5 things you should know about Natalie Richards, Managing Partner

  1. People and pets: David (husband), Alfie the Chihuahua and Keiko the Siamese
  2. Favourite campaign: I love just about anything Virgin do. Because they have never wavered. They know their values; they know their tone of voice. I love a strong brand strategy! For partnerships, you can’t fault Pride month. The rainbow is sheer brilliance. Stonewall’s matter-of-fact approach is refreshing. Let’s tell it as it is.
  3. Quote to live by: JFDI!
  4. Something we don’t know about you: Social & Local isn’t my first business. I’ve always been crazy about animals but, naturally, my mum didn’t want to fund a zoo at home. Taking the ‘it’s too expensive’ limitation on pet numbers literally, I started breeding fancy mice to raise the required cash. At age 9, I had arrangements with two local pet shops and got 30p a mouse. I’d also go around the Saturday market at the end of the day and ask for unsold veg. My little venture was called ‘Bumblebee Enterprise’ and provided for five mice, two guinea pigs, a hamster and a cat! Also… I’m a twin! 
  5. Why the Social Life mattersThe Social Life means everyone can work to their strengths. I don’t just mean skills and experience, but also time of day and location. For me that means the peace and quiet of my home office (often accompanied by the sound of my dog gently snoring on the sofa behind me). It means getting up and going straight to work, bypassing the stress of a train commute. It means getting to my Pilates class on time, without worrying about delays home. Healthy body, healthy mind! I also take real joy in knowing that we can all be ourselves. You can’t help ‘bring yourself’ to work when work is your home, with kids, partners, dogs, cats, delivery men and whoever else prone to popping up. There’s no hiding who you are – in a good way. We bring it all to work, and our work benefits from the richness of our lives. But I don’t work in my PJs. I have standards!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalierichards/

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

Steph’s Travels in India

#Throwback Thursday! With summer a distant memory, but Christmas not quite in reach, we’re cheering ourselves up with some of Steph’s ponderings from her ‘luxury’ travels in India… 

It’s 7am “All aboard the Golden Temple Mail for Gangapur City!”

We were due to leave at 7.20 it is already 7.30 and nothing is moving yet. Hope it’s not too long as have had but a banana and small box of apple juice for breakfast and Sumit, my guide has advised me not to accept any of the on-board hospitality – especially not the beer – so what’s in the beer I wonder? Mine is luxury class – there is an obvious mis-translation of luxury between the English and Indian version. God help those in third class. I am in a traditional cabin but it’s absolutely filthy, very spartan and smells of wee. I have a bunk bed and a pillow. Be careful what you ask for – I asked for an authentic experience and that appears to be what I got. (NB Harry reassured a young friend of the family Nick who was slightly anxious about my travelling alone that I am not slumming it in India – well Hazza you are wrong – I am slumming it and am proud to be doing so. Never let it be said that I’m not part of the proletariat).

As I’m writing, several young men have been in to my luxury cabin to undertake the daily cleaning – as ever in India, a little employment is better than none and as one brushes, a second washes and then a third comes around with a form on which I am expected to rank the cleanliness of cabin and toilets on a scale from poor to excellent. I am not sure I want to try the toilets – I rank everything excellent even though everything is actually dire – but I want them to keep their job. And we’re off. Ahh I have piped music to amuse. Breakfast madam – no thank you; chai chai madam – no thank you; barley water madam – no thank you; special tea madam – no thank you. 5 hours on we arrive at Gangapur City. The Ticket Inspector – an Elvis impressionist is keen to have me escorted off the train.

I am met by my driver for the next 9 days, Sanjay. Sanjay tells me that whilst I have been on the luxury train he has driven the luxury car from Delhi which has taken him 10 hours.

#sociallife #worklifebalance #socialbusiness #auidenceinsight

5 things you should know about Michelle Solomon, Business Director – Internal Communications

  1. People and pets: Jon (husband) and my gorgeous daughter Ruby and Dolly the cat
  2. Favourite (communications) campaigns: I love elements of many campaigns (I’m a bit of a brand geek!). I love how Netflix redefined the market with ‘original content’ and how they were ground breaking in resetting things for their employees with no set working hours, an unlimited holiday allowance and saying they’ll stand by employees if they’re having a hard time as employees stood by them in the tough times! I love Eden Perfumes for disrupting the perfume industry by creating vegan versions of designer perfumes at a fraction of the price and that fact you can take your bottle into the shop for a refill. I admire IKEA for staying true to their heritage and using the Swedish name for items in all countries (and giggling when we can’t pronounce them)! I could go on…
  3. Quote to live by: The task ahead of you is NEVER greater than the strength within you
  4. Something we don’t know about you: I met Ed Sheeran at a gig he was supporting before he was famous and asked him if he would play at our upcoming wedding, as we thought he was amazing. Needless to say, he became super famous and couldn’t fit us in!
  5. Why the Social Life matters: I coined the phrase ‘work life smoothie’ because I believe that’s the reality of being a working parent and it explains my life on a day to day basis. Although many jobs don’t support the ‘work life smoothie’, Social & Local actively encourage and applaud it. My day is a blend of work, training for half or full marathons and being around to drop off and pick my daughter from school. I don’t have to book time off for the Christmas nativity or dentist, I just carve out time in my day and make it up before or after – simples. And because we work in a virtual office (we can see each other on Skype through the day) I don’t spend a lot precious time commuting. I can just get on with the job, be there for our clients and feel good about what we do. Without this human approach and trust, life would be a lot more difficult for me and I seriously doubt if I could work as much as I do or be as healthy. Because I can blend my running into the day, I’m fitter now than in my twenties and it keeps me mentally sharp too. It’s taught me to be creative and flexible about how I work, as it’s not black and white – it’s a smoothie! 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-solomon-5a8931a/

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

Welcome Jessica, new Business Director – External Communications

We’re delighted to welcome ex-Kindred Client Service Director, Jessica Duncanson, as Business Director, External Communications.

Jessica brings 14 years of experience leading campaigns for public, private and third sector clients, from £1 million fee income Government clients to consumer campaigns for BabyCentre and the British Cheese Board.

Jessica will help strengthen our external communications offer, to complement our other award-winning services.

She says: 

“I am beyond delighted to be joining Social & Local. I’ve long admired the team’s work from afar and couldn’t be happier to be coming on board. The flexible, remote model means I can get my teeth into some brain-stretching work with a great team of people and clients, whilst juggling life as a mum of three.

“Knowing that the work we do is also benefiting the community through the 50% of profit that goes to charity, is a substantially sized cherry on the top.

“SoLo is a remarkable creation and I’m honoured that, Steph and Nats, are entrusting me to help them grow their external comms function.”  

Managing Partner Steph says: 

“Many of our clients have modest budgets. Rather than appoint multiple agencies they are increasingly asking us to go ‘beyond the strategy and core creative’ into elements of implementation. We already have a strong activation team in place for Partnerships and Internal Comms, but recognised gaps in our PR & Social disciplines. We searched hard to find somebody with the experience and skills to build our offer at the highest level matched with a passion for driving forward our social business model and shared beliefs.” 

Find out what our new team member does with her lunchtimes, why she loves the Park Run and about her brush with national TV fame here

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local #externalcomms

5 things you should know about Jessica Duncanson, Business Director – External Communications

  1. People and pets: Jon (husband) and a trio of children: Matilda, Florence and Ted
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: I’m constantly in awe of the phenomenal success of the parkrun and what it can teach us about behaviour change campaigns. Who would have thought that when 13 people met to run in Bushey Park in 2004 it could lead to a community of 3 million Saturday morning runners (of which I am one, which is also surprising!)? I’m also grateful for the 2008 Magners ‘cider over ice’ campaign which made it socially acceptable to drink cider.
  3. Quote to live by: Don’t count the days, let everyday count
  4. Something we don’t know about you: when I was 3 and my mum was due to give birth to my sister, I appeared in a sex education programme about how babies are made, aired in schools nationally for the next decade. I wanted to call my sister Rocheldus, but fortunately my parents saw sense and called her Eleanor.
  5. Why the Social Life matters: Having now added 3 children to the CV of life, SoLo’s way of working is the difference between being able to work and not for me. I loved agency life, but the realities of 2 hours daily commuting and the cost (financial and emotional) of the childcare I’d need to do this, meant it simply wasn’t an option. The Social Life just makes sense. At SoLo it is not the when or where but the WHAT you do that matters. Talent and dedication (not desk time) rule. This means that whipping up a batch of my son’s favouite pepper and tomato soup at lunch time can be applauded, not scorned. It means that there’s a common understanding of the beauty of the 6am – 7am pre-school run ‘Power Hour’. And it means that there can be honesty about a school assembly, sick child or elderly grandparent in need of a morning visit. At SoLo, being a person, any kind of person, is seen as being a GOOD THING. Not just an inconvenience on the side. And what a liberating thing that is.

www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-duncanson

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

Why smart businesses should join the (flexible working) revolution

1 minute read

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

SoLo is all about flex – our entirely remote and flexible model means our staff flex their ‘work life’ around their ‘life life’. It’s not the when or where but the WHAT they do that matters. Talent and dedication (not desk time) rule. But it’s not just people that benefit from this, it is businesses too:

  1. Virtual working keeps your overheads low – paying for people not premises makes good business sense. At SoLo, the money we save by not having an office translates directly to better prices for clients.
  2. Flexible workers are committed workers – staff want to work somewhere that’s life enhancing, but they understand that the privilege is only afforded by client acquisition and retention. As a result, we have some of the most committed people in the industry working here.
  3. Happy workers stay with you – if you create somewhere that’s a pleasure to work at, why would anyone want to leave? Staff retention stays high, clients benefit from teams with intimate knowledge of their businesses and managers are free from the headache of constant recruitment.
  4. Flexible workers are accessible – with no time wasted travelling to and from meetings teams can be more accessible and available when you want them. And flex works both ways – if you’re flexible with staff, they’ll be flexible back.
  5. Individuals with lived experiences bring ideas to work – being recognised for being people – as well as professionals – enables staff to bring unique, people-centred perspectives to their work, resulting in work that’s the highest quality.

