Q+A: Sally Robson, Head of Corporate Communications

QA SallyRobson WebsiteImages Banner

Sally Robson on the growing importance of double materiality, the impact of carefully considered design and why sustainable evolution is key to survival for any business.

Sally, why corporate comms? What excites you about our work in this area?

I enjoy getting to the heart of our clients’ businesses and looking deep into their strategies and operations to learn why they exist and their place in the world. At Conran Design Group, we’re in a privileged position to be able to ask the challenging questions and dig into what’s important; we’re constantly learning new things, which we’re then able to apply to other work and clients.

Tell us what brought you to Conran Design Group last year.

I’ve worked in a number of agencies over the past 30 years but not as many as you might expect, partly because I’ve always had the opportunity to develop and keep learning. I love being part of a business that succeeds by adapting and evolving to the changing needs of the world and its clients. And that’s exactly what attracted me to Conran Design Group.

Over our 65-year history, we’ve developed a strong reputation in both corporate communications and brand, with growing specialisms in health and consumer. This expertise gives us a broad understanding of our clients’ worlds, challenges and opportunities, and the ability to form bespoke teams with the specific experience needed by our clients.

‘I love being part of a business that succeeds by adapting and evolving.’

Tell us about your take on the biggest challenges facing corporates today – and how we help them overcome these hurdles.

What first comes to mind is sustainability and reputation management in the face of greater regulatory scrutiny. But there’s also the challenge of developing communications strategies for clients with broad audience groups.

And with critical issues like climate change, businesses are constantly having to adapt and react. Whilst a lot of this happens in the moment, it’s important for companies to think about what’s coming down the line and assess which issues will need to be a priority in the future.

At Conran Design Group, we’re able to help businesses carry out a robust double materiality assessment that both meets the mandatory requirements and helps them identify the issues they need to be engaging with. We then help them create, structure and design content in a way that enables their audiences to access the information they need.

What differentiates Conran Design Group’s corporate comms offer?

Design. Something we do well here is our ability to design with audience and accessibility in mind. And this goes back to Sir Terence Conran himself, who felt that design should exist for everyone.

Another is our specialism in brand. Companies need to build trust with their audiences and the way to achieve that is through being authentic and communicating in a way that’s on brand and recognised.

Being part of the global Havas network means we can also seamlessly bring in additional expertise and perspectives to give our clients what they need.

How can communicators proactively celebrate sustainability achievements whilst avoiding ‘mission accomplished’ style pitfalls – or, even worse – greenwashing?

There are two ways that companies often go wrong. The first is by focusing on the positive and avoiding the difficult areas – sometimes overstating their achievements in the process. The second is by avoiding talking about anything until they have concrete results and evidence in place.

‘Developing a sustainability strategy based on double materiality gives you the confidence to report on the right things.’

Ultimately, it’s about striking a balance. It’s important for companies to share their successes, to be honest and transparent, and to speak with a consistent tone of voice. It’s also about having the confidence to know you’re talking about the things that are relevant to your business, which is where double materiality comes in. Developing a sustainability strategy based on double materiality sets you up for the future and gives you the confidence to be reporting and communicating on the right things.

What kinds of projects excite you most?

Working with clients who want to improve and have clear goals in mind. Work that involves broad communications for multiple audiences – particularly around sustainability. And working with clients who appreciate the importance of both storytelling and beautiful, carefully considered design.

This year, our clients span multiple sectors, from luxury goods to industrials. All sectors are fascinating, and while having sector expertise is valuable, we also love the opportunity to learn about new areas. In the end, everything’s connected.

Our corporate comms offer is growing. Tell us about your aspirations for the year ahead.

We have a strong and loyal client base facing some big changes, and we want to ensure we’re giving them the support needed in the face of growing regulation and stakeholder demands for clear, accessible information.

A considerable amount of effort and investment goes into creating incredibly rich content for reports that many stakeholders won’t read. But we can help to identify the information that’s most important to those stakeholder groups and create tailored, impactful communications – whether that’s a simple presentation or a campaign to get people inspired and involved.

What inspires you – within corporate comms, brand or the wider world?

‘We’re finally seeing sustainability rise to the top of the corporate agenda.’

Businesses that use their power, influence, scale and scope to drive change at a time when it’s most needed. And the fact that we’re finally seeing sustainability rise to the top of the corporate agenda, which is heartening for someone who’s worked in corporate communications and sustainability for many years. 

Any unexpected hobbies or interests?

I love baking and am currently trying to get to grips with vegan recipes. I’m also about to welcome two young cats into my life. Having had a hard start, they’re going to need lots of care and patience.

 If you hadn’t have ended up in corporate comms, what would you have been doing?

I might have been an animal behaviourist. Until recently, I’d spent every other weekend volunteering at Raystede, an animal sanctuary near Brighton. It’s a big 40-acre site looking after all sorts of animals – from horses and ducks to exotic birds and a tortoise colony – and I worked as part of the client services team. I’d take people on tours around the site, talk to them about the animals and help visitors complete their rehoming applications.

Favourite thing about life at Conran Design Group so far?

The newness of everything! After spending 12 years at my previous agency, it feels like I’m learning new ways of doing things again, and it’s fun to be in a new environment with so many talented, ambitious people around me. It all feels very open and collaborative – particularly being part of Havas Village London, where we’re surrounded by lots of other agencies. There’s a buzz about the place, which makes coming into work a real pleasure.

You may also like

CDG Perspectives AICreativity Mobilemage
  • Strategy
  • Design
  • Digital

Why AI should be seen as a partner for human-centric progress

Brand and design consultancies aren’t on the cusp of the generative AI revolution; they’re propelling it forward. But AI’s power lies not in helping us speed up, says Global CEO Thom Newton – it lies in helping us achieve more progressive outcomes through thoughtful application.

Read Article