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Meet the team that brings us Alive – Alan

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Meet the team that brings us Alive – Alan

42 was meant to be the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything according to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


More than ever it’s difficult to know what that ultimate question is. 42 hasn’t quite gone to plan. It’s my 43rd birthday today (26th May) although I’m sure this doesn’t count given everything that’s going on. Surely, I get a free pass and another run at it? This year I’m furloughing my 43rd birthday – it can take a year off.

I made plans in January…

  • Contemporary calligraphy course
  • Screen printing workshops
  • Walking short break
  • Spa break in beautiful North Cornwall (and other short breaks)
  • I also joined a gym in February

Much of this was put in place to help give some breaks from work and to look after my wellbeing. I’m not great at selfcare and often put it off… ‘yeah that would be nice. I should do that one day.’

Much of it has been cancelled for obvious reasons.

But things go on…

  • I’m using my bike to exercise
  • I’ve bought some screen-printing gear for home
  • I’m enjoying walks that are right on my doorstep
  • I’ve got a Spa(r) shop opposite my house (ok this doesn’t match up, but it sells beer!)
  • I’m healthy and well at the moment

There’s plenty I miss from ‘normal life’ but there’s more that I am grateful for. Through this time of tragedy and loss we have to dig deep and find something positive to believe in, to feel optimistic about. It might be difficult to see right now but it’s out there and all around us if we look for it. My advice (for what it’s worth) is to notice the little moments that bring joy. Things that maybe you took for granted before.

  • The first coffee of the day
  • The satellites flying overhead on a clear night
  • ‘Zoomies’ on a Friday evening (the ‘pub’ video call after work)


In recent months all of the team at Alive have been putting together ‘meet the team’ blogs around their birthdays. You can read some of them here. I’m lucky to work with such a great bunch of people…

Whilst the above was me going off script (sorry, I can’t help myself) here’s the questions I was asked…


How did you first get into design and communications?

My passion for this started at school. With a massive amount of encouragement and belief from my Mum and Dad I was encouraged to pursue a path that I loved rather than falling into something just to earn a wage. I’ll forever be grateful for this.

I’ve always been drawn to creative activities and as my career has progressed this has expanded because I’ve been able to work with fantastic people with diverse perspectives and skillsets.
Whilst at college I was given an amazing opportunity to gain great experience working with a local agency. Early projects were for the BBC, The Guardian and Penguin Books. Right from day one this taught me that you don’t need to be a big city agency to tackle big projects. This lives on in Alive today. We’ve never punched above our weight because we have always earned the right to work on the projects that we do.


When did you start Alive?

Our journey started in the recession of 2008. Both myself and Alex had kids and mortgages to think about, so we thought… why not make this a little more interesting?
We connected with people, shared our thinking and built momentum. People often say, ‘and we never looked back’. For me that’s not true. I regularly look back to check that we haven’t lost ourselves or what we stand for as things move forward.

Our early projects we’re supporting friends and people we had an affinity with. These tended to be creative individuals that were also starting out on a journey. We helped them shape what their message was and how they presented themselves. We gave our time and energy to their cause.

We have done this consistently over our time and won’t stop. In recent times we offered £20k (for free) to support NHS comms teams. We still have a little bit of that budget left if anyone needs something.


What was your vision for Alive?

To be famous in both hemisphere’s for creative comms.
I wrote this as a joke one day but why the hell not?? I’m not one for making grand statements so it always makes me laugh when I read it.
But on a more grounded level it’s simply to enjoy what we do as much as possible and to be relevant. The comment about being relevant has always been my personal goal. I think in the creative industries in particular this feels like it should be at the heart of what we’re trying to be. From a creative perspective the world is always in a state of flux and we need to echo this by being ready to shift thinking, attitudes and approaches. This was always the case and has been brought into greater focus recently.


What do you most enjoy?

What a question! On a par with, ‘which is your favourite child?’.
The moments that bring me most joy are when someone shares an update on a project or piece of work and it’s brilliantly not what I expected. The challenge being that there’s no formula for that. It’s all about context. The organisation, the client, timing, budget and many other things need to be taken into consideration.

There are so many aspects of our work that I love. The diversity of projects and challenges makes for a rich experience that we all share. I love working with individuals that are passionate about what they are doing – hungry communicators wanting to make an impact and a difference.


What does the future hold?

Who wrote these questions?? 
That’s a big question right now with everything that is going on in the world. From an Alive perspective I think we need to continue to adapt to the times that we are living in. The challenge is the same – stay relevant.

It’s been said for years that work is a thing you do not a place you go. As we’ve entrenched into our homes this has never been more obvious. We’ve invited people from all over the world to meet our pets and our partners sometimes intentionally but often not. In this moment I feel there’s more opportunity than ever to connect with people from around the world and support them. We’re lucky enough to have connections and clients from Brazil to Brussels and back to Basingstoke (and many other places that don’t start with B).

“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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