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Childcare, Paternity Leave and Politics

chiIn the first of a new series examining the ‘future of work’, I wanted to explore what the various political parties are planning to do to ease the burden of childcare as well as levelling the working playing field between men and women – especially as the election clock is tick-tocking with increasing rapidity towards polling day on May 7th 2015.

In a previous post, I focused on the maternity leave conundrum facing freelancers – not a pretty prospect with statutory maternity benefits – which means very careful planning and saving for the arrival of future off-spring. It is because there is little or no provision for the self-employed workforce that we see freelancers returning to work as soon as they can after having a baby, unless they have the luxury of not needing to because their partner earns enough to keep the family afloat.

However, it is not just freelancers that face uncertainties when planning a family. The childcare nightmare confronts every parent– unless of course they have very willing, fit grandparents to take up the strain or can afford a full-time nanny. So, how do we manage and what have our politicians promised in their election manifestos to help ease our burden?

Childcare has been at the top of the British political agenda for more than a decade now, yet we still don’t have a universal provision in place. This time round, David Cameron is pledging to double the free childcare entitlement for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30 -beating Labour’s pledges of 25 free hours. The 30-hour pledge would be worth £5,000 to families from 2017, and the £350 million cost paid for by reducing tax relief on pension contributions for people earning more than £150,000. I know that when my own children turned three, those 15 free hours made a huge difference to my household budget, so 25 or 30 will be a significant boost.

Labour’s new pledge is for a National Primary Childcare Service to require schools under law to provide breakfast and after-school clubs, from 8am to 6pm. “Wraparound” care was a policy hangover from the last Labour government but it was voluntary and not all schools managed to find enough people to implement it. Of course it is not free – in most cases, parents still have to pay.

Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have made a policy pledge that would, I believe, make a real difference to working parents. They are offering 15 hours a week of free childcare between nine months and two years.  This would cover the dodgy “maternity gap” – the time when maternity leave usually ends and the beginning of free childcare at aged three starts. It is trying to bridge this gap that sees many, many women give up work after having a child – something that is costly to the economy. The mothers have less disposable income and thus, spend less. Moreover, it is the outrageously priced childcare alternatives that usually are the career ‘deal-breaker’.

Aside from the Conservatives, both Labour and the Lib Dems are also considering daddies in their manifestos. Paternity leave will be doubled under Labour – going from two to four weeks, and they are also planning to raise paternity pay from £140 per week to more than £260. However, the Liberal Democrats are going even further. They would dedicate six weeks of parental leave exclusively to fathers. Dads wouldn’t be able to share the six weeks with the mother, providing an additional “use it or lose it” month, and also means total parental leave would be extended to 58 weeks. In a same sex couple, each partner would be entitled to six weeks’ reserved leave, with the rest available to share.

Seeing fathers as an integral part of a child’s early years care and upbringing, will go so much further in trying to smash the work-place glass ceiling that currently exists for women – whether they are mothers or not. The days where childcare fell solely to women are now behind us, and it is about time our places of work realised this and caught up with the times. That way, women could – for the first time – be on a real, even footing with their male colleagues and don’t have to sacrifice their career progression to ensure the future of the human race.

Alice Weightman Founder of Hanson Search, an international search firm for communications and marketing services, and The Work Crowd, a platform to connect talented freelancers to great projects. Contact 

Browse Hanson Search’s current vacancies.

Register for freelance projects by visiting The Work Crowd online

More articles by Alice Weightman:

Why The Marcoms Industry Needs to Work Harder to Attract and Retain Best Talent

Freelancing and Starting a Family

Hanson Search 2015 Gender Balance Survey

This is The Dawn of The Freelancer

To Master Or Not To Master? That Is The Question

Why Millennials are Shunning Full-Time Jobs

To Master Or Not To Master? – That Is The Question

I recently commented in an article about the value of doing a postgraduate degree or not and I wanted to explore the question further.

I often see candidates who ask me whether they should pursue a Masters in marketing communications, PR or advertising. It is hard to give a definitive answer.

Many sectors do require additional postgraduate qualifications, so it is best to do some research and find out what is expected – you could talk to people who are already in your chosen industry and see what they recommend.

A Masters degree is a big commitment both in terms of time and money. It is worth asking yourself whether the Masters will help you now or in the long term.

The cost of a master’s degree – unlike undergraduate degrees – depends mostly on course type, duration and the ranking of the university. Some courses cost as little as £3,000, while others cost almost £15,000 a year, full-time. Universities aren’t particularly keen to fund post-graduate degrees, with only a handful of opportunities of financial assistance available for a small selection of students each year. You will need to weigh up the financial implications before committing to the course. Don’t forget, you will have probably accrued a significant debt as a result of your initial degree.

Of course, Masters can be done full-time or part-time. If you choose the part-time option, then you will be able to work alongside your studies, which will help your financial situation considerably.

If you decide that a Masters is the way forward, then investigate the courses on offer and the relevance they have for your career. Competition between the academic institutions is increasing as they seek to offer prospective students real value and practical experience in their postgraduate studies.

Students on a Marketing and Communications, Advertising or PR Masters learn how to pitch to panels of industry insiders. They will provide feedback on technique as well as the ability to respond to a brief. Students will learn to use research to become an expert in a given area, and to communicate these findings to others quickly and effectively. This will make for a broad and deep knowledge of your chosen area of the sector.

Aside from this, universities strive to provide relevant industry contacts – including guest speakers who come ready to share the latest information with students.

Thus, it can be argued, that the work you complete during your masters builds into a portfolio that can be shown to recruiters and prospective employers. Many universities are able to prove that their students typically enter the workplace in a variety of communications, public relations and consultant roles, and have a strong foundation on which to progress their careers to the top. It should also be noted that postgrads tend to go in on a higher salary – though, this is not a given and will depend on the individual employer.

So, to sum up – a Masters might be a good idea, but it is also something that you can chose to pursue a little further down your career path. You might decide to work and earn, gaining valuable experience and clear some of those debts first, before heading back to the classroom. But researching the proposition is key – understand what you are taking on and whether or not it is of real benefit to you as an individual.

By Alice Weightman

Alice Weightman Founder of Hanson Search, an international search firm for communications and marketing services, and The Work Crowd, a platform to connect talented freelancers to great projects. Contact 

Browse Hanson Search’s current vacancies.

Register for freelance projects by visiting The Work Crowd online

More articles by Alice Weightman:

Why The Marcoms Industry Needs to Work Harder to Attract and Retain Best Talent

Freelancing and Starting a Family

Hanson Search 2015 Gender Balance Survey

This is The Dawn of The Freelancer

Why Millennials are Shunning Full-Time Jobs

Childcare, Paternity Leave and Politics

10 Qualities That Differentiate Great Leaders

Shaun Cooper





What makes great leaders stand out and what do they do differently?

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” ~ Isaac Newton.

The best way to understand these qualities that differentiate great leaders is through the examples of legends that have excelled in their field of endeavour. To stand on the shoulders of giants as Newton put it. So let’s start by understanding what leadership is first.

Leadership is a subject that is very misunderstood and yet so vital when it comes to attracting, retaining and developing talent. My definition of leadership is helping someone see their own potential and worth so clearly that they are inspired to realise their potential and the help others do the same. This is very different to management, which is focused on tasks, bottom line, processes, and efficiencies. Leadership is focused on people, relationships, top line, and effectiveness. Leadership goes beyond a role and title; it is a choice and a way of being.

So what qualities differentiate great leaders?

  1. One of the greatest qualities of exceptional leaders is awareness and being real. Very often how we perceive people and situations can be different from how they actually are. So having a solid and grounded take on reality (not what you just think is reality, but truly be aware of what is real and what is not) is an essential starting point to progressing in any endeavour. Benjamin Franklin worked on his 13 virtues relentlessly.
  1. Leaders step up and take charge. They take great responsibility for making things happen in their lives. No more hitting and hoping and giving up after selling out for the easy road. They respond in a very progressive and positive manner and not let their egos or bias get in the way of what is best. Helen Keller overcame her frustration of being blind and deaf. 
  1. Leaders have a compelling vision. They know what they want and why they want it. This is where their passion, motivation, commitment and discipline come from. As the saying goes, “without a vision, the people perish.” J.K. Rowling wrote her first book as a single parent and was rejected by 12 publishers. 
  1. Leaders lead from an authentic place. They have a very good understanding of themselves and therefore are able to lead from their values. They are inside – out and because of this they are very influential people. They are not concerned by what others think of them; instead they influence others based on their inner sense of security, guidance, wisdom and power. Mahatma Gandhi building his influence in India’s journey to independence. 
  1. Leaders know how to get what they want. They bring their compelling vision to reality one step at a time. Nikola Tesla would plan his ideas in immense detail. 
  1. Leaders have the greater good and the interests of others at heart. They think win-win or no deal because they know anything less means lose-lose ultimately. Nelson Mandela transforming South Africa into a rainbow nation. 
  1. Leaders are socially warm people and relate to people. Every truly successful person will tell you that to create the greatest impact in your life you must build a depth of mutual understanding, trust and respect with the right people. Oprah Winfrey is arguably one of the most influential women in the world.    
  1. Leaders collaborate and synergise. They know how to achieve what they want through bringing the right people into their lives on a win-win or no deal basis. Having a strong network of people (both a support network and strategic network) is essential to long-term success. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs called themselves the Four Vagabonds as part of their mastermind group.   
  1. Leaders are constantly innovating, quantifying and orchestrating. Simply put they ask questions all the time and turn problems into opportunities. They preempt challenges and bring contingencies to the table. They are incredibly resourceful. Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Co, had his factory bombed in WW2 and then an earthquake level another factory.
  1. Leaders influence and help others realise their potential. They help others become more effective and successful by empowering them, not controlling them. They are leaders and teachers. Jack Welch transformed General Electric’s culture and focus.  

How can you begin to develop or enhance these qualities of great leaders? 

I’m a big believer in that we all have great potential, so it’s about realising that potential through the right knowledge, focus, and people. Practically, I would suggest the following in developing yourself as a better leader…

  • Knowledge – Invest in learning form legends.
  • Focus – Understand your gaps (both internal and external gaps) in the context of your endeavour.
  • People - Find someone / a mentor who can help you apply what you learn and help you follow through. Anything less you’re just another book on the shelf collecting dust.
  • Help others – teach once, learn twice is a great adage I’m a firm believer in.

All the best in your endeavours and hopefully you will be a greater inspiration to others.

By Shaun Cooper, Director & Leadership Consultant at Lighthouse International Group

Hanson Search’s International Expansion is Marked with Opening of MENA Office

mapLeading search consultancy firm Hanson Search has announced further international expansion by opening a UAE office, to meet growing demand for their services in the MENA region.

The firm has opened their office, working to find quality candidates for mid to senior level positions in the region’s communications and marketing services industries.

The firm’s Dubai team will be headed up by Felice Hurst, Director of MENA who will oversee a wider initial group of three employees. “Dubai has now been graded as number six by the recent Gunn report, for creative excellence and its clear from current hiring demands that there is considerable growth”.

Nearly half of the company’s client requirements are now international, making a significant contribution to the firm’s multimillion pound turnover, and Hanson’s Middle East office marks the latest international expansion for the firm, which also has offices in London and Paris and recruits internationally from Beijing to New York.

Founder and Managing Director Alice Weightman, who launched the company in 2002, says the opening of a dedicated office shows their growing commitment to serving international marketing and communications industries.

She said: “In recent years we’ve witnessed a surge in international demand and felt the time was right to add to our overseas operations to be closer to key international markets such as Dubai.

“The region is in an exciting growth stage, with companies on the hunt for the finest marketing and communications talent, and we believe our expertise, built over the past 12 years through running international briefs, will offer real benefits to employers and employees alike.

“We have launched with an initial team of three in the region, headed up by Felice Hurst, and have ambitious plans for growth in both the region and additional international locations.

Please get in touch with Felice Hurst on +971 527 44 66 33 or email for more information.

Why Millennials are Shunning Full-time Jobs for a Freelance Life

notebook-405755_1280Following on from the comments I made in the article ‘More millennials’ embracing freelancing’ in HR Magazine, I wanted to explore this somewhat contentious issue further.

In the past, we were always told that a full-time, permanent job – or a job for life – was what we should aspire to on leaving school or graduating from university. Making your way slowly to the top of your chosen company was the expected and respected career path to follow, however, millennials are on course to change all that.

It would not surprise me if the classic 9 to 5 will soon be a thing of the past – clung on to by the tail end of previous generations as the youngsters shun this safe way of working for the more unstable, but potentially more rewarding freelance lifestyle.

Not only do statistics from Ipse, The Associate of Independent Professionals and Self Employed prove that freelancing and self-employment is on the rise among the younger generations, staying loyal to one particular company is also a thing of the past. Indeed, up to 60% of millennials now leave a company within three years of starting there, preferring to juggle multiple roles and several ‘mini-careers’.

This continual job-hopping is costing organisations a small fortune – sometimes up to £20,000 a pop. With this in mind, companies must re-assess emerging work trends and make structural changes to match.

The main driver behind the millennials discontent seems to be workplace flexibility. Indeed, a recent Millennial Branding report found that a massive 45% would choose workplace flexibility over pay.

Could it be then, that this new generation is prepared to take on – and shake up – the workplace in a way that previous generations didn’t dare to? I think so. As we move towards a more agile work environment that embraces scrum culture, the appetite for hiring in specialists on a project-by-project basis will become the norm. Moreover, many millennials say they want to have a job with purpose – somewhere they can make a difference and fit in culturally.

However, with freelance or contract work can come pitfalls if you are not well versed in taxation, invoicing or even chasing for payments. This is where The Work Crowd comes in. We will do all the hard work for you, so that you can focus on the job in hand.

For more information about The Work Crowd and how you can become a member, click here

By Alice Weightman, MD, Hanson Search

Alice Weightman Founder of Hanson Search, an international search firm for communications and marketing services, and The Work Crowd, a platform to connect talented freelancers to great projects. Contact

Browse Hanson Search’s current vacancies.

Register for freelance projects by visiting The Work Crowd online

More articles by Alice Weightman:

Why The Marcoms Industry Needs to Work Harder to Attract and Retain Best Talent

Freelancing and Starting a Family

Hanson Search 2015 Gender Balance Survey

This is The Dawn of The Freelancer

To Master Or Not To Master? That Is The Question

Childcare, Paternity Leave and Politics

Freelancing and Starting a Family

shoes-505471_1280I recently was asked to comment on whether small business owners should be allowed to reject a female candidate of child-bearing age, if they could prove that a potential pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave would significantly damage their business.

I am absolutely against this kind of policy, as it would represent a major step backwards for women. As The Work Crowd and Hanson Search launch their Gender Balance Survey, I thought I would explore the on-going issue of freelancing and maternity pay.

More and more candidates are choosing to leave the security of a permanent job behind, choosing instead the freedom and independence of being self-employed, a contract worker or a freelancer.

However, these feelings of freedom could well feel very constricting when it comes to deciding on whether to start a family.

Salaried employees enjoy paid leave and Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) at their employer’s expense most freelancers are on their own. This can make it tougher to plan for pregnancy and beyond.

Sadly, the fact is that self-employed women aren’t entitled to maternity pay from an employer – even if they have put in many years service for one particular organisation or client.

You will only get maternity pay if your contract terms you as an employee rather than a worker. Broadly speaking, if you are on the payroll or your employer controls when and how you work and provides you with tools and equipment, you are an employee and therefore have maternity or paternity rights.

In contrast, if you are working under a contract to provide a service, are in charge of your own hours or pay tax and national insurance on a self-employed basis, you are likely to be classified as either a worker or as self-employed, and won’t get any maternity or paternity rights.

As a direct consequence – and probably unsurprisingly – freelancers take far less maternity leave than their ‘employed’ counterparts.

However, being a freelancer doesn’t necessarily mean having to choose between children and your career. It just needs a little research and very careful planning.

Make sure you claim any benefits to which you are entitled including maternity allowance – check your eligibility. Usually, you qualify if you are registered as self-employed and paying Class 2 national insurance contributions – or have done some self-employed work in the 15 months before your baby is due.

Maternity allowance is paid at a standard weekly rate of £112.75 or 90% of your average weekly pre-tax earnings – whichever is lower. This is paid for a maximum 39 weeks and is free of tax and national insurance. You can’t claim while you are still working.

Despite this, freelancers claiming maternity allowance may only work for ten days during their maternity leave, whereas employees are allowed to freelance as much as they like while they are off.

If the Government wants to encourage more people to join the freelance workforce – they have even appointed David Morris MP to act as an Ambassador – then surely, they need to help would-be mothers feel secure during this most vulnerable time.

By Alice Weightman, MD, Hanson Search

Alice Weightman Founder of Hanson Search, an international search firm for communications and marketing services, and The Work Crowd, a platform to connect talented freelancers to great projects. Contact

Browse Hanson Search’s current vacancies.

Register for freelance projects by visiting The Work Crowd online

More articles by Alice Weightman:

Why The Marcoms Industry Needs to Work Harder to Attract and Retain Best Talent

Hanson Search 2015 Gender Balance Survey

This is The Dawn of The Freelancer

To Master Or Not To Master? That Is The Question

Childcare, Paternity Leave and Politics

Gender Balance Study: What’s Changed? Take the Survey!

In 2012, Hanson Search commissioned a gender balance study to gain an insight into the impact of maternity leave on the communications and marketing services industry.

The results were astonishing: nearly two thirds (62%) of female employees felt they would be discriminated against if they became pregnant and almost half (49%) faced difficulties when they returned to work after giving birth.

What’s more, 49% of women surveyed were considering seeking employment elsewhere should employers fail to address these issues fairly.

The report highlighted the clear need for change within the industry and for honest and open conversations about how to balance the requirements of businesses against the needs of the employee.

As such, we held a strategy discussion comprising ten senior industry heads (including Jane Wilson, CEO of CIPR and Afua Basoah, Director at Ogilvy Healthworld) with the aim of developing practical solutions to inspire both employers and employees to drive positive organisational change.

Together, we came up with a code of best practice that recommended:

  • Creating the right company culture – encouraging transparency and openness to drive discussion and re-establish core job priorities.
  • Taking responsibility – creating a two-way fairness policy that is honest and realistic about future plans.
  • Devising a maternity comeback framework – employees taking responsibility for creating a framework structure which details measureable deliverables and output.
  • Reappraising the legal situation – distinguishing reality from myth when it comes to maternity rights.


A lot has changed since then and three years on we want to know what’s different. We would love you to take part in our new survey here: The more voices that are heard, the better able we are to both champion best practice and understand what still needs to change in order to see greater gender equality in the industry.




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

Addressing the Lack of Diversity in Communications and Highlighting Recruitment Best Practices

The Hanson Search Roundtable Diversity Debate

Introduction by Alice Weightman, Managing Director, Hanson Search

‘The communications industry’s attitude to class and ethnicity must change if it wants to attract talent that can reach out to diverse audiences’, so says the 2013 PR Census, published in PR Week in March 2014.

Communications – and in particular PR – has long been tarred with the brush of being a profession that attracts the white middle-classes, who are predominantly female. Indeed, the latest PR Census proves that only a poor six per cent of people working in the industry are ‘non-white’. Of those who declared an ethnicity, one per cent is black, two per cent are Asian and three per cent described themselves as ‘other ethnicity’.

Given that the UK’s communications hub is based in London – one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world – something has to change and fast. The CIPR and PRCA are trying to change how the industry is perceived on all fronts.  However, they are facing an uphill struggle. Many people within the Asian community for example see PR as nothing more than glorified socialising – and thus, a less respectable career choice than say a doctor or an accountant.

Furthermore, PR and communications is just not on the radar as a career choice for a whole swath of our society. This combined with the fact that the industry is still dominated by the white middle-classes, means that there are very few networking opportunities and role models for younger generations from diverse backgrounds.

It is vital for the industry’s development and progression to become more inclusive, because agencies need to resonate with clients and all members of society.


In order to explore the diversity issue that is so prevalent within the communications industry, Hanson Search invited several senior HR and PR professionals from organisations such as Mindshare, ITN and Transport for London (TFL) to take part in a roundtable debate. The aim was to discuss how best to cultivate and nurture more diversity in the communications industry as well as setting out some recruitment best practices.

The debate was chaired by Colin Byrne, CEO UK & EMEA of Weber Shandwick – with speakers including Jennifer Thomas from Direct Line, Mark MacKenzie from Transport for London and Robert Elias from ITN.

The event explored diversity recruitment in its broadest terms.

Alice Weightman, Managing Director at Hanson Search, explained the difficulties faced by recruiters when they attempt to draw up a diverse candidate list for clients because the talent pool is seriously limited. She said “We select people who are most suited to the job. The trouble is there is such a lack of diversity amongst our applicants. We need to address the issue at the grassroots level”.

Colin Byrne illustrated the gravity of the problem from the business standpoint; “we claim to our clients that we represent Britain and how we as a nation think – the trouble is, we look nothing like Britain”.

Recruitment Best Practices

Promoting PR as a career choice – tackling the issue at grassroots level

The participants felt that the PR industry should give more time to people from diverse backgrounds, by inviting them to come into the office and inspiring them to spend a day there to give them a taste of what it is like to work in the industry.

It was also highlighted that PR needs to be promoted as a career choice in schools, colleges and universities. They sighted apprenticeship schemes run by the IPA and PRCA – backed by the Metro newspaper – that are designed to attract creative young people, who haven’t been to university, into the advertising and media industries.

Hill & Knowlton’s Czarina Charles said that PR is not really recognised as a career option in schools and universities: “Parents just don’t know about PR. In order to increase awareness we need to go into schools and educate pupils and teachers about our industries and the real career prospects that exist within them”.

Charles went on to highlight another problem – candidates are often discounted from opportunities because, due to their backgrounds or education, they are not equipped with the manner of speaking or behaviour needed to ace an interview. Jennifer Thomas suggested that some candidates might need a little extra time to realise their full potential and shouldn’t be automatically written off at the interview stage because of their accent or writing ability.

Some organisations are beginning to address these issues. Colin Byrne talked about his apprenticeship scheme that gives creative young people a stepping stone into the worlds of media and advertising, irrespective of their background or education.

Furthermore, The Taylor Bennett foundation runs an Apprentice Challenge designed specifically for young people without a university education. Says Byrne “One of the problems I think we have in our industry is that we clearly replicate ourselves – our people want to hire people who look like them”.

Make a greater effort during the hiring process but ensuring recruitment is based on merit

The discussion highlighted that the PR industry needs to think of innovative new ways of screening candidates – suggestions included YouTube clips instead of CVs.

Weber Shandwick is already embracing this new approach for applicants to their apprenticeship scheme. Candidates are asked to produce a five-minute YouTube clip instead of submitting a CV. This immediately demonstrates personality and creativity as well as a proven ability to use social and digital media.

There is a real need to level the playing field, which includes changing the way interviews are conducted – whereby less emphasis is placed on classic interview techniques – and more on what the individual could bring to the business.

The participants felt it would make good business sense to give more time to those candidates that might otherwise not have the opportunity. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they automatically get the job because they are the ‘under-dog’, but more about recognising that certain applicants might need extra nurturing to bring out their best.

However, Bell Pottinger’s Elly Williamson raised an interesting counter- concern regarding positive discrimination – not only in terms of race but also education.

She stressed the importance of recruiting people based on merit – otherwise there is a risk that applicants that are ‘ivy league’ graduates will be overlooked because they are seen as ‘advantaged’.  This notion was supported by Charles – she said “as a black woman, I don’t want to be positively discriminated against – I want to get the job on merit”.

Creating the right culture – educating middle management

Robin Elias believes it is vital to ‘create a culture where everyone has a voice’.

By educating the workforce at all levels including enabling an open dialogue, will keep diversity on the agenda. It was also felt that educating middle managers about the benefits and importance of hiring a diverse workforce was essential.

Ketchum’s Aisha Warburton said her company was putting compulsory attendance of diversity sessions in place.

Jennifer Thomas highlighted Direct Line’s diversity network, which encourages open dialogue and celebrates differences. They also use the calendar to plan diversity-centred events.

Mark MacKenzie says Transport for London conducts extensive surveys, training and reports on employee welfare and wellbeing in the working environment.

Women returning from maternity leave were also discussed. Employers need to recognise that on returning to work, new mothers may need a degree of flexibility in terms of working part-time or keeping slightly different hours.

Marketing materials should have a diverse feel to them – promoting the diversity of individuals within the business

According to Colin Byrne ‘diversity = creativity = better business’.

A diverse workforce offers more creativity, allowing tasks to be approached from a range of different angles. Says Robin Elias; “One of the tangible benefits is that a diverse workforce is more creative – thus if you have a truly mixed workforce and everybody feels they can speak up, it makes for a better product and a nicer atmosphere”.


The communications industry takes place on a global stage and as a result the audiences reached are increasingly diverse. In order for the industry to keep up with its client base, it must constantly evolve and to do so, they must make the first changes internally.

Proactively hiring a diverse workforce should be much more than just a box-ticking exercise. Colin Byrne suggested that one of the greatest problems within the industry is that it clearly wants to replicate itself. If the industry continues with this out-dated mindset, then they will no longer be able to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse client base, meaning that eventually businesses will fail– which is damaging for the individual and for the industry at large.


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


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