Category Archives: Uncategorized



Despite nearly 500 LGBT+ events being cancelled or postponed this year due to Covid-19, Pride Month remains as important as ever with its message of acceptance ringing no truer than now. At the same time, the Black Lives Matter movement has challenged the world on its mistreatment of the black community, highlighting that we still have a long way to go in achieving a fair and equal society. The movement has forced businesses around the world to look at their own history, behaviours and actions to reassess whether they truly implement diversity and inclusivity practices throughout their companies. One thing is for certain, this is not the time for D&I to take a back seat.

Fast Company, NBC and The Drum, to name just a few publications, have reported throughout the pandemic on companies cutting diversity and inclusion budgets, staff and support as they enter crisis mode.

Reports from the National Women’s Law Centre and Barnett Waddingham have highlighted that those who D&I measures are meant to protect and support have been the worst effected by furloughs and redundancies. So how and why has D&I been deemed ‘non-essential’ and the first to be cut from business plans?

Some have claimed that government measures have made it hard for companies to be held to account with the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suspending gender pay gap regulations this year for the first time since its introduction in 2017. Or perhaps companies are failing to see how crucial people are to their resilience?

Something businesses in the B Corp community already know to be true and is now becoming clearer for the wider corporate sector: thosewho make short term objectives and fail to place people at the heart of the decision, will suffer the consequences. Recent reports from McKinsey revealed that companies with the most gender-diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to have industry lead profitability, and companies with ethnically and culturally diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. The most telling statistic is that companies in the bottom quartile for both gender as well as ethnic and cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability.

In times of crisis, companies that endorse workplace diversity and inclusion not only survive but can even thrive. Research from Great Place to Work has shown that companies with consistently inclusive workplaces thrived before, during, and after the Great Recession, earning a four times annualised return.

The business case for diversity and inclusion could not be any clearer, it has been proven time and time again that a diverse workforce leads to greater innovation, creativity and profitability.

For Gong Communications, encouraging truly diverse and inclusive workforces and cultures has been important to us throughout our 15 year history. A certified B-Corp since 2017, our core business is targeted at supporting clients who are focussed on positive impact for planet, people as well as profit.

We have had the pleasure of playing a part in the diversity and inclusion journey of the insurance sector, through our work with Lloyd’s of London and the Dive In Festival – the festival of diversity and inclusion within the insurance sector, now in its 6th year.  When Inclusion@Lloyd’s came to us in 2015, asking us to help in bringing to life the first sector-wide diversity and inclusion festival, we saw the opportunity to be part of something special.

Since that first year, the festival has grown exponentially from its origin in London and now takes place in over 60 cities and 30 countries world-wide, attracting more than 10,000 people. But it is not all about the numbers. Powerful personal stories at the Dive In festival have also made it easier to normalise discussions about issues such as gender equality, family care responsibilities and mental wellbeing at work.

It has prompted organisations to implement initiatives and policies designed to create a more inclusive workplace culture. Last year Lloyd’s issued its trans and non-binary inclusion guide, a 29-page document offering advice to people working within the insurance sector about how to foster a “stable emotional working environment” for trans and non-binary colleagues. Aviva revised its policy for trans people to become more inclusive, now allowing the parents of trans children time off to support the transition.

As a leading diversity communications PR agency in the UK, we’ve long understood that fostering diversity and inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, but should be at the heart of a company’s strategy and is the key to continued corporate resilience.



World Environment Day has prompted us here at Gong to reflect on the issue so many businesses are grappling with at the moment: How to get to Net Zero carbon dioxide emissions using science based methods as fast as we can? In December last year at COP25, alongside 499 other B Corps, Gong pledged to get to Net Zero by 2025 at the very latest. Spurred on by Covid and the imperative to Build Back Better, we are determined to do it this year.

Unlike the growing number of multinational corporations and manufacturing businesses who have pledged, it’s relatively easy for a small service business like ours to figure out our carbon footprint and make the necessary reductions. But there are ‘hidden’ emissions, even for us. We’ve learned for example, from fellow B Corp Wholegrain Digital, about the relative energy intensity of different web site constructions (if the internet was a country, it would be the world’s sixth biggest polluter). So we’ve committed to curb bad digital communications habits along with obvious things like reducing international travel, buying renewable energy and sourcing as much as we can from other Net Zero B Corps.

177 multinational companies, including Nestlé, Unilever and Vodafone signed up to the UN pledge to be Net Zero by 2050. That figure has continued to grow through 2020. Sustainability heads at businesses are working flat out to reduce their own emissions and track those of their suppliers (referred to as different ‘scopes’ 1,2 and 3) but many are facing up to the fact that they will struggle to change their current business practices enough to get to net zero in the time available. And this isn’t an arbitrary date. We have by best estimates, nine years left to act on carbon concentrations before we irreversibly head into warming that exceeds the ‘liveable’ 2°C target set in Paris.

As we have been thinking about this, we’ve started working with a new client which has given us the opportunity to delve further into the carbon removal movement. It’s been an eye opener which is why we want to share it. Human carbon emissions total 40 gigatonnes per year (Gt/y). Earth (forests, soil, oceans) can only absorb 20 Gt/y of this hence the concentration of greenhouse gases keeps increasing. So even though emissions have been lower during lockdown, CO2 concentrations are still rising.

Experts, including The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the UN IPCC are encouraging us to look at carbon dioxide removal (CDR) rather than offsetting. Sustainability expert John Grant explained that when you buy offsets, you are often funding a project that produces or uses energy more efficiently, but emissions still occur. It doesn’t reduce the already too high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Scientific removal and lock-up of CO2 now, for a minimum of 50 years, will give us time to shift to a less CO2 intensive world and mitigate climate change.

The WRI says ‘2020 could be the year Carbon Dioxide Removal takes off.” UN IPCC (2018) says: “All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) of the order of 100–1000 Gt CO2 over the 21st century. CDR would be used to compensate for residual emissions and, in most cases, achieve net negative emissions to return global warming to 1.5°C following a peak.”

This week, another company, Climeworks announced that it had raised $76m to expand its operations to ‘suck’ CO2 out of the air and turn it into products such as gas for carbonating Coca-Cola. While this particular use of CO2 makes it back into the atmosphere, other Climeworks processes do store CO2 permanently. But we are encouraged by a different (and healthier) approach, espoused by our client that supports businesses whose core processes are carbon net negative. In other words, they use carbon dioxide in the manufacture of building materials such as ‘carbstone’ and biochar soil improvers – two sectors – construction and agriculture – that are big enough to be able to scale rapidly to really make a difference.

Craig Sams, one half of the pioneering duo behind the original fairtrade chocolate brand Green and  Black’s, set up biochar company (and B Corp) Carbon Gold. A former Chair of the Soil Association, Sams is an evangelist for the regenerative properties of biochar on soil.

And for anyone who needs the science, here’s a helpful video about CO2 mineralisation of waste materials from steel manufacture in the production of sustainable construction materials.

What’s exciting is that we can remove CO2 now by paying companies like these to scale faster by buying carbon removal certificates through the marketplace. We get to be net negative now, which means that Gong is no longer going to be part of the problem. Of course it still needs the global construction industry to use more of these products and for farmers and cities to use biochar instead of polluting fertilisers. But with the momentum from the Build Back Better movement and the European Green Deal stimulus, it suddenly feels like there is real hope that we can find solutions that are also going to build a new green economy and ecosystem of entrepreneurs.

And that’s good for everyone. Happy World Environment Day.



There is something about the sustainability pioneer John Elkington’s new book, Green Swans; The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalismthat brings joy as one scans the contents pages. The title unapologetically riffs off the idea of Black Swans – the extreme, the unknown, and very improbable events – described in a book of that name published just before the global financial crisis of 2008.

The twitch at the corners of the mouth when you read is less to do with the subject matter – though this is ultimately an inherently optimistic read – and more because of the fun that John has obviously had with the analogy. Halfway into the book, there’s a section called ‘New Pecking Orders’ – he’s really in his stride now – with sections called ‘Incubating Ugly Ducklings’ and ‘Exponential Migrations’.

