Tim Liew

Dad Blogger Spotlight: Tim Liew, Slouching Towards Thatcham

‘One of the biggest joys of blogging is that you don’t have to confine yourself to a specific niche,’ says Tim Liew, the blogger behind Slouching Towards Thatcham. Having written about sport and covered TV for the Metro, Tim is a master of many niches. What he’s focusing on at the moment? Keeping a complete record of his time as a father of three children.

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?

I’d been writing a sports blog for a year, so starting another one to record my experiences as a first-time dad seemed like a natural progression. I drafted half a dozen posts but didn’t publish anything until nearly a year after Isaac was born. Oops.

Anyhow, 12 years later I’m still going and have an almost complete record of my time as a father of one, two and now three kids. I still kick myself for those missing ten months, though.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?

Anything and everything, as long as it’s something I’m passionate about. One of the biggest joys of blogging is that you don’t have to confine yourself to a specific niche. Over the years, I’ve written about much more than fatherhood. I’ve published and performed parody songs, and written about topics as diverse as politics, social media and TV (I wrote TV reviews for the Metro for three years).

I’m starting to dabble more in current affairs now. Not because I have anything unique to say – quite the opposite, in fact. I write from the standpoint of an ordinary dad, wondering how to make sense of the world for his children. Ever since I became a dad, my world-view has been skewed by thoughts of how what we do today will impact our children tomorrow.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?

It’s been quite an organic change, in truth. Obviously, there have been fewer opportunities to write about things we’d normally be doing outside of the house. Instead, I’ve been writing a series of ‘Life Under Lockdown’ diary-style posts. This has been such a unique period in all our lives that I wanted to capture what it’s been like to live through it. How it’s felt to self-isolate. Our thoughts and fears. The adjustments we’ve had to make and the unexpected upsides.

History will record the major events of the pandemic for posterity; I wanted to capture our day-to-day reality. I hope that one day we will be able to re-read these posts and remember the minutiae of these times.

How will lockdown have changed the way those co-parenting view their family duties and how they share responsibilities? Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads?

Maybe. Maybe not. If nothing else, the past three months have shown working dads like me that it’s possible to do things in a different way.

For me, lockdown has meant working at home in a house with five people all competing for the wifi. That has been … challenging. It has been harder on my wife, who works in the dining room while I’m closeted away in the study on video calls most of the day. Consequently, she’s the first person the kids turn to when they’re bored or need help with something.

It’s left me with this strange feeling of ‘working parent guilt’. My work day is essentially unchanged, just in a different location. But I also have a lot more opportunity to interact with my kids during the day. I didn’t have that before, and while I do what I can to help out, I know it’s neither enough nor as much as I’d like to. It gnaws at me.

What is definitely different is that I have more time with the kids outside of working hours, which has been wonderful. We eat dinner together on weeknights, which never used to happen. Now that lockdown has eased, they often join me on walks where we can share what we’ve been up to or what we have planned.

I feel like I’m a bigger part of their day by virtue of being at home more. And while I have no desire to swap being a working dad for being a stay-at-home dad, the last three months have cemented my desire to be more of a work-at-home dad, even after things have returned to normal.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?

Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. You can’t do everything and in this time of enormous change it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and a bit down from time to time.

What has worked for us as a family is an open acceptance that it’s okay to not be okay occasionally. We’ve all had our tired and grumpy days at some point; we’re only human. What we’ve reinforced with our kids is that we’re all in this together, as a family. So everyone has to play their role, whether it’s helping out with household chores or just biting their lip when someone’s having a bad day.

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?

On a good day: a barbecue outside in the sun. Otherwise, we’ve made a virtue out of ‘leftover days’ where everyone chips in to prepare a big family fried rice.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?

I’ve scaled back on brand work a lot over the past few years so I can afford to be selective. I work best with brands either I or the kids are genuinely passionate about. And the best brands to work with are the ones who are receptive to feedback and ideas rather than insisting that you stay ‘on brief’. Trust that an influencer knows their audience. Don’t stifle their creativity.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?

It’s simple; I don’t ask for much. Be respectful of my time and value, and do at least a modicum of homework. I don’t expect you to have committed my children’s life history to memory. But my youngest child is eight – it says so on my ‘about’ page – so don’t approach me with baby products. It’s just common courtesy, really.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?

I read an eclectic mix of blogs covering everything from social media and business topics to sports and TV.

But in the parenting sphere, I’m drawn towards blogs with stories about experiences that are completely different to my own. So, a few in no particular order: Dad Blog UK (John is a former journalist and PR turned stay-at-home dad), Our Transitional Life (about Kelly, her transgender wife Zoey and their two kids), Daddy & Dad (two dads, two boys) and LesBeMums (two mums, one boy). I love the way each of these opens a window into a life that, ostensibly, is completely different to mine – and yet in many ways oh so familiar. In a world where we are too often encouraged to stay to the mainstream and fear ‘the other’, these are stories that matter.

Vicki Broadbent and family

Mum Blogger Spotlight: Vicki Broadbent, Honest Mum

Honest Mum Vicki Broadbent is one busy blogger, having changed career direction from TV and film directing to full-time blogging, book writing and appearing in front of the camera as a parenting expert.

As parents across the globe struggle with their own balancing of work and family duties, Vicki shares her thoughts on the division of parental labour, digital upskilling and the unique pressures of a job online when the world is on lockdown.

‘There’s never been a period quite like this before where this volume of people have simultaneously been online at any one time.’

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
I started Honest Mum while on maternity leave from directing (I worked in the TV and film industry) and had no idea it could be a job. I simply started writing to return to writing (my first love) and help rebuild my confidence after a traumatic birth with my first son. It was 2010 and I distinctly remember having to explain to people what a blog was back then. I returned to directing commercials a few months after hitting publish but soon discovered I could earn the same, and potentially more, blogging than being on set. Working digitally was flexible, so I didn’t have to miss out on raising my son, too. 12-hour days are not conducive to motherhood.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
That’s like asking if I have a favourite child – ha! I don’t! I find the personal posts the hardest to write but the most cathartic (my post on my traumatic birth helped many women, and still does). I do love sharing recipes on the blog too, especially because I get to eat my creations afterwards!

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I feel incredibly lucky that my job hasn’t been affected and feel for those who have experienced job losses or a decline in work. The digital field has grown rapidly during this period: digitisation has accelerated due to the crisis and automation is coming next. There’s never been a period quite like this before where this volume of people have simultaneously been online at any one time. Even more advertisers are working with influencers, particularly with the decline of traditional press.

I have covered the crisis on the blog and my social media channels, sharing expert-led guest content along with my own to help support parents. I made a series of video tips on both home schooling and working from home respectively for Instagram and YouTube and I’ve consistently and candidly shared the challenges I’ve experienced juggling work with home school, so other parents feel less alone and more supported.

Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads in the wake of necessary changes to co-parenting schedules during lockdown?
I think work culture has already changed, with remote working becoming the norm. Employees have proved they can work from home. Employers have discovered how freeing it is and how much time and money is saved. These realisations will hopefully result in more fathers enjoying flexible working, moving forwards.

The inequalities for mothers are still vast and the situation is more dire than pre-lockdown. Women have been impacted the most during the pandemic, and are now even more economically fragile than before due to losing more jobs than men and having to take on more responsibilities at home. Now is the time for mothers to upskill in digital education. I’ve launched a series of courses under my new company The Working Mother’s Academy which does just that.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?
Know that you’re not alone. I find implementing self-care continues to be the key to everything, and I’m referring to the basics: making sure you’re fed and sleep well so you can be strong for your family. I’m working into the early hours most nights in order to juggle home school and work so know quite how hard life is right now. But I’m meditating daily, even if it’s just for ten minutes, and I’ve been running most days in a bid to keep emotionally and physically well.

Honest Mum spag bol

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times? 
This easy spag bol with hidden veg is always a winner with my kids.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I work with brands in a variety of ways, from appearing in adverts for them in 360 campaigns across my own platforms and in the press, as with the new MG car ad (which was a collaboration with The Mirror), to writing and filming content for my blog and social media channels, working with brands such as BT, Disney, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Herbal Essences and beyond. I was the first influencer in the UK to become a digital ambassador for an airline. I’ve also interviewed A-listers like Kim Cattrall Westlife among others to promote new movies and tours.

No day is ever the same, but I’ve worked with PR agencies since I started blogging (I was offered my first commission six weeks after starting up my blog) and most of my work is repeat business. I only ever work with brands and on campaigns I respect and believe in. I decline the majority of offers so I can focus on creating the greatest quality campaigns.

Agencies often come to me early on and sometimes even before they’ve won the bid to create the campaign, and we work together on the brief. As a former director, PRs trust my opinion and vision, and I’ve also consulted for agencies and brands in-house, too.

