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What a feminist rabbi can teach us about behaviour change campaigns
 Rabbi Dina is the first female British Orthodox rabbi [credit: Yakir Brawer]

Rabbi Dina is the first female British Orthodox rabbi [credit: Yakir Brawer]

Rabba Dina Brawer is the most respectful and respectable activist I’ve ever met. But her astute and measured demeanour along with her steely determination are exactly what is needed to take on the established way of doing things within Britain’s highly conservative Orthodox Jewish community.

It’s easy to underestimate quite how seismic it is for a British Orthodox woman to become a rabbi (or rabba) in a community whose religious institutions stick to rigid gender norms. Dina is is also responsible for spearheading a grassroots movement of committed Orthodox Jews, men and women of all ages, who are engaging with religious texts and involving women in prayer and ritual in a proactive and norm-challenging way. When I was introduced to Dina recently I was surprised at the extent to which her decision to take this intellectually gruelling and culturally brave career path was more about inspiring other women than about her own sense of personal fulfilment. She believes that change is possible and that women’s deeper engagement with their heritage will enrich the religion for everyone.

In 2013, just before embarking on her rabbinic studies, Dina set up the UK branch of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. JOFA UK aims to generate a vibrant, relevant Orthodox Judaism for members of both genders. I was struck by what we can all learn from Dina about changing attitudes and practices in the face of entrenched societal norms – and it’s hard to get more dyed in the wool than the world’s first monotheistic religion! She kindly allowed me to share some words of advice from a speech she gave to JOFA supporters at a London dinner to celebrate her semicha (rabbinic ordination). The text is edited for brevity.

1.   Stop using superlatives.

 My decision to study for semicha may have been bold, the journey long and intense. It was both hard and exhilarating work. But I ask you not to use the superlative when speaking of my achievement. It is not helpful. It puts becoming a rabbi on a pedestal. It creates distance and turns it into a goal attainable by only the very few. It is hard work, but it is attainable.

It is within reach for those who want to work for it. Let’s keep it within reach so that many more follow.

2. Talk it up.

Do not say, it’s impossible, it will never happen. Or it will never happen here.

Use positive language, build on the small and large advances we have experienced over the last five years. Using positive language to describe the change you envisage, you can invent a future that offers greater engagement in Torah study and leadership for women. Positive language creates a positive reality in which everything becomes possible.

3. Don’t ask permission.

Often we know what needs to change, we know how to enact change, but we are afraid to act without permission, from the establishment, from authority figures.

This form of paralysis is particularly problematic in this country where hierarchy is entrenched. But institutions rarely change of their own volition. Institutions protect the status quo. Waiting for the establishment to act or grant permission is futile. Positive change usually happens from the bottom up. Let’s remember- Leaders and institutions are there to serve the needs of the people. If you are not finding the spiritual and intellectual nourishment -don’t wait for top-down change.
— Rabba Dina Brawer

What campaign wouldn’t benefit from this simple approach?

You can read some recently published news articles about Rabba Dina Brawer inThe Timesinews and this excellent interview by Jumoke Fashola on BBC London (at 2’18’’30).

Julie Kangisser
Giving new life to old words

This article appeared first in Weak Links, a Fourteen Forty Communications publication.

Is the Holocaust merely a detail of history? This view is rearing its head on the fringes of mainstream political discourse in a number of European countries.

Within a few years there will be no surviving witnesses of the Holocaust.  Second-generation survivors are increasingly feeling compelled to combat the propaganda, hate speech and crisis rhetoric of many leaders today.  The same goes for, those who have survived recent genocides such as those in Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia.

book cover.jpg

I was introduced, last year, to the family of a truly remarkable survivor of seven Nazi labour and concentration camps, Dr Ernst Israel Bornstein. He went on to serve patients of every creed as a dentist in Munich after the war. His family wanted to draw upon his newly translated memoirs, The Long Night, to connect with new audiences.

As the granddaughter of a refugee from the Holocaust myself, my own family’s historic and present identity is indirectly and inextricably connected to that of the Bornstein family.

So whilst this endeavor has felt personal, I have drawn upon my professional communications and campaigns experience to give new power to this largely unknown testimony. I hope that what I have learnt so far will provide some inspiration to others bringing old ideas to new audiences

1. Going digital

There are thousands of first-hand Holocaust accounts, many of which are already part of an established canon including Anne Frank and Victor Frankl.

We knew we had a unique contribution and spotted a niche to engage time poor readers, digital natives and educators with no budget for books. The result is Holocaust Matters an interactive online tool based on The Long Night which launched in beta on Holocaust Memorial Day 2018.

The website lets you explore the book in bitesize chunks.  It also achieves our aim of highlighting topics that are particular to Ernst’s experience such as camp locations, specific to the Holocaust such as death marches and also universal themes such as bystanders and survival.

2. Audience access

Prior to developing the website we identified several key partners to reach our primary audience of school students.  We sought their guidance on the type of content that they might use.

We’re delighted that the Holocaust Educational Trust has now agreed to work with us to develop educational resources and teaching training materials to accompany our new website.

We have started similar conversations with other experts in the UK and overseas who specialise in teaching the Holocaust and its universal lessons through citizenship, history, politics and psychology lessons.

In engaging educators we accentuated how The Long Night fills gaps in the public understanding of Holocaust. These include a poor awareness of the vast camp system outside of Auschwitz.  There were also hundreds of labour camps, with exceedingly high mortality rates but from which prisoners could survive, if only temporarily.

In the next phase we’d like to find routes into universities and to professional audiences such as charity sector leaders, who are key in spotting and combatting injustice, and those working in law and medical ethics

3. Emotional connection

There is a fascinating body of neurological research and plenty of evidence from recent public communications campaigns that it is narratives, not numbers or facts, that have the power to change opinions and behaviour.

The Long Night has been described by veteran broadcaster, Jonathan Dimbleby, as a “terrifying personal account of an unspeakable clinical horror, all the more powerful for being told with remarkable self-restraint.

No embellishment is required to this one man’s account of raw pain, soul-searching and the misfounded complacency of many of its victims and onlookers.

This is surely a more compelling clarion call in our troubled times than arguments based on universal human rights and international law.

4. Powerful pictures

We were advised that many Holocaust educators avoid graphic images because they serve to dehumanise the victims, thus continuing to deliver a key objective of Nazi propaganda.

In spite of these sensitivities we decided to carefully select photo and film archive images including some of emaciated survivors taken shortly after liberation. Going digital has allowed us to make the most of these pictures and bring the events described by Ernst to life.

5. Living history

Spend one minute with Ernst’s daughter, Noemie, and you will sense that she is still living in the Holocaust’s wake, as we all are to some extent.

The immediacy of this chapter of history is something that my research brought into sharp focus.

It included the shock discovery that Ernst’s revered academic mentor influenced the development of Nazi racial hygiene policy.  It showed this man’s living contemporaries are, to this day, attempting to whitewash the role of the psychiatric profession in politically-driven euthanasia.

We are also encountering resistance to our enquiries in Poland, even from the descendants of characters referred to in positive terms. This may be partly explained by a new Polish law criminalising certain references to the nation’s involvement in the Holocaust.

However, these recent developments do offer fresh routes into this seventy-year-old story that we wish to explore further, perhaps as a hook for a documentary film production. Our Nazi psychiatrist has already caught the attention of this BBC North West Tonight news programme.

Ernst’s family feel the website has immortalised his words.  But there is still work to be done to engage people with his wise and prescient observations.

Your advice and ideas could play a role in helping us to achieve this goal and I would be delighted to hear from you: julie@thinkcomms.co.uk.

This article appeared first in Weak Links, a Fourteen Forty Communications publication.

Julie Kangisser
Think Communications is making virtual working a reality (PR Week)

Julie was interviewed by PR Week as part of a feature on the PR agencies that are shaking up the traditional agency model. 

The article is reproduced here:

 Credit: ThinkstockPhotos

Credit: ThinkstockPhotos

November 06, 2017 by Sam Burne James , 

More and more PR agencies are setting up with virtual working models - but can they deliver for clients? Or will changing working practices at conventional agencies meet comms pros' demand for a better work-life balance? PRWeek meets the agencies making virtual a reality...

Last month, former Hotwire CEO Brendon Craigie set up Tyto with eight staff, promising to "work faster and more efficiently because it doesn't have a bloated agency hierarchy and infrastructure". He prefers the term "location agnostic" to "virtual", but nonetheless is one of a spate of founders preaching the virtues of new ways of working.

This summer, the Difference Collective was launched by Virgo co-founder Angie Wiles, saying she was "saddened" to see talent "lost to the industry due to inflexible and restrictive working policies". It now has more than 30 freelancers in the network.

Last year, Grayling COO Sam Williams and divisional MD James Ford set up Barley Communications, a finallist for New Consultancy of the Year at the PRWeek UK Awards this year. They are the sole employees; all other staff are freelance. Other recent virtual launches include charity and non-profit specialist Campaign Collective, the healthcare agency Mearns & Pike, and Agent42 - the latter already operated as a virtual marketing agency but has now launched a PR division.

The virtual agency concept is not new - The PR Network, perhaps the best established of the cohort in the UK, was set up in 2005, when PRWeek wrote of a "virtual revolution". One of the agencies featured, Dominic Shales' Paratus, proved so successful that it was later acquired by Lexis.

Low overheads, lower costs

The key differentiator of virtual agencies is the lower overheads, meaning they generally can offer lower fees.

Williams says she believes Barley's fees are "15 per cent, if not more, below all the medium to large agencies", suggesting that central London agencies are "easily spending 10 per cent of their revenue on office costs".

Others estimate much bigger savings. 

Wiles says that at £500 to £700 a day, her senior people cost "generally half the price" of large agency rivals. Charity-focused Campaign Collective, which puts its rates online, charges up to £500 per day. Julie Kangisser of Think Communications, a virtual agency with five associates, tells PRWeek she "definitely" costs half of what she did when she left Fishburn Hedges in 2010.

"We’ve all been in big agencies, so we know how they work out - we say we're about 40 per cent cheaper than big agencies with a traditional model," says Nicky Imrie, co-founder of The PR Network, before adding: "Or rather, 40 per cent better value."

