Foreign aid conversation

Insights from engagement in foreign aid discourse

Leveraging stakeholder conversations for strategic planning

Having a full view of your wider stakeholder conversations across media, online, and social media gives you an advantage when shaping your comms strategy. Access to data across multiple channels can help you detect emerging trends and crises, and provide insights into public opinion, identify misinformation, and present opportunities to educate where needed.

For insight into the media and online landscape when it comes to conflict, we took the topic of foreign aid and tracked the conversation between 1 November 2022 – 31 October 2023 with our sister platform Pulsar.

Read on for how stakeholder insight can help you tailor your comms strategy.

Trends dominating the foreign aid discussion from November 2022 – October 2023

Trends dominating the foreign aid discussion on X from November 2022 - October 2023

Volumes of the Foreign Aid conversation on X between 1 November 2022 and 31 October 2023. Source: Pulsar TRAC

Mentions of different themes in the Foreign Aid conversation between 1 November 2022 - 31 October 2023

Mentions of different themes in the Foreign Aid conversation between 1 November 2022 – 31 October 2023. Source: Pulsar TRAC

As global conflict unfolded throughout 1 November 2022 to 31 October 2023, related media coverage naturally grew to keep the public informed. But which topics took up the most attention when it came to foreign aid?

Tracking sharing of, and engagement with, posts on X during this period uncovered obvious subjects peaking the discussion. These included countries involved in geo-political crisis – ‘Ukraine’ and ‘Israel’ – as well as where displaced members of their population would go for safety (‘immigration’).

Alongside these aforementioned trends was a significant engagement with the topics of the domestic need for money and corruption – two issues that often go hand-in-hand with the costly realities of conflict and aid.

News sources dominating the conversation of foreign aid between Nov 22 – Oct 23

News sources dominating the conversation of foreign aid between Nov 22 - Oct 23

Volume of Outlet by Credibility on X in the Foreign Aid conversation between Nov 1 2022 – Oct 31 2023. Source: Pulsar TRAC

When looking at media outlets across the world, expected long-established news sources including The Guardian, the Express, and BBC News produced plenty of coverage and engagement during the year of analysis. Outlets considered non-credible by Pulsar’s misinformation detection – including the US-based right-wing brand Breitbart – also feature. But at the top is a relative newcomer to the press landscape – GB News.

Launched in 2021, GB News’ right-leaning political slant has attracted an audience with a matching right-wing mindset. UK politicians regularly feature in GB News programming (to some controversy), clips are shared across social platforms, and other news outlets regularly cover its fluctuating fortunes. Despite questions around impartiality and audience numbers, its influence online grows.

How do political leanings impact which topics attract the most engagement from stakeholders, and how can you attract attention with your own comms?

Which topics interest which stakeholders

Which topics interest which stakeholders

Share of Narratives by Community in the Foreign Aid conversation between Nov 1 2022 – Oct 31 2023. Normalized to 100. Source: Pulsar TRAC

An analysis of stakeholders grouped by their political affiliations (as identified by their online affinities and behaviours) shows their differing preoccupations and interests, as well as different styles of interaction with messaging.

A comparison of UK-based Conservatives, UK Republicans, and Left-leaning audiences engaging in the online foreign aid conversation unearths high engagement for ‘immigration’ topics from right-wingers in the United Kingdom, with less engagement for ‘Israel’ and the ‘Domestic Need for Money’.

Left-wingers are equally engaged in the four of these trending topics tracked, while US right-wingers engaging in these topics were most invested in Ukraine and Corruption-focused reporting.

What does this show us? US and UK right-wing stakeholders engaged in singular discussions, with broader narratives taking the attention of global left-wingers.

Volume, visibility & impressions for communities on X between Nov 1 2022 – Oct 31 2023

Volume, visibility & impressions for communities on X between Nov 1 2022 – Oct 31 2023. Normalized to 100. Source: Pulsar TRAC

Analysing impressions (how many people see the content) versus visibility (a bespoke Pulsar metric that reflects how how much impact a piece of content has) also uncovers a clear difference – right-wing content between November 2022 and October 2023 gained viral traction in specific communities, where left-leaning content resonated more widely.

What does this mean when seeking meaningful engagement with all groups, regardless of political affiliation?

Engaging your stakeholders with your comms

Tailoring your strategy and communications for each audience online is how to hit each of your stakeholder segments. Considering where each of these gets their information and how they share it with their own communities provides a map for reaching them.

This could mean making Facebook groups or podcasts a part of your outreach strategy alongside the news channels your stakeholders watch daily with your messaging, or creating short-form content for specific social media platforms designed to be shared quickly and widely.

Engaging with global conversations of conflict is complicated, but an understanding of your stakeholders, where to find them, what they interact with, and how, provides a clearer direction for your comms strategy going forward.

For more on planning your strategy in times of crisis, find out about Vuelio’s horizon scanning solutions.

How to elevate your share of voice

How to elevate your share of voice

Share of voice is a great way to benchmark yourself against competitors and understand your position in the market, however comparing volumes or potential reach of coverage is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some alternative ways to calculate your share of voice and really see how you’re measuring up against your peers.

Target media

It’s important to consider your target media when looking at your share of voice. Whether you’re aiming for coverage in the high-reaching nationals, or niche trade publications, ensure you set a target media list so you can compare yourself to your competitors based on titles you are actually trying to reach. By looking at your exposure in these outlets in comparison to your peers, you can refine it to your own priorities and even take into consideration budgeting by including a smaller, high impact set of titles if resources are low. For example, your competitor might have a greater share of voice based on volume, but if none of these articles are in the key titles, then they aren’t as much of a threat!

Sentiment

Analysing the sentiment of coverage really gives some context to your figures – a high-reaching article may sound great on paper, but if it’s a scandal story or a complaint gone viral, you won’t be too pleased. Firstly, having your coverage manually verified for sentiment ensures that analysis is accurate and that any nuances in language have been accounted for in a way that automation might not. This means that your share of voice by sentiment is as accurate as possible, and you’ll be able to better understand the full picture. Measuring your share of sentiment compared to competitors gives background to your place in the media landscape: maybe your competitors had hundreds more articles this month, but when you delve into the sentiment, they had a huge share of negativity. Moreover, if your peers are achieving a higher proportion of positive sentiment, you can consider how and why they are gaining such favourable mentions, so you can increase your efforts and hopefully follow suit going forward.

Topic

Share of voice can not only be used to look at brand awareness, but it’s also a great way to see how your products, services, or coverage themes are performing in the media compared to competitors. Knowing the number of times your product has been mentioned is great to see, however it’s much more valuable when it’s put into the context of the sector. The value of share of voice by topic is that it can be totally customisable and allows you to see exactly what you’re leading the industry in. Analysing this also enables you to see where you’re coming up short and therefore what you need to proactively increase visibility on in the future. Alternatively, you could look at competitor topic share of voice in a new field you want to branch out in – this way, you understand the media landscape and are totally aware of who to watch out for!

Share of Impact

All of these elevated ways of measuring your share of voice lead to the gold-standard method: share of impact. At Vuelio, this metric combines the factors that are most impactful to you, whether that’s positive sentiment, headline coverage, or a key message mention, and creates a bespoke impact score aligned to you and your strategy. This is the most holistic way to measure your impact in the media, as it truly takes your quantity, quality, and objectives into account, and can be used to measure different aspects of your communications in a singular, easy-to-report metric, from your monthly impact, to the success of a proactive campaign.

Reach out to us to see how our Insights team can help you.

For more on effective benchmarketing and measurement, check out how media analysis can help with your campaign planning and strategy. 

Journalist Enquiry Service trends send half of 2024

When to get in touch with journalists with your PR contributions throughout the year

Want to know what journalists need for their news and features? The ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service is a solid indicator of what is trending in the media as hundreds of journalists use it each month to get information for articles, expert comment, and much more.

We reflect on what has been popular on the Journalist Enquiry Service this year so far, and predict what will be high on the agenda for journalists during the second quarter and where you can gain media coverage.

Get your health pitches in early

The start of a new year means a focus on healthy living for many, and the word ‘healthy’ was the most popular with journalists sending enquiries to PRs. It appeared in 10% of the total requests throughout January, February, and March, and has seen a 6% increase in use this year.

Titles such as Women’s Fitness, Top Sante, the Daily Mail, GB News and BBC Good Food all sent enquiries during the first quarter of the year. Fitness, diet, weight loss, recipes, workouts and skincare were all included in these requests around healthy living.

The Health category as a result was the second most used by media professionals using the Journalist Enquiry Service, after Women’s Interest & Beauty.

