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 Auraadvisory.co. 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, LateRooms.com, 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.

Resources

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 www.commshero.com

 

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 www.commshero.com

 

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


From Intern to Senior Comms

From Intern to Senior Comms

Lewis Williams is a PR professional from South Wales, currently working in-house in local government.

Lewis started his #CommsHero journey four years ago as a postgrad Masters in PR and Communication Management. He is now gearing up to start a new role as Senior Communications Officer for NHS Blood and Transplant, England’s blood and organ donation service.

Having recently blogged for the U.K. Government Communication Service to reflect on his time as an intern as part of their diversity internship scheme, in this episode he talks about how important this was to his career to date.

You can read the blog Lewis wrote HERE.

Lewis Williams

Senior Communications Officer, NHS Blood and Transplant

Key topics

“So yeah, the government communication service, or the GCS, um, essentially it’s just the overarching body, that supports comms people in all their capacities, who are working across, government. So, you know, your, government departments, which like the home office, etc, etc, but also, ever associated organizations, which they call arms length bodies. I was actually placed in an arms length body myself. I started at my career as an intern with NHS Blood and Transplants. So, I’ve actually done a bit of a full circle so far in my career actually, which is completely coincidental, but yes.

“Studying PR for me was it was my foot, foot in the door to the PR and comms industry. If I’m honest Asif, I think there’s a lot of, you know, kind of, debate or conversation that goes on around whether, you know, master level qualifications, are the way forward, for lots of industries, but in particular, you know, as we were talking about PR and comms for myself and for lots of other people that I know some of my peers, it gave us a foot in the door to the industry. Yeah, if I’m honest, when I chose to study the masters that I did, I didn’t know an awful lot about what PR or comms actually meant.

All that I knew is that I, you know, potentially had a few transferable skills that, you know, I was, you know, good at writing, quite digitally savvy as well. I guess my interest grew from actually studying the subject more in depth and, you know, being able to gain some of the traditional practical skills as well as some of the more emerging, you know, digital skills as we work across the comms mix such as being able to create content, you know, writing and creating content for social media, and other things like that. So I would say, yes, it definitely gave me absolutely a good theoretical background, but also those practical skills as well to then take into the workplace and have a really good ground and an understanding of how the modern comms practice should work really across the piece.”

“I think it depends on your on your situation for myself. Absolutely no regrets, but then I guess you could be somebody who is perhaps going for the PR industry already. And you might have, you know, an idea that you want to go into that kind of area. And for those people, I’d say, I guess it’s just a matter of personal choice. You know, there are other avenues that you can explore. For example, there were lots of colleagues of mine who did a GCS internship who didn’t necessarily have the background of a PR masters. They may have done something else for their undergraduate studies, but you know, they had expressed a real interest on the application of wanting to enter the industry and perhaps, you know, referencing some transferable skills. And I think all of that is really important to put into your application for a job in comms entry level in general, in particular for the GCS internship.

“Yeah, I mean, there’s a fair few, if I’m honest, I think firstly, it’s with regard to entering the industry itself, there are entry level positions out there, and I think that they can be few and far between and even the ones that do exist, I feel that some of these opportunities often expect you to kind of go into an entry level position with lots of experience when in fact, the reality isn’t for lots of people going into those situations, they may not have any experience or practical, you know, direct experience at all on paper to bring to some of these organisations. And I think that’s where it’s really important for employers in particular to think outside of the box when they are looking at people’s applications and for applicants as well, to think outside of the box, in terms of their relevant life experience, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, oh, I’ve written a press release before, or, you know, I’ve, been fortunate enough to have a week’s work experience within said agency.

I really think it’s about, you know, going back to basics and thinking about what are the core skills for someone going into comms, in my opinion, it would be, you know, having a, you know, a good, standard, of writing, having an understanding, I guess, of you know, of society in general and how the media landscape looks like. But yeah, also just having that bit of passion and personality and bringing that to the table, I think that for any job, particularly in the comms industry, that that’s something which always shines through. And those are the people that seem to, you know, get on and do really well.”

“Yeah, I mean, for myself, I think it’s kind of a double-ended sword where I have obviously done a master’s in my chosen profession. So early on in my career, right at the start that it definitely gave me that leverage to get my foot in the door, but I guess yeah, where the playing field kind of levels out once you get into certain positions, it’s like, okay, what can I do next? There are lots of people in PR and other industries that will do a master’s degree in their chosen subject at a certain point in their career where they kind of want to you know, level up or go to the next step where it’s to step into management or to a more senior position. So, I guess, you know, what I would say is for myself, I think that it can be regardless of what qualifications you have, it can be just keeping those qualifications fresh and being able to you know, bring something new to the table.

And I guess the way that I would address that challenge and that I have to date is to just keep my continual professional development up. So particularly during the pandemic I made an effort to just keep an eye out for, free learning opportunities, whether that be webinars or talks on particular parts of comms that I was interested in. Just so I could bring a new perspective back to my organisation or the job in question that I was doing at the time and be able to share some of those learnings and I guess, yeah, I’d be able to develop my CV a bit more, and absolutely, you know, things such as the CIPR which I’ve joined in the last two years, again you have access to a wealth of free opportunities as well, such as talks and webinars, and also lots of the paid training, which are, which is cheaper for members as well.

And yeah, I guess lastly you know, opportunities out there to level up. So, you know, I was really chuffed to be a successful applicant for the Socially Mobile certificate in communication leadership. That was something which, caught my eye and yeah, I wasn’t really too sure whether I would be, successful for that opportunity, but I think it’s just really important to put yourself out there, particularly in the world that we live in now where, I guess we are moving back towards more in person events and stuff, but I think that the hybrid model is very much here to stay. And I think that it’s really, important to remember that networking doesn’t always have to be in person that we can put ourselves up there digitally. And I think that that’s, you know, really kind of valid and, commendable in the space that we are working at the moment with comms.”

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I I’ve picked up on that conversation as well Asif and I’ve been reflecting on that actually over the past few days and honestly in an ideal world, I think, yes, it would be something nice to aim towards and to be able to have, I think that in terms of capability, I’d like to think that I could stretch myself you know, in the, hopefully not too distant future to aim towards chartership and to put myself through that. But, you know, the reality is, the financial restraints that come with doing certain bits of training, certainly the chartership, I would say that you know, to be frank, that it’s something which isn’t accessible for everybody. And you know, there, there will be people out there who are probably more than capable of achieving chartership, but, you know, due to their own financial situation and other commitments as well, not just financial, but, you know, perhaps the, the time that it takes for someone to kind of commit towards that level of intense study to work towards chartership, getting all of their CPD in there and in time.

But yeah, perhaps it’s something that if we want the industry to be more inclusive, that we need to find ways around it for people not to let, not necessarily to lower the standard at all. And I can see where people might have that argument, but, you know, it’s just about being realistic and accepting that not everybody is going to have, the same financial prospects and the same amount of time that, you know, we all have our own commitments in life and other things that we need to do, but yeah that doesn’t take away from someone’s commitment necessarily to wanting to get on and to, you know, to level up in their career.”

“Yeah, that’s a really good question Asif I think, you know, some of the points that I have taken since entering the PR industry is first of all, to be authentically yourself, you know, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, going into the workplace it can be a bit overbearing at times. And I guess it’s just a case of perhaps feeling that you can’t authentically be yourself and, you know, bring your life experiences and perspective to work.

And I think that whether that’s being made to feel like that, or perhaps just made me feeling, you know, a bit self-conscious about it it’s something which we should really try and overcome because ultimately I think the last few years, and, you know, world events have shown us that, you know, the, what people from diverse backgrounds can bring to the table and organisations, has been really amplified. And, you know, there are lots of organisations, at differing levels who are, you know, becoming more awake to the fact that they need to champion and honour diversity, not just talk about it, but they need to honour diversity within the workplace and within their teams and setups. And I would just say to keep, you know, banging on the door, it’s for me, I would say that, you know, at that point in my career, I was trying to enter the workplace that I did end up having to seek out those opportunities that were looking for people who look like me and come from similar backgrounds to me.

And it’s sad that that has to be the way in certain instances. But I think when you think long term, it’s really important about trying just to get your foot on the door to be able to foot in the door, sorry, just to be able to make some change for yourself, but also, you know, just for a society in general. And, I think that hopefully as time goes on that the playing field will start to level out and that, you know, that the ideal world in my opinion would be that we wouldn’t need to have, you know, opportunities that are specifically for people from lower social economic backgrounds or from diverse backgrounds. You know, it’s hard to the, black, Asian and minority ethnic, people that, because the playing field is leveled out and diversity inclusion is truly honoured across, the piece that, we can then actually have more of a level playing field and that these opportunities may still exist and rightly so, they should, but they’re not kind of the, then they don’t have to be necessarily such a, a lifeline for many people as they were for me, if I’m honest.”

“I’d say it probably is an intentional, if I’m honest, although it, you know, everything that we’ve spoken about, they are things that are really important to me. And I, I really see the value in having people to look up to whether that be a role model or just someone, you know, that you really break the kind of work that they’re doing in their particular space.

And, I guess for me growing up and definitely entering the PR and comms industry that I did find it quite difficult, even in the spaces that I did enter, you know, I was really chuffed and fortunate to enter the GCS internship scheme. But I guess even at the time, it was a case of, oh, I’m here now, but I’m also now in a space where there aren’t a lot of people who are like me. And I guess, the change that I would like to see is that there are more people yes, at entry level, but in leadership, in communications that are able to you know, just act as as role models for people and just so that people who are going through the system, after myself have people to look up to and, people who are there to help.

And I, I definitely would like to position myself as someone like that, you know, going forward, you know, I, since, writing my GCS blog, I had one or two potential applicants actually reach out to me on LinkedIn. And, you know, I was really happy to be able to provide them with some tips and pointers of how they can apply for the internship scheme. And, one of those that messaged me actually got back in touch a few weeks later to say that, they’d been successful in their application. And, you know, if I’m honest, when I applied, I also followed a similar process. I, reached out to a few people who I could see had done the internship prior to myself. And I think that it’s really important when you do get your foot in the door.

You know, if you feel you’re able to, just to, even if it’s just a few words of wisdom or a tiny bit of advice, just to offer that to somebody, because that could really be the difference in someone else, you know, following in your footsteps and being privy to some of the great opportunities that you might have been privy to as well.”

“Yeah, sure. I think, you know, first of all, it’s really important for anyone listening to, keep an eye out on the government communication services website, or their social media channels, where they will promote this opportunity. I think that usually the, recruitment goes live between, like the January or March time ready for the following summer. But as I say, this could change in the future. So it’s really important to keep an eye on those channels and just, you know, be ready for when applications go live. And then, yeah, when you are ready to put an application, I would say as with lots of public sector and civil service jobs in particular, the way that they like you to structure your responses on applications and in interviews is to use the star approach.

So, star stands for situation task action and result so effectively saying where you were, what you had to do, how you did it and what the outcome was. And I find that that’s actually really helpful once you get into the rhythm of doing it, just a really helpful way of breaking down. Perhaps lots of the, the padding of the situation that you might have found yourself in and the, the really good example you might have. It’s also really important for these applications as it is an entry level position, as I mentioned earlier, to think about the things that you’ve done, which might be relevant. So when I applied for the internship I had next to no comms or marketing experience at all, and I used examples from my previous academic studies. For example, in university, I was part of a society committee.

So, from that I drew that I had, you know, good communication skills, leadership skills. It’s really about thinking of all the possible things that you could, use and drawing those examples out. And, I think that’s what the, recruiters like to see. And actually it, it’s a really good comms skill to be able to, you know, make, promote yourself and, you know, make the, the most out of what experience you’ve got already on paper. All experience is good experience. There’s never any bad experience. And that’s what I’ve learned, so far in my career, for sure.”

“I think in terms of what I would tell myself now, or I tell my younger self, it would be to aim high and be patient. You know, it goes about saying that when I was trying to even get work experience, which would’ve been unpaid at the time, even that was really competitive and it was really disheartening when you just receive lots of emails of, thanks, but no, thanks. And being unsuccessful for applications. And I think it’s just about having persistence and, perhaps yeah, where I became aware of the GCS internship scheme, I was completely unaware of the fact that communicators could play such an important role within government bodies, and even within the public sector. If I’m honest, I knew that obviously public sector communicators were a thing, but not to the extent that I have now.

And, I think that lots of people, or lots of young people entering, the PR industry in particular, are aware of, you know, agency and kind of private sector and, you know, working on lots of different, exciting brands and clients, and they’re all great. And I would never say never to myself, like kind of tee-to-tottering and over to that side, but in the same breath, there’s lots of opportunities that aren’t necessarily promoted, within lots of different spaces, you know, communications and marketing. There’s probably more important than ever and it’s all about making sure that the right information sits with the right people at the right time. So you name it, think about all of your, interests outside of wanting to get a job in PR and comms and see perhaps if there’s opportunities that lie within that, you know, it could be even volunteering for your local sports team or, or something like that.

There’s lots of ways that you can gain even little bits of experience, which could then kind of elevate you and take you on your journey, into comms. And, I definitely say that it’s yeah, it’s patience is a big thing and yeah, I guess it’s, it’s just about being patient and persistent and you are getting where you’re going to go.”

A final thought

“I couldn’t recommend, CommsHero enough. In the last two and a half, three years, I’ve made a return to Twitter. My Twitter was quite dormant for quite some time and one of the first, kind of communities that I was able to latch onto and just kind of navigate the space and see, you know, I guess who was around and what people were talking about was #CommsHero and yeah, as, as time has gone on, I think that it’s been really valuable in terms of, representation across the whole comms industry. That’s to say people who are working in private sector agencies, write the way through to those working in public sector. That it’s just, it’s been a really good way, to, you know, I guess see what is going on in the comms industry whilst at home over the past two years with the pandemic.”

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.


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.