Comms for Good banking industry challenge raises £8000 for local cancer charity

On the night of Friday 9th June, London’s banking world put on its walking shoes and took to the streets to walk 50km in support of Dimbleby Cancer Care.

Under the banner of Comms for Good, we called for banks, fintechs, and key financial services players to join forces in support of an amazing cause.  The Dimbleby Cancer Care #Walk50 night walk challenge across London in June was our first chance to show how the industry can unite in support of the local community.

Walkers, including representatives from Temenos, Pushfor, Starling Bank and Deutsche Bank, demonstrated the true value of industry collaboration by collectively raising over £8000 to help cancer patients and their families.  Janet Du Chenne of Deutsche Bank sums up the experience beautifully in her blog, ‘Collaboration and blisters’.

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It was a life-changing shared experience of the kind only to be found through blood, sweat and tears. That night we achieved something truly amazing individually and as a team, by doing so we raised awareness and a huge amount of money for worthy cause, and as a result we also built powerful new connections with our peers, found inspiring new stories to share with our networks, and we became a positive force for change!

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“Imagine the impact if we join forces as an industry in support of the causes close to our hearts”

Inspiring launch by Comms for Good

1st March, 2017, Sophy Buckley, Firstword Media

The launch of Comms for Good at Dimbleby Cancer Care’s base at the Cancer Centre at London’s Guy’s Hospital in March revealed a healthy appetite for collaboration and mutual support across the banking industry.

Over mini smoked-salmon bagels, pea and mint canapés and prosecco, banking veterans mingled with disrupters and fintechies, and all had an interesting take on how Comms for Good could pan out.

Comms for Good is a network of financial services sector comms leaders looking to amplify the good done every day by those in the banking and fintech industries. Founder Kate Bolton, formerly head of PR and communications at banking IT firm Temenos, gave a passionate speech detailing how by collaborating to promote each others’ “for good” programmes, the industry can magnify the benefits and create a virtuous circle of support and action. The more that join in, the more noise we make, the bigger the effect.

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“Many companies have really great CSR [corporate social responsibility] programmes, and do a lot for the community, but their initiatives get very little attention. As a result, support internally isn’t as strong as it could be, and great work goes unrecognised,” she explained. “People love a good news story, and there are so many we could be telling, so I want us to work together to find and share them through the Comms for Good network. Imagine the impact we could have if we do this as an industry.”

Her message chimed with Janet Du Chenne, Editorial Director at Deutsche Bank, “Good causes make good stories,” she said. “Comms for Good is bringing communications experts together for good causes so they can tell those stories with a collective voice. This is perfect timing for an industry that needs more good stories.”

One HSBC member of staff who does a lot of community work is Andy Russell, head of sustainability, communications and marketing. He volunteers through the East London Business Alliance at a local school along with others from Barclays and Accenture. Each volunteer brings much needed skills in communications, strategy or perhaps training. “Comms for Good could act like a noticeboard,” he said at the launch. “It could draw people’s attention to things they could do to make a difference. Charities could present a suite of projects and we could pick one to support.”

Chris Gledhill, founder and CEO of tech start-up Secco, saw Comms for Good as a great way for banks to repay what he called their social debt after the 2008 crisis. “Banking is full of good people, but the reputation of the industry is poor. The idea that banking can be socially responsible is very powerful. It goes well beyond PR,” he said, adding that – with the UK a banking leader – the rest of the world looks to us and often follows. So Comms for Good could easily take off and go global.

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Harriet Allner, communications manager at challenger start-up bank Starling, was equally enthusiastic. In a short speech she urged the audience to get on social media and persuade people to “do” and “put generosity back at the heart of communication” by “telling stories that inspire change”.

The message was a powerful one and certainly seemed to motivate the audience. The immediate beneficiary was Dimbleby Cancer Care, which was simultaneously promoting its Walk50, a 50km walk through London on June 9th. Just about everyone, including Janet Du Chenne of Deutsche Bank, Harriet Allner at Starling, Anna Bennett at Monitise, Jonathan Gifford of marketing firm Metia and Jon Scott of Thinking Loud & Clear, promised to sign up and recruit a team from work.

If their reaction is anything to go by, Comms for Good looks likely to fulfil its ambitions and maybe even achieve Chris Gledhill’s prediction about going global. Good work everyone.

This is Comms for Good

My search for connection, collaboration and all other good things beginning with C has led me to create #CommsForGood.

When I try to explain what #CommsForGood is, it goes something like this:  the belief that by putting generosity at the heart of corporate comms (banking or fintech, in my case) you can drive positive change – for your industry, your organisation, and ultimately the community in which you live.

In practice so far, this means connecting comms people in the industry in which I work, by inviting them to join me at events in support of a local cause.  By doing so, I intend to build a powerful network of corporate comms people that collaborate with each other, support each other.  An engaged network that is connected not only by a common industry, but also by the strong emotional bond of supporting the people in their community.

The first #CommsForGood event I hosted through my employer at the time, Temenos, was at Dimbleby Cancer Care’s World’s Greatest Quiz, and the blog I published on the Temenos site sums up the experience perfectly.  There, a team of great communicators and collaborators from organisations including Metro Bank, Crossword Cybersecurity, Callcredit, Wilson Fletcher and Next Tech Girls became my first #CommsForGood champions.

Buzzing from the success of the quiz, I invited guests to join me at a very special reception with the Dimblebys and the Dean of Westminster at Westminster Abbey.  Communicators from Starling Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bud became my next community champions – and it was an unforgettable night for all.

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So why all this?  Because cancer taught me the true meaning and value of connection through communication.  Until then, like everyone else, I used these buzz words freely in my work, my life, but had never really experienced them.

With a cancer diagnosis, your life blows up and you have to start all over again. You are forced to build something new. Something different.  So I started to follow and share my experience with the cancer charities that I hoped could help me and – guess what – I saw those familiar words again: connection, collaboration, community. This was exactly what I was looking for.

I tried engaging with all the charities, from the big famous brands to the small community charities. But it felt like the big brands with the big budgets were not listening; or if they were, they were too restricted by process to respond. It was the little guys that were tuned in and connected back.

When the more engaged charities responded, they encouraged me, they shared my story with their communities and encouraged them to share and respond in return. They connected me with other small charities too. And, in return, I did the same back. Thanks to a handful of tiny, local charities, communication and community led to connection, and this became the foundation of my new life.

But the moral here is not about cancer…

I started back to work in banking comms in January 2016 and was struck once again by how, in corporate comms and banking, it is so easy to speak and not listen. Following this experience with the cancer charities, I realised three things:

  1. Talking about connecting and collaborating is not the same as actually doing it. If a brand wants to be recognised, respected, have an impact, the organisation must actively build lasting, positive connections with its audience.
  2. For these connections to be truly valuable, genuinely supportive, and authentic, they must be founded on something more sustainable than commercial agenda.
  3. I wanted to meet other people in banking comms to see if they realised the same things and wanted to work with me to ensure that our organisations at least would be never be the ones who were too busy talking about ourselves to listen to others.

And then I thought…

But how do you connect with people in another business without seeming like you are selling something? Or looking like you are after a job?? What do we talk about? What could we collaborate over that would be positive and of benefit to everyone?

Well? This. Comms for Good. We collaborate and connect over the causes we care about.

My story is just one story of human connection and community, there are so many others. I want to us to work together to find other stories and I want us to share them through this network. And along the way we – as individuals and companies – can demonstrate the true meaning of…

Connection, collaboration, community.

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