Now? Health features may be a big part of New Year write-ups, but it’s a popular topic throughout the year – plenty of opportunities to get experts featured in national press and big consumer magazines.

Interest in AI continues to grow

The media’s interest in AI and the ways it will impact our lives has grown consistently for around the last eighteen months. ‘AI’ featured as a keyword in over 3% of all requests between January and March. It’s also seen a big increase compared to the first quarter of last year, with a rise of 51%.

Now? The interest in writing articles around AI has remained consistent – enquiries tend to focus on getting experts in AI to comment on issues and new developments, varying from AI therapists, to AI in business,to bringing AI into mining metals. You could get experts featured in titles such as IT Pro, The Next Web, Yahoo! News, Verdict, and The Financial Times.

Travel plans are being made earlier

Easter fell earlier in the calendar year for 2024 which might explain why ‘travel’ has been popular as a keyword in the first quarter, with journalists looking to cover places for people to get away in the school holidays. Over 5% of the total requests were for ‘travel’ and 2% were for ‘holiday’.

‘Travel’ did perform well as a keyword last year too, but this year we have seen an 11% increase. There has also been a 14% rise for ‘holiday’ as a keyword and the Travel category as a whole has received 5% more requests than this time last year.

Now? Requests regularly centre on information around holiday destinations or hotels to stay at but also experts to provide comment and case studies on travel nightmares.

Journalists from outlets such as PA Media, Sky News, The Daily Star, Bella, and BBC Travel have all sent enquiries. The Travel category and these keywords will only grow more popular as we head towards the summer, meaning lots of media opportunities to get your hotel featured or travel guide providing comment.

Trending topics to be ready for in the second quarter

Holidays and celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day always generate a high volume of requests on the Journalist Enquiry Service. We expect ‘Father’s Day’ to be a key phrase throughout April and May, ahead of 16 June. In fact, we have already seen requests for it in the first quarter and this has led to a 8.5% increase for the Men’s Interest category compared to last year. Enquiries around Father’s Day are usually looking for products to review or gifts or experiences that Dads can enjoy.

‘Summer’ was the top keyword for the second quarter last year and is likely to perform well again this year. This can vary from summer fashion to summer drinks to summer holidays. Travel, as we already mentioned, will receive a lot of requests as a category but Arts and Entertainment should do well as we hit festival season with events like Glastonbury and Download festival. Food & Drink also performs well as a category from April until June, with journalists looking for information around days such as National BBQ day (16 May), National Cheese Day (4 June) and World Gin Day (10 June), plus experts within this sector too.

Finally, we are expecting quite a big rise in the amount of requests for the Sport category. The Euro’s kick off in Germany in June and Wimbledon will take place at the beginning of July. This is then followed, of course, by the Olympics in Paris. Expect requests from journalists looking for places to go to watch these sporting events, as well as experts or coaches with advice on taking up featured sports.

Find out more about what journalists want from PRs, and how Vuelio can help.

Horizon scanning for PRs

How horizon scanning can help with your crisis communications strategy

As shown by high-profile scandals that have hit the headlines recently – from the Post Office Horizon case, to the Boeing blow out – no brand is immune to crisis.

In our constantly connected world, a crisis could emerge from external factors like supply chain problems, misinformation, and data breaches, or from internal issues like information leaks, or staff misconduct.

With the right skill set and tools to prepare for all possible scenarios, PRs have a clear starting point on how to handle each type of risk.

Understanding, and planning for, risk

Horizon scanning tools offer a look ahead at potential problems, including what’s happening in the media, in politics, and what is on the minds of the public, seen through their online actions and reactions.

‘No tool offers a crystal ball, but asking the right questions helps you understand internal and external risk issues and how you may need to respond,’ believes management consultant and professional advisor Sarah Waddington CBE.

Media monitoring and social listening tools allow PRs and comms professionals to track their organisational reputation, competitors, as well as issues facing the industry. These tools empower you to pinpoint early signs of risk, as well as where your organisation fits within the unfolding stories.

Monitoring emerging issues, trends, and opportunities

For effective planning amid the 24-hour news (and social media) cycle, Vuelio’s unique media monitoring technology identifies risks, trends, and opportunities across your sector.

Monitoring your brand’s presence in the stakeholder environment helps you understand the immediate impact of any news story, and how events spread across mainstream news, online, and social media.

And as media topics can quickly spread to the halls of Government and diaries of legislators, Vuelio also provides weekly sector specific horizon scans and consultation updates for identifying upcoming events, as well as important discussions in Parliament.

These solutions uncover important signals among the static, helping you find relevant coverage and conversations relevant to your organisation and your stakeholders.

Strategic planning and controlling the narrative

Keeping an eye on real-time stakeholder conversations gives you the opportunity to answer quickly.

As research into the controversy surrounding brands involved with the 2022 FIFA World Cup shows, organisations linked to negative coverage need to react quickly. Leaving the story to play out – with hopes it will die down – risks other voices taking over.

For extra support with your reputation management strategy, our Insights team is also on hand to prove the value of your comms and help you understand the immediate impact of a crisis. They’ll also provide you with recommendations to support your future plan and strategy, including risks, threats, and opportunities.

Find out more about Vuelio Insights as well as our PR software for media monitoring.

Post Office Scandal

What PR lessons can be learned from the Post Office Horizon scandal?

The Post Office Horizon scandal continues to take up column inches and spark political debate.

What lessons can be learned from the ongoing PR crisis? And how did the story explode so quickly across ​multiple platforms?

We analysed media coverage, Parliamentary events, and online mentions of ‘Post Office scandal’ between December 2023 to March 2024 to better understand how the story evolved from an under-reported legal issue, to prime time TV fodder and social virality, to a topic debated in Parliament.

Read our case study to learn:

– How brand controversies move from platform to platform when left unchecked
– How a crisis strategy can mitigate the risks of growing controversy
– How horizon-scanning can help prepare for what lies ahead
– Why staying on top of both media and political conversations will help you identify the right stakeholders

Download ‘From TV, to headline news, to Parliament: How an ITV drama brought the Post Office scandal back into the spotlight’​.

Want to track your own media coverage and brand reputation? Check out Vuelio Media Monitoring and Insights

Rwanda Bill Point of Order

Point of Order: Will the Rwanda Bill ruin Conservative General Election hopes?

With huge costs, mounting opposition and doubts over effectiveness, the Government’s Rwanda Bill is arguably the key underlying force behind the current lack of unity within the Conservative Party. It’s a situation some have labelled as reminiscent of the Theresa May era, where chaos consumed Parliament.

With the General Election looking set for October, and the Conservatives falling behind in the polls, just how much of an issue is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approach, and is the issue of immigration overall influential enough to detract voters?

Sign up to the Vuelio General Election Bulletin for updates on the race, and stay connected to key political stakeholders with Vuelio’s Political Monitoring and Political Database

The Safety of Rwanda Bill

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill in substance claims that Rwanda is a country to which it is safe for the UK to relocate asylum seekers. This is despite unanimous rulings from the Supreme Court that Rwanda is in fact not a safe country, as defined by the EU. The proposed legislation also acknowledges that the Home Secretary cannot confirm it is in accordance with the UK’s human rights obligations and seeks to disapply certain sections of the UK’s Human Rights Act.

Parliamentary happenings and progression of the Bill

At the end of 2023, Robert Jenrick resigned as Immigration Minister over the Government’s inability to be ‘tough’ on asylum and immigration policy, stating that the emergency Rwanda legislation ‘does not go far enough’. Although not a shocking move, some have labelled it a personal betrayal by Jenrick, with Jenrick also accusing Sunak of failing to keep his repeated promise to ‘stop the boats’. This move by Jenrick signalled the start of issues with party unity for Sunak and the Conservatives with other so called rebels quick to follow Jenrick’s lead and demonstrate opposition and rebellion.

As the Bill moved through the House and made its way to the Whole House Committee stage, Conservatives, Jenrick and Sir Bill Cash, put forward highly contested amendments that sought to ignore rulings from both domestic and international courts, remove input from the ECHR, and block suspensive claims against removal. The amendments were backed by some 60 Conservative MPs, including the likes of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Following this rebellion, former Deputy Chairmen of the Conservative Party Lee Anderson, and Brendan Clarke-Smith, resigned their positions in order to continue voting in favour of these amendments, and thus ultimately against Sunak.

In recent weeks, we have seen the Lords rebut the Rwanda Bill back to the Commons with amendments already rejected by MPs. As expected, delay to the progression of the Bill is likely, with Peers insisting that the legislation must have ‘due regard’ for both domestic and international law. Moreover, it is worth noting that the Conservatives do not have the majority in the Lords; a factor which is likely to further delay progression.

