Tag Archives: PR

Gender, LGBT+ and BAME Diversity in Comms – review of csuite podcast 51

Show 51 of the csuite podcast discussed three important areas of diversity – Gender, LGBT+ and BAME.  My guests were therefore invited on to the show to be able to talk from their own experience or as ambassadors of one of those specific areas and included:

Gender Equity and Balance + Confidence

A lot of Lisa blogs that she shares on her LinkedIn profile are about giving confidence to young girls and women in business too.  One of those posts was about the annual Girls 20 Summit that she recently attended in Munich, where the organisation is committed to cultivating the next generation of female leaders, through education, training and by providing global experience to increase female labour force participation.

It was held in advance of the main G20 summit and was attended by women aged 18-23, from 20+ countries including Russia, Lebanon and India where women’s rights are challenged. However, Lisa wrote in one of her blogs that even though it was the attendees were accomplished female delegates, most of the women still felt that they didn’t know how to network, or how to engage in a conversation about the best way to discuss their projects, and how to ask for their support in getting them off the ground and so she said that to witness their uneasiness and lack confidence was really disheartening to her. She therefore believes it extremely important to discuss both the cultural and structural barriers that exist for women to be successful in pursuing what it is that hey aspire to, but also for women who hold senior leadership positions to engage in this conversation and serve as role models to young women.

Iain added that he recently sat on a conference panel that Cicero hosted, at the time of International Women’s Day, and he believes that you can’t have a conversation about women without men, nor can you have a conversation about men without women, as it’s important to be balanced.  However, he felt it would have been wrong for him to chair the conversation because he feels that if men are always chairing the conversation, men inevitably want to talk about what men want to talk about!  But what did strike him at the time was that one of the delegates there, a high powered women who had been in the workplace for around 20-25 years, said that ‘girls put their hands up a lot more in the workplace about 20-25 years ago and that a lot of women have not wanted to put their hands up for those confidence reasons’.

This issue of confidence was a common theme.  For example, Sarah said that one of the reasons there is such a lack of ethnic diversity in PR is because they are not aspiring to work in the industry and she said it’s something the Foundation thinks about in terms of who is there to aspire to be – if you can’t see someone that looks like you, how can you aspire to be like that? Therefore to have a level of success, Sarah said you need the motivation to join an industry where you may not be represented and to do that takes a certain level of confidence.

Toni agreed with the role models example although she does feel it depends on background as she was able to gain her confidence quite early but generally, she thinks that anyone would feel uncomfortable in a room where people that don’t necessarily look like them or are talking about issues that they are not engaged with.

Edelman’s Global Women’s Executive Network (GWEN)

Lisa explained that GWEN was set up in 2011 with the objective is to increase the presence of women at the most senior level within Edelman, whilst also creating an environment where women are encouraged to lead and be successful. In 2011, 68% of the company’s employees were women, yet only 33% of the most senior positions were held by women – this has now risen 41% as of July 2017, although their goal is to reach a 50:50 gender split.

Edelman are focussing on three measurable areas to achieve this aim:

  1. Building a pipeline for executive recruitment
  2. Addressing unconscious bias that may exist through training
  3. Advancing their approach to senior level succession planning and career development

Whilst they are closing in on their 50% target, they originally wanted to achieve it within five years.  However, Lisa said it’s key to understand two things:

  1. What drives women to move up and stay at Edelman
  2. What impacts leaders to unconsciously select men over women

Lisa said it’s therefore important that they create an inclusive culture that allows for women, but also all employees, to successfully navigate their careers at the company.  She added that they also know from their employee data that often, many women in the middle of their careers, make a conscious decision to have more family time and so at Edelman they don’t want it to be an either/or proposition between their career and their family, which is why they are starting to adapting their HR policies accordingly, for example, by extending maternity leave time, offering more flexible working options and allowing women to work from home.

Women in Finance Charter

The issue of Gender Diversity and Inclusion is also high on Cicero’s agenda too and in fact, at the time of recording, they were the only comms company in the City of London to have signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, which commits companies to supporting the progression of women into senior roles.  Iain believes that companies should be held to a more public test as to whether or not companies are doing what they aspire to be doing and said that it’s important to him to ensure that women have more of a voice ‘at the table’.


In Iain’s new role is as an ambassador for Stonewall, he was recently quoted in an article in the Telegraph that was reporting on a 2016 study by Credit Suisse that said that 72% of US LGBTQ senior executives have not come out at the office, yet over six years, those companies that had an inclusive approach to staff outperformed their rivals by 3%, where Iain said “Start-ups and established SMEs are often better able to create dynamic and open atmospheres than their larger counterparts. They tend to be younger, with less ‘old’ traditional entrenched views and cultures to weed out”. However, Iain added a further worrying statistic that two thirds of people that come out at university, go back in closet for their first job. He explained that it’s easier for bosses at SMEs to set the tone that at larger older organisations.

Lisa added there is so much data that supports the fact that those companies who are diverse and inclusive actually deliver stronger business results. She said that following the launch of GWEN, Edelman have also established some employee networks that represent all groups focussed on LGBTQ, Black and Latino communities as well as for Veterans and their families.  She also added that they are seeing a trend where a number of their global clients, such as HP and Unilever, are recognising the important of diversity inclusion and are expecting their agency partners to be diverse in their composition so as to better reflect their customers and who they are ultimately targeting, so that Edelman are bringing forward communications marketing programming that is reflective of their customer base.


Sarah explained that the Taylor Bennett Foundation was set up in 2007 and is best known for the programme that Toni graduated from, which is a 10-week programme that takes six black and ethnic graduates and gives them the skills, knowledge, experience and social capital they need to succeed in a career in the comms industry. Toni actually explained that it’s an intense programme and that if you are not self-motivated and driven, it will be very hard for you to get through the ten weeks.

