Work Experience – Macy Affleck

To start with, the whole world of PR reminded me of the maze that Harry Potter had to go through during the Triwizard tournament. When my sister tried explaining it to me there seemed to be countless jobs that branched off onto other ones – getting deeper into the maze.

But after working at Smith Goodfellow on two occasions and having much more simplified conversations about it, the maze started to become easier to guide my way through. Since starting to understand exactly what PR is about, I have seen past the judgement as it just being “another desk job” and found it more interesting each time. The different jobs mix together and are able to create impressive work at the end. I like this aspect as no one is doing the same thing which makes the whole office idea a lot less boring. With this in mind, considering a job in PR as a potential career path in the future seems a lot more appealing to me; opportunities such as work experience this week have already given me a head start in figuring out the maze for myself and I have enjoyed doing this, even for a short period of time.

The environment is a big change from being at school – but it is a positive one. The office itself has a comfortable atmosphere in comparison to the stereotypical office you would picture. During this weekI researched about the history on the building which made the place more exciting and unique than just staring at cubicle partitions all day. Not only did the place itself make me feel less stressed about working here, but the team also made me feel very welcome and are incredibly lovely people. As well as being very hard workers, they were also experts in making drinks! Even when I was sat in my little corner smashing through the work they always included me in conversations and offered me many drinks – which I have since learnt is a vital part of the work day as you cannot sit and write without a cup of tea in your hand.

This week I did a range of tasks, including social media planning and research. I investigated the differences between different social media platforms and how a company should portray themselves in order to remain professional. I also looked at national days which the office could celebrate to make the work day a little more interesting. For research I looked at the hatting industry in Stockport and the different companies which SG represent; due to doing all this I managed to understand more about what the actual construction industry entails – aiding me in my effort to make my way through the maze.

Overall, I have really enjoyed my week at Smith Goodfellow and I hope to have made a good impression through the confidence which I have built up over the days.

The NHS at 70: What It Means For Construction

On 5 July 1948, the NHS was founded by the then Labour Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, at Park Hospital in Greater Manchester. Over the last 70 years, the NHS has transformed the health and wellbeing of the nation. It has become an example to the world of how a system can achieve equality in care and treatment, regardless of income.

In its 70thyear, the world’s largest publicly-funded health service is strained by an aging population, public expectation, rising costs and a shortage of funding. What does this mean for construction within the health sector?

PFIs in Healthcare

Since 1992, Private Finance initiative (PFI) deals were chosen by both the Conservative and Labour governments in an attempt to ease the pressure. Prior to PFIs, the Government would use tax money or borrow from the bond market to fund projects, which would mean a completed hospital would be owned by the public sector.

However, the introduction of PFI deals meant that the Government can now pass responsibility of the project over to builders and/or the contractor. Those commissioned would then be expected to secure their own funding through the bond market and then oversee the build and ongoing maintenance. The theory being that, if construction professionals are responsible for ongoing costs, they are more likely to ensure it is built to a high standard.

Following its completion, the state then effectively enters into a lease agreement with them, or the management company who has purchased the contract, to use the hospital.

The pros and cons of PFIs have been widely covered, including The National Audit Office and the current Labour voicing their thoughts that PFIs don’t offer value to the tax payer. Furthermore, it is speculated that they can hinder job stability, existing capital projects and the operation of the NHS.

The collapse of Carillion certainly did the PFI framework no favours as it highlighted existing concerns over outsourcing and contracting, which has left many NHS capital projects unfinished or delayed.

We now face a political battle over PFIs in health sector construction as some large companies reportedly made pre-tax profits of £831m over the past six years under the PFI scheme, and are estimated to make almost £1bn more over the next five years. Whilst these huge profits are promised to boost our economy, the counter argument is that, those profits could have been used to fund patient care at a time when our NHS is short of vital funding. Some reports state that there are NHS hospitals that are struggling to make the ongoing payments to the private companies who own them, and are concerned about the ability to pay for essential materials, such as sutures.

Last Five Years

There has been major investment in construction and development of healthcare facilities, with many replacements of hospitals around the country. Despite the demand, the scale of new build projects has declined, with work being concentrated on less-costly refurbishments. These primarily focus on improvements with energy efficiency and carbon reduction on existing NHS facilities to meet ongoing targets.

The Government has now shifted its investment from the acute sector to primary care facilities, mental health centres and dementia care units with many smaller ProCure21 projects ongoing.

Health Sector Construction Forecast

Last year an estimated £5.7bn worth of healthcare projects to 2020 and beyond. Currently there’s said to be around 600 individual health projects under almost 100 schemes and 10 large NHS-led capital programmes as well as smaller ProCure21 projects.

An AMA Research documentestimated the outlook for health construction output will remain steady, with annual rates of growth of 3-5% currently forecast to 2021. The forecast is based upon the focus of delivery of local services, but project output will vary based on regional demand for key health services.

The NHS at 70 and beyond

No system is perfect but, as recognised by the Commonwealth Fund in 2017, the NHS is an incredible healthcare system. Figures also prove that the NHS has had the greatest decline in mortality rates, demonstrates high levels of care, is very affordable, and spends far less than many other countries. And yet, all this is achieved with fewer physicians and beds per 1000 patients than other systems.

Our doctors, nurses, and other care providers work hard to support us and meet our needs, despite the various challenges they face, not just with funding. If we want to see our NHS survive another 70 years or more, the service needs to be supported. We need to vote for better funding schemes and champion those who will fight for the NHS’ future. For the NHS’ 70thbirthday, we should take time to consider how truly lucky we are to have it and where we would be without it.

A Trade Show Guide

There’s a trade show for almost every speciality, including niches within the construction, manufacturing and engineering sectors. They can be great platforms for your business, and to learn more about industry issues and key trends. Here’s a snapshot of  exhibitions and events for the remainder of 2018 that may be relevant to you:

May

Infrarail, London, 1st – 3rd May

Infrarail is the UK’s specialist show dedicated to showcasing systems, equipment and services for the railway infrastructure market.

National Construction Summit, Dublin, 2nd May

Connecting key stakeholders within the construction industry. Creating debates and enriching knowledge from legal professionals to architects.

All-Energy, Glasgow, 2nd – 3rd May

Low-carbon and renewable energy event with over 100 hours of conference content from 400+ specialist speakers.

Cold Comfort, Coventry, 16th – 17th May

Cold Comfort aims to empower local authorities and their private sector partners with the latest understanding and knowledge of all the issues affecting the UK winter service sector.

Surfex, Coventry, 22nd – 23rd May

Surfex draws focus to surface coating technologies and offers visitors an opportunity to source information to use in their working environment.

June

Tip-Ex, Harrogate, 31st May – 2nd June

The only UK show dedicated to the tipping, bulk haulage, tanker and bulk liquid transport industries. With over 100 exhibits to see!

Subcon, Birmingham, 5th – 7th June

‘The best of British manufacturing will be on display’. Visit the UK’s event for manufacturing professionals across all sectors.

Facilities Show, London, 19th – 21st June

Identify new suppliers, discover innovative solutions and network under one roof. Along with conferences and dedicated meeting spaces.

IFSEC, London, 19th – 21st June

Europe’s security event dedicated to co-creating a future of integrated security solutions. It’s a platform to share ideas, discover advanced security technologies and get hands on.

Vision, London, 21st – 22nd June

Brings together architects, clients, specifiers and suppliers in the heart of London’s design community.

Summer Break

And relax, July and August are free of construction trade shows!

September

RWM, Birmingham, 12th – 13th September

The recycling and waste management show. Recycling and protecting our environment is more important than ever and this show focuses on exhibitors and CPDs specialising in this area.

100% Design, London, 19th – 22nd September  

The largest and longest running show for design professionals across the UK. From kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms to office and workspace designs.

TCT, Birmingham, 25th – 27th September

A world leading show for 3D manufacturing technology. Full of design-to- manufacturing innovation.

