Access Intelligence

Supporting the industry: Vuelio confirms three-month payment pause for freelancers

We’re committed to supporting the industry as we navigate together the disruption caused by COVID-19.  

The challenges faced by the PR industry go hand in hand with the need for businesses to increase communications as they manage multiple stakeholders in this rapidly changing environment. We’re hearing from teams across the country who are under intense pressure and grappling with new ways of remote working.

This is why its vital that we, as a software provider to the industry, can be relied on including by the considerable number of our clients who are NHS, Police or Emergency Service organisations. Whether workflow or stakeholder management, database research or political insights, our clients need our tools to deliver.

We are taking steps to help. Last week, we announced a raft of measures including free online monitoring for frontline organisations and free daily stakeholder analysis to help industry get ahead of COVID policy. This is with free additional product functionalities to support our clients in working remotely.

I can also confirm we will pause any subscription payments for three months by a customer who is freelance and contacts us to confirm they are eligible for the Government COVID-19 relief scheme.  Please speak to your account manager to find out more.

These are exceptional times. We hope by working together with our clients and with the industry to be able to help.


Majority of PR professionals remain confident about the future according to PRCA survey

This week’s results from the PRCA Confidence Tracker has found that senior PRs are still confident about the future of their agencies despite current challenges facing the industry.

Replies from both senior agency and in-house workers to the question ‘How confident do you feel about the future of your organisation right now?’ broke down as:

– 18% very confident
– 36% quite confident
– 29% neither confident nor unconfident
– 11% not very confident
– 7% not confident at all

The weekly PRCA survey will aim to report on levels of optimism among senior PRs during the COVID-19 outbreak, tracking how sentiment changes during the crisis.

‘The PR industry remains remarkably confident in the face of these new challenges,’ said PRCA Director General Francis Ingham of the latest result.

‘Essentially, half of respondents are confident at the moment; a fifth are unconfident; and the rest are neutral. It’s a net confidence score of +36 points. We will be asking the same question of the same group of people every week for the foreseeable future.’

Read more about the PRCA Confidence Tracker results here.

Annabel Dunstan

Working from home (WFH) – the new norm in extraordinary times

This is a guest post from Annabel Dunstan, founder and CEO of Question & Retain.

Question & Retain was set up as a virtual company eight years ago, and as all the team work remotely, we are well versed in running meetings via Zoom and harnessing other technology and software products for seamless joined-up working. Dotted around the M25, and in Romania, our team all have home-based workstations, are self-directing in their work streams, and are on the ball about staying in touch and keeping everyone in the loop on activity and any challenges they are facing.

For many companies, the move to remote working is still new. In light of the Government asking everyone to work from home to slow the spread of coronavirus, we asked 1,000 business leaders in the communications sector what the biggest challenge was when working from home.

One quarter (26%) of respondents said they felt demotivated and lack lustre without the stimuli of office life. 20% flagged the challenge of juggling the needs of children at home while keeping a focus on work. And nearly a fifth (17%) were finding it hard to switch off from work with ‘always on’ technology in the house.

Those that had previous experience of WFH seem very comfortable with the new status quo with fellow team members now also working remotely. Below we share some of the top tips offered up by respondents that may help you and your teams as we all adjust.

Top Tips

Getting organised

1. Make sure your workspace is comfortable and properly set up – the last thing you want is musculoskeletal problems because your desk or chair is the wrong height; don’t sit for too long looking at the same four walls.
2. Don’t work in your PJs (I don’t dress up in business dress but that does work for some people).
3. Use the phone and video – make an effort to speak to people every day at scheduled times.
4. Set a todo list. Celebrate every tick on that list.
5. Allocate specific tasks to specific times of the day. Decide how much time each task should take and set an alarm for when that time is up.
6. Give in to your concentration span. After a decade of WFH, I know that mine is no more than 45 minutes.
7. Don’t clean the house or – even worse – go to the toilet (!) on conference calls (unless you are an expert muter for audio and visual).

Taking care of your mental health

1. Don’t say ‘quick lunch’ in the skype group or ‘quick break’ – say ‘I’ll be walking the dog in my lunch hour’ or ‘I need some fresh air, back in half an hour’. Using the word ‘quick’ for your breaks implies you think they are not worth spending time on – they are.
2. Get out and get fresh air at least once a day if you can, making sure to abide by Government guidelines.
3. Stay connected and organise time to talk ‘socially’ around work updates.
4. Encourage and create a sense of community e.g. a morning team briefing in the Zoom café, end of workday chat in the Zoom pub, or share talents e.g. singing, playing guitar, themed fancy dress etc.
5. As a leader, watch out for who is not ‘showing up’ and check in 1:1 via telephone.
6. Switch off from screens early, at least two hours before going to bed, to help ensure a better night’s sleep.

Taking care of your physical health, where possible

1. Try to exercise every day – walk, cycle or run outdoors if possible and in line with Government guidance.
2. Use technology to download exercise apps that inspire you and get you moving – yoga, Zumba, plank challenge etc.
3. Avoid turning to alcohol and comfort food to zone out from stress.
4. Set yourself achievable goals to get/stay fit.

Personally, I make a point of getting outside first thing, e.g. cycling or running, or swimming in the sea before I dress for work (say no to PJs), slap on the lippy and crack on. I schedule breaks and group calls with members of the team for work and virtual water cooler catch ups. Working in 40-minute bursts, punctuated by sax practice or a cuppa in the garden refreshes my brain and restores the concentration.

I take and make calls standing up and switch off the phone and email alerts when drafting stuff. Emails get taken care of three-four times a day in batches to avoid serving the inbox and thinking that is work. I finish work by changing clothes and playing some kick-ass music very loudly. It’s key for me to make that delineation and properly switch off.

It is a big (but understandable) ask to tell everyone to WFH, but I trust that one of the positives that may come from these strange times is a better acceptance by business leaders that it can and does work, and effectively too.

virtual networking

How to network. Virtually.

These are unprecedented times and as we adapt both our professional and personal lives, we need to find a ‘new normal’ for both socialising and networking. Virtual drinks over video chat have replaced meeting up at the pub, with apps like Zoom and Houseparty becoming essential.

As people work remotely and, in some cases, need to self isolate, it is more important than ever that we stay in contact with our peers and colleagues in the industry. Social media was already a fundamental function for PR and comms, but it now plays a vital role in keeping people connected, allowing them to discuss the issues and challenges they’re facing, and offering support and advice to colleagues and clients.

If you’re missing the social aspect of the working world there are several ways to combat the isolation blues and keep you connected.

  1. Twitter chats

Whether you’re an active Twitter user or you prefer to lurk in the threads, following a conversation hashtag is a great way to see who’s talking about a topic and what they think. From mental health to diversity, #PowerAndInfluence is our recommendation for anyone wanting to join an animated and engaging discussion. Lead by Ella Minty every Wednesday at 8pm GMT, people are encouraged to share their thoughts on a particular topic, offering their advice and own experience to fellow practitioners. One thing’s for sure, you can expect these Twitter chats to get more popular as the current situation develops.

  1. LinkedIn Groups

Joining a group on LinkedIn can allow you to discuss the current challenges faced across PR and comms without having to share it with all of your personal connections. Vuelio has set up two LinkedIn groups, the PR and Communication Network and The Monday PR Club. These groups are open for anyone in the industry to join and once we accept your invitation you can use these as a more intimate place for conversation and catching up with past and present colleagues.

  1. Virtual hangouts

Over the coming weeks we’re going to see more virtual event invites in our inbox and as these become the norm, so will virtual hangouts. Networking in person allows for informal discussions and relationships to be built, which is the aim of taking these meet-ups online. PRFest is running free regular catch ups over Zoom so you can chat, vent and share ideas with your industry colleagues, the perfect antidote to remote working.

  1. Virtual yoga

We started our accesswellbeing initiative back in February to address the issue of mental health in the PR industry and we’ve not let social distancing stop us continue to offer yoga to comms professionals. Moving our #YogaForComms class online not only brings wellbeing to the industry but creates an online community, allowing more people to attend from the comfort of their own living room.

Panic buying during COVID-19 outbreak

Labour calls on the PR industry to help curb panic buying during the COVID-19 crisis

While panic buying is causing empty shelves across the UK’s stores and preventing vulnerable people’s access to essential items, Labour has called on the PR and advertising industries to join efforts to better educate the public with campaigns using #covid19advert and #dontshoptillyoudrop hashtags across social media.

‘Panic buying is causing real harm to vulnerable groups and creating anxiety amongst all,’ said Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Luke Pollard. ‘Ministers have not reacted fast enough or far enough, and that is why Labour is calling for a mobilisation of advertising and PR agencies to create new TV adverts, newspaper, digital and billboard advertising to take on panic buying.

‘Those who specialise in persuading us to buy products now have the opportunity to save lives with their work. Please step up and help. We need people to do the right thing at this time of national crisis: shop sensibly, stay at home and slow the spread of the virus.’

The PR and comms industry has already been working to support both the businesses they work with and the general public to adapt to life during the outbreak. Labour’s urging for more from an industry ideally placed to communicate best practice during difficult times is particularly welcomed by in-house PR Harold Podol at Modern World Business Solutions, who is already planning how his team can help spread the message.

‘I am truly appreciative to Labour for spreading and pushing this campaign, as it needed to be started. We’ve spent our careers creating viral campaigns and building out marketing strategies that go global. We’re naturally trained and skilled in spreading the word.

‘We felt a fair portion of people bulk buying were relatively young, so while most others will be pushing this campaign on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we thought we’d try to reach a different audience set by making videos on TikTok to spread the word. We have also been reaching out to influencers we’ve worked in the past about making a video.’

Even where panic buying is bolstering profits for independent companies seeing a surge in sales, the impact is causing unnecessary pressure. Sales at craft company Stitch & Story have increased by over 900% when compared to the same period in 2019 – good for the bottom line, but the team are struggling with demand as people take up knitting to pass the time in self-isolation.

‘We’re hearing from customers who are worried that a lockdown will stop businesses such as ours from functioning and we are having to reaffirm that it is business as usual,’ says co-founder Jen Hoang, who has joined calls for the public to stop panic buying.

Some agencies already creating free campaigns to support #covid19advert and #dontshoptillyoudrop include Scribe PR and One Minute Brief, who have challenged people to take part in creating posters to stop panic buying. How many more will choose to support the effort remains to be seen, but the quick reaction to the COVID-19 crisis from the PR industry shows it has the tools to communicate the right message when it matters.

Read more on how you and your agency can help with the initiative to better educate the public on panic buying in the full statement from Labour here.

Navigating uncertainty

Navigating uncertainty: the Vuelio toolkit for communicators

PR and comms are playing a critical role in delivering information during the COVID-19 outbreak.

From creating and maintaining consistent messaging, which aligns with brand values, to getting used to new working arrangements, teams are stretched and still expected to provide value to all their stakeholders, both internally and externally.

On top of all this, each organisation must keep up with the latest Government guidelines, which are evolving daily.

Navigating uncertainty: The Vuelio toolkit for communicators has been created to support the industry in these challenging times.

The toolkit includes stats and information on the coronavirus outbreak, including its impact on the media landscape, linked resources to help with everything from virtual events and networking to staying focused while working at home, and it also includes our top 10 lessons to keep your comms effective in a crisis.

It also includes links to our COVID-19 daily bulletin and our next yoga session on Thursday, which will hosted virtually. We hope you can join us there.

Download the toolkit and find out more about how Vuelio can support you.



Tips for using Vuelio to collaborate effectively

Whether your team is in one place or remote working in different locations, Vuelio can help you keep on top of your comms activity and maintain a consistent message.

Here are our top tips:

Create an Issue to keep track of activity around a topic

Keep your messaging consistent by using the SRM’s Issues module, which has lines to take and briefing tools. You can link all of your media enquiries, releases and coverage to help you see exactly what’s going on around a particular topic and who everyone is speaking to about it.

Communicate with stakeholders

Use the built-in email distribution tool to keep your stakeholders and the media up to date.

Create groups in your Vuelio Media Database or add private contacts and send them emails directly. You’ll then be able to see who you’ve engaged using the email distribution report as well as on each contact’s profile.

Keep track of who is talking to whom

Use the module in SRM to keep track of inbound media enquiries and outbound comms. This will help everyone organise and avoid duplicating efforts with media and influencer outreach.

You can link Interactions to contacts, subjects and releases, assign to a colleague and create follow-up tasks to help manage your team’s workflow effectively.

Automated tagging of coverage

We can automatically tag your monitoring content, making it simple to report on coverage by emerging topics, keywords, brands or competitors.

ResponseSource Journalist Enquiries

While you’re managing new ways of working, the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry service continues to be a source of great PR opportunities for your organisation. Requests come to you by email allowing you to react to relevant requests, including lots of non-coronavirus content being sought by the media right now, and expand your network.

CIPR and PRCA issue joint statement

Industry bodies join forces to urge Government support for freelance workers

The CIPR and PRCA have issued a joint statement praising the work of communications professionals during the COVID-19 outbreak while urging the Government to do more to protect the industry’s freelancers.

Highlighting the impact of the coronavirus on the public relations industry, the statement from the CIPR and PRCA points out the frontline role many PR practitioners have in providing the public with real-time updates and advice. While the Government has committed to protecting the nation’s businesses as well as individual jobs and salaries, the bodies urge further support for freelancers working in PR, detailing the lack of income assurance for the self-employed in a letter to the Chancellor.

‘We welcome the Government’s approach of paying people to stay home,’ says the official letter. ‘All of us need those who are infected to self-isolate and those who are not to practice physical distancing. To achieve this everyone must have the assurance of an income until this crisis is over – not most people, but everyone’.

Detailing the many small PR businesses working during this crisis, with the biggest companies only employing a few hundred staff, the letter puts forward that the plans announced by the Government so far will not be enough to support ‘microbusinesses, home-based or virtual’ workers or freelancers who cannot take advantage of Small Business Rate Relief or Universal Credit.

Signed by CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra and PRCA director general Francis Ingham, the letter asks for a response from the Government today with specific details of how a new system can be put in place for the PR industry and its people.

‘Our members are on hand to support the Government in your effort to ensure the public have access to timely, reliable and transparent news and will play our part in the national effort to change behaviour and provide reliable information. We will continue to push for the Government to commit the resources for you to be able to do so.’

Read the joint statement from the CIPR and PRCA and letter to the Chancellor in full here.

Online event

Virtual events and why they’re more important than ever

SXSW and Coachella were first and now with Glastonbury cancelled and the Euros being postponed until 2021, it is clear that no event is impervious to the current situation. Large mass gatherings are no longer part of the calendar and as we all adapt to social distancing, events have had to adapt too.

Over the coming weeks, and possibly months, all in-person events will stop following Government guidelines. For anyone hosting any kind of event there is a decision to be made: cancel, postpone or take the event online. With more people now remote working, holding a virtual event is fast becoming the preferred option.

There’s a wealth of technology that can allow organisations to share their content with audiences across the globe. Webinars have long held an important place in any marketer’s toolkit and now they are even more vital; allowing guests to ask questions and interact with the hosts encourages discussion, which replicates experiences of in-person events.

As museums start to offer virtual tours, so begins the start of virtual expos where delegates can ‘visit’ the different stands, download the relevant collateral and speak directly with the supplier through a messaging app.

While it’s harder (but not impossible – watch this space) to take networking drinks online, small conferences or seminars benefit from this way of working. Livestreaming these events not only helps with keeping costs down (no venue, no catering, etc.) but it also makes it more accessible for both the audience and the speakers. Although you may need to be flexible with time zones, it opens up your list of potential speakers to those who are not just based in your city.

For smaller virtual meetings and seminars, Zoom has a free offering for live streaming meetings of up to 100 participants that last for 40 minutes or less. With a chat function built in, you can easily communicate with your guests and get a lively Q&A going at the end of the session. There’s an option to record your meeting too so if anyone is unable to attend they can still enjoy the content at a time that works for them.

When it comes to promoting, inviting and keeping track of your attendees Eventbrite is an accessible and easy-to-use tool. Plus if you’re hosting a free event, then it’s free to use.

Events may never be the same after this, as budgets get tighter and the need for more accessible events goes from nice-to-have to essential. Expect more virtual event invites over the next few weeks and video catch up content if you miss it. We’ll see you online.

Industry membership bodies react to COVID-19

Industry membership bodies act in reaction to COVID-19

Public relations membership bodies the CIPR and PRCA are launching initiatives to support the sector in reaction to the potential impact of COVID-19 on the PR industry.

Following a survey of around 200 PR professionals on the subject of COVID-19, the PRCA will create a Global Covid-19 Public Communications Taskforce to provide free practical support to practitioners around the world. The association welcomes help from senior professionals able to assist with:

– Advocating for the role of PR in planning and response
– Advice and models for working from home for PR professionals and their stakeholders
– Mental health and wellbeing communications in the current climate
– Guidance on best practice and crisis response across all comms disciplines
– Reporting on COVID-19-related industry data and how the virus is impacting the PR industry

‘The coronavirus is a human tragedy with serious implications for business and public relations,’ said PRCA director general Francis Ingham of the decision behind the taskforce launch.

‘Our industry is uniquely positioned to adopt a leadership role during this time of crisis, and deliver a public good. This offering will be global and it will be free.’

The CIPR will support its members during the coronavirus outbreak with an online resource of advice and information as well as new guidance for communicators working in both the public and internal sectors. The online guides will be regularly updated to reflect the latest government recommendations.

Independent PR practitioners will also be able to request a three-month CIPR membership payment break while continuing to receive information about upcoming training and events from the association.

‘We know many of our members will have increased responsibilities to communicate with stakeholders, customers and staff on activities and policies for their own organisations and clients,’ say CIPR on the need for industry support.

‘Our priority as an institution is the health and wellbeing of our staff, their families and our members. This page contains information on what the CIPR are doing to support members and the profession at a time when the importance of good, clear and ethical communication has never been more important.’

More on the PRCA taskforce can be found here and information on CIPR resources can be accessed here.


Influencer Marketing: 5 Dos and Don’ts

This is a guest post from Rick Guttridge, managing director of Smoking Gun.

For most PR and marketing professionals, influencer marketing is a hot topic of conversation and debate. But now, thanks to new governing regulations and documentaries such as The American Meme and Fyre, the average consumer is fully aware of the power of influencers.

Growing awareness means more brands are recruiting influencers to promote their products and services than ever before. And like most things in life, as popularity grows, we see examples of how it should, and shouldn’t, be done.

How can PRs avoid the pitfalls for their clients and make sure their influencer marketing campaigns have impact? Here are my top dos and don’ts when it comes to influencer marketing.

1. Don’t do it for the sake of doing it
We hear so many of our clients saying they want to embark on an influencer campaign because everyone else is. This is not a reason to do it. An influencer marketing campaign needs clear objectives and an understanding of the impact you’re wanting to make for the brand. Without this, there’ll be no strategy, and therefore little success.

2. Don’t focus on follower numbers
It’s tempting to think bigger is better, but when it comes to influencer marketing this isn’t the case. Although we are seeing more guidelines emerging for this marketing function, it is still unregulated in some areas – such as buying followers. When identifying influencers to work with, it is essential that you look at engagement and audience profiles. Even if the influencer only has 4,000 followers, they could be a highly-engaged group that your client wants to target. Meaning it will be a more impactful, and probably cost effective, approach.

3. Don’t be scared to ask the influencer’s advice
Influencers are businesses in their own right. They know how their audience behave, they know what posts have performed well and the type of content that has impact. When working with an influencer, ask their advice and trust their guidance – they want the partnership to be successful just as much as you do. Having an open and honest dialogue about your objectives will mean the influencer can guide you on how to achieve this.

4. Don’t forget to measure success
Or lack of. Especially, if this is your first time entering into the world of influencer marketing – everything is a lesson. By having clear objectives in place from the start, you will be able to measure against these to see how successful the activity has been, and what needs to change in the future. Low level micro-influencers, who are typically most cost effective, are ideal if you are taking a ‘test and learn’ approach.

5. Don’t always be product-focused
Your client’s brand is based on more than just the product they sell. Think about how you want the audience to think and feel about a brand and use this to guide your influencer marketing content, otherwise you could just end up with smiling selfies with your product in-shot. Influencers share their lives with their followers, so think about how the product can fit into this in a natural way.

1. Do think long-term
One-off posts can have some impact and can help to raise awareness of your brand. But as we know, awareness doesn’t always equal sales. In this current landscape, where consumers are bombarded with more advertising messages than ever before, simply knowing a brand exists isn’t going to drive them to part with their cash. Long-term partnerships with influencers allow brands to build relationships with an audience and communicate the USPs effectively over a long period of time. If an influencer perfectly fits with your client’s brand, consider working with them long-term to create a true advocate.

2. Do use data
Influencer marketing isn’t a dark art; it’s a data-driven specialism. You can effectively tailor the campaign for maximum impact by using data that is available to you. An in-depth understanding of how the target audience behaves online means you can mirror this; for example, if you are targeting new mums, have you considered requesting your influencer partner posts in the middle of the night, when they’ll no doubt be awake with the baby?

3. Do consider it from the start
One of the biggest errors brands can make is simply tagging influencer marketing activity at the end of a campaign. With the way that consumers now behave online, it’s essential that influencer marketing is considered at the start of campaign planning. For example, Simply Be’s ‘New Icon’ campaign had plus-size fashion influencers post on its channels on the day the print advertising went live – meaning that its audience was reached with the campaign messaging at various touch points – giving it more impact.

4. Do follow your competitors
It’s not just your own social posts and influencer marketing that you can learn from. Keep a close eye on what your client’s competitors are doing, who they’re working with and what is working for them. I’m not suggesting you copy their approach, but you can take vital learnings from their successes, and failures.

5. Do consider your channels
Wanting to target 16-24 year olds? Then step away from Facebook and head to TikTok. Wanting to target busy mums? Then Facebook or Instagram is your channel. Before starting any influencer activity, it is essential you have a clear view of what audience you are targeting, and therefore the social media channels they live on. Influencer marketing is not one size fits all, as the way people behave, and the information they’re seeking, varies from channel-to-channel.

To read more, download Smoking Gun’s full guide to influencer marketing here.

Rachel Miller All Things IC

PR Blogger Spotlight: Rachel Miller, All Things IC

‘Readers tell me being featured on All Things IC has helped them get a new job, raise their profile or secure a promotion, which makes me proud to know my website has played a part in their success.’ Today’s spotlight is with All Things IC’s Rachel Miller, who shares all things internal communications with her readers.

