Philip Lymbery Pow Wow Blog

Green Blogger Spotlight: Philip Lymbery, Pow Wow Blog

Passionate about animals and nature since joining the RSPB’s Young Ornithologists Club 40 years ago, Philip Lymbery shares eye-opening updates from across the world on the treatment of animals and the environment on the Pow Wow Blog.

As conversations concerning pollution, fast fashion and the meat industry got louder while the outside world became quieter during lockdown, Philip has been contributing to the #BuildBackBetter movement with his blogging. Read on for issues Philip thinks we should all be more aware of and the importance of working together to ‘put the birds back in our skies, the insect noise in our fields and the life in our soils.’

How did you originally get started with writing about green issues?
40 years ago, as an avid member of the RSPB’s Young Ornithologist’s Club (YOC), I took part in a project to find Britain’s most common garden bird. I’ve written and been passionate about nature and the environment, ever since. Those early birds shaped my life, taught me to appreciate the natural world and that’s how I came to realise that the plight of wild birds, farm animals and our own well-being, are all intertwined. My formal Pow Wow Blog started in 2017 with my website and I am hugely grateful that Vuelio has ranked it as a top 10 Green Blog for the last three years.

What’s your favourite thing to post about why?
Without doubt, it is to make the world aware of the environmental impact of meat and dairy, particularly from factory farms. Factory farmed meat and dairy is responsible for devouring nearly half the world’s grain harvest and nearly all its soya – it comes with a huge cost. Deforestation, pollution, climate change and destruction of wildlife. All of that grain, which gives back a fraction of the calories and protein in meat, milk and eggs, could have fed more than four billion people. We must end our broken food system and the industrial farming of animals. It is the greatest form of animal abuse on the planet; it destroys the natural world and it’s also a breeding ground for disease.

Philip Lymbery and pigs

Have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
Yes. I found that there has been a real appetite for COVID-19 related news and blogs. During lockdown, everyone was more active online and I published a series of pandemic blogs and video diaries covering every aspect of the story – from the wet wildlife market in Wuhan, to the need to #BuildBackBetter and renew a stronger relationship with nature and our environment. In addition, I was able to draw the important parallel between the caging and confinement of wildlife as a source of new viruses, with the cruel practice of factory farming.

What are some of the environmental stories/issues happening at the moment that you’d wish more people knew about?
We know the solution to so many of the challenges facing us are to be found in nature. We need to work together towards a better future for our environment and put back the birds in our skies, the insect noise in our fields and the life in our soils.

For those who are just getting into greener living, what are three small changes you would recommend people start with?
It’s not difficult because we can all make a difference through our food choices, three times a day on our plate. And that’s by eating more plants and choosing meat, dairy and eggs from pasture fed, organic and free-range farms. We urgently need to replace factory farming with a food system that respects animals, nurtures our planet, and reduces the risk of pandemics.

Philip Lymbery and sheep

Will the growth of veganism continue?
Yes. Food culture and the place of meat within it is changing. We now have a wide choice of vegetable-based alternatives for traditional meat, and the dominance of dairy, too, is being challenged by plant-based competitors with ‘milks’ made from oat, almond, soya or coconut. Whatever dairy could do, plant-milks now do too and seem to be elbowing their way to ever more shelf space.

The reasons however, that people may be moving to a vegan diet may differ. It may be for environmental reasons, or because they care passionately about the welfare and sentience of animals, or indeed for their own health benefits.

What advice do you give to other bloggers about the ways to keep an audience engaged, despite sometimes having to share upsetting news and facts?
I have found that it is absolutely key to have a good blog title and main image to attract attention and encourage the reader to click through to the main blog story. Likewise, content must be relevant and topical for the audience to keep them engaged e.g. during the pandemic lockdown, COVID-19 articles were highly popular for obvious reasons, almost to the exclusion of everything else. However, not everyone wishes to see pictures of suffering, be it human or animal, so I have always tried to show images that don’t offend but help add some drama and depth, to the overall blog story. I have also found it helpful to peg to certain ‘special days’ in the year.

What are the most important things you wish your audience to take away from your green blogs?
To understand that each and every one of us has the power to make a difference on this planet. It may be small, but by working together we can make a real impact. This could be an individual behavioural change, such as eating more plant-based foods, or signing a petition.

Last Autumn, I was thrilled to be in Brussels along with other NGO leaders, supporters and MEPs to celebrate achieving a record-breaking European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition and inspiring a continent to stand up for an end to cages. We amassed 1.6 million signatures on the petition, sending a resounding message to the European Commission that cage cruelty must stop. It was a landmark event only made possible by single individuals taking action and signing the petition.

What other writers do you check out regularly (whether green-related or not)?
I tend to check those opinion leaders in the environment sector, like George Monbiot at The Guardian and others who have a powerful voice for the need for a new regenerative food system and for nature, like Chris Packham, Inger Anderson (executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme) and Gunhild Storladen of the EAT Foundation.

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Public affairs events

A recess like no other: when will events be back on the Parliamentary agenda?

This is a guest post from Nicole Wilkins [pictured], Publisher of forward-planning diary service Foresight News. 

Foresight news nicole wilkinsAs Parliament heads into its six-week summer recess, the effects of COVID-19 and the lingering lockdown restrictions continue to be felt in how diaries have (and haven’t) been filled.

In a normal year, recess caps off weeks of summer receptions and garden parties, giving everyone a chance to get some networking done before Westminster goes quiet in August. Public affairs teams can then take advantage of the summer to start planning for September, with party conferences often top of the list for engagement opportunities.

Not so, this year: there were no summer parties like last year, think tank events were replaced by Zoom webinars, and pubs were only open for the last two and half weeks of the session. While MPs have been back in Westminster since 2 June, most of Whitehall is still working from home and some parliamentary business remains subject to the constraints of remote working.

Most committee hearings, for example, are still being held virtually, with sessions and witnesses often announced at the last minute. This is partly due to the overall disruption and the urgent nature of many of the committees’ coronavirus-related inquiries, but they are also benefitting from not having to worry about packed diaries and the logistics of getting everyone in the same room at the same time.

While civil servants may begin to return to the office in August, Government guidance on events is not due to change before parliament returns, so September is likely to look pretty similar. With more people returning to work, and restaurants and pubs open, there will be more scope for one-on-one engagement, but APPGs, seminars and committees will still be virtual, and larger networking receptions will be off the table for another at least another month.

But the Government’s determination for lawmakers to lead the way back to normality does allow for some small, socially-distanced opportunities. The Henry Jackson Society was able to take advantage of MPs’ presence in Westminster to host a roundtable with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer have both been doing the kind of site visits and photo ops that couldn’t be justified under lockdown. Even on the virtual front, organisations are beginning to get back to their main priorities; whereas the beginning of lockdown was a scramble to salvage pre-pandemic events and then to find the coronavirus angle, the past month has brought more groups getting back to their bread and butter issues.

Looking ahead to September, the most obvious challenge is the party conference-shaped holes in the calendar: the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all moved their conferences online, while the parties that hold their events later in the autumn may not have clarity on changing guidelines in time to put together a physical event.

Some teams are already planning their own virtual fringe, but with no shortage of webinars to watch, it’s a good idea to start thinking about different formats to see if you can incorporate some of the other beneficial elements of attending conference, aside from listening to speeches. Though Zoom and Teams are now live-stream standards, the Lib Dems have announced that their conference will be held via Hopin, a platform that incorporates a randomised chat element to try to recreate the networking aspect of in-person events.

But for those who are really missing warm wine, small talk and even smaller sandwiches, there is some optimism in the not-so-distant future: Boris Johnson’s plans for conferences and business events to return from October and relaxation on social distancing in November offers hope for a return to normality just in time for Christmas receptions.

 

Get in touch with Nicole to request a free one-week trial of Foresight News.

Kirsty Maxey

How the financial services sector has had to adapt in reaction to COVID-19

This is a guest post from Kirsty Maxey, CEO of Teamspirit.

An industry that has needed to flex incredibly quickly during the COVID-19 outbreak is the financial services sector. Many people are living on a reduced income or, in some cases, people have seen their monthly income drop completely. Banks, lenders, financial advice firms and investment companies have had to pivot quickly and efficiently to support the needs of the customers dealing with this significant change in personal circumstance.

Practical measures like mortgage and credit card holidays, extended overdrafts and emergency small business loans have all been introduced and are crucial in helping people.

But, it’s not just the product offering and support systems that financial services companies have had to quickly adapt. Throughout a crisis, communication is not only crucial for brands in maintaining contact with customers but can be transformative. It is vital for cementing the most important relationships – from employees to customers, suppliers, creditors, investors and the wider community.

During the coronavirus crisis the focus of FS brands has, rightly, turned to the needs of the customer with a move to humanise content – something we have seen across multiple industries. I bet you all have an email in your inbox which is titled ‘A message from our CEO’. This move is no flash in the pan and will continue for years to come.

As the messages delivered by brands rightly evolve it is key that marketing and PR spend isn’t one of the first things to be cut, especially when competitors might be doing just that.

In the FS sector, brands that have handled their messaging well include Moneyhub, which in response to the pandemic offered a six-month free trial for users and shared content that signposts where help and advice can be found. And then there are brands like Fidelity and Charles Stanley, who have used the opportunity to grow their share of voice while the rest of the market has reduced their spend.

Businesses that continue to maintain share of voice and share of market are proven to see increases in profitability that outweigh short-term savings.

Health comms

How digital can create more human conversations

In the last few years, the acceleration of AI technology alongside the extension of social media into (almost) every aspect of day to day life has prompted rapid evolution of digital communications. It’s a theme that we are very focused on at Vuelio having talked recently at PRFest on the implications of tech for reputation management and engagement. In truth, it is a topic that leads our entire organisation because it defines what the PR and Communications industries need and want from our platform – and why we were delighted to support last week’s PRCA Health Conference.

At the conference, our chief marketing officer Natalie Orringe joined a panel session to address the question of how digital can create more human conversations. Expert speakers included Maja Pawinska Sims, associate editor (EMEA) at PRovoke Media; Rachel Royall, director of healthcare, wellbeing and pharma at Markettiers; and session chair Jon Buckley, director of digital, strategy & insights at Pegasus.

Of course, no debate on digital can ignore the current context. The lockdown has accelerated the trend to digital being the only way for companies, particularly those in healthcare, to listen, understand then engage with audiences – internal and external. But, as those in PR and communications know, it comes with incredible challenges from rebutting fake information to finding effective means of communicating with specific interest groups who may shift to communicate via closed groups.

The panel’s consensus was that the shift to personalisation was fundamental and one the industry had to embrace rather than shy away from. According to Rachel, to some extent, the trend played to the industry’s strengths such as understanding the relationships needed to create high impact, person-centric case studies that deliver powerful, engaging and informative content.

However, for personalisation to inspire a step change in reaching audiences, for Natalie there had to be a step change in how health communicators considered digital. Rather than seeing it as a means to reach large groups, tech makes it possible in real time to analyse large data sets and better understand the communities within audience or patient groups. These insights can then be used to build creative, content and campaigns based on needs, wants and, most importantly, what is authentic to the brand or organisation.

This shift from seeing personalisation as a problem to an opportunity for more effective communications is where Jon believes digital truly can unlock more human conversations.

Find out how technology can help make your comms more effective. 

Adapting comms strategy

4 tips on adapting comms strategies in the wake of COVID-19

This guest post is by Kirsty Maxey, CEO of Teamspirit.

We’ve all experienced change recently. Change to our daily routines, personal lives and working lives – in fact almost every aspect of our lives has changed. Just as we have had to adapt to this new way of life, so have the companies that we interact with every single day. Their success relies on their ability to meet our ever-changing needs.

As we support clients adapting their communications strategy into the new world of normal, here are some key things to consider with them.

1. Customer – first and foremost
Understand how your customer is redefining value – and respond. What are their needs now? How can you meet them? What channels are most efficient in reaching them? Online video, broadcast and TV streaming take the top spots overall for increased media consumption, proving popular across all generations. Millennials are driving the increased usage of radio, podcasts and audio streaming; how can you update your strategy to meet this?

2. Consistency
History shows that maintaining spend can improve market share, whether competitors are cutting back or not, and customers will value the reassurance of recognising known brands. Brands that advertised during the 2008 financial crash saw nine times faster recovery in their stock market value, and people haven’t forgotten this.

Research from this year’s BrandZ data shows that 78% of people believe that brands should help them in their daily lives, highlighting your consumers, employers and stakeholders want to keep hearing from you.

3. Cost
Customers will be cost conscious and keen to get the best deal. The key is to remain competitive and reward loyalty.

4. Core values
Highlight what you stand for as a business to both employees and loyal customers and how these values translate into the current context.
As we emerge from this crisis, not only do financial services have a structural opportunity to be the engine of recovery, helping businesses and customers to emerge resilient, they have a greater opportunity, through adept communication, to transform both people’s lives and our world for the better.

Looking for ways to recovery post COVID-19? Check out the Vuelio Recovery Hub, with exclusive offers for products and services.

Becky Excell

Baking Blogger Spotlight: Becky Excell

Reuniting people with the cakes and cookies they may not have been able to eat in years is just one of the things gluten-free baker Becky Excell loves most about being a blogger. Read on for some of her favourite recipes shared over the years and one she’s still yet to fully master…

What keeps you passionate about baking and blogging about it?
I would love to say it’s because I’m so incredibly self-motivated, but in reality, I’m definitely not! It’s actually all the wonderful comments that my followers leave me that keeps me motivated, but most of all it’s when they tag me in photos of what they’ve baked using my recipes. That undoubtedly keeps me infinitely passionate and motivated! Plus, as I’m a gluten-free baker, it makes me so happy to know that I’m reuniting people with bakes they may not have otherwise eaten in literally years.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
It was definitely a change that I had to react quite quickly to. Much like with regular flour, gluten-free flour was incredibly hard to come by for at least a solid month or more. So instead of the usual sponge cake, cookies and brownie-based recipes, I had to get my thinking cap on and try to make as many ‘flour-free’ recipes as I could. Fortunately, recipes like no-bake cheesecakes only require gluten-free biscuits which you can bash up for the base and then the filling is pretty simple. I felt like baking became a lot of people’s escape from the madness (and boredom) of the COVID-19 lockdown, so I tried really hard to create and post recipes that were simple, quick and omitted ingredients that were hard to come by.

Funnily enough, I think most people preferred the easy, quick recipes anyway!

Have you tried any of the recipes that have gone viral/been popular during lockdown?
For a few solid weeks, the entire world seemed to be making banana bread, so naturally, I had to whip up one or two (or seven) loaves of my own! I’m not entirely sure why banana bread became the official cake of lockdown, but it is one of those comforting, wholesome bakes that you absolutely cannot go wrong with. I didn’t try the Dalgona coffee, that everyone seemed to love, though… as I don’t like coffee!

What’s the worst bake you’ve ever attempted to make?
How long have you got?! I’m honoured that I’ve been lucky enough to be featured in Vuelio’s best baking blogs, as I’m a bonafide amateur baker who never learned anything past food tech at secondary school! And while I’m super proud of all the content I post that appears to be perfect, behind it all is a lot of failure mixed with trial and error to get to that perfect bake.

So, my worst bake is actually one of my own recipes! There was an embarrassing period where everyone was making my ‘Bruce Bogtrotter’ chocolate cake really successfully, so I thought I’d bake it and update the photos on the blog post. But I just kept messing it up! It was totally sunk in the middle every time and I just couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong. I eventually got there in the end, but there was a period where I said to Mark, ‘I can’t even make my own recipes anymore!!’

Snickers caramel tart

Best-tasting thing you’ve ever made?
It’s got to be my no-bake Snickers caramel tart that I posted a few weeks ago – it’s probably the most indulgent, sweet, nutty and creamiest thing I’ve ever made, all in a single slice. It has a buttery biscuit base, topped with a caramel that’s packed with chopped, roasted nuts. Then, pour on a chocolate ganache mixed with peanut butter and top with chopped Snickers bars. Pure heaven! Best of all, it’s totally no-bake, so that means no gluten-free flour or oven required.

For those who haven’t yet started baking, which basic tools would you suggest they stock the kitchen up with?
For me, an electric hand mixer is probably the one thing I’d always recommend that any aspiring baker should start with. It can make baking so much quicker, easier and they can be relatively inexpensive too. Without one, baking can seem like really hard work, especially when it comes to whipping up buttercream icing or meringue.

Failing that, a silicone spatula is priceless too. Unlike a wooden spoon, you can use it to properly scrape down the sides of your mixing bowls to ensure that you mix evenly and don’t waste a drop.

Favourite TV chefs?
This is probably really boring, but Jamie Oliver is the first TV chef that springs to mind (not that he is boring!). Purely because he could be making the most convoluted, complicated thing in the world, yet you still turn the telly off thinking ‘yeah, I’m definitely now capable of making fresh pasta from scratch’ – even though I definitely can’t!

Otherwise, I’ve always loved Ching He Huang – her happiness is infectious and she makes a lot of really quick dishes from scratch, using simple, fresh ingredients. I think that’s actually really hard to do!

Oh and of course, the Queen herself, Mary Berry. Who doesn’t love her?!

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I usually collaborate with brands through Instagram, YouTube and on my blog by creating sponsored recipes. I love collaborating with brands and using their products directly in my recipes – often it’ll help me to come up with new and exciting bakes that I’d never have even considered otherwise.

But beyond using products as literal ingredients in my recipes, I always enjoy teaming up with brands who ask me to showcase their appliances. I’ve worked with Panasonic showcasing how to make fresh gluten-free bread in their breadmaker; something that my audience was already genuinely interested in and always asked me about. I also worked with Tefal to demonstrate how to make gluten-free cakes in their quirky Cake Factory machine. It always presents a new challenge and more often than not, it’s an appliance than can take the stress out of baking, which is never a bad thing!

