The 2017 Harold Burson Summer Internship Program LAGRANT affiliated Interns Reflect On Their Experiences

For the third year in a row, Burson-Marsteller and The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) partnered to welcome three talented ethnic minority interns into the Harold Burson Summer Internship (HBSI) Program. The U.S. HBSI Program provides college seniors, recent graduates and graduate students with valuable, real-world agency experience as they work closely with public relations professionals in practice groups and client teams.

Below, interns Kavita Raval, Stephany Rodas and Sydney Tukes reflect on what they found to be the most rewarding components of the HBSI program and what they took away from the experience.

Kavita Raval – Public Affairs & Crisis Practice, Washington, D.C.

My experience this summer as an HBSI intern in the Public Affairs & Crisis Practice has been invaluable to my professional career goals. Through this internship, I was given the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how successful PR campaigns are managed on local, national, and international scales. By working in the public affairs sector with big-name clients in industries ranging from fnancial services to automotive, I learned how to identify important political influencers and craft integrated communication plans. Furthermore, I now have experience pitching stories to well-known reporters on behalf of my clients as well as managing important stakeholder engagements.

If I had to pick one aspect of the HBSI program that I found most rewarding, it would definitely be connecting one-on-one with the movers and shakers of the PR industry—the professionals who dedicate their careers to upholding the prestigious Burson-Marsteller legacy. It was a great privilege to chat with former White House officials, award-winning news journalists, foreign service experts, and crisis communications professional as they shared their amazing career experiences with us. All of the agency professionals who we met emphasized the importance of becoming great storytellers, as they believed this skill would be crucial to our future success in the public relations industry. I am incredibly thankful for the unique partnership between the LAGRANT Foundation and Burson-Marsteller, as the HBSI program has thoroughly prepared me for a challenging, yet rewarding, career moving forward!

Stephany Rodas – Consumer and Brand Marketing Practice, New York

As I prepare for my final year in graduate school, I am walking away from the HBSI program with a greater passion for the public relations industry. There was no assignment that I was tasked with throughout my time here that did not challenge me. From sitting in on brainstorming sessions to bringing in new business to formulating effective social media strategies for an event activation, there was no task that did not require creativity and strategic thinking. Beyond it all was the unique opportunity to see client-based work come to life – I was a part of a media tour with top-tier outlets, pitched publications to garner additional hits and even conducted a Facebook Live segment with TeenVogue! There was a never a dull moment in the Consumer and Brand Marketing Practice and I am convinced that this internship will propel me forward into my career. I am truly grateful to The LAGRANT Foundation and its partnership with the HBSI program for without them I would not have become a part of such an exciting company!

Sydney Tukes – Corporate and Financial Communications Practice, New York

As a rising senior at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the HBSI program was an invaluable experience. I spent an entire summer surrounded by well-respected and sought-after leaders within the industry. Not only was I able to glean from them, but I also had a chance to cultivate relationships with some of them, and as an intern that is an incredible opportunity.

This summer, I stepped outside my comfort zone. Whether it was pitching to broadcast reporters or juggling multiple deadlines – I was challenged. I was able to learn new skills and incorporate them into client work. It was rewarding to see my ideas and work applied to Fortune 500 companies.

The LAGRANT Foundation and Burson-Marsteller have both played pivotal roles in my professional development. I feel more prepared and ready to pursue a successful career in public relations.

As the summer ends, my time here will be greatly missed.

Social Media Marketing Strategy for SMEs

Social Media Marketing

There are very few organisations that would not benefit from being active in social media marketing – and that includes start-ups and SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), to whom this article is predominantly aimed. There is no one-size fits all solution when it comes to any form of marketing activity. Different companies have unique needs, and what is right for one, might be wrong for another. Getting the strategy right is, therefore, key. We must always remember that a digital marketing strategy forms part of an overall sales and marketing plan that works in conjunction with the strategic and creative brand proposition to deliver the financial objectives outlined in the business plan. This relationship cannot be stressed enough. All elements ought to be clearly aligned to ensure that an authentic strategy is created.