Despite the ongoing ping pong of the Bill between Houses, and it remaining stuck in parliamentary limbo, the Government seemingly had a minor breakthrough when it came to the issue of hotels being used for asylum seekers – a solution that was costing around £8.2 million per day to maintain. The Government announced that by the end of March, the reliance on hotels would be diminished, with 100 hotels being closed for asylum accommodation and reopening back to their normal use. Regardless of this, one day later, No. 10 declared a ‘migration emergency’ following the busiest day of Channel crossings since the start of 2024.

Response to the Bill and public sentiment

Despite the Bill passing its Third Reading with a majority of 44 in the Commons, it has long been apparent that the other parties are not in favour of the Bill as it stands. Labour has repeatedly demanded an impact assessment on the costs of the scheme, and the SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has accused Sunak of seeking to ‘weaponise some of the most vulnerable’.

Apprehension towards the Bill has spread outside of the Westminster bubble, with 270 charities and expert organisations issuing a joint statement calling on Peers to reject the legislation, deeming it ‘deeply harmful’ and arguing that it ‘threatens the universality of human rights and is likely in breach of international law’. The lack of confidence in the functionality of the Bill is also felt amongst the public, with a recent poll by YouGov revealing that only 1% of voters believe that the Bill will stop the boats. Furthermore, another YouGov poll found that on the issue of immigration, only 10% of the public said the Government were handling immigration ‘well’, and 83% said they were handling it ‘badly’.

Context with other issues affecting voting intention

At the start of the year, the Centre for Progressive Policy’s (CPP) recent Local Economy Tracker revealed a widespread pessimism about the future of local economies – perhaps to be expected, considering that several local authorities have issued section 114 bankruptcy notices last year. A lack of affordable housing was also mentioned as an area of concern by 31% of respondents, and 25% mentioned concerns around poor wages or lack of good jobs.

At the end of February, the latest Ipsos Political Monitor not only revealed the Conservatives have the lowest percentage of voting intention since 1978, but also deduced that asylum and immigration were among the most important issues for voters. However, it is important to note that issues relating to the NHS, inflation and the economy ranked higher than immigration and asylum policy matters here. The NHS being number one priority for voters was also echoed in an article from The Guardian at around this time.

Threat of Reform UK

On 11 March, ex-Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson defected to Reform UK after refusing to apologise for claiming that Islamists had control over London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Following his move, Anderson took to X (formerly Twitter) where he provided his reasons for the move. Anderson said he believes in ‘protecting our borders and keeping immigration to a minimum’ and that ‘illegal migrants should be removed the same day they arrive here’. At around this time Anderson also took a leaf out of Farage’s book and said ‘I want our country back’. Considering that Anderson already resigned from his position within the party due to disagreement over the content of the Bill. His decision to leave the Conservatives could also be partly due to this.

Reform UK is a party founded by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage as the ‘Brexit Party’ in 2018. The party was re-registered as Reform UK in January 2021 and Richard Tice replaced Farage as he stepped down. With Reform’s slogan being ‘Let’s Make Britain Great’ and with its hard line on immigration, it has long been compared to, or deemed similar in tone to, the approach and policies of Donald Trump.

Given that immigration is currently one of the bigger challenges facing Sunak, it seems likely that Reform UK could prove a realistic threat to the Conservatives, but also Sunak’s credibility. It is also worth noting that its predecessor, the Brexit Party did not stand candidates against sitting Conservative MPs in 2019 due to an agreement with the then Conservative leader, Boris Johnson. Thus, with Reform UK candidates standing in every seat they offer an option to voters that didn’t exist in 2019.

Alongside this, recent YouGov polling found that in terms of voting intention, Labour is leading with 47 points, the Conservatives have 20 points, and Reform UK is polling not far short of the Conservatives with 13 points. Given that the same data taken in the middle of March last year saw Reform with just six points and the Conservatives with 27 points, the current ruling party are right to be concerned about where support is going, and for what reasons. In addition to this, the number of Conservative MPs standing down is the highest ahead of any General Election since 1997, with 63 announcing they are either not seeking re-election in the current constituency or standing down from Parliament.

Possible impacts of the Rwanda Bill

Since the introduction of the Rwanda Bill, unity within Sunak’s party has diminished and polling has shown a consistent decrease in support for the Conservatives. Meanwhile, Reform UK has taken advantage of Sunak’s inability to convince his party, Parliament and the voters that this Bill will work, and are set to take votes from the Conservatives. However, it is also key to remember that polling has suggested that immigration and asylum policy are not the biggest issues facing voters at this time, and with issues relating to the NHS, inflation and the economy ranking higher in priority for voters it is clear to see a discrepancy exists here between the public’s priority concerns and the current concerns facing the Conservatives.

Despite this, it is wise to be apprehensive about the Rwanda Bill and the Government’s current stance on immigration policy for several reasons of principle:

(1) The Supreme Court unanimously held that Rwanda was not a safe country to which asylum seekers should be relocated – the Bill is extreme in that it directly challenges a very clear ruling of this.

(2) While the Bill seeks to disapply certain human rights obligations in domestic proceedings, it does not alter the fact that the UK still has obligations here under international law.

(3) It is fair to argue that this idea of limiting or de-legitimising the role of such courts is often associated with authoritarian governments and can be criticised for undermining concepts such as judicial independence and the separation of powers.

Vuelio Political Monitoring gives you full visibility of everything that’s happening across Government, Parliament, stakeholder organisations and social media, delivered in a way that works for you – find out more

Alexander Larman interview

‘Harmless, but fascinating’: The Spectator World’s book editor Alexander Larman on covering the UK royal family

Alexander Larman, books editor for The Spectator‘s world edition, has covered the royals for a number of years now, both in his journalism and as an author. He has written about the current turbulent times and issues, as well as approaching the subject from a historical angle, showcased in the final book of the ‘Windsors trilogy’ series, ‘Power and Glory: Elizabeth II and the Rebirth of Royalty’.

We chatted to him about the enduring interest in the royals, the commissioning process at Spectator World, and the benefits of relationship building between journalists and PRs.

Alexander Larman

Having written extensively on the royal family, both as an author and a journalist, what makes them so fascinating to write about?

I’ve never been a royal family obsessive, and in fact, in the introduction to ‘Power and Glory’, I explicitly out myself as a non-monarchist, which I think may ruffle a few feathers. They’re far more interesting to write about if you don’t come at them from the perspective that they have a god-given right to exist, because then you get to ask questions that more respectful chroniclers tend to steer clear of. Why wasn’t the Duke of Windsor interned or jailed during WWII? (He was clearly a traitor by any conventional definition of the term.) Why do we still subsidize the royals with taxpayer money? Why has the recent Kate Middleton story obsessed so many people? 

The answer is because it’s a grand narrative. Unlike politics, which is soap opera but liable to mess up our lives if handled the wrong way by the wrong people, the royals are essentially harmless but fascinating, history writ large. And the fact that they’re useless at concealing their rows and disagreements is hilarious, too.  

What are you looking for content-wise at Spectator World?

A trade secret is that very few working journalists are particularly brilliant writers. This is doubly, even trebly, true in the fields of literary and arts criticism. A lot of people can put together a pithy or witty sentence or two on social media, but to be able to review a book, film or exhibition in an erudite and literate manner, with a genuine understanding of context and history? Nope, that’s a rare skill. 

I have a broad monthly section to fill at the Spectator World, and I am in the fortunate position that because I’m so limited, I only commission the people who can write really well about fascinating subjects. And they do exist, from household name authors to brilliant young women (they’re always women in my experience) in their twenties. I’ve been doing it since 2021 and it’s the thing, apart from my own books, that I’m proudest of professionally.

You also do freelance work as well, what are the pros and cons to working freelance alongside a permanent job?

It’s a necessity. I realised years ago that I needed to earn a certain amount a year in order to enjoy the same kind of lifestyle as my peers – and I’m not talking about holidays in the Maldives or a second home in Cornwall, just being able to go out for the odd meal and keep my wonderful daughter Rose in toys and the occasional treat. And you have to do an awful lot of work in order to make that happen. Journalism isn’t well paid, unless you’re writing for the New Yorker and the like, and this isn’t likely to change any time soon, either.  

I’m relatively lucky these days in that I’m a known quantity thanks to my books and journalism, so I haven’t had to scrape about for work for a few years. But before, say, 2019, times were very tricky. It’s often feast and famine in this industry and I can’t say I relish the prospect of the latter again.

What’s the best way for PRs to get in contact and work with you?

