#CommsHeroRamadan 20.4.22 – what is it and how to get involved?

With over 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, there’s a good chance that you – or a friend, a co-worker, a neighbour, or a fellow #CommsHero — will be celebrating, fasting, and doing all sorts of other activities that are unique to Ramadan.

But ever wondered what it’s like to observe Ramadan? Well, fellow Comms Heroes, now’s your chance!

On Wednesday 20 April, Asif Choudry, Nadia Khan and I are organising #CommsHeroRamadan – a day where we can all come together and experience the joys of Ramadan, understand how Muslims across the world feel and celebrate the diversity of our Comms Hero community.

How do I get involved with #CommsHeroRamadan?

Fasting from dawn to sunset on Wednesday 20 April is one way you can get involved, but fret not…it’s not the only way. Here’s ten other things you can do:

  1. Give up tea, coffee, biscuits, chocolate or crisps for the day
  2. Skip a meal and donate the money you saved
  3. Organise a cake sale, charity dinner or iftar (sunset meal to break a fast)
  4. Volunteer at a food bank or charity in your area
  5. Organise a food collection in your community or place of work
  6. Make a donation to a charity or food bank of your choice
  7. Share information about Ramadan with your colleagues and networks
  8. Start a conversation with your colleagues and fellow #CommsHero community to learn about what the month means to them
  9. Join a #CommsHeroRamadan session on the day (details will be shared soon)
  10. Show your support on social media using #CommsHeroRamadan and image below

What do I do if I want to fast on the day?

You’re welcome to fast for the full day, but do consider your personal circumstances when deciding. If you choose to fast on Wednesday 20 April, the fast begins at 3.50am and ends at 8.22pm.

If fasting for the day is too much for you, you can join in by keeping a half fast, meaning you’ll fast for the morning or afternoon only, or give up food and continue to drink water throughout the day.

Either way, the choice is yours, and the Muslim Council of Britain has some useful guidance to help you prepare. Nadia’s piece about Ramadan is also worth a read as it’s packed full of information.

Tell us how you’re getting involved…

Share pictures, videos, gifs or words using #CommsHeroRamadan to let us know how you’re getting involved on Wednesday 20 April, and how you’re doing on the day. You can also tweet us directly, our handles are:

@NafisaShafiq , @AsifChoudry and @NadiaKhan79

By Nafisa Shafiq

Higher education communication and engagement manager. Specialises in delivering targeted, accessible, multi-channel communications to engage diverse audiences.

Twitter: @NafisaShafiq

LinkedIn: Nafisa Shafiq


The Holy Month of Ramadan: Awareness, Understanding and Creating an Inclusive Workplace

The Holy Month of Ramadan: Awareness, Understanding and Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Ramadan, the Holy Month of fasting for Muslims, starts at the beginning of April this year, based on the sighting of the new moon. Muslims across the world will excitedly be starting preparations to embark on a month of spiritual renewal.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam; it is an act of worship where one refrains from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. This year the fasting day will be approximately fifteen hours. However, Ramadan is so much more than not eating; it is also a time of reflection, discipline, abstaining from bad habits, extra prayers, charity, acts of kindness and connection with family and community.

This is why Ramadan is actually a really exciting time. Research has indicated that more Muslims actively fast in Ramadan than pray or observe their religion throughout the year.

Traditionally Muslim countries announce the beginning of Ramadan in a variety of ways including canon fire in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. Indonesian Muslims welcome Ramadan with a cleansing ritual called the ‘Padusan’; they bathe in the beautiful natural springs as a symbol of renewal and purity.

In Palestine, the community prepare beautiful traditional lanterns and put them up in houses and bazaars. In Turkey, Morocco and India, there is a custom of drummers, town criers or ‘sehriwalas’ in Urdu, who announce the beginning of the dawn ‘sahoor’ meal. British Muslims also have their own unique ways of celebrating the month. There is a real vibe associated with Ramadan, and towns come alive at the time of breaking fast or ‘iftar’.

