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 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!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/holly-greenland-63525232/

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

SoLo coronavirus update

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay 

We hope you are safe and keeping well. Life is a roller coaster for all of us right now, as we wonder how the next few weeks and months will develop.

At SoLo, we’re operating our usual remote model to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, whilst also staying focused on delivering for our clients.

We’ve been working ‘remotely’ since we founded (nearly 9 years ago now!) and we’re geared up to deliver our work from our desks. We can run planned face-to-face work digitally and are happy to give guidance if you have any questions on how this can work.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 

 

SoLo’s Guide to effective remote working

SoLo’s virtual office in action 

Are you working from home for the first time? At Social & Local, we’re seasoned remote workers (nearly 9 years now and counting!) Here are five things we have found make home-working work best.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace: Find somewhere to work that’s free from the interruptions of home life. There’s nothing more distracting than an unmade bed in the corner of your eye or a washing machine bleeping for attention. Even if you don’t have the luxury of a home study, a pop-up desk in a corner of a room can work better than the kitchen table or sofa because it demarks a space that’s solely about work. This helps you to focus on work during worktime and then escape it when you’re done.
  2. Connect (digitally) with colleagues: Make time to connect with colleagues – at SoLo we have a virtual Skype “office” – a daily Skype meeting which we log into for the day to connect with colleagues, foster teamwork and keep loneliness at bay. Regular, scheduled catch-ups over the phone or in the Virtual Office provide opportunities to exchange information informally and regularly, keeping work efficient and focused and ensuring the team is working seamlessly together.
  3. Take regular desk breaks: Create some structure and routine for your day. 8 hours alone at your desk can be a daunting prospect. Research shows that we’re better working in short, intense bursts. That’s why you’ll often find Steph on an 11 o’clock dog walk and Jess making her lunch to the backdrop of the World At 1. Give yourself a structure which includes short regular breaks and schedule a brisk walk if you can. You’ll probably sit more than usual and may need to make time to move. Remote meetings are usually shorter too – another bonus of home-working!
  4. Dress for the day: Though some might relish the chance to stay in PJs all day, we find it helps to get your head into ‘work mode’ by dressing appropriately… Not necessarily in a power suit, but somewhere in between. Being dressed ‘for work’ can help create the distinction between work and home, when there isn’t a commute to do that for you.
  5. Meal plan: Fill your fridge with goodies so that you can make yourself a nutritious lunch. Without the joys of Pret or Itsu on the office doorstep, a few tasty ingredients can quickly be fashioned into a healthy lunch to refuel for the afternoon ahead. Smashed avocado and poached eggs on toast is a team favourite, as well as a selection of weird and wonderful salads.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 

 

5 things you should know about Kathy Kielty, Creative Director

  1. People and pets: John (Husband); kids (Hannah, Joey & Peter); pets – cats (Alfie and Flossie)
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: The Southbank is one of my favourite places in London and I love their recent rebrand. It can be difficult to brand a venue – especially one so iconic. I think they’ve got it spot on!
  3. Quote to live by: Ooh la la!
  4. Something we don’t know about you: When I was a poor student at UCLA, I tried out for Jeopardy (a gameshow that gives away lots of prize money). I won the trial game, but they chose the other opponent because he made lots of daft jokes. There’s something of a life lesson there…
  5. Why the Social Life Matters: To me the “Social Life” means I can fit my working life into my ‘life’ life – making the most of both. Spending time with my family, spending time in France, and getting out for fitness classes, tennis and choir are all important to me. Flexible working means I can work during the times and in the places that fit my schedule. The better life balance means I’m more creative and productive – and happier!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathy-kielty-7331448/

#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