A Scottish marketing specialist is claiming that the Scottish Government has got it all wrong with its acronym – FACTS – in delivering its message on the COVID-19 pandemic to the general public.
Writing in The Sunday Post
, Lucy Chapple, head of strategy at communications consultancy, Stand Agency, explains: 'Any good pub quiz includes an acronym round. This is because recalling words behind common acronyms is notoriously difficult. It's perhaps surprising then that the Scottish Government chose a wordy five-letter acronym to deliver what is a relatively simple message to a highly-engaged public about how to stay safe during the pandemic. Whilst not knowing what NASA stands for could lose you points at a pub quiz, the public not grasping the meaning behind FACTS is a significant failing with serious consequences'.
Lucy explains that directive acronyms have a place as an effective mass communications tool for the right audience, but only if the acronym is both clear and compelling. She says the risk of hinging the latest COVID-19 health campaign on an acronym like FACTS, is '...that it doesn't translate to mass recall and that it is perceived, especially by younger people, as infantilising.
'Many are comparing FACTS with the UK Government's latest slogan – Hands, Face, Space,' she says. '[Prime Minister Boris] Johnson's communications team continue to utilise the "rule of three". Three is the smallest number required to make a pattern and lends itself to easy recall, and there lies its power.
'The public has been overwhelmed by guidance that keeps changing, and there's an argument to be made that constantly rolling out new straplines has led to "slogan fatigue" and diluted the important message the government is trying to deliver. "Hands, Face, Space" is far more effective than FACTS as it is memorable and unambiguous.'
The Burley Four – the Sky News quartet of journalists/presenters who broke the COVID-19 guidelines both during and after a meal to celebrate presenter Kay Burley's 60th birthday at The Century Club in Soho, London, on Saturday 5 December, have brought shame to the journalistic profession.
Burley's guests, among a 10-strong party, included the Sky News political editor, Beth Rigby, presenter, Samantha Washington, and North of England correspondent, Inzamam Rashid. Four of the party are then said to have gone to Burley's West London home to continue the celebrations – something strictly prohibited by Tier Two rules in place in London at the time.
Sky management has made clear its anger at the activities of the Burley Four. A spokesperson told the BBC: 'We place the highest importance on complying with the government guidelines on COVID-19, and we expect all our people to comply. We were disappointed to learn that a small number of Sky News staff may have engaged in activity that breached the guidelines. Although this took place at a social event in personal time, we expect all our people to follow the rules that are in place for everyone'.
Sky practised what it preaches in exemplary fashion. Wigan-born Burley, who began her career at the Wigan Evening Post
, where her first job was reporting on a vegetable competition, has been taken 'off-air' (for that, read suspended) for six months and Rigby and Rashid for three months. Washington apparently has not been disciplined by suspension.
Burley atoned: 'I have agreed with Sky News to step back from my broadcasting role for a period of reflection. It's clear to me that we are all in the fight against COVID-19 and that we all have a duty to stick firmly by the rules. It doesn't matter that I thought I was COVID-compliant on a recent social event. The fact is I was wrong, I made a big mistake, and I am sorry. Some dear friends and colleagues – some of the most talented and committed professionals in our business – have been pulled into this episode and I regret this enormously. I was one of the founding presenters on Sky News. No-one is prouder of our channel's reputation, the professionals on our team, and the impact we make'.
With her 32-year-long career with Sky perhaps now in the balance, Burley may well apologise. The Burley Four have now made it so much more difficult for media professionals in reporting on those who break or apparently break the COVID-19 guidelines. The four of them are experienced journalists who knew what they were doing and emerge from this tawdry episode as being both arrogant and ignorant.
Sky emerge from it with great credit in being prepared to temporarily lose the services of three of its highly-paid employees on a matter of principle. Bravo, Sky!
Entries are now open for the Society of Editors' (SOE) Press Awards for 2020 which will celebrate the best of UK national journalism during this year. With revised, new and returning categories, entries can be made for work published in print, website, online, mobile, video, audio or any other news delivery format in any UK national newspaper or any news website or platform primarily covering UK national news during 2020 (excluding broadcast media).
The SOE awards follow the British Journalism Awards run by Press Gazette, whose winners were announced on 9 December. The website recruited some 30 new judges this year, bringing the total to 80, and made efforts to ensure greater diversity on the judging panel. A record 900 entries were received, representing every major news organisation in the UK, boosted by efforts to improve the diversity of entries with free entry for women and BAME journalists who did not have an employer willing to cover their costs.
An emphasis on newspaper campaigns has been introduced to the SOE awards to reflect the excellent campaign work and fundraising spirit of national publications during the COVID-19 crisis. The British Journalism Review's
Cudlipp Award will now go to the best popular newspaper campaign, while a separate Campaign of the Year category has been created – open to all titles and teams – rewarding the initiatives that captured the nation's hearts and achieved tangible results this year.
Judging of the Newspaper and News Website of the Year categories allow for an additional emphasis on the overall performance of the publication. There are two new categories celebrating innovation – Digital Initiative of the Year and Innovation of the Year – as well as two categories expanding upon the recognition of the supplements and magazines produced by newspapers – Magazine: Popular, and Special Supplement of the Year. And there are new categories recognising Data Journalist of the Year and Driving Diversity to reflect the growing ambitions of the industry to tackle this challenge.
Reflecting on a momentous year, the SOE's executive director and chair of the judges, Ian Murray, said the press had performed its role remarkably well under pressures previously unknown to this era. Ian told me: 'In spite of the collective challenges, this year has proved more than ever the vital responsibility and achievements of national newspapers in providing trusted and essential journalism to individuals, families, businesses and communities. The awards remain the most prestigious occasion in the industry's calendar and we are determined to give full recognition of the quality, diversity and success of editors, writers and columnists in national news media'.
The closing date for entries has been extended to Wednesday 13 January 2021 – allowing time for even the very last stories of this year to be included. A shortlist will be announced in February 2021. Early entries are encouraged. Proceeds will help fund the SOE's campaigns for press freedom. A full list of categories can be found on the category page of the SOE's website
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Jackie O'Brien, one of the BBC's Reporting Scotland
journalistic team, who has for many years covered the largest geographical patch in the UK – perhaps, indeed, in Europe – from her Inverness base, has left the BBC to pursue other interests. And here I must declare an interest. We both were brought up in two small North Sutherland villages – Portskerra and Armadale – which are only seven miles apart, on one of the most beautiful, scenic coastlines in the world. However, I don't think we two have ever met: certainly my loss, and something which I must swiftly remedy. I wish Jackie well in her endeavours in the future – free from the perhaps daily bane of countless miles of motoring to get to the story.
And on that well-wishing note, could I take the opportunity to wish all my readers a quiet, contemplative but still very joyful Christmas period, and a Happy, Prosperous and Peaceful 2021. Pax vobiscum (Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe