A New Direction for Social & Local CIC

New Direction

After twelve years of ground-breaking projects and award-winning campaigns, Social & Local CIC Co-Founder and Female Frontier honouree Steph Drakes is stepping back this spring and handing over to new Managing Director Holly Greenland. Steph will be on hand in the short term to bring consistency as the agency transitions.

Strategic Director at Social & Local since 2019, Holly and her team will continue the agency’s focus on offering the first-class senior consultancy and delivery you have come to expect from SoLo for your market insight, communications and content needs.

Of the upcoming changes, Steph says: “The opportunity afforded by this new leadership offers so much scope for Social & Local to build on its core offer of quality with purpose and I look forward eagerly to seeing the company go from strength to strength”.

What’s next for Social & Local?

Exciting changes are planned in the coming year for Social & Local CIC that will include new projects, new offers and new team members.

Holly Greenland New Direction
Holly Greenland, incoming MD

Holly says of the upcoming developments: “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to take Social & Local on the next stage of our journey. One central area of growth longer term is building our Learning Campaigns & Content offer to support clients with the broadest range of options to communicate, educate and change behaviour. These will be exciting times for SoLo and I can’t wait to get stuck in!”

Social & Local set to continue as a Community Interest Company

Social & Local proudly remains a Community Interest Company (CIC) working exclusively on projects offering social value and local impact.

For the coming year, this will include providing pro-bono training to a smaller charity or not-for-profit to share communications knowledge with the sector. More information on this new programme will be coming soon. You can find out more about Social & Local’s CIC status here: Social & Local Community Interest Company Status.

Get in touch

Contact us
Get in touch…

Follow us on LinkedIn for updates in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’d like to hear more about the future plans for Social & Local CIC, or just fancy a catch up over a coffee, please get in touch with Holly: holly@socialandlocal.co.uk  

#GetClimateReady Campaign Wins Second Industry Award  

We are delighted that our #GetClimateReady campaign for the Met Office, worked on with Smarts, has won the Best ESG Campaign Or Case Study To Promote And Encourage Climate Action” category at the ESG Awards, for campaigns that have improved or encouraged climate action. This is the second award for the campaign, which won the Best Public Sector Environmental Campaign Award at the Purpose Awards EMEA in June.

One of the UK Government’s most successful digital campaigns in 2022, our insights-driven #GetClimateReady campaign highlighted that 1/3rd of grassroots football pitches are flooded every year due to severe weather, so the game we love might be at risk. This passion-led approach helped reach new audiences that were sceptical about climate change and inspired action, including 1.8m visits to the Met Office website.

“We loved working on this project with the Met Office, and of course partner agency, Smarts. From the outset Social & Local has always been about impactful work that makes a difference, and you can’t get a more significant issue than climate change.

“Knowing that our campaign has made a difference in this huge global fight is so rewarding and being recognised amongst the other organisations on the shortlist, all doing such inspirational and ambitious work, is the cherry on the top!”

The ESG Awards, which received entries from around the world, celebrate, recognise and reward outstanding ESG performance. 

SoLo, Smarts and the Food Standards Agency scoop sixth award for Speak Up For Allergies

SoLo, with lead creative agency Smarts and client Food Standards Agency, has won its sixth industry award following success at the PRCA DARE awards, where the team scooped the accolade of the night: the Grand Prix Public Sector Award.

The award recognised Speak Up for Allergies which aims to encourage young people to speak to restaurants or takeaways directly about food allergies. Other industry awards that have recognised the campaign include the PR Moment Awards and CIPR Pride.

SoLo founder, Stephanie Drakes said: “We loved working with the brilliant teams at Smarts and FSA on this campaign – which we hope has literally helped save lives by giving young people the confidence to speak up about their allergies when eating out. It’s just brilliant that it’s been recognised so widely for its impact”.


SoLo & Smarts launch climate change campaign for the Met Office

Following our work for the Met Office in 2021 around positioning their climate change communications, we’ve teamed up with Smarts to launch our first campaign for the Met Office, raising awareness of the link between extreme weather and climate change. We’ve focused on football and flooded pitches as a way to bring the issue closer to home for an audience with limited awareness of this link. We’re encouraging people to find out more about how they can help their club, and reduce the impacts of human-induced climate change. Click here to learn how to #GetClimateReady.

SoLo leads industry call to protect employees’ mental wellbeing and creativity

With our partners Crown Commercial Service, NABS, the IPA, the Alliance of Independent Agencies, the Advertising Association and ISBA we’re  calling on the industry to pledge commitment to mental wellbeing and creativity by signing up to the Brilliant Creative Minds Code of Conduct.

We’ve launched the Code to stamp out behaviours that impact employee wellbeing and diminish creativity in our industry.

The Code was developed  by SoLo and the Brilliant Creative Minds partnership through a robust process of intelligence gathering. This included in-depth interviews with senior leaders across the client, agency, and procurement worlds including Government Communications Service; Stephanie Parry, Marketing and Procurement Lead at Crown Commercial Service; Tom Knox, Executive Partner at MullenLowe Group; Adam Skinner, COO at OmniGOV Manning Gottlieb OMD; and, Jane Asscher, CEO at 23Red.

The aim is to protect creativity by eradicating practices in procurement, commissioning and agency cultures that compromise mental health and wellbeing, for example: long hours culture and fear of job loss in agencies; excessive tender requirements and procurement processes; and unrealistic client timescales and demands.

Social & Local initiated, funds and manages Brilliant Creative Minds and is urging all agencies, clients and procurement professionals to sign up to the Code and embed its principles into their workplace cultures.

Our Managing Partner, Stephanie Drakes, says:

“Poor mental wellbeing is the enemy of creativity in our industry and our goal is to eradicate practices that cause unnecessary and dangerous levels of stress in agency environments. To meet our aim, Brilliant Creative Minds uniquely brings together three interdependent parts of the industry to work as one: client, agency and procurement.

“We’d like the industry to sign up to it and commit to embedding its principles within organisations to create an industry where negative workplace stress is reduced, talent is retained and the UK protects its pole position in the world for creativity as clients, once again, get the best out of their agencies.”

Sign up to the Brilliant Creative Minds Code of Conduct here.  

SoLo scoops fourth award of 2020!

2020 hasn’t been a vintage year, but we are completely delighted to be able to end it on some good news… We have won the Impact Company of the Year category in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards!  

This is our fifth Award win of 2020. Earlier this year Steph was recognised at the Management Today Inspiring Women in Business Awards, the Timewise 2020 Power 50 Awards and in Campaign Magazine’s Female Frontier list.

The Better Society Awards celebrate the efforts that commercial organisations make to create a better society and are organised by the Better Society Network.

Social & Local was shortlisted in two categories: Consultancy of the Year and Impact Company of the Year alongside a blue-chip line up of others, including RBS, Aviva and Deloitte.

The judges applauded Social & Local’s commitment to social impact, our entirely remote-working model, and the fact that we are one of the only Community Interest Companies (CIC) in the business. We were recognised as an inspiring example of what can be done when business puts humanity at its heart and for proving that a people-centred business model is not only the right thing to do but goes hand in hand with business success.

Social & Local Managing Partner Stephanie Drakes says:

“In 2011 when we set up the business many of our peers were sceptical that we could survive and thrive in the virtual space alone – ten years on, accelerated by the COVID Pandemic, the world of work has changed forever enabling more of us to flex and balance our lives whilst delivering top notch services to our clients which means that silver linings do exist.”


SoLo welcomes new client, Met Office

Pleased to announce that following a three-way pitch we’ve been appointed to work on a high level strategic communications project for Met Office. This is particularly rewarding for our team because it re-ignites a relationship that we enjoyed over a decade ago now. Whilst under wraps, we hope to be able to share more as the work unfolds.

Why the most dangerous lie in comms is the one we tell about ourselves…

We were delighted to see one of our #brilliantcreativeminds contributors starring in PR Week. You must read this brutally honest account of agency life…

Why the most dangerous lie in comms is the one we tell about ourselves… and why we need a radical shake up to protect our industry’s Brilliant Creative Minds

The communications industry has long been an easy target for cynics who joke that it’s a breeding ground for professional liars. But the biggest and most dangerous lie in communications exists firmly within our own four walls. And it is this:

Our People are our greatest strength.’

This lie (sorry, line), or similar, is often found around five slides into an agency’s creds document – usually accompanied with a full bleed image of smiling agency employees in wetsuits from that one summer surf trip in 2012. The first question I would urge any agency to ask when this slide appears in your next agency pitch presentation is: how many of those employees still work here? Because the uncomfortable truth is that, until every agency has regard for the mental health and wellbeing of their people, many of those valued team members have moved on because their agency held out on long-earned promotions, offered below industry benchmark pay increases, or simply left good people to rot on sweatshop accounts or in monotonous roles.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t just about agencies – which are bound by the parameters set by client and procurement teams: too many agencies asked to pitch, excessive tender requirements, focus on price over quality, unrealistic demands, unwieldy approval processes and lack of awareness of agency pressure points. Client, agency and procurement all have a part to play in protecting our people’s mental health and wellbeing. And that means a deep, uncomfortable look at our own behaviours – the part for which we are each responsible.

I have been working in agencies for more than a decade, and the further up the ladder I climb, the more I see how dangerous this lie about our people is. As a grad at my first agency I was urged to believe in this sense of espirit de corps, this grand ideal of a team who would work hard, play hard and have each other’s backs. I was made to feel a sense of importance in how my own role directly benefited the success of our agency. And I drank the kool-aid…right up until they started firing people.

Which brings us to the lie.

The emphasis that agencies place on their people is staggeringly hypocritical in many cases. We talk about empowerment, but deliver ever higher workloads for ever smaller financial rewards. New challenges don’t come your way when the agency has you locked in and high-performing on an account no one else wants – but when the agency is pitching and it’s all hands on deck, empowerment becomes a tool for the emotional blackmail of frazzled account handlers – what does it say about me if I tell them I can’t take this opportunity on? Am I blacklisted for the next round of promotions?

