Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 13 May

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

GDP 

UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 2.1% in March 2021, the fastest monthly growth since August 2020, as schools in some parts of the UK reopened throughout the month. March’s GDP is 5.9% below the levels seen in February 2020, and 1.1% below the initial recovery peak in October 2020. Latest estimates also show only small revisions to GDP in January (now negative 2.5%, from negative 2.2%) and February (now growth of 0.7%, from 0.4%). 

Economic outlook 

NIESR central forecast for UK economic growth in 2021 has been revised up to 5.7%, compared to 3.4% in February, with 4.5% growth forecast for 2022. The significant upward revision reflects a better-than-expected first quarter – a greater resilience to further lockdowns – and the large rise in Covid-related public spending in the 2021-22 fiscal year announced in the March Budget.   

The poor Covid-19 performance has greater permanent cost for the UK compared with other major economies. The size of the economic contraction means that the level of GDP is nearly 4% lower in 2025 than NIESR had forecast it to be before the Covid-19 pandemic, equivalent to around £1,350 per person per year (2018 prices) falling further behind the US and Germany as a result. 

Thanks to the extension of furlough and other support measures to the autumn, NIESR now forecast unemployment to peak at 6.5% in the final quarter of this year (compared to 7.5% in February). This central forecast is compatible with an assumption that around 450,000 of those remaining on furlough in September will not be taken back after the scheme ends. 

Income growth and a degree of forced savings under lockdown provide a strong basis for a consumption growth forecast of 5.9% in 2021. NIESR forecast household saving then to fall to a level higher than that seen before the pandemic but close to historical averages: a faster or further fall constitutes the principal upside risk to our consumption and GDP forecasts in 2021. 

NIESR’s central forecast is for CPI inflation to rise over the coming months, reaching 1.8% in the final quarter of 2021 before falling to 1.5% at the end of 2022 and settling just below its 2% target between 2023 and 2025. Bank Rate is not forecast to rise until 2023 but there is considerable uncertainty regarding both the direction and instruments of monetary policy.   

Double jobs and mental health crisis facing young people risks outlasting the pandemic 

Young people have experienced the largest employment hit and sharpest increase in mental health conditions of any age group during Covid-19 in a ‘double crisis’ that risks outlasting the pandemic, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation. The report, Double Trouble, examines the worrying trends in young people’s mental health in the run-up to and during the crisis, their links to changes in the labour market, and the risks posed to young people’s post-pandemic living standards. The think tank recommends that the government intensifies efforts to keep young people in work by expanding and extending the Kickstart Scheme, and ensures that access to mental health support is strengthened in the period after pandemic.  

Business confidence 

The success of the UK’s vaccine rollout has also influenced an increase in service sector confidence, which has risen to its highest level in over a year. BDO’s latest services optimism index shows that confidence among businesses in the service sector hit a fourteen-month high in April. Businesses in other sectors also recorded improved optimism, while BDO’s output index showed a month-on-month increase in debit and credit card spending in line with the reopening of non-essential retail last month. 

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 13 May

The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Covid-19 spread 

On Monday the UK COVID-19 alert level moved from level 4 to level 3 in reflection of Covid-19 case numbers, deaths and hospital pressures have fallen consistently. In a joint statement, the UK Chief Medical Officers warned that despite the drop in level, Covid-19 is still circulating and ‘we all need to continue to be vigilant.  

This comes as findings from the Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections have halved since the last REACT-1 study in March, with only 1 in 1,000 people infected. The main findings from the eleventh round of the REACT study show that between March and May national prevalence has dropped by 50% from 0.20% to 0.10% The data showed that the vaccination rollout continues to impact positively on prevalence. The study found a divergence between the prevalence of infections and hospitalisations and deaths, suggesting infections may have led to fewer hospitalisations and deaths since the start of the vaccination rollout.  

Care backlog 

NHS England has announced a new £160 million accelerator initiative to tackle waiting lists, by increasing the number of tests and treatments and by developing a blueprint for elective recovery. This comes as waiting list figures published this week show that there are currently 5 million patients are waiting to start elective treatment.  

NHS Providers has called the new initiative is important, Chief Executive Chris Hopson. He said: ‘Trust leaders are telling us that, in the places with the biggest challenge, getting through the backlog could, on current trajectories, take between three to five years. We know this is unacceptable and that the NHS needs to develop a bold, radical, plan to go a lot faster, with appropriate extra funding from the government.’ 

Nuffield Trust’s Deputy Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie has said: ‘It is now very clear that the NHS will need much greater support from the government to aid the service and exhausted staff to work through a frightening level of postponed care…New funding announced by NHS England to support pilot areas to innovate and identify ways to speed up efforts to tackle the backlog of care is welcome. But additional staff and resources will not be easy to find given the NHS will need to prioritise urgent care, remain responsive to hospitalisations for Covid and continue to roll out the vaccination programme across the population.’ 

Mental health 

On Monday the Government announced £17 million for mental health funding in schools and colleges to help them recover from the challenges of the pandemic. Up to 7,800 schools and colleges in England will be offered funding worth £9.5 million to train a senior mental health lead from their staff in the next academic year, part of the Government’s commitment to offering this training to all state schools and colleges by 2025. Funding also includes a new £7 million Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme, which provides free expert training, support and resources for staff dealing with children and young people experiencing additional pressures from the last year – including trauma, anxiety, or grief. 

Announcing the new funding, Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said: ‘It is essential that children and young people can access the support they need and this extra funding further cements our commitment to their wellbeing, equipping them with the tools to look after their mental health’. 

Research from the Centre for Mental Health published this week found that 10 million people, including 1.5 million children and young people, in England will need support for their mental health as a direct result of the pandemic over the next three to five years. Based on an analysis of over 200 high-quality studies from around the world, the report identifies key groups of people who face an especially high risk of poor mental health as a result of the pandemic. These groups include people who have survived severe Covid-19 illness (especially those treated in intensive care), those working in health and care services during the pandemic, people economically impacted by the pandemic, and those who have been bereaved.

PRCA, CIPR and ICCO team up on mental health initiative

CIPR, PRCA and ICCO team up to tackle the mental health problem in PR and communications

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) have teamed up to address mental health challenges within the public relations and communications industry.

Working in partnership with Opinium, the industry bodies have launched a survey to gauge the wellbeing of those currently working in PR. Results will be used to form a cross-industry joint summer programme with the aim of tackling the mental challenges PR practitioners face as part of their jobs. Opinium’s Workplace Mental Wellbeing Framework will provide support.

‘The impact of the stress attached to working in public relations needs no introduction,’ says CIPR chief executive Alastair McCapra. ‘The fast-paced, public-facing nature of our work means it can be incredibly rewarding but also hugely taxing. It is the single biggest threat to the profession as a whole – whatever sector, whatever discipline, and whatever level you work in – it shouldn’t have to be this way and collectively this is something we can only change by working together. The pandemic has only served to heighten existing pressures which is why now is the right time for our respective bodies to work together in playing our part to support our members and the wider profession.’

PRCA director general and ICCO chief executive Francis Ingham agrees that the pandemic has magnified existing issues:

‘There is no doubt that the industry’s mental health challenges have been compounded by the pandemic. Our people have worked under extraordinary pressure and we must now do everything in our power to establish policies and foster cultures that prioritise mental health. Every employer has a responsibility and a duty of care towards their staff in this regard. I’m pleased that the industry bodies will be working together to create positive change. This is our opportunity to create the change our industry needs.’