In a similar vein, Tyto founder Craigie says he prefers not to market the agency as "cheaper", flipping the concept around to promise clients "greater results for a similar amount of investment" to what they might find elsewhere.

'People are very responsive'

The PR Network's Imrie says that in its early days, the typical client might have been one who "saw us as a cheaper option". That has changed, however.

Imrie says the firm now has six employed staff and a network of 1,500 freelancers it can call upon, with around 50-70 active on its work at any one time. Around a third of clients, including car-sharing scheme Zipcar, Toyota, Lexus, and Dropbox, for whom it runs analyst relations, are retained. It has also provided support to larger agencies, a recent example being MWW.

"Obviously from time to time we come across people who don’t get it, but I'd say 70 to 80 per cent of people now are very responsive to it," she says. I'm surprised there isn’t anything else of the same sort of size as us, so I'm sure more will keep starting up," Imrie told PRWeek.

One benefit of virtual work is that it offers an option for parental leave returners, according to Imrie. She says she has several horror stories about new mothers negotiating a return to work being told they "might as well resign" unless they committed to five days a week in the office.

That said, she also acknowledges that virtual working won't be right for everyone. "People are sometimes a bit nervous, but I try to be honest, I don’t try to persuade people if it's not right for them," Imrie (below) says of potential hires.

'Having an office doesn't add value'

Williams at Barley is also aware that there are pitfalls to the virtual model - the one most commonly asked is whether they can develop junior staff. "I think it’s a fair comment - and I think it’s our next challenge to deal with how do we develop an offer that works for someone who is fresh and young," she says.

As for the service offered to clients, she is insistent that it measures up. "Having an office per se doesn't offer any extra value for clients," says Barley's Williams, saying that all of its clients know about the agency's model, and find it more convenient because the team is especially willing to travel to client sites.

Of the creation of an agency structure that allowed her to ditch the commute, she says: "Part of it was a little bit selfish I'd admit - I'd spent a lot of time chained to my desk. But we are still at desks - we're not just out gallivanting; I still work long, long hours."

And Craigie adds that virtual work doesn't mean isolation. "Just because we’re virtual or location agnostic, doesn’t mean we don’t meet each other, we just meet with a purpose," he says, but adds: "There’s no connections between creativity and having people in a brainstorm."

"I think there is this incredible war for talent and as metro centres have become very expensive places to live, there is this incredible pool of talent that doesn't want to commute every day, professionals who don’t want to compromise between their career and their lifestyle choices."

Two hurdles for clients

Angie Wiles acknowledges that there can be a perception that virtual agencies' staff are working that way for purely self-motivated reasons. Her Difference Collective's website initially talked about concepts like "working differently" - she says she now realises that "was a mistake on my part" as clients "might see it as 'working on our terms'", and has worked to refocus its marketing to look at the benefits their model offers clients.

She says: "My big challenge is to get clients over two mental hurdles - one is that bricks and mortar guaratees productivity and results, which I don't believe is true. The other is that people think we’re a bunch of flaky freelancers who go to bootcamp, go get coffee, work from 11 until two and then pick up the kids. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Kangisser of Think Communications agrees that convincing clients a virtual working model does work can be a challenge. "This is a slight sticking point with procurement departments, especially in big public sector organisations - with their tick boxes, they don’t tend to be happy with this set-up," she says.

Kangisser says she tries to sell the agency as anti-bureaucratic. "We want to do the job rather than get held up with office politics and impressing managers," she says.

"It just makes so much sense to me, I think we’ll see more and more of it," Kangisser continues.

Bricks and mortar: also flexible

It seems certain that PR will see more virtual agencies created. Meanwhile, established bricks and mortar consultancies agree with the virtual agency crowd that virtual and more flexible ways of working are part of the future. That said, they don't seem overly worried about fully virtual agencies muscling in on their clients.

Pat Pearson, MD at Firstlight, argues that contracting a virtual agency could be "absolutely right for some clients in some circumstances - but I absolutely can’t see it replacing client teams sitting under one roof for most clients".

He suggests specialist technical work in highly regulated sectors such as health (his specialism) or finance might be ripe for this.

"Technology makes virtual working easier - but PR is still very much a people business where people get together to create programmes and work creatively," Pearson says, something he says also applies to the agency's cloud-based HR and accounting function.

Firstlight has one staffer based full-time on the south coast, working remotely. Pearson says that while this "really isn't an issue for the client", a firm where this became the norm rather than the exception "would start to lose something".

"Top talent likes to work with other top talent and have a place they can come together and collaborate. In an entirely remote model, you probably lose some of that... I don’t think you get great ideas from just one person sat on their own," says Bibi Hilton (right), managing director of Golin London.

Golin, both in the UK and globally, has made concerted efforts to market itself as a good employer, including through an unlimited holiday package, free accommodation for interns and working to help bring mothers back into the workplace.

Unlimited holiday is part of an acknowledgment that "across the board, flexibility is what people want, whether it’s in our model or in a virtual agency", Hilton says. "This focus around flexibility is not going to go away - people don’t want to be penned into an office nine to five."