Phone calls never work unless I know you personally – sorry, but that’s the truth in my experience. Email is fine but impersonal, unless again there’s the personal connection, a reply might take a while. Make the effort – ask me out for lunch/coffee/a drink, and come armed with stories, potentially a few writers for those stories. Be professional, engaged, and good company, and we’ll hopefully have a great working relationship. But I’m insanely busy at the moment so we’re looking at June at the earliest (sorry!). 

Connect with Alexander via the Vuelio Media Database, and get pointers on what journalists want from PRs, and more ways Vuelio can help, in this blog post.

Do you have a license for that

Want to share your media coverage, but struggling to make sense of UK copyright laws?

CIPR Midlands’ Licensing Roundtable, chaired by CIPR President Rachael Clamp, brought together Reach plc’s Fergus McKenna, NLA’s Josh Allcorn, CLA’s Ossie Ikeogu, and Vuelio’s Chris Wheeler to provide a rundown of the ins and outs of copyright for PRs.

While ‘there’s nothing straight-forward when it comes to licensing’ – as Ossie admitted – here is our quick guide to keep you on the right track when sharing your coverage.

CIPR Midlands Licensing Roundtable panel

Why do PRs need to know about this stuff?

‘The way we get notified of coverage is completely different now – no scanning the papers in the morning for the right words,’ said Rachael.

As well as protecting PRs from sharing content in the wrong way (and racking up fees as a result), licensing protects publishing. And every creative industry, including PR and comms, needs published content.

‘Licensing is a very important part,’ said Reach plc’s Fergus. ‘Most people’s engagement with us now will be through an app, and not directly through our printed papers or our websites.

‘Publishers need to be wary of how they manage their IP, and get the most value they can from their content. That’s why licensing organisations are vital – I don’t know if publishers would have the bandwidth to do what they do for us’.

Josh added: ‘Publishers need the PRs for the content, the publishers need the licensing bodies because they don’t have the bandwidth – we’re all part of this content ecosystem. We need each other’.

Why are there two licensing orgs in the UK, and do PRs need to be members of both?

As the panel acknowledged, some other countries are served by one all-encompassing licensing organisation, but the UK has two. Why?

NLA initially began in the mid-90s as a venture between the Financial Times and the Telegraph in a bid to find an easier way of allowing PR agencies, among others, to reuse and share their content.

‘As a comms practitioner, when you send out PR, you want to hit as broad a market as possible,’ explained Josh. ‘For publishers, there’s a broad range of rights. The NLA became a more efficient vehicle to put all that activity in one place.’

The CLA is a complimentary service, explained Ossie. But don’t get the two confused.

Formed in 1983 on the basis of Government recommendations to standardise copyright and collection of fees, CLA covers ‘everything from printed to digital formats, books, magazines – that’s our remit,’ said Ossie.

The NLA, in comparison, covers newspapers and a selection of magazines and media sites.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just have one governing licensing body in 2024? Maybe – but as Vuelio’s Chris explained:

‘There are PR clients who don’t need everything, so there are benefits to having two – less unnecessary content; more streamed down. Anything that makes this a simpler process for all is better.’

How can Vuelio help with licensing?

For support with the above – Vuelio serves as an ‘intermediary for clients and copyright organisations,’ explained Vuelio’s Chris.

‘We deliver all those clips through. Our role is reporting back to the CLA and NLA for clients – that’s what we do on a monthly basis for NLA, and quarterly for CLA.

‘We become an advisor for many PRs in this respect. We help them decide what they need. Our clients may want to monitor themselves and their competitors, without everything else. It’s about focusing on what PRs need, and getting fairness and transparency in the pricing as well.

‘We catch up regularly with the licensing bodies to understand the difficulties for our clients, and be the voice of PRs. We’re aiming to get to the point where the pricing and structure is understood by all, so it doesn’t feel like one party is inflicting something on the other.’

Should PRs be wary of the NLA and CLA?

No, said all panelists – licensing organisations are here to help both sides of the PR and media ecosystem.

‘These organisations aren’t just waiting for an infringement – you can have a chat with somebody if you need help. Much like setting up with Vuelio, it’s about finding the right thing for each circumstance,’ said Rachael.

Where copyright gets complicated…

So far, so good – but what about the more confusing parts of copyright law? With the way content is shared constantly evolving, a number of scenarios were brought up during the session. The panel had answers for each:

Sharing coverage on social safely

‘The social media explosion a few years ago muddied the waters because of how the platforms share content,’ said Josh from the NLA point of view.

‘Sharing a link to digital content on socials – there’s no IP on that. And if I want to put a link on my site, that leads traffic back to the publisher, so that’s okay, too. On X, if you’re retweeting and sharing a publisher’s post, you’re absolutely fine.’

‘But taking a headline from the article when sharing – you do need a license.’

Reach plc’s Fergus agreed: ‘If you are amplifying a publisher’s communication, they’re going to welcome that. But using the IP yourself, that’s where there is a copyright issue.’

‘Unfortunately, the CLA license doesn’t cover any social media use,’ added Ossie. ‘From my understanding, that’s been something of a minefield, we haven’t got the okay from our publishers yet. But rest assured that’s something that’s brought up every year.’

As summarised by Rachael – if you’re sharing, liking, or reposting content – that’s engagement for the publisher, and okay. But if you’re sharing for your own engagement, like a quote repost on X, you’ll need a license.

When a publisher uses your press release

As explained by Josh – if the publisher makes an alteration to the copy, the copyright moves to the publisher. With no alteration to the press release, the PR would likely need no license for sharing.

However, speaking from Reach plc’s point of view, Fergus pointed out that publishing can change the ownership: ‘The act of publishing takes on certain copyright protections. If we publish it, those are our words, that is our article. We would see that as being our piece.’

But don’t worry – Vuelio makes this very simple so you won’t get into trouble:

‘There are websites that publish press releases word for word, but Vuelio excludes them from monitoring – that wouldn’t be considered content.’

The grey area of Google Alerts

Google Alerts has changed the way coverage is shared with PRs… and sparked yet more questions around copyright.

‘We would regard a snippet that does contain a headline, or some of the text, as sharing and, in effect, as copyright infringement. And that’s where the CLA license would come into effect,’ said Ossie.

Josh agreed: ‘We have to be aware of the changes and how content is pushed out into the market. Google is obviously a free service – we have to determine what should be protected by copyright and what isn’t. A link isn’t serviceable, but an alert from Vuelio is copyright protected.

‘We are constantly looking at how technology changes and making sure our licenses are fit for purpose.’

For how Vuelio can track your coverage and ensure you’re sharing with your clients and colleagues correctly, find out more about Media Monitoring.

Find extra on the NLA in ‘The PR guide to the NLA’.

WITA Powerlist reception

Celebrating powerful women in trade associations 2024

Vuelio was proud to be a sponsor of last week’s Women in Trade Associations Powerlist reception, celebrating the accomplishments of women making a difference throughout the sector.

Those acknowledged by the TAF, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)’s powerlist were invited to this celebratory event at Space14.

Emily Wallace TAF

‘What I am struck by is what an incredible opportunity we have in this room, with the most inspirational and powerful women in associations,’ said TAF CEO Emily Wallace.

‘There’s a real challenge for trade associations to support female entrepreneurs and female-led businesses. Let this be the start of something. What more we can do to become more powerful advocates for women in business in the UK and support ambitions for growth?’

Nicola Bates WineGB

WineGB CEO and head judge for the powerlist Nicola Bates highlighted the importance of gender balance within organisations, acknowledging that ‘we still have a huge amount to do in the industry’.

She also took a moment to highlight the work of previous generations of women:

‘On the personal side, I really want you to think about the woman who helped you the most in your life. She might be someone in your family, she might not. I believe we stand on the shoulders of giants.

‘We’re so fortunate to be born at this point, we’re so fortunate to be working in this country, in the West, at this time. There are so many problems in terms of women’s rights, and we happen to be here and able to advocate for our sectors.

‘Fifty years ago, this room would not be full.’

Ayesha Patel

Ayesha Patel, sector policy lead (domestic and international) at the Department for Business and Trade and judge for the TAF Awards, paid tribute to the hard work of everyone gathered in the room:

‘Not only does this event, and this list, shine a light on your extraordinary leadership, but also on the job that you do in representing your industries and sectors, as well as engaging with us in Government in the most invaluable and constructive way.

‘As a woman, may I also thank you for setting such a strong example of leadership, tenacity, and integrity for all of us, particularly in the most challenging circumstances and environments when the work is never, ever done. We all know the importance of representation, role models, and advocacy, so congratulations to all of you, and thank you for all that you do.’

Emelia Quist

Emelia Quist, head of policy research at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) spoke about the most positive parts of her job:

‘One of the things that I have to do in my role is look at survey data and see what women-led businesses are doing, and I also get to meet our members. It gives me energy to be in a room with women and drive policy change. I’m really glad to be here this evening, getting to meet so many wonderful people.’

Liz Banks CBI

‘We know how impactful trade association members can be, to drive policy change, to offer advice and support directly to businesses, and to overcome challenges, and seize opportunities – whether that’s meeting net zero targets, or meeting societal challenges in your particular sectors,’ said Liz Banks, campaigns & communications director for the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI).

‘Among the applications there were so many inspiring stories of real impact and ambition – folks rolling up their sleeves, not accepting the status quo, and getting things done.

‘On behalf of CBI and TA, thank you for creating this opportunity to celebrate all these women.’

Check out the full Women in Trade Associations Powerlist 2024 here.

How to navigate the storm of crisis

How to navigate the storm of a PR crisis

Is your organisation prepared to handle the top global risks predicted for 2024?

From the far-reaching impacts of geo-politcal conflicts, the threats of misinformation, or values-based mismatches between audiences, the possible sources of future problems are numerous. But they can be planned for.

As part of the webinar ‘Preparing for the unexpected – redefining communications strategy’, Wadds Inc.’s founder and managing partner Stephen Waddington shared extra pointers for navigating crises.

Read on for ways to get internal stakeholders onboard and how to bring international teams together.

How do you educate the leaders of an organisation about their roles in crisis comms planning?

Crisis response is part of any leader’s role. Planning, training, and regular testing for key management team members should be part of an organisation’s risk preparedness. The frequency of these activities depends on the organisation’s operational context.

Horizon scanning is a helpful tool to alert management to the range of risks around an organisation.

How do you manage risk in an environment where there is a high level of staff turnover?

An organisation’s governance should include a risk register and a robust training programme. These safeguards protect the organisation from operational issues such as staff turnover.

What are key observations on the dovetail between operational and reputational risk?

The nature of operational risk within an organisation should be well understood. Areas of crisis preparedness and response will typically be led and managed by operational teams. Reputational risk is more dynamic and depends on the operational context and markets in which an organisation operates. It should be reviewed frequently as part of the analysis for a risk register.

What advice do you have for helping global teams respond to crises and keeping teams joined up?

The robust capability of the corporate communications function to respond to issues and crises as part of an integrated organisational response is a legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic. Communications teams tested crisis plans and their execution in terms of technology, media, and processes.

How can you mitigate risk for organisations that are dealing with issues that have the potential to polarise stakeholders?

This is a critical contemporary issue for corporate communication and management teams. Political and societal issues must be balanced with business imperatives and values or purpose-driven leadership. We’ve developed a decision-making framework to support this activity.

Do you have a recommendation to manage a crisis simulation within a comms team?

We work with Polpeo, a UK crisis simulation company led by Kate Hartley. Its virtual environment can simulate a full-blown crisis in a safe setting. Polpeo combines technology and expert practitioners to train and test a corporate communications or management team.

For more on managing crisis, download the accompanying white paper ‘The evolving nature of crisis communications management’ and watch the webinar ‘Preparing for the unexpected – redefining communications strategy’.

Want to start scanning for crisis sources? Find out more about Vuelio’s Media Monitoring.

Webinar write up

Are you prepared? It’s time to redefine your crisis communications strategy

It’s impossible to plan for every future crisis, but having a comms plan in place is a must-have for every organisation in the current climate.

To help with this, we teamed up with Wadds Inc. founder and managing partner Stephen Waddington for the webinar ‘Preparing for the unexpected – redefining communications strategy’.

Watch the webinar here.

Stephen shared the lowdown on risks you need to know about this year, how to identify potential problems sources, and how to prepare for what’s ahead.

If you missed it, don’t fret – here are some of the key points covered:

Risk has changed – here’s how to keep up

2024 has already been an eventful year, and the tried and tested comms plans of the past need to be updated – it’s time to adapt with the changing world PR communicates with:

‘We are operating in a complex geopolitical environmental and societal perspective,’ said Stephen.

‘Organisations have had to humanise how they communicate with the public as a collective response to COVID-19. Initially, this was related to mental health and wellbeing, and then the wider societal context, including Black Lives Matter and Roe vs Wade. Three years on, this has resulted in a new area of crisis.’

Quote from Rod Cartwright

Stephen shared advice from Rod Cartwright, special advisor to the CIPR Crisis Communications Network:

‘Risk registers, heat maps, and risk appetite statements are essential for any organisation. But they are also only the start…’

Responding to crisis

The three tenets at the core of any crisis response according to Stephe are monitoring, testing, and then centring your comms:

‘Crisis comes with maining public trust, coordinating a complex stakeholder environment, and holding leadership to account.

‘Preparedness is tested through simulation exercises where we can spot gaps in capability, and we can put teams under pressure to help develop plans. Finally, we can make use of our ability to continually monitor, and horizon-scan’.

‘Media monitoring and social listening tools allow us more than ever to understand the public and social sphere and identify those behaviours around a crisis event’.

Future reading

Stephen highlighted some useful resources to bolster your crisis planning:

– Vuelio and Wadds Inc.’s latest white paper The evolving nature of crisis communications management
– The CIPR Crisis Communications Network’s Drafting a Crisis Communication Plan
– The National Protective Security Authority’s Reducing Insider Risk Toolkit
– The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report for 2024.

For much more on the top risks to plan for this year and beyond, as well as strategies for tackling crises as they unfold, as well as the fallout, check out our white paper.

Want to know more about media monitoring and social listening? Check out solutions from Vuelio and our sister brand Pulsar.

Preparing for the unexpected – redefining crisis communications strategy

Crises can force change where it could otherwise be resisted.

But unexpected events are inevitable – how have PR and comms had to evolve to handle reputational and operational risks?

Check out our recent webinar Preparing for the unexpected – redefining crisis communications strategy to hear Wadds Inc. founder and managing partner Stephen Waddington discuss how the aftermath of COVID-19, geo-political issues, misinformation, and the rise of AI have created a new level of complexity for crisis communications.

 

Fill in the form below to check out our webinar and learn 👇

    • The top five global risks for 2024 and potential sources of vulnerability you may have overlooked
    • How horizon scanning can help you identify risks and threats
    • A checklist for crisis communication planning
Spring Budget Briefing

Spring Budget Briefing: Will Hunt’s ‘boring budget’ make an impact?

Vuelio teamed up with the Trade Association Forum (TAF) for a Spring Budget Briefing at Space14 the day after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement to discuss its impact on businesses and also the next General Election.

Hosted by TAF’s CEO Emily Wallace, our panel included (pictured from left to right):

  • Shazia Ejaz, campaign director, Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)
  • Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs, (FSB) Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
  • Kelly Scott, VP of Account Management, Vuelio
  • George Dibb, associate director for economic policy and head of the Centre for Economic Justice, The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
  • Kevin Schofield, political editor, HuffPost

Spring Budget Briefing panel

Extra insight on polling data was shared by polling and research expert Andrew Hawkins, CEO of Whitestone Insight.

Before we get into the panel’s thoughts on the specifics of the announcement – let’s get to the question many will have been asking…

Will the Spring Budget have helped the Conservative Party’s prospects for the next General Election?

Not really, was the feeling of the panel, as well as the general mood of the audience in the room. This echoed how many of the UK’s major press outlets covered Hunt’s Spring Budget, with panelist Kevin Schofield summing it up as ‘boring’ in his reporting.

Pollster Andrew Hawkins reinforced this reaction:

Andrew Hawkins speaking at the Vuelio Spring Budget Briefing for 2024

‘Was yesterday’s event ever going to be a game changer? No. This was not a blockbuster.’

Andrew added that a decision to hold the General Election in May would be ‘political self-immolation’ on the part of the Tories:

‘There’s a bigger hill to climb for Labour. But climb it I believe they will.’

Referring to past voters who would pick the Liberal Democrats if unswayed by the Conservatives or Labour, Andrew shared the belief ‘that model is breaking down,’ with Reform and Green likely to scoop those votes up.

The decreasing level of under-45s planning to vote Conservative was characterised by Andrew as an ‘existential threat’ to the party, adding his view that ‘in a generation, they will be redundant’.

What did the Chancellor forget? The workforce

REC’s Shazia Ejaz felt that there wasn’t a ‘clear enough arrowhead on growth’ – especially when it came to the vital role of skill development.

