Boosting employee wellbeing: One exercise at a time

Boosting employee wellbeing: One exercise at a time

After becoming a father in 2014, Frank quickly discovered how challenging it became to find time for exercise or afford the luxury of a gym membership and started focussing all his energy into providing a solution for clients to access Award Winning Personal Training anywhere in the world!

  • Over 5,000 clients helped so far.
  • One of the fastest growing Personal Training programmes in the world.
  • Featured on Channel 4, Sky, ITV, BBC News, Daily Mail, Closer, Bella and many more.
  • Trained Ruth Langsford for her appearance on BBC Strictly Come Dancing.
  • Fantastic Portfolio of Celebrity and High Profile Clients.
  • Winner of Reigate & Banstead High Street Hero Award 2022.
  • Winner Theo Paphitis #SBS Business Award 2018.
  • 15 years experience in Health & Fitness Industry.
  • Ambassador for Surrey Half Marathon, Weybridge 10k and Colour Me Krazy 5k running events.
  • Under the thumb of three women – Wife, Katie and Daughters Ella (8) and Chloe (5)

He’s even trained Ruth Langsford for her appearance on BBC Strictly Come Dancing, and he’s got a fantastic portfolio of celebrity and high profile clients. I might ask him later to namedrop a few, if he doesn’t break any confidentiality agreements. Also, he’s an award-winning trainer as well. And he’s won awards for his great work, including most recently winner of Reigate & Banstead High Street Hero Award 2022, and 15 years experience in the health and fitness industry.

In this episode, CommsHero podcast host Asif Choudry and Frank Sinclair discuss the importance of exercising for your mental health, the challenges people face to keep motivated, how the pandemic has effected personal trainers and how Frank markets his personal training business.

Frank Sinclair

Founder, Fit with Frank

Key topics

“That’s a good question. I did fall into the industry, I’ll be honest with you. I fell into it. So, it wasn’t like I was born and thought, “Yep, this is me.” But what I found, I was working in a bank at the time, behind a screen, sitting down all day, didn’t know it, but I didn’t feel that good. I didn’t feel that good. Didn’t like it, didn’t enjoy it, didn’t have a purpose. And then I found a job in the gym. They trained me up and it was almost immediate. I just loved exercising myself, because you feel better in the mind and across the body, but you just had more energy about you.

So, then I was like, why not help other people do it? And now it’s like I don’t view it as a job, which sometimes is bad. I try and keep it as a job and as a business, because you have to, to keep the thing going. But yeah, because I’ve felt the benefits myself and now I feed off seeing my clients and their benefit and how they feel. And even more now after this pandemic, or still coming out of the pandemic, I don’t know where we are in the pandemic now. But this new world we’re in, I feel like it’s more important than ever because everyone started going outdoors and moving because they had nothing else to do. I feel like we’ve all had to stop and pause and reflect on what we’re here for, what we’re doing. And exercise plays a role for all of us. Even if it’s just a little bit each day, like nipping out, you guys on lunch breaks, or hopping on a video with me to do a quick bit of yoga. I think it makes your day better. And that’s why I do it.”

“It’s got to be the emotional side first of all, because you get that pretty quick within the first week or two of doing something for someone, you can see it and feel it and they’ll say, “Oh, I feel so good.” And then, so I think the main benefit is the emotional one. Especially if you are someone who is sitting at home all day, or a lot of your day, you can easily fall into that lull of not moving, or not feeding your body the right stuff, or not thinking about how your stress levels are being managed, all of that because work’s always in your face. You guys, you’re busy people, you’ve got loads on your plate. Other people asking you to do things. If you allow them to take over and other people to take over, you lose sight of yourself and how you feel.

So, the main benefit I think is just regaining that, I suppose, self love a bit. A bit of passion for yourself and your body and yeah, that’s a real quick change that happens. You could just say this week, “I’m going to go out every lunch time, I’m going to walk 10 minutes,” and it will make a difference. So, this is the biggest. And of course, you get ripped shredded, like you Asif, you get great body, but that’s a byproduct.”

“That’s the gold question that we’re always trying to answer, but it has to start from in yourself. So, we always start, in my community anyway, we start at the why. So, you have to ask yourself why, and it might not come straight away, but I could sit here and say, “Go exercise every day.” But if you don’t really feel it inside yourself about why that’s going to improve your situation, you’re not going to get up tomorrow and do it when I’m not in your face. You’re not going to have that purpose built inside you.

If you can really get in tune with what it is in your life that could improve. And that could be personal, it could be work related. I operate so much better when I’m exercising every day. I force myself a little bit to exercise, even when I don’t want to, knowing that the other side of that exercise, I’m going to be able to push forward and do what I want to do with my business. Whatever the driver is, the why for you, you got to start there because if you haven’t got it, you just won’t do it.

Because it comes down to you at the end of the day, doesn’t it? It really does, it comes down to the person, the individual. I just think that’s the only thing that I’ve ever found that works for everybody. It’s that constant reminder to yourselves and I think what you do well, and that’s why you’ve got me onboard I guess, is you create an environment in which people can be accountable as well and feel like they’re around other people that are trying to better themselves.”

“Yeah, I mean it’s different except I feel like … I was talking about this yesterday actually with another trainer. I feel like it’s going to be a positive. I feel like it’s largely positive in terms of what can come positive out of a scenario that we’ve been through, in that people are more engaged like we said, in the mental health aspects and linking exercise to that. I do think that’s huge. So, our purpose as trainers is not just on the six packs and the weight loss, although we still provide services for that, of course, because people always need it.

I just feel the shift in our industry has certainly gone more towards the emotional, mental benefits. So, post-COVID and it’s happening right now, I just think the conversations are different.

I’ve actually gone opposite here, I’ve gone and taken on a facility. I’ve taken on some bricks and morter after the pandemic. Whereas it’s been such a tough time for people that had those already in terms of how we deliver it. I feel where I am down here in Surrey anyway, there is a real urge to have connection with other humans because it’s not as often now, certainly in our jobs, people are still doing hybrid working down here, as you guys are. Some people are just in the office. Some people are just at home, there’s a real mix now. Just feel like there’s a thirst to be around people who again, are in a positive mindset as you.”

“The community’s been the word, the big thing I’ve been using and I’ve put on my wall and I keep reminding myself every day and I’m trying to create community wherever I can and I’ll try and communicate that in any way I can. So, we’ve discussed social media’s a great way of connecting our community. And then I would, I guess from a marketing perspective, once you’ve got communities built and you have certain demographics and for me, it might be we have a group of women who are all on the same journey. We call them Team Fabulous. We met up at the weekend. We created a community for them to be surrounded by people that they feel like they fit in with, and I market and sell my products within that community, for that community, specific to them.

