Why you should consider indirect competitors

When building out your PR strategy, a seemingly obvious tactic is to monitor rivals in your industry. The mistake here is thinking that your only competitors are those creating the same products or service as you, when in reality it goes far beyond that. 

Indirect competitors, often operating in different sectors or catering to different customer needs, offer unique insights and opportunities that can fuel innovation, growth, and long-term success in your PR. 

So what kind of indirect competitors are there? When should you be watching them? 

Same strategy, different products 

Particularly in PR, it’s important to look at competitors beyond your products and services. What are some of your core values or engagement tactics? Who are you competing with in this arena? 

For example, outdoor clothing brand Patagonia and automotive clean energy company Tesla function in totally different industries — but both of their customer consumer strategies revolve around environmental sustainability. 

Therefore, they would be considered aspirational competitors because they share this same value. Let’s say they are both aiming to enhance sustainability messaging in their media coverage. By monitoring each other (and other brands with similar values), they are able to see how the conversation is evolving, what the benchmark is and build out a target media list based on publications their competitors have been featured in for sustainability reasons. 

Same needs, different brands 

Have you considered how your customer needs may align with totally different brands? This is also an opportunity to branch out your competitor analysis.

For example, both Apple and Peloton provide leisure and entertainment to customers — while otherwise being totally different services. Hypothetically, say both brands released products around the holiday period. Given that entertainment is a hot topic during the season, this would be an ideal opportunity to get a holistic view of who and how brands are mentioned in the wider media discussion.

Expanding partnerships 

Competitor analysis doesn’t always have to be – well – competitive. Indirect competitors can make valuable partnerships. Building strategic alliances with brands that somewhat align to yours can open doors to complementary resources, technologies and established media awareness that would otherwise be out of reach.

Alternatively, you could also monitor who your competitors are already partnering with and how this has landed in the media. Are there any brands or industries you hadn’t thought of before that are proving to be successful?

Situational competitors 

Sometimes your competitors change because of an external factor, such as a crisis. 

Over the past month, Canadian grocery store Loblaws and Dollarama, the country’s most-established dollar store, went viral following a Reddit post about the significant cost difference for the same items at both stores. The story made national headlines, with comments from CTV news on how they’re ‘not direct competitors’ historically but drastic inflation has put them in a competitive position.

If, for example, Loblaws are trying to promote value-for-money messaging in response to the Canadian cost of living crisis – this would now make Dollarama one of their biggest competitors in this area.

Brand personalities 

If you’re trying to promote the media presence of a key figure or spokesperson in your company, how would you like them to be portrayed? How do these aspirations line up with other prominent figures in the media that aren’t in your industry? 

For example, a charity that teaches children how to read aims for their founder to be seen as the go-to speaker on the future of education. There could easily be competitive voices from universities, local governments, etc. – making them indirect competitors. 

Consider your goals 

Gauging your indirect competitors is easy when you know what your media awareness goals are. Consider what aspect of the brand, product, service or spokesperson you would like to promote and how this is being successfully executed by other industries. 

If you’re unsure what to promote, conduct a media analysis to see how you’ve performed so far and identify areas of improvement. If you’re lacking in awareness around one of your core values, turning to indirect competitors you to get a bigger picture of where you line up and generate  ideas for your next possible move.

If you haven’t secured much earned media yet, write a set of key messages – a short list of positions you want your brand to be perceived by target audiences. Once you identify core aspects of these messages, such as values or personality traits, monitor how indirect competitors are being discussed in relation to these areas.

Short on time and need answers fast? Let our team of insights experts do the work for you. Vuelio’s Insights team provides media strategy planning reports that help you identify competitors and learn from their media coverage. Get in touch to find out more. 

8 facts you need to know about brand reputation

Don’t be scared, be prepared: Stats on brand reputation you need to know now

You and your clients have a rep to protect, and crisis can come from many different places. One big source of brand reputation problems? The digital space, where the negatives can spread just as quickly as the positives.

No PR can be omnipotent or always-online, so a reputational crisis will happen at some point. In our webinar ‘The AI Conundrum: paving the way for the future of comms’, Danebury Research founder Paul Stallard shared findings from our collaborative white paper to prove just how prepared PRs need to be.

Watch the webinar here.

Read on for the numbers on accountability, fake news, and how valuable public relations is.

Business leaders are worried about reputation…

– 94% of business decision makers have had to deal with a brand reputation issue
Every business needs to maintain their reputation, and this is a big concern for those at the top of the hierarchy. Causes of potential headaches and sleepless nights for industry decision makers come from both inside and outside of company structures. According to our data, 53% of reputation management cases were due to actions taken by an employee, while 46% came from a customer or external person.

– 67% worry that poorly managed brand reputation issues would seriously damage their company. Half of business decision makers would be unsure how to reduce the impact of a brand reputation issue
Ensuing damage is a concern for over half of polled business leaders across the financial services, utilities, pharma, media, retail, and transport sectors.While the number of decision makers that wouldn’t know how to stop a reputational crisis in its tracks is slightly concerning, business leaders do know who can help them.

…but the majority know that PR is a problem-solver

– 82% agree PR support would be vital to manage a brand reputational issue
Good news – 84% of business leaders proactively use PR to improve their reputation in the media and online, and 79% already have a plan in place to deal with any brand reputation issues.

Appreciation for public relations continues to rise. As we found in our previous white paper with Stephen Waddington and Dr Jon White (‘Elevating the role of public relations in management’), PR people are increasingly part of strategic decision making at the top levels of business.

Fake news and misinformation are a key concern in business now

– 77% believe fake news/misinformation would cause their company reputational damage
As mentioned by Polis Analysis’ Thomas Barton in the Vuelio webinar ’Why PRs need to take online misinformation and disinformation seriously’, fake news is predicted to be a significant challenge over the next 20 years.

80% of business leaders are already preparing and have taken steps to protect their company against fake news or misinformation. 75% believe fake news/misinformation is already on the rise.

Business leaders want the media to take more responsibility

– 71% think journalists and the media need to do more to validate sources to help prevent fake news/misrepresentation
Fact checking is baked into the journalist’s job, but what about AI content generation at publishing companies like BuzzFeed and Axel Springer?

37% of those on top of the business food chain believe content generators like ChatGPT will worsen the quality of media content, and that 83% of publications should mark when it’s been used to create a story. 37% even believe the technology could kill creativity completely. But is it all bad when it comes to AI?

AI is a source of trepidation for business bosses

– Only 22% of business leaders have personally used it for work-related purposes
AI technologies are still very much in their infancy for content creation – less than a quarter of decision makers have toyed with it so far. Perhaps due to this lack of personal experience of just what these apps can do, numbers show wariness. 37% believe ChatGPT is more of a risk than an asset, while a significant 65% think ChatGPT poses a threat to jobs.

AI is also a source of opportunity for PRs when building reputations

– While 62% of business leaders believe it’s too early for ChatGPT to be used in PR, 45% are actively investigating how it could be used as part of their communications

– 67% of business bosses believe ChatGPT prompting will be as important as SEO – a mainstay of comms – going forward.

On whether it really will take job opportunities away, a scary possibility much media coverage has put forward, not all business leaders agree. 45% believe it will improve productivity for the humans already working for them, and 78% agree the technology will free up time, enabling PRs to be even more creative with their strategies.

Whatever the future holds, anyone working in the field of reputation – whether building it, protecting it, or fixing it – will need to incorporate emerging technologies into their toolkit.

‘I have been in conversations with clients and they’ve asked what our stance is on the use of AI already, and whether we should be using it,’ said Paul.

‘We’re in the early stages in the PR industry so far – we’re excited about it, exploring and investigating it.

‘We need to embrace this as a tool and not be scared. We need to know the strength and weaknesses, so we can advise our clients correctly.’

Watch the full webinar ‘The AI conundrum – paving the way for the future of comms‘ and download the accompanying white paper ‘Reputation management: How PR and comms can maintain trust in an AI-assisted future’ for more on this topic.

International Women's Day 2023

International Women’s Day 2023 – How can the PR industry evolve for the better?

Does the world really still need International Women’s Day? For all those asking this question, the answer is very much ‘yes’. Gender inequality continues to thrive in 2023 – especially when it intersects with racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism – the list goes on.

And despite being made up of a workforce filled with women – a 67% majority, apparently – PR has a gender problem.

Here are takes from women working in comms on how the industry can evolve and why International Women’s Day should be circled on the calendar:

‘When misogyny is still allowed to breed in our society, at the highest levels and most trusted ranks, we need counter pressures to dismantle toxic views which seek to constrain and harm women – be that at work, at home, or in society at large,’ believes Ketchum’s Alicia Solanki.

‘For that reason, IWD is critical and absolutely has a place in 2023. The dialogue must not stop once IWD has passed, but it is fine if on this day specifically, we crank up the volume’.

Break up bias in the boardroom

‘We have to address the fact that women and ethnic minorities are still not being represented enough in companies. 2022 stats show us that in the UK only 19.7% of employees on boards are women – why is this? Because patriarchy is rife on company boards. Also in the UK, the employment rate in every ethnic group was higher for men than women.

‘My experience working in PR and as the owner of a PR agency, is that when dealing with some male clients, I’m not taken seriously. Despite running our own business and managing their brand and reputation, we see a lot of mansplaining. This isn’t across the board, and things are improving but we still feel we’re working hard to have a seat at a very male table.’
Sophie Kermani, director at In The Bag PR

‘As ever, there are benefits to having PR people more closely represent the societies in which we live. As PR practitioners, we aim to communicate messages effectively to various audiences. Having a diverse team that reflects the demographics of those audiences can help ensure that messages are communicated in a way that resonates with them as well as results in more creative and innovative solutions to communication challenges. Overall, ethnic diversity in the PR industry can lead to better communication, increased innovation, and more inclusive and respectful messaging.’
Hanisha Ganwani, senior PR manager for Global University Systems

‘Like many industries, women still have to choose between a career and a family. Hopefully, now more men are taking paternity leave, we might start seeing the balance change.’
Claire Powell, managing director of The CAN Group

Drop the tokenism

‘While the workplace has become a lot more accommodating for women, there’s still a lot of headway to be made.

‘A lot of LGBTQ+ people often get put into a separate box or seen as the ‘token diverse person’ that companies can use to promote during Pride month. In reality, I don’t want to be seen as any different, which is why a lot of people don’t even express labels when at work.

‘In a PR agency, you’re often in communication with an in-house representative that’s older and typically male, so you definitely get the odd person speaking over you and subtly treating you differently. It’s especially hard when you’re at the start of your career and trying to gain more confidence in a new industry’.
Stacie Plast, Senior account executive at Stone Junction

Drop the ageism

‘I think that there are still divides when it comes to women in PR and ageism is one of those.

