BBC

PR needs the BBC

Dead cat or party policy, the very real threat to end the BBC licence fee announced by culture secretary Nadine Dorries – before she partially backtracked – should be a concern to all in PR.

The announced two-year freeze to the BBC licence fee will impact its output, and director general Tim Davie has said ‘everything’s on the agenda’, including news and programming. While commentary on the small amount of money the freeze is saving each household – compared to the costs of rising energy bills or tax changes – suggests this move was politically motivated during ‘partygate’, the conversation around BBC reform and its replacement has been present in Westminster for many years.

Jessica Morgan, owner of Carnsight Communications, believes the end of the BBC ‘Would be devastating for so many.’ She added: ‘We are so lucky to have a quality national broadcaster in the BBC and I’ve benefited from it so much, both professionally and personally.’

The BBC is by no means perfect, questions continue to be raised on its editorial position on certain subjects, and its funding model is not as progressive as public broadcasters in some neighbouring countries. But it has the biggest audience, its output and content streams are vast and, though it is often criticised for not achieving it, the corporation is required to be impartial and deliver content without commercial association.

This is one of the reasons the BBC gets such a hard time in much of the press – in a digital age, it has become one of the news sector’s biggest competitors and it is not reliant on consumer payment to justify its content.

But for PR and comms professionals, this should be seen as one of its virtues.

Jessica said: ‘It’s still incredibly discerning – you always have to have a very strong angle to be featured, and I think that’s fantastic. No commercial tie ups ever come into it, certainly within the UK, and I think that makes the content all the more powerful.’

PR rightly focuses on the increasing threat of mis and disinformation, audience trust and journalistic independence. The BBC, despite its flaws, generally manages these issues to a high standard and trust in the organisation remains high. Securing PR coverage with the BBC means your story has passed quality control and will have a greater impact on your target audience.

And if your target audience is niche, which organisation is better able to serve them appropriate content than the BBC? Not needing consumer payment for content cuts both ways in this respect. All things to all people is usually a terrible approach – and the BBC has at times wildly missed the mark – but it is required to serve as much of the population as possible, often giving unique or underrepresented communities a greater platform.

Media strategist and How to make your company famous author Jon Card points to niche audiences as something that would be lost if the licence fee was scrapped: ‘The BBC produces such a broad range of content any reduction in its output would spell bad news for people in comms and PR.

‘It covers a lot of areas which are either quite niche or the public interest. I very much doubt the commercial sector would fill these voids if it stopped doing that.’

The BBC is under threat but 2027 is still a long way off and PR and communications is well placed to support and campaign for improvements to the BBC now, so it can benefit from the BBC of the future.

As Jon concluded: ‘Overall, we are better off for it and anyone working in media would miss it.’

Vuelio media monitoring covers BBC news and programming as well as every other media outlet and publisher.

Getting through Blue Monday and beyond in PR and comms

Getting through Blue Monday and beyond

While the term ‘Blue Monday’ has no real basis in fact, you might be feeling extra blue today. It’s January, we’re in year three of a global pandemic and PR just happens to be an incredibly stressful industry at the best of times.

Looking out for the mental wellbeing of your colleagues and employees can help take the blue-filter off of the day-to-day – here are just some industry initiatives helping to support mental wellbeing. Have the best Blue Monday you can, everyone.

Flexibility
‘I always encourage my employees to go for a walk and stretch their legs,’ says Marketing Signals’ managing director Gareth Hoyle.

‘Although our mantra is “work from anywhere”, most of the team work from home, which can start to take its toll on your mental health if you don’t take regular breaks, so I’m happy for my team to close their laptops whenever they need to. Whether it’s to go for a walk, pick the kids up, take a long lunch or just switch off. Doing this helps improve my employees’ wellbeing and makes sure that everyone is taking the time they need to relax out of hours.’

Team Bonding
Missing being in close enough proximity to your team mates to steal post-it notes can be tough – that’s where online groups come in:

23red recently set up a wellbeing working group,’ says PR communications assistant Dylan Brown. ‘On Tuesday 18 January, following Blue Monday, 23red have enlisted the help of environmental drag artist Timberlina, where they will be having a fun full agency virtual bingo session to brighten up staff. 23red were really keen to lift the mood when working from home and decided to recently send all members of staff a peace lily to brighten up workspaces.’

Glass Digital also encourages relationship building outside of work:

‘Some of our teams get together every week to deliver a Fri-YAY session, involving members of the team going round to say who they are proud of in the company that week and what they are proud of themselves for. This not only boosts morale, but allows people to reflect on the good work they’ve done that week.’

Bootcamps
Fox Agency has introduced plenty of wellbeing initiatives to keep the team in tip-top mental shape, according to senior operations manager Natalie Noble:

‘We offer weekly bootcamp style personal training sessions in worktime, now held remotely to ensure all can join. We also do yoga, meditation, mindfulness and even gong sound bath therapy sessions to help us find a little zen in the sometimes hectic agency world.

‘There’s a 24-hour confidential helpline for people to get help on any matter, and as our trained mental health first aider, I am always available to chat with colleagues.’

Cake!
‘When we started WFH we would have ‘Coffee & Cake’ days,’ says Francesca De Cata, marketing and communications executive at Mr Lee’s Pure Foods. ‘We would jump on a call at 10 in the morning every Wednesday and talk about anything that was not work-related. We also arranged quite a few events online; we celebrated Pancake Day by having breakfast on a call, we had online lunch breaks together and we also did a little Easter activity online.’

Learning
‘For this Blue Monday, SEO agency Blue Array, are making it Blue Array Monday instead,’ says Becca Collier-Cook. ‘Each week, the agency has an all-hands meeting, but this Monday’s will be a special one, as it’ll include recent industry news and guest speaker, Adnan Ebrahim, co-founder of a new mental health app called MindLabs.

‘These meetings are normally for Blue Array employees only, but for Blue Monday, it will be open to anyone in the industry to attend. Afterwards, we can grab a virtual coffee and have an industry catch-up. For anyone who would like to attend, see this post for details.’

Music
‘We have a flexible working model in place, so we’re always looking at new ways we can stay connected when working remotely and still feel the benefits of our office culture that has been built over 20 years,’ says Liz Lean PR’s account manager and culture & welfare officer Shona Byrne.

‘For Blue Monday, we’re treating the team to a proper coffee on us and we will then regroup for a virtual coffee break to discuss why January doesn’t have to be depressing. The team has also built a motivational playlist to blast loud and proud during the day (which can be found by searching LLPR Team Motivation Playlist on Spotify).’

Putting people first
‘Gone are the days when organisations can afford to pay lip service to mental health – we have a duty to recognise colleagues as people, not just employees,’ believes Grace French, Head of Culture at Stand.

‘Our evidence-based approach to mental health is proactive, not just reactive. We provide £250 annually to spend on wellness, however you define it. We embrace flexible and hybrid working. Our mental health first aiders lead activity to maintain positive wellbeing and provide support. Everyone has a tailored Wellness Action Plan (an evidence-based resource backed by charity Mind) detailing how they can maintain positive mental health at work. A colleague-led approach helps ensure support is authentic and impactful.’

Charity
Helping others helps everyone, believes the team at Full Fat:

‘We donate time and money to charities and organisations like The Trussel Trust and Show Racism the Red Card,’ says senior account manager Cheryl Chia. ‘We also work pro bono with charities each year. It brings staff together with a common aim to do good. We’ve also organised volunteer days and external workshops with charities such as LGBTQ+ ‘Not a Phase’ for a recent trans-inclusivity talk.’

Sleep
Did you get enough zzzs over the weekend? HR manager Greg Diamond at Finn Partners encourages it:

‘We have an agency Wellness Collaborative to coordinate activities and information for employees aligned to the five pillars of wellness: a good night’s sleep; a sense of community; exercise; healthy foods; and stress reduction.’

For help with getting back into work in January, check out advice from mental health practitioners and your peers in PR here as well as our accessmatters session with Katie Phillips, KDP Coaching & Consulting on avoiding burnout.

Top 10 PR and comms guest posts from 2021

10 top PR and communications guest posts of 2021

Upskilling and investing in yourself is always worthwhile, and what better time to get started than the beginning of a new year?

Our PR and comms community shared plenty of know-how and experience throughout 2021 – here are ten of our top guest posts from practitioners on topics including digital campaigning, influencer marketing and ESG.

1. How to nail a PR story to an awareness day
There are over 1,500 awareness days each year – how do you determine which ones to include in your content plan? From Gorgeous Grandma to Lost Sock Memorial Day, Bottle PR’s lead publisher Jamie Wilson highlights how to pick out the most interesting and relevant examples for your, and your clients’, upcoming projects.

2. Ideation tips for successful digital PR campaigns
Are your creative juices running a little dry at this time of year? Inspiration doesn’t have to come from places particularly grand or fateful – practical planning works well, too. I-COM’s digital PR strategist Chloe Rowlands shares steps to include in your ideation process and some evergreen topics to get you started.

3. Reactive PR: Turning something out of nothing
Reactive PR isn’t just for counteracting brand or celebrity scandals – it’s a skill worth having in every PR’s toolbox, believes Fibre’s digital PR specialist Alice Wilks. Boost your company’s online presence and improve your own SEO prowess by taking notes from this guest post on what can be a positive and proactive approach.

4. Influencer marketing: 5 dos and don’ts
The influencer marketing industry continues to grow, despite occasional controversy regarding creators, their processes and differences to ‘traditional’ media professionals and journalists. Investment in influencers is smart strategy, as is avoiding the potential pitfalls – here Smoking Gun’s managing director Rick Gutteridge lists the dos and don’ts.

5. 4 reasons why introverts make great PRs
An enduring stereotype about public relations is that the industry is made up of extroverts ready to network at a moment’s notice – Prezzybox’s Alex Spencer advocates for the introverts among our ranks, pointing out why there’s room for everyone in the creative industries.