I regularly feature as a TV Parenting Expert on BBC Breakfast and Sky News, and my book Mumboss receives a 2nd edition release on 20 August and it is published in the US and Canada on 8 September under the new title The Working Mom. I’ve also spoken about enterprise and maternal rights at the House of Commons.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Emails are best and it’s always great when PRs have done their research and are pitching appropriate campaigns that would fit my interests, family and values. As a writer and filmmaker, I write and film my own work but I do interview talent and feature fitting guest posts written by thought leaders and experts, too.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether baking-related or not)?
To name just two (as I have so many): Babes About Town and Your DIY Family.

Reach-the-right-influencers-with-the-Vuelio-media-database

Starting an agency

Want to start your own comms agency?

This is a guest post by John Ashton, director of copywriting agency Write Arm.

A new peer-to-peer support network has launched for home-based comms professionals who want to run their own agencies. The KitchenTable Community is a membership organisation with a marketplace at its core. Also aimed at marketers, designers, web developers, video makers, events specialists, copywriters and the like, it is encouraging members to form commercial partnerships, share knowledge and generally root for each other.

There’s a fantastic camaraderie among small agencies, which is giving the Community its fuel. I conceived the idea of the Community three years ago, when I noticed that numerous marketing industry professionals were starting home-based agencies that employed networks of freelancers rather than permanent staff. The Coronavirus lockdown will accelerate the trend.

Many comms professionals who have been forced to work from home won’t want to go back to the office and sadly many won’t have jobs to go to. During tough economic times kitchen table agencies should thrive because their lower overheads allow them to compete with larger agencies on price.

Benefits of membership of The KitchenTable Community include:
• Peer-to-peer support
• How-to content, including a free online course and online events
• Access to a marketplace where members trade services
• Deals on products and services

Creative professionals are often intimidated by the idea of starting their own business. I certainly was, but then I did it anyway. So my message to you all is that ‘if this idiot can do it, then so can you!’.

As an introductory offer, The KitchenTable Community is currently free for six months with no obligation to remain a member once charging starts.

Public Affairs: The Starting Points

Public Affairs: The Starting Points

This is a guest post by Dr Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs for BDB Pitmans.

Not everyone who comes into public affairs has intentions to do so. Very often members of a communications team suddenly gain responsibility for dealing with public affairs. How should they prepare themselves and what should their immediate steps be?

During our recent webinar, Recess and Beyond: Building a public affairs strategy in a post-lockdown world, a question came in related to this very topic. It is also an issue I encounter a lot when running my public affairs training courses. Very often the team member who now has responsibility for public affairs knows and understands communications but is less clear on the political side.

The first thing I do is to reassure them that it is a great starting position. If you strip away the arcane Parliamentary language and political shenanigans then you see that the fundamental starting point is good communications. So no one should be scared off to start with.

Then you can start to get to grips with a wider understanding of what is involved. To anyone finding themselves in this position, I would recommend five steps…

1. Do your reading
There are a number of good books around on public affairs, not least Lionel Zetter’s Lobbying: The Art of Political Persuasion as well as my own Public Affairs in Practice and Public Affairs: A Global Perspective. This will help you get some of the fundamentals in place. I’ve put together some useful lists on this Amazon page.

2. Think professional development
To go into a little more depth, there are training courses available from the PRCA and CIPR as well as others. Just this year, the PRCA has launched a Public Affairs Diploma (which, full disclosure, I lead). As someone new into a role, I would expect your employers to make a training budget available so be prepared to use it (or request it!).

3. Use the free resources available
There is a wide range of really useful free information available. The Vuelio webinars, blogs, white papers, reports along with those from other organisations as well. But add to that podcasts, which I believe are a completely invaluable resource. There are the more sector specialist ones and the wider political ones, as well. Personally, I believe they help me to gain a broader, cross-party sense of issues. So I take in the Times Redbox, HuffPost politics, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and a whole range of others (including The Athletic if you like your football!). How do I get through so many? My recommendation is to listen on double speed!

4. Have a ‘start the day’ routine
The role of the Today programme varies, but for me it is the start of my political day. Having said that, maybe the new Times Radio will become important as well. I can then move onto some of the best newsletters – RedBox, for subscribers to The Times, but also the free Politico London Playbook. Add a selection of newspaper and new sites. Why have this routine? It isn’t just about knowing what the big political issues of the day are. Instead, it helps to identify public affairs opportunities or potential risks. I can then work with clients to do something about them.

5. Start to build a network
While your networks will not be mutually exclusive, it is useful to think of having a public affairs network and a political network. So attending events, or virtual events at the current time is a starting point. For the public affairs side, think about joining (free) the PubAffairs network. Then you can think about the more political side. This could come through your own political activity or through attending political events (party conferences, parliamentary receptions, etc.).

There is one other very important aspect that anyone new to public affairs needs to consider at all times and that is their ethical responsibilities. It is best to think about ethics from the outset so that they are engrained in everything you do. These will include any statutory requirements but also the codes operated by the PRCA and the CIPR.

Once all these steps are in place, then you are ready to get going!

James McCollum

PR Spotlight on James McCollum, director of Barley Communications

Taking on a new role is always going to be challenging, but especially when it comes during an international health crisis impacting businesses across the globe. James McCollum has welcomed the challenges of working through lockdown in his recent appointment to director at Barley Communications, and takes us through how the virtual agency is dealing with the current obstacles facing the PR industry and its clients and what can be learned from them.

‘I’d ask not whether the industry ‘can’, but whether it ‘needs’ to return to the way things were before…’

What are the main challenges you’ve faced taking on a new role during lockdown?
Lockdown has been a difficult time for people in ways none of us could have ever imagined.

I suppose a key consideration has been reassuring clients that I’ll continue to be someone they can contact on a day-to-day basis. There can be perceptions that a change in position can mean less time delivering their work – which is not the case for me at all. I’m a firm believer that communications leaders and practitioners need to continue operating ‘at the coal face’ if they want to provide the best advice and deliver the most effective campaigns for their clients, such is the pace of change in how people access and consume content.

What are you most looking forward to getting stuck into in your new role?
The two best things about working at Barley are firstly working with and learning from incredible people and talent, at all levels – from old hands to new kids on the block, we all have something to learn.

Secondly, it’s working with amazing clients that have a real impact on people’s lives. Our strapline is Communication That Matters – and it’s true!

In terms of my new role, I’m looking forward to supporting new and emerging talent in the business, and expanding our social purpose portfolio to deliver more meaningful campaigns that have a positive impact.

Are the Barley team working from home at the moment, and what are the plans for returning to the office?
Barley is a virtual agency that has always embraced working from home. It enables us to work with the brightest and the best who, in many cases, aren’t able to commute. In that sense, COVID-19 has been business as usual for us.

We have missed our regular meet-ups, though – our ‘B-Hives’. These are monthly opportunities for us to get together, tackle key briefs as a unit and brainstorm ideas together – as well as have a good catch-up. In the meantime, we’ve continued running creative sessions remotely, both internally, and with existing and new clients – we’ve won several new briefs in the last few months.

Having made the adjustment to remote working two years ago, my advice would be to stay connected with colleagues and clients. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or suggest a short ideas session to nail a brief. Interaction is one of the most important parts of our jobs – it’s the heartbeat of what we do – and it’s important to keep that at the core of your day-to-day.

Which pieces of tech have really been helping you work through the current crisis?
Given we work from home permanently, we haven’t needed too many changes. We’ve been using Zoom and Sharepoint for years, so no real changes in terms of software. Although, running messaging workshops via Zoom has led us to explore different features, like the breakout rooms – if you haven’t used them in lockdown quizzes yet, you’re missing out!

My main tech game-changer is hardware – I’m a sucker for multiple screens/monitors as I always have a heap of different programmes open at once, so when I moved to working from home that was top of my list of must-haves.

Do you think the industry can return to the way things were before?
I’d ask not whether the industry ‘can’, but whether it ‘needs’ to return to the way things were.

With the exception of face-to-face client meetings and pitches – which I hope return soon, as you can’t replicate the energy of strategy sessions and pitches on Zoom – I’m not convinced the industry needs to return to its pre-COVID-19 routines. Do agencies need all team members to waste time every single day on uncomfortable rush hour commutes – time which could be better spent exercising, reading, learning, or with family and friends? Do agencies need to pay office costs for a workforce that has most likely adjusted to home working? Do teams want to miss out on talent that can’t commit to 9-5, five days a week in an office?

So, I suppose the answer is no. The industry will adjust in places – but the best talent will go to the organisations that meet their needs and lifestyle.

Which particular sectors among your client base do you see making the quickest recovery post-pandemic?
Splitting by sector is tricky – there are massive differences within each. Look at the charity sector – some charities are getting massive exposure at the moment (see FareShare’s work with Marcus Rashford) while lots of others are seeing donations fall.

What we have seen is some clients strengthened and emboldened during the pandemic. One was asked by the Government to run antigen tests for COVID-19, which rapidly expanded its operation. Other clients have adapted to new roles, such as generating funds to support key workers.

