MPs to elect new Select Committee Chairs this week

The role of Select Committees within Parliament is significant, given the important duties they undertake to oversee government departments and policy implementation.

They have regular inquiries leading to significant and newsworthy reports and are widely respected both across Parliament and outside it. They also conduct visits out to the regions and nations of the UK or overseas, depending on their remit, and frequently engage with businesses, charities, community groups or trade unions.

Crucially, although the Committee Chair’s party is decided by ‘the usual channels’ of party whips, behind closed doors and in proportion to the make-up of the House of Commons at the 2019 General Election, the Chairs themselves are nominated and elected by MPs of all parties.

All MPs can vote in the Select Committee Chair elections that take place on Wednesday, 29 January.

As the Parliament Guide to Select Committees says: ‘House of Commons Select Committees are largely concerned with examining the work of government departments. Committees in the House of Lords concentrate on six main areas: Europe, science, economics, communications, the UK constitution and international relations.’

The House of Commons Select Committees must contain 11 MPs as members, which again tend to broadly represent the make up of the House of Commons, thereby guaranteeing a majority of Conservative MPs on each Committee.

The result of the ‘usual channels’ discussions were announced in early January as the Parly political journalism project reported, with the large Government majority meaning that the Conservatives will chair three more committees than the previous 2017 to 2019 Parliament: ‘Big government majority means Tories get three more than in the last parliament. They have taken @CommonsSTC from Lib Dems, @CommonsTrans and @CommonsEAC from Labour. SNP retain their two.’

On 9 January, the Conservative, Labour and SNP leaders tabled a motion splitting the position of chair of each select committee between them, after advice from the Speaker. This motion was agreed to by MPs on 16 January. It splits the committees as follows:

  • Defence: Conservative
  • Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Conservative
  • Education: Conservative
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Conservative
  • Foreign Affairs: Conservative
  • Health and Social Care: Conservative
  • Justice: Conservative
  • Northern Ireland Affairs: Conservative
  • Science and Technology: Conservative
  • Transport: Conservative
  • Treasury: Conservative
  • Welsh Affairs: Conservative
  • Women and Equalities: Conservative
  • Environmental Audit: Conservative
  • Procedure: Conservative
  • Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs: Conservative


  • Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Labour
  • Home Affairs: Labour
  • Housing, Communities and Local Government: Labour
  • International Development: Labour
  • Work and Pensions: Labour
  • Exiting the European Union: Labour
  • Petitions: Labour
  • Public Accounts: Labour
  • Standards: Labour
  • International Trade: Scottish National Party
  • Scottish Affairs: Scottish National Party


The Backbench Business Committee must be chaired by a non-Government MP, while the chair of the Liaison Committee (which is made up of the chairs of other committees) is elected by its members.

Nominations for Select Committee Chairs close at 4pm on Monday 27 January and only contested positions will lead to a formal election between the different candidates. Candidates who are unopposed will be elected automatically.

A report by the Intelligence and Security Committee on alleged Russian interference in UK elections was heavily discussed during the recent general election, as the Government postponed the report’s publication. Whilst this Committee is not a formal Select Committee, it is elected differently as its members are drawn from both Houses of Parliament and its Chair is elected by its members.

The Committee has a ‘statutory responsibility for oversight of the UK Intelligence Community’ and it too will shortly have a new Chair, as previous Chair Dominic Grieve was not re-elected in the General Election, having left the Conservative Party and failing to be re-elected as an Independent.

To use a prominent example the previous Chair of the DCMS Select Committee and one of the candidates standing for re-election this week, Damian Collins regularly speaks our on relevant issues such as the future of the BBC, which he says needs to ‘needs to both deliver value for license fee payers and meet the challenge of the new platforms like Netflix’ and on keeping children safe online. He also attended the launch event for Vuelio’s ‘The Politics of Social Media’ report, where he warned that social media was ‘coarsening the public debate’ and potentially posed ‘a threat to our democracy—and we should not accept it’.

Vuelio has put together a briefing on the election of Select Committee Chairs which is available here.

EU Copyright

Industry welcomes EU Copyright Law update

The Government’s decision not to implement the EU Copyright Directive in light of the UK’s upcoming departure from the EU has been welcomed by the CIPR and PRCA.

The reforms, required to be implemented by EU member states by 7 June 2021, will see accountability for breaching copyright placed on companies that host the distribution of offending content – publishing companies, PR agencies, digital video networks and more. Negatives raised by those working in the media included the possible stalling of online engagement and the stifling of opinion on current events – the main tools of both journalism and public relations.

The move away from implementing the EU Copyright Directive in the UK, judged ‘a step backwards for internet freedom’ by the CIPR and a threat to ‘the core principle of access to information’ by the PRCA, is a positive for the PR industry and the media at large.
‘Users of copyrighted content have an obligation to the right-holders but these reforms are not the answer’, said CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra. ‘They are disproportionate to the benefits they will derive, fail to solve the issues around copyright online while negatively impacting internet-based businesses and the way we all use the internet.

‘We welcome the Government’s decision on this matter and would now urge them to publish details of how the UK intends to manage digital copyright whilst protecting against piracy.’

‘The Government’s decision not to implement the Directive is a huge relief for communications professionals in the UK,’ said PRCA head of communications Koray Camgoz. ‘In its current form, the Directive threatens paralysis on creative businesses that rely on the freedom and democracy of information on the internet.

‘We will always fight the corner of PR professionals threatened by these draconian laws and will continue to campaign passionately against the Directive on behalf of our members in Europe.’

Read the full statements on the decision from the CIPR and the PRCA, and click here for more on the impact the EU Copyright Directive and Article 13 could have on how news is shared and reported.

Creative Shootout winners 2020

Empathy, estate agents and a homeless epidemic – The Creative Shootout 2020

Last night The Creative Shootout took over Picturehouse Central for the live final, which saw eight agencies take to the stage, pitching for homeless charity Crisis.

Crisis is well-known for its hugely effective Christmas campaign with a mission to end homelessness for good. The brief it brought to the agencies competing in this year’s Creative Shootout set out to challenge their creative minds and shift the perception of Crisis being a Christmas charity to one that works all year round. Focusing on 18-34-year olds, the campaign ideas were required to galvanise the public and shift their belief that ending homelessness is an impossible goal.

At lunchtime, the teams were presented with the brief and given just four hours to come up with a stand-out campaign before pitching their ideas in just 10 minutes to an audience of 350 PR professionals and creatives.

The pitches ranged from renting out doorsteps and sofas on Rightmove to FleishmanHillard Fishburn’s ever increasing bank of real-life stories about homelessness 365 days of the year. Wavemaker and Alpaca came up with campaigns that tapped into the needs of ‘Generation Rent’ utilising popular housing websites such as Zoopla and Spareroom, while Fever PR took it to the next level creating their own estate agents, Fauxtons, with real-life pop-up venues around the UK.

Empathy played a big part in all the campaign pitches with Haygarth using the shocking fact that a family is made homeless every 13 minutes and asking the public to give up just 13 minutes of their time to help those who are homeless, from hairdressers offering free cuts to partnering with footballers to donate 13 minutes of their wage.

TracyLocke came at the brief from a different angle and based its campaign around the idea of treating homelessness as a virus outbreak; they even gave it a Latin medical name, ‘Profugo Populus’.

Asking the audience to observe the flag at the start of their pitch, the team from Grayling took inspiration from a place that has ended homelessness: Helsinki.  With a clever tag of #FinnishTheCrisis and using the Finnish people to share their story of how they got rid of homelessness, they created the idea of the world’s first digital march, spreading the message across media sites, news and partner websites.

Taking home The Creative Shootout crown for its heartfelt and moving pitch was Epoch Design. This was its first time entering the competition but the campaign to give the homeless back their voice won the judges over. Engaging directly with a millennial audience, Epoch Design put the ‘invisible’ to the forefront with open mic nights with only homeless performers and a podcast channel that would give them a voice.

Epoch Design will get to run its winning campaign with Crisis as well as a range of partners and Crisis’s existing agency network.

We are proud to show our continued support for this fantastic event, which encourages creativity across the industry. Well done to everyone who took part and congratulations to Epoch Design!

Laura Sutherland

PRCA appoints Laura Sutherland as PRCA Scotland Group Chairman

PRCA has appointed Aura PR chief and #PRFest founder Laura Sutherland CMPRCA as its Scotland Group chairman.

Laura will work with national coordinator Wilma Littlejohn MPRCA and vice chair and ORE Catapult head of communications Lee Madigan on the committee.

‘Lee and I are really looking forward to working with Laura,’ said Wilma. ‘The new strategy in Scotland will be to expand upon how we engage with our members and other trade organisations to benefit the wider PR and communications profession.’

With work across the CIPR at a UK national level and her work with PRCA at Scottish national level, Laura will focus on the coordination of activity across various membership organisations across Scotland. To start: a survey to better understand the needs of Scottish members concerning professional development, ethics, leadership and strategy.

‘Let’s crack on with being more brave, committing to professional development and pushing the Scottish industry forward,’ said Laura of her ambitions for developing what the PRCA has already achieved in the area. ‘The opportunities are huge and we shouldn’t waste any time in achieving our full potential.’

PRCA director general Francis Ingham MPRCA added: ‘As everyone who has been to #PRFest over the years knows, Laura Sutherland is a one-woman PR dynamo! We’re delighted that she is our new Scotland chairman and looking forward to further strengthening our offering to Scottish members’.

Laura is a previous winner of the PRCA Dare Award for PR Consultant of the Year (for 2018 and 2019). More on her appointment, and the Scotland Group, can be found on the PRCA website.

2020 Travel PR Trends

The biggest travel & tourism trends of 2020

This is a guest post by Frank Marr, Co-founder, AM+A Marketing & Media Relations.

A New Year means a new set of trends that will define travel and tourism. AM+A’s team of industry experts give their predictions for the biggest 2020 travel trends to look out for…

Conscious travel and its effect on supply chains
As environmental concerns continue to dominate the public conscious, they will increasingly impact 2020 travel trends. Consumers want to reduce their carbon footprint and are expecting organisations to do more to help them with this.

The Guardian newspaper made a 2019 climate pledge and encourages readers to consider the environmental impact of their holidays. EasyJet now offsets carbon emissions by operating with a net-zero carbon flights across its entire network. Expect to see organisations increasingly considering their own supply chains and how they can better support the environment and local communities.

Tech travellers: Digital decision-making
2020 will see travellers put more faith in the hands of technology when it comes to holiday decision making processes. 59% of global travellers want technology to offer them ‘wildcard’ and surprise options to introduce them to something entirely new. 46% will use an app making it fast and easy to book activities in real time while travelling and 44% will use an app that allows them to pre-plan activities in one place.

AI is now at a place where it can offer new, exciting experiences to consumers based on preferences, previous trips and other key factors. Watch out for Hopper, Airbnb and Google Trips to all make big waves in this area during 2020.

Second City Travel Boom
Another way that destinations are seeking to combat over-tourism is by helping focus on alternative locations. The consumer desire for such experiences is also rapidly increasing. Expedia has seen a 200% rise in interest of Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain) instead of Machu Picchu, highlighting an ‘alternative bucket list’ mindset.

According to, 54% of global travellers want to play a part in reducing over-tourism and 60% of travellers are keen to have access to a service that recommends destinations where an increase in tourism would have a positive impact on the local community.

Embracing JOMO (The ‘Joy Of Missing Out’)
2020 has seen wellness, sustainable and responsible tourism all emerge as ways to combat over-tourism, and travellers are increasingly looking to get away from the generic for authentic experiences that evoke lasting emotions and connections with their travel.

A Sustainable Travel Report released by last year stated 87% of travellers wished to travel sustainably and The 2018 Global Wellness Tourism Economy study predicts wellness tourism will be worth $919 billion by 2022. Forget the ‘fear of missing out’ – 2020 is all about the ‘joy of missing out’.

Greener, slower, deeper travel in 2020
We live life at a dizzying pace, and in 2020 reducing the speed of life, and specifically how we travel, will be more on the minds of global travellers than ever before. claims 61% of travellers are looking to take a longer route to experience more of their journey. also suggested 62% of visitors want to go on a trip where transportation was part of the experience. This is evidenced by a 64% rise in consumer interest in taking historical train journeys such as the Flying Scotsman or Orient Express

Another factor to consider is the growing environmental concerns surrounding flying – 2020 will see an increased number of travellers snubbing short haul flights for train travel, specifically among Millennials and Gen Z.

To join a free training course on Sustainable Leadership Management featuring AM+A’s Frank Marr click here. Want more on travel? Check out the UK Top 10 Travel Blogs.

Sarah Barthet

Travel, Luxury and Lifestyle Blogger Spotlight with Sarah Barthet, Dukes Avenue

Blogging about travel and luxury on Dukes Avenue has been Sarah Barthet’s ticket to freedom. Needing an outlet outside of her work in the corporate and male-dominated field of finance, Sarah started her blogging journey in 2018 and has now made it her full-time career.

Find out how time in the finance industry can help with becoming a successful blogger (the pitching and networking skills help) and what kind of experiences writing about luxury can bring.

How did you get into blogging and what does it mean to you?
I began my blogging journey in early 2018. I had heard about blogging before, but I had no idea that you can actually make a career out of it. I had been feeling unfulfilled by the world of finance for some time – the excitement I had for it ten years ago just wasn’t there anymore. Travelling and luxury goods have always been a passion of mine. Travelling specifically was something I knew I wanted in my adult life, but I was first introduced to luxury goods when I was 18. At the time, I worked in a perfumery while I was studying for my undergrad degree in economics. When I learned that blogging could be a viable career option, I started planting the seeds to make this my new career path. It wasn’t until July 2019 that I felt ready to say goodbye to finance and become a full-time blogger and content creator.

Blogging has been my ticket to freedom and it was my creative outlet in a world that was so corporate and male-dominated. I am now free to be myself, free to work on projects I am actually passionate about and free to create my own working hours. I’m also now my own boss – and you cannot put a price on that feeling.

Sarah Barthet Dukes Avenue

In what ways does your background working in finance influence you in your role as a blogger?
While I no longer enjoyed working in finance towards the end (just because I knew where my passions lay and it wasn’t in stock markets!), I am actually very grateful for everything I learned and experienced in those ten years. I had always worked within investor relations and business development, and that also meant that I initially had to prepare monthly newsletters, update the firm’s website, create pitchbooks and communicate any firm updates to investors or fund databases. As my career progressed, I eventually began travelling to meet with investors, to attend conferences and to present the firm I was working for at the time. The funny thing is I do all of these things now. I write a weekly newsletter for my audience, I set up and run my website single-handedly, I create and use my own pitchbooks. I also attend industry conferences, network and instead of pitching to investors, I now pitch to brands.

Being in the corporate world for so long meant that I went into this new role with a set state of mind. I treat this like a business, not a social media popularity contest. I have a system for emails and for diary management; all of my work is done with contracts and a high degree of professionalism is incredibly important to me. Ultimately, I want the star of this show to be my brand, Dukes Avenue, and I want the brands that I work with to expect a high level of quality from the work I produce.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of running a blog?
Learning all the time. Whether that’s about different brands I would never have been exposed to previously or learning about this new industry I find myself in. I also love that I can steer which way this business moves and that is not something that I could do previously. I’ll also admit that being my own boss is pretty amazing, even though it means that I now put so much more pressure on myself.

What are some of the challenges you face?
Being a one-(wo)man band. I find myself having to be a writer, photographer, photo editor, student, social media manager, SEO analyst, web developer, business development manager and Pinterest expert. Among all of these things I also need to travel, attend conferences and network. To fit all of this in within a 24-hour day is extremely challenging and I definitely do not get as much sleep as I would like or need. I hope that by the end of the year I will be able to expand my team so that I can offload some of these tasks to people that are actually much better qualified to do them, so that I can focus on writing and content creation.

What makes the luxury travel and lifestyle blogging community different (and better!) than others?
The blogging community overall is one of the best things about this. Everyone is so supportive of one another and happy to share tips and tricks picked up on the way. To me luxury is all about the experience – experiences like jet skiing around a tiny island in the Caribbean, like running around in a sunflower field or exploring hidden waterfalls when there are few others around. It’s discovering new or under the radar brands that have been crafted with such finery but are not mainstream. That to me is true luxury lifestyle and why I decided to make it my niche.

On another note, I also want to be as authentic as possible. I only blog about things I have actually experienced, and admittedly my career in finance allowed me to do this. Had I not have had this career in finance, I probably would not have had the pleasure of staying at some hotels, or visiting some countries, or buying certain luxury goods. In a world of Instagram contrivance, being genuine is incredibly important to me.

Sarah Barthet 3

How do different social channels feed into your blog?
Pinterest is probably the channel that feeds into my blog most. People use Pinterest to find things to do, try or buy, and that means that it is a great segway to the blog. Ultimately, I always want my articles to be answering a question that the reader has.

In terms of social media, I would say Instagram is the only social media app I spend much time on, and it definitely is useful for directing my audience to the blog – but definitely not as much as good SEO or Pinterest.

How do you decide what content to focus on?
I try to mix it up across a number of content pillars, with an overall theme of luxury lifestyle. To me that means travel to new places (think travel guides and hotel reviews), trying new restaurants, fashion and beauty reviews and lastly, I also include the odd article on career advice – because after all, a successful career (in whatever industry) is needed to do all of these things (at least for most of us).

