All posts by rachel_eaton

Account Executives, London

Account Executive x2

 

We are on the hunt for two tenacious, well organised client-facing Account Executives who can combine a nose for a great news story with excellent writing skills.

 

If you have a curious mind and are interested in how international organisations are adapting to today’s challenges such as sustainability, diversity & inclusion or responsible investing and can then create compelling content on these issues, then this is the job for you.

 

Typical activities include being the clients’ daily ‘go to’ contact, traditional and social media relations, writing, event management, digital content development, research, media monitoring, reporting and offering wider support to the team where needed. You will also have plenty of opportunity to get out to industry events for networking and learning as well as ongoing training.

 

Have you got what it takes?

We are looking for candidates who can demonstrate:

 

  • A degree in a relevant subject
  • A minimum of 1 year’s PR and communications experience
  • That they are a natural media hound with a nose for what makes great news and an aptitude for building relationships with journalists
  • Excellent English writing skills and are able to adapt style according to the audience
  • A flair for creating compelling content across earned, owned and paid channels
  • Experience in using social media across a range of channels and applications
  • Confidence managing workloads and delivering high quality work to tight deadlines
  • A willingness to take on responsibility, learn quickly and progress fast
  • They can naturally work collaboratively in a team and independently
  • An aptitude for getting under the skin of complex client industries and issues
  • Have a curious mind and creative flair

 

What we offer

In return, you can expect a competitive salary and rapid promotion if you can prove yourself. We’re a fun, friendly and supportive team with a working culture that reflects this. Our employees love our extra benefits which include:

  • Profit-related bonus
  • Private healthcare
  • Gym contribution
  • Contributed pension
  • Opportunity to participate in staff exchange to Kenya office
  • Flexible start and end to the day
  • Work from home 1x day a week once they reach account manager level
  • Early finishes on Friday’s during the summer
  • Monthly grooming treatment
  • In-house and external training

 

We are also passionate about making a positive contribution to society through our CSR activities and have regular team get-togethers.

To apply for this position, please email info@gongcommunications.com.

 

CULTURETECH EVENT REPORT

CULTURETECH EVENT REPORT

 

On 11 September, we held our third event on Culture, this time lifting the lid on how digital platforms are used to measure sentiment and predict behaviour at work. Our panel was chaired by Helen Barrett, the FT’s Work & Careers Editor and comprised Alastair Gill, People Partner at multi-award winning telco, giffgaff, Briana Van Strijp, COO & Chief People Officer, Anthemis, a VC firm focused on ‘digitally native finance,’ Hani Nabeel, Founder, CultureScope, which provides behavioural diagnostics of organisational culture and Torie Chilcott, Co-founder of Paddle Consulting which has developed a unique methodology using data insight into the emotion, moods and tastes of people across the UK to help organisations engage their internal and external audiences.

The event was run under Chatham House rules to encourage free and open debate. Here are some of the main takeaways:

ON COMMUNICATIONS:

Culture needs to come from the people in the business, not only from the leaders. Emotion came through as being a critical component of good cultural communication. We shouldn’t be afraid of tapping into emotional responses to messages and to answering the question, ‘What does this message mean for me?/my career?/my development?/my happiness?’

Communicating inside organisations should be approached with the same rigour as for external audiences, for example customer targeting, using persona building and segmentation to define different internal ‘tribes’ and split testing content for effectiveness.

Similarly, we have to acknowledge that people at work are just people and we all respond to things that are funny or aesthetically pleasing or inspiring in our own time and work doesn’t really change that. Organisations need to apply the same creative standards to their internal comms as their customer comms.

ON RECRUITMENT:

Onboarding: When new people join the organisation, we give them a computer, a password and show them where the coffee machine is. We don’t spend nearly enough time on the culture. We need to help people understand what is expected of them, and why they have been hired. What are our values? What are the behaviours that show that we are living those values? How will I feel as a result?

