Blog post: The state of our once globally respected Press and the chase for clicks…

I just came across this article on the Telegraph’s website this evening:

“Will the 2017 solar eclipse cause a secret planet called ‘Nibiru’ to destroy Earth next month?”

It even has a countdown!?!

The once great Telegraph with 1.6m readers back in the 1990s, publisher of the MP Expenses Scandal back in 2009. The Telegraph that claims to be trusted the world over.

Today it published a story so far away from its ideals that I had to check I hadn’t been caught up in a spoof.

Quite obviously, the answer is no. So what evidence is the Telegraph using to support this story – editorial standards and all that?? Let’s take a look:

“Despite the lack evidence” the article states.

So why is it being printed? Straight off. There is no evidence, so how has the ramblings of a nut job, who is basing his theory that the world will end next month of a line from the bible, getting quoted in a ‘quality’ daily newspaper?

How has the UK press got into such a state that this is deemed as editorially acceptable??

Quite simply it is clicks. The more clicks, the more readers, the more advertising money. So a story about the end of the world is bound to draw in some non-traditional Telegraph readers (worked for me…), so the fact that it is inane nonsense from a nut job does not stop in appearing on the site.

And we wonder why the reputation of our press is taking such a hit these days…


Blog Post: Why the Pepsi advert and United Airlines debacles prove Boards need a corporate affairs voice

Last week we were all talking about how the Execs at Pepsi managed to approve THAT advert. This week we’re talking about United Airlines. Again. Barely days after miss-handling the incident over leggings, now we are all talking about their response to a viral video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a recent fight, blood stained face and all – a great way to look after customers.

He was removed because the flight was overbooked. Ignoring the issue around how did they not know it was full BEFORE everyone got on, and why drag him by his hair off, it’s their response to the video going viral that is of interest to me. Especially considering the Independent is reporting that United Airlines forcibly removed over 3.5k passengers in 2016, you would have thought they had a pretty good crisis response plan for this.

First of all, here is the CEO of United Airlines Oscar Munoz:

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation”

 “Re-accommodate” – I think he means to drag, pull and injure someone while removing them from the flight. While it sounds like PR talk, I hope this wasn’t the work of the PR team, as all it has done is further flame the fire they are already engulfed in. It is also a non-apology apology. He is apologising for having to remove these customers, not for the way it was done (badly) or accepting responsibility for the fault. “reach out”/ ”resolve this situation” – no-one talks like this and it does not come across as particularly sincere. The investigation is a good start (as long as that doesn’t mean kick into the long grass and hope everyone loses interest), but I’m not sure why it needed quite so many words to say there will be a full investigation into what happened.

So as well as there being a viral video being shown across the globe of a United Airlines passenger being assaulted while being forced to leave the plane, we now have the “re-accommodate” response.

United also released the following statement:

 “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”

“after looking for volunteers” “one customer refused leave” – so not much of a volunteer then was he guys! Again, they are apologising for overbooking the flight. Not beating up one of their passengers (or at least allowing one to be beaten up).

As with the Pepsi debacle last week, this should remind us all of the importance of having an experienced PR/Media relations voice at the Top Table. Not reporting into HR, or Sales/Marketing Director, but a Corporate Affairs voice on the Board. There is no-way an experienced Corporate Affairs Director, with a background in media relations would have watched the Pepsi advert and not thought “Whoa, really? Are we actually doing this?”. And in the case of United Airlines, they would have quickly been able to get hold of this story, apologised (for the overbooking, and the process – that clearly doesn’t work – and the violent assault), investigated and promised to improve the process/future approach to overbooking. It wouldn’t have stopped the video going viral, but we wouldn’t all be here talking about another terrible response to a crisis and Googling the definition of “volunteer”

Although, I suppose one good outcome of this may be that United Airlines won’t have to worry about overbooking for a while.

#UPDATE# Since writing this piece the esteemed CEO of United Airlines has emailed all staff and called the customer in question “disruptive and belligerent” – there is good overview on the BBC here, as well as some examples of other airline PR ‘issues’

More detail on the United Airlines story here:

And if you’ve been on a desert island without people, news or the internet, here’s a bit on the Pepsi advert:


CIPR State of Profession Report 2017 – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


I finally got around to looking at the CIPR’s State of Profession 2017 report that they published a few weeks ago. Below are my thoughts on the findings.

The Good

  • Strategic planning is up 10% (69% vs 59% in 2016):

So this is an encouraging piece of news and suggests that strategy is becoming more prevalent within the industry. As some who is obsessed with strategy (some say in an unhealthy way) and the importance of doing things as part of a strategic objective, and not just for the sake of doing something, this is music to my ears. Invariably, PR teams are small, there is only so much we can do and achieve, so hopefully this direction of travel will continue and we will see more work being done for ‘strategic’ reasons.

  • Diversity – fewer asking for a Degree:

While there is still bad news (see below) around diversity, there is a little a bit of good news, in that the number of recruiters demanding undergraduate degrees from junior candidates fell by four points. While it’s still at 52%, I’m pleased to see it moving in the right direction. I have written before about this but this obsession with a University Degree still confuses me. My experience from launching the PR Apprenticeship taught me that there is so much energy and talent and enthusiasm and quality out there from those who didn’t want to go to university, who didn’t fancy it, despite having the grades and knowledge, so why not tap into that!?! We really do need to be a bit more clever sometimes.

  • Increasing salaries:

Also good to see an increase in salaries from 2016 numbers – suggests the industry is still in a good shape and still growing. Words I like to hear during uncertain times.

  • The importance of diversity in campaigns.

Another encouraging result from the survey was the increase in practitioners who agreed that campaigns were more effective with diverse teams. This is up to 59% from 51%. I have to wonder why 39% would disagree with this? As an industry that is 90% white, 86% University educated, how we are supposed to run campaigns that target minorities or want to reach across the country? That intelligence, that insight, is vital. It needs to be harnessed as much as. Different people react differently to different messages and different media. A diverse team can create better campaigns that are more likely to cross these boundaries and ultimately be more successful and prove a higher return on the investment of our clients.


The Bad

  • Only 4% fear ‘automation’

This is a concern. I believe that a lot of our work is going to disappear over the next 10-15 years – like a lot of industries. We are already seeing an impact in areas like media monitoring – when I started out it was us that had to scour the papers and trade publications for our client’s mentions (and woe behold when anything was missed), now it’s all automated. I also remember spending nearly a whole day sending fax invites to 650 MPs to invite them to an event – speed dialling and mail/email merge wasn’t a thing back then. Proofreading/editing has been ‘supported’ by the computer for 20 years (and thankfully it has been, my spelling is still dodgy, and without spellchecker, I would not be as successful as I have been). But how long until content creation is automated. Computers can already write copy from scratch, maybe not as well as the well trained and emotional input of the human being, but how long until they can write crisp, quality copy in half the time of us?? Translation, social media, research, are all going the way of the computer.

Obviously, there is still strategy and the emotional understanding of the human and human interaction that I wonder if a computer will ever truly understand, but that won’t need as many practitioners as it needs now.

I expect there will be a lot less work for us all over the next 10-15 years, and hardly anyone in the industry seems to be worried about this.

  • Tightening budgets and the impact of Brexit

Unsurprisingly budgets are being tightened. We are in uncertain times, and no-one really knows the impact that Brexit is going to have, so we have to keep doing more for less, and actually I always like to see us challenged on offering value for money and do we need to spend as much as we do. 57% think that Brexit will have a negative impact, and there was 8% who thought it would be positive! But I am putting that 8% to the Comms team in Conservative Central Office and the handful in UKIP who have to keep up the pretence that Brexit is a good idea.

  • Internal comms importance reducing

Also worrying was the drop in the importance to internal communications – down by 3%. This may be statistically insignificant and just down to different recipients, but internal comms is so important I worry when it drops even a little bit. I have blogged about its importance before, and I still feel the same. There really is little point in spending £££ on a great PR campaign, to convince your publics that you are something, when the employees, the people who live and breathe the organisation, who engage with said publics every day are not on board or not happy or don’t feel engaged. They should be your first priority, not an afterthought, and the fact that they have dropped in importance, suggests that my message has not got through. I must do better!

  • Mental health low

A little red flag to me was that 90% of responders said they didn’t have any mental health issues. Considering PR is one of the most stressful jobs about, is there really so few of us with mental health issues, or is it so stigmatised, such a thing that is not conducive to successful career in PR that we don’t talk about. Or are we not educating our teams on mental health, and how important it is. Are people leaving the industry due to mental health issues as we’re not offering the support they deserve?

I don’t know the answer to a lot of these, but I think we should try to find out.


The Ugly

  • 90% white, 86% University educated

90% white. 86% university educated. Let’s just look at those stats for a moment. As an industry, we have been talking about the lack of diversity for decades. And yet, we are still making little to no progress. While it was encouraging to see earlier that diversity is seen as more important in campaign planning, all the meetings, working groups, forums etc. have still not had an impact. The PR Apprenticeship was meant to help with this, and it is a bit of a tragedy that the sector isn’t embracing it with the same vigour as when it was first launched. Especially when you consider the impact, and how well some of these young people are now getting on in the industry.

It appears we remain to be a lot of talk and hot air, and not a lot of action when it comes to diversity – and it’s not the first time that is something we have been accused of.

  • Gender pay gap

The PR industry is 61% female (although other recent surveys have put that figure higher), and yet we have a gender pay gap of more than 5k. On top of that, more men are earning the top/100k figures than women – 11% to 5%. How are we not still ashamed of ourselves for this. How are we not doing everything in our power to overcome this? We are not an Old Boys Club. Women make up a majority of our industry. The CIPR Women in PR Group is making great strides, but until all of us, every single one of us is just plain embarrassed by the fact that we are paying men more than women, then we’re not going deal with this. We are a majority female industry. And that is great. But why aren’t we leading the way on this!?!


On another note, I came across a few interesting facts while reading through as well….

The Interesting

  • 60% with more than 11 years’ experience

Now, this surprised me. I’ve always thought that this was a young person’s game. And that it’s the SAE/AMs that are the most prevalent. That people soon get worn down and broken by the industry and soon move on to more family friendly, less stressful, less all action careers… (at least that was my experience from my peer group). But this report showed that 60% have more than 11 years’ experience, which suggests my theory was a load of cobblers…

  • In-house public sector largest area

Another surprise. Of all the different sectors, the largest was ‘In House, public sector’. It goes against all we’ve been told about the savage cuts in the public sector. But more likely is that the importance of communications, and of quality, measurable PR is seen as more important than ever in the public sector. So it’s a credit to our public sector comrades that industry is in such good shape in that sector. Long may it continue.


Blog post – a few things I learnt in 2015

Here we are in 2016, and further progress into the second decade of my PR career. Every year, just after the festive break I start to look forward to the new challenges, I’m always struck by how I really have no idea how the year is going to pan out. It’s one of the things I continue to love about Public Relations – every day, and most definitely every year, is very very different. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I don’t think there is an industry out there with the variety we have, and especially one that has been through quite as much as change in the recent years! as we have (and still is).

That said, before I start to look forward and think about how I hope 2016 is going to shape up, I thought I should take a quick (if a bit late…) look back at 2015, and what I learnt during a busy and exciting year.

  • Don’t run two events on the same day – it’s stressful

I did it. It was hard. Event Management isn’t really my area of expertise, but a client requested it: A conference for 200 in the morning, and staff update event in the afternoon for 800.

I’ve previously blogged about the need to say no to clients, so next time it gets suggested I’m going to suggest a different course of action and spare myself a few sleepless nights!

  • We still have a problem with terrible practice

Back in 2014 I had a bit of a rant about some of the practices still within our industry. I despaired at how journalists are still complaining about getting spammed by PR people, particular junior PR pros calling up a few minutes after sending a press release to check if it has been received, without any research or understanding about relevance to that journalist or publication (I don’t blame the juniors for this, I blame those instructing and teaching them).

And now in 2015, we have the story that a campaign by a PR agency used a ‘real life’ case study who was less ‘real life’ and more ‘a member of the PR agency running the campaign’. As I cover in the post, we’ve all called in favours with friends and families to add credibility to a story, and I don’t doubt that this case study was a user of the product, but she was a member of agency running the campaign. She was, in all intents and purposes, an employee of the firm, and you wouldn’t use an employee of an organisation as a real life case study without disclosing it, so why use the agency staff??

