18 Nov, 2016
Of course it’s true that today’s Facebook feed – fake news or otherwise – amplifies our personal viewpoints. We only talk to People Like Us. And now we are reaping the result of a giant failure in communication.
Working across different sectors I am regularly struck by the default mechanism we all have of only seeing things from a single perspective.
A teacher doesn’t understand why a business has refused to fund a project –
“but they have loads of money!”
… but the project doesn’t fit the theme chosen by employees or meet any business objectives.
A brand manager doesn’t understand why an artist won’t use his product in a show –
“after all, as the sponsor I’m paying for it!”
… but sponsorship is buying rights of association, not ownership, and artistic integrity is ultimately an element of quality control.
Partnership working is all about achieving mutual objectives and the first step to doing that successfully is understanding the way your partner sees things. As facilitators straddling these different worlds we encourage talking, questioning and – most importantly – listening; stepping out of comfort zones to consider alternatives and the possibility of change.
We often use the example of the blindfolded men touching different parts of an elephant and arguing over the true description of the beast. The one holding the trunk is convinced its like a snake; the one with the leg thinks its a tree; the tail-holder is adamant that an elephant is like a delicate, wispy brush.
Like the rest of us, all know they are right; but unless they communicate effectively and share their views; ultimately all are wrong.
5 July, 2016
Thomas Enright, CSR Lead at Affinity Water and Albright Special associate, shares his formulae for building effective partnerships.
A mentor I once worked with summed up his advice for making change happen as “make a friend, tell them a story, show them the money”.
As I started to become involved in building effective client-contractor partnerships in the utility sector I found that the advice reflected three critical elements to a successful outcome:
The importance of relationship building: Effective partnerships are based on trust. Investing the time up front to build trust and understanding will underpin the success of the relationship. Far too often partnerships get into difficulties after an initial ‘honeymoon period’. With both sides focused on the task in hand rather than the relationship, the partnerships don’t develop the resilience to deal with challenges ahead.
The power of narrative: The ability to articulate a clear vision and narrative allows everyone involved to fully engage. Timelines, metrics and graphs will work for some but weave the key points into a short and powerful narrative that tells the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ and you are set for success.
A focus on benefits: It may not be all about the money, but a clear understanding of the benefits to each party must be at the heart of a successful partnership. With an increasing focus on ‘value’, many of the most successful partnerships are adopting the concept of creating shared value (Porter, 2011), where corporates create value by addressing social problems that intersect with their business.
Although the three elements of relationship building, story-telling and value creation apply to many types of partnerships, I believe they are particularly important to those between corporates and the third sector.
Different sectors have very different cultures and ways of working. Corporates and charities effectively speak different languages. This can lead to mis-communication and mis-understanding that undermines the partnerships.
My tips for success:
Investing the time up front to build the relationships and explore the partnership ‘fit’ is an essential first step.
Use the power of storytelling to create a common sense of purpose for the partnership. Use everyday language that eliminates the in-house terminology and connects with staff, stakeholders and the wider public.
Be clear on your shared goals, keep them simple and repeat them often. Cross sector partnerships may have some of the biggest pitfalls but they also have some of the greatest potential for creating real value for all.
Just last month kicked off a great conversation with Raleigh International, the sustainable development charity, exploring their ‘fit’ to the UK water sector and how to create a strong narrative that connects to that industry.
Raleigh is an organisation that has changed a lot since I first participated as a volunteer on their 1992 expedition to Chile. They are a great example of a charity developing their partnership model for businesses around ‘relationship’, ‘story’ and ‘benefits’. The results speak for themselves with the recent announcement of a strengthened partnership with construction and engineering company VolkerFitzPatrick.
Whether it is establishing new cross sector partnerships or re-invigorating existing ones these three steps, summed up neatly in the advice of that mentor “make a friend, tell them a story, show them the money”, have proved their worth.
3 June 2016
We’ve recently been working with a mental health charity to explore ways of engaging with business in a more fulfilling way.
As part of our research we’ve brought together some great examples that we wanted to celebrate more widely.
What’s great about them? They benefit the business, not just the charity, which means they are more likely to be sustainable for everyone.
Here are our top three:
Our favourite. The Lynx male grooming brand has risen above some of its more negative laddish brand attributes by partnering with CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably, supported by The Samaritans.
The Unilever brand has been funding the charity’s helpline for over a year. As part of the partnership it launched an awareness campaign in November 2015 to raise awareness of male suicide as the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45.
The campaign, operating under the heading #BiggerIssues, launched with digital billboards and social media, with creative that changed every two hours to reflect that during that time one man will have taken his own life in the UK.
A microsite www.biggerissues.co.uk encourages people to talk and provides links to the helpline.
The campaign received backing by MPs, celebrities and other suicide prevention charities. On International Men’s Day (19 November), Parliament held a debate on men and the issue of male suicide. A social media thunderclap that morning reached 23.4 million people.
Results: CALM commissioned a YouGov poll that demonstrated a 45% increase in awareness as a result of the campaign.
Why we love it: CALM provided real credibility for the Lynx brand in shifting its image to a more serious topic. Great PR and great social impact.
The partnership between BT and Scope has been running for a number of years with the latest three year project focused on developing new technology solutions that can assist disabled people who have problems speaking. It experiments with solutions that enable students at a Scope residential college to control their home environment by using technology to open doors, close curtains or switch on the TV.
Results: BT spent £260,000 million over the three years, sharing technology and donating equipment. It provides a testing ground for BT’s new product development while giving the charity access to developments that it couldn’t otherwise afford.
Why we love it: It's challenging keeping a partnership fresh. The tangible value here is in R&D - by having a testing ground for product innovation.
Care UK’s first commercial proposition is sold to individuals at £2.99 but it is also marketed to companies as an employee benefit. The app enables people to manage their caring responsibilities by offering the ability to capture information about medications, medical notes and managing scheduling of appointments and multiple carers.
Centrica, parent company of British Gas, has a long association with the charity and is a founding member of its Employers for Carers business forum. They were also one fo the first to adopt the Jointly app for employees, purchasing 1,000 licenses. It forms part of a wider programme, led by their HR department to support the increasing number of employees with caring responsibilities.
Results: Centrica’s carers initiatives have been demonstrated to reduce absenteeism, saving around £4.5 million with a further saving of £2m linked to staff retention.
Why we love it: A great one for corporates, demonstrating that charity and business partnerships aren’t just cause-related marketing
3 May 2016
I was running a workshop on Friday and we played a game to see the impact of putting brand logos next to each other. How did that change our perception of both ‘sponsor’ and ‘sponsee’? It’s a simple test but surprisingly powerful – after all, we are the company we keep, an old Egyptian adage that is even truer in the digital age.
This weekend 1,000 health experts signed an open letter to London’s leading cultural bodies over ‘morally unacceptable’ financial support (its not sponsorship) from cigarette manufacturers JTI and British American Tobacco. BP’s relationships with Tate and the Edinburgh International Festival are over; those with other arts bodies are being questioned; Shell is reducing its commitments in science education, and the branding of those it retains. The group Fossil Funds Free pledges not to take oil sponsorship and includes the Royal Court Theatre.
Twenty years ago when I was a fundraiser, we said if the company was legal, and they wanted to use their profits to support the good work we were doing then that was fine. These days that doesn’t wash so well.
I’m in no doubt that our new world of citizen activists is changing the way cultural sponsorship works. Thinking around trust and business responsibility has risen high up the agenda. The general public feels it owns our cultural and educational institutions and is very vocal about who it’s prepared to share with. Its not called passion-marketing for nothing.
At the same time, our major institutions should not allow themselves to be held hostage. And we are in a challenging fundraising environment. A difficult balance.
This week, we are helping an institutional client draft a policy to decide whose money it will accept. The impetus is an external approach that they have a ‘gut feel’ they should turn down.
Here are five things we will be discussing:
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. The outcome I am hoping for is a robust debate, a proper consideration of funding sustainability, ownership of values and an agreed position that strengthens the organisation as a whole.
11 April 2016
If you are considering working with a different sector it pays to understand their current concerns. If you can help meet your partners' needs, then they might be able to help meet yours.
Rachel Clarke, Director at Albright Special asks - what are the top three issues facing the higher-education sector?
The higher-education sector is, in one way, an exemplar for collaboration. In the world of business it would be unheard of for an organisation to lend its world-class expert to a rival to develop a new product - this is common practice with academics.
However, with a few notable exceptions, cross-sector collaboration is much rarer. If partners can help address the sector's main concerns, there is a lot to play for.
1. Digital learning
Lectures, seminars, case-study notes - the teaching format in the further educaiton sector has been the same way for years. With the digital economy, this is all changing. Virtual reality lectures, tailored courses where you pick and choose your academic experts from around the world, Google hangouts with your tutor - these are all happening now. With years of under-investment how do institutions develop the expertise to lead?
The sector's rapid campus expansion and reciprocal arrangements with overseas establishments has meant that today's students have the opportunity of a truly international education experience. Is globalisation still a differentiator for the leading institutions? In the light of digital change what does this even mean?
3. LIfe-long learning
With the end of a job-for-life comes the need for life-long learning as we all embark on portfolio working lives and multiple careers. Our educaiton establishments are realising that alumni are not just a fundraising stream, they are also looking for personal and professional development on a long-term basis. What do these offers look like?
The higher-education sector is a powerhouse of forward-thinking problem solvers - wouldn't you want that on your team?
Rachel Clarke celebrates the arts winner of the UK Sponsorship Awards.
They say the Sponsorship Awards are the Oscar’s of the UK’s sponsorship industry.
I am honoured to have been a judge for a few years now and often lament the quality of the cultural sponsorship category, with applications for this competition for commercial marketing couched in terms of ‘business giving’ with hospitality the sole activation.
Not this year. It was so refreshing to see the arts appreciated by brands and activated for what they can be – truly creative platforms on which to talk to an intelligent and passionate audience.
One reason for this is that brands are embracing digital technology and social media to engage audiences. Arts sponsorships often suffer in the numbers game. It used to be the case that a theatre can only sell all its seats once – not any more. Social media, streaming and live broadcasts have opened up fantastic opportunities for audience reach.
I loved Samsung and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s creativity - they used rap star Professor Green to play with Shakespearian language in a virtual reality app and series of YouTube films alongside a schools programme.
But it couldn’t beat Swarovski’s sponsorship of Savage Beauty which was a masterclass in fit and integration. Lee McQueen had used Swarovski crystals and bespoke materials in his collections since 1999 and Swarovski opened up their archive providing 30 stellar pieces.
They also worked hard to activate the sponsorship promoting craftsmanship, innovation and technology through a student competition with Central St Martins, periscope broadcasts and interactive Blippar content promoted via fold-out limited edition Nick Knight posters. They followed through in store and on line with films and supporting content, really engaged the fashion media and even managed to get the V&A shop to sell their crystal.
Wonderful to see the collaborative attitude and inspirational approach of the designer carried through to the partnership itself. Well done everyone involved.
Director, Albright Special
BNP Paribas' Sarah Alspach shares her wish list for corporates engaging with the charity sector.
In our increasingly connected world there are few who doubt the value and importance of partnership. Where these are forged between organisations with common incentives and shared values, navigating a path to mutual success still takes plenty of work, but when it comes to forming partnerships between corporates and charities the process can often be fraught with complexity because of some fundamental differences.
Yet arguably we need each other more than ever and if we can harness that power of diversity we can drive innovation and build a better shared future for everyone. What it takes is acceptance – of our differing needs, motivations, and strengths.
So what do corporates want from their charity partners:
If we get this right, together we will be a powerful force for change in addressing some of the economic and societal challenges we face, creating a more sustainable future for everyone.
UK Brand and Communications, BNP Paribas
The battle of Christmas ads is drawing to a close, continuing to leave us all reaching for the box of tissues again and again. Last year’s winner, John Lewis, upped the social-ante this year, by swapping the cute WWF’s adelie penguins for the white-haired old moon man and Age UK.
The cause-related campaign had a slow start in November with its “slightly spooky” (according to my 11 year old niece) Man on the Moon ad. The seven million pound TV campaign didn’t mention Age UK at all. However, it was updated with a second ‘behind the scenes’ charity-branded offering linked to the Age UK Christmas campaign ‘no one should have no one at Christmas’ and a call to action. Much better.
The initial retail offering of a branded mug and a card with a donation of 25% plus the VAT to Age UK was also extended to include moon installations in 11 stores that
encourage people to text Moon to 70800 to donate £5 and directing people to the charity’s online donation page.
There are other Man in the Moon marketing elements that don’t include the charity link – merchandise including glow in the dark pyjamas, chocolate coins and table cloths were perhaps considered too frivolous?
And the smartphone app of moon facts and games may have a hidden charity link but I haven’t been able to find it. Perhaps looking after older people at Christmas is considered unsuitable messaging for children? Or maybe just one too many thing to communicate?
This illustrates the real challenge of retail partnerships – what’s the perfect balance between cause-related marketing, and marketing the cause?
The best campaign not only drives brand narrative and retail sales for the business, impacts against awareness and fundraising targets for the charity but also contribute directly to the charitable mission – in Age UK’s case helping make later life an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.
Working with people – the charity clients – is the messy bit of these kind of partnerships. It requires on the ground community engagement – a different kind of time and effort to shooting ads and branding mugs.
John Lewis has run a series of events for people to get together at its stores. Each is organised locally by the estimable John Lewis staff with the help of Community Links. However, the staff partners on the John Lewis help line and in my local stores weren’t able to tell me anything about them, which is a shame. Perhaps more joined-up direct action through stores could be a target for next year?
So, for John Lewis. Room for improvement but still our Christmas number one.
Contrary to popular opinion, its not really the thought that counts – it’s the action.
December 17, 2015
The Albright Special is a knot (properly a bend) used in angling to bind two different types of line together smoothly.
The lighter line carries the fly to snare the unwary fish, the stronger line can bring him to the bank.
As an agency specialising in cross-sector partnerships we chose the name to epitomise the power of working with people with different skill sets. A well-managed partnership can run smoothly, do the job for as long as you need it to, and be untied at its close.
There are a lot of big fish out there. Let’s catch some!
December 16, 2015
We want to use this space to share our ideas, experiences and best practice about partnerships of all types – sponsorships, charity partnerships, corporate and brand programmes – anything where two organisations are working together to try and do something exceptional.
We are a team of experienced, can-do experts from a range of sectors. We see a growth in cross-sector working – through corporate sponsorship or charity programmes; through enforced cost cutting in local government service provision; through entrepreneurial opportunism – and want to help.
On Instagram @AlbrightImages we will be sharing images of partnerships – building a resource of examples of branding and marketing – and our twitter feed @AlbrightSpec is for news and anything else we find interesting!
We hope you will follow us on our journey. Get in touch!