The PR industry has a diversity problem – what can agencies do to create diverse teams and support BAME colleagues into higher positions?
Firstly, I know that as a white male I’m not necessarily the most appropriate spokesperson here, but it’s abundantly clear that the industry has heaps more to do and we all have a part to play. Agencies have to stop reeling out platitudes and take meaningful action.

One observation I would make is the need to move on from the obsession with media relations – for too long the industry has been run by people who honed their skills in a different age of communications, when journalists were wined and dined, and stories proudly cut out of the paper for your scrapbook. This has been reflected in the workforce – a PR industry of middle-class white people employed to engage middle-class white journalists.

We’re in a different media age now – our audiences are more diverse, and their touchpoints and media consumption more varied. In order to channel content more precisely and achieve success for clients, we need tailored insight, understanding and experience from a more diverse workforce, one that reflects the audience we need to engage. Teams that lack diversity will have incomplete strategies that will miss the mark.

What do you love most about working in the PR industry, and would you recommend this as a career?
Variety. I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say it, but it’s true. This job has taken me to places and given me experiences I’d never have imagined.

I recently chaperoned the PM and his team around a laboratory (at a 2m distance, of course). Throw in dockside warehouses with famous graffiti artists, the media centre at Gleneagles for The Ryder Cup, NHS secondments, grueling Council meetings and messaging workshops in the Middle East and it’s a pretty eclectic and rewarding mix.

I’d absolutely recommend it – if you want the unexpected, get involved!

Beauty journalists

How to pitch to beauty and grooming journalists

While trips to nail salons, hairdressers and make-up counters have been off the table over the last few months, those looking for some sparkle and shine have had to turn away from professionals wielding make-up palettes and towards products easy to purchase online and try at home. Beauty and grooming journalists have dutifully switched to reviewing new releases ideal for home use and sharing ideas for self-care (and split ends).

Below are tips from journalists working across national, trade, consumer, print and digital for how PRs can best help them handle home eyelash curling kit rundowns, etc. Read on – this could be the start of a beautiful PR journalist relationship…

1. Set out your shiniest details like a store front
‘Like most journalists, email is my preferred choice of communication. Be succinct but with enough information to ensure I can make a decision about whether to engage with the content or not, and don’t forget price and website details. Attach a high res image too, please. Samples should always be sent to my home address and my target audience is women over 45-years-old, so products that target the signs of anti-ageing are key. This includes skin, body, nail, hair care and gadgets. I am a great believer that women should wear whatever makeup makes them feel good, so unless your product is targeted at teenagers, I want to hear about it. I encourage glitter, colour, highlighter – let me have it.’

Julie Brown is a journalist, make-up artist and beauty columnist for Top Sante

2. Going ‘old school’ can still be a good look
‘Things are hectic at BBT HQ so the best way to pitch a story to us is via email so we can read and digest it in our own time. We are a bit old school, so press releases work very well. Information about the products, brand and brand owner. Also, links to their website so we can have a feel of the brand. We prefer not to receive DM on Instagram but being approached on Twitter works so we can reply quickly. We are happy to attend virtual press days and presentations to get a sense of a product.’

Ronke Adeyemi is the editor of Brown Beauty Talk

3. New products for testing are very welcome while WFH
‘It feels a little bit pointless to write about fashion and buying clothes at the moment, but, as soon as things start to return to a form of normality, including anything about COVID-19 will look dated and irrelevant. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Right now, I’m welcoming any new men’s focused grooming products to test and review.
‘I’m really only interested in things that are new or haven’t been seen before, particularly when it comes to grooming products. I find it frustrating when it is unclear or pitched as new when it is not. And if I’m having to research something, there’s a depth of knowledge lacking in the pitch.’

Marcus Jaye is the founder and creative director of TheChicGeek and writer of ‘The Chic Geek’s: Fashion, Grooming and Style Guide for Men’ and ‘Fashion Wankers: It Takes One to Know One’

4. Filed away in a drawer? Your pitch could still be featured
‘I file everything in my beauty folder and will always let you know if your product is being covered. If you don’t hear from me, I don’t have space at this time. Please don’t chase as I get A LOT of beauty emails every day and don’t have time to reply to everyone. But I promise if it’s of interest it will be filed and featured when possible.

‘I like interesting content, where a product release doubles up as useful advice or an interesting feature. But general product/new launch info is fine, too. I always appreciate a wedding/bride angle. Celeb/expert interview offers are great! And please note, we don’t cover aesthetics or anything invasive in any way.’

Kelly Andrews is editor and CWM beauty editor for County Wedding Magazines and Events

5. Journalists still want what they’ve always wanted…
‘At the end of April, I posted this on my Insta Stories and it pretty much sums it up: “PRs keep asking what journalists want at the moment. FWIW I want what I always want; emails answered promptly, an understanding of my deadlines and what I’m looking for, good communication and people doing what they say they will. These are the PRs I’m working with right now”’.

Claire Coleman is a freelance journalist contributing to titles including the Daily Mail and Metro. She also offers consultancy services to PRs who need help with copywriting, strategy, ideas generation, pitches and events.

Look at Brew

Beer Blogger Spotlight: Rachael Smith, Look at Brew

‘Beer is usually just one thread in a bigger experience and that relationship and connection is something that really fascinates me’ – Look at Brew blogger Rachael Smith likes to look beyond what’s in the bottle when it comes to beer. Originally fascinated by the artwork on the outside, Rachael now aims to cover the full experience of beer; the brewing and the people behind the brand labels.

Rachael Smith

How did you originally get started with writing about beer?
I’d been a keen beer drinker for a few years, all traditional British stuff, then started to notice a shift. The likes of Beavertown, Camden, The Kernel, Brew by Numbers, etc. were releasing beer styles that I’d not heard of before and often with striking labels which really stood out and marked them as something new and different. I was drawn to the artwork of these new beers so I set up my blog as a way to document them. The blog soon developed and has evolved to be a celebration of all beer and brewing.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I’m writing more think pieces these days and really trying to use mindfulness in my approach when it comes to how I feel about beers and pubs in particular moments. Beer is usually just one thread in a bigger experience and that relationship and connection is something that really fascinates me so that’s where my interest is currently.

I do reviews as well but have made the decision to move these to Instagram only as that’s how the scene seems to have progressed. People don’t want to read a long review anymore; they’re checking Instagram for a quick commentary and a good photo. I will always try to give honest reviews and point out if improvements can be made – it’s better for everyone instead of just hyping something up, and there’s a lot of hype in beer! I’m a fan of travel pieces and brewery features, too, and enjoy telling the story behind favourite breweries and beers, so that’s something I’d like to do more of.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I’ve been trying to shine a light on all the local independent brewers doing delivery just to keep afloat. There’s a huge community vibe within the local beer scene and it really feels like folks have rallied to help small businesses during the pandemic. I’ve put a list on the blog of the local brewers and bottle shops offering takeaway or delivery and I’ve been buying direct too, so my Instagram feed has reflected this, also. But generally, anything that I’ve written has been as a result of what is being experienced right now; life during lockdown, missing the pub experience, the beers I’ve been drinking. Even if I’ve had ideas for content not directly influenced by lockdown, I’ve not felt the need to post them – it just hasn’t seemed relevant or important, but as we’re moving towards things easing, that’ll change.

Any particular pubs or bars you’ve really been missing during the lockdown?
Yes, many! In particular is The Surrey Oaks in Newdigate which is a wonderful traditional country pub with a huge beer garden. It is welcoming to families which is a must, with a toddler in tow. They’ve got a great team who serve incredible food, cask and modern keg beers. It’s the moon on a stick and will be my first port of call. In my hometown, Horsham, we’ve got some fantastic pubs too, and an evening spent in The Malt Shovel, Anchor Tap or Frog & Nightgown will be greatly enjoyed when the time comes.

What’s the first beer you ever tried, and do you still drink it occasionally?
I think it was probably a little French or Belgian beer, the kind that comes in little stubby green bottles, cheap as chips (cheaper in fact), from the supermarket. I don’t remember much beer in the house growing up, but there were those in the summer, and I remember Dad would have a bottle after a day in the garden or mowing the lawn. I remember joining him for one after an afternoon of gardening. I haven’t bought any for a long time now but that will have to be rectified!

Any breweries from the past that you wish were still around?
I’ve got to say Hastings Beer Co. The team brewed some incredible saisons and hoppy brown ales. They were definitely ahead of the curve locally in terms of style trends and the quality was there to back it up.

