Helping to improve the health and wellbeing of our community

PR and Marketing Executive, Joanna, discusses her charity days supporting local charity Living Sport.

Sport is a very big part of my life, for this reason I chose to support a charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough through participation in sport and physical activity. Regular exercise is so important for both our physical and mental wellbeing – we all know that exercise is good for our waistlines, but research has also shown that physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing the risk of stress and depression. Unfortunately, for many people access to sport is limited due to factors such as finance, time and disability. Living Sport aims to make sport accessible for all by increasing and improving opportunities.

My first volunteering day was a big one for the Living Sport team, as that evening the charity was to host its annual ‘Living Sport Sports Awards’, and I spent my day assisting with the setup of the event. The Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of talented sportsmen and women, coaches, volunteers, organisations and clubs from across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Over the course of the day, I helped with a number of elements that bring these ceremonies to life. Much like the events Conscious Communications runs, such as FXP Festival and Brains Eden, it was all hands on deck to set up the venue and ensure everything was in place for a successful evening. There was no time to be wasted – signage needed hanging, table plans arranging, presentations and tech setting up, and, most importantly, the trophies needed to be carefully arranged in order of prize, crucial for ensuring the Awards presentation ran smoothly. As the venue was attached to a school, we were unable to access the room where the arrival drinks reception would take place until 3pm; this meant a very quick turnaround as people started arriving from 5.30pm! With a lot of great teamwork, in the space of just a few hours we saw the venue go from glum to glam, as we transformed it into a glittering setting for an Awards ceremony. As I had fundraised for Living Sport earlier in the year, I was invited to stay for the evening too, which was a great opportunity to meet some of the admirable people involved in Living Sport.

As well as being a great chance to celebrate, the Sports Awards are an opportunity to showcase the outstanding achievements of individuals and organisations each and every day, to support the health and wellbeing of their communities. It was an inspiration to see each nominee and winner get up on stage to receive their award; including a commendable young woman who, despite suffering from cerebral palsy, has completed multiple 5k and 10k running races.

When I returned to Living Sport a few weeks later for a day in the office I discovered a lot more about what the team does on a daily basis. Through my own fundraising I was aware of the various events, coaching and courses Living Sport organises to support the physical health of people in the community, however, I did not realise to what extent the charity is involved with improving mental health too. One of my tasks involved inputting and assessing feedback from a workplace wellbeing workshop the charity had organised for HR Managers and Wellbeing Leads from Cambridgeshire companies. By assessing the feedback forms I was able to identify what the delegates at the wellbeing events most appreciated and particular topics of interest, including managing stress in the workplace and how to develop a strategic approach to workplace wellbeing. This feedback will now be used when the charity organises future events.

Social media is a large part of my daily activity for our clients at Conscious Communications. I was able to use my expertise and give the charity some pointers on how to manage its social feeds more effectively. For Living Sport, it is crucial that it makes sure all of those brilliant events and courses are listed on the Facebook page for easy access!

 When it comes to charity work everyone has something different that inspires them – whether it is animals in need, the elderly, the homeless – there are so many different causes that need our attention. I really connected with Living Sport and what they do, and hope to get involved with more of it in 2018!

Perms, Pot Noodles, Pigments and Pantone

Alan, our Senior Designer, considers what impact Pantone’s Colour of the Year announcement will have on us all in the material world.

You can offer but can you deliver? Henry Ford, launching the Model T Ford in 1909, offered the car to the public in ‘any colour as long as it’s black’. During the late 60s, the Rolling Stones rejected the colourful pop tunes of that decade, and demanded the scene to change, to ‘Paint it Black’. The early 70s music scene heralded a new vision, and Pink Floyd offered ‘Any Colour You Like’ as a rainbow spectrum of colour, cut like a diamond through the black, on the iconic cover artwork of The Dark Side of the Moon.

