, or the same people you already engage with every day?

Ultimately, social listening can give you access to conversations you’ve always wanted to be a part of, whichever part of the comms industry you’re working in.

Find out more about Pulsar’s social listening solutions and how it can help you with upcoming campaigns here

The Mass Conflict Behind Gene-Edited Produce

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

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

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

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

Volume of Coverage

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

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

Top Speakers

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

Top Topics

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

Ethical Concerns

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

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

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

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

Food Security

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

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

Cross-Border Divide

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

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

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

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

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

A Need for Transparency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Island Drops Missguided For Sustainable Fashion

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

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

Female-Focused Brands: Common Trends

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

The Affordability Argument

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

Attempts of Changing the Narrative

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

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

 

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

Sustainable trends / Successful brands

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

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

fintech investment boom in travel

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Areas of interest

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

Buy Now, Pay Later

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

Multi-currency charges

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

Leading FX fintech companies in National UK Media

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

Drawbacks to the public

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

Investment boom?

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

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

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

PR and brand consultant Siobhan Sharpe

Pop culture lessons for PR: from Dunder Mifflin and beyond

There is much to be learned from the PR and comms professionals portrayed in the media – mainly ‘Wow, I do not want to be like that person’. And thankfully most practitioners bear no resemblance to them.

For our latest webinar ‘Somehow I Manage. PR. Pop Culture Comms Lessons from Dunder Mifflin & beyond’, we scoured TV and film for examples of pop culture PR lessons we can all learn from.

Here’s what we can learn from Michael Scott, Siobhan Sharpe, Don Draper, Alexis Rose and Captain Raymond Holt:

1. Understand your audience

Understanding target markets through research ​is a key part of strategy and must come before your activities. Captain Holt tries to tell his audience what he wants them to hear rather than understand their perspective and what would actually help.

You are not your target market. As soon as you work in an organisation you lose that perspective. So, you have to conduct research, which can come from as many sources and channels as your budget allows, from first-party data and focus groups to third party online research and sales information. Only once you know your audience(s) and know their perspective, should activities and campaigns be created.

2. Network smarter

Networking events, conventions, award ceremonies – all fantastic opportunities for forming connections and winning new clients. Also, all places filled with the pitfalls of pleasure over business – socialising and swag.

Heading to an event? Maximise your time by focusing on who you want to meet. Understand where your customers spend their time, adapt your networking style and head in with a clear plan.

And you can be like Michael Scott – it’s possible to have lots of fun and see the benefits of smart networking. Make sure people estimate you.

3. Build the right media relationships

Just like Leslie Knope and the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department, you need to build relationships with a variety of media contacts and maintain those relationships throughout your career. But not every contact will want to hear about everything you’re doing or be spoken to in the same way. The best media outreach is always targeted and never ‘spray and pray’.

Nurture your media relationships by keeping them in the loop with relevant content, and make yourself available if a journalist needs a story – particular if it’s a ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry.  ​

4. Values – ensure you and your clients align

A shout-out to Monumental’s senior account executive Liam Pitts for this one on agency values. We couldn’t find the exact clip from Schitt’s Creek but here’s brand Alexis, and one of the greatest TV moments from Schitt’s Creek, as an introduction.

Liam said: ‘In season 6 of Schitt’s Creek, Alexis Rose starts her career as, in her words, a “freelance brand invigorator”, agreeing to represent a brand that the eventually finds out is a cult. I think the lesson we learn here is that a little research beforehand is never a bad thing – and neither is turning down a client that might not exactly align with your values and beliefs. In PR, when we sign on a client, we are agreeing to be public advocates of the brand. That means we have to understand that might include the bad elements alongside the good.

‘Alexis teaches us that we always have to consider our integrity and credibility when working with clients – something which she learns the hard way.’

5. Be transparent and honest

As a wise erotic dancer once told Dwight Schrute in The Office: ‘Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone’.

In the Public Relations episode of Mad Men, two lies lead to very different outcomes with the press. While Pete and Peggy’s fake fight campaign leads to great coverage and increased sales, it puts the agency’s reputation at risk and costs bribe/hush/bail money down the line.

For Don Draper, he doesn’t open up in his interview with Advertising Age, which damages the agency’s reputation, threatens client accounts and leads to his reputation as an enigma (not in a good way). In this clip he decides to reverse that, opening up to the Wall Street Journal, which is delighted to finally get the truth.

