What PRs need to know about the future of journalism

What PRs need to know about the future of journalism

Journalism is evolving – the PR and comms industry needs to keep up. Check out these five takeaways from the Press Gazette Future of Media Technology Conference to stay ahead of the pace of change in the media industry and thrive in the digital future.

1) Locally-based spokespeople can rebuild trust

‘Quality, regulated, trusted journalism is the future’ – Rachel Corp, CEO of ITN
With news avoidance and mistrust in the media up, journalists must focus on rebuilding connections with their audiences. ITN CEO Rachel Corp in her keynote speech for the Future of Media Technology Conference highlighted the role that regulation will play in this, particularly when it comes to social media – an increasingly popular way of consuming news, especially for Generation Z). With ITN accelerating its digital plans, and Corp mentioning the ‘power of the simple vox pop’ and eyewitness journalism, locally-focused regional reporting with public voices front and centre is where the industry is likely to go. Being ready with case studies and spokespeople is where PR can help.

2) Brand affiliations are here to stay

‘Media brands are loved by people and they want to be part of that with branded products’ – Alex Wood, managing director, Europe at Forbes
People build connections with brands they trust, and this extends to the media brands they choose to engage with. Advertising, paywalls and licensing are well-established ways to grow revenue, but merchandising is where Forbes’ Alex Wood (revenue has grown by 40% at Forbes in the last year due to a consumer revenue focus) and Footballco’s chief executive officer Juan Delgado see potential. Authenticity with brand affiliations and mechandise should be a key concern.

3. Broader subjects will grab more attention

‘Young people are less interested in “narrow news” subjects’ – Nic Newman, lead author of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report
With 46% of the public – especially those Gen Zers – actively avoiding the negativity of the news cycle, the media has to pivot to cover subjects to pull attention and engagement back. According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, young people are interested in identity, social justice, mental health, culture and broader lifestyle topics – journalism needs to provide hope, empathy and dignity during the difficult times its audiences are living through. To help with this approach, the comms industry needs to be ready to work with long-form, solutions-focused and constructive journalists – find out more in this interview with Jodie Jackson of the News Literacy Network.

4. Publishers will be switching up data strategy

‘Companies are starting to take ownership of their own data’ – Markus Karlsson, CEO of Affino
With Google confirming the coming end for third-party cookies in Chrome, Affino’s Markus Karlsson believes publishers must prioritise a first party data strategy going forward and truly own their data. What this could mean for the future – one carefully-placed advertisement alongside editorial rather than five competing ones for a better return on investment. Switching up data strategies mean a need for PRs to switch up their media outreach plans, also.

5. AI will free up journalist time

‘Use the robots to do the routine reporting’ – Cecilia Campbell, chief marketing officer at United Robots
Regional reporting has suffered over the last decade, with shrinking teams caused by combined news hubs and the continuing toll of the pandemic on the media workforce. One way that local journalism can be revived is with AI and ‘robot reporting’, according to United Robots Cecilia Campbell. For her, data journalism and content automation means freeing-up journalist time by letting ‘robots’ produce regular content that can be automated, such as traffic and sport updates. What can journalists then do with the extra time? Cover stories of interest to them and their readers – plenty of opportunities for new stories and new engagement with all the audiences out there.

For more on engaging with the younger generation, as well as working with Gen Z journalists, download our white paper The PR guide to communicating with Gen Z.

Give journalists exactly what they need for their news and features by signing up to the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service and take ownership of your own data and track engagement for your future campaigns with Vuelio Media Monitoring.

A guide to the benefits of media monitoring for PRs

A guide to the benefits of media monitoring for PRs

Measuring the impact of your story across every platform you use to share it is a key part of determining traction with journalists, influencers and their audiences – media monitoring is how to do it.

Media monitoring services covering print, online, broadcast and social media can track the reputation of your business and even real-time reaction to your messaging. Here is how to do media monitoring, featuring tips for getting started as well as an explainer of the key benefits of tools like Vuelio media monitoring.

Understand every channel

The ability to understand the impact of your content across broadcast, print, online and social media means you can measure which formats are working for you right now, and which could use more of your focus in the future.

Print

Print monitoring allows for analysis of mentions in traditional press including national, regional and local newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, industry newsletters, trade journals and much more. Alongside this, you can analyse press write-ups alongside those online and on broadcast channels – meaning full visibility of current and emerging conversations and their impact on each medium.

Broadcast

Vuelio’s broadcast monitoring service streams thousands of hours of content from a variety of sources, allowing for easy editing and sharing. Mentions are monitored 24/7 across regional, commercial, international and national channels, giving an accurate representation of how your story is making its way across the news industry and hitting different audiences.

Online

As well as measuring your successes, monitoring across a combination of platforms means you can see how far your story goes, and where, including online channels. This can offer up additional avenues for your next campaign and ways to rethink or refresh your content creation.

Monitor competitors

With complete brand, competitor and industry tracking across a combination of media types, media monitoring can deliver the reports internal stakeholders and key decision makers will find most useful – including how you measure up against key competitors in your sectors.

Vuelio’s Executive News Briefing, a manual reporting service, delivers concise summaries of the news stories, industry updates and competitor information most important to you. This daily news brief is created by our analysts to summarise key coverage – yours, and those other brands you benchmark against – in one easy report.

Monitor the broader industry

Insights from media monitoring can inform your PR and communications strategy going forward by tracking trends across the broader industry you are a part of and work with. Prepare for any potential crisis on the horizon for your market, or opportunities for your business and comms team by picking up on topics you should know about early on in their journey through the press.

Subjects of interest for your brand are not the only elements worth tracking across the media. Evaluating media coverage to identify trends and insights means a deeper understanding of the reputation of your brand as well as the opinions of your consumer base. Media analysis tools can measure metrics including volume, circulation, sentiment and more to uncover the return on investment for communication campaigns.

After analysing what the press is reporting and the public are sharing, access a fully-integrated database of journalists and influencers, press release distribution services and advanced evaluation tools to follow up on the work so far, all in one platform.

Dive into digital channels

Modern monitoring goes way beyond the ‘traditional’ methods from PR’s past of newspapers and magazine clippings. Dive into all forms of digital media including newswires, digital publications, the big social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram alongside blogs, forums, website comment sections and other video and image sharing sites.

With access to both print and digital, it is possible to compare coverage across each to gain a full understanding of trends, as well as tones, used across different platforms. Vuelio online media monitoring offers unlimited keyboards and unlimited coverage for a flat-fee.

Watch for emerging issues and topics of interest

The media moves fast, so reviewing how your story is being reported in real-time is a must. Track developments across print, online and social media to ensure you pick up on all of the issues of interest to you, your brand, or your clients gaining column inches and shares across social right now.

For more on monitoring tools and making the most of them, check out our previous posts on the topic:

7 easy ways to measure your content
Top 5 measurement mistakes and how to fix them
How low media coverage can yield high value

PRCA survey findings on corporate reputation

PR and communications: Particularly popular with business leaders right now

A new survey from The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has found recognition among business leaders for the PR and comms industry following its role in supporting businesses through the tumult of the last few years.

Among the ongoing pandemic, the uncertainty of Brexit and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, PR and comms teams helped with business direction and focus as well as comms for external and internal stakeholders. To measure the impact of this, the PRCA surveyed CEOs and CFOs of organisations with over 250 employees in their workforces.

92% of respondents believe their communications teams played either a ‘very important’ or ‘important’ role in helping them through the financial and societal shifts since the beginning of 2020.

PRCA survey on CEO and CFO perception of PR

The survey was carried out by PR group Yolo Communications, starting in June 2020 and built upon by the Value of PR group.

Findings also showed:

– An increase in the strategic importance of the contributions of comms professionals (up 21 points to 89%), indicating the impact that crises and issues can have on recognising the value of having a capable communications function in place.
– That communications were ‘very important’ when it came to strengthening and protecting corporate reputation for 80% of respondents, up from just 39% who gave the same answer in 2020.
– 89% said that communications teams provided strategic advice to members of the senior leadership team, compared with just 68% two years ago.
– 62% said they expected their comms team to play an even more strategically important role over the next two years.

Strategic council from PR

Director General of the PRCA Francis Ingham said:

‘The PRCA represents more than 35,000 professionals worldwide and this study is further evidence of the valuable and important role that those individuals play every single day in directly impacting the business objectives of their organisations. What is more, business leaders’ confidence in their communications teams is expected to increase in the future. We should take a moment to reflect on this achievement and then continue to keep doing what we are doing.’

PRCA Value of PR Lead Adam Honeysett-Watts added:

‘There is no denying that most business leaders understand the value their communications teams bring to their organisations. While we hoped this would be the case, it is great to hear the feedback directly. The lesson here is that those businesses that have communications teams and plans in place are better prepared to weather a crisis and those that don’t are operating at a significant disadvantage.’

Find out more about the PRCA survey here.

For more on communicating during times of uncertainty, download our white paper ‘Communicating the cost-of-living crisis… A guide for charities and the third sector’.

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis for charities and the third sector

6 tips for planning your comms throughout the cost-of-living crisis

The cost-of-living crisis will have impacted the messaging and approach of every comms team, whatever the sector, and is only set to continue in a period of great financial strain for the public and businesses across the UK this winter.

In our new white paper ‘Communicating the cost-of-living crisis… A guide for charities and the third sector’, journalists and comms people working at charities and consumer-facing brands offer their experiences and advice on getting your messaging right for audiences under increasing pressures. Here are six key takeaways to bear in mind when planning your comms over the following months:

1. Give journalists what they need for their story

‘The contacts I prefer working with are the ones who let me know what’s coming up, rather than just add me to a general media list for press releases. Maybe a charity is planning a campaign, report or research study, and it might fit with what I’m working on. If I can’t report it right away, it might help shape a future piece. Advance notice is always good because I don’t usually work on fast turnaround news pieces.’ – Saba Salman, freelance journalist and author.

2. Share specifics – reporting has had to speed up significantly

‘For the TFN website, we won’t need to spend ages pointlessly rewriting an already well-written press release; we want to publish with the minimum of fuss and move on to the next one. ‘Have a strong line, marshal the facts and figures, include quotes and pictures (even a stock picture is helpful). Case studies are always welcome.’ – Graham Martin, editor of Third Force News.

3. Make contacts: the media wants to tell your story

‘Nothing new here – develop contacts. Journalists are over-worked and under resourced and there are not enough of them these days thanks to cuts which have devastated newsrooms. They are waiting to be spoon-fed, so do it. ‘Putting it very simplistically; get your story told effectively and you get the ear of the public and politicians.’ – Graham Martin.

4. Find those who have the power to make change in your sector

‘There are a lot of MPs, so you need to find the two or three who will become your advocates and advisers. Really research their interests and what they can do to help. Make it easy for them with clear messaging and calls to action. Follow and comment on what they do on social media and give them good content to post.’ – Katie Tait, director of PR and public affairs for Maggie’s cancer charity.

5. Ensure the tone of your comms is appropriate for the message and for the times

‘We did a lot of work during our campaign planning to make sure we got our tone-of-voice right. This is something we’re really conscious of – we always strive to make sure the way we’re talking about issues is the way people impacted are talking about them, too.’

We held workshops with our storytellers and ambassadors as well as our front-line staff to find out what people are saying when they come to us for help and also what they really wouldn’t want to hear/read. We took out any jargon or anything that didn’t sound completely natural and then issued a tone-of-voice document across the organisation to make sure everyone was on the same page.’ – Katie Tait.

6. Remember who is at the centre of your campaign

‘Ensure that those your campaign is intended for remain front and centre. Building strong foundations is incredibly key – from there you can diversify the angles you push, move onto national press and then become a part of the conversation on TV and media outlets. ‘Lots of leg-work, a strong message and consistency are the most important ingredients for success.’ – Rosie Macdonald, senior PR strategist at Love Energy Savings.

Download the full white paper ‘Communicating the cost-of-living crisis… A guide for charities and the third sector’ here.

For more on communicating during difficult financial times for the public, watch our webinar with NSPCC, FareShare and Refuge.

Cabinet Office

Progression in the cabinet amid a time of change

As we turn a corner away from the stresses of Brexit arrangements and the worst (hopefully) of the COVID-19 pandemic, our new Conservative leader and Prime Minister Liz Truss faces yet another battle, this time with the spiralling energy crisis, just in time for the winter months.

Facing what Nicola Sturgeon warns has the potential to become a humanitarian crisis, Truss’ cabinet arrangements needed to be based on expertise and experience. Her choices will also go down in history for creating the most ethnically-diverse cabinet ever with none of the great offices of state held by a white man, allowing for this cabinet reshuffle to display significant milestones for future Government.

For the first time there are no white males in any of the four most senior positions of the UK Government; Prime Minister Liz Truss, Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Further to this, for the first time, the UK has its first non-white Environment Secretary (Ranil Jayawardena) and International Trade Secretary (Anne-Marie Trevelyan). In addition to this, 23% of those attending cabinet are non-white.

Truss’ cabinet also shows significant progression for women in Government, portraying something much greater for wider society. Nearly a third of cabinet attendees identify as women, making it the highest proportion noted in modern times – this is also the proportion ever for a Prime Minister’s first Cabinet.

Women have held the role of Home Secretary for the past 13 years, with Suella Braverman as the fifth woman in history to hold the post, the first being Labour’s Jacqui Smith (from 2007-2009), Theresa May (2010-16), Amber Rudd (2016-18) and Priti Patel (2019-22). Wendy Morton is the first woman to serve as Conservative Chief Whip, while Labour has had four female Chief Whips, the most recent being Dame Rosie Winterton, who held the role from 2010 to 2016. Further, Therese Coffey is only the fifth person to formally hold the role of Deputy Prime Minister, and the first woman to do so.

However, while these achievements show progress, the turnover of the last 12 months has meant inconsistencies across these important cabinet roles. Five separate people have held the job of Education Secretary, with Kit Malthouse serving as the ninth Education Secretary in the past 12 years. Further, since 2010 there have been nine ustice secretaries with Brandon Lewis taking current hold, following Ken Clarke (2010-12), Chris Grayling (2012-15), Michael Gove (2015-16), Liz Truss (2016-17), David Lidington (2017-18), David Gauke (2018-19), Robert Buckland (2019-21) and Dominic Raab (2021-22). In addition to this, Nadhim Zahawi makes history as the second shortest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer, at just 63 days in office, after being given the job by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 5 July.

In order for this hard Conservative Government to deliver effectively, it remains to be seen whether cabinet members will align with Truss’s economic priority to cut taxes, her commitment to supporting the NHS, her promise to double down on the policy of deporting asylum seekers and other immigrants to Rwanda, as well as her toughness over the Northern Ireland Protocol with the potential for her to trigger Article 16.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

JustGiving on the cost-of-living crisis

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis: Mema Nackasha at JustGiving

While people feel the bite of rising energy and food bills across the country, charities and organisations like JustGiving continue their efforts to help those in need.

Head of charity partnerships Mema Nackasha shares how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted the JustGiving team and those they work with and how approaches to fund and awareness-raising have had to change.

How has the cost-of-living crisis in the UK impacted the charities JustGiving works with, as well as your own work?

Over the last few months, as people grapple with the cost-of-living crisis, some household budgets have likely been placed under pressure. However, those able to, have increased their donations. It is heart-warming to see that those in a position to support worthy causes across the JustGiving platform are doing so. Overall, the average donation amount has increased by 10% this year compared to 2021, and 21% compared to 2019.

Monumental events and challenges often shape the way in which people give. While it may feel concerning at times to think about donations trends like those seen during 2008 recession, our knowledge of these previous donation patterns means that as an industry we are better placed to support charities through these turbulent times.

What are the unique challenges UK charities are facing right now?

The pandemic and many lockdowns we faced has meant the way in which people are supporting charities has changed. And now that we’re (hopefully) coming out the other side, there’s been an understandable shift in people wanting to travel and enjoy ‘normal’ life.

Viral challenges like ‘See Ten Do Ten’ and the ‘NHS Active Challenge’ have been replaced with trips abroad, where fundraisers climb mountain peaks or take on marathon bike rides – all in the name of a good cause.

Alongside this, we’ve seen a trend in charity giving becoming more issues based. People are spending less time scrolling social media finding the next 5K challenge and are instead focusing on single moments in time or bigger societal or humanitarian events, for example BowelBabe or the floods in Pakistan.

What have been some of your main successes recently?

Historically, the charity sector has not seen rapid technological innovation when compared to the corporate sector. At JustGiving, we’ve been listening closely to our charity partners and have been agile and adaptable to the changing donor behaviours. We’ve built microsites that put charity logos and messaging front and centre; these microsites have supported both virtual and in-person events and have enabled fundraisers to raise more. Another one we’re proud of is our partnership with SwiftAid that has simplified and improved the way charities collect Gift Aid.

We’re lucky to have an extremely talented team, who are devoted to helping our charities raise huge sums for the amazing causes they serve. This is evident in the speed at which we’ve been able to engage with charities, small and large, to answer support calls when big crises hit. Overnight we’ve set up support functions that share tips, knowledge, and insight with our partners on the best practices for raising funds during these big moments.

What advice would you offer to organisations hoping to be heard by politicians and change-makers on this issue?

As with most businesses in the UK, charities are feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. This is particularly true for charities that serve causes disconnected from the current topic on everyone’s lips – the cost-of-living crisis. Lesser-known organisations that the country relies on for life-saving research or healthcare may struggle with engagement as givers focus on the cost-of-living.

These charities must highlight the need to focus on the long term. After the cost-of-living crisis, we will still need research into cancer cures or hospice care for our children. We need to make sure that changemakers understand that without immediate action these charities will fail. And if they do, the hundreds of thousands they support will be without help.

How would you advise others with approaching the media to gain coverage?

JustGiving pages are full of stirring stories, those who are challenging themselves to achieve the unachievable, from scaling peaks to smashing world records in an effort to raise money for loved ones.

During these tough times for individuals across the country, people are looking for a chance to read or hear specific stories that they can relate to, that make them laugh, that inspire them or warm their hearts. When charities are engaging with the media, these are the stories to tell.

How do you ensure that your approach is sensitive to those struggling/particularly vulnerable during this crisis?

We all need to be sensitive to those who cannot afford to give – many people can’t, and that’s more than okay. There are still people from every corner of the country who are looking to support charities.

If you’re looking to increase the chances of those individuals finding your cause you need to share, share, share. Every social media post, link, etc. will help – sharing your page is just as valuable as donating yourself. We’ve seen some really interesting data around what does and doesn’t work when raising money. For example, users simply sharing their page on social media see a 20% increase in the amount they raise!

Are there particular journalists/sectors of the media you’d like to highlight as doing a good job on reporting on the cost-of-living crisis?

The cost-of-living crisis, the need to help businesses and households is front page news every day, as it should be. This has played a huge role in spurring leaders into action and delivering support.

However, there has been less coverage of the impact on the charity sector. The BBC has covered the cost of rising energy bills on a children’s hospice, ITV has reported on a charity that supports children with disabilities struggling to keep up with the cost-of-living and the sector trades have been covering the issue extensively, but overall we need more coverage to help drive support and much needed donations.

For more on how comms teams are communicating the cost-of-living crisis, read our previous interviews with cancer charity Maggie’s and business utilities marketplace Love Energy Savings.

How to measure the impact of your campaign with social listening

How to measure the impact of your campaign with social listening

Having launched and shared your campaign where your target audiences are most likely to engage, now is the time to pull the data, crunch the numbers and manage your metrics to examine the successes and could-do-betters.

As part of our series on how social listening can add insight to your campaign planning, creation and measurement, here is what it can do for you in the post-campaign phase.

Going beyond traditional metrics

Volumes, impressions and reach scores – you may be used to sending out PowerPoints filled with graphs and pie charts to prove the success of your campaign to your stakeholders and C-suite, but does all this data tell its full story?

Positive and negative sentiment and share of voice are established methods for determining key accomplishments. They are useful for those higher-up in the management hierarchy, those slightly removed from the coal face of the work, as an overview – they cannot be skipped. Without context, however, these traditional metrics can only go so far. What do the engagements achieved really mean?

Offering wider possibilities

In conjunction with those reach scores, impressions, et al, social listening can provide more insight and actionable learning.

Which audience did you actually engage?
At the pre-campaign phrase, you will have decided which audiences would be most interested in and most useful for your client or your brand. All the data you’ve collected will show engagements, but how do you know if your campaign hit the intended audience, or another entirely?

With social listening, it is possible to answer that question with more accuracy, ultimately making for a more meaningful report to share with stakeholders.

Did you reach a wider audience?
With this extra level of detail, you can benchmark against your established audience/previous engagements, unearthing which new communities you have linked with.

Did your campaign have a meaningful impact?
Beyond impressions and positive and negative impact, social listening services like those offered by Pulsar can add in extra detail, such as brand pillars and dimensions of reputation to check your data against.

Additional context against your brand dimensions
As each campaign adds up to a full display of your brand or clients’ story, approach and personality (alongside the services offered, naturally), there is a compelling and useful through-line that can be tracked. Future campaigns can either build on this, or take a detour if needed. Higher-ups in your company hierarchy might look at a campaign’s metrics once, but extra context means extra direction for the future.

Opening routes through crisis

Whether working in-house or agency-side for other brands, a crisis communications plan has to be in place, just in case. Press releases, public apologies or product recalls will not work for every brand in a crisis; different routes have to be uncovered and social listening can point out the right direction.

Are first impressions what they seem?
A crisis for a brand means social media impressions – conversations and coverage potentially spanning the globe and steadily chipping away at reputation. High impressions may automatically signal disaster… but are those online conversations actually connected, spreading and reaching high-profile publications?

Social listening services like Pulsar can pinpoint the key influencers engaging in the crisis around a brand and track their reach – how many audiences they connect to, and how far a story is spreading. The numbers may look frightening, but the story might not be going anywhere – keep that press release to yourself for now…

Has the crisis even hit your audience?
Social listening allows for segmentations of the audiences sharing particular stories – by community, political affiliations, age, nationality, media consumption patterns and much more. Did the story you need to combat and subdue reach your target community? If not, a wide-reaching public apology could do more damage to global brand reputation.

Where do you need to rebuild relationships?
Your client base may not be engaging with the crisis, but it needs to be combatted within the communities it has impacted. Social listening will help with finding those people and determining how to reestablish trust with them. Which media do they engage with, how do they engage with them? Learning more about them will show you the approach to take.

Key takeways

– Metrics will not always give you the full story and can be easily built upon with data from social media.
– Benchmarking is a necessity – no benchmarking can mean data in isolation and only part of the story.
– Measurement criteria placed in context is key for future planning.

Impressions, reach and sentiment are established in our industry for a reason, but will your stakeholders really care without the extra meaning of context? Your campaign told a story to your audience, here is where you tell the story of your campaign to your bosses.

For more on how social listening can add extra insight to your campaigns, check out previous posts in this series: 

An introduction to social listening for PR, comms and public affairs teams

How social listening can help you plan and boost your PR campaigns 

Reputation in business

Business leaders, listen up: Stuart Thomson on maintaining reputation in business

Whether you are the CEO of an international business, a politician with power or a high-profile celebrity with millions of fans, reputation matters. Here to offer advice on building, maintaining and, where needed, rescuing reputation in business is BDB Pitmans’ Stuart Thomson in his new book Reputation in Business: Lessons for Leaders.

For 30% off, use the code VUELIO30 at checkout here

Read on for which businesses are getting their comms right, how to handle a reputational crisis and what leaders can learn from Lizzo.

Reputation in Business

Can you introduce your new book?

The book, Reputation in Business: Lessons for Leaders, aims to be a practical guide to building and protecting reputations. A lot of leaders recognise the vital intangible asset that reputation represents but too many don’t really understand what reputation is and the steps that should be taken to build it. So, this is my effort, drawing in the valuable experience of others, to deliver that sort of practical guide.

What inspired you to write it?

I’ve always enjoyed reading books about communications partly to keep myself up-to-date on the latest trends and ideas but also because I find the issues really interesting as well! I find it fascinating to learn from the experience of others. There is no doubting the importance of reputation management in so much of what we do in communications but I thought that while many books were great on the theory, they were less good on ‘and here is what you should do’. That was my inspiration!

Having written other books I had a good idea about what would be involved and the time needed so I spent my evenings and weekends writing. Luckily, I have a very understanding family!

Have your experiences with blogging helped with writing a full book?

I think so. It has helped me to develop a style which is not too formal but also allows me to convey information as well. Regular readers of the blog seem to enjoy that and the book is very much is the same style.

Blogging also focuses you. In a blog you don’t have the amount of words available to go off on too many flights of fancy. You need to show the challenge and convey some ideas and advice. The book follows that same sort of style.

What were the main challenges with writing the book?

Covid, covid, covid. On the one hand it meant that there were plenty of examples, good and bad, to help me illustrate the critical role of reputation management. But on the other, working from home all day during lockdown and then sitting at the same kitchen table in the evening to spend time on the book was a bit tough.

Add to that the ramifications for the publishing sector and it could have been that I had written a book that no one would ever get to read. Luckily, I have a fantastic agent in Matthew Smith and a wonderful team at Routledge who have all helped get it ready for publication.

With reputation particularly important now, and gauging tone-of-voice in comms difficult in light of current events, which brands, businesses or high-profile figures do you think are getting it right?

Very few get it right all the time. I admire the ones who get it right most of the time but also those who, when they make a mistake, move quickly and learn from it. All organisations and individuals need to be constantly vigilant as well. Anyone who thinks they can sit back and take a reputation for granted will, sooner or later, come unstuck.

Just look at some of the brands that seem to have made some very strange decisions during the period of mourning for the Queen and around her funeral arrangements.

I mention in the book, the way in which Liverpool Football Club (which I support) made some terrible decisions during Covid but took quick and decisive action to reverse them. Critically, the leadership took personal ownership of the decisions as well.

With crisis management a key part of reputation, could you name some examples of great crisis comms from the last few years?

Many organisations have plans in place to deal with a crisis so it is surprising that many still manage to get their reaction wrong.

But I think the real issue is those who do not plan properly to stop the mistakes from happening in the first place. Just look at someone normally as sure-footed as Beyoncé. She used an ableist slur in one of her songs only shortly after Lizzo had done the same. Lizzo recognised her mistake, apologised and re-recorded the song. For Beyoncé to make the same mistake very shortly afterwards is poor. Lizzo handled her crisis well.

On the corporate side, I think the pharma companies have done a good job in counteracting the misinformation over the Covid vaccine. It has been more of a ‘slow and steady’ type of campaign and they have had to work with a wide range of audiences but the outcomes have benefited us all.

