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Ello: Facebook’s destroyer or a fleeting fancy?



When you visit the landing page of recently public social media site, Ello, it feels new. It feels like the homepage of a design agency. You are greeted by a vacillating mosaic of round photographs presenting an array of, what you assume must be, the cool, fun people already pouring their individualities into Ello on a daily basis. You scroll down and discover typed there, a disconcerting thought – “Your social network is owned by advertisers.” What follows is a warning about the lack of privacy on other social networking sites, written in thriller trailer style:

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold

How heinous! What a nefarious plot! How dare Facebook track my every digital move and then have the gall to….show me ads… that, actually, I am quite interested in. I thought about the ads that appear at the sides of my newsfeed. At the moment they are mostly pictures of platform shoes, ankle boots and occasionally a polo neck top will crop up. This is because for the last week or so, I’ve been combing the depths of ASOS and Office for a particular pair of shoes that I’m not convinced actually exists apart from in my own mind. As a result, I get to see the pedal offerings of retailers who might stock that perfect pair. It’s not as though I’m being forced to buy or even look directly at any of these ads! While the thought of being “watched” and turned into quantifiable data isn’t the most warm and tingly of notions, it is just squeamishness – the same squeamishness that created films like Vanilla Sky and iRobot.

Despite the fact that I personally may not feel as violated by ad-ridden networking sites as Ello thinks I should feel, I can’t fault its simplicity and sophistication. Furthermore, it is palpably geared towards artists and creativity, which I love.

Ello, brainchild of short-film maker Paul Budnitz, began life as a private social network for artists and programmers. After a year, the site was redesigned and launched as a public, invite-only platform with the slogan, “simple, beautiful, ad-free”. So how exactly does Ello make money? (They’re innovative, but they’re not that innovative.) The idea is that every user’s profile is bespoke, and you can pay a few dollars for features that take your fancy. As Budnitz explains, “say you’re a musician and you want to control multiple accounts from a single login, we can charge $2 for that. It’s not for everyone” Not only this, you can request new features that you would be willing to pay for. This seems like Ello’s best idea; use your users to generate new products and you will never run out.

Launched in March of this year, Ello grew rapidly, gaining around 27,000 signups an hour by September. However, internet trends, by nature, are fickle and have a brutal habit of launching people to stardom and then dropping them right out of the sky. Ello, is discovering how mercurial the internet community (which is, let’s face it, everyone) can be. After stirring up a frenzy of interest in mid September, the ad-free networking site peaked as we entered October according to Google Trends. However, as an article for the Guardian points out, searches don’t always correlate with usage. I’m interested to see how far it will go; Ello has been speculatively named “the Facebook killer” while “Goodbye Ello” articles are popping up all over the place. To my mind, its success will not be based on the fact it’s ad-free – it will be how user-friendly, well managed and adaptable it proves to be.

By Emily Williamson, Office & Marketing Executive at Hanson Search

Storytelling: the path to a happily ever after?



Vicky Hodson

Once upon a time, creative agency Aesop asked 2000 Brits to rate brands against criteria including brand personality, memorability, credibility and purpose, in order to find out the most recognisable ‘storytelling’ brand.

Unsurprisingly, Apple and Cadbury were amongst the brands that came out on top.  In recent years brand storytelling has become an integral part of any marketing campaign, with significant attention paid to it at Cannes this year. Marketers are waking up to storytelling’s unique ability to engage and make an emotional connection with audiences by sharing their core values and making a business human through stories.

Generic mass-audience direct marketing is no longer an effective medium – consumers now expect tailored marketing that will engage, entertain and inform.  Content creation is crucial – brands have a nanosecond to connect with the consumer before their message is instantly fast forwarded or swiped away.

The research also found that people are more likely to engage with a brand if there was a spokesperson or character, which explains why KFC (the Colonel) and Jack Daniels (the eponymous) featured in the top 20. The British public also love a story about the self-made man – at the heart of the Virgin brand is the story of Richard Branson, a record breaking entrepreneur, who is also a prominent humanitarian – he’s not all about money, he’s about fun too (enjoys the odd cameo in his adverts) and people buy into him, therefore creating a loyalty with his brands.


By Vicky Hodson, Consultant at Hanson Search

Running the Race

GeorginaOGrady2“Of course success is dependent on its owner: be it a Coutts account, a designer handbag or just achieving your life-goals, dreams and desires.”

