Riot Director Adele Minchin on how the PR industry can help colleagues thrive, simply by listening to their needs

Aged seven, my son was diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia. Lots of well-known figures also have the condition including Daniel Radcliffe, Cara Delevigne, Florence Welch and Albert Einstein was even believed to have had dyspraxia. You have probably known someone with dyspraxia and been unaware of their condition – the child at school labelled clumsy, messy, not gifted at sport, fidgety. A particularly observant teacher noticed that no matter how many times she asked my son to sit up straight on the mat, to do cursive handwriting or to stop fidgeting in his seat, he just could not do it. DCD means he has issues with coordination, sequencing, motor planning, organising himself and his environment, and because of problems with balance, will fidget and squirm to keep upright. DCD is a neurodevelopmental condition not a learning disorder. It is a lifelong condition.

Every new school year, to help smooth the transition to a new teacher, my husband and I update our son’s ‘passport’ which explains his condition, how it affects him, the consequences of his condition and things that can be put in place in the classroom to help mitigate potential problems. As he grows older, his development, his needs, his behaviour and learning evolves. The passport anticipates potential new issues for the new school year. As he goes into Year 6, for example, the use of a protractor and a compass is introduced and so specialist equipment needs to be considered, as well as instructions broken down into small steps on how to use the equipment. The passport acts as a checklist and a guide.

We’re not apologetic about his condition and his needs. We accept the condition and take practical steps to manage it and help our son grow, careful to work collaboratively and sensitively with the SENCO and his teachers. We encourage our son to ‘own’ his condition and to politely refer to his ‘passport’ when he’s struggling and finding it difficult to articulate his challenges to a teaching professional who he might not be getting quite the right support from. He wears his condition with pride and is learning from a young age to share his needs, to make polite demands of those working with him, for their patience and acceptance.

At Riot Communications, when we recruit, our MD, Preena Gadher, talks in interviews with potential candidates about creating an environment at work where colleagues can be their true selves. The daughter of working class, immigrant parents she has had to code switch in previous jobs to assimilate. She doesn’t want that for anyone at Riot.

Part of being your true self at work does of course involve thinking about your particular needs, personal to your background and circumstances. We ask candidates what their needs are to do their very best work. One interviewee was so stunned by the question tears came to her eyes. She said she’d never been asked that question by an employer before and had to have 24 hours to think about it. She was so grateful. Wouldn’t every professional environment benefit from asking such a simple question? And following through of course.

Needs can range from flexible start or finish times for exercise or a counselling session, to a colleague with dyslexia needing extra time to proofread an email or piece of copy. An employee might need access to a prayer room or extended holidays to do long haul trips to visit family overseas or weekly check-ins with a line manager or Mental Health First Aider on their Wellness Action Plan. When considering a career opportunity, a potential employee might have higher needs such as an informal, non-corporate working environment or a role that is purpose driven and has social impact. I’m a working mother and my needs are based around flexible working so I can be present for my son, as well as the business. Working in an environment where we accept and celebrate that everyone has different physical, emotional, and practical needs, can only mean a happier, more diverse and productive workforce. The better we are as employers at understanding our teams’ needs, empowering and encouraging them to, like my son, create their own ‘passports’ that can be referred to when necessary, the better a working environment we will create.

There’s no mistaking that life in a PR agency is fast-paced, high pressure and full of demands so finding the time to consider your own and your employees’ needs is often easier said than done. The PRCA PR census 2019 showed that, on average, 62% of PR and communications professionals are contracted to work 35 hours a week. However, in reality only 21% of them work those hours. 50% end up working 45 hours a week. This figure reflects trends in previous Censuses, but in 2019 there was a 5% increase in the number of people working an additional 10 hours a week. In addition, 19% of respondents claim to work 55 hours a week. 32% of respondents suffered from or had been diagnosed with mental ill health. The PR industry is waking up to a mental health emergency and the findings detailed in the PRCA’s Opening the Conversation: Mental Wellbeing in Public Relations report, places enormous importance on the industry taking responsibility for employees and finding an alternative to the ‘always on’ culture. Finding time for our needs has never been more important.

This school term, we introduced a notebook into our son’s support plan so he can doodle in it when he needs to focus. Creativity spills from the margins. The school bought him a wobble cushion to help with his balance, posture and core stability. He gets fewer tellings off for fidgeting as a result. He didn’t know he needed a wobble cushion or a doodle pad but both have improved the quality of his work and the experience he has at school. It took the patient observation, acceptance and willingness of the professionals around him to help him discover what he needed. Perhaps we all need a doodle pad and a wobble cushion? Perhaps we just need someone willing to take the time to sit down and talk to us about our needs, someone to take notice, someone to care.

Riot x Costa Coffee Christmas Campaign

  • 100,000 books gifted across the nation by Christmas Eve, in partnership with leading charity The Reading Agency
  • Bestselling authors lend their support to the campaign to share the joy of reading, including Malorie Blackman, Simon Callow, Candice Carty-Williams, Konnie Huq, Michael Morpurgo, Andy McNab, Bobby Seagull and Jacqueline Wilson

Costa Coffee, the Nation’s Favourite Coffee shop (Allegra Strategies, 2019), is partnering with leading charity The Reading Agency to share the joy of reading this Christmas, by gifting 100,000 books to some of the families and communities hit hardest by the pandemic this year.

50,000 book-and-coffee care packages – containing one adult book, one children’s book, and a range of festive Costa Coffee treats – will be distributed to food banks, community hubs, hospitals and care homes across the UK, in time for Christmas Eve. The books in each care package have been selected from the works of six bestselling authors connected to the Costa Book Awards, including Malorie Blackman, Candice Carty-Williams and Michael Morpurgo.

The Costa Coffee Gift-A-Book campaign is inspired by Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books with loved ones on Christmas Eve. Loosely translated, Jolabokaflod means ‘Christmas Book Flood’: it is a Christmas Eve tradition dating back to World War Two, where Icelanders give and receive books and read them through the night with chocolate and a hot drink.

Other high-profile names – including author and actor, Simon Callow; author and TV presenter, Konnie Huq; author and former SAS soldier, Andy McNab; writer and mathematician, Bobby Seagull, and former Children’s Laureate, Jacqueline Wilson – will also lend their support to the campaign by sharing their own favourite book to gift ahead of Christmas Eve, encouraging members of the public to embrace their own Jolabokaflod tradition at home this year and share their top reading choices using #CostaGiftABook.

Michael Morpurgo, author of family favourites War Horse and Kaspar: Prince of Cats, one of the books included in the care packages, said: “Reading is a journey of discovery which set me on the path to writing. Without it, I don’t know where I would be, so I believe it is absolutely vital that every person, whatever age and wherever they live, should have access to books and the doors they allow us to step through. That’s why I’m thrilled with Costa Coffee’s generous book donation and passionate about supporting the work of The Reading Agency.”

Neil Lake, MD, Costa Coffee UK & Ireland, said: “Tradition is a big part of Christmas and, although this year will feel different for many people, we wanted to help some of those hardest-hit to create a new tradition inspired by this heart-warming custom of gifting books on Christmas Eve. As the proud sponsor of the Costa Book Awards, which is almost in its 50th year, we know the power of a great read and a perfect cup of coffee. Our teams are passionate about supporting the local communities they serve and, by gifting these care packages in partnership with The Reading Agency, we hope to give back to those communities with a comforting and joyful experience at the end of a turbulent year.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, added: “We are delighted to be announcing this partnership with Costa Coffee. Books connect and transport us to other worlds, but not everyone can access them: this has been especially true in 2020, which has been so challenging for so many. We have had an extraordinary response to the campaign, and we hope that it will bring some much-needed festive cheer to families and communities from Liverpool to Folkestone, from the Isle of Man to the Isle of Mull. We are working towards a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life, and initiatives like this help our work towards giving every child and adult equal access to the joy of reading.”

In February 2020, Costa Coffee was voted The Nation’s Favourite Coffee Shop for the 10th consecutive year by Allegra Strategies. The Costa Book Awards, one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular book prizes, has been running since 1971 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

Aardman partners with leading games publisher BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment to develop new IP

The multi-award-winning independent animation studio, Aardman, and leading global video game developer and publisher, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe join forces to develop a brand new IP, driven by a shared vision on the future of entertainment.

The collaboration’s first major project exists across multiple media, and the team will be approaching partners in early 2021 with the development materials. Aardman’s talent in creating characters and worlds will be used, in collaboration with BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe’s expertise in publishing and development, to create stories tailored for current and future platforms.

Daniel Efergan, ECD of Interactive suggests “As modern storytellers, the formats we create for are fundamentally changing year on year.  This creates a space bubbling with potential, the chance to weave worlds with many windows, allowing people to play, watch or even perform with the IPs we create.  But no matter what the format, no matter what the platform, the need for characters to fall in love with, epic universes to explore, and ultimately great storytelling, will always be front and centre.”

Sean Clarke, Managing Director of Aardman, commented: “Interactive Entertainment is a huge growth area within the entertainment world, and with new emerging technology blurring the lines of watching and playing, we are keen to develop strategic partnerships with partners such as BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe that share our vision of creating new IP that embraces this new world and cement our studio’s reputation as a multi-disciplinary creative hub.”

“This new partnership with Aardman is a dream come true, as it opens up a world of possibilities,” said Hervé Hoerdt, SVP of Digital, Marketing & Content at BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe, “The teams at Aardman and BNEE are a perfect cultural and creative fit to build a successful long term partnership, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”

More details about this exciting collaboration between Aardman and BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe will be announced at a later date.

Aardman’s work in interactive storytelling includes the 2018 game, 11-11: Memories Retold, and in 2020 it will release Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up, a brand-new immersive AR experience, in collaboration with Fictioneers backed by funding from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).