WNIE, Birmingham, 25th – 26th September

‘What’s New In Electronics?’ unites the world of electronics in the UK, showcasing emerging and pioneering solutions.

W Exhibition, Birmingham, 30th September – 3rd October

The W Exhibition showcases joinery and furniture industries and the latest products and developments in the world of woodwork.

2018: Complete

That’s about the size of 2018 as far as construction trade shows go. Do let us know if we’ve missed any you think should feature!

We hope we’ve helped focus your trade show travels and even see some new business as a result!

An Omniplastic World

Our oceans, land and air are polluted by single-use plastic. We’re a society reliant on, and obsessed with, plastics. Since its creation in 1907, it’s been omnipresent in our everyday lives.

But today marks Earth Day 2018 and we’re encouraged to see an increased awareness of the issues caused by plastic pollution across the globe.

What is plastic?

Plastic is an organic (carbon-containing) material that is so flexible it can make a variety of materials that vary in strength and structure. It has often been favoured for its durability as, whilst plastic products can be damaged, they will never fully degrade.

Most formed by chemically bonding oil and gas molecules together to make monomers. These monomers are fused into long polymer chains which makes tiny plastic pellets. The pellets are then melted down and injection moulded into the plastic items we use every day.

Where does waste plastic go?

There are three main destinations for unwanted plastic:

  1. Landfill

Most single-use plastics are disposed of into landfill. These huge holes in the ground are packed with waste plastic and compressed daily. Rain water flows through this waste and absorbs water soluble compounds toxins from it. Together, these compounds create a harmful mix called which contaminates water, acidifies soil and causes damage to ecosystems. Every piece of plastic in landfill contributes to this Leachate for around 1000 years until it begins to degrade.

 

  1. The Ocean

Plastic frequently enters our waterways, flowing through our streams and rivers and eventually being carried into the ocean. The currents drags it to debris islands, such as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or onto many shores around the globe. There are over of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone. This “cloudy soup” of microplastics often combines with larger items, and bodies of waste beneath the water too which can entangle sea birds or cause stressful, painful deaths when mistakenly eaten.

Ingestion of plastic causes sea life to feel full when they’re not and often starve to death or die from complications. The ingestion of microplastics can also be passed through the food chain through carnivores such as squid, tuna and dolphins who prey on deep sea fish like the lanternfish. Many of these contaminated creatures may also end up in our own food chain.

  1. Recycling

By far the most preferable route, the final pathway for waste plastic is a recycle plant. Recyclable plastic is pressed into large blocks, washed and then shredded into tiny pieces. It’s these tiny pieces, or pellets, that would be melted down and injection moulded to make a second plastic item. Whilst this is the most sustainable solution, it still poses risks to the environment but is far better than making new plastic.

Microplastics

Microplastics are easy to ignore or forget about as you wouldn’t see them littered on a road or floating in a river. They’re tiny pieces of plastic caused by exposure to sunlight and water, or created as components of other products such as those in cosmetics.

When you drink water, eat seafood (including animals or birds that ate or have been fed seafood), or add salt to your meals it’s almost inevitable that you will be ingesting a microplastic. Once plastic enters an organism’s bloodstream, it will never be processed out and this can cause major health implications.

Plastic and our health  

Plastic not only pollutes our planet but can affect our health too. Many plastics contain phthalates and a chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) which are now recognised as hazardous to public health. Both chemicals present risks to our hormones and reproductive systems.

In 2016 scientists revealed that ‘microwavable safe’ plastic may not actually be safe. When food is heated in a plastic container in the microwave, chemicals from the plastic can leach out into the food from the container. The say there are correlations between heating food in plastic and the following health problems.

  • Chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities
  • Impaired brain and neurological functions
  • Cancer Cardiovascular system damage
  • Adult-onset diabetes
  • Early puberty
  • Obesity
  • Resistance to chemotherapy

Calculate your plastic footprint  

Many people would have no idea how much plastic pollution they are accountable for per year. To get the precise figure would be difficult, but an approximate estimation using The Earth Day Network’s formula is sufficient in understanding your footprint. You can calculate your annual footprint with this online calculator here.

After learning about the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on our planet, nature and us, and now having calculated your plastic footprint, all that’s left is to do something about it!

Take Action!

Step one: Reduce.

It’s extremely hard to stop using single-use plastics all at once because it has become so normal to use them. By making a conscious effort to buy items with less plastic, you will help to reduce the demand for plastic. Recycling isn’t always sufficient as local infrastructure can hinder how much goes to a recycle plant and what goes to landfill. Large quantities of recycled waste may also end up in landfill due to contaminated batches if there are a high number of people who aren’t recycling properly.

It takes time to make any change, but it is possible to make a difference. Lauren Singer from America is a great example – she reduced four years of waste into one jar!

Step two: Refuse.

Although many places across the globe are now removing plastic straws from their bars and restaurants, or introducing biodegradable options where disposable seems necessary, it’s also easy to refuse a single-use plastic item in many cases. Or even take your own non-plastic alternative, such as travel cutlery, containers and a drink cup. Also ensure you request plastic-free or recyclable products from companies you support so they know what’s important to their consumers.

Step three: Reuse.

Selecting products designed for multiple uses is a way not only to cut cost but to also reduce your plastic consumption, such as considering a safety razor where blades can be replaced rather than plastic one-use razors. There are so many resources and groups now that offer lots of tips on how to replace what you’re used to using with eco-friendly options. If it’s imperative that you do need to buy single-use plastic items then, wherever possible, try to come up with a secondary purpose for them such as oddments that can be repurposed into crafts.

Here’s 23 different ways you can reuse a plastic bottle without refilling it!

Step four: Recycle.

There will be instances where using plastic will be unavoidable. Most UK residents recycle but not all do so correctly. Visit this website to learn about recycling in your area.

We hope we’ve stripped plastic of its appeal to you and helped you better understand why we should all be reducing, refusing or reusing single-use plastics in our everyday lives!

Share your plastic journey with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Women In Print Book Club

We are celebrating International Women’s Day with a special book club only featuring books by women who rule! Everyone at Smith Goodfellow has put forward their favourite female authors and books written by awesome women.

Check back each week during March to see our recommendations, and follow our #WomenInPrint Book Club on our Instagram

Final Recommendation:

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to my female authors. I love the keen observation and subtle wit of Jane Austen; the dark passion and ethereal quality of the Bronte sisters writing. I count ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ amongst my all-time favourite novels.

But I also admire many modern wordsmiths. I love Jojo Moyes’ unsentimental portrayal of difficult subjects, and her deft characterisation. ‘Me Before You’ is an absolute classic, and ‘The One Plus One’ is a joy to read. Anne Patchett’s ‘Bel Canto’ is a roller coaster of tension, comic effect and tragedy. Or for a real taste of there being two sides to every story, how about ‘Happenstance’ by Carol Shields.

If a bit of fantasy is more your thing, check out the compelling ‘Uprooted’ by Naomi Novik

I could go on and on (as you’ve probably gathered), but my final contribution for any budding writers out there is read Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life’.

19th March:

Kelly recommedns ‘The Gender Games’ – by Juno Dawson

This is a great book, not just as an educational tool, but also because I find Juno’s blunt but witty approach really refreshing.

‘The Gender Games’ is a biography that covers British culture, relationships, sexuality, feminism, stereotypes and more… It is both a social commentary and Juno’s own story. Given she was born a man, her story is particularly interesting as she talks about her childhood and family life, her life when she believed she was a gay man, and then coming to the realisation she identified as a woman. The book is a bare-all account of what she had to go through growing up and during adulthood. She also candidly explains what challenges she faced as a trans woman.

Personally, I think this should be on an essential-reads list for any adult!

Dave recommends ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ – By Zora Neale Hurston

The book uses its setting, just one generation removed from the abolition of slavery, to discuss racial relations within the African American community and offers a frank commentary on the way women’s roles and lives are defined, particularly within relationships. Whilst partners and others try to enforce the norms of society upon her, Janie constantly rises above, defining her own path to a fulfilling life.

A beautifully described tale of an African-American woman’s journey through life in early 1900s America. 

Jodie recommends ‘Milk and Honey’ – by Rupi Kaur

Kaur’s poetry is life-changing. That seems a bit of an over-the-top statement, I know. But her concise clarity, unrestrained and raw, is what we need in this world.

Here’s one of my favourites, and one which I think is particularly resonant today:“we all move forward when we recognize how resilientand striking the women around us are”

Kelly recommends ‘A Signature of All Things’ – by Elizabeth Gilbert

In some ways, this is an odd book to love so much. Alma isn’t a particularly likeable character, the subject matter to many may not even be of interest (there’s a lot of botany-research that has gone into this), and it’s a historical novel based in the 19th Century. And yet, this is one of my favourite books. The reason for this is the way in which it is written, the style, the questions it raises… it is Alma’s journey through life as she tries to find her place in a world that doesn’t believe women can be leaders in a field. She also tries to understand things such as love, passion, friendship, and the meaning of life through her work.

Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favourite authors, both because I love her work and because I love hearing what she has to say as a woman.

14th March:

Owen recommends ‘The Suffragettes’ – by Penguin ‘Little Black Classics’

A very interesting little collection of newspaper articles, leaflets, posters and legal documents surrounding the Suffrage movement in the UK. The book is split into sufferage, anti-sufferage and Victory, all for £1.

‘Once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.’ The first page set the tone.

12th March:

Adrian recommends ‘The Descendants’ – by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Hemming’s debut novel tells the story of Matt King a successful attorney and descendant of Hawaiian royalty. As the largest shareholder Matt is faced with the dilemma of what to do with the large amount of land he and his family has inherited from his ancestors. He feels pressure from his cousins to sell the land to real estate developers. However, this would be relinquishing the last portion of land in Hawaii owned by native Hawaiians.

When his adrenaline seeking wife, Joanie, suffers from a speedboat accident which leaves her in an irreversible coma, Matt is forced to confront his shortcomings within his personal life. He must look after his two emotionally estranged and troubled teenage daughters and deliver the news to his family’s wife that she is about to be taken off life support.

A confrontation with his oldest daughter, A recovering drug addict and model, leads to the revelation that Matts wife had been having an affair which spurs him to go in search of his wife’s lover in order to deliver the news.

The Descendants is a darkly comic novel which explores themes of Identity, race and family.

9th March:

Kelly recommends ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ – by Maya Angelou 

This is such a beautifully written book. Stunning, heart-breaking, enlightening… a stroll, sometimes stumble, sometimes dance through Maya’s life as a child right up to the point of finding out she was going to be a mother. It covers her experiences growing up in a fractured family unit, racism, education, poverty, sexual abuse… She also discusses meeting her role models. Such a wonderfully strong and smart woman!

No book list on inspiring and influential women would be complete without some Maya!

6th March:

Jodie recommends ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ – by  Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story from 1892. Written as a series of journal entries by a woman who has been prescribed ‘the rest cure’, is an unsettling look at people’s attitudes towards women’s health, both mental and physical.  It was one of the first texts to really make me think about how women are represented in literature, and how they represent themselves.

This isn’t just my favourite book by a woman, but my favourite book!

1st March:

Paul recommends ‘Woman on The Edge of Time’, by Marge Piercy

I can’t describe this book better than the genre description from Shmoop: “When you think of Sci-Fi, you probably think of bug-eyed monsters, lasers and Marty McFly lopping off Mr. Spock’s ears with the Tardis. But this is not that kind of science fiction. Instead of jetpacks and laser battles, ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’ has gender equality; instead of a pill containing a full day’s nutrition, it has equal distribution of resources.”

It is both thoughtful and thought provoking. Read it.

I recommend this book as it is one of the most intellectual Sci-Fi books I’ve ever read!

 

This book club ended 1.4.18

The Power of #Hashtags

Social media gets lots of criticism for failing to stop bullying and hate crimes, but we’ve recently seen how its power to draw people together can be used for good.

The Weinstein Case

The BBC recently released a timeline which summarised the events following last October’s New York Times story, detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood film-maker Harvey Weinstein.

Leading Hollywood actors immediately spoke out. Lena Dunham said that those who opened up about what they’d been through deserved our awe, explaining it’s not easy but it’s brave. The allegations made headlines and, deservedly, dominated the news cycle.

In the days that followed, an increasing number of actors, included Meryl Streep and Dame Judi Dench, reacted to the allegations with disgust and described the women who spoke out as ‘heroes’ in an interview with The Huffington Post.

The ‘Me Too’ movement existed long before the Weinstein case but many, like me, hadn’t seen it on their feeds. It was created by social activist Tarana Burke after being stuck as to the best way to respond to a 13-year-old girl who told her she had been sexually assaulted back in 2006. Burke later wished she’d simply responded, ‘me too’. It was ten days after the Weinstein allegations broke that ‘#MeToo’ began to gain momentum.

#MeToo Goes Viral

On the 15 October 2017, actor Alyssa Milano encouraged women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to write ‘Me too’ as a status to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Whilst sexual harassment doesn’t just affect women, statistically speaking, they are five times more likely to be harassed or assaulted than men, with one in five women being targeted.

#MeToo is more than a hashtag, it’s a voice. For many women it was the first time they’ve chosen to tell anyone of their experiences. #MeToo has been used over a million times. And this is just the people who chose to tell their story online.

Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence and Bjork are all amongst the long list of celebrities who’ve joined the movement. When these celebrities publicly shared their stories, it empowered their fans to do so too. Fans who had been previously left feeling like an anomaly, or who’d felt ignored, could relate to someone they admire. And they were all connected by the simple use of a hashtag.

Social Good

The #MeToo trend doesn’t just highlight the scale a problem, it also illuminates the power of ‘social good’. Social media gave victims a voice which they’d previously been stripped off and united millions of people.

It’s often criticised for failing to tackle hate crimes and bullying, but, if used correctly, social media can add value to society. In my opinion, this movement will change the way we discuss social issues in the future. We’ve seen the power social media has to highlight the magnitude of problems, and unify a marginalised group, through something as simple as a hashtag and the attention it can gain.

This is the third blog in our International Women’s Day series and throughout March we’ve been exploring history, celebrating women and discussing gender issues. Read the previous blog here and follow our Instagram page to find out why it’s gone purple for March.

A Conversation with Cathy

 

“I have been told, more than once, that I was not what people expected!”

Queen of the pen, godmother of the Building Regulations and captain of the Smith Goodfellow helm for almost 8 years, for international women’s day we sat down with our Managing Director, Cathy Barlow to find out her experiences of working in both the PR and construction sectors, her journey to where she is today and what advice she would give the next generation of women business owners.

Q: Happy International Women’s Day! How will you be celebrating it?

I will be celebrating it with my fab team. They are what makes running my own business so satisfying, and I love the diversity of talent and characters we have – it makes for some great office discussions. This is how the magic happens, and when the energy comes into the room.

Q: How did you begin working in PR and what inspired you to take the reins of the SG business in 2010?

I actually started at Smith Goodfellow back in 1984 as a receptionist, having taken a paycut to try and get into PR, in the hope that I would one day get a chance to do some writing. That chance came within a year, and I proudly had my first article published in Roofing Contractor magazine.

My career with SG was cut short when a move to South Wales appeared to be on the cards, but I continued to write for the company as a freelancer for some years, before having a career break whilst my children were young.

In 2002, I started freelancing again alongside the part time work I was doing with Stockport Council. In 2003 I went back to SG full-time, and it was at this point that I really started to get inspired by the clients we were working with. I became aware of the importance of the messages we were creating, about sustainability and energy efficiency, long before they became buzzwords in the media.

