What is SEO PR? Why using a combined Digital PR and SEO strategy is the key to success

What is SEO PR? Why using a combined Digital PR and SEO strategy is the key to success

Good content and outreach are the foundation of digital PR and SEO, so it makes sense to formulate a combined strategy to help drive traffic, increase visibility and generate valuable publicity for your content.

In this article, we’ll explore how Digital PR and SEO can come together to form an integrated SEO PR strategy and the benefits of bringing these disciplines together to accelerate success online.

What is SEO?

SEO, short for Search Engine Optimisation, refers to the process of driving organic traffic from search engines to your website, using a set of practices designed to get your content to rank better in the SERPs (search engine results page).

Most people discover content online from organic search results, so a good SEO strategy is key for driving traffic to your website.

Google’s algorithm is responsible for determining where pages rank for a specific search query, and this is dependent on how compliant pages and content are with Google’s ranking factors.

To optimise your content to rank highly in search engines, you’ll need to consider:

1. Keyword research

Keyword research is the vital first step when optimising your content for SEO purposes. Paid SEO tools such as SEMrush, Moz and Ahrefs provide extensive keyword data, covering everything from competitor analysis, gaps in your keyword research and keyword difficulty to help you make informed decisions when finding keywords to target in your content.

However, free platforms such as Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends are also valuable for finding relevant keywords. You’ll still find essential insights like search volume to help you select the higher-priority keywords that will help you drive traffic, but paid sites offer more data to ensure you utilise the right keywords for your content.

2. On-page SEO and page structure

On-page SEO is the vital optimisation stage. Once you know which keywords you’re targeting and you have your content written up, on-page SEO techniques are essential if you’re hoping to drive traffic and get your content ranking highly in the SERPs. On-page SEO includes:

Header tags
Structuring your content with appropriate header tags. This not only makes your content more readable for both users and search engines, but gives you the opportunity to highlight your primary and secondary keywords. The H1 on your page should also include the primary keyword and acts as the main title at the very top of your page, while H2s and H3s mark the following subheadings.

Page title and meta description
A page title and meta description are the first element of your content users will interact with in the SERPs, giving them a chance to preview the subject of your content as a snippet, ultimately influencing whether they engage and whether your snippets attract clicks. Beyond that, a well-structured page title and meta description, including your keywords, will indicate to crawlers and search engines what your page is trying to rank for.

So, now you’ve done all your keyword research and selected the most relevant phrases with significant search volume, using keywords doesn’t stop at your header tags. Using your keyword throughout the body of your content is essential for indicating to both users and search engines that the entirety of your content is relevant and adequately answers the search query the keywords are targeting.

While the first section of your content is arguably most important for engaging the user and keeping them reading on to lessen the chance of a high bounce rate, using variations of your keyword throughout you can signal to search engines what your content is about, helping you rank higher in the SERPs for your primary keyword.

However, using keywords in the body of your content will only be effective if you avoid keyword stuffing. Only include your keywords if it feels natural and purposeful, as search engines like Google can pick up on the relevancy of keyword use, and black hat SEO tactics often do more harm than good.

Images and videos
Using visual aids on the page works alongside your content by enhancing your overall message and engaging the user by splitting up large chunks of text that would appear weighty. According to Search Engine Land, web content done right should be designed for skim reading, as it’s found that online audiences ‘scan through it in order to find quick visual cues that will help them get the information they want. When they see something that appeals to them, they’ll stop and read more thoroughly’.

But, beyond ensuring your content is user-friendly and readable, optimising your images and videos with relevant file names and alt text helps to boost both SEO and accessibility. From an SEO perspective, descriptive alt text helps Google understand your image and how it relates to your content.

Internal and external links
Internal and external links with optimised anchor text focused on relevant keywords are vital for your content to rank highly in the SERPs. The first step is to understand the difference between internal and external links.

Internal links direct to a target page on your site, increasing engagement by providing users with a call-to-action where they can follow up on further information about a particular topic. As well as that internal links also help to direct crawlers around your site, helping search engine bots navigate your site and find other related pages. On the other hand, external links point to another website – linking to trustworthy material that helps to back up your content from an authoritative source improving your content’s credibility.

When using internal and external links, it’s also essential to optimise your anchor text to ensure users and search engines understand what the webpage you’re linking to is about and how it relates to your content. Anchor text, or link text is the clickable text of a link within the body of your content; it’s typically displayed in blue and underlined. Using keyword-rich anchor text that’s relevant, natural and varied will help your content rank.

3. Building links to your content

Link building is arguably one of Google’s most significant ranking factors in SEO. As mentioned in the above point outlining internal and external links, relevant links pointing out from your content to authoritative sites can help to position the article as trustworthy in the eyes of Google.

The other side of that, however, is that other websites can also link to your content, positioning it as an authoritative and expert source of reference – in SEO, these are called backlinks. An easy way to think of a backlink is as a ‘vote of confidence’; the more backlinks you acquire from credible sites, the higher your content can rank in the SERPs.

Acquiring backlinks are where traditional PR techniques come to play, as outreach is a common theme for both PR and SEO. While creating high-quality content means you’ll increase the chance of your article being found and linked to organically, SEOs regularly practise outreach for link building to promote the article and ask relevant people, bloggers, organisations or websites to link to your content.

Knowing this, the natural affinity between PR and SEO is apparent. Backlinks are one of the most fundamental elements of successful SEO, and Digital PR methods can aid this enormously.

What is SEO PR, and how is it different to traditional PR?

Aided by the knowledge of SEO foundations, it’s time to apply all you already know about Digital PR with SEO techniques to build your SEO PR strategy.

Now more than ever, PR and SEO are being thought of less as separate disciplines but as intrinsically linked due to their shared requirements for success – high-quality content and credible and authoritative media coverage or backlinks.

So, what is SEO PR, and how can it be understood? In short, SEO PR isn’t too dissimilar from traditional PR. SEO PR is still centred around creating high-quality content or campaigns and pitching to media to secure coverage but with the bonus of SEO-optimised content stemming from keyword research and on and off-page SEO tactics to generate organic traffic and discoveries from the SERPs.

SEO PR shouldn’t be considered a replacement for traditional PR methods but as PR and SEO working together and complementing each other for even greater success within campaigns, content and coverage.

However, one key difference is how PR and SEO professionals track the success of content and campaigns and the metrics they measure. While traditional PRs measure content success using metrics such as volume, reach, media opportunities, social engagement, and sentiment, SEOs measure organic traffic, keyword rankings, search visibility, revenue, sessions, and bounce rate.

The beauty of Digital PR and its primary focus on online forums is that PRs can use SEO metrics to measure the success of their online campaigns, all while propelling the reach of their content through SEO optimisation. On the flip side, SEO benefits from quality backlinks and general brand awareness – strengthened and supported by Digital PR expertise.

Top ways to implement a SEO PR strategy as a Digital PR professional

So, now you know how to optimise your content using SEO techniques, it’s time to combine what you already know about Digital PR and SEO to implement your winning SEO PR strategy.

Below, we’ll explore the synergy of PR and SEO to weave out the top ways you can actualise your combined strategy as a Digital PR professional:

Better understand your target audience with keyword research

The best way to guarantee your content creates a buzz and becomes a newsworthy piece picked up in the media is by directly appealing to your audience and what they’re currently talking about online.

With keyword research tools, as previously discussed, you can find out which keywords your audience is interested in and the volume of the search queries surrounding a specific subject.

Once you have a better idea of your audience, the topics of interest, and the keywords they’re using to discuss the subject online, you can tailor your word usage to reflect your target audience and become more aware of the media outlets your target audience are likely to engage with.

Target sites with a high Domain Authority (DA)

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric devised by Moz to measure how authoritative a site is. Websites are given a score from 1 – 100, 100 being the best possible score and a greater probability of ranking highly in the SERPs.

Link data is the principal determiner of an authority score. Sites with a large amount of high-quality external links will have a higher DA, and smaller sites with fewer external links pointing to them will have a lower DA.

With this in mind, it makes sense to consider the DA of sites you’re outreaching as part of your SEO PR strategy. Use SEO tools, such as Moz and SEMrush, to factor in a site’s DA when compiling your media outreach hit list, as a backlink from a website with a high authority score is an SEO PR win.

PR link building: focus on building high-authority backlinks through Digital PR campaigns

As we all know, PRs are experts in outreach, which is why Digital PR and SEO work together so well. Once you’ve compiled a list of relevant websites with high DAs, it’s time to start the SEO PR outreach effort to ‘earn’ high-authority backlinks.

Digital PRs are specialists in media relations, pitching and press release distribution, making them experts in outreach and acquiring links – something many SEOs describe as one of the hardest parts of the job.

In SEO, for a backlink to be considered high-authority, the links must be ‘earned’ and not paid for, meaning obtaining links from sites with high DAs, such as the BBC or Forbes, is a challenging endeavour that can often take time.

Digital PRs have the expertise of putting time into researching journalists and knowing how to grab their interest with a tailored pitch, making Digital PR link-building essential to successful SEO.

So, is SEO PR the future for Digital PR professionals?

The natural synergies between Digital PR and SEO make both disciplines invaluable to the other. By using these SEO techniques, PRs can optimise their content to increase visibility across search engines, drive traffic for your brand and monitor the success of Digital PR campaigns. On the other hand, SEOs can utilise the expertise of Digital PRs to acquire high-quality backlinks to increase the authoritativeness of a website.

While SEO PR isn’t a replacement for traditional PR techniques, it embraces the natural link between Digital PR and SEO that professionals can combine to form a strategy that brings substantial success.

For more guidance on SEO best practices, download our white paper.

Illegal Migration Bill overview

Overview of the Illegal Migration Bill

On the 26 April the Illegal Migration Bill – or so called ‘stop the boats’ Bill – made significant progress and cleared the Commons with a majority of 59. The Bill will place duty on Home Secretary Suella Braverman to remove migrants who enter the UK illegally, it will also narrow down the range of legal challenges and appeals that could suspend their deportation.

This promised legislation has been on the cards since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came into power, pledging to boost the economy, cut hospital waiting lists and stop migrant crossings in the Channel. However, due to its highly controversial nature, the Labour Party alongside many organisations and charities have heavily criticised the nature of the Bills agenda. The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) expressed deep concern about the Bill and its lack of compliance with core elements of the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings. The Refugee Council have also criticised future plans, accusing ministers of shattering the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing, regardless of how they get to the UK.

Home Secretary Mrs Braverman has already acknowledged that the Bill might not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), setting up the prospect of a legal battle with Strasbourg judges.

The Bill essentially places a new duty on the Home Secretary to detain and remove those arriving in the UK Illegally. Those entering illegally will be sent back to their home country, if deemed safe, or to a third country such as Rwanda, whereby support will be offered to help safely ‘rebuild their lives’. This new duty takes precedence over their rights under modern slavery and human rights laws, meaning people who come to the UK illegally will be prevented from settling in the country and will face a possible permanent ban on returning. Further, the number of appeals and challenges available to suspend removal will be radically narrowed.

The Bill further promises a new ‘safe and legal’ route for those seeking sanctuary in the UK, the numbers allowed in will be capped by Parliament, with an annual vote to set each year’s cap, which will take into account local authority capacity for housing and public services. However, if there is a humanitarian crisis within the world that requires a response, then the UK will step up and offer sanctuary to those in need.

The UK is not the only country to launch a crackdown on immigration and asylum issues. US President Joe Biden’s administration has recently announced his toughest border policy yet, warning migrants who cross the border illegally that they will almost all be deported. In Sweden, the new coalition government (formed in October 2022) toughened its migration and asylum laws. Further, Copenhagen is looking to sign a similar deal to the UKs with Rwanda for offshore asylum seeking.

More recently, Italy passed a law requiring NGO search and rescue ships to sail to a designated port, and prevents them from looking for other migrant boats in distress. Ship captains face fines of up to £44,462 for failure to comply. In late March, France introduced an immigration bill that wants to grant temporary residency permits to illegal migrants working in sectors ‘under strain’ and place those ordered to leave the country on a ‘wanted list’ in a bid to speed up their expulsion.

The Bill clearly pushes the boundaries of international law, however, it currently sits in the House of Lords after successfully passing through the Commons stages. Despite this, three key challenges are likely to stand in the way: the lack of return agreements, the stalling Rwanda plan, and practical difficulties and costs involved in returning migrants.

For regular updates on what is happening in UK politics and public affairs, sign up to our weekly Point of Order newsletter, going out every Friday morning.

How have the UK media been covering industrial action in the travel sector

Trends in UK journalism: How is the media covering industrial action in transport?

In the last few months, the news headlines have been dominated by the ongoing strikes across different sectors. Nurses, train drivers and Post Office workers have been among those calling for wage increases to match the rises in inflation.

One of the sectors calling for industrial action that has probably impacted the most people is the transport industry. Regular train strike days have affected commuters, airport and passport office strikes have altered holidaymakers plans, while bus and taxi drivers have also taken action.

We decided to take a look at what newspapers and broadcasters have been requesting and researching on this topic via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, alongside other subjects trending in the media.

Sign up to start receiving requests from the UK media direct to your inbox with the Journalist Enquiry Service.

There are 25 categories in total on the Journalist Enquiry Service but we’re honing in on four that are most relevant to the transport industry: Transport & Logistics, Motoring, Travel and Public Sector, and Third Sector & Legal.

If we look at all four categories over the last six months, 61% of the journalists sending requests are staff while 21% are freelance journalists. There is then quite an even spread for the media types they are coming from. Trade/business/professional media just comes out on top with 30% of the total requests, with consumer media just behind on 29% and national newspaper/current affairs on 23%. Journalists sending requests in these categories have mainly been looking for information for an article (36%), with enquiries for a spokesperson or expert next on 28%, review products on 12% and personal case studies on 10%.

This gives us an overall picture, but we can delve further into each category and see what media types and publications are sending requests. Firstly, we will look at the Transport & Logistics category. 47% of requests in this category came from trade/business/professional media titles. These included the likes of Logistics Manager, Industrial News and BizClik.

There was also a request from Future Rail magazine looking for the ‘rail industry trends for 2023’. The majority of the journalists sending requests in this category were also looking for information for an article (48%) with 30% asking for a spokesperson or expert. This provides ample opportunity for PRs to get experts and information featured within the trade media.

National press journalists are the next biggest users of this category with 23% sending an enquiry. Newspapers like The Daily Telegraph and The Times used the service. The nature of the requests varied quite widely with an I paper journalist looking for information on how to handle travel disruption, a Daily Star reporter looking to speak to a female pilot in the airline industry and a MailOnline writer asking for case studies around the ULEZ expansion.

This gives lots of opportunities to get clients featured in national press across a variety of different angles. There is also a fair amount of broadcast media journalists sending requests in this category with 12% coming from the radio & television media type. This has included the likes of ITV News, 5 News and GB News. Mainly, they have been focused on covering the strikes, either looking for locations to film at or case studies of commuters/people affected by the industrial action.

The Motoring category differs from Transport & Logistics, with national press journalists being the biggest users (42%) here over the last six months. This has included titles such as The Sun Online, The Independent and Metro. Requests have not focused specifically on the industrial action, but instead looking for an expert on petrol stations (for The Mirror Online) and case studies of slashing car insurance by buying a dash cam (for The Sun).

Consumer media is the second biggest media type within the motoring category, on 26%, with titles like Parkers sending requests, followed by trade media on 13%, with outlets such as Automotive World and Car Mechanics.

One of the keywords that comes up within the motoring category over the last six months is ‘EV’ or electric vehicle. This has occurred in over 4% of requests within this category. EV Magazine, Saga Exceptional, Verdict and ITV News have been among those looking for information and expert comment within this area. Any clients with expertise in this field could therefore be featured in consumer, trade or broadcast news.

The Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal category is not specifically aimed at the transport industry but a lot of requests around topical issues such as the strikes mean that journalists will select this category to get different viewpoints.

It’s mainly been used by trade titles over the last six months, with 53% of all requests coming from this media type. This has often been focused on the sustainability angle with ‘sustainable’ as a keyword appearing in 4% of all enquiries across all four categories we’ve focused on. Open Access Government, for example, was looking at sustainable development in the UK transport sector and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

National press journalists are second in this category with 21% of all requests coming from them. The Daily Express, PA Media and Reuters all sent enquiries in the last six months. The vast majority were looking for a spokesperson or expert, which was the most popular enquiry type on 48%, followed by information for an article on 36%.