Core objectives

The first thing to consider, therefore, is what goals you are aiming to achieve. You need to ask yourself as a business what core objectives you wish to deliver through social media marketing. Is it to increase sales? To improve brand awareness and amplify PR opportunities? To generate leads? To stand out from the competition? To provide customer service? To promote products and services? To engage with customers? To encourage repeat purchase and referrals? To showcase intellectual property and thought leadership credentials? To recruit employees, associates, partners and suppliers? And so on. What your goals are does not matter per se– what matters is that you have them, that they are relevant to your business plan, and that they are achievable. Once you have sorted out this stage in the process, you are then able to create a successful social media strategy to deliver them.
The goals you set for your business are likely to be determined by a number of different factors, and B2C businesses are likely to have different aims to B2B companies or multi-channel sales distribution models. The value of an average sale, the likelihood of repeat purchase, the opportunity to cross-promote products and services, the time it takes to complete a sales conversion, the size of your business, the volume of your target market, the value of your marketing budget, the demographics and psychographics of prospects/customers, and so on.

Customer demographics

Understanding your customers and identifying core messages to promote your company and the products and services you sell is also critical to the success of your plan. Demographics are an important consideration, as these will enable you to qualify and quantify your suspect pool (this is everyone who could potentially become a customer of your organisation), but just as helpful is to look at psychographics – these paint a broader picture into customer hobbies and interests, values and attitudes, and so on. We also like to consider emotional needs combined with rational drivers when developing insights into core propositions. It should already be known, but your positioning within the marketplace in terms of quality v price will also enable you to understand value statements relevant to organisations wishing to optimise their sales pipeline process.

Competitor research

Researching competitor social media streams is a very efficient way to build your strategy. You can emulate or improve upon what they are doing – and you can also learn from their mistakes too. This approach quickly identifies insights that will provide a foundation for your strategic direction. Competitor research generally takes two forms – manual and automatic. The manual part is personally reviewing various social media platforms, and the automatic part is using online tools to analyse them in a data-driven way. Both have benefits, and should be delivered in conjunction, making sure that the research is undertaken by a suitably qualified person.

Social platforms

Assuming you are starting from scratch, it is of course necessary to decide which social media platforms are best for your business in terms of enabling you to engage with key stakeholders (such as customers, prospects, influencers, bloggers, journalists, potential employees, suppliers, partners, shareholders, and other interested parties). Some of the most popular options include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google +, SlideShare, though you might also wish to add Tumblr and Flickr to the list if you have a specific type of audience or strategic need for sharing content. Some of these platforms are mostly involved with audience engagement (such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) whilst others are mostly for sharing content (Google +, YouTube, and SlideShare). Instagram and Pinterest are hybrid platforms with benefits which fall across both audience engagement and content sharing, particularly for B2C brands, but also for B2B too.


The next question to consider is resourcing. Regardless of whether you are delivering social media internally through your own people, or externally through a suitably-skilled marketing agency, you need to be realistic about what resources (employee time and marketing budget) you have available, to make sure you are not stretching yourself too thinly across more platforms than you can realistically handle. Best to do one or two well rather than three or four badly. Also, it is worth remembering that social media is one of those things which just about anyone can do, but that does not necessarily mean that they can do it well. The truth is that it is like any other technical discipline – skills are learned and experience is earned through repeated exposure over a sustained period of time. Our advice is to combine internal and external resources to achieve the best possible results. You know your business better than one, so it makes sense that your people are involved in shaping follower strategy, agreeing content plans and delivering tactical campaigns (such as polls and promotions).


It will come as no surprise that you need to have a follower base for your social media platforms to perform well (unless you are solely using social media platforms as a means for direct advertising to your target market, in which case you don’t theoretically need any followers at all!). Follower numbers are best grown organically, although you can also promote your social media platforms in a number of different ways to fast-track sign-up. Another very important factor to consider is quality. Despite appearances to the contrary, social media should not be thought of as a numbers game. It is all about quality; this is what ensures relevance and credibility. It is very good practice to review your followers every week and remove any that do not seem to fit the bill. But don’t be too harsh when doing this. Only a small percentage of your followers are likely to actually be bona fide customers – unless you are a blue-chip mainstream consumer brand. Many will fall under the guise of being ‘interested parties’ for whom your content is relevant, especially when it comes to SMEs operating in the B2B space.