‘In many circles, PR is seen as a young person’s industry and when women go on maternity leave this can mark a dramatic change in their career. Being able to come back on a flexible or part-time basis can be hard and I believe that we often lose women who hold huge value and experience because making it work is just too hard.’
Natalie Trice, PR author, PR coach, PR trainer, Devon Trice Public Relations

‘There has been a huge issue around ageism in PR; a typical PR worker would be cited as a female in her 20s. Women in PR’s recent survey showed over 34% of women working in comms have experienced ageism in the workplace. However, businesses are now waking up to the wealth of experience and knowledge that those of us who have been around for longer can bring.’
Sara Mak, PR & external communications manager for Verastar

No ‘gender-washing’

‘Say no to gender-washing BS. Businesses need to set themselves real goals to deliver on inclusion, equality and equity. Transparency, accountability and measurement are critical to track real progress. How can we assess progress if we don’t know what it is we’re measuring? In the data economy, the PR industry needs to get better at using data insights to inform the right strategy, create the right vision and achieve.’
Claire Williamson, founder and managing director of Resonance, current PRCA Council Chair, and co-chair of the PRCA AR Group

Be transparent on pay

‘I think businesses in the private sector need to be transparent about salaries. But I think the real changes can then only come from individuals. Bias needs to be called out, whether it’s racism, sexism or transphobia – those who see it happening and let it slide are just as complicit.’
Jessica McDonnell, account manager for Source PR

‘As a Black woman working in PR, I think in order to address all the intersectionalities of gender, sexuality and race within pay and promotions, there needs to be honest and transparent conversations within the workplace. This would create transparency for marginalised groups to see how they compare with other counterparts (males, white people, cis people, etc). If we are transparent about pay scales and the reasons behind it, then there is no room for gaps. This gives everyone a level playing field to progress in comparison to others.’
Buce Satimburwa, account executive at Full Fat

‘We need to stop making excuses for the reasons things happen in the workplace. If you’re struggling to attract diverse talent, check your company culture, policies and external comms. If you are attracting diverse talent but seeing them check out, lift the lid on your employee experience and career development touchpoints. Do more to promote and champion diverse talent into the board – you can’t be what you can’t see which will continue to inflame the promotion and pay gap across gender, race or sexuality.’
Alicia Solanki, chief client and innovation officer at Ketchum UK

Don’t be part of the problem

‘PR and the press in general is, crucially, part of the problem. One scan of articles focus in on women’s marital status, weight and whatever else women are spoon-fed on a daily basis to erode their joy. While countless aggressive murders, crimes and violence committed by men, are simply reported as ‘genderless’ crimes. Oh, unless it’s a debate on transgender women in prison… yikes.

‘There is a huge disconnect between the women working in PR and the output of commentary through journalism. This is because it is still male voices that dominate the actual news. Men occupy the vast majority of management and a majority of the jobs in journalism, which means that their narrative is the one represented. There’s still very much a double-standard in the PR industry, too.’
Faye Lewis, head of comms at Viva!

‘I personally still believe there is a lack of education of what Public Relations is, even in today’s world of 2023 (though I feel it’s getting there, we are not there yet). Many still think PR is some form of advertising, marketing or just going out to fancy events.

‘Because of the lack of knowledge, I believe it’s not deemed as important compared to other industries, which is why I believe women are not taken as seriously. This reflects on how women are perceived.

‘Education is needed for PR to be taken more seriously and it should rank among the top of the industry sectors – this would change the dynamic of any issues.’
Am Golhar, media voice and founder of Abstract PR

Set tangible targets for improvement

‘Companies and organisations should commit to creating tangible and achievable targets to close the gender/race/sexuality pay and promotion gaps. This should include setting specific goals for hiring more women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and creating transparent processes for evaluating and promoting them.’
Alana Panton, founder of AP Comms

Show up

‘I think that newer generations reaching the PR industry won’t stand for disparities in gender, race, pay or the like, and rightly so. Some businesses naturally adopt best practice in these areas, but with talent shortages being felt across the industry, it’s going to force all business leaders to show up for this generation – they want to see people doing the right thing or they’ll disengage entirely.

‘There needs to be firm action taken when sexism, racism, ageism or any other form of discrimination is experienced. We have brought contracts to a close that haven’t afforded members of my team the respect they deserve, and I will continue to put people over profits when it comes to addressing behaviours that are not welcome in 2023.’
Alia Al-Doori, Managing Director at Pearl Comms

Provide time for personal development

‘In 2023, there are so many amazing opportunities for women in PR, from leadership courses to workshops and panel discussions – I think it’s imperative that agencies not only encourage their employees to take these opportunities but ensure that they are given the time and support to be able to do so.

‘There are many PR agencies whose lack of diversity is a huge issue that they are just ignoring, and, with so many talented people in the PR world, there’s just no excuse for it!’
Maisie Bamford, PR account director at Tank

Remember why International Women’s Day is still necessary

‘IWD is still important in 2023 because the challenges women face haven’t gone away. It’s the obvious things like the gender pay gap, yes, but it’s also the way every woman I know insists on a text to make sure their friend got home safe and refuses to walk alone at night.

‘It’s the ‘someone’s on their monthly’ comments and the way that I still have to explain to the men I love why I don’t feel as safe or as seen or as heard as they do. It’s how being sexually harassed is literally just a given and my friends and I have unspoken methodologies to protect ourselves and others when we go out for drinks. It’s how music, art and activities enjoyed and/or created primarily by women are belittled and dismissed. How the media would rather discuss female politicians and celebrities weight gain and fashion choices than their policies and actions. How men can get away with saying and doing and being things that women cannot.

‘It’s all the tiny little things I have to take into account, the self-defensive thoughts and actions that have become habit, that I’ve been told by men is ‘a bit paranoid’ or ‘a bit much’. The little things are the hardest to fix – it’s not something that can change overnight – but IWD is about giving women of all races, nationalities, religions and experiences the space and the platform to make their voices heard.’
Leigh-Ann Hewer, account manager at Carnsight Communications

‘Although gender equality is widely understood in many societies, far too many individuals still believe ‘feminism has gone far enough’, some men and women are still reluctant to use the label ‘feminist’, and the popularity of misogynists like Andrew Tate evidences that women’s rights and opportunities are still not guaranteed. Marking International Women’s Day reminds us that there are many different ways to ‘be’ a woman, that womanhood is intersectional with ethnic, racial, LGTBQ+ and disability status complementing our identities and presenting new challenges and opportunities, and that every woman has a different story to tell and something unique to offer the world.’
Aimee Treasure, marketing director at Templeton and Partners

For more on the experiences of women throughout the creative industries in the UK, check out our accessmatters series, including The Social Mobility Foundation’s Sarah Atkinson, the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s Melissa Lawrence and InFusion Comms’ Sara Hawthorn

The future of work

How to be flexible: 4 ways to rework work

The last UK lockdowns are long past, so what happens now when it comes to how we work? Firms like Goldman Sachs called staff back into the office, while other organisations are fully embracing hybrid patterns for their workforce.

With Government-enforced at-home working behind us, now is when employers and employees have the opportunity to take stock and rework how they work for healthier, happier and more effective outcomes.

For the Vuelio webinar ‘Work, Life and Balance: The PR challenge of 2023’, Hera Comms founder and managing director Anna Geffert, Atom Bank’s head of PR and communications Robbie Steel and Natwest Group’s assistant director, communications and engagement Sarah Beber shared the choices being made in their own companies and what is working for them.

‘Like many organisations, we’re still finding our feet,’ says Sarah.

Read on for ideas on what could work for you:

1) Take time to rethink how you work

‘The pandemic changed the way we think about flexible working,’ shared Sarah Beber about the changes that had to happen at Natwest Group.

‘Prior to COVID-19 there were a number of us who worked flexibly, but there were areas and teams where it would not be seen to be the “done thing”. Then COVID forced it on us. There were definitely people who had never considered it, who were suddenly doing it and loving it. We are still finding our feet; finding what works and what doesn’t.’

2) Find new ways to connect with your colleagues

‘There are lots of conversations about how to make the most of the time in the office and how people can stay connected,’ shared Sarah.

‘Our team at Natwest are spread out – if I’m in the office, a lot of them aren’t. We’re still trying to work out what is best for us and how to stay engaged. All the tried-and-tested channels are no longer tried-and-tested, not when you’re physically and mentally in different places – it’s an added layer of complexity and I imagine it is the same for many people.’

3) Evolve corporate culture to fit

‘I’m not sure the four-day week would have happened had COVID-19 not happened,’ admitted Robbie Steel, who shared how Atom Bank moved to a four-day working pattern successfully. Could a four-day week work for other organisations now the world of work is changing?

‘There are so many companies offering this now,’ said Robbie. ‘One challenge is the culture piece – you lose a lot of togetherness and the social part of work. At Atom, people mentioned that it wasn’t the same after the height of the pandemic. That is one area we’re trying to get back into the office culture.’

4) Like working from home? Just don’t forget the benefits of face-to-face office time

‘Now we’re seeing what flexible working can really do – what the pitfalls, dangers and benefits are,’ said Anna Geffert.

‘Junior people, just out of university, can really struggle teaching themselves to do their job while working from home – it is very difficult to teach newly-graduated people through osmosis; you learn so much being in-office. I’ve seen this from other agencies, also – there is a huge skills gap at the moment. Some new employees are not as developed in skill set as you would expect from someone three years qualified.

‘There has to be a happy medium. I’m in office three days a week – what is called a ‘TWAT’, I think! I haven’t heard of anyone doing full-time in-office, or purely flex.

‘I think it is dependent on sector, on business culture, and if you can physically do that. In finance, you can’t have the tech at home; there are sensitivity and privacy regulations – I get that. But there has to be a conversation. And that conversation will become tricky. People could start losing out on promotions if they aren’t in-office. How can you make sure people aren’t unfairly treated just because they weren’t there? They miss the boss saying “Do you want to go for lunch?” or when clients are in.

‘That’s the danger we are now seeing and need to be aware of.’

Watch the full webinar ‘Work, Life and Balance: The PR challenge of 2023‘ for more on the future of work and the impact of the last few years on the PR and communications industry.

Quite like working from home, either full-time or flexibly? Remember to keep it professional on work calls – here are pointers on video call etiquette, with warning stories of high-profile inappropriate video call filters and childminding fails from the early days of the pandemic.

Trust in medical and health comms

How the pandemic changed our trust: what does it mean for health communicators?

This is a guest post from Helen Fitzhugh, associate director, Healthcare at Kaizo PR.

In the past two years, consumers have been bombarded with public health information on an unprecedented scale. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve charted consumers’ changing attitudes to sources of health information to understand who they do – and don’t – trust.