As my experience of working strategically with clients and knowledge of the construction industry grew, I started to gain more confidence. When the opportunity came to take over the business in 2010 I felt ready for the challenge, although nothing could have prepared me for the roller coaster that having full responsibility and running every aspect of a business brings. I certainly could not have done it without the unwavering support of my partner in the business and husband, Paul.

Q: What have been the highlights of your career so far? Have there any moments where you felt like ‘yes. I’ve made it!’?

I think when we moved into our current office space last May, that really felt like a turning point. Here was a space with a look and feel that we created, with room to grow, and that allows us the freedom to explore different ways of working.

There is still a way to go before I really feel I’ve made it. I want this business to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining, whether I’m heading it up or not. The day that I’m not needed any more will be the day I know the job’s done!

Q: What, in your opinion, are the current challenges for women in PR?

I think that there is often a perception amongst clients about women in PR – an expectation of how they will look or dress, and an assumption that their interest and knowledge does not extend outside posting a few things on social media and writing the odd press release. It can be hard to have your voice heard, and to be taken seriously, especially if you are a young woman in the profession, and particularly in a male dominated sector such as construction.

I have been told, more than once, that I was not what people expected!

Being confident, knowing your stuff, learning about your client and their industry, and not being afraid to speak out if you believe they are going in the wrong direction – these are all things that will help to win the respect and trust of your clients.

Q: What can businesses do to show their commitment for gender parity?

Parity of pay is the obvious one, but also of opportunity. Understanding that women are often still the primary carer when it comes to children and may need some flexibility of working to get the best results.

Basic stuff like making sure that facilities on site are suitable for women as well as men, and that women are given the right equipment, not something improvised from a male version.

Also, don’t assume that because a woman has had a career break to raise a family it means that she is inexperienced, incapable or not up to speed, it is often quite the opposite!

Q: Your boundless passion for and knowledge of the construction industry is evident. What has been your experience as a woman coming into a male-dominated industry?

See answer above!

In truth, I have not found it to be much of a problem, except with a few rare individuals. That passion and knowledge has stood me in good stead, especially once I have been able to demonstrate that I know what I’m talking about.

As communicators we have an advantage. A good PR understands how to use language and what messages to get across to break down potential barriers. Of course, you will always get some people who are dismissive, or who may even feel threatened by dealing with a woman in a position of influence – but this applies to both men and women.

One of the great advantages of running your own business is that, by and large, you can choose who you work with. We are also extremely fortunate in our clients, who are all open minded and supportive.

Q: What advice would you give to young women hoping to one day own and manage their own businesses?

Go for it! It is scary and hard work and exhilarating and liberating, and it opens up all kinds of opportunities. But the best thing you can do is build a good team around you. Nobody is good at everything. Recognise your strengths, recognise your weaknesses, and bring somebody in to help you with the bits you aren’t great at.

Q: Which women inspire you and why?

My mother is my greatest inspiration. She left school at 15 with no qualifications and went through 19 jobs in the five years before she got married – one of them only lasted 2 hours! She was a ‘stay at home’ mum (as I was also privileged to be), raising three children, and she created a home that was always full of warmth, laughter and immense hospitality.

Our friends were always welcome, and however short the money was, there was always food on the table for anybody who turned up. She and my dad fostered babies – 21 in six years. She was always given the poorly babies, and the problem cases because she gave them such amazing care. Whenever we had a black baby in the pram, many of our white middle class ‘friends’ would cross the road to avoid us – one of the few things that would make my parents really angry.

When she was in her 40s she started a career as an Information Officer – her true vocation in life, which was helping people. She became the manager of five information offices across Stockport, running a large team of staff, before retiring to nurse my dad who had become seriously ill.

She taught me that accepting and caring about people is one of the most important things you can do in life. She taught me that you don’t need qualifications to have a successful career, and that a career can blossom late in life. She taught me to appreciate the beauty in simple things, like spending time with family, taking a walk or having a good sing. She taught me that you don’t need to have a lot of money to have a rich life.

Oh, and she once brought a man off the streets and into our home for Christmas, but that’s a tale for another time…

 

We’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day since March 1st and we’re not stopping here! Check out our Instagram page to see more or read our previous blog which looked at The Suffragettes.

The Suffragettes: 100 years later

This Thursday is International Women’s Day, and this year’s celebration is more important than ever. As UN Women explains “[this year’s event] comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice”[1], communicated through marches, strikes, campaigns on social media and at public events all around the world.

This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Representation of People Act which allowed women to vote for the very first time. Whilst it is important to recognise that this was limited to women of a certain status, it was a significant step in the fight for equality and, particularly as it is now part of our local history, a good starting point for our #SGxIWD campaign.

The History of the Suffragettes

On 10th October 1903, a frustrated Emmeline Pankhurst and five others, including her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, set up the Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester (WSPU)[2], under the powerful slogan ‘deeds not words’. Few thought that this small yet ambitious society would win any women the right to vote, yet alone be still studied and celebrated 100 years on.

We’ve created this timeline which shows the struggle from the rejected Great Reform Act in 1832 to the first female MP in 1928. Click here to view the full timeline.

Suffragettes in the Press

Emmeline and the WSPU were, as history knows them, game changers, particularly in the ways they gained media attention for their cause.

Moving away from the polite petitions, parades and strongly-worded letters of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, the WSUP organised a series of demonstrations which often resulted in violence to ensure their message was being heard. From smashing windows and setting fire to politicians’ postboxes, to going on hunger strike and chaining themselves to railings. Emily Davison famously died for the cause by walking out in front of King George V’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Whilst they certainly grabbed the headlines, these revolutionary women were not popular in the media. The very word we used to define them – ‘suffragettes’- was coined by the press. With the movement being centred on universal suffrage, the press paired ‘suffrage’ with the degrading suffix – ette – taken from French to denote something smaller, and often more inferior. The word may have been used to mock them, but it ended up being reclaimed by the movement[3]. To be a suffragette was to be a go-getter; determined women who would stop at nothing to have their voices heard. The word suffragette was a platform for the militant women and the whole movement to spread the message, under a unified identity.

They were continually ridiculed in the media, which depicted them as ugly, unfeminine, and neglectful of their families. If you are interested, there is a brilliant article which analyses how the suffragettes were treated by the contemporary media in more depth over at Bustle.com, which has some pretty shocking examples!

 Relevance Today

Women all around the world are still facing injustice in all spheres of modern life. In the workplace, issues such as gender pay gaps, sexual harassment and lack of representation in leadership positions can dissuade women from living their dreams and reaching their potential. We must all, regardless of our own gender, draw inspiration from the determination and strength of the suffragettes and speak out against inequality and accelerate change.

This is why, this week and throughout March, we will be both celebrating the achievements of women and calling for action to achieve gender parity. Join us and be inspired by following our #SGxIWD campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/

[2] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/education/docs/suffragettes/suffragettes-timeline.pdf

[3] http://time.com/4079176/suffragette-word-history-film/

 

Occupational Cancer

Today is #WorldCancerDay and we’re focusing on occupational cancer which affects more than 21,000 people working in construction each year. Occupational cancer can be caused by prolonged exposure to substances, or a mixture of substances, called ‘carcinogens’.

Carcinogens occur in many forms; they are solids, liquids, gases, vapours or dust and can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Certain types of work can carry a higher risk depending on what people are exposed to in their individual jobs. The types of jobs include –

  • Construction (increased exposure to asbestos, diesel, petrol, paint/solvents, sunlight and specks of dust)
  • Manufacturing (exposure to fossil fuels, silica, sunlight and solvents)
  • Service & Engineering (too much exposure to second-hand smoke, sunlight and fumes)

Legislation called The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, or COSHH, requires employers to control substances hazardous to health, which includes exposure to carcinogens.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned the Imperial College London, the Health and Safety Laboratory, the Institute of Occupational Medicine, and the Institute of Environment and Health to produce updated and detailed research of occupational cancer in Great Britain.

The extensive research found cancer caused by exposure to carcinogens is often presented many years after the exposure took place, in most cases this is ten years. Therefore, it’s extremely hard to blame cancer growth on the workplace. However, in a large population it is possible to estimate the approximate number of cancer cases that could be due to work or, in other words, would not have occurred in the absence of the exposure in the workplace. In a nutshell, the research concluded that –

  1. 5% of cancer deaths are due to exposure, which equates to about 8,000 deaths each year.
  2. Exposure to carcinogens is estimated to account for 4% of cancer registrations (approximately 13,500 cases) due to exposure each year.

To read more about occupational cancer and cancer in construction visit HSE, Cancer Research UK or The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Alternatively, check out our Tweets.

Source – hse.gov.uk

Sleeping on the Streets of Stockport

Tonight we’re going to be sleeping out under the stars in the middle of Stockport – or at least under the cloud and ‘light rain’ that is forecast!

Why would we forgo our warm and comfy beds to do this crazy thing you might ask?

It’s because according to the Department for Communities and Local Government, on any one night over 4,000 people are sleeping rough in England, an increase of 16% from 2015 to 2016, and 134% since 2010. The reality could be far more than that.

Indeed, the issue of homelessness extends beyond rough sleeping, and it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million people have no home. Again, these figures just relate to England.

Now, we think that having a roof over your head is a pretty fundamental human need, especially in our cold, damp climate. If we cannot provide some kind of shelter for four thousand people it’s a very poor state of affairs.

People end up on the streets for all kinds of reasons – they could have lost their jobs, had their benefits cut, been fleeing from abuse, be suffering from mental illness. They represent some of the most vulnerable people in our society and we turn our backs on them, quite literally walk past them, and turn a blind eye to their plight.

The Wellspring is a fantastic local charity providing a service to homeless people, 365 days a year. They offer a drop-in centre, where people can access food, clothing, support and advice. And tonight they are holding an organised sleep out to raise funds and awareness.

We don’t want to just walk past and turn a blind eye.
We don’t want to be complicit in ignoring this issue.
That’s why, just for tonight, we’re going to be sleeping on the streets of Stockport.

You can do your bit too, from the comfort of your home, by sharing this story, and donating whatever you feel you can spare.

 

 

SOME PEOPLE WORK IN CONSTRUCTION… GET OVER IT

“It started with a place called the Stonewall Inn. Gay bars had been raided by police for decades. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people had been routinely arrested and subjected to harassment and beatings by the people who were meant to protect them. But, one night, in this place called the Stonewall Inn, when the police stormed in to continue their abuse, the clientele fought back.”[1]

I didn’t know much about the Stonewall Uprising. I mean, I knew the base facts. I knew it had something to do with a police raid on a gay bar in New York. That it sparked riots which in turn sparked the LGBT Rights Movement in the US and around the world. But I didn’t know the full story. Until, on a rare lunchtime walk in the sun, I listened to an episode of the design-focused podcast 99 Percent Invisible called ‘Remembering Stonewall’.

It’s an incredibly well put together episode; if you have the inclination, I highly recommend listening to it. By the time I made it back to my desk, my eyes were truly and irrevocably widened.

The construction industry, in general, has a poor reputation when it comes to inclusiveness, particularly in the LGBT community. It historically has a very traditional, male-dominated and heteronormative culture (male and female threaded pipes anyone?), which doesn’t leave much room for those who don’t “fit in”. Change is slow to implement too – gender equality has been a key focus for years. But encouraging diversity is not a battle fought on one front.

A survey done by Construction News in October last year found that 71% of LGBT construction workers felt they couldn’t be open about their sexuality on site and 51% felt their sexuality prevented them from progressing in their careers. It’s not just professionally that this inequity has an impact; 45% would feel uncomfortable bringing a same-sex partner to an industry event, and many in the LGBT community don’t feel comfortable discussing what they did at the weekend at work.

It’s clear that things need to change.

And, don’t get me wrong, they are. Many companies within the industry are creating and promoting open and safe networks where all staff, regardless of sexuality, can discuss issues openly and safely. “No bystander” approaches in offices and on site are enforced to embolden workers to stand up to unacceptable behaviour and language. Positive role models, supported by great management systems, are putting themselves forward to prevent those suffering from feeling isolated: such as Balfour Beatty’s Senior Planner and Chair of their LGBT Network, Christina Riley, who is one of the first women in the construction industry to come out as transgender.

In an article for the Huffington Post, she wrote: “Looking back, Balfour Beatty were the catalyst to me changing to be my true self as I continued to hide and lead a double life until one day I saw a notice at work that they were launching one of the construction industry’s first LGBT networks. I don’t know why I felt drawn to attend the meeting after so many years suppressing myself but it just felt right to go.”

But things are not changing quick enough.

One of the respondents to the Construction News survey, who identified as a gay man, responded by saying he felt driven out of the industry by the everyday prevalence of homophobia. This isn’t one person’s experience either. Only 18% of LGBT workers would recommend the industry to prospective colleagues.

Skilled and qualified workers are being pushed out of their careers, or discouraged from even pursuing one, for no other reason than just who they are. This is deeply troubling – unimaginable for those lucky enough to never have faced such discrimination. It also makes poor business sense. The sector is suffering a skills shortage which is only set to get worse. Breaking down the macho construction worker stereotype, giving more visibility to and education on the issues faced by LGBT workers in order to tackle homophobia at all levels of the industry will lead to better staff retention, high productivity and, in turn, attract new talent to the industry.

Gary Coetzee, co-chair of the LGBT Employee Resource Group for Lendlease, summarises: “Today’s way of thinking is that you can’t work to your full potential if you spend half your energy hiding who you are. The ethos of good management is for people to be happy and to be themselves. People [in the industry] are acknowledging the capacity to be different – and an organisation that taps into that and brings people in who are different to them – be it gender, religion or sexuality – will be more powerful.”

July will mark the 50th Anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. I came in to work this morning and saw that today German MPs have voted to legalised same-sex marriage, which will give gay men and lesbians full marital rights, and allows them to adopt children. The world is making definite strides in the right direction. Let’s make sure our industry keeps up with it.

[1] ‘Remembering Stonewall’- 99 Percent Invisible- 28th June 2016

Getting to grips with GDPR: a basic guide

Back in the 1950s, Charlotte and her web demonstrated how careful dissemination of personal data to a specific audience could be an incredibly powerful thing. Spoiler: she did a fine job of saving the little pig, Wilbur, from the butcher’s block! Now we have a different type of web in our communities that can be even more powerful. However, this digital landscape poses many risks and has made it much harder to protect our data from those who would seek to exploit it. New legislation, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), plans to address this by ensuring data collectors and processors plug up potential areas of weakness and take steps to protect us. But how do you ensure the personal data you collect as a business is GDPR compliant?

Given the imminent changes, we have been reading up on and learning more about what’s due to happen and what we’ll be doing about it. So, I thought I’d share what we’ve learned so far in the hopes that it helps you tackle any necessary changes. Please note, I am not a legal advisor and the information here is based on my own reading and training.

What is ‘personal’ data?

Personal data is anything that can be linked back to an individual, whether that be a date of birth, place of work, IP address, health record, and so on.

How does GDPR differ from the Data Protection Act 1998?

By 25 May 2018 the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 will be no more, but will be upgraded to the GDPR. At that point, your business should be well and truly addressing any potential issues around data collection and use.

What happens if you haven’t? Naturally this depends on your business and what kind of data you hold but, worst case scenario? Not only will there be a whole bunch of bad press, should there be something like a very public data breach… but you are likely to be fined an incredibly hefty amount. Whilst in all probability fines will be scalable depending upon the size of the business and severity of the infraction, to give you an idea of how serious the GDPR will be taking breaches, the guidance states that large businesses can expect fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater[1]. Not to mention the additional cost of fixing any security issues and possibly being subjected to further legal proceedings with personal claims from the individuals affected.

That would be your first major difference. Another big difference is that there are likely to be legal consequences for data processors as well as controllers, should there be a breach.

GDPR insists that contracts with third party data processors are also compliant, which could be EU or non-EU businesses working within or for EU companies. If they are not, this could also result in a prosecution. If you’re working with a business outside of the EU, you need to have a good, long look at your contracts with them and their privacy policies to ensure data they work with meets the criteria.

What are you collecting and why?

No doubt you have spent a long time building up your brand’s reputation, spent a considerable amount of money on campaigns to build trust with your customer base, invested in your employees to improve retention rates, and so forth. If you fail to understand the importance of protecting what you know about the people you engage with, whether internally or externally, you run the risk of all that going down the pipe. You may now be getting the sense that you can’t afford to ignore data protection. Not just for monetary reasons, but also to protect against damage to your reputation.

Firstly, consider what information you currently keep. Such as:

  • HR records
  • CVs and applications
  • Credit history
  • Health records
  • Criminal Record checks
  • Contact details
  • Location
  • Behaviour
  • Browsing history

Now assess why you are keeping this information. The changes to data protection law insists that what you have on file, you have for a specific reason. If you don’t need it, you need to (safely) ditch it by deleting, returning to the data subject, destroying… etc.

For information you think you should keep, do you have consent for what you are keeping or using it for? The GDPR makes it clear that consent is of the utmost importance. If you don’t have it, you need to ask for it. If you can’t get it, you need to get rid of it.

Are you seeking consent?

Before you have that knee-jerk reaction to being asked to delete, just consider how you would feel about someone keeping or using personal information about you. I don’t know about you, but I find all those unsolicited sales calls, emails, and letters bad enough. But, what if you found your GP practice sold your personal medical history to pharmaceutical or insurance companies[2]? Or your colleagues were informed of those past indiscretions, disciplinaries, credit issues, or criminal charges you’d given in confidence to a select few? What if you’re put at risk after someone purchases data about your internet habits that imply when your home is likely to be vacant[3]?

These are, of course, extreme cases. If consent isn’t sought though, how are you going to know what is happening with information about you?

GDPR sets out to address this as it has the data subject as the priority. Data subjects must be informed as to what information you are collecting, why, and how you’re likely to use it. This must be addressed in a privacy policy and in the terms & conditions, which must also be in layman’s terms so that anyone can understand it. If you need guidance here, the ICO has lots of information on what you should be considering as you travel through the processes and culture shifts necessary to achieve, not only compliance, but win customer or client confidence because you’ve put them first.

Protecting & storage of data

I expect this is one of those topics that could go on forever, fortunately this is a basic guide… With that in mind, consider where you store the data you collect. Are there paper copies? In the cloud? On discs? With an external company? Have you audited what you keep, where, why and how long for?

If not, you need to. You also need to assess what levels of security you have to prevent the loss, theft or destruction of a person’s data. This should also be done for third parties who handle the data you have. If they aren’t compliant, remember that you’re both liable in the case of a breach. If the software or tools you use are outdated, this needs to be addressed immediately. The NHS breach recently is a prime and, most likely, often cited example of how outdated systems and poor security can pose a huge problem. Don’t let that be you!

I haven’t exhausted all avenues that need to be considered for GDPR compliance, but I hope you’re now a little clearer on what you should be starting with at least. If we can all tighten up how we use and store what we collect, it not only protects our customers or clients, but also ensures the data we have works harder for us. It is more relevant to our needs, helping us to achieve our goals with ethically sourced information. I’m sure Charlotte’s children would embrace the new changes because, if you don’t have your data subject at the heart of all you do, you’re unlikely to make the impact you hope to on the world. How are you planning to make data collection and storage under GDPR work for you?

To see more updates, you can follow the SG LinkedIn page here or our team members here.

References

[1] https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2016/may/gdpr-potential-fines-for-data-security-breaches-more-severe-for-data-controllers-than-processors-says-expert/

[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-data-brokers-make-money-off-your-medical-records/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/28/internet-service-providers-sell-browsing-history-house-vote

Kingspan and Smith Goodfellow PR together again

Kingspan Insulated Panels

New clients, new branding, new staff, new opportunities, and a significant anniversary – 2017 is already an exciting year for Smith Goodfellow PR. The specialist construction and manufacturing PR Consultancy is proud to be celebrating 20 years working with Kingspan Insulation, and welcomes Kingspan Insulated Panels back to its client portfolio, after re-acquiring the account following a 4-year break.

Client News

The latter half of 2016 proved to be a busy end to the year for the well-established Consultancy. The company was commissioned to build a new website, and create a brand refresh for Middlewich based Valsave Engineered Solutions, who specialise in solutions for the water, utilities, process, and chemical industries.

Work started with Kingspan Cleanroom Systems, whose products allow the construction of high performance cleanroom environments. Two other existing clients also requested significant additional work, which was completed by the end of the year.

2017 looks to be equally fruitful, as the campaigns kick off for all clients, including the two largest divisions of the Kingspan Group. Kingspan Insulated Panels is a leading manufacturer of highly efficient products and solutions for the building envelope, including structural products and insulated roof & wall panel systems.

Kingspan Insulation’s product range provides premium and high performance rigid insulation and insulated systems for building fabric and building services applications, such as for roofs, walls, floors, pipework, and HVAC ducts.

Fundraising update

Throughout 2016 the SGPR team repeatedly set out on new challenges, the latest being a 24-hour, Harry Potter-themed bike ride. Two charities are benefitting from their self-inflicted discomfort: CRASH (the construction industry’s homeless and hospice charity) and The Wellspring (kitchen and resource centre for the homeless or vulnerable). A combined total of over £1,000 has been raised to date, with more events to come in 2017.

Cathy Barlow, Managing Director of Smith Goodfellow PR, said:

“2016 was a brilliant year with lots going on, and the team really showed what they are capable of. 2017 looks like being better yet. We are actively recruiting and look forward to inducting some new members of staff into our own particular brand of creativity, hard graft, teamwork, and of course a healthy dose of fun!”

Plans are in motion for more charity activities, campaign work, and a rebrand launch scheduled for May.

A Selection Blog: Our Top Ten Alternative Christmas Songs

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the office
All creatures were celebrating, even the bosses.
The music was put on Spotify with care,
In the hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there!

Paul’s Selection

There’s No Light On The Christmas Tree – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Love this track from the 1972 debut album by Scottish rockers The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. It’s typical of the slightly off the wall lyrics that made them one of the biggest bands in the ’70s.

Dominic the Donkey – Lou Monte

My second choice is the 1960 release by Lou Monte. The song is about a donkey who helps Santa bring presents to the children in the mountains of Italy because the reindeer can’t climb the hills. The song was introduced to me by my daughter Naomi one Christmas. I can still see her singing the catchphrase “Hey! Chingedy ching (Hee-haw, hee-haw)” and has me rolling laughter.

Cathy’s Selection

Winter Song – Lindisfarne

My first choice always brings home to me just how fortunate I am at this time of year, surrounded by family and friends, with a lovely, warm home and all the good food we enjoy at Christmas. It also seems appropriate in light of our chosen charities this year – Lindisfarne with Alan Hull’s atmospheric Winter Song.

White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes

Not strictly a Christmas song, but one that always makes me feel Christmassy!

Dave’s Selection

Patapan/O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Mindy Gledhill

A fantastic mash-up of two classic Christmas carols/hymns with a modern twist.

Christmas Unicorn – Sufjan Stevens

Exploring the tangled traditions and mythologies surrounding Christmas through the vessel of the Christmas Unicorn (with a little Joy Division thrown in for good measure).

Kelly’s Selection

Kidnap the Sandy Claws – KORN

Nightmare Before Christmas expertly combines two of my favourite holidays: Halloween and Christmas. So, this KORN remake is both a tribute to my love of all things Jack, as well as a reminder of the years I’d enthusiastically douse myself in glitter to sparkle my way through the season.

Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

Christmas is the time for feeling cosy. A time for enjoying the warmth of a comfortable home with frosty windows and a hot chocolate in hand: pure indulgence. This is why Eartha Kitt is my second choice. Her sultry vocals with a splash of whimsy is a perfect addition to your soundtrack for the festivities, in my view.

Jodie’s Selection

Never Do a Tango with an Eskimo – Alma Cogan

I’m not sure Alma ever met an Inuit. If she had, she would know that they much prefer a Calypso (get it?).

Fun song from the ’50s which will definitely get stuck in your head as you’re handing out the champagne!

Joy to The World – August Burns Red

Because if there’s anything Christmas music needs more of, it’s heavy breakdowns and screamo vocals.

 

We hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy & successful 2017!

Christmas

Constructing a Future with Climate Change

November has been one hell of a month for American journalists. The USA’s new president-elect and his ideas for the future of one of the world’s biggest superpowers has shaken many. Not least those concerned about the future of our planet.

Last week, Donald Trump’s senior adviser on matters relating to NASA announced that Trump intends to scrap all climate change research conducted by the space agency in a bid to crack-down on “politicized science”. It’s not completely surprising, considering Trump’s well-documented scepticism, such as his tweet in 2012: “[t]he concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”.

But this isn’t intended to be a rant about Trump. There’s a character limit for a start. And, frankly, who knows what will happen when he comes to office in January. In the relatively short time it has taken me to write this blog, he’s U-turned on his stance twice. However, the loud vocalisation of his views on this topic has brought the climate change debate back into public consciousness. Is global warming something we should be worrying about? Is it an issue that can only be solved by policy and legislation? What role does the construction industry play in all this?

Reality Check

The evidence for climate change is overwhelming, and difficult to ignore. According to NASA’s calculations, our atmospheric CO2 levels have risen dramatically in the last 60 years. With that, we’ve seen a warming trend proceeding at a rate that is “unprecedented in the past 1,300 years”. The link to interactive graphs below illustrate this better than words can.

NASA Climate Change

Whilst we question what the statistics mean, debate the extent to which they’ve been caused by human activity, squabble over the possible economic effects of taking preventive measures, the world is changing rapidly and irreversibly. As Voltaire eloquently summarises, “Men argue. Nature acts”.

In March this year, The Economist’s Sustainability Summit delivered the bottom line: we either come together and adapt, or we die.

Starting at Home

From a purely logistical point of view, pulling NASA’s cutting-edge equipment away from researching how global warming is affecting our planet will undoubtedly be detrimental. But what’s more troubling, and telling, is the attitude behind it.

Kofi Annan once said “[o]n climate change, we often don’t fully appreciate that it is a problem. We think it is a problem waiting to happen”. It seems like it is always someone else’s responsibility to solve it: other countries, the Government, the environmental agencies, the multinational companies. It’s up to them to come together and figure out what to do, isn’t it?

Not entirely. Whilst we hope/expect that the heads of our country will lead the way, Earth is home to all of us and we all have a responsibility to look after it, whether it’s directed by policy or not. And it’s at home, with our homes, where we need to start.

The UK is yet to ratify the Paris Agreement, although Theresa May has said this will happen by the end of the year. The Climate Change Act 2008 states that we as country must achieve at least an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (relative to 1990s levels). With the built environment accounting for a considerable proportion of the country’s CO2 emissions, the construction industry needs to become part of the solution, and to see itself as such.

Climate Change Construction

UK Construction and the Climate

In the Autumn statement, the UK government pledged a £2.3 billion housing infrastructure fund to help provide 100,000 new homes in high-demand areas, with a further £1.4 billion to deliver 40,000 extra affordable homes. This was welcome news for future homeowners and the wider construction industry. However, it raises an important question about the carbon cost of these homes.

Last year, the Government disappointingly axed the Zero Carbon Homes Standard. New English homes currently only have to meet the requirements for the conservation of fuel and power within 2013 Building Regulations (which were themselves significantly watered down due to the economic downturn). Whilst it may well be beneficial in the short term for developers to just build to compliance, the long-term consequences can’t be brushed under the rug.

One of the most prevalent arguments against implementing tougher regulations is that they are too strenuous and expensive to meet. But with the development of new technologies and approaches coming to market all the time, housebuilders can actually reduce their costs whilst build higher quality and more energy efficient homes.

Take Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS), for example. Their performance is well-proven and the panels are delivered to site pre-cut to every project’s individual requirements, including windows and doors. Therefore, they can eliminate many of the gaps between the design and actual performance of the building. It only takes a small site team a few days to erect the building too, helping to reduce build times and easing the current skills shortage.

Actions > Promises

The outlook for our little planet is bleak. But it’s not hopeless. The housing infrastructure fund offers the perfect platform for housebuilders, architects, and manufacturers to showcase their expertise and dedication to creating a better environment for everyone.

We are lucky to work with a number of businesses that are already committed to doing this. Whether they call it sustainability, net-zero energy, carbon reduction or going green, they making significant investments in innovation, looking closely at their supply chains, conducting strict reports on their facilities and taking a generally proactive approach to protecting our planet and our future.

A Final Thought

Through all of this, I kept returning to a quote by Sir David Attenborough. I thought I’d leave it here, as food for thought:

“Anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet is either mad or an economist”

The ‘Potterthon’

Harry Potter Bike RideI’m not sure whose bright idea it was to watch all of the Harry Potter films back to back whilst riding an exercise bike, but that’s exactly what we did from 24th-25th November. Of course, it was all in a good cause, to raise money and awareness for CRASH and The Wellspring, providing support for the growing numbers of homeless people, both nationally and in our home town of Stockport.

So it was that, with aching bodies and sleepy brains, we hauled ourselves out of the office on the Saturday morning as victors! Wigs had been donned, faces painted, capes swirled… it was a whole lot of fun but we were rather tired and very saddle-sore by the end! Star prizes go to Jodie, Kelly and Dave for the number of different characters and costume changes they managed to pack in.

To see the footage that we streamed live, please visit our facebook page

A big thank you to our special guests who pitched in, as well as those who commented, shared, and donated throughout the event.

Watch out for the next instalment as we continue our series of extraordinary events in 2017.

 

A Pocketful of Change

Picture the scene in Manchester, one wet November evening. I am walking down Station Approach towards Piccadilly Gardens and, with mounting dismay, I start counting. There are seven homeless people sitting on that short stretch of chilly pavement alone. Seven. Men and women. All ages. It is heartbreaking, and it is frightening how swiftly the numbers have risen even in the last few months. Clearly ‘The Big Issue’ simply cannot deal with an issue this big.

I try to make eye contact with them and smile regretfully while shaking my head at the pleas for help. There are too many for a pocket full of change to give any relief, but at least I can acknowledge that they are there, that they are human.

As I return I see that there is an organised group dishing out hot food and asking for donations. I gladly give that pocketful of change, now that I don’t have to make the impossible choice of who needs it most.

It could be you

The problem of homelessness in our cities has reached a level I have never seen before. I find it shameful that in our relatively rich and stable society this situation exists, that we continue to turn a blind eye. That people in the UK are stripped of literally everything, including their dignity, as they are forced to beg to stay alive. It is getting worse, and the only official reaction to date has been the ludicrous remit to criminalise homeless people and fine them up to £1000 for sleeping rough.

Austerity, lack of housing, unemployment, abuse, mental health issues or simply bad luck. There could be any number of reasons why these people have ended up on the streets. Circumstances that could easily happen to one of our friends, a family member, or even ourselves. We would hope to get a helping hand, surely they deserve no less, and it needs to be the right kind of help to get them out of the gutter again.

A pocketful of change handed out to individuals won’t go very far. It could even be used in ways that worsen the daily dangers that they face. But a pocketful of change that goes towards an organisation working on behalf of these people – that can help. Multiply it many times and it could make a real difference.

Taking action

The SGPR team decided to take positive action. Our second series of extraordinary events is designed to raise funds and awareness for two organisations that are helping homeless people to get back on their feet: CRASH and The Wellspring

So far we have run, hiked and bartered, been splattered with colour, nursed blisters and lugged boxes. Next week it’s the turn of the ‘Potterthon’ – a Harry Potter themed 24 hour static bike ride. We will be streaming the event live, so be sure to check in and show your support.

It’s time to stop turning a blind eye, and take some action. We’ll make it easy for you – just hand over a pocketful of change.

Here are links to the Just Giving pages for each charity. It doesn’t matter which one you choose to donate to. It would be great if you felt moved to support both.  Just know that every penny you give will help to make somebody’s life a bit better. (Don’t forget to add gift aid if you can – it doesn’t cost you anything extra and it’s worth a lot to those you’re giving to)

CRASH 

The Wellspring

National Awareness Daze – Researching a better social media plan

social media plan researchI love the little traditions at this time of year – adding the finishing touches to the Halloween costume, lighting the fire at home and putting the Christmas cake in to soak.

Perhaps my favourite work tradition over the autumn and winter months is researching next year’s social media calendar. What could be better than grabbing a big mug of coffee (or some other hot beverage), block booking out an afternoon and spending some quality time researching obscure cultural and historical events?

And there is so much good content out there. Take this week in space travel. Not only is it the 55th anniversary of the first Saturn 1 launch (part of the Saturn rocket family which would eventually take humans to the moon), it’s also the 70th anniversary of the first motion pictures being taken of Earth.

All of this information is simple to find and can easily form the basis for blogs, infographics and other content. That’s why I find it infuriating when brands lean on national awareness days for their planned content.

Why national awareness days?

calendar

To be clear, I have nothing against (most) national awareness days. They are a well-established means of bringing issues to the public’s attention.

There are also lots of good reasons for brands to get involved:

  • It’s a chance to support a cause and engage with followers affected by the issue.
  • Hashtags are pre-established and actively supported by the organisation/s responsible for the day. As a result, national days often trend on twitter.
  • The dates are easy to find, either via media calendar services, or a quick internet search. As such, pulling them together takes very little time.

The problem is, many brands seem to base their entire social content plans around these events (with liberal sprinkles of Monday motivation, hump day and TGIF). It makes for a dull, repetitive timeline, and it makes me reach for the unfollow button.

Finding balance

balancing social media

A well planned content calendar should combine awareness days and religious holidays with more niche content that followers can’t get elsewhere. One of the best examples of this is the Google Doodle which will happily switch between national holidays and obscure historical events (358th Anniversary of Tea in the UK, anyone?).  This content can help you to stand out on social media and, not only attract followers, but keep them interested and engaged too.

So, let’s make a deal. For every post about a national awareness day or holiday you talk about on social media, you have to find at least one piece of unusual content to post about.

A master plan

social media plan

We start our planning process by creating a master spreadsheet and adding the most obvious content – cultural & sporting events, holidays and major anniversary events (i.e. next year is the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop flight from New York to Paris).

Next we dig into our target audience’s interests and search for more unusual content which may interest them. To do this we first identify any key anniversaries within the target audience’s sphere of interest (Wikipedia and Ian Visits are good starting points for this). We also identify a few interesting individuals and topics then look to identify any relevant dates. Don’t get too hung up on major anniversaries, the 353rd anniversary can be just as fun as the 50th.

As ever, remember to observe best practice. Every post should have an image which has been properly optimised and keep an eye out for news events which may compromise your scheduled posts. Also keep in mind this long-term scheduled content should just form one part of your social media plan. Relevance is key, and you should always be on the lookout for topical issues and events to discuss.

More than anything, remember social media is about engagement. Embrace the process, dig around for fascinating stories and obscure facts then reap the rewards.

Construction barometer shows signs of industry slow down

Leading Edge, a market research and strategic marketing consultancy, guest blogs today to provide details from their Construction Industry Barometer on how the industry fares.

Sales expectations in the construction sector over the next 6 months are at their lowest level since 2011 as the market shows signs of slowing down, although new build housing and the London market remain relatively healthy.

The October 2016 Construction Industry Barometer, completed by senior executives from across the construction supply chain, was published by construction market research specialists Leading Edge, in association with CIMCIG (The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Interest Group) and Construction News.

In terms of sales performance, the average sales increase over the last 6 months (April to September 2016)  compared to a year earlier was 1.6%, the lowest figure since April 2013 – all the surveys in the interim period have reported back average sales increases of 5% plus. The pace of sales growth certainly seems to have slowed in the industry with expectations for the next 6 months at the lowest since the survey in October 2011. On the positive side, 38% of companies are still confident of a sales increase over the next 6 months and expect the current slow down to be temporary.

Marketing budgets are set to grow this year in 50% of construction related companies, down from 62% in the April survey, while 23% are expecting to increase their headcount – similar to the 26% in April.

The average forecast increase in marketing spend for the next 12 months is 0.8%, the same as in April but down from 2.0% in October 2015.   Mel Budd, Director at Leading Edge commented, “the survey shows that half of companies are planning an increase in their marketing budgets with a much smaller number, at 17%, looking to reduce their marketing spend over the next year.”

Mel commented that “although the market may have been stalling anyway, Brexit certainly seems to have had an effect. The immediate impact has been increases in the prices of imported building materials due to the falling pound, which together with the labour shortage has put a squeeze on margins for contractors. The survey showed there is now a level of uncertainty in the market which has caused some building projects to be stalled or reviewed. However, a number of companies are still confident of improving sales and parts of the market remain robust. ”

To download Leading Edge’s Construction Industry Barometer report, please go to http://www.lead-edge.co.uk/downloads-and-reports/construction-industry-barometer/

Construction Market Research

Construction Market Research

Leading Edge

Leading Edge is a market research and strategic marketing consultancy focusing on the construction and building products industries.

www.lead-edge.co.uk. More details from Mel Budd or Rachel Smith: 01252 279990 or email: mel.budd@lead-edge.co.uk

Show or No Show

ExhibitionThe value and merits of trade expos

In my role as Business Development Director for Smith Goodfellow, I attend some 20 plus expos and trade shows a year, many at the NEC Birmingham, some in London, some in Manchester.

I often get asked the immortal question: “Why?”

I get asked by other PR and Marketing folk… a lot!

I get asked by business owners and directors, most of them look at me with sceptical eyes, mainly questioning the value of the time involved. I always fall back on two clear reasons that determine my ‘why’.

The first is that more business is done by people who meet people, and have built some form of relationship. We are after all in the communications business.

The second is that Smith Goodfellow is a specialist consultancy and we need to know what’s happening within the industry. Who is launching what, what the new rules and regulations are, what’s happening in the BIM world, and what are the perceived developments in the future. The quality of the seminars at these shows are mostly very good value and an excellent indicator of the direction of travel and industry developments.

I also get asked by our clients to go to specific expos and report back on whether they should exhibit, which of their competitors are there, and what the event looks like, etc.

So, you could say I’ve become a bit of an expert on trade shows; what works, what doesn’t, and footfall – is it up or down? I know they all claim that it rises year on year, and we all know that they scan you if you

as go in and then again if you’ve stepped out. Even going to the loo gets you re-scanned at some venues!  It’s not always about quantity, it’s much more about quality. The best people to determine the merits of an expo are the stand owners, and I talk to a lot of them.

Every month I’ll be giving my ‘expert’ opinion on the trade shows I attend. I’ll try to present a positive critique, along with some suggestions on improvements.

I also take to social media when I’m at the expos, showcasing what I think are the best stands, the nicest people, things that make me laugh, things that bring a sense of despair. I usually award at least one exhibitor my ‘Stand of the Show’ accolade.

You can follow me with the hashtag #paulontheroad

Construction Week expo

See you out there.