Category Archives: News




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:


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.


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?


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.


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.




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),




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.”




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.”




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.



Nairobi, Kenya. 6 July 2017

Beverly Amira, MD Gong Kenya

On 6 July Gong Kenya, Moody’s Investor Services and the Business Council for Africa (BCA) collaborated to stage a breakfast event on the subject of ‘Reputation Capital’ in Nairobi. The two speakers, Gong’s Group MD, Narda Shirley and Moody’s Head of Relationships in Africa, Sylvia Chahonyo, were introduced by Michael Monari, the BCA’s East Africa representative, who set out the membership body’s mission to help businesses make valuable new connections in Europe and in Africa among its community of 4000 members. The fifty-strong audience this morning included communications professionals and business leaders from industries as diverse as banking, insurance, technology, travel, real estate, private equity, government and energy. The breakfast discussion centred on the business value of reputation – how to crystallise, measure, manage, and protect it. Gong provided its 10 top tips for best practice in building and defending corporate reputations, giving a special shout out to B Labs East Africa and the certified B Corp community, which Gong has recently joined (B Corp certification is to business what fair trade is to coffee). Third party expert views and customer reviews, awards and accreditations were cited as key in building reputation ‘in peace time’ in the context of developing robust crisis communications strategies before trouble hits your business. Moody’s focused on the role of credit ratings agencies in risk management, explaining to the audience how this role is localised for the African continent. And the event wrapped with insightful questions from the audience on the role of internal communications in building workplace cultures that can withstand crises. Audience feedback was immediately positive to the point that Gong Kenya has already committed to host two more events in the series, one on ‘Cultural Capital’ and the other on ‘Social Capital’.


Download the Reputation Capital Presentation, Nairobi. 6 July 2017 here.


B2B comms agencies can be at the heart of the global movement using business as a force for good


Gong has become the UK’s newest B Corporation and part of a growing core of MarComs companies committed to ‘doing business better’. Following a rigorous assessment of Gong’s governance structures, employee culture and benefits, and our impact on community, the environment and our clients, the agency has successfully joined the ‘Year 2 cohort’ of B Corps in the UK.

B Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to bananas. The global movement is growing fast – with certified B Corporations around the world currently generating combined revenue of $36 billion. Companies like Patagonia in the US and Divine Chocolate and Ecover in the UK have achieved certification and entered a legally binding commitment to act in the interests of all stakeholders – not just shareholders.

Narda Shirley, managing director, Gong Communications said:

“Our core business is building reputations and relationships for clients who are doing extraordinary things for people, profit and planet. We are well versed in delivering effective PR with positive impact, but the B Corp process has formalised many of the things we took for granted as an agency in how we do business.”

Katie Hill, Executive Director, B Lab UK, said:

“B2B communications efforts are essential to the growth of the B Corp movement, raising the profile of the certification among the international business community as well as helping businesses to communicate their purpose to the wider world. It is great to have an award-winning corporate communications agency like Gong fully behind our mission both as part of the movement as well as supporting our own efforts to engage with more purpose-driven companies.”

Gong works with business to business clients of all shapes and sizes across the globe, with particular expertise in professional and financial services, agri-business, health, technology and energy sectors, as well as regional expertise in emerging markets and sub-Saharan Africa.  The agency’s international briefs include sustainability communications, corporate purpose and positioning, employee engagement and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Narda concludes: “What’s more, we will harness the knowledge, experience and networks we gain from being part of the B Corp community to deliver even greater value for the exceptional clients and transformative businesses we work with.”

Welcoming fresh faces in to the fold


Award-winning agency prepares for further growth in 2017

Gong Communications has hired two corporate communications specialists, Libby Wyman and James Deacon, as senior account managers to support the firm’s rapid growth. The pair join at an exciting time for the agency, bolstered by six award wins for its diversity and inclusion work with long-standing client, Lloyd’s of London.

Libby joins from Forster Communications, her focus at Gong will be on delivering global corporate and sustainability communications for international clients and developing the agency’s sustainability and social purpose work. Libby commented: “I’m delighted to be part of such a strong and motivated team at Gong; an agency that clearly punches above its weight to deliver award-winning communications for clients as diverse as challenger brands and multinationals.”

After a successful stint at FleishmanHillard Fishburn, James’ focus at Gong will be primarily on the Lloyd’s of London account, centered around the hugely successful Dive In: The Festival for Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance. He’ll also be working with associate director Nikki Francis-Jones on UK focused marketing for the agency. “I’m thrilled to be joining such an inspiring team here at Gong. Delivering a strategy session with a solar energy social enterprise in Madagascar in my third week here is certainly confirmation that I’m in the right place,” James said.

Gong MD, Narda Shirley, added: “Libby and James bring a great range of experience combined with boundless enthusiasm and passion. During 2016 we did a lot of thinking about who we are as an agency and that has helped us attract two standout people who are drawn to the idea of working on clients with a strong purpose.”

The agency took a conceptual brief in early 2015 to create a festival for the promotion of diversity and inclusion within the insurance market, and has scooped a number of cross-practice awards; PRCA (employee engagement), Marketing Week and The British Insurance Awards (diversity champion), Corp Comms Magazine (best live event), Insurance Day (diversity & talent management initiative of the year) and Insurance Marketing and PR (best insurance event). The work was also shortlisted by Sabre Awards EMEA, Guardian Sustainable Business, Personnel Today, ENEI and Insurance Times.

See here for coverage on Gorkana PR News

CorpComms: Dive In wins best live event – internal


When Inga Beale, chief executive of the Corporation of Lloyd’s, unveiled her Vision 2025 for the insurance business, it rested on eight pillars. Alongside Innovation and Capital sits Talent. For the Vision to be successful, by 2025 Lloyd’s will be ‘a place where talented, diverse and socially responsible employees feel proud to work’.

The Corporation’s steering group, Inclusion@Lloyd’s, is working to highlight the business case for diversity and inclusion. The Festival for Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance, branded Dive In by agency Gong, was designed to show how diversity stimulates innovation, promotes productivity and generates better financial returns.

Targeted at key influencers within Lloyd’s member organisations and employees in the insurance broking market, Gong created a pre-Festival buzz with a dedicated website, activities across internal, external and social media, and branded collateral, such as coffee carts which served 19,000 drinks.

The agency also engaged with communication leaders in member companies, providing tools, templates and content for intranets and email blasts. The events took place across four days within the insurance heart of the City of London, EC3. Each day explored a different theme: Women in Insurance; Cultural DNA: Diversity Now and Always; ‘Out’ in the market and Workability, with speakers ranging from celebrity stylist Gok Wan to former BP chief executive Lord Browne.

The festival comprised a mix of panel discussions, debates and workshops to networking, art exhibitions and dance performances. The front of the iconic Lloyd’s of London building was branded with Dive In. More than 2,000 people registered to attend, resulting in 1,762 visitors.

Importantly, 99 per cent of them said that diversity and inclusion was good for business while nine in ten felt they had a better understanding of the topic as a result of the Festival. And 87.5 per cent said they now knew what to do to improve diversity and inclusion within their organisations.

The Festival generated 40 videos, which are accessible via the Dive In website, which received more than 23,000 visitors during the event. The industry’s trade publication Insurance Times has also agreed to carry monthly blogs on diversity and inclusion.

‘This was a highly creative event which challenged the old ‘pale and male’ images of Lloyds,’ said the judges. ‘It is great that this is now being exported to overseas markets.’