ON THE FUNCTIONS:

Often HR is not the client for the most progressive culture tech. HR has an opportunity to step up and lead on this stuff. One observation was that HR used to be thought of as there to protect the company from its people. Now the role of HR includes helping the company attract, retain and motivate talent and culture is the key.
When HR people spend time with their marketing colleagues, the result is internal communication that feels sync’d up with the brand and how it engages external audiences, most importantly, customers. This isn’t typical, but it makes a big difference to the quality of the internal output.

Post all of the corporate scandals, it’s easy to view culture as a potential villain that needs to be managed by risk professionals, but we should think of culture as the hero.

ON THE TECHNOLOGY:

Technology is just an enabler. It is pointless collecting more data unless you know what to do with it.
The tech doesn’t influence the culture, or fix it when it’s bad, it just measures sentiment and behaviour or delivers messages. What it can do when people don’t have physical proximity to transmit culture is create opportunities to connect to reinforce values and behaviours.

From foundations to futures – what building an orphanage in Ghana taught me about stakeholder relationships

 

FROM FOUNDATIONS TO FUTURES

WHAT BUILDING AN ORPHANAGE IN GHANA TAUGHT ME ABOUT STAKEHOLDER RELATIONSHIPS

James Deacon, senior account manager, Gong Communications

There’s a lake in Ghana called Lake Volta, it’s the largest man-made lake in the world. It lies along the Greenwich meridian just six degrees above the equator. Completed in 1965, it displaced 75,000 people and flooded some of Ghana’s largest forests. Nowadays, its hydroelectricity powers most of Ghana, Togo and Benin, whilst its shores play host to makeshift huts and markets servicing the largest fishing trade in the country. It’s a beautiful scene to witness surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty, but sadly also reflects a life of limited opportunity for the most vulnerable of children.

Fishing can prove difficult when you have an underwater forest, and the perceived best way to solve this is to send young boys, usually less than 10 years of age down to untangle the nets. There are currently over 10,000 child slaves trapped in forced labour on the lake (International Justice Mission), suffering from malnutrition, physical abuse and with no access to education. They’re often sold for as little as 75 Cedis (£12 GBP) by desperate families looking for a way out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t gain much media attention, so after spending a month in Ghana in 2013, already in love with local hospitality and the discovery of how fresh mangoes actually taste, I started the ball rolling on a project to help children who end up in this situation.

Now a registered charity in England and Wales, Holy’s Home for Children sits in a village called Kwahu Nteso in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Standing inside the completed dormitory last Easter, it was hard to believe that just two years ago this was a piece of land, some vague foundations, and a slightly mad idea to build a home for orphans in the region.

Two years ago was also my first day at Gong. The timing was serendipitous as the company had just introduced a new democratic selection process for its CSR projects. This comprised of a Dragon’s Den style pitching session to my brand-new colleagues, a slightly daunting but encouraging opportunity.  However, there was no need to persuade my colleagues of the development needs of sub-Saharan Africa; the company has been active in West Africa for years, has an office in East Africa and has since been shortlisted for two specialist agency awards for communicating sustainable development in emerging markets. Winning the pitch resulted in a monthly donation and counsel from Gong enabling the charity to plan more effectively its construction schedule. Over the past 18 months, more than 25 labourers and six local suppliers from across the immediate villages have been employed and have worked incredibly hard to finalise the two-storey structure that now stands proudly upon the hill (with the best view possible!). We’ve built what will be a financially self-sustainable enterprise by the purification and selling of clean drinking water – locally known as ‘pure water’, then giving children the chance to reach their full potential, attend school daily and live away from danger in a safe and loving environment. Once all donation targets are met, we’ll be looking after up to 30 children by Spring 2019.

In retrospect, none of this would have been possible without stakeholder relationships. It’s a term we hear most days if you’re in agency world, whether in new business proposals, campaign plans or perhaps a rationale to a client for why something didn’t quite go the way it was supposed to. Whether it was sourcing timber from local suppliers or drafting in legal advice during the charity commission registration process, every person we’ve encountered and persuaded, whether paid or voluntary, has been crucial to making this small charity functional.