Our research reveals a number of important considerations for health comms professionals.

After surveying 500 UK consumers, we found that trust in some sources of health information had dropped significantly since 2020, with independent experts and government health advisors plummeting in the ratings.

Consumers also have shorter attention spans, consume less print and online news from traditional media outlets, and are less likely to question health information – even if it goes against government advice.

Consumers suffering from ‘health messaging fatigue’

Who would have thought, before March 2020, that we’d all become experts in virology? After living through daily updates on transmission rates, mutations, and clinical trial results, it is no surprise that we began to switch off – BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) data shows that people turned to TV channels for news at the start of the pandemic and then turned away as it progressed.

The emotional stress of the pandemic may be to blame. Media consumption affects our mental health – negative news can cause distress and anxiety. People may have been avoiding pandemic news because they felt it was damaging their mental wellbeing.

Our survey found that the biggest health worry for respondents this winter was their mental health, with 39% singling this out as their top concern – ranked above Covid, colds and flu. This is particularly interesting given the headlines on the ‘twindemic’, which – you might assume – would push respiratory viruses to the front of people’s minds.

Consumers may be avoiding health news to protect their own mental wellbeing – or simply because they have had enough of virology lessons. Whatever the reason, it poses a real challenge for health comms professionals who need to engage with a disengaged audience.

Radical redistribution of trust

In 2020, consumers were quick to lose trust in a source of health information – for example, 70% would not trust information that did not come from a qualified healthcare professional. This figure has now dropped to just 51%.

Likewise, two years ago, 44% said that they would lose trust in health information that went against official advice. This has fallen to 23%.

These figures suggest that it is harder to lose consumers’ trust. This may not be as beneficial as it sounds: quite the opposite. If consumers are less likely to question the source of their health information or its accuracy, it is easier for misinformation to proliferate.

Who is in and who is out

As in 2020, healthcare professionals (HCPs) continue to be the most trusted sources of information: almost half (47%) of our respondents said they would rely on their GP, doctor, or nurse to provide them with trustworthy information to make decisions about their health.

However, as it is increasingly difficult for some people to see their GP, new information sources are plugging this gap. In 2020, only 5% of respondents said they would rely on a local pharmacist for health advice – our latest survey showed that this had jumped to 20%. Established healthcare charities and organisations, such as the British Lung Foundation, are also following this trend – with trust in such bodies up at 20%, from 9% two years ago.

The pull of independent scientists and experts has however dropped since 2020 – falling from 49% to just 29%.

So, how can you get your message across?

Revaluate your assumptions about what people will engage with. Mental health is a big concern, for example – so consumers may be more likely to engage with content about mental wellness, compared to physical wellness.

Health information that is presented as alarmist could be a big turn-off – tone matters at a time when people want to protect themselves from sources of anxiety.

Trust has shifted or consolidated. HCPs remain high on the trusted sources list, but with GP availability increasingly a challenge, consumers and patients need an alternative. Trust in pharmacists and the third sector has increased, so think about how you can tap into these sources to tell your story.

Clear, trustworthy health information saves lives and reduces the burden on the NHS – but only if you can get people to pay attention to it.

Read the full report by Kaizo PR here.

For more on trust in the health, medical and pharmaceutical space, read these posts with overviews and advice from Pharmica’s Carolina Goncalves and Lynn’s Shayoni Lynn.

The no-nonsense guide to PR and comms in 2023

The no-nonsense guide to PR and comms in 2023

This is a guest post from The Media Foundry’s associate director Kat Jackson.

It is still January and we’ve all been inundated by the 2023 predictions; the good and the bad. We’re all braced for impact – but is it helping anyone to really prepare?

So, instead, let’s look at things practically, and with a promise of no overuse of the words ‘tough’ and ‘resilience’. Here is how PR and comms professionals should be approaching the year, avoiding all the hyperbole.

1. Make sure the foundations are solid

Check them regularly. There is a reason why the admin, the structure of PR accounts is (by and large) universal. They are tried and tested tools to keep clients updated on progress and regularly reminded on the value you are adding to their work. You make their lives easier. If you aren’t, check in and ask why, and if something needs to be switched up.

2. Do more, with less

It is a simple, uncomfortable fact. Most businesses will tend toward the frugal. Budgets will be stretched. But there are also instances where comms can be treated like a tick box – release done, coverage in, move on. Not always the best policy. Content concepts can keep coming back, certain themes will have a longer shelf life which can be explored in different ways. Marketing should always ask itself if there is still room for further delivery. Challenge those you think could be trying harder. Push for better. Take a good hard look at the service and see what could be improved. Longstanding work can become somewhat rote to even the most dedicated – but complacency this year is a risky strategy.

3. Ask the right questions

Will this make the boat go faster? I used to have a client who had this hung on the office wall. It is an old adage from Olympic rowing success, and it is a good one. How will this comms strategy help the business to grow, sell, improve performance? If that can’t be explained beyond ‘awareness’ – well, there is your answer. We’re already talking to people who have put a pin in PR because the big creative ideas had woolly success criteria. They won’t be the only ones. The right questions do go further though. What more could we be doing to help the client? Do we know what else is going on within their walls – and can our advice assist?

4. Mess with the bull, get the horns

PR is not always known for its transparency. But obfuscation and vague thinking will get short shrift. This is true at any time, but it is doubly so when the recession is on the horizon. Big thinking and grand creative ideas are great, and there will always be a place for them. But are they really what the brand needs right now? ‘Yes’ is a fine answer. ‘No’ can be equally necessary.

5. Remember the value of what we do

Yes, it might be hard to put a figure on sometimes. But it remains true that effective PR can be one of the most cost-effective ways for companies to market, and one of the biggest gaps to fill if it is lost. For example, there is no business quite as motivated for their comms than one facing an unexpected crisis without advice. There will be cases where a smart SEO push or a mass ad campaign may bring more immediate benefit to a business – that is all in the mix, it is how marketing works. The essence of PR is simple communication; who the client is and what they do. Facilitate a dialogue. You can still bring people together, even when everyone is feeling the crunch. Sometimes that is when it matters most.

For more trends to watch out for this year, check out these 15 trends to plan for in PR and comms in 2023. And need more ideas for effective measurment to prove the value of your work? Here are seven ways to measure your content.

SEO and PR working together

PR and SEO working together: How to dominate search engine results

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a crucial part of digital marketing, helping drive traffic and generating visibility for brands.

With proven strategies such as keyword research, on-page optimisation, off-page optimisation, and measuring the results, PR professionals can push their content up the search rankings and generate valuable publicity for content.

In this article we will explore the blueprint for PR and SEO working together effectively, so you have the tools to optimise your content and dominate the search engine results.

Keyword research

Importance of keywords

Keyword research is the crucial first step when optimising content for SEO. This is where your strategy is built.

Researching keywords gives you insight into the phrases and terms your target audience is using to find information related to your industry or service.

It uncovers the opportunities for ranking for different keywords. The idea is to find keywords that are relevant to your business with good search volume. But you also want to find keywords which have lower levels of competition, giving your content the better chance of ranking higher.

Your chosen keywords will also be used to optimise meta data. More on that later…

How to find relevant keywords

You can find relevant keywords using dedicated keyword research tools.

You can use Google’s Keyword Planner for free, however paid platforms such as SEMrush and Ahrefs provide better quality data and are usually the best tools for finding keywords to target. These tools also provide insight into competition, telling you how difficult it would be to rank for each specific keyword.

The keywords you choose should have a high enough search volume to generate a significant amount of traffic. But keep in mind that you should also consider targeting long-tail keywords, which are more specific phrases that tend to have lower search volume.

For example, ‘fitness app’ will have thousands of searches per month, but also a huge amount of competition so it would be very hard to rank for. ‘Best fitness app for women’ has far less search volume overall, but it is also less competitive. These long-tail keywords are the foundation of your PR and SEO working together.

You can also use SEMrush and Ahrefs to analyse the keywords that competitor brands are using on their websites and in their content. This could help uncover keywords you may have missed or give you a better idea of what to target.

When selecting keywords, make sure they are relevant to your brand and the content on your website. This helps search engines direct the right kinds of traffic to your site. And also consider the intent behind the keywords. Are users typing them in to find information, or looking to purchase a product or service? Target the keywords that match the goals of your brand.

On-page optimisation

After you have chosen your keywords and written your fine piece of content, it is time to do some on-page optimisation.

These are techniques for optimising individual webpages so they rank higher and earn relevant traffic in search engines.

Here is a checklist for making sure your content is optimised:

Headlines and meta tags

The title and meta description are two vital elements of on-page SEO. They should include your chosen keyword that you want to rank for and accurately describe the content of the page.

Title tags should be no more than 70 characters, while meta descriptions should be no more than 150 characters. This is to ensure that they don’t get cut off in the search engine results page.

Headlines and meta tags should be written in a compelling way, in order to encourage users to click through to the page. Use modifiers such as ‘best’, ‘guide’, ‘review’, etc. in the headlines and meta tags to make them more compelling and increase click-through-rates.

Keywords in the body text

The body text should also include your chosen keyword, but they should be used in a natural way and not over-stuffed. A good rule of thumb is using your keyword no more than once for every 300 words.

The first 100 words of a page are the most important for SEO. By including relevant keywords in this section, you can signal to search engines what the content of the page is about.

Instead of repeating the same keyword multiple times, use variations of the keywords. This will make the content more natural and also can help to avoid keyword stuffing.

You can also add Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. These LSI keywords are words and phrases that are related to the main keywords and help to give more context to the content. Using LSI keywords can help to improve the relevance of the content and can also help to avoid keyword stuffing.

Heading tags

These tags (H1s, H2s, etc.) allow you to structure your content in a clear and engaging format. H1 is the primary heading and main title on your page. H2 marks the first sub-heading, H3 is the sub-heading below that, etc. These help search engines understand your content better and improve user experience. We would not recommend going further than a H3 tag to structure your content.

Internal and external links

Your page should include some internal (pointing to other pages on your website) and external (pointing to pages on other websites) links. Ideally you would incorporate keywords into the internal links, which tells search engines what the linked content is about. External links pointing to high authority websites signal to search engines that you’re providing trustworthy content.

High-quality content

Search engines reward websites that provide valuable, informative, and engaging content. Writing high-quality content is crucial for on-page optimisation, and it can also help to attract backlinks from other websites, which is another ranking factor. Therefore, it is important to use keywords in a natural and organic way, avoiding keyword stuffing and making sure that the content is well written and informative.

Optimising images and videos

Images and videos can also be optimized for SEO by adding appropriate alt tags and file names, and compressing the files to reduce their size. Image alt tags should describe the image specifically and succinctly – e.g. ‘Business teacher pointing at computer screen’.

