Archive for January, 2024

A month of Mischief, January 2024

Posted on: January 31st, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

The Passion Perspective

We are officially a twelfth of the way through 2024 and already there have been some huge stories; SPOILERS AHEAD – Harry won The Traitors, Emma Stone and Poor Things has taken a multitude of Oscar nominations, Barbie – not as many, and the world is gearing up for the biggest year of sport.rt with tournaments, qualifiers,

However, 2024 is a lot more than the year of sport. Yes, most of our Summer will be built around it, but there are other big things on the radar, all of which we should be aware of in our field of work – and no, we’re not saying they all need to be ‘newsjacked’…

It’s a big year for politics – the US presidential election is around the corner, and closer to home, a general election isn’t far off.

As of the 1st January, the world’s most famous mouse belongs to the people. Mickey Mouse is now in the public domain. This year will see lots of Mickey content released without the usual red tape – even in the form of a horror film. There are some caveats, it’s only the earliest version of Mickey that is now public, but this does mean we as creatives can use the character and likeness in our work without the fear of being sued by the big guns at Disney.

The UK festival circuit is bigger and better than ever with smaller festivals such as Truck, Kendal Calling and Tramlines attracting more star power to all go alongside the heavyweight institutions of Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and Latitude.

And cinema looks to have a stellar year ahead. Gladiator gets its LONG-awaited sequel, there’s a new Lord of The Rings film with Succession’s Brian Cox, Dune Part 2 is on the horizon and your usual array of superhero blockbusters will be cropping up, including a remake of Blade.

In summary – there’s a LOT of stuff to look forward to in 2024.

And we’ve been getting busy too – here’s what’s been happening at Mischief HQ in 2024 so far…

This Month at Mischief

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread Is…

… Sliced bread! At least according to Nigella, whose latest recipe – a ‘So-Wrong-It’s-Right’ Bread and Butter Pudding – is the ultimate comfort food dessert, combining the simplicity of sliced white bread with none other than Laughing Cow cheese!Crafting a narrative which dove into themes of nostalgia and childhood comfort, this recipe for Ocado has yet again captured the attention of national and lifestyle media. Kicking off with an exclusive interview in The Times, news of the unusual recipe was quickly picked up by the likes of the Express, Mail Online and The Telegraph, as well as scoring a flurry of regional and consumer hits including Huff Post. For the full recipe that’s sure to leave mouths watering, click here.

Read more here.

Henley Business School Introduces The ‘Omniployment Era’

The Great Resignation was the workplace trend of the immediate post-COVID era, but where have we gone from there? Well, a new report from Henley Business School has now revealed that we’re a workplace divided, and we identified six key types of workers based on the common elements that attract or dissuade them from applying for a job.

Carving the report up for both national employment and lifestyle-targeted newsdesks helped secure a range of quality coverage including Financial Times, Metro and Mirror, as well as a number of business and HR titles, some of which interviewed Henley Business School’s lead researcher on the project, Rita Fontinha.

Read more here.

OGX Hair Stories Emphasises The Power Of A Good Hair Day

Building on the success of our OGX social coverage with Giovanna Fletcher in December, January saw the launch of ‘Hair Stories’ – a campaign encouraging Brits to celebrate their unique hair stories, from postpartum hair and university daredevil days to professional up-dos.Leading with an empowering research story around the confidence a good hair day can bring, Hair Stories has secured over 30 pieces of editorial coverage so far including six nationals, as well as social content from Giovanna, beauty influencer Anchal and lifestyle influencer Emma Paton.

Read more here.


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Media Network: Issue 1, 2024

Posted on: January 30th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

As we enter a likely election year: who is the most influential political journalist in Westminster?

By Keith Gladdis, former Daily Mail Executive News Editor 

There was a time when newspapers could make or break a General Election. In 1992 the Sun famously claimed it won the election for John Major and the Conservatives after its election day front page featured a portrait of Labour leader Neil Kinnock in a lightbulb with the headline: ‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’.

No media title would claim to have such power today but their journalists do wield significant political influence in Westminster, especially on social media. We asked Atul Hatwal at our data analytics partner DeepSeer to find which political reporters were shifting the political needle most among political decision makers in Westminster.

DeepSeer applies proprietary analytics to social media to understand who and what is influencing audiences. The audience analysed for this ranking is Westminster, comprising MPs, journalists and commentators with measurement of influence based on Reach across the audience, the percentage impacted by content from each author and Impressions, the number of times content by the author was shared into audience social media timelines.

Our top five for the last quarter of 2023 is:

  1. Beth Rigby, Political Editor, Sky News.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 1 million.

Highest impact content: Breaking news on the scrapping of northern section of HS2 (October), speculation on the date of the election (November) and potential Conservative leadership challenges (November)

  1. Pippa Crerar, Political Editor, The Guardian.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.92 million. (despite her name being consistently misspelled on X)

Highest impact content: Stories on Labour scaling back its £28bn green investment (December), £2m of government Covid start-up investment funds going to companies linked to Rishi Sunak’s wife (October) and the Supreme Court ruling against sending asylum seekers to Rwanda (November)

  1. Dan Hodges, columnist, Mail on Sunday.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.88 million.

Highest impact content: Posts on the growth of antisemitism in Britain following October 7th (October to December) and commentary on Rishi Sunak’s speech to Conservative Party Conference (October)

  1. Harry Cole, Political Editor, The Sun.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.77 million.

Highest impact content: Stories on the organiser of large pro-Palestine marches working for the Labour party (November), Esther McVey’s new role as cabinet minister for ‘common sense’ (November) and Conservative MPs’ rebellion on the Rwanda bill (December)

  1. Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor, Sky News.

Reach across Westminster: 98%. Impressions in Westminster timelines: 0.64 million.

Highest impact content: Stories on Rishi Sunak’s interview with Elon Musk (November), Rishi Sunak’s speech announcing 5 long term promises (November) and Conservative projections for by-election results in Tamworth and Mid-Beds

For further information on DeepSeer contact [email protected]

The new BBC Chair’s Inbox

By Ian Kirby, Former Political Editor of The News of the World 

Samir Shah has been touring Broadcasting House as he prepares to take over one of the toughest media jobs in global media – the new chair of the BBC.

Dr Shah, 71, has been reassuring some of the stars of Newsnight, who have been redeployed across BBC News, that their investigative skills are going to underpin the Beeb’s revamped news coverage

MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have noted the new Chair’s clear priority are “narrowly focused on news and current affairs”.

This is no surprise. Dozens of experienced BBC regional reporters and presenters were shown the door just before Christmas as BBC News slashed its regional content. Hundreds more jobs are expected to be phased out nationally as the organisation absorbs £500m of cuts due to a below inflation Licence Fee increase. A further appearance in front of the Select Committee to explain how the impact of these cuts is being managed is scheduled for late Spring.

Further major decisions will follow in the next couple of weeks: who will replace Huw Edwards at the News at Ten? Will the budget cuts allow sustained coverage of at least two major wars and a general election in 2024? How will the ongoing legal battle to force the BBC to release e mails relating to Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview be concluded? How will the BBC’s news coverage compete with the explosion in podcasts like the Rest is Politics and The News Agents?

Senior staff have been impressed by first impressions and are relieved the political drama over the links of predecessor Richard Sharp to Boris Johnson is over. But it will be interesting to see if Dr Shah still holds his belief that the “BBC’s sheer scale and organisational culture creates a “monolithic posture that makes it appear anti-competitive“.

“News you can use” key to getting in The Sun amid gloomy news agenda

Jaber Mohamed, former reporter at The Mail on Sunday, spoke to Sam Blanchard, Health Correspondent at the Sun about the stories he’s looking to cover in the coming months. Sam told him: 

The Sun is very UK focused and we want stories that would appeal to the average man or woman on the street I write a lot of consumer-style stories and ideally they should be fun, interesting and positive.

If the news is negative it is better if it’s ‘news you can use’. For example, I wrote a story recently warning parents not to feed their children too much junk food as they can develop stiff arteries by the age of just 17. It’s a negative story but it’s useful to our audience.

I’m especially interested in stories about obesity, dementia, cancer and cosmetic procedures.

City A.M. looks North

By James Rollinson

City A.M. has hired its first permanent member of editorial staff in Manchester as the daily business title looks to extend its reach outside of the capital.

Job Robinson, formerly North West Business Editor at Reach title BusinessLive, has joined the freesheet as UK Editor, an appointment which suggests the freesheet is looking to shift its editorial focus away from the Square Mile to British business more widely.