Building solid networks and relationships with people on the ground in Ghana has been crucial in enabling the development of the charity. In the UK, Holy’s Home has been lucky enough to have the support of a network of passionate volunteers called Challenge12, who have so far among them sent a rocket in to space, climbed Everest, attempted to swim the English Channel, walked the Camino de Santiago, kayaked Lake Windermere (twice), stood on the wings of a plane (mid-flight), and escaped an underwater helicopter crash simulator that apparently is character building. I’ll leave that there.

Each of these volunteers is a stakeholder, aligned firmly to the same purpose. What I’ve learned from managing stakeholder relations both at work and through Holy’s is that when there’s limited attention given to purpose or grey areas in the overarching vision, plans can begin to crumble but uniting together behind a common and clear goal is when the best results are achieved.

After all, as the (slightly generic) African proverb goes: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

www.holyshome.org

 

CULTURAL CAPITAL AND ITS VALUE TO AN ORGANISATION

 

CULTURAL CAPITAL AND ITS VALUE TO AN ORGANISATION

If an organisation’s Purpose is its general direction of travel, then Culture governs everyday decision making in the business when the CEO is not in the room. Positive cultures are valuable because they create focus, enable innovation, productivity and cohesion and help attract and retain great people.

The next generation of talent; portfolio careerists, gig economy workers, freelancers and contractors  – those who are arguably most attracted to a great culture are becoming the hardest to get traction with because of increasing remote and agile working practices. Communicating, managing and measuring culture effectively in this environment is the next wave of competitive advantage.

On 15 May we asked author and strategist John Grant, (Better – Wellbeeing and the human-friendly business, Unbound, March 2018), to lead a discussion on Cultural Capital* which we defined as the value of culture to an organisation. He was joined by Yvonne Smyth, Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Hays plc, whose annual survey of 14,000 people ‘What Workers Want’ reveals how many people value culture more highly than remuneration.  Dineshi Ramesh, Director, Board Intelligence Academy provided insights on how Boards struggle with the issue of culture when it comes to how it is reported, and Kevin May, founder of Seattle based consultancy Sticks LLC, contributed insights from his research into ‘The Office of the Future’ which examines the role of the physical environment on culture.

Watch some of their insights here.

* (with a little nod to Bordieu),

GONG HONOURED IN ‘BEST FOR THE WORLD’ B CORP LIST

 

GONG HONOURED IN ‘BEST FOR THE WORLD’ B CORP LIST

B Corp has today released a list of its ‘Best for the World’ honorees based on its top scoring community members. Gong Communications is one of just 12 UK B Corps who made it into the ‘workers’ category.

To be a Best For The World: Workers honoree, a company is assessed for its relationship with its workforce. The B Impact Assessment Workers category measures how the company treats its workers through compensation, benefits, training and ownership opportunities provided to workers. The category also focuses on the overall work environment within the company by assessing management/worker communication, job flexibility, corporate culture, and worker health and safety practices.

Commenting on the news, Amanda Lyons, Director at Gong responsible for people said, “The importance of attracting and keeping great people can’t be overestimated when it comes to running a successful communications agency so this honour is particularly welcome as we have worked hard to build a positive culture and environment that reflects our belief in the pivotal role of our people.”

GONG TO MENTOR GREENTECH CHALLENGE ENVIRONMENTAL ENTREPRENEURS

 

GONG TO MENTOR GREENTECH CHALLENGE ENVIRONMENTAL ENTREPRENEURS

On Thursday 14 June, GreenTech Challenge will open its doors in London to the latest cohort of 12 carefully selected environmentally focused businesses to help them meet their dream potential investors.

The event is the brainchild of three Danes who share a vision for a greener and more sustainable world and a mission to help digital disruptors gain traction in terms of finance and professional advice that will help them accelerate their success. Gong is one of the firms mentoring entrepreneurs in how to build profile that supports their business ambition, from attracting the right investors to landing the right messages with potential clients.

The event takes place over 3 days with 1-on-1 training culminating in pitching in front of industry VIPs and investors on June 19.

Commenting on the partnership, Gong’s Founder, MD Narda Shirley said, “Talk to anyone who is involved in sustainability and they will tell you that it is human ingenuity in areas like the circular economy and blockchain in supply chains that will help ensure that we find solutions to mitigate climate change. We are super excited to be able to share our knowledge with these important entrepreneurs whose innovations may hold the key to a sustainable future.”

www.greentechchallenge.eu

BUSINESS TO BUSINESS SUPPLY CHAINS – WHO CARES?

BUSINESS TO BUSINESS SUPPLY CHAINS – WHO CARES?

Cute children and baby animals. These are two of the most emotive subjects available to campaigners for sustainable supply chain practices. Whether it’s children being forced to pick cotton in Uzbekistan or orang-utans with dwindling natural habitat because of deforestation, heart wrenching stories are powerful advocates for change. Consumers can easily relate to the supply chains that influence these circumstances and shop with a conscience to reward companies who support the Better Cotton Initiative or RSPO palm oil. The images associated with these stories jump off the page and are loved by editors for their ability to get readers engaged and clicking through online.

Rewarding consumer brands with loyalty for ethical practice and influencing their sustainable behaviour through conscious consumption is important, but in terms of impact, it is business-to-business supply chains that could deliver the biggest wins. But communicating what goes on upstream in manufacturing supply chains requires much more imagination to make the subject matter cut through.

Think about an average lorry. Toyota reckons to have 30,000 components in each one of its cars. Let’s assume that commercial vehicles are in roughly the same realm. Even if the lorry itself promises to be fuel efficient and cut CO2 emissions, there are still questions about the supply chain sustainability of each of the individual components. But far fewer photo opportunities.

Data is one compelling alternative way to tell a story. Researchers at Stanford University carried out a large-scale analysis of corporate sustainable sourcing practices and shared their findings early in 2018. They found that more than half of the global companies surveyed make efforts to apply sustainability standards to their suppliers, but 70% of sustainable sourcing practices cover only a subset of input materials for a given product.  Even more concerning (but perhaps not all that surprising) is that almost all sourcing practices addressed only a single tier in the supply chain, usually first tier suppliers, such as textile factories in clothing retail. Unsurprisingly this study has generated some useful column inches, but given the importance of the subject matter, it has hardly moved the media needle.

Without a vocal mass of consumers on social media voting with their shopping baskets, who puts pressure on B2B supply chains to be sustainable and ethical? NGOs, with their limited resources have traditionally been the ones to hold upstream companies to account. They have undoubtedly punched above their weight in terms of influence with the help of the internet and citizen journalism. But now that demonstrating contribution to the SDGs is a collective responsibility within the corporate world, there’s a bigger and infinitely better resourced lobby amassing scale, capable of exerting not just influence, but also hitting businesses where it hurts financially – the investor community. Pressure from this sector has helped generate traction in high profile media.

In December 2017, the FT reported that investors with more than $26tn under management have pledged to push 100 of the highest-emitting companies worldwide to do more to tackle the threat of climate change. About 225 institutions, led by funds including HSBC Global Asset Management and Calpers, the California state employees’ pension system, joined the Climate Action 100+ initiative, intended to co-ordinate pressure on companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve disclosure and oversight of climate-related risks.

UK giant Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) last year voted in favour of 95% of climate-related resolutions in companies that it invests in, compared with an average of 21% from other institutional investors.  Even more traditionally ‘passive’ investors, like the world’s largest asset manager Blackrock, have found their teeth, with CEO Larry Fink challenging companies to act with purpose in his now infamous 2018 letter. A quick google of ‘Larry Fink Blackrock letter’ returned 49,400 results, proof enough perhaps that money talks.

For smaller and private companies, where institutional investors hold less sway, there are other factors influencing their supply chain choices. B Corp, the ‘business as a force for good’ movement emanating from the US is spreading geographically and extending its reach from consumer facing small business into B2B and services businesses. Becoming a B Corp is a business certification that requires a supply chain audit as part of a holistic appraisal of operations and values. Danone and other corporations which have achieved B Corp certification (much harder as an established multinational) have been rewarded with huge amounts of positive attention across all media platforms.

All of this is good news for driving change at scale. But how easy will it be for businesses to seek out more ethical supply chain partners? Does conscience always cost more?