"Do I think that we as an agency will need to have as much office space as we have now? Not necessarily, but I think there will always be a need for some kind of physical space," she goes on to say.

"The agency model has to keep evolving - if you’re still operating on the same model you had 10 or 20 years ago you’re not going to have a business in a few years, you have to be constantly changing."

For PR agencies and employers of all ilks, balancing the demand for flexibility with the need for structure is clearly a growing challenge - and opportunity.


 

 

 

Julie Kangisser
IntoUniversity and Weston Charity Awards appoint Think for year-long campaigns

As reported in PR Week... social mobility charity, IntoUniversity and the Weston Charity Awards which provide leadership support and funding to small, frontline charities have separately appointed Think Communications to run year-long campaigns.

IntoUniversity

IntoUniversity’s media and stakeholder relations brief is to support the expansion of its network of 22 out-of-school learning centres in the UK’s most deprived communities.

IntoUniversity logo

Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder at IntoUniversity said:

“We’re working with Think Communications to persuade universities and other partners that by joining forces we can transform the lives of young people living in communities that have been left behind. Young people receiving IntoUniversity's help are three times as likely to progress to university than their peers from similar backgrounds.”

Weston Charity Awards

The Weston Charity Awards are run by the Garfield Weston Foundation, a family-founded, charitable grant-making foundation, which donates over £60 million annually. The main element of the awards, gifted to over 15 charities each year, is participation in the Pilotlight Programme which matches directors from charities with teams of senior business people and facilitates a year-long engagement to plan for sustainability, development and growth.  

WCAwards.png

Gillian Murray, Chief Executive of the charity, Pilotlight said:

“We have tasked Think Communications with raising awareness of the opportunity that the awards present, encouraging applications and helping award winners to reap the reputational benefits of being selected for the Pilotlight programme.”

The Awards support front-line charities working in the fields of Youth, Welfare and Community and were initially launched in the North East of England in 2014, but have expanded to the North West and Midlands since then – all regions where charities are more likely to be facing the double whammy of dwindling income and increasing demand for services.

Think Communications’ founder, Julie Kangisser said:

“Our focus on helping organisations that address societal issues means that IntoUniversity and the Weston Charity Awards are dream clients. They both share a vision of improving lives in the UK’s least well-off communities and they will both achieve greater impact by being better known for what they do.”

The virtual agency model is flexible and highly competitive compared to typical agencies and this is attractive to Think’s client base of predominantly small to medium-sized, start-up organisations or those undergoing change. As well as helping clients to communicate ideas and campaign on the issues they seek to tackle, Think Communications also supports clients to build their in-house capability so they are set up for the future. Think Communications is a member of Charity Comms, the membership body for charity professionals.

Ex DWP PR lead joins Think Communications

The addition of two new accounts to a growing client base has seen Vicky Hatchett, who previously ran pensions PR campaigns at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), join as a senior consultant on both projects. Digital marketing associate, Richard Angel, will also add his expertise to the team.

 

 

Julie Kangisser
Season's greetings - follow the clues

Season's greetings to all our friends. Whether you're celebrating Christmas or Chanukah or just making the most of the festive break, we hope you find yourself refreshed and ready for 2017. Our festive greeting this year aims to get you thinking. Follow the clues below and see if you can work out who our new, mystery client is.

Our mystery client has topped off a great year. I'm proud to share my highlights with you (before the big reveal).

Year in review

We continue to work for a CEO advisory firm to make them known for their expertise in doing business by doing good. So far we’ve conducted an issues scoping exercise with staff; completed a competitor expertise analysis and helped them to hone in on where their expertise intersects with relevant external issues and their commercial priorities. Next year the results of our work will include launch activity in India with the publication of a research-led report and delivery of an editorial business media partnership.

Earlier in the year Julie teamed up again with our amazing colleagues Ron and Paul at Ron Finlay Communications to deliver a communications review for a large NHS Foundation Trust. The findings highlighted three priority areas for their new communications strategy and proposed a series of costed, benchmarked options for delivering activity to support the Trust through financial cuts and many internal and wider health system changes.

Other highlights have included kicking off a media relations project for the fantastic charity, Young Epilepsy. We are helping them to promote their research and practical expertise in caring for young people with this condition and to campaign for every affected child to access the educational support that they are entitled to. Higher education remains a fascinating, issues-rich environment and our expertise in this sector was called upon by a Russell Group university wishing to analyse potential reputational threats as part of its crisis planning process. 

QUIZ ANSWER FOLLOWS

Xmas quiz reveal.png

new "DREAM" client

Our imaginary new client is Father Christmas. We're told he's not in the market for communications consultancy. Maybe he's immune from the declining trust in authority figures? He’d be a dream client. Just imagine the scope for exerting influence over the issues affecting him – from global warming to workers’ rights. However, thankfully we’ve been kept very stimulated by our real world clients in recent months, as you can read above.

All the best for 2017.

Julie

 

 

Julie Kangisser
Season's greetings - the reveal
Xmas quiz reveal.png

In our dreams

Our imaginary new client is Father Christmas. We're told he's not in the market for communications consultancy. Maybe he's immune from the declining trust in authority figures? He’d be a dream client. Just imagine the scope for exerting influence over the issues affecting him – from global warming to workers’ rights. However, thankfully we’ve been kept very stimulated by our real world clients in recent months, as you can read below.

YEAR IN REVIEW

We continue to work for a CEO advisory firm to make them known for their expertise in doing business by doing good. So far we’ve conducted an issues scoping exercise with staff; completed a competitor expertise analysis and helped them to hone in on where their expertise intersects with relevant external issues and their commercial priorities. Next year the results of our work will include launch activity in India with the publication of a research-led report and delivery of an editorial business media partnership.

Earlier in the year Julie teamed up again with our amazing colleagues Ron and Paul at Ron Finlay Communications to deliver a communications review for a large NHS Foundation Trust. The findings highlighted three priority areas for their new communications strategy and proposed a series of costed, benchmarked options for delivering activity to support the Trust through financial cuts and many internal and wider health system changes.

Other highlights have included kicking off a media relations project for the fantastic charity, Young Epilepsy. We are helping them to promote their research and practical expertise in caring for young people with this condition and to campaign for every affected child to access the educational support that they are entitled to. Higher education remains a fascinating, issues-rich environment and our expertise in this sector was called upon by a Russell Group university wishing to analyse potential reputational threats as part of its crisis planning process. 

All the best for 2017

Julie

We are keeping up the tradition of making a Christmas donation to an excellent charity, Spread a Smile, which improves the time spent by seriously ill children in hospital. Please get in touch to say hello or to let me know who you thought the mystery client was, and Think Communications will make a £1 donation on your behalf. Email Julie.

Julie Kangisser
Test your thought leadership capability

I produced a hand out for a conference a few months ago. It's for in-house communicators wanting to run a health check on their thought leadership capabilities.

Each statement carries a score of 1 if it applies to your organisation. A quick tally will give you a mark out of ten. Let me know how you measure up!

1. You know your niche - you've checked out what competitors are doing and either take them on in the same territory or have your own 'sweet spot'.

2. You have a dream cast - if it's purely a marketing initiative it won't fly. Your senior team are genuinely involved and you have engaging spokespeople.

3. Fleet of foot - by responding quickly to opportunities it's your views that gain traction.

4. Content calendar sorted - you have a shared editorial and events calendar across your organisation. No internal work silos, no surprise announcements.

5. Winning hearts and minds - you harness emotions as well as logic and gain loyalty by providing useful and interesting information.

6. Consistent across channels - whether someone hears you at an event, reads your website or visits your premises they'll know what you're good at.

7. Listening hats on - you rely on getting audiences involved so you understand who they are, what they need and you're open to feedback.

8. You're on speed dial- influential journalists and opinion formers regard you as the 'go to' people on relevant matters.

9. Staff ambassadors - you've inspired and equipped your colleagues to live your values and understand your expertise.

10. Communications is a strategic priority - your experts are given time to develop their knowledge and are encouraged to share their thoughts with the world.

SCORE __ out of 10

So how did you do?

Julie Kangisser
MINI GUIDE Before your start promoting your expertise...read this

Republishing a mini guide from 2013

I pride myself on thinking strategically before diving in to delivering activity. In this vein, I’ve been thinking about things to consider before embarking on a campaign to promote your expertise and opinions. It’s about more than simply having a communications strategy, although that’s a key part. Some of these pointers also address some wider issues of organisational culture - who should be involved and how much time and money should be dedicated to the activity. Of course, the world’s not perfect so it might be that you need to compromise on some of these considerations and you’ll still generate profile and reputation.

Here are some headline thoughts, but please do take a look at our mini guide “Getting started with promoting expertise” to get a fuller flavour.

  1. Carve out a subject or issue niche
  2. Senior figurehead to take the lead
  3. You snooze, you lose
  4. Plan ahead
  5. Have a clear way of measuring your thought leadership
  6. A modest budget will go far
  7. Go easy on the hard sell
  8. Don’t forget your owned channels
  9. Be in engagement mode
  10. Hang out with your audience
  11. Equip your staff to speak for you and with you
  12. Keep up the momentum

REFRESH YOUR SCREEN AND THE MINI GUIDE WILL APPEAR BELOW

THE GUIDE IS HOSTED ON ISSUU WHICH MAY NOT DISPLAY WELL ON YOUR MOBILE DEVICE TRY CLICKING HERE

Julie Kangisser
Reflections and predictions

 

Season's greetings to all clients and friends of Think Communications. We've dusted down our crystal ball and would love to hear if you agree with our future-gazing for the new year. It's been a busy and exciting year and we'd also like you to know about some projects that we're proud to have collaborated on in 2015.

 

Year in review

This year we’ve been helping several purpose-driven brands become better known for what they know and do. We love working with organisations undergoing change and those facing knotty issues - who wants to work on a simple brief, eh? Here’s a whistle-stop tour of our year. It's the nature of our work that some of our projects are sensitive or confidential, so apologies for the amount of mystery and concealment!