The world is full of successful people; the people we secretly discourage, moan about yet somehow can’t refrain from observing on shoddy, nonetheless brilliant, reality TV shows or on the 12th page of the latest Hello! magazine. The people who are truly born into success; whose fate has already been charted, mapped and dichotomised before their mother is being leisurely wheeled into the first class delivery suite complete with Bollinger and hand-picked grapes flown in from France. This little bundle of new life will not only be given the foundations to success but the bricks and mortar to go with it. Their first Babygro will be tailored perfectly; designed, sealed and delivered by Louis Vuitton himself whilst he/she gains comfort from snuggling a Fendi blanket complete with Gucci pacifier – perhaps the little one has more money in their Coutts trust fund then some of us will ever see in a lifetime, and on their 12th birthday they’ll receive a state of the art Range Rover just to “play in”.

So yes, occasionally we do wake up on Monday morning feeling discouraged and for the 365th time that year we mutter the unchanged repetitive cliché that is buried deep down in all of us: Life is so unfair.

Yet (Cue inspirational music) aside from the baby who inherits £2.5 million of the Hilton fortune, there lies a number of other successful entities; the ones who have to climb the ladder, the ones who earn it. What drives me on a Monday morning to roll out of bed and feel inspired to make my 90 minute commute? The idea that success is something that is born in all of us. Don’t get me wrong we may not all have the same start, but we all effectively run the same race. And when that starting pistol fires: potential, ambition, drive, determination and attitude holds presence; how we came into this world very much takes a back seat.

Although some of us like to think successful people are “lucky” or more often than not land that “big break” by chance: Life is so unfair right? The reality is the majority fought for it. Walt Disney, Oprah, J.K Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Michael Jordan, Marilyn Monroe, R.H. Macy, Albert Einstein, Vera Wang… all started the race where we did. They weren’t born into greatness, greatness most certainly wasn’t thrust upon them; they earned it… and isn’t that we do every day? We work hard to better ourselves, to become better people, superior in our jobs. Further skilled, further educated, higher salary brackets and greater opportunities. We are all on the same journey to strive and to finish the race just how that successful baby started, albeit minus the Fendi blanket and Gucci pacifier.

From Monroe being told she’d never make it as a model to Einstein whose teachers labelled him mentally handicapped (I hope he thanked them on receipt of his Nobel Prize) all of the above and a million more were told that success wasn’t an option. The common denominator here remains: persistence. When morale is low and you’re behind in the race think of Spielberg or Rowling and find that one ounce of spirit you need to succeed. Continue to reach your dreams and above all, finish the race. We can be whoever we want to be. All you have to do is envision that finish line, push from within and most importantly… never give up.


By Georgina O’Grady, Researcher at Hanson Search

A Graduate’s Perspective


By Sophie Orr, Hanson Search Intern


‘So what’s the plan now?’ is the question feared by all recent graduates.  In 2014, 68% of students achieved a first or 2:1 as their final degree result and with ambition and confidence are setting out to obtain their next goal: a good job.  With such a high proportion of graduates with good degrees it is fair to say that the jobs market is becoming even more competitive.  Quite simply, having a university degree is no longer the key to standing out when applying for a job.


A common misconception amongst undergraduates is the belief that their education will equate into employment.  This is a belief installed by members of the baby boomer generation and those who went to university before the stats were as high as 68% of grads achieving a 2:1 or higher.  Tony Blair was a firm believer in this ethos; may I remind you of his 1997 speech, ‘Education Education Education’.


Being original has never been so important. The conundrum faced by graduates is that often there is a plethora of boxes that needs to be ticked to even be considered on the job market so being able to stick out from the crowd is, understandably, tricky.   However, even gaining that iota of experience is becoming overly competitive, which is not only frustrating but disheartening.  It is therefore important to be innovative and entrepreneurial so that new spaces in the professional world can be created for the numerous graduates.


Aside from the limited number of companies looking to recruit graduates, another obstacle that stands between grads and employment is that their CVs often show a lack of real work experience.  We are now past the age where a week here and there is much use, so volunteering and internships are naturally the way forward.  This experience teaches skills which are much more useful in the working world than perhaps skills learnt through a university degree.  The only problem is that if the bank of Mum and Dad is no longer open for business then this is a hardly sustainable route.  At which point the best option is to turn to a job which realistically one could have done as a school leaver, but at least addresses the burden of university debt.


This of course all appears rather negative.  It can be argued that, yes, we can achieve whatever we want and that ‘the world is our oyster’. While it may appear like that from the perspective of those whom possess that opinion, you can be assured, that is not really the case from a graduate with student debt and little work experience to fall back on.  But it is true that there are numerous diverse paths and opportunities which are new, but as I have illustrated there are rather a lot of graduates, so proportionally the opportunities are perhaps even smaller.


A well-educated, underemployed workforce is readily available and somehow need to fit into the professional world.  My advice to companies is strike whilst the iron is hot – we are yours for the taking!​


By Sophie Orr, Intern at Hanson Search

The Power of Things

A characteristic of modernity has been the ubiquitous use of tools, and a characteristic of an effective modern individual is someone who can use these tools to their greatest potential.

In contemporary society our homes, offices and the wider urban environment are awash with technological tools in the form of devices and gadgetry. They have been created with the prospect of making modern living easier to navigate and manage, as well as facilitating increased possibilities of communication.

An interesting interpretation of these technical objects concerns not only the capabilities that they afford us but also the way that they shape our social interactions. The dichotomy that exists between humans and objects is embedded in the way in which we participate in our world. It is often seen to be a dichotomy of experience; between the experiencer and the thing experienced.

The majority of our environment is composed of objects; hence most of our activities and relationships are performed through them. Mobile technology has revolutionised the way we keep in contact and the way we share information, many of us now feel the loss of an imagined limb when we lose our phone. The recent progress made in technological innovation has transported us from merely using tools and objects, to reaching a near state of immersion with them. We now form part of an ‘always on’ network, contactable 24/7, anywhere in the world (signal permitting), leading to the effective shrinking of the globe. Furthermore, mobile technology has now made us immediately accountable for our actions, if we are running late for a meeting we are expected to update our status whilst on the move.

A new era of interactivity has transformed the passive consumption of media and use of technology into a very active relationship. People no longer just stare at screens; instead they are called upon to engage with the information in-front of them.

There is a rich metaphysical tradition in the West to view objects not as inert but full of lively intensities. This interesting notion outlines that we possess a drive to seek alliances with objects, suggesting that there is an irresistible magnetism between things and ourselves. This leads us to think about the enchantment power of objects and our persistent attempts to both use them and ‘get to know’ them. The power of art is a good example of objects possessing the capacity to impress.

It has been said that thing power works by exposing a porosity; we are susceptible to infusion with or by other ‘things’. Aside from technology, advances in biochemistry have recently revealed the multiple non-human contributions made to human behaviour. When any human acts, we never exercise exclusively human powers, but rather we express and reflect the combined powers of things within us (eg. chemicals, micro-bodies, foods, sounds). And so to delve further into the notion of the power of ‘things’ we can come to the conclusion that non-human objects may in-fact constitute our own perceived actions.

This subscribes to the widely held opinion that many of us are now becoming addicted to the technology we use. Some people in the company of their friends, or at the family dinner table will check their phone every five minutes out of habit, and there is a strong belief that these kinds of behaviours are negatively impacting people’s interpersonal skills. But, on the flip-side, there is now a new agreement on social etiquette involving the technology that we use in our lives. Yes, it is an invaluable element for many of us, but it should never take centre stage above and beyond human interaction, if there are people present they both demand and deserve our attention.

We can all reflect upon the items that we own and their implications upon the way we go about our daily business. The true modern individual must recognise the involvement of things by embracing the capabilities that technology has afforded us as well as realising the way it shapes our work and lives.

Selfridges The Beauty Project

An attempt at undermining female stereotyping, or a hypocritical marketing scheme?

The offer to go and hear some prominent female journalists speak (including Tiffanie Darke, Tanya Gold and Tania Bryer), whilst soaking up the luxe atmosphere of Selfridges’ infamous beauty counter, is at first an appealing evening out. Selfridge’s Beauty Project is a six week programme designed to raise awareness of concerns over the ‘pinkification’ of young girls – the dangerous stereotyping of women, often resulting in low self-esteem and a desire to please.

