Guardian visit for The Big Issue journalism trainees

Journalism trainees at Poached Creative learned how to pitch stories and got the chance to see how a major news organisation operates at a visit to the Guardian's London headquarters last week. 

The visit was part of Poached's training programme for The Big Issue, which aims to teach online journalism skills, including writing and photography, to people of diverse backgrounds, including the long term unemployed, in order to get them real world skills and job experience that can be used as a stepping stone into paid work. 

The Guardian visit was an opportunity for the trainees to see how the news industry operates on a large scale and to receive advice from experienced journalists. I was glad to see that the skills we are learning will translate to a high level work environment. 

I was especially impressed by the Guardian’s online strategy and I think it’s something we can learn from. They are a digital-first company and devote significant time and effort towards their website and interactive media, which is reflected in their readership, which hovers around 200,000 in print and over 5 million daily visitors online. 

The ease of editing articles online compared to in print means that Guardian articles on the website, especially breaking news, often receive updates as developments occur. 

Even the titles of news articles are changing as newspapers move online. It’s no longer enough to include a catchy pun or phrase; instead the headline must have terms that will easily be recognized by search engines, something to remember as we write our own stories. 

After a short history of the Guardian and a Q&A session with our guide, we had the opportunity to ask questions of Guardian journalist Maya Wolfe-Robinson, a commissioning editor for Guardian law and Comment is Free. 

She explained how to pitch opinion pieces and said it is important to be clear about what issue you want to debate and what your angle is. And she stressed that journalists do not have to come from traditional backgrounds and that having a unique perspective on an issue can make for a powerful story. 

The visit encouraged me to try pitching stories to a variety of news outlets and emphasized the most important trait for journalists: persistence. In order for anyone to succeed it is essential to keep building a strong portfolio.

Social Enterprise Day 2013

The contribution of social enterprises was recognised in Parliament today with a special event held in the Commons by the APPG on Social Enterprise to mark Social Enterprise Day 2013. 

Highlights of the day included: a new supply chain guide for businesses by Social Enterprise UK, a new Buy Social animation narrated by John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, and Social Enterprise Belu Water won a contract with the Houses of Parliament.

MPs and business leaders attended the event at the House of Commons, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Enterprise, to learn more about including Social Enterprises in their supply chains. They heard from speakers including Karen Lynch, CEO of Social Enterprise Belu water, Hazel Blears MP, and Jo Swinson, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.

Poached Creative's work was a key part of Social Enterprise Day 2013. We designed and produced the new materials to support the second phase of the Buy Social campaign - encouraging corporate businesses to buy from social enterprises. This included new display boards featuring Edwin from Give Me Tap, a We Buy Social badge for commercial organisations to show their commitment to social enterprise and Buy Social postcards to promote social enterprise to the public.

A new supply chain guide to help businesses learn about including social enterprises in their supply chains was designed by Poached Creative and we featured alongside several case studies for our work designing the first Social Impact Report for Landmarc, the UK’s 3rd biggest Land Manager.

Jo Swinson encouraged the businesses in attendance to 'buy social':

“Customers and investors are increasingly thinking beyond simply the prices they are paying and the returns they are seeing. They rightly want to know what steps a business is taking which will have a positive effect on the environment, society, their local community and the employees, before making their decision. In order to build a stronger economy and fairer society we need more diverse businesses - social enterprises very much fit the bill.”

Social Enterprise Day marks the one year anniversary since the Buy Social campaign, conceived and created by Poached for Social Enterprise UK, was first launched. Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“Just like having a carbon footprint, every business has a social footprint and this can be strengthened by the purchasing of goods and services from social enterprises. Lots of social enterprises are small to medium sized businesses that operate locally and so what might be a relatively modest spend for a corporate can make a very big difference to a social enterprise and their impact on a local community.”

Find out more on Social Enterprise UK's  Buy Social page  and join the conversation on Twitter using #buysocial

What is beauty?

What is beauty? A great piece of art?  A winning personality? An attractive woman? That part of Boots with all the make-up?

According to the dictionary, beauty is all of the above.

That’s a lot of complex variation for one little word.

Let’s try to break it down. Beauty can be found in an object’s appearance or qualities, in how people look, and how people are.

Commercially and in the media, the meaning of beauty tends to focus heavily on how people look – how attractive a celebrity is and what you can do to look just like her.

I use ‘her’ as this focus is also mainly aimed at woman – see the dictionary’s third definition is ‘a beautiful woman’ – no men are mentioned. Using this definition, the phrase ‘what a beauty’ can be used interchangeably for both women and objects.

Attractive women are still objectified routinely in advertising to sell various products and services, everything from sandwiches to clothes to car insurance. Their beauty is packaged and sold, their inner beauty irrelevant.

Additionally beauty and attractiveness of women in the media have strict ideals – like being youthful and petite - which many women don’t or can’t meet. So we come to beauty’s second definition – beauty treatment, all the products and services sold to make you look like the woman on the poster selling it to you.

But the woman on the poster isn't the person selling it to you – it’s a whole industry that are selling a single, difficult-to-attain and maintain image.

If the media and beauty industry were to embrace beauty with respect to the complexities and variations found in the word’s definition, encapsulating everything that can be considered beautiful, from watercolours to kindness, then we might see a much wider and more inclusive definition of female beauty in the media.

But it’s not all hopeless. There have been attempts to break free of this singular idea of beauty for woman, such as the Dove's Real Beauty campaign, launched in 2004, featuring women in a range of shapes and sizes in Dove adverts. In June this year, alongside the regular fashion week New York held a ‘Full Figured Fashion Week’, showcasing new designs modelled by larger women, with London holding a sister event earlier this year. In April H&M featured a plus-sized model for their general (not plus-sized) beachwear range.

Although still in the minority, these examples are encouraging that in the future the media will be more inclusive of different ideals of female beauty.  

What does beauty mean to you?

An art exhibition coming soon to London is seeking creative responses to the question What is beauty? - submit your photo, artwork, film or poetry via Twitter @whatisbeauty for a chance to be featured in the exhibition!

Photo by Vinoth Chandar

It's Mental Health Month at Poached Creative!

This month we’re focusing on creating a mentally healthy workplace in the office. 

We were inspired to look at mental health due to our recent work on Free Minds, a youth-led campaign to raise awareness of how mental illness affects young people. We've also been inspired by our work on Off Centre’s Tackling Gang Violence report, which looks at the psychosocial issues behind gang violence, and our Oii My Size project – a youth-led website that tackles healthy relationships for teenagers.

It’s an important and common issue, with 1 in 6 people working with a mental illness at any given time, and absenteeism due to mental illness costing £8.4 billion annually to UK employers .
Our experience training unemployed and disadvantaged people in communications, many of whom experience mental health problems, have shown us the positive difference that meaningful work can have in people’s lives. Many of our trainees go on to volunteer or work in our office, becoming a valuable part of the team. 

So we’re confident that our office can support people with mental illness – but we want to be the best we can be! So we asked Twitter how to create a mentally healthy workplace.
We had a great response, with people advocating:
* flexibility,
* looking out for and respecting one another, and
* confidential support.

Here are our favourites answers from Twitter:

What’s your top tip for creating a mentally healthy workplace? Tweet us @poachedcreative

The People's Business is our business

The People’s Business Social Enterprise UK’s State of Social Enterprise Survey published this week reveals a thriving sector full of promise, optimism and innovative ideas. In short: the social enterprise sector is thriving. 

It’s important to us here at Poached Creative for two reasons. 

1. It shows the sector in action
We designed and proofread the report, commissioned the photography and worked with Social Enterprise UK to ensure it stood out from the crowd. 

The project enabled us to provide work experience opportunities for two young photographers. It also provided paid work for our former trainees, proofreader Emma, and project assistant Tobias, who co-ordinated the photoshoot with five featured social enterprises.  

Cardine Martin and Joel Witter gained valuable experience assisting the photographer, Agenda from Visual Marvelry, on the professional photoshoots.
Behind the scenes with Agenda at the Jamie's
Italian photoshoot.  Photo by Cardine Martin
Cardine describes her role on the shoots for Belu Water at Jamie's Italian and Elvis and Kresse:
“I was a photographer’s assistant. I prepared the equipment by setting up the tripod and checking the lighting and memory card. I also helped to choose the location and I put the clients at ease.”

She says she now understands what's involved in ‘doing a photoshoot’ and has gained confidence in her own work through the process

2. We're leading a global movement
The second reason is to do with being part of an exciting, global social enterprise movement, with social enterprises in the UK leading the way.
Social enterprises represent a new and effective blueprint for doing business. In the UK the sector is growing rapidly, with an annual contribution to the economy valued at over £24 billion. In our current ‘doom and gloom filled’ economic climate, this is encouraging news.

Social enterprises are flourishing precisely because they are creative, innovative, confident and diverse. You are just as likely to see women and people from different ethnic backgrounds in the boardroom as you are unlikely to see them in more traditional set ups. It is also common to find dynamic groups of passionate young people who are creating solutions to self-identified problems - the award-winning Oii My Size project is a good example.
Social enterprise could just be the answer that the nation needs. Instead of demonising people who are unemployed, marginalised and overlooked, the sector sees people as part of the solution
Take a look at the innovative work from featured organisations Elvis and Kresse, Connection Crew, Belu Water and Bounce Back. 
Download the full report from the Social Enterprise UK website and join the conversation at #peoplesbusiness

The pros and cons of pets at work - a Poached perspective

They say Britain's a nation of animal lovers. But would you feel ecstatic about having them in your workplace?

Poached Creative's newest recruit is a rescue dog named Fudge. A lovely, gentle and elegant example of a Staffordshire Bull-terrier. How will she fit in with the team - given the compact and open-plan office space?

Well, not wanting to Fudge the issue entirely (groan!) here is a quick look at the positive and negative aspects of pets at work. Six of one and half a dozen of the other:


Fudge and Lucy (her owner) descend from a long tradition of human to animal couplings. Stories known across time and global culture - acknowledging some variation, naturally. Step forward to take a bow wow: Dorothy and Toto, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, Blue Peter and Petra. Working elements to this relationship evolved from necessity. Nomad without camel, shepherd without sheepdog, anybody? Unthinkable.

No longer purely creatures of the wild outdoors or chained howling day and night in the yard, like days of old. Pet animals came in from the cold a long time ago. Now domesticated companions at home and work alike and valued social assets in social terms and many other ways.

Fudge is melting the hearts of most Poachers. The office air full of excitement - and there is no shortage of eager beavers, vying for their turn to go walkies.

Even our most 'undoggy' staff member freely admits that Fudge lifts the collective vibe as smiles break out all over the faces of Poachers.

Dogs don't hog all the work roles. Other pets are available! Researchers find all types to potentially benefit health and productivity. Cat owners are 30% less likely to suffer heart attack and their purr vibrates at pain-relieving frequencies (Stroke Centre, University of Minnesota, as reported by The Evening Standard)

British Journal of Health Psychology (2007) found humans with pet dogs enjoy numerous health pay-offs. Lower blood pressure, heart disease, cholestrol levels, and fewer minor-to-serious conditions, frankly too many to list here.

A chatty insurance firm receptionist once confided in me that 'actuarists' - statistics eggheads used by the industry - have 'done the math' and arrived at a startling truth. The life expectancy of pet-owners is up to 20yrs longer than the pet-less.

Note to reader - the above is potentially true for a wide variety of pets, in particular 'tactile' types you cuddle, groom and walk. Do not attempt these with your pet goldfish or boa constrictor).

Pets have the power to deliver us from ourselves! They provide a welcome break from modern culture's frantic promotion of absorption into the 'self' or the digital artifice of 'social networking'. So - if a 'poke' or 'like' on Facebook isn't satisfying you - it could be time to reach out. Stroke a furry animal. Or talk to one. 
It might help to stem the tide of anxiety and depression, lurking below society's shiny surface. Not for nothing are some pets known as a 'source of unconditional love'.

Clients visiting your company can be seduced by pets. A living emblem, that can effectively and effortlessly communicate an organisation's unique personality, sometimes quicker than 'product' or 'service' alone.
This point in no way endorses the use of animals for purely commercial purposes!


Animal lovers - beware 'head in the sand' thinking! This risks a disregard for people not inclined to feel affection, or even tolerance, for animals. Situations may turn tricky.

'Non-lovers' can end up feeling like part of a minority at work, set against the 'lovers' and the 'indifferent' (or abstainers!). Distaste is at times based on variables (animal hygiene levels, smells or sounds). Stronger, visceral reactions or aversions are something else. Sensitive navigation by all concerned, or skilful mediation, could provide solutions.

Animal lovers - try to avoid loud statements like "I just do not trust people who dislike animals!". Non-lovers - do resist fixing shocked facial expressions common to finding rotting food at the rear of the fridge, or pigeon crap on your suit. Responsible pet ownership involves patiently educating and navigating people towards a balanced view.

Pet care costs, such as vet bills, can be very high - especially without pet insurance. Research potential pets. Set a budget prior to purchase. Think about creating 'pet-free zones' at work to accommodate staff/clients who are not animal fans.  And remember, pets are full-time not part-time preoccupations.

Expect disruptions and distractions to work flow. Pets can be noisy, unpredictable, attention-seekers. Animal sickness, and eventual death, bring inevitable emotional drama and possibly sap time and energy.

Pets need special training and facilities (toilet, wash) and will chew all sorts, from office carpets to that non-pet-loving (!) colleague's designer 'it' bag.

Our most undoggy Poacher reports persevering with a negative resistance of pets. All dogs, from the handbag pooch to the over-excited pitbull left to run off-lead in the park, are a perceived threat to well-being. Viewing sympathetic shows, such as 'Dog Whisperer', 'Dog Borstal' or 'Dog Rehab' can help a little. Time for a spot of DVD shopping!

Disclaimer alert!  Not having any pets of my own - I confess to having a warm animal 'soft spot'. Let's land this argument gently. The happy ending here rests upon the common ground humans share with animals.
Lest we forget, we are all mammals, only we are uniquely equipped to show conscious kindness towards others of our species. Or the rest of the Animal Kingdom.  

So, how does this belief manifest in the way you approach being a boss @poachedcreative?

This was the question Spark + Mettle posed, via Twitter, in response to Lara:

@SparkAndMettle: brilliant @poachedcreative boss @jessicatsmith is big believer in importance of enjoying work & the social impact it makes

It got me thinking.

Staff and volunteers alike say Poached has a good atmosphere where everyone looks out for each other, people generally like being in the office and, at least they tell me, they feel supported and happy to be working.

How much of that is down to the people we attract and how much of it down to careful management and design I can't say. I guess they feed off each other.

Here are my answers:

@SparkAndMettle Tough question for a tweet! 1. recognise that work is just part of someone's life 2. encourage staff to support oneanother

@SparkAndMettle ...socially and professionally 3. take the chance to have some fun now and then, eg close office early for a snow day or BBQ

A lot of it also has to do with our office buddies Mediorite and YH World who share our values and constantly push for a better working environment.
I'd be interested to know if anyone out there has recent research or further thoughts. Tweet @jessicatsmith @poachedcreative @sparkandmettle or comment below and we'll RT you.