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S2E5: M&S stay focussed on guiding principles

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, Director of Corporate Communications at Marks and Spencer, tells Daisy why retail is a lot like working in politics and also offers lessons on leadership - as well as gems on reputation and communication.


Five key lessons stood out – three about leadership and two about communications. Let’s start with leadership:

  • Define what you believe in, your starting principles and use them to inform all of your decisions. It will make those decisions easier – because you aren’t starting form scratch – but it also sets you up for the holy grail of reputation protection, the moment when your stakeholders begin to believe that even if you did something wrong, you were probably doing it for the right reasons and will sort it out.

  • Explain your decisions and share the pain. Give the bad news yourself, as well as the good. That simple step will help build trust internally and externally.

  • You team are capable of extraordinary things. Every interviewee this season has described feats of stamina and ingenuity. So how can you help? Make clear the problem and the constraints. Let them wow you.


And for communicators in particular,

  • If you want customers to ‘vote’ for you with every purchase, you need to understand them, and that means having a team that reflects them and is curious to understand their needs. Sometimes that is going to mean engaging with some more extreme elements to get a feel for whether this is the start of something big, or a viewpoint that is truly peripheral – to make that judgment you can draw again on those core principles, but you also need a team that has a feel for what really matters to your target audience.

  • And finally, vitally, don’t undersell yourself. Communicators often feel stifled in the boardroom because they are different to other executives but that is why you are there. Learn to speak their language but never forget they need you to be the voice of your stakeholders into the business – as well as the line of communication out.

Find the whole episode here:



Or read the transcript in full here:


S2E5 - M&S stay focussed on guiding principles


Daisy Powell-Chandler 01:03

Welcome to Why Everybody Hates You, an audio support group for reputation professionals. If you have any responsibility for how people talk, think, and feel about your organization, then you are in the right place. I’m your host, reputation coach Daisy Powell-Chandler. 2020 was a pretty wild year for all of us, and for this series, I’ll be interviewing communicators from organisations that had an especially weird time of it. This week I’m bringing you an interview with Victoria McKenzie-Gould, Director of Corporate Communications at Marks and Spencer. Of course, I started by asking her why everybody Hates Marks and spencer – and it turned out she had come prepared...


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 01:03

It's a really interesting question and I reflected on how to answer it because actually the reality is is that people don't hate M&S. And I could say, I think we've said ourselves that it's amazing that people don't hate M&S, because sometimes we've let them down pretty badly. So it's quite remarkable. And I think that's for a couple of reasons. I think one is it's partly because we're unique. We're a retailer, but we sell our own brand. So it's got a really strong brand resonance with people. You think about going shopping, which, you know, that great quote, "we're a nation of shopkeepers". And, you know, there's a very separate debate around how people are shopping now, over the last 12 months, but also the direction of travel. But fundamentally, people still like going shopping. And actually, there's been a huge uptick in terms of the the amount of shoppers that are shopping online for very obvious reasons. But actually, particularly in grocery, it is still at a relatively low level. So there's a real balance and people have always enjoyed our shops, they love our colleagues, and rightly so they're pretty amazing. And I'll come to the kind of brand point, but also, you know, people love our product. They don't always love our clothing and home products. Although that's changing, I'm pleased to say. Particularly in categories like kidswear where we used to be kind of grandma's Sunday best and we're now "I'm a mum of a seven year old, I can now buy all my clothes for my daughter in M&S, for normal wear, rather than just an annual visit to somwhere formal and posh". So the amazing thing is that we are loved. So I think it is partly because we're unique. But it's also because our brand does stand for something. And some of it is, you know, it's memories that people have, because as you say we have been around a really long time. And coming to M&S and stuff from M&S is still seen as a bit of a treat, even if it's your sausages or your bread. And actually, you know, people know that we treat people fairly, you know, the people who work for us, we care about them. And they know that too. And that's partly why they give great service. Our suppliers know that. And if I'm allowed to plug this one in, there was a great piece in the telegraph by the marketing fashion editor who was talking about why, you know, why she likes M&S, and it's because actually, we were really quick to move. We have for some time now in terms of our sourcing of cotton, and it's not from Xinjian. And we've led the way on that with a call to action, not just about primary supply, but about secondary and tertiary. So there is something deep within the business - and you know that when you work here - which is people know it's a special brand. Look, it's a brand that's challenged: so no one comes here because they think they are going to get an easy ride and a massive bonus. It was a brilliant quote from our chairman, he said that the board aren't here for the sandwiches and around of applause every year, no one turns up for that. So you know, it's challenged, and you know that the challenge is making it relevant and meaningful for customers today. But the core of it is it's really powerful. And, you know, my day job, I'm amazed sometimes. So we shared a post a couple of weeks ago, just simply saying that everyone is welcome in our stores, and if they feel unsafe....which what lots of other retailers have done. But the response was just so warm and massive from a kind of volume perspective. And what was amazing when you looked at how customers had responded, and of course, yes you got some that just use it to kind of, you know, to say something about the fact they couldn't get the product they wanted in their size or whatever - as you'd expect. But actually, so many personal stories of how our customers come into one of our stores, and the colleagues had been so incredibly helpful. And actually, I don't know any other retailer who would have had that same volume of response. Or warmth of response. So I think, you know, I can say honestly that despite sometimes what probably feels like our best efforts, people do love our business and our brand. And I think, you know, it sounds a bit schmaltzy, but I think that's because actually it's a nice business and people genuinely try to make the right decisions - from a kind of ethical standpoint. We don't always get the product right, although we're working on that.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 05:32