Engagement therefore is a vital consideration. The idea is of course to create content that is likely to be liked, shared or commented on favourably by your followers. Any of these three actions may lead to your post showing up in their feeds, so that your posts are seen by their audiences – this will therefore magnify your exposure to a much wider audience that would otherwise be possible. This is why influencer marketing works well, where people with significant follower numbers of a certain demographic and/or psychographic profile promote your brand for a fee in a way that is engaging to their followers. But engagement is two-way too, which means you have to make sure that you make time to look at other people’s feeds and comment/share their content – and do so in a positive and supportive way (as well as to follow people who follow you, and message people who message you, where appropriate to do so). Positivity and mutuality are the names of the game when it comes to successful commercial social media marketing.

Building relationships

Building relationships demands that one acts in the best possible way. It is easy to get drawn in to negative conversations on social media, as you can no doubt imagine. The best thing to do is to respond politely and positively to negative comments and, if that does not work, to move on and forget about it. Most of us are wise to the fact that there are a few people out there on Twitter and Facebook in particular who are hell-bent on causing conflict and misery. The trick is to remember that their behaviour reflects on them, not on you. We would advocate the setting up of an internal social media marketing policy to make sure that there are guidelines and rules in place for how staff and associates are advised to interact with third parties on social media channels. We recommend that commercial representatives set up “personal-business” social media accounts. This creates a corporate mindset and provides a safety net between work and personal life, with mutual benefits for both parties. Training and ongoing assessment will also keep social media guidelines front of mind, as will including it within performance appraisals, where appropriate to do so.

Integrated approach

It is worth noting that social media marketing often works better when combined with a content marketing strategy and a search engine optimisation (SEO) plan. Social pages should be set up in such a way as to profile your brand to provide a good user experience and to optimise keyword benefits, and any content you create should be rich in high value keywords too – sharing on social media will drive traffic to your website or to where the content is shared (e.g. on SlideShare, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube). In the latter case, this in turn will provide valuable third-party links back to your website. Therefore, content is also a crucial parameter to the success of your social media plan. Subject matter will in large part be determined by the goals you have set to begin with, and of course the type of business you are, the products you sell, and the make-up of your target audience – the best solution is generally to provide a variety of posts about your own products and services, special promotions, tactical campaigns, third party content, added value/thought leadership/intellectual property, and so on. This content can take the form of blogs, videos, white papers, newsletters, and so on.

Social media advertising

Social media advertising tends to be significantly cheaper than pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engines, such as Google AdWords, which makes it an attractive proposition to many businesses. It can be a very successful means of acquiring new customers, generating leads, promoting a new product or service, driving traffic to your website, advertising content where it is hosted on third-party social platforms, encouraging responses to polls and surveys, incentivising referrals, and so on. Social media advertising can be optimised for conversions, measuring cost per acquisition. It can also be highly targeted to match with target audiences by matching against email databases, lookalike audiences and demographic/psychographic/behavioural profiling. Web traffic can be engaged with on an ongoing basis via remarketing, whereby adverts promoting your company, brand, product, service etc. are served up on third party websites to people who have previously visited your website. You can also analyse and potentially identity web visitors in the B2B landscape through lead forensic software in combination with other tools such as Sales Navigator on LinkedIn to optimise business development activities in order to feed your sales pipeline.


Measurement is obviously important. Who likes to spend money on anything without knowing where the value is coming from or what the benefit is likely to be? There are lots of things you can analyse on social media. Follower growth. Website traffic. Sales conversion. Just make sure you are measuring KPIs that correlate with your goals. The benefit of measuring performance on a regular and ongoing occasion is to make sure that you are continually improving your strategy. There is always something you can test or try. This is the great benefit of most forms of digital marketing in general – it is very easy to change what you are doing, because you can see evidence straight away as to whether what you are doing is working effectively and efficiently or not.


There are a number of tools you can use too, to automate the process – such as Sprout Social. But automation is only good to a point. We are not robots to the personal touch should not be ignored. If we sense that a feed is automated too much, then we are likely to fall out of love with it. Another tool we use is Sniply, which allows you to show a visual advert linking back to your website when people open links to third party websites, providing incremental quality traffic back to your own website – not just from your followers, but from anyone who clicks on the link (so other people’s followers too).

