Category: Industrials

ESG communications: don’t try and keep up with the Joneses… but do keep an eye on them

By Chris Bowman, Strategy & Content Director 

ESG communications can seem a tangled knot of paradoxes at times. Case in point: ESG can only succeed through standardization and comparability of data, yet at the same time it must be accurate and sincere – and sincerity requires specificity.  

Don’t try and keep up with the Joneses…

Credible ESG initiatives are necessarily highly specific to a company’s unique circumstances. There is no one-size-fits all way to decarbonise, for example – each company will have its own mix of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions sources and need to cut accordingly. Social and governance contexts are equally idiosyncratic. ESG communications must reflect this specificity, too. 

Therefore, it is a doomed strategy to simply copy the competition. ESG communications can appear new and fraught with pitfalls, and so it can be tempting to wait and see what the other guys are doing and simply copy and paste. You’ll never be a leader that way, you may reason, but equally you’ll never be left behind or risk poking your head above the parapet. However, the reasoning is flawed. If you cleave too closely to competitors’ ESG communications – which are specific to them – the risk is that the same messages and tactics ring hollow and inauthentic in the context of your brand.  

Again: one size does not fit all, and ESG communications should be as bespoke as possible to the individual brand, while respecting common metrics and language. They should incorporate and reflect the company’s overall brand strategy and messaging, speak to the specifics of their ESG initiatives and why the way Company A designed Initiative X respects the unique situation, resources and ambitions of that company. 

…but do keep an eye on them

That said, don’t swing too far the other way. No brand is big and important enough to get away with being utterly introspective and ignoring the wider world.  

In the context of ESG communications, this can be critical. Rightly or wrongly, your ESG efforts will be evaluated against the competition. Investors, customers and other stakeholders must be convinced that you offer an equal or better option than the competition in terms of the ESG factors they care about.  

In simple terms, this can descend to war of numbers. Company A has cut 30% of its emissions versus Company B’s 22%; Company C has a 50/50 board gender ratio while Company D has only 40/60. This is agreeable enough if you’re winning, but simple numbers can hide complex truths.  

If you are in Company B or D’s shoes, you might benefit from telling a more nuanced narrative that adds context to the numbers. Perhaps Company C already had a 45/55 ratio and improvement is slow, whereas D has invested heavily to improve. Perhaps C is in a country where culture and working practices make it easier for women in the workplace versus D’s. Context is critical – which brings us back to specificity.  

But you can’t introduce that narrative if you’re unaware of the framing that is already out there. Has the competition already established the framing? Or is there still white space for your brand to take the initiative?  

You’ll only know if you’re looking at what the competition is doing. So, while you don’t want to try and keep up with the Joneses, you should keep an eye on them. 

Facing ESG communications challenges? Read our whitepaper or contact the team – we can help. 

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Clarity is key: when advertising campaigns go wrong

By Jamee Kirkpatrick, Senior Account Director, Energy and Industrials

As someone who is lives locally to where BrewDog was founded and is still producing beers, I’ve had an eye on their marketing tactics over the years. Agree with them or don’t, but BrewDog has been known to find themselves in the hot seat on more than one occasion.  

Some would argue that their stunts over the years were rarely right (although, I may argue that they got people’s attention, and it helped them become a household brand – whether that’s ‘punk’ or not) but the brewing giant has come under fire again with their latest advertising blunder 

What went wrong for BrewDog?

This time, the issues for BrewDog came following a mailer sent in July 2022 titled ‘Feeling Fruity’ which was advertising its Hazy Jane Guava beer alongside a host of other fruity numbers. What was the issue? BrewDog sent the email with the subject ‘One of your five a day’ 

BrewDog countered the complaints saying that they believed that recipients would understand that alcoholic beverages were not equivalent to portions of fruit or vegetables, emphasising that the subject was not intended to be a factual claim about the beers.  