#WorkLifeWeek #social&local #socialbusiness #sociallife #flexibleworking #flexappeal

Live, Breath, Believe

1 minute read

Image by KULADEEP KUMAR SADEVI from Pixabay

5 hours of travel pandemonium and I am in Jaipur. The mood has changed. This is the Capital of Rajahstan and it feels modern and vibrant. My hotel is a chic boutique that wouldn’t be out of place in Soho.

Over a lunch of Indian tomato soup and small puff pastries with feta and thyme, the hospitality manager sits with me and chats to me. I found out quite quickly that she has fled from her family in West Bengal as they were going to get her married and, on her refusal, threatened to kill her. She is building a new life here – starting off living in a hostel she has learned almost perfect English. She has educated herself by reading Shakespeare plays and learning the hospitality trade. WOW.

This girl CAN takes on a totally different dimension here. She wants to travel to Europe but is broke and on Indian wages it will take her a long time I suspect to save up. There is something about her – determined, savvy and hard working – I show her the British Council website in the hope that it might have some exchange or sponsored work opportunities.

The conversation turns back to my day. She shares my humour – I ask if it is OK in Jaipur to wear a dress with bare legs (I’m hot!) she says “Madam it’s OK to wear a burka in Jaipur!” I will oblige.

#sociallife #socialbusiness

Where it all began (and why they said it wouldn’t work) …

1 minute read

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This summer, the passing of our 8th Anniversary had me thinking about how this little business started. Designed in 2011 as a business that would benefit the people who work for it, as well as society at large, there were more than a couple of cries from friends and colleagues of “abort, abort, it will never work!” Luckily, we didn’t, and actually, it did.

On my redundancy in 2011 (aged 55 and female), Nats and I started to build a vision for the first social advertising business. Witnessing the poor treatment of people in the ad industry in the pursuit of profit (from managers being badly underpaid whilst flogging themselves to death, to pregnant women having their roles deliberately downgraded) we sought to build something different. A company with people at its heart.  

Enter Social & Local CIC (SoLo). SoLo would see people for what they really are and what they are capable of rather than as a problem because they are a mum, carer or OAP. By making everything remote and flexible, staff would be based at home and free to organise work around their personal lives. Set up as a Community Interest Company, 50% of profit would be invested into community projects.

Despite being branded by others in the industry as ‘barking’ for believing that this remote and people-centred model could work (‘you really need a shop window, Steph!’), we held tight to our belief that business can, and should, benefit its own people and its wider community.

Roll on 8 years, and the naysayers have been proven wrong, SoLo has generated profit year on year, and invested thousands of pounds in community projects. Every day I feel proud. Neither rich nor famous but quietly satisfied that SoLo has created a working environment that changes the game – small, but respected and admired.

#social&local #socialbusiness #sociallife #flexibleworking #flexappeal

 

Social & Local completes insight for House of Commons

Adding further credibility to our award-winning services in helping large organisations with Internal Communications and Engagement, we are delighted to announce the recent completion of a major research piece for the House of Commons. By directly engaging over 20% of their 2,500 employees through online surveys, workshops and walkabouts, we have been able to deliver the insight and intelligence that will enable the development of a fresh, new Internal Communications Strategy.

“What an incredible privilege it was to spend most of my July walking the corridors of the Houses of Parliament at such an important time in history and to see the political landscape changing in real time; further to meet and listen to the stories of the army of people who keep the House going under all circumstances!”  Stephanie Drakes, Co-Founder & CEO, Social & Local 

Awards win and shortlist for British Red Cross!

We’re so proud that the Internal Engagement team at the British Red Cross have been shortlisted for ‘Best public sector/not for profit team of the year’ at the Institute of Internal Communication National awards. We’re loving being part of their journey and we’ll find out on 27 September if we’ve won!

We’re also delighted that the British Red Cross internal engagement team have also won the CIPR Inside award for best strategic internal engagement team!!

“So proud of all members of the team and a special thanks to Natalie Richards and Michelle Solomon at Social & Local who have accompanied and supported us on the journey to develop a truly insight led internal engagement strategy.” Addeel Khan, Head of Internal Engagement, British Red Cross