Simon Francis, a founder member at Campaign Collective, discusses why he created a PR agency as a social enterprise, recent award wins and why it eschews job titles.
You’ve recently won the Consultancy of the Year award at the Better Society Awards, congratulations! What did winning the award mean to you?
We weren’t just up against other comms firms, but fundraisers, accountants and the like, so winning was a huge achievement.
It shows just for what a social enterprise can do against rivals who work in a more traditional commercial model, but also shows just how important communications is to charities and those trying to create a better society.
Why did you decide to create an agency which is a social enterprise?
Based on our collective ethics it seemed like a natural idea to us! We’d seen what social enterprises have been able to do in other sectors and thought; why not in communications? Although, it’s also fair to say it’s a reaction to everywhere all of our members have worked before. We were all frustrated and tired at how traditional marketing firms put profit before almost everything else.
This is endemic in our industry, from awards that insist on knowing an agency´s gross profit as part of the entry criteria, to the obsession with over-service, timesheets and day rates. By removing that key profit driver, we’re free to focus only on ethical business practices and best-in-class campaigns for our charity, public service and campaigning clients.
We’re free to halve day rates compared to the industry average. We’re free to run our 19-person Collective through an entirely remote working culture which supports a better work/life balance. And we’re free to use profits to support our own social purpose.
What is Campaign Collective’s social purpose?
It’s what makes us unique! In addition to working on campaigns that have a positive social impact, we were also able to invest £7,000 into what we call our social purpose fund. This has enabled us to produce a Freedom To Campaign Guide to help campaigners understand what they can do under the Lobbying Act, while also supporting the development of the PR & communications assistant apprenticeship which launched in March.
We hope to double our investment next year and our members have loads of really exciting ideas about how we can help small organisations campaign more effectively and inspire the next generation of campaigners.
Given the consultancy’s status as a social enterprise, are there specific types of clients you look to represent?
We specialise in working with charities, NGOs and the public sector, but we also work with other social enterprises and firms on a real mission to deliver a public benefit. We’ve also just agreed a comprehensive ethical policy to put into words what we won’t do – it’s something we’re also looking to roll out across our associates network.
The agency is happy for its members to work remotely. Why is this and how does this work practically?
When we set up, we agreed that everyone could pick where and when they worked. It means those with childcare, disabilities and other lifestyle choices can still deliver amazing campaigns along with having a life outside of London, if they so choose!
It works, in short, with a great deal of trust. But we do also have formal structures, such as a Member Agreement, to back up our remote and flexible working culture. We all know what we expect from each other.
We’re also looking at how we provide more of the softer benefits you get in an office culture – although with our day rates we’re not going to be able to stretch to free breakfasts!
Which campaign have you been involved with which has made the biggest difference to society?
It’s difficult to pick one, so I’d actually like to pick one which hasn’t managed to get fully off the ground, but could make a huge difference. We did some work with an amazing psychologist, Dr Nina Burrowes from Consent Collective, to develop a new comprehensive programme to prevent sexual and domestic abuse.
It had the backing of leading police officers and police and crime commissioners, but so far no-one has been willing to fully fund it. So if any corporates or politicians are reading this and want to take serious action to stop one of the UK´s biggest issues, please get in touch!
Finally, everyone at Campaign Collective is known as a “member”, rather than having traditional job titles. What’s the thinking behind this?
It more accurately reflects the fact that everyone who we work with has as much to bring to a campaign and to the Campaign Collective as anyone else.
We work together to achieve the results we do for our clients. Also, all our day rates are the same and only differentiated by the level of seniority of work we do, from £500 for strategy and consulting to £300 for campaign delivery.
And we all get our hands dirty, no one is above analysing press cuttings data or writing up a status report.
- Pictured (l-r): Campaign Collective founder members Sarah Colombini, Simon Francis and Heather Rogers
- Picture credit: Michael Crabtree