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.