6. Building on the lessons of 2020 for 2021’s opportunities in PR and communications
Working through a pandemic (we managed to get through half of this post without mentioning it) has been a very steep learning curve for the majority of us, who hadn’t faced times as stressful or unpredictable in our professional lives before. With the lessons to be learned came opportunities, writes Kerry Sheehan in this guest post.

7. Stress Awareness Month: How to support staff wellbeing
And on the subject of stress (another enduring issue in PR and comms), this piece from Hotwire’s head of people and culture Kam White has ideas for managing how it impacts you and your team. Stress Awareness Month isn’t until April, but it’s never too early to get a start on looking out for yourself and your colleagues.

8. How to implement a PR strategy for a local charity
‘More than ever before, it matters to do good things, not just for your clients, but for those who need it the most’ believes Spike’s PR & Outreach Manager Andre Gwilliam, whose step-by-step guide to working with a local charity explains how to make the most of your PR skillset to help others in your community.

9. 6 reasons why ESG is something comms should care about
Environmental, Social and Governance – a huge trend for last year in comms, and one you definitely need to care about this year, too. The Media Foundry’s associate director Kat Jackson has the main reasons ESG isn’t just a trendy initialism.

10. How to build a close-knit team when working from different places
Hybrid working has changed the way teams interact – is it really possible to form lasting bonds with your colleagues when water cooler conversations about Bake Off aren’t possible? Yes, says Degreed’s global head of comms, content & client advocacy teams Sarah Danzl – read up on how teamwork really can make the dream work (for business-related matters, and important TV catch-ups).

Have knowledge you’d like to share with others working in the PR and comms industry as part of our PR Club? Get in touch: pj.boyd@vuelio.com.

Stay connected with the media and up-to-date with the latest trends and big stories – find out more about the Vuelio Media Database here.

Challenges and triumphs of 2021 in comms

What were the biggest challenges and triumphs for comms in 2021?

And we thought 2020 in comms, marketing and PR was difficult – 2021 brought yet more challenges, forcing everyone to adapt to the constantly changing environment we found ourselves in.

In this part of our series of features looking back at this year, and forward to the next, seven practitioners from across the industry share what they saw as the biggest challenges of 2021 and some of the organisations, people and brands that did great work in 2021.

Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof
Main challenges of 2021?
‘The biggest challenge for comms practitioners this year has been battling fatigue. Working practices and client expectations have changed throughout the pandemic, in part through people working from home, and it seems to have exacerbated the ‘always on’ culture we’ve been trying to move away from. The biggest challenge for the year ahead will be managing this and re-establishing boundaries so the workplace is a happy and healthy one.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I thought the Don’t Be That Guy video by Police Scotland was particularly well thought out and timed in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and following the wave of anger up and down the country relating to violence against women. It actually looked at the cause of the problem, rather than place responsibility onto women to stay safe.’

Sudha Singh, The Purpose Room
Main challenges of 2021?
‘The world has changed and like everyone else comms practitioners have had to adapt to the fast-changing world. I think the biggest challenge has been to understand how best we can serve our clients’ needs, help them to stay authentic and relevant. The other big challenge was providing adequate support to the disparate (and ever evolving) needs of team members and employees.’

Comms winners this year?
‘Brands that were true to their core purpose and were authentic were the winners – Zoom, IKEA, UK Gov Comms (…not politicians), Deliveroo, football campaign against racism, Raheem Sterling’s campaign, and the Aldi Free Cuthbert campaign.’

Gavin Devine, Park Street Partners
Main challenges of 2021?
‘Maintaining focus has been really difficult in 2021. The year has been a rollercoaster of lockdowns and normality, international travel being impossible and then opening up, office working prohibited, frowned upon and then encouraged. It hasn’t always been easy to know how in practice to deliver for clients and to keep colleagues motivated and positive. These challenges are not unique to comms but we perhaps feel them particularly acutely because often we have been called in to help clients shape and communicate their responses to COVID-19. Entering more of a ‘steady state’ of near-normality in the last couple of months has been an enormous relief.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I can think of so many individuals and organisations who had a bad year in terms of comms in 2021. There were few real winners, although it would be hard to argue that Kate Bingham and Nadhim Zahawi didn’t have a great year in terms of their personal ‘brands’.’

Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah, Mercer
Main challenges of 2021?
‘One clear challenge has been constant news flow and sheer amount of change since the pandemic hit. This has made it harder for clients and stakeholders stories to penetrate into the mainstream. PRs really need to think about what they are sharing externally and what key messages they want to get across. There has also been a shift with organisations focusing more on ESG and sustainability issues which has required practitioners to think outside of the box to get their stories heard.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I was blow away by the FIFA and EA Sports campaign for The Kiyan Prince Foundation and QPR. It was a genius creative idea from Engine Group with such a strong and moving message following such an unfortunate incident. I know many young people will be inspired by the campaign.’

Anne Gregory, University of Huddersfield
Main challenges of 2021?
‘Resilience and stamina, given the relentless nature of the on-going crisis. Working remotely – the watercooler moments are so important to ‘temperature check’ the organisation, particularly what is happening internally. Major flop to digital/online working. Educating senior managers on how to be really competent in genuine communication and not talking in soundbites.’

Comms winners this year?
‘Pfizer, Unilever and health scientists!’

Tolu Rachel Akisanya, Ariatu PR
Main challenges of 2021?
‘Not just this year, but for several years now, is the industry has struggled with the ability – or lack of – to switch off. This has always been an issue, however with the pandemic and working from home, it’s been harder to separate work life and personal life. Especially when both happen in the same room now (my front room is both my office space and leisure space). Additionally, with the growth of new social media platforms and media outlets, it means we’re constantly consuming media, even in our downtime, which often means we never really ever switching off. Whether we consciously or subconsciously realise it, we’re always looking for the next opportunity or connecting with a new contact online or horizon scanning – it can sometimes be information overload.

‘However, this has led to a positive movement and we’ve seen the wider industry acknowledge this issue and work towards raising awareness, providing support and resources, and creating more open and wider discussions about how to improve the mental health and well-being of PR practitioners.’

Comms winners this year?
‘I’ve really enjoyed seeing the work Ariatu PR has done with podcasts, such as Broccoli Content and Coiled. In a market that is oversaturated, being able to ‘cut through the noise’ and deliver impactful campaigns, generate coverage (in the likes of the Financial Times and Stylist magazine) to raise awareness and lead to listeners, for shows that are not celebrity led, has been incredible.’

Stuart Thomson, BDB Pitmans
Main challenges of 2021?
‘In public affairs, we have had to put up with seemingly continuous outrage caused by the behaviour of some serving and former Parliamentarians and their lobbying activities. It has done little to help the reputation of politics or public affairs. The CIPR and PRCA have been very firm in their condemnation of the activities but sadly such behaviour damages us all.

‘A large part of public affairs is the development of relationships and, however good online activity is, there is nothing to really replace face-to-face interaction. The extended lockdown at the start of the year and now worries about another wave has curtailed that. We really do need to get back to normal in-person political activity.’

Comms winners this year?
‘The Beatles. The brand of a band that ceased to exist before even I was born continues to astound. The release of Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary Get Back has been trailed and tantalised for more than a year building up on the anticipation of its release on Disney+. A great piece of communications.’

Read predictions for the trends PR and comms professionals can expect in 2022 here and start your campaign planning with Vuelio’s media, PR, public affairs and political services – find out more here.

International campaigns

Ensuring effective and successful communications across different cultures

This is a guest post by Life Size‘s PR Intern Martha Lane.

If you’re running an international communications campaign, adapting your approach towards each individual audience is essential. However, this means much more than simply translating content into the appropriate language. Instead, a deep understanding of each of your target cultures must form the basis of your campaign. Here is how to achieve this and set your international communications campaign up for success.

Stage 1: Check the relevance of your topic in your target country
A good place to start is to dedicate some time to researching how the topic of your campaign is viewed in your target country. While it would be easy to assume that consensus on your topic is similar to your native country, this won’t necessarily be the case. Your research should provide answers to some key questions, such as:

– Is your topic widely discussed in the news there? Is it discussed by the mainstream media, or is it limited to industry press?
– What is the political importance of this topic? Is there any relevant legislation in place in your target country that you should be aware of?
– What are the current societal or environmental impacts and benefits relating to this topic? How do they meet the current discussion about the environment or other ongoing social issues?
– Has it received any negative press, or do you get the impression that it is a sensitive topic? If so, it would be worth offering a fresh perspective that can provide a positive spin on the topic.

It is worth noting that negative or lukewarm press coverage on your topic does not have to be a disadvantage. Rather, you can utilise your communications campaign to be one of the first to highlight the benefits of what you are offering, giving you a unique position in the target market.

This is also an excellent time to identify your audience and decide who will be the best group to direct your campaign in a particular country. Once you have identified who you are communicating with, you can move on to the next vital step: working out how to talk to them.

Stage 2: Take the time to understand the culture of your country
At this point, it’s essential to get to the very root of your target country’s culture, such as identifying the values and beliefs that form its basis. This may sound quite overwhelming, but some useful models can be used to break down cultures into a handful of the most important underlying characteristics.

Hofstede and Trompenaars are two cultural experts who have created models that, though built with business management in mind, are equally applicable in the world of international communications. Both see culture as existing on various spectrums, within which any culture can be placed with considerable accuracy. This way of quantifying culture makes the job of communicators slightly easier.

Of course, there is variation within cultures, so the models should be applied with a degree of caution to avoid stereotyping, as personal experiences within cultures create differentiation. But the research of these experts has found that there are some predictable ways in which people within a certain culture are the same, especially when it comes to the workplace, making them valuable guides.

Stage 3: Use research to adapt content to your culture
Having researched the reception of your topic in your country, now is the time to use the understanding you have gained from the cultural models to adapt your tone. Ask yourself, how does your audience want to be spoken to? This is a crucial stage of the process that requires thorough planning. It’s easy to lose your audience in the delivery of your campaign due to cultural misunderstanding, no matter how relevant your product or service is to them.

Final stage: Don’t forget the simple things
There are the more routine details of a communications campaign to consider that may seem obvious but can be easily missed when dealing with the more complex aspects. Before releasing content, make sure to consider:

– Translation: aside from making sure your communications are translated accurately into your target language, check the translation of your product or service – make sure it isn’t offensive or hasn’t got a confusing double-meaning.
– Time zone: what time are you sending out content for your campaign in your target country? Make sure you respect any time difference and different working days.
– Visual materials: the images you use as part of the campaign may also need to be adapted. For instance, make sure that images such as landscapes are relevant to your target country as they will then resonate more with the audience there.

Following all these steps should ensure that your international communications campaign will be a success. Admittedly, it can be a long and sometimes monotonous process. However, the potential negative impact if done incorrectly, and the high rewards if the time is taken to do so properly, make the thorough process outlined above worthwhile.

Connect with the right journalists, political contacts and influencers from around the world for your international campaigns with the Vuelio Media Database – find out more and book a demo

Combating COVID

Communications and Combating the Omicron Variant

This is a guest post by Louise Flintoft, associate director at Onyx Health.

The UK’s public health is in a precarious position. We’ve all seen in the news that the Omicron COVID-19 variant has been identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

At the time of writing, there are still a lot of unknowns about the new variant. However, early indications are that it is likely to be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and that our existing vaccinations are less effective against it.

In response to the uncertainty, the Government has announced a series of new measures to reduce the spread of the new variant. These currently include compulsory facemasks for public transport and retail, expanding the booster jab programme to all UK adults, new requirements PCR tests and isolation for people entering the country, and ten-day quarantine for people in contact with an infected person

The last cycle of lockdowns and compulsory COVID-19 restriction prompted one of the biggest acts of civil obedience in our peacetime history. With new restrictions looming, the Government will need to communicate behaviour change again to avoid a potential crisis. At Onyx Health, we are healthcare communication specialists and have some ideas about how we use the power of PR to re-engage the public.

Fighting COVID-19 fatigue
Let’s be honest; we’re all sick and tired of the pandemic. The success of the Government’s initial vaccine rollout and the removal of official legal restrictions earlier in the year had led many people to conclude that it was mission accomplished. However, the threat has never gone away, and it risks getting worse again.

One of the biggest dangers from a public health communication perspective is that complacency, and an unwillingness to take the potential new threat seriously, derails the effectiveness of the new rules. Re-engaging the public will be essential to make the latest changes work in practice. There is also a balance to be struck between taking things seriously and avoiding mass panic. This needs a strong, emotionally resonant message that the public can connect with.

Encouraging people to get masked up and booster jabbed to save Christmas can link behaviour change to a shared desirable outcome. Last Christmas was tough for us all. We all want to make this year’s festive season better than the last.

Helping our healthcare heroes avoid a winter crisis
The NHS is always close to the nation’s heart, but this is especially true during a public health crisis. It is arguably the closest thing we have to a national religion. During the first lockdown, the weekly clap for healthcare workers brought the nation together to thank those frontline staff who risked their lives to help us through the pandemic.

Today, the NHS faces a perfect storm of a new COVID-19 variant, the seasonal spike in winter flu cases and a general public fed up with the pandemic. Calling on people to follow the rules to help our healthcare heroes has the potential to reconnect people with that shared sense of solidarity we saw at the beginning of the pandemic. People may be willing to go the extra mile to help those who got us through the COVID-19 crisis by caring for our friends and loved ones.

Accelerating booster jabs and getting people doubled dosed
The booster jab programme was originally targeted at the elderly and vulnerable to increase their immunity to COVID-19. This week, the Government announced that it will be extended to all adults over 18 in the UK. Problems beset the initial rollout of booster vaccines for complex reasons, including the rollout’s speed, limited uptake, and confusion over eligibility. The expansion of the programme magnifies the scale of the communication challenge.

There are specific audience demographics that require specialised targeting. Increasing the immunity of those most at-risk through medical education is a key priority. We need to reach out to the elderly, vulnerable and underrepresented groups using community groups, local champions and NGOs to foster grassroots engagement and build trust from the ground up.

Another big issue is getting younger people doubled dosed. The figures show that people aged 25-29 are more vaccine-resistant and statistically less likely to have taken up the offer of a single or double vaccine dose. Targeting young people through viral content, social media influencers and pop-cultural icons provides part of the answer to create a generational mindset change. Getting through the latest stage of the pandemic requires a renewed collective national effort; as communicators, we need to do our bit.

Keep track of the conversation in the media with Vuelio’s Media Monitoring services and our sister brand Pulsar’s series of social listening solutions

Anouska Leon and Rebecca Wagstaffe

PRCA relaunches Business Development Group

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has relaunched its Business Development (BD) Group with co-chairs Rebecca Wagstaffe of 3 Monkeys Zeno and Anouska Leon of Richmond & Towers.

The relaunched group will aim to help PRCA members with business development activities by sharing materials on best practice, insight and opinion. Part of this will be its 7 December inaugural event with partner Ingenuity to explore the evolution of business development within the last 18 months as well as how agencies can make sure their channel strategy is right for attracting new business. Tickets for the free event can be booked here.

New co-chair Rebecca is the Head of Business Development & Marketing at 3 Monkeys Zeno, helping its European offices.

‘When it comes to agency growth, business development has always acted as the thread that ties together a company’s functions or departments,’ said Rebecca. ‘Coming out of the pandemic, our role as experts needs to be more sharp-focused than ever and I am very excited to co-chair this group, helping hone skills and best practice to develop the brightest minds in business development across our industry.’

Co-chair Anouska began her career in corporate sales before making the move into the creative industries. She moved to Richmond & Towers in 2014. Of the importance of the BD Group, she said:

‘Agency growth is always a top priority, but the last two years have shone a spotlight on Business Development like never before, proving once again that it is the lifeblood of agencies. During uncertain times, the going gets tough for BD professionals and the last 18 months threw a few curveballs our way with everything on Zoom, clients and prospects working from home and navigating the sensitivities of ‘selling’ during a global pandemic.

‘The inevitable consequence is ever more stringent procurement processes, budgets that need to ‘work harder’ and a focus on delivering tangible ROI.  I’m thrilled to have been invited to take up the position of co-chair of the PRCA Business Development Group during such an exciting period of change.’

Ingenuity’s CEO and founder Chris Kemp sees lots of opportunity for PRCA members:

‘As part of Ingenuity’s ongoing relationship with the PRCA, we’re thrilled to be working closely with the leading PR and Communications trade association to help their agency members understand the true potential of new business and B2B sales & marketing. We’ll be exploring the themes that are consistently of relevance to business development professionals, and to their agency’s growth potential.

‘Having worked with hundreds of leading agencies in our 16 years, and running 160+ pitches annually, we’ll be collating insights from both sides of the fence to deliver workshops around best-in-class agency shop windows, what brands are truly looking for in their partners, how to win pitches virtually and the evolution of effective channel strategies. This also coincides with a new chapter for our Events (link), of which PR, Social and Content will continue to be a focus next year.’

More information on the Business Development Group can be found here on the PRCA website. To book tickets for the 7 December event, find out more here.

To keep track of your business development, try Vuelio’s Stakeholder Management solutions – book a demo.

Alex Silver

PR Interview: Alex Silver, director of Alex Silver PR

Moving from a career as a Junior Sister in the Casualty Ward to beauty PR extraordinaire probably isn’t the most common way of getting into comms, but it’s led to 25 years of industry success for Alex Silver and her beauty, celebrity and digital agency Alex Silver PR.

Having started her business from her kitchen table, Alex has been at the forefront of many star-studded events, red carpet moments and headline campaigns over the years. Alongside a passion for building start up brands into household names, Alex also happens to be the publicist for some well-known and long-established clients (including Dame Joan Collins, no less).

Read on for the lessons she’s learned on building strong relationships with the media, why inclusivity is so important for success, and what to do if your client hasn’t been behaving quite as they should…

What are the main lessons you’ve learned through your career?
Always have a plan B! Things can change with the drop of a hat so having a backup option and being able to think on your feet is essential in PR.

It’s not a done deal until the papers are signed – contracts and agreements can still fall through, even at the last stages of negotiations.

Credibility is everything – bringing credible experts to a campaign is like gold dust.

Don’t skip the venue recce. Even if you’ve been recommended a venue by a reputable source, I always recommend popping down to map out your event – you don’t want any nasty surprises on the big day.

How do you think the pandemic has changed comms, and are the changes here to stay?
Well, we’ve certainly all mastered the art of zoom-events, but joking aside, I believe the pandemic has helped shape a modern communication approach in many ways. Many companies (including press houses) are still testing the water when it comes to their new hybrid working arrangements, and I don’t think we’ll fully see the outcome of this until the dust from the pandemic settles.

In the meantime, communications should accommodate both in-person and online arrangements across meetings, events, launches, briefings and so on. Journalist contacts have shared that they enjoy online events as they don’t lose precious time travelling to/from venues and a recent influencer poll that we ran showed a 50/50 split in their popularity.

Celebrities are being increasingly held to account for bad behaviour/outdated views – what approach would you take with a high-profile client that runs into trouble with this?
Crisis management is at the core of many PR campaigns, whether you’re working with a celebrity or not. The art of addressing issues in a sensitive, effective and timely manner is an art that takes a carefully thought-out strategy.

It’s a case-by-case issue but sometimes it’s simply best to hold up your hands and apologise. Education and information on the topic at hand is key here – why has this caused upset and how can the talent become informed on this so that this doesn’t happen in the future.