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
They can happily just contact me via the contact form on my website, which will land straight in my inbox. As I said, nine times out of ten, I create sponsored recipe posts on my blog or on social media, using a product to create something that I know my followers will love.

Of course, the one caveat is that the product has to be gluten-free. I do get emails asking me to collab, then I find out that the product isn’t even gluten-free! I’m passionate about food photography, but I love creating recipe tutorial videos over on my YouTube channel, too. So either works for me!

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether baking-related or not)?

I love reading Carrot & Crumb which is a baking blog (not gluten-free) by Benjamini Ebuehi from The Great British Bake Off. All the photography is beautiful and the cakes aren’t the average bog-standard bakes that you might expect. She definitely knows how to experiment with unique ingredients and creative flavour combos to create something totally new.

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Time to change or why accessmatters

Whether it was prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement or #metoo, gender pay gap reporting or homophobic attacks, there have been (many) moments in the last years where it has felt clear that essential changes in society are not happening at the rate needed.

Even with evidence that a diverse workforce benefits not only the individual but contributes to business financial success, the PR and Communications industries remain unrepresentative with implications on every aspect of how we work – from hiring to retention, spokesperson strategy to campaign creative.

This is reinforced by this year’s CIPR State of the Profession report, which reveals an industry that is still overwhelmingly heterosexual, white and middle class. This is stark when you benchmark the industry to the UK working population average: 87% classifying themselves as white compared to a higher percentage of 91% in the PR industry and 76% of PR practitioners having a degree compared to 35% of the general population. The only area PR is more diverse is around sexuality, with 86% of professionals classifying themselves as heterosexual compared to 95% of the UK population.

In the last months, we’ve seen many agencies, organisations and individuals take action but what’s clear is that it must be done over a sustained period of time if we are to realise lasting improvements in diversity and inclusion. We want to help. So, we’re launching accessmatters, a platform designed to encourage listening, sharing of experience, learning from best practice, and collaboration on the actions that will have greatest positive impact.

We recognise that tackling industry diversity begins with us reviewing our approach so, in tandem with launching accessmatters, we’ve kicked off a cross-organisational working group to audit, review and identify the changes we must take. As an immediate step, this means us putting in place criteria to ensure any event we host, sponsor or speak at is representative of a range of communities.

True change relies on us as an industry being transparent, open to learn and collaborate so together we improve our diversity and how inclusive we are of difference. Over the coming weeks and months, we hope accessmatters will help – we look forward to hearing what you think.

CIPR State of the Profession 2020

State of the Profession in 2020? There’s still a way to go with diversity

Findings from CIPR’s State of the Profession 2020 show just how far the PR industry has to go when it comes to reflecting the same values as its audience and clientele and improving on the diversity of its workforce.

Class continues to be an issue in 2020, with the disconnect in views between those working in PR and the general public particularly obvious. 40% of PRs believe a person’s background has no impact on where they end up in life, where 60% of the public hold this view.

Especially interesting from the results are disconnects within PR teams themselves: the higher the salary of a PR, the less likely they are to believe background is what will determine success – instead, believing that hard work and talent gives everybody a fair chance. Those who earn less, however, are less likely to believe in fair chances, seeing background as far more powerful when it comes to career advancement.

This is particularly concerning because change needed to increase the diversity of the sector needs to come from those with higher salaries. For that to happen, first and foremost the issues need to be acknowledged and accepted.

On gender, results are mixed. The gender pay gap has lowered by 46% since 2018 (the gap between men and women now standing at £3,658), and among those with four years of experience, women are, on average, earning £1,687 more than men. However, with experience, this changes: female directors, partners, and managing directors earn over £19,000 less than their male counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, inclusivity when it comes to race and sexuality continues to be a glaring problem in the profession. More than nine in ten practitioners are white – according to the report, the PR industry is continuing to fail with making substantial progress on improving ethnic diversity on teams and in boardrooms. 86% of practitioners this year identified as heterosexual, and fewer than one in ten identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual.

‘This year’s State of the Profession survey reveals little or slow progress in many of the challenges that have long been identified – most notably in the lack of diversity within the profession – but some positive developments in other areas,’ said CIPR’s 2020 president Jenni Field of the results.

‘We’re not there yet, and there is still much to be done.’

Read more from CIPR’s State of the Profession 2020 here.

State of the Profession 2020

Statistics from CIPR’s State of the Profession 2020

A decade of State of the Profession surveys from the CIPR continues with the 2020 report, released today, which focuses on social mobility, public relations as a professional community and how the views of those in the industry compare to those of the general public it seeks to engage.

Working with research specialists Chalkstream, the CIPR surveyed 1,298 people between 18 November 2019 and 27 January 2020. Results show an industry with work to do on its inclusivity, concerns on how it is viewed and shifting preoccupations and challenges. Here is a snapshot of some of this year’s overview of the industry…

1) Education: PRs are more likely to have completed a degree (76%) in comparison to the general public (35%). They’re also more likely to come from a background where their parents are also in possession of higher education – twice as many PRs (43%) say their parents or guardians completed a university degree (or an equivalent) than the 21% who received income support or free school means during their school years.

2) Professional community: 66% of those polled believe they are part of a professional community. And it’s a social one – only 7% don’t take part in any networking. But this isn’t due to anything antisocial – a lack of time was cited as the biggest issue.

3) Demographics: The majority of PRs polled were in the 35 to 44 age group (37%), with 4% 16 to 24, and only 1% over 64. 66% identified as female, 22% had racked up over 21 years of experience in PR, and 45% had come from a background in media (journalism) and publishing.

4) Organisational sectors: Respondents were split fairly evenly between in-house (private, public, not-for-profit), independent and agency practitioners. The top five sectors for in-house PRs were unchanged from those in the last three years of results: health, local/central government, education, charity/voluntary, and financial/insurance services. On the agency/consultancy side, the top five sectors were different, with the number one being charity/voluntary, followed by health, education, law and manufacturing.

5) Diversity: With social mobility being a focus of this year’s report, inclusivity and diversity within public relations was explored. The results: not great (read more on this aspect of 2020’s report in our upcoming post).

6) Challenges: Backing up those numbers, a lack of diversity was cited as one of the biggest challenges for PR this year, alongside the under-representation of public relations practitioners at board level (at number one), the emergence of fake news and unethical public relations practices.

Want more of the results from CIPR’s State of the Profession 2020? Find it on the CIPR website.

Freelance PR recovery

While the agency market suffers, PR freelancers are seeing recovery

This is a guest post from founder of PR freelancer matchmaking service The PR Cavalry Nigel Sarbutts, who sees good reasons for freelancers to feel optimistic.

A lot of people in the agency world were shocked last week by Francis Ingham’s bleak analysis of the PR agency market. But does that grim outlook apply to the freelance PR market as well? We think not.

Let’s look at some data which suggests that the freelance PR market has reasons to be optimistic…

Firstly, there is an enormous bubble in the employment market that is likely to need freelance support to solve it. The Wall Street Journal reported a study of 3000 companies showing holiday requests are half what they were last year. That’s a huge backlog of holiday that people are going to be squeezing into the back half of the year, just as companies will be hoping to feel their way back to normality.

We are hearing, anecdotally, of some companies planning for sickness rates of around 20% in the coming 12 months, which is about three times the norm. Again, a lot of empty chairs and resource that will need filling.

Then there is the hard data from Google. Between March and June, search volumes for a collection of phrases relating to freelance PR increased 25%,  indicating strong market interest.

This is not a time to hang out the bunting (although, we have already re-started our advertising campaign) and from our research, the feeling among freelancers themselves is mixed.

The PR Cavalry sponsors the biggest Freelance PR Group on Facebook with around 3000 members. A poll we ran in the group last week on how work capacity is looking got about 150 replies. Of these, 51% reported that work had already recovered to levels at or beyond where they were at lockdown while 31% said that some work had replaced their losses since lockdown but they were not yet back to where they were.

Only 11% reported that work hadn’t returned to the losses sustained when lockdown hit.

The study we carried out in March showed that the impact on freelancers had been swift and brutal, with some 60% saying they had lost upwards of 75% of their income.

PR freelancers are agile and resourceful and with the economy feeling its way back with baby steps, the advantages of flexible freelance talent are going to be in demand.

Inclusive campaigns

6 tips for talking to your clients about inclusivity in campaigns

PR and communications has undeniable issues when it comes to race, class and gender. Numerous studies and campaigns have shown that the workforce is primarily made up of those from white, middle-class backgrounds. As the industry works to welcome and then bolster the career paths of those who come from outside privileged bubbles, conversations have to be had with clients who come from white, middle-class backgrounds themselves and automatically see – and then show – a world in their own image.