Next steps

We hope that this article provides you with some useful tips when it comes to developing a social media marketing strategy for your business and that you now have a better idea of the next steps you need to take. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Stephen Brown, our head of strategy and planning, at We would of course be happy to discuss your marketing requirements in more detail, or meet up for a free two-hour consultation at a venue of your choice.

The post Social Media Marketing Strategy for SMEs appeared first on Abacus Marketing.

Raising the bar on retailer coupons



Raising the bar on retailer coupons


Duncan Campbell / Senior Client Manager

On average, a shopper is faced with around 40,000 products every time they enter a supermarket. Of this, they’ll buy approximately 250 of these products every year. As soon as they’ve purchased, they’re 30% more likely to buy a second time: they’ve tried the product and removed the risk. When buying for the third time this increases to around 50%, the fourth 60% and so on, with the curve gradually flattening out as purchases increase. It’s much easier therefore to encourage existing shoppers to buy more frequently than it is to bring new shoppers into a brand.

One way this can be done is through coupons, which are excellent for driving loyalty. Coupons have a bad reputation however, as they can be complicated to execute. We’ve outlined some common pitfalls and how best to maximise their impact.

An unremarkable offer

When it comes to couponing, the temptation can be to reach as many people as possible by reducing the amount of discount on offer. For example, issuing 200,000 coupons at 25% off, rather than 100,000 coupons at 50%. This is crazy. It offers poor value to the shopper as it doesn’t better what they’d get on an average day at the shelf, resulting in a huge wastage.

Solution: create value. It is better to have a smaller issuance, be more targeted and offer a better reward. Although total net redemptions will be lower, it will cost less to do and be significantly more likely to get the target shopper to buy again.

Trying to reach people who haven’t bought before

Often, brands don’t want to target shoppers who already buy into their brand and they target those shopping the category at large as their source of growth. This can be problematic for two reasons. Firstly, the modern shopper isn’t loyal to one brand, they buy a subset. They might buy Persil but will probably buy Ariel as well. Secondly, although they’re loyal to the subsets, that does not mean it can be extrapolated to the rest of the category. The Persil and Ariel buyer probably won’t buy Tesco own label as well. Solution: target the right people. Targeting should always be aimed at those who have previously bought the product. This will result in the coupon working much harder to drive incremental sales.

Thinking in volume

In some cases, retailers like a coupon to be activated within a designated time frame. This works well for retailers as it means they’ll hit broadcast targets but won’t necessarily work well for the brand or shopper.

Solution: take your time. A brand would be better placed to serve the same number of coupons over a longer period of time to ensure they’re hitting the right shoppers, rather than volume.

Asking too much

Coupons are often used to drive trial when they’re far better at increasing frequency or weight of purchase. Many coupons offer little or no messaging/branded content to explain what the product is; there just isn’t enough information for a shopper to make the decision to trial. Money off alone just doesn’t work.

Solution: drive trial. If the objective is to drive trial then consider using FREE, rather than money off. This is affordable if a brand gets its targeting right.


Coupons work best when driving loyalty, not trial. Take longer to activate and offer the right amount off, only use it for the latter if you’re prepared to offer a deep discount or for free. Targeting is everything: just think, if a shopper won’t buy a product when it’s on deep discount on gondola end, why would they buy it for a 25% off coupon? Getting a shopper one more rung up the purchase ladder will see them cement your product into their purchasing habits and show regular incremental sales; a much easier job than trying to get new shoppers in.

If you’d like to get to know more, get in touch via



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Assessing Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Web CMS

Gartner released their annual Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (CMS or WCM) last week. Let’s unpack this year’s version.

What We’re Seeing

There’s little change at the very top. Gartner sees Sitecore and Adobe continuing to lead the way on both vision and execution, with Acquia following close behind.  

Sitecore and Adobe have introduced managed service cloud offerings and increased machine learning capabilities (via Azure and Adobe Sensei respectively). Meanwhile, Acquia’s Lift personalization tool saw version 3 released, which more tightly integrated Drupal content management tools into the product.

Episerver’s slow march toward the top stalled a bit this year, but they maintained their positioning. One of the big issues Gartner brought up was the responsiveness of Episerver to their clients, which would seemingly be driven by the growing pains of winning more market share and integrating new acquisitions into their platform.  Those new acquisitions in machine learning-based personalization and omni-channel campaign management have exciting prospects for the future.