Sarah added that by the end of 2017, they would have had 170 graduates go through the programme and over 70% of those now work in the communications industry.  She also said that there is a strong business case for ethnic diversity.  She referred to a 2015 McKinsey ‘Why diversity matters’ report, which talked about companies that are more gender diverse being 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians and that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to do the same. But she also asked how PR agencies can talk to a range of audiences when it’s not represented in their workforce.


Iain said that 5 years ago he would have said no to quotas in business and that people should get a role on merit before anything else.  However, he has seen the boardroom debate, and how Government has put pressure on corporates to do something beyond talking about it and he has now changed his mind! He feels there is real demand for diversity – for example, if he puts on a panel that is not sufficiently diverse to generate a conversation, people are voting with their feet. He feels that quotas are therefore needed for a while to help push through the balance.

Lisa whole heartedly agreed. She said that given lack of progress in diversity in the workplace, quotas need to be established and that in Canada, where no legislation exists, 46% of the companies that are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange have no women sitting on their boards.  Therefore, she feels that if companies are not addressing the lack of women on their boards on their own, then government intervention is needed.

Sarah recommended listeners read the CIPR’s ‘Impact of quotas and targets on diversity’ report and one by Ruby Macgregor-Smith on ‘Race in the workplace’, where the recommendations were that companies should have aspirational targets on diversity over five years, that are measured each year and she fully supports this. However, she feels that there is resistance in UK amongst the HR community against quotas.

Whilst Toni agreed to what was said, at the same time, she didn’t like to be seen as just a number. She feels that the business case for diversity should be strong enough for companies to integrate different recruitment techniques and training and perhaps helping some of those white straight men within the company to understand that they might have certain cultural biases and why that might be the reason the workforce is not diverse.

International Business

A real challenge for businesses is when they are working with international clients and have to visit their offices for a meeting or a pitch in a country that doesn’t share quite the same values as we do when it comes to gender, sexuality or ethnicity, and this is something Iain wants to get involved in with Stonewall but he said if we’re honest with ourselves, in certain territories, the client and money comes before the issues like those he cares passionately about, i.e., LGBTQ,  but he does see reason for hope as companies are being advised not to do business in those territories as it will do them damage.  He therefore thinks investor power will move some of these issues on really quickly.

Lisa added that as a global business, Edelman also have a responsibility to speak up about diversity and inclusion and so if they are presented with an opportunity with a prospect whose values are not aligned with their own, they will evaluate it, and if there is a misalignment they will not pursue the work.

Campaign Links

We finished off by offering each of my guests to plug the campaigns they are working on:

Sarah – It’s the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s 10th anniversary and they hope to raise £50K by the end of year. This will allow them to expand out of London.  Donations can be given via their website or JustGiving.

Iain – He was proud to have recently become a mentor for OUTStanding, told us to look out for some fresh campaigning from Stonewall, and wants to see more communications firms to sign up to Women in Finance.

Lisa – She said that according to a study by EgonZehnder, only 54% of women have access to female leaders who can act as mentors or informal sponsors of their careers, so Edelman have launched Opportunity Talks, an internal programme as part of GWEN that allows junior female employees to learn from the senior women at Edelman.

Final Word

I left the final word to Toni who offered listeners some advice if they are starting out in their careers. She felt that it is most important to have a good support system when starting out and a good mentor. She said to stay connected and build your social capital as it is important to remember there is value in the people around you and finally, to read, stay curious and be engaged in things that are happening around you as it’s important and a huge advantage to have an understanding of the fact that you are not the only one living this life and that there are other people in different parts of the world who are dealing with different things.

Thanks to Broadcast Specialists markettiers for hosting us, recording the show and patching Lisa in from Toronto

Thanks also to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the show too – please visit carma.com to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunesTuneIn and Stitcher.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on iTunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The Authenticity Gap – review of the csuite podcast Show 50

My 50th episode of the csuite podcast was sponsored by FleishmanHillard Fishburn as we discussed the UK findings in the latest release of their Authenticity Gap Report, the third time they had carried out the study since 2013.

I started the show by chatting with FHF’s CEO for UK & Middle East, Jim Donaldson who introduced the report.

Chatting with FHF's CEO for UK & Middle East, Jim Donaldson

With FHF’s CEO for UK & Middle East, Jim Donaldson

Jim explained that to create the report, consumers were asked what their experience is of dealing with a brand as well as what their expectations are. The respondents are what FHF class as engaged consumers, so they are not necessarily the same people being asked all the questions across all sectors – they have to have been users of those services in question.  Their expectations are then measured against their experiences across nine drivers of reputation, which can be split into three areas:

Management Behaviours

  1. Doing right
  2. Consistence performance
  3. Credible communications

Customer Benefits

  1. Better value
  2. Customer care
  3. Innovation

Society Outcomes

  1. Employee care
  2. Community impact
  3. Care of the environment

The results were plotted at both industry level and company level and the Authenticity Gap is the difference between experience and expectation. FHF have carried out the research in the US, Canada, China, Germany and the UK.

Jim said that the main aim for any client is to understand what the customer is looking for and whether they are meeting those expectations, but also where communications fits in. He used the example of the Automotive sector, where he said that expectation of how car companies care for environment massively outweighs what the sector is doing and so whilst those organisations may feel they are communicating about those issues, they are not meeting the expectation of their customers.  They therefore need to rethink what they are doing in that space.

The aim for those companies reading the report is to not only know if they are meeting customer expectations but also how they can then differentiate themselves.  They can use the data to see where the gaps are and how they can improve and put together a more comprehensive communications package.

The report also looks into the credibility of the people delivering the corporate messages and Jim is passionate about using employees as a message carrier, something he feels is underutilised. Companies are beginning to ensure their workforce represent them well, ensuring they are engaged, but Jim says this can be taken a step further, by making those people real ambassadors for your brand, adding that how companies look after their employees is an important driver of reputation.