Opinium CEO James Endersby sees the joint initiative as a real opportunity to make meaningful change for the industry at large:

‘This has been a challenging year for everyone, with the pandemic impacting so many areas of our lives including our mental health and work lives. Given the challenges we have all faced this year, businesses now have an even bigger role to play in supporting their employees with their mental health. We are delighted to once again be partnering with the PRCA, ICCO and the CIPR to conduct our workplace mental wellbeing audit amongst their members, both agency and client side. If you don’t listen to employees, you can’t effectively help support them with their mental wellbeing – we hope our insights will help accelerate change across the sector at a global level.’

Everyone working within PR and comms are invited to complete the survey to aid the initiative – take part here.

For more on mental health stresses in the public relations industry, here are 7 ways to protect your mental health in PR and communications and these tips for staying motivated at work.

Worried about burnout? Watch our accessmatters session with KDP Consulting’s Katie Phillips on her experiences and what you can do to look out for yourself and your coworkers.

Ways PR and communications people can protect their mental health

7 ways to protect your mental health in PR and communications

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and 2021 has perhaps wrought more strain on the mental wellbeing of those working in PR and communications than any other year.

PR is already well known as a high-stress industry, so if possible, let’s take this week to protect our mental health as much as we can. Here are seven ways, from seven mental health professionals, for you to focus on looking after yourself, your colleagues and your friends when it comes to work-related stresses.

1) Take control where you can and reframe the situation when you can’t, says mental health campaigner and co-founder of The Positive Planner Ali McDowall
‘Many of us reflect on what we would like to let go of from our pre-Covid lives as we head back in to some form of normality. There is a sense of anxiety as we feel the need to dive back into toxic working relationships, busy weekends and seeing people that perhaps we don’t want to. The good news is we can have some control and what the last year has taught us is that self-care looks different for everyone. If a weekend hanging out in your own company sounds like bliss, then make it happen! If you seek connection, then get that social engagement in to your diary. It’s all about feeling empowered to do whatever feels good for you.

‘Of course, many of us don’t have control over working environments and this can add to the stress and anxiety we feel. Try and reframe it by taking a lunch break that nourishes your soul, go for a walk or sit and listen to a podcast; it’s all within your planning control. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity.’

2) Switch off at a set time each day, says Freeletics training specialist David Wiener
‘Coping with unsustainable workloads, switching off, work/life balance, dealing with difficult colleagues and preparing to head back into the office, are all problems people are facing as the world starts to get back to some-what normality.

‘Finding a way to switch off from your phone/computer at a set time each evening will not only reduce stress and screen time, but is incredibly important when it comes to finding a strong work/life balance.’

3) Talk things out, says sleep expert and neurophysiologist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan
‘If you are struggling with the idea of heading back to the office, try talking to others around you including your team and your manager. Allow yourself the time and space to explore these feelings. Remember that although many things will return to normal, we ourselves as a society have changed and the benefits of a more flexible and less pressured future have been experienced by everyone.

‘Remember that when you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, self-care is even more important. Eat breakfast within 30-45 minutes of waking and, throughout the day, limit caffeine and drink at least two litres of water. Remember to allow yourself the chance to rest and recover during the day, taking regular, small breaks from work every 90-120 minutes. The breaks give your brain a chance to reboot and process information, which helps you sleep deeper at night.’

4) List the things you’re grateful for, says functional medicine health coach, Peppermint Wellness founder and Wellness Unwrapped host Suzy Glaskie
‘A gratitude journal is a brilliant way to help you focus on the positive and drift off to sleep with happy thoughts rather than ruminating on the stroppy email that landed in your inbox from a client today – or the seemingly impossible amount of work on your to-do list. All you have to do is keep a special pad by your bed and write down three things each evening that you’re grateful for from that day. Once you start looking, you’ll spot them more and more easily: it could be a great piece of coverage you got – or the fact that a colleague helped you out to meet a deadline.

‘It’s comforting to know that we can only think one thing at once. That means that if we’re expressing our gratitude for the lovely text you received from a friend this morning, you can’t at the same time be ruminating on what your boss said to you or feeling anxious about your job prospects. The gratitude crowds out the negative thoughts, boosts our feelings of positivity and self-worth – and signals to our body that it can relax now.’

5) Learn to say no and pay attention to your own boundaries, says psychologist and Remente co-founder Niels Eék
‘Often, stress can be caused by feeling overwhelmed, due to taking on too much and trying to please everyone. As you head back into the workplace, learning to say no and acknowledging your own limits and workload, as well as managing your time better, can result in you feeling happier in your working environment and reduce feelings of anxiety.

‘When returning to the office, you may find that you feel less confident in large groups of people. After so long without face-to-face contact, socialising is likely to feel more tiring or stressful than usual. It is good to remember that feelings of anxiety are something that many people will be feeling. Sometimes, telling a coworker that you need some time out and having an open conversation can be the best way to work out what boundaries you all need. The most important thing is to ensure that you are articulating how you are feeling so that you don’t feel a mounting pressure to act in a certain way.’

6) Show compassion to others, says clarity, alignment and confidence coach Danny Sangha
‘The key advice I would give is in relation to being mindful that we are all experiencing the same adjustments and the resulting stresses and strains. With that in mind, let’s show some compassion to one another and look for ways in which we can provide support where it’s required to ensure that the work environment and culture is accommodating of the adjustments that everyone is making. It’s important to invest some time at the outset to set up some face-to-face time with colleagues to help re-align and build that all important rapport with one another.’

7) Managers: stop ‘leavism’ as soon as possible, says psychotherapist and www.headucate.me founder Mark Newey
‘A new word in Human Resources terminology has arisen: “leavism”. This is people feeling obligated to complete their expected workload out of hours, even where they are using annual leave to catch up! Work/life balance has been an issue for many people for years, but the problem seems to be going up several levels. This is a serious timebomb in the making for mental health.

‘It’s fascinating that in the UK we have one of the lowest productivity levels in Europe and yet we work some of the longest hours. There’s a definite pattern there.

‘Overloading colleagues with work and expecting longer hours, leads to stress, which in turn leads to a definite decrease in productivity, sometimes as much as 40%. When we’re mentally well, we get more done in less time. Managers need to re-address workload immediately, not only to help colleagues settle back in, but on an on-going basis.’

For more on protecting your mental wellbeing during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, check out more advice in 11 ways to mentally prepare for an eventual return to in-office working and these tips for staying motivated.

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 6 May

The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Vaccine rollout  

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout reached 50 million administered doses this week. More than 34 million people have had at least one jab while 15 million have had both doses of the vaccine. Data from Public Health England (PHE)’s real-world study shows the vaccines are already having a significant impact in the UK, reducing hospitalisations and saving more than 10,000 lives in England alone by the end of March. The Government remains on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘The UK’s vaccination programme has been a huge success so far with more than 50 million doses administered – a fantastic achievement. We have one of the highest uptake rates in the world and over 15 million people have now received 2 doses and maximum protection from this dreadful virus.’ NHS Providers have said that the 50 million figure is a ‘remarkable achievement’, but have urged everyone to carry on following social contact rules as ‘we still have a long way to go before we reach our next big milestone of offering all adults their first jab by the end of July.’ 

The Government has announced a new testing centre to fast-track Covid-19 variant vaccines. The Government will invest £29.3 million through the Vaccines Taskforce in Public Health England’s new testing facilities at Porton Down, to assess the effectiveness of existing and new vaccines against variants of concern. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the labs will help ‘future-proof country from the threat of new variants’.  

Female health and care staff 

NHS Confederation has published a survey which shows that the physical and mental wellbeing of female health and care staff in England significantly worsened as a result of working through the COVID-19 pandemic with a marked deterioration since last summer. The poll was carried out by the NHS Confederation’s Health and Care Women Leaders Network in February and March in the aftermath of the deadly peak of the virus in January. It found that more than 80 percent of female respondents who completed the new survey – including nurses, doctors, managers, admin staff, and allied health professionals – reported their job had a greater negative impact than usual on their emotional wellbeing as a result of the pandemic, up from 72 percent last summer. The results also showed 65 percent reported a negative impact on their physical health – a 13-percentage-point jump from the last survey. 

Rebecca Smith, managing director of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘These findings again highlight the burdens faced by the female health and care workforce as a result of working through the COVID-19 crisis… We now need additional investment from Government, coupled with the existing and ongoing direct support by health and care organisations, to make sure the female workforce is properly looked after. As we come out of this crisis we must continue to do all we can to protect and support our staff.’ 

Mental health  

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found 1 in 5 adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021, between January and March. This is an increase since November 2020 and more than double that observed before the coronavirus pandemic. Younger adults and disabled adults were more likely to experience some depression, whilst women aged 16-29 were more likely to experience depressive symptoms than men of the same age. Mind, the mental health charity, has said: ‘We cannot underestimate the impact that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health – whether that’s bereavement, the devastating loss of life, the impact of lockdown, or the impact of the latest economic recession which may have affected our jobs and livelihoods.’ 

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 6 May

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Older workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic 

While the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been greatest for younger workers, recent ONS statistics showed that older workers aged 50 years and over have been affected to a greater extent than those in the middle age groups. From December 2020 to February 2021, those employees aged 50 years and over were more likely to report working fewer hours than usual (including none) in the past week because of the coronavirus than those aged under 50 years, with those aged 65 years and over the most likely to say they had worked reduced hours. Among older employees working reduced hours, the 65 years and overs were the most likely to receive no pay and the least likely to receive full pay. 

Over a quarter of furloughed employments are people aged 50 years and over (1.3 million),  with 3 in 10 of older workers on furlough thinking there is a 50% chance or higher that they will lose their job when the scheme ends. Moreover, older people who become unemployed are more likely to be at risk of long-term unemployment than younger people. In December 2020 to February 2021, 29.9% of unemployed 50 years and overs were long-term unemployed compared with 18.9% of those aged under 50 years (seasonally adjusted). Previous research has shown that the more time spent out of work, the less likely someone is to return to employment, and the likelihood of returning to work decreases with age. 

UK’s rising debts ‘can be coped with’ 

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has said no emergency measures are needed to pay off the UK’s £2 trillion debt, with the think tank advising Treasury officials to focus on controlling spending and introducing measures to boost growth. In a report published on Monday, the IEA said debt incurred during the coronavirus pandemic “can be coped with” and argued against trying to reduce it too quickly. Inflation is a real danger, but an “honest government” can work to protect against this eventuality. The authors of the report state: “Clearly steps should be taken by government to curb spending and behave extra prudently. Our central point is that large-scale debt is far from unknown in our economic experience. And it would be misguided and futile to jump to tax-raising measures. The debt can be coped with and the best way of doing that is to encourage economic growth.”  

Economy and society indicators  

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published research on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK economy and society between April and May. It showed that the percentage of businesses currently trading has increased from 77% in early April to 83% in late April 2021. This is now at a similar level to that seen in mid-December 2020 (Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS)).  

For retail footfall, it found in the week to 1 May 2021, UK retail footfall saw a slight weekly decrease of 2% but remained much stronger than the levels seen earlier in the year, and at 74% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019. The recent rise in retail footfall is in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions in England on 12 April 2021, which allowed non-essential shops across the country’s high streets and shopping centres to reopen.   

The number of people traveling to work has also increased. The proportion of working adults that had traveled to work in the last seven days was 60%. This proportion has been gradually increasing since mid-February (44% in the period 10 to 14 February 2021). 

Another ONS release on the coronavirus pandemic UK businesses and the economy, has found the proportion of businesses’ workforce on furlough leave has fallen from 17% in late March 2021 to 13% in mid-April 2021, as a result of coronavirus restrictions continuing to be relaxed across the UK. The wholesale and retail trade industry expects the highest percentage of its workforce to return from furlough to the normal workplace in the next two weeks, at 29%. 

It also found that the main challenge reported by currently trading businesses for exporting and importing continues to be additional paperwork, at 37% and 42% respectively. The larger business reported more exporting challenges, while smaller businesses had more importing challenges. 

Interest rates 

The Bank of England (BoE) will set interest rates today amid the backdrop of an economic recovery as the country slowly emerges from lockdown. Reuters predicts that the BoE will say Britain’s economy is heading for a much stronger recovery this year than it previously expected and it might start to slow its pandemic emergency support. The BoE forecast in February that the world’s fifth-biggest economy would grow by 5% in 2021, having slumped by 10% in 2020. That was a bigger hit than in most other European economies after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was slower to impose a coronavirus lockdown and had to keep it in place for longer in an economy heavily reliant on face-to-face consumer services. But many economists say Britain is now set to grow by more than 7% this year, boosted by its fast COVID-19 vaccinations.

ESG whitepaper public relations

Research and Report: What is ESG and what is the opportunity for public relations?

  • ESG and PR sector study highlights a third (31%) of organisations have a policy in place to manage ESG, 41% said that it was a ‘work in progress’
  • Head of Communications/PR is responsible for leading ESG in 19% of organisations but ESG is led by the CEO or another C-level function within 60% of organisations
  • Over half of PR agencies polled offer ESG support to clients or are developing ESG services

Environmental Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) is one of the most radical developments in business within the last 50 years.

It’s likely to shape the way both organisations and the communications sector evolve and operate for years to come.

But what is ESG? How is it different from CSR? And how is public relations adapting to the opportunities and risks?

To help define ESG and chart its growth and impact on the communications sector, we commissioned PR industry thought leaders Stephen Waddington and Dr Jon White to produce a report ‘The Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) opportunity for public relations’.

Download The Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) opportunity for public relations report here.

ESG and the PR Sector Survey 2021

We surveyed 187 public relations practitioners across a range of ESG issues in April 2021 to benchmark the sector’s readiness for ESG.

