Author: Lindsey Davies

USING CLIENT EVENTS TO SOURCE EXCITING CONTENT

Leeds Business Lunch

As a PR agency there are many ways that we work with clients to source exciting content. No longer do we have to rely on the humble press release, we can create content to be shared online.

We have worked with iSource Group and the Yorkshire Mafia (YM) for more than a decade. Like many of our clients, we have built up a strong relationship over the years and are considered an extension of the team.

In addition to managing a schedule of more traditional PR activity, we offer advice and guidance about exciting content that can be shared across mediums throughout the year. This could be anything from comment pieces and thought-leadership articles to specific feedback from the 23,000 pre-approved members in the Group.

Leeds Business Lunch

It is Leeds Business Lunch (#LBL2019) tomorrow and we are lucky enough to have received our invites. As well as enjoying welcome drinks and a delicious lunch, we will be making it our mission to engage with others so that we can further populate the calendar of activity that we have.

There are so many interesting businesses within the YM community, and it makes our job so much more fulfilling to share their news and views across a range of subjects.

Attracting members from the SME market, we are expecting to meet with some familiar faces but also to extend our network. After all, with a room full of senior executives that have companies across the Leeds City Region, it makes sense.

Collating contacts and sourcing exciting content

As an agency we could sit back, relax and enjoy the proceedings, however that just isn’t our style. We are always looking for ways in which we can add some personality and variation to our clients’ PR schedule.

As ever, the YM has secured an impressive line-up of speakers and we will be looking forward to hearing from Sinead Rocks, Managing Director of Nations and Regions at Channel 4; Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer, Economic Development at Leeds City Council; and Richard Flint, Former CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming.

There are also several sponsors including Lockyers, who have been an advocate of the YM since its launch, Media Works and Quantuma. Sharing their reasons for getting involved with the Group means that we can showcase the benefits that they receive by association.

A further opportunity to source exciting content with added personality.

Last minute preparations

As is to be expected when you host one of the largest lunchtime events in the annual calendar, last-minute preparations are underway. What’s more, we have it on good authority that pictures of Dior samples that were shared on LinkedIn and Twitter were just some of the items we can expect to find in the goody bags!

As a sell-out event the team have a lot to celebrate but it’s important to remember that these things don’t just happen. The team work hard behind the scenes to make each event bigger and better than the one before.

We can’t wait to take our seats and to meet with the great and good from the business community. As the preferred PR partner for iSource and the YM we will have our pen and paper at the ready to take notes and will be sharing blogs in the following days.

If you are attending tomorrow, then please do come across and say hello. For those that are missing out, there is always next year. I hear the plans are already underway to push the boundaries and to use the event as a platform to showcase the North as the powerhouse it deserves to be.

Watch this space.

HORTOR CHOOSES OPEN COMMS AS PREFERRED PR PARTNER

Hortor and Open Communications

Hortor, the global strategic resourcing consultancy with UK offices in Leeds and London, has chosen Open Communications, the straight-talking PR agency, to manage the brands content strategy across traditional and social media channels.

Having worked on an initial project to update the company website and provide recommendations regarding social media and content marketing, Hortor has agreed a year-round programme of activity that will be delivered by the agency.

Reporting consistent growth since its launch in 2014 and with ambitious targets for the next twelve months and beyond, Open Comms will focus on raising the profile of Hortor, its specialist divisions and the world-class clients that it works with.

Joint CEO of Hortor, Andy Roe, comments: “In the first instance Open Communications were recommended to us by a business associate that has worked with the agency for years. We needed support with the copy writing on our website and a few other projects and so felt it was the right time to engage a team that could give us some specialist support.

“Open quickly became an extension of our team and we are very much looking forward to working with them as we roll-out our year-round programme of activity.”

Director at Open Communications, Lindsey Davies, comments: “Hortor are a great fit for us. As well as being ambitious, the business has a great culture and is not afraid of doing things differently. We are looking forward to taking insight from the team and using this to create compelling content that we can share.

“As experts within their industry, we want to make sure that we reiterate the knowledge from the team and position them as the growing and global organisation that they are.”

Hortor has made a number of appointments in recent months with colleagues joining both the Leeds and London offices. Further plans to expand internationally to support its global network are also underway, with no fewer than four launches scheduled in the next year.

Open Communications is celebrating ten years in business throughout 2019 with plans to move to a new office in Wakefield city centre. The agency is preferred PR partner for a range of brands including Opus Trust Communications, Ring, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Martin Walsh Architecture and Bellingham IT.

For further details about Hortor and its approach to strategic global resourcing please visit www.hortor.co.uk and for information about the services we provide for clients please visit, https://www.opencomms.co.uk/what-we-do.

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SECURING NATIONAL HEADLINES

Kellingley Colliery

The success of a PR campaign and securing national headlines is directly associated to the strength of client relationships.

It’s not that you can’t do the job if you don’t get on with your client, it’s just that it makes life difficult. With a specialism like PR, you are working with a planned schedule of activity, as well as the daily news agenda.

This is when relationships really do come into their own.

Why relationships matter

Take the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as an example. We had planned to launch the State of the Coalfields 2019 report and had a schedule of activity to support this announcement. It was one of the biggest stories of the year and an import piece of work.

We had been working on the timings for months. We had the plan and the spokespeople available, we now had to liaise with all regional and national media. The story was embargoed for Wednesday 16 October, when the report would be officially launched in Westminster.

Sending this story out was no small task. Hours of work is required when you are focusing on a project like this and there is no guarantee of coverage. It’s the start of the process that you hope will lead to results.

Making things happen

On the day of the ‘sell in’ journalists asked for the story to be sent through, yet there was still no firm commitment to coverage. Frustrating but not unusual. The next day things changed. The phones didn’t stop ringing from the moment we sat down.

Broadcast wanted to arrange interviews and it was up to us to make it happen.

The client was ready to take calls throughout the day and these were planned, scheduled and arranged. It was then that we were asked for a spokesperson to be in London on Wednesday morning. The idea was that we would secure national headlines with two TV channels if the client was available.

Excellent news. All we needed to do was get the client to rearrange all of their plans to travel to London overnight to arrive first thing for an interview at 6.35am and then 10am at the studios.

This is where relationships are critical.

Working together

The client could have said no. They could have said they wanted to spend the evening with their family. They could have said it was too much money to travel to London at such short notice. It may have been that they simply couldn’t be bothered with the logistics.

The response from our client, who we have worked with for more than six years, was that this was important. It was an opportunity. It was too good to miss.

Not only did the client get on the train late at night to travel to the capital, they also did so with a smile. They were excited by the coverage we could secure as a result of this piece. At no point did they complain, suggest it was too much trouble or ask why this couldn’t be done in a different way.

Then came further calls asking for interviews down the line (on the phone) at 6.25am and 6.30am. It was back to the team at the office to ask if anyone would be willing to take the calls despite the early hour.

Again, it meant rearranging meetings and schedules, but they pulled out all of the stops to make it happen.

Celebrating success

From the minute we put the news on this morning the reports started to come in. The client’s story featured on both local TV channels (Look North and Calendar), was the lead feature on BBC Radio Sheffield and was aired on BBC Radio Five Live throughout the day.

We continued to secure national headlines as the story featured on Victoria Derbyshire and Jeremy Vine, which then led it to be syndicated across radio stations throughout the country. Again, back to the client to ask them to detour to broadcast house.

We are continuing to work on this story (literally as I type) with three clients from the office making their respective way to different interviews in varying media houses in London.

I cannot be more thankful of the relationship that we have developed over the years. Without it, we simply wouldn’t be in the position we are now; celebrating success, sharing coverage and looking forward to the next story we have to share.

For interest, here is just one link to the story we shared: https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2019-10-16/former-coalfields-scarred-by-the-legacy-of-the-past/

TEN REASONS TO INVEST IN PR FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Businesses don’t have the budgets, resource or understanding to warrant an investment in PR. It’s too complicated and difficult to measure. Anyone can cobble together a press release or upload a blog. There are bigger priorities and better ways to spend money.

Really?

Here are ten simple reasons why you really should consider PR and what impact it could have on your organisation.

1. Reputation

Despite many changes to the industry over the years, PR remains the specialism that is used to manage the reputation of a business. Some people feel that this sounds too flaky. Consider driving a car without insurance or riding a motorbike without a helmet. The risks are too high. As your reputation is arguably your biggest asset, it should be a priority.

2. Profile

Just because you know about your business it doesn’t mean others do too. Furthermore, if you are considering infiltrating new markets then you will be starting from scratch. You may have the products, service and reputation however you are still new to this audience. Using PR to build your profile in the right places can be very effective.

