Senior PR and Marketing Executive, Sophie, discusses why she chose two different charities for her volunteering days, in our second post of our volunteering blog series.
Last year’s John Lewis’ #ManOnTheMoon Christmas advert struck a chord with me. It registered with me that while I would be sitting at the dining room table with my family on Christmas Day, tucking into a roast dinner, there are elderly people that have no family and will be on their own at this time of year. It was this advert that made me decide that I wanted to spend one of my volunteer days with a charity that is dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people.
I came across Contact the Elderly, a charity that organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people aged 75 and over, who live alone. The charity services the whole of England, Wales and Scotland. So, my first stop was the charity’s main office in London back in February. I had been liasing with the communications manager, who had informed me that the charity had just finished its huge campaign with Bisto called Spare Chair Sunday; a project that allows people to offer a spare chair at their Sunday lunch to an older person who would have otherwise been eating alone.
A third of people over the age of 70 in the UK eat alone every day
The campaign had been hugely successful, and the charity received thousands of volunteers. So, when I turned up to the main office, I spent the day sifting through hundreds of applications, and inputting the information into an internal database. Even though the charity’s main office was in London, the team was really small, so my time at Contact the Elderly felt extremely valuable. It really showed me the importance of volunteers to a charity – no matter how large or small. I had a fantastic time with the team, and have kept in touch with them since.
Following my first volunteer day, I decided that I wanted to spend my second day with a charity a little closer to home, which impacts my local area. I approached Carers Trust Cambridgeshire in October to find out a little more about the charity, and I was thrilled to hear that they would be pleased to receive a day of voluntary work, which I undertook this week.
Carers Trust Cambridgeshire is a network partner of Carers Trust and provides services and help for family carers and their families across the county. I was liaising with the Young Carers and Young Adult Carers team based in St. Ives, who had mentioned that they would like my advice and support on how to best launch a new campaign in the New Year.
My morning started with a meeting with the head of the department and the volunteering co-ordinator, who explained how the team supports young carers across the county. The team support young carers as young as five years old, which left me feeling very sad but motivated to maximise the opportunity to support the team. The staff are so enthusiastic about what they do which I found incredibly inspiring.
I spent the majority of the morning brainstorming ideas around a press launch and the supporting marketing activity that could be implemented to ensure the new project is a success. In the afternoon, I pulled my thoughts and ideas into a plan and presented the ideas to the team. I was pleased to learn that they liked my ideas, which are now with the senior management team for consideration.
The team at Carers Trust Cambridgeshire has since asked if the Conscious Communications team can come back in the New Year to further brainstorm ideas, to which we gladly accepted. The request made me realise how much they valued my time – even though it was just a day – and how much every little thing really does help! I had such a wonderful time with the charity that I would definitely like to further support them in 2017, and even perhaps use my two volunteer days with them next year too!
Winston Churchill said “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give”, and no truer word was ever said. There are, of course, different degrees of giving but the most rewarding of all is the kind that comes from the heart with genuine good intent.
It is also often the giving of time, expertise and energy that is most valuable; the positive impact of material things can be short-lived, while the commitment to providing support, so that others can build a better future for themselves, is more profound and lasting.
Through our work in education and, in particular, with schools with in communities where aspiration and life chances are limited only by the accident of birth, we are humbled by the unstinting commitment and ‘giving’ of school staff for whom teaching is not just a job but a vocation and a passion, and who choose to dedicate their time to helping children to find their way to a positive and fulfilling adulthood through education. Here our work isn’t about feel-good gifts that have no long-term worth. It’s about dedicating time, expertise and resource to developing initiatives and innovations that will have a lasting positive impact.
One such initiative in its early development stages in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is involving schools, colleges and industry in collaborating to provide a comprehensive package of combined technical/vocational and academic qualifications through the International Baccalaureate’s Career-related Programme (CP). This is a truly remarkable and transformational new programme which is achieving phenomenal success in Kent schools and which we want to see made available for our children in the East of England. So our team is working hard, on our own time, to bring all the relevant parties together so that by 2018 a CP programme, relevant to our high growth industry sectors, can be made available.
In Cambridge we have some of the UK’s most exciting technology and creative digital businesses – ARM, Frontier Developments, Jagex and Sony Interactive Entertainment to name a few. These businesses are growing fast and attracting talented programmers, designers, artists and writers to our city, yet there are many young people in our local schools who are unaware of the future career opportunities these businesses offer and who will remain that way if engagement between education and industry doesn’t improve – what a potential waste of local talent and opportunity! We want this to change, so last year we set up our own pilot project – FXP Festival, designed to upskill teachers, inspire students, and forge closer links between schools and game development companies. We learned valuable lessons through the pilot which helped us to refine the Festival concept and materials and get ready to roll the concept out to schools all over the country in 2017.
This all means we now have our work cut out but the enthusiasm our team has for these initiatives stems from their genuine purpose and the truism of Churchill’s words.
Department for Education data shows that the number of exclusions from UK state schools is increasing year on year. During the school year 2014-15, 5,800 children were removed from mainstream schools. Disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for these exclusions and over 80% of them are from secondary schools. The majority of people remain blissfully unaware of the alternative provisions that exist for these excluded children – somehow disruptive children disappear and we assume they’ve been moved to another more suitable school.
So you can be forgiven for not having heard of TBAP the first multi-academy trust providing alternative provision education in the UK. It was founded just three years ago as a tri-borough alternative provision in London and provides education for children who have experienced difficulties with their learning and behaviour in mainstream school. There are both primary and secondary TBAP schools (up to GCSE) and the trust is growing fast – we now have one in Cambridge which takes referrals from schools across the city and surrounding villages.
The key to TBAP’s success appears to be a mixture of excellent teaching, small well-supported classes, and a broad curriculum. TBAP says that it works closely with ‘families and outside agencies to give learners the skills and resilience they need to be safe, to raise their expectation of themselves as successful citizens, and to encourage them to be life-long learners’. Working with the International Baccalaureate (IB) as we do, this sounds remarkably familiar and so we were intrigued to be able to visit the new TBAP post-16 alternative provision Academy in London to find out more.
Considering the education history and family circumstances of the majority of excluded children, the enormity of the task their teachers face shouldn’t be underestimated. Yet chaotic family backgrounds are no reason to assume that these children are not as academically able as any others. In many cases their lives outside of school have been such that they haven’t had enough time in school to know where their interests or strengths lie. It is this understanding, coupled with a hefty amount of determination and compassion that has led to the opening of the first TBAP post-16 AP Academy which opened to its 17 students this September, all of whom have come from other non-mainstream and alternative provision school settings.
It is shocking to know that this is the very first post-16 alternative provision in this country. That, in itself, is quite something but, get this,TBAP’s post-16 AP Academy is not teaching A-Levels, it’s exclusively teaching the IB Diploma Programme. The Academy is catering for children who, despite having been excluded, have shown that they possess the ability, desire and capability to progress to university if the right teaching, support and educational context is available. And it is the breadth of the IB’s programme that makes it so suitable for these learners.
So, these students could be classed as the lucky ones, but if they can prove the school to be a success, why couldn’t or wouldn’t it be replicated elsewhere? Consider for a minute, the story of one learner we heard about while we visited – she is just 16 years old, has no family home and no relatives to rely on. She lives in a room in a hostel and fends for herself with no one to help her with homework and few positive influences around her. For this young person, the school is literally a life-line but it will still take all of her internal strength, and the skill and support of the school’s staff, to achieve success at the end of the two years.
We met some of the school’s new students when we visited. They spoke animatedly about the journey ahead of them, describing with remarkable foresight how hard they will need to study and how difficult that will undoubtedly be. One of the young men we met wants to run his own business one day, another has ambitions of being a doctor.
Can you imagine what these young people have the potential to do? They have endured (and still endure) some of the worst of what life and society throw at them. They will now receive an education designed to equip them to be open-minded, principled, caring, inquirers, risk-takers, reflective, and able to engage with people in an increasingly globalised, rapidly changing world. Hopefully they will use their education to work their way into powerful and influential positions in the world and, armed with the knowledge of personal experience, be able to influence politics, economics, the arts, medicine, human rights, and much more, for the better.
Our Head of Client Teams, Zoë, discusses her time at Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust in our first post of our volunteering blog series.
As part of our company’s commitment to social responsibility we are proud to offer each team member two paid days each year to volunteer and work with charitable causes (you can read more about how and why we give back to our local and wider communities in our recent article in Stylist). This year I chose to approach Addenbrooke’s Hospital about volunteering for two days – we like to be flexible in our approach so can offer a half day here or a full day there – to fit around our work schedules and any specific projects or campaigns that an organisation needs help with.
I wanted to support Addenbrooke’s after I received such outstanding care there last year following a car accident – from the first responder and the paramedics who sought me out in A&E later in the day to the nurses on the ward and the surgeon who performed the surgery I needed on my arm. Considering it was such a traumatic experience I do remember the people who cared for me with great appreciation and I know that the majority of people living in the region will know of someone who has been treated or cared for at this hospital. I wanted to give back in some way so I approached the hospital directly – understandably for volunteers on the wards, for example, they need on-going commitment to regular days each week for a set amount of time. Next stop for me was Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), the only registered charity dedicated to supporting innovation in patient care across Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals.
I had of course heard of ACT before and have even met with the fundraising team a couple of years ago when we were setting up a corporate partnership for one of our own clients but I was keen to learn more about the different activities they are involved with and how this in turn helps the departments of the hospitals. I was put in touch with the Marketing and Communications Team who (thankfully!) were pleased to receive the offer of two days voluntary work which I undertook at the end of October.
Hearing first hand from the Community Fundraising Manager about the need for more community ambassadors was essential for my first task – creating a communications plan to increase the roll of community ambassadors for the next 12 months. Next up was a visit to the branded Stagecoach bus which was parked up near the hospital promoting the Addenbrooke’s Breast Cancer Appeal. This year ACT has been encouraging individuals, groups and companies to host a ‘boobie cake bake’ on Friday 21 October to support the thousands of local, inspirational women and men who demonstrate a life-affirming spirit in their daily battle against cancer. Thanks to Stagecoach and Mr Hugh’s (producers of infused oils), members of the public could get their hands on their own infused oils to help their next ‘boobie bake’ as the bus made stops at all of the Park & Ride sites throughout the day.
I was also asked to help brainstorm ideas to spread the reach of two upcoming events – the Annual Lecture & Reception and the popular Rudolph Run, which takes place in December.
My time at ACT solidified my thinking that Addenbrooke’s offers care and help to people of all ages, shapes and sizes with all ailments and injuries, needing the most advanced care and equipment, and it is up to us, as members of the public, to offer our time to help – whether it’s an afternoon a week or two days a year – every little counts! To be able to transfer my skills which I use in my day to day work to a real life project for a charity was extremely rewarding and I hope to be able to offer my time again soon.
Alison, our Managing Director, reminisces on the PR industry and how it has changed over the years.
Screening of the new Absolutely Fabulous movie (or Ab Fab as many of us would know it) has prompted an indulgent reflection on the past 20-plus years of the PR industry and the changes therein. Based loosely on well-known characters in the PR agency world at the time, as well as the supposed antics of members of Bananarama, the series, while painting a caricature of the industry, points to some of the reasons why the PR industry developed a few of the less savoury elements of its reputation through the 80s and 90s.
The jocundity of Eddie and Patsy’s world seems a ridiculous parody of a serious industry that generates many billions of dollars worldwide, in fact some $14bn at the last count. So how representative of the reality of those times is Ab Fab?
Imagine for a minute the challenge of media relations without the internet, email or social media. The importance of face-to-face contact and strong personal relationships with journalists still can’t be underestimated but in those days, when the telephone, Royal Mail and an unreliable fax machine were the only forms of remote communication, the long-lunch had a very important purpose, for both PRs and journalists. It signalled the chance for PR people to build and maintain valuable working relationships (and friendships) that would reap benefits for their clients; and, for the journalists, the chance to get several good news stories for their pages (remember it was only print in those days!) in one meeting. Editorial teams were larger and journalists were expected to spend more time out of the office than they are afforded today. Press releases arrived by post, and would have to be re-typed of course, ready for laying out on the page, so a story gathered first hand and typed straight from a journalist’s short-hand notes was much more efficient. Also, of course, they were more likely to get a valuable scoop after a few Spritzers!
The long liquid lunches of old are well and truly gone now, and the work-hard-play-hard ethos that was undoubtedly true of the time, is no longer expected or accepted, even in the still colourful fashion PR agencies of today. 20 years ago, young PRs were expected to work long hours, for little reward, so ‘happy hour’ at the local wine bar was a well-deserved break from the graft, as well as a good team bonding and contact sharing opportunity – no email, intranet or Slack in those days! We still work very hard, and often days are long in PR agencies, but we undoubtedly have more emphasis on employee welfare and achieving a work-life balance.
In the early 90s it was very possible to get a foot in the door of an agency without a degree – with no more than a word processor, scissors, Tippex and a Pritt Stick, all executives had an assistant or secretary and this was a really great way to get in, learn the ropes and work your way up, fast, if you were prepared to put the hours in. Jane Horrock’s satirical character, Bubble, is far from the reality of the hard-work and commitment required of these people, although there were undoubtedly a few twin-setted-Sloanes for whom the day-to-day reality didn’t quite match the imagined glamour of the industry.
In the 90s, for obvious reasons, it was useful to be close to the major media houses, most of which were London based. Today there is no advantage to being geographically close to Fleet Street or Southwark Street but there remains an element of misplaced client ego associated with ‘having’ a London agency. In the 80s and 90s, agencies were expected to regularly entertain their clients, who would often travel to London for the occasion; while the agency’s creative input and black book of contacts were deemed valuable, so was the quality and quantity of alcohol they provided and claimed on client expense sheets – this was, after all, part of what the client was paying for, wasn’t it?
So, while we look back fondly on the shoulder-padded, big-haired, chain smoking, heavy drinking, air-kissing, “Darling” days, we are nonetheless glad they are long gone, and the industry’s reputation has moved on to something far more professional and strategic BUT this doesn’t mean it’s no fun anymore! It just means the fun is maybe less damaging to your health! There are still many big characters in our industry, it’s still a great career to choose and, at Conscious Communications, our wheels are still on fire!
Our Content and Communications Manager, Hannah, takes a look at Roget’s Thesaurus and its importance.
Anyone involved in writing on a regular basis will probably be familiar with the feeling of knowing what it is that you want to say, but struggling to identify the particular word that will allow you to accurately communicate the precise meaning that you have in mind.
Enter Peter Mark Roget and his ‘Thesaurus’. In 1805, Roget was a young doctor who spent a lot of time lecturing and who, feeling the need to improve his powers of expression but unable to grasp the appropriate word in any sort of timely manner, devised his own instrument to help him to do so. Initially referred to as a ‘classed catalogue of words’, this became the first thesaurus.
To those of us whose natural instinct for locating an alternative word would be to turn to an online thesaurus, we would expect to type in the word or words that we can recall, which are close to the word we are looking for but are not quite right, and the thesaurus will provide us with a multitude of alternative suggestions.
But let’s consider for a moment how this same process would have worked in Roget’s day – i.e. pre-Internet. When searching online, thesaurus.com (based on Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition) will present you with a page of words that are associated with the word you have entered. In print, this functionality is not an option. For instance, with a printed dictionary, we all know that you have to flick through the pages alphabetically to find the word that you are searching for and to read the description and variations of the word in question. However, whereas with a dictionary each word requires its own listing (as multiple words are never likely to mean precisely the same thing), a thesaurus does not index its entries alphabetically.
To list each of the entries of a thesaurus alphabetically would mean that each of the words would be reproduced many times – as many times as the word has synonyms. By repeating and reproducing these lists, using each and every word as a heading in its own right, the thesaurus would become enormous – physically – taking up significantly more space than a dictionary. By doing so, the ‘user experience’ (as we often now label this), would not be very positive and would no doubt deter many individuals from using a thesaurus at all.
In Roget’s day, using only paper and pen to keep on top of his growing encyclopaedia of words, he therefore needed to devise a system of categorising words into topics, so that each word only needed to be listed once – allowing many more words to be featured within the restricted confines of a printed reference.
Roget devised a method which groups all of the featured vocabulary under topic ‘heads’, for instance, ‘resentment’. The topic heads are then categorised further – for instance the verb ‘resent’ and the adjective ‘resentful’, under which people can find alternative suggestions for their particular requirements, e.g. anger (n), get angry (v) or angry (adj).
In the Conscious Communications office we boast a well-used, dog-eared, front-cover-less edition of Roget’s Thesaurus from 1966 (that, if you are interested to know, cost £1.75 new), which features 990 topic ‘heads’ – more modern editions may well feature more topic ‘heads’ to incorporate new trends in language as well as new topics (the Internet itself no doubt requiring new topics to be devised).
So does our team prefer to use our well-loved hard copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, or the online thesaurus.com? In the 21st century, we are afforded the best of both worlds; when we’re out and about we are able to search online for that phenomenal phrase that we can’t quite put our finger on, without missing a beat, and when we’re in the office we like to take a little more time to leaf through the hard copy to locate the exact language required. Either way, you are likely to find us singing the praises of Roget’s Thesaurus!
Facebook competitions are a great way to increase engagement with your fans or create a buzz around a new product. Although it may seem like everyone knows how to run a Facebook competition, there is a lot to consider before going live. The team at Conscious Communications gives you our top tips to ensure your Facebook competition is effective – and also legal and adheres to Facebook’s own competition rules:
Whatever type of competition you choose to run make sure, as with all other social media marketing activity, that it is authentic, engaging, relevant, and fun for your followers!
Guest post by Kirsty T., work experience student from St Mary’s School, Cambridge
Emojis made their debut appearance in to the digital world in Japan in 1999, on some of the very first mobile platforms. The Telegraph went as far as to describe emojis as being “the fastest growing form of language in history”. The concept behind these icons is to be able to convey a message or an emotion through symbols, without having to use words. Emojis are universal, so as long as you have the appropriate device, anyone can understand them. As a result of this rapid change in communication, an opportunity has arisen for marketing experts to consider the use of emojis in marketing. Brands such as McDonalds, Ikea and Chevrolet are some of the first to lead the way by using emojis as a basis for branding their products or within advertising campaigns. Among the apparent triumph of these icons within the world of marketing, there are also many critics who appear to be sceptical about their effectiveness.
The first complication is that the meaning of an advert that uses emojis could be ambiguous if recipients are not using a suitable device that allows the recipient to view the emoji as intended. In some cases, if viewers cannot view the message as intended, the advert might not have the desired effect on a proportion of the target market. This could lead to the brand being seen as being too exclusive, if only smartphone or tablet users can access the content, which can have a negative effect on the product’s image. The digital era is relatively new and, for many who have not grown up with technology as a part of daily life, the use of emojis in marketing campaigns may prove to be too challenging to decipher.
On the contrary, there do seem to be numerous reasons as to why the use of emojis within marketing has been so successful in raising the status of a brand or product. First, emojis have proven themselves as a useful tool in increasing one’s popularity on social media; positive emojis are perceived as fun and upbeat. In a recent study Simo Tchokni of the University of Cambridge said “there is a strong link between emoticon use and social power”. The positive link associated with emojis can be used within a marketing strategy to make products appear upbeat and accessible. The fact that these icons are so universally understood, across linguistic and cultural demographics, means that campaigns will no longer have to be tailored to suit different audiences, widening marketers’ target markets and the potential number of consumers they are able to access through one campaign. It is also worth noting that emojis represent innovative and forward thinking, as they work in tandem with the ever expanding digital era. Therefore, when linked with marketing campaigns, the products also appear to be equally advanced and modern, which in turn develops their reputation.
It is of course reasonable to suggest that there are some contexts in which it might seem inappropriate to use emojis, in particular when discussing topics of an important or sensitive nature that need to be communicated conscientiously. But there are also many circumstances within marketing when it is relevant to use emojis to convey a message. The most important point when using emojis in marketing, as is the case with all marketing activity, is to note who your target audience is and whether the message will be interpreted in a positive way that will deliver success for your client.
Having a presence at a trade show or exhibition – whether as an exhibitor, sponsor, or visitor – can provide valuable opportunities to generate leads, showcase your brand or product, and network with potential customers, colleagues, and even competitors.
Of the three, exhibiting is likely to take up the most time and manpower – so it’s vital that you ensure maximum impact is achieved. The ultimate goal of exhibiting at a trade show should be to ensure that visitors remember your business, or product, at the end of a full day of taking in information and resisting sales pitches!
So, how do you get noticed in a space that is saturated by other businesses, and sometimes competitors, all trying to stand out? Conscious Communications is here to provide some of the top ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of exhibiting, to ensure that next time you exhibit, you will be a show pro.
These tips, although simple, will make a lot of difference to how you are perceived by visitors at an exhibition. The most important thing to remember is that, when you are manning a stand, you are representing the business; it’s up to you to create a memorable impression (for the right reasons) for visitors – otherwise you’re unlikely to generate a warm lead.
Exhibiting at events is hard work – the hours are long and you are often on your feet all day without a break – standards can easily start to slip. Be aware of the following trade show faux pas to make sure your business is being remembered for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones:
But don’t just take our word for it – try these simple tips next time your exhibit and see for yourself!