Understandably, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who is the independent regulator of advertising across all media, agreed that this was misleading and has upheld the complaint stating: “The ASA acknowledged that the subject heading “One of your five a day” might be interpreted by some consumers as a humorous nod to the fruit flavoured beers featured in the body of the email. However, because the claim referred to well-known government advice on health and wellbeing, we considered that, in general, consumers would not expect advertisers to include such claims unless the advertised product was recognised as meeting the requirements of that advice. Further, the claim appeared in the email’s subject heading, which we considered positioned it as a key element of the ad’s message.” You can read the ruling here 

When advertising goes badly

This isn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last, that advertising has gone wrong.  

The Netflix docuseries ‘Pepsi, Where’s my Jet’ which was released recently revisits the story of John Leonard, who at 20-years-old attempted to win a fighter jet in a Pepsi sweepstake and he set the stage for a David versus Goliath court battle for the history books against the food and drinks company, all because a lack of clarity – or small print – in the ad. I’m sure we all remember Pepsi’s other marketing blunder which included a Kardashian and some very questionable editorial choices. 

Some of the biggest household brands have been getting caught up in controversy centred around poor editorial decisions which have led customers to question the ethics of said companies as well as focus on issues such as sexism, racism and just downright bad taste in ads.  

In just the last few years beauty brands such as Nivea, supermarkets like Coop, retailers such as H&M and notably recently, fashion house, Balenciaga, have found themselves facing backlash or embroiled in not only complaints to the ASA but full on court battles as a result. 

Why is getting your advertising – or messaging – right so important?

Advertising is everywhere. From tv and magazines, to social media and your online search engine, there is no avoiding it and it’s a powerful tool for businesses. Effective advertising makes people remember your name… but so does bad advertising 

If you don’t work in marketing, you might not know how many stages there are in creating the perfect ad, but let’s just say, it goes through a lot of people from concept to delivery, so when that backlash hits, you know that somewhere there are a lot of people with their head in their hands.  

In some instances, you could argue that the message is subjective. Take BrewDog. They thought they were making a joke, but does that make it okay?  

As we’ve seen, the ASA doesn’t think so. Yes, brands need to have room to express themselves or have personality, but even those harmless ‘jokes’ have come back to have some very serious repercussions on brands.  

Small print exists on television or picture ads for a reason. Managing your messaging and hyper-analysing your social media ad copy or your email subject lines requires a level of scrutiny that some brands may not feel is necessary, but when the brand reputation is on the line, how important is that joke, really?  

Getting it right is crucial. As is working with the right people – or agency – to help you challenge your ‘good ideas’. Sometimes, we all need to be tempered and that’s where a specialist communications agency comes in.  

If you’re looking to up your communications or advertising game next year but don’t want to find yourself embroiled in drama, speak to our integrated team today to find out how we can help you grow your brand presence and generate leads through our results-based approach!    

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The future of B2B social media marketing: an insight into Elon Musk’s chaotic Twitter takeover

Corrie McBain and Sanjana Rao, Associate Account Executives, Technology

The Elon Era begins

After what was a rather lengthy and unpredictable few months of negotiations, Elon Musk has officially bought Twitter for a staggering $44 billion. With desires to turn the platform into a bastion of free speech, some major shake-ups have begun that will massively change the site’s functionality. Giving twitter a “digital town-square feel” might seem like an objectively appealing makeover, but there are some important considerations and unknowns following this transition that will have business leaders on the edge of their seats. With 50 out of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers already pulling their campaigns, it’s time to assess what the future of B2B social media marketing and advertising may hold.

What are the concerns?

Twitter has massively evolved since it began in 2006. Beneath all the memes, celebrity gossip and political discourse, the app itself has also become an extremely advantageous marketing and advertising platform for businesses. The ability to have an organic, direct line to your target audience has become essential for businesses’ marketing strategy. Now, Musk’s reign might threaten that with implications for businesses already causing concern.

