News Article ————

fox&cat Proves it’s Possible to Improve the Mental Health of 4,500 People Working in Comms for Less Than £25k

Author image Published by olivia.wright@dontpanicprojects.com
Published Date 28.06.2023

We launched fox&cat with a mission to help our comms clients both deliver and thrive under pressure. Being vehemently purpose-driven and seeing the latest data showing that 9 in 10 people working in comms experience poor mental health with 7 in 10 experiencing stress, we realised the abundant need to help our industry better manage pressure and stress at work which formed our new CSR/social purpose.

Being a new agency, and this being investment time, we needed to make an impact without significant cost to the business. Pulling in partners CIPR, PRCA and HCA – who were fully aligned on the need for change – we created the industry’s first training programme Under the tree to help tackle the industry-wide mental health crisis.

SMART objective: use LinkedIn Live to train 650 people (50 people per session) from agencies, in-house teams, and independents between February – May 2023 (ending in Mental Health Awareness Week) with at least half reporting improvement in their ability to manage pressure following the sessions.

Research showed stress was caused by workload, confidence, unclear expectations, feeling inadequate, and deadlines/targets, which have learnable solutions, so a training and development approach was adopted

Mental health and stress remain taboo topics, so fox&cat created the campaign and hub “Under the tree”, a safe space for communications professionals to learn skills to manage workplace pressure.

Given the universal need for change across comms, we formed a ‘shared vision’ partnership with the CIPR, PRCA and HCA to:

  • review campaign content and ensure it met the needs of all three institutions
  • have the sessions CPD-accredited
  • utilise owned and earned targeted promotional channels and platforms
  • access team resources to help deliver aspects of the campaign without incurring charge

The key causes of stress were universal across seniority levels and therefore educational sessions were pitched at all levels. Yet industry change requires leadership change, therefore we ran two-panel discussions with agency leaders, senior independent practitioners, and in-house team leads.

We adopted a multichannel marcomms approach to ensure we had the potential to reach the entire communications sector. This included earned media outreach, social media, face-to-face conversations, newsletters etc.

Accessing live sessions is often a challenge for busy people, so we recorded sessions, developed downloadable top tips and made all materials available for 12 months after the series concluded via the hub and socials to ensure maximum benefit to all.

We ran a series of 45-minute LinkedIn Live lunchtime sessions ran for 13 weeks, covering:

  • 11 sessions on ‘team mental health safety’, ‘resilience and confidence’, ‘critical connection’, ‘solutions-focused thinking’ and ‘mindfulness’
  • 2 ‘mental health leadership’ panel discussions for senior communicators to (1) help embed the critical focuses on their teams and (2) explain the benefits of team learning

We ran our multichannel communications programme to drive awareness and engagement was which included: 

  • Earned media campaign to outlets spanning communications, pharma and health  
  • Owned media campaign including social posts across fox&cat, HCA, CIPR and PRCA  
  • Direct mail to agencies and independent practitioners  
  • Paid media including LinkedIn ads to target in-house and client teams  
  • Attendance at two key leadership networking events including the MedComms HR Forum (May 2023) and PR Week’s PharmaComms 2023 (March 2023)

Given this was an industry first, and that 91% of people experiencing work-related mental ill-health was a relatively stable statistic for the past 4 years, evaluation was critical to help shift the dial.  

90% of people who completed the evaluation forms after the events (42 responses) reported they felt better equipped to deal with the pressures of their role versus 50% hoped. We also received incredible words of encouragement and praise from attendees across the board.

Unanimous feedback from the partners around the success of the campaign including Mike Dixon HCA: “Huge thanks to you and the fox&cat team for personally and financially supporting and coordinating such a fantastic and valuable initiative. The HCA are proud to have been associated with Under the Tree.”

Example of attendee feedback: “Thank you – you’ve opened my eyes I can think through what I really need, what my teams need and how to get there. It’s clear: I also need to show up for me” – in-house comms director, pharma (Novo Nordisk). Found here.

The campaign was given to the industry for free, meaning no cost to individuals or businesses for this initiative. This is a completely altruistic project from a new brave agency – a clear proof point for it being a truly purpose-driven agency. While the cost was approx. £5 per viewer, 90% of people who completed the evaluation forms reported that they felt better equipped to deal with the pressures of their role.

Based on Deloitte findings, for every £1 spent on mental health interventions, £5 comes back in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover. We therefore estimate that our campaign has benefitted businesses £122,290 [£24,458 x 5] however this cost could be much higher. Based on hours completed and on agency rates, we estimate the client spend on a project of this scale would equal £128,764 meaning the campaign would have benefited businesses by £643,820. We, therefore, believe this was a sound investment in the communication industry.

In setting up fox&cat, the founder was driven by his own past mental health challenges and how these manifested in the workplace, hence fox&cat’s unique mission to help client teams deliver and thrive under pressure. fox&cat realised the opportunity to create an industry-first training programme to help tackle the industry-wide mental health crisis, as part of its agency CSR mission, and its commitment to then finance and deliver it in its entirety – a real testament to its commitment. 

‘Under the tree’ was a creative twist from the fable about a cat and a fox, which explored how too many thoughts and ideas can threaten decision-making. fox&cat’s logo is a tree and the space under that tree represents the safe space of this campaign. In practice, for programme attendees, its name brings people together and communicates shared ambitions in an online space of safety. 

We brought in seven external trainers who lead the way when it comes to training and development. fox&cat operates with a freelancer model, so the client team who delivered the project were all contracted into support.

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