Which high-profile celebrities/politicians/brands do you feel have really great PR teams (apart from your own clients, of course!)?
People change teams often and can make a blunder at any point so it’s hard to say, however I did see something recently that I was impressed by! At the end of October, Chief Exec and Founder of Spanx surprised employees with two first-class plane ticket and $10,000 each to celebrate the company’s $1.2billion deal with Blackstone. The announcement was filmed live on Instagram and showed employees crying with happiness. The news was quickly shared around the word on national news sites such as The Independent, Good Morning America, MSN and the New York Post. I think this was a very clever, effective, and of course, generous communication strategy. It certainly grabbed the headlines!

Which campaigns have you seen from big brands that have made you think ‘I wish I’d worked on that’?
I really loved the recent Dove Self Esteem Project. The campaign aimed to bring light to young people’s self esteem and help to raise awareness of the pressures that social media puts on developing minds. With a 15-year-old daughter, this really resonated with me and I’d loved to have been part of this campaign with Dove’s aim to have helped a quarter of a billion young people with educational courses by 2030.

Over your time in the industry, how have things improved for women practitioners?
Working within the beauty sector, the industry is saturated with women so, luckily, I haven’t felt being female ever held me back. I understand this is a big contrast to other sectors and that while some areas have drastically improved, there is still a lot to be done in order to close the gender equality gap.

What more needs to be done to make the industry more inclusive and welcoming, on gender, race and class?
An inclusive workplace culture is essential for a strong workforce of empowered employees. It needs to come from the top and I think the more people in power address these issues, speaking about them openly, the bigger changes we’re going to see. There’s so much that can and needs to be done. Everything from integrating inclusivity into core company values to building trust by encouraging a culture of frequent check-ins and creating safe spaces. There are small changes that everyone can do, no matter their company structure, and I think smaller companies need to incorporate this as much as larger ones.

How do you maintain good relationships with journalists?
Do your research! Journo friends often share frustrations at being pitched stories and items that would never fit within their column space. Keep up-to date with what your target journos are writing so that you can make your communications relevant and targeted. Building relationships is a hard balance in today’s climate; journalists are under more pressure and time constraints than ever. A catch up over zoom/coffee, carefully curated pitches and developing events/mailers that will attract attention, all go a long way.

It can be hard for people in PR to keep a healthy work/life balance – how do you manage this (If you do…)?
While there’s definitely a work-hard, play-hard culture in PR, I think it’s about striking balance in all areas of your life. I like to get up earlier in the week so that I can have a bit of ‘me’ time, I’ll kick off with a run around Primrose Hill with my puppy Bella or a yoga session. In the evenings you’ll either find me catching up with a friend over a cocktail (or two) or unwinding with my latest book in an aromatherapy bath. My advice? Find what works for you and block out that time for yourself!

What do you think the big trends will be for comms and PR in 2022?
Honesty, transparency and sustainability. Gone are the days when we printed out press releases and posted them out in thick paper packages! Journalists, influencers and celebrities are rightly conscious of the packaging brands are using. It’s the PR’s job to advise on the most sustainable, eco-friendly ways of gifting and sampling products. This is a theme I expect to see become even more prevalent in 2022 with brands delivering what consumers are striving for – products which don’t harm the planet in their making. Online sharing of files and information is here to stay. In the same vein, while gifting can be a super effective way of communicating new launches, USPs and brand values, items should be considered, useful and something that the receiver will actually want or use. We’re increasingly seeing brands choose to give a charitable donation in the receiver’s name and I think this is another trend which might grow in popularity next year.

Authenticity is also a big theme in beauty. Consumers are highly informed on ingredients, ethos and social purpose. PR communications need to be carefully structured to authentically convey what the business stands for. I believe this movement for transparency, equality and positivity will continue to snowball in 2022. Good PR teams will set out guidelines and continue to learn, grow and adapt as the year progresses.

Monitor how your brand or clients are faring in the media with Vuelio Media Monitoring and get deeper analysis from our Insights team – find out more here.

5 PR webinars and online events to catch up on

5 PR webinars and online events to catch up on

The popularity of webinars and online panels boomed during the early days of the pandemic, and they continue to be extra convenient for those who can’t, or just don’t want to, attend in-person meet-ups and events.

Is that you? Here are five super-useful webinars and online panels for PR and comms pros that are worth a revisit or first-time viewing if you missed them…

Building better relationships between PRs and journalists
While the public relations and journalism sectors rely on each other for the mutually beneficial exchange of information and coverage, it can be a very difficult relationship. Journo Resources’ Jem Collins, national press and freelance journalist Faima Bakar and Freelancing for Journalists’ Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson offered advice on building useful connections with journos working across a variety of sectors – watch it here or read our summary.

Building better relationships between PRs and journalists

One Step Forward Two Steps Black
UK Black Comms Network partnered with Opinium to conduct the first ever report into the lived experiences, pay and promotion of Black comms professionals – this webinar revealing its findings featured insight and reaction from the network’s founder and CEO Kamiqua Pearce, Opinium Research’s Susan Bello, Black Woman in HR’s Adesse Okojie and Birchwood Knight’s Seri Davies. Sign up to watch it via the UK Black comms Network and check out some of the key findings here.

Statistics on Black communications professionals

Neuro PR: Strengthening the Brain and Brand Connection
Harvey & Hugo PR’s managing director and Leader of the Pack Charlotte Nichols led this webinar on creating lasting impressions on your audience by engaging their minds with neuroscience. No pHd in brain chemistry required – watch and see how you can fire up neuro pathways with your day-to-day PR activities here. You can also read our write-up on the Vuelio blog.

Neuro PR Vuelio webinar

Discovering TikTok and Pinterest data
TikTok and Pinterest – two very different social media platforms filled with useful insight on audience behaviours and preferences. Luckily, there’s one place where you can mine both –the team at our sister brand Pulsar shared analysis of datasets from studies covered by Vogue Business and Elle Décor to demonstrate how to get the most out of data analysis. Sign up to watch here.

Discovering Pinterest & TikTok data

Making Sense of Net Zero – Corporate rewards of being in the climate action driving seat
This New Statesman live event from September featured The Climate Group’s Communications Director Luke Herbert, JLL’s Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten and Vuelio’s Insights Lead Amy Parry speaking on the risks and rewards for comms and PR teams leading on environmental action. Not only is working towards net zero the right thing to do, it will also future-proof your business. Sign up to watch the full webinar or read our summary of the key points.

Net Zero New Statesman webinar

Find out more about Vuelio’s webinars here.

Ready for more knowledge-sharing? Check out these Vuelio accessmatters sessions covering disability in PR, how to be antiracist and supporting transgender and nonbinary colleagues in this round-up.

6 reasons to stop using JournoRequests and start using the Journalist Enquiry Service

6 reasons to stop searching #JournoRequest and start using the Journalist Enquiry Service

In need of media coverage for your brand, client or research? Ransacking the #JournoRequest hashtag for asks from UK journalists might seem like a quick solution for finding contacts, but here are six reasons why you should give the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service a try instead…

1. Requests come straight through to your inbox
No searching required – relevant requests from UK journalists looking for contributions for their upcoming pieces (whether products for review, expert comment, statistics or survey results) are sent directly to the inboxes of Journalist Enquiry Service subscribers. And how often requests come through is up to you – sign up for a steady stream of requests as they’re released, or a daily digest of enquiries you might be able to help with.

Screengrab of ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service digest email

2. You’ll receive all the details you need
Sometimes 140 characters just aren’t going to tell you everything you need to help a journalist fill and finish their feature; you need to know exactly what they want, and when for. While you won’t want to read through an enquiry that’s the same length as the article the journalist is writing (nobody has time for that – certainly not the journalist), the Journalist Enquiry Form has enough space for the media professionals using it to be clear on what they want.

Screengrab of Journalist Enquiry Service email

You’ll find which publication they’re writing for, when the piece is likely to be published and more.

3. You can filter requests so they’re relevant to your specific sector
#JournoRequests is a busy hashtag filled with enquiries from journalists writing across almost any sector you can imagine – that’s a very noisy place to navigate when you need to find something useful for you, fast. The Journalist Enquiry Service, in comparison, requires journalists to target their requests to the sectors they’re writing about, right from the get-go.

Journalist Enquiry Service categories for journalists

Working in the Home & Garden comms space? The service has a category for that. After requests from fashion journalists? Retail & Fashion is for you. You can pick the request categories relevant to you when signing up and start receiving enquiries from UK journalists you can help with relevant contributions.

4. It’s secure
DM etiquette and email sharing doesn’t even have to be a consideration when starting a (hopefully long-term and fruitful) relationship with a journalist working in your sector. Once a journalist has sent their request via the Journalist Enquiry Service, contact between you starts through the service’s internal network. Email replies come via responsesource@responsesource.com, until you’re ready to share your contact details.

5. You have a set deadline to work to
While there are many differences between those in comms and those working in the media, keeping to strict deadlines throughout the day are a necessity for both. Knowing when you need to get information over to a journalist is a vital part of information easily missed on tweet threads. Requests sent through the Journalist Enquiry Service include the date and time the journalist needs the contributions by, as well as when their piece is likely to be published. When request deadlines are up, they fall off of the system, meaning no confusion – just fresh requests to look through.

6. Journalists at high-profile media outlets use the service
The Journalist Enquiry Service has many different users working across the media landscape. As well as staffers and commissioning editors on national press dailies, there are freelancers writing for a variety of consumer and trade magazines, broadcast journalists reporting for mainstream television and digital channels as well as influencers with swathes of followers across social media. Many who use the service have created useful working relationships – instead of searching for journalist connections across social media, sign up for targeted requests from media professionals who want what you have to offer.

Examples of recent requests sent via the Journalist Enquiry Service

Find more information about becoming a ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service subscriber here.

