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.

How to brand yourself

How to build your personal brand

As part of our Access Intelligence Women In Work inclusion group, we were lucky to have time with FutureBricks founder Arya Taware and Airbus head of public affairs Katie Roscoe, who shared how they have built their own personal brands alongside building their careers.

Bringing your personality and values into your work can make your job so much more than just the way you earn money. Here is advice from Arya and Katie on how to build your own personal brand for career success and a more rewarding work life.

1) With authenticity

‘I try to be as authentic as I can. Especially in the age of social media, there is pressure to show perfection and only happy moments,’ said Arya.

‘Authenticity is really key,’ agreed Katie.

‘Your mask will quickly slip if you aren’t being yourself in a professional setting. For me, it’s important to know what you stand for, and to find out if it comes across to other people – are you presenting something that others aren’t really getting?’

2) With passion for what you do

Not everybody can work in a sector they have a real connection with as a career. But if you really love what you do, or at least aspects of it, that will shine through in your interactions and inform what you come to be known for.

Arya had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, eventually launching FutureBricks at 22-years-old, straight out of university, having not worked for anybody else:

‘My first employment was my own business. At the start it was really hard, as a sole female founder, and in an industry that is male-dominated, and older – deals are still occasionally done in pubs.

‘What I do, entrepreneurship, is all about psychological endurance. What kept me going was inner self-belief. I knew that all I needed was one yes.’

While Katie’s choice of career didn’t come with a clear path, she followed her passions:

‘I knew from a young age I wanted to be in Westminster somehow – I basically watched “Yes, Prime Minister” and thought that sounded really exciting! A key moment for me was knowing when to make the jump in my career – make the most of your opportunities, enjoy your job, but know when to move into something new.

‘Don’t just jump for money, if you can help it. Stop and think, if you’ve got the opportunity – is the move right for you? Don’t jump just because you’re unhappy. Sometimes that’s not a choice you may have, but if you’re lucky enough to have the option to wait for the right thing? That’s an amazing thing to do.’

3) With connections

Both Arya and Katie see the benefits of building a network on LinkedIn but use it in very different ways. As an entrepreneur, Arya uses it to build her personal brand alongside her business; for Katie, it is a way to amplify her work with Airbus.

‘LinkedIn is a good professional platform,’ said Arya. ‘You connect with people there and then meet them in real life, or vice versa. It allows us to reach people we otherwise wouldn’t reach (unless we learn to clone ourselves…). It’s a powerful tool and how we use it is completely at our disposal.’

‘I do really like that you can connect with people so simply now,’ added Katie. ‘I have made connections through it that have really helped me.’

4) With mentoring

Katie has benefitted from mentorship in her career, and recommends it for the learning that can happen on both sides:
‘Start a relationship with someone that you know, as a part of the work you do already, or even encourage your organisation to set up a programme. You can reverse-mentor as well – a senior person on the team connecting with a more junior person. We all have different skills and experiences to share. As you build your external network, the right people become more apparent. Always keep it in the back of your mind.’

Not everyone will be with you for the full journey – ‘I look at life as a long train,’ shared Arya.

‘Some people will come with you from point A to C, and then they’ll head off. And then other people are with you longer. I don’t believe in the singular; it’s always collective, for me’.

5) With confidence in your capabilities

‘My practical advice about having to speak up at events and roundtables, when I was more ‘green’, was to speak first or get in early if you’re feeling nervous,’ shared Katie. ‘When watching a panel, I’d stick my hand up straight away, and then I’d feel a bit calmer.

‘The industry I’m in can be hard to get to grips with – to start with, I used to speak to prove that I knew what I was talking about and that I should be there. As you get more experience, you should assume that you’re in the meeting/event for a good reason.

‘Speak when it will add value to a conversation, not just to show what you’re speaking about.’

6) With integrity

‘As a society, we’re trying to evolve, but we’re not always where we want to be,’ said Arya.

‘On an individual level, how we combat that is by challenging, communicating, and showing. Sometimes things aren’t worth a fight, sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground. The elimination of subconscious bias and stereotypes might not happen in our lifetime, but it’s up to us how we change perceptions’.

‘It’s having the strength to call things out and challenge,’ agreed Katie.

‘It’s on us, as we move through the world. Where you feel empowered to do so, challenge. That can have its own risks if you’re very junior, so lean on others around you who may be able to give you advice and guidance, too’.

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.

No PR budget? No problem

No PR budget? No problem: Using the Journalist Enquiry Service to gain coverage as a small business

Not every business has a dedicated in-house PR person, comms team or the budget to bring in an agency to do public relations – that does not mean it is impossible to gain coverage in the UK media.

The ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service is used by small business owners, sector-specific agencies, household brand PR teams and global comms teams alike. Whatever size your business – and whichever niche your service or products fall into – journalists are always interested in relevant contributions.

Want to get started with media outreach for yourself? Here is how to do it with the Journalist Enquiry Service (book a one week trial here).

1) Be confident

A steady stream of requests from journalists to your inbox – if you do not have much experience with doing your own PR, it can be intimidating. Not every request that comes through will be one you can help with – look through them and reply to those that sound relevant to you. As long as what you are offering can help the journalist, you have got nothing to lose.

2) Be straightforward

There is no specific way to start a conversation with a journalist that you will not know about if you haven’t got a qualification in public relations – just offer the journalist what they have asked for if you have it. Outline what you have for them clearly, concisely and politely; no fancy jargon needed.

3) Be speedy

Each request sent by a media professional via the Journalist Enquiry Service will have a deadline. As with any project that has a deadline, it is better to get started sooner rather than later. See a request you can help with? Put together your response and send it straight away; don’t wait until tomorrow when the journo’s feature could already be filled with contributions from others who got in touch super fast.

4) Be ready with images

If you have images (or even video or audio) that go with your contribution – of your product, spokesperson or event, for example – upload them to a file sharing service (like DropBox, WeTransfer, or Google Drive) and include a link in your response. Not every journalist will need an image for their story, but give them the option just in case. One definite don’t for images, though – attachments on the first email; that is a no-no.

5) Be generous with your expertise

Nobody can be an expert in everything, not even a journalist who has been covering a particular patch for years. They want expert comment from those with the know-how to fill their feature – if that is you, put yourself forward to help them.

6) Be realistic about responses

Journalists are incredibly busy people with busy inboxes – you will not get a reply every time you respond to a request. Even if you do not hear back from them, they will have made a note of your details if you are a relevant contact and may get back in touch for another feature. Every connection can be a future opportunity.

7) Be patient

Deadlines – journalists have plenty of them. In addition to the deadline they set for contributions – included on the request – they will also have a personal deadline for finishing their feature, and one for filing with their editor. That is not the end of the story, either… Each outlet has their own publishing schedule, with some working months and months ahead. You might not see your contribution for a while. In some cases, it might be cut during the editing process. Do not chase – just keep trying and trust you have made a useful connection in the media.

8) Be reliable and responsive

You are as busy as the journalists you want to connect with, but there is no excuse for ghosting, AKA offering information or an interview and then disappearing because you do not have time. Before you promise something to a journalist, make sure you can provide it. If you are acting on behalf of somebody else, make sure they can deliver, too.

9) Be regular with your activity

Media outreach is an ongoing activity, and one you will get more effective and faster at with experience. Set a regular time slot for yourself to go through requests and see what you can help with – if you fit it into your working week, it will become an automatic part of your business.

10) Be open to additional topics

Being quoted in the media is beneficial; even if what you are talking about is not directly related to your business, you are building your reputation. If you are quoted, the journalist will include a mention of your job title and perhaps a little about what you do. As well as building on your ‘personal brand’, you will also be known to the journalist as someone they can connect with for upcoming related features.

For help with your media outreach, get requests from UK media people straight to your inbox – book a demo of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Want more advice on how to make the most of the service? Check out our previous advice posts:

How to respond to journalist enquiries
How to tackle vague requests from journalists
6 reasons to stop searching #JournoRequest and start using the Journalist Enquiry Service

City Hall Journalists

Inside City Hall – The journalists shining a light on London politics

Pictured, left to right: Callum Marius (MyLondon) Joe Talora (Evening Standard, LDR) Jessica Frank-Keyes (LondonWorld), Josiah Mortimer (MyLondon), James Cracknell (Social Spider).

For those outside of the Press Gallery, the inner workings of political journalism can seem like a closed-off and mysterious part of the media.

What does a typical day look like for City Hall journalists, how do they like to work with PRs and how does one get into this line of reporting?

ResponseSource community manager Andrew Strutt caught up with MyLondon City Hall editor Josiah Mortimer, founder of the recently-launched City Hall Journalists lobby, to find out…

City Hall journos are a close-knit group

‘Having worked in Parliament’s Press Gallery for a couple of years, I found it to be a really useful and supportive network.’
‘When City Hall moved east to Newham earlier this year, it got me thinking about provisions for reporters in the new building – which aren’t quite up to scratch.

‘Often people say that reporting in the UK is ‘London-centric’. This isn’t quite true – it’s Westminster-centric but a lot of what happens in devolved politics goes ignored.

‘There aren’t many of us covering City Hall, so it is great to be working together to speak with a louder voice, improve transparency and build the profile of GLA reporting. I wanted to get this network off the ground to shine a brighter light on London’s politics. Hopefully we can bring some of the best of the Press Gallery to The Crystal, adapted for today.’

No day is ‘typical’, but here is an idea of how things work…#

‘It will involve watching a committee hearing – whether that’s economy, planning, health or oversight/scrutiny.’

‘We work closely with the Assembly Members who are a font of knowledge on City Hall, and are – like us, in a way – there to scrutinise the Mayor, so there is a lot of interaction there. The Mayor has a lot of sway over high profile issues like transport and policing so we tend to trawl through new documents and data, and will often do one or two interviews with the Mayor a week. But the GLA impacts all Londoners, so we try to build links with as many community groups, activists, resident groups, unions and so on as possible.’

How PRs can work with those reporting from City Hall

‘I tend to primarily work with non-profit PRs – those at campaign groups and organisations affected by the GLA.’

‘In terms of for-profits, that will often be in a reactive way, getting rights of reply or checking facts. I enjoy writing the occasional review so will work closely with PRs for music, food or travel content. On getting in touch, I’m a big fan of chatting on the phone but a Twitter DM is usually a good way in – it is a good platform for a very succinct pitch. Please don’t send ten identical emails, though!’

The best part of working the City Hall patch?

Having started in the role last October, Josiah already has some highlights:

‘Getting to ride on the Elizabeth Line before it opened – Londoners had been waiting for it for so long. I was there on the day it opened, too – on the first train from Paddington, following the Mayor and revelling in the transport geekery.

‘Sometimes the highlights are also lowlights, in a sense. I recently did a London Assembly tour of Brixton speaking to market traders about the cost-of-living crisis. It was moving to hear what they’re going through, and it’s also my patch so great to get to know more of the community.’

Find out more about the City Hall Journalists group and its members here.

For news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

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.

What’s next? The new generation of journalists

There’s a new wave of journalism coming and it is driven by Gen Z. Unafraid to write boldly about big topics like sex, religion, race and politics, it is a brave new world for journalism, and how PRs work and communicate with them needs to move with the times.

In our webinar, What’s next? The new generation of journalists, we were joined by three rising stars to talk about why they wanted a career in journalism, what challenges they see in the industry, what the future of journalism holds and how they like to work and communicate with PRs.

Joining our fantastic panel are Hannah Bradfield; freelance and journalist at Journo Resources, Michele Theil, freelance journalist who writes for Vice and The Independent; and Zesha Saleem, freelance journalist who writes for Metro UK, plus British Vogue and The Guardian.

Fill in the form below to watch the webinar and learn:

  • Current challenges in the industry
  • Predictions for the future of journalism
  • Best practice tips for communicating and working with Gen Z journos
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.

finding happiness at work

Mental wellbeing in PR: How to look after yourself and your team

‘People drive the future of businesses – it’s so important for them to feel supported and secure,’ says Emma Loizidis, head of people at Fox Agency.

PR is a particularly high-stress sector; even more so since the start of the pandemic – looking after yourself, and those working with you, has perhaps never been more important.

For how to protect yourself from burn out, what companies can do to support employees, and getting a fully-representative (and fully-supported and empowered) team together right from the start of the recruitment stage, read on for advice from Emma.

Individual burn out – what can be done to prevent it?

‘I think it is super important to recognise that if employees have a healthy work/life balance, employers will get the best out of them. When this balance starts to drop or even disappear, mistakes can start to appear, employees struggle and it really isn’t healthy. If employees are burning out, then HR teams and managers need to look at the reasons why:

• Is the team underresourced? Do we need to hire?
• Is the employee in need of further development? Are they happy in the role?

‘Once we address these potential issues, we can then create some actions: that might mean hiring extra people, offering further learning and development improving our wellbeing offerings – EAP services, meditation/fitness classes, etc.’.

What initiatives should comms companies put in place to support their workforce?

‘Being consistently open and transparent with all employees is key, especially as we move more towards a remote way of working – constantly asking our employees (through regular surveys and stay interviews) what is and isn’t working for them, what are their main drivers to come to work every day, and making sure everyone has a clear succession plan which will keep them motivated, excited and challenged.’

How can recruitment teams ensure processes are fair to attract diverse talent right from the start?

‘There are many ways to achieve this. Fair and diverse hiring should be mindful of not only job discrimination laws, but also the idea that hiring should be based on merit, skills and experience and not related to a candidate’s ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other quality unrelated to their skills and experience. Recruiters can take the following actions to help them achieve this goal:

• Write inclusive job adverts using language that doesn’t encourage conscious bias
• Practice blind hiring
• Create a clear selection criteria
• Include diverse hiring panels
• Assess the relevant skills and competencies
• Have a fair background checking process

‘I think it’s also important not to rely on job adverts as a way of attracting talent. Getting out into the community, building relationships with Universities, young enterprises, digital academies, etc. will really allow recruiters to tap into diverse talent.’

Is a People function right for every organisation?

‘When a PR/Comms business reaches a headcount of 40+, this is definitely the right time to implement a People function. It’s very common for most businesses to think, at this stage, a recruiter or talent manager is the next important hire. However, it’s much smarter to hire a head of people to help embed structure early on to prepare the business for scalability.

‘The industry itself is extremely competitive, with employees getting headhunted left, right and centre! It’s therefore so important to create a culture and environment that will encourage our employees to stay and develop within their roles. Ultimately, our people drive the future of the business and it’s so important for them to feel supported and secure.’

For more on building diverse teams from the start of your recruitment journey, check out our previous post How can PR and comms teams make recruitment fair? 

Catch up on our interview with with Emma Loizidis to find out more about her work with Fox Agency. 

Emma Loizidis

PR Interview with Emma Loizidis, head of people for Fox Agency

Feeling supported and empowered at work has historically been lacking a little in the creative industries, particularly in the fast-paced and high-stress environs of PR.

Joining the push to make the public relations industry a kinder and more mindful sector to work in is Emma Loizidis, who has recently taken on the role of head of people for Fox Agency.

Read on for Emma’s thoughts on the importance of people power: ‘Ultimately, people drive the future of business – it’s so important for them to feel supported and secure’.

What are you most looking forward to getting stuck into as Fox Agency’s head of people?
My plan is to establish and build the people function for the business by implementing strategies to achieve its ambitious growth plans, while at the same time ensuring that the team is happy, supported, fulfilled and working together towards a shared goal.

I’m already bowled over by the culture of the business! And since I’ve joined, the amazing and talented people that make everything happen. I was looking for an opportunity where I could make a real impact on the growth and success of an exciting and thriving business, while having the creative freedom to run with my ideas.

How did the pandemic impact your work, and do you think the changes brought about by COVID-19 are here to stay?
My role completely changed during and after the pandemic. I was so used to working in an office full-time, being surrounded by people and having a constant stream of traffic at my desk. To really be effective within HR, I believe it’s all about really getting to know people. Inside and out. Building rapport and trust as well as being the most approachable person within the business.

Business culture was always built around the office – hosting face-to-face events, decorating the office, small talk while queuing for a coffee. This has all changed now as we move into a hybrid/remote way of working. I’ve had to find new ways to engage with employees, how to create a presence, and how to onboard new hires from afar. I do think these changes are here to stay and I see it as a huge positive! We can now attract amazing talent not only nationally but also globally, and teams have proved that we can still collaborate and connect no matter where we are based.

How do you keep up to date with current trends in HR and employee support – what media do you seek out?
HR changes ALL the time! And I think it’s really important. Not only for my own job satisfaction, but to ensure our employees benefit from as much support and engagement as possible, to keep abreast of current trends and changes.

I’ve learnt over time that my learning style is definitely not through studying and reading, so the best way for me to keep in touch is through podcasts, workshops and modern HR-related blogs. When I walk my dog every morning at 6am, I listen to the CIPD podcast and HR Works. I try to brush up on my employment law knowledge by attending talks and workshops hosted by law firms and employment law lawyers as well as subscribing to cool and modern blogs such as Officevibe, Workable and Snack Nation.

Why is PR/Comms such a stressful, yet special, industry, in your opinion?
I think when working in this industry, the nature of the job is to be constantly spinning multiple plates, particularly in the agency world. Employees will be working towards many deadlines often for several different clients, all of whom work very differently and have different expectations. They’re having to adapt their communication style on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis and it can sometimes feel like they’re chasing their tail!

I also think to work in this industry, employees really take pride in the work they deliver. This can often lead to a perfectionist mentality which is great, however, this can also be quite exhausting. Ultimately, passion is key! People work in this industry to express their creativity, gain a sense of purpose and to have a positive impact. This is why it is so special.

For more on looking after the mental wellbeing of the people in public relations, watch our accessmatters session with KDP Coaching & Consulting’s Katie Phillips on preventing burnout.

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

What journalists want: requests from media interviews on ResponseSource

What journalists want: Requests from ResponseSource media interviews

We regularly catch up with UK journalists, editors, podcasters, broadcasters and more for our Media Bulletin newsletters. One thing we always like to ask: how they prefer to work with PRs and comms professionals.

Sign up to the Media Bulletin newsletter for twice-weekly updates from the UK media industry. Want more details on new hires, new patches and new launches? Book a demo of the Vuelio Media Database.

Here is a round-up of requests from the journalists the Media Bulletin team have recently interviewed over on our sister ResponseSource blog – read on for what they’d find useful.

Peter Stuart, editor of Cyclingnews
‘I welcome pitches from PRs, but more general releases often fly under my radar. I would encourage PRs pitching their brands to really dive into our content at Cyclingnews and make the case for how an idea would engage our readership.’

Peter Stuart joined Cyclingnews as editor in March of this year following his time as digital editor for Rouleur and also at Cyclist. At Cyclingnews, Peter oversees all editorial and content strategy for the website, covering cycling sport, cycling lifestyle and road cycling gear.

Read the full interview for trends in cycling in 2022 and interesting facts you might not know about the sport.

Natasha Lunn, features director for Red magazine and author of ‘Conversations on Love’
‘For stories for Red, it’s best to pitch to me via email (bearing in mind we work three months ahead!).’

Alongside her role on Red magazine, Natasha Lunn published her book ‘Conversations on Love’ in November 2021, featuring fellow writers and experts including Alain De Botton, Roxane Gay, Dolly Alderton and Candice Carty-Williams.

Read the full interview for details of Natasha’s future projects and balancing book writing with work on a busy magazine.

Aaron Hurst, senior reporter for Information Age
‘We like to take on press releases telling stories that CTOs and CIOs can benefit from, including research and new products that fill a big gap in the market.

‘Also, we’re always looking to take on exclusive, vendor-neutral thought leadership articles that provide practical business tech guidance for leaders.’

As senior reporter for Information Age, Aaron Hurst delivers news and features of interest to technology leaders, particularly CTOs and CIOs. As well as covering tech topics including AI and cyber security to the cloud, edge and IoT, the Information Age team report on digital transformation across verticals like healthcare, education and retail.

Read the full interview for what Aaron thinks the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be on the tech sector and his dream story/commission.

Lucy Britner, editor at Drinks Retailing
‘Information and ideas that show they know the magazine or website, exclusive thought leadership pieces that aren’t thinly-veiled advertorials, decent images. Most of the PRs in the drinks industry are great – and they enjoy working in the drinks trade, too.’

A Keeper of the Quaich, Lucy has been covering the hospitality sector for almost two decades. Having started as a reporter for the Morning Advertiser, Lucy now covers the off-trade drinks market, keeping retailers in the know.

Read the full interview for what the future looks like for drinks retailing and Lucy’s career highlights so far.

Emilia Leese, journalist, editor of Heath & Hampstead Society Magazine and author of ‘Think Like a Vegan’
‘Contact me with relevant contributions via email, or through Instagram, LinkedIn. You can also contact me through my blog, Emi’s Good Eating.’

Based between London and the Highlands, freelance journalist, editor and author Emilia Leese focuses on contemporary social justice issues, in particular veganism and its intersection with a variety of human concerns and issues.

Read the full interview for Emilia’s thoughts on the importance of Veganuary and the growth of veganism.

As part of our Media Bulletin newsletter, we regularly catch up with both UK media professionals and PR people with interesting stories and advice on pushing the creative industries forward.

If you have a media client you’d like featured, or have something exciting yourself to talk about on trends happening within the comms or media industry, get in touch with the Media Bulletin team: [email protected].

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.

PR and media inclusion networks to join and work with

PR and comms inclusion networks to join and work with

It’s Pride Month in the UK, but work on pushing the creative industries forward on inclusion and equity goes on all year round.

Everyone deserves to be heard, included, represented fairly and supported – just some of the many responsibilities of an effective PR team. Here are a selection of some of the groups, associations and initiatives in public relations, communications and the media working to make things better in our industries.

PRCA’s LGBTQ+ Network

PRCA LGBTQ+ Network

Relaunched in March of this year, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA)’s LGBTQ+ Network aims to boost positive impact across the industry when it comes to inclusivity. We spoke to co-chairs Emma Franklin-Wright and Katie Traxton about their aims and what’s coming up this year, and have more on building inclusion into your workplace and work with these tips.

PRCA’s Race and Ethnicity Equity Board (REEB)

PRCA REEB

Headed up by chair Barbara Phillips, and having welcomed Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah as Vice Chair earlier this year, the Race and Ethnicity Equity Board works to create immediate and long-term racial equity within the PR and comms industry. For how the board is sharing best practice approaches for ethnic and racial inclusion, catch up on our interviews with Barbara and Emmanuel.

Taylor Bennett Foundation

The Taylor Bennett Foundation is a charity helping BAME people into the PR and communications industry with mentoring and training programmes. In 2008, the year of the foundation’s launch, CIPR data found that just 6.3% of the PR practitioner population were from a BAME background. By 2020, that percentage was still ‘woefully low’ at 9%, according to the charity’s chief executive Melissa Lawrence. Watch our accessmatters session with Melissa, and catch up with the good work of the foundation in this interview.

The Financial Times’ Proud FT

The UK media has a long history of exclusionary hiring practices and reporting when it comes to marginalised communities. Helping to push back on this is the Financial Times’ inclusion group Proud FT, chaired by Cassius Naylor. As well as supporting transgender and nonbinary employees working within the organisations, Proud FT also works for fair representations of the LGBTQ+ community in the press. Watch our accessmatters session with Cassius to find out how the PR industry can help with fighting misrepresentation and misinformation.

The Social Mobility Foundation

There continues to be a class problem in the media and the communications industries, alike – CIPR’s State of the Profession report from 2020 finding that PRs are more likely to have a degree (76%) compared to the general public (35%), and that 41% of PRs have parents with university degrees. ‘Something isn’t working when talent still isn’t making as much of a difference as background,’ says The Social Mobility Foundation’s Sarah Atkinson who believes change is long overdue.

Sports Media LGBT+

Jon Holmes

Established in 2017 to advocate for inclusion in the media industry and across sport in general, Sports Media LGBT+ was founded by Sky Sports senior home page editor Jon Holmes. Starting as a way for LGBT+ people and allies in sports media to network, the group aims to broaden connection and community. For more on the group, check out Jon’s contribution to the ResponseSource white paper Diversity in Journalism and our interview on the Rainbow Ready initiative.

The Access Intelligence accessmatters series aims to amplify different voices across the creative industries. Catch up on previous sessions tackling social mobility, class, antiracism and more here.

why accessible events are vital

Why creating inclusive and accessible events is vital

Flashback to April 2020 where team meetings were swapped for video calls and panic-stricken events professionals around the world raced to take conferences, awards and tradeshows online.

We’re now back to ‘normal’ in the world of events but it’s important that we don’t forget the positives that came out of enforced virtual events.

Accessibility, accessibility, accessibility

As events all shifted online they became accessible to more people. No longer restricted by costly travel, inaccessible venues and lengthy time out of the working day, virtual events allowed people to consume the same content without leaving their house.

With the return to in-person events it’s clear that people have missed human interaction, and no virtual networking will ever equate to chatting to peers during a coffee break. However, it’s important to keep the accessibility progress that was made during the pandemic front of mind when planning in-person events.

Check when planning:

  • Does the venue have good disabled access? Is there a hearing loop?
  • Is the venue easy to get to on public transport?
  • Where is my audience coming from? Will travel costs impact attendance?
  • Is it possible to live-stream or record the event for a virtual audience?
  • If catering is needed, are all dietary requirements covered?
  • Creating events that are more accessible results in a more inclusive event which in turn fosters a wider audience and better discussions.

Work/life balance

Hybrid working has taken the place of the office for many with people valuing the work/life balance the pandemic gave them.

Being respectful of your audience’s time now needs to be worked into any event you’re planning. Whether it’s virtual or in-person, diaries are full so be mindful of the time you’re asking people to give up. Understanding your audience’s working habits is useful when planning, e.g. what days do they go into the office?

Ask yourself when planning:

  • Does the start/finish time allow for people to do the school-run, if needed?
  • Will the day of the week work for the audience?
  • Is the content as efficiently planned as possible?
  • Can you offer both in-person and virtual tickets?
  • If the event is over several days, can you provide single-day tickets?
  • Is it possible to record the event?

Virtual audiences matter

The webinar has become a key tool in every comms and marketers’ kit, providing a cost-effective way to communicate regularly with your audience.

Make sure you are not overlooking your virtual audiences and that these events are as inclusive as your in-person events, both in accessibility and representation. There are tools available that can help with subtitles, recording and editing so no matter who or where your audience are watching the webinar, everyone can enjoy the content.

Virtual events allow for plenty of engagement either with visual and audio or just audio but keep in mind that not everyone in your audience will feel comfortable contributing in a virtual event setting. Giving your guests the option to use their camera or not will make them feel more at ease and able to enjoy the event.

Check:

  • Is there subtitle functionality on the webinar platform and is it enabled?
  • Are you recording the webinar? And does the recording have subtitles?
  • Is your speaker line-up inclusive?
  • Does the time work for your audience based their time zone?
  • Is the sign up page accessible for the visually impaired?

Review and refine

Keep track of what works and what doesn’t so you can keep amending your events to make them as accessible and successful as possible. Look at the data from your sign ups to who shows up and always ask your audience for feedback to help you improve.

Test regularity, time, day and length of your virtual events. Many people suffered from ‘Zoom fatigue’ during the lockdowns so keep this in mind when deciding the length of your webinar or virtual event.

The world of events has changed for the better over the past two years, becoming more accessible and inclusive so more people can learn, network and grow without the restriction of geography, budget or lack of time.

Creating accessible events increases your audience and shows that you care about them and their experience.

For more on virtual events, read our previous posts with tips for moving your event online, why virtual events are more important than ever, and even video call etiquette for when you’re joining from home

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.

Accessibility in email

How to make your next PR email campaign accessible for everyone

This is a guest post from Elliot Ross, Email Evangelist at Taxi for Email – a SparkPost company.

Did you know that for every five people who receive your email four won’t even open it?

That’s the reality of email open rates, but it’s not all bad news. Getting consumers to actually open emails has always been a challenge for email marketers, but there are two ways of looking at it: On the flip side, given that there are around 15 trillion commercial emails sent each year, there are still a lot of emails which are being read.

The big question for marketers is inevitably: How can open rates be improved?

The answer is by ensuring emails are accessible for everyone.

Why do consumers ignore emails?

There are many reasons why branded emails remain untouched – after all, the average person receives over 100 emails a day, and that’s not even counting work emails. For some though, the reason the email has been left unopened is not because they didn’t want to read it, but rather that they can’t actually read or understand the email in the first place.

As email marketers,we need to ensure that our messages can be read by anyone who wants to access them. According to the World Health Organisation, 2.2 billion people globally have a near or distance-based vision impairment. In addition, have you considered the 3.6 billion internet users across the planet for whom English is not their primary language?

Emails need to be easy to read and understandable for everyone, regardless of disability or language. That is why accessibility considerations should be central to the entire email creation process.

Adhering to basic accessibility guidelines for the creation of email also has the added benefit of ensuring that the marketing messages don’t end up being overly complex. Which in turn could also have a positive impact on open and interaction rates.

Meanwhile creating emails in different languages should also not be seen as a nice-to-have for marketers. If you are a brand with a global footprint or global ambitions, multi-language emails are a must!

Developing an accessibility mindset

This process is about marrying company branding guidelines with a set of basic rules to deliver accessible and effective emails.

In some instances it might mean tweaking design elements but in my opinion the benefits of higher open rates significantly outweigh the cons of potentially slightly diverting from brand design rules.

Take point size, for example. It could be that your business has an established type point size which it may have stuck with for decades. However, if that point size is less than 14 pt when it comes to email marketing you may have a problem.

Text needs to be large enough so that everyone can read it. If your readers are squinting, zooming in or – even worse – popping off to get reading glasses, you may have already lost their attention and any chance of any interaction will be gone. So stick to a font size of at least 14pt, and think about line height so readers have enough space between lines to read clearly.

Ask yourself too, is your company typeface easy to read? Before you send out emails, test the font to see what it looks like and how legible it is on different screen sizes and devices (find out, for example, what percentage of your target audience reads your emails on mobile and, if appropriate, optimise emails for smaller screens). Simple, classic fonts work best. There is a reason why some typefaces are more widely used than others…

The dangers of embedded images

For many marketers the jury is out on the effectiveness of embedding GIFs and videos into email newsletters.

From an accessibility perspective there is a very good case for not using GIFs at all. Firstly, not all your readers will see them, as background images and GIFs aren’t fully supported in Outlook. Further, a flashy GIF with fast-moving frames will not only annoy some of your readers, but it can actually trigger seizures in people who suffer from photosensitivity.

If you are insistent that including GIFs will raise engagement levels then make sure you include ALT text to provide context. This helps readers with visual impairments understand the message of the image or GIF.

Other things to bear in mind include ensuring that links are clear and underlined – if you just colour them they could be overlooked by people with colour blindness or low-vision – and breaking up text with clear, bold subheads. If you have specific title, header, and subheader elements in your template screen readers can identify these are different areas of the email and treat them so rather than adding it all into a text field.

Offering multi-language emails

Creating email newsletters in different languages is something that many marketers should be aspiring to. Once you have optimised a newsletter to the point that it works effectively in one language, if you are a global company, explore localisation next.

By offering multi-language emails, people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to read newsletters can receive and engage with them. At the same time, even people who speak English as a second language would have to make less effort to read their emails which might make them more inclined to open the email in the first place.

There are simple ways to translate content using online tools like Google Translate. Yet these are only partially effective and may end up creating content that is confusing to readers and possibly damaging to your brand.

At the other end of the scale you could invest in local translators, though this may create cost and efficiency issues. Employing 20 different staff to translate a newspaper into their local language is both expensive and time consuming.

Images need to be optimised so that they work in local markets. An obvious short-cut is to make the images of people you use as diverse as possible with different ages, ethnicities and genders, etc. That said, nothing beats offering bespoke images on a market-by-market basis. Visuals should reflect the real world and therefore help to make the newsletter as customer-centric as possible.

Email continues to be the leading customer communication tool for marketers

No other platform can compete with email’s direct, dynamic, interactive approach. Ensuring emails are accessible to as many people as possible is not only vital from a social perspective, but if it can also help improve overall read rates then it’s a win-win solution.

Savvy marketers and PRs are all too aware their customers receive a lot of emails and only have a limited amount of time each day to consume content, and so the pressure is on to work as hard as possible to make their branded emails stand out, for everyone.

For more on effective email strategies from Taxi for Email’s Elliot Ross, check out this previous guest post How to build strong foundations for a successful email campaign

Want to find the right audience for your next email campaign? Book a demo of the Vuelio Media Database – more information here