All levity aside, Green Swansputs our current challenges into context by setting out the very serious ‘Black Swans’ that we currently face including: Plastic in the oceans, killer calories and climate change. Despite the complexity of the issues, it is not all bad news, mostly because the book is packed with John’s anecdotes and his clever aggregation and framing of ideas about how and where remedies are likely to appear.

The book draws from themes derived from the work carried out by Volans, the future-business consultancy which John co-founded, in its inquiry series: Tomorrow’s Capitalism. The Inquiry kicked off with a recall of the Triple Bottom Line mid-2018, the first ever ‘product recall’ of a management theory. In a blog on Harvard Business Review, John called for re-think and withdrew People, Profit, Planet, concluding it was longer fit for purpose. Together with his colleagues at Volans, he sought to reboot the concept identifying the ‘3Rs’ as its worthy successor: Resilience, Responsibility, and Regeneration are the vital characteristics, Volans argues, of the business systems of the future.

Despite the gravity of the issues, John manages to keep the text from getting too weighed down. He talks about how during his long career as an advisor to CEOs and embattled leaders, he has often used humour in Boardrooms as an unexpected tactic that gets people to drop their guard and focus on unpalatable truths.

The book is packed full of references that resonate reassuringly for businesses grappling with formulating their own response to the emergent future. And while the Covid-19 pandemic rages all around us, there is something strangely calming in thinking that this Black Swan event could end up giving flight to some very welcome and significant Green Swans.

As the book notes, “For the foreseeable future, this will be by far the biggest opportunity for adventure, growth, and evolution in the tightly coupled stories of humankind, capitalism, and our home planet, Earth.”

Green Swans, The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, was published on 9 April by Fast Company Press and is available to buy on Amazon or direct from the Volans website.




The Challenge

Working together with Solar Africa’s UK based team, we set out to publicise a major new client reference site for Solar Africa in East Africa.

The Strategy

Gong advised on initial media relations strategy in Africa and suggested logo and website redesigns.

We wrote case studies, worked on their messaging and prepared relevant press releases.

The Outcome

Gong secured coverage for Solar Africa in target business press such as the Financial Times and the Guardian and local media such as CCTV.

Business leads have resulted from Gong’s networking support and media relations activities.



Narda Shirley, managing director, Gong Communications

Narda Shirley is the Founder and Managing Director of Gong Communications, a business to business agency with offices in London and Nairobi. Gong is focused on 3 areas; human capital, natural capital and private capital.

She is a serial public relations agency entrepreneur having founded an agency prior to Gong called Gnash, that rode the internet boom (and bust) helping establish some of the enduring brands from that digital decade including and She was the founding Chair of the PRCA’s sustainability group and is committed to driving sustainability engagement across the sector today.

1. What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to get you where you are today? (what tips can you share from that experience?)

I think the biggest challenge in getting to where we are today has been figuring out how to become an international business and getting our Nairobi office on its feet. It’s been a stretch for me personally but a welcome opportunity to learn about a new cultural context for doing business after two decades of PR experience in more developed economies. For example, navigating local norms that don’t fit with ours, but it can also mean that culturally people in Africa sometimes don’t want to say ‘no’ which can be tricky to interpret when it comes to getting decisions over the line. But ultimately it’s about respecting the culture that you are operating in and programming in some patience. If you try to make everything go at top speed, you will just buckle under the weight of frustration.

View the full article here

UK plc: Fit for Purpose?



