Oh The Cavalry

On Monday, I was at the PRCA census launch, and the figures speak for themselves. A third of our industry has suffered or been diagnosed with mental ill health. Last month's CIPR State of the Profession sung from the same hymn sheet.

Every so often I need a good cry. So I will watch the US drama, This is Us or Grey's Anatomy. I will listen to a particular speech that cuts my emotional insides. I once cried on the tube reading a book and another time listening to a podcast. As a fully formed human being with a body, soul and mind. Each part of me needs to be taken care of, nourished, strengthened and healed when the defence walls have been penetrated by sickness. This is something that I have had to learn the hard way. When the darkness comes in like the dead night, and the cavalry is not marching on the horizon coming in to save you. So, you get up and decide to be your own hero. As someone who has done media relations for almost 5 years, I concluded last year that it is a young 'person's game as Russell Grossman often says it needs a certain kind of energy and as my sanity started to mean more. I made a choice to put myself under a new pressure. I danced it out, stood in the sun listening to Thank You, Next and bowed out.

I had to do it for myself. Nobody was ever going drag me out of the situation. Certainly not the ex-boyfriend who once said to me that people like 'us' 'don't go for counselling. The concept of talking to a stranger to become better seemed so foreign to him that he would rather I suffer in silence. Years of cultural norms that brush mental health under the carpet. Because you see in my mother tongue the word, depression and anxiety 'don't exist. I can be sad or scared. Those are all perfectly normal or and accepted, but mental illness is the taboo we speak about in hush tones or associate it to witchcraft.

Because how can our wonderful, educated daughter of the soil who is working in this incredible job for this fantastic organisation, that we 'don't understand have something wrong with her mind. So, you smile and get on with being everyone's swan. Gliding through life, work and this big world with grace, until one day. Yes, the day of reckoning. It has come more than once, and I know when 'it's rearing its ugly head. I see glimpses of it. The isolation, lack of sleep, silencing of my voice, worrying and retreating to my shell. That warm lonely dark shell where it's been easy to hide is probably the most dangerous for me.

But in 2018 there was a saving grace when I needed it. It was a community rather than a person with a halo. A learning experience as opposed to a training session with a deck. It is hardly a secret at this point how I feel about Comms Unplugged. I love the outdoors, and fresh air and one of my previous occupations was a farmer. So, I'm in my element, Hunter wellies and all. But as I have said in the past, it is more than an event. 'It's a safe space to work through the highs and lows that come with working in this profession. Doing it with kin and knowing that they too have jumped the hurdles, maybe they are going through it as I write this on a train going to be reunited with some of them. See that's the thing, they catch me when I fall, and they understand. They are a text away. When I am away from our closed group, they come looking for me in the virtual world, and they are honest. The latter is the purest gift. "It will all be fine. We got you." And they had me through each and every moment. This goes for my entire comms community. They come through in a way I can only repay by being a good citizen and maybe one day coming through for someone else.

I've found ways of dealing with my mental health and identifying when things are getting to a fever pitch. Even though my tears are far away, they are there. The complexities of my anxieties are a cocktail of factors which have a splash of imposter syndrome, fear, and a hint of race sprinkled on top. Working twice as hard and navigating spaces painted with prejudices, I am powerless to control start to take their toll. So sometimes I put the baton down and rest. When I am on leave, I do what makes me happy. I keep myself in safe and drama free spaces on and offline because I just ain't that woke to be the one who changes the world with a Twitter clapback. Journaling and exercise are now part of regular rituals. I volunteer and am slowly smashing that shell to let light in. And remember the community, well they are my Calvary now, charging in like the Knights of the Vale at the Battle of the Bastards.

Please check out the work being done by Jo Hoper at Mad Sad Club who I had the pleasure of meeting an a CIPR inside event recently. She will be at IoIC FutureNet #WeMatterAtWork event on June 13.

Join CommsUnplugged 8-9pm on Tuesday, May 14, for a Twitter chat #MHinComms with Leanne Ehren. She is a communications and engagement specialist, and you'll find her on Twitter at @leanneehren.