3. Employer brand

We hear a lot about skills gaps and a lack of talent. If you want to attract the best people to your business, then you need to share details about what it is like to work for you. Using PR to update a company blog and social media tools, such as LinkedIn and twitter, is a good place to start. Adding personality to your content will allow you to attract the people that are a better fit for your business.

4. Website visitors

Over the years the remit of what constitutes PR has broadened. Content marketing has become a big business. If you want to get the most from your website you should be writing regular articles, blog posts and news items. Content should also include relevant inbound and outbound links to attract prospects. Paying thousands for a website doesn’t mean it will work for you.

5. New business

PR will help you to attract new business. No, the phone won’t start ringing off the hook as soon as you implement some of the tactics, but you will notice a change. People will become more receptive and they will talk about you more. There is no greater marketing platform than word of mouth, so make sure you are doing what you can to encourage the right message is shared. This is one of the reasons why story telling is so important.

6. Crisis

No one wants a crisis to happen, but the simple fact is, they do. If you are unprepared then expect the worst. Trying to fumble through a media storm while the phones are ringing relentlessly, and journalists are on deadline chasing for statements, is nothing short of a nightmare. Don’t leave this to chance, it could lead to lasting and irreparable damage. Having the processes and procedures in place will make all the difference.

7. Competition

So, despite points one to six you still think PR is a waste of time and money. That’s absolutely fine. Leave it to your competitors to share their story, raise their profile, manage their communications and reap the rewards and benefits as a result.

8. Cost effective

PR isn’t cheap but when compared to other specialisms within the marketing mix it is cost effective. Given the importance of the tactics that fall under a PR remit, it is a constant frustration that it is the forgotten relative, but that’s the way it is. Some of the largest brands in the world have relied heavily on PR and it has delivered for them time and time again. Think Virgin and Innocent Drinks. They used PR to establish and build brands that made them millions.

9. Flexibility  

With PR you don’t have to sign up to everything in one go. It’s not a single product off a shelf. You could start with a basic press office and then evolve the plans as you go. In fact, this is the best approach. Not only does this mean you can carefully measure the return on your investment, you can also better understand exactly what is happening and why.

10. Return on investment

There is no point in denying it, measuring the absolute impact of PR can be a challenge because the reasons for purchase will differ for every consumer. What we can be certain of is that having a PR programme in place will allow you to manage your message, engage in the right places, target the correct audiences and take some control of the conversation. Millions of businesses across the world haven’t got it wrong, they invest because they see the value.

Back to where we started

And so, we are back to where we started. The first step is to think very carefully about your business and what you want to achieve now and in years to come. PR may not be a priority but consider what it could do for your organisation.

Nothing will change if you continue the way you are going, and perhaps that should be one of the biggest concerns that you have.

For more information about how we work with our clients at Open Communications please visit the What We Do pages here.

ELEVEN YEARS AND COUNTING

As I write this blog I am filled with a mixture of emotions: nostalgia, as I look back to where we started; pride, at our journey so far; relief, that we made it through some tough times and a sense of immense achievement, that our experiences good and bad have only served to make us stronger.

The story starts in 2008 over a couple of bottles of wine. As two PR professionals with years of experience, we were tired of our day jobs and wanted to start out alone. We had very different approaches to work but the same values. It was this that would be the deciding factor and would see us launch Open Communications, a PR agency based in Wakefield.

I still remember how exciting it was and the encouragement we received from those we told before our official launch. When we commissioned the design for our branding and website, it all became real and was the start of so much more than a business.

A lot can change for a PR agency in eleven years, but I am thankful that those changes have shaped us to become the people and the business that we are today.

Personal development

People often ask what we have learnt, and it is impossible to share everything. Every day is a new opportunity to learn something new or to adapt an approach to get a better outcome either for a client or the agency.

For me, having a business has been a challenging journey that has pushed me harder than I ever would have imagined. It wasn’t the things we could plan for, it was recognising that change was inevitable if we were to survive.

Being overtly self-aware isn’t something I find comfortable as I know that it will mean having to reflect on the positive and negative attributes to my personality. Over the years I have learnt to appreciate the need to be more open, aware and accepting of others, even if I don’t agree with what they have to share. This can be difficult, but it is something that I must take on board as part of my own personal development. After all, how can I be the best role model to others if I am unwilling to work on my own weaknesses.