Technology buffs would argue that supply chain innovation is driving efficiencies that actually save companies money. In an article published at the end of 2016 which looked at this issue, the Wall Street Journal observed ‘The ability to measure and adjust performance relies on new technologies, as well as collaboration and communication with suppliers — and their suppliers. Technology and communication feed innovation. Innovation feeds growth.’ Investors in Blockchain start-ups would surely agree.

Although they are reported less in the mainstream media, there are many instances where B2B practices are creating entirely new product flows and commercial opportunities. Dubbed ‘web approaches’ these less linear and often asymmetrical partnerships span across large and small firms, corporates and start-ups, public and private, business and NGOs.

An example from the automotive industry is GM which is seen as a leader in supply web approaches by many. Its work in the supply chain has resulted in used water bottles being re-used in Chevrolet Equinox V-6 engine covers and air filters for 10 GM plants. A spin-off product developed in cooperation with The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit NGO is insulation for coats for the homeless.

Whilst sustainability reporting has become increasingly sophisticated and will become further standardised once GRI Standards become compulsory from July 1, media space to report on innovations like these is still scant, but awards are springing up that create a focus for specific supply chain innovation – such as the Global Good Awards for Sustainable Supply Chain, Edie.net’s Sustainability Leaders Awards and Business Green’s new Supply Chain Project of the Year category for 2018.

At best, business-to-business supply chains are shaping up to be catalysts for innovation that rewards companies with new revenue streams. But there is still a long way to go before every component or service is sourced as sustainably as possible.

The good news in terms of where the pressure is coming from is that there is a growing band of activist stakeholders from investors to procurement managers asking for sustainability assurances in contracts. Their influence is underpinned by positive role modelling of award winners and case studies in media. Added up, it certainly shows that B2B supply chains are getting more of the attention and spotlight they deserve.

Narda Shirley and Gong Communications are hosting a roundtable discussion, called ‘Business to business supply chains: Who cares?’, today (25 April) at The Crowd’s XComms event.

DOES CULTURE REALLY HAVE TO COME FROM THE TOP?

DOES CULTURE REALLY HAVE TO COME FROM THE TOP?

Narda Shirley, managing director, Gong Communications

In a pressured corporate environment, organisational culture – the purpose, values and behaviours that characterise a business – are widely understood to be a more effective route to decision making with integrity than a rulebook.

From Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why? to Larry Fink’s annual Blackrock CEO letter, we know that we should care about culture to attract and retain the best talent and impress leading investors. A strong culture mitigates reputational risk and adds value.

EY and HBR tell us that culture starts at the top with the Board and good governance and with strong narratives and corporate stories. But not every company can have an activist CEO like Paul Polman or a purposeful founder like Elon Musk to motivate the team and charm the media.

The reality in most organisations is that if the Board isn’t prioritising it, culture isn’t anybody’s actual responsibility. Unless the culture is actively broken (Oxfam, Bell Pottinger, The Weinstein Company) and people are leaving in droves, or the business is on the rocks because of a cultural misdemeanour, it doesn’t usually warrant much pro-active attention. It’s more likely that culture is viewed as ‘just the way things get done around here.’

But external factors like climate change, plastic in the oceans, the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and the sustainable development goals are forcing the issue. Organisations are self-selecting into two camps: those that are heads-up and engaged with the world and others that are head down and pursuing business as usual.

We would argue that taking single use plastic out of the supply chain is a cultural as much as an operational issue. It requires a massive effort to make a change like that in a big organisation. It takes determination to push against the status quo, lobbying various stakeholders around the business to get buy-in and support. And there’s no guarantee of any positive outcome other than the knowledge that as a company you have acted with integrity. The reward will hopefully come in terms of customer loyalty and team motivation but that’s going to be quite hard to quantify in absolute terms.

View the full article here

GONG ADDS FINANCIAL DIRECTOR TO LEADERSHIP LINE-UP

GONG ADDS FINANCIAL DIRECTOR TO

LEADERSHIP LINE-UP

Leadership team growth for Gong following major new business wins

London, 18 January 2018: Gong Communications, a multi-award winning B2B PR and marketing agency, has hired a dedicated Financial Director following a string of new business wins over the past six months. Joanne Cotterell joins the agency bringing with her a wealth of international PR industry and FD experience. She joins the leadership team alongside Founder and MD, Narda Shirley, Board Director, Amanda Lyons and Associate Director and Head of East Africa Operations, Nikki Francis-Jones.