For the main part of the podcast, I was joined by FHF’s EMEA Reputation Management Lead, Nick Andrews and Steph Bailey, Managing Director, Corporate Communications as well as Simon English, Senior City Correspondent of the London Evening Standard.

L-R: Steph Bailey, me, Nick Andrews and Simon English

L-R: Steph Bailey, me, Nick Andrews and Simon English

We kicked off the discussion by asking what companies need to do to convince journalists like Simon that they are authentic and trustworthy.  Simon response was simple – they need to take it seriously.  He used the example of BT’s pension deficit problems as he felt that BT were not authentic when this was first reported, that they were just trying to ‘shove things through’, and hadn’t thought about the fact that some journalists would have known what the company had said in the past. Simon added that BT got ‘bashed’ by the media because, in his opinion, they simply didn’t tell the truth about the fact that they have a very serious problem or in explaining what are they going to do about it.    His impression is that companies have internal meetings about the messages they are going to put out, but do not think enough about who is recieveing it.  Naturally, Nick’s response was that this doesn’t happen if those companies are well advised, but Simon said his job as a journalist is to remember what big companies, like BT, would rather we’d forgotten!

In reviewing the report, Steph said that of the nine drivers, Credible Communications scored very low – people  either don’t believe what companies are saying or fundamentally do not think they are being authentic. She also picked up on the the fact that value is still an important driver for people too and whilst that is obviously about feeling the product you get is worth the money you invest in it, the driver is also about what the company is doing around that value, i.e., their investment in the local community or the fact that they are investing in their employees. However, Steph said that there is an overwhelming sense of disappointment – despite what businesses are saying externally, customers are still seeing the bad behaviours coming through, which could be big companies not investing in their employees, or having a lack of attention to purpose and community

Nick explained that different sectors have different key drivers, for example in the Tech industry innovation is the key driver – there is a huge expectation for innovation but no companies meet this.

Example page from FHF's Authenticity Gap Report

Example page from FHF’s Authenticity Gap Report

However, despite the disappointments in the expectations, the results in the report didn’t surprise Simon. He questioned why companies over promise as he feels it’s surely better to under promise and over deliver. Simon believes that by over promising, it seems that businesses are setting themselves up to fail. In fact, Steph said that she is often advising companies to dial down some of their communications where it is not authentic to what they can actually deliver, as she believes it is better to be honest and say what you are doing well. With The Authenticity Gap, Steph can go to a company and tell them which of the drivers are most important to their customers. This way, their message should become about those specific drivers.

Simon would just like to see companies keep it short and tell us the truth but Nick thinks the reason companies try and over claim is because they are desperately trying to differentiate themselves in places where differentiation is increasingly difficult.

In trying to see where some sectors could learn from others, we compared the Banking sector, which the report suggested has little care for customers, with the Hotel sector, that scored highly for experience.

Nick said that the hotel industry has had to go down the customer care route as there is a lot of competition – the barriers to entry in the industry is reasonably low, whereas the barriers to entry in retail banking is quite high – you don’t get many new retail banks.  He therefore thinks there is complaceny in banking in relationship to the customer.  He added that you are three times more likely to leave your partner than you are to change bank, which is why they spend so much money trying to get you in early, as if they do that, there is a good chance they have you for life!

Simon added to this as he said that he has recently been staying at Premier Inn Hotels, and has found that the hotels now know his pattern of behaviour, what he likes and dislikes etc. But his bank, that he has been with for 25 years, acts like each time he contacts them is the first time, that they don’t seem to know him, even though they 25 years of data about him.

Hotels were in fact the best performing sector in terms of Customer Care, but there was still a big Authenticity Gap, so perhaps expectations set too high.

In explaining how expectations can impact a brand, Nick and Steph gave the example of Ryan Air, that Steph believes does so well because it promises so little, compared to British Airways, that she said is struggling because the expectations are higher.  Nick believes a customer could have the same experience on both airlines, but the expectations are higher for BA, so they will not score as well.

It’s not all doom and gloom though as it is possible for customers to have high expectations that are met!  For example, Simon feels that Amazon and Charles Tyrwhitt always deliver what they promise.

Nick highlighted the fact that what companies need to look at from this report is why, in a crowded market, why people should pick them over the alternative, He therefore recommended looking at the three sets of drivers, which he explained that they are not weighted equally.  For example, Customer Benefits are weighter higher but are always less than half the weighting, so the other six combined are always greater in terms of their impact.  Therefore you may be spending most of your marketing budget saying what fantastic customer benefits you bring, but there are six other drivers that are often largely ignored, yet those, according to Nick, are aften the ways in which you can be understood to be different.

Another sector that we looked at was the Energy industry, which has a huge Authenticity Gap within the Care of Environment section, which Nick believes is because the industry doesn’t talk about itself in ways people can relate too. He said that opening up the energy market, meaning that consumers can get their energy from many places, created an advertising war, but that’s meant that all the messaging has been around providing a service and managing how you use your energy, to the detriment of talking about what energy companies are for, how they make their money and the difficulties in achieve that.  Relating it back to what Simon discussed about BT not talking about the nature of the problem they had regarding their pension deficit, Nick said that companies dont like to talk about the fact that business is often quite hard, that there are hard choices to be made and are often wrestling with some quite serious problems.  He said that they dont like to talk about it because somehow that suggests weakness and difficulty. However, his view is that often, if you don’t explain to people why things are hard, then you get no credit for overcoming them when you do, because people just assume it was easy.

Simon’s advice to companies is to simply talk about themselves more succinctly and not over complicate their message. He used Waitrose as an example as he said they tried to say that they could be as cheap as Asda, but questioned why they would say it and fight that battle.  IN his opinion, Waitrose is where you when you can afford it, ro for snob value or as a treat because you want some nice food and so he couldn’t understand why they were complicating their message.   He believes they should concentrate on a different message such as the fact that the company is owned by its employees.

