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Posts from March 2019

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World Book Day: a few of Refresh’s favourite reads




At Refresh reading is something we do every day. From reading the specialist trade media looking for opportunities for our clients through to reading whitepapers, reports and keeping abreast of breaking news, it forms a major part of our job roles.

It turns out it isn’t just something we do for work though, it’s something we’re passionate about and love doing. So, with it being world book day we asked the team for their favourite reads, and, it’s safe to say there’s a lot of variety in the literature we all consume.

Erin

For me it’s Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon. If you think you’re a little bit crazy and don’t know why, this book will do two things: 1. Confirm it. You are a little bit crazy. 2. Convince you that is absolutely okay because EVERYONE is.

This first hand account of English journalist Bryony’s battle with OCD (not repeatedly cleaning cupboards and flicking light switches, but the more extreme levels of OCD) manages to be heart breaking and hilarious in equal measures. Anyone who struggles with mental health will have almost certainly faced similar challenges to Bryony, but she makes that association a really welcoming, safe space where you’re invited to feel more at one with whatever you’re going through.

It’s beautifully written, candid and frank and really resonates with you afterwards.

Lucy

My favourite book is Trainspotting (and pretty much everything else Irvine Welsh writes). My signed copy is my most prized possession!

I love that it’s written in the Scottish dialect, the brilliant character development throughout, and how it gives a really raw portrayal of addiction in the late 1980’s in Scotland. I laughed, I cried, I came close to vomiting multiple times during this book. It’s kept me coming back for more over the years and I’ve read it at least three times.

You can’t go wrong with any of Welsh’s books – once you can get your head around reading the dialogue, they’re all great.

I love how Welsh isn’t afraid to speak up politically and socially, either.  

Ash

My favourite book is The Handmaid’s Tale. I was first introduced to the novel in my English Literature A-Level class and fell in love right away. Set in a dystopian future, the book looks at some key themes that are cropping up in society at the moment such as social apartheid, gender roles and rebellion. The way Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale really submerges you in the story and I became incredibly invested when reading it. Fairly sinister, but The Handmaid’s Tale sparked a love for dystopian literature so when choosing my favourite book, it was a close call between this and Children of Men!

Matt

Picking one favourite book for me is a hard task; there have been so many great ones that I have read over the years. However, as I’m being forced to pick just one, I’d have to say To Kill a Mockingbird. To take the complex issues of racism and discrimination in the deep south and tell a story about it through the eyes of a child is incredibly powerful. I first read this as a teenager and still love it to this today. As I look at how my children see the world I often think that we could all do with thinking a bit more like children from time to time – and To Kill a Mockingbird perfectly encapsulates why.

Jake

My favourite book is Alan Partridge: Nomad. Even just looking at the front cover makes me laugh out loud – a tanned Alan posing pensively in a big white scarf. The book itself is really funny too and since reading it for the first time a few years ago, it’s been my go-to whenever I need a bit of a laugh.

I’ve always loved the I’m Alan Partridge TV series so when the book came out, I knew it was going to be a classic read. The ‘journey journal’ documents Alan’s personal journey as he follows in the footsteps of his father by walking from Norwich to nuclear reactor in Dungeness where Partridge senior once failed to attend a job interview.

Needless to say, Alan always has the last laugh throughout the book and it never fails to make me smile no matter how many times I read it – his hatred of Noel Edmonds (who he refuses to dignify with his full name) gets me every time.  

Ella

Harry Potter is a huge part of my childhood and is one of the reasons that I’m glad I was born in the 90’s. I’ve read all of them time and time again and still enjoy them as much as I did as a child. To this day, watching Harry Potter films or visiting places like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes me sad that there are no more books to come. As you can see from my photo, my Harry Potter books have been well loved by me and both my siblings. I think JK Rowling is brilliant and admire her for creating an entire world that swept people from all ages, all countries and all backgrounds off their feet. I’ll definitely be reading the books to my children one day!

Ben

My favourite book is Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi. This is slightly rogue I know, but I thought I’d share a cookbook for my favourite book. The simple reason for this being that few things on this planet give me more pleasure than cooking for people.

To me, food represents encompassing and wholesome experiences. It’s sharing and socialising with others - from loved ones to complete strangers, it’s triggering the fondest of memories, it’s the foundations of culture, it’s putting a smile people’s faces, it’s an outlet of creative expression and it’s quite often the highlight of my day.