In many respects, having witnessed how those that inspire me most are also that those accept and apply the lessons they learn from others, whatever stage of their own journey, has given me the encouragement I need. Being stubborn and resistant often leads to a single outcome; stubborn-indifference.

Sharing success

We have worked with some incredible brands over the years and delivered some amazing campaigns and projects that have delivered outstanding results. I’m not embarrassed to shout about our success because we have earned it. Nothing has come easy but then I don’t think we would value it as much if it had.

This year has been a momentous one for Open Communications. We have trebled the size of our office space with a move to Wakefield city centre; appointed three new members of staff; secured three new clients and are still standing to tell the tale!

What’s more, we have some really exciting plans for the future and that includes new ways of working with businesses to provide greater access to PR, content marketing and social media support. A further example of how we continue to evolve and to challenge our own thinking as an agency. There’s no time for getting bored.

Thank you

As we celebrate eleven years in business, we can look back at all that we have achieved with a smile. We’ve come along way and there is an exciting road ahead, but the most important thing to me is that we started out as two friends with an ambition, and eleven years on that is still the case.

I think I speak on behalf of us both when I say thank you. Without our amazing network of colleagues, clients, suppliers, family and friends we wouldn’t be where we are today.

When we sat down to plan our business, values were of upmost importance to us both and we decided that rather than try to be something we are not, we would set our cards on the table and work with those that wanted a straight-talking PR agency that would get the job done and do it well.

Many things have changed over the years, but those guiding principles remain the same. As we raise a glass to the past eleven years, we hope that you will join us in celebrating what is to come as we look forward to what lies ahead.

Cheers!

A BRAND WITH LITERALLY NO PERSONALITY

LinkedIn has become a platform of choice for me over the last year or so. I like the fact it knows what it wants to be and that it is a work in progress. Having met with some of the team, they acknowledge there is more to be done but that the functionality has been developed to benefit business.

There is no other platform that has taken ownership of becoming an online portfolio of CVs that gives businesses access to a global database of talent like LinkedIn – or certainly not that I have come across.

Company pages on LinkedIn

We manage the Company Pages for some of our clients and make sure to post a selection of news, articles and coverage. We also engage with other brands and businesses to keep the feeds interesting and informative.

As a business that never stops learning, we review other pages to see what companies are doing and what ‘tricks of the trade’ are working. Applying best practice, we can then make recommendations that we know add value.

Making contacts, or not!

This morning when I was reviewing my own LinkedIn feed, I came across an impressive ‘company’ page. It was visual, informative, punchy and had a tone of voice that appealed to me. The page was obviously updated regularly but what stood out as very strange was there was no contact.

I think the page had been set up as a person but should have been a company. So, to be clear, it said ‘Owner of widget business’ but the page was the brand, not the individual.

Inadvertently, I had come across a brand with literally no personality!

There were several reasons I found this odd, not least how had this person not realised that it was a mistake to remain nameless and how were people supposed to make contact?

LinkedIn is about connections and although company pages generate followers, it’s not the same thing.

The power of personality

I’m a big believer that ‘people buy people’ and this has worked in practice for us here at Open Communications. Many of our clients have been with us for years and we have worked with brand managers that come to us when they change company – one of the biggest compliments in our industry and not something we take for granted.

The truth is that personality is one of the very few things that a business has which is truly unique. Of course, companies can try to replicate the tone of voice, messaging and even visuals that a brand uses but it will never be the same.

There are always the values, story and culture that you can never quite replicate. Plus, most brands that try to be something they are not get caught out and it all goes horribly wrong. Authenticity may be a phrase that is overused, but it resonates with audiences.

Keeping it real

The lesson I learnt from this morning’s encounter was that I will make it my mission to ensure that every company director we work with takes full credit for their business on LinkedIn, giving those that want to make an introduction the opportunity to do so.

I will also explain the difference between a personal and company page so that they don’t make any mistakes that could cost them sales.

I can see no reason for having a ‘social’ channel and not being visible as a person. The whole thing really is quite baffling.

As a business that wants to attract customers, this really does need to be addressed and I hope that it is. The page deserves to get the attention that it is attracting but I expect that the leads it could convert are fewer than they should be for this very reason.

