"There's no end to the things you might know, depending how far beyond zebra you go."
There's no end to the things you might know, depending how far beyond zebra you go.


Upstairs uses this space to write about current internal and external communication projects, the ways of the world and give you a sense of us as people - not just what we do but how we do it and occasionally, why. If you would like to know each time something new and tremendously witty goes up, please read about how to subscribe.


As part of a life broader than the Mac and its parts, I often volunteer in a very lovely seventeenth century garden at Ham House which everyone should visit while May feels like mid-June. I’ve done some time working hard in border and vegetable garden and yet, the Mac has followed me and weedled its own sweet way into things here too: http://twitter.com/hamhousegarden

Enjoy the outdoors…

Ham House Garden

Increasing giving to charity

Prism the Gift Fund increase giving to charity by offering a personal service to those giving larger sums. Taking away the irritation of forms and the nagging thought that perhaps you could be doing something differently, they make philanthropy easier. We’ve been working with them on their brand positioning and print communication – website next.

Prism the Gift Fund brochure cover Prism the Gift Fund brochure page Prism the Gift Fund brochure page 2

The power of the logo or a distrust of change?

A 9-year old’s school logo has been changed and he is refusing to wear a school jumper with the new logo on. The reason? He doesn’t like it and “it’s a waste of money”. His dislike of the logo is such he’s happier in hand-me-downs showing the old logo until his leaving day, some 3 years after everyone is meant to be wearing the new version. He is consciously rebelling despite the face that he accepts that the new design is more modern and more appropriate. He even likes the font.
I tried to understand if effective internal stakeholder management would have helped him engage with the new design and not be so resistant to the change (old habits die hard): “They showed us loads of bad logos and I didn’t want any of them”.
Mmm. I’ve heard that one before.

Recent additions to one Upstairs’ family

They joined the team this spring with wisdom beyond their years….

An aesthetically pleasing corporate diary…honestly

Delivered on time, in December, right round Europe, a wiro-bound, notebook-style diary with plastic covers and *useful* information.
Astellas are ‘Changing tomorrow’ for their customers and patients.
We’re talking about a 2010 diary and it’s almost February.
Upstairs have been busy…

Did you think GB wrote his own speeches?

As the story circulates the media that Gordon Brown paid $40,000 for West Wing Writers to ‘tailor’ speeches for a US target audience, what is the contraversy? Well, in times of supposed thrift, and given Mr Brown’s personal reputation for counting pennies, it’s a large sum of money. To the consultants who were on Clinton’s team, it’s a few days work, though, surely…

Reading the coverage, it smacks of two other ‘disgusted in Tunbridge Wells’ themes:

1. Unease that Gordon doesn’t write this stuff himself.

2. Shame that no-one in the UK could come up with the goods.

Number 1 is plain naieve. Go back to Churchill for that sort of style and talent. Number 2, I can agree with. As I spend my days thinking about how to target communication to audiences as diverse as medical reps on the road in Berkshire, junior members of governments ooh anywhere and bored middle management waiting for lifts in Central London, surely someone, somewhere (not in Washington, not for $40,000) could have been trusted to come up with the goods? Targetting communication is one skill, so is writing speeches for an individual that you understand, know, work with. The words are coming up out of one person’s mouth, they need to sound like his, have some truth about them, he needs to own them…

For those of us who believe the West Wing is real, that Martin Sheen was President and that Presidential speeches turn the mood of a nation, we would like to think that Toby and Josh would make Gordon a star on the Hill.

The truth is, that now the ‘news’ is out, some consultants that we’ve never heard of have developed some words that will forever be perceived as lacking authenticity, over-crafted, a waste of money…and not Gordon’s own.

Not entirely accurate, in fact, the words are already forgotten.

How do you make planning exciting?

While writing a guide to internal communication for one of our clients, the subject of communication planning had to be included. Conveying planning as exciting as briefing agencies or making podcasts proved a tall order. Inevitably, a manager is going to find writing a plan a lot less interesting than actually communicating, we thought.. but then that came to be the point. The communications plan is the first communication so make it simple, easy to follow, really clear to your audiences and present it with a flourish…of course.

If you would like a generic internal communication plan format, that really does make it easy, let us know. No-one ever said it was difficult, just that it tended to be a bit boring. Not anymore.

Springwatch Upstairs

Big welcome to baby Mia AND to the two micro pigs now living in Sarah’s garden.


How would you communicate in the House of Commons?

As the stories mount, the heads roll, the power shifts and we don’t believe a thing *anyone* says, what a great (terrifying) internal communication plan to have to consider…. How to engage MPs.87096

Internal communication is vital but…

Organisations seem to be facing the same challenges at the same time in internal communication right now: is it best to talk about what you (top level management) have decided and know now – or wait – until concensus is reached on communication? Agremeent is being sought not just on what is said, but on how it’s said, when it’s said, how many times it’s said, who says it, what languages it’s said in..we could go on.

While this process escalates – and is repeated, probably – employees (not top level management) will have their own assumptions about what is happening, some will have already picked up on aspects of what is happening too. Theories about what is about to be done (to them, not with them or by them) will be discussed and engagement, productivity and time will inevitably be lost. Such delays – or perceived silences – often attack trust. And while internal communication is rightly at the top of the senior management agenda, this focus is not actually getting the job done.

Times have changed – the right people are discussing how to communicate and realising the importance of communication within the organisation. It’s just that in some cases, it’s not these people that are doing the communicating, they’re talking about doing it…

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