Spring Budget Briefing

Spring Budget Briefing 2024

Jeremy Hunt will deliver his Spring Budget on 6 March, which may be the last fiscal event announced before a General Election.

With the Chancellor facing pressure to cut taxes to help improve the Government’s poll ratings and appease the right of his party, the Budget is a crucial political moment. Whilst speculation about cuts to income tax, national insurance and inheritance tax all continue to swirl, the state of public finances remain challenging and all eyes will be on just what Jeremy Hunt has up his sleeve.

We’ve partnered with the Trade Association Forum (TAF) to help you analyse the announcements and what they mean for the year ahead.

Join us at 8:30 am on Thursday 7 March 2024, for our Spring Budget Briefing at Space14, where our panel will discuss what was unveiled in the budget and its potential impact on businesses and individuals, and what this might mean for the upcoming General Election.

Driving the discussion will be our chair Emily Wallace, interim CEO at TAF and panelists:

– Kevin Schofield, political editor, HuffPost
– Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
– Shazia Ejaz, campaigns director, Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC)
– Kelly Scott, VP account management, Vuelio

Doors open at 8:00 am at 14 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JA, with the event kicking off at 8:30am. Breakfast and refreshments will be provided.

Save your place to be a part of the discussion.

Preparing for the unexpected

Webinar: Preparing for the unexpected – redefining crisis communications strategy

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

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

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

The session will cover:

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

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

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

Getting payback on your PR in financial services

Getting payback on your PR in financial services

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

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

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

What are the biggest challenges of regulation in financial services?

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

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

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

How does your team keep campaigns creative?

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

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

How do you manage reputational risks in your comms strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any advice for grabbing journalists’ attention with pitches?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What journalists want from PRs in February 2024

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

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

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

New Year resolutions and trends

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

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

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

The healthy lifestyle

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

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

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

What journalists were using the service?

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

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

Opportunities for PRs in February and beyond

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

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

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

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

Hannah Kapff on sustainable PR

Communicating sustainability with creativity: The challenges of sustainable PR

Sustainability continues to be a huge topic of conversation and source of consternation in 2024. Consumers are increasingly prepared to take their money, and loyalty, elsewhere when a business’ ethics don’t meet their own.

To add to this demand for demonstrable integrity are the constraints of regulation. Since moving from broadcast journalism in 2007, Curious PR Ltd (London)’s founder and managing director Hannah Kapff has worked in regulated sectors including healthcare and environmental sustainability, for global brands like Pfizer, to start-ups including The Naked Pharmacy.

Here, Hannah takes us through the challenges as well as the rich rewards that come from doing the work well.

What would you say are the biggest challenges for comms professionals working in the environmental sustainability space in 2024?

I’ve been predicting for years that it will become increasingly difficult to gain attention among the media (and thus the public) about issues of sustainability if the conversation is too negatively-framed.

In short, the ‘engaged public’ (and, remember, a certain fraction never engage, whatever the message) want to hear about tangible solutions to ‘the problem’ as opposed to more death, destruction, Armageddon. Internally, they are asking, ‘So, what can I do about this?’ Somehow, our job as communicators is to point to solutions, or risk losing the audience. That’s not to say that shame can’t be a powerful tool. Consider that just three years ago, many of us carried a single use plastic bottle of water in our bags. Now, pull one out at a meeting, and there’s a cringe moment, which is clearly to be welcomed. Our conscience has changed.

My team at Curious PR are involved in a campaign to save the pristine waters and Posidonia meadows of islands in the Bay Of Athens from mass invasion by multinational fish farming firms. The effects of open net fish farming on marine ecology are horrific, yet, we try to point to solutions: don’t buy farmed salmon, avoid bream or bass in a restaurant, go for sardines or smaller fish near the bottom of the food chain, sign the petition, tell your friends. Help #SavePoros. Likewise, when it comes to preventing extinction of British bird species, think ‘pragmatic’: If your cat hunts (mine’s too lazy), exhaust its hunting drive by playing with it for ten minutes a day. This is scientifically proven to work, thanks to the University of Exeter.

Positive tips now shared, I admit to being struck by the extent to which Davos – which I used to cover as a journalist at CNBC Europe – is being described as ‘The new COP’. I’m all for silo-breaking and knowledge sharing, which is what such forums are meant for, but is there still a home for NGOs focussed on environmental campaigns? I’m haunted by the Tower of Babel-like description of COP24 by Arlo Brady, co-founder of Blue Marine Foundation, via LinkedIn, which ends on a decidedly blue note.

How do you stay reactionary in this sector when getting sign-off can take time?

I think having former broadcast journalists on our team helps balance ‘the need for speed’ with accuracy, and helps frame opinions on the issue at play in interesting ways via succinct messages. We also design our PR assets to ensure the audience ‘gets it’ at a glance (The lengthiest sign-off periods I’ve encountered have involved medical professionals, for obvious reasons. I recall over 25 drafts of one report years ago, and don’t get me started on delays via ‘Can you wait for my new headshot please?’!) One tip: Agree on the one person who’ll be the ultimate approver for speedy reactions, such as for social media. Planning is all. If key messages are agreed, organisation-wide, plus banks of expert comments for simple tweaking, you’ll be halfway there.

How do you keep your campaigns creative when up against heavy regulation?

In terms of creativity, I’m an art lover and very visual, so one of my greatest loves in this job is handing over a brief and watching creatives breathe their imaginative oxygen or artistic beauty into a campaign – be that via animation, infographic, even a logo. A journalist often asks, ‘Do you have images?’, so be ready. We also love wordplay, hence our ‘What3Birds’ campaign with the What3Words geolocation platform for SongBird Survival.

Regulation is an interesting one. Working in healthcare and environmental comms imbues you with a science-driven, risk-averse approach. There will be new regulations emerging on how companies report their sustainability achievements, and the very language of this sector is changing fast. Terms such as ‘ESG’ have been somewhat hijacked, and as we know, words are everything. Control the language, and you control the people. Greenwashing and its nervous cousin, greenhushing, need to be tackled. These issues will grow new shoots.

How do you manage reputational risk in comms strategies?

Reputational risk is best handled by asking ‘what could go wrong’ – at all times, and in all areas of the business or organisation in question – and having a plan for each scenario. Crisis management is far easier without staring at a blank sheet of paper, or down the barrel of a TV camera. At Curious PR, our style is collaborative, rather than combative: it’s surprising how opening the door for an honest, open debate can influence opinions, even if it doesn’t elicit a 180 degree volte face from ‘rivals’.

When I first heard about the Horizon Post Office scandal around 12 years ago, I thought it must be April Fool’s Day, such was my horror and disbelief at this David and Goliath battle, and how unreported it was. I do believe that, had social media been around when those poor postmasters were first being prosecuted, they’d have ‘found each other’, and history may have been different. This is a case study in how not to do PR. Interestingly, it’s been argued that it was intervention by lawyers before consulting the communications team which set the path for a catalogue of errors, with tragic consequences. Of course we need legal experts, and they’re increasingly entering PR, but if they don’t first think, ‘What’s the right, the human thing to do?’ rather, ‘Defend the bottom line, at all costs’, we are in for more suffering and scandal. On the flip side, as a former documentary-maker, it was impressive to see the power of television to achieve positive outcomes.

How do you stay up-to-date with regulation and legislative changes in the sustainability space?

Probably like most organisations, by following the relevant media and regulator announcements. Recently, the European Parliament voted to delay the development of sector-specific European Sustainability Reporting Standards until 2026. This is relevant to some of our clients. In short, it’s always sensible to plan ahead and deploy best practice, rather than being the last to be dragged in. We’re lucky to have clients that think alike.

How do you track the ROI and impact of such campaigns?

We use the best measurement tools we can buy, but impact remains the million dollar question, and nobody’s got the perfect answer. If it’s a question of really moving the needle on an issue in health or environment, you have to think long term, and be generous enough also to factor in the efforts of other players working with the same goals. Alternatively, if a client is obsessed with numbers, you may want to advise them to go down the advertising route (we’ve only had to do this once). But look where that’s got advertising creativity in recent years (with brilliant exceptions of course): Bland, beige, and blocked.

Would you say there is ever room for attention-grabbing PR ‘stunts’ in heavily-regulated sectors like these, or is this a definite no-no?

I once worked on proposals for a sustainable women’s menstrual product (we’ve done a lot of ‘below the belt’ here!) and proposed building an art installation showing how many tampons a woman would get through in her life, versus one small, washable medical device. That was a stunt, and sadly we didn’t get to make it happen. So, yes, but make it relevant, not gimmicky, and mind the rules and regs!

How do you grab the attention of journalists with pitches related to this subject?

I would say this wouldn’t I, but the headline is all. Whether it’s for an infographic, an event, a press release, or social media asset. You have just nanoseconds to pitch. So put time into it. Ask a question, perhaps. Be original but concise. Definitely avoid ‘also-rans’. Be obsessed: Keep refining and distilling. Test it out on different audiences. And learn by reading the newspapers – they nail headlines every hour of the night and day.

What are the biggest rewards when working in this sector, despite its challenges?

Seeing your client on TV with a huge global audience brilliantly conveying information you know will get an ‘I had no idea about this’ reaction that sparks curiosity (hence our weekly #Fact2Life stream) or even action, such as a better habit. Getting recognition for a company, cause, or CEO when it’s eminently well deserved. We delight in putting people and organisations on the map who are brilliant, but simply need some help with a) Knowing where their uniqueness lies, b) Getting the word out there with excellence. I won’t lie: Being nominated for PR awards is wonderfully goosebumpy too. Especially when you’ve over-serviced that project to the ‘nth degree!

For more on sustainable PR, check out these four practical steps for building sustainability into your campaigns.

Jess Farmery Regulated Industries

Staying creative in regulated industries: How healthcare and biotechnology topics don’t have to hinder great ideas 

Brainstorming fresh ideas for new projects, and being adaptable to the needs of your audiences, are part and parcel of the PR challenge. How much harder does this get when working in heavily-controlled industries like healthcare and biotech?

Huge networks of stakeholders + constantly changing rules and regulations = extra issues, and less creativity? Not for SomX PR lead and account director Jess Farmery:

‘It is absolutely possible to deliver inspiring and exciting PR and comms work within a space that’s heavily regulated’.

Read on for more from Jess on how to keep creativity flowing while avoiding the potential pitfalls that crop up when working in healthcare.

Jess Farmery SomX

What would you say are the biggest challenges in the healthcare and biotech sector for PRs?

Where to begin! Staying on top of the constant stream of industry breakthroughs, landmark research, and new technologies is a daily mission, as is the need to be constantly learning about different niches and sub-sectors.

In addition to the knowledge challenge, every client project involves multiple stakeholders, multiple moving parts, and multiple parties. This means that you end up doing a lot of project management and coordination in order to deliver outcomes that satisfy all those different interests and objectives.

Unpredictability is a challenge that’s especially pertinent when you’re working with startups and scaleups; as a comms and PR partner, you’ve got a front seat on the rollercoaster right alongside their team. Planning more than a few months ahead can sometimes feel impossible – the secret to success is to expect chaos and to plan for it, building in room for plans and timelines to flex and pivot as the situation dictates.

My perspective is that the many challenges are what make it so interesting and fulfilling to work in these sectors. It’s impossible to get bored or stuck in routine, as you’re constantly learning, navigating novel situations and pushing yourself to deliver higher-impact results.

How do you stay creative when up against heavy regulation?

I think that frameworks and structure can aid creativity rather than constrain it. Yes, there are certain things you can’t say and do, but so many more things that you can. With persistence, you’ll find ample opportunities to get those key messages in front of the right audiences in a fresh and engaging way.

However, it is essential that you remain clear and up-to-date on the details of regulation. Content and plans must go through several sign-off stages, and be checked, double-checked and cross-referenced with the rulebook. It’s also important to work closely with the relevant experts and legal counsel as required.

How do you manage reputational risk in your comms strategy?

Acting ethically and transparently is the surest way to protect a client’s reputation, and it’s important to work in close collaboration and open dialogue with the client team to achieve this.

Monitoring both social and traditional media for real-time feedback and live updates is crucial in assessing risks and addressing issues before they escalate. Equally important is the establishment of content approval systems, which provide legal teams and senior leadership with oversight.

However, it’s impossible to control every variable, so having an up-to-date crisis comms strategy – and clarity on who is responsible for actioning the plan – is a non-negotiable.

How do you stay up-to-date with regulation/legislative changes in your sector as they evolve?

Setting up search alerts is helpful for real-time updates, but you can also stay up to date with the help of email bulletins, sector media, and relevant whitepapers and reports.

How do you track the ROI and impact of your campaigns?

Campaign success measures should be closely aligned with the client or company’s business success measures. Depending on the goals of the campaign, some of the following metrics can provide helpful insights into its success:

– Mentions in target publications/media
– Website traffic
– Customer acquisition
– Share of voice
– Brand awareness
– Brand sentiment
– Social media traction
– Lead generation
– New investor conversations

Benchmarking campaign performance against competitors can be useful for understanding effectiveness in the context of the broader market. However, don’t forget to track success over a long period of time so you can measure more than the quick wins.

What would be your advice for creating successful storytelling, when working with the smaller budgets that can come with work in regulated industries?

Focus on smaller-scale but higher quality work to ensure maximum ROI on a lower budget. For example, campaigns and outreach should be targeted at a tightly defined audience, using cost-effective digital channels and social media platforms. Monitor success carefully, and don’t be afraid to iterate or change tack if you’re not seeing the results you expected.

I’d also advise making the most of every asset you have to hand. Every company has a unique story to tell, and you don’t need a big budget to tease out newsworthy human-first narratives, or to shape them in a way that makes it easy for journalists to engage with. Leverage the expertise and experience that lie within company teams and amplify their voices through thought leadership, podcasts, and events. Finally, running collaborative joint campaigns with your client’s clients and partners is a great option to increase reach and impact whilst keeping costs low.

Would you say there is room for PR ‘stunts’ in heavily-regulated sectors, or is this a definite no-no?

In my experience, health and biotech companies invest in PR and comms projects to showcase scientific and technological excellence, shape the conversation in the sector, and amplify the profile of their leadership teams. When budgets are tight, traditional, headline-grabbing PR stunts are unlikely to achieve those goals, and the approach is likely to prove unpopular with the company board and investors.

How would you handle a comms crisis in the media?

When an organisation is in trouble, their public-facing actions and behaviours are what will dictate the extent of their reputational damage and how quickly they recover.

Weathering a crisis requires swift action to take control of the narrative, and to clearly communicate the facts and the actions being taken to resolve the situation. Compassion and authenticity, as well as accountability, is key.

By establishing a clear chain of command, delegating responsibilities, and practising and preparing for various crisis scenarios, the risk of suffering lasting damage after a crisis situation can be kept to a minimum.

AI is a huge topic of conversation in the PR and comms industry – would AI tools ever be useful in your work in the healthcare and biotech sector, or way too much of a danger?

I think that generative AI tools can help comms professionals to work more efficiently, but only when used consciously and carefully for a limited set of purposes. For example, it can help draft meeting agendas and report summaries, proofread copy and suggest hashtags for social media posts.

However, the well-documented factual inaccuracies of the technology means that I would always source external validation and sources for AI-generated content. As a rule, relying on AI to generate press releases, copy and ideas results in bland and sterile outputs, so I avoid using it for this purpose. Confidential or commercially sensitive information should never be entered into AI tools such as ChatGPT, so this puts a limit on the extent of its usability for data analysis or trend mapping.

AI should be used strategically by experienced professionals as part of a digital comms toolkit, but never to replace human intelligence and creativity.

For more on communicating in the healthcare sector, download the Vuelio white paper ‘Medical misinformation: How PR can stop the spread‘ and track the success of your campaigns in the traditional press and social media with Vuelio’s monitoring solutions.

Media opportunities for PRs in 2024

How to get press coverage in 2024: Media trends to prepare for

The unpredictability of the news cycle means that trends in the media can be hard to anticipate. As a PR, that makes knowing when to release certain press releases, or promote a new product, even more difficult.

However, some topics are easier to forecast. For example, journalists will look to get information on back to school products from June, and start compiling Christmas gift guides in August. The way that many journalists get this information is via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service. Here is a look at what was trending with the media in 2023, and predictions for what will be popular this year and, most crucially, when.

Christmas number one

It might only be one day in the calendar year, but requests relating to ‘Christmas’ content proved the most popular last year, featuring in over 6% of all enquiries from the media to PRs in 2023. The first month that ‘Christmas’ started featuring regularly as a keyword in requests was July, becoming a top keyword each month from August onwards.

Enquiries around Christmas tended to focus around the consumer categories of Women’s Interest & Beauty, Men’s Interest, Consumer Technology and Retail & Fashion. These requests were often looking for gift guides or advent calendars.

Prepare for… another wave of Christmas-related requests in 2024. Get ready for the first flurry of enquiries from journalists in July, increasing from August. Any products, information, or experts you want to get featured in the media over the festive period will need to be ready by the summer to make the most of these opportunities.

We’re all going on a ‘Summer’ ‘Holiday’

While Christmas content is only confined to the latter half of the year, journalists are regularly looking for information about popular ‘holiday’ destinations. This featured as a keyword in just over 2% of all enquiries last year. It performed consistently well across April, May, June, and July, where it cropped up in over 2.5% of enquiries each month. Its best month was July, becoming the second top keyword on 3.7%.

It was only beaten in July by ‘summer’, which appeared in nearly 5% of all requests that month. Across the whole of 2023, in fact, ‘summer’ featured in around 3% of the total enquiries. June proved the most popular month for journalists to use this keyword, as over 7% of requests contained it, with enquiries ranging from holidays, to activities for kids during the break from school, and topics like summer skincare.

Despite the good performance of both ‘summer’ and ‘holidays’ as keywords, ‘hotel’ was even more in demand with over 3.5% requests from last year containing the word. These enquiries were usually journalists looking to stay in a hotel and review it. This helped lead to an increase in the amount of requests in the Travel category compared to 2022, with a rise of 4%.

Prepare for… travel-related content taking off from late Spring, so get your press releases and extra information ready by late March or early April. Journalists will need travel experts across the summer months to give tips and advice. Any news of new hotel openings or places to stay should remain popular throughout the year, but peak interest will be from June until August.

AI on the agenda

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has become a real talking point over the past year. This meant it was a regular keyword on the Journalist Enquiry Service too and appeared in over 2% of the total requests for 2023. Its best performing month came in November, when it appeared in over 3% of the enquiries from journalists for that month. Perhaps unsurprising, as the UK held its AI Safety Summit at the beginning of November 2023.

The consistency of requests around AI meant a good year for the Computing and Telecoms category. This increased by 6% compared to the amount of enquiries in 2022.

Prepare for… the conversation around the various forms of AI technology continuing throughout the year. It will present constant opportunities to get experts on AI featured in the press, seeing increased interest in May and November when more global summits are scheduled around its safety.

Other trending keywords

Another keyword which proved pretty consistent across the year was ‘gardening’. It made up 3% of all requests for the year, with a peak in the Spring months of April and May, where it appeared in 4% of the total enquiries for both months. However, it still cropped up regularly with journalists looking to cover what to do with the garden during Autumn and Winter, too. The Home & Garden category performed well as a result and had the fourth largest amount of requests.

‘Fitness’ also had a good year, with just under 3% of all the requests in 2023 containing the keyword. Journalists tended to focus on this topic at the beginning of the year, with just over 3% of the total requests in January, but also at the end of the year as they looked to get ahead with features, leading to it appearing in around 5% in December. The two topics usually selected when looking for experts or information on this topic, Health and Leisure & Hobbies, both featured in the top five categories in second and fifth respectively.

The category with the most requests though was Women’s Interest & Beauty, with Food & Drink coming in third place, meaning the top four categories used by journalists looking for help with their features remain unchanged from 2022.

Prepare for… consumer themes to be popular in 2024 as well. If you have any experts, information, or case studies covering women’s interest, beauty, health, food & drink or home & garden, then there should be plenty of opportunities to get them featured in the media.

Media opportunities for PRs this year

82% of the journalists that sent enquiries for PRs in 2023 were either staff or freelance journalists. 36% of them came from consumer media, with national newspapers the next biggest media type on 26%. Most often they were looking for a spokesperson or expert (37%), with requests for information for an article second on 27%. Despite consumer media being the top media type, eight of the top ten outlets using the service last year were national press.

The different percentages of journalists using the service has largely remained the same for a number of years now. It’s unlikely this will change in 2024. Any experts you have on your roster have a strong chance of being included in national press titles like The Daily Express, MailOnline and The i Paper, or in top consumer titles including Ideal Home, SheerLuxe, or Pick Me Up!

Prepare for… two major events happening this year that the UK industry will be covering in detail. In July, we have the Paris Olympics – so prepare for a boost in the sports-related requests. And in November (or in the second half of the year according to Rishi Sunak), there will be a General Election in the UK. Get ready for a demand for experts and information around the major parties’ policies, and ‘politics’ cropping up as a popular keyword.

If you’d like to know more about how Vuelio can help with your media planning and outreach, get in touch.

Why 2024 is the year to start paying it forward with your PR

White paper: Why 2024 is the time to start paying it forward with your PR

Are you making a difference with your PR? If you’ve considered teaming up with local charities, collaborating with community groups, or fancy taking on pro-bono work – 2024 is your year to start.

‘The times are calling for bold, brave action [and] authentic, purpose-led communications is the way forward,’ said PRCA Global Ethics Council co-chair Nitin Mantri as part of the group’s 2022 annual perspective. Cause-led comms have become even more important since, highlighted as a key trend in our round-up of industry predictions for the year ahead.

‘These days consumers are far more savvy when it comes to where they are spending their money and publications sometimes have a quota to cover a certain amount of sustainably responsible brands,’ said Francesca Cullen and Rosie Lees, co-founders and directors of Nineteen94 Communications Agency.

‘This leaves a really big opportunity for purpose-driven brands to succeed.’

Not sure where to begin? Our new white paper ‘Paying it forward with your PR’ offers pointers for building purpose-driven campaigns into your comms plan for 2024.

Download the paper to learn from experts in social impact PR working across different sectors, including:

Full Fat account director Clara Pérez Miñones and partner Paul Joseph on becoming a pro at pro-bono
Little Red PR CEO Victoria Ruffy on the benefits of becoming a B Corp brand
Sefton Council communications officer Ollie Cowan on ensuring unprepared voters won’t get turned away at the polling station
– The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s Lindsay Coyle and Gorki Duhra and the Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland’s head of communications and PR Alana Fisher on fighting for legislation change

‘Paying it forward with your PR’ can be downloaded here.

For more on advocacy campaigns and cause-led comms, read our interview with GivingTuesday digital director, strategy Kathleen Murphy on how brands can give back and these four examples of brands making a difference with social impact campaigns.

How the RNIB empowers communities through advocacy campaigns

How the RNIB empowers communities through advocacy campaigns

Want to speak up for your community in Parliament and in the press? Take note from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), which successfully campaigned to overturn the UK Government’s proposal to close almost all ticket offices across England and Glasgow Central last year.

As part of our webinar ‘Empowering communities through advocacy campaigns’, the RNIB’s local campaigns manager Lindsay Coyle shared extra advice on making an impact and what happens after a cabinet reshuffle…

What was the most impactful and the least useful part of your campaigns?

I think for us the most impactful was social media. Just having people be able to share their own experience of arriving at a station, trying to navigate and use an inaccessible ticket vending machine seemed to get a lot of traction. RMT were retweeting us, too.

Similarly, having people talk about why they use ticket offices and being able to compile that and share as a video was great. Equally, having people write to their MP – at the Westminster Hall debate, MPs were reading out the experiences of blind and partially sighted people and we managed to reach 9 out of 10 MPs, which was pretty awesome.

Least impactful – we did try and engage with Conservative MPs who had spoken out against this but we didn’t have a lot of success with that.

How can a charity successfully campaign on the issues they are passionate about?

As an organisation, we have a very good reputation with MPs at Westminster level, backed up by polling. We are seen as a credible and trusted source of information so it’s about not doing anything that may be a detriment to that but equally being able to build allies where you can. That is possibly the reason why we were able to secure a meeting with Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Louise Haigh.

I also think it is hugely important to engage both direct beneficiaries as well as the wider public in your work. To empower individuals affected by an issue so they have the confidence and tools to make change where they wish – not only is it empowering for the individual but it also allows charities to extend their reach so messaging is carried to an even wider audience.

On a wider note, and purely a bit of a personal crusade, I think there is some work to be done around civic engagement. We want people from lower-represented/marginalised groups to be able to fully participate in civic engagement – from being able to vote, through to standing for public office – so councillor, school governor, even an MP. We need wider representation within decision making.