We talk about flat structures and removing hierarchy – yet it’s often the junior designer earning £25k a year who is left cleaning up pitch documents at 2am. When it comes to bonus time and that pitch win is added to the annual financials, the top brass will take home more than that designer earns in six months.

This line around people being the biggest asset is perhaps the greatest sales pitch of all time. Of course it is, because when a client buys an agency, it’s the people – their ideas – that they pay for. And year after year it’s still working, even when we all know how broken the agency model is. It’s an incredibly smart piece of psychological manipulation. It says to the young graduate – yes, you’ll only earn £20k a year. Yes, you’ll be expected to work 60 hour weeks. Yes, you’ll give up weekends and put your social plans at the whim of clients and pitch work. But you’ll be empowered. You’ll be part of something bigger than yourself. You’ll have a real stake in the future direction of our business.

Except that when the chips are down – and right now in 2020, they most certainly are – that personal stake counts for very little in the fight to protect the bottom line.

Back to my first agency experience then. I heard about redundancies via my phone blowing up with increasingly excitable texts from colleagues the minute I stepped out of a client meeting. By the time I got back to the office, faces who had played a key part in my formative years in the industry were already gone, just empty desks left as monuments to the carnage. Let’s just reflect on that for a moment. For two years I was fed the line that the team came first, that people were the heartbeat. And in exchange I was asked to give all the time, sweat and passion I could muster. But when the business decided to look after itself, the ethos of open dialogue, transparency and honesty was instantly forgotten.

In some ways I was lucky. I learned early from that experience that when it comes to agency life, no one will look after your career better than you. But more than a decade on, I’ve seen history repeating in many agencies I’ve worked with. I’ve seen account handlers work full weekends and receive a single day in lieu back. I’ve seen young account execs expected to take the late-night tube home alone from event shifts, because the board members who order themselves private cars won’t sign off the cost of an Uber. I’ve seen colleagues work 72 hours straight on a pitch, leave at 3pm on a Friday and be whistled out the door with ‘half day is it?’ comments ringing in their ears. And each of those agencies has at the same time waxed lyrical about culture, and about how much they value their people.

When will more agencies realise how broken our people culture really is? When will we realise that it is these exact behaviours that impact employee mental health and wellbeing and diminish creativity – the very product we are trying to sell? How much more creative talent will agencies wave out the door because they wouldn’t reward hard work with fair pay… Only to then spend more than the cost of a pay increase on recruitment fees to replace the role?

When will more agencies begin to pay fairly, to reward the hard workers and star performers with tangible, financial benefits rather than meaningless job titles and the opportunity to take greater responsibility? I know of live examples in 2020 where agencies are attempting to offer a promotion without a pay increase. We all understand pay freezes right now are sensible. But whacking a ‘Senior’ onto someone’s email signature and doubling their workload is not a promotion – it’s giving nothing and demanding everything.

Whilst we’re on the subject of pay freezes and redundancies – in the current climate it’s a brutal reality, but one that most of us understand. But in the context of my very recent former agency (and for the record I left for a new role, not as part of redundancy measures) I know of at least one junior-mid-weight redundancy on a salary somewhere around £35k, when said agency have also spent more than £100k on freelancers chasing a combined total of zero pitch wins over the same period. Yet the next time they present to a client, you can bet that slide 5 will read ‘Our greatest strength is our people.’

When will we stop lying to ourselves and to the people who keep the heart of our industry beating?

Brilliant Creative Minds aims to stamp out behaviours that impact employee wellbeing and diminish creativity in the communications industry. By bringing together senior leaders from the client, agency, and procurement worlds the goal is a new Code of Conduct which eradicates practices that compromise mental health and wellbeing. The ambition is a diverse industry where people can freely develop their creative capability in an enriching work environment.

To help inform the development of the Code, Brilliant Creative Minds is looking for stories of good and bad practice from across the industry. Please visit: brilliantcreativeminds.org to share your views.

Marie Curie appoints SoLo

We are delighted to have been appointed by our alumni client Marie Curie to help them frame their messaging to Commissioner audiences. End of Life care is facing many challenges as winter emerges and with the added pressures imposed by COVID-19. We very much hope that our small contribution will impact on ensuring that everyone gets better end of life care going forward.


5 things you should know about Holly Greenland, Consultant Head of Strategy

  1. People and pets: I live with my partner, two kids and seven fish (they wanted a dog, but it wasn’t going to happen). 
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: I love it when a brand is brought to life. AirBnB reinvented their logo – the Belo – a couple of years ago with an engaging story and animated content that I just loved, bringing together the stories of the company, their home owners and the people who come to visit.
  3. Quote to live by: In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity (Albert Einstein).
  4. Something we don’t know about you: I often love the condiments more than the meal itself. 
  5. Why the Social Life Matters: The “Social Life” means real flexibility to live and work in a way that makes sense for everyone. Not just me and my family, but for the team and our clients too. It’s just better that way!


#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local