Already a subscriber? Get the most out of the Journalist Enquiry Service with this piece on how to respond to journalist enquiries as well as these quick tips.

Get started now and track all your mentions across every type of media channel with Vuelio Media Monitoring.

COP26: what PR and comms need to know

COP26: What comms and PR teams should know

‘We have fires, floods and droughts in all corners of the Earth currently. Many, many people are suffering in the Global South already with famine and untold hardship – our world is only heading one way. To be frank, Mother Nature will simply not allow us to slip back into “business as usual” after COP26,’ believes Compassion in World Farming’s Philip Lymbery.

Exhibiting in the Blue Zone and preparing to release a report into the impact of animal agriculture on the climate crisis later this week, Philip sees COP26 as ‘one of the most crucial meetings of nations the world has ever seen’. He isn’t alone. While the long-term impact of the decisions and agreements that will be made during the summit remain to be seen, business leaders, decision makers and the communications industries can – and should – support and continue what the summit has sparked; increased awareness of what needs to be done on climate change.

Read our sister brand Pulsar’s deep-dive into the social media conversation in the lead up to COP26.

‘There is significant movement in this space already, as many companies are starting to increase their plant-based offerings, manage food waste more effectively and promote more sustainable diets to their customers,’ says Philip.

‘Compass Group, IKEA, Aldi UK, Globus, Unilever, Tesco, Nomad Foods and Premier Foods are all doing good work promoting their sustainable diets and encouraging a decrease in meat consumption, for example.

‘Other noteworthy food brands are Barilla, who won the Compassion in World Farming 2021 Special Recognition Award under the Planet Friendly Award banner. Another example of action is McDonald’s UK & Ireland and Danone, who are actively working on regenerative agriculture projects.

‘The big brands across the world have a huge responsibility to accelerate significant change so that we can avoid dangerous climate change.’

Philip Lymbery

What can businesses do to continue the work, without greenwashing?

‘These days, greenwashing covers a range of claims, from the vague text on packaging to marketing USPs. Luckily for consumers, amidst a sea of companies and manufacturers under pressure to be more sustainable, regulators are becoming more proactive. However, it’s still hard to spot the integrity of claims and to a large extent consumers rely on companies fearing a loss of brand ‘trust’, should they over-exaggerate their environmental efforts and be discovered.

‘Some brands are prepared to act in some ways, for example, by introducing plastics recycling, but not in others. For example, Coca-Cola has been criticised for stating the business would not move away from plastic bottles on the basis that customers “preferred plastic”.

‘The tragedy is that many global brands have been caught greenwashing. It’s long past time for corporate technical and creative teams to work on becoming genuinely sustainable, rather than using smoke and mirrors marketing approaches.’

Optimism dominating talk about COP26

While the social media conversation leading up to the summit showed much optimism from the public, Sir Vince Cable’s take on the British Government’s previous assessment of the odds of a successful summit at 60:40 was that ‘my heart is with the 60%; my head with the 40%’. Does Philip agree?

‘I hope and pray that this will not be the case – the stakes are simply too high. It is easy to become pessimistic, but the world is watching COP26, conversations are happening and the future of our children, and their children, is in the balance.

‘However, according to national pledges already made, the numbers have been crunched and world leaders are falling short of the action that needs to be taken.

‘This is undoubtedly a time for unity and for all parties, all countries and all peoples to come together to help solve the greatest crisis we will ever face in our lifetime. We all have a part to play.’

Philip Lymbery is Global Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, Visiting Professor at the University of Winchester, President of Eurogroup for Animals, the Brussels-based umbrella for 70 leading animal welfare societies in Europe and founding Board member of the World Federation for Animals (WFA), a membership organisation that maximises the efforts and resources of the animal protection movement. Philip has also been appointed as a United Nations Food Systems Champion for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. He’s an award-winning author, ornithologist, photographer, naturalist and self-confessed animal advocate.

Read former leader of the Liberal Democrats and a former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sir Vince Cable’s look at COP here on the Vuelio blog as well as Green peer Baroness Bennett’s guest post on the importance of protecting our biodiversity.

For more on the importance of sustainability for future-proofing your business, download the Vuelio Insight Team case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.

Find out more about monitoring coverage of your brand, competitors and the issues that affect you in print, broadcast, online, blogs and social media.

Solutions for difficult clients

When client relationships go wrong: two sides of the story and a solution

This is a guest post from ADPR owner and MD Kate O’Sullivan.

As much as I hate to admit it, client relationships don’t always turn out the way we expect or hope. If you work in the service industry, the chances are you will have experienced ‘that client’. The one where no matter how hard you try, something always feels off kilter and you constantly find yourself on the back foot. If you haven’t come across them yet, I’m sorry to say that you almost certainly will at some point.

Clients are critical to many businesses, and any decent service provider will endeavour to go above and beyond to keep them happy. Equally, it takes a lot of trust (and expense) for a client to allow an outsourced provider into their business. So, if it’s safe to assume that both the client and the service provider anticipate a successful relationship, why does it sometimes go wrong, and can anything be done about it?

One thing we can all agree on is that when a relationship fails it’s a horrible feeling and prevention will always be better than cure.

Rather than entering into a game of blame, let’s consider some of the common frustrations on both sides of the relationship, and whether a slightly different approach and a deeper level of empathy could result in ‘that client’ becoming a dream client.

That Client: The one who always lands something on you with an urgent deadline.

Your perspective:

You’ve started the week with an orderly task list and before you know it a client has asked you to complete a ‘quick’ unplanned task for them that is needed urgently. You know that you have deadlines to meet for other clients, you know that very few jobs are actually quick, and you also know the urgent deadline probably isn’t a matter of life and death.

You want the best for your client, so you juggle things around and work late to ensure you can complete the task without letting any other clients down. You finish work feeling tired and grumpy, and don’t feel that you’ve been given the time to do the task justice. You’re more than happy to put in the extra graft now and again, but when it becomes a habit it’s hard to avoid feeling frustrated.

Client’s perspective:

You’ve started the week with an orderly task list and before you know it your boss has asked you to complete an unexpected task for them. You’ve recently brought on-board a skilled provider to help you with such tasks, and really need their help if you’re going to get everything else on your list done, without letting anyone down.

You know it isn’t ideal, but the agency never seem to mind and always have time to help. In-fact, they’ve actively encouraged you to reach out if you need them. You’re actually under pressure to prove their weight in gold to your boss, so this is the perfect way for them to support you right now.

That Client: The one who ghosts you.

Your perspective:

You haven’t heard from a client for a while. A nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right starts to set in, and you start to imagine what you’ve done to upset them! You know they’re busy but you really need to speak to them in order to get the agreed work done. You’ve tried everything and there’s only so many ways to send gentle reminders without seeming like a) a complete nag b) desperate or c) a stalker.

You don’t know what else to do but you keep trying, because you really want to get good results for them.

Client perspective:

Your agency won’t stop hounding you! You have a huge task list and you have to prioritise. You have received a lot of emails from them and each one seems to be asking for something different.

You brought in an agency to help with your workload. They’re costing a lot of money and you don’t understand why they can’t be more self-sufficient. You do want to communicate, but surely there’s an easier way? The way they’re going about it at the moment isn’t helpful and you really don’t appreciate being nagged.

That Client: The one who likes to tell you how to do your job.

Your perspective:

There is nothing worse than being micromanaged! You’re an expert in your field and you know what you’re doing. Instead of placing value on the work you’re producing, the client does nothing but question or make changes to everything you do. Nothing is getting signed off in time and all of the amends are starting to knock your confidence. The situation is preventing you from achieving results and you are wasting precious time and budget making unnecessary changes. You can sense your client’s dissatisfaction, but you know you’re right and they don’t seem to listen!

Client perspective:

You had great hopes for your agency and want to be wowed by them, but you don’t really like the work they’re producing. They keep explaining why they’ve done something in a certain way, but it’s not the way you would do it, and they don’t know your business the way you do! You don’t have time to be ‘correcting’ their work and are rapidly losing your patience as well as your trust in their ability to deliver.

Good communication is always the solution!

Whether you sit on the side of the client or the service provider, you’ve probably encountered at least one of the above scenarios. It probably comes as no surprise that establishing good communication and clear boundaries from the outset will always be the best way to prevent problems further down the line.

In reality, new relationships are often seen through rose-tinted glasses and this step often gets overlooked among the excitement of winning a shiny new client.

Learn from experience and invest some time thinking about the reasons why previous relationships have come to an end and how they could have been prevented from the outset. Make a conscious effort to pre-empt all eventualities by discussing them with your client in advance.

For example, the above scenarios could have been avoided by the following:

Let your client know that you understand that last minute things happen and you will always try to help. But if they want to be certain of your assistance they need to try and give you adequate notice to do the job (and be sure to spell out what you deem to be adequate!). Of course, if something really is a matter of life or death – drop everything and help!

Ask your client how they like to be communicated with and how often. Make them aware that you will need their input and let them know what they can expect and what is required from them. Agree a communication process and always encourage them to give you more than one point of contact to go to when urgent information is requested.

Make sure your client is fully aware of your expertise and always explain the rationale behind the decisions you make and the approach you’re taking with your work. Encourage them to focus on the outcomes rather than the outputs and make it clear that they are hiring experts, not yes men.

If your gut is telling you that something isn’t right in the relationship, don’t bury your head in the sand, instead address the situation. Uncomfortable conversations are never easy, but it will always be better than crossing your fingers and praying for change! Most clients will respect your integrity and will welcome the opportunity to discuss the issue with you before it escalates further.

Remember that you never need to accept outright rudeness or abuse from your client. We are all human and all have a right to demand a basic level of respect from others. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t right and when this happens it is better to face the situation, draw a line under the experience, hold your head high and move on.

The reality is that once a client relationship turns sour it can be difficult to recover, but it isn’t impossible. The key thing to keep in mind is that everyone will have entered into the relationship with the right intention, and nine times out of ten a negative situation can be resolved through good communication and compassion for others.

For keeping track of your client and stakeholder communications, check out Vuelio’s Stakeholder Management solutions. 

A week in the life of an in-house PR

A Week In The Life Of An In-House PR (and what to consider when looking for an in-house role)

This is a guest post from Prezzybox PR & marketing executive Alex Spencer.

As in-house PRs, it’s the job of me and my colleague Chloe to manage Prezzybox’s brand reputation, promote the brand as much as we can, plan and run events and, of course, secure coverage – both in print and online.

But our roles don’t stop with PR. Like many other in-house PR roles, our jobs extend to copywriting, creating email newsletters and even getting involved with design!

Here’s an insight into life as an in-house PR exec…

Monday

It might only be mid-October, but we’re in the full swing of Christmas here at Prezzybox HQ. In fact, for us, planning for the festive period starts in June and doesn’t slow down until the day itself.

People always ask us if focusing so much on Christmas makes it harder to enjoy it, but we’re the complete opposite – the more time spent talking about the festive season, the better! We do have a ban on playing Christmas songs in the office until November, though. We’re not crazy…

Chloe starts the week off by sending some product samples out to journalists at top-tier publications for their Christmas guides. We check every journo request that comes through because we can often help journalists out with high-res imagery and samples. It goes without saying that reacting quickly to these requests is key!

As every PR does, we also start the week by checking our social feeds, the news and what’s trending.

Tuesday

We recently attended our first in-person event since the start of the pandemic – The Big Christmas Press Show – where we showcased our favourite gifts for Christmas, and we spotted coverage today that we secured as a result of the show.

We’re also working on gathering data for our hero Christmas campaign, the idea for which came up completely randomly in a meeting (about something else, bizarrely). It got everyone in the office talking, so we decided to turn it into a full campaign! Watch this space…

Wednesday

A big part of my role is ensuring all of Prezzybox’s communications are on-brand and our tone of voice is consistent. I spend most of the day writing copy for our newsletters, and get some product description copy done, too. I absolutely love the variety of my job.

My colleagues and I also get together to discuss how we’re going to push our Christmas campaign. We figure out a strategy and come up with a plan B (and C!) too. As every PR knows, flexibility is key!

Thursday

Today we’re discussing next year’s events (yep – already). We’ve taken part in some awesome virtual PR events in the last couple of years, for obvious reasons, so we’re deciding which would be best for us to continue with. We think a mix of in-person and virtual events is definitely the future.

We’re also testing out some of our new products in the office today. And by ‘testing out our products’, we mean cracking open boxes of our personalised Celebrations.

Friday

We end the week on an exciting note – choosing how to redecorate the office. Some of us are back in the office part time and we’re thinking about how we can extend our branding to the walls! We already have the best office, thanks to our resident dogs and goats, but talk of neon Prezzybox signs, flower walls and floating egg chairs has got us excited… it doesn’t take much, really.

Things to consider when looking for an in-house role

1. The brand

Working as an in-house PR means working for one brand, and one brand only. Spending every day thinking about how you can promote the company you work for is heaps easier when you genuinely love the brand, and what it stands for!

2. The role

Many in-house PR roles encompass much more than just PR. My role isn’t just about gaining coverage – it’s my job to make all of our communications consistent and on-brand. My week varies from securing product PR to acting as the brand’s spokesperson to building email newsletters to writing blog posts. I love the variety, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

3. The team

Will you be part of an in-house team focusing on PR or will you be a one-person band? Will you have the budget to outsource work to PR agencies or freelancers if you need to? Knowing what resources you’ll have and what you’ll be expected to achieve is key before you make the move in-house.

Looking to help with finding and listening to your audience to make connections? Try out Pulsar’s social listening solutions and Vuelio’s media database and media monitoring.

Reactive PR and newsjacking

Reactive PR: Turning Something Out of Nothing

This is a guest post from Fibre’s Alice Wilks, digital PR specialist.

When you hear the term ‘reactive PR’ you might imagine frantically releasing press releases to counteract a scandal. That’s one kind, for sure!

But what if there was another kind of reactive PR, a far more positive and proactive one? One that could bolster your company’s presence online, and improve your SEO game?

Good news – there is! And the best part is that it’s a relatively straightforward strategy to implement. It turns out you don’t have to spend a fortune to gain publicity for your company. All you have to do is keep on top of the news…

In our busy modern world, the news cycle moves fast. To use reactive PR successfully, you’ll have to be even faster. However, making this effort is definitely worth it. After all, reactive PR (also known as newsjacking) has the potential to be even more effective that expensive marketing campaigns.

Intrigued? You should be! Read on to find out what reactive PR consists of, its multiple benefits, and how to successfully incorporate this strategy into your public relations plan.

What is reactive PR?
Reactive PR consists of responding to trending news topics within your industry and the wider media. It’s an alternative to waiting around for something newsworthy to occur within your organisation, and it’s one smart way to gain free coverage for your company!

The value of reactive PR can be found in the fact that it’s fresh and relevant. When people rush to understand unfolding news, your company’s content can position itself at the top of their to-read list.

If you’re lucky, the day’s headlines might directly relate to your industry. If they don’t, you’ll just need to be a little more creative. Don’t worry – there are unexpected ways you can connect your business activities to the news, no matter what it is!

Examples of reactive PR:
• A jewelry company that releases a blog analysing engagement rings every time a celebrity announces their upcoming nuptials.

This information might be used by traditional media sources to complement their celebrity coverage. The company could also take this opportunity to compare rings from their collection, thereby promoting their own products.

• Any company that launches competitions or campaigns in line with significant events such as the Oscars, the Superbowl, the World Cup, or a Royal Wedding.

People are likely to search for information about these events, which could attract a whole new audience to the company if they stumble across their content.

• A business that acknowledges a period of political or societal upheaval in its content.

It may promote a positive message or show how its products or services could be useful at this time. One example would be how the Calm mindfulness app suggested using its services to relieve tension during the US election cycle.

The benefits of reactive PR
Some of the benefits that a reactive PR strategy could bring to your company include:

1. Attracting a new audience
When you ‘newsjack’, you have the potential to reach people who may never have come across your company otherwise. Their interest in the topic will lead them to your content, and from there it’s up to you to convert this interest into sales.

2. Improving SEO
Successful reactive PR will generate links from external sources, which will boost your rankings in search results. Effective ‘newsjacking’ could place your company at the top of Google’s news search, too.

3. Gaining coverage in traditional media
Traditional media is hungry for content that can supplement their coverage of current events. If you can provide a unique angle on today’s trending topic, you might make headlines of your own!

4. Saving money on advertising campaigns
Writing a blog post is more cost-effective than crafting a full advertising campaign, but it could be just as impactful if done correctly. You may find that people disseminate your content independently, helping you go viral.

5. Building your brand
If your business is constantly reacting to the news, it gives the impression that it’s a dynamic and switched-on company. That means your business will seem cutting-edge, relevant, and ahead of the trends.

Keep up with trends in the media with recent article and category searching on the Vuelio Media Database – find out more here

How to build a close-knit team when working from different places

How to build a close-knit team when working from different places

This is a guest post from Degreed’s Global Head of Comms, Content & Client Advocacy Teams Sarah Danzl.

Sarah Danzl

As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work and it’s a priority for all team leaders. Especially given the past few months, when all of us were suddenly flung into unprecedented times and had to upend our working practices in a matter of days. Make no mistake, remote and hybrid working will remain a core part of our new reality. Indeed, 85% of people wish to continue working remotely some, or all, of the time post-pandemic. This poses unique challenges in fostering a close-knit team — especially when they’re based in different locations and time zones.

You have to be more intentional about work/life balance, sharing personal experiences, and building strong working relationships. But the benefits are tremendous. For starters, you can pick the very best talent from across the world. Geography is no longer a limiting factor in your recruitment. You also broaden your diversity of thought and experience. It can enable people to work who otherwise may not be able to access a workplace, like neurodiverse individuals or those with caring commitments. Finally, it offers greater flexibility and autonomy to your team.

This is something I’ve experienced for a long time. I lead a team of 14 people based in six time zones and four countries. Some of them have never met their fellow team members in person. Here are some of the ways I’ve ensured that they feel (and support each other) like a traditional team.

Have regular meetings
My personal preference is to hold a weekly team meeting along with one-on-one meetings with each team member. This way, you can update your team on everything they need to know and also get dedicated time to discuss their work, any blockers or concerns, and long-term career growth.

Key to a successful team meeting is having a structure that allows for team updates alongside social discussions, spontaneous questions, exchanging ideas and troubleshooting. Setting an agenda beforehand is a must, to focus people on the task at hand. I also recommend having 10 minutes at the start or end of each meeting for informal chats and to discuss how everyone is feeling that week.

Be results driven
In an office, it’s easy to equate performance with time at work. In a remote environment, people may not always be at their desks all day, or at the same time. Your measures of good performance need to evolve. Looking at output instead of time at work is an effective way to get the results you want, without micromanaging someone or setting specific working hours. Of course, people do need to be available to collaborate with their team members or answer questions. So there does have to be a way to asynchronously communicate (through a messaging platform like Slack, for example) or agreed availability hours that everyone knows about. In my team, we have ‘Slack’ hours when we’re available for quick chats and questions in real-time. As for results, we have team and individual KPIs (key performance indicators) that we update quarterly. Meeting these goals are more important to me than time at a desk.

Make your expectations clear
This links closely with my KPI point above. By communicating what you expect of someone in their role, you’re ensuring that they meet those expectations. If they don’t know what you want from them, they’re working blind. Write and speak clearly, so your instructions are not misunderstood. Because in a remote team, it can be easier to overlook a task or deadline.

Hire the right people
Being part of a remote team isn’t for everyone — and that’s okay! But make sure that the people you hire have the aptitude and skills to thrive as part of a remote or hybrid team. Good time and project management skills are a must, as is a self-motivating attitude as you won’t be there all the time to guide and push them.

Set time boundaries
Work/life balance can be a challenge when working remotely, particularly if your home computer is also the one you use to socialise and relax. It can be too tempting to answer one last email… at midnight. Let your team set their boundaries, when they are logging off and will answer any emails or messages in the morning. Ensure they know that they can disconnect. And let the rest of the team know when someone is and isn’t available. This is especially important when working across multiple time zones.

Socialise
All work and no play is, quite frankly, draining. Your team will work better if they socialise together too. This doesn’t have to be in-person. My team has recently done cocktail and cooking classes. The wider Degreed team have held virtual casino nights, workouts, yoga and more.

For more on working from home, read our previous guest post from Question & Retain’s Annabel Dunstan, featuring advice for balancing work and home life. 

Heading back to the office soon and feeling nervous? Check out advice from mental health professionals on how to prepare for your return to in-office working

How to engage with Generation Z

How to engage with Generation Z

This is a guest post from Life Size PR Trainee Helene Lamprecht.

Generation Z (Gen Z), which refers to all those born after 1995, is dominating and reforming the global economic landscape. Currently, they make up the largest group of consumers worldwide. If you want to attract their attention, then you need to know how to communicate with them.

Before diving into detail with actions you can take to successfully engage with Gen Z, let’s look at who exactly it is that you want to communicate with.

Digital Natives
Gen Z was born into an already digital world that becomes more globally connected each day. They grew up with high-speed internet and electronic devices, making them familiar with mobile from an early age. Being so tech-savvy means that Gen Z demands the highest quality digital experience and expect any business to have an online presence.

Short Attention Span
All Gen Z has known is a hectic world full of stimuli, so they are accustomed to filtering information – anything that does not immediately stand out is unlikely to catch their attention. As they are used to absorbing as much information as possible in a short amount of time, the content they consume has to be clear and straight to the point.

Environmental and Social Awareness
On average, Gen Z is quite wealthy compared to previous generations, with their desires going beyond meeting their basic needs. They aim for self-actualisation and are determined to achieve their full potential. In this context, a fulfilling job and pleasant working climate are of high priority to them.

They also strive for social parity and are passionate about the environment. The Fridays for Future demonstrations are just one impressive example of the commitment Gen Z is showing. Gen Z also fights for equality and demands diversity and non-discrimination, not only in society but across all forms of communication.

Once you understand what Gen Z is looking for, it’s time to adjust your communications accordingly. Here are four main actions you should implement:

1. Make it digital, mobile and an experience
Show that you are a modern company that cares about the environment by providing links instead of flyers. Keep your website up to date, and ensure that all your content is optimised for mobile devices. Additionally, try to make the content you produce more than just text. Think of how you can transform your website into a web experience – keeping it clear and straightforward yet exciting and diverse at the same time.

2. Communicate frequently and visually
Gen Z uses social media almost constantly; therefore, you must share social media content regularly. If you stop, you will appear inactive, so always think of interesting and engaging content to share. Set up editorial plans for social media and stick to them. Make sure to make your content easy to understand, and remember to actively engage with your audience.

3. Talk to them personally
Gen Z knows the internet better than any other generation. Do not try to fool them: they demand authentic and personal relationships. Gen Z relates to genuine voices, especially those they are already familiar with, such as real-life friends or influencers they share passions with. Be cautious with the latter, however. Ensure any influencers you use represent your values and are interested in a mutually beneficial collaboration, rather than one-sided in their favour.

4. Give them something to identify with
Make sure to communicate your beliefs and values. Gen Z has been involved in social activism since a young age, and they will consider a company’s value more than any generation before them. Find easy words to make them understand what you do and how this can help people or the environment. If you get them to understand you and support your vision, they will be more inclined to share it. Be prepared to equip them with the right facts and messages and let them promote your company for you. For example, you could provide them with material for convincing Instagram Stories or informative YouTube videos.

If you want to engage with Gen Z, you need to think about your purpose first because this is what matters to them the most. Try to build on this and adjust your communications by making sure they are digital, mobile, authentic and personal.

The rise and rise of influencers

The rise and rise of micro influencers

This is a guest post by Lis Anderson, director of AMBITIOUS.

Micro influencers are a growing market with an estimated value of 13.8 billion dollars in 2021, and a massive increase expected again in 2022. So why has this market exploded in the last couple of years?

Life has moved online. We know this. We also know that how we engage with people and content online has changed. Our expectations and requirements from brands are higher than ever before as customer confidence increases. They must reflect our values and demonstrate this in their presence – on and offline.

Successful marketing relies on reaching networks of people. Personality and authenticity are at the heart of successful marketing campaigns, and this is where influencers can really boost a brand.

What are micro influencers?
These are the influencers that pack a punch, but not in the way that you necessarily expect. They don’t have millions or even hundreds of thousands of followers, but they have influence over their communities. A micro influencer is defined as having between 10,000 and 50,000 followers. Over that, you’re looking at a mid-tier (50,000-500,000), macro (500,000-1 million) or mega (1 million+) influencer.

Micro influencers are more likely to be in niche communities, great for drilling down and connecting with audiences who have exact interests that match your offerings.

It’s worth noting that micro influencers have the highest engagement rate of all influencer types, which really opens up the market for businesses with limited budgets. Working with a micro influencer can be cost-effective and offer a great return on investment, depending on the industry and their community. Prices can start from just tens of pounds, meaning brands have a real chance to connect with their audiences.

How to start working with micro influencers
Choosing the right partner for a brand can make a massive impact, without a doubt. Micro influencers can take you to the next level as they are closely connected to their audiences.

1. Start by deciding your goals. What do you want to achieve through using a micro influencer? Consider increasing brand awareness or traffic to your website for example.
2. Find your micro influencer. Decide which platform you want to focus on and look for people here. Choose ones that have high engagement rates, post regularly and who have the right voice and personality to match your brand. It should feel like a natural collaboration.
3. Look at the hashtags they use, these should fit your brand and offerings.
4. Review their audience comments to see what they are interested in. Will a collaboration appeal to their community?
5. Ask for a performance report to truly understand what the influencer is achieving. Most will be happy to share their analytics with you.
6. Design a campaign together that will resonate with their audiences. Listen to the micro influencer as they know what content their audience likes.
7. Get the contract in place and agree pricing. It’s always worth doing a test case before doing a big campaign with them to see what sort of results they can get for you.
8. Check results. Are they what you expected? Use the results to inform new campaigns.

Micro influencers could include your employees. Some brands won’t have to go far to choose the right people for the job! Build long-term relationships with micro influencers to maximise impact and get your story told in the right way to the right communities.

Micro influencers and your brand
One thing to be aware of is that micro influencers will have lower reach than macro influencers. You will need to work with more micro influencers to reach the same numbers that a macro influencer has.

But using the right micro influencer will boost your brand’s reputation and get you increased online presence. Do you really need the followers numbers of a macro influencer?

For more on influencer marketing, check out our UK Influencer Survey 2020, our interview with Chris Stokel-Walker on the benefits of the influencer sector, as well as the top bloggers by sector in our regularly-updated Social Media Index section.

Net Zero New Statesman

The rewards of net zero

The relatively short break the climate got from harmful emissions during lockdowns across the world is over – the planning for net zero has to start now. That ‘E’ part of ESG planning – environment – is of even more importance for government, organisations and individuals worldwide as we get closer to November’s COP26.

Both corporate and consumer-focused businesses have big decisions to make on what their role will be on climate change – what are the potential risks, and rewards, of leading on environmental action?

The New Statesman panel ‘Making Sense of Net Zero – Corporate rewards of being in the climate action driving seat’ featured advice from contributors Luke Herbert, Communications Director for The Climate Group, JLL’s Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten and Vuelio’s Insights Lead Amy Parry on the considerations and consequences for decision makers tasked with making change – here are some of the key takeaways…

Revenues and rewards
JLL is a worldwide real estate organisation with what its Global Chief Sustainability Officer Richard Batten calls a ‘strange footprint’, yet the organisation has already made its 2040 net zero commitment.

‘If you’re thinking of going down this route, take small steps. You need to feel your way in – you have to get the data and analyse it. Start projecting what you can do, then you can start pushing the envelope. It’s a bit like peeling an onion – it takes time to understand your business.

‘There’s no doubt there are financial rewards to aiming for net zero, and it helps with the strategy of your business,’ added Luke Herbert, who works to drive change with The Climate Group.

‘Not long ago, we had Brexit, Trump and the start of COVID-19 hurting comms and PR team abilities to plan for the future – but now there’s a path; we have to go renewable in this decade. That gives a lot of clarity – you’re going to be pretty much future-proof if you do this. If you’re behind, you’re at risk of disturbance.’

‘If the financials are there, you will be able to influence your board members’.

Vuelio’s Insight Lead Amy Parry agreed on the rewards of net zero when it comes to positive influence – for all stakeholders.

‘For internal stakeholders, the rewards are in future proofing and knowing where to invest money. For consumers, it’s that feel-good factor – the more that consumers feel that they’re buying into something, that they’re doing good, it’s going to result in better sales. That’s really important… alongside the goals of climate action itself, of course.’

Reputation
ESG action (or in-action) is already impacting the reputations of companies worldwide and Amy had data for organisations who don’t yet have the right plans and promises in place:

‘Our media and insights team examined case studies around climate action and how that impacts government and organisations – we looked at banking, which is more traditional and institutional. Historically, it’s already seen negativity for supporting areas like coal financing. We also looked at a very different sector – meal delivery services in the UK; a very modern service that’s grown during the pandemic.