Be social media savvy. Use platforms in an engaging way.

Nothing can replace the power of personal stories so really use those – in the media, online, with MPs, etc.

How does the RNIB team up with other groups for campaigns?

We’re part of a number of different consortia – the Disability Benefits Consortium – who we have worked with to shine a light on the impact of the cost-of-living on disabled people. We are also part of the Disability Charities Consortium, made up of senior reps from the biggest disability charities, We have worked with them on wider issues such as feeding into the Government’s disability strategy.

We are also part of an organisation called Visionary, which is an umbrella body of organisations supporting people with sight loss – so national orgs such as ourselves, Guide Dogs, Glaucoma UK, etc., as well as smaller local sight loss charities. If an issue we are working on affects people with sight loss specifically, such as the availability of vision rehab, then we would work together through Visionary.

Additionally, we may proactively seek to work with other organisations on very specific issues. For example, for the past couple of years, we have been campaigning for improved accessibility of the built environment and have put together a guide called ‘The Key Principles of Inclusive Street Design’ which covers things such as accessible crossings, making consultations accessible. We reached out to other organisations such as Brake, the road safety charity, to ask them to endorse this guide, which they did. This then gives it more weight when we go to local authorities to press for change, as it’s seen as less of a niche issue.

What happens on your teams after a Cabinet reshuffle/times of political unrest?

We have a Public Affairs team who constantly monitor activity at Westminster. Once we know who is in which role, they tend to produce a briefing outlining each person and their background which is shared with relevant colleagues such as Policy and Campaigns, Directors, Trustees. We may then also write to welcome Ministers into their new role, particularly if there is an issue we are currently campaigning on. For example, we are working currently to push for the update to the NHS England Accessible Information Standard to be released (it has been delayed for a while) so we have written to the Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to ask her to do this, as it should be a relatively quick win – for them and us.

We are also proactively preparing for the forthcoming General Election. We are working with an external agency to get us election ready as an organisation with a communications roadmap set up, so the wider work of the organisation can be coordinated, as well as identifying key campaign moments. This will involve coordinating work with PR, policy and campaigns, social media.
We will also be looking at how we can bring our supporters into this work e.g. holding training sessions on what MPs and candidates want in the run up to a General Election. We will also have an organisation-wide manifesto.

For more on cause-led comms and making a difference, read our interview with JustGiving’s director, digital strategy Kathleen Murphy. Want more on UK politics? Sign up to Vuelio’s weekly Point of Order newsletter.

What journalists want from PRs in January 2024 and beyond

New year trends, fitness, and Valentine’s help: What journalists need from PRs in January 2024

The start of a new year in the media often means fresh content calendars, updated feature lists,  and new projects. January is also one of the busiest months on the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service as the media want experts, information, and case studies for content.

Many journalists were looking to get ahead with their content for 2024 by making use of the service in December. Here are the trending keywords and what will be popular in the media throughout January and beyond.

Final Christmas flurry

‘Christmas’ has been a keyword on the Enquiry Service since back in August. Unsurprisingly, December was no different, with final festive requests making up just under 13% of the total sent last month.

These enquiries asked for last minute Christmas gift ideas, information on how to carve a Christmas turkey, and requests  for a vet or expert on animals to give advice over dogs at Christmas. This wide variety of requests came from titles including PA Media, The Guardian, BBC Food, Prima, and This Morning.

New Year, new keyword

For the first time in four months, Christmas wasn’t the top keyword. ‘2024’ appeared in just over 13% of the total requests in December – around 0.5% higher than ‘Christmas’. It’s also an increase on last year when ‘2023’ was mentioned in 12% of all enquiries.

The majority of 2024-related requests involved trends or predictions for the new year, but also interior trends, health and wellness trends, predictions for web development, railway industry trends, food and drink trends, and much more.

Travel enquiries also proved popular for media pros looking for destinations to visit in 2024. Journos also wanted information of events, activities, and experiences, and news of new openings or launches within entertainment, food and drink, and leisure.

January’s trend pieces offer a great opportunity to get experts featured in outlets such as The Independent, BBC News, Stylist, Women’s Health, lovePROPERTY, Country & Town House, and The Times, who all regularly use the Journalist Enquiry Service.

Focus on fitness

A new year means  health-related ‘resolutions’ (a keyword that appeared in 2% of all enquiries), and ‘Fitness’ performed very well in December, with just under 5% of the total requests featuring the keyword.

On a similar note, ‘diet’ featured in 2% of the enquiries in December. These requests focused on   experts such as dieticians, doctors, and nutritionists to comment on what plans were good or what foods to eat or not eat. Plus information on certain challenges that could help with this as well, such as Dry January and Veganuary. The latter also did well as a keyword and appeared in 2% of requests too.

There was a mix of consumer titles and national press outlets sending these requests such as The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express, The Sun Online, Woman & Home, Positive News, and Men’s Fitness. Nutrition, fitness and health are all likely to remain popular throughout January and experts across any of these fields should be able to get coverage in the media.

Which journalists were using the service?

In December, over half of the journalists using the Enquiry Service were staff journalists (54%). Freelance journalists were the next biggest users with just under 30%. The journalists mainly came from consumer media (35%) with national newspaper and current affairs (30%) not too far behind and trade/business/professional media, the third highest media type at 18%. 

41% of journalists were looking for a spokesperson or expert last month, making it the most selected enquiry type. This was followed by requests for information for an article, at 25%. Review products were third on 15% and then enquiries for a personal case study in fourth on 10%. Six of the top ten outlets in December were national press and the other four were all consumer titles.

Opportunities for PRs in January and beyond

Consumer categories such as Food & Drink, Fashion, Home & Garden and Travel are all likely to perform well in January, with trends and predictions in these areas for 2024. The Health category will likely see the biggest increase with challenges such as Veganuary and Dry January and journalists in general looking for more information and experts around fitness, wellbeing, and nutrition.

The amount of requests around Valentine’s Day will see a big boost in January in preparation for the big day, with enquiries likely to focus on products and gift ideas. With LGBT History Month in February, we could see plenty of requests for experts on this topic, too, so be ready to help the media with your contacts.

For more on what journalists want from PRs, and how Vuelio can help, here are requests from media professionals themselves at outlets including The Daily Telegraph and Marie Claire. 

The PR winners of 2023

Barbie, Airbnb, and Octopus: The PR winners of 2023

It’s time to look back at some of the biggest PR wins this year as well as the campaigns and comms strategies that could have gone a lot better for brands, media personalities, and sports organisations making the headlines.

Bravo to Barbie’s team, Ryanair, and Octopus Energy, but there’s room for improvement from companies working with oil clients and those who still haven’t sorted out their gender pay gaps…

Amazing work from Amex, says Sarah Woodhouse, director at AMBITIOUS PR

Winner: ‘I still love Amex’s Small Business Saturday campaign. It’s purpose driven, it has a narrative, and it becomes more relevant every year.’

Could do better: ‘The example of crisis ‘losers’ comes from within our industry, Clean Creatives targeting major PR companies at Cannes who still work with oil clients despite their ESG commitments. That hit me hard as a business owner, you must really ensure your clients align with your values and those of your team.’

An A+ for Airbnb’s comms, from Sarah Danzl, CMO at Skillable

Winner: ‘A clear winner was Airbnb and its pledge to offer housing to Ukrainian refugees. In doing so, it gave a clear demonstration of its mission “to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere”. In times of crisis, being mission-driven and supporting society in a unique way for your brand can help you stand out for the right reasons.’

Could do better:Silicon Valley Bank is a good example of what can go frightfully wrong when communications are vague and mistimed, or when a CEO isn’t prepped well enough for an interview.

The Gender Pay Gap Bot, created by Francessca Lawson and Ali Fensome, called out companies that jumped onto the International Women’s Day hashtag online without creating true gender equity in their organisations. It is a good lesson for being authentic and not DEI-washing in your communications as these things will always be found out eventually.’

Mental health campaign was meaningful for Rachel Gilley, chief client officer at Clarity

Winner: ‘A campaign that I’ve loved this year is Norwich City Football Club x Samaritans for World Mental Health Day. A visually-led campaign, which encourages individuals to check in on those around them, it reminds us that sometimes the signs are hard to spot when people are struggling.’

Could do better: ‘A campaign that could be improved upon was this year’s Sports Direct and Getty Images ‘Equal View’ campaign, which highlights the lack of diversity in sports imagery. A brilliant idea, the partnership campaign could have gone a lot further using social media to drum up user generated content to highlight the “real” face of sports fans.’

Ryanair continued to ‘kill it’ with comms, says Beth Turner, head of PR at ilk Agency

Winner:Ryanair is a brand that kills it for me. They understand their offering and their audience 100% and their comms reflect it wholeheartedly. It’s funny, well-done and has that shareability factor that is always so important with PR.’

Could do better: ‘One that sticks out to me for being pretty poor this year is Ticketmaster. When every man and their dog were trying to get Taylor Swift tickets, they came under scrutiny at every corner, especially when their site crashed and they cancelled ticket sales for some of her upcoming dates. Fans were furious to say the least, and it even led to a debate in the US Senate and Taylor Swift herself condemning the company and how they handled the situation. Ticketmaster stayed relatively silent on their part, didn’t seem to care about the millions of fans left empty-handed and simply blamed ‘demand’ for their wrongdoings. That is a lesson in how not to do crisis comms!’

Barbie’s PR was in the pink, for Jane Whitham, director of Altitude PR

Winner: ‘When it comes to PR winners in 2023, there’s only one choice, the Barbie movie’s entire promotional campaign. Using every dollar of its undoubtedly colossal marketing budget, Barbie collaborated with a variety of companies – Microsoft, Balmain, and Bloomingdale’s.

‘Far beyond collaborations, Barbie’s marketing team also used the ‘Barbie Dreamhouse’ on Airbnb and a themed boat cruise in Boston. The marketing campaign was a resounding success to the extent there was a worldwide shortage in pink paint reported. Or was it just opportunistic PR?

‘Barbie’s successful campaign was also at the forefront of a global newsjacking campaign. Everyone wanted a piece of the campaign, adding their point of view and jumping on the Barbie bandwagon. Warner Bros’ not only advertised the film, but it was also used by countless other companies for their own marketing campaigns.’

Could do better: ‘On the other side, easyGroup has been flexing its corporate orange muscles for quite some time but the company’s battle with indie band Easylife leaves a very sour taste.

‘The owner of the easyJet brand filed a lawsuit this summer claiming the Leicester band’s name infringed a trademark. Unable to financially defend a lawsuit, the band changed its name. The PR machine behind easyGroup insisted the band were brand thieves.

‘The upshot was condemnation from media, musicians, and MPs. It’s also upheld easyGroup’s reputation as aggressive and litigious. It’s a definite PR own goal.’

Football crossovers were fun for Darryl Broadfoot, head of sport PR at Frame

Winners: ‘ESPN, Walt Disney Company and the NFL have set the standard in sports and entertainment crossover with Toy Story Funday Football: making sport [and live sport broadcast] relevant and relatable to a younger audience. The first-of-its-kind animated live version of the Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars replaced the stars of the grid with the stars of the Toy Story franchise – with the action replayed in Andy’s Room, the iconic main setting of the movies.

‘It was more than a stunt: using cultural relevance to take sport beyond its established and traditional audience, while showcasing the innovation of broadcasters ESPN as they seek to safeguard future TV audiences.’

Could do better: ‘The crisis that engulfed the Spanish Football Federation and its now former President following the FIFA Women’s World Cup final will remain a case study in how to make a crisis situation worse for years to come. The universal reaction from the progressive majority across the men’s and women’s game at least showed the journey towards equality and equity can be strengthened and not derailed in times of crisis.’

More love for Barbie and Airbnb from Hayley Knight, co-founder and communications director for BE YELLOW

Winner: ‘I mean, I can’t answer this question without mentioning Barbie! They absolutely smashed it and even small brands can learn PR and marketing strategies from the team behind it.

WeAre8 is a fantastic example of a brand that’s ahead of the curve. A new social media platform that helps people do good, and breaks the habit of doom scrolling. They’re marketing has been marvellous and has understood the assignment when it comes to marketing B-Corp initiatives.

‘Airbnb is also a great example of creating emotionally relevant campaigns, and we saw this in their campaign to house 100,000 Ukraine refugees, and they did this at a loss in profits, showcasing authenticity and meaning.