To sum up, I asked my three guests for one bit of advice based on what we’d been discussing:

Simon: “When he goes on lunches and has a glass of wine with a company leader, he often thinks they are ok people!  So he said they should be more like that when representing their companies – not stiff and awkward but more real and authentic.”

Nick: “Companies need to take the time to understand their reputation.  Look at the nine drivers and see how your company is doing against them.”

Steph: “Companies need to look beyond the executive leadership, allow the employees to tell the story becuase they are more likely to be believed and interesting.”

The Executive Summary of FleishmanHillard Fishburn’s UK Authenticity Gap report is now available, and you can request a copy of the full report, which includes industry data as well as the full list of companies surveyed by emailing authenticitygap@fhflondon.co.uk

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes, TuneIn and Stitcher.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Conversation2Commerce – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with MLSGroup and Coty

Interview starts at 24:41

In the final part of my third csuitepodcast from Cannes Lions, I spoke to Guillaume Herbette, Global CEO of MSLGroup and Marie-Pierre Stark-Flora, Global SVP of Philosophy at Coty about Augmented Influence and Purpose Driven Marketing.

Chatting with MSL's Guillaume Herbette and Marie-Pierre Stark-Flora, of Coty

Chatting with MSL’s Guillaume Herbette and Marie-Pierre Stark-Flora, of Coty

MSL describe Conversation2Commerce (C2C) as a global influence-to-impact performance platform and a new way of driving sales.  Guillaume said it’s about taking a piece of media or content such as an article, blog or video, and transforming it into an ad unit, through the use of the platform, which can then be put in front of the right target [audience] at the right time and in the right place, which enables you to measure the impact, either in terms of reputation, brand lifting or sales. MSL launched the platform in September 2016 and Guillaume said that since that time have been testing it across world with amazing results. He explained that it is data driven, with the right data, something he didn’t think traditional PR companies had much access to, and why MSL had a partnership with Publicis Media and in particular one of their group companies, Performics that deals with performance marketing.

Marie-Pierre commented that the partnership has worked well.  She said that Coty were an early adopter of the platform and for her, it is a holy grail for the brand. She believes this for a number of reasons as it:

  • closes the loop from earned media and influence to purchase
  • improves ROI and monetises earned media
  • is a genuine non-branded message that doesn’t look like the brand is pushing information of sales in the direction of the consumer – she said that consumers respond less and less when brands are openly trying to influence their purchase pattern
  • accelerates the number steps to purchase, bringing consumers to purchase faster

Guillaume believes that influence has never been more important.  He said that in the past, the brand marketers didn’t think highly of traditional PR campaigns as they felt that they have a short shelf life and it was difficult to know who was reading the newspaper and it was impossible to measure the impact of a PR campaign. However, the power of influence is changing with use of data, enabling us to measure its impact very precisely. He added that due to a recent test, the retail investment of influence is now 7 to 10 times higher and so they now define the use of influence of data, technology and measurement as Augmented Influence.

Talking through a recent small test of MSL’s C2C platform, Marie-Pierre said that in four US states, the earned media ad units were more efficient than traditional online media, with a 36% higher CTR than the benchmark.  However, they also saw the campaign drive 42,000 women to offline stores in three weeks, which she said for a small scale test was amazing. Therefore the cost per visit was 2.5 to 4.5 times lower than their benchmark, allowing them to bring so many more women to the Coty brand for much less budget.

Finally, Marie-Pierre also talked about emotional influence and the fact that Coty have three infuences on women’s life:

  • make them look good with their products
  • feel good with the philosophies that are written on the packaging to lift their spirits and self worth
  • do good, as 1% of their purchases goes to the company’s ‘Hope and Grace’ initiative, which supports women’s mental health.

In fact, Philosophy recently launched PSA called ‘How are you really’ to tie in with National Mental Health month and help create a conversation between those living with mental health issues and those who want to support them.

More information on this initiative can be found at the Hope & Grace website

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Young Lions PR – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with the Judges and Bronze Winners

Interview starts at 14:35

In part two of my third csuitepodcast from Cannes Lions, I spoke with the three judges of the Young Lions PR Competition, Blair Metcalfe from MSLGroup, Candace Kuss of H+K Strategies and James Hacking from BlueCurrent, plus the winners of the Bronze award, Estefani Solorzano and Christian Gomez of Comunidad CR [the competition’s Gold was won by the Hungarian team of Luca Hadnagy and Paloma Madina from HPS Experience].

L-R: Blair, Russ, Candace, Estefani, James and Christian

L-R: Blair, Russ, Candace, Estefani, James and Christian

James said that in total, this year’s Young Lions competition attracted 468 entries from 69 counties across 7 categories.

Teams of two from different agencies who had previously won their individual country rounds are given just 24 hours to answer a brief set by a non-profit organisation, and they have to come back and pitch their ideas to the judges.  The PR category was supported by The International Communications Consultancy Organisation, and had entries from 24 countries.

Candace said that it was amazing that the teams who had won their country rounds had come to Cannes from around the world, some as far as China, to compete against each other, and that being on the jury was very insightful because as judges, they learned a lot from the finalists as well as the finalists learning from the experience.

This year’s brief had come in from the British Red Cross.  It’s aim was to raise attention for ‘silent emergencies’, things that happen every day that, for whatever reason, are not necessarily picked up by the mainstream media like a natural disaster or a famine might, yet they account for about 9 out of 10 issues.  James said that judging was very challenging as the quality was extremely high and once they had narrowed it down, they had difficulty placing the winners.

Bronze winners, Estefani and Christian, had made the trip to Cannes Lions from their agency in Costa Rica and they said it was a huge honour to be there, adding that the experience of winning was overwhelming and that they are still trying to get used to it.

Explaining their idea, Christian said that their campaign started by discussing why people did not help with silent emergencies and that people are not able to respond to things they do not hear about.  From here, they decided to invent the idea of a simple hearing test, like the standard test you are given, where you tap when you hear the sound frequency, but for this campaign, when the noise passed below the 20 Hz human listening barrier, instead of not being able to hear anything, you started to hear the stories of those people who experienced silent emergences – the idea being now that you can hear them, you can help them.

This was the first year that the PR category for the Young Lions competition had been included in Costa Rica and so Estefani and Christian felt very proud to have won bronze, plus it gave hem the reassurance that they are on the right career path. Christian said that the entire process does put pressure on you but part of that pressure means that at some point you must believe in your idea and go with it, even with the language barrier, where when he speaks in English a fundamental part of what he is trying to say may not come across, as you just hope it will be as understood across the world.

Candace said that the top five of six entries were the ones that got the judges ‘in the gut’!  They were the most memorable. Many were visual, simple and impactful ideas that paid attention to the target audience well.

For Blair, the benefits of the competition are obvious.  He said that it means that your agency’s young talent is not only showcased at Cannes but also can improve and be supported.  He added that it is great coming together and sharing creative ideas with like-minded individuals but it also helps the competition entrants understand the PR world a little better and that it’s therefore a great benefit for their personal progress, their career progress but also great for their agencies too.

Finally, Christian and Estefani explained that the PR industry in Costa Rica is in its early stages and coming to Cannes is like a glimpse into the future for them. They want to harness what they have learnt and are looking forward to the next project.

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

China’s Age of Ambition – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with H+K Strategies

Interview starts at 10:09

Chatting with H+K Strategies’ Richard Millar (middle) and Simon Shaw (right)

In part two of the second csuitepodcast from Cannes Lions, for the second year running, I interviewed H+K Strategies’ Simon Shaw and Richard Millar who were presenting on the subject of ‘China’s Age of Ambition’ at the Festival the following day, alongside Glory Zhang, Consumer Business Group CMO of their client Huawei – a brand that has become the third biggest smartphone manufacturer in the World within five years.

When we spoke last year, Simon told the csuitepodcast that he was in Cannes with his clients from China who are ‘looking to move from a culture of making products to one of explaining why they are making those products’. He said that this journey is continuing and that their Chinese clients are focussing more on it now, i.e., the balance of telling the performance of the product but also their purpose – their reason to exist. He added that you have to balance those two elements depending on the market you are entering, so if it is a developing market, it might be more price sensitive and so perhaps you might talk more around the performance of the product or the value proposition, but as their clients move into more mature markets, they may need to explain to a slightly different consumer why they should choose their brand as well as their product.

Simon said that Chinese clients have speed, ambition and agility – they have a real want to learn and move quickly. He believes the culture is now totally client-centric and not just thinking they are, which is where their journey began.

Richard added that with all the brands they speak to in China, Cannes Lions is on all of their agendas as an event to be at – they aspire to be creatively excellent and if their work is recognised at Cannes, then it is one measure of their success.

Whilst China may have had a reputation for poor quality products in the past, Simon said that the truth is very different now, particularly if you look at younger consumers who have no pre-conceptions about the Chinese markets.  So whilst perhaps the slightly older generation may associate China with some of those stories from the past, the younger consumer look at China as an innovation powerhouse and a place to get amazing product.  Simon believes China is a fast follower, learning from the West, innovating and doing things quicker, better and at a better price.    Richard added that he has four children from 22 years of age down to nine and for them, China is cool and brands such as Huawei are on a parity with Apple and Samsung.

H+K has been working with Huawei for around three years and according to Simon, they share the same characteristics as other Chinese clients the agency works with across the Energy, Retail, Property and Entertainment sectors, i.e., a restlessness, wanting everything done at great speed and constant expectations for the best.

Simon and Richard’s message therefore to people in the West is to forget everything you thought you knew about China and to get wise to their brands, as we will be living with them for the next 100 years.

Whilst H+K Strategies have been writing a lot about working with the Chinese market, Simon and Richard believe it is best to experience it, which is why they have launched a the Shanghai Addition – pop up extension of their London office where they can rotate people through to see what it is like to work with Chinese companies. Simon explained that it is about two cultures learning and working together, which you need a right mind-set for.

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Terrorism Overseas: Managing the Unimaginable – csuitepodcast interview with TUI UK & Ireland

Some of what was discussed in this podcast was extremely sensitive, given we didn’t just talk about protecting corporate reputation, but in certain instances, we referenced events that had involved the loss of human life.  I therefore hope anyone who listens feels that it was handled appropriately.  As you can expect, everyone who I interviewed along with myself said the same in that our hearts go out to all the families and friends of all those victims of all the incidents discussed.  

Interview starts at 31:59

In the final interview of the csuitepodcast that I recorded at PR Week’s Crisis Communications Conference in London, I spoke with Fiona Jennings, External Communications Director for TUI UK & Ireland

Chatting with TUI UK & Ireland's Fiona Jennings

Chatting with TUI UK & Ireland’s Fiona Jennings

We opened the chat by discussing how the company coped with the event of 26th June 2015 after thirty-eight people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire on tourists staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse in Tunisia, thirty of whom were British citizens travelling with Thomson.

Fiona said that the situation was obviously overwhelming, which is why it is important to have a crisis plan in place, which has been practised and scenario planned against. As a large travel company that takes 5.5m people away [each year], Thomson has a lot of detailed plans and scenario crisis exercise four times a year and so are fairly well prepared.  However, she added that any crisis is unpredictable and so a plan needs to be flexible and agile.

Fiona explained that in the first few hours after an event, it is about understanding and verifying the facts that you can. You need to ensure what you are communicating is accurate and that it is carried out as speedily as possible, which she said can be challenging.

Fiona said that the rules in these situations are to:

  • Communicate with empathy – a crisis is never about the business, it is about the people it affects
  • Be transparent, authentic, believable and honest
  • Communicate as and when you can
  • Put the customer at the heart of everything

In a crisis over seas of the size of the one in Tunisia, Fiona said that it’s necessary to communicate with a number of different organisations, including The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Red Cross, Met Police, Counter Terrorism Police and the Emergency Services on the ground.

Another challenge TUI had to face in this instance was not just the returning home of customers who were holidaying in Tunisia, but they also had to manage the 70,000 thousand people that were booked to go out to the same country that summer. Fiona explained that the business needed a huge amount of time to reallocate flights and find hotel rooms for these customers. Very few people cancelled their holiday and instead rebooked somewhere else, so it was an enormous job to help everyone.

Due to a civil case against TUI, the specifics of this event could not be discussed in detail, but there were learnings that Fiona shared:

  • Put the customer at the heart of everything is key
  • Over-communicate, especially in the first 48 hours – tell everyone, externally and internally as much as you can
  • Ensure your senior leaders stand front and centre in a crisis and allow them to tell the story of the business, what is being done to help customers overseas and in the UK
  • Work with external partners in a coordinated way
  • Work with the media and gain their help – Fiona told of an example where they used the media to get the appropriate numbers out to help prioritise the huge volume of calls (over 30,000) that they received from holidaymakers.

Following the many recent terrorist attacks including, Paris, Nice, London, Manchester, Fiona thinks all businesses, not just the travel industry, will need to plan and train their staff to deal with this kind of crisis. She felt that, sadly, businesses will need to be aware how this type of attack could affect them and so unfortunately they will need to be prepared and train staff.

Fiona’s final message was to communicate with honesty and transparency and as one voice, but also to look after yourselves and your teams because you really need to work together in very stressful times.

This episode of the csuitepodcast was sponsored by Global Communications Training firm WPNT.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Crisis Communications Training – csuitepodcast interview with WPNT

Some of what was discussed in this podcast was extremely sensitive, given we didn’t just talk about protecting corporate reputation, but in certain instances, we referenced events that had involved the loss of human life.  I therefore hope anyone who listens feels that it was handled appropriately.  As you can expect, everyone who I interviewed along with myself said the same in that our hearts go out to all the families and friends of all those victims of all the incidents discussed.  

Interview starts at 26:37

In the third interview of the csuitepodcast that I recorded at PR Week’s Crisis Communications Conference in London, I spoke with Neil Chapman, Partner of Global Communications Training firm WPNT, who kindly sponsored the show.

Neil was actually a previous guest of the podcast when I last discussed Crisis Communications, back in Show 20, and so I started by asking him which organisations he felt had their crisis communication right and who had got it badly wrong over the last 12 months?

However, he didn’t want to give specific examples without knowing from the inside what’s happening.  He said he always has empathy with the responders, and whilst we see the headlines and social media chat, which generally are going to be critical, he knows that they would be facing pressures and challenges.  He therefore has sympathy for the responders in an organisation and seeing how they are handling the crisis communications.  According to Neil, in training, to gain long term success, it is not just about communicating effectively with the media, but also the right stakeholders.

WPNT specialise in the training on how to prepare to respond in a crisis and Neil explained that they like to break things down to different skills – it’s not just interviewing well, it is also stakeholders planning, organisational planning, managing press conferences, managing volumes of call, and structuring statements that the company is producing.

The other aspect is how social media plays out in a crisis.

WPNT have a proprietary closed system called ‘Storm’ that allows participants to take decisions, which they then see reflected in the system, which replicates real time social media, as well as the interaction between media and social media and other stakeholders. Neil’s experienced team then react to the decisions to show how this may play out in the public.

via WPNT

via WPNT

Neil said that if the participants are not big social media users, they don’t realise how fast the reaction could be or the interaction between the stakeholders they are trying to reach, i.e., customers, employees, investors and the mainstream media.

Therefore, Neil’s key message in terms of crisis communications training is that any organisation should understand what an effective response looks like to them, so that the team can then practise a specific set of skills to be effective and work towards it. For example, how do you lead a team while under stress with a seemingly fast ticking clock over you?  These are skills that are useful every day but essential in a crisis.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Importance of stakeholder engagement in crisis management – csuitepodcast interview with National Trust

Interview starts at 12:48

Please note, this particular interview was recorded before the awful events at Glenfell Tower.

Some of what was discussed in this podcast was extremely sensitive, given we didn’t just talk about protecting corporate reputation, but in certain instances, we referenced events that had involved the loss of human life.  I therefore hope anyone who listens feels that it was handled appropriately.  As you can expect, everyone who I interviewed along with myself said the same in that our hearts go out to all the families and friends of all those victims of all the incidents discussed.  

In the second interview of Show 44 of the csuitepodcast, that was sponsored by Global Communications Training firm WPNT and recorded at PR Week’s Crisis Communications Conference in London, I spoke with Nick Foley – Head of Communications for the National Trust.

with National Trust's Nick Foley (right)

with National Trust’s Nick Foley (right)

Nick talked through a case study on how the National Trust faced scrutiny after a devastating fire tore through the 18th Century mansion, Clandon Park, in April 2015.

Image via http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/clandon-park-fire-earl-onslow-10770361

Image via http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/clandon-park-fire-earl-onslow-10770361

This was a huge reputational challenge as the Trust exists to protect around 500 properties and places like this on behalf of the Nation forever, and so the fire struck at the heart of what they are there to do.

Nick told of the events of the fire, that broke out late afternoon and quickly spread from the basement to the roof and by the evening it was a blaze. This was all played out in front of media and onlookers.

It was therefore important that the National Trust owned the story and so wanted to ensure people came to their owned channels for information and updates, rather than relying on third parties.  They therefore focussed on using the power and reach of their own Trust members and supporters – they have over 4.5million members.

Nick can call on a team of around 10 people at headquarters to manage a situation like this, plus three regional communications officers. However, they also tapped into the expertise of the people on the ground, i.e. those leading salvage operation or who had rescued things from the fire.  They were all crucial in helping the Trust tell the story.

