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Comms Unplugged 2021

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Comms Unplugged 2021

As a Comms Unplugged newbie, I was looking forward to getting stuck in, learning lots and meeting new people. Okay, I guess if we’re sharing, I was a little nervous too!

It wasn’t until my boots hit the grass and I was welcomed with friendly smiles, waves and introductions that I knew the rumours were true – Comms Unplugged is a really special place and everyone there is lovely.  Lauren and Alan sharing a smile at Comms Unplugged. Tent and bunting in the background holding a blue #weareunplugged sign board.

After setting up our tents (which was surprisingly successful might I add), Alan and I busily prepared for our workshop where Alan drew on some of the blogs written by our team and spoke about creating a culture where people, self-expression and creativity thrive. Of course, he was as modest and as humble as always, so I chipped in with some of my thoughts and experiences too.

I spoke about what it was like being the new kid at Alive and how I instantly knew it was the right place for me. I used some examples from our blog about friendship and talked about how the team valued my thoughts, made me laugh and gave me their support right from the get-go.

After plenty of funny anecdotes and off-piste stories, it was time to introduce our activity.Alan in the Comms Unplugged tent with bright yellow not worrier / warrior message emblazoned on the front. Unpluggers at a table getting involved in the activity.

All you need to know is that our bag of props included a puppet, (who was loved by many and later named ‘Marv’), a tiara, juggling balls, a gold bar (not the real kind, otherwise I may have done a runner with it) and a lucky horseshoe. Each group was asked to think about what makes them feel valued, involved and included at work and come up with a wellbeing campaign using one of the props as inspiration.

It was amazing to see how quickly ideas began to spark – there’s something very special about having lots of comms creatives under one roof, and luckily for me, that’s exactly what Comms Unplugged was all about.


Slick sessions and lively lessons

From guest speaker Bruce Daisley talking about psychological safety and our new ways of working, to Kate Mason from The Big Draw showing us how powerful a pencil and a sheet of paper can be, the line-up was nothing short of brilliant. I also joined a fantastic session lead by Diversability about the importance of building trust and finding different ways to communicate. Big thanks to Rory for partnering up with me and being such a great sport – feeding each other raspberry jelly with our eyes shut was certainly an unexpected experience – but that’s a story for another time! 

On Friday we soaked up Dorset’s beautiful scenery and enjoyed a walk in the woods guided by Saranne. I walked and talked with Ian (such a lovely guy) and we both took the time to connect, chat through some of the challenges we’d been facing and reflect on our time at Comms Unplugged.


Testing, one, two, three

By Friday evening I was full of anticipation and nerves (and pizza), because it was nearly time for my live set. It had been quite a long time since I’d performed live, but I absolutely loved getting back behind the piano and sharing a few songs with my fellow unpluggers (yes, technically my keyboard and mic were plugged in, but that doesn’t count!)

It wasn’t until Tom graced the stage with his toe-tapping tunes and witty tales, that I really realised how much I’d been missing live music. So much has changed over the last couple of years but the magic of Comms Unplugged really got me thinking about how important it is to carve out time in our weeks for doing the things we love most.


Top three takeaways

  • Comms Unplugged is a safe space to share ideas and make real connections with people.
  • Whether it’s a walk in the woods, yoga session or a drawing class, we must be kinder to ourselves and break up our working days a bit.
  • Everyone has their own talents, strengths and ideas – they might just need a few friendly faces to help bring them to life.


I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of this year’s Comms Unplugged and thank you to everyone who made it happen.



Thank you to our Comms Unplugged friends for the photos.


“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“So glad that we chose Alive to create our new website. As well as taking the time to get the visual side of our requirement right, they worked with us to understand us, our business and our clients and reflect this across the site. We loved their flexible approach, which, coupled with the right level of challenge has replaced our old, clunky site with one we can be proud of. ”

Victoria Ford — Perago

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“Love it. I will pass to the boss, but I think it's awesome.”

Matt Fletcher — Met Police

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“I have worked with Alive with Ideas for many years now and they are by far the best Ideas and design company I have ever worked with (I’d even go as far as to say the best company of any sort that I’ve ever worked with). They are an incredibly talented and creative team, who are normal human beings, completely grounded, totally down to earth, approachable, friendly and an overall joy to work with.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q