Top Takeaway – Machine Learning

Every year seems to have a theme in the analyst reports.  Recently you’ve seen cloud, commerce, and personalization. This year it was clearly machine learning.

Biggest Surprise – No Additions or Removals

The only change of vendors was simply the acquisition of Hippo by BloomReach. Other than that, the provider list saw no change for the first time in recent memory.

Big Mover: BloomReach (Hippo)

BloomReach purchased Hippo last year and merging their two capabilities pushed it up into the leader quadrant. Hippo doesn’t have a large market share and has a small partner network, so there’s still work to do to move beyond their current position. Their Java based platform may also pose a challenge for the .NET and PHP dominant market they are entering.

Other CMS to Note

  • Automattic: made a big leap in ability to execute, even while taking a step back on completeness of vision. There’s still a lot more work for them to do to get to the leader quadrant. Not the least of which is getting enterprises on board with the idea of WordPress as an enterprise solution.
  • IBM and Oracle: stopped the slide of falling backwards. It wouldn’t have been a terrible surprise to see either or both of them to fall out of the leader quadrant. The continued emergence of IBM’s Watson platform (here using the Watson Content Hub) and Oracle’s cloud strategies (with their Content and Experience Cloud) have augmented their content offerings to be more in-line with other Leaders.

Final Thoughts

Each of the players in the leader’s quadrant are doing a lot around machine learning and we’re seeing cloud offerings no longer be a differentiator, but more of an expectation from these providers. This year’s assessment was far more static than previous years, in our view, due to the maturity of the existing CMS providers to the market needs. This is actually good news for customers, as there is more certainty in the market regarding the best platforms to choose from.

It will be interesting to see if any of the upstart SaaS, API-based CMS providers can start breaking into the Gartner Magic Quadrant next year or whether Gartner might introduce a new report in regards to those platforms.

If you’re in the market for a CMS, email us at

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Surprise Yourself! A Refined Point of View: ColorComm Conference 2017

Last week in Miami, the fourth annual ColorComm Conference was the hottest ticket in town if you were a woman of color in communications. The three-day experience was filled with thought provoking breakout sessions, colorful (and at times controversial) panel discussions and numerous networking opportunities, all capped off by a humorous and candid keynote speech delivered by the incomparable Whoopi Goldberg.

As a member of Burson-Marsteller’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, I had the privilege of attending ColorComm with several other Burson-Marsteller colleagues representing all levels and disciplines within our organization. Although positioned as a conference dedicated to addressing the unique issues faced by women of color in our field, the insightful and actionable lessons we learned can, and should, be implemented as best practices to help accelerate the industry’s and our agency’s larger D&I efforts.

The Good News
Progress toward a more diverse and inclusive industry is being made and that progress is measurable. Just like the work we do for our clients, we must demonstrate that our efforts are helping to move the needle in a positive direction. More importantly, these changes are coming from the highest ranks of agencies and corporations alike – where CEOs and other executives are being held financially accountable for meeting specific D&I targets. The outdated and misinformed perception that D&I is solely about meeting a quota is also changing. Rather, it is now being viewed as an increasingly crucial business objective.

The Bad News
Change is coming slower than we’d like and there’s still a lot of work to be done. For example, while women overall are occupying more senior leadership positions, representation in the C-suite is dismal, and it’s even more alarming for women of color. But with these challenges comes great opportunity for change, and some of the industry’s largest agencies (including Burson-Marsteller) are working together to break down those barriers and create solutions.

So, you may ask, “What now?” Truthfully, there isn’t any one correct answer. But from the knowledge I gained at the ColorComm Conference, I believe that through deliberate and consistent action our collective efforts can create a groundswell that will spark greater change from the inside of our agency outwards.

Three small ways you can become part of the solution include:

  1. Have constructive disruptive conversations: Essentially, we need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable – especially when it comes to addressing sensitive D&I topics that affect us all, e.g. gender and racial discrimination, the wage gap, cultural differences and others that ignite the social and political divide. Through conversation we achieve deeper understanding and connection, which improves everyone’s experience. Burson-Marsteller has championed this type of communication via agency-wide town halls and panel discussions. Last year’s “Burson Forum on Race and Policing in America” immediately comes to mind when, at the time, the tension between ethnic communities and law enforcement agencies across the country had reached a fever pitch.
  2. Become an ally: One of the most anticipated breakout sessions at ColorComm was called “A Few Good Men,” which featured four industry thought leaders including Jorge Ortega, EVP and Managing Director of Burson’s Miami office. The session presented a male POV on how women can better negotiate, get promoted and assert themselves in the workplace. The common thread among the panelists was their deep and authentic belief in the intelligence, strength and capabilities of women in our industry. We need more voices like theirs and we need them to be loud. If there ever comes a time when you feel that diversity & inclusion doesn’t matter to you simply because you don’t identify with the affected racial/cultural/gender groups, remember that we all have skin in the game. Be an ally and speak up for others, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
  3. Take action, as there is no time to waste: On day two of the conference, I attended a very memorable breakfast session titled “Trailblazing with Intention in the Age of Trump.” The panel was moderated by CNN Political Strategist Symone Sanders and included three PR leaders representing different PR agencies. Naturally, the discussion touched upon the President’s latest Twitter activity from earlier that morning and the latest staff shake-ups in the West Wing, but one of the panelists (and a former colleague of mine) shared some final words that left me inspired and motivated. She said that “regardless of your title, work background, resources or the blatant examples of injustice you may experience, you must act relentlessly to safeguard the future for the professionals who will follow behind us. While we may not see the full outcomes of the D&I work we’re doing now, the next generation of women communicators will surely benefit from our efforts, and that makes the struggle worthwhile.”

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have attended the ColorComm Conference. The educational sessions and interaction with my fellow sisters in the industry have provided a refined framework from which to work and live. It is my hope that you will join me in putting these learnings into practice to help build a more diverse and inclusive environment in your workplace. Give it a try, you just may surprise yourself!

Nikki Lopez is a Manager in Burson-Marsteller’s U.S. Consumer & Brand Marketing Practice.

Highlights from “A Few Good Men” Panel at ColorComm #C2Miami 2017:

A healthy story – wellbeing for your staff and your brand

In 1861 in central Birmingham, Richard and George, two brothers, were handed the running of the family business from their father John. Over the next 15 years, Britain got a taste for their hot drink, and their business rapidly grew. With increased demand came the need for larger-scale and more efficient manufacturing. This was post-industrial revolution Britain, so ‘modern’ factories were a known evil. The boys, particularly George, wanted to adopt a different approach to industrialization: ‘Why should an industrial area be squalid and depressing?’ 
he asked.

In January 1879, the first bricks were laid on a plot four miles south of Birmingham next to Bourn brook. The vision was to build a small town or ‘ville’, and thus Bournville was created. George’s aim was to ‘alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped living conditions’. The cottages were built to offer more light than the more common, cheaper buildings of the time, and all of them had large gardens. By 1900, Bournville had 313 cottages and houses, parks, recreation grounds and open space. Employees working at the factory were paid higher than average wages, and were given a pioneering pension scheme, medical cover and encouraged to swim and go for walks. This was corporate wellbeing at its best. Recognising that your most valuable asset is your people and treating them as such. And the Cadbury brothers were doing it over a hundred years ago.

Dig a little further into the Cadbury story and you can see that at the same time as doing all of this for their staff, they were also telling the Cadbury story to a wider audience through their advertising. The line ‘absolutely pure, therefore the best’ first broke in the late 1860s and ran for 30 years in various guises. It came in response to governmental concern surrounding the use of additives in foodstuffs, and hit home one of Cadbury cocoa’s strongest claims: its purity. To push this message further, they used the endorsement of the medical profession. Lines like ‘Cocoa treated thus will, we expect, prove to be one of the most nutritious, digestible and restorative of drinks’ even featured in articles placed within the British Medical Journal. The Cadbury’s cocoa brand was trustworthy, honest and pure. It had morals. In essence the product brand was beginning to mirror the corporate brand: we treat our staff with respect; we do the same with our cocoa.

The wellbeing agenda for employees is hugely fashionable right now and deserves to become embedded in popular culture. Supporting your staff’s physical and mental health says a lot about who you are as an organisation. But I believe how you treat your staff can also have a huge amount of impact on your product brands too. To do this best, you need a clear and coherent story at the heart of everything you do. And then, depending on whether the audience is your staff or your customers, you tell that story in the most appropriate way through the best possible channel.