It’s just another example of a practice that taints the whole industry and why we get confused with the dark arts and shadowy figures.

We will not be taken seriously as an industry unless we stamp this sort of thing out and show that we are a professional and trusted profession.

  • Blackberry is going nowhere (I hope)

I’ve covered my love of all things Blackberry in previous posts, and 2015 is the year of the turnaround I hope!

As a quick recap, I remain one of the few Blackberry fans that I actually know in person. And for good reason. Give me a physical keyboard and battery that lasts longer than a few hours any day of the week. And this year has seen two new BB’s hit the market – The Passport, my phone of choice and slightly odd looking, but has completely replaced my IPad, and I now do most of my work on it. It is brilliant. Before you ask, I had a year with an IPhone 4s (when that was the newest IPhone), and while the apps and games are great, it is no comparison in terms of productivity and getting work done than my (then) G10 and hugely inferior to my Passport.

More recently we had the Blackberry Priv launched, better spec than the IPhone 6, a slide out physical keyboard, plus it runs the Android OS, so no need to side load all those apps (one of the criticism of BB10 was the lack of apps, expect you could actually run most Android Apps on it as long as you knew what you were doing)

3rd Quarter growth results are promising, so I’m hoping for more from my little friend and – fingers crossed – a Passport 2 in 2016!!

  • We are still needed…

Our industry continues to change at pace but the skills and experiences we bring to the table is as vital as ever. Especially if you send a text to a journalist calling her a ‘mad witch’

Anyway, PRWeek did a good review of 2015’s six big corporate crisis’ here:

What is of particular interest is how some of them (Thomas Cook and Talk Talk for instance) took a hit for how they responded to crisis as much as the actual crisis – showing once again the importance of being prepared for a crisis and responding quickly and honestly. Although Ashleigh Madison was screwed either way.

  • I was right about paywalls!

I’m a still bit disappointed that I wasn’t blogging back in 2013 when I predicted that The Sun’s paywall wouldn’t last. November saw The Sun bring its paywall down and I wasn’t surprised, why would readers pay for The Sun’s celebrity gossip (a key draw) when it can get it for free from sites such as the Daily Mail?

The Times (News UK’s other paywall) remains behind a wall and News UK claim they have no plans to drop it, but I wonder how long it will last. Will enough readers keep paying for the Times content to keep it viable? Maybe, but could 2016 see the paywall experiment come to its natural conclusion?? (I promise no ‘I told you so…’ posts…)

  • Vinyl does sound better

Not really a PR realisation, but this year my parents sold the family home in Wiltshire and retired to Cornwall. While sorting through 30 years of junk in the loft I came across their old vinyl record collection. Originally I had planned to bring it back to London to flog to some hipsters, but once I was home I thought I would listen to a few, and maybe copy to digital (there were a couple of classics).


However, once a reasonably priced record player was purchased, a realised that vinyl does actually sound better. I know I now sound like a hipster, but there is a richer, more real sound, than you get on CD or digital. So I’m sold, and have even been known to poke my nose into a few charity shops to see what I can pick up on the cheap…



Blog Post: Why are there still bad CVs out there?

I can’t believe that I am writing this post. I cannot believe that I have to write this post, but my experience over the last week has made me feel it is needed.

There are hundreds, thousands even, of blog posts and webpages dedicated to writing a good CV. They are everywhere and most have pretty similar advice. So why, in 2015, and in particular in the PR/ Communications industry am I still getting inundated with truly terrible CVs??

I received one this week that was five pages long. Five pages! For a Communications position. It also had a sentence that was 32 words long. This from a Comms professional, in an age of 140 characters!

Another CV had two spelling mistakes in the personal profile. The job spec asked for good writing ability and an eye for detail – I stopped reading after the Personal Statement. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I have made errors during my career. I’m pretty sure that if you go through my blog posts you will find some, but this is a CV. For a comms position. And these mistakes were in the first sentence.

I also had a CV that looked like the candidate had spent five minutes on it. No personal statement, no key skills or achievements, just a series of bullet points outlining her responsibilities. While I appreciate that not every recruiter likes a personal statement, a lot do.

I just fail to understand how anyone – particularly in PR – does not appreciate the need for a high quality, error free, concise CV. More to the point, how do they not KNOW this? The CVs under scrutiny were for a position in a very high profile organisation, with a very competitive salary. What is the point of sending your CV in if you are not going to take any care and attention over it?

I was also a bit galled that their recruitment consultants hadn’t gone back to the candidate and coached them a bit. A quality consultant would also not be sending below par CVs! (My experience wasn’t helped by a recruiter arguing with me about why I shouldn’t reject their candidate, buy heyho…)

A CV is not a difficult document to get right. It does not take hours upon hours to pull together, and there are not any ‘trade secrets’ on how to make a CV stand out.

The internet is already filled with good, easy to follow advice. So – to all PR people – please read it, take it in and follow it…

Blog post: Leveson Ignored – there remains something rotten with our famous press.

So this was written a few weeks ago, and then I went on holiday. So it’s a bit out of date now, but considering I took the time to write it, I thought might as well post it… Better late than never and all that.


 So the phoney General Election campaign is under way, and worryingly we have another 70 odd days to sit through.

One thing we can be sure of is that the right wing press (so most of it) are going to spend the next three months personally attacking Labour’s Ed Miliband. The vitriol and abuse has already been unpleasant and ferocious.

The Guardian Newspaper’s Roy Greenslade explains it well here:

But what we witnessed last week has gone to a new low, and just highlights how little has changed in the behaviour of our Press since the Leveson enquiry and report. It is quite clear that Leveson has been ignored and that there remains something rotten at the core of our Press.

Whatever your politics, and whatever you think of Labour’s embattled leader Ed Miliband (yeah he is a bit weird) it is hard to defend two stories this week. Both from the Daily Mail which were quite simply wrong. Firstly we had a front page splash that Miliband, after a week of his attacks on tax dodgers and HSBC, had dodged tax on his parents’ house! LINK what a hypocrite cries the Mail! Except he didn’t avoid tax on the house. It was sold in 1995 and full tax was paid on the sale, so he didn’t avoid any tax.

The Guardian explains the situation here:

Then a few days later we had Miliband comparing tax avoidance to the Milly Dowler murder! LINK

How horrific to try and make political capital over a young girl’s murder. Except he didn’t say it. Nor did anyone associated with him. In fact it was BBC Political Correspondent (and former President of Conservative Youth Group…) Nick Robinson who suggested the link (LINK). Once Robinson explained what he meant, that he was not quoting any Labour person, did the Mail (and other publications, as they were not alone) correct their reports or apologise to Milliband?? No, of course they didn’t.

In fact the next day it continued. Despite Nick Robinson explaining that it hadn’t been said by Labour aides or Milliband, the Daily Mail still published a piece by Amanda Platell repeating both the above stories as if they were true (despite them both being fundamentally wrong). LINK

Here is Huffington Post’s take on the issue:

So now it’s not just personal attacks on Milliband. It’s not just digging up any stories to attack a Leader of the Opposition, but now it is making up stories and not correcting factual inaccuracies.

Is this the behaviour of a ‘free’ and independent press?? Is this who we want holding our Government to account?

And of course it’s not only the Daily Mail. And it’s not only Milliband. Recently comedian Russell Brand has been attacking the corporations, the press and trying to stand up for the small guy. This time it is The Sun who has taken up against him and had him on the front cover (and not in a positive way) – including attacking him personally because his Landlord doesn’t pay tax (or avoids paying tax). Why is Russell Brand responsible for what his Landlord does? How is that relevant to his beliefs and protests?

As if this isn’t enough, we’ve now have Peter Oborne making some startling and very worrying claims about the Telegraph, while resigning from working for the newspaper.

While I would hardly say I am a fan, I always found him honest and thorough. If true, this just shows what a sorry state our ‘free’ press is currently in.

He claims that as the Telegraph takes huge advertising money from HSBC, editorially they have tapered their attacks on their very dodgy tax dealings.

His Oborne’s piece in full:

A quick look at recent coverage does appear to back Oborne up, but this is pretty outrageous when you consider the Telegraph’s reaction to the Leveson proposals (link)

It just goes to show that despite Leveson, there remains something rotten at the heart of the UK’s ‘free’ press.

Here’s a good piece by Roy Greenslade on the telegraph advertising issue and the alternatives: