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Reward yourselves with an award

J9110_CHAMBER-AWARDS-LOGO-2017[2]In partnership with the Chamber Business Awards 2017, Clarke Associates share their top tips for award entry.

Awards are a fantastic way to boost your organisations’s profile – and there is a whole plethora of them out there. We have had great success in preparing award entries for our clients and indeed, team member Lydia Marshall has prepared a series of top tips in support of The British Chamber Business Awards that run from Aberdeen to Cornwall and are open to organisations of all sizes and sectors.

But of course, there are many other awards besides – and we are always happy to advise on which are the most appropriate to fulfil your business objectives.

You can read Lydia’s Top Tips here. If you would like to discuss what awards whether awards would be suitable for your organisation, give us a call or drop us an email.

A vote for the West Midlands

westmidlandsmayortoolkit_gbccIt’s not long now before the West Midlands gets its first opportunity to vote for a West Midlands Mayor (on May 4 in case you were wondering). It’s a subject that business has been talking about for some time although ironically, business does not get a vote.

As a Council member of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, I am delighted that the Chamber has taken the initiative to ensure that the workforce of the West Midlands know about the election – and encourage them to turn out to vote on the day.

The Chamber’s 2,600 members employ more than 175,000 people – most of whom will be eligible to vote – and the Chamber is doing its bit to boost awareness and understanding of the importance of the election itself.

So it has produced an admirable and well-constructed ‘West Midlands Mayor toolkit’ that is designed to help employers (Chamber members or not) spread the word and encourage as many voters as possible to participate in what the Chamber describes as a “potentially ground breaking election”. And it’s a jolly good toolkit too – newsletter content, posters and social media examples all wrapped up in one package to make it easy for employers of all sizes.

There’s been lots of debate in the past about the need for and the role of a West Midlands Mayor – and the verdict is still out on whether a Mayor for the West Midlands will have the same impact as say, in London.

But one thing is for sure, the electorate has the chance to vote for the candidate of their choice and to give the victor the chance to prove themselves as both an effective champion for the region and a ‘bringer-together’ for one common cause – the improvement of the West Midlands for all.

The one thing we don’t want is a poor turn-out; the new Mayor should have a decent enough mandate to bang the drum for the region and to fight for what the region needs.

And here the Chamber’s toolkit plays its part, by helping employers to publicise the need to get out there and vote. The good news too is that nowhere in the toolkit will you find anything to steer employees as to how they cast their vote. That, as they say, is a matter between the voter and the ballot box.

To view the toolkit, click here.


Hold the back page!

The publication of the Birmingham Post Rich List is always a highlight of the Post’s editorial year providing, as it does, an insight into the wealthy and exceedingly wealthy citizens of the greater Birmingham area.

And we, in our own way, are pleased once again to have played our part – as we have done for the past 12 years.

There is something quite beguiling about Rich Lists. Most of us, of course, will never appear in one. Some people, it is rumoured, are annoyed if they don’t. Others, when they do.

Either way, they present a fascinating view of a world that, by definition, the majority of us do not occupy.

The Birmingham Post Rich list is particularly of interest to those working and living in the Midlands and whilst we, as a company, have never appeared in its pages (and neither do we ever expect to!), we are rather proud that our work has.

For the past 12 years, we’ve been privileged that each year we have been commissioned by Benussi and Co, the premier family law practice based in Birmingham, to design and produce their advertisement for the back page of the Birmingham Post Rich List. Sometimes the ads are topical linked to UK and world events. In other years, they pick up a thread or theme we think might appeal.

The inspiration for the 2017 ad is, perhaps inevitably, Brexit but it could just as easily have been Trump. Both offered us the scope to talk about relationships on a global scale. Eventually, we plumped for Brexit – as we wondered how many married couples might be triggering their own ‘Article 50’ this year.


However, for richer or poorer, we rather hope the latest ad, and the ones before, create a wry smile.

We’re also very grateful to Benussi & Co, as a long-standing client, for giving us the opportunity to give our creative minds something to mull over during the early days of each passing year, and to the Birmingham Post for continuing to research and publish the region’s definitive list.

Posted by the small team of three charged with creating Benussi & Co’s Rich List ad for 2017

Paul Chipperfield gives the new Design Museum the thumbs up – finding it a most inspirational place


This was an opening and relaunch I had been eagerly awaiting for quite some time. I had been aware of the old Design Museum at its former site by the Thames in Southwark, but, what with its (then) entry fee, plus the V&A’s spectacular ability to fulfil my inspiration needs, I had never got round to visiting.

However, with this revamped and three-times larger Design Museum opening at its new home on London’s Kensington High Street in late November last year, I could no longer discount it from my itinerary! Indeed, I had been counting down the months until opening towards the end of its five-year construction.

Design Museum preview

The Museum is based in the grade II listed former Commonwealth Institute building, redesigned by architect John Pawson. Spread across four floors, visitors walk into a central atrium and can see directly up to the highest level as a result of the open-plan design. It’s impossible, when entering, not to be struck by the elegant sweep of the roof and impressive architectural details – a fine home indeed for the Museum’s pieces. Based close-by to South Kensington’s thriving cultural district, the Museum will differentiate itself from the other organisations nearby with its agility and flexibility – changing exhibits frequently.


The Museum’s permanent curated collection is Design Maker User – a fascinating insight into the relationship and vital co-existence of the three roles. The aim is to diminish outdated ideas about design as elitist, and reflect its essential place in people’s everyday life. Breaking down set ideas of what “design” is, the collection is arranged thematically rather than split into traditional sectors of graphics, branding, furniture and product design.

“Design is a perspective,” says Deyan Sudjic, current Museum Director. “It’s not a thing, it’s an understanding. It’s always there whether it’s acknowledged or not. The way we dress, the things we choose to use, the way we use objects and possessions – these are all things which are shaped by design.”

The visitor will also find in the all-new Museum designer-in-residence studios, a library, archive, plus meeting and learning rooms, based throughout the rest of the building.

Sir Terence Conran, who co-founded the original Design Museum 27 years ago, says that moving to the Kensington location “is the most important moment of my career in design so far”.

“This will be a new cathedral of design,” he says. “The importance of design to our lives and economy is now truly appreciated.”

The Design Museum is based at 224-238 Kensington High Street, Kensington, London W8 6AG, and opened to the public on 24 November. Entry to the permanent exhibition space is free, temporary exhibitions have a ticket price.

Paul OQ

Paul is head of design at Clarke Associates, and is currently enjoying this recent wave of design inspiration – soon to be on the lookout for his next hit!

Brand identity refresh inspiration

nw_logo_still-755x500We do love a good rebrand here at Clarke Associates. And a high-profile one in recent design industry news is the update to NatWest’s identity – a bold and vibrant evolution of the bank’s previous minimalist chevron-based logo.





The updated logo takes its inspiration from the bank’s original brand guidelines, when it was first formed as National Westminster Bank Limited in 1968. Back then, the three interlocking cubes were created to represent the separate entities of the National Provincial Bank, Westminster Bank and District Bank, united in one distinct marque.


The three-dimensional cuboid device has been brought back; the logo even depicted in animated form to help facilitate a stronger digital presence. A bold and colourful accompanying graphic vocabulary is intended to help the identity stand out from its competitors on the high-street; with NatWest’s aim being to appeal to a more youthful audience. The cuboid aesthetic is even referenced in the bespoke logotype used in supporting collateral.

There’s certainly much to be impressed by with this rebrand – the colour palette, fresh looking isometric illustrations and playful aesthetic are perfect for a younger demographic.



NatWest’s new branding is currently being rolled out across marketing materials, posters, merchandise, in-branch animations and online, and will be extended to store-fronts later on.

Paul OQ

Perhaps you’re reading this and considering an update to your brand? Well, look no further; we’d be delighted to help! To give you just a flavour of the sort of graphic design services we offer, take a look at our recent logo design for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust’s ‘The Well Company’. And to view our design offering in full, or to find out more, you can contact our Head of Design Paul Chipperfield here.


No matter the business, it’s creativity that counts. David Clarke takes a look at a household name…


Lord Bilimoria, the man behind Cobra beer and also Chancellor of The University of Birmingham, is a man I greatly admire.

I have heard him speak on several occasions, always with a considerable degree of sound advice particularly when it comes to business.

So I was particularly interested in a feature that appeared in the small business section of The Daily Telegraph in which he freely admits that setting up a business – as well as maintaining it – is not the walk in the park that many think it is.

As he freely admits , he “nearly lost Cobra three times”.

“I can be sure that three things helped me to carry on: having a strong brand, great support from my family, and the right values. You have to hold on to a sense of integrity when business is as its most difficult.”

He also places great emphasis on getting out and meeting people.

“Networks are also important. It helps to have met other business leaders who understand the kind of pressures one sometimes has to face.”

It’s easy to think, when you look at a successful brand such as Cobra and also consider that he is an independent cross bench peer in the House of Lords, that here is a man who is assured of his destiny. But in The Daily Telegraph interview, he is remarkably frank: “I’m terrified of failure, but I have learned a great deal from my mistakes,” he is quoted as saying.

And he also comes up with wise words that should resonate with anyone who runs their own business, entrepreneurial or not: “I never really thought I had a particular strength; I wasn’t gifted at art, for example, or music. But now I realise that I was – and still am – creative. That’s what allowed me to develop a brand that was different and innovative.

“But the misconception I am most frustrated by is how often people misunderstand business – those people who are entirely negative about it. A business generates taxes. Without taxes there would be no public services – no functioning welfare state.”

Lord Bilimoria was born in Hyderabad, India into a family with a distinguished background in the armed forces and business.

It was while studying in Cambridge that the concept of Cobra was born. He “hated fizzy lagers”; ales were “too heavy” and he therefore set out to create a beer that “had a smoothness and a good, distinctive taste that would work well with food.”

Raising the finance was a “huge challenge” – with funding coming piecemeal from a variety of sources.

Clearly, battling it out with the brewery giants was not a task for the faint-hearted.

He finishes by saying: “You can be ambitious in two ways about business: you can want to create a brand that is the best in the world, but also one that is the best for the world. I wish more people understood that and how business can be a positive force.”

Wise words and an interesting perspective on business.

Flying in the face of logic



David Clarke embarks on a flight of fantasy that could so easily become reality as the Great Airport Debate continues

Recent events have demonstrated that we live in a world where the unlikely becomes the likely – so imagine this as a scenario:

Autumn 2016:

The government finally announces its deliberations on the Airports Commission recommendation for expanding aviation capacity.  Heathrow, it says, is to be expanded with a new North West runway.

Summer 2027:

The first phase of HS2 high speed rail linking London to Birmingham with its direct link to Birmingham International Airport, is opened. It is now just as quick for Londoners to get to Birmingham Airport as it is for them to travel to Heathrow.

Spring 2028:

Heathrow’s new North West runway is opened. Airline operators start pulling their long haul flights from Birmingham – preferring instead to use the increased capacity at Heathrow.

Winter 2028:

Birmingham is left without long haul flights.

This is not some work of fiction.  It is a highly probable scenario if the Government opts for a new third runway at Heathrow.  Heathrow you see, is readily accessible from Birmingham and the Midlands and that could sound the death knell for long haul flights from Birmingham – despite Birmingham’s recently increased capacity.

This crystal ball gazing is based on my interpretation of a recent briefing by Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive Officer at Birmingham International Airport.  Allowing a third runway at Heathrow will reinforce its dominance and centralise air traffic on the West of London meaning businesses around the country will be forced to fly from and commute through London rather than fly directly from their closest airport.

In what seems an unlikely alliance, Birmingham Airport is supporting Gatwick in its plans for expansion – because that is the best decision to enable Birmingham Airport to continue to grow and “fire the Midlands engine”.

And the arguments for Gatwick seem as logical and irrefutable as those for Heathrow appear unaffordable and impossible.

Expansion of Gatwick would help deliver the additional airport capacity needed in the South East, whilst allowing regional airports such as Birmingham to continue to establish the direct international connections that businesses in the regions require.  And never has that been more important than as we go through a period of uncertain economic conditions.

As Paul Kehoe said, we want to fly both short and long haul direct from our airport of choice. Birmingham has the capability and capacity to handle both but it is our very proximity to London that means that if the third runway is constructed at Heathrow, Birmingham will be at a disadvantage when it comes to fighting on the long haul stage.

The risk to Birmingham – and that means us in business – is clear. If Heathrow gets its third runway, then the development of new long haul routes from Birmingham will almost certainly suffer.  Even worse, existing long haul routes could be pulled.

The case seems very clear.  Whether it will seem quite as clear when the Government finally announces a decision is dependent on a lot of factors – but logic may not be one of them. (And this doesn’t even factor in the issue of when the long-overdue announcement is made and indeed, who the Prime Minister might be when it is.)


Trio of appointments for leading communications consultancy


Lydia Marshall, Louise Iles and Emma McKinney
Lydia Marshall, Louise Iles and Emma McKinney


We’re pleased to announce that our team is expanding, with three new appointments at our Birmingham-based offices.

Louise Iles and Emma McKinney have joined the team as account directors.

Louise has more than 15 years’ management insight working with a broad range of clients in-house and agency-side including ten years leading the public relations, sponsorship, crisis management and social media strategy as Halfords’ communications manager.

More recently, Louise has been agency side delivering licensing PR and events partnerships for leading consumer brands, LEGO® and Hornby.  Here at Clarke Associates she will have a focus on supporting specialist consumer clients and further developing the consultancy’s B2C work.

Emma McKinney, who previously worked as chief reporter, education correspondent and consumer editor for the Birmingham Mail, will be heading up a media relations remit for a number of clients within the consultancy, as well as handling social media.  In particular, her work as a correspondent in the education sector widens our expertise in that field, building on work in the primary, secondary, FE and HE education.

And Lydia Marshall has joined the team as account executive following an internship. Lydia, a classics graduate from the University of Manchester, has used her organisational skills and eye for detail to help plan and support a range of recent client events including a royal visit, as well as social media management, newsletter copywriting and assisting with a product launch.

Our Managing Director David Clarke said: “We have always prided ourselves on strength and depth as a consultancy and these appointments are very much made with that philosophy in mind.  Louise is a highly motivated PR expert with a record of delivery for clients and broad strategic knowledge, whilst Emma brings a background steeped in media relations.  In an age where clients are demanding extensive proactive and reactive programmes she will be a real asset to the team.   Lydia is keen to make the most of an opportunity which will allow her to gain valuable experience across a range of sectors and skillsets.”

Welcome to the team!




Manners maketh good PR

OQ picture

A story that seemed to resonate worldwide last week concerned Twitter-user Ben’s 86 year-old grandmother, who was employing her own form of advanced search techniques.

When typing into Google’s search bar, May Ashworth prefaced her query with ‘please’ and ended it with ‘thank you’, remembering her manners even in the face of impersonal technology because she thought it would make her search quicker.

Sweet, we might think, and the habit of someone who’s not quite accustomed to having the answer to almost any question at your fingertips- but perhaps we can all learn something from Ben’s grandma May? Rather than actually believing that there was a person reading her words and responding in 0.41 seconds, maybe May was just demonstrating a lifelong habit of always remembering to ask for things nicely.

Most of us now are used to taking technology for granted- if our computer slows, even for a few seconds, we notice and resent it. People who are from a generation that are used, in contrast, to not depending completely on smart phones and screens, can be a little more appreciative of the instantaneous results.

Google, one of the world’s biggest brands, took the time to tweet and thank May, showing that simply saying please and thank you is enough to get you noticed by a multi-billion dollar company. The story has highlighted that manners can go a long way (all the way to @Google, 15 million followers and 3.4k favourites, to be exact).

Showing a little courtesy is invariably appreciated, although the best results tend to be gained from interaction with people, not search engines. It’s a sign of good PR- and it definitely enhances reputation and even might help in getting results.



PR On Demand

PR on demand

As President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party looks about to vote through a measure that will give employees for the first time a “right to disconnect” what does this mean for us?

If France vote yes, companies of more than 50 people will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours – normally in the evening and at the weekend – when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails.

In a world where the once exclusive irregular shift patterns of police, fire services, doctors and nurses are now mirrored across the growing retail and leisure industries – and as consumers engage with brands 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year – can you ever really switch off?

As one of the Midlands’ leading communications agencies, we recognised and were quick to respond to a changing society and with our clients’ evolving needs. We provide complete peace of mind, on call 24/7 for crisis management and reactive media relations. So our clients can unplug and take time out in confidence. And many take advantage of our out of hours service as it can be much more cost-effective to outsource this sort of work than to pay staff additional money for working evenings and weekends or giving them time off in lieu.

And what of our team and work life balance? We’ve got it covered! Motivated, passionate and engaged, our dedicated team of PR specialists is the secret to our success, and so we share the responsibilities and rewards.