In my humble onion, Yotam Ottolenghi is the king of the culinary world, and ‘Simple’ is his latest masterpiece. It’s packed with explosive and subtle flavor combinations that are all undeniably-Ottoleghi, encouraging big spreads made for sharing. From the delicious food through to the stunning photography and minimal design, Simple is truly a work of art. Give me a shout if you want any of the recipes!

 

 

  

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , PR, World Book Day

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Futurebuild 2019 – what we thought



Although it has gone by a few monikers, the basis of Futurebuild has remained the same over the years – the number one destination to explore and tackle the biggest challenges impacting the built environment. In fact, Futurebuild believes its new identity reaffirms its commitment to championing true innovation and sustainability across the built environment. That’s why every year we try and visit the exhibition to allows to get ahead of the curve when it comes to all things construction.        

Futurebuild 2019 tackles the overarching theme of Time for Action, a topic vague enough to cover a range of topics yet still remain relevant. The key themes displayed throughout the exhibition were centred around sustainability, the housing crisis, off-site construction, the skills shortage and digital transformation - all of which feature highly on the news agenda. With a raft of clients in the construction sector, the above topics feature regularly in editorial content, social media and whitepapers that we draft so it was great to speak with industry experts to determine their viewpoints.

Tech in construction

This year, the exhibition hosted a range of seminars and workshops to delve deeper into key topics within the industry, including ‘Unlocking Construction’s Digital Future – A skills plan for the industry’, looking into CITB’s future plans to help the construction industry adopt more technology in its day-to-day running. It covered everything from app downloads and cloud-based systems to AI, VR and augmented reality and how the industry can realistically adopt these modern methods of working to reduce overheads and increase productivity.

It was great to see that bodies within construction are taking technology more seriously and a very valid point was raised within the workshop directly linking the reluctance to adopt technology and the skills shortage. A comparison was made between construction and the pharma and finance industries; with the latter two apparently willing to embrace modern technology, they are seeing a high number of young people seeking employment whereas the youth don’t seem invested in an industry like construction, that seems too traditional and archaic.

Young people are digital natives and use technology in their every day lives. If they aren’t looking to pursue a career in construction then there is a lack of drive from the industry to adopt the latest method of technology – which is what makes CITB’s £3.3million investment in digital training so important.

Offsite

As well as the drive for tech, it was interesting to see the emphasis that was placed on offsite, with the exhibition having a dedicated section for this method of construction. Deemed as one of the best ways to counteract the housing crisis, most of the ‘show stopping’ offsite stands were ready made rooms and buildings as opposed to the individual components that make a building. The exhibition hall displayed numerous pre-made rooms and buildings, such as Portakabin, and talking to the teams behind these creations, it is clear to see how they can help meet stringent housing targets. One provider can even build a property using five carparking spaces, building upwards, taking away the problem of the lack of land available in our urban areas.

Heritage

For me, some of the most interesting elements of Futurebuild were not the brands and manufacturers that were there, but the messaging they were putting out. As we approach the deadline for Brexit, a lot of companies were adding an emphasis of the heritage of their business, with stand branding emphasising how many years they had been providing solutions for. This was complemented by their constant innovation, reassuring customers, both current and future, that they have the experience to provide real benefits to a building project whilst still always developing and innovating.

Sustainability

There was also a real emphasis on sustainability and being ‘green’ – something most stands had to some degree. The University of Brighton’s full stand was showcasing its building made of reclaimed products including music cassettes as wall cavity insulation, ex-office carpet tiles used as cladding  and 19,800 toothbrushes used for wall cavity. ZEDpower also displayed a ‘Zero Bills Home’, again showing its passivehaus ideology, something that went down very well with delegates.

Whilst the exhibition has undoubtedly decreased in size over the years, halving in size, the quality of conversations, seminars and workshops has remained as insightful and informative as ever. Whether you’re an architect, specifier or just someone with a vested interest in the construction industry, we’d recommend attending Futurebuild and more importantly, engaging in the opportunities available there.   

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , Built Environment, Construction, Home Interest, PR, Public Relations, Social Media

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North West Business Desk, Women in Business – a talk with Vanda Murray



As Operations Director one of my core job roles is developing and leading the implementation of Refresh’s professional development and training programmes. The great irony of this is that, in taking care of everyone else’s development and networking needs, my own can sometimes be overlooked.

 

This is something I vowed to ensure didn’t continue during 2019 and as such I recently spent an afternoon at the Hilton’s Cloud 23 bar in central Manchester for a talk with Vanda Murray as part of a Women in Business event hosted by the North West Business Desk.

 

With over 20 years of senior management experience across a range of B2B and B2C sectors in the UK, Europe, USA and Asia, Vanda now holds a wide range of non-executive directorships including Manchester Airports Group, Bunzl, Redrow and Fenner. She is also chair of governors at Manchester Metropolitan University.

 

It was fascinating to gain an insight into her experiences as a leader, as well as her views and visions for the future. Here’s what I took away from the talk.

 

Always play to your strengths

Ever since coming across Zenger Folkman’s The Extraordinary Leader over a decade ago, I have been passionate about the philosophy and approach that if you do what you are good at and what you love, you will be happier and fulfil your potential.

 

Here at Refresh, we’ve identified the fundamental competencies to be a competent PR professional and have created the Refresh Academy which equips our people with these core skills.

 

However, we recognise that the difference between being good and being great lies in identifying, building and utilising an individual’s unique strengths. This is why it was a breath of fresh air to hear Vanda highlight the importance of regularly taking a skills audit.

 

By doing so, we identify strengths that can be developed and refined to become specialisms, and also areas that require more work. Each of our team has different strengths across many different areas, which enables us to weave these in with one another in order to create a well-rounded agency that covers all bases of PR.

 

I’ve been with Refresh for three years and over this time have worked hard to achieve what we have today – a highly competent, high performing team full of different personalities playing to their strengths. Through helping people realise their potential and work to the best of their abilities we have created a great place to work.

 

The 4th revolution – be ready for it

It was no surprise that technological disruption and its impact on business remained a focal point throughout Vanda’s talk. Ultimately, every decision we make at Refresh comes back to how technology will impact our business and how we can remain responsive and flexible during a period of rapid change.

 

Vanda cleverly incorporated autonomous vehicles (AVs) into her talk to highlight why being proactive and flexible is so important for businesses of today. With car production forecast to decline by 70% over the next 20 years, AVs will last one million miles, and are expected to reduce fatal accidents by 90%, saving 400,000 lives each decade and $190bn a year in healthcare costs.

 

But as one problem is being solved, a second is being created. A reduction in road traffic fatalities will lead to a reduction in organ donation as vehicle deaths account for roughly 20% of all organ transplants.  But where there are problems, there is opportunity, and in Silicon Valley they are working on technology to 3D print human organs.

 

Vanda stressed that, like Silicon Valley, businesses need to be removing the fear of the future and getting ready to change. In the past week alone Refresh has received five new briefs, and for each one the team has come up with new and innovative ways to approach them, using much more than just traditional PR to deliver results for our clients. These efforts have been rewarded as of late, with our clients saying we are the most creative PR agency they have worked with.

 

By seeing problems as new opportunities to innovate and provide new solutions, businesses and their employees can be acting now to ensure they have the skills required for the future. Teams must be agile, creative and work collaboratively to drive innovation, change and growth.

 

The future of PR

Both listening to Vanda, and reflecting back on the talk since, my mind kept coming back to how everything she said could be taken back and applied to Refresh. This can be seen most clearly in two instances. First and foremost, as businesses become increasingly competitive, they will have to be more creative, bigger and bolder in their approach to stand out from the crowd. As such PR will play an increasingly important role in the marketing mix, bringing brands to life and ensuring they rise above the chitter chatter of the market with a clear voice.

 

Second, and perhaps more importantly, PR is well placed to come through these revolutionary times (in terms of how businesses operate and the technology that we use) ultimately being viewed as even more valuable than it is already. Much of the focus of Vanda’s talk was about the need for businesses to be creative, innovative and collaborative – all skills and attributes that come naturally to PR professionals. If the opportunity is taken PR as a sector will be able to not just shape the marketing and communications of businesses but also take our core skills and help drive forward other areas of the business as strategic consultants.  

 

As I continue to develop the Refresh Learning and Development framework I will be ensuring that these core skills sit at the heart of it, from our Graduate programme up to our Executive Development programme. And in doing so I will be confident that Refresh PR is ready to seize new opportunities and that any Refresh team member is fully prepared to work in a world that will be crying out for their expertise.

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged with: B2B PR agency Manchester , HR in PR agencies, the future of business, The future of PR