Read the Vuelio Insights case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.

‘We were surprised by some of the similarities in coverage for the two very different sectors. Around 23% of all banking mentions in the media were linked to sustainability – that’s tens of thousands of articles in a short time. 37% of meal service mentions were linked to those topics. Across both sectors, initiatives and coverage fell into two pools – sustainability as a vehicle for change and as a vehicle for business growth. The first lends itself more to the corporate side; abolition of pollution financing, for example. The second is aimed at consumers – green bonds and business loans. There are reputational opportunities in sustainability topics for both sides of business.

‘We found that organisations that made more press announcements through traditional press releases weren’t necessary getting more coverage, however. Sometimes, maybe, it’s possible to push the message too much. It’s action and delivery on promises that will work.’

The right thing to do
‘We have hundreds of businesses who are signed up to science-based targets… but there are hundreds who haven’t,’ said Luke.

‘We can’t just do this in 2029 when it’s too late – this needs accumulative reduction. Most of our conversations with businesses are constructive, but the challenge is those are that aren’t engaging with the issue.’

‘The biggest argument for working towards net zero, aside from reputation and revenue, is that we have to do it; the world has to do it, else we have a problem,’ said Richard.

‘We can’t tell our clients what to do. But we can make some decisions about which clients we want to work with going forward. Until then, we have to collaborate. If you’re already on top of your own business, you shouldn’t need too much persuading.’

For more insight on how policy impacts your business sector and for tracking your organisation’s own reputation, demo Vuelio’s Political Monitoring and Media Analysis services.

Further information on research from the Vuelio Insights team mentioned during this session can be found in the Vuelio case study Sustainability Initiatives and the Impact on Businesses.  

How to deal with difficult clients

How To Deal with Difficult Clients

This is a guest post written by Sharp Relations founder AJ Sharp.

AJ Sharp on how to deal with difficult clientsWriting this article made me realise we’re extremely lucky that we genuinely don’t have any clients that I would describe as ‘difficult’. However, reflecting on the past few decades – working for London PR agencies and perhaps also, when I started my own agency Sharp Relations nearly 11 years ago – it’s fair to say that we had a few more difficult conversations back then. So, I started pondering the change.

I think the answer is that we have become a lot better at making sure we don’t arrive in a space where a client might feel motivated to become ‘difficult’. I don’t think a client ever starts off being difficult but perhaps they move into that space when they don’t feel that their needs are being properly met by the agency.

Let’s stop using the word ‘client’ for a moment and remember that all clients are business owners, founders and entrepreneurs. They are emotionally, physically and financially invested in the success of their business. They have clear goals, objectives, ambitions, and dreams for their business and the better you understand these motivations and drivers, the better you will be able to meet their business needs.

How to prevent clients from becoming difficult in the first place.

From the off, it is imperative to understand the intrinsic motivations for a business to employ a PR agency. What problem are you helping to solve? No one wakes up one day and decides, ‘Gee let’s get a PR Agency, that seems like fun!’. There’s always a challenge the business is experiencing. Understand the challenge, and you will be able to design and deliver a brilliant communications plan which will drive the business towards its goals.

Secondly, you need to agree Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which could relate to reach, pieces of coverage, industry sectors, time spent, shares on social media and so on. It’s crucial to agree and discuss these KPIs up front. Show some examples of previous work you’ve done so they can envisage how it will look and feel for them. Get all KPIs agreed in writing from the outset, then you know you’re on the same page.

Thirdly, you need to manage expectations. This can come in so many forms:

Results: A client is happy if they understand exactly what is happening, how long it will take and when they can expect to see results. Lead times for specific stories are always a conversation that needs to be had, no matter how experienced they are with PR. What is obvious to you is not necessarily at the forefront of their mind.

Contact: They also need to know how and when they can contact you. You cannot possibly be available between anytime 9am and 5pm every day, you have other meetings, other clients and of course, the work itself. A regular virtual meeting and ad hoc on email works well. Explain this up front. Collaborative documents can also work for some teams.

Input: What are you going to need from them? And how often will you need their time? This is so important; some business owners can be surprised at how much input is required from them to get great PR pieces.

Under promise and over deliver: This is my favourite technique. If you’re sure you can do it by Wednesday, tell the client Friday. If everything goes to plan you deliver early and you look good, if you get a curve ball from elsewhere in the meantime, you have ‘fudge-factor’. Believe me, giving your clients increasingly unrealistic deadlines to deliver work to them, does not make you look good especially if you don’t always hit your deadlines. They’d rather have the realistic deadlines and for you to be reliable and consistent with them.

By managing expectations properly from the outset, you won’t face any difficulties. It’s much harder to justify your way of working once it’s been flagged as a potential issue than it is to say from the outset ‘this is how we work’. Be open, honest, and transparent. You don’t have to justify it or explain your processes, it is simply how you work.

What if you already have a difficult client, how can you change the dynamic?

I would assert that fundamentally one of the above factors has probably not been fulfilled to the level that is required. In the past, if I suspected that a client was starting to become ‘difficult’ I would ask for a call with the client straight away and open a dialogue. I would go back over their intrinsic motivations, KPIs and, if necessary, spend more time managing expectations.

Consider the impetus of why a client might have decided they need to be ‘difficult’. Difficult usually looks like unrealistic expectations, not listening to advice or micro-managing.

It’s important to get around their side of the table as it were and really listen to what they need and the pressures they are facing. You are their ally; you are there to help them achieve their objectives. What is it that isn’t going the way they hoped? Sometimes it’s not the PR work, but a change in messaging from the board level, or a new focus within the business. Are you still following the old PR plan, or have you reworked it to reflect the new changes? Work smarter not harder – make sure you’re doing the right activities to deliver the results the client really wants and needs.

AJ Sharp is the founder of Sharp Relations, an award-winning food, drink, hospitality and travel PR agency. AJ is a judge for the Great Taste Awards and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. 

Need tools for managing your stakeholders? Demo Vuelio’s Stakeholder Engagement products

How to manage teams of disparate cultures

How to manage disparate cultures in the same team

This is a guest post from Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, founder and managing director at Clearly.

It has been interesting to observe the number of companies that have opened an overseas office since the UK voted to leave the European Union. We have seen it ourselves, with a handful of clients announcing their intention to expand into key markets such as France, Spain and United States.

While exciting and incredibly pleasing to see such expansion and ambition, especially after the storm of the last 18 months, businesses and brands need to be cautious. If they get their comms and messaging wrong across each of their new markets, those hopes and aspirations can come quickly crashing down.

Navigating complex nationalities

Ten years ago, I relocated to Croatia to take up a role as interim head of comms for a European scientific publishing house. It was a position that kept me there for two years (not that I was complaining, of course) and gave me a crash course in managing and leading culturally diverse teams.

I started with a team of 20+ people who spanned a wealth of nationalities – culturally, each nationality had its differences.

I loved them all. Their quirks, humour, attitudes, mentality, and the way in which they would process information and make decisions. It opened my eyes to a diverse range of ideas, which would become extremely beneficial when I started Clearly in 2014.

Let’s not think for one moment that being British is a benchmark we should all judge other cultures with. We Brits aren’t exactly easy to work with. We have penchant for saying ‘please’ way too often, our impatience for lateness is world-famous, and we have a wonderful ability for confusing the heck out of people and failing to say what we really mean. For example, when we say, ‘If you have time, you may want to check out…’, what we actually mean is ‘Check the damn thing out now, got it?’

But culture doesn’t just relate to one’s nationality, it also refers to psyche.

Attitudinal variances

Indeed, when I arrived in 2011, Croatia was marking the twentieth anniversary since the start of the first Balkans war that was fuelled by the collapse of the former communist-led Yugoslavia. For the next few years, civil war ensued and inflamed historic cultural divides. It also divided generations, too.

From what I could see, those within the team who were schooled pre-1991 followed the indoctrination of their former communist leaders – to toe the line, never question those in authority. Even the careers they had were determined at birth; if you lived closer to an engineering than a textiles college, you would become an engineer. End of.

But for those who went to school post-1991, theirs was an altogether different mindset. Western ideals were introduced, and people were actively encouraged to challenge the status quo, dare to dream of leading a better life filled with possibilities, and to choose a career based not on where they lived but what they wanted to do.

As a manager, this was rather challenging. One half of the team would follow instructions and go about their work without hesitation or recourse while the other half had no fear of pushing back and asking questions. It made for interesting team meetings, I can tell you.

Regional differences need to be observed

Such nuances are not the reserve of somewhere like Croatia, the United States can be challenging, too. We have clients opening on both the west and east coasts of the country, and the disparities can be enormous.

Indeed, from my own experiences, Bostonians can be conservative and seem rather British-like. They are more likely to ask where you come from, how the business got started, or who the key people are and their stories. New Yorkers couldn’t give a jot about any of these things, they cut to the chase and want to know what’s in it for them from the off. West coast Americans are different again. The Californians I’ve interacted with were a chilled bunch who like to spend time establishing a rapport before getting down to the business of the day.

Multiculturalism has made me a better leader and innovator

I love working with multicultural teams and not because it is a politically correct thing to say and do. It’s because as someone who has worked in-house, as well as in my current role as an agency leader, driving forward new ideas and innovations are of critical importance.

Diverse teams create diversity of thought, and that has enabled my previous teams and the organisations they represented to gain that all-important competitive edge within each market they serve.

This experience has influenced my own way of thinking. Because I have become so used to hearing often-conflicting ideas, I now naturally look at a particular scenario and consider how some of the people in my previous teams would approach it. I now court the opinion of those within my current team who I know will view said scenario differently to me. It is this approach that has seen us a business benefit enormously over the last few years, and the experience gained has made me a better, more rounded and open-minded agency leader.

As a leader, none of us has all the answers. But as a team, and a diverse one at that, the solutions will invariably be found.