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Tech & Innovation’s Smarter Working Initiative Shortlisted for PR Campaign of the Year

Tech & Innovation’s Smarter Working Initiative Shortlisted for PR Campaign of the Year

The PHA Group’s Technology & Innovation team is delighted to have its work recognised in this year’s B2B Marketing Awards – shortlisted for ‘PR Campaign of the Year’.

The Smarter Working Initiative (SWI), which the T&I team first developed in 2016 with long-standing client Powwownow, has been listed alongside eight other PR campaigns, with the winner due to be announced at a gala dinner on 23rd November.

The T&I team worked closely with Powowwnow to develop the inaugural campaign designed to have significant longevity. The brief was to challenge existing perceptions of flexible working and promote the benefits of embracing a working culture that aligns with employees’ personal lives.

As a business with a core ethos of efficiency, productivity, and collaboration, Powwownow’s objective in 2016 was to increase awareness of the benefits of smarter working among UK business leaders and employers. Aware that only 6% of UK businesses proactively offered flexible working to their employees, the team set out to fundamentally change how employers think about smarter working practices.

The SWI was foremost an awareness day: Monday 25th July 2016 – the first day of the school summer holidays. A supporting integrated PR strategy, combining cut-through thought leadership content, data stories, news agenda hijacking and relevant and insightful broadcast interviews for members of the senior management team, helped position Powwownow as a leading authority on smarter working across a range of business sectors.

In the build-up to and following Monday 25th July, the team achieved over 30 pieces of media coverage, reaching a significant business audience across the UK and Europe. MD Jason Downes and FD Andrew Johnson appeared on BBC News ‘Business Live’, Sky News, London Live, talkRadio and Share Radio discussing topics including business efficiency and the rise of technology to facilitate flexible working.

Powwownow FD Andrew Johnson on Sky News


The team’s efforts saw Powwownow more than double their initial target of business sign-ups by securing over 120 businesses, including leading UK employers such as, RED Driving School and Orebar Brown. Over 100,000 UK employees worked flexibly on the day thanks to the initiative.

The SWI received prominent coverage across online and traditional media. Online, we reached business leaders through thought leadership pieces for MD Jason Downes, CTO Chris Martin and FD Andrew Johnson in a variety of publications including and Real Business. Targeting employees, the team also secured press on consumer-led websites such as Metro and Marie Claire, using unique data stories supported by thought leadership. The initiative was also covered nationally in The Telegraph and The Sun, with a prominent photo story in the latter reporting the social media campaign which ran over the course of a week.

Not only did the SWI reach a far wider audience than originally anticipated, it established positive brand awareness and positively changed assumptions about flexible working. After the initiative, 78 percent of business owners who did not previously offer flexible working to their employees said they would do so in 2017 and beyond – a tangible change in attitudes towards smarter working.

Most importantly, Powwownow were delighted with the campaign and last month the Tech & Innovation team oversaw the SWI 2017, which saw over 200,000 employees from over 200 businesses work flexibly on Monday 24th July, resulting in MD Jason Downes appearing on BBC News.

Powwownow MD Jason Downes on BBC News

Charity PR: Stop the sensationalism!

All businesses are acutely aware of the need to cut through the noise when it comes to making their brand, product or service visible to their target market. A great communications strategy is, of course, integral to this. You might have the best idea in the world but without the right communication techniques, no one will buy into it.

Perhaps nobody feels this challenge more than charities and campaigning organisations. With what is often a constant struggle for funding, raising brand awareness and generating revenue through fundraising are on-going concerns, even for established organisations.

The charity market is as crowded as any other and smaller, lesser-known charities must compete with ‘megabrands’ like Amnesty International and Oxfam for donors and supporters. The recent collapse of the much-celebrated charity BeatBullying is indicative of these challenges.

Beyond this though, these organisations often deal with highly sensitive and complex issues. Nuanced policy positions must be transformed into simple, attention-grabbing calls to action and with a 24-hour news hour cycle that overloads us with content from all corners of the globe, grabbing our attention – at least for more than a few seconds – is now harder than ever.

When Band Aid released their first single in 1984, people were shocked by what they saw on their television screens and donations poured in. But what to do when we’re no longer shocked and the donations dry up?

Well, there’s always a temptation to revert to ever more shocking images, messaging and stereotypes that urge us out of our armchairs and towards a direct debit and, sadly, this is still a path some charities feel obliged to go down.

As a campaigner for women’s rights, it especially frustrates me to see adverts on the tube that serve only to further victimise women and girls to evoke feelings of sympathy and pity rather than empowerment.

As Regina Yau, Founder of the Pixel Project says, “We owe it to those we serve to avoid sensationalising their pain…we need to ask ourselves: Are we fighting for brand recognition or are we fighting for real change?”

My aim here is not to name and shame these organisations. I think we should acknowledge the real difficulties they face when, in reality, brand recognition is very much intertwined with their objective of creating change. As I said, it’s hard for charities to raise much-needed funds when their campaign has no visibility.

However, it’s also important to ask ourselves how we can do this without relying on sensationalism. As communications professionals, we are all responsible for the information we present to the public and we have to think about the impact we have.

The good news is that we can be creative, innovative and forward-thinking and move away from these old stereotypes – there are loads of amazing charities out there doing just this. One of these is KickStart Ghana, an NGO that aims to enhance the sporting and educational opportunities available to the people of Ghana. Their Co-Founder, Dave Coles, recognises the importance of challenging stereotypes in order to address the root of the problem and not just providing a sticking plaster – you won’t find a negative image in sight in their marketing materials.

What’s more, Nesta now awards funding from their Innovation in Giving Fund to forward-thinking charities that challenge traditional models of fundraising and engagement.

So yes, short-term shock tactics might boost a fundraising target but will they attract long-term supporters and drive real change in the future? The answer must be no.