Since the drama of the fire, the National Trust has wanted to take people on the journey with them, keeping those interested updated throughout the process.

The first phase was the salvage operation, which takes 6 – 7 months, seeing what can be saved and restored. Next came the fire report, investigating what or who was to blame for the fire – it turns out it was due to a manufacturing fault in the fuse board.  Although, the report did also point out areas the Trust could have done better and as they were open about it, told their members how they were addressing these concerns.

The National Trust then announced its vision for the house. The ground floor was to be restored, as it had to some extent survived intact. However, as the first and second floor had been destroyed, they wanted to make this a more innovative and fresh modern community space that and so launched their plans in front of a large media audience in the original marble hall of the house in January 2016.   Nick said it was important to get the journalists back to the house to see for themselves that much more had survived than anyone could have possibly hoped for when the fire first took hold.

Nick shared four key lessons from the experience:

    • Be true to your values. It would have been easy, once the fire was over, to not say much. However, as a membership organisation, the National Trust wanted to be honest with the members, staying true to their principals to be open, honest and transparent, so as to ensure support from its members. A camera was set up opposite the site, so people could see what was happening live. They were also honest about their safety record and the processes involved, about the scale of devastation of the fire and how long the process would take. But they also knew that nothing beats actually seeing the situation and so they decided to open the gardens to the public only a few weeks after the fire, which resulted in about 3,500 turning up over a number of weekends to see what was happening.
    • Spotting the opportunity within the bad news. No one was injured in the fire as everyone was evacuated safely. Not all was lost, in fact, around 400 items were saved from the collection due to a well-rehearsed salvage operation. There were also opportunities in terms of the public’s response – the Trust received many messages of support and sympathy as well as financial offers and volunteering offers of physical help, not just from the UK but from around the world.
    • Own the story. The National Trust has 1.5 million followers on its social media channels alone and Nick explained if they could get to them directly, it would go a long way to get their buy and in support for what they were doing, but to drive people to those channels you need great content. They therefore set themselves up like a news room, sending ex-journalists who were in the team to talk to key players and experts, in-house photographers and videographers to the site to capture the key moments.

They also asked their own experts to write first person pieces on what they were doing, the salvage operation, what items had been saved and how they were caring for them. As the Trust had control of the house, the salvage operation and the salvaged items, it meant they were able to drip feed the content through their own channels and could then pass it on to media, which helped shaped the story they wanted to tell.

      • Act decisively. Nick said that the Trust committed to restoration early on, which stopped rumours of the house being knocked down. Meetings were held with about 200 different groups to consult very widely of restoration plans. All the way through, they filled the void and told people what was going on.

Finally, in terms of measurement, Nick said that 97% of the media coverage in the first year was neutral or positive, with two thirds of that coverage showing that the Trust was a caring brand. The social engagement was also very strong and wide reaching, with Facebook posts reaching over one million people and web articles reaching nearly 150,000 unique users. Plus £100,000 was raised via the Clandon appeal and the open garden days were sold out.

Nick added though that it is not just about the statistics, but also about how they reenergised and engaged with their communities. Therefore how something that felt terrible at the time turned into something quite positive and has inspired people to get involved and look into the rebirth of Clandon, over the next few years.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Police Communications in crisis situations – Sussex Police csuitepodcast interview

Show 44 of the csuitepodcast was sponsored by Global Communications Training firm WPNT and recorded at PR Week’s Crisis Communications Conference in London.

Some of what was discussed in this podcast was extremely sensitive, given we didn’t just talk about protecting corporate reputation, but in certain instances, we referenced events that had involved the loss of human life.  I therefore hope anyone who listens feels that it was handle appropriately.  As you can expect, everyone who I interviewed along with myself said the same in that our hearts go out to all the families and friends of all those victims of all the incidents discussed.

Talking with Katie Perkin of Sussex Police

Talking with Katie Perkin of Sussex Police

My first guest was Katie Perkin, Head of Corporate Communications at Sussex Police, and we spoke about Police communications during crisis events that prove to be very challenging from a comms perspective, given how fast moving situations can become.   Sadly, the interview took place just after we had witnessed events of that very nature, but Katie felt the Police had done a fantastic job responding and dealing quickly and effectively with them. She explained that Police communicators are well practised and have detailed plans for dealing with situations like these.

One of the things the Police has made sure they have been very quick to do is the instant response online to such events. Passers-by and possibly those involved often post photos and videos online immediately and it is important and critical that the public know that the Police are there and aware of the event and are seen to be dealing with it.  Katie explained that this is a very difficult issue to manage as this also may be the first time a victim’s family or loved one is made aware that they have been hurt or killed. The film the public take could also be important to the Police and so while they cannot tell people what to do with it, Katie wanted to remind people to consider the thoughts and feelings of those involved.

Katie acknowledges that it is now a different time with citizen journalism, where the social norm seems to be to get your phone out and film an event. This footage may be useful but it can be damaging. For example if it is an ongoing terrorist incident, and people are posting in real time, then they may be unwittingly helping the terrorists know what the Police are doing. The media are aware of what they need to do in such a situation in terms of live broadcast, but Katie doesn’t necessarily think the public are and so it may be something that [the Police] need to better explain to them.

Katie said that she is in awe of Police officers putting themselves in danger to protect people and they deserve the public admiration. However, with situations such as those in Manchester and London, people will start to ask questions [such as in certain instances, why suspects may have been known to the Police] but the key is not to pre judge.  The Police are very good at looking back at where things have happened and doing thorough reviews. However, she said that the Police Service is completely committed to being open and transparent and looking at any learning from such events and applying that in the future.