For iftar, Muslims try to follow the Prophet Muhammad’s tradition of breaking fast with dates and water. The dates provide energy and the water rehydrates. Following this, special tasty and nutritious foods are prepared this month which differ across all Muslim traditions.

The community aspect, especially the iftar meal and night prayers are a very important part of this special month. It really is a whole community endeavour from young children who choose to fast, through to all ages, obviously depending on health and energy levels.

Not all Muslim choose to fast, or cannot fast for a variety of reasons including health, pregnancy and old age, however they can still get involved in the charity, spiritual and community aspect of the month. No one is excluded, and it’s a very inclusive experience.

The last ten days of Ramadan are especially significant, as there is a special night within this time period when the Qur’an (Muslim Holy book) was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, Muslims will perform extra prayers during these ten days, and sometimes they even choose to enter a period of spiritual seclusion.

Ramadan is about resetting the normal rhythm and slowing things down, so there is time to focus on the spiritual core. Muslims will try and adapt to the pace; making time for extra prayers and many try to read the whole Qur’an over Ramadan. When the month is over, there is sense of sadness because of all the benefits and blessing that Ramadan brings. The end of the fasting period is marked by a massive community festival known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days and in Muslim countries these days are a public holiday.

In order to create an inclusive workplace that caters for everyone, an understanding of Ramadan is key to supporting your work mates through the fasting period. On top of that, there are some simple ideas below that can help employers foster a greater atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.

Top tips for supporting Muslim colleagues in Ramadan:

  • Arrange a talk or webinar about Ramadan through your Muslim forums or Diversity Networks, and invite guest speakers or Muslim colleagues to talk about their Ramadan experiences
  • Why not organise a team iftar event to breakfast together, and partake in the spirit of Ramadan with your colleagues?
  • During this month, allow colleagues the option to work from home and flexibility with work hours; this enables them to observe their prayers and take quick breaks to reenergise
  • Try not to arrange back-to-back meetings as this can be exhausting anyway, but even more for a fasting person
  • Provide a private prayer space and somewhere staff can break their fast
  • When working with Muslim stakeholders or communities, please be mindful of arranging community or work events during iftar time or the last ten days of Ramadan
  • Allow staff time off for Eid; they deserve a good celebration after a month of fasting

By Nadia Khan

Historian, writer and communications professional. Working in local government. Founder of Golden Threads: A project exploring shared history, culture and art across the Islamic world and beyond.

www.goldenthreads.uk
Linkedin: Nadia Khan MA, Dip CIPR 

Instagram: @nadia.khan30 

Twitter: @nadiakhan79


CIPR X CommsHero: Who Runs the World?

We Are Resource and CIPR’s live event ‘Who Runs the World’ gathered together five of the most respected names in the communications industry – former CIPR presidents Sarah Waddington CBE, Emma Leech, Jenni Field and Mandy Pearse and current President Rachel Roberts for a discussion about their experiences and advice to fellow communications professionals.

With collective experience in both agency and in-house and across the private, public and charity sectors we chatted about everything from what they were most proud of, to what they would do differently if they had their time again! Our panel answered questions relating to the important matters for our industry such as being truly inclusive and diverse and representing our stakeholders.

If you missed it is a much watch, the hour flew by!

Words by Naomi Jones, Communications and Marketing Director for SUEZ and Who Run’s the World panel host.

For the best experience, watch the panel on We Are Resource’s virtual event platform HERE.

If you would prefer to just listen, use the podcast link here:


Dear #CommsHero, you're a human being, not a human doing.

The following blog was written by #CommsHero Jules Loveland. Jules is a Comms professional who devotes her work to improving the mental health of others. Grab a cuppa (Yorkshire Tea of course!) and take 5 minutes out of your day to read this blog reminding us that if you’re struggling, there are good reasons for that and a reminder to always reach out for help.

