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.




“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.





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!


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)


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?


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

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. More details from Mel Budd or Rachel Smith: 01252 279990 or email:

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.


A love of stories – celebrating Dahl’s 100th birthday

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”
― Roald DahlCharlie and the Chocolate Factory

Whilst none of us are ready to chuck out our tellies just yet, to honour Dahl’s 100th Birthday, we have collected together (some of) the stories which inspired us as children.


Creative Books

Winnie-the-Pooh – Written by A. A. Milne, Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepherd

I have always loved the writing of A. A. Milne, together with the glorious illustrations of Ernest H. Shepard. The wisdom of Pooh Bear, the courage of Piglet and the philosophising of Eeyore provide inspiration for many an occasion, and I never tire of the gentle humour that pervades those pages. One of my fondest childhood memories is of catching a glimpse of my dad sitting on his own, laughing his head off at one of the stories he was reading to himself – I think it was the one “In which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle”. It was a real eye opener to realise that children’s books can be so joyful for adults too.


Children's Book

The Mystery of the Blue Arrows – Written by Chuck McKee & Illustrated by David McKee

I used to read this book with my dad when, perhaps like the dad in the book, he was instructed to occupy me while my mum did important mum things. The story goes that Richard and Lucinda discover some mysterious blue arrows when they are out walking with their dad, and go on a quest to find out to what or who they point. Whilst there is probably some deep existential sublayer to be drawn out; as a child, this book showed me that adventures can be found or created anywhere you look for them!


Fantasy Book

The Hobbit – Written by J. R. R. Tolkien

To be honest, I wasn’t a particularly avid reader when I was younger. Whilst my sister usually tore through any books she received in hours, I was more interested in playing football or video games. However, one book which I can still vividly remember both reading, and having read to me, was The Hobbit. What piqued my interest initially was my dad’s dog-eared copy of The Lord of the Rings featuring a fantastic cover with two cloaked riders dashing through the countryside, their faces concealed save for their glowing eyes. My parents (wisely) suggested that it might be a little advanced and that we start with The Hobbit instead.

The Hobbit is one of the first stories I can remember reading where the central character wasn’t necessarily the bravest, strongest or most intelligent. Bilbo Baggins loves his home and simple pleasures and has to be prised away from them. Once on the journey, however, Bilbo’s own unique talents come to the fore – whether it be sneaking around silently, or trading riddles with a murderous fiend. Bilbo showed that having unique (sometimes quirky) passions and talents was actually a good thing, and what really mattered was having the courage to back yourself and be willing to trust others to do the same.


Fiction novel

Billy – Written by Albert French

The book that sticks in my mind is the story called ‘Billy’, by Albert French. It’s a book I still recommend though I have only read it once when I was 11 or 12, but it’s the first book I remember reading that didn’t have a happy ending. The first book that made my heart ache. That made me feel truly angry at the injustice. That made me wish I could do something, anything, to fix it. It showed how difficult the world could be to live in, and how not everything is moonbeams and rainbows. Billy was 10 years old, American, and found himself on death row for accidentally killing a girl. She was white and he was black. I understood what a fiction novel was, but it still felt so real to me. At that tender age I learned that boys like Billy had existed, and maybe still do. It had me convinced that great writers carry a special kind of magic when it comes to storytelling. That they help people see, believe, and understand the world around them.


Adventure Book

Tarzan – Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs

As a child, I was a prolific reader of adventure books and fantasy comics – stories which allowed me to disappear into another physically unknown world. This was especially important coming from a poor working class background where the height of adventure was our yearly week in Blackpool (same week, same guest house, same slot machine arcades and piers). We never reached the dizzy heights of the Pleasure Beach – far too expensive.

I would spend hours dreaming up stories of my own, fuelled by my favourite authors and books, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Eric Leyland’s Max and Scrap, Willard Price and the adventures of Hal and Roger Hunt, eventually graduating to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan. On top of all these I had super heroes, spending my hard earned paper-round money on Fantastic and Terrific.