Sarah Nicholas, account director, Gong Communications


Will ‘business as a force for good’ become part of UK company law?
“Companies should state precisely their purpose – their role in the world from which profit results – in their articles of association and regularly report on the delivery of that purpose.” This is the first recommendation to promote purposeful companies put forward by The Purposeful Company Task Force, a consortium of FTSE companies, investment houses, business schools, business consultancy firms and policy makers at The Big Innovation Centre.
Listening to the report’s authors debate with an audience at the London School of Economics last month (podcast of the event here), corporate law was firmly under the spotlight. How likely is this change? And will it really deliver the coveted sustainable long term value for stakeholders that it is pursuing?
At Gong Communications, we are firm believers in the power of purpose and how communicating this effectively can help companies to gain a competitive edge. Some question whether mandating businesses to declare their purpose undermines some of its potency. But whether it is written in law or – even better – engrained in company culture, having clarity of purpose can propel a business forward and bring many benefits beyond simply profit, although it has been shown to help with that too.
Will Hutton, the co-chair of the Purposeful Company Task Force, said: “The evidence is clear, companies with a declared purpose, adhered to by their leaders and understood by their employees, perform far better over time than their less purposeful peers.”
Going through the process of B Corporation certification ourselves, we had the fabulous Scott Drummond of B Lab UK join the Gong London team for a learning lunch and share the story of their successful efforts to define a new type of for-profit entity in the US. A Benefit Corporation, now legislated in 30 States, is a company that has a positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as legally defined goals.
Other countries, such as Italy and Australia are following suit. And with May’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee looking into how modern companies can better serve their shareholders, employees and wider society, it is not hard to imagine the UK being next in line.
Bring it on.
Look out for a follow-up blog on how stakeholder communications and employee engagement are vital to fully realise the potential of purpose in the private sector.



Sara Bonafair

Kick the habit of ignoring advice given by parents and career advisers, just this once, and take it from a peer – internships are worth your time. As a recent grad, I know the feeling of having just barely survived another round of exams and essays. The last thing you may feel like doing is researching, applying for and doing an internship – especially, if you are young and lucky enough to still consider career pressure a distant prospect. Nonetheless, I believe you can never be too young to embark on the trial-and-error process that will lead you to a career in an area you will enjoy in the years ahead.

That’s not to say that we don’t all change between the ages of 17 and 20 something, but if you start the learning process early, it can grow with you. Starting now takes some of the guesswork out of deciding where to direct your focus when you graduate and minimizes some of the stress of committing to your first job. Internships are an integral part of understanding what you want to do, how you want to do it, who you want to do it with – and, crucially, what you don’t want to do.

I took the advice of my career adviser, when pressure and my resume were still pretty non-existent, and ‘playing professional’ seemed almost exciting. From the age of 17, I explored every interest under the sun, from art to financial services, navigating the ocean of opportunities offered to students searching for experience. I worked for small firms, large firms, start-ups, and corporations, making my mantra ‘you never know until you try’. By my last year, a process of elimination allowed me to be able to say with conviction that I wanted to work in the communications industry.

In my last year, I tried advertising in a small firm and while I enjoyed the personal mentorship that was possible in a close-knit team, found advertising wasn’t for me. I tried PR in a large firm, on a B2C team, I enjoyed the type of work, but found the lack of opportunity to slow down and ask questions to understand the bigger picture and strategy frustrating. This learning process was essential to understand what I was looking for – a small PR-firm.

Soon I discovered Gong, which was not only what I was looking for in terms of being a small award-winning corporate communications agency in London, but also what I was looking for in terms of combining my personal and academic interests in my daily work. The supportive and collaborative environment that Gong cultivates had become an important criterion for me. Sitting next to project heads, I was able to really understand everything necessary to produce Gong’s marketing and communications services to its clients, feeling no hesitation in asking how to do things and why. As I developed my skills in the nuts and bolts of PR, I felt I was, at the same time, contributing to impactful work on client briefs that I was proud to be part of.

I can imagine why employers are just as keen as experience-hungry students to offer internships. They give the management team the invaluable opportunity to witness prospective recruits in action rather than relying on intangible words on a CV and an interview.

In short, internships permit you to first realise the industry you want to be a part of, then to envision your ideal role and the environment in which you want to perform it. Internships can also be a ‘getting to know you’ period, for yourself and your future employer. It’s a quick way to learn how to perfectly position yourself after graduation for a rewarding first job to kick off your career. So my advice is, at the end of term, instead of a week of box-sets in bed to take your head off exams –get out there and get an internship!

Collective Genius


Narda Shirley

Challenger brands and innovation often go hand in hand. But how easy is it to break into a mainstream category like yoghurt in the UK when it is dominated by major organisations like Muller and Danone with brands like Muller Corner and Activia?

