Tag: coalfields regeneration trust


Whatever industry you work in there will be an awards ceremony that celebrates the success of the great and good in your sector. The same can be said for PR and I am really pleased to announce that Open Communications has been shortlisted for the Not For Profit category at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire PRide Awards.

The awards take place tomorrow (Thursday 17 November) evening at The Queen’s Hotel in Leeds and will bring together hundreds of people from businesses and agencies throughout the two regions.

It has taken us eight years to enter the awards, not because we didn’t feel that our work was of a standard to be recognised but because, if we’re honest, we’ve spent more time submitting and winning awards for our clients.

It was only during a meeting earlier in the year that a client asked why we don’t practice what we preach, and I realised that actually awards for our own work should be as important as those of the brands that we work with.

So, what was stopping us?

Well, to be honest, we’ve never really felt that we needed awards to prove that we could do a good job – the evidence is in the results that we achieve. Then there was the fact that some awards make you feel like you’re simply glory hunting and again this isn’t really our style.

But, when it comes down to it awards do give a credibility by association and you have to be in them to win them! So, is it glory hunting or are you simply getting the recognition you deserve for the results you work so hard to achieve.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with a conclusive answer and so, we put pen to paper.

The challenge then was what to submit? We are very proud of the work that we produce and the results that we get for our clients so it was a difficult choice. We decided that we would focus on the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the only organisation dedicated to former mining towns and villages throughout the country.

We have worked alongside the team at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for more than 2 years now and have secured hundreds of pieces of coverage, which in turn has communicated with millions of people throughout the UK.

The results are consistently strong and as a result of our work communications is very much an agenda point around the board room table. We’ve even been invited to share our work with the trustees – which is a real achievement.

We have worked with the team to develop a tone of voice, aligned their messaging and revised their three-year strategy. We have also shaped their brand and vision for the future and changed the way that they communicate with different audiences to make sure they get the return on investment both from us and their own efforts.

Although we are confident with the results we have achieved, leading the organisation most recently to secure a Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Award (2016), we know that it can go either way.

We have everything crossed and know that even if we don’t win, we have done a fantastic job and will continue to deliver for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, evolving the way that they communicate to make sure as many people as possible understand what they are trying to achieve.

That said, we’ve cleared a space on our shelf (just in case) and hope to be updating the blog with pictures of Open Communications as we pick up our very first PRide award.

Wish us luck!

Nurture new talent with the Youth Association

Here is the second in our series of blogs from the Buy Yorkshire Conference.

I have to claim a particular interest in the Youth Association, which is the next business we will focus on. I was introduced to the charity by our client the Coalfields Regeneration Trust who have invested in the organisation and its Young Upstarts programme, which Andy Clow has since evolved.

The Youth Association were an exhibitor at this year’s event and have what I believe to be a unique proposition for businesses in the Yorkshire region.
Read on for more information about the amazing work they are doing and please do take the time to watch the video, it really does bring to life the impact that they make on young people.

If there is one thing that the Buy Yorkshire Conference cannot be accused of it’s having 180 exhibitors within the same sector. You know the kind of event where there’s a bank or a legal team round every corner, a stand-off between two shell schemes that go back to back but just happen to be competitors – well, you don’t get that here.

The variety of exhibitors is one of the reasons that the show is so popular and attracts the 4,000 delegates that it does from Yorkshire and beyond.

Today, during the second day of the show, we came across the Youth Association, an organisation which runs a programme called Young Upstarts which professes to ‘turn day dreams into day jobs’. We caught up with Andy Clow to hear more about the organisation and exactly what it has to offer.

So what makes the Young Upstarts programme different?

Recently as an organisation we have launched a youth programme, which gives businesses the chance to ‘choose’ a young person who they would like to support financially to achieve their dreams. These young people have come to us with a viable business idea, we have given them our support, practical advice and encouragement and now they need the funding to make it happen.

Why would businesses choose to do this?

As well as sitting within the CSR policy of many companies, we found that businesses actually wanted to invest in something they could follow and be a part of. It’s not about writing a cheque, it’s about knowing that your money will make a real and lasting impact on a young person’s life.

Why wouldn’t they just go to a bank?