‘I also absolutely love the Recycle Your Electricals hypnocat advertising campaign. It ticks all of the boxes – it’s catchy, memorable, has a social impact and is outright hilarious!

Could do better: ‘I know it got a great response, but for me the Just Eat campaign with Christina Aguliera and Latto didn’t land for me. It felt dated, and a brand trying to be relevant for the sake of it. I didn’t feel like it connected to its audience and fell a little flat.’

‘And let’s be honest, we can all learn a little something of what not to do from Elon Musk and X.’

Warm feels for Octopus, from Susannah Morgan, deputy managing director of Energy PR

Winner: ‘Wins go to businesses bucking their industry norms and understanding what their customers really want from them. Octopus Energy is a great example of this. By offering customers free electricity when there is the least pressure on the network, the company is helping its customers in a way that really matters, building valuable goodwill in the process.’

Could do better: ‘This year has seen what feels like an unusually high number of reputational crises caused by the behaviour of individuals. Think BP’s Bernard Looney, and the CBI’s Tony Danker. The damage inflicted by an individual can hit at the very heart of an organisation’s culture. If bad behaviour is tolerated at the top, or the organisation deals with it poorly, it calls into question the values and ethics of the whole entity.’

Girls run the (PR) world, says Caroline Miller, founder and managing director at Indigo Pearl

Winners: 2023 was the year that women ruled the world – and boosted economies globally. From Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster Barbie movie success, to Taylor Swift and Beyonce taking live music to the masses on a scale never seen before, women are shifting the creative and economic dials. The summer of 2023 saw London turn pink with Barbiecore everywhere – the Barbie PR machine was inescapable and we were 100% there for it.’

Could do better: ‘Keeping on the female theme, one of the worst PR losers of this year was Conservative MP Gillian Keegan’s ITV News microphone rant over the Raac concrete scandal. While we don’t know what was going through Keegan’s mind at the time of the outburst, it’s PR 101 to always maintain dignity and composure in front of the media. A lesson learned the hard way, and a reminder to all PRs when briefing clients.’

Want to be a winner in PR for 2024? Take note of these 19 key trends for the PR and comms industry coming up this year. 

Vuelio's top 10 blog posts of 2023

Our top 10 PR and communications posts of 2023 

As part of our overview of 2023, and a look forward at 2024 in PR and comms, here are the most popular posts from the Vuelio blog this year. From effective media outreach to data-driven reporting, crisis management to brand personality, here are some of your favourite guidance pieces from the last twelve months…

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1. PRs on PR: How to pitch to the media

In this best practice piece from May, we called in some of the industry’s top PRs to share insider tips on how to pitch to the media.

Categorised into preparation, creation, sending, and following-up sections, this piece has what you need to connect with journalists and get them sharing your story.

‘Gone are the days when a pitch sent to a list of hundreds of journalists would result in instant links or coverage’ said JBH’s senior digital PR manager Lauren Wilden —here is how to get results in the modern media landscape. 

2. 5 predictions for PR in 2023 

Prohibition’s founder Chris Norton added to our 15 PR and communications trends you need to plan for in 2023 post with his own five predictions for what was ahead in the second half of the year.

An increase in use of ChatGPT, the continuing popularity of influencer marketing, and even more emphasis on social media were just three of them. No mention of Elon Musk’s efforts to ‘reinvigorate’ Twitter/X, though, but no one could have seen that coming, probably… 

3. Six evidence-backed ways to survive a PR crisis 

This year has seen its share of crises across the world, as well as some difficult times for brands, businesses, high-profile personalities, and politicians that found themselves in hot water.

In this write-up of the Vuelio webinar ‘Speak Up or Shut Down: The Value of Proactive PR in a Crisis’, we examined different brand responses issued in times of trouble to find out what works and what should be avoided at all costs. Check out examples from Coca Cola, Virgin Atlantic, and more. 

4. Autumn Statement 2023 speculation

2023’s Autumn Statement was, as ever, highly anticipated by the public and press. But in a year where the cost-of-living crisis racked up financial pressures for so many across the UK, extra pressure was on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

Before the announcement, the Vuelio political team shared speculation from the media and high-profile politicos. Topics tackled – tax, ISA updates, fuel duties, and net zero goals. Were the predictions spot on? Check out our coverage of the Autumn Statement itself here and here

5. International Women’s Day 2023: How can the PR industry evolve for the better? 

Despite efforts to improve equity in PR, comms, marketing, and the media, the creative industries still have a problem with gender equality. For International Women’s Day, we spoke to women working across PR sector.

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

Don’t be part of the problem in 2024 – read the post to find out how. 

6. How to build a social presence when your audience isn’t there

Social media is a major part of almost every campaign strategy in modern PR. But with the emergence of the Metaverse, Web3,  and a myriad of tech innovations,, which ones do you invest in? How do you optimise ROI with a small or not-so-technical audience? For how to build a presence on social media, and find your audience, here is how a strong set of Insights tools can help with snapping up earned and owned content, save you time and help you smash your KPIs.

7. Getting to know you: How to build a brand personality

Trust was a key component brands and businesses had to get right in 2023, and will continue to be important for keeping customer and community loyalty in 2024. What will help? Building a brand personality consumers will want to interact with.

In this post, PR experts from agencies including Pace Communications, Sweet Digital, TeamSpirit, and Sway PR explained how to get started, from brainstorming what your brand is about to assembling your assets.

8. Tips for spotting the best newsjacking opportunities

In this guest post, strategic and creative freelance digital PR Alice James gave tips and tricks for successful newsjacking.

For keeping your own brand and your clients in the public eye, here is how to spot the best opportunities by immersing yourself in the news cycle, getting ahead of the curve, and connecting with journalists.

Once you’ve refreshed yourself with a re-read of Alice’s advice, check out tools to help, including the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service

9. How to create key messages that actually land with your target audience

Numbers can only tell part of the story when measuring the performance of campaigns — especially when it comes to everyone’s favourite, Share of Voice. You may have gotten a lot of coverage, but what was the quality? Was the commentary passive, or even negative? Is all PR really good PR?

This post offers a five-step guide for getting started with Key Message Penetration, enabling you to measure brand awareness and assess how well your brand messages are being delivered.

10. How has TikTok impacted food and drink content and how will it dominate in 2023? 

Finally, we’re finishing up this year’s highlights with another expert op-ed from our PR and comms community. 

Hatch Group’s social media lead Jack Moore gave the lowdown on how Tiktok has influenced food and drink content and key trends for 2023. With up-and-coming influencers like Keith Lee, B. Dylan Hollis, and Mr Grubworks offering up what’s worth putting on plates, how has short-form changed the world of food and drink PR and what does this mean for the future? Jack shares his predictions and advice – take note, and, given his accuracy over the last year, get ready for a jam-packed 2024.  

To keep up with content from the Vuelio and ResponseSource blogs, sign up to our Media Bulletin, PR Pulse, and Point of Order newsletters here.

Ready for 2024? The Vuelio Insights team is here to help, with reports designed to show you gaps in your media strategy, help you hit your targets, and demonstrate your successes. Learn more here

2023 in politics

UK politics: 2023 end-of-year review

This is a post from Michael Kane, Henry Welch, Helen Stott, and Alexandra Moran on the Vuelio Political team. 

With seven by-elections, numerous Cabinet reshuffles, Nigel Farage in the jungle, the return of David Cameron and Government disapproval ratings flatlining at around 60%, the Vuelio Political team have assessed the various political themes that have shaped the year so far.

Sunak’s pivot to migration

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak started and ended 2023 by asserting the same line on the need to cut illegal and legal migration. In January, Sunak set out his priorities for 2023, one of which was passing new laws to stop small boats and ensure that those who come to Britain illegally are ‘detained and swiftly removed.’ The Illegal Migration Bill was then unveiled in March and granted Royal Assent in July.

After a back and forth with the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, Sunak started December by introducing the Rwanda Bill to overcome their concerns. His press conference on the Bill felt to some like a rehash of prior statements on Illegal Migration from the start of the year, and his speech at Conservative Party Conference emphasised the issue.

This focus on cutting illegal migration was flanked by an attempt to cut legal migration numbers in response to the Office for National Statistics’ reveal in November that the UK’s net migration was 745,000 in 2022. Predictably, there was outrage from Conservative backbenchers and Sunak used this energy to strengthen the border controls, announcing five measures to tackle legal migration. Most significantly, the Government announced that they will increase the earning threshold for overseas workers by nearly 50% from its current position of £26,200 to £38,700. It was later claimed that these changes will stop 300,000 people from entering the UK each year.

Sunak’s increasing focus on cutting migration may be twofold: 1) Energise leave voters and 2019 Conservative voters; and 2) Force Starmer to commit to a position. These reasons are complementary, as by energising leave voters and 2019 Conservative voters it commits Starmer to a position – these voters formed a significant part of Labour’s coalition of voters in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Starmer flirted with the idea of processing illegal migrants abroad in a speech in December 2023, perhaps as a result of this. Sunak’s pivot to migration has highlighted the rhetorical and practical differences between himself and Starmer.

Nevertheless, the viability of this as a political strategy remains dubious for Sunak. While the Rwanda Bill may have passed, it took Sunak’s former Home Secretary, Minister for Immigration, two dozen Conservative backbench abstentions with it and One Nation Conservative MPs threatening to turn against it if the bill is amended. Perhaps then, Sunak’s pivot to migration will only empower the very backbenchers in which his political fate relies upon. Additionally, polling indicates that voters are more concerned with the cost-of-living crisis – will Sunak’s focus on migration risk coming across as tone deaf, as the then-Conservative leader Michael Howard’s pivot to migration had in 2005?

Starmer’s year of probation

Coming into 2023, Keir Starmer’s Labour party stood at around 45% in the opinion polls compared to the Conservatives’ 25/30% – this story is very much the same at the end of year, too. This, coupled with the cumulative momentum of a summer and autumn of by-election gains very much points to Keir Starmer in Downing Street being the result of the next General Election. With this in mind, we can view Starmer’s actions this year through the prism of a probation period with the British Public as his actions pivoted towards those of a Prime Minister in waiting.

Starmer’s pivot to being a Prime Minister in waiting can be seen in his twofold strategy of stability and reassurance. Take Starmer’s moves to resist calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza crisis – this was framed as a move to follow the United States lead on the issue and show that Labour could strategically manage an international crisis; in this regard, a message to voters that they can trust Labour with foreign policy. Although Labour’s position has softened since the October attacks due to internal pressure, Starmer has rarely stepped out of line with the UK and US Government and has even openly said that this is an issue that Labour needs to prove it can govern on. This attempt to lead on foreign issues was foreshadowed by an attempt to weigh in on the Northern Ireland Protocol in a speech to Queen’s University Belfast in early January.

Throughout the year Starmer has consistently broadened his message more and more towards the whole country. The Labour Party Conference setting was draped in the Union Jack to equate Labour with patriotism, while Starmer’s speeches to the British Chambers of Commerce Global Conference in May and the North East Chamber of Commerce in November complemented Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ perennial argument that business need not be scared of Labour.

Furthermore, Starmer’s conference speech represented a strong gesture to Conservative voters. This rhetoric continued in a speech in December as he tried to resonate with those leave voters who voted Conservative in 2019, making even more obvious appeals to the benefits of Brexit. To top this courting, Starmer even praised Margaret Thatcher’s project of ‘meaningful change.’

Nonetheless, these moves have prompted backlash, with some in the Labour Party critiquing Starmer over his comments on Thatcher and the Israel-Gaza crisis. Meanwhile, Labour’s strategy of reassurance perhaps left them hamstrung in a mild response to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement for Growth.

Labour’s limited response to the Autumn Statement perhaps represents the crossroads Starmer faces. While a two-pronged approach of reassurance and stability helped Labour get to the mid-40s in the polls, it will not not help them change the country. It’s not 1997 anymore – Starmer could perhaps benefit by pursuing the very change he has been seen to be scared of confronting.

The SNP’s conundrum

Towards the end of 2022, the then First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon held talks with the then new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, later repeated in January 2023. Among the discussions were the economic and social challenges faced by Scotland but also the prospect of a second independence referendum. After all, it was only in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election that the SNP promised to deliver a referendum, if elected. Nevertheless, just shy of 12 months from the second set of talks, the SNP’s prospects for independence have dramatically diminished.

Spring forward to October 2023, and the SNP held their annual conference – for the first time in years the party proposed a conference debate on how to achieve independence. The elected SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf warned the party to stop talking about independence and for the debate to draw a line under it. For context, just a year ago, the SNP published its third independence paper and October 2023 had been earmarked by Sturgeon as the time for a second independence referendum.

This comes after months of polling indicating that while support for independence has remained the same, support for the SNP has decreased steadily. This is flanked by internal splits in the SNP made clear for all to see in Kate Forbes’ leadership campaign and the development of the Alba Party, as leadership candidate Ash Regan became its first MSP. While Yousaf may have gained some authority over his handling of the Israel-Gaza crisis, this year perhaps represents a shift in Scottish voters away from the SNP, as polling indicates that SNP and Labour both stand at around the 30-35% level in Scotland. In this sense, voters do not see the SNP as the clear and obvious vehicle for change with Labour emerging as contenders – perhaps the Scottish Budget may answer the concerns of these voters.

The breakdown of the green consensus

Following a general green consensus in the May and Johnson Governments, 2023 was a year of Rishi Sunak attempting to use green policy as a wedge against Labour. However, there are doubts over whether this wedge is more rhetoric than reality.

The year began with the creation of the Department of Net Zero and Energy Security, linking the two ideas within central Government. However, top level criticism of the Government’s net zero policies ramped up with the Climate Change Committee’s (CCCs) annual report in June warning that the UK was losing its world-leading position.

Perhaps the most decisive point for net zero policy came in July, with the Conservatives winning the Uxbridge by-election. This followed a successful campaign to disparage the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone. With Uxbridge, even after years of Starmer courting Conservative voters, Sunak had found his wedge between the two main parties. Sunak’s net zero speech in September was a continuation of this, as it was announced several policies would be supplanted, with the Government delaying targets for electric vehicle rollout and scrapping energy efficiency targets for landlords.

As part of this wedge, the Government sought to undermine Labour’s commitment of implementing £28bn of new spending on renewables, with this now derided in response to any question on the economy and the first line of the Autumn Statement. The Government also targeted Labour’s policy of no new oil and gas licences in the North Sea. Net zero was not as prioritised as the department’s name suggested, with the Government instead announcing a hundred new oil and gas licences at the end of July, committing to drill at Rosebank and announcing the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill in the King’s Speech. Although Labour has weakened its £28bn investment, the party has recently recommitted to it. Labour has also refused to be drawn into a trap around oil and gas and has agreed to not overturn any new licences.

Nevertheless, there is a serious question if the Government’s rhetoric and actions differ on net zero. Assessments of Sunak’s September speech from the CCC saw these announcements as ‘score draw’ or even a net positive. Most significantly, the Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate survived, even with Conservative protest. Furthermore, the Government responded decisively to the failure of having no offshore wind bidders at Contracts for Difference auction round five. It is also perhaps likely that the Government will be willing to commit to using community benefits to gain support for local onshore wind farms. The Energy Act also included many positive developments, with the creation of the Great British Nuclear, unlocking new business models for hydrogen and a new net zero mandate for Ofgem.

So, has this wedge actually had an effect? Some polling found that people’s opinion of Sunak fell following his September announcement, with many voters still listing net zero as a priority. However, measures on electric vehicles were broadly popular. Likewise, there is doubt over whether the Government’s rhetoric tallies with their actions on net zero. This can perhaps be seen most at COP28. Although Sunak faced derision for spending more time flying to and from the conference than attending it, Britain remained a world leader in forcing a more significant agreement and also announced it would be providing £1.6bn for green finance and international climate change.

Pressure on the economy and public services

The year has been overshadowed by concerns around rising inflation and the pressure this puts on public services. Inflation was cited as the main reason for the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the second phase of HS2 earlier this year. While Sunak may have been successful in his goal to get inflation halved by the end of the year, this still means that wages are losing their value in real terms – just at a slightly lower rate. 2023 has been a year dominated by industrial action across multiple sectors, and substantial public sector pay settlements have eaten into departmental budgets. The Government may have had a breakthrough on a pay deal with NHS consultants, but junior doctor strikes are still looming on the horizon, and there is still widespread dissatisfaction with pay among nurses and other NHS workers. The Government is insisting that pay rises must be funded through existing budgets, but this seems unlikely with NHS services already stretched to breaking point over the winter period, and an estimated £1.4bn of costs incurred due to strike action.

The Government has promised to ringfence health budgets but this puts even more pressure on other departments. Commentators have observed that Hunt’s tax cuts announced at the Autumn Statement are essentially paid for by cuts to public services which are ‘baked in’ for after the election. Moreover, research by the Institute for Government has shown that there will be real term spending decreases from 2024-25 to 2027-28: -0.7% in Local Government, -0.9% in Schools, -5.6% in the Courts and -6.7% in Prisons. With public services’ struggling and Local Governments such as Birmingham City Council and Cheshire East Council declaring bankruptcy, this raises significant questions for the Government and the Labour Party.

The Conservatives could be laying a trap for Labour – forcing the party to commit to what will be very difficult to implement spending cuts, or risk looking fiscally irresponsible. So far, Reeves and Starmer have avoided walking too close to this trap, but this may become more difficult as the General Election draws nearer.

Bad PR habits to leave behind in 2023

Bad PR habits to leave behind in 2023

It’s not quite time for New Year’s Resolutions yet, but to give you a start on yours, here is a rundown of bad PR habits to break for 2024, according to the experts…

Sloppy procurement processes

‘Bad procurement habits. Brands need to stop inviting agencies to pitch then kicking the decision back or ghosting them. It’s bad form and disrespectful.’
Sarah Waddington, director of Wadds Inc, founder of #FuturePRoof, and co-founder of Socially Mobile

Vanity metrics

‘At the top of the list is vanity measurements or what I call ‘red herring metrics’, which encourage practitioners and teams to become distracted by the wrong things – like generating a set number of media articles, regardless of quality, or chasing engagement at all costs on social media. We need to get better at using the frameworks at our disposal – like AMEC – to support us to measure the impact, value and outcomes of our work.’
Leigh Greenwood, founder and managing director of Evergreen PR

All talk and no action

‘We’re all tired of reading similar blog content. Those that win will be able to show how they are tangibly making AI, for example, work for clients and their business – making their team more efficient and using this to make their service more attractive.’
Sarah Woodhouse, director at AMBITIOUS PR


‘We use an excessive amount of jargon. One of the biggest culprits is the word ‘strategy’. More than a buzzword, the strategy should be based on in-depth research and analysis of a brand, its customers, competitors, and the overall market landscape. How can we get people to take our industry seriously if we can’t meaningfully use vernacular that actually explains what we do and the value of our work?’
Rachel Gilley, chief client officer at Clarity

Surveys, surveys, surveys

‘Personally, I am tired of seeing constant survey-led stories, and I do think journalists have cottoned onto these as I see less of them covered than I have done previously. People want real news, and real stories, and survey-led stories do not always reflect reality. I still think they have their place when done right, but I do think agencies and brands should start to shift from these and think outside the box in upcoming ideation sessions. I think they’re already on their way out, but dream job and best places to live stories are also a little ‘done’ now. I would never see one of these campaigns nowadays and be shocked or intrigued by them – unless the data was really mind blowing!’
Beth Turner, head of PR at ilk Agency

Not enough diversity

‘We have seen in the past campaigns/strategies that have a complete lack of diversity, or that are completely tone deaf. As PR teams continue to hire a greater diversity of employees, campaigns/PR strategies will continue to incorporate representation from a wider range of people who are from all different backgrounds, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and experiences.’
Francesca Cullen and Rosie Lees, co-founders and directors of Nineteen94 Communications Agency

Words without meaning

‘I hope 2024 will see an end to “content marketing equals words”. A recent Hubspot report found the top use case for generative AI by marketers (48%) has been content creation. 2023 was indeed the year of content marketing. But for too many PR pros, content just equals words. But they’ve now found that ChatGPT can do that at the touch of a few keys.

‘Content marketing in 2024 must start to be creative – words are just the toolkit. For content marketing to work it must have the vision and ideas of humans, crafted into messages by humans, because these messages are being read by humans – the buyers of your products and services.’
Jamie Kightley, head of client Services for IBA International

Shallow, surface-level support

‘I hope to see the back of shallow PR. Tactics just for the sake of securing earned coverage. Often brands fall into the trap of ‘purpose PR’ but consumers are savvy and can see through a tactic unless it has real substance and genuinely makes a difference. That doesn’t mean brands have to invest heavily, many small businesses just can’t afford to do that, but it does mean brands need to think carefully about making a difference to the charities and communities it supports and ensure tactics are implemented for the right reasons.’
Alison Downs, head of consumer PR at Frame

‘Time needs to be called on companies pushing for quick PR wins that amplify hollow Corporate Social Responsibility activity. It’s no longer enough for brands to give a nod to vague values written on a wall. Consumers are quicker than ever to call out companies for greenwashing, sportswashing or any sort of PR laundry.’
Jane Whitham, director of Altitude PR

AI for AI’s sake

‘As a specialist tech-sector agency, we’re always the first to welcome and
embrace smart innovation, but smart is the keyword. Using a tool that compromises our quality of work or adds more tasks to our to-do list is definitely not smart. Unlike the metaverse craze of 2022, AI is certainly here to stay – we just have to remain mindful we’re in the middle of an AI goldrush and we don’t need to jump on every new tool that’s launched. Not every PR presentation needs AI-generated cats driving cute cars.’
Caroline Miller, founder and managing director at Indigo Pearl

And finally… a death knell for spray and pray

‘We’ve been hoping for the end to the “spray and pray” approach to media outreach for years. Perhaps 2024 will be the year? From the journalists and bloggers we speak with, it sadly doesn’t seem to be on the wane. My fear is that it is coming from SEO agencies doing digital PR that don’t care about the integrity of the process, they just want the links. They’re probably charging the clients peanuts and doing ill-thought through mass-mailings, but it gives the whole industry a bad name. Not to mention how ineffective it is. It’s stupid and pointless.’
Susannah Morgan, deputy managing director of Energy PR

And on that note – great work in 2023 everyone, and we wish you a productive 2024! To help you get started, here are 19 trends in PR and comms to prepare for.

PR and comms trends for 2024

19 PR and communications trends you need to be ready for in 2024

Being ethical, sustainable, and honest were key to keeping client, consumer, and community loyalty throughout 2023. What should your focus be for 2024 in PR and comms?

Here are predictions from comms professionals for what you should expect in the year ahead. Get ready for collaboration, creativity, and keep in mind that the UK election season won’t be all bad…

1) Making the most of election season (even if it is a slog)

‘An election year always offers a lot of opportunity. Check out each of the party’s policies – what change is potentially coming round the corner for your organisation or clients? Make sure you’re horizon-scanning and planning accordingly.’
Sarah Waddington, director of Wadds Inc, founder of #FuturePRoof, and co-founder of Socially Mobile

‘This will open some interesting opportunities (beyond the Public Affairs remit and in line with the rules) for clients looking to increase brand awareness and be a central part of the media conversation and narrative when it comes to backing funding for their specific industries. Think infrastructure projects such as EV, telecoms, transport, as well as healthcare services i.e., mental health.’
Niki Hutchinson, founder and managing director at LarkHill PR

2) Collaborating with clients on content

‘I hope that 2024 sees more communications professionals work with customers to understand what messages resonate the most, and even co-create some campaigns, events, and content together. This will put an end to irrelevant messages that, at best, waste resources, and at worst, damage a brand’s reputation and customer loyalty.’
Sarah Danzl, CMO at Skillable

3) Being truthful

‘One of the biggest challenges is credibility and ensuring we are placing our clients in publications and on platforms which value truth and transparency. And although we seem to talk less about ‘fake news’, that challenge remains.

‘We have already seen, with Russell Brand’s large social media following and reach, along with Boris joining GB News, that alternative platforms create and groom loyal fanbases that are often less interested in fact, and instead value that feeling of community and belonging. As PRs, it’s important that we take note of their position and influence, while also remembering our duties to be truthful and to operate ethically.’
Victoria Moffatt, founder and managing director for LexRex Communications

4) Focusing on audiences

‘For any outcome to be achieved we need to persuade specific audience groups to take specific actions. Skills such as stakeholder mapping, behaviour science, prioritisation, and relationship building have become increasingly valuable and, when married to excellent planning and measurement, enable us to generate value and evidence it.’
Leigh Greenwood, founder and managing director of Evergreen PR

5) Becoming more results-driven

‘The evolution of PR into a more results critical model will continue. This perhaps being (as we are seeing) a 70/30 split between digital PR campaigns and brand PR – the former in the pursuit of increased organic keyword performance to drive much needed leads for clients. Basically, most businesses need double the sales leads to convert business as usual in this increasingly troubled market.’
Trevor Palmer, director/founder of Tank

6) Being purpose-driven, too

‘These days consumers are far more savvy when it comes to where they are spending their money and publications sometimes have a quota to cover a certain amount of sustainably responsible brands. This leaves a really big opportunity for purpose driven brands to succeed.’
Francesca Cullen and Rosie Lees, co-founders and directors of Nineteen94 Communications Agency

‘As many working in the comms industry know, the rules around the eco messaging companies can legitimately use to sell products and services is continually evolving. This is likely to continue to present sensitive and complex issues for brands keen to communicate green initiatives and innovations to target audiences, without falling foul of greenwashing claims, as we head into 2024.

‘For example, we expect to see a decline in the “big but difficult to prove” eco claims of the past – e.g. that a certain product or service is completely ‘carbon neutral’ – in favour of brands adopting a more honest and open dialog with audiences, that shows how they are improving things, as well as the work that still needs to be done.’
Alice Regester, CEO and co-founder of 33Seconds

‘In my opinion, this actually represents an opportunity for brands. The ones who are prepared to be transparent about their challenges – where they’ve fallen short and where they’ve needed to pivot – will be the ones who are seen as more authentic and trustworthy to their consumers, but will be the ones most likely to drive change – inspiring stakeholders and other brands.’
Lucy Newson, deputy managing director at Alfred

7) Using your brain

‘It’s time to focus on the most powerful tool PR and Marketing pros have – brain power. Hyper-personalisation is a key element within Industry 5.0 and we’re seeing it reflected in B2B buyer behaviour.

‘Be creative not bland, hook on to the ideas that are stimulating buyer behaviour, get strategic about your brand equity.’
Jamie Kightley, head of client Services for IBA International

8) Freshening-up content with video

‘PR that incorporates short form video will provide plenty of opportunity for more creative agencies and professionals. Younger audiences don’t want content dictated by centuries-old media companies. Fresh, original content via brands and organisations’ own channels will continue to dominate.’
Jane Whitham, director of Altitude PR

9) Increasing creativity when budgets decrease

‘Smart PR agencies will revel at the creative challenge of tighter briefs, smaller budgets and the need to, finally, nail campaign ROI. Most PR practitioners are problem solvers by nature, and it’s amazing what can be accomplished when you’re forced to think differently. Creative content is the perfect partner for PR. Today’s consumers of all ages are much more open to seeing creative content everywhere. We will see further integration of PR and social media in the years to come.’
Caroline Miller, founder and managing director at Indigo Pearl

10) Using human voices (that means case studies)

‘The rise in fake news, misinformation and the use of AI in comms is making audiences sceptical. As a result, they are turning to sources of information that feel authentic, relatable and human. This is a great opportunity for excellent PR – accurate storytelling that really resonates with the audience. Hard data adds to the feeling of trust, so a human voice coupled with decent data will be a winning combination. Putting the human voice at the centre of communications will be important, so thought leadership, expert content and influencers will be key players in 2024 strategies. So much so that Google is prioritising the proven experiences of individuals over branded content.’
Susannah Morgan, deputy managing director of Energy PR

11) But there’s no escape from AI just yet…

‘Since AI makes producing new content so much easier, content flooding is an unfortunate side-effect of this. Nevertheless, I believe that this repetitive content flooding our social channels will make us aware of the worthlessness of a great portion of the content we kind of got used to in the past and make us more discerning about the content we consume.’
Peter von Kageneck, DACH PR director for Life Size Media

‘The industry as a whole needs to acknowledge that the marriage of human creativity, strategic thinking, and data-driven AI insights can create an unprecedented and unrivalled level of impact when used correctly. Together, they will usher in a new era where PR is not just about communication – but more so understanding, influencing, and adapting to an evolving digital landscape.’
Sheridan Okey, head of digital PR at Tribera

‘News is cyclical and data can inform stories that have exceeded performance metrics in the past, and with AI further embraced in newsrooms we’ll see past content repurposed and reused throughout the year in line with regular trends and seasons. Cut-through for this type of activity will be much harder unless something really unique or compelling is offered, which could include reputable voices, rich in expertise or new supporting findings and data.’
Damian Summers, head of Digital PR at Impression

‘While for some this may be seen as “the robots taking our jobs”, it in fact provides opportunities for PR agencies to demonstrate their worth and how invaluable their insight is, by showing that we know our clients, have good relationships with the media and provide that crucial human element that AI just doesn’t have.’
Holly Daulby, managing director and founder of Honest Communications

12) Teamwork

‘Integration is a big one here. Utilising different services within PR campaigns is a great opportunity to maximise the reach of our stories, and allows clients to get more bang for their buck. Working across departments and cross-channel will be something agencies should be doing.’
Beth Turner, head of PR at ilk Agency

‘Harnessing the power of the team, working together, digging in, sharing the load and holding people’s hand to tackle the challenge together to me seems the best way to respond to the challenges ahead. Bring on 2024 – another year of challenge, change and opportunity.’
Rachel Roberts, CEO of spottydog Communications (part of Leopard Co

‘Further integration between marketing channels. Budgets are tight and brands are looking for the maximum return from their investment. A multi-channel approach across PR, SEO, social and paid can support and increase results across all channels.’
Sarah Ross, account director for R&Co Communications

13) Shared experiences

‘I think we’ll continue to see the rise of community-driven experiences. The Barbie movie plus the Eras and Renaissance tours showed us that shared experiences are still top of people’s wishlists.’
Sarah Henderson, managing director of PrettyGreen Group and chief client officer

14) Equity

‘I, for one, am very much hoping that 2024 will be a year when the PR world starts to address equity and diversity. CIPR has made strides in this, and I am set to be the EDI Champion in the Southwest, but with figures showing that 9 in 10 UK practitioners are white, and 25% are privately educated—around four times higher than the UK national average—we need to do better.

‘We can no longer work in an industry full of offices that look like the cast of “Emily in Paris”, instead, we must make a commitment to a truly diverse workforce that reflects clients, campaigns, and stories.’
Natalie Trice, career coach, PR and media expert trainer

‘It’s no longer going to be acceptable for brands to simply give a small nod to their corporate values and responsibility to their communities. Consumers are more savvy and will actively call out brands whose messaging doesn’t seem sincere, and this can have a huge impact on the brands’ reputation.

‘It’s time for brands to be more consistent about where they stand on big social issues and be more authentic in their messaging. Next year, brands will need to start dedicating parts of their PR activity to show how they’re making a positive impact on the planet, their workers, and their communities.’
Gareth Hoyle, managing director for Coveragely

15) Zeroing in on Gen Z

Brands need to understand the Gen Z demographic, and target them through short form content and video, meaning that they need to be tapping into TikTok, and influencer marketing, and understanding how they engage. Taking time to learn this now will put your brand ahead of the curve come 2024.’
Hayley Knight, co-founder and communications director for BE YELLOW

16) Keeping our Google Overlords happy

‘Not only are trust signals such as customer reviews and testimonials, client lists, and industry accreditations important for today’s more cautious customers, but they’re also incredibly important to Google. Google is consistently trying to determine how trustworthy a brand’s website is in the same way that potential customers are in order to rank its search position. Third-party endorsement is going to be a requisite for brands in 2024.’
Sarah Woodhouse, director at AMBITIOUS PR

‘As the industry evolves, there’s a growing emphasis on what we call “search real estate”. Brands are investing in SEO and PR expertise to construct a digital presence that cultivates trust, thereby enhancing brand value and measurable conversation metrics.’
Lexi Mills, CEO of Shift6 Studios

17) Podcasting

‘If PR and communications professionals haven’t recognised the impact and reach of podcasts yet, they need to do this in 2024.’
Stephanie Mullins-Wiles, director of Bluesky Education

‘Multimedia content will also continue to grow over the next year, serving as an opportunity for agencies. According to Demand Sage, in 2023 there will be 464.7 million podcast listeners globally. This number is predicted to reach 504.9 million by 2024. Podcasts are no longer simply audio recordings, but video too, to provide visuals for listeners who are keen to consume content cinematically. According to Sprout Social, YouTube Shorts get 30 billion views daily from users around the globe; it is a platform not to be overlooked.’
Rachel Gilley, chief client officer at Clarity

18) Making use of insight tools

‘2024 has the opportunity to be the year where the PR industry really gets serious about listening to audiences as well as talking to them. The continued blurring of the lines between PR, digital, and social, and the myriad of tools both free and paid that we have at our disposal, mean the availability of insights to strengthen our work has never been greater.’
Ewan MacGill, associate director, consumer, at Frame

19) Optimism

‘Overwhelmingly, our research and audience profiling are showing that people want brands to spark joy, and make them smile. In the midst of multiple crises and distressing news cycles, people are looking to brands for a bit of escapism and lightness.

This needs to feel natural an authentic, as our audiences are more sensitive than ever to performative tactics. With this in mind, there will be an opportunity for brands that naturally fall in the spaces of humour, escapism and joy to truly amp up the fun, and shine bright in 2024.’
Dana Hanna, senior creative strategist for Ready10

Winter activities, Christmas decorations, and AI experts: What journalists need from PRs in December

Winter activities, Christmas decorations and AI experts: What journalists need from PRs in December

While many industries may be starting to wind down as the year comes to an end, the media industry is still as busy as ever. From more developments in AI, to COP28, to the mad rush to get presents on Black Friday, there have been plenty of big stories to keep journalists busy in November.

Hundreds of journalists have been using the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service to source those stories. Below, we look at what keywords were trending last month and what the media will be looking to cover for the rest of December and into the new year.

A Festive Frenzy

The festive season is fast approaching now and for the third month in a row ‘Christmas’ was our top keyword, making up 20% of the total requests sent in November. This is 2% higher than in October and a 3% increase on this time last year.

Around 6% of those enquiries have been looking for gift ideas and products to review. This has varied from ‘beauty and wellbeing gift sets’ to a ‘travel-themed Christmas gift guide’ to ‘Christmas foodie gifts’. This shows there is plenty of scope to get a variety of products featured, mainly within consumer media titles.

‘Decorations’ has also cropped up as a keyword in just over 1% of all the total requests. Journalists at the i paper, Metro, PA Media and Expert Reviews have all sent enquiries containing the keyword over the last month.

A Winter Wonderland

While Christmas might be the dominant keyword on the service right now, seasonal related requests have also proved popular. The word ‘Winter’ was present in just under 4% of all enquiries, a 1% increase from last month.

The requests have covered many different sections of the media. There have been several home & garden related enquiries including ‘winter duvets’, ‘best way to clean radiators in winter’, ‘how often to mow your lawn in winter’ and ‘how to protect plants in winter from frost’. The winter requests have also covered beauty such as ‘winter skincare’, leisure with ‘winter days out’ and money issues regarding ‘people struggling financially in winter’.

This opens up numerous avenues to get information and experts featured in the media. Plus they have been sent from journalists at national newspapers such as the Independent, Evening Standard, and the Sun, as well as consumer titles like woman & home, Stylist.co.uk, and Cosmopolitan.

Interest in AI remains high

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, has been a near constant keyword on the Journalist Enquiry Service throughout 2023. Last month was no different as just over 3% of all requests contained the word ‘AI’. This was a 1% increase on last month.

The enquiries around AI do tend to focus on getting expert opinion and comment – if you have anyone in this space then there are plenty of opportunities. The areas vary from medical to HR to insurance to energy. It has also meant a 7% rise for the Computing & Telecoms category, on the back of a 34% increase from September to October

Love is on the horizon

While the majority of the keywords for November are focused on topical issues or seasonal ideas, feature writers are already looking ahead at content for 2024. That has included some journalists looking for Valentine’s Day related content. The keyword ‘Valentines’ cropped up in just under 1% of all requests.

This included enquiries for gift ideas and experiences, and these types of requests will only increase throughout December and into January. There were also several enquiries from journalists around Veganuary. They were looking for information and products that would be suited to the annual month-long challenge.

Journalists using the service

In November, 51% of journalists using the Enquiry Service were staff at their publications. Freelance journalists were the next biggest users with 28%. Consumer media account for the largest media type with 36% and national newspaper/current affairs are second on 25%. Trade/business/professional media is in third on 19%. 

The majority of journalists, 35%, were looking for a spokesperson or expert last month. This was followed by review products on 23% and information for an article on 22%. Personal case studies was the fourth most popular choice on 11%. Seven of the top ten outlets sending requests in November were national press, with the other three being from consumer media.

Opportunities for PRs in December and the new year

The final flurry of Christmas requests will trickle in through December. This means there is still a chance to get gifts, advent calendars, and more featured in the media. Plus, more seasonal related requests around Winter opens the opportunity to provide healthcare information, days out to recommend, or experts on saving money on heating during these colder months.

Journalists otherwise will be looking ahead to 2024. Valentines has already started appearing as a keyword and will no doubt increase in popularity this month. Common new year topics like getting fit should mean growth in the Health, Sport, and Food and Drink categories, especially with challenges like Veganuary and Dry January. We also expect feature writers to be looking for trends in categories like Fashion and Travel.

Want to know how to make the most of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service?  Read these tips on how to respond to journalist enquiries

COP28 so far

COP28 so far: World changing or greenwashing?

More than 25 years after the Kyoto Protocol and seven years after the Paris Agreement was signed, the effectiveness of international meetings on climate is still hotly debated. COP28 has been controversial from the outset with hosts the UAE accused by groups such as Amnesty International of using it as an opportunity to greenwash their oil production. This plan may have come unstuck however, with the UAE’s green credentials having taken a hit throughout the conference.

Firstly, there were reports that the state’s oil firm ADNOC may increase its production of oil by 42% by 2030. Furthermore, COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber has been embroiled in a scandal after allegedly arguing that there is no science indicating that fossil fuels need to be phased out – although he later claimed that he had been misinterpreted. Environmentalists’ hopes that an agreement will be signed to phase out fossil fuel usage may also be hampered by the fact that around 2,500 fossil fuel lobbyists have been granted access to the conference, more than any other COP.

COP28 has been an opportunity for the UK to reassure the international community that it is serious on reaching net zero. International opinion had dropped following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backtracking on some green targets in September 2023 – this represented a stark contrast to the EU and USA thundering ahead with their respective European Green Deal and Inflation Reduction Act. The Government had been warned by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) in June that the UK was at risk of losing its international leadership on climate change. Since this, however, the Government has given out new oil and gas exploration licences and picked a fight with ‘meat taxes and a ‘flying levy’. This has all led to analysis from Friends of the Earth finding that the UK is likely to miss its Paris climate targets by up to 9%.

The Government has repeatedly argued that the UK has reduced greenhouse gas emissions faster than any other OECD nation, that the UK is world leading on offshore wind, and that many of its changes brought the UK in line with allies. In an olive branch to environmentalists, just days before COP28 began, the Government announced that it would begin a search for a new National Park in England, create 34 new Landscape Recovery projects, provide £15m extra funding for existing National Parks and National Landscapes, and offer £2.5m of funding for children to access nature.

Nevertheless, Sunak’s individual commitment to net zero was questioned before he even landed in Dubai, with the King, PM, and Foreign Secretary all flying to the conference in separate private jets. Sunak’s short appearance of only 12 hours further added fuel to the flames, especially with opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer staying at the conference for three days and recommitting Labour’s policy to invest £28bn a year on reducing emissions by the end of next parliament.

Sunak’s time at the Conference included a speech in which he argued that the UK was leading the charge on reducing emissions. In a move supported by green campaigners, he announced £1.6bn for renewable energy, green innovation and forests, as well as £11bn further private investment in the Dogger Bank wind farm. However, he could be perceived as out of touch compared to other speakers when he lauded Britain’s backtracking on some climate policies and seemingly inviting gratitude from other countries for Britain’s actions to reduce emissions so far. This speech stood in contrast with many more pessimistic outlooks on climate change, including from the King himself. It is also important to note that of the £1.6bn of climate aid Sunak promised, only £900m of this is actually new money, with the rest already earmarked for spending up to 2026.

King Charles, free to appear at COP28 following disagreements with the Liz Truss administration before COP27, was still able to cause political controversy. He entered the stage wearing a tie that some took as showing his support for the Greek Government following disagreements with Sunak, although the palace was quick to note that this was one of his favourite ties and he had worn it in previous state visits. King Charles’ message was very different to the Prime Minister’s as he shared worries about the future of the planet. He warned that humanity is ‘taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits, and into dangerous, uncharted territory’.

Throughout the political spin, there have been some significant commitments so far. The Government has signed up to several voluntary pledges, including to triple world renewable energy usage by 2030 and treble civil nuclear power capacity by 2050. It has signed treaties and shown support for climate policies in countries like Kenya and Brazil. It has supported climate finance throughout the developing world, with UK Export Finance joining a Net Zero Credit Agencies Alliance and the launch of the Climate Investment Funds Capital Market Mechanism which could see bonds generate up to $750m per year in new climate finance. There have also been significant financial commitments with £480m to be used to mobilise private finance into adaptation and resilience, a £391m investment in the Private Infrastructure Development Group and £100m committed to help climate-vulnerable populations adapt to climate change from the Government’s £1.6bn commitment.

Many of these are seen as significant contributions, especially with countries like the USA only committing $17m to the fund to support countries suffering damage from climate change, while the UK contributed £60m.

Here lies the problem for Sunak and the Conservatives. The Government has proudly shared that Britain has reduced emissions faster than any other OECD nation, but now the country has a Prime Minister accused by some of using Labour’s ambitious net zero policies to create a wedge with voters. All this while deriding Labour’s ambition to invest £28bn a year into renewables (including within the first sentence of the Autumn Statement), while also trying to encourage international partners to decarbonise and support the developing world with climate change mitigation. Sunak has left himself a difficult position to try to convince the rest of the world to become greener while backtracking on Britain’s own green policies.

So far, COP28 has been a smorgasbord of voluntary pledges. Although there have been commitments from oil and gas companies to reduce emissions, these have been rebutted by smaller nations and NGOs who accused these companies of greenwashing. With days focusing on discussion on transport, built environment, youth, nature, land use, oceans, food, agriculture and water yet to come, there is still an opportunity for dramatic change to occur at COP28. This, however, will have to be done with the PM safely in Westminster.

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PR for good: How to empower communities with advocacy campaigns

PR for good: How to empower communities with advocacy campaigns

Feeling unsure of your purpose in PR? Comms can be a force for good – it can amplify voices (too often) unheard by decision makers, changing mindsets, and sparking progress in society.

If you have PR skills, you already have everything you need in your toolbox to make change, too.

This was the topic of our latest Vuelio webinar ‘Empowering communities through advocacy campaigns’, where we were joined by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland (CVSNI). Both organisations have had measurable success with ensuring their communities are heard and with pushing progress forward – here’s how they did it…

‘From the outset, our purpose and objectives were clear’: Royal National Institute of Blind People’s battle against railway ticket office closures

The challenge: Keeping offices open
On 5 July, a proposal was published to close almost all ticket offices across England and Glasgow Central. Despite the potentially huge consequences of this, a consultation was opened for just 21 days. For the RNIB, this meant quick action would be needed:

‘Our messaging was very clear,’ said RNIB’s local campaigns manager Lindsay Coyle. Aims were set – push for an extension to the consultation period, and keep the ticket offices open.

Actions: Get the word out
RNIB has regional teams across the country, and everybody needed to be on board with plans to spark engagement with the cause. Consultation response templates were shared, emails were sent out to subscribers encouraging contact with MPs, and news items were placed detailing how to submit responses.

As the consultation period was extended to 1 September, the RNIB team kept pushing, asking supporters to continue to write to their MPs and local newspapers expressing their concerns. In October, the transport secretary asked operators to withdraw their proposals – ticket offices would not be closed, and RNIB had achieved both of their objectives.

Results: Mainstream media cut through
As shared by Gorki Duhra from the PR team, RNIB secured 1,121 pieces of media coverage across broadcast print and online for this campaign. National media outlets including BBC, ITV, Sky, The Telegraph, The Independent, and local outlets across the devolved nations picked up the story, as volunteer campaigners, regional campaign officers, policy officers and spokespeople gave interviews.

RNIB media coverage

The RNIB team secured a huge key message penetration rate of 98% across its media coverage, with 94% directly mentioning the charity’s research.

‘On the first day, we reached about 906 media outlets, which was a record for the charity for a one-day event,’ said Gorki. ‘Our messaging resonated with so many different people across society. We were on target straight away in getting the message out. And that was just by being prepared.’

Want to get positive results for your next campaign? Get everybody on board
‘We coordinated our team internally, engaging our wider staff group, and setting up an internal teams channel,’ shared Lindsay.

For external stakeholder engagement, personal stories and case studies are vital. RNIB invited the public to create their own stories using #INeedATicketOffice:

‘We got videos of blind and partially-sighted people and our volunteer campaigners filming at local train stations to show how difficult it was to purchase a ticket, use the vending machines,’ explained Lindsay.

‘When politicians talked about the issue in Parliament, they spoke about the experiences of blind and partially sighted constituents and shared those stories directly. Labour actually used some of our statistics in their comms, as well.

‘Sharing personal stories across social media is really powerful, as is the ability to act quickly – being able to mobilise people to take action.’

Gorki shared the importance of being reactive to get cut-through:

‘As a charity, we knew about this a week before the announcement, which was snuck out on some Tuesday afternoon, at about 4.45pm, as these things tend to be. We had a few statements signed off and ready, and our distribution list of journalists – six minutes after it was announced, I had our statement out in the press.

‘PR isn’t just a press release, it’s using social media contingent, audio content, other messages – it’s sharing what people are really saying.’

‘What precedent does this set for the rest of the world?’: Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland’s fight to support those impacted by the lasting legacy of The Troubles

The challenge: Centring people in Governmental procedure

Background to the Legacy Bill

Head of communications and PR Alana Fisher’s ten-person team at CVSNI had a huge challenge ahead of them for this particular campaign – advocating for victims and survivors of The Troubles in the wake of the proposals within the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill. The Bill was laid by the UK Parliament in May 2022 and widely condemned across Northern Ireland’s political spectrum – key contentions included provisions for immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences, and shutting down civil cases such as inquests.

Ultimately, the team knew stopping the Bill’s passage through Parliament would likely be an insurmountable task, and in September 2023, the Bill was passed into law. CVSNI’s energy and resources during its passage were focused on amendments; trying to keep victims and survivors front and centre:

‘There is such a vested interest in this Bill because of what it means for other conflict zones and the rest of the world who would look to the UK as a leader in upholding human rights,’ said Alana.

Actions: Educating on Northern Ireland’s history and influencing decision makers in Parliament

Education on the ongoing impact of Northern Ireland’s past would be a vital part of the CVSNI’s campaign – especially for stakeholders missing knowledge of the issue. Stakeholders to reach alongside victims and survivors were the media, NGOs and academics, international groups including the United Nations, the ECHR, and the US. Key stakeholders with the power to implement change were in UK Parliament:

‘We wrote to parliamentarians likely to have vested interest in this issue and developed very specific requests to be considered as amends to the Bill,’ explained Alana.

‘We were able to have a breakfast meeting with House of Lords Peers, bringing them together with victims and sharing what the Bill would mean for them, their families, and wider society. We got them early around a table, and highlighted those personal stories.

‘Most of the victim sector in Northern Ireland took an approach of no engagement with the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), which is Westminster’s branch looking after NI. The Commission came from a different point of view – we are a statutory organisation, and we have to advocate for all victims. We were vocal in our opposition to the Bill in the media, but alongside this, we adopted a pragmatic approach of leaning, in determining the power and influence we could have in the final shape of the Bill.’

‘The media and our own comms channels were an important way to highlight our messages – traditional media as well as self-generated. We produced podcast episodes on this issue, animation videos – different ways that we could raise the profile and how it was not an appropriate approach to deal with Northern Ireland’s past.’

Results: Growing understanding of impact
‘We really got to grow knowledge and understanding of the continuing impact of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, not just on victims and survivors, but through the generations,’ said Alana. ‘That isn’t always there in mainland UK, particularly with generational change.

‘Many members within the House of Lords went on record to say that this is the wrong approach, and at one stage during its passage, the Lords voted to remove the clause around immunity from prosecutions (it was, however, reinstated by the House of Commons).

‘We were able to get our message onto media channels in mainland UK as well as in Northern Ireland and international journalists, like those at the New York Times who were now keeping eye on this.’