According to Vuelio’s research:

  • Three out of five (63%) public relations practitioners claim that they can ‘confidently define ESG and its impact on their clients or organisation’

Vuelio’s ESG and the PR Sector Survey 2021: 63% of respondents can “confidently define ESG and its impact on their clients/organisation

  • A third (32%) of organisations reported that they have a policy in place to manage ESG, while 41% said that it was a ‘work in progress’
  • More than a quarter (27%) of public relations practitioners said that they had taken ‘no action to assess and manage ESG risk’

Vuelio’s ESG and the PR Sector Survey 2021: 27% of respondents do not have policies in place to assess and manage ESG risk

Organisations recognise that they have work to do to manage the issues raised by ESG. The research highlighted that:

  • Three-quarters report that they are somewhat prepared (63%) or not at all prepared (12%) for ESG
  • Two-thirds of organisations (67%) reported that they do not report on their ESG performance

This is a significant opportunity for public relations to support organisations and, in some cases, lead ESG. Our research found:

  • ESG is led by the CEO or another C-level function within 60% of organisations
  • The Head of Communications/PR is responsible for leading ESG in 19% of organisations

Vuelio’s ESG and the PR Sector Survey 2021: ESG is led by the CEO or another C-level function within 60% of organisations. Head of Communications/PR is responsible for leading ESG in 19% of organisations

The study also found:

  • More than half of agencies surveyed offer ESG support to clients or are in the process of developing services
  • 51% public sector organisations reported that the increased focus on ESG in the private sector has had a positive impact on environmental and social policies

The research shows the growing awareness of ESG as a corporate issue, but also the opportunity for further education and bridging the gap between ESG knowledge and developing policies and strategies.

Download the whitepaper here.

What is ESG?

As summed up by report authors Stephen Waddington and Dr Jon White, it is, at its core, ‘a call for companies to account for and report on their contribution beyond financial metrics within their scope of operation’.

ESG is a combination of environmental and social risks.  For example, the business supply chain and its environmental impact, how employees are treated and human rights acts compliance.

It also includes business governance – from how legal issues such as bribery and corruption are monitored and managed through to ensuring that the board act fairly for all shareholders.

The complex of concerns grouped as ESG are significantly more far reaching than the Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR programmes.

Failure of an organisation to meet the expectation of its public in any of the three dimensions of ESG will result in reputational and investor risk. The investment community increasingly expects to be informed on company commitments to and actions on these concerns.

The term Environmental, Social and Governance’ or ‘ESG’ investing was first used in 2004 in the report from the UN Global Compact ‘Who Cares Wins’.

In 2005 the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) were developed. The UN PRI were a voluntary set of principles designed to help institutional investors factor ESG concerns into their investment decisions to manage risk and generate sustainable long-term returns.

2020 was the year that ESG investing came of age. According to data provider Morningstar, by the end of 2020 total assets held in sustainable funds hit $1.7trillion – a 50% rise on where they started the year.

For each company, ESG goals will be very different. ‘The Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) opportunity for public relations’ report includes guidance on the practicalities, frames of reference as well as the implications for those at leadership and decision-making levels.

What is the ESG opportunity for public relations?

Calls for the establishment of new roles to develop and manage ESG strategies, such as chief relationship or chief sustainability officers, are often made without reference to the roles that have been played by public relations practitioners for many years.

Given the unique relationship in many organisations between communications and the board and the importance of managing multiple stakeholders and publics in ESG, report authors Dr Jon White and Stephen Waddington are confident that ESG will be a key discipline for corporate affairs, public affairs and public relations professionals for many years to come.

They state in the report: ‘It is our firm belief that ESG concerns and how they will be met present large opportunities for public relations to make a larger contribution to organisational decision-making and performance.’

The report also contains views from senior agency leaders and communications professionals and those who have developed and delivered ESG programmes.

Thank you to John Brown, Founder and CEO of Don’t Cry Wolf;  Koray Camgoz, Director of Communications and Marketing at the PRCA; Steve Earl, Managing Partner of BOLDT; David Gallagher, President of Omnicom PR; Rachel Miller, Founder of All Things IC; Mandy Pearse, President  of the CIPR; and Rebecca Zeitlin, Head of Communications and External Affairs at Hybrid Air Vehicles.

‘Attitudes to ESG are rapidly changing because of the COVID-19 pandemic,’ says Hybrid Air Vehicles head of communications and external affairs Rebecca Zeitlin, ‘Scrutiny is the single word that I’d used to describe what’s brought ESG to the fore as an issue. The pandemic has created an opportunity to think and act differently’.

For CIPR president Mandy Pearse, ESG consideration is a natural fit for public relations and should be welcomed and actioned by the industry: ‘Strategic public relations practitioners take the long view on managing the organisations’ stakeholder relationships. ESG is not a quick fix but ethically implemented with purpose and commitment it is central to delivering outstanding reputation and brand loyalty.’

Internal Communications specialist and founder of All Things IC Rachel Miller, highlights the critical role of effective internal communications in ESG: ‘Companies need to ensure there’s no integrity gap between what they say and do as the first people to spot those gaps are your employees. Done well, your people need to see how they fit in and the difference their work can make to your ESG ambitions.’

Vuelio CMO Michelle Goodall believes there is an opportunity for the PR industry to bring skills and technology together to drive and continue to develop their organisational response to ESG:

‘Stephen and Jon provide excellent guidance in the report. Our tools, Vuelio and Pulsar, also provide communications professionals with the media, political, stakeholder and social media issue, share of voice, horizon scanning and audience insights they need for use in decision-making in one of the fastest developing and exciting areas of the communications industry.’

To help with planning your ESG strategy, download ‘The Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) opportunity for public relations’ report here.

And join Stephen, Jon and Hybrid Air Vehicles’ Rebecca Zeitlin for the ESG opportunity for PR webinar at 14:00BST on Wednesday 19  May. Register here.

Guilt by association - Government lobbying and PR

Guilt by association and why we need to fight back

This is a guest post from BDB Pitmans head of public affairs Stuart Thomson. 

The recent outcry about David Cameron’s efforts at lobbying have been followed-up with stories about texts between the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leading businesspeople. These have been treated as ‘lobbying scandals’ but while there isn’t a professional lobbyist to be seen we are all being drawn into the fallout.

Both the PRCA and CIPR have been very clear in their condemnation and have called for action.

Chair of CIPR Public Affairs, Rachel Clamp said:

‘Too much lobbying activity is currently out of scope of lobbying legislation and that must change. The independent investigation into David Cameron’s lobbying of government provides the opportunity put in place new, wider reaching legislation that will drive greater transparency and a positive, and respected future for our profession.’

PRCA Public Affairs Board Chair, Liam Herbert, said:

‘Disclosure and transparency are vital in restoring public confidence. The public affairs and lobbying industry has always been committed to transparency and ethical public affairs.’

Both are defending Public Affairs in a way that we all need. A number of individual members of the profession too have been calling for action.

We all know that engagement plays a valuable role in politics and that it improves the quality of the decisions made. As the Cabinet Office itself recognised:
‘Lobbying – seeking to influence public policy, government decisions or legislation – can improve results by ensuring that those developing and considering the options are better informed about the consequences of the available options. Lobbying is a perfectly legitimate activity that has been carried out for many years in many different forums by a wide variety of individuals and groups of all sorts.’

Government departments themselves also now try to reach out more than they have ever done because they recognise that engagement is needed. As we have seen from the example of the European Super League, decisions made in secret, behind closed doors, between a select few will fail. So, openness and transparency are what is needed.

In other professions, if someone does something wrong then they are portrayed as a ‘bad apple’ or outlier. In the case of public affairs, the whole profession is tarnished. Fundamentally, as a profession, we are not trusted.

There are ramifications for our businesses or functions if that is not tackled head-on. The profession itself, unlike many other sectors, would welcome greater regulation and improved clarity over the rules.

There is a danger that when looking at changes to the rules, that Government chooses to try to close loopholes to protect its own reputation rather than looking at the issue. We need to push the issue to government and the role of the CIPR and PRCA is critical for us all.

But we also each bear a personal responsibility as well. That means joining one, or both, of the bodies and committing ourselves to following their codes. It means ensuring that we all follow best practice, keep up our CPD and call out poor practice if we see it. We also have to be clear about what we do and don’t let anyone, even relatives, slip into lazy stereotypes about our profession.

We need the CIPR and PRCA to take the fight to government, but we also need to fight our own corner as well. Together we will ensure that it is a profession that is respected and taken seriously.

For more on the intersection of politics and public relations, read our previous post on PR’s ‘bad PR’ problem

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 29 April

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Economic outlook 

Independent, business-led coalition which aims to provide ‘new ideas to ensure that the UK emerges from the pandemic a stronger and fairer economy’ published its final findings. The report, ‘Ambition 2030’: A Partnership for Growth, argues that the pandemic has had a bigger impact on the UK economy than any event in the last 300 years, and sets out policy recommendations including the creation of at least one new globally competitive industry cluster in every part of the UK by 2030, a commitment to develop a Great British Supply Chain, a ‘Help to Train’ scheme to assist in halving the projected skills gap by 2030, a detailed plan for the decarbonisation of homes over the next fifteen years and the creation of a new Community Infrastructure Endowment Fund to match-fund business investment in communities and the introduction of a Wellbeing at Work Guarantee. 

Despite this hit, the UK economy is expected to grow even faster than that of the United States this year due to the vaccine programme delivering the speediest recovery since the Second World War, according to a forecast from Goldman Sachs. The forecast says British GDP is predicted to grow by 7.8% this year, while the US will see only a 7.2% growth. Meanwhile, economists at Consensus Economics expect the UK economy to grow by 5.4% this year, compared to the 4.2% expected in February. 

Similarly, the Bank of England’s deputy governor Ben Broadbent has said that the UK’s economy will see “very rapid growth” over the next couple of quarters, driven by an increase in consumer spending after lockdown. According to the BoE’s forecasts, people will spend about 5.0% of their Covid-19 savings, though Broadbent added that it was “possible” they would spend more. “The burden of proof it seems to me should be as to why that wouldn’t happen, rather than why it would, so I have tended to be on that more optimistic side,” Broadbent said. 

Despite increasing optimism over the UK’s recovery from the pandemic due to the pace of the vaccination programme, the Bank’s policymakers have been divided over the UK’s prospects for a long-term recovery. But Broadbent joins Andy Haldane, the BoE’s chief economist, in the optimistic camp, though he warned that a “roaring twenties” style recovery was far from assured. 

Unemployment 

Resolution Foundation examined the impact of the crisis on older workers, assessed the impact of previous crises, and placed this crisis in the context of longer-term trends in employment among older workers. Although workers aged under 25 have seen by far the largest fall in employment in the past year, workers aged over 50 have seen the biggest decline in employment since the 1980s due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fall in the employment rate among the over-50s was twice as big as the decrease for workers aged 25 to 49, with older workers also taking longer to return to employment. The Resolution Foundation has urged the Government to ensure that its extensive Covid employment support schemes can be tailored to the needs of older workers, while retraining opportunities should be extended. 

 

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 29 April

The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Labour calls for NHS rescue plan  

New analysis from the Labour Party has revealed the huge increase in waiting lists over the past 12-months, with hundreds of thousands of people waiting more than the 18-week maximum for treatment and thousands more waiting over a year. Over 366,194 patients are waiting more than a year for treatment. In January 2020, the number waiting over a year was just 1,643. Overall, the number of people waiting more than a year for treatment now compared to before the pandemic hit has risen over 200 per cent. The Party has called for an NHS rescue plan that would see patient care prioritised in the recovery from the Covid pandemic, it includes a quarterly plan on the actions being taken to bring down waiting lists, increased planning on staff and equipment, and a strengthening of the NHS constitution to eliminate waits over 52-weeks and offer a cast-iron guarantee. 

NHS Providers have called Labour’s analysis ‘concerning’. It said: ‘Trust leaders are deeply worried about the size of waiting lists, not just for operations and diagnostic testing but for all types of care including mental health services. Despite how quickly trusts are working to deliver for all patients, there are signs that tackling the backlog could take between three to five years on current trajectories.’ 

Covid-19 vaccine roll-out 

42 and 43-year-olds were invited to get their Covid-19 jab this week as Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the continuing vaccine roll-out. Speaking to the Downing Street press conference, Hancock highlighted that uptake of the first dose among the over 50s is ‘phenomenally high’, at over 95%. The effectiveness of the vaccine is also strong with Office for National Statistics showing that 7 in 10 adults have protective Covid-19 antibodies.   

Additionally, encouraging data from Public Health England published this week shows that one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine reduces household transmission by up to half. It highlights that those who become infected 3 weeks after receiving one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine were between 38% and 49% less likely to pass the virus on to their household contacts than those who were unvaccinated. 

Moreover, it has been confirmed that the Government’s Vaccines Taskforce has purchased an additional 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The extra doses have been secured to help support the booster Covid-19 vaccination programme beginning from Autumn. It is expected that the booster programme will be to protect the most vulnerable ahead of winter.  

NHS Confederation’s Chief Executive Danny Mortimer has said that the news on the vaccine rollout gives us ‘another source of hope and offers reassurance’. However, he said that we must not overestimate public protection against the virus and the tragic scenes in India show that ‘no country can be an island in tackling the pandemic’, as Covid-19 variants still spread.  

Social care reform  

An open letter, from 26 signatories including Care England, Age UK and the NHS Confederation, to the Prime Minister has called for a 1948 moment for adult social care to establish a long-term and sustainable future that will be to the benefit of all citizens and the economy. It highlighted that social care has been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic with a tragic number of deaths in care homes, over 30,000, and staff, nearly 900. It says that the social care sector is ‘on its knees’ following the pandemic, and is in desperate need of reform.  

Likewise, health and care think tanks, Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust have sent a joint letter to The Times which calls for social care reform proposals to be brought forward in the Queen’s Speech. It says that social care reform requires a long- term strategy and investment. The underpaid workforce must also be fairly rewarded, expanded and supported to develop new skills whilst thousands of overstretched care providers will also need stable funding.  

Health inequality in Wales 

 36 organisations from across health, social care, transport, and housing, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Wales, Shelter Cymru, the British Medical Association have signed up to a joint paper that calls for urgent Welsh Government action on health inequalities. This comes just a week before the Senedd election on May 6th. It argues that the incredible hardship inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic has not been equally felt by individuals, families, and communities across Wales. The paper calls on the next Welsh Government to (1) publish an ambitious cross-government strategy and delivery plan to tackle inequalities, (2) invest in long-term prevention across all sectors, especially housing, education, health, energy, and transport, and (3) work in partnership with people and communities to change lives for the better. 

PR and Communications Tracker

More innovation to come in Q2 according to latest PR business tracker

The second set of results from Carta Communications’ and The Pulse Business’ quarterly PR and Communications Tracker show an increase in optimism among PR leaders for Q2.

Reinventions of approach and services is one of the biggest trends in the latest survey of in-house PR leaders, which found that 45% have made ‘significant changes’ and a further 41% have made ‘some changes’ to the way they operate since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A third (32%) of respondents reported feeling ‘very positive’ about the future of their business over the next year, with another 58% feeling ‘quite positive’. Only 24% had felt ‘very positive’ and 63% ‘quite positive’ at the start of the previous quarter.

Carta Communications founder and director Matt Cartmell said: ‘Our industry has now embraced what I call ‘perma-pivot’, in which any sense of stasis has been banished with leaders forever finding new ways to deliver their storytelling and reputation management capabilities. It’s never been a more exciting time to be working in the world of PR.’

Imogen Osborne, owner of The Pulse Business, is glad to see the spurring of innovation: ‘What a relief to see some good news in terms of an upbeat industry that has thrived on re-invention and is taking bold steps to maintain growth. At the start of the pandemic, many comms leaders spoke in cautious tones, daunted by the prospect of remote working and managing seemingly disparate teams. In fact, this new hybrid model is clearly producing results and makes a sound business case for constant innovation.’

To offer your own insights for the next PR and Communications Tracker, email Imogen Osborne via imogen@thepulsebusiness.co.uk.

Catch up on previous results from the PR and Communications Tracker here.

PRCA REEB PRISM

PRCA’s Race and Ethnicity Equity Board launches mentoring programme PRISM

REEB, the PRCA’s Race and Ethnicity Equity Board, has launched its PRISM mentoring programme to aid professionals of all ethnicities to succeed in PR and comms.

PRISM, which stands for Public Relations Inclusion Support & Mentoring, is supported by People Like Us and the UK Black Comms Network, and is free for PR and comms practitioners across the globe.

PRISM’s initial six-month mentoring programme includes six meetings (virtual or face-to-face, where permitting), with all mentors receiving required training before being paired with their mentees. All participants will also be required to abide by REEB’s founding principles of respect, sensitivity and confidentiality.

‘We all need help at every stage of our careers,’ said PRCA REEB chair Barbara Phillips. ‘Professionals who are Black and Asian need PRISM, as it acknowledges that their struggle to reach the highest echelons of our industry will be different and likely more emotionally arduous than their White counterparts. We have created a meaningful, impactful programme.

‘For mentees this means more than a quick coffee squeezed in when your mentor can spare the time. And for mentors this means supporting, sponsoring and doing everything in your power to help your mentee succeed. It’s for the professionals new to the industry and the senior practitioners knocking on the C-suite door, waiting for someone to finally let them in. We are expecting some really great results.’

PRCA Director-General Francis Ingham MPRCA said:

‘Our industry must do more to give Black, Asian and ethnically diverse professionals the opportunity to succeed. PRISM won’t create change overnight but will play an essential role in creating a fair and level-playing field for professionals from all backgrounds. I would like to thank Barbara and REEB for their leadership, as well as People Like us and the UK Black Comms Network for their valued support.’

More information on PRISM and how to apply can be found on the PRCA website here and for more on the aims of REEB, read our interview with chair Barbara Phillips.

How PR can stop the spread of misinformation

How PR can stop the spread of misinformation

This is a guest post from Charlotte Dimond from Yorkshire-based virtual agency Sidekick PR. Charlotte is a Chartered PR professional with more than 20 experience of agency life.

Misinformation and disinformation existed long before social media came into being but now, thanks to the reach and immediacy of the platforms, the spread of factually incorrect information has been amplified and it has become so dangerous that it could have a major impact on public health, safety, and business.

The difference between misinformation and disinformation is intent. Simply put, misinformation is described as the unintentional sharing of factually incorrect information without malice and disinformation as the deliberate creating and/or sharing of factually incorrect information, to get people to believe something or behave in a certain way.

This guest blog post will discuss how we can tackle misinformation and disinformation and what the platforms are doing to help.

1. Don’t share misinformation
In the past year we’ve seen misinformation shared widely on a number of topics from elections to Covid-19 and mask wearing to vaccines. Sadly, disinformation campaigns have been created to influence opinion on all those topics and more.

So, what do we do? Don’t share information without thinking! The last thing you want to do as a PR professional is to be sharing false information.

The platforms have finally started to introduce changes to make the user think before sharing information. Twitter is trying to make people think twice before they share articles they have not read. Users about to click retweet without having read an article are now asked if they want to read the article before they retweet it.

Read the link, don’t just retweet – but as well as reading the information, check out the credibility. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Check the source
Where does the information come from? Is it a trusted source? Can you be sure it is factually correct? If in doubt don’t share it.
The amount of times family members and friends send me information and say ‘have you read this? Can you believe this?’ and a quick search shows it is deemed to be fake news, factually incorrect information, or basic twaddle, is quite worrying.

Don’t just accept the information that is appearing on your timeline as fact. Question it.

3. What can we do?
Work with your organisation to be the trusted voice people need. Be open, honest, and timely with your communications, this will help if you are faced with misinformation or disinformation. If people trust you, because you’ve built that reputation for telling the truth, not shying away from problems and dealing with issues you’ll be in a better position to tackle incorrect information from random sources.

4. Help!
If you want to measure how successful a campaign has been, there are umpteen tools and frameworks out there to help, if you have an ethical query there are models, ethics trees and guidelines to help, but as an industry we’re not there yet with the strategic guidance and support that is needed for practitioners on tackling misinformation and disinformation.

Research is desperately needed in this area to help us to equip ourselves with the information and tools to provide the best counsel.
So for now, be the trusted voice and make sure that the truth is out there.

Weekly Economy Summary

COVID-19: Weekly Economy Summary – 22 April

The Economy Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Unemployment 

Headline indicators for the UK labour market for December 2020 to February 2021 show employment was 75.1%, unemployment was 4.9% and economic inactivity was 20.9%. The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 4.9%, 0.9 percentage points higher than a year earlier but 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous quarter. The redundancy rate for the latest quarter was estimated at 7.3 people per thousand employees, which is down from the record high of 14.2 people per thousand employees in the previous quarter (September to November 2020). 

Employment among 18- to 24-year-olds continued to fall, dropping by 5.1 percentage points on the quarter, while there was also a further rise in young people moving into economic inactivity, meaning they stopped looking for work. Payroll data shows the number of young workers has fallen by almost 500,000 since January 2020, accounting for three-fifths of all employee jobs lost. The number of job vacancies increased by 16% between February and March, suggesting that the labour market is starting to thaw as some parts of the economy recover.                                                             

While the latest data hints at some green shoots of recovery, the Resolution Foundation warns that the UK faces a huge task in getting the economy back to normal – such as closing its 6.2 million ‘Covid employment gap’. This gap includes the 827,000 fall in payrolled employment since the pandemic started (between February 2020 and March 2021), an estimated 600,000 fall in self-employment over this same period, and the 4.7 million employees who were fully or partially furloughed in March, according to separate ONS data. 

Concerns over Inflation Rise  

UK inflation jumped in March, driven by the higher cost of petrol and clothes in a signal that prices are moving to an upward trajectory as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the consumer prices index rose to 0.7% last month, up from 0.4% in February. 

