Lockdown stakeholder

How to adapt your stakeholder engagement during lockdown

For most external relations teams, managing relationships with a variety of audiences and stakeholders is at the very core of what they do. Systematic and regular touch points are how relationships are tested, along with keeping a close eye on stakeholder activities through media and political channels. Intelligence and engagement help inform stakeholder mapping, which is a vital activity for measuring reputation and progress against strategic or campaign objectives.

Lockdown has, however, changed the game. In the past 12 weeks, engaging with stakeholders in person is no longer an option, which Vuelio research revealed was MPs’ preferred method of engagement. Furthermore, with COVID-19 now dominating the narrative, the progress of building stakeholder voices on our behalf is likely to have slowed or even paused indefinitely.

So, how do we keep hold of our relationships and build new momentum behind our engagement goals? The answer is to firstly accept where we are. This is a new normal which means looking at our stakeholder map and relationships through a new lens and resetting the foundations:

Influence/interest matrix
Return to the basics of stakeholder mapping: are your stakeholders still interested in your priorities and can they influence them in a positive or negative way? Can you see this in their activities since lockdown began or do you need to accept their score or place in your map has changed?

Broaden your channels  
If your stakeholder map was not informed by social channels before, it definitely should now. Many key stakeholders are connecting with their audiences through social channels – this could be you. At the very least, social activity can help inform the interest axis on your matrix right now, and can provide true insight into thinking. Our sister company Pulsar has been mapping the new normal using online conversation, which clearly shows the power of social.

Build digital relationships
If our usual ‘get to know you’ conversations were based on activities your stakeholders have done or plan to do physically, you now need to find a replacement. Discussing great social posts your stakeholder may have created or even passing on content sources and data you have found useful at this time, can help build the relationship. Being a beacon of knowledge in the new normal will help entrench your value with the stakeholder.

Consult on communication preferences
Reaching out to your key stakeholders and asking how you can connect with them seems obvious. However, it may not be something your stakeholder has thought of. What different options can you offer: a regular newsletter? A regular informal virtual catch up or a structured online briefing? Do you understand how their workflow operates (does a member of their staff process incoming digital communications, for example). And are you aware of preferred timings (Do they like to catch up on reading on Friday mornings so you know when to follow up?).

And finally…

Success IS possible
It doesn’t have to be that the old plan has failed or is paused indefinitely. Establishing new metrics of success can keep your organisation progressing right now in stakeholder engagement activities.

Ready to establish new goals and make the most of the stakeholder landscape in lockdown? Find out how the Vuelio Stakeholder Relationship Management platform has helped our clients do just this.

3 comms resources to track when working remotely

Working from home is creating issues for comms teams, but there are three simple tips that can help your team work more effectively, wherever they are.

Confusion is caused by multiple versions of shared spreadsheets and long email chains. Not only are these hard to keep track of, they can also be a data security risk, and it is easy to lose contacts and opportunities.

You need to be able to manage your team’s workload effectively, so you can focus on the strategic work that drives your communications.

Three things that every comms team should keep track of:

1. Lines to take
Keep your communications consistent by approving lines to take on a topic/issue and making these accessible to the whole team, remote working or otherwise.

2. Interactions with journalists
When did you last speak with them? What about? Are they interested and engaged? Track interactions with journalists and other stakeholders to manage relationships effectively. Doing this in a centralised place makes it easy for the team to avoid doubling up or calling someone who doesn’t want to hear from you.

3. Inbound media and stakeholder enquiries
Knowing what enquiries are coming in to your comms teams can help with managing the workload as well as spotting if there are any trends in what is being asked to enable you to respond more efficiently.

Vuelio provides a customisable CRM for hundreds of remote PR and communications teams, which allows them to share pitch notes and lines to take, and securely tracks all their interactions in one place.

This ensures business continuity, consistency and visibility for effective collaboration.

Find out more about Vuelio Stakeholder Management.

