Mental health typically managed as a performance issue in public relations

A #FuturePRoof report published by the PRCA explores the mental health of the public relations profession.

Our first project investigated the future of the public relations agency. Today we’re publishing a report exploring mental health within the public relations profession.

The defining moment for the project came during the research phase when we were contacted by someone with an employment contract that cited mental illness as grounds for dismissal.

It’s an extreme example of how mental illness is managed within the public relations profession. It’s also illegal.

But the reality is that mental illness in public relations is frequently ignored, or managed as a line management or performance issue.

The #FuturePRoof report lifts the lid on mental health in the public relations profession, and attempts to characterise the issue, signpost potential solutions, and identify best practice.

We're publishing the report under a Creative Commons licence. We hope that you find it useful. Please share, reuse and remix the content.

Recommendations for employers

The report makes three recommendations for employers and managers.

  1. The cost of mental health to public relations and the broader business community is well known. Make mental health and wellbeing a management issue within your management team.
  2. Company policies and procedures should cover sickness due to mental health. Provide clear signposting and training to all employees and managers on policies and procedures.
  3. Where resources do not exist within an organisation, access external support such as the resources listed in this report. Small organisations should consider retaining specialised support.

“We fully support the recommendations in this report. The industry still operates on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and unfortunately this report highlights the stigma surrounding mental health. We know that improving mental health and wellbeing among employees is a key business issue yet many organisations have been slow to implement mental health management policies," said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA.

"It is important to talk about this issue, but we need action as well. The PRCA will be campaigning on raising awareness about mental health and more importantly we will be working with key players in the industry to deliver a programme on how to tackle the issue.”

As part of our investigation #FuturePRoof carried out qualitative and quantitative research, engaging with practitioners ranging from assistants and interns to communication directors and managing directors.

A wide range of issues were identified as symptoms of poor mental health in the workplace ranging from absentmindedness to anxiety, and from anger to depression.

Attributing factors included financial pressures; service delivery including always on, long hours and deadlines; office politics including culture, and poor management; trauma, particularly in emergency services; and a lack of respect and understanding for public relations.

The report found that attitudes to mental health in the workplace are polarised.

36.6% people said that they would be comfortable or very comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace with colleagues. 56.7% said they would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable.

Many practitioners are unaware whether their sickness policy at work specifically addresses mental health. 53.3% said they were unaware; 14.2% reported that it did; and 32.5% reported that it did not.

35.8% respondents reported that their organisation had workplace schemes aimed at enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of staff. These included employee assistant programmes; subsidised exercise; mental health awareness training; and wellness action plans.

Cost of mental health to public relations

It’s not hard to quantify impact of mental health on the public relations profession or the broader UK economy. Indeed, data highlighted by recent surveys prompted the #FuturePRoof report.

30% of respondents in the 2016 CIPR State of the Profession Survey state that they are ‘somewhat unhappy’ or ‘not at all happy’ when indicating their level of well-being in their jobs.

Nearly a third of UK staff persistently turn up to work ill and only 35% are generally healthy and present, according to the CIPD’s Absence Management Report.

The 2016 PRCA Census reports that 12% of those in public relations changing their job opted to leave the industry completely for a new career. And the overall level of staff turnover within the public relations industry is around 25% per year.

The statistics are alarming. And the cost to the communications industry of failing to adequately address these issues is huge.

Mental health issues cost the UK £70 billion per year while the annual cost of presenteeism is twice that of absenteeism.

Thank you

#FuturePRoof would like to thank everyone involved in this project. Mental health in the workplace is a sensitive issue that we have only been able to address thanks to all the contributors and in particular the support of Paul Sutton, Chris Owen, Carol Featherstone and Julia Fenwick.

This blog was originally posted on Stephen Waddington's blog.

Could an open CPD standard in public relations accelerate professionalism?

In the latest in the series of #FuturePRoof blogs, here its founder and editor Sarah Hall asks whether continuous professional development (CPD) should be an open standard in public relations.

Open standards are a proven way of quickly creating scale.

The PRCA has launched a new continuous professional development (CPD) platform that allows points to be accrued from training and learning outside its own provision.

It has signed up 17 partner organisations from across the communications industry, all of which organise activities that can be logged against career progression. 

The CIPR isn't a partner. 

Although I've been transparent about my desire for the two organisations to work together, whether it should be become one isn't the question here. 

The CIPR has its own, well established system which, while the main focus is on CIPR content and training, allows bespoke activities to be logged.

Progress is slow.

In the UK around 60,000 to 80,000 work in public relations. 1,600 people met the requirement for the CIPR’s accredited practitioners and participated in its CPD scheme in 2015. 

The PRCA provides an opportunity to rapidly increase commitment to CPD. Many agency employers also have their own CPD system.

The question is whether it's time for an open standard for CPD across the industry. 

Unlike the CIPR's offer, the PRCA's new system is open to non members. 

It's a welcome move at a time when the industry is striving to become more diverse and professional.

It sends a clear message to the marketplace that it wants to scale CPD and widen participation from all area of the communications industry.  

Should our industry bodies look to introduce a single standard for CPD in public relations, while marketing their own content and training workshops?

Is this an area in which the CIPR, PRCA and partners should collaborate, if that was a possibility?

Why the PR industry should be the big winner from influencer marketing

In the latest of our #FuturePRoof guest blogs, Sam Oakley from Stashmetrics, looks at influencer marketing and the opportunity for public relations. 

PR  has a golden opportunity when it comes to influencer marketing, but the industry needs to learn from its mistakes.

I worked through, and saw first hand, the way the industry’s eyes lit up when social first became a thing – it was new area of practice that was all about relationships and dialogue, (stuff we were good at), and there was real budget available.

However, while I’ve seen some fantastic social media work delivered by PR agencies, broadly speaking the bulk of budget for owned social has gone elsewhere and looks like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Stay upbeat

I don’t see this as a reason for despondency though, there’s a ton we can learn from how the explosion in owned social channels brought value into agencies and a lot we can apply to other growth areas.

I’m going to focus on influencer marketing for the sake of this post simply because it’s the only area I’m even vaguely qualified to talk about. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that broader lessons will be applicable to other growth areas.

What is the opportunity, and is it worth going for?

Whilst it’s hard to put an exact figure on the size of the influencer marketing opportunity, it’s safe to say it is both significant now and growing fast.

Only a couple of weeks ago a PRCA / YouGov survey showed that digital budgets were up 9% on last year and that influencer outreach was the most commonly requested digital PR service by brands (12%).

With regards to whether the opportunity is worth it I’d argue that, whilst it’s hard to find numbers that definitively make a case, it’s very easy to argue that it can’t be ignored.

Why can’t it be ignored?

A lot of behavioural factors are coming together on this. I don’t need to talk about shifts to online consumption here, but combined with ongoing media fragmentation we are left with an inescapable equation.

More media titles / the same number of people = fewer eyeballs per title, and in a business where the bulk of junior – mid-level work is spent on leveraging those media, it means the same amount of work takes place, but with lesser gain.

The third factor to really play into the PR industry’s hands is the rise of ad-blocking. The PR mindset is built around earned media; if you’re earning your reach then it won’t get blocked.

Finally, there’s the evolution of search. Google is getting really good at helping people to find what they want to find, and as a result the defining lines between individual publishers and media titles are blurring.

How can the industry position itself to capitalise on the growth in influencer budgets?

We work with some amazingly smart agencies who are already make great, organisation-wide steps to do this and it’s been fascinating over the last 12 months to see how best practice begins to coalesce around a few key principles.

1 – Measure better than anyone else. PR measurement frameworks are much more easy to adapt to influencer work than ad / digital measurement. Influencers are generally reticent to share their measurement data but are much more likely to do so if they’re part of a targeted, relationship-driven campaign, than if they’re one of 500 people whose audience has been bought through a marketplace. The Barcelona principles need pretty much zero adaptation to work well in an influencer marketing context. 

2 – Don’t be afraid to push back against a bad brief. There is a lot of ambiguity / confusion around what influencer marketing is and how it should be delivered – this can lead to inappropriate briefs that you know will go nowhere. If that’s the case, ask yourself “should the first time this client is exposed to this kind of marketing take place in the context of a flawed project?” 

3 - A bad brief is also one where there’s no money for measurement. If this is new for the client then measurement is doubly important - without it you’ll find it hard to make a case for ongoing influencer work.

4 – Recognise that influencers can fulfil a multitude of roles. We’ve seen staggeringly good results from campaigns using influencers in a wide variety of ways - everything from using massive celebrities to start a waterfall effect (with smaller, related influencers amplifying the celebrity content to brilliant effect), down to a company that uses micro-influencers to create a constant flow of authentic UGC for the brand’s owned channels. It’s not just about paying someone to make you a YouTube Video

What are the pitfalls the industry has to avoid?

The main areas where we’ve seen people struggle are all linked to a lack of self-confidence amongst PR agencies. The industry can’t afford to get caught in echo-chamber debates, there simply isn’t the time. Nor can it afford to get sucked into the “innovation bubble” where campaigns are pitched based on innovative delivery over and above sound strategic work. The winners in the space will be those who get on with delivering brilliant work and who prove its brilliance with smart measurement. 

When it comes down to it, the opportunity is reasonably clear – behavioural shifts in consumers are creating an industry that dovetails almost perfectly with PR skillsets.

Yes, we’ve been here before but if we learn from mistakes this could and should be a major driver of value for the industry in the years to come.

Stashmetrics is a tool that helps agencies and brands find and collaborate with brilliant people online. Before co-founding the business Sam worked in digital PR for brands ranging from Sony Mobile to Unilever. 

The importance and art of articulating thanks: Lessons from non-governmental organisations (NGOS)


Thanking helps organisations to build relationships. In particular, charities need to thank as they build up coalitions of interest around issues, and as, in many cases, they raise income. So what can be learned from some professional thankers, and scholars, in the NGO sector?

You’ll learn:
•    The importance of thanks in interpersonal communications and NGO communications
•    What we can learn from NGO sector best practice and guidance
•    A framework for thanking built on NGO research

The importance of thanks

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy” - Jacques Maritain

In interpersonal communications, thanking is an important social lubricant. As psychologists Anthony Arhens and Courtney Forbes observe: “expressions of gratitude are woven into the social fabric of our lives” [1]. For example, children are taught to thank, there are etiquettes of writing letters of thanks [2], and authors testify appreciation in acknowledgements.

NGO communicators and marketers can seek to engage their stakeholders’ emotions when harnessing support. Negative emotions like fear and guilt [3] are sometimes used. However, guilt has been used to the point of ‘compassion fatigue’ [4]. Furthermore, negative imagery has been criticised for being an emotional ‘abuse’ [5].

Positive emotions like love [6] and gratitude can also be expressed to enrol support. Appreciation is a form of gratitude. Its most common articulation is “thank you”, observes Katherine Kelly [7]

In the context of relationship management in the fundraising arena, Kelly [7], identifies reciprocity as a key strategy for stewardship. She argues that ‘At the applied level, reciprocity simply means that organisations show gratitude to those who support them’. 

Thanking has long been associated with fundraising. Thanking donors helps build organisation-donor relationships [8], secure repeat donations [8] [7] [3] and retain donor interest [7]. The motivation of volunteers through thanks has also been noted [9] [3].

Authors additionally highlight the importance of NGOs thanking more stakeholders than donors – from staff to beneficiaries. Recognition and appreciation fosters stakeholders’ loyalty and motivation [10]. Support can be political, moral, through the media, voluntary or fundraising, notes Westman Wilson [9]

What we can learn from the NGO sector

The importance of thanking is one lesson that comes from the NGO sector. This is documented through the advice of NGO scholars. It is also evident from some NGOs’ communications. 

Thanking and not thanking have impact. ‘The two most important words in a fundraiser’s vocabulary’, states Victoria Canning [3], ‘are “thank you”’. Significantly, Merchant et al [8] found that thanking donors produces positive emotions and that contrastingly, not thanking donors prompts negative emotions. Hence, when appreciation is expected, not thanking is detrimental to relationships.

NGO narratives include thanks. Thanks are communicated on social media and videos, in publications, correspondence and face-to-face communications, and on websites and artefacts.

For example, thanking is a pronounced theme in Non Profit Organisations’ (NPO) tweets in the UK and US. In a content analysis of over 2,400 tweets, from 50 top ranking charities in nfpSynergy’s UK’s ‘Social Media League Table’ [11], Garsten and de Quincey [12] found that the most common words (apart from small words like the articles ‘a’ and ‘the’) related to gratitude. 

Figure 1 Word cloud depicting the most frequent words that appeared in over 2,400 charity tweets [12]

The word cloud depicts the most frequent words used in the charities’ tweets; the larger the font, the more times the word has been used. In total, “thanks” and “thank” were used 459 times, representing 20% of all the tweets.

The importance of thanks in American NPO tweets is also evident. For instance, Kristen Lovejoy and Gregory Saxton [13] identified thanks as part of relationship building tweets in their analysis. They identified messages of thanks in 13% of the 4,655 tweets that they examined from 73 NPOs.

Framework for the art of thanking based on NGO literature

We get insights into how to thank from literature about NGO communications and marketing. We learn that thanks should be specific, immediate and personalized, as represented in our framework below.

Figure 2 The SIP framework for quality thanking

The specifics of what is appreciated

Thanks should be specific to show ‘fulsome’ and ‘genuine’ gratitude [10]. For instance, a fundraiser could be acknowledged for the ‘long hours’ they spent with ‘a collecting tin on windy Grosvenor Street’ rather than in a general way that does not indicate an understanding of the effort made. 

An ability to identify others’ endeavours requires empathy. For, as psychologist Barbara Fredrickson observes, gratitude ‘requires the capacity to empathize with others’ [14].

Timely, personalised thanks

Thanks should also be prompt [10] [9] [7]. Tardy appreciation can look like an ‘afterthought’ [10]. As Canning (1999) reflects, ‘immediate and personal gestures of thanks cannot be bettered’ [3].

Appreciation needs to be personalised [3] [7]

This relates to individuals being addressed in recognition. Personalisation might take the form of communicating through a bespoke, rather than a mass, email, using @replies on Twitter, or naming benefactors on plaques or in publications. It also concerns a specific person expressing the thanks. 

For instance, a Chief Executive handwriting a letter of thanks rather than sending a typed template of thanks. An outstanding example of personalised thanks is of charity: water’s personalised videos of thanks to its supporters [15] [16].


Giving thanks is a characteristic of NGO communications. Best practice and research shows that giving thanks is important. Nevertheless, to communicate genuine appreciation, the way that thanks is articulated needs care too. Our SIP framework provides a guide to the art of thanking based on current literature from NGOs. Be precise about what you are giving thanks for; express gratitude quickly, and in a personal way.


[1] Arhens, A. and Forbes, C. (2014), ‘Gratitude’. In (eds) Michele M. Tugade; Michelle N. Shiota; Leslie D. Kirby, 
Handbook of Positive Emotions. New York, Guildford Press: 342-361.
[2] Pilato, Donna, About Home, ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Write Thank You Letters’. 
URL: Accessed 4th August, 2016.
[3] Canning, V. (1999) A Practical Guide to Fundraising and Public Relations. London: ICSA.
[4] Brill, P. and Marrocco, C. (2012), ‘Not-for-profit public relations’. In A. Theaker, The Public Relations Handbook. 
London: Routledge
[5] Cartmell, M. (2011). ‘Aid agencies criticised for overuse of negative imagery to gain public support’. PR Week. 15 November. URL: Accessed 3 August 2016.
[6] Guéguen, N., Jacob, C., and Charles-Sire, V. (2011) ‘The effect of the word “Loving” on compliance to a fundraising request: evidence from a French field study’. International Journal of Nonprofit Voluntary Sector Marketing 16. pp371-380.
[7] Kelly, K. (2001) ‘Stewardship: The Fifth Step in the Public Relations Process’. In (ed.) R. Heath Handbook of Public Relations. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
[8] Merchant, A., Ford, B., and Sargeant, A. (2010) ‘”Don’t forget to say thank you’: The effect of an acknowledgement on donor relationships”. Journal of Marketing Management. 26 (7-8). pp593-611.
[9] Westman Wilson, E., (2001) Building credibility, the foundation for fundraising. London: ITDG
[10] Bruce, I. (2011) Charity Marketing: Delivering income, services and campaigns. 4th edn. London: ICSA.
[11] Murphy and Larking, (2011) The researchers manually checked and identified sixty-three twitter accounts of these fifty charities in November 2011. The main national account of all the charities that had them was included. The reason for there being a higher number of twitter accounts than charities is because some charities have an international/national account. The tweets were collected over one week. 2,241 tweets were posted by the 63 accounts.
[12] Garsten, N. and de Quincey, E. (2012) ‘Tweeting Credibility and Thankfulness An Exploratory Study of Charity Twitter Accounts in the UK’. Presentation at 5th EUPRERA Spring Symposium: Web 2.0 in Governmental and NGO Communication in Europe. Berlin, February 17th.
[13] Lovejoy, Kristen and Saxton, Gregory D. (2012) ‘Information, Community, and Action: How Nonprofit Organizations Use Social Media’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 337-353. Available at SSRN:
[14] Fredrickson, B.L. (2004) ‘Gratitude, Like Other Positive Emotions, Broadens and Builds’ The Psychology of Gratitude. R. A. Emmons; and M. E. McCullough. Oxford, OUP: 147-166.
[15] Kanter, Beth (2011) Beth’s Blog, ‘Charity:Water Sends Personal Video of Thank Yous’. 
URL: Accessed 4 August, 2016.
[16] charity: water (2011) charity: water turns five years old and we want to thank you. Video. 
URL: Accessed 4 August 2016


Dr Nicky Garsten is Programme Director of the BA (hons) in PR and Communications at the University of Greenwich. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Prior to attaining her PhD at SOAS, she was an Associate Director at MS&L, a top 5 global PR consultancy within the Publicis Groupe. 

Twitter: @GreenwichNickyG

Dr Ed de Quincey is a Lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at Keele University, a Visiting Researcher at the eCentre at the University of Greenwich and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has worked in the area of online human behaviour for 13 years, looking into the usability and impact of websites as well as uses of the information that they collect. He is currently studying how health issues can be identified via social media usage as well as investigating the use of Learning Analytics to support teaching and learning.

Twitter: @eddequincey

Professor Ian Bruce CBE, is Founder and President, Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School of City University London. Professor Bruce is also Vice President of RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). His book Charity Marketing is in its fourth edition. He founded and is currently Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Charity Special Interest Group. Previously he was Director General of RNIB; Chief Executive of Volunteering England; Assistant Chief Executive of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham; Assistant Chief Executive of Age Concern England; and a marketing manager with Unilever.


#Futureproofing communications Evaluation


The #FuturePRoof project clearly shows how far the world of PR and communications has changed in recent years. But how is it best to measure effectiveness in this dynamic and complex environment?

You’ll learn:
•    PR and communications strategy and tactics have changed significantly. Frequently measurement lags behind
•    Modern communicators have embraced the PESO model but struggle to measure integrated communications effectively
•    Future proofing communications measurement requires a change of mind set and a new approach if we are to prove value and demonstrate effect successfully

A complex world

The communications industry has undergone significant change in the last 10 years driven by seismic changes in the media. Audiences have fragmented, seeking out news and information on their own terms, in their own time, and on the platforms of their choice. 

To adapt to these changes many modern communicators have embraced the PESO model. Working across Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media, communication strategies are focussed on engaging with audiences wherever they might be.

Communications strategy and tactics have changed, but what about its measurement?

Stuck in the past

Many organisations are failing to evolve their communications measurement to the same degree as their communication activity. They are continuing to rely on measurement techniques that have served them well in the past but are now being found to be increasingly inadequate in this new environment. 

Traditional media content analysis continues to be the dominant form of communication measurement despite its limitations. These include that it’s too slow, too expensive, doesn’t scale and is too backward looking, lacking in genuine insights. Additionally, on its own, it only offers a measure of ‘output’ – and fails to connect the effect of communications with the objectives and outcomes that organisations seek. 

New tools

Embracing the digital era, many vendors now offer online, real-time and largely automated portal based evaluation solutions. 

With their dynamic dashboards and flashy charts, it can be easy to forget that many of these tools are not measuring what matters, but are instead just counting what is easy to count. They share the ‘output-only’ limitations of traditional media analysis, but in addition, suffer from little to no tailoring of measurement against specific organisational objectives. As a result they frequently leave the user frustrated, inundated with a whole host of numbers that fail to answer the critical ‘so-what’ questions that are needed to prove value.

Media metrics losing relevancy

Many of the metrics themselves that have been relied upon for so long are starting to lose their relevancy. Thanks to the Barcelona Principles, AVEs have been denounced as a flawed metric and largely consigned to the dustbin of best practice history. 

Beyond AVEs, other metrics are being questioned too. For example, what is the relevance of volume of content as a metric in an environment where the universe of publisher sources and contributors is ever increasing? Along with volume of content, reach and impressions are also being questioned. Many of these numbers are impossible to measure accurately and are all too easy to gain and cheat. 

They also fail to answer the all-important so-what question – it doesn’t matter who may or may not have seen your content – organisations need to know what happened as a result of it.

AMEC integrated evaluation framework

Into these challenges stepped global measurement trade organisation AMEC (the International Association for the Evaluation of Communications). 

AMEC’s view was that it is not new metrics or new tools that are needed but a credible, meaningful and consistent approach that all organisations can use. It needs to take into account all of the new channels available to communications professionals, but also show the way to link organisational objectives to outputs to outtakes and ultimately to outcomes and organisational impact. 

To answer these challenges, AMEC put together a project team that included academics, PR agency heads, global measurement agencies and in-house communication professionals to create its new integrated evaluation framework. The framework is non-proprietary, free to use, and designed for the benefit of organisations of any size working with any measurement partner. 

It’s not a measurement ‘tool’, rather a best practice workflow that supports the user through every step of the process to create their own campaign plan and measurement report. 

The framework links the need for clear objective setting, alignment with organisational goals and shows how to tell the measurement story with a blend of output, outtake and outcome metrics that all support the organisational impact of the work. It shows how to include the right metrics from each of the Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned channels and suggests which metrics might be used in different scenarios. 

Importantly AMEC’s integrated evaluation framework is provided with a comprehensive resource centre including supporting materials, case studies, thought leader opinion pieces, a dictionary of terms, a comprehensive measurement taxonomy and a whole wealth of further information that will help answer even the most demanding evaluation challenges. 

The framework and resource centre was launched to global acclaim at AMEC’s international summit in June 2016, being endorsed, supported and used by the PRCA, CIPR, ICCO, GCS (The Government Communication Service) and many leading PR agencies.

It’s free to use to all interested parties and is available right now. So head on over to: [1] and start using it today. We are sure you too will find it useful.




Richard Bagnall is CEO of PRIME Research UK, a global communications measurement specialist consulting firm. Originally working in PR, Richard has for the last 20 years specialised in communications measurement having been a founding director of Metrica, and a board director of Gorkana Group before joining PRIME. Richard is chair-elect of AMEC and was the leader of AMEC’s team that created the integrated evaluation framework. 

Twitter: @richardbagnall

Creativity in PR - are practitioners successfully harnessing the power of storytelling and narration?


Creativity is a key driver for change. Yet, the nature of doing creativity in PR needs to change in order to be effective.

You’ll learn:
•    Growing complexity means traditional creative PR responses are increasingly inadequate to deliver ‘big multi-channel ideas’. You need strategic narratives
•    Creative PR people need to change from being magicians pulling rabbits out of a hat, to skillful collaborators, co-creators and master storytellers
•    Changes are paradoxical: you need more data yet more intuition

Traditional PR skills in news storytelling and media relations are insufficient for outstanding results beyond 2016.

Failure to adapt could witness public relations being marginalised with less influence, budgets or status, even subsumed within the growth of integrated communications.

The key drivers for change are growing complexity coupled with greater convergence of communications, along with the need for greater emotional connections within communications.

Add to the mix the need to tell your story through images / moving images, plus the growth of content marketing, and recognition of public relations’ distinct skills in managing wider relationships and building social capital - all this adds up to massive, yet achievable opportunities for creative PR.

The nature of the problems facing public relations is changing. Problems can be one of three types. Using the London Underground map as a metaphor, problems can be:

•    Zone 1 problems - with a neat middle and end
•    Zone 6 problems - more complex, yet still solvable
•    Zone 10 problems - issues that are off the map, unfamiliar, systemic, chaotic and unsolvable in isolation

Previously, much PR work was primarily of the Zone 1 type; a news release and photocall could oft suffice for an award-winning campaign.

Today, the typical PR programme has migrated to at least Zone 6 complexity: even the most basic campaigns require more. 

The media channels explosion has created infinite tactical opportunities for digital marketing, social media and content marketing. As creative guru Mark Borkowski observes: “Everything is blurred. It’s all about creating robust content to go through the channels.”

Ideas now need to be coherent and resolute across different channels and over longer time periods. We are now in the age of ‘big multi-channel ideas’ operating in Zone 6 or Zone 10 complexity.

The age of narrative

Most PR practitioners, from personal experience, fail to appreciate the distinction between narrative and story, assuming that ‘story’ and ‘narrative’ are added to a reality, like a veneer of packaging.

Narrative runs, however, like a thread through everything you do, providing a script for your past, your expectation of the future, to frame and define your story of now. Pearls in a pearl necklace are the stories, the string is the narrative, holding the individual pearls together to create a coherent whole.

Creative PR is now more than just creating a series of news stories. You need to listen out for, identify, nurture and amplify the inherent narrative within a reality. This puts you in the strategic driving seat of communications.

In a world of greater complexity, simplicity - not being simplistic - is at the heart of communications. Leveraging profound insights at a deeper, more emotional level, at the heart of your brand, creates more powerful engagement for your communications. 

Recent Cannes winners such as Always #LikeAGirl are part of a growing breed of campaigns that have a brand purpose - a sense of view that provide a narrative. This creates an emotional bridge to overcome barriers put up by increasingly cynical or commercial-wary consumers. 

But how do you find the purpose of a brand? 

Here, the graphic design industry has traditionally had an advantage over old school public relations. The talented designer looks at a single element to visually capture a brand’s purpose, unlike traditional PR focussing instead on a multitude of news story opportunities. 

Creative PR practitioners need to improve their storytelling skills by harnessing the ‘theme’ to a story - a one, two, three word emotional bridge that connects with the target audience. LINPAC Packaging for example, moved from being a packaging supplier to delivering ‘Fresh Thinking’.

Mememasters and collaborators

You don’t just need to emotionally connect with consumers but also develop broader engagement.

The ‘Pokemon Go’ craze reflects the growing trend for gamification. You don’t just communicate to, but participate with, and engage in common activity.

Creative PR professionals will also be greater ‘mememasters’ - creators of ‘sticky’, viral-friendly content. Why did the Leave vote win the Brexit Referendum? They had more powerful memes - messages that replicate and spread of their own volition. Remember #ProjectFear or #TakeBackControl? I suspect you can’t even remember the Remain campaign’s memes.

Responding to growing complexity the creative PR will need to be a better collaborator. 

The creative public relations practitioner needs to evolve, away from the brand archetype of a ‘magician’ - a lone ranger using their creative talents to pull the metaphorical rabbit out of a hat - to the brand archetype of ‘creator’, working in a more co-ordinated way with other specialists, creating powerful strategic narratives to deliver and achieve results.

The lone maverick will find themselves increasingly alone. The act of collaboration itself extends through greater use of community co-creation and ‘Brand Kultura’ - content independently created by a brand’s fan community.

Bad news on the awards front

Creative PR can also leverage greater results in parts where other disciplines cannot reach.

PR consultants have the distinct role of being corporate listeners. Counselling on the authenticity of a brand’s actions, building social capital, and earning trust all provide creative opportunities to achieve profound creative impact for an organisation or brand’s future. 

Unfortunately, for recognition-seeking creative PR’s, these are all areas which are Zone 6 or even Zone 10 in character. PR award schemes are inherently biased to reward work that has a neat beginning, middle and end in its story - the Zone 1 type problems.

The character of creative thinking is also changing, moving away from ‘dialectical’ thinking which operates within well-defined boxes or paradigms to more ‘dialogical’ open, free-flowing thinking. Creative mindfulness will increasingly be recognised as a key facet for generating new insights and ideas.

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable

The ability to be comfortable with paradox is a critical skill for creative PR. The author Scott F. Fitzgerald observed: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.”

The rise of big data and digital analysis rather than being inimical to original creative thinking can, instead, be the key for greater insight and greater creative accountability through better evaluation. As Rick Guttridge of Smoking Gun PR describes: “Ingenious insight requires intelligent measurement.” 

The ‘House of Clicks’ winner of Cannes 2016 by Swedish agency Prime is a good example of data-driven insight. The campaign engaged a team of data scientists analysing over 200 million clicks on the property website Hemnet to unearth what Swedes dream about in their future home.

Coping with complexity will necessitate more ‘painting-by-numbers creativity’ through greater use of checklists and the growing availability of Artificial Intelligence. Tools like Nuzzle can now identify the tastes and interests of your community to cultivate and curate new content for them.

The creative mind will harness both mechanical creativity as well as intuitively stretch new thinking to the further parts of their galaxy or the deepest parts of their soul.

Creative public relations has the opportunity to create a new narrative for the future of public relations. It could face a future of being marginalised, further down the pecking order or be in the strategic driving seat, directing and managing the corporate narrative and wider relationships. 

Creative opportunities abound. Will we take them?

Andy Green is a Brand Story expert and an associate director at four UK PR agencies, founder of social enterprise the Flexible Thinking Forum, and lectures on the Masters programme in Global Communications at Cardiff University. He is the author of 7 books on brand communications.

Twitter: @starts_story

Horizon scanning


The world is in the midst of the digital age and the resulting rate of change is moving quicker than society can keep up. Technology continues to evolve at a blistering pace disrupting businesses, business models and entire industries in its wake.

You’ll learn:
•    How public relations practitioners able to quickly adapt to technological change will benefit from being in the vanguard of new developments
•    About Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality and more
•    How upskilling in these areas will lead to success for PR teams

From healthcare to hospitality and from finance to farming no industry is immune to the relentless and transformative way technology is transforming the world. 

One industry that has been in a perpetual state of disruption since the advent of the internet is the media. 

The way in which information is created, distributed and consumed is in a constant state of flux thanks to new platforms and networks overlaid on the infrastructure of the world wide web and mobile networks.

As an industry that is part of the wider media industry, public relations too has had to adapt to stay relevant. 

In fact, PR has changed considerably over the last few years, and while the principles of good communication and reputation management have remained the same, the way in which they are achieved have not.

For PR to thrive in the digital age agility is a necessary quality. 

The world in which we communicate, share and consume information has changed fundamentally in the last ten years. The rate of change over the coming years, we can assume, will only continue. The necessity to adapt and change has never been greater. 

To make the point, let’s go back to 2006. 

Ten years ago the smartphone had yet to be invented and those apps that you depend on each day obviously weren’t around either. 

It would be unlikely you had a Facebook account since it was only for college students until the end of the year. Twitter didn’t launch until March and barely anyone used it for the first twelve months. 

YouTube was a less than a year old and was considered as a site for grainy cat videos. Instagram, Snapchat, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Kindle, DropBox, Google Chrome and Android were all twinkles in their developers’ eyes. 

Over the years these new technologies and channels have spawned new kinds of roles. Social data analyst, community manager, influencer relations, app developer, content specialist and growth hacker were terms unimagined in 2006. 

They did, eventually, turn PR into a more technology-driven discipline and those who adopted to the change have reaped the rewards. 

We have come a long way since then but innovation is unforgiving and all the signs are pointing to more disruption over the coming years as new emerging technologies move to the forefront. 

The PR team that can show agility in the face of it will ultimately be the one that thrives. 

The emerging technologies that will impact PR

Rise of the machines: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The growing field of AI has polarised many of today’s great thinkers and technologists. Some believe that a machine with superintelligence will be a force for good whereas others are concerned that, without regulation, it could cause problems for the human race. 

Tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft are all investing heavily in AI so, whatever your stance, it’s likely to increasingly permeate our lives in the coming years. 

AI has already made its way into newsrooms writing financial reports, covering sports events and even clickbait articles. 

The Associated Press, one of the earliest users of AI journalists, uses it to write quarterly earnings reports for 4,000 companies. Previously they covered only 400. BuzzFeed has created a ‘political bot’ using Facebook’s chatbot messaging system. The LA Times uses a robot to write an article whenever an earthquake in the region occurs. 

If AI can make its way into the newsroom, then there is no reason why it can’t make its way into the press office. 

The possibility is high of AI robots crafting word-perfect press releases, optimising social media content, responding to journalists via chatbots, monitoring online brand mentions and developing appropriate responses, and potentially a host of other PR-related tasks. All based on ongoing machine learning and data feedback. 

New kinds of reality: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) 

There are two similar emerging technologies with tremendous potential. AR overlays computer generated imagery over an existing, or ‘real’, reality and VR is a computer generated simulation that immerses the user so they feel they’re in it. 

The huge success of Pokémon Go has thrust AR into the limelight as scores of the human race run incessantly around streets looking for a Gyrados, Blastoise and their ilk. Snapchat too uses AR to create facial lenses to make you look either sexy or just plain weird. 

AR is not just for gaming however and will increasingly make its way into PR related campaigns. Take product launches where an AR overlay may create more interaction with the use of entertaining and informative content. Likewise, AR can provide an additional layer of interaction around press conferences too. 

VR is already being trialed in PR related settings and it’s easy to see why. Providing a virtual experience can help brands of all kinds from fashion, tourism, hospitality, sport and everything in between. Its limitations are only restricted by the imagination. 

More of the same but different: Social media

From its humble beginnings social media has morphed from a nice-to-have promotional tool into a required business function impacting all levels from HR to customer service to the C-Suite. Any sentiments of it being a passing fad are over. 

Social media will play a part in supporting the rise of AI, AR and VR, and will likely serve as the platform on which new services are launched. Already Facebook chatbots and Microsoft’s spectacular AI experiment failure on Twitter are illustrating this. 

The future of social media also lies firmly in video. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has gone on record saying Facebook will be “mostly video” in five years’ time. 

The recent launch of Facebook Live and the development of its 360-degree video platform align with this prediction. They will also serve as ways to facilitate the usage of its VR headset, Oculus Rift, which it purchased in 2014 for $2bn (£1.5bn). 

Twitter too sees live video as a means to generate more eyeballs and has made it seamlessly easy to post live videos directly from its app. Google owned YouTube has almost a billion viewers generating billions of views each day. Facebook owned Instagram recently launched one minute videos reporting that video ads on the platform are flourishing. 

So what does this all mean? Firstly, ongoing learning and upskilling will be required to ensure PR stays relevant in the increasingly technical media landscape. The skills needed (and still often lacking) today may not be as useful in the future. 

Some of the smart ones among us will choose to specialise in AI where they will utilise the API services from the likes of Facebook and IBM to create campaign specific AI robots. Expect also some agencies and inhouse teams to form production departments that provide live 360 video, AR and VR among other things as service offerings. 

Someone once said, the best way to predict the future is to create it. Time will tell if PR is up for the challenge. 


Stephen Davies is a communications consultant and has been specialising in digital communications for the last twelve years. He has worked both agency and brand side for some of the world’s most well-known companies. 

Twitter: @stedavies

Crowdfunding: Understanding, influencing and managing group behaviour


What is crowdfunding? Why do most campaigns fail? Why shouldn’t you aim to raise a million? This chapter answers these questions and offers tips learnt from raising over $30M for clients, to help you navigate through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

You’ll learn:
•    How different crowdfunding platforms work
•    Tips and tricks to help your crowdfunding campaign succeed
•    When not to launch a crowdfunding campaign

Understanding crowdfunding is a great asset to have in your modern PR toolkit. You can predict how individuals will act as they wait, try to be first, or follow others reacting to a campaign.

There are over 400 crowdfunding platforms, but I’m going to share Dynamo’s experiences from Kickstarter and Indiegogo – two platforms which have raised more than £2.5 billion for projects.

This background knowledge combined with tips and tricks will help you understand why some campaigns can be set up to succeed, whilst others are destined to fail.

1.    How crowdfunding works

In most cases, creators launch a time-limited campaign to fund a project or product, asking the public to donate or pre-buy products (usually called pledge levels or perks), frequently discounted and delivered before the product goes on sale to the wider public.

When a pre-set funding goal is reached, the campaign is deemed ‘successful’ and once the campaign finishes the creators go ahead with development, and manufacturing if required, delivering the project or product into its backers hands some months (years) later. 

2.    Why you should crowdfund

Crowdfunding is not new. In ancient Egypt and Roman times the public were taxed to raise funds. 

Modern crowdfunding really started in 1997, when Marillion used the internet to source funds from fans so they could tour the US.

Raising money is not the only benefit you can get from launching a campaign, which may help also explain why well-funded companies launch products on a crowdfunding site.


2.1    Early feedback

Launching publicly, and prior to production, you get immediate feedback for the viability and appetite for your project from a diverse public. Some of the ‘public’ can also be experts in associated fields and help suggest improvements that dramatically affect the direction, adoption and success of your project.


2.2    Community development

Running a campaign can help grow an interested, and invested community prior to product launch. If this community is managed well, they can also become powerful and vocal advocates helping further sales.


2.3    Generating publicity and subsequent interest

Sometimes creators just want publicity and use crowdfunding as a tool. Others want this as a stepping stone to demonstrate initial demand for their project, encouraging further investment from VCs and investors.

But beware. Launching a crowdfunding campaign is no longer in itself news. Media may not be interested, or may only cover you when your campaign is successful.

3.    The risks of crowdfunding

On Kickstarter, 65% of campaigns fail to reach their goal. 

You’re most at risk if you launch a technology-based campaign, with 82% failing. You’re best off launching a local theatre or arts project, with 61% hitting their goals.

Other platforms, which often have less stringent checks for campaigns, have higher failure rates.

Backers to projects also share risk. Many campaigns have been funded, sometimes into the $millions, and the creators simply didn’t have the skills, experience, or ability to deliver products at scale.

Whilst Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform (your money is only taken if it reaches its goal), the risks for a backer on Indiegogo can be higher as some creators will set campaigns to take backers’ money regardless of whether it hits its goal or not.

Campaigns fail mostly through lack of planning and preparation; poor content; inability to drive an audience to your page; and trying to rush the launch. And perhaps, of course, the product that friends and family found so amazing fails to interest the wider public.

Most of these can be de-risked by learning the right approach from successful campaigns and allowing time for meticulous preparation, planning, and execution. Even then, there are no certainties it will succeed. You will only find this out by launching. 

Figure 1 Distribution of funding failure or success since 2008 © DynamoPR

4.    The importance of speed and size

Successful campaigns tend to have high velocity of funding, and high numbers of backers within a few days of launch.

The faster a campaign is being funded, the more likely that others will experience Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and want to snap up perks or offers before they disappear.

The more people back a campaign, the more legitimate it will appear, diminishing its risk in others’ minds. Campaign viewers will also look at how people are engaging in a campaign, whether through sharing across social media or leaving comments on the campaign page.

The great news is that velocity and crowd engagement can be planned for in advance.


5.    How to create a successful campaign

There are many things you can do to de-risk failure. In an increasingly crowded, noisy and competitive market I’ve listed the essentials. These need time, so if I were to suggest just one tip it’s to start planning communications three to four months ahead of launch.


5.1    Video and imagery first

Apart from the headline title, the video is the most critical asset on the campaign page to hold and keep visitors’ attention. They need to be short (less than 2-3 mins), concise, appealing, and look professionally produced. They need to convince the viewer that the creators can deliver. We’ve seen an 80% increase in rate of backer conversion by changing the thumbnail.


5.2    Pledge or perk level strategy

Limiting the availability of certain pledges increases FOMO and hence velocity of backing. Having some heavily discounted pledges also increases backers’ desire to take advantage of time-limited offers.

Some backers will be happy just to donate $1 to keep updated with the campaign, without anything else offered in return. Literally paying to be on a mailing list!


5.3    Build your community in advance

You can’t rely on media alone to make campaigns successful. Ideally you want to have built up a community prior to launch, ready to push the button and back when you go live helping the velocity and number of backers.

Communities take time to build, whether through networking, previews, events, speaking, but are now critical to campaign success. We’ve seen campaigns where communities have accounted for more than 20% of initial backing.


5.4    Plan your communications

It can be an incredibly hectic time post launch, so plan all of your communications before you go live.

This will mean pre-briefing media under embargo. Preparing all of your Q&A for the community, as well as the press. Agreeing a news release of passing the goal, ready to go live (on more than one occasion we’ve had to release this within a few hours of launching).

You should also prepare campaign updates, such as introducing ‘stretch’ targets for when the campaign reaches its goal. Community updates show that you’re talking and investing time in your backers.

As with any public launch, you will have supporters and detractors. Be prepared to respond quickly to any criticism in an open and honest way. This way you’ll generate support from other backers who will more often come to your aid.


6.    Don’t publicly aim to raise a million

We’ve had clients walking through Dynamo’s door wanting to raise millions, and we’ve launched a campaign for them where the public goal is under £50,000.

This may seem counter-productive, but we’ve found the lower your goal, the faster that you’ll hit it, and the more you’re subsequently likely to raise.

When you understand that the crowd is waiting for sure-fire hits to back, you’ll understand why many more backers will come on-board when they see a campaign succeed in hitting its goal.

In many of the public’s eyes, a successful campaign is much more of a sure thing. So you want to hit your campaign goal ideally within the first 10 days of your campaign.

That a campaign is ‘successful’ is also news worthy, and an increasing amount of journalists and media will only write about campaigns that have passed their goal, again sharing the campaign wider and increasing chances of further funding.


7.    Final thoughts

Crowdfunding is increasingly becoming a popular way to test, develop, and promote a product so that funds and feedback are received before it reaches peoples’ hands. 

As I’ve said, nearly two-thirds of all campaigns fail. You stand the best chance of success for your clients if you plan early, focus on communications and content, and lower goals and pledges.

A final warning. If your campaign is wildly successful, you may also need to worry. The more backers you have, the more people you have to communicate with. 

We start all client engagements by checking their manufacturing capabilities. Can they scale from an ideal 10,000 units to close to a million? Communication doesn’t end when the campaign ends. We’ve seen many wildly successful campaigns end up in spectacular failure as the complexity of design, manufacturing and delivery increase. 

And I have one final disclaimer. I’m assuming throughout that the product you’re planning on launching is novel, interesting, and different. If it’s not, simply don’t bother.

Paul Cockerton is the co-CEO of Dynamo PR, a consumer and technology PR company based in London and Silicon Valley. Dynamo launched the world’s first crowdfunding PR team in 2013, and has won multiple global awards for its work on some of the world’s most successful crowdfunding campaigns. 

Twitter: @pcockerton

How the #FuturePRoof PR can embrace the opportunities of SEO


PR practitioners need to have a more detailed understanding of SEO and the impact this has on the work they do. Combining this knowledge with the ability to measure its effectiveness creates a situation in which public relations teams can confidently ask for more budget and reduce the risk of SEO agencies securing the work.

You’ll learn:
•    About the ever-increasing relevance of SEO to PR, and vice versa
•    The key factors which are shaping PR’s place within that
•    What the #FuturePRoof PR professional needs to do to have a greater understand of SEO, and incorporate it into their work

Stop worrying about the Mad Men and focus on the geeks

Following the Cannes Lions festival in the summer of 2016 there has been a significant debate in the PR industry about its ability to create the most compelling campaigns when compared with its advertising and media counterparts. Almost all of the winners of the PR Lions in 2016, including the Grand Prix, were from advertising agencies. 

I’d argue that this fits into a narrative I have seen played out over the last 15 years in the communications industry, whereby PR professionals have looked enviously at the bright lights, brands and budgets of their close relatives in the advertising space. 

I would also argue that whilst the PR industry has focussed its starry-eyed attention enviously on its seemingly more attractive elder sibling, it has ignored the increasing importance of its upstart smaller relative – the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) industry. And all the while this has been happening, the SEO industry has been winning more marketing budget, winning more business, and even winning awards at PR events. 

In my last role within a digital marketing agency I knew of more than one household brand name that was spending more on SEO annually than it was on PR, and this is a pattern that is repeated elsewhere, particularly for brands with some kind of ecommerce function. 

For reasons I’ll go on to discuss in this chapter, the PR and SEO industries have never been closer together, and more competitive for budget with one another. I believe, however, that a number of factors have come to the aid of the PR industry, which have prevented the SEO industry from completely eating PR’s lunch.

The #FuturePRoof PR practitioner needs to be aware of these and, I would contend, needs to have a more detailed understanding of the SEO impact of the work they do, and the ability to measure its effectiveness in this light, and to confidently ask for more budget as a result. 

Why are PR and SEO so relevant to one another?

Every year, SEO industry expert MOZ, led by the wizard with the wonderful facial hair Rand Fishkin, produces an analysis of the top “Search Engine Ranking Factors” – the on-site and off-site elements which affect your site’s search engine ranking position. 

You can find the latest report here - [1] - and whilst there is fluctuation each year in how much importance there may be in one element or another, it is widely held that there are three key factors which affect search engine ranking:

•    On-site technical factors – Technical elements of a website, including things like XML sitemaps, which help Google find its way around your site

•    On-site content – What is says on the tin – the body copy on the page 

•    Off-site links – The quality and quantity of links from third party websites to your site

Two of these are directly relevant to PR – on-site content, and off-site links. PR people are the original content originators, many of whom have backgrounds in journalism. Off-site links should be within the purview of PRs too – it’s simply asking for a link back from a third party website when you place your content on there. In light of this, it’s worth thinking about what strengths the PR sector has in these areas versus the SEO sector.

What strengths does the PR industry have that it can leverage here?

I would argue that there are four key strengths that the PR sector has, which have helped to stop SEO agencies make further in-roads into areas traditionally owned by public relations:

Existing, established relationships with high “Domain Authority” sites – A key measure used in SEO to assess the value or quality of a link is Moz’s “Domain Authority” metric – a score of 1 to 100, with the most reputable and valuable websites scoring 90-100. And tier one media websites typically have a very high Domain Authority. At Hotwire, we have carefully cultivated relationships with journalists since our inception in 2000, and there are many PR agencies around that are older than us. Looking at the top 10 PR agencies in the UK by revenue, the average age of the agencies is just over 30 years old (Source: PR Week and Companies House). The average age of the top ten digital agencies by revenue is, by contrast, 11.8 years (Source: The Drum and Companies House). The hard-won, carefully nurtured relationships over many years with major media outlets and their journalists is a key strength that the best PR agencies have.

Reputation – The PR industry may occasionally fret about its perception. However, various “black hat” approaches and high profile Google penalties to websites which have used them has led the SEO industry to having a significant reputational challenge. In addition, the PR industry has two very well established industry bodies – the CIPR and the PRCA – and both organisations have a Code of Conduct which members need to comply with (the CIPR’s is here: [2] and PRCA’s is here: [3]). The SEO industry still doesn’t have a recognisable industry body, and some very questionable tactics continue to abound in some quarters. 

No gimmicks – Google has consistently cracked down on SEO practices which have been used at scale to try and “game” website ranking positions. Google’s Penguin update in April 2012 was designed to do just this. Google has recently issued guidance (here: [4]) on using free products to get reviews from bloggers, and it may only be a matter of time before Google takes further steps with its algorithm to prevent this.

Ability to build brand awareness – When I was plying my trade in the SEO space, whenever I was working for a brand which was doing well online, they invariably had a very high level of “brand search” online. I always said to clients that brand search volume is a good proxy for brand awareness, and PR is a central way in which most brands build brand awareness. 

What the #FuturePRoof PR professional can do to get ahead

The PR industry has seen some benefits from these factors, some of which are beyond its control. I believe there are three key ways in which the #FuturePRoof PR professional can proactively and actively adapt in the future to stay ahead of the game:

Learn the lingo – Domain Authority, NoFollow Links, SERPs, canonical URLs… Yes, there is a lot of new and alien terminology to use, but the #FuturePRoof PR professional is not scared of learning something new, and embraces it! There are some good guides which can be found on Search Engine Watch ( [5]) and, as always, MOZ ( [6]). At Hotwire we have also embraced some SEO-oriented measurement of our work, reporting the Domain Authority of links achieved back to clients for example. Across the industry this is a trend I expect to see develop.

Get using Google Analytics – The #FuturePRoof PR professional is as comfortable using Google Analytics as they are using Gorkana. At Hotwire, we are now routinely asking for access to Google Analytics from our clients, and bringing this data into the Insight discussions we have with clients. If this is something you’re not doing currently, there are numerous low-cost training programmes for Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Work collaboratively – The #FuturePRoof PR consultant will actively find out if there is an SEO agency working with their clients, or an in-house SEO manager. If there is, they will reach out to them and see if there are ways they can collaborate together to either help extend the reach of their content or to reach channels they typically don’t engage with. Similarly, the in-house #FuturePRoof PR professional will reach out to in-house SEO and PPC teams to make sure that the full digital benefit of the activity can be realised, and that paid investment can be made to help extend reach if needs be.

The #FuturePRoof PR professional can and should embrace the opportunities to learn new skills and make new friends in new departments and agencies. If they stop worrying about the Don Drapers and start focussing on the Eric Enges of this world, there’s a whole new raft of opportunities and budgets to be had. Don’t believe me? Just Google it.



Darryl Sparey is the Business Development Director at Hotwire PR, the global PR and communications agency. Before this Darryl spent two years running the London office of digital marketing agency Mediaworks. Previously, Darryl was Group New Business Director at WPP-owned Precise Media (now Kantar Media). Darryl tweets about SEO, PR, digital and running in a straight line for a long time win @rundemcrew and to raise money for @parkinsonuk on his twitter feed @DarrylSparey.

Twitter: @DarrylSparey

Public consultations: Engaging with your audience


Public consultations are changing the way we make decisions – meaningful decisions. They’re no longer a tick box exercise for the public sector, but a way to engage with and have consequential conversations with our communities. A good consultation can change culture and behaviours. Good communication is absolutely at the heart of a good consultation.

You’ll learn:
•    The role of communications in a public consultation
•    How to develop engagement and trust through public consultation
•    How communicating ethically and with conscience builds relationships that last beyond the consultation

There are some great guidelines and publications available that provide a solid framework to plan and implement good public consultations – check out Gov.UK Consultation Principles: Guidance.

This chapter provides additional tips, tricks and things to consider when designing a consultation campaign with a difference.

1.    What’s the why?

First things first - start with the why. What’s the purpose of consulting with the public and your community? What are the objectives? How can you ensure your consultation is meaningful? 

It’s important that the Communications Team has a seat at the table when the objectives of the consultation are being set. This is your opportunity to speak up, challenge and advise. It’s also an opportunity for you to understand in full the consultation details from your Leadership directive and start to develop a story and narrative based on that.

2.    Agree your consultation principles – including your own

There are of course the standard principles that PR professionals should adopt for any campaign, including integrity, accessibility, transparency and commitment. 

Additionally, a wise contact of mine (thanks Jim Owen) shared the principles of Involve, Consult and Inform. These simple principles of engagement provide clarity to both employees and public. This transparency helps our stakeholders understand how they can contribute and - more importantly - what engagement has already taken place.

3.    Who are you trying to reach?

Your audience isn’t necessarily (and is unlikely to be) the whole wide world. 

In a recent consultation, we focused on one county and then specific areas within that county where change was proposed. If there’s one area I recommend you spend time on, it’s researching and preparing a detailed audience profile and stakeholder map. By understanding who you need to be engaging with and reaching, you can tailor your messages, choose the right channel/s and sequence for the most appropriate timing. Don’t forget about your employees too (see point 6 below).

4.    Leadership buy-in

You’ve got to have buy-in from your Leaders (and their Leaders) on how you’re proposing to communicate and reach members of the public. Draft a communications plan and get their input and feedback. Be clear that the plan is fluid – great communicators adapt and refine their plans to deliver the best results. Your Leaders need to be the voice of your organisation. They need to be on message and transparent. Look at ways they can interact directly with the public; face-to-face sessions, videos, social media and so on. 

5.    Engage with the media

Invite the media to be a part of the consultation journey. Working with media and journalists helps build the narrative, helping the public understand the basis upon which changes are being recommended. Offer up embargoed interviews with your Leaders ahead of the consultation going live. That way your message hits the papers the day you push the button on your consultation.

6.    Don’t forget your employees

In fact, this should really be titled start with your employees. Your employees need to be fully aware of the consultation journey. Is there an opportunity for them to be involved with designing the consultation? Are they affected by the consultation proposal? Think about the channels you use to reach them. They absolutely need to be a core part of your communication plan.

7.    More than channels

As communicators we have a number of quick, easy and cheap channels available to “push” messages out to the public. But great communication is more than just that. How can you engage with and talk to your audience? Who is your audience? Are they likely to be at work during the day and miss the face-to-face sessions you are planning to host during working hours? What’s your budget? Look at the channels that are more cost effective, targeted and measurable – for example Facebook adverts.

8.    Measurement. Plan, do, check, act. 

Measuring and checking in on your communication efforts, outputs and of course outcomes is a must throughout the consultation. Think about how you can engage and keep your Leaders and stakeholders up to date. In a recent consultation, our measurement and evaluation demonstrated that there were some areas where large amounts of change were being proposed, but we had received little public consultation feedback. By checking in, we enhanced our communications plan to incorporate targeted communication campaigns specifically to those areas. 

What does a successful consultation look like? Steer away from communication outputs. It’s much more than the number of social media posts you published. What is the public saying about your brand and your organisation on social media? What behavioural change can you identify? How can the feedback you have gathered be used to help your organisation make better and more informed decisions?

9.    What happens when it’s over?

Well it’s not over. You’ve just spent a number of weeks talking with your employees and the public in an open and engaging way. Don’t lose that relationship. Make a commitment as to what the next steps are and stick to them.

Remember, consultations aren’t just a numbers game. Consulting with integrity is about the public understanding what you are consulting on, and engaging with the process. This continues after the consultation deadline.

10.    What can possibly go wrong?

Nothing right? Well, I can’t finish this chapter without making reference to the #NameOurShip campaign. NERC’s objectives were to engage with the UK public to promote a new research ship, demonstrate the role their organisation plays and highlight the importance of natural science.

The comms team behind this asked the general public to name the boat. One popular one was put forward: Boaty McBoatface. This went viral – globally. While the campaign certainly achieved NERC’s objectives, the decision not to go with naming the ship Boaty McBoatface certainly caused a stir.

What can we learn from this? Well, consult and communicate with integrity. Basically - be clear. Be clear about everything. Consultations are more than just crowd sourcing. Effective consultation is about building relationships between organisations and the public, transparency and cultural shift.

Emily Osborne Chart.PR is a corporate communications specialist with a passion for taking on complex change management and cultural change programmes. Founder of Know How Communications, an award winning communications consultancy, Emily has 14 years’ experience gained across the UK and Middle East. Emily has achieved her Chartership status with CIPR, and is a CIPR Chartership Assessor.

Twitter: @em_cathryn

Overhauling public affairs: much needed modernisation


Public affairs has a reputation issue and a modernisation drive is long overdue. This chapter looks at how the discipline has evolved and new opportunities for practitioners. 

You’ll learn:
•    Why public affairs needs to modernise, adopt a strategic approach and offer greater transparency
•    How public affairs is much more than access and should incorporate media relations and social media
•    About grassroots campaigns as a beneficial means to an end

If ever there was a time for public affairs to sit back and take a good, hard look at itself, it is right now. And quickly. The full force of insurgent voter power is in full swing in most mature democracies. Precisely the places in which public affairs is supposed to be at its most well honed!

Whether it’s Brexit, Trump, the Italian Five Star Movement, Le Pen, Alternative For Deutschland, Scottish Independence or just good old social media - same old, same old public affairs just won’t do anymore. 

It is as disconnected from the politics around us as the so called ‘elites’ are too.

In fact many of the ‘insurgent’ groups I mentioned above are now effortlessly mainstream in the body politic. But this comes at a big price for the public affairs sector. They view traditional lobbying as being the enemy. Sometimes it is.

Where do we sit?

In some ways public affairs is indeed viewed as part of that ‘elites’ problem. 

Being interviewed on Channel 4 News by Jon Snow back in 2015, he asked me something I really had not prepared for. “Are you part of the establishment,” he inquired? 

As someone who has never thought of themselves as part of that group, I was genuinely shocked. But perhaps I should not have been.

It’s too easy to characterise public affairs in this way. Most people see it as purely lobbying and for those who only represent BIG business. 

This, of course, ignores that many of the most powerful and successful public affairs strategies don’t come from the corporate sector at all.

We need to bury the black book

But the issue remains one of perception - a perception enhanced by public affairs practice which continues to place emphasis on access.

The idea that the ‘little black book of who you know’ can suffice any more - if it ever did - must now be surely dead and buried forever. 

The question of ‘access’ is just not one that stands the test of external scrutiny anymore. This is something that I wanted to expose head on during the passage of the Westminster legislation to create the UK Government’s lobbying register back in 2013/14.

Appearing before the Public Administration Select Committee - a rather useful body which has been disbanded in the current UK parliament and which I hope comes back in a future guise - I was constantly asked the question by MPs - isn’t lobbying all about access?

You could see the MPs look rather disappointed when I told them that I could run a highly effective public affairs strategy without ever going anywhere near an MP or a minister. And that’s just the point now - access for access’s sake seems to the starting point for so much public affairs and that’s plain wrong.

Digital and media relations are equally effective

Digital and media strategies are just as good - if not better - public affairs strategies as meeting policymakers themselves these days. This emphasises why so much of the so called lobbying legislation starts from just the wrong place. Meetings rather than ideas.

So let’s hit the refresh button right here. Creating monstrous lists of top policymaker targets should not be the starting point any more. Looking at just what you want to achieve and looking at the right levers to achieve that objective has to be a better approach. It should always have been this way. 

The push back on access has to start at the beginning of any campaign. It is just too tempting to give in to clients or internal bosses who ask that perennial question: ‘Who do you know’.

Just like digital strategies, the good news is more and more serious buyers of public affairs understand that lobbying is today an all encompassing part of the communications mix. In fact sometimes a media relations approach towards a public affairs problem is going to prove much faster and much more effective.

Start from the ground up

Grassroots campaigning is also something that public affairs needs to get a handle on. If you go to the US there is an entire industry devoted to this. Some of the techniques of micro targeting used there need to be adopted here. 

For digitally savvy politicians and media respond to a bottom up, grassroots work impact much more than top down activities.

The use of polling too needs a refresh. Battered by the inability of the political polling industry to correctly predict much these days - policymakers have become super wary of any macro, national polling which suggests voters want or don’t want something to happen. I believe the lobbying sector needs to sit down with the polling sector and work out a new way.

Finally governance around public affairs needs to be robust. I have been happy to campaign with Transparency International on many issues. For example, I was happy to speak on a platform to help them launch one of the reports on the lobbying sector. While I don’t agree with every dot and comma of their approach - I do agree that the sector must not appear to operate in the shadows.

Good governance means everyone in the sector signing up to robust standards that work and are seen to work - that’s both agencies and in house teams. In that regard I have been delighted to play a part in seeing FTSE companies signing up to greater governance and also ensuring more public affairs agencies than ever now sign up to robust standards.

There’s lots more to do. But for me closing the little black book is the best start.

Iain Anderson is the Executive Chairman at Cicero and an expert in global public policy issues affecting financial services. He has over 20 years’ experience in communications, as a business journalist and then as a founding shareholder at Incisive Media. He has worked for a range of UK politicians, including Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP on his leadership bids.

Twitter: @iain_w_anderson

Live streaming tools: a best practice guide


Live broadcast apps are the latest fashion when it comes to online communications. Learn how PR initiatives could – and should -- take advantage of these tools utilising them in a strategic way. 

You’ll learn:
•    Why streaming apps are in high demand
•    The opportunities and benefits of using live broadcasting within a PR strategy
•    The success factors for live broadcasting

The increase in the use of smartphones, the amount of time users spend on their devices and the growth in online video consumption are a few factors that justify the success of live streaming tools such as Meerkat, Periscope and Facebook Live. 

When used in a strategic fashion, live streaming resources can be a powerful communication tool for brands and organisations. The benefits of using such resources include increased brand awareness, audience engagement and message cut through. 

A key asset is the ability of such tools (apps) to humanize the relationship between brands and their audience, bringing them closer together, often a natural result of live broadcasting. 

The ‘live’ presence is seen by the public as an act of courage for being unedited in nature, giving a sense of spontaneity, authenticity and transparency to this form of communication. A willingness to answer and interact in real time is key to ensure genuine engagement from consumers and fans. 

There is also a technical and cost benefit to be derived: the digital era has caused channels to fragment and multiply and, as a result, live streaming apps have become a useful resource for brands looking to amplify their message with target audiences in a much more cost effective manner than previously. 

In a scenario that sees users connected to their smartphones on a full time basis, live broadcasting enables brands to engage audiences in a new way, at different times of the day, and spearhead the intense battle for consumer attention. 

When to use live streaming tools

There are countless opportunities for using live streaming tools but not all of them are right for every market or company. It is imperative to take into account the characteristics of the audience, the spokespeople and the organisation in question. 

Examples include: 

•    Product launch: Live streaming a product review is a more natural approach to a product launch. Being exposed to real time queries from users brings authenticity, transparency and life to the brand. 

•    Q&As: Conducting chats with business leaders. For instance, a HR staffing company can schedule periodic Q&As on career challenges or include live streaming as a strategy for launching the results of a study or research.

•    Backstage: We often do not know how the products we consume are produced or the environment in which they’re manufactured. Showing these elements via live broadcasting can help communicate company values and show the corporate culture behind products and services, particularly good for organisations wishing to show green credentials or how well they look after their staff.

•    Press conferences and events: Journalists have increasingly less time to leave the newsroom to secure news footage and distance can be a limiting factor. Therefore, live streaming tools have the potential to amplify media coverage at events and press conferences. 

•    Teaser: Live streaming is a great way to generate curiosity about a product or service. The best example is Facebook’s very first live streaming when Mark Zuckerberg debuted the new feature presenting Facebook’s workplace, meeting rooms and his personal working space. 

•    Hits: Live streaming can piggyback on trending topics and take advantage of hitting an audience in the heat of the moment, enhancing interaction and engagement. 

•    Borrowed audience: Brands and companies can leverage the audiences of media outlets to start surfing the live streaming wave. Pitch creative opportunities to the media to secure interviews, launches and live chats using the social media channels of those media outlets.

Moving from a tactical approach to a strategic one

When embracing any new comms activity, it’s important to ensure this fits with the organisational objectives and will be an effective tool within the overall comms campaign. 

Here are a few recommendations for live streaming successfully and achieving your corporate goals while retaining viewers’ attention:

•    Planning: From the moment you decide to include live streaming in your strategy, it is critical to plan the content or script in order to ensure that you are embracing your company’s goals and key messages.

•    Frequency: The best way to gain and maintain people’s attention is to live stream regularly and even create a schedule that the audience organically includes as part of their routine without even noticing.

•    Training: Not all employees, especially senior management, are born to perform live presentations or are able to keep streaming consistently. It takes practice and it is imperative to provide training for presenters, including improvisation skills, because it is common for ongoing interaction to determine the content and flow of the video. 

•    Confidentiality: Caution is required when producing the script for a live broadcast. Any small oversight can reveal confidential information or strategic data that a company doesn’t want shared. Advance planning and ongoing checks are critical. 

•    Interaction: The main asset of live streaming tools is real time interaction. If you ignore or prevent this, the communication loses its appeal and the audience can soon get frustrated. 

•    Connection: Before going live make sure you have a high quality connection, strong enough to support the streaming without interruptions or audio/video problems as these soon scare away fans.


There are many opportunities to use live streaming tools to great benefit, as explored in this chapter. However, if these are not deployed as part of an overall strategy their use can be at best an expensive mistake and at worst reputationally damaging. The organisations which plan well and take advantage of this new way of communicating have an unprecedented chance to better understand and engage with their audiences, add authenticity, and further humanise their brand. Why not give it a go. 

Leonardo Stavale is the Corporate Communications Manager at Perspectiva Comunicação with more than 10 years of experience. He is responsible for driving public relations and content strategies for his clients. 

Twitter: @leonardostavale


Video as a communications channel


Video has quietly been driving the arms race between tech companies and between social media platforms. That’s a race that communications teams can take advantage of.

You’ll learn:

•    Video has become an important channel for how people use the media
•    Most communications teams don’t have the understanding or the skills to use video
•    The days of needing to bring in a film crew to shoot video are over. You can do it

Okay, so if you hear Google saying that 90 per cent of the internet is going to be video within the next few years what goes through your mind? 

If it’s surprise, take a look around your home and see what your family are doing. Mine? As I write this, my son is using his phone to watch YouTube clips of people playing computer games. My daughter is watching Tracey Beaker episodes on iplayer on a tablet. My wife is watching catch-up TV texting her friend.

It’s an everyday story of a family passing the time. 

Go on a train or a bus and the story is broadly the same. People are using devices to watch, play and share.

Now think for a second about what your team is good at. Does that include video? Use your YouTube channel as a yardstick. How’s that looking? There’s more than 40 million users in the UK. What’s your most recent video? How many are there and how many views - a few thousand? A few dozen?

Facebook’s future is video

Let’s put some numbers on that. Ofcom tell us that more than 70 per cent of the UK population have a smartphone and more than 40 per cent of people are happy to watch short videos on it. That’s more than half download TV programmes to watch back.

Earlier this year Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg was asked to talk about how he saw the future panning out. That future, he said, was video.

“Most of the content 10 years ago was text, and then photos, and now it’s quickly becoming videos,” Zuckerberg said. “I just think that we’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.”

Smartphone technology is powering video

The reason why video has grown so quickly is the mobile phone in your pocket. As each new phone’s spec rises you are able to watch more content that chews through more of your bandwidth. So video on your phone is within easy reach. 

Every leading social platform has woken up to the fact that people can watch video on their devices. It has become the new battleground for audience. Currently in 2016 there are rewards for posting video direct to channels. For example, the Facebook algorithm is framed to reward you for uploading content directly to the platform. The rewards and encouragement are even higher for Facebook Live.

Look at how Twitter is pushing video posted in its app. Look at Snapchat stories and how Instagram is upping the limit to 60 seconds of video content.

Video prevented a military coup from happening

Video is also the news. As events happen, often within seconds mobile phone footage is posted online.

Such is the role that video is playing that an entire coup d’état was averted simply through the use of video. When elements of the Turkish military staged an uprising they parked their tanks outside the TV stations. How retro. They’d forgotten that people had the ability to livestream from their mobile phones. So, the President Facetimed and the footage was broadcast. The population responded to a call to take to the streets. As they did they livestreamed it.

Closer to home, newspapers have stripped out their newsrooms and turned into media producers. Video content gets priority shared across online platforms. 

So what does this mean for comms?

For a start, it means knowing your audience really well. It means checking the Ofcom data for what media they are likely to use. It also means checking with them what their favoured channels are. It means that your Facebook strategy has become your Facebook video strategy. It means that you need to be thinking of what video content you can harness and use. 

It means equipping your team with the tech for them to shoot content. For flexibility this isn’t a video camera or a DSLR. It’s a smartphone. It also means devolving access to people across the organisation. In the Environment Agency, for example, having officers on the ground trained-up and able to shoot video as flooding strikes gives an eye-on-the-ground immediacy that works well with social media.

For the public sector, the comms team that upskills people on the frontline will get back footage of real people doing things out and about for the people they serve.

Think this isn’t a private sector thing? How much more effective would your internal comms be if staff themselves could be seen on video talking about their Comic Relief bed push or how the internal change programme was making the job easier for them. 

The first steps are within reach

You don’t need to be a filmmaker to take advantage of video. You can do so yourself. As with any new channel, spend some time getting to know it. Kick the tyres. Experiment. Watch what works and sign-up to the feeds of people who create content you find engaging. Which videos are being shared with you on Facebook? How long are they? What is your 11-year-old son watching? Or your 42-year-old partner?

Good video content that comms and PR people can learn from isn’t even hidden within plain sight. It’s all around us.

Almost all mobile and tablets phones now can shoot broadcast quality footage. The app ecosystem around Android and iOS has pulled away from Windows and BlackBerry. The App Store and Google Play have plenty of good editing software apps. iMovie works well on iOS devices and KineMaster can achieve on your phone what it would have cost more than £1,000 to achieve a few short years ago. 

For the past 18 months I’ve been running workshops with my colleague Steven Davies in which we give people the understanding of where video is so they know the strategy. We then give them the technical skills to shoot good video. This includes the law of thirds which sees what you are filming framed a third of the way along the image. Then we give them editing skills. But the parting advice is always the same.

The advice is this. Don’t make the next video be work related. Let it be your cat, your dog or your journey home. The more you use your phone for video the greater your confidence. 

But what works as a video?

This is the reassuring bit. Human beings interacting with other human beings work. Yes, cats do. So do dogs. Something that looks as though it has had nothing spent on it is very often fine. It’s how the internet rolls.

One video we always show in training is ‘Dr Olivia’s Guide to A&E’. Children play the role of doctors and adults are the patients in a role reversal. Dr Olivia tells each grown up who turns up at A&E with a minor ailment where to get help instead of waiting.

Why does it work? Because humans are talking to other humans. And Dr Olivia’s Mum frantically shared it on Facebook to all her friends. The old newsroom value that ‘news is people’ still works on video. Why would they not follow suit?

Length of video matters. On Facebook, 21 seconds is the optimum time. On YouTube go beyond three minutes or so and you’ll be the only one watching. 

If you’re livestreaming via Facebook Live or Periscope, the advice is to have a good WiFi connection and tell people in advance to build an audience.

On Snapchat, shoot upright. Elsewhere, try and shoot landscape.

Give it a go, the time and investment will pay dividends.

Figure 1 Video: optimum length chart

Dan Slee is co-founder and director of comms2point0. He has more than 20 years experience working for and with the media as a journalist and then in a senior role in a local government communications team. 

Twitter: @danslee


How to use the latest technology to achieve employee engagement


The time has come for us to rethink our engagement approach and apply lessons learned from the consumer sphere. Mobile technology has already changed how companies do business but they have yet to exploit its many merits in the name of employee engagement.

You’ll learn:
•    To rethink the current approach of reaching and engaging every employee
•    The opportunity available by introducing mobile technology
•    How to achieve the best employee engagement results from deploying mobile technology

Who are we trying to engage?

You may think this is a strange question to ask but unfortunately, it’s necessary. If I were to ask every employee engagement professional, most would say ‘everyone’. I agree. We should be trying to engage everyone. But, for decades, we have been casually ignoring the majority of our employees. 

80% (2.4 billion globally) are non-desk employees (NDEs). These ‘untethered’ workers are difficult to reach and near impossible to hear from. Rather than collectively doing something about it, we have been sticking our heads in the sand and continuing to focus on engaging those we can see and reach – the office employee. 

Traditional approaches

Traditional digital channels, such as intranets and most enterprise social networks (ESNs), primarily serve employees who are desk-based. Of the 80% of NDEs around the world, 83% have no corporate email address - so accessing a corporate intranet or ESN is near impossible. 84% say they receive not enough communication to perform their jobs effectively. These employees are making products and serving customers as the face of the brand.

I’m not advocating a focus only on NDEs. Of course a holistic approach is the only way to drive end-to-end engagement. The continued increase in work flexibility, often referred to as the digital workplace, means that desk-based employees also expect to be connected with their colleagues, systems and customers, while on the go. Systems which are mobile and easy to access anytime, anywhere, are now becoming the norm. 

Gone are the days of top-down communications, archaic document libraries, corporate newsfeeds, and ghost written letters from the CEO.

Going mobile

A mobile revolution happened in the consumer sphere over nine years ago. Why is the world of enterprise lagging? 

Employees are consumers also; they have become accustomed to using intuitive tools, which provide relevant information, in real time. They are no longer waiting for their employers to provide them with these tools. If the company doesn’t provide them, they will use externally available tools for work purposes. Evernote and Facebook are great examples. This presents the IT team with a host of issues, such as loss of control, data security and knowledge management.

Mobile can be an extremely effective engagement channel as it knows who you are, where you are and what you like. 

We are becoming addicted to our smartphones, relying on them to complete ever-increasingly critical tasks. The average person checks their phone over 150 times a day. Despite this, productivity is barely rising. Companies must adopt employee experiences that put employees at the heart. 

Enterprise seems wedded to desktop experiences, a one-size-fits-all approach, which focuses on push communications and document management. Yet, when we look at consumer experiences, this approach has long gone. 

Consumer mobile experiences use the best of peer-to-peer, democratized, media-rich, crowd-sourced communication and innovation. Imagine the transformation in employee engagement if the organisation was to adopt even half of these approaches. 

A recent survey found that small companies, which were defined as “mobile leaders” - due to the intensity of mobile usage - saw 200% greater revenue growth and hired people at a rate 800% faster than “mobile laggards.”

Transformational technology

If we wish to transform how enterprises engage their employees, then we have to adopt transformational approaches. Given the technological era we are currently in, adopting transformational technology as part of the approach is an obvious choice.

Transformational technology brings together social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) capabilities with a new platform to improve every employee experience.

Enabling employees to engage with anyone, anytime, anywhere and being able to accurately measure the engagement, spot trends and opportunities would transform the way companies do business.

The winning trinity

For companies who are looking at introducing a mobile channel, there are three aspects that are critical to success – the winning trinity.

1.    Immediacy – providing employees with content in real time. Finding out about company news as it happens, internally rather than via external sources, like Google alerts.

2.    Context – delivering only relevant news and updates so employees are seeing what they need to know rather than ‘noise’ from across the business. Many companies deploy internet solutions which quickly overwhelm their employees as they start to drown in a sea of information. Important content gets missed while content that is irrelevant to the individual gets pride of place.

3.    Design – enterprise grade solutions are no longer going to cut it. As mentioned earlier, employees expect a consumer-like experience. If you don’t provide them with one, they will source their own tool externally and ignore yours. 

Content strategy and approach

The content you publish on a mobile platform is as important as the channel itself. Publishing desktop content on a mobile platform won’t get you the engagement you are looking for. 

The following are guidelines for copy length:

Mobile content should be short, to the point, solicit interaction where possible, and include rich media such as images and videos.

A shortcut to driving engagement on a mobile channel is to enable user-generated content. This means giving employees a voice. Most channels will provide a moderation layer, reassuring administrators that control is not lost. However, the message it gives employees is integral to engagement: ‘We trust you, we want to hear from you, your opinion really matters’.

Crowd-sourcing video

If you wish to take the engagement experience up a notch, encourage crowd-sourced video content. This may work better in certain cultures (company and geographic) but when it does, it is a very powerful engagement driver. 

Encouraging leaders to create video via their smartphone rather than expensive and often dry, scripted captures, will be very well received by employees. Replacing a letter from the CEO, which is often farmed out to the communications team, with a short authentic video will receive more engagement that you would imagine.


Jump on or get left behind

Mobile technology continues to change the world. It has already changed how we do business, for the better. If you wish to transform the employee experience, take the first step and explore how mobile technology can improve the company. 

There are many options out there to suit every type of business, budget and culture. Those who grasp the strategic opportunity, will lead the way over the coming years. Those who wait to see what others will do, will join the laggards.


[1] Kevin Spain:

[2] Tribe Report 2012:

[3] Tribe Report 2012:

[4] Mary Meeker, Liang Wu. KPCB Internet Trends 2013. Available at:

[5] Boston Consulting Group (BCG): 

Ciara O’Keeffe, is VP of Product and Customer Delivery, StaffConnect. She is a digital communications leader, speaker, author and judge. Having gained experience within HR and Internal Communication roles at Unilever, L’Oréal and Diageo, she now specializes in enterprise mobile technology. Ciara has led multiple projects to launch apps in enterprises around the world.

Twitter: @CommsOKeeffe



Seizing influencer relations’ opportunities


Public relations is the natural home for influencer relations. Working with online influencers offers a massive business opportunity but only if practitioners embrace, evolve and push this fast-maturing discipline forward.

You’ll learn:
•    Why an influencer’s appropriateness trumps the size of their following
•    The importance of disclosing paid-for relationships prominently
•    How the best results come from forging long-term, mutually-rewarding relationships between brand and influencer

Influencer relations has come of age. More than a buzzword, it represents a huge business opportunity and should be part of every PR practitioner’s toolkit. 

Four years ago Brian Solis [1], Principal Analyst of Altimeter Group [2], described reach, relevance and resonance as the pillars of influence in his report: The rise of digital influence and how to measure it [3].

A 2015 survey [4] showed 84% of marketers and PR professionals plan to leverage influencers in 2016.

As the discipline of influencer relations matures, it is time practitioners become more considered and data driven in meeting clients’ objectives. Get the balance right between process and passion and influencer relations will become one of PR’s biggest opportunities. 

Figure 1 Snapshot of Google Trends on the phrase “influencer marketing”

Here are six ways PR practitioners can take the lead in nurturing the future of influencer relations.

#1 Cede control

41.2% of communicators cite lack of control over messaging as a challenge of influencer relations [5]. On the flipside, 77% of influencers say creative freedom is a primary factor in feeling likely to work with a brand more than once [6].

Brands turn to influencers because they want their stories to be told with an authentic voice. Often, however, brands also think they can control the message via influencers.

Figure 2 The role of influencer as translator turning a brand’s key messages into content which resonates with a select audience

Influencers know their audiences. They know what their audiences like – and what they don’t care for. 

Successful influencers listen to, and interact with, their fans. This leads to forming communities that feel more like friendships than fanships. For example, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than to traditional celebrities [7].

The more you try to control the message via a straight-jacket of a creative brief, re-write requests or push for further edits, the more the authentic voice is diminished to a whisper.

Influencers grow their follower base through voicing opinions which chime with people. So, let them speak. Let them speak in their own voice. That’s why it’s so important to ensure you’re working with the most appropriate influencer in the first place.

This is a process which starts by using tools like Traackr to do the ‘heavy lifting’; identifying influencers at scale and sorting them by reach, resonance and relevance. But it is up to the contextual intelligence of the PR practitioner to make sense of the data and to vet each influencer on their best fit to meet clients’ objectives.

#2 Go beyond audience size

When selecting an influencer, don’t be seduced purely by numbers. Being popular is not the same as being influential.

Being popular is about being liked or admired by many people. Being influential is an ability to change something; be it altering behaviours, changing opinions or adapting actions.

Influence is context based. Unless the influencer has a strong connection with the target audience, that influencer is creating noise, not action.

Gaining large numbers of followers, impressions or visitors doesn’t always translate into greater influence. A smaller, more targeted following may generate proportionately higher engagement rates.

Reach gives you potential numbers of eyeballs. Influence shows what action is being taken.

#3 Abandon the usual suspects

Have a data-driven answer ready when your client asks: “Can’t you just get us Zoella?” 

Influencer relations has more to do with credibility and impact than it has with reach. 

Always link your influencer selection back to your objective. This is dependent on a deep understanding of your audience, their needs and their pain points.

If your influencer relations campaign calls for plenty of eyeballs, you can gain reach by marshalling the power middle, or micro influencers at scale. The added benefit is increased engagement compared with contracting with one heavy-hitter influencer.    

Proportionally micro influencers have the highest engagement levels. Instagram influencers with between 1k & 4k followers have 4.5% engagement rate. This percentage slips to 2.4% engagement for influencers with 4k to 100k influencers. Above 100k influencers engagement halves again to 1.7% [8].

The comparatively lower cost of contracting with the power middle or micro influencers enables brands to think more laterally about meeting their clients’ communications and business objectives.

Brands can harness influencers with different perspectives, working across different categories and territories to carry a brand’s key messages from different angles whilst achieving deeper engagement levels.

#4 Turn tactical and temporary to longer term business growth partnerships

Influencer relations programmes take time, organisation, sincerity, effort and money; both in resource and out of pocket payments.

So when working with influencers, it makes sense to shift the time horizon from tactical and temporary to a longer term business growth partnership.

The relationship between follower and influencer is accretive; it strengthens and develops over time. Influencer relations practitioners should value this social currency between creator and following, emulating it in their own dealings. 

Benefits of longer-term, mutually beneficial relationships include:

•    Faster turnaround times from briefing to production

•    Financial savings as the identification and negotiation phases are removed for each campaign and discounted publication rates can be negotiated for multiple pieces of work over the longer term

•    Better results. The influencer’s understanding of your client’s values, product and brand improves over time. He or she can be more creative in developing content which carries your key messages but which feels more relatable to the target audience.

#5 Disclose

Brands, PR practitioners and the influencer are all responsible for ensuring paid-for content is labelled properly and that disclosure is displayed prominently. Yet in the UK just 22% of influencers always comply with the CAP Code, the advertising rule book enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority [9].

In the first half of 2016, the Federal Trade Commission, the United States’ consumer watchdog, settled with Lord & Taylor [10] and Warner Bros. [11] over failure by these brands to meet disclosure regulations with influencer-generated sponsored content.

The issue of effectively making sponsored content distinct from editorial content will become a major one as influencer relations continues to enjoy such widespread popularity amongst communicators.

The bottom line is that all paid-for influencer work must:

1.    Disclose, clearly and prominently, whether content has been paid for
2.    Be open about other commercial relationships that might be relevant to the content; and
3.    Give genuine views on markets, businesses, goods or services.

#6 Embrace video

Tie-ins with vloggers will continue to grow in popularity within influencer relations. 95% of 16-34 year-olds watch video clips online each month [12]. 44% of internet users watch vlogs on a monthly basis [13].

YouTube will increasingly come under fire from other platforms pushing video. 

Over half of Facebook active users watch videos on the network. The social media monolith is making moves to also dominate live streaming video content. It is attempting to woo Snapchat, Vine and YouTube influencers to experiment with its Live Video feature [14].

Linkedin, too, has embraced video for its influencers. The professional network has launched 30-second videos from influencers to capitalise on the B2B market [15].

Influencer relations practitioners must thoroughly understand their audience and where it ‘lives’ online to thrive in this increasingly splintered video-orientated media landscape.

Public relations as the natural home for influencer relations

Influencer relations sits naturally within the cadre of public relations. More than a buzzword, PR practitioners have been delivering key messages via third parties since the industry’s infancy. 

Today the vehicle shaping those messages has altered from newspapers, television and radio to include social media influencers. Reaping the highest rewards from influencer relations means building mutually rewarding long-term relationships - a bedrock skill of the PR industry.

But if PR practitioners do not embrace, evolve and push influencer relations forward other marketing disciplines will.





[3] The rise of digital influence (March, 2012) 

[4] The state of influencer engagement in 2015 (June, 2015)

[5] Brian Solis, Influencer marketing manifesto (July, 2016)

[6] Examining Influencer Marketing, Danny Spyra, (June, 2016)

[7] The YouTube Generation Study. November 2015

[8] Crunching the numbers on social media influencer engagement (Takumi blog February 2016)

[9] (May 2016)

[10] Lord & Taylor Settles FTC Charges It Deceived Consumers Through Paid Article in an Online Fashion Magazine and Paid Instagram Posts by 50 “Fashion Influencers” (March, 2016)

[11] Warner Bros. Settles FTC Charges It Failed to Adequately Disclose It Paid Online Influencers to Post Gameplay Videos (July, 2016)

[12] Video is the future of social, Global Web Index blog (May, 2016)

[13] Over 4 in 10 watch vlogs, Global Web Index blog (June, 2016)

[14] Facebook to Pay Internet Stars for Live Video, Wall Street Journal (July 2016)

[15] Y our LinkedIn Feed is Coming to Life with Videos from LinkedIn Influencers, Linkedin blog (August, 2016)

Scott Guthrie is a digital management consultant specialising in influencer relations. He produces daily comment and curation about the evolution of influencers at

Scott also writes regularly about influencer relations, creativity and organisational health in the social age.

Twitter: @sabguthrie

Internal Comms (IC): Learning from the past and emerging trends


There is no such thing as pure internal communication any more. Professional communicators need to acknowledge the blurred lines between internal and external comms and fast. Discover why it’s important and the opportunities ahead.

You’ll learn:
•     How internal communication is evolving
•     The importance of learning from the past
•     Five trends IC pros need to know to #FuturePRoof their careers

Evolution of internal communication

Internal communication as we’ve known it is over. Historical house organs and company propaganda from the late 19th century are being replaced by engaging, collaborative and relevant internal communication, informed by employees and external channels.

Well, that’s the theory. Here’s two realities:

•    Companies separate themselves into internal communication and PR and seldom combine ideas, budget or messaging 

•    Broadcast or one-way communication techniques translate into a traditional, hierarchical top-down approach. There’s scarce room for employees’ voices to be heard

Could you remove the separation and have an integrated and multi-skilled team? If you’re a budget-constrained organisation, you probably already have one person overseeing all communication, so don’t have a choice. But what if you did?

Is it possible to integrate a communication team to focus on the content being produced rather than the function? The short answer is yes. Organisations such as the Post Office in the UK are already doing this.

Consistency is king

Consistency is king, particularly when thinking about messaging. What it’s like to be an employee should match up to your external material and brand promises. Communication is at the heart of this.

Communication teams need to respond to the needs of their organisation. This means drawing on internal and external communication expertise. This could be two teams working alongside each other, or as an integrated department.

You cannot operate in a silo and wonder why the experience employees report via websites like Glassdoor (TripAdvisor for organisations), reveal a gulf in what you say about your company and what it’s actually like. 

Internal communicators need to have effective working relationships with external communication colleagues. Times have changed; disputes and disconnects inside companies over content and budget need to stop.

I expect to see more companies integrating and uniting teams while still respecting the skill sets of each discipline. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, you need to make an informed decision about the Generalist/Specialist structure that suits your organisation. Edelman state communicators need to become deeply knowledgeable in the shallowest of niches. 

Why do you need internal communication? 

According to Liam Fitzpatrick, Managing Partner at Working Communication Strategies, there are normally five main reasons for having an internal communication operation: 

Effective internal communication is all about conversations. You need two-way methods in place to listen to employees, where they can provide input and know it will be acted upon. 

Employees’ patience is thin and demand for interaction and answers is high. Think real-time, authentic communication and you’re on the right tracks. An annual feedback survey is not enough, you need to be continuously tuned into the conversations, rumours and realities of your organisation.

Channels encouraging participation have grown exponentially over the past decade. From employee-generated films to Tweets and Enterprise Social Networks, the variety and richness of formats and options continues to rise. 

However, organisations are typically sluggish to respond, using antiquated channels and methods. Or those which are too new and shiny and introduced without the required care and attention. Both fail to resonate.

We’re heading towards user-generated content and the loosening of the grip of internal communication teams. I call it wonky comms. It may not be perfectly formed, on message and polished, but it’s real, authentic and resonates. 

Learning from the past

There are many models showing how the role of internal communication has changed. 

Melcrum’s Eras of Internal Communication model (2012) shows the evolution. We have technology to map employee graphs to understand spheres of influence and advocacy. They’re being built into software such as Delve in Office 365, and will become the norm. 


The role of internal communication is to equip, empower and enable employees to deliver the business strategy. Everything we do as professional communicators should facilitate the company or client to achieve their goals. 

You need to identify links between company objectives to communication objectives, outputs, outtakes, outcomes and organisational impact.

Why isn’t that always the case? How often have you seen campaigns launching because they’re pet projects, rather than being tied to a wider organisational strategy? Exactly.

Internal communication goes beyond one person, team or function. It may be on the job titles of a particular department, but it will be in the job description of many people across a company. All employees have a role to play to ensure effective organisational communication happens.

Everybody is now a communicator. They always have been. What that means for professional communicators is a shift in perspective and our position. 