The British Chambers of Commerce published new research which shows a rising number of firms expecting their prices to increase significantly in the coming months. The figures also document growing concern among businesses over rising inflation. The survey shows that two in five businesses (38%) expect to see their prices increase in the next three months, an increase from 25% in the previous quarter, while the balance of manufacturing firms expecting the price of their goods to increase over the next three months rose sharply to its highest level since Q4 2017. The figures also demonstrate that nearly 1 in 3 (30%) businesses cite inflation as a cause of concern in the coming months, up from 1 in 4 (25%) in the previous quarter. 

Income shocks 

UK households are far more likely to have experienced a severe income shock during the coronavirus pandemic than their French or German counterparts, and are subsequently more likely to have taken on additional debt as a result, according to research by the Resolution Foundation think tank. In households where at least one person has fallen out of work, the report says that 41% have suffered a severe income fall of at least 25%, compared to 20% in France and 28% in Germany. One in three (33%) UK households have reported having to cut back on their spending compared to 23% in France and 21% in Germany, concluding that the financial resilience of UK households must be addressed in order to offer them greater protection in the face of a future economic crisis. 

Unlocking of the economy 

Data published by the ONS provides an indication of the extent to which some economic activity is resuming following the reopening of non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality. On 17 April, UK seated diner reservations were at 60% of the level of the equivalent Saturday in 2019, while retail footfall increased by 31 percentage points in the week to 17 April, compared to the previous week. Other growing measures included credit and debit card purchases of delayable good and the proportion of those leaving the home who had shopped for items other than food or medicine. In contrast, there was a slight decrease in the proportion of the workforce on furlough.   

Further ONS data shows that 77% of businesses are currently trading, up from 71% in January, and 9% intend to restart in the next fortnight. The proportion of businesses with lower turnover than normally expected is at its lowest since records began in June 2020. However, over half of businesses classified as ‘other service activities’ (including hairdressing and beauty treatment) have three months’ cash reserves or less. 

 

Weekly Health Summary

Covid-19: Weekly Health Summary – 22 April

The Health Summary is part of our Weekly COVID-19 Bulletin, sent every Thursday. You can sign up to receive your copy here.

Pandemic response

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout has continued with momentum this week. On Monday the Government confirmed that 1 in 5 adults have received both doses of the vaccine after more than 10 million people received their second dose. Announcing the news, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘Vaccines offer us the best possible protection from the virus, so it is fantastic that 10 million people have now received their second dose. This is another remarkable milestone in our vaccination programme, which has already saved thousands of lives.’ 

Antivirals Taskforce 

On Tuesday, the Government launched a Antivirals Taskforce to roll out innovative Covid-19 treatments this autumn. The taskforce will search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home. It will support the development of the antivirals through clinical trials to ensure they can be rapidly rolled out to patients as early as autumn. It is aimed that the Taskforce will be a vital tool to combat any future increase in infections and limit the impact of new variants, especially over the flu season later this year.  

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said: ‘Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern. The taskforce will help ensure the most promising antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible.’ 

The Pharmacy Collect service 

90% of community pharmacies in England now offer free, rapid tests for home use. This follows the launch of the ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service, which provides an additional route to regular testing, making it as easy as possible for people without Covid-19 symptoms to access testing twice a week. It is hoped that testing will form a crucial part of the pandemic response as society reopens from lockdown.  

Pandemic Preparedness Partnership launched 

The Government launched a new Pandemic Preparedness Partnership (PPP) this week to protect against future diseases and prevent another global pandemic. The PPP will advise the UK G7 Presidency on how to meet the Prime Minister’s ambition to slash the time to develop and deploy high quality vaccines for new diseases from 300 to 100 days. The Partnership will also provide recommendations for therapeutics and diagnostics, looking at greater global co-operation on research and development, manufacturing, clinical trials, and data-sharing. 

£16m of funding to Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will support global vaccine supply and development. CEPI’s work to coordinate research, development, and manufacturing of vaccines will aid efforts to have millions of doses of vaccine available for emergency use 100 days from a variant of concern being identified. 

Healthcare backlog in the NHS 

NHS Providers have laid out a ‘bold transformative approach’ to address the ‘concerning’ backlog in the health service following the pandemic. Their approach is based on 5 elements: increase physical and workforce capacity, build capacity, improve NHS efficiency and productivity gains, reconfigure hospitals to deal with future waves of COVID-19 and winter pressures and rapidly adopt new ways of treating patients. Chief Executive Chris Hopson said: ‘Early work by trust leaders shows there is a huge backlog to clear. Trust leaders are going as fast as they can in tackling the most urgent cancer, surgery, and other cases. They are only too aware of the impact of delays. The scale of the backlog ahead is very worrying.’ 

This comes as research published by the Royal College of Physicians last week showed that 59% of their members think it will take at least 18 months for the NHS to recover from the pandemic with 69% of doctors reporting feeling exhausted and 31% demoralised. 

In a Westminster Hall debate this week the Minister for Health Edward Argar said that the Government and NHS are working very hard to reduce the backlog in elective care, which now stands at 4.7million. The Government has laid out additional funding for the NHS, including £6.6 billion to support the recovery over the next 6 months. 

Kate O'Sullivan and Chester

PR Interview with Kate O’Sullivan, Revitalise & Grow podcast

Looking for more PR and marketing podcasts to help you make the most of your comms efforts this year? ADPR has launched the Revitalise & Grow podcast, presented by Kate O’Sullivan, and featuring advice on a variety of public relations topics.

Read on for the aims of the podcast, ideal guests and the opportunities 2021 will bring to the industry.

Revitalise & Grow

Tell us a bit about Revitalise & Grow

Revitalise & Grow, savvy marketing tips for success, aims to be your friendly audio companion to mastering everything marketing, PR and communications related. Each episode is standalone with tailored advice regarding a particular PR topic, such as media relations, maximising social media, how to measure PR and how to work with influencers.

Making PR accessible to all is our mission and we are delighted to finally be able to share with you something we have been working on for the past few months! We have put our heart and soul into creating the Revitalise & Grow podcast, which we hope will give small businesses the advice, support and ideas they need to grow their own business through PR.

Are there any particular guests you’d love to have on?

We would absolutely love to invite guests from the marketing, PR and communications industry, as well as small business owners!

What do you think will be some of the biggest opportunities for PR this year?

All of us have been affected in one way or another by COVID-19. Many businesses have been hit hard, and we have all had to adapt to navigate in unknown territory — figuring out what is best for employees and families, while safeguarding the business. Here are our tips on how to start planning for recovery in your business in a post COVID-19 world, when things start to return to (almost) normal. We do anticipate there will be some fabulous opportunities on the horizon!

Will podcasts like Revitalise & Grow be an important part of future development and learning in PR?

The new podcast is designed to give businesses the tools to help them optimise their own PR. Each podcast has additional materials available for the listeners to access, supporting small businesses to achieve their business goals.

Want more PR-related podcasts to listen to? Check out our pick of the best PR podcasts here and here.