This is the latest of a recent raft of changes at City A.M. following THG founder Matt Moulding’s takeover of the paper last July. The editorial team’s headcount has since grown by around a third, and, as reported by The Telegraph at the end of December, the business is looking to establish regional hubs.

Executives are also reportedly considering a “freemium” model that would place a paywall in front of a small selection of premium content – reflecting similar changes made by MailOnline and The Independent – reinforcing the need for feature-driven exclusives from brands and businesses.

Movers and Shakers

By Charlotte Grant, former ITN News Reader

After almost six years at the helm of the Daily Mirror, Alison Philips will step down as editor-in-chief at the end of this month. It follows news that Reach, the owner of the Mirror, plans to cut 450 jobs, 10% of Reach’s workforce. Caroline Waterson, current editor in chief of Reach’s magazine titles including OK!, will take over as interim editor.

Isabelle Fraser has been appointed Money Features Editor at the Telegraph, starting at the end of January. She was previously Associate Money Editor at the newspaper.

Another Telegraph appointment sees Gareth Corfield made Transport Correspondent, following a short stint as Money Writer at the paper. He was formerly the Telegraph’s Senior Technology Reporter.

Notable recent appointments at the BBC include Paul Royall’s permanent position as Executive News Editor of the BBC News Channel after a period as interim Executive Editor.  Political Correspondent and former 30 To Watch winner Ione Wells has swapped Westminster for Sao Paulo, as the BBC’s new South America Correspondent. She replaces Katy Watson who will soon start as the BBC’s news Sydney correspondent.

Capital Markets ESG Insights: January 2024

Posted on: January 25th, 2024 by Alexandra Stamp

In this latest iteration of MHP’s Capital Markets’ quarterly ESG Insights newsletter, we speak with Alex Janiaud, Senior Investment Correspondent at Sustainable Views, on his thoughts for the key sustainability themes to look out for in 2024.

We revisit last month’s COP, reflecting on the level of engagement from corporates and the fine balance they face dealing with multiple – and sometimes juxtaposed – stakeholders, as the topic of ESG becomes increasingly politicised. We also consider how 2024 is an important year when it comes to elections, and explore how corporates can maintain stakeholder trust against a volatile political backdrop. In addition, we delve into the implications of the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM); how it will work in practice, and the impact on business.

Finally, we feature leading carbon data company Sylvera as our Client in Focus. Sylvera’s products and services enable organisations and governments to invest in real climate action and transition to Net Zero.

Download the latest ESG Insights Newsletter

If you would like to discuss any of the themes in the newsletter, or talk to a member of the ESG team, email [email protected].

MHP Group hires Deputy CEO of the Government Communications Service, Lisa Hunter

Posted on: January 23rd, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

This press release originally appeared in PR Week.

MHP Group has hired Lisa Hunter as Head of Strategic Communications. Hunter will bolster the agency’s integrated advisory capabilities helping senior leaders navigate complex issues and reputation challenges.

Hunter joins from the Government Communications Service, where she served as Deputy CEO. In this role, Lisa led communications for the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen, the Covid-19 Inquiry and the government’s management of recent industrial action – attending COBR meetings and advising Ministers, Number 10 and Permanent Secretaries across Whitehall.

Hunter’s career has encompassed senior roles across the private and public sectors, including the DWP, the DCMS, the ECB and Lloyds of London.

Hunter specialises in reputation and crisis management, and has led some of the most complex government communications projects in recent government history, including promoting pensions auto-enrolment and rebuilding public confidence in Universal Credit.  Lisa also established the crisis communications operating model now followed by all government communicators.

Reporting to Rachel Bower, Head of Brand & Reputation, Lisa joins a diverse roster of senior advisers that includes Keith Gladdis, Head of Strategic Media and ex Daily Mail News Editor, and Naomi Goodman, Head of Change and Employee Communications, another recent hire.

The move marks a return to the agency for Hunter, who left MHP in 2018 to take up a role as Director of Communications for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Commenting on the hire, Rachel Bower, head of Brand and Reputation, MHP Group explained:

Lisa has worked at the highest level of government, managing some of the biggest stories in the country, delivering the kinds of complex, multistakeholder campaigns that we specialise in as a team, and which our clients are increasingly asking us for counsel on.”

