Always on and always learning

Always on and always learning

Adam is a junior marketer currently working in local government.

During stints in retail and then sales, Adam studied for his level 4 certificate for the Chartered Institute of Marketing before going on to work for them directly as a Content Coordinator.

He now works for Bracknell Forest Council as a Communications Executive where he has led on such projects as Equalities, the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and the response to COVID-19. During this time he became a Chartered Marketer.

Marketing and Communications is a broad career choice, but has been traditionally overlooked as a niche department in business.

What’s more, getting ahead is hard when there is so much to learn and so many avenues to choose from.

In this episode, Adam will discuss how learning and development helped him in his career, offers his tips for learning around a busy lifestyle and suggests why everyone has the ability to learn, and why businesses should encourage them.

Adam Pyle

Communications Executive

Podcast questions:

  1. How did you get in to marketing?
  2. What is Continuing Professional Development?
  3. What are some of the things that have held you back as a communications exec and how has learning helped with that?
  4. What are your top tips for studying, especially around a busy lifestyle?
  5. Do you think CPD still has a role to play with so much free resource?
  6. What are the challenges facing communicators today?

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…


Asif Choudry (00:05):

Hello, welcome to another episode in the You’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Adam Pyle. Adam is a junior marketer, currently working in local government, , during Stintson retail. And then sales. Adam studied for his Level four certificate for the Chartered Institute Institute of Marketing, or CM, as they’re more popularly known, , before going on to work for them directly as a content coordinator. He now works for Bracknell Forest Council as a communications exec, where he’s led on such projects as a qualities, the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and the response to the Covid 19 pandemic. And during this time, you also became a chartered marketer, which is gonna be, , a key part of what we’re gonna discuss today. So, Adam, thanks for joining me. It’s a pleasure to welcome you on the podcast.

Adam Pyle (00:51):

That’s it. Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to it.

Asif Choudry (00:55):

So before we get into talking about CPD and Chartered and all that kind of stuff, we’re gonna get to know you a bit, Adam, and this is the first time I’ve known you on social for a while, as I do with a lot of my guests. , but this is get me getting to know you and also our listeners. So let’s kick off with, are you Apple or Android?

Adam Pyle (01:14):

Oh, that’s the question I feared the most. Out of all the ones I’ll be asked today. I am Android, which I know is unusual. <laugh>. Yeah. , I lived with a couple of guys after Uni, their software developers, , they’re still software developers. They hated Apple, right? And so they, I didn’t have that technical insight, so I had to get an Android. That was what they made me do. And I’ve sort of kept the bias. And, , I was listening to Darryl’s podcast with you recently, actually. He was talking about Apple. He said, , otherwise excellent podcast by the way. Definitely recommend it. He said something like The top 1 billion, most affluent people pick Apple. , so I, I guess I’ll be in the 7 billion who don’t. But I’m an an, I’m an Android man.

Asif Choudry (01:55):

Android, , that’s that. I’ll remember that one. Cause the, we don’t, as you say, we don’t get that that often. So there you go. People, Android user, Adam Pile. So, , on the Android phone, do you prefer to make phone calls? Are you a texter?

Adam Pyle (02:11):

, it depends. It depends. I text text. My friends, call my m. It’s, , it’s probably a generational thing, I think. But dice, I’m a, I’m a texter I think most of the time, unless it is my mom or my wife, I ring. And really, those, those is probably the only two

Asif Choudry (02:30):

<laugh>. There’s probably lots of listeners just nodding in agreement, , as they hear that. So let’s ask you, , are you an early riser or do you love a lion?

Adam Pyle (02:40):

I’m, I’m an early riser. Typically now, now I’m married, , especially at the weekend. cause she loves, she loves to sleep in. That’s sort of time I get to myself so I can go for a walk, watch the TV that only, I’m only I want to watch. So, , not Emily in Paris, which is her choice, , <laugh>, but you

Asif Choudry (03:00):

Know, of marketing lessons. A lot of people. Yeah, a lot of people are talking about the marketing lessons to be learned from Emily in Paris. And I’m probably gonna have a, , a guest on from the US at some point talking about Emily in Paris. I’m not watched it myself yet, but, , I might do because apparently there are lots of marketing, , lessons in there. So we’ll wait and see. I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve watched it. So what you box at binging then, Adam in these early mornings on a Saturday?

Adam Pyle (03:26):

Oh my dear. Well, I’ve, I’ve gone back to some of the old ones that I didn’t get a chance to watch the first time. Sophia and I have just watched Luther starring Idris Elba. Oh.

Asif Choudry (03:35):

Which I think brilliant. Yeah, it’s a new series coming out, isn’t there? Oh

Adam Pyle (03:38):

Yeah. Looking forward to that one. You know, I’m, I’m watching for the Dr I think she watches it for a Idris Elba, cause you know, he’s a lovely, lovely man. I’m sure he is very

Asif Choudry (03:47):

Popular. Hey, listen, don’t we all, don’t we all

Adam Pyle (03:50):

<laugh>. So, but at the moment, watching, oh, sorry. At the moment, watching Inside number nine, which is an old BBC show. So nothing revolutionary. I haven’t watched any of the new ones for a while, apart from Italy, Emily in Paris. But I’d recommend, yeah, I’d recommend that if you like a bit of gothic comedy.

Asif Choudry (04:10):

Well, there we go. There’s a recommendation from Adam. And final one, are you an e booker or do you prefer a printed book?

Adam Pyle (04:16):

, this is probably where I won’t surprise you as much. , I’m, I’m a printed guy. I know you love it as well, , from your history of it. But I will say this, I have only listened to a couple of audiobooks in my life, but certainly since I’ve started in local government, they are in amazing things for accessibility and they’ve opened up learning to people who learn in different ways from me, for example. So even though I’m on the print train, the idea of audio, it just makes it more accessible for everyone. So we’ll have both in the world and I’ll, I’ll stick to the print.

Asif Choudry (04:51):

No, absolutely. Listen, I’m, I’m a massive print fan having worked in print for 20 plus years. But, , I, I’ve discovered, , audible through one I’d interviewed, , Sarah, the Sera legend, Sarah Waddington. And she, I didn’t even, I’d heard of Audible, but I’d not really thought about using it. , she’s a massive printed book fan and we were talking about print on that episode of the podcast and she mentioned Audible. And since then I’ve, , you know, I’ve got the monthly subscription and I, I listen to quite a lot of audio books cause I still commute into the office cause I’ve got 30 minutes a day of commute time. So I, I use that for more CPDs. So I’m a big fan of both formats, but the printed book, I think for learning, I tend to learn a lot more retentions just better from the printed book, , rather than just taking it in passively through, , through listening.

Asif Choudry (05:45):

So it’s just a thing that must be an individual thing. But no, I appreciate all that, Adam, and it’s been nice to find out a little bit more about you. And, , so what you, you posted on LinkedIn about becoming a chartered marketer and that, as with a lot of the guests I invite on, , it’s through something that they’ve posted and, , oh, I thought cpd, everyone’s talking about it, or a lot of people are, and there’ll be people who are doing it, people thinking what is it? , and also being a chartered marketer and the value chartership. And that’s, I thought that would be a good, , conversation for our listeners to, to take in some advice from somebody who’s, who’s doing it and who’s gone through the process. So I wanted to ask you, Adam, to kick us off now, how did he get into marketing?

Adam Pyle (06:32):

It’s, it’s a long story, so it probably won’t be my shortest answer today, but marketing’s is kind of a love story for me, really. I, , I was at school, I was very average at school, , hanging in the middle for pretty much everything, but I did business studies in year 10. You start to, when you’re 15, 14, and 15, you start to branch out a bit more with subjects in school. I just understood it, , understood it in a way that I could see it apply to business as well. So I could, I could not only did I know what the four Ps were, I, I realized why it was important for business. I could understand it in the real world, which i, I couldn’t ever do of maths or science. Yeah. , and I, marketing was my favorite part of that. So I took it on to a level.

Adam Pyle (07:18):

, I did okay at gcse. I did okay at a level, and then there was a choice to go to uni, , or start a job elsewhere. I chose to go to uni, but I, I did English literature instead of marketing, which I do wonder about now. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I do wonder. And then kind of marketing went on the back seat for a long time. I didn’t really think about it. I worked with my dad after uni in retail. Marketing wasn’t really a thing for the stuff we did. And then I was 29, so eight years had passed after uni. I went, went on a speed date with my friends. I met someone. , and we talked about marketing and she loved her job. She was a marketer. We talked about marketing on that first four minute date. We talked about it the rest of the evening.

Adam Pyle (08:06):

We talked about it on our first few dates. And she talked about the CIM course she did. And she said, it’s not too late, you know, to get into marketing. I was doing a sales job at the time now. , so I did the course, she did. I ended up marrying this girl, this is Sophia, my wife. , and through that I eventually went to work for CIM. There are a couple of things along the way, but what I would say to anyone who wants to get into marketing or communications, who listens to this, and I know a lot of people are already there, but for those who want to get in, you are bringing transferrable skills to it. Marketing is very open to that. So it’s been brilliant for me to learn some of those things I learned, again when I was 18 and seeing them apply differently. But you bring a whole load of different life experience for it. I say marketing, you’re thinking about it, you know, get involved.

Asif Choudry (09:02):

Yeah. Lovely story that you said. The love of marketing. It was actually exactly that. So what, you know, most people fall into comms and marketing as a profession and, , , you kind of fell in love with the person who brought you into the, , profession. So, so there you go. It’s a big shout out to Sophie there. So, , , no thanks for sharing that story. And , I speak to a lot of people who the answer of how did you get into this role is usually fell into comms and marketing. And it would be brilliant. You know, fast forward 10 years from now, that it’s the profession or a profession of choice right up there with being a YouTube or a TikTok or whatever is gonna be the social media platform of influencers and stuff like that as, , as it happens. But it would lovely to, to do that. And we, I talked to you in the intro about, , you posting about CPD, , continuing professional development. So we’re all ones for demystifying the cluttering jargon here on com zero. So what is continuing professional development, Adam?

Adam Pyle (10:10):

Okay, that’s, , another long answer I’m afraid as if, but continuing professional development, CPD I’ll call it. , it’s a couple of things now unofficially, it’s the way sort of we all learn. It’s about keeping your learning up to date and doing that for any nber of ways. , like listening to this podcast, for example, if, even if you’re not in a CPD program, if you’re listening to, maybe not, maybe not my podcast, but let’s just say there comes hero podcast in general, you are doing CPD, it’s about keeping your learning and development up to date. But officially and through industries such as marketing accountancy, you do hear of, of these things, chartered accountants, chartered surveyor, they’re big ones. It’s the, it is a way of regulating the industry, making sure you’re keeping up to date with your work, with your learning, getting the proper qualifications, and ultimately making sure you are the best in the profession that you can be.

Adam Pyle (11:06):

So I, I became a chartered marketer a year and a bit ago that involved, , that involves signing up for cm. You have to be a member of the body, the chartered body of each profession you are in. And I was signing up to a CPD portal, , and putting in your activity as and when you do it. So if I was doing this podcast as I am now, to be honest, I’m gonna add it to my CPD, I will point out what I did to prepare for it. I would talk about what I learned on this podcast, and this is the key bit. I would point out how it made me better at my job for a local authority. And ultimately that’s what CPD is. It’s a record of how you become better at your job and, and in theory it gets you to sort of those higher levels in your career.

Asif Choudry (11:54):

Yeah, and also some sound advice there and, you know, certainly demystified any of the points there, , for people who will have heard the t CPD branded about and are, if you’re on it, great, you’ll understand it. If not, then you’re probably doing it. And a learning is the key thing with that. But it’s official learning that you’re talking about here and being recognized, , for that learning. What would you say to people who are doing that learning but not going down the official recognition route, as you’ve mentioned there through CIPR CIM and any other membership bodies that, , , you know, are, that you can become members of, dependent on what you’re doing with incomes and marketing?

Adam Pyle (12:36):

, that’s a, that’s a really good sort of question. I think we have to be sort of mindful of the world as it is. So, you know, maybe people who are listening to this podcast are more, maybe more affluent than average, but I, I pay sort of 20 pound a month for my CM membership. Previously I was paying for my CIPR, , and I didn’t sort of have the money to keep that monthly. So I’ve temporarily put it on hold and I’ll come back to it. But if you, so you have to kind of, 20 pound a month is a lot to, to some people and you have to kind of justify it. I would say that though, if you are doing it unofficially and you can get involved with it, definitely do for a couple of reasons. One, that chartered element is becoming more and more important now, especially for sort of junior marketers.

Adam Pyle (13:29):

, so I was saying sort of before the recording began, when I was at CIM, they very much had worked out that that chartership was, it was strenuous. It was tough to get, and it still is, but it was there when you were 29 30 or when you were 10 years into your career, you’d get chartered. And at that time, you’re not getting the huge benefits of it because you already have the contacts in the industry. Maybe your next job is someone you know, rather than what, you know, in that instance. So they bought it further back. So people like me who’ve been doing marketing three, four years, and then they can become ACMs, which is sort of just above entry kind of level. They can do two years of marketing and then a test and then become chartered. And that means that as a junior marketer, you should be able to get the benefits of that chartered program.

Adam Pyle (14:23):

And there’s, there’s a second reason. It’s more important you can really structure your learning around it. So cons of marketing covers everything these days, to be honest, we’re asking, we’ll come back to it sort of later, but it’s asking big questions of the world as it is. And you, and I think young, certainly marketers have to decide or feel, they have to decide fairly early if they’re gonna be a generalist, which sometimes rules them out when they’re younger or a specialist, which kind of rules them out as they’re older. , but join in a chartered body like CIPR, like CIM means you can kind of structure your learning. You are always gonna have the material to learn there. You’re not gonna be chasing it. You’ll find material that will be relevant to you and ultimately that will make you better at your job. So I would say if you can, if you can afford it each month, then do, because the benefits are, are just fantastic.

Asif Choudry (15:23):

Now, some good, , advice there Adam, and thank you for sharing that. And , we were talking before the recording started and I’ve got a few more questions that I’m gonna ask you. But just to continue the point on chartered marketer and you talked about being a junior marketer, there’s probably a, , in my opinion, a pop popular misconception that you’ve gotta be in the profession for a nber of years before you will, or you can get into chartered status, but you are of a different opinion. So you’ve educated me today. So what’s your take on that?

Adam Pyle (16:01):

You do have to be in for a little while or at least have a marketing element to your role in order to qualify for say, a CIM status as I do. But you don’t have to be in it for years and years and you know, it has to be related to your role, but maybe you’re doing marketing in your current role, but don’t have the title. For example, maybe you’re doing communications in your current role, but you are there as a specialist or something like that. You don’t necessarily have to be in there a long time. You just have to have been around kind of marketing for a while. When you sign up to these bodies, they will, they will let you kind of know what entry level or whatever you are, you are on for. And I suppose with, with junior as well, it’s, it’s a word you kind of associate it with like new. , but if you’re a junior doctor, for example, you’ve done years and years of training to even be, that is a, that sort of positioned marketing isn’t quite the same, but junior marketers still have a couple of levels of experience for them. So if you are in it for a couple of years, you are more than ready to start that chartered process.

Asif Choudry (17:09):

No, some, , that good advice there. So tell us, Adam then, what are some of the things that have held you back as a communications exec and how has learning helped with that?

Adam Pyle (17:20):

That’s another, another good question. , this, the short answer is there are, there are lots of things. Lots of things, especially as an older junior marketer. So I, my first marketing role, I was 32, 33. , and I studied for the CM one when I was after 30. So I spent years in retail, years in sales. Consequently, you always feel like you are behind. , and going through that in, in kind of your head, , you think you hear these ts like imposter syndrome and you think, well that’s, yeah, that’s kind of a made up t really, isn’t it? , or that applies to me. It can’t possibly apply to anyone else. But you do learning, not only do you get better for it, but you listen to, to podcasts like this or CM Marketing podcast, if I’m allowed to say another one. , the whole marketer by with Abby

Asif Choudry (18:14):

Dixon. Absolutely. I’m a massive fan of Abby Dixon. Yeah, she’s been a guest on the Com zero, , podcast actually, and a speaker at coms Zero we say, yeah, fire away with recommendations.

Adam Pyle (18:24):

That’s it. See this is this, this is also it, it as well I’ve, when you asked me to do the podcast before CPD, oh I’d been, I’d been having all sorts of panic attacks about that. What could I possibly talk about? When you look at some of the people like Sarah Waddington, Abigail Dickson, , people I’ve been on here, , believe Louise Dean, Louisa Dean will be on here as well. Yeah, these are big names and I, I do not match up to those. But learning what can I talk about? I can talk about learning and by going through sort of podcasts like Abby’s like yourself, where these people, the Sarah Wattington’s of the world, , listen and, and they talk about their own sort of insecurities. You think, oh wow, it’s a real, it’s a real thing. I’m in sort of the boat that they’re in.

Adam Pyle (19:11):

And importantly they talk to you about how they overcame it. Even if sometimes it’s just you have to get through it and being held back as you’re older and you have to sort of almost feel like you have to pay catch up learning sort of helps you realize what you bring to the table as well as the gaps you have. And that is, that’s the big one for me. I still, I still kind of think I myself as the cat who won crafts, , getting into Bral forest council because I mean, we with a team of sort of a star performers, they’re incredible. , I work with, with 10 women, I’m the only boy. So they definitely keep me in line. , but they’re all incredible workers and only through learning am I able to think that I deserve a kind of seat at that table. That is the biggest thing to me about how I’ve sort of held myself back and how learning has helped push me through it.

Asif Choudry (20:07):

Yeah. So, and then what do you, , what would be your top tips then Adam for, for studying? And especially as with pretty much everybody has, , around studying around a busy lifestyle?

Adam Pyle (20:22):

Oh yeah, that’s, that’s a big one these days cause we’re all, we’re all busy and we’re all being asked to do so much. , as well as like a nber of other worries. , a nber of the guests you’ve spoken to, they talk about their life with their, their children as well. You don’t want to spend less time with your children or your family. So if you are going on this chartered journey, if you’re committing 20, 25 pounds a month, whatever body you sign up to and you and you want to get that kind of knowledge, but you know, you also want to get the hours in my first place of call would always be my work. So I don’t know, , I dunno you guys, but we at the council have to do a nber of different courses, which we just have to do, right?

Adam Pyle (21:06):

So gdpr obviously general data protection regulation have to do that. That’s the law. , we have to do inclusion stuff. So having inclusive conversations, these aren’t meant to be tick box exercises. They are meant to make you better at your job. You can add them, they’re nice, easy freeways of getting ahead. And then what I would do after that, I would find some training which maybe the company would pay for. You can certainly put the request in. I would sort of bury that trading. So there’d be, if you wanted, if you were going for an option that say costs 500 pounds, it’s a one day CM course or something, I would bury that with a three option. I would come to the, , to the management with three options. The first would be that CM course, that’s the middle pricing of 500. And I would put down every advantage possible that I’d get from that course.

Adam Pyle (22:03):

I’d put a, a expensive one just to give them a, a little bit of a knowledge that it can be more expensive and I’d put a course that was cheaper, but maybe I sort of talk about the disadvantages of that in, in what I talk about. And then if you go to them for funding, it may be they say no, it may be they say no, but you do have a right to say, is this a no for now? Is this a no period? Because ultimately people don’t ask for training enough or they certainly don’t ask in the right way. So your work will cover most of what you need really. , and then the easy thing is because you’re doing it already, listening to podcasts like this, listening to the webinars that CIPR CIM do to you do for you because there is a wealth for them.

Adam Pyle (22:53):

, if you’re doing a CIM webinar, for example, it’s an hour, , a week and you’d be covered in sort of 20 hours if you’re at my level. , if you’re doing CIPR, they do bite size webinars. , and you really only need about 12 of those to be sort of at the first level you need. These are all excellent resources that you get and what you’re paying for anyway. And then ultimately you get podcasts like this for free. If I’ve said anything on this podcast and someone’s doing CI , CPD now if I’ve said anything that you didn’t know before or that would make you better at your job on the off chance I do that, then you, you can put me down as your CPD, you’re doing CPD right now. So the resources are out there, , and you don’t have to go too far to find the funding for them.

Asif Choudry (23:48):

So you said that item that the, that lots of, , resources are available and contents available for CPD from your membership body, whether it be CIPR CIM, et cetera. Do you think then, do you think this official and inverted coms official CPD, which is official because it’s recognized by the membership body you’re paying a membership for and you’re submitting it as part of your ongoing, , CPD towards chartered or retaining chartered, , and eventually Fellowship, do you think then CPD still has a role to play when there’s so much free resource? Because let’s be honest with social, everybody’s a guru and people are giving out free advice and , lots of websites have popped up with free resources now that, , you can’t necessarily claim CPD towards chartered if you’re not a member. But what would you say to, you know, do you think that official CPDs still got a role to play?

Adam Pyle (24:52):

Yeah, definitely, definitely. , when, when you sign up for the cpd, when you sign up with the Chartered Institute Marketing, chartered Institute public relations, you are, you sort of on that membership list on that process anyway and you are on the way to getting the official certification. , but if, if for whatever reason you only need to use free resources for that, that’s, that’s more, that’s more than fine. That’s more than fine. If you sign up for CIM and every single thing you put in for your chartered on your CPD journey is the Comms Hero podcast, you’ve learned a lot already. That’s more than fine. Where I would say that you’ve gotta make the benefits of those membership. For example, you have to sign up for CIM anyway, use the resources. They’re more wide ranging than anything you’ll see just like CIPR.

Adam Pyle (25:49):

But the truth is, if you are doing this unofficial CPD of of learning and development, yeah, that, that is good too. The industry is, is full of people who maybe haven’t had the marketing sort of, , experience beforehand of bringing in those skills from outside. But I think people need to treat marketing and communications like they would other industries as well. And that is about kind of that official training that that CIM bring, I think, , the great voice of, of the industry, the great curmudgeon of the industry, I suppose, , mark Ritson in marketing, certainly he, he certainly bangs on a lot about the idea that yeah, we don’t have trained marketers as much as we should and that training is important. That was the guiding thing about CIM. How can we make training important when we take in so much knowledge from outside?

Adam Pyle (26:49):

And the truth is, the simple truthful answer is which written say in which CM say, and it’s the guiding thing, you are a better marketer, you’re a better public relations person. If you go through sort of the official resources that have been vetted alongside the stuff that’s super fun like this or other podcasts or those meetings and mingling you get, or at least you did used to have in the days pre covid. I don’t think we’ve quite gone back yet to what it was before. But in free resource you can get that, you can get there, but you are a better marketer, you’re a better public relations person if you look beyond that and look to sort of the giants who have stood before you and who’ve learnt before and will be able to teach you so much. That’s, that’s my answer to that.

Asif Choudry (27:42):

No, absolutely, that’s a good answer as well. And as I would put a call out to any guests who would have the opposing view to the official CPD recognition route and they’ve been successful or they’re on their journey and they’re not considering that the reasons, you know, be brilliant to explore that with somebody. If you know there’s a call out for a guest to come and tell us why you’re not going down that route and what are, what are the reasons, let’s explore that and and see if there’s anything that the becomes a community the listeners can support with or are just understanding the other side of the fence here really with that. So, , no, it’s been fascinating item to, , to just, you know, hear your journey and some of the advice as somebody who’s, , come late into marketing going on that journey, how you got into marketing. You’ve shared some fantastic top tips as well and also given us a, a good argent really for the official CPD as opposed to all the free resource. , and amongst that’s, that’s out there, that’s available for all of us to tap into. So just to wrap up the questions then, what, what do you think the, what are the main challenges then facing communicators today?

Adam Pyle (29:00):

That’s, that’s a hard question. That’s a hard question to answer. Probably, probably vole of stuff, probably for the industry as a whole. When shortly before I joined CIM I I think, cause I had to do a presentation for on it, , 7% I think of boards across the uk had a, had a cmo, a chief marketing officer. Marketing was not in the conversation. That’s, that’s, that’s less of the case now. I think the pandemic in particular has been a really good platform for communicators, for marketers to show what they can do. But it is, it is kind of like a boxing match. It’s had a battering for four rounds. We’ve, we’ve, we’ve won rounds five and six and it’s the, you know, it’s the second half of the fight now and that has to continue. But the way that is continuing is because there’s just so much more, there’s just so much more we have to do and be aware of in the, the wider world. We’ve got a, a cost of living crisis. We, our customers are not immune from that. Our residents are not immune from that. I’m talking as a local authority. We’ve got wide, wide questions on sort of AI that’s coming in. There’s so many cool things sort of coming in with AI now. , you are, you are a bit of a techie. Have you sort of had any experience or experimenting with

Asif Choudry (30:24):

Some of your, I’ve seen chat G P T and , I’ve resisted temptation. I’ve seen lots of people posting, I asked this question, this is a response maybe, , one day I’ll do , com a podcast would, I’ll ask chat g b t the questions and I’ll read out the answers or something. I dunno, <laugh>, we’ll have to wait and see. But I’m letting all the , , novelty element of it, , go through its natural course and then I’m sure I’ll dip into it just out of curiosity, if anything,

Adam Pyle (30:55):

That’s it. You get version two as long as it’s not like the Tinator, I’m, I’m all for it. But these are, , these are big sort of questions as well as the environmental one as well as ideas around sort of immigration as well. You can, you only have to watch, look at CIM when I started, the big question was about training. Now, now it’s, it’s about sustainability as an organization, , and across the world and , our mutual friend, , Gemma Butler along with Michelle Carville, brilliant Michelle Butler, absolutely. They run their podcast, , can Marketing Save the Planet, which shows the sort of wide questions they do. Most guests say actually it can with a bit of help, it can. So these big questions mean a big workload and I think on an individual level that means mar marketers, communicators, they need to work out or it seems they need to work out earlier if they’re gonna be a generalist, if they’re gonna specialize.

Adam Pyle (31:51):

And that’s, that’s tough. There’s so much you have to get head around. It is speaking, it’s for someone who’s older, , who came into it older, it’s, it’s tough. It’s tough to learn all that. It’s, it’s sometimes there’s information overload. So that’s why I wanted today’s title always on and always learning really to sort of claim that back. cause sometimes that could seem overwhelming. Like I’ve gotta be always learning all the time. There’s too much to learn, but you just have to sort of do what you can and you always will be learning if you’re naturally in the, in the profession and these big questions, they’re not going away. But we can’t come to them alone. We are just, we are part of the solution and it’s really good actually that we are part of that because as I said before, marketing and communications wasn’t before. So that, that is the challenge. That is the challenge. The big questions that we have to help answer.

Asif Choudry (32:47):

Oh absolutely. And some good shoutouts there. I’ll name check those people in the show notes and what have you as well. But yeah, there’s definitely lots of those challenges. Good point made about generalists or you’re gonna specialize. , the strategic element might take your fancy further down in your career as well as you get exposed to that. But you know, the whole premise of Comms Zero, which as we go into 2023 is now and it’s ninth year having worked with and I still do work with a lot of comms and marketing teams and , you talked about one of the big challenges is the vole of work that’s required. It’s always been the case because that’s why we set it up, you know, celebrate celebrating the heroics that comms people perform every day. That is why Comms Hero exists because in my opinion the unsung heroes, when there’s , reduction in budgets, it affects training and marketing.

Asif Choudry (33:42):

The first two places tend to be, that’s where they tend to cut budgets. , and in times of recession, you know, we’ve seen , campaigns like Lucky Saint in January going big on out of home, , advertising within New Campaign. It’s great to see a lot of that stuff. So marketing’s coming out, as you say, coming out fighting really. And I think it’s important the profession recognize that. But we have a responsibility to ourselves and our profession to make sure people who aren’t in this profession understand what it’s about. And we’ve got a whole range of, you know, the com zero t-shirt slogans that , we’ve sent out to many people over the years, kind of just justify that we don’t just do the pink and fluffy. There’s a lot of stuff that we do do. So we really appreciate all that information and , advice and support that people are gonna take away and be inspired by Adam I’m sure. But you know, we’re talking about Comms Hero and the community itself in its ninth year. You know, why is Comms Hero important to you and would you recommend people working in comms and marketing to be part of it?

Adam Pyle (34:47):

The short answer to that last question is definitely, , and I think you probably put more articulately than I could, the reason for the other one, why is it important to me? cause it’s a community that celebrates sort of us and really puts into context what we do and why it’s important. As you say, , during times where budgets are tough, it is often training, it is often marketing that take the first, hit that in a way that I suppose that is understandable, but it’s a shame because the issue is there that communicators in general can be good at absolutely everything. The one thing they will always be bad at, the one thing they will always be bad at is talking up themselves. , I have to do an awards entry later on today and this, I don’t, I dunno how to do it, it personally, I dunno how to do it.

Adam Pyle (35:38):

I struggle, we, we struggle talking about the good things we do in context cause we just get on with stuff we’re often everyone’s go-to for doing things. , and the Comms Hero gives kind of a community, like CPD is a community as well. Yeah. And it’s been very important. It’s very important to me as well to listen to all these people and to find out that yeah, maybe what I do is, is important too. And I’m, it’s okay to be proud of that. I’ve, it’s been a long journey to get here. So yeah, get involved with Comms Hero and obviously the main reason as everyone says, but I’ll just add to it the swag as well, you know, the

Asif Choudry (36:15):

Swag. Yeah. Great part about working here at resources. We’ve got the keys to the swag cupboard. So I’ve only ever used Comms Hero notebooks since we started making them in nine years ago. So it’s, , I’ve got a collection of them and if you attend the Comms Hero event, you get personalized notebooks as well, which is always, , to create extra fomo. So Adam, it’s been really good talking to you. It’s been a great interview and I’m, I’m sure the com zero listeners are gonna enjoy that. And part of the community is that, you know, I I want people to connect with the, the guests. So how can people find you, what, what the social handles they need to be looking for?

Adam Pyle (36:52):

, I, I am on Twitter. , I don’t, I’m one of many, many people. I don’t come across all that well on Twitter, but you can find me. It’s usually me being angry about something or other, but occasionally I might say something funny about Liverpool. , Adam Pile, that’s Pappy Yankee Lima Echo in nine, , at Adam Pile nine is probably the best one that’s a slightly more, , friendly one I suppose. But on LinkedIn, , you can find me on, , Adam Bile, a CIM and, , there hopefully this year, , get the blog going. I’m joining Guild as well. So, , that will keep you all the updates there and happy to have any and all sort of messages if you want to chat to me about anything at all. I think that comes here as a community and to, to keep that going as important.

Asif Choudry (37:40):

Yeah. And Guild, there is a comms hero community, which, , , is on Guild as well. So we’ve been on there for about a year now as well. So come, come and join us on there. So you’re gonna find this podcast on Spotify, apple, , and platforms of your choice, but also on our website, comms And you can follow us on Twitter at com zero. And if you do listen on Spotify and Apple, please do leave a rating and review. That stuff’s important to us. If you have some topics that you’re passionate about when it comes to comms and marketing and your fancy, , being on the podcast as a guest like Adam has just done, then drop me in line. Or, , dm, do contact me on LinkedIn as if Chowdry or on Twitter or at, you know, get in touch with Comms Hero. I’d would love to have you on the show. So Adam, it’s been absolutely fascinating and thank you very much for us being a guest today.

Adam Pyle (38:32):

It’s an absolute please.

Confident climate change communications – how to save the world and avoid greenwash

Confident climate change communications - how to save the world and avoid greenwash

Luisa Pastore leads communications for the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which helps businesses and financial institutions around the world set ambitious targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with science, and is a partnership of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), CDP, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the UN Global Compact, together with the We Mean Business Coalition. Previously she spent ten years at climate change NGO WRAP, the organization behind Recycle Now, Love Food Hate Waste and the Courtauld Commitment voluntary agreement for businesses; she also managed communications for the Welsh Government’s groundbreaking Towards Zero Waste policy which has made Wales’ recycling rate the third highest in the world.

In addition to climate change and sustainability, Luisa’s communications experience spans a range of sectors, from corpses (at Body Worlds exhibition) to cocktails (for Campari), plus familiar names including the BBC, Manchester Airport and the Office for National Statistics. Outside work, she mentors women in leadership and public or political life, specialising in confidence-building and public-speaking skills; she’s also a trained Mental Health First Aider, a lapsed runner and a would-be SUP racer.

Can you communicate complex science when you’re not a scientist? How do you guard against greenwash? And is there any way you can work in climate change communications without becoming downhearted about the scale of the challenge at hand?

Join the Science Based Targets initiative’s Luisa Pastore as she shares the secrets of successful climate change communications, talks about how to make the move into sustainability comms and reveals that even at the close of the hottest year on record, there’s still cause for hope. If you care about the planet – and that should be all of us – this episode is a must-listen.

Luisa Pastore

Head of Communications, Science Based Target Intiative

Podcast questions:

  1. What does the Science Based Targets initiatives do?
  2. The Science Based Targets initiative is – as the name suggests – an organisation based on science, and some fairly complex science at times. How do you go about communicating complex science and what are the challenges?
  3. Climate change is such a big problem and the news about it never seems good. As a communicator is it better to be realistic about the size of the challenge and the scale of the change needed or is it more important to give people hope?
  4. There’s been a lot in the news this year about greenwashing. How can communicators avoid accusations of greenwashing?
  5. What’s your advice for anyone wanting to move into climate change communications?
  6. Most businesses have a lot on their plates and lots of different pieces of accreditation they need to be able to operate. Why should they spend time and money on setting science-based targets and getting them validated?
  7. And why should communications people care about science-based targets?

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…

Asif Choudry (00:05):

Hello, and welcome to anoth episode in the You’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Luisa Pastore. , Luisa leads communications for the Science-Based Targets Initiative at our S B T I. And they help businesses and financial institutions around the world set ambitious targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with science. And previously, , Luisa spent 10 years at Climate Change ngo wrap the organization behind Recycle Now Love, food, hate Waste, and the court hold commitment, voluntary agreement for business. She also managed communications for the Welsh Govnment’s, groundbreaking towards zo waste policy, which actually made Wales’s recycling rate the third highest in the world, , claim to fame the. And in addition to all the climate change and sustainability, Louise’s communications expience spans the range, a range of sectors. And are you, are you ready for this from corpses to cocktails? So, , and plus familiar names including the BBC, Manchest Airport and the Office for National Statistics. And outside the professional life, , Luisa mentors women in leadship and public or political life specializing in confidence building and public speaking skills. She’s also a trained mental health first aid, a lapsed runn, and a wouldbe sup rac or s u p rac. And I’m gonna ask h a little bit about that. So, Luisa, that’s the intro. John, thanks for joining me. It’s great to welcome you on the podcast.

Luisa Pastore (01:38):

Thank you so much. And what an intro. I couldn’t believe that it didn’t even sound like me. , but it’s a huge pleasure to be he. Thank you.

Asif Choudry (01:48):

No, thank you. So what, as I like to do, , I’m gonna get to know you a little bit and our listens will as well. So I’ve got some quick fire questions, but before I get into those, what is a sub rac?

Luisa Pastore (02:03):

Sup is standup paddle boarding, and I’ve been paddle boarding. Hi. Yeah, it’s, it will be, I’ll be paddle. I’ve been paddle boarding for, , six years this year, but I’ve only ev done one race and I’m detmined to do more. So I know that with things like New Year’s resolutions, and I know about behavioral science, says if you, if you want to do something, you need to commit to it and you need to commit publicly. So I’m telling evyone that I’m a, not just would bee a soup rac because I’m detmined to do some more races this year.

Asif Choudry (02:49):

Amazing. A s rac. So you learn something new evy day. And I received your, , bio obviously before we, , get into the recording studio we’re in now. But, , rath than doing what probably most people would do is Google, I thought I’m gonna speak to you anyway, I wanted to ask you. So I’ve just litally found that out, so that’s fascinating. I’ve nev done it before, but I wond how many of our listens also are, , , into s I’m gonna, that’s my new acronym for the day.

Luisa Pastore (03:19):

I would highly recommend it, particularly for communications people. We are always so busy. Sometimes our working life is quite stressful. The is nothing bett than getting out on the wat and relaxing aft work.

Asif Choudry (03:34):

Definitely. I’d agree with that. Osa something for all of us the. So let’s ask you, , Luisa, are you an early ris or do you love a lion?

Luisa Pastore (03:45):

I love a lion, but most of the time I’m an early ris. I have a cat who’s an early ris, so I don’t really have a choice, but during the week, I definitely get up early, get out, try and get some fresh air during the weekend I try and go back to bed for breakfast in bed.

Asif Choudry (04:03):

<laugh> a luxury the. A luxury. So, , do you pref e-books or printed books?

Luisa Pastore (04:12):

Real books evy time, but I have way too many. My house is full, my loft is full. And I have to apologize he to my parents because my dad’s shed, in fact, he’s got two sheds and both of them are mainly full of old books of mine and part of his garage. , they’ve been the for many, many, many years. My dream is I don’t, I don’t want great riches, but I want a house that’s big enough to be able to display all my books. That’s my dream.

Asif Choudry (04:43):

I love that. Absolutely love that. So what, , what kind of is any particular book recommendations for our listens that you’d suggest for that they should go to for 2023?

Luisa Pastore (04:55):

Oh goodness. , you put me on the spot he. The are loads and loads of books that I love. I can’t think of one off the top of my head that I would say is my nb one recommendation for this year. But I’ve just finished reading Michelle Obama’s new book. It wasn’t as good as h, h first one. Okay. It’s a little bit self-helpy for my liking, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I love Michelle Obama. I think the Obamas are fantastic. They are brilliant communicators. So I would definitely say that should be on your to-do to read list, maybe not just nb one on the list.

Asif Choudry (05:32):

Okay. And, , final question for you then is, , are you Apple or Android?

Luisa Pastore (05:42):

Do you know? I know most of your guests are Apple, but I’m Android at least at the moment. Hey, <laugh>. , but I’ve actually, I I, I was thinking just the oth day that I’ve just passed the four year mark with my current phone, and I do look for longevity and I’m really, really proud of the fact that I’ve had my phone for four years. I’m slightly worried about saying that because I’m, I’m worried that it’s cursed it and it’ll suddenly give up the ghost. But I always look for, ctainly for phones in oth equipment that will last and keep going. I’m not a believ in trading in and getting a new one evy couple of years.

Asif Choudry (06:17):

Yeah. And we’re gonna be that kind of, , that’s not a, a preempted , scripted segue into our convsation by the way. We’re gonna be talking about sustainability and, , in particular for communications. And the is a thing really isn’t the with that, , sustainability is thrown up that convsation for or or that kind of decision making for many people, should you change your phone evy year? And I’ve seen quite a few people in the com zo community actually say that they don’t know and they’re far more conscious of it. So, , , I dunno how many people would admit to it though. That’s the thing

Luisa Pastore (06:52):

I know, I know the is always that temptation to get new things, but obviously when it comes to sustainability, when it comes to climate change, we all have a responsibility and we can all do something. And it might be something really, really small, but I always try and, , yeah, I try and play my part. I work in climate communications. I would feel really bad if I wen’t doing my own part, playing my own part in making a diffence.

Asif Choudry (07:19):

Yeah. So we’re going to be talking about, , sustainable communications and what it, you know, sustainability, what it means for us as a communications profession and how we should , , kind of go about it. And you are in a really good position to be able to, , help us with this. And whe our connection came from for the listens really is that the S B T I resource itself, you know, we’ve been on a sustainability journey as a manufactur of, of print, , since probably 2013 now. And we’ve, , been carbon balancing and used in FSC ctified paps. And now we’ve gone through, , scope one, two and three emissions, which, , we wanted to get vified by the sbt. I, so I thought, well, what bett way to, you know, we’re involved in this expience, let’s talk to the pson who leads communications for that organization to see why we should be doing this. And that’s kind of led us to whe we are now. So we’ll cov this as we go through some of the questions that I’ve got to ask you, Luisa. But the first one is, what does the Science-Based Targets Initiative actually do?

Luisa Pastore (08:32):

Oh, that’s a great question. And the short answ is that it does what it says on the tid it’s all about science-based targets and they are targets for greenhouse gas emissions. The slightly long vsion is that it develops standards, , that show companies and financial institutions by how much and how quickly they need to cut these emissions to play their own part in tackling climate change. And then when businesses set their targets, we approve or validate those targets against the standards to see if they are ambitious enough, but also to see if they’re achievable. And the great thing about the SBT I is that it was set up by, , the really big cred, probably the most credible organizations in the field, the wwf, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, which is also known as W R I and C D P, along with the we mean Business Coalition. So when it comes to corporate climate action, it’s really seen as the gold standard. And that’s probably why ov 2000 of the world’s biggest world’s highest impact companies have already had their targets validated. And why last year in 2022, we validated more targets than in all our previous years combined. So the previous five years combined.

Asif Choudry (10:18):

Wow, that’s amazing. And I’m pleased that, , in Decemb, 2022 we had our, , scope three, , target, net zo carbon target of 2040, validated by the sbt I as well. And you’ve just mentioned gold standards, so I’m quite tough with that actually. So that’s how our plan, that’s f fantastic needs we do about it. Congratulations. Yeah, no, thank you vy much. And we’re delighted to, , , to be up the with those 2000, , companies across the world. So I, I feel genuinely quite choked up about that. So that’s, that’s amazing. So that’s what spt I, , does. And, , you mentioned, so it, the SBT is an organization based on science and some fairly complex science at times. So how do you go about communicating, which is what we’re hear about, that’s our listens he. How do you go about communicating complex science and what are the challenges to do that?

Luisa Pastore (11:19):

Well, yes, it’s challenging at times to communicate complex science. And I’m not a scientist, but I think like all communicators, like all communicators, , in my care, I’ve got used to communicating about things that I knew nothing about at first. So in the intro you talked about corpses. I worked at the Body World’s exhibition, , whe I had to learn all about these bodies that we presved in plastic. Yeah, I worked at Campari whe I had to learn about cocktails. And you probably knew a little bit more about cocktails than about dead bodies, to be honest with you, <laugh>. But you know, that that’s what we do as communicators, we learn. And at the s b I am really, really lucky to be surrounded by some real expts to learn from people like my colleague Albto, who is one of the co-founds of the SB t i, and he’s like a guru.

Luisa Pastore (12:21):

The is nothing that he does not know about setting science-based targets. And also, I want to shout out my colleague Alex, who is, he’s the finance and opations director. And so he comes from a completely diffent background, but he’s a genius in that he asks those simple questions that evyone’s thinking about but are too embarrassed to ask. So asking questions, he’s absolutely at the key, but I’m going to let you into a secret. It’s not that diffent communicating complex science to any oth communications. So I think the are three things you need to bear in mind. The first is it’s that, so what factor, why does this matt? Why is this a story? And most of the time that’s about putting people at the heart of the stories. What is the impact on people? What, what, what does this really mean? And I think it’s really easy when you’re talking about scientific topics to forget that.

Luisa Pastore (13:25):

But ultimately all of us, all climate communication communicators need to rememb that it’s about people at the end of the day. The second is to undstand your audiences. We have really, really divse audiences at the S B T I. We talk to some people who are absolute expts at the climate science. We talk to oths who aren’t, who are just starting their journey, who work for companies, want to do the right thing, but don’t know what that right thing looks like. We also talk to people all ov the world. We talk to many people. We’re global organizations. So many people in our audience, , don’t have English as a first language. So it’s about undstanding your audiences, making sure that you are giving them what they want, what they need, not always talking at this really high level, really scientific, yes, the’s going to be people who need that, but also recognizing that some people need simple stuff.

Luisa Pastore (14:23):

And finally, if you want people to make, to take action, you’ve got to tell them what you want them to do and make it easy for them. Don’t give people multiple choices. Don’t give people too much information. And I think it’s something that we need to probably do a little bit bett at the S B T I, we’re getting the, but we probably need to do more. But if you want pe people to take action around climate or around anything that sounds complex, it’s about telling them exactly what you need to do and making it easy.

Asif Choudry (15:00):

Now the’s some really sound advice the because we’re doing, as I said, we’ve, we’re going through that process, , ourselves as an organization and having been party to the, , rafts of information that goes into putting togeth your scope one, two, and three emissions. And that’s like, you know, your utility bills, your fuel usage from company vehicles and doing colleague surveys of what their journey commute to work is and how it is and stuff like that. The’s so much data that goes into building up the portfolio of information in ord for that to be validated for you to find out whe you are in, you know, your scope, your emissions, basically. Cuz it’s only until you identify whe you are today and draw a line in the sand, you can actually start to plan, which is what we’re now doing for 2023, which is, okay, we know whe our, our key scope three emissions are now and whe they’re coming from.

Asif Choudry (15:58):

Now our plan is to how do we target that? And that’s what organizations are doing to get to net zo carbon. So we’re on that journey now ourselves and, and it is full of complexity. So we’ve got that challenge, as you’ve mentioned as sbt I have as well on, , keeping the science intnal, which is what we’ve needed to make sure the nbs are factually correct because evyone should absolutely, , you know, aim to avoid greenwashing at all costs. So fact is important in, , has an important part to play to that, play to that. But you don’t have to communicate, as you’ve said, all the rafts of information that are going into creating your emissions reports and things like that. If anybody needs that, it’s available, but it’s probably not something we’re gonna communicate extensively, , to all our customs and, , colleagues and oth stakeholds as well. But it’s available if anybody wants to have a look at those specifics cause it’s all factual information. So the’s definitely, , a lot of complexity in the. But those three key points you’ve mentioned will really help to, , I kind of make it a lot simpl and communications principles that we all live and stand by, as you quite rightly point out, don’t change.

Luisa Pastore (17:18):

I’m a big fan of making things simple. It’s not dbing down. It’s really keep simple, really simple, important to keep things simple at times. And that’s something that I’ve stood by right through my communications care. , many of us get tempted to make things Yeah, way too complex, way too complicated. Most people can only take in a ctain amount of information at one time. Yeah. So the’s no point trying to share huge amounts of info information with people, people, wheth that’s in an intview, wheth that’s in a press release or te wheth that’s in an advt. Just keep it simple and stick to those really, really key points.

Asif Choudry (17:59):

Yeah, absolutely. So the, I mean, climate change itself is such a big problem and the news about it, it, it’s always tends to be negative. , so as a communicator then, is it bett to be realistic about the size of the challenge and the scale of the change needed? Or is it more important to give people hope?

Luisa Pastore (18:22):

That’s, I think that’s a really, really timely question. And I don’t know if you saw, I think it was during cop, the was a cov of the Economist that said something like, I think it said say goodbye to 1.5 degrees. And it was, it was scary, it was trifying and I really didn’t like that. But, you know, we have to be honest, this is a massive problem. It’s the biggest foot problem the world faces is probably the biggest problem that hanity has ev faced. And time is running out really, really quickly. I was reading an article recently, I think it was in The Guardian saying that even if we do evything that is demanded in the pows agreement, so even if we keep, , climate change within, or global heating within catastrophic levels, we’re still going to lose a high proportion of the icebgs. And that, you know, that in itself is catastrophic.

Luisa Pastore (19:22):

So we owe it to the world to be honest about size of the problem. , but when we’re honest about the size of the problem, we also need to give people hope. And the is a brilliant, , CSR and climate communicator, a woman called Hillary Bg, , who I’ve worked with in the past and is absolutely fantastic. , if you have the opportunity to work with h, I would say absolutely go for it. And I rememb h running concession talking about, you know, this the, the size of climate, , the size of the climate problem. And she used a tm that I can’t rememb off the top of my head that it was a scientific tm that said, you know, when the is a problem, which is so big, that seems so insountable, often people hide their head and don’t even try and do anything because it just seems too much.

Luisa Pastore (20:19):

It’s really, really easy to ignore it. It’s, it’s, it’s too much. So we have to avoid that happening. So we have to count the size of the problem and the urgency with hope. And we do that by telling people the is still hope we can still make a diffence. Yes, we absolutely need to act now. Yes, it’s urgent, it’s sious, but we can make a diffence. And that’s why, why I get really irritated sometimes when I see news stories that say, I dunno, 90% of people are doing something bad. Not necessarily a climate story, but, but stories that you read in the news kind of, , calling out the the bad behaviors because that makes a great headline. But we know, again, talking about behavioral science, we know that the way to get people to do the right thing is to tell them that evyone else is doing it.

Luisa Pastore (21:21):

If you tell, if you say evybody’s doing the wrong thing, that sounds like something to do. That sounds like the right thing to do. That if you think about social norming, you need to think about you, you should be talking about all the people who are doing the right thing. And going back to my pre my previous care, my previous role when I worked with the, , at rap, worked on a campaign, , which was Wales’s biggest ev recycling campaign. And it was part of the Recycle Now, , brand. Yeah. And the work that we did around that was all about social norming, all about saying how many people recycle these people do the right thing. So really to smarize, yes, we have to be honest about the size of the problem. We have to give people hope. And one of the ways of doing that is by showing all the people who are doing the right thing, wheth that’s people on your street, people in your country, or in the case of the S B T I businesses in your sector.

Asif Choudry (22:29):

Yeah, no, absolutely. And , , I’m, I’m a hundred pcent with you on evything you’ve said the, Luisa, and, , you know, I’m gonna give a shout out at this point to, , two people who ctainly have I break up the in tms of that, those Giving Hope and Michelle Carville and Gem Gemma Butl, who Ron Canne marketing saved the planet. And I’ll tag them in when we post this out as well, because, you know, their big, hairy, audacious goal as it we, is to, , I think it’s, you know, 10 million communicators, markets across the globe to have them all, , canne marketing save the planet. Absolutely. Because it’s marketing that through consism, et ceta, that has created absolutely this problem. So if we’ve been responsible in creating it, then we can also help to, , to, to save, to save it as well. So the’s a responsibility for communicators to, , to keep that hook because organizations are gonna rely on us to communicate that. And, and it’s important by doing that with that those, , optimistic viewpoints that we tend to have as, as comms people. Anyway, so, , so the’s been a lot of news. , the’s been a lot in the news this year then about greenwashing or last year as we announced, we’re recording in 2023. So, , and evybody’s heard of the tm, but how can communicators avoid accusations of greenwashing?

Luisa Pastore (23:58):

You are right. The was a huge amount in the news in 2022 about greenwashing, and I think we’re going to see even more in 2023. In fact, in January, , I rememb reading a piece, , I think it was in ed, which is E D I E, which is an online journal or a website about environmental issues. And I read a story the that said that seven outta 10 people in the UK don’t believe the green claims from businesses. So obviously greenwashing is an issue for conss, it’s an issue for businesses too. And actually a separate piece of research, a report that came out, I think in the autn from an environmental consultancy called South Pole, they actually said that the opposite is now starting to happen. And the is a phenomenon called green hushing wheby businesses are starting to actually dial down their environmental comp, , their environmental claims because they’re really concned about Yeah. People kind of looking into that. So it’s clear we need to do something about it, and I believe that we as communicators are absolutely pfectly placed to to, to do that. So <affirmative> yeah, let, let’s start with the basics. Yeah.

Luisa Pastore (25:30):

Greenwashing happens when people make claims which are inaccurate, sometimes actually untrue. So again, it’s coming down to the basics. As communicators, we have a responsibility, whatev we’re communicating to make sure that we are being accurate, that we are being honest, that we are being ethical in the way that we work. And in the case of greenwashing and green claims, yes, it can be challenging, it can be confusing. We’ve already talked about the challenges of climate communications, you know, climate science is or can be complicated. , one of the things you can do, , and particularly for listens in the uk, , if you go onto the, I think it’s on website in Autn 2019, the competition and Markets authority published a report or pap called the Green Claims Code.

Luisa Pastore (26:40):

Yeah. And that helps businesses, companies, organizations, communicators, check that their green claims about products are genuine. And that’s a great resource, and I know about it because in my previous organization, , my colleagues and I, or some of my colleagues and I fed into that piece of work. So that’s incredibly useful for communicators. And secondly, it’s about looking at the science, looking at the evidence. So use evidence, use data, use science to back up your claims. And that means going to, and I’m afraid this, this is going to sound like a plug he, but that does mean going to organizations like the Science-Based Targets Initiative, getting your targets validated. So you can go out the and say, you know, I, I’ve got science-based targets, I’ve got validated science-based targets from the SBT I, and so you can, it gives your customs, your colleagues, your investors, your, you know, potential new colleagues, potentially people who are looking for a job with you, the confidence that you are doing the right thing. And it’s the antidote to greenwashing.

Asif Choudry (28:03):

Absolutely. And, , , the green claims codes, the’s lots of things like that. So great advice for people to go and check that out and absolutely will, we’ll put the link to that in the, , show notes as well. So, you know, the’ll be, the’ll be lots of people who are passionate about, , climate change. To what advice would you give to anyone wanting to move into climate change communications?

Luisa Pastore (28:29):

Before I go onto advice, I think the first thing I would say is congratulations. Because the is no bett job, no more important job, more, no more fulfilling the job than helping save the world. I’d also say congratulations on a second for a second reason. And that is, it is a massively growing area. The was some research at the end of 2022 from pwc, , , I think it’s called the Green Jobs Baromet. And that said that in that in 2022 or in the last year since they started researching this in the last year, the nb of green jobs advtised in the UK had gone up almost threefold.

Asif Choudry (29:30):


Luisa Pastore (29:31):

So it’s a hugely growing area. It’s a hugely fulfilling area. And actually, if you are going into the private sector, in many cases it’s a vy well paid area as well. The is so much demand for climate communicators and CSR people and people working in climate at the moment. So well done. It’s a great, great area to go into. Yeah. , but we still need more communi, we need more climate communicators. , and again, the’s no real, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s not a secret. It’s not, it’s not magic climate communications. So we need many of the same skills, , as, as, as oth communication, as oth types of communications, oth types of communicators. , it’s not hugely diffent in that way. And so you don’t also need to be particularly, you know, you don’t need to be a scientist to start out, as I said, I learned on the job.

Luisa Pastore (30:45):

I’ve learned, I’m still learning, I’ve been learning for many years about climate, about environmental communications. So if you are intested in it, you can do it. If you are a communicator and you want to move into climate comms, you can do it. What I would also say is climate coms, the is not just one, it, it’s not just one role or one type of role. It’s really, really divse. So you can communicate complex science and data like we do at the S B T I. , you could be involved in behavior change intventions in cons campaigns. You could be working with local authorities, getting people to recycle more or put their rubbish in the right bin. , you could be working with a brand with a company, so the is so much divsity. So do your homework, do your research, talk to people working in communications, in climate communications, follow your heart if you are intested, the will be something in the climate communications sphe to suit you.

Luisa Pastore (31:59):

And I’m always really happy, , as you said at the beginning, I do, I’m, I’m really intested in mentoring. I do lots of things like that outta work, so I’m always really happy for people to get in touch with me if they’re thinking about making the move to climate communications. And actually, , I’m going to be recruiting lots of people into my team ov the next year anyway, so the, so always keep an eye open on the SB t I website. Some of them will be in the uk, some of them will be elsewhe. , but keep an eye on our website if you’re intested in working with the S B T I and absolutely get in touch regardless of, of whe you’re intested in, in working. Please do feel free to get in touch if you want some advice from me on working in climate coms.

Asif Choudry (32:46):

No, that’s great. And I would encourage, we’re gonna, , , give your details out in the show notes and what have you anyway, and I’d urge evyone to connect with you as I always, , do with our guests on the podcast. And, , ctainly the, you know, we’ve seen a lot of our clients who’ve been, we’ve had to design and, , produce ESG reports and these are people who are working in communications, not specifically in climate change communications. So I think evy organization, , if a comms team hasn’t had the request yet, it’s ctainly coming. So it’s something you need to Absolutely. , you need to be involved with and, and, , and do for sure. So the’s lots of fascinating stuff we’ve coved the. And I wanted to, you know, we’re, we’re talking about the comms community he and the comms ho community. So, , Luisa, why is comms he important to you and would you recommend people working in comms and marketing to be part of it?

Luisa Pastore (33:46):

It’s, it’s so important to me. , and I think the reason why is in the name it’s a community and you know, as communicators, we, we are people people

Asif Choudry (34:05):


Luisa Pastore (34:05):

We like working with oth people. So particularly ov the past few years, particularly with so many of us working remotely or working in a hybrid mann, particularly for someone like me who works intnationally. So 95% of my time I’m working at my desk at home, I’m not seeing oth people in real life. That community is incredibly important that support that. Yeah, that community. I’m also a massive fan of pe-to-pe learning. And in my team at the moment, we’ve been developing team, , team values and my value that I’m focusing on is expt. And so I’ve been thinking about how we learn and how we gath information in loads of diffent ways. It’s not necessarily about training courses or reading books. And most of the time it’s about learning from our pes and it’s about learning from their successes and learning from failures as well. Absolutely. And I think that’s the oth thing that the community, , that the community offs. So I would hardly recommend it to all communicators.

Asif Choudry (35:17):

No thank you. And it’s really nice to, to hear that as well. Cause you know, we had a, , the was lots of talk, I think it must have been about going back to about 2017. We had a three events, excuse me, that we held through the year and the theme was dare to Fail because we said, well look, we want to hear from speaks who, communicators who will come up to the stage and share some of the failures rath than coming up and sharing those, , glossy shiny case studies of the successes. But tell us what went wrong because we can learn from that as you, as you say. And yes, yes, as a community we should share those failures because it, well, if it helps somebody else not have to go through it, then

Luisa Pastore (35:56):

The failure is so important. I completely agree with that.

Asif Choudry (36:00):

Absolutely. So Luisa, as I mentioned, you know, I want the conct of listens, they will have enjoyed the intview, this, this recording and this episode and I want them to connect with you. So whe will they find you?

Luisa Pastore (36:13):

They can find me on the Science Based Targets Initiative website. , you can contact me via that, which is science-based And on social, probably the best place place to find me is on LinkedIn. And I’m going to spell this out cause I’ve got an odd spelled spell, an oddly spelled name. So it’s L U I s a, Luisa no, o l u i s a. And then on LinkedIn and the’s a hyphen and then p a s t o r e.

Asif Choudry (36:55):

Excellent. And we’ll conclude that in the show notes as well. Anyway, so genuinely Louis has given an open invitation to connect. So bombard h, , LinkedIn inbox with connection requests and that’s not open to recruits and tech sales people who we seem to be bombarded by, , constantly. Anyway, so, , apologies I didn’t mean to offend any of those salespeople. I mean sales myself. But, , , but yeah, I’m sure we’ve all been the with that. So, , you’ll find this podcast on Spotify, apple and on our website coms And you can follow us on Twitt at Coms Ho. And if you are, do listen on Spotify and Apple, please leave a rating and review. And if you’re up for being a guest and burning passion, talk about a comms related subject and dropps a line and eith myself, , on Twitt at Asif childry or LinkedIn. And, , the’s a contactors field on the Comms Zo webpage. , get in touch and you too could be a guest on the podcast as well. So Louise, it’s been absolutely fascinating and thanks vy much for sharing just some little snippets of your vast insight into, , climate change communications.

Luisa Pastore (38:06):

Thank you so much. It’s been an asbsolute pleasure.

A PR practitioner on every Board

A PR practitioner on every Board

Steven Shepperson-Smith is President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, as well as being a Fellow of the Institute and a Chartered PR Practitioner. Steven is Vodafone Group’s PR lead for Africa, charged with raising the profile of its portfolio of telecom brands – including Vodacom and Safaricom – and products – including M-PESA, the continent’s leading fintech platform – to the international community. Steven has also set up Vodafone Group’s international reputation management programme. Steven has worked in PR for over two decades including senior management roles both in-house and in agency.

In 2023 – its 75th anniversary – CIPR will be reasserting its founding purpose, to help improve society through effective, ethical communications. It also plans to prepare its Chartered Practitioners to take up positions as Board members and Trustees to have a greater role in the governance of organisations in future.

Steve Shepperson-Smith

CIPR President

Podcast questions:

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up as CIPR President. 
  2. What’s the theme for CIPR’s anniversary year?
  3. What kind of events and activities can we expect from CIPR in 2023?
  4. You want a PR practitioner on every Board – why?
  5. Why will Chartered Practitioners make good Board members and what will CIPR be doing to help them unlock these opportunities?
  6. What would you personally like to get out of your year as CIPR President? 

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…

Asif Choudry (00:06):

Hello, and welcome to another episode in the yo my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Steve Shepperson-Smith. Steve is President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, or CIPR. I’m all well known, as well as being a fellow of the institute and a chartered PRpractitioner. Steve is Vodafone’s groups, Vodafone group’s PRlead for Africa, charged with raising the profile of his portfolio of telecom brands, including Vodacom and Safaricom and products including, , m PSA or M Peso. It may be pronounced the continent’s leading FinTech platform to the international community. Steve has also set up Vodafone group’s international reputation management program, and Steve has worked in PRfor over two decades, including senior management roles, both in-house and in agency. Steve has been an absolute pleasure to welcome you on the podcast.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:00):

Morning Asif, and thank you so much for inviting me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

Asif Choudry (01:05):

So I’ve got a few quickfire questions, so myself and the listeners can get to know you a bit, Steve. So let’s, let’s start you with a nice easy one. Are you an early riser or do you love a lion?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:15):

, I’m an early riser. I’ve got two children, , after the age of, , four. So, , I’m an early riser whether I want to be or not.

Asif Choudry (01:22):

<laugh> forced into it. <laugh>.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:25):

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I’m, I, I, , I sleep late and I rise early, so, , I’m not a great example for how not a great, , , post boyfriend Healthy Living

Asif Choudry (01:34):

<laugh> and for any, , Buting parents considering, , parenthood don’t take that as a reason to be put off. , there are lots of joyful things, <laugh>.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:44):

It’s, it has been the best thing I’ve done in my life, hands down. Sorry, CIPR, but it’s better. Yeah,

Asif Choudry (01:50):

<laugh>, I was gonna say right up there with the committee chartered PRpractitioner. No,

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:55):

No, no. It’s far, far better

Asif Choudry (01:57):

<laugh>, but apologies to CIPRfrom your president there, so at least they apologize. So, okay. Then, , early riser, lots of our, , , guests have been early risers. Do you, , prefer an ebook or a printed book?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (02:13):

, I prefer an audiobook, actually. Yeah. , so, so I’ve got so little time now that I listen to my, I’m a, I’m an avid reader, but I listen to books, , whilst I’m in washing up, while I’m cooking dinner, , yeah, while I’m on the Tube. So I’m a, I’m a, I’m a, I’m a constant multitasker. I hate downtime. , so, , , anytime I can, I’m, I’m listening to a book.

Asif Choudry (02:34):

Yeah, no, I’m a big Audible fan as well. But it was a recommendation from, , the Concerta legend that is Sarah Waddington on a, on an episode a couple of years ago, and she mentioned Audible. I’d heard of it. I’ve never really had a go at it, and I did, and I’ve not looked back. Still enjoy printed books. , but it’s only really in the last couple of years that I’ve picked up reading to that extent. But yeah, Audible’s definitely been a great way to conse books on the move. And, like you say, when you do in the household chores and stuff, it’s great.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:03):

, I understand. Let me, lemme also recommend to you as if, , borrow Box, which is the library, , listening app. So, , Audible’s great, Alamo Audible, audible member, but, , you can get a lot of books and borrow them from your local library using Borrow Box.

Asif Choudry (03:18):

Borrow Box. Excellent. There’s another podcast first for me, so I, I’m learning stuff on the podcast all the time, so <laugh>, there we go. That’s, that might save me a few quid as well, I reckon.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:27):

Exactly. Yeah, all about the budgeting as well. All about the bottom line,

Asif Choudry (03:31):

Borrow box. Great tip there already. I won’t even got into the questions yet, , Steve, so, , Twitter or Instagram?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:39):

, Twitter.

Asif Choudry (03:40):

And why is that?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:41):

Yeah, I’m a big, I’m a big Twitter. , it, you know, you look at the, you look at the stuff recently, I mean, Twitter’s obviously had its revise in recent times, but you look at the stuff recently with, with Greta Thunberg and Andrew Tates and over the space of six hours. Wow, that story traveled. And you really feel Twitter that, that, you know, you are there on the cu you know, really watching what’s happening in the world. And, , Twitter, in his Twitter at its best is absolutely fantastic as as, , and obviously it has his worst moments quite a lot as well. , but, , but yeah, Twitter at its best is for current affairs junkie like me, unmissable.

Asif Choudry (04:21):

Yeah. No, that’s great. And, , the, I’ll ask a final one here, which will be, let’s have a look. , are you a TV box binger or do you prefer to curl up with a good, I’ve got book here, but I’m gonna say audio book a good listen.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (04:40):

, I’m, I’m more of a reader, if I’m honest. Yeah. , but I do, I do watch a lot TV as well. , I will watch, try and watch every Man united game.

Asif Choudry (04:50):

You might have divided opinion here with that one, but well for any listeners, when you are listening to this, tell us, drop us a tweet and tell us, your football allegiances or whether you’re unfollowing Steve or sticking with him.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (05:03):

And so while we <laugh> Thank you. While we loop rounds, , back to your first question as well. I was up last night watching Wakanda forever, which was absolutely fantastic. , so I recommend it to your listeners, but, , that finishes about half past midnight way past time. I should have been in bed

Asif Choudry (05:18):

Wakanda forever. Yeah,

Steve Shepperson-Smith (05:19):

Excellent. I’m, I’m a big Marvel fan as well. Big comic with part of the, the, , the PRcomic club, , which is, a great community that, I’m involved in the industry as well. PR comic doesn’t always have to be about work. It can be about shared interest as

Asif Choudry (05:33):

Well. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s fantastic. , Steve, it’s been a pleasure to get to know a little bit more about you and, , we’ve hopefully not frightened people of parenting or, a borrow box. We found out about that as well. So yeah, we’ll have a look at that. So we’re here because in this year, 2023, it’s the 75th anniversary, , of CIPR. And, , CIPRwill be, , reasserting its founding purpose to help improve society through effective ethical communications. It also plans to prepare its chartered practitioners to take up positions as board members and trustees to have a greater role in the governance of organisations in the future. And this celebration, , we’re here recording at the beginning of Feb, CIPRhad a celebration and an event to mark the occasion yesterday in London. Steve, tell us a bit more about that one.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (06:27):

Oh, it was great actually. , so we went to the, , so Bright Church in Fleet Street, which is the journalist church. , it was where the Institute of Public Relations, , had its founding in 1948. , and we had a, sort of a lovely service. , the, the choir was immense, actually. Fantastic. , we had talks from, , Simon Lewis, , who is a former president, , GRE Anne Gregory and Afro Lee, , in the church and that was lovely. I mean, so, Simon was telling us about when he was president of the nineties, , and very much that kind of era of spin and how, you know, we, we really should have pushed back against that. , , but he was saying, you know, in the end that he felt really enthused that lots of young people coming to the industry, we’ve still got a really big, , voice, , in industry generally.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (07:27):

The times have moved on as well from, from that era. You know, he was the Queen’s First Press secretary. He was very involved in, in politics in the nineties as well. So, so probably, you know, that was probably the idea of, of the way people saw, saw PRand, and, and actually we, we have, we can see yourself going on in the last 30 years. , Anne was the president when, , we became charters. We moved from the NSTITUTE population to charter issue publications, , and talked very ally about what was required. It was a really tough process. And the Department for Education skills at the time in particular, you know, wanted, , it it to be a tough process to be a chartered practitioner. , you know, so it matters that, that we, you know, we make chartered practitioners.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (08:10):

They wanted them to have the highest standards of management understanding of, of ethics, of leadership and strategy. , and, but also, , which I hadn’t realised, I told her yesterday, she said that, , the Department of Education skills also wanted the pit, the, the, , c i p as it became to really push diversity and say, you, you need to move beyond an industry that’s at that time, you know, purely kind of white male and middle class and, and, , and reach out to more, , more aspects. And that dovetail really nicely. Aval Lee, who’s headed the CIPR’s Diversity inclusion, , subcommittee. , and, , she was talking very much about belonging. And I think this is still a journey we’ve gotta go on in CIPR the industry generally. So we, you know, we talk about inclusion. I’ll talk a bit more about that later on.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (08:59):

And she was saying, inclusion is really saying it’s okay for you as an, as a minority to, to join this organisation, whether it’s the PRindustry as a whole or the CIPR but belonging is really feeling like you belong there. , and, and I thought that was a great challenge actually for the next 10 years to, to really move from inclusion to belonging. , then we had a, a service, a, a reception after that. We had about 200 people there. And it was really heartwarming. Actually, I’ve been a member of CIPR for over 20 years, and it was really lovely to see members there in their eighties, , people there who were 21 who just graduated. And it really gave you a feel of, , of community. , I spoke, , we had a, a chap called Tim Travis Healy, who spoke as well. , sorry, Kevin, Travis Healy, sorry, who spoke, , hehe and his father Tim, have both been presidents. And, , talking about those early years when Tim was really one of the founder members of, of, , of the I P R. And Kevin was a member of 19 was president, sorry, in 1985, you really got the sense of how, , not just individuals but families had had built this organisation, , made me very, very proud to be, , to be a member.

Asif Choudry (10:12):

Brilliant. And, , yeah, so it looked great. I, I saw, , a lot of the photographs and some video content on Twitter, so, and had, , , the inevitable fomo when you’re not at some of these

Steve Shepperson-Smith (10:23):

<laugh>, you should have been there.

Asif Choudry (10:24):

Yeah, I know. Well, you don’t, I don’t get invited to all these, all these big parties anymore. You see, Steve, that’s what it is. And, , but no, I’ll, , I’m sure I’ll be at many, , other CIPRevent through the course of the year. But yeah, it was great to see a lot of the engagement and stuff happening on social. And, , so Steve, tell us then, you are CIPRPresident for 2023. How did you end up in that role? ,

Steve Shepperson-Smith (10:51):

I’ve been a, a joint CIPRover 20 years ago, as I said, and I’ve been a volunteer since around 2009. And it’s been a gradual process, really. , it’s not something I, I sort of planned when I, I joined CPRin, you know, my early twenties. , I, I did work for the Channel Islands group, , the corporate financial group, the Greater London Group I chair the Greater London Group during the pandemic. , I sat on the, on the C P R council. , I was then elected to board. I’m perfectly grateful to, to the council for doing that. , and then, then eventually I was coming to the end of my time on board and, and, but it’s the 75th year, so the lure of that was too good to turn down, really. , but after this, I’m, I’m definitely done. I’m gonna do <laugh>. I’m gonna go and do something else.

Asif Choudry (11:38):

<laugh> you. I’m back to being a parent, cuz it is quite, it’s, it’s a demanding, , position, isn’t it? I know I’ve spoken to, , Rachel Roberts last year when she was the president of Mandy Pierce before that, , and Jenny Fields. So I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to the previous, , three presidents that have started their journey and at the beginning of that journey as well. And it’s, , the amount of networking and especially with post covid in-person events opening up again. You know, it’s a, it’s a hell of a juggle with family life professional working life as well. So, so there’s definitely a demanding role, isn’t it? It

Steve Shepperson-Smith (12:21):

It, it is, , and funny if we’ve been talking about that this year. So, , a as you know, yourself as if you don’t get to turn off from being a parent. So that’s not, you know, that’s not an option. That, and that is my nber one, , job alongside Vodafone. , and I, I’m immensely grateful for both my family and my employer Vodafone, for allowing me to do this. , and it, you know, I’ve, I’ve just become a lot better at managing time, frankly. , so I, I’m very, very dedicated to not letting anyone down as anyone who’s, who knows me, who’s worked with me, will tell you. And, and I work very, very long hours, , to make sure that I’m not, , , skirting on on other responsibilities. And, and one of the challenges for CIPRhas been really making sure that the job can be done in the time that I have available, cuz it is a volunteering role.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (13:13):

Yeah. So, so I do a lot. So, you know, it’s, it’s probably easier actually than it, than it was for, for Jenny, for Mandy in particular. , oh, not Mandy in particular, , sorry. The, the people who were, who were pre pandemic, , I think Mandy unfortunately was, was right in the middle of the pandemic. , because there, there’s a lot more online sessions now, so I can join those over my lunch period. I can join those after work. , I, I’m not great at the moment at, , at doing drinks late in the evening, , because I’ve got, , young kids, so I’ve gotta get home for that. , but I, I, you know, I join when I can. , and, and you know, just being clearer kind of when, when we’ve got CIPRdays booking them at holiday and then, you know, going into going to, to do those events.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (13:58):

So, so you, you have to be really organized. And also I’ve, I’ve got a brilliant team on board around as well, and council, , and I can’t do everything. , so, you know, and it, it can’t, it can’t just be a call to the individual every year that the president comes forward and, and sort of does everything. There’s a, there’s a brilliant management team, there’s a brilliant board, there’s a brilliant council, and everyone gets out and it’s really important, particularly in the 75th year. But every year that we get out and we talk to our members and we talk to the people training with CIPR, , and that’s the way we really build the community. And, and you know, as, as someone who’s brilliant community builder yourself, I’m sure you understand that.

Asif Choudry (14:35):

Absolutely. It’s definitely a commitment, especially when it’s, , a side hustle, you know, but a side hustle for what you’re doing professionally, which, , it, it is a labor of love and you’ve got to, you’ve gotta want to do it. And that whole volunteering thing I think is important to stress that it is a volunteering role. So let’s be honest, if you, if you, if you don’t have that commitment to want to do it, , you can’t go into these things lightly because you, it’s, it’s a full 12 months and it’s not something you can duck out of halfway through cuz you’re making commitments to a lot of people and a significant organisation.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (15:13):

Yeah. And I, I, I completely agree with that. And I think the challenge is also pace. , yeah, we look across at Comms Hero for example, we are really impressed that you’ve kept it going that, you know, year after year that it’s still there, that people have that passion for your community. , and I think, I think it’s, I’m, I’m sort of just starting month two of CIPRand yeah, I, I can’t to your point, feel like I’m, I’m shattered after June and, and I’ve spoken to previous presidents and, and a nber of them have warned me about that, that towards the end of the year, you’re just a bit like, oh, I’m done. , and we have this old system as well. , we’ve already elected Rachel k clamp as the next president, which is great in ts of planning and everything.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (15:57):

But there’s also a tendency people to kind of look beyond the current president and say, well, you know, Steve’s score been around now for a couple of years, so, , what’s Rachel gonna do? And and the further you get through the year, the more everyone start to look at Rachel and part of the job, my job is really to protect her. Like Rachel, , Roberts protected me. And to give her thinking time, give her the time to plan her year, , and, you know, not thrust her into the limelight too, quickly. , but by the way, I’ll tell members listening to this podcast, she’s gonna be brilliant.

Asif Choudry (16:27):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So shout out for Rachel, , and I’ll hopefully be interviewing her to continue this, , consecutive year on year interview with, , incoming president, so right tellers and Steve 75th anniversary for CIPR. What’s the theme for this anniversary year?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (16:47):

Yeah, you mentioned it in the impact in the introduction. , we, looking at the social impact of PRin the past and in the future, , and, and our industry as everyone is listening to this podcast, will know rightly gets called out for the occasional behavior of a few bad actors. , but we don’t get enough credit, I think, for the positive impact of pr. And, and I was telling people, actually at the event yesterday, that PR technique have been used by every great social movement. So from civil rights to the environmental lobby, communications helped us all get through covid. , if you look at our internal comms practitioners, they create unity in organisations. They give workers a voice. , they, you know, those workers have really driven, or those organisations to higher purpose. That’s, you know, that’s largely internal comms, our public affairs practitioners and their counterparts, government, particularly our public affairs practitioners who sign up to lobbying registers and, and do things in the right way.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (17:42):

, and, and the people in local government comms, which is where CIPR started, and, and central government comms, they worked tirelessly to create the laws and regulations that underpin our democracies. , you know, it’s PR people that, , the world turns to, in a crisis, to make meaning of, issues and to set out the resolution and, and tell people when, when the crisis is affecting an organisation as, as, as finished. , you know, and, and look, I don’t wanna be too high mighty about it as if, you know, we’ve also flogged an awful lot of products, , along the way, and we’ve been responsible for helping share prices to go up and sometimes down as well. So, you know, I think, I think the, the, it’s a really rich industry and it’s an industry that perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for the impact it has on both org, private and public organisations, but also society as a whole.

Asif Choudry (18:32):

Yeah. So lots there for, , you know, this huge year and, , lots to look forward to. So what kind of events and activities Steve can we expect from CIPRthis year?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (18:45):

So, as I said, we started yesterday with the fantastic services of Brides Church. , we are going to do some other Celebrator events during the year, and I hope you can join us, Asif. , we’re gonna do a Fellows lunch, , a one CIPRgroup, smer drinks. , and we’re gonna finish with a Future Leaders conference, , that looks forward to what CIPRcan offer for the next generation of leaders in our industry. And if there’s some of your community, Asif in, in Comms hero that, , you think should be coming along to that, let me know. And, and, and I would love to have them there. , but I’d like to also talk about three big initiatives we’re launching in the year. So one of the speakers yesterday I haven’t mentioned yet, is a lady called Amy Poel, , from I Provision and I provisions the C I P’S benevolent charity.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (19:26):

And I think it’s really what mark’s CIPRouts from other, other groups, because yeah, we have this charity that can help practitioners, , who have fallen on bad times. And Amy shared some, some really, , emotional stories yesterday of people that they’ve helped. But what we, what we haven’t been able to do in the past is to proactively help social mobility. And that’s something which, , we are not quite there on yet, but we are really, really clear that we want to do this year is to launch a fund that can actually help people from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress their careers and to make a difference. , , so, so that’s a, that’s a really exciting switch for the C R P R and to being a bit more proactive in that regard. We’re, we’re in the process of becoming the first membership organisation.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (20:15):

Secondly, , to achieve the national Equality standard, so the first membership association globally to achieve that. Wow. And that’s, , is really gonna make our, our community sort of open and inclusive and welcoming to anyone, , , from any background. And I think that, again, that’s a, that’s gonna be a major step forward. But as Avro reminded us yesterday, it’s the start, not the end of the process. You don’t stop being driving, , equality, , and inclusion. , and, you know, we, and, and it is really good challenge that we wanna move from being a, being an organisation that’s really dedicated to, to d ei to being one where people really feel like they, they belong, , if they come from, , , from minority background. So, so that’s, but that’s a really exciting initiative, and I think it’s a real step forward. That’s, again, differentiates CIPRfrom, , any other membership organisation, you know, in, in, in the world, really.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (21:13):

, and then the, then the final thing, which I’m, I’m really excited about is we’re gonna start to, , offer training to our charter practitioners to get them ready for boards. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s my vision really as if that we have a, a chartered PRpractitioner on every board at some point in the future. , and, you know, it’s something that our charter practitioner said to us. They, you know, they want to move beyond, once they’re chartered, kind of what’s next. , we know that there’s a, , a, a, , demand, , or supply, , , deficiency, particularly with, , not-for-profit boards. You know, there’s, , schools and prisons and, , , and, and, and lots of charities who need good board members. , and we’ve got, we’ve got a supply of over 500 really good people, and it’s growing every day, by the way, , who can go and fill those roles. So, , you know, that’s, that’s a really exciting initiative for us.

Asif Choudry (22:11):

Yeah. And that, that the title of this podcast itself is a PRpractitioner on every board. And is that something that, is that your challenge or is that something CIPRhave taken on and you’ve picked that up then?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (22:26):

That’s very much my challenge. I’m not sure, , Alistair, our CEO, would necessarily agree with that, but, , , it’s because, because it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a huge challenge. , but I think, you know, reputations shut up the board agenda over the past few years. , and we live in a multimedia age. And, , the specialty of our industry is really understanding those stakeholders, how they communicate what they want from organisations. And, you know, we feel that CIPRmembers, and particularly our charter practitioners who’ve been accredited for their values and leadership experience have something to add, , to both community and business boards. , and, you know, I look at, , surveys like the Edelman Trust Barometer, and, you know, I, I’ve managed reputation on behalf of Vodafone groups. I look at a lot of these reputation studies, , that, that come out and, and they all have in common that there’s a trust gap.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (23:18):

People just don’t trust institutions. And it’s, it’s, it’s really interesting as if, to look back to why CIPR, why the CIPR was founded us in 1948. , at that time it was just post the Second World War and the, , the founders of that organisation and the government of the day felt that it was really important to have professional and ethical communications practitioners, people who were dedicated to training, , and who had a, , , a code of practice that they could fall back on so that they could make sure that the public who were making really important decisions about how they lived their lives after that, , that second World War could trust the institutions of the day, both public and private. , and, you know, flash forward 75 years, and we see trust internationally, not just in the UK at an all time low. And I think we, you know, so we wanna reinvigorate that challenge and say, you know, 75 years old, but actually it’s more relevant than ever. And by, by moving our PRpetitions onto board in the coming years, we can really help close that trust gap and drive up social inclusion again. So, you know, it’s a, it’s a big ask. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a big goal. , but it’s something I think that, that, , you know, we’re, we are uniquely, , able to do as the, as the CIPR.

Asif Choudry (24:37):

Okay. I know. And, and the PRpractitioner every board, why not, you know, because the, the, , debate rages on of, , people asking, you know, we wanna seat at the top table, and why doesn’t PRand comms have a seat at the top table? It’d be nice to be, , in a position when, where it’s just becomes the norm. , and that takes the C-suite and the leadership to continue to be educated as to the value of comms and marketing and what it brings to the table. Because invariably in times of crisis, whereas the first place organisations turn to to handle that crisis, it is comm’s, pr, marketing team. So it would be brilliant to see that point happens. So we’re in a position that people don’t have to, you don’t have to have debates on how to get, , a seat at the top table, , which still is discussed far too much in my opinion. And, , it’d be great to see that changing, , , certainly for the future generation of, of comms leaders that are out there and up and coming.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (25:42):

Yeah. And, and, and if we, if we want to, to, to, to be in governance roles, we need to earn it. That’s it. I heard that as well. Like a lot of people say we wanna see to the top table cuz it’s perceived that it’s well paid and it’s the top of the industry ladder. , but actually there’s a lot of community organisations out there that are, are desperate for really good, , trustees. And the starting point for our industry, I think is going out there and volunteering more. You know, and, and for c i p members who are, who are, , listening, you get c p d points for that. So, you know, if we’re, if we’re going to prove that we are capable of that seat, and ultimately, you know, when people say they wanna seat to the top table, they often mean we wanna sit it on PLC boards.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (26:27):

But you, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s steps towards that. We need to prove that something that I believe, you know, that this, this organisation, , can, can add to governance, , that we’re, you know, we’re strategic, we’re, we’re able, and we’ve got something, we’ve got something that other people from other industry sectors don’t have. , in that, that sort of in innate understanding and also the data about, about the stakeholder audience. , so, so I think it’s, it’s, it’s gonna be a hard road and it’s not something that we’re just gonna go kick the, kick the, the door down, but, but I think it’s, I think it’s a really important for us, particularly as a female dominated industry, to say we, we want to start a CIPRtraining charter practitioners in particular to go and take on those board roles and helping to, to, to drive, , you know, more, more inclusive and, and better boards and better governance, , and, and more trusted institutions, , across, , the UK and beyond. , and I think, I think that’s something that, , dovetails really nicely with the, , diversity, equity, inclusion, , stuff that we’re doing as well.

Asif Choudry (27:35):

Yeah. And that’s certainly a, a great smary of how, , you know, why chartered practitioners make good board members and, and what indeed what CIPRspecifically are gonna be doing to help them unlock those opportunities. And I, and I’m sure the listeners will be encouraged and, and, and geed up by that. So, you know, and I’m, , , it’ll be great to see how that pans out during the course of this year. So tell us, and Steve, just to wrap up these questions, you know, what would you personally like to get out of your year as the CIPRpresident and the first male in, what is that, five years now as well?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (28:10):


Asif Choudry (28:10):

You’ve broken a cycle.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (28:12):

Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I, but you know, I, I will say this, but I don’t think about male and female Yeah. Leaders. , the, the people who’ve come before me, you know, , Rachel and, and Jenny and, and Mandy and Emma, , going right the way back, , to people that, you know, I I thought were fantastic leaders. People like Stephen Waddington, Sarah Waddington, , I, I’ve, I’ve never characterized them in ts of there’s a female and male leader. It’s, it’s, , they’re just incredibly talented people who’ve taken on the, on the role and, and they keep on giving back. You know, I was listening to, I was reading a, , a, a post by Stephen Wallington last night. You know, he’s still out there fighting for the industry, doing some fantastic work, yet if you’re not, listen, if you’re not reading stuff already, go read his stuff.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (29:03):

This, the stuff he’s doing for his PhD management is, is really fascinating. I talked about iVision before. We’ve got another former president, Kevin Taylor, who’s leading that this year, and who’s, who’s driving sociability. And, and it’s, it’s unbelievable. And, you know, I said, I’m gonna quit as if, but it looks like it’s quite hard to get out because there’s all these people who are, you know, dedicated and they keep, they keep on giving year after year. The stuff Sarah’s doing with social, , socially mobile is phenomenal. Yeah. So, so, you know, , so, so proud of the impact that, , that my former colleagues do in the industry. And it’s such a, such a proud thing to be present. Nber 75 when you look back at the impact of, of, , of, of the previous 74. You know. , but it, in ts of what I personally wanna get out, it’s a really hard one because this is, as I said, it’s a voluntary gu voluntary role.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (29:53):

, it’s not something I’m doing for, for, for personal gain. , it’s certainly not something I’m doing for, for career gain. But I think being on the CIPRboard and now as president, what I’d say to other people thinking about it is it’s really helped me improve my organisational skills, , my decision making, my planning, as I said to you before, my management skills. And so, so I really hope to take that into future roles. , and, , you know, I, I, I owe Vodafone of my family, , , even more of my time in, in, in coming years and to, and to really utilize some of those skills for them as well. , but it, it’s, for me, it’s the, it’s the small moments really. , yesterday I met someone who had worked me as a graduate. I’ve not seen her in years.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (30:42):

And, and so, so moments like that meeting, meeting members, meeting people who have gone from being people I knew in CIPRto becoming friends over the years, , one of our former presidents, , it was my best man. And, , , it is the godfather to my daughter. So, so it’s a, it’s an organisation where you really build these deep friendships as well as yeah. These collegiate relationships. And, , so, you know, when I look back, if, when ultimately if members look back on our 75th year and say that it was success and I did a good job, then I’ll be super happy. That’s all I ask.

Asif Choudry (31:19):

Fantastic. And, , yeah, so there, there’s, there’s a whole year ahead and I’m sure, , listening back to that bit in, at the end of December, 2023, there’ll be stacks and of positive feedback and, , you’ll be able to reflect on the impact that it’s made. So you mentioned before, , Steve, about Comms Zero, and that’s why we’re here on the Comms Zero Podcast. So why, for you, why is Comms Zero important to you, and would you recommend people working in comms, marketing and PRto be part of it?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (31:54):

So, I, I said to you a couple of times already, as if, you know, I’m so impressed by what you’ve done with this community and, you know, with Comms Hero Week as well, and I as a, as an avid Twitter follower, I see all the passion that comes from that. So I, I’d really say to the comms and marketing community that Asif and his team, they see you and that, you know, I, I, I see the passion when people get the swag from you and, and, and your, you are saying the things that they’re thinking, they’re feeling underappreciated. You make them feel seen, you know, your team appreciate their work, and you’re clearly, you are on their side. So I think it’s a great community, and I, I give you every applaud and I, I say congratulations on you, , for, for, for building that and, and, and building that passion.

Asif Choudry (32:37):

I appreciate that, Steven. That’s, that’s, that’s fantastic. And we we’re avid supporters of CIPR, , you know, of last year. It was, it was an absolute pleasure and honor to, , sponsor the Young Communicator of the Year award, which Michael Louden picked up. And, you know, we’ve spoken to Sarah Eon and we, we’d love to continue relationships like that. And it’s reciprocated with specific sessions within CommsHero week C p D approved and stuff like that, which is great, you know, and we’ve all, we’ve had that public endorsement from CIPRand it’s important to us because if we can support the profession in whichever way, and again, it’s all voluntary. So, , this year we’re doing something different. Cause I’ve appointed, , I’ve scoured the com comms hero community and nobody knows this yet, apart from the 15 people who have been, we’re launching a comms hero ambassador program this year, right?

Asif Choudry (33:32):

So there are 15 people who’ve been, , selected and invited to get involved in shaping the Comms Hero Week agenda. We’re going to have our first ever Comms Zero awards this year. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And these will be the criteria for the categories which will be chosen by the 15 ambassadors, is the awards categories that you’ve never seen at any awards before, but you know, comms would like to receive. So that’s the brief that they’ve got and that, that’s the remit. So inviting guests to the podcast. So they’re gonna be actively involved in com, zero week, the awards event and shaping the agenda. And that’s something every year I’d love to bring on 15 new people in 2024. So it’s keeps it fresh cuz we’re in our ninth year now. So, , you know, bringing people in into the fold of that members who, again, voluntarily will get involved and give up their time, , will help us to keep that fresh nine years and and beyond.

Asif Choudry (34:30):

You know, and maybe one day I won’t be celebrating Comms Hero’s 75th birthday, , but I would hope that future comms heroes, , leaders are there to, to do that. So it’s been a fascinating interview Steve, and it’s really insightful to find out behind the scenes and behind the carefully cur curated docents and press releases that will no doubt have come out with, , you becoming president, et cetera. But to hear from you is fantastic to do that. And it’s important we’re talking about community people. If you’re not connected to Steve, you should be. So how can they do that? Where’s the best places to find you? What are the social handles, Steve?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (35:11):

So, so I said already I’m on, , , Twitter, so at Steve Shep Smith, , same on LinkedIn. So shep Smith, , find me connect to me. , I’d love to, , to connect to people in the comms industry.

Asif Choudry (35:26):

Excellent. And, , you’ll find this, , podcast on Spotify, apple and on our website And you can follow us on Twitter at CommsHero. If you do listen on Spotify and Apple, please do leave a rating and review and hit the follow button, subscribe, whichever button is on there. Please do that. And if you would like to, as Steve has done, , being a guest on the CommsHero podcast, there are no qualifications required. You just need an internet connection. And that’s it really. And if you’re passionate about a comm subject, no matter what it is, comms or marketing, get in touch with myself or DM contactors form on the CommsHero website. But Steve has been an absolute pleasure and thank you so much for giving up your time. Thanks so much for inviting me, Asif.

Why is rest essential for communications pros?

Why is rest essential for communications pros?

Clarissa Langham is an Internal Comms Professional who started her career in Journalism before discovering a passion for Internal Communications. She’s recently joined AQA’s Internal Comms team from the NHS, where she managed internal comms and engagement for the largest hospitals merger in the country and then during the pandemic.

Clarissa is also a qualified counsellor, not practising, and before the pandemic held mini-retreats combining meditation and creativity. She grew up in North Wales, now lives in Manchester, and had an interesting life experience living and working in LA for three years.

In her spare time, she enjoys going to gigs, quality time with family and friends, and pursuing her ambition to actually finish writing a novel and have it published.

As comms pros, we often promote wellbeing resources to our internal colleagues and wider audiences. Clarissa talks about the importance of resting and recharging for comms heroes, how taking breaks can actually be productive, and the ‘4 Cs’ – different types of rest she focusses on to rebalance.

Clarissa Langham

Internal Communications Business Partner

Podcast questions:

  1. What does resting and recharging mean for you in practical terms and why do you think this is an important topic for comms pros?
  2. What is the four C’s?
  3. What are some of the ways to become calm, as it can be easier said than done when you’re busy?
  4. How can we fit this in to our busy lives, how realistic is this?

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…


Asif Choudry (00:08):

Hello, and welcome to another episode in the You’re my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Clarissa Langham. Clarissa is an internal comms professional who started her career in journalism before discovering a passion for internal communications. She’s recently joined AQ a’s internal comms team from the nhs, where she managed internal comms and engagement for the largest hospital merger in the country. And then during the pandemic as well, uh, a real comms hero challenge, uh, book. But Clarissa obviously rose to that. And, uh, she’s also a qualified counselor, not practicing, uh, and before the pandemic held many retreats combining meditation and creativity. Uh, she grew up in North Wales, now lives in Manchester, and, um, has had an interesting life experience experiencing living and working in LA for three years as well, uh, with all the celebs and the, uh, glamor that goes on there. So, Clarissa, it’s, uh, a pleasure to welcome you as a guest on the podcast.

Clarissa Langham (01:11):

Oh, it’s great to meet you. It’s a, it’s such an honor to be here. I’m such a big fan of everything that you do with Comms Hero and, um, yeah. So thanks so much for inviting me to, to be part of it.

Asif Choudry (01:21):

No, you’re welcome. And it’s really nice to, um, uh, have you on here as well. So, uh, I’ve, I’ve got to ask a little bit. We’re gonna do the getting to know you bit before I ask some of the usual questions. Living in LA what’s it like? Is it like what it’s on, on these documentaries and all this stuff that people like me watch all the time?

Clarissa Langham (01:40):

Some of it is, some of it’s really like that, and then some of it’s just really normal, where you’re just going into the supermarket and buying dinner and meeting up with friends and things like that, going to work, coming back from work. So that was a really interesting part of it. But yeah, did a few of the fun things. Went to Beverly Hills, you know, for dinner, and went out there and stuff like that. Went to the beaches and all of that. And yeah.

Asif Choudry (02:02):

Name, name, drop any, uh, yeah, name drop. Any celebs that you met out there.

Clarissa Langham (02:07):

<laugh>, I hardly saw any celebs. And then my parents came to visit for a week. They saw Dermot’s, um, O’Leary on the plane, <laugh>, then they, then they saw, um, Gordon, what’s his chef’s name? I’ve had a complete blast. Gordon Ramsey. Gordon Ramsey and his family. Yeah, they saw, they saw another celeb as well. And I hardly saw any, like, I saw Andy McDowell getting a coffee, um, <laugh>, but that was pretty much it, although you might recognize it. So yeah, <laugh>,

Asif Choudry (02:35):

So they’re, they’re harder to, they’re harder to spot than, uh, you might think then. So LA for three years, I’m sure you’ve created some jealousy for our listeners with, um, with that who would be dreaming of, um, uh, what it’s like. But going to the supermarket and doing normal stuff, it just doesn’t sound like an LA thing, or certainly not would, would make a good documentary or something that we’d be watching on, um, on Netflix or whatever. So we’re gonna, we’re in the getting to to know You section, so we’re gonna, um, uh, ask just a couple of questions here for you. Cla uh, Clarissa. So I’m gonna start with, um, uh, Twitter or Instagram.

Clarissa Langham (03:11):

I think I like them for different things. So the Instagram, I’ve used quite a lot for talking about how many retreats that I used to hold, um, and sort of those like real really close sort of engagement with people in that sort of audience. Um, lots of friends I’ve got on there as well. Um, whereas Twitter’s been a bit more for work, I’d say, and things that I’m interested in. Yeah. Um, keeping up with the news, conversations like that. Um, so I just see them as, and, and I worked in the nhs, um, joined the Pandemic. Twitter actually became a place where communicated quite a lot with colleagues. Um, so yeah, so I like them both, but in different ways, I suppose is what I’m trying to say.

Asif Choudry (03:47):

Yeah, no, I, I tend to find the same thing. Twitter, definitely from an engagement and a, um, a business perspective. It’s definitely one. Then, uh, we had Andy Barr on, uh, on the podcast recently talking about Twitter for business, and, uh, I was nodding in agreement with quite a lot of his. Brilliant. So he was good. Yeah, he tested out. We, we ran out of batteries in our BLE machine when, uh, Andy was on <laugh> and, uh,

Clarissa Langham (04:11):


Asif Choudry (04:11):

It though. It was, yeah, it was brilliant. It was, it was a lot of fun. Uh, apple or Android,

Clarissa Langham (04:16):

Apple definitely. Um, so I’ve got the phone, laptop. Yeah, everything. Um, yeah, I just find it easier to use.

Asif Choudry (04:24):

Yeah, it’s a coms thing, definitely. Although we did have it is I interviewed, uh, somebody last week who’s their episode is airing in October, and, um, they did say Android, so it just take me by surprise when it does come up. And I’ll ask you, um, a final one. Uh, do you prefer an e-book or a printed book?

Clarissa Langham (04:47):

A printed book? I’ve tried an e-book, um, but I always go back to printed. I also realize if I should give it more of a go book, um, it’s not being on a screen, it’s, you know, it’s different than that. So I do, I do still like a printed book.

Asif Choudry (04:58):

Yeah. And I’ve got to, the reason I ask that, I, I mean, I’ve asked that of a few guests, but the, the reason I left that to last is because you’ve, um, you’re pursuing, uh, your ambition and actually finishing writing a novel and having it, um, published. So is that, uh, is that something ongoing for you then? At the moment?

Clarissa Langham (05:19):

Yes. I’ve tried to write novels a few times. Um, but yeah, there’s one that I’m quite far into writing at the moment. Um, and sometimes people say to me, you know, why’d you write outside work when it’s what you do for a living? Um, but it’s very different. It’s, you know, it’s creative. It’s something that I always like to do when I was younger, when I was a kid. So it’s something that I’ve sort of picked up again, um, you know, more recently. And yeah, that’s an ambition that I want to achieve just to, just to finish it. If I get it published, great. But, um, yeah, I really enjoy writing and reading.

Asif Choudry (05:46):

Fantastic. And you’ll be, um, going back to LA as a celeb, uh, uh, when you published your fifth novel, um, hit novel. So, uh, so you heard it, it here first, as long as we can get a signed copy here at Comms Zero, then we’ll be happy. So, um, oh yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting actually, Claris, and thanks for sharing, uh, some of that, uh, insider of knowledge and getting to know you. So, um, we’re kind of got talking really, because you, you know, as comms pros, we often promote wellbeing resources to our internal colleagues and wider audiences. And you talk, um, about the importance, and you’ll be doing that in this podcast, the importance of resting and recharging for comms heroes. And it’s always on culture and how to, how to actually do it. It sounds silly, but how to actually take breaks and the fact that it can be productive. And you’ve got a model of four Cs, which are different types of rest, um, focusing on, um, and helping people to rebalance. So we’re gonna cover, uh, that within the podcast and it’s gonna be a fantastic episode. So I’m gonna kick off with the first question. So, uh, and it sounds a bit bizarre talking about resting, but it’s definitely come up quite a lot. So what does resting and recharging mean for you in practical terms, and why do you think this is an important topic for comms pros?

Clarissa Langham (07:07):

Um, yeah, so resting recharging for me is about stepping out of the busyness of work. Um, and the way I think as comms pros, we can be all things to all people and people are looking at for that from us. Um, so we are juggling lots of different priorities, ways of delivering communications, expertise, um, sometimes sort of last minute requests that can come in, multiple different requests. Um, so we listen, we advise, we deal with sensitive information, we are strategizing, we’re planning, then we are delivering through the wide range of channels and materials that we, that we produce, um, materials for and through. Um, so it’s a lot really, and I think, um, it’s a lot of multitasking. Um, and that can be really for naturally, um, to be acting in that way and to have that sort of adrenaline. Um, but I think it’s important to balance that out.

Clarissa Langham (07:56):

For me. This is something that I found, I could just talk it from my own experience really. Um, and what I’ve realized is that, um, I put it broadly into four categories, um, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Um, the idea of different realms of resting and recharging. Um, it’s not just about necessarily resting, lying down, not doing anything. There’s lots of ways to rest and recharge. Um, so the areas I’ve come up with, um, fall under these four Cs, it sounds a little bit cheesy, it wasn’t intentional. The first two just came, came up as starting with cs, so I thought I’ll go with that. And, um, comm starts with a C as well. So, uh, sort of a bit of a fun thing. Perfect.

Asif Choudry (08:36):

It’s gonna be easy to remember, wasn’t it? And those, those those requests that you mentioned, you know, the juggling many different priorities and uh, and what have you, we’ve got probably 30 plus of those on the front of coms, zero T-shirts that anyone like yourself, Clarissa, who uh, have booked a place at coms zero week, um, ha have had the pleasure of ordering and scrolling through and choosing the, can you just arrange, can you just pretty it up and um, uh, and can you just put it on the homepage? Can you make it go viral? All the things that we get all day every day, and, uh, this is our, uh, imagine wearing one of those to work and, um, uh, somebody comes in, uh, on a teams meeting or in person if you’re in the office. And, uh, actually can you just, was was there a request and they saw that on a t-shirt and that would be something else. Um, so let’s go into these four C’s then explore this further then. So what is the first C Clarissa?

Clarissa Langham (09:33):

So the first one is calm. Um, and these are the activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. So as comms pros, we’re often juggling a lot. Um, like we’ve talked about, um, dealing with emerging requests. Um, so our sensors are on high alert, um, our bodies start producing adrenaline. Um, this leads to rising blood pressure, uh, breathing rate, heartbeats tension in our bodies. It’s the, um, phy or flight response. Um, yeah.

Clarissa Langham (10:04):

So we get into that place in adrenaline and other chemicals kicking in, which, like I say, that can be really good. It helps us to perform, um, better in the moment. Um, but we also know that there’s lots of research about sustained stress, like this isn’t good for our health, um, in the short and the long term. Um, so the counterbalance to that, and I’ll just say it’s my fam myself, sometimes when you’re in that space, it’s, it’s then quite hard to switch off. You get used to just being in that mode all the time. The pandemic, you know, was a bit like that. Yeah, all the times of busy work can be like that. Um, so the counterbalance to that is to spend time calming our bodies and minds and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Um, and that’s why rest is productive. Um, the alternative is that overactivity the sustained stress which can damage our health. And then we are not able to do the things we want to anyway, we’re not able to perform. And also importantly, it isn’t good for us as individuals.

Asif Choudry (10:59):

Yeah. And I think many people will, listening will be nodding in agreement that comes, um, always on culture. That’s definitely there. I think everybody experienced that, especially probably more so, uh, if you’re in digital and social media exec manager type roles. But I don’t think it’s just limited to those specific roles because as a, uh, profession, we’re naturally involved in social, so you don’t have to be, uh, um, actually executing social media activity to, uh, to understand the importance of it for yourself and for your own brand and how it works within your organization and with, with peers and with networks. So not always on culture’s, definitely there, but there’s definitely a movement towards people being more receptive towards this, um, self care type situation that, you know, people aren’t afraid. It’s not a sign of of weakness anymore. And I think that’s certainly taking, um, uh, taking shape now with the likes of, um, uh, C I P R and P R C A with the, uh, mental health programs and support that they’re giving to their members as well. So let’s explore calm a little bit more. So what are some of the ways to become calm and as it can be easier said than done when you are, as you explained, Clarissa, when you’re so busy all the time.

Clarissa Langham (12:25):

Yeah, definitely. Um, well I was a journalist earlier on in my career and, um, I mean, it was great experience. It was really interesting, exciting, like I say, like you were talking about that sort of on culture all the time, really lots of deadlines. Um, but I was also finding, I was on high alert a lot, um, and it was difficult to switch off. Um, so I was also writing features for a magazine, um, that was part of that newspaper group. And I was assigned to write a feature about meditation at the local Buddhist center. Um, I didn’t have any experience of it, uh, went along and just found it so helpful that I then started meditating. Uh, and the important thing to remember with that for me is that you don’t do it perfectly. You know, you sit there, first of all, and you think you’re gonna calm your mind.

Clarissa Langham (13:10):

I mean, lots of people practice meditation now, so lots of people will already have experience of this, but your mind can wander off because that’s the way it works. Um, and as com pros, I think we’re used to planning ahead and thinking about a lot of different things, you know, sometimes overthinking, um, and that again can be quite, uh, useful, a useful skill to have, um, coming up with creative ideas and things like that. Um, but even with short sessions over time, meditation does help with focus and just general wellbeing. Um, keeping work in perspective and feeling more grounded. And I know that this, um, interview came from I’d gone to a spa, um, and I’d posted something about it on LinkedIn. Um, and that sort of thing is can be really good to sort of ground you and slow you down. Um, and other, other, all the climbing activities I like, um, you know, which are just small things you can do if you can’t go off to a spa.

Clarissa Langham (14:00):

We can’t always do that, uh, all the time. Yeah. Um, with different commitments. Uh, things like guided relaxation, there’s lots on YouTube that you can listen to or even going to workshops and classes, um, mindfulness, yoga, um, I find, you know, really good. Um, you know, all the exercise. Um, I really liked the episode with, uh, Frank Sinclair, which I listened to, um, about, yeah, exercise and fitness and um, you know, that’s all part of it as well, isn’t it? Um, and then just sort things like having a bath, you know, with EEPs and salts and good old nap, you know, without feeling guilty about it because I think sometimes we can feel guilty, um, but actually that self-care, as you said then helps us to be better for ourselves and for everyone around us as well. So it isn’t selfish actually. It’s actually, um, quite sensible.

Asif Choudry (14:52):

Yeah. Like I say, I think that’s what people are kind of realizing. They say that on, um, in the kind of emergency, uh, demonstrations when you’re on a plane, it’s put your own mask on first. And I think that that culture, I love that, that’s definitely something, yeah, it’s, it’s very easy to understand. You, you have to, especially if you’re in a managerial role, you’ve got to look after yourself to be able to continue that leadership, um, with your teams because there is a limit to everyone physically. Uh, you know, everyone does have that limit. So the first C is calm. So we’ve done, we’ve explored that. The, the second one, which is one that most comms people will relate to because this definitely is something that everyone has, uh, within them. So tell us more about this one, Clarissa.

Clarissa Langham (15:40):

So the second one, which hopefully comms people will like, is creativity. Um, and something that takes you outside of yourself. And I, most comms professionals I think are naturally creative. I’d be really interested to know what you think about this, obviously cuz you know, so many, um, comms professionals. But, um, it’s definitely the case with or most, or even all of the comms professionals I’ve worked with who are lots of ’em are my friends as well, um, that they tend to be creative. Um, but sometimes being able to, to bring that out in yourself unless it blossom when you’re very busy at work, can be a bit of a challenge. Um, because sometimes it is sitting, replying to a lot of emails that doesn’t necessarily stimulate the creative brain. Uh, we need time to reflect and be inspired, um, alone and in collaboration as well.

Clarissa Langham (16:27):

You know, I like, and a lot of colleagues I know like to get out some colored pens and paper, you know, we all love digital, but um, or a whiteboard and or use a digital creative collaboration space to come up with ideas and have that space and time to do that. Uh, which we don’t always when it’s busy. Um, and I also think everyone benefits from creativity outside the work realm. Um, I mean this isn’t just comms pros, um, but the sort of creativity that we enjoyed as kids, um, it doesn’t have to be about achieving anything. And I think that’s a good thing because you always feel recharged after you’ve done something creative. Um, and it’s hard to worry about work or think about the next thing that’s coming up when you’re doing something creative cuz you get quite, um, quite absorbed in it really. So, um, you know, it can be quite small things as well, um, outside work or maybe it’s something working with colleagues, you know, to come up with something sort of creative activity that you can do, uh, together, uh, like a class or a workshop, something that’s fun. We also all of, um, creative stationery, you know, so just little, little ways to bring creativity into your day like that.

Asif Choudry (17:35):

Absolutely. And that, um, uh, you know, forced brainstorming sessions. I, I read somewhere, uh, recently that, you know, allowing yourself that freedom to where there’s no pressure on a or I’ve scheduled in an hour, hour of creativity. Well, it doesn’t necessarily just come to you like that because, you know, we, we, I’ve worked with creative so many years and, uh, um, sometimes they’re, they could spend eight hours trying to be creative, but it just, some days it just doesn’t come, um, it doesn’t click. And then all of a sudden completely randomly that, that that thought just, you know, that that real big headline or that creative concept idea just, uh, floods your mind. But it’s usually as you’ve said in those unexpected moments when you’re not even in work mode because you’ve allowed yourself that freedom to, to just, you know, let your thoughts just, uh, rummage around and flow in your brain and things like that.

Asif Choudry (18:33):

So it’s really important. And I, I I’ve read, um, stolen Focus by Johan Harry, and in, in that it talks about achieving that state of flow where you, um, you know, you’re in that kind of, in the zone in effect, that’s probably another way to to to, uh, to phrase it, where that creativity and those ideas are just such, so clear that, you know, you, your best ideas will come up those particular times, but there is a method and a process to get into that state of flow and, um, the distractions of emails and social media and everything else doesn’t necessarily allow you to do that. So we’ve explored Calm. Yeah, so we’ve explored calm and creativity. So we’re moving on to the third one of the four Cs now. And this is, um, uh, uh, a big one in terms of something you’ve mentioned and and comms hero as a a, a community itself. So what’s, what is the third one? Clarissa?

Clarissa Langham (19:37):

It, it’s connection. Um, and this was something that Frank Sinclair talked about a lot as well in the, in the podcast. And I know it was talking about the amazing connection that the comms hero community has. Um, so, and I think, um, for, for everybody, but for comm’s, um, people, um, friends, family, um, community, you know, that feels supportive, um, depending on, you know, how that works for you, where you are on the introversion, extroversion spectrum and all sorts of things like that. But having some sort of connection with people, um, you know, it is just really helpful to have that perspective outside work, which helps you to reach out, rest and recharge, um, so that you are not just sort of, you know, I recognize con get into a zone of sort of very much what I’m doing. And I think that connection really, um, takes you out of that and gives you support.

Clarissa Langham (20:27):

Um, and another perspective, um, connecting with other comms pros who understand the challenges of the role, I think is vital because not everybody does as much as, yeah. Um, colleagues are fantastic. Um, listening to podcasts, you know, like the Comms Hero podcast makes you feel part of a community. Um, and that there’s others that understand the sort of challenges and opportunities and what we get excited about is comms people. Um, social media, you know, is fantastic. I think, you know, it’s important to keep an eye on that, you know, for me, um, maybe for other people. So it doesn’t take away from real connection as well. I think that was like an ongoing balance and stolen focus. I’ve started to, um, to listen to that on Audible after you recommended it. Um, so I think there’s always a bit of a balance with that. But also social media can be fantastic for connecting with people.

Clarissa Langham (21:16):

Um, I think also, you know, to get professional help and guidance when you need it. Um, like coaching and mentoring and accessing employee health and wellbeing services, um, employee assistance, things like that, you know, are out there. They’re not just for general col, you know, they’re there for comms people as well, um, who are absorbing a lot of, of information. Um, you know, maybe we think we’re the strong ones in the background sometimes who are supporting everybody else. Um, but the pressures for everyone are real and, you know, it isn’t a competition that’s available for everybody. Um, and it is that thing of, you know, put on your own oxygen mask before helping other people. So, yeah. Um, so I think it’s important, you know, to, to make sure that we don’t see it as a weakness, what we see as a strength to, you know, reach out and connect with other people.

Asif Choudry (22:03):

Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s very important because it can, it can be surrounded by people in teams or, uh, but it can be quite a lonely place sometimes when you’ve got that, especially if you’re in that creative or non-creative zone. And, um, uh, the community, the comms community is a fantastic one for sharing best practice or just sounding off the right ideas. And, uh, if you’re in a sector which is not one where you’re competing against other organizations, it’s, that’s where I find comms people really come to the fore there and there’s definitely that sharing culture. So yeah. But get connecting with them because, um, there’s probably somebody who’s gone through the same or similar situation and you can learn from that. I’ll just, sharing that experience with somebody just does help. But some really good sound advice that you’ve, um, shared there in terms of that connection and the professional help as well. So the, the fourth and final one then Clarissa just, uh, hit us with that.

Clarissa Langham (23:05):

So the fourth one is change and courage, both start with a c, um, adventure, whatever that means for me or for you. Uh, the thing that, you know, you’d benefit from. So some sort of novelty or something you haven’t done for a while, maybe since you were a kid. Like I said, you know, sometimes some of these things are things that we just really loved as kids and then as we got adults, we were gonna be a little serious and we don’t, don’t do them as much. So it could be a hobby, um, like ice skating, horse riding, skateboarding, um, something like that for me, writing art, um, you know, anything that, you know, um, that only you know, will really benefit you. Um, other people, people might not understand it. Um, and that’s okay cuz sometimes I think you have to be courageous and bold and say, this is what I need to do and can you support me to do that?

Clarissa Langham (23:55):

I’ll do the same for you. And it can be quite challenging, you know, with family commitments and things like that, um, to say, you know, this is something that I feel like I need to do for myself. Um, it can feel selfish, but I think it, it does go back to the thing that sentiment we were talking about before of doing things that are uniquely ours means will thrive as individuals and only we can know what that is. Um, and to reciprocate that for other people as well and give them permission when you go and do that for yourself. I think that does then show other people that they, that you know that they can do that too. Um, it might be a place you want to go to, like a happy place or, you know, somewhere that you’ve always wanted to visit. Um, you know, maybe a workshop or something like that or a walk. Uh, I really like the artist’s way, I dunno whether you Julia Cameron’s artist’s way where she talks about going on an artist date for yourself or, or something like that. Um, but yeah, I think, I think it can be challenging this I I for, you know, sometimes, but I think it’s always, always really worth it to, to go and do that. And then, um, you come back a sort of stronger, more inspired, happier person for everybody, um, around you.

Asif Choudry (25:06):

No, absolutely. So the, we’ve covered the four Cs then, and I’m sure there’s lots of, uh, the listeners who kind of been, you know, noting stuff down or thinking, oh yes, I do that, or actually that’s quite easy to do, but it, it all sounds really great when we’re talking about it here, but you talked about people being busy, you know, how how do we fit all this in, you know, how realistic is it to, to be able to manage these four Cs?

Clarissa Langham (25:35):

I think, you know, isn’t something that can be done perfectly. Um, it shouldn’t be, and we shouldn’t fall into a trap of it becoming something else on the to-do list that you sort of beat yourself up about cuz you’re not doing enough of it or not doing it perfectly. Um, so I think it’s about doing a bit, you know, regularly coming back to it when I, you know, I find I’ve sort of drifted off from it and not done something for a while. Um, talking to people and saying, you know, could do with this should, should we go and do something together? It doesn’t have to all be, you know, sort of on your own. Um, and knowing that it’s sometimes harder than others. So if you’re particularly busy at work or you’ve got something going on in your family, um, it can be a bit harder.

Clarissa Langham (26:17):

But I think just remembering that small steps really count. So you don’t want a day if it’s, i, if it’s really busy, I can put on a podcast or listen to some music that makes me feel good or go for a walk for 10 minutes, um, just switch off and rest, listen to a short guided meditation or, or watch something funny and inspiring. You know, it doesn’t have to all be serious. It can be something fun that just makes you feel really good. I speak to a friend who makes you laugh, you know, know something like that. Um, or just take half an hour off at lunch, um, you know, or even 10 minutes if that’s all you can do. Um, because all of these things, you know, really do add up.

Asif Choudry (26:52):

Yeah. So you’d recommend then the, um, don’t feel guilty for any of those people listening who are box set binges on Netflix or Prime or, oh definitely. Whatever it is. Just because, you know, if that’s, that’s what helps you to have a bit of downtime where you kind of just letting your mind, uh, just run free as it were or concentrate on something completely different, then do that. And I, again, I see a lot of commentary about allowing yourself to do things like that because those thingss, if you’re not doing something a a a, a good point you raised, there was, you know, the pressure of people sometimes putting themselves that, oh, it’s not, it’s not CCP d so, you know, reading for me it’s ccpd cause I’m not a, I’m a huge reader, I have to have a reason. But for other people who like reading, you know, I wish I could read, um, uh, novels and uh, fiction and stuff like that, but it’s just something that’s never appealed to me.

Asif Choudry (27:49):

But I can, uh, take in a box set binge with the best of them, you know, quite easily. And, uh, but there is that sometimes guilty feeling, oh, I’ve watched so many hours of TV this week and, uh, uh, that sort of stuff, uh, you know, as, as culture changes that you’re not beating yourself up all the time. So, um, I did listen to this year, I started listening to, uh, audio books just because I’m still commuting into the office and, uh, I’ve probably listened to more books by doing that. And Atomic Habits, uh, is one of them where it does talk about 1% changes across a number of different elements in your work and personal life that the compound effect of those changes can be quite significant. So what you said there about all of those things really do add up. It’s actually, there’s lots of people saying exactly the same. So, uh, just that’s really interesting. Yeah. Small steps, um, which are achievable really, uh, rather than trying to go for this. Yeah. Uh, yeah, the big hairy, audacious goal that people talk about that it’s too far away, isn’t it, that um, you

Clarissa Langham (28:52):

Don’t to try and you don’t, and then you don’t do it. You feel discouraged about it. Yeah. Yeah. And I think as well, you know, it, it is important that if you don’t like yoga, then that’s like, you know, it doesn’t have to be a particular thing. It is about, you know, I love a box set binge, or you want to go out with some friends or, you know, whatever it is. It, I think it’s about being yourself and doing whatever absolutely it is that helps you to feel recharged.

Asif Choudry (29:10):

And, uh, you mentioned Comms Zero in the third c the, um, connection. And so Jordan, why is Comms Zero important to you and would you recommend people working in comms and marketing to be part of it?

Clarissa Langham (29:26):

I think Comm’s Hero is just absolutely fantastic. I remember the first time I saw it and I thought, what an amazing idea, <laugh>. Um, because there wasn’t anything like that for, for comm’s people. And it’s, it’s that feeling of um, which is so important to people. I think people really just want to be seen and recognized, um, and to connect with other people. So, um, it’s inspiring. The podcast is really inspiring. It’s really down to earth. It doesn’t even feel like work when you listen to it. Um, and I love all the merch, so I’ve just ordered my t-shirt for com zero. So I think that’s fantastic. It’s really creative and, and makes you feel like you’re part of something and that’s, you know, that’s important. But it, it, there’s a lot of fun as well. I think that, that you have with, with com zero.

Asif Choudry (30:04):

No, I think it’s, the fun part is important because you, it is that the lighthearted view of what is usually a very serious professional, although it’s full of creativity, um, dependent on, well, it doesn’t depend actually which sector, because every business has gone through a crisis of some description and that’s when the job is a very serious one. But there are other creative elements, but, you know, we wanted to just create that space for people to, who work in a very serious and profession, which we value and somewhere to just celebrate their heroics that those coms people perform every day. And, and it’s a safe space to do that because we can say things like, oh, you know, I just got a asked to, uh, create a logo or whatever it might have been. You know, there’s ridiculous requests that come in all the time.

Asif Choudry (30:54):

So, um, no, I’m glad, uh, it’s really nice to hear that feedback and it’s, it’s great that, you know, eight years on, it’s still delivering and we’ll, we’ll continue with it as long as the community wants it, you know? So, um, and we do invest a lot of time in bringing that community together and com zero week is just one part of that. But those conversations happen on a regular basis, on a, on a daily basis in fact. And, um, so it’s, it’s been a fantastic interview and I’m sure the com zero listeners will enjoy listening, uh, whether you are, uh, hoovering or ironing or whatever it is you’re doing when you’re listening to podcasts. Uh, and we, uh, I mentioned that because Clarissa, we had a Twitter exchange, didn’t we in terms of, you were listening to the Frank Sinclair podcast, uh, whilst Hoovering, um, Frank actually replied to your tweet and commented <laugh> um, back as well, which again, is just a great part of the, the community. So, um, we do want, connection is important. We want people to connect with you. So how will they find you? What are your social handles?

Clarissa Langham (31:57):

Um, so on Twitter, I’m Clarissa Langham, um, on LinkedIn, Clarissa Bracket, satchel Langham <laugh>. Um, and then on Instagram I am Clarissa Retreats. That’s from when I was holding the, um, sort of mini retreats, um, pre pandemic and I dunno whether I’ll, I’ll be doing that again. But it still sort of has a lot of themes around wellbeing and things like that. So, um, it’s Clarissa Retreats on Instagram.

Asif Choudry (32:20):

Excellent. And please do connect with Clarissa for, um, you know, some great content and I’m sure she’ll be happy to answer any questions if you have them. So you’ll find this podcast on Spotify, apple and on our website com and you can follow us on Twitter at com zero. If you are listening, please do leave a rating and review. That’s important for us. And, um, Clarissa, it’s been a fantastic interview and I’m sure the listeners are gonna enjoy it. So thank you very much for your time.

Clarissa Langham (32:49):

Thank you so much. It’s been amazing. Thank you.

A sustainable future: Where do we start?

A sustainable future: Where do we start?

Laura Sutherland is the Founder and Director of Aura. She is a senior communication and business consultant and a Chartered practitioner with 20+ years’ experience in integrated public relations and communication.

Aura’s Synergy Framework was developed and launched as a way of helping businesses accelerate to a sustainable future by better integrating strategic communication and sustainable development.

Her vast experience coupled with an enviable ‘toolbox’ have attracted clients from start-ups to a billion-dollar nuclear waste company.

Laura is host of the popular People Buy People podcast, founder of global PR and communication professionals community, PRFest, and she is also a mentor to PR professionals and to senior business leaders.

Laura’s work spans consumer, tech, entrepreneurship and corporate. She is often called up to manage crisis and reputation situations, and in the pandemic, was prominent in helping lead businesses and organisations through re-imagining operations, processes, products and services.

In this podcast, learn all bout Laura’s Synergy framework and how you can apply it to your organisation. Get ready to feel inspired to kick start your sustainable strategy.

Psst.. Fun fact: Laura is a keen pickle connoisseur, and has a pickle business on the side, check it out here.

Laura Sutherland

Founder and Director

Key Topics:

“Aura was launched 14 years ago. I had a business partner at the time, whose name ended in RA as well. And it just kind of made sense and also we were looking for a word that represented something you couldn’t necessarily see because, it was a better feeling. And certainly for public relations, , we’re trying to make people feel a certain way or , how see how something lands and , yeah, it just seemed right. And funnily enough, I mean, ever since I was on Twitter and had the handle Laura from Laura, people just think it’s hilarious. , I used to have, when we had the office, , I would answer the phone and and people would say, Was that Laura from Laura? And start laughing ‘Cause it was just a funny thing, <laugh>. But yeah, so that’s kind of how it started <laugh>.”

“I suppose there’s a couple things who firstly, I actually reframed the business back in 2018 to be much more focused in stakeholder relations. So really getting to know them with data and really getting to understand motivations and, psychology, behaviour change, et cetera. And that kind of led me on to thinking about purpose, which people have been talking about for years now, Purpose this, purpose that. But it did start making me think about the relationship between stakeholders and organisations. And, we’ve talked for a long time now about public relations and communication being a strategic management function. But in order for it to be that it has to help advise, it has to help lead and, , if it’s helping advise, then, we’re advising on things about, how to make businesses more responsible, how to make them better, how to make them better for stakeholders and in line with their values.

And then I thought to myself, well, if I’m advising people like that, why am I not the freeing my business as the business that helps other responsible businesses by being responsible itself and by being, the sort of guide, if you like, and the helping hand. And, I worked with somebody for a while because it’s really difficult when you work by herself to understand, how you can write something down and extract it from your brain. Because if you’re by yourself, you’ve got all these thoughts in your head, but to extract them, sometimes you need someone to ask a question. And, the person I was working with, asked the right questions and allowed me to articulate more what I was gonna be able to do and why I was focusing on that and able to do it.

And, organisations don’t know where to start when it comes to, climate and sustainability. There’s a lot of information out there. They hear terms like sustainability, climate change, transformation, which can be one and the same thing, but actually they don’t know where to start. And so I worked, in communication for over 20 years, but 10 of those years, in fact, more than that, 13 years, maybe since 2009, I’ve worked in climate change and sustainability communication and looking at how we engage people in that conversation. And in the last two years I’ve worked with some organisations and clients who I’ve noticed internally and externally haven’t been doing a great job of telling people what they’re doing and bringing people along that journey. And since I joined the PRCs Misinformation and Climate Strategy Group, which is quite a, , <laugh> a lengthy term for the group there.

But since I joined that, I started to realize more about the opportunities that are ahead and more about why things are disconnected, disjointed, and where actually I could have that practical input and help clients join things together and understand their stakeholder needs. And so by joining 13 years of climate sustainability experience with all the stakeholder stuff I’ve been really focusing on for the last four or five years into the strategic stuff that I work on, I thought, do you know what, now is the time to focus on something that’s actually going to let my business have the maxim amount of impact. Because I talk about other businesses having impact, what’s my impact? What am I gonna leave as a legacy? And I hope that by the way that I have done it, , how I’ve done it and how I can explain and help other businesses and organisations and brands, I can help them do the same thing.”

“I think you’ve made the point I keep talking about is the fact that, , when you say sustainability to people, they think immediately or it’s something to do with environment. So it’s climate stuff, it’s recycling or whatever, but actually, if you look at the UN sustainable development goals, it goes into culture, inclusivity, wellbeing, it covers, talent, retention and acquisition. It talks about so much of what makes a business organisation sustainable. And that’s where my focus is. It’s about the sustainable opportunity for a business to exist in the future. And, my website says the only inevitable is change are you ready? Because that is the thing we’re going to keep on involving technology evolves, people evolve, their thinking evolves, as the PRCAs research results from the group have shown, we’ve even evolved in our thinking around misinformation, climate crisis since last year.

The opportunity for us is to ensure, and I’ll explain it, but be more bold, be more brave, and to help lead with what is right, that responsible organisation, responsible business attitude, and the research results have said that, we’ve, we’ve seen a sort of encouraging rise, in number of PR and communication professionals helping their businesses and organisations understand the climate crisis and how they can effectively communicate and play their part. It’s also showing that we’re growing confidence when we spot greenwashing and feel comfortable pushing back. But we have a responsibility to ensure that any unethical communication or attempts at it are challenged. I think that the call to action about being more brave is, is because we need to have that, confidence in ourselves and our abilities, our skills, and our thinking to be able to call these things out.

Because if you don’t call them out, they will go on and on and on. If you look back at that BBC series, I dunno if you managed to see it, it was about the 1990s political public relations misinformation spread or about climate change and how, hugely interesting, fascinating. And we can share the link on the show notes. But it just shows you that these things that go unattended or misinformation, disinformation that’s deliberately spread has a long term impact and a detrimental one at that. And we have a responsibility to be ethical communicators to our organisations, but to the people that they represent. And, we’re all in this for the good of the planet because we want it to exist, but equally we have to think about the next generation. We have to think about, , what we can do to be better at what we do and why wouldn’t we want to be better and to try things differently, to innovate and to change with the times.

I think it’s those organisations that don’t change with the times that won’t be, they won’t be here. They aren’t sustainable. , it’s the old fashioned ones who are dictating what their staff say, do think, et cetera, that will not be here because no one wants to work for businesses like that anymore. So it’s working together, it’s understanding each other. It’s about representing and living those values, not just seeing it, but actually doing it as well. And as communicators, as people that are the aura and making people feel a certain way, making people act a certain way as well. We have that massive opportunity. And no one else within an organisation really, apart from the CEO or the MD, would have that 360 degree view that can bring all departments together, that can bring all people together because we have that and we have that ability to do it, but we’re not, we’re not there yet. Not everyone has the same thinking as me. I’m granted, but part of what I’m hoping to do through my work, through the PRCA and through, my business, is to educate other people as well, because that’s really important that people start to understand the opportunity and that’s the way it should be seen as an opportunity.”

“So it’s called the Synergy Framework and it’s synergy because it’s hope that organisations and businesses can work in synergy with the planet, so people and planet, and it’s that kind of fuel, it’s not intangible necessarily, but it’s that feeling that you get if something, being in alignment with something else. And very much what we should be doing as organisations. The Synergy framework split into six, just six components, and it’s only six because I really have worked very hard to make it simple, not dumb it down, but make it simple so that people can understand at a glance what it looks like and how it works. So the first part is, clarify. So it’s clarifying organisational objectives, clarifying thinking around sustainability and clarifying what people really want to achieve from that. So if I was a communication consultant, I would go in and clarify all that sort of stuff before I could really move on with the brief.

The next bit is the education part. So, we need to educate people that are gonna be helping us with this around why we’re doing it, what we’re doing, what the time skills are, and what we’re hoping would be an expected outcome. The next bit is the research phase where we go in research our stakeholders, we understand their needs, we understand their values, again, because part of my experience in the last number of years has been that organisations don’t know their stakeholders that well. They don’t, and they don’t use the information they do have to their advantage to properly engage with them, making things relevant, grouping them into proper groups, not just broad brush strokes about where they live, but proper things around what their health issues might be or, what their beliefs might be. These are things that we can use to really get to know people and to start properly engaging them.

So then after you’ve done your research, need to go and do your audit on terms of their channels and what channels they’re using and what they look like and what the opportunities are there. Then underneath that you would come back and you’d do the analysis of all that and what does that actually mean? You’ve done all this research and audit, what does that actually mean? To start looking for themes and bringing those sort of broader themes out. And then moving on to strategy, which is where the sustainable development goals come in. There are 17, but there are 169 actions, to achieve within each of those, with, oh, sorry, overall within the 17 sustainable development goals. So which ones are relevant to your organisation, What ones aren’t relevant, what can you do as a priority? What are quick wins and what are maybe more longer terms you’re gonna have to develop, but importantly, how can you fit your stakeholder needs and all the stuff you’ve done and research from that with these new sustainable development goals to achieve proper impact.

So then once you’ve done all that and you’ve developed your strategy out of it, you’ll come back to clarify again, because you have to go back and clarify that this is what you wanna do and this is how you’re gonna do it. And the time skills that were set, then you have to go back out and educate because you have to go and educate everyone in the organisation about this is now the strategy, this is how we’re gonna do it, and this is your part to play. Then the research bit comes in because that’s where you’re starting to do your benchmarking, your monitoring and obviously at the end you’ll start to do your evaluation piece as well. And so it just goes around in circles, but the main point is the nucleus in the middle, which is the organisational impact and once you go on from there, it’s about learning and then it’s about sharing those learnings with other people as well.

But that’s the broad look of the framework and how it works is that it is applicable to every organisation, public sector, private sector, third sector brand, one man band to multimillion pound, billion pound organisation. It is relevant because it’s the un sustainable development goals that are driving it, and that is, you and white. I’m not reinventing something that’s already there. What I’m doing is taking my 20 plus years experience, 25 years in business and starting to think properly about what do businesses actually need and how can I help solve that problem? And the synergy framework is perfect for that. It will also then help feed into the sort of final element, which is the reporting aspect of it. So environmental report annual report, social impact report, , all those type of integrated reporting as well. It will play a part in helping write those and tell that story. So in short that’s what it looks like, but I could go on for hours.”

“Two places. Firstly the website, so head to the Synergy framework page and explains a little bit more there. , and also just to speak to me because I’m conducting one-to-ones, and doing sort of webinars around what it looks like, how it can work, et cetera. Because I do believe that by sharing that thinking it will help other people to formulate their own thinking, and to start on that journey as well. So it’s kind of a bit of a kickstarter for people. I can have as much or as little input as people need once they’ve, once they’ve started on that. I think that’s the thing. It’s not one one size fits all. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s, it has to be viewed as a long term plan. The main thing is, is that people start somewhere and they start now. That would be my call to action.”

“I think it’s a byproduct of actually being a good business. And if you like the whole layout of what I’ve done is around get to know your stakeholders, know what they stand for, are they in alignment with your business? Okay. Strategic communications, how you engage them in that conversation. Bring them along in the journey. You then got your sort of measurement and evaluation piece of what you’re doing with them, taking them in that journey and what impact you’re having. The impact surely should be that if you’re a charity, you’ve got more donations coming in that , you, these are goals you should be setting at the start. These smart objectives. This is why the clarity and clarify part of the synergy framework is so important because what are you trying to achieve? The impact doesn’t have to be just a carbon reduction.

Yes, that is a goal, but it should also be about there’s a carbon reduction, but at the same time you’ve built up more trust within your workforce. Or that you have managed to give something back to an organisation in the community to help them be more sustainable. Or like one of my clients has done, they’ve, it’s a social impact project where they have, developed a digital tool, which is a paid forward scheme. And we did this launch, it’s in the tourism sector, and they now have been enabled to give free tours to people in the community who are disconnected, disengaged, and who have been through real trauma in their lives, but through storytelling and culture have reconnected them to their own city to make them feel part of it. And so the love, the human impact that has come through from that quite simple thinking has had a massive impact on people.

And this is the idea of social impact and human impact. It’s not just about sustainable fashion. It’s not just about the bigger overarching themes. If you think about what we are on the planet is we’re human beings at the end of the day and what do human beings need? What do we need to survive? And what do we need then to thrive? And these all have to be factored into wellbeing. It’s not a nice to have any more wellbeing, the pandemic has shown is that we need to wellbeing to be really integrated in organisations and our thinking to ensure that we’re well after and that we look after ourself and our colleagues and our teams, et cetera. By doing that, you’d probably have a better culture.

If you’ve got a better culture, you’re retaining your staff. If you’re retaining your staff, you’re not wasting time and effort and money on going out there and getting new staff. You’re then getting building up that human capital within the organisation and they’re going out there and telling people what a great business you are to work for. And they’re your ambassadors. They’re where you’re building up that amazing, opportunity to continue growth and continue what you’re doing it’s all a big, big part of a process and, and everything has an impact in each other.”


“Yes. I think community is really important. People within the CommsHero community support each other. They feel it from you as the leader. They feel it through the team who are also working there and on Twitter and things like that. But they’ll also then feel it amongst each other whether they’re meeting at online stuff or whether they, they meet in person or whatever they’re doing. Community and something like community building, is something I’ve been talking about for years. Because if you don’t have that aspect in a business or an organisation of building a community, you’re not really then engaging people. It comes back to that stakeholder piece, doesn’t it? You’re not really then engaging that the audience you want to be engaging. And if you’re not building that, you’re not building human capital. And you’re not really starting to kind of benefit from all the things that that type of community can really give you.

And I don’t mean just the swag <laugh>, which people love, but I think it was one of the CommsHeroes a couple years ago, I entered in Twitter, I think it was like tweet of the day or something like that and ended up getting Sharpies. And I was like, this is an absolute winner getting free sharpies. Woohoo. But it’s things like that you kind of keep engaging people and as I say, it’s not just part of the free swag. It is part of the bigger conversation around an industry, particularly the public relations element that was once known for being particularly exclusive is now starting to become more friendly, more inclusive by, because because of these types of communities that are being developed. PR Fest it’s had a rest this year, but it was the same.

It kind of brought people together that would never have met each other before and now are like doing business together or bought businesses from each other. And all sorts are going on. And I think that’s great that we can do that. And the more that people share amongst our community and PR and communication, I think the more we share, the more we’re being open to being nice and kind and being approachable. And I think that’s really important as communicators, because if we’re not then we are being exclusive and we aren’t being inclusive and we’re not really setting that example particularly for maybe more vulnerable people or new people into the industry think it’s really important. So well done for the stuff you do for CommsHero.”

Don't get stuck in Groundhog Day

Don't get stuck in Groundhog Day

Gill is a career and mindset coach who has walked the walk when it comes to PR jobs. She helps PR and Comms professionals who are at a career crossroads with how they want the rest of their life to shape up.

From crisis comms, TV publicity and tech PR during her 10 years at the BBC to consumer, charity and arts PR elsewhere, Gill has first hand knowledge of the pressures and peculiarities of the day job.

And she knows just how the very attributes that have made you good at what you do can be the very things that start getting in your way as you head towards the leadership level.

She says: “I believe when people are opened up to possibilities and start being kind to themselves they can make more progress. When people have their head down, just getting through it all, they don’t even notice how stuck they are until there’s a crisis of some ind.

I want my clients to feel understood, listened to, depressurised, slowed down, more peaceful, capable and strong. I want them to feel confident about the career decisions they are making and recover from traumas they have experienced in their line of work.”

Don’t stay stuck in Groundhog Day, and don’t blindly head into burnout just because you didn’t take the time to understand your situation a little better.

Gill Munro

Career and Mindset Coach

Key Topics:

“I think it’s more common than most people realise. Um, I was mentioning to you just before we started this recording that I started, um, talking about my business as a coach back in November. And I was really stunned to be totally honest with you to find out just how common this feeling was. I started working with women primarily, although I do sometimes work with guys as well. I think they’re a bit more reluctance to come forward. Um, and every single one of them said to me that they recognised very much what I was talking about. And the kind of things that I was talking about were, you know, you have a really enjoyable, successful career. That is how it looks. You’ve got a, you’ve progressed up the ranks a little, you maybe you’re at the middle management level, something like that, you always get great appraisals your colleagues really respect you, you’re considered a safe pair of hands, you’re very creative, but something inside you is not matching up with that description. And I think so many people feel the gap between what they are delivering, what they, and how people perceive them around them and their bosses and so on and how they actually feel on the inside. And I think there’s quite a kind of hidden, well of anxiety and worry about loads of different aspects of the job. So it could be things like, you know, what results you’re gonna get, how successful is your campaign gonna be? Are your stakeholders, you know, cross with you? Think you’ve not done enough and this is constant kind of driving people to go “I must do more. I must be on the ball all the time.” I just think that is really rife. And from, you know, back in my career, I was just getting people messaging me going, “oh my God, I can’t believe you’re talking about this because it’s definitely true.” And with sort of client after client, I’ve heard the same, not the exact same story, cause obviously people lives are different and they have different circumstances going on, but that fundamental thing of being trapped in a kind of plate spinning cycle with zero time for yourself is rife.”

“I think guys are a bit more reluctant to speak out and I think that’s primarily the reason, um, why my clients don’t tend to be guys, but for women, it is the well documented issues that we all know about it, the issues show up very, very commonly for women when they have got to a stage in life where their responsibilities beyond work have increased, and their free time just gets completely taken away from them. So that could be things like having children, having a family that certainly really, really common, or the other thing is, I think post pandemic, there’s a real issue as well, where perhaps women who are looking to move on with their personal lives and get what they want from that maybe they’ve spent the past couple of years, you know, in a flat share just with our flatmates or living alone and work has been the only thing, that’s been going on for them consistently in that time.

And the other things that they enjoy in life, meeting new people, their personal interests really have taken a backseat and friendships have become trickier to, you know, run as fluently as they did in the past. And so work has kind of expanded to fill the space. And now they’re in this position when they’re readjusting and they’re actually thinking, what do I really want? And they need to get work, work life and work thinking back into perspective of the overall picture, you know, of their life or women with caring responsibilities for, you know, parents or more, more elderly relatives in the family. So it’s, women’s whose time time gets squeezed, I think more often.”

“What I work on with people is those are all the external factors that are going on. But the fundamental thing that people really need to think about is how they’re getting in their own way and the choices that they are making, that are perpetuating a situation that they find anxiety stimulating, or just relentless. And that’s really where coaching comes in to support people. It is talking to people about why they, why they choose to behave that way. So for, you know, looking at the examples for my own life, for many years, I had all these feelings, uh, you know, I would be described routinely and significant crisis comms situations. I worked on the Saville story at the BBC press office and various, various other, um, things that were making, you know, all the front pages and attracting global interest for sustained periods of time and I think I became quite acclimatised to that level of pressure and stress. And I stopped, I just kept servicing that. I was choosing to always be completely ready to handle whatever came next.

The choice that I needed to make for my own life was actually to downgrade the importance of that in my own life. Of course, it’s still important to the organisation and it must be served, but it’s not my responsibility to solve the problem all the time. It’s just my responsibility to show up to it an appropriate way for the role I’m assigned to do, if you like. So I think that’s really the other thing for people to look inward and start to think, what am I doing here? And I think that’s the thing that often prompts people to come to coaching is they’ve sort of got to that point. They realise, you know, I’m gonna have to change something here because none of these external factors are gonna change. They’re beyond my control. What can I actually do differently? And then that’s when we get into the really interesting conversations about how people can make changes.”

“I think anyone can benefit from coaching at any stage. But I think it’s the kind of issues that they bring to coaching change over time. So one of the things I talk about sometimes is how senior leadership and executive, level people will be provided with a coach. They get to that stage in their career. And the business is like, okay, here, you can have some executive coaching now because we really want you to operate at your most efficient and the best way for you in the business, because that is going to be the thing that helps you at this stage in your career and helps our business the most.

And then I think that people slightly further down the chain. So middle managers and below are sort of unaware of that. Like I don’t, it’s just not really talked about that much, but I think ironically, if coaching was provided at every level alongside skills training that people at earlier stages in their career still definitely need and benefit from, then what you get is people who not just become really skilled as practitioners, but become skilled as personal kind of your operators alongside that. And that benefits everybody because people enjoy their jobs more. People enjoy their lives more. And also in terms of staff retention, it helps people feel engaged with the place that they work and wanna stay there longer. And that only has benefits for a business. So it’s an investment in people. And often we’ve thought about that in terms of skills training, but I think coaching across the board and you just coming to that at the relevant, you know, point with what, whatever issues are, are big for you at that stage in your career would really be a benefit.”

“For me, where I start with everybody is looking at why they behave the way that they do, why they feel the way that they do. That often comes from, I mean, it come, it can come from something specific within work, like a particular issue that was traumatic for you to deal with or a particular project that, that was difficult to be involved in, or just sometimes the relentless pace of things. But it always comes down to, You know, what do you want from your life? So not just, what do you want from your job? What do you want from your life? How do you want your life to feel? How do you want to feel when you are at work? And if you get those kind of end goals, very clear for somebody and they talk about the things that they might want. So it could be things like, they want to feel a greater sense of peace and calm in their life generally. They don’t want to feel kind of frenetic and switched on and a slave to the news cycle all the time. Once we establish those clear goals, then we can look at kind of breaking the behavioural patterns that people have that have kept them in that position that they no longer want. So it’s breaking it down into manageable little things and, making small achievable goals so that people can make the differences that they want to feel. And it can take them from, you know, a situation where they’ve got a job that they used to love, but they don’t anymore. And maybe they want to get that good feeling back, or maybe they want to move on in their career. And they want to step from one level up to a more senior level. And it is about how their behavioural patterns can be adapted. So that they’re ready to take that step into the next more senior job too.”

“I think there’s two things. There’s employers who really get this, line managers who really get this sort of thing and they can see it in their people, but they don’t really know how to solve it. A line manager will often say to someone in their team, who’s experiencing a bit of doubt or a bit of a down spell, they’ll say, “Oh, but you’re great. Everyone thinks what you do is great.” And they just offer that reassurance, which is lovely, but it doesn’t actually support the person with practical kind of steps to make the changes so that they feel what everyone else can see. Yeah. So I work with larger employers or corporates where the employer will fund coaching for their team members and the kind of team members that tend to benefit from it are the ones who are, you know, been in an organisation for a couple of years. They know the lie of the land. They don’t need skills training now they’re good practitioners, but they just want to, I guess, fine tune and kind of upgrade the way that they feel in their day to day, at work. I think the other thing that employers can do, and if there’s employers listening to this who think, oh, this doesn’t happen in my team or that isn’t, that isn’t something I’ve really noticed. I can 100% say to those people that is a case of you just not seeing something because you’re unaware of it. It is definitely there. I don’t think there would be a single comms team around where there isn’t at least one person experiencing this. So I think the onus is on leaders to swat up about it, read the books, follow the people on LinkedIn that talk about this stuff, educate themselves, and then ask the questions. Because one of the things I think comms people are very, very good at, and I was very, very good at this is, is telling a story that people want to hear. Right. That’s why we’re good at our jobs, but we can also apply that to ourselves, in conversation with other people so that the people we think may judge us like our manager, we tell that story to them that they want to hear. And so the manager carries on in blissful ignorance. It’s not the manager’s fault. They’ve not done anything wrong, you know, but the person needs to be, you need to kind of chip behind the protective, you know, coding that they’ve put around themselves so that they appear like the perfect employee and just really ask them.


“I think that’s one of the things that I first, when I first noticed CommsHero, I could tell that that was a sort of movement that was quite aligned to the way that I think. Um, and you’re absolutely right. People are doing heroics. And I think some people might quibble with the use of the word hero, right? Cause we think of hero as, you know, the firefighters or, or all that kind of thing. But it’s the same as similar to the way I think about the word, you know, trauma, we think, you know, our first thought when someone says something traumatic, we think of like a really awful tragedy, but actually heroism, trauma, they all happen on a smaller level all the time, every day. And people can take heroic actions by just stepping out their comfort zone to, you know, tackle a project that’s really difficult that they’ve, you know, been tasked with that can think about doing something in a new way and take a bit of a risk to tell the story they’ve been tasked with telling. And those are, you know, little heroic moments for that person who’s doing it. And I think it’s so important that we recognise that because celebrating the wins right, which is what CommsHero is all about is absolutely vital because having people genuinely celebrate their wins, connects them with how they feel. And if they’re connected with how they feel, then they can have a much more realistic, kind of conversation with themselves about what’s going well, what’s not going so well, what they wanna change. And it is just a complete shift away from this idea of must be perfect robotic corporate employee that’s yeah. Presented in a certain way the whole time. So I, you know, I love it.”

Strategic Public Relations Leadership

Strategic Public Relations Leadership

Professor Emeritus Anne Gregory PhD, is a former Chair of the Global Alliance (GA) for Public Relations and Communication Management and a past President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which she led to chartered status. A Board level appointee in public relations consultancy, for hospitals and Universities, she also runs her own consultancy, Practix Limited.

Professor Gregory is a member of the CIPR’s Board and #AI in PR Panel, leading work on the impact of AI on the profession.  She teaches and advises on public relations leadership, planning, ethics, evaluation and capability, including for the UK Government, the World Health Organisation in Australasia, Scandinavia, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Anne isn’t just an ivory tower academic: she works alongside practitioners constantly and is passionate about raising professional standards. She spends much of her time working with practitioners in leadership and aspiring leadership roles and has just co-authored the second edition of Strategic Public Relations Leadership.

Professor Gregory, holds the CIPR’s Sir Stephen Tallents Medal, the US Institute for Public Relations Distinguished Pathfinder Award for research, the Premio Internacional Award, from the Portuguese Business Communication Association, the Atlas Award for her international work from the Public Relations Society of America and the Canadian Public Relations Society Outstanding Achievement Award for her work on the Global Capabilities Framework.

At last they’ve got it! In this complex world, CEOs are turning to their public relations leaders more than ever. They know they need someone to protect their organisation and to challenge when there are risks and issues down the track. That someone is their public relations leader who hold up a mirror so that organisations see themselves as others see them. Someone who isn’t afraid to be truthful about what needs to be fixed and how to do it. These leaders are informed and bold, they ‘do’ communication superbly, they are networked and influential, but most of all they keep their organisations safe. Find out how in this podcast.

Key Topics:

“It’s a toughy that one. But interestingly in the book, we’ve got some research from an organisation called VMA and their international recruitment and executive search company. They’re specialising in comms and, you know, big names like Nestle Diagio, uh, Marie Curie, etc, have used them recently to get really senior communicators. And they’ve been talking to CEOs about why they think having a comms leader is really important and they’ve pulled out three main things. And I absolutely agree with this. First of all, they need somebody a really senior level who’s a sort of a guardian and protector, both of them as individuals, as CEOs, but also for their organisations. And they do the guardian bit by building trust proactively. So, um, being transparent and genuine in communications inside the company as well. So being really honest with people, as well as in their communication so that they can talk about the company as it really is not how it should be, how it maybe ought to be, or wants to be, but how it really is so that the reality actually reflects the conversations that are being had about it.

And to do that the public relations leader needs to be really embedded in the company, know it for all it is, uh, and hold other people to account as well. So if your purpose is X, everybody has to live X otherwise is not really the purpose of the organisation. So they’re in there rooting about making sure that within the organisation, there’s real belief about that and challenging people, including senior people when their behaviour and actions and decisions don’t match up to that. So they’re guardian so that sort of marauding inside holding people to account being a guardian of what’s important to the company. And they also protect it when there’s a crisis or whether you see issues coming down the road, helping to avert them, or if crises happen dealing with those brilliantly. And the second thing they mentioned is them being translators and storytellers.

So, you know, boards make complex decisions and sometimes they’re difficult to understand. So translating and making intelligent those decisions is, uh, is an important role for them. And then constructing a compellative narrative that’s accessible, but also true, you know, authentic to the organisation. That’s a highly skilled job. And the third thing they mention is, um, these leaders being trusted advisors. So they’re not afraid to raise problematic issues. They’re fearless, they’re bold people, they challenge decisions. Um, and particularly if they’re just based on, you know, commercial benefit for the organisation, cause they say, what is the story that this decision is telling about our company? Because that is a real story. The decisions that senior people make and the behaviours they have is the real story about the organisation. Um, and one of these comms, I spoke to a big comms director, uh, doing some work on, you know, why have you got some traction at most senior levels?

And one of his answers to me was that, well, unless I have an argument with the boss before nine o’clock every morning, I’m not doing my job properly. And he’s there on his case all the time, keeping the organisation safe. Um, for me, that’s the answer, you know, organisations need public relation leaders who help them be sustainable. And I don’t mean green sustainable. Well, I do mean that, but not just that. I mean, making sure that they’re good, making sure that they’re full of integrity, that they’re behaving properly, that they’re making decisions that actually contribute to society. And you know, that people are gonna be happy with, but are strong. I mean, and they know what their own identity is and they’ll stand up for that and protect it. But, you know, that’s why you need a public relations leader.”


“So I think that we have a particular lens through which we see the world and we’ve got a particular role. You’re bang on right on that. And it’s not a lens or a role that other people have at the most senior level, or it’s not specifically their remit. So I think that we’re, you know, boundary spanners we’re in our companies, in our organisations, our private sector, public sector, whatever, but we’re also outside. Uh, we straddle both. So we’re able to see what’s going on from the outside, bring that in, see our company, our organisation, as others, see it and bring that intelligence into the organisation is a really structured way. And you know, we’ve got all sorts of tools now to help us with that, you bring that into the company and you say, this is what’s going on out there. And you need, you know, board members to understand this because you have to make decisions that are somehow going to be interpreted by people out there, and they will take this interpretation from it.

So that being connected out, outside Asif and bring in what’s going on on the outside in and saying what that means internally is a role specifically, I think for us. And it’s a perspective that we have another thing is that I think we take a helicopter view of organisations. And by that, I mean, you know, if you talk to a finance director, they always see your organisation, public or private sector, not for profit sort like bundles of resources, if finances are the estate, uh, estate or whatever. And our job is to sort of stand above that like functional perspective and say within the context of everything that’s going on around us, within the context of all the decisions that what we have to make, you know, this is a perspective rather than saying, these are the HR dimensions of it. These are the financial dimensions of it, these are the legal dimensions of it.

Putting all those things together, what does this mean? And I think that helicopter view is really important for us. And so, you know, we understand that at the end of the day, organisations exist because they’re given permission by other people to exist. They support them, society supports them. So I call this, um, in the book, Paul and I call this contextual intelligence. You know, we are deep knowledge of trends, issues, stakeholders, the zeitgeist, you know, what’s going on in the world, which we bring in. And then we add to that communicative intelligence, how decisions, behaviours are gonna land on the outside and how to land things with people. That’s what our communication dimension of the job. And nobody has that twin perspective. I don’t think senior levels apart from us.”

“Being good at comms, which you need to be, you know, and don’t, I’m not ignoring that. And cause it’s almost like a calling card, you for the first run of the ladder you know, if you’re not really good at your job, you’re not gonna be listened to, but being good at comms alone is not enough. Um, you know, often here, I’m sure you do as well Asif. Why don’t they understand me? You know, I’ve got so much to offer and why don’t they understand what comms has got to contribute? That’s the wrong way around, you know, if you’re gonna be a leader say what’s their agenda and how do I attach to them? You know, how do I make myself in-disposable to them it’s and really make them understand how I can contribute. So it’s not about comms and the comms agenda.

It’s about what the organisational agenda is. Um, so you have to understand it. It’s priorities, it’s problems, it’s opportunities and ally comms to that agenda and show crucially show how comms makes a difference. You know, so you don’t do comms for comms sake. It’s how it makes a difference. And um, I think something else aligned with that is understanding how to articulate what our contribution is. And there’s something there about not framing things that those senior levels, not framing things in terms of communication language, you know, I’ll do a, do a social media campaign with the local community, but it’s about I’ll deliver active community support for you so you can get your new factory built. So that’s an impact whether the other is doing the campaigns is, is very tactical and sort of that’s what senior manager’s going to be interested in. What difference can comms make to you?

So that brings me onto a, third thing around, you know, it’s understanding how to articulate our contribution is not just about comms, but the other thing is about learning how to influence. And that’s about the conversations that you have internally every day. Because if you think about it, your daily conversations are how other people define you. That is your narrative. That’s your story. And if you’re talking about tactics all the time and you’re framing, you know, your arguments in terms of doing stuff rather than impacts, then that’s how you’ll be regarded as the tactician. You know, and I think learning how to be influential is a key thing that aspiring leaders need to, to focus on. Cause we know that comms works. All we have to do is to make sure then that we attach things, comms to things that are really important and show how it works and demonstrate the, the difference that we can make.”

“Well, I think things are changing. Don’t you? I mean, you’ve got a senior position, you know, more and more people with a comms background are getting onto boards and the thing there’s been a sea change, you were talking about the change over the last two or three years Asif. Yeah. And it’s almost as if senior leaders it’s, the scales have fallen off their eyes. They’ve realised that actually everything is about comms. Yeah. When they were sitting in their home office, you know, and they weren’t able to go around in their smart Jags and float around the offices and feel important. They were, they realised actually the guts of running an organisation is communication. So, you know, I think we can be really optimistic about that. But there are some challenges for us some of the things that I was talking about earlier, I think prevent PR people from getting on the board, you know, so we don’t understand the business.

We don’t know how to read balance sheets. We can’t contribute to other discussions around strategy and finance. We don’t use the right language. Interestingly, just to talk about myself for a minute, you know, I’ve, I, as you said, I’ve sat on a number of boards and I never talked about communication on those boards, but I was valued for bringing in that outside perspective for challenging things, you know, cause the sort of group thinking boards and they, you know, they all get together and they think, well, what are we driven by? And it’s the bottom line and all that. So challenging the decisions that we’ve been made as, hang on a minute, how, what are people gonna think about this decision? You know, it’s not explainable that you get in challenging times, Mr. Chief Executive, a 51% pay increase. What’s the story that, that tells, you know?

Yeah. So those are the sort of challenges that you bring and bringing that sort of reminding them of the unintended consequences of decisions that look perfectly okay. In a boardroom you think. Yeah. But what’s the outside world gonna think about that. So, you know, I think that those are the sorts of things that you’re asked to do when you’re on a board. Um, there was a comms director who was perfectly good at doing the comms stuff. Of course I was a fantastic ally of that person, but it wasn’t my job just to think about comms. It was my job to keep those businesses safe and supported. And it was a much broader role than just comms. And there’s a good argument as well that, um, you know, um, comms and PR people shouldn’t be on the board because if you’re not careful, you get into that mind thinkWhat’s really important. And don’t take that broader perspective. But as long as you’ve got influence at the board table, even if you’re not there, because you’ve had those discussions with the right people, you’ve thought through what the decisions might be, you’ve cornered people. And you’ve said, do you understand that if you do this, this is what’s likely to happen, you know, that’s, what’s having influence is, is what’s important. Not necessarily being on the board itself. Cause lots of other people want to be on the board. You know, there’s a big argument these days that the digital person should be on the board. Most of them aren’t, you know?”

“Well, it really taps into what you’ve just been saying Asif and I couldn’t agree more really. So I think public relations has often been seen just as supporting organisations. So, you know, help it achieve its objectives, projecting the brand, you know, keeping it safe in crisis, reaching out to stakeholders, doing customer relations, et cetera, et cetera. But we claim that communication is organisation, which sounds a bit sort of philosophical. But when you think about it, organisations can’t exist without communication. So if you think about, you know, somebody who might be thinking about setting up a business or a government as a policy, um, that it wants to develop the first thing, somebody has an idea and they have to talk to people about it for that idea to even become any sort of reality then. So you’ve gotta communicate about it in the first place for it to happen, a strategy for that policy or that new company or that product has to be discussed and agreed and disseminated.

And there’s always a to and throw about that. What’s about, it’s done through conversations, through communication, setting a vision and purpose. You know, it’s all done through conversations. People don’t sit in ivory towers with the tower around the head, you know, and it all just happens. Organisations achieve their objective through people, come on board. And they only come on board when there’s been conversations and communication. So if you think about it, any sort of organisation, you can take the buildings away. Cause that’s where we’ve been. You know, all the buildings are gone, you can take the money away. Voluntary organisations often don’t have any money, but you can’t take communication away. And an organisation exists. It absolutely is at the heart of what an organisation is. If you and I don’t talk, we may as well not exist. You know, uh, if, if I can’t talk with fellow employees, I don’t there isn’t an organisation. Yeah. So it’s the DNA of the place. And so that’s what we talk about, why comms is so important. Our problem is that everybody does it. Everybody talks, everybody communicates, you know, cause we’re human beings and that’s why they think they’re experts. So that’s both a blessing and a curse for us, you know?”

“Well, it can only get more important, can’t it? Um, just what we’ve been talking about. Yeah. You know, CEOs have learned, uh, the hard way that comms is really, really important. We’ve seen your employee communications and internal communication blind. It it’s absolutely exploded. Hasn’t it? And importance has really ratcheted up, you know, the idea of employees as advocates, as influencers, they’re more credible than CEOs speaking for their organisation. Yeah. It’s really, really been elevated. As you say, you know, I’m thinking about organisations like Tarter Steel, who’s internal blog now is public because they want to say the same inside as they do outside. You know, cause often that’s a challenge, isn’t it? People inside say, well, that’s not the organisation I recognise when they hear the external comms well, have it the same. So this has really become front and central and we’ve seen, you know, externally you look at the, you know, the tragedy of Ukraine and you see that that’s a battle for comms as well as for ground, you know?

What we’ve seen the leadership debates now, you know, um, politically how important get in control of the narrative is, and, you know, there’s a real sense that this is a moment for comms to come into it. I see huge potential for us really grasping that trusted advisor role, you know, an enhanced role in our organisation. You see the pay rates for, um, I mentioned this recruitment company, they’re absolute Skyrocketing. There’s no lack of opportunity for us at all. You see these agendas that you’ve mentioned about, you know, organisations of purpose and purpose and ESG really important. And an investor’s saying, I’m not going to invest in you anymore, unless you’re serious about the environment and, you know, developing internally real processes so that the environment is not just greenwashing it’s genuine. Yeah. Um, and, and these are all roles for comms people that I see absolutely going up the agenda and comms people being rewarded for not to mention the whole digital transformation piece.

Cause I’m a boring person Asif a couple of days ago, I was reading a report from Accenture and about the AI revolution and how, you know, we’ve had the general digital revolution, but the AI revolution is going to happen in a really concentrated period of time, as opposed to digital more generally. And this is bringing real challenges to organisations, not only about flipping their business models, but things like, you know, how do they ask those ethical questions about the fact that they will have a lot of power they’ll know, everything that they need to know about a consumer and they can manipulate them, you know, there’s issues about privacy and bias and algorithms doing things that they’re not meant to do transparency. And you know, the big question that keeps being asked is ethically is just because we can do all these things. Cause they’ve got lots of resources.

They should, we who’s asking those questions. Who’s, who’s stepping up to the governance piece, that’s our job. And what about our own transformation as we go into, you know, the metaverse and every sense of that a human being, uh, has, can be engaged by us as professional communicators. Yeah. You know, um, and the power that, that gives us. So I see the role of comms moving away from doing…to governance, both within organisations and ourselves, you know, cause all the bots are gonna do everything that we normally do. Um, well, not everything, but uh, you know, they’re going to do a lot, but who’s gonna set the parameters for that. And I, so I see a huge role for us and I think it’s really, really exciting. I wish I was a young person going into our profession now because you know, the world’s gonna be our oyster.”

“Yes, I am. As I say, I think it’s a brave new world and comms is right at the heart of it. So that’s got to be a source of optimism. Um, and I don’t think, as I just said, the issues not opportunity for us, the challenge for us, I think is our capability to fulfill the potential that’s there. So that means, you know, we need to take our own development seriously. We need to get into these conversations that not just about comms and stay in our little comms bubble, we need to, you know, not be seduced by the bright, shiny things that are constantly coming our way in comms. Yeah. But we need to step up to that leadership plate because it’s there for the taking for us. Um, and, and I’m really optimistic, you know, that we’re at one of those transition moments. It only comes once in the generation where comms can really that do a boundary a huge leap over the boundaries that we’ve had to date. and that’s where we should be. And that’s where we can be. So let’s make sure we are ready to do it and get on with it.”

“Three things, uh, I think CommsHero is massively up lifting. You celebrate all, that’s great about comms and, and what’s not to like about being in a community that, you know, drives us forward with hope and optimism. And you’ve been at the heart of that Asif. So you join and celebrate with CommsHero because it’s an uplifting, energising experience. Second thing is, you know, it’s really informative. You do, you do stuff. Um, you bring things to the forefront, you know, you’re doing these podcasts, you’re doing all sorts of things that demonstrate public relations at its best. So, you know, get stuck in because you’ll learn a lot. And then the third thing for me, it’s about connecting. You know, you’ve created a community where people connect and it’s not stuffy. You know, it’s ordinary Joe and Joe-eses like me, you know, being able to connect with other people and it’s embracing its inclusive, uh, and it feels like family. And so those three things to me, uplifting, it’s informative, it’s connecting this. Are there any better reasons for joining any community?

Lessons in leadership: Get out the way!

Lessons in leadership: Get out the way!

Our next guest is Angharad Planells, Head of Business Development and Culture at Gloucester titan Radioactive. Former journalist Angharad found her way into PR after spells at the BBC, national media and commercial radio stations. Now with more than a decade in public relations, Angharad brings a wealth of experience, thanks to her work with a huge range of B2C and B2B organisations, including Lloyds Pharmacy,, and Bath Rugby, plus exciting start-ups in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, tech, ecommerce, and food & hospitality. A keen writer (and talker!), over the years she has contributed to industry publications including PRStack 1 and 2, and the first edition of FuturePRoof, spoken at various conferences and webinars, volunteered for the CIPR, and was on the admissions panel for the first Socially Mobile cohort at the end of 2021. In her spare time she’s a Trustee for Home-Start North & West Gloucestershire, a Mentor Mum supporting mums coming back to the industry, when she’s not running around after her three year old daughter, six month old puppy, and occasionally her husband!

Moving from years of strategic comms roles into a leadership role is a bigger shift than many people anticipate. Many people, and it’s not unique to the comms industry, learn and hone the skills they need to be an effective leader while on the job, more often than not making mistakes along the way.

In this episode, Angharad Planells talks about the most valuable leadership lessons she’s learned (some the hard way!) during the last 18 months, why taking time to work on herself makes her a better leader, and why the best thing every leader can do is to get out of the way.

Angharad Planells

Head of PR & Culture

Key Topics:

Angharad assures us that despite the assumptions, she was shy at school. She says: “I kept my head down, did alright academically, but if someone had a great idea, I’d want to be part of it, but I wouldn’t put myself forward and say even if I had an idea. I would partner with someone. I wouldn’t just go for it.

“I think that’s still partly the case now. I’ve always known about myself. I’ve never wanted to run my own business, for example, that’s just not something that’s ever interested me.

“I’m older now and I think as a parent you’re thrust into having to make decisions really quickly, but that I have a history of indecisiveness.”

We’re living in a crisis era where great leaders have been forged, but we also have plenty of examples of how not to lead. What are the quintessential leader qualities? Says Angharad: “I think a leader is somebody who might not always make the right decisions and you certainly can’t please everybody with your decisions.

“When you’re in a position of leadership, but you have that courage of conviction, you follow it through.

“That was something up until maybe a few years ago that I really struggled with because it’s knowing that you’re making a choice that impacts a lot of people. It’s knowing that you’re making the right decision because there’s not always a right decision.

“It’s that having that courage to make a decision that might be the wrong one and it might backfire.

“I’ve been under bad leaders and I’ve always assumed that being a bad leader was the negative things that they brought to the table, someone who belittles your efforts or doesn’t praise quickly. Those kinds of things that can really have an impact on someone’s mental health and someone’s feeling of worth at work.”

I actually held a different role at the agency, which was head of client success, so more on the client services side.”

“We all know clients right? You’re spinning a plate over on one side and that client’s super happy, but the one over on the other side is dropping it. You can’t be all things to all people. I really struggled in that role and so Rich [CEO of Radioactive and all around dreamboat] and I sat down and I moved into the role that I am now and it is such a better fit because I look after the team a bit more.

“So what did I do to get to that point and not see that as a kind of failure? I’ve done a lot of work on my self confidence. And what I want to get out of my career again is really kind of reframing, taking stock I guess. That’s why we’re seeing people quit to retrain into things they’re really passionate about, or just move to a different company because the one that they’re in doesn’t value them as an individual, let alone as a worker.

“But what really really helped me is having the confidence to know that it’s not all on me, there’s a team and being able to step back and not be such a control freak. It is quite hard though for a lot of leaders to do that, to get out of the way. I’ve seen lots of people on social talking about bringing on the best people, the best talent and letting them get on with it and get out of the way.

“But as you progress through your career, I suppose that you’ve gained that experience and

you want to impart some of that experience and that knowledge and some things that might be obvious to you. It wasn’t obvious to you when you first experienced it, but it is quite hard because you naturally want to be helpful and you want to help people to get to the end point quicker, but they’ve got to go on that journey as well.”

Who makes AP’s huge list? She says: “It really boiled down to people that are doers and creators of things.

“I’m always in awe of people that have an idea and just have a go because I’m very much one of those people that if I’m not going to be good at it then I’m a bit scared to start it.

“But you know you’ve got Advita Patel and Priya Bates with the A Leader Like Me community and the new podcast they’ve launched.

“Sarah and Steven Waddington because over the years I’ve been part of communities and groups of people they’ve brought together and their tireless commitment to our industry is commendable.” Shoutout to Socially Mobile.

“Jamie Klingler for the work she’s done with Reclaim These Streets in the last year – just taking something that she had no previous knowledge or experience in –  in the way that you would assume you might need to have – and just ran with it because it was important.

“Outside of our industry it’s people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama. RuPaul, even, you know pioneers in industries and spaces that they’re in who said no, I just wanna do this.

“I think people forget that being a leader is a privilege, not a right.”

A final thought

What’s the draw for CommsHero? Says Angharad: “As much as we’re a global society now we’re all still looking for a place to belong, right?

“So it’s nice when you find a group of like-minded people who are all striving towards the same goal but having some fun with it. CommsHero has got some great swag. But there’s some great tips in there as well, insight, and it’s just not being afraid to ask stupid questions.

“I think in the early days of my career I was like: I must look like I know everything on Twitter because there’s some very smart people on Twitter!”

The show notes were written by #CommsHero legend, Teela Clayton.

This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.

Size matters: Why are PR people so afraid of measurement?

Size matters: Why are PR people so afraid of measurement?

If you like getting down with digits and sexy with the spreadsheets, our next podcast is for you. Darryl Sparey is MD and Co-Founder of Hard Numbers, the (AMEC, PR Moment, PRCA and UK Agency of the Year) award winning, performance-driven communications consultancy. Hard Numbers combines killer creative with commercial acumen to create campaigns that drive a demonstrable return on investment.

Unlike many agency founders, Darryl spent much of his career in business development. After ten years running sales and marketing for Precise (now Kantar Media), he moved into digital marketing, running the London office of a search engine marketing agency. He then moved into PR as a board director of Hotwire.

Darryl is a Fellow of the PRCA, a CIPR Chartered Practitioner and member of AMEC, but his most important job is that of father to his children, Hudson and Halia.

In this episode, you’ll learn all about the hard numbers (see what we did there) of measurement and why these shouldn’t be forsaken for the fluffy elements of PR, comms and marketing.

Darryl Sparey

Managing Director and Co-Founder of Hard Numbers

Key Topics:

“I think first and foremost, Google Analytics, particularly because there are a lot of changes coming up. It’s such an important tool in terms of understanding traffic that’s coming to our website; where it’s from; what that’s led to in terms of goal completions etc.

“All of that is vitally important, also most PR people ultimately – and this is something that people will argue with me about – report ultimately into a CMO who looks at things through the traffic of the window of Google Analytics.

“I’m a big advocate for CRM. We use HubSpot in our business, and Propel which enables me to tell how many times we’ve pitched the Financial Times for all of our clients in the last week, month, year. How many times we’ve potentially secured an opportunity with that title and how many times it’s actually led to live coverage. We can do that by any journalist, any outlet, or anything else. We’ve got a live system of record for the success of what we do.

“So some form of CRM or PRM system is important and then Google Data studio or some other kind of BI tool that helps you bring multiple data sets together in one place to then visualise data Above and beyond all of those other tools, if you were to tell me I could only use one tool for, tracking and measurement of the effectiveness of what we do, it would be Excel or Google Sheets.”

And in terms of KPIs? Darryl says: “There’s no golden bullet to this, right?

“There’s no Nielsen metric. For PR there’s no one number that you can ever boil anything down to and it’s important that you don’t. If you have a number of metrics you’re reporting against, no matter what the vicissitudes of running PR or marketing campaigns for your clients are, you’ll be able to show progress on the month or quarter to quarter basis or on one of them so it’s important to have a suite of metrics.”

More importantly, is Darryl a robot?! He says: “I’m a chartered PR professional, a fellow of the PRCA, but I have a background in sales and marketing.

“For most of my career I’ve run the sales and marketing department for private equity backed businesses, so I don’t know if what I do is PR, but I do know what I do – drive sales – and I think that is definitely the kind of pitch for Hard Numbers.

“I think more broadly as well, the industry is bifurcating along two lines, so you’re either typically reporting to a chief comms officer or CEO and you’re taking care of reputation management in some form or another, or you’re going down the demand generation root for high growth businesses, and as I alluded to earlier, typically reporting to a CMO.

“I think that PR is definitely at the heart of that and there’s a connection with sales there. Sales is God’s work, and everyone in PR is selling something to someone. You’re pitching a story to a journalist, to get coverage. You’re selling your results back that you got from the activity, whatever it is to either your internal stakeholders or your external stakeholders and clients effectively to tell them you got great results.

“If you’re in agencies, you’re selling to clients all the time; you’re pitching for new business all the time.” Darryl recommends reading Daniel H. Pink’s book: To Sell is Human.

“I always have exactly the same answer – the AMEC Integrated Measurement Framework.

“Anyone who works at Hard Numbers has it tattooed somewhere. I have it tattooed on my inner thigh [*resists urge to verify*] and it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to undertake any form of communication.

“Basically start with your objectives. Work out what you need to know, what activities you have to undertake, what outputs you’ll create from what you’ll be doing, and what the outcomes that these will drive, and what the organisational impact will be and AMEC Measurement Framework gives you that beautifully in a very easy to use format.”

A final thought

Of the heroics our Comms Heroes perform every day, Darryl says: “Communications can be incredibly complicated, difficult, challenging so the work you do to champion people in this industry is absolutely brilliant.

“It’s a wonderful force of positivity and I think it’s a great thing for anyone to be part of. If I’m having a tough day I’ll normally search the #Comms Hero hashtag and there’ll normally be something that will bring a smile to my face.”

The show notes are the creation of friend of #CommsHero Teela Clayton.


TL;DR: Accountability – the industry still hasn’t professionalised – fewer than 600 people are chartered practitioners in an industry that employs over 90k people; measurement will help professionalise the industry

Tools – Tend to measure what they can; not what matters. Too much content analysis – message and spokesperson pick-up, sentiment, etc; not enough focus on what the business is looking for – traffic, leads, opportunities to pitch

Numeracy – PR people often like to say they’re words people, or think in pictures. It’s a cop-out. You can teach yourself to be numerate, or to use spreadsheets to do the tough stuff (pivot tables, etc)

Daniel H. Pink To Sell is Human

AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework

Fancy getting in the hot seat and sharing your CommsHero wisdom? Contact Asif Choudry

Tickets are now available for #CommsHero week, 19-23 September. The week-long virtual event with over 35 sessions live streamed and available on demand for a year. Great value at £180 and you can find out more at


This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.

Print vs Digital: The grand comeback of printed comms

Print vs Digital: The grand comeback of printed comms

Jan Fitzgerald is a communications and media specialist. For the last 12 years Jan has worked largely across internal communications for remote workforces in transport, retail and construction.

She specialises in content production, channels strategy and development, print vs digital alignment and insights analysis. Jan’s particular interest is in how to overcome remote workforces and targeting the less engaged. She loves working in internal comms because of the diversity and variety that every day brings in terms of people and work. There’s never a dull moment!

In this episode, we hear about the Linkedin conversation, which sparked the reason behind this podcast. Jan posted a really interesting set of analysis from some research that she conducted about print and the use of print and internal comms. Jan is a huge advocate of print and explains that in this day and age, digital is not always the most sustainable or appropriate option for the audience.

There’s also a CommsHero podcast first, but we’ll let you listen to Jan to announce her BIG news…

Jan Fitzgerald

Communications Manager

Key Topics:

“So I am actually a communications manager at Transport for London, TFL, and we are a largely operational workforce, a lot of frontline staff, a lot of people who have no access to digital, or limited access to digital due to the nature of their role, which I think a lot of companies have that type of a dynamic going on.

And I just found print is a core part of our channel’s mix because of those reasons. And I just found the research so limited when it comes to looking at our future strategy and how we want to evolve our print channels, what we’re going to do, how we can make it better.

And then obviously the pandemic, I think, threw everyone into a bit of upheaval and how we communicated and what we did, not just the TFL but everywhere, changed, as you know, across the comms profession.

And I was really intrigued to know, well, how was print effected because I’d heard through the grapevine through my own comms network some people ramped up, some people paused it for various reasons, but I wasn’t really getting the insight I needed.

So I decided, “You know what, I’m going to do some research myself.” And then on top of that, there’s also the fact that print, be it internal or external, is notoriously difficult to measure. So it just was an idea that came to me to give our measurements some backing and benchmarking within internal communications and other organizations as well as our own business. And that’s why I did it really, just to get some answers for the burning questions I had.”

“Not that I’m aware of, no. I think there’s been some great case studies, massive, a lot on broader topics. So there’s a lot about how to target remote workforces, and then that in itself factors in some research regarding print. I know some agencies I know who’ve done some exclusive research just on their own print channels and actually the success and downfalls of those. But I don’t think there’s been, I suppose, a piece as a whole about print.

And I suspect that the large reason for that is because the cost implicated with print and the fact that it’s not doable for everybody, but it is doable for a lot. And particularly for remote and frontline organisations, it’s a big winner. So yeah, I just felt it was something that really needs to be looked into.

I also think the conversation around print dying has been going on for years and maybe that’s stopped people because of the digital… When digital was new and fresh, I think the looking into print into that type of depth wasn’t really done, whereas I think that conversation’s changing, which we’ll talk about later. And so yeah, now seems like the perfect time to think about it a bit more broadly.”

“Yeah, so I think the pandemic has largely worked in print’s favour though internally and externally. I think more than ever digital fatigue is not a new thing. It was something that was there before COVID and before the pandemic.

But when everyone I suppose moved to a different way of working, a lot of people working from home, online only, and obviously our social media and our news intake was dramatically ramped up throughout the pandemic. And I just think digital fatigue and digital overload has become more of a problem than ever. So I think that the pandemic, well, I know the pandemic has enhanced print, and it started to change the conversation from that digital replacement of print to digital and print working harder together.

That’s for me what has been the biggest piece. It’s about integration of channels, not replacing channels. So yeah, I think it’s done print a favour, and hopefully that’ll last.”

“Do you know what, there wasn’t… So I’ve always loved print. I’m notoriously prefer a book over a Kindle type of girl. I’m a big advocate of print and always have been, so I think although things were surprising, there were some things that didn’t surprise me, and that’s that it’s still alive and well.


The biggest surprise has probably been that out of the 60 participants who contributed to my research, hardly any, and I really I think it was like one or two, cut their print budget during the pandemic or after the pandemic, despite the financial challenges that we’re facing in the economy. A lot of businesses are making huge, I suppose, financial cuts looking ahead and thinking about how to recover the money they lost during COVID. But yet print is still being prioritized.

And I found that really interesting because I’m working in internal communications about 12 years. And while in TFL, certainly, print is a core part of our channels mix, that’s not always the case in other businesses, and often it’s the first to get reduced because of money.

So I just find that really interesting that actually that wasn’t the case in everyone I spoke to. Even in the more in depth case studies, I did two case studies as well, and yeah, no, it hasn’t been culled as I thought it would be as a quick way to save money. So it means, I think, people, like you said, are thinking a little bit harder about one way of getting a coherent and concise message out to people in one manner and print does that, so that was what surprised me the most.”

The biggest benefit of print? I think there’s lots of them. I think for a predominantly remote and operational workforce, it’s a brilliant channel to have because it ticks a lot of boxes that digital just can’t.

I think, even in TFL and in other businesses like that, most people today have access to digital, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the time or the capacity to do so. So you might be in a role where at no point from the moment you log on and go home, have you actually got a reason to be online due to an operational role, and that’s across the board. That’s not just in transport. That’s in the NHS. That’s in lots of industries, and actually print can really, really help get messaging out there for people who just don’t get the chance to read emails, or go on social media, or look at anything digital. So I think that’s a massive, massive benefit of it.

I also think that’s something that’s overlooked often, and the research actually confirmed this, is prints a lot more to do with culture. And obviously we spoke about combat and digital fatigue. And I think when you’re so overloaded with email and digital, getting something printed, it can often be a welcome release from that. But I think from a cultural perspective, what really shown, or stood out, in the research is that it really is a channel that allows businesses to set their clear goals in one way, set their vision and values. It’s like one aligned message, so often in big organizations, and sometimes in smaller, people work in silos.

Whereas I think with a magazine, you can bring all everything together, and it can enable people to learn about other parts of the business, see what’s going on, hear from the top, hear from the bottom, from the ground up those people’s stories.

And I think because at the moment, especially in comms, we’re hearing a lot about reactive churn. I think we’re still on that reacting very quickly on the back of the pandemic, because we have to do it day in and day out throughout. And I know it’s not over yet, but at the peak of it.

And I think with print, because of the lead times being longer, which has its challenges, but actually if you spin that on its head and you think about what you can do differently, you can do some really engaging content with that time. Because often communicators just don’t have the time to think about, actually how can we make this really engaging? How can we really hit a heartfelt story because we have to react?

Whereas with print, you can do all your big ticket items, but also get to the nitty gritty of the people in a business. The stories they wish to share because you have the time to plan and do so, and I think, unlike other channels, that’s something that gets overlooked and that’s what makes print, so I love that about it.”

“Yeah. Massively costs and sustainability are the biggest concerns with print for everybody, ourselves included, something we’ve worked very hard at and continue to work hard at. I think…

Yeah, it’s an interesting one, but I would say that it’s in a communicator’s gift to challenge the source of where print is coming from. There’s lots of things you can do before you cull a product from a sustainability perspective. I mean, there’s an argument about the fact that digital isn’t always as sustainable as we think, particularly with overload, but going back to print and how you can make that more sustainable, I think there’s ways of doing it.

So you can work really hard with your suppliers and actually challenge the frequency of a magazine. Do we need to do it as often as we’re doing? The pagenation of a magazine, is it fit for purpose? Could we reduce it?

And then other things like, we’ve worked really hard throughout the pandemic and before to really look at our suppliers, look at our costs, and in turn look at our source. So working with recycled paper, looking at the ink, and is that sustainable? Is our stock FSC-accredited, all of those big, important questions.

I’m not really sure communicators are entirely aware of are in their ability to ask about. So when we’re working with a supplier, they’re the main questions we have.

And then also looking at your postage methods and how you’re using resource. And could you reduce it? So sometimes it’s a whole mailing process that works, so you send it out to everyone. But sometimes that’s not needed. You could do a bulk delivery where you dramatically reduce packaging, send it to different locations. There’s lots of things you can do. So yeah, I think still sustainability is a big concern for people, but I would say don’t be put off print just because of that. Just be smart and wise about how you do it.”

Asif Choudry:

“Yeah, no, absolutely. You picked up on a couple of points in there that we, as a… Like I say, we’ve got a print operation on our premises and have been part of that industry for 20 plus years now, and sustainability here, there is a massive education piece that we certainly have been on for a number of years. And we will continue to drive that where I do find that most communicators aren’t aware of the options.

And that’s something that the print industry itself has to look at themselves because inherently they’re helpers of communications, but they’re not necessarily the best communicators themselves. But so we’ve certainly been on that mission where there are options for using… There’s absolutely no reason you can’t use sustainably sourced, FSC-certified paper on everything that you do because it comes in uncoated stocks. And also looking at your print supplier, are they a carbon balanced printer?

So within the manufacturing process, there are emissions. Every printer should be going through, as we are measuring scope one and two and also scope three, looking at science based target initiatives, that kind of stuff, so that’s a journey. We’ve been on that journey since 2013 ourselves, and we actively promote providing certificates on each job for an annual supply to our customers to tell them how many kilos of carbon have been offset in the production of their particular publication or publications through the year.

And also by using a carbon balance printer, the customer has the ability to help save rainforest because it is… We pay a levy to the World Land Trust, and they actually buy areas of critically threatened rainforest. And that’s because if people didn’t buy print through us, we wouldn’t be able to do anything for the World Land trust because it relies on people doing print, vegetable based inks, all these things.

So there’s lots of ways to make things sustainable if it’s going to be print. And you’re absolutely right about digital and the greenwashing element that sending an email has zero impact on the environment. That’s absolutely not true, and that’s a whole other debate, which we’re going to have people covering that in CommsHero Week, so that’s the…

We talked about the benefits of print there and some of the challenges in effect and not just to it as a physical product, but the perceptions that people have. So I think certainly something will continue to bang that drum and keep promoting that message.”


Jan Fitzgerald:

“Yeah, that’s a really some really good points you raise there, Asif. And I think my advice to people who maybe are very overwhelmed by the task at hand and don’t know where to start is just ask questions. So really transparency with your suppliers is everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

So one of the things we do is we work with our environmental team, and then they challenge us in some things. And then we go back and challenge our suppliers and it’s a process and something we’re progressing with, but it’s something that we’re actively doing far more than I think I would say I’ve done anywhere else. And it’s something we’re definitely looking to improve constantly.

And I just think, yeah, having those conversations, not being afraid to speak up, not being afraid to change a supplier, if it’s not working with for you. I think that’s a really important one as well. And actually pushing, like you said, suppliers to be more accountable and be more transparent. So yeah, it’s a long game, but worth it, I think, in the end.”


“So there’s quite a few, but I think overall it’s in our gift to make print work in our channel’s mix if the appetite is there, but we just need to do the work to back that it’s the right channel and why.

Like I mentioned before, I’m in internal comms about 12 years, and I think gone are the days where we just accept the channels mix we have and just make do. We have to think bigger and harder about if a channel’s right and why and how we can utilize it, improve it, and make it work for the business we’re in and the audience we’re in. So I think the…

We talked about use sustainability and cost-effectiveness, but it needs to be challenged even if the queries are coming from the top. At the end of the day, all comms pros need to make the right business case before print channels are culled and not considered. And I think that’s something we need to think about more as internal communicators.

Return on investment for comms professionals is largely to do how well a channel gets a message out and enables feedback to be sent back. Print can fill a lot of those gaps in a concise way across a diverse and varied workforce, and I think it’s worth looking at.

It’s difficult to measure, absolutely, and it does have its challenges, but when looking at it as part of a wider campaign, and also enabling it to interact and engage with digital content, too. So ways to overcome measurement might be including more QR codes, links to digital links and channels that you can then measure to see actually how many people are using print to go back to other channels. There are ways to overcome that, and I just think it’s about really thinking harder and outside the box about how you use a print channel and make it work for you. That’s probably the biggest takeaway.”

“I honestly think print is going to work harder with digital. So we see external magazines do it really well with social media. I mean, you just have to look at like Cosmopolitan, Vogue, lots of other magazines, about how they do it. They really have an integrated print and digital approach.

I think that’s the future of print down the line that… Yeah, absolutely, there will always be people who hate us and want a digital option, so I think you’re never going to have a one size fits all approach. You’re never going to be able to go, “Yeah, print’s for everyone.” But equally you’re never going to be able to go, “Yeah, digital’s for everyone,” so it’s about giving people the option to engage in a way that works best for them.

And that’s not just about preference. That’s about accessibility, learning issues, social issues. Print very much is part of that mix as well because not everyone’s comfortable with digital. So yeah, it’s about print remaining part of the comms channel’s mix and hopefully being more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly, and working harder with digital so that it’s never going to be replaced, but it’s going to be balanced within a channel’s mix and just be part of the team just like everything else is.”

“Well, I think CommsHero is one of these fantastic networks that can really, really help internal communicators learn outside the business they work in, find peers, find friends, share knowledge.

Sometimes when you work in internal communications, when you’re so consumed by your day to day, it’s hard to see beyond the world you’re working in. And I personally find that networks like CommsHero are imperative to people for building their confidence, getting their learning, and actually just really enjoying things. Like one of my favourite parts of working in internal comms is meeting people like yourself and the network of internal communications pros out there, and CommsHero is a fantastic way of getting that access, so I think it’s brilliant.”

A final thought

These debates are brilliant. We shouldn’t be afraid about a debate. Ultimately, not everything works for everyone, and there will always be a reason to challenge and why something might work at a time and might not work at another time. But I still don’t believe print is dead. I don’t think it’s dying in the slightest. If anything, I think it’s making a comeback.”

Fancy getting in the hot seat and sharing your CommsHero wisdom? Contact Asif Choudry

Tickets are now available for #CommsHero week, 19-23 September. The week-long virtual event with over 35 sessions live streamed and available on demand for a year. Great value at £180 and you can find out more at


This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.