 

 

Accessible Communications Guidelines

PRCA publishes guide to producing accessible content

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has published a guide in association with Current Global to aid PR and communications professionals with the delivery of content accessible to people of all abilities

Research from Current Global, MAGNA and IPG Media Lab has revealed that 15% of the global population live with a disability and that 64% of those who use assistive tools experience challenges when accessing content.

PRCA Accessible Guidelines

The PRCA’s 35-page guide features case studies, advice and tools for PR practitioners who want to make their content fully accessible, including how to develop accessible content and campaigns whether visual, text, social media-focused, influencer-led or a physical or virtual event.

‘As professional communicators, it is incumbent on us to make communications inclusive for people of all abilities so we can reach every member of society,’ said PRCA director general and chief executive of ICCO Francis Ingham.

Co-founder and CEO of Current Global George Coleman added: ‘The technology and tools to help us do this are readily available, so the key priority is to update the way we work to adhere to best practices laid out in the guidelines.

‘Every day content is published that isn’t accessible to all. It doesn’t have to be this way. Over a billion people worldwide have some form of disability, a significant audience many are excluding. We have a moral duty to address this – and we hope the guidelines provide a practical starting point to instigate change to the way the industry works.’

For more on accessibility in PR, read our previous post on 5 ways to make your workplace more inclusive for dyslexic individuals.

CIPR Lobbying

CIPR research reveals UK attitudes to MP and Minister lobbying

According to new research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), two-thirds (67%) of UK adults believe the public need to know more about lobbyists’ attempts to influence MPs and Ministers.

Commissioned by the CIPR and conducted by Opinium, the report surveyed over 2,000 members of the public. Results include:

  • 59% agree that businesses and organisations such as charities, trade unions and pressure groups should be able to meet with MPs and Ministers with the intention of promoting ideas to inform and influence public policy
  • 52% agree that businesses and organisations can help create better public policy and law by influencing MPs and Ministers through lobbying
  • Just 15% agree that the public has enough information about who is lobbying MPs and Ministers.

The paper, released today, outlines CIPR’s commitment to calling for transparency and ethical practice in the industry as well as its partnership with I Have A Voice to support work engaging young people with politics.

I Have A Voice founder and director Rebecca Deegan said of the partnership:

‘Having an impact through lobbying is something we should be proud of. Most of us who came into this profession did so because we want to make a positive contribution. I’m delighted that this partnership with the CIPR will support our mission to achieve that, particularly at this crucial time.’

CIPR President Mandy Pearse said of the research: ‘This highlights the appetite for more transparency in the important process surrounding lobbying activity.

‘The public are sympathetic with the need to lobby and for organisations to have their voices represented, but this contract has to be based on trust which can only come from greater transparency and fairer processes. The lobbying rules, as they are, are not fit for purpose and we urge the investigation announced by the Government to consider our new proposals in improving the system for the good of our democracy.’

The CIPR will continue its focus on lobbying at its upcoming event ‘What could changes to lobbying legislation mean to those who are lobbied?on 20 May, 12.30 – 2pm, with Dame Angela Eagle MP and Institute for Government deputy director Dr Hannah White.

 

 

 

Big businesses believe ESG is critical in 2021

Big businesses believe ESG is critical in 2021

Three-quarters of senior business leaders believe ESG – Environmental, social and governance – issues are more important than ever this year, according to research from comms agency Grayling.

The survey of 500 business leaders included in Grayling’s whitepaper New Collectivism: Building Better Business found that 45% of senior leaders in big businesses agreed that ESG would be more important than in any previous year. 82% also believe the decisions they make in 2021 will be more important than in previous years.

Reflecting the move from the ‘profit first’ approach of the 70s and 80s to modern ethics-led aims, 63% of the senior leaders surveyed agree that businesses have a responsibility to society at large, with 85% also saying collective responsibility is important for future business success.

Sustainability is also an important factor for modern business, as 43% of all large business leaders consider it a priority. Challenges cited by respondents to the Grayling survey included COVID-19 limiting sustainability conversations (26%), politicisation (14%) and customer, consumer and Government pressure (14%).

Grayling head of corporate, UK & Europe Tom Nutt said that the report findings ‘confirm what we have been observing for some time now – that businesses are reassessing the wider role of their organisations in society. This is being driven by three things – concerns about climate change and the environment; social unrest around the world and the simple fact that sustainable business is good business.

‘It’s an understatement to say that the last year has been a momentous one for business. But the effect has been to speed up and add greater urgency to existing trends, rather than new ones emerging. I expect this sense of urgency to be on display at COP26 this year which is undoubtedly the most important UN Climate Change conference ever.’

Grayling’s whitepaper New Collectivism: Building Better Business can be downloaded here.

For more PR trends to be ready for this year, check out our round-up of insight from 13 PR thought leaders.

Considering your own ESG strategy? Read our report The Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) opportunity for public relations

A guide to the pre-election period

A guide to the pre-election period

The ‘pre-election period’ or ‘purdah’ refers to the period of time in the run-up to an election in which announcements by governments and local authorities are restricted. This helps to prevent the incumbents from gaining an unfair advantage over their opposition, e.g. by announcing the roll-out of a popular new policy, or benefiting from the increased media coverage afforded to an official announcement.

UK Government

Each year, the Cabinet Office publishes guidance to civil servants in central government and on arms-length bodies about their conduct ahead of elections. For them, restrictions came into place three weeks prior to the elections (15 April).

They are advised to take care to make sure that public resources aren’t used for party political purposes and not to do anything to call their impartiality into question. Particular areas they should be careful about are Government announcements, visits and campaigns that could affect the elections, as well as treating information requests from different candidates equally. They should also ensure that Government property is not used for election purposes.

For more details, the guidance issued to civil servants by the Cabinet Office is available.

Devolved governments

Both the Scottish and the Welsh governments publish guidance for their staff on the pre-election period, which started on 25 March in each country. This year’s elections are unusual as the parliamentary session has been extended as a result of the pandemic. In Scotland it will continue until 5 May and in Wales until 29 April; however, in each country it will only sit during this time if urgently required.

The restrictions contained in the guidance are largely similar to those that apply to UK Government civil servants but more wide-ranging as it is these governments’ ministers who are up for election. For example, restrictions include not using Government premises for election events, not making significant decisions (except urgent decisions which may need to be made about Covid-19), avoiding launching new consultations, and special arrangements for handling correspondence.

For more details, please see the Scottish Government’s guidance and the Welsh Government’s guidance.

Local authorities

The latest date that the pre-election period could start for local authorities before this year’s local elections was 29 March, so all local authorities holding elections in May are now within this period.

While local authorities do not have to stop all publicity during this period, they have to have ‘heightened sensitivity’ about what they issue. In particular, they should ensure that any material they publish or events they organise do not appear to be designed to affect public support for any political party, e.g. by making an announcement on a controversial issue, involving a candidate at the election, or helping with national political visits. Similarly, council resources should not be provided to councillors if they wish to use them for political purposes (e.g. writing to a local newspaper).

The Local Government Association (LGA) also advises councils to ‘think carefully’ before they continue to run existing campaigns – these can continue where they are non-controversial (e.g. foster care) but should not use councillors (council officers could be used in their place) – and launch new consultations, unless legally required to do so. However, other normal business, such as deciding on planning applications or responding factually to media stories, is allowed.

For more details, the LGA publishes a guide to publicity during the pre-election period.