It’s hard to pick out my favourite but what I do know is that my diet of the unknown, other countries, faraway worlds, the romantic and mysterious, allowed me to dream that there was a life beyond what I knew, both as a child and as a budding but under-confident teenager. In other circumstances I might have been a writer of magic worlds, but this early grounding has certainly allowed me to understand the power of creativity, a power which I now levy in my career as a creative in Marketing and PR… go figure!



What book was your favourite?


Less Than One Month to Register Trade Marks

Have you have applied for a European Union trade mark before 22nd June 2012 and registered before 23rd March 2016?

If so, you have less than one month left to avoid loss of rights.


Amendments have been made to the EU trade mark regulation, that came into effect on 23rd March 2016 and allowed a six-month transitional period, ending on 24th September 2016.

In the past, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) interpreted use of the “class heading” (the brief summary of the type of goods or services included in a class) in the specification of a trade mark registration, as covering all goods or services in the class.

However, in 2012, the European Court of Justice ruled that a literal interpretation of specifications should be adopted.

This means that, whilst in the past the class heading was relied upon to give broad coverage of goods or services, a literal interpretation could result in a narrowing of protection. In some cases, protection for certain goods or services may be lost.

What can I do?

If you fall into the bracket of EU trade mark registrations filed before 22nd June 2012 and accepted before 23rd March 2016 for an entire class heading, you can file a declaration identifying goods and services of interest which are included in the alphabetical list for the class in question (in the edition of the Nice Classification in force at the date of filing) by 24th  September 2016.

If you are unsure of if this applies to you, we recommend getting in touch with your patent and trademark attorneys for advice.



Trade Mark

Planning for Success: PR and the Olympics

Over the weekend, whilst the intrepid Team SG were out tackling the Welsh Three Peaks as part of our charity drive, most of the nation were glued to their TVs watching Team GB rack up enough gold, silver and bronze to fill Gringotts.

Speaking as someone whose earliest Olympic memories are of watching Jonathan Edwards, Colin Jackson and Co. fail miserably at the 1996 games, the transformation has been nothing short of incredible.

So how have UK Sport turned things around? Increased funding is certainly a big factor, but simply throwing money at the task is not enough, it is the meticulous planning, and successful enactment of those plans, which has really helped Britain to become world leaders in sports such as cycling.

Whilst most of us won’t be running 100 metres in under 10 seconds, there is still a huge amount that public relations teams can learn from the success of Team GB:

Planning Training

Be prepared to innovate

One of the most common pitfalls in any job is to continue to follow a process simply because “It has always been done that way”. Olympic history is riddled with examples of athletes reaching new heights precisely because they were willing to go against the grain, regardless of how odd it might first seem to others – just ask Dick Fosbury.

The changes don’t always have to be earth shattering, it can be as simple as switching from Excel to Google Sheets to allow team members to work remotely and simultaneously on the same documents. The key is to stay on the lookout for better processes and approaches and to keep refining the small details (although I wouldn’t recommend taking this quite as far as the GB Cycling team!).

Choose the right tools

From Adolf Dassler’s experimentations with footwear to the data-driven weather playbook of the US sailing team, having the right equipment can make all the difference.

For years, the spreadsheet has been the workhorse of PR planning and it certainly still has its place within the strategic armoury, however, its functionality is fairly limited when it comes to actually enacting plans. Basic task lists, such as those included within Outlook, can bridge the gap to an extent but often require a fair amount of unnecessary duplication from the spreadsheet.

Project management tools such as Asana and Basecamp offer a more holistic solution. The latest versions of these tools are far more intuitive than their predecessors and at their best, they can roll up visualisation, task organisation and tracking in one place. What’s more, many of the tools are available for free or at low cost for smaller businesses.

Of course, even project management tools have their limitations. One of my biggest quibbles with the current project management offering is that they are overly focused on large, multistage projects. Whilst this is ideal for firms such as web developers or for running specific public relations campaigns, it means more creativity is required in order to use them to plan small, everyday tasks across a wide client base.

Ultimately, finding the right solution for your business will take a degree of trial and error. Just remember to keep an open mind and be willing to completely rethink processes.

Olympics Training

Stick to the plan

When things get hectic it is easy to put off planning administration tasks and to jump straight into the work. Knuckling down is fine but if you’re not careful work can easily be missed or resources wasted. The planning processes are there for a reason, they’re your catch-net against disaster and they also make it much easier to spread work effectively so that no-one gets overladen.

Maintain the amateur spirit

Whilst commonly used to describe learners or beginners, the term ‘amateur’ actually derives from the latin ‘amare’ – to love. Amateurs are people who practice a sport, hobby or role because they love it and not just because they’re being paid to do it.

Now I’m not suggesting that public relations staff should work for free, or that everyone should try and love every part of the planning process (let’s face it, few would admit to enjoying filling in a timesheet), simply that we remember that planning is fundamental to the success of any PR work. So, whether your true passion lies in designing infographics, running events or writing technical articles, keep upholding your planning principles and stay on the lookout for ways to take them to the next level.

Developing, refining and maintaining a plan is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. However, as the athletes continue to show, the rewards at the end make it all worthwhile.


Three Things Pokémon GO Teaches Us About Good PR and Marketing

“Travelling with a goal in mind is a commendable thing” –  Alder, Pokémon.

Image: The Pokemon Company

Image: The Pokemon Company

I feel as if I’ve suddenly been hurled back in time to pimply skin, garlic bread with chips, Caramacs, and Birds Eye Macaroni Cheese ding dinners… I blame you, people I’ve known throughout my life. You and your reanimated obsession with Poké balls and gyms. The difference is, the game has evolved since last I heard of it; it’s no longer just about cartoons and cards. These people I’ve grown up with are experiencing the perks of a new and improved game based upon the enhancements afforded them through modern technology.

Whilst I’m not a Pokémon player, and never have been, there’s something I’m finding particularly exciting about this whole thing: People are getting outside! I’ve seen social media light up with stories of unsocial children engaging with each other over where to find the next target, stores jumping on board to show they have a personality whilst pitching their products, and less-visited places suddenly finding themselves in the spotlight. I’m looking at you, our humble library. I loved my library visits as a kid so, if a bit of Pokémon play gets kids and adults over that way, I’m in full support.

But what’s all this go to do with PR and marketing? There are three things Pokémon GO has in common with our PR adventures:

  1. Finding a Message That Works

Developed by Niantic, this augmented reality mobile game is designed to get people out and exploring Adventuretheir surroundings, but ordinarily this probably wouldn’t have caught much interest. Good timing, such as better weather, and this feeling that we as a community need to connect (given all the awful things happening at the moment) seems to have contributed to the mass take-up. Getting outside also offers the opportunity for the adventure to feel more real. Kids and adults alike can embrace that love of adventure based upon Ash’s travels through a multitude of terrains to catch many interesting and elusive little critters. The key here is remembering that picking the right time is often just as important as creating the perfect message! Take the example of the RFS (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office) who have noted the popularity of Pokémon GO and used it to highlight the disparity between the lives of children in war torn countries, and those in more peaceful nations.

  1. Tailoring your offering

Pokémon GO uses a mobile’s GPS tracking system to help you pin point the best places to hunt for Pokémon and other players. Public spaces are the main areas you’ll source your next line up, but communicating with fellow users may well help you find the most prized catches. In this way, a business can learn that knowing and understanding what your client is looking for will help you deliver exactly what they want; improving their overall experience. Whether that be through efficient data capture on your website, customer surveys, or monitoring sentiment on social media, you are never short of ways in which you can tweak what you do to get the best results for you and your clients.

  1. Going Viral
One of my colleagues proving even the SG office isn't safe!

One of my colleagues proving even the SG office isn’t safe!

It seemed almost overnight this craze swept through several demographics. Children play it, adults are reliving it, and then there was that journalist trying to teach Corbyn about it… But why? The idea of using your location to ‘hunt’ for things isn’t a new one. Geo caching is one such example of an activity that involves a community and set locations to find items, which saw a reasonable amount of popularity. Pokémon Go itself is based on a system that’s been around for a little while: Google Earth.  The combination of that special kind of magic nostalgia has, together with sharing pictures and happy gatherings on social media, has ensured this game has hit the right chord with its market. When you know you have something people will love, it’s about finding the best way to deliver that message and get their attention. The story is that Pokémon GO was created as an April Fool’s prank, and this viral adoption was never planned for. So, whilst we can spend time creating the best version of what we have, we can put a lot of work into tailoring it to our target audience, and we can plan our campaigns and strategies to ensure we get the best response… Sometimes, just sometimes, going viral is really just a bit of good luck.