For me as well, it’s worked with setting up companies to create communities within companies, going into companies and asking them, “What is it you need? What is it that your people need to thrive?” And then making sure that my face and what I do is in and around that community as often as possible. So, then I can create products and services that suit that audience. So yeah, it starts with the community. And you just find, for me, different demographics that have similar missions.”

“Well, so my understanding is a lot of companies who pre-pandemic had a budget for wellbeing to help their employees, would give things like gym memberships, or I don’t know, maybe hand out Fitbits or whatever they were doing, and around their teams. Since the pandemic, since this shift, of where people are and how people are working, there’s a issue around not knowing how to help their employees best. And as a personal trainer, I understand people and what you need, and there’s lots of different things. I’ve been able to sit down and listen to companies and say, “What is it you want for your people?” And give them some sort of means in order to deliver that.

So, from my perspective, it is delivering things like an exercise class on Zoom or on Teams, virtually together, like we do. Talking about the importance of stretching and yoga, which we do on our CommsHero Week. Why should you do that? Why do I do that at lunchtime? What’s the point? Let’s go do it together. Let’s feel it, let’s do it together. And just being in and around, sharing articles and different things you think are appropriate to that company are what we do. And it’s not just one thing, it always starts with listening, listening to the person, what is it you need? What’s the problem? So you used to pay for gym memberships. That’s not working anymore, because people aren’t next to the gym necessarily as much now, lots of gyms have shut down, sadly, because they’ve struggled through this period. What can we do? And generally it comes down to creating a positive community environment within the workplace. I think with the technology we’ve got now, it’s very easy for us to do that via Zoom, Teams and these services.”

“Top three tips are, understand why. Start there, that’s number one. If you can sit down and do that and we make you do that with a written sheet, we love a sheet. Write it down, digitally or paper. Maybe we’re being more sustainable now, do it digitally. But sit with yourself, get that, get your why. And then you can move on to the next step.

Tip two is to make it very simple, very achievable to start with because you’ll see programs that are great. And you’ll see maybe the top celebrity in your eyes doing the most mega program there is, six days a week, four hours a day, whatever they’re doing, it’s unattainable and unachievable. So, make it really simple. If that’s doing 10 minutes at a lunch break, start there, that’s it.

And then tip three and you’ve already got this ticked I think, is be around people that are on a similar path to you. As much as you can, surround yourself with them, whether it’s virtually, in the office, wherever, down your neighbourhood, be around people that are trying to do the same as you, trying to better themselves with fitness and you are good to go. Honestly, I think once you’ve got those ticked, you’re off.”

“Yeah, I suppose I’ve got a very strange perspective on it because I’m not in that industry, but I feel like I’m part of it. You always say you don’t need to be in comms to be a CommsHero. I do genuinely feel like it. And I think that’s probably the biggest selling point, biggest USP. I don’t know if any other network like yours, that’s doing what you are doing and trying to create such a great community. So, why would I recommend it? It’s positive. It’s going to push you forward. It’s something different. To me, you seem like incredible people. I haven’t even met most of you. I don’t even know if we’ve ever met physically yet…we’ve never met, physically. We meant to, we meant to, it never happened, did it? So yeah, I mean, it’s aligned with how I view my industry. And like I said to you, tip three is being around people that are on a similar path. You seem to be very positive about what you’re doing as a community. You’re so active, engaging with each other, as I love to be in my communities. It just all ticks boxes. So yeah, if you feel like you’ve got a hole that needs filling, be a CommsHero.”

Resources

Click here to view Frank’s website

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

You’ll find this podcast on Spotify, Apple and on our website www.commshero.com. Please leave a rating and review.

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 www.commshero.com

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


Flipping the Bird: A Twitter-lating Conversation

Flipping the Bird: A Twitter-lating Conversation

If you’re a Digital PR pro, chances are you’ve learned a thing or two from our next guest who pretty much invented the internet. Andy Barr founder of 10 Yetis previously worked in-house on multi-media campaigns for the likes of AXA, Unilever, First Group, Whitbread and Midlands Electricity Board. His talents span effective crisis communications, award-winning media campaigns and creating highly engaging content across video, social media and PR. Our very own Mr. Worldwide has also advised the UK’s two largest political parties on digital campaigns and worked with Chinese government delegations on reviewing their approach to communications.

He regularly speaks at conferences around the world about PR, video, social media, SEO and wider marketing practices and has written for publications such as The Drum, Guardian, Vice and many others about these subjects. An expert in his field, he has more than 25 years’ experience and credits exceptional genes and the consumption of critics’ tears for his youthful visage. Speaking of faces, Andy is at the forefront of the changing face of creative digital marketing. His agency has run successful campaigns for the likes of IKEA, Superdry, Water Aid, Confused.com and many, many more.

He has built a team of more than 25 skilled individuals at the agency and dedicates any time that he has to growing the business and delivering great results for clients. Andy is renowned for his hot takes on all things PR and communications and brightens up the industry with his daily GoGetEm morning tweets. In this episode, we chat to the Digital Demigod about all things Twitter. Is the Twitterverse as sinister as some make out or is it a beneficial tool for both communications and brand?

Get your #CommsHero merch at the ready to take notes from the OG Twitterer, and take your tweetage to the next level. Andy has many leather-bound books and his house smells of rich mahogany.

Andy Barr

Founder, 10 Yetis

Key topics

“The bottom line for me is it’s a great business tool. I would say probably 40% of the clients we work with initially, start with a Twitter conversation whether they’ve seen me talking absolute rubbish as on Twitter or as a conversation that I’ve got involved in. When it pretty much first launched, I was part of the people that were really excited ’cause Stephen Fry was gonna be talking about this thing called Twitter on the Jonathan Ross Show and people like myself and Stephen Waddington were all talking about it on Twitter.

“I was quite an early adopter in that media bubble where we all sort of chat to each other.

“But I think fast forward to now, I think it’s very hard for people to come in and get stuff from Twitter straight off the bat because it’s just so saturated. There are exceptions to that.

“There’s always a great community on Twitter, and I think that’s probably one of the driving forces as well.

“It obviously depends what sector you’re in. If you’re in a really dull and dry sector – if you’re a funeral director, it’s difficult to have lulls on social media. But then you look at brands like Dead Happy Insurance and they’re you know they’re in quite a dark sector, aren’t they? But they have

major great stuff on social media. I’m all about people building their personal brand on there, there’re some people that essentially have made a career out of having a great social media profile. It’s a great platform for personal branding.”

“I don’t think this myself, but they say that online I’m quite funny, but I’m not. I think that’s probably the biggest disappointment.

“If I know somebody from social media and I know them well enough, then yeah, I’m gonna be exactly the same as I am in real life. I think the problem is when you meet someone you don’t know very well.

“I think one of the great things about social media is it allows people to get a sort of behind the scenes insight into you and your brand. Now obviously my Twitter account is the company name and I think I’ve had two instances where it’s been flagged up to me in a pitch.

“I referred to the police as plod so it wasn’t even proper swearing and someone brought it up in a pitch because they were loosely connected to the police. And then, really, bizarrely, very recently, I’ve just become a governor of my kids’ secondary school, and it was brought up after a meeting that a number of parents had got together, decided to go through my social media accounts and flagged it to the school that I swore in them.

“You know if my clients don’t care and the people I work with don’t care.I’m not really asked what you think either.

“If you look at some of the people that I’ve worked with it doesn’t get much bigger. You know we’ve worked with delegations from the Chinese government, the two main UK political parties on digital campaigns. We’re doing crisis comms for so many companies that I can’t talk about. But, you know, FTSE 100 and if they don’t give a crap, I don’t think anyone else should either.

“It’s about your ability to do your job, not whether you’re this polished diamond on social media.”

“I’m trying to say this in a way that won’t cause it to happen again, but basically in a column I used to do for The Drum about corporate PR, I posted about something positive the British government had done against a terror group.

“Unbeknownst to me, this terror group were actually very, very organized, very switched on and they sent stuff to my house in response to my tweet. I need to be a bit more careful about what I say and who I’m ******* off.

“So yeah, I tweeted some support for the British Government against a terror group and off the back of that tweet, the terrorist group sent stuff to my house.

“So yeah, that was a life lesson – don’t mess with terrorists.”

Any final words from Andy? (Disclaimer: Because the interview is ending, not because of the above)

“You only have to look around, not just at the hashtag, but the type of people that talk about CommsHero.

“I first heard about it through Katie at Cheltenham Borough Council who’s someone that I respect immensely in comms and I was very fortunate to work with her for a short period of time in financial services.

“I had complete FOMO that there was this whole community and I sit across quite a lot of communities on Twitter and I think you were at that point you were probably three or four years into it.

“I’m just like, well, why aren’t I involved in this? It’s a great community. You only have to look at the support that it gives each other, the amount of shares that you get for your swag and stuff like that. It’s phenomenal. It’s a beast of an organisation.

“You’ve got such an army of supporters, why wouldn’t you want to be involved in it? If you work in PR and you’re not, then something is not right.”

“And I think, especially with the pandemic as well, being able to engage with people and have open conversations about things – challenging things – what the expectation is and what should that look like in our industry.”

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

Resources

Dead Happy Insurance

The Drum

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

You’ll find this podcast on Spotify, Apple and on our website www.commshero.com. Please leave a rating and review.

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 www.commshero.com

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


When I leave school I want to be a #CommsHero

When I leave school I want to be a #CommsHero

Our next guest will also be appearing as part of our stellar #CommsHeroWeek line-up. Katrina Wilcox is Head of Marketing and Communications at Housing 21, a leading not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people. Katrina’s extensive experience in marketing and communications has been gained through a 20+ year career working across the healthcare, housing, education, manufacturing and publishing sectors. Her passion lies in working for purpose-led, not-for-profit organisations and she specialises in strategic planning, integrated campaign management, internal communications and employee engagement.

A CIPR member for over 10 years, and NFP lead on the CIPR Midlands Committee, Katrina is also keen to raise awareness of how rewarding a career in non-profit communications can be and to explore how the profession can work to attract and retain the best talent.

Wouldn’t it be good to have young people aspiring to have a career in comms? Much in the same way they might aspire to be teachers, doctors or want to join the police or the military.

In this episode, we ask the question: what if we could inspire young people by sharing the multitude of options available in a comms career? With so many young people wanting a purpose driven career – one where they can really make a difference – working in not for profit, third sector or charity comms, or a career in comms in general, could be something to aspire to.

Katrina Wilcox

Head of Marketing and Communications at Housing 21

Key topics

Katrina started out in seafood. Yes you heard us correctly! She says: “I was an account manager for a publication called Seafood International, a B2B magazine covering everything to do with seafood.

“I’ve always loved language and storytelling.

“You soon find out everyone has a story to tell, so for me learning how to do it properly seemed like a sensible thing to do, although I didn’t ever imagine I could make a career out of it. Having grown up in quite a traditional family, a career always seemed like a kind of proper job: becoming a teacher, or a doctor, a solicitor, a lawyer; something that was a respected profession, something your parents would be proud of you doing and you could share with your family.

“I didn’t really know what the opportunities would be so ended up going to university like many of us do and followed my love of language but wanted to do something practical with it.”

Katrina’s degree at Salford allowed her to develop lots of different skills. She says: “We got to create sound and video content in our chosen language, and one of my highlights was interviewing a German professional speed skater for a radio programme.

“My lecturer was really good friends with the marketing director of Guinness Germany and I managed to get a placement out there for a year which was great fun.”

“There’s so much we could all be doing, but we’re all really busy with our day jobs.

“Make some time to start thinking about it, looking ahead and thinking about where our workforce of the future is coming from. We know we need to attract new, diverse talent. We need to find new ways of doing it. We’ve got a responsibility to do more.

“Provide the opportunities to get people in and promote them. Particularly for in-house roles, having a strong employer brand – showcasing why people should work for you, pay benefits, progression opportunities, really creating an excellent employee experience – can help you.

“I think also removing barriers to get into the profession. PR, communications and marketing has traditionally been seen as dominated by the white middle class. How can we consider non-traditional routes to attract new and diverse talent into the profession?

“Start hiring into apprenticeships or other schemes that are moving away from more traditional routes to get people in that might not have otherwise thought about it and who might not want to go to university.

“Flexibility is really important, both with working hours and location, and I think sometimes people can be put off by the thought of working a nine to five in an office, but we know it’s not like that anymore.

“I think we need to move with the times and with our people.”

“The pandemic has changed the way that all of us work and I think organisations do need to focus more on how they can make work better for people and make work more of an enjoyable experience.

“It needs to be a long term change in the sector, and I think really organisations do need to embed health and wellbeing for their employees.. We all know our people are the most valuable asset that we’ve got. We need to make sure we look after them..

“Fortunately I think we’re just out the other side of our biggest challenge and the comms profession is in a really positive place.

“Like they say, out of most challenges, you can get opportunities. The last two years have proved the value that we bring to organisations. More organisations are investing in comms talent. Salaries are starting to increase; the investment in comms teams is increasing but we need to rise to that challenge and make sure that we can attract the right people. Recruitment is the biggest challenge and there’s so much competition.”

A final thought

“I think there are so many inspirational Comms Heroes out there.

I’m always inspired by the work being done and at all levels across the profession and I think.

for me, CommsHero week actually, is a really good time for us all to get together, celebrate, and inspire. It’s the best showcase for the impact that we’re all making across our sectors and to inspire others to start a career in comms.”

“And I think, especially with the pandemic as well, being able to engage with people and have open conversations about things – challenging things – what the expectation is and what should that look like in our industry.”

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

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 www.commshero.com

 

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


CommsHero: Putting the comms in community

CommsHero: Putting the comms in community

Our next guest crossed over from the dark side. Former Sith Lord (slash journalist) Glenn Bowley began his communications career in a housing association in St Helens before moving to Lancashire Constabulary as a press and PR officer. In 2013, Glenn was seconded to the Home Office to manage the media on the criminal investigation into the Hillsborough disaster. His brief was extended further to incorporate some stakeholder management. In 2019, Glenn joined the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) as Head of Communications.

The DBS – created in the merger of the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority – is approaching its 10th birthday. Glenn’s role entails having oversight and responsibility for internal, external and strategic comms, and DBS’ editorial and design function, as well as growing its public profile.

In this episode, Glenn talks about the power of communication, community and how teams that #CommsHero together, stay together.

Glenn Bowley

Head of Communications, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

Key topics

Glenn says most people will be familiar with criminal record checks. We’re not sure what you’re implying about our listeners, Glenn! He says: “In terms of our comms offer, it’s a team that’s grown massively. I arrived in 2019, I think there was me and possibly six others. We’re now up to 15 and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but our team split into four, so it’s your traditional kind of internal comms and engagement.

“Engagement being the staff engagement, not the stakeholder engagement. [Then there’s] external comms and your digital, your social media and we have strategic comms because we’re an organisation like many that has a very ambitious strategy and the strategy involves some significant pieces of work to transform the business.

“We have a dedicated team that’s focused on the comms around that and we have a new function – editorial and design which is what it says on the tin, really. We’ve got a designer, a creative content officer. We’re just about to recruit an editorial officer and we’ve got someone that oversees that function for us as well.

“There’s [sic] two main parts of DBS, we have the disclosure aspect, which is predominantly based in Liverpool and we probably issue about 8,000,000 checks every year and then we have another function, the barring side which is based in Darlington. They are responsible for barring people from working in regulated activity that’s working with perhaps children or working with adult to adult social care.

“They are two very different aspects of the organisation, but bringing them both together they both contribute to making recruitment safer and obviously our role is to go and deal with the comms.”

“I think that one of the biggest challenges is just because the organisation is undergoing a lot of change.

“Things like our technology offer – some of the systems that we use are quite old, so we’re in the process of ‘needs to go’ and update them. We’ve got a lot of transformation and lots of people are quite scared of change. We don’t really like change. Some people say they do. I’m not sure I believe them at times!

“I think we kind of like that comfy pair of slippers. We like to feel settled. There’s so much change going on, really positive change that is going to make things so much better for people that rely on and use our services, but also for our staff as well.

“That level of change obviously requires significant comms and engagement.”

Glenn remembers attending during the pandemic. He says: “Caroline King is my first comms boss. She gave me my first job in comms a long, long time ago.

“I follow Caroline on Twitter and noted a few things that she’d tweeted and did a bit of research. The CommsHero event was online due to the pandemic. I think that really opened up my eyes to so many different things, the development but actually the community.

“That’s some of the battles and we all have those battles every single day in our jobs.

Whether that’s that people think they can do our jobs. I don’t particularly think we are seen as subject matter experts in many of our organisations, which is frustrating, yeah? Can you pretty this up as the t-shirt says.

“I think that what that taught me – that first event that I attended – was that actually there are so many people out there that are breathing the same problems that you experience on a daily basis. Sometimes just engaging with those people that have been there in your position – hitting their head against the table or walking away from the computer because of something that’s happening – it was comforting, actually.

“It was really comforting knowing that people have been where you’ve been and to be able to go and listen to their experiences or find out how they may have dealt with a particular challenge or or a particular problem.

“So for me I just took so much away from that and that first event for us in 2020, I think we probably had three or four of the team that attended and they very much felt the same thing. “We’re going to book the whole team this year because we just think there is so much value for learning and development.

“There’s such a mix of sessions and we took so much away from it and then obviously since then I thought I might set up a Twitter handle. I’ve got a personal Twitter where I tweet about football and the usual sort but I set up a work one which is always great to start engaging with people, and you know you can run ideas past people, seek a bit of advice, find out what they’re doing.

“I have a bit of a saying in the team. Actually sometimes the best ideas are where you see something that somebody else has done. You kind of grab hold of that idea, mess around with it a bit and you make it work for you or your organisation. The CommsHero community gives you those opportunities to be able to go and do that.”

A final thought

“I think we’re probably gonna make some people really green here.

But we’ve got a good team – 15 including myself in our comms team – we are well resourced.

“Our chief executive is very much comms, comms, comms.

“He absolutely gets and sees the value in the importance of comms, and actually that’s part of your first problem, isn’t it in any organisation? I think that starts to make the job easier.

What that’s allowed me to do is to be able to go and look at the team and say right.

How can we go and be the best that we can be?

How can we go and support our organisation?

“You know you need some help or you need some inspiration at times from different people and I think for me that’s why the CommsHero community and conference is important, but crucially as well, you don’t need to actually do it over the full week because all the sessions are available for 12 months. I found myself attending as many sessions as I could and some of them brilliant, so many ideas and it’s fantastic.”

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

About the DBS

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is an arm’s length body and non-departmental public body of the Home Office. We carry out disclosure and barring functions on behalf of the government. Note: No other organisations should be advising that they carry out ‘disclosure’ and/or ‘barring functions’. DBS helps employers make safer recruitment decisions each year by processing and issuing DBS checks (also known as criminal record checks) for England, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. DBS also maintains the adults’ and children’s Barred Lists for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and makes considered decisions as to whether an individual should be included on one or both of these lists, and barred from engaging in regulated activity.

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


DEI-ing to be seen: beyond the optics of inclusion

DEI-ing to be seen: beyond the optics of inclusion

Our next guest is based in Manchester, but we won’t hold that against her. Nosheen Haque is a communications specialist with over 10 years’ experience of working with a variety of brands and organisations using PR and digital marketing to drive engagement, growth and brand value across private and public sectors.

Passionate about communications, engagement and marketing, after graduating from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in communications studies, Nosheen entered agency land.

Nosheen spent 12 weeks on the A Leader Like Me programme, which she says gave her a sense of community. In this episode, Nosheen goes beyond the buzzwords of diversity to look at how meaningful changes can be implemented in the corporate world, so all employees feel a sense of belonging.

Nosheen Haque

Communications Manager at Westfield Health

Key topics

“My experience has been quite different in each kind of role that I’ve had. I’ve been quite fortunate that I’ve moved around quite a bit because I do love contracts. DEI unfortunately can be used as a bit of a buzzword – it becomes a bit of a tick box exercise where I feel like organisations haven’t really got it right, but then are afraid to if that makes sense.

“It becomes a way of attracting talent, almost because if you’ve got a DEI policy then that looks quite great.

“I worked for an organisation and they were really big on DEI. They had a person in the role kind of really leading it. They would take out a whole week every year where there would be lots of training opportunities for all colleagues.

“I felt like there was too much going on and they weren’t really trying to find out from colleagues, like actual employees within the organisation, what they wanted. That’s really important; you need to be asking your workforce what’s important to them. What kind of activities do they want to see, or participate in?

“In my current role it’s very different. The organisation is just starting out with the DEI journey, but it’s all about just trying to figure out and understand what employees want as well, so I think that’s really important.”

“So for me, it’s really important to be able to feel comfortable to be self patient because that’s who I am.

“That’s my identity.
That’s my culture.

“And unfortunately, sometimes organisations just don’t get it right.”

Nosheen gives the example of Ramadan. She says: “I love to educate my colleagues about what it means because a lot of people don’t know but are open to understanding and listening. So I wrote a blog, but apparently [it didn’t align with the] internal platforms so I wasn’t able to publish it.

“I felt a little disconnected. I thought you’ve got this in your policy. You’ve got this singing and dancing kind of week that you have, but then why are these little things missed out because those kind of things are what essentially make up your policy.

“It’s connecting people, right? It’s talking about different kinds of cultures and also what people do outside of work. It’s not just about what you’re doing at work.”

Nosheen shares an experience of stereotypes harming her early career. She says: “I’ve got friends who’ve gone through similar things, but unfortunately I think when you’re quite junior you don’t really want to raise anything, or rock the boat.

“You’re trying to impress, starting out your career. You’re quite fresh eyed and you know this is going to be great and you don’t actually realise what is happening.

“It actually took somebody else, a colleague – a manager, actually – who could see what was happening and they actually ended up placing me in their team and moving me away from the environment so I was really lucky in that scenario.

“But I’m pretty sure there’s people out there who haven’t had that. Haven’t had somebody pull them out and place them elsewhere, and I feel like if I didn’t have that at that point, my career would not have nourished.

“Look to your support network and try to speak to somebody about it. Don’t just keep it inside. It’s all about talking about it and helping the person to understand why you may have been offended by something that they’ve said, understanding and moving on from that scenario. Sometimes we push things under the carpet and we think we’ll be OK, but if anything I think it impacts your mental well being.

“I had an inner critic at that point in my career so it’s a learning process, isn’t it? And I think it depends at what point you are in your career as well.”

Nosheen has found the CommsHero community uplifting. She says: “I think it’s just so inspiring hearing all of the different stories from the guests that you have in the community.

“We’ve all got a story to tell, and I feel like sometimes there’s a bit of perception that people have just landed a role or it’s just happened. It hasn’t. It’s a journey that everyone’s gone through and no matter what you’re experiencing right now, there’s somebody else also experiencing it or will have done at some point in their career.”

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

Resources

Keep an eye out for Nosheen’s new podcast BTS machine

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


Beyond the goldfish bowl: recalibrating our digitised lives

Beyond the goldfish bowl: recalibrating our digitised lives

You might recognise our next guest as the former voice of the CIM. Ally Cook is an experienced and confident content creator, copywriter and communicator, with a demonstrable track record of working across print and digital publications to deliver strategic results. When Ally worked for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), she managed the content & engagement team, she was responsible for delivering a content strategy that met the needs of the CIM’s 25,000+ members and the wider marketing community. She is now the Community Content Manager at WeAre8.

This episode developed over on LinkedIn, when Ally and Asif discovered a shared love of the tomes: Lost Connections and Stolen Focus, both written by Johann Hari. We know Asif loves a printed book! These books interrogate the impact of digitalisation and social media on our lives, and our ability to focus and make deep and meaningful connections. With a radical new way of thinking about depression and anxiety, what does this mean for marketers, and how can we use these lessons to build relationships with our stakeholders?

Ally Cook

Community Content Manager at WeAre8

Key topics

Both books make you think about how digital technologies impact our lives. Says Ally: “Well, I think the answer to this is really twofold, because obviously primarily from a point of view of being a marketer, the number one thing that we want is customer retention, right?

“And it’s a conversation we have so much, about how much attention is waning.
How do we get attention? How do we grab it? How do we maintain it?

“So on that side, it’s a really, really important challenge to understand how trends in customer retention are changing, but also on the other side of that as marketers, innovation and creativity are so important for us in everything that we do.

“If you have a lack of attention, you’re not only limiting your own ability to be an effective marketer, but if you don’t fully understand how attention is changing, you’re not going to be fully able to grasp customer attention and really maintain it and compel them to take actions.

“Everyone is striving for the most attention grabbing content that there’s so much digital noise out there. Stolen Focus says office workers only focus on tasks for an average three minutes at a time. Think of the impact that would have on idea generation, on creativity, on the ability to create effective campaigns. How are we going to create great things in three minutes?”

Ally is an advocate of quiet, reflection times. She says what is really beneficial is: “Taking those moments either to do a workout or to do something really mindful, exercise, moving your body, taking care of yourself.

“Those quite fundamental things are absolutely key to getting our creativity back, but unfortunately we are so starved of them in our everyday lives and the way that our culture works.

“There are a lot of marketers who are always on.

“There are probably even more marketers who find it a challenge to find those moments of quiet reflection. But those are so important because as Hari discussed in the book, when your mind wanders, that is when you make connections, that’s when you discover those ideas.

“You’re giving your brain time to process and you’re not constantly distracted and I think that is so important for creativity. It doesn’t feel particularly creative or productive, but actually it’s just giving your mind the opportunity to just explore without being completely task focused without being distracted or interrupted.

“To be innovative as marketers, we need time to think rather than just always trying to generate ideas in false or forced settings. This idea that marketing is really time poor is something I think we need to move away from or at least to set better habits and better balance.

“The idea that we are always on and always connected – actually, taking time to disconnect is the way to get to those really creative ideas rather than thinking that you need to constantly be chasing stimulation because that time away is actually when your brain can really work its hardest.”

“When you look at the impact that the lack of attention has on productivity as well as the creative side, it really is shocking how it can have a massive impact for businesses.
So much so that we’re seeing the four day week movement kind of coming in.

“When you look at Stolen Focus as a piece of work, these issues that Hari is talking about feel huge.

“You’re talking about the way that our culture is set up, our diet, the way our cities are designed, and the way we sleep. The way we interact with others. They feel like huge issues that are going to be really hard to overcome.

“I think this is another reason why these topics are so important for marketers because marketers and communications professionals can change the world and we have to. In so many issues affecting society today, marketing plays such a huge role.

“Obviously we know marketing has always been incredibly valuable, but during the COVID pandemic, businesses put a lot of focus on marketing and communications.

“We need to focus on this if we’re going to impact the biggest challenges facing us today, but I think actually this should be a really interesting call to arms for marketers to look at how just better gaining and retaining consumer attention will help us to make real change in these areas.

“And I think it’s so easy to think that these issues are too big for us to tackle, but actually I think probably most of the communications professionals listening today know that we really do have a lot of power to influence consumers in society, and I would really love this to be an action, you know, something that people take and think, right, what can I do about this in terms of my business?”

Ally joined CIM fresh out of uni and almost immediately bagged herself some CommsHero swag! She says: “I’ve been at CIM since I graduated. It’s where I discovered my love of marketing communication and I have a very vivid memory.

“In my first few weeks, I posted about joining on LinkedIn. One of your colleagues got in touch and sent me a kind of pack of CommsHero swag and that was my first moment of feeling really connected to the marketing community and industry.

“It was a really lovely moment, a kind of shared connection and olive branch to feel like OK, I belong here, I’m part of this now and I think that those connections are so important, particularly now in a kind of virtual hybrid world where you don’t connect with colleagues as much.”

A final thought

So there you have it. What are your thoughts? Is technology inherently bad for our attention? Let us know on Twitter @CommsHero.

Thoughts on Lost Connection:

  • On the face of it, this seems like bad news for marketers. But the opportunity is huge!
  • Building meaningful connections with customers should be the raison d’être of marketing (IMO) and this book goes to show how fundamentally important that is.
  • Marketers have a mission ahead of them: to change the way humans live. Sustainability is a big part of that challenge, but so is fostering connections to galvanise people to make a change. This book provides a roadmap to doing that.
  • In times of crisis (Covid, cost of living, climate change), these messages are going to be all the more important for marketers.
  • On a personal level, in a more hybrid world, there are some super important learnings to take away on how to ensure you can maintain high levels of personal resilience and wellbeing.

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

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


The Social CEO: organisational evolution at a digital level

The Social CEO: organisational evolution at a digital level

In this podcast, like typical Yorkshire folk, we make the most of BOGOF, with not one, but two guests from Yorkshire Housing.

Hannah Jowett MCIPR is Head of Communications and Brand at Yorkshire Housing. She’s passionate about building comms teams where people can thrive and bring their ideas and creativity to life. She has led the reinvention of Yorkshire Housing’s brand and its approach to communications. Her personal motto for comms is try new things, have fun and love what you do. Away from the internet, she also loves travel and adventures in remote places.

Nick Atkin is a highly successful Chief Executive with a track record of leading organisations through transformational change and driving performance improvement, with a focus on maximising the untapped potential from businesses and people. Confident and energetic, the inspirational leader embraces technology to deliver customer centric innovative working practices and solutions.

Nick is skilled at engaging at a national and regional level, with a wide range of housing and health organisations, councils, politicians, government departments and agencies; recognised by being listed in the top 25 most influential people in housing for the last five consecutive years.

With 9.4K followers on Twitter, Nick is a social CEO. In this episode, we find out from a comms perspective what the benefits of having an active C-suite voice across social media means for an organisation. Is it the next step in organisational evolution in this digitised world?

Nick Atkin

CEO

Hannah Jowett

Head of Comms & Brand

Key topics

As some comms colleagues can attest, having a vocal – and visible – CEO is not all it’s cracked up to be (looking at you, Elon). But it can have innumerable benefits. Says Hannah: “The whole fact about social media is it’s social. It’s not about broadcasting your news.

“It’s about building relationships; networks. It’s about connecting with people you know.

“People like to follow people. They like to feel like they have a window into what they’re thinking or or what’s going on. And I think you can have great corporate channels, but when you have a CEO who’s very social, it really brings a human side to your brand because it’s visible and authentic. It brings a real authenticity to your brand that you can’t just get from corporate posts and I think that’s one of the major benefits of it.

“Having a social CEO is a great window into the culture of the organisation, because if you’re interested in joining a business you want to know what culture is like. It’s worked massively for us recently in terms of recruitment. We did a leadership campaign for 10 senior roles and had about 1000 applications based on Nick and other leaders in the business sharing posts.”

And the downsides? Hannah says: “Sometimes a social CEO is very visible if someone is not happy. No business gets things right all the time, so you may well get people that latch on to that and start messaging them consistently. You could get trolled a bit if someone is not happy and we’re just really open with that, you know we’ve got a social media team and we’re tracking everything, so there’s that support system in place for Nick as well.”

“I think the last two years have taught us that leadership is about being authentic and having views on things and being really open and clear about those, so for me it’s about seeing the person behind the role. It’s a great job being a chief executive, but most people blag their way into these roles. So really to have a view on something is a great way of widening your own knowledge base, because people will offer alternative views to the ones that you post and I think you learn loads.

“One of the big things I do is follow people who I don’t agree with. It’s really difficult sometimes. but then I think, well, actually it’s widening my thinking and my perspective. I think you’ve got to keep it interesting first of all, because people only follow people that they’re interested in, and I think that means that you’ve got to be human and not be a foghorn.

“It’s not broadcasting this. It’s actually about engaging with people and giving a view on something and seeing the person really and a sense of humour as well. I love playing on the facts around Yorkshire and what Yorkshire actually means in terms of the good things and also the odd thing that perhaps we’re not so good at in Yorkshire.

“So for me it’s just about being authentic and sharing a little bit about you but remembering that ultimately it’s a work account. So there is a fine line and you do need to be a little bit cautious.”

“I guess some of it’s about making it easy for the CEO. If you want good social channels, you’ve got to invest in that which means time and resource. Use content plans then you know you’ve got good stuff coming up, so I know that Nick has a constant stream of things from corporate channels that can easily share and put his own spin or his own comment on.

“I think a really important thing is that it’s a two way conversation, so we’re aligned on messaging. It’s important to have a good relationship with the CEO so that you can say: ‘Can you not share that please?’. If you set up your CEO account and then it’s run by your comms team, it’s not going to be authentic.”

Any final words from Nick and Hannah?

Hannah loves the sense of community to be found at #CommsHero. She says: “Comms is a great career; it’s just such a great community. Everyone is facing many of the same problems whatever level they’re at, whatever role they’re working in, and having that community of comms professionals who are willing to share their experience; where you can just connect with people and improve your game is great.”

Nick says he’ll be reincarnated as a comms person: “As the chief exec, you’re the least listened to person in any business so the importance of comms is to get people to buy in to what we need them to do.

“That can only happen through a whole series of Comms Heroes across your business, not just in your comms team.

That’s why I think Comms Hero is so important, because it gives people the tools and the confidence and the learning and the shared network to be able to do that much more effectively.”

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

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


The Year of the Employee: Centring inclusion in workplace culture

The Year of the Employee: Centring inclusion in workplace culture

Our next guest has over 14 years of multi-sectoral work experience in the UK and Nigeria, and is passionate about harnessing the power of communication to inspire and engage colleagues to build brilliant, high-performing organisations. Michelle Okwudiafor leads internal communication and engagement at Total Energies. A member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, she holds a master’s degree in International Development from the University of Turin (ILO training centre) and a bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of London.

She is adept at working with senior business leaders to communicate and implement organisational change, drive inclusive cultures and ensure employee alignment.

An advocate for representation and inclusion, Michelle founded Career Invest in 2020 with a vision to create and enable an environment for young people from underrepresented backgrounds to thrive through mentoring and career development opportunities.

In this episode, she interrogates the events that have led to 2022 being described by many as ‘the year of the employee’. From the pandemic, to global racial protests, and the Great Resignation amongst others, these events have fertilised the ground for companies to begin to focus on the issues that matter most to the workforce. Issues including flexibility, improved employee experience, trust in leadership, diversity, and inclusion are high on the priority list of employees. Companies that fail to focus on their employees may be at the losing end of the table. But given this shift in power, what does an inclusive workplace look like and how can we as communicators help to drive the inclusion agenda in companies?

Michelle Okwudiafor

Internal Communications and Engagement Lead

Key Topics

The power has well and truly been placed into employee hands this year. Michelle details some of our minimum expectations that centre wellbeing: “the dynamic of the workplace has radically shifted. One of the major things people are looking for in any company is flexibility. Back in the day, it was so difficult to even get companies to think about the concept of working from home, but if brands and big companies have done this somewhat successfully in the last two years it proves that it’s something that can be done.

“As employees, we have more than our work, we have our family lives. People want to dictate how they work.”

Michelle says people also want to know their wellbeing – physical and mental as well as career – will be looked after and that companies can adequately compensate them for their skillset.

When we spend so much of our time at work, it is essential that we feel happy in the environment. Says Michelle: “You’re a part of that environment; work is not just about the work you deliver, the project you manage, it’s also about the environment, so you hear people talking about a work environment being toxic, or not friendly, or not supporting career progression.

All of these things make people feel excluded, and if you’re somewhere that you’re excluded, then you are probably not going to perform at your best.

“You need to work in an environment that not only encourages you, but actually brings out the best in you.”

“I think the view from the top a lot of the time is definitely different. While you may think everything looks rosy it’s important people can have those conversations with their leaders.

It’s important as communicators, especially if you’re working in an internal communications function to actually have those hard conversations.”

The key to starting those difficult conversations is having evidence to back up your points. Michelle gives examples of facts about workplace diversity, and looking to other best practices in the industry. Unsurprisingly, she also cites a key skill in our communicator arsenal: listening. She says: “it’s looking at feedback internally – what are people saying? These things can come out from polls and surveys.

“Start that conversation and then push for change or improvement.

“The creation of that inclusive culture requires an all hands on deck approach. The first thing is actually understanding what employee resource groups may be needed. Sometimes in organisations the groups may not even exist. If they do exist, these groups may not be empowered to actually do their work; have they been trained or is work needed around resource groups being shown how to communicate?

“As an example, say you have a diversity and inclusion group or women group; if they’re not doing any work or they’re not engaging with other colleagues, then the group might as well not exist.

“What is the aim of this group? Help them communicate to then drive adoption or engagement.”

“What gets measured gets done,” says Michelle, who suggests using both quantitative and qualitative measurements.

“We can actually count the number of things or the number of initiatives we created. Where it’s more of a behavioural thing, it’s measurable over time, and we can use feedback. People raised issues about this particular thing and now we’ve done this. Another part is also engagement.

“For diversity you’re looking at increasing representation, so for example, going to the HR department and finding out: did we increase our hiring pool this year? How many internal promotions did we have? Then creating some form of internal report so that year on year we can begin to see progress.”

A final thought

#CommsHero is great at inspiring and uniting comms professionals, says Michelle, who ensures she follows practitioners she’s found through us.

She adds: “CommsHero is doing a great job in uniting comms professionals in shining a light on important topical issues and just generally as a good resource for people to listen to and learn a thing or two or see that the challenge I’m facing is not new.”

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

Resources

Visit here to find out more about Michelle’s personal brand advice support for professionals of colour:

Career Invest website

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


Checking out me in history: Communicating the Arts

Checking Out Me History: Communicating the Arts

From dusty relics to post-modern pieces, our next guest works at the intersection where past meets present and future. Lisa Middleton is Head of Marketing and Brand at National Museums Liverpool, having joined the organisation in 2015.

With a wealth of experience in marketing, brand and communications roles, Lisa has mostly worked in public sector roles and is passionate about arts and culture being accessible to all. An experienced leader with skills in marketing, brand management, social media strategy and management; stakeholder engagement; internal, external and digital communications, publications production; and PR/media liaison, she oversees marketing and brand activities for NML and led an organisational rebrand in 2021.

In this episode, Lisa explores what it is like to be in arts marketing. Museum comms is more than exhibitions, and encompasses vast collections, amazing venues, and commercial offers such as shops and cafés. Don’t be surprised to see a Bridezilla on your next visit; museums also hold events, including weddings! Learning and participation activities are also a huge part of the museum proposition, which means knowing your audience and being agile is an essential part of the role.

Lisa Middleton

Head of Marketing and Brand at National Museums Liverpool

Key topics

Lisa is Head of Marketing and Branding across National Museums Liverpool (NML), which encompasses seven venues, around 3 million visitors and just a little bit of pressure! Says Lisa: “I’ve worked for NML for seven years now, starting out as a marketing and publications manager, so I got to look after our commercial books which was really interesting.

“We have lots and lots of exhibitions and we’re entrusted with some fascinating permanent collections.

“There’s so much it’s a wide varying role which has evolved over time. It’s such a privilege to work with a group of talented people who are just creative and enthusiastic and give 100% all of the time.

“I think that is part of our role to make sure that we’re making museums and galleries accessible to all and highlighting the benefits and the opportunities that you can get from coming to a museum or gallery – not just in an educational setting but also for enjoyment.

“My entire career was based on a visit to one of our museums and I wanted to tell people stories because I was inspired to stay in the museum.”

“Knowing your audience. We’ve got seven different venues and we have lots of campaigns – an exhibition has a campaign, a venue has a campaign, any projects that we do and any new galleries all have campaigns linked to them, which cover marketing and digital communications and all other elements as well.

“We always see differences in the audiences who go to one exhibition versus another so it’s exciting every time you’re doing a new campaign to review insight and work out:

what’s going to be the best tactics to meet that audience? I think that keeps us being creative every time – you know you can try new things.

“It gives you a new opportunity to try new tactics in marketing as well, changing tack or moving things around, always evaluating. Making sure that you know what works and why it works, and if it didn’t work, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t work because it was a bad idea.

“Sometimes it means that it might just not have been the right time; it might not have been the right audience.”

Is there a danger in getting all wrapped up in the arts element and forgetting the commercial bit? Lisa says: “Everything that we do is completely integrated. The elements of being commercial are important.”

“We’ve moved on a little bit in terms of our ambition and where our vision was at and, so the brands really needed to match that. We wanted something that was going to be really reflective of where NML work is now and where we see ourselves in the future.

“Then we went through the usual process around all of our research and engagement with stakeholders across the organisation and it was really remarkable, actually, because everyone was gathering in the same direction, even down to choosing brand keywords and key images and things like that. It was really quite refreshing, but also a little bit unusual for us because sometimes you can get a small number of people in a room and you get five different opinions.

“That was the easy and enjoyable part. I guess the hard part was the rolling out!”

Does Lisa have any stand out exhibitions and subsequent campaigns? She says: “Terracotta Warriors was probably one of the busiest, most exciting ones to work on.

“There’s so much to it – the history, the story – and the actual warriors themselves are just unbelievable.

“We were starting to see comments coming through from visitors around not just the experience but the set design and some things like that which are not normally mentioned. Our in-house teams did such a stunning job at the set design. It was absolutely beautiful.

“On the campaign itself, you know it was really great. It got to the point where people were very excited and you could feel the buzz not just in Liverpool. We had really great visitor numbers.

The contribution to the local economy was amazing.

“We’ve got to work on some other major exhibitions such as the Double Fantasy exhibition, John and Yoko. That was amazing; a real privilege. Sometimes there are things that you work on which just connect with you personally.”

 

A final thought

Lisa says there’s a huge benefit to be had from being part of the #CommsHero community: “I think for comms and marketing people, I always feel like you thrive when you’re able to connect with other creative people who work in your industry.

“Sometimes the days can be tricky and sometimes on the surface it will feel like it wasn’t that big an issue, but it’s taken about seven hours worth of activity to come up with a solution. Sometimes when you do engage with other colleagues in the industry, it’s a great opportunity to just think about new ideas to be inspired as well and to compound that what you’re doing is good.

“And I think, especially with the pandemic as well, being able to engage with people and have open conversations about things – challenging things – what the expectation is and what should that look like in our industry.”

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

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


The Magic of Mentoring: How to #PayItForward

The Magic of Mentoring: How to #PayItForward

Our next guest in the podcast took part in a leadership mentoring programme for underrepresented women in the PR industry that she says ‘changed her life’. Shalini Gupta decided to pay it forward and has since been mentoring underrepresented PR graduates. She is passionate about helping develop the next generation of communicators and young leaders in the industry to help them fulfil their true potential.

Shalini has worked with the Taylor Bennett Foundation and more recently, signed up as a mentor with Migrant Leaders, a charity that works with disadvantaged young people to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take on leadership roles.

In this episode Shalini is joined by one of her first mentees, burgeoning #CommsHero Ilyana Rajwani, an internal comms intern in the financial sector, to discuss all things mentoring: learnings; the importance of having diverse role models and how by bridging the gap early in the lives of underrepresented young professionals, it can really help them spread their wings and take flight.

Shalini Gupta

Internal Communications Manager, Employee Experience

Ilyana Rajwani

Corporate Affairs Intern

 

Mentoring is one of the most underrated keys to nourishing one’s growth. For any young professional trying to enter the industry, a mentor can help open a number of doors they may not have known existed which can be even more crucial to people from underrepresented backgrounds.

Key topics

Shalini and Ilyana met through the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity that exists to help Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic graduates into the PR and communications industry. Shalini says: “BT had this opportunity working along with the Taylor Bennett Foundation to mentor young grads and I signed up through that program.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Shalini, having joined A Leader Like Me, a mentoring programme devised by Advita Patel and Priya Bates says: “I enrolled myself in a mentoring program for women of colour, and that had a life changing impact on me; the doors that I didn’t know existed had been opened for me.

“I was able to very quickly step outside of my comfort zone and be visible in the industry.

From a personal development perspective, I think it was that aspect of the belief and the confidence and the potential of putting myself out there that I realised.

“As an underrepresented person in the industry, we have the potential to change lives and move the dial on, making it more inclusive ourselves, to be the change that you want to see. That’s one of the reasons I was really keen on the Taylor Bennett Foundation opportunity.

“For ethnic diversity in the pipeline, I think you know when both people have a similar sort of experience and barriers, you know you receive absolutely practical advice on how to overcome them.”

Ilyana adds that the two were matched based on their interests in and out of PR; on the relationship, she says: “[it was] a perfect match and this has been an incredible experience so far.”

Ilyana found it particularly helpful having someone who understood the specific challenges she may face. She says it makes all the difference “having a safe space to talk to someone who does look like me that I know may have experienced inequalities in life that I too have experienced. I actually did my dissertation on diversity in PR so it almost shocked me into how little we have improved as an industry.

“Doing that and then looking for job straight afterwards, I was a bit anxious about whether the statistics that I’ve researched would be reflected in the office that I would be working in so it was great to know that the Taylor Bennett Foundation and Shalini were there and that there are people that look like me that are doing well in this career.”

Though Covid has thwarted any face to face meetings, Shalini and Ilyana have been able to develop a mentor-mentee relationship online and plan to meet later this year for the first time irl. Ilyana has seen the relationship pay dividends. Of the experience, she says: “I’m so much more open minded now. I feel like I was very tunnel visioned.

“As soon as I graduated and before meeting Shalini, I thought I wanted to go down the consumer PR route even though I hadn’t experienced consumer PR that much at that point in time. Shalini kept telling me to stay open minded and apply for roles; even if you don’t meet every single bullet point in a job description, that’s OK, you’re not meant to, it’s just there as a basis.”

This is great advice, and we’ve seen this discussion rumble on Twitter, with stats that suggest underrepresented groups are more likely to refrain from applying for a job if they feel they cannot fully meet the job spec.

Ilyana adds: “Shalini really encouraged me to apply for roles outside of my comfort zone and that’s how I’ve got the internship I have today.”

One of the reasons their mentoring relationship has worked so well is that Ilyana is so engaged. Shalini says: “It really helped because she’s really, really hungry to learn more and network out there.

“I think it’s that relationship that we had that helped overcome those initial sort of thoughts in my head about the perceived challenges.

“A mentor walks along with you to show you what you can do. It’s allowing you to see the hope inside yourself rather than just walking ahead of you to show you. It’s somebody holding your hand.

“Because I’ve experienced that, I knew what it should look like for Ilyana.”

Ilyana adds that joining the industry can be daunting, but you don’t have to feel like you’re going it alone. She says: “The Internet is your best friend here. Do lots of research. There’s so many resources out there to help you.

There’s charities like the Taylor Bennett Foundation, mentoring programmes which are great because it’s more personal and you feel like you’re not entering the world of PR alone, you feel like you can enter it with someone who’s had so much experience.”

Any final words from Shalini and Ilyana?

Says Ilyana of #CommsHero: “It’s great for networking just to meet new people in the industry.

Don’t be scared to approach people is my advice, even if you are younger, don’t use that as a reason to not approach someone. Think of the communications industry as broad and it’s so flexible you can try such a variety of different roles.

Shalini adds: “I think #CommsHero is an absolutely amazing community that you’ve set up and hats off to you. It has introduced me to so many Comms Heroes, people in the industry that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and it has opened doors for me that I didn’t know existed.”

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

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