‘We believe that central to any growth is people – workers. There wasn’t very much said on skills. There needs to be more investment.’

‘Context to consider is that we’ve had a really resilient labour market given the pandemic. There was a demand for people that kept employers hiring – that has tailed off.’

George added to the viewpoint that workers themselves weren’t centred in Hunt’s announcements on public sector performance. The Chancellor confirmed investment in AI to improve efficacy in public services, including the NHS, and that cuts would also boost performance.

‘I think it’s magic thinking that cutting budgets will improve performance – the low-hanging fruit of public sector cuts is already gone.’

‘We remember the last time the Government tried to do that,’ added Shazia on investment in technologies. ‘These things aren’t easy to do, and they cost more money’.

Craig countered that the Government’s plans could work in some sectors: ‘The civil service has only gotten bigger and bigger. Without taking these kinds of decisions, you get inertia.’

The mood in the journalist lobby?

HuffPost’s Kevin Schofield shared more on what happens at the post-announcement ‘huddle’, calling the process this year ‘quite dull’ compared to times before social media.

‘I’m old enough to remember when coverage wasn’t taken over by Twitter.

‘It was mostly pre-briefed this year – there was nothing for the Chancellor to announce that we didn’t know.’

‘It was a rambling, ill-judged speech, I thought.’

Vuelio’s Kelly Scott tackled the influence of new media during this election cycle – namely, GB News.

Kelly Scott on Spring Budget Briefing panel

‘Left-wing media tended to dominate the online conversation after the Budget, but we did see a rise for GB News. It’s seen as an untrusted news source, but had an important part in the conversation regardless.’

For more on this, download the Vuelio and Pulsar report ‘Spring Budget: Audience Reaction’.

Name checks for stakeholders

Kelly talked through Hunt’s careful acknowledgement of stakeholders, counting 12 name-checks – ‘along with some bizarre ones – Idris Elba, Keira Knightley? The arts stakeholders were gushing’.

Away from Hollywood and back towards day to day challenges in the UK, stakeholders were less excited – particularly those working in the anti-poverty sector:

‘The anti-poverty community mentioned by Hunt came out firmly that the packages there to “help” were just more sticking plasters’.

Craig backed this up: ‘We are positive about some of the specifics, but we are not gushing’.

What happens next?

Despite the pre-Budget feeling that this would likely be the last fiscal event before the coming General Election, some on the panel believed there could be more to come.

‘I think there will be two events,’ said Craig.

‘Take special care with planning your summer holidays,’ added Kevin.

Get a full summary of the Spring Budget 2024, including stakeholder reaction, in this downloadable report from the Vuelio Political team.

Women in Trade Associations 2024 Power List

Women in Trade Associations Powerlist 2024

The Trade Association Forum (TAF), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have teamed up to highlight the achievements of women in trade associations with the 2024 Powerlist.

Chair and head judge for the Power List was WineGB CEO Nicola Bates, with a panel including:

– FSB deputy head of media and communications Anna Slater
– CBI campaigns director Liz Banks
– TAF vice chair and British Educational Suppliers Association deputy director general Julia Garvey
– TAF secretariat Aoife Doherty

Celebrated on the list are women from sectors including built environment, business, culture and leisure, defence, education, energy and environment, engineering, food and drink, finance, health, manufacturing, media, retail, transport and technology.

The full powerlist can be found here on the TAF website.

Vuelio was proud to partner with the Trade Association Forum to host a drinks reception to champion female leaders in trade bodies with an aim to promote and celebrate their achievements, and encourage the next generation of women into the association sector.

The reception brought together female association leaders from across the UK and from all sectors of the economy at Space14 on Thursday 14 March – here are words from key speakers at the event.

International Women's Day 2024

International Women’s Day: There’s still work to do on gender equality in PR and comms

Bringing true equity to every workplace should be an automatic and unquestioned focus for each day and not just International Women’s Day when it rolls around each year. But recognising the occasion is still important, as it provides an opportunity to reflect on how PR and comms is doing on equality, and where it’s still falling short.

CIPR’s PR Population Report, produced in partnership with Chalkstream, found that 66% of PR practitioners below director level are women. This number goes down at the senior level – with only 46% of those in leadership positions identifying as women. The story made for stark reading – careers can stagnate, or stop entirely, when opportunity dries up.

Here are reflections on where PR and communications is on gender equality in 2024, with a hope for more strides forward when we get to IWD 2025.

Gender equality: What’s getting better…

Ronke Lawal, Ariatu Public Relations: ‘There are so many unique and outstanding voices now that go beyond the “old guard” that for me is exciting – I just wish they were all visible.’

Megan Boyle, TAL Agency: ‘I started working in content and PR about nine years ago, and the biggest hurdle then was a lack of client-facing women in meetings. Whenever there was a face-to-face meeting with a big client, it was always the heads of departments who went, which were all men.

‘Since then, the pandemic hit, which I think has really levelled the playing field when it comes to women being able to showcase their strengths and abilities; the world had no choice but to give up face-to-face meetings! With technology facilitating remote working, the floodgates have opened to allow women to step into more senior roles.’

Sophia Iqbal, Roland Dransfield: ‘The younger generation (including myself) are braver than ever. In just a few years I’ve seen women strive for anything they want in their careers because the amount of people telling them they can’t do it has lessened massively.

‘In the agency world, I’ve seen women be supported into senior roles more and more, which gives me hope.’

Sandish Shoker, Tank: ‘The industry is definitely becoming more diverse, however there’s still a way to go. Research from 2020 found that 91% of those working in PR were white – a pretty staggering statistic.

‘Businesses should look to address this wherever possible, as the most successful PR campaigns are often the ones that truly represent the society we live in. For example, the recent Dove advert featuring women of all ethnicities, sizes and heights showcased how brands are now thinking about their marketing.’

Elena Rose Bunbury, Hatch: ‘Networking is a huge factor that has changed the industry for women, specifically LGBTQ+ women also. We’ve learnt to come together regardless of our job titles or the company we work for to share tips, contacts and more. When women build each other up and work together good will always come from it.’

Where there’s still plenty of room for improvement on equity…

Jessica Pardoe, Source PR: ‘There are still a lot of speaker panels that consist only, or around 90% of white men. While I’m not discrediting anyone’s authority to talk, our industry is a pretty diverse one, so it would be great to see that represented more by more BAME and women speakers being given opportunities like these.’

Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, Making You Content: ‘Imposter syndrome! I still struggle with this even after 10 years of running my business and I know I’m not alone. Investment into initiatives that build soft skills, like public speaking and leadership, could go a long way towards helping young women have the confidence to step up in this sector.’

Rebecca Lury, Pagefield: ‘The working culture has become challenging – accounts of sexual harassment in Westminster is putting women off getting involved in politics and public affairs, and the same is true of the media world where stories of journalists to avoid circulate regularly.’

Amanda Kinbrum, Fresh B2B: ‘Unconscious gender biases are still present. On the agency side, we need more data transparency around female leadership representation and pay equity. The disproportionate number of males in leadership teams on the clients we service indicates there is still an uphill climb in achieving influence for women.

‘I also encounter subtle biases, like surprise that a woman in marketing holds an engineering degree. We also once had a client who would only give eye contact and address my male business partner – despite me being the MD and decision maker! We have to work much harder to prove our expertise and abilities.’

Mel Stark, Stark Comms: ‘There is still a lack of senior-level female mentors and role models to offer guidance to women rising through the ranks. Women must push back against stereotypes that relegate them to only junior support functions versus strategy and management opportunities. Many women struggle to maintain confidence and learn to self-advocate for raises and promotions.

‘While progress is being made, women must continue supporting each other, speaking up, and leveraging their talents to shape an industry that better fosters their success.’

For more from our these PR experts, check out their advice to women starting their career in PR and communications here

IWD 2024

What advice would you give to women joining the PR and comms industry in 2024?

While the PR workforce continues to be mainly made up of women, there are still challenges to be overcome for the majority of us – a lack of women at the top and a pay gap that hasn’t closed yet being just two of them.

But there are joys to be found in the work, and in our community. Here are pointers from women established in their careers for those beginning their journey in PR and comms.

Be bold

‘Be as imaginative and creative as possible – sometimes our industry becomes so caught up in trends and what works that imaginations become stifled. I understand, we want to please our clients who want a low risk, high return investment in PR but sometimes we have to find ways to be imaginative and bolder.’

‘Whether that’s within the organisations that we work with or the content that we consume and amplify as thought leaders. Be more daring.’
Ronke Lawal, PR consultant and founder of Ariatu Public Relations

‘I would say don’t be afraid to put yourself forward and dare to challenge. Women are more powerful than we’ve ever been before and although there’s still work to be done. We are making our mark in this industry but need to continue being brave and breaking down boundaries, because if we don’t do it, who else will?

‘Most importantly, always ask questions. You don’t know what you don’t know and there’s no shame in that.’
Sophia Iqbal, junior account manager for Roland Dransfield

Be passionate

‘Be led by your passion! The best thing you can be in this industry is fervent with a roaring fire in your belly. Everything else follows. Creativity, proactivity, productivity and collaboration. You’ve more than likely entered the industry because you’re interested in it, so my advice would be to stay interested. Keep reading blogs, going to conferences and networking events, getting to know people in the sector, building your own brand and also just being led by creativity and energy within your role. That way, as they say, you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.’
Jessica Pardoe, senior account manager at Source PR

Bring your unique perspective to work

‘Don’t shy away from providing new perspectives or fresh ideas. As an Asian woman, I’ve found that I sometimes approach campaigns or ideation from a completely different viewpoint to my colleagues. That’s not to say one of us is right and the other is wrong, it’s just that we’re shaped by our own individual experiences and upbringing. I’m lucky to work in a business where no two people are the same, we also have clients working across virtually every industry. I’d encourage women joining the PR industry to be authentic, think outside the box and really embrace their background.’
Sandish Shoker, PR account manager at Tank and former BBC journalist

Ditch the Imposter Syndrome

‘Number one: Put that imposter syndrome to one side. You absolutely deserve to be in your role. Speak up and voice your opinion and rise to the challenges ahead.’
Rebecca Lury, partner at Pagefield

‘Find the confidence to put yourself forward for opportunities! Gain all the experience you can, and make sure you’re leveraging that to build visibility and credibility in your network.’
Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, founder of Making You Content

‘When joining a new industry, confidence is key. Women can sometimes feel like they need to prove themselves from the very beginning and if they’re anything short of perfect then they’re not good enough. This is simply not the case. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember, you were hired for a reason!’
Elena Rose Bunbury, junior account manager at Hatch

Build your skillset

‘So called “soft skills” – such as being able to multitask, being empathetic and an active listener, being creative and curious, with good attention to detail – will stand you in very good stead for working in PR in 2024. With PRs battling against an ever-negative news landscape, being empathetic in your communication is invaluable. It also gives you the edge when it comes to understanding the challenges faced by clients – from an agency perspective – which is useful when coming up with solutions to problems.’
Megan Boyle, head of content and digital PR at TAL Agency

Specialise

Take time to deeply understand a specific field or acquire a niche skillset beyond general PR and communications. For example, I’ve just spent six years getting an engineering degree to fluently speak the language of our manufacturing and engineering clients. This might be extreme! But it adds credibility, gives me an understanding of their technologies and industries and technical knowledge AND marketing experience is a rare combination.

‘Specialisations could be data analysis, financial communications, crisis comms or CSR. Having a deep knowledge base in a domain makes you a coveted expert able to provide unique value. While generalists once dominated, PR now rewards niche authorities. If you have past education or a career to leverage or need to learn from the ground up, find something that can separate you from the crowd and become indispensable. Setting yourself apart takes initiative but opens doors others may miss out on.’
Amanda Kinbrum, managing director of Fresh B2B

Build connections

‘It’s important to take advantage of every opportunity for mentorship and networking to connect with other women leaders who can provide guidance for navigating your career path. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself and your achievements confidently on LinkedIn and in interviews. I would also suggest seeking out companies that align with your values around culture and work-life balance.’
Mel Stark, director at Stark Comms

For more on how women can create the career of their dreams in PR and comms, read this piece from Ronke Lawal, featuring advice from successful women across the industry.

Boeing brand blowout

When a crisis spreads to your brand: Free fall following the Boeing blowout

A robust plan can help protect organisations against future crises. But what happens when calamity hits another brand entirely, but your reputation is dragged into the fray?

This was the conundrum faced by brands including Airbus, Delta Air Lines, and even Tesla and Apple following a mid-air door blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight in January 2024. While Boeing’s 737 Max jet was at the centre of the story following the emergency landing, other names were pulled into the controversy as coverage and conversation grew.

Using X data from our sister audience intelligence platform Pulsar, we take a look at how the crisis spread from one brand to another.

Boeing’s brand blowout

Boeing was under fire quickly once the story was out and being shared on socials. An investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of over 170 Boeing 77 Max 9 airlines across the world pending inspections following the incident, and the Transportation Safety Board also began an investigation.

While Boeing quickly issued external and internal statements – promising publicly that ‘safety is our top priority’ and that ‘acknowledging our mistake’ would be the approach within the organisation – the impact of the crisis spread further. Press reports centred on share falls for Boeing and parts supplier Spirit AeroSystem, and the spotlight on Alaska Airlines only got brighter as footage of the cabin blowout went viral on TikTok.

Alaska Airlines social media reaction

Delta is dealt a hard blow

But Boeing and Alaska Airlines weren’t the only brands who would face the consequences of this crisis. Boeing customer Delta’s need to reassure flyers worried about a repeat incident faced setbacks early on. Additional malfunctions – including the loss of a Delta Boeing nose wheel while taxiing towards takeoff – would gain widespread attention.

Chart tracking Delta mentions across social media

Airbus gets airtime

Competitor Airbus became the subject of much positive online conversation, used as an easy contrast to Boeing.

Airbus would be highlighted as ‘competent’ in reporting from the New York Times – not the most glowing of descriptors, but certainly positive in comparison to its troubled rival. As summed up by Richard Aboulafia, the managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory in Washington, DC.

‘What used to be a duopoly has become two-thirds Airbus, one-third Boeing. A lot of people, whether investors, financiers or customers, are looking at Airbus and seeing a company run by competent people.

‘The contrast with Boeing is fairly profound.’

Airbus social media

Apple takes a bite of the coverage

One seemingly unrelated brand that came out with a PR win was Apple. An intact and still-working iPhone found in the debris of the accident boosted online conversation around its products for the positive –

Tweet about iPhone found in Boeing wreckage

-Well, mainly for the positive:

‘The No. 1 comment I’ve been getting every place I’ve posted the picture was that, “My iPhone drops 5 feet, and it shatters and this phone lands after 16,000 feet and is just fine,”’ said Sean Bates, finder of the phone, in an interview with the Seattle Times.

Apple social media mentions

Another PR tussle for Tesla

A brand that didn’t fare so well in relation to the story was Tesla. Unlike Airbus, this organisation wasn’t brought into the conversation organically, but instead inserted into it. By Tesla managing director himself, Elon Musk.

Elon Musk tweet on Boeing

Musk doubled-down on this claim with ‘People will die due to DEI’ in a subsequent post, and the criticism started.

But not just criticism hit Tesla – its stocks also began to plummet amid the latest controversy surrounding the brand.

Tesla social media mentions

Fixing the fallout

Months following that fateful door blowout, positive share results for Boeing match that of its Airbus for 2023. However, this isn’t the last time Boeing, Alaska Airlines – and perhaps the other brands pulled into the crisis – will have questions to answer on the incident.

Three passengers who were onboard flight 1282 from Portland to Ontario, California, are now pursuing legal action against Boeing and Alaska Airlines. As of now, more difficult travels could be ahead for their PR teams.

To see this brand journey in video format, check out this LinkedIn post from Pulsar.

For more on how to handle a reputational crisis, check out our blog ‘Speak Up or Shut Down: The Value of Proactive PR in a Crisis’, featuring examples from the 2022 FIFA World Cup, UK airline strikes, and net zero targets in the Pharma industry.

Preparing for the unexpected

Webinar: Preparing for the unexpected – redefining crisis communications strategy

Crises can force change where it could otherwise be resisted or pushed back to a later date.

But unexpected events are inevitable and unavoidable. How has PR and comms had to evolve to handle reputational and operational risks in 2024?

Join our next webinar Preparing for the unexpected – redefining crisis communications strategy at 11am on 5 March to hear Wadds Inc. founder and managing partner Stephen Waddington discuss how the aftermath of COVID-19, geo-political issues, misinformation, and the rise of AI have created a new level of complexity for crisis communications.

The session will cover:

– The top five global risks for 2024 and potential sources of vulnerability you may have overlooked
– How horizon scanning can help you identify risks and threats
– A checklist for your own crisis communication planning

Can’t join us live? Register and we’ll send you the recording.

Want more from Stephen Waddington? Catch up with our previous combined webinar ‘From pitch to published – a guide to media relations in 2023‘ and download the accompanying white paper ‘From pitching to getting published: A PR’s guide to media relations in 2023‘.

Getting payback on your PR in financial services

Getting payback on your PR in financial services

Working in the financial services sector and struggling to breathe life into your storytelling?

‘Ultimately we are communicators and storytellers so focusing on storytelling and creative messaging within the boundaries of regulatory constraints does have its challenges. But in these we find opportunities, too,’ believes Jonathan Williams, managing director for Rosely Group.

Working regularly with clients in heavily-regulated spaces like OANDA and Apex, Jonathan shares advice for building trust with your internal and external stakeholders and preparing for any potential crisis by monitoring what lies ahead.

What are the biggest challenges of regulation in financial services?

Adhering to strict compliance guidelines while still effectively conveying messaging is the obvious answer. But what this really means is trying to stay reactive and on trend and newsworthy while ensuring we have the correct sign offs and have adhered to all the rules. Ultimately, it’s balancing transparency with the need to protect sensitive information.

How do you stay reactionary to the news cycle with your comms, when sign-off from stakeholders can take time?

We always start by preparing pre-approved templates or messaging frameworks for rapid response situations. Then try to maintain open lines of communication with legal and compliance teams to streamline approval processes. Of course, we also start to get a good idea of what does and doesn’t work for clients as our work goes on. We also expect delays, so account for this in our planning.

How does your team keep campaigns creative?

Ultimately, we are communicators and storytellers so focusing on storytelling and creative messaging within the boundaries of regulatory constraints does have its challenges, but in these we find opportunities, too. By leveraging innovative formats such as infographics, animations, or interactive content to engage audiences and using our specialised film division Storyboard we are able to tell often complex stories in an engaging way.

We also place an emphasis on thought leadership and educational content that adds value.

How do you manage reputational risks in your comms strategy?

As an agency we, of course, have access to various social listening and media monitoring tools. But knowing how to use them is what’s important. Identifying risk or crisis before they happen, watching mistakes of others, and learning from them allows us to implement robust media and social media monitoring processes to track conversations and detect potential issues before they arise.

Also, by cultivating close relationships with stakeholders, including legal, media, and operational teams, we can try to anticipate and address reputational risks proactively. One of the benefits to our clients of working with us is the access to our senior consultants and leaders, who can provide clients with a huge amount of insight and advise on situations and through this we have their trust.

Of course, for all clients where risk exists, we develop comprehensive crisis management strategies with clear protocols for escalation and response.

Again, we also place an emphasis on thought leadership and build up a steady stream of content to underpin any reactionary comms that may be required.

Tips for staying up-to-date with regulation/legislative changes?

– Subscribing to industry publications, regulatory updates, and attending relevant conferences or seminars.
– Establishing internal processes for regular compliance reviews and conducting ongoing training for team members.
– Utilising regulatory intelligence platforms or services to monitor changes and interpret implications for communications.
– Regular sessions with clients and their internal regulatory teams to ensure we are on track for their specific needs.

What do you find most effective for tracking ROI and impact of campaigns?

By establishing clear KPIs aligned with client objectives, such as brand sentiment, website traffic, lead generation, or customer acquisition. We also operate an innovative Quality Score system for both opportunities, to showcase urgency and time that should be invested by the client and end result showcasing accuracy of coverage, reach, target audience, and if it’s on message.

We also conduct post-campaign evaluations and analyse data to assess ROI and inform future strategies.

Is there ever room for attention-grabbing PR ‘stunts’ in heavily-regulated sectors?

While attention-grabbing tactics may be more challenging in heavily-regulated sectors like finance, there can be opportunities for creative and impactful campaigns within compliance boundaries. Working with suitable on-brand partners and ambassadors, for example. Also, emphasising authenticity, credibility, and value proposition over sensationalism to resonate with audiences and maintain trust.

Any advice for grabbing journalists’ attention with pitches?

Tailoring pitches to the specific interests and preferences of journalists, demonstrating a clear understanding of their beat and audience.

Offering timely, relevant, and newsworthy angles that align with current trends or developments.

Providing concise, well-researched pitches that highlight the unique value proposition and potential impact of the story.

Are AI tools actually useful in PR and comms work yet?

AI tools can be highly useful in tasks such as data analysis, media monitoring, sentiment analysis, and content optimisation but they are no replacement for trained writers. In our case we pride ourselves on our ability to understand our clients and their tone of voice.

It’s essential to balance the benefits of AI with potential risks, including data privacy concerns, algorithmic biases, and ethical considerations as well as the fact that regulations and news changes and AI tools like ChatGPT tend to be out-of-date.

Ultimately, incorporating AI into workflow processes can enhance efficiency and effectiveness, but human oversight and judgment remain critical to ensure accuracy and ethical standards are upheld.

For more on customer loyalty and the role of AI in PR and comms, download our white paper ‘Reputation management: How to maintain trust in an AI-assisted future’.

Want to start tracking the effectiveness of your own campaigns? Try Vuelio media monitoring and insights.

What journalists want from PRs in February 2024

Easter, Mother’s Day, and day-to-day help: What journalists need from PRs in February 2024

It’s been a busy first month of the new year for the media with the Post Office scandal, the on-going Israel-Palestine conflict, and three storms hitting the UK to cover.

January is also, typically, the busiest month on the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service. Below, we look at what journalists have been requesting from UK PRs and what the media will be looking for throughout the rest of February and beyond.

New Year resolutions and trends

Back in December, journalist requests for trends and resolutions was particularly popular, with ‘2024’ the top keyword. That proved to be the same in January, with the year being included in 11.5% of the total requests. Journalists were still searching for ‘trends’ (which featured in nearly 3% of the January enquiries) and ‘resolution’ (which appeared in just over 1%).

The variation in what topic they were looking to cover though was wide. Enquiries included 2024 oil and gas industry trends; curtain and blind trends for 2024; maritime experts to predict industry trends for 2024; comments on tech layoffs so far in 2024; and possible trends for the year ahead.

Outlets looking for new year trends were diverse, too, with The Grocer, PA Media, IT Pro, GB News, The Independent, Verdict, and Red magazine all sending requests. The amount of enquiries with the keyword ‘2024’ will likely decline from now. However, there will still be opportunities to get experts and information around trends out, probably based around the seasons. Topics like fashion, gardening, travel, skincare, and technology could be focus points.

The healthy lifestyle

The prediction in last month’s overview that keywords like ‘fitness’ and ‘wellbeing’ would feature regularly turned out to be correct, but it was ‘healthy’ that appeared the most. Just under 11% of all requests in January contained the keyword as journalists focused heavily on lifestyle content. ‘Fitness’ was in over 3% of enquiries and ‘wellbeing’ cropped up in a little under 2%.

The Health category therefore enjoyed a big boost in the number of requests and was the second most popular on the service after Women’s Interest & Beauty. This is unsurprising as there was both Dry January and Veganuary last month. It meant lots of enquiries were looking for experts such as dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, and doctors.

Requests around mental health and experts in that field also did well, with ‘mental health’ as a keyphrase occuring in 2% of the total January enquiries. This could have been to tie in with Time to Talk Day. However, mental health and requests for experts in general on health are a regular occurrence on the Enquiry Service. If you are an expert or have a client that is in this field, there will be more opportunities in the next few months.

What journalists were using the service?

In January, 55% of the journalists that sent an enquiry were staff journalists. Freelance journalists were second on 27%. They mainly came from consumer media titles (39%), followed by national newspaper and current affairs outlets on 18%. Trade, business, and professional media accounted for 12% of the requests in January.

The enquiries for a spokesperson or expert made up just under 40% of the total last month. 20% of journalists were looking for information for an article, with 11% requesting review products and 9% trying to find case studies. Seven of the top ten outlets in January were national press with the other three coming from consumer media.

Opportunities for PRs in February and beyond

There is likely to be a big increase in the amount of requests around products and gift guides for Mother’s Day (10 March). 2% of requests in January already contained this key phrase. This will in turn mean a rise in the amount of enquiries for the Women’s Interest & Beauty category. Food & Drink could also see a boost and we will see ‘Easter’ as a new keyword as journalists look to get ahead with coverage for that holiday in March.

Experts will also be in demand with February being LGTBQ+ History Month. Plus, March is both Prostate Cancer Awareness and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. That coinciding with coverage of the King’s cancer diagnosis means that doctors and medical experts should be in demand by journalists at both national press and broadcast outlets.

Start getting requests like these from UK journalists and broadcasters straight to your inbox by signing up for the Journalist Enquiry Service.

Want more information on getting the most out of the service? Read our advice piece ‘How to respond to journalist enquiries’.