For people who don’t drink, can you recommend a good non-alcoholic beer that still comes close to the taste of the alcoholic version?
Big Drop Lager is excellent and easy to find. I’ve also recently been impressed by West Berks brewery and its Solo pale ale. There are a lot of low and no alcohol beers on the market right now, many of which are really good. It’s an interesting and exciting part of modern beer which is developing at a huge rate and the quality that’s out there is reflecting this.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kinds do you really like working with?
A brand will typically get in touch to ask if I’d like some samples for review or if I’d like to join an event. Some brewers reach out to ask if I’d like a tour. This will then translate into social media posts and if there’s something there that really stands out, or if I’ve been to a brewery for a tour, then I’ll write about my experience and try to tell the story of that place/person/beer. I like working with folks who stay in touch and let me know of any news/new releases, etc. Being personable goes a long way.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I can be contacted via my website or social media channels and I’m open to ideas if a brand wants specific content. If there’s something there that appeals to me, and I think it’s a good for the blog, then happy days. The more info upfront, the better.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether beer-related or not)?
Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson is one I read regularly. Mark blogs about all things beer and pubs (and sometimes chickens) and is well worth following.

I’m also a fan of Boak & Bailey for varied beer related content from tastings, to historical research to think pieces.

Chris Norman of The Ale Album blog is worth a read for anyone who loves music as much as they like beer, as he often pairs beers with albums. The albums always have stunning artwork, too!

Finally, Matt Chinnery aka The Half Pint Gentleman has just updated his blog and it’s a collection of great photos, travel pieces and tasty recipes.

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PinksCharming

Green Blogger Spotlight: Becky Pink, PinksCharming

‘I think a lot of people find going greener really daunting, so I try to break the lifestyle down into smaller, more easily manageable steps so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming’ – in the pink when it comes to going green is Becky Pink of PinksCharming.

Helping people make easy eco-friendly changes with green life hacks is what blogger Becky finds rewarding, so read on for some tips from her on helpful things you can start doing for a more environmentally-friendly and ethical lifestyle.

How did you originally get started with writing about green issues?
Although I have been interested in green issues for many years, my first blog posts about sustainability were through a partnership with Ikea and environmental charity Hubbub, called Live Lagom. It was the first wave of this project and I was chosen to receive a budget to choose Ikea products to make our home more sustainable. As part of that, I visited my local store to see their 6,000 solar panels, rainwater harvesting system and biomass boilers.

As a lifelong beauty junkie and former senior copywriter for a multi-national beauty company, I also began sharing honest reviews of green beauty products. This led to partnering with green beauty retailer Love Lula, and I’ve been collaborating with them for a few years now. Writing about green issues can incorporate pretty much any topic: interiors, beauty, fashion, travel, cooking, shopping, energy efficiency, the list goes on, so there’s always something new to write about.

Becky Pink

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I love writing about the simple ways we can all make small changes to our lives to be more eco-friendly. I think a lot of people find it really daunting, so I try to break the greener lifestyle down into smaller, more easily manageable steps so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I also love it when I discover a green life hack that either makes life easier, or saves money as well as being better for the environment – that’s the jackpot! It’s so rewarding when readers message me to say they’ve tried out a beauty product I recommend and love it, or have made changes inspired by my blog – that’s what makes it worth the hard work.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
COVID-19 has not made a huge difference to what I write about, as I am such a homebody that most of my content is still relevant when we are all spending the majority of our time at home. I haven’t been able to write as much as usual, however, as I have my kids at home and need to try to home school them.

As you’d expect, my recipe posts and my home improvement posts are getting read the most, and I’ve had messages saying readers are enjoying reading something positive. My green beauty posts aren’t getting as much attention, as people aren’t going out as much, but I know they’ll pick up when we get back to ‘normal’ – whenever that is!

Now, more than ever, I am trying to be positive as much as I can, and cheering on people as they make changes. I do my best to be realistic, however. Living a more eco-friendly life is not easy at the best of times, and can cost more money. When the majority of people are concerned about whether or not they have a job to go back to, and when their kids will be able to go back to school, there are more pressing concerns than the environment.

What are some of the environmental stories/issues happening at the moment that you’d wish more people knew about?
For me, eco issues go hand-in-hand with ethical issues. The impact of fast fashion on the environment, and the problems of fashion retailers cancelling orders and refusing to pay workers in the developing world is worrying me a lot. Not only are the workers, who already earn a scandalously low wage, not being paid, they are also facing catching COVID-19 and the devastation that goes with it. It’s absolutely horrifying. I have read that the unsold clothes are also going to landfill, too – it’s so wrong on every level. I avoid fast fashion and I hope that these problems will get more attention and make people think twice before they buy from unethical retailers in future.

For those who are just getting into greener living, what are three small changes you would recommend people start with?
I would say start small and work your way up. Hopefully most people are using reusable bags, cups and water bottles already but if not, get yourself one and remember to take it out with you (once you start going out, of course!).

Investigate the local options for recycling too, going beyond just plastic and glass and paper. There is a man who lives quite close to me who collects crisp packets and sweet wrappers for recycling, and raises money for charity at the same time, which is a no-brainer for me. I also recycle my contact lenses and cases at my optician.

Planning your meals to try to minimise food waste is another eco-friendly way to save money, and using a compost heap for any scraps will also benefit your garden if you have one. We’re growing vegetables and have a water butt to collect rain water so we don’t have to use a hose.

I have also been using a milkman who delivers milk in glass bottles, and I buy ketchup, mayo etc. in glass bottles too rather than squeezy plastic bottles, to cut down on single use plastic.

Buying second-hand fashion is also a great way to not only help the environment but save money and get a unique look, too.

How’s that for starters?

Will the growth of veganism continue?
I’m not a vegan myself, but I do think veganism will continue to grow, not least because of the concerns over potential reductions in food standards – it’s certainly making me think about it much more seriously. I think awareness is growing, and there are more vegan foods available in shops and restaurants, so I think that will make it easier for people to reduce meat and dairy consumption even if they don’t go vegan.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I am open to working with brands in lots of different ways. It mostly tends to be honest product reviews but as a former journalist I am open to writing more in-depth opinion pieces, too. I love working with smaller brands where I can really get to know the people behind the company, and I am especially keen to work with minority and women-owned businesses. I value working with businesses who have a transparent supply chain and really do the hard work when working with suppliers and makers to ensure they are looking after their team properly as well as minimising their environmental impact.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
The best way to get in contact is through my email or in my Instagram DMs: I’m @pinkscharming on both Instagram and Twitter. I assess each approach on its own merits so I’m open to working in different ways and challenging myself. As a freelance copywriter, I’m all about the words but I work very hard on my photography, too. I’m also learning more about video.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether green-related or not)?
I love interiors and follow lots of interior blogs like Love Chic Living, and as a parent myself I also read parenting blogs like Laura’s Lovely Blog and What the Redhead Said when I have time. Love Lula has gathered a good group of green beauty bloggers so I often read what the others are reviewing, too.

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John Adams

Dad Blogger Ranking: John Adams, Dad Blog UK

The ‘number 1 dad’ badge goes to Dad Blog UK’s John Adams, our top dad blogger in the UK. Working for change when it comes to getting more men involved in childcare, John has been selected to work with LinkedIn as a Changemaker, and has been getting up at 5am every day since lockdown started to keep up with his childcare and blogging responsibilities.

John shares how he sees the longer-term impact of COVID-19 changing work and parental labour patterns and how else the pandemic has impacted his own schedule, beyond the early alarm calls.

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
When I started Dad Blog UK back in 2012, it was to highlight the casual sexism I faced as a man who had given up a career to concentrate on family and home. Unfortunately, I found myself having issues with some healthcare professionals and being accepted by mums was a challenge.

Over time I decided to broaden what I wrote about. Fatherhood and parenting are very much at the core of what I do, but I also write about motoring, men’s grooming, do occasional recipe posts, days out and so on. As time goes on, I am increasingly producing video content as well.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?

I really enjoy doing the Q&A series that I introduced last year. This is when I get someone with some interest in family or parenting to answer around ten questions on their specialist subject. A highlight of this series was when I interviewed Ziauddin Yousafzai, better known as ’Malala’s dad’. He’s such a nice man who has dedicated his life to improving educational outcomes for girls. It’s no surprise he raised such a fearless daughter. Ziauddin even sent my daughter a special WhatsApp message when he discovered she was studying Malala’s life at school.

I also like to write about issues that go under the radar. One of my best performing blog posts is one I wrote a couple of years ago about, I kid you not, male thrush. Inspired by this I recently did an interview with a sexual and reproductive health specialist about erectile dysfunction and that, too, has performed well.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
Oh, my word – I have had to change my approach hugely! Firstly, like many mums and dads I have been homeschooling my kids while also working. To fit in content creation, I am having to get up at about 5am every day. I don’t mind admitting that we’re now into month three of living like this and it has become tough.
Secondly, I would usually attend events or meet with people face to face to produce content. All those opportunities vanished overnight so I was left with some significant holes in my editorial schedule.

That said, with two school-aged children, COVID-19 has provided me with plenty of inspiration to write about issues such as schooling, how we have coped with lockdown and also our eldest child’s return to school.

That said, I have noticed that people don’t want to read a constant stream of COVID-related content. That’s quite understandable; I think people want a break from it. One thing I did that’s been enormously successful is to re-introduce a weekly photography blog post. I stopped doing this last year but while on my daily family walks, I would take my camera and post the resulting images to Instagram and my blog. I was reluctant to do this as it felt very retrograde but my visitor stats and feedback from my followers has been so positive the weekly photo post is here to stay for a while longer!

Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads in the wake of necessary changes to co-parenting schedules during lockdown?
I do not believe we are going to see an increase in the number of stay at home dads because of the COVID-19 crisis. That said, we will almost certainly see a huge upswing in dads working from home and making a greater contribution to childcare and domestic chores. In a very short space of time, flexible and remote working has become normalised.

In addition to this, staff at all levels are having to homeschool and work from home. This has forced employers to wake up and accept the fact many of their employees have caring responsibilities away from the workplace.

We are probably not going to see people working from home five days a week forever. I suspect and hope most people will work from home two or three days a week or in some cases, the office may be a place they visit every fortnight or so. Tech enables us to work this way.

If we can cement these changes, it will hopefully lead to greater gender equality on the home front. The Fatherhood Institute is reporting the amount of childcare men do has rocketed up by almost 60% in just two months. That demonstrates how outdated and rigid our working culture was.

The great thing about being an influencer is that you can use your presence to effect change. I was recently selected to work with LinkedIn as a Changemaker. There are seven of us and we are all working to change the workforce for the better. There’s a mental health Changemaker, diversity and inclusion Changemaker, disability Changemaker and so on.

The focus of my Changemaker campaign is to make flexible working available to all mums, dads and people with caring responsibilities. I’m really proud to be a part of this campaign and I hope it leads to change.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?
First things first – do not even bother trying to replicate what happens at school. You can’t, especially if you are working as well.
As I said previously, I am feeling jaded after almost three months of this. If you need to just take a day off and go to the countryside with the kids for the day, do it.

There is also a point to be made here. This generation of kids are going through something no other generation has done. There’s quite rightly been discussion about the negative mental health impact and their education suffering.

These are all valid points, but these kids are going to have picked up all manner of soft skills and relationship skills. Their formal education may suffer, but informally, they are having a unique and possibly amazing experience. It’ll be interesting to see what the long-term impact is on them.

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?
Erm, you’d be surprised how often my kids have been given super noodles for lunch on homeschool days. With fruit to make it balanced, obviously. Perhaps best move on to the next question…

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I collaborate with brands in many ways. I recently started producing content for flexible working website DaddyJobs.co.uk and carer community site FamilyCarersNet.

Sometimes I am asked to produce Instagram Story videos. Other times it may be a detailed blog post, although usually it’s a package of blog post and social media promotion. I have previously acted as a media spokesperson, doing radio days.

As for who I like working with – wow, that’s so hard to answer! As a parenting, family and lifestyle blogger I have broad interests from family tech and flexible working to grocery shopping and family cars. If it’s relevant to me and my audience, I’m interested in it.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Either email me or my agents Leigh Rodda or Kaye Freeman.

So long as the content you want is suitable for a family audience or of interest to parents or carers, then please get in touch. I am very experienced producing written, photographic and video content.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?
I hate answering this question! There are so many I want to list but I’m going to draw a line. These are the people whose content I looked at over the past couple of days.

I do enjoy reading fellow Vuelio Top 10 daddy blog Slouching Towards Thatcham, plus Daddy & Dad and Dad’s Delicious Dinners. The Music Fatherhood Football guys are also doing amazing things. From the mums, Jo Middleton’s Slummy Single Mummy is as good as ever.

Over on Instagram, I don’t usually do inspirational stuff, but Adam Cam is brilliant. And TV presenter Nigel Clarke is doing interesting things with his weekly Dadvenger Instagram Lives.

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Victoria Ruffy

PR Spotlight with Victoria Ruffy, founder of Little Red

Victoria Ruffy has had a varied career, having worked across verticals from pharmaceuticals to business, food/drink and tech for small agencies and at major players including Cohn and Wolfe and Weber Shandwick. After time as head of PR at Samsung, Victoria wanted to use all her experience to build an agency of her own that was ‘relationships and results first’, and the idea for Little Red was hatched.

With PR teams across the country recovering from the whirlwind of lockdown, changing customer needs and redrawn business plans, Victoria shares her thoughts on whether PR can ever go back to the way things were before March 2020, which sectors are likely to bounce back first and how the industry can use this opportunity to make lasting improvements to its ways of working for the future.

What are your main interests at Little Red
I am really interested now in how brands talk directly to their consumer. Post-corona (can I say that yet?), I’ve enjoyed seeing brands sharpen their focus and realise how important direct conversation with consumers is, whether that’s through social media (for so long an area so many were just playing with), customer services, their digital footprint or through traditional media.

As we are often the facilitators to that, we have to have a passion for the brands we work on and we have that in spades at Little Red. Our client list is a decade in the making and I am really proud of this meticulously curated portfolio. I am also tremendously excited at the brands who will be added to this shortly.

How has the team had to change its ways of working and strategies during lockdown?
From the offset, we have had to adapt to the new world of WFH by focusing more on digital press and honing the magazines/newspapers with high subscriber numbers. With events and briefings cancelled, we have moved to the virtual world to continue doing both, despite the situation. We are very much maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach where we can!

I think working from home is here to stay for Little Red, as I have never felt so calm nor in control with an in-depth understanding of the skills of my team as I do now. Tabby Grove, a senior account executive on our team, has loved lockdown so much she’s written a blog about it on our website – it’s a real ode to the craft of PR. Go read it!

Do you have any plans for an eventual return to the office?
Many of us are really thriving in this new environment working from home, with productivity increasing day-by-day. We’ve had our best coverage over the last two months – more than ever before in the company’s history! We can only plan to return to our Berkshire HQ when it is safe for everyone to do so; there will be staggered arrival times, distanced desks and only a reduced team based in the office each day.

What tech has been helping you and your team working through the current crisis?
We are very lucky to all have been able to get up and go with our laptops when lockdown was announced. We have moved to agile working practices, working in sprints and have made use of Microsoft Teams for our morning stand ups and Zoom to host mega virtual events like never before. You can see a case study of our latest one for Smeg on our website – we had 60 press attend! I’ll happily admit Microsoft Teams is a bit of a game changer for me in terms of inbox management.

Do you think the industry can return to the way things were before?
No. Flexible working, thank God, is here to stay. As a mother, I welcome it with open arms. As a morning person, it’s been a revelation to have this flexibility to start super early and finish early.

From a PR perspective, the seismic shift away from the high street will see so many more brands selling direct and thus demanding a more robust social media strategy. Community management will increase and the rise of TikTok should not be ignored. Younger consumers are content creators, not necessarily content consumers in the way previous generations have been.

Traditional PR will not go away but it will work hand in hand with a clear digital strategy – one that complements and supports the other. Press coverage is the King/Queen of content.

Which particular sectors among your client base do you see making the quickest recovery post-pandemic?
The interiors and design sector I think will see a sharp increase as consumers are faced with looking at those pain points at home and have the time to fix them. Tech will stay strong as those brands are used to constantly evolving through innovation. Nimble start-ups will thrive in these uncertain times as they are unafraid of change and pressure often drives the entrepreneurs that run them.

The PR industry has a diversity problem – what can agencies do to create diverse teams and support BAME colleagues into higher positions?
I am very aware of the lack of diversity in PR and have at times felt unsure of what I should do as a company owner. It’s simply not enough to say ‘I don’t get the applicants’. Recent events have given me the ignition to be unafraid and get stuck in. I have always proactively reached out to potential candidates for roles on LinkedIn instead of feeling frustrated at the lack of diversity in our applications and we will continue to do this.

We are also finalising the details of working with a BAME women’s refuge to offer taster days and work experience for the women and the children of the women supported by this charity. Watch this space for more details of this.

We proactively advise our clients to work with a diverse portfolio of freelancers, media and influencers and will continue to champion the rights of BAME individuals to be heard and represented in this space and all spaces.

We are consciously ensuring that all our communication will make all applicants for any roles feel welcome. I want to assure people that Little Red is a great place to work and everyone is welcome here.

What do you love most about working in the PR industry, and would you recommend this as a career?

The rush of seeing my clients in print still gets me every time, but I think more and more it has to be the people. I have made some truly epic friends through this job – journalists, media and clients and as a real people person I’m not sure I could live without it. I’ve realised that the rush I get from seeing brands in print is because I truly care about the people behind the brands and it makes me feel good to build meaningful change and progression for their cause, whether that is a pivoting start-up or an icon like Smeg.

PR is a magnificent industry for self-motivated individuals who love independence. As a woman, I love it because it has given me the flexibility to have a family and a beautiful daughter alongside a tremendously fulfilling career.

Read more about Little Red on its website littlered.co.uk and find the team tweeting @LittleRedPR.

Lauren Pope

3 tips for keeping your brand consistent across social platforms

This is a guest post from Lauren Pope, editorial team lead at G2.

MySpace. Zenga. Friendster. YikYak. These are the social media platforms of yesterday.

They started as digital spaces for people to chat with their friends and connect with others around the world. Nobody could have predicted that they would pave the way for the social media giants of today. If you work in digital marketing, you’re already aware that social media is no longer a ‘nice to have’. Platforms that used to be reserved for company photos and updates are now powerful social selling machines.

Social media is another traffic source that can be used to drive potential customers to your website. And just like your other branded accounts, you should be focusing on keeping your message consistent on social media and keeping an eye on your online reputation. This guide will show you how to optimise your social media to ensure your brand shines through the noise of a crowded feed.

1. Find your brand voice
Your brand is the personality of your company. And while social media allows you a bit more freedom with what you post, you need to ensure that the heart of your brand is in everything you send out. Decide early on what your social persona looks like and create your strategy around that. Is your brand serious or playful? Do you stick to the messaging or is your copy more off-the-cuff?

Choosing the right persona for your brand on social media is the first step to ensuring continuity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different brand voices across channels. Your LinkedIn persona will be a bit different from your Instagram persona. Tailor your tone for the social media platform you’re posting on. Authenticity always wins out in the end.

2. Create branded social media assets
Social media is undeniably visual. Buzzsumo found that posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than those without. But creating social media images takes time and effort. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your branding consistent without overloading your graphic designer, here’s a tip you can use.

Use a graphic designer app or platform like Canva to create premade templates that anyone on your team can access. Many of these platforms also have the ability to create brand kits where you can upload logos, colors, and fonts. This means anyone creating graphics for social media are using the same assets, ensuring brand consistency no matter who is posting. This strategy also takes the burden off of your design team and encourages the rest of your team to be creative and sharpen their own skills.

3. Keep it consistent
The key to a successful social media strategy is consistency. Simply showing up every day and posting will get you more engagement and followers than any quick-hack you might see online.

Many companies employ the use of a social media suite in order to pre-schedule content. This allows you to work ahead, create assets, and then schedule them to go out automatically. Many of these tools also include social listening features that allow you to track your brand mentions and when people are engaging with you. These robust platforms have become must-have solutions for any company hoping to elevate their social media game.

Social media isn’t the future, it’s what’s happening right now
Invest in social media in your marketing plan and you’ll be surprised at the kind of opportunities you can create for your company. Everyone in your business should view social media as an extension of the work they are doing. When used correctly, social media is the glue that holds your digital brand together.

Lauren is a content marketing team lead at G2 with five years of content marketing experience. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Hubspot, Yahoo Finance, and on the G2 Learning Hub. In her free time, Lauren enjoys listening to podcasts, watching true crime shows, and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene – connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

CovidComms Awards

CorpComms magazine launches the CovidComms Awards

The last few months have been some of the most extraordinary with CV19 disrupting every aspect of how we live and work. Under intense pressure, PR and Communications teams have grappled with ever changing news, health and policy announcements to maintain campaigns and keep people informed. The industry’s efforts have been vital to navigating this crisis which is why Vuelio is delighted to partner with CorpComms to launch the CovidComms Awards.

These awards recognise the exceptional efforts of PR and Communications teams and are designed to be as inclusive as possible – including categories free to enter. For those with a cost to enter, £10 from each entry will go to a charity that will be confirmed in the next weeks. The entirely virtual awards will include an online night of celebration with chance to listen and share best practice in the run up to the final results.

Natalie Orringe, CMO, Vuelio said: ‘We’ve heard first hand just how challenging the past months have been for the PR and Communications industry who have responded to the crisis with exceptional effort. We’ve heard of teams working round the clock to maintain public health announcements to professionals volunteering to help charities inundated with requests. Well done to CorpComms for launching this Awards programme which will help us to recognise and learn from the hard work that has gone on through the crisis.’

For more information about the awards, or to enter, check out www.covidcommsawards.com.

Glynn Davis

Beer Blogger Spotlight: Glynn Davis, Beer Insider

If you have plans for the pub coming up (while staying safely-socially-distanced, of course), grab some quick recommendations for beverages to sup and sample from Beer Insider blogger Glynn Davis – ‘There’s always something new and exciting around the corner, especially now. Beer has never been so interesting and vibrant’.

How did you originally get started with writing about beer/the beer industry?
For ten years, I judged the annual pub awards for The Publican magazine and was then finally asked by the editor that maybe I should write some pieces for them!

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
Interviews with people who have an opinion and put forward interesting insights.

Any particular pubs or bars you’re really missing during the lockdown?
The Great Northern Railway Tavern in Hornsey, North London, and the Bohem Tap Room (I co-own Bohem Brewery).

What’s the first beer you ever tried, and do you still drink it occasionally?
Timothy Taylor’s Landlord Bitter. And the first album I bought was Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. Sometimes you just hit the bullseye with the first dart.

Any beers or breweries that have stopped being produced/producing that you wish were still around?
No. There’s always something new and exciting around the corner, especially now. Beer has never been so interesting and vibrant. No need to look back.

For people who don’t drink, can you recommend a good non-alcoholic beer that still comes close to the taste of the alcoholic version?
None. It’s not my cup of tea. Actually, I’d rather have a cup of tea, or coffee.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Email is fine.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether beer-related or not)?
None with any great zeal. Certainly no other beer blogs. I spend more time looking at blogs about retail as this is the main subject that I write about. The sister site to Beer Insider is Retail Insider.

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Dad's Delicious Dinners

Dad Blogger Spotlight: Ian Northeast, Dad’s Delicious Dinners

If your plans of writing a book, taking up new hobbies, or passing on essential life skills to your loved ones during lockdown haven’t quite become reality, you’re not alone. While life stays busy, even in self-isolation, blogger Ian Northeast is sharing quick fix meals for the family over at Dad’s Delicious Dinners.

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
My blog started as a personal recipe book. I was attempting to bring new recipes to the dinner table and wanted somewhere I could store them for future use. I started to share these recipes with friends and family and then it then dawned on me that other families may find them useful as well.

The blog evolved fairly quickly and I started to share my take on parenting. Within a year, it had developed into what it is today.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I love to write about the things we do as a family, anything from playing games to camping trips or holidays. It is interesting to see the content change as the kids grow up. I’m also not shy to write about more in depth topics such as dealing with teenagers who like to push boundaries or learning about body changes with my nine-year-old daughter. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that other families may find it helpful.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
As lockdown was announced, I had this romantic idea that I could teach the kids some life skills. Changing a car tyre, loading a washing machine, making things out of wood, etc. I also thought to myself that I could finally finish the book I’m writing.

In reality, the first few weeks were a mix of chaos and mess. Home learning, fitting work and blogging in, housework and of course cooking. Eventually we found a happy medium and we all settled into a relatively normal routine.

Realising I probably wasn’t alone with this, I decided to create some easy, quick recipes with easy to source ingredients. I also ran a back to basics campaign, with bread making, pasta making and lots of other things that the kids loved to help with.

As time settled, we did manage to fit in some of the life skill stuff, so I even managed a few articles about our bird table creation and other similar bits.

How will lockdown have changed the way those co-parenting view their family duties and how they share responsibilities? Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads?
If we can take just one thing from this crisis, I honestly hope it is that more workplaces take a different view on flexible working. Allowing parents to be home with their family more. Being a single dad, I get to be with my kids a lot. It has been lovely hearing about and seeing other dads, who may only have limited time with the kids normally, embrace this period.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?
This has been the hardest part of the lockdown. I work for myself and also help out with a non-profit social enterprise, together with keeping my blog up to date. So, finding that happy space where they and my family life worked together took some time. However, I decided early on that the kids should be my number one priority. If needed, the rest could wait. So yeah, blog posts were often published a few days later than planned and I did lose out on some earning potential with my day job. But, during this weird and often stressful period, I wanted to make sure the kids knew I was around for them at all times.

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?
The kids’ favourite recipe on my blog is my chicken shish kebab recipe. It takes very little time to prepare and tastes amazing. It is also a lot healthier than the takeaway version.

Other than that, I use my slow cooker a lot. It’s great to be able to chuck everything in it first thing in the morning and then come dinner time, you have a delicious meal.

For PR and brands looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I am more than happy to work with PRs and brands, either via my social media or posts/articles on the blog and brand ambassador roles. I will be happy to discuss any content, as long as it fits within my current content. The best way to connect with me is by email.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?
I follow a wide range of other bloggers. I was fortunate enough to meet Zoey and Kelly from Our Transitional Life at last year’s Online Influence Awards. Their blog is truly inspirational, so I try not to miss any of their new posts. I also love the writing style and content that Enda over at Endastories creates, too.

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PRFest 2020

PR with Purpose at PRFest 2020

This year’s PRFest featured a packed programme of speakers on a mission to create space to share experience, learn and collaborate on some of the toughest challenges facing the industry.