East London

Re-thinking growth in post-COVID London

Julian Ellerby is the Director of Local London – a strategic partnership of eight boroughs in the east and north east of the capital. The national pandemic means we need to review how we approach growth while faced with a potential recession. In this guest post, Julian describes some of the potential solutions. 

It’s time to review our approach to growth.

The implication of this pandemic will be wholesale reassessment of how we go about so many aspects of our lives.

Take digital and virtual working. Parliament has reconvened in a hybrid state of physical and virtual meetings. Will that become normal?

The most important lesson we can take from this emergency is resilience. How ready were we, and how ready would we be should something equally catastrophic happen again?

We will need politicians to build harder resilience into policy making to manage future traumas.

The greatest hit however has been on our economy and ability to work.

The use of furlough, grants and tax relief is papering over the cracks, but the fact that more than one million have registered for universal credit is a strong indicator of the impact.

Working here in the most deprived part of the capital, I have seen that COVID-19 will leave our communities even further behind.

With the global financial crash and now the health crisis, we’ve had two international traumas in a dozen years. Who can say when the next will be?

Here in East London we work as a strategic partnership of eight local authorities as a collaborative called Local London. We work for good inclusive growth. That means ensuring benefits are felt by local people and they also have the power to influence how growth impacts on the places they live and work.

To ensure growth is meaningful there are 10 areas that will make it more resilient:

1. Level closer – you must reduce inequality to mitigate future challenges
The greater the levels of inequality, the lower the resilience to manage trauma. Access to the right skills, well-paid employment, secure housing tenure, strong in-work training and a properly funded benefits system all reduce pressure on the system during the calm periods and are essential during times of crisis.

2. Change place thinking to respond to changing habits
The whole concept of workspace is changing and home as ‘office’ is now the norm. We should provide much more collaborative workspaces for those industries that need them and stronger digital capacity. In East London, we need to invest in creating a small number of multi-purpose centres for work, leisure and retail in the same way Stratford has grown following the Olympics. The key is to rethink workspace so that it pre-empts the attitudes and habits of those that access it.

3. Third sector funded effectively and brought closer to local government
The third sector needs sustainable funding arrangements in place that are closely aligned to local government. The finances should be ring-fenced and a proper package of training, development support put in place.

4. Digital infrastructure prioritised over other infrastructure
Digital investment is essential to enable new types of working and a new economy. In the same way major transport infrastructure gets significant attention, we need to apply that to digital. We also need to create effective governance at scale so that all parts of the country have the best digital infrastructure.

5. Devolve responsibility for land to give local accountability
Devolve decisions about industrial land, permitted development, housing builds, workspace and even the green belt through a clear policy framework. Let local government plan strategically for their areas and coordinate strategic planning with neighbouring authorities.

6. Support SME sustainability all year round
SMEs make up over 95% of local businesses across Local London. Six out of 10 new businesses will be gone within three years of inception.  Put in place funded enterprise agencies, better loan schemes supported by training packages and flexible apprenticeship programmes.

7. Address the gig economy up front
There is fragility in employment – low paid zero-hour contracts have inbuilt risk. Employers and employees need to have mitigations in place against risks. This means employment rights, contracts, pay, pensions and job security need a full-scale review.

8. Supply chains monitored and managed
Local authorities are using their own contracts and procurement systems to support local suppliers. But there is not enough knowledge about business interdependency. Agree standards and invest in monitoring supply chains.

9. Invest in innovation as a cross-cutting theme
Invest in innovation across public sector bodies constantly and put money into sharing best practice to scale up.

10. Create regional financial reserves for local government
Introduce regional pooling of reserves, funded initially by Government. This ensures broader strategic decisions are made on where to invest or how and when to call on them.

Building greater resilience into the approach to growth will benefit everyone who lives and works in this part of London and must now be a priority.

 

This guest post is part of a series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order, which publishes 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.

Navigating uncertainty

Navigating uncertainty: the Vuelio toolkit for communicators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

collaboration

Tips for using Vuelio to collaborate effectively

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

Here are our top tips:

Create an Issue to keep track of activity around a topic

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

Communicate with stakeholders

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

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

Keep track of who is talking to whom

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

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

Automated tagging of coverage

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

ResponseSource Journalist Enquiries

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

Effective communications in disrupted times

Effective communications in disrupted times

These are extraordinary times that are intensely challenging for our customers’ as they work to maintain coordinated, effective communications to multiple stakeholders in a fast changing environment. This has never been more important and we want to help.

We recognise that every organisation is grappling with exceptional enquiry volumes so from today we’re offering all clients complimentary access to the Vuelio Interactions module for three months. This will enable you to track and manage contact with your stakeholders so even though your team are remote working, you can manage and keep all communications consistent.

We have seen our customers’ manage high coverage volumes so to streamline reporting we will provide Vuelio Canvas, which will also be complimentary to clients for three months. This is a digital coverage tool that quickly and powerfully presents coverage in a way that can be easily shared to keep your stakeholders up to date on coverage, social media and latest published information.

We know that the work of front line, emergency organisations in communicating latest information to stakeholders is critical in managing this health crisis. So, from today, we’re offering NHS, police, fire service, and health and social care charities three months of online media monitoring including news alerts, at no cost. This will support you to understand the changing news agenda and implications for your organisation.

Please contact your account manager to find out more.

We are in a fast changing policy environment so to keep ahead of what this means, we’re offering a free daily bulletin from our political team, summarising COVID-related announcements from official Government sources, key Government spokespeople, industry and community stakeholders. Sign up to the bulletin here.

Alongside offering access to our products, we also want to support your teams to build their confidence in using the platform as they work remotely. From next week, every day at 3pm we will run online Vuelio Training Academies. These 30-minute sessions will be facilitated by Vuelio experts and explain how to get the most from functionalities including:

  • Interactions logging
  • Canvas
  • Media Monitoring
  • Media Database
  • Press Release Distribution

These sessions can be signed up to here, where the weekly schedule will also be available. If there are other areas of the product that it would be useful to cover, please do email your account manager to ask for them to be added.

These are challenging economic times that we all face. If you have any concerns that we can help with, get in touch with your account manager who can be contacted by phone or email as normal.

Boris Johnson

What does a new Government mean for stakeholder engagement?

The dust is still settling on Prime Minister Johnson’s new cabinet appointments, which he made as soon as he came into power with a ferocity rarely seen. For those working in external affairs, keeping track of the resignations, sackings and appointments was only just the beginning, as they now find themselves in a period of stakeholder mapping, research and analysis, leading to an autumn of engagement activity with new decision makers and their teams.

A new agenda and leadership can be daunting to even the most seasoned external affairs team. Stakeholder mapping is time intensive and measuring opportunity and risk can be complex, whether it is the new appointment’s relationship with your organisation, stance on policy issues or a general lack of access.

For those organisations seeking to enter political stakeholder engagement for the first time, the new Government could be considered a blessing, but it is often difficult to know where to start. When the stage is reset, it creates space for new voices to be heard but mobilising resource to take advantage of this can be a huge hurdle.

Whether experienced or taking the leap into influencing for the first time, reviewing your processes for managing and maintaining key influential relationships is now vital. A pivotal time of change offers opportunity that should not be held back by inefficiency.

At Vuelio, we work with teams of all sizes and varying levels of experience, and they all have a single shared objective: managing effective stakeholder relationships in an increasingly volatile external environment. We help build the foundations of your external affairs structure through software that provides not only the intelligence you need, but also a selection of tools that let you map stakeholders live, as the agenda changes.

Delivering a stakeholder engagement strategy in uncertain times requires agility and belief. Working with tools such as Vuelio Stakeholder Relationship Management gives you a broad set of reports and analytics at your fingertips, that can support the decision to change direction or detail the health of any relationship. This allows you to continue to lead your organisation through the unknown and achieve your goals.

Augur Review feature image

A long time coming: The Augar Review

After over a year of speculation, delays, Brexit and leaks, the highly anticipated Review of Post-18 Education was finally published on Thursday.

Prior to publication, momentum on the Review had reached an all-time low, with WonkHE dubbing it a “delayed, unwinnable and unanswerable” search for an answer to a question that was never really posed in the first place. The headline leak of lowering tuition fees to £7,500 had already been digested by sector stakeholders, and the main expectation was that the plan for topping up this lost income would come through boosted teaching grants.

In short, the sector was not wrong. The Review’s approach to Higher Education funding is ambiguous. Differential treatment has been given to subjects in line with the Industrial Strategy, and the proposal to extend student loans to benefit the taxpayer has gone down like a led balloon with both trade unions and university associations due to its preferential treatment of higher-earning graduates.

A key focus on improving social mobility is evident throughout the Review, though some recommendations, such as the removal of popular foundation years, could be seen to miss the mark. If implemented, Augar’s advocacy for better investment in Further Education alongside its endorsement of a flexible student finance system would likely encourage a more diverse range of students to pursue lifelong learning and ‘upskill’ later in life.

Augar’s vision for the future imagines a post-18 education landscape where education leads to employment. School careers hubs will be vital for enabling fair choice for prospective students, FE colleges will provide community learning leading to sustainable career opportunities, and apprenticeships will become viable degree alternatives.  If these recommendations are taken on board, the sector landscape could be set to change, with industry playing a key part in career-based schemes and the future automation of work setting the technical education agenda.

In line with the trend of overshadowing that Augar followers will be used to by now, the Review’s publication comes in the wake of a Tory leadership battle. The next Prime Minister is unlikely to have the exact same priorities as Theresa May, leaving a question mark over when, how and indeed if the recommendations will be implemented. Casting all doubts to the side, we’re glad it’s finally out.

Find out more about in our Issue Spotlight: Augar Review which summarises all the key findings, recommendations and stakeholder reactions.

ICO charity tips

How charity comms teams can stay data compliant

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published data protection tips for charities. Charities rely on data – from their donors, beneficiaries, clients, partners, media contacts, influencers, staff and trustees – in order to achieve their goals and ultimately support those in need. Charity comms teams often have to juggle data from all of these otherwise disparate groups, making data compliance a key part of the modern comms role.

The ICO has presented charities with five data compliance tips:

  • Set compliance goals
  • Host training sessions
  • Prepare for the unexpected
  • Keep on top of data housekeeping
  • Be transparent about people’s data

It suggests that ‘data protection compliance should be one of the main priorities of an organisation’, and as we’re almost one year on from the implementation of the GDPR, most charities should now have a good understanding of their data management processes and how they are compliant.

As a reminder, the General Data Protection Regulation requires every organisation that processes data to have a legal basis for doing so, which should also be made clear to everyone whose data you’re processing.

There’s also a requirement for staff to know why and how you’re processing data, which is why the ICO includes advice to ‘Host training sessions’. This is good advice for both new and existing team members. While it may seem like we all swallowed the GDPR dictionary last year – at Vuelio we produced a large number of resources for PR and comms professionals (you can see them all here) – how many new team members have you taken on since 25 May 2018? And how much do you remember from the advice at the time?

Refreshers and training for communications teams are great, but if you don’t have the right tools in place then it’s all talk and no substance, and compliance can prove complicated. Vuelio helps you stay fully GDPR compliant, with tools to automatically send your privacy policies out, record consent and record an audit trial so if anyone ever requests their data, you can prove how and when you’ve collected and used it.

This means when the unexpected happens, not only are you more prepared – as the ICO recommends – but you’re also equipped to quickly and easily produce evidence of your data compliance, keeping your stakeholders happy.

If you’d like to find out more about how Vuelio can help you manage your GDPR requirements and data protection compliance, fill out our dedicated form here and one of our compliance experts will be in touch.

Your guide to local elections

Your Guide to Local Elections

Your guide to local elections

This year, local elections will take place on 2 May and thousands of councillors will be elected across the country.

Your Guide to Local Elections breaks down what different councils and councillors do, the local election timeline, the rules around purdah and the biggest future issues facing councils.

Get the definitive guide to local council elections by filling out the form below.

UK Bloggers Survey 2019 Featured Image

UK BLOGGERS SURVEY 2019

UK Bloggers Survey 2019 Featured Image

The UK Bloggers Survey 2019 provides unrivalled insight into the blogging industry and has, for the first time, included results on pay.

Over a quarter of all blog content is now compensated for in some way and there are an increasing number of professional bloggers to collaborate with.

Get the definitive guide to influencer marketing by filling out the form below.

Get Ahead with Forward Planning for web

Get Ahead with Forward Planning

Get ahead with forward planning

 

Forward planning is vital for a successful PR strategy. This white paper acts as a resource for all comms-related planning, including awards – how to win them and which ones to enter – industry events, the importance of training and how to get the most out of forward features.

2019 is yours for the taking, get ahead with forward planning – download the white paper by filling out the form below.

Photo of Cardiff University building

Transforming public affairs at Cardiff University

Building, developing and keeping track of corporate relationships with different stakeholders is a challenge often faced by anyone working in public affairs. Whether you’re faced with losing vital information when an individual leaves or lacking a central place to log every interaction, the small issues can build into a bigger headache.

Ed Bridges, public affairs manager at Cardiff University, told us about the challenges faced in his team and how Vuelio has ‘transformed and professionalised’ the University’s approach to public affairs.

Find out more about our public affairs services

Cardiff University

The challenge

While the University has historically had good relationships with our political stakeholders, the management of those contacts had at times been haphazard. Valuable contacts were sometimes lost when individuals left the University, key interactions were often not recorded, and it was sometimes hard to evaluate the level of interest/take-up from stakeholders in our work. Previous attempts at using a database to manage these contacts hadn’t worked, primarily because we had tried to tag Public Affairs onto databases which were more appropriate for sales or marketing.

The solution

After looking around for an appropriate solution, it quickly became apparent to us that Vuelio was not only the best database for our needs, but would significantly enhance the work of the team. We were particularly impressed by the level of information available on the Vuelio Database about our stakeholders. This has allowed us to do things like identifying groups of politicians interested in particular areas of our research and target briefings to them.

The database also had as much data for political stakeholders at a devolved level as it did for those in Westminster – something which, for us, was a key requirement. We have also been consistently impressed by the level of technical support we have received from Vuelio, which is allowing us to get the most out of the system.

Benefits and results

In the four months we’ve been using Vuelio, we have been able to track how many and which stakeholders have been opening and reading our briefings, and tailor/improve them accordingly. We have also been able to put steps in place to ensure that interactions with key stakeholders are properly recorded so there is a lasting record of who has met with the University (and, just as importantly, so we can identify who hasn’t).

Are you ready to transform your public affairs strategy? Fill in this form and we’ll be in touch.

Top 50 feature image

Top 50 Political Influencers

Top 50 Political Influencers cover

The Top 50 Political Influencers reflects the evolving media, including broadcasters and print journalists in addition to bloggers and other digital influencers. Those on the list include the most politically informed, those with the best contacts and membership of the right WhatsApp groups for the inside track on breaking news and the latest leaks, and those able to lead conversations across a range of social media platforms.

The ranking takes into consideration a huge range of factors, including audience, engagement, industry recognition and platforms, alongside a research-led qualitative assessment.

Find out who’s in first place – download the white paper by filling out the form below.

What Journalists want featured image

What Journalists Want – What the Journalist Enquiry Service taught us about coverage in 2018

What Journalists want featured image

Do you know what journalists really want?

Our latest white paper reveals what journalists have requested through the Journalist Enquiry Service in 2018.

The ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service is now part of Vuelio. This service allows journalists to ask for help, comment and case studies from PRs and comms professionals.

So, what were the most popular topics of 2018? What can journalist pitches teach us about PR? And which member of the royal family are journalists most interested in?

Find out – download the white paper by filling out the form below.

Brexit draft agreement feature

Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement – Key Events & Reaction

Brexit draft agreement WP

The Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement has been published – all 585 pages of it. Since then, the Government has faced ministerial resignations and the future remains uncertain. 

The Vuelio Political Content Team has created the only guide you need to the draft agreement, including a timeline of key events, the major sectors covered by the draft, how it’s been received by the major political parties and the Top 10 Brexit Influencers you need to follow.

If you don’t have time to read all 585 pages, find out what’s happening with the transition period, Northern Ireland, governance, citizens’ rights, fishing, trade and finance.

Download the guide by filling out the form below.

SRM

One size doesn’t fit all – why CRM isn’t right for stakeholders

Customers, staff, the board, suppliers, influencers, government, councillors, the public, shareholders, owners, managers. All are stakeholders, all need to be managed by you and your company. But they don’t all require the same service or input, which is why we have HR tools, CRMs – Customer Relationship Management – and SRMs – Stakeholder Relationship Management.

What’s the difference?
Customers, or service users, have a distinct set of needs that you seek to satisfy – and your CRM manages this process from start to finish. Staff, similarly, enter into a specific contract with the company and both sides have expectations of what’s required.

In the comms industry, ‘stakeholders’ covers those external to the business who can influence and affect your activity or strategic ambitions. Influence of this kind can come from a particular position or interest, for example, an MP or local councillor may sit on a committee that can influence the policy underpinning the success of your project.

It can also include support from specific community groups or a charity sector that is essential to create momentum behind a key ambition for change.

It is the link between a stakeholder’s influence and your objectives that makes stakeholder management unique. The landscape never stays still; with a new day, issues can come and go, bringing new stakeholders to the fore and making others redundant, which creates new opportunities for engagement.

The distinctions between customers and other stakeholders are clear, yet many organisations continue to use CRM software to manage their stakeholder relationships. This can create a loss of momentum and, ultimately, a loss of quality ‘memory’ that could support your evolving strategy for many years to come.

SRM software, on the other hand, is designed to focus on the influence an individual or organisation has on your objectives, supporting your chosen method of stakeholder modelling and evolving with your engagement activities.

SRM vs CRM

  • CRM is often implemented to provide automation and transparency around key commercial and service driven processes, such as sales pipelines, managing service agreements and linking to finance departments
  • SRM is a communications tool at a heart, supporting targeted relationship management including viewing a single stakeholder in multiple ways, depending on the project or issue
  • CRM often has a concluding objective: a sale, renewal or delivering a service
  • SRM tends not to conclude because managing reputation with stakeholders is continuous, evolving with your organisation
  • CRM has a strict activity type, one organisation to one organisation, even when there may be different personnel points in the process the customer is viewed as one.
  • SRM can view stakeholders as a group, such as an alliance or committee. One individual can be considered to have several ‘hats’, thus seen as a stakeholder for many different scenarios.

Ready for a market-leading SRM? Find out more about Vuelio

Autumn budget 2018 summary feature

Autumn Budget 2018 – Summary & Stakeholder Reaction

Autumn budget 2018 summary and stakeholder reaction whitepaper

You’ve seen the Budget, but what does it really mean for you?

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a huge spending package, but some sectors are still feeling the pinch. We’ve curated reaction from leading stakeholders to find out how they think the Budget will impact the country.

Download the white paper by filling out the form below.

Nigel Milton

How Heathrow used an integrated campaign to win its third runway

Nigel Milton, director of communications at Heathrow Airport, recently spoke at the CIPR’s Influence Live event and explained how the airport went from being called ‘Heathrow Hassle’ to having its third runway approved by Government.

Heathrow airport is the busiest in Europe, with some 78 million passengers passing through it in 2017. It’s also recently had plans for a third runway approved – fulfilling the UK’s need for increased air traffic capacity.