The Travel category is usually more consumer-facing and therefore it’s little surprise to see consumer media as the biggest user on 45%. Titles like GoodtoKnow and Pick Me Up! have sent enquiries around industrial action and strikes, but generally these enquiries are geared more towards holidays and tourism.

Overall, the keyword we saw most frequently across all four categories was ‘import’ which appeared in over 4% of the total requests.

‘Environment’ cropped up in 3% with ‘customers’ back on 2.5% and ‘strike’ at just over 1%. ‘Road’, ‘train’ and ‘rail’ all finished at around 1% with ‘airport’ and ‘aviation’ in about 0.5% of all the enquiries.

Depending on what you or your client has to offer, there are opportunities to get featured across all of the various media types. Experts on the transport sector and sustainability and information and case studies around the strikes and imports and exports are just some of the areas that you can look to target.

For more on how the UK media are reporting industrial strikes action in the travel sector, read our Vuelio Insights report ‘On the right track – which train companies are derailing negative press?‘. 

Want to start receiving requests from UK journalists with detailed information on what they want from PRs? Check out how to make the most of the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service

The impact of journalism on AI so far

The impact of AI-generated content on journalism so far

The UK media industry is generating plenty of think pieces on the potential impacts of artificial intelligence and news on the changes it is already making. Going beyond the headlines, how concerned are journalists in reality about AI when it comes to their own work? Will the adoption of technologies like ChatGPT and Bard ultimately be a positive or negative innovation for journalism?

Our Journalist Voices by Vuelio panel considering the implications of AI included Press Gazette associate editor and New Statesman media correspondent William Turvill, Helena Pozniak, an independent journalist writing for the Telegraph, The Guardian, the Institute of Engineering and Technology and more, and freelance writer Amelia Tait, who contributes to outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, Wired, the New Statesman, and VICE.

Already affected in their work by AI, the panellists discussed the possible problem areas ahead alongside the opportunities, as well as what PRs need to know about AI assistance in the creative industries.

It’s still early days for AI

As pointed out by William, even ChatGPT and Bard would admit that their technology is not 100% reliable and fool-proof just yet, and each of the panellists had examples of AI going wrong.

‘I was pitching an article, and I used ChatGPT for fact finding,’ shared Helena, who regularly writes about the impact of technology on society – ‘clean energy, to freedom of information, smart motorways to the environment’. The accuracy of information and reliability of sources is of utmost importance in her work – how did the AI app perform?

‘I’m so glad I double-checked the information it offered, because it had completely fabricated a massive landslide that killed thousands that never happened. So, I’m very wary and just playing around with it at the moment.’

William, who reports on the inner workings of the media itself, pointed out problems with bias already creeping into AI:

‘I’ve messed around with it. I asked it to provide a summary of the day’s news for me, and it wasn’t too good. When asked which UK news sources I could trust, it was very pro The Guardian and the BBC, but told me I couldn’t trust the Mail, the Mirror or The Sun. But I feel there is potential there’.

For Amelia, its use as an alternative to Thesaurus.com when searching for the right word came with feelings of uncertainty –

‘I asked ChatGPT to rework a sentence for me; I ultimately didn’t use what it suggested. It opened my mind a little more, but I felt a little bit dirty. I didn’t know what the ethics were on it’.

Helena offered that AI can already provide assistance on some elements of research for journalists – ‘It can summarise a research paper brilliantly and can do a lot of background research.’

What isn’t so great – the writing itself:

‘It’s just so bland. The copy AI apps come out with is so dire’.

Understanding the difference between content and journalism

‘I would distinguish between what is journalism and what is content,’ said Amelia.

‘I’ve worked for websites where you’re churning out content, and for that kind of thing, companies that aren’t investing much in talent could start using AI. And that comes with dangers on misinformation.’

That many journalists – and PRs – start their careers with duties that could be automated in future was a concern William spoke about:

‘It could be challenging for media companies that produce ‘clickbait’, or repurpose information from other sources. Those jobs are definitely at risk.’

‘Many journos don’t want to be doing that anyway, but there’s a danger of cutting off the entry level jobs into journalism; those jobs you have to do to find your bearings as a journalist. I would be concerned as someone entering the industry now.’

‘I’m sure it’s the same in PR – when you start out, you’re doing the unglamorous jobs. When doing work experience, I was walking a dog every day. AI couldn’t do that, but it could do the background research for a law firm. The ‘bottom rung’ could be in a difficult position’.

For Helena, the negatives would also reach audiences: ‘There might be a diminishing desire for longreads. You can see it on websites already with short-form summaries at the top. When time-pressed, are people really going to read something you’ve slaved over for days?’

Quality journalism requires human journalists (and journalists need human sources)

While coverage of AI can come with fearmongering, it is already embedded in parts of the journalist job successfully – as pointed out by Amelia, journalists regularly use AI transcription services for interviews, cutting hours out of the work of a writer:

‘We need to perceive these things as tools that we’ll use, that can help us rather than replace us.

I could waste ten minutes thinking of a particular word, and that’s not a skill or talent, that’s just time consuming. Using AI as a tool, that’s really encouraging and exciting’.

William underlined the importance of the human aspect of journalism. Ultimately, journalism has a human audience interested in human stories, and who better to share that than fellow humans (with assistance from AI on the admin side):

‘This has really solidified for me which journalism is going to be important in future as AI takes on some of the more basic writing and research – the journalism that journalists are going to want to do is original journalism. We will be looking for more personalisation, more research, more insightful interviews from PRs and a lot of thought going into pitches.

Something I’ve really been thinking about is stories I should be writing, I’ve set myself a test – could an AI do this research, if not now in five years. Is this useful? We’ll be looking for original stuff and any help with that is always appreciated.’

For more on how the media industry is covering AI, read our Vuelio Insights Report ‘Media attitudes to AI journalism’.

Want to connect with human journalists with stories of interest to their human readers? Check out how you can help them with sourcing experts, spokespeople, case studies and data via the Journalist Enquiry Service and find journalists covering your specialist topics on the Vuelio Media Database.

PR predictions for 2023

5 predictions for PR in 2023

This is a guest post from Chris Norton, founder of B2B PR agency Prohibition, former University lecturer, author of “Share This Too” and his social media training blog.

The PR landscape is changing at a fast pace. New PR approaches are coming up every day and PR professionals have to always think outside the box to run effective campaigns.

In light of all this, there are a few overarching trends that are expected to have ripple effects across the public relations field. They are, ultimately, expected to shape the public relations landscape in 2023.

I’ll take you through five main PR predictions for the year 2023 so you can tap into them for PR success. Let’s get started!

1. More Prevalent Use of ChatGPT

Since OpenAI released ChatGPT in 2022, the hype about the tool has raged on. That isn’t about to change in 2023. After all, tech giant Microsoft has inked a $10-billion deal with the startup, vowing to incorporate the technology into Bing. Also, Google has declared a Code Red in response to the release of the tool. All these developments only mean one thing: we can expect a better ChatGPT and more similar tools to crop up in the near future.

Although ChatGPT is expected to continue to revolutionise the way we do PR and marketing, I still believe it won’t lead to smaller teams and massive layoffs.

Instead, the tool will further streamline PR processes to help PR professionals become more productive. So, the tool will only get better at proofreading your press release, refining your PR pitch, and helping you come up with ideas for a PR brainstorming session or social media posts. The tool will also get better at ensuring consistency across your PR (and marketing) material.

With an increased awareness of the ways an improved ChatGPT can help in PR, expect a more prevalent use of the tool in the field in 2023.

More PR professionals will adopt the technology and similar ones seamlessly into their workflow in 2023. The goal is to not be left behind by their colleagues who have already had the foresight to adapt to changes in the technological landscape early on. I covered how ChatGPT could improve PR processes in much more detail last month here.

2. Growth of Influencer Marketing

There’s no doubt that influencer marketing will continue to grow in 2023. The Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2023 predicts that influencer marketing will be worth $21.1 billion in 2023.

By definition, influencer marketing involves brands tapping into online influencers so they can market or promote the brands’ own services or products. This is an effective strategy since the influencer holds sway. After all, they have hundreds or thousands of followers.

Companies that harness the power of influencer marketing and add it to their PR budgets will create structured systems of sourcing and engaging influencers.

3. Continued Importance of Social Media

One notable PR prediction for 2023 is the continued importance of social media in PR.

Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook allow brands to have two-way communications with their customers and followers.

This helps them build a community of like-minded people around their products and services.

So, businesses won’t just continue to build their brands using social media. In the end, as customer engagement becomes even more important, they will continue to build social communities as well. They will strive further to get more Instagram followers, increase Facebook shares, and boost retweets in the hopes of expanding those social communities.

But Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other major social media platforms won’t be the only ways brands will engage with their customers and prospects.

Brands will tap into newer social platforms like TikTok for brand marketing and social commerce. This is especially so since it has been shown that TikTok is effective as a sales and marketing platform:

Additionally, one of the PR predictions is that owned platforms like social media will be more of a focus for brands than paid media. Around 60% of communicators said that their organisation is placing more emphasis on these.

With this greater emphasis on their own online platforms, brands are also expected to increase their cybersecurity budgets.

4. Greater Focus on Transparency and Authenticity

Audiences are expected to value transparency and authenticity even more when choosing the brands to transact with. As a result, in 2023, brands will be more open with their prospects and customers. Whenever any newsworthy events occur in the company, they will continue to reach out to niche media outlets that will help them reach their target audience.

Consumers will be even more exacting in their standards during a PR crisis. Businesses are expected to admit when things go wrong. They will be expected to communicate the clear action steps they’ll take to solve the problem. With the rising role of technologies that enable quick communication, consumers will expect brand responses in an even more immediate manner.

As brands place more value on transparency and accountability, I expect to see the digital storytelling angle of PR taking the lead in 2023. This will be even more important in 2023 as more people use social media and other communication platforms online. Businesses that continue to refuse to incorporate the use of online channels into their PR strategy will be left behind.

Brands will also share even more personal stories and authentic content. The goal is to establish brand relevance and make their business more relatable to the audience.

This is because as they look back on their interactions with consumers, brands will be more aware that authentic conversations help build strong brand communities. They will also understand that transparency will boost customer trust and portray brands as companies that care about their buyers’ needs.

5. More Targeted and Personalised Messaging

Here’s another one of my PR predictions for 2023: Targeted messaging will be even more important.

Consumers will have an even more heightened awareness of the continued development and growth of technology. As such, brands that don’t use these technologies to tailor their messages to them aren’t likely to make it.

This demand for more targeted and personalised messaging applies to journalists as well.

As it is, journalists don’t only love to see their names on pitch emails. They also want to see that brands are familiar with the work they do and what they represent.

Therefore, we will see more communication pros creating pitches that speak directly to each individual journalist’s niche and interests. In other words, the one-size-fits-all pitch approach will no longer work in the future of PR. Personalisation gives brands a better chance of being published by their target media outlets.

We will also see PR pros and communications teams embracing more diverse media in 2023. Instead of only focusing on traditional media outlets, brands will reach out with their personalised messages to podcasters, video content creators, and YouTubers for coverage.

In Closing

With the public relations landscape constantly changing, public relations professionals have to remain on top of their game to keep their companies afloat. A knowledge of PR predictions can help them do just that.

You learned five of these PR predictions from this article.

The first PR prediction is the more prevalent use of ChatGPT for PR. We will also see the increased importance of influencer marketing and the continued rise of social networks for PR. Expect to see PR pros focusing more on transparency and authenticity as consumers become even more exacting in their standards.

Finally, a more targeted and personal approach will continue to play a critical role as PR professionals pitch, not just to their target consumers, but to media outlets, podcasters, and other content creators.

If you use these PR predictions to your advantage, getting through 2023 will be a breeze for your brand.

For more trends to watch out for in 2023 in PR and comms, check out these predictions from industry experts. 

Ready to start reaching out to the media with targeted contributions? Try the Vuelio Media Database and the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service

Why we need to take online misinformation and disinformation seriously

Vuelio webinar: Why PRs need to take online misinformation and disinformation seriously

Disruptive technologies from ChatGPT to AI image generators are revolutionising the way we share information. While there are many benefits to this new technology, unethical use of AI is also on the rise and fuelling the spread of misinformation in online spaces.

A recent US global trends report found that our inability to agree on what the facts are poses the biggest threat to social trust over the next 20 years. From false content around vaccines to global politics, social media users in the UK are frequently faced with the threat of disinformation.

How can PRs act now on the misinformation crisis?

Our webinar ‘Why we need to take online misinformation and disinformation seriously’ with Polis founder and CEO Thomas Barton on 27 April 2023 from 11.00 – 11.30 BST will explore how the PR industry can mitigate the threat and impact of false information through an effective comms strategy. Thomas will also talk about his work educating on the threat of misinformation and disinformation in UK Government and in schools.

Sign up here to learn:

• How legislation such as the Online Safety Bill and the Digital Services Act provide an opportunity to protect your brand and spokespeople online
• The importance of understanding the use and effects of AI generator tools
• Which audiences are most vulnerable to the impact of misinformation

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

Find more information about Thomas Barton’s work with Polis and the extent of the misinformation problem in our previous interview covering the opportunities of the Online Safety Bill and the importance of education.

For pointers on the impact of misinformation in medical communications, download our Vuelio white paper ‘Medical Misinformation: How PRs can stop the spread’.

When your expert's expertise is in question

PR & comms conundrum: When an expert’s expertise is in question

Working in PR and comms means connecting experts and spokespeople to the media, the charities you work with, and perhaps even the occasional regulatory body.

What happens if an expert’s expertise is called into question? What if their recommendations have resulted in regulation that otherwise would not and should not have been put into law? And most importantly, how do you right the wrongs before they cause real damage?

Doing due diligence on experts you provide PR services for – particularly in the medical field – is a must before signing any contracts, particularly as there are plenty of past horror stories that should trigger a shudder from any comms pro. Here are a few, as well as expertise you can trust on how to counter similar situations that could arise.

The challenges of vetting medical experts

Remember the case of former daytime doctor du jour Dr Raj Persaud? After admitting to plagiarism during a General Medical Council hearing in June of 2008, the high-profile TV expert lost media bookings and trust. Press reports of the time highlighted Dr Persaud’s ‘disgrace’ and ‘dishonesty’, while The Telegraph characterised the time following as his ‘wilderness years’. This case impacted the television brands that had worked with the expert, too – including ITV’s This Morning, which was tasked with finding a new health expert and rebuilding trust with its audience.

A more recent tale of a medical expert raising eyebrows is the case of Dr Ryan Cole, a pathologist and member of America’s Frontline Doctors who faced scrutiny after lending his credentials to misinformation related to the COVID-19 vaccine. With anti-vax sentiment having potentially dangerous consequences on public health, The Washington Medical Commission (WMC) issued a statement of charges against Dr Cole’s Washington physician license in January 2023.

Very different in scope to both examples, but no less impactful, is the case of Dr Paul McCrory – an example which has been covered with gusto by the UK media and had repercussions for sport across the globe.

When expert guidance can have dangerous impacts on the public

Called ‘one of the most influential figures’ in his field by The Guardian, a significant part of Dr McCrory’s work throughout the 2000s – including a paper published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine during his tenure as editor-in-chief called ‘When to retire after concussion?’ – centred on the impact of multiple brain injuries on sports players.

Thinking from his work in this field was included in the Zurich concussion consensus of 2009 – a document funded and endorsed by FIFA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the IRB (now known as World Rugby). Rugby union players were impacted directly by assertions that concussion procedures used by many sports regulators at the time were ‘arbitrary’ and should be updated; the former mandatory three-week stand down for those with concussion was changed to a six-day graduated return to play after the IRB’s medical conference in 2011.

But there’s a slight problem with the expertise that helped these changes along. The original piece published in BJSM has since been retracted due to findings of plagiarism, among other issues. World Rugby moved away from the six-day return to play rule, while long-established practice regarding concussions in sports came into question.

PRs must be part of the fact-checking process

Stone Junction’s owner Richard Stone regularly connects experts with relevant organisations and media contacts and believes that as a PR person, you need to be ‘certain, within reasonable doubt, that the information you are communicating is true and the experts you are putting forward for interview are telling an accurate story to the best of their knowledge.’

