2021 in PR and communications so far

2021 trends so far in PR and communications

Back in December, we asked a selection of thought leaders working across PR and communications for their predictions on the big trends coming up for the industry in 2021.

Ethics, fake news, the growth of digital and opportunity in disruption were some of the topics that came up at the time, so we caught up with Sarah Waddington, Shayoni Lynn, Stuart Thomson, Kerry Sheehan, and Tolu Akisanya to see how things have panned out so far…

Upcoming areas of opportunity – healthcare, policy and change
‘COVID is nowhere near over and businesses have never needed professional comms support more. Specific industry experience will be a huge boon as the economy opens up further. Those with experience in healthcare comms and economic development will continue to do particularly well.’
Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof

‘It seems that, under Boris Johnson at least, interventionist governments are here to stay. There are very few areas of life that the Government doesn’t seem to have an opinion, or policy, on. The big opportunity, and threat if not addressed, is for organisations to engage with Government to ensure the policies work. There will be no more obvious policy area where this applies than climate change. With COP26 coming, the Government will need to make some big policy announcements to accompany the impressive targets it has set. Engagement will be critical throughout and beyond this time.’
Stuart Thomson, BDB Pitmans

Digital data is an essential part of the modern PR toolkit
‘Data, digital and understanding of human behaviour will continue to be an important driver for effective, strategic communications. Why are we doing it? What do we want people to do? How will be measure it?’
Shayoni Lynn, Lynn PR

‘Because of the pandemic last year, brands and organisations have had to shift their attention to digital; I think there will be a conscious effort to continue this, with a focus on building online communities. There’s an opportunity here for strengthened loyalty, genuine interaction, and not just for our clients but also with peers and the wider industry. Ariatu PR’s work with new authors is a great example of this; working with new authors, from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, raising awareness for these authors (that statistically would have been overlooked in the past), creating new communities and reaching new audiences. The organisation also has built a great interactive community online, with other PR professionals, journalists, and the wider industry and created a strong reputation of being knowledgeable, approachable and impactful.

‘Some other great examples over the last few months include the fantastic Weetabix x Heinz Twitter thread, and Marcus Rashford’s School Meals campaign, both of which started online and went on to captivate the nation, lead to wider discussions offline, and ultimately changed behaviours.’
Tolu Akisanya, Ariatu Public Relations

Accountability and ethics
‘For public affairs as a profession, there is no doubt that the texting habits of politicians, for example, have adversely impacted on our reputation. The rules that he [David Cameron] put in place, which everyone said were lacking at the time, did not prevent him from doing whatever he wanted without fear of retribution.’
Stuart Thomson

‘There has been an increased expectation for accountability. Last year, there was pressure for brands and organisations to be seen saying the right (socially conscious) thing, this year they have been asked to show the work behind their public claims. It’s no longer enough to pay lip service to global issues, organisations and brands be must be seen to authentically follow up with real-life changes and examples, and not just performative PR activities, they must work much harder now to be genuine and transparent to build trust and relationships with their audiences.’
Tolu Akisanya

The fast pace may not ease up
‘We’re returning to urgent planned and unplanned work, and supporting organisations, businesses and brands to move to a place of not only surviving but thriving in their evolved ways of doing things and their accelerated transformation and innovation as a result of the pandemic.

‘Some are still trying to fathom this out and even though some economies have seemingly bounced back to a better than anticipated place at this stage, we are seeing behaviours continue to adapt and change at a faster pace than before. This continues to be a big challenge for us to ensure we can land our communication right to ensure the compliance, buy-in, take-up and so on we require.

‘There has been no let up. There never will be. Working at pace is the norm now.’
Kerry Sheehan, Business innovation and communication advisor

Big surprises of 2021 so far?
‘The refocus of gaining coverage in alternative media – which I love! Over the last year or so, one of the biggest challenges was being able to effectively cut through the global stories dominating the news in hand with changes in content consumption. Many practitioners were able to quickly pick up on this and pivoted, to utilise smaller, more localised and niche media outlets, to reach their target audiences.’
Tolu Akisanya

‘The way that the Government has tried to shift the Covid-19 public inquiry off until mid-2022 is surprising given that another wave of infections are widely expected for later in 2021. The political imperative of putting the findings of a public inquiry off until some future date seems to have outweighed the potential health benefits of learning lessons sooner rather than later. If you want a prediction for 2022 then it will be how much the inquiry will dominate public life as the evidence starts to be heard.’
Stuart Thomson

‘The amount of communicators tuning into and building on their emotional intelligence, and using this to build relationships. The need for emotional skills, the cornerstone of employee and audience engagement but also competitive advantage, will continue to grow and could even outpace the demand for cognitive skills in the future.’
Kerry Sheehan

PR continues to show its value
‘COVID-19 may be one of the worst natural disasters global society has faced in recent years, but it has been good for the public relations industry which has been able to pretty bullishly demonstrate its value to business, not least through stakeholder engagement and internal comms. The biggest challenges have been managing demand and helping the hardest hit industries get back on their feet, closely followed by a talent shortage at the account manager level. The ongoing concern is how to keep PR in front of management teams so they continue to appreciate what it delivers and invest appropriately.’
Sarah Waddington

‘Public sector comms teams continue to knock it out of the park with COVID-19 comms – huge respect to everyone working through this tirelessly, especially colleagues in public health. This has contributed to our excellent vaccination numbers with more people than expected taking up the vaccine, helping us all move towards some sort of ‘normalcy’.’
Shayoni Lynn

‘Some of the biggest achievements for the industry this year – embracing change, mastering the art of the pivot, and finding new ways to be creative and communicate our products/services and clients. Despite starting the year in the middle of a pandemic we’ve really been able to highlight our value in our ability to adapt, be creative and deliver effective PR campaigns. The #GettyMuseumChallenge is a great example of pivoting, increasing brand awareness, and building a community of art-lovers from user-generated content on instagram.’
Tolu Akisanya

‘I am continually impressed by how resourceful people have been during the continued lockdown, on a personal and professional level. We all need picking up sometimes and my network across PR and comms has always been there. It is fantastic how many organisations really are thinking about the wellbeing, especially the mental wellbeing, of their people.’
Stuart Thomson

Looking for more from our PR and communications trends predictors?

Interview with Stuart Thomson about his PR & Comms Best Influencer win at the 2020 Online Influence Awards

Sarah Waddington’s #FuturePRoof Five

In the event of an emergency webinar

In the event of an emergency – communicating a summer of live events webinar

For our latest webinar we spoke to the people behind the planning as we ready for the return of in-person events. Sharing the big challenges from the last year were Cheltenham Festival’s PR and communications manager Bairbre Lloyd and ME Travel founder Hannah Mursal, who have successfully battled through cancellations, changing restrictions and internationally-inconsistent rules on travel and event attendance.

Part of the relaxation of social-distancing rules in the UK is the uncertainty over what is to come over the next few months. Read on for practical advice on how to prepare for every eventuality regarding events.

Challenges of the last 18 months
‘It’s been tricky!’ said Hannah. Looking after every element of booking for ME Travel’s entertainment clients, their bands and their crew has required increased flexibility as well as patience.

‘In the UK and across Europe, it’s been quiet – people have been doing music videos and virtual performances instead of touring. In the US, it’s been more focused on domestic travel. They haven’t really stopped; people were still travelling to do gigs. We’re looking at the bulk of events coming back in September. It’s been a waiting game to book tours in and find new venue dates.

‘Restrictions are changing constantly, but it all depends on who’s going where. I’ve got Jamaican artists, but their crews are American, English, German. There are times where you could only get half of the crew there.
‘You have to know what every country is allowing in. Do they need forms, vaccination – you can’t really book in advance, either. You can’t book today to fly next week, because it will change by mid-week.’

Plus points of the pandemic (there have been a few)
For Bairbre, juggling different priorities has brought positives as well as challenges.

‘When you’re a location putting on a festival, you can make your own decisions but you have to think about the audience if you want people to come.

‘Some of our speakers were delighted to get out of where they were, and others were… not so keen. What it has opened up to us is the idea of dialling in. Our Literature Festival was a hybrid of a socially-distanced audience and streaming online. There were people on stage while guests from the US were able to join digitally. That will have repercussions in the future – when this all finally lifts. It’s another string to our bow. It worked for us.

‘Like a lot of our fellow cultural organisations found, there was a huge appetite for us to provide support for the community. Our Science Festival was a godsend to lots of parents schooling from home. Our audience has increased enormously and that’s something we want to develop.

‘It has been difficult, but it’s jump-started our digital ambitions. We had to do all of this in five weeks – it would otherwise have probably taken us about five years.’

Lessons learned
‘We were making decisions as late as possible to have maximum flexibility – we were on tenterhooks waiting for the go-head for things,’ said Bairbre.

‘While we brought in lots of technology, there wasn’t really time to test it. We could have done with more user experience for next time. It worked, but it was hairy.’

For Hannah, the importance of communication and relationships has been a main takeaway:
‘We were all in it together, we became a family – I know how my clients’ mums are doing, their dads. It was panic stations in the beginning, so it was good to keep that communication going. In terms of hotels, the entertainment reps were the first to lose their jobs. My contacts all got made redundant. It was important to keep in the loop of what everyone was doing.

‘It was useful to know when someone was in the studio recording – it tells me when things lift, they have an album to tour. Building these relationships lets me know when are going back to work.’

Contingency plans
‘We’re planning for a full capacity without social distancing for our next Literature Festival in October – we made that call fairly early on,’ shared Bairbre.

‘I think if restrictions are put back in place, however, we will go back to what we’ve done before. This will be the eighth festival we’ve done in lockdown – we can bring in distancing and Covid-secure measures. Our senior management team will be in HQ cooking up plans. We were lucky last year because we slipped in between lockdowns. And I think we were the first literary festival to do a hybrid version.’

‘Not to sound complacent, but I’ve done so many cancellation announcements that we have our contingency plan for if it’s needed. If you’ve got a plan written and ready to go, you roll that out; you know that it works. Having those comms ready to run, is the key for me.

‘People are still going to be a bit insecure with events. One of the things we were conscious of were that some people were going to be really gung-ho and ready to come out, some would be more cautious. You need to be really clear with everybody with how you’re managing your event. If the audience knows what to expert – that they’ve got to sit in bubbles, wash their hands, have e-tickets and wear masks – they will accept it. It’s the not-knowing that makes people angry.’

Practical tips for planning events during COVID-19
‘Have your communications plan ready in advance,’ advises Bairbre.

‘We went through looking at scenarios, what negative reactions we could potentially have to safety onsite. We thought about all the things that could be picked up on and made sure we were proactive with our safety measures. And with sending comms out, make sure your stakeholders are onboard and informed – artists, staff and suppliers.’

‘Insurance has been huge in my world,’ Hannah added. ‘It’s hard to get event insurance that covers COVID now. Make sure you’re covered with your suppliers.’

‘Be prepared; have that contingency plan. The rug may be pulled from under you at any moment.’

For more trends to prepare for when it comes to getting back outside, download our white paper PR & Media Travel Trends 2021.

Simon Mouncey Transport for London

‘Start by speaking the same language as the person you are talking with’ – Simon Mouncey, Transport for London

Everyone in society is different and has different experiences of the same things. This is a fundamental truth that everyone in PR must accept in order to design the right comms strategy and speak to the right audiences in the right way.

In this guest post, Transport for London’s communities and partnerships specialist Simon Mouncey shares the importance of listening to your audience and taking on new approaches to embrace inclusivity.

‘I’ve been in PR for as long as I can remember, indeed long before emails, when you used carbon paper and did things in triplicate. I even remember a training session on how to put the paperclip on the right way round so it didn’t catch with all the other memos in the tray. Thankfully most priorities have changed since then, from how you did things to making change happen. I can now say I have changed people’s lives for the better. That’s a nice feeling. It’s nice being able to say you did the right things than just did things the right way.

What is the right way now anyway?

Something we’ve learnt over the past year is there is a disconnect to what we believe to be true and what others know is true. This has turned into a discussion on inclusive leadership. Whatever you think inclusive leadership is, the bottom line is that you cannot possibly know what it is like to be judged unless you too have been judged the same way. So, decisions affecting people’s lives need to be made by the people whose lives are being affected. Call it Ivory Towers or call it what it is, a systemic failing in our society based on opportunities and therefore positions of power reserved for those who look and sound like the people who are already in those positions.

No amount of unconscious bias training or other gestures will change how you are hardwired; it is just another easy tickbox. As a society, we surround ourselves with people who reinforce our beliefs, values and prejudices. Real unconscious bias training will parachute you into a life totally alien to you, an escape room, where you have to find new friends and allies to achieve your aim. Maybe, subconsciously, that’s why escape rooms are so popular. But to be effective you will need to be with total strangers, randomly picked from society.

The place to start is speaking the same language as the person you are talking with. The only way you can do that is to let them do the talking and listen and learn. So, don’t restrict them to a survey with questions based on your own experiences, views, opinions, perceptions and so on. But also amplify their voice. If they have no experience of being listened to then you have to bring them up to the same level as you, in knowledge of what your outcome is, and skills in making it happen.

I learnt this very early on, when I was charged with implementing national policy for people with learning disabilities. I think being naïve back then I was given it not as a challenge but as something everyone else had turned down (I was asked to become a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate after that and turned it down, but that’s one of life’s crossroad moments). The policy was that adults with learning disabilities should be able to decide their own lives. They had new personal care packages known as Independent Living allowances, which is an income they could spend on what they wanted, like ice cream and holidays. But how do you know what they want if they have never been listened to before, been institutionalised, and had other people make decisions for them? Many of those living in institutional care had never had a voice and therefore never developed speech well enough to have a conversation. There are many aspects of society where that is still true today. Well, in this case a pictorial language was developed, that meant they could say what they wanted in a conversation and their voice was heard for the first time, unfiltered by other people who had their own values and opinions.

Zoom (pun intended) forward to 2021 and many have woken up to the realisation that so many are excluded from society by their voice being excluded from decisions and have therefore developed their own communication methods. That can be rage, a protest, a counter-culture or just opting out of society. All of them, whatever your perception or judgement is, are methods of communication because they aren’t listened to the way the decision makers will hear. I call it prismatic thinking, where all the colours of the rainbow are there but when you apply your own filter to it you see just one colour. When decision makers say ‘limit the right to protest’, they are in effect masking those voices. And glass isn’t just in ceilings, it is all around us, and we see what we want to see based on our own reflections.

What I’m looking for in someone to communicate for me when I can’t is sincerity and authenticity. They need to believe in the message and what they are trying to achieve, and they need to tell it how it is. And when they look for what comes back it needs to be unfiltered. When people talk about a Green future what they mean is panic; we are feeling the effects of climate change now and it will only get worse, do something now. Relate that to what we are doing to make people’s lives in London better. What is better for them? Is it to be treated fairly and equally, a home, a job, a future? So there is a disconnect between getting more people cycling and walking and what we really mean is that all our futures are at risk if we don’t panic.

As professionals we need to get across to decision makers that everyone is starting from a different place and you can’t apply the same policy to everyone. Someone reminded me recently of the big tent idea. Where, in our western colonial culture, we get all the friendly like-minded experts together to agree what needs to be done. When in fact the name originates from native Americans where to deal with threats, like to their way of life, they would bring all the tribal leaders together, most of them enemies, leave their weapons outside and not be able to leave the tent until they agree what they need to do.

I’ve always advocated for local decision making, so you give the problem to a local community, you give them the skills and opportunities to become leaders (which by default is inclusive leadership), any risks, constraints and a framework to reach a consensus – in other words, everything you do to reach your conclusion – and you help them make a decision. It has become known as Citizen Assemblies. But call it what it is; people deciding how they as individuals and members of a wider society will achieve the same future as everyone else wants. That could be cycling where you can, it could be driving just for essential trips, it could be anything the individual can and knows they need to do. But to get there you need to abandon the structures and processes put in place that limits their voice. Amplify the hardest to hear and turn the volume down on the loudest heard all the time.

Take the example of going cashless on London Buses. Just like when I was in social care policy, I leapt at the chance to do it. Only then was I told TfL had been trying to do it forever and no one had attempted it in case in went wrong. My first thought was what was ‘going wrong’; it shouldn’t be about image. Failure to me was someone being hurt because they were carrying cash. Or someone trying to get somewhere just in time only to have to wait for people paying their fare with pennies. Or the person who is just a few pence short but trying to get the bus to get away from being hurt. So it was presented to people as, these are your friends and family, your neighbours, your community. We will help you engage with them so you can tell us what you’ve agreed. We helped communities find their leaders and supported them. I called it Co-Production.

In a later project involving a school, the headteacher told me I had changed the life chances of the students involved in the project, their confidence, hopes and aspirations and how they had just expected to leave school with nothing but were now planning a degree, career and a future for themselves, as lawyers, engineers and business leaders to help their communities.

I don’t have any plans for the future; I’m a water sign so go with the flow. Who knows the next thing around the corner. Another pandemic, certainly. The warnings were given years ago that with the climate and ecological emergency there was likely to be more diseases jumping species. And then there have been record after record tumbling on temperature, drought, rain. My advice would be, be nice to people, open your heart and that will open your mind. Make friends with people who are really different from you. Take a leap of faith and trust people to do the right thing. Forget the hashtag and campaign slogans. Give them your knowledge and skills and watch people reshape society in everyone’s image.’

For more on communicating with different audiences, read insight from this year’s PRFest on keeping PR sustainable


Baroness Bennett: ‘We have to stop wrecking other people’s countries’

This is a guest post by Green peer Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (Natalie Bennett), who was leader of the Green Party of England and Wales from 2012 to 2016.

What’s been called the development of the Global North – the creation of the society we have today – was built on expropriation and extraction through force from the rest of the world. It is been calculated that India alone saw $45 trillion in wealth extracted over 173 years.

But the practice isn’t just history. It is still ongoing today, as the conclusions of the UK’s independent Global Resource Initiative Taskforce (GRIT) demonstrate. It was a far from radical group – including reps from Cargill, McDonald’s and Tesco – but it could not but conclude that the UK needed a ‘new strategic approach… to overcome the challenge of commodity-driven deforestation and land conversion.’ Between 2016 and 2018, an area equivalent to 88% of the total UK land area was required to supply the UK’s demand for just seven agricultural and forest commodities.

The new Schedule 17 of the Environment Bill – addressing products from forests and deforested lands – aims to address some of that. But in the debate in the Committee stage of the Bill, members from all sides of the upper house tore into that weakness of the Schedule.

It was the Conservative Lord Randall of Uxbridge who put down the most far-reaching amendment, calling for a global footprint target. In our climate emergency and nature crisis, in a world wracked by poverty and inequality, the need for that is obvious and undeniable. We need to reduce our ecological footprint by around 75% to fit within ecological limits.

In commenting on that, I looked at the ways in which it would directly, immediately, benefit the UK. It would reduce the risk of future pandemics. It would help safeguard against the economic costs of biodiversity decline and climate change; the WWF Global Futures report calculated that will cost the world at least £368 billion a year, with the UK suffering annual damage to its economy of £16 billion a year by 2050. It would also support the resilience of UK and global businesses and help businesses to manage risk proactively.

Crossbencher Baroness Meacher moved the simplest – unarguably right – amendment, noting that the Schedule only covers companies doing due diligence to ensure that they are not taking products from illegally felled forest land. But ‘legal’ deforestation is often profoundly disastrous and unsustainable: 2.1 million hectares of natural vegetation within the 133 Brazilian municipalities that currently supply the UK with soya could be legally deforested. It also introduces a perverse incentive to encourage the legalisation of deforestation.

UK businesses could also benefit from this amendment. Currently, in many parts of the world, laws relating to land use, forests and commodity production are numerous, uncertain, inconsistent and poorly implemented. It is very difficult to determine legality, and companies can be trapped in a regulatory, paperwork minefield from which the amendment could free them.

An amendment from Baroness Jones of Whitchurch brought in a further dimension, the inter-relationship of human rights and the protection of nature. It called for the recognition of customary land ownership and control. Some 80% of indigenous and community lands are held without legally recognised tenure rights. We know that in indigenous and tribal territories, deforestation rates are significantly lower. Ensuring respect for customary tenure rights is an efficient, just and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

A further amendment, tabled by Lib Dem Baroness Parminter, was essentially the reverse of what the House of Lords achieved in the Financial Services Bill. After a lot of wrestling, the House of Lords finally got a reference to climate into that. What we also need to do is to get the need to control the disastrous impacts of finance addressed in all the other Bills.

The UK is the single biggest source of international finance for six of the most harmful agribusiness companies involved in deforestation in Brazil, the Congo basin and Papua New Guinea, lending £5 billion between 2013 and 2019.

If deforestation was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon, behind China and the US. Some 80% of deforestation is associated with agricultural production, yet figures published recently from five major UN agencies show that the number of people without access to healthy diets has grown by 320 million in the last year. They now number 2.37 billion in total. A fifth of all children under five are stunted because of lack of access to the most basic resource of all: food.

The need to reform Schedule 17 when we get to Report Stage in the House of Lords in September is clear. We have to stop wrecking other people’s countries. We have to ensure that our lives are lived within the limits of this fragile planet, and that everyone else has access to that basic level of resources that is their human right.

This blog post is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order, which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

Leadership styles that work

Types of leadership styles that work (and those that don’t)

Gordon Gekko from Wall Street, Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, David Brent from The Office – toxic styles of leadership have been immortalised on the screen through the decades, but none of them can compare to the horrors of bad leadership in real life. And when it comes to unrealistic demands, unachievable targets and damaging work environs, the creative side of industry has been an ideal breeding ground for particularly nasty styles of management over the years…

We asked our PR network for some of their own stories (names removed to protect the innocent):

‘An old boss of mine was the definition of The Devil Wears Prada. She once commented that I would have to charm with my personality since my looks let me down. During the launch of a restaurant she insisted we all walk around with our hands on our hips in case a photographer caught us with a devastating case of Sausage Arm…’

‘…my first ever job was for a well-known trade publishing house in the early 1980s – one of my bosses would verbally abuse me and occasionally hit me over the head. One of the other editors said I needed to stand up for myself (I was 18), so the next time the chap started on me, I told him not to. He said ‘make me’, so I stood up and swung a punch at him. I missed almost completely and ran off…’

‘…controlling, insulting, demeaning. She got violent and used to throw things. The receptionist bought my boss the wrong kind of roll from the bakery once. Thankfully, she had great reactions and ducked just in time…’

PR, marketing, advertising and media have been known as a haven for bad and outdated leadership styles and truly awful workplace superiors – if you’ve been in the business for a while and don’t have a related anecdote that springs to mind immediately, it’s very likely someone you work with does. This history of crappy leadership is understandable. In these creativity-focused sectors powered by financial targets, lead generation and, above all, the bottom line, unconventional working styles and abrasive personalities can reign free… if they are seen to get results.

‘The reality is that all sorts of bad leadership approaches may be tolerated by companies if the person is generating commercial value or has specialist, hard-to-replace skills,’ says Access Intelligence’s Head of HR Kate Fraser, who has worked with her share of big (for both the good and the bad) characters in important roles.

‘At least now it is normal for both managers and team members to talk about the impact of individual management styles on company environment.’

Approaches to management and leadership have – thankfully – changed drastically since ‘Management Science’ came in the wake of ‘Mass Production’. Even since the 1990s, where bosses loudly calling their employees The C-Word during frustrating projects – another example shared by a former pro who worked with a certain big brand during the decade of fax machines and pub-as-office – wasn’t so frowned upon.

Beyond the anecdotal, old-school cruelty at work just doesn’t really… work. A survey from Businessolver this year found that 92% of employees would be more likely to stay in their job if their bosses would show more empathy. An OC Tanner study showed that 79% of employees who quit their job left because of a lack of appreciation. Cruel leadership styles can even impact physical health within teams, as found in a Karolinska Institute report that showed links between leader qualities and incidences of heart disease in the workforce.

‘Human nature hasn’t fundamentally changed, whether we are talking about employees in the 50s or employees in the 90s or now,’ says Kate. ‘People have always valued development opportunities, autonomy, recognition and meaningful work, and good leaders have always understood the value of adapting their approach depending on individual competencies and personalities.

‘There are two key things to which leaders and managers have needed to adapt in the past decade or so which are not easy to get right. Employees expect meaningful experiences that have a purpose going beyond money or even self-development, in which the positive reputation (as opposed on to commercial success) of companies is important. And work is often undertaken/achieved through networks and influence rather than through role authority.’

Exerting control through rank-pulling and tyrannical rule (a la Katharine Parker in Working Girl, or, perhaps one of the worst film bosses of all time, Darth Vader) is out – or, at least, it should be – and supportive leaders that allow creativity and good ideas to flourish are what can make modern teams work.

New people-first initiatives – like Bumble’s week-long closure back in June to give staff experiencing burn out a break, job sharing for senior roles at the BBC, KPMG’s voice-only meetings on Fridays, and the Human Givens approach being used at Splendid Communications – are positive changes and, hopefully, signs that aggressive and outdated leadership styles will go the way of those fax machines and printed media directories – relegated to the past.

‘…Every day I wanted to crash into the central reservation on the motorway just so I would have a good enough excuse not to go into work. I left to work in-house for a global brand. Guess who made contact with me two weeks into my new job? Nice as pie, telling me she knew I’d go on to great things and did I need a PR agency? I had great delight telling her that while I was working there, she would NEVER make it onto the approved supplier list and to never contact me ever again. That’s the last I heard from her.

‘I see her name pop up from time to time and it makes me think back to my early days in the industry. As hard as it was, it shaped me into being a better boss. I’d never want anyone junior to me to feel how I did. For that, I’m grateful.’

For more on maintaining mental wellbeing at work, watch our accessmatters session with KDP Consulting’s Katie Phillips on spotting the early signs of burnout and how to protect yourself and your colleagues.

Heard Mentality CIPR and PRCA

CIPR and PRCA launch ‘Heard Mentality’ campaign

The CIPR and PRCA have joined forces to launch their first combined campaign ‘Heard Mentality’, which aims to push mental health conversations forward across the PR and communications industry.

The #HeardMentality campaign will focus on encouraging leaders to listen to their colleagues and speak constructively with their teams on mental health issues. The PRCA and CIPR will issue conversation starter packs to organisations and individuals to prompt conversations during the week of 13 September among those working in-house, agency-side and independently.

How to take part:
1. Your or your employers can organise a face-to-face or online ‘Heard Mentality’ conversation during the week of 13 September.
2. Get a conversation starter pack by completing this form.
3. Use the #HeardMentality hashtag across social media.
4. Get ready by thinking about how your colleagues are doing, what changes could be made in the workplace to support mental health as well as your own experiences.

Research from the CIPR and PRCA due out later in 2021 shows that 90% of PR professionals have reported poor mental health in the last 12 months.

‘For too long we’ve accepted that high stress is just the way it is, but it doesn’t need to be that way,’ said CIPR Health Group chair Rachel Royall.

‘The cost of poor mental health is too high from a human and a financial perspective. We can do better and take action to improve the environment our industry operates in and in turn respect diversity and help talent to flourish.’

PRCA director general and ICCO chief executive Francis Ingham said of the importance of the initiative: ‘I’ll be candid – there have been times over the past year or so when my own mental health has hit rock bottom. I’m not embarrassed to say so. We need to speak honestly and openly about this. It’s time for a step change in how we address mental health. This campaign can be the start of meaningful progress – we need to stop, listen and act on the concerns of our colleagues.’

The #HeardMentality campaign is just the start of the collaboration between the two industry bodies focusing on mental health. Both are also supporting the establishment of a mental health charter with PRWeek and have mental health resources that can be accessed on their websites.

Find out more information and support the Heard Mentality initiative from the CIPR and PRCA by completing this form.

For more on mental wellbeing, here are seven ways to protect your mental health while working in PR and communications and advice on how to prepare for a return to in-office working.

Your team are key stakeholders too

Stakeholders aren’t just clients or suppliers – don’t forget your team!

This is a guest post from PRFest founder and Aura PR‘s Laura Sutherland.

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘stakeholder’ then just assume anyone with an interest in your business or organisation is one. They have an opinion about your brand and they also have the power to influence other people’s perceptions.

Too often we think of customers and shareholders as the main stakeholder groups and all too often the people who keep the business running are left off. Your team!

Often staff is considered a challenge rather an asset. What if staff were nurtured as stakeholders? What if staff were fed them with learning opportunities and watered with the chance to feel empowered to take on challenges and solve problems? I say that mindset is 75% of the battle.

Staff is one of, if not the most important stakeholder group. Don’t forget them. Include them. Nurture them.

This isn’t all the responsibility of the CEO. Line managers/middle management, have a large role to play and they need supported in order to nurture the team.

So, what key things do line managers need to do, to effectively support the team and give them these opportunities?

1. Genuinely get to know staff members
2. Listen and observe – be present
3. Regularly have 1-2-1 discussions with the team – it’s not always work challenges you can help with
4. Ensure the exec team is communicating with middle management regularly
5. When there is a challenge, ensure there is an action plan developed to try and overcome it
6. Celebrate good work – notice it and ensure it’s acknowledged
7. Communicate with the exec team when there is a challenge and you need support
8. Set up internal recruitment schemes to offer progression within and bespoke perks
9. Develop a programme for innovation where staff feel empowered to solve problems
10. Be genuine
11. Be aware of your own style and be open to constructive feedback

As a result, your team members will want to help you succeed and will be more productive, participative, caring and hold themselves accountable. Most importantly, they’ll be happier!

It comes back down to the basics of PR. Build relationships by genuinely caring and that’s when trust and respect is earned and given.

Find out more about Laura Sutherland’s work and this year’s PRFest here.

How to nail your PR story to awareness days

How to nail a PR story to an awareness day

This is a guest post from Jamie Wilson, Lead Publisher at Bottle PR.

Pitching a story to the media around an awareness day can sometimes feel a bit like planning your perfect New Year’s party: there’s a lot of pressure to have the best day ever but there’s always the risk that the expectation ends up greater than the reality. Oh, and don’t forget the FOMO – or in this case the fear of missing out to one of your competitor’s campaigns…

There’s no doubt that awareness days can provide brands with a timely hook to elevate a key message or align themselves with a particular topic or discussion. But with over 1,500 awareness days taking place over the course of a single year, identifying the ones that are worth your time and effort can be tricky and time consuming.

The biggest challenge you’re likely to face is working out the ones that journalists will be interested in covering that year. From the widely recognised household names like Mental Health Week, there are a few heavyweights that every editorial team will be aware of.

Then you’ve got the more humorous ones – the Gorgeous Grandma Days and the Lost Sock Memorial Days. Often designed to amuse and delight, these can make for great social content, but you shouldn’t be too quick to discount them as a possible media hook.

While you can’t predict which of the awareness days will be taking a journalist’s fancy, you can be your best PR-self and ask yourself a few important questions before creating an associated story.

Does the awareness day align with longer-term brand messages?

Inclusive PR isn’t about selling in stories at various points throughout the year because you want to be part of a wide-reaching conversation. It’s about building a brand that consistently shows a target audience what you stand for. Remember, the topics that are important to that audience are just as important to you as a brand. Many brands are being called out now for marketing rainbow-coloured products just to be associated with Pride Month. But in reality, the LGBTQ community seek support and recognition every day. Be selective with the awareness days you want to tell a story around and be certain it tallies up with your other PR activity.

What relevant assets do you have in your content bank?

The simple mantra to keep repeating to yourself is ‘do I have something new and exciting to offer?’. Too many brands simply jump on the bandwagon with lukewarm content that’s pre-destined to get lost in the noise. Remember, an awareness day is not a story in itself. Therefore, if you want a journalist to cover your content, you need to have something worth covering. This could be new research, the launch of a campaign, or simply doing something out of the ordinary.

What angle are the competitor brands likely to take?

You should also remember that you’ll be competing with other brands on the day. Therefore, preparation becomes key. Identifying the most important awareness days for your client should be first up on the agenda. Then beaver through what your competitors’ key PR messages have been in the last three months, say. With your PR head on, you can probably work out what theme they’ll write their story on, so you can sense-check you don’t double up (and worse, lose out).

Have I left enough time to nail this awareness day or am I panic-reacting?

Prep and pitch your story at least a couple of weeks in advance. This means you stand a better chance in cutting through on your chosen awareness hook. And of course, pipping those competitors to it. With that (good) story prepped, pitched and secured ahead of the day itself, not even a Hollywood actress or the latest politician fumble (as I almost lost out to around World Bee Day), can get in your way.

In such a crowded arena, and with no guarantee of success, pitching your story or campaign around an awareness day can be a daunting task. However, that’s not to say it won’t be worth it. On the contrary, a lot of homework and elbow grease, mixed together with a dash of good luck, can bring big results.

The lesson here: nailing a media story on a global awareness day takes serious graft. Give yourself as much time as possible: those few extra weeks can be make or break when it comes to long-lead journalists. Rest assured, though – with a truly unique story and the right preparation, the day will be one worth remembering!

Extra answers on building better relationships between PRs and journalists

Cut for time: extra answers on building better relationships between PRs and journalists

Our virtual event Building better relationships between PRs and journalists featured advice and insight from the freelance journalists behind Journo Resources, Jem Collins and Faima Bakar, and Freelancing for Journalists, Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson.

Watch Building better relationships between PRs and journalists here.

We ran out of time to answer all of the questions that came in during the session, but Jem, Faima and Lily have very kindly taken extra time out of their busy schedules of freelance commissions and supporting the freelance journalist community to give their take on them. Read on for their perception of PRs, why pitching over the phone is a no-go and where to find what journalists are actually looking for.

What is your perception of PRs in general? Do you find them helpful, or a hinderance to your work, when they show up in your inbox?

Jem: To be completely honest, a lot of time it is a hinderance. I have a separate inbox for my freelance journalism work, and honestly, it’s just like a constant avalanche of press releases. Right now, there are 786 unread emails in there, and I did a clear only the other day. Realistically, there is no way I can read all of these (let alone reply to them) and get anything else done, and the majority really aren’t relevant.

This isn’t to say that I think badly of PRs, it’s just the mass send out approach I find frustrating. The PRs I have the best relationships with are the ones who actually send me a personal email and really know what I do. I do appreciate that is a lot more work, and sometimes you do just have to get something out, but I really would stress how important the personalised approach is to building a relationship that actually works.

Faima: It depends on what they’re offering me – unsolicited PR emails can be annoying but sometimes they’re useful, I was more likely to read PR emails as a staffer as I was able to pick up stories of product launches/weird/quirky news which I can’t do as a freelancer. So there is no point sending the same things to freelancers as you would staffers. Now, these emails end up in my bin as they are just not relevant which can feel like a hindrance. However, they are helpful when they listen to what I’m after – which is interesting and unique case studies, and new research that can be turned into a feature.

Lily: If I am completely honest, I would love to go back to the times when you could talk to people directly, but that’s not the world we live in so I acknowledge that I need to work alongside PRs and they can be incredibly useful at times.

The best way a PR can work with me is to respond to my calls for help rather then fill up my inbox. I just don’t read these emails. Recently I put out a call via #journorequest on Twitter for an article I am writing for a running magazine. The PRs that got in touch were great at putting me in touch with exactly the right people to speak to. This was the ideal situation where PR worked well for me. Had they sent me a press release at any other time of the year the chances are I would have deleted it straight away. I get 50 to 100 PR emails a day, so I have to be pretty ruthless.

Do you think pitching over the phones is outdated? Would you prefer to be contacted via email?

Jem: Personally, I hate being pitched over the phone, but I think a lot of that is down to me being a freelancer and working from home. When you’re calling a newsroom, there are loads of people around and whoever isn’t busy will pick up the call, so it works. When it’s just one journalist at home, constant phone calls are just really distracting and you don’t get anything done. It’s especially frustrating when it’s not even a story on your beat – as a freelancer and business owner I do a lot of different things in a day and it’s actually just really intrusive. This isn’t to say that I’m not open to a chat, though – but I’d much rather someone send me a personalised email and ask to schedule in a time for a chat or a coffee.

Lily: I actually don’t like PRs pitching me ideas. My job is to find and report on stories not to be promoting the work of an organisation, so for me this actually undermines journalism. By all means work with me on a story I am developing but don’t tell me you have a story – you have something to promote, not a story.

For somebody that has joined the field mid-pandemic, do you have any tips on how to reach out to journalists and build relationships when communication is so difficult? What advice would you give to PRs for approaching a freelance journalist that they haven’t met/spoken to before in order to start building that relationship?

Jem: While I would very strongly urge against people pitching stories via Twitter DMs, I do think Twitter is quite a good way to get involved in the Twitter conversation. We all spend way too much time on The Bird App, so just getting involved in the conversation and being friendly will help me remember your name and come to you when I need anything. I’m forever grateful to the PR who saw me having an eczema flare up on there and sent me some cream that actually worked!

I’d also recommend the No 1 Media Ladies Facebook Group – they have a dedicated PR hours where you can intro yourself and your clients and it’s a really lovely community where people actually chat to each other and help each other out. You’re also very welcome to our Journo Resources Facebook Group, too! It could also perhaps be worthwhile coming along to some of the virtual workshops and events which are on at the moment – it’s a good way to not only get an in and connection with people, but also to see the kind of issues journalists are having at the moment.

Faima: Go for a personalised approach, ask them what their interests are, Google their work beforehand, see if your clients line up with their interests, show them how the two can work together. Maybe chat over a coffee?

Lily: It’s all about being useful to journalists and giving them what they need. Respond quickly to call outs and come up with the goods. Most of all: be honest and reliable.

Any tips on making sure that our emails are read by the journalist? For example, subject line, bullet points in the email, images?

Jem: The main thing for me is just being as clear and to the point as possible. As I mentioned before, I get a lot of PR emails and I don’t even work in a big newsroom. So, for me to open your email I need to know exactly what it’s about from the subject line of the email alone, otherwise I probably won’t get around to it. The other thing I would avoid is pretending something is personalised when it’s not – it really irks me when someone says this would be a perfect fit for my beat, or that they’ve tried to give me a call about it when they’ve not looked at my beat or tried to give me a call. Journalists just see through those kind of tricks and get annoyed!

Faima: I would put the most interesting thing in the subject line; is it an invite, is it new research, what’s the hook? Include images if you’re talking about something visual and links! The amount of times I’ve received a PR email, wanting to know more but they don’t provide links for more info, leaving me to Google information – which is not what you want.

Lily: Think like a journalist, not a PR. Write a headline that a journalist would write. Write a press release like a news story, not a press release. It might go against everything that you know/have been trained to do but journalists actually don’t like press releases and most of them are really badly written.

Be helpful when they are looking for information or sources. That really is your best way in. Emailing and asking to meet for a coffee will probably not work. Also never assume they are in London, that really winds a lot of freelancers up because many don’t live anywhere near London.

Do B2B and B2C journalists differ in what they want from a PR?

Jem: I’ve not really worked in B2B newsrooms, but I do genuinely believe the basics of good PR are basically the same. We’ve all got the same pressures, so we just want people who take a personalised approach, and are clear, concise and reliable.

Are you having the same types of conversations with journalists, or do they tend to be more structured/more formal? Do you still have relaxed chats and catch ups to chew over/discuss what’s happening?

Lily: Freelance journalists have informal chats, rants and moans in lots of online communities, especially on Facebook.

Aside from a media database (obviously!), would you recommend any websites or tools for finding the most relevant freelance journalists for the stories you’re wanting to pitch? And do you think PRs underestimate the importance of a freelance journalist in an age of where they have a greater role?

Jem: I definitely think that some PRs I’ve worked with haven’t quite realised the long game you get from working with a freelancers. Sometimes the requests I send out are for smaller places, and then I get very few people offering to help. But those are the people I’ll then go back to when I do get a bigger opportunity. A really lovely PR helped me out for a piece for a niche website on freelancing, for example, and when I got my next commission at The Big Issue, I went back to her first as I knew she was reliable, so I think it’s about seeing a bit more of the long game for your clients and coverage. Plus, freelancers mean you have the opportunity to pull in even more wins when it works out – we’re not just tied to one newsroom, we can go anywhere!

Faima: I would keep an eye out on the #journorequest tag on Twitter, and then go through that writer’s profiles to see what they cover. Usually when writers send out a request, they’re inundated with DMs/emails but usually they’re not relevant – so again, make sure you’re offering someone they can actually use. And remember that freelancers don’t need to stick with one publication, use that to your advantage – if your story is interesting, they can pitch it to a wide range of publications.

Lily: It is tricky as there are no comprehensive databases specifically focused on freelance journalists and it takes quite a bit of detective work checking bylines and social media profiles. MuckRack can be handy for seeing what journalists do and if they are freelance. And, yes freelance journalists play an increasingly large role in shaping the media landscape particularly in securing exclusive stories. Plus, they like to get more than one bite of the cherry from a story so if you work with them, an article could end up in multiple publications.

Is Twitter where journos put out requests most often? Are there any other places we should be looking for requests?

Jem: You do see a lot of stuff on Twitter, so would definitely be across that, but I’d also say the same for Facebook Groups too. I know I’ve banged on about them a lot today, but they are super useful! I also use the Journalist Enquiry Service a lot if I need an expert, so being across that can often be a quick win, and I do try and include as many people from there that I hear back from as possible.

Faima: Look out on Facebook Groups, I put out a lot of my requests on journo-friendly pages. I also read them on, as Jem mentioned, the No 1 Media Ladies Facebook Group.

Lily: Definitely keep track of #journorequest on Twitter. I also use niche Facebook sites but I will be looking for individuals and actually don’t want to do it via a PR in this instance. I also use the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service quite a lot when I am looking for experts.

What’s the best way to find out specific interests of freelancers other than trawling through publications?

Jem: Journalists are pretty big on self-promotion (we can’t help ourselves) so I know it sounds simple, but a flick through social media is really helpful. When I do a news shift, I have to write eight stories a day, but I wouldn’t tweet them all out, because they’re not all stuff I’ve spent ages on, I just tweet the stuff I’m really proud of, so having a look at social can give you a good steer on what they’re actually really interested in. Similarly, looking at portfolio websites is also a good shout – again, people will just include their best bits and often have a line or two about their main beats.

Faima: Check out their websites – a lot of the more established journalists have their own websites or Linktrees. I have a Linktree of my most cherished articles which gives a good idea of what I’m interested in. You can search a writer’s name and type Linktree – it will come up if they have one.

Lily: You do need to do the work yourself in the same way that freelance journalists have to trawl through social media to identity commissioning editors to pitch to. Keeping track of the Freelance Writing Awards nominations could be a good way to start making a list of relevant freelancers.

Watch the full virtual event Building better relationships between PRs and journalists or read our round-up for more from Journo Resources and Freelancing for Journalists.

To find out more about the Vuelio media database and the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, check out our services and how they can help you in your work here.

Allegory report on Corporate Digital Responsibility

Allegory launches report on Corporate Digital Responsibility

A framework for dealing with Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR) issues has been launched by Allegory as part of its report Corporate Digital Responsibility: What You Need To Know Right Now.

A panel of experts, academics and industry professionals from organisations, think tanks and associations convened to work on the report in April 2021, including Office for National Statistics deputy director of communications Karen Campbell-White, Open Data Institute learning & business development director Stuart Coleman, Academy for Board Excellence CEO Janhavi Dadarkar, Huddersfield University chair of corporate communication Anne Gregory and ODI director of communication & marketing Emma Thwaites.

CDR, which shares many elements with ESG (Environment, Society, and Governance), is a major trend within PR, comms and corporations this year. According to the report, comms practitioners can play a significant role in its adoption.

‘Communications professionals have a pivotal role to play in the process of making organisations CDR-fit,’ says Allegory CEO Charlotte McLeod. ‘To do so, they need to be fully immersed in the issues surrounding data management and processing in their organisations to offer the best professional advice and support possible.’

Allegory’s report posits that C-suite leaders and communicators, with support from data governance experts, should approach CDR as a strategic issue and as an opportunity to play a part in tackling larger worldwide issues such as climate change, diversity and sustainability.

Navigating data ethics, including assessing and identifying potential ethical issues associated with data and digital tech, must be part of a multi-function, multi-stakeholder approach, according to the report. With both data and digital responsibility embedded within an organisation’s culture, everyone within a business can consider it part of their role and responsibility.

The framework for adopting a CDR plan within report includes six steps to support leaders with planning and communication:
1. Landscape analysis and audit
2. Comms planning
3. Community of practice
4. Horizon scanning
5. Internal communications
6. Stakeholder engagement underpinned by open and transparent communication

‘Communications professionals often get involved when a crisis arises, but this is too late,’ added Charlotte on the need for the report.
‘They need to take part in early conversations to address potential and existing issues related to data and digital within an organisation in collaboration with C-suite executives. This is a collective action needed to future-proof an organisation, safeguarding its reputation and profits.’

Download the full report Corporate Digital Responsibility: What You Need To Know Right Now.

Moves at the Department of Health and Social Care

What’s on Sajid Javid’s agenda at the Department for Health and Social Care?

During an eventful weekend, Matt Hancock resigned from his position of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care after he and his aide Gina Coladangelo were caught on camera kissing in his Whitehall office, breaching Covid guidelines.

He has now been replaced by Sajid Javid, who being no stranger to Cabinet roles, is an experienced Government minister. He has previously been Home Secretary, Housing Secretary, the Business Secretary, and most recently Chancellor. In a statement, Javid said: ‘I’m incredibly honoured to take up the post of Health and Social Care Secretary, particularly during such an important moment in our recovery from COVID-19… I want our country to get out of this pandemic and that will be my most immediate priority’.  Jeremy Hunt, a former Health Secretary, has said Javid is an ‘excellent choice’ and argued that as an ex-Chancellor he will be able to ‘negotiate formidably’ with the Treasury.

However, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has raised concern over the decision. He called Javid’s appointment a step backward for the UK and highlighted that the NHS and social care suffered underfunding and cuts due to the decisions taken by Treasury ministers including Javid, ‘a key architect of Tory austerity’.

Meanwhile, the former Special Adviser Dominic Cummings has called Javid ‘bog standard’ and an ‘awful’ choice to replace Matt Hancock.

Stakeholders from across the health and social care sector have highlighted that Javid will likely find himself with a rather busy workload despite only starting his new role on Saturday. Aside from the immediate priorities of addressing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, rising NHS waiting lists, social care reform and NHS restructuring will be other key priorities for the new Health Secretary.

On his first day on the job Javid was focused on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and firm in his position that coronavirus restrictions should not be extended past 19 July. In his first statement to the House of Commons as Health Secretary, he said: ‘There remains a big task ahead of us: to restore our freedoms, freedoms that, save for the greatest of circumstances, no government should ever wish to curtail.’ This comes despite mounting concern over the spread of the Delta variant, which is reportedly responsible for 95% of cases in the UK.

The new Health Secretary will be supporting the ongoing Covid-19 vaccine rollout to reach the 19 July date. It is planned that that two-thirds of all adults in the country would have had both doses by then.

NHS Providers have highlighted the wider impacts of the pandemic on the health service. They have said Javid must provide the sector with the ‘support it needs to clear the substantial backlog of care’. This comes as NHS waiting lists are recorded at a record high with more than 5 million patients awaiting treatment, while demands on mental health and emergency services are also rising.

Social care reform was a key 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment, but there still seem to be no concrete plans. In the recent Queen’s speech, the Government promised it would bring forward detailed reform proposals by the end of this year. These proposals will need drive and commitment from the new Health Secretary if they are going to relieve the economic and structural pressures on the sector.

Aside from social care reform, plans to restructure the NHS are already underway with the Health and Care Bill expected to be brought forward to Parliament soon. This Bill would see NHS Integrated Care Systems placed on a statutory level and divulge greater powers over to the (newly appointed) Secretary of State. In the coming weeks, Javid will also help to choose a new NHS England Chief Executive as Sir Simon Stevens will step down from this role in the summer.

Lessons from PRFest on keeping PR sustainable

Lessons from PRFest on keeping PR sustainable

This year’s PRFest took ‘The Sustainable Future of the PR and Communications Industry’ as its key focus, but if you thought ‘sustainability’ = environmental issues only, think again:

‘By sustainable I don’t just mean environment and sustainability practice,’ said PRFest founder Laura Sutherland in her introduction to the five-day virtual festival. ‘I mean: how can we stay relevant? How can we thrive?

‘I would like our industry to start thinking positively, so we can start planning for the future; recognising change and embracing it, rather than running away from it.’

To catch up on sessions focusing on social innovation, upskilling, underrepresented voices and more with speakers from across the industry, passes to the recorded webinars are available here. For a taster, here are some of the insights from day one’s session: ‘How will PR pros need to adapt and what are the learnings from COVID?’

1) Think local
‘Stupidly, I used to think that if there’s a national message being put out, while we might not like the creative, we should accept it – why would we try to recreate it? The pandemic has made me change my view. Local organisations know their people best; messages do have to be tailored to very specific communities. You really understand how important local knowledge and local insight is, now – localism really does work.’
Zander Mills, corporate communication manager for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

2) Get to know your audiences
‘The understanding of community has had to get so much deeper. We’ve worked on vaccine hesitancy in Hackney, why some of our communities don’t trust the NHS – when you listen to black women talk about the enormous disproportionality in terms of maternal death during pregnancy and childbirth, how can you expert them to trust vaccinations?

‘Another example: we consulted our behaviour and insights team on connecting with the members of our community who aren’t technically-savvy. We ended up calling them on their landlines, and that’s something we wouldn’t have considered doing before. Community insight has helped us connect with different people in different ways. It will help us to be better communicators for years to come.’
Polly Cziok, strategic director, engagement, culture, and organisational development for the London Borough of Hackney

3) Turn your camera on (yes, really)
‘It’s great being able to IM people on my team. I found digital transition hard at first; I didn’t know if I should IM particular things; I didn’t want to bother my manager. But people made themselves available, and that made me make sure I was as helpful as possible to my colleagues, too. I felt closer to my team, even though I was further away. But for that to happen, I had to put in effort. Putting my camera on in meetings, speaking up. People can be very anti putting their cameras on, but you can read body language, people can see that you’re authentic with what you’re saying.’
Naomi MG Smith, account executive for Westco Communications

Watch all the recorded sessions from this year’s PRFest with a catch-up pass, available here.

You can also read more about the aims of this year’s PRFest from founder Laura Sutherland and get more tips on sustainability in our write up of this year’s CIPR conference Climate Change and the Role of PR.

Corporate Purpose Summit

‘Comms always thrives in a crisis’: Helen Dunne on the upcoming Corporate Purpose Summit

The CorpComms’ three-day Corporate Purpose Summit starts on 29 June and we’re delighted to be partnering with the event to offer a number of tickets to our network at no charge.

To secure a place (one ticket per person), fill in the form here – but first, read on to find out more about the event’s packed schedule and roster of speakers from brands including Marks & Spencer, Aviva and Penguin Random House UK.

‘I have had an idea for a summit for some time,’ says CorpComms editor and event organiser Helen Dunne. ‘Corporate purpose is a subject that really intrigues me, because it is so multi-faceted. Most corporates now acknowledge that their stakeholders, including ESG investors, want them to do more than simply make money. The events of the past year have also exacerbated that.’

Speaking at the summit to share best practice, as well as their successes and the challenges of the last year, will be:

• Gillian McGill, former global internal and social communications director, Aviva
• Matt Carter, founder of Message House
• Maeve Atkins, external communications manager, Budweiser Brewing Group
• Rupert Gowrley, director of corporate affairs, Bupa Group
• Victoria McKenzie Gould, director of corporate communications, Marks & Spencer
• Miguel Veiga-Pestana, head of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer, Reckitt
• Greg Dawson, director of corporate affairs, DS Smith
• Yasmin Diamond, executive vice president global corporate affairs, IHG Hotels & Resorts
• Greg Sage, director of corporate affairs, Greene King
• Rebecca Sinclar, MD, audiences, brand and communications, Penguin Random House UK
• Hilary Berg, responsible business adviser, Iceland Foods
• George Ames, director of client services, Forster Communications
• Christine Crofts, founder of Kinetic Internal Communications
• Danielle Jones-Hunte, head of employee advocacy, global, BP
• Katja Hall, chief corporate affairs and marketing officer, Capita
• Rosemary McGinness, chief people officer, Weir Group
• Innis Scott, head of engagement, Weir Group
• Esme Knight, head of corporate affairs, Costa Coffee
• Kerry Parkin, director global communications, Zip
• Asad Dhunna, founder of The Unmistakables
• Matt Bell, director of corporate affairs, Grosvenor Group
• Pia Huusfelt, business leader for IKEA global innovation, Inka Group
• Steve Butterworth, chief executive, Neighbourly
• Amanda Powell-Smith, chief executive, Forster Communications
• Nigel Prideaux, director of corporate affairs, NatWest Group
• Roger Barker, director of policy and corporate governance, Institute of Directors
• Matt Young, co-founder, Apella Advisers

Securing such an impressive line-up of experts for an event is tough any year, but in 2021? Even tougher, says Helen:

‘We’ve had many false starts along the way. I don’t envy people who put on summits full-time! But luckily, I have managed to secure a fabulous list of speakers through their kindness and also with the help of my sponsors, Message House and Forster Communications.’

While the full impact of the pandemic on the communication industry and the audiences it serves is yet to be seen, there have undoubtedly been opportunities alongside the new pressure points:

‘Comms always thrives in a crisis,’ believes Helen. ‘Internal comms really stepped out from the shadows during the pandemic as companies put their people first, which meant that, ironically as they were often in remote mode, in many companies employee engagement levels were at record highs. There is a new respect in many organisations for their internal comms people, and I’d like to think that will continue.

‘If purpose is currently on your ‘to do; list, the summit should spark inspiration. But there is something for everybody – including discussions on diversity and inclusion, inclusive capitalism, brand activism, sustainability and even how purpose strengthens the position of the corporate affairs director.

For whether the lessons learned regarding purpose-driven communications and corporate responsibility will last, Helen isn’t certain. But being ready for what comes next will be vital:

‘Inevitably, as business returns to normal, old practices will come back into play. But I think where comms has been integral to the corporate response to the crisis, it will be hard to go back.’

Find out more about the Corporate Purpose Summit and secure your place here on the CorpComms website.

PRCA Equity & Inclusion Council

PRCA renames Diversity Network as the Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council (EIAC)

The PRCA has renamed its Diversity Network to the Equity & Inclusion Advisory Council (EIAC) to better reflect its aims to set benchmarks on Equity & Inclusion for the industry at large and build inclusivity through greater visible representation of the society PR serves.

Mark Webb Podcast

The group will continue to encourage the growth of inclusive cultures in PR, launching monthly podcast Disability@thetable. Hosted by Mark Webb, the podcast will feature guests, best practice advice and the sharing of stories. Potential guest speakers and sponsors are invited to get in touch and more information can be found in Webb’s blog here.

EIAC Chair Sudha Singh said of the rebrand and new projects:

‘For the longest time organisations have been focusing on diversity as a way to correct institutional and historic inequalities. Referring to people as diverse actually ‘others’ those who don’t belong to the dominant groups. So, diversity had to go. We have also seen that this approach has not really worked, the pace of change has been glacial.

‘COVID-19 and BLM last year provided a springboard to accelerate action for changing the status quo. We want to use this momentum to help bring meaningful change within our industry. We want organisations to focus on the equity inspired designs for bringing about that change – to creating equitable workplaces where talented people can thrive, no matter where they come from, what they look like. And this will require organisations to actually identify the problem areas and it is not helpful if you are determined to treat everyone equally. Inclusion of course is an outcome and has diversity at its core – do people feel valued, can they bring their true self to work? What is their experience of the workplace? Do they belong?

‘As an industry which has been striving for a seat at the table we should be able to speak from a position of knowledge and authenticity. That can only happen if we as an industry stop being tokenistic and become more intentional about our journey to equity and inclusion.’

Find out more about the EIAC’s mission, governance and key priorities here.

For more on the PRCA’s ongoing work to increase and support inclusion in the PR and comms industry, read our interviews with PRCA Race and Ethnicity Equiry Board members Barbara Phillips and Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah.

Court case backlog

The backlog of court cases: impact on the legal/justice system

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the justice system and has created an unprecedented backlog of court cases, presenting a challenge to the courts like never before. The impacts of lockdowns and social distancing has minimised court appearances, citing safety concerns for both staff and everyone involved.

The BBC reported that towards the end of 2020, that the most serious cases have piled up to 195,000 which may not be completely addressed until 2024. The issues within the legal system is not one that has stemmed from COVID and in fact the backlog of court cases predates the pandemic but has now reached record levels. The need for Government intervention to reform the courts and the judicial system is clear to see. Many issues are created because of these problems both to the victims, defendants and wider society, however the pandemic has also revealed ways to modernise and adapt our court systems and continue to make them more accessible.

Analysing why the backlog of court cases started before the pandemic reveals various factors and issues that have led to an overstretched system. A report produced by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution which focused on COVID-19 and the Courts discussed some of these longer standing failures which have resulted in this situation. These issues included the decrease in Government funding over the last decade which has fallen by 21%, the decrease in legal aid budgets which have fallen by 40% and the fact that fewer staff were being employed into the workforce by HM Courts & Tribunals Service. All of this has led to a system under intense strain, exasperated by the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, where the Government had left the justice system exposed by a lack of risk assessments and preparation for an emergency situation like this.

The Crown Prosecution Service have highlighted the level of change faced for the justice system, where court workload is 44% higher now than it was prior to the pandemic and that waiting times for crown courts have increased by 25% since last year. The concerning aspect of this situation is that justice delayed is justice denied and there is a risk that victims and witnesses will lose interest and hope in their cases if they are continuously pushed back, with an outcome to their cases unclear. The backlog of court cases also has a domino effect to the rest of the criminal justice system, it has also led to an increase of remand prisons who are kept in an uncertain position, with no access to programmers and support which they would have if they were convicted, leading to a growing group of disgruntled prisoners kept in the unsettling nature of custody.

The reaction of the court systems to try to tackle these issues in the short term, has increased an avenue which can continue to be used more in the future. The Coronavirus Act 2020 extended the use of remote hearings which have acted as a good substitute and should be considered as a widely used alternative form of serving justice in the future . This has led to many adapted procedures, such as prerecorded interviews and statements from both vulnerable witnesses and victims, which has provided them with a more comfortable and confident environment to communicate their evidence. Remote hearings also allow live streaming so that the public can see and hear them. In the longer term, this method can help to clear this backlog as it speeds up and makes court processes easier to carry out. The success of remote hearings has been presented by the Institute for Government who have stated in their performance tracker 2020, that:

‘On 23 March, 550 court or tribunal hearings used video or audio technology. Two weeks later, the figure stood at more than 3,000, accounting for around 90% of the total cases processed.’

This shows that although the backlog of cases has grown substantially, the situation would have been much worse without remote hearings. There is a need for the Government to assess both the success and failures in introduced technologies during the pandemic to improve the ability to digitise our court services and improve access to justice.

Government reaction to this, both in the short term and long term, is crucial to tackling this issue of court case backlogs and the underfunding of the judiciary system. In terms of an immediate response, the Government has focused on investing more money into the courts, opening temporary courtrooms to increase the accessibility/availability of environments for trials to take place. However, this is a not a long-term solution nor is it at the rate needed to sufficiently tackle this backlog.

The recent Queen’s Speech revealed details around the Government’s plan in reforming areas of the legal system, with many measures welcomed, albeit overdue. Within the Queen’s Speech, the Government spoke about modernising court processes through documentation being transferred to more electronic means and more procedures being completed online, such as stating pleas. The Government’s focus is ensuring legislation as ensures the timely administration of justice. The Government has focused funding towards the roll out of new technology – though virtual and remote hearings, hiring more staff and adding up to 60 nightingale courtrooms, totaling investment of over £250mn. In reference to victims losing trust in the courts system as they have continuously seen their cases pushed back, the Government also committed to increased funding for victim support services this year, totaling to £151mn and an additional £5mn for Witness Care Units, to support witnesses/victims through these court processes.

Overall, the Government is investing over £1 billion to transform the courts and tribunals system and a further £142 million in COVID-19 funding to support court recovery and upgrades necessary to tackle these growing issues. Although an assessment on the successes of Government intervention can only be made after an extensive period, we have already seen some stabilisation of the court backlog, where the rise of the backlog has stalled, acting as a good indication that the Governments interventions are having an immediate effect.

G7 overview

Overview of the G7

The G7 communique, published at the end of the summit last Sunday, sets out six areas of global action: 1) End the pandemic and prepare for the future, 2) Reinvigorate our economies, 3) Secure our future prosperity, 4) Protect our planet, 5) Strengthen our partnerships and 6) Embrace our values.

Among these goals, there are ambitions to help developing countries recover from the pandemic and ‘build back better’ for the future. Despite the ambitious pledges, there are still concerns from the international development sector on the level of commitment shown by the G7 leaders, particularly the UK which is the only G7 country to have reduced its foreign aid budget in light of the economic cost of the pandemic.

Covid-19 vaccine distribution
Ahead of the summit, G7 leaders committed to providing 1bn Covid-19 vaccines over the next year, including 100m surplus coronavirus vaccinations from the UK. The UK has committed to delivering 5m doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks, primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries. Of the 100m doses, the UK will donate 5m doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks, primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries. 25m more will be donated by the end of 2021. 80% of the 100m doses will go to COVAX and the remainder will be shared bilaterally with countries in need. At the end of the summit, the communique totaled the final commitments at 870m, just short of the 1bn planned.

UNICEF has welcomed the commitment from the G7 to rollout vaccines, emphasising that without a global vaccination programme, the world will be more at risk of variants that could threaten the vaccinated and unvaccinated. They also call for an accelerated timetable in light of several forecasts which suggest that G7 countries will have enough vaccine supplies to donate 1 billion doses by as early as the end of 2021, rather than the 2022 goal proposed.

Moreover, despite the large numbers of vaccines promised, it is not clear that they will go far enough. In a critique, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown argued that 11bn vaccine doses are needed to guarantee all countries the same levels of anti-Covid protection as the west. He said: ‘The gift of 1bn doses from the richest countries to the poorest is headline-grabbing and welcome. But it falls billions of doses short of a solution and does not answer what Johnson called “the greatest challenge of the postwar era”.’

Alongside the communique, the G7 set out frameworks to strengthen its collective defences against threats to global health. This includes the ‘Carbis Bay Declaration’ which promises to reduce the time taken to develop and licence vaccines, reinforce global surveillance networks, and reform and strengthen the World Health Organisation.

Girls’ education has been a primary objective for UK foreign policy in recent years so it was no surprise that this was a focal point for the UK, particularly with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) coming up next month. The UK pledged £430 million to the GPE to get the world’s most vulnerable children, particularly girls, into school. This funding pledge is on top of the £400m of UK aid which will be spent this year on bilateral efforts to increase girls’ access to education.

At the session, G7 leaders discussed also how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic in a way that creates opportunities for everyone. Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to targets set at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in May to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 in the next five years.

Plan International has welcomed the funding commitments from the G7 and the action plan to address the ‘devastating impact’ of the pandemic on girl’s education. However, it argues that the G7 funding commitments to GPE, totaling $2.75 bn will not be enough. GPE hopes to raise $5bn from donors, including $3.5bn from the G7.

Meanwhile, ActionAid has highlighted that the new funding pledge for girl’s education comes at the same time as the Government is cutting its aid budget on girls’ education by 40%. They argue that advancing girl’s education should form part of a wider Government response to gender equality, including by tackling violence against women and girls.

Climate change
Under the Prime Minister’s plans to Build Back Better for the World he laid forward a new approach intended to give developing countries access to more, better and faster finance while accelerating the global shift to renewable energy and sustainable technology. It includes a £500m Blue Planet Fund to protect the ocean and marine biodiversity and a Nature Compact to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. WWF has welcomed these announcements but has called for pledges to be converted into concrete policy goals and implemented at pace to reach the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This will be vital ‘to abate the induced catastrophes the world is increasingly experiencing and will continue to unless we urgently transform our broken relationship with the natural environment.’

Alongside this UK, Germany and USA announced new action to scale up protection for the world’s most vulnerable communities against the impacts of climate change. The £120m new funding from the UK and £125m new funding from Germany will enable quicker responses for vulnerable people when extreme weather and climate-linked disasters hit. This will protect those most at risk in Africa, South East Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific and help reduce losses and damage to communities, infrastructure and livelihoods caused by climate change.

Finally, the G7 Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and multilateral partners also pledged to invest over $80 billion in the private sector in Africa over the next 5 years. The investments will support the long-term development objectives of African economies, including those which have been negatively hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With investments focused on renewable power, infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology sectors it is aimed that they will provide clean, reliable power to millions of people, help create jobs and reduce poverty.

Five reasons to work with freelance journalists on your PR campaigns

5 reasons to build better relationships with freelance journalists for your PR campaigns

Should freelancers be at the top of your list for building meaningful – and useful – connections with the media? Yes, and here are five reasons why, from our latest webinar with Journo Resources’ Jem Collins and Faima Bakar, and Freelancing for Journalists’ Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson…

Watch the full Building better relationships between PRs and journalists webinar or read our write up with more advice from the event here.

1) Most freelance journalists are already au fait with, and effective at, working remotely
Switching to remote working had its difficulties in the PR and media industries as calls to offices weren’t always diverted to homes and inboxes were flooded with more emails than ever, just for starters. One community who already knew how to manage working from home effectively? Freelancers:

‘With people working from home who weren’t used to it during the first lockdown, the amount of requests for calls and catch ups with me really went through the roof,’ said Jem. ‘There was a month or two that was Call Central, so it’s good to see people have settled more into hybrid working. I’ve always worked from home and already had quite a good comms system set up.’

2) Your working relationship with a freelance journalist can be more intimate than with a staffer…
…in the most professional meaning of that word. Staff news teams may find relevant press releases useful to write up, but a freelancer will want exclusivity and something deeper.

‘It really is a different relationship that you’ll have with freelancers,’ said Lily. ‘Exclusivity is key. I want something that nobody else has. An exclusive case study, or you can work with me to do an exclusive report from some data you’ve been able to gather.

It’s about building a unique relationship with an individual. It’s more of an intimate relationship that you have with a freelancer.’

3) A freelancer may have more freedom to collaborate closely with you on content
‘The relationships I have with PRs that work will be those that come to me with something specific and they want my advice as well,’ said Emma. ‘Like, “I’ve got this info, where do you think this might fit?” It can be more of a back and forth between us.

‘Those PRs will also note when I tweet when I’m doing a particular feature, or send out an enquiry via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, and understand that commissioning process. If I’m interested in your story, I will pitch it, but I don’t have the power to just publish that information. Understand our beat and how commissioning works for us.’

4) Want a different take on your research/data/survey results? A freelancer will be able to think of a new angle
If you have some intriguing data and think you’ve come up with all the possible angles that might be of interest to the media and its readership, think again:

‘As a freelancer, I keep getting those generic press releases, but I’m interested in unique and interesting case studies, even if you’re pitching them to in-house staff,’ said Faima.

‘If you have commissioned research – get in touch with me. I might be able to pull out a line and build a whole feature around it. I’ve managed to pitch a piece based on research like that to Stylist. If it’s research that’s relevant to the journalist; go for it.’

5) Freelancers potentially have a broader reach than staffers working for one publication
While staffers are often limited to certain topics, times and formats, freelancers can be writing on a variety of subjects, to different deadlines, for many different outlets:

‘I’m normally working several weeks ahead, but for a magazine, it would be two or three months in advance. If it’s for Metro, it might be a month in advance. It does depend, so that’s why I’d advise building a connection with freelancers,’ said Lily.

‘They’re working for lots of different publications. It might be print, websites, magazines – lots of different audiences.’

‘Understand how each freelancer works, because we all do it very differently.’

For more on working with freelancers, watch the full webinar here, check out these tips for making the most out of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service and here is more advice on pitching to freelancers effectively. 

Building better relationships between PRs and journalists

How to build better relationships between PRs and journalists with Journo Resources and Freelancing for Journalists

We teamed up with Journo Resources and Freelancing for Journalists for our latest virtual event Building better relationships between PRs and journalists to find out how better connections can make working life a little easier for both sides of the equation.

Watch Building better relationships between PRs and journalists here.

Sharing wisdom with our mixed PR (mainly PR – 90%) and journalist audience was Journo Resources founder Jem Collins and senior staff writer Faima Baker and Freelancing for Journalists co-founders Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson.

Each regularly freelance, with the combined panel covering topics as diverse as lifestyle, healthcare, human rights, religion, culture, race, medicine and personal finance. Despite the vast differences in subject, each shared common experiences of working with PRs and how the industry can better serve them in their work.

Not everything has to be a video call
‘I noticed this – if you set up an interview, now PRs are saying to you want to do a video call rather than a phone call,’ said Lily. ‘Zoom is great for this kind of thing, but I prefer doing interviews over phone, for example, because I’m not going to have eye contact with the other person – I’ll be taking notes. We don’t have to do everything as a video call.’

Keep your email signature and Contact Us pages up-to-date
‘Contacting PRs and their clients became harder when working from home, at first – I was in the habit of Googling a client and then calling them,’ said Faima.

‘It was harder to get through to people – I was someone who’d meet up with PRs; I like that face-to-face interaction. I’ve had less contact with PRs since the start of the pandemic, but some have been really good with putting their mobile number on their website.’

Approach freelancers differently than you would staffers
It really is a different relationship that you’ll have with freelancers,’ said Lily. ‘My top tip for working with us is that exclusivity is key. We don’t want the release you’ve sent to every single news desk – there’s nothing we can pitch. It’s different if we’re covering a news shift.’

‘It’s not useful to me if I’ve been sent the same thing everyone else has seen,’ said Jem.

‘There’s a big difference between ringing a newsroom, one person on a team, and ringing one person working alone and disrupting them. I’m very guarded with my mobile number because 90% of the time I’m called, it’s to remind me of a press release that isn’t relevant to me, as a freelancer.’

Work with journalists on the ‘smaller’ publications to get a chance at the ‘bigger’ ones in future
‘Be as willing to work with a freelancer on a smaller publication as you would on a larger one,’ said Jem.
‘I’ve found that sometimes PRs won’t want to give something to me because I’m not working on a national for that piece. But PRs that are happy to reply to something smaller are great, and the value in that for the PR is you’ll be the first person the journalist will go to for something bigger.

Connect with journalists by responding to requests
‘I’d really like to emphasise, from my point-of-view, how to build a relationship – it’s not about you coming to me, it’s about you responding to me – that’s where I build relationships,’ advised Lily.

‘If I send out a request via the Responsesource Journalist Enquiry Service or tweet with the #JournoRequest hashtag, I will be more likely to come back to you next time if you reply to me with a relevant expert or relevant content. I’ll be much more likely to work with you and your client.

‘That’s where a relationship starts – with a response. It won’t happen from you emailing me. It’s the same with freelancing – cold-calling editors is hard, responding with what they need is better.’

Give journalists what they’re actually requesting
‘Every good relationship I have with a PR started with them responding to me,’ said Emma. ‘They found a case study, or they knew of some new tech. I’m more likely to have a chat over what I find useful if you’re helped me out. ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ kind of thing.

‘Respond to what has been sent out in the request, exactly. Don’t use it as an opportunity to jump to something else. That sounds super simple, but I do get ‘I don’t have this, but I do have this’ responses. Make sure you do have what I’m looking for – no tangential jump. And be timely – I use the Journalist Enquiry Service when I’m under a deadline; jump on relevant requests quickly.’

Brief your clients fully before offering an interview
‘It’s so important to make sure that if you sent a press release offering case studies, make sure they’re available,’ said Faima.

Lily agreed: ‘It’s really frustrating if case studies and spokespeople haven’t been briefed properly. I understand that things are really busy but if it’s going to work everybody needs to be onboard.’

Watch the full virtual event here for more insight on connecting with journalists as a PR and here are more tips on providing media professionals with the kind of content they’re looking for with the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Investment in education

Reactions to the resignation of the Education Recovery Commissioner

The Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins’ letter of resignation followed the Government’s announcement that it was offering a further £1.5bn in education catch up support for young people, around 10% of what he had suggested was needed.

Sir Collin was direct about the impact of this gap between the two figures, stating: ‘I do not believe it is credible that a successful recovery can be achieved with a programme of support of this size’. He also said he believed ‘the settlement provided will define the international standing of England’s education system for years to come’.

This link to international standards in education was picked up by Labour leader Keir Starmer at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Starmer pointed out the funding, equivalent to £310 per child over the next four years, paled in comparison to the US’s catch up plan worth over £1,600 per child and £2,500 in the Netherlands. He quoted Sir Kevan Collins describing the catch up as ‘too small, too narrow and too slow’.

Labour responded to the announcements with an opposition day debate on investing in children and young people, which Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green commented that the amount of catch up funding offered is inexplicable given the Prime Minister’s claim that children’s education is his priority. The Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson did not attend the debate and it was instead taken by the Secretary of State for School Standards Nick Gibb. The entire House voted to issue a motion of regret of the resignation of the education recovery commissioner and:

‘…agrees with Sir Kevan’s assessment that the current half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of young people; and therefore calls on the Government to bring forward a more ambitious plan before the onset of the school summer holiday which includes an uplift to the pupil premium and increased investment in targeted support, makes additional funding available to schools for extracurricular clubs and activities to boost children’s wellbeing, and provides free school meals to all eligible children throughout the summer holiday.’

The Government has expressed that what has been announced is only part of the full catch up plan, of which more is to be revealed at the Spending Review. This is despite previous commitments to have Sir Collins’ recommendations delivered outside of that process, and a catch-up programme in place by September 2021. As Green rightly pointed out, Johnson has repeatedly said that education and the future of young people is a priority and key element of the coronavirus response. This makes the comparably low funding which caused the Commissioner to seems strange and out of touch with the Government’s skills drive, particularly given the lack of support for 16-19 education within the support programme. Pundits have wagered the Treasury ‘took a carving knife’ to more substantial plans set out by Secretary of State Gavin Williamson, leading calls for his resignation. Researchers at the IFS, however, commented that the decision may have been taken out of fears of the benefits of extra tuition and education support leading to a permanent increase in spending.

During a media round following the resignation news, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi recentred teachers’ unions as detrimental to education catch up, mentioning their opposition to extending the school day. Angela Rayner hit back, stating Tory Minister’s ‘always try to attack unions to distract from their own failures’.

Although the investment in education recovery so far totals over £3bn, as Sir Collins said, reducing spend in education at this point is a false economy. Further, the Institute for Fiscal Studies noted that if the losses to learning over the last year are not addressed ‘costs could easily run into hundreds of billions as a result of lost skills and productivity’. The sector will eagerly await the next announcements at the Spending Review, although it seems unlikely that it will meet the former Recovery Commissioner’s recommendations amongst a package of spending. The question left after that is whether Sir Collins was right in his estimations of what failing to make up for the learning loss of the pandemic will mean.

Sector responses:
• Labour Shadow Education Secretary said:
‘Kevan Collins’ resignation is a damning indictment of the Conservatives’ education catch-up plan.
He was brought in by Boris Johnson because of his experience and expertise in education, but the Government have thrown out his ideas as soon as it came to stumping up the money needed to deliver them.’

• Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education Daisy Cooper said:
‘Sir Kevan was a good appointment and many of us were cheering him on. The Government’s pitiful offer of a £1.4bn to support a generation of young people who have lost months of learning was an insult to him and to our young people.

Our children deserve better than this useless Education Secretary. Time and time again he keeps getting it wrong. It really is the last straw – the Education Secretary has to go.’

• Director of Education & Skills at Nacro Lisa Capper commented:
‘We must see more focus on closing the clear and significant attainment gap among 16-19-year-olds, an often-overlooked group. It is also vital that no matter where you learn, all 16-19 year olds see the benefit of this funding, including those who learn with charitable and independent providers. These students are often those most in need of support to catch up, and who benefit from the wrap around support these centres provide.’

• Sutton Trust Executive Chair and Education Endowment Foundation Chairman Sir Peter Lampl said:
‘Creating an ambitious, sustainable recovery plan to support every pupil is a considerable challenge. The extension of tutoring for the most disadvantaged young people is crucial as it’s a highly cost-effective method of making up for lost learning. The focus on quality teaching, investing in the teaching profession and early years practitioners is also much needed.

‘However, the proposed funding is only a fraction of what is required. Low-income students who have already been most heavily impacted by Covid-19 will be disadvantaged even more and overall standards, which have fallen dramatically, will be very slow to recover.

‘Sir Kevan Collins is right that much more will be needed if we are to mitigate the long-term impact of the pandemic.’

• National Association of Head Teachers General Secretary Paul Whiteman said:
‘Today’s statement confirms the disappointing scope and scale of the government’s ambition for children and young people. The government has missed an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young people in the short term, and ignored the necessity of putting down some firm recovery foundations for the long term. By every measure, this is a low-cost option when what pupils deserved was something first class.’

• Education Policy Institute
The EPI found that the new education recovery package of £1.4bn amounts to around £50 extra per pupil per year – a fraction of the level of funding required to reverse learning loss seen by pupils since March 2020. They commented the Government ‘decided not to take the opportunity’ to offer evidence-based interventions to protect against long-run negative impacts to education and wellbeing.

• Association of Colleges Chief Executive David Hughes said:
‘The plans for the next steps of the recovery plan will disappoint colleges and students with the least amount of time left in education. The extension of the tuition funding is good news but the failure to fund additional teaching hours or to extend the pupil premium to age 18 means that many disadvantaged students may fall through the gaps.’

Global Tax Reform

Global tax reform

The G7 has agreed to back a historic two pillar international agreement on global tax reform that will mean the largest multinational tech giants will pay their fair share of tax in the countries in which they operate – and not just where they have their headquarters. As part of this landmark deal, Finance Ministers also agree to the principle of a global minimum rate that ensures multinationals pay tax of at least 15% in each country they operate.

The plan is based on two ‘pillars’ that have long been under discussion by the OECD, Group of 20 (G20) countries and their so-called Inclusive Framework. Under pillar one, countries would get a new right of taxation over a share of profits generated in their jurisdiction by an overseas-headquartered multinational. This would mean taxing the source of a company’s revenue regardless of the firm’s physical location. This would crack down on profit-shifting to low-tax jurisdictions. The rules would apply to global firms with at least a 10% profit margin – and would see 20% of any profit above the 10% margin reallocated and then subjected to tax in the countries they operate.

Under Pillar Two, the G7 also agreed to the principle of at least 15% global minimum corporation tax operated on a country by country basis. This is lower than a 21% proposal put forward by the US president, Joe Biden, earlier this year and lower than what the Labour party has been calling for. However, it is still regarded as a turning point, and the inclusion of “at least” in the G7 deal means it could be negotiated higher.

Which companies would it apply to?
The burden is likely to fall primarily on technology and pharmaceutical firms that have been able to place their business locations and intangible intellectual property in low- or no-tax locations and book their revenues in those jurisdictions. The details about which firms would be affected have yet to be worked out. The Biden administration has proposed that about 100-150 multinationals would be within the scope of pillar one. At any rate, the digital profits tax would apply only to firms making profit margins of over 10%–meaning many firms with low margins, including possibly Amazon – would remain exempt (its profit margin in 2020 was only 6.3%).

Moreover, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly pushing for the City of London to be carved out of the G7’s plans for a global tax agreement. The Financial Times quotes an official close to the discussions as saying that the UK was one of several countries pushing for ‘an exemption on financial services’.

How much would it raise?
The OECD estimated last October that as much as $81bn (£57bn) in additional tax revenues each year would be raised under the reforms. Pillar one would bring in between $5bn and $12bn, while pillar two, the global minimum rate, would collect between $42bn and $70bn. However, this assumed that a global minimum rate of 12.5% would be applied under pillar two. It also captures a larger number of multinationals under pillar one. The Tax Justice Network advocacy group estimates that a 21% minimum rate would bring in $640bn in underpaid tax each year.

There are various estimates for how much individual countries would recover. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank’s Centre for Economic Justice, the UK would reap an extra £14.7bn annually from a 21% global minimum rate. IPPR reported that a global minimum corporation tax rate of at least 15% could raise £7.9bn for the UK, but warned this rate would not be enough to end the race to the bottom on tax. The Labour party said that the lower rate of 15% would let big multinational firms off £131m per week which could be used to fund the NHS and other public services instead.

What next?
The topic will be discussed at OECD group meetings in Paris on 30 June – 1 July 1st, and then again when G20 Finance Ministers and Central Governors meet in Venice on 9 – 10 July.

However, global corporate tax reform will prove difficult to implement. In the EU the plans will require a directive, subject to veto by the low-tax economies such as Ireland or Hungary, and passage of associated changes by national parliaments. Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe tweeted: ‘I look forward now to engaging in the discussions at @OECD. There are 139 countries at the table, and any agreement will have to meet the needs of small and large countries, developed and developing’. The battle for low-tax countries is likely to be about building support for a lower minimum rate (closer to Ireland ‘s current rate of 12.5%) or seeking certain exemptions.

Political prospects are difficult in the US too. Biden team could probably push through the global reform in the evenly divided Senate under so-called ‘reconciliation’, which requires a simple majority, if they can do so before the November 2022 mid-term elections or do not lose seats in that electoral contest.