That feels like a really big responsibility, to take on communicating for a brand that has so much personal brand capital invested in it and so much of people's, as you say, memories and sentiments. How do you make sure that those ethical decisions, those decisions around sustainability, suffuse everything you do? How do you future gaze and work out what's going to matter next so that you can make sure you're on the right side of that argument?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 06:00

I think the reality is, is that it all starts at the top. And that's not me, that's the board and the CEO. And it isn't just about what's in vogue or what's an issue. It's about what you believe. And when we start anything, if we're talking about, you know, a reward review, as an example, my boss he's the chief executive, he's a guy called Steve. He always says, "Well, what do we stand for? What's our principles to begin with?" So, you know, don't start with the numbers. Of course, the numbers are massively important. But I think that's what makes it easier to do my job is that you're not having a conversation with people who don't care. You're having a conversation with people who care absolutely. Deeply. And you know, like every single individual business in the in the world, but let's make it the UK in the last 12 months, it's been really bloody difficult at times. And, you know, we have to give our colleagues some tough news. You know, I think it was about this time last year - we've started having these anniversaries which is a really weird feeling, because it feels you don't quite know where the time has gone - where we had to tell colleagues that no one's getting a pay rise next year. Now, as it happens, we rewarded frontline colleagues with a bonus last summer, but at the time, you know, that wasn't being discussed. And actually, the way we did that was by Steve - he actually obviously couldn't see everyone in real life because we weren't allowed - but recording a message that actually we ended up sharing on LinkedIn, because it affected colleagues so much. And, you know, you can have the best comms team in the world. But the reason that works is because he means it and, you know, rather than shy away from a decision he was really upfront about it and it was really clear that everyone meant everyone, including him. And, you know, he's sorry that this was the message he was giving, but here's why we're doing it. And the response from colleagues was overwhelmingly and unbelievably positive. And so it's just one way of bringing to life that, you know, you can't....the comms team, the corporate first team, they can never do these things on their own - ever. And so you know, being an ethical businesses is a question of leadership, not comms. And, you know, I feel very lucky and fortunate that there's a team of leaders here, who...it's not window dressing for them, it's real. So you actually feel quite free. They'll also step up and give the bad news as well as the good news, you know, and that's ultimately, for me, that is leadership. But you don't always get that. So I'm very lucky.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 08:49

It's leadership as well that has been under a great deal of pressure, especially over the past year. We've seen other retailers struggling and even going under. We've seen high streets really take the absolute brunt of the pandemic. How has that been for Marks and Spencers? And what's changed due to that?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 09:11

For everyone, it's just been a slight vortex is how I describe it. But it's a funny thing, because it's also had moments of unbelievable kindness. And it's been an amazing period, I think for almost the country, as well as for us as a business and for individuals. But what will retailers have in common? And I think one of the things that was really, really heartwarming about, in particularly the early stage of the pandemic, when the food retailers genuinely left competition at the door. Obviously, within the confines, I should be very clear, within the law and the competition law, which is very strict in the UK. You know, I don't think there's many sectors more competitive than UK grocery in the world. But the way that there was such collaboration and...the reality is every single retailer looked after their people. They all did. I think we felt it really keenly as a sector because we had at M&S 70,000 people, you know, serving customers every day. Customers who are worried, who were scared. But actually colleagues here - and I'm sat in the Support Center in London - doing amazing things like you know, getting food boxes that we can deliver online. Something we've never done before within a couple of weeks using our castle Donington distribution center, which is set up for clothing and home, to deliver food boxes. And that may not sound like a big deal. But it's a massive deal if you think about it from a sourcing, packaging, pricing, mechanics, online. Everyone offered the kind of cards so that you could order a gift card for someone else, so that they could use it without you needing to be there. And that all takes different technology. And, you know, piling in and supporting government schemes in terms of supporting families, who were being given additional money, supporting our own colleagues in brilliant ways. And you know, setting up a hardship fund making sure everyone was paid when they needed to isolate...there's a whole list. So it was, it's been an unbelievably difficult year and an exhausting year. But it's also been an amazing year, in some ways, which sounds really probably slightly odd. And, you know, we're a subset of the population and we lost some colleagues. And we've obviously got lots of colleagues who've been affected by it with their families, so that the impact on even on a personal level has been profound. But the way that people came together across the retail sector, I just found amazing. Genuinely, and actually,working with DEFRA and George Eustice, who's been brilliant, to make sure that with the real basics, that you've got food, and you can get it to people. And that's something we really take for granted now. And it really reminded everyone that you can't. So it's been really difficult. But there's been an amazing amount of heart. And, you know, whether it's, you know, we did a huge amount of work for NHS charities together. Where my office is, is opposite St. Mary's in Paddington, and, you know, doing food deliveries there. And...lots of people do things like that. And the energy and focus on that you could get from around the business was just incredible.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 12:51

How much of that are you going to be able to take forward? Are there elements of this that you think, "Oh, yeah, that's just how we do things now". Or are they things that were one offs?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 13:02

Look, we've had a program called "never the same again", which does what it says on the tin. So as a business, we've really sped up the things that we wanted to do already to change the business and gone really super fast. So you know, moving really quickly, to be much better online. I think we're now number two in the market, which is brilliant for clothing and home. Obviously, we have a deal with the Ocado for getting our food online. Going hard and fast in terms of making sure that we've got the right store estate that's going to suit us in the future but also, you know, very simply making sure that we have a business with a strong balance sheet, which you know, was no small task over the last 12 months. A large part of it was also working differently. And actually the ways of working were much quicker, much more agile, in a funny way freer because it was like everything had to be done now. I mean, it is an amazing thing you know, even on Christmas Eve - I think it was Christmas Eve - you know we couldn't get any lorries across or back from France. Obviously no one could, but also in Wales, you know, the government had given us I think the day before - and if I've got the timing slightly wrong, forgive me - but I think 24 hours notice to shut all of our shops. You know, Christmas Eve, which is massive trading day for us. And the ingenuity and speed..."okay, we've got to do that again". You know, just getting on with it and working around things. So that kind of problem solving, working in a different way, everyone being together...you know what? Sometimes it doesn't take a month to make these decisions. We can actually make them if we really need to in an hour. That's definitely stayed - 100%. And that's something you want to stay really because actually it gives everyone more rewarding jobs as well as actually giving you a better business.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 15:08

And that is not completely unfamiliar to you, is it? You come from a politics background, don't you?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 15:14

That's right. So it feels like an age away now. But yeah, I worked for the Labour Party in the early 2000s. And then went to work at Downing Street when Tony Blair was Prime Minister for him in 2005. So yeah, I think the fanaticism...I mean, you often find in retail that a lot of comms teams are drawn from politics. And I think that's because particularly with food, retail, you know, every day, there's like a million things that you didn't know were going to happen that have happened. And, you know, a government, whether it's Press Office policy or whatever, that background gives you almost a unique, and giving you that sense of pace and scale and unexpected problems. And it's a similar tempo, really, because what you really want is retailers to get people to vote for you every day. And actually, that's the same in politics. And there's always a store open, and there's always a website. So you've always got potential upside potential downside. And I think you just get very used to go with the flow. But also, as I said, customers are voters. So that sense of the public mood, I think in retail...you can't really do comms if you don't have that. You got to be able to think about where's this going to go? And what is the public going to think? And that becomes innate in policy, you know, you tend to enjoy working in politics, because actually, you've got a feel for that, and you tend to have a view on it. So I think that served me very well. I worked at Tesco for five years, and then went to Britvic, and then came here. And I think, you know, there's a lot of crossover.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 17:01

So what process do you have for keeping that finger on the pulse of the public mood and the way in which your target voters are swaying?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 17:13

So I think that ultimately, you've got sales. So that so that's a pretty good demonstration. And then actually, you know, as marketing becomes more digital, as your channels become more digital, and as even in comms you become a digital, it becomes a lot more easy to get data and facts. And we have, you know, we get a lot of communication from our customers. So you know, whether that's complaints, of course we look at very seriously. But also you can see, you know, social gives you a massive indicator of how usually customers are - and you've got to be a bit careful, because they're not always customers - feeling. But I think if anything, you can be drowned out by data now. And noise. I think that's one of the issues. So we use, and I think most comms teams do you know, we monitor traditional media, social media, we are really clear on the messages that we want to land and we look at the landing, we look at sentiment, and for us, you know, the BBC is still by far the most influential channel with our customers. So that's, that's what people are...obviously, it's a politically neutral organization, but actually the coverage is a big indicator for us. And you know, what the media is saying of us is an indicator for our systems of public feeding. But obviously, you get a lot of direct information from the customer data now, which is really helpful. You also can, you know, you can track a whole number of things. We ask colleagues very regularly what they think. So, you know, we target MPS and employee MPS, but I think you do have to start with what do you want to stand for? So, you know, if you go into an issue, like, for example, Black Lives Matter last year...it doesn't really matter, your customers are not going to be saying all the same thing. So you have to decide what you want to say. And I think one of the things that you learn, or certainly I learned in politics - and Tony Blair's was one of my bosses and he is pretty good at this - you do really have to stay true to yourself and not waver but also know when you're getting it wrong. So you've got to be alive to a situation. I think well we called that right or we called that wrong, but I think you have to have core, you know, whether you call it values or whatever you you want to describe it and what you're trying to do and be sensitive to the public mood. Of course, but know what you want to do and what you want to stand for because otherwise, you know, one week you will think one thing and next week, you'll think something else. We have some, you know, really sensitive issues like transgender, and what that means for changing rooms and things and you know, the reality is there's such strong views on an issue like that. You have to look at, you know, you have to look at the law, of course, but you have to look at all of the arguments and think well, what do we think is the right thing to do? So, I think that's where it comes back to, you know, as I say, I'm fortunate in being in an organization that is very alive to what customers think and what the public thinks, you know, we're actually, you know, we're a big business, but we're not huge. But we're one of the most talked about brands in the UK. So we also know that what we send do matters and has resonance. And on the one hand, as you say, that gives an element of risk, but on the other hand what a massive opportunity and how incredible an opportunity. So, for me, I think, I could give you a boring answer about well, we tracked this and we've tracked that. Of course we do stuff you'd expect us to do. But we're also, you know, you have to use a bit of emotional intelligence and think about what you think.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 21:04

But compared to the Blair years even, the speed of that debate has accelerated even further now, hasn't it? You mentioned social media, the speed of debate online, in the 24 hr news is so fast now. How do you resist the pull of that? Or have you just accepted and gone with the flow?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 21:24

I think you have to do both. I think you have to be careful and thoughtful about how you engage on social media. I know that a large part of it is an echo chamber in some regards. But it's also important. And what I do every morning, it doesn't matter what day of the week it is - even a Saturday or Sunday - I read our media brief, and then I have a good read of everything that's going on. And then you know, I'll keep an eye on what's happening through the day, but if you're not careful you are glued to everything all the time and you're not actually doing anything about it. And of course, put that to one side, you know, if there's an issue, then of course, you have to look at it very carefully. But you do also need to take a step back. Because you can only ever really see something, when you've when you've looked at what's happened from start to finish. And so I think you have to be responsive, but try not to be too reactive, because then you'll just get kicked around. But I think it's difficult. I think, you know, as individuals, we're sort of overwhelmed with information. I feel very lucky. I mean, I've worked you know, whether it's the Labour Party, Tony Blair, or Tesco, you know, they're controversial brands. And people have different reactions to them. And M&S - and I touchwood as I say this - we're just incredibly fortunate in that even if people think, you know, they may not agree with us, they tend to think "you've done what you've done for the right reasons". Which doesn't mean that we don't have challenges, and I think like a lot of brands, you know, we have been I think a rather quiet English brand. And I don't think we probably all always helped ourselves with that. And actually, you know, on an issue like that, I think there was a bit of "Oh, goodness, what do we think? And what do we want to do?" And you have to look at yourselves and, you know, we talk to colleagues around it first, we have to be really honest, and say, "we've got a lot to do ourselves". So, you know, we're not going to stand up and lecture anyone. First of all, we're a business and what are we doing, you know, before we can make any big statement about what others should be doing, we have to look ourselves in the eye. And I think that the positive of that is there's a positive to the immediacy. Because it takes away hierarchy and hiding. I think the downside is that it can be a very singular and kind of forthright argument that lacks nuance and lacks compromise and lacks reflection. And I don't really say that about M&S, I say that, as you know, someone living in a time that I think is quite difficult.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 24:19

I think it also puts more pressure on comms teams to be prepared in advance for everything that may be coming down the track. How does your team go about scoping out potential reputational risks that you might be facing?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 24:33

