Today We Are Comma is celebrating our second birthday! Another year has whizzed by so as is our custom, we are taking some time to reflect on the year.
Our biggest take away from this year is the importance of supporting one another. Last year we wrote about the importance of choosing clients carefully. This year we have been so grateful that we did and we want to give an especially big thank you to all our clients.
Support goes both ways so as well as the services we always provide for our clients, we try to go above and beyond to add extra value and when we can provide favours. We believe in what our clients are trying to achieve and usually have to rein ourselves in knowing there are only so many hours in a day – so we love it when we get a chance to go overboard for a client and do that bit extra.
So, what does the next year have in store for We Are Comma? We’ve got some exciting potential projects coming up with even more new clients – watch this space. We’ll continue to give our clients the excellent creative service they expect from us. In our last blog post we spoke about how the team has grown over the last year – so maybe we’ll grow the team again this year. We’ll definitely be sharing more on our social media channels so keep an eye out to see what we’re up to on our LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.
Who would you like to give a shout out for their support this year?
What a year! I suppose I better start by explaining why we have been so quiet over the last almost a year. Well for a start we have been growing the team; in more ways than one. I have been off on maternity leave. Last October, my second son was born. It’s been an exciting, challenging and very special time. Maternity leave when you’re running your own business is quite different to when you are an employee.
When I had my elder son, someone covered my role while I was away on maternity leave. I left them an instruction manual of my job and ensured they understood what needed to be done, when. They had contact details for my boss so any problems they could reach them. I’d emailed HR and they knew my plans about maternity leave. They would arrange my pay. On my last day of work (two days before my son was due), I said my farewells for a year and off I went. My role was covered. My boss was happy. I was about to meet my baby.
This time it was a very different matter. [Let’s not talk about being pregnant, giving birth and after care in a global pandemic!] For a start the practicalities of maternity leave are very different – arranging maternity pay is much more confusing. No simple email to HR to say when you’re off. But once I had got over that. I needed to arrange cover for my work. I had a range of trusted colleagues, whom I had worked with over the years to ask to cover writing, comms and PR for our clients as needed. This worked well and ensured continuity. Al could oversee work and do the client liaison side of things.
The good thing about working for yourself is often flexibility and during maternity leave this proved to be very true. If I was needed, I was just a phone call away. And those phone calls could happen anytime not just Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. For me this was a huge plus as I could arrange calls for when my sons were in bed or at times my husband would be around to take care of his kids.
This flexibility has also been so useful for me in coming back to work. I am now back working with We Are Comma one day a week to smooth the transition for my family. As we get used to things, I will be back working more hours but this flexibility is so valuable with young children. Unlike a job as an employee, I am not forced in fixed hours each week as soon as I return. I can take things slow but if they are going well, I can ramp my hours up quickly. Likewise, when the inevitable – with two young kids – sick days happen I can be flexible in my hours so I can care for them.
I mentioned our team has grown in more ways than one. As well as trusted colleagues joining us on the comms, PR and writing side of things, we have also had Dan join our team to strengthen and add to our web offering. Mark has also joined us a graphic designer to expand our capacities in this area. Read more about Dan, Mark and the rest of the team here.
So, what have I missed? What’s been your biggest news story of the last year?
This means text lines that are too long (use max 60–70 characters), dense blocks of words in small size and blocks with too little leading (the space between). Also, having text aligned centrally, or justified (especially in large amounts) can present problems for readers too. Note that left-aligned text is always easier to read, especially for those with visual impairment or where English is a second language. Equally, any copy should always be displayed using good contrast from the background. It doesn’t necessarily have to be dark on light but careful consideration should always be given when any text is used on a darker background. Note also, the difference between how electronic and physical print delivery displays too. Print generally requires more contrast to show any variation between shades or tints.
2. Too many fonts used or unsuitable combinations of style
Unless carefully handled, too many fonts can mean that the design has a disorganised, unprofessional look. A decent rule of thumb is to stick to two. Remember, certain fonts might have additional weights (or thicknesses) and these can be used to help add variety without the same consequence.All too often, lazy stereotypical font choices are applied to designs, with the same display font used again and again. This reduces the impact and can, in some instances also make it harder to read. On other occasions, it’s simply that personal choice has overruled common sense. For example, a loose, light handwritten style would most likely not be the first choice for a serious financial institution.
3. Ignoring or failing to incorporate any visual hierarchy rules
Hierarchy is a key graphic design principle. It communicates with the viewer the importance of each element to those around it. Think carefully about the order that any titles, subtitles, blocks of text need to be read. Is the correct message presented? The size, weight and colour all play their part, as does the space allowed around any elements.
4. The placing of any elements within the design
With proper alignment (and this doesn’t necessarily mean total symmetry), an order or balance can be created that helps to hold a design together. If this is missing, products or material can look messy, disorganised and as we’ve mentioned before unprofessional. There will always be examples that appear to break the rules but these are usually produced by skilled practitioners and normally there’s still a (hidden) system at work. By using an underlying grid, quality control can be maintained whilst still allowing scope for creativity. Think about magazines and newspapers. These need to be produced to strict deadlines yet still manage to include layout variety.
5. Failing to communicate effectively
Even trained designers can be guilty of this. It’s easy to get caught up and create a design that loses sight of the audience that it’s intended for. Making it appeal to our tastes or preferences rather than focusing on how the item needs to be used is a mistake. Additionally, this can also lead to any criticism of the design, being taken personally rather than objectively. A decent rule of thumb is to keep things simple.
The UK, and the world as a whole, is facing an unprecedent situation. Governments, healthcare professionals and scientists are still trying to figure out how to tackle Covid-19 and deal with its after affects. So it’s no surprise that many businesses are unsure of how to handle the situation. But there are ways to protect your business reputation during this time.
Hopefully you already have a business continuity plan in place. If you don’t, there are lots of places online which can provide a template for you to use. Some useful links and organisations are:
Business continuity plans often differ and there are various elements they may contain however some of the most important parts are:
Risk matrix: this helps a business see what scenarios could take place and then consider the likelihood. This then helps a business make sure they focus preparations on the most likely situations the business could face.
Potential scenarios: each business needs to take time with senior managers to brainstorm worst case scenarios, difficult scenarios and then less impactful issues which will affect business effectiveness but not require a shut down etc. These should then be RAG- rated. Though the BBC uses Gold, Silver and Bronze. The BBC has a great toolkit available here. This is where you need to add in the potential affects of coronavirus on your business. How will it affect your staff and customers? How will it affect the ability of your business to function?
Contact list: a vital part of your Business continuity plan is contact numbers. In an emergency everyone in leadership or vital roles need to be contactable. You should have your Business continuity plan team in place and they should all have their contact details on the form. Other organisations in your supply chain or partners you regularly work with are also useful to have on this list.
Checklist: This takes the person coordinating any event which interrupts business continuity through a list of things they need to do from building evacuation, calling emergency services, briefing staff etc depending on the situation. The checklist should be generic enough to be suitable for any emergency.
Activity log: This is vital, every detail of your business response must be recorded here. This document is vital and can be considered a legal document.
Evaluation and return to normal business: Once an emergency is over, your business needs to have a phased response to how the organisation returns to normal and then how the situation is evaluated to allow the business to avoid risk in future and/or better respond to emergencies.
Once you have created your business continuity plan make sure it is saved in multiple places in case of system failure. In addition, a hard copy needs to be available at every site your organisation operates from. Key members of staff need to know where it is so they can grab it in time of emergency. It’s also worth having other items like pen, pencil, spare mobile phone, torch and anything else you think you might need with it. These can be stored in a box file or bag.
Testing your Business continuity plan is vital. Tests can be run on desktops, talking through scenarios and response. It is ideal to have a real-time test scenario which involves all levels of staff at least once a year. Again, from these learnings the Business continuity plan should be updated. Your plan should be reviewed and updated at least once a year too.
The next step is to plan your communications. In an emergency situation you don’t want to be worrying about drafting statements to give to the media or other interested parties. Of course, emergency situations are fast moving and statements will need to change but you can certainly draft some statements, especially initial ones while you are establishing the facts of the situation, in advance. This helps put you on the front foot.
It is also useful to make sure you have someone who is responsible for the communications with different audiences – staff, customers, media, suppliers etc. This takes pressure off of the situation coordinator but the communications person should be working closely with them and the management team to make sure the right messages are getting out at the right time. If you don’t have someone you can trust to manage your business reputation, then make sure you know where to turn in a crisis. Even better, have support in place before you need it. Comma can give your business continuity plan a critical friend review and help with drafting your initial statements. We can also provide comms and media support in times of crisis, even setting up a temporary, mobile press office for your business if required.
Are you confident your business can weather any storm it faces? Do you have plans in place for dealing any negative effects of coronavirus?
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