The campaign seems like a brilliant way of engaging a variety of consumers; those seeking to hear these stand out achievers speak, those hoping to pick up some free Selfridges gear, and those perhaps just looking to learn a bit more about this new wave of brand-aware feminism.

See Proctor & Gamble’s Always ad which utilises Twitter’s growing feminist collective to promote the #Likeagirl, questioning why we describe negative actions as like a girl. The issue I have with Selfridges’ The Beauty Project is that it plays on a cultural anxiety; the hyper-sexualisation and subordination of women, to encourage attendees at its beauty salon. Furthermore it’s sponsored by Dove, who promote their ‘body beautiful’ outlook, whilst sharing their owner Unilever with Lynx – whose adverts consistently offend mainstream feminist thought.

The Selfridges campaign is fraught with contradictions – it encourages consumption on the back of a contentious issue and its sponsorship is too transparent. Gender equality is being utilised in campaigns (like the Always ad) sparking debate, interaction and awareness. Perhaps high street stores will learn from the digital agency frontrunners and future campaigns might avoid Selfridge’s blatant hypocrisy.

By Anastasia Taysom, Researcher – Branding, Strategy & Insights

Find the working you again

Returning to work after maternity leave can be a daunting experience for many women, but with the right approach and sufficient planning, both at home and with your employer, the transition needn’t be a hard one.

It is more than possible to establish a flexible working agenda, to the mutual benefit of both employees and employers alike. All that is required is a degree of understanding on the part of not just the individual returning to work but their employer and their colleagues.

It’s important to remember that flexible work is no longer a taboo, not everyone seeking flexible work is a mum – there are dads, retired individuals and city high flyers who want to work in a different way. Recent research indicated that two thirds of men consider flexible work an important factor when looking for a new job. Increasing numbers of innovative employers are changing their approach to finding new talent, and are focusing more on output achieved, than time put in to get there.

Top tips for getting back into work

Be realistic. Honestly assess your situation and understand your true motivations for returning to work, consider the financial and emotional implications surrounding childcare, and what arrangements you’ll need.

Find dependable childcare, there are numerous options and it’s important to find what is right for you. Nanny shares, childminders, nurseries and au pairs are all workable solutions. It’s sensible to also have a back-up person in case things don’t go quite to plan. Look for a safe, stimulating environment and qualified caregivers. Ask other mums, neighbours, your NCT friends and co-workers for recommendations. Check caregivers’ references and trust your instincts.

Talk to your employer. Clarify your job duties and schedule so you’ll know what’s expected of you after you come back to work. You might ask about flexible hours, telecommuting or working part time. It is crucial that you take responsibility for your own ‘outputs’ and effectively manage your employer’s expectations. Often employees are worried about broaching the topic, don’t feel put out but instead demonstrate your understanding of the needs of the business. This will ensure your employer can see your dedication and allow them to recognise what is important and realistic for you.

Stay connected. Even a few months out of the workplace can leave you fearing that all your skills and experience have deserted you. You need to re-connect with the ‘working you’ and the people who valued what you did in the workplace; contact colleagues and work friends, invite your old boss for a coffee and try to attend away days or appraisals. You are entitled to 10 ‘keeping in touch days’ during your maternity leave without it affecting your maternity pay.

Overall, I advise adopting a mindset which sees setbacks as challenges to overcome. Be realistic (don’t crash and burn!), develop a ‘can do’ attitude and remember you’re not alone; more than 80% of employees – men and women – are parents. Good luck!

By Alice Weightman, Managing Director – Hanson Search

Higher Education: In the Pursuit of Excellence?

A Freedom of Information request by the BBC has found that more than 20,000 students complained to their universities last year. An increase of 10% on the year before, the findings have been welcomed by Universities Minister, David Willets, who believes that students are demanding more for their £9,000 a year fee.

As fraught with tension as a Birmingham school governors’ meeting, university tuition fees have long been a contentious issue: they have caused, the now infamous, protests on the streets of London, and have contributed to the rise (remember Cleggmania?) and fall of Nick Clegg, who in 2010 signed a pledge to block any rise in tuition fees, before performing a rather stunning volte-face just in time for the door of his ministerial car to close.

Students, now kettled by the burden of £9,000 fees, ‘see themselves more as consumers than they used to’, according to Rob Behrans, an independent adjudicator for higher education. He adds, ‘they want to get the best degree they can get’. It is this, somewhat facile, argument that seems to have been accepted as a suitable explanation for the growing malaise among students.