On The PR Show podcast last week, Manifest brand strategy director Julian Obubo discussed how this element of unconscious bias in clients impacts campaigns, and how PR agencies need to challenge the ‘cultural whitewashing blind spot’. Below are just five of those in the PR working to do better on this, and how they’re talking to clients about inclusivity.

1. Ensure your own team is diverse first
‘I have a mantra: you can’t represent who you don’t represent. If clients can’t identify with you, then they won’t instruct you. Sometimes, you lose work because of a lack of “chemistry”. Well, imagine that, but for all the clients who don’t even invite you to pitch for the work as they can’t see anyone at your organisation who looks like they have their shared values and interests at heart. Convincing clients to be more diverse is simple economics and good business sense because the more diverse your personnel, the greater chance you have of a piece of work or a new client.

‘If the PR profession was more diverse, we’d be selling fewer stale, pale and male stories to the media who, in turn, would cover more of those differing voices. Think back to when BBC News was based in White City – how representative of the north was it then? Nowadays, you’re just as likely to see talking heads from Leeds and Manchester on the 10 o’clock news as you are from Hackney.’

Simon Marshall, founder of TBD Marketing Ltd

2. Don’t tiptoe around the issue
‘A lot of our clients are in the social enterprise, charity or social movement space, but even so it’s surprising how often we have to point out simple things like every photo in a brochure is of a white person, or that every proposed speaker or panellist at a planned event is male.

‘In my experience, a lack of thinking about diversity and inclusion is often because of who is sitting around the table. People at work fall back on their own life experience and knowledge. Thinking about diversity isn’t always front of mind for all clients – even though it should be.

‘My view is you wouldn’t be doing your job properly if you didn’t speak up. I wouldn’t beat around the bush or treat it as a sensitive issue to tiptoe around. If it’s not been thought of, you’re being helpful pointing it out.’

Helen Furnivall, managing director of High-Rise Communications

3. Remind the client the discussion isn’t criticism, but a necessity
‘Ours is a relationship business, but what we too-often overlook is our relationship with the public. Gone are the days where brands can get away with selling a white-washed, rose-tinted pipe dream – the public crave authenticity. With the cries for racial justice resonating across the world in recent weeks, inclusivity has never been more important, especially in PR.

‘If your team reflects your audience then chances are, you’ll connect with them better – and what client could argue with that? A diverse and inclusive team is more likely to make magic and capture the attention of the audience, so start by showing your client that connection. Present it as a win-win for all involved, and make the business case for having an inclusive team. Now, some clients will be more au fait with these issues than others, so remember to stress that it’s not a criticism. It’s simply another way we add value for our clients – by reminding them that if a brand’s not staying relevant, then its days are numbered.’

Cai Wilshaw, ‘Dragon Angel’ at The Fourth Angel

4. Prepare genuine reasoning
‘With all advice we give to clients, the way it is received depends on the relationship with the client and how you’ve previously managed their expectations.

‘What I tend to do when talking to clients about sensitive subjects such as inclusivity is firstly find a news article or public issue that relates to the topic and ask them how they feel about it. This then gives me an opportunity to present my ideas about how we could amend a specific campaign or project. It’s vital to prepare reasoning before having the conversation to ensure that the client can understand why you may be making these suggestions. Talk to them about the audience and how it could be perceived, and go on to make reference to any competitor examples.

‘Another effective method is asking the client about their long-term goals for inclusivity and whether they feel that this specific campaign/project will help them achieve those goals.

‘Inclusivity must be genuine. Releasing public material that portrays a firm as inclusive when in fact they aren’t, will do more damage than good and lead to a bad brand image. As PR professionals, it’s our role to ensure that all communications are genuine and in the best interest of both the client and the reader. Lots of firms jumped on the back of the Black Lives Matter campaign by sharing a black square, yet their brands don’t resemble that of an inclusive brand.’

Gemma Birbeck, PR consultant and founder of Leuly Photography and PR

5. Don’t ignore the challenge
‘While discussing your plans with your client, make them hold up an imaginary mirror. Let them see campaign ideas through a different lens. If they cannot see that their projects/briefs are not inclusive on race, disability, sexuality, gender expression, etc. ask, “does this match with your company values?” Hopefully at this stage they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes and see the light. If inclusive values are not part of their organisation’s culture, then as a PR you have an even bigger challenge on your hands, but a challenge you must never ignore.’

Hilary Collins, managing director and founder at Big Wave PR

6. Acknowledge where you haven’t done enough yet, and then do better
‘It’s important to be part of a conversation on diversity not just because it’s newsworthy but because it’s the right thing to do. PR isn’t just about reflecting an organisation as it is. It’s also about shining a light on them and in doing so, hopefully helping to improve it.

‘We see synopses covering what journalists are writing about, plus are constantly looking at published pieces, and so it’s our job to tell clients what current comment themes are. With diversity being at the forefront, it’s important that people we work with are prepared to answer questions on diversity and diversity initiatives. And there’s no point having a tokenistic approach – everyone can see through this.

‘I was asked the question earlier today “is it too late to get involved in diversity at this stage?” – I said no. It’s a really good time. It’s not a knee-jerk response at this stage – it’s a considered approach, and by now, you should have actions and plans to back up your comments. It’s fine to say, “we haven’t done enough,” provided you follow that up with what you’re planning to do next.’

Jessica Morgan, business owner at Carnsight Communications

Tim Liew

Dad Blogger Spotlight: Tim Liew, Slouching Towards Thatcham

‘One of the biggest joys of blogging is that you don’t have to confine yourself to a specific niche,’ says Tim Liew, the blogger behind Slouching Towards Thatcham. Having written about sport and covered TV for the Metro, Tim is a master of many niches. What he’s focusing on at the moment? Keeping a complete record of his time as a father of three children.

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?

I’d been writing a sports blog for a year, so starting another one to record my experiences as a first-time dad seemed like a natural progression. I drafted half a dozen posts but didn’t publish anything until nearly a year after Isaac was born. Oops.

Anyhow, 12 years later I’m still going and have an almost complete record of my time as a father of one, two and now three kids. I still kick myself for those missing ten months, though.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?

Anything and everything, as long as it’s something I’m passionate about. One of the biggest joys of blogging is that you don’t have to confine yourself to a specific niche. Over the years, I’ve written about much more than fatherhood. I’ve published and performed parody songs, and written about topics as diverse as politics, social media and TV (I wrote TV reviews for the Metro for three years).

I’m starting to dabble more in current affairs now. Not because I have anything unique to say – quite the opposite, in fact. I write from the standpoint of an ordinary dad, wondering how to make sense of the world for his children. Ever since I became a dad, my world-view has been skewed by thoughts of how what we do today will impact our children tomorrow.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?

It’s been quite an organic change, in truth. Obviously, there have been fewer opportunities to write about things we’d normally be doing outside of the house. Instead, I’ve been writing a series of ‘Life Under Lockdown’ diary-style posts. This has been such a unique period in all our lives that I wanted to capture what it’s been like to live through it. How it’s felt to self-isolate. Our thoughts and fears. The adjustments we’ve had to make and the unexpected upsides.

History will record the major events of the pandemic for posterity; I wanted to capture our day-to-day reality. I hope that one day we will be able to re-read these posts and remember the minutiae of these times.

How will lockdown have changed the way those co-parenting view their family duties and how they share responsibilities? Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads?

Maybe. Maybe not. If nothing else, the past three months have shown working dads like me that it’s possible to do things in a different way.

For me, lockdown has meant working at home in a house with five people all competing for the wifi. That has been … challenging. It has been harder on my wife, who works in the dining room while I’m closeted away in the study on video calls most of the day. Consequently, she’s the first person the kids turn to when they’re bored or need help with something.

It’s left me with this strange feeling of ‘working parent guilt’. My work day is essentially unchanged, just in a different location. But I also have a lot more opportunity to interact with my kids during the day. I didn’t have that before, and while I do what I can to help out, I know it’s neither enough nor as much as I’d like to. It gnaws at me.

What is definitely different is that I have more time with the kids outside of working hours, which has been wonderful. We eat dinner together on weeknights, which never used to happen. Now that lockdown has eased, they often join me on walks where we can share what we’ve been up to or what we have planned.

I feel like I’m a bigger part of their day by virtue of being at home more. And while I have no desire to swap being a working dad for being a stay-at-home dad, the last three months have cemented my desire to be more of a work-at-home dad, even after things have returned to normal.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?

Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. You can’t do everything and in this time of enormous change it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and a bit down from time to time.

What has worked for us as a family is an open acceptance that it’s okay to not be okay occasionally. We’ve all had our tired and grumpy days at some point; we’re only human. What we’ve reinforced with our kids is that we’re all in this together, as a family. So everyone has to play their role, whether it’s helping out with household chores or just biting their lip when someone’s having a bad day.

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?

On a good day: a barbecue outside in the sun. Otherwise, we’ve made a virtue out of ‘leftover days’ where everyone chips in to prepare a big family fried rice.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?

I’ve scaled back on brand work a lot over the past few years so I can afford to be selective. I work best with brands either I or the kids are genuinely passionate about. And the best brands to work with are the ones who are receptive to feedback and ideas rather than insisting that you stay ‘on brief’. Trust that an influencer knows their audience. Don’t stifle their creativity.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?

It’s simple; I don’t ask for much. Be respectful of my time and value, and do at least a modicum of homework. I don’t expect you to have committed my children’s life history to memory. But my youngest child is eight – it says so on my ‘about’ page – so don’t approach me with baby products. It’s just common courtesy, really.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?

I read an eclectic mix of blogs covering everything from social media and business topics to sports and TV.

But in the parenting sphere, I’m drawn towards blogs with stories about experiences that are completely different to my own. So, a few in no particular order: Dad Blog UK (John is a former journalist and PR turned stay-at-home dad), Our Transitional Life (about Kelly, her transgender wife Zoey and their two kids), Daddy & Dad (two dads, two boys) and LesBeMums (two mums, one boy). I love the way each of these opens a window into a life that, ostensibly, is completely different to mine – and yet in many ways oh so familiar. In a world where we are too often encouraged to stay to the mainstream and fear ‘the other’, these are stories that matter.

Vicki Broadbent and family

Mum Blogger Spotlight: Vicki Broadbent, Honest Mum

Honest Mum Vicki Broadbent is one busy blogger, having changed career direction from TV and film directing to full-time blogging, book writing and appearing in front of the camera as a parenting expert.

As parents across the globe struggle with their own balancing of work and family duties, Vicki shares her thoughts on the division of parental labour, digital upskilling and the unique pressures of a job online when the world is on lockdown.

‘There’s never been a period quite like this before where this volume of people have simultaneously been online at any one time.’

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
I started Honest Mum while on maternity leave from directing (I worked in the TV and film industry) and had no idea it could be a job. I simply started writing to return to writing (my first love) and help rebuild my confidence after a traumatic birth with my first son. It was 2010 and I distinctly remember having to explain to people what a blog was back then. I returned to directing commercials a few months after hitting publish but soon discovered I could earn the same, and potentially more, blogging than being on set. Working digitally was flexible, so I didn’t have to miss out on raising my son, too. 12-hour days are not conducive to motherhood.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
That’s like asking if I have a favourite child – ha! I don’t! I find the personal posts the hardest to write but the most cathartic (my post on my traumatic birth helped many women, and still does). I do love sharing recipes on the blog too, especially because I get to eat my creations afterwards!

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I feel incredibly lucky that my job hasn’t been affected and feel for those who have experienced job losses or a decline in work. The digital field has grown rapidly during this period: digitisation has accelerated due to the crisis and automation is coming next. There’s never been a period quite like this before where this volume of people have simultaneously been online at any one time. Even more advertisers are working with influencers, particularly with the decline of traditional press.

I have covered the crisis on the blog and my social media channels, sharing expert-led guest content along with my own to help support parents. I made a series of video tips on both home schooling and working from home respectively for Instagram and YouTube and I’ve consistently and candidly shared the challenges I’ve experienced juggling work with home school, so other parents feel less alone and more supported.

Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads in the wake of necessary changes to co-parenting schedules during lockdown?
I think work culture has already changed, with remote working becoming the norm. Employees have proved they can work from home. Employers have discovered how freeing it is and how much time and money is saved. These realisations will hopefully result in more fathers enjoying flexible working, moving forwards.

The inequalities for mothers are still vast and the situation is more dire than pre-lockdown. Women have been impacted the most during the pandemic, and are now even more economically fragile than before due to losing more jobs than men and having to take on more responsibilities at home. Now is the time for mothers to upskill in digital education. I’ve launched a series of courses under my new company The Working Mother’s Academy which does just that.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?
Know that you’re not alone. I find implementing self-care continues to be the key to everything, and I’m referring to the basics: making sure you’re fed and sleep well so you can be strong for your family. I’m working into the early hours most nights in order to juggle home school and work so know quite how hard life is right now. But I’m meditating daily, even if it’s just for ten minutes, and I’ve been running most days in a bid to keep emotionally and physically well.

Honest Mum spag bol

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times? 
This easy spag bol with hidden veg is always a winner with my kids.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I work with brands in a variety of ways, from appearing in adverts for them in 360 campaigns across my own platforms and in the press, as with the new MG car ad (which was a collaboration with The Mirror), to writing and filming content for my blog and social media channels, working with brands such as BT, Disney, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Herbal Essences and beyond. I was the first influencer in the UK to become a digital ambassador for an airline. I’ve also interviewed A-listers like Kim Cattrall Westlife among others to promote new movies and tours.

No day is ever the same, but I’ve worked with PR agencies since I started blogging (I was offered my first commission six weeks after starting up my blog) and most of my work is repeat business. I only ever work with brands and on campaigns I respect and believe in. I decline the majority of offers so I can focus on creating the greatest quality campaigns.

Agencies often come to me early on and sometimes even before they’ve won the bid to create the campaign, and we work together on the brief. As a former director, PRs trust my opinion and vision, and I’ve also consulted for agencies and brands in-house, too.

I regularly feature as a TV Parenting Expert on BBC Breakfast and Sky News, and my book Mumboss receives a 2nd edition release on 20 August and it is published in the US and Canada on 8 September under the new title The Working Mom. I’ve also spoken about enterprise and maternal rights at the House of Commons.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Emails are best and it’s always great when PRs have done their research and are pitching appropriate campaigns that would fit my interests, family and values. As a writer and filmmaker, I write and film my own work but I do interview talent and feature fitting guest posts written by thought leaders and experts, too.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether baking-related or not)?
To name just two (as I have so many): Babes About Town and Your DIY Family.

Reach-the-right-influencers-with-the-Vuelio-media-database

Starting an agency

Want to start your own comms agency?

This is a guest post by John Ashton, director of copywriting agency Write Arm.

A new peer-to-peer support network has launched for home-based comms professionals who want to run their own agencies. The KitchenTable Community is a membership organisation with a marketplace at its core. Also aimed at marketers, designers, web developers, video makers, events specialists, copywriters and the like, it is encouraging members to form commercial partnerships, share knowledge and generally root for each other.

There’s a fantastic camaraderie among small agencies, which is giving the Community its fuel. I conceived the idea of the Community three years ago, when I noticed that numerous marketing industry professionals were starting home-based agencies that employed networks of freelancers rather than permanent staff. The Coronavirus lockdown will accelerate the trend.

Many comms professionals who have been forced to work from home won’t want to go back to the office and sadly many won’t have jobs to go to. During tough economic times kitchen table agencies should thrive because their lower overheads allow them to compete with larger agencies on price.

Benefits of membership of The KitchenTable Community include:
• Peer-to-peer support
• How-to content, including a free online course and online events
• Access to a marketplace where members trade services
• Deals on products and services

Creative professionals are often intimidated by the idea of starting their own business. I certainly was, but then I did it anyway. So my message to you all is that ‘if this idiot can do it, then so can you!’.

As an introductory offer, The KitchenTable Community is currently free for six months with no obligation to remain a member once charging starts.

Public Affairs: The Starting Points

Public Affairs: The Starting Points

This is a guest post by Dr Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs for BDB Pitmans.

Not everyone who comes into public affairs has intentions to do so. Very often members of a communications team suddenly gain responsibility for dealing with public affairs. How should they prepare themselves and what should their immediate steps be?

During our recent webinar, Recess and Beyond: Building a public affairs strategy in a post-lockdown world, a question came in related to this very topic. It is also an issue I encounter a lot when running my public affairs training courses. Very often the team member who now has responsibility for public affairs knows and understands communications but is less clear on the political side.

The first thing I do is to reassure them that it is a great starting position. If you strip away the arcane Parliamentary language and political shenanigans then you see that the fundamental starting point is good communications. So no one should be scared off to start with.

Then you can start to get to grips with a wider understanding of what is involved. To anyone finding themselves in this position, I would recommend five steps…

1. Do your reading
There are a number of good books around on public affairs, not least Lionel Zetter’s Lobbying: The Art of Political Persuasion as well as my own Public Affairs in Practice and Public Affairs: A Global Perspective. This will help you get some of the fundamentals in place. I’ve put together some useful lists on this Amazon page.

2. Think professional development
To go into a little more depth, there are training courses available from the PRCA and CIPR as well as others. Just this year, the PRCA has launched a Public Affairs Diploma (which, full disclosure, I lead). As someone new into a role, I would expect your employers to make a training budget available so be prepared to use it (or request it!).

3. Use the free resources available
There is a wide range of really useful free information available. The Vuelio webinars, blogs, white papers, reports along with those from other organisations as well. But add to that podcasts, which I believe are a completely invaluable resource. There are the more sector specialist ones and the wider political ones, as well. Personally, I believe they help me to gain a broader, cross-party sense of issues. So I take in the Times Redbox, HuffPost politics, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and a whole range of others (including The Athletic if you like your football!). How do I get through so many? My recommendation is to listen on double speed!

4. Have a ‘start the day’ routine
The role of the Today programme varies, but for me it is the start of my political day. Having said that, maybe the new Times Radio will become important as well. I can then move onto some of the best newsletters – RedBox, for subscribers to The Times, but also the free Politico London Playbook. Add a selection of newspaper and new sites. Why have this routine? It isn’t just about knowing what the big political issues of the day are. Instead, it helps to identify public affairs opportunities or potential risks. I can then work with clients to do something about them.

5. Start to build a network
While your networks will not be mutually exclusive, it is useful to think of having a public affairs network and a political network. So attending events, or virtual events at the current time is a starting point. For the public affairs side, think about joining (free) the PubAffairs network. Then you can think about the more political side. This could come through your own political activity or through attending political events (party conferences, parliamentary receptions, etc.).

There is one other very important aspect that anyone new to public affairs needs to consider at all times and that is their ethical responsibilities. It is best to think about ethics from the outset so that they are engrained in everything you do. These will include any statutory requirements but also the codes operated by the PRCA and the CIPR.

Once all these steps are in place, then you are ready to get going!

James McCollum

PR Spotlight on James McCollum, director of Barley Communications

Taking on a new role is always going to be challenging, but especially when it comes during an international health crisis impacting businesses across the globe. James McCollum has welcomed the challenges of working through lockdown in his recent appointment to director at Barley Communications, and takes us through how the virtual agency is dealing with the current obstacles facing the PR industry and its clients and what can be learned from them.

‘I’d ask not whether the industry ‘can’, but whether it ‘needs’ to return to the way things were before…’

What are the main challenges you’ve faced taking on a new role during lockdown?
Lockdown has been a difficult time for people in ways none of us could have ever imagined.

I suppose a key consideration has been reassuring clients that I’ll continue to be someone they can contact on a day-to-day basis. There can be perceptions that a change in position can mean less time delivering their work – which is not the case for me at all. I’m a firm believer that communications leaders and practitioners need to continue operating ‘at the coal face’ if they want to provide the best advice and deliver the most effective campaigns for their clients, such is the pace of change in how people access and consume content.

What are you most looking forward to getting stuck into in your new role?
The two best things about working at Barley are firstly working with and learning from incredible people and talent, at all levels – from old hands to new kids on the block, we all have something to learn.

Secondly, it’s working with amazing clients that have a real impact on people’s lives. Our strapline is Communication That Matters – and it’s true!

In terms of my new role, I’m looking forward to supporting new and emerging talent in the business, and expanding our social purpose portfolio to deliver more meaningful campaigns that have a positive impact.

Are the Barley team working from home at the moment, and what are the plans for returning to the office?
Barley is a virtual agency that has always embraced working from home. It enables us to work with the brightest and the best who, in many cases, aren’t able to commute. In that sense, COVID-19 has been business as usual for us.

We have missed our regular meet-ups, though – our ‘B-Hives’. These are monthly opportunities for us to get together, tackle key briefs as a unit and brainstorm ideas together – as well as have a good catch-up. In the meantime, we’ve continued running creative sessions remotely, both internally, and with existing and new clients – we’ve won several new briefs in the last few months.

Having made the adjustment to remote working two years ago, my advice would be to stay connected with colleagues and clients. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or suggest a short ideas session to nail a brief. Interaction is one of the most important parts of our jobs – it’s the heartbeat of what we do – and it’s important to keep that at the core of your day-to-day.

Which pieces of tech have really been helping you work through the current crisis?
Given we work from home permanently, we haven’t needed too many changes. We’ve been using Zoom and Sharepoint for years, so no real changes in terms of software. Although, running messaging workshops via Zoom has led us to explore different features, like the breakout rooms – if you haven’t used them in lockdown quizzes yet, you’re missing out!

My main tech game-changer is hardware – I’m a sucker for multiple screens/monitors as I always have a heap of different programmes open at once, so when I moved to working from home that was top of my list of must-haves.

Do you think the industry can return to the way things were before?
I’d ask not whether the industry ‘can’, but whether it ‘needs’ to return to the way things were.

With the exception of face-to-face client meetings and pitches – which I hope return soon, as you can’t replicate the energy of strategy sessions and pitches on Zoom – I’m not convinced the industry needs to return to its pre-COVID-19 routines. Do agencies need all team members to waste time every single day on uncomfortable rush hour commutes – time which could be better spent exercising, reading, learning, or with family and friends? Do agencies need to pay office costs for a workforce that has most likely adjusted to home working? Do teams want to miss out on talent that can’t commit to 9-5, five days a week in an office?

So, I suppose the answer is no. The industry will adjust in places – but the best talent will go to the organisations that meet their needs and lifestyle.

Which particular sectors among your client base do you see making the quickest recovery post-pandemic?
Splitting by sector is tricky – there are massive differences within each. Look at the charity sector – some charities are getting massive exposure at the moment (see FareShare’s work with Marcus Rashford) while lots of others are seeing donations fall.

What we have seen is some clients strengthened and emboldened during the pandemic. One was asked by the Government to run antigen tests for COVID-19, which rapidly expanded its operation. Other clients have adapted to new roles, such as generating funds to support key workers.

The PR industry has a diversity problem – what can agencies do to create diverse teams and support BAME colleagues into higher positions?
Firstly, I know that as a white male I’m not necessarily the most appropriate spokesperson here, but it’s abundantly clear that the industry has heaps more to do and we all have a part to play. Agencies have to stop reeling out platitudes and take meaningful action.

One observation I would make is the need to move on from the obsession with media relations – for too long the industry has been run by people who honed their skills in a different age of communications, when journalists were wined and dined, and stories proudly cut out of the paper for your scrapbook. This has been reflected in the workforce – a PR industry of middle-class white people employed to engage middle-class white journalists.

We’re in a different media age now – our audiences are more diverse, and their touchpoints and media consumption more varied. In order to channel content more precisely and achieve success for clients, we need tailored insight, understanding and experience from a more diverse workforce, one that reflects the audience we need to engage. Teams that lack diversity will have incomplete strategies that will miss the mark.

What do you love most about working in the PR industry, and would you recommend this as a career?
Variety. I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say it, but it’s true. This job has taken me to places and given me experiences I’d never have imagined.

I recently chaperoned the PM and his team around a laboratory (at a 2m distance, of course). Throw in dockside warehouses with famous graffiti artists, the media centre at Gleneagles for The Ryder Cup, NHS secondments, grueling Council meetings and messaging workshops in the Middle East and it’s a pretty eclectic and rewarding mix.

I’d absolutely recommend it – if you want the unexpected, get involved!

Beauty journalists

How to pitch to beauty and grooming journalists

While trips to nail salons, hairdressers and make-up counters have been off the table over the last few months, those looking for some sparkle and shine have had to turn away from professionals wielding make-up palettes and towards products easy to purchase online and try at home. Beauty and grooming journalists have dutifully switched to reviewing new releases ideal for home use and sharing ideas for self-care (and split ends).

Below are tips from journalists working across national, trade, consumer, print and digital for how PRs can best help them handle home eyelash curling kit rundowns, etc. Read on – this could be the start of a beautiful PR journalist relationship…

1. Set out your shiniest details like a store front
‘Like most journalists, email is my preferred choice of communication. Be succinct but with enough information to ensure I can make a decision about whether to engage with the content or not, and don’t forget price and website details. Attach a high res image too, please. Samples should always be sent to my home address and my target audience is women over 45-years-old, so products that target the signs of anti-ageing are key. This includes skin, body, nail, hair care and gadgets. I am a great believer that women should wear whatever makeup makes them feel good, so unless your product is targeted at teenagers, I want to hear about it. I encourage glitter, colour, highlighter – let me have it.’

Julie Brown is a journalist, make-up artist and beauty columnist for Top Sante

2. Going ‘old school’ can still be a good look
‘Things are hectic at BBT HQ so the best way to pitch a story to us is via email so we can read and digest it in our own time. We are a bit old school, so press releases work very well. Information about the products, brand and brand owner. Also, links to their website so we can have a feel of the brand. We prefer not to receive DM on Instagram but being approached on Twitter works so we can reply quickly. We are happy to attend virtual press days and presentations to get a sense of a product.’

Ronke Adeyemi is the editor of Brown Beauty Talk

3. New products for testing are very welcome while WFH
‘It feels a little bit pointless to write about fashion and buying clothes at the moment, but, as soon as things start to return to a form of normality, including anything about COVID-19 will look dated and irrelevant. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Right now, I’m welcoming any new men’s focused grooming products to test and review.
‘I’m really only interested in things that are new or haven’t been seen before, particularly when it comes to grooming products. I find it frustrating when it is unclear or pitched as new when it is not. And if I’m having to research something, there’s a depth of knowledge lacking in the pitch.’

Marcus Jaye is the founder and creative director of TheChicGeek and writer of ‘The Chic Geek’s: Fashion, Grooming and Style Guide for Men’ and ‘Fashion Wankers: It Takes One to Know One’

4. Filed away in a drawer? Your pitch could still be featured
‘I file everything in my beauty folder and will always let you know if your product is being covered. If you don’t hear from me, I don’t have space at this time. Please don’t chase as I get A LOT of beauty emails every day and don’t have time to reply to everyone. But I promise if it’s of interest it will be filed and featured when possible.

‘I like interesting content, where a product release doubles up as useful advice or an interesting feature. But general product/new launch info is fine, too. I always appreciate a wedding/bride angle. Celeb/expert interview offers are great! And please note, we don’t cover aesthetics or anything invasive in any way.’

Kelly Andrews is editor and CWM beauty editor for County Wedding Magazines and Events

5. Journalists still want what they’ve always wanted…
‘At the end of April, I posted this on my Insta Stories and it pretty much sums it up: “PRs keep asking what journalists want at the moment. FWIW I want what I always want; emails answered promptly, an understanding of my deadlines and what I’m looking for, good communication and people doing what they say they will. These are the PRs I’m working with right now”’.

Claire Coleman is a freelance journalist contributing to titles including the Daily Mail and Metro. She also offers consultancy services to PRs who need help with copywriting, strategy, ideas generation, pitches and events.

Look at Brew

Beer Blogger Spotlight: Rachael Smith, Look at Brew

‘Beer is usually just one thread in a bigger experience and that relationship and connection is something that really fascinates me’ – Look at Brew blogger Rachael Smith likes to look beyond what’s in the bottle when it comes to beer. Originally fascinated by the artwork on the outside, Rachael now aims to cover the full experience of beer; the brewing and the people behind the brand labels.

Rachael Smith

How did you originally get started with writing about beer?
I’d been a keen beer drinker for a few years, all traditional British stuff, then started to notice a shift. The likes of Beavertown, Camden, The Kernel, Brew by Numbers, etc. were releasing beer styles that I’d not heard of before and often with striking labels which really stood out and marked them as something new and different. I was drawn to the artwork of these new beers so I set up my blog as a way to document them. The blog soon developed and has evolved to be a celebration of all beer and brewing.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I’m writing more think pieces these days and really trying to use mindfulness in my approach when it comes to how I feel about beers and pubs in particular moments. Beer is usually just one thread in a bigger experience and that relationship and connection is something that really fascinates me so that’s where my interest is currently.

I do reviews as well but have made the decision to move these to Instagram only as that’s how the scene seems to have progressed. People don’t want to read a long review anymore; they’re checking Instagram for a quick commentary and a good photo. I will always try to give honest reviews and point out if improvements can be made – it’s better for everyone instead of just hyping something up, and there’s a lot of hype in beer! I’m a fan of travel pieces and brewery features, too, and enjoy telling the story behind favourite breweries and beers, so that’s something I’d like to do more of.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
I’ve been trying to shine a light on all the local independent brewers doing delivery just to keep afloat. There’s a huge community vibe within the local beer scene and it really feels like folks have rallied to help small businesses during the pandemic. I’ve put a list on the blog of the local brewers and bottle shops offering takeaway or delivery and I’ve been buying direct too, so my Instagram feed has reflected this, also. But generally, anything that I’ve written has been as a result of what is being experienced right now; life during lockdown, missing the pub experience, the beers I’ve been drinking. Even if I’ve had ideas for content not directly influenced by lockdown, I’ve not felt the need to post them – it just hasn’t seemed relevant or important, but as we’re moving towards things easing, that’ll change.

Any particular pubs or bars you’ve really been missing during the lockdown?
Yes, many! In particular is The Surrey Oaks in Newdigate which is a wonderful traditional country pub with a huge beer garden. It is welcoming to families which is a must, with a toddler in tow. They’ve got a great team who serve incredible food, cask and modern keg beers. It’s the moon on a stick and will be my first port of call. In my hometown, Horsham, we’ve got some fantastic pubs too, and an evening spent in The Malt Shovel, Anchor Tap or Frog & Nightgown will be greatly enjoyed when the time comes.

What’s the first beer you ever tried, and do you still drink it occasionally?
I think it was probably a little French or Belgian beer, the kind that comes in little stubby green bottles, cheap as chips (cheaper in fact), from the supermarket. I don’t remember much beer in the house growing up, but there were those in the summer, and I remember Dad would have a bottle after a day in the garden or mowing the lawn. I remember joining him for one after an afternoon of gardening. I haven’t bought any for a long time now but that will have to be rectified!

Any breweries from the past that you wish were still around?
I’ve got to say Hastings Beer Co. The team brewed some incredible saisons and hoppy brown ales. They were definitely ahead of the curve locally in terms of style trends and the quality was there to back it up.

For people who don’t drink, can you recommend a good non-alcoholic beer that still comes close to the taste of the alcoholic version?
Big Drop Lager is excellent and easy to find. I’ve also recently been impressed by West Berks brewery and its Solo pale ale. There are a lot of low and no alcohol beers on the market right now, many of which are really good. It’s an interesting and exciting part of modern beer which is developing at a huge rate and the quality that’s out there is reflecting this.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kinds do you really like working with?
A brand will typically get in touch to ask if I’d like some samples for review or if I’d like to join an event. Some brewers reach out to ask if I’d like a tour. This will then translate into social media posts and if there’s something there that really stands out, or if I’ve been to a brewery for a tour, then I’ll write about my experience and try to tell the story of that place/person/beer. I like working with folks who stay in touch and let me know of any news/new releases, etc. Being personable goes a long way.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
I can be contacted via my website or social media channels and I’m open to ideas if a brand wants specific content. If there’s something there that appeals to me, and I think it’s a good for the blog, then happy days. The more info upfront, the better.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether beer-related or not)?
Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson is one I read regularly. Mark blogs about all things beer and pubs (and sometimes chickens) and is well worth following.

I’m also a fan of Boak & Bailey for varied beer related content from tastings, to historical research to think pieces.

Chris Norman of The Ale Album blog is worth a read for anyone who loves music as much as they like beer, as he often pairs beers with albums. The albums always have stunning artwork, too!

Finally, Matt Chinnery aka The Half Pint Gentleman has just updated his blog and it’s a collection of great photos, travel pieces and tasty recipes.

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PinksCharming

Green Blogger Spotlight: Becky Pink, PinksCharming

‘I think a lot of people find going greener really daunting, so I try to break the lifestyle down into smaller, more easily manageable steps so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming’ – in the pink when it comes to going green is Becky Pink of PinksCharming.

Helping people make easy eco-friendly changes with green life hacks is what blogger Becky finds rewarding, so read on for some tips from her on helpful things you can start doing for a more environmentally-friendly and ethical lifestyle.

How did you originally get started with writing about green issues?
Although I have been interested in green issues for many years, my first blog posts about sustainability were through a partnership with Ikea and environmental charity Hubbub, called Live Lagom. It was the first wave of this project and I was chosen to receive a budget to choose Ikea products to make our home more sustainable. As part of that, I visited my local store to see their 6,000 solar panels, rainwater harvesting system and biomass boilers.

As a lifelong beauty junkie and former senior copywriter for a multi-national beauty company, I also began sharing honest reviews of green beauty products. This led to partnering with green beauty retailer Love Lula, and I’ve been collaborating with them for a few years now. Writing about green issues can incorporate pretty much any topic: interiors, beauty, fashion, travel, cooking, shopping, energy efficiency, the list goes on, so there’s always something new to write about.

Becky Pink

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I love writing about the simple ways we can all make small changes to our lives to be more eco-friendly. I think a lot of people find it really daunting, so I try to break the greener lifestyle down into smaller, more easily manageable steps so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I also love it when I discover a green life hack that either makes life easier, or saves money as well as being better for the environment – that’s the jackpot! It’s so rewarding when readers message me to say they’ve tried out a beauty product I recommend and love it, or have made changes inspired by my blog – that’s what makes it worth the hard work.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
COVID-19 has not made a huge difference to what I write about, as I am such a homebody that most of my content is still relevant when we are all spending the majority of our time at home. I haven’t been able to write as much as usual, however, as I have my kids at home and need to try to home school them.

As you’d expect, my recipe posts and my home improvement posts are getting read the most, and I’ve had messages saying readers are enjoying reading something positive. My green beauty posts aren’t getting as much attention, as people aren’t going out as much, but I know they’ll pick up when we get back to ‘normal’ – whenever that is!

Now, more than ever, I am trying to be positive as much as I can, and cheering on people as they make changes. I do my best to be realistic, however. Living a more eco-friendly life is not easy at the best of times, and can cost more money. When the majority of people are concerned about whether or not they have a job to go back to, and when their kids will be able to go back to school, there are more pressing concerns than the environment.

What are some of the environmental stories/issues happening at the moment that you’d wish more people knew about?
For me, eco issues go hand-in-hand with ethical issues. The impact of fast fashion on the environment, and the problems of fashion retailers cancelling orders and refusing to pay workers in the developing world is worrying me a lot. Not only are the workers, who already earn a scandalously low wage, not being paid, they are also facing catching COVID-19 and the devastation that goes with it. It’s absolutely horrifying. I have read that the unsold clothes are also going to landfill, too – it’s so wrong on every level. I avoid fast fashion and I hope that these problems will get more attention and make people think twice before they buy from unethical retailers in future.

For those who are just getting into greener living, what are three small changes you would recommend people start with?
I would say start small and work your way up. Hopefully most people are using reusable bags, cups and water bottles already but if not, get yourself one and remember to take it out with you (once you start going out, of course!).

Investigate the local options for recycling too, going beyond just plastic and glass and paper. There is a man who lives quite close to me who collects crisp packets and sweet wrappers for recycling, and raises money for charity at the same time, which is a no-brainer for me. I also recycle my contact lenses and cases at my optician.

Planning your meals to try to minimise food waste is another eco-friendly way to save money, and using a compost heap for any scraps will also benefit your garden if you have one. We’re growing vegetables and have a water butt to collect rain water so we don’t have to use a hose.

I have also been using a milkman who delivers milk in glass bottles, and I buy ketchup, mayo etc. in glass bottles too rather than squeezy plastic bottles, to cut down on single use plastic.

Buying second-hand fashion is also a great way to not only help the environment but save money and get a unique look, too.

How’s that for starters?

Will the growth of veganism continue?
I’m not a vegan myself, but I do think veganism will continue to grow, not least because of the concerns over potential reductions in food standards – it’s certainly making me think about it much more seriously. I think awareness is growing, and there are more vegan foods available in shops and restaurants, so I think that will make it easier for people to reduce meat and dairy consumption even if they don’t go vegan.

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I am open to working with brands in lots of different ways. It mostly tends to be honest product reviews but as a former journalist I am open to writing more in-depth opinion pieces, too. I love working with smaller brands where I can really get to know the people behind the company, and I am especially keen to work with minority and women-owned businesses. I value working with businesses who have a transparent supply chain and really do the hard work when working with suppliers and makers to ensure they are looking after their team properly as well as minimising their environmental impact.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
The best way to get in contact is through my email or in my Instagram DMs: I’m @pinkscharming on both Instagram and Twitter. I assess each approach on its own merits so I’m open to working in different ways and challenging myself. As a freelance copywriter, I’m all about the words but I work very hard on my photography, too. I’m also learning more about video.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether green-related or not)?
I love interiors and follow lots of interior blogs like Love Chic Living, and as a parent myself I also read parenting blogs like Laura’s Lovely Blog and What the Redhead Said when I have time. Love Lula has gathered a good group of green beauty bloggers so I often read what the others are reviewing, too.

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John Adams

Dad Blogger Ranking: John Adams, Dad Blog UK

The ‘number 1 dad’ badge goes to Dad Blog UK’s John Adams, our top dad blogger in the UK. Working for change when it comes to getting more men involved in childcare, John has been selected to work with LinkedIn as a Changemaker, and has been getting up at 5am every day since lockdown started to keep up with his childcare and blogging responsibilities.

John shares how he sees the longer-term impact of COVID-19 changing work and parental labour patterns and how else the pandemic has impacted his own schedule, beyond the early alarm calls.

How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
When I started Dad Blog UK back in 2012, it was to highlight the casual sexism I faced as a man who had given up a career to concentrate on family and home. Unfortunately, I found myself having issues with some healthcare professionals and being accepted by mums was a challenge.

Over time I decided to broaden what I wrote about. Fatherhood and parenting are very much at the core of what I do, but I also write about motoring, men’s grooming, do occasional recipe posts, days out and so on. As time goes on, I am increasingly producing video content as well.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?

I really enjoy doing the Q&A series that I introduced last year. This is when I get someone with some interest in family or parenting to answer around ten questions on their specialist subject. A highlight of this series was when I interviewed Ziauddin Yousafzai, better known as ’Malala’s dad’. He’s such a nice man who has dedicated his life to improving educational outcomes for girls. It’s no surprise he raised such a fearless daughter. Ziauddin even sent my daughter a special WhatsApp message when he discovered she was studying Malala’s life at school.

I also like to write about issues that go under the radar. One of my best performing blog posts is one I wrote a couple of years ago about, I kid you not, male thrush. Inspired by this I recently did an interview with a sexual and reproductive health specialist about erectile dysfunction and that, too, has performed well.

How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
Oh, my word – I have had to change my approach hugely! Firstly, like many mums and dads I have been homeschooling my kids while also working. To fit in content creation, I am having to get up at about 5am every day. I don’t mind admitting that we’re now into month three of living like this and it has become tough.
Secondly, I would usually attend events or meet with people face to face to produce content. All those opportunities vanished overnight so I was left with some significant holes in my editorial schedule.

That said, with two school-aged children, COVID-19 has provided me with plenty of inspiration to write about issues such as schooling, how we have coped with lockdown and also our eldest child’s return to school.

That said, I have noticed that people don’t want to read a constant stream of COVID-related content. That’s quite understandable; I think people want a break from it. One thing I did that’s been enormously successful is to re-introduce a weekly photography blog post. I stopped doing this last year but while on my daily family walks, I would take my camera and post the resulting images to Instagram and my blog. I was reluctant to do this as it felt very retrograde but my visitor stats and feedback from my followers has been so positive the weekly photo post is here to stay for a while longer!

Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads in the wake of necessary changes to co-parenting schedules during lockdown?
I do not believe we are going to see an increase in the number of stay at home dads because of the COVID-19 crisis. That said, we will almost certainly see a huge upswing in dads working from home and making a greater contribution to childcare and domestic chores. In a very short space of time, flexible and remote working has become normalised.

In addition to this, staff at all levels are having to homeschool and work from home. This has forced employers to wake up and accept the fact many of their employees have caring responsibilities away from the workplace.

We are probably not going to see people working from home five days a week forever. I suspect and hope most people will work from home two or three days a week or in some cases, the office may be a place they visit every fortnight or so. Tech enables us to work this way.

If we can cement these changes, it will hopefully lead to greater gender equality on the home front. The Fatherhood Institute is reporting the amount of childcare men do has rocketed up by almost 60% in just two months. That demonstrates how outdated and rigid our working culture was.

The great thing about being an influencer is that you can use your presence to effect change. I was recently selected to work with LinkedIn as a Changemaker. There are seven of us and we are all working to change the workforce for the better. There’s a mental health Changemaker, diversity and inclusion Changemaker, disability Changemaker and so on.

The focus of my Changemaker campaign is to make flexible working available to all mums, dads and people with caring responsibilities. I’m really proud to be a part of this campaign and I hope it leads to change.

How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?
First things first – do not even bother trying to replicate what happens at school. You can’t, especially if you are working as well.
As I said previously, I am feeling jaded after almost three months of this. If you need to just take a day off and go to the countryside with the kids for the day, do it.

There is also a point to be made here. This generation of kids are going through something no other generation has done. There’s quite rightly been discussion about the negative mental health impact and their education suffering.

These are all valid points, but these kids are going to have picked up all manner of soft skills and relationship skills. Their formal education may suffer, but informally, they are having a unique and possibly amazing experience. It’ll be interesting to see what the long-term impact is on them.

Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?
Erm, you’d be surprised how often my kids have been given super noodles for lunch on homeschool days. With fruit to make it balanced, obviously. Perhaps best move on to the next question…

How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I collaborate with brands in many ways. I recently started producing content for flexible working website DaddyJobs.co.uk and carer community site FamilyCarersNet.

Sometimes I am asked to produce Instagram Story videos. Other times it may be a detailed blog post, although usually it’s a package of blog post and social media promotion. I have previously acted as a media spokesperson, doing radio days.

As for who I like working with – wow, that’s so hard to answer! As a parenting, family and lifestyle blogger I have broad interests from family tech and flexible working to grocery shopping and family cars. If it’s relevant to me and my audience, I’m interested in it.

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Either email me or my agents Leigh Rodda or Kaye Freeman.

So long as the content you want is suitable for a family audience or of interest to parents or carers, then please get in touch. I am very experienced producing written, photographic and video content.

What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?
I hate answering this question! There are so many I want to list but I’m going to draw a line. These are the people whose content I looked at over the past couple of days.

I do enjoy reading fellow Vuelio Top 10 daddy blog Slouching Towards Thatcham, plus Daddy & Dad and Dad’s Delicious Dinners. The Music Fatherhood Football guys are also doing amazing things. From the mums, Jo Middleton’s Slummy Single Mummy is as good as ever.

Over on Instagram, I don’t usually do inspirational stuff, but Adam Cam is brilliant. And TV presenter Nigel Clarke is doing interesting things with his weekly Dadvenger Instagram Lives.

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