I have been fascinated by a newcomer called The Collective for a while, not just for its utter deliciousness, but also because it looks so different from everything else on the shelves. And I don’t mean artisan ‘hand knitted’ yoghurt that is only available in a few independent delis, we are talking Waitrose and premium branches of Sainsbury’s here.

I could sense an Innocent-like approach to the brand, not just in its packaging design, web site and tone of voice, but also in its location. Innocent’s invitation to pop into Fruit Towers in west London was always intriguing, as is the location of The Collective brand owner, Epicurean Dairies in Acton – an area not known for its lush pasture!

Buoyed with the confidence of curiosity, I gave them a call and co-founder Mike Hodgson agreed to tell me their story. The web site gives a strong clue as to the origins of The Collective in New Zealand. It turns out that Mike was on the lookout for a brand he could get excited about to launch in the UK, using his considerable experience of working in the yoghurt and fresh desserts category. ‘I hadn’t done a start-up, and it was something I needed to do for myself.’ Unsurprisingly perhaps given the trajectory of The Collective in the UK, it turns out that Mike knows his way around supermarkets and brands. In his career he has worked both for corporates, (like The Greencore Group and St.Ivel) and entrepreneurs (he was a consultant to James Averdieck the founder of fresh desserts company, GÜ).

At Greencore, Mike was MD of the ready meals business, but after his years as a corporate man, he jacked it all in, took his family on a round the world trip and bought a pub in the Lake District. It was during that world trip that he says he ‘fell in love with NZ and admired their ‘go for it’ spirit. Returning to run his gastro pub, he showcased wines from New Zealand, which began his successful connection with the country.

Whilst running the pub, he struck up his relationship with GÜ, initially as a part-time consultant, but after it was successfully sold to Noble Foods in 2010, he took on the role of MD full time for a year. He credits these experiences as the catalyst for The Collective in the UK.

“Running the pub enabled me to really connect with the public again, seeing my customers’ reactions to the specials board every day, talking to them first hand to get immediate feedback on what they liked. The engagement really fuelled my passion for great food and gave me the impetus to do something on a bigger scale.

“The GÜ experience convinced me I could do something similar, but this time for myself. I was actively looking for a business idea UK at the same time as The Collective were thinking about expanding overseas. I only had to taste the product to know we’d found something really special. The challenge was to replicate the unique bio culture that produces the yoghurt’s extraordinary consistency in NZ here in the UK with British milk. We also wanted to tweak some of the flavours to British tastes.”

We discussed the lemon (my favourite) as a case in point. “I’m a Northener and to me the obvious way to go was towards lemon curd. Similarly we gave Russian fudge flavour a taste of Devon toffee.”

Mike enrolled his business partner, Amelia in the venture. They had worked together at GÜ. He credits Amelia and her relationships with, and knowledge of the supermarkets, as being a major factor in their success to date, that and their manufacturing partner in the venture.

“When you are launching a new product, you can go one of two routes – capital intensive (and therefore inherently risky) where you set up your own manufacturing operation or outsource to a specialist manufacturer. We chose the second option so that we could focus all of our efforts on sales and marketing. But even beyond that, we actually convinced a manufacturer to become the third partner. Giving them skin in the game has created stability as well as instant credibility for the integrity and reliability of our supply chain with the supermarkets.”

When I asked Mike what really motivates him about a start-up, he laughs and says that he now appreciates what people mean when they say you have to be a bit mad to be an entrepreneur. He cites the values and the attitude of the business as the way in which they really want to make their mark. “We just want to be easy to do business with, and be really helpful, that’s why I’m happy to talk to you. We don’t court publicity, but if people are interested in what we are doing, that’s great. My wife does all of the customer service and feedback – it’s a hangover from the days of running the gastro-pub, because we really believe in listening to people and taking what they say on board. If we have a loyal customer base who feel valued, we know that they will help get the word out about how good the product is.”

