• The power of a single message

    Picture of man washing hands

    Over the years of looking after client PR we have consistently emphasised that any press release or social media post should convey just one single message to its target audience if it is to be effective.

    All too often the impact of a client’s key message can be lost because it is delivered surrounded by add-on information that clouds or dilutes what needs to be communicated.

    Step forward Boris Johnson, currently the national exponent of the single message. Every time he addresses the public about Covid-19, ie frequently, his concluding message is always the same:

    ‘to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, preferably every two hours.’

    The simple, direct, no frills, singular message, repeated constantly by the public-health team, is being heard and acted upon across the country. Of course, its impact is partly down to who is conveying the message: it is not exactly what we expect to hear from a Prime Minister. But leaving the power of the speaker’s position aside, Boris Johnson has consistently repeated the same words every time, resisting the temptation to elaborate or embroider, driving home the single message without drama in simple language.

    Full marks to his PR adviser.

    And thank you for confirming the power of a single message.

  • Saving the planet, one acorn at a time

    Acorns have always been important to us here at Phillips Profile. Adopted from the beginning as our logo, acorns represent potential and strength. Now with the call to plant 3 billion trees in the UK by 2050 to offset carbon emissions (, the humble acorn has even greater significance.

    The ambitious tree planting target means that each person in the UK needs to plant 1⅓ trees each year. The team here at Phillips Profile plan to play our part. We have collected our acorns and will soon be planting them in pots. Our aim is to grow at least 23 oak trees – that’s one for each year our consultancy has been in existence. We’ll also be trying to grow some horse chestnut trees.

    None of us is particularly green-fingered but fortunately growing oak trees from acorns is straightforward. Simply plant an acorn in a small pot of compost or soil, about an inch down. Leave outside and just make sure that it does not completely dry out over the winter. With luck you will see a shoot emerging around April. As the sapling grows, it will need transplanting to a bigger pot, ready to be planted out in the Autumn.

    If all goes well, we will have at least 23 oak trees next year all looking for a home. If you know of a school, hospital or other good cause that would like one of our trees then please let us know.

    Follow our progress on Twitter @phillipsprofile

    Here’s one we made earlier…

    Oak tree planted as an acorn in 2018

  • An invisible force

    ‘I haven’t seen you all day’ were the words from the CEO of a client we were assisting at a major international exhibition. Some PR consultants might be concerned by this observation, but I was pleased. PR is often something that works in the background. The exhibition had been a huge success, resulting in happy customers, deals made, many new contacts forged and widespread coverage. I had worked on everything from briefing the journalists and directing the film crews, to restocking goody bags and washing up coffee cups. And that is as it should be.

    A lot of the PR work had been done in advance, with press releases being issued under embargo, brochures drafted, and journalist meetings set up. On the day, my job was to make sure that everything went smoothly, or at least appeared to go smoothly, and that the client was seen at its very best. This may mean keeping a film crew happy while they are waiting for an interviewee to become available or calling through last-minute adjustments to materials released on the client’s website. It may also mean rolling up my sleeves to empty an overflowing bin. PR is about the client’s complete reputation, and at an exhibition it is often the little things that make a big impression.

    AIM Altitude, Aircraft Interiors Expo, Hamburg

    ULTRAFLEX – a visionary concept for a social area on ultra-long-haul flights

    ULTRAFLEX – a visionary concept for a social area on ultra-long-haul flights

    AIM Altitude attends the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg each year. It is the single most important show for the company. This year, the big news was the unveiling of ULTRAFLEX – a visionary concept for a social area on ultra-long-haul flights. ULTRAFLEX is a multi-functional space that can be transformed to provide areas for anything from business meetings and private dining, to viewing sports events or practising yoga.

    We knew that ULTRAFLEX was going to be a big story and the PR had to be carefully planned. We aimed to ensure maximum coverage but also to convey the key messages of flexibility and possibility within the tight certification requirements for commercial aircraft.

    The coverage was phenomenal.

    The crucial trade publications ran the story in depth, with many images and explanations of the unique concept and innovation. This is imperative to the product actually being adopted and implemented by airline customers. Due to the nature of the scheme, it was also of great interest among the consumer media and the story was run by such news feeds and publications as CNN and the Daily Mail. From this, the story went truly global with coverage in publications from National Geographic in Russia, to the Adelaide Advertiser.

    Possible space for practising yoga on ultra-long-haul flights

    Possible space for practising yoga

  • ‘And don’t serve posh biscuits’

    This was our final instruction some years ago to a client well known for courtesy towards its own clients. Coffee was always served with hand-made biscuits. Our client was keen to have local residents respond positively to a development proposal and had arranged a public meeting in the village hall. Emotions were running high amongst the local residents by the time Phillips Profile was asked to become involved; too late for us to suggest an alternative to the public meeting advertised. Our instruction regarding the biscuits sadly also failed to register with the client, and sure enough, along with the cups of tea served at the close of the volatile meeting were hand-made biscuits. It was small comfort to have our guidance vindicated by an irate resident snorting to his neighbour as they were leaving that they were being bribed by ‘posh biscuits’.

    There is more than one lesson to be learned from this cautionary tale.

    So much of a developer’s time at the outset of a project is taken up with planning regulations, meetings with planners, architectural drawings, groundwork plans, delivery routes to the site, the city council, the county council, local environmental expectations, that the ‘soft’ diplomacy towards local residents becomes an afterthought.

    Wrong.  It should be the first thought.

    The priority of any developer or business intending to bring major change to a neighbourhood should be to keep the local emotional temperature down. Unfortunately, it rarely is the priority. Time and again the required period of consultation is mishandled by the incoming organisation. Insensitive, clumsy, patronising, are all accusations levelled by residents at incomers. The latter’s consultation communication, more often than not appearing too late in the proceedings, raises hackles even before the consultation begins.

    Make the consultation appropriate to the residents.

    The expression ‘give the job to the person who will do it best’ could have been invented for public consultation with local residents. A busy developer is focused on delivery, not on creating the right environment for the delivery to be acceptable. This is the change maker. Use an experienced communications team.

    Then you won’t serve posh biscuits.  

    Related case studies: Generics, Nuffield Health, Cambridge Water

  • Nimbyism: how to avoid it and save money

    Right this minute, somewhere in Cambridge, local residents are up in arms, fearful of what happens next and indignant that powerful outsiders care nothing for their peace of mind. Just about every tower crane on the Cambridge horizon is a marker representing neighbourhood dismay.

    As the city planning department registers a continual stream of planning applications, many from national companies and construction giants, it is in reality recording a major transformation of the city by external forces, one that to many individuals is disruptive, worrying and deeply unsettling.

    What is upsetting about all this is that it is unnecessary and could largely be avoided. After all, new buildings have risen from the ground in Cambridge for generations.

    Cambridge Water, The Fitzwilliam Museum and most recently Nuffield Health, have all undertaken major building work here in the last decade, and in each case there was the impact of inconvenience, especially during the construction stages. What there was not, was undue alarm and a feeling of helplessness amongst the local residents.

    Why not?

    Good communication.

    Nuffield Health Hospital, Cambridge

    Nuffield Health Hospital, Cambridge

    Take Nuffield Health as an example. Months before the planning application for a new hospital to be built upon Trumpington Road was submitted to the city authorities, every near neighbour to the future construction site was aware of what was in prospect, because Nuffield Health told them. A vigorous dialogue between the incomer and the incumbents was conducted over several months of early-stage planning and at no time was this cut off. That the residents were well-briefed in advance throughout was of equal concern to the Nuffield Health project team as the architects’ design and the choice of bricks.


    Residents took a deep breath, acknowledged there would be upheaval at times, then did everything to be tolerant wherever they could. Where an intolerable situation arose, it was dealt with immediately by Nuffield Health and the site project manager.

    It can be done. If you know how.

    Cambridge Water headquarters building

    Cambridge Water Headquarters


    Find out more about how we have worked with organisations planning developments such as: GenericsCambridge Water and The Fitzwilliam Museum