Now, think about this. In the second decade of the second millennium some demi-god of interior design has made you aware of a specific shade of thallium. You feel your study has been given the full ‘Auerbach’ treatment with this specific colour. What do you do? It’s an exclusive colour. For ‘them’ and not for ‘the rest of us’. Where can you purchase such a rare prize? Well now, there’s an answer to that question. Just go to your local DIY superstore with nothing more than a square torn from a glossy magazine or a picture on your phone of your desired colour, and in-store-hi-tech machines will create you a colour match. Well sort of. Have you ever had that ‘silver foil in the mouth’ experience of Pot Noodle flavours congealing in your mouth? That synthetic sludge of flavour passing slowly over your taste buds with names like Pulled Pork, Sticky Ribs and Sausage Casserole. They all taste vaguely the same and yet nothing like the flavours they claim to be. That taste experience is the emotional equivalent of the visual impact that viewing the results of those in-store paint mixes induces.

In a landscape of uncertainty and inaccuracy Pantone, in the 1960s, saw a need in the printing industry for a standard of colour referencing and reproduction accuracy. This resulted in the standard reference book found in most design agencies: The Pantone swatch book references. From its colour swatch book you can choose a myriad of colours, refer to a specific number when dealing with a printer and you can be sure that the colour produced will be the one you chose from the swatch book. This is especially useful in branding.

It’s with this in mind that I’m pondering the extent to which we, the public, are affected by Pantone’s annual announcement revealing its ‘Colour of the Year’. The best example I can give is this. At the weekend I was waiting, with a cloud of anticipointment* hanging over me, for a bus to arrive and deliver me to the DIY store on the other side of town. Once there I intended to get some paint samples for a much postponed decorating project I could no longer put off.

I was into the 20th minute of a bus non-arrival ordeal when, into my frame of vision, two elderly ladies bore down on the bus stop. They came from opposite directions and it wasn’t long before I recognised that a true cultural collision (in chemical terms) was about to happen. From the right, Elderly Lady One (specific identity: Rose Quartz Pantone 13-1520 & Serenity Pantone 15-3919) made her way slowly towards the bus departure zone. Her hair, a two-tone tale of Rose Quartz & Serenity. Pantone said of this mix “an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace”. Incredible and also very, very 2016 and she blooming well knew it!  There was no ‘soothing’ or ‘peace’ as she recognised Elderly Lady Two (specific identity: Ultra Violet 18-3838 (aka Colour of the Year 2018)) steamrollering in from the opposite direction. In superhero terms this would have been her nemesis. Batman vs. Joker.

Superman’s reaction to Kryptonite. Sith vs. Jedi. Elderly Lady Two with her incredible wiry, hay bale of dyed Ultra Violet mesh, a glorious, towering monument to Marge Simpson. She was heralding 2018. Early renaissance artists often depicted the angels of the Lord wearing violet gowns. For the artists, the colour represented the ‘infinite’ which was not dangerous or threatening. This could not be said of the small, satisfied, rictus smile crossing the face of Elderly Lady Two. Dante described characters similar to her in the first Canto of The Divine Comedy. Victory and the future was hers. Boom and pow, 2016 was taken down.

That moment is still tingling in my mind as I’d not realised until that point that Pantone’s yearly choice had embedded itself so deeply in my local community and maybe even further afield. Eurovision Song Contest, Children in Need, government elections…any elections, none of those can hold a brush against the Pantone ‘Colour of the Year’.

*A feeling of high anticipation followed by crushing disappointment.

Picking and packing Christmas hampers

Hannah, our Content & Communications Manager, discusses her volunteer day ‘picking and packing’ Christmas hampers at a local foodbank

In the UK there are 13 million people living in poverty. More than half live in a working household, and almost a sixth are children.

We are fortunate to live in a country where none of us thinks this is OK – but there is no silver bullet and so we are also fortunate to live in a country where there are so many different organisations and willing individuals who give generously of their time and money to provide different elements of the ‘safety net’ that catches those people who find themselves “on the edge of disaster, following a sudden crisis, such as redundancy, delayed benefit payments, illness”.  Alongside the welfare system there is additional help at hand for people who would otherwise have nowhere else to turn.

The Trussell Trust is one such organisation; a Christian charity committed to launching life changing, sustainable communities, it has developed a 400-strong network of foodbanks in the heart of local communities across the country. In 2016/2017 the trust gave 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis. In Cambridge alone, the foodbank issued food for 4,952 people during 2016.

In the run up to Christmas there seems to have been, in this area at least, an overwhelming level of support for the vital role that foodbanks play in providing this ‘safety net’. Individuals have become more familiar with the idea of a reverse advent calendar (donating one item per day in the run up to Christmas, rather than ‘receiving’ one chocolate or gift each day as you would with a traditional advent calendar), local businesses have chosen to corporately collect items from staff to combine into larger donations, supermarkets have facilitated donations, and schools, churches, youth groups and other clubs and societies have generously donated via Harvest appeals and other drives.

So, despite having seen “a staggering 82 percent rise in demand over the past year”, the Godmanchester foodbank (where I spent a day this week ‘picking and packing’ Christmas hampers) thankfully saw an increase in donations from members of the community in the run up to Christmas. In fact, the volunteer team of foodbank organisers was thrilled to see a surplus of supplies for this year’s Christmas hampers, which will mean there is more stock available to be used into January and February, when the foodbank tends to receive fewer donations. It was uplifting to see that, alongside some of the more staple items – pasta and rice, tinned goods and long-life milk – there had also been plenty of donations of more ‘Christmassy’ items, from Christmas cake, Christmas puddings and luxury chocolates, to biscuit selection boxes, stollen bites and lebkuchen.

The role of ‘picker and packer’ is to fill the boxes that will be distributed to people in need within the local area from the piles of food that are spread out around the church hall. The challenge, in my mind, was to try and fairly apportion the donated food according to people’s needs – you don’t want to risk over-filling the boxes at the beginning of the day as this may mean insufficient supplies for the boxes that are filled last.

The organisers have an idea of whether a parcel will be for a small household (one to three people) or a family (four plus), and create a list of how many of each type of item should go into the parcel depending on the size (‘small’ or ‘family’). The difference is likely to be between one box of cereal or two, or between three cans of soup or five, or indeed between one box of biscuits alone or one box of biscuits plus three ‘miscellaneous’ sweeties or chocolates.

Thinking of my own childhood, with my older sister, where every ‘decision’ provided an opportunity for us to bicker – about who would be allowed to sit in the front seat of the car, who would pick what to watch on TV, or who would get first choice of sweeties or biscuits – I really wanted to pick the optional items in a way that would seem ‘fair’ to whoever the recipients were. I also remember what a fussy eater my sister was – she would, for quite a few years, only eat rice with chicken in a white sauce! I was anxious to choose from the ‘meat tins’ three tins that had a wide enough range to suit not only any fussy eaters like my sister, but also the more adventurous family members like my Dad and me, who might enjoy some spice!

It may seem trivial to worry in such a way about choosing three tins from the potential options of chilli con carne, hot dogs, chicken tikka masala, beef stew and chicken in white sauce when the alternative might be that people don’t have enough food. But I think, especially at Christmas, the idea that people might not be able to have something to eat that they enjoy, seems too sad. Perhaps it is a sign of privilege when children have the freedom to be fussy eaters; I don’t remember my parents struggling to feed us meals we liked, or to give us special treats at Christmas, even though I know now that things weren’t always easy. I really hope that the generosity of everyone who donated to the foodbank, along with the careful picking and packing by everyone I spent the day with this week, will go some way to helping the families in receipt of the hampers to be able to enjoy eating together over Christmas just that little bit more.

Social video 101 (pt. 1)

With more than four in five global Internet users already watching video online, the market is approaching saturation. In part one of our social video 101 blog Sophie, our PR and Marketing Manager, writes about the rise of social video, key trends, and areas of opportunity.