One Small Click for [a] Man, One Giant Leap for PR

47 years ago today, in the early hours of the morning here in the UK, over half a billion people watched Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the surface of the moon.

Apollo 11 lunar landing mission (20th July 1969) – NASA

Apollo 11 lunar landing mission (20th July 1969) – NASA

It’s difficult to imagine how the news would have been broken without these grainy black and white (and momentarily upside-down!) images being beamed live from the Sea of Tranquillity back down to television screens all over the world. You can’t help but wonder if the event would have had the same impact on the general public.

Trying to explain something as complex and technical as a moonwalk, which is so far removed from our everyday experience, has its obvious issues. As the acronyms pile up, the general public’s interest levels drop off a cliff (or rather float off into space).

Houston, we have video! Rosetta ESA

Dr. James McQuivey estimates that one minute of video is equal to 1.8 million words. In other words, it shows rather than tells.

One of my favourite spacey examples of this in action is the European Space Agency’s animated series about their Rosetta Mission. The short 2D animations feature Rosetta, a smiley satellite, and her equally sweet lander, Philae, embarking on their ground-breaking mission to orbit Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s nucleus and deliver the lander to its surface. The videos were released at key points in the journey and sometimes accompanied by hashtag campaigns, such as #WakeUpRosetta which encouraged the ESA’s social media followers to tweet and comment at the satellite to wake it up from its 31-month hibernation as it neared its destination.

Through the animations, and the opportunity for the viewers to seemingly interact with the satellite, the ESA has achieved Victor Frankenstein’s dream:  they have brought inanimate pieces of complex technology to life in the minds of millions of people around the world.

By giving the spacecraft a name, personality and a voice via social media, the ESA has captivated its audience, presenting them a character to relate to and to root for. The simple, hand drawn animation has a charming, nostalgic feel which appeals to both adults and children, helping to spread awareness of the ESA and keeping Rosetta Mission ESAenthusiasm about space exploration alive.

This creativity and originality, coupled with short running time, makes it incredibly sharable on social media. Facebook averages at 8 billion daily video views from their 500 million users worldwide, and other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have also increased and improved their video features.

The most popular video in the series, released just days before Philae’s landing, received almost 250,000 views in 24 hours and has been shared over 2,000 times on social media platforms. Perhaps more importantly, it also drove 1,756 subscriptions to the ESA’s YouTube channel, creating a whole new audience for its future video content.

The videos are a lesson for all companies, and particularly those in areas typically considered dry and uninteresting, that great results can be achieved by giving videos a little more character. And it is not just about raising brand awareness and showing off personality and knowledge, great video content can also help to drive sales. For example, were able to increase the conversion rates on its site by 20% simply by adding an explainer video on its homepage.

30th September has been announced as the final day of Rosetta’s incredible journey. She will come to rest on the surface of Comet 67P to join Philae for a well-deserved rest as it travels further away from our solar system. I look forward to the last instalment of her adventure. Now to get this space dust out of my eye…

You can watch all the series here:

The end of a union: the start of something new?

The country has spoken, and whilst it’s not the result that many of us hoped for, that is the price we pay for living in a true democracy. Already we are seeing the impact on the financial markets, but now is not the time to panic.  It is not the time for doom and gloom.  It is time to get on with the job in hand, which is to make UK plc work harder and smarter than it has ever done before.

I’m not saying it will be easy, and there will undoubtedly be tears along the way. However, we are a nation of innovators and makers, a nation of grafters and creators, dreamers and doers. Despite our sometimes disastrous choices at the polling booths, I have faith in us, as a nation, to pull through.

If you’re wondering, what happens next? Well, these things take time.  Nothing will start to change until we invoke Article 50, which formally notifies the EU of our intention to leave.  The likelihood is that this will not happen until David Cameron’s replacement has been found, and there are rumours that it could actually be delayed until next year, after the French elections. Once we have given notice, negotiations to disentangle our affairs are supposed to take place within 2 years. However, that too could take longer – this is not something there is much prior experience of!

Until the end of those negotiations we will still be subject to EU law, and to all intents and purposes it will be business (almost) as usual.  The trade agreements are a separate matter, and we can expect it to take a decade or more to reach an agreement, although that doesn’t mean we can’t continue trading with Europe – it’s just the terms that will vary.

So, yes, we are asking the European Union for a divorce. But we are still a part of Europe, and still a part of the global economy. Let’s make the products and services we offer the best in the world.

Brexit: Are You In or Are You Out?

flag-1198978_1280We don’t normally mix business with politics here at SGPR, but some things are just too important not to take a stand on, and the looming issue of ‘Brexit’ is one of those things.

For us the business case to stay is compelling; we are construction specialists, and this is a sector that is likely to be hit hard if we leave the European Union. Already we have seen a slowdown in output and in investment, as people wait to see what the outcome will be. We can feel the wobble in the economy, and these are anxious times.

One of the most crucial issues affecting our capacity to deliver the current strong pipeline of construction work in the UK is the well documented skills shortage. Even before the recession brought about a haemorrhage of skilled workers from the industry, there were areas such as the wet trades where shortages were starting to cause problems and delays. With the fall out from 2008 things have got far worse; an entire generation is effectively missing due to the lack of work and training opportunities, not to mention the droves of experienced workers who were forced to leave and find alternative lines of work, never to return.

It is going to take time to plug that gap. Even if we can encourage enough young people to consider a career in construction, and find the means to train them adequately, it will be years before they have the competencies that we need right now. Our only option is to turn to the numbers of skilled migrant workers who are willing and able to fill those roles, help train up the apprentices on site, and deliver the work that will give the industry the sustained growth that, in turn, will support our economy. This in itself is not a new thing – construction has always relied heavily on such grafters.

Of course, migrant workers provide a contentious and emotive topic for the ‘Leave’ campaign, with the oft vocalised complaint that they are ‘coming over here and stealing our jobs’. Well folks, the truth is that the majority come and do the jobs that we either can’t or won’t do, and we need them.

On the other side of the argument you could ask yourself what will happen to all the ex-pats currently living and working in the rest of the EU (roughly 1.2 million at the last count according to the UN). Will they suddenly find that their welcome is less than warm? Because this is a two way street, and we also have skills we can bring to the European market.

If we want to continue trading freely with our European neighbours, we will still have to allow the free movement of people, and adhere to the regulations that are laid down in Brussels, regardless of whether we are in or out. The only difference if we are out (and it is a big difference), is that we will have no say in how those regulations are formulated in the future. Personally, I want to be sure that we have a voice at that table when the decisions are being made. I know for a fact through the work I have done with European trade bodies that the UK has been highly influential in both formulating and moderating European legislation that has a direct impact on construction. If we leave, that moderating influence will be lost.

I have heard arguments put forward by small, local businesses, that it is only the bigger companies who trade globally who benefit from our membership. This is a somewhat blinkered approach to the realities of the economy. Our ability to trade in Europe attracts big companies to our shores, attracts investment, and helps to create jobs. Without those things there could well be higher unemployment and less wealth to spend at a local level, so those parochial businesses would also stand to lose out.

Yes, membership of the EU costs us a lot of money, but we also get a lot in return, not just from trade but also in the shape of funding and support for things that would otherwise no longer exist in these times of austerity. Things such as funding for research (€8.8 billion between 2007 and 2013 in the UK), culture, youth initiatives, health and the environment, as well as support for small businesses. We ourselves have received European funding for business development training we could not otherwise have afforded. I for one have no faith that the money we currently put into Europe would be spent more wisely by the current, or indeed any other government.

Ultimately, nobody knows how this will play out – it is clear that there are pros and cons to either outcome. However, I believe that as part of the European Union we have an important part to play in the world; a part that would almost certainly be diminished if we tried to stand alone.

Whatever your view is, this is not a time to sit on the fence or to show complacency. So ‘in’ or ‘out’, make sure that you get to the polling booth on the 23rd June and exercise your right to vote.flag-1192625_1920

Hashtag Mania: A quick guide to making the most of your conversations

Still clueless on what a hashtag is? Where have you been hiding? They’ve practically taken over the world with hoards of kids communicating by texting hashtags, hashtaging with fingers whilst talking face-to-face, or eating hashtags! That’s right, I’ve just been informed Mashtags are not a joke, people! And now I want them too… (mmm… #mashtag butties…).


Despite being around for years now, there are many people who still don’t quite ‘get’ hashtags. In a nutshell, hashtags are a simple way of curating social media content. You pop one of those babies on your update and people automatically know what it’s all about. Visitors can sift through a mass of data looking specifically for that main theme with the aim of reading more around a particular topic or joining a specific conversation.

Twitter was the birthplace for all things hashtag, but there are lots of other networks that have embraced its basic function; including Google+, Facebook, and Instagram to name but a few.

What am I doing wrong?

Hashtag overload! This has to be one of the biggest offences made by an amateur hashtagger. Usually it’s a very basic comment followed by 4 or 5 tags.


I get it. You want to be found, and you want to engage, but hopping onto every conversation stream however tenuous the link will have the opposite effect.


Think of it this way: you’re off enjoying the single life and find yourself in a room full of both eligible and attractive ladies/gents (whatever’s your flavour). Everyone’s talking, everyone’s got something really interesting to say, and you just don’t know where to start. So you stand on a chair and start shouting words and phrases out in no particular direction. You get a couple of curious looks, but mostly raised eyebrows before they turn back to their own conversations. You leave feeling a little lonely, or you leave with that person you regret in the morning…

Whittling your hashtags down to the one or two specific words or phrases is the equivalent to making a beeline for that corner of the room with those individuals you most want to spend your time engaging meaningfully with. You don’t waste your time, or theirs, by trying to get the attention of the masses. Whilst keeping your options open may seem like a good idea, you could be coming across as too needy by trying to connect with everyone. Being selective isn’t about playing ‘hard to get’, it’s about knowing what you want and not settling. It’s also ‘quality over quantity’.


This may mean doing a little research on the hashtags that are relevant to your post, as well as which ones have an existing conversation, but it’s research well worth doing! For example, if I’m posting about Building Information Modelling (BIM), I could post #construction or #technology, which isn’t technically wrong, but the people searching for those tags may have little interest in discussing digital modelling. If I use #BIM I’m then targeting a key group of people who are either creating content about BIM or want to discuss it.

However, it is important to note that whilst this is true for Twitter, there are slight variations in how each network may use them so do check the guidelines on those networks for more information.

Going your own way

Hashtags can be used in a number of ways, such as for celebrations, key world issues and campaigns (#JeSuisCharlie, #NotInMyName), holidays (#Halloween, #Christmas, #Summer), and interests such as #MondayMotivation, #worldbookday, #GoT50 (Game of Thrones 50 episodes in 50 days), or #tbt (throwback Thursday). We could be here for a long time if I continued…

Many brands create their own hashtags as a way of encouraging user generated content. For example, Costa started #mymorninghasbroken where users submit pictures or comments of what’s happened to them in the morning. Some are funny, some are sad, but most are relatable. It’s about individuals sharing their stories with Costa often making it better. Costa Crumpets seem to be a big winner for the Costa crowd! #Mymorninghasbroken has grown beyond the bounds of the coffee shop and tells the story of the individuals who shop there, whether they are stranded in the snow, fighting with broken electrical appliances, or soothing themselves with sweet treats and syrup lattes.

It’s important to understand the basic functions of a hashtag before going it alone but, once you feel you’re there, you can totally start idea generating about how you want your brand to be seen, or what it is you want people to talk about.

Is there a conversation you want to start?

Want to know more?

Using hashtags on Twitter

Using hashtags on Facebook

Using hashtags on Instagram

Finding Twitter Leads