Cover-ups and lying lead to reputational risk for you and your brand. A better story can be found in telling your brand’s truth, and it is ultimately what the journalist is after. It is also possible to recover from bad press with good press, just as Don does, as long as you have your strategy aligned with your truth and your business goals.

6. Control your narrative in a crisis

Crises happen – whether it is a supplier’s disgruntled watermark or something a bit less niche. Best practice is to have a crisis comms plan already in place for every eventually, but if not, decide how you want to respond and get ahead of the story​.

It is key that all your stakeholders are fully briefed and stick to the agreed statement, message or lines to take.

Also, make sure your response is proportionate to the crisis and targets only the stakeholders that need to be targeted.

7. Don’t be a stereotype

PR has a PR problem. People who don’t really ‘get’ public relations may scramble for examples from TV and film in a bid to understand how it works. But as we all know, those examples often aren’t good and don’t reflect the PR and communications we see every single day.

So, the last lesson is don’t be a stereotype, which really means be proud of the excellent work you’re doing in PR. And keep it up!

 

Not only does Vuelio support thousands of clients with all their PR and comms software needs, we also post heaps of PR content and welcome guest posts. For more information, get in touch with our Content Manager Phoebe-Jane Boyd

 

Stephanie Forrest

PR Interview with TFD – Think Feel Do founder and CEO Stephanie Forrest

‘I love tech – you never stop learning,’ says Stephanie Forrest, CEO and founder of disruptive technology agency TFD – Think Feel Do.

Having specialised in technology since her first job almost 30 years ago, Stephanie has since worked with influential tech disruptors including Motorola, Skyscanner and many more.

With tech more important than ever when it comes to connecting people across the world, Stephanie shares what makes the tech sector different to others in the PR industry, what everyone should be planning for and the importance of taking time to rest (luckily, there’s plenty of tech out there to help with that).

How did you originally get into the emerging tech comms sector, and what keeps you in it?
From my first ever job almost thirty years ago I’ve been working in tech. I basically fell into tech and have never looked back. Also, I have been extremely fortunate to work with some of the really great tech disruptors. Companies like Motorola changed the way that we communicate. It was Motorola, for example, that developed the first mobile phone . Also, the people that I’ve worked with have been hugely inspirational. People like Margaret Rice-Jones who was previously the chair of Skyscanner when it was sold for £1.4 billion to Ctrip.

As the founder of TFD – Think Feel Do, what were your original aims for the agency – what did you want to do differently to existing agencies out there? And how did you come up with the name?
I love the name. I knew straight away that it was right. I was reading an article, in the Harvard Business Review no less, that talked about Think Feel Do as a marketing framework, and it really spoke to me. Think is about understanding your audience and environment; feel is about the channels you engage with your target audience through and do is about how you reach them.

I set up TFD – Think Feel Do as I feel strongly that the relationship between agency and client needs to change. There needs to be a partnership between companies and their agencies. It’s about mutual success. And this is what we’ve aimed to do. We are passionate about what we do, and we work as an extension of our clients’ team, their strategy and how they think. In a number of cases, we are our clients’ marketing team. It’s really rewarding.

How did the pandemic impact the way you work, and do you think the changes it has made to the wider PR and comms industry are here to stay?
In some ways we can work anywhere so the impact was, to a degree, limited. On the other hand, as communicators we tend to like being around other people and we thrive on human interaction and collaboration that being in the office allows. Well, I do, anyway! Looking after the team has never been more important. We’ve been supporting the team’s well-being since the business began but this has become even more important over the past few years. We have a quarterly wellbeing budget for example that the team can use to buy a yoga mat or join a class that they love. We’ve also got one of the team going on a sabbatical this summer. This need to really take care of the wellbeing of people is definitely here to stay and so is greater flexibility of how and where you work. It’s a great thing to have come out of the pandemic.

What are the biggest differences between the tech sector and others in the PR industry?
Overall, if you work in tech you have to be able to handle often complex industries that are constantly evolving. There’s a lot to understand, keep up with and learn so to be successful it makes a big difference if clients see you as part of their team. The other big difference is you have to be even more creative in some ways to make a product, for example, easier to understand or interesting to a larger audience.

