The people on Grand Designs who ignore their architect

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I’ve been doing some volunteering work, local to where I live. I won’t say what it is, as that wouldn’t be fair.


However, there was a huge debate a little while ago within this organisation about how we communicate to the wider public about what we are trying to do.


There was recognition that I have the communications experience, and so I put together a strategy.


This strategy outlined a face-to-face approach explaining to the public what we do, a digital approach that used a website and social media to enhance that communication, and finally (and with least priority) an approach of using leaflets and the press.


But some of the more conservative members of the group put all their thoughts and focus onto producing a leaflet as that is what they have always done.


A leaflet is fine in the right circumstances, but in these circumstances, it came at great cost to the organisation (printing etc), and its benefit wasn’t necessarily clear.


The problem is that the majority of the group I am working with are set in their ways. They are used to sending out leaflets, and even if it isn’t working, they still feel they should do it.


Although there are members of the group who recognised my communications expertise was valuable, those conservative ones were holding back the overall aims of the organisation by not adapting to the reality of now.


Adrienne and I have written about the 1980s and the 1990s in our blogs, and we shouldn’t return to those days in terms of communications. We have to build on those days, but also adapt to the realities of 2015.

Kevin McCloud Grand Designs

Working with the volunteering group reminded me a bit of those people you see on Grand Designs who have a vision for their dream house, they employ an architect who draws up the plans and they love the house they are going to get.


But as the build progresses, they keep interfering and changing things, even though the architect looks on aghast or even walks away. Mistakes and misfits start to get introduced, and you can tell the building won’t be as good as was originally planned. Windows are slightly misaligned, or awkwardly shaped walls are introduced.


By the end, Kevin McCloud will usually say something along the lines of “it is a good house, but architects design great houses”.


With communications, if you employ that expertise, you have to know your objective, develop the strategy for communicating it, then implement that strategy keeping in mind the objective.


If you want great communications support, you also have to know why you want it and then trust it.


Eventually, I developed a strategy to communicate to these conservative volunteers. At the meeting, I reiterated the strategy, explained why we shouldn’t focus too much on the leaflet, but should look at our overall objective…and I eventually got my way.


Our communications campaign is already delivering results.


Why your business shouldn’t be scared at Hallowe’en

Paul yellowBy Paul

As a kid, I remember Hallowe’en involving a washing up bowl filled with water, half a dozen apples and a turnip.


Sometimes it also involved your mum covering you in a bin bag, streaks of toilet roll, and lipstick smeared down your face and then you would be sent into the world to beg for sweets at the home of strangers – after they told you every other day not to take sweets from strangers.


The turnip was used like a pumpkin is now – you carved it into a scary face (which took ages as turnips are quite hard) and put a candle in it.


And the apples, you put them into the water, hurled your face into it and tried to catch an apple in your mouth, while trying to stay alive. I’ve never thought about why you did this, until I looked it up.



Apple-bobbing, or duck-apple as it is known in the north, came about as a way to predict which young person would be next to marry. The first person who caught an apple would be next, and if it was a girl, if she put it under her pillow then she would dream of her future husband.


Not sure it worked, but when you think about it, getting 7- and 8-year olds to predict who will be next to marry is pretty weird!


Anyway, yesterday I was in Liverpool and there was an absolutely huge queue outside a fancy dress shop of people waiting to collect costumes.


And if you go into any supermarket right now, Hallowe’en themed produce is everywhere from sweets, cakes and crisps to cheese and onion pasties (well maybe not the last one).


But there is a lesson here. Hallowe’en never used to be a big deal until it gradually became one, as confectionary manufacturers in particular saw an opportunity to sell more stuff prior to the Christmas run-up. Collectively, they reinforced the message that we should all be celebrating Hallowe’en more, and we all are – hence the queues outside the fancy dress shop.


Is your business taking advantage of all of the opportunities that come its way like those that have captured Hallowe’en? And are you then reinforcing the message about those opportunities?


At Hanicke Robins Sanderson, we can help you develop that strategic message, the one that tells potential and existing customers why they are benefitting from your business and then reinforcing the communications to ensure they remember.


And if you want to arrange a Hallowe’en themed corporate event for 2016, we can do that too!


Don’t be scared, and get in touch with us.


Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne.


Paul’s 90s blog got me thinking. Not about the 90s, but about the 80s.


Yes, Paul, the 90s was the decade of the internet and the mobile. But the 80s was when it all started to change. In the 80s we used typewriters and printed things off in triplicate. As journalists, we spent days at the typographers – and then more days at the printers. We used pica em rules – anyone else remember them?


And then, all of a sudden we got word processors. They weren’t linked to anything (sometimes not even the office printer). They had a nasty green screen and a floppy disk drive. And they were a bit temperamental.


The first time I used a word processor (outside of college) was when I switched from journalism to PR. Overnight I changed from copy editor to media relations expert, and shifted up a technological gear. All good – expect that very first day the mean green machine ate my words leaving me with nothing to show but a blank screen. That’s progress for you.

1980s office scene
This is how people worked in the 1980s apparently


Those golden, heady days of 80s PR agencies are now much lampooned. Agencies have changed; there’s less eating and drinking (much, much less) and more creativity and professionalism. Digital has indeed been part of this change, and continues to be so.


But there’s one thing that digital didn’t improve – and that was in person communication. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wind the clock back and be without email, internet, apps and social media. But I also believe that we’re more creative and productive when we pick up a phone rather than hide behind email. Or spend time physically (or virtually) in the same room focusing on the same goal.


For me, the 90s is when we started to ignore people in favour of technology. Only now, two decades later, are we learning to combine both skills and beginning to re-prioritise in person relationship building. Because, all things considered, when you meet someone you build a deeper connection and a more enduring memory that is more likely to result in action.


And the new breed of Millennial Marketeers know this. So expect to get more invites. Enjoy!