Fan Girl Dating Data

Swap ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘What is this trying to teach me?’. It will change everything.
— Jay Shetty

I have been a busy fangirl. I ‘bumped’ into Jay Shetty on my way back to my desk after lunch at work. You can google him now. I have been following Jay for a few years, and his content is inspirational but what I find quite remarkable is his ethos about stepping outside of your comfort zone and perspective.

Over the last few weeks, I have been attending events and having naughty post-event blowouts. The calories gained will be burned off when I start training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon that I am running for the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

I headed to Twickenham for the Employee and Engagement Conference London. There were some recurring themes throughout the day as the award winners presented their campaigns.


•    Use of data and insight to inform internal communication and employee engagement strategy.    

•    Diversity and inclusion initiatives, “should quotas be removed?”   

•    Solving the mental health crisis.   

•    Breaking the Myth: “Do Employees Leave Managers, not Companies.”  

•    Implementing Workplace by Facebook. Barriers for adoption and the success stories UNICEF and lastminute.com. 

•    Reinventing recognition schemes in the public sectors with limited budgets.

Ade Cheatham  - CEO - Cooper Parry

Ade Cheatham - CEO - Cooper Parry

There were a few presentations that stood out from Ryan from Hive and Kate from Beyond.

Ryan Tahmassebi, Head of Delivery, Hive HR    

•    How to use survey tools to manage change and create effective questions for engagement.    

•    Overcoming cultural challenges when embedding new HR technologies.  

•    Moving from annual surveys to ongoing feedback for a more meaningful employee experience.   

Businesses have now realised that the more they spend on development and employee experience the better the customer experience will be.   

Why aren't we getting employee engagement right? We seem to be missing critical insights provided by data. Some businesses are now trailing a metric that focuses on ‘Are you having a good day?’ This is a measure of physical and emotional energy.   

Could the solution be adopting an integrated approach for employee engagement that looks at   

•    Meaningful Work     

•    Great Management    

•    Fantastic Environment   

•    Growth Opportunity   

•    Trust in Leadership   

  Based on Bersin by Deloitte Engagement Model


Some of the key considerations when implementing an employee engagement campaign  

•    The employee life cycle.   

•    How data is used to craft a narrative to justify the organisations' objectives.   

•    The truth behind response rates and whether the data can be trusted if incentives are attached.   

•    An understanding of the current organisational culture and subcultures. Because introducing new technology doesn’t change a culture.   

•    Real thought and time to test new initiatives.  


Kate Rand – People Director, Beyond  

Thinking differently about our people, diversity and inclusion initiatives, agile evangelist and total wellness. A great example of cross-agency collaboration through Flipside which tackles socio-economic diversity. 


I went to my first Sharing Social London Event at Runway East. The theme of the meet-up was audience intelligence - what is it and what can you achieve with it. Having data and insight about audiences is something that is becoming more important as the competition for attention gets tougher.

How then does a brand or organisation extract value from existing data and make that a base for their strategy? The two speakers shared best practice and tips on how to get started. 

Emily McReynolds, Passion Digital - How can social analysis be used to inform decisions?

Key Takeaways


·       Start with what you have. Social listening, brand sentiment, existing audience intelligence, historical data and trends analysis, competitor data, and previous campaign data.

 ·       Develop questions that guide your data analysis and don’t look for the answers that you want.

·       Insights can inform more than messaging and tone of voice. Effective use can also help with making decisions on media spend, product and service opportunities.

Ben Davies, Media Chain

Ben Davies, Media Chain


Ben Davies, Media Chain - Gaming The System: An exploration into the world of gaming and social media. His talk was based on the report Gaming the system? An exploration into the world of gaming and social media


Key Takeaways

·       Create a map of what insights and data you are looking for, i.e. Demographics, lifestyle, spending power, social habits, media consumption patterns, and interests.  

·       Brands should build and enhance experiences instead of invading spaces. An example of a brand that has already done some great work in this area is Mercedes-Benz.   

·       The key is value, content and community.

Check out Media Chain’s research and insight reports into Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2018 partnership opportunities and Navigating the next generation fan: How football is social. I will be keeping an eye on their work as we gear up for the Rugby World Cup in September.


I've been reviewing themes and examples from the recent Adobe Experience Festival. The Always On, Always Personal, Always Relevant session by Matthew Harwood, Head of Digital Solutions, Royal Bank of Scotland was a snapshot into how RBS transformed the way they think about their business. It is not only about technology and data, but people & process have also been essential to their success.

