Engineering a brighter future

It’s possibly no surprise that the acquisition of Peter Brett Associates (PBA) by multinational Stantec two years ago went largely unnoticed beyond industry observers. “That’s typical of us,” the company’s UK CEO Paul Reilly told Tim Wickham. “We tend to keep our achievements to ourselves and don’t spend time shouting about them. We just focus on solving planning and construction challenges and supporting our clients.”

Stantec project: Reading’s iconic Christchurch pedestrian and cycle bridge over the river Thames

Key quotes:

On growth: “We had reached the point where we were well known for our community development projects, supporting residential and regeneration schemes, and our innovative planning and transport infrastructure work. Our strategic insight and vision for places were highly regarded. But as we became more engaged in larger scale project delivery, we found we weren’t always able to match the scale of our competitors.”

On carbon emissions: For us, it’s about taking carbon out of construction design processes, for example, by reducing the amount of steel and concrete used. It’s also about reinventing and regenerating town centres, so land and buildings support more health facilities, social housing and amenities.”

Read the full article here.

Making office space COVID-19 secure

As the COVID-19 lockdown eases, commercial fit-out and furniture specialist Mobius says companies are already viewing office space differently. The firm is well-placed through its use of digital and virtual reality (VR) technology to support companies searching for inspiration. Company founder Kevin Lancaster tells Tim Wickham what the ‘new normal’ might look like.

Key quotes:

“An important consideration at the moment is trust,” says Lancaster. “We have trusted in the Government to act. Now we need to trust employers to create COVID-19 secure workplaces where people are safe. And companies need to have trust and faith in their employees to work effectively in these new work environments.”

Lancaster expects many businesses will look at localising offices when their current leases expire by taking space nearer to where their employees live. “We expect to see smaller offices and ‘communication lounges’ for staff to use combined with home working.”

Read the full article here.

Tips to make your customer stories more compelling

Fireworks 2

You can’t beat a good story to get your business noticed. That’s why customer case studies in brochures and newsletters are so compelling. They are often what people like to read first. After all, readers don’t just want to hear you telling them how good your products or services are; they like to check an independent view as well. The opinions and verdicts of satisfied customers helps persuade prospects they are making the right decision in choosing your business.

The strongest element in company brochures, newsletters and websites is often the story telling. This is your opportunity to produce compelling copy with a soft sell subtly woven into the fabric of the story. Having captured people’s attention, you can position your business, brand, culture and identity in the best possible light.

It can be a challenge bringing together the ingredients needed for strong customer stories that stick in the mind. A useful approach is to put POWER (Perspective, Ownership, Warmth, Endorse, Rapport) in your copy:

Perspective – see the world from the customer’s point of view, not yours. Tell stories relevant to their world and let them make their own minds up about how good you are.

Ownership – tell your stories in the first person, highlight the actions of colleagues and say why they are important to the story,  personalise the content with your own contact details at the end. This builds trust and confidence that you are accountable and prepared to ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’.

Warmth – show compassion and a deep understanding of customers’ challenges – plus a readiness to help tackle them. A ‘we’re in this together’ philosophy creates stronger stories.

Endorse – the all-important real-life examples of how you help customers is your opportunity to say ‘Don’t just take our word for it…’. One of the first things businesses look for are what other customers have to say about you.

Rapport – speak the same language as your customers with straight-talking, jargon-free communication that they will understand and respond to positively.

If you want to put more POWER in your company stories contact us.

Paw turnout at work

Dogs3The tail definitely wags the dog at EDG. Pooch power drives the business, and not just on Bring Your Dog to Work Day, which this year is on 22 June. EDG’s three tail-wagging co-workers never miss the chance to assist in the smooth running of the business.

Having a national day to bring your dog to work is a transatlantic thing, with initiatives taking place in the UK and US.

The UK’s Bring Your Dog To Work Day has been organised since 2014 by Hownd, a natural pet care brand for dogs. It supports two charities – All Dogs Matter and Animals Asia. Hownd cites scientific studies that support claims pets can reduce a person’s stress levels at work. According to Hownd, workers who have taken part in the day report increased job satisfaction and improved team co-operation.

US-based Pet Sitters International (PSI), an educational association for professional pet sitters, started the stateside Take Your Dog To Work Day in 1999. Its survey of 1,000 pet owners found 78% thought a pet-friendly policy was an employee benefit. While 82% felt pets help reduce stress in the workplace, and 63% said pets at work could encourage colleagues to collaborate and interact more.

Significantly, just over half the respondents in PSI’s survey said a pet-friendly policy would be a deciding factor between two potential employers who were equal on all other counts.

Of course, you have to be very careful about how a dog day is organised, particularly the suitability of the workplace and the pets. You’ll need to consider the feelings of colleagues who don’t count themselves as canine lovers.

If you want further compelling benefits, Blue Cross, the animal welfare charity, offers tips for bringing dogs to work.

It’s not just dogs that can help us humans.

Charities like Pets as Therapy visit hospitals, nursing and care homes to improve patients’ health and wellbeing with animals. And calming, fluffy animals can help stressed students.

The charity Greatwood uses former racehorses to educate disadvantaged children and young adults with special educational needs. Riding for the Disabled Association also shows the transformative effect horses can have. And anyone can pop into a cat café for coffee and feline pampering.

With the dogs at work day approaching, why not take the lead? Suggest your boss opens the door to dogs. And don’t worry if colleagues think you’re a bit barking. Man’s best friend etc.

Humour at work? You’re having a laugh

Mad image 2A Google search for ‘humour at work’ reveals just two results. And one is for hummus at work.

Actually, that’s a rather poor attempt at humour. There are millions of Google results (95.9, 54.5 or 3.36 million, depending on which day you search). Whatever. Clearly, there’s no shortage of smarta***s out there.

Aparently, the ability to laugh with colleagues, laugh at yourself – just laugh – is fundamental to being human. It’s what sets us apart from animals. Try telling that to a hyena.

But how much humour, and when, are tricky questions.

A little light humour during dark periods of stress can work wonders. In a busy workplace, you can’t beat a bit of banter. Those one-liners or a running joke that wends its way back and forth can boost morale.

The funny thing is how seriously people take humour. Take these two events coming up in June and July 2018. Real rib ticklers, and there are probably plenty more like them.

The International Society for Humor Studies’ 30th annual conference should be a laugh a minute. Or 5,760 minutes – four days of academic presentations from theories on verbal humour to satire in politics.

If you prefer Wolverhampton to Tallinn this summer, there’s an international summer school on humour and laughter. It’ll get you up to speed on the theory and methods used in the scientific study of humour.

Is humour worth the effort? Evidence, as if it were needed, suggests it is.

Researchers at Wharton School discuss in a Wall Street Journal podcast how teams work better when they laugh and joke together. They say humour can improve productivity, although we’re not sure if that’s meant to be a joke.

Fortunately, there’s even a place for sarcasm, so long as it doesn’t turn nasty or negative. The Wharton School researchers found that being on the end of sarky comments can actually boost your own creativity and expand the way you think.

The researchers even say humour can improve your status at work – on the basis that you’re more confident and willing to get involved doing stuff that gets you noticed. Although some of the glummer senior execs we’ve worked with prove exceptions to this rule.

So, what kind of worker are you? The ‘pack up your troubles and just get happy’ or the ‘heavens knows I’m miserable now’ type?

Remember, your next joke could make all the difference to your career.

Cut your clichés for clearer copy

Blue sky thinking outside the box to upsize low hanging fruit delivers a win:win scenario. What? Call it corporate-speak, jargon or gobbledegook, we are probably all guilty of slipping the occasional confusing business babble or cringeworthy cliché into our conversations and copy.

Although jargon can be criticised as a sign of lazy copy you sometimes just can’t help yourself. If a hackneyed phrase paints a clear picture that colleagues easily understand and helps convey important messages then carefully rationed use should be okay in business language. And you never know, clichés could help you climb the career ladder.

A good rule is to challenge yourself about what the word or phrase really means and ask whether you can say the same thing more clearly in a different way.

If you want to avoid the more obvious examples then check these, these and these. And if you want some fun trying out your own then the Plain English Campaign’s gobbledegook generator can help.

At the end of the day it’s not rocket science. Co-workers probably won’t mind a limited sprinkling of the stuff. However, most of us would probably prefer to be remembered for our positive contributions to business success rather than our catchphrase.

Our tip is to replace the traditional office swear box with a clichometer to penalise the most over-used examples. It’s a big ask but by the close of play you could have a tidy sum to donate to charity.

Why it is okay to split infinitives

Whenever a Star Trek movie hits the big screen the USS Enterprise’s mission is, as always, ‘to boldly go…’. Meanwhile, down here on earth a debate Mr Spock would surely consider illogical re-ignites. Should we split our infinitives?

The answer is yes, no or maybe, depending on your personal preference or corporate style guidelines. But what matters more – rules or readability? Copy needs to flow easily and splitting infinitives is no longer such a serious rule breaker.

Indeed, the Smithsonian describes split infinitives as one of many ‘phoney rules’ in grammar. Oxford University Press supports the view, saying objectors have no real justification. OUP notes ‘people have been splitting infinitives for centuries’. Or longer, in Captain Kirk’s case.

The conversational tone you see in good corporate writing has room for flexibility. The best corporate style embraces George Orwell’s advice to break rules rather than say ‘anything outright barbarous’. However, a line should be drawn, and phasers set to stun, in the fight against sloppy copy.

If the split infinitive scans okay, then it probably is okay. When you think about it, if Kirk & co had instead decided ‘to go boldly’ they might not have gone quite so far.

Continue the conversation after your conference

handshakeEverybody agrees your conference was a massive success. Handshakes and high fives all round. New opportunities abound with a stack of business cards and email addresses to personalise communication with your new fans.

You have confirmed people are happy to receive information from you in the future. So what now?

Your audience of customers and prospects will expect something useful from you. Your communications must deliver value to them. A great way to start or continue business relationships at this crucial point is with a post-event publication.

A magazine or newsletter summarising what was said provides delegates with a handy summary of the event, especially sessions they may have missed, in an easily digestible format. Even better, you can send the publication to people who couldn’t attend as well as prospects to entice them to your next event.

You can build stronger client relationships after conferences and seminars by:

• Sharing your knowledge leadership – capture and present your key messages plus information discussed and shared on the day. As well as your own experts you are likely to have involved external speakers, whose influential opinions you can include. Often, the key highlights at events are the informal, unscripted elements such as Q&A sessions. These can be summarised for publication if you have someone there to report on them.

• Keep the communication going – publications provide essential follow-up contact that should create lasting interest in your organisation, especially for people who couldn’t attend your event.

A magazine, newsletter or brochure is a great way to add extra value in your mix of customer engagement activities. At EDG, our writers, photographers and designers can rapidly create impactful content and images from events to produce a timely publication that captures the flavour of the day and acts as a memorable reminder of your industry-leading views.

Really, it couldn’t be easier for you. Contact us and we’ll show you how