Commercial accounts may need to pay subscription fees, a move that likely reflects Musk’s need to explore new revenue streams to help fund this colossal take over. For many larger B2B firms, this might be a small sacrifice to ensure access to an enormous pool of potential customers. However, smaller businesses who rely on organic advertising on Twitter – particularly during economically unstable periods when budgets are stretched thin – are at a huge risk if this comes to fruition. Engaging users, creating brand awareness, and sharing content is easily achieved on Twitter, that’s why 67% of all B2B businesses are on the site. Making this tool less accessible might be detrimental for thousands of organisations that can’t expend many resources on their marketing funnel approach.

Changes like this coupled with fears of the platform becoming a breeding ground for extremist content and hate speech, have prompted many businesses to consider moving their primary social media marketing activity toward other platforms like Tik Tok, Facebook and even some newer ventures like Mastodon.

Two immediate problems stem from this:

  1. Firstly, in the last two years, almost three times more users engage in customer service conversations with businesses. Twitter is the favoured platform for audiences to discuss products, queries and learn about brands. Twitter is also a great platform for businesses to assess brands and can in part inform their decisions to buy products and services.
  2. Other platforms, particularly Mastodon, simply don’t host the same levels of audiences. Despite Mastodon gaining 500,000 new users since the takeover, it is unlikely this platform will serve organisations to the same extent. Particularly for B2B marketing and advertising, Twitter is one of the favoured platforms. How long will it take for these new platforms to garner that same reputation?

What does the future of B2B marketing look like on Twitter?

Will Elon Musk’s sweeping changes drive away B2B businesses from advertising on the app?

. Musk himself tweeted that he wanted Twitter “to be the most respected advertising platform in the world”. But this hasn’t stopped certain brands from halting spend on their paid adverts as they wait to see what Twitter under Musk looks like. B2B businesses are right to be cautious of Musk’s takeover. A businesses’ brand identity and values are carefully curated and with Musk’s insistence on greater free speech and a more relaxed approach to disciplining users that violate rules, marketing chiefs may worry that these changes may tarnish their brand. Forty-two per cent of marketers are worried with Musk’s takeover citing concerns over brand safety and integrity.

However, with the potential for paid ads to reach up to 486 million users (and growing), businesses must consider whether they can afford to lose this massive audience. Businesses, and CMOs in particular, should also take Musk’s plans with a pinch of salt. Twitter relies hugely on paid ads and B2B marketing. Twitter’s ad revenue for Q2 of 2022 was just over $1 billion, making up more than 90% of its $1.18 billion revenue for that quarter. Even with his clickbait-worthy plans for the future of Twitter, Musk knows the value that marketing brings to the platform and will ultimately seek to protect this.

Change is always daunting and never without doubts. However, as it stands, businesses shouldn’t change their B2B marketing strategies too much. Twitter is a great platform to showcase your brand, form organic relationships and grow your audience and it’s unlikely this will change.

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Advice from an Apprentice – it’s tough, but you’re tougher

By Emilio Koumis, Apprentice

Picture this – it’s the final few months before your A Level exams. Not only are you nervous, sleep deprived and quite frankly fed up, but your plans for the future are a complete and utter mystery. This was exactly how I felt, and so did thousands of other Year 13 students across the UK, according to a recent study looking at how exam stress affects students.

It really wasn’t until the month before my exams that things started to fall in place. And for those reading who are currently in a similar situation, just hang on. Things will eventually work out.

Swooping in, like a giant mystical unicorn, coming to save me from all my troubles and worries, was the Aspectus Academy apprenticeship scheme. My career adviser (who I would recommend building a good relationship with if you have the opportunity) sent me this interesting role. As I begun reading through, I finally began to feel hopeful. This was it. This was exactly the type of role that I had been looking for.

PR and marketing had always been of interest to me, and I had finally found a company that I could see myself fitting into and excelling in. This was a perfect example of ‘going with your gut instinct’.

Don’t be disheartened

Of course, there will be times when you may not hear back from certain companies you apply to, or in some cases, make it so far into the interview stages, only to be told you didn’t get the role and that “you’re just not the type of person we are looking for.”

Fortunately for me, during the interview process at Aspectus, they were extremely helpful, and never made me wait longer than 24 hours for a reply when I had any questions.

What to expect once you get the role (and you will)

From a young age, I had dreamt of working in the city. I would imagine myself in an expensive suit, on the train commuting to a big office, and eating lunch at fancy restaurants. Sure, I don’t actually wear an expensive suit to work every day and the only thing I have waiting for me on the train is the usual, and quite unpleasant, smell of sweaty commuters (of which I could be one myself!) But that’s not the point. The point is, I had an image in my head of what I wanted my life to look like and that helped me find what I wanted to do. I stayed positive, which leads me on to my final point.

Staying Positive

Working at Aspectus, it’s difficult not to be positive. How can you not be when you’re surrounded by enthusiastic, happy, and hardworking people? I haven’t been at the company for long but the culture and atmosphere in the office is admirable. Here, there is no such thing as a ‘bad social media post’ or a ‘failed attempt at gaining a journalist’s attention’. These are all opportunities for us to learn and grow as individuals and develop as a team. If one opportunity didn’t go as well as you would have liked It to, it’s okay! The next might well be the perfect one. Try adopting this mindset when applying for apprenticeships too. If one doesn’t go to plan, the next one might go exactly your way. Always stay positive.

Persistence Pays

Searching, finding, and applying for an apprenticeship can be difficult. Building a good relationship with anyone who you believe can help make the process easier is worth it.  If you have access to a career adviser, use them! These people are here to help you.

Finding out you haven’t made it to the next stage of an interview can be very demotivating. However, there are some positives you can take out of it. Think about the experience you have just gained. Now you know what an interview process looks like so you’re able to be much more prepared for your next one. You may have realised that it’s not as daunting as you might have initially thought and therefore next time, you’ll be more confident. If you’d like some in-depth tips on how to ace an interview, give this a read.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius

In other words, keep trying! Continuing to actively look for apprenticeships even after being turned down is a great achievement in itself. If you have found your way to this blog, that already demonstrates your proactiveness.

The apprenticeship search: it can be tough, but you’re tougher.

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How to write a brief for a brand and marketing agency

By Ellie Jackson, Head of Brand, Insights and Strategy 

Nothing has made me question my ability to write a brief like having small children. 

Bear with me here. I’m not for one second comparing the recipients of briefs I write to my 1- and 4- year-old offspring. But where once I thought I was pretty clear in my translation of objectives, clarity of direction and indication of priorities, scenes in our house in the hour before nursery and school drop off suggest otherwise. 

And writing a brief for a brand, marketing and communications agency is rather more complicated than getting small people clothed, fed, brushed, shod and out. But the real trouble, as highlighted in research last year as part of the Better Briefs project, is the divergence between those marketers that think they write good briefs (80%), and the creative agencies that receive them (10%). 

Historically one of our best-performing pieces of content was a post about how to write a good brief, but since it’s more than a decade old we thought it was well-overdue for a review, and since I recognize my own limitations, I’ve enlisted various colleagues representing different Aspectus services to offer up their insights in addition to mine. 

Fundamentally though, the agency needs to understand two things: where you are now, and where you want to get to. But it’s also really useful to understand what you’ve tried before, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Most of all, we appreciate a relatively open brief: tell us the problem and by all means suggest your response, but don’t lock us into rigid tactics. Let the agency use their experience and insights develop their own solution. 

Bill Penn, Aspectus Chairman, added: “The brief is really important. So, make sure you have business and communications objectives that are clear and agreed, and led by someone who fully understands those objectives and knows how agencies operate. 

“Be targeted. Even if your product or service could be used by several different audiences, you still need to focus to see results. Most agencies will push you to prioritise, so you need to work out your strategy internally in advance.  

“You will need to ring-fence a budget. Agencies hate briefs without clear budgets and you will never get the best from their pitches if you leave the matter completely open-ended. It’s a bit like walking into a showroom and telling the sales guy you want to buy a car and letting him guess how much you want to spend. Not awfully helpful to either of you. Are you after a Ferrari or a Mini? 

“Invite all agencies for an initial meeting or call. This gives you a chance to meet them and they get the opportunity to discuss the brief in more detail and ask questions. 

“Work out in advance a system for assessing the presentations – and keep those presentations to a maximum of three agencies. Think in terms of focusing on the following: capabilities and experience; quality of ideas; quality of team; enthusiasm; response to questions. Be clear with the agencies on both the process and the decision factors. 

“Once you have made your decision, tell the winning agency first (just in case they find a reason why they cannot or don’t want to work with you – it does happen) and then inform the others. Do make sure that you give plenty of feedback to the losing agencies. The very least they deserve for all their hard work is the opportunity to know where they went wrong or simply why the winning agency was selected.” 

Ed Wilkins, Head of Design and UX, said: “Brand guidelines are a hugely valuable asset, but it’s essential to communicate your relationship with them to avoid unhelpful assumptions being made. This works both ways. There have been many a time where a client has wondered why we’ve shown creative flair when all they wanted is something very close to the examples already included, and others where the guidelines were meant to be a mere suggestion. Even being surprised at the inclusion of their own colours.” 

“Never be afraid to share something you’ve seen and liked. It’s easy to worry that your agency will only replicate a shared example, but these are one of the best ways for designers to understand your thinking. They spark more in-depth initial conversations around your likes, dislikes and why you feel that way. It should also then allow your agency to give some early indications of how ideas can be reinvented to suit the project at hand before putting pen to paper. This means a much more effective use of your scoped design time.” 

Anna Fishlock, co-head of Digital, added: “It’s often helpful for agencies to know key website stats, for example, top-performing pages, where your traffic tends to come from, and your bounce rate. With this information we can usually get a good understanding of the health of your website. Also, don’t forget to share your SEO keywords or let the agency know if this is an area where you might need additional support.  

If your website isn’t performing, don’t let this be a reason to not start PR and marketing altogether. With new B2B website projects often taking several months to complete, you’ll lose vital brand awareness if you stop running campaigns. Instead share this information with your agency so they can work around it and ensure you don’t lose visibility amongst your target audience.” 

Shelley Bowdler-Olagbaiye, co-head of Digital, said: “We always want to know the bigger picture: what are your marketing objectives, overarching business goals and why are you looking for an agency now? Marketing is the fuel for growth, so knowing your purpose and vision means we can build a programme that projects you in the right direction. 

“Writing a great agency brief is an art in itself, so talk us through your challenges and we can help you find the best digital and integrated solutions. The best client agency-relationships are collaborative – and for us, that starts from the first conversation.” 

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Four chancellors and a funeral: navigating communications and the media

By Thamsia Salam, Account Executive on the Financial Services team

Even those who ‘don’t do politics’ or barely touch a newspaper, won’t have been able to avoid the turmoil that has surrounded the UK during the last six months. The Ukraine and Russia war, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, the death of our Queen, the pound hitting its all-time low and four chancellors in as many months.

In just the last fortnight, Kwasi Kwarteng has served as the second shortest chancellor – only being preceded by Ian Macleod who died following a heart attack in 1970 – while Liz Truss has been forced to resign after a record breaking 44 days.

While some are turning off the news, PR and comms professionals are desperately trying to get cut through.

I have been lucky enough to begin my career against the backdrop of all of this, quickly coming to realise that the bulk of my role is to monitor the news cycle and deliver media representation. However, when major events, with dramatic headlines occur so often, this can become quite difficult.

Here are three successful tips to get you cut through in the most demanding of landscapes:

Keep it relevant and fresh

As the news cycle continues to churn, the key to obtaining coverage is always ensuring that the story is relevant to what is going on currently, otherwise getting cut through is difficult.

Ask yourself if it is relevant for a publication’s audience right now. Will the audience relate to the content? Does it contain all the key facts and enough quality information to give the story depth? And if not, adapt, adapt, adapt. Just last month we pivoted a fintech angle to focus on the cost-of-living crisis just as it sparked a media frenzy, securing an interview and top tier coverage as a result.

Hijack the news agenda

In a similar vein, the news agenda might seem overwhelming but it’s also an excellent opportunity to ‘newsjack’ on some of those breaking news stories. In the midst of the chaos the news agenda has presented some fantastic chances for even fintech PRs or compliance PRs to get an opinion, interview or article secured for client. For example, when the mini budget was unfolding last month, we were able to turn a trending topic into a relevant angle by evaluating how certain policy changes could affect our clients and landed valuable coverage due to this.

Going beyond the press list

It might sound simple, but you have to build genuine relationships with journalists. If there is one thing I have gathered in the last 6 months it is that the pitch is just part of the story, making sure your angle gets in front of the right person can be the make-or-break link. The “who” we are pitching to is just as important as the “what” we are pitching.

Nurturing genuine, friendly relationships mean you are more likely to understand the stories that they like to write on. Similarly, taking the time to go out for drinks, lunches or coffees with contacts allows us to build deeper connections so they click on our email, over others, when it comes into their inbox.

When the Queen passed away in September, we were able to gain valuable intel instantly from journalists we know well on what they were publishing and when. So we were able to create stories they wanted to write on, as well as being first to the starting line when the normal news cycle did begin again.

To find out more about our services here.

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“And the award goes to” … Why B2B awards should be a key component of your marketing plan

By Jamee Kirkpatrick, Account Director in the energy team

There are typically two camps when it comes to industry or B2B awards. Those who want the public recognition and those who feel that it’s ‘big headed or self-serving’ to enter. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, there are several reasons why you should consider entering industry awards as part of your wider B2B communications and marketing strategy. We should know, just this year we’ve been crowned the top B2B PR Agency by PRWeek and B2B Agency of the Year at the UK Agency Awards 2022.   

It’s a fantastic marketing tool

We all have competitors that we want to outshine and the ability to say you have ‘award-winning technology, team or employee’ in proposals, on your website, in social media content and wider communications efforts is an excellent way to stand out from the crowd and elevate your brand and offering.  

You get free exposure

With B2B awards comes exposure. A lot of investment goes into planning and running industry awards and they often have dedicated public relations including promotion of shortlists and post-award winner announcements, not to mention social media promotion too. 

As the saying goes: all exposure is good exposure and any communication efforts from third parties only elevates your own endeavors by offering credibility to your offering and – where marketing is concerned – provides backlinking opportunities from well-known events or well-respected organisations back to your own website to improve your online visibility. 

It’s attractive to potential customers and investors 

One of the first things that potential customers or investors do when they are considering working with you is to Google you. That third party promotion comes into play here, but also being able to showcase the high-quality, industry-recognised solutions that you have to those looking to do business with you – or those looking to sink capital into your business.  

B2B awards allow you to demonstrate not only your technical prowess but it also showcases your company’s ability to be a trusted, knowledge and safe pair of hands that is leading the charge in your industry.  

Employee satisfaction and retention

You can have the best technology out there, but without a fantastic team of people you don’t have a business. Winning industry awards is great for team morale and recognises employees for their contribution to the business. It is also attractive to potential candidates – whether you’re an award winner or you’re shortlisted amongst other industry players.  

But, remember you should be strategic…

B2B awards can cover different regions, industries and categories from technology, business and people, so choosing the right award is crucial. Aligning your award entries around your business goals and strategy is a strategic way to grow awareness and recognition of your brand in these locations or industries.  

Additionally, don’t enter every award category available to you. Yes, you can enter more than one, but where do you think you stand the strongest chance of success? Award entries are an investment so strategic thinking upfront will likely lead to better results.  

Some B2B awards hold more esteem than others, so be smart about what you’re entering rather than opting for a scatter gun approach. By working with a specialist communications agency in your sector such as energy and industrials, we can tap into our awards knowledge and sector expertise to guide your efforts in the right direction.  

On top of that, our track record of drafting – and winning – B2B awards for our clients is extensive, so while we can’t guarantee you an award win, we can help you put together the best application possible.  

Award season varies from industry to industry, but with several coming up in the calendar with looming entry deadlines, why wait until the next sweep of awards to start getting the kudos and recognition that you, your business and your teams deserve.  

Want to be award winning? Get in touch. 

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What those with a PR and marketing career learn from dating apps

By Catherine Hunter, Account Director, Energy team

Our CEO talks of starting his PR career when printed and posted letters were how editors were contacted, and I’m assuming love letters were also all the rage at the time. And as life has moved on in work, it’s also moved on in love. So, what can someone with a modern-day PR and marketing career learn from spending time on dating apps – and it’s got to be more than accepting rejection at work and in love! 

Know your audience

Any good campaign starts with putting your target audience at the heart. And that’s also no different on a dating app. The question is probably slightly different though. It’s less about “who is the target audience for this campaign?” and more, “who do I want to attract?”. But the foundational principles are the same. If you’re not highlighting the parts of your personality that you want a partner to enjoy, you’re probably not going to be attracting the right options from the apps. 

Tailor your opening

Once you’ve curated a profile that really sings to who you are – you need to make sure you’re delivering an opening line that really speaks to a potential partner. And the best way to do this, is to show you’ve read their profile. And this is the same as journalists, when developing a pitch around an interview or article. You want them to know you’ve read their recent stories and are tailoring your approach to them too. 

Follow up with caution

This one is possibly a bit of a trickier gauge with both PR and dating lives. Journalists all have their preferences when it comes to follow up – and this is usually best learned over a coffee. Unfortunately, dating apps aren’t going to be able to follow the same rules here. But there are a few things to assume that work for both. If you’re contact has been ignored twice – for either party – you can probably safely assume they aren’t interested in a follow up. There’s also merit in knowing timing. On a dating app, or to a journalist, a nudge within the same hour is probably too soon, unless this is an urgent, breaking news need. And so, from both sides, we should take caution in following up too soon. 

Of course, there’s more to being a PR and marketing career pro than honing your skills through what a dating platform can teach you. But that’s not to say it should be discounted as a means to sharpen some aspects of the wider communications craft. You’ll be assessing people for if they’re going to be interested in joining your life story, rather than publishing your news; practicing a great way to open a pitch and peak their attention for you, rather than your client or idea; and refining the way to deliver a thoughtful follow-up. But rest assured creating a hinge profile or tinder bio isn’t an essential first step into a communications career. Find out more about our opportunities here.

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From the Government’s big mini-budget to Labour’s big lead: A defining week for UK politics and public affairs – Part 2

Part 2 of our review of a defining week in UK politics, which will have significant impacts for businesses in Energy and Industrials, Tech, Capital Markets and Financial Services. 

Part 1 can be found here.

Labour’s turn in the spotlight 

While Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget was making waves and upending markets, the Labour Party was holding its annual conference in Liverpool, and enjoying a political windfall.

Two years on from Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader, he finally feels ready to present his priorities to the country. His first year as leader (including his first party conference in 2021), was consumed with fixing the party itself, to consign the influence of Corbynism firmly to the past – which involved a series of internal political battles that are largely impenetrable to outsiders.

But that work appears to have paid off: the bitter rows of recent years were nowhere to be seen, Corbyn and his followers had lost all relevance, and Labour’s attention had turned its attention away from internecine disputes, and toward the country.