Are the creative industries doing enough to encourage diversity within their workforces?
Although there are a number of great initiatives, there’s a lot more to be done to drive diversity. One key area that needs to change still is paid parity between employees. It’s disappointing to me that this is still a point that companies haven’t resolved.

What are the big trends in tech that fellow comms people, and the media, should be planning for over the next year?
A key area to focus on is how do you build meaningful engagement with customers and prospects post pandemic from building awareness to driving sales leads to business growth in the hybrid world that we are now in. My advice would be to focus on storytelling as this is more important than ever, as is driving cut through.

Which media helps you stay ahead of trends?
I am lucky enough to work with some amazing CTOs so I get to hear and see first-hand about some of the trends and products that will be coming to market. My go-to read is the FT but I also like to tune into the #mouthwashshow on Twitter hosted by Paul Armstrong. I really enjoy listening to podcasts to stay ahead of what’s happening. The Pivot podcast series is one of my favourites but anything Scott Galloway does is generally interesting and insightful!

Check out our previous interviews with practitioners working across all sectors of the industry here

Research Excellence Framework analysis

Does the Research Excellence Framework (REF) have a sustainable future?

Research excellence framework media report

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) for 2021 have just been revealed—the first since 2014. The final ranking determines the amount of quality-related research (QR) funding that universities receive from the Government each year for the next seven years.

With costs rising by over 80% from year to year, both financial and beyond, unions and researchers and questioning whether this is a sustainable system for the future.

Hollie Parry has written this white paper for Vuelio, Does the Research Excellence Framework (REF) have a sustainable future?, which explores an in-depth analysis on both sides of the conversation. The strongest voices in both traditional and social media have been measured for prominence, outlining the most impactful statements during the week that followed the results.

Check it out by filling in the form below.

Does the Research Excellence Framework (REF) Have a Sustainable Future?

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) for 2021 have just been revealed – the first since 2014. REF is a UK-wide assessment carried out by four education funding bodies, assessing over 76,000 academics at 157 universities. The final ranking determines the amount of quality-related research (QR) funding that universities receive from the Government each year for the next seven years. 

While many have opted to celebrate the stronger diversity of nationwide results this year, the overall system has also been heavily criticised by unions and independent researchers. In the week that followed the results on 12 May, we analysed the trending areas of discussion among 133 journalists across 515 UK-based publications, alongside 34 journalists across 102 international media outlets.   

Strong Distribution of ‘World-leading’ Research  

84% of UK research assessed by REF has been dubbed as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Oxford University had the highest volume of world-leading research and made the largest submission of research compared with any other university, submitting more than 3,600 researchers in 29 subject areas. (Mail Online, 12.05.22).  

The term ‘northern powerhouse’ was trending in the first two days, with 162 articles referencing the strong representation of highly ranked universities in northern regions of the UK. The leading example was University of Northumbria, which was mentioned 189 times for soaring from 52nd to 28th in market share of future funding. Of this selection, 90% of all articles featured a quote from Andrew Wathey, Northumbria’s vice-chancellor, who commented that the achievement will move them ‘into territory formerly the preserve of the Russell Group’ (The Independent, 12.05.22).  As a result, the ‘golden triangle’ universities have lost 2.4 percentage points since the 2014 REF results, a statistic shared 85 times by both regional and national publications.  

Similarly, Scottish universities received strong prominence due to every institution in the region delivering ‘world-leading’ research (The National, 12.05.22). Among the 62 Scotland-focused articles across several UK news sources, 23% featured the terms ‘Scottish universities’ and ‘world-leading research’ in their headlines. 

Diversity and the ‘Levelling-Up’ Agenda 

As REF results are only released every seven years, a leading point of discussion in this cycle has been the ‘even spread’ of success in all four nations across the country (Mail Online, 12.05.22). This term has been used 155 times across UK and international media outlets, highlighting newfound diversity and funding allocated to universities outside the Russell Group.  

The Government has used this opportunity to outline how such results support the ‘levelling-up’ agenda, a seven-year plan to reduce (primarily economical) imbalances and increase public investment in areas outside the Southeast of England by 40%. The agenda has been mentioned 164 times by national news and business publications, as well as in a small percentage of coverage in North America, Australia and New Zealand. 96% of this coverage featured a quote from Steven Hill at Research England, and subsequent Chair of the REF steering group: ‘There’s lots of myths about where our research excellence is, but the truth is that it is more broadly distributed, as the results from this exercise show’, adding that the UK research system is ‘well placed to meet the Government’s ambitions for levelling up’.  (New Scientist, 12.05.22). An article by The Independent, titled ‘University research triumphs will help with levelling up agenda’, was syndicated 143 times by local and regional press such as The Reading Chronicle, Cotswold Journal and South Wales Argus. 

Share of Voice: Prominence of REF Opinions  

Hidden Layers of Inequity 

While almost 78% of coverage shares either a positive headline, themes or ‘levelling-up’, many unions and independent researchers have described the REF process as a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ which can ‘entrench inequality’ given how the results impact funding allocations (Evening Standard, 11.05.22). Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary at University and College Union (UCU), has the strongest share of voice for those in opposition of REF. Grady’s critique has been quoted 93 times since the results were released on 12 May, also taking to Twitter to expand her reach: 

Trending Areas of Criticism in UK Media 


 

 

Multiple trending areas of controversy have emerged in and out of UCU, primarily being:                             

 

Poor Working Conditions  

With almost three in four researchers set to leave higher education, multiple unions across the UK have described the celebrations as ‘unfair’ and ignorant (Daily Mail, 12.05.22). UCU released a public statement describing vice chancellors as ‘utterly hypocritical’ after ‘severe cuts’ to researcher pensions, adding that they are ‘hijacking and seeking to capitalise on the hard work of research and academic related staff’ (UCU, 12.05.22).  

 

Excessive Cost on Public Funds 

While the ethics and structure behind REF have been heavily debated, one aspect that most parties agree with is the excessive administrative burdens and use of public funds. Between just the 2008 and 2014 exercises, costs increased from £66 million to £246 million. A combination of 31 university new sources, education journals and regional news publications have shared their concerns, leading some members of REF funding councils to recognise the ‘radical shake up’ that may be necessary to create a sustainable and ‘healthy research culture’ (Nature, 12.05.22). A professor at Cambridge University added that the costs exceed far beyond monetary value – the REF now ‘looms over the daily lives of institutions and individuals like a massive headache’ (HEPI, 10.05.22).   

 

Unfair Evaluation Methods 

Approaches used to assess university research have also been questioned, as many requirements are not attainable in all disciplines. For example, use of citation data is cautioned as an indicator of quality. Scholars in arts, humanities and many social sciences are particularly critical of this approach, not least because many publications in these fields extend well beyond traditional academic journals into books and physical objects (to include, for example, paintings). Catriona Firth, the associate director for research environment at Research England, is one of many who believes this has a negative impact on the type of work carried out at universities: ‘What institutes think is going to be valuable in the REF is what they encourage staff to do and what they invest in’ (Nature, 12.05.22). Another argued that the process was ‘dampening initiative and originality’, replacing ‘the object of desire (good research) with its proxy’ for the sake of a higher ranking (HEPI, 10.05.22).   

 

Political Engagement  

This year’s REF results have cut through to Parliament with a Early Day Motion being tabled to congratulate the University of Dundee on it’s performance by the SNP. Elsewhere, Paul Howell MP congratulated Northumbria University on its leap to No23 in the latest ranking. Daniel Zeichner MP spoke of the exercise as evidence of UK universities success, arguing this should be the focus of the Government instead of the ‘stoking [of] culture wars’ which has dominated debate in recent years.     

The framework received criticism in the House of Lords, with Viscount Hanworth referring to it as part of a burdensome audit culture. Blogs posted on the Higher Education Policy Institute reiterated that it is a ‘highly complex system of assessment’, but did caution that reforms should not aim not to throw the baby out the bath water.  

The University and College Union were also critical, drawing comparisons between universities celebrating their REF results with the reality for university staff, two-thirds of which they say ‘are considering leaving the sector’.  

  

MP Engagement  

Professor Geoff Rodgers noted the obligatory celebrations of Universities post- REF results are one of the most important aspects of the design of the whole exercise for the sector’s interaction with the Government. However, given only 13 MPs tweeted about REF in response to their local universities’ success, there may still be some way to go.   

 

The Future of REF: 2028 

The future of REF is uncertain. While steps towards the ‘levelling-up’ agenda suggest more diverse funding opportunities, Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, warned that there was ‘no consensus on the value of the REF’. The Labour Party has described the REF as ‘discredited’ and the current shadow minister for science, research and innovation, Chi Onwurah, has complained it ‘encourages a cut-throat environment’, calling instead for more ‘strategic direction from the Government’ and ‘a more equitable funding formula’ (University News, 13.05.22). Moreover, Peter Mandler, professor of Modern Cultural History at the University of Cambridge, believes REF is ‘no longer all that much about excellence or even about research’. In his blog with HEPI, he described the ‘sketchy’ assessment of university impact and environment as a ‘dirty secret’ within the REF system, adding that the whole process is less of a research assessment and ‘more of a public-relations assessment exercise’. Though a professor at one of the ‘golden triangle’ universities, Mandler is one of many in favour of the radical shake-up – or beyond that, to simply ‘rip up the rulebook and start again’ (HEPI, 10.05.22).  

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

Building LGBTQ+ inclusion into your PR and comms campaigns

Building LGBTQ+ inclusion into your PR work and workplace

We recently caught up with co-chairs of PRCA’s relaunching LGBTQ+ Network Katie Traxton and Emma Franklin-Wright to find out why inclusion initiatives are so important for workplace wellbeing and the evolution of the creative industries.

Watch our previous accessmatters session with ProudFT’s Cassius Naylor on inclusion in the media industry.

Need tips on where to start with launching your own support network, ready to fight media misinformation, or just want to know more about being a better ally to the community? Katie and Emma have extra advice and insight on how to build inclusion into all aspects of work in PR and comms.

With some corners of the UK media industry under fire for their coverage of the transgender community, can the comms industry help to combat misrepresentation?

Katie Traxton: It’s important firstly to remember that while we often speak about the LGBTQ+ community as one group, no one part of that community represents the whole and different groups are on different stages in their journey to being accepted for their true selves.

The first event I did when I took my position running the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ group was with transgender racing driver Charlie Martin. It was important to me for our first event to be with a trans speaker, who is inspirational, was happy to share her story and is bursting with talent. For any of you who don’t know who Charlie is, look her up. She’s become a friend and is a role model for so many people – men and women, trans and cisgender.

In terms of the media; don’t believe everything you read. The press has a responsibility to think to before they speak, but we also have a responsibility to think before we accept or repeat everything we read. Do your research. I know it’s almost impossible on any subject to say something everyone will agree with, but balance and accuracy should be basic principles of all reporting. I’m not sure that at present both sides have their voices shared equally.

It’s also important to remember that while publishers want to sell papers, get viewers or clicks or subscribers or be top in any other metric, they’re discussing real people’s lives. It’s a privilege to be given access into another person’s life and a responsibility to treat that access with care. Not everyone sees it that way, but they should. We’d all be better off. Imagine being the one whose private essence is being interrogated in a public spotlight.

Emma Franklin-Wright: The point around sharing both sides of an argument is interesting. I’ve seen so many trans people say that they decline media opps as they don’t want to put themselves in that position where their identity is being put up for debate in front of the nation. They know the sorts of people they will be put up alongside and just know how it will be for them.

Some things we absolutely should debate, but people’s right to exist isn’t one of them. Impartiality is discussed around trans people like it is a discussion about town centre planning and whether or not you should pedestrianise a town centre. It’s embarrassing and offensive to trans people to say denying their right to exist is a ‘debate’, so maybe the media (and us as communications professionals) can stop making every mention of trans people a ‘debate’. Simple representation – such as the Starbucks ad I mentioned or the character of Elle in Netflix’s brilliant Heartstopper series – humanises trans people in a way that debating them for political point scoring does not.

No support networks and initiatives in place at your organisation yet? There are still many ways to support LGBTQ+ colleagues…

Katie: Don’t make assumptions. Don’t think or speak on behalf of individuals or any group of individuals based on what you believe to be their truth, their perspective or their needs. Talk to your LGBTQ+ employees or colleagues, listen to them and then work together to make sure you’re creating an inclusive environment. Seeing LGBTQ+ role models in leadership is also important. All of us look up to people who for any number of reasons we feel an affinity with and if you don’t see an organisation welcoming people from diverse groups at leadership level, then it’s easy to start questioning the opportunities for you as your career progresses.