Where is your favourite place you have travelled to?
My favourite holiday destination, hands down, is Tobago! There is nothing I didn’t like about it! From the people, to the food, to the beaches. There are so many other places I enjoy though like the UAE, Oman and – of course – pretty much anywhere in Italy.

What are the best collaborations you’ve worked on?
I feel lucky that despite being relatively new to all of this, I have worked with some amazing brands. In the hospitality space, these include hotels such as the Park Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency, the Kulm in St. Moritz and the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina. I have also worked with some incredible beauty brands such as Sothys Skincare, Manos Gerakinis Parfums, Great Lengths and so many more.

Do you accept press releases?
If the press release relates to anything in line with the Dukes Avenue brand, I will generally reply and enquire as to whether there is a way that we could work together going forward.

Do you have a good relationship with PRs? What advice would you give to PR professionals who want to work with you?
I do! A lot of the work that I am getting (and offered) lately is through my relationships with PR professionals. My advice to PR firms is to reach out via email or my website! I love making new connections and always prefer face-to-face meetings to start the relationship.

What are your future plans for your blog?
So many! In the short-term, my plan is to build out the blog and expand the team so that I can spend more time on learning about new destinations, hotels and products and step away from the backend part of the business. This will allow me to create even more content for readers.

In the long-term, I want Dukes Avenue to become a brand with a mark of quality in the hospitality, fashion and beauty space. I have many plans in my head that I have had for years, and will reveal all when the time is right! I’m a long way off from where I want to be and I’m excited about where I’ll be this time next year.

Image credits: hair styling @sophiethomashair and photography @misslittleemily1.


Reject the ‘perennial prophets of doom’ or embrace ‘real zero’ emissions?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) taking place in Davos, Switzerland is dominated by discussions about new global trade deals and reducing the impact of climate change. The annual gathering first established in 1971 and formalized in 1974, sees 3,000 of the world’s richest and most powerful people gather in the Swiss resort to discuss global affairs affecting business and the economy.

Observers have been encouraged that the Forum is at last tackling environmental issues, with 17-year-old climate and environmental activist Greta Thunberg giving a keynote address.

Her speech, as reported by the New York Times, was critical of distant net zero carbon reduction targets: ‘We don’t need a low carbon economy. We don’t need to lower emissions. Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.’

She repeated her warning to the political generation of today to take real action or to face their children knowing that an opportunity to change course on emissions had been missed: ‘Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.’

Sky News’ Economics Editor Ed Conway reported that Thunberg will later be meeting the Prince of Wales, who is also attending and speaking at the WEF on climate change. Clarence House has issued a tweet confirming the meeting.

Perennial prophets of doom
President Trump’s message seemed to be directed at Greta Thunberg despite not directly naming her: ‘This is not a time for pessimism. This is a time for optimism. To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.

‘They want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.’

Donald Trump’s presence at the Forum is interesting given Boris Johnson issued a ban to his ministers from attending this year’s summit, not wanting to be part of the global elite as his re-elected Government sets about delivering Brexit and levelling up spending across the entire country. Only Chancellor Sajid Javid has been allowed to attend and he was mocked by a CNBC journalist for doing so: ‘Thank you very much for coming, and drinking champagne with billionaires here at the World Economic Forum’.

Trade deals
Despite doubts that the UK can achieve a trade deal with the EU before the end of 2020, Javid said he recognised the narrow window to conduct the trade negotiations, but that nonetheless the Government would not commence formal trade discussions with the US government on a trade deal until an EU trade deal was in place: ‘I have held a number of discussions with European colleagues and there is a strong belief on both sides that it can be done. Both sides recognise that it’s a tight timetable, a lot needs to be done. It can be done, and it can be done for both goods where we want to see zero tariffs and zero quotas, and also services’.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was disappointed to learn that the UK Government was prioritising an EU trade deal over one with the US but seemed confident one could also be agreed in 2020: ‘We are very much looking forward to a new trade agreement this year with the UK, it’s a big priority for us.’

Javid said of the UK’s ambition to conclude a trade deal with the US as well, ideally before the US election later this year: ‘A trade agreement between the sixth largest economy in the world and the largest economy in the world could benefit all consumers in terms of jobs and prices. It’s hugely important.’

Whether the UK can achieve these two major trade deals within the next 12 months is unclear, but what is expected is that the agreements will be conducted in phases and that an initial agreement will be completed this year, with the rest of the detailed negotiations conducted gradually over the years ahead.

Father Fitness Paul Stainthorpe

Fitness Blogger Spotlight with Paul Stainthorpe, Father Fitness

If you’re yet to find your inspiration for getting fit, get to know Father Fitness blogger Paul Stainthorpe. Heavy child car seats sparked his journey, and blogging on exercise and healthy days out with his family keeps him going. The Rocky IV soundtrack helps as well, so if you’ve found that you’ve lost ‘the light of self-control’ when it comes to staying active, read on and remember that ‘the cave that holds you captive has no doors’…

How did you get started with blogging about fitness?
When my little boy was born, I was really out of shape. I struggled to carry his car seat through the house and he wasn’t getting any lighter! I had always been an active person all throughout school and college. It was only when we moved into our own place that I let things slide and so the birth of my child got me exercising again. I started blogging as a way to keep me motivated. If I put something out there, I had to keep it up and so far, so good.

What’s your favourite thing to post about on your blog?
I like to blog about family days out, especially ones with lots of walking and fresh air. I promote a clear mind as I believe it leads to clearer decisions. I also love to write honest blogs where I may have been struggling. These seem to get the most interaction; I think readers like the honesty and the fact I’m bridging the gap between an unfit dad to a fitter dad.

What are your tips for getting back into an exercise routine after the festive season?
If you’re using the New Year to start afresh, take it slow and don’t put yourself under too much pressure. No one is judging you and small goals are better than unrealistic ones. Find yourself a sport or an exercise you enjoy, too – you’ll be more likely to stick to it. I’ve been weight training for over 23 years and I love it. There’s something out there for everyone, you just need to find it.

What makes the fitness blogging community different (and better!) than others?
I’ve been a part of the fitness blogging community for quite a few years now. Some have come and gone but I’ve always tried my best to be extremely supportive. Especially the male bloggers, because they seem to need the most encouragement. I can’t really answer the question though because we all blog about our experiences and our own individual journeys, hoping that something connects with our readers.

Weirdest fitness trend you’ve tried/heard about?
Probably the vibrating plate. I was so sceptical of this, but I believe it actually worked! Incredible when you think about it.

What are the best songs to get you fired up to work out?
I love the Gladiator soundtrack – ‘What we do in life, echoes in eternity!’ Some Rocky IV tunes are normally on my playlist, along with Pink.

Who are your fitness heroes/inspirations?
This might sound strange but no one you guys will know. I will take my kids to school and I’m surrounded by parents who are on their own fitness journey. You can see them looking fitter and healthier each week. These are the people who inspire me.

How do you work with PRs and brands?
I have a standard fee which includes a blog post, photography and I share it via all my social channels. I can also produce videos and work on solely social media campaigns if required.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog, how would you prefer they approach you?
The emails that stand out are the ones that state my first name and mention something specific about me. It proves they’ve actually read my blog and I see these emails as being serious about working with me.

What other blogs do you read?
I read my wife’s blog Mutha Fitness, although she hasn’t blogged in a little while – I must get on to her! I also enjoy reading my friend’s blog Hoyles Fitness – he’s another honest blogger and we’ve supported each other for many years. We made an eBook together called ‘The Ultimate Father Fitness Programme’ (shameless plug, but check it out here).

Fitness Spotlight with Annie Brooks, Tales of Annie Bean

Don’t feel downhearted if you’re still struggling to get back into a fitness regime after the festive season – blogger Annie Brooks from Tales of Annie Bean is here to help you get your routine back on track.

Fitness blogging is now Annie’s main passion after getting into triathlon training with her partner (and co-blogger) Nick following her time in the fashion community. Having found her fit, the active blogger is an expert on finding the right sport and the right soundtrack for getting set to sweat…

How did you get started with blogging about fitness?
Believe it or not, I wasn’t really into exercise. I did a fitness class now and again but I wouldn’t call it a big part of my life. I started blogging as a fashion blogger, actually… like most people! But when I was diagnosed in later life with epilepsy, I decided to do a triathlon to raise money for charity. My husband was an iron distance triathlete and I thought I could do the triathlon as my challenge and that would be it. That sort of backfired because I completely fell in love with triathlon! I got far more active because of it, so not only was I racing, I was also trying new sports and activities. I decided to document it all and move into fitness.