·       More timely, more relevant and a better understanding of the customers has better results.

·       Spend as much time as possible with frontline staff, and build a closed-loop of feedback.

·       Bring the customer experience to life. In banking, a customer connects with buying a home rather than the process of acquiring a mortgage.

·       As channels change and your strategy evolve there is a need for the ecosystem to grow too.

Check out Data and research in PR by Claire Simpson as it’s a great place to start.

Dancing and Finding Joy

In my imagination, Viola Davis is my ‘auntie’, but my family are concealing this information from me. I am going to borrow a pearl of wisdom from her to briefly explain my take on a piece of not so breaking news that came out recently. While accepting her Emmy in 2015 for outstanding actress in a drama series for her portrayal as professor Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away with Murder, she said, “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You can not win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." I mention this in the week when Twitter is awash with claims of Beyonce refusing to work with Reebok because of their lack of diversity, and the CIPR State of the Profession is published — showing that our industry is becoming less diverse and failing to protect the mental health of its professionals.

If diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being allowed to dance, then who is the DJ playing the music or the bouncer at the door enforcing the 'guest list' with the VIP’s who have the proverbial red carpet rolled out and the velvet rope raised for them. Some days I feel like this industry is one long evening of a silent disco. If you have never been to one, it is a fun but unusual experience. We are all wearing our various headphones each tuned to a different channel. On the dance floor we patiently wait for the DJ to work his magic, but sadly he may not switch on the music for everyone so they simply can’t dance. Because as my wise ‘aunt’ mentioned if the opportunities aren’t being offered then how do we ensure that we have true inclusion. If you don’t give me the chance to lead the teams, speak at conferences on communications and public relation principles, design campaigns and advance to positions that hold real power and influence then how do you expect me to win the awards or sing the melody of inclusiveness.

Comms over coffee

Ella Minty shared, Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity by BCG, which unpicks the defects of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Nodding to advancement and retention as a gap for inclusivity of BAME talent gives what Viola mentioned weight. Hiring diverse talent to fill quotas and then failing to nurture talent to move further in their careers to reach their full potential is similar to an employer and our industry selling us the artistic impressions, but choosing not to build the house year after year but keep referring to the plans.

So, I am at the party, and I am going to dance because the DJ is giving me a song to dance to and Polly Cziok has promised to bring the cocktails.

A full list of different blogs and articles analysing the report can be found here.

Now on to more joyous matters. This week I attended an evening with Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President of Twitter, author of best-selling book The Joy of Work and the host of the podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. I highly recommend the podcast for anyone interested in internal communications.

Dancingandfinding joy.JPG

Bruce explored many things that I will go into further in future posts as I study more and dive into the book. I am going to outline some of my key takeaways from the evening and what I am changing.

  • We need to future proof ourselves by upskilling in the areas of inventiveness and creativity.

  • The hustle culture as it’s popularly known which glorifies working dangerously long hours is contour productive to creativity.

  • Positive Affect and Psychological Safety have the most significant impact on workplace culture.

  • For an internal communications professional there is a danger of trying to implement quick fixes. At times organisations can create the ‘Smoothie delusion’ that tries to put everyone in a good mood, through improving the benefits that have a one time impact but they do little to transform the state of mind.

  • As Bruce explained, “There are no simple hacks to resolve these things, you need to think about a system to resolve these things to try and build a state of positive affect using far more strategic long term approaches.”

  • Psychological safety doesn’t scale. Amy Edmondson which Bruce references to said, “For fear of appearing ignorant we don’t ask questions, for fear of appearing obstructive we don’t raise objections, we are at a state of managing the impression.”

  • Systems of fear kill our capacity to be creative. But even more, concerning is how fear and stress linger in the air like a bad hangover.

What I am changing:

  • Turning off my notifications

  • Taking a lunch break away from my desk as much as possible

  • Have more face to face interactions

  • Foster an atmosphere of collaboration

  • Develop techniques to improve my energy efficiency

Find an extract of the book on the podcast and I will share my thoughts soon. If you can’t wait listen to Sally’s take on the podcast #CU on the air.