Young Upstarts gives these people an alternative. Many of the young people we work with are from hard to reach backgrounds, they may have dropped out of school with no qualifications or had a difficult time but want to make steps to change that. They need a chance and whereas the banks are in most instances unlikely to help them we have launched a programme that will.

It’s also about an investment rather than a loan. Many young people can be put off by the thought of interest payments and having a loan before they even start – with our programme and corporate support they can put their efforts into launching a business that they are genuinely passionate about.

Is there anything else like this out there?

Not that we are aware of. The ironic thing is that you can pay to ‘adopt’ or support almost anything but one thing that we seem to forget is that young people, the talent of tomorrow, are ready and waiting to start their own businesses and their barrier to doing so is having someone believe in them enough to want to offer some financial start-up capital.

It all sounds great but must be expensive

It’s not expensive at all. You can invest as much or as little as you want. We are hoping to develop almost a crowd funding model that will mean that each young person has several backers, all of whom can follow their journey.

There must be some risks involved

The risks are like any business – that it doesn’t work. The one thing to remember is that without this funding these young people wouldn’t have the opportunities to proceed with their ideas – or it would be significantly more difficult. You also have to remember that some of these organisations and entrepreneurs will be a success and that those have invested will always be a part of their journey.

So how many people have you actually engaged with

In the last three years, since we launched the programme, we have captured the attention and imagination of 5,000 young people. In the last 12 months along 2,500 have attended our enterprise workshops and 84 aspiring entrepreneurs have completed the Young Upstarts course, which in turn secures them a qualification that they can use and be proud of.

Can’t young people just go to College or take a vocational course?

From our research we have found that 60% of 18-30 year olds would like to start a business but only 8% are actually becoming start-ups. 67% of people say that the fear of failure stops them becoming entrepreneurs while just 28% of young people think they know where to go for information about start-ups. With figures like these we know that there is a gap in the market for something different, which meets with the diverse and sometimes challenging needs of young people. We are committed to giving them the support and guidance that THEY need. This programme is flexible enough to allow us to do that, unlike many others out there.

How do you keep in touch

We have just launched a new website www.startwithyes.org with all information included. As organisations invest we will make sure that they have regular updates with regards to each young person and their business. In addition, it may be that companies become mentors, taking even more of a role in the individuals they choose to work with.

Do you have any real life examples or success stories to share

We have just had a podcast commissioned which showcases just two of the many young people we have supported. It not only shows that we make a real and lasting difference to these people but also the variety of ideas that they come to us with.

For more information about the Youth Association and Young Upstarts programme and the fantastic work that they do please visit www.startwithyes.org or call Andy on tel. 01924 333400.


We’re still specialists without specialising

We are very fortunate to work with a real variety of organisations. As an agency we made a decision before launching that we would never work with two businesses in a competing sector, the reasons to us were obvious; the client paying you the highest fee would get the best opportunities and irrelevant of confidentiality agreements, sometimes ‘just knowing’ too much is uncomfortable.

This has brought about its problems of course, not least being asked to work for two of the UK’s largest brands in their respective categories only to have to turn around and decline the opportunities as we were already working with competing brands. Still, great problem to have!

Building on this, in recent years we have had a number of approaches from prospective clients asking if we ‘specialise’ in a given sector. We have been privileged to work with a wide range of businesses and each time we take on an account we research their sector to provide us with the greatest understanding possible.

Take the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as an example, or Nigel Tooby photography, I hadn’t worked with a charity that focuses on coalfields communities before and despite coincidentally living in a former mining village, wasn’t aware of the work the organisation was involved with. Similarly I am not a contemporary art enthusiast so had no background about Nigel or his exhibitions.

We still work with both clients and secure results every month for them. The fact that we didn’t specialise in their particular market hasn’t in anyway had a negative effect on our activity, in fact the truth is that we are specialists in them – not their sectors per se.

And that is what I think is important.

Of course you need to have some understanding of the markets that you are working in but what is absolutely essential when you support a brand as a communications expert is to know them inside and out.

Sharing their messaging and values is what we are tasked to do in order to support and build their reputation and that is why we always reiterate that we work as an extension of our clients teams, without this approach it would be impossible.

Like most agencies we surround ourselves with market news that is relevant to our clients, subscribing to RSS feeds, google alerts, trade magazines and media monitoring tools to ensure we are up to date with any changes in policy or breaking announcements.

Some agencies argue that to be sector specific means that you can draft copy which is more technical, using terminology that is relevant to the industry but as communications experts it is our job to learn that. It is no different to adapting to a house style or pitching to a new publication – you do your research and get on with it.

Having worked in the PR sector for years, there is no doubt that we use previous experiences to our advantage but my argument is always the same – we specialise in PR and we specialise in our clients, which therefore makes us specialists, whatever sector you work in.

So the next time someone asks me if we specialise, I will be giving them a very simple answer, yes!

Celebrating success before it all kicked off!

As a non-executive board director for the Theatre Royal in Wakefield, I was really privileged to support the organisation when they were shortlisted in the community category of the Yorkshire Business Excellence Awards.

The celebration took place in Leeds on 30 October with a range of companies large and small coming together to share their achievements and successes. What was most impressive – and I am biased – was that guests were serenaded by the Theatre’s Performance Academy as they entered the champagne reception.

It was a glitzy affair with initial pre-dinner address from Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith followed by a delicious four course meal. It was then time to announce the winners and you could feel the tension as heart rates hit new heights.

It was the fourth announcement of the evening and we were all sat wide eyed waiting for the final decision to be shared… and the winner is *insert drum roll*, ‘the Theatre Royal Wakefield’. Acknowledged in particular for striving to operate a best in class destination that gives access to the arts and entertainment despite significant cuts, it was unanimous.

I genuinely believe that the Theatre Royal has a great deal to offer the local community and that people should take the time to visit and to experience the amazing programme of performances that take place in this historic gem of a building.

The venue is celebrating an amazing 120 years and I often wonder what stories it would tell if only it were possible to do so but at least one thing is for sure, the Yorkshire Post Business Excellence Award would be one of them! Please click here for more details of the winners from the night and video coverage supplied by the Yorkshire Post.

Moving on to the next day (no rest for the wicked!), it was a crisp Friday morning and by contrast you couldn’t get much different. Wrapped up warm I headed up to Scotland with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for a weekend of football.

As previously shared, we have supported Game On, an initiative which brings young people together from some of the most disadvantaged coalfield communities throughout the country to play football. The programme goes beyond the simple principles of sport and engages young people to learn about interaction with third party organisations and peers, as well as teamwork and social skills.

Having cheered on all of the teams during the Inter-regional Finals in Derby as they fought hard for their places in the Home International Tournament, it was time for Wigan A and B to do their country proud.

Thankfully the weather was mild and there were even a few breaks in the clouds as the sun attempted to shine. The winning players from Scotland, Wales and England all took to the pitch and after an official opening to a marching band of pipers, it was kick off.


There is no doubt that each team gave it their all, with some amazing tackles, defending and goals and then it was down to just two; England and Wales. The match was like-for-like and finished with a goalless draw so it was penalties and sudden death.

I’m not a huge fan of football but I have to admit that after watching the lads put their all into the games I was routing for them to win – it even got so bad that I did some cheering and even added my very own unique take on a team talk *cringe*.

Over the course of just 2 days we had got to know the team a little better and there were some real characters in the group who certainly helped to raise a few smiles with their quips and ‘humour’.

11.04.14 Game On National Home Final

No sooner had the whistle blown than it was over – Wales had won the Tournament on penalties. Needless to say there were some glum faces from the England lads but they did us proud and that’s all that anyone can ask for.

What was most impressive was their manners, general attitude to the game and most importantly their passion for the sport and the wider team. You would never guess that these young lads were from coalfield communities and I’m not absolutely sure that they would feel it necessary to tell you but what they probably don’t realise is that if nothing else their determination and sheer grit could be considered a lasting legacy from times gone by.


And so I’m on to another week and although there won’t be any glitz and glamour or pitch side banter and penalty shoot outs this week, there are certainly proposals to be planned, news to be drafted, events to be arranged and announcements to be managed that will keep me busy – after all, there’s never a dull moment when you work in PR.