The year kicked off with a series of campaigns for MAP Diagnostics, who develop diagnostic and screening tests for maternal and fetal wellbeing. As a start-up company, their marketing communications brief was broad – to engage potential investors, develop new partnerships with clinical and academic partners, to create brand awareness amongst potential end users, to gain endorsement and cooperation from charities and patient groups and to engage in relevant policy areas e.g. national screening policies. The company’s research portfolio and patented technology formed the basis of all marketing activity resulting in national, international and specialist investor media exposure, several investor leads and the formation of new strategic relationships for the business.

We thoroughly enjoyed working with an established education charity to produce a new marketing and communications strategy for them. We are helping them adapt to the industry-wide challenge of shrinking Government funding and the need to market themselves like a social enterprise. Our work entailed staff interviews; a mini external reputation audit; and gaining broad internal buy-in to a radically different approach to marketing and communications activity covering brand, website, CRM, PR, stakeholder relations and internal communications.

Still underway is a longer term project to transform an existing medical research charity into a new, national player. We are advising the charity on creating, from scratch,  a communications, campaigns and stakeholder relations strategy to support ambitious fundraising targets; to rapidly increase their profile with influencers and to demonstrate how their new mission will complement that of other charities in their arena. This fascinating project has involved close interplay with academic advisors to ensure future research funded by the charity will generate a strong case for support and be aligned with the organisation’s purpose.

Students aren’t carefree (sadly 4 in 5 worry constantly about money) but how can we get them to care about financial education? This is the conundrum posed to us by award-winning money education specialists,Blackbullion. Our answer is more direct student engagement support in the form of on-campus experiential activity and engaging social media activity. We’ll be launching an ambassador scheme for them in 2016.

Sometimes we work for, or on behalf of, other consultancies.

Think Communications lent its expertise in issues-based communications on a confidential scenario planning and crisis communications strategy for a multinational company facing potential risks to its environmental reputation and community relations. One of the planned scenarios has since transpired, and although it was an undesirable outcome for the company, our careful pre-crisis planning helped to mitigate reputational damage.

We’ve also just completed a brand positioning and website content project for a company relaunching its specialist consultancy offer to the food, health and nutrition industry.

Although we continue to work for commercial and non profit clients, we're delighted to have become a Charity Comms corporate partner this year. This membership body for charity communicators does so much to encourage and share best practice and we're keen to contribute and learn from this partnership.

 

All in all, it's been a pleasure doing work that we love.

Predictions for 2016

So we've had a great year immersing ourselves in some fascinating briefs and working with some amazing organisations. Now for some trend-spotting. Here are the sectors that we expect to be actively building reputations by engaging externally on interesting social and business issues next year:

Compassionate and sustainable business - Brand purpose is becoming mainstream and corporate responsibility is increasingly being viewed as a core part of a business rather than as an internal department. However, until now there has been a dichotomy between multinational pioneers in this field, such as Unilever, and small grassroots companies with a purpose. 2016 may well witness a rise of brand purpose initiatives within medium-sized companies, perhaps influenced by supply chain pressures or from those realising the potential to develop an authentic and distinctive brand that will attract both customers and talent.  The B Corporation movement (for-profit businesses that have social and/or environmental outcomes as part of their mission) has just arrived on our shores and is one to watch.

Third sector - Most charities are continuing to feel the pinch of Government austerity and are responding to reputational threats posed by a series of scandals relating to aggressive fundraising and executive remuneration. We’ve spoken to many charities in recent months that are seeking to reposition themselves and refresh their communications in 2016. Donors are increasingly demanding. No longer do they wonder what can I do for a charity, but what can it do for me? This calls for a thorough look at content; harnessing mobile communications and the bolder calls to action it encourages and getting even better at understanding audiences in order to maintain relevance.

Education – The ongoing march of the market in Higher Education, such as proposals included in November’s HE Green Paper,  continue to demand a response from brand communicators. Although far from new to the marketing lexicon, the issues of employability and research relevance (to industry and students) will be high on the agenda in 2016. Further Education Colleges have spent 2015 dealing with turbulence in the form of area reviews, loan changes, Esol and adult skills cuts and changes to the Apprenticeships framework. Colleges that are already doing so much to collaborate with industry will need to do more to demonstrate their employability and work readiness credentials to prospective and current students and employers.

Nutrition and food – This is an area replete with health claims and counterclaims and an increasingly complex policy environment. Food miles, sugar tax, carcinogens, allergens and the ongoing delivery revolution are some of the meaty issues they may be getting our teeth into (forgive the terrible puns).

Biotech – Until very recently the biotech sector was dominated by the US, with little activity taking place in Europe by comparison, but now the UK is finally catching up with US in biotech investment. Our ageing population requires new treatments and better diagnostic technologies. With biotech seeking to attract investment, the case for clear and strong communications is strong. Our greatest scientists dedicate a lifetime’s work to developing inventions but often identify the need for an audience-centric marketing perspective to help them define their purpose and get through the final hurdles to commercialisation.

Wishing you all an uplifting Christmas break and a fulfilling year ahead.

Julie Kangisser and associates 

Rather than send Christmas cards, we've made a donation to Spread a Smile, a fantastic charity that improves the lives of seriously ill children in hospital.

 

 

Julie Kangisser
We can’t make any decision without our emotions

 

Most organisations are good at communicating facts rather than emotions. Yet it is emotions and not facts that drive our behaviour. Getting the right balance between rational versus emotional positioning is an important task at the heart of many of Think Communications' current client projects.

In this guest blog, creative brand strategist Richard Gillingwater asks: "Why do we keep ignoring emotions in marketing?"

Whilst marketers understand the role emotions play in buying habits, as an industry we have become far better and biased towards communicating facts than emotions. Yet it is emotions and not facts that drive our behaviour. KFC recently announced a dramatic shift in the focus of their campaigns to a more emotive message.

“Almost all advertising is not emotional, but people make decisions emotionally, not rationally,” “We need to connect with people emotionally through advertising and not through reason.”
KFC’s CMO David Timm 2015

Big brands have instinctively understood the need to communicate through emotional messages for a long time. However, we can now evidence this through recent developments in neuroscience, but many brands and marketers still pursue functional messages.

“Despite many marketers' belief that a brand's emotional benefits are important to consumers, nearly two-thirds of brand messages focus on the brand's rational/functional elements.”
Association of National Advertising

So why is this?

In the recent 'Like a Girl' campaign from Always, leading brand of feminine care products, the phrase 'like a girl' demonstrates how a phrase can carry a negative connotation which influences our thoughts and behaviours. The video shows how the term ‘like a girl’ has to mean weak and fluffy.

 

 

The same negative connation exists with the word emotion. We say someone is being ‘emotional’ to mean they have lost control, not thinking straight. Headlines such as the recent one in Marketing Week titled ‘Fluffy and weak – what CFOs think of marketers’ compounds and highlights this perception. Therefore when we talk about emotions we also bring into mind this negative association. So who would want to walk into the boardroom and look fluffy and weak by talking about emotions?

But things change and slowly people are becoming happier talking about emotions in the same breath as ROI and impact as evidence builds around the science and as marketers use this tactic more to connect with their audience.

When Dove’s Real Beauty sketches campaign went viral, it gathered nearly 30 million views in ten days. Additionally, it single-handedly added more than 15,000 YouTube subscribers to Dove’s channel over the following two months, not to mention substantial increases in followers on Twitter and Facebook. At the heart of this campaign was its ability to tap into an emotional connection that drove people’s behaviour.

With 5.3 trillion display ads shown online each year, and daily 400 million tweets sent, 144,000 hours of YouTube video uploaded, and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook, we need to be creating marketing which can cut through the noise and break marketing boundaries.

In an analysis of the IPA dataBANK, which contains 1,400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns, those with purely emotional content performed nearly twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content. There is endless evidence that shows that emotions drive behaviour yet we ignore this.

Get emotional

Antonio Damasio who's a Professor of Neuroscience at USC puts it simply: “We can’t make any decision without our emotion”. Read it again and the conclusion is simple - content needs emotion to drive behaviour. In today’s society, little emotion means little impact.

So how do you keep creativity flowing and avoid becoming short sighted?

Turn off the block between emotions and marketing. Throw out any negatives associated with showing those emotions. Use the feeling behind your brand to make your audience feel connected, understood and emotionally moved.
 

Richard Gillingwater is an associate of Think Communications and works at Accrue Fulton.

Julie Kangisser
Breaking into people's passions

What's not to love about clever packaging redesign? I liked Coca Cola's personalised bottle campaign - so did their FD. But KitKat's new YouTube break campaign has got me more interested. Owning the concept of break time rather than simply appealing to people's names seems a cleverer way to leverage people's passions, hobbies and obsessions and form positive associations.

 

 I wonder if they're partnering with smaller fish to promote their 71 other "breaks" which will be appearing on packaging? It provides fertile territory for enlightened self interest marketing. Angling, the epitome of a relaxed leisure pursuit and the nation's most popular sport, would be rich territory for brand partnership or sponsorship. There is scope for Corporate Responsibility initiatives to revive waning hobbies or encourage people to be more sporty or cultural in their free time.

The YouTube tie up is a savvy reciprocal brand partnership following on from Google's Android KitKat phone. KitKat fans are being directed to view trending videos on YouTube.

What's more, I don't think I've seen KitKat really carve out thought leadership territory around changing leisure habits. It's a fascinating topic that would make for great social media content with share appeal. You could also envisage heavyweight social research or an annual state of the nation at leisure, to attract more in depth attention (and brand consideration for everyone's favourite wafer confection).

RANDOM FACT: Use of the name "Kit Kat" or "Kit Cat" for a type of food goes back to the 18th century, when mutton pies known as a Kit-Kat were served at meetings of the political Kit-Cat Club in London.

Julie Kangisser
Marketing with a higher purpose

 

I'm not going to fall for the trope that marketers are the sorts of disingenuous people who'll flog any product or brand by any means necessary. But, by the same token, I've been surprised of late to hear several marketers talk in quite idealistic terms. It's quite energising to think of the power of marketing and communications in this way, even when it comes from unlikely quarters.

Take one hotel chain marketer I met who isn't simply interested in filling rooms, but only wants to attract the right kind of customers who will create a community of travellers in each of his venues with a view to building the brand and repeat custom that way. Refreshing. Possibly uncommercial, but this really can work for a niche brand.