One of the most compelling things for me in hearing this challenger brand story is that Mike is not a groovy young MBA grad with a disruptive idea. He has worked his way around and through the industry and even taken a step back from corporate life before deciding to start-up his own thing. He says of the challenge, “ I think I have a slightly masochistic need to do something that’s hard and that other people think is (to quote some) ‘very brave’ or ‘bloody stupid’ Clearly managing to achieve hard things gives you a strong purpose and achieving that is very satisfying.”

He is proof that a variety of experiences and perspectives can add up to being able to see things in a new light. He is a ‘portfolio man’ who has taken inspiration to launch a company at the point when in a different generation, many people would have hunkered down and waited for retirement. For me, the standout elements of the story are the factors that have set the scene for rapid growth: Sector experience of sales and marketing, distribution and supermarket relationships; manufacturing and supply chain stability and integrity; a tried and tested product with a distinct brand personality that just needed to be localised and a business partnership with Amelia that had been forged in another successful company. And of course, the entrepreneur’s special sauce; relentless desire and self-belief.

The results speak for themselves, turnover is already exceeding £10m and they are on target to be profitable this year. It all adds up to an irresistible recipe for success.

Entrepreneurs: How (not) to get attention with Twitter


Sarah Caddy

Oops. Sir Richard has made another splash in the gossip columns this week with his ever-so-slightly cringe-worthy simile choices:

blog image

The tweet split opinion in the office; some were mortified, others impressed that he clearly writes his own tweets (surely this would never get past a corporate comms professional?!). One thing we all agreed on: busy entrepreneurs can sometimes unwittingly strike the wrong tone. It takes time to consider all of the possible implications for our words (or pictures – Branson’s twitter feed includes the odd twit pic of “students changing their world one app at a time” – all of whom happen to be attractive young female students). Of course, this is why there’s a place for corp comms professionals to take over the grunt work of a social media strategy – one that our business leader clients are generally delighted to pass over. But we keep them focused – what does your overall Twitter stream say about you?

Entrepreneurs are focused on the big picture, and they often stand out by breaking a few rules. Case in point? Mario Gabelli’s FTfm face-to-face interview this week. Asked whether taking Gamco Investors public in 1999 was the best decision he’s ever made, the entrepreneurial CEO investor (startlingly) said, “Being born was the best decision I ever made.” Not what his PR team might want to read in terms of landing key messages, but then it probably won’t affect his investors’ opinions if he continues his solid track record of returns.

The final irony? On further investigation of the Virgin blogsite, we discovered that Branson’s offending simile was in fact a direct quote from that great British hero (renowned for taking action), Winston Churchill. That’s another fact about great entrepreneurs: the media will always delight in having fun with them.


Nutrition and agriculture: bridging the divide


On Monday, I attended the launch of the Global Hunger Index by Concern Worldwide. There was much to be hopeful about, particularly in India and sub-Saharan Africa where hunger and malnourishment has decreased significantly over the past 5 years. However, it quickly became apparent through the speakers’ comments and the audience’s questions that there is still much to be done – more detailed data needs to be gathered, more research needs to be funded, and much jargon needs to be busted in order to make nutrition part of the mainstream agenda.

What I found most telling, and perhaps most surprising, about the evening was the perceived lack of involvement and engagement in the challenges of nutrition by agriculture, to the extent that they are readily spoken of as two separate – and sometimes conflicting – sectors. While Lawrence Haddad of IFPRI spoke of the need for collaboration with the private sector in areas such as fortification of food ingredients and diversification, the references to agriculture were few and far between.

This World Food Day celebrates the role of family farmers in our food systems, and there is a great deal that the agricultural sector can do in supporting farmers in growing healthy, nutritious food both for their own families and catalysing change at the roots of our international supply chains. We can take a lot from the mission of Zambian project RAIN, whose name spells out the challenge we face – ‘Realigning Agriculture to Increase Nutrition’.

What are your thoughts? Join Gong and global agricultural research organisation CABI on 30th October for the first of our Agri-Comms monthly meet-ups, where communicators from NGOs, businesses, policy, media, research and academia will come together for an informal evening of food and agri chat. We’ll be at The Marylebone from 6:30pm – come along and spread the word!