And yet, unlike crotchety pensioners bemoaning the cost of a second class stamp, the students interviewed by the BBC did not mention the growing cost of their courses: what worries them is that their studies will leave them unprepared, and unable, to get a foot on the career ladder.

Funding cuts to universities, announced in 2011, have hit newer, teaching-focused institutions especially hard, resulting in a notable reduction in staff numbers. This has led to decreased contact time, a move towards online lectures, and an increase in ‘self-study’ (a.k.a. a good time to watch Murder, She Wrote).

To make up for this funding shortfall, universities have adopted proactive, extravagant marketing campaigns, leading them to be accused of a ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em short’ approach, with the reality not living up to the promise of the glossy brochures.

Mr Willets is right in his assertion that it is encouraging to learn that students are concerned about their education. It is also comforting to know that there is an ombudsman to assess the concerns of disgruntled students. But what about those who finish their studies ill-equipped for the world of work?

It may, more than ever, be necessary for students to look to extra-curricular activities to gain the required skills to get their first career break. If students want to increase their desirability to future employers, they should look to acquire experience outside the traditional realms of academia. Similarly, if employers want to ensure that the next crop of university leavers be prepared to face the challenges of a graduate role, it is up to them to offer work experience opportunities, such as internships (preferably paid ones, but that’s a blog topic of its own) to supplement their studies.

For some students, higher education may not be the silver bullet it once was, but with employers increasingly keen to see examples of achievements outside the sphere of education, their dream job may be more obtainable than they think.

Are you a driven student looking to gain valuable work experience in a challenging, stimulating sector? We are offering roles in our research team. You will have exposure to different functions of the business and be involved in a range of projects: research; press and social media monitoring; global mapping of markets; database cleansing.

For more information, email:

By Christopher Cuthbert, Researcher – Communications Division

Global Healthcare Communications Salary & Benefits Survey

Hanson Search has been recruiting in the Healthcare Communications sector for over 12 years. During that time we have seen the industry undergo unprecedented change.

This change is a topic of ongoing industry discussion as it has a great impact on effectively benchmarking salaries and benefits in Healthcare Communications.

In order to understand these differences in salaries and benefits, we would be really grateful if you could complete this five minute survey; and also share it amongst friends and colleagues to whom it may apply. We plan to release a report of our findings and will circulate it to all those who contributed.

For every survey we receive, Hanson Search will donate £1 to our annual CSR project, which is currently about promoting diversity in the communications industry.

Survey link:

A mid-level talent shortage

As a specialist communications recruiter, we are often asked about industry trends, how the market is shaping up and what the toughest levels to recruit are… always a tough one, but the answer to that is, usually, the mid-level roles. There is a continuing shortage of mid-level talent across the PR and PA industry, and it seems to cross all markets from corporate or consumer PR, to healthcare, digital and public affairs.

So where does all the talent go? There is plenty at a junior level and a decent amount at a senior level, so what happens at the middle tier?

Everyone is different, but often at the beginning of people’s careers their moves are about money and promotion. So, in order to attract great talent at the junior end, you can entice them with a step up in terms of responsibility or salary. As people progress in their career and become more confident in their ability and value, this tends to change.

People become more focused on enjoying what they do and having clients, or a business, they are truly passionate about. Having something to aim for, having the ability to show their creative ideas and implement them and the importance of flexibility in a happy, balanced working life, are the most common desires. This may be because they are starting a family/settling down, but not always. Often it’s because they are driven, hard working and determined individuals who feel frustrated that they are encouraged to be tied to a desk from 8am-6pm to provide great output and results.

So what can businesses do to attract this hard-to-find, mid-level talent?

Be open minded and be flexible. Any working arrangement has to work for both parties and the employer needs to ensure that they trust the person will deliver, and work the hours needed. So you may start someone on five days a week in the office with the plan that, once past probation, they can work some days from home. Or you may want them to send a daily report with their activities and tasks completed that day initially. In the digital age it’s pretty easy to see what someone is adding to the business and what their output is. Being open to different working arrangements can open businesses up to an extra pool of candidates with great talents that otherwise they wouldn’t access, and if you’re not, and your competitors are, you could lose current talent too.

By Janie Emmerson, Director – Communications Division


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