At Youth Marketing Insight conference, an FMCG marketer genuinely believed that his brands gave young people a useful hook on which to nurture, develop and hang their emerging identities. Think about this...they can relate to other people socially through shared appreciation of a type of food, a fashion style etc. and you can see there may be a point here.

I was chatting about this with a colleague in the FE sector and suggested that by a similar logic, marketing to learners could not just help select the best candidates (which may not be the true objective in this instance anyway), but on a more meaningful level could predispose their students to learn and act in a positive way. It is an interesting perspective.

And many commerical organisations fail to market themselves adequately in terms of the causes they address. Even a hard-nosed investor gets a kick out of being part of something meaningful.

We all know lots of brands are, some might say cynically, exploiting this interest in ethics and identity amongst consumers but the challenge is to ensure these mission based campaigns are not simply marketing constructs but are genuinely embedded in the way the organisations run.

A new definition of the "halo effect".

Julie Kangisser
Youth marketing strategy reflections

Communicating about issues and causes that affect and inspire young adults - not only to young people themselves but also to an array of influencers such as parents, educators, businesses and policymakers gives me a particular perspective on this week's Youth Marketing Strategy conference in Hackney. Here are a few reflections.

1. Being young is a state of mind not an age. (But spend time in the company of bright young things who are running successful startups before hitting their twenties, and you feel kind of OLD!)
2. But being old doesn’t mean you can’t make a room of trendies sit forward and listen. Kudos to the wonderful Baroness Sue Campbell CBE from Youth Sports Trust and the London 2012 bid team which famously flew 30 young people from Newham to meet the IoC judging committee. Her self-deprecating, Victoria Wood style delivery was charming and disarming but what she said made plain sense and wasn’t dressed up in agency lingo. To paraphrase “education is a partnership between teacher and student, they’re not just learners.”  “brands need more human empathy, many young people are facing huge challenges” “heros and heroines do not need to be superstars” “kids are often scared to try new things but are also thrillseekers” “hand away controls to young people and let them become brand leaders”.
3. There’s no need to feel hamstrung by organisational hierarchies. Big multinationals are increasingly partnering with smaller outfits to make things happen.
4. Student news seems to be unashamedly commercial but do the readers appreciate the manipulation of content that they are reading? NB my concern comes from two camps – ex journalist and as someone out to get non-paid exposure for clients where possible.
5. A major theme was timesaving technologies that appeal to our time poor youth. This is why Uber was so widely admired by young panellists. Is this healthy? Are young people really busy doing useful things all the time? Can anyone swoop in and help them learn how to make time in their diaries and their minds? An opportunity here, for sure.
6. Voxburner’s research presented by Simon Eder revealed a growing seriousness and purpose amongst young people. Doing good in not uncool. Learning and personal development are in – “totes do” in the actual words of one youth marketer. Gone are the days of hedonism and rebellion. Lots of opportunities for brands that by their nature, or as a brand strategy, support social causes. Although a counter view was given by Radiator PR’s Gaby Jesson who thinks these days are numbered and that next year will see a resurgence of escapism.
7. Mobile is a first screen for young people. Well we knew this but it’s worth reiterating. Google will soon be downgrading your search ranking if your site is not mobile optimised. Yikes, we don’t all have the budget to do this straight away.
8. The Social Chain, dubbed the internet’s illuminati are doing clever but slightly creepy things by buying out big social media influencers on YouTube and Twitter and seeding out content to up to 60 million people that often goes globally viral. Operating so under the radar that they only recently set up a website.
9. Those that know me, know I like data visualisation. Take a look at Twitter’s software that maps trending topics over time and UK geography. Dazzling. Can be used to see which times of day things are most talked about and where.
10. Futurolgist Nick Higham coined a lovely phrase: “out with status symbols, in with status updates”. People generally favour spending on experiences than on objects. Being less interested in ownership poses a host of issues for the property and automotive sector, for a start.

So, Youth Marketing Strategy was a mind-expanding whirlwind. Credit due to Voxburner for assembling a great speaker line up and lots of interesting participants. The chair, Oli Barrett makes a career of connecting people to make interesting things happen and was great at moderating the event and keeping spirits high. In a former life, he was most definitely a regional TV News anchor. Hope to see him at next year's event, if not before.

Please do share your thoughts if things struck you differently.

Julie Kangisser
You talking to me?

I'm just not convinced that the current B2B Apprenticeships campaign has got it right on two grounds - both in appealing to its business audience and in its underlying premise.

 

Yes, there are some altruistic employers, but being motivated to help can't come before the bottom line. This campaign poster does not convince me about the business merits (of which there are many). No hard facts, just assertions. Secondly, the heraldic branding and "University of Work" concept seems to suggest that Apprenticeships need validation through direct comparison with University study. I think this is presumptuous and patronising to the many young people who do Apprenticeships. In fact, I suspect many would proudly assert that this practical, work-centric model of learning is more suitable for them than a three year stint in Higher Education. I know this isn't targetting potential recruits but the language used in communicating to employer and employees needs to be viewed as two sides to thesame coin, surely. Interested to know if you see it differently. Comment below.

Julie Kangisser