Recent client wins at the agency have included South Africa’s Old Mutual Alternative Investments and African Infrastructure Investment Managers; The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (an IFC Public Private Partnership project), a UK-based digital healthcare startup DoctorLink; and Olam Cocoa, the world’s leading cocoa supplier.

A major element of Joanne’s brief is to create a consolidated view of the business across the London and Nairobi operations, providing support for both teams to facilitate seamless client servicing.

“Gong is an agency with an inspiring raft of international clients and a strong sense of purpose. My experience of working with high growth companies across multiple locations is going to stand me in good stead to support the leadership team to build the business.” Joanne commented on her appointment.

Gong MD, Narda Shirley, added: “Bringing in an experienced FD at Joanne’s level with all of her commerciality and industry insight is going to be a huge boost for the team as we gear up for an ambitious period of growth. We are excited to have found someone who brings the numbers to life in the business in a positive way for the whole team.”

 With the ambition of achieving the highest standards of social and environmental sustainability, Gong became one of the first certified B Corporation PR agencies in the UK in 2017. B Corp is an international accreditation for organisations using business as a force for good.

LOVE CHRISTMAS, HATE FOOD WASTE

LOVE CHRISTMAS, HATE FOOD WASTE

Libby Wyman, account director, Gong Communications

I love Christmas.  I’m obsessed with it. On the 1st of December, like clockwork, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ rings out from every speaker, and along with it, I prepare to gain an extra kilo or two accompanied by a dollop of food guilt. I blame the stream of client and journalist Christmas lunches, festive catch-ups with friends and a massive family meal….all of which probably create tens of kilograms of food waste. And here’s where it gets a bit ‘Grinchy’…

Globally, we waste one third of all food produced.  That’s 1.3 billion tons per year or the equivalent of about 325 million turkeys. The resource needed for this food waste bonanza is staggering. It’s enough to fill the combined land mass of Canada and India and the equivalent of three refills of Lake Geneva. And the cost of this waste?  £1 billion worth of food is binned worldwide each year according to WRAP – much of it accumulated at this time of year.  If that isn’t enough to make your eyes bulge and your pocket hurt, I could move on to the associated deforestation impacts of this never-to-be-eaten food production (roughly 20% of all deforestation), but it’s Christmas so let’s move on to something a bit jollier.

The good news is progress is being made. Earlier this month the East of England Co-op announced it would sell food products past their sell by date for 10p, urging consumers: ‘Don’t be a binner. Eat it for dinner’. It estimates this could save over 50,000 products annually from landfill. While progressive legislation in France has made it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food waste since 2016, instead compelling them to donate it to foodbanks and charities. This, alongside other policies to limit consumer waste has resulted in it being lauded as the top performing nation by the most recent Sustainable Food Index, while food-obsessed Italy came out trumps in sustainable agriculture.

In developing countries, where many of our clients’ global supply chains originate, up to 40% of food is lost during harvest, drying and pre-consumption storage and transport. Our client Olam Cocoa is taking a lead in tackling Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 (to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains), by supporting farming communities where food waste is at the centre of a knot of complex issues, such as climate change, land degradation and gender disparity.

So, while big businesses are figuring out how to limit waste within their food supply chains, we’re also starting to see a corresponding shift in consumer attitudes – something I personally find encouraging. Whilst taking part in a recent B-Corp hackathon tackling SDG 12 (responsible production and consumption), a straw poll identified that the majority of people would take the sustainability, including waste management, of a restaurant into account when selecting somewhere to eat. However, what’s lacking at the moment is the platform for consumers to find these places to assert this choice.

Tackling food waste is an issue we all have a stake in, whether it’s a company re-thinking its practices or an individual planning their shopping list more consciously. What’s needed now is scalable innovation and a shared commitment to change.

For my part, it’s hugely rewarding to help clients communicate their contribution to sustainable food supply and on a personal level,  bring on those turkey leftovers!

Further food for thought: