This week in PR (12 June)

About the author

Richard Bailey FCIPR MPRCA is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Edward Colston @amisue94
Edward Colston @amisue94

News in brief

  • A long two weeks ago, this digest was dominated by talk about Dominic Cummings. That seemed to need no explanation given our focus on public relations from a UK perspective. One week ago, George Floyd was the talking point. Less obvious, perhaps, but events in the US have sparked conversations and introspection over here. My name this week is an even more distant one. In Bristol, Edward Colston has progressed over the past three centuries from wealthy merchant to generous benefactor to toxic symbol of slavery. The ditching of his statue into the harbour last weekend was a symbolic event of living history and of the ever-changing and contested nature of reputation. 
  • Edelman has withdrawn from the ‘Relaunch Hong Kong‘ tender process according to PRovoke Media.
  • PR Week has announced its 30 under 30 list
  • Media intelligence company CARMA has analysed the story of Captain (now Colonel) Tom Moore and his fundraising and presented it as a case study demonstrating the power of PR with lessons about the enduring value of media coverage, backed by exemplary use of data.
  • Hamish Thompson, compiler of The Buzzsaw, has named the worst buzzwords and phrases of 2020. The first five are: curated, content, disambiguate, human capital, the new normal.

Covid-19 comms

  • Amanda Coleman: This is no recovery (11 June)
    ‘We have become used to a crisis that runs for a finite period of time. They start, run for possibly a week or two and then we are heading towards recovery. It has all felt very neat and tidy. Once we get towards recovery we are starting to pick up life as it was. But Covid-19 is not like anything we have experienced in our lifetime. This is a crisis that we are all going to have to learn to live with.’
  • Jane Harris: 7 lessons shared – behind the scenes comms insight from a Nightingale hospital (9 June)
    ‘We strive for our communications to be human, kind, warm and compassionate. We’ve been honest about our purpose and consistent in our messaging. We’ve put our people at the heart of it and their voice is our voice.’
  • David Brain: Not everything’s a Covid story (8 June)
    ‘Diversity legislation, the fierce competition for talent, globalisation and technology advances over the last decade and more has done at least as much as COVID-19 for flexible working, but that’s a bit dull and takes more words.’

Wellbeing, gender and diversity

  • Adam Driver: Insights from #CoronaCon part one (10 June)
    ‘Polly [Cziok] was honest, direct and a superb speaker about comms in general. An awesome presentation on local government’s response to the crisis on a local level, she represented #localgov comms – and the world of PR – in a superb way.’
  • Ben Lowndes: Toppling Colston’s statue could be an iconic moment for Bristol (9 June)
    ‘Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees, Europe’s first directly elected black mayor, didn’t resort to condemning protestors. In thoughtful interviews yesterday, he said he felt the statue was an ‘affront’ to him, and felt no sense of loss for its removal.’
  • Jo Chileshe: Why we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable talking about race (9 June)
    ‘Talking about race isn’t always easy – some colleagues in my own team have openly admitted that they felt fearful of saying the wrong thing and, as a result, have kept silent. We’re all going to get it wrong at some point – that doesn’t make us evil, it doesn’t make us hate-filled.’
  • Teela Clayton: Viva la revolucion! Black Lives Matter (8 June)
    ‘The disproportionate number of the BAME community who have died from Covid has foregrounded the robust conversations we need to have about institutional racism in the UK. And perhaps that would have been just another statistic had the US not been set on fire after George Floyd’s senseless murder; another Black life extinguished by police brutality and systemic racism.’
  • Sherawaye Hagger: An open letter to my British PR colleagues on diversity and inclusion. (8 June)
    ‘The last few weeks have been uncomfortable for me. I cannot speak for my black colleagues but I can speak as a non-white PR professional, as a Londoner, and as a parent who is forced to think about the legacy she will leave. Race is still a difficult topic to discuss in our industry.’
  • Mark Pinsent: Do not fear the opportunity to do better (5 June)
    ‘I’ve largely sailed through life for a number of key reasons. I’m white, male, had a very comfortable, stable upbringing, I’m moderately intelligent and I’m told I’m a nice guy. These factors opened up opportunities for me, and it wasn’t difficult to take them. Being white and male have, without any doubt, played a disproportionate part.’
  • Advita Patel: Step up and call out… my reflection (5 June)
    ‘She said: “The thing is Advita, I’m a black woman, and you’re Asian, people won’t like us stepping above our station and if we want to progress we need to work harder than everyone else!” 
  • Harriet Small: Now you know (5 June)
    ‘John Boyega said this week that he was worried about his career. I understand and feel dread for my own, as I talk about racism.  Your silence is because there is a feeling of being uncomfortable and unease, while mine is because I want to keep the roof over my head.’
  • Bieneosa Ebite and Paul Nezandonyi: PR Bants: Black Lives Matter [podcast] (5 June)
    ‘We’ve talked about unconscious bias, but it’s so ingrained in people. Black people, BME people, have had to live with it, deal with it, cope with it. Maybe this will lead to change.’