Katie explained that the Police is well versed in exercising for incidents such as those we have seen recently, practicing the operational as well as communications response. Within her own department, Katie ensures she has a detailed plan for different crises that may occur and these are exercised, for example, through a table top exercise where members of the team take on different roles. They also have a pivot model, which is put into place in a major incident, and outlines all the different roles and responsibilities that are needed to be covered, and is very clear on all the areas that need to be picked up on so that there are no gaps.  She said that all organisations need to prepare in case of a crisis and one of the basic elements of that is to be able to get hold of your people, particularly out of working hours. Do you have all their details and at the push of a button can you contact everyone and let them know you need them in the office? It’s vital that this is in place.  Personally, I would have thought something as simple as a WhatsApp group could be an immediate help in a situation like that.

We also talked about the media fixation with the number of fatalities when an incident occurs, but Katie said this is simply down to human interest as they want to know how big an incident it is. If people [in communications] are dealing with an incident with a number of fatalities they need to be prepared for this.  She also said that you would need to work closely with your local coroner’s office in situations like that.

Changing the mood on the conversation, I also spoke to Katie’s about more proactive work that her team deals with and we talked about a campaign that they ran over Valentine’s Day, called ‘Long Lost Loves’.

Katie feels the Police service has become very good at engaging with people on social media and so they used Valentine’s Day as a hook to support operational policing efforts to track down some ‘Wanted’ people. They sent those individuals Valentine’s messages online through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and then asked the public to help track them down.

The response was phenomenal.

I particular liked the descriptions of each of the individuals below the videos YouTube:


People loved the fact the Police were using humour but at the same time were trying to achieve a serious objective. She therefore said it is important that the way the Police use social media is appropriate, they can’t just put appeals on without giving something back and that the public needs to see the humanity that is within the Police service.

Bringing the conversation back to Crisis Communications, and taking the humanity issue as a given, Katie gave us her top three tips for dealing with a crisis:

  1. Be prepared and planned. Practise this plan.
  2. Quick initial response. Get something onto social media to let the public know you are dealing with it.
  3. Look after your people. Unless you tell them to stop, in a crisis they will keep going and work themselves into the ground.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Applying the Science of Human Behaviour to the Art of Communications – H+K Smarter csuitepodcast interview

Interview starts at 20:34

In the final interview of the csuitepodcast that I recorded at The Holmes Report’s In2 Innovation Summit, I spoke with Matt Battersby, Managing Director for H+K Smarter at H+K Strategies about Behavioural Science and its relevance to communications.

with Matt Battersby (left)

with Matt Battersby (left)

Matt describes H+K Smarter as a specialist team of behavioural scientists and researchers who use behavioural science to solve problems and to create communications that are smarter and more effective.  He went on to explain that behavioural science is the intersection of economics, phycology, neuroscience and sociology – it’s about really understanding what we do, why we do it and how we influence it.

Matt had presented at the conference on the two systems of how people think, which he describes as both operating in your brain at any one time.

  • System 1 – your quick, more emotive, unconscious way of thinking, he called it your ‘Homer Simpson’ type of brain.
  • System 2 – your slower, more thoughtful, more reflective (classically more rational) way of thinking, your ‘Sherlock Holmes’ brain.

The vast majority of your decisions are through System 1, which you use far more than you think you do.  Using System 2 takes effort and energy, so you avoid it where you can and save it for something you really need it for.

To give an example of how this thinking can be brought into a campaign, Matt explained that one of his colleagues set up and ran a behavioural insights team within the NHS, specifically using it to get people to sign the organ donor register. This is a classic example of ‘intention action gap’, as 90% of people say they support donating organs but less than a third of people actually sign the register.

The team therefore looked at the message of an organ donor campaigns and whilst the typical message is very emotional, they looked at many different psychological triggers and found the most powerful to be ‘Reciprocity’ – when someone does something good for you, you want to do something good back.  Therefore, the message of ‘If you wanted an organ transplant, would you have one? If so, give to others’ was much more powerful than any other standard message. Other messages that they compared this to include:

  • Social Norms – ‘Thousands of people every day sign the register’
  • Positive Framing – ‘You could save up to 9 lives’
  • Negative Framing- ‘Every day, 3 people die because of lack of organ donors’

Each message had a different psychological trigger behind it and they looked to see which one was the most effective.  This shows that if you apply scientific thinking to your communication messages, you may get a different result to what you thought.

I recorded this interview ahead of the recent UK General Election, and so it was timely in that one huge challenge in the UK has been how to get younger voters to the polling booths.

Matt said that there is some great research on how you actually get people out to vote.  He explained that if you have a group of people who have said they probably will vote for a specific party, the standard approach would be to call them the night before and remind them why they love your party, why they dislike the others, and that their vote is important.  However, the science suggests a different approach is needed – to use the social norm, i.e., tell them lots of other people are voting, to be part of a movement – part of something.

Secondly, Matt said that you should not ask people if they are voting, but instead ask if they are going to be a voter, using the noun rather than the verb helps people see voting as part of their identity, particularly with young people, as it appeals to a sense of who they are, as it is much harder not to be something than not to do something.

[Writing these notes up post-election, I think it can be argued that the Labour party did indeed get the younger voters behind a movement.]

So in applying this to PR in general, Matt said that this can be achieved using two routes:

  1. How can we apply behavioural insight better, with more scientific thinking, to the questions we are already being asked by clients? Providing better communications solutions to their problems.
  2. How do we answer different problems? For this, Matt used the example of a project currently being worked on where they are using behavioural science to improve the communications in job adverts to attract more talent by changing the wording to get more recruits in.

Matt believes that any challenge can be tackled by applying behavioural insight to it and therefore by looking for the better and different is how he sees behavioural science growing in PR.

Finally Matt feels that many different skills and a wider range of skills are now needed within the PR industry and believes that there will be more behavioural scientists in the industry.  His recommended reading if you want to find out more about the topic are:


He also said universities such as LSE, UCL and Warwick University run short courses as well as Masters’ courses.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!