Single sex education: a good idea?

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The debate about single-sex education consistently makes headlines. Just in the last week, the Swedish government proposed a ban on single-sex classrooms across all subjects. In the same week, another article claimed that attending a single-sex school increases a student’s chance of progressing to university.

So, with such contrasting views, how do you know if a single-sex education actually offers any benefit over a mixed-sex education? Which one is right for you or your child?

As a PR agency we represent a range of different educational organisations to their key stakeholders, and always look for the best each has to offer.  Across our team we have people who have experienced pretty much every type of education on offer, including comprehensives, grammar schools, private schools and international schools, so education is a topic we often discuss.

I was asked to write this blog post after one such discussion.

Personally, to answer the question ‘how do know what type of education is right for you or your child?’ I only need think back to being educated in an all-girls school for my whole education. I have no doubt that being in a single-sex environment led me to perform to the best of my academic ability. However, admittedly, I can only speculate as I never experienced mixed-sex schooling.

I know that for me, being in an all-girls school environment meant I was able to grow at my own pace, without the pressure to impress boys, be distracted, or feel self-conscious. I think I gained self-confidence from not having to compete with boys, and the school certainly supported a ‘can-do’ philosophy, encouraging us to make the most of every opportunity that came our way, and encouraging our career aspirations.

I strongly remember a culture of achievement at my school, where academic progress was very important, with no barriers to success. We had the opportunity to take the lead in fields such as engineering and science, which are often male-dominated in a co-educational environment. At a girl’s school, a girl occupies every role, offering a wide range of opportunities for self-exploration and development.

I do want to stress however, that I believe it’s very important to mix with boys outside a school setting, as of course, in the workplace, and in life, the two genders do co-exist and it is important not to feel daunted by the opposite sex. I joined a mixed hockey club outside of school and I found this a brilliant way of ensuring I was with boys regularly.

I thrived in an all-girls education, however I know it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s important to consider each individual independently. I remember some of my peers resenting being in an all-girls environment, and several left after secondary school, choosing to go to the mixed school nearby for Sixth Form. I personally chose to remain at the school because, despite being curious and wanting to experience co-education, I knew that I would achieve the best results I could where I was.

Writing key messages

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A great message can come to you in a flash, or you can work on it for days on end. Here’s some tips to help you with the process of writing key messages.

 

Your key messages can and should change quite often.

Your product or offer might not have changed, but your audience or your market probably has.

It’s especially important to get your messages right now that we’ve entered the era of unreliable reviews and ‘post truth.’

A great way to start is to return to the basic ‘what, why, where, when’ to define your offer.   Then it helps to check your messages against some key factors:

Evidence

What evidence do I have to back up this statement?  This could be market research, product testing, a case study or a client quote.

Target audience

What features or benefits do I need to convey to my different target audiences? What are their concerns or needs that I can meet or help?

Positivity

Am I using positive phrases and actions? A complicated sentence is often perceived as less positive or honest.  Use short sentences with positive convictions.

Understandable

This sounds so obvious as to be silly, but actually you should check –  are you so wrapped up in your product bubble that you’ve adopted marketing speak rather than normal words and sentences?

Writing good, convincing key messages is an art form, like writing a good tweet.  We cite Rob Temple who built his fortune on the twitter feed, followed by the books: “Very British Problems.” 

His tweets look so innocent and funny, like a sudden observation of a moment of awkwardness: but he often takes one whole day to write a tweet.

So if you’ve lost your sense of humour, and are so bogged down writing key messages and PR content that you can’t see the wood for the trees, follow the tips here and take a moment to read this post from the Creative Review about writing protest signs.  I guarantee it will make you smile and refresh your copy writing skills:

“An emergency guide to writing protest signs”

 

 

Building brand trust. What is the role of PR?

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Trust in business, government, journalists and charities has all fallen dramatically in the past year.

Charities took the biggest trust hit, dropping from a “neutral” position of 50 per cent trust in 2016, to 46 per cent in the autumn, to 32 per cent at the turn of 2017. [i]

What can you do to prove that your brand or product can be trusted?

If you’re a charity for example, how can you protect your revenue streams, which allow you to keep delivering your charitable mission, if people don’t trust you with their money? Does PR even have a role in building brand trust?

The role of PR

The Trump election and Brexit votes have shown us that people are fed up with ‘corporate speak’. They are want plain, even blunt words, without any spin.

But this is not the time to ditch the PR.  This is exactly the time to use your PR team even more.

Your communications people need to get out there and connect with staff, customers and stakeholders so that they can help ensure that the voice from every level and touch point of your organisation can be heard.

For example, in October last year the National Trust was hit by accusations of corporate bullying.  The story  was covered over a few weeks in the national media, followed later by reports of a dramatic drop in donations because of the bullying allegations.

Amplifying authentic voices

One of the ways the National Trust has responded to this is to encourage communication from staff at grass roots level:

“PR has already evolved to the point where our gardeners and our teams in the field tell authentic stories about the charity. Those stories don’t always have to come from the press or PR team. Looking ahead, it’s all about widening the network of people who are going to be telling our stories.”

You can read the full article about this in PR Week but the message is clear – use PR to facilitate and amplify the voice and views of people at all levels of your organisation so that your true values and actions can be seen and trusted.

Here’s an example

Our client Cawleys is one of the largest family owned, waste management businesses in the south east.  Like all businesses in logistics, it wants to recruit good HGV drivers. Cawleys is a great place to work, with supportive teams, training, flexible hours etc. It really does deliver on family values as a great place to work.   But all companies says that don’t they?  How do we make it authentic, ensure people trust the message from Cawleys and apply to work there?

We’ve created a campaign across social media to show what a day at work as a driver at Cawleys is really like.  We’ve made sure the driver’s voice is heard as she speaks so well. Yes the person at the wheel of the skip lorry is a brilliant female driver – what better spokesperson than Kayla?

Six steps to build trust in your PR message

1. Back up every statement you make with evidence.  It’s old fashioned but more important than ever.

2. Draw evidence from as many sources as you can.  Evidence includes stories from individuals who can tell their story or describe their experience of your brand or product.

3. Identify your champions.  Keep talking to your people and ask their opinions and you will find someone who has something interesting and authentic to say.

4. Ensure you are using accessible channels or promoting your message – their message –  in the right medium.

5. Make it short and easy to understand.  For example if you are using the Yoast plugin to check your SEO performance on WordPress platforms, when it says make your text shorter, or less dense, it might be an idea to do       that. It is suggesting ways to make your words more accessible.

6. Use different methods of communication. Remember that one in ten adults struggle with literacy, and use videos.  Use captions on your videos for people who can read well, and who watch videos with the sound on mute.

[i] The measurement of trust  survey is from Edelman’s Trust Barometer which has been conducted for the past 17 years. It is based on a survey of 33,000 respondents globally including 1,150 people in the UK during the Autumn of 2016, either side of Donald Trump’s election as US President.