With these on-page techniques, PR professionals can improve their content in the eyes of search engines and give their content a better chance of ranking. Now, time to publish.

Tracking SEO progress

Monitoring your results

After publishing your content you can track your SEO progress. This helps measure your SEO strategy.

One way of measuring results is through keyword position tracking. Again, we recommended tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush here, as they can help you track your rankings for specific keywords over time. This gives you data into how your site is performing in search engine results.

Another important metric to look at is traffic your website receives from search engines. This is done through Google Analytics, which is free to use. Using this tool, you can also keep an eye on bounce rate and time on site. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site after only visiting one page. Time on site is the average amount of time visitors spend on your site. These metrics tell you how engaging your content is.

You can also check your backlink profile to measure SEO progress. Backlinks are when other websites provide a link back to your content, and they’re an important ranking factor. When you get a backlink, search engines consider this a positive ‘vote’ for your content which indicates that you’re providing value. Backlinks from good quality websites will help increase the authority of your site.

Finally, you can track conversions. If your content has been created with the goal of generating specific conversions (sales, form submissions, phone calls, etc.) then you can track these in Google Analytics.

Regularly monitoring your SEO progress helps you identify the areas where your strategy is working and where you can make improvements.

PR and SEO working together

SEO is an important aspect of a PR professional’s work. By using these strategies and monitoring the results, you can increase the visibility of your content across search engines and drive valuable traffic for your brand.

For more on SEO, download our white paper the ‘SEO best practice guide for PR‘. And get even more useful data on the effectiveness of your work with Vuelio Media Monitoring and Stakeholder Management

How to use data to prove the power of your PR

How to use data to prove the power of your PR

The full potential and power of good PR is often intangible, with no one industry-wide metric shared by every comms team. What kind of data is most effective to demonstrate the value of your work to your c-suite and clients?

The PRCA’s ‘Data Literacy in PR Report’ features essays from 11 industry leaders including Stephen Waddington, Andrew Bruce Smith, Orla Graham, Steve Leigh, Sophie Coley, Stella Bayles, James Crawford, Alex Judd and Allison Spray covering how data can make your PR successful.

Here are five takeaways from the report:

1) Decide on your KPIs from the start

‘Numbers and data analysis should play a vital role in every aspect of public relations. Every campaign should begin with goal setting and research and involve answering many important questions…’   Andrew Bruce Smith

The essay ‘What Numbers Matter in Public Relations?’ highlights the importance of setting your Key Performance Indicators at the start of a project. No one metric to rule them all in the industry? Then determine your own, and how to source relevant data that will inform your planning process.

2. Refine your processes throughout the campaign cycle

‘It is worth noting that measurement and evaluation works best when it is used as a process of continuous improvement. It should be a circular activity. We learn what works best so that we can refine and enhance plans and maximise the impact of available resources…’ – Orla Graham and Steve Leigh.

In ‘Design a Listening and Measurement Strategy’, refining and rethinking is promoted as an intrinsic part of any successful project cycle. Any starting framework is likely to grow and evolve as more data is gathered, allowing for exploration of additional KPIs where needed.

3. Listen to the right audiences

‘Once you’ve designed a measurement strategy, you need to find sources for that data. This presents new challenges; how to identify your audience and how best to extract meaningful data from them.

‘Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses. There is no definitive “right” answer. Choose the right approach for your needs by focusing on what you are trying to learn…’ – Sophie Coley and Steve Leigh

For finding the right audience, ‘Identifying a Public and Listening to Conversations’ recommends the use of surveys, social media and searches. Surveys can be useful in the planning stage, to measure impacts during a campaign, and in the post-project analysis stage. For using social media and searches, social listening can help – find out more here.

4. Push the limitations of the tools you use

‘Tools and tech stacks are increasingly important for the public relations industry. Despite ever-growing scope and complexity, there is still no silver bullet as every client has different objectives. Public relations can be used in many ways to achieve a broad range of outcomes…’ – Stella Bayles and James Crawford

‘What is possible to achieve with tools and what are their limitations?’ tackles the question from the point of view of both the tool user and the vendor. While tools can ‘bridge the data literacy gap’, they can also complicate things if not used correctly. Rather than relying on raw data that comes in a one-size-fits-all format, seek out bespoke reports that will provide accurate reporting for your particular project.

5. Translate your data to make the outcomes clear

‘No matter what kind of project you’re running, your sector (or specialism), chances are you have faced what many professionals dread: a wall of statistics, charts, and data points. A litany of information pointing you towards something. But what are you going to do with it all? Resist the urge to find a word cloud, throw it on a slide and give yourself a pat on the back. Instead, take a different path, start your journey to find an insight…’ – Alex Judd and Allison Spray

Reams of numbers and graphs can look incredibly impressive or utterly intimidating. Before presenting them to your management team, or scanning for meaning yourself, go back to the problem your project or campaign was trying to solve in the first place and link the numbers accordingly. As a PR, you already have the skill set to bring data to life and sell your story to any audience – even those making the big decisions on your team’s budget for the following year…

Download the full paper ‘Data Literacy in PR’ from the PRCA website.

For advice on integrating PR into the C-suite level, read our write-up of our webinar with Stephen Waddington, Dr Jon White and Rachel Roberts ‘Level up your PR career: Getting ready for management’.



Updates from COP27

The latest updates from COP27 brought to you each day by the Vuelio Political Services team.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

COP27: Biodiversity Day

  • Thérèse Coffey, the Environment Secretary, set out UK support to protect the world’s oceans and natural habitats. She called on countries to come together at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal to agree a robust plan for tackling nature loss.  
    • The Government pledged £30m to the Big Nature Impact Fund – a new public-private fund for nature in the UK. 
    • An additional £12m was pledged to the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance to protect and restore vulnerable coastal communities and habitats. 
    • A further £6m to provide capacity building support to developing countries to increase commitments to nature and nature-based solutions under the Paris Agreement. 
    • A new UK climate finance contribution of £5m toward the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the Amazon. This hopes to tackle deforestation. 
    • Coffey outlined the importance of mangroves and the climate benefits of blue carbon.
  • The COP26 President convened Ministers and senior representatives to accelerate the transition to Zero Emissions Vehicles:
    • Launching the new Accelerating to Zero Coalition – a platform for leading initiatives to work together to deliver a Paris-aligned Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) transition globally.
    • Announcing a total of 214 ZEV Declaration signatories, committing them to a global all-ZEV sales target by 2040, and 2035 in leading markets, including new signatories France and Spain.
    • Launching a support package for emerging markets and developing economy (EMDE) countries, backed through a Global Commitment by donor countries including the UK, US, Germany and Japan.


Tuesday, 15 November 2022

COP27: ACE & Civil Society and Energy Day.

  • The Government have announced the launch of the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership at G20 which builds on momentum from COP27. The partnership will mobilise £17bn over the next 3-5 years to accelerate a just energy transition. The UK will support delivery of the partnership, including a $1bn World Bank guarantee.


Monday, 14 November 2022

The second week at COP27 begins with Adaptation & Agriculture Day.

  • Alok Sharma made a speech at the High-Level Ministerial round table on pre-2030 ambition
    • He reiterated the need to stick to 1.5 degrees, noting the harm caused by exceeding this for many countries globally.
    • He said we have the business community on-side: 200 international businesses on Saturday signed an open letter in defence of 1.5
    • There is work to do on finances: more in terms of Multilateral development bank reform, more on the Just Energy Transition Partnership.
    • He called for progress on mitigation, and on loss and damage.
    • He asked G20 leaders to reaffirm their 1.5 commitment at the G20 summit.
    • There are four mitigation outcomes that need to be achieved: (1) Countries that have not set Nationally Determined Contributions need to do so (there are 33 that have set NDCs); (2) Clear commitments to science; (3) Further steps to phase out coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies; (4) The legalities of the Mitigation Work Programme need to be agreed.

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Day 6 at COP27 was Adaptation & Agriculture Day.

Friday, 11 November 2022

Day 5 at COP27 was Decarbonisation Day. COP26 President, Alok Sharma spoke at the COP27 Breakthrough Agenda event.

  • The Business Secretary, Grant Shapps has announced at least £65m investment to help speed up the development of new green technologies globally. This will be part of the Industry Transition Programme, by the Climate Investment Funds. The Government will also support a new funding window from the Mitigation Action Facility for projects developing clean tech.
  • The Breakthrough Agenda was first launched at COP26- a commitment by 47 signatory countries to work together internationally this decade to accelerate the development and deployment of the clean technologies and sustainable solutions needed to meet our Paris Agreement goals, ensuring they are affordable and accessible for all.  Countries today on the 11 November launch a package of 25 new collaborative actions to be delivered by COP28 to speed up the decarbonisation under five key breakthroughs of power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.
    • The UK and Morocco have agreed to co-lead the Power Breakthrough: Clean power is the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their power needs efficiently by 2030.
    • The UK, US and EU have agreed to co-lead the Hydrogen Breakthrough: Affordable renewable and low carbon hydrogen is globally available by 2030.
    • The US, India and UK have agreed to co-leads the Road Transport Breakthrough: Zero emission vehicles are the new normal and accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030. 
    • Egypt and UK have agreed to co-lead the Agriculture Breakthrough: Sustainable, decarbonised agriculture with investment in agriculture research, development and demonstration addressing challenges of food security, climate change and environmental degradation.  

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Day 4 at COP27 was Science, and Youth & Future Generations Day. 

  • COP26 President Alok Sharma met with Vietnam’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources to discuss Vietnam’s energy transition. They recommitted to finalising the details of a political declaration and package of financial support for Vietnam’s energy transition, reaching an agreement before the end of 2022.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Day 3 at COP27 was Finance Day. The Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons, reiterating the UK policy announcements made during the World Leaders’ Summit.

  • UK Export Finance have announced as part of COP27 Finance Day that it will become the first export credit agency in the world to offer Climate Resilience Debt Clauses in its direct sovereign lending. The clauses will offer low-income countries and small island developing states the ability to defer debt repayments in the event of a severe climate shock or natural disaster.
  • The Exchequer Secretary, James Cartlidge,announced the publication of the UK Transition Plan Taskforce’s Disclosure Framework. It outlines the key design principles which will underpin Climate Resilient Debt Clauses for use in private sector lending, and called for all creditors – including private banks, other bilateral lenders and the international financial institutions – to explore adopting these clauses. 
  • The UK has announced its support for Colombia’s emergency plan to stop deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. The Joint Declaration of Intent between Colombia, Germany, Norway and the UK from 2015 has been extended until 2025. Norway and Germany announced new contributions of $25m. There has been no new funding commitment made by the UK.

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

The 2nd and final day of the World Leaders’ Summit began with reports that the UK and US are about to announce a major fossil fuel deal following COP27, with the US planning to sell £10bn of cubic metres of liquefied natural gas to Britain in 2023 in order to improve energy security.  

New funding commitments  

  • The Foreign Secretary has announced £200m financial support to the African Development Bank’s Climate Action Window to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is part of yesterday’s commitment to triple adaptation funding targets from £500m to £1.5bn (2019-2025).

Scottish commitments

  • Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, has pledged £5m funding to tackle loss and damage caused by the climate crisis in developing countries.

Monday, 7 November 2022

The new COP27 President, Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, opened the World Leaders’ Summit today. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spent the day meeting other heads of state and delivered his speech to the conference floor. His speech followed warnings from the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, that the world is ‘on a highway to climate hell’, saying that in order to save humanity, we must ‘co-operate or perish’. Meanwhile, the UN Environmental Programme has labelled progress on cutting emissions ‘woefully inadequate’ since COP26 in Glasgow last year.  

New funding commitments

  • General commitments 
    • The Prime Minister confirmed that his new Government would stick to the £11.6bn international climate fund that was pledged last year, but it’s possible the plan could take longer than the five years originally planned. 
    • Sunak announced that the UK will triple funding for adaptation programmes from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn in 2025.  
    • £65m for the Nature, People and Climate Investment Fund, supporting indigenous and local forest communities. 
    • £65.5m for the Clean Energy Innovation Facility which provides grants to researchers and scientists in developing countries to accelerate the development of clean technology. 
    • As part of the new Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, Sunak confirmed more than £150m for protecting rainforests and natural habitats, including the Congo Basin (£90m) and the Amazon. 
    • The Foreign Secretary will announce £100m to support developing economies to respond to climate-related disasters, including £20.7m in Disaster Risk Financing to support countries who face climate-related disasters, and £13m to support vulnerable countries to adapt to climate impacts.  
    • Speaking today, Nicola Sturgeon said her government are set to announce a proposal on aid for vulnerable countries, criticising the poor delivery of the $100bn climate finance commitment. 
  • Place-specific commitments 
    • New financial support for Egypt’s COP27 initiative, ‘Nexus on Food, Water and Energy’ to develop projects including solar parks and energy storage innovations. 
    • Climate finance support for the UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership. 
    • £95m for Nigeria to support the development of climate-resilient agriculture. 

International partnerships

  • The UK has launched the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership. The new group will meet twice a year to track commitments on Forests and Land Use Declaration from COP26 (aiming to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030). The Partnership has 26 members, accounting for 33% world’s forests.  
  • The UK and Kenya have reaffirmed their commitment to the UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership, including progressing on green investment projects: new and expanded solar and geothermal power plants, financing railway and a dam hydropower project. 
  • The UK will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Colombia to renew the ‘Partnership for Sustainable Growth’. 
  • The UK, alongside the US, Norway and the Netherlands pledged to roll out ‘green shipping corridors’ with maritime routes decarbonised from end to end. The UK and US agreed to launch a special Green Shipping Corridor Task Force to bring together sector experts to encourage research and development.

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

Stakeholder Management

A guide to the benefits of Stakeholder Management

Every business and brand has stakeholder relationships that need to be tracked and nurtured. A centralised solution can provide teams with a press office, a central space to save and manage your messaging, a bank of key contacts, resources for issue and crisis management and readily available data for reporting back to your internal stakeholders.

This guide covers the principles and importance of stakeholder management and how SRM platforms can provide solutions for your current strategy and future approach, as well as help prevent any future comms disasters.

Press office management

1. Managing your press office

Fielding calls and emails from journalists, the public, your community, your colleagues – press office management should be part of any stakeholder management solution. This function provides a place to log and manage every interaction your brand and business has across the team, skipping over the possibility of information silos or missed connections.

Search previous and current engagements to find every logged conversation happening across your brand and keep the interaction going to deepen both the burgeoning and ongoing relationships key to your business.

Vuelio Enquiries

2. Managing your messaging

Even organisations with clear shared goals and firmly established brand personalities are at risk of incorrect messaging, outdated brand assets or tonally-wrong comms being shared by well-meaning team members without access to the latest documents. A stakeholder management platform provides a space for brand assets ready for sharing with co-workers and colleagues in company-wide internal communications as well as external media contacts and consumer bases.

To add to the press office function of contact and engagement management, a stakeholder management solution provides a convenient shared hub for building your bank of press releases, logos, images, email campaigns, relevant reporting and more. With easy access to these assets, those working on specific campaigns, or managing a crisis that needs a response, can share the relevant materials across the appropriate avenues.

Issues management

3. Shared banks of stakeholders

Gone are the days of relying on outdated and easily-broken Outlook and Excel spreadsheets filled with complicated data and formulas. Vuelio’s Stakeholder Database provides a shared repository for your internal and external stakeholders and groups.

Find contact details you need with simple searches and filtering. For gaps in memory, refresh yourself on the last interaction you had with certain contacts. Whenever you logged your last conversation with a stakeholder, Vuelio’s platform keeps a real-time overview of engagements and a detailed history of the interactions you save on each profile card.

Tracking engagement across your entire organisation can be made even easier with personalised customisations to your dashboard. By setting your dashboard to meet your needs and specific expectations, you can reduce the time spent searching for specific engagements and contacts… with no broken formulas or random reformatting to hold you back.


4. Crisis management

A centralised overview of all engagements and available resources is particularly useful for issue-based management in successful times. It is also vital for the more challenging times that may come for your business.

Where saving time, team effort and avoiding missteps is particularly important is crisis communications. While the hope, of course, is that crisis comms will not be needed any time soon, preparing for any eventuality is a must in the modern PR, public affairs, political and comms space.

To aid you in being ready for any issues that could crop up in the future, Vuelio’s unique module for issue management provides a connected hub for communications, media activities and all assets currently in place for specific projects or, if they happen to arise, problems.

Stakeholder management

5. Reporting back

For when it is time to report back to your internal stakeholders on the success of your external stakeholder engagement comms, management tools like Vuelio have a range of fully-customisable reports to populate with proof of your good work.

In fact, Vuelio Stakeholder Management can be accessed anywhere you can log on, meaning that whether you are meeting with internal stakeholders, regulators, industry bodies, the media, Government agencies or communities important to your sector, you can find the information you need to develop these relationships.

Demonstrate the value of your efforts and the reach of your messaging to your stakeholders now, and get ready for the future of your organisation with the ability to analyse areas for improvement and opportunity in preparation for your next big campaign.

For more on Vuelio’s solutions for public relations, comms, public affairs and politics, check out information on our products including Media Monitoring and the Vuelio Media Database.

JustGiving on the cost-of-living crisis

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis: Mema Nackasha at JustGiving

While people feel the bite of rising energy and food bills across the country, charities and organisations like JustGiving continue their efforts to help those in need.

Head of charity partnerships Mema Nackasha shares how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted the JustGiving team and those they work with and how approaches to fund and awareness-raising have had to change.

How has the cost-of-living crisis in the UK impacted the charities JustGiving works with, as well as your own work?

Over the last few months, as people grapple with the cost-of-living crisis, some household budgets have likely been placed under pressure. However, those able to, have increased their donations. It is heart-warming to see that those in a position to support worthy causes across the JustGiving platform are doing so. Overall, the average donation amount has increased by 10% this year compared to 2021, and 21% compared to 2019.

Monumental events and challenges often shape the way in which people give. While it may feel concerning at times to think about donations trends like those seen during 2008 recession, our knowledge of these previous donation patterns means that as an industry we are better placed to support charities through these turbulent times.

What are the unique challenges UK charities are facing right now?

The pandemic and many lockdowns we faced has meant the way in which people are supporting charities has changed. And now that we’re (hopefully) coming out the other side, there’s been an understandable shift in people wanting to travel and enjoy ‘normal’ life.

Viral challenges like ‘See Ten Do Ten’ and the ‘NHS Active Challenge’ have been replaced with trips abroad, where fundraisers climb mountain peaks or take on marathon bike rides – all in the name of a good cause.

Alongside this, we’ve seen a trend in charity giving becoming more issues based. People are spending less time scrolling social media finding the next 5K challenge and are instead focusing on single moments in time or bigger societal or humanitarian events, for example BowelBabe or the floods in Pakistan.

What have been some of your main successes recently?

Historically, the charity sector has not seen rapid technological innovation when compared to the corporate sector. At JustGiving, we’ve been listening closely to our charity partners and have been agile and adaptable to the changing donor behaviours. We’ve built microsites that put charity logos and messaging front and centre; these microsites have supported both virtual and in-person events and have enabled fundraisers to raise more. Another one we’re proud of is our partnership with SwiftAid that has simplified and improved the way charities collect Gift Aid.

We’re lucky to have an extremely talented team, who are devoted to helping our charities raise huge sums for the amazing causes they serve. This is evident in the speed at which we’ve been able to engage with charities, small and large, to answer support calls when big crises hit. Overnight we’ve set up support functions that share tips, knowledge, and insight with our partners on the best practices for raising funds during these big moments.

What advice would you offer to organisations hoping to be heard by politicians and change-makers on this issue?

As with most businesses in the UK, charities are feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. This is particularly true for charities that serve causes disconnected from the current topic on everyone’s lips – the cost-of-living crisis. Lesser-known organisations that the country relies on for life-saving research or healthcare may struggle with engagement as givers focus on the cost-of-living.

These charities must highlight the need to focus on the long term. After the cost-of-living crisis, we will still need research into cancer cures or hospice care for our children. We need to make sure that changemakers understand that without immediate action these charities will fail. And if they do, the hundreds of thousands they support will be without help.

How would you advise others with approaching the media to gain coverage?

JustGiving pages are full of stirring stories, those who are challenging themselves to achieve the unachievable, from scaling peaks to smashing world records in an effort to raise money for loved ones.

During these tough times for individuals across the country, people are looking for a chance to read or hear specific stories that they can relate to, that make them laugh, that inspire them or warm their hearts. When charities are engaging with the media, these are the stories to tell.

How do you ensure that your approach is sensitive to those struggling/particularly vulnerable during this crisis?

We all need to be sensitive to those who cannot afford to give – many people can’t, and that’s more than okay. There are still people from every corner of the country who are looking to support charities.

If you’re looking to increase the chances of those individuals finding your cause you need to share, share, share. Every social media post, link, etc. will help – sharing your page is just as valuable as donating yourself. We’ve seen some really interesting data around what does and doesn’t work when raising money. For example, users simply sharing their page on social media see a 20% increase in the amount they raise!

Are there particular journalists/sectors of the media you’d like to highlight as doing a good job on reporting on the cost-of-living crisis?

The cost-of-living crisis, the need to help businesses and households is front page news every day, as it should be. This has played a huge role in spurring leaders into action and delivering support.

However, there has been less coverage of the impact on the charity sector. The BBC has covered the cost of rising energy bills on a children’s hospice, ITV has reported on a charity that supports children with disabilities struggling to keep up with the cost-of-living and the sector trades have been covering the issue extensively, but overall we need more coverage to help drive support and much needed donations.

For more on how comms teams are communicating the cost-of-living crisis, read our previous interviews with cancer charity Maggie’s and business utilities marketplace Love Energy Savings.

Laura Sutherland on sustainability in PR

‘If not now, when?’ – Aura’s Laura Sutherland on sustainable PR

‘We know work is needed on sustainability. What is needed more than anything is ACTION; if not now, when?’

Aura and PRFest founder Laura Sutherland is passionate about is sustainability. Having centred last year’s PRFest around the subject, Laura is also working with the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group to highlight what those in PR can do to boost and share the right information. Her latest initiative to aid the PR industry in making a positive impact on climate change – the launch of the Synergy Framework; a sustainable approach to comms.

Read on for Laura’s aims, the responsibilities that PR cannot ignore and which brands are already doing the work.

What sparked the launch of the Synergy Framework?

Businesses and organisations struggle to know where to start with sustainability; there’s so much information and also misinformation. They often either don’t make an attempt, stick their head in the sand, or worse, greenwash, as a result. I want to show there is a huge opportunity ahead, for us all!

The work I’ve been doing in stakeholder relations over the past few years has shown that businesses are not good at auditing, mapping and scoring them, therefore they don’t really know what they need or want. Equally, we all know that measurement and evaluation is an ongoing push to drive up standards in our industry.

Aura’s Synergy Framework integrates all of the essential aspects of a successful strategy and plan, but importantly, incorporates the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the strategy. They are global and there to be used, but, married with the stakeholder work and the roll out of plans with action, it’s a ready-made framework which any size of business or organisation can use.

This also means that businesses and organisations aren’t just focused on one thing. Yes, the goals need to be prioritised, but if you know the SDGs, they cover everything from wellbeing to diversity and recycling to finance. It’s comprehensive.

It’s a way forward and a great starting point to move to a sustainable future. I want to lead with a positive approach and do as much as the client needs me to. I want to help agencies get better at this too by showing them how the framework can be used in their work. For me, this is a massive opportunity for collaboration for good.

Where does the PR industry – in-house and agency-side – need to start doing more on sustainability?

I’m part of the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and we recently announced the results of our second piece of industry research.

While our industry is getting better at learning, advising and even pushing back on what might be greenwashing, we have a way to go. 45% have noticed their clients/organisation attempting to greenwash. 89% (of the 45%) have pushed back and 57% managed to change the approach as a result.

It starts with our own learning about what we can do to help our clients and organisations.

Then, it’s about building confidence in what we are advising, who we are collaborating with, bringing everyone along on the journey and then, of course, how we are telling that sustainability story. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s about leaders in our industry actually leading. 45% of respondents to the second annual survey from the PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group said their boss having a better understanding of the importance of addressing the climate crisis would help them prioritise it in relation to their work.

Which brand work/campaigns from recent years do you think are great examples of PR pushing forward on sustainability concerns and topics?

Patagonia is always a brand to look to for all things sustainability. They do it so well! Of course, we have my fellow Strategy Group and Chair John Brown’s agency’s work with Meridian, fighting deforestation.

And I can’t miss my own work with Mercat Tours, which is the first client I’ve used the Synergy Framework with – that’s kind of how it evolved, actually. We’re working on an impact report now, to bring all the work of the last 12 months together. It’s not all about pomp and show… businesses can be sustainable, do their bit for society, economy and the planet, tell their story without fancy, costly campaigns.

Find out more about Laura Sutherland’s work in her previous guest post about PRFest and take a look at more statistics from the second annual PRCA Climate Misinformation Strategy Group and Opinion report here.

Accessibility in email

How to make your next PR email campaign accessible for everyone

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

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

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

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

The answer is by ensuring emails are accessible for everyone.

Why do consumers ignore emails?

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

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

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

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

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

Developing an accessibility mindset

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

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

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

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

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

The dangers of embedded images

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

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

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

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

Offering multi-language emails

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

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

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

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

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

Email continues to be the leading customer communication tool for marketers

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

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

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

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

The pain points of a marketing campaign

The pain points of a marketing campaign

This is a guest post from Yasmin Russell, head of marketing at digital agency Engage.

Yasmin Russell, Campaign

There are a number of things that can cause issues during a marketing campaign, from KPIs to time, however there are things that can be done to mitigate these problems and even solve them to ensure a campaign runs effectively. 

It’s essential to establish the KPIs of a campaign early on. Not having clear KPIs when starting a campaign can lead to unrealistic targets being set, or KPIs that don’t reflect what the client is looking to achieve with the campaign.

Realistic KPIs, in particular, are crucial. A client’s expectations must be managed to ensure achievable goals for a campaign are set at the start of the relationships. There’s no point in having a client expecting to achieve one million followers in one month, for example, as this generally simply isn’t possible.

The user journey
If the full user journey hasn’t been considered, it’s very likely that there’ll be touchpoints that are missed which therefore don’t portray a consistent message, including copy and creative.

It’s important to ensure the campaign offers users or consumers a cohesive journey to keep them on the right path that aligns with key objectives, such as awareness. A cohesive user journey can be developed through a number of avenues such as making sure the campaign has a consistent look and feel to support memorability, or ensuring every step of the journey is optimised to support conversion.

The audience
It’s very easy to forget that the audiences you’re trying to target are actually made up of individual people. Marketing is about giving an audience what they want, not what the marketer or company wants.

People are increasingly savvy to overtly advertising content. People will often go online to achieve a goal, escape, be entertained, or informed, and content and campaigns should be tailored to meet these goals.

A campaign shouldn’t just be posted and begin running. It’s important to build a community and rapport with an audience. This can include replying to DMs in good time, responding to comments, and resharing tagged posts.

Taking the target audience on a journey through a campaign and considering all aspects of the marketing funnel is crucial, as people are often unlikely to part with their money on the first touchpoint.

The checkout journey
The checkout journey is crucial to engage users and encourage repeat purchases. It’s very frustrating for a user to reach the point of purchase, only for them to give up because the checkout journey takes too long or some of the fields are broken.

Offering Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay and other systems, alongside taking the time to optimise and user test this part of the journey is very important.

More time
Campaigns can always do with more time than is available, particularly for any company trying to reach a seasonal deadline. For example, receiving a Christmas brief in December isn’t ideal.

Working one month ahead is a good place to start, while big seasonal events should ideally have planning and ideation begin at least one quarter in advance. By setting realistic goals and expectations a marketing campaign will run much more smoothly, and be more likely to achieve the KPIs that have been set.

Feedback on a marketing campaign can be tricky to navigate, particularly when balancing best practice with brand requirements and personal opinions.

There’s always going to be a degree of both subjective (for example, disliking text colour), and objective (the price being incorrect) feedback. It’s important to rationalise any choices and keep an open dialogue on these points. As for objective feedback, the more detailed the brief and the more people that proof the campaign before it goes live, the less likely objective feedback will be required.

For more on building strong campaigns, read this guest post from Taxi For Email’s Email Evangelist Elliot Ross on how to build strong foundations for a successful email campaign.

Government broadcast white paper

Government shares what’s next for the broadcasting sector

The Government has published the long-awaited broadcasting white paper: ‘Up next – the Government’s vision for the broadcasting sector’, addressing several of the announcements from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the last year such as the privatisation of Channel 4 and the end of the BBC TV license fee.

In keeping with the Secretary of State’s engagement with the press on these issues, Nadine Dorries spoke to The Spectator on her vision for the sector, confirming that decisions on the license fee will be taken ‘well ahead of the Charter renewal in 2027’. She noted these policies have been in the ether for years and stated that ‘over a long period of time, not a huge amount had been delivered from my department’.

On the license fee model, the white paper stated there were ‘clear challenges on the horizon to the sustainability of the license fee’ and that controversial criminal sanctions for non-payment were ‘disproportionate and unfair’. In response, the BBC welcomed ‘the steps to secure the ongoing success of public service broadcasters’ and said it ‘looks forward to engaging with the Government on both the forthcoming mid-term review and then the national debate on the next Charter’.

Up Next detailed how new legislation will ensure broadcaster content is accessible on connected devices and online platforms. Streaming services will be required to feature them and PSBs will share the content, with the Government consulting on this. On demand services will also be brought into Ofcom’s Broadcasting code to protect viewers from harmful material including unchallenged health claims. Among other changes, DCMS stated the broadcasting remit will be overhauled, with a new definition on what it means to be a public service broadcaster (PSB) with a focus on creating shows that reflect British culture and support domestic film and TV production in all parts of the country. The Government also stated that only PSBs will be able to secure rights to major sporting events such as FIFA and Wimbledon.

The privatisation of Channel 4 was confirmed in the policy document, despite 96% of responses to the Government consultation stating they did not agree that there are ‘challenges in the current TV broadcasting market’. Under the new plans, the channel will be able to produce and sell its own content as a private entity but will still be required to commission a certain amount of content from independent producers. DCMS has also reinforced the expectation that Channel 4 continues to provide distinctive and experimental programming and said the proceeds of the channel’s sale will be used to set up a ‘creative dividend’ for the sector. In a statement, Channel 4 said it remained committed to upholding and maximising its remit and public service purpose.

Up Next set out Government plans to:
• Freeze the price of the TV license for two years.
• Increase the BBC’s commercial borrowing limit from £350m to £750m.
• Pursue a change of ownership of Channel 4.
• Make the importance of programmes broadcast in the UK’s indigenous regional and minority languages clear in legislation by including it in the new public service remit for television.
• Update S4C’s public service remit to include digital and online services and remove the current geographical broadcasting restrictions. The Government will also legislate to support S4C and the BBC in moving away from the current framework requiring the BBC to provide S4C with a specific number of hours of television programming.
• Replace the fourteen overlapping ‘purposes’ and ‘objectives’ that public service broadcasters must contribute to with a new, shorter remit. PSBs will be accountable for the extent of their contributions.
• Introduce a new prominence regime for on-demand television, with Ofcom being given the new enforcement powers.
• Make changes to the local TV licensing regime to enable the extension of the local TV multiplex licence until 2034 and subject to the same conditions that apply to the national digital terrestrial television (DTT) multiplexes. The Government will consult on the options for the renewal or relicensing of individual local television services at the same time.
• Protect the UK’s terms of trade regime while updating it to reflect changes in technology. The Government will also consider whether there is a need to extend aspects of this regime to radio and audio producers responsible for programming for the BBC.
• Designating additional regulated electronic programme guides to bring internet-delivered services within the scope of Ofcom.

The paper also set out the Government’s vision for the future of broadcasting which included:
• Carrying out a review of the license fee funding model ahead of the next charter period.
• Long-term commitments to support cross-border broadcasting on the island of Ireland including funding for the Northern Ireland digital terrestrial television multiplex.
• Consulting on embedding the importance of distinctively British content directly into the existing quota system.
• Looking at making qualification for the listed events regime a benefit specific to public service broadcasters. There will also be a review looking into whether the scope of the listed events regime should be extended to include digital rights.
• Conducting an evaluation of the contestable fund pilot. This will include considering the lessons in determining whether a contestable fund model would provide additional value to the breadth and availability of UK produced public service content.
• Initiating a review looking at whether to introduce a revenue cap for ‘qualifying independent’ producer status.
• Supporting the British Film Commission to facilitate the growth of seven geographic production hubs, including one in each nation, and numerous new studio developments.
• Consulting in early 2023 on new proposals to champion the community radio sector and, where necessary, bringing forward changes to licensing requirements through amendments to the Community Radio Order 2004.
• Exploring ways to support UK broadcasters through possible changes in the wider advertising ecosystem. The Government intends to consider how to create a level playing field between broadcast and online advertising through the Online Advertising Programme.
• Ensuring that the UK’s trade policy complements and protects the UK’s audio visual public policy framework, including maintaining membership of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Transfrontier Television.
• Establishing a pro-competition regime in digital markets.
• Developing legislative proposals with Ofcom to address the divergence in provision of access services between broadcast and on-demand services.
• Enabling the long-term renewal of DTT multiplex licences through to 2034.

The sector had a mixed response to the white paper:

WGGB The Writers’ Union
The WGGB stated they remain concerned about the Government’s plan to push ahead with ‘its unnecessary and controversial plans to privatise Channel 4, freeze the BBC License Fee and review its funding model’. They went on to say that these, and other proposals, will have a devastating impact on creative workers, the creative industry and the wider UK economy.

Radiocentre expressed disappointment from the DCMS Digital Radio and Audio review, and the joint representations that the BBC and the commercial radio sector have made asking for radio to be protected from tech platforms have been ignored by Government. They went on to say they’re disappointed the Government recognises the importance of legislation for television but not for radio, putting the radio industry at a disadvantage.

A spokesperson for ITV said: ‘We welcome the Government’s recognition of the huge value the PSBs deliver to the UK and it’s decision to introduce a Media Bill to deliver the necessary reforms to ensure PSBs can continue to thrive’.

Streaming giant Netflix reiterated that they are ‘supportive of measures to update the legal framework and bring [our] service in the UK under Ofcom’s jurisdiction’.

Media Reform Coalition
The Media Reform Coalition referred to the plans in the white paper as a ‘spiteful and ideological move’ that ‘does nothing to confront the…lack of representativeness, adventure, risk-taking, accountability and plurality’ at the heart of the UK media system. They went on to say that the privatisation of Channel 4 will not address the issues of commissioning being skewed towards larger media companies and the relative lack of investment in content production outside of London, stating that it will do the opposite.

Dyfrig Davies, Chairman of TAC which represents independent television production in Wales, welcomed the white paper’s recommendations on S4C’s future but said that removing Channel 4’s status as a publisher-broadcaster is ‘worrying’. They also noted the decision to revise the remit of Public Service Broadcasting and look forward to engaging on that over the coming months.

In response to the reforms, Head of Bectu Philippa Childs commented: ‘The government’s plans are big on rhetoric but light on detail, particularly regarding creating more jobs and fostering continued growth for the UK’s thriving independent production sector. The UK’s much-loved public service broadcasters bring so much to the media landscape, and we need robust plans and legislation to protect and nurture their unique offering’.

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

Working with the c-suite successfully

Working with the c-suite successfully

This is a guest post from Martha Lane, PR trainee at Life Size Media.

Communicating with members of the C-suite is something most PR professionals will navigate at some point in their career. However, if contact with the C-suite is not something you have experience with, the prospect can seem daunting.

The following tips address common concerns surrounding communication with the Cs, whether within your own organisation or that of a client. Employing them will ensure the process is productive and enjoyable for both parties.

Having the confidence
The key to dealing with Cs is having the confidence, and this comes from knowing the value of your work. The work you are doing is vital to their company, so rather than viewing your meetings as a drain on their time, understand that they benefit both you and the company. No matter how junior you are, if you’re well-prepared you can form a productive relationship.

Ensuring successful meetings
Meetings with a C will usually be strategy-based. Make the most of their unique and experienced perspective.

Be switched on and ready to take notes at a super-fast pace. Ask if you can record the meeting if you think you may miss points or want to relisten to complex topics. Don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions to get the most valuable insight.

Your role will often involve interpreting the vision they put forward in these calls and translating it into action, for example, the creation of a content plan or PR calendar.

Since a common obstacle when contacting someone in an executive position is their lack of available time, it is important to be efficient with the time you do have together. Always go into a meeting prepared – do your research, be certain of what you are aiming to gain from the meeting beforehand and set out your agenda when you first invite them and at the beginning of the call.

Taking the time to do your research allows you to carry out your agenda in minimum time. This shows a respect for their time, which contributes to a productive working relationship for the long term.

Initiating communication
The form of communication you use is important. Though the preferred form of communication will vary between individuals and depend on what exactly you need, a call is always preferable for strategic questions, complex matters or when resolving issues. This may seem counter-intuitive as pinning down a C-level executive for a call can seem difficult given their busy schedule, but ultimately one in-depth call is much more efficient than days of back-and-forth emails.

Another advantage to calling over written communication is that you can gain a lot more information through a call – you can gauge the person you are speaking to better and identify misunderstandings before they develop.

What to do if your C is simply too busy to respond
One of the most common problems you may encounter is an unresponsive C. You may be able to anticipate times when the C-suite team is likely to be unavailable based on the state of business, so you can prepare for some disruption.

Stay ahead of the issue by constantly observing the company’s growth. The time may come when the C moves on in their role and, gaining other responsibilities, becomes less involved in day-to-day communication with you. If this happens, it is important to still keep your relationship alive. This is manageable – even if it means less regular calls and more to-the-point conversations, the quality of your communication can be maintained.

To maintain quality over quantity, plan ahead. Ask your C about their schedule well in advance, letting them know that you need to know this to ensure consistency in your comms work.

During periods when your C is not so readily available, there may be an alternative person in the company that can offer assistance when it comes to sharing information or providing approval. Minimising your C’s involvement like this allows you to utilise their limited time for points of business where their input is absolutely essential.

Finally, remember the key to communicating with the C-suite: being confident. It is at times like these, when your C is stretched thin, that it may be necessary to assert the importance of your role. Remind them that great communications are key to the success of their company and that their expertise and input is essential. Follow the advice laid out here and enjoy a productive relationship during even the most hectic times.

For managing relationships with your C-suite and stakeholders both internal and external to your organisation, check out Vuelio’s Stakeholder Management and Engagement solutions – book a demo here.

For more from Life Size Media, read this previous guest post from Martha Lane on Ensuring effective and successful communications across different cultures

Government Schools White Paper

Opportunity for all? Reaction to the latest Department for Education’s policy paper

Yesterday the Department for Education released the policy paper ‘Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child’, the first Schools White Paper since 2016. The Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tied the paper to the Government’s levelling up strategy in his statement, calling it ‘levelling up in action’.

Mentions of standardising children’s experience of school was mentioned throughout the paper, particularly in relation to good teaching and the of school’s provision through the commitment to a minimum 32.5 hours a week. However, some stakeholders found the paper ‘lacking in ambition’ and ability to address schools funding problems, while others agreed reform was necessary as the current school system is ‘messy and confusing’.

Stakeholder reaction to key policies:

1) Academisation
As predicted by the sector, the white paper led with a commitment for all schools to belong to a Multi-Academy Trust or be in the process of joining one by 2030. The NEU stated the white paper is a ‘message that the education of the future will be a souped-up version of what we have seen over the last decade’ and that the ‘reliance on multi-academy trusts is simply not evidence-led.’ General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted also quoted last week’s public accounts committee report which suggested the existing system ‘lacked transparency and accountability’. Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute, said that it was clear from their research ‘academisation is no “silver bullet” for improving school performance and there may simply not be enough capacity to absorb thousands of schools into higher performing MATs. The white paper does, however, allow local authorities to create their own trusts where provision is not suitably established, although the Green Party stated there is no evidence that academies raise standards overall.

2) English and Maths standards
‘Opportunity for All’ contained two commitments to standards of attainment. The parent pledge was a commitment from Government for 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected standards in Key Stage 2 reading, writing and maths by 2030. A second central ambition was to see the national average GCSE grade in both English language and maths increase from 4.5 to 5 by 2030. The Sutton Trust commented that ‘literacy and numeracy are the building blocks of a world class education, so the Government is right to make them the priority’. However, they also stated that this is a ‘tall order’ and that ‘it is extremely difficult for young people to catch up once they have fallen behind’. The Association of School and College Leaders commented that although improving English and maths is a laudable ambition, ‘there is little recognition of the wider societal factors which affect those outcomes’.

3) Mental Health Support
The Schools White Paper didn’t feature many new announcements for mental health support, which has been a key concern since the pandemic, but it did promise to accelerate the introduction of mental health support teams into schools. Several MPs, including Steve Brine, Neil Hudson and the Shadow Secretary for Education Bridget Phillipson, mentioned the issue, pointing to constituency issues like access to support services, following Nadhim Zahawi’s statement to the House.

4) Teacher recruitment and retention
The opportunity for all paper stated that at the heart if its ambitions is the need for an excellent teacher for every child. As well as restating the manifesto promise that teacher’s starting salaries would be raised to £30,000, the paper outlined an incentive to work in disadvantaged areas and specific incentives around maths, physics, chemistry, and computing teachers, in the beginning of their careers. However, the NASUWT stated this focus on retention was ironic given the profession ‘has seen their pay cut by 19% in real terms over the last 10 years’. Teach First welcomed the incentives but stated that it ‘remains unclear how schools – particularly those serving disadvantaged communities – can achieve those goals with the current level of financial support’.

5) Extending the school day
Extending the school day has been an ongoing conversation in Parliament since the pandemic and the white paper has in part addressed this by introducing a minimum expectation of 32.5 hours a week for mainstream state funded schools. Schools must meet this expectation by 2023 at the latest. Although this falls short of extending the school day, a passion project of Education Committee chair Robert Halfon, it should go some way to addressing inequality in educational offer, although it doesn’t apply to public schools or specialist provision.

In his response to the white paper, Halfon stated: ‘It is my hope that this will mean pupils up and down the country will have more time to catch up on their lost learning from the pandemic, and to also develop their skills’, in reference to the paper’s assertion that as ‘part of a richer school week, all children should be entitled to take part in sport, music and cultural opportunities’ as part of a ‘broad and ambitious curriculum. However, as noted by the Education Policy Institute, ‘the 32.5 hour school week, which amounts to a 9am – 3.30pm day, will not make much difference to most children. Moreover, Impetus commented that although they found variation in week length from school to school, there wasn’t much of a link between this and outcomes.

Vuelio’s weekly Friday morning political newsletter Point of Order shares insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.


PRCA relaunches its LGBTQ+ Network

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has relaunched its LGBTQ+ Network with a focus on supporting the PR and comms industry to ‘show up’ for the LGBTQ+ community.

Originally launched two and a half years ago in partnership with YouGov, the PRCA’s LGBTQ+ group has held events, conducted cross-industry research into how sexual identity can impact work and highlighted LGBTQ+ role models in PR and comms. The group’s relaunch as a network includes the introduction of volunteers to boost positive impact across the industry when it comes to inclusivity.

Plans for the network include the sharing of resources and learning materials for reference, accessible events, commentary and discussion of important LGBTQ+ matters and new Role Models blogs.

The LGBTQ+ Network is led by Hill+Knowlton Strategies senior associate director Emma Franklin-Wright and Good Vibes Only Talent founder Katie Traxton.

PRCA LGBTQ+ Network Co-Chair Emma Franklin-Wright said:

‘As communications professionals we can have so much influence on the public narratives around LGBTQ+ people. At a time when we are increasingly under attack from the media it is so important for us to give as many people in our industry as possible the tools to create positive representation in our work, and to give agency leaders the resources to create inclusive workplaces. Having a refreshed network to deliver on those goals is vital and having so many new volunteers coming together to deliver this important work is truly energising.’

PRCA LGBTQ+ Network Co-Chair Katie Traxton added:

‘Having the backing of the PRCA to relaunch the group means a lot. Over the last two and half years, we’ve learnt about the ongoing challenges of equality, opportunity and representation that the LGBTQ+ community still face both in workplaces and the work we do. Now it’s time for us to invest our energy in catalysing real change. We know that progress is likely to be gradual, but we have a great group of people working with us and we want PRCA members to get involved, share their thoughts, and ultimately join us on our mission. The more of us who work together, both members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, the more impact we will make.’

Committee members for the PRCA LGBTQ+ Network are:

Gian Marco Candolo (Senior Account Executive, Cicero)
Nina Eadie (Head of Lifestyle PR, Keko London)
Stephanie Ensten (Partner Manager, Mercedes EQ Formula E Team)
Sinead McGeever (Account Director, FleishmanHillard)
Will Richardson (Associate Director, TEAM LEWIS)
Lex Rosenthal (Account Manager, TALA)
Michela Siuni (Marketing and Communications Manager, I.G. Advisors)
Myles Storey (Campaigns Manager – Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, O2)
Jonathan Sullivan (Account Executive, Brazil)
James Treacy (Senior PR and Communications Manager, Abercrombie & Kent)
Josh Wheeler (Broadcast PR Specialist)

For more information on the network and how to get in touch, check out the PRCA website.

Check out our previous accessmatters sessions on inclusion in the media, PR and comms industries with Proud FT’s Cassius Naylor, the Social Mobility Foundation’s Sarah Atkinson and The Unmistakable’s Asad Dhunna

Are PR and marketing a comms power couple?

Do PR and marketing make a perfect comms couple?

Public relations and marketing – two interlinked comms functions whose connection has been under debate for years. Since at least the 1970s, in fact, according to Stephen Waddington, who led our latest webinar on the subject, ‘PR & Marketing: The Ultimate Power Couple?’.

Sign up to watch the webinar

‘In researching our ‘Trends in the integration of marketing and public relations’ white paper, I found a piece from 1978 highlighting how the two functions should work together. That relationship in the headline is always going to be situational depending on size and scale, but there’s one thing that’s certain; this debate has been going on for 50 years and will keep going.’

Download the white paper ‘Trends in the integration of marketing and public relations’.

If this is a conversation that hasn’t yet started at your organisation, whether you’re working in-house or agency-side, take advice from Stephen, Mastercard‘s Suman Hughes and Hotwire Global‘s Tara O’Donnell shared during the webinar to consider the benefits of bringing your PR and marketing functions closer together.

Is this a debate for everyone?
As pointed out by Stephen, the CEOs, customers and celebrities that PR and marketing teams serve won’t really care so much about what is integrated and what isn’t – what matters is that the results are good. Who it is important for is those working towards the results, who have had to weave key messaging and strategy, such as ESG, into every aspect of their planning and actions over the last few years.

‘The pandemic has led to a reappraisal of organisations,’ believes Stephen. ‘Teams need to work together to understand their business’ place in the market and in wider society.’

‘An idea can start from anywhere’ – Mastercard’s Suman Hughes on the in-house perspective
On taking on her current role as Mastercard’s director of communications, UK, Suman Hughes joined a comms team already integrated. PR and marketing work closely together to communicate the brand’s message to its global audience and worldwide workforce and this connection aids every part of their strategy and execution.

‘Working as one team means offering a single unified voice. Whether it’s marketing, comms, public policy, HR, accounts, it all comes back to our employees and them as brand ambassadors – we talk as one, as Mastercard.

‘Integration means we can pool our resources and break down silos to make the most of what we have, making the biggest impact for our stakeholder groups and audiences.

‘It’s a global model that we run – not just across our international team, but across all our agency groups, too – we approach every piece of work this way, from paid, owned and earned. An idea can start from anywhere and become a campaign that’s holistic. It’s a level playing field and it makes it super-interesting for me to do my job.’

‘It’s all about business impact’ – Hotwire Global’s Tara O’Donnell on the agency perspective
‘In teams that have integrated marketing and PR, it’s all about business impact and how you measure it. When companies work in this way, it is more efficient, but depends on the organisation.

‘When companies had to go into ‘protect revenue’ mode in 2020, we realised that many were struggling because traditional marketing channels had shut down. Our comms clients, maybe for the first time, were tasked with having business impact – everyone in their organisations were tasked with improving business results. That’s what led us to look at what we do and evolve it to impact reputation along with revenue.

‘We’ve found it’s an incredible marriage; reputation to revenue resonates across the board. If you’re talking to a comms client about thought leadership – you’ve based it on insight about an audience they’re trying to reach; you should do that with your marketing anyway. You can use that insight all the way through the pipeline.

Is integrating PR and marketing for you?
‘It’s a really natural progression of using what you’re already creating to have different impact,’ says Tara.

‘The value to clients is really simple to show; our comms clients will understand it and our marketing teams do, too. It’s not necessary that they always work together, but we can show that there will be business impact when they do.

‘From a comms point-of-view, to be able to go to the business and show how you’ve impacted revenue… that ability to show value is incredible.’

‘Give it a go!’ says Suman. ‘If you’re really clear on your business objectives, you’ll all be pulling in the same direction’.

Watch the fullPR & Marketing: The Ultimate Power Couple? webinar here for more on integrating your comms functions.

The white paper, ‘Trends in the integration of marketing and public relations’ , can be downloaded here.

The benefits of charity corporate partnerships

The benefits of charity corporate partnership for brands

Red Nose Day is coming up this week, and while people across the country will be taking part in charitable endeavours for Friday 18 March (sometimes involving baked beans and bathtubs), big brands are taking part, too. It’s not just about handing over the giant cardboard cheques on the night; alongside the number one priority that is helping people in need, there are many other benefits to corporate partnerships with charities.

Sainsbury’s, Argos, Habitat, TK Maxx, British Airways, Walkers and the Premier League are just some of the big-name brands listed as partners this year on the Red Nose Day website – you may have already bought something from one of them that will result in a contribution to the charity. Want more warm and fuzzy feelings alongside bonus business boosts? Consider the added value for brands wanting to get involved in the charity sector.

As Kurt Geiger subsidiary Shoeholics’ head of brand marketing Angela Asiedua pointed out, regarding the brand’s charity partnership with Smart Works for its ‘Shoe Good’ charity arm, there’s no better time for businesses to do some good: ‘Shoe Good a key mission for us moving forward, especially after the challenges of covid. It seems more important than ever that we look after each other and help where we can’.

As part of the team-up between Shoeholics, Smart Works were able to give donated shoes and bags to the unemployed women they coach and support back into work. ‘With the support of partners, we can be ready to help any woman who needs our support with the tools she needs to succeed,’ said the charity’s CEO Kate Stephens.

Such team-ups can be light-hearted in tone, too. Prostate Cancer UK has a remit that requires sensitivity in its messaging – the charity has partnered with brands like Below the Belt Grooming for Men, which often use playful branding. Their partnership was a perfect fit – the brand pledged to raise £10,000 for the charity during 2018, with funds going to research into diagnosis and treatment, as well as support for those impacted by prostate cancer.

‘It is partners such as these that will help us make prostate cancer a disease that the next generation of men need not fear,’ said director of fundraising James Beeby.

Awareness-raising and starting conversations about frightening topics is a key element of these partnerships. Just as the reputation of a charity can help highlight the credence and kindness of a business, that brand can give the charities it works with the benefits of its own ‘personality’; sometimes humorous, blunt or straightforward.

As shared by Numan’s marketing manager Abbie Moujaes in her guest post on healthcare comms, a straightforward tone can be difficult to nail when your subject matter is so potentially serious and life-altering, but if you can nail it, it will pay off in awareness and engagement. A bold and no-nonsense tone in comms may not always come naturally for an established charity; it can for consumer brands who have it built into their brand DNA already.

If you’re part of a brand’s in-house team and want to work with charity initiatives like Red Nose Day beyond bathing in baked beans to raise money, there are plenty of possible partnerships that will fit your organisation’s existing values and add to its purpose. Brands like SalesForce have teamed up with Human Appeal and Hands On London’s UK Wrap Up event, which has had six years of success so far. In 2019 alone, the initiative helped get 5,219 warm coats to local charities.

Initiatives like The Charities Aid Foundation have resources for finding corporate partnerships.

As the past few years have shown us all, people expect more from the businesses they buy from. If you have found success with your brand’s comms plan, it is the perfect time to share the benefits of your skillset.

In need of PR and comms solutions for your charity? Take a look at how Vuelio’s services can help you manage vital relationships, reach influential figures and access the political landscape here.

For more on building a charity brand, catch up with our webinar on the subject with Scouts and Shape History.

Want info on helping a local charity with their PR strategy? Check out this previous guest post from Spike’s Andre Gwilliam.

And for charities doing great things with their digital content, check out these 10 Top UK Charity Blogs.