In a recent article in Marketing Week, Elaine Grell, European Vice President of HR at InterContinental Hotel Group, said that the heart of their story was all about creating 
‘room to be yourself’. This is a core commitment to all their employees and covers four pillars of wellness:

 ‘Room to have a great start, room to be involved, room to grow
, room for you.’ IHG have recognised that to stand out in the highly competitive hospitality market their first role is to be the best ‘hosts’ to their employees. Making their staff feel valued and empowered makes them far more likely to mirror those values to their guests and in turn make guest stays more pleasant.

“It is this sense of freedom and empowerment that enables employees to provide a stellar guest experience across properties, but it also creates a great place to work for employees in roles from room attendant to general manager,” Grell says. 

What’s great to see is that this approach is clearly working. Earlier this year in the US, IHG made the top 10 of KPMG Nunwood’s US Customer Experience Excellence ranking, climbing 64 spots since 2016. It’s also interesting to note that their share price has climbed steadily over the first half of 2017, suggesting that this approach of investing in staff wellbeing is having a positive effect on the bottom line too.

Another business that values staff wellbeing and echoes the story they’re telling to their external customers with that which is being told internally are the Direct Line Group. Lead by UK Marketing Director, Mark Evans, the business has made sure that mental wellbeing is built into the fabric of the company and its performance management policies. In both the measurement and rewarding of staff performance, 50% is focused on achievements and 50% on how they are achieved.

“We look at all those people who are tremendously intelligent, but don’t have the emotional intelligence, and look at the material ways we can take that through to talent planning,” explains Evans.

“It is quite a statement because it says we don’t tolerate people who do some brilliant things, but not in the right way,”

This pragmatic approach to performance marries perfectly with their no-nonsense ‘fixer’ character of Winston Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel in their TVCs. As an insurance business, Direct Line can’t afford to hide away from the realities of life, but need to offer a hands-on, problem solving response. Rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in. The way Evans describes the need for ‘emotional resilience’ particularly in light of employees’ mental health fits perfectly with this story.

Looking after the wellbeing of your staff may well be trendy right now, but it certainly isn’t a new enterprise. In fact, Facebook’s new Willow Campus is arguably a direct descendent of initiatives like Bournville. However, what I think is most interesting is that the story of how you look after your staff has the ability to reflect the narrative playing out to your external customers. Through the power of storytelling, employee wellbeing can enhance brand wellbeing, creating a virtuous circle around your organisation. Staff wellbeing doesn’t only mean a compelling opportunity for commercial growth, it won’t leave a horrible taste in your mouth – very much like a nice cup of cocoa.


Want more from our Head of Health Nick Dutnall? Read what he has to say about the dark side of health communications.

Vincent Digonnet named MullenLowe Group APAC CEO

In a move that was planned when he joined as MullenLowe Profero APAC CEO in March, Vincent Digonnet will now step up to APAC CEO for MullenLowe Group. Digonnet had North Asia CEO for MullenLowe Group added to his business card in May, and during the last month brought the network’s “hyperbundled” approach to China and Japan.

The promotion is effective immediately. Digonnet will remain based in Hong Kong and will report to global CEO Alex Leikikh. Digonnet takes on leadership of the South and Southeast Asia region from Joseph George, who recently announced he is stepping down after 26 years in the network. MullenLowe Lintas Group in India and 303 MullenLowe in Australia will continue to report directly to Leikikh.

The new position will help Digonnet deploy resources in each market to make MullenLowe “more digital at its core” while moving MullenLowe Profero from digital communications to business transformation, he told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “I will be able to leverage our existing capabilities in each market,” he said, citing Indonesia as an example where the network has digital capabilities within MullenLowe but no Profero footprint. “It will allow us to bring to our clients a seamless capability,” he added. The network’s recent announcements show, Digonnet asserted, that it was in a better position to create a more unified structure than other networks or holding companies that are making similar moves. Rather than having to destroy existing power structures and deal with politics, MullenLowe is simply building a better operation, he said.

Leikikh said in a release that in the six months since he joined, Digonnet has made a “huge difference as a dynamic and forward-looking leader” and cited his digital expertise as a crucial ingredient in the network’s effort to “embed digital-first leadership within all our markets”.

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