Purpose and professionalism

  • Harriet King: Why PR agencies are aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (no date)
    ‘A lot of agencies are talking about the idea of ‘purpose’ at the moment. But how do they showcase that? Our team felt it was important for us to demonstrate what we are doing rather than just talking – we are actually acting on purpose. We manifest this through our working practices, how we recruit, our environmental performance and how we support local communities.’
  • Carol Borchert: Science communications: the importance of facts in an increasingly faux science world (8 June)
    ‘According to a recent poll from the Yale Program on Scientific Communication, approximately 31% of Americans don’t believe in climate change, despite overwhelming scientific evidence. How do we align science with belief, especially if we have members of our audiences who fall into the climate deniers camp?’
  • Jude Tipper: The way we do things around here (7 June)
    ‘I couldn’t bear to name it ‘our behaviours’ or ‘our culture’ or some other over-abused organisational development nonsense. So, instead, I kept the title simple. And here it is, in all its glory. The way we do things around here.’
  • Martin Flegg: Get chartered and save the world (6 June)
    ‘It’s also about building the credibility of our entire profession and shifting the perception that public relations, and particularly internal communication, are things which just anybody can do well.’

Consulting, teams and careers

  • Paul Wilkinson: Covid-19 and me, the small limited company owner (11 June)
    ‘Last week, new research by University of Edinburgh Business School in association with IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) – now increasingly looking beyond the IR35 issue – revealed that one in five highly skilled freelancers expect to have to close their business because of the COVID-19 crisis.’
  • Kate Mallinson: Sharing the stories of best kept secrets (11 June)
    ‘Part of the challenge for our own clients is not selling the product or service, but educating third parties to understand that they have a problem which needs solving to begin with. Therefore, the ability to create debate or draft thought-provoking comms is something which we find genuinely exciting – however geeky that might sound.’
  • Ben Smith: Phil Hall, chairman of PHA Group, on the PRmoment podcast (10 June)
    ‘We’ve got four floors at Hammer House in Soho – but this Zoom era is coming. If anybody’s out there looking to move offices, we could do them a deal.’
  • Claire Etchell: Laura Sutherland Director & Founder of Aura PR | Getting Naked With Interview (10 June)
    ‘I’ve been a volunteer to our industry, in numerous roles, for over 11 years. I firmly believe you get out what you put in. I’ve always said that. I’ve chaired Scotland groups, been a Board Director and Council member and now, I chair the CIPR Fellows’ Forum and chair the PRCA Scotland group.’
  • Michael White: Some thoughts on 2020 so far (10 June)
    ‘As all you need is a laptop and mobile in this industry, it’s hardly surprising that the world is seeking to understand the purpose of an office. Sitting at a desk in London is something that costs me nearly £3,000 a year in travel costs. Ouch.’
  • Darryl Sparey: Timing is everything – Launching an agency right now is a risky endeavour (8 June)
    ‘While we can’t control the economic world around us, we can control how we respond to it. And if we focus, work hard, give great service to our clients, and stay lucky, maybe Hard Numbers has got a fighting chance of making a go of it.’

Public and third sectors

  • Dawn Reeves: One story for local government? it’s crazy, vital, and totally possible (9 June)
    ‘It’s a challenge [to] get to the essence of what, how and why we do what we do. Local government holds thousands of stories. But we know why we’re here – to protect, mobilise, collaborate, enable, empower, build, reshape and more – and we know we are trusted to knit together our social fabric. Today this matters more than ever and we owe it to all the people we serve to share our stories.’

Politics, public affairs and public sphere

  • Stuart Thomson: The art of an effective briefing paper: 10 do’s and don’ts (11 June)
    ‘My approach to public affairs is that it should be pro-active. Opportunities do not often just land at your feet. Instead you have to go out there, develop the networks and have a well-developed argument. In many instances, this argument will come together in a briefing paper.’
  • Jason Mackenzie: The craft of communications and the coming culture war (8 June)
    ‘The old rules no longer apply. Cummings would not have survived in the pre-Trump era. The US President’s relentless refusal to adhere to convention has crossed the Atlantic. There’s a willingness to stand up to received wisdom, herd mentality and the prevailing media narrative.’
  • Steve Marinker: It’s taken me a fortnight to figure out why Dominic Cummings is brilliant (8 June)
    ‘I sensed at the time of the Rose Garden briefing that we – the whole nation – were being manipulated, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. This weekend it came back into focus thanks to President Trump.’

Campaigns and creativity

  • Jessica Pardoe: Creative Campaigns #13 – Chester Zoo Fights For Its Future (10 June)
    ‘There’s a few reasons why I think the ‘#SaveOurZoo’ campaign worked so well. Firstly, it was open and honest. The Zoo told us how much it costs to feed their animals every month, the debt they were in and how much they needed to keep going.’
  • Stephen Waddington: Holding out for a hero (9 June)
    ‘Media intelligence firm CARMA has recorded the incredible story of Captain Tom Moore’s £32.8m fundraising effort in a special report. It’s a lesson in life and PR.’

Brands, storytelling, and influence

  • Orlagh Shanks: Why Brands Need Diversity in Marketing (10 June)
    ‘Why does it take calling out a brand before they realize the errors of their ways? Why isn’t diversity one of their top values as a company? It shouldn’t take Twitter police to make something viral before a company realizes that they are doing wrong.’
  • Sarah Waddington: Why Yorkshire Tea got its #BLM response wrong (9 June)
    ‘Brands need to move past performative behaviour – in short from words to actions. Organisations wanting to build their social capital need to do so authentically and for the right reasons – not cynically, in the hunt for social media gains.’
  • Scott Guthrie: 1-in-4 online ad complaints are influencer posts says report (5 June)
    ‘Complaints about influencer posts made up more than a quarter of all online advertising complaints according to the ASA and CAP 2019 annual report.’

Internal communication

Technology, media and digital

  • Daniel Lowther: Fintech PR in the age of Covid-19 (no date)
    ‘The fintech winners and losers have been fiercely debated. One group that is facing new threats and opportunities is media publications.’ 
  • Paul Sutton with Matt Anderson: Beyond Covid: Ecommerce & online behaviour (10 June)
    ‘The ‘new normal’ will involve more ways of being able to enrich the online experience. VR has accelerated because of the lockdown; software that once seemed gimmicky now makes sense.’
  • Stuart Bruce: Is TikTok just for kids and fun brands or can corporate PR use it? (8 June)
    ‘TikTok content can be anything you want so it’s quite possible to do short how-to, explainer or even news videos. The key is keeping an element of creativity and fun. There are lots of corporate, governmental and media TikTok accounts that use its video creatively for education, information, campaigning and promotion.’
  • Kerry Sheehan: Required skills in PR are evolving: We need AI innovators (8 June)
    ‘PR is already behind the other professions in AI education and upskilling and the gap looks to now be widening. It’s imperative we close this gap whilst we can, particularly now the business mandate globally, accelerated due to the pandemic, is innovation.’