What’s your favourite thing to post about on your blog (training tips, reviews, experiences)?
I love to share all of those things, but mainly my personal experiences. The whole point of a blog for me is the personal side, and the writer’s perspective and their views. I know that’s what I’d read other blogs for.

What are your tips for getting back into an exercise routine after the festive season?
Firstly, don’t be too hard on yourself because everyone has a break over Christmas and often we do over-indulge. I don’t like to think of the festive season as a setback, but instead of working on the physical side you’re actually working on the mental health side. Having time to unwind, catch up with loved ones, and switching off from the normal routine can’t easily be achieved any other time of the year. So, appreciate it.

Next? You pick up where you left off, but the last thing you do is stress out over how many Quality Streets you’ve consumed, or how many extra helpings of your Auntie’s bread and butter pudding you had. It’s happened, so draw a line. I’d start by slowly reintroducing your routine, if you exercise four times a week, start with two then bring it back to whatever your normal sessions are. You’ll get it back.

What makes the fitness blogging community different (and better!) than others?
As previously mentioned, I used to do fashion blogging many years ago now, and I always felt that bit more intimidated. Perhaps I’ve just grown up, but I do find the fitness blogging community to be so friendly, inspiring and helpful! We all know how hard it is to train for races, juggle full-time jobs and blog… so we’re all on the same page.

Annie Brooks 1

Weirdest fitness trend you’ve tried/heard about?
I know it is a ‘thing’, but Dog Yoga. I mean, how can anyone feel mindful when there are cute dogs everywhere, and if I took mine she wouldn’t be practising her downward dog (she does actually do that), she’d be more interested in the other dogs!

Annie Brooks 3

What are the best songs to get you fired up to work out?
Honestly, people are going to judge me based on my musical taste here. I’m mildly trapped in the 80s and have a ridiculous love for 80s’ hair metal! My top 5 are…
1. Motley Crue – Kickstart My Heart.
2. ACDC – Thunderstruck
3. Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl
4. The Clash – Should I stay or should I go
5. ZZ Top – Gimme all your lovin’

Who are your fitness heroes/inspirations?
Lucy Charles, Scott Jurek, Angela Naeth, Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller.

How do you work with PRs and brands?
It varies, to be honest – I sometimes work on blog content with them or via video creations. I only work with brands and on campaigns I am truly passionate about, though.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog, how would you prefer they approach you?
Drop me an email, pick up the phone – just a nice personal message reaching out.

What other blogs do you read?
Huge fan of all the blogs on the Fitness & Exercise UK Top 10 and actually read the majority of them already. But I must admit I’m quite the YouTube girl, especially when it comes to trainer reviews.


Creating content inhouse

How to start creating content in-house

2020 is the year for in-house content creation. In 2019, a third of marketing teams surveyed by Canto and Sapio Research were planning to reduce agency spend and start sourcing internally.

If you’re one of the nine in 10 comms directors surveyed by Speak Media who still struggle with putting content together, getting started is going to be the hardest part. Skip the stage of staring at a blank Word doc and get straight to writing/filming/surveying with this advice from PRs already content with their content creation.

Content can come from anywhere… but surveys and suggestions are a good place to start
‘We’ve had success doing research pieces from surveys but also received coverage just by making sure that we’re watching what’s going on across media outlets and seeing what comments and added value we can offer. Suggestions from the team are crucial though, you have to have that buy in from the wider business. That’s when you get someone from an area completely unrelated to content and marketing come to you with an idea.’
Cartridge People SEO manager Andy Davies

There’s no such thing as a bad idea
‘I know its cliché, but it’s true. In our ideation meetings, we encourage people to be as adventurous and as wild as possible with their thoughts. There have been times where someone has suggested something that they thought was a ridiculous idea, but it ended up being one of our top performing campaigns due to its originality and wackiness.’
Liberty Marketing digital PR executive Emma Hull

‘We have a very healthy attitude towards ideas and never shoot them down early on, which I think is key to making people feel confident about sharing. Even if they aren’t gold, some ‘bad’ ideas can lead to greatness after a discussion. The truth is that if we established an atmosphere where only great ideas are expected to be shared, then there wouldn’t be much getting said. Instead, we never write off ideas and it’s that approach that can get us the best ones – even if it is after some tinkering.’
Add People senior content and off page SEO specialist Jack Bird

Watercooler walks: talk to people outside of your own team
‘Communicating content ideas to the people in your business is arguably more important than when you’re looking to talk to journalists. Other teams can act as that first set of eyes and offer insights that don’t just look at how it can help build the brand. There are techniques to try and help that idea sharing, such as the 6-3-5 method, and this is one we’ve found useful.

‘Regular meetings and shared sheets can be a good way to formalise things, but we’ve found that just by talking to other departments, even in passing, makes sure that everyone is aware of the type of content that’s being produced.’
Andy Davies

Make the most of the people and the skills you have around you
‘While you can utilise other sources, nobody knows your brand like you do and if you have in-house content writers, they will understand your business better, which pages are more critical and to add internal links to, how to add in your business goals or call-to-actions. There is a lower level of research required with inhouse content writers and the costs are far lower when writing in bulk.

‘The length of content required now is vastly higher than years gone by. We also need to not just look at the question we’re trying to answer when our audience arrives from Google, but their follow-up thought-track and predict their next questions, so they don’t return to Google for another search. This requires a lot of research around the subject area and associated questions, customer intent, as well as truly understanding our target audience and building out personas. This would be very difficult to do from outside and really requires staff members that are fully enveloped into our system and writing all day to help our content strategy.’
The Stag Company SEO expert and senior digital marketer Tom Bourlet

‘There are obvious advantages to creating your content in-house. Of course, these people already work for you and are already paid by you, so you don’t have to worry about allocating a budget for external work. Additionally, your staff already know the industry because they’re in it. They’re experts in the subject (hopefully!) and understand your client base.’
Carrington Communications junior PR account executive Leah Benthin

Created something great? Don’t just share it once
‘All too often great content is used once by one team and then gets left in the proverbial drawer, never to be seen again. This is such a waste. If good content is produced, I personally like to “wring it dry”. It should be used across multiple teams (where relevant) and also reused across different mediums too. For instance, there is nothing to stop a brand taking snippets from a longer whitepaper and turning these into social media posts, or likewise using some of that copy to draft an opinion article. They could even use that same copy to hijack the news agenda in a reactive comment, which can be distributed to the media. Doing this will not only mean you get far more eyes on that content, but will also guarantee a consistent voice, tone and message across multiple channels, too.’
Tribe PR MD and founder Holly Pither

Check what’s working
‘We use Google Analytics to look at the actual traffic and engagement of the blog, whereas Majestic is also used to look at the Trust Flow and Citation Flow, and Rank Checker to review rankings for longtail. As for content campaigns, we measure the success of these by making note of any links we have built.

While authoritative and trustworthy links are important to a website, coverage without a backlink is still a positive. It has become increasingly hard over the past twelve months to ensure that sites are linking back to a website as a lot of publications refrain from doing so as they think it is ‘harmful’ to their own site or they restrict this SEO benefit to affiliates.

Once our content campaign has been pushed, I check whether it is also being talked about on social media, too.’
Emma Hull

Still not sure about getting started with creating content in-house? If you can write an email, you’ve got the skills already
‘If you’re working in PR, then chances are that you’ve already written some of the hardest content around – emails. There are thousands of articles dedicated to writing the perfect one – hell, even just a decent subject line. With words such a valuable currency and attention spans so fleeting, it takes a lot of practice and talent to write a good message. That’s why I’m willing to bet that if you’re confident about writing emails, then you should at least have the confidence to try your hand at longer content pieces. Trust me, they’re a lot more fun.’
Jack Bird

Measure the success of your campaigns (whether sourced outside or in-house) with Vuelio media monitoring – find out more here.

Labour leader and deputy contests move to second stage as hustings begin

As nominations for the Labour party leadership closed this week, five candidates made it through to the next round of nominations, and a further five candidates will contest the deputy leadership vacated by Tom Watson. The party has arranged a series of hustings starting in Liverpool on Saturday 18 January.

The next stage in the contest, with a deadline of 14 February, requires candidates for both leader and deputy, to secure the backing of 5% of local Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) or at least three affiliates – two of which must be unions. This Twitter account is keeping track of CLP nominations and of the first nine, Keir Starmer has six nominations and Rebecca Long-Bailey has three.

So far the country’s largest union, Unison has backed Keir Starmer, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has backed Lisa Nandy and the Bakers Union has backed Rebecca Long-Bailey. Of the affiliated organisations, environmental organisation SERA (formerly the Socialist Environment and Resources Association) has endorsed Keir Starmer, with further announcements from other organisations expected over the coming weeks leading up to the mid-February deadline.

Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis withdrew from the contest shortly before nominations closed, though he had put forward a radical manifesto that included supporting a second Scottish Independence referendum ‘if the Scottish people want one’ and pledging to set up ‘democratic Assemblies for the English regions, with real powers and budgets’.

Sir Keir Starmer is the clear favourite in terms of nominations from the party’s MPs and MEPs with 89 out of 203 MPs nominating him.

Shadow BEIS Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has received the backing of the Momentum grassroots campaigning organisation and has been dubbed the ‘continuity Corbyn candidate’, though she received only 33 MP nominations. The Momentum online poll of members was overwhelmingly in favour of Rebecca Long-Bailey but oddly she was the only candidate offered with 70.42% voting in favour of endorsing her and 52% endorsing Angela Rayner for deputy leader. Just over 7,000 members of the organisation took part in the ballot with many presumably boycotting it due to only being offered one option. Ms Long-Bailey launches her campaign in Manchester this evening.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy received 31 MP nominations with Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry both receiving 23 nominations from their colleagues.

Emily Thornberry launches her campaign in Guildford today. Having first won her Islington South seat in 2005, she is the only candidate who was actually in the House of Commons when Labour was last in Government. She will say in her launch speech: ‘I’m standing to lead our party, because I want to be the woman, and I know I can be the woman, who stands up and leads the fightback against Boris Johnson.’

Whilst starting from a low base in terms of support in terms of early polling and MP nominations, Jess Phillips has built a big name recognition for herself through various interviews and TV appearances as well as her campaigning on education cuts and violence against women. She has said in a letter to party members: ‘The way to begin is to tell the truth. No more pussyfooting or pretending – we have to provide a version of the future that fills our hearts while being rooted in fact’. Her campaign slogan is ‘Speak Truth, win power’.

Keir Starmer launched his campaign in Manchester and has already generated a lot of attention with a video setting out his background as a lawyer taking on a wide range of pro bono work for trade unions, and environmental or human rights campaigns. He rose to national prominence as Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013.

Lisa Nandy has already made a foreign policy focused speech this week with a passionate defence of free movement and ‘the opportunities and benefits it brings’, but added that ‘this would have required recognising it has flaws, and not dismissing concerns as simply racist anti-immigrant sentiment.’

She also was critical of Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement and has indicated that the UK should refuse to sign off on a US-UK trade deal until this is rectified, adding: ‘We must use trade to support climate action, not hamper it’. She is the first of the five candidates to face a grilling from Andrew Neil on his BBC show.

An article on HuffPost claims that Nandy’s team has a ‘preferential strategy’, taking into account the AV voting system used in the contest, to appeal for second preferences from Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry supporters, which would bolster her tally if those candidates drop out at earlier stages.

As in the previous two contests won by Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 and 2016, non-Labour members have been able to sign up as registered supporters over a two-day period this week. In what could be a blow to the Rebecca Long-Bailey campaign seeking to build on the previous Corbyn surges in supporters of 180,000, only 14,700 paid the £25 to take part in this contest.

All eyes will turn now to the contest itself and whether the turnout of members, affiliated union members and registered supporters reaches the high turnouts of 76.3% in 2015 and 77.6% in 2016 when 422,871 and 506,438 respectively took part in the contests.

The Deputy leader candidates who all achieved the 22 MP nomination threshold are Angela Rayner on 88 nominations, Ian Murray on 34, Dawn Butler on 29, Rosena Allin-Khan on 23 and Richard Burgon on 22.

The results will be announced at a special conference on Saturday 4 April.

Sadiq Khan

Defending public relations from its ‘bad PR’ problem

‘Too often, our industry is a soft-target for lazy attacks by those who lack an understanding of what public relations entails.’

The response from PRCA head of communications Koray Camgoz to last week’s City A.M. piece on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s increased press office spend – reportedly £920,967.95 on communications officers in 2018-19 – will probably have resonated with anyone working in PR who’s had to explain their job to people unfamiliar with the industry.

At Vuelio, we hear the complaint a lot from our PR community that the industry is misunderstood and unjustly painted in a negative light, despite recent drives towards more transparency across the communications discipline.

Outdated notions of desperate grasps for publicity, unfocused ‘spray and pray’ mail merge campaigns and badly-timed phone calls persist particularly for journalists, who’ve probably had their own bad experiences with PRs.

Portrayals of morally questionable and Machiavellian PR people on TV and film haven’t helped – think Ab Fab, Siobhan Sharpe or Colin Farrell in Phone Booth when he says: ‘I lie to newspapers and magazines who sell my lies to more and more people. I am just a part of a big cycle of lies.’

This controversy was stirred up again by the report of a 26% increase on the Mayor of London’s press operation. For Koray, the negative interpretations are due to a misunderstanding of the aims of PR: ‘The article suggests Khan is ‘“more concerned about PR than policy”’, but what many fail to grasp is that you cannot have effective policy unless you understand the people you’re trying to reach’.

‘PR professionals play an essential role in helping businesses to understand these parameters. Our practice is not obsessed with publicity as has been reported – it encompasses a range of disciplines that are integral to any professionally run businesses.’

Defending public relations against decades of, well, bad PR is a big task, particularly when it intersects with politics (another oft-maligned career choice). Chapman Poole director Andy Poole feels there is a natural connection between the two communities: ‘Khan’s increased press office spend is hardly surprising. If anything, investing more in PR is a savvy move. He’s competing in a world of politics where the value of personality and reputation has become the ultimate currency’.

Andy continues: ‘The likes of Johnson, Corbyn, Trump and Sturgeon have all polarised public opinion and sentiment, and their personalities have played a large part in this. How often do you hear someone talk about politicians now, making comments like; “‘I like their policies, but don’t like them as a person”. Khan gets this. He knows ‘“personality”’ is just as important as what he’s saying and what he stands for.’

Increasingly, transparency and authenticity are expected from politicians and any public figure, business or service. In spite of its reputation for smoke and mirrors, the reality is that PR has evolved and is now more focused on highlighting bigger ideas around ethics and moral standpoints. This function of public relations is still overlooked or invisible to the public (as good PR often is).

For business expert Erica Wolfe-Murray, there’s good reason for the dim view: ‘PR and lobbying teams paid by large conglomerates have been seen time and again to reinforce vested interests that we know are bad for us, our health, the environment. Tobacco, sugar, fast-food, oil, fracking. These industries have used PR extensively to promulgate stories that science has long since proven deleterious. Is it any wonder that the industry is regarded with cynicism?’

‘Transparency, honesty and global responsibility’ is what Erica believes the PR industry must prioritise in order to overhaul its reputation – if not a rebrand in line with the evolution of audience engagement.

Erica continues: ‘Perhaps the term ‘public relations’ should be retired. I infinitely prefer the term ‘communications’ as it is about just that – communicating. In the past, PR was a one-way street. Your release, story or interview went out to a selected publication or platform as the intermediary between you and the public. Now public figures and businesses can have a two-way intimate dialogue with their fans, their critics and the customers – for everyone else to see.’

This back-and-forth dialogue between subject, PR and public has never been more transparent, yet PR is still often called ‘the dark side’ by journalists and much of its positive effects go unrecognised. For Stone Junction’s Richard Stone, the best defence is the work itself: ‘PR has the power to raise Governments, change the course of nations and build businesses, from scratch, into global players. The importance of PR should require no defence; you can topple or grow a business with a tweet if it’s done correctly. As professionals we need to hold ourselves to the strictest standards and deliver useful work using the budget we have — then the value of our labour will be obvious.’

The City A.M. piece on Sadiq Khan’s PR spend is not the first negative take on PR expenditure, and it won’t be the last. Koray Camgoz rightly summarises the value of investing in public relations in his response: ‘Ultimately, PR professionals build trust between organisations and their stakeholders by delivering honest, timely and accurate information to those who need it’. And so say all of us…


CIPR #AIinPR report urges preparation for ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ of artificial intelligence

Robo-PRs aren’t on their way to take over public relations agencies across the globe, according to the speakers at the launch of the CIPR’s #AIinPR Panel report at The Alan Turing Institute this morning. That our industry should still prepare for other possibilities of machine learning and AI (beyond cyborg comms experts) was urged by Chair Kerry Sheehan, co-author Professor Anne Gregory and Drs David Leslie and Bertie Vidgen.

The nature of our work will change over the next five years as the technology we use gets smarter – so how can PRs prepare for the unavoidable impact of AI?

One main takeaway of ‘The Effects of AI on the Professions: A Literature Repository’ for PRs is the increasing importance of ethics. How will we use all the new data we’ll soon have at our disposal, and where should we draw the line?

‘A positive – AI is free from bias,’ said Professor Anne Gregory on the automated data gathering and content generation that will soon be possible. ‘We have to govern ourselves, however. We call ourselves “ethical guardians” – we need to keep asking ourselves those tough questions. Just because we can, should we?’

Anne highlighted a future of people ‘AI-empowered’ and those who’ll be lacking, with PRs – reassuringly – being in a ‘privileged position’. Alongside the bonus of its access to new tech, PR is made up of people with skills that AI can’t duplicate. YetShe said: ‘Social and emotional skills – crucial in our profession – are going to be more important’.

For Anne, communication is what will put PRs ‘at the heart of strategy’ – translators of context and experts in meaning-making when it comes to reams of meaning-free numbers and statistics. This is encouraging for anyone who has picked PR as a career, certainly, but drastic changes are still on their way.

A big topic of discussion was that a whole rung of the PR career ladder – entry-level positions – will likely be taken away by machine learning. How we as an industry will look after and continue to nurture young PR talent needs to be prepared for within agencies, now. ‘The jury is out on whether AI will replace all our jobs,’ said Anne. ‘That it is going to change the nature of work is indisputable’.

Perhaps the most important key point from the launch of the #AIinPR report is that PR needs to start practicing what it preaches. ‘PR talks a good game, but doesn’t listen to itself’, said Kerry Sheehan of PR’s tendency to promote, publicise and then ignore useful reports and studies… such as the one being launched. AI will change the nature of work, across all industries. It will bring in new questions around ethics not yet covered by GDPR regulations, and spark new discussions around regulations and equality (can AI really be completely unbiased? We’ll find out)

PR is in a position of privilege as technology will continue to change how the world of work looks, but also a position of great responsibility.

‘This report doesn’t advise how to navigate the use of AI,’ admitted Anne, ‘But it is designed to enable direct access to a suite of resources for readers to inform themselves.’

‘PR has a vital societal and organisational role to play in the debate on AI but it needs to better prepare itself with practitioners upskilling to work smarter and faster in their roles but also becoming equipped to advise on AI adoption and deployment within organisations and business, and to its stakeholders and society,’ said Kerry. ‘It is our role to no longer debate on our own swim lanes – we must help drive business and organisations forward. This report is the first step in that preparation and I am delighted our partners such as CBI, The Alan Turing Institute and the UK Government Office for AI are supportive of our work.’

Prepare for the upcoming impact of AI on your work: read more about ‘The Effects of AI on the Professions: A Literature Repository’ here. Want more about the future of PR? Check out our write up on the incoming rise of VIs (virtual influencers) and lessons from last year’s CIPR National Conference on ‘Preparing for the Digital Future’.

Sam Ajilore

Music Blogger Spotlight with Sam Ajilore, That Grape Juice

‘That Grape Juice is effectively a site for music fans by music fans. We aim to inform, but also entertain in equal measure’. Here to entertain and inform us on music blog That Grape Juice, is Sam Ajilore who started the website as a hobby in 2007 and now draws in music fans across the world with in-depth features and interviews.

Read on to find out what makes the music sector such an interesting space to blog in, whether The Voice is still a good idea for new musicians and what lyric comes after ‘Hello’…

How did you get started with writing about music?
In school! My sister would always buy Urban magazines such as Essence, Pride and S2S – all of which I’d pick up and get lost in. The stories, the interviews, the reader feedback. It was such an immersive experience.

So, when blog culture had its initial boom in the mid-late 00s, I had a firm grasp on my Pop cultural palette and knew what the tone and approach of my site would be if I ever had one.

As history has it, I did launch That Grape Juice in 2007, but initially as a hobby. So to be here chatting with you, 13 years later (especially for this feature), is an honour!

What’s your favourite thing to post about on That Grape Juice?
At this point, it’s definitely original content! Celeb interviews, in-depth articles and editor round tables, as well as exclusive stories. Sure, the ‘trending’ finger-on-the-pulse stuff is the key driver (as is the case for most sites), but we have really realised the value of cultivating content people quite literally can’t find anywhere else.

What makes That Grape Juice different than others?
A few things! That Grape Juice has a distinctive tone of voice. It’s rooted in fact and is reliable, but it can also skew cheeky and get involved in the conversation it’s igniting.

Unlike pure celeb or gossip platforms (which I do enjoy, too), we also cater to the niche that are interested in music sales, industry trends and the behind-the-scenes happenings. Put simply, those who (like me) pick up a CD and get lost in the credits: who wrote what song, which label released it, so on and so forth.

That Grape Juice is effectively a site for music fans by music fans. We aim to inform, but also entertain in equal measure.

Mainly, though, I’d say it’s our emphasis on sparking discussion and debate. Humbly speaking, our comment section is popping! Which is something I’m really proud of; especially at a time where so much of the pop cultural dialogue has shifted to social media (an arena we also enjoy solid engagement in, too).

Do you think shows like The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent are still a good route into the music industry for wannabe musicians? What are the pros and cons?
I think it depends. On one hand, we live in such a DIY time that it totally makes sense for someone to appear on shows of this ilk – if the simple goal is exposure to acquire a bigger audience and leverage that towards a long-term plan. Winning, from that angle, would essentially be a bonus.

Yet, given how few stars are being churned out by such platforms these days, it does beg the question of whether it’s more valuable investing time and resources in direct-to-consumer approaches such as YouTube and playlisting on streaming services.

Ultimately, there are multiple ways of breaking in. The one consistent necessity though is having a DIY mentality. So, rather than waiting for a show to make one a star or dropping one song on YouTube with no strategy, it’s about having a plan. If it doesn’t work, then hatch another, then another and then another. Whatever the approach, acts today have to take agency over their careers if they want to advance.

Do you see the increase in the intersection of tech with music as a good thing – VR shows, holograms of musicians who are no longer with us?
I think it’s too soon to tell. I’m a tech geek at heart and a lover of spectacle, so I’m super intrigued about the elevation of the live music experience. At the same time, there are definitely ethical points of consideration that make it tricky terrain.

Beyond the growing fascination of reviving those who’ve passed away, I’d much prefer to see such technology used to cultivate exciting concert experiences for acts that are still here. Like a ‘Live In Your Living Room With _______’.

What was the first song/album you bought (and would you still listen to it)?
I honestly can’t remember! Much of my childhood was spent hounding my mum to buy us singles from Our Price, Virgin Megastore and HMV. By the time I was old enough to do so for myself, net culture meant anything you wanted to listen to was at your fingertips. Cornerstone albums for me, though, are Thriller, Janet and The Emancipation Of Mimi.

Favourite song lyric of all time?
Too many to name! But, I do find it fun watching what people follow with when singing the word ‘Hello…’

It’s pretty 50/50. Either Adele (‘…it’s me’) or Lionel Ritchie (‘…is it me you’re looking for’).

How do you work with PRs and brands?
On the PR front, it’s everything from content (hundreds of press releases a day), to arranging interviews, live reviews and original features.

With brands, it tends to be sponsorships and event coverage.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you?
We love working with PRs; it’s pretty much one of the most integral parts of our operation.

I think first it’s imperative those reaching out know the platform they’re contacting. For example, trying to solicit a feature for a heavy metal band on That Grape Juice is unlikely to yield fruitful results. While something of the pop or urban skew is much more on-brand.

I also find myself much more inclined to reply to personalised emails rather than the generic ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

What other blogs do you read (whether music-related or not)?
I find myself super into lifestyle blogs of late. Randomly, interior design blogs, too.


Catherine West MP: Parliament has sent its solidarity to Australia. Now we must act.

This is a guest post from Catherine West, the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and a former member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

For the past few weeks we have all witnessed the horrific images in Australia; vast swathes of precious fauna and natural habitat burnt to a crisp, with both animals and people losing their homes and, sadly, in many cases, their lives. Bush fires are not a new occurrence for Australia, but the sheer scale and ferocity of these fires, the huge impact on lives, and the global interest in them, is unprecedented and a warning sign of things to come.

At the first sitting of Parliament of this new decade, a decade likely to be dominated by climate change, the Speakers of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – working together with members from all parties – sent their heartfelt solidarity to our colleagues in the Australian Parliament, and of course to the Australian people, who continue to suffer appallingly. We also sent our thanks to the fire fighters who continue to put their lives on the line to prevent the fires from taking even more lives, and their bravery deserves universal praise.

Although these sentiments by both Houses were welcomed by Members of all parties, we cannot sit idly by and rest on our laurels. In the coming decade it will be Parliaments, not executive governments, that will have the responsibility to ensure we don’t forget the horrors of this bushfire season and keeps the climate firmly on the agenda, regardless of the changing political weather and competing priorities of governments which come and go.

With the beginning of a new decade, we do have a real chance to make progress and prevent the scenes in Australia from happening again – while we still have time to do so. It is easily forgotten by many, but unless we take action over the next ten years to have a just transition to a zero-carbon economy it may be too late to prevent further climate collapse.

If we don’t, then people across the globe will continue to suffer as scenes like those in Australia, with disasters becoming more common and more widespread. It’s already clear that disasters are spreading, and we shouldn’t treat the Australian fires as an isolated incident. We are only a few weeks into 2020, but already we are arguably seeing one of the worst years for the climate in generations, with famine and drought in Zambia and floods in Indonesia, as well as the burning of Australia. These events should be treated as a wake-up call that we need to take collective action, and we need to do so now.

Climate change is not confined to national borders, and decisions that we take here in Westminster has a direct impact on the future of the global climate, not just our own. We can move forward from this, and work with governments across the globe to tackle the climate crisis and put a stop to the disasters. With the UK Parliament being the first in the world to declare a Climate Emergency, and the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Summit in November, there is a real chance for us to become world leaders in tackling the climate crisis and preventing further disasters.

The events in Australia demonstrate what awaits us if we fail to do so.

This blog post is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy makers 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.


Slummy Single Mummy to share the Untold Stories of parenting bloggers

Award-winning parenting blogger Jo Middleton has launched Untold Stories – a space on Slummy Single Mummy where parents can anonymously share the issues they struggle with.

Finding a balance between public and private as a blogger sharing her parenting life, Jo’s aim with the section is to create a ‘safe, non-judgemental space for support and feedback’. As a popular blogger in the sector – number one in the Top 10 Mummy Blogs – Jo provides advice on food, money, love and travel alongside family life, as well as answers to other issues she faces in her Rants section. The parts of life that don’t fit neatly into these topics is what she’s now hoping to cover.

‘As a writer in a public space there is always a balance between sharing enough to connect with people and keeping enough private that you respect other people’s privacy,’ said Jo, of the difficulties of balance in blogging and parenting. ‘Talking to other parents and parent bloggers recently I’ve found that it’s not just me that finds this hard.’

‘What I’ve decided to do is create a space for people to anonymously share their stories – the sort of stories that we normally keep to ourselves but that shape our lives.’

With the pressures of sharing a successful family life now extending beyond those blogging or vlogging as a parent and to anybody with a social media presence, the less than perfect elements and vulnerabilities that come with modern life can be harder than ever to share with honesty. When even those with carefully locked-down Facebook profiles for close family rarely share authentically, online spaces for parents to ask questions and find others with the same issues, anonymously if needed, are increasingly important.

‘For me, as a parent using social media, it’s not so much that I don’t WANT to share the less Instagrammable parts of my life, it’s that I don’t feel able to because everything I share is accessible by my children,’ said Jo. ‘I’ve loved how the more “real” side of parenting has become so much more talked about online, but it’s normally focused on parents of younger children and can tend to be a little tongue in cheek, a bit more – “fish fingers for tea again lol!”

‘For me it feels like there’s a real gap in this kind of content but for parents of older children, because we are much more restricted by what we can respectfully share. This is the issue for me, that as much as we all want to be honest, sometimes you just can’t. Having spoken to several parent bloggers with teenagers I know they feel the same.

‘I’d also like to dig a bit deeper than the daily grind and pick out some trickier topics that might not otherwise be spoken about. Ultimately parenting can be a lonely business and I want other parents to feel like they’re not alone, that other people are experiencing the same struggles.’

Believing there to be a gap online between what information is available and genuine support for parents, Jo is open to suggestions about subjects as well as contributions for Untold Stories. More about the launching section can be found on the Slummy Single Mummy blog here.

Holly Pither Tribe PR

PR, social and comms predictions for 2020

This is a guest post by Holly Pither, MD and founder of Tribe PR.

January is always a great time to reflect on the year just gone, and spend some time thinking about what’s to come. For me, 2019 was year full of ground-breaking marketing campaigns, exciting PR activations, big tech advances, what can only be described as influencer madness and some big industry shakeups too.

But what does 2020 have in store? To find out I have crowdsourced some industry heavyweights for their opinion and here’s what they’ve been saying…

B2B comms will get more human

I have always felt that B2B marketers and PRs have set themselves apart from their fellow B2C professionals, and certainly up until a few years ago the nature of their work and how they talked to their audience was, in fairness, quite different. However, the last few years have brought B2B and B2C comms much closer together. And now instead of a corporate brand talking to its corporate customers in a professional and (dare I say it) staged manner, it should be talking to its audience in a very different tone; a human tone.

Today, and moving forward, good brand communication will be all about engaging directly with people, understanding what makes them tick, responding to their needs and then consequently turning them into brand advocates. Never before has the mantra that we live and breathe here at Tribe PR; ‘people don’t buy brands, they join them’ been more true.

Influence marketing will move away from influence to focus on talent

When I asked William Soulier, CEO and co-founder of Talent Village, about his 2020 predictions, he contended that the future of the influencer marketing industry needed to move away from influence and prioritise talent.

He said: ‘Certainly, one of the biggest challenges the industry faced in 2019 were the vociferous headlines and editorial pieces forecasting the demise of influencer marketing. We predict 2020 will be about rebuilding trust in the industry, which can be achieved by working with true talent over and above influence.’

William said that by Talent Village adopting a talent-led approach, they will be ‘better able to solve growing concerns regarding fake followers, promote diversity and increase advocacy as we continue to focus on building long-term partnerships and deliver authentic and credible results’.

Prioritising advocacy over loyalty

The words ‘loyalty’ and ‘advocacy’ often get mixed up in the whole host of buzzwords we use across the industry on a daily basis. Loyal customers are people who keep returning to your brand, but they might not actively be talking about it to other people. On the other hand, brand advocates are people who are both loyal to your brand and proactively share it. The big difference is that your advocates will tell your story for you. I think 2020 has to be about turning brand loyalists into brand advocates and getting them to play a part in your storytelling, too.

An increased and renewed focus on purpose

Annabel Wallis, marketing business partner at Outsource UK, explained that while digitalisation and AI is pushing people further away from real interaction, she thinks that in 2020 there will be increased focus on the ethos and purpose of business (wholehearted values).

‘I anticipate the balance between ethical consumerism and convenience will tip towards the former, especially as climate panic grows,’ Annabel said. ‘Digital can only help with this as long as its purpose is wholehearted, so programmatic advertising will go into overdrive.’

Removing Likes means we need to work harder to create standout content

When Instagram announced last year that it was removing likes, it said it was predominantly to remove the element of ‘pressure’ and to stop it feeling so competitive on the social platform. Certainly, this decision by the social giant has made waves in the industry, with many worried about how best to measure their activity moving forward if likes are removed. But I believe that with the removal of likes, brands will need to engage with their followers on a much deeper level. This can only be a good thing, especially as content will have to be far more interesting, engaging and authentic.

I think it will also force B2B brands to become more personal and talk to their audience on a far more human level (which is all so often missing B2B brand communications). As William Soulier says, by Instagram removing likes, brands will need to ‘realign their affiliation with the right kind of talent; those who match their values and have the credibility to talk authentically in this space to create good compelling and authentic content’.

Integrating paid and earned

MD and owner of  Cherish PR Rebecca Oatley believes that 2020 will see more of an integration of paid and earned media – ‘I see PR agencies being more proactive in negotiating digital spend alongside stories. We will see this with influencers in particular’. She said that Cherish is already running whitelisting within their influencer campaigns and she expects this to become more prominent in 2020.

Brands will need to accept that they can’t be everything to everyone

If a brand is 100% clear about what they stand for, then they will always find that some people will be left out – and that’s okay. I think 2020 will be the year to reassure ourselves that we cannot be all things to everyone. I would like to see brands using 2020 to focus in on their key messages and ensure that they know exactly who they are trying to bring into their tribe, and likewise who they would prefer simply didn’t join.

Creating human connections

As a result of the widely-publicised issues around data privacy, the novelty of social media wearing off and the poor use of automation and personalisation, we are seeing more and more consumers rebelling against the overuse of technology.

Paul Sutton, the digital marketing consultant behind Digital Download Podcast said, ‘as a society, trust has plummeted and we’re clamouring for genuine connections with human beings. Marketers with any sense of the real world are trying to follow suit, some with more success than others as this is a mindset shift for many. Though it’s been prompted by advances in mobile and internet technology, the explosion of podcasts is a prime example of the sort of ‘authentic’ content that people are now demanding. Whether it’s audio, video, imagery or written content, the medium in 2020 will be less important than the marketer’s ability to create a human connection’.

It feels that the ways we will absorb our news and the platforms on which we will do so will be more extensive than ever before. With this in mind, it feels that the words ‘content, content, content’ will continue to fill our inboxes and weekly update meetings for a long time to come (even if we do all shudder at the word). Though hopefully that content will be more human, more personalised and far more authentic.