Having started her career as a journalist back in 1999, Rachel has seen the evolution of both sides of the media/PR relationship. Read on for her take on some of the biggest changes the industries have gone through, as well as retro tools of the trade that didn’t quite make it into this decade (microfiche, anyone?).

How did you originally get started with writing about PR, marketing and comms?
I started my blog in 2009 while working in-house at Tube Lines (which is now part of TfL) to help me research how social media could be used for internal communication.

There were only two case studies globally I could refer to in my post-graduate diploma in Internal Communication Management dissertation back then. Nowadays, I’d be spoiled for choice!

My blog came about because I wanted to share the resources I’d found, have a space to document my findings and to find likeminded people who were also interested in the same topics.

Rachel Miller All Things IC 2

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
My favourite thing to write about is internal communicators. I particularly love featuring practitioners who have overcome a struggle I know others are grappling with.

Readers tell me being featured on All Things IC has helped them get a new job, raise their profile or secure a promotion, which makes me proud to know my website has played a part in their success.

What are some of the recent campaigns you’ve written about that you really liked and why were they special?
I recently welcomed Sara Vogt, deputy director, corporate communications at the Ministry of Justice here in the UK as a guest blogger. Sara (@_saravogt) wrote about their values campaign and how organisations can live their values.

I liked it because the Ministry of Justice had identified the things that will help them become a truly values-led organisation: where their values underpin their strategic decisions, implementation of their business activities and how every employee behaves with their colleagues, stakeholders or users of their services.

Sara wrote: ‘With our values campaign we’re giving staff a platform to share their personal stories of how they are living our values and how they have felt supported at work – our colleagues have shared their many stories, including of being supported when returning to work after gender reassignment; of thriving at MOJ after a childhood growing up in care; and of gaining confidence in public speaking for the first time’.

With mental wellbeing being a big issue in the industry at the moment, what do you think agencies can do to support their employees?
I think every organisation is responsible for enabling conversations around mental health and wellbeing to happen. Regardless of the size of your company, there are practical steps you can take to help your employees.

I believe conversations about mental health need to be part of the way companies communicate; we need to make it okay to admit when you’re not okay and support our workforce and managers to have honest discussions, underpinned by robust support, policies and advice.

I’ve partnered with mental health at work expert Jo Hooper to provide a new Mental Health Leadership Masterclass on 6 April 2020 to help comms practitioners learn more.

I’ve blogged about mental health extensively on my blog, including featuring Jamie Angus, internal communications and engagement manager at PDSA writing about the work they’re doing to give colleagues a voice on mental health.

How can the PR industry work on its diversity problem?
Unfortunately, there are various diversity problems in PR, which is reflective of society as a whole.

Workplace inclusion requires a shift in organisational culture and is a recognition that policies alone are not sufficient to build an inclusive workplace. I blogged about how to understand and improve diversity back in 2018 and could have written it today as little has changed.

You need to know the data behind any problem so you can make informed decisions. At the very least, companies need to prioritise representation across the dimensions both in terms of how they communicate and how they recruit.

How has the relationship between the media and public relations changed during your time in PR?
Speed is one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen. I started my career as a journalist in 1999 and moved into internal communication in 2003. PR and comms has changed a lot in that time. The fundamental principles of good, effective communication haven’t, but the methods and media have.

For example, there was only one computer with internet access in the newsroom when I was a journalist and it was incredibly slow. This was the era when we weren’t using search engines yet and spent a lot of time validating and researching at libraries (often using microfiche!) before publishing.

The speed at which we communicate and publish today means the relationship between the media and public relations is constantly evolving.

Do you think calling to pitch stories to journalists can ever be a good move?
Rarely. Only if you are certain it will be of true interest, fits their niche, they’re the right person to contact, they’re not on deadline – there are many things to think through first, which are potential barriers!

However, you can’t beat having a proper conversation rather than flooding someone’s inbox. Pitching to me via phone is never the right thing to do, but to make your pitch stand out in my inbox, it needs to be timely, targeted and relevant for my readers.

What are the pros of working with influencers versus ‘traditional’ media?
I enjoyed speaking with Ste Davies last year on his New Influence podcast. We discussed the topic of influencers as my take is from the inside out. I have numerous conversations with my clients about their internal influencers and ambassadors and how that relationship does or doesn’t work.

Do you work with other PRs on your blog? How would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I rarely work with other PRs on my blog as feedback from my readers shows they prefer reading articles by their peers, which is mainly in-house communication practitioners from around the globe.

However, if someone has taken the time to read my guidelines, understood the topics I write about and has a targeted, timely and relevant topic, I will consider it.

I get approached daily by PRs. The best ones have done some research, they’ve looked at the content I’ve published, spotted a gap and sent me a relevant message. I say no to pitches 90% of the time because they are from agencies wanting to use my blog for their own gains, rather than thinking about how they could add value to my readers.

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
My fellow bloggers within this Top PR category are familiar to me, I’ve read some of their blogs for years.
I enjoy the weekly round-up from PR Place, edited by Richard Bailey, as it helps me uncover new voices in the PR world. I like to support those who are just starting out by reading and sharing their posts to encourage them.

I also love listening to podcasts and particularly like Holly Tucker’s Conversations of Inspiration series with entrepreneurs.



Consistency in a crisis

The disruption caused by COVID-19 is extreme and creating an intense challenge for every business and the PR and Communications teams who must keep stakeholders up to date with a constantly changing news agenda when working arrangements might have to change.

We’re here to support you in maintaining the effectiveness of communications even if you may have to work remotely. The Vuelio platform provides monitoring, messaging and engagement accessible from a single, secure cloud-based platform which means multiple users can work from, and coordinate all they do, wherever they might be working.

We have comprehensive systems in place to provide service continuity at all times, including in this instance to manage the potential effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of this, we regularly review all business operations from supply chain, IT to personnel with robust contingency measures in place that avoid interruption to service. This has included testing our systems to evaluate potential risk and impact to our people.

Our software and the databases they rely on are cloud-based, meaning they can be accessed securely from remote locations. Our team can also access and provide customer and maintenance support remotely, while a system of on-call rotations ensures support is sustained should some of the team fall ill and allows for uninterrupted service while allowing team members time to recover.

If you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team.


Women in PR in 2020

This year’s International Women’s Day is just behind us and PR can count itself as a profession particularly welcoming to women. CIPR’s 2019 State of the Profession survey showed that two thirds (67%) of the industry identify as female, putting us in the majority. However, that very same survey showed that women in public relations are still paid less than men for the same work, with a gender pay gap of £5202.

‘There are more women at Board level and running agencies and in house departments, but a sad counter to that is that many find that working freelance is the only way to balance work and life, especially if they have caring responsibilities,’ says Professor Anne Gregory of the other struggles women in PR continue to face. ‘It is still the case that long hours characterize the industry and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the ‘always on’ nature of the work is immensely destructive of well-being and family life.’

We put the call out to women in PR to share how they’ve noticed the industry getting better when it comes to gender and what still needs to be done.

‘When I first started out in PR 20 years ago, it was frowned upon to be in the office less than 12 hours a day. No-one wanted to be last to their desk in the morning, or first to leave at the end of the day. There was a lack of trust if you weren’t visibly there, so working from home was almost unheard of – if you weren’t in the office you weren’t working. We have created an agile world where we can now fulfil career ambitions, while raising a family and even have time for hobbies too. It’s now customary to have a healthy work-life balance and that’s a real cause for celebration.’

Agatha Chapman-Poole, managing director of Chapman Poole

Sara Wheater

‘Having been a undergraduate on one of the first PR degrees in the country back in the 1990s when it was still very much dominated by the ‘Max Hastings’ of the PR world, it has been a journey of incredible courage, creativity and resilience.

In my first role at a rural PR agency I was told it was a rite of passage to sleep with the boss. Needless to say, I didn’t. I took myself off to work for a female boss in the city who was not only inspirational, she was whipping the men’s derrieres with her steely approach and getting the right message out in the media. Diversity in the workplace breeds creativity beyond stereotypes and I’m proud that many agencies today are truly reflecting the needs of the societies that they serve.’

Sara Wheater, public relations account director at Calvin

Rose Allerston‘I’m lucky to be surrounded by women who genuinely inspire me every day at work – strong, intelligent women who don’t apologise for their place at the table and have encouraged and supported me to do the same. Our business is also based in Manchester – the birthplace of many women who have paved the way for freedom and radical thinking – so we’re following in their footsteps every day.

The days of long mahogany boardroom tables flanked by men in suits are (slowly!) dying out and I think generally these days you can be respected for your opinion and ideas regardless of what you wear or how you look.’

Rose Allerston, senior account director at Smoking Gun PR


‘Sadly, my personal experience has been that the old systems of power and patriarchy are still holding fast in a lot of places. Over the last ten years or so I’ve watched many women get pushed out of companies and positions of power, seen them branded as over-emotional or somehow not fit for the job, I’ve overheard men at the top complaining about maternity leave and flexible working, and I’ve sat around tables with men with less experience and expertise than their female colleagues, and grimaced as they still shout them down. It can be depressing, and I think it’s a big part of the reason why so many women seem to be moving towards the freelance/independent route.

I’m hugely supportive of other women who strike out on their own, and am also lucky enough to be hugely supported by the women I have worked for and with over the years. They keep me sane!’

Jane Cook, ‘indy PR bod’ (@JaneChicoMendes)

Natalie Orringe‘IWD 2020 is a chance to reflect on how much has been achieved but also how much more has to be done to realise gender parity. Issues such as #MeToo to Weinstein remind us how important it is to celebrate and recognise women.

Things have definitely improved in PR and marketing since I started over 17 years ago. We are much more aware now of appropriate behaviour and being open to flexible ways of working. These are both essential to women being able to achieve their potential.’

Natalie Orringe, chief marketing officer at Access Intelligence


Martina Mercer

‘When I started my career in 2008 I did a little cheeky test. Even 12 years ago women were considered to be somewhat inferior to men, not as successful, not as driven. I spent one day signing all my emails with the name Martin instead of Martina. I got a lot more results and responses as Martin, while respondents were altogether more friendly (even the women). I was a copywriter and marketer at the time, freelance, and I even kept the moniker Martin for the short duration of a couple of projects as the client seemed to feel much more secure dealing with a man rather than a woman. It could have been a coincidence…’

Martina Mercer, freelance PR and marketing consultant

Jessica Pardoe‘I’m fairly new into the world of work after only graduating in 2018, but I’ve noticed that in PR there’s a lot of bringing people up and supporting one another, even when we’re competitors.

There are so many women I look up to in the industry and who I know are always there to support me if I need help in any way, to name a few: Carrie Rose, Ella Minty, Amanda Coleman, Evie Shaw, Janet Hare… Though I haven’t seen anything change, per se, I’ve definitely seen a lot of backing of each other from the women in PR.’

Jessica Pardoe, PR and digital executive at Source PR 


Rebecca Oatley

‘It’s important to remember the struggles that women have endured to be considered equal in our society and best in class in our companies, in our government, in our public institutions and in our homes. It’s a day when we can learn from their strength and recognise their achievements. Yet it’s even more important to recognise and put pressure on those countries and societies where women are still struggling against institutional bias. Remind yourself that you too can make a positive change.’

Rebecca Oatley, managing director of Cherish PR



‘We must remember the terrible sacrifices women have made to secure the rights we take for granted now, plus think of those fighting all over the world today to save others and achieve a fairer, more just future.

We reflect on what has been achieved, as well as what is still left to be done – the current state of women’s rights, how to build more inclusive societies and guarantee equal standards of living for everybody. To quote Malala Yousafzai: “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”’

PR executive Lucia Schweigert and PR & content executive Manon Thomas at Life Size


Rebecca Mulgrave

‘I owe my career to a whole host of women that showed me the ropes as a junior, who taught, mentored and coached me, who encouraged and pushed me forward – and in many respects, still do today. To be able to offer the same support and guidance to other women has been a hugely rewarding part of my career.

At Branch Road, we’re empowered to achieve what we want (both personally and professionally); to mentor; to learn; to lead teams and take charge! And at the end of the day it’s not just our people that benefit – our clients and our company benefits too.

Rebecca Mulgrave, head of PR at Branch Road


Lauren-Lunn-Farrow‘There are a lot of fantastic females working in PR and media and over my 15 year career I have seen a rise in this, particularly women setting up on their own and running businesses, which is great to see.

A lot of former colleagues I have worked with and women that I have employed are now running big comms divisions or have set up their own businesses that are flourishing, and it is brilliant to see their visions continuously going from strength to strength.’

Lauren Lunn Farrow, managing director of The Expert Agency


Carie-Barkhuizen‘I talk to media about inequality every day. Everything from ignorance of the impact of menopause at work, to the fact that young girls STILL think technical jobs are ‘for boys’. But my ideals about progress shattered on becoming a mother. My NCT peers struggled to get rehired. Some went back to different roles than they had left; and I have been constantly asked if I’ll be able to cope with my business and a baby. The fact that IWD is still so needed makes me very, very mad. I look forward to a time when we can celebrate achievement everyday regardless of gender.’

Carie Barkhuizen, managing director of Seymour PR


Fiona-Kirwan-and-Lisa-French‘We have a number of clients who operate in traditionally male dominated sectors, but we will be working with them to challenge stereotypes in order to help attract more women into typically perceived male roles.

We’ll also continue to applaud my female industry counterparts for standing up, leading the charge and being seen.’

Fiona Kirwan and Lisa French, managing partners at Truth PR



Rebecca Sweeney‘I believe, if women are to ever achieve complete equality, we must continue to empower one another. It’s incredible to be surrounded by so many exciting, creative women (and the men are alright too!) who inspire me every day to become a better PR manager, colleague and friend.

It sounds cliché, but when we come together, awesome things happen.’

Rebecca Sweeney, account manager at No Brainer



Ali Cort

‘As a PR youngster, working in mostly female-biased agencies, I used to be rather shocked at what appeared to be the industry’s senior men crawling out of the woodwork at award ceremonies. I’m pleased to see that women are making advances in this area with more taking senior leadership roles and C-suite positions.

I still think more needs to be done as if it can’t be achieved in a field where women comprise the majority of the workforce, then where can it?’

Ali Cort, client services director at Browser Media

Sarah Waddington

PR Blogger Spotlight with Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work

‘I try really hard to practice what I preach’ – FuturePRoof founder, podcaster and former CIPR president Sarah Waddington shares her knowledge of the PR industry with future clients as well as her peers at Astute.Work.

Read on for her thoughts on how the industry needs to do more when it comes to wellbeing, hiring practices and which other public relations-related blogs are worth checking out (you may recognise a few…)

How did you originally get started with writing about PR, marketing and comms?
It’s about the say/do gap. You can’t advise clients or up and coming talent that they need to be blogging about business and industry without doing the same. I try really hard to practice what I preach. I’m an infrequent blogger but am passionate about what I write.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
At Astute.Work we’ve developed a management consultancy which sits alongside our PR and marketing offer. Having just completed a course at Oxford Saïd on this subject, I guess I’m most enjoying writing about leadership.

What are some of the recent campaigns you’ve written about that you really liked and why were they special?
Astute.Work helps management teams to drive ethical and sustainable growth over the long-term and manage market volatility. As such the campaigns I’m drawn to are those where there is a visible attempt by the company to build social capital over the longer-term.

That said I’m going to mention a #FuturePRoof initiative on influencer relations. Two of your other Top 10 bloggers, Scott Guthrie and Stephen Waddington, wrote a brilliant guide to influencer marketing governance with Vuelio’s support. It’s very of the moment and everyone should keep a copy bookmarked.

With mental wellbeing being a big issue in the industry at the moment, what do you think agencies can do to support their employees?
*Soapbox klaxon* Here’s one I wrote earlier with the now President of the CIPR, Jenni Field. Sort your governance out please, PR bosses! This is about good business, nothing else.

How can the PR industry work on its diversity problem?
Simply, by stopping recruiting in its own image and being more open minded than asking for a 2:1 or above from a Russell Group University. We love to make it harder than it is. Hugely talented people are out there if you can be bothered to look outside your own networks.

How has the relationship between the media and public relations changed during your time in PR?
Not sure it has, there remains the age old tension between what they want and we need.

The difference is public relations now employs the PESO model and we invest most heavily in owned media, making earned less relevant (although still important). There has most definitely been a shift in power. I wrote about it here.

Do you think calling to pitch stories to journalists can ever be a good move?
Journalists and PR professionals have a symbiotic relationship. We need each other. So yes, but only when you’ve done your research and you feel confident you’re pitching something that fits the target title and is fresh.

What are the pros of working with influencers versus ‘traditional’ media?
Co-creation of content, by a long way. Plus, greater creativity of thought and new ways of working.

Do you work with other PRs on your blog? How would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I’m always happy to consider Q&As or first person articles from other business leaders pitched by a fellow PR. The best interviews are housed on Astute.Work’s My Friends In The North podcast.

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
I’d better mention my husband’s, but I regularly read Influence from the CIPR, as it curates lots of interesting blogger content – as does Vuelio, for that matter!


Rob Skinner

PR is the missing piece of the smarketing puzzle

This is a guest post from Rob Skinner, managing director at Skout.

Marketing and sales have a complicated relationship. In theory, the two should go hand in hand but it’s not quite as simple as that. Skout recently conducted research among 100 marketing professionals which demonstrates the problematic sales and marketing gap many companies are facing. In fact, a whopping 73% are yet to successfully integrate these two closely related teams – making it clear that there is an overwhelming need for businesses to adjust their strategies in order to achieve a more harmonious union.

Despite the obvious advantages of what has now been coined as ‘smarketing’, the benefits are still unrecognised by 60% of respondents, who claim they do not see the value in breaking down these barriers. There is already a wealth of information, sharing tips on how to marry up sales and marketing but there seems to be a missing piece to this advice – and that is the relationship between PR and sales. These two disciplines can often feel like polar opposites, but they shouldn’t.

Having worked in PR for 25 years, I know how aligning these teams can be a real struggle and the impact it can have, not only on sales and marketing but also on PR when it comes to doing an effective job. In many ways PR and sales fall at opposite ends of the marketing spectrum. PR is very much about generating brand awareness, with outcomes that are often difficult to measure from an ROI perspective. In contrast, sales are all about closing the deal and meeting the targets. You can appreciate how and why these two roles may feel disconnected, but equally if this is the case, major opportunities can be missed.

In today’s digital world where B2B buyers and decision makers have access to unlimited information at their fingertips, sales is actually more reliant than ever on PR activities to gain interest, build brand awareness and offer support at each stage of the sales cycle.

It has been proven in research conducted by Forrester, that showed between 70% and 90% of a buyer’s journey is complete before engaging with a salesperson either through online reviews or PR activity including thought leadership articles, blog posts and informative resources such as whitepapers and e-guides. All of these factors play a huge part in the buyer journey. In fact, it is estimated that buyers now view 11.4 items of content during this journey and it’s often the PR team’s job to make this happen.

Implementation advice
It is vital that PR pushes sales to get the conversation going in order to help them better understand the sector and its challenges, as well as the successes that the company has achieved, so this can be communicated to the target market. I know how difficult this can be but there are methods that can help businesses to implement it smoothly and successfully:

More face to face time
It’s all about building relationships and what better way to do this than getting off emails and apps and instead meeting face to face? Using the method of story foraging can yield brilliant results. PRs should meet with a rage of important figures within the business, including sales, to ask them about the role they play within the company. This information can then be used to build a better picture of the day-to-day business activities and find newsworthy angles that can be transformed into informative and captivating content.

More flows of information
Communication should not just be left to initial story foraging meetings – keeping flows of information going on a regular basis helps to keep everyone involved on track to meet their collective targets. Adding sales to project tracking and collaboration tools used by the marketing and PR teams helps to keep them in the loop with what content is being sent out so that they can utilise this content and media coverage to nurture prospects into customers.

More formal involvement
Once the information from initial meetings and story foraging days has been processed and broken down into possible storylines, PR teams should work to keep sales involved by using their industry expertise to add value to the content. Ways of doing this can involve; working with salespeople to author blogs and articles, encouraging salespeople to contribute to and engage in social media activity and even sourcing opportunities with podcasts or broadcasting that can feature leaders in the sales team.

More focus on the sales cycle
All businesses should be delivering against a fully optimised sales cycle. This should be understood internally, allowing PR teams to respond strategically by creating relevant communications in line with the lifecycle of the company’s customer from ‘lead to loyalty’. Content should be created with the view of nudging leads ever forward in the cycle – creating a transition from prospect to a paying customer.

It is clear that there is an overwhelming need to close the gap between sales and marketing. PR teams have a vital part to play in this. Although there seems to be pushback by businesses at this moment, there will come a point where this simply cannot be avoided. Businesses should take note from those leading the way and be open to asking questions about best practice and recognising the wealth of benefits that are available to them if they put these processes in place.

Find out more about Skout PR’s research into ‘Smarketing’ by downloading the e-guide.

IWD2020 round up

International Women’s Day events and initiatives round-up

With International Women’s Day approaching on 8 March, the PR industry is gearing up to celebrate the success of women in the sector and to reflect on what still needs to be done to improve the lives of women in public relations and beyond. Here are a few of the initiatives launching in time for Sunday.

The Future (of PR) is female
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry has teamed up with non-profit organisation I Can Be to introduce seven and eight-year-old girls to the possibilities of a future career in PR. I Can Be’s work focuses on introducing girls to opportunities in the workplace as well as the women already working there, and will be collaborating with the Red Lorry Yellow Lorry UK director Hannah Patel for a three-month series of interactive workshops with girls from London schools.

‘To tackle the diversity issues that are rife across all areas of corporate life we have to do whatever we can to encourage the next generation of female minds,’ says Hannah of the initiative. ‘We need to invest time in early-stage education to really make a long-term change. The future is definitely equal, and if we all make a little more effort we’ll be there a lot faster.’
Shattering stereotypes

Finn Partners is also hoping to help open up a world of opportunities for girls in its work with Modern Muse, a charity connecting children with successful female role models – the ‘Muses’ – across a range of jobs. Sharing stories from their education and careers, the women that take part encourage girls to fully explore the career options available to them.

‘To me, International Women’s Day is a timely reminder to think about all the great women I’ve been lucky enough to work with – as well as those I don’t know but are doing amazing things in the world,’ says Finn Partners managing partner Flora Haslam.

‘As the parent of a preschool girl, it also makes me reflect on how far we’ve come as women in recent years, yet how far we still have to go. In 2020 I am amazed how much gender stereotyping there is for young children in terms of toys and clothes. It’s my hope that the next decade will see a shift.’

Sharing what it takes to be successful
The PR people over at Fizzbox have created an interactive graphic for International Women’s Day, highlighting the daily routines of ten successful women including celebrity stylist Marian Kwei, MUHU founder Sally Wynter, award-winning author Jini Reddy and Rich Visions’ Mavis Amankwah. What becomes clear when looking at each time-line is that balancing wellbeing and a healthy work/life ethic is more than just a full day’s work (and it takes getting up at around 6am every morning).

Advocating for flexibility
Committed to the cause of supporting women working in PR all year round, Women in PR is focusing its efforts on flexible working campaign ‘What the F?’ and has launched a survey with Opinium to find out what flexible working looks like in the industry. It is open to men and women, takes only five minutes to complete and is open until 13 March – take part here.

‘Women in PR’s mission is to increase the number and diversity of women in leadership roles in our industry,’ says committee member Natalie Trice. ‘Over the past couple of years as a committee we have made every effort to show that Women in PR welcomes everyone, including men, to join our network and support our work in sharing expertise and encouraging more women, of all backgrounds, to reach their full potential.
With 87% of the UK’s full-time workforce wanting access to flexible working, the PR industry desperately needs to change its attitude towards flexible working provision. The younger generation expect flexible working to be a given and to be treated equally. To retain the best and the brightest talent, organisations, PR or otherwise, need to be alert to the changing needs of the workforce.’

Breaking the glass ceiling
This week saw the PRCA B2B Group event Finding and addressing the glass ceiling in PR, where panellists including The Inner Circle’s Crystal Cansdale, business coach Maria Darby-Walker and president of Women in PR Bibi Hilton discussed how a more inclusive environment can be created in PR and why women start to disappear from the line-up when it comes to positions of seniority.

Fighting for more F(emales) in Fintech
Hotwire has plenty of initiatives in place to help its employees thrive, including a ‘thoughtful working’ policy that recognizes the flexibility needed to maintain a healthy work life. Diversity initiatives at the agency also extend out to industry specific groups with F in Fintech, championing the women leading in the sector in an effort to welcome more workers from minority groups.

‘Our sheer numbers alone give us so much power,’ says Hotwire global CEO Barbara Bates. ‘If more women backed women, we’d be unstoppable.’

Ella Minty

PR Blogger Spotlight with Ella Minty, Power & Influence

‘This expectation that we all have to sing and dance, go to the pub and be merry and joyful when that is not how you really feel can take an immense toll’ – today’s spotlight falls on PR pro and Power & Influence blogger Ella Minty, who knows the unique pressures of working in public relations as well as the highs (creativity and stereotype shattering) that go with the occasional lows (long hours and stress).

Encouraging knowledge sharing in her popular #PowerAndInfluence Twitter discussions as well as on the Power & Influence blog, Ella shares extra wisdom with us on how important deeper thinking and diversity is for happiness in the office environment and making more meaningful work.

How did you originally get started with writing about PR, marketing and comms?
I wanted to share what I know and provide a different take on some of the aspects we don’t come across that often but, when we do, they become crucially important to get right from the start.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
It has to be business, through the lens of a PR practitioner and vice versa. I am bemused by how much time we spend looking through a magnifying glass at ourselves (naval gazing) as opposed to really understanding what those who need our services – besides a campaign for a toothpick – are really looking for.

What are some of the recent campaigns you’ve written about that you really liked and why were they special?
I haven’t written anything about campaigns because I haven’t found any to be ground-breaking and really soul-searching. What I can tell you though, after having judged three PRCA MENA’s 2020 Awards categories (and here I’m only referring to the Best PR Campaign: Digital category) I was really blown away by Golin MENA’s ingenious and innovative approach to making a boring and rather bland product such as paint really stand out. Their Jotashield campaign for Jotun Paints was really something else.

With mental wellbeing being a big issue in the industry at the moment, what do you think agencies can do to support their employees?
Listen – like, really listen and observe. This expectation that we all have to sing and dance, go to the pub and be merry and joyful when that is not how you really feel takes an immense toll. Allow people to be themselves and express their feelings; if all agencies did that to begin with it would be a massive step forward. Encourage authenticity and self-reflection.

How can the PR industry work on its diversity problem?
We should understand that diversity has two main forms of manifestation: one is physical and the other is mental. The former is ‘people like us’ and the latter is ‘no more nodding heads’. This reminds me of that splendid Procter & Gamble campaign aimed to shatter stereotypes ‘Like A Girl’, and of how far we are to even comprehending that another view, someone else’s experience and take on issues may, actually, help us become better.

We often stop at skin colour and gender and we shouldn’t; innovation, forward thinking, competitive advantage and so on, all these imperatives for business growth are in the mind, not in the body. When you submit a proposal, are brought in to sort an issue or help in a crisis, it is your mind that will make all the difference, not the way you look or dress. The quotas on diversity need to be very carefully considered, especially when it comes to gender diversity – bring a woman in because she is the best at that job, not because she is a woman.

How has the relationship between the media and public relations changed during your time in PR?
It has changed dramatically. When I started, almost 20 years ago, the journalists were the authors and the keepers of the ‘Bible’. There was a very clear demarcation line: they asked, you answered, then you could only hope they understood. Today, the lines are blurry and I am quite sad to see that some journalists forget that they are supposed to be neutral, ethical and professional. Equally, it never ceases to amaze me that we still have PR practitioners who treat journalists like the fish in a pond: throw something in and see how many fish you can catch.

Do you think calling to pitch stories to journalists can ever be a good move?
It can, providing the right story is pitched to the right journalist. A journalist cannot be expected to be everywhere, read everything and know what is happening in their sector 24/7. If we can provide them with something that is of real interest to them, we should. This is how many professional and long-lasting relationships start: as transactional.

What are the pros of working with influencers versus ‘traditional’ media?
I have very strong views on this, and often my views are rather strong, one might argue. Influencers to me are pretty much as ‘influencing’ as the answer to the question: ‘how long is piece of string?’. Celebrities are still good at raising awareness when it comes to products – credible they are not, for the most part. Social media influencers, and I cannot help mentioning the case of the ‘over four million followers’ ‘social media star’ who couldn’t make it through one of the dance-offs of Strictly Come Dancing last year; how ‘influencing’ was that influencer? I’ve written quite a lot about this subject and I would always urge caution. If treated strictly as a paid-for transactional relationship, the contractual terms must be very strict to ensure both parties are clear on what their obligations, liabilities and expectations are.

The ‘pros’ of influencer marketing are reach, awareness and, potentially, sales impact – but the last point needs to be very carefully tied back to the actual influence of that person. And I’ll give you an example of a perfect influencer in my book: Stephen Waddington. Before I created my blog, I used to write a lot for CIPR’s Influence (online version) without even thinking to go through the effort and trouble of creating my own blog – between ‘Influence’ and LinkedIn’s Article feature, I was ok. But then Stephen wrote something and urged us to create our own platforms – after all, I can be as hard as I want on one topic or another in my own blog as opposed to someone else’s. Then, it was also Stephen who, when I complained about something to do with our practice a several years ago, when he was the President of CIPR, he turned to me and said just this: ‘and what are you doing about it?’. The penny dropped and I thought to myself ‘I’d better do something about it’ – and I did.

So what I am trying to say here is that an influencer’s ‘influence’ can only be measured, realistically, in their ability to influence someone to do something: change, use, buy, etc.

Do you work with other PRs on your blog? How would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
No, I don’t – never had the chance to because, although I’ve been sent numerous press releases, those I found really interesting to have a constructive dialogue with were only interested in ‘broadcast’, not in anything else. I’m happy to be approached by anyone who has a very interesting story to tell, particularly in our line of work, and is ready to answer my questions – some I’ve even invited to host a #PowerAndInfluence chat but, when they learned that the chat is a conversation and not a prescriptive Q&A or a chest-beating opportunity, never came back to me.

If I like what I read, then I’ll approach the sender – I will never ask to be paid for my writing about them or doing a #PowerAndInfluence together; I have a blog because I am passionate about what I do/write – it’s not a means of income for me and it will never be; this is why I don’t accept any advertisements etc. My blog is very personal and special to me, so any co-operation with any other PR professionals will be based on that premise.

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
I read Stephen Waddington, Scott Guthrie and Jessica Pardoe quite regularly, as well as Sarah Waddington’s FutureProof – I like learning something new every day and look for ‘wow, I didn’t know that’ or ‘I never thought about that’ kind of content. But I read many others, too, depending on the topic/subject. The blog articles I loathe are those who invite you in (clickbait style) and bore you to death in the first five minutes with their services on the topic, how you can work with them, etc. I appreciate that some or many make money from writing blogs, and that is fine with me – but it would be great if they could wow the reader with their knowledge on that topic first and, right at the very end of the article, promote what they do and how they do it.


Cut for time charity brand webinar

Cut for time: extra answers from the How to build a charity brand webinar

Our recent webinar How to build a charity brand included discussion on communicating with stakeholders while building relationships with supporters. Expertise came from Scouts’ director of communications and marketing David Hamilton and brand and ambassador manager Chris James, as well as Shape History’s co-managing director Lauren Kay-Lambert.

Watch the full webinar here.

We ran out of time to answer all of the questions that came in during our chat with the experts – but Lauren and Chris have very kindly answered the additional questions regarding research, best practice and rebranding for further reach, below.

How much research has to be done to get branding right? Is it possible to use only data and information we already have?
Lauren Kay-Lambert: It’s important you gain a good understanding and honest insight from multiple stakeholders, both internally and externally from beneficiaries/donors. Existing data, especially around user journeys/Google analytics to see where traffic is coming from will definitely be beneficial.

Chris James: This depends entirely on what data you already have. We’d recommend that you consult widely with internal and external stakeholders and give people scope to give you frank and honest opinions.

How could a volunteer-run community group use this best practice to increase its impact on people and its reach on social media?
Lauren: The key is to get your volunteers and end beneficiaries involved – speak to the people you’re trying to reach on social media and ask them what type of content they’d like to see. Also, don’t feel as though you need to be present on every single social media platform – assess what brings you the best return and engagement.
Chris: The key is understanding your audiences and what they need from you. Test different ideas and approaches and then use these insights to increase your engagement and reach.

How can a smaller charity without the reach and recognition of a big charity undertake a full rebrand to improve its effectiveness?
Lauren: Still use the same process, but don’t spend a huge budget on an agency to do the design work. I suggest hiring a freelance designer (go onto The Dots/use Major Players, etc.) to find someone who will be cheaper. I’d suggest focusing on the ‘Understand’ phase and nailing down your verbal identity.

Chris: You don’t need a huge budget for a rebrand. However, you do need huge buy in. Start by building the case for a rebrand – why do you need to do it? What’s not working? Who are you not reaching? It may be that you need a refresh rather than a full rebrand. Before looking at colours, fonts and logos, the key is identifying your key benefit – answering the question ‘why do we exist?’ Run some informal workshops where stakeholders get a chance to answer these questions. The key is taking people with you – a rebrand that is foisted on an organisation, charity or company will not succeed.

How do you measure your relevance?
Chris: We regularly track our perception across a range of key audiences – across relevance, trust and other factors. We work with research partners to do this.

Can you explain more about ‘self-service culture’?
Chris: Self-service is simply about providing your members or customers with the tools and resources to speak confidently about your brand, whether online, in print or in person. We provide a free online hub with templates, videos and other assets members can use with minimum expenses and expertise.

When you establish a charity, how do you choose right types (trustee, foundation… etc.)?
Chris: We’d recommend seeking specialist advice and research widely on this, as it depends on what you’re setting out to achieve.

How much did the Scouts rebrand cost from start to finish (budgets are always tight in our sector, and so often we see these great examples of what can be done, but they are way out of our reach)?
Chris: We were fortunate in that a number of partners were willing to work with us at significantly reduced rates or free of charge. For that reason we agreed that we would keep the arrangement confidential so it would not affect their wider business. We recommend that you have honest and open conversation with potential partners and you also have the option of doing this in house – although external perspectives are invaluable.

Watch the How to build a charity webinar here. Want more expertise from charity brands? Check out advice from Tiny Tickers and The Wildlife Trusts on creating successful PR campaigns on shoestring budgets.

Marketing Island

Top tips for finding an effective tone of voice for your online brand

This is a guest post by Marketing Island.

Tone of voice isn’t the words we say but how we say them. It is the language we choose, and the personality behind the screen. Brands often rely so heavily on graphics, colour pallets and typefaces, but having a distinct tone of voice is just as important for building brand affinity and familiarity.

In the wise words of Maya Angelou, ‘People won’t always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel’. Mastering your own tone of voice is crucial, it’s a major part of what makes you unique. A consistent tone of voice ensures you are easily recognisable and can resonate with your customers.

When we speak face to face, we are not solely relying on the words leaving our mouths as we have the assistance of non-verbal communication. Using facial expressions, gestures and different pitches allow us to correctly communicate what we are trying to say to others. A carefully considered tone of voice is vital for the representation of a brand online, as we lose all these additional factors. Online marketing such as email and social allow you to build strong relationships with your consumers through one to one conversations. Therefore, portraying the correct tone of voice can help you stand out against competitors and communicate authentically and honestly.

‘If you’re looking for your voice, tap into how you write and talk to your best friends – when you’re not trying to impress or be someone else, but just telling your stories. That’s the quickest way to find it.’ – Jess Pan

Since establishing Marketing Island in 2017, our tone of voice has always been an important factor in our overall branding. Marketing Island was created with a specific audience in mind and this enabled us to quickly establish who we were talking to and how to talk to them – women like us!

Being human has always been the most important thing for us, we have always prided ourselves on being genuine and passionate about the topics we share. We have found this vital to our engagement; it allows us to build connections and bonds with our readers.

Our Top Tips:

Understand your values and personality
Your tone of voice should express your brand’s personality and values. Figure out if you want to be humorous, empathetic or serious (but always ensure you’re relatable!). Your customers are only human (like you), so be approachable and break down that fourth wall – you are not a robot!

Know your target audience
Who will you be talking to? As with all marketing, understanding your audience and their needs is vital. Ensuring your tone of voice aligns with their purpose and ethos as well as your product or service is extremely important.

Write down guidelines
Once you’ve nailed your tone of voice then document it, this can be a part of your overall brand guidelines. Having documentation in place informing of your tone of voice is extremely important to ensuring everyone in the organisation is on the same page.

Be consistent
Through finding your authentic tone of voice your audience will learn to understand your brand and expect a certain experience from you. They will begin to recognise you and build a trusting relationship. Consistency is key here, they need to have the same experience with you 24/7, 365 days a year.

Continue to check that your tone is relevant to your brand. Over time, external and cultural factors can influence organisational change. As important as it is to keep a consistent tone of voice, it’s just as important to be mindful when things may need to be adapted.

Marketing Island is an award-winning online marketing magazine set to inspire women in the digital industry. Find out more here, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.