YOU SAY IT BEST WHEN YOU SAY NOTHING AT ALL

It might be a great lyric for a song but when it comes to effectively managing the reputation of a brand saying nothing at all really can do more damage than good.

Don’t let your brand become your best kept secret

There are few feelings that beat getting excited by the achievements of a business, and eleven years on that hasn’t changed for us.

It’s not just about sharing our success as we expand and welcome new members to the team or celebrate our recent relocation back to Wakefield city centre, it’s also the updates we get to write and distribute for our clients too.

Sharing stories, building the profile of a brand, creating copy and content that captures the culture and personality of a business all deliver positive results, but it’s essential that messaging is aligned with behaviour.

Saying one thing and doing another will lead to mistrust and fake news.

Using PR and marketing communications to share the right messages, at the right time and in the right place gives an audience the information they need to make an informed decision. It’s no longer good enough to rely on the products and services that you sell, it’s about the approach you take and reinforcing values.

The conversation is happening without you

When you don’t share any news or insights as a business it doesn’t mean that the conversation isn’t going on without you. The truth is that whether you are engaged or not, people will talk. Social media and online forums give global audiences a platform to share their thoughts every minute of every day – literally.

Monitoring these conversations to make sure the comments made about your brand and business are correct and factual is as important as watching your cashflow. Ignoring references that are made online does not mean they will go away, often it can lead to the opposite.

No one is saying that you have to review every social media channel all of the time but checking what is being said is good practice and will keep you abreast of customer comments and complaints.

Building an employer brand

Some companies believe that informing the market that you have the best talent will lead to them being contacted by competitors. Firstly, someone can only be poached if they want to be and secondly, try harder to keep them.

Create a culture that attracts candidates and makes them want to work for you and to stay longer-term. Reinforcing how good your workforce is and giving employees credit where it is due is no bad thing and creates a positive atmosphere.

As LinkedIn becomes increasingly popular, remember that your employees can and will use this platform to share their success and achievements. Being an employer that embraces this, liking or reposting these comments, will set an example for others.

In the same way that employees share their success and achievements online, it is important that you remember that others will see this too. Attracting talent is just as important as nurturing those that already work for you, so do both.

Keeping tight-lipped

I’ve never been one to conform to the belief that if you keep quiet then you can be confident that your closely guarded secrets will remain a mystery. Let’s be honest, in most industries people move within the sector and with that comes the harsh reality that some things simply won’t remain under wraps forever.

As such, it’s worth identifying those things that really are secret and should remain that way and others that don’t really require a trip to the legal team for an NDA!

Make the most from your story

We live in a society whereby we are constantly inundated with marketing messages and it’s often the case that the only differentiation between brands is the story that sits behind why a business was launched and how it got to where it is today.

Use your story to appeal to a wider audience and to attract the right customers. Some businesses get this wrong, but many get it right and their success, in part, is as a result of their carefully curated content and images that reflect their brand.

Put some time into deciding how you want to come across to others and invest in the resource you need to make it happen. Even if you aren’t sure, the benefit of PR is that you can test and measure, but give it time, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither way a globally recognised brand.

SOCIAL MEDIA SHOULD NOT EXCUSE RUDENESS

adults-casual-cellphone

Billions of pounds have been spent to allow people to converse and communicate freely with each other, to share ideas and challenge concepts, to share thoughts and to learn, to create hope, generate support and nurture a space where everyone can have a voice.

What an incredibly positive and powerful movement.

Well yes, in theory, however in practice the irony is that it has become a growing beast and is being used for anything other than what it was intended*.

Hiding behind a screen

Social media is now a default position that gives anyone the ‘right’ to hide behind a screen and moan, bitch, shame, stir nastiness and share hatred. It is used to reach the masses with fake news and boastful claims and make others feel inferior at best and suicidal at worst.

Many will argue that this isn’t the case and that there is a lot of good that has come from social media tools. In part, I agree, but when reading the papers over recent weeks the truth is there in black and white.

Two recent headlines from the i newspaper as an example: “Depression and social media risk doubled in girls” and “Black Mirror star quits social media”.

The first refers to a study, which has found that teenage girls are twice as likely to shows signs of depression linked to social media than boys. The University College London has looked at the association between social and depression and the results are far from surprising.

The second headline quotes an actor, Will Poulter, who says: “In light of my recent experience I am choosing to take a step back, of sorts, from Twitter. I accept all criticisms and it’s been a delight to learn that so many of you enjoyed what many people worked very hard to produce. As we all know there is a balance to be struck in our engagements with social media.” He has been referred to as ugly by ‘trolls’ on the platform.

