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Guess who’s coming to dinner?

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Guess who’s coming to dinner?

“Fancy grabbing dinner?”

A simple question that all English-speaking people would understand to mean an evening meal probably between 6-8pm. I don’t need to spell it out, it’s obvious. Isn’t it?

Well…I suppose people who grew up in other countries might eat earlier or later so maybe I should say English-speaking people who grew up in England.

But hold on, I hear you cry, don’t people in the north of England have dinner at lunchtime? Hmmm maybe I should be more specific and say English-speaking people who grew up in the south of England.

Suddenly it doesn’t seem so simple. Yet so often when we communicate, we assume mutual understanding as very often we do have shared context so meaning can sometimes be inferred rather than be explicit.

However, inside organisations we have a diverse mix of people with different backgrounds.

How often do we consider if the intention of our message is what will be received and understood?


The impact of lived experienceGreen background image with white head graphic with the wording 'our lived experiences can influence how we interpret information'

Let’s take the above example further. When some people (for the purpose of this example, let’s say English-speaking people who grew up in the south of England) hear the word dinner, they might conjure up a picture of a fancy restaurant with candles on the table, someone else might picture their local pub and others might think about sitting around the dining table or even in front of the TV.

Our lived experience can influence how we interpret information.

This example is unlikely to cause major issues. But now imagine you’re communicating a merger. You’ve spent ages preparing communications that explain why this is positive for the business and its employees.

However, the word merger conjures up images and memories of the last one which wasn’t successful…

All your hard work is immediately undone as people apply their own experiences and biases to a certain word or sentence. It’s a difficult situation, but all is not lost.


Blue background image with white head graphic with the wording 'spend time getting to know your employees and what matters to them'Know your audience

Will different audiences react in different ways? Do you have long servers with long memories or is there a high turnover of staff?

Information like this can help you understand how people might react and how much of the past they will remember.

Spend time getting to know your employees and what matters to them. Creating audience personas can really help you put yourself in the shoes of employees. What about a merger makes them anxious and how can you address that up front?


Understand your business and its history

How much change has there been in the past? How did it land? What else was going on at that time in the wider world that might have impacted how they reacted – are they likely to react the same way now? Are employees change-fatigued or are they ready for something to change?

This is especially important if you’re relatively new to the business – while it’s good to look ahead, it’s often worth taking time to look back now and again to consider how the past may impact the present.


Consider external influences – what else might be affecting how employees interpret communications?

What is the external environment like? How are people feeling generally?

A communication around ethics might be well-intentioned but if the business hasn’t communicated about the crisis in Ukraine, it might not land well.

A CEO talking about their holiday abroad to come across personable when some people are struggling to pay their bills will be considered tone deaf.


Red background image with white head graphic with the wording 'spending the time to do your research is so important'Applying your research

Spending the time to do your research is so important. Once you’re armed with that you can:

  • change the tone and style of your content to reflect your audience and enable better understanding
  • identify when misunderstandings could take place
  • help leaders communicate better – understand how what they say is received by employees.


Credibility and Trust

This level of insight and understanding will help employees and stakeholders trust your expertise and have confidence in your advice. You’ll no longer just be drafting content but advising on the approach and having real business impact (and make sure you measure that impact!).

Suddenly, creating content might not seem so tactical anymore…


By Helen Deverell for Alive!


“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

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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 —

“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

“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

“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

“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

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

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“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

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

“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

“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

“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
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