In political terms, it was a very good conference for Labour. Labour was presented with a gift in the form of the Government’s politically disastrous mini-budget. However, Labour have also created some of this advantage themselves. At the conference Labour talked up its fiscal responsibility, and began to set out an alternative idea of how growth is created – with an industrial strategy that supports sovereign capabilities, world-leading industries and clean energy.

By the close of the conference, most attendees had little doubt in their minds that Starmer would be the next Prime Minister. Labour leaves its conference as a party looking united and confident – which counts for a lot.

Voters also seemed to like what they saw from Starmer’s party. Labour was already consistently leading the Conservatives with leads in opinion polls in the high teens or greater, which would translate to Labour leading the next government. But following Labour conference several pollsters started to detect poll leads in the mid-thirties – the kind of gap not seen since the late-90s when Tony Blair was Prime Minister-in-waiting. Poll leads of this scale would translate into a thumping General Election victory for Labour, with an outright majority in Parliament that avoids the need for any tricky deals with the SNP or Lib Dems. While the polls are likely to tighten again, the is now a sense of inevitability around a Starmer-led Labour Government.

What have we learned? 

As we get into the meat of Conservative Conference this week, it’s worth thinking about what has been learned from Labour’s own conference. Here are some key lessons and observations:

  • Labour is going after Tory territory: Labour now has the confidence to challenge the Conservatives on their home turf: economic growth. This is a change. Labour normally focuses on ‘heart’ questions of fairness and distribution, while the Conservatives normally focus on ‘head’ appeals around growth and efficiency – with predictable results. But rather than the tax-cuts and deregulation favoured by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, Labour’s message on growth is based around supporting green industries, industrial strategy, and fiscal responsibility and certainty.
  • Say less, but more often: Rather than setting out piles of detailed new policy, Starmer and the Labour front bench have painted their vision in broad strokes, with a few big-ticket announcements rather than lots of little ones. Labour’s new flagship policy, a publicly-owned state energy company called ‘Great British Energy’, signified that broad economic vision: green, economically nationalist, and with Government taking an active role in partnership with business (rather than Corbynist hostility to business, or Trussian deregulation).
  • Labour thinks the UK can still lead the energy transition: Painting a picture of a ‘clean energy superpower’, Keir Starmer and the shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, think there is still a chance for the UK to lead the world in clean technologies including offshore wind, hydrogen, CCUS, and green steel, and that these industries will be crucial, not only to the Net Zero agenda, but also to the UK’s economic success.
  • Labour is has found a comfortable position on public ownership: Since Starmer’s election as leader, there has been tension in the party over nationalisation of key industries, including ‘rail, mail, water and energy’, which was a signature policy under Corbyn. But nationalising large parts of the economy just isn’t that important to Starmer, who recently ruled out nationalising North Sea oil and gas. However, at Labour’s conference last week, the party recommitted to ending privatised rail franchises, and its flagship announcement was the launch of a publicly-owned ‘Great British Energy’ company, in a similar model to state-owned energy companies like EDF and Vattenfall. Rather than a direct threat to business, this state energy company is being framed as a partner to business, absorbing the greatest risks on big energy projects in order to crowd-in private investment. Despite pressure from some trade unions however, there’s nothing about the announcement that indicates this will lead to a wider spree of nationalisations.
  • The inheritance is worrying: Beyond the journey to Government, the thing that worries Labour frontbenchers now is the state of the economy they expect to inherit from the Conservative government. Labour’s shadow ministers become quite circumspect when asked what the high cost of borrowing will mean for investments in green energy, infrastructure and technology. A lot of responsibility is being placed on the shoulders of the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, to reassure financial markets and bring down those borrowing costs, so that a Labour government is not fiscally and economically hamstrung the moment it enters government.

Dan Hogan is Aspectus’ Public Affairs Lead. He is at Conservative Conference this week, gathering insight into key policy areas affecting Energy and Industrials, Tech, Capital Markets and Financial Services, and spending time with the key decision makers whose choices affect your business. If you want to know more about how Aspectus’ Public Affairs team can help you, get in touch

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