All business has a risk process and that's the kind of bedrock. So they're the things that includes things like, you know, sustainability issues like climate change, you know. And that's your starting point. But then actually, we deliberately talk to stakeholders who talk to NGOs...we think about the people that drive the conversation. And from my experience what you tend to see is a view that can sometimes seem quite extreme, actually, but then at some point then becomes the mainstream. And that's progress in some senses - or not. But usually, it's progress. So I think you have to be...I think you need a team of people that are curious and engaged in the issues, and that they are...you know, you need people that are not just big consumers of the media, but also actually they're really engaged in issues, are really engaged with NGOs, and think it matters, and are really engaged in politics. You know, you need people that are broadly intellectually curious, because they're, in my view, and I'm sure that in five years time my job will be done by a robot that is far cleverer than I am. AI and monitoring, and all those things can absolutely help you. And that's all getting better. And the algorithms you are seeing, you know, it's interesting, even when you look at, from retail industry issues, from a more commercial perspective, you know, when you start, it's really interesting that you start looking at all of the kind of coverage and things that come up in like France, Germany, Spain, you know, it's actually fascinating to see the similarity. The great ideas you can get. And you can absolutely use that to track issues. So what the conversations have been had, etc. However, you tend to need a human feel, to know, in my experience, when something's going to become an issue and when it isn't. And I think that is driven by experience and by recruiting people. And, look, I think this comes partly back to my experience of politics....but have a feel, have a feel for what the public have a feel for - where's this going to go? And how are people going to respond? You know, machine learning learns what's happened before. It doesn't learn what's going to happen, and none of us can know that. But I think that's one of the big things that you know, corporate communication teams have to offer is that we've got a good view on this. And partly that can be informed by the insight that you have, that can be drawn from lots of different sources, or can be drawn from monitoring, but actually, partly, it's because, you know, your gut tells you. And actually you talk to people, I mean, you know, talking to people in what you may call informal ...I remember, and I'm sure I can share this, but you know, when I worked in Number 10, what I saw in action was that the Prime Minister was excellent at surrounding himself with people who had different life experiences. And I was only 25 when I worked there. I always joke that my Chairman - Artie Norton, who is wonderful - when he says the word estate, and I say what comes into our minds, from our upbringings, is very different. Mine certainly wasn't a country estate. And so, you know, you need a diversity of opinion and thought, but you also want people whose life experience - sod career experience - but whose life experience will help them understand what people can think about this. So I think particularly in the retail business, have a team who have got their feet on the ground. And, you know, I always say, what's my family going to think? And my family don't live in mansions, which is usually helpful. You probably want to know what they think as well. But I think, you know, if you think about an issue, like Brexit. None of the banks really thought it was gonna go one way? Well, that's because their social circles weren't the people that decided the vote. And so you need to hire people who bring a diversity of thought and opinion. But this depends on your business, you know, if you're a luxury goods business, I think you need one set of life experiences, possibly. But in a mass market retail business, you've got to have people who understand the public, who have an affinity for the public, actually. You should have a background. So it's not about saying that you need to go to certain school or live in a rough part of town, but it's about an affinity and an understanding of the public. Because otherwise, you can have all of the monitoring and AI, all the insight that you want, but I don't think it will help you all the way. That was a bit of a long answer. Sorry.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 29:26

No, it was great. And I think will speak to one of the challenges that a lot of communicators have trying to make sure they've got the right team around them to do the best possible job. What other lessons do you have that you would pass on to other communicators either learned from 2020 or brought with you from elsewhere in your career?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 29:54

Don't undersell what you do, but you do need to talk in the language that your business talks in. I was asked - if I make it almost sort of a more personal thing - but I think often communication teams, and particularly the people that lead those teams tend to be slightly different from the rest of an executive team. And actually see that as a massive positive. Because that is a positive. You know, that's partly why we're there. But I think sometimes, if I think about how I felt when I was younger, I probably felt like, "Oh, God, I don't, I don't know what these guys know. Of course, if you realize this into some manner that I don't know what these guys know, they don't know what I know". And it's just as valuable. But I think it's an obvious truism, but everyone said in the last 12 months we've shown the value of comms. It's also showing actually - and I know this from talking to recruiters - it's also shown when someone's really not up for challenge or not up for crisis. And actually, the one thing that business really depends on you for in comms, is in a crisis you'd better put your hand up first, you know, leading from the front. And I think that's been a massive...it has given a lot of teams an opportunity to shine and show the value that they can add. So I'm not sure if it's 1, 2, 3 or 4 lessons, or if they're even lessons, but I just think fundamentally, you know, comms teams should absolutely not undersell what they do. They need to be able to articulate what they do quite, quite clearly. And often it's an irony, but comms teams are often not great talking about what they do themselves. But also, you know, don't be shy of being different. That's the whole point of having that team in the business.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 31:45

I love that. And, you know, I think you're absolutely right that comms teams quite often do have this sort of, shame of like, "oh, we're not the people doing the thing, we just talk about the thing". But actually, if you don't talk about it, no one's going to know what the rest of them are doing so it's kind of important.


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 32:06

Yeah, exactly. You know, your role in comms is two things. It's proactively talking about the business, but it's also defense. And if you can't defend, then you're probably not going to be around for very long. In my experience, because that is the first job - to defend the business. But to defend the business, you need to be able to tell a positive story about the business as well. And not just the story but you got to back it up. I think the big advantage, and the teams that are brilliant are the ones that don't just talk. Actually, they're the ones that drive the business to take different actions. And actually, that is when they become the most rewardingteams to work on. And I think as well, I know for my team it's been a bloody hard 12 months - I mean, unbelievably hard. And actually, a lot of my team lived in London, and some still do, and they're in flats, and you've got all that, you know, working on a kitchen table with everyone else and actually really missing human contact. But also they've seen that their thoughts and ideas have been translated into proper action, which is fantastic. So, yeah, I think the last 12 months has absolutely shown the value of fantastic Corporate affairs and corporate comms teams and the span of what those teams do has been moving for a long time now, but it's certainly more than writing a press release or doing what you're told to do. You know, this is what we used to do, go and communicate, it is a much more symbiotic relationship and partnership relationship, which can only be the thing.


Daisy Powell-Chandler 33:35

I'm really interested in that point about being the people who suggest the change, the people who drive change. I know that's something that some comms teams really struggle with. Are there any tips you can give on how to do that better?


Victoria McKenzie-Gould 33:51

One I think is being doggedly persistent, which I've always been accused of. But I think one of the things I've learned and I think, working in politics probably gave me a good steer, is, you know, people are far more likely to come with you on a journey if they like you and believe in you. And if they think you understand them, and even if you're having to tell people to do something they don't want to do you know, the power of humor I just find incredible. And, you know, I tried to make everything that I do in terms of I think, I would really like the business to do this. It's like make this a great journey that we're going to go on together. And how can you make that sound exciting and compelling? And you also have to build up credibility by being able to do that defense, you know, that there has to be a light and a shade. But actually, I think, think about selling what you're trying to do. But ultimately, you need a strong case, initially a strong case, but like most things in life, you need people to buy into an idea and often they tend to buy into an idea far easier if they buy into you. And, you know, I'm lucky and I think most comms teams... I like people anyway, so I don't I don't find it difficult...but actually, you know, getting people to believe that you're there to help them - because you are - but you know, being on their side. That's what I mean, it's how can we go on this great journey together?


Daisy Powell-Chandler 35:25

That's everything from us. A big thank you to my guest, Victoria McKenzie-Gould, of Marks and Spencer. I’d love to hear from you which lessons particularly stood out. For me there were five key ones – three about leadership and two about communications. Let’s start with leadership:- Define what you believe in, your starting principles and use them to inform all of your decisions. It will make those decisions easier – because you aren’t starting form scratch – but it also sets you up for the holy grail of reputation protection, the moment when your stakeholders begin to believe that even if you did something wrong, you were probably doing it for the right reasons and will sort it out. - -Explain your decisions and share the pain. Give the bad news yourself, as well as the good. That simple step will help build trust internally and externally. - -You team are capable of extraordinary things. Every interviewee this season has told me about feats of stamina and ingenuity. So how can you help? Make clear the problem and the constraints. Let them wow you.And for communicators in particular, -If you want customers to ‘vote’ for you with every purchase, you need to understand them, and that means having a team that reflects them and is curious to understand their needs. Sometimes that is going to mean engaging with some more extreme elements to get a feel for whether this is the start of something big, or truly peripheral – to decide that you can draw again on those core principles, but you also need a team that has a feel for what really matters to your target audience. - -And finally, don’t undersell yourself. Communicators often feel stifles in the boardroom because they are different to other executives but that is why you are there. Learn to speak their language but never forget they need you to be the voice of your stakeholders into the business – as well as the line of communication out.If you've enjoyed this episode, I hope you'll tell your colleagues and perhaps write us a review on your usual podcasting app – it really does help new listeners to find the show. Thank you for listening to Why Everybody Hates You, and remember: you ar