The four-year itch?
Hannah and Sophie started at Conscious Communications in the Summer of 2014. Four years on, they explain why they haven’t got the four-year itch.
Year one – July 2015
Hannah and Sophie: One of the highlights of our first year was working on a project for Cambridge Science Centre, which seemed bonkers at the time, and only became more so as the project went on. We were tasked with launching the Centre’s new “Cosmic” exhibition, through what turned out to be the wackiest PR stunt we have worked on to date: launching the world’s first Fitzbillies’ bun fuelled rocket-powered punt down the River Cam. To promote the launch event, we ran around the streets of Cambridge interviewing members of the public for reactions to the news. We also ventured to the Railway Cottages, Milton Keynes, to capture the ‘Puntanaut’ in test mode – never had we been in such close proximity of a rocket. Watch the videos we created below:
This project was a great introduction to the fun, creative side of public relations, and is definitely one of the highlights from our first year at Conscious Communications, as well as both working with a number of clients across education and hospitality.
Year two – July 2016
S: In my second year, I was extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to lead on a new client account, International Baccalaureate (IB). This was my first experience of doing something at work that felt really meaningful. While I didn’t have a particular appreciation of education when I was younger, working on this account opened my eyes to the impact that education has on young people. It really can change lives. I was (and remain) so motivated to work with clients like IB because I truly believe that we can make a difference to people’s life chances – if I can get one more school to adopt the IB’s programmes, or one more child to attend an IB World School, then I feel like I have done a good thing.
H: From first starting at Conscious Communications I was seconded for part of each week into an independent school in Cambridge. Over the first year I was mainly responsible for managing the school’s external communications – social media, news stories, weekly parent newsletters, and the school’s website. In my second year I began to write features for magazines and press releases for media, and to work with the Head on producing topical blogs. It was this element, writing opinionated pieces about topical news and longer-term issues within the education sector, that really grew my passion for education and my understanding of how pivotal schooling is in everyone’s lifelong well-being. This opportunity to improve my writing skills and develop my confidence in my abilities was definitely a highlight of my year and I was chuffed when a new role in our team was created for me, as Content and Communications Manager.
Year three – July 2017
S: Does cheese grow on trees? According to UK school children, it does! The British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) Healthy Eating Week 2017 is still a highlight of my career to date and my time at Conscious Communications. It was the first campaign that I have worked on that went viral, achieving amazing media coverage for the BNF. We secured full national coverage – print, online and broadcast; it was my first experience of seeing our press release based on BNF survey results discussed on BBC Breakfast and Sky News, as well as securing a full-page piece of coverage in Times Educational Supplement (a personal triumph of mine!). Campaigns like this really give you the media relations “buzz”, with phones ringing off the hook as you try to coordinate multiple interviews in a short space of time, as well as supporting the client’s spokesperson in preparing for interviews.
H: As my time at the school continued I took on the role of editing the content for a number of publications – from 16-page topical magazines to the 150-page annual review. Both presented exciting new challenges. For the topical magazines, I was responsible for identifying what activities and achievements should be covered and which angles should be taken in teachers’ opinionated articles, and curating or ghostwriting the content in partnership with pupils and staff members. In both the shorter magazines and the annual review, I managed the process from start to finish – coaxing out the relevant information from different members of the community, drafting and editing copy, checking for consistency in language, style, terminology and design across early proofs of the entire publication – to create valuable and interesting publications. Enabling the school to showcase its uniqueness in depth, across a range of subjects and topics, and putting my pedantic nature to work on projects of this size, was personally really rewarding. Another highlight was having my writing feature in the Telegraph for the first time, and writing about difficult topics such as independent schools’ funding, schools’ responsibilities around children’s mental and physical well-being, and the real reasons for persisting inequality in both the workplace and the home.
Year four – July 2018
S: 10th anniversary; four days; 175 students; 48-hour games jam; 35 teams; eight countries; eight industry sponsors. My latest project, Brains Eden, presented a completely new field for me: event management… and games development! I couldn’t be prouder of what the team and I achieved for the festival: from securing industry sponsorship to running a full marketing and communications plan, designing all of the branding, and all of the logistical planning (down to ordering enough energy drinks and sugary snacks to keep the students going throughout the jam!) – it’s safe to say, events management is not for the faint-hearted but to hear stakeholders say this was the best year yet was fantastic. Although it’s now over for another year, the upside is that our office looks much bigger again without all the swag!
H: Year four has been the year of change. No longer seconded to the school, I have been writing for a much wider client base. Still working within education, I’ve loved writing on topics such as the importance of protecting arts education, making sport fun for everyone involved without sheltering children from competition, and schools who are doing an amazing job at prioritising language learning for all pupils in the face of increasing focus from government on league table performance for EBacc subjects. But in public relations, one of our skills is also being able to adapt – and a particular highlight for this year has been working with one of our newer clients, Repositive. Repositive is a tech start-up that has two unique platforms through which researchers worldwide can access the data, products and services they need to be able to drive drug development and discovery – offering a breadth and depth of indexing that has never previously been available – and supporting the team has offered excellent opportunities for me to create content on complex topics, for new audiences, while still working to start conversations that I feel really matter.
To the next four years!
Hannah and Sophie: So, do we have the four-year itch? It’s safe to say that, if the next four years offer us the same variety of projects and clients as we have been given responsibility for over the last four years, we certainly do not! Having both joined the company as conscientious but fairly shy people, in four years we have grown in confidence and firmly established our areas of strength and expertise. We are really grateful for these opportunities, the fantastic relationships we have nurtured with our clients, and the work that we have achieved and take great pride in!
So if the last four years are anything to go by, we should be excited to see what the next four years will bring. And as we begin to embark on new projects with retail experience providers, new education initiatives, and upcoming Charity of the Year partnership with Cogwheel Trust – we certainly are.