00:05 Ayo Abbas
Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of Marketing In Times of Crisis. I'm your host, Ayo Abbas, a freelance marketing consultant, and today is Thursday the 17th September 2020. My guest is Julia Nicholls, who heads up the communications team at Squire and Partners. In this episode, we touch on how the practice and brand has evolved over Julia's 22 year career. She's seen the practice go from 30 people to 250. And we look at what that has meant in terms of their comms approach and how they promote their brand. We also touch on their unique setup both as an architectural firm but also as a small developer. And lastly, we look at what they've been doing during lockdown and their role as an active participant in their local community in Brixton. If you like the podcast, please do subscribe. And don't forget to leave us a rating or review as that really helps us to spread the word. Anyway, I won't hold you up any longer. So please do enjoy the episode. Bye.
Hi, Julia. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Um, can you give me a brief intro to you and your role at Squire and Partners?
01:14 Julia Nicholls
Yes. Hi. Ayo, good morning. And thank you so much for asking me. I am the Director of PR at Squire and Partners. So we're 250 person practice. And I came from a sort of history degree background. So I didn't really study communications or PR, I did later to do a CAM deployment, Communications, Advertising and Marketing. But pretty much I've gained my experience on the job. So sort of, you know, learning from other people trusting instincts and sort of, you know, seeing the sort of how the practice operates and trying to work with that. I've been there for 22 years, which I always hate to admit, because that just makes me feel really old.
01:54 Ayo Abbas
01:57 Julia Nicholls
Yeah, I mean, I've, loved, you know, every minute of that 22 years, and it's not a job that's ever stayed the same. When I started, there were 30 people, well just under 30 people in the practice. And now there's 250. So it's not been a kind of, you know, a static job. But it's a long time to stay somewhere. And I think because it's always been evolving and changing that sort of why but you know, I feel that it's, you know, it's still an interesting job now.
02:23 Ayo Abbas
And I guess, in terms of kind of your role, how has that changed over the kind of 22 years in terms of what you do comms wise?
02:31 Julia Nicholls
Well, I guess, I mean, during the time I've been here, we started in a townhouse in South Kensington. And then when we grew to about 7080 people, we moved to King's Cross that was in 2002. So it was sort of before all the kind of smart Kings Cross stuff started, it was quite as seen as quite an edgy and risky play.
02:53 Ayo Abbas
02:54 Julia Nicholls
exactly I used to go to Bagleys when I was, you know, a student, I remember the sort of the, you know, the kind of great aspects of King's Cross, but it you know, that there were there were issues there as well. I think, and then we move to Brixton, as as a practice of about 200 in 2017, which is another area I absolutely love and knew already. And I think each of those moves marked a really key moment for the practice, not just in terms of its size. But in terms of sort of the types of work we were doing, how we were evolving and growing. And so each of those moves was an opportunity to kind of shape the way that we were perceived in the industry. And so they would kind of be almost a mini rebranding, or a sort of, you know, a little shift in the evolution of the company at that time. That sort of digital side of comms has developed enormously. And you know, we not only have a website for Squire & Partners, we have other aspects of the business that I'll talk about later. You know, we obviously have Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn, and all of those things to learn. And then my role, I mean, it was just me doing the PR for 10 years, I sort of started the depart, we didn't have anyone doing PR when I started. Then after that first 10 years, we were a team of two. During that time, I had two children. Now we're a team of four. So it's all a sort of juggle and but I've been so grateful for the freedom to kind of shape my role and keep it fluid, keep it interesting. And I you know, I feel like I'm just continually learning new skills. So that's been brilliant. And I think as well the culture of the company's been evolving all that time and we do lots of different aspects of design. So you know, we do masterplans, architecture as our core business, but we have a really established and award winning interior design department. We do installations for things like Design Junction London Design festival, we do sort of retail shop fronts, they've got to be quite special, but you know, we will do them for particular brands, we feel a kind of connection with products, textile design, you know, it's never sort of the same thing coming out of the office. So we've got an in house model shop and teams as
05:00 Ayo Abbas
It's all variety, I guess, isn't in terms of what you're doing, which must be, I guess it keeps you interested. Right?
05:06 Julia Nicholls
Definitely. Yeah. I mean, it's really it's really helped to sort of, you know, never made me feel that I, you know, I'm not doing the same job for 22 years, I'm really evolving, growing things and working with lots of different teams across the office, which is brilliant. And so I guess in a normal year, we'd work on, you know, the usual PR strategy across the office and events and installations, talks, press, photography, all those kind of things. But Squire and Partners, interestingly, as well as doing architecture and design work for clients have also been a sort of small scale developer for several years started off quite small. But you know, so the department stores is, is one of those things, but I've also been involved in promoting a launching a hotel, a workspace, private houses. And in Brixton, we're about to launch a workspace next door to our office, that sort of 200 person workspace, which has a private studios and also desks, it's kind of designed for small to medium creative businesses. So you know, I'm getting deeply involved in how you launch your workspace, and it's more sort of like B2C comms rather than the B2B. So , that's my learning curve at the moment. And we also have an event space in the building downstairs, a rooftop, members bar restaurant. And we're opening another restaurant in the workspace next door, so that you know, though all those things keep my mind thinking. Oh my gosh do I know how to launch a restaurant in Brixton?
06:32 Ayo Abbas
It's all process, though, isn't it? I always kind of think even if it's new, there's kind of like a process, a learning process that you can apply and how you do things, or that's how I end up learning things.
06:41 Julia Nicholls
Definitely, I think it feels super daunting when you're, you know, when you start out thinking I don't know anyone in the restaurant PR world but it's just common sense. And, you know, presenting things clearly. And okay, the things you might have to submit in a press release for a restaurant might be a little bit different. But it's not. Yeah, it's not so hard when you really think about it.
06:58 Ayo Abbas
No, it's not. And I also think, yeah, I always think of things is a process, you learn kind of the basics, and then Off you go, and like you say, it is literally common sense to get my stuff done and, and try new things. But I'm I mean, I'm really impressed by the kind of small developer model that your practice has as well, because I also just think it's fascinating, because that's how I first heard of you actually, in King's Cross.
6 St Chad's Place
07:23 Julia Nicholls
Yes, we spoke about that.
07:25 Ayo Abbas
Yeah, we did, which is generally raised to drink a long time ago. And
07:29 Julia Nicholls
Six St Chad's place was the bar that we actually opened ourselves, next door to our bricks and offices when there really, as I said, when we moved there, there really wasn't a lot around there. There was an amazing with a bar called Smithies, which has been in King's Cross forever. Yeah. But it wasn't really big enough to, you know, for 100 of us to descend on a Friday night. So we basically created our own bar out of an old train shed. And yeah, ended up being actually quite successful. We sold it when we moved to Brixton, we spoke but it's now a Meatliquor, which is just a bit depressing.
08:00 Ayo Abbas
But yeah, and you used to have that a big picture of the Thameslink platform in the bar. Yeah. Because I do remember that because like, because I love trains. I am that person, and so is my son. And I guess in terms of your comms approach, as you how has that changed, if you've moved from being a smallish, a small to mid sized practice from, say, 30? To 250? I mean, what stuff? Have you done differently? Or had to try? Or? Or what changed for you? Apart from just having a bigger team.
08:33 Julia Nicholls
Yeah, from a PR perspective, I mean, I started working for, I guess, a medium sized practice, headed very much by Michael Squire, who is still here, absolutely brilliant, and you know, his desk every day and very involved. But it's, it's been an evolution as well to a really strong second generation of the practice, which is incredibly difficult to do. There are three younger partners, as well as Michael. So there are four in total, and they've all been here for 20 plus years, kind of, you know, helping to shape the future of the practice organically. So it's, we use in the practice of evolution, not revolution, you know, there that's taking the desire forward and keeping things moving, without sort of losing the core essence of what the practice is about. So I guess, part of the comms approach has been creating a platform for all four of those partners to have individual voices, they're really different personalities. So there couldn't be a kind of one size fits all approach. And it's also not necessarily a case of, you know, Michael's the figurehead for the practice. And then everyone else is sort of in the office working, it's what you know, we want to create that platform for everybody. And then I guess the comms approach in terms of how I've seen the company go through these rebrands and, and also how it's interesting to see how at various points in the growth of the company, the industry and and sort of media, you know, they're desperate to kind of pigeonhole practice and be able to sort of summarise what they're about. So, when we were sort of growing at the very beginning, everyone was saying, well, you just refurbish reception areas and sort of you know, give buildings innocent refresher and a little rebrand. And then when we started to do new builds, they'd say well you just do commercial offices, and that that's what Squire & Partners do. And then when the market shifted away from offices into more residential, we did a couple of big residential projects. And then everyone said, Are you did you just do. And it's, you know, often these things are actually market and economy driven, rather than necessarily a, you know, a drive on a marketing side, because ideally, you want a varied at all the time, you never want to be, you know, all in one, one place. And often it's serendipitous moments as well of who you happen to meet, and you know, who your clients recommend you to. But we've always been looking ahead to, okay, this is how we think we're perceived now, which is also hard to find out when you're not looking at it objectively. And this is where we want to, you know, have a reputation on that. So that's, that's a sort of evolution in the way comes approaches. And there's also this issue that we're unashamedly a commercial practice, which essentially just means that you run a successful business. And somehow I think success in the architecture industry certainly, historically, has come with a sort of connotation that you're not driven by creativity, you're driven by money, but really, you need the two skills together. You know, certainly I know of very creative practices with like, very strong brands who really, really struggle to be a, you know, a sort of business,
11:25 Ayo Abbas
an ongoing business. Right. But But I think I'm actually some of the other interviews I've done, I think that's the thing that is coming out is that you can't suddenly hide from the conversations about revenue and money. Yeah, you know, they are important, as well as creativity, but your bottom line still needs to work.
11:43 Julia Nicholls
Definitely, yeah. And, you know, especially if you want to grow, you know, if it's your sort of practice, and it's sort of in a very small, but I think, yeah, if you want to grow your business, then, of course, you need to be thinking about, you know, being able to be profitable, and grow that idea, rather than just, you know, producing beautiful work that didn't, you know, that cost too much, or, you know, didn't mean. And, I mean, I, you know, over the years, I'm, I think we're in a fantastic place, now, we have a really varied portfolio from, you know, small community buildings, and affordable housing developments, right up to sort of the more high end of the market and international projects. So, you know, I, I don't I, in fact, we haven't really done any work on how we're perceived at the moment. But judging by the sort of press interest that we get, I think, and the sort of type types of projects that they cover, I feel like we're in quite a good place. And we also, I guess, the size of us, means that we're able to take on, we would normally have one or two pro bono projects in the office at one time, which I think is really good for the people. Obviously, it's good for the type of project that it is, because you can see that it's something that's actually really helping people or making a difference to a community. But it's also good for internally for morale, and until to work outside of our perhaps more commercial client base. So we've just done a community centre in Brixton next door to the Grade II listed Brixton windmill. And last year, we completed a children's hospice in North London. And I think that just such different types of projects, but you know, that I guess having that sort of freedom to design something so different, that you can see the results of how the design makes a difference to the people using the space?
13:30 Ayo Abbas
And also giving back as well, right, I think is so important.
13:33 Julia Nicholls
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And that's sort of, you know, in our own community and beyond.
13:39 Ayo Abbas
So how would you describe your approach to communication? So there are a certain tone of voice or anything like that, that you kind of think what what what kind of represents your kind of brand and company,
13:49 Julia Nicholls
when I think I mean, personally, my approach to comms is very much based around teamwork and collaboration. And I, you know, having done the job alone, and having done it as a, you know, two people, you know, when we got we worked really well together, and now a team of four, I think there's so much to be learned from everyone in the team, I have a really brilliant team. And I think, you know, the younger team come with more of an understanding about all the digital side and, you know, the older people sort of maybe have more experience of other things. And I think just working collaboratively in a team is fantastic. an in depth knowledge and passion for what you do, you know, I, I feel that obviously, I've been embedded in architecture for for my whole career, my husband's an architects actually and has his own practice. And literally, you know, I really, I'm really interested in it, and I and the rest of my team really care about good design and what it brings to the people who use the space. We're interested in the issues in the industry, generally, that shaped things. So I think, you know, you've got to have a passion for what you're doing. And then in terms of the, the sort of approach, I guess, honest and low key is the way I approach it is I feel like PRs generally have a bad rap. And I'd like no one wants to be Siobhan Sharp from Perfect Curve.
15:07 Ayo Abbas
Oh my god.I love that show.
15:10 Julia Nicholls
I can't every time they even mentioned her because I didn't mean my husband just collapsed into giggles. But I think PRs can be be perceived a certain way. And sometimes I don't like people telling people I work in PR. But I honestly think that PR in this industry is different to perhaps in some other industries. And you know, all credit PRs across industries. But I think there is a sort of caricature, isn't it, but I think here Yeah, it's it's honest and low key, it's a friendly tone of voice. And ultimately, you are there to communicate the core aspects of your practice, you know, the foundations of your practice. So at Squire & Partners, that is about designing for context, introducing craft into finished buildings, fusing tradition with technology. We're not a practice that sort of overly theoretical about our work or academic in our approach. But we care so much about the finished buildings and the sort of, you know, the craft and detail in them. I think as well as a practice, there's a real sense of not taking yourself too seriously, we take our work seriously. But don't take yourself too seriously. This is a sort of social and fun space to be. And I think that's really important as well in our comms both internally and externally that this is a this is a nice place to work, not just
16:32 Ayo Abbas
aesthetically, which it is gorgeous.
16:36 Julia Nicholls
Our offices, it's crazy. I've been doing these zoom calls, where people think that this is my home, and I've got these sort of like, leather, corb sofas behind me, and
16:44 Ayo Abbas
this is my mansion.
16:46 Julia Nicholls
I'm like, Oh, no. Will you be disappointed when you do a call at my home?
16:53 Ayo Abbas
Oh, you don't have that ceiling height? No. But no, it's definitely worth checking out your website to see some of the pictures of your building, which is beautiful. So in terms of how do you choose to use, I guess what campaigns or issues that you champion as a practice? And, and I guess what you do and how you, I guess you're doing stuff in a more under I guess a slightly less kind of in your face way a bit more understated on you.
17:21 Julia Nicholls
Yeah, definitely. And I think it really comes back to this honesty and authenticity, approach. So you know, as I say, we're very focused on delivering sort of beautiful buildings. And we're less interested in talking about our approach, sort of, you know, all the time, we feel that it that our approach should sort of become apparent in the narrative in our architecture and things like that, there will be issues. Occasionally that one of our senior management will hold the torch for at the moment. Michael Squire is particularly interested in this sort of white paper for the UK design code. And talking a lot about that and thinking about that, we're also really interested in workplace design sort of, during and coming out of COVID. were really interested in the rise of neighbourhood working and sort of hub and spoke models of working partly because we've been doing it three years, and we're about to launch one next door, it makes perfect sense to us, we know what all the benefits are. But whatever we sort of talk about, it has to be an authentic response to something that someone here feels passionate about, we would never feel that we should talk about something just for PR sake, because I think it shows and in terms of specific campaigns, like you know, AJ's retro first, and Architects Declare. The practice doesn't generally jump on those sort of media lead campaigns for the sake of a moment of publicity, I think there's a certain pressure put on practices to sign up. And actually, you know, sometimes media will single out practices that haven't signed up as if like, well, this practice doesn't care that the planet is dying, you know, and it's sort of like, look, I think that our commitment to adaptable reuse of existing buildings, or sustainability, or equality and diversity in the industry, those are all key to our values. And it's proven by our actions, rather than by putting our name on a list. And I'm particularly there was one, I think it was the Architects Declare one where, you know, the list of things you have to sign up to was actually pretty onerous. And I am sure that not every practice that signed up to it actually went through that checklist of things, you know, when they took on a new project, or, you know, and I think sometimes it feels a little bit disingenuous, to sign up to things if you're not really invested, if that's not a core part of your business. And, but I do see the value, of course, in you know, a group of people coming together to sort of lobby these things and, and to sort of make their voices heard as a group. But I think if it wasn't part of our core values are something we were really, you know, invested in and promoting anyway, then I guess we Yeah, for the purposes of PR, we wouldn't really engage in those.
19:58 Ayo Abbas
And that's your choice, and we should have I think that's the thing is that you're you're doing it, you're doing it via your actions, which is, which is the main point, really? I
20:05 Julia Nicholls
think, yeah, it would be more important to have a sustained and deeply ingrained commitment to issues than it would be to sign up for a moment and then sort of forget about it again.
20:16 Ayo Abbas
Absolutely. So you've talked quite a bit about kind of localism and your kind of local community. And I guess, at the moment, obviously, we're still kind of going through the covid 19 pandemic, can we go back into lockdown or whatever, what happens next? How have you kind of used your skills as a business to help your local community during COVID-19. So going, I mean,
20:38 Julia Nicholls
We're very connected to the community here in brick bricks, and particularly, and we kind of started that two years before we arrived, with some sort of, you know, a lot of kind of creative events and installations. And I think then when you take that through to COVID, we've, we've got an in house model shop. And we also as part of that group, we have an in-house textile designer who works part time here and part time on her own private work, Isabelle Fletcher. And we saw an opportunity to use the sort of skills and the equipment that we had to help. So, we were producing scrubs for local NHS hospitals in South London. Yeah. And as part of those sort of bigger operation, so we will pass the network, I've got what it was called now. But there was a network, there was
21:27 Ayo Abbas
quite a few around weren't there.
21:28 Julia Nicholls
Yeah, and so we were producing sets of scrubs each week, but always, always with a little design flair. So we would put little messages of sort of support and solidarity into like the collars, we had pattern pockets on every scrub. And in fact that the very basic scrub pattern didn't have a pocket on it, but we'd heard from other people working in the NHS that a pocket is really a useful thing to have. So it's just this little sort of, you know, quirky, extra. And then the visors that we 3d printed in our model shop, which again, was a, you know, process that you had to sort of meet quite exacting standards of, yeah, the type. And we also use a sustainable project, call it a material to be recycled. And that again, had a little message of one love NHS on the side, which, you know, it's actually really hard to focus on, because it's tiny, but you know, when you're putting it on the fact that you might sort of read that they will watch this, but it I guess it was a sort of our way of feeling that we could contribute. We also create visors for local businesses in the area, we're part of a network of local businesses. And then are a few people in the office, including a few partners, and our illustration team created a series of 12 bespoke artworks for one of my clients, Derwent London, who was off your lovely keyworker apartments on Charlotte Street for NHS staff working at UCH. So, yeah, those are sort of things we felt that, you know, we could do to help. And then the last thing we're working on at the moment, is I think we've all recognised that this is an incredibly difficult time for young people to have opportunities in the industry, you know, that there, there's no work experience placements at the moment, if you are still employed, it's very hard to get noticed. And to sort of, you know, show and document your contribution to the team, if you're working remotely, or if you can't really, you know, meet physically as often. And you're out of work, you know, how can you keep involved, keep relevant into the industry that you want to join. So the three of us in the office that are working on a talk that we're giving to a local youth creative network called Liverty and also to the Stephen Lawrence Trust, to keep them up to speed on things like how COVID is shaping the industry, you know, when they go for an interview, I think it'd be really useful to know, you know, what are the accelerators in the industry? What are people thinking and talking about now, and also just what opportunities exist in the industry, as well as how to get noticed? And lastly, how to work on your personal brand during this time, you know, what can I be doing? To keep my profile up, you know, to share my skills to sort of challenge myself
24:09 Ayo Abbas
to connect with people as well. Right. Exactly. Important. Yeah, it's so much harder. Yeah.
24:15 Julia Nicholls
And, and then we're doing some online workshops, again, with the Steven lots trust and things like CV and portfolio skills. And actually, Ayo something we talked about the other day, that kind of online interview, you know, there's some really simple things that you might not think about, if you're sort of prepping for an interview about you know, your background and making sure you're somewhere quiet and,
24:33 Ayo Abbas
you know, Wi Fi connection.Yeah.
24:37 Julia Nicholls
So, and then we're also doing workshops on sort of changes in legislation, planning and building control, which, you know, all happening through COVID that I think it would, you know, help people just feel that they're, they're up to speed with what's happening because this rate of change is just, you know, if you're if you're
detached from it,
25:00 Ayo Abbas
Okay, so I guess, looking at two, I guess, in terms of what changes have you seen in the in our actual market in the built environment market itself in terms of, and what opportunities do you see opening up to people in a post COVID world in terms of how they can drive their kind of businesses forward in the sector.
25:19 Julia Nicholls
So obviously, I mean, we've spoken about COVID, being this huge accelerator of change. And I think I use the word accelerator, because I think these were things that were already happening, but have obviously just been fast tracked. So workspaces, were already becoming very blurred with sort of home and hospitality environments, people were looking for wellness to be integrated into their work, not something that, you know, they have to do at weekends. And I think this shift towards a much healthier life balance. We all have to juggle sort of family and friends and relationships and work. And, you know, I think this increase in working from home, maybe working near a home, if you do go to an office, so neighbourhood working commutes that are just more sustainable, and you know, less stressful. So I think the local working angle is something that is really an opportunity at the moment and and definitely something that we see is happening, opportunities for your workplace as well to become more of a kind of clubhouse for your organisation, if that's someone's the Buildup call we were on earlier how, you know, if people can do their sort of desk work at home, and then they come for the much more collaborative and immersive stuff, then you'd probably approach the design of your office in a really different way. So that sort of it's like a brand experience, not just for your employees, but for anyone visiting.
26:38 Ayo Abbas
So it changes the purpose and the role of the actual office, isn't it?
26:41 Julia Nicholls
I think so. And then you've got to look at Okay, what what are the new premiums in office design, so there's got to be the sort of the human comfort element that you would experience at home, as, as well as those sort of practical concerns of, you know, you're going to need more cycle space, and then you're going to need showers, people are going to want access to outside space, as well as a sort of collaborative area and social areas, quiet zones, you know, areas for digital only meetings, you know, the well being programmes, these, these are going to be essential to workplaces going forward. And I think, because, you know, everything that's happening at the moment is so tied to the sort of the state of the planet, you know, sustainability, in terms of the building materials that you're using, and the life cycle and biodiversity is going to become central to, to new developments. So these are all I think, maybe growth areas. Yeah, I also think people having worked from home for quite some time are going to want to become embedded in and contribute to their community. And that could be a community at work as well as at home, or perhaps they are the same.
27:45 Ayo Abbas
sort of be part of something, isn't it? Because, yeah,
27:48 Julia Nicholls
working alone, we all know, can be lonely
And, you know, and I think these webinars, and, you know, web meetups are absolutely brilliant, and they've been totally lifesavers. But I think moving forward, it's going to become more of a mix. And I think the way we're communicating that in our office is to, we're setting up a series of internal presentations on, you know, parts of the sectors, I've really spoken today about workspaces, but also co living and residential and public space, you know, how, how are all these things changing so fast? And what do you think the sort of medium and long term impact of those will be?
28:23 Ayo Abbas
Yeah. And that stuff is just so so interesting, isn't it? Is that kind of your crystal ball? But
28:29 Julia Nicholls
yeah, and I think it's scary, especially in a big office like this, where, you know, you might have one team working on a coliving project, and another working on a workspace project, but it's really important that knowledge is shared. Absolutely. So that yeah, that's sort of why we set up this series of presentations.
28:46 Ayo Abbas
And in terms of a guess, for the kind of over the next, say, six months to a year what campaigns or approaches do you think are going to be kind of you're going to be doing as an organisation.
28:58 Julia Nicholls
I mean, one of the main things we're going to be doing is launching this new workspace building because it basically expands on the department store story, which we've been, we moved to in 2017. So that's three years now. But the interest in what we've created here, because it does deal with so many different aspects of working on workplace and what what workplace is. So sort of building on that story with our years next door is going to be big. We're also launching a residency where we're sort of along the commitment we have to our local community and all the creative projects we do, we're going to be giving two free workspaces to two young sort of Lamberth entrepreneurs that will come from touring and access to all the facilities. So that's, that's actually one of my projects for this autumn is to sort of put that call out and get a panel together and then make a sort of selection, which really
29:49 Ayo Abbas
29:51 Julia Nicholls
It does sound great, but I'm already dreading this sort of picking to people because I know they'll be brilliant, how little
29:57 Ayo Abbas
Shall we take them all!!!
30:00 Julia Nicholls
And it'll be fun.
And I think there's a there's obviously a digital and social strategy with that and a sort of a new curation of event programmes that will support that new part of this community. And we've got some key projects coming up. In the next sort of 6-12 months, we've completed our first project in King's Cross Central. And we're actually also finishing SouthBank place, we did the masterplan. So it's that the area around the Shell headquarters near the London Eye, as you come out towards Waterloo station, that was a master-lan that I'm gonna remember how many years ago, but
30:35 Ayo Abbas
a longtime ago, I remember that one
30:38 Julia Nicholls
and we and other really good architects have sort of delivered the various buildings on that site. So that sort of completing at the moment,
30:45 Ayo Abbas
that's mainly residential, isn't it?
30:47 Julia Nicholls
Yes, it was office and residential in there, some retail and public space. And then we're also launching a really nice, quite a large affordable housing scheme on the Isle of Dogs at the moment called Island Point, which is we just had some really great photos back, and I'm looking forward to showing that one as well.
31:03 Ayo Abbas
31:04 Julia Nicholls
And then we're doing our fourth year of one of my favourite things to do every year, which is called the winter windows collaboration. The illuminations festival that happens every January or didn't happen last year.
31:21 Ayo Abbas
Oh, is that one that has the bridges and things like that? Yeah. I always thought it might be like illumination, you know, something like that. I know when you made it luminaire I think it is something like that.
31:33 Julia Nicholls
So it's our own little mini Brixton. But
31:38 Ayo Abbas
I'm now going yeah,
31:40 Julia Nicholls
we have, we have eight giant windows along the front of our building. And this is quite a busy sort of, you know, pedestrian route up to Brixton station. And the first year we work with a local primary school kids and we asked them to develop designs for these sort of made out of basically neon, neon light. They're LEDS but you know, they're neon shaped. And they were meant to express the emotions of kind of winter and Christmas time. And it was such a successful events we did, we did one workshop in the school and one workshop here in our model shop. And then we literally created the exact drawings that they drew out of neon light, and they were huge. And we have a switch on events that everyone comes through, there's like another school has a choir that comes and it's just,
32:23 Ayo Abbas
they're all so proud of their work, I take it
32:25 Julia Nicholls
oh my other faces honestly, it's just it's adorable. And we actually want to Frame award for it this year for actually the last year's event. We've now worked with two primary schools, a secondary school for children with communication difficulties. And this year, I think we might actually haven't really decided but we might pitch it to young people who are, you know, maybe not getting opportunities, and we might actually get them to actually make their own installation. So there'll be using a sort of CNC cutter and light really should be a sort of start to finish process.
32:57 Ayo Abbas
That's so nice. That's brilliant. And on to my final two questions. So what standout marketing campaigns have you seen or admired during this kind of current kind of period?
33:10 Julia Nicholls
For me, and I'm going to say the Architecture Foundation, 100 days studio, which I just feel was such a feat to pull off, it ran from the first week of April, right to the end of August. And, you know, to to have the idea, and to get the tech set up to brand it. And to brand it and the brand was beautiful, to create speakers and topics that came from a really broad spectrum across the industry, from really big names, to start-up practices in, you know, sort of collaborative groups. And to sort of market it was, I think exceptional. And I think that the the sort of, you know, it was every weekday, and it helped you to sort of track that passing of time at a really critical point for everybody, as well as stay connected and hear how people, you know, were responding to the industry as a whole, but also what was happening. Yeah, they're, they're a small organisation in terms of sort of people and funding. But honestly, I thought to pull that off was exceptional. And it's something that is a great resource, and such a kind of positive reaction to what was going on at the time. And it I know that some of them are still available on online, I'm not sure if the whole back catalogue is but
34:25 Ayo Abbas
I'll put a link into it, but it's definitely I mean, it was a unique programme as well, wasn't it? It was like bridges, really interesting themes and topics and
34:33 Julia Nicholls
content, you know, when Yeah, and I think it's something I want to go back and revisit, you know, because I obviously, I couldn't see all of them. But yeah, it's definitely something I want to revisit in the coming weeks and months.
34:45 Ayo Abbas
Okay, now on to the final final question. So what one tip would you give to business leaders about their communications during this current time?
34:54 Julia Nicholls
I think I'm sort of repeating myself but it's still it's be authentic to the core values of your practice. So, look again and focus on what is true to your brand, rather than following any press opportunity. And I know it's really hard at the moment because, you know, the market is tricky. And, you know, everyone is fighting hard for every scrap of work that's going. But I think you've got to make sure that you're sticking to your core values and to see PR and comms as a natural extension of your organisation, and also the people within it. So don't force yourself to sort of fit somebody else's mould, you know, talk to people within your company about, you know, what's what's essential to them, because that conversations and opportunities for editorial thought leadership may well come out of those conversations internally. And if you don't know them, and share them, then you don't know what those opportunities are. And I would say as well just keep keep your digital presence going, you know, throughout this whole period, digital has just, you know, become more important than ever. And I think that even if you're you feel like your projects, and whatever, are quite quiet, whatever you have, whether it's, you know, site photos, models, that you've made, opinion pieces about things that are happening in the industry? Are you taking inspiration from other places in the world, or you know, what's happening in other cities or anything, any content that you can think of, look at other people's feed, see what people are doing, because I think that, you know, you can stay engaged and have a sort of continuity of feed, even you feel like, Oh, we've only got five projects that we can't continuously talk about, there'll be lots of things you can talk about, if you really sit down and think about, you know, your values as well as your physical.
36:39 Ayo Abbas
I think it's also I think it's the process of what you're doing. People always think it's the law, you know, the end shiny picture, but actually, how you got there that is test the content dynamite isn't.
36:50 Julia Nicholls
I completely agree. And I think more and more people are interested in process and you know, where these ideas came from. So yeah, I absolutely agree, you know, sketches and precedents, all really, really key.
37:06 Ayo Abbas
Brilliant. Okay, thank you so much for your time, Julia. Um, it's been you've been a great guest. And yeah, thanks for coming on the show.
37:13 Julia Nicholls
Thanks. It's been lovely chatting.
37:21 Ayo Abbas
Thanks for listening to the latest episode of Marketing In Times of Crisis. If you liked what you heard, please do leave us a review, as it helps us to spread the word and put more people to get to hear about us. If you want to know more about things mentioned in the episode, do look at the show notes which will give you more information about where to find us and also about our show website. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed it and have a great day. Bye