Let’s just take a step back.

Two articles which announce that young people are commonly experiencing signs of depression due to their use (and the misuse by their peers) of social media and a successful actor who can no longer watch in silence as he is torn to pieces by people who have no greater right to comment on this person’s appearance as he does on theirs.

When did this become ok? When was this headline hitting news? And, most importantly, when are we going to start to encourage the use of social media platforms for what they were intended – not to rant and rave in order to have a knowingly negative impact, but to share positive news and to become a platform to communicate for the right reasons.

Bringing it back to business

It would be unfair to ignore the fact that social media channels including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have provided brands with a platform to promote their products to a global audience and that increasingly intelligent algorithms allow for more specific targeting than has ever been possible.

The questions is the same however, at what cost?

Irrelevant of the budget, thought, creativity and man-hours that go into social campaigns it would appear that increasingly they are coming under the same scrutiny as any social engagement with people feeling that their negative and nasty comments should be shared and somewhat bizarrely responded to.

What many people that work outside of marketing may not appreciate is that it still takes people to respond to social media posts and they, like those complaining or sharing their ‘constructive thoughts’, have feelings.

I have seen some appalling examples of people who think that because they are hidden behind a computer screen can make the most terrible comments and expect a response within minutes.

Firstly, no brand – whatever the size – has a legal obligation to get back to a consumer because they feel they are worthy of that engagement. Secondly, if you are that kind of person, think about how you phrase a complaint and then consider how you would respond given the chance.

I have said this before and I will say it again, if you are posting to a social media channel for whatever reason, if you wouldn’t walk into the street and make those comments out loud then think twice and even three times before posting them.

You do not have the right to be rude

Social media does not give anyone the right to be rude.

For those who go on thinking its ok and that to be outwardly aggressive to the people on the other side of that Twitter, Instagram feed or Facebook account, I urge you to think about how you will feel when your child, partner, friend or family member comes home in tears from school, college or work.

Remember, if your behaviour is reflective of a bully – even when targeted at a brand – you are no better than the people that are directing the same hate filled bilge to your loved ones.  

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*We know that there was a commercial rationale for all of these platforms and they were not based on a philanthropic endeavour to allow freedom of speech or communication across the globe. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s just assume that was the case.

WHERE DID GIRL POWER REALLY COME FROM?

girl power

I tell you what I want, what I really, really want, I would like people to stop right now, thank you very much… and think for a moment.

Think about the young women with their lives ahead of them who joined the Army, RAF or Navy to show their support during the World Wars and whom fought just as ferociously to save lives and give us our freedom.

Think of the female machine operators that worked in an ammunition factory and were caught up in an explosion that killed their colleagues and wounded many more, yet they returned to work the same day (this happened in East Leeds and the ladies are referred to as the Barnbow Lasses).

Think of the nurses that over the years have helped the wounded, identified and developed some of the life-changing medical principles, techniques and drugs that we still administer today.

Think of the Suffragettes and the movement that they made happen – some losing their lives in the process – that would allow women to vote, which in turn would change attitudes and lives all over the world, forever.

 

https://youtu.be/gTMuh6AF3A0

Source: To Those Changing Human Health, Johnson & Johnson
 

Then, stop and think, was Girl Power really the brainchild of the management team behind a 90’s all-female girl pop band? I’m not convinced.

Far be it from me to discard the impact that the Spice Girls had on young women in the 90’s, after all, I will hold my hands up and say that I was one of them. I loved singing to their music and knowing that I could relate to the lyrics, but I have to be honest, I never felt that it was life changing.

As a result of the Spice Girls I never felt that I could achieve more or become more. I didn’t have the urge after listening to Spice Up Your Life to travel the world or following a dance around the kitchen to Who Do You Think You Are to start a business, it just didn’t impact on me in that way.

The point is that the Spice Girls are a manufactured group that were purposely created to resonate with an audience; young women.

While the concept was new, creating five ‘characters’ that provided an appeal that was more personal than had ever been explored previously, behind the ‘marketing’ (and multi-million-pound budget) they were simply a group of girls who were forced to live and work together after taking part in a reality TV show.  