Lisa Hunter, added:

“With MHP continuing to grow, I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining such a strong team with so many exciting plans for the future. With the lines between businesses, consumers, shareholders and policymakers becoming increasingly blurred, strategic communications is more important than ever to ensure messages cut through to the right audiences. I’m looking forward to working with Rachel and the team and using my experience across the public and private sectors to help MHP bolster its advisory offer.”


NCDs: WHO matters?

Posted on: January 23rd, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

Why should we care about WHO?

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) primary role is to offer “science-based recommendations” regarding health policy to countries around the world. Through such recommendations WHO establishes “soft law instruments containing specific, concrete provisions”. In plain language, WHO wields no legal authority and member states are under no obligation to follow those recommendations, but it aims to set accepted standards for global health. WHO’s aims aside, do these recommendations actually matter for policymakers, patients and health system leaders?

Beyond infectious disease

During the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO was a high-profile, closely followed and relevant institution. Despite setbacks and mistakes during the height of the pandemic, the Organization demonstrated its unique capability to maneuver the transnational nature of infectious disease. WHO remains uniquely suited for global health diplomacy, due to its “constitutional mandate for the establishment of norms and standards, [and] high level of legitimacy”. However, this relevance in an immediate international crisis does not necessarily translate to noncommunicable diseases.

In our Pressures and Perspectives report, health policymakers from the EU5 told us that WHO does matter to them, as the recommendations and targets form a framework for national governments to be held to account locally, such as by the media or pressure groups.

Internationally coordinated efforts to address NCDs are relatively recent. At the turn of the millennium, WHO released the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases. Subsequent agreements followed, such as the 2008 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the 2008-2013 Action Plan on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. When it comes to NCDs, the three main tactics that WHO employs to combat NCDs from a treatment perspective (not a prevention perspective), are:

  • Policy development: WHO develops evidence-based policies and guidelines, which serve as a blueprint for national health systems to implement appropriate strategies, examples include the WHO Package of essential noncommunicable disease (PEN) interventions for primary health care in low-resource settings
  • Setting targets: WHO sets global targets by providing benchmarks and regular assessments, thereby encouraging countries to work towards specific goals and promoting accountability and fostering improvements in national health systems
  • Capacity development: WHO assists countries in assessing the capacity of their health workforce to handle NCDs, and providing resources to advise the strengthening of overall health system performance

But how have these policy documents and activities actually impacted national health policy?

25 by 25: a key target

More recently, in 2012, the 65th World Health Assembly published the resolution for a “global target of 25% reduction in premature mortality from non-communicable disease such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease by 2025”, which was adopted by all 194 member countries.

At the time, it was discussed how challenging this target would be to meet. A paper published in Circulation modelled the region-specific estimates of some elements of the 25 by 25 target and found countries would have to conduct “region- and country-specific priority setting” in the form of identifying local risk factor trends and cost-effectiveness of interventions, and as a result, fund additional investments in health surveillance, in order to achieve the target.

Hypertension target

Within the 25 by 25 target, WHO published eight voluntary global targets designed to aid in the overall goal. These fall under two categories:

  • Risk Factors (biological and behavioral)
  • National Systems Response

One of these targets, relating to hypertension, one of the most important risk factors for heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease is: “25% relative reduction in the prevalence of raised blood pressure”. The same Circulation study mentioned above found all three pillars of global strategy would be necessary in order to achieve this hypertension target: surveillance, prevention and healthcare delivered through strengthened health systems. However, it was noted that the model showed that the impacts of the 25 by 25 target “differ significantly by world region.”

Hypertension globally today

This predicted regional variance has been shown to be true today, in a study published in the Lancet. This study, the first ever comprehensive global analysis of trends in hypertension, shows that although there has not been much change in the rate of hypertension in the world population in the last thirty years, the burden of hypertension has shifted from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries. Senior author of the study and Professor of Global Environmental Health at Imperial College London, Professor Majid Ezzati, calls this a “public health failure”, citing the fact that hypertension is “easy to diagnose and treat with low-cost medicines”.

Indeed, four classes of hypertension medicines are included within the WHO PEN are explicitly designed to be implemented in ‘low resource’ settings and has been found to be implementable in many countries.