‘Frankly, the media – in which I include the PR sector – is tasked with making information interesting to its readership or audience. It’s inevitable that this means it won’t fully and comprehensively communicate the contents of a piece of scientific research – but that doesn’t mean it has to be inaccurate. You will have your angle, you will select which bits of the story to tell, but it’s still possible to make those bits of the story factually accurate.

‘Journalists are much less of a problem in this context than scrapers, bots, AIs and biased sources. There are far fewer instances of reputable journalists getting it wrong than there are of unreputable communicators telling a story founded on something which is untrue or inaccurate. The echo chamber of choice is much more damaging than the flaws in the economy of truth.’

Ultimately, avoiding issues with inaccurate expertise is part of the PR toolbox:

‘You must develop understanding of your sector, fact check everything,’ says Richard.

‘If you weren’t doing that beforehand, you can spend as much time on Retraction Watch as you like, but you aren’t going to suddenly make better decisions.’

For more on the fight against misinformation and ensuring the stories you’re helping to amplify are worth sharing, download our white paper ‘Medical misinformation: How PR can stop the spread’.

Kind comms in cleantech

Kind comms in cleantech: Interview with Life Size CEO Jan Bohnerth

‘Our founder and former CEO Alisa Murphy has always had the desire to enact positive change, and this spirit has led her to her next career move – becoming a coach. Alisa stepping back from her role as CEO raised the question: what should happen to Life Size?’

Jan Bohnerth recently stepped into the role of CEO at Life Size – just one of the big changes happening at the cleantech company. Along with former CEO Alisa’s move to a coaching role, the company has evolved to adopt a ground-breaking employee-ownership business model.

What does such a change involve for a comms company, and could this work for your organisation too? Jan shares what sparked the decision, the importance of preserving team culture and values, and how ethics in climate comms is also translating to kinder, human-led approaches in business.

‘A transition to a trust-based model emerged as the natural choice for us,’ says Jan. ‘Now, an Employee Trust owns our company, ensuring we can remain independent and maintain the culture and values that make us special. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.’

What are the challenges and opportunities that can come with employee-ownership?

The opportunities far outweigh any potential disadvantages. In fact, the choice to move to an employee-ownership model was a response to the potential disruption that the departure of Alisa could bring. By transitioning to an employee-owned model, we can guarantee the preservation of the culture and values that make us unique.

An obvious advantage is the incentivisation of the team. Once we’ve fully repaid Alisa, our whole team will profit directly from the work we put in. This also means that the quicker we are successful, the sooner this moment will come.

However, the financial benefits are almost secondary for me. The ability to feel our work’s impact excites me the most. A business model which truly allows us to work for ourselves and feel closer to the impact of our work is a business model for the 21st century.’

What advice would you give to businesses considering a move to this model?

We benefitted from our great advisors from Baxendale. The team we worked with was instrumental in guiding us throughout the process. Transitioning to employee ownership is not simple, yet Baxendale gave us peace of mind by ensuring we correctly set up a potentially complicated process.

Being transparent about the move was also crucial. Our whole team was involved from the start, from the moment Alisa first voiced the idea to the completion of the transition. We informed the team during every stage of the process and encouraged questions. We also reassured employees that nothing would change on a day-to-day basis, as our business model remains the same.

How has the cleantech space changed since you began working in the industry?

Cleantech has really grown up over the last five years. When I first started working in the industry, it mainly consisted of small companies. As a result, it was hard to battle for journalists’ attention, as those interested in sustainability mostly focused on traditional renewable energy companies, such as those focusing on wind power or start-ups working in e-commerce.

This has recently shifted as the world’s understanding of the climate crisis increases. The growing recognition of the challenges the world faces in decarbonising has led to a burgeoning interest in the technologies being built to achieve net zero. The rise of global players like Northvolt, for example, has also helped draw attention to cleantech and the smaller start-ups operating in the space.’

What trends do you see coming up for cleantech that brands in the sector should be ready for?

A big trend is the personalisation of communications. In the past, charismatic or powerful leaders like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg dominated tech communications. The key to their commercial success came from their ability to tell a story and portray a vision for the future that their product could deliver.

The issue for cleantech companies is that their product is typically grounded on research and development tech, which in many ways is on the opposite side of the storytelling spectrum. We work with engineers solving incredibly difficult questions, which we know are important because they have technologies that make an impact. But the technicality of their work means they are naturally less equipped to tell stories. Our job is to find the story behind their tech to make people listen.

With the rise of AI-generated content, storytelling will become even more relevant. Increased AI-powered content production will create more content, which will be more general as AI is not incentivised to be bold. This means personalised, unique voices will become more powerful, as it will help companies stand out from the crowd.

What has been the lasting impact of the pandemic on your work, and the comms sector at large, in your opinion?

We had an agile working policy in place well before the pandemic. So the main change was moving away from having offices at all, as the need is no longer there. When we still had offices, we were limited to hiring people from London and Berlin. However, now we can employ excellent people from almost anywhere. Since 2020, we’ve hired core team members from across Europe.

We’ve always wanted to integrate work and life, which the shift to fully remote working has helped us achieve. Our wellness team has devised solutions for those who prefer in-office environments by creating easy-to-follow processes for booking co-working spaces. It also means that when we see each other in person, we try to make these encounters more valuable. These meetings are not always project-related, but always about human connection.

Some brands and organisations have been criticised for greenwashing – how would you advise brands ensure their comms and actions are authentic?

Thankfully we don’t encounter this problem 95% of the time because our clients work with clean, impactful technologies they have created themselves. However, I’ve noticed that the public is becoming more aware of greenwashing patterns, and it’s in vogue to use buzzwords like ‘net-zero’, ‘carbon-neutral’ and ‘climate-friendly’ to claim sustainability credentials.

It may be tempting to hop on the trend, but I strongly advise against making these claims unless they can be backed up. It isn’t worth it to make false climate claims, as it will do more damage than good in the long term.

What are your plans for Life Size for the year ahead?

Our plans are two-fold. Firstly, we want to be even more impactful in our work. We’ve never been an agency that just executes a brief. We see ourselves as a sounding board ready to question assumptions and develop the best solutions for our clients. We want to do more of this impactful work to drive commercial success for cleantech companies.

Our other main aim is to increase our European reach. We started in the UK and have since expanded and found success in the DACH region and the Nordics. We now want to replicate this success in other European geographies. We benefit from many European cleantech companies being international from the start, with teams and customers spread globally, so their communications must be global too. That’s why we, with our international team and position as Europe’s only specialist cleantech communications agency, are well-equipped to serve European start-ups.

How did you originally get into comms and cleantech, and what keeps you passionate about it?

I’ve always been interested in tech and complex solutions. Natural sciences were always an interest of mine, but at the same time, I was good with languages and the business side of things. So. a decade ago, when I felt a real urge to leave my profession and enter the cleantech space, I discovered that I was most suited to working in the communications sector, as it combined my interest in technical questions and my expertise in business and communications.

Now that I’m involved in the sector, I find it incredibly exciting to learn about new cleantech solutions every day and to work with leadership teams and engineers to help them tell their stories to the rest of the world.

For more on authentic person-led comms, check out our previous post on the rewards of net zero, featuring best practice advice from the Vuelio Insight team. 


The future of the media

What PR and comms needs to know about the future of the media

The media industry is constantly changing – to prepare for the future, PR and comms will need to change alongside it.

How is the UK media looking to the future? Here are key takeaways from The Society of EditorsMedia Freedom Conference – panels covered the importance of investing in mental health, rebuilding trust with audiences and holding power to account.

1) Mental health coverage matters

Journalists are under increasing pressure, with smaller editorial teams with responsibilities across a variety of formats. This, combined with the topics and issues that they have to cover, can put a real strain on their mental health.

Headlines Network founder and co-director Hannan Storm advised the creation of a culture in newsrooms where journalists feel safe to talk mental health.

Suggestions included regular ‘town halls’, where colleagues can share resources, or Google hangouts. Leaders were advised to openly share any problems they have faced themselves to show empathy and vulnerability with their staff. Also, wellbeing workshops or sleep clinics can be a big help at relieving stress and fatigue from the job.

2) Rebuilding trust with audiences

The rise of misinformation has caused audiences to lose trust in news providers and outlets – the future of news depends on rebuilding this. Sky News deputy head of newsgathering Sarah Whitehead shared the broadcasters’ introduction of more Q and As in an effort to open the door to the audience. Welcoming audience involvement via social media allows to public to tell their truth and call out disinformation.

Freelance journalist Abbianca Makoni shared that there is more trust in local reporters, as people see them out in their communities regularly covering local stories. Young people are keen to see more collaboration between the national and local press as a result.

It was also advised for newsrooms to be as transparent as possible about their procedures and processes, admitting when a mistake has been made.

As shared by Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) chief executive Charlotte Dewar, journalists value being held to account. There is a willingness to learn and change, and hopefully regain trust and respect as a result.

3) The future is multi-channel

Publishers now offer print products, a website, a podcast, newsletters, a YouTube channel and much more besides.

Polis founder director Professor Charlie Beckett believes the future of news will be found in data, which will be passed to journalists to distil down to what will interest and engage their audience most.

This increase in the number of places that publishers are sharing their content means there is a huge amount for audiences to consume. Professor Beckett said that abundance could therefore be the biggest problem for the media and possibly result in news avoidance. Ultimately, though, it will be a good thing for people to have a healthy news diet that they are in control of.

VICE World News senior news reporter Sophie Smith-Galer feels it is important that the media adopts a future proof ethos. VICE has done this by focusing on more agenda setting stories and building expertise in silos/fields that aren’t being covered by the bigger news outlets. The audience are therefore more likely to seek this out as it is content they will not find anywhere else.

How PRs can help with this? Give journalists something they can use to retain and build their audiences, rebuild trust and make the most of all the channels at their disposal.

For more on how PRs can help journalists in the fight against misinformation, read our previous interview with Polis’s founder Thomas Barton: ‘The fight against misinformation, disinformation and fake news is just beginning‘. 

What has the UK media been requesting from PRs

How are national press and broadcast news using the Journalist Enquiry Service?

The headlines across national newspapers and news broadcasts have been dominated in recent months by the cost-of-living crisis, numerous strikes in different sectors, the Russia/Ukraine war and the fallout from Prince Harry’s book ‘Spare’. However, plenty of other stories have made their way into the UK news cycle, and many start with a request sent by a writer via the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service.

What exactly have national press and broadcast journos been looking for recently? Below we take a deep dive into the main categories that our users have been interested in and the keywords that we are seeing most frequently. Read on to see how you can get your expert coverage or the best place to get that case study out.

Sign up to start receiving requests from the UK media direct to your inbox with the Journalist Enquiry Service.

Firstly, we will have a look into national newspapers as journalists from these titles use the service more frequently than broadcast – 26% of all requests in 2022 came from national press. Outlets like The Daily Express, PA Media and The Daily Telegraph also regularly feature in our top ten outlets sending requests from month to month.

We looked at all the requests sent from the start of November until today and the category with the most enquiries was Women’s Interest & Beauty, representing 11% of all national press requests. This proves particularly popular with the tabloid papers as The Sun, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail all feature in the top five outlets sending requests for this category.

National press enquiry types

In terms of what they are looking for within this category, it tends to be for products to review or feature on their website. This varies from lipsticks and eyeliners to new beauty treatments and jewellery and fashion accessories. There are also requests around men’s beauty and grooming including requests for face creams and beard shavers. This presents a great opportunity to get client products featured in national newspapers or on their websites.

Often picked alongside the Women’s Interest & Beauty category is the Health category, which was the second most popular and made up 10% of the total requests from national newspapers. The Daily Express was again among the top senders with journalists from The i paper and Metro also sending numerous requests for health stories.

The trend here is more for spokespeople and experts and for case studies. A lot of requests are for doctors and GPs to give medical advice on certain conditions and there are frequent requests as well looking for case studies for people with certain conditions or illnesses. Both provide avenues to get clients and experts national press coverage.

The Health category also features several strongly performing keywords with ‘fitness’ appearing in 4% of all national press requests, ‘diet’ in 2% and ‘wellbeing’ in just over 1%. Again, this is often linked to enquiries for experts such as nutritionists, psychologists, mental health experts and sleep experts. This also links to the strong performance of both the Food & Drink and Leisure & Hobbies categories as they both received around 6% of the total national press requests.

Men’s Interest finished as the third most popular category. As we touched upon earlier, men’s grooming and beauty were part of these requests along with many around men’s health and also fashion too. This also links into the strong performance of ‘fitness’ as a keyword with requests for personal trainers and male gym instructors.

Fourth on the list for national press categories is Personal Finance which links into another key phrase that we have mentioned often in our monthly reports, which is the ‘cost of living’. This appeared in just over 3.5% of all national press requests with associated words like ‘energy’ on 3%, ‘bills’ on 2% and ‘mortgage’ on 1%.

This category attracted different national press outlets with both The Daily Telegraph and The Times featuring in the top ten. The type of enquiry did vary but a lot were looking for finance experts to give advice on ways to make savings during the cost-of-living crisis. There we are also enquiries for energy experts to provide analysis of the rising gas and electricity bills. Plus, mortgage experts to provide suggestions for what first-time buyers should do and those looking to renew their mortgage during increasing interest rates.

There has also been requests from the national press looking for case studies to find out how families are coping during the tough economic times and also to provide information on what businesses can do. This gives lots of scope to push out information and experts around personal finance.

The bigger news stories over the last few months have created a bit of traction on the Journalist Enquiry Service. ‘Strikes’ appeared as a keyword in 1% of all national press requests as papers like The Independent and Daily Mirror looked to cover the issue by getting case studies. ‘Royal’ was in around 3% with The Daily Express and The Guardian among others looking for royal experts to cover news around Prince Harry and Meghan and the Royal family in general. However, there have only been a handful of requests around the Russia/Ukraine war.

The focus for broadcast journalists using the service has been quite different with the most requests going to the Business & Finance category. 7% of the total requests from broadcast were for this category with 5 News and ITV News sending the majority.

These have tended to be for case studies and most often looking to speak with businesses that have been affected by the cost-of-living crisis. Just over 8% of the total requests in broadcast included the key phrase ‘cost of living’ and over 7% were for ‘energy’. This shows a much greater need from broadcast outlets to cover this issue and a great chance to get your clients featured on television, speaking about how their business has been impacted – especially in regard to rising energy bills.

Broadcast media enquiry types

They have also dedicated more coverage to the strikes as well and ‘strikes’ as a keyword appears in 9% of the total requests from broadcast. This also links into the strong performance of the Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal category which was the fifth most popular for broadcast journalists. All three of the big broadcasters (BBC, Sky and ITV) appear in the top five outlets here.

These enquiries were again focused mainly on getting personal case studies and seeing how businesses and people were being affected. The majority of requests were for the rail strikes but broadcast contacts were also covering the nurses strike, the teachers, Royal Mail, ambulances and buses. With more strike action likely in the coming months then this should present more opportunities for television coverage.

The more consumer related categories of Food & Drink and Women’s Interest & Beauty both received 6% of the total broadcast requests, placing them second and third overall. The Food & Drink category was used quite frequently for Steph’s Packed Lunch, whereas the Women’s Interest & Beauty category had several enquiries from This Morning.

Again, several requests were for case studies, providing opportunities for people to feature on the show. However, we saw more enquiries looking for products. This varied from health and fitness gadgets to make up and fashion items to new chocolate and sweet brands. A good chance to get products featured on two well established daytime shows.

The Health category had around 6% of all the broadcast requests and finished as the fourth most selected. ITV and 5 News were again sending regular requests in this category along with GB News and BBC Radio 4.

Personal case studies were the main focus of requests looking to cover issues around social care and also around illnesses such as Strep-A. There were also several requests for experts as well, looking for medical experts to give advice and information.

Overall, while the media coverage may seem to focus on certain issues, there is room and opportunities for products, experts and case studies to get coverage on both national press and broadcast media for a variety of topics and matters. The news cycle is difficult to predict but the cost-of-living crisis looks set to rumble on, along with strike action. We are also starting to see more requests around ‘TikTok’ which as a keyword appeared in 1% of all national press requests and just over 1% of broadcast requests. Therefore, any experts or info around the media app could be vital to journalists in the coming months.

For more on how the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service can help with getting your stories into the UK media, read our previous how-tos: 

No PR budget? No problem – using the Journalist Enquiry Service to gain coverage as a small business

How to tackle vague requests from journalists

6 reasons to stop searching #JournoRequest and try the Journalist Enquiry Service


How to take advantage of awareness days for your PR

Which awareness days should you take advantage of for your PR?

This is a guest post from Niamh Boylan, junior PR account manager at Hatch.

There is an industry term that has been known to divide opinion amongst PR and social professionals: awareness days. While some view them as a less creative approach to generating media coverage, it cannot be denied that awareness days are an incredibly useful newsjacking tool for PRs and a great way to leverage seasonality.

Not only do they serve a great purpose in drawing attention to important calendar events and charitable causes but awareness days offer an opportunity to give your PR campaigns, stunts or social content a relevant news hook. By jumping onto a topic or event that’s already got some newsworthy attention, it is an effective way of gaining brand exposure, positioning your client as a thought-leader in its specific sector, and driving all-important engagement for your campaign.

Whether it is food, drink, sport or leisure, there is an awareness day for absolutely everything.

What 2023 awareness days and events should you make note of

We can break down our newsjacking into three key areas: recurring annual holidays, 2023-specific events and hero awareness days. All three of these are easy to plan for, so long as you have the right strategy.

Annual Holidays

First and foremost, we have our recurring holiday dates that everyone should have marked in their calendars. These are usually centred around seasonal celebrations; think Pancake Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween and Christmas – you know the drill. All of these holidays offer a wealth of opportunities for PRs to create campaigns. While the media is heavily saturated around these occasions, they are simple to prepare for as we know what they are all about and we know when the journalist requests start to come through.

To get ahead of the game, the best thing to do is to start planning your campaigns well in advance and try to think outside of the box to ensure cut through in the highly saturated media landscape. For example, if you have a foodie client, avoid just reworking last year’s lamb roast recipe in the lead up to Easter. Why not work with an acclaimed sommelier to curate the best wine pairings to go with your Easter roast dinner? Or work with an expert tablescaper to share top tips on the best table layout for first-time hosts? There are endless angles that you can explore to really position your brand as a thought-leader on the subject matter.

Some key 2023 annual holidays for the diary:
• Easter Sunday – 9 April
• Father’s Day – 18 June
• Halloween – 31 October
• Bonfire Night – 5 November
• Thanksgiving – 23 November
• Christmas – 25 December

2023-specific holidays

Next up, we have our 2023-specific holidays. As PR professionals, it is our job to predict what key events are going to be most-talked about in the press, identifying what is relevant to our clients and how we can take advantage of these occasions for campaigns.

These events are typically highly-anticipated national events, usually around sporting occasions, big anniversaries or anything to do with the state and the royals. For example, this year marks HRH King Charles III’s Coronation, which we know already will be a huge focus for the press. To get ahead of the curve, think about whether or not your clients’ offerings have something to say about this occasion. Perhaps you represent a sparkling wine brand that can offer some predictions on what the royal family may be drinking to toast the occasion? Or maybe you have a party decor company that can launch a new range of street party decks in honour of the big day? There are many ways in which you can take one big event and royally impress the media…

Some key 2023-specific holidays for the diary:
• HRH King Charles III’s Coronation, London UK – 6 May
• Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, Liverpool UK – 13 May
• FIFA Women’s World Cup, Australia & New Zealand – 20 July-20 August
• Netball World Cup, South Africa, July 28–6 August
• Rugby World Cup, France – 8 September–28 October
• Ryder Cup 2023, Italy – 29 September–1 October
• ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, India – October-November

Awareness Days

Finally, we have our classic Awareness Days. These are a little trickier to plan for but we can easily prep content in advance once we have identified the right awareness day for the job. One thing to keep in mind is that there are now endless awareness days, some of them so niche that the media may not have heard of them, never mind the end-consumer. This can make things trickier to land coverage, but on the flipside, the more niche the awareness day, the more opportunity there is for your client to really ‘own’ the space that they are an expert in.

Cornish Pasty Week, you say? Time for the Cornish Pasty Co. to launch their latest perfect bake. Zero Waste week? Perfect opportunity for your makeup brand to shout about their zero-plastic packaging credentials. Awareness days are one of the best ways to really take a niche corner of an industry and give your press releases an added layer of authority and relevance for the press.

Some awareness days to expect in 2023:
• Earth Day – 22 April
• Pride Month – June
• National BBQ Week – 29 May-4 June
• World Environment Day – 5 June
• Clean Beaches Week – 1-7 July
• Great British Pea Week – 3-9 July
• Breast Cancer Awareness Month – October
• Black History Month – October
• Yorkshire Pudding Day – 13 October
• Cheese Toastie Day – 27 October
• World Television Day – 21 November
• Pigs in Blankets Day – 5 December

Top tip for using awareness days: Be authentic

The key to successful newsjacking with awareness days is ensuring that you are always being authentic. Avoid jumping on the bandwagon of an awareness day because it loosely links to your brand. It must be relevant, it must make sense that you are using this particular day as a hook, and above all else, you must be adding something to the conversation. If your brand does not feel authentic, consumers will see right through it and you could be doing more damage than good. Always remember, your authenticity is your USP.

Good luck with your newsjacking and I’ll reshare this blog on National Awareness Days Day. Or perhaps not…

For more information on making the most of awareness days throughout the year, check out this previous guest post from Bottle PR’s Jamie Wilson on nailing your PR story to an awareness day

Want to track how your story is being reported in the press, or looking for an easy way to receive requests from journalists directly? Try Vuelio Media Monitoring and the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service

How women can achieve the PR career of their dreams

How women in PR can create the career of their dreams

This is a guest post by Ariatu PR founder Ronke Lawal, who specialises in PR and communications for clients in a range of B2C industries; including lifestyle, consumer goods and the creative enterprise sector, with a particular focus on reaching Black audiences and engaging with African and Caribbean diaspora communities.

To be a woman in PR is to sometimes be erased, under-appreciated and undervalued. According to statistics shared by Women in PR, the PR and communications industry is female-dominated (67%) overall, yet at senior levels it becomes male-dominated, with only a third of boardroom positions filled by women.

Despite this, PR can also be a phenomenally rewarding career path for women, particularly Black women. In an industry in which PR professionals often stay ‘behind the scenes’, I wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on the work of some phenomenal women. This industry is as diverse as the people who work within it, so here are a few life lessons from Addy Frederick, Kamiqua Lake, Ebony Gayle and Karen Campbell to celebrate Women’s Month.

Success is very much subjective. Some would argue that in our industry it is tied to client outcomes, financial goals or awards won. I wanted to know what these women think makes a successful PR professional.

‘You have to be as good at listening as you are at speaking or writing’

Addy Frederick

For Addy FrederickAdmiral’s head of group communications – listening is an essential part of success:

‘To fully appreciate what is relevant to your internal and external stakeholders, you need to hear what they want or need, be able to read between the lines – then you can offer a solution.

‘You also need to have a sense of perspective, especially when things don’t pan out, which is easier said than done. You have to be able to prioritise and reprioritise as the day progresses and your early morning to-do list becomes a wish list…and it then graduates to be a page that you occasionally glance at as you do the big task of the day or week that hadn’t even featured.

‘You have to be curious (and sometimes creative) as to how emerging trends, issues and channels could provide opportunities for you to deliver against your current objectives.’

‘You have to actually want to do a good job’

Karen Campbell

‘I’d say a strong contacts book, great sense of what makes a good story and excellent relationship building skills is important,’ believes Shiloh PR co-founder Karen Campbell.

For Kamiqua Lake, founder and CEO of the UK Black Comms Network and Coldr, being discerning, adept at problem-solving, a good listener and fearless about asking the right questions, are invaluable.

Kamiqua Lake

Ebony Gayle, independent consultant and founder of Ebony Communications, agrees with Addy that communication and creative thinking are important:

‘You need to have a passion about your work and enjoy finding new and creative ways to tell your clients stories that hit home. Staying on top of new trends and developing compelling messaging that resonate with your target audience. You also need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Having a thick skin is needed for working in PR as we often are dealing with demanding clients and deadlines. It’s very important to be able to challenge your client where necessary, leaning on your skills and experience and not be afraid to speak up on ethical issues.’

Ebony Gayle

‘Heritage and identity have been important parts of my journey’

As a British Nigerian woman born in Hackney, heritage and identity have been important parts of my journey. I asked these women if they felt the same way and whether their backgrounds empowered them at all throughout the course of their careers.

Karen believes that having a strong connection with, and understanding of her heritage and identity has given her a certain level of security and assurance in herself:

‘Throughout my journey, it has not only kept me centred, but also empowered me to see value in my lived experience.’

Ebony is South London born and raised, with Caribbean heritage:

‘I feel my background has helped to empower me to go for what I want and embrace stepping outside of my comfort zone. It also encouraged me to find my voice, and to not be afraid to challenge and speak up for myself, which is an important skill to have working in the PR industry. ‘

Addy takes a slightly different view:

‘I’ve only ever been me, so without any ‘Sliding Doors’ scenes, we’ll never know what my career would look like if any part of my identity changed. However, I think there are several experiences that have shaped me and my approach to all aspects of my life: having parents that supported all of my ever-changing dreams (you can do anything you want); going to an all-girls’ school (your gender doesn’t limit you); being an army cadet (don’t underestimate the power of focus and discipline); and playing rugby (it may hurt but it probably won’t kill you – so do it).’

For Kamiqua, family has shaped who she is today:
‘More and more I can see that I am a blend of my mum, dad and Nonna (my gran fell in love with Italy and used to spend lots of time there). I got creativity from my mum who is a fine artist, and consistency from my dad who always used to say, ‘find something you are good at and stick to it’. My gran loved to see the world and she inspired my curiosity about life, the world we live in, and my love for travel.’

‘I can be too helpful’

Throughout my business career I have faced challenges, which at the time felt like they would break me. However, I always managed to overcome them and ultimately come out on the other side wiser. I wanted to know how these women dealt with challenges in their own lives.

Dedication to work for herself opened up challenges for Ebony:

‘Making the transition not only in terms of setting up a business and attracting and securing clients, but also the mental adjustment of going from an employee to business owner. In terms of overcoming it, I really just embraced it and took the opportunity to design my work style, including the types of clients I wanted to work with. As an independent consultant I can choose who I want to work with, which is very empowering.

Addy was candid: ‘It sounds like a cliché interview answer, but I can be too helpful. That’s not actually a positive especially if you’re looking for that work/life balance. I constantly have to remind myself to consider the best and most effective ways I can deliver meaningful results and add true value – and crucially allow others to grow.’

‘One of the things I now do when people come to me with an issue is ask what they think a good solution would be. When people start to realise that they’re just as likely as you to have an answer, many of the “problems” disappear and they grow in confidence.’

For Karen, the biggest challenge has been feeling underrepresented in the PR industry:

‘Less so as a woman – as it feels like there have been significant strides in the numbers of women, but the diversity seems to end there. My experience has often been that there’s very little racial diversity and very few from working class backgrounds, so there’s the challenge of feeling a sense of belonging or even having access to certain environments. Honestly, it is not something I’d say I’ve necessarily overcome (it’s a long-standing industry challenge), but one of the main drivers of what we do at Shiloh PR is to help bring more diversity, not just tokenism, to do our part to change things.’

For Kamiqua, being an outsider has been her challenge:

‘Whether that was not being cool or connected enough when I was studying for my Fashion PR and journalism degree, being stereotyped as a younger mum in my 20s or just generally underrated during my career.’

‘I’ve very much learned to embrace the difference I bring to the table to the point that I’ve established two businesses, Coldr and the UK Black Comms Network, that show the value of thinking, feeling and being different.’

‘I believe that the lessons we learn from our past offer us teachable moments’

I don’t have regrets. I believe that the lessons we learn from our past offer us “teachable moments”, moments which we can use to help ourselves and others. I asked these accomplished women what advice they would give themselves based on their own lessons.

‘I’d definitely say to trust your gut more and be confident in your skills and abilities,’ says Karen.

‘Also, ‘go where you’re celebrated’. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to get to that point, so if I went back in time, I’d like to get that advice much sooner.’

Don’t downplay your achievements, advises Addy:

‘This is a cheat, as it is advice I was actually given by an MD when I was first heading up a team: Don’t use “we” when it should be “me” and don’t downplay your achievements. In life you may come across people who want to diminish what you do for various reasons, and you cannot be one of them. A decade later and he probably doesn’t remember saying it, but I think about that moment often.’

Embrace challenge, says Ebony:

‘If I could go back in time I would say, ‘You are amazing and can do anything you put your mind to’. Don’t get trapped in your comfort zone, step outside and embrace any challenges and be the best version of you.’

Keep learning, says Kamiqua:

‘You’ll learn from every past mistake, there is no need to stress so much about the future, live more in the present.’

PR is a worthy industry to work in and we need more women to ultimately see it as an industry that deserves their time.

Here are some final pieces of advice for aspiring women in PR:

‘Do what makes you scared and makes your brain hurt. No one develops from a place of comfort and fear has a crazy way of sharpening your performance. But don’t take on a task simply because no one else will. If it doesn’t serve you, embrace the silence, sit on your hands – don’t volunteer.’ – Addy Frederick

‘Build relationships and don’t feel like you always have to go it alone. Collaboration, supporting each other and working together makes us so much stronger.’ – Karen Campbell

‘Go for it, PR can be a fun and rewarding career so take the leap of faith and bet on yourself. Make connections, join networks and also consider getting a mentor.’ – Ebony Gayle

‘Don’t shrink yourself to fit in and build your professional circle – those who will celebrate your wins, and provide much-needed levity, advice or support when you need it most!’ – Kamiqua Lake

For more on the challenges women in PR face, check out our International Women’s Day piece for 2023 – How can the PR industry evolve for the better?

Taylor Bennett Foundation report results

PRs from ethnically diverse backgrounds feel discriminated against at work, finds new research

A large number of ethnic and minority professionals working in the communications industry are regularly made to feel uncomfortable at work due to their background, according to research from the Taylor Bennett Foundation (TBF) and IPSOS Mori.

How can PR and comms teams make recruitment fair?

This landmark research report from the diversity charity supporting ethnically diverse young people to pursue careers in communications and market research company IPSOS Mori makes for stark reading. A high percentage of the 218 report participants from diverse backgrounds shared that they feel both excluded and discriminated against at work:

Working environment

80% of graduates from an ethnically diverse background shared that they had been made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace at some point during their careers.

75% of respondents had experienced demeaning language or hurtful comments related to their ethnic background. Over half (54%) of respondents said their company had provided no provisions for cultural or religious needs, such as accommodating religious holidays or prayer rooms.

Career progression

71% of respondents felt their ability to progress within their organisation had been limited by issues related to ethnic background and gender.


65% of respondents said they had experienced snubs at work due to their ethnic background.

Staff retention

Over half (54%) of respondents did not feel comfortable or trust HR processes to raise their concerns. 50% of respondents have considered leaving their jobs as a result of prejudice.

Taylor Bennett Foundation chair Sarah Pinch commented on the ‘deeply troubling’ results:

‘No one should be made to feel awkward and uncomfortable at work, and especially not due to their ethnicity or religious beliefs. There is a huge amount of work still to be done and we call on everyone in the PR and communications industry to take these findings seriously.

‘TBF has been supporting organisations and individuals for 15 years and our mission is to create a diverse and inclusive communications industry. TBF offers practical support to help organisations wishing to evaluate how they can attract and better serve employees.

‘Studies have shown that when organisations embrace diversity it leads to a 20% increase in innovation and a 35% increase in performance compared to their competitor. In addition to the commercial benefits of creating a more inclusive work environment, there is also a moral imperative to provide a safe and welcoming workplace for every professional, regardless of their background. I am proud to have worked in this industry for more than 20 years, but I am embarrassed by this research. It is deeply troubling that the lived experience of our colleagues is so very poor. We must do a lot more to improve, attract and retain diverse talent.’

Sparked by these findings, the Taylor Bennett Foundation will produce a full review and publish recommendations for adoption by the PR industry on improving diversity as well as supporting the wellbeing, prospects and job satisfaction of those from minority groups.

Read more about the research here on the Taylor Bennett Foundation website. 

For more on the work of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, watch our accessmatters session with Melissa Lawrence here and read our previous Spotlight interview.

Access Intelligence

FT names Access Intelligence one of Europe’s fastest growing companies

Vuelio parent company Access Intelligence has been recognised as one of Europe’s fastest growing companies in the FT 1000, a yearly ranking by the Financial Times and German data platform Statista. The FT 1000, now in its 7th edition, ranks the 1,000 companies in Europe that have achieved the highest percentage growth in revenues.

Access Intelligence is an AIM-listed tech innovator, delivering high quality SaaS products that address the fundamental business needs of clients in the marketing and communications industries.

‘Understanding audiences has become essential for organisations across industries and geographies: we’re seeing that need grow every day, as more and more of our clients put media insights, reputation and audience intelligence at the center of their strategy,’ said Joanna Arnold, CEO of Access Intelligence.

The group powers the world’s most relevant brands across regions and industries: with over 6,000 clients worldwide, Access Intelligence helps clients like Apple, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, the UK House of Commons, HSBC, Twitter, and the Australian Government understand their audiences and monitor the media landscape.

The evolving Access Intelligence portfolio includes Isentia, the market-leading media monitoring, intelligence and insights solution provider; Pulsar, the audience intelligence and social listening platform; Vuelio, which provides monitoring, insight, engagement and evaluation tools for politics, editorial and social media in one place; and ResponseSource, the network that connects journalists and influencers to the PR and communications industry.

PR Club

Should you speak up or shut down in a PR crisis?

A reputational crisis is on the horizon for your brand or client – what do you do next? Should you set up a press conference to get ahead of any criticism heading your way, or wait for things to blow over? Should you address the matter at hand, or draw attention elsewhere?

In the Vuelio webinar ‘Speak Up or Shut Down: The Value of Proactive PR in a Crisis’, we explored three examples of short, medium and long-term crisis to uncover PR approaches that are proven to work.

Watch the full webinar here

Read on for insight on why timing is pivotal in a crisis, the necessity of being proactive over reactive and data on what worked for brands including FIFA, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Samsung Biologics.

Approaches to short-term crisis: 2022 FIFA World Cup

A recent much-reported crisis was the Qatar-based FIFA World Cup of 2022, which was surrounded by political controversy and human rights concerns. As a result, brands and public figures who chose to participate in the event were met with widespread disapproval from the public and even boycotting of products and services.

To measure this, Vuelio Insights compared how each partner for the event handled the evolving crisis and their overall performance in the media throughout November and December of 2022.

FIFA World Cup 2022 brand coverage

This Share of Voice chart for the FIFA partners shows how proactive each was with their write-ups in the UK media.

Throughout the event, Adidas, Hyundai/Kia and Visa were the most proactive, utilising a diverse range of messaging tactics. While they addressed human rights in public statements, they drove more awareness towards positive ESG actions that were unrelated to the event.

Hyundai/Kia’s ‘Goal of the Century’ campaign focused on sustainability, becoming one of their strongest sources of coverage throughout the event. Why this worked so well – this was also the time of COP27 and tied in to positive ESG efforts.

Not quite as successful was Coca-Cola, which released its ‘Believing is Magic’ campaign very early on, only vaguely referencing social solidarity and human rights. This did not make any significant reference to the crisis itself and therefore resulted in much stronger negative sentiment in related reporting.

Timing is key with proactive outreach – Coca-Cola’s messaging was released so early that related media interest died down by the time the company started to receive event-related criticism.

Qatar Airways, Wanda Group and QatarEnergy were almost silent throughout the entire period and it shows in their volume of coverage. Not only is their Share of Voice lowest, the reporting that did focus on them mostly consisted of passive criticisms on who they are and what their ethics may be.

Wanda Group’s approach was interesting. The brand had previously released a successful ‘Women First’ campaign for the 2018 World Cup. For 2022, in contrast, it released nothing, and positive sentiment for the brand dropped by 56%. Coverage this time around was ‘who are Wanda Group and do they even care about human rights’, without any public statements to mitigate negativity.

Staying silent will not always reduce media awareness of problematic issues and can mean less control for a brand when crisis arises.

A diversity of brand positive messages, addressing the crisis and perhaps other ESG concerns, can be a powerful tool for diluting negative press.

Approaches to medium-term crisis: 2022’s UK airline strikes

The airline industry took a hit last year due to strikes, cancellations, oil prices and the war in Ukraine.
From January to June 2022, the Vuelio team explored how UK airlines responded to the extended criticism across print, online and broadcast media. Here are the common threads among those who performed well in the press:

Airline crisis coverage in 2022

This chart demonstrates the peaks in coverage for travel brands throughout this period – BA and Ryanair, who were the least proactive and most reactive, had the least control over negative peaks in coverage.
Similar to Coca-Cola during the World Cup, TUI demonstrated mid-range control over negative coverage by pushing proactive statements from its executive Fritz Joussen, but were otherwise less vocal when it came to press releases and social messaging.

While most brands here faced significant peaks and falls in crisis coverage, Virgin Atlantic maintained a ‘low and controlled’ approach throughout – despite being equally effected by all of the same issues.

Virgin Atlantic successfully navigated this crisis with regular, proactive campaigns and diverse messaging tactics and it shows in the resulting consistently low and controlled coverage.

Lessons from this: time your press releases and ensure their messages are diverse, and do not rely on reactivity – the media are much less likely to pick up on positive efforts after negative news has surfaced.

Approaches to long-term crisis: Pharma and net zero targets

Net Zero targets within the pharmaceutical industry are a long-term crisis in the making. At COP27 in November 2022, pharma companies were tasked with putting visible and actionable climate strategies in place or risk their operational licences.

The Vuelio Insights team measured all international climate-related pharma coverage between 1 Nov 2022 – 9 Jan 2023 (approx. 13,700 articles) – here are the commonalities in in coverage among the most prominent companies.

Pharma net zero coverage

These Share of Voice charts show that the UK produced the strongest volume of coverage throughout this period.

Due to such a large event, most brands were generating international media interest as journalists sought out their climate strategies leading up to and following COP27. The reality of pharma-related carbon footprints was a huge discussion in the media, which created urgency throughout the industry to begin communicating green initiatives.

The top stories and sentiment were largely positive among the majority of the most prominent brands – most of their top stories are positive or neutral.

Pharma net zero coverage

While 13,700 articles surfaced throughout our study period, one specific headline emerged again and again as a top headline – ‘Seven CEOs announce effort to curb emissions in healthcare’. This emphasises the benefits of partnering up with other brands who may be suffering under the same crisis. This approach served the seven pharma brands involved in diluting negative coverage about pharma’s carbon footprint.

Showing just how impactful accreditations can be for brands also was Samsung Biologics – its top story during this period was its Terra Carta seal of approval for sustainability. This displayed a tangible and reliable effort backed up by external recognition – negating any possible accusations of ‘greenwashing’ or ‘wokewashing’.

Doing research on how you can enhance your reliability as a trusted brand – be it via awards or accreditations – is really worthwhile for boosting media awareness in a crisis.

Want to know more about Vuelio Insights and media monitoring? Find out more here and here

Pension findings

Findings on pensions from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

There is considerable concern among policymakers and consumer groups that many are not saving enough to ensure a good standard of living in retirement, even after the recent success of automatic enrolment in boosting pension enrolment. Moreover, pension participation for the self-employed, as well as adequacy, remains a massive concern.

This month the Institute for Fiscal Studies launched a series of new reports investigating the drivers of pension saving among workers. On Wednesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Nuffield Foundation hosted an event where they presented their results and examined what drives differences in how much people save in their pensions, particularly in terms of their age, earnings, and tax incentives. They also discussed important differences in how these factors affect employees and the self-employed.

The main conclusion of their reports is that people’s pension saving decisions are generally inert and are therefore liable to be highly driven by default options. The importance of nudges is particularly demonstrated by the success of automatic enrolment.

IFS findings: Employees
One of the main findings of their work is that, despite strong theoretical reasons for them to be linked, changes in earnings only have a small effect on pension saving decisions. Before automatic enrolment was rolled out, a 10% increase in real earnings over five years is associated with only around a 1% increase in the probability of joining a pension among those aged 22–29, falling to an even smaller 0.2–0.6% increase in the probability of joining a pension among those aged 50–59. Changed in earnings still have a small effect on pension participation in 2019–20, except for when they lead to someone earning at least £10,000 a year and their employer therefore being required to enrol them automatically into a workplace pension.

Due to these findings, the IFS concluded that a form of ‘auto-escalation’ – that is, for default pension contribution rates to increase alongside increases in earnings – could therefore nudge people to make better pension saving decisions.

Moreover, the IFS found that there is little evidence of people changing their pension saving at any particular ‘trigger age’, and that pension saving has become even less responsive to tax incentives since the roll-out of automatic enrolment. They also found that significant events in people’s lives generally have little impact on private sector employees’ pension participation and contribution rates. However, they did find that pension contributions tend to increase by around 0.4% of pay more when people move from renting to having a mortgage, and by around 0.3% of pay less after the arrival of a first child.

These findings suggest that nudging employees to change their pension saving around major life events could have desirable effects. One example would be for mortgage providers to ask their customers in advance how much of their mortgage repayments they would like to divert into their pension when their mortgage term ends, and making it as easy as possible to achieve this.

IFS findings: Self-employed
Since the introduction of auto enrolment, the gap between pension participation rates of private sector employees and the self-employed of the same earnings has widened. The low levels of pension participation among self-employed workers mean that in order to increase the pension participation rates of self-employed workers meaningfully, new innovations on how to incorporate pension saving defaults for the self-employed as part of the tax system are needed.

The IFS found that of the self-employed who do save for a pension, nearly a quarter choose the amount to save as a monthly or annual round number in nominal pound terms, with the most common amount being £50 per month. Among those who are still saving in a pension nine years later, close to a quarter (23%) save the same amount in cash terms. The fact that the cash value of contributions is unchanged year after year implies that a form of auto-escalation could be a good way to boost their pension savings, for example using a direct debit that increased in line with inflation, or at another pre-set rate.

Tom Josephs, Director for Private Pensions Policy at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), responded to the findings in the IFS reports. He said the analysis and evidence is really relevant to the current policy development program at DWP. He talked about DWPs priorities for private pension policy and how they relate to the specific areas covered in the IFS work. The Minister for Pensions Laura Trott set out her policy priorities recently on 30 January. The three pillars which the Minister set out as underpinning her vision for pension reform are 1) adequacy 2) fairness and 3) predictability.

On adequacy, he thinks we have a solid foundation through the combination of the new state pensions and the success of automatic enrolment in delivering increased private pension saving but they do recognise that nevertheless many people aren’t saving enough for retirement. Their own research has shown that two in five people are still likely to be under saving for their retirement against the target rate.

He noted that one of the priorities for the Government is to deliver the recommendations of the 2017 review to expand automatic enrolment by lowering the age criteria for enrolment and removing the lower earnings limit so people start saving from the first pound of earnings. The Government just announced last week that it is supporting a Private Member’s Bill which would provide the legislative powers to deliver these reforms in the current parliamentary session.

He mentioned they do also need to be thinking about what can be done in the future and thinks the IFS analysis is interesting in particular their points on auto escalation and the potential for default options and nudging people to save more at key points in their lives. He mentioned they have already been holding focus groups to explore timely moments for pension engagement. He hopes that better technology can change this over time; the pensions dashboard will be an important new tool and they are fully committed to deliver it despite delays.

He agrees with the IFS on the challenge around the self-employed; there is clearly a huge gap in terms of private pension provision. With NEST Insights they have recently published results of trials on behavioural messaging and saving mechanisms on financial digital platforms to test the role those kind of tech based nudges and the value of flexible saving. Building on this, they are doing some with the UK trade body for business software developers to look at whether there is feasibility of building a retirement saving solution within software used by the self-employed to manage their money. They are also keen to explore hybrid saving vehicles which might combine accessible savings and long term savings which could preserve control for individuals in managing their short term finances alongside saving for retirement.

He noted they have also inserted a digital prompt to MaPS pension guidance into self-assessment tax return and they are looking using evidence from the work of HMRC and NEST Insight to build on this.

For regular updates on what is happening in UK politics and public affairs, sign up to our weekly Point of Order newsletter, going out every Friday morning.

What will the Budget spring on us?

What will the Budget spring on us?

Public Finances

The recession is now expected to be more shallow, with all but one of the independent forecasters surveyed by HM Treasury in February, as well as the Bank of England, now expecting a smaller contraction of the UK’s economic output in 2023 than under the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) November forecast.

Public finances continue to outperform expectations in the lead up to Spring Budget. Public borrowing looks to be about £30bn lower this year than forecast by the OBR as recently as November. This is due to various factors, including:

  1. Lower energy prices; Thanks to lower international gas prices, the Treasury is benefitting from a reduced cost of its energy support programme. In mid-November, the Treasury said it expected the total cost of support to be £37.6bn. But with gas prices having plunged since then, analysts at Cornwall Insight and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said they now expect the final figure to be roughly £11bn lower, or around £26bn.
  2. Stronger-than-expected tax revenues; The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the Government received £5.4bn more in taxes than it spent on public services. This was £7.1bn lower than a year earlier but £5bn higher than the OBR forecast. The main cause of the better performance was the strength of tax revenues; self-assessment income tax revenues were particularly strong in January, rising 33% year-on-year.

However, according to the IFS, ‘with £6bn very likely to be spent on freezing fuel duties, this would still leave borrowing around £115bn. While this would be around £25bn less than expected in November, it would still be more than £60bn above that forecast in the March 2022 Spring Statement.’

Moreover, despite less borrowing, the Resolution Foundation said the Chancellor will still face ‘tough choices’ in delivering his Budget next week, as he will be forced to deal with the combined problems of the UK’s cost of living crisis, countrywide labour shortages and public sector strikes.

Business and Trade

In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced several measures which are expected to squeeze taxpayers from April. Since then, there have been calls from Conservative MPs to set out plans for future tax cuts, especially given signs that the recession won’t be as deep as previously thought.

Despite pressure from Conservative MPs, the Chancellor has reportedly ruled out tax cuts in the Spring Budget. This comes as James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, told City A.M that ‘with crowd-pleasing tax cuts likely to come far closer to the election, and further away from our current period of high inflation, the upcoming budget is not likely to be one where tax policy shifts markedly.’ ‘It is far too early for the Government to swing back into a major give-away Budget, just a few months on from the fallout from Kwasi-nomics,’ Smith added.

Corporation tax

The main rate of corporation tax is set to rise to 25% from 1st April 2023. Several high-profile Conservatives and leading business figures wrote to Rishi Sunak saying the plans would mean that ‘potential new jobs and higher national output will be lost’. The signatories wrote that it would also jeopardise the Government’s goal to turn Britain into a ‘science superpower’ and threaten ‘levelling-up’ efforts.

Telecoms giant BT has said it will send Britain in a ‘drastically anti-investment direction’ while three former Chancellors have said going ahead with the rise in corporation tax would be a mistake.

However, according to a report in The Independent, the Government has rejected calls for the tax rise to be scrapped, insisting ‘it’s vital we stick to our plan’. To mitigate this, businesses are hoping the Chancellor could pre-announce future tax cuts to corporation tax, as part of a ‘corporate tax roadmap’.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves accused the Conservatives of changing corporation tax rates like a ‘yo-yo’ as she announced a review into business levies. The new stance does not amount to Labour opposing the corporation tax rise set for the spring, with the party echoing Treasury arguments that it keeps the UK rate competitive. Instead, it forms part of a wider attack on frequent changes in business taxation after a period of intense political turmoil.

The Chancellor is also expected to confirm that the UK will begin to implement an international agreement to create a minimum tax on large multinational companies of 15% by the end of the year.

Super deduction

The corporation tax super-deduction, which allows businesses to cut their tax bill by 25p for every £1 that they invest, will conclude at the end of March.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) wants the Government to replace the super-deduction, either by introducing full expensing for capital investment, or by setting out a roadmap towards doing so – introducing 50% from this April as the first step. Similarly, the Institute of Directors (IoD) also recommends that the decision to end the super-deduction this April be reversed.

Chris Sanger, EY’s Head of Tax Policy, said ‘higher tax combined with the end of the super deduction would be a one-two punch to UK growth, so this would be the right time to counter that with the introduction of incentives.’

Tax and the transition to net zero

One issue picked up by Chris Skidmore’s recent report is the lack of strategy on how the tax system will be used to help the transition to net zero. The IoD has demanded that companies who have achieved net zero pay a lower corporation tax than those that have not. Similarly, the CBI is calling for a capital allowance ‘green uplift’ rate at least 20% above the standard rate for businesses investing in capital assets which reduce their carbon emissions or improve energy efficiency.

Investment Zones

During his Bloomberg speech in late January, Jeremy Hunt said ‘this year we will announce investment zones, mini-Canary Wharfs, supporting each one of our growth industries, and each one focused in high potential but underperforming areas, in line with our mission to level up’. Therefore, there are chances that the Chancellor’s first steps toward creating new ‘investment zones’ in under-performing areas of the UK to boost high growth industries will be announced. One interesting question is whether green initiatives will be wrapped up with investment zones, or decoupled.

Smaller businesses

Smaller businesses will be hoping to see a range of measures aimed at some of their specific pressures. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the upcoming Spring Budget to help ease cost pressures on small businesses. In particular, the BCC calls for the business rates system to be reformed, to remove the upfront financial squeeze start-ups and scale-ups face.

Moreover, Alex Henderson, tax partner at PwC noted that ‘one area for smaller businesses which would be particularly worth considering would be addressing the tax compliance burden which has a disproportionate impact on SMEs.’

Following on from the Autumn Statement, the Government reiterated its support of the Enterprise Investment Scheme. However, the CBI thinks investors and businesses now need certainty that the sunset clause scheduled for 2025 will be removed. They said that without this certainty provided at the Spring Budget, investments with be postponed or not happen, and growth will be constrained.

Personal taxes

It is widely expected that the changes to thresholds and tax reliefs introduce in the Autumn Statement will be maintained. KPMG expects any tax cuts to be saved until they can be announced in the run up to a general election so are more likely to be announced in an Autumn fiscal event with the changes coming into force from April 2024.

There is a possibility that we will see changes to the non-dom regime, especially due to Labour’s pledge and pressure to abolish it. However, having already taken the idea of a windfall tax on the energy sector from Labour, any changes to the non-dom regime could attract criticism.

Energy & Environment

Energy bill support  

The Government’s current plan is a planned rise in the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) from £2,500 to £3,000 a year for the average household from April. The £400 of Government support for every household will also end. At that point, the Government said it will introduce targeted support for the poorest and most vulnerable households, arguing that wholesale energy prices have fallen. However, there have been recent reports that the £500 price hike could be scrapped and delayed until summer but this is yet to be confirmed.

There have been widespread calls for the price hike to be cancelled or modified. The Labour Party has called for the rise in EPG to be stopped, alongside Martin Lewis (MoneySavingExpert)’s open letter with broad civil society support.

Following reports of extra fiscal space, the Resolution Foundation has called for the rise to be delayed by three months to prevent costs from spiking in April. The Trades Union Congress has called for the EPG to be reduced to £2,000, or for the acceleration of the introduction of a social tariff.

Sanjay Raja, of Deutsche Bank, has said additional support could be a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ policy for the Chancellor, especially as falling energy prices meant that the Treasury saved around £11bn on the Energy Price Guarantee.

For businesses, the Government is replacing the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme with the Energy Bill Discount Scheme as of the end of March. There is widespread concern about the support that will be available to businesses as of April 2023. The Federation of Small Business has called for increased support to prevent a cliff edge for small businesses. UKHospitality has called for Ofgem to intervene in the non-domestic energy market for suppliers to re-negotiate inflated contracts.

Energy efficiency 

There have been calls from various groups on energy efficiency as a solution for reducing bills whilst contributing to net zero.

London Councils and Together through this crisis (a coalition of charities) have called for additional central investment to improve energy efficiency in the housing stock.

National Energy Action has said ‘unless we tackle the least efficient housing stock in Europe, the poorest households will simply not be able to afford a warm and safe home’. Property Mark has asked for energy efficiency grants to support landlords and homeowners to retrofit their properties.

The trade association the National Insulation Association is calling on the Government to build on existing commitments by providing a further £1bn into the ECO+ scheme.

The CBI, the FSB and 11 other trading associations have written a joint letter calling for a Help to Green voucher provided by Government to be used by small firms to invest in green improvements.

The Institute for Employment Rights (IER) has called for the Industry Energy Transformation Fund to be extended from 2025 to 2030 to reduce bills and emissions for businesses.

Windfall taxes 

The Chancellor has resisted calls for higher windfall taxes, saying increasing windfall taxes will ‘stop investment, increase dependence on Putin and increase energy prices’.

er, the Government has come under pressure because of recent record profits recorded by energy production companies like Shell and BP. The Labour Party has asked the Government to introduce a ‘proper’ windfall tax to keep energy bills down. The Welsh Government has added that loopholes within the windfall tax system must be closed in order to maximise revenue to bolster energy bill support.

Clean energy 

There have been persistent calls for the Government to increase momentum, particularly funding, around clean energy. This is in the context of inflation which has increased the cost of labour and raw materials.

RenewableUK has called for more fiscal incentives for developers and supply chain companies to drive investment in UK clean energy.

There have been calls for increased budgets and grants for clean energy, especially within Contracts for Difference (CfD) schemes. Funding for innovation and R&D for developing climate technologies, including reversing cuts to R&D tax credits, is also being requested.

The CBI has called for more planning, including routes to private investment for future technologies including hydrogen, Small Modular Reactors and Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).

The Welsh Affairs Committee Chair has called on investment to be injected into new nuclear in Wylfa.

Five energy trade associations have called for a clearer Government plan to deliver green economic growth and attract clean energy investment, saying without this climate targets and economic opportunities will not be recognised.

The Energy Networks Association has called for the improvement of energy network infrastructure, including innovation and strategies into energy storage, in order to facilitate the development of clean energy.

Green transition 

With plans for a green transition, including the development of new industry, there have been calls for the Government to ensure the transition is well thought through with a focus on supply chains and employment.

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering has called for a clear focus on the green economy and infrastructure and the transition to green energy. This includes allocating funding to develop a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) would like to see investment into a just transition to secure a green energy future, cutting independence on volatile gas. The TUC has also called for the introduction of a Green Jobs Taskforce to co-ordinate planning for decarbonising the economy.

London Councils have called for a plan for Net Zero skills in line with the Skidmore review.

Sustain would like funding to be bolstered in the Agricultural Transition Plan, as well as the expansion of the Environmental Land Management schemes.


Education has been a particular focus for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, so it is safe to assume that it will feature in some way in the Spring Budget. The Chancellor has said that education will be a focus of his economic plan in a speech at Bloomberg, and there have been recent (delayed) announcements on SEND provision and Sunak’s personal commitment to extend maths teaching to 18. Further detail on this new approach to numeracy has yet to be published, and as one of the Prime Minister’s flagship policies, could well feature in the Spring Budget. Of the new policy, the Government said at the time they were exploring the right route, including core maths qualifications, T levels, and ‘more innovative options’ and that details on the PM’s ‘mission’ will be announced in due course.

Apprenticeship levy

Reform of the apprenticeship levy has moved in and out of education ministers’ discourse amid numerous changes in Government over the last six months, although for the wider sector, calls for change are nothing new. In relation to the upcoming budget, the FSB has called for the Government to introduce the £3,000 apprenticeship incentive in England for under 25s and small businesses. The measure builds on the Kickstart Scheme, introduced to support young people through the pandemic, which led to a 21% surge in apprenticeship starts. This figure dropped to 12% following a reduction in the scheme. Other suggestions in the apprenticeship sphere include the CBI’s call for a two-year pilot of turning the Apprenticeship Levy into a ‘Skills Challenge Fund’, which would allow firms to spend the fund on a variety of accredited training and skills. KPMG have suggested considering tax breaks for retraining, or introducing a super deduction for employer-funded training costs.


Given the Government has recently introduced the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill, which aims to create pathways for more flexible loan entitlements for modular learning and short courses, and confirmed the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) in 2025, it could be argued that this work is already under way. The LLE makes up just one of the commitments of the Skills for Jobs White Paper (2021) which contained several recommendations for improving accessibility to skills, retraining and building relationships between employers and training providers. Although a long time in politics, given we are still in the implementation phase of these recommendations, additional ‘bold policy’ announcements are unlikely to be of particular focus in the Budget.

Public sector pay

Schools have continued to face strike action from teaching and support staff amid ongoing talks with Government over public sector pay. The sector has highlighted staffing issues, particularly in the early years sector, and missed targets on recruitment for maths teachers, indicating further issues for Sunak’s plans to improve maths outcomes. The Government has said it will offer a 3.5% annual pay increase. The Times reports that the biggest question facing the Chancellor is whether to raise the pay awards, either through permanent salary increases or one-off bonuses, funded by a recent drop in Government borrowing recorded in January.


Childcare costs

Following increasing calls for improvements to the childcare system, the BCC have called on the Chancellor to make childcare more affordable, pointing out there are 1.7m people currently out of work due to caring responsibilities. This priority is reflected in the CBI’s top recommendations for the Budget, which include launching an Independent Review of childcare; increasing funding so providers receive funding that reflects the cost-of-service provision and the roll-out of existing provision for 3- and 4-year-olds to all 1- and 2-year-olds. The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) has urgently called for an independent review into the early education and childcare system, including a workforce strategy.

The Guardian recently reported the Treasury was considering a plan to massively expand free childcare to one- and two-year-olds in England. This would expand the current 30 hours of term-time care from three- and four-year-olds to children 9 months to 3 years old. Given the volume of activity on this issue both in and out of Parliament, it’s likely to feature in the Budget. Other proposals to help families meet the cost of childcare include:

  • an offer of 10 free hours for disadvantaged one-year-olds.
  • adjusting the ratios for childcare providers.
  • reducing the Universal Credit taper rate.
  • Increasing the number of childminders.

During a recent Education Select Committee session, the subject of childminders was repeatedly raised by witnesses and MPs as a possible area for reform, although this wasn’t explicitly linked to the Spring Budget. Despite numerous recent calls for change, it was reported by The Telegraph earlier this year that Rishi Sunak has shelved plans for a major overhaul of the childcare system. This follows his predecessor, Liz Truss, making proposals for change during her short tenure. KPMG’s budget prediction judged the Government ‘might’ announce changes to childcare, which may include non-tax measures or tax deductions for childcare costs. Although this is a well-recognised issue, given the links to Liz Truss’s short-lived tenure, it is unclear whether the Government will address this in the Budget.

Labour shortages

However, with the Government’s focus on growth and productivity, it would make sense that some attention will be given to getting people into work. The Telegraph reported that this would be one of Jeremy Hunt’s primary concerns. Hunt has personally urged over-50s who have taken early retirement to go back to work, so it seems likely that the Government will announce new measures to encourage and retain older workers in the labour force. This could build on the Mid-Life MOTs offer announced last year or by offering tax incentives, such as increasing the lifetime pensions allowance which is now frozen at £1,073,100 until 2026.

It is also possible that Jeremy Hunt will announce an increase to the state pension age. He has previously commissioned Mel Stride, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to look into the impact of raising the pension age to 68 at a faster rate. Currently, the age at which people start receiving their state pension is 66 and is set to rise to 68 between 2044 and 2046. There is speculation this could be brought forward to the mid-2030s.

When it comes to getting the long term sick back into work, one policy option on the cards is a sick note crackdown. Another policy option is to reboot the benefits system, so that sick people who return to work part-time can continue claiming some sickness benefits.

Other recommendations include using existing levers in the points-based immigration system to ease labour shortages if the Government feel unable to enact bolder policies to prevent and treat long-term sickness, enabling flexible training provision, and enhancing productivity through digitisation.

Health & Social Care

NHS Workforce

Workforce remains one of the most urgent challenges facing the sector right now; ongoing disputes over pay are likely to inform the backdrop to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, with the Government in talks with several health unions and junior doctors planning to take 72 hours of strike action later this month. Departments across Government have given evidence to pay review bodies, which recommend 3.5% pay rises for public sector workers for the financial year April 2023-24 – an offer which is unlikely to bring an end to any disputes. With the NHS already stretched thin, the Department of Health and Social Care cannot afford to fund a higher pay settlement from its existing budget – meaning any additional pay rise will require the Treasury to find more money. The UK can expect a shallower recession then was predicted by the OBR back in autumn. January saw a surprise surplus in the Government’s finances, meaning that public borrowing for this year has been £30.6bn less than originally forecasted. This casts doubt upon the Government’s claim that pay rises are ‘unaffordable’, however, there are other considerable pressures upon the public finances, such as calls to not let the energy price cap rise on 1 April.

During the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor committed to publishing the long-awaited NHS Workforce Plan by the Spring. Stakeholders have stressed that the plan must be fully funded and that it cannot take money out of the existing health budget, as this would divert money away from the urgent need to reduce elective care backlogs and A&E waiting times. During an opposition debate a few weeks ago, the Shadow Health Secretary repeatedly called on the Government to ‘nick’ Labour’s proposal to abolish non-dom tax status in order to fund an expansion in medical training places – a policy Jeremy Hunt has previously expressed support for.

Primary and community care

Hospital based care is often the most expensive form of care, whereas prevention and early intervention has the potential to save the NHS billions. This has been known for decades, and yet year on year, demand on emergency services has continued to grow. In their submission to the budget, NHS Providers urged the Government to invest in prevention, primary care, intermediate care and rehabilitation to reduce pressure on urgent and emergency departments.

Furthermore, there has been a surge in reports of poor mental health (especially in children) since the beginning of the pandemic and services have been overwhelmed by demand, with a backlog of 1.2m waiting for help. The British Psychological Society (BPS) has called for a mental health workforce strategy and for psychology to be embedded in primary care, in order to allow GPs to better support patients’ mental health. They stress that early intervention prevents problems from getting worse, which will ultimately reduce pressure on the NHS in the long run. NHS Confederation suggested that mental health services will need between £1.6 and £3.6bn over and above existing funding to keep pace with the rise in mental health problems.

Social Care

Lack of capacity in social care is one of the key factors behind excessive A&E waits, as patients who are medically fit to discharge take up beds – desperately needed by other patients – because they have nowhere to go. This is widely understood across the sector and was the motivation behind the £200m discharge fund announced earlier this year, used to allow local authorities to block buy beds in social care homes and get patients out of hospital. Whilst stakeholders welcomed extra funding, they also pointed out that it was too little too late and didn’t addresses the underlying problems in social care.

The social care sector is also suffering its own acute workforce crisis, restraining its capacity to keep up with growing demand. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) cited pay as one of the most urgent issues, as they find it increasingly difficult to compete with other sectors such as the NHS, retail and hospitality. ADASS is calling for Government investment to help them raise social care worker pay to the equivalent of NHS band 3 for Healthcare Assistants (£12.76 p/h). Age UK has also called for this, as well as additional support for unpaid carers, and funding to allow local authorities to clear the care assessment backlog, to ensure that the 400,000 people on the waiting list have their care needs assessed before next winter.

Public Health

The Chancellor has allegedly rejected proposals to introduce a new levy on disposable vapes. A tax on single use vapes has been pushed for by the Department of Health in an effort to crack down on vaping amongst children.

Back in December, the Government announced that the freeze in alcohol duty would be extended by six months, not coming to an end until 1 August, when a new alcohol tax-system will come into place. Ahead of the Spring Budget, 46 health experts including members of the Alcohol Health Alliance, academics and parliamentarians wrote to the Chancellor, urging him to increase alcohol duty after 1 August and to build automatic uprating into the new system. They argue that alcohol dependency has significant social and economic costs, and reducing affordability is the most effective way to reduce harm. They also suggest that alcohol duty has more of an impact on off-trade alcohol sales than on-trade, and measures such as reducing VAT would be a more practical way to support the hospitality industry.


The Association the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has made proposals for an alternative to the current Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme (VPAS). In 2021, the VPAS meant that pharmaceutical companies paid back 5% of their revenue towards the NHS, but by 2023 this has risen to 26.5%, which the industry argues is not internationally competitive and disincentivises competition. ABPI proposes instead a Voluntary Scheme for Pricing, Access and Growth (VPAG), entailing a fixed payment rate of 6.88% levied across all NHS sales to be paid by the industry. They project this would provide the NHS with £1bn a year and UK medicines spend per capita would remain well below comparable countries.

Transport and Infrastructure

Public Transport

Better Transport has argued that the Budget next week is an opportunity to prioritise sustainable transport investment. Together with 14 other organisations, they wrote to the Chancellor with recommendations on how to protect spending on public transport commitments and invest in buses. They urge the Jeremy Hunt to guarantee an enhanced funding package for local buses to prevent imminent cuts to services when the current recovery funding runs out. They also want to see accelerated long-term reform of local transport funding and ringfenced local authority bus funding, with responsibility for allocating all bus funding transferred to the Department for Transport.

Similarly, the Urban Transport Group has called for this Budget to prioritise spending on local urban transport to prevent many vital bus services being axed. They also urge the Government to fully empower metropolitan transport authorities so they can direct funding where it will be most effective given local circumstances and aspirations.

Lastly, Better Transport thinks the Government should follow the Welsh Government’s example and review all planned road schemes which have not progressed to significant delivery stages. Cancelling just five planned road building schemes would save the Treasury £16bn and the money could instead be used on public transport.

Fuel duty

Fuel duty is supposed to rise by RPI inflation in April, which would add 7p to the price of a litre of fuel. A temporary 5p fuel duty cut, announced in March 2022, is also due to expire this March. These two factors combined mean the cost of fuel duty will rise by 23pc – an extra 12p per litre. The RPI fuel duty increase has been cancelled by every Chancellor for 12 years, making it politically difficult for the Jeremy Hunt to back a rise.

Back in January, The Times reported that Jeremy Hunt wants to extend the 5p cut in the price of petrol and diesel for another year if the economic outlook improves, having accepted that there is a ‘strong precedent’ for freezing fuel duty.

While fuel duty has been frozen for over a decade, over the last 10 years rail fares have risen by 33%, and bus and coach fares by a staggering 90%. Making driving cheaper discourages people from choosing sustainable public transport, so Better Transport are calling for an end to the temporary cut to fuel duty when it ends in March 2023. This would save £2.4bn, which they want to see invested in public transport.

However, Logistics UK noted that a rise in fuel duty would equate to an additional £4,850 annual cost to run a 44t truck. The overwhelming majority (99%) of logistics businesses are SMEs and even a small haulage firm with seven HGVs could be facing an additional £34,000 to annual operating costs if the duty rise were to be introduced after March 2023. Similarly, the FSB warns that small firms grappling with rising fuel costs are calling on the Chancellor to scrap the planned increase at the upcoming Spring Budget. Moreover, RAC has warned the Chancellor that a rise in fuel duty in the Spring Budget could impact inflation and the wider economy, causing ‘untold damage’.

In January, the Treasury Committee argued that because governments have consistently not raised fuel duty with inflation, despite such an increase being part of the Treasury’s underlying policy assumptions, the OBR considers fuel duty a risk to its fiscal forecast. The Committee states that the repeated failure of Governments to follow their own policy on fuel duty undermines the credibility of the OBR’s fiscal forecasts. They recommend the Treasury assumes there will be no inflation-linked rise in fuel duty when providing the OBR with a policy assumption for future forecasts. This would more accurately reflect the recent path of fuel duty and make for a more credible forecast.

Electric Vehicles

To encourage the growth of the UK’s EV industry and support drivers of all incomes to make the switch, FairCharge is calling for the Government to equalise the VAT rate for public charging (20%) in line with off-street (5%) charging. FairChange also thinks the Government should deliver on the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate on which it concluded on last year. The mandate would place targets on car manufacturers to sell a certain proportion of electric vehicles annually in the run up to 2030. Lastly, there is also a need for the Government to work closely with local authorities to enable the delivery of EV infrastructure plans, which FairChange said it simply won’t materialise without increased guidance, resources and direction. Lastly, to encourage uptake, the Government should introduce EV access schemes for low-income drivers.

Moreover, with the switch to EVs, tax revenue from fuel duty will plummet, so vehicle taxation needs reform. The Transport Committee has already warned the Government it risks losing out on tens of billions of tax revenue if it does not explore new forms of road taxation. However, the Treasury’s main message was that the Government ‘does not currently have plans to consider road pricing’.


On rail, Better Transport has called for rail fares reform, with an end to ‘split ticketing’ and the introduction of single leg pricing across the network. They have also called for an expansion of pay-as-you-go ticketing across the country outside of London.

The Railway Industry Association noted that the industry still doesn’t have clarity on Great British Railways or wider strategic direction. They think that the lack of clarity about the structure of the railway has the potential to deter investment and prevent rail from attracting the best people to key positions.


The housebuilding sector has been under pressure since the fallout from the September 2022 mini-Budget, when higher interest rates resulted in higher mortgage costs. In addition to this, house prices have seen the biggest annual fall in over 10 years – by 1.1% in the year to February – according to figures from Nationwide.

The S&P Global/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index, published on Monday, shows a poor outlook for construction in 2023, with added pressure on firms that are already dealing with difficulties such as labour shortages and high materials costs. Developers will be hoping measures to boost housing and address inflation are announced in the Budget.

Other challenges, including the cost of living crisis and increasing rents, have driven many people into poverty and increased the risk of homelessness. Local authorities are inundated with requests and housing options are limited. Many are hopeful that measures to support struggling households will be included in the Budget.

Lifetime ISA

There have been numerous calls for the Chancellor to review the conditions of the Lifetime and Help to Buy ISAs to better support first-time buyers.

The Government is being asked to review the £450,000 cap for a first home bought with the Lifetime ISA. Property prices have risen considerably – by just over a third (£75,687) – since the product was introduced six years ago making it difficult for a first-time buyer to find a home in London for less than this amount. If the home bought exceeds this amount, buyers face a 25% penalty charge. There are calls for the cap to be increased in line with house price growth and some are calling for the 25% penalty to be reduced to 20%.

The Building Societies Association (BSA) has also suggested balancing the threshold, as currently, the Help to Buy ISA limits property purchase values to £250,000 outside London and £450,000 in London while the Lifetime ISA threshold is £450,000 nationally. The BSA proposes for the threshold to be raised to £550,000 to reflect the growth in house prices and has asked for this to be reviewed annually to ensure they remain in line with changes.

Improving support for vulnerable and low-income tenants

Property Mark is calling for the UK Government to tie Local Housing Allowance – which has been frozen since 2019 – to the 50th percentile in order to prevent homelessness. Similarly, homelessness charity Shelter is urging the Government to restore Local Housing Allowance and keep it in line with at least the 30th percentile of private rents.

With the pandemic and the cost of living crisis impacting employment opportunities for many young people, Property Mark is calling for an end to the Shared Accommodation Rate. To reduce the debt for those in receipt of Universal Credit, they would like to see the Universal Credit Advance be converted into a grant from the start of a claim.

Reaching net zero

The UK Government has committed to reaching net zero and energy efficient homes are a key part of this transition.

The Conservative Government pledged £9.2bn for decarbonisation buildings as part of its 2019 election manifesto. So far support for landlords and homeowners has been limited. To date, the Government has invested £1.5bn to decarbonise 130,000 homes in the social sector. However, similar support for renters and homeowners – through the Green Homes Grant – was largely deemed a failure.

The Guardian has reported that a third of the funding pledged by the Government for insulation and installing heat pumps has not yet been spent, despite the energy and cost of living crises. About £2.1bn remains unspent of the £6.6bn that was supposed to be used between 2020 and 2025. With net zero being high on the Government’s agenda, the Chancellor may well decide to implement measures to accelerate progress in this area. This could include a reduction or removal of VAT on goods and materials to tackle climate change.

Increasing housing supply

One of the biggest challenges for the private rented sector is that demand far outweighs supply. Property Mark believes that a major reason for landlords exiting the market is because of Section 24 and the phasing out of the Mortgage Interest Relief. The membership body roughly estimates that reintroducing Mortgage Interest Relief would cost the UK Government £1bn, and that it would increase supply and drive down rents, as well as reduce the £30bn spent annually on housing benefits.

Shelter is calling for investment in a 10-year Affordable Homes Programme of £12bn per year to deliver at least 90,000 social homes a year. The charity argues that a minimum of 80% of grant funding in the programme should go to homes for social rent, to focus government grant money on the most affordable tenure. The National Housing Federation is urging the Government to maximise the use of existing funding through the Affordable Homes Programme, in order to tackle homelessness and boost social and economic opportunities.

Culture, Media and Sport

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has recently been revamped, with the digital element moving into a new Department for Science and Tech. The new Secretary of State, Lucy Frazer, has links to the Treasury, having been Financial Secretary from September 2021 until September 2022.

The sector has put forward recommendations for the Budget in relation to the impact of the cost of living crisis. Campaign for Real Ale is calling on the Government to provide meaningful support to the hospitality sector including lower business rates which recognise their community value, and increased support with energy bills. The Sun reported in December that the Chancellor is expected to freeze alcohol duty.

Similarly, NME reports figures from the live music sector have called on the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise to cut business rates and reinstate a lower rate of 5% VAT on tickets, in line with international comparisons. This is a long-standing ask; during covid, VAT was reduced to 5% but rose again to 12.5% in October 2021, despite calls from the industry for it to remain at a reduced rate to enable recovery.

Industry groups such as LIVE have warned urgent Government intervention is needed to prevent the closure of hundreds of music venues across the country. In addition, they are supporting wider hospitality sector support requests:

  • A business rates holiday for all hospitality premises with no caps applied;
  • COVID style grants to businesses in severe hardship;
  • Measures to help businesses reduce their energy usage e.g., free/cheap energy audits for venues;
  • A reversal of the introduction of the April 2022 VAT rate increase for hospitality;
  • The reinstatement of a generous HMRC Time to Pay scheme; and
  • The reintroduction of a trade credit insurance scheme for energy.

Despite the new Secretary of State’s popularity within the Conservative Party and links to the Treasury, it is unlikely major announcements will be made to directly address issues within the cultural sector, given the economic climate, although they may benefit from more general support offered to tackle energy costs. The Spring Budget could be used to honour the previous commitment to create a National Plan for Cultural Education by 2023. This commitment aimed to outline career progression pathways and address skills gaps needed by the sector, which would be in keeping with the Government’s commitment to boost productivity.

International Development

In 2021, the Government decided to reduce its aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) as a ‘temporary measure’ following the pandemic. During the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor said the Government will not return to 0.7% on Official Development Assistance (ODA) until the Government is not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling. It is unlikely that ODA will be restored during the spring statement, but the Government has recently provided additional resources to address unanticipated world events.

The Government has come up against widespread criticism for the ODA cut, including from the Labour Party and Green Party who have called for the spending to be restored. A recent report from the National Audit Office outlined the issues faced by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the last year which included pressures on the UK’s aid budget, especially in light of crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and now the recent earthquake in Turkey/Syria.

The International Development Committee’s report on Aid spending in the UK has made a demand ahead of the budget for the Treasury to ring-fence the equivalent of 0.5% GNI in the ODA budget for expenditure on development assistance delivered outside the UK. This is following news that the proportion of aid spent in the UK has drastically increased in recent years, while programmes supporting people in the world’s poorest countries were cut.

Home Office

Despite a wide range of speculation, issues relating to immigration, small boat crossings and policing issues have not taken centre stage.

However, a week before the Budget, Home Secretary Suella Braverman updated the House of Commons on new legislation to ‘stop the boats’. The Government’s Illegal Migration Bill which was promised to the British people two months ago has set out a number of upcoming goals which will essentially fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise that anyone entering this country illegally will be detained and removed, either back to their country of origin if safe, or to a safe third country like Rwanda. The Bill enables detention of illegal arrivals, without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of detention, until they can be removed, putting a duty on the Home Secretary to remove illegal entrants. The Government have already made a start on this by initiating discussions in Strasbourg.

The hospitality industry has been particularly worried about the current economic situation and the challenges they will face as a result of the Government’s stance on immigration.

UKHospitality has submitted a document to the Government asking for plans to support business growth and to account for recent labour shortages. Their budget submission calls for an implementation of minor, short-term immigration reforms to counter the sales being lost due to labour shortages, particularly abolishing or reducing the Immigration Skills Charge and offering more flexibility to students to work longer hours. However, with the recent announcement of the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, it doesn’t seem likely this is something that will be laid out in this fiscal statement.

Science and Technology

The Royal Society has advised that in the upcoming Spring budget the Government include the following recommendations:

  • Ensure spending on R&D remains at the same level as other nations
  • Establish a long-term strategy for science research and innovation that encourages cross party support.
  • Prepare the ground to secure the UK’s association to Horizon Europe as soon as possible.
  • Reduce work and study visa fees.
  • Reconsider the proposed cuts to SME R&D tax credit scheme to avoid disincentivising innovation among smaller companies.
  • Introduce an evidence-led technology roadmap to guide investment into technologies that will be key to achieving net zero.
  • Review the secondary school and post-16 education systems in England including replacing A-levels.

The CBI has called for the Government to create an innovative economy and described this along with R&D as a core component to driving long-term growth. They are also encouraging the Government to set out long-term technology priorities and related funding; securing association with partnerships like Horizon Europe will solidify the UK’s leadership in innovation, and if this cannot be delivered, then the entire budget for Horizon Europe should be allocated towards a new globally competitive research and innovation programme.


Jeremy Hunt has promised to make the UK the ‘world’s next Silicon Valley’ and ‘the most innovative economy in the world’. UKTN has said the Budget is an opportunity for the Government to deliver on tech by clarifying how the UK will build a talent pipeline over the next 10 years to meet the targets around rolling out gigabit-capable broadband and 5G. Additionally, they urge the Government to reverse the trend of ministers blowing ‘hot and cold’ on tech and would like to see changes to the UK’s R&D tax credit regime to reduce fraud and refocus the credit on research-intensive companies.

TechUK has recommended the Chancellor focus on creating incentives necessary for the UK to compete in the 21st century, which include incentives for investment, reforming the financial system and access to global markets. Further, they have said the UK needs to prepare for future technologies through delivering regulatory frameworks and market support.


Getting ready for Web3

Getting ready for Web3: Interview with Citizen Relations’ deputy managing director Jules Day

Web3, ChatGPT and all-things AI-assisted and generated are big news in the communications and creative industries right now, and the Citizen Relations team has been paying attention to changing needs in the sector:

‘The volume of work that we’ve been doing in influencer marketing, community building and management and SEO has been growing exponentially,’ says deputy managing director Jules Day on the launch of the agency’s new ‘dComm3’ digital practice.

‘Our clients have experienced the power of integrated digital solutions and there’s a growing appetite to respond to, and prepare for, evolving consumer behaviours’.

Ready to reach the next step of PR and comms evolution? Read on for why brands need to be ready for the metaverse and which companies are already making the most of the opportunities it offers.

Why do brands need to be ready for Web3?

Simply, brands want to be where their consumers are. We’re in the business of helping them create awareness and consideration and, of course, generating and harnessing advocacy. Increasingly, we also play a role in driving people to purchase.

We see three consumer behaviour shifts that brands should be preparing for:
● The dynamics of communities will change as they shift to more niche, topical and emerging community platforms.
● Web3-forward digital experiences will include extended reality and modern AI integration.
● The dynamics of value exchange are changing and we’re helping brands understand how to work better with the next generation of creators, commerce and exchange online.

How will the international team be working together?

It is a straightforward model – a centralised, specialist function. The 15-plus team comprises digital comms experts in performance content, technology, analytics and experiences. Our account teams will continue to lead their integrated programmes, drawing in specialist support where relevant. We’ve been working closely together for some weeks now, and the beauty of today’s heavy reliance on video conferencing is that we’ve built strong working relationships very quickly.

Why is Web3 more than just a flash in the pan for comms?

I remember launching mobile video technology at Mobile World Congress about a million years ago and the spokespeople working so hard to convince people that we really would watch TV on-demand on our mobile devices. How we humans do things evolves – we’ve already had two iterations of the internet and you can be confident that our expectations of what the internet can deliver, and our role within it, will continue to advance.

From a Citizen perspective, our team sees Web3 shifts in AI, XR and anonymity as substantial drivers of new opportunities for brands.

Which big brands are already doing well with their Web3 strategy?

High fashion and luxury brands have jumped in head-first and generated a slew of programmes. They’re largely in testing mode but are succeeding in earning impressions and buzz.