While there is no doubt that Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh did their bit for Girl Power and continue to hit the headlines across the globe, I feel it is hugely important that we don’t forget to look back and recognise those that made it possible for this pop phenomenon to become what they are today – multimillionaire business women.

I’m not one to take to the soap box about women in business and I don’t feel the need to now. I was taught from a very young age that if you work hard and put your mind to it, you can become anything you want to. Alternatively, if you don’t, you won’t.

I now realise of course that this isn’t possible for everyone (although it should be) and that it was a simple way to look at things, but the principle remains the same.  

I’d like to see young women want to join the forces, want to become nurses, want to create a movement that will evoke world-wide change for the better and simply be the best they can be. With a recent survey suggesting that 75% of young people aspire to be YouTubers, perhaps it’s time we took greater influence from the Girl Power that delivered real results and that keep on giving today!

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PETS IN THE OFFICE: A DOGGY DO (OH DEAR) OR A DOGGY DON’T?

dogs-at-work

This is a subject that has been debated in the office at Open Comms for many years. Should we allow pets into the office or is it that one step too far, especially when you take into account that we host client meetings at Nostell and not everyone is a lover of our four-legged friends.

There have been many arguments both for and against but I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve always been the one that put my foot down and said no! Absolutely not.

In all fairness, I couldn’t get past the thought of dog slobber on a client’s designer suit or the smell of wet fur and Febreeze. There was just something that always made it a black and white decision for me – and it wasn’t in favour of the canine kind.

A new arrival

Then something happened. It was life changing. I hadn’t expected it and I wasn’t prepared for it. We got a dog. A puppy. A cocker spaniel to be precise, full of life and a bundle of bouncing energy.

I won’t lie, this new development took some getting used to. It was in my house, it was chewing things and padding through the kitchen with mucky feet! It even tried to eat my shoes and made a valiant attempt at destroying the garden – eating the heads off my favourite flowers one by one with a smirk across his cheeky chops.

But, oh, those eyes!

I never thought it would happen, but Duke Davies, the loveable pooch that happily howls his heart out at 5.30am each morning to remind us that it’s time for walkies has made his mark. There’s no going back and that is when I realised that I would have to face my first real personal battle about this bundle of (exhausting) joy.

Decision time

As holiday season approached there would be one week where there was no one to look after Duke during the day. There was only one real option. I would have to bring him to work. The horror as I realised that I had been the one for years – six years to be precise – that had always put a stop to office pets and now I was going to have to go, tail between my legs, and hope that my colleagues wouldn’t be as defensive about the doggy as I had been.

Thankfully they all welcomed him with open arms. In all honesty, he didn’t do much beyond sitting in the corner and sleeping, he is a pup after all. The occasional passing stroke and the trundles we had around Nostell Priory Estate Yard, meeting with other walkers that were enjoying the sunshine, kept him suitably amused.

The benefits of doing things differently

Beyond the practical though, having Duke in the office taught me a real lesson. Not least to stop being such a miserable cow but also to consider the benefits to doing things differently. I’d never given the office pet thing any real thought, but now I could see how five minutes with a distraction can be such a positive.

Going out for twenty minutes and leaving my desk to walk Duke twice a day gave me the shocking clarity I needed that it’s not a weakness to stand up and move away from my desk during the day and no one will criticise my work ethic for taking some time to clear my head.

Far from being the distraction I expected, Duke was a calming presence. I’d look down and he’d look up, big brown eyes and fluffy ears. What was there not to love, and as for the smell, I don’t think anyone really noticed – unless I’ve gone nose blind?  

A change of position

I can now see the benefits to having a pet in the office and that includes the giggles when they have a mad minute. I never thought that watching a dog run around as fast as his little legs could carry him or the cheeky bark he gave the postman (he nearly jumped out of his skin!) would have me chuckling behind my computer screen, but it did.

For those of you that are contemplating getting a pet for the office then there are a few things that you need to think about; who’s going to do the cleaning up, who takes ultimate responsibility and what are you going to do when clients visit. There’s also allergies to consider, you don’t want someone coming out in a rash! But…

It is worth considering the benefits too. There’s lots of research that suggests that having a pet in the office is therapeutic and can encourage a calmer working atmosphere and environment, while also improving productivity. Who knew?

Duke hasn’t become a permanent fixture in our office and he never will, I still have some reservations about a full-time position for him, but I would bring him again for a day or two, we just need to work on his telephone manner.