In the weeks before the event, there had been some criticism levelled around the diversity of speakers which had been tackled head on by organiser Laura Sutherland. Acknowledging that mistakes had been made and needed to be learnt from, she had consulted with industry bodies including the PRCA, CIPR and Taylor Bennett Foundation to develop the DRIVEN manifesto which was published on day one of PRfest. This provides an excellent platform for any organisation seeking to make changes when it comes to diversity which, as Laura recognised, needs action and leadership to stay accountable into the longterm.

Alongside sessions on Diversity, PRfest continued its theme of supporting PR professionals to stay ahead of best practise and innovation. Speakers ranged from Vuelio’s very own CMO Natalie Orringe on tech and how this can unlock growth for PRs; to Simon Francis, Chair of the PRCA Council and Founder Member of Campaign Collective on how to embed social impact into communications strategy.

A consistent thread during the two day festival was the impact of COVID which had fundamentally changed every aspect of work. Clearly, there were some positive outcomes such as increased recognition of the importance of PR and communications strategy but negatives included missing the face to face interaction so important to creativity.

The need for the industry to adapt was referred to in Natalie’s presentation that highlighted how the lockdown had sped adoption of tech. At its most immediate was the almost blanket adoption of Zoom (MSTeams, Facetime…) for everything from pitches to client briefings; to turning to social media analysis to identify audience trends rather than rely on face to face research. According to Natalie, this shift had to be seen as part of broader, macro trends including information overload and the convergence of PR and marketing that made it essential PR professionals better understood what tools and tech were available to unlock opportunities.

‘We’re in a perfect storm where the industry has to recognise that technology from tools that automate ROI to identify audiences are critical to the job,’ believes Natalie. ‘Our core skill set needs to include data modelling along with understanding of which tools are most appropriate to how our organisation needs us to report (and determine where to put resource)’

‘The good news is that the Martech landscape is evolving constantly; tools do not need to be expensive but they do need to be part of our everyday planning.’

For more from the lessons and advice shared at this year’s PRFest (and to sign up for next year’s event), check out the website and sign up for updates here. And for help on the tech front, check out Vuelio products that will make things easier.

Dominic Baliszewski

How to win the game when the rules have changed – marketing in 2020

This guest post comes from Dominic Baliszewski, co-founder of YOURS . SINCERELY.

The impact of this year’s unpredicted events in the marketing and PR world has been huge. As co-founder of marketing and comms agency YOURS . SINCERELY, like many of us in the industry, understanding what good looks like in the ‘new normal’ is essential for my day-to-day life. In an effort to explore this, we’ve looked at some emerging insights below and will be discussing these in more detail with founders and UK business marketing leaders on 2 July – sign up for free here.

The biggest change our industry has ever seen

Marketing is always evolving and changing – but this usually takes the form of innovations moving to the mainstream over months and years. As marketers, we all have a fairly good understanding of what works and what ‘good’ looks like.

Want to build a killer marketing strategy? No problem, start by understanding the audience, defining the objectives and then building a channel plan involving tried and tested tactics.

Then, in March this year, everything changed – with this impacting PR and marketing professionals in a big way.

At the end of Q2, as lockdown began, entire industries were suddenly paused and the wider marketing landscape saw the biggest shake-up it has ever seen – and all of this happened overnight. Major advertisers (like travel and leisure) pulled budget, leaving some inventory at record low prices with this balanced by certain channels practically worthless – after all, who wants to pay for a billboard if no one is walking past it?

Marketers across the UK, and the world, were forced to rip up their marketing plans for the year and spin on a dime – but the landscape had changed, and all the previous wisdom about what works was no longer valid.

What’s working in the new normal?

The good news is that we are now seeing some consistency in trends emerging, and some good insight into what works:

The ever-growing importance of authenticity

Prior to lockdown, people were increasingly engaging with brands who were honest and transparent in their approach, and this has only been accelerated by the period of uncertainty. Only by delivering an authentic message that clearly communicates how your product or service can help will you truly cut through the noise.

The importance of reputation/network (particularly in the B2B space)

This relates to the above, but during periods of disruption, people want to buy from brands they can rely on, and work with people they trust. In order to win, your brand needs to have values and stick to them across your marketing and product/service delivery. People have long memories and will remember how brands behaved during this period.

Gone are the long creative lead times

Got a fab creative showing people loving your ‘in-store’ experience that you’re planning to run for the rest of the quarter? Uh Oh! The world is changing at an insanely fast pace and marketing messages can become rapidly out-of-date. Those that are winning are prioritising rapid adaptability and streamlined processes.

The growing importance of digital (but doing it ‘right’)

With eMarketer research showing that people are spending more time than ever consuming digital media during lockdown, and this pattern likely to persist as more people opt to work from home after lockdown, this is where advertisers need to be, now more than ever. What’s changed is the growing importance of targeting. With digital saturation, getting the right message to the right people at the right time is key.

Sticking to your brand values and identity

How many creatives have you seen talking about ‘social distancing’? Generating cut through is all about talking to your audience and generating a response – something that doesn’t work if you’re saying the same thing as all of your competitors. Those telling their own story have seen this pay big dividends.

These trends are just a snapshot and, while there are no quick tricks, we are beginning to see brands thrive following changes to their marketing strategies.

To try and better understand what is working in the new normal, we’re hosting a panel discussion on 2 July with founders and senior marketers from a range of businesses. Find out more and sign up here.

Dominic Baliszewski is co-founder of YOURS . SINCERELY, a comms and marketing agency that works with clients to offer a hybrid of PR and digital marketing services. Dominic has a wide range experience in marketing/PR and commercial disciplines, previously working for MoneySuperMarket group as well as running the consumer team at a global Fintech and investment business. You can find more information about Dominic, and get in touch, via LinkedIn.

Jeremy Williams

Green Blogger Spotlight: Jeremy Williams, The Earthbound Report

Jeremy Williams has been writing about the environment from the age of eight, making him ideally experienced to blog about the topic for The Earthbound Report, one of our top ten Green blogs in the UK.

Read on for more about Jeremy’s focus on ‘solutions journalism’ and how for him, going green isn’t ‘just a lifestyle choice’ but about being on the right side of history.

How did you originally get started with writing about green issues?
I grew up in Madagascar, which is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. 80% of the country’s plants and animals are unique, lemurs being the most famous. It also had deforestation, pollution, wildfires and erosion all up-front and very visible. From an early age, I saw wonders and disasters side by side. I remember writing about the environment from about the age of eight.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I’m part of a movement called ‘solutions journalism’, which aims to report on how people respond to problems as well as the problems themselves – something that’s easily overlooked in the news. If I want to write about an issue, I’ll try to find a person or project that’s solving it and use that as a way in. My favourite things to post are profiles of people or businesses that are doing something extraordinary to solve the world’s biggest problems.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging during the COVID-19 crisis?
I actually asked my readers about this, and their general opinion was that I should carry on as before. They could read about COVID-19 in plenty of other places! I haven’t ignored it, but I haven’t made any great changes to the kind of thing I was posting. It has rather dominated conversation, so it’s been good to set it to one side on the blog.

What are some of the environmental stories/issues happening at the moment that you’d wish more people knew about?
There’s been this explosion of interest in climate change in the last year, which is really exciting. What’s still missing for me is that most people still have it categorised mainly as an environmental issue in their minds. It is, but climate change is caused by the world’s richest people and affects the poorest first, so it’s also a massive injustice. And since the world’s poorest are mainly people of colour, it’s also a racial injustice. It can be hard to talk about sometimes, but ‘going green’ isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s about being on the right side of history. I wish more people recognised that – and a growing number of people are.

For those who are just getting into greener living, what are three small changes you would recommend people start with?
The two things that will make the biggest difference to our carbon footprints are to eat less meat and fly less. If you can’t imagine giving those things up completely, start with a smaller step – a meat free day, or one flight less a year. Don’t stop there, though! Ramp it up as you gain confidence and discover alternatives. And as a third change, talk about it. There’s a social silence around climate change. It often makes people uncomfortable and defensive, and we need to be brave and have those conversations about how we want to live and what matters to us.

Will the growth of veganism continue?
I think the decline of meat eating will continue, for sure. Full vegan is a high bar and it will never appeal to everybody, so that’s going to plateau at some point. I applaud everyone that makes the choice, but I wouldn’t want people to think that because they couldn’t go 100% vegan, they shouldn’t bother going halfway.

Do you think the ‘VSCO girl’ trend has ultimately been a good or bad thing for the awareness of green issues?
I wore Birkenstocks before they were cool, jus’sayin. I’m wearing some right now. But I am male, in my thirties and bald, so that’s where the overlap between me and the VCSO girls both begins and ends… I suppose there’s a risk that these kinds of trends make green issues into a consumer choice, where we do the right thing when it makes us feel good, and don’t really challenge ourselves on the harder stuff. But it is probably making certain ethical choices normal and aspirational, and that’s a useful contribution.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
The themes of the blog don’t really lend themselves to brand collaborations very well, but I do occasionally run posts on green energy or products. I do lots of book reviews. I don’t run ads or do sponsored posts on the blog, because I value editorial independence. Unfortunately, that means I basically turn away free money on an almost daily basis, which is kind of painful!

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Email is easiest. The content I’m most likely to use is new scientific research, campaign launches, innovative green technologies and projects. Other people in the top ten green blogs are covering the lifestyle stuff better than I ever will, so I’m less likely to write about products and services unless they’re doing something groundbreaking.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether green-related or not)?
One of my favourites is the Greenpeace investigative blog UnEarthed, and I recently discovered the business facing Future Net Zero. In another life I’d have been an architect, so I love to check out beautiful and ingenious buildings on Inhabitat or ArchDaily.

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Recess and Beyond – Building a public affairs strategy in a post-lockdown world

As the Government prepares for recess in July, what will the summer break look like for public affairs professionals?

As lockdown measures start to ease and public affairs strategies adapt accordingly, it’s more important than ever to make the most of this final month before the house rises. Now is the time to plan a robust recess strategy to make sure your public affairs activity is ready for action when MPs return.

Watch our webinar, Recess and Beyond: Building a public affairs strategy in a post-lockdown world. Our guest speakers include Dr Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs at BDB Pitmans, John Kavanagh, head of policy and public affairs at Global Infrastructure Investor Association and Jane Wallace, public affairs manager at Which? who will help you make the most out of recess and what public affairs will look like post lockdown.

Deliveries in lockdown comms

ParcelHero’s coronavirus comms strategy: turning the front door into the front line

This is a guest post from David Jinks, Head of Public Relations at ParcelHero, on the importance of keeping agile in a fast changing environment.

I could start by spinning you a yarn about how ParcelHero had an emergency comms plan already prepared for the impact of a near biblical plague. The truth is we didn’t and, be honest, you wouldn’t enjoy reading a puff piece as much as hearing the gory details about how we learned from our initial comms mistakes.

ParcelHero is an online parcel price comparison site; effectively, we’re ‘Compare the Meerkat’ for parcels. Simples. Of course, being a home-delivery courier company meant we were one of the first to experience the full impact of the coronavirus.

Key to our media strategy as an e-commerce business is building brand awareness and (here’s where I’ll be kicked out of the Monday PR Club) link building. Old skool releases and pitches are at the heart of this plan. Looking back, our first release on the subject was 27 January: ‘Should shoppers question the safety of Chinese parcels?’. In retrospect, it’s an odd release – partly ramping up the scare to attract journalists and partly downplaying it – because some regular users were already experiencing problems with stock coming in from China. It got good traction but, at the time, it felt like an annoying distraction from my beloved 2020 PR plan, which had been so many weeks in gestation.

I clung grimly to that plan throughout early February, in the blind belief that no story could be bigger than Brexit. It wasn’t until 25 February that I smelled the coffee and tearfully chucked it away. Our release that day on ‘Ten steps to reduce the impact of Covid-19 ‘ was lapped up by an increasingly nervous business press. It had lots of prescient tips but still featured a not-in-front-of-the-children intro that soothingly gushed ‘…many health professionals are saying it is unlikely to have a greater effect than many typical global flu outbreaks’.

Let’s spare my blushes and move into the next stage. Without teaching Grandma to suck eggs, bad news sells and big numbers make big headlines. As the epidemic developed, we forecast on 3 March that e-commerce’s market share would double to 40% ‘if the coronavirus becomes an epidemic in the UK’. That secured us a good splash in the Mail and lots of business press. In a social media double-whammy, Facebook even used the prediction in its LinkedIn presentations. Again though, look at that qualifying ‘if’

Just before lockdown, ParcelHero had been booming, as people shipped food to loved ones in isolation and ordered thousands of hand sanitisers. However, when lockdown started on 23 March, bookings fell off a cliff. Stores were closed and even those with websites had little confidence they could distribute orders safely.

We hit the press, emphasising that couriers were still picking up directly from doorsteps and businesses could stay alive selling solely online. By the second week, ParcelHero was experiencing Christmas-level peak volumes and that’s been the case ever since. ‘The front door becomes the front line’ – our key message that was picked up by many journalists – underscored our efforts to standardise rules to replace signatures as proof of delivery.

Increased bookings led to their own complications, however. 50% of international parcels are flown in the belly-hold of passenger flights and, suddenly, they were all grounded. Customers wanted information. Now. Our carefully laid social media plans were swiftly abandoned as Twitter became a key tool for Customer Services.

Nonetheless, by 15 April, our comms was firmly proactive rather than reactive. We caught the public mood with a release stating: ‘It’s no longer a sin to order non-essentials online’. From then on, the thrust was all about looking forwards.

So, what turned the tide from that dreadful Lockdown Monday to us gaining multiple new links and national coverage in the FT, Express, Sun and Mail? Driving our success was our ability to adapt our message to fast-changing circumstances, even if it meant ditching our existing strategies and entire social channels.

Looking forward, we’ll be taking the lead in issuing advice as regulations and market conditions change. We’re currently focused on encouraging all our business users to ‘lock-in your lockdown wins’.  Who knows, one day, not so far in the future, I may be able to return to Brexit. Now, where did I throw that 2020 plan?

David Jinks was a guest on our recent webinar, Moving from Crisis to Recovery, along with Liz Slee, Head of Media at Enterprise Nation and director at the think tank The Enterprise Trust. Listen to the recording here

Catherine Hughes

Gardening Blogger Spotlight: Catherine Hughes, Growing Family

From grubbing around on allotments as a child to blogging full-time about gardening now she has children of her own, Growing Family’s Catherine Hughes has turned her passion for plants into a career she loves.

With gardening becoming more and more popular as people are getting the most out of going outdoors, Catherine shares which kind of posts are proving most useful for her readers, gardens that inspire her, and whether gnomes should be standing next to your Salvia.

How did you originally get started with writing about gardening?
I’ve always been fascinated by the process of making things grow; I grew up grubbing around on my dad’s allotment, and I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember. Before having children I worked in brand marketing, but gave up the full-on career to be a full-time mum. This gave me a chance to start a whole new career blogging about my passion. Now I get to combine gardening with my day job, which is pretty amazing!

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
Easy gardening projects that you don’t need to be an expert to try and that you can involve the kids in. I firmly believe you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy gardening and I hope my blog inspires people to have a go and have fun in the process.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging during the COVID-19 crisis?
With gardening seeing such a big increase in popularity, I’ve been focusing my writing on topics that appeal to newly-interested gardeners and those who are trying to garden with limited resources. Brand work has been reduced, so I’m working more on SEO and my social channels. I’m also blogging at some odd times of day to fit in around the kids!

What are some small things people can do to change up their gardens/balcony planters/windowsill flowers while on lockdown?
Adding in some summer bedding plants will give things an instant lift, and they’re easy to get hold of from supermarkets and garden centres. You can also make things more interesting in the garden by providing food for wild birds and encouraging them to visit. Having a go at growing your own veg is a great lockdown project, too – I’ve converted one of my garden borders into a vegetable patch this year.

For those just getting into gardening, which essential tools do they need for their kit?
A decent hand trowel, comfortable gardening gloves, and a kneeler pad will all get used every time you garden. Plant pots in various sizes and plant labels are a must if you’re growing seeds; avoid plastic and go for an eco-friendly option if you can. A lightweight handled bucket is brilliant for moving around compost and collecting weeds, but you can improvise on this one if you need to. I’d also add in a spade if you’ve got more than just containers. And you definitely need a watering can to keep those plants happy!

Most beautiful outside space/garden you’ve ever seen?
I have a real soft spot for the Japanese gardens at Newstead Abbey. They’re so precise but luscious at the same time, and there’s something about the contrast between the historic surroundings and the vibe that just works for me. I find something new and inspiring every time I visit.

What are your thoughts on garden gnomes – cute, or creepy?
Definitely creepy – they’ve always given me the shivers. I don’t want eyes watching me in the garden!

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I really enjoy collaborating with brands and regularly work on ambassadorships, sponsored content, reviews, giveaways, guest writing and social media promotion. Home and garden brands are the best fit for my content and audience.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
My readers expect and enjoy unique content, so that’s always my aim when working with PRs. I’m always interested in press releases related to my blog’s content as they keep me up-to-date, but I don’t tend to publish them on my blog. A detailed brief is really important; as well as being a professional way to work, it helps avoid misunderstandings and saves lots of time. The best way to contact me is via email.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether gardening-related or not)?
There are lots of gardening blogs on my list! The Middle-Sized Garden always has articles that inspire me, Sharpen Your Spades is brilliant for all things grow your own, and Gardens, Weeds & Words is beautifully written with stunning photography. I also love Thrifty Home for great family budgeting tips, and Love Chic Living for fantastic interiors inspiration.

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