But getting to this point wasn’t an easy journey; while a third runway was initially supported by Gordon Brown’s Government in 2009, the policy and politics all changed when the coalition Government came to power and immediately scrapped it.

Milton told Influence Live that when he joined in 2010, the airport already had the reputation of a ‘national embarrassment’, with ‘Heathrow Hassle’ in the lexicon. This made finding political supporters almost impossible.

So, how did they manage to turn it around? With the help of an international event, the London Mayor and an integrated campaign like no other.

In 2012, London hosted the Olympics and Heathrow became the official airport of the games. For Milton, it was an opportunity to reset the dial as the Games could effectively make or break the airport’s fortunes. In Milton’s own words, they ‘nailed it’.

Part of the success was leaving nothing to chance. Not only did Heathrow prepare for the oddly-shaped luggage carried by international athletes (oars, bikes, racquets etc), it also increased spending on toilet maintenance because, bizarrely, the number one factor that makes a difference to someone’s opinion of an airport is the cleanliness of the toilets.

Major incident-free, the London Olympics were a huge success for Heathrow and, what’s more, the Government had changed its position on the need to expand UK airport capacity. This policy reversal was, in no small part, thanks to the London Mayor at the time, Boris Johnson.

While Johnson may have more recently been elected as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip with the promise there would be no third runway at Heathrow, he was at the time considered the airport’s champion politician – Milton said, ‘Without Boris, we wouldn’t have secured a third runway’. Johnson had argued that London needed more airport capacity, favouring the creation of an island in the Thames. While this wasn’t realised – his desire for more capacity was and so the long road to an extra runway began again for Heathrow.

The success of the Olympics put Heathrow in a strong position for its runway plans, as it could now trade on its national and international reputation of excellence, making it the frontrunner for expansion.

Milton’s approach was two-fold, a public relations campaign was designed to bring everyone, from its staff and local residents to Scottish businesses, on board and a public affairs campaign to gain political support.

The airport’s four business priorities were at the centre of its PR campaign:

  • Mojo – getting staff onside by making the airport a great place to work and risk-free when increasing staff numbers
  • Service transformation – proving it can deliver the best service for passengers and airlines
  • Beating the business plan – staying ahead of its plans so it could meet deadlines and expectations
  • Sustainable growth – working with local communities to impact them negatively as little as possible and positively as much as possible

The campaign was complex, with thousands of stakeholders to be considered, influenced and managed. It required a national strategy, and the airport reviewed both passenger and freight journeys, so it could prove that it wasn’t just London’s airport, but Britain’s airport. It got Scottish business to back the plans, explaining the benefits locally because, Milton explained, ‘My accent saying Heathrow expansion is good for Scotland, in Scotland, means nothing compared to a Scottish accent saying it’.

The PR fed into the public affairs, Heathrow using the wins up and down the country to gain additional political support. It also polled politicians to show MPs they were not alone in their support. With a comprehensive integrated campaign that took everything into consideration, Heathrow was successful and a third runway has now been approved.

But the challenge isn’t over yet, as Milton is all too aware. When Vuelio asked if he was planning for a change in Government, Milton responded that yes – administrations and policies change and Heathrow was still preparing for every eventuality.

Do you want to run successful campaigns that combine public relations and public affairs? With Vuelio, everything you need is in one place, on one platform. Find out more.

Making the most of party conferences

Party Conference Season is just around the corner, and with Brexit looming large over every major party, we’re in for an explosive autumn.

Our webinar – hosted by political and communications supremo Lionel Zetter, author of Lobbying, the Art of Political Persuasion – will guide you through Party Conference season, revealing how to get the most out of every day for the biggest return on your time.

He’s joined by our very special guests: Jonathan Isaby, editor of BrexitCentral and former Daily Telegraph columnist, and Sabine Tyldesley, account manager at PLMR who specialises in parliamentary processes and integrated public affairs campaigns.

Making the most of party conferences banner