 

The last 2 years have left all of us in some kind of traumatised state, one way or another. Whether the pandemic exacerbated what was already there, or brought it on, there are very few of us left unscathed by what we’ve all lived through. For some of us, we’ve experienced terrible loss, for others, we’ve been in fear for our lives. And others, the extra responsibilities we’ve had to carry have just broken us. At home, at work, it’s been an assault on our minds and our bodies.

 

Anxiety, stress, depression – these are all normal responses to having experienced or witnessed something difficult and painful. There’s no shame in admitting our mental health isn’t where it could be.

 

Mine definitely isn’t! I’ve always been known as a ‘high capacity’ person – even though I live with so little energy due to my ME/CFS. But when I started to feel overwhelmed at the thought of even having to carry out basic self care (like showering), I knew something was really wrong. After a series of traumatic circumstances, the pandemic just tipped me over the edge. Burn out had hit hard.

 

Knowing I wasn’t coping brought a lot of shame and guilt, especially when I considered the impact on my kids – who I was supposedly homeschooling. The first thing I did was find a therapist. I know enough about me to know I needed proper help. When I felt like I was failing, one of the first things my therapist said to me was “the numbers of calls for help are overwhelming. You are not alone. No one is coping. No-one is built to cope with this.”

 

And then there was work…

The communications ride and slide

As Communications Manager for a charity who works with very vulnerable people, when the pandemic hit we had to act fast. All our usual support services had to be re-configured. There was no way we were withdrawing from our beneficiaries at the time they needed us the most. We expanded and developed and changed – a lot – in a very short space of time. Suddenly ‘comms’ was thrust into overdrive, having always been somewhere in the background. Now more than ever we wanted to reach and engage and connect in ways we’d never done before.

Initially it was a buzz, long hours and flippin’ hard work but we’re all in it together, all working for the common good. The whole industry was changing the game. But over time, I got tired, we all got tired. The industry got tired. More than tired.

There have been several surveys done by the PRCA and CIPR on mental health in Comms/PR. At the time of writing, the PRCA and CIPR have just released some frankly alarming stats around the state of our mental health in the industry. I wasn’t surprised to discover I was one of the 90% of Communications professionals struggling with poor mental health. Nor was I shocked to read that PR professionals are 25% more likely to suffer from poor mental health compared to other UK workers.

Why? Because aside from the workload, communicators are carrying something the world so desperately needs, and we’ve been giving it out, over and over without recognising the personal cost. I’m talking about connection.

Saving the world one connection at a time

Connection heals trauma. A world that is traumatised is looking for healing, subconsciously it’s seeking the connection it needs to heal. Public relations has connection at its heart. As communicators, we are facilitators of connection. We’re building bridges for people to find their way back to themselves and others. Using our skill and expertise, we’re teaching society the skills it needs to be whole:

● Empathy

● Emotional intelligence

● Conflict resolution

● Clarity

● Authenticity

● Courage

We’re doing this all the time. “Just another campaign” is never just another campaign when you’re a communicator – it’s levels upon levels of emotional and mental processing and analysing and ‘giving away’. You’re not ‘just doing your job’, you’re equipping, educating, inspiring and facilitating belonging. You’re leading with the skills the world is looking for. That’s a big deal. Go you!! There’s a reason you’re called a CommsHero*!

Human Beings not human doings

But you know, even heroes need time to regroup and heal themselves. We’re not bottomless wells of resources for others. For some of us right now, all we have is burn out, exhaustion, anxiety and stress. It’s time to sit up and take note of where we’re at. Horrific industry stats have people behind them. That 90%, that’s you and me, and our colleagues. Now we know the state of the industry, we can’t ignore it. This isn’t sustainable and for the sake of you, and future generations coming into the industry, we have to act.

We’ve got to stop the busy, challenge the 24/7 always available culture, address workloads, workplace difficulties, crap leadership, reduced teams and whatever else. We’ve got to put humanity back into the industry. Collectively, it’s time to heal. We’re so much more productive and effective when our work comes from wholeness and is not driven by brokenness. It’s time to learn that sometimes we need to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’.

 

Of course, ‘being’ means slowing down, re-examining, and doing things differently. That can feel like a threat to our workplace but also ourselves. Sometimes the distraction of ‘keeping going’ helps us to avoid the reality of what’s really going on. It takes vulnerable courage to ‘be’. But let’s try. Because in the being, there isn’t just healing, but there is also innovation, creativity and joy – 3 things our industry needs in abundance!

 

So let’s take a pause. If ‘being’ is hard for you, because there’s too much ‘doing’ or because just ‘being’ has become scary, I want to let you know it’s OK. There’s help, support and a way through.

 

Step back. Take a breath. Tell someone. And learn to love yourself, because, hero, you just walked through a war and you won.

Support:

Get help. Don’t wait until the thought of cleaning your teeth gives you a panic attack.

British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. CIPR/PRCA resources for support.

*#commshero is a movement celebrating the everyday brilliance of people like you working in comms.

Jules Loveland (MCIPR)

Communications Manager at Dementia Adventure, certified #CommsHero


A lack of diversity in the PR industry

This week’s guest blog feature is by Ilyana Rajwani, a Public Relations and Communications Management Graduate from Solent University. Ilyana’s blog is such an important read and I hope you find it useful. We still have a long ay to go before there is fair representation in the PR industry but I know with high flying graduates like Ilyana, things are about to change.

However, this topic is not written, discussed or highlighted enough in the communications industry and, as a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) PR professional, I feel responsible to start the conversation on this ongoing issue and want to use this blog to express my passion for this subject.

First of all, here are some statistics to break down this complex issue. According to the CIPR in 2020, 92% of PR professionals in the UK described themselves as White. Similarly, Chitkara states that the ethnic makeup of the PR industry in the U.S. is 87.9% White.

The question on most people’s minds is why is this happening? Although there are endless reasons, to keep it short and sweet I have chosen two dominant reasons from what I have researched.

Racism and racial stereotyping in the workplace

Although this may sound obvious, this reason is paramount and greatly affects BAME PR practitioners in their daily working lives. Racism in the workplace can be formal, informal and subtle. It can be expressed via microaggressions, racial biases, stereotyping and more. For example, a study conducted by the University of Oxford in 2019 revealed that ethnic minority groups must send 60% more applications to receive as many callbacks as the majority group. This could be seen as an example of CV name discrimination and thus racial bias being practised.

Regarding the UK PR industry, a CIPR report published in 2020, highlights that BAME practitioners feel they must work harder than everyone else and that they are left out of certain tasks and prevented from working on prestigious accounts. Also, it is claimed that BAME employees are appointed racialized positions and are only hired for managing diversity within an organisation or for PR roles where communication is needed with minority consumers. Due to this, BAME PR practitioners feel as if they are the “token” ethnic minority professional who is forced to represent an entire racial or ethnic group.

To conclude, these factors may force PR practitioners to quit their jobs or prevent them from applying for a role in communications causing a lack of racial diversity.

Unaware of the benefits of a racially inclusive PR team

Multiple studies have shown that diversity leads to more creative teams and increases a company’s bottom line, with inclusive teams making better business decisions 87% of the time. So why are racially inclusive teams not being utilised in the PR industry?

Research by Ramaswani 2018 states that minority candidates see the world differently and thus can use their diverse backgrounds and experiences to provide unique insights into what drives customer behaviour, purchasing decisions, and brand loyalty among key audiences. This is also known as cognitive diversity which has been recognised as a major benefit for any business. In my opinion, BAME audiences can only be communicated effectively if strategies are used that make sense to them. In other words, strategies proposed by BAME PR practitioners due to the similar experiences they share. Do you agree with my thoughts?

What can you do to promote racial inclusion in your workplace?

If you work in communications and have noticed a lack of racial diversity at your place of work, perhaps suggest The Blueprint initiative to your organisation. This initiative promotes BAME diversity in PR and comms through online content, mentoring schemes and events. Lastly, simply having diversity and inclusion talks and workshops could help drive a conversation and promote action.

I hope you learned something new from reading this blog and please comment down below your thoughts on this matter and ways your organisation promotes racial diversity!

For more information on the lack of racial diversity in PR check out this link:https://newsroom.cipr.co.uk/unequal-opportunities-non-inclusive-cultures-and-racist-experiences-cipr-publishes-new-report-into-lived-experiences-of-bame-practitioners-in-pr/

Feel free to contact me on twitter @ilyanarajwaniPR or drop me a message on LinkedIn if you want to know more about racial diversity in PR and to get this conversation going!

Ilyana Rajwani

Public Relations and Communications Graduate


CIM partner with Raconteur

Hi everyone. CIM were absolutely delighted to partner with Raconteur on their latest Future of Marketing and Customer Experience report, published in the last Sunday Times.

There is a plethora of insight on the latest marketing trends to be found in this report, but a real standout is the op-ed from our own marketing director, Gemma Butler, on page 11. We know that marketing can and should be a force for good in the boardroom, but the concept of ‘sustainable finance’ as a unifying force to bring together key decision makers around brand purpose is a change I am excited to see take hold. Unfortunately, marketing is still seen as a cost centre by too many organisations, and this is a rallying cry to focus on value delivered, rather than pounds spent.

You can read the report to enjoy the full range of features, including the op-ed below, here: https://lnkd.in/d89vH3F

Raconteur Future of Marketing and CX report

COVID-19 boosts startups in the PR industry with more than 50 agency launches: Wadds Inc. Report

More than fifty new PR agencies have been founded in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report published today by Wadds Inc. It provides insights into the market and clear direction for anyone thinking of starting their own agency.

The COVID-19 PR Agency Startup report explores why such a large number of agencies have been started in such a relatively short period of time. It includes a list of startup agencies and characterises them by proposition location, funding and the date they were founded.

The lockdown created new routines and space for practitioners to think about their career and life. Alongside redundancy and furlough this is the primary driver for new agency startups. The report found that two-fifths of agency startups were founded during the first lockdown between February and July.

The UK agency market is saturated with more than 4,500 agencies according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). New agencies launching into such a crowded market need a strong proposition.

Startups recorded in the study are focused on one of three areas of innovation: services, business model or specialism. New agency propositions are focused on data, creativity and lead generation. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), fintech and healthcare are popular markets.

The majority of agency founders have funded their new businesses from savings or lifestyle changes. Alternative approaches include raising funds from family and friends or seeking investment from a complimentary agency partner to help cover overheads.

The report finds that COVID-19 has leveled-up competition for startup agencies. Founders have been able to create content and meet people in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Video calls mean that everyone presents the same in credential and new business meetings.

Everyone interviewed celebrated the support that their launch and new agency has received from the industry. It is a vibrant and supportive community. The UK is a great place to start a public relations business.

“The report is dedicated to anyone who has founded an agency during the COVID-19 pandemic. It celebrates your work. It’s also intended as a source of inspiration for anyone considering setting up their own agency,” said Stephen Waddington, Managing Partner, Wadds Inc.

“The COVID-19 UK public relations agency startup report is an inspiring read. It’s hard not to feel optimistic about the future of our industry after reading the findings. The PR industry has adapted remarkably well to the pandemic and the explosion of new agencies is testament to the strength of our practice,” said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA.

“This is a fascinating, innovative piece of research into the life of any agency from start up. I hope, like the famous TV series Seven Up!, we will get the chance to follow their stories as they grow and evolve,” said Mandy Pearse, President, CIPR.

The report found that two-thirds of the startups were located in London reflecting the location of their previous employers or personal circumstances. This is despite the fact that the pandemic has shown that there is no need for creative or professional services to be based in London. It may be that we’ll start to see a shift as a second order effect of the pandemic.