Clearly, even when WHO is developing and monitoring outcomes-based targets, and developing implementable guidance alongside it, this is no guarantee of success.

Hypertension in Sub-Saharan Africa

Hypertension poses a significant burden in Sub-Saharan Africa, affecting 46% of adults aged 25 and over. Rates of systolic and diastolic blood pressure have risen in Sub-Saharan Africa from 1975 to 2015, in contrast to most other regions around the world. In fact, hypertension has been described as “one of the continent’s greatest health challenges after HIV/AIDS”.

In response to WHO’s 25 by 25 hypertension target, the Pan African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR) developed a 10-point action plan, customised for the region, to be implemented by African ministries of health to increase the treatment and control of hypertension by 25% in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025. The plan involves strategies for implementing hypertension into existing health services, such as those for HIV, as well as task-sharing with trained community health workers.

In South Africa, hypertension prevalence is growing substantially, and healthcare services are struggling to cope with the expanding disease burden. Task-shifting, as suggested by the PASCAR action plan, is being considered to reduce burden in overloaded clinics. South Africa historically has substantial experience with task-shifting, something else that WHO has advocated for, particularly in the context of working with HIV-infected patients. The implementation of such a policy change in the country could result in significant improvements in hypertension management and care.

WHO matters

This South African example underscores the considerable potential of WHO targets to drive local action. WHO may wield no formal legal power over states, but it clearly drives action. It plays an influential role in framing the discourse on NCDs and prompting further implementation and practice change. However, as we’ve seen, successful implementation depends on regional and local actors deploying evidence, argumentation and guidance from WHO.

The last few years have seen an increase in targets, guidance and reports on NCDs from WHO. On current trends, we would only expect that to increase. If done well, this could lead to more global to local action on NCDs and better outcomes for patients around the world.

A new approach to understanding and measuring trust is needed

Posted on: January 11th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

World leaders will shortly descend on Davos to discuss this year’s theme of ‘Rebuilding Trust’. The debate will be shaped by surveys that ask people questions like “Do you trust business?” or “Do you trust the media?” The surveyors’ intent is clear, but the insights they deliver are not. Asking the public to think about trust in abstract and intangible ways is unhelpful and unwise. Trust isn’t abstract. Neither is it intangible. It’s concrete and there are better ways to explore and scrutinise it.

Trust is crucial to any human relationship. It influences how we relate to, and interact, with organisations, governments and each other. Without trust it’s hard to develop successful relationships, create loyal customers and foster prosperous economic exchanges. Trust is also complex and multi-faceted: made up of three core components that vary in importance based on a variety of factors and contexts. That’s why asking general questions about trust provides an oversimplified response. That might be fine if all an organisation or political party wants to know is how they fare on industry and competitor league tables. But if you actually care about trust and want to know not just how trusted you are, but why and what you can do to build and maintain it, then more is needed.

Enhanced approaches to measure trust can offer improved tools and insights, allowing brands to positively influence how much consumers will buy, recommend and advocate them. Doing this requires a focus on three important factors.

  1. Thinking about trust in terms of behaviours.

Ask people a complex question and they often answer a simpler, different one. Broad questions like “How much do you trust the technology sector?” frequently obscure important nuances. They may result in people thinking about a brand they are most familiar with or that has recently been in the news, biasing scores. To avoid bias it’s more effective to ask behaviourally informed questions that target three core components of trust that behavioural science has identified as mattering most. They are:

  • Competence: Do audiences trust you to do your job?
  • Integrity: Do audiences trust you to do the right thing?
  • Benevolence: Do audiences trust you to care about their needs?

This scientifically informed Competence, Integrity, Benevolence (CIB) model allows the creation of a much more helpful set of questions about the behaviours and beliefs mostly likely to lead to trust. The result is a much more concrete and context relevant measure offering actionable strategies for those wishing to build and maintain trust.

MHP Group, working with world-leading behavioural science group INFLUENCE AT WORK and in conjunction with GWI, have designed a way to do exactly this testing it in the UK, US and Germany with 15 high profile brands in the Technology, Financial and Pharmaceutical industries.

Standard trust measures find the technology industry typically fares better than the financial and pharmaceuticals sectors when it comes to who is most trusted. But a closer look through our CIB three-component model tells a different story. Although tech is certainly rated as the most competent, its falls short on integrity and benevolence resulting in the sector falling in the overall rankings from first, to last. It seems that, despite audiences trusting tech companies’ smarts and gizmos, they are much less confident about their values and social impact. Focussing on actions and behaviours that prioritise these components, over competence, is likely to be technology’s most productive approach to restoring trust.

Context matters too. Our research finds that when it comes to perceptions of trust, the relative importance of Competence, Integrity and Benevolence varies from brand to brand. For technology and pharma brands their ‘Benevolence’ score has the biggest influence on business outcomes. For finance, ‘Integrity’ matters a lot too.


  1. Integrity and benevolence matter. A lot.

Many still believe the route to trust is reliability, transparency and a commitment to good causes. But things are changing. Broader concerns about the impact brands have on people and the extent an industry or organisation can act in honest, ethical ways even if doing so is counter to their interests, increasingly loom large in consumers’ minds.

Our CIB model finds integrity and benevolence have a particularly strong correlation to a range of business outcomes that include increased sales, likelihood to advocate, and a business being seen as a true partner. This holds true across different sectors and the brands within them. Yet, little attention is paid to how to increase these aspects of trust. By measuring the specific behaviours that give rise to increased integrity and benevolence it becomes possible to provide explicit advice on how to boost perceived integrity and benevolence where it is lacking.

  1. A way forward.

The CIB model study supports the long-held belief that higher levels of trust are associated with a range of desirable outcomes for industries and organisations such as improved sales, customers becoming fans. Trust can even protect an organisation and industry’s licence to operate. But the work also clearly demonstrates how trust is much more nuanced than traditional models accommodate. Trust is complex. It is a context dependant human endeavour, rather than an abstract concept and there are ways to build and maintain it more effectively.

If the question keeping leaders up at night is ‘how do we rebuild trust?’, the answer is to start measuring it more accurately before more billions are committed and wasted.

Reports of X’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

Posted on: January 4th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

The website ‘House Price Crash’ is a community of thousands of people who have been praying for a UK house price collapse for nearly two decades. Day after day, the forum reassures itself that the inevitable implosion is coming, and that they were right all along, when they opted not to get on the ladder in 2005. It’s a community sustained by confirmation bias, denial of basic economics, and despair. Much like the media industry commentary about X.

Many journalists, influencers and comms people have been predicting Twitter’s imminent collapse and declaring its irrelevance since the earliest days of the Musk takeover. Some have even walked away to the social media equivalent of House Price Crash – Threads – to swap stories of X’s mismanagement.

And some of the criticism is justified. By some metrics, the Twitter community has shrunk since the takeover, and the new brand has much less media visibility than the old. Elon Musk himself has admitted that the platform could go bust if advertisers don’t return. But Twitter’s network effect helped it survive the departure of right wingers to Parler and Gab and so too it will survive the departure of progressives to Threads and Blue Sky.

In the meantime, as the resignation of Harvard president Claudine Gay highlights, it remains the only open platform where opinion elites co-ordinate at scale.

  • It was X where the testimony of Gay, and her peers from MIT and Penn before a congressional hearing on antisemitism on campus, went viral
  • It was X where mega-donor and CEO of Pershing Square, Bill Ackman, set out his case against Gay and the Harvard board
  • It was X where evidence of Gay’s plagiarism first began to reach public attention
  • While the journalist and activist Chris Rufo admits that without the coverage given to the issue by mainstream, left-leaning media like the New York Times, Gay would have survived, journalists from these titles came under pressure from influential X users to cover the scandal
  • And it was X’s Community Notes feature that discredited attempts to minimise the sin of plagiarism

TikTok and Facebook may be the platforms to engage mass audiences, YouTube, podcasts and Substack are the places where ideas and arguments are explored in-depth, and LinkedIn and Instagram are where we go to admire and be admired, but it is only Twitter that can energise debates, give shape and form to elite opinion, and mobilise elite action.

That’s why Musk bought it, that’s why so many were concerned when he did, and it’s why it’s wrong for anyone in the communications industry to write it off.

What will 2024 bring for consumers and their finances?

Posted on: January 4th, 2024 by Kate Cunningham

“I’m going to pick a stock and talk about why I think it’s interesting. And that stock is GameStop.”

So says Paul Dano playing ‘wallstreetbets’ investor Keith Gill in Dumb Money, Hollywood’s chronicling of the 2021 GameStop saga. The real-life scenario saw a subsequent short squeeze on the stock and what the Financial Conduct Authority called a “speculative frenzy”. In the US, trading platform Robinhood imposed restrictions barring new long positions in GME, for which it later apologised in front of Congress.

It was a watershed moment highlighting the power of retail investors, but also raised questions about what responsibility trading platforms have for educating their users. That it took place in January is telling: Christmas is often a time of increased financial stress, so the chance to make a quick return is tempting. As we step into 2024, the cost-of-living crisis is entering a new phase, and Robinhood itself has launched in the UK with a promise to “drive innovation” in this market. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the other interlinked trends likely to grow this year, driven by consumer expectations.

1. Social media’s (continued) influence on investment decisions

The surge in retail investment shows no signs of abating. Platforms that democratise access to the stock market continue to attract millions of new users, many of whom are younger and more socially connected than ever before. This is set to get a further boost with the government’s potential sale of its remaining shares in NatWest to retail investors this year. If that goes ahead, we should see even greater adoption of the platforms that facilitate this, if launched in the right way. But the battle for their attention, and for provision of reliable information, has stepped up yet another level. Investors are further delving into social media and online communities to make investment decisions, and Gen Z is largely ditching Google and instead browsing TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest as a form of search engine.

2. Impact goes mainstream

The world quite literally burned last year, and pictures of holidaymakers forced to abandon their hotels spread across social media. Like it or not, it’s when perceived ‘far-off’ problems start to seep into everyday life that people begin to sit up and take notice of the evidence. Sustainable investing is no longer a niche interest; it’s a significant force in the financial world. People want to know not only how their money is invested, but the impact it is having. Harnessing this momentum, the Make My Money Matter campaign with Olivia Colman thanking pension savers for allowing oil and gas companies to destroy more of the planet was particularly powerful. And it’s not just the E – activists speaking out on the S and the G are, again thanks to social media, given a bigger platform than ever before.

3. AI: the future-gazing financial adviser

Cost and fear of judgement have long been two of the main barriers to getting qualified financial advice. But people are increasingly seeking personalised financial experiences tailored to their unique needs and life stages. AI is already being used as an aid by the industry to offer these insights and automate often complex decision-making processes, and this is becoming more advanced at pace. While there are challenges in terms of data privacy and over-reliance on historic data, the reality is that AI-driven tools are best placed to identify future trends. It’s this hyper-personalised, predictive potential that will be the real game-changer.

4. BNPL your cab fee

Well, not yet. Embedded finance is nothing new, but the demand for convenience has reached new heights and the growth of all of the above – digitisation, transparency, personalisation – feeds into this. As the line between financial and consumer services continues to blur, so expectation of getting two, or even three financial services in one increases: a pre-approved loan for a vehicle purchase, payment facilitation, and automatic integration of that payment plan into a bespoke financial dashboard complete with those hyper-personalised tips and updates. While that’s a while away, more financial partnerships with consumer brands to offer a seamless, frictionless experience will be the only way to win – and keep – customer loyalty.

5. Financial literacy as a core focus

On the point of loans, financial literacy became more of a necessity last year, but the UK is still a weak performer when benchmarked against similar economies. A report from Wealthify and the Cebr found that three quarters of the country falls below the financial literacy benchmark. The desire is there to manage money or invest more effectively, but we have long failed to offer sufficient financial education in schools and habits then slip down the generations. We’re likely to see an increase in educational resources, workshops and interactive tools designed to demystify finance, shaping a financial landscape that is not only more innovative, but inclusive and responsible.

So what does this all mean for communications?

Understanding and embracing these trends is crucial to financial services brands looking not only to stay relevant, but to influence. Consumers are rightly more discerning, seeking services that can better fit into their lives. Reaching them should be via the spaces they already occupy and the formats they are naturally drawn to – whether that’s via video games and TikTok, or LinkedIn and broadsheets – and with content that informs without preaching, driving natural debate and conversation.

While having a set of agreed guidelines or key messages to inform activity can provide a valuable skeleton to work from, flexibility and willingness to adapt around them is key – things move quickly. As the GameStop saga showed, it only takes one post.