With spend on more traditional forms of digital advertising, such as banner ads, in decline, marketing departments have been placing greater attention (and budget) on video, which now exceeds all other categories of digital advertising spend, except in-app advertising.

By 2019, internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic.  Social platforms are taking a variety of approaches to grow video content. Snapchat was built on a video-centric strategy and is continuing to expand its video footprint, while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram now all offer live video broadcast capabilities.

By no means is the rise of social video a fad; it is a huge trend and only set to get bigger. In 2016, 60 percent of marketers used video in social media strategies because, not only has it proven to be effective in generating profit, but it also better engages social media users, in turn growing social following and audiences.

Mark Zuckerberg has said that we are shifting to a “video first world”. Video is now the most popular and desired advertising format among social media users, for the simple fact that people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. With the ability to command a greater share of attention and drive interaction, social platforms are poised to become the leaders in hosting video content on the Internet.

Maximising return on investment is important for most companies and, in order to do so, they must understand the impact of, and key trends in, social media video marketing. Here are a few tips on what to look out for:

Personalisation

Social media video marketing has unique capabilities that allow for targeting and a more curated user experience through personalisation, which provides huge opportunities for businesses. Interactive videos can include clickable videos as well as embedded questionnaires, aiding lead generation and customer engagement.

Live video

Social media users want to see authentic content in real time that doesn’t focus on the hard sell. Through live video, brands can market themselves with honest and engaging content. As you may expect, behind-the-scenes style videos keep customers engaged by providing them with exclusive content they may not be able to access otherwise.

Vertical video

The rise of people using their smartphones to watch videos has grown significantly over the last year. According to Animoto, 48 percent of millennials now watch videos exclusively on a mobile device. It’s for this reason that brands need to make sure that content is adapted for mobile. Snapchat created the vertical video trend (you can read a blog we previously wrote on this, here) which makes watching videos on mobile devices easier for users.

Marketers are jumping at the opportunity to maximise brand visibility through social video – and if they’re not, they certainly should be!

Keep your eyes peeled for part two of our social video 101 blog to understand the video capabilities and functionalities of each social platform and our top tips on how to create an engaging video for your social presence.

Top tips for creating engaging Twitter content

 

Managing a business’s Twitter account can be a daunting task in itself, and creating engaging content can even seem impossible. You only have 140 characters so it is important to make each letter and punctuation mark count! Chloe, our PR and Marketing Executive, discusses how to make tweets a hit every time!

 

Name drop

Tagging accounts on Twitter (known as “mentions”) will instantly let a profile know you want it to be involved in your conversation. If you are appreciating the work of a company, or talking about a particular individual and they have a Twitter handle, tagging them will instantly notify your interest in their work, resulting in a retweet or a reply, hopefully! It’s an easy way to build relationships.

 

Starting with a full stop

If you are tagging an account’s handle at the start of your tweet, it’s a good idea to use a full stop before. Why? If you use a full stop at the beginning of your tweet, it will appear on the timeline. If you don’t, it will disappear to your ‘tweets & replies’, with only you and the respondent seeing it. So, for maximum exposure, make sure that you defy grammatical rules and start with a full stop.

#Trends

The hashtag started its reign back in 2007 when Chris Messina tweeted:

Since then, the humble hashtag has become a part of everyday conversation – both on and off line! Keeping on top of trending topics online is a must for marketers, if they are to grab the attention of existing and new audiences. If you want your tweets to have maximum reach, then include the popular weekly hashtags such as #MondayMotivation or #ThrowbackThursday. At Conscious Communications, we like to use #WednesdayWisdom to showcase our expertise! It is really important that businesses make sure to use a balance of top trending hashtags as well as the more unusual/targeted ones too; your posts are less likely to get lost amongst a constantly updating Twitter feed if you are within a slightly smaller group of users of a particular hashtag. We like to use a number of platforms to make sure we are using the perfect hashtag, one we have been using recently has been Display Purposes.

 

Images, videos, GIFs – OH MY

According to research posts with images are 18% more likely to get website link click throughs, 89% more likely to be favourited and 150% more likely to be retweeted. What’s even better, images can work for pretty much any brand. Social media users today are hungry for visual content – think photos, videos and GIFs. Twitter now includes the handy GIF button to accompany posts (read my previous blog on GIFs here) and images are no longer included in your character count (hooray!). If photography isn’t for you, maybe an infographic might be suitable? Take this tweet from Mintel for example…

 

 

Infographics are an effective way to convey statistics. If the above stats were to be posted on Twitter in plain text then the chances are followers would scroll past, but the vibrancy of an infographic is more likely to stop people from scrolling past and encourage them to engage with your tweet.

 

Time is of the essence

On average there are around 500 million tweets posted every day, so, it goes without saying that there is stiff competition to achieving high engagement. But, as Twitter has evolved, research on the platform has too; one overarching fact that has come to light is that many Twitter users primarily use the site on mobile devices and tablets. In light of this, Twitter produced a report that reveals these mobile users are 181% more likely to be on Twitter during their commute. Using sites like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are helpful tools to ensure your tweets are scheduled at the right time of day (or night), and can also allow you to plan ahead. To find out when the most effective time will be for a business or brand to tweet, we like to use a tool called Tweriod, a free platform that reviews your followers and works out when the best time is for you to tweet.

The polls are in!

Twitter polls are a fun way to increase engagement and also canvas your followers’ opinions. Dependent on your brand and your following, you can tailor your poll to fit with your personality. Eventbrite used a Twitter poll to find out whether its followers attended paid events on New Year’s Eve:

A fantastic way to ask a fun seasonal question, but also a clever way to find out whether its followers are going to be interested in the advertisement of New Year’s Eve events. Twitter polls don’t have to have a specific purpose either, if you have an informal tone to your brand, they are a great tool to convey personality; take Domino’s for example.

 

Let’s get influential – how do brands successfully use influencers?

Our PR and Marketing Executive, Joanna, discusses a few of her favourite influencer marketing campaigns in our latest blog post.

The power of social media continues to increase, and with that, we have seen the rise of ‘influencer marketing’. Influencer marketing is a style of marketing that focuses on using the influence of notable people to drive a brand’s message to a larger market. Brands (or marketing agencies) identify suitable influencers – those people who are likely to reach the target consumer – and partner with them to create and share content on their social channels, with the goal of widening awareness of the brand, product or campaign. By implementing successful influencer marketing strategies, many businesses have been able to make new positive connections with consumers, and grow their audience too.

Lynda.com

Acquired by LinkedIn in April 2015, Lynda.com is an online learning platform that offers thousands of courses in business, technology and creative skills. In order to expand the platform’s reach, Lynda.com hired a number of popular YouTube influencers to create and post imaginative, sponsored videos, to promote the platform’s services. One of the YouTube channels it worked with was MinutePhysics – a channel focused on teaching science. MinutePhysics was a winning partner for Lynda.com as it allowed Lynda.com to reach people who were already seeking learning opportunities online (its prime audience). The MinutePhysics video generated more than 2.3 million views and throughout the campaign Lynda.com’s sponsored content reached a subscriber audience of over 46 million. The campaign worked particularly well because it was authentic – the team of YouTube influencers maintained the normal, entertaining video format that their audiences love, whilst naturally connecting viewers with Lynda.com and its services.