Ultimately, the objective was to centre the voices of those who would be impacted the most, and CVSNI placed them in a position to be heard.

For success in your own cause-led campaigns, remember the people at the centre of your issue

‘When you put human beings in front of other human beings, it’s a different level of understanding that comes about,’ advises Alana.

‘We can put together as many communication tools and press releases as we want, but the power of personal stories was pivotal to us in highlighting what this Bill will do, both for the victims and survivors and their families, but also for the wider reconciliation aspect in Northern Ireland.’

Whatever you’re communicating, getting the word out to those who need to hear it is key. Know what you want to achieve, make sure your team is onboard and prepared, find your stakeholders, and get connecting – it really can make a difference.

Watch the full webinar here, and check out these four brands making a big impact with their cause-led comms.

Autumn Statement Breakfast Briefing

Vuelio x Trade Association Forum: Highlights from the 2023 Autumn Statement

The morning following the Government’s Autumn Statement on 22 November, Vuelio and the Trade Association Forum came together to hold a breakfast briefing for a crowd of communications and public affairs professionals.

Autumn Statement Breakfast Briefing

The discussion was driven by a panel of experts eager to discuss the most pressing issues and their predictions following the announcement.

– Emily Wallace, CEO, Trade Association Forum
– Jeremy Gray, Head of Policy, Federation of Master Builders
– Craig Beaumont, Chief of External Affairs, Federation of Small Businesses
– Thomas Pope, Deputy Chief Economist, Institute for Government
– Jennifer Prescott, Political Services Team Lead, Vuelio

As British newspapers followed up on the statement, the most popular topics were tax cuts and public service spending, quality of education, inflation and fiscal drag, support for small businesses, and welfare among marginalised communities.

Springtime speculations for General Election

A prominent prediction – in both the media and public affairs sector – is that Jeremy Hunt’s tax-cutting motives are a ‘populist move’ ahead of a possible General Election next spring. When the crowd at Vuelio’s breakfast briefing were asked for a show of hands, a little over half predicted May, the rest said Autumn, while nobody thought January.

As reported by The Independent, Hunt insisted his tax cuts were orientated towards ‘long-term growth’ for the economy, and called it ‘silly’ to suggest this was a populist move tied to the timing of the next election.

In the two days following a piece from The Guardian quoting Hunt that the cuts were the ‘biggest in history’, 68 national newspapers and 103 regional news outlets shared the claim.

Threats to public services

As part of these cuts, an estimated £19bn cut in public service spending also raised concerns on the impact on NHS treatment and the relative labour force. Shortly after the Autumn Statement, The Independent quoted The Institute for Fiscal Studies in warning that Britain was on course for ‘drastic public-sector cuts’ that are ‘even more painful than the austerity of the 2010s’.

Hunt was quoted in 48% of tax-cut coverage in national British newspapers, stating ‘if you want to put more money into the NHS, you need a strong economy’.

Alongside healthcare, a member of Lambeth Council, who attended the briefing, raised concerns to the panel about the survival, quality, and maintenance of local governments. They also added that the issue could potentially be tackled by raising minimum wage for staff employed by councils.

Panelist Jeremy Gray, Head of Policy at The Federation of Master Builders, agreed with this statement and furthered that local authority funding has been restricted so heavily, cases of local authorities going bankrupt or not being able to provide basic services are on the rise.
Heather Stewart, The Guardian’s former political editor, voted it as one of the public sectors that will ‘suffer most’ to ‘pay for Tory tax-cuts’ – second to courts, prisons, and probation services.

Fiscal drag

The relative impact of fiscal drag – a concept whereby inflation of wages pushes people into higher tax brackets – is a rapidly growing concern. Economists have repeatedly argued across the press that the overall tax burden will remain at a record high, because of the continued freeze on tax thresholds.

A representative for a well-known homeless charity who attended the briefing, referenced the issue when arguing against Hunt’s decision to reduce national insurance by 2%. Their argument, that this reduction doesn’t hold up next to the ‘failure’ to address Brits under the poverty line, was widely supported by the panel, adding that Brits are not protected from falling deeper.

Vuelio’s Jennifer Prescott added to this conversation, stating that tax cuts were framed as a ‘positive spin’ in the statement, but the media has rapidly revealed studies suggesting why the opposite could be true. This is due to recent research, including IPPR’s release that only £3 of every £100 goes to worse-off families. Further, Sunak’s claims of ‘halving inflation’ have been widely criticised as ‘misleading’ and ‘boastful’.

Support for businesses

On a more positive note, business proposals were overall welcomed by the breakfast briefing crowd; particularly due to the focus on start-ups and smaller companies, i.e. business rates relief and full capital expensing.

Panellist Craig Beaumont added to this conversation that we should pay as much attention to the Liberal Democrats for this kind of support, pointing to their successes in South West England.

Unsupported education goals

Jennifer Prescott mentioned that Sunak’s 20 November speech, including his five key priorities for 2023, mentioned goals for a ‘world class education system’, yet any sort of plan for this was missing from the Autumn Statement.

Change in OBR attitudes

Panellist Thomas Pope, Deputy Chief Economist of Institute for Government, placed significant emphasis on how the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has ‘downgraded’ its economic forecast, stating that it is ‘usually optimistic’. This observation was also covered by The Guardian, adding that inflation will likely exceed the 2% target until 2025.

Publishing updated forecasts from the OBR, the Chancellor said the Government was moving to ‘get the economy back on track’ after the pandemic and energy crisis. However, while the economy will avoid a recession this year – with a revision to forecasts for a drop of 0.2%, to growth of 0.6% – the OBR slashed its estimates for 2024 from growth of 1.8% to only 0.7%.

Disability Welfare

Alongside concerns for families under the poverty line, Hunt has been accused of ‘demonising’ disabled people in the press – a term used in 86 of the 483 national news headlines that emerged four days after the statement. This followed sweeping welfare changes that will ‘strip’ disability benefits for those who don’t appear to be actively looking for work. The regime will mean welfare recipients who do not get a job within 18 months will have to do mandatory work experience, while those who don’t look for work for a six-month period will have benefits stopped.

While the Chancellor said the goal is to save ‘wasted potential’ in the population, criticisms were high among the breakfast briefing crowd. Hunt also confirmed a rise in benefits and the state pension but said he would penalise those who took the taxpayer for granted with a crackdown on the long-term unemployed. The work capability assessment will be changed to assume that more of those with physical disabilities are able to work from home, while unemployed people who have been claiming universal credit for 18 months will lose work benefits unless they have a good reason.

Jennifer Prescott added that this was not reflective of a ‘compassionate conservatism’, a philosophy that the party has frequently identified with since election in 2010. Others added that the speech and statement lacked support for the working class and marginalised communities as a whole.

Polarising the conversation

Whether or not Hunt’s announcements are catered to an oncoming election, several members of the panel, including Emily Wallace, CEO at Trade Association Forum, expressed belief that there was an essence of ‘owning’ the past 13 years of power throughout Hunt’s speech and the Autumn Statement – for example, Hunt referencing the education system proposed under David Cameron’s power. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves responded to this commentary by arguing that public services have been repeatedly neglected, and that it is now ‘too little too late’.

Reeves also received high volumes of national coverage for ‘attacking’ the Conservative party, particularly for ‘presiding over low growth and high taxes’. The Guardian quoted the Shadow Chancellor in her statement that working people are ‘worse off under the Conservatives’ with ‘growth down, mortgages up, prices up, taxes up, debt up’.

When asked about presumptions for the near future, Jennifer Prescott added that Labour are in a strong position to use the fact that the Conservatives have been in power for 13 years and therefore have a record to defend.

Vuelio Political Monitoring can help you track the impact of political activity on your campaigns. Want to know more about how our services can support your PR and communications? Get in touch.

Autumn Statement 2023 overview

Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement for growth: rhetoric or reality

On Wednesday 22 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt unveiled the Government’s Autumn Statement – just over a year after former Prime Minister, Liz Truss’ mini budget caused an economic rupture in the UK’s economy. In this sense, this statement represented a culmination of a year of politicking from the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in an effort to reassure the public.

The mission of calming the choppy waters has seen the return of David Cameron and the Autumn Statement has been an extension of this: the focus on ‘economic responsibility’ through welfare sanctions and scepticism on borrowing are self-evident staples of Conservatism. This was also complemented by a moral and practical argument for cutting personal taxes and supporting businesses and innovation.

Nevertheless, the statement had missing pieces which made some question whether it really is the coherent economic plan for Government that is claimed, or is, instead, the start of the Conservative’s re-election campaign.

Two days prior to the Autumn Statement Sunak, proclaimed that now is the time to cut taxes. The previous day, Hunt had told Sunday with Laura Kuenssbergy that the Government could not rule out tax cuts, while also refusing to detail specifics. Both of these developments came after a year of the No.10 and HM Treasury press rooms briefing every week that tax cuts would only come once inflation had reduced – after all, Hunt had briefed this at the Conservative Party Conference. This key pledge to reduce inflation formed an important part of Sunak’s five key priorities for 2023 – in essence, the start of the Conservative’s mission of calming the waters.

Sunak’s speech on Monday reaffirmed this sentiment as he announced a further five missions. These were phrased specifically as long term with three out of five focusing on the UK’s macroeconomic situation: reducing debt; cutting taxes and making work pay; and supporting British business. These missions were expanded upon in the Autumn Statement: a cut to NI contributions by 2%; a cut to NI contributions from self-employed; a ‘responsible’ approach to public spending; increasing benefit sanctions; making full expensing permanent; investments in manufacturing and the creation of four new regional investment zones.

Throughout both Sunak’s speech on Monday and Hunt’s speech on Wednesday, the Government’s alleged long term economic plan was emphasised. They both argued that Labour’s strategy is its antithesis; clear dividing lines were set up between the Conservatives and Labour’s supposed preference for regulation, borrowing, taxes, inflationary policies, trade unionism, and intervention.

This approach perhaps raises wider questions for the Conservative’s political strategy. It could elucidate Sunak’s focus on the economy instead of ‘culture wars’ as he attempts to clear the blue water with Labour – that only under Conservative rule will your money be looked after. The very fact that the statement is titled an ‘Autumn Statement for growth’ is testament to this, also. This represents a clear attempt to battle over economic prudence and economic responsibility, just as the Conservatives centred its election strategy in 2010 and 2015. Maybe, then, Lord Cameron’s return last week was not purely ceremonial.

While the Conservative’s Autumn Statement helped illuminate its priorities, by that very nature it also revealed what is potentially on the back foot for the Government.

Despite Sunak and Hunt both focusing on the Conservatives’ commitment to deliver a ‘world class’ education system, there were glaring voids in the concrete substance. A continued commitment to apprenticeships through a £50m pilot scheme will do little to change the fact that the implementation of apprenticeship levy and T Levels has failed. Additionally, the absence of any additional support for childcare could mean that the Government’s plans for 30 hours of free childcare may fall flat due to the significant concerns over the sector’s ability to implement them without additional support. Just 3.9% of the UK’s GDP is spent on education, compared to 5% in OECD. Therefore, perhaps just like the Advanced British Standard, the Government’s vision for a ‘world class’ education system is still in the preliminary spin stage.

In his address to Parliament, Hunt also commended the UK’s Creative Industries for their important role in any growth strategy for the UK economy. However, the sentiment started and ended at warm words; a call for evidence on increasing Film and High End TV tax credit and funding increases to the British Film Institute and British Board of Film Classification may do little for a sector that has been impacted severely by austerity since 2010 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the Government’s vision for the creative industry perennially joins that ‘world class’ education system in the preliminary spin stage.

Moreover, there were no commitments to additional public spending in public services in the Statement, with the Government funding its tax cuts by tightening spending. For instance, under the current spending set by this Autumn Statement, there will be real term spending decreases from 2024-25 to 2027-28: -0.7% in Local Government, -0.9% in Schools, -5.6% in the Courts and -6.7% in Prisons. Considering the sluggish growth of the economy and the huge problems faced by public services – RAAC in schools, bankrupt councils, court backlogs and a staffing crisis in prisons – this raises the question of whether more state spending is needed than the Government lets on.

Finally, the Office for Budget Responsibilities’ stagnant growth forecasts and reports that Hunt could fail to meet his debt reduction target could stipulate that the Autumn Statement represents a punch in the dark at Labour, ahead of a nearby election, rather than the long term economic strategy it purports to be. There could be a discrepancy between the rhetoric of the Autumn Statement and its reality.

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