On the subject of business leaders with reputations that perhaps need better management… what advice would you give to a high-profile figure like Elon Musk for rebuilding their reputation in the eyes of the public?

Some leaders love their persona so much that they seem not to believe that they ever make any mistakes. It doesn’t appear that they take advice because they have complete faith in their own abilities. That takes a very special type of personality.

Building a reputation in the first place is about recognizing your weaknesses and then taking action to address them. Only then can you start build relationships with the audiences that really matter. And that doesn’t always mean the general public.

Were there any subjects/topics that you would love to cover in a follow-up/didn’t have room for in this book?

Well, drum roll, I’ve already been planning my next book and Routledge have kindly agreed to publish that one as well. The Company and The Activist: Going Beyond PR will look at how activist and community groups interact with businesses. It is early stages but I’d be happy to talk to those with a view on these issues.

Which tomes have really helped you in your career in public relations/public affairs – are there any books (apart from your own, of course) that you would recommend those earlier on in their careers to read?

In terms of public affairs, I think Lionel Zetter’s books are always worth learning from and he has a great writing style as well. But also check out Conor McGrath, Erik Akse, Milos Labovic and Anders Kopp Jensen. But I would also say that there are a number of good podcasts out there as well so learn from wherever you can.

Then one of my favourites on reputation management is The Reputation Game by David Waller and Rupert Younger. That is one that I keep returning to.

For more from Stuart Thomson, check out his recent guest post on what Prime Minister Liz Truss’s leadership will mean for public affairs.

Communicating the cost-of-living for charities webinar

How charities are communicating the cost-of-living crisis

Charities have had to rethink media strategies, budgets, workflow and lobbying as priorities change throughout the cost-of-living crisis in the UK.

For our latest webinar ‘Communicating the cost-of-living for charities’, FareShare public affairs, comms and PR consultant Ali Gourley, NSPCC national media manager Harry Watkinson and Refuge head of media and campaigns Kim Manning-Cooper shared how their communications and approaches have had to change and how their teams are keeping campaigns high on the news agenda and in front of key decision makers.

Watch the webinar here.

Comms plans need to evolve with the changing needs of the public

Each charity represented on our webinar panel has seen how the current economic climate is directly impacting their community. As a result, their workloads and focus have had to change.

‘A big concern for us has been how domestic abuse survivors will be impacted by the current crisis,’ shared Refuge’s Kim Manning-Cooper.

‘Economic abuse is significant. Money being withheld, people being unable to access work and education. We know that many survivors will be recipients of Universal Credit, and that when they flee, they will have to renew it – the cost-of-living crisis could be a barrier to them leaving.

‘We surveyed frontline staff across emergency refuges and services – 92% said that the cost-of-living crisis is already pushing survivors further into debt. Survivors are faced with an impossible choice between staying and poverty.

‘We expect to see an increase in demand for our services’.

Campaign timelines have had to change alongside changing priorities

‘From a policy perspective, poverty wasn’t traditionally a core priority for NSPCC campaigning,’ said the charity’s national media manager Harry Watkinson. ‘Now there is growing evidence that poverty, abuse and neglect are related.’

‘The crisis is influencing how our policy team are working. From a media perspective, journalists are thinking about today, or at a push, next week. We’re still pushing out stories that have been in the planner, but it is like a tsunami; the earthquake has hit, and we’re waiting for the next wave – October, when energy bills start rolling in.

Journalists need more from comms teams now

The lessons the NSPCC team learned during the pandemic about what journalists need from organisations providing support are proving useful during the current crisis – the media needs hard evidence of its impacts.

‘Journalists want evidence on how the financial crisis is impacting the work that we do,’ said Watkinson. ‘In a normal situation, we would give six-month or annual updates on data from our helpline. Now, we’re doing quarterly and monthly updates on physical, domestic and emotional abuse. I’d say, be prepared for the fact they will keep coming back for updates – it is no longer just an annual thing.’

While the media will be saturated with cost-of-living-related stories over the next few months, there will be room for other stories from charities, says Watkinson:

‘There will still be scope to put more ‘normal’ stories, unrelated to the cost-of-living crisis. Moments when journalists are looking for something more uplifting. Having the evidence ready so you can play a relevant part in the media debate and being able to provide alternative narratives from time to time – that is important for charities and supporters’.

Bigger asks of politicians

FareShare’s network of charitable food redistributors are feeling the increased financial pressures – a pivot in its public affairs strategy was needed.

‘We are changing our ask from the Government,’ said Ali Gourley. ‘It costs us more to get food out now and there are more people in food insecurity. We are going out to our industry partners, we have more people at our doors – we need more food.

‘The current situation had changed how we’re positioning ourselves and how we talk to people.’

Working together to make an impact

With messaging from a myriad of charities hitting the media, public and politicians so regularly right now, making an impact among all the noise is a challenge. To achieve common goals, team ups with other organisations can get campaigns more attention.

‘Can be done with open letters,’ advises Ali, using FareShare’s collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as an example.

‘All charities have their own agenda, but if common ground can be found, it is doable. Presenting a united front, from a political and campaigning perspective – it definitely works.’

Watch the full Communicating the cost-of-living for charities webinar here.

Find the politicians who can make a difference to the communities you support with the Vuelio Political Database and pitch to the journalists writing about it with the Vuelio Media Database.

Downing Street

What does Liz Truss’s victory mean for climate policy?

Many shared their confusion online at the sight of a Liz Truss campaign bus driving around Westminster with a depiction of the new Prime Minister photoshopped onto a Union Jack, next to a plate of baked beans, with a promise of a “citizens’ assembly to fix climate & costs”. This unexpected environmental commitment was accompanied by a Government press release that would fool most people who stumbled across it. To many people’s disappointment, it emerged to be an elaborate stunt by activists. On the same day, Truss promised during PMQs to expand supply of North Sea oil and gas to tackle the energy crisis, fueling worries about the new Government’s intentions for handling the climate crisis.

Despite Truss’s reiteration of support for the Government’s 2050 net zero pledge, the International Energy Agency has said that net zero cannot be achieved unless there is a commitment to no new oil and gas, something expansion of North Sea oil and gas clearly conflicts with. Keir Starmer criticised the Prime Minister yesterday for refusing to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas profits which she argued is not conducive to business. Truss has also committed to scrapping green levies on energy bills and green regulation, and committed to ending the UK-wide moratorium on fracking – a process which leaks methane into the atmosphere and causes air, water and sound pollution. Her strongest commitment to alternative energy has been on new nuclear, an option that is highly contested on environmental grounds.

Appointments to Truss’s new cabinet have caused more worry, with the promotion of Ranil Jayawardena to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. GreenPeace have said Rees-Mogg should be the ‘last person’ in charge of the energy brief, with a history of climate denialism, support for fracking and desire to squeeze ‘every last drop’ of oil from the North Sea. Meanwhile, Jayawardena has publicly criticised the use of rural large-scale solar farms and has a voting record which consistently votes against measures to prevent climate change. The Conservative Party itself is split when it comes to net zero, with two rival groups emerging this year: the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and Net Zero Support Group. Chris Skidmore MP, founder of the Support Group, has launched a UK tour today in defence of green policies, and Alok Sharma has been reappointed COP26 president despite being regarded as relatively proactive on climate policy.

On top of internal disagreements, external pressure is inevitable, especially with COP27 in Egypt at the end of the year. There is likely to be further pressure from developing countries, particularly within the context of worsening global extreme weather (as seen with flooding in Pakistan) and the continued failure for western countries to commit £100bn of annual funding for mitigation and adaptation. Whatever Truss’s intended focus, it is clear that climate policy is a key topic within political discussion on the international stage, within UK politics and inside the Conservative party, which could make it increasingly hard for the new Prime Minister to ignore.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Sarah Scholefield

PRCA announces Chair for 2022-2024

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has confirmed that Grayling’s Global CEO Sarah Scholefield is its 2022-2024 Chair.

Scholefield succeeds Rachel Friend MPRCA in the role, who has led the association through what has been a challenging few years for the international PR and communications industry.

Having been at Grayling for over eight years, Scholefield originally joined in 2014 to lead on strategic direction, coordination, corporate and crisis work for PayPal, later being promoted to CEO of UK and Ireland. She is now Global CEO of Grayling and CEO of the communications group of agencies, Accordience.

‘Sarah is one of the most highly regarded leaders in our industry and has earned the respect of PR and communications practitioners around the world,’ said PRCA Director-General Francis Ingham of Scholefield’s appointment.

‘Her recent promotion to Global CEO makes her the perfect choice for the PRCA as we seek to expand our international footprint.

‘I’d like to thank Rachel for her commitment and leadership during an exceptionally challenging two years. I look forward to working with Sarah as we build on our reputation as the world’s largest and most dynamic PR association.’

Sarah Scholefield said:

‘It is a great honour to take on the role of PRCA Chair, working closely with Francis and the Board to guide the PRCA through the next phase of its journey. I’d like to thank Rachel for her expert Chairing and her commitment to DEI & mental health in the industry: two critical areas to which I am equally committed, as well as a focus on education and promoting our profession throughout schools.

‘I very much look forward to building on her work in helping the PRCA drive meaningful change within the industry.’

Find more on the appointment here on the PRCA website.

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis with Katie Tait at Maggie's

Communicating the cost-of-living crisis: Katie Tait at Maggie’s

As budgets are being carefully considered and replanned in homes across the country, charities across all sectors are quickly redistributing their resources to help. One charity pivoting to keep up with the evolving needs of their community right now is Maggie’s – ‘everyone’s home of cancer care’, which provides free support and information in centres across the UK as well as online.

Maggie’s director of PR and public affairs Katie Tait shares how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted those fighting against cancer across the UK and how the charity has had to adjust to keep up with the increasing strains on the public:

‘People are more afraid of paying bills than their cancer diagnosis,’ shares Katie.

‘When you are given a cancer diagnosis, you should not have to be scared that you won’t be able to pay your bills’.

How has the cost-of-living crisis in the UK impacted Maggie’s work?

Katie Tait at Maggie'sWe are hearing a huge range of devastating stories from our centre visitors across the UK of how the crisis is hitting them hard. People with cancer already face a financial burden because of reduced income from being off work or unable to apply for work, greater heating (or, this summer, cooling) needs because of treatment and being at home during the day as well as dietary requirements. Added to that – the travel costs of getting to their appointments.

Our benefits advisors are seeing unprecedented demand and they can always find all the different pots of money available but sometimes someone is already receiving all they can. That’s where Maggie’s is so good – because of our wrap-around care, we can support them through the stress and anxiety that living on a severely reduced budget brings. We are hearing of people stopping treatment early or delaying treatment because of travel costs and our cancer support specialists can help them with those decisions and how to know what to prioritise.

What are the unique challenges you’re facing right now?

Everyone is feeling the cost-of-living crisis but our unique challenge is in making sure people with cancer and their families are prioritised. During COVID, we drove home the message that people with cancer were being forgotten through delayed treatments and surgery and that got a lot of traction.

We are now seeing the same thing and our message is the same. People with cancer must be prioritised because of the life situation they are in. When you are given a cancer diagnosis, you should not be scared that you are not going to be able to pay your bills.

What have been some of your main successes recently?

Our recent press campaign and survey on how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting people with cancer got a lot of media attention. We invested in research and a survey with OnePoll which found a really strong and shocking headline figure of people being more afraid of paying bills than their cancer diagnosis. We landed our research in the same week as the Ofgem report which meant there was a lot of noise around cost-of-living and so our quotes and figures and case studies got picked up everywhere. We had a strong CEO statement and our centre visitors lined up for interviews.
It really bought home how critical the cost-of-living crisis was going to be for people living with cancer and with it our message that Maggie’s was here for everyone.

What advice would you offer to charities hoping to be heard by politicians/changemakers on this issue?

Find some champions. There are a lot of MPs, so you need to find the two or three who will become your advocates and advisers. Really research their interests and what they can do to help. Make it easy for them with clear messaging and calls to action. Follow and comment on what they do on social media and give them good content to post.

Our relationship with Tonia Antoniazzi, the chair of the APPG on Cancer, meant we had a Parliamentary reception in Westminster, set up an early day motion on the importance of our support for carers and could be introduced to other MPs. The same goes for Tracey Crouch, whose experience of cancer meant she really understood what Maggie’s is trying to achieve.

How would you advise others with approaching the media to gain coverage on these issues?

We made sure we had all the components ready to go at launch – we had case studies, spokespeople briefed, regional breakdowns of our data and ready-made social media content all prepared so that when we issued our release, we could respond to incoming requests straight away.

We also had a statement from our CEO that summarised the press release, including key data that we could send out reactively to any other cost-of-living stories as it’s such a hot topic.

How do you ensure that your approach is sensitive to those particularly vulnerable during this crisis?

We did a lot of work during our campaign planning to make sure we got our tone-of-voice right. This is something we’re really conscious of at Maggie’s and always strive to make sure the way we’re talking about issues is the way people living with cancer are talking about them too.

So, we held workshops with our storytellers and ambassadors as well as our front-line staff to find out what people are saying when they come to us for help and also what they really wouldn’t want to hear/read. We took out any jargon or anything that didn’t sound completely natural and then issued a tone-of-voice document across the organisation to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Which areas related to cost-of-living are underrepresented – what else should the media and politicians be reporting on?

There’s a lot of talk, rightly, about how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting those from lower income areas and older people, but not much about how it is impacting people living with cancer. We also know that people in lower income areas have a higher rate of some cancers, so it really is a double hit.

Are there particular journalists/sectors of the media you’d like to highlight as doing a good job on reporting on the cost-of-living crisis?

I think the media is doing a great job in covering how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting normal people. Broadcast media is the best way to hear real people’s stories, so for us having people who were happy to be interviewed on the TV and radio was important and hearing those stories straight from the people living them helps to bring home how hard the situation is.

The place that the real conversation is happening though is social media. Our Facebook posts, in particular, got a lot of attention and some really heart-breaking responses – all of which we can follow up with directly to make sure we are supporting them as much as we can.

How important is PR/comms for helping the public on this and making change to policy?

It’s imperative. Getting such a wide range of media outlets meant we were reaching nearly one million people with direct information about people with cancer and the cost-of-living. As we all know, an editorial carries far more punch than an advertorial – getting that Third Party Endorsement from media really does make an impact.

For more on campaigning for support throughout the cost-of-living crisis, read our interview with Love Energy Savings’ Rosie Macdonald on the company’s work with Lancashire-local brands including Robinsons to help families in the area.

Hear from Refuge, NSPCC and FareShare on how they’re navigated the crisis in our webinar ‘Communicating the cost-of-living crisis for charities’.

To connect with journalists reporting on your sector, find out more about the Vuelio Media Database and the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

Top tips for timing your comms right

Top tips for timing your PR content and comms to perfection

This is a guest post from freelance journalist Dakota Murphey.

In PR, timing is everything. Get the timing right and it can mean the PR content that you painstakingly planned for months on end is picked up and run with. Get it wrong and it can feel like an awful lot of wasted effort for no reward. It is not surprising, then, that businesses are increasingly focused on the perfect timing for their PR work. 

Well-planned and executed PR campaigns can be hugely beneficial to your business. They can help to build a connection with customers, limit and quickly manage any damage in a PR crisis as well as establish your business as a leading authority in the sector. Over time this is an incredibly rewarding form of marketing that can result in additional sales and boosted profits.

In this article, we will look at some top tips for timing your PR content and comms more effectively.

Being smart with social media

There can be no doubt that social media have revolutionised how we approach PR. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be used by PR professionals to get far more opportunities to connect with an audience online, as well as to provide a much larger potential audience for the content.

It is common for PR professionals to work closely with social media marketing to get the best possible results for their campaigns. Some of the most effective ways to use social media include engaging with press members, as well as identifying trending topics that are gaining popularity and momentum.

Writing engaging content

It is often an overlooked factor of PR: your content needs to stand out from the crowd. Remember that when you are conducting PR you are asking members of the press to take the content you give them and publish it online. That means you need to put a lot of effort and investment into creating truly engaging content.

The last thing you want is content that comes across as promotional or simply acts as an advert for your business. It can be easily seen through, not just by those publishing the work, but also by anyone who ends up reading it.

Writing timely content is an essential part of impressing those looking to publish your work, and you are much more likely to get work out if it has a time-relevant theme.

Responding to the pandemic

For many businesses, planning for PR content and large-scale communications can be done months or even years in advance. It may well be the case that a large part of your company’s business model was actually conceived before the Covid-19 pandemic took place. If this is the case for you, it is important to consider the effect that the pandemic has had on your marketplace and your audience.

“You should recognise that the pandemic has changed things significantly – and this might have to affect your business strategy moving forward,” explains Chris Plumridge, Director at Wellden Turnbull. “It may be the case that the kinds of products and services you offer may need to be re-thought and updated. This can be a painful process, but it is important to ensure that the company is sustainable.”

If you have planned for PR content that is no longer applicable, or perhaps no longer as relevant as it once was, you really need to reconsider the work and think about how you can put it out more effectively. The pandemic is continuing to influence business decisions, so this can be a key part of your strategy.

Building your relationships

There’s no doubt that relationship building is a key part of any PR role. Knowing who to go to with a particular piece of content and how to get them to accept it is the bread-and-butter of the role. A huge part of the good timing of your work is knowing when is the right time to send over a piece to a particular contact.

You should never be sending out a dull press release to generic channels. It is best to take every possible opportunity to build that personal connection – offer a story to a particular journalist, and do your research on them before you send it over.

Using a digital asset management system

One of the biggest challenges of always being timely with your PR content is the fact that you have to manage multiple media outlets at once. As such it can be an extremely good idea to invest in a digital asset management (DAM) system. This is a useful way to manage assets such as images, videos, infographics and more.

Check out previous guest posts published as part of our PR Club series on best practice in PR and comms here.

What will the new Prime Minister mean for public affairs

What the new Prime Minister means for public affairs

This is a guest post from Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs at law firm BDB Pitmans.

Stuart Thomson

There are only days left before the name of the new Prime Minister will be announced. What will this decision mean for those in public affairs?

Liz vs Rishi seems to have created a long drawn-out debate with plenty of antagonism on both sides. But however much the candidates try to talk about a range of policies, a victory is likely to come down to plans around tax. Both agree that tax cuts are needed but one says now, the other later. All the indications are that Liz Truss, who wishes to take immediate action, will win.

The incoming PM will bring a new approach and a new agenda. They will want to demonstrate some distance from the previous incumbent and may, as a General Election gets ever closer, feel compelled to blame others for failings, perhaps even including the Johnson Government. However, it remains too early for that yet.

There will be differences of approach depending on who wins, but many similarities as well. The big challenge facing both is the cost-of-living crisis and energy prices. They will also both need to prove their Conservative, free market credentials and move away from simply exerting the power of the State.

But what will the election of a new leader and Prime Minister mean for public affairs? Here are 10 things to think about.

1) The need to deliver – the emphasis of the new PM will be on delivery and measures that support economic growth. Ideas that can help support that agenda are more likely to find a favourable ear and obstacles in their way swept aside. Those in public affairs need to seek out those sorts of opportunities and get their campaigns ready.
2) Reviews – policies that were in favour with the last PM, may be cast aside. That could open up opportunities as well.
3) Re-badging – Levelling Up is an example of a policy that, while not being explicitly abandoned, will doubtless be downgraded – even if it still has a Secretary of State. The need to address regional disparities will remain.
4) Short timescale – we have to remember that the longest date for delivery is late 2024 / very early 2025 which is the latest a General Election can be held. There will be extreme pressure on the new PM to demonstrate that they have made a difference by then.
5) New teams – be ready to brief news teams and advisers as those initial conversations could be critical. Grabbing attention early and making a positive impression means that you are in with the best chance of securing the influence you are seeking.
6) Pressure to be party political – there will be increased pressure as all the parties will want to demonstrate support for their approach. Don’t be afraid to rebut such approaches unless they really suit your agenda or campaign.
7) Avoid the blame game – when inevitably things go wrong then the new PM will lash out and look for someone to blame. They will, at least initially, try to avoid past Conservative Governments but blaming Labour will only take them so far. They will look for outside bodies to act as a fall guy. Make sure you have protected yourselves politically.
8) Build your reputation – another way of avoiding potential fallout is to consider your external reputation. Integrity offers protection in the event of political attack but also prevents others from being too critical. An attack on someone with a strong reputation could rebound on them.
9) Opposition parties – there is no doubt that the Conservatives look more vulnerable now than they have for some time. Whoever succeeds Johnson will face a monumental task. Good public affairs is about managing your political risk and that means, in the current environment, building relationships across all political parties. In other words, the result of the next General Election is not a foregone outcome.
10) Consider the long term – while there will be immediate political pressures, don’t let tactical opportunities detract from your longer-term overall strategy. It is very easy to get distracted by the bright lights of a new Government and PM but stay true to your goals.

The introduction of a new PM will bring opportunities and threats in equal measure. Recognise and consider them as early on as possible to ensure you are prepared.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

What can the NHS expect from the new Prime Minister?

What can the NHS expect from the next Prime Minister?

As the Conservative Party leadership race draws to a close, what can the NHS expect from the next Prime Minister? Both contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have made numerous promises to address current issues in the health and care sector. Here is a rundown of the pledges: 

Liz Truss
The 1.25% national Insurance tax rise, which was introduced in April this year by then Chancellor Sunak to raise billions for the Health and Care Levy, is a particular area of contestation for Truss. Early on in her campaign, Truss vowed to reserve the tax hike, but at this time did say that she was ‘completely committed’ to current Government promises for NHS spending and would instead raise funds with general taxation. However, more recently, Truss has said that she would divert the £13bn a year announced for the NHS into social care. She told a Times Radio hustings: ‘I still would spend the money. I would just take it out of general taxation rather than raising national insurance. But I would spend that money in social care’.

Truss believes that the NHS has received quite a bit of funding, and a greater focus on social care could reduce bed pressures in hospitals. This pledge has proved controversial as Tim Gardner, a senior policy fellow at the think tank The Health Foundation, has said ‘diverting the money intended to help address the NHS backlog into social care would be robbing Peter to pay Paul’. Meanwhile, Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund think tank, has commended Truss for paying attention to social care, but has also raised concern about reducing NHS budgets.

Truss has recently criticised current pension rules which mean that higher-earning medics towards the end of their careers are faced with high tax bills, resulting in some reducing their hours or retiring early. Truss has said that she would unveil a series of radical reforms that would enable doctors to continue working after reaching their lifetime pension cap, without paying taxes. The British Medical Association has estimated that 10% of Britain’s consultant and GP workforce will retire in the next 18 months if action is not taken to avoid the ‘pension trap’. She said that changes would be part of measures to reduce the backlog of care in NHS services, as well as reduce workforce pressures.

Truss was forced to U-turn on a short-lived policy announced at the start of her campaign which would have seen public sector workers, including doctors and nurses living outside of London, having their pay cut.

Earlier in the campaign, Truss has also said she wanted to see layers of NHS management stripped away and said that under current systems frontline staff are micromanaged. If appointed Prime Minister, she has also promised to ‘put more money into the physical fabric’ of the NHS and has spoken about some UK hospitals near her constituency falling apart.

Rishi Sunak
Sunak has said that he would introduce a £10 fine for missed GP and hospital appointments. However, the NHS Confederation has raised concern over this policy, with Dr Layla McCay, director of policy, suggesting that ‘the administrative burden this would place on the NHS risks being considerable and could well far outweigh the money brought in by the fines’.

Sunak has also pledged to create a task force to cut bureaucracy and waste and drive radical reforms. He also said he would eliminate waiting times for treatment by 2024 which would be six months earlier than the current Government, if achieved. Sunak is keen to ensure that everyone waiting more than 18 weeks for a procedure is contacted by their trust within 100 days and promised to deliver 200 community diagnostics hubs by March 2024.

Sunak has recently pledged to restore NHS dentistry by ringfencing its funding, strengthening prevention, and encouraging dentists to stay in the health service. He would do this by setting out a five-point plan which includes improving protections around the annual NHS dentistry budget and reviewing the dentists’ contracts. To improve prevention, ideas have included dentists visiting primary schools’ check-ups.

During the campaign, Sunak has stood by his decision to raise National Insurance contributions by 1.25% for the Health and Care Levy. He claimed it wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do considering the damage caused to the NHS by the pandemic. He has said he is desperate to tackle the NHS crisis including the long waiting lists, claiming that the Tories ‘will be toast’ by the next election if they are not successful in solving the problem.

For more news from the political and public affairs sector, sign up to Vuelio’s Friday newsletter Point of Order.

Energy Price Cap

An overview of the energy price cap

Energy experts have warned that the price cap could pass £6,000 per household by next April for the first time ever. The cap is currently projected to reach £3,576 in October, which is already unaffordable for most UK households, and will rise to over £4,000 in January, before being predicted to reaching the staggering figure of £6,000.

What is the energy price cap?

The energy price cap was first introduced by the market regulator Ofgem in 2019 and is the maximum amount that energy suppliers can charge customers per kWh of gas and electricity annually. The cap used to have a six-month review cycle but this was changed by the regulator to quarterly, to allow it to react quicker to changes in wholesale prices.

Current affairs worldwide such as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia have majorly affected the wholesale price as Russia are a big supplier to international markets. Their involvement in the conflict has caused prices to spiral to almost three times what they were at the start of the year. By next year, the average household will be paying £355 a month instead of £164 currently but Ofgem has cast doubt over future predictions for January and beyond, questioning their reliability.

Labour has confirmed its plan to make sure people living in the UK would not have to pay ‘a penny more’ despite the expected 80% rise due to happen in October, taking the average household price to £3,600. Labour leader Keir Starmer revealed that his plan would be to freeze the price cap at its current level and that there would be an £8bn windfall tax on energy company profits, meaning the effects of the rise would be low.

Starmer said that ‘Britain’s cost of living crisis is getting worse, leaving people scared about how they will get through winter. Labour’s plan to save households £1,000 this winter and invest in sustainable British energy to bring bills down in the long term’.

The Scottish National Party also spoke on the issue, saying that the Tory Government ‘must come out of hibernation and act on their cost-of-living crisis’ ahead of Ofgem’s announcement on Friday 26 August.

Director of Policy and Advocacy for Which? Rocio Concha has said ‘The Government and regulator must urgently undertake a wide-ranging review of retail energy pricing – including the price cap – to build a fair and affordable system for consumers’.

Child Poverty Action Group has called for at least £1,500 for families with children if the price cap rises to £3,554 in October and again to £4,650 in January.

The Resolution Foundation has also reacted by saying that a universal bill reduction or price cap needs to be accompanied by a solidarity tax to reduce costs and prevent rich households needlessly receiving more support than poor households.

Understanding online accessibility for digital marketers

Understanding onsite accessibility for digital marketers

This is a guest post by Alice Wicker, junior content marketing executive at London-based SEO and digital marketing agency Reboot Online.

Marketers, PRs and comms professionals need to understand just how diverse their audience is. We think about it all the time when we create buyer personas – but not everyone fits into the niche demographics we create.

By opening up our marketing materials and websites so that everyone can utilise them, we are not only drawing bigger audiences but making a positive statement about the morals of the brands we represent.

What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is exactly what it sounds like — making digital platforms accessible to all. This means ensuring that people of differing abilities, whether visually impaired or suffering from cognitive or neurological issues, can benefit from a digital space that meets their needs.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created guidelines to help businesses and web developers create websites with accessibility in mind. For a website to be considered accessible, it has to be built so that individuals with disabilities can navigate, use, and understand the content.

The four core principles of digital accessibility

There are four core principles that direct the approach we should take to digital accessibility:

1. Perceivable: The information on a website or platform and the user interface must be formatted so that all users can perceive it.

2. Operable: Users with differing abilities must be able to operate the platform or interface.

3. Understandable: Both the use of the interface and the content itself must be understandable.

4. Robust: The content must be robust enough to be interpreted and understood by a variety of users, as well as assistive technologies.

How can digital accessibility impact digital marketing?

Approximately 14.6 million disabled people are living in the UK. That number grows to one billion worldwide, with a staggering 15% of the global population having some kind of disability. That’s a significant amount of people whose digital accessibility all-too-frequently gets overlooked.

These disabilities can vary wildly, with each coming with its own unique difficulties when it comes to accessing and understanding information online. A report has found that businesses can lose out on customers by not providing accessible content, with 80% of disabled customers taking their spending power elsewhere due to lack of access.

By ensuring your platform or marketing material is as accessible as possible, you are gaining the ability to draw in wider audiences and customers.

How to ensure your website and marketing materials are accessible

There are many steps we can take to make our websites accessible, and even more best-practice suggestions to improve on this. Here is a quick rundown of what every website and piece of marketing material should contain, to ease access for all.

Clear Content

The content itself should be readable and not too reliant on jargon or technical language. Try not to use an obscure, lengthy word when there is a simpler synonym word that means the same. With that in mind, short sentences and paragraphs make the text more easily digestible.

It is recommended that webpages have a readability score of lower secondary school level and there are even some web tools, such as the Hemingway App, that measure readability.

Descriptive anchor text

Anchor text should accurately describe what the link is directing to, even without the context of the surrounding content. People who use screen readers can navigate websites from link to link, so they need to know where the link will lead them.

Easy to follow structure

You might have noticed in this guide, and on other accessible web pages, that a lot of headings and subheadings are used. This breaks up the text, so it is easier to read. It also makes it more accessible for users so they can skim through and find the information they’re after.

Headers (H1, H2 etc) also enable screen readers to understand how a page is structured, and make it easier for search engines like Google to crawl through.

Pictures and graphics

Graphics can be useful for breaking down information and presenting it more appealingly. Similarly, pictures and images can help present an idea.

Alt-text should describe the image accurately and succinctly. It’s best not to begin with ‘image of’ or ‘drawing of’ because screen readers already say ‘image’ before reading the alt-text.

Alt-text is vital for people who use screen readers and is also useful in helping search engines understand what the image is. Using the keywords relating to your topic is a great way to let users, and search engines, gain an understanding of the page.

It is also important to ensure that people with colour-blindness can understand the graphics you create. It can be easy to differentiate between colours by using tools to check the colour contrast or by using patterns to differentiate.

Videos and GIFs

Much like pictures and images, GIFs should have alt-text that explains what is happening in the GIF and why it is relevant. However, it is important to remember that GIFs with flashing imagery can be simply annoying to some, and dangerous to others by triggering seizures or migraines.

Videos can be a wonderful additional source of information on a web page — particularly if they include sound, for the visually impaired.

However, there are some things to consider to ensure your page is digitally accessible. If your video has activity happening, such as a demonstration, include an audio description so the visually impaired users can understand.

It’s also essential to include subtitles and closed captions, both for the deaf and any users who may want to watch the video with the sound off.

HTML

Ensure all the behind-the-scenes stuff is accessible. This means ensuring bullet points and tables are formatted properly, checking what language the content is in, and making sure any video players are accessible.

PDFs

PDFs and other documents have different formats than a webpage — you can’t use HTML to add alt-text or headers. But you should still use headers, for the skimming we talked about. Any images, graphs, or graphics should have a concise but detailed description, too.

Optimised website for all devices (and aids!)

The technology people use can have a big impact on the platform or website. Make sure your web pages or marketing materials are optimised to be viewed on phones or tablets as well as PCs. Also, be aware that the user might be navigating with a keyboard or need to disable flashing images.

The benefits of having an accessible website

From user experience to bottom lines, and SEO to customer growth, accessibility can have a huge impact on websites.

SEO: We can take several steps to make our websites accessible with headers, structured content, and detailed alt-text on images. These things are read by Google and other search engines.

Any (good) SEO agency will tell you that search engines use this information to help them better understand what your website is about. Google also measures accessibility as a metric for determining where a page will rank.

User experience: Customer standards are on the rise, thanks to the flawless experiences offered by internet powerhouses like Amazon, Google, and Netflix. By streamlining the process of navigating your site for all users, you increase the odds of more people engaging with your content.

Even seemingly minor inconveniences, like small font size, can leave users uncomfortable or even unable to read what you’re saying — and they will soon turn their attention to something else.

For more on ensuring your comms can be accessed by everybody in your audience, check out this previous guest post from Elliot Ross at Taxi for Email ‘How to make your next PR email campaign accessible for everyone‘. 

How to manage a PR crisis in 2022

How to manage a PR crisis in 2022

This is a guest post by Chris Norton, founder of insight-led PR agency Prohibition, former University lecturer, author of ‘Share This Too’ and social media blogger.

In business, PR crises are unavoidable. We live in an imperfect world where it is impossible to predict what will happen. Problems inevitably arise that can tarnish your company’s reputation in the eyes of the public.

When a problem occurs, you need to respond swiftly to maintain a positive brand reputation. Companies that do this manage to control the narrative and restore consumer trust and confidence.

Here are some of the actions you need to take to handle a PR crisis effectively.

1. Act fast & be transparent

The faster you address the issue, the more control you will have over the narrative. The best way to handle things smoothly under pressure is to have a contingency plan to manage a crisis. That plan improves your chances of you responding appropriately.

Alongside acting fast, you also need to be transparent. You have to update stakeholders on the actions you’ve taken regularly as the crisis unfolds as well. For example, the CEO of AirAsia was quick to take to Twitter after Flight 8501 crashed.

People and the media appreciated the quick actions of the CEO during this crisis. There is definitely a lesson there.

2. Create a crisis response team

To effectively manage a crisis, you’ll need a team that has been trained to handle such situations and can work efficiently to minimise the damage. A PR crisis team will help you do just that.

At a minimum, you always want senior staff members in your crisis team. You might also want support from external stakeholders with experience in crisis management alongside legal counsel.

Every team member must work together to ensure that your company speaks with a single, united voice. Your team must manage the overall response activities, set priorities, and cooperate with shareholders.

3. Train your team

You must prepare your team for emergency scenarios, ensuring that they can efficiently handle any PR crisis when needed. Your team needs to understand your brand identity and organisational values so that they can speak honestly about your company with one voice.

You must communicate procedures to anyone authorised to give public statements. Providing press and social media training will help these people deal with the public at a time when people are more likely to be critical of what you say.

4. Monitor the situation

You need to monitor the situation during a PR crisis carefully. It is important to understand what people are saying about you in the press and on social media.

You can use social media tracking tools to monitor what people say across different social channels. Also, you will want to track the coverage of your brand by journalists, influencers, and competitors. Check the public reviews about your organization as well.

It is possible to measure the success of your PR crisis strategy by tracking public sentiment and monitoring how the press covers the story. Adapt your crisis management strategy as the situation evolves, but stick to the key messaging you agreed on at the outset of the crisis.

Conclusion

A PR crisis is always a challenge. Using a proven framework for managing a crisis reduces the chance of making mistakes. That iscritical because the public and the press are unforgiving of companies that they believe acted wrongly.

Before a crisis, appoint and train a crisis response team. Everyone in the company should know who to contact in a crisis. You will need to appoint people that can make public statements. You want to provide these spokespeople training to know how to handle the press and what they can say on social media.

The first few days are usually the most critical time of any crisis. Get your team together and develop your strategy. Decide on your approach and stick to your talking points. As the crisis unfolds, monitor the reaction in the press and on social media. Adapt your strategy as needed.
Follow these tips, and you will manage any PR crisis that comes your way the right way.

How to create the perfect PR pitch

Dear Gen Z journalist: How can PRs pitch perfectly to the media?

While there is no ‘Dear Deidre’ for PRs who need advice on pitching to journalists, any comms people with questions out there are in luck. We recently caught up with three up-and-coming freelancers willing to impart their wisdom in our webinar ‘What’s next? The new generation of journalists’.

Watch the full webinar

Here, freelancer and Journo Resources trainee journalist Hannah Bradfield gives advice on extra conundrums from PR people in need of help. First question, please…

DEAR HANNAH: ‘I work in comms for galleries in Scotland. I’m often sharing press releases and pitches to national newspapers based in London (which occasionally get picked up!) but how would you advise reaching out to young journos based down South when that face-to-face interaction is typically impossible?’

Hannah says: I think always start with an email that includes a brief introduction of who you are and what you do. If no reply, I think it’s definitely okay to chase up a couple of times. After email correspondence, you could organise a phone call or Zoom call (I personally prefer as face-to-face as the situation allows).

‘How much detail do you want in your email pitches from PR folk? Would you like us to suggest angles? I never know how to get the right balance! How do you prefer to be pitched? Do you prefer something short and snappy, with a release below, or a longer upfront pitch?’

Hannah says: I think one of the key skills to have as a journalist is to be able to find the best angle in any story. There’s no harm in suggesting an angle if you feel it’s strong or particularly relevant – or is just generally useful for the journalist to keep in mind. However, I think more often than not, journalists will – after some time spent thinking and researching – find and know their angle.

Again, I think as most journalists would probably say, the more information the better when finding an angle for a story. However, that definitely doesn’t mean noting down information for information’s sake. As long as all the info is useful and relevant, it’s best to include it – even if that means the pitch doesn’t come across quite as ‘short and snappy’ and takes a little longer to read (in my opinion).

Basically, in summary, I would say don’t feel pressure to be ‘short and snappy’ but also don’t write a long pitch for the sake of it.

‘Is there any ways for PRs to stand out to you when sending in press releases, and what style of press release is most likely to catch your eye? How important is the subject line in the email? Would you avoid reading the email if the subject line isn’t great?’

Hannah says: The subject line is always important – in almost any email-related scenario – but especially in journalism.

I wouldn’t purposely avoid reading the email if the subject line wasn’t great – but if it didn’t ‘jump out to me’ it would probably go under my radar/into the ‘I’ll read that later’ category, which I usually forget to come back to, unless prompted!

I think being succinct, informative and purposeful often fulfils the criteria of ‘eye-catching’.

‘Have you noticed how you work/your approach being very different to journos of other generations?’

Hannah says: I actually don’t really see it like that. In the newsrooms that I’ve worked in, things have generally seemed to ‘move with the times’ and I feel like journalists of different ages have been quite open to learning from each other in light of the ‘digital revolution’.

I guess that, in my experience, older journalists do seem to be considerably more confident speaking on the phone – whereas younger journos, myself included, are perhaps the most comfortable when talking to somebody face-to-face, whether that’s in-person or on Zoom. This is my own experience, though – I have heard stories about journalists of other generations who’ve been reluctant to see the importance of newer aspects of journalism like SEO, etc.

How important do you think journalism qualifications are now?

Hannah says: I don’t actually have any formal journalism qualifications. I think as long as you can build the experience, they don’t matter hugely unless you know exactly the route you want to take into journalism where an NCTJ is required (e.g., in a lot of local/regional newsrooms). Although, it’s definitely worth looking into the different ways you might be able to get a journalism qualification without having to pay – some newsrooms will pay for these types of qualifications if you’re doing on-the-job training with them, or there might be other entry-level jobs that involve training/a qualification/a wage, all in one.

Personally, I think experience is always the most important – and looking for experience as your first port of call is sensible because you might find out that you hate a certain role anyway, and then you’ll be glad that you didn’t get yourself into debt studying for a journalism qualification.

If you are gaining experience first, this will lead to industry contacts who will in turn be able to direct you towards journalism funding and schemes.

That said, if you find yourself in the situation where you are able to study for a journalism qualification – it will only add to your employability – especially if you have experience to show alongside it.

For more on pitching perfectly to the UK media, download our white paper ‘How to pitch to journalists’.

Find the right media professionals for your campaigns with the Vuelio media database, spanning national press, consumer and trade magazines, broadcasters, social media influencers and more – book a demo.

Top 5 Measurement Mistakes and How to Fix Them

If you are just getting started in measuring your performance, there are a few common mistakes and misunderstandings that are easy to make. Below are a few of the errors we see most often on the Vuelio Insights team and quick solutions to fix them, so you can be confident in the accuracy and reliability of your results:

Using AVE

While some companies still use AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent), it is now largely discredited and considered an outdated metric by many professionals and global communication trade associations. There are many reasons for this, but primarily, AVE is a restrictive metric that falsely implies the cost of advertising is reflective of its value.

Depending on your goals, purely quantitative measurement can sometimes distort results and provide limited insights — AVE being an example. It does not take into account the ROI or quality of coverage, such as the sentiment. All coverage is considered the same, which provides little opportunity for evaluation and effective strategy.

Vuelio Quick Fix: In order to provide a representative insight into how well you’ve achieved your goals, select a consistent set of both qualitative and quantitative metrics based on your specific performance targets.

Using Share of Voice as a Singular KPI

Share of Voice (SoV) is a highly popular metric of choice when measuring against competitors. However, as we have already discussed, a purely quantitative metric can sometimes provide a limited and inaccurate insight of your performance — high SoV is not necessarily a success and low SoV is not necessarily a failure.

For example, over the past six months, Virgin Atlantic had the lowest SoV compared to competitors, but the strongest ratio of positive coverage. On the other hand, while other airlines had a significantly higher volume of coverage, it was more than 90% negative or neutral in sentiment.

Another example could be that the competitor with the highest SoV has mostly passing mentions, whereas the lowest has a stronger proportion of headline mentions. These are just a few of many reasons why a single figure is not enough to achieve proper performance results and insights to improve future strategies.

Vuelio Quick Fix: Before reporting your SoV (or any other quantitative metric), explore how you can further segment the data from a qualitative angle. What was the sentiment? What were the media types? How many key speakers were mentioned? Was there a dominant location? Referring to your SMART KPIs will help you to pick the right questions and explore the right data in an efficient, relevant and targeted manner.

 

Not setting SMART KPIs

Before embarking on performance measurement, a common mistake we often see is a lack of specific planning. SMART KPIs allow you to outline your specific performance goals and align them with the most relevant metrics ahead of time, enhancing the insight and accuracy of your results. For example, if your goal is to increase awareness of a new animal welfare campaign by 30% in Scottish broadcast media, you know to segment your data by key messages, location and media type. If your KPIs are too broad, you could spend hours exploring how your goal has been achieved from a very broad perspective without producing any real specific and insightful data.

So, how do you create a set of relevant, efficient and effective metrics that are tailored to your goals?

Vuelio Quick Fix: Create a set of SMART KPIs for both overall performance and specific campaigns. Whereas the former may be measured and revisited on a monthly or quarterly basis, campaign KPIs may differ each time. When you have confirmed your SMART goals, plan which metrics you will use alongside this to measure your success.

TIP: What is SMART?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. They are criteria to keep in mind when setting your KPIs to ensure they are realistic within the framework of time, tools and support that you have.

 

Lacking Consistency

Lacking a specific search framework when measuring performance can drastically impact reliability and accuracy of results. For example, if you were measuring a campaign, do you want to filter by print, broadcast or online media? Are you looking for local or national coverage? Which competitors are you monitoring?

Things can change, but consistency is key for future benchmarking.

Vuelio Quick Fix: Apply specific and ongoing parameters to your analysis. Be sure to apply them to future benchmarking reports in order to accurately compare results.

For example:

KPI: Increase regional media presence of environmental spokesperson by 10% over the next six months, with a focus on sustainability messaging in the Somerset region.

Parameters:

  • Somerset media outlets only
  • Online and broadcast only
  • Local news and political publications
  • Mentions our new climate-action regime in the local area

Performance Metrics: Coverage volume, spokesperson quotes, prominence, industry type split, key message penetration

 

Overloading Data

Be aware of not overloading reports with multiple types and styles of measurement. Doing so can quickly confuse and overwhelm C-Suite recipients and other viewers who may possess less knowledge on what each metric means.

Vuelio Quick Fix: Using a small and targeted array of metrics will help you to focus on the key messages you are trying to get across and ensure they are accessible to viewers. While it is important to apply both quantitative and qualitative analysis where necessary,  it is not always essential to extrapolate every type of data possible from your figures. You can also source PR services that do this for you, for example, Vuelio provides an efficient metric known as ‘Impact’ Score which combines both qualitative and quantitative results into one.

 

Start with the basics

There are a few running themes throughout each of these points that should be factored in every time you measure your performance — consistency, relevance and a balance of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. If you are new to this, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with so many new terminologies and processes. The most important thing is to not overcomplicate it in the early stages – start small and you will build your way up in no time.

Want to know more about how the Vuelio Insights team can support your PR and communications goals? Find out more.