Our team are huge fans of Nike’s acquisition and partnership with RTFKT in the creation of really interesting and meaningful ‘phygital’ activations. What works so well with their partnership is that it is already well-suited for the category, and plays into existing human behaviour, creating new ways to own Nike coveted products.

I’ve been watching H&M with interest for a while – since spotting my daughter dressing her avatar in H&M in Toca Life, the digital collection landed just ahead of the physical collection and really captured both of our imaginations. H&M has also partnered with Animal Crossing and Roblox, experimenting with virtual garments and, now, using the integrations to focus its comms on sustainability. I’m interested to see what comes next.

Which campaigns haven’t done so well with this so far?

It is hard to judge without knowing brand or campaign objectives – and we wouldn’t like to.

We’ve seen brands creating storefronts in the metaverse, launching Discord servers and adding augmented reality shopping experiences to retail, in many cases they’ve driven plenty of noise but it is difficult to tell if they answered customers’ needs or brought the brands into new demographics in any substantial way. Of course, if those campaign objectives were to test and learn, then the brands may well have found value in them.

How would you advise brands to start with Web3 and determining how it could work for them?

We’d advise brands to start by looking at their consumers’ behaviours to better understand where unmet needs exist. For example, doing a conversation map to show where people are looking for solutions online, or evaluating user intent in search to help determine where we could better show up based on new behaviours. From there, we’d suggest evaluating the wide array of new communities, tech and offerings to help test modern digital solutions to user challenges. Web-next ideas have what all great ideas provide, something of value to real citizens. That remains unchanged.

Metrics and measuring success can already be difficult in comms – how can success be measured with Web3-centred campaigns?

Some examples of the different impact models we’ve been building and leveraging:

● Content effectiveness: if you make no other change this year, start measuring the effectiveness of content by variable. If your influencer content includes a product or a CTA does it perform better? If we include a real person does it change the outcomes? Citizen’s dComm3 practice has built a content effectiveness algorithm that allows us to do better briefing, track outcomes and shift campaign results in a programmatic way.
Earned SEO: search behaviours are changing for the first time in decades. Gen Zers leverage platforms like TikTok and Instagram for search more than Google. A weight of product searches originate in Amazon. Voice search has become something our kids do. Earned off-page search can drive significant value for a brand capturing share of search and driving inbound links. Start by getting a baseline of search performance and measure against it in earned.
● Earned attribution and econometrics: buzzy, earned-led campaigns don’t just drive headlines and impressions; they can drive demand. The dComm3 team is briefing in against demand and building tagging infrastructures to show the value of earned well beyond standard attribution.

What do you find particularly exciting about the Web3 space?

The possibilities. What will humans adopt versus reject? How will people evolve around the tech versus how the tech will evolve to human behaviour? This is perhaps the most exciting time in the history of the web and we are ready for the opportunities it poses. Tactically, we’re bullish on community evolution. People are going back to anonymous, topical-centred conversations and things like organic community are returning in a way that is truly exciting for communicators and brands.

For more on Web3, read our previous posts on the topic: ‘How to communicate in the metaverse… also, what is the metaverse?‘ and ‘Three reasons to get started with Web 3.0‘.

International Women's Day 2023

International Women’s Day 2023 – How can the PR industry evolve for the better?

Does the world really still need International Women’s Day? For all those asking this question, the answer is very much ‘yes’. Gender inequality continues to thrive in 2023 – especially when it intersects with racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism – the list goes on.

And despite being made up of a workforce filled with women – a 67% majority, apparently – PR has a gender problem.

Here are takes from women working in comms on how the industry can evolve and why International Women’s Day should be circled on the calendar:

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

‘For that reason, IWD is critical and absolutely has a place in 2023. The dialogue must not stop once IWD has passed, but it is fine if on this day specifically, we crank up the volume’.

Break up bias in the boardroom

‘We have to address the fact that women and ethnic minorities are still not being represented enough in companies. 2022 stats show us that in the UK only 19.7% of employees on boards are women – why is this? Because patriarchy is rife on company boards. Also in the UK, the employment rate in every ethnic group was higher for men than women.

‘My experience working in PR and as the owner of a PR agency, is that when dealing with some male clients, I’m not taken seriously. Despite running our own business and managing their brand and reputation, we see a lot of mansplaining. This isn’t across the board, and things are improving but we still feel we’re working hard to have a seat at a very male table.’
Sophie Kermani, director at In The Bag PR

‘As ever, there are benefits to having PR people more closely represent the societies in which we live. As PR practitioners, we aim to communicate messages effectively to various audiences. Having a diverse team that reflects the demographics of those audiences can help ensure that messages are communicated in a way that resonates with them as well as results in more creative and innovative solutions to communication challenges. Overall, ethnic diversity in the PR industry can lead to better communication, increased innovation, and more inclusive and respectful messaging.’
Hanisha Ganwani, senior PR manager for Global University Systems

‘Like many industries, women still have to choose between a career and a family. Hopefully, now more men are taking paternity leave, we might start seeing the balance change.’
Claire Powell, managing director of The CAN Group

Drop the tokenism

‘While the workplace has become a lot more accommodating for women, there’s still a lot of headway to be made.

‘A lot of LGBTQ+ people often get put into a separate box or seen as the ‘token diverse person’ that companies can use to promote during Pride month. In reality, I don’t want to be seen as any different, which is why a lot of people don’t even express labels when at work.

‘In a PR agency, you’re often in communication with an in-house representative that’s older and typically male, so you definitely get the odd person speaking over you and subtly treating you differently. It’s especially hard when you’re at the start of your career and trying to gain more confidence in a new industry’.
Stacie Plast, Senior account executive at Stone Junction

Drop the ageism

‘I think that there are still divides when it comes to women in PR and ageism is one of those.

‘In many circles, PR is seen as a young person’s industry and when women go on maternity leave this can mark a dramatic change in their career. Being able to come back on a flexible or part-time basis can be hard and I believe that we often lose women who hold huge value and experience because making it work is just too hard.’
Natalie Trice, PR author, PR coach, PR trainer, Devon Trice Public Relations

‘There has been a huge issue around ageism in PR; a typical PR worker would be cited as a female in her 20s. Women in PR’s recent survey showed over 34% of women working in comms have experienced ageism in the workplace. However, businesses are now waking up to the wealth of experience and knowledge that those of us who have been around for longer can bring.’
Sara Mak, PR & external communications manager for Verastar

No ‘gender-washing’

‘Say no to gender-washing BS. Businesses need to set themselves real goals to deliver on inclusion, equality and equity. Transparency, accountability and measurement are critical to track real progress. How can we assess progress if we don’t know what it is we’re measuring? In the data economy, the PR industry needs to get better at using data insights to inform the right strategy, create the right vision and achieve.’
Claire Williamson, founder and managing director of Resonance, current PRCA Council Chair, and co-chair of the PRCA AR Group

Be transparent on pay

‘I think businesses in the private sector need to be transparent about salaries. But I think the real changes can then only come from individuals. Bias needs to be called out, whether it’s racism, sexism or transphobia – those who see it happening and let it slide are just as complicit.’
Jessica McDonnell, account manager for Source PR

‘As a Black woman working in PR, I think in order to address all the intersectionalities of gender, sexuality and race within pay and promotions, there needs to be honest and transparent conversations within the workplace. This would create transparency for marginalised groups to see how they compare with other counterparts (males, white people, cis people, etc). If we are transparent about pay scales and the reasons behind it, then there is no room for gaps. This gives everyone a level playing field to progress in comparison to others.’
Buce Satimburwa, account executive at Full Fat

‘We need to stop making excuses for the reasons things happen in the workplace. If you’re struggling to attract diverse talent, check your company culture, policies and external comms. If you are attracting diverse talent but seeing them check out, lift the lid on your employee experience and career development touchpoints. Do more to promote and champion diverse talent into the board – you can’t be what you can’t see which will continue to inflame the promotion and pay gap across gender, race or sexuality.’
Alicia Solanki, chief client and innovation officer at Ketchum UK

Don’t be part of the problem

‘PR and the press in general is, crucially, part of the problem. One scan of articles focus in on women’s marital status, weight and whatever else women are spoon-fed on a daily basis to erode their joy. While countless aggressive murders, crimes and violence committed by men, are simply reported as ‘genderless’ crimes. Oh, unless it’s a debate on transgender women in prison… yikes.

‘There is a huge disconnect between the women working in PR and the output of commentary through journalism. This is because it is still male voices that dominate the actual news. Men occupy the vast majority of management and a majority of the jobs in journalism, which means that their narrative is the one represented. There’s still very much a double-standard in the PR industry, too.’
Faye Lewis, head of comms at Viva!

‘I personally still believe there is a lack of education of what Public Relations is, even in today’s world of 2023 (though I feel it’s getting there, we are not there yet). Many still think PR is some form of advertising, marketing or just going out to fancy events.

‘Because of the lack of knowledge, I believe it’s not deemed as important compared to other industries, which is why I believe women are not taken as seriously. This reflects on how women are perceived.

‘Education is needed for PR to be taken more seriously and it should rank among the top of the industry sectors – this would change the dynamic of any issues.’
Am Golhar, media voice and founder of Abstract PR

Set tangible targets for improvement

‘Companies and organisations should commit to creating tangible and achievable targets to close the gender/race/sexuality pay and promotion gaps. This should include setting specific goals for hiring more women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and creating transparent processes for evaluating and promoting them.’
Alana Panton, founder of AP Comms

Show up

‘I think that newer generations reaching the PR industry won’t stand for disparities in gender, race, pay or the like, and rightly so. Some businesses naturally adopt best practice in these areas, but with talent shortages being felt across the industry, it’s going to force all business leaders to show up for this generation – they want to see people doing the right thing or they’ll disengage entirely.

‘There needs to be firm action taken when sexism, racism, ageism or any other form of discrimination is experienced. We have brought contracts to a close that haven’t afforded members of my team the respect they deserve, and I will continue to put people over profits when it comes to addressing behaviours that are not welcome in 2023.’
Alia Al-Doori, Managing Director at Pearl Comms

Provide time for personal development

‘In 2023, there are so many amazing opportunities for women in PR, from leadership courses to workshops and panel discussions – I think it’s imperative that agencies not only encourage their employees to take these opportunities but ensure that they are given the time and support to be able to do so.

‘There are many PR agencies whose lack of diversity is a huge issue that they are just ignoring, and, with so many talented people in the PR world, there’s just no excuse for it!’
Maisie Bamford, PR account director at Tank

Remember why International Women’s Day is still necessary

‘IWD is still important in 2023 because the challenges women face haven’t gone away. It’s the obvious things like the gender pay gap, yes, but it’s also the way every woman I know insists on a text to make sure their friend got home safe and refuses to walk alone at night.

‘It’s the ‘someone’s on their monthly’ comments and the way that I still have to explain to the men I love why I don’t feel as safe or as seen or as heard as they do. It’s how being sexually harassed is literally just a given and my friends and I have unspoken methodologies to protect ourselves and others when we go out for drinks. It’s how music, art and activities enjoyed and/or created primarily by women are belittled and dismissed. How the media would rather discuss female politicians and celebrities weight gain and fashion choices than their policies and actions. How men can get away with saying and doing and being things that women cannot.

‘It’s all the tiny little things I have to take into account, the self-defensive thoughts and actions that have become habit, that I’ve been told by men is ‘a bit paranoid’ or ‘a bit much’. The little things are the hardest to fix – it’s not something that can change overnight – but IWD is about giving women of all races, nationalities, religions and experiences the space and the platform to make their voices heard.’
Leigh-Ann Hewer, account manager at Carnsight Communications

‘Although gender equality is widely understood in many societies, far too many individuals still believe ‘feminism has gone far enough’, some men and women are still reluctant to use the label ‘feminist’, and the popularity of misogynists like Andrew Tate evidences that women’s rights and opportunities are still not guaranteed. Marking International Women’s Day reminds us that there are many different ways to ‘be’ a woman, that womanhood is intersectional with ethnic, racial, LGTBQ+ and disability status complementing our identities and presenting new challenges and opportunities, and that every woman has a different story to tell and something unique to offer the world.’
Aimee Treasure, marketing director at Templeton and Partners

For more on the experiences of women throughout the creative industries in the UK, check out our accessmatters series, including The Social Mobility Foundation’s Sarah Atkinson, the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s Melissa Lawrence and InFusion Comms’ Sara Hawthorn

Interview with The CAN Group's Claire Powell on entertainment PR

‘Brief, brief, brief!’ – The CAN Group’s Claire Powell on providing premier PR for the entertainment industry

‘I never set out with the desire to be in the industry,’ says media, PR and events expert Claire Powell, founder of The CAN Group.

Claire Powell

‘I started working with an events company, undertaking their marketing, when I was approached to work on a new group that were just starting off called Take That.’

At the forefront of the creative industries for almost three decades, Claire’s start with an 18-month tour with Gary, Mark, Robbie, Jason and Howard led to a series of magazine roadshow tours that gave bands like Boyzone, West Life, Ant & Dec and Peter Andre their big breaks.

‘I’ve had so many amazing moments over the years, and worked with many incredible people and businesses, but what continues to drive me is helping people achieve their dreams. My team and I sit with our clients regularly to discuss their ambitions and wishes, and we create plans to make this happen’.

Read on for Claire’s experiences in entertainment PR, the impact of social media on the industry and her thoughts on 2023’s awards season controversies.

How has the entertainment PR industry changed throughout your career?

To use the word ‘massively’ would be an understatement. Long gone are the days when you would create a plan with the media, because there are so many different platforms and outlets now – covering all is a huge task. Previously, you could make major announcements in special agreements with publications, but with mobile phones and social media, pictures can go all over the world in a matter of minutes which makes it difficult to control and secure an exclusive deal.

How has the growth of social media changed ‘traditional’ PR?

There will always be a need for some of the conventional functions that PR has always offered. Even with more digital approaches, traditional methods will be at the crux of the campaigns and keeping good working relationships with journalists is a must. These are the tools of our trade.

However, there has been change particularly with social media and the rise of influencers, and the general decline in readership of magazines and newspapers. So much news is readily available now at our fingertips, which is really sad for journalists and publishers as we see more and more conventional sources of information fold.

You also work in the beauty space – what are the big differences between the entertainment and beauty spheres, and what are the crossovers?

Entertainment is about creating big story lines and it is very picture-based, while beauty is about the products, the people behind the brand and finding a unique point of difference from your competitors. Both require forward-planning, creative strategy, and thinking outside the box to maximise opportunities and get the best coverage for your client – no matter the industry they are in.

It is never a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We work with our clients to create bespoke campaigns that are right for them, and their end goals.

Crisis comms is becoming even more important – what advice would you give to fellow PRs with clients in reputational trouble?

Brief, brief, brief! Be sure to research what they are walking into and only go to a journalist that understands the client you are talking about. It is about protection. Keep to the truth, the facts and guide your client though this critical stage. So many PR and management companies don’t do this in a carefully controlled way which can lead to more damaging situations later down the line.

What is your take on the controversy surrounding this year’s Oscars nominations – does the PR process for performers during Awards season need to change?

I’ve read about the celebrity guerrilla campaign to endorse Andrea Riseborough’s Best Actress nomination. The film didn’t perform well at the box office, but in the final weeks of voting for the 2023 Oscar nominees, it received endorsement from Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Winslet praising the performance.

It is a difficult one to comment about as nobody knows what happens behind the scenes – maybe these celebrities watched the film and really liked it! But with any award seasons, the nominees will campaign and appear on popular talk shows to discuss their excitement for the upcoming events. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if this activity is taking place prior to the nomination announcement.

However, I strongly believe awards should be given upon merit and would like to believe a good performance will prosper, and the award will be given to the rightful winner on the night.

What are the big trends the PR industry should be prepared for over the next few years?

I think the cost-of-living crisis will continue to be an important consideration for everyone.

Customers will be making more considered purchase decisions, and brand or spokesperson communications should be aware of this. You often see a lot of brands and celebrities making tone deaf comments with long-standing consequences to their reputation, often beyond the point of repair.

While agencies need to ensure that their PR strategies reflect their client’s business need, all PR plans need to be flexible and responsive to the client’s market. The past has shown all of us that things can change overnight, so you need to be willing to adapt too.

For more on responsive PR, check out our previous piece ‘Reactive PR: Turning something out of nothing‘. Want to connect with entertainment media? Find out more about the Vuelio Media Database here