ONE.org

As well as helping brands reach target audiences, influencers can make an impact by boosting the profiles of charities and campaigns – nearly a third of influencers regularly promote charities on their platforms, according to research by influencer marketing platform Buzzoole. An organisation that has brought on board the support of notable personalities is anti-poverty charity, ONE. Earlier this year ONE launched a digital #GirlsCount campaign to raise awareness of the 130 million girls around the world who receive no education. Supporters from all over the globe were invited to pick a number between one and 130 million and to post a video or picture to the campaign website stating their number and explaining why they’re supporting girls’ education. ONE aims to combine all of the videos to make an extremely long film that will urge leaders to support female education. A number of influencers, entertainers and artists have already shown their support for the campaign by sharing their videos, including Michael Sheen, Hugh Jackman, Bono, Tom Brady, Charlize Theron and many more. Collecting 130 million videos is a phenomenal challenge and this is why the idea is so perfect for the #GirlsCount initiative. The issue of female education will not be resolved overnight, and so even if they don’t reach the 130 million mark for 30 years or so, the campaign has already achieved its goal by continuing to raise awareness of the issue.

Boxed Water

Boxed Water, a pioneer in the sustainably packaged water category, is a refreshing example (pardon the pun) of a brand that has utilised Instagram and its influencers to drive support for one of its missions. In 2015 Boxed Water launched its worldwide sustainability initiative, the ‘Retree Project’, where the company pledged to plant two trees for every Instagram post featuring its boxed water and using the hashtag #Retree. To kick-start the campaign, Boxed Water partnered with a team of influencers who posted photos themselves and then asked their followers to do the same. The followers’ followers also did likewise – and hence the campaign went viral. Instagram works well as a marketing platform because consumers like visuals – some of the images posted for the #Retree project have been truly vivid and, as a result, consumers have paid attention. With such a phenomenal reaction to the campaign Boxed Water has so far committed to plant 612,567 trees, succeeding in its mission to help the environment, all while generating some great coverage and brand exposure.

What makes influencer marketing unique is that it provides consumers with a more personal connection to a brand, product or campaign. In the same way that we respect the recommendations of our friends and family, consumers value the opinion of influencers too. So instead of hearing how great a product is via a bold television advert or targeted e-marketing campaign, consumers are naturally influenced to pay attention to someone they trust – whether about purchasing a product or changing a behaviour. As we have seen with the above examples, the most successful campaigns are the authentic ones, where the influencer hasn’t just been paid to do a job but truly believes in the product or company they are promoting.

 

One away from double figures award nominations for Conscious Communications!

As the country celebrated National Coding Week, we were shortlisted for our ninth award this year, this time for our work on FXP Festival – we are through to the final six in the Corporate Social Responsibility category for the PRCA National Awards. You might be asking yourself how National Coding Week is relevant to us being shortlisted, but bear with us.

FXP Festival is a free computer-game festival linked to the National Curriculum. Conscious Communications liaises with game development companies and industry leaders to raise funds so that students can participate in FXP without charge, gaining valuable experience and knowledge; as well as the chance to win some pretty cool prizes! The festival incorporates a concept and development competition together with an industry showcase for school and college students, Years 8 to 13, from across Cambridgeshire. Students are required to design a game concept and some teams then go on to bring their concept to life by coding a playable game.

The annual PRCA National Awards celebrate the best in PR and communications and to be shortlisted for another prestigious award is an achievement that reflects our team’s hard work and dedication.

Being shortlisted for the Corporate Social Responsibility award is extra rewarding for the team. Giving back to the local community is a passion of ours, and FXP Festival gives us the opportunity to use our expertise in education and our passion for technology to enthuse local students, build career aspirations and create exciting career pathways into one of our highest growth business sectors, where there are serious creative and technical skills gaps.

The PRCA awards ceremony will be held in London on Tuesday 7 November, so keep your fingers crossed for us and watch this space – let’s hope we can reach the magic 10 for awards that we’ve been shortlisted for before the end of the year!

Happy to be one of 2 million Dementia Friends

Hannah, our Content and Communications Manager, shares why she decided to attend a Dementia Friends training session in our latest volunteering blog post. 

At the end of June I was pleased to receive an email from Dementia Friends – an initiative created in 2013 by the Alzheimer’s Society to engage members of the public in tackling the stigma, and lack of understanding, surrounding dementia – announcing they’d hit the 2 million mark. Dementia Friends runs training sessions to educate members of the public about some of the different ways people with dementia might experience the disease, and about how those who encounter people with dementia might offer better support through having a better understanding of the disease. How fantastic that the number of people who have attended these training sessions, to become Dementia Friends, has hit 2 million; it is the UK’s biggest ever social movement, with one in every 30 people in England, Northern Ireland and Wales involved.

​As part of our company’s commitment to social responsibility we are each offered two paid days per year to spend supporting charitable causes. Having come across this article in the Guardian, in which a Dementia Friends Champion explains how strangers on the tube had recognised his Dementia Friends badge and gone out of their way to thank him for his support, I decided to use some of my time to attend a Dementia Friends training session. It was an informal session at a local library, run by a Dementia Friends Champion, and I found it to be genuinely enlightening.

My own grandma had dementia for a number of years towards the end of her life. Sadly, I and my sister and cousins were too young to really understand what was happening to her at the time, and as we became teenagers we used to (fondly) joke about our lasting memories of her, as she seemed to be constantly in search of a missing cup, asking “is this the one?” again and again. Now in my thirties, and with my parents having friends who have suffered with early onset dementia, I recognise that the way we interpreted our grandma’s illness when we were younger was unkind and immature; I’m thankful for parents and aunts and uncles who knew better.

Having attended the Dementia Friends training session I have now had my eyes opened to the many ways that the disease can affect people, and I really want to share some of what I learnt with others. I am now planning to use one of my upcoming charity days to train to become a Dementia Friends Champion myself so that, in line with Dementia Friends’ goal, we can “change people’s perceptions of dementia transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition”.

I think the most commonly known symptom of dementia is memory loss. Loved ones seem to no longer be recognised; shared memories are no longer shared; and seemingly trivial, every day matters become fraught. Some can’t remember what they have bought previously or what is in the fridge; others can’t remember quite how to do things around the home, like safely use modern appliances; other still might not remember the route to walk home from the local library. Yet in conversation with friends and family, the person with dementia might still appear to be coping quite well, and so the extent of their suffering and feelings of isolation might be unknown for some time.

The Champion at my training session explained that people often try to correct sufferers on inaccurate memories – whether large or small events – but that it’s important to let some of these inaccuracies lie; it isn’t the fault of the sufferer that their mind mightn’t be changed. The biggest revelation for me at the session was the way that people with dementia can lose their sense of perception. Did you know that rectangular black mats, like those you might see at the entrance to a department store, can appear to sufferers like an enormous black hole? Or that a swirling pattern on a carpet can give the impression of snakes?

It will be through raising awareness of these difficulties among more members of the public that we will be able to ensure that people with dementia feel less isolated, and more supported as they go about their daily lives. How easy would it be for a member of staff whose job it is to welcome people to a department store to easily demonstrate to someone who seems anxious at the entrance that the route into the shop – across a large black door mat – is safe by simply walking across the mat as they welcome the person into the shop?

Without our agency’s commitment to investing time in social justice pursuits – from our joint efforts to support our ‘charity of the year’, to ventures like FXP Festival and Cambridge Games – and the decision to give us two days to set aside to give our time to individual worthwhile causes, I probably wouldn’t have ended up attending a Dementia Friends training session. That we are given this opportunity as part of our working lives is an important part of why I feel that we are invested in as people, and not just employees. As we work together in these team pursuits, and also learn from each other’s personal passions as they attend their individual charity days, we are really able to develop closer bonds and become a stronger team, too.

Hip, Hip, Hooray – three cheers for the #hashtag

Senior PR and Marketing Executive, Sophie, celebrates 10 years of the hashtag.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the humble hashtag’s (#) debut on Twitter – a symbol that has now become a familiar component of online conversation. Whether you use to it indicate the location you are posting from (#Glastonbury), or what you are posting about (#HenDo), or the ‘conversation’ you are joining (#covfefe), the hashtag has shown it has the potential to shape elections and launch social movements, becoming a defining symbol of the digital age.

So where did the hashtag come from? Its story started back in 2007, when early adopters of Twitter began developing tools to organise their tweets. It was only in 2009, when enough people were using it (remember the #FollowFriday hashtag?) that Twitter decided to embrace the feature and its developers built an automatic search tool so users could see who else was using the same hashtags. Today, hashtags aren’t just used on Twitter – you’ll find them used on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr – people now even drop the word into conversation.

Anyone can create a hashtag, and anyone can use that hashtag, in any context – so they can’t be controlled and can sometimes create disorder. The prospect of grabbing attention on social media, however, is a temptation that brands can’t resist – and neither should they! In the world of marketing where we previously noted down a URL or searched for a word on Google, the hashtag has become the new call-to-action and, in many cases, the tagline for an entire campaign (think #ThisGirlCan) with the hope of igniting digital conversations – and in many cases, it is a success.

The hashtag is a powerful tool with which to market your business, product, service or message – be creative with your hashtags but remember to keep them relevant. We like to use a number of tools which have helped us hone our hashtag expertise. My personal favourite is RiteTag – a platform which gives instant feedback on the popularity and strength of your desired hashtag – and better yet, it’s free! Not only do I use it to analyse the strength of a hashtag but it also gives inspiration for other hashtags that I could be using in my post.

So, three cheers to the humble hashtag – I am sure Chris Messina, the first person to tweet using a hashtag, didn’t foresee it becoming the trend, and the useful tool, it is today.

Worth a pause for thought

Zoë, Client Services Director, discusses her volunteering experience with local charity, Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, in our first volunteering blog post of the year.

I think we can all be guilty of turning a blind eye to the less savoury things that go on in our local area – from homelessness to anti-social behaviour to instances of sexual assault. I am no different – out of sight out of mind. If I don’t read about it or hear about it on the news I am none the wiser. So it did come as somewhat of a shock to me when I embarked on my two days volunteering at Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC), how vital and in demand this charity is in the local area.

CRCC offers support to women and girls who have experienced rape, childhood sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence. The charity is run by women and for women and offers a number of essential support services – a helpline, email support and counselling. I was fortunate to get in touch with the team at CRCC offering my marketing expertise and skills at a time when they were reviewing website performance and how to make the most of their social media channels to engage with their audience. I spent a day in June and the second in August reviewing and developing my recommendations for the website and social media, which included evaluating website content, SEO performance, website structure and social media objectives. By the end of my second day learning about the charity and the incredible work that they do I knew that my two days of offering my particular skillset to this project will have saved volunteers valuable time and resource doing the same job, which they can spend supporting survivors.

When I went in to meet the team at the end of my second day – I couldn’t spend my two days in the office as they handle sensitive information – I was blown away by the appreciation for what I felt was just the tip of the iceberg of what I could contribute. What I do as second nature in my day to day job for our clients is something the team at CRCC knows needs to be done but justifiably time is focused elsewhere. So if I can dedicate the headspace and time to, for example, the user experience on the website, whether it is appearing in search results and understanding how best to engage with their audience then I feel that I have made a valuable contribution.

I asked the team about the support they receive in the local community, which is extremely positive. There is more that can be done though. CRCC is not what the general public might see as a ‘cuddly’ or ‘feel good’ charity – it doesn’t help donkeys who live in poor conditions for example or provide amazing once in a life time experiences for children with terminal illnesses. What it does do is provide a much-needed service and listening ear for survivors in the local area. But, and somewhat understandably due to the stigma associated with the vocabulary, a rape crisis centre isn’t something companies, individuals, schools, colleges, universities will immediately think of when considering charities to offer support to. Regardless of whether people feel comfortable with talking about rape openly in a conversation these centres rely on support and donations to keep going. Everyone can help make a difference – no matter how big or small.

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