As Natasha Hill, MD of Bottle so eloquently sums up when she reflected on the coming decade, ‘the ‘news’ will be read, watched, listened to, on many more platforms than Ofcom currently bulk into Other Online Media’.

And what an opportunity this presents…

Holly Pither is MD and founder of Tribe PR. Tribe PR is an independent communications agency, specialising in earned media to help organisations of all sizes increase their brand advocacy. Holly has built the business based on the mantra that ‘people don’t buy brands, they join them.’

2020 New Year Resolution

UK PR New Year’s Resolutions: more video, team lunches and headspace

Made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2020? We asked members of the UK PR industry what they were hoping to achieve this year for their agency, their clients and themselves – read on to see which aims are realistic and worth taking on in your own teams… and which resolutions might have been broken already.

Realistic goals and a ’mint’ office
Stone Junction managing director Richard Stone

Richard Stone
‘Our main resolution for the year ahead is entirely retention based. While the new offices [with a working bar!] should give the team additional and comfortable space to work, we’re also improving our working benefits every year to include more holiday, additional spend in vouchers, CIPR accreditation, charity days and more.

I’m passionate about making this a mint place to work and so looking after the team here is always a priority moving into every new year — plus we figured this resolution was far more realistic than giving up alcohol.’

Team bonding/outside lunches marketing manager Salva Jovells

Salva Jovells
‘We have a small office in Zürich with six people but everyone is in the marketing team. So for this year, we are planning to create stronger bonds by having group activities three times a year and outside lunch every month.’

Worldwide domination with video (kinda)
PHD Marketing & Strategy managing director Jo Stephenson

Jo Stephenson
‘To use video more regularly for our clients, particularly in our core sectors of print, packaging and biosciences. We’re also resolving to push our international communications forward, by seeking a translation partner that retains the technical detail we’re known for, across the globe.’

Adapting and tailoring
Cherish PR managing director Rebecca Oatley

Rebecca Oatley
‘2020 is going to be a very different year for the UK. Fresh out of Europe, the UK will be negotiating and entering new trade deals with the world and potentially could begin a new era of national pride. With that said, my resolution is to help new businesses adapt and tailor their communications to a wider agenda, which means that they begin and remain relevant and stay in the minds and the hearts of their customers.’

Mad Promotions director Karin Ridgers

Karin Ridgers
‘I am looking to work with even more vegan brands in 2020. It is my biggest passion and as a vegan for nearly 25 years seeing this growth is incredible. Even five years ago it could have put off a journalist – now they love it! (I run as well as working in PR, so always welcome hearing vegan news).’

Outsourcing, podcasting and cutting down on snacks
Boss Your PR founder Fiona Minett

‘Outsource and collaborate. My focus is on supporting and training small businesses in tackling PR, but it’s easy to get distracted by the day-to-day of running a business, so, I’ll be expanding through outsourcing but also looking to collaboration when it comes to communicating the power and potential of PR for small business. Plans are in the works for a podcast with women’s network DiscovHer and I’m exploring weaving in a charitable collaboration which I’m really excited about. Also, I’m determined to keep my office tidier and stop snacking so much (one of the perils of being a ‘homeworker’)!’

Fewer! Exclamation! Points!
Hallam PR specialist Rebecca Peel

Rebecca Peel
‘Be a bit more sparing with the enthusiasm! I don’t talk! like! this! in real life… so why do I include so many exclamation marks to clients? I’m going to limit myself to just one per email unless I’m telling someone news which is out of this world.

I’m also going to promote myself more – being seen as credible in the industry is so important, and I might be good at promoting others, but what about myself?’

Remembering there’s a world outside of work
PR consultant Natalie Trice

Natalie Trice
‘Mine is to make sure that I get up from my desk and walk on the beach with my dogs every day – with my phone turned off. Quite often I am here all day, not looking up from plans and media requests and forget that there is a world out there and that I need to get some headspace and exercise.’

Starting better habits in 2020? Let the Vuelio Media Contacts Database help (find the right journalists, influencers and bloggers for your campaign, all year round).

UK Government

Private Members’ Bill ballot: The 20 successful backbenchers

20 lucky backbench MPs won the parliamentary lottery today in the Private Members’ Bill ballot.

Their numbers were drawn by Parliament’s new principal Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, who is also known as the Chairman of Ways and Means.

The MPs will have the opportunity to introduce their chosen Bill initially on Wednesday 5 February and then will have priority in terms of parliamentary debating time on 13 sitting Fridays during this session of parliament.

Parliament’s Guide to Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) sets the context for how they operate:

‘As with other public bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population. A minority of Private Members’ Bills become law but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly’.

The Hansard Society’s Guide to PMBs also explains that these new Bills must not increase Government spending or alter the tax system:

‘The primary purpose of a PMB cannot be to create a new tax or increase Government spending; these are permitted only as secondary effects. And a PMB cannot be used to duplicate a decision that has already been made by the House of Commons earlier in the session.’

In the previous session of parliament, nine of those MPs saw their Bills pass into law and become Acts of Parliament:

For MPs drawn towards the end of the list, they should still get the opportunity to raise their issue in the House of Commons, and to further their campaigning objectives.

Labour MP Jim McMahon is an example of this with his ultimately unsuccessful campaign to reduce the voting age to 16 in the previous parliament.

The successful 20 MPs drawn in today’s ballot were:

  1. 1. Mike Amesbury
  2. 2. Darren Jones
  3. 3. Anna McMorrin
  4. 4. Laura Trott
  5. 5. Chris Loder
  6. 6. Paula Barker
  7. 7. Philip Dunne
  8. 8. Dame Cheryl Gillan
  9. 9. Mark Francois
  10. 10. Dr Ben Spencer
  11. 11. Bim Afolami
  12. 12. Dr Philippa Whitford
  13. 13. Peter Grant
  14. 14. Alex Cunningham
  15. 15. Mary Kelly Foy
  16. 16. Andrew Mitchell
  17. 17. Bill Wiggin
  18. 18. Kate Osamor
  19. 19. Simon Fell
  20. 20. Carol Monaghan

Leading charities and campaigning organisations will be busily contacting MPs on this list to ensure they are briefed on various burning issues, now that they have a unique opportunity to put them right.

The House of Commons Library advises: ‘With limited time available for the consideration of PMBs, generally only bills with Government and cross-party support are successful’.

The arcane parliamentary conventions around PMBs also mean that no formal speaking time limits apply, and this often sees Bill being ‘talked out’ or filibustered due to lack of sufficient parliamentary time on a sitting Friday.

Controversially, MPs who do not support a Bill for whatever reason merely need to shout ‘object’ at the appropriate time to halt its progress through parliament. This famously happened to a Bill in the previous session to ban ‘upskirting’ after a major campaign by activist Gina Martin, who was herself targeted in this way at a music festival.

After Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope blocked the initial PMB, this issue was later taken up by the Government which brought forward its own Bill that came into force in April 2019.

Gina Martin and the Ministry of Justice received the 2019 Cause-Led Campaign award at our own Vuelio Online Influencer Awards for this ‘exceptional’ campaign. The award judges said that: ‘Gina proved her role as a trusted and authentic influencer who used her profile to make positive change happen on an issue that had been damaging to women across the UK.’


PR industry bodies respond to proposed IR35 off-payroll working rules

The PRCA and CIPR have called for the Government to reverse or rethink the IR35 proposal, highlighting the negative impact it could have on freelancers.

The proposed changes will task UK medium and large private sector businesses with full responsibility for setting the IR35 (tax status) of their contract workers from April 2020. Aiming at cutting down on tax advantages gained by disguised employment through limited companies, the conclusion of the review into pay legislation (due in mid-February) could result in extra cost and legal ramifications for the freelancer community – already an often under-supported part of the industry.

‘According to the latest industry census there are more than 8,500 freelancers operating in the PR industry, many of whom will suffer greatly from the effects of these rules,’ said PRCA head of communications and marketing Koray Camgoz.

‘Now more than ever, we need an agile economy that values and rewards the contributions of freelancers. IR35 has already had a chilling impact on independent practitioners in the public sector, and it poses a genuine danger to the broader freelancer community.’

CIPR warned against rushing into the review, Dominic Ridley-Moy said: ‘The Government’s review of the off-payroll legislation is extremely disappointing. Introducing IR35 to the private sector, following such a short consultation period, highlights the Government’s complete disregard for the freelance sector.

‘As we near a resolution to Brexit, the government should be doing all it can to help create an entrepreneurial Britain, rather than crush it. We therefore call on the government to scrap the review – and give it the proper attention it deserves – so that freelancers, in all professions, are given the opportunity to flourish.’

Read the full statement from PRCA on the IR35 proposal here and CIPR’s response here.