Emma: Speak to them – make sure it feels an emotionally safe space for them to come to you with what they need. Also, remember to ask yourselves ‘what if’ questions. What if someone in your team tells you they are changing their pronouns to reflect their gender identity? What if someone asks you about your parental leave policy? What if they need medical time off while transitioning? Are you ready for those things? Try and think proactively and not just reactively about how you create a safe and supportive working environment for LGBTQ+ workers.

Want to start your own inclusion network or group at work? Help is on the way…

Emma: One thing we are very aware of is that different agencies and organisations are at different stages of their journey on LGBTQ+ inclusion. Sometimes that is to do with the size of the agency but not always. One of our big priorities this year is to work with relevant organisations to create a tool kit that any agency can use to help them set up their own ERGs. Stay tuned!

Fancy getting involved with the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ Network? 

‘Email [email protected]! It’s literally that easy. Do it! We want to hear from you!’

Check out our full interview with Katie Traxton and Emma Franklin-Wright and find out more about the relaunch of the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ Network

Want more on inclusion in the PR and comms industry? Catch up on our accessmatters sessions, covering topics including social mobility, anti-racism, mentorship and more.  

The pain points of a marketing campaign

The pain points of a marketing campaign

This is a guest post from Yasmin Russell, head of marketing at digital agency Engage.

Yasmin Russell, Campaign

There are a number of things that can cause issues during a marketing campaign, from KPIs to time, however there are things that can be done to mitigate these problems and even solve them to ensure a campaign runs effectively. 

KPIs
It’s essential to establish the KPIs of a campaign early on. Not having clear KPIs when starting a campaign can lead to unrealistic targets being set, or KPIs that don’t reflect what the client is looking to achieve with the campaign.

Realistic KPIs, in particular, are crucial. A client’s expectations must be managed to ensure achievable goals for a campaign are set at the start of the relationships. There’s no point in having a client expecting to achieve one million followers in one month, for example, as this generally simply isn’t possible.

The user journey
If the full user journey hasn’t been considered, it’s very likely that there’ll be touchpoints that are missed which therefore don’t portray a consistent message, including copy and creative.

It’s important to ensure the campaign offers users or consumers a cohesive journey to keep them on the right path that aligns with key objectives, such as awareness. A cohesive user journey can be developed through a number of avenues such as making sure the campaign has a consistent look and feel to support memorability, or ensuring every step of the journey is optimised to support conversion.

The audience
It’s very easy to forget that the audiences you’re trying to target are actually made up of individual people. Marketing is about giving an audience what they want, not what the marketer or company wants.

People are increasingly savvy to overtly advertising content. People will often go online to achieve a goal, escape, be entertained, or informed, and content and campaigns should be tailored to meet these goals.

A campaign shouldn’t just be posted and begin running. It’s important to build a community and rapport with an audience. This can include replying to DMs in good time, responding to comments, and resharing tagged posts.

Taking the target audience on a journey through a campaign and considering all aspects of the marketing funnel is crucial, as people are often unlikely to part with their money on the first touchpoint.

The checkout journey
The checkout journey is crucial to engage users and encourage repeat purchases. It’s very frustrating for a user to reach the point of purchase, only for them to give up because the checkout journey takes too long or some of the fields are broken.

Offering Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay and other systems, alongside taking the time to optimise and user test this part of the journey is very important.

More time
Campaigns can always do with more time than is available, particularly for any company trying to reach a seasonal deadline. For example, receiving a Christmas brief in December isn’t ideal.

Working one month ahead is a good place to start, while big seasonal events should ideally have planning and ideation begin at least one quarter in advance. By setting realistic goals and expectations a marketing campaign will run much more smoothly, and be more likely to achieve the KPIs that have been set.

Feedback
Feedback on a marketing campaign can be tricky to navigate, particularly when balancing best practice with brand requirements and personal opinions.

There’s always going to be a degree of both subjective (for example, disliking text colour), and objective (the price being incorrect) feedback. It’s important to rationalise any choices and keep an open dialogue on these points. As for objective feedback, the more detailed the brief and the more people that proof the campaign before it goes live, the less likely objective feedback will be required.

For more on building strong campaigns, read this guest post from Taxi For Email’s Email Evangelist Elliot Ross on how to build strong foundations for a successful email campaign.