This worries some communicators, who feel they are losing something as ‘everyone thinks they can do my role’. You need to modify your mindset and focus on operating as strategic business partners. Professional communicators need to be masters of their trade. 

You are the difference between effective communication and noise. We’re moving from content creation to curation and your skills have never been more relevant. This means educating and guiding employees and encouraging them to publish stories, take photographs and share their view of the world.

Comms bling

Internal communication in recent years has seen communicators vying for the latest must-have tools and techniques. We’ve seen all sorts of shiny and whizzy gadgets, apps and platforms come and go. I call them comms bling. 

Comms bling is when you’re tempted to discard everything you know about your culture and what works for your employees, in favour of the latest kid on the block. Regardless of whether it is the right thing to do for your company. Your budget is precious and needs to be invested wisely.

Once the dazzle has faded, you realise your precious gem can’t live up to its promises. If that’s you, admit it. Embrace the failure of a channel or idea, learn from it, regroup and move on.

I oversee my household from my Apple Watch and iPhone; from changing the lighting or heating, to viewing my children’s baby monitors from wherever I am, I have access to information to help me influence their world. The same is true for us as communicators. Technology exists to help us enhance employees’ experience of their workplace, but you have to know what communication methods are out there and choose wisely.

For all of the software trying to replicate face-to-face communication, companies are realising they need to stop trying to replicate and start doing. They’re investing time, money and effort in upskilling managers, creating face-to-face opportunities, identifying influencers and encouraging user-generated content.

Five trends IC pros need to know to #FuturePRoof their careers


1.    Know your numbers

Get smart with data. Numbers are the currency of Exec teams. Understand how employees interact with content and access information. 

2.    Think beyond communication

Demonstrate your understanding of your business, from financial results to competitors. Show your leaders how you add value as a strategic business partner beyond communication.

3.    Research the future

Understand automation, the internet of things, digital workplaces and chatbots and how they could relate to your company. 

4.    Know your audience

Audience implies a performance and one-way communication. That’s the opposite of what you need. Know who you’re communicating with, what’s important to them and how information and knowledge flow inside your organisation.

5.    Be curious.

Experiment with new channels, read industry press and never stop investing in your learning. 

The future of organisational communication is bright. It’s a fascinating world and you need to keep up. So learn from the past, embrace what’s happening now and invest in your personal development to #FuturePRoof your career.


[1] Seen what your employees are saying about you? All Things IC blog, January 2015

[2] Do you have the right skills to do your job? published on the All Things IC blog January 2016

[3] Edelman’s Cloverleaf research:, published January 2016

[4] Calling the right tune with internal communication?, Communication Director Magazine, August 2016

[5] The rise of wonky comms:, All Things IC blog, February 2016

Rachel Miller is the Founder of All Things IC consultancy, offering senior level counsel to help organisations and communicators achieve excellence. She is a multiple award-winning professional and Fellow of both the Institute of Internal Communication and CIPR. Her thoughts have been featured in a number of best-selling PR books and she regularly shares her knowledge through her popular blog and All Things IC Masterclasses.

Twitter: @AllthingsIC

Why great leaders are great communicators


To what extent is communication the key to a successful organisation and to great leadership? How does good communication make an organisation great? And what difference does good communication make to the implementation of a public relations strategy?

You’ll learn:
•    Great leaders are great communicators who tell stories
•    Great communicators are authentic, believe in what they say and inspire others
•    The importance of listening

Communication is one of the top three skills of leadership, according to author, coach and leadership guru, Kevin Murray, who observes on his website: “The best strategy is useless unless you can inspire those around you to deliver it. How good are you at employee engagement?” 

Great leaders communicate well not only with co-workers and peers but also with their clients. Through good communication clients know the value of a public relations strategy.

Identifying talent

Good communication allows great leaders to identify and surround themselves with the best talent. Great leaders do not doubt their own abilities and want to nurture great talent in others. This is only done if there is good communication within an organisation.

This is true whatever country you live in. For many years, I’ve lived in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and more recently New Zealand, and constantly communicating with staff (face-to-face as well as through social media) matters wherever you are located.

We must remember though that great communication is a skill, not a gift. It can be learned, whether through formal training with accredited educational institutions or informally through global organisations such as Toastmasters. In this case, it is practice that matters and makes perfect. 

Great leaders communicate in the conference hall, the interview room and interact on a daily basis with co-workers. 

A few years ago, I co-founded a company in London ( that specialises in communication training. 

People from all walks of life ask for training - from CEOs to students. Some are already competent speakers while others are fearful of speaking in public. 

Through working as a trainer I learnt that good communication is critical in building strong relationships. In turn, these people often become good clients.

The public-speaking phobia comes up again and again. In fact, many surveys show that most people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of death. It is estimated that 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety or nervousness when public speaking. 

Such fear is an obstacle people must overcome if they are to be great leaders, but one that can be dealt with before they even embark on the journey.

A study carried out by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) led to the advent of the excellence theory which shows that there are three primary variables for predicting excellence: communicator knowledge; shared expectations about communication and the character of an organisation. 

But the excellence study also shows that communicator expertise is not enough to predict the best practices of public relations. 

There must be shared expectations, or a common understanding, between co-workers in an organisation as well as clients, along with a collaborative culture. 

Perhaps more importantly organisations with participative cultures are more likely to practice public relations using two-way communication and research, which is more effective in helping an organisation meet its goals and objectives.

Furthermore, the survey shows that greater job satisfaction results in more participative cultures.

What is good communication?

Good communication is all about being confident and building it in others, it employs vocal development, developing vocal variety, presentation skills and handling meetings. 

Good communication is distinct from the one-way transaction of expression. It involves the participation of multiple parties that have the willingness to align views and knowledge on a given subject.

And most importantly of all, good communication is when the person delivering the message is authentic. Surveys show again and again that one of the winning factors that make a person a good communicator is “authenticity”. 

A great leader is passionate about what she or he does, can inspire others and also engenders trust.

Good communication means speaking in the language of the organisation and communicating with those within it - not speaking “down” to employees or co-workers. Great leaders often don’t know they are great leaders; they simply set examples that others want to follow. They believe in what they do and what they say, they rule by example and others usually want to follow them. 

The art of storytelling

One of the best ways of communicating a message is by way of storytelling. 

“No doubt about it, the best speakers are good storytellers. The best writers are good storytellers. The best leaders are good storytellers. The best teachers and trainers and coaches are good storytellers. It might even be argued that the best parents are good storytellers. While storytelling is not the only way to engage people with your ideas, it’s certainly a critical part of the recipe,” says Rodger Dean Duncan, a contributor to Forbes magazine in January 2014.

In public relations it is important to engage with both your own organisation and your client’s business, who must understand why there is a public relations strategy in the first place. 

While many people have relied on PowerPoint presentations full of data, numbers, statistics and analytics it is the stories of one’s own life, or a client’s life, that usually engages the public more - no matter how simplistic that is. 

Take ‘refugees’, for example, a cause I’m involved with in Australasia. It’s the story of each refugee; why they were persecuted and how they escaped that engages the public rather than their contribution to society as a whole. 

Perhaps the best communication is when we can convey facts and figures as well as those stories that tell of life’s experiences.

Media training and the context

Good leaders are also aware of their surroundings, both in a physical and organisational sense. They know the context of which they are speaking and the company backstory. These simple things lead to communications success.

Good communication starts with active listening

Listening is one of the most important skills one can have. How well one listens has a major impact on communication, job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. 

It also impacts how well you understand and meet the needs of clients. 

According to Flora Wilke, EY Associate Director for Global PR - Transaction Advisory Services: ‘Relationships are in the DNA of PR. Having lived in Germany, the United States as well as the United Kingdom, I was exposed to a multicultural environment from an early age. I came to understand that there is a lot that connects us and that listening is key to any meaningful relationships.’

‘During times of uncertainty and globalisation, the future of PR will be increasingly built around holding on to those meaningful relationships to future proof our profession.’ 

Lucia Dore is founder and CEO of Lucia Dore Consultancy, a global PR and communication firm with knowledge of the UK, the Middle East and Australasia.

Twitter: @LuciaDore1



Company culture: Managing stress, presenteeism and mental health


Poor mental health is a burgeoning issue, with depression, stress and anxiety rife within the PR industry. This chapter looks at some of the potential reasons for this and provides an action plan for employers looking to proactively address the issue and create a healthy workplace. 

You’ll learn:
•    Why you should take mental health seriously
•    How to identify mental health issues in your company
•    How to increase profitability by tackling those issues effectively

30% of respondents in the 2016 CIPR State of the Profession Survey stated that they are ‘somewhat unhappy’ or ‘not at all happy’ when indicating their level of well-being in their jobs [1]

Nearly a third of UK staff persistently turn up to work ill and only 35% are generally healthy and present, according to the CIPD’s Absence Management Report [2]

The 2016 PRCA Census reported that 12% of those in PR changing their job opted to leave the industry completely for a new career [3]. And the overall level of staff turnover within the public relations industry is around 25% per year.

The statistics are pretty alarming. And the cost to the communications industry of failing to adequately address these issues is huge.

Mental health issues cost the UK £70 billion per year [4] while the annual cost of presenteeism is twice that of absenteeism [2]. Meanwhile, the cost of losing a single employee can be as much as 60% of that employee’s salary. And much of these costs are incurred not through healthcare, benefits, recruitment or training, but lost productivity.

The mental health epidemic

The communications industry is a notoriously high-pressure environment. People work long hours and deal with tight deadlines and demanding clients on an almost daily basis. Public relations regularly features alongside firefighters, airline pilots and police officers in lists of the most stressful careers.

But how often have you heard of someone in PR having a few days off due to stress, anxiety or depression?

Professor Sir Cary Cooper of the Manchester Business School says that: “presenteeism is the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity”. He warns there is a risk that staff are not coping with the competing demands of work and home life. And, given the levels of work-related stress in public relations it is not, I believe, unreasonable to describe the mental health issue in the communications industry as endemic.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2004 and have suffered on and off ever since. About three years ago I started to write about my experiences on Facebook and on my blog, and in May I told my story at the CIPR in support of Mental Health Awareness Week [5].

The striking thing is that every time I share an article about mental health or post about my experiences, I have people message me telling me their own story or looking for support. I’ve lost count of the number of communications professionals I’ve spoken to privately about this in the last few years; some of whom I’ve known or worked with, some of whom I haven’t.

In 2015, the PRCA published data showing that 34% of PR practitioners have been diagnosed with or experienced some form of mental ill health [6]. Make no mistake, depression, stress and anxiety are rife within the public relations industry.

The culture of client first

So why is it the case that communications is so damaging to our mental health? Police officers, firefighters and nurses I can understand; they’re professions that deal with life and death. PR? Not so much. It’s PR not ER, as the saying goes.

The answer lies in the way that the industry deals, or rather doesn’t deal, with personal stress and pressure. Of all the people I’ve spoken to over the last three years, I cannot recall a single person who blamed the job solely for their condition. Every person had personal issues to deal with; illness, family problems, financial issues, divorce, death.

And that is where we fall down and why we have such a big problem. The culture in the public relations industry is that the job comes first. 

We are encouraged to be ‘always on’; to say ‘yes’ to every client demand no matter how unreasonable; to meet unrealistic deadlines. If there is blame to be had, the uncomfortable truth is that it has to lie with those responsible for reinforcing and perpetuating this culture within companies.

It makes little sense. Pushing people too hard can lead to emotional trauma and, ultimately, burnout. And stress, anxiety and depression have a significant and damaging effect on individual performance levels.

Lack of motivation and low productivity are commonplace among those suffering with poor mental health. 

No agency management personnel would ever admit, or perhaps even believe, that they put their clients before their employees. And yet I have heard stories from those suffering, and experienced first hand, a serious lack of compassion, people being put on performance reviews and issues being paid lip service to.

Failure to address such issues in the short term is far more costly in the long term in all sorts of ways, not least client retention, recruitment and training costs and, ultimately, profitability.

Part of the problem is simply that there is a lack of understanding of what poor mental health is and of what to do about it. There’s still a great deal of stigma around depression and, quite simply, it isn’t talked about enough. Agency leaders don’t know where to turn to for advice.

Identifying poor mental health

Recognising that an employee is suffering from a mental health issue is not easy, especially given that the communications industry is high pressure at the best of times. But there are a few things to look for that might alert you.

Stress, anxiety and depression manifest themselves in different ways. And a case of ‘the blues’ isn’t really one of them. The key common indicators are motivation, productivity and general performance. If these have dipped uncharacteristically, it’s a warning sign that something is wrong.

But over and above performance, there are other indicators to be aware of. Mood is a big one. For me personally, I become very intolerant and tetchy if a depressive episode is on its way and I’ve learned to spot this and act on it sooner rather than later. So if you know someone who is normally fairly level-headed but is being unusually temperamental, absent minded and/or erratic, it’s possible they’re suffering from stress.

Sleep is another issue. When depressed, some people suffer terribly from insomnia while others struggle to get up in the morning. Either way, if you have an employee who seems to be so tired that they can hardly function, it might not be because they spent all weekend on the razz.

Another big indicator is diet. Again, this varies; while some people don’t want to eat anything when their mental health is poor, others can’t stop themselves. So an employee who appears to be losing or gaining weight rapidly may have a problem with depression or anxiety.

The key is to be aware of all of the symptoms and to have a management structure that watches for them. One person alone cannot possibly be responsible for the mental health of your company; if you’re serious about tackling the problem (and don’t kid yourself that you don’t have a problem) you have to bake it into everyone who manages people.

An action plan

Perhaps the most significant thing you can do to address the mental health issue in your own organisation is to be proactive about it. Don’t wait for your staff to approach you with their problems, because they won’t.

There are many reasons depression and anxiety are so rife but so hidden in the communications industry, but they all tend to lead back to stigma. PR professionals are taught not to show weakness. They fear that admitting they’re struggling to cope at any given time will damage their credibility and career prospects, so they keep quiet. And I speak from personal experience.

But you can break this cycle. Resolve right now to implement a culture that acknowledges mental health issues. Be proactive. 

Much of this will come from your management team and encouraging open dialogue among all levels of your organisation. It has to be implemented from the top down, with each level responsible for looking after the level directly below them. Encourage others to keep a watchful eye on those they manage as a part of their job role. Shield employees from pressure where you can instead of piling it on them. 

Don’t patronise people, but do provide escape mechanisms where employees can work in different ways if they need to from time to time. Simple things like flexible working hours can help anyone struggling with mornings or unable to sleep. Similarly, the option to work remotely is useful where someone is struggling to cope with the pressures of the office or dealing with people (which is common, as many depressed people simply want to hide away and be by themselves).

Think outside the box a little too. What about banning out of hours emails? People in the UK have the longest working hours in the EU [2] and a joint study by Lehigh University and Colorado State University [7] found that spending time on after hours work contributed to emotional exhaustion, increasing stress and negatively affected job performance. Just the ‘assumed availability’ of email is enough to create constant stress.

Be proactive

Above anything else though, don’t do any of this to pay lip service to the issue. Hard wire the approach into your management structure, hire someone to train your staff on recognising mental health issues and dealing with them. Teach people to show genuine concern for those suffering, approach them openly and ask how you can help with their recovery.

Don’t sweep presenteeism, stress, depression and mental health under the carpet. Make a commitment to tackle the problem and it will pay dividends in happier employees, increased productivity and greater profitability.

Case study

Focus PR is leading the way when it comes to operating a progressive approach towards mental health. The management team believes in prevention rather than cure and operates an ‘open door policy’ to create a nurturing culture.

“We don’t have a history of people being signed off from work with mental health problems, but there have been occasions where steps we’ve taken have potentially prevented them arising”, says Adrienne Conlon, Head of Operations.

Team members tackling personal issues are supported on a case-by-case basis, and assistance may include steps such as: access to paid time off so that an individual can manage a situation and return to work with a fresh head; paid time off to attend counselling sessions; the ability to start or finish earlier or later, or to work from home; and redistribution of workload.

Focus also provides a self-referral private healthcare plan that includes elements such as cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and GP video consultations with a maximum 48 hour wait, all of which is handled directly and privately.

“We don’t believe in ‘burning and churning’ our team,” says Conlon, “and as a direct result of the care we show them, 40% of our team have been with us for over three years.”









Paul Sutton is an independent digital media consultant who is as passionate about addressing the mental well-being of the communications industry as he is about improving the social media return on investment of his clients. He has helped a diverse range of organisations to improve the effectiveness of their social media marketing, from large brands like Honda and L’Oreal to start-ups and small companies near his Oxfordshire home. He has now developed a service to assist communications agencies with implementing a best practice approach to mental health understanding and provision. For more information, visit

Twitter: @ThePaulSutton

Growing pains: Moving from an entrepreneurial to a professional structure


The descriptor ‘entrepreneur’ conjures up images of a dynamic individual, driven, ambitious, creative...perhaps a little maverick. Working with an entrepreneur and within an entrepreneurial structure can feel exciting and may be particularly attractive to today’s graduating work force – a millennial population that has torn up the rulebook on professional progression and the traditional career path. However, in order to grow a business with entrepreneurial roots, it is necessary to develop the established structure, moving focus and pressure away from the founding individual, in order to empower the team and ultimately realise the business’s true long term potential. 

You’ll learn:
•    To identify key areas of pressure and anxiety build-up within the agency
•    How to lessen team dependency through delegated decision making and shift to a professional structure
•    That the operational clarity delivered through a professional structure need not be to the detriment of creativity associated with entrepreneurialism

Underlying anxiety identified within the PR industry

When broken down, the skillset required of the consummate PR professional goes beyond tangible capabilities, such as release writing, client reporting or event management. It even goes beyond the less tangible requirements of the capacity for creative thought and far-reaching network development. 

I believe a truly talented PR has an innate ability to instil total confidence in their client - nurturing and developing that client’s trust in their counsel and dependency on their services - whilst maintaining a professional and detached position, which keeps one eye on agency profit and the other on further opportunities for business. 

However, walking the fine line between satisfying both agency and client needs can, in fact, be the source of great anxiety for agency teams. Often, while people might be aware of feeling anxious, the source of the anxiety is not explored and therefore a solution cannot be found. This is particularly true of businesses built on an entrepreneurial structure and if left unaddressed can start to have a detrimental affect on the day-to-day working and operations of the agency. 

The solution? A move towards a more professional structure – one which incorporates a distinct delegated decision making framework that will empower its agency members and shift team dialogue, taking everyday interactions from the personal to the professional. 

The entrepreneurial structure examined

There is a universal defining element that identifies an entrepreneurial structure regardless of industry or sector - an acute dependence on a single individual (or ‘leader’) at the top of the working hierarchy. 

Such a dependency can distract an entire agency away from the professional task at hand and towards a focus on the personal:


Whilst initially, one person making all decisions can make an agency nimble, reactive, as well as proactive and fast moving, in time, should business growth be the objective, the leader will be unable to continue addressing / tackling the volume of decisions required of him/her. Unfortunately, the existing team (used to working within an entrepreneurial structure) is unlikely to be equipped to engage in the decision making process required of them, having not previously been granted the freedom to make such judgements for themselves. 

The team’s reluctance to take control, driven by anxiety around making mistakes, can be seen by the leader as a shirking of responsibility and a reluctance to assume accountability. 

The leader, far from reassured by the team’s efforts, may feel it necessary to take back control, which in turn keeps the team in a dependent state. This dependent state will feel less anxiety provoking to the team and they will lean towards the more comfortable position of operating within the boundaries of the known, rather than unknown, structure. 

The potential for sustainable business growth at this point becomes virtually impossible. 


With dependency comes familiarity. Whilst a friendly working environment can be productive and comfortable to work within, it is more important when it comes to discussing client work and related tasks that professionalism be maintained. The danger within an entrepreneurial structure, where personalities (most notably the leader) are inherently the focus of the staff hierarchy, feedback to the team can risk feeling personal rather than professional. Agency line managers may struggle to find a way to clearly communicate their expectations of an individual’s output, leaving little against which to judge performance. 

Over time, the development of the team, key to the development of the business, can become a struggle as individuals continue to be held in a dependent state, where they are unclear on performance expectations and their own career progression. The team, regardless of their talent and capability, will eventually lose motivation. 

Moving towards a professional structure

The key to addressing this dependent state and a demotivated team, is to shift the agency towards a professional structure.

This shift requires the entrepreneur to take a bold step towards implementing a delegated decision making framework for the entire team (from the most junior to the most senior team players). All decisions delegated should be grade appropriate and clearly communicated to the agency overall, but then decided on within account teams on a project-by-project basis. 

The relinquishing of control and the responsibility of new found autonomy will be anxiety provoking for the leader and the team respectively. But, just as with the inherent anxiety felt when working in PR, it is important for this to be identified and acknowledged. It should be made clear to the team that allowances will be made for mistakes and that this is an acceptable part of the agency’s development as a whole. 

If the leader is fully committed to and supportive of the transition, they will start to see the team assume a greater level of accountability around their work and in turn apply increased consideration and thought moving forwards. The team will slowly move towards a place of empowerment and the intense pressure, previously felt by the leader, will dissipate. 

The tools to maintaining a professional structure

Physically documented framework

Just as a good agency has detailed job specifications available for existing and prospective employees to refer to, for the delegated decision making framework to be effective, it is necessary to have clear guidelines available for the team to go back to. 

These should detail more than just payment approval limits and include tasks such as: at what level a press release can be signed off or what supplier should be used, through to the agreement of a scope of client work within a specified budget. 

These specifications act as a guideline to setting up the roles and responsibilities on individual client projects and immediately set clear expectations of what is required of a team member. Creating a document template, where all decisions and responsibilities are laid out in black and white, will deliver clarity for all involved. 

Should a decision not be made by an individual, it is understood that this will be noted and professional feedback will be expected. This clarity of expectation (and a move away from the personal) will lead to a less anxious dynamic between team members. 

A professional structure working for the agency as a whole

Embedding a new way of working takes time and effort and it is vital that allowances are made for teething problems along the way. But, once established, the path will be clear for sustainable business growth. 

•    Not only will the leadership team be freed up to focus on longer term business development, but the wider team will feel a greater sense of empowerment and, as a consequence, commitment to the agency. 

•    Clarity of expectation will allow line managers to feedback on work, safe in the knowledge it will be received in a professional rather than personal way. 

•    The team will feel confident in their career progression and valued by the business, with the framework of output expectation and decision making a benchmarking tool that individuals (across all grades) can use to clearly demonstrate their professional progression. This in turn cannot be ignored by the senior team. 

Of course, it is important not to rubbish the entrepreneurial structure from which a professional one develops. It is, after all, the crucial driver that delivers a business to this stage. But the key is knowing when to embrace the next stage of your agency’s life cycle!

Alicia Mellish is founder and MD of Stir PR. Starting out as one person with a laptop, the last six years has seen Stir grow and develop to a successful mid-sized agency with a client list of impressive food, drink and lifestyle brands. Today, Stir is part of Captivate, a group of multi discipline marketing agencies that value connected thinking combined with specialist execution. When not working, Alicia can be found sailing the high seas or seeking out, photographing (or buying) quirky interior design and furniture. 

Twitter: @StirPRLondon

Staff salaries: Handling wage inflation and salary bandings


Managing expectations around wages requires transparency so that people understand fair pay and the path ahead, an awareness of individual motivations and for teams to be outward and well as inward-looking, so that they see salaries in context of what’s happening in the world around them.

You’ll learn:
•    About how personal values drive what staff members expect from their salary package
•    The benefits of payscale transparency
•    Why it’s important to help employees understand market forces and the impact these have on business

Expectation management, in an industry that is still evolving to better prove its value, has long been important. We’ve covered the shifts in client expectations, but the management of expectations around staff salaries continues to be a direct and pressing one, with a battle for talent prominent across agencies and in-house departments.

In many ways, plus ca change; most people will always push for more, particularly when they work for a time and expenses-driven, people-focused business or team. Yet expectations are not as simple as they used to be, meaning there are far broader considerations, and these will probably continue to diversify.

The reality is that we don’t just work in a fast-changing sector, we live in a fast-changing world. Which means that expectations around wages in communications have to be assessed and managed in the wider context of the economy, of employment, but above all of the values that individuals hold dear, which is the most direct driver of their motivations and aspirations around what they earn.

Shifting values

Consider this: I started a full-time job in the summer of 1992. The UK was still trying to claw its way out of a recession that began in 1989 following the heady years of the mid-1980s. People were chasing roles, desperate to get a first foot on the ladder and happy to land a job. But a few months in, I was eyeing the next rung on the ladder, plotting a course for the next few years of multiple promotions and responsibility conventionally beyond my years. And I’d been to see a mortgage broker.

Yes, I was trying to save for a deposit and buy my first home. Home ownership mattered to me, because I valued it highly. Roll forward the clock a few years and ahead of making account director at a London agency I bought my second home, a London flat.

Compare that with the landscape of aspiring, rapidly-rising communications professionals today. They have sky-high rents, living costs jumping up and an uncertain economic outlook, compounded by Brexit and a sector that is adjusting to rapid transformation. Motivations are clearly different on the first few rungs of the ladder, when the prospect of home ownership seems unrealistic, particularly for those living and working in London.

This is just one example of how values have shifted as work and economic realities have moved on. But it points to a broader picture of shifts in values between generations. My lot were 80s kids, entering the market in the shadow of the still largely vacant Canary Wharf, desperate to claw their way upwards. Today, values have changed, and there are indications that young people likely to enter the workforce in the next few years will be even more concerned with family, enjoyment and the contribution they make to society [1], and less so with what they earn.

Even, fair and clear

These values and motivational factors are what they are, a by-product of society and the economy that the communications business can do little about. What employers can get a grip on though, in managing expectations, is what they should really always be doing anyway - respond to those values and beliefs with an approach to remuneration that is even, fair and above all clear.

One of the things that senior managers can often forget is that while they may have full visibility over what people get paid and what salaries are allocated to different job levels, at the more junior levels, where the war for talent can be equally frenetic, many people simply don’t know what they can expect to be paid at the next rung up, or once they’re much further up the ladder. And reliance on hearsay can be a very dangerous thing.

For their own financial performance management, businesses of course need to work to salary scales. While many of us will have seen exceptions to that rule – agencies, for example, where rises and pay grades seem to sometimes be allotted arbitrarily – the reality is that attracting and retaining talent while running a profitable people-based business depends on having a realistic salary scale that governs what people get paid at different levels. And as the conventional hierarchy continues to diversify, with more varied job titles reflecting a more varied media and communications landscape, that becomes more challenging.

Clarity, to a point

Whether agencies and in-house departments choose to make those bandings public is another matter. Most will reveal to individuals what the salary range is at their current level, and being clear on the next level up, as the carrot is dangled, is typically good practice too. Some go as far as publishing the entire salary scale internally, which while perhaps commendable is trickier for larger businesses and even more complicated as job roles diversify and the scope of earned, paid and owned media services expands to the point where comparing apples with apples pay-wise becomes unfeasible.

Whatever the desired approach though, it’s important to ensure that salary scales are reviewed regularly so that they keep pace with market progress and competitive forces. Industry bodies publish them based on market data, as do recruitment firms, but in my experience these vary pretty widely, and conversations with peers who have an ear to the ground is a better way of assessing what’s current and how things might be shifting.

The real world

The reality, of course, is that salaries and salary inflation in communications will always have some parallels with roles in other walks of business life. We do not work in an industry where mega-bonuses froth the picture in boom years, or where the demand for talent gives rise to an unrealistic escalation in what people can get paid for the value they provide. If the economy is tight, there will likely be a knock-on effect in many areas of communications, and those tailwinds can be felt at resourcing and salary levels in communications, naturally. We get paid real world salaries, on the whole.

Equally, employers need to ensure that their teams understand the market forces and commercial imperatives that shape how much they get paid, and how much they can get paid in the future. Growing businesses create more opportunities for the people who work for them. Services that hold greater value have the capacity to be charged at correspondingly higher prices, meaning those who create higher value stand to share in the spoils. 

Rapid economic growth creates new openings and new possibilities, which can enhance earning potential and accelerate career development. Inflation – while near-nil in the UK for some years now – can be a negative pressure unless it corresponds with market and fee or rate growth.

Equally, uncertainty, stagnant economic outlooks, market pressures and hesitancy amongst those who pay the bills to invest in services can constrict earning potential. While few of us in communications may have formal qualifications in economics, the fact that economies can be like balloons or bubbles that expand or contract, but where activity has consequences in different or opposing directions, is ever-present. 

If there simply is no more headroom to increase the overall wage bill, then that’s how it is. We’re all in it together, as they say. For employers, the persistent battle is to get the right people in the right places, with the right staff cost to revenue ratio to help support the achievement of target profit levels.

Transparency and confidence

Above all then, the main factors in managing expectations around wages tend to be transparency so that people understand fair pay and the path ahead, a full understanding of the factors that motivate people to do their jobs and to ensure that teams are outward and well as inward-looking, so that they see salaries in context of what’s happening in the world around them.

It’s easier said than done of course, and understanding human behaviour is as important if not more important than understanding commercial realities. Above all, one thing is clear: the more confident a sector communications is, and the more able it is to prove value, the greater the potential rewards and the prospects for us all.



Steve Earl Entrepreneur, former journalist and self-confessed cycloholic Steve Earl runs Zeno’s European operations. As co-author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals, both published by Bloomsbury, there is little he doesn’t know about reputational risk and the opportunities for progressive PR.

Twitter: @mynameisearl