The report includes eight startup PR agency profiles: Second Mountain Communications, BB Partners, Little Mesters, Hard Numbers, Inpulsus, Look After, Happy Yolk and CommsRebel.

The 40-page report is available in an electronic format and Adobe PDF. A print edition is also available.

Information about new agency launches was collated from PRovoke, PRWeek and social media. It was cross referenced with legal company registrations and agencies’ own websites. The database is limited to agencies that were formally incorporated in the UK between 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Report HTML version

PDF download version

Print version – please contact stephen.waddington@wadds.co.uk


The Caterpillars Are In The Ring, But Will Either Win? by Jessica Pardoe

The question of the week is: Team Cuthbert or Team Colin? And yes, if you’ve missed the news, that’s a genuinely real problem we’re faced with.

In the ‘food fight’ of the century, M&S began legal action against Aldi to “protect” their iconic Colin the Caterpillar from its rival chocolate sponge roll, Cuthbert. Apparently there’s nothing more important going on in the world right now… So this is where we are.

Colin And Cuthbert Go To Court

M&S have argued that the similarities between the two caterpillars mean consumers think they are of the same standard, enabling its cheaper rival to, and I quote, “ride on the coat-tails” of the company’s reputation for “high-quality food”. Colin the Caterpillar, who’s been around since 1990, is currently around £7 in M&S stores, whereas his knock-off counterpart Cuthbert can be bought in Aldi for £5.

Credit: Olly Browning

M&S has lodged an intellectual property claim with the high court this week, and reportedly has three trademarks, including the words “Colin the Caterpillar” and the packaging. Their favoured outcome of this battle is to have Cuthbert removed from the shelves and never to return in future (including under a new name)… Ouch!

With it being obvious that you can, in fact, find caterpillar cakes in pretty much every supermarket across the country, many are thinking that this is either an unorthodox PR stunt by M&S, or perhaps even a joint venture by the two brands.

I like the thinking, and you can’t deny that this may pan out to be one of the most high profile legal cases of the decade. But is this battle actually doing either brand any favours? Here’s what I think.

Will Either Caterpillar Make It Out Alive?

There’s no question that both M&S and Aldi have attracted a great deal of publicity this week. The nation is as divided as it was in 2016, with many championing the traditional Colin the Caterpillar, and others sticking up for Cuthbert. Both brands have been the talk of the news and social media, but is all this publicity doing either any favours?

Famously, not all publicity is good publicity.

I’m actually torn as to whether this court case has done M&S any good at all. They’ve got a famously reputable product that they’ve been channelling a lot of marketing spend into recently. Have they gone too far with this legal battle and ended up actually unravelling their hard work? Here’s what I believe…

Colin is getting a reputation

I think one of the most unfortunate things to come out of this now-notorious case, is that poor Colin is getting quite the reputation. Nobody likes being copied, but taking another to court over it? Now that’s a little extreme. Though Colin was dragged in to this by M&S, I can’t help but think he’s a bit of a brat right now, to be honest.

Un-doing M&S’ branding efforts

M&S have famously being going all out over the past year, spending a fortune on marketing their two iconic products: Percy the Pig and Colin the Caterpillar. You can now buy just about any Percy the Pig merchandise you could ever want, whilst Colin’s been busy getting himself a wife and kids in the form of mini Colin rolls. M&S often frequent my TikTok ‘for you’ page with mini sketches. It’s clear their marketing team has gone all out with these two characters. Does this court case send them a few steps back? Though it’s undeniably giving Colin a great deal of publicity, it’s also unravelling (in my opinion) the hard work done in marketing his personality and character. I’m not too sure if I even like Colin all that much at the moment.

Giving Aldi great publicity

If publicity was the aim for M&S, then they’ve got it. But so have Aldi. Obviously there are some who think that this is a joint PR stunt by the two brands, but I’m not convinced. Just because it doesn’t seem to be doing M&S’ image many favours right now. Aldi already has quite the reputation for being a bit cheeky and risky with its comms – I recall their very first TV adverts (that I remember anyway) being an unapologetic comparison of how much cheaper their products are than the big fours’. A lot of us are team Cuthbert, after it’s quite rightly been pointed out that there are dozens of look-a-like Colin’s on supermarket shelves – why go after Aldi? Clearly, the brand’s been having a bit of fun with the situation though, putting out an absolutely cracking social media post last night…

Promoting other competitors

Perhaps the most ironic thing, is that this legal battle has actually given the limelight not just to Cuthbert, but to his cousins in other supermarkets too. Yesterday, the talk of social media was the various caterpillars of the UK, and how they fair against one another. This is not a new argument, but it’s one that has brought to our attention even more so in the last few days than ever before, I’d argue. M&S has got people talking about Colin – but at what cost? Everyone’s also talking about the copycat versions too, which incidentally are cheaper and arguably a lot more accessible.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I really fancy heading out to pick up a caterpillar cake right now. (But will it be a Colin? Well there’s the issue I guess).

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments below.

You can read the original blog here: https://jessicapardoe.com/2021/04/16/colin-and-cuthbert-legal-battle-pr/ and find out more about Source PR: www.sourcepr.co.uk

Jessica Pardoe

Senior PR at Source PR


Branding it the Yorkshire way by Hannah Jowett

The new Yorkshire Housing brand has finally arrived. It has been a long process, delayed by COVID and we’ve learnt a lot on the way. So I thought I’d share some of our journey.

Tell them brand isn’t the logo

When you say ‘brand’ most people think you mean a logo. But it isn’t that. Really, your brand is what people say about you. It’s your reputation.

If I say Disney – what does it make you think? I’ve never been to Disney but I think of fireworks, fairy castles and happy families – a magical experience. It’s not their logo that tells me that – it’s everything else I know and what people say about them. Just think about the Apple logo. If it didn’t make me think of tech and my phone, I wouldn’t blink if I saw it on the side of a greengrocer’s van. It’s a plain uninteresting piece of fruit. In itself the symbol means nothing without my Apple experience.

From the start it’s important to help people understand what brand is, so when they see the new visual identity, they understand that it’s only one part of the jigsaw. A logo will not reflect everything you are or your business strategy. It’s a way for people to identify you. There are many other important parts such as your tone of voice, brand promise (ie what you aim to do for who), and your customer experience that make up your brand.

I found a brilliant video online by a fantastic designer called Marty Neumeier that I showed to our leadership team and Board to explain what brand is.

You can watch it here.

Get the right people in the room

Now, without upsetting brand agency folks, they can have a reputation for being ‘fluffy’. I knew this wouldn’t go down well with our straight-talking no nonsense Yorkshire Housing people. So, I looked for an agency that could hold their own in front of our senior team.

We hand-picked our team carefully and invited colleagues from different parts of the business to be part of a 12-strong brand group. The group worked with our agency DS Emotion to understand what it means to be Yorkshire Housing. We also spoke to some of our customers and got feedback from our leadership team and Board.

 

You need to trust your team and support those with the right skills to do their best work. When it came to design we did it in-house. But only because we have a crash hot designer who is a brand expert in his own right. And we love what he came up with.

Don’t make the Hippos king

Everyone has Hippos (Highest paid person’s opinion) to deal with when it comes to brand. If you aren’t careful they can dilute what you’re trying to do. There is a saying, that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. This is never truer than when you are dealing with brand feedback. I don’t like that colour, picture, shape. Can it be greener, bluer, rounder, edgier …… and on it goes. Before you know it your designer will be frustrated as NOTHING can be designed to meet conflicting feedback.

Yes – get feedback from colleagues, the senior team and customers – but don’t hone in on those off the wall requests based on personal taste. And don’t take feedback more seriously because it came from someone senior. Treat everyone equally. Look for themes in the feedback from across all the stakeholders and respond to those.

Remember, the brand is not for the board, the senior exec team, or someone who hates the colour you chose. It’s for all your colleagues and customers. Choose what will work for them.

Your people are the brand

When our customers think of Yorkshire Housing they don’t think of a logo. They think of the colleague who repaired their boiler, or the person they spoke to on the phone.

You can say what you like about yourself and have a shiny new logo, but if a customer has a bad experience – it damages your brand. They’ll tell all their friends and probably tag you on Facebook too. So, it’s really important to help colleagues understand their role in the brand because every email, letter and conversation counts. To support them we’ve created a new tone of voice guide, ‘How to Talk YH’ which shows how to write in our new straight-talking, friendly style. We’re rewriting examples of customer letters and planning brand training.

The fact is, a comms teams can’t build a strong brand on their own. It needs a firm long-term commitment from the business and it takes time. I’m pleased that we’re ready to set off on the next exciting leg of our Yorkshire Housing brand journey.

Hannah Jowett

Yorkshire Housing


Sausage rolls socks would complement the cape rather nicely

I’m fairly new to the #CommsHero world, little did I know
that despite living and breathing comms since Uni, there was such a huge bunch
of awesome people waiting to say hello and unleash their inner hero. The
tables, perfectly set with personalised note books and goody bags full of swag,
built excitement on arrival and whilst itching to find my cape (I had a red
one) I held off until the break to listen as the speakers began.

The ever lovely, smiley Helen Reynolds opened the event and
set the scene for a motivating, energetic day. 
I was lucky enough to benefit from Helen’s social media training
recently so it’s always good to see her IRL. 
Then Mr Grant Leboff – he took my mind off my cape and mask with his
great, upbeat delivery about brand authenticity and reputation.  More thought-provoking stuff followed by
Yorkshire Tea’s Sam Ward and Gina Stringer, on the importance of ‘doing things
proper’.  Celebrity endorsements aren’t
something I can easily relate to coming from the public sector, but the part
about investing in relationships is on point and as important as strategy. Relationship
building is something we can all do, whichever sector we work in.

Mr Choudry! Great to meet Asif before breaking for lunch.
What he has done is create an environment (on and offline) which celebrates
comms and drives home the importance of believing in yourself.  Thanks to Asif, in #CommsHero we have a
community to share ideas and challenges; we can all feel empowered and be
‘thought leaders’.

Lunch time brought about much excitement. Not only could I
finally get the cape and mask on – it fit like a dream – but I could also have
a spin on the wheel of #dunkability.  This
was a long awaited moment for me and it turns out that jammie dodgers have
incredibly good staying power.

After enjoying a Greggs sausage roll – why didn’t I try the
vegan one?? – the afternoon session opened with Greggs who talked through their
very entertaining campaigns including of course, the vegan sausage roll and
romantic Valentine’s suppers. What really came across from Fiona Mills and Ian
White though took me back to the whole theme of the day – keeping it real and
being authentic. Greggs celebrate who they are, they celebrate their staff and
their customers. They deliver what people want from their brand and it turns
out that sausage roll socks are a part of this! #sockenvy

Next up, Liam Smith of Yorkshire Wildlife Park, he was so
incredibly entertaining and uplifting. He really does put the human into social
media and offered lots of very quirky, comical ideas about how to really engage
audiences. But then he did have photos of mongooses so he was winning from the
start. Either way, he certainly had us glued to our seats.

The day concluded with Helena Langdon, formerly of innocent,
with her accidental success of a travelling office stapler which went viral, to
never under-estimating the power of non-sense. The penguin awareness day is now
a firm fixture in my diary. You had to be there.

So now I am back in the office, I have ideas and my
colleagues have swag envy. If there’s one thing I have learned from my day in
Manchester, it’s that I can’t wait to book my place